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Black Friday: The True Story Of The Bombay Bomb Blasts by S.Hussain Zaidi

Black Friday: The True Story Of The Bombay Bomb Blasts by S.Hussain Zaidi

“Ten Explosions rocked Bombay that day, taking place with almost metronomic precision at short intervals. Between 1.28 and 3.35 p.m. bombs had gone off across Bombay, the first time any city in the world was subject to serial blasts…” -Black Friday

It was the blasts that shook the nation

The 1993 Bombay bombings on 12 March 1993, was a well-coordinated attack, and considered as one of the most destructive bomb explosions in India. This single day attack resulted in over 250 fatalities and over 700 injured. The mastermind behind these attacks is Dawood Ibrahim who controls the underworld syndicate D–Company. Two decades later, after a long judicial proceeding with over a hundred witnesses, the Supreme Court of India convicted those involved in the blasts. However, till date the two main accused Dawood Ibrahim and his associate Tiger Memon are still on the loose. The Maharashtra state government executed Yakub Memon (brother of Tiger Memon), on 30 July 2015, who was also found guilty.

Black Friday is Hussain Zaidi’s chilling account of these Bombay bombings. I consider it a one of a kind book that brings in the minutest of details- the blasts, the aftermath and the investigation that followed. Well-researched, it lays out authentic facts, woven into a gripping non-fiction piece to read.

The compelling read of the mammoth conspiracy

It was an exhaustive operation that spanned across countries. From the sketching of the plan, the resources, the training of vulnerable youth in Pakistan, the transportation, the confessions, the Bollywood angle, corruption and above all the religious fervor and insanity of the perpetrators. This crime diary brings out startling truths, leaving you angry. A striking feature of the book is the fact that it doesn’t have one central protagonist, yet, it manages to grip you. Well-paced, it brings out the magnanimity of the macabre and sinister plan. The detailed, yet subtle narrative is compelling and reads more like a novel.

Zaidi has succeeded in pacing out the episodes, in order of occurrences, in a seamless fashion. Black Friday is definitely a book worth reading, for all those who love the genre of crime, mafia and investigation.‎ Don’t expect any suspense elements; though the book does put you in an introspection mode post that last page!

Does religion really warrant killing of one another? What does it take to respect one another’s belief?

Its a Taboo!! #AtoZChallenge

Its a Taboo!! #AtoZChallenge

Marriage is all about togetherness. It is about two different individuals coming together, of experiences, of the joys of starting a family, of tears and happiness. And fights too… Yet, when the basis of marriage- companionship and happiness- is threatened, I wonder why the option of divorce is scorned upon in society and considered a taboo.

Statistically, divorce rates in India are far lower than what it is in western counties. Of course there has been a general rise in the trend, but this is restricted to urban-metro cities. When we look at the teeny-weeny villages, tier 2 towns and other rural and semi-rural regions, divorce rates are minimal. Is this because, we Indians are happy in our marriages, and we don’t really have issues of compatibility and happiness, with our spouse?

Maybe there is an all together different issue that looms. Divorce in our country is still a taboo. I picked 5 reasons that were commonly echoed amongst people I have discussed this with. 

Reason 1: The Family reputation

We Indians live in a close knit community. Family, friends, neighbours, society etc… are inter-linked and blended into our lives. Their influences are strong and opinions affect us. Thus, we have grave concerns about any kind of negative opinion they could brew about our family reputation.

Reason 2: Respectable family girls don’t divorce

Absurd as it may seem, a family’s respect lies in the conduct of the women folk. And divorce is look at as an “unrespectable” act.  Walking out of a marriage could put a question mark to the respect the family commands.

Reason 3:  Living alone is not easy. It’s a dangerous world out there

However financially independent a lady may be, living a life on her own isn’t going to be easy. A girl always needs the support of her man. And staying away from him would probably bring in more trouble. She could be tagged as “readily available” and unwanted men may pry on her.

Reason 4: The Social outcasts/stigma

Here is another absurd reason. The concept of being a “Suhagan” (staying married with husband being alive) is upheld high in Indian society. On most social gatherings and festive occasions, “Suhagans” are given importance and are well attended to in comparison to a widow or a Divorcee. Often such individuals are kept away from important rituals.

Reason 5: The question of remarriage

Though our society has opened up considerably to the idea of remarriage, there still are issues that crop up in case of divorcee remarriage, starting with a big doubt on the character of the divorcee. And a divorcee with a child? Well it could just get tougher.

Surprisingly I realized the rules were more flexible for a man if he were divorced!

In a country where we spend enormous amounts of money on a wedding, ending it is scorned upon predominantly because a marriage is coming together of two families. A divorce means a rift or split between the families and not actually the individuals concerned. Even if a relationship genuinely requires a split, it never does make it to divorce- the families just hush up the matter.

Image source: Pixabay

 

Pictures Online? Exercise Caution #AtoZChallenge

Pictures Online? Exercise Caution #AtoZChallenge

More than a year back, child rights activists in Chennai came across and demanded to shut down two Facebook pages that were in Tamil. The pages were created to attract pedophiles with photographs of young girls with comments full of sexual connotation.

Social media giant Facebook has a policy that does not allow nude pictures, but these pages used pictures of children in full clothes. There was nothing sleazy or objectionable about the images – the photos were the kind you and I would post of our children. So technically it doesn’t fall under the obscenity category and hence the website’s algorithm was probably unable to decipher. Also, Facebook was unable to pick up on these pages because both the page and the comments were largely in Tamil and it is difficult to identify regional language words.

Online predators lift pictures from innocent posts uploaded by young children or their parents. Similar pages surfaced in Kerala too. After several complaints, the pages were pulled down. There were pictures of children from the age of 5 to 15 with sexually explicit comments. The cyber police had forwarded the complaint to Facebook and the page was taken down.

In today’s world of Social Media interactions, how much should parents share and how much should they refrain? Most parents embrace social networks as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends scattered across the globe, uploading pictures of their young children. While we shouldn’t let paranoia take over our lives, we have to be very careful when doing so. Bear in mind:

  • Know how much to share. Never give away exact locations, school names and other such details.
  • Understand the importance of not tagging locations
  • Refrain from posting updates and pictures on a daily basis. It could entice someone within your circle.
  • Use stricter privacy settings

With the perversion and pedophilic individuals all across the web, great caution should be exercised.

Image Source: Pixabay
Killer is Out There- The Story of Aruna Shanbaug

Killer is Out There- The Story of Aruna Shanbaug

Heard of Aruna Shanbaug?

The case

Twenty five year old Aruna Shanbaug was sexually assaulted on the night of 27 November 1973, by Sohanlal Walmiki, a sweeper at the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, in Mumbai. Sohanlal attacked her while she was changing clothes in the hospital basement. He choked her with a dog chain and sodomized her. The asphyxiation cut off oxygen supply to her brain, resulting in brain stem contusion injury and cervical cord injury apart from leaving her cortically blind. Unable to speak or walk or have control over body movements, Aruna Shanbaug entered a permanent vegetative state. She remained in this state for 43 years, in KEM Hospital, becoming the world’s oldest comatose patient.

Aftermath

  • Aruna’s family abandoned her after the rape when the hospital started insisting that they take her home.
  • A police case was registered as robbery and attempted murder, on account of the concealment of anal rape, under the instruction of the Dean of KEM. It was perhaps to avoid the social rejection of the victim.
  • Sohanlal was caught and convicted, and served two concurrent seven-year sentences for assault and robbery, neither for rape or sexual molestation, nor for the “unnatural sexual offence” (which could have got him a ten-year sentence by itself).
  • On a petition filed by author Pinky Virani for euthanasia, the Supreme Court turned down the mercy killing petition on 7 March 2011. The court, in its landmark judgment, however allowed passive euthanasia in India, involving withdrawal of treatment or food that would allow the patient to live.
  • The nursing staff at the hospital, opposed this petition, and looked after Aruna till her end.

Aruna Shanbaug finally passed away on 18 May 2015.

The case raises valid questions

1) Has our judicial system improved in terms of delivering justice to the rape victim? 

2) Rape victims still face a whole lot of social stigma. There are still families which either disown the victim or worse, get them married to the rapist! In what way is this justified?

Until we are able to answer these, the killer or rapist would just walk amidst us.

Image courtesy: freepressjournal.in
Of Excesses and Being Economical #AtoZChallenge

Of Excesses and Being Economical #AtoZChallenge

“Economical”- the dictionary explains this word as being efficient and prudent in the use of resources. Surely, the essence of this word may not make much sense to many in today’s generation. We are what you would call a generation of excesses. 

We buy more, thanks to the influx of online shopping portals and far too many brands and stores. We trash more, very often without blinking an eyelid. No wonder our closets are almost full to the brim, with clothes that we might not even wear. Not to forget the overflowing garbage bins in our cities that are loaded with trash of all kinds- plastics, synthetics, metals and others.

Growing up days

But things weren’t like this a decade or so back. Life was far simpler, with fewer wants and needs. Growing up in the eighties and nineties, I witnessed my mother being prudent in many a ways. Shopping was restricted to festive times and, when a need actually came by. Things were trashed only if it had been used to its fullest capacity, and not because one was bored of using it. There was always an attempt to recycle and reuse.

Books from calendar sheets, pots and pans

Way back then, calendars would come with a blank side. At the end of every year, she would cut out the sheets into appropriate sizes, and pin them up to make little notepads. These pads would be used by her to jot down household expenses, menu plans, shopping lists etc… Old jars and bottles would be cleaned inside out, and then painted with poster colours. Seeds of little flowering plants would be put in them, which would adorn our garden wall. At the end of every academic year, the remaining pages from our notebooks would be ripped out and stitched together make a notebook. We would use these notebooks for rough and maths practice at home. She was excellent in sewing and would use scraps of old cloth to make rugs for our home.

Ever heard of recycle and reuse?

Mother believed in using everything to its fullest capacity. She was economical and avoided generating much of waste and trash. There were two concepts that she stressed on- recycle and reuse. It was only when an item had become totally unusable, would she actually discard them.

So how economical and prudent are you? Do you put that effort to recycle and reuse stuff lying around at home?

*Image Source: Pixabay
Recognising Transgender- An Inspirational Video #WATWB

Recognising Transgender- An Inspirational Video #WATWB

The Supreme Court of India handed down a landmark ruling in 2014, to recognize and integrate the third gender as part of mainstream society. Of course, this decision is a big step towards giving Transgender a right to self-identity, who are otherwise stigmatized by society. Yet, we still have a long way to go in restoring their dignity and providing them with the most basic fundamental right- of education and employment.

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed this morning this brilliantly made video popped up on my feed. This groundbreaking video made by the brand Vicks is inspired by the real life story of Gauri Sawant, a transgender, who takes on the responsibility of raising a young child Gayatri.

The video brings about awareness on two important social aspects- adoption and the need to bring in dignity for the transgender. Truly an inspiration!!!

Watch the video here

This post is part of the ‘We Are The World Blogfest’ that aims to bring in more peace and love on social media. Join bloggers from around the world who would share stories of love and humanity on the last Friday of every month, by following #WATWB

The co-hosts for this month are: Belinda WitzenhausenLynn Hallbrooks,  Simon FalkSylvia McGrath, and Damyanti Biswas

The Regressive Hindi Soap Operas!

The Regressive Hindi Soap Operas!

Having nothing to do on a lazy Friday evening, I scanned through the proliferation of channels on television that have come our way in modern times. My remote failed to rest on anything interesting, until I stumbled upon the baap of all shows- a mega 1000 episode Hindi soap on prime time television. The show made me sit up and notice- the sanskari bahu with the pallu neatly pinned, the sasuma with streaks of white hair, the vamp with her gaudy fashion sense, lavish sets, close ups of the cast, well way too close, and of course an overdose of melodrama. The absurdity that unfurled in front of me that evening, seemed good enough entertainment!!

My earliest association…

…with anything on television began with India’s first soap Hum Log. I was a young girl then, way back in 1984, but I distinctly remember how the entire family would huddle around the TV, right till the end of the episode when veteran film actor Ashok Kumar would bring in snippets of the episode that was telecast. The soap ended with 154 episodes, becoming the longest running serial in the history of Indian television at that time. Things have changed since then, and soaps now have an altogether new avatar, with glossy packaging and most touching the 1000 episode mark.

But look underneath the glossy package…

…and you find nothing but a poorly scripted saga. After watching a few of the soaps for a fortnight, I realized that almost all of them are strikingly similar and predominantly clichéd. Each episode begins with a five minute introductory recap, followed by ten minutes of commercial break and around ten minutes of the actual serial. And as though this wasn’t enough, these ten minutes actually lack any progress in story.

There aren’t any shades of grey in the characters. The adarsh bahu wins over everyone’s heart. She is the epitome of piousness and is totally devoted to her in laws. And the vamp? Well, the lesser said the better. Does she really have to wear the darkest shade of lipstick to be portrayed as the bad? Not to forget the stream of dadis, nanis, buas, maasis and the endless supply of relatives who are ready to celebrate, dance, rejoice and cause enough problems to the demure bahu. Throw in the designer saris, the trademark mangalsutra and the glob of sindur and you have the recipe for a mega serial indeed. The latest entrant is the naagins and tantrics who are capable of casting a venomous magic spell!!!

And that makes me wonder…Why do people watch these mega soaps?

As I began asking people I knew, who watched these soaps almost on a daily basis, I realized that despite the content being absurd, these soaps did manage to strike a chord with them. For an octogenarian like my grandmother, these soaps were the best way to be occupied. They seemed to speak out to her, things the younger generation seldom had time to convey to her. The soaps were something to look forward to in her monotonous life.

We still predominantly are a patriarchal society and family norms often confine women to the kitchen. For a friend of mine, who is a part of a joint family, these soaps are an avenue to be part of another world. Caught in the duties of a home maker, wife and mother, she isn’t employed and has limited interaction with the broader society. These soaps not only entertain her, but have also become an integral part of her life.

My domestic help, who watches close to five of these soaps, loves the clothes worn. It is her connect with the upper class society. She aspires that someday her daughter would be educated and married off into one such household where she could live lavishly and wear those lovely clothes.

Move over regressive soaps

The larger than life image portrayed in serials is going down with the masses, and television channels are surely capitalizing on it. It sure is interesting to throw in emotion and drama to keep viewers hooked, but considering the influence of television on people and families, isn’t it time, soaps become more progressive in nature? Isn’t it time the regressive nonsense metamorphosis into something more meaningful and realistic?

I wonder who would be able initiate the change- the demanding audience or the channels supplying it!!!!!!

*Featured Image Source: Youth Connect.in
Male Contraceptive – Shouldn’t Men Shoulder The Responsibility For Contraception Too?

Male Contraceptive – Shouldn’t Men Shoulder The Responsibility For Contraception Too?

My  post featured on Womens Web.

Trials of a male contraceptive were recently abandoned when a handful of men experienced side effects deemed ‘minor’ in women on contraceptives. Is this fair any more?

“Phir se?” I gasped as my domestic help announced the news of her pregnancy. She did look weak and tired. Three pregnancies and two abortions had practically reduced her to a mere frame. Savitha has been a part of my household for over five years now and over these years, from being the typical memsaab; I had become an elder sister of sorts to her, and she would often seek guidance.

“Savitha, Your body is too weak; you may not be able to sustain the pregnancy or an abortion. It’s a big risk.” She lowered her eyes, as I said this. They spoke volumes…..

Read the rest of the post here : Male Contraceptive – Shouldn’t Men Shoulder The Responsibility For Contraception Too?

#InfertilityNotATaboo- When it is Only About Her Womb

#InfertilityNotATaboo- When it is Only About Her Womb

She bears the brunt of infertility……almost always! A test in every way!

It was a hot afternoon in the month of April when I reached Poonam’s house in Raja Ka Tal- a small farming village in district Firozabad. The warm breeze gently swayed the trees, as their yellow leaves collected by her feet. Her body lay on the ground, a thin sheet covering from head to toe. It had thinned down considerably since I had first met her. Her husband Rajbir sat a distance away, quiet and somber.

A year back, I was part of a Rotary Club health camp that travelled across the state of Uttar Pradesh, to spread awareness about health and hygiene. It was here that I first met Poonam. “Bibiji, bachcha nahi ho raha he. Dawayee dijiye” (I am not conceiving. Give me some medicine). The treatment of Poonam’s primary infertility was beyond the scope of the mobile camp and also the tiny village Raja ka Tal. She was handed over a referral slip for a check-up at Firozabad’s Government Hospital. She faintly nodded when I communicated this to her. I saw a tear drop down her eye when she left the camp. But something in her moved me that day and I decided to follow up on her case with the village and district hospital. However, once I got back to Delhi, so caught up was I with my schedules that I just let it be, hoping that eventually things would fall in place for Poonam. A year later, I got to know about her death.

“Bimar pad gayee, khana hajam nahi ho raha tha, mar gayee”, said her mother. (She fell ill, couldn’t take food anymore and passed away). I couldn’t hold back anymore and had to get the entire story. I chatted up with Poonam’s childhood friend that afternoon, who tumbled it all out.

Poonam was married three years after puberty. A year into matrimony, and she still had not shown any signs of pregnancy. The taunts started, and soon her in-laws and Rajbir took matters into their own hands. He decided to marry again. It was for the want of a baby. The bride was none other than Poonam’s younger sister. For Poonam’s parents it was a win-win situation. Both daughters married at the cost of just one. Within a few months of this marriage, the news of her sisters impending pregnancy reached Poonam.

That was when the first signs of depression were noticeable. She would cry often, have temper tantrums, and develop low degree fever. For those around her, it meant, she had gone mad. No efforts were made to treat her. It wasn’t really a priority. She after all could not produce a baby. Within a span of four months, Poonam lay dead.

signs-of-infertility

Cut to Bangalore
I was meeting my school friend Anusha in a plush coffee shop after five long years. The first thing that I noticed was the disheveled hair and sullen eyes. “I have started my IVF and it’s taking a toll, physically and mentally”, she said.

A long silence followed. This wasn’t the same energetic woman I had known five years back.

“Ashok works late and travels often. But he still manages to be around for the IVF schedule. His presence is required, medically. Otherwise, life seems to be just going on, where we both lead our own separate lives.”

“Why don’t you adopt?” I asked. She glared back at me.

“My in-laws had been against our love marriage and, Ashok would not go against them a second time. They wouldn’t accept a baby that is not their blood. I hope God blesses me with a baby soon. I feel void and empty. It is killing me”.

Signs of depression yet again?

Whether it is Raja ka Tal or Bangalore, the brunt of infertility is often faced by women. There exists in society, a certain element of stigma when a woman is unable to conceive. At a time when she needs mental support, she gets the taunts and bears the blame.

Much as it is important biologically, for a woman to conceive, not being able to should not be the end of the road. Adoption regulations in India are getting easy, with even single women going in for one. A baby is all that matters for a childless couple. And adoption may well be the answer. It would reduce the mental trauma on the woman and provide a home to a child. It would bring about happiness in more than one life.

*This blog is to #SpreadAwareness about Infertility through Infertility Dost, India’s first website that facilitates couples to brave infertility with support and knowledge. You can find other links on Write Tribe.

To Rent a Womb- The New Surrogacy Bill in India

To Rent a Womb- The New Surrogacy Bill in India

Let me begin by telling you a story- the story of Baby Manji. She was born in the summer of 2008, to a surrogate mother- using the sperm of a Japanese man and an egg from an unknown source (reportedly a Nepali/Indian). But even before she was born, her parents had decided to part ways. The wife who wasn’t genetically linked to the baby didn’t want her, and the husband whose sperm was used to create the embryo, wanted the baby. The actual twist, however, came after her birth.

It was a catch 22 situation where Indian rules required the child to be legally adopted before leaving the country, but barred single men from adopting. And Japanese law didn’t recognize surrogacy. Hence Manji’s Japanese father was denied travel documents for the baby. In the months to follow, Baby Manji kicked up a storm and after a prolonged legal battle, the story ended well. Manji got her Japanese visa to leave India.

surrogacy-difficult-to-implement

Surrogacy isn’t really a new practice in the country. Don’t we have mythological references where Yashoda played mother to Krishna, though, Devki and Vasudev were the biological parents? In the last decade, India has been a leader and a sought after destination in surrogacy-related fertility tourism, due to the relatively low cost, with costs being roughly a third of the price compared to a procedure in the UK. We have here altruistic surrogacy, in which no charges or monetary incentive of any kind is involved. We also have commercial surrogacy which has been legally permitted since 2002, by way of giving monetary incentive in cash or kind, to the surrogate mother or her dependents or representative.

Years after Baby Manji was born, a new surrogacy regulation bill has been passed in India. But does it really answer all our questions?

The new bill would now not support commercial surrogacy, and a proposed new law would allow surrogacy only for Indian couples and not foreigners. It also bars single parents, homosexuals, live-in couples and, married woman who has at least one child of her own. Henceforth, only infertile couples who have been married for at least five years can seek a surrogate and, the surrogate must be a close relative. This bill has yet again brought the whole issue of surrogacy into limelight, with many being critical of it. Infertility specialists are of the opinion that such a law could lead to an illegal surrogacy industry. And things could just get more difficult for infertile couples for whom assisted reproductive technology provides hope. What if both the partners are single child? Whom would they turn to for a surrogate?

As a general practice and this is across the globe, we consider the woman giving birth to a child as the legal mother. But in surrogacy, the intended parents are to be recognized as the legal parents from birth, by virtue of the fact that the surrogate has signed a contract to hand over the child on birth to the commissioned parents. Not many countries in the world consider/recognize surrogacy. Luckily India is one of those few countries which recognizes surrogacy and considers the Intended/ Commissioning Parent/s as the legal parents.

I have often found the social aspects surrounding surrogacy to be complex. Well, mostly unsettled too. Various questions crop up in my mind- Who is a mother? Who is a father? Are there changes to the core definition of family? If so, is this progress?

If we do consider ourselves progressive, I wonder why many in our society aren’t in favour of adoption over surrogacy. Why is it still important to have some sort of genetic link to the child they are bringing into their lives?

I wonder why!!

*Featured Image Source: www.newsx.com