Between the two continents

It was past two in the morning local time in Abu Dhabi while we were waiting in the pre-clearance queue. The queue was long and kept changing as the take-off time for some of the transit flights were announced. Everybody was visibly tired but not complaining.

“What time is it?” the elderly gentleman who stood in front of me asked. He was well-dressed and looked like a retired professor or a scholar of some sort. I told him the time. “It takes a lot of time, every single time.” He pointed towards the interview counters. “I’m so tired and just want to board my flight and rest for sometime”, he said but with a smile. I returned the smile, agreeing quietly. As the conversation went on, I learned that he came to America for his studies while he was young. Back then he did not mind all the security hassles, he said. But now that he is old, and after traveling all these years, it has become difficult for him. I didn’t know what to say. I just looked around while nodding my head. “But I have to travel since my family, my wife and children are there.”

“So, where are you from?”, I asked. “Iran”, he replied. “Now that I’m retired, I spend my time between the two countries. My family wants me beside them and I want to stay back in the home country, so I have to keep traveling.” Every six months or so, he travels between Iran and America, so that he can keep in touch with his wife and children in America and his family members back home in Iran.

With the Trump administration’s travel ban, I wonder how that old man is coping up now.

Death call again

One more gruesome case of rape has been reported from Delhi. One more round of protests by citizens, and another round of promises from the administrative officials. The circle goes round and soon all these will be forgotten until this happens again.

This time, there is one change though. I looked at the photographs of the protests against rape and I saw many placards which had ‘death for rapists’ written on them. Even those who were silent when it was about terrorists like Kasab or Afsal Guru, have now come out in open to advocate the death row, regardless of the gender, religion, and locale. That somehow made me uneasy. Yes, the same me who thought that death row for Kasab was justified (but the discussions that followed after the Kasab hanging incident made me think about the issue of capital punishment again). So basically there are three things to discuss here. One is about rape and other such sexual crimes, the second is about social/gender inequality and the third is about capital punishment.

Rape and other such sexual crimes are committed against the ‘weaker’ section of the society (‘weak’ as in not physically or in a derogatory tone but how the society and the world order has made it). When we talk about rape, we usually refer to women alone but this category would involve women of all ages, boys, financially under-privileged (and thus less influential in the social strata) and dalits.  All of them are easy preys for the culprits and a combination of any among these could make it even more dangerous than the individual parameters. For example, a lower-caste young girl stands a bigger chance to be sexually assaulted than a higher-caste urban woman. Or a financially under-privileged boy would make an easy prey compared to a boy from an affluent family. The culprits are looking for the weakest, and the weakest of them all are, generally saying, women and children.

When we dig deep into the roots of this issue, keeping the above points in mind, we would find that the problem lies in the social order of equality. A part of this social inequality is complimented by caste-ism which is why it doesn’t take to many candle-light vigils or death row calls and N number of public protests when we hear the news of a dalit girl from a rural area was gang-raped by a group of men. And among that social inequality lies an even bigger issue – of gender inequality. This is everywhere (though the world has moved forward a lot compared to the older times); right from the family, culture, community, religion, anything.

So to fight this problem, of not just rape but all such sexual or other crimes against the weakest is to standby and support the weakest and give them an equal space and rights. And one major thing to start doing in that direction is to change our attitude towards the powerless and that has to start from the family and the responsibility is on men as they are the major culprits in these cases.

When it comes to capital punishment, we can see that it hasn’t curbed crimes. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have to order capital punishment again and again. Hanging is more like a federal state taking revenge on behalf of the individuals. A lawful and civilized state doesn’t have to take care of personal revenge. It’s duty should be to curb crimes, ensure a civilized justice is offered to the victims and the criminals are punished. So the best way to punish a criminal would be to give him a life-sentence and ensuring that he serves his time in full. While in jail, his labor could be made use of for the betterment of the society. I understand that many people wouldn’t be supportive of this because we believe that the criminals would use the loopholes in law and would skip the full term and get back to society. But that is why we have to demand a stricter law and order that ensures a convicted serves his full punishment period. Instead of calling for blood and death and still call ourselves civilized.

Cardinal, Catholicism and Caste

When Mar George Alancherry was ordained a Cardinal, the newspapers wrote about how humble he is and how much he respects the Indian tradition with wearing a Syrian cross, that upholds the eastern tradition of Christianity, on a rudraksha chain around his neck. He is also said to be against the ‘Latinisation’ of the native Syro-Malar Church. But Mar Alancherry has ruined that reputation (of a native church trying to retain its identity while being part of a global Latinized Catholic church) by making an unwarranted intervention in a legal row between two countries, just a couple of days after his ordination in Rome.

When asked about the murder of two Indian fishermen by Italian marines, he said that he “immediately contacted the Catholic Ministers of Kerala urging the government not to act precipitately”. This has raised questions about his stand on justice and his allegiance to his country.

First of all, the Cardinal did not have to intervene in the legal dispute between the two countries because he was not asked for help by the Indian government to mediate. But he did, and it sets a wrong practice of religious leaders trying to influence an elected democratic government through it’s community members in the ministry. Suppose that he was asked for help to mediate and even then his priority should have been to ensure justice to the poor fishermen who were shot in cold blood by the Italian marines – as a fellow human being and a Christian. If he had to ‘urge’ the government about anything, it should have been to bring justice to the family members of the dead victims. But he failed to do that.

The Cardinal also said, “But the point is another: it seems that the opposition party wants to take advantage of the situation and exploit the case for electoral reasons, speaking of ‘Western powers’ or the ‘will of American dominance’“. Here also he is setting the wrong priorities. Political parties always look at the options to make political gains out of socio-political issues, especially during the elections. This is nothing new. And every single political party has done this. Congress party would do the same if they were on the opposition. So why is the Cardinal worried only about the Communists?

There is another side to the story which is about caste in Kerala Christianity. Though the Latin Catholic Church is part of the global catholic church, the Syrian Christians (Syro-Malabar Church) consider them as converted lower caste fishermen (and Syrian Christians consider themselves as Namboothiri descendants). The murdered fishermen are both Latin Christians. So you can assume why the Cardinal did not have any qualms to take sides. The Latin Catholic Church has reacted sharply to the comments of Cardinal Alancherry.

“They called it unfortunate and said it was against the interests and sentiments of the fisherfolk. The families of the victims also vehemently slammed the alleged statement. The Latin Catholics, mostly on the coastal belt of Kerala, are not likely to be happy with the reported statement from Alencherry, who is from the substantially more socio-politically influential Syro Malabar Church. This controversy is likely to amplify the socio-political divide between the two communities, although both are Catholics.” [via]

The story is reflecting badly on the Syrian Christian community. Sangh Parivar has begun to sharpen their weapons claiming that the Catholics have their allegiance to Rome than India. And we will have to wait and see how this dangerous precedence set by Mar Alencherry would help the soft terror strategies of Sangh Parivar and how it will affect the Christian community in the long run. And as long as we have such people in the clergy, who had declared Communism a greater threat than Hindutva while Christians were being persecuted in Mangalore and North Kerala by Sangh Parivar, it does not need much imagination.

Photo courtesy: Reuters/


The following video of Indian Border Security Force soldiers treating a Bangladeshi cattle smuggler is now going viral in the Internet and making news. What was shot as some sort of ‘souvenir’ has brought out the ugly face of the force. But has the Abu Ghraib style torture shaken the Congress government? No. Instead, Pranab Mukherjee says that the incident must not be ‘hyped’. But is that response surprising?

For a moment, let us put aside the matter of how we treat the neighbors and look into our own yard. We have implemented an inhumane law called AFSPA in our own states. This special privilege has allegedly let our men in uniform to rape women and kill those who oppose and orchestrate encounter killings. And how have we reacted to it? Even with the mothers from Manipur going naked in protest with holding the banner “Indian Army, rape us“, we still keep that law intact. There is Irom Sharmila who has been fasting for over a decade, but nobody cares. Some people justifies what goes on in Manipur or in other parts of North East India as we must not let our soldiers’ spirits down. That it must not be ‘hyped’.

Imagine – if the following is what our forces are doing to our neighbors, where there is no special privilege act, what would be happening to the people of North East India with a special act like AFSPA to back the army? Any why is our social conscience not outraged by this?

Think about it on this Republic Day.

Being an outcast, for being raped

How do you judge a society’s morale and progress? Is it possible to judge them by taking a look at how the society treats it’s women and children? If so, Keralam has shown an example of it’s morale and progressiveness by the incident of a minor girl being sexually abused. The incident took place in the coastal village Mangalam in Alappuzha district. A 12 year old girl was sexually abused by her neighbor who is a father of two children. The girl did not feel well after the incident and was afraid she could get pregnant so she shared it with her friend in the school.The friend shared it with her family.

The friend’s parent went to school the next day with other parents but here is the shocker. The friend’s family did not go to school to ask for justice to the abused girl but to threaten that if the sexually abused girl continued to study in that school, they would not send their children there. Some of the lady teachers in the school also said that they wouldn’t take lessons in the class if the girl continued. The headmaster then sent the girl out with a transfer certificate.

The story doesn’t stop there. The girl joined a Sanskrit school nearby but the school administration received a phone call saying that it is better for them to show the door out to the girl. The girl was put out again on the same day. The next option for the girl’s parents was another school in Punaloor, but again the moral police in the area intervened and the girl was out again.

This news story is an example of why women are still not daring to come up to the forefront to report domestic/sexual abuse or rape. The society treats the hunted as the culprits and the hunter walks scot-free. “Why didn’t she protest” is the question we always hear. “She could have resisted”, “looks like she asked for it”, “she might have enjoyed it” are the brutal comment we pass on such incidents. And not a comment on the ‘family man’ who took advantage of a young girl of 12 years for his perversion.

Wondering what happened to the man who sexually abused a minor girl? The people, police and media have no intention to question the injustice because he is a ‘family man’.

(Go to to read the full story in Malayalam)

Image: graur razvan ionut /

To control or not to control, that is the question!

Every single Malayali is now concerned about Mullaperiyar dam all in a sudden, though the dam has been in (alleged) danger for many years. The proposition from the Keralam side is to lower the water level, decommission the existing dam and build a new one. Why? Because Keralam fears that the dam cannot take a major earthquake and it could cost the lives of people in four districts of Kerala. But the process of building a new dam will take a few years and it remains unclear what guarantee the government will provide that an earthquake during this time will not happen or will not effect the people living in the surrounding towns. Which leads to the question, is the dam really in danger? If so, are the measures being proposed now enough to take care of the threat? Or are there any other motives behind the Keralam proposition? Keralam has also made a ‘generous’ offer to build a new dam at it’s own cost and still provide water to Tamil Nadu (which will transfer the control of the ownership, operation and maintenance of the new dam and it’s surrounding areas from Tamil Nadu to Keralam).

On the other hand, Tamil Nadu claims that the dam is in good shape and it can live longer. World over people are talking about decommissioning dams older than 40-50 years but Tamil Nadu politicians believe that it is not yet time for this 116 year old dam, built with limestone and surki, to rest in pieces. Commonsense would tell us that if not now, a new dam will have to be built sooner or later because this already 116 yrs old dam cannot survive the 999 years of the lease period. Tamil Nadu says that the safety of dam is an important matter to them also, because a burst of dam would affect the irrigation, agriculture and the lives of Tamilians. They also fear that if the new dam and it’s ownership is transferred to Keralam, they may not provide water to them.

But what does the common man learn from the whole issue? Ultimately, the issue of Mullaperiyar is not really about water or the dam’s safety but the ownership of the land. Currently, the ownership of the dam and it’s surroundings belong to the public works department of Tamil Nadu government though the area is in Kerala. Keralam had a good chance to claim it’s ownership of the dam and it’s surroundings when the lease agreement was renewed in 1970. We also had a chance to demand timely revisions of tax/lease rates per acre that Tamil Nadu has to pay. But the short-sightedness, or short-term interests of the government and officials in Keralam back then resulted in the current situation. It is only ourselves (or our politicians) to blame than the neighbor.

So what resolutions can be made now? A political resolution is most unlikely to turn out to be in favor of Keralam because Tamil Nadu has better political negotiation power in the center. Even though Keralam has a couple of Congress ministers in the center, it will be stupid to expect the UPA government to intervene against the interests of both Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha as regional political parties play a big role in the coalition politics in India. If safety is the concern, Keralam should wait for the report of five-member committee appointed by Supreme Court and act accordingly. Meanwhile, we should take measures to handle an emergency situation in the area. If the water supply is the concern to Tamil Nadu, they should ensure the supply through a legal pact with Keralam while making sure of the safety of people and timely decommissioning of the dam. Or if ownership is the real issue behind all this, both states should make it clear and file their claims in the court.

Right now, it doesn’t seem both sides are being honest in their stance.

(Photo courtesy: The Hindu)

The Sharma Psyche

I’m appalled by the parole conditions of Manu Sharma, the killer of Jessica Lal. The parole conditions say that Sharma is not allowed to go to any night clubs or discotheques. Why only night clubs and discotheques? Is it because the murder of Jessica Lal had happened in a night club and going to a similar place would make him repeat the crime (earlier he had been to a night club during the parole)? Or in other words, is it to be understood that it is the place – not the man, his criminal mindset and his influential family – that lead to commit the murder? Suppose there is a serial killer whose first killing takes place in an abandoned building, so if we stop him from entering such a building afterwards, would he never commit a murder again?

Somebody please tell me how the killer psyche works. There must be a reason why Manu Sharma is granted parole with the condition of being not allowed to go to a night club or a discotheque. Or is there one?

Hazare, the Hero

Anna Hazare

When I made the blog post about “The Anna Hazare Show” (courtesy: Open Magazine) yesterday, my focus was on the hypocrisy of the Indian middle-class for being selective in their so called activism and it is being celebrated as the rightful political activism. As the day passed, more stories kept popping up, some of them from the yester years, and they point fingers at the man himself – Anna Hazare.

What irked me from the beginning itself was the photo shown above from Anna Hazare’s fasting stage (courtesy: another blog). When I saw this photo, I felt that the so called Gandhian is reinstating the pseudo-nationalist concept of the nation as a religious symbol. The goddess with the India flag. The so called Bharath Matha that all the hardcore and softcore Hindutvavaadis have perpetuated right from the old days. The same symbol that sent M F Hussain in exile. But I didn’t write about it because his cause seemed more important at that moment. But then comes the following.

At first Anna Hazare was in praise for Narendra Modi. He said the Gujarat model “[…]should be emulated by all other chief ministers. I am saying this on the basis of the kind of works Bihar and Gujarat CMs have done in the field of rural development“. We have heard Modi being praised for “development” a lot but hear what another Gandhian, who is less famous than Anna Hazare and has spent 18 years working with tribes in the troubled Dandewara region of Chattisgarh, has to say. If Anna Hazare was garlanded by the media and several VIPs came out to support him, Himanshu Kumar was treated a bit differently for his work. When he took up the human rights cases against the police and the notorious Salwa Judum, his ashram was simply wiped away.

He spoke about how ‘Golden Gujarat’ is not so in tribal areas and in the villages of the state. He said that it is the Gujarat govt. that is now engaged in building dams in a river downstream and diverting the water to Narmada and industries around Miyagam Karjan and Ankleshwar. The fact that this will displace over 150 villages, does not bother the government.

Well, Hazare did not stop there. He went on to say this – “I have described these chief ministers as good only partially. I will call them 100 per cent good only when they also accept the Lokpal kind of system.” So the only thing that Narendra Modi is lacking to achieve the 100% good ranking by Anna Hazare is the acceptance of Lokpal system and nothing else? Later when his statement became controversy, the good Gandhian added what his non-Hindutva fans needed – “I am equally opposed to any form of communal disharmony“. What a good soul!

Manu Joseph, editor of Open magazine that published the infamous Nira Radia tapes, wrote something that the media bandwagon wouldn’t dare say. In his article aptly titled “The Anna Hazare Show“, Manu wrote this –

But what kind of man is he, really? Haima Deshpande, a senior political writer with Open, has met him several times. About 10 years ago, when he went on a fast to protest against corruption in the Maharashtra government, Deshpande covered the event. She was a bit surprised when he said that he wanted to end his fast because journalists from the English media were finding it hard to reach his village. He wanted to end it on a Sunday.

“Two reporters told him that since the Pune Cantonment elections were to be held on that Sunday there would be no space in the newspapers. So it was mutually agreed between the journalists and Anna that he would give up his fast on Monday at 1 pm.”

And that was what he did. Now, the media wants a revolution and there is a good chance that Hazare will not disappoint.

But that is not all. Hazare had sympathy for the MNS chief Raj Thackeray during his campaign against non-Marathis. But as usual, the media icon Hazare did not forget to mention that he did not support “everything that Raj Thackeray does”. But still not a straight forward “I-condemn-the-MNS-violence“, but merely that “If violent means are adopted by MNS, it will not be in interest of a united India.” If violent means are adopted – as if that is something he never heard of them doing.

That is Anna Hazare for you. The new Gandhi of the Indian middle-class. Well, you get what you ask for.

Anna Hazare and the Great Indian Middle-class

First of all, I do support the Jan Lokpal Bill. Many Indians would, because we have seen corruption from small to large scale here in India and got tired of it. I do like the fact that there is this one man, Anna Hazare, who could mobilize people across country to join in support of him against corruption. I thank him because not many would have been aware of this Bill if it wasn’t for his efforts. In the end, at least it seems like this could be a beginning of change though the irony is that the government in charge is the most corrupted one in the history of India.

The support that Anna Hazare has got from the public was praised as the beginning of Indian middle-class involving themselves in national issues. Media celebrated a more politically active middle-class and it’s youth. “War on Corruption”, “People’s Victory” – the new headlines kept popping up in the news channels every hour. People were tweeting, changing their Facebook profile picture, putting Gandhi caps and some even did fasting for a day in support of Anna Hazare.

But there is something that stinks about this middle-class political activism. It is because the selective issues that the Indian middle-class and it’s youth choose to fight. From the days of “Youth for Equality” to “War on Corruption”, it is quite evident that the Indian middle-class activism is centered on an India where they have an upper hand. Where they will have their future built (and it is this middle-class India that the upper-class can also bank upon hence the support from the top notch CEOs, Industrialists and celebrities). That is why corruption, terrorism and reservation are the favorite subjects of these middle-class crusaders (yes, corruption is an evil that all classes of India would want to root out, but for the middle-class and their nationalism, corruption is a shame before international community, not an evil in itself). And issues like North East India, Dalit, Tribal, etc never come to their focus.

There is a Manipuri woman who has been fasting for the last 10 years here in India, but those who shed tears for Anna Hazare chose to ignore her and her cause. Why? Because she is not a proclaimed Gandhian and she is not from the mainland India. Her cause is often described as anti-India while what she fights for is justice to the common man. This proves that the Indian middle-class ignores everything that is propagated as anti-India. Their morale is not built around human values, but a pseudo-patriotic feeling. In their quest to bring “justice”, they do not care about the details of the human right fights. So they easily tag the fights of Manipuris as separatism, Binayak Sen for them is a naxal apologetic and every single tribal who complains against the government is a naxal.

What we see right now is a biased urban Indian middle-class fighting “their” cause and trying to downplay the larger issues exist in India. For some of them, it is just a passing-over exhibition that is inspired by the authentic fights of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. An attempt to do a cinematic remake of these other movements worldwide. After all, our activism is always inspired by Bollywood (Munna Bhai style Gandhigiri, Rang De Basanti style candle light vigil etc) than life and it’s reality.

PS: After a fight that is said to bring more “power to people”, comes this comment from Shanti Bhushan – “Ultimately, the power is with Anna, so whatever Anna says has to be accepted.” Birth of new demi-Gods in Indian system?

Crowdsourcing – The loot side

Happened to read this article titled “Why Designers Hate Crowdsourcing” in when a friend gave me the link and asked for the thoughts on the subject. I could totally relate to everything said in the article as I have worked in these online market places for a long time.

I think this is the bad side of Crowdsourcing. People take up someone else’s work and leave them empty handed. The problem is with both buyers and sellers in these online market places. And these online market places are more buyer friendly.

Very often, almost all buyers demand to see a mock-up of the design that you propose BEFORE awarding you the project. Okay, perhaps one mock-up is fine to showcase what you are capable of but many of them wants to see two or more mock-ups from each seller (consider the fact that there are thousands of online sellers – freelancers / companies – waiting to get a project in these websites). Then they request revisions to these mock-ups (you can’t resist the revisions when you see a message from the buyer saying, “I like what you have done in the initial version. You are in my top 2 shortlist and we are almost getting there.“). Even after all these are done, you would see that your work proposal was rejected. Sometimes the project is awarded to someone else, sometimes it is awarded to none and the buyer gets away with it. Even if the project IS awarded to someone, you would see that his/her bidding amount was less than your proposed amount. And your hours of work would be gone without any reward.

What would have happened is this – the buyer asks for mock-up from all those who have placed a bid on the project. Here he gets a lot of options – from people of all skill levels. He combines the best and takes it to someone who can do a copy of the design he chose for a much cheaper price. The way I realized this is when a buyer asked me if I could design something like a mock-up he had shown that some other seller had designed for him (I rejected the offer by the way, as this very act was well enough to question the business ethics of that man and there is a fair chance of me not getting paid for my work. Plus, it insults my capability of doing a design myself).

The websites which act as the middle men can do so much to change this. They could set a minimal price for mock-up. Or say, you could see the portfolio of the sellers first to see what they are capable of (verifying that the showcased projects are indeed done by that individual/company is not too much of a task – just some Google searches or a couple of emailing would do) and award the project only if you like their work portfolio. And then you can ask for mock-ups after you set the milestones of a project. That way you can stop at any milestone point of the work and your money for the project is not wasted even if something goes wrong. But these websites do not do any of that.

Some websites do have a dispute option (but that is NOT applicable to such mock-up games but only for the time after awarding a project), but when you initiate a dispute between you and the buyer, both accounts would freeze until the dispute is over! If you are a freelancer and depends on it for a living, this is something you wouldn’t prefer and you would ignore your loss and begin hunting for the new work. And even if you proceed with the dispute,  most likely the buyer’s account would be set free in a few days. Yours, locked up for a long time.

But many new comers who want to get started with their career in freelancing falls for providing mock-ups in the hope of bagging a project. And some are even ready to do the entire project for NO MONEY at all! Some bid for a cheap price that not even an individual who lives upon his work can’t even think of. And as far as India is concerned, all western buyers know the Rupee-Dollar difference and that they can always get quality work for a lot more cheaper price. So even if you convince a buyer of your skill set, and then ask for a rise in the pay, the chances are high of him discarding you and finding someone else with the same caliber for a much cheaper hourly rate or for the same hourly rate. You know this too, so you wouldn’t take the risk unless you find someone else who is ready to pay you a higher hourly rate until that buyer finds out someone who works for a lesser hourly rate. 🙂 This applies not only to the online market places, but to individual clients we meet over the Internet as well. So your aim should be to find newer clients or an alternate client in the backup so that even if you lose one client, you have another to survive.

All of these projects in these online market places are of small businesses (though there are projects worth thousands of dollars posted everyday in these websites – I hope someone would someday come up with a statistical data of the money that flows in these websites everyday and the money that these websites earn everyday in terms of commission) and big companies like Apple or Microsoft or even the 2,3,4 tier professional companies would not use these sites for projects for various professional reasons. So this looting goes unnoticed by the mainstream media.

When we read the story of “contest” in 99designs, we could end up saying, “but hey, some of those people knew that their designs might not be making to the list“, but it is still looting. Looting your creativity, your time and your skills.