Saturday, May 06, 2017

Nirbhaya Verdict - Those Who Escaped Unpunished

The verdict stands delivered, and there is a broad sense of closure among those whose collective conscience was shattered over 4 years ago by the rape and murder of "Nirbhaya", as she came to be known as. 

The common feeling is that of cold satisfaction... the rape and death have been partly avenged, rightful justice has been delivered. Maybe, now her soul shall rest in peace. 

Or will it? 

To answer this question, I ask another one. If I were to share the thoughts of the conscience personification that we now know as Nirbhaya, whom will I consider responsible for this rape? Will my angst be directed only at those few rapists?
  • Will I not be angry at the society that creates an environment where a young lady needs to be subjected to the risk of getting raped just so that she could watch an evening movie?
  • Will I ignore the policing system that allowed this travesty to happen unchecked?
  • Will I absolve the patriarchal social order that questions and judges females on everything from their dress to their haircut before eventually deciding if she is 'asking to be raped' or not?
  • Will I forgive those who came out with ridiculous and outrageous prescriptions for what I should have done in order to not get raped?
  • What will I say to those who strongly believe rape to be the consequence of speaking up, going out, laughing loud, looking happy, enjoying life, having relationships?
Fact remains that we are brought up in a society that teaches us at every step that the woman is an unequal object of desire and is something to be possessed. That sexual pleasure is an entitlement, more so if you "have" a wife. That it is OK to "make mistakes" along the way, never mind that it may scar someone for life. That it is not only acceptable but also heroic to whistle, pass comments, touch, intentionally rub against in public conveyance... the list goes on. Have all of us not heard people boast about their achievements and exploits in this field? Haven't all of us seen the onus of "escaping" molestation and assault being placed on females, and accepted this at least as a pragmatic imperfect way of life? Does any of this change with this verdict?

I do not disrespect this verdict but I dare to question, to whom is justice delivered? The persons are punished (except one who was old enough to rape but not old enough to be punished and he has already walked free) but the society has walked free. 

Where do we go from here? Are we, with our societal systems, capable of having a rape punished in a manner that there will not be another rape? Or are we satisfied that the next rape will not be as heinous? 

If we can take away one thing from this episode, let it be a lesson to speak up for what is right in all forums - family discussions, work ethics, road incidents, public discourse, even social media. For the battle might be over but the war is still ahead of us. The battle was to be fought by others as we watched from the wayside, but the war is totally and completely ours. 

The few have to change the many. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Indian Cricket's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"


This was the single word into which the endless frenzy, glitter, emotions and tributes for the great man culminated into. The words, at the end of an emotional speech, were spoken in high earnest but low frills by the man who has characterized the same qualities throughout his public life. It would have been unfitting if Tendulkar’s last bow was anything but a simple acknowledgement of the love he received and his own gratefulness for the same.

With this Goodbye, what ended was not just a glittering career that saw unprecedented emotions in over two generations of fans, but also an era of Indian Cricket. Contrary to my earlier Tendulkar-centric posts, this one is about the heroes of the era.

The Indian cricket of early 90s was a typical medieval Bollywood saga - a nondescript plot, a following content with mediocrity, an occasional surge and dramatic pitfalls, the largest of them being match fixing scandal. Quite in contrast with today’s racy adrenalin filled moments, aggression bordering on bravado, well-timed heroics and famous victories. What brought about this transformation is, what I like to call, the ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’

League – noun – a collection of people, countries, or groups that combine or form an alliance for a particular purpose, typically mutual protection or cooperation
Extraordinary – adjective – very unusual or remarkable
Gentleman – noun – a chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man

I could go endlessly about the individual brilliance of the quartet pictured above, their magical moments, their rise to become legends in their own right, what all and what not. If one was the master and the most humble servant of the game at the same time, another was the most talismanic leader Indian cricket could have imagined at the time. If one was the man Friday, the ever reliable and ever protective wall, the other was a wizard and the anchor around which India’s attack revolved for a decade.

But what Indian Cricket needed was much more than that. It needed credibility, dedication, belief and mentorship. More than that, it needed Sportsmanship from perfect Gentlemen. This is what made this quartet special. For them, it was always India that mattered… it was always the moment that mattered.

They didn’t just have to win matches, they had to win back a lost faith. They didn’t just have to build a cricket team. They had to build a dream that the team could pursue and achieve. And they had to support each other. Without clashes, without disrespect and without wavering. If there is one thing that set this group apart was the fact that they pulled off all of the above.

They gave Indian Cricket not just momentary glory but also promising future, not just training for the moment but inspiration for times to come. This, truly, was the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

That their era turned the most turbulent phase of Indian Cricket into the most glorious one is no coincidence. It is a result of a decade of dedication.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A December night that shook India

The night of 16th December 2012 was a night similar to any other. But fate had something else in store.

That fateful night told us, in the most blatant and brutal manner, what was needed for us to look up and take notice of a lady’s modesty being compromised. It needed one of them to be driven shamelessly through unresponsive streets while being raped, her private parts shredded by an iron rod amid ‘mar saali’ comments, her intestine being ripped with its pieces found in her stomach, and she then being thrown naked on the street to die in the intense Delhi cold.

And the mayhem didn’t end. The responses raged from outrageous to outright stupid.

“Drunken Lumpens”
“What was she doing with a male at that time of the night in that part of the city?”
“Such things happen to those who deserve them”
“She should have called them Bhaiya and pleaded for mercy”

Ironically, the maker of the last statement is in another rape quagmire, but that is another story. Political and Legislative institutions ran for cover, with the CM, PM and President nowhere to be seen. Supposedly oblivious to all this, the girl herself fought doggedly and died 13 days later. Outside, things got worse. Without a leader and without any organization, India teemed on to streets with only one desire, only one demand. Justice. And it seemed as if nobody know how to handle a set of people who wanted nothing more than justice.

We suddenly realized that we are a nation that not only allows rapes to take place, but also sincerely believes that girls get raped because they ‘ask for it’. The face of country that emerged was terrible, ugly and scary. However, it was a face the nation deserved to see in the mirror. What a pity, a girl had to lose her life, and more, to shake us out of denial and apathy and acknowledge that face.

16th December used to be a proud day in the history of India for 40 long years. In 2012, all this changed forever.

Today, the rusted and supposedly face-lifted institutions have given a limited sense of closure to the horrific face, by proving the accused as guilty beyond doubt. I hope tomorrow brings the only logical end to this saga, by condemning the perpetrators to the harshest punishment permitted by the laws of India.

It has rarely happened in India that her citizens have looked up to the institutions, expecting them to deliver. And they have been let down when a person old enough to rape a girl and batter her privates with a rod was found ‘not old enough to be punished’. I hope the systems do not let us down again. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Beyond the rapes

The past few days have been particularly traumatic for the psyche of Indians, and particularly females. Tempted as I am to make this blog a medium of venting my anger, which by the way stops at nothing less than wanting the accused to be released among the crowds at India Gate and letting the 'things take their course', I intend to write on some of the other, more subtle but more dangerous facets of this chronology. 

The dastardly acts of the men on a moving bus need no more specific mentions. But let us face the facts. A rape is a rape, irrespective of where, how, when or by whom it happens. So this case, outrageous as it is, was neither the first one nor the last one. It was also not the most condemn-able one. There are rapes happening all over the country. As I type and as you read, for all we know, there might be one happening within walking distance of where we are. And this really scares the shit out of me. 

However, if we manage to look beyond the maddening haze created by the protests and the aftereffects, there are much more frightening things going on, pleading for an answer. Sharing some of those

  • Attitudes of the Leadership - In hours of distress, public looks up to leaders. People want to know what the establishment thinks about things. What we have been seeing is a leadership lying low, burying their heads in the sand like a crazy ostrich and just waiting for this phase to pass, so that once again rapes can be delegated to the side column stories that appear on page 4 of the regional newspapers. 
  • Silence of the political brass - When I see Obamas of the World striking a chord with the common public, I long for such a figure in my own country. Alas, all we get is a rehearsed recorded message which I feel was better off not being there. It is amusing that whenever the PM talks, news reads 'PM breaks his silence'. The opposition is equally silent. Utterly shameful. 
  • Irresponsible Journalism - The less said the better. The drunken lumpens was a real abyss. The publicity stunt of Times of India, even giving a 'sensational' name to the girl, is unwanted and unwarranted.  
  • Labels and Responses - Comparing protesters with Maoists, asking why they need to be responded to. Action against VK Singh. Justification of Lathi Charge and tear gas shells. Shutting down of Metro Stations to force people away from protests. How are all these things justified in a civilized society?
  • Questions on the basics - Trying to fix the blame on provocative girls rather than the animals who rape them has become a fashion in the name of pragmatism. Focus should be on instilling fear in minds of rapists. Most of the rapists will never even be reprimanded. This must change. And ultimately, the answer is nothing but education. Not degrees, mind you. Education. 

End of an Era

There are two types of ODI matches. Ones with Sachin in it, and Ones with Sachin not in it. Alas! There would now be none of the first type. 

There will never be the conviction of things being fine because one short, unassuming genius is still out there on the pitch. There will never be the madness, the euphoria and the craze that accompanied each shot that raced to the boundary, each dive that saved a run, each ball that trumped the batsmen. And of course, there will never be the trademark grin that came to be feared by bowlers all over the world. 

Sometimes it is hard to imagine how one sportsman could inspire such fanfare, close to worship. However, anybody who fell in love with Indian Cricket in 90s will agree that it all started because of one person. He was the one who symbolized not just an escape from defeat, but a surge for victory. With him at crease, Indians believed that all bowling attacks are manageable, all totals are achievable and all series are winnable. There was aggression in his unassuming style. There was steely resolve in his subtle frame. There was an unending desire for dominance in his mild manners. He was the symbol of a resurgent India, looking desperately for symbols of pride in the midst of economic, political and social turmoil. He was the only good news in the gloomy newspapers. He was the stuff dreams were made of. 

What can I say today that has not already been said, as a fitting tribute to the man who gave me millions of little joys, over and over again? Just going through the earlier days when I blogged about him...

I wrote about him when the Wankhede crowd booed him, later holding 'Sorry' placards, when he completed 20 years, when he completed 100 centuries, etc... just wish to recount the same...

To sum up, there was a 'troll' going around on Facebook... Mayans were right... the world did end in December 2012!!

We will miss you in India colours, Sachin! Hope the team finds someone worthy of the No 10 Jersey soon!

Monday, October 29, 2012

O Captain, My Captain

There are players and there are heroes. And then, once in a blue moon, along comes one legend who changes the way a country looks at a sport. I could write endlessly about his classy cover drives and lusty sixes over long on. But what this man gave us was much more than pure cricketing joy.

Indian Cricket in early nineties was a classic case of a mediocre team whose fans preferred to shut down their TV Sets once Sachin Tendulkar was out. Winning was not a realistic expectation. It was a fantasy that we all lived when we won. To make things worse, there was the match fixing scandal in 2000, Hardly a great time for someone to take charge of a team. But this man was different. This man was Sourav Ganguly. Things were about to change.

In 2000 itself, touring down under, at 68/3 with Sachin back in Pavillion, the script seemed familiar. But Ganguly had other plans. There was no retreat into a shell. There was counterattack. Suddenly, Indians looked different. Slowly but surely, a new Indian team was taking shape. The greatest opening combination in ODI history was formed. The best middle order in a long while was taking shape. Our pacers were charged up and spinners were aggressive. Suddenly, Team India was transformed. The surge that started in Natwest Final at Lords went all the way through to 2003 WC finals.

With Dada at helm, India played for a win. India played for pride and glory. Something that refuses to die out even today and, hopefully, will never die out. Thanks, Dada, for giving all this to Indian Cricket.

Captain Courageous. Bengal Tiger. Mercurial. Irrepressible. Fighter. Legendary. Or, in other words, our beloved Sourav Ganguly. Indian Cricket will miss you.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Suitable Dream

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high 
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments 
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way 
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee 
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

As a proud Indian, there are many dreams that I see. I call them ambitious dreams. I dream of India as an economic superpower. I dream of prosperous villages and dazzling cities. I dream of visionary leadership taking India to the crescendo of diplomacy. I dream of Indian culture and way of life being recognized, appreciated and celebrated across the globe. 

And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, there comes this wake up call. A lone girl molested in public. Social systems held at ransom by Maoists and Naxals. Another wave of farmer suicides. 

Then, sometimes I think that we are not destined for the ambitious dreams. Maybe what we need are suitable dreams, that will be restricted to reducing the number of people who sleep hungry by a few hundred, or probably people feeling safe enough around their homes. 

But I still dream. Sometimes it is an ambitious dreams. At other times, a suitable dream.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A Great Sportsman, if there was one

This is what I commented on Lakshmi Priya's post... thanks to her for inspiring my thoughts.

It is indeed amusing to see whole battalions of self proclaimed sports experts worrying more about a batsman’s retirement than their own. It is equally amusing to see comments demeaning the greatness of a humble human coming from much lesser mortals who probably will never touch an iota of greatness. And I find it absolutely outrageous that the man who travelled half way across the globe to play for India on the next day of his father’s demise is accused of playing for himself.

Ironically, though, this is the way world works. The great men (and women) receive more brickbats than they could ever deserve.

For me, Sachin Tenudulkar signifies an endless pursuit of excellence, an epitome of humility and an opportunity to see history being created, one run at a time.

He signifies a joy unknown otherwise, even though I know that a time will come when I will miss the flutter in my heart every time he goes out in the field to bat. I will miss the thrill of seeing him employ his cover drives and paddle sweeps, making us believe that we will win this match, because he is playing. I will miss the feeling of assurance of seeing him at work and no target seeming too high.

But long after he is gone, it will be remembered. “Sachin was at the crease, and all was well for India”