Putting rights issues through the looking glass. Not seeking answers, just some food for thought to see whether things could be any different!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mission Boycott Beijing: How effective?

Someone once said that sports and politics do not mix. Apparently, they do or at least that is what some human rights groups across the world will have us believe. China’s “Olympian” human rights challenges can only be effectively countered by boycotting the Beijing Olympics. The International Olympic Committee is being urged to withdraw in criticism of China’s poor human rights record; corporate sponsors are being asked to back out from sponsoring the world’s biggest sporting event, because a few years ago, countries and coalitions allowed Beijing the bid to host the Olympics. The Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece was disrupted by human rights activists who referred to the torch as the ‘symbol of bloodshed and oppression’ in China, forgetting that the Olympic torch is merely a sporting symbol, above all else and has little to do with China’s oppressive regime.

We are being told by these human rights groups that boycotts are an effective tool of raising human rights awareness in a country where not only is the human rights situation abysmal but the word ‘human rights’ is virtually missing from the vocabulary of the government. Propaganda will also try to convince us that the Olympics are not “about the athletes” who have been toiling away for the last few years to participate in a sporting event which is not about sports, anyway. The example of South Africa is too often quoted by these campaign and advocacy experts as a successful boycott. Yes, apartheid did end in South Africa but not because a sporting ban was imposed. Decades of active crusading by the African National Congress and their anti-apartheid movement coupled with strong international pressure through economic sanctions and socio-political isolation ended the practice of racial discrimination there. As far as the representation of black persons in sport in South Africa is concerned, a quick look at their national cricket team will answer a few queries!

Political boycotts in the history of Olympics are not entirely uncommon. The 1980 Moscow Olympics was boycotted by the United States and Canada in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Bloc countered by not participating in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. All this was at the height of the Cold War and there is little evidence to show that these boycotts served as an ice breaker between the Cold War parties. The long standing feud between Palestine and Israel was further aggravated when, at the 1972 Munich Games, Palestinian guerrillas killed seventeen people from both sides of the turf. It is anybody’s guess as to what was achieved by using the Olympics as a political tool by some. Innocent lives were lost, the games were temporarily disrupted but in the spirit of the Olympics, the games continued later. As far as the Palestine-Israel conflict is concerned, there is so sign of resolution to date, more than three and a half decades later. But the boycott plea is gaining such momentum in some human rights circles, that even the tragic Munich incident is being flagged as a successful political protest. Seriously, whose side are these people on?

There is no denying the fact of China’s oppressive, anti human rights regime- from capital punishment, lack of media freedom, arbitrary detention, displacement of people for the Games without proper rehabilitation to the more recent crackdown on protestors in Tibet – Chinese policy on human rights has innumerable loopholes to plug. There is also no denying the fact of China’s super power status- so influential an economic force it has become, that even respected, well-established democracies like India, do not openly protest against the repressive regime, dismissing it as China’s ‘internal’ affair. Yes, the Olympics is a large platform attracting international media attention and this platform should be used to focus on China’s flaws and lobby for human rights reform in China in the background. Sport is and should remain the priority at the Olympics and the core of the sporting event should not be compromised. A little show of faith (if possible) may encourage China to engage in international dialogue, whether it is on the contentious Tibet issue or its human rights, who knows. The idea of an Olympic boycott is an unreasonable demand and should be immediately abandoned. It will be to everyone’s advantage if human rights groups focus on the human rights concerns in China at the Olympics without disrupting the games. It is difficult to say what this campaign will achieve but one positive aspect is that it will serve as a learning lesson for all countries, including India, helping them understand the accountability and responsibility that comes with hosting an international event of such magnitude.

Friday, May 18, 2007

India’s “questionable” credentials for UN Human Rights Council membership

India, along with 13 other countries was recently elected to the UN Human Rights Council. In a joint evaluation of the election candidates up for membership to the UN Human Rights Council in 2007 by human rights monitors, UN Watch and Freedom House, India’s qualifications were considered as “questionable”, along with countries like Bolivia, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Madagascar and South Africa. The well-qualified states, according to the study were Denmark, Italy, Netherlands and Slovenia and those that were rated as completely unqualified, include Angola, Belarus, Egypt and Qatar. The UN General Assembly elected 14 members from the African group (4), Asian Group (4), Eastern European Group (2), Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries-GRULAC (2) and Western European and Others Group –WEOG (2). Bosnia-Herzegovina entered the race, a week before the elections following strong resistance to Belarus’ candidature by human rights groups. Belarus lost the elections to Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although Belarus’ failure at the Council elections upholds the fact that human rights records of states matter, there was no competition in the other regional groups as there were as many candidates as there were available seats. (Election Marred by Closed Slates in Three Regions, Human Rights Watch, 17 May 2007)

The pre-election study rated states on the basis of their domestic human rights record and commitment towards promotion of international human rights standards. The states rated as unqualified are authoritarian regimes with negative UN voting records and therefore, do not qualify for membership. The ones with “questionable” human rights credentials, including India, have either negative UN voting records or have a poor domestic human rights record and/or lack of commitment to international human rights. The study based its evaluation on Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2007 survey, a study analysing the status of civil and political rights in countries, Reporter Sans Frontiers’ World Press Freedom Index 2007 and the Economist’s Index of Democracy 2007.

Although, India was rated as ‘free’ in the area of civil and political rights, it was ranked poorly with regard to freedom of expression and as a ‘flawed democracy’. India is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council and is seeking re-election for a three-year term. Some of the current members of the Council like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia can be tagged as persistent human rights violators and attributed with “questionable” human rights records.

India substantiated its candidature for election by reaffirming its earlier voluntary pledge on its strong commitment and leadership in the field of human rights. It would be interesting to evaluate India’s human rights record with respect to the developments in the past year. India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations has referred to India’s achievements at addressing domestic violence through the enactment of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 and elimination of child labour through a ban on employment of children under the age of 14 years as domestic helps or at small restaurants/eateries etc. Unfortunately, the ban on child labour is far from effective as children continue to be employed in small businesses and as domestic helps across India and as far as the domestic violence legislation is concerned, it requires the state to set up certain institutional implementation mechanisms and unless that is done, endorsing it as a success story at international circles might prove injudicious on India’s part.

India has pledged to maintain the independence, autonomy and genuine powers of investigation of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other human rights bodies. However, in reality, the independence of the NHRC and all other human rights bodies is stymied by political interference at all levels, right from appointment to day-to-day functioning. The NHRC is not allowed to independently investigate cases of human rights abuse by the Indian armed forces, even when the fact of human rights violations by the armed forces is well established (SAHRDC, HRF/141/06). A promise to foster governmental transparency and accountability through the Right to Information Act have been broken by proposing a retrograde amendment by way of excluding all official ‘file notings’ from access to citizens, except in case of social development projects. But the public outcry over the proposed amendments, forced the government to withdraw them. The civil society in India is not as free as the pledge seems to indicate. The Foreign Contribution (Management and Control) Bill (FCMC) 2006 seeks to replace The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) 1976. The NGO sector in India has been actively protesting against the passing of this Bill as it proposes a blanket ban on receipt of foreign contributions by ‘organisations of political nature, not being political parties’ and leaves it to the subjective discretion of the government to decide which NGOs fall under the broad sweep of this law. With regard to advancement of women’s rights and gender equality in India, the CEDAW Committee’s harsh critique of India’s half-baked efforts at promoting the same, echoes serious concerns about the status of women in Indian society.

India has also pledged to make the Council an effective body and actively participate in the development of modalities for universal periodic review and strengthening the special procedures system. It would be important to mention that India is yet to ratify some of the core international human rights instruments such as the Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol, Migrant Worker’s Convention and both the Optional Protocols to the ICCPR. India has not extended a standing invitation to any of the UN special procedures and as far as periodic reporting to treaty based bodies are concerned, there has always been a considerable delay in its submission of reports. For example, India is yet to submit its fourth report to the Human Rights Committee that was due in 2001 and it finally submitted its joint second and third report to the CEDAW Committee in 2005, when the second report was due way back in 1998. Given its weak record with respect to periodic reporting and compliance with special procedure mechanisms, India’s claim to strengthen the Council mechanisms seems unconvincing.

The Council’s membership raises grave questions about the election process itself. Candidates are in competition with their regional counterparts and not with those outside their respective groups. The Council was meant to remedy the flaws of its highly discredited predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) but by allowing the election of member states with deplorable human rights conditions and least respect for international human rights norms, the Council is “moving in the direction of eroding, rather than strengthening, the UN's existing independent human rights mechanisms”. (UN Watch, NGOs alarmed at some UN Human Rights Council Candidates, 7 May 2007)

Rights and Development Bulletin, Volume 1, Issue 3, at http://www.cdhr.org.in

The price of being poor: Urbanisation, Poverty and Destitution in India

Karl Polanyi’s reference to the ‘fatal irreversibility of urbanisation’ in the 1940s rings true in the Indian context. With the economic boom in India, its cities are growing faster than the smaller towns and villages. Urban populations are growing at a higher rate than the rural populations. Figures of the Planning Commission of India for 2004-05 indicate that more than half of India’s poor live in five states and that the urban poor constitutes nearly 28 per cent of the total poor population.

Slum dwellers and Housing Rights

The rich, big cities of India have the highest proportion of slum dwellers, living in abject poverty and inhuman conditions. According to official figures, in 2002, there were a total of 51, 668 slums and 42.6 million people constituting 8.2 million households were living in these slums in 640 towns across India (Census 2001 and NSSO 2002). Every seventh person in India is a slum dweller. Mr. Miloon Kothari, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, has opined that persons living in urban slums are faced with “urban apartheid”, are segregated and ghettoised, which further deepens the physical divides between the rich and poor in urban areas.

The human right to adequate housing is clearly mandated in international human rights law and the Indian Constitution also covers the right to adequate housing under the ambit of the right to life guaranteed by Article 21. The denial of adequate housing also leads to the violation of other basic rights such as clean drinking water, sanitation, livelihood and access to education and health care, as they are pushed outside the policy spectrum.

Governments and local authorities demolish slums or forcefully evict slum dwellers on the pretext of urban planning, beautification of city neighbourhoods and prevention of encroachment, without any care and consideration for their rehabilitation. Strict slum clearance laws exist in many states across India, which legitimise forced evictions and demolition drives. Slum improvement/upgradation is an option only when the land owners/government authorities do not need to reclaim the land in the long term. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark Olga Tellis case (AIR 1986 SC) that pavement and slum dwellers cannot be evicted without adequate notice and rehabilitation and the State would violate their right to livelihood, if they do, has not been followed in practice. In the Almitra H. Patel judgment (AIR 2000 SC), the Supreme Court opined, “Rewarding an encroacher on public land with free alternate site is like giving a reward to a pickpocket.” Judicial opinion on the status of slum dwellers has seen a sea change since Olga Tellis; they are viewed as land grabbers and criminals rather than victims of poverty and marginalisation, in the eyes of the law. The housing policies of the government have also failed to take care of the housing needs of the slum dwellers and the draft National Slum Policy of 2001 was never implemented.

Beggary, Vagrancy and Criminalisation of Poverty

The urban poor population is not comprised of only slum dwellers but also of beggars and vagrants; who constitute the poorest of the poor in India’s richest cities. The total destitute population in urban India, as of 2001, is 2,14,655; with 56.03 per cent males and 43.97 per cent females. Destitution involves income poverty on one hand and social deprivation/expulsion, like loss of social protection, access to common property and public good and services, political identity and citizenship, on the other. (Harriss-White: 2003)

The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act 1959, made applicable across eighteen states criminalises beggary and vagrancy in India. The definition of begging includes, among others, the absence of “visible means of subsistence and wandering about or remaining in any public place in such conditions or manner”. Singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering an article for sale also constitutes soliciting for alms as per the Act. In other words, all persons who are unable to secure an adequate means of livelihood for themselves or even traditional artists are deemed criminal. Many beggars who suffer from leprosy or other mental and physical illnesses are also criminalised in the process. The Act gives sweeping powers of arrest without warrant to the police, which they use regularly with devastating effect to terrorise homeless persons living on the streets. The penalty for begging for a first time offender is detention up to a period of three years in a certified institution or a beggar’s home under the Act and for a person convicted for begging on two or more occasions, the detention period is ten years or a prison term up to two years. Most of the cases under this Act are tried in a summary manner and a majority of the beggars are convicted, as they have no access to legal aid and even if they do, they are rarely heard.

Begging rackets or organised begging is becoming increasingly common across India but the Act does not adequately address this problem, penalising those who are the real victims, especially minors, in situations like these. A study by Peoples Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) shows how the anti-begging law operates in Delhi; police constables raid crowded locations like railway stations, bus terminals, temples etc and target those persons who they think are beggars. Most of those picked up by the police are engaged in some kind of active work, whether it be manual labour or as rickshaw pullers or at roadside shops/stalls etc and only few among them beg for a living. The 8 government run beggar homes have a limited capacity of 1810, hardly adequate for the high number of beggars/vagrants in Delhi. These homes are intended to reform the beggars and vagrants by providing vocational training etc but most of the funds allocated to these homes are spent on maintenance and administration. The sub-human living conditions and gross mismanagement at these homes point to the total apathy of the State towards its poor.

India has a total homeless and destitute population of more than 78 million; most of who reside in big cities. A city like Delhi alone has more than 100,000 homeless persons on any given day and there are just 12 permanent night shelters in the city, with the maximum capacity of less than 3,000. The system is that of ‘pay and use’; where in return they are provided with a place to sleep, mats and during winters, warm woollens but these shelters have poor facilities with no toilets, unhygienic living conditions and complete lack of safety. There are only 3 shelters for homeless women in Delhi that can accommodate only one per cent of Delhi’s destitute women. The conditions are worse, especially for homeless women and children who are more vulnerable to illness, physical and sexual abuse and the sheer brutality of street life.

Notwithstanding these grim statistics reflecting total violation of human rights of the urban poor, the Delhi High Court recently directed the Delhi government to control begging in the city streets and ‘rehabilitate’ beggars in detention homes and provide vocational training to prevent them from begging. The Calcutta High Court also followed suit with a similar ruling banning begging and hawking inside trains and railway platforms, labeling them as a ‘nuisance’ that needs to be curbed. The Delhi government and civic authorities have launched a mission to clean the streets of Delhi and rid them of beggars and vagrants before the Commonwealth Games of 2010. We do not need studies to prove that neither beggary nor vagrancy is a matter of choice and stems from conditions of extreme poverty and complete social deprivation. The State’s complicity in the process of destitution is epitomised in its active role in the criminalisation of poverty and destitution and at making these populations invisible.
Rights and Development Bulletin, Vol.1, Issue. 3, at http://www.cdhr.org.in

Enabling Persons with Disabilities in India: A Long Road Ahead

India became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 30th March 2007. India signed the Convention along with 89 other countries. The Convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 December 2006. Nearly 650 million persons, constituting nearly 10 per cent of the world population, will benefit from this Convention. However, Jamaica was the only country to ratify the Convention. The Optional Protocol to the Convention, which recognises the competence of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to receive individual/ group complaints and communications relating to State parties, was also adopted, by 49 countries.

The main guiding principles of the Convention are respect for inherent dignity, independence and freedom of persons, non-discrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities (PWDs), equality of opportunity, gender equality, accessibility and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and their right to preserve their identity. The Convention also establishes a monitoring mechanism for effective enforcement, both at the international and national level. (Art. 33) The Convention places a lot of emphasis on inclusive social development of PWDs and lays down specific measures to achieve the same. (Art. 32)

The latest Census (2001) reveals that India has 2.13 per cent PWDs, which is equivalent to a population of 21.9 million but the National Sample Survey (58th Round, 2002) puts the figure at 18.5 million. In the opinion of Dr. Anuradha Mohit, Special Rapporteur on Disability, NHRC, these figures are not very convincing as a lot is dependent on the definition of disability a particular country adopts, the nature of questions related to disability that are asked to respondents in surveys and the general cultural and traditional perception of disability. Disability rights activist, Javed Abidi estimates that approximately 6 per cent of India’s population is disabled and he submits that if a broader definition of disability is adopted in India, the figures could be much higher, as is the case in Australia, United Kingdom and United States.

Although India is a signatory to the UN Convention, it is yet to ratify it. India has a domestic legal regime governing PWDs primarily through The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act (PWD Act) and more specific laws like The Mental Health Act, The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) Act and The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disability Act.

The PWD Act, passed in 1995, was the first comprehensive legislation of its kind in India. The Act provides for the promotion of integrated education, medical and social rehabilitation, three per cent reservation in education in government institutions and public sector jobs, non-discrimination in employment of PWDs and training, health and safety measures and creation of an enabling work environment, improve physical accessibility in transport etc.

Yet, the Act has failed to improve the quality of lives of PWDs, even ten years after its enactment. The reason for this failure is largely attributable to poor enforcement. The Act provides for integrated education of PWDs up to the age of 18 years, ‘in an appropriate environment’ with a reference to special schools, as opposed to inclusive education. However, the reality in India is that most of India’s PWDs live in rural areas with no access to special schools and they can attend regular schools only. PWDs face deep-rooted prejudice with respect to employment. Although the PWD Act provides incentives on paper for those employers (public and private sector) who ensure 5 per cent employment to PWDs, the situation is quite different, in practice. A survey conducted by the National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) among the ‘Super 100’ companies, showed that the rate of employment of PWDs in the corporate sector was a meagre 0.4 per cent of the total workforce. With respect to improving accessibility of PWDs, the Act provides that the government shall operate “within the limits of its economic capacity and development”. Such provisos serve as hurdles to effective implementation of the law and provide the government with a legitimate excuse to absolve itself from liability and accountability.

The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities operating at the central and state levels respectively serve as monitoring mechanisms under the Act but are far from effective. They have been given the powers of a civil court yet do not have access to the framework to exercise these powers. Although, the Act provides for a number of affirmative action measures for the welfare of PWDs, in the fields of education, employment etc but does not envisage any mechanisms to ensure compliance with these measures.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment released The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities in 2006, which was aimed at improving the quality of life of PWDs. The policy recognises that PWDs are a ‘valuable human resource’ and ‘seeks to create an environment that provides them equal opportunities, protection of their rights and full participation in society’. The focus areas of the policy are prevention of disabilities, rehabilitation of PWDs, through physical, medical and assistive methods and development of rehabilitation professionals, education of PWDs, economic rehabilitation, employment in government and private sector and self-employment, women and children with disabilities, creation of a barrier free environment, issue of disability certificates, social security, promotion of NGOs to provide services to complement government initiatives, collection of information on PWDs on a regular basis, research on PWDs, sports, recreation and cultural life, amending existing laws on PWDs etc.

However, the policy fails to establish a clear plan of action for the implementation of the policy within a specific time period. The government has stressed on the community’s responsibility for the implementation of the policy. The policy has recommended that the community play a vital role in the generation of resources to provide for the infrastructure costs related to implementation. This aspect of the policy has been criticised as a move by the State to absolve itself of its duty to create an inclusive environment for PWDs.

The existence of legal mechanisms promoting rights of PWDs has not significantly changed their plight for the better. While better implementation of these laws is necessary, what is even more important is a change in attitude towards disability and full participation of PWDs in the decision making process as to their well being. The sheer insensitivity and neglect shown towards PWDs is shocking and shameful and cannot be improved without spreading education and awareness about disability. A welcome beginning would be the immediate ratification of the UN Convention on Rights of PWDs and incorporation of its obligations in domestic law along with the formulation of strong and adequate measures to implement them. Unless these positive measures are undertaken, India’s strong commitment towards mainstreaming and inclusion of PWDs shall be nothing more than an empty promise.
Rights and Development Bulletin, Vol. 1 Issue.3 , at http://www.cdhr.org.in

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Left in West Bengal: Not so Right!

Not for nothing do they say Marxism is dead. The illustrious descendant to the Marxist legacy in India, the Leftist government of West Bengal have proved the statement correct. To say that Indian politics is not dirty would be the most ignorant remark to pass but to say that the Communist parties in India are the cleanest among the dirtiest would have been true, had they not done/encouraged/triggered off what happened in both Singur and Nandigram.
The Communist parties in India swear by their people centric and decentralised approach to governance and since they have been wiped out in almost all States in India, West Bengal stands out as the beacon of that very image. The land reforms process in WB completed in the 1970s still garner them enough vote support, at least from the rural areas to keep them in power, year after year. election after election, over the last three decades. Not that the Left has not done the quintessential flip-flops that has now become synonymous with the Indian political process but in comparison to the key players, these so called flip-flops have been so mild, both in number and content, that the Indian junta still associates some integrity to the Left. People believe(d) that they may not be able to solve India's innumerable problems but at least, will not create any to hinder her progress.
"We are promise-bound to the people [of West Bengal] to take the State forward and not back into darkness; this is our commitment ... For those yet to be convinced [of the need for industrial development] the onus is on us to get them to understand”, said Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Chief Minister of the state of West Bengal, addressing a mass rally organized by a peasant’s organization in Kolkata on 11 March 2007. Soon after, on 14 March 2007, 14 people were killed and 75 others injured in an incident involving open police firing at a village crowd in Nandigram in East Midnapore district, West Bengal. Nandigram is the site for a chemical plant to be set up by Indonesia’s Salim group, in pursuance of the Central government’s recent Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy.
SEZs are essentially geographical regions that have different economic laws from the laws existing in other parts of the country with the aim of increasing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The government has relaxed a lot of licensing, taxation and tariff restrictions through The Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act 2005. SEZs are said to promote exports, enhance employment opportunities and develop infrastructure. SEZs have been permitted to operate both in the manufacturing and service sectors.

Ever since their conception, SEZs have been faced with considerable criticism from scholars, civil society groups, politicians and the media. The Finance Ministry has expressed concern that SEZs would cause huge revenue losses to the state exchequer but the Commerce Ministry has assured that the investments attracted by the SEZs would far outdo the projected losses. India’s central bank, The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has also expressed its reservation on the viability of granting of huge tax concessions for SEZ development. Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the political coalition in power, has expressed her disapproval over the impact of SEZs on the rights of displaced farmers.

SEZs are feared to seize thousands of acres of agricultural land from poor farmers in India to be transferred into the hands of private entrepreneurs. Instead of being an instrument of economic progress, SEZs are likely to create economic hardship leading to loss of rich agricultural lands without providing adequate compensation to the farmers/landowners. They have been referred by experts as “islands of affluence in a sea of deprivation”.
The state governments have resorted to coercive techniques to acquire agricultural lands from the farmers. The poor farmers are forced to sell their cultivable lands at much lower rates than the prevailing market rates. Land acquisitions by the state are governed by the colonial Land Acquisition Act 1894. Under the 1894 Act, the Central and State governments can acquire land for ‘public purposes and for Companies and for determining the amount of compensation to be made on account of such acquisition’. In a Supreme Court ruling (Jage Ram v. State of Haryana), the scope of the term ‘public purpose’ with regard to land acquisitions was held to include the process of industrialization, which could be challenged only on the ground of ‘colourable exercise of power’.
The government was planning to forcefully acquire agricultural lands from the villagers amidst great local resistance for the purposes of this project, despite their earlier assurance that land would not be acquired without local consent. Violence first erupted in Nandigram on 6 January 2007 when it became public that the West Bengal government was planning to acquire land in the area and clashes between Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) and Trinamool Congress activists claimed 6 lives. Since then, the villagers had blocked entry into the area by digging up roads and breaking bridges, as a mark of their protest against forced land acquisition. Trouble simmered when the police tried to break into the restricted area and was confronted by a 5,000 strong crowd, which resisted their entry into the area by throwing bricks at them. Initially, the police countered the attack with rubber bullets, teargas and lathicharge but when they were unable to disperse the crowd, they open fired. It was reported later that several people went missing after the police-firing incident and there have also been complaints of women being sexually assaulted by police personnel, in the aftermath of the violence. (The Statesman, 20 March 2007)
Many families in Nandigram have been displaced and are living in relief camps, since trouble began in the area. Testimonies from the village residents reveal that there has been looting and destruction of private property, allegedly by the Trinamool Congress backed Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee (The Committee for Resistance against Land Acquisition). Meanwhile, sporadic clashes between the CPI(M) and the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh (BUPC) Committee continue, with each party accusing the other of spurring hostility in the area. Both the parties have been involved in burning houses of poor, innocent villagers in Nandigram, for regaining their political stronghold in the area. (The Times of India, 19 March 2007)

In response to mass protests and demonstrations against police violence and succumbing to pressure from its political allies and opposition alike, the Left government has temporarily withdrawn the land acquisition process in Nandigram and has decided to remove police forces in phases from the region. The government has taken responsibility for the killings in Nandigram. Speaking before the State Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya described the killings as “unfortunate” but justified police action by stating that they acted in self-defence. He said that the police forces were sent to restore the law and order situation in Nandigram and not to acquire land. He reiterated his earlier claim that lands would not be acquired for industrialisation purposes unless the local population was ready for it.
It comes as a great shock that the Marxist government in West Bengal would use such brutal force to silence peasant protestors, who constitute their greatest support base in the state. The Nandigram massacre is a blemish on the pro-peasant image of the Left that it had built over the years with their liberal, pro-poor policies on land reforms and decentralisation. The Nandigram incident raises questions about disproportionate use of force by the police in tense situations.
The violent protests during the acquisition of agricultural lands at Singur in West Bengal for establishing a Tata Motors small car plant have raised serious questions about the whole process of land acquisition by the government in India. A division bench of the Kolkata High Court has ruled in February 2007 that the land acquisition at Singur appeared to be prima facie illegal. The Court said that the West Bengal government had used two legal provisions of the 1894 Act simultaneously to acquire the lands at Singur. The Court has further directed the state to file detailed affidavits explaining its agricultural land acquisition policy and details of the agreements with landowners of these lands and also state the number of Singur farmers who have received compensation for the loss of land.

Strong public protests relating to the establishment of a SEZ in Nandigram, East Midnapore district in West Bengal have led to the temporary withdrawal of the SEZ plan by the West Bengal government. Although the Central government has cleared the SEZ project in Nandigram, the ruling party in the state has decided to slow down the process, evaluate the project and explain the importance of SEZs to the people. Farmers in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh have conducted similar protests against mass acquisition of land, thus exposing the loopholes in the SEZ policy.

The sustainability of SEZs is questionable. SEZs have brought into focus the whole issue of displacement and rehabilitation and resettlement. The Central government is said to be finalizing a draft of the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy 2006. According to reports, the new policy is said to make affected parties stakeholders in the industrial projects by providing them employment in these projects, alternative housing near the location of displacement, along with cash compensation. The new policy is said to cover SEZs and all other projects where land acquisition leads to the displacement of families. However, the draft rehabilitation policy is not without its flaws and has been criticized as being unable to put in place a framework for accountability, transparency and consultation.

Civil society groups have demanded the immediate repeal of the SEZ Act 2005, which in their opinion, is violative of the constitutional right to life and livelihood of the people. These groups have demanded the cancellation of the notified SEZs in various states and return of land. Flooded by violent protests over SEZs, the Central government has decided to put on hold any further clearances for SEZs. It has been decided that even those SEZ projects, which have been cleared, shall be put under the scanner, before they commence work. Kamal Nath, the Minister for Commerce and Industry has recently announced that the proposal from the states will have to mention the kind of lands that shall be acquired and the procedure for such acquisition. The Central government has clarified that it will not proceed with the establishment of new SEZs until a new rehabilitation policy is formulated for displaced persons.

It has become clear that the SEZ Act 2005 has failed to address many of the direct consequences of developing SEZs. Massive land acquisitions are being conducted across India without putting in place a proper legal mechanism for rehabilitation and resettlement of those whose lands are being taken away. The government has also not conducted a thorough socio-economic and environmental impact assessment of the SEZ projects that have been approved so far. The question that needs to be asked at this stage is whether the hurried establishment of the SEZs will lead to equitable and sustainable development? The construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river and the struggle of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) to get justice for the displaced has highlighted the devastating impact of development induced displacement. If SEZ projects are allowed to operate in the midst of a legal void addressing the interests of the displaced farmers, it will only deepen class divides and lead to skewed economic growth, hurting rather than boosting equitable development in India. It is encouraging that the government is in the process of finalising a new National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy, which, hopefully will address the concerns of those worst affected by such land acquisitions. If equitable development is to be ensured, the government will have to put in place proper legal mechanisms to implement its industrialisation process.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Papa, Kaash aap jaisa Baabul sabko "naa" mile: An honest review of Baabul-the film

A very boring day at office....After having walked around in the sun for sometime, a good lunch break demands some senseless writing! A good way to chill on a jobless, Thursday afternoon! So, here comes my review of the film Baabul, that I watched nearly a month ago with my friend, Praachi. Praachi was supposed to have written this review, a long time ago but unfortunately, time waits for none, not even lazy, promise breaking friends.
Why did I go to watch this movie, one might ask? It was at the recently married Praachi's insistence, who is getting in touch with her Indian roots, these days! Most importantly, it gave us both an opportunity to catch up and pass endless comments on a really bad movie. It is my firm belief that both of us are in the best form at the worst of movies. We truly make life for fellow movie goers hell, during these movies. After all, how do you recover your money's worth if you cannot pass sour comments at a movie like this, which is a complete assault on one's senses? As one hapless lady commented after our onslaught during KANK, "Stop judging the movie", as if it were a real person or something.

Anyhow, I was late for the movie and Praachi was sending me these threatening SMSes. Finally, when we entered the beginning credits were done rolling and the first scene began when we were taking our seats. Before even plonking herself on the seat, Praachi gave out a loud sigh and soon enough, I realised that the movie demanded many more such uffs, ughs, sheesh, chhees etc etc. The first sigh was an acknowledgment of the soon to be dead Salman Khan's outrageous fashion sense. I donot remember exactly but I think he was wearing a weird combo of brown and magenta.
The first thing to be noticed about the movie is SalmanKhan's truly global accent. It truly transcends national boundaries as it is American at one point, Brit at another and Carribean, when he is drunk! (Oh sorry..he does not touch alcohol in the movie as he is truly Bharatiya, in touch with his sabhyata! He is drunk on Rani Mukerjee!) and almost never Indian! He speaks Hindi with such a twang that sometimes, it became difficult to decipher what he was trying to say. Anyway, his diction is not something he should be proud of. And yes, to justify his accent, he obviously has been studying abroad or working there and has not seen his parents in over seven years! In Hindi movies, the number seven is very significant for some reason. Everything happens over a period of seven years, not six or eight, but seven! One wants to ask the director, that if he belongs to such a rich family, then what explains his homecoming after seven years! Was he on exile or was he failing every goddamn paper that he appeared for? With Salman Khan, both these options seem likely!
Anyway, he bumps into Rani Mukherjee for the first time at the airport and falls in love! The next meeting of the two is at a golf course where Amitabh Bachchan, also known as "Buddy" in the movie by Salman's character(As if you can't call your father, dad, papa, pitaji and yet be his friend!), shoots his golf ball right into Rani's painting. Rani, being an upcoming, dedicated painter, is obviously fuming at this act of indiscretion by a rich, old man. Salman pretends to be her well wisher and tells her that Bachchan is his inconsiderate employer. Next day, he is stalking Rani Mukherjee, who being from a simple, middle class family, travels in a bus, in designer clothes. To look poor, he borrows Rajpal Yadav's clothes. This was a sure goof up! How Rajpal Yadav's fitting clothes fit the overtly pumped up Salman Khan, is a question that the makers should have looked into! Another thing..Will directors stop wasting the amazingly talented Rajpal Yadav by giving him these useless, crony type roles? And why the hell does he agree to do these roles, when the extremely untalented Salman Khan is taking centrestage? While stalking Rani Mukherjee in a bus, he travels to the bus stand in his Merc and asks his friend cum chauffer (usually, in Hindi movies, rich heroes and their benevolent fathers treat their serfs with a lot of respect and dignity) to wait around at the same spot with the car, till he is done stalking the girl!
Anyway, it takes two to three so called chance meetings for Rani to fall in love with Salman Khan. The thing that Salman uses to win Rani over, is his love for chai. Rani is shown to be this intellectual, morally upright thing in the beginning of the movie, who paints for a living, wears glasses and boho chic clothes, designed by Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Salman is a wanton, foreign returned rich kid, who is helping dad with his business. I am a huge fan of Sabyasachi's clothes and one of my many recurring dreams is to own a Sabyasachi ensemble! (All persons reading this post, please contribute as much as you can, to fulfill this little girl's dream of owning a designer ensemble!) To see some very nice clothes designed for tall, lithe model types being wasted on the short, stocky Rani Mukherjee killed me. I know Sabyasachi wants to foray into Bollywood but he should at least make Rani wear clothes that suit her and the Boho chic, retro look is so not her. In my expert fashion critic opinion, those clothes that Rani wore in the first half were not meant for someone her height, physical frame and attitude.
Soon, Salman, the rich kid was buying off Rani's paintings and he is so intelligent, that he instructs Rani, through her art dealer to deliver the paintings at their office. Thus, his deception comes to an unexpected end, when Rani finds out that he is AB's son and storms out of the office in despair. AB follows her and explains what a gem his son is and that she deserves no better than the goofy Salman. Then follows, one of the best marriage proposal scenes in Hindi film history, when Salman Khan chooses a location, which, from the look of it, could either be an old, abandoned churchyard or a graveyard, to propose, because restaurants and parks are passe'. Apparently, this was the same place where AB proposed marriage to Salman's mom, Hema Malini. Anyway, so, Salman goes down on his knees and mouths these exact words in his earlier explained global accent " Dude, I wanna grow old with you!" and then follows it up with "Say, yes", enough number of times, before she finally bursts out crying and obviously, says yes. Whether it was a yes to stop further nagging or did she actually want to marry him, calls for national debate. Hema Malini should do something about her Hindi. For starters, she is a terrible actress and then, she speaks Hindi with a Tamil accent, even after doing Hindi films for half her life. What took the cake, was when she decided to speak Punjabi with her Tamil accent in one scene. It was hilarious! Dharmendra should be ashamed of himself, if he could not improve Hema's Punjabi, being the original Punjab da puttar!
I forgot to mention, Rani's best friend in the movie is a very soft spoken, well dressed, well behaved John Abraham, who obviously is in love with her, but withdraws, as soon as he finds out about Salman. Given the tenets of Indian culture, this is where John's character fails as a friend. It was his duty to save Rani from the clutches of the non- intellectual, balding, badly dressed Salman Khan but no, he chooses to flee to Europe instead, to make a singing career in the Hindi language there. That was, my friends, the irony of the situation. Anyway, they get married, in John's presence, who was looking so cute while looking so sad, having lost in love and all that, that my heart melted at the sight and may I say, if I were alone, I would have cried with him, in his misery.
Right after marriage, Rani changes gear and becomes a true blue Punju bride wearing bright, embroidered sarees, wearing choora and junky gold jewellery. The only relief was that the clothes looked good and tasteful, as they were still designed by Sabyasachi. The bottomline is that, all Boho chic style went flying out of the window and she was busy supervising household chores and taking care of her matrimonial home. They also have a specky child. I believe this was done to show resemblance of the child to Rani. In the meanwhile, Salman got busier with his work and had little time for his family, the hair on his head grew sparse and his fashion sense, had, by this time, gone to the dogs! I knew that the time had come for his character to die. Any extremes in Hindi movies, signify a twist and turn of events. Yes, he dies in an accident and his wife's sanity spirals out of control. She is fast losing her mind, keeping a karva chauth vrath (what's the problem in that? people do so many things in the memory of their loved ones) and dancing with her husband's oversized sweater (This, I believe was one of the scenes when the makers wanted to show that while being culturally rooted, they are willing to accept cute, adorable housewives who are imperfect in many ways, yet are acceptable to het husband and family, so what if she makes burnt rotis and knits badly measured sweaters!) AB and Hema Malini cannot bear the sight of Rani, who is their beti and not bahu, going downhill mentally and AB decides to take control of her life, almost immediately, without even giving her theopportunity to deal with the grief of having lost her husband. Like a true fascist and male chauvinist, he decides that Rani should remarry to get back her sanity. He finds out that John Abraham has now become a famous singer of Hindi songs in a small village called Europe.
One fine evening, where John is performing at a night club, he drops in and feeds him what could be only be termed as an unwelcome, intrusive and highly selfish moral lecture! Anyway, John, without any consideration for his best friend, falls for the AB trick and agrees to head back to India and woo Rani. He buys a huge bungalow and decides to establish his career as a singer of Hindi songs in India, after having taken Europe by storm with his music. John also tries to bond with specky child and they do and as Praachi aptly commented, "ab yeh bachcha gandey dress sense se bach jayega". Till that point, John was dressed in very decent jackets and well tailored clothes, although he did wear Jeetendra type white shoes, in some scenes but when you are that cute, such small fashion faux paxs are forgivable. Unfortunately, instead of passing on his decent fashion sense in the film to specky child, he started dressing like Salman Khan, to my horror. He was wearing bright pink muscle Ts, gold embroidered jackets and sparkly pants. Sheesh!
Anyway, soon enough, Rani discovers the treachery of AB to get rid of her and confronts him with great gusto. This, I was hoping, would be a high point in the movie and was hoping that AB's actual intentions of transferring Rani's plus specky child's responsibility to John, as his son was no longer alive, would be revealed and Rani would show him down in jagruth nari style. But no...the woman gave in to his false concern for her and crocodile tears, instead and bought some time to consider marrying John. Cut to the next scene, wedding cards are being printed and out comes Hema Malini, in true saas mode, being unable to accept his bahu as another man's wife. All talk about beti over bahu, goes down the drain.
Then, there was Om Puri, AB's big bro in the movie, who along with his son, thought that Rani was a) committing a crime against Punjabi society by remarrying and B) most importantly, taking away family property, with her! Btw, Om Puri was also against Sarika's (a widow in the family) attendance in Salman- Rani's wedding, as she was a kaala saaya. AB, as the true saviour, ensured that Sarika attended the wedding and later, Om Puri blamed Sarika for Salman's death etc. Through all this, Sarika maintains undignified silence. Om Puri reappears to obstruct Rani- John's wedding with the whole family, along with Sarika. Hello, what happened there?? This time Sarika opens her mouth, spitting venom against evil society and Om Puri, of course and her monologue, at this point, sounds nothing more than a badly written 6th standard essay on Widow remarriage, further substantiated by AB in the end.
I died a million deaths watching this one scene. The self laudatory, pretentious approach filled me with disgust. No one asks Rani Mukerjee, whether she wants to even marry John Abraham or whether she be given more time to think things through. Just because Mr. Bachchan decides to do a good deed, before he dies; what better way than to scapegoat your son's widow by forcing her to marry her best male friend? And yes, Rani Mukerjee's character is no epitome of women's liberation either, who lacks complete capacity to think and decide on her own! Yes, she objects, but only to give in, after a few teardrops escape from dear Baabul's eyes. What kind of person are you, if such a major decision of your life, involves a crying father-in-law a.ka. Baabul and complete disrespect for free, individual will!
And when she says in the end, "Papa, kaash aap jaisa baabul sabko mile", I felt so angry, that words fail me! And lastly, the word " Baabul" was used in a manner in the movie, as if to suggest that every girl in India is habitually using this term to refer to their fathers, over time. Do me a favour, don't watch this movie and if you do, make sure you make fun of every scene and word, that makes a mockery of the intelligence of the Indian audience.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

These are a few of my favourite things...The Bengali must haves check list!

What is the one thing that binds together a community in a cosmopolitan setting like today? It used to be one's cultural identity, but today, when Bengali weddings have a mehndi and sangeet ceremony and Punjabi brides wear shakha-pala( the white and red bangles that Bengali married women wear!), such cultural divides are disappearing! Call me regionalistic, call me parochial, but I still hold my Bengali identity very dear to me, after my individual identity, of course! Yes, I would love to call myself an internationalist or multiculturalist because it's with it but I am sooo not so!
The question that I ask myself often is that how does one maintain one's Bengali identity, living in a metropolitan city and calling oneself cosmopolitan? I mean, what is it that makes me a Bengali, apart from my last name and the language I speak and distinctly so? Does it mean that I have to listen to Rabindra Sangeet, don a tant saree at every given opportunity or mouth lines by Jibanananda Das to express every feeling of mine? Hell no...On the contrary, I listen to Himesh Reshamiyya and will confess, that I actually like some of his songs, Jhalak Dikhla Ja, in particular, like wearing sarees only very ocassionally when I really want to look good (they are such a hassle otherrwise) and resort to poetry only when I need to quote someone on something and my limited vocabulary has completely failed me and this happens quite often!
As a child, unlike most other Bengali parents, my parents realised that both, my sister and I were normal children, who were no child prodigies, with any special gift! So, they put us in a decent Engliss medium school, not too far away from home and were happy. We were not asked to learn and master the art of singing, dancing, one or more sport/s, painting and as many Bengali kids, at the time, were not put into schools for learning recitation and stuff. My sister expressed a desire to paint and wanted to learn art, so I joined her for fun. Soon enough, I realised I am and never will be a Paul Gauguin or Ganesh Pyne and happily quit. Sometime later, someone told my mother that my sister and I could sing in tune, as we were both singing Hindi film songs all the time at home. My mother asked us if we wanted to learn music and we joined a music school happily, as it gave us something constructive to do on weekends plus you could tell your friends that you actually did something, pursued some arty-farty interests, outside of school. Off we went to music school, but even that did not last longer than a year. We were fed up when our mother, in collusion with the music teacher, of course, began coaxing us to rise early every morning to do riyaz, as if early morning school was not bad enough. Thus, we decided to quit and with that ended our mother's interest in actually trying to make us pursue a hobby. In fact, many parents found it strange that both of us tried our hands at singing and did not pursue it further. We were quite deprived as children, among our contemporaries. Untalented and unmeritorious as we were, our parents also made little effort to hone our lack of talent, so that we could blossom..poor us!
Be that as it may, we were happy. We could watch as much television as we could, as long as we did our homework on time and there was no pressure to excel in any other field, other than education. How much we have achieved in education, is also a bone of contention, among us and our parents and we never blamed them for it! Imagine, being a Bong, doing just one thing and not excelling in it...Such a shame!
What I am trying to say and not so eloquently is that we learnt a lot of things, despite not being taught to do them. I grew up to like music and art a lot, without learning them. I grew up watching my parents and other members of the family, read a lot, so I developed an interest in reading. No one in my immediate family showed great musical inclination, which explains my random, eclectic taste in music, of Himesh Reshamiyya and the likes but hey, I like classical music too, but not for very long, at a stretch, as it strains my musical senses after a while. That is why I like concerts like Music in the Park which have good live music, a good ambience and do not last longer than an hour. The lesser duration of these concerts are largely attributable to less payment to musicians by SPICMACAY, a cultural awareness organisation which encourages classical musicians to do some social good for a lot less money! Unfortunately, not all concert organisers are this generous!
Given the social definition of a Bengali, as being intellectually superior, culturally aware and socially distant from those unlike themselves, I fail to qualify completely. I donot wear dhakai sarees with dokra jewellery and donot celebrate Tagore's or Netaji's birthday, as if it were my own! Yet, when I look into my junk wardrobe and sparse cosmetics collection, I do find a few things that make me a true, proud Bengali, more Bengali than the Tagore loving, fish eating Bengali.
Bengalis have the unique distinction of taking many things from outside and making it their own. Yes, you can associate many things with a culture that is distinctly their own but in most cases, these distinct characteristics emanates from within themselves, like their eating habits or clothing etc, like Mallus and banana chips and Gujaratis and chiwda. But the Bengali case is quite different. Some call it brand loyalty but I call it Khaanti Bangaliyana.
Here comes my list of Bengali must haves, after a lot of rambling and several diagressions:
1. Boroline (Despite having maximum oil content and an atrociously strong smell, Boroline is the preferred cream for many Bengalis, over many new age non-oily, non-sticky creams!
2. Margo soap (What kind of a Bengali are you, if you don't emerge after a bath, smelling like some sort of an ayurvedic pure neem assortment?)
3. Monkey cap, also called Maankey cap ( I proudly proclaim that I do not own one but it is an absolute must have, protecting many a Bengali during the non existent winters that plague Calcutta at the end of the year. Come October and these caps, a species on their own, emerge from the hidden closets of a Bengali houselhold. Winter fashion in Bengal would not have been the same without this ultimate winter weapon!)
4. Britannia Marie Biscuits (No one munches Marie biscoots with chai, the way we Bengalis do! To hell with Parle Hide and Seek and Shrewsberry cookies; low on sweet content, donning a simple, saada look, packed in an equally boring and unexciting yellow packet and priced reasonably, Marie rocks!)
5. Keo Karpin Hair Oil ( The green fluid that has adorned and enhanced many a Bengali beauty's lovely long tresses...If there is an oilier oil than this hair oil, kindly let me know, as I will demonstrate for its withdrawal from the hair oil market. This crown should never slip out of the hands of Dey's Medical, the manufacturer of KK)
6. AD oil (If you have not been regularly massaged with AD oil, as a fat Bengali child, go sue your parents because they have deprived you of silky, smooth flawless skin! Go hide your dry, pimple, acne ridden skin until you buy your own pack of AD Vitamin Oil)
7. Robinson's Barley (The first thing that an overeating, obese Bengali baby is exposed to after a doting and overindulgent mom, Johnson's baby products and lots of food, is this product!)
8. Monkey brand toothpowder (The Maankey fascination continues...see, we constantly remind ourselves where we come from?)
9. Medicines (The Medicine box is an asset to a Bengali household and can put any small chemist shop to shame. Often the contents of such box is predictable, as most medicines are related to stomach ailments, tummy upset, indigestion, acidity, gastric or simple stomach aches!)
10. Finally, the jhola bag (The Bengalis have converted this boring potli where old travelling bards stored all their belongings into a fashion statement, so much so, that if you are in undergrad college and do not carry a jhola, you are sooooooo out of the loop! It gives you that vagabondish yet intellectual serious look!)
If you donot possess at least half of the items on the list, then get ready for your membership to the Bengali brigade to be unequivocally revoked. I am sure there are many such other things that we all-embracing Bengalis have made our own! We Bengalis, redefine the term, brand loyalty! Go conduct a survey of these brands (some of them, have even lost their status as brands, so we will call them products!) and you will see, that Bengalis are the highest purchasers of these products. Talk about being supportive and learn it from us! HAIL BENGALIS!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Live ins: Love + Economics

Not going into the moral question of whether live in relationships are good or bad..that has been discussed, way too often and I think its better to realize that it is a matter of free individual choice. Most prefer mariages, some not so much! As far as I am concerned, I see the many advantages of live-ins but when it comes to me, I might not be able to go for it, as:

a) I am guessing, my mother is going to temporarily disown me and I cannot handle that! She is, for all that its worth, my strongest support system! This is going to affect my future relationship with her and may I bet, that there is a chance that it won't be the same again.

b) Most importantly, I believe in marriage. I donot think it's sanctum sanctora or an institution but I do not like it when people say that what binds a married couple together is a piece of paper and thus,can be avoided. I say, if it is just a piece of paper, then why is it such a big deal! If a piece of paper gives a relationship social acceptance and gives a child born out this relationship, legitimacy and social respect, then what is wrong in that! I find it slightly warped when live in couples get married just when they want to have a child or are expecting one! I am sure marriage is not just a piece of paper after all! Anyway, on the whole, its not that big a deal, really! I know when people argue that mariages are difficult to get out of, so much legal hassle etc but frankly speaking, is it any easier to walk out of a live in either? Both are human relationships and are equally complex. Yes, I agree that one is saved of the legal delays in case of a live in but how long do legal divorces by mutual consent take these days?

For many urban dating couples, who barely get to spend time with each other during the week, given their hectic work schedules and can only meet on weekends, or may be not at all for weeks together, live ins are becoming increasingly popular living arrangements. Live in relationships were being discussed in a weekend show on Times Now channel, where one couple raised the issue of the pure economic vilability of live ins. In expensive cities like Delhi or Mumbai, such couples achieve the dual objective of spending time together and saving lots of money, as all living costs are shared.

In fact, the new law against domestic violence also recognises live in relationships, as the law protects not only a wife but also a woman in a live in relationship. India is gradually waking up to the reality of live in relationships, after all. In fact, they make movies on that subject these days..SALAAM NAMASTE (a movie that is more famous for eggjactly and Preity Zinta's hot bod than anything else!)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Just a thought!

Today, when I went to the restroom at office to wash my face (uff..its so dusty here), I took a close look at my face after a really long time and I was shattered. I looked and more importantly, felt so old at that very moment!
I really am not that old (mentally or physically) but the dark circles under my eyes and the gloomy look on my face scared me... I use minimal cosmetics nor do I intend to in a very long time... I was not evern wearing kajal (antimony, as they call it in books) in my eyes....I REALLY FELT THAT I WAS AGING AND IT STRUCK ME LIKE LIGHTENING! (It was really like those movie moments!)

Then, like a good Indian, I analyzed and rationalized and concluded that may be, this feeling stems from my overt fear of old age! Of all the people in the world I feel bad about or sympathize (I know its an insulting word) with the most are the old! Nothing moves me more deeply than the sight of an old person and I think I have an old age phobia. (I just cannot deal with old people objectively!)

I realized that all this jamboree about age being just a number does not hold true in my case. The thought of growing old did throw me off a little bit and I cannot deny it!

At this point, I remembered that Ogden Nash poem , "Lady who Thinks She is Thirty" and that helped me deal with it a little better. And here's this excerpt for all those ladies who feel older beyond their years sometimes! This will surely help.

.......Silly girl, silver girl,
Draw the mirror toward you;
Time who makes the years to whirl
Adorned as he adored you.

Time is timelessness for you;
Calendars for the human;
What's a year, or thirty, to
Loveliness made woman?

Oh, Night will not see thirty again,
Yet soft her wing, Miranda;
Pick up your glass and tell me, then--
How old is Spring, Miranda?

How old is spring , Miranda? is the line I remembered and I thought that I have to live well through a hundred more springs, if not more and stop sulking about dark circles... I think a simple under eye gel or even, kajal will take care of it and I feel better and younger already!