Friday, December 21, 2012

Women Hold Up Half The Sky

"Women hold up half the sky" - Mao Zedong
The latest assault makes me shudder each time I hear about it. My blood curdles, I feel dizzy each time television channels start their meaningless debates on the subject.
What wrong did the girl do to deserve this kind of an atrocity, an atrocity of the worst order. What life will she have if she survives? Will her scars ever heal?
The girl is a citizen of this country. She had potential to contribute to the country's economic and social well-being, yet her potential has been nipped in the bud for all practical purposes.
Who is to blame?
It is easy to blame lax policing and easy laws, but we are talking about a larger social issue.
This is a society which despite having leapfrogged into the e-age has quite a medieval and feudal mindset towards half of our population - the female sex. Successive governments and social organisations have not focused on the root cause of the problem.
The solution lies at home. If little boys see their sisters being loved and are taught to love their sisters, they would never become such demons. If the little boys see equality at home, only then would learn to respect girls.
If the girl child is treated with the same respect, loved, cared for and tended to as boys are, only then would boys see girls as equals, as partners in progress and not as mere lesser mortals or just sexual objects.
Preference for the boy child, female infanticide also results in a warped sex ratio. Distortion in the sex ratio essentially results in a whole lot of sexually frustrated young men, which in Northern India has resulted in a well-oiled trade in "brides" from the East, which is nothing but human trafficking.
And then there has to be compulsory sex education in schools and colleges. Women must also be compulsorily taught self-defence techniques to deal with such demons.
To deal with these demons, I don't really think death penalty will help. Instead, they should be chemically castrated and put behind bars for a minimum 15 years. On release, their foreheads should be tattooed with the words "Rapist" to make them live the rest of their their lives in indignation. These should deter any demons in the making.
Gender issues we face as a country essentially means that half of India isn't as productive economically as they could potentially be. Look at China.
If only we understood what Chairman Mao meant when he said "Women hold up half the sky".
As for the girl, I hope she's revived, gets an intestinal transplant, returns to society with full honour and dignity and moves on to realise her dreams. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

AAP Ke Liye?

After being touted as a transforming agent and a democrat, Morsi of Egypt showed his true side by attempting to consolidate his powers as President. Yet sometime back, during the season of the Arab Spring, he was a darling of the Egyptian masses, and also the West!
Then I happened to see a documentary yesterday, "The Queen And I". It was on the life of the very elegant Queen of Iran, Farah Pahlavi. The film was produced by Iranian-Swedish filmmaker, Nahid Persson Sarvestani. 
The Queen's husband, the late Shah Reza Pahlavi was deposed by Iranians, who saw the imperialists as oppressors and Khomeini as a messiah. But as the film showed, letters written by ordinary Iranians to Queen Farah showed how things had worsened, how the messiahs were worse than the imperialists and how the people thought they would have been better off under the imperialists. 
It is however an entirely different speculation that Khomeini as propped up by the British and French simply because the Shah had planned to nationalise foreign-owned oil companies.
Today, in India, we are being shown an alternative Aam Admi Party, or AAP, led by a maverick, Arvind Kejriwal.
Should we really be enthused about AAP?
Perhaps not, I believe. 
He's untried, untested and more importantly seems publicity hungry to me. What are his true intentions? Would he be like Morsi or would he be like Khomeini?
While we may like some of the ideals he presents, we may find them appealing, I find them unrealistic.
Human nature is prone to greed, corruption and vice. Its inbuilt into our DNA. Every nation is corrupt in its own way, degrees may very. For instance, many of the "least corrupt" nations of this world are tax havens and countries that stash ill-gotten wealth from all over the globe.
The deciding factor is not the extent of corruption, because eradicating corruption would be something quixotic. Instead, we should determine the dividing line - how much is enough.
The PV Narasimha Rao government of the early 1990s was corrupt, yet was the most efficient in independent India and did indeed revive the sputtering economic growth engine, setting the stage for India to assume economic superpower status. Similarly, the NDA government too was corrupt but it had a vision of growth which was implemented in the form of telecom reforms and the highway projects!
So decide for yourself, is AAP for you?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"East Meets West" & "The End of The World"!

After reading up on European cuisine and watching television shows, I have developed this particular fancy for visiting Europe, starting in Paris and then travelling by road down to Spain and then further eastward to Cyprus.
I can imagine myself driving on the French countryside amidst vineyards and olive groves, sampling the goodies on offer - the cheeses, the wines and delicatessen. I had written about France earlier - the Rungis in Paris and all that. 
Now for something new....
At the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East lies the island of Cyprus. Cyprus is unique - it is the only nation whose map, copper coloured, is on its flag - with two olive branches below it.
Based on its unique blend of ethnicities - Greek and Turkish, Cyprus has developed a unique food tradition - an unorthodox "East meets West" kind of place. This is the place where kebabs meets pasta, where Arab mezze meets cured meats, Oriental spices meet vegetables like Okra from Africa! 
Cyprus is a place I have always wanted to visit since 1983, when I saw photos of sun-kissed Nicosia, the green Mediterranean countryside and the sun-kissed beaches. But Tonia Buxton's show My Cypriot Kitchen, was quite a revelation that Cypriots have blended various culinary traditions to evolve a very delectable cuisine.
The Basque region of Spain particularly excites me. The Basque people are believed to be the original Europeans, who inhabited this continent much before the Indo-European races migrated from the Caucasus region. Their language, Euskara, is much unlike the rest of the Indo-European languages. A lot has been speculated on the origin of Basques - speculative reports on the internet say the Basques are from Atlantis or are of alien origin (gasp!) - but truly, they are unique!
One unique tradition of Basque is the Txoko - a closed gastronomical society, traditionally only open to male members who come together to cook, experiment with new ways of Basque cooking, eat and socialise. The first record of a Txoko goes back to 1870 in San Sebastián, Spain, from where the concept spread. During the Franco dictatorship, Txokos became increasingly popular as they were one of the few places where Basques could legally meet without state control, speak Basque and sing Basque songs. 
The Txoko tradition has helped in the revival of many traditional Basque dishes, which could have otherwise died out. These clubs have also influenced the development of new dishes as Txoko members frequently experiment and innovate with Basque cuisine. The tradition has led to Basque cuisine being both highly refined and affordable.
Anyone for a Txoko in Mumbai?
Travelling westward from San Sebastián along the northern coastline of Spain, to Cape Finisterre, where the bay of Biscay meets the Atlantic promises to be exciting. The Finisterre are has several rocks associated with pre-Christian religious legends, such as the "holy stones", the "stained wine stones", the "stone chair", and the tomb of the Celtic goddess Orcabella. 
The significance of Cape Finisterre is this - it was believed to be the end of the world - 100 metre high cliffs and the Atlantic waves crashing below. Finisterre is the final destination for many pilgrims on the Way of St. James, the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Cape Finisterre is about a 90-km walk from Santiago de Compostela. This is said to be the remnant of pagan traditions which have become very Christian today. 
It is a tradition for pilgrims to burn their possessions - clothes or boots at the end of their pilgrimage at Cape Finisterre. Perhaps that is to signify ending the past and beginning on a clean slate! That makes me want to visit Finisterre, "the end of the world", perform this pilgrimage (despite not being a Christian but a devout Hindu) and make a new beginning, in what I love the most, yes - it is food!
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