Friday, May 21, 2010
I wonder what my answer shall be.
Stories which teach, which inform, which reinforce concepts and values you are trying to teach, stories with moral - are these superior to those we read for amusement, for enjoyment alone?
I suppose at some point of life, I would have said yes. At this moment, on the morning of the day I have been requested, nay ordered, to only read 40 books and do experiments (and no homework or studying), I hesitate. If you will come with me, we shall examine this together, and who knows where we shall go, what we shall find?
I love books. I remember the thrill of holding a tiny book in my small hands when I was five or slightly older - it was just the way mum held her book when she was reading. I remember summer holidays marked by the abundance of my grandfather's library, even if the only one I could read was the Encyclopedia Brittanica. I remember the location still, of the shops which sold softies and second hand Enid Blytons, in markets more than 30 years past. I remember the towering dusty old shelves of pre-indepence era belonging to my great grandfather with nostalgia and regret: I couldn't read them then. I remember.... books, from almost every phase in my life. There is nothing I'd rather be gifted, nor anything I'd rather gift - than books. Naturally, the first book encountered by my tiny baby, just beginning to crawl on the bed, was one of the massive Harry Potter volumes. How I loved to see those tiny hands flipping the pages!
We have been reading together ever since my child was able to sit. Admittedly those first books were only animal pictures, or illustrated nursery rhymes, but they still caught, and held, an infant's attention. Last night, we slept far too late, and I called off the bedtime books. As a result I was made to promise to read 40 books, and do only experiments today - no studies, no homework, and definitely not mama busy in her household tasks (or the computer!). Forty is a large number to a four year old, isn't it?
So whence comes this love of reading, of books?
When I was introduced to the school my child now goes to, one of the things I liked about it was that they included story books in their classroom. Children were encouraged to read stories in the class. It was only when they started the story telling sessions that I realized the difference between my imagination and the reality. It was not a class with ten children seated around two tables. This was a 35+ kids in a classroom with only one teacher. It used some Montessori equipment from 20 years ago - or however long the school had been in existence, but not the system. It advertised horse riding, but that was restricted to once a fortnight for a couple of months. Understandably, there were differences in our outlook on story telling as well.
I thought the sessions were meant to encourage a love of reading, of books, of imagination and creation. I thought different kinds of books would be encouraged - fiction as well as non fiction, mini biographies, wildlife commentaries and so on. I imagined the stress would be on telling a story, using the book as a mere prop, encouraging a child to embroider it any which way, to embellish with own stories. I imagined something magical.
The truth was, one single person, had, in addition to keeping all those children controlled and trying to get them to learn something, also spare time to listen to children reading stories. There was no time or scope for imagination. A picture book without words which I sent the very first day, to encourage description and understanding, was allowed, but gently discouraged. Abridging classics, along with hand illustrated booklets, was not expected, and I was reminded to send the original book. I couldn't then, take the liberty of sending in a story originally told by my own child and illustrated by me. Although on paper they strongly discouraged learning by rote, I did not find any encouragement for the child to be retelling the story in own words. The school held a story telling competition - in which parents were advised to use new and different level appropriate stories, which were to be interesting and with a moral. I assume this is what was required at the rest of the times as well.
And this is where my personal thread rejoins the original question. What makes a good book? It was terribly difficult finding a book that would satisfy all the school's criteria - and mine as well. It was then that I realized that I had been buying books based on one criterion alone - it should appeal to my child. We had encyclopedias, we had life-stories, we had books with and without words, we had turn-the-flap books and small chapter books meant for older children, but what we didn't have, most of the time, were 'moral' books. At least, not in the sense I understood the school to be looking for: "Bubbles Is Selfish", "Mithu and the Yellow Mango", and more of this genre. We did have these two titles, and some more, but these hadn't been the books that were asked to be read twice. Many of the books we owned did have some kind of gentle life lessons, but no 'morals' in the sense of a distinction between right and wrong conduct. Some that were overtly so - like "When Sophie gets angry - really, really angry" was not appreciated. I was okay with that. I had read it once, the book was at hand for later use - right now, I just wanted to foster the love of reading, for with reading automatically comes the broadening of horizons. The kind of books, it seemed to me, that the school wanted us to focus on, were not very imaginative, nor was the language particularly enriching. In fact there were instances where the grammar was poor or syntax incomplete, particularly in books in which there was no author listed - books which were mass produced for precisely this kind of school market.
So, what makes a good book for us? A story? Right now, at this age, it is something that entertains and amuses. Stories that make on laugh - "The monster at the end of this book" is a good example are the top of the list. A story that is intelligent, a plot that is believable, language that is lovely - these are what I use to screen the books I buy. A moral, or something educative - these are important for me, but not as much for my child. What has been your conclusion?
PS: Straight from the horse's mouth - "I like funny books, and fun books. And I like new shiny book, not old torn ones"!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Here is a blog I am in awe of - Playing by the book. Not only do they read tons of books, they also craft gorgeous related things, and listen to related music etc etc. The stuff they make up is amazing - check out the toy hospital for instance. Right now, there is a giveaway on, so do hop over and take a look :)
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Disturbing: Three year old girls catwalking in skimpy grown up clothes, seductively throwing their shawls to the floor, doing a slow strip-tease, to cat calls from the comperes. Fashion show at annual day celebrations of Mother's Pride School. A playschool. Parents. Teachers. Who is responsible here?
I just found this blog - Sophie in the Moonlight, and it is one which I would not describe as beautiful, or well written, or any such mundane adjective. There is only one way to respond to it, and that is by reading it, and getting others to read it. That is the only way I can pay homage to what this lady has shared -
Rape is not good."
Go read the rest of this post (it is an old post), and then the rest of the blog. Please.
Having read this, do you have any words to share? Would you like to talk, or would you prefer, in the face of this raw vulnerable honesty, to be alone with your thoughts? I, for one, want to be silent, just now...
Friday, January 9, 2009
Baha'i temple, December 2008.
The lotus temple needs better care. The pools are stagnating, the unused lower levels are dusty and hold broken furniture, the lawns dry, flower beds straggly. Tourist buses still line up outside, but not as many as before one suspects. Scores of teenaged boys in blue uniforms have been made to leave off their shoes in buses and walk the long dusty paved path up to the temple. Their faces and uniforms say they belong to a government school for the underpriviledged. I can see no teacher, or at least none of the grown ups scattered here and there seems to be attempting any control or conversation. There is laughter and excitement, and cribbing about trivial things, the barefeet walk included. A woman is returning from the temple. Possibly in late twenties, dressed appropriately, serious in manner, but white. As she passes, one of the boys calls out, 'Hello ma'am!' and follows it up with a louder 'I want to fuck you!' to the appreciative sniggers of his fellows. Bile rises up in my throat. I wish to tell the lady that I am sorry, that this is as much of an insult to me as it is to her, this equation of a female with a sex object, this stereotyping. Instead I gather my child close and move on.
Hindustan Times, 6th Jan 2009
NOIDA - A 24-year-old MBA student from Delhi was gang-raped by 10 young men celebrating a cricket victory.
The incident happened in Noida on Monday night.
Five of the alleged rapists have been arrested.
The girl, who studies in a reputed private business school, had gone with a male classmate to a mall, the ‘Great India Place’, in Noida’s Sector 38, close to the busy Sector 18 market.
The victim and her friend were about 900 metres from the mall in their Wagon R car when six of the accused started following them on three motorcycles, according to Noida Superintendent of Police Ashok Tripathi.
“They overtook the car and stopped them. Then they attacked her friend with cricket bats and stumps”, said Tripathi. After overpowering the girl and her friend, one of the accused, Sanjay Yadav (20), drove the car to a secluded place near their village, Garhi Chowkhandi, in Noida’s Sector 71.
They called four others from the village and took turns raping the girl from 6.30 to 8.30 p.m., according to the police.
After this, the rapists rode off, taking away the cell phones of the victim and her friend. The two were able to drive away later, and registered a police complaint around 1.30 a.m. The police sent the victim for a medical examination that confirmed rape.
The rapists were caught in less than 24 hours. “We asked around about local boys who play cricket,” said Tripathi.
Later the victim also identified the accused. One of them admitted to the crime.Thaindian news, 6th Jan 2009
Noida, Jan 6 (IANS) A 21-year-old management student from south Delhi was waylaid by around 10 young men when she was leaving a popular mall here with a friend Monday evening, kidnapped her and raped her at a desolate spot. Five of the men were arrested Tuesday, the police said.The victim had gone with her friend Amit Pawar, a resident of south Delhi’s Hauz Khas locality, to the mall in Sector 18 market here for shopping.
The police said the girl and her friend, both classmates at a private management institute in Noida, were in their WagonR car and returning to their homes in Delhi after watching a late-night film show at a theatre in the mall, when around 10 men intercepted their car.
The men, in their early 20s and residents of Garhi Chaukhandi village in Sector 58, were returning after playing a cricket match. They were riding a Scorpio SUV and two motorcycles.
“The accused were carrying cricket bats and stumps. They got down from their bikes and one of them took the wheel of the car. The other men thrashed Pawar and they drove the car to a secluded spot in Noida Sector 71,” said a police officer.
“They then allegedly took turns to rape the victim. The men fled after taking away the mobile phones of the girl and her friend with them,” the officer said.
After the assault, the victim and her friend reached their homes and told their parents about the incident.
Superintendent of Police (Noida) A.K. Tripathi said, “The victim reported the matter to police at 1.30 a.m. and we arrested five men within 12 hours.”
“In the primary medical tests, no internal injuries were found on her body. She would be taken for further tests,” Tripathi said.
Medical examination later confirmed the rape.
The police said they registered a case under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 376 (rape), 394 (voluntarily causing hurt in committing robbery) and 342 (wrongful confinement).
“We are now looking for five other men who are involved in the incident,” Tripathi added.
“We constituted six police teams and raided the residents of the accused on the basis of the description given by the victim. We arrested five criminals and recovered the articles used in the crime,” Tripathi added.
During interrogation, the five revealed their names as Pushpendra Yadav, Sri Kant Yadav, Sanjay Yadav, Sudhir Yadav and Gautam Yadav.
Sanjay Yadav, one of the 10 accused who allegedly raped an MBA student on Monday night, has a different version of the same story.
He told the police that the victim and her friend had parked their car in a secluded spot in Sector-71 where the incident took place.
“Me and my friends were on our way home when we saw a Maruti Wagon-R car parked in the area. We stopped our motorcycles and saw that a man and a woman were sitting inside the car. We called up our friends and then we attacked them.”
According to the police, the victim was apparently raped in the fields near the crime spot. But Yadav said, “The ten of us raped her inside the car and kept on beating her friend outside.” The horrific incident went on for two hours.
Autorickshaw in Delhi, 1996
It is a summer afternoon, safe enough for me to adventure into an area I haven't been to before. I take an auto, and try to appear knowledgeable, repeating the directions I have been given. The roads are busy: no deserted stretches of lonely sideroads here. The journey is short, less than half an hour. My destination is a residential area, neither posh nor run down. I started from the university, and I am wearing a skirt with a central slit which goes just above my knees and which, during this entire ride, I cover with my purse. After a while, the driver starts to make small talk. I speak in a friendly manner, seeing no reason why I should not talk to an autowallah, just because he is from a different social strata. He tells me of his brother's - or was it a friend's - girlfriend from a named college. I try to discourage him, but it is too late. My openness has been already seen to be a willingness to flirt - as a sexual invitation. When I hand him the fare, he presses my hand. I leave the change and flee.
Noida rape: Gangster Act imposed on 6Noida, Jan. 8: Six youths arrested in connection with the gangrape of a MBA student have been booked under the stringent Gangster Act as hunt was on to nab the other four absconding youth accused in the case. Police has already fanned out several teams to nab the four youths in connection with the shocking incident that occurred when the 21-year-old victim was returning home with her friend in their car after shopping at a mall in Sector 39 here on 6 January.
Expressindia, 8th Jan 2009
NOIDA - The court of chief judicial magistrate Ajay Kumar Tripathi on Wednesday sent the five accused in the gang rape of an MBA student to 14 days of judicial custody.
The five would be lodged in Ghaziabad’s Dasna Jail; the Noida police have sought their police custody for further interrogation.
While a sixth person, one Little, was arrested today, four more accused are still at large. The 10 allegedly picked up the South Delhi-based woman from near Great India Place mall in Noida’s Sector 39 on Monday evening, took her to a field nearby and then raped her.
The five were arrested on Tuesday.
Superintendent of Police (City) Ashok Tripathi said Little, like the others also a resident of Garhi Chowkhandi village, was hiding in Noida. “We hope to make more arrests soon.”
Noida police claimed to have recovered three countrymade pistols and two knives from the accused along with cricket bats and stumps — they were reportedly returning home after a cricket match in Meerut on Monday evening. A senior officer said the court would take up the matter of police custody of the accused on Friday.
Meanwhile, there was still confusion about the exact age of the victim. “The FIR copy says it is between 20 and 22 years,” the officer said.
According to the FIR lodged by the victim’s friend, the two were returning home — the woman lives in Lajpat Nagar — in her Wagon R car when the miscreants attacked them and picked her up.
The National Commission for Women has meanwhile formed an inquiry team to look into the incident.
The Commission’s team members, Neeva Konwar and Wansuk Syiem, visited the crime spot today.
Second class sleeper compartment, women's section. Train to Bihar. 1991
As usual the train is overcrowded. Reservations are only for those of us squeamish about rules and regulations and laws and such stuff. The six seats here are supposed to be for women only, but being the compartment nearest the door, there are many other passengers. A couple of people have asked for permission to sleep on the floor: how can they be refused? Night comes early in winters and between stations the train falls asleep to its clackety rhythm. It is late night when something awakens me, I know not what. Dim yellow light from the toilet area filters through the silence. Our own night light is on, but ineffective. One of the men around is bending over my co-passenger in the lower berth, his outstretched hand over her bosom. He is middle aged, but more than that I don't recall. I sit up and shout out an admonition from instinct. He doesn't look sheepish or guilty, but mumbles something about covering her up. Quite a few of the passengers still sleep on. I can't sleep till he takes himself off elsewhere, and even then, I wake fitfully more often than I would merely to look after my luggage.
NOIDA - But for many inhabitants of Garhi Chawkhandi, one of the biggest villages in Noida district, rape is no big deal.
“I believe the man with her was raping her and our kids, who were just passing by, were targeted to shield the real accused. They are blowing things out of proportion. She was just raped, it is not that big a deal,” said Raghuvar Yadav, former sarpanch of the village.
The alleged rapists belong to well-to-do farmer families and have sprawling houses.
They all went to a local school and were part of a cricket team.
Gyan Chand Yadav, father of Sanjay, one of the alleged rapists, maintains his son is innocent. “They just saw the man and woman doing something wrong and stopped them from doing it. That is their fault. But the police is charging them for rape, which is completely false.”
Some of the villagers who do admit that the accused allegedly raped the MBA student shockingly blame the victim. “She must have done something to anger them. Agreed the boys made a mistake but it is not that big a crime. The girl is at fault here. These big city types come here and corrupt our village,” said village resident Dhanpal Yadav.Times of India, 9th Jan 2009
NOIDA: The villagers of Ghari Chaukhandi, claimed on Thursday evening that the village residents were being framed by the friend of the victim since he had the protection of his father who is a police officer. Some men of the Chaukhandi village were allegedly involved in the gangrape of a Delhi MBA student on Monday evening.
They also demanded that his DNA should also be examined to match with the earlier vaginal swab. In a panchayat led by Sector 58 history sheeter Bharat Yadav, a former village pradhan and others, it was claimed that the village cricket team had "only gone to stop the obscenity indulged in by the girl's friend. The boy said he said he was a policeman's son, and would appropriately `deal with them'. This led to a fight and the team members beat him up. This is why the boy has framed the accused.''
Yadav said, "The police should tell us why the boy filed the complaint of rape and the girl failed to do so.''
IBNlive, 9th Jan 2009
New Delhi: The fellow villagers of the seven arrested in the Noida gangrape case have threatened to stage a blockade on Friday if the police do not release the accused.
Even though one of the ten accused in the case publicly confessed to the crime on Thursday, the villagers claim the boys were wrongly implicated in the case.
The village panchayat of Ghadi Chaukhandi has even pronounced all the accused not guilty.
“Our children were coming back home after playing cricket when they saw the couple in a compromising position, which led to a brawl. The police registered a case against our children,” Bharat Yadav
The 10 boys allegedly abducted a 24-year-old MBA student from near a busy shopping mall in Noida and then took turns raping her. Seven of them have been arrested and three are still absconding. Their families, however, are still defending them.
They maintain that their children are innocent and that they were just playing cricket. “Police is blaming our children for no reason. They all belong to respectable families,” a relative of one of the accused said.
DTC bus, a summer evening, 1989Returning late from college is a problem for my parents more than for me. For the days when I am free after eight, my mother comes up to accompany me back. Its an hour long journey either way, and a lot of extra work for her. I don't appreciate it; certainly I resent being treated like a child, little realizing that being a girl is all that matters. On other days, tension levels are acceptable, because our timings are fixed and we don't dawdle. One of these days, these many days, a man sits next to me and I feel his hand push into my thighs. Or one stands next to me, rubbing his hardening penis. Or one pushing his whole body against mine in a throng of bodies packed tight anyway. Too many such events happened to be remembered eventually. The faces were not distinct either. No obvious white collar workers, no smart looking collegiates, no dignified gentlemen. Just a throng of middle class, mixed with what we call the lower middle. A sharp word, a push, a jab with a large safety pin, a forcing of my heavy bag against the man: sometimes these worked, sometimes not. Sometimes I had to get down in the middle of the journey, take another bus. Many a times just ignored and carried on. Rarely another man noticed, gave me his seat.
‘It was just a rape’. This outrageous comment made by a former sarpanch of Garhi Chawkhandi village is unacceptable in any civilised society. The village, located in the National Capital Region’s Noida area, is where the ten men — who allegedly gangraped a young MBA student on Monday night after forcibly taking the victim and her friend to a secluded spot — come from. The headman was not the only one defending the alleged culprits — the whole village has closed ranks behind the young men.
It is true that sarpanch’s comment is shocking, but it does not come as a surprise. Remember the Bhanwari Devi case and the judicial officer’s comment that the rape could not have possibly taken place because no upper caste man would ever rape a lower-caste woman? Prejudices run deep in feudal India. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that it is a rural affliction. The urban pockets of the country are also known to brush such heinous crimes under the carpet. However, the issue of rape cannot be seen as just a law and order problem. The culprits get away because of a mindset that does not see crimes against women as unacceptable. In fact, those five words from the Garhi Chawkhandi village sarpanch prove once again that unless and until our attitude towards women changes, there will be more incidents like the one that happened in Noida. In fact, the way the village has defended its accused is almost like someone trying to trivialise what is a horrendous offence.
In the recent past, the government has come up with stricter legislations on rape like in-camera trial, DNA profiling, no cross-examination of the victim, and even fast-track courts for disposal of cases. The police — which also believes in differential treatment of the victims depending on which strata of the society they come from — have undergone sensitisation programmes. But all these seem to have come to naught if the Noida case is anything to go by. The only solution is to accord a much higher value to women than is done at present. A woman’s dignity and autonomy is something that cannot be subsumed in a patriarchal order. The Noida rape case has also led to the usual politicisation of the issue with Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury asking for the death penalty for the accused. This is the last thing that women need. The laws are falling in place. And we can only hope that mindsets will follow.
The interstate bus station, Jammu, mid eighties
The first incident of eve-teasing I experienced was before I was sixteen, at a crowded bus station in the middle of an otherwise idyllic vacation. Just a pinching of my bottom by an unidentified hand. Just. An incident so traumatic that even now I can not talk about it nonchalantly, or find the right words to describe how I felt. Or even talk about it in first person. Anger, shock, pain, humiliation, are these the feelings I had? There were tears in my eyes, yes, I remember that, and also that no-one else noticed when in that one instant my innocence was shattered. Anger, blinding anger came almost immediately afterward. If I could have, I would have burnt that man down to ashes, and then burnt those. For in that one moment of intuitive understanding I hated him not only for the assault on my person, or on my dignity, but also for the unstated guilt his anonymity had given me. A guilt entirely without reason, yet so certainly assumed, as a child will assume some wrongdoing, some infarction when punished. A guilt he and the entire society collude in making the victim take on - because the really guilty do not feel or act guilty, nor do they get punished.
Mr. Vir Sanghvi - I assume it is his editorial, but I may be wrong - is therefore to be lauded that he has decided to comment on the mindset of the people of Garhi Chowkhandi. But, in what is almost a Freudian slip, his words "almost like someone trying to trivialise what is a horrendous offence" reveal how deep this mindset really is. Mr. Sanghvi, from his various columns in the paper, is a jetsetting globetrotter used to the finest five star and beyond luxuries. He is the knowledgeable editor of a leading and respected daily. And he can't see the dismissal in these words - "It was just a rape"? Where is the possibility of 'almost' here? Where is the ambiguity?
Newspaper stories I don't trust beyond a point. Too many times have I seen the other side of the story - the real side, and found how little the truth correlated with reality. Little stories I must admit; I am not privy to the ground shaking decisions, the wheeling dealing politics, the accomplishments of the famous. Yet, the facts are usually wrong in tiny details, the sentences warped, words substituted, claims unverified, reporting biased and coverage incomplete. Within these limits, I still find myself giving credence to the reports of what these villagers have said. I don't doubt that a few years later one or two would have been jailed, the others will be free, and embittered against the woman who dared complain, the system which lead to their being jailed. There will be grand marriages where the groom will land in an helicopter. There will be large mansions and big SUVs. One or more will join politics and try to be a MLA. Their sons and daughters will pay for their medical degrees with cash, arrogance and the SC/ST tag, and set up nursing homes in NOIDA and Delhi to further mint money.
The girl and her family will have post traumatic stress disorder.
What if the villagers are right after all: that the rape was not carried out by their boys who had actually gone to defend the girl? I do not discount the possibility, even if it seems improbable. That is for the courts to establish. But no matter what, Raghuvar Yadav's words will still remain, for me, the synopsis of this case. It is what millions of Indians believe, along with trite labels like 'she asked for it' and 'boys will be boys'. Bitterness hangs fog heavy all around me. Too bitter is the knowing of this world we live in - and bring up our children in. What can we do to change it?
P.S. Even if I am unable to offer a reasonable, or even an unreasonable course of action, at least let us not vote this kind of politicians to power -
NOIDA The Samajwadi Party had declared a bandh on Friday, ostensibly against the deteriorating law and order situation and for “implicating innocent villagers in the rape case”. The bandh call did not find many takers. Markets and malls functioned as usual.
But SP leader Amar Singh arrived in Noida as scheduled with his supporters. Singh, however, was not allowed to proceed beyond the DND flyway and was detained till evening.
Speaking at the DND Flyway, Singh said: “I have come to protest against the deteriorating law and order in Uttar Pradesh.... Villagers say innocent persons are being implicated in false rape cases.”Asked if he was defending the rape accused, Singh said: “I am not defending anyone. I am not saying that they are innocent. But innocent people should not be implicated in crimes.” He was quick to add that he had “full sympathy with the gang rape victim”.
If you are not defending them Mr. Singh, why are you there? And what is the basis of your statement that innocent should not be implicated, save the villagers' claim to that effect?