Tuesday, July 31, 2007

khuda ke liye

khuda ke Liya seems to be rocking Pakistan.

For many Pakistanis - or at least those in this theater - the movie offers an explanation for the unrest around them.

“I had been dying to see this movie,” Sara Malik, a 17-year-old student, dressed in jeans and a powder-pink T-shirt told me after the movie. “It’s an amazing story, because it explains what really happens behind things like the Lal Masjid [Red Mosque],” she said, with nods of agreement by nearby school friends. The violent weeklong battle between religious militants and the Pakistan Army this month in Islamabad was unnerving for the entire country and unlike anything the youth of the country had ever witnessed.

A synopsis of the movie, about musician brothers caught up in a post September 11th world, can be found on the film’s website. Adding to the local relevancy of the film (as mentioned by the young woman above) was the recent Lal Masjid siege (a.k.a. Operation Sunrise) against the militant Ghazi brothers:

Archie in India

Ennis writes in Sepia Mutiny, about Archie Comics. The adventures of Archie, Veronica, Jughead and Betty are being recreated in India. Growing up it seemed there were Archie comics everywhere, in Sanawar, we read them during class, tucked under our study books.

In what looks to be India’s answer to Archie, a teenage lookalike of King Khan plays a regular college kid with two femme fatales (Betty and Veronica?) who bear a strong resemblance to Aishwarya Rai and Rani Mukherji. The story is appropriately titled The Naughty Lover.

The US-based comic giant Archie Comics Entertainment is firming up its India plans. It is gearing up to launch local language content in India, besides an animation series featuring its characters. The company is in talks with three Indian animation studios for the production of the series.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Sunny from Pickled Politics discusses the social network site Facebook. He does not think Face Book will change politics in a hurry. I joined it recently, and found its a great way to stay in touch with people, and see how many friends people have, other than that I dont see it as being very useful.

I have now been fervently addicted to the website Facebook for several months now. Of course my excuse is that I wanted to learn how social networking works and what political opportunities it can offer. Unfortunately the short answer is: not much and not anytime soon. So if anyone out there is trying to sell you a political campaign through social networks now, fire them.

To be fair, Facebook has many advantages over its competitors for those interested in politics and social issues.

The most important is the homepage, which notifies you of developments on your own profile and offers a glance at what your friends have been doing. It works brilliantly as the electronic equivalent of word-of-mouth hype because everyone can be plugged into what their peers are reading, buying, watching at the cinema or checking out on YouTube. You can even announce that you’ve split up from your partner and are now ‘Interested in Random Play’. Anyway, I digress.

For niche commercial or non-profit organisations hoping to build up a profile through word-of-mouth this is the holy grail. For politics the evidence is less clear. While I’m not sure it helps politicians attract more people to support their campaigns, it certainly accelerates the proliferation of social issue groups.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Better by Atul Gawande

The stories in Better are engrossing, well written, entertaining and educational. The Doctor, looks at the medical establishment in America from the inside as a trained surgeon, and is able to keep it light and free of too much medical jargon, and therefore, readable to a non-medical audience.

Atul Gawande describes the need to be diligent, do the right thing and to stay ingenious at the same time. His chapter on the simple idea of washing hands was good. I also enjoyed his chapter on the score, about how childbirth had been made much safer, and the Apgar score that newborns were given 1 and 5 minutes after birth had significantly reduced infant mortality. For instance if a child at one minute after birth had a terrible Apgar score, they could often be resuscitated- with measures like oxygen and warming- to an excellent score in five minutes. This score also lead to the creation of neonatal intensive care units. The author suggested an Apgar type score be created after every operation for doctors to assess how they had done.

The chapter on Indian doctors using ingenious methods to bring health care to many people, at low costs and without too much specialization was very interesting. For instance Dr. Motewar in three hours had seen thirty six patients. With no time for a complete exam, a good history, or explanations, he relied mainly on a quick, finely honed clinical judgement. He sent a few patients out for X-rays and lab tests. The rest he diagnosed on the spot.

The Independent has a very positive review of this wonderful book.

This is a book about failure: how it happens, how we learn from it, how we can do better. Although its focus is medicine, its message is for everybody. Against expectations, that turns out to be hugely, enthrallingly optimistic. Atul Gawande is a surgeon at the Brigham and Women's hospital, Boston. He is also – and this could only happen in America - a staff writer on The New Yorker. He sees medicine from the inside, but with an outsider's perspective. His book is riveting: packed with insights, its luminous prose lifting effortlessly off the page.


Friday, July 27, 2007

a beautiful farishta

a beautiful farishta became part of our family today

welcome to the world

thankyou for enriching us with your presence

we pray for your mother to regain her strength and power

and recover from all the pain that this birth caused

we love you more than words can say......

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wombs for Rent and Egg Donors

Marie Claire has an interesting article on Wombs for Rent in Anand, Gujarat, India. The author, Abigail Haworth describes, Dr. Nayna Patel the doctor that has started the begginings of surrogate motherhood in India. The women mostly lend their wombs for economic reasons, earning $5,500 per pregnancy.The Indian laws for surrogacy are still not very well defined, unlike in the US, where a financial transaction cannot take place. Also the Indian women need to sign a contract that they will not claim this child once born as their own. In the U.S. a woman can change her mind after the baby's birth.

Peggy Orentstein raised very perplexing questions in the NYT magazine a week ago, in her article, Your Gamete, Myself.

With egg donation, science has succeeded in, if not extending women’s fertility, at least making an end run around it, allowing older women who, for a variety of reasons (lack of money, lack of partner, lack of interest, lack of partner’s interest) didn’t have children in their biological prime — as well as younger women with dysfunctional ovaries — to carry and bear babies themselves. It has given rise to the mind-bending phrase “biogenetic child,” meaning a child who is both biologically and genetically related to each of its parents, by, for the first time in history, separating those components. In that way, it is fundamentally different from sperm donation, though it also levels a certain playing field: mothers can now do what fathers always could — conceal the truth about their blood relationship to their children. And as with any new reproductive technology, it has provoked a torrent of social, legal and ethical questions about the entitlement to reproduce, what constitutes parenthood, children’s rights to know their origins and the very nature of family.

She raises dilemmas then that parents face dealing with how to tell the kids how they were conceived.

Once a child knows she was donor-conceived, what then? How far do her rights extend? Should she be able to meet her donor, and who gets to decide? It was clear to Marie, the donor recipient who is also an adoptee, that knowing one’s genetic lineage should not just be an option, it should be an entitlement. “There’s no way I would have a child of mine go through what I went through in terms of the not knowing and the questioning and the search.” she said. Not only did she and her husband, a 65-year-old lawyer, plan from the get-go to be open with Catherine about her conception, they also wanted to ensure that their daughter would, whenever she was ready, have access to the donor.

When it comes to the question of whether to reveal a donor’s identity to a child, at least for now, we leave the decisions to parents. Other nations say that prerogative is trumped by a person’s right to know his heritage: Britain, for example, recently banned anonymous donation; any children conceived after 2005 will have access once they turn 18 to identifying details about their sperm or egg donors. Since 2000, when the debate over this issue began, the number of registered egg donors in Britain has dropped almost 25 percent.

Yet egg donors and recipients may have less to fear from open donations than they imagine, at least if the experience is comparable to sperm donation. According to Joanna Scheib’s research, teens who were conceived with “open-identity” sperm — who when they turn 18 can have access to their donor’s name — said that, while more than 80 percent were interested in meeting their donors, fewer than 7 percent wanted to establish a father-child relationship with them.

Both articles raise a lot of ethical questions, is it fair for another woman to carry your child? Is that child hers or yours? What is motherhood? When does it begin? How do you tell your child, about her conception? Is surrogate motherhood so popular in India, because the government has not realized the ethical questions that are involved in this equation. I am all for Indian women to earn more money by renting their wombs, but they should have rights that any Western woman has, in deciding what she wants to do with the baby once it is born.
is more information on Dr. Patel and her program.

is a Canadian documentary on Wombs for Rent.

Monday, July 23, 2007


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i love it

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my first rice cereal

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Mohammed Haneef

Barkha Dutt writes in the Hindustan Times, about Mohammed Haneef's trial in Australia and Indian's hypocrisy surrounding it.

New Delhi, July 21, 2007

Our schizophrenia as a people is astounding. Right now we are consumed with self-righteous indignation over how Mohammed Haneef, an Indian citizen and an initial suspect in the Glasgow bomb blast, is being treated by the Australians. In his humiliation, we see a sinister attack on our national pride. In the decision to scrap his visa, we see the premature death of our own emigration dreams. We want our government to be less effete in its intervention. We think this is about racism, not terrorism.

In itself, this is a worthy (if slightly selfish) and laudable emotion. By all accounts, the 27-year-old doctor from Bangalore is being victimised, hounded and tortured. A magistrate has already ruled that there is no evidence to link Haneef with the bombing conspiracies in either Glasgow or London. And yet, an innocent man continues to be held in solitary confinement with the ludicrous explanation that the solitude is actually designed to give him more ‘privacy’. Haneef has eloquently argued his own innocence, describing himself as a “Muslim with moderate views” who believes that “every drop of blood is human”. When Australian Prime Minister John Howard still goes on to declare grandly that he is “not uncomfortable” with the young doctor’s continued detention our outrage is spontaneous and entirely legitimate.

But, what if Haneef had been arrested in Bangalore instead of Brisbane? What if a suicide bomber had rammed his explosives-laden car into the airport at Srinagar, instead of Scotland? And what if our investigating agencies had then told us that Haneef was a dreaded terrorist because he had loaned his mobile sim card to one of the men involved in the attack? Would we have been as concerned then about whether an innocent man had been locked away? Would we have demanded transparency from our judicial process on the grounds that the evidence was sketchy? Or would we have simply ranted about how India is a soft State and Islam a factory for fundamentalists? We have branded the Australians as racist, but would we have called ourselves communal?

The overwhelming anger at Haneef’s arrest would be a lot more reassuring, were it not underlined by a distinct double standard.

Turn your mind back to the Parliament attack of 2001. It was indisputably an attack on the nerve centre of India, and the desire for visible justice was entirely understandable. But, in a case eerily similar to Haneef’s, didn’t our investigating agencies almost put an innocent man on death row? The special Pota court trying the case in its early stages convicted a Delhi-based college teacher along with the other accused and sentenced him to death. The entire case against Professor S.A.R. Geelani was based on the fact that he had some telephonic contact with the prime accused in the days before the attack. It was left to the Supreme Court to conclusively throw out the case against the professor and acquit him of all charges. But even today, intelligence officials and investigating officers insist that their case against him was foolproof and they had been let down by the courts. I don’t remember any public outrage defining the national response to the Professor Geelani case. If anything most people seemed willing to believe the police and were impatient and dismissive of the do-gooder human rights activists campaigning for his release.

More recently, Tariq Dar, a Kashmiri model who made it big in Bangladesh was locked away on charges of terrorism. Accused of playing a role in the Delhi blasts of 2005, he spent three months in custody. Finally, the police were forced to concede in court that they did not have enough evidence to build any case against him, and he was able to walk free. The judge who acquitted him was passionate in her ruling. “It’s astonishing,” she wrote that “without an iota of evidence against him, Dar was kept in custody for 90 days which could be a lifetime for any common citizen.” But do you remember anyone you know sharing her anger? Today will be the 19th day Haneef has spent in custody, and we find that appalling. Yet, we were distinctly unmoved, when someone closer home, spent much longer in prison. How can we possibly explain this hypocrisy?

According to the Herald Sun, an Australian citizen, Roy Somerville, who has never met Haneef emerged as an unlikely benefactor and offered to post the ten thousand dollars in bail because he believes in a ‘fair go’. The newspaper quotes the Brisbane resident as saying that if the police only charged Haneef for giving his cousins an old sim card, then it was “bullshit”. Can you imagine anyone in India bailing out a stranger implicated in a case of terrorism?

Of course, it is true that Australia has never known what it feels like to live in the shadow of militant violence and so its civil society may find it much easier to be benevolent compared to us. It is also true that the involvement of Kafeel Ahmed, an engineer from Bangalore in the Glasgow attack, has busted several myths we have about ourselves.

Readers of this column may remember that just a fortnight ago, I argued that political correctness on the left and religious bigotry on the right had strangulated honest conversation about the linkages between modern-day Islam and terrorism. There is an undeniable need to stop candy-flossing the impact of fundamentalism. India cannot pretend anymore that none of its citizens fancy membership to the Global Jehad club. We need to examine where our secularism has failed.

But equally, we still need to keep our democracy healthy. This means that as citizens of a progressive modern country we should be able to demand transparency from our investigating agencies. It also means that when people are locked away on flimsy charges, we owe it them and to ourselves to speak up, even if their politics and antecedents make us uncomfortable.

Seventy per cent of the men and women in India’s prisons are still awaiting trial — that’s a staggering 300,000 people. Some have already spent more time in jail just waiting for a court date than they would have had they been found guilty.

So, as we galvanise public opinion against the arrest of an innocent Indian in Australia, how about sparing some of that anger for the innocent Indians in India?

Barkha Dutt is Managing Editor, NDTV 24x7

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Modesty Blaise

I have never read or even heard of her, but lots of people in India are talking about her, here is Urvashi Butalia's take on her family tree in Tehelka.

A Blaise of Glory

The recent reprint of the Modesty Blaise series has Urvashi Butalia on a quest for the spunky heroine’s literary family tree

I’m an inveterate reader of thrillers. I put one down and start another. I read them surreptitiously, consumed with guilt about the other ‘more serious’ things I should be doing. Imagine my delight when Penguin India reprinted the entire Modesty Blaise set — 13 shining, spanking, uv-laminated, metallic-spined volumes about my favourite — well almost favourite — heroine!

Who’s Modesty Blaise, you might well ask. A waif, a stray who grew up rough, fought pitched street battles, learnt karate, shooting, meditation and yoga from the greatest masters, including one called Sivaji in, of all places, the Thar. Traversed India, China, the Arab world, Hong Kong — interestingly, never the US. Ran a crime syndicate called The Network; built up a loyal cadre, and then retired at the glorious age of 28, to lead a life of leisure with a penthouse in London, a villa in Tangiers, a house in France and so on. Except that it didn’t quite turn out that way. Modesty met British civil servant, Sir Gerald Tarrant, and somehow became drawn into ‘capers’ — dangerous escapades during which she and her companion Willie Garvin tackle criminals of the worst kind, usually in defence of the good guys.

What James Bond is to spy stories, Modesty Blaise is to intelligent thrillers — the key word here being ‘intelligent’. Modesty is beautiful, long-legged, full-breasted, tight-bottomed: sexy in a matter-of-fact way. She uses both her well-honed body and her sharp mind to succeed in difficult situations. She’s not above trickery, for where an enemy is manifestly stronger or more skilled, she will outsmart her way out of a sticky situation.

Many of Modesty’s ancestresses come from the 1930s and the golden age of radio that gave listeners in Europe and America sleuthing women like Phyl Coe (named after show sponsor Philco Radio Tubes, and changed after a year to a man, Phil Coe). Like Phyl, Kitty Keene, Jane Sherlock and a host of others were possessed of fluttering eyelashes and a sharp intelligence but little physical prowess. Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Xena and the Powerpuff Girls followed — high-octane heroines combining intelligence and brute strength. Then, with Batwoman and Black Canary, we get an underworld savvy and toughness, combined with that rare thing: tenderness.

Many of fiction’s early women crime-fighters were straightforwardly heterosexual, often singletons or widows bringing up families. As the times changed, so did our sleuthing ladies’ careers: they became investigators, policewomen, medical examiners, lawyers, business owners — vi Warshawski, Sharon MaCone, Kinsey Millhone — even a university professor, with Kate Fansler. Somewhere along the line, lives changed, the environment transformed, and sexuality made its entrance. Then, particularly after the 80s, came a long line of lesbian detectives, trailing the wake of a strong feminist movement.

Modesty started life as a strip cartoon, created by Peter O’Donnell. She was based on a woman O’Donnell, encountered in Iran during World War ii, who used to provide advance warning of the German troops. Soon Modesty became a storybook character who acquired a fan following of considerable dimensions. Like all ‘good gals’, when she turned her back on crime, she needed a partner. But the partner O’Donnell created for her was different: Willie Garvin, a rough diamond with formidable combat skills, a trusted lieutenant, but not — never — a lover.

Today, Modesty has been succeeded by many others, including Botswana’s Precious Ramotswe, who solves crime purely through intelligence and sympathy, and who is decidedly plump, heavy and — yes — black. Were Modesty and Precious to meet up one day at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, I suspect they’d immediately get into animated conversation, perhaps about themselves and their predecessors: strong, modern women who live tough lives, can hold their own in the dirty, hard world of men, who love ferociously, live dangerously, and many of whom — in the days before aids — had lots of sexual partners. Modesty is all of these things, but she’s also a happy, contented woman. She doesn’t live in constant dread like Scarpetta now does. Or dissatisfaction like Kinsey often does. She takes men to bed when she wants, lets them go when she wants, and they remain her friends, accepting that where sex — and pretty much everything else — is concerned, it’s Modesty who calls the shots.

It doesn’t take much to guess that I’m a Modesty Blaise fan. Indeed so faithful a fan have I been that I could not, as an early reader, bring myself to read the last book in which O’Donnell kills off his indomitable heroine and her partner. Now, two decades older and wiser, I have come to understand that all writers need to find a way to give closure to their characters. Except that I can’t remember if James Bond ever died. Did he? And what will happen to Kinsey Millhone when her creator, Sue Grafton, reaches the letter Z?

Another question continues to dog me. How do we account for the amazing success of Bond and the middling, or less-than-middling, success of someone like Modesty? She has everything Bond has and is also intelligent, generous — one might even say nice!

Maybe it’ll be Lara Croft — big-eyed, sexy, athletic and inter-galactic — who’ll ensure widespread success for the female crime fighter. She’ll build on the success of her fore-mothers, a long line that includes Nancy Drew, Miss Marple, Modesty, Kinsey, Kay and Precious.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


We saw this beautiful movie last week. I have not read Susan Minot's book, but i thought the movie was able to capture the fragility of life, the "mistakes" one lives with and the fragility of relationships over generations. I liked Vanessa Redgrave's line of be happy and not to live in fear, and Meryl Streep saying that they are not mistakes but are a part of living ones life. Claire Danes was gorgeous as the young Ann Lord.

Here is a synopsis from the New Yorker's David Denby.

In “Evening,” based on Susan Minot’s celebrated 1998 novel, an elderly woman, Ann Lord (Vanessa Redgrave), lies dying, attended by her two daughters (Natasha Richardson and Toni Collette) and by memories of a painful and ecstatic weekend decades before. In the early fifties, at the Newport wedding of her best friend (Mamie Gummer), she divided her time between two young men—her friend’s ranting alcoholic brother (Hugh Dancy) and a handsome young doctor (Patrick Wilson), with whom she fell in love. The elderly Ann drifts in and out of memory and delirium, and the director, Lajos Koltai, aided by a screenplay written by Minot and the novelist Michael Cunningham, has concocted a remarkably complicated structure that alternates past and present, fantasy and reality. It is perhaps unnecessary to say that Vanessa Redgrave, flat on her back, makes lucid poetry and vivid emotion out of the most fragmentary and evanescent feelings. I can pay Redgrave no higher compliment than to say that if I have to watch an actor expire for two hours I would rather it be her than anyone else. Meryl Streep, as the long-ago bride now grown old, has a fine moment, too, as she lies in bed with Redgrave, and the two women look at the past, compare marriages, and make an accounting of their “mistakes”—which turn out to be merely life as it is lived, rather than as it is hoped for. As the young Ann, Claire Danes, with her broad shoulders and broad smile, has a forceful way about her that makes one want to see more.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Asma Jahangir

The New Yorker has a wonderful piece by William Dalrymple on human rights lawyer, Asma Jahangir. He traces her activism, from setting up her own law firm, with her sister Hina Jilani, to fighting against the repressive Hudood legislation passed by dictator Zia ul-Haq, to surviving an attack in her office.

Jahangir helped organize protest marches against the Hudood Ordinances, and she was arrested and sent to prison for a month in 1983. There she met many women who had been arrested under the new laws, and, on her release, she took up their cases. She helped overturn a sentence of imprisonment and flogging issued against a blind woman who was raped and then charged with zina. In 1986, she helped establish the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The H.R.C. defended women accused of adultery. It also took on a growing number of blasphemy cases filed against Ahmadis, a heterodox Muslim sect, and Christians: a single accusation could result in execution.

Jahangir’s position as a human-rights lawyer made her especially vulnerable to the violent religiosity that had become more evident in the country. In 1994, Jahangir won the freedom of a fourteen-year-old Christian boy who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy. Soon afterward, her family compound was attacked by a group of jihadis who were determined to kill her as a defender of infidels and an enemy of Islam. They broke into one of the houses in the compound and took the family of one of Jahangir’s sisters hostage. Jahangir managed to get the police; the siege ended when the jihadis escaped.

In 1999, two people were killed at Jahangir’s office. A woman named Samia Sarwar, from Peshawar, who wanted a divorce from her abusive husband, was hiding from her family in the H.R.C.’s shelter. Under Jahangir’s guidance, Sarwar agreed to discuss the situation with her mother. But the mother showed up at Jahangir’s office with a hired assassin posing as her driver. As the two entered the office, the assassin shot Sarwar in the head. The assassin was killed by a policeman as he attempted to flee the building. Yet Sarwar’s mother was never charged with being an accomplice to murder. Following the strictures of Sharia, the heirs of the victim—in this case the abandoned husband and the two children—exercised their right to forgive the murderer. It was a graphic illustration of the way that Sharia can be twisted to legalize the murder of women deemed to have “shamed” their families.

“Honor killings are not a specifically Islamic tradition,” Jahangir said firmly. “They are just a bad tradition that must be stopped.”

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pooja Chauhan

Bina Ramani has written a powerful piece on Pooja Chauhan's protest and other women like her who suffer similarly.

Naked Among Wolves
Pooja Chauhan is one woman. But she spoke up for lakhs like her.

Bina Ramani

Pooja Chauhan, a young mother of a two-year-old, should be honoured by each one of us for having the gall to protest semi-naked in public against her tormenters—her husband and her in-laws, who were allegedly harassing her for not bringing in enough dowry and for bearing a girl child.

I shudder to imagine the depths of despair Pooja must have suffered before daring to take such a step. I feel ashamed to belong to a society where a young woman is forced to fight for her dignity by stripping down to her underwear and walking down the streets of a small town. What I find even more deplorable is that the authorities, instead of giving her shelter and compassion, chose to arrest her along with her tormenters, albeit on a separate charge of 'indecent exposure'. My blood curdles as I recall the number of times I have read and heard about instances where women of all ages have been stripped naked by village elders across the nation, and paraded through the streets for a petty mistake, or on cooked up charges. Does anyone ever get punished for that kind of 'indecent exposure'?

During the time I spent last year in Tihar jail (I was falsely and unjustly booked by the authorities in the Jessica Lall case), I was amazed to meet several hapless inmates, who were, in my judgement, completely innocent, and had been thrown behind bars after their husbands or in-laws connived with the police to harass them. Often, the woman in question was either an inconvenient burden, or had been 'used up' by all the male members of her husband's family and served no particular purpose in their lives anymore. They also would have no idea what charges they had been booked on or how long they would remain in jail. Pooja Chauhan could have suffered a similar fate, had she not found the courage to fight for her dignity with a 'silent protest march' against the indignities inflicted upon her. How different is that from Gandhiji's numerous peace marches against the injustices of the British?

There are Pooja Chauhans and women like the ones I met in jail living all around you, in every neighbourhood. Rich, middle-class or poor. They are living out a nightmare in the confines of their supposedly 'respectable' married homes. Most of them are mothers. Their situation is a blot on this fast-growing, wealth-producing nation that we are increasingly and volubly so proud of these days.

For several years in the '90s I ran a popular weekend column for The Asian Age called 'Very Personal'. I received hundreds of letters every week in which women poured out their personal, often sexual, secrets to me. What I faced was a torrent of sexual repression and torment. The writers were mostly from the 'upper echelons' or the educated class, if I may call it so. I was appalled to learn through these letters that, leave alone daughters-in-law, even daughters sometimes lived lives of shame and torment because they were being molested by their own father, brother or uncle. I felt helpless in the face of such injustice and sometimes would not get sleep at night after reading such letters. Many were unprintable and I still keep them with me in a little trunk. Some letters even reduced me to tears. I did all I could to give strength to these victims through my advice.

My time in Tihar brought it all back to me. The fate of the innocent inmates reminded me of these letters. The injustice of my captivity was nothing compared with their ordeal. Pooja Chauhan's story makes me feel the same way, and wonder how we remain mute witnesses to these real-life tragedies of epidemic proportions. Should situations like these not prick our national conscience?

There is a special message here for Indian men. Almost all NGOs across India that offer help to these victims of domestic violence are run by women.I fervently wish for the day when large numbers of Indian men—rather than just a few sensitised ones—wake up to what this motherland is going through and give her the respect, dignity and protection that she deserves.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Martha Nussbaum- The Clash Within.

I have just finished reading The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future by Martha Nussbaum, and think it is the seminal book for understanding contemporary India. She starts by talking about the shameful genocide in Gujarat, where Muslim women were raped, and then murdered by inserting metal objects in their vaginas.

She then contextualizes the discussion by interviewing some contemporary figures in the Hindu Right, K.K. Shastri, Devendra Swarup and the politician Arun Shourie. In sharp contrast to these zealots she presents the dignified leaders of the Indian Freedom movement, Rabindranath Tagore, the poet, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

She goes more in to the background of the ideas, that lead to democracy in India, and the visions of pluralism, respect for all and equality, that the founding fathers envisioned in the Indian constitution. She than discusses the causes and consequences of the rise of the Hindu right. Her psychological and philosphical insights on the fantasies of purity and domination that the right wing Hindu males feel in creating the other, (Muslims or Christians) is very disturbing.

The later chapters deal with how the BJP government once it got into power, changed the History textbooks, and had respected critical historians like Romila Thapar sidelined. Murli Manohar Joshi, the BJP minister of education, pushed unqualified scholars, into positions of power, so that they could write the textbooks filled with poor English, lies and brain washing fabrications that the BJP and RSS wanted to instill in young minds.

Her critique of the effects of the Indian educational system are very accurate, the emphasis on rote learning and lack of engagement with the subject matter, leading to no critical thinking skills being developed. Another problem is that the teachers have so many students to teach with no resources and low salaries, that they often just do not teach. Instead they supplement their income by tutoring, as many children that can pay them, after school hours.

The Hindu diasporic community, especially the Swaminarayan Sect(one of the richest Gujarati communities in India and abroad) was under critical scrutiny for the material support they provided to the Gujarart riots. Also the I.D.R.F., one of the biggest charities in the U.S. was channeling money to the RSS. Rajiv Malhotra of Suleka.com was described as someone who was blackmailing American scholars that studied Hinduism. A side affect of scholars being harassed by the Hindu students council was leading to a lot of them giving up research on Hindusim. The long term affect will be that their will be no critical analysis on Hindu religious traditions.

Another area of concern was the lack of progressive groupings that Indians in the diaspora could affilate with. For instance most Indians affiliated with their religious groupings instead of a Pan Indian tradition. She felt the Gujarati community in particular by inviting Narender Modi the chief instigator and organizer of the Gujarat riots was falling into the trap of the Hindu Right.

A link to her article on patriotism and cosmopolitanism is here.

Here is a transcript to her talk at the Carnegie Council of New York.

Here is a poem by Tagore on what he wished for the future of education in India. It has always inspired me.

Where the mind is withouth fear
And the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken
Up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving
Stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason
Has not lost its way into the
Dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward
By thee into ever-widening
Thought and action-
Into that heaven of freedom,
My Father,
Let my Country awake.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sakharov on Intellectual Freedom

Intellectual freedom is essential to human society — freedom to obtain and distribute information, freedom for open-minded and unfearing debate and freedom from pressure by officialdom and prejudices. Such a trinity of freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorship. Freedom of thought is the only guarantee of the feasibility of a scientific democratic approach to politics, economics and culture.

–Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, Reflections on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence, and Intellectual Freedom, July 22, 1968

Thursday, July 12, 2007

vacations and twinkies

Alternet has a great article on the differences in vacation between Europe and America.
Shorter vacations, longer work weeks and skimpy sick leave for Americans add up -- not to greater upward mobility, but to a burned-out workforce earning less than preceding generations.

Another article in alternet is on the industry that produces twinkies, the archetype of processed foods.
On a personal note, we used to read Archie Comics growing up, and at the back there was a section on twinkies and hostess cupcakes. We had never seen or eaten junk food like that, so were always fascinated about what these appetizing images tasted like.

So, I know that certain foods are linked to certain places. What's appealing to me about Twinkie, Deconstructed is that processed foods, by their very definition, are not linked to any place. They're anti-linked, they're meant to be producible everywhere and always the same. So, it was intriguing to see where the opposite of the, let's say, Belgian beer, comes from. The answer is that it doesn't come from any particular place. That's actually the nut of the whole book.

Petrovic: Are there any ingredients you found to be particularly disturbing or disgusting?

Ettlinger: Well, I didn't find any to be disgusting, but I think I've been fascinated with polysorbate 60 for a couple of reasons. One reason is my daughter's infamous question. Secondly, it is such an unfood-like sounding thing, not that mono and diglycerides sound appetizing, but there's something about polysorbate 60 that sounds so chemical that I just had to check it out. You know, "Why am I eating this thing?" Also, it largely replaces egg yolks, which are a wonderful food. I like making sauces, I used to live in France, so egg yolks are ... to think of an industrial version of that is sort of funny for me.

Also, one of my sources sent me a sample of polysorbate 60, a large quart container of this light brown goo, and I asked, "Can I taste it?" He said, "You wouldn't want to; you won't be able to taste your dinner for a week." That kind of scared me. No one else sent me a sample and said, "Don't taste it." Obviously, something like flour, you won't be happy if you stick your finger in it and lick it.

Petrovic: This is a question that you yourself ask in your book -- why do we make such an enormous industrial effort to create artificial replacements for relatively unprocessed things like sugar, butter or vanilla?

Ettlinger: I think mankind is driven to always improve on nature or try to control it. In this case the motivation comes from mankind's desire to preserve food, which goes back thousands of years to smoking and salting. And what the food chemists who have created a cake with a long shelf life have done is sort of in the tradition of salting your fish or smoking your pork so it will last.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Doula has some inspiring posts on non-linear thinking and labour.

I actually only know how my brain, a woman's brain, works. And it's totally non-linear. My daughter's brain works like mine, and people laugh when they hear us talking, shifting from one subject to another without any apparent link. Ah, but we independently followed the link from five minutes earlier in our conversation.

Birth is also feminine, non-linear. It works like a woman's brain. There are multiple tasks being accomplished at any one time - descent, rotation, softening, opening. Almost ESP-like communication can take place between a woman and a wise caregiver - this is the "monkey-brain" or "reptile-brain" at work. Thoughts, memories, past experiences, and current understanding are accommodated, merged, drawn upon.

"It's in the core," she says. "Yes, I can hear the baby descending," I say. "No more than twenty minutes. Hear me." "Yes, I feel it. It's right there," she says. "Safe," I say. "Okay."

There is so much going on beneath the surface in birth. Getting the right flow in labour is like searching for the point on a radio dial where there's no static, where the signal is pure. Intervention, too much noise, or touch can increase the static. A woman needs empty space in her brain in order to birth in her own way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Octagon a new building on Roosevelt Island, has a lot of features I was unaware off.

Blending Centuries

Roosevelt Island Development Merges New and Old Towers

by Natalie Keith

A new 500,000-sq.-ft. apartment complex on New York City's Roosevelt Island is wrapping various construction specialties into a development that will preserve an unusual slice of the city's history.

The new $170 million Octagon development on the East River isle blends the renovation of an historic structure with two new 14-story apartment towers.

"The most challenging aspect of the project was the restoration of the Octagon Tower," said Bruce Becker, president of Becker + Becker Associates of Fairfield, Conn., the project's architect and developer.

The renovation of the five-story Octagon Tower brings back an 1841 building designed by Alexander Jackson Davis. It first served as entry and administrative space for the New York Lunatic and Pauper Society and later as Metropolitan Hospital. It was vacated in 1954 and, after fires in 1982 and 1999, only the eight exterior walls remained.

Work began in November 2004 with New York-based Gotham Construction as general contractor on the effort to restore the 30,000-sq.-ft. historic building and build the two towers, one 230,000 sq. ft. in size and the other 250,000 sq. ft. The first residents moved into a completed portion of one tower on April 17, but work will continue on the rest of the project through late fall.

Upon its completion, the complex will have 500 units, 400 of which will rent at market rates, which under a first-year promotion is $1,690 monthly for studio apartments with a home office, $1,800 for one-bedroom units, $3,015 for two-bedroom units, and $3,798 for three-bedroom units. The remaining 100 units will be reserved for middle-income individuals under an affordable housing program.

The most noteworthy aspect of the old building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a central "flying" circular staircase that Charles Dickens wrote about it in his travelogue, American Notes.

While the project team restored the exterior to its classic look, it used a modern interpretation in reconstructing a new seven-story staircase rising into the atrium. The main support is a steel tube positioned in the center that runs up the backbone of the entire spiraling stairway, said Kevin Murphy, project manager for Gotham.

In addition to the restoration tasks, the project has various sustainable design features because the developer is seeking a silver rating under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. The team is using locally produced materials, recycling construction waste, and installing 250 rooftop photovoltaic panels that will generate 50 KW - enough to power the development's common areas.

With such features, the Octagon will use 35 percent less power than the maximum amount allowed for its size under the city building code, Becker said.

The project team had also considered using geothermal technology to address power needs but scrapped that plan after drilling two 1,500-ft. test wells and discovering that the water flow would be inadequate, Gotham's Murphy said.


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Saturday, July 07, 2007

woman swiming

I got this image from Vancouver Doula. I think it's a beautiful shot.

Venus Rocks

Williams, seeded 23rd, defeated Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-1, becoming the lowest-seeded woman to win Wimbledon.
With Wimbledon paying equal prize money to men and women for the first time this year, Williams won $1.407 million. Bartoli received $703,500. Williams has been among the most vocal proponents of equal prize money.
She also equaled Billy Jean King's record of 4 wins at Wimbledon.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Knocked Up

We saw a comedy this week, "Knocked Up". It's on par with last year's hit, "Little Miss Sunshine". I especially enjoyed the pre and post pregnancy scenes.

Here is a review from Jeanne Aufmuth, from the Palo Alto Weekly.

“Knocked Up” comes with the kind of built-in buzz you can’t buy, courtesy the near cult-following of director Judd Apatow’s “The 40 Year-Old Virgin”.

Apatow plays it characteristically simple. Luscious E! News reporter Alison Scott (Katherine Heigl) celebrates her new promotion by getting smashed at a local bar. Where she meets Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), a perma-loser whose short-term career plan is launching the website fleshofthestars.com, a comely counting of cinematic nude scenes.

Ben lives with his pubescent roommates, each more arrestedly developed than the next, while Alison has bigger fish to fry. Not a match made in heaven.

Naturally Alison gets knocked up when the pair hook up in a frenzy of itchy lust and bar fumes. The premise is…you will forgive the pun…pregnant with possibility when it focuses on the mismatched duo struggling with the concept of parenthood and taking baby steps towards an awkward acquaintance. Alison’s repeated meetings with the E! brass are a sharp study in comic subtlety.

There’s a downside. Maybe I’m getting old (another downside) but adolescent posturing posing as humor doesn’t work for me. Unfortunately Apatow’s “strengths” lie in juvenile comedy and the film repeatedly cuts to secondary story lines that dumb down the funny. Ben and his buddies’ sophomoric antics; rude, crude and lewd. Alison’s cranky sister Debbie (real life Apatow wife Leslie Mann) haranguing her restless hubby Pete (Paul Rudd).

But I laughed, yes I laughed. Vulgarity jockeys with sensitivity and there are deeply funny, almost warm, moments that speak to truths of life and love. Brush aside the crude formula and bathroom humor and you’ve got yourself a surprisingly delicate social commentary that’s guaranteed to be this summer’s comic hit.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Lawrence College Ghora Gali Muree

I had posted earlier a report of a visit by Sanawar Students to Ghora Gali, here is the Gallian's visiting Sanawar.

Tue Jul 3, 2007 3:09 am (PST)
(2006), Lawrence College, Ghora Gali, Murree.


Ali Umair
Head Boy
Lawrence college,
Ghora Gali, Murree

29th September, 2006 was the historical day when Principal Lawrence College, Ghora Gali, Murree Pakistan headed a delegation, comprising two staff members, College Head-boy, four Prefects along with twelve other boys from class 10th and 11th to India.

Gallians crossed the border on 30th September with great enthusiasm and spirit. They reached Amritsar where they visited Golden Temple and the DAV Public School hosted a lunch for them.

Madam Kalpana Bakhshi along with an other staff member from the Lawrence School, Sanawar received the guests from Pakistan warmly and remained with the young gallians throughout the trip.

Next day, in Chandigarh, the students visited the shopping mall and attended an excellent lunch hosted by the old Sanawarians. We met the two “Old Gallians” of 1930 and 1942 batch in India.

The Principal, Air Commodore (Retd) Farooq H. Kiyani presented the gifts to the old sanawarians and old gallins. The school songs of both of the Schools were sung by the Gallians and old Sanawarians respectively.

The excitement was at its peak at this stage, because now our destination was Lawrence School Sanawar which was about one and a half hour’s drive from Chundigarch. The reception was marvelous and gallians met their beloved Sanawarians, with great and high spirit of love and friendship. The road way from Chandigarh to Sanawar is very much similar to the Rawalpindi – Murree Road. As the time passed, we came to know the fact that not only the roads, motto, houses and boarding-life is similar but also the founder’s day celebrations, P.T., gymnastics and the habit of asking for holidays after the founder’s day is, also very much similar.

Gallians visited the hills of Kasuali after “Gandhi Jayanti” assembly on 2nd October. 2nd October was also of great importance for the reason that Lawrence School Lovedale was also attending the function on that specific day; and it was the great day when all the three Schools founded by Sir Henry Lawrence were assembling together, at one place. On 3rd October, the Founder’s Day celebrations formally started with the advent of athletics and marching, presented by Sanawarians. Gallians also participated in the show and did excellent marching in their own marvelous style. The Principal Lawrence College Pakistan was, the Chief Guest. On 3rd October’s night Sanawarians performed their traditional show called “Tattoo”; it included P.T., gymnastics, bhangra and dance etc.

4th October was the day, when Sanawarians performed NCC parade followed by that prize distribution took place. The Chief Minister Himachal Pardesh was the Chief Guest on that occasion. The Principal Air Commodore (Retd) Farooq H. Kiyani presented the College Crest to the chief guest on the occasion.

Annual Drama function was there, as part of the ceremony. Gallians performed their cultural show and represented the diverse colours under the flag of Pakistan. It was the time to depart from Sanawar.

“People meet to depart”, was the realization.

We reached Simla at night; and in the morning, we were to call on the Governor, at the Governor’s House. We visited Simla and enjoyed its beauty, cleanliness and shopping.

We reached Delhi by train, where we had our lunch in the Five Star Hotel hosted by the President of Old Sanawarians’ Association, Mr. Umer Abdullah.

We started our journey towards Ajmair Sharif on 6th October; spent our night in the famous Mayo College of the Ajmair. We visited the shrine of Hazrat Khawaja Moin-ud-Din and enriched our souls with the spirit of Islam. Afterwards, we visited the Mayo College and went back to Delhi.

We reached Amritsar on 8th October, spent the last night of our visit in India, did a lot of a shopping, had some fun and entered Pakistan on 9th October, 2006, with the tears of love, friendship and gratefulness in our eyes.

We are very thankful to the Sanawarians; and all the related people who hosted us very well. We’ll not be able to forget this historical visit of ours, throughout our lives.



Monday, July 02, 2007

Breast feeding Conspiracy

Marjorie Ingall writes a humorous piece on the Breast feeding conspiracy, believe it or not formula is not poison.

And is formula really so horrid? Dr. Minkin has a succinct answer for the lactivists, mamabloggers and playground experts who say that formula is "poison": "Bullshit!" She elaborates, "The major advantage of breastfeeding is that formula just can't provide the antibodies a mother's milk can. But at around two months, the baby's immune system picks up and it's far less of a concern. So don't let Great Aunt Tillie with pneumonia cuddle your newborn!"

If I bottle-feed, will I fail to bond with my daughter? Will she end up in a biker gang?

And formula is closer to breast milk now than it used to be. In 2002, two essential fatty acids in breast milk, DHA and ARA, were added to formula. Says Dr. Allan N. Schore, a developmental neuroscientist at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA who studies attachment and bonding and is a major proponent of breastfeeding, says, "I do think that before these formulas were available, the potential differential in long-term development between breastfed and formula-fed infants was significant. But now that these essential fatty acids are in formula, I think the differential will be less significant." (Wight, on the other hand, says, "Formulas are better than they used to be, but they don't act like breast milk, even with DHA and RHA added. Breast milk has hundreds of factors and we haven't yet discovered all of them, let alone their interactions.")

But what of the poster in my ultrasound doctor's office, which says flatly that one of the top twelve reasons to breastfeed is: "You will forge a stronger bond with your baby"? Does this mean that if I bottle-feed, I'll fail to bond with my daughter and she'll end up in a biker gang? With all those unbonded, bottle-fed children of moms who've had breast cancer? Schore assures me, "If breastfeeding were painful or filled with distress on the part of the mother for whatever physiological reason, then bottle-feeding, which is comfortable and relaxed, would be a better option." Whew. Because what a foul insult to fathers and adoptive parents, to say that they simply can't have as strong a bond with their baby as breastfeeding moms.

It's hard not to sound defensive when you're defending formula. Just look at the customer reviews of Peggy Robin's book on Amazon.com, where users call formula-feeding "stupid," "selfish," and "lazy"; attribute thousands of annual deaths in America to "withholding breastmilk"; refer to the "one percent" of women who truly can't breastfeed as "born handicap" [sic]; call formula "junk food" and dismiss women who bottle-feed as "the nanny crowd."

How about this? Let's agree that breastfeeding is ideal. Let's agree that public policies and workplaces should support it better. But let's also acknowledge that bottle-feeding moms need encouragement too. Cruelty helps no one — not babies, not moms. Imagine if we took half the energy we spend sniping at the formula crowd and turned it, instead, toward making it easier for women who breastfeed to keep their jobs, and for women who formula-feed to keep their dignity.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Mira with her grandma puppet!!

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Summer of Love


Whitney has an exhibit on Summer of Love, art of the psychedelic era. This car is in the basement of the whitney and a part of the exhibit.
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Bags anyone?

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a full moon

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Face Paint

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Mr. Clown Man


This juggler was juggling balls while telling young kids and their parents this wonderful poem by Dorothy Law Nolte.

Children Learn What they Live

If children live with criticism
They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility
They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule
They learn to be shy.
If children live with shame
They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with suppression
They learn to hate.
If children learn to live with neglect
They learn to not care.
If children live with pain
They learn to feel hurt.


Children learn patience
If they live with tolerance.
Children learn confidence
If they live with encouragement.
Children learn to appreciate
If they live with praise.
Children learn justice
If they live with fairness.
Children learn faith
If they live with security.
Children to like themselves
If they live with approval,
And children learn love
If they live with acceptance
And friendship.
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it has to be a good day when a butterfly sits on you

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i love my grandma

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Sophia with her grandma

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