Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pink Bangles

Sagarika Ghose writes about the achievements and struggles that Indian women face 60 years after Independence.

Today women's empowerment is a government slogan, it is the universal feature of every party manifesto. The officialising of the Indian women's movement has meant that society has been left to find its own definition of freedom. For millions of Indian women, it's not a talented woman like Kiran Bedi or even a professional politician like Pratibha Patil who is a role model. Instead, it's the heavily made- up and bejewelled, husband-centred glamorous figures of the soap operas, with their hair full of sindoor and their minds full of domestic politics, who are figures to be emulated. In urban India, across income groups, when it comes to individual freedom—as opposed to the collective freedom of equal opportunities in education and at work—that freedom is often defined as simply the freedom to be constantly sexy. The Indian woman is so sexy and beautiful that she's forgotten to be independent.

Today in India there are laws protecting women from dowry, there are laws against female foeticide, there are laws against domestic violence and laws against sexual harassment in the workplace. The numbers of working women are exploding: businesswomen like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, sportswomen like Sania Mirza, policewomen like Kiran Bedi and politicians like Mayawati show that talented, determined women are recognised even in a traditional society. In the first decades of the 21st century and after sixty years of independence, the Indian woman—seemingly protected by law, celebrated by the media and nursed by activists—is freer than ever before.

Yet in her freedom to choose her own path, she sometimes chooses to turn her back on the very ideals on which her freedom rests. Indian feminists have let down the Indian woman. The campaigns they led through the '70s, '80s and '90s were important ones, yet the leaders of the movements allowed themselves to be readily absorbed into the establishment, as directors, advisors and government consultants. They failed to evolve an Indian definition of women's freedom. They failed to create any meaningful debates on sexuality, the family, or professional choices. No wonder then that India's movies, beauty pageants, advertisements, media and television soaps have created role models of women who are beautiful thoughtless beings.

Yet campaigns by women have been successful in several landmark events. When 16-year-old Mathura was raped in 1972, protests led to amendments in criminal law. When Roop Kanwar committed sati in 1987, a strong women's campaign rose. The Indian women's movement has prided itself on a down-to-earth, activist and pragmatic identity, one that campaigned for legal and social reform, led protests against price rise, dowry, domestic violence, rape and even male alcoholism. Indian feminism was largely unconcerned with western feminist ideas of birth control or sexual freedom or opposing the male-headed family. Yet, that unconcern has meant that apart from small groups of Left-liberal activists, ideas on women's freedom have failed to become popular or relevant at an individual level.

Today, the urban middle-class woman demands a new kind of freedom in the 21st century. And this is the freedom to not worry about women's rights, if it comes in the way of a good marriage or a successful career in glamour.The heroines of mega-hits like Hum Aapke Hain Koun or Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge are presented not as individuals attempting to create their own lives in a new economy, as millions of women across India were doing. Instead, the films showed young brides propagating an ersatz tradition of following religious ritual down to the last detail, viewing the moon through a sieve, praying before their in-laws' photographs, carrying out their duties as good wives and daughters and spending their girlhoods in working towards getting a husband.

Chak de India

This movie rocked. I loved everything about it. It reminded me of Bend it like Beckham and Lagaan. It was very empowering for girls and women.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Canada bans Neem Toothpaste

Neem toothpaste is dangerous to ingest.
Canadian health authorities have issued a second warning on the use of a toothpaste made in India. From Health Canada's Aug. 24 advisory (reproduced in full below, along with the original July 26 warning about an ingredient also found in antifreeze):

Further to the Health Canada warning issued July 26, 2007, further testing on Neem Active Toothpaste with Calcium, manufactured by Calcutta Chemical Co. Ltd in India, has revealed that in addition to unacceptable levels of diethylene glycol (DEG), the product also contains high levels of harmful bacteria. This poses additional significant health risks, especially to children and individuals with compromised immune systems.

Health Canada continues to advise Canadians to discontinue use of this product. Potential adverse effects of ingesting products that contain unacceptable levels of harmful bacteria include fever, urinary tract infection, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Infants, children and vulnerable populations such as patients hospitalized for severe underlying diseases or with compromised immune systems are more sensitive to these effects. Severe vomiting and diarrhea could lead to potentially life-threatening dehydration. While toothpaste is not intended to be swallowed, it is often swallowed by young children.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Baby Books

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrations by Marla FrazeeThis is a wonderful book with infants holding center stage from different shapes of babies, to the seasons that they are born in. Also where all they get kissed, to how they get dressed. To their feeding, rocking, carrying and to the noises they make, the toys they play with and to the friends they make and to them crawling and finally walking. The book has adorable illustrations.

Moo, Baa, La La La! By Sandra Boynton this book deals with different animals sounds, with wonderful illustrations.

Animal Crackers Nursery Rhymes by Jane Dyer –This book has some old favourite nursery rhymes like Hey, Diddle Diddle, 1,2 Buckle my shoe, Baa, Baa Black Sheep and Polly Put the Kettle on. It seems definitely to have an English touch to it. The cover seems to have humpty dumpty, but not its matching nursery rhyme in the book.

Look By Kyra Teis- this book is a true visual delight, with a lot of bright colors, and different shapes and sizes. It is dedicated to her father, who I am sure was an artist.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

No End in Sight

powerful documentary exposes the Bush administration's lack of a plan to rebuild Iraq. If there is one movie you need to see on the reasons for the U.S. quagmire
in Iraq, this is it.

Wrenching account of U.S. errors in Iraq
By Carrie Rickey
Inquirer Movie Critic

'We used to joke that there were 500 ways to do it wrong," says Barbara Bodine,
American diplomat and former coordinator for central Iraq, of how the
United States could rebuild the Middle Eastern nation after the fall of
Saddam Hussein. "And only two or three ways to do it right."

No End in Sight, Charles Ferguson's lucid, concise and devastating account
of what went wrong in Iraq, patiently counts those 500 ways.

The result is a heartbreaking, soul-searching chronicle of how America
snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a nation where outraged
citizens look into Ferguson's camera and testify, "Saddam was awful,
but the Americans are worse!"

Muqtada al-Sadr, shown in newsreel footage inciting anti-American insurgents, makes a similar distinction between the old authoritarian rule and the American occupying forces:Hussein was the "little Satan," America the "great Satan." It could
have been otherwise, Ferguson suggests. The Iraqis may have regarded
Americans more like avenging angels had the Bush administration heeded
the advice of its Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA).

Narrated by Campbell Scott with a neutrality that makes its content all the more
incendiary, No End focuses its attention on May 2003, after President
Bush spoke in front of a "mission accomplished" banner but before plans
to stabilize and rebuild Iraq had been implemented. According to
Ferguson's film, it took the United States two years to plan its policy
to rebuild Germany after World War II; it took less than 60 days for
the U.S. to plan its policy to rebuild Iraq, much of it done by those
not fluent in the country's language or culture.

Many of the 35 talking heads interviewed by Ferguson, a Brookings
Institution policy wonk and software designer who self-financed the $2
million film, are or were high-ranking officials in the administration.
Some, like Col. Paul Hughes and Gen. Jay Garner, were from the
Pentagon. Others, likeBodine, came from the State Department.

With the exception of Walter Slocombe, adviser to the the Coalition Provisional Authority, which succeeded the ORHA, no one interviewed defends the U.S. decisions to "de-Ba'athify" Iraq and demobilize its army.

Garner looks stricken when he describes his unsuccessful fight against "de-Ba'athification,"
which eliminated 50,000 party members who could hold together Iraq's
fragile infrastructure. An even more stricken Hughes describes his
fight against dismantling the 500,000-member Iraqi army, which turned
potential U.S. allies into enemies who had access to weapons.

As Ferguson, who trained as a mathematician, conducts this audit of the
war in Iraq, he shows how those 500 mistakes led to 3,000 U.S.
casualties. Of Iraqi casualties, there is no reliable number, but
estimates range from 60,000 to 150,000.

Playpen Time

Posted by Picasa

Mira's Rakhi Brothers...

Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 24, 2007

Women’s Words

Ms magazine writes about Fatima Sadiqi.

UNTIL 2007, MOROCCAN women who married foreigners could not pass citizenship to their children—who had to apply, year after year, for residence permits to live in their own country. Finally, after decades of feminist protest, parliament has guaranteed paternal and maternal equality in determining nationality.

The new citizenship law follows the 2004 Moudawana (Family Law), which entitles women to a range of civil rights. The minimum marriage age was raised from 15 to 18; women may now wed without the consent of a male wali (marital tutor); polygamy is restricted to cases in which wives, including the new bride, consent by written contracts approved by a judge; and men may no longer unilaterally “repudiate”—divorce—their wives without compensation.

One feminist responsible for such rights is Fatima Sadiqi, a Moroccan- Berber professor at the University of Fes and a linguist specializing in how women and men use language in Morocco. She found that Berberspeaking persons lack access to information and resources because they speak a “female language” associated with the home and hearth. In this country, where Arabic, French and English predominate, many more women and girls than men speak only Berber, don’t attend school and are illiterate— approaching 90 percent in some rural areas

America's Wildly Overblown Vick Hysteria

Alternet puts the Michael Vick story in perspective.

Countless numbers of pro football players have committed rape, physical assaults and armed robberies. They have been inveterate spouse and girlfriend abusers, and have even been accused of a double murder (no not O.J., more on him later). Yet none of them have ever had an airplane fly over their training camp with a banner that read abuser, killer, robber, assailant or thug. None have ever been taunted, jeered and harangued by packs of sign-waving demonstrators screaming for their blood when they showed up at the courthouse. None of them have ever brought the wrath of the entire sports world -- sportswriters, fans, league officials, advertisers, sports talk jocks and bloggers down on their heads. None have ever had senators, congresspersons and packs of advocacy groups publicly demand that they be drummed out of their profession.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

India's neighbours in the news

Pakistan is dealing with the the possible return of former Prime Minister's Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.

Both exiled ex-PMs Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif will be back in Pakistan by October and running for re-re-re-election in December. And that, gentle readers, couldn’t be better news - the election, ie, not Bhutto or Sharif in power again! But as I have said many times, let the people choose.

What does it all mean? In terms of internal politics of Pakistan, this is tremendous news for the resurgent democratic movement in Pakistan. The full participation of the many political parties - including the Bhuttos and Sharifs - will guarantee that Pakistan start recovering from the despotic military regime. However, that is easier said than done. The military, under Musharraf, has become the largest land-owning, asset-controlling entity in Pakistan with ex- and current military officials serving across the civil and social landscape. How can that military be coaxed “back into the barracks”? It is quite probable that there are forces within the military eager to curtail their political vulnerabilities. The popular image of the military in Pakistani society has underwent tremendous change in recent years - from a highly valued and respected institution (the only “corruption-free” one) to a hegemonic and undesirable presence. I could argue that the military’s own interests lie in withdrawing from the political realm and re-burnishing its image and standing. Of course, the defense budget remains the highest expenditure in the country and no successive civil government will change that. By and large, the military cannot lose by “giving democracy back” to the country. That was, after all, what Musharraf claimed when he took control

Bangladesh has student's demonstrating the emergency rule imposed by the military backed government.

Security forces patrolled the quiet streets of six cities Thursday, enforcing an indefinite curfew imposed by the military-backed government to quell unrest by students demanding an end to emergency rule in Bangladesh.

The curfew, imposed Wednesday on the largest cities in the country after days of street violence, cleared cities of protesters, forced residents to stay home and temporarily shut down mobile phones.

Cell phone service was restored early Thursday. Authorities eased the curfew for three hours in the afternoon, giving people a chance to shop for food and other necessities, but the streets began emptying again as night fell.

Streets were empty of cars, and security forces were stopping anyone out walking or taking tricycle rickshaws.

There were no signs of protests, but some residents of Dhaka expressed unease.

``We're suffering a lot, we don't expect such a situation in the country,'' Abdul Malek Chowdhury, a former army officer, told The Associated Press. ``We've passed through many troubled months in recent past, we're passing through the same old thing even now.''

The curfew order came on the third day of unrest after students, whose protests had been largely confined to university campuses, spilled into the streets of Dhaka, burning cars and buses and battling with security forces. One person was killed and hundreds were injured, local media reported.

The interim government now running Bangladesh is doing so with the backing of the military, which ruled the country throughout the 1980s. Officials say elections will be held in late 2008.

Burma has had protests often led by women, criticizing the doubling of fuel prices.

About 200 people marched in Rangoon in the rare demonstration, but dispersed after a number were bundled into cars and driven away.

A similar protest was held on Sunday, the largest such rally in a decade.

The junta arrested at least 13 activists before Wednesday's protest, including some of the nation's most prominent dissidents.

The latest protest took place on the northern outskirts of Rangoon.

The demonstrators, most of them women, were cheered by onlookers as they marched in defiance of the junta's strict controls on protests.

"We are marching to highlight the economic hardship that Myanmar (Burma) people are facing now, which has been exacerbated by the fuel price hike," one protester told the Associated Press news agency.

Their path was blocked by supporters of the junta and plain-clothed officers, witnesses said, and the rally dispersed as up to 10 demonstrators were bundled into cars and driven off.

Last week's fuel price rises left many people struggling to find the money to travel to work.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Qurratulain Hyder

C M Naim writes about Ms. Hyder here.

Only a few days back, to mark the 60 years of Independence, when we asked an eminent jury to pick out 60 Great Indians in 60 years of our Republic, the name of Qurratulain Hyder was introduced prominently as Urdu's Marquez."Through her novels and short stories, this prolific writer gave Urdu fiction a brave and endlessly inventive new voice," we wrote, and quoted the London Times: "Her magnum opus, Aag Ka Darya (River of Fire), is to Urdu fiction what A Hundred Years of Solitude is to Hispanic literature.

[She is] one of the world's major living writers."

But, alas, no more.

For, Qurratulain Hyder breathed her last in a Noida hospital after a prolonged illness at 2:30 a.m this morning. She was awarded the Jnanpith in 1989 for her novel Aakhir-e-Shab ke Hamsafar (Travellers Unto the Night), the Sahitya Akademi award in 1967, the Soviet Land Nehru Award in 1969 and Ghalib Award in 1985, and had been honoured with the Padma Shri, and, recently, the Padma Bhushan in 2005.

Indeed, when talking about Independence, it is inevitable to think of Partition -- and she was perhaps the most profound, literary explorer of that tumultuous event. She did not write about the physical violence of Partition, as did so many others (foremost among them Manto). In fact, in her most famous novel Aag Ka Darya (River of Fire), a historical tale that moves from the fourth century to the modern India and Pakistan, the moment of Independence, is marked with a blank page that simply says "August 1947". Her interest lay in the wounds that bled inside, the festering wounds that people carried silently for ever. Some of these aspects of her writings were explored by C.M. Naim in the introduction to his translation of one of her short stories and two novellas that we reproduce below as an appreciation.

Kum Kum Sangari writes about her book Aag Ka Darya.

In Aag ka Darya , for the first time a woman writer, Qurratulain Hyder, annexed over twenty-five centuries of Indian History as a subject matter. The grand nationalist visions of a pluralist civilization had till then been a male domain elaborated, among others, by Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru, while women had been for almost two centuries the subjects of colonial, nationalist, or sectarian histories, often invented and usually patriarchal.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

sleep time

Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa

cousins Brandon and Mira

Posted by Picasa

emmy blowing her bday candle

Posted by Picasa


Posted by Picasa

simon and brandon

Posted by Picasa


Posted by Picasa
Posted by Picasa


Posted by Picasa


Posted by Picasa

a family

Posted by Picasa


Posted by Picasa


Posted by Picasa


Posted by Picasa

protecting the eggs


The statues depict their African creators traditional close bond to nature and the environment.
Posted by Picasa

Mother and children


The artists have handcarved these sculptures from opal stone, cobalt and springstone.
Posted by Picasa



This was a very interesting sculptural exhibit on the lawns of the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.
Posted by Picasa


Posted by Picasa

Middle School chronicles

Middle School is a dress rehersal for life