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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rapists have nothing to fear

What we are seeing in Delhi is much more than a protest against the brutal crime against a woman in a bus, and the inability of the government machinery to ensure citizens’ safety. It’s also an overwhelming outpouring of our frustration with the system. This unprecedented surge in emotion that took the agitators to the very heart of the power centre in Delhi, is also riding on the momentum set by the series of similar popular upheavals against systemic inadequacies.

The fact that people in such large numbers, especially young women, have been forced to take their protest to the hallowed precincts of our capital, like Raisina Hill and Rajpath, in an unprecedented manner, is a reaction to the rapidly plummeting standards in the state of the nation. It is also a reminder to the government that, inspite of all the talk of determination to set things right, nothing much has changed on the ground.

While dissecting the immediate provocation, let us also not lose sight of the depressing overall social milieu we are living in. Our state machinery is unimaginably weak. The lack of state authority virtually comes across as an encouragement for hooligans to indulge in the worst forms of violence with the full confidence that they can get away scot-free. The majority of law-abiding citizens are held to ransom by the small minority of people who seem to enjoy a carte blanche.

Pause and take a look at what is going on around us. Men have the full freedom to stand in public places, expose their private parts and relieve themselves. One, he has no shame. Two, he has no respect for the society he lives in. Three, he has no fear of the law. He knows very well that no one will come asking for a fine of not even Rs 10, forget being hauled to the police station and prosecuted.

My friend recently told me how he doesn’t feel safe to use his motorbike after 11 pm because he feels he might be mugged and in the process beaten up. There’s nothing to deter the miscreants and give us a sense of security.

A scooter mechanic in my neighbourhood has extended his garage on to the recently built, good, broad pavement; as a result, now pedestrians have to get off the footpath onto the busy road. The mechanic knows pretty well that no one will haul him up; and if at all anyone did, he is confident of circumventing the arm of law.

Our roads, and junctions in particular, present appalling scenes of insensitivity as drivers violate all decency and laws of the land.

Not just women, every sense of human values, and laws are raped.

Sad, our rich cultural and religious heritage is not good enough to infuse a sense of morals in some of us. At least they should have a fear of the law of the land. A weak government machinery has ensured that people needn’t be scared of the law either.

When we can’t fix little things going wrong in our society, I don’t know how we can fix complicated matters like cases of rape that often get entwined in legal and forensic issues. It’s a depressing scenario.

Hope we have reached the tipping point, at least now. Hope the girl’s trauma and suffering will pay off. Hope there will be not only some serious introspection but a series of inviolable steps put in place and activated so that we can all live our lives peacefully without being scared of miscreants, hooligans, thieves, rapists and murderers.

(Crossposted from Kaleidoscope)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Connecticut shooting: Need for introspection


Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut, is the worst of such tragedies in recent times. Twenty little angels, aged 6 and 7, fell to a barrage of bullets. Six elders too died. What makes this horrendous and numbing is the way the violence was perpetrated.

A 20-year old man, Adam Lanza, kills his mother, Nancy, using her heavy firearms, then he proceeds with all those weapons in her car to the school where she teaches, breaks through the security, and opens fire all around on tiny tots. He is said to be an intelligent but introverted person. His mother is described by neighbours as a normal, quiet housewife.

With Adam and his mother dead, there is only his immediate relatives and friends, who can give some clues to what possibly must have led to this tragedy. Answers to whether the hard times in Lanza family had brought emotional trauma to the teenager, and why his single mom felt compelled to buy those heavy firearms, are only in the realms of conjecture.

As with any such tragedy, the one question being asked is could this have been prevented? Did Adam show any deviant behaviour? Did anyone notice him disturbed? Did anyone bother to provide him help? He is said to have been an introvert, who wouldn't reply to questions. Most people have said that he didn't behave extraordinarily different from how any normal teenager would.

Katherine Newman, who has researched and written a book, "Rampage: Social Roots of School Shootings" says that in most cases someone had noticed something wrong in the person who later turned out to be the shooter, but failed to inform people who could provide some help. The Connecticut case may or may not fall in this category.

The incident prompts us this question: If we ever suspect anything disturbing or potentially dangerous in anyone whom we know, should we intervene or just leave that person to his or her privacy? I can well imagine, if someone had even remotely suspected something wrong in Adam, he would have preferred to respect the Lanza family's privacy rather than raise questions about the young man's personality giving an impression of intruding into their personal matters. This is all the more likely given the western social custom of keeping a reasonable distance from each other to ensure personal space.

The Newton shooting is not an isolated one. Such incidents have happened elsewhere in the world, regardless of affluence or social mores. Only the scale or method have been different. Often such tragedies have belied the calm these societies have been known for. Antagonists, single or in a group, would have been under deep stress; and the violence was an outlet to prove a point or grab attention to issues which had hitherto gone unnoticed or unresolved.

There are people among us who are troubled. Hard feelings, caused mostly by insensitivity of others, often go unnoticed as everyone else is busy trying to outdo one another, in a ceaseless race to reach some goal which like a mirage is never achieved. These unattended, unhealed wounds fester over  a period of time and manifest in some form of violence, minor or major. How much ever we try, all problems aren't solved, all wounds aren't healed; but at least we shouldn't regret we never made an attempt to set things right.

(Crossposted from Kaleidoscope)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Simple tips to be trim and healthy

Obesity is a major problem. People put on weight for various reasons -- mostly due to two factors: one, excessive and irregular eating habits, mainly fatty food; and two, lack of exercises. There are also cases where neither of the two are responsible; it could be because of the peculiar body constitution, in which nothing much can easily be done.

Food gives us nutrition for the body to grow; and it gives us energy to work and play. But it can also wreak havoc, if you don't keep a watch on what you eat.

Food dipping in ghee, butter and oil are good for children. So too meat, even red meat, for those who don't mind eating them. Fatty food pack lot of energy in them, and they get expended while the children play and work. But that's not the case for grown-up people, especially those above 30 years of age. At that age, the body also loses its capacity to burn the fat.

As we grow older, there should be increasing regulation of the food that we eat. Avoid meat, especially red meat. Fish is good, but avoid the fried form. That should take care of most health issues. It's not easy as it sounds.We are talking of nearly monastic diet; food that has minimum content of fat, salt, sugar and oil.

If one tries this out, with some determination, the effect on health can easily and immediately be seen. What works best is not complete ban on these villainous food additives, but regulation. Avoid them most of the time, but indulge once in a while. It'sn't easy; but with some steely resolve it's possible.

To be healthy, there is no need to go to a gym and employ a physical trainer. Just make sure you do enough of physical activity - anything from getting up from chair and walking around, to climbing stairs, to washing clothes to mopping the floor, to going on a long walk. Additionally, do some 20 minutes of breathing and stretching exercises daily. Rather than vigorously exercising for long hours once in a while, it's better to exercise in short spells more frequently.

Here's an article from New Scientist that says in order to lose weight one mustn't skip food, but cut down on fat.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tiger on the prowl in Wayanad shot dead

Quite shocking. Not just because an animal has been killed, but because we didn't have an alternative to keep it alive.

Over the past 17 days, a wild tiger had been straying into living areas of Wayanad and attacking and killing many domestic animals and pets. This caused considerable dismay among the people, who were  pressing the authorities to do something to rein in the wild animal. A couple of days back residents blocked the main road and said they would lift the blockade only if their safety was ensured.

Photo courtesy: Mathrubhumi
So, forest officials from Kerala and Karnataka were called. They apparently tried their best to trap the tiger. But it failed since it was constantly moving from place to place. Then a decision to taken to fire tranquilizers. A few were fired. But the tiger wasn't tamed, and, according to officials, it had turned its ire towards people. Sensing danger to human beings, the officials decided to shoot the tiger dead.

Wildlife activists have said they would approach the court against the unlawful killing.

The issue brings to fore our inability to tackle such crises in a more even-handed manner. Indeed, safety of human beings -- from other human beings and animals -- is of paramount concern. But, it is a  bit hard to believe that the tiger couldn't be tamed with tranquilizer shots. Probably the dosage wasn't properly estimated or the shots were not properly fired.

I doubt if even the villagers would have wanted the tiger killed. They only wanted protection for themselves and their domestic pets.

Probably, the forest officials had come under too much pressure to resolve the situation. But, it's sad that a better solution couldn't found in all those two weeks.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Freedom of choice -- to igonre


Controversies over tweets and Facebook posts are nothing new. It’s been there for over a decade, ever since the advent of web 2.0 that gave us tools to publish, broadcast and telecast whatever we wanted to tell the world. Earlier, controversies were around blog posts. There have been numerous cases of netizens losing jobs, being served legal notice for defamation, threatened, forced to take down posts etc.

Information -- an objective statement of fact or a biased personal view -- exists either in the private or public domain. When only known number of people are aware of what is said or discussed, then that is in the private domain. For example, letters, phone calls, emails, SMSs etc between two people or amongst a group of people. But, when communication happens amongst countless number of people, it is in the public domain. And that's where all the problems lie.

Earlier, defamation and libel cases were only related to what was published in books, magazines or newspapers or what was broadcast on radio or telecast on television. Most of the communication then was in the private domain. But today, arguably, we spend a lot of time talking to the world at large -- uploading status messages and comments, besides pictures and videos. Perhaps what is forgotten in the process is, there is a huge number of people -- most of them strangers, unlike in the private domain -- reading and listening to what is being said.

There is an old adage: "My freedom ends where your freedom begins". This makes eminent sense when two people communicate with each other, or in such private-domain interactions, where "I" and "you" are known entities. But does this adage hold good in today's changed communication paradigm?

Facebook has come to symbolize the new communication structure -- a lot of supposedly private and personal information and views are broadcast, knowingly or unknowingly, to the whole world in the public domain. The virtually unbridled freedom of expression that everyone has to express their views has forced us to adopt a new way to tackle the torrent of comments.

Facebook is also about a new freedom of choice -- where you choose to ignore. When friend requests from people  you aren't quite bothered about come, ignore. If for some reason, you are compelled to add them, then make list of people you want to follow, and ignore the rest. There is the 'hide' option, where you can choose not to see the types of posts you don't like. You can customize the news feed option: choose to ignore what you don't like.

Where is the compulsion to read and react to everything in the public domain? Ignore. Just as I may not make favourable comments always, why should I make unfavourable comments whenever I see something I don't like? Ignore.

Inundated with so much information in the public domain, the freedom of choice that I seem to exercise nowadays is to ignore. There may be limits to freedom to my expression; but thankfully, no one has curtailed my freedom to ignore. That's an absolute freedom I enjoy.

(Crossposted from Kaleidoscope)