The saga of sanitary waste-2: OF DONKEYS AND ONE WOMAN’S PERIODS


In the age of sanitary pads and other easier options, it’s difficult to fully comprehend the agony suffered by the women of older generations during periods. One can ascribe any number of religious and cultural significance to the taboos that pushed women into menstrual huts, it goes without saying that they were (still are, in many parts of India) subjected to unspeakable inconvenience, pain and humiliation.

India is a land of narratives. And the narratives built upon the “crimson flow” are many. Although menstruation is a natural, cyclical and biological occurring, the experience varies with each woman. Each one can tell a different story.

Here’s a moving account on a woman’s periods, her “ritual” dips and the donkeys (yes!) as seen from the eyes of a young, innocent boy. Although using cloth pads is now being looked at as sustainable menstruation as it does not leave behind non-biodegradable waste, I thought of including this post in the sanitary waste series for the simple reason that it offers a rare male perspective on a subject that even women hesitate to discuss openly.

Thanks to N JAYARAM for sharing this beautiful blogpost with you all. I am sure you will find yourself immersed in this short story just as I did.

Continue reading

May Day tribute: 15,000 waste-pickers save Rs 84 crore for BBMP every year


Yes, it’s true.

In all probability, this number might be an understatement as there maybe be more than 15,000 waste-pickers in the City going about their work every day—building new hopes and sometimes little habitats and hoping that one day, they will live to live and not to repent having lived a life of drudgery amidst a sea of sheer callousness.

A study conducted by Hasiru Dala, Jain University, Bangalore and Solid Waste Management Round Table in 2012 analysed the data of 4,175 registered waste-pickers aged between less-than-20 and above-60. What came to light was a number that this hapless lot could hardly accommodate within the realm of its imagination: 4,175 of them save Rs 23 crore annually. When extrapolated, 15,000 of them collectively keep Rs 84 crore safe in BBMP’s treasury. Continue reading

Everybody loves a good flood

The torrential rains battering Shimoga district have had parts of Hampi and surrounding towns and villages submerged. The Tungabhadra is in full flow. So is the suffering of the poor. It brought back the bitter memories of covering the 2009 North Karnataka floods. For those interested in reading first-hand field reports, here’s a series I wrote for ‘India Together’.

Cooking must go on even in this messed-up, roofless kitchen in Hiresindhogi of Koppal district.

Cooking must go on even in this messed-up, roofless kitchen in Hiresindhogi of Koppal district.

When all hell breaks loose, make merry.

This is exactly what some flood victims in Koppal district resorted to once they were distributed compensation for partially damaged houses—not because it was plenty, but too paltry to be put to good use. In the worst-hit Hachcholli of Bellary district, many poor people hit arrack shops or gambled away the relief fund. Paradoxically, amid its ruins stands a wine shop—all intact. Continue reading

Pains of parenting amidst Vibgyor School rape incident & the like

Pic source: TOI

Pic source: TOI

So, it began all over again this morning. A “how to keep yourself safe from marauding rapists” session with my little girl.

I cannot define what the crime is in the four-letter word, no definitive answer to “why are you telling me this?” one-liners, can’t answer all her “whys?” each time I hold a ‘good touch and bad touch’ session, and cannot suppress the gut-wrenching pain when she starts giggling each time I tell her where strangers are not supposed to touch her. Continue reading

Katra gangrape & murder: Open defecation is only the proscenium. Gory scenes are on the backstage.


The recent gangrape and ‘murder’ of two teenage Dalit girls in Katra in Uttar Pradesh allegedly by upper caste men spews out multiple questions. To attribute the entire tragedy to open defecation alone would mean refusing to see the issue in its eye. Stubborn patriarchy, dehumanising caste system, honour killing of innocent victims (the hush-hush allegation amongst the villagers who think there couldn’t have been a better end to the girls’ lives) and everything else that finds it normal to let half of its human race out to defecate…

What a magnificent desolation India has turned itself into! Continue reading

Delhi gang-rape: Before, now and forever…

Nothing can explain what drove those criminals to subject an innocent girl to such unimaginable violence in New Delhi last year. The nation erupted in retaliation, demanding the worst-possible punishment to the rapists. “Death to all” brought solace to some, justice to others. In some cases, both. In some other cases, neither.

English: Edited version of File:Indiagatelight...

But to call it “victory” or “justice” would mean belittling the brutality that countless women suffer at the hands of criminals who walk around guilt-free in every nook and corner of this country. How do we explain the oppression Dalit women often suffer? These crimes never even find a mention in the National Crime Report Bureau. They have happened before, they are happening now and will go on forever.

Rape comes in many forms. Here’s one that happened on August 29, 2001. A Dalit woman was paraded naked in her village for allegedly encouraging an inter-caste marriage between an ‘upper’ caste girl and ‘lower’ caste boy.

Nothing has changed in more than a decade. Not even the way we define rape and the degree of brutality. Because every case is “the rarest of rare” to those who have been subjected to it. Continue reading

‘Satyameva jayate’: Are our star TV anchors poor actors, or Aamir Khan a better journalist?

Aamir Khan at the 2010 Toronto International F...

The ripple effects of ‘Satyameva jayate’ are being felt all over the nation. Actor Aamir Khan has roiled up the stagnant system by picking out burning issues for his TV show. The nation, so drowned in trivial sitcoms, ‘reality’ shows and talk shows that can put street cockfights to shame, seems to be finally experiencing self-awakening moments.

What is it that Aamir doing to wake up a nation that prides itself on the pip-squeak number of flyovers and malls it builds, but shuts its ears when it comes to female foeticide, child sexual abuse—the issues that Aamir handpicked for his first two episodes? Did these episodes act as truth-finders? Continue reading

Why we won’t see the last of BJP tainted Ministers Savadi, Patil & Palemar

“The video clippings had women dancing; they were later raped by four men. Palemar told me such things happen abroad at rave parties. Since the House was discussing Malpe rave party, I watched it.”

This is what BJP Minister Laxman Savadi told the media, defending what he did yesterday on the floor of the Karnataka assembly: watch porn.

Look at his commitment and sense of preparedness! Continue reading

Dress code to women & girls, clean chit to rapists?

Young women dressed in white emboidered blouse...

Back to square one. Women get raped because they wear jeans and short/sleeveless tops. This comes from none other than Bangalore University’s Head of Committee Against Sexual Harassment K K Seethamma who is pressing for a dress code in the university because “women need to protect themselves by wearing good clothes”. Before this, Karnataka Women and Child Welfare Minister C C Patil stated that women themselves invite eve teasing, thanks to their “explosive” attire. Continue reading

In Bangalore, postmodern feminists know their right of way


Image by peterkellystudios via Flickr

We do not have a Madonna all worked up about her Blonde Ambition World Tour amid us, or a Julia Kristeva giving finishing touches to her new book on psychoanalytical theory. But when it comes to living it up every day, that feminist strand among a majority of postmodern working women in Bangalore is anything but thinning. Continue reading

Female foeticide in India-VI: A virtual Holocaust

Inside Asia's largest slum, Mumbai - India

By calculating the number of extra women who would have been in China or India if these countries had the same ratio of women to men as obtained in areas of the world in which they receive similar care, noted economist Amartya Sen calculated that in India alone there were 37 million ‘missing women’ already in 1986 when he did the first estimation. Continue reading

Female foeticide in India-IV: Are mothers killers?

Indian family with goat in field, India

Image by World Resources via Flickr

A question that often leaves even thinking people befuddled is how a mother could kill her own baby! If we fail to fathom what actually makes a woman kill her own child or not protest when others smother it to death, the most important question is this: is it her intent? Her will? Or someone else’s? Continue reading

Female foeticide in India-III: Swatting them like flies…

Indian baby

Image by Zuhair Ahmad via Flickr

When and how did it all begin? Writers have drawn references from Atharva Veda, which states, “Let a female child be born somewhere else. Here, let a male child be born.” As far what Manu Shasthra says about the futility of being a woman, the less discussed the better.

Research on female foeticide in India reveals how deep-rooted misogyny is and how mechanical the killings have become. As if the traditional methods of killings weren’t efficient enough, we now have modern ultra-sound scanning machines that swat foetuses like flies. Continue reading

Female foeticide/infanticide in India-II: Traditional methods of killing babies

A picture of a young child

Image via Wikipedia

There have been certain traditional methods perfected through years to execute female infanticide.

Feeding the infant with paddy husk so that it fatally damages the baby’s insides. Feeding poisoned milk or sleeping pills. Drowning the baby in water or milk, smothering it with a pillow, strangling to death, burying her alive, or simply starving her to death. Continue reading

Female foeticide in India-I: Murder in the womb

Beautiful baby girl

Image by adam.declercq via Flickr

Think hard. Search every corner of your mind for words that can match this act called female foeticide. Chances are that you may not find one. Female foeticide in India is one such dark realm that words can’t enter.

Words fail because there is no way to explain how the nation continues to be in a self-congratulatory mood when 7,000 female foetuses are eliminated each day (Unicef—State of the World’s Children 2007). Worse still, there is no way to fathom how mothers are turned into killers here, and how suddenly motherly instinct seems like a multi-dimensional deception.

There were a few incidents that took place in mid-2007 that I have never been able to forget. Continue reading

Food before mortality

A flood-hit woman in Bellary district, 2009. Lakhs of people starved for weeks on end. A majority of them are still homeless.

The nation debates economic expenditure on infrastructure and industrial growth threadbare, but its social expenditure on food, health, and education has been shamefully low. Amidst all this chaos, something else remains woefully neglected: the female population and their right to nutritious food.

Sifting through the shards of history isn’t enough to fathom gender bias in India. It is multi-hued, many-faced, and uniquely critical. How and where do you begin to untangle the issue? Which face do you look at? Which premise do you hold on to?

Click Prayas to read the rest of the article.

(Pic: SH)

“The Aishwarya effect”: why media forgets feats of lesser mortals?

Indian actress Aishwarya Rai

Image via Wikipedia

This week, the media reported Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s “feat” of delivering a powerful statement: opting for a normal delivery “at a time when every fourth woman in Mumbai undergoes a Caesarean section”.

This bit of research termed “the Aishwarya effect” helped us realise this much: that the media finally found something to push this Bollywood star and millions of Indian women under one set of statistics. Continue reading

Child sexual abuse: A scary journey on tender legs

Last year, when I was scrambling around to get school transportation fixed for my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, a well-meaning neighbour introduced me to a new issue I was blissfully unaware of: sexual harassment by school bus drivers, helpers. In a hushed tone, she narrated a horrific tale of her friend’s daughter who was sexually abused by the school bus driver. He used to take her to the bathroom each day (my neighbour had no idea how he gained access) and harassed the girl for years on end. By the time the girl could reveal the horror, she was 12 year old and had undergone immeasurable pain and anguish. Continue reading

Darshan scandal vs. women’s rights

I will remember October 7 for a horrifying co-incidence as far as women’s rights go.

It is a day when three outstanding women activists – Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, activist Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and rights activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen – shared Nobel Peace Prize “for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Closer home, it’s also a day when Vijayalakshmi, wife of Kannada film star Darshan Toogudeepa – first bashed up, tamed into submission, and then forced to withdraw her complaint – goes public, seeking pardon from Darshan fans after he walked out on conditional bail.

“I am extremely happy about this development. I will assure all the fans and friends of Darshan that such things will not occur in future…. I will seek their pardon. It was a bad time and both of us never realised that things will go to such extremities. I am too eager to invite my husband to our residence,” she told a section of the media.

The fans once again went berserk celebrating their star’s ‘freedom’ although it is a conditional bail and investigation has just begun.

How are we to stomach these developments when the fact that a woman’s right to a safe married life was violated in the most heinous manner is indisputable? How are we to put up with this jubilation in the midst of serious human rights violations? How are we to believe that the guilty will be punished when we know how influential and powerful people can tamper with evidence and weaken the case to a point where the very act of filing the FIR would seem utterly meaningless? How are we to continue to believe that it will not set a bad precedent for those who have already mastered the art of wife-beating and those who nurse such tendencies? Most importantly, in what way will this episode empower those women undergoing similar torture from their husbands?

It’s time to analyse this incident beyond the equation between a film star and his fans and producers and in fact, Kannada filmdom itself. Those who heard the loud cheers of Darshan fans would sure have figured out why they got so raucous and celebratory. It’s less about the pain of seeing their favourite star behind the bars, but more about suppressing the rights of a woman. More so if she is a wife of a star whose films revel in exaggerated masculine pride.

(For more articles on this scandal and other issues, visit ‘Candid Comments’ category)

Darshan scandal: The return of the vamp

If the Kannada Film Producers’ Association (KFPA) thought it has sent out a strong message by banning co-star Nikitha Thukral for her alleged affair with Mr Darshan, the entire 42-member body is mistaken.

Since Friday, forget serious action against the star, there hasn’t been single voice condemning his deeply criminal acts. This bunch of chauvinists waited two days and then chose the obvious way out: When the going gets tough, find an official enemy. Without even hearing Nikitha’s version, the KFPA “unanimously” evicted her out of the industry because, according to a section of the media, she “tormented Vijayalakshmi to leave Darshan, to a point where she is even talking of living on her own….”

There was yet another noble cause to serve. One of the producers has said that “the decision was taken in the interest of the film industry and Darshan’s family”.

Anand Appugol, producer of the upcoming big-budget flick ‘Sangolli Rayanna’ starring both Darshan and Nikitha has been quoted as saying that “though the reason for his arrest was due to a minor problem, it was made big incident as Darshan is a public figure”.


If 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 498A (husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC, and section 27 of the Arms Act are “minor” offenses, then let’s just send the police force home. Jails will run empty and roads will be safe. Courts will hear only mining cases.

Does the KFPA, ducking under the pressure being exerted by a few producers who have apparently invested Rs 35 crore on this star, know that there are certain wings of justice the society still pins its hopes on?

While the star is recuperating from his new-found jaundice and asthma and his wife Vijayalaksmi’s visit to the hospital is being publicised as a true compromise between the couple, the Mumbai-based actress faces the flak all alone. On the other hand, the instigated fan club goes on rampage and puts the police force in a bind. Yesterday, I saw on the TV some senior actors visiting the star in pain. The smiles on their faces said which side they were on.

What can you expect from a film industry that wallows in scripts oozing with chauvinism, machismo? It is these same producers who get such scripts written and throw in the same old spices to dish out the same old rotten curry. Barring a few exceptions, I have grown up watching a number of movies where heroines prostrate before men begging forgiveness for their ‘wayward’, ‘family-wrecking’ behaviour. It is the typical pathivratha-versus-vamp storylines where the hero stands victimised and the vamp punished. If there are two pathivrathas, then one happily ends her life.

It won’t suffice to say that the scripts are a cliché. It’s the women who are a cliché here.

I don’t think the nature of the scripts will change. Not in my lifetime, at least. Nor will the way the film industry reacts to such incidents. If it truly decides to act, then my hunch is that they will have not many stars to bank on.

Related articles: Darshan scandal vs. women’s rights


Darshan scandal: where are we headed?

A couple of days ago, the dark deeds of a popular Kannada film star escaped from the confines of his bedroom and hogged headlines. They still do.

A drunk superstar Darshan Toogudeepa allegedly bashed up his wife Vijayalakshmi in his customised Innova for two hours and used the burning ends of his cigarette butts to inflict pain of such nature that only he could enjoy. Later, he dumped his wife in her friend’s house along with their son Vineesh, picked them up later in the night, and once again let his sadist fantasies rule the roost. He allegedly brandished his licensed pistol and hit her so badly that her head was injured, ear disfigured, face swollen, and body suffered multiple aberrations. She also had blood-clotting in many parts of her body. This tragedy is said to be rooted in the star’s extra-marital affair with a co-star.

And, all this heroism was exhibited without any directorial assistance as his three-year-old son stood shocked and muted and his right to safe childhood violated by none other than his own father. A media source said the inebriated star did not spare the boy as he threatened to kill Vineesh at point-blank range. Darshan has denied this particular charge.

Many of you may know the aftermath. Vijayalakshmi was hospitalised, Darshan was arrested and charged with domestic violence, dowry harassment, and was also booked under the Arms Act for threatening to kill his wife.

I got drawn into watching this drama because of how my 21-year-old living-in baby-sitter Geethashri’s (name changed), a die-hard (help me with a more powerful adjective) fan of Darshan, reacted.

Her day begins with poring over TV listings, and if there’s a Darshan movie slated for the day (it is, quite often), she arranges her routine around it and gets ready for a blockbuster treat. She celebrates his birthday wearing black (his favourite colour) and distributing sweets, squanders her savings on Darshan DVDs. She reaches hours in advance at cinema halls for each of his new releases and has kept her first-day-first-show vow unbroken. She has made me sit and watch his movies in the past, only to reaffirm my belief that stardom and acting prowess often travel on different trajectories in India.

Thanks to her, even my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter rattles off Darshan hit songs and screams “I love you Darshan” the moment she sees this star’s wallposters or stickers on autorickshwas. You can very well imagine my plight.

On last Friday morning, I saw on TV how the incident slid into a 24X7 tamasha when the star’s fans took charge of some parts of the city. They resorted to violence and set afire, what else, two BMTC buses. From the Vijaynagar police station, they marched towards Koramangala in the evening where the star was produced before the magistrate. They wanted nothing less: his immediate release.

Meanwhile, many film stars led by actor-turned-politician Ambarish tried hard and even succeeded in dishing out a compromise between the couple. The battered woman withdrew her complaint.

To my dismay, no TV channel made even a faint attempt to discuss the issue beyond the Sandalwood precincts. There was hardly a sane voice that said, “Let her deal with the crisis as she wants”; or, “This is a social issue, let the police handle it”. They repeatedly sought quotes from the film fraternity and hardly anyone else beyond. They revelled in replaying the fury of the seditious multitude than analysing how such incidents expose our society’s sheer incompetence to handle such situations.

The concern was tilted more towards the plight of the star’s producers and his film career. The tone was more like, “you know, these things happen with famous men.” Many younger star-aspirants posted messages on the net defending their friend and sought support from the public. Although the senior actors kept telling the crowd that it was a family matter and should better be left that way, they seemed to find themselves on a moral high ground as they worked out the compromise and forced the woman to recant her statement in front of the magistrate. Thankfully, today’s newspapers say that the judge has not been convinced with her revised version that she suffered injuries due to a bathroom slip.

No feminist group took up the case, not to my knowledge at least. Only the Child Welfare Committee took suo motu cognisance and tried to locate the child as the FIR clearly stated threat to his life. Apparently, the child “was not found”.

What’s more, a newspaper reported a police officer admitting that there was a delay in producing the culprit before the magistrate because Darshan’s “colleagues sought time to strike a compromise with Vijayalakshmi”, and “a steady flow of actors prevented us from producing him before the magistrate.”

Does that mean these film stars will dictate the police their next course of action? Is this what we get to hear from the police in Bangalore that was shut down completely three times in the past? The benumbing violence that spilled in to the streets after Kannada film icon Dr Rajkumar was kidnapped still reminds me of the day I struggled to reach my newspaper office but returned because the office van could not just pass through the troubled areas. Later, Rajkumar’s demise resulted in murders on the roadsides as the overwhelmed police force simply caved in. All that the city police managed after another icon Vishnuvardhan passed away was to shut down Bangalore again anticipating similar violence.

In comparison, this incident was not that out of control as we are told to believe. The crowd size, despite the TV cameramen’s zooming-in tactics, was nowhere close to those marauding mobs. Some intelligent, swift moves could have saved the city this shameful episode.

Back home, I was disconcerted by Geethashri’s continued support to her icon and tried telling her that she would not be a lesser fan if she admitted he was wrong. She shrugged her shoulders and said: “most men do such things”.

I asked her “what if it happens to you”? “Will you tell your husband, ‘it’s okay, you did nothing wrong. Many men beat up their wives and have illicit relationships. You are no different’?”

Geethashri had no answer, but went on defending her star. She is waiting for his release and is a bit concerned that he has been hospitalised for jaundice and asthma. When I again provoked her jocularly if she was going to a temple to pray for his well-being, she retorted: “I don’t need to go to a temple to pray.”

Even as I took solace in the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief”, something kept niggling my mind. Are we, the so-called educated, any different? Don’t we get influenced by film stars’ (or any other influential personalities’) fame and overlook their personal follies and sometimes, even their talent deficiencies?