Don’t flinch

Don’t flinch.
Stare at three year old Aylan.
Stare at him lying on a beach, his face half buried in the wet sand.
Stare at his bright clothes.
Stare at his tiny hands, his shoes.
Stare at his future that drowned with him.
Stare at the million ways he could have been saved.

Don’t look away.
Feel numb. Feel hollow. Feel anything.
But don’t look away.
Don’t close the window hastily because you can’t see such pictures.
Don’t look away because you won’t be able to sleep.
Don’t thank god that this wasn’t your child.

Imagine this was your child.
Imagine that was your country you were running away from.
Imagine you holding your family, praying for a better future.
Imagine you holding their dead bodies, staring at the ocean.
Imagine you wishing the earth to break in million tiny pieces.

Imagine you are the police officer who picked him up.
Imagine you looking at the boy when you turned him to pick him up.
Imagine the lightness of Aylan’s tiny body in your hands.
Imagine the heaviness of your heart.
Imagine you going to your home that night and stare at the mirror and wonder if God exists.

Don’t flinch.
Don’t flinch when you see a vulture waiting for an African boy to die.
Don’t flinch when you see a naked, terrified Vietnamese girl running on a street during a war.
Don’t flinch when you see the body of a dead, three year old on a beach.
This is our legacy. This is what we are leaving for our children.
These pictures.
The pictures that our children will judge us by.
If they live.

Hope.
Hope that our children grow up.
Hope that one day they will see these pictures.
Hope that that day, they will come home and look straight at us. Through us.
And flinch.
Hope, because that would mean the world will be a better place one day.
Hope, because that would mean our children won’t repeat our mistakes.

So, don’t flinch.
Stare at three year old Aylan.
Stare at him lying on a beach, his face half buried in the wet sand.

A Square Meal

 

In 2012, the world’s 100 richest people earned a stunning total of $240 billion in profits. That is enough money to end extreme poverty worldwide four times over.

In 2007, the total volume of trade by private corporations the world over was over $1,171 trillion; the sum of the earnings of all countries was a mere $66 trillion, almost 20 times less.

Earth is a strange place; humans stranger. We have reached a point where money and the privileges that come with it are concentrated with a selected few. There are millions of children in the future generation, who are destined to float away in an unknown void, working hard only to earn the basic necessity essential for their survival – A square meal. There are 1.29 billion people all over the world living in abject poverty, 400 million of them are in India.

The only thought that will come to your mind when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from is to find a way to earn your next meal. You will not think about getting an education for your children or for a better life for them because you need food, because your children need food. The thought is surreal because the people who are reading this have not lead such a life. But close your eyes for a second and think about sending your son and daughter to do manual work instead of a school because you need money and food on the table. Nightmarish, isn’t it? There are millions of people out there who are living this nightmare.

The only way this vicious circle can be broken is by educating the next generation. There has to be a strong urge to uplift the underprivileged children from their current situation, to give them a springboard to reach out for the stars. It is heart-warming to see so many people and organisations around the world coming ahead and work towards the betterment of our society. There are many organizations in India that are working towards encouraging poor parents for sending their children to school. It is a brilliant idea to provide meals to students in school so that they could concentrate on their dreams.

There is enough money and goodwill in the world to make everyone’s life better, to help our future to be better than our present. No child should have to choose between hunger and education. It is inhuman.

Of course, the scale of the fight is humongous but there is always hope. And perseverance.

I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda. I sincerely hope you will join me. For every blog post you write, BlogAdda will sponsor meals for an Akshaya Patra beneficiary for an entire year, as a part of our Bloggers Social Responsibility.

I am tagging no one specific, but it will be great if all my blogger friends take up this tag. You can read more about this initiative here.

Now that you are here my daughter…

My eyes are adjusting to your presence. The moment when I held you in my hands for the first time seems like a dream. Your being is so surreal that I have to see you again and again to make sure that you are not a figment of my imagination. Your crying sounds like a creaking door and the chap – chap sound you make while drinking milk lands me in convulsions of laughter.  

Yes, you have arrived and now that you are here my daughter, I have a few promises to make. 

I promise that you will never learn to accept your gender as weak. The idea will never be taught to you. 

I promise that you will learn to make your own decisions. I will be there to give my opinion, suggestions and guidance but I will not make decisions for you. 

I promise that you will learn to value a human for his thoughts and not for his religion or cast. 

I promise that I will be there to help you get up after you fall but I will never stop you from committing what I think are mistakes. I will never strangulate your convictions. 

I promise that you will learn to defend yourself and your rights. 

I promise that you will know the true significance of this gift of life, that you will value it in all humans above anything else. 

I promise that you will understand the significance of hard work, you will understand that success achieved through shortcuts does not mean anything. 

I promise you will grow without any cultural shackles. You will never be a part of a family that demands dowry or pray for a baby boy.

I promise you will be taught to respect Mother Earth. You will learn that there is nothing like cultural superiority. 

I promise that you will understand that there are only two kinds of humans – the ones who make mistakes and hide them and the ones who accept their mistakes, learn from them and rectify them. 

I promise that I will encourage you to fall in love. My opinion about your choice will not matter if you are convinced and happy with your partner. And no, the gender of your partner will not matter.

I promise that I will neither show you off as a trophy nor treat you as a racing horse to further my unfulfilled ambitions.

I promise that I will try my best to incline your interests towards various art forms. I will try my best to make you fall in love with books.

I promise that I will be your best friend. I will listen to you with amusement when you will tell me that your boyfriend got his ears pierced seven times. I will listen to you with pride when you will tell me that you broke a man’s arm with a karate chop when he tried to harass a lady in the bus.

I promise you my precious Anika that I will love you unconditionally. My love will not change with your successes or failures, your decisions or opinions. My love will not change even if I have to change a hundred diapers a day. It will not change even if I end up being sleep deprived and dream of diapers falling from the sky during my random power naps.

I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with you. I am looking forward to see you take your first step, call me dad, laugh out loud, fall in love and live your life.

Im busy

p.s. I might be blogging erratically for a while because of my busy schedule of changing diapers and burping the baby. Please don’t mind.

p.p.s This blog might turn into a daddy blog for a while.

Sensitization begins at home

We are contrary creatures, us humans, but that isn’t something we need to be afraid of, or even much troubled by. And if you make a list of those people who worship consistency, you’ll find they are one and all tyrants or would-be tyrants. Ruling over thousands, or over a husband or a wife, or some covering child. Never fear contradiction. It is the very heart of diversity.

– The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen)

A few days back, I overheard a conversation between two Software Engineers. Both of them were discussing rape cases and laughingly agreed with each other that 95% of the rape cases are consensual. I am sure that they kept a window of 5% open in case a female member of their own family gets raped. Such females can then be conveniently boxed in the category of 5% women who are tamed and belong to well-to-do families but who are victims of the evil. Mind you, these are extremely well-educated men working in an MNC and earning a handsome salary, who like going to a pub and like getting drunk, who despite being married will stare at a woman’s buttock as she passes by, who snigger at a woman driving a car. This well-educated category of urban Indian male also believe that any woman who does not belong to their family are objects and possible prostitutes and leave no stone unturned in blaming the victim. They forget the fact that a stranger might be having similar thoughts about a female member of their own family.

The bad news is that education has nothing to do with changing mindsets. Education cannot teach the idea of respecting a fellow human. But then what can? Baring a minuscule population of India, a large unbelievable chunk is deeply entrenched in the swamp of patriarchy. The rot is so deep that we will not be able to see a change in our lifetime. Patriarchy glorifies the act of controlling another human’s life. The acts of crime against women that we witness in modern India are illegitimate offspring of patriarchy. Respect has to be treated as gender neutral and so should be freedom to make choices. 

Can we make a beginning somewhere?

It is extremely difficult to change the mindset of an adult. Two adults can react differently to the same situation. For example, consider a man who has seen his father as an authoritative figure all his life. It is possible that such a man carries his father’s legacy and treats his own wife as a subordinate. It might also be possible that he reacts to the suffering of his mother and when the time comes, treats his own wife with all the dignity and equality she deserves. But where does the distinction comes from? What are the factors that decide the path a man would finally take?

In the end it all boils down to how much contradiction can you swallow as a human. How much is the magnitude of your fear for a thought or an act that contradicts your beliefs? Are you willing to let go and ready to open the cage that was meticulously built around you? Ironically, a majority of us do not acknowledge the presence of a cage. It has melted so deeply into our psyche that we fail to feel its presence. It is embedded in us. A monster that lurks silently.

Sometimes I wonder that if gender inequality is such a pressing issue, why can’t our government work towards bringing up a more gender sensitive next generation? Why can’t we set up mandatory sensitization sessions for all the newly wed couples? Why don’t we put a huge fine if the couple fail to attend these sessions? Why can’t we arrange similar sessions for all the parents with children in the age group of 0-10 years? I don’t believe reactive measures are the correct way to approach the issue. What we need are preventive measures in place so that the next generation don’t end up like those two software engineers.

I see that as our only hope. Unless the present lot of parents understand the idea of bringing up their daughters and sons at an equal footing, no amount of punishments or laws are going to work. We have to make sure that our next generation is not as messed up as the present one. Otherwise this is a vicious cycle and there is more never-ending, unimaginable traumas coming our way for years. 

A majority of women in this nation do not know what real freedom is. The irony of mankind is that we have used the very act of creating life to abuse women and then blame them for it. It is similar to cutting a tree that sustains life and then blaming it for being in the middle of the road. 

We have to bend this devious road or there won’t be any trees left.

Kofi

[This is an entry to Indiblogger’s iDiya Contest]

http://www.isb.edu/idiya/

image from here

Protected: A Bygone Life

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The glasses and the tussle

I recently crushed my glasses under my feet because of which it ended up with a broken right nose pad and a twisted frame temple. As I was not having a spare which I am quite sure nobody has, the loss sent me reeling to an Optical shop close by, named Blue Bay. The name made me think that what would have been the name of the shop if it would have been an outlet for watches. Well, Blue Baywatch. 😀

I entered the shop with crossed fingers because a no-we-don’t-repair-glasses would have landed me into a situation of near despair. Thankfully, the old and decrepit yet assertive human sitting on the other side nodded as I asked the quintessential question.

“It will cost you 30 Rs.”, he said as he stared at me with raised eyebrows and handed the glasses to a teenage helper.

As I was waiting for my glasses to emerge from the operation theatre, the uncle eyed my watch and asked me its price. I told him very politely that it was a gift from a friend from overseas and thus I had no idea about the price. He gave an impressed and sad nod. He then bombarded me with questions about my job, my package and my future prospects, which I answered very politely while twirling my fingers. It was then that he started pouring his personal life in front of me.

It looked like the well being of his sons was the only main concern of his life. According to him, his elder son was somehow settled but the younger one was quite aimless and was corrupted by his friend circle.

“All I want him is to settle down so that I don’t think that I have wasted my life and resources on him. He is a graduate but does not know what to do in his life. Whenever is zero in on anything, his friends dissuade him to follow the path.”, he said.

There were many questions which I wanted to ask this elderly person. I wanted to ask him that what kind of a parent he was? How did he treated his children when they were studying in schools?

  • Was he a “Superman” father who wanted his son to have all the properties of a “Superhero”? Did he wanted his son to be a superhuman(so that he could puff his chest in front of his peers) instead of finding out if his son was capable of being one or not?
  • Was he a “dreamer” father who wanted to burden his son with all his dreams instead of finding out if his son was capable of fulfilling them or not? And irrespective of knowing what dreams did his son carry in his own mind?
  • Was he an “understanding” father who always told his son that he has to choose a path for himself. He has to understand what interests him the most and carve a career out of it, because what is the point of doing a job which you don’t love? Did he tell his son that money isn’t everything in life but satisfaction is?
  • Was he an “indifferent” father who thought that studies and exams was a department which his wife was supposed to handle and all he had to do was to shout and slap when the results went bad?

I wanted to ask him if the concern he shows for his sons have materialized out of thin air just because things went beyond repair because of his neglect or because he pressurised his sons to fulfill his own dreams OR was he always so concerned about his sons? If the former case was true, then he was not in a position to blame anyone but himself. For the latter case, his sons needed a good lashing and a reality check.

But I didn’t ask anything. I just listened to what he had to say and consoled him with whatever kind words came in my mouth. I told him to talk it out with his younger son and to come to a mutual understanding. I did not react because I have seen and heard this story so many times. Its either the *pressure building up, the sound of the shattered dreams, the sacrifices for the sake of the society and finally a job which pays the bills* story or the *aimless son, concerned parents, clashes and the son realizes everything too late, blame game continues for the rest of the life* story.

Although, I was not aware of the category in which his story fell, but it made me think anyways. I wanted to tell him that you can clap only with two hands. If he thinks that his son failed him then his son would have his own story to tell. And I have always found it very amusing how parents turn into an understanding and kind psychiatrist when things are beyond repair. Aren’t 18 years a big enough time to understand your child? To understand his/her interests? And to understand that every child needs the liberty to chose a path for him? Similarly, shouldn’t his son realize that he can’t depend on his parents for the rest of his life? Shouldn’t he understand that he has to think what he wants to do and convince his parents(although they are so worried that they would be too happy to accept)?

Finally I got my glasses back and I stood up.

“Sorry to trouble you with my grievances. Please let me know if there are any good courses for the graduates.”, he said.

“No trouble at all and I’ll definitely let you know if something catches my eyes.”, I told him and smiled.

* * *

Now this post has really turned gloomy. Let me cheer you up. Recently I was nominated in two categories for the Second Annual Dabido Awards. Although I did not win in either of them but I am happy that I was nominated. The first category was the Fun Guy Award(Blogger most likely to be mistaken for a form of fungi. Must be a blogger. Is not allowed to actually BE a fungi) and the second category was the Photoshop Me Award(Best photo. Photo must be original work by blogger being nominated). Well, *Sigh*, better luck to me next time. 😀 You can see the results here.

Severn Suzuki and THE One tight slap

It was the year 1992 and Severn Suzuki was a 12 year old kid. She raised money with the members of the Environmental Children’s organization (ECO) and attended the United Nation’s Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro. She gave a six minutes speech there which received a standing ovation from the delegates of the various countries. According to her, a few of them cried too. Her speech was nothing less than a one tight slap on the face of all the “Adults” who think that spending money on War related activities and developing new weapons is more important than spending it to remove poverty and illiteracy and on environmental Issues. Her speech was hard hitting but whether it lead to some action or not was something Severn herself wrote 10 years later in a Special Report in the TIME called “The young can’t wait”. An excerpt –

I spoke for six minutes and received a standing ovation. Some of the delegates even cried. I thought that maybe I had reached some of them, that my speech might actually spur action. Now, a decade from Rio, after I’ve sat through many more conferences, I’m not sure what has been accomplished. My confidence in the people in power and in the power of an individual’s voice to reach them has been deeply shaken.

You can read the full report here.

This is the video of the speech. Don’t miss the expressions on the faces of the delegates.

You can read her speech here.

Since her bold foray in the UN Summit, Severn has been an active environmental activist, speaker, television host and an author. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Ethnoecology.

(The photograph is taken from Wikipedia)

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Dear God

 

Innocence is at display in the messages written to GOD. After relishing the messages, try to be a child and come up with your own set of messages or questions. Let’s see who is still a child at heart. 🙂

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