Make them feel relevant

A State can make it mandatory to look after the elderly. But what about emotional care?

In the sepia-tinted narrative, the parents grow old, earn their place of respect and have hordes of dutiful, loving children and grandchildren worship at their feet. The Grand Indian Family is alive, well and happy. The golden years are 24 carat gilt-edged.

Contemporary reality is uglier. A grey generation is less valued for its wisdom and experience. Our obsession with youth – count the number of anti-ageing cosmetic creams – continues. A new brash India has little time or patience, especially for the elderly. And with stretched resources and even scarcer time, we are increasingly vocal about our resentment for caring for parents at a time when we as caregivers have begun feeling the twinges of our mortality.

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A life of pain and penury

Despite numerous attacks, there are no street protests demanding justice for the victims of acid violence. No campaigns for the basic demand for the ban of acid sales.

Speaking in a clear, sing-song tone, Laxmi says she cannot forget that day on April 22, 2005 when acid was thrown on her face.

The man who attacked her was the 32-year-old brother of a friend who wanted to marry her. Because she had rebuffed him, he tracked her down to the market where she had gone to buy a book.

When she finally reached the hospital, doctors had to douse her with 22 buckets of water. “I clung to my father when he arrived and his shirt just dissolved.” She was 15 years old.

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Failing at the top

Never before has India’s lack of leadership been as depressingly obvious as it has been in the past few weeks. Never before has the moral vacuum that accompanies those in charge been so apparent.

Never before has India’s lack of leadership been as depressingly obvious as it has been in the past few weeks. Never before has the moral vacuum that accompanies those in charge been so apparent.

It’s not just politics — the story that politicians are venal, weak, immoral is an old track — moral bankruptcy now stares at us from cricket to business.

Certainly the business of cricket has the nation up in a stir. The ‘stepping aside’ of BCCI boss N Srinivasan in the wake of the spot-fixing scandal that led to the arrest of his son-in-law has only exposed a greasy complicity among owners, officials and even players.

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An inconvenient truth

In India we are leap years away from giving women a just work environment.

The unlamentable fall of Phaneesh Murthy should have been a clear signal of zero tolerance by managements towards sexual harassment. The collective tut-tutting by the IT industry — ‘message to all leaders in business’, ‘right decision’ etc — should have come with the acknowledgement that sexual harassment in the workplace does exist. In fact, neither has happened.

Murthy hasn’t been sacked for sexual harassment, as some headlines seem to suggest. He’s been shown the door for failing to report a relationship with a subordinate, a decision taken after she threatened legal action against the company (iGate) and Murthy. A potential multi-million lawsuit can be a rather powerful motivation to act.

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A card cannot say it all

On Mother’s Day, spare a thought for the sufferings of millions of women.

Tomorrow I will not be gifting my mother either flowers or a card. No spa treatment. No manicure-pedicure. Like all the other 364 days this year, I will call her, perhaps pop in to fill her medicine box, make sure she has lunch on time, exchange a bit of family gossip, bring her up to speed with her grand kids . But, no plans for a card.

Why not? Perhaps it is because I’m struck by a sense of grammatical confusion on where to place the apostrophe. Is it mothers’ day, a day that celebrates all mothers all over the world, or is it mother’s day, a day devoted to the woman who brought you up (and, with a bit of luck, drilled a sense of grammar into you?).

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The stage’s virtually set

Elections in India are not decided by Twitter trends or ‘likes’ on Facebook.

Thanks to Twitter, I’ve now learned a new word: Feku. Even as Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi addressed meetings in New Delhi, the first at the FICCI Ladies Organisation and the second at CNN-IBN’s Think India festival, the hashtag, ‘Feku’ (boaster, teller of tall tales) began trending on the social network site.

Feku came on the heels of another hashtag, Pappu (the closest English equivalent would be dolt, but feel free to correct me) that popped up as Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi spoke to CII. Neither Modi nor Gandhi have declared their prime ministerial intentions. But that hasn’t stopped their supporters – and detractors – from launching a full-scale war on social media. It’s a battle that found reflection in mainstream media with Feku v Pappu as flavour of the day.

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Revoke this ‘creative licence’

We must say ‘no’ to insensitive advertisements featuring women. If we are to change the way the industry sees women, then that change comes from the effectiveness of the industry to regulate itself.

The ad you won’t be seeing has led to outrage, the sacking of senior advertising executives and an apology by a Ford Motor Company executive. Created by the Indian unit of JWT, it features a caricature of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi flashing a victory sign from the driver’s seat with three barely-dressed, bound and gagged women stuffed into the car’s boot. The tagline: ‘Leave your worries behind with Figo’s extra-large boot.’

Clearly someone thought they were funny – nearly naked girls, oh ha-ha; gagged and bound, hilarious.

The ads were never published. In ad-speak these are ‘scam’ ads, intended to win praise and awards from peers. According to The Economic Times, they were uploaded on an advertising website independently by team members and then went viral when international media pointed them out.

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It’s our system on trial

Hand on heart, how many of you cheered, or at least felt a bit relieved when you woke up to news of the death of Ram Singh, one of the principal accused in the Delhi December 16 gang-rape case?

Hand on heart, how many of you cheered, or at least felt a bit relieved when you woke up to news of the death of Ram Singh, one of the principal accused in the Delhi December 16 gang-rape case? On Twitter, with few exceptions, there were whoops of joy. One Bollywood choreographer tweeted: “Hope the others follow him 2.” Someone else suggested we were better off having saved ourselves a bit of the hangman’s rope.

To be sure, I didn’t shed a tear for the bus driver. The crime that he, four other adults and one juvenile are accused of is beyond the pale of human behaviour. It’s a crime that has led to the death of a promising woman and the loss of hope for her entire family.

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On board the exam express

They  might inspire fear, but the boards also bring parents closer to children.

From the corner of my eye, I spy my daughter waving out to the dog, again. Normally, this wouldn’t set me off on a state of panic. But with just a day to go before the Board exams start, this is no time to be playing with the dog. No time to be playing at all. Time only to sweat and swot.

To make matters worse from my perspective, Ananya has never taken a board exam. She’s part of the first batch of students to have been exempt from cramming thanks to ‘continuous and comprehensive evaluation’ initiated when she was in the 10th grade.

Now, I am supposed to make her understand that this is the make-or-break exam that could determine whether she will make it to an A-list college or whether a percentage point will send her scurrying to some lesser place of learning.

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Quiet in times of intolerance

Our failure to protest loudly enough makes us complicit with weak governance. It’s a silence that threatens democratic ideas and places every citizen, regardless of ideology, at peril.

The right to be offended is now an all-inclusive Indian sport that unites citizens from Tamil Nadu to Kashmir, Jaipur to Kolkata, women, Dalits, Muslim, Hindus.

The events of the past few weeks have a depressing sameness. In Kashmir, an all girls’ rock band is declared un-Islamic and disbands. In Tamil Nadu, Kamal Haasan agrees to seven cuts to allow for the release of his film, Vishwaroopam.

In Kolkata, Salman Rushdie cancels plans to attend the book fair. In Bangalore, paintings of nude goddesses cause offence. An academic faces arrest for an intemperate idea. And on it goes.

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