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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There’s no closure for them

In the small room they call home, the family of the girl known as Delhi’s Brave heart is trying to come to terms with its loss. Already there is no evidence that she lived here only a month ago.

In the small room they call home, the family of the girl known as Delhi’s Braveheart is trying to come to terms with its loss. Already there is no evidence that she lived here only a month ago. Her books and clothes have been packed away, although her brother points to a physiotherapy textbook that somehow got left out. On the front cover, a name has been scribbled in pencil on the top corner. It’s a neat scrawl, as if unwilling to take up more than its necessary space. I can only wonder how a girl with such a big spirit could have had such a tiny handwriting.

The father, his face a stoic mask, doesn’t want to hear the old story repeated. But the mother recounts the events of that night of December 16, how the family began to worry when it began to get late, how they tried her mobile but couldn’t get through, the call that finally came from the police, the autorickshaw ride on a cold night to Safdarjung hospital, the sight of a girl, your girl, so frail on the bed. You don’t know yet what has happened. You don’t know yet the extent of her brutalisation, the iron rod, the man who sat across her chest yelling, “Mar saali.” You only touch her hand, her eyes open, she sees you and she begins to cry.

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Finally, the glass is half full

The things are changing: Gender issues are now a part of mainstream discourse.

Just over a month ago would you have imagined thousands, men as well as women, marching in protest against rape? Just over a month ago would you have imagined that an online petition could cancel a New Year concert by a hugely popular rapper who sings of his rape fantasies? Just over a month ago would you have imagined policemen in Noida getting suspended after refusing to take complaints of a missing woman seriously?

To those who say nothing has changed in just over a month since the 23-year-old medical student was gang-raped, tortured and thrown off a moving bus, consider this: perhaps finally the glass is half full. Continue reading “Finally, the glass is half full”

A tipping point for change

A terrible thing happened to a girl who was trying to get back home after a movie. To not respond or speak or rage or demand change would make us less than human.

How many went to bed that night with the same questions?

What kind of human does this to another?

How could they beat her so brutally?

How brazen to think they could get away with it?

Meanwhile, the younger of my teenage daughters wants to celebrate the end of her exams by going out with friends for dinner to the same mall where the previous night the 23-year-old student had gone to see Life of Pi (did she like it? Did she get a lump in her throat in the same parts that I did.

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Roosting place for pigeons

A memorial is not just about building the tallest, biggest, grandest statue.

On the day before his death anniversary, BSP head Mayawati was disrupting Parliament to press for a memorial to Bhim Rao Ambedkar. The government was scheduled to make an announcement at noon. “Why not now?” she asked as members of her party rushed to the well of the Rajya Sabha.

When the announcement came a few hours later to hand over 12.5 acres of the defunct Indu Mills in Mumbai’s Dadar, not far from Chaitya Bhumi where Ambedkar’s ashes are interred, Mayawati was not impressed. “For a grand memorial,” she scoffed, “at least 30-40 acres of land would be required.” Continue reading “Roosting place for pigeons”

He has had the last laugh

In death, people have ceased to be objective about late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray.

The life-size effigies strung up on lamp-posts were terrifying – at least to a child. In the late sixties/early seventies, they symbolised the South Indians who the Shiv Sena was determined to drive out of Bombay, as the city was then called. It was a sight designed to intimidate.

Forty-odd years later, intimidation remains the party’s chief weapon. Over the years, the ‘enemy’ has changed, from South Indians to Muslims to Biharis, but the tactics remain the same.

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