Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Twilight of Religious Tolerance

It’s 2.30 am in India and officially Diwali of the year 2015 and I could not find a better moment to pen this down. Diwali, the festival of lights...

The last few weeks, no, actually in the last few years we have witnessed a lot of furore over Hindu-Muslim controversies, love Jihad, and lately religious tolerance.

A couple of weeks back I watched a recital by Zeeshan Ayub of Nazir Akbarabadi’s poem, Diwali. The poem paints a beautiful picture of Deepawali celebrations with sweets and lights from the standpoint of a spectator who loves this festival, who also happens to be the poet, incidentally a Muslim.

6th December 1992, the fateful day when Babri Masjid was demolished in an attempt to reclaim the Ram Janmabhoomi, Ayodhya; that day began the infamous riots across India. I was merely 8 years old at that point, and the only understanding that I had of riots at that point was an indefinite vacation. These vacations though, were unlike any other experienced till that point. We were not allowed to step out of the house due to curfew and witnessed constant terror of the family members throughout.

While house-arrest due to evident terror in itself would be enough to ruin any sense of democracy at an impressionable age, there was more. Every evening around twilight the curfew siren was blown and as if on cue began the recital of “Jai Sri Ram” and “Allah-Hu-Akbar”. And while these recitals were still on, sets of frantic of both religions looted, killed and raped the people of another religion, of which we read in the newspapers next morning…

Twilight, that has been the source of inspiration to many a poets and writers; twilight, which is considered the most romantic hour of the day. To this day, the same twilight brings in the sense of uneasiness and dread that the 8 year old child experienced. To this day, I dread the sound of both “Jai Sri Ram” and “Allah-Hu-Akbar”. And, to this day, I dread men wearing saffron or skull-caps. I find myself averse to any display of religious sentiments irrespective of the intent to be precise.

Babri Masjid was demolished to reclaim the Ram Janmabhoomi. All this, on the secular soils of India; and then we had the face to criticize Taliban for demolishing the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Ayodhya till 1992 had the potential of being made into Jerusalem of India, or better still, Hagia Sophia like Turkey. That act would have reinforced the sense of religious tolerance not what we actually did or are doing now.

As a child, I always pictured a multicultural family with members of different religions and nationalities coming together to celebrate all the festivals of the world. As a grown up today, I just sit and celebrate these festivals by myself and yearn for a world where this would be possible. Although that world keeps receding with each passing day, with each vote won over caste, creed, race and religion. Each day, I wake up to not a secular state but the mockery of secularism.

During the riots in my childhood, I pictured all the gods, Allah, Jesus et al, sitting together in the divine living room clink their glasses of holy Elixir and watch Tom & Jerry together. I still picture them doing that, only they watch live updates from planet earth and cringe with each act of us mortals.

Religious tolerance has become the latest keyword of discussions. Tolerance… the notion itself brings in the sense of putting up with something unpleasant. Why have we come down to the stage where we made something intolerant to then preach tolerance? Why did we make other religions intolerable in the first place?

Watching Zeeshan Ayub recite that poem, I can finally concur with Shah Rukh Khan. We are indeed heading towards the dark ages. The ages that we cannot trace in history as all records were destroyed; the period that would look like a patch of no-man’s land in the pages of history. Oh! To hell with science, technology, education, modernization and globalization!

*Did I just hear the glasses clink?*

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The great LinkedIn dilemma

A networking platform or playground for admirers?

Almost two months ago, Chalotte Proudman, a barrister in human rights law at the CHambers of Michael Mansfield QC lashed out at Alexander Carter-Silk for allegedly misogynist remarks on LinkedIn. Carter-Silk, being an expert in protection of copyright, design rights and trademarks at the London firm Brown Rudnick, became a subject of public scrutiny on various forums - online and off; for what would you expect from the world at large if such behaviour comes from that educated an individual!

Reading that, I just had one question on my mind, who does that on LinkedIn? I mean, we’re all used to being subjected to such behaviour on informal platforms like Facebook et al, and we gracefully ignore them, too. But LinkedIn is a professional platform, primarily meant for the purpose of networking in order to hire or get hired.

Another thought that later crept into my mind was, thank god! That never happened to me. As I thought I was not really prepared to handle such crass behaviour on a platform like LinkedIn. Another, advantage that I thought I held was that I never considered myself to fall in the league of women who bag such admiration (I have always been thankful for that). And as providence might have it, the events that followed got me to have a taste of it.

On Oct 10, 2015, I received a connection request from an employee of my previous organisation. On finding plenty of common colleagues as his connections, I accepted the request and within moments I received a message from this gentleman,
To receive such a message on LinkedIn was a first and given the tone of this message, I wasn’t sure if his intent was to make a sexist remark or it just didn’t come out right. I let the incident pass giving the benefit of doubt to the person in question, without responding of course.

The reason why I’m writing about the incident today is because, yesterday, Nov 4th, 2015, I received another message from a person who had sent in a connection request a few days back. This gentleman incidentally “couldn’t hold himself,”
With such incidents to back my case, I’m sharing my experience today while I have quietly removed them from my network. But I really fail to understand why do people show such mannerisms at all?

With all the LinkedIn insights and profile enhancement recommendations, my profile visibility goes down if I take my profile picture off. If I do keep it intact, I will be receiving such postcards of admiration every now and then.

Monday, November 2, 2015

That pound of flesh! Or is it fat?

The last one week was really horrid for me. Why? Well, I checked my weight last Sunday and my weight happened to be x which was perfect for my age and height. On Tuesday, a health camp was set up at my work place and I walked in for overall check up only to know that my weight had gone up to x+3. Although, x+3 also happened to fall in the normal range of BMI, this wasn’t a great sign by health standards among other things.

My torment began more in the form of anxiety as I have a challenge - I cannot diet. Not that I am fond of food or something but I just can’t cut down on my meals. And, I can’t really exercise much - backache and all that, you see.

While I was really evaluating plausible options to reduce the extra pounds, I happened to stumble upon several articles and posts online. Call it a sign of the universe or just timing but, these posts had me pondering for more than my own weight.

Almost a year ago, I got to know of a colleague who faced a really hard time emotionally after having a child. Besides post-partum depression her husband started avoiding her, in public and in privacy. While this went on for almost three to four months, one fine day she confronted him only to be told that she wasn’t presentable enough to earn his love. My heart ached for this woman while she went on a severe diet program and also became an active consumer of several beauty products.

There is another husband who insisted on doing a doggy-style only to avoid the sight of his wife’s belly fat. His wife also took to several exercise programs at a neighbourhood gym only to gain more weight and develop several health complications. Incidentally, this woman was under-weight and didn’t really have much to lose.

And then there was a girlfriend who after almost a decade long relationship with her partner, decided to put him on a diet followed by a popular Hindi film star. This man, too, kept up with her antics for nearly two years before finally giving up on the diet and this woman.

Just when I was thinking that I am being too judgmental and that these instances are one in a million, I read this account of a woman whose husband switched off the lights while making love as he found her fat and ugly.

With such experiences in my bag, I was indeed surprised to read the letter of a husband to a photographer complaining that with Photoshop she took away everything that makes up their life.

I was all the more surprised to read the account where Pierce Brosnan threatened to divorce his wife if she went ahead with a liposuction.

The real problem, I feel sometimes, is in the portrayal of individuals in films and television. We fail to realize that most people we see on the silver screen earn their bread and butter out of their physical appearance. Among those, too, are actors like Kate Winslet who embrace their body and age to save average individuals from poor body image.

Amazing is the fact that we are all educated individuals who know the difference between films and real life, and yet we succumb to such notions to make our lives none less than hell.

#MeToo Campaign and I

The last week found all of social media flooding with the #MeToo campaign. The campaign that was sparked by the Harvey Weinstein allegatio...