Thursday, June 29, 2006

Why portray rape in films?

At the end of a week-long film festival, a member of the audience had this to ask - 'Why did you start the Festival with a film which had 'Rape' as a major issue and conclude with another which also had the same issue?

'Saira' the inaugural film did dwell on rape in the context of communal tension and the hazards faced by a woman journalist.

BUT, Aparna Sen's 15 Park Avenue was about a schizophrenic member of a family. That the schizophrenic, Mitali, was also a journalist who was mauled by goons when she went to cover the polls somewhere on the Bengal-Bihar border, is never mentioned as the event that triggered her present mental condition.

Violence of all kinds has b'come the order of the day. More women are moving into unconventional professions and therefore more vulnerable to the politician-criminal nexus.

Civil society is breaking down. An occasional verdict favouring the victim is the ray of hope. But, very often free from the legal tangle could mean uninterrupted harassment, both mental and physical, for the victim, particularly so if it is a woman.

1) Physical subjugation 2) Showing you your place as a woman 3) Violating your person, thereby depriving you of that safety net called 'animal space' 4) Dismal condition of our Rape laws and the dithering judiciary 5) Look the other way when you see injustice ... these are points that haunt many who can feel the decay that has set in.

How many parents can sit back in peace till their daughters ( school, college-going, working any age) come back home after the day's work outside the home? "Security' is fast receding from our lives and getting replaced by lawlessness and survival of the mighty. In this show of crude physical energy, a woman fears the worst.....

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Did 'Saira' disturb?

Screened recently at the Film Fest in the city, Saira, moves away from the conventional,'boy-meets-girl-song-dance-formula. An honest and earnest exercise by a first-time filmmaker, Dr Biju (a Homeo Doctor), the film does not tell us anything we did not know of.
Yes-Fundamentalism and Alienation of a people are not the creation of the fanatics alone, but the establishment (yes, the sarkar) adds to it.

Outbreaks of violence often end up as Statistics and appointment of Enquiry Commissions, which keep extending the deadline, till another major event creates a blip in public memory. 'Say a lie a hundred times it b'comes the truth,' so said Goebbels. Yes, our govts repeatedly carry out this exercise, so a victim of rape (during communal riots. Mind you, in this film it is a journalist reporting the visit of a Swamiji) is vulnerable to state-terrorism because she had earlier interviewed a wanted terrorist leader in an unknown forest area. It does not take long for the police to build a case to suit the situation-follow the scoop and they identify the 'Muslim' editor and Saira's colleague Altaf, as intermediaries. That is enough to corner the 'woman' journalist. If she does not cooperate, then the lawmakers have the liberty to violate her person, till life is snuffed out!!

The interesting twist and the ray of hope lies in the refusal of Saira's father to accept the help offered by the terrorist leader(he is the self-appointed saviour of the community). But the question is, how many people can cope with this pressure from the community only to count as the first suspect whenever there is communal violence.

A theme such as this has often been handled in Malayalam Cinema, but the m'ge has got lost in the desire to adopt the easy path to pander to populist demands of entertainment and formula films!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006



(at SaciWATERs, Crossing Boundaries project, Hyderabad, India)For its Crossing Boundaries. Regional Capacity Building on IWRM and Gender & Water in South Asia project SaciWATERs (South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies) is seeking immediate appointment of a female researcher 'gender and water in South Asia', with a completed PhD and minimum five years experience. The project is based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India. The two other members of the project team are Prof. Nimal Gunawardena (Director) and Dr N.C. Narayanan (Senior Fellow Education). Full scale implementation of the project starts in February 2006, and therefore we seek to strengthen the team with a third person as quickly as possible. Research Expert 'Gender and Water in South Asia'. The Crossing Boundaries project is a five-year capacity building project on water resources education and research, with partners in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. The project will be based at and coordinated by SaciWATERs, Hyderabad, India. The project is financially supported by the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation. For the implementation of this project we seek to compose an international South Asian team, of experienced and highly motivated individuals of global standard, dedicated to promoting interdisciplinary education and research on water resources in the South Asian region. We are looking for candidates with a PhD in a relevant topic, a publication record, and at least 5 years experience.For this position the salary range is between Euro 1100-1800 per month. For non-Indian staff allowances for living abroad are available. All staff will be based in Hyderabad, India. Appointments will be for a minimum of two years. For this position we are looking for a female candidate.Tasks - Carry main implementing responsibility for Project Office research-related activities - Collaborate with IWE/WUR staff in organisation of field research training- Take part in selection of field research projects and definition of research topics and process- Provide guidance to research staff in field research activities- Organise yearly research workshop- Organise international conferences- Take responsibility for monitoring and evaluation of research related activities- Take on additional project activities as decided in CB teamQualifications: PhD in a topic relevant for the theme 'gender and water in South Asia', experience with interdisciplinary research on water resources at South Asia level, experience with variety of field research methods, experience with stakeholder involvement in research, excellent writing and presentation skills in English, experience with networking, experience with organization of workshops and other events.Background information on the project can be requested from the Office Manager SaciWATERs at , on submission of full name and address, institutional affiliation, PhD title/topic and present area/focus of academic/professional work.
We invite interested applicants to send their CV and an application letter explaining their interest in and suitability for the position, including a critical reflection on the approach outlined in the background information, to the SaciWATERs.

Seema Kulkarni
B-1 Nilgiri Apartments,
Pune 411052
phone 91 20 2546 5936 (r) 91 20 2588 0786 (o)


Sunday, June 11, 2006

It takes two to Tango

No irreverence meant. Could someone explain how CMs VS and Karunanidhi have decided to talk on issues like Maudany's wrongful confinement/release and water levels in the barrages.
Both these need to be addressed with a degree of urgency. The first one of course thas electoral repercussions. Now firmly seated in the Chair, do these CMs believe in garnering votes for the next one, by appeasing the minorities.

It's time we had a comprehensive policy on Minority status so that adhocism can be averted. And, the Centre and State stopped distracting the citizen from genuine issues of governance to emotive issues which can be the spark to the communal tinderbox. Probably unknown to the common man governance continues in a particular way irrespective of which party is in power. The info thrown to the Media keeps simmering while the "honest politicians" corner tracts of forest land(Mani-Joseph, belong to opposite Fronts but cornering large tracts og Govt land is their major interest) and the Front in power looks the other way.

Another drama taking place is the infighting within the Marxist party. While they take potshots at the govt that has stepped down, nothing is happening because the BIG BROTHER of the LDF has to set its own house in order. Having played the role of an Opposition for long years, one wonders if that takes away the potential to administer the State.

How dare one cast aspersions on our leaders?

Why not?

The money and energies that have gone into the elections just over, were not merely to set the LDF juggernaut rolling, people expected some concrete efforts.

In the midst of inaction by the peoples'representatives. it would be a good idea to think of a constitutional amendment which seeks to have retirement age for our politicians.

Life is hectic but repeated visuals of sleepy leaders at PB meets and public functions only tell us -if they do not know when to hang up their boots-the constitution is to safegaurd the interests of the people and the country and not the power-pelf hungry vultures that cling to power.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

When Women Write

When women write are they expected to limit themselves to agony aunt columns, beauty tips, rabid rantings or go ballistic and then fizzle out.

If that is the commonly expressed opinion about the woman's preferences, it's time to sit up and think again! At least in small pockets focussed work is being done and one such is the publishing venture Women's Imprint. The third book has just been released, yesterday-10th June at a low key event. (The first two were Recollections of Capt Lakshmi and theatre-film actor Nilambur Ayesha.)

Concerns that are often expressed when we speak of the marginalised were voiced by the speakers and the people behind the book. Visibility, space, language and vocabulary being some of the topics.

The ed volume 'Aanarusude naattil'( Ed by J Devika) is serious work and not some collection put together to join the publishing bandwagon in a marketplace that relies heavily on hype.
Feminist Studies, Feminism and the more umbrella term Women's Studies continues to be the domain of the academia b'cos the average reader in Kerala is hooked on to books that frequently hog the limelight in the Media and literary circles. And, except for a handful who are able to observe the dynamics of social change, put it in appropriate perspective and work on theoretical framework, the readership will be limited to those who frequent(?!?) library shelves of Gender Studies departments.

Mention has been made of studies generated outside the state on Kerala. Well, beyond the boundaries of the state when you are able to look at the home state as an Indian, and of course compare it with the best and worst states/sub-cultures in the country, the work is more objective and might nudge the complacent researcher within the state to take on a new pair of looking glasses.

What Kerala's W&C segment faces according to bureaucratic jargon is the 'second stage' problems which is yet to affect the others. This applies to Women's Studies too.
Having just flipped thru some pages of the this book by WI it would be too premature to comment, but the contents must generate discussions in public spaces to make a beginning by subliminally reaching some minds at least.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Why not an FIR?

This morning's paper reports a person getting injured in the eye as a result of an attack by headload workers. The local police station refuses to register an FIR. Early enough we are getting to feel the heat of the LDF's return to power.Shielding the CITU or any mazdoor sangh becomes the order of the day once the Marxist party-led government comes to power.

If you know a person with strong commitment to the Left, just watch how he exploits the worker, be it the skilled or the unskilled worker. He will extract more work from the otherwise arrogant worker, pay him less b'cos the word'comrade' binds them!

Our Home Minister has made the appropriate noises - to soothe the fears of the common man.The police force is under pressure, they are overworked, there are fewer numbers than what is required...... Does that deter them from carrying out what is considered their duty - taking an FIR in a situation such as the one mentioned earlier.

A thought that constantly bothers the person who has neither party allegiance, nor money power- how does he cope with such a crisis? Nobody, I repeat nobody will come to the aid of the common man. You're in for trouble if u seek the help of a local ward politico to seek advice, he will extract money for his advice and keep coming back to collect money for financial support of all kinds.

One does not have to be a loyalist of any party to understand that if the same was to happen when the UDF govt was in power, today's newspapers would have carried a box item announcing a bandh protesting against 'wrongful FIR by the police' against the headload workers.

That would in no way be a solace to Chinnaswamy and his family. The damage to the eye, the trauma undergone could all have been avoided if they had 'PAID UP'. Yes succumb or face the consequences, that's the m'ge we get - the people who voted for CHANGE.

We need CITIZENS' FORUMS to provide support when, the State fails. Don't we?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

I Have never heard my mother

Here is a translation of a Bangla poem by Samshur Rehman, a poet from Bangladesh, sent by a friend. Please tell me if you liked it.

I have never heard my mother …

I’ve never heard my mother singing.
Did she ever sing me a lullaby
In those faraway nights of childhood?
I wish I could recall …

Even before her body reached the fullness of spring
When she was closer to the age of
Picking up mangos scattered by a storm
In lonely afternoons and evenings
No tune ever grew up on her like a silent creeper
Lest she be heard by elders …

And even in her husband’s home, my mother
Remained far too silent, far too much in the shadows,
And so far as I know, was never overcome by music.
In between cutting fish or grinding turmeric
Or perhaps in the afternoon, after swabbing the courtyard
And rinsing wiping the dishes sparkling bright
Bending down on the sewing machine, darning a torn shirt,
Hanging clothes on the clotheshorse,
After sending me off to the playground with a kiss,
In her moments of leisure, while she pretended to do her hair,
Did she ever hum a tune?
Such a long time I’ve lived with her, but never found out …

It’s as if throughout her life she has stored all her songs
In a wooden chest that reminds us of our sorrows.
Presently from their stringed bodies, they exude rarely,
Not tunes, but the pungent smell of naphthalene.