Friday, 22 November 2013

A day of deep shame!

What drives the desires of sexual transgressions of educated people is difficult enough to fathom, but the stupidity of conceit that the powerful have in believing that they can get away with such acts of sexual misconduct is unimaginably insane to even attempt to comprehend. The news of Tarun Tejpal's alleged rape of his junior employee, at an official event, left me feeling as though he had personally betrayed my trust. I of course do not know Mr. Tejpal personally, but my feelings of being aggrieved come from the identification that I have of him with the news agency Tehelka, which is an organisation I have held in high esteem from its inception. I  had always attributed and accredited its integrity for  high standards of accountability from public office,  and the desire to unearth any misappropriation of the truth despite all odds, to his leadership and vision at the helm. To therefore learn that he is capable of such gross abuse of power comes as a major shock to those of us who have been champions and supporters of Tehelka all these years. 

You cannot dress up a criminal act to become something that you pass off as a casual gesture of inebriation, and then proceed to atone for your actions by deciding what punishment you deserve; and all the while evading the mechanisms of legal recourse  required by the mandate given by the supreme court, to follow the Vishaka committee guidelines against sexual harassment in the work place; pretending that it is all being done in good faith and with a heavy heart of remorse. For an organisation that has stringently called attention to issues pertaining to rape and sexual harassment, it seems ironical and quite farcical if I may bluntly state, that when it is in your own back yard then it gets handled with a different set of rules and expectancies.

What is imperative to note is that no personnel in any work space, however senior or junior,  should ever succumb to the idea that they can act upon their assumed notions that someone may be interested in their sexual advances,  without duly clarifying (without any physical contact) a solid basis to substantiate that they are receiving the correct signals that may then allow them to move forward by mutual consent, to a development of intimacies or a relationship. However, I for one hold rather strict views which do not prefer romances or any dalliances that involve top management because I believe it will always hold the space of power and compromise.

I also advocate that anyone who has even the smallest public platform should learn very quickly the responsibility of behaving with accountability; and comprehending that their actions will always be viewed with greater scrutiny. Whether inebriated or not, the personal politics that structures our ideas on life and determines the person we desire to be, will always guide our actions. Insisting that misjudgement of a situation was the only reason for any form of imposed sexual misconduct with another person smacks of hypocrisy, and that too coming from an individual who has founded his professional career upon exposing people who indulge in corrupt practises.

It should also be considered that no person offers an unconditional apology for an "alleged" act of sexual impropriety, especially someone with a grasp of legal knowledge,  unless they have committed it. So therefore the law now is obliged to take its course and file an FIR and investigate this allegation of  sexual  molestation/rape because Mr. Tejpal has implicated himself by offering an unconditional apology to the victim against the accusation levied on him of outraging the modesty of a woman colleague. Does every story have two sides….well as a theory perhaps, but then we also know that not to be the case always. So instead of Mr. Tejpal trying to "atone" with the falsities of pretence, he will now have to be judged by the same yardsticks he and his organisation have insisted on all these years from others with allegations of similar improprieties; and be exposed to the censure of a nation that will certainly hold him accountable for his actions and demand  for disciplinary legal action to be taken against him.

Monday, 11 November 2013

A touch of class…..!

I am not someone who owns much jewellery but I am certainly a great admirer of the craft and designs of ornamentation; and from the many design studios and private jewel shops that dot every city and town of India,  I have for years been very impressed with the Tata brand store Tanishq because they have consistently offered quality and value and attentive client service as their calling card.

But today I believe this company has taken their brand-name to another level of excellence. I was completely wowed by their recent add that holds me riveted every time I chance upon it being aired on my television screen. The dusky bride with her little daughter, and the metrosexual debonair man who scoops up his stepdaughter and walks around the marriage fire, talks of the progress of liberal thinking at a time when right wing conservative rhetoric deafens me as the national elections draw nearer. So kudos to the think-tank behind this delightfully subtle advertisement,  that holds the dynamic punch of an imaginative idea that captures both the beautify of pure aesthetics along with the relevance of a social message.

I personally never felt the stigma of being a divorcee and a single mother till Mithun was six years old, but amusingly it was often others who felt the stigma for me! Brought up to always be an advocate of liberal ideas and  taught the value of resistance and the importance of descent to protect ones liberty and constitutional rights, I have protected the wings of my freedom from being clipped by the opinions or attitudes that demand blind subservience to conformity or slavish attitudes towards out dated traditions. It is indeed sad that I still however encounter the desires of some parents to find their educated daughters "suitable boys" the moment they complete their university courses; or that women who are choosing to be single are viewed with suspicion and pity. The space of the woman's voice to arbitrate her future and her right of choice to determine her life is  a theoretical debate that now needs to be the lived and practised norm for all the millions of females across the globe.

That we are opening our newspapers to read about how a father raped his pregnant daughter and also invited his friends to rape her too as a punishment because she eloped and married against his wishes -  and then killed her, seems horrific enough. However that he then went off  to get drunk and boast about it publicly is perhaps indicative of the real malaise where women are thought to be dispensable! These frequent occurrences of depravity and violence against women who are  independent   should indicate to us that gender politics and the comprehension of equality and humanism needs to be addressed urgently today. We took way too long to formulate legislature against the abuse of sex determining  tests that led to thousands of female foetuses being aborted,  and we continue to witness even today propaganda that perpetuates incorrect  gender stereo-types that insist  on objectifying women.

Advertising is a platform that commands the attention of millions of people. When a company understands its power to influence and uses this responsibly, then we have a clear winner where  a product calls attention to focus on significance and purpose.

The Tata brand store Tanishq is a sure winner all the way this time round!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Happy Birthday Mithun!

Having little Mehran at home brings back all the wonderful memories of Mithun's infancy. Today is Mithun's birthday. Born on the 2nd of November which was my fathers birthday too was perhaps the ideal gift any daughter could give to her father! Though thirty-five years have gone by,  for a mother the vividness of every stage of her child's life requires no great effort of recall. That little Mehran bears a strong resemblance to his daddy makes the space of my nostalgia even more heady.

Mithun as a child was exposed to a wonderfully different upbringing. Devoid of religious affiliations and not pegged within regional belongings, we grew together as mother and son,  attempting to find new pathways to define our personal politics with a twenty year age difference bridging our respective journeys. A staunchly feminist mother with a growing little boy with bulging muscles….yet both with heart beats that held a similar rhythm for all that mattered the most.

It was always the small things in life from where bigger lessons were learnt. To hold value for the privilege of birth and education and understanding the  need to know how vital legacies are to uphold and carry forth, is perhaps the litmus test that showcases perceptions that offer deciphering of greater meaning. And to know that each day we need to learn in humility that the universe which contains us is vast and holds lessons for us to comprehend.

Mithun will have to stand taller everyday of little Mehran's life hence forth. I knew that if I had to be able to truly love Mithun then I could never cut corners on any areas of accountability for the unseen or the observed in my life for as long as I live. It is a taxing way to live ones life but one which is hugely rewarding. Today as Mithun looks deep into Mehran's tiny ink black eyes that look up at him with trust and belonging as he holds him close, he will do what I did thirty-five years ago,  without stopping to question the consequences. He will pledge his whole life to this tiny little being who however grown up he gets will always remain Mithun's little Mehran to be loved and protected and nurtured forever, fiercely and passionately. 

Happy Birthday Bebo!