I too participated in a Speed Blogging Contest…


I too participated in a Speed Blogging Contest…

Okay, I know I have been away for a long long time, but I promise, I will return as soon as I have restored my work life balance! So meanwhile, please do take a look at my entry in a Speed Blogging Contest that I participated in a week ago. The contest was held by Yellow Seed Content Solutions at the Social Media Week in Bangalore.

http://ysspeedblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/entry-by-pallavi-s-poojary/

The contestants were given 5 cool topics and 10 minutes for every post. Yes, it was a race against time! But we braved it and kicked ass in each of the time slots. I should say, I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the contest. In fact, I haven’t participated in something like this since college and it did bring back fond memories! Even the predecessor of this blog was born in such a contest way back in 2008. Those were happy times sigh!

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Anyhoo, do take a look at my entry, folks. It’s not my best writing ever, but the ideas that were born there are pretty interesting and could be fodder for more blog posts!🙂 Show me some love, people, Like, Share, whatever!🙂 Wink wink nudge nudge… You have time till tomorrow to work the magic. :p

P.S: My novel has been shortlisted in a best-seller hunt! More about that once the results are out… Chao!

P.P.S: I won the speed blogging contest!🙂

The diary of an Indian feminist


I have wanted to pen this post for a very long time…as long as a year, really. There have been pent up feelings, frustrations and thoughts that have steadily built up over the months but I have kept them away from this blog. Those of you familiar with my blog would remember my tongue-in-cheek post, ‘20 Reasons Why I Love Being a Girl’ and the furor it created after being dissected and misinterpreted by a fellow blogger. Now, I do understand her anger and motivation in selecting that post for analysis but the result went against intention. That is why; I have stalled till I was absolutely sure and had an objective view about the topic as well as enough examples (you will know what I am talking about soon). So there it is, folks; this is going to be an emotionally charged post. If you want to run, do so now, after all feminism in India is a tear-jerking affair.

I am a feminist and a pretty vocal one at that. I believe that India will develop only through empowerment and emancipation of its women. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I came out of the feminism closet (if I may use the term). There were many events and people who prompted this enlightenment but most important of all reasons must be my realization that if we women don’t speak up and help ourselves, nobody will. It was also a gradual realization that everybody wasn’t as open-minded as my family and that women outside my close circle were fighting abuse and inequality on a daily basis. Maturity and age did help me see that everything was not hunky dory and that I had to fight for my kind in every way possible. A change in scenery and society aka London also was an eye opener to the plight of Indian women. A year and a half in a society where women did not have to face eve teasing or curbed freedom and I knew I would not keep quite anymore.

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Now, I am not saying that western society has no vices but we do have a lesson to learn from them about treating women with respect. After all, a society is as good as the respect given to its women. Heck, even some developing countries in South East Asia have better gender equality than India!

I had not realized there was a feminist in me till some events that I am going to elaborate happened. I have been called a ‘man-hater’, crazy woman and one guy (a friend) went on record saying that if his girlfriend or wife talked like me he would definitely dump her! Other than rethinking the quality of my friends, it saddens me that educated, modern and well to do young men talk with such utter disregard to gender sensitivity. There is a need to educate young men and women of our country to change the patriarchal mindset that is dragging our country down and restricting inclusive development. The youth are our best bet. If we don’t mould them now, it will be too little too late for India’s women.

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Now when I say gender insensitivity I do not just mean the violent rape, acid attacks and eve teasing that happen every passing day in the country. Much has been written and debated about them; a not-so-effective law has been brought into existence (leaving out marital rape & army rape which defeats the purpose of the Bill). The more urgent and common citizen’s duty at this juncture is to sensitize men and women on ‘soft’ issues that law makers or Government agencies cannot do on their own. There is no dearth of laws and rules to check violence or discrimination against women in India. Our problem unlike other societies is that the patriarchal, misogynistic culture in the sub-continent renders most of these laws ineffective. Dowry related harassment, workplace harassment, eve-teasing, objectification, unfair treatment; name it and we have it. You just have to skim through this page to see the magnitude of violence women are subjected to in India. http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=791408.

That is why, the mindset of our society that worships goddesses but victimizes real women has to change. So I’m listing some of these ‘soft’ issues that we, the youth, need to address and quick.

  1. Somebody told me “Women neglect their career after marriage and are responsible for their restricted freedom and financial dependency”.
    I thought the guy was making a joke when I first heard this. Remember, I was a young thing living in a world where loved ones had protected me against harsh comments and views, including those against my gender. So naively, but out of genuine curiosity, I asked him to elaborate. The explanation from him and other yuppie chauvinists was an eye opener that pushed me a step closer to becoming convinced that everything was not right with my world. Some of the arguments they used were: women misuse marriage to settle into a comfortable nonchalance about their career and to slack at work after having kids. I tried explaining very politely that certain types of Indian families ask girls to not work after marriage and many women voluntarily quit their jobs to run the household or mind the children for which the husband gives little or no support. All I got in response for bringing out the patriarchal problem was that life was much simpler when women were not working!
    Solution: Instead of blaming the woman (on top of everything else) of neglecting her career after marriage, why can’t men take equal share of the household work? Why should the woman bear the brunt of the system that raises men to put their legs up and watch TV at home in the evening while their wives slog in the kitchen after putting in eight or more hours of office work? This becomes very important if we consider how HR departments of companies look at the issue in the same way. Believe me, I work in a corporate setup and I have seen married women colleagues suffer stress if they juggle and guilt if they concentrate on their career. This is also one of the main reasons for the dismal number of senior women executives in Indian boardrooms.

    Remind me again why we need feminism

    Remind me again why we need feminism

  2. The ‘women are the weaker sex & should be protected’ syndrome.
    We come across this kind of chauvinistic behavior day in and day out, in real life and reel life.  You see, as one of the tweeple I follow effectively argued, these chauvinists can never see a woman as an individual and have to assign the role of a sister, mother or daughter to justify their righteousness in ‘protecting’ their ‘honour’. It is an irony that these are the same elements that treat women like livestock or kitchen maids.
    Solution: Leave us alone! Teach the women around you that they don’t need to be protected and that they are capable of doing it alone. Meanwhile teach the men that crucial something called respect and that honour doesn’t lie between a woman’s legs.254936_620275797987031_326727205_n
  3. A friend’s girlfriend told him that she will not change her surname after marriage and he flew into a self-righteous rage. Now again, this is a twenty-something, highly-educated, well-to-do couple that we are talking about. This is one instance that proved to me without doubt that being educated does not necessarily mean that the individual is civilized! My advice that his girlfriend was first an individual and had every right to decide on her surname was met with cold stares by guys and girls alike who suggested that she should join his surname to her already existing one. When I said that this wasn’t really necessary, I was told that people like me were responsible for Indian culture dying a slow death.
    Solution: Seriously, what’s in a name?!549995_621885947826016_1779928663_n
  4. The fact that in the fight to equality, women increasingly imitate men and do not think about becoming better than them.Sometimes I feel that the entire debate for women’s rights is skewed with women not recognizing their unique abilities and blindly imitating men and being satisfied with the outcome. Often, we forget our uniqueness and pander to what the patriarchy dictates, aka grab the few bones that the very system in question tosses at us.  It is the same rationale that makes men say “We are all for emancipation of women but you can’t/shouldn’t do that”. It is the idea at play when a man or a woman calls a feminist (male or female) a man-hater or expects a woman to bow to societal roles.
    Solution: Have ambition, ladies(like one of the tweeple who made this argument said)! Do not let the society bring you down.  No, I am not asking you to hiss and rant. All I am asking you to do is to hold your own and not allow anybody to dictate what and what not your gender allows you to do. And all you gents out there; understand and support this and the world will definitely be a better place to live in. Remember, it is all about mutual respect.598645_622363474444930_319751020_n

In summation: Right from sexist comic strips to item numbers and bollywood Dabangness to advertisements, there is a growing need for young men and women in India to wake up to the realities of the Indian gender disparity and do our bit towards improving the situation.  We don’t need to jump thorn fences or cross hell fire; just respect the women around you and do not cut off their access to basic rights or opportunities. Out of respect and equality will stem a new ‘developed’ India free of the shackles of gender violence. This, my friends, will be the India that can be called a superpower.

P.S: Not all feminists are ‘man-haters’. There are many of us who haven’t given up hope yet.🙂

All images in this post are from Gotstaredat. Follow them on FB/Twitter to support the cause.

That Day of the Year


 

A day in a year I have for my own

and that is a good thing I was told

A day to celebrate my identity

and to be wished prosperity

by people who don’t otherwise care

and are blind to all my flair

It is that day of the year again,

when loosened are the binds of the chain

A day when posters go up on the wall

and my kind are added to fame’s hall

Stories are written with showers of praise

bestowed on us and the challenges we face

But I tell you, there is not enough reason to celebrate,

unless one day equality does reverberate

For it is not the same as being a man I am told

and the same holds true for the young and the old

History has enough examples you say

as if history has ever been fair play

Quit making rules, I can do it on my own

I have the power to think and don’t need to be told

I will fight, fight to hold my own

Because I am what I am, the power, a woman

I wish you would see that there is more to me

and a day in a year would not suffice you see

-Pallavi

Ten ideas for a better India


I came across a contest on HarperCollins India for Ten ideas for the next twenty years of India and was tickled enough to bring out my own list, but after completion I realised that mine were not ‘ideas’ but what I thought were catalysts for change. So instead of submitting the list to the contest, I have posted it here. Feel free to comment, debate and share your ideas.

1. Pass the Lokpal Bill

Self-explanatory. The biggest problem our country filled with potential is facing is graft and political anarchy. I take the liberty of calling it anarchy because a nation run by money-laundering rascals, misogynists and religious criminals with no vision or desire to serve the people is fit to be called anarchy (and I do not single out any political party here. One is worse than the other).

2. Treat eve-teasing as a criminal offence awarded with heavy fine or imprisonment

This includes self-appointed moralists who take it upon themselves to beat up women because they do not fit their bill of ‘Indian culture’. It’s high time someone taught these bastards some culture. A heavy fine and imprisonment might go a long way in curbing the animalistic, sex-deprived street behaviour of Indian men and give women the courage to lodge complaints.

3. Make rape and marital rape non-bailable offences awarded with life imprisonment and revealing a rape victim’s identity a criminal offence

Rape laws in India are chauvinistic at best and so moderate a hardened rapist could easily slip through their grasp. A tough sentence could act as a deterring force.

4. Make sex-education compulsory in all schools

I cannot stress this enough. The moral police could go fly a kite in the filth of their own ignorance and patriarchal tribal values.

5. Make it impossible for a candidate with criminal records to contest elections and set a minimum educational bar of a graduate degree to contest state and national assemblies

Education does not mean knowledge but it does go a long way in opening up the mind to the world and better representation of an emerging India.

6. Introduce a benefit scheme for small-time farmers and BPL families providing them a (realistic) monthly package of money/ration and free education for the children

This might have been thought of and implemented ‘on paper’ but it’s time India tagged along the poorest of the poor and the farmers who feed us on the path of progress and of course their children have a birth-right to education. Considering the amount of tax payer’s money being hoarded in Swiss banks, we can afford this.

7. Implement a ‘One child only’ rule

Controversial, yes; against individual rights, yes but it’s the need of the hour if India has any hope of limiting the population explosion.

8. Build world-class training facilities for rural, athletic and national sports (basically all other sports side-lined by cricket) in every district

Refer to my post India at the London Olympics

9. Build enough public toilets or provide portable loos and make public-urination and littering an offence that will be heavily fined

Self-explanatory. It’s time we stopped ignoring the mess around us and got working.

10. Metro links in all Tier 1 cities, High speed rails connecting the country with on-board loos that do not open on to the tracks

Yes, Indian Railways is a profit-making entity and operates a huge fleet but if you think about the population Vs transport infrastructure ratio we are way behind optimal facilities. And the loos well, haven’t we all pinched our noses shut within a kilometre radius of railway tracks?

Now I am well aware that this list does not cover everything that can be done for a better India. I have not mentioned the dire need for us to stop being IT service slaves of the West and the need for entrepreneurship (but you can read my thought on the topic here) or Caste and Religious issues or environmental concerns. I would also like to write in length on gender inequality and women’s issues in our country in another post, another day, till then I think this will do.  Thanks for stopping by.🙂

Student on campus – Life in a University Halls of Residence


It was a pleasant night in May and I was hurrying through the last round editing of my writing portfolio. I was a few hours away from the submission deadline and was feverishly giving the finishing touches to the prose, poetry and drama pieces I had written for the final assessment of a major course. My sleep-starved eyes were drooping and the glare of the laptop screen gave me a headache. It was then that I heard the muffled sound – a thud and some indecipherable noises. My tired brain signaled that the sound was familiar but I carried on my battle with grammar and syntax. They were winning and I was fighting with the last ounce of energy left in me. Then I heard that noise again, I ignored it; and again, this time followed by a giggle. That was when I knew what it was and snapped.

Now let me give you a bit of background on the location. I was living and writing in the University Halls of residence.

My cubby hole at the Halls (and yes that’s a Panda on the bed, her name is Switty :p)

My little study bedroom in a flat shared by six students was, well, ‘cosy’ to put it mildly. Of course I loved it and thought it was charming and comfy, but it had a weird way of getting in your way leading to much bumping into things at the slightest movement (and this coming from a puny 4 ft 8 inches tall individual). The corridor was narrow and the shared kitchen well equipped, but like the rest of the rooms – tiny.

Looking out of the bedroom window you could see the low buildings of the campus sprawled out below you or the woods and the campus bar, depending on which side of the blocks your room was placed.

View from my window- Campus bar

There must have been around 400 students-international and British- living in the various blocks of the campus and there was always a constant hum of conversation, drunken revelry or music from different parts of the world. Most residents of the Halls in question, studied Business/Law/Nursing in the same campus and only a few like me whose classes were held in some other campus were placed there due to unavailability of rooms in the Halls close to our campus.

Flat Corridor

The study-bedrooms were all in a row and shared walls with the rooms on either side of the flat. It wasn’t much of a problem in the day time, but for a person like me who sits up all night writing, it was a breach of privacy. Not mine but the neighbours’! Due to my nightly writing I knew when my neighbours came or went, flushed their toilet, got homesick and skyped their parents on the other end of the globe or in the worst privacy breach – brought home a date. Most times when I wrote or read for pleasure or for a deadline far away in the future, I just shut out the noise by playing music or chewing gum. But that night was limits. A deadline loomed and I was not satisfied with the portfolio. The last thing I needed was yet another hour of making-out noises. What the irritation and my snapping led to is history but I recall it till today as the night when a pleasant friendship almost ended and I made the decision of moving out.

It has been two months since I moved out of the Halls of residence into a private apartment block and it has been a strange eight weeks. On the one hand I am relieved to be out of the cramped room, the noises and the crowd but on the other hand I miss it all! Gone are the days when I used to be woken up by the strumming of a guitar or banging of doors when students hurriedly left for classes. The apartment block I live in is tranquil, isolated and well ventilated. No resident drunkenly chants ‘Omlette au fromage’ in the middle of the night or throws stuff at the window of a neighbour to wake them up. Nobody sets off a fire alarm just for the fun of it and there are no midnight snack fests.  In fact, our contract clearly states that we were not to hold any house parties or play loud music or in short sound alive! I have not seen more than one neighbour in the last two months and the sounds of a baby crying now and then and some stray notes of Western Classical music drifting up to my room are the only sounds of habitation I have heard all these weeks.

Woken up by yet another fire alarm

The campus Kitty. He must be the cat with the most number of names in the world. I call him Garfield.

Oh how I miss the Halls! I had so wanted to live on campus and as I had stayed with my parents during undergrad and later on in rented apartments with friends. It was like a dream come true when I was accepted at the Halls and I was ready to overlook all the shortcomings and make the most of my stay. But the time came when I put comfort over a dirty but lively flat. Anyway this is my ode to the nine months of life on campus that lived up to all my expectations and so much more, taught me patience, cleaning (:p) and sharing and left an ever-lasting impression on my mind.

So guys, if you ever get a chance to live in student accommodation, grab the opportunity with both hands. The going might get messy but it’s a lot of fun.🙂 Do you have any on-campus stories of your own?

You might also like Bangalore to London 2 and London through my eyes.

What Independence Day means to me


As the nation celebrates its 65th ‘tryst with destiny’ I cannot feel the pride and happiness coursing through my veins as it had for all these years. I just feel fear, hopelessness and frustration. 65 years and we have only achieved half of what we could have if we had wholeheartedly committed ourselves to development and efficient use of the country’s considerable resources.

My countrymen are more worried about protecting their religion and culture, even if it means beating up women on the streets and pointing fingers at other communities at the slightest provocation. (Just read all the comments below the story. Girl gang-raped by 8 men, dumped near Agra highway) The politicians are only worried about filling their deep pockets and getting re-elected even if it means looting the tax payers money. Massacres have been committed for the sake of religion; education & healthcare are a joke in rural India and politics has become a dirty word. If Mahatma Gandhi had seen a glimpse of this India, he would have suffered a heart attack!

It worries me that we are oblivious to our potential as a country and choose to accept all these significant hazards to the nation’s growth as a part of life. Did the clerk at the Tashildar’s office ask for a bribe? Well that’s how the system works. Is the public transport a mess? Adjust karo. Did the police refuse to take down your complaint against marital rape? It’s your fault that you are not doing your duty as a wife! I am tired of all the explaining away we do to stay in the comfort zone. Its time we stopped adjusting!

So this Independence day I will mourn for an India that could have been. The history that could have been written, the progress that could have been made. I am not a cynic… just a hurt citizen who is afraid my country will go to the dogs. Period.

Also read Being Indian: Independence by a fellow blogger.

India at the London Olympics


London 2012 has been the best Olympics ever for India. With a total of six medals – two silver and four bronze – India has put its best foot forward this Olympics. Why am I, a non-sports enthusiast blogging about this? Well, this last week has been a very proud one for me.  As an Indian student in London I have had some very special moments this Games when my country bettered its records and gave me a reason to walk with my head held high.

Biggest ever Indian contingent at the Olympics 2012

I have seen the stupendous support and sponsorship that the British home team has received in the lead up to ‘the Games’ as it is called here. In addition to the world class training facilities, this kind of support and fanfare has gone a long way in ensuring success for the team. When I juxtapose this with the kind of luke-warm response India gives for any sport other than cricket, it doubles the respect I have for the Indian athletes who pursued and gave their best shot at various non-cricket sports. These athletes who are pretty much overshadowed by the cricket craze gripping India making it neglect its own national game, have given me a reason to stop and think what cricket and its commercialisation has done to Indian sports! A couple of articles I found that voice my thoughts on the subject.  Cricket, Cricket, Cricket! Why? , How cricket has killed other forms of sport , Why Just Cricket?

This post is a dedication to all those athletes who represented India at the Olympic Games and the six who won even in the face of inconsistent judging and bias.

Gagan Narang_Men’s 10m Air rifle bronze medallist

Mary Kom_Women’s 51 Kg boxing Bronze medallist

Vijaykumar_Men’s 25m rapid fire silver medallist

Saina Nehwal_Badminton Women’s singles Bronze medallist

Yogeshwar Dutt_Men’s 60kg Freestyle wrestling Bronze medallist

Sushil Kumar_Men’s 66 Kg Freestyle wrestling silver medallist

And a pic of the cute little mascots, Wenlock & Mandeville in Diary milk chocolate to celebrate the victory😀 (and they tasted yum).

Wenlock & Mandeville

It has been an amazing experience to be here in London during the Games and watch the lead up to it and the whole event up close and personal. When I made the decision to take a year and a half of sabbatical from work and move to the UK for a Writing degree this was something I had not considered but now that I have seen the Games in its entirety, I can only say Woah… What an experience!🙂 I was lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.🙂