Monday, September 14, 2009

The Brides of Death

A 12-year-old Yemeni girl, who was forced into marriage, has died during a difficult delivery in which her baby also died, a children's rights organisation said on Sunday, demanding action to stop Yemeni men taking child brides.

Raised in an impoverished family with a father suffering from kidney failure, Fawziya was forced to drop out of school and was married off at the age of 11. Such marriages are widespread on Yemen's Red Sea coast. Since young girls fetch a good bride-price, almost half of all little girls and teenage females are married(sold) off before the age of 15 in rural parts of Yemen, one of the world's poorest countries despite its proximity to oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

Last year, a Yemeni court granted a divorce to ten year old girl whose unemployed father forced her into an arranged marriage with a man 20 years her senior, because of the bride price she fetched, but later saying he feared she might otherwise be kidnapped by the would-be spouse.

Zana Muhsen was a 15-year-old English schoolgirl of Arab-British descent when her Yemeni father sold her in England in 1983 for $3000 to a countryman as a wife for his 14-year-old son. Her sister, Nadia, also 14, was sold for the same purpose and bride price to another Yemeni, whose son was 13.

The two sisters were detained against their will in Yemen for eight years with husbands they did not want, having babies they did not want, before diplomatic pressure and assistance from the international media finally freed Zana. Nadia stayed behind because of her children, who, due to the bride price, always remain with the father in case of a divorce.

In her best-selling book, Sold: A Story of Modern-Day Slavery, Zana outlined the two British sisters’ years of suffering, physical abuse and primitive living and working conditions in Yemen.

This is the 2007 UNICEF photo of the year representing the plight of the millions of girls sold as child brides every year.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

India in Antarctica

One of the really good things that Indira Gandhi did was authorize exploratory expeditions to Antarctica in 1981. Forget about the scientific hoopla surrounding these expeditions. Those are just side benefits. To me, Antarctica is the last unexplored continent with abundant mineral resources.

Mrs. Gandhi did right by laying the foundation for India's claim for a stake in a future scramble for the vast uninhabited continent's riches. This is an investment in the future and it is heartening to see that India is mounting another expedition to the Antarctica. The 230 crores to be spent for this is a good investment for India's future generations.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Identity Crisis

My maternal grandparents hailed from Karachi and my mother and all her siblings were born there. They had to flee Karachi in the wake of the partition in 1947, leaving behind a comfortable existence and had to start a new life, struggling to make ends meet in a new place amongst strangers. My mother was just entering her teenage years during that time and her memories of her childhood and those years is vivid and I have heard a lot of stories about those times from her. My father was working in Karachi at that time as well and he too had to leave Karachi and find his fortunes elsewhere. The tales that my parents have told me over the years have made Karachi hold a special place in my heart.

I stumbled onto Karachiwali's blog a couple of days back. Her posts about the Mumbai incident and the comments by her and her fellow bloggers were painful to read. I left a comment for her requesting her to revisit what she had written earlier and to her credit, as of now she has taken down all Mumbai related posts and comments off the blog.

Yesterday I watched Bhowani Junction on the telly which talks about the identity crisis of the Anglo-Indians and realised that the Muslims of our subcontinent are facing a similar identity crisis. Sooner or later they will have to decide who they are and where they belong. Are they expatriate Arabs, Iranis, Turks, Afghans or Mongols, living in a land conquered by their forefathers? Or are they the sons and daughters of the soil of this subcontinent? Do they wish to regain the lost glory of their ancestors and rule over the infidels, or do they want to be citizens of a modern nation having a stake in the stability and prosperity of this area? Most Muslims can trace their ancestry back to a Hindu ancestor even if they tend to hide it and glorify their Arab or Middle Eastern origins. They have to accept their origins and dispose of their victim mentality. Because the Muslims too have a hand in the mess that the subcontinent is in today. Taali kabhi ek haathse nahin bajti.

Edit: I think it is more of an identity confusion than an identity crisis.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What's Love Got To Do With It?

It's a second hand emotion, as Tina Turner so rightly crooned.

But really, what's love got to do with it? It is an unduly overrated emotion. We are talking about a lifetime here. A lifetime of commitment, of compassion, of caring for each other and of going through testing times and emerging stronger with the support of your partner by your side. We are talking about raising a family and gracefully growing old together.

The English language is constrained because it has just one word 'love' to go through the entire gamut of relationships and emotions. Context is needed to differentiate among various types of love.

People your age would take love to mean as the 'butterflies in the stomach' or 'love at first sight' feelings. But most of the time it is just a hormone-induced chemical reaction which is mistaken for love. Remember this is nature's way of ensuring that at the right age, evolutionary pressures propel you towards propagating the species.

Stop waiting for love to happen. As a sentient being, it is time for you to take off your romantic glasses and take a practical view regarding marriage. This is a lifelong commitment. Try to define the type of person you would want to spend the rest of your life with and raise your children with. Think of this as a 'Swaymvara' where you get to pick and choose. You have a vast pool of potential suitors to pick from, thanks to this age of the internet. All you need to do is discover your priorities, narrow down your choices and find someone you feel comfortable with. Don't worry about the butterflies, you may or may not get them. After you commit yourself, make an ongoing investment in nurturing that relationship. Because you gotta put in more than what you expect in return.

A few decades down the line, when you look at your partner with fondness and remember all the trials and tribulations that you went through together, you will finally understand what love is all about.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

India and China want IMF to sell all of its gold

The IMF holds a staggering 3200 tonnes of gold in its reserves which is sitting idle while the world's poorest are facing the fallout of the global economic crisis and the IMF itself is facing a liquidity crunch.

A report in the Financial Chronicle says that draft papers have been exchanged between Delhi and Beijing proposing that the IMF sell off its huge gold reserve which is an idle asset with a book value of $9.3 billion. But which would fetch close to $100 billion at current prices. Both countries are proposing that this amount be used to improve IMF's liquidity as well as to help the world's poorest countries tackle poverty. An earlier announcement after the G20 summit in London, by IMF, to sell gold to raise $6 billion, caused gold prices to slump. Now this proposed sale is going to be 16 times bigger than the earlier proposal.

This might seem bearish for the price of gold in the short term, but it is being proposed that the sale be staggered over a two or three year period. And if this sale comes to pass, most of this gold will never enter the retail market. Central banks of China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India will use their dollar reserves to buy it off and increase their gold reserves. This will be a wise step towards a future where the USD will be vacating its seat as the world's reserve currency. One or some or all of the above countries, with some sort of understanding amongst them, may provide an alternative with a partially gold backed currency.

This sale if approved by the member countries of the IMF will improve its short term liquidity and will remove the pressure on both China and India whose economies have grown substantially in the recent past, to finance it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dev D. review

I know, I know. I am quite late in coming up with this review, but I just got to watch this movie and this is one of those movies which need to be taken note of.

Anurag Kashyap has not reinvented the wheel, but he surely has redesigned it. This is the dark story of a young man who wanders through life hell bent on self destruction. Who doesn't recognize A Good Thing (TM) when he sees it, one who believes that the world exists for his gratification and one who just believes in enjoying his perceived rights without giving any thought to his responsibilities.

Now this story has been told many times on the silver screen by different people with different takes. Most of them have romanticized the hero, what Anurag Kashyap has done is presented him in the raw, the way he is. And left it up to you to decide whether you sympathize with him or not. Most of us in real life come across people who have the characteristics of Dev in varying degrees. I sure have and I remember them for the damage and the heartburn they have caused in their wake.

Abhay is good but Mahi and Kalki are even better and they have done complete justice to what the director and the script required. This film tackles many taboos head on and is a path breaker in many respects. The sexual content and dialog might be offensive to some but it is in tune with the times we live in. This is the story of Devdas as it would have happened in this age.

The music is good. The only gripe I have is about the length of the movie. With tighter editing, the movie could have been brought down to around 120-130 minutes and then it would have been a pleasant experience.

Definitely a must watch and perhaps another watch again.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Log kya kahenge........

This story was forwarded to me in an email. You might have read or heard it earlier, but it still is good for a laugh every time you come across it!

There was this village pastor who entered his donkey in a race and it won..

The local paper read: PASTOR'S ASS OUT FRONT.

The Bishop was so upset with this kind of publicity that he ordered the Pastor not to enter the donkey in another race.

The next day, the local paper headline read:BISHOP SCRATCHES PASTOR'S ASS.

This was too much for the bishop, so he ordered the pastor to get rid of the donkey.

The pastor decided to give it to a nun in a nearby convent. The local paper carried this headline the next day: NUN HAS BEST ASS IN TOWN.

The bishop upon reading this fainted. He informed the nun that she would have to get rid of the donkey, so she sold it to a farmer for $10.

The next day the paper read:NUN SELLS ASS FOR $10.

This caused the bishop a minor heart attack. He ordered the nun to buy back the donkey and lead it to the plains where it could run wild.

The next day the headlines read: NUN ANNOUNCES HER ASS IS WILD AND FREE.

The bishop was buried the next day.

The moral of the story is . .. Being overly concerned about public opinion can bring you untold grief and misery!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Rape 'harmless fun' says lawyer

This is a verbatim news report from today's Gulf Daily News:

THE alleged abduction and gang rape of a woman was dismissed as harmless fun by a female defence lawyer in a Bahrain trial yesterday.

Three men accused of the attack should be acquitted because young people often commit crimes for "fun", without criminal intent, said lawyer Fatima Al Hawaj.

The men, aged 19, 20 and 21, are accused at the High Criminal Court of snatching a Filpina off the street as she walked home from work at night, last September.

They allegedly drove her to an isolated area in Askar, gang raped her and then abandoned her, after stealing her mobile phone and purse.

All three deny abduction, rape and theft.

Ms Al Hawaj told judges that her clients were youngsters and that "minors' often committed crimes for fun, without ill-intent.

"It is general knowledge that youngsters commit crimes for the fun of it and not with the intention to harm others and I request the court to take that into consideration and clear my clients of the charges," she argued.

The 24-year-old woman failed to show up in court yesterday for cross-examination despite knowing about the session.

Attorney Mohammed Al Mutawa stepped in mid-session, saying he represented her and pledged to bring her to the next hearing.

"I am representing her in this case and she knows about the hearing, but couldn't make it due to personal reasons. I pledge to personally bring her to the next session," he told judges.

The woman was allegedly walking home from the hotel she works in Manama when the men, who were driving a rented car, followed her.

Prosecutors claim they grabbed her hands and dragged her into their car, drove her to a secluded area in Askar and gang-raped her.

The men then allegedly stole her mobile phone and purse, which contained cash and dumped her in the middle of the desert. She later managed to identify her abductors' car and the rape kit results were positive for the defendants' DNA, said the prosecution. Judges adjourned the case to April 12, to summon the woman for cross-examination.

Welcome to stories from Wonderland!

P.S. Coolred 38 has already written about this here.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Indian Home Maker has written a thought provoking post on provocative dressing here. And Nimmy has written a post in reply here.

Universally, society sets the norms for acceptable behavior. All the individual can do is try to raise awareness and contribute towards changing how a society deals with issues. Even in the west, emancipation and equal rights for any underprivileged section of society, whether women or blacks, has been won one small step at a time.

Here is a story from today's Saudi Gazette. A 23-year-old unmarried, gang-raped woman was awarded a one-year prison term and 100 lashes for committing adultery, getting pregnant and trying to abort the foetus. The judge was considerate enough to postpone the lashes to be administered after the child is born.

I have read somewhere that a society is judged by the way it treats its weakest members. And I guess this society has a long way to go before it can be called compassionate or just or civilized.

The Lure of the Gulf

Visit any Gulf country and you will see Indians laboring away industriously in all types of jobs, from the menial jobs that no local would want to do, to the highly sophisticated ones which require professional qualifications. Most of these migrant workers are from South India and a great percentage of them are from Kerala. This has led to the saying that most people from Kerala are more familiar with Dubai than they are with their own Trivandrum.

Southern India has enjoyed a historic trade relationship with the Arab world with Arab settlements in almost all notable coastal cities and ports of Kerala. The current outflux of workers to the Gulf began in the seventies with the price of oil skyrocketing and the Gulf economies starting to enjoy an economic boom. Most of those workers migrate on bachelor status, leaving their families behind. They live in cramped accommodations, segregated from any interaction with the opposite sex for long periods of time. This results in a host of social and psychological problems both among the migrant population and the population left behind in the home country.

Most of those migrant workers work hard and long hours and remit their savings back home for their families to enjoy a comparatively good standard of living. This influx of Gulf money has proved unhealthy for Kerala. Because it has not generated any lasting development back home. Instead, it has made the local economy even more dependent on exporting its human capital for the purpose of earning remittances.

But things are changing. It is not only monetary considerations these days which come into play when a highly qualified professional decides to migrate to the Gulf. Nowadays for the Muslim professional from the subcontinent, migrating with his family to the Gulf is a chance to enjoy the best of both worlds. Because they get all the material benefits and the infrastructure of the first world, while living in an Islamic state and retaining their own cultural heritage and identity. So they get to live in the West, but without its decadence. Plus they are close enough to the home country to be able to frequently travel and visit their relatives back home. While for other non-Muslim migrants looking for a better life and looking to escape the madness that is the subcontinent, the Gulf is the first step in their trajectory of ultimately migrating to the West.