Child Sex Abuse – I #PledgetoProtect

CSA (Child Sex Abuse) has been a sensitive topic since a long time. Albeit, i have been an active supporter of the CSA Awareness program that has been running for a while. In our society where its taboo to talk about sex in front of our children, educating them about CSA is next to impossible given the state of our cultural upbringing. Times are changing. So when i received an opportunity to attend a blogger meet organised by Indiblogger centered on this topic, i was more than ready to go. The event was the launch of a new book on the subject, “The Bad Touch” by Payal Shah Karwa. Payal has compiled a set of true stories about individuals who underwent the abuse and emerged as survivors in the true sense of the word.

Quite a few guests were present for this event along with Payal. We had Kiral Manral who is a part of the CSAawareness team that runs the #CSAAM initiative. I had participated in their twitter chat last year where the famous director Onir also responded to some of my tweets amongst others. If you want to know more of the great work they’re doing, you can check it out here: http://csaawarenessmonth.com . Harish Iyer, the LGBT rights activist who himself suffered CSA when he was young was there to shed more light on the issue. Pooja Taparia, founder of Arpan that’s fighting for freedom from CSA also patiently clarified and explained the brilliant work she has been doing at schools to create awareness about the evil that is crippling several children.

The event started by rolling out chits which had certain words written on them. Each blogger had to stand up introduce themselves and read the word aloud. The words were such that nearly everyone had a reaction to what they had picked. My word was ‘Penis’ adn i must admit, i did feel uncomfortable saying it aloud. Later Payal, Harish and Kiran took turns in reading certain parts of the book and sensitized us to what the victims go through. This was followed by a discussion where a lot of us asked several questions on the topic. Questions ranged from legal actions being taken to parents being perpetrators to people relaying experiences where they saw abuse happening but were too afraid to interfere. Some observations stood out clearly. The children who have absolutely no understanding / awareness of CSA become easy targets. Many a time, the child maybe trying to talk about the abuse to a parent & this calls for additional attention from the parent. When you see abuse happening, stop and make an effort to rescue the child rather than walking away. There is a fine line between abuse and exploration. Make sure your adolescent children understand the difference. Guilt is a common feeling that several victims carry. If you know a victim then help them understand it wasn’t their fault. I bought a copy of the book which Payal signed with a nice note. It felt good to talk to her after the show and kudos to the effort she has put in writing about such a difficult topic.

This definitely was one of the most intense sessions i’ve attended. I felt that as custodians of the future we have so many more responsibilities than what we assume to have. Creating awareness about CSA and ensuring that our children are protected is definitely on the top of my list. I #pledgetoprotect !

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Highway [Movie Review]

Go watch. That’s the first one from me. This isn’t just a movie about a rebellious girl wanting to have things her way. No. It’s more than that. Imtiaz Ali’s scenic shots capture the scenic beauty across Delhi (outskirts), Himachal, Punjab, Rajasthan and Kashmir. The first half of the movie was really good with not a dull moment. I kept wondering if this is all based on Alia’s character going through the Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim begins to feel for the tormentor after prolonged sessions of torture or confinement. But Imtiaz does push the envelope by putting a very important issue at the focus of his movie.

I don’t want to put any spoilers out here, but with all the surge in women right movements, protests against gangrapes and cries for justice we forget about one of the most crucial forms of abuse. That alters a person mentally and emotionally for their entire life. Having watched most of his older movies that went on to become blockbusters like Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal and the more recent Rockstar, i feel this has been his best so far. A couple of people near me took their jabs at the movie in some scenes, but towards the climax and a very powerful scene by Alia, everyone’s lips were sealed shut. I was moved too. Some of the scenes apart from their backdrop, have also been shot very well. To the extent that my husband who is a movie junkie remarked, “That was a great sequence, shot well”. Being very choosy when it comes to hindi movies, i think we both were really taken by Highway.

Add to that great performances by Randeep Hooda & Alia Bhatt this is a movie that will move you. College girls behind me kept saying, “Oh! this is the life i wanted to live”. But somewhere later in the film, they did not repeat it. When you watch, you will see why. Overall Imtiaz does leave us with a positive ending & a powerful message. Anyone who feels otherwise, i think is not sensitive enough to understand the issue he is bringing forward in commercial cinema. Kudos to him for that. As for me, Highway is a definite watch and highly recommended!

I leave you with one of my favorite songs from this one:

 

Her [Movie Review]

Counting down to the Oscars, i wanted to see some of the top nominated movies and that’s how i got to Her. Directed by Spike Jones, this 1.5 hour long movie did not really impress me much. Basically its set in futuristic LA where Joaqin Phoenix plays this character Theodore Twombly whose life, well it seems like he’s stuck in a tumbler. The character is lonely, nearing a divorce, working at a firm where he ghost writes meaningful letters for people who don’t have the time to do it themselves. That part of his job kind of captures how futile relationship may come to be in the near future when everything is automated or can be completely outsourced. Scary.

Anyhow the first few minutes of the movie show Theodore’s day to day life and how empty it really is. Pretty soon it cuts to a launch where the new operating assistant service is being launched. Theodore must have really wanted to be ahead of the curve as he snaps one up for himself just after the launch. The setup has been shown to be fairly simple with a few questions which include how he would describe his relationship with his mother. Enter the OS, who wants to call herself (itself) Samantha. Played by Scarlett Johansson, the OS begins to fill the vacuum in Theodore’s life. She (It) not only assists him in day to day tasks but also helps him revive some of his failed attempts at getting published and of all the most outrageous ones being Love. A lot of the movie plays on the way their relationship goes, the start, the uncertainty to denial. Some of the parts where they are out on a double date are really hard to set in perspective. They live in a world where there can be surrogates to nearly everything and some scenes really got me wondering why I decided to watch this movie in the first place. Thank god for the part by Amy Adams, who plays a friend to Theodore and adds a human touch to the entire setup. I found the end rather stupid, in the sense that it kind of leaves you in the lurches. From the start i thought this movie would be intelligent or quirky with the AI angle, but the end could have been a bit more plausible. All in all, its may be only worth a one time watch. I wouldn’t recommend even that though. The only reason i think it’s ended up at the Oscars is probably because of the way its shot. Aesthetically its beautiful and for that credit is due to the director and more importantly the cinematographer. Apart from that, do not expect much from this one.

Get over Her and watch this parody which had me laughing:

[Book Review] 59 Seconds

I’ve been catching up on my reading & thought it would be good check out one on behavioral psychology. I love the recommendations from the Amazon store and it so much more intelligent & richer than Flipkart. The Kindle has driven up my reading by at least 5 times. Anyways, the book i’m reviewing this time is 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman. I’ve read one of his books called Quirkology before & i really like his style of explaining simple habits & events. Richard always puts forward a theory or a hypothesis and backs it with facts & research. Undeniably this puts the focus on implementation. His facts compel the person to try out little knick knacks towards becoming a better one.

Richard emphasizes on expressing gratitude & thinking about a perfect future by cataloging them in to a journal. Evidently, writing down clears up ones thought process and needs just 5 minutes a day. He explains what are the  key differentiating features when several candidates appear for an interview to how successful people set measurable goals which include spending time with loved ones. He sets up a plan at the end of nearly each chapter of the book to guide one in to making changes and in some cases he even throws in an exercise or two to help you understand yourself better. I got to know from one simple one that i’m right brained (that one didn’t even need me to fill a questionnaire or look at some fancy images). Some other insights are in to how people are receptive to new ideas when they are relaxed, that pop music / jazz have the same relaxing effect as total silence & classical music can help in lowering one’s blood pressure!

He touches on nearly all aspects of any person’s life from relationships, parenting, decision making to personality. All the chapters are interspersed with simple hacks that can help just about anyone. I think this is a good read for anyone looking to cut out procrastination / looking for making changes in behavior or habits / to simply improve their decision making. The takeaways make this one totally worth it!

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5 Reasons why i shifted back to iOS from Android

Yes, i’ve got the iPhone 5S and most of the observations stem from my usage of the phone over a week. Now you may well know the average phone junkie around you will be caught up in a grueling debate of which platform to choose. iOS / Android / Windows / Blackberry. Ok, lets leave the last one. You see, i was there too. My smartphone journey started with a Blackberry. Now, i didn’t quite like the feeling of being stuck in dinosaur years in the face of technology and made the shift to iOS. 6 months down, i shifted to Android and now i’m back to iOS. Pray, you ask why? Here it goes:

1. iOS7: The colors. I mean this is vivid. Its like Apple’s on an acid trip and everything looks colorful. Not just that, the notifications and controls are so much more easier. I used to chuckle over the ease of changing settings on my S3 in the initial days, but iOS7 just hit the pain point with the controls made easy.

2. Stability: DON’T get me started on the number of times my S3 crashed. Talk about random restarts, apps crashed and went boom in my face. I can’t even count the number of times i would have my phone freeze when i wanted to take a picture or just after taking one, trying to see how it looked. With my 5S, that’s a story of the past.

3. LAG: That’s in caps cause that’s what pinched and pricked me all along. Why samsung why would you load a phone with touchwiz? I mean where’s the darn value add? Everytime i had to pickup the phone to call, it would take 8 holy seconds for my contacts to show. Free Memory? Did that. Factory reset? Check. Go to android developer settings and change parameters. Figured out and did that. No help.

4. Customization: Now this is what you don’t get in iOS. But, once you’re done with those inane customizations and wallpaper updates, how frequently do you actually go back and keep changing. In fact, as you become busier or most accustomed to your device, you rarely change the display. If you’re on the otherside, then well you really are sorted in life to have so much time on your hands.

5. Security: No matter how much we bleat or brag about the closed OS that Apple has to offer, it no doubt keeps your phone secure. Also what can beat Touch ID? I mean the entire user experience is revamped in the 5S. App purchases and phone unlock are so much simpler now. All i need to do is add a fingerprint.

The typical android geek would love to root phones and try out different tricks and its oh, so open! But i have my reservations now and would rather prefer a stable, reliable and minimalist device as compared to the phablets and the shenanigans. Plus, the camera with the two tone flash? It beats everything on the market hands down. So yes, when it comes to android i could rattle on about how large the screen actually turned out for me in the S3 and the little benefit it seemed to offer. Plus battery issues and what not. Things are sorted and streamlined in iOS. So yes, this shift back has been simpler than i thought and i’m back to worship Apple’s holy grail of tech.

The New Digital Age : Book Review

The New Digital Age. The title promises precisely what the book delivers. I mean, what else would one expect when two big names unite to share their views and perspective on what digital holds for the world in the future? Eric Schmidt has been at the helm of the ever innovative Google and Jared Cohen who is a Rhodes Scholar and the director of Google Ideas. Cohen also makes it to the Time’s 100 most influential people in the world list this year. Being an avid non-fiction reader, there are many times i’m let down by some books when they really don’t get me as much information i’m hoping to seek. But this book had me glued. I mean, we google stuff so often and hear a lot about the changes that keep coming up in Android / Google Products. However, this book is more of an exploration of the information explosion that has happened over the past few years. Data is clearly the glue that will be binding a lot more than plain business or social media.
The book starts off with an introduction to our future selves. This part talk about education being the base for innovation and opportunity. We are already seeing this take to full force with children using tablets in schools which are aided by an army of apps that are simplifying classes for the masses. It goes on to talk about a better quality of life enabled with the high level of customisation that can be done using smartphones these days and how this will be pathbreaking in health care support. This is followed by the future of identity, citizenship and reporting which covers authenticity of profiles, the level of social uprising triggered via social media, government surveillance etc. We have already seen how several people and corporations handle their online image (reputation). I particularly found the idea of insuring one’s online identity against theft, hacking, fraud etc. I believe the time for this has almost come to try out and agree that online identity will be the new currency. They also go on to highlight the consequences of VOIP and P2P networks that can exchange data more privately (VPN). The AADHAAR program back home has also been cited to indicate the magnanimity of the UID initiative by our ruling government. I believe we know of quite a few scams in the recent times for this as well.
In the future of states, they have covered a variety of countries in the levels of censorship that are being dictated. Starting from China’s blocking of Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter to Turkey’s blocking of Youtube for 2 years over a debacle for taking down videos that were derogatory to the nation’s founder. Political & cultural censorship is taken up by South Korea, Malaysia and Germany which i think is a far more effective model.
We have all heard of the Arab Spring. The duo talk about how in riots, the internet lent a way for females to express themselves without being hurt. Also when the government blacked out the internet to avoid the spreading, the setting up of @Jan25voices handle helped in letting the world know about what was happening, albeit without any policy influence. They talk about a model where successful leaders will be able to address the concerns of both virtual and physical constituencies. I reckon this is happening as we speak in the Indian context where there are twitter armies for Modi (BJP) and Rahul Gandhi (Congress) battling it out in the trends and mentions everyday. 
Terrorism is another key issue that is detailed in this book. Activists, local networks, simple start up kits for them to propagate the hate would be enough. This will be a big issue for technology firms in terms of screening content due to the sheer volume of uploads per second across the web. Since most sites work on users reporting abuse / flagging content as abusive, the process will take time for them to actually block stuff. In the future of conflict, combat and intervention they address how a single post / photo/ tweet can be the beginning of something bigger on the lines of a revolution. A scary part talks about the “human flesh search engines” in China which basically means that there are scores of people whose objective is to search and track down the individual posting specific content that could be offensive. They go on to mention combat using robots and the dilemma of machines making an error during a highly targeted mission.
Lastly in the future of reconstruction they talk about how telecom in Somalia is so cheap that people actually drop international calls to call relatives back! In terms of community service, the HAITI campaign is mentioned where “text to donate” helped Red Cross to raise USD $5 million for relief campaigns. An interesting part talks of how crowd-sourcing will enable the culture of accountability. This is the most optimistic part where they go on to hope that creativity and bandwidth will be key drivers of innovation. All in all, i feel that even if you’re not working in digital this book is a great read to know what the frontier of technology looks like.
*image source credit: standard.co.uk