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: . 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 !



Women’s Day

I hate women’s day celebrations. There i said it. To me, the very act of having a day to celebrate womanhood and equality seems non-descript. I have my reasons too. Why would you celebrate it for just one day? I’m sure most of us take pride in being women every day of the year. Starting from walking around the house in the morning brushing our teeth to being choosy over the huge variety of clothes we have bought, and even to making our selves heard at work & in the family. Marketeers would know that women are a strong influence point and that’s why so many ads are targeted to us. Listen, its the science talking. Not some random ad-copy guy’s creative. Organisations have taken note of this and leveraged this for years. Be it FMCG, Banking, Insurance to Tyres & even Politics as the recent Jaago Re campaign from the Tata’s will inform you.

Another issue is equality. Why do we need to talk about it? In today’s world men and women are equal and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to go back to school. They have a lot to catch-up on. This is the same reason why people in rural india need more education to drive down crime rates & progress. A woman is not just a symbol of objectification whom men exert power on. She is equally (if not more) smarter and equipped to make her decisions for the entire household.

Lastly, the idea of the day was born out of oppression & suffering. If you look back in history the first time an event close to women’s day was observed in 1909 when women took to the streets in USA to protest against bad working conditions. The next time they observed it was in Copenhagen in 1910 to garner support for universal suffrage for women. In the 1913-1914 period this day was just another day to protest against World War 1. Lastly in 1919 women in Russia protested for bread and peace. There was not even a fixed day for it. March 8th came much later. My point is that why would one celebrate a day remembering all the pain, suffering and fighting for equality. We must instead remember these contributions every day. Everyday, when we muster courage to fight against a perpetrator of abuse, when we voice our concern against what we find inappropriate or when we push ourselves through the work place. That would be the best way to honor what others had to go through so that we could be where we are today.

Tear those fancy brochures and pamphlets giving you a free hair spa or a fancy buffet to celebrate. Because you My Lady, are a celebration every single day of the year.

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:


Kejri-Wal: Another Brick in the Wall

“We don’t need no education”. The opening lines of this Pink Floyd song, instantly signal a need to overthrow oppression & signal individuality. Something i think Arvind Kejriwal has been trying a bit too hard off late. The point is if you interpret Another Brick In The Wall, you would see that Pink Floyd doesn’t mean to say that education is not needed. The lyric has don’t & no in the same line effectively nullifying the argument. They mean to say that education is needed & to oppress the system needs you to be a part of it. We’ve heard that before, to change the system be in it. Contribute to change rather than being the clogging hole.

Arvind Kejriwal is spearheading the Aam Aadmi Party that was formed out of the India Against Corruption Team. They started out on a good note, recruiting just about anyone. The idea was that this is a democratic party and anyone can help in running the state. Nearly 50,000 volunteer registration receipts were handed out as farmers, whizkids, corporates and activists jumped on the bandwagon. Populist measures? I think so. It’s one thing where traditional parties get singers or film stars to join a party when they have no knowledge of the constitution. Apart from knowing what’s wrong in their suburb, how much would the average indian know about the same constitution? I don’t think much. At least, i don’t have a clue.

On winning the Delhi polls, only chaos unfolded. There were raids, FIRs filed against prominent corporate houses and individuals. Cuts in water & electricity rates when the nation is running fiscal deficit. Not too good for our economic health. Here we are trying to cut out subsidies and Kejriwal ups the ant by subsidizing it further. Maybe, he was keen to earn brownie points really fast in to the game. But following that up with a Dharna to simply get the some policemen suspended? There is a process to be followed, that’s how governments all over the world are run Mr. Kejriwal. To his defense, he said that the constitution doesn’t state that a minister cannot protest. Fathom this, the country’s prime minister getting down to a dharna. Doesn’t it sound like Kejriwal’s interpretation is flawed? Presumably so.

Testing waters were always running rough. Outrage on twitter has become the rage with Kejriwal’s antics. The last straw was the passing of the Jan Lokpal bill. Tabled for discussions, the bill couldn’t be passed and this led to Kejriwal & some his parties representatives resigning to protest. In this world, there can’t be absolute black/white. I think they could have waited more & be a part of the brouhaha to get the bill passed. Quitting was a premature idea according to me. Now they are fired up for another rally, Jhaadu Chalao Yatra because apparently roaming around with broomsticks in 24 states by cleaning schools will help in cleaning corruption in high end places. Sounds completely illogical to me. I think this will only be an avenue to recruit more members for the party as Arvind Kejriwal sharpens his claws for the Lok Sabha elections. I do hope the AAP is able to deliver some promise as its got so many hopes pinned on it. Till then, i leave you with this funny video that has humorous take on all that Arvind Kejriwal has been up to.

Mr. Rahul Gandhi, Thank You.

As everyone reacts & outrage spreads over the recent Rahul Gandhi interview, i think I’m pretty sorted for the election choices this year. It’s interesting to see a potential leader of the nation fumble, blink and digress over the topics he’s being grilled over. But what’s more interesting is that he never has a clear answer on anything! Aside from repeating certain keywords at regular intervals, Rahul Gandhi has probably caused more harm to his reputation by appearing on TV. And this is just the beginning of his appearances!

Point to note is even after a 10 year internship with congress, he has only learnt to digress. I mean, where are Gujarat riots linked to women empowerment? I was pretty enraged by the middle of the interview yelling, “Why won’t he answer one question directly?”. Now any important media interaction is always scripted. Most politicians / key executives always are aware of the questions they would be asked. Reporters do tend to dwell a bit more on a subject at times. However the interviewee always knows what is coming his way. Despite knowing what he was in for, how could he seem so under-prepared? In case this was a job interview, i’m pretty sure the interviewer would’ve thought, “Heck, this person is not coming to the point. Should i really recruit this guy?”. Anybody in HR can validate.

Coming to the campaign he’s starting off with. Roping in a big media group like Dentsu, his boys must have thought they would have this figured. After all, Dentsu is a pretty kickass japanese media group and a 500 crore deal is only going to get the juices flowing. But centering on his “Main nahi, Hum..” message, i’m not sure i’m convinced. Rahul Gandhi kept talking about processes and how leaders are elected. He talked about getting more people involved. Now, even though we are a democratic country i beg to differ. More people means, more opinions, more reasons to not center on any concrete decisions, more camps within a party and what you’re left with is a big mess. It’s like a summer party where a lot people came, made a lot of noise, created hot mess and no one knows who did what. The results would be like that of a hangover the next morning. You’re sitting with headaches and don’t know who to blame. That’s the state congress is in right now. Corruption, scams, politicians going berserk & no one’s paying the price apart from people like you & me.

Rahul Gandhi talks of himself in third person most of the time. That is Illeism which indicates that he is pretty narcissistic & as wikipedia will tell you its a tact used by idiosyncratic & conceited people. Linking this trait to his point of getting people involved & most people who’ve worked with self-centered folks will tell you that its where a saga is waiting to unfold. Taking a leaf from Aam Admi Party will only serve as inspiration  for Arvind Kejriwal. Rahul Gandhi, sincerely you need to do better than hypothesize.

Lastly, it would be nice if congress could have a coming out of sorts. I mean look at your own brother-in-law, Mr. Gandhi. Robert Vadra’s wealth grew from 50 lakhs to 300 crores with funds that don’t have a clean source! How do you plan to win the trust & faith of lakhs of common folk when everything looks so convoluted? You could consider a start. And no i dont think this : qualifies as one. You need to be out there, drop your guard and engage in public forums to get to the grass root level. Till then, thank you for lifting the aura over your mystical persona. It’s been an eye opener. For sure.

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:

Simple Idea, Big Solution – Social Blood

I was going through some of the ideas shared in the TEDxGateway back in the month of December and one of them particularly struck me. As its mostly said, the best ideas are the simplest ones. I can’t recall any complex ideas that would have really taken off in the recent past.
The idea that intrigued me was presented by Karthik Naralasetty. He starts his talk with case of a young girl from Karnataka who needed nearly 30 units of blood every month to make it through thalassemia which is a blood disorder. The most common perception that most people have is that others would be donating blood and that they don’t really need to donate. Many times people get away with donations with arbitrary excuses which brings us to the other point that Karthik makes that “Finding donors is difficult”.
In the midst of all the noise that is created about different problems that one faces, its often difficult to reach out to the exact person who can help with the requirements. This is applicable to any real world problem wherein not only individuals but massive brands, non-government organizations and non-profits face the same challenge. However, with the growing technology landscape and shift in networking online, Karthik was able to foresee an opportunity area. Typically the early adopters for any technology would want to experiment and push the frontiers to explore what they can really do with the medium.
Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

The simplicity of Karthik’s idea was to go social with the concept of blood donation. After evaluating several platforms, he centered on Facebook and leveraged the large network he had. To be more specific he created a total of 8 groups for different blood groups. Then a website was created where all these groups were directed and friends were requested to join. Many times, we as individuals want to contribute towards certain causes but hold back thinking why put in the time or rather no one else is doing it. However, when we see a greater cause to align ourselves with for the greater good of others we are motivated to take action to believe that we are a part of something greater than ourselves. Karthik’s understanding of the power of facebook and human connections in this context gave him a big lever in making this viral with requests for groups in different countries.
He’s also built on the immediacy of responding to blood requests by creating “Social Blood”. The uniqueness of this platform is that it helps in identifying which friends have a common blood group to the user and what other blood types are available in his/her network. This also makes it simpler to connect with a blood bank or hospital in times of need. I think this can be instrumental in case of crisis or instances where a rare blood type may be needed. Karthik points out that this is his effort to solve the blood crisis and cites that if 1 to 3% of the population was to donate blood, it would suffice the need for the entire country. Towards the end he makes an interesting point that there is a global compassion crisis and this would be one step towards resolving it. I think this idea is very simplistic, yet powerful in terms of taking care of an issue that is stifling many groups across the world. A scale up to this would lead to building up of a powerful network that can be banked on by several medical institutions worldwide!