Who am I?An Indian Teen’s Identity Crisis

NOTE:This was the article I wrote for the What’s My ID Contest for Youth Ki Awaaz. I won a Nokia Lumia 710 and an internship with them. Here’s the picture :

Nokia Lumia 710 Won By Siddharth Gupta for What's My ID Contest for Youth ki Awaaz

As a seventeen year old teen, I can confidently say I’m an Indian who is astonished by India daily. With the second highest population in the world, the only way of describing us is “we’re everywhere”. Some rejoice by this unique factorial, claiming it to be a bright prospect for the country’s future. But what I, and most of today’s youth sees, is a situation of identity crisis. A situation that doesn’t look good at all.

Today, every child, by the sole act of his birth, acquires multiple tags, which already define him before he or she can logically think. When a foreign dignitary visits India, the first lesson they learn is of our cultural integrity, but they never learn of our inhumane and excruciatingly complex divide. May it be on the geographical distribution of states, or of the language rolled off their tongues, we have a nasty little intuition to immediately separate each other out. It’s interesting to note that most of the geographical and language issues are simply banal. Consider this: at the time of our independence, we had 15 odd states which today stand at 28. Looking at certain separatist movements, we may see an increase in the number. But the point that stands out is that over time, fragmentation, re-merging of areas, division etc stops mattering because over the years, the only common link geographically between people has remained that of belonging to a common nation- India.

Moving on to the touchy issue, caste based discrimination. It’s not that we are not trying to move past it. With each passing generation, the emerging youth of India has slowly worked towards making it a figment of history. Unfortunately, our social stigmas and laws haven’t caught up. As a child when my mother taught me equality, I often thought “How can I say XYZ is equal to me when he gets a reservation in educational institutes, government jobs and many other such similar offerings while I don’t?”

Bringing in the gender divide, I slightly start feeling disgusted. For a nation which claims to believe and worship in a goddess, we are simple brutes. As a staunch advocate of equality among women, I simply find myself in dearth of a true identity, because associating myself with any of them highlighted here, causes a revulsion in me.

Identity. The word itself resonates a feeling of unity, of oneness and in true essence, describes the individual persona of each person. Sadly, as an Indian who is still in his growing years, I’ve discovered that I have multiple facades, multiple descriptions associated with me. Why, is a question I’m yet to answer, because the search goes on. In India, you never have a single identity. It’s always a concoction of many different ones. But whatever the potion may be and whoever may be the brewer, one thing is apparent and crystal-clear. Something is wrong, and we must change. I hope we change. Soon, Fast and Now

http://www.cpmtree.com/serv/tag.js Javascript Disabled

The Reality Of The Queer Prejudice-A QnA with Harish Iyer

India is emerging as a nation.But unfortunately,our mentality,our society and the guarantee of freedom and human rights has fallen behind the pace.Although,judicially, the 2010 judgement was a landmark, but our minds have not broken past all of it.In a frank one to one,Harish Iyer, an openly gay person and queer community activist tells us his views.

1.There a lot of misconceptions about the current legal rights of the Queer community. What’s the ground reality?

Section 377 of the indian penal code criminalised carnal intercourse between two individuals that was against the order of nature. This was quite ambiguous as “order of nature” could be interpreted in different ways.

This law was used against homosexuals as they practice oral and anal sex. The view was that sex against the law of nature was prohibited any sex that’s non-procreative could be unnatural. Which is totally untrue.The Delhi high court read down section 377 saying that any sex between two consenting adult individuals in private is not unlawful. The key words are ‘consensual’, ‘private’ and ‘adult’. It basically goes on to say that the state or the law has nothing to do with what two adults willingly do in their bedrooms.
Now the big doubt was – is section 377 only read down in Delhi. Well, since it makes an amend in the IPC, it would be valid throughout india. So if there is a section 377 case in say Bombay, the delhi judgement can be quoted here. 
It was never illegal to love in India. The problem was with making love. 

2.I would be blind if I say the prejudice is over. You constantly receive bigoted emails and tweets. Your take on this?
Some people are curious about my sex life. I think I must be doing something really well at that, that it makes them so curious and jealous 🙂
Well, on a serious note, yes prejudice does exist, and its time to look at people eye-to-eye. Every single person who walks out of the closet, is an inspiration for another.
I feel we like to “excavate” things that are hidden. I have nothing to hide, they have nothing more to dig. 🙂

3.Acceptance in conservative societies,including ours, is next to impossible. Especially in the older generations.How do you spread awareness about homosexuality?

Who said acceptance is impossible. I am in India. I am out to everyone right from my Gangu bai and rickshaw driver to everyone at work. They might not come out in acceptance like a typical Karan Johar flick, but they do have latent acceptance. Or rather have complete disregard for my sexuality, which is good.

4.Beside being an icon to the Queer community,you’re an active social reformer. What’s your current and next project?

LGBTIQ rights is just one of the battles for equal human rights. I don’t know if I am an icon, I am but definitely someone who would not suffer in silence. Or for that matter watch something go wrong and be a silent bystander.
I act from my heart. And I don’t meticulously plan my causes. I erupt whenever there in crises. Presently I am doing my usual sessions with survivors of child sexual abuse.

5.If you were to write a paragraph about yourself, it would read….

The man who Dreams a new dream, for the old one is now a reality”

6.Something you simply can’t say no to

Facebook. (I’m a social media whore)
7.Someone you can’t say no to
Hardly anyone. If I have to say no, I will say no.

8.As an blogger, what role do you think blogs play in current social dynamics?

They help you think. They seed a thought in your mind that no book could. They are personal. And they have a personality. Blogs are thought-influencing. Blogs are humans too.

9.Lastly, an advice to our readers.

Tolerance is the word. You need not like me. But you need to learn to co exist with someone who is different.
Thoughts become things. So keep documenting your thoughts.
Born free – blog free.

http://www.cpmtree.com/serv/tag.js Javascript Disabled

Section 66A,the mystery of Indian Internet Governance- A QnA with Saikat Datta

The all round criticism and outcry at Indian Online Governance and the controversial Section 66A of the IT Act need no introduction.But, as a blogger, I thought it to be prudent to hear about it from someone who is mainstream and affected by it. Presenting Saikat Datta,Bureau Chief,DNA New Delhi. As an active twitter user(@saikatd) and an important figure in the media, I thought he is the perfect person to talk to about this.Here’s the QnA

1.As a prominent member of the fourth pillar of Democracy, what’s your definition of free speech?What does “freedom of expression” constitute in your dictionary?

Freedom of speech means the freedom to anything is permissible under Indian laws and also tolerance for all views. The lack of any form of censorship, subtle or overt is abominable.

2.The very vaguely worded Section 66A has caused a lot of controversy pertaining to freedom of expression on the Internet.Being an active Twitter user, what are your views on it?

There is no need for such a section. There are adequate laws in force. The Constitution sought to enshrine fundamental rights. Our laws are now creating a situation where we have fundamental restrictions now.

3.In today’s India, where the media,social activists and citizens are leading a revolution, where does freelance blogging figure?

I am not sure there is a “revolution” yet, but there is definitely a greater democratisation of news and information. This will ensure that there is a greater freedom of expression and more accessibility to information and its dissemination.

4.The media, on multiple counts has been accused of being biased or “stooges of political parties”. How do you answer them?

There could be some truth is the media subscribing to some political ideology. Or even the establishment. But this has to be understood in a context. Are the people ready to pay for the news they seek? Unless and until you pay for news, how will news be free from commercial or political pressure?

8.Some advice to budding journalists or media personnel

I would say budding journalists should try and spend time learning and perfecting their craft. This is a fascinating profession where constant learning is a challenge and a source of unending joy. Finally, specialise.

9.Lastly, a word to The Standing Coin readers
Welcome to journalism. It always needs a few good women and men

http://www.cpmtree.com/serv/tag.js Javascript Disabled

Don’t Fight, Freedom is our Right!

NOTE: This article was written by me for the newspaper Education Times (http://www.myeducationtimes.com/article/79/201208132012081314113447424da4e33/Don%E2%80%99t-fight-freedom-is-our-right-.html)while I Interned there. Here is the link to the PDF of the actual newspaper article(http://www.4shared.com/office/qcuYiRmz/TOIM_2012_8_13_31.html)

Freedom itself is a liberalised term. As a soon to turn adult, it’s truly an honour to be a citizen of the Republic of India.  Democracy, in its essence is based on the expression of liberation by its citizens. Our constitution makers, inspired by this, gave us the Right to Freedom, which truly is a legacy we cherish. Nearly 62 years since its inception, liberty now runs through our veins. May it be a free expression of our opinion, a peaceful candle march against corruption, the ability to pick our choice of pencil or our choice of politician; we can legally do all of it. Sure many attempts at suppression have risen, but our judiciary has always quelled the situation. In recent times, the new IT rules proposed have drawn the ire of many legal experts as its terms blatantly violate our fundamental rights. I sure agree with them! No one messes with my rights!
As a young Indian, the ability to speak my mind, express my appreciation or more than often, my criticism, knowing that I am well within my rights to do so, is a matter of great joy. However, it still is a small ruby in a pile of diamonds. Unlike popular belief, freedom to us is not just limited to being our self. The knowledge that we can freely live our lives without the threat of unlawful conviction coupled with the unique perk of free and compulsory education (recently brought into effect by the Right to Education Act) from the age of 6 to 14 years, too factors in our umbrella of independence.
 Often, I arrogantly questioned some of the government’s seemingly absurd acts such as the different set of laws in Kashmir and the need for passes to enter Nagaland, on the pointless basis that such measures took away many of our promised rights. But, when I realized their necessity and simple brilliance, I was humbled. Our forefathers guaranteed us our rights but ensured that, freedom never took precedent over law, order and most importantly peace. I acknowledge that independence is never restricted. Well not unreasonably anyway. For e.g. when I’m told to not drive before 18, I never consider it as curtailment of my freedom. Rather, I realise it to be a supplement to my right to a protected life.
My freedom is mine to choose and define. It always was, always shall be. But when it’s constitutionally my right, I can’t help perform a small jig of thanks every morning. Many people I know moan about how India has still not matured in terms of freedom. I simply tell them this: “Read Part III of the Constitution and ingrain it in your head because legally, we are one of the most privileged citizens in the world for nearly 62 years! If that’s not mature, then nothing else is.”

Education Times,14th August 2012,Front Page

http://www.cpmtree.com/serv/tag.js Javascript Disabled

We Fought, We Endured And Now We CHANGE

A quick glance at the supposed “glorious” culture and history of India yields nothing but a simplistic opinion to today’s populous. Pick up any book, any year and we notice this; We fought for something, and our opponents( under the veil of secrecy) gave it to us, we rejoiced and discovered that we were deceived.

Today, I was re-reading my copy of Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger  and came across certain lines which put me in a fix, making me write this article and also make the video attached alongside. I don’t remember the lines to the exact punctuation, however in essence they talk about how democracy was nothing but a shrouded opportunity for India(metaphorical assumed as a Zoo) to be turned into a Jungle by the powerful. partly I agree to the viewpoint. Mr.Adiga made an excellent note about how our nation should have had alleviated problems such as water supply issues, poverty etc. and then focused on Democracy.
Anyway,my point is that we have lived for nearly two millenniums under force. May it be an emperor or a federation of states, India has nearly never had a full scale democracy except from 1947; We were oppressed, we were labelled, we were killed, we were tortured. We fought, we protested and tried to hit back. But two points remain:
1. We still fight.
2.We still endure.
Bolne mein hum sab aage hain;par jab road pe kisiko bematlab maarte hain, we turn into silent spectators, ENDURING everything. But the time has come for a Change. We stop enduring and we change.
You may think that, okay another person crying about change and getting passionate. Who will bring the change?What will be the change?
Change as I define it is that we stand up to whatever we want,whenever we want.  Don’t promise anyone anything that you will alleviate poverty or blah blah blah. Nothing of that sort. But promise yourself that you will stand up to what’s wrong; it may be standing up to your milkman for mixing water in the milk or it may be standing up to your local MLA and telling him on his face “Tu Paise Khata Hai!”. But do stand up.
We Fought, We Endured And Now We CHANGE

http://www.cpmtree.com/serv/tag.js Javascript Disabled

Aamchi Mumbai Aahe

Mumbai railway stations are a delightful treat to the eye. People of varied backgrounds, ages and genders can be seen in an ironic amicable but fierce manner. Rush hours resemble battlefields, with hundreds of people fighting for a place in compartments made for some 70 odd people. However, stations provide a brilliant school for learning new experiences via human actions.

Crowded Mumbai Local Train

Waiting for a train, usually does not count for more than 10 minutes owing to the frequency and number of trains. I usually plug in to my iPod and gaze around and I was indeed doing the same when I heard the train coming and I stepped back because it was not the one I wished to board. Now, I stood and saw as people poured out like ants rushing for a jar of honey. In the midst of all this, I saw a beautiful scene. A blind old man was trying to board the train but could not find the handicap compartment. A man, who had clambered onto the train with great difficulty, got down and guided the old man to the handicap compartment. This scene was however ruined moments later when he re boarded the train. He was dangling by the door when the train started and a young man came dashing out of nowhere to board the train. It was obvious that he really needed to take that train because trains ran at an average of like say every 3 minutes. Instead of helping the man by pulling him onto the train, he blankly stared at the running man as if he loathed him. The man could only pant and give dirty looks to the train as it crooned into the distance.

I am not here commenting on the ironic yet contrasting nature of these actions. What I wish to highlight is the unique spirit the city and its citizens have which makes us different from the hoard of metropolitan cities. Mumbai always stands out for its free spirit which exemplifies revelry. Throw us into any situation and we bounce back. No tragedy can stop us from going back to life but at the same time no happy moment can tackle our grief. Sapno ki nagri is a perfectly apt term to describe Mumbai and its citizen because it is indeed on dreams, that our city and we ourselves live our lives.

 Athi me jaato!

http://www.cpmtree.com/serv/tag.js Javascript Disabled