Tag Archives: India

The colours of the rainbow

I wrote this as an experiment. This piece does not reflect my true views on the LGBT community. As I am not a member of said community, it would be difficult for me to understand their views properly. Hence, I am neutral in the issue. If I were called to vote on the issue of gay marriage, for instance, I would not vote, no matter what the stakes.


“Should he have resigned?” he asked me.

“I don’t know, mate,” I said, working on my laptop.

“Come, on,” he urged me. “Think about it. Give me an opinion! I want to know your stand on it.”

I rolled my eyes. He could be such a drama queen at times.

“Forget the fact that I’m gay, mate,” he said. “And you know that I won’t hold anything against you.”

I sighed. “Fine,” I responded. “I don’t think Eich should have resigned from his post of Mozilla CEO. Happy?”

“Reasons, man!” he hollered, a large grin on his face. “I need your reasons!”

I groaned. The only way to oblige him here would be by acquiescing to his request. I took a deep breath.

“Look,” I began, “What is a company all about, hmm?”

“Building a product,” he replied.

“And what is Mozilla building?”

“Firefox, and Thunderbird, or they were building it anyway. Oh! And Firefox OS.”

“Exactly. And what does Brendan Eich’s stance on Gay marriage have to do with any of them?”

“A lot, I would think,” he replied, his voice turning a tad serious.

“How is that?” I asked.

“Well, imagine if my employer openly discriminated against the LGBT community,” he said. “Would I be comfortable working with him?”

“Mate, giving a donation to prop 8 is hardly discriminating against the LGBT community.”

“But it is!” he was getting serious now. It had started as fun, but I knew that this would need me to abandon my essay to focus properly. “He’s taking away my right to be with the man I want!”

I sighed. “No one’s taking your right to do that away. What you can’t do is legally marry him.”

“And isn’t that discrimination?” he pointed out. “Isn’t that the kind of discrimination sane, thinking human beings want to put an end to? I realise that you’re not particularly receptive to the feelings of the LGBT community yourself, but you’ve never said anything against their agenda either.”

“Well, think about it this way,” I said. “What is the end product of a marriage?”

“Happiness,” he replied instantly.

“Well, lots of heterosexual men would object, but no, that’s not what I meant.”

“Then what?”

“Children,” I replied as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

He stared at me. “Man,” he said at last. “That is so nineteenth century.”

“No, think about it,” I replied. “Can any other institution allow you to have children?”

“No,” he said.

“Then? The only thing a state gets out of a marriage is new citizens. If you take people’s emotions out of the equation, then what is the need to allow gay or lesbian marriage?”

“But you can’t take human emotions out of the picture,” he pointed out. “Lots of people marry for reasons other than bringing forth kinds into the world.”

“And yet a majority of those in a marriage end up having kids,” I pointed out.

“Agreed,” he admitted. “But still, children is not the reason people marry. People have children when they are comfortable enough. It’s just a side product of marriage.”

“The most important side product of a marriage,” I pounced on his statement.

“Happiness is the most important side product of a marriage,” he pointed out. “People get divorced because they’re unhappy in their marriages, you know.”

“I do,” I replied. “I know that marriages break apart because of tension between the couple. But that tension can be caused due to many factors. You need to be happy in whatever you’re doing. Children could be a major reason for that tension, so could religion. Who knows? Maybe the wife suddenly realises her husband is a dumbass. It could be anything.”

“So the point where we disagree is the biological side product of marriage,” he said. “Well, it has been proven that homosexuality is biological.”

“And you know something else?” I said. “The very nature of human reproduction means that homosexuality is doomed to die out.”

“And yet,” he countered with a smile, “it hasn’t.”

I smiled back. “It hasn’t,” I replied. “But again, we’ve drifted off topic. How does this discussion affect what Eich’s decision should have been?”

“Because Eich supports inequality,” he replied.

I sighed. “I don’t think he does, fella. You’re allowed to marry whichever female agrees to marry you, as am I. How’s that unequal? He never tried to make things unequal for you.”

“He’s taking away my right to love whoever I want and not get vilified for it.”

I stood up. “You know something? If I went back home and told my mother that I’ve fallen in love with a Black, African woman, my mother will try to be happy for me. But she won’t be as happy as if I had chosen a White girl. Quite a large faction of my ‘modern Indian family’ will be scandalized.

It would have been the same thing had I suddenly decided to go gay. My parents would have been supportive, I’m sure, but I’m certain my grandmother would have gone into depression.”

“Well, that’s not right either,” he pointed out. “That’s pretty racist and petty of them.”

“My point is,” I said, glancing at him to shut him up, “that their views don’t mean jack to me. I can go against my family’s views and not care that they’ll stop loving me. I think it’s pretty clear that Eich might have, at one point, been against gay marriage, the same way I am academically, but that hardly means that he’s going to order all the members of the LGBT community to GTFO or STFU. In fact, I doubt he would honestly care what you do in the confines of your house, or even if you bring your partner to work for some reason.”

“But imagine this,” he argued. “Your employer is working actively to make sure that you never get to marry a chick from another country. Would you still work with him?”

“But is Eich actively doing that?” I shot back. “He donated $1000 once to prop 8. If my employer had once donated to some cause I hate, short of a terror outfit, of course, I wouldn’t really care. I mean, yeah, I work for you, and we have different views on something. That’s it. End of story. We smile and move on. That’s what a professional should be like.”

“Except that you probably don’t have issues that hit so close to home,” he pointed out. “He’s not violating a fundamental right of yours.”

“He’s not violating one of yours either,” I countered. “His supported view is not enforced any more, and you’re hounding him for a donation he made to a cause which was supported by the majority at that time. It makes little sense.”

“I don’t feel comfortable working with someone who hates people like me. I don’t feel comfortable knowing that he has it in him to fund something which tries to take away from me something which makes me happy.”

“What? The right to be with your partner? No one’s doing that to you. You can’t marry him, but you’re free as ever to walk out into the sunset holding hands. No one can legally stop you.”

He threw up his hands. “You’re impossible.”

“No,” I replied smugly, “My point of view is different from yours. I’m speaking as the devil’s advocate here regarding LGBT rights. Of course you should have them. But even if your employer decides that he or she personally does not share your views, you should not let your professionalism suffer for it.”

“Also,” I continued after a short pause, “Movements like Feminism and even LGBT Rights tend to irritate me. They make a lot of noise. Yes. I agree that you need your rights. Yes, I know that you’re fighting for them. But why do you have to emphasize it all the time?”

“Because every waking second for us is a struggle,” he said softly. “We’re denied things you heterosexual men take for granted. Freedom to choose who you want.”

“Then get into the government and change things,” I pointed out. “Rallies and excessive noise, like feminism, actually creates animosity.”

“That’s how we make people understand, that’s how we force them to look at the issue.”

“And for someone like me who’s actually looked at it, it’s annoying. I sympathise with your plight. That doesn’t mean I’m going to lift a finger to help you.”

“Evil is propagated when good men decide to do nothing. Don’t be one of those men.”

I took a deep breath and let it out. “I’m not going to be an obstacle to someone who’s doing something about it. I’m not going to be someone who doesn’t support people working on this. But don’t expect me to take the initiative. It’s not my fight.

When LGBT decides to add polygamy to it, call me. I’ll be protesting right up there with the best of you.”

India’s bane: HDI

The partition clashes, anti-Sikh riots, the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits, the Babri Masjid demolition, the Godhra riots. We can add one more incident to these now. The Muzaffarnagar riots.

Riots in India | Courtesy Aamchi Mumbai
Riots in India | Courtesy Aamchi Mumbai

This report from the Independent tells us that the riots being talked about were the result of a very trivial matter (relatively speaking, of course), namely, eve-teasing. However, when a Muslim youth was stabbed to death for allegedly teasing a Hindu girl, things started getting out of hand. Retaliatory strikes from the youth’s family led to the deaths of two Hindu men.

A group of farmers got together to demand justice from those killed. However, inflammatory speeches made by a few politicians coupled with a video made a couple of years ago in Pakistan showing two men being hanged led to heightened tempers and extreme tension. The result? An open clash between Hindus and Muslims leading to around 28 people dead and scores injured, some critically.

Heads have already begun rolling in the police department with top officials being transferred in the aftermath of such brutal violence. The DIG of Saharanpur, the SSP of Muzaffarnagar and the SP of Shamli were the first officials to be transferred.

Of course, just like any other similar incident in India, political capital has already started to be minted from these riots. With the Indian National Congress claiming that the SP and BJP were behind these clashes, the cat and mouse game of vote-bank politics has started.

This cycle of communal violence is perpetual in India, it seems. The rest of the developing world has moved on beyond petty violence and killings. Why do we stay grounded firmly in the past? Why must we always harken back to the days of old when religion was everything and might was right?

To resort to a very cliched point, there are two Indias. One of them is the face we wish to present to the world. The face of a rising India, one which can stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of the United States, China, Germany etc. This India seeks to trumpet its GDP, imported goods, high standards of living and extreme math skills. It is haughty and proud of its achievements. It bristles whenever the west lauds movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” and tells everyone that India is more than a land of snake charmers and poverty. It wishes to see India catapulted into the ranks of the “Greatest countries of the World”. Elitism rules this part of the population and they privately deride any comparison with other emerging economies, especially China.

The other India is the one most Indians are familiar with. The land of rickshaw-pullers, paan chewers and farmers. The land where the only thing that shines is ignorance and religion is a way of life, not just an abstract ideal. The effects of globalization have not truly affected these people. They haven’t heard of Hugo Boss, Apple or Microsoft. And they have no wish to hear about them either. All they wish to know is where their ticket to a better life awaits.

The idea of India doesn’t hold much value for the second group. When you worry about your next meal everyday, patriotism isn’t the first thing to strike your head. Hell, even education is the last thing on your mind when your own stomach is empty and you have five crying kids to feed. The only group bigger than the individual and family these people care about is the group they can fall back on in times of crisis, i.e. their community. And so whenever someone does something against their community, they respond fiercely, vehemently and often violently. And seeing that most people in India are of this mould, there’s a high chance that flying sparks will kindle their anger and lead to killings.

HDI map for 2013 | Courtesy Wikipedia
HDI map for 2013 (the deeper the blue, the better the index) | Courtesy Wikipedia

With a Human Development Index close to Bangladesh (which is rapidly catching up) and (in some states) equal to many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the India its elite want to hide will never progress beyond where it is. Giving free food, strengthening rape laws, banning politicians from giving hate-speeches and trying for schemes like NREGA only alleviates the symptoms, it does nothing about the real problem, the HDI itself. If it does not increase substantially in the next few years, the Indian story will remain bloody, anarchic and communal for a long time to come.

Dear India; A Lesson in Humility. Sincerely, God

There’s just one way to describe what north India is going through right now. It’s going through a natural calamity. When you have entire hills sliding down on unsuspecting people, a death toll of one thousand and counting with the army spearheading rescue efforts, you know that merely calling it a “disaster” isn’t enough. It’s a calamity.

Photo courtesy AP
A drowning statue of Lord Shiva – Photo courtesy AP

The myth of “India Rising”

One of the greatest myths pervading the collective consciousness of the West is that of a rising India. With a great investment climate, companies the likes of Tata and Infosys and a cheap pool of workers to recruit from, India was given the same status of a rising power that China has been, albeit very briefly. But in that brief period of glory, China and India would be spoken of in the same breath and the rise of a multi-polar world with both China and India being important powers would be taken for granted.

That bubble burst for the rest of the world pretty soon, what with the slowdown of the Global Economy, revelations of endemic corruption in the Indian Government, a gazillion rape cases and the lack of infrastructure coming into light. But the Indian media did not relent from their hopelessly optimistic rhetoric. For them, India was still the poster child of ancient powers coming to reclaim their rightful place in the world hierarchy and a paragon of the free world with its status as the world’s largest democracy.

The wrath of the Gods

Uttarakhand is probably a flash of reality for those with their heads in the clouds. For those of you who want more detail, these photos should give you a bird’s eye view of North India.

India And Nepal, May 30:  NASA Earth Observatory
India And Nepal, May 30: NASA Earth Observatory
India's Flooding, June 21 NASA Earth Observatory
India’s Flooding, June 21 NASA Earth Observatory

As you can very well see, India’s rivers have swollen and spilled. It’s not exactly very common for this to have happened. However, when we look at all the damage that has come about from this, it’s heartbreaking to see the delusions of an aspiring power impact its people so much.

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Of course, India’s leaders are still doing what they do best. Squabbling over who gets to help in order to mine every bit of political capital out of this. Pathetic, really. There are some things which are sacred. They cross party lines, language borders, everything. But not in India. In India, everything is fair and people’s lives are cheap. After all, with a birth rate like ours, a few deaths don’t mean squat, right?

The lifting of the veil

It’s time we learned from what we’ve done wrong and corrected ourselves. This is simply the latest in a long line of incidents causing India’s credibility to erode. The massive power cuts a year back, the rolling brownouts and blackouts affecting industries near and far, political leaders far too involved in squabbling and building personal wealth and a middle class which has just begun to understand the limits of its power, all of them combine to point in one direction. India is not ready to take centre stage now. Hell, if everything continues to be the way it is, it won’t be in the next hundred years!

The Uttarakhand floods reveal another thing about the country. Complacence. There is no drive in the government to improve. The government does not seem to be built for serving the people. Rather, it seems to delight in lining its own pockets. Shoddy engineering work tells us that standards which should have been adhered to were ignored in order to make some money off land deals. The result? Mother nature’s fury wiped the veil of attractiveness around India and revealed a country hardly capable of being heir to the fair Mughal Empire.

Protesting against politics

This article (Global protest grows as citizens lose faith in politics and the state – The Guardian) came out a couple of days ago, and not really having time, I archived it. The article talks about a very peculiar thing about the twenty first century. Protests.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that protests are hardly new to this world. Protests have ranged from being irritants to toppling the Bourbon regime in pre-revolution France. However, one thing is for sure. Today’s protests are different from the ones seen earlier. The video below should be a good indicator of the breadth and scale of these protests.

A change in what people are protesting for

Earlier, when people would protest against something, it would be:

  • Against harsh economic conditions
  • Against a ruler waging too much war

Now do remember, I’m talking about common people revolting against the state, not nobles plotting intrigue and planning to overthrow kings. This means that in the days gone by, people generally protested when things got too tough for them. Compare that to today’s protests.

The Storming of the Bastille, by Jean-Pierre Houël
The Storming of the Bastille, by Jean-Pierre Houël

The occupy movement wasn’t exactly a movement against harsh economic conditions. For those of you who will argue with me on this, I will agree that the movement would not have happened without the crash of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. However, the crowd wasn’t protesting against the harsh economic conditions of the day, rather, it was protesting the actions of the government in solving the crisis. Note the distinction. In other words, the people were protesting against government policies and were doing so knowingly. Their aim was not to change the government or its leader, all they wanted to do was to ensure the government changes its policies.

A poster of the Occupy Wall Street Movement - creator: Lalo Alcaraz
A poster of the Occupy Wall Street Movement – creator: Lalo Alcaraz

Another form of protest, albeit a much more controversial form, is the type done by the group Anonymous. Hidden in the shadows and striking out against targets they believe have committed great wrong to a particular community is their modus operandi. In a way, they may be likened to Robin Hood, who would only prey upon the rich to give tot he weak. Anonymous claims to do the same thing, but instead of dealing in money, they deal in control. Anonymous is a group which tries to prove that the control their targets believe they exercise over a particular set of data is not as absolute as they like to think. While condemned by governments and gaining a mixed response from the online community, they nonetheless have managed to enter the collective psyche and have become something akin to a symbol.

Knowledge is free. We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

And finally, another form of protest we can talk about are the protests against rape in Delhi. These protests aren’t against widespread problems (in the same sense of the word as economic problems are). While chronic rapes in the Indian capital are a cause for worry, they are hardly a cause of fear for the majority. In older days, people would have looked away and not bothered, knowing that it wasn’t their own problem. However, the situation has been turned on its head today, what with widespread education, mass media and the Internet having created a collective conscience and the ability to draw upon it.

Delhi Rape protests
Delhi Rape protests

 

But against whom are we protesting?

In older days, rulers would govern in the absence of fast and free-flowing information. Information would travel as fast as a horse, which, admittedly, is hardly quick. However, to use an old cliche, today, information travels at the speed of light. In older days, rulers would change and bend slowly, knowing that the effects of these new laws would spread slowly and unevenly. However, with both the rapid spread of information and fast-changing markets, governments have sadly become bottlenecks instead of enablers.

Government procedures are designed to be foolproof and safe in order to make sure that ineffective policies do not get drafted. People specialized in lawmaking sit down and make laws based on existing policies. For years, it was thought that public involvement in lawmaking should be limited to choosing their representatives and nothing else. For an interval, this approach was absolutely correct, seeing that very few people had basic education and the knowledge to make a difference at that level.

However, fast forward to the present. Education is slowly, but surely becoming the norm. With the advent of mobile phones and fast wireless internet, a large number of people can be kept in the know in real-time. People debate and discuss things on online forums, numerous polls are conducted daily for random questions, information is disseminated rapidly and feedback is collected even more quickly. People propose change in isolated forums and get petitions signed in order to see their proposals reach the light of the day.

And the government? Let’s just say it’s stuck in the stone age.

People are protesting this lack of malleability. They are protesting current governments’ lack of ability in adapting to new situations. They are protesting against the glacial speed of lawmaking. And most of all, they are protesting against not being included in the proceedings.

Governments of the world, wake up. We’ve let you know what we want. The ball is in your court now.

Why do we lag behind?

I got to see this article just yesterday. What with the IIT results coming out and everything, a few friends of mine wanted some advice about where to go and everything of that sort. While I could easily tell them to come to BITS Pilani, I got curious about just what the world thinks about Indian colleges. I got to an article on the Times Higher Education about Indian universities (courtesy Shankar Venkatraman).

Top ten Indian Colleges
List of top ten Indian colleges – courtesy Times Higher Education

The list comes from the article I linked to in the very beginning of this post. Seems kind of shocking, no? IISc Bangalore gaining such a high rank out there in the world? Well, I guess it is time we recognized the importance of basic science not just in paving the way for applied sciences, but rather in character building as well.

This small piece aside, however, the issue to discuss and think about is not about IISc Bangalore surging ahead of IIT Bombay in rankings. It’s more about the fact that India’s best institute is ranked 130th in the world.

One Hundred and Thirtieth. Not even in the top one hundred. IIT Bombay ranks an even bleaker 192nd place. And after that, India doesn’t even come into the picture. We want to become a world power, and yet we don’t have the quality needed to get there.

I guess many people have talked about introspection and the need for reform. With a man like Kapil Sibal in charge of the modernization of our entrance exams and admission structure, I guess we have introduced reform into our system.

A different kind of reform

We hardly need to change the pattern of our entrance exams, as I see it. While the American system has been considered epic for a while, I’ve read some research (a long while ago) that if you divorce education from its rigor and rote learning, you produce students of the liberal arts. While I’m sure Liberal Arts’ majors are awesome, an emerging power may not exactly want all its students to go in that direction.

A professor teaching a class in BPHC
A high tech classroom does not make a great learning experience. It’s the professor that counts – Photo courtesy the Department of Photography at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad Campus

No. The reform I’m talking about comes in the professors who are teaching us. I, of course, have the experience of just one college. But being a campus of BITS Pilani, I’m sure that if I feel this way about my professors, people from other colleges aren’t too far behind. The professors need to understand two things:

  1. No one respects you until you aren’t good in your own subject and aren’t actively doing work in it. You might point out the various papers you’ve published, but until and unless we see you working on yet another, most of us aren’t likely to respect you.
  2. Learn how to communicate. University students aren’t kindergartners. We care about how you talk to us. We like being talked to as adults and being taught without taunts, heavy accents or boring monotonous droning voices.
  3. Please, please try to understand that dry, boring lectures do not appeal to us. We want demonstrations which make sense and look interesting. We want to know exactly how the things you’re teaching us will help us become good engineers/scientists etc. Involve us and make us feel as if we’re actually being taught something instead of being lectured.
  4. While I appreciate the need for numerical problems, please do not let them define your exams. You see, there are these things called computers which exist today. They run some other things called programs which can calculate upon being given a formula. They kind of seem to make a great deal of difference while calculating, you see.
  5. Please, please let us in on some cutting-edge research you guys are doing? (If at all?)

Am I being arrogant? Maybe. Is it for a good cause? Definitely! Please, do take my criticism the way it is meant. Constructively. I understand that many of you are great people who have done wondrous things in your life. All I ask is that you please try to actually act the part.

A Diseased Society: Looking Within

Sometimes, it’s worth thinking about the times someone reflects your deeds back at you. I think that you’ve guessed that I’m talking about the Delhi Rape Case. And you’ll be wondering. Another commentator mouthing off about that? Not again!

Well, I’ve written about something similar once before. As I read that post again and reflect on what I was thinking at that time, I realise that not much has changed in my head. I still feel disgusted. I still think that this country has become a cesspool of idiots who have no idea what civilization truly means. I still believe that many Indians are simply not willing to learn about modern civilization and the few rules it absolutely requires them to bind themselves by.

But when I say that not much has changed, I must concede that there is some portion of this society which has understood the malaise gripping the unconcerned majority. The many protests in metro cities and the rippling anger of youth do point to some form of awakening. Though I know not whether these are the thrashes of a dragon mumbling in its sleep or the rumblings of one just woken up, I am hoping for the latter.

There are problems with directing this anger, though. Many people occupy themselves by demanding more stringent laws, asking for a better police force, blaming men and countless other such things. While I do agree that these are problems, I think that they point to a deeper problem than the one we’re admitting to ourselves. Or maybe we do know it, but choose to turn a blind eye towards it, seeing that it’s the easiest thing to do.

Somehow, Dumbledore’s words come to mind. Something about dealing with what’s right, and what’s easy. Ironic that I look to an Englishwoman for the right words here.

Our society has traditionally been a patriarchal one. Boys are given more preference than girls in almost every way. Sometimes even in ways we cannot ourselves control because of their instinctive nature. It all starts with the parents who expect their girl to be a demure, shy damsel who lowers her eyes while talking to anyone. She is taught to be submissive and timid from a very young age. She’s expected to help her mother in the kitchen, be a responsible young lady and smile modestly when addressed, saying little.

In contrast, boys are generally allowed, almost encouraged, to be rowdy and aggressive. A few fights here and there are considered “making one’s bones” in several parts of the country. A rude boy is oft-considered a wily rascal by his fond parents, but a rude girl is a shame. Boys are allowed to have unlimited tantrums and demands, but very few girls are given that privilege. There are many families with educated fathers who would prefer that their own girl be educated till the bare minimum, namely till the point where she can help her son in school during his formative years. Tenth grade. Twelfth, if she’s lucky.

And even for those who do go to school, gender equality is not really taught in our schools, is it? I mean, yes, boys are told that girls are equal to them, but how is it really enforced? In school, a teacher drills “not-spitting” into a child. She drills the necessity not to litter as well. She teaches them patriotism and polite behaviour. But teaching them about the equality of girls and boys, about the crimes boys commit against girls and the horrible trauma as a result is taboo in our society. It’s generally mentioned brusquely and then forgotten. In some cases, forever.

And look where that brings us. Indifferent parents, indifferent teachers and an indifferent society. There’s a very good reason India’s ranked one of the worst places to be born a girl in. Not only are you unsafe inside the womb (gender-specific abortion), but completely vulnerable outside too. There are girls well below the age of consent who are being felt up, fondled or worse while I’m writing this. And the sad bit is, most of the people who’re doing this are are friends and family of the parents. When the parents get to know about what’s happening, they mostly tell the girl to be quiet and try to limit her exposure to the man. This leads to a mindset. A very ugly mindset. It tells the girl that whatever happens, once she gets violated, there’s no one to help her. There’s no one to hold her hand and tell her that everything’s about to be OK, that nothing will be able to hurt her any more, that her parents and society will work together and do everything to make sure that the person involved knows just how wrong he is. Instead, a subconscious notion of being helpless fills the girl.

Of course, there are other things which make this very difficult as well. Uncooperative police, a painfully slow judiciary and an unsympathetic or rather, a non-existent social support system. But I believe that these are simply the symptoms of a diseased society. In fact, when I was discussing the abnormal number of rape cases in India with a friend, her response to me was, “Well, Look at our population. Don’t you think we’d have a correspondingly larger number of rapes as well?” It’s probably harder to deal with all those cases, or so she thought.

Well, I’m not comfortable thinking along those lines. I honestly believe that when it comes to things like rapes, every society should have zero tolerance. I mean, many crimes have extenuating circumstances which allow you to legally commit them, and no, I’m not talking about theft. More like murders. You can get away with killing someone for self-defense, if your lawyer can prove you really were in danger. However, there’s no such circumstance for rape. There’s no excuse for violating someone in such a horrifying way and staining her soul for life.

So for all those who advocate equating rape with murder in our laws, consider this, while murder does away with a person’s life and causes immeasurable grief to said person’s family, rape destroys a girl’s life without killing her, condemning her and hers to a life of eternal shame. How can they even be compared?

And a small message to those who persist on calling for more stringent laws, stronger police and other such things, please, people, start with yourself. It starts very innocently. The planting of such an idea is so subtle, it almost seems as if it was Leonardo Di Caprio’s work from Inception. Maybe a sudden liking for Yo Yo Honey Singh, maybe a liking for violent porn. That’s how it grows, you know. It may never go beyond that, and for many, it doesn’t. But there’s always a chance that it will. And it’s best to watch out.

The end of yet another year

2012 ends. The end of yet another year. And first and foremost, I must make the year resolution about the subject I feel the most guilty about. The neglect of this blog. I need to update more often. Not simply because I should, but also because I need to shake off my laziness. Maybe, just maybe announcing this to the world will make me a more punctual blogger.

Now that I have that off my chest, on to the meat of the matter! 2012 has been a glorious year, a wonderful year, a mixed year, really. Not just for me, but also for a good section of the world. While individuals might suffer across the world, the societies which house them have steadily begun maturing, all the way from the newly democratised Egypt to the normalising Japanese society. Closer home in India, Narendra Modi has won another term in office and looks all set to continue the growth trajectory of Gujrat while the UPA government at the centre is trying to make changes to some parts of the law which urgently need changing. Maybe it’s not doing enough, but that’s hardly for me to say.

India’s civil society has also had a wakeup call in the form of the Delhi Gang Rape case. While the evolution of civil society has been long in the making, it’s high time that the country find its conscience and moral compass and orient both in the right direction. Change is what’s being desired, and change is what is seeping in through the pores and cracks the political establishment has failed to seal properly. It’s up to the people to ensure that the change remains positive.

However, not all has been roses. In fact, I’d say that the most prosperous sections of the word are still undergoing corrections in their paths. The first one which comes to mind is the US. At the time of this writing, United States senators and representatives are still hammering out a deal which will allow them to avoid the fiscal cliff which now looms large in front of them. Without such a deal, there will be automatic spending cuts across the board and many other effects I have no clue about. The long and short of it is that if the US does not orient its policy correctly, the world economy might suffer a catastrophic downturn.

Any mention of the world economy, of course, brings to mind the ongoing EU crisis. With the very idea of the EU threatened by the current economic slowdown, many pundits talk about too much being done too soon with regards to the EU. Of course, you also have people talking about too little being done. There’s no real consensus on what can be done, and that gives the impression that no one really knows what to do. Which, as it turns out, is pretty true. You have people whose guesses are far more educated than the rest of us, but at the end of the day, that’s all they are. Educated guesses.

With the Libor scandal and its associated outcomes, the following year doesn’t look good for the reputation of banks either. They’ll need something utterly magical if the world’s confidence in the financial sector is to be restored.

The two regions in the world most poised for conflict will have a difficult year in front of them. The Middle East and the Far East are experiencing posturing among countries, some of which is making old regional tensions flare up. China and Japan will be worth watching. With Noda out and Abe in, Japanese policy is expected to take a turn towards the right. Ishihara could also become a player in the near future. China will be watching these developments with a hawkish gaze, keeping a wary eye out for any normalcy in Japan’s military. WWII might have ended sixty seven years ago, but Japan’s (supposed) military prowess is still feared throughout the region. What with the antagonistic relationship Japan had with every country in the region in the Second World War, Japan-India ties are predicted to become stronger. While India is hardly in the same league as China, it is seen as a potential counter-weight to the emerging regional super-power.

The Middle East, on the other hand, manages to defy every prediction ever made about it. No one could have predicted the Arab Spring when it happened, and its consequences managed to change the geopolitics of the entire region. Israel is about to have its polls, and these will be one of the only polls in the country’s history without an Israeli presidential candidate boasting of his close ties to the American establishment. The Palestinian Authority has the status of an observer in the UN, and it may go to the ICC charging Israel with war crimes or something similar. Syria is in a state of turmoil right now, and no one has any idea what might happen there. However, one can predict with reasonable accuracy that Assad’s days in office are numbered, and once the Russians begin seeing eye-to-eye with everyone else, which should not take the whole of next year, hopefully, there will be no corner for him to back into. Turkey’s internal status is also one which will be looked at very closely. Erdogan’s policy of making the secular state more and more autocratic and Islamic seems to be taking Turkey away from the moral high ground it has enjoyed so far, and it is very likely that Turkey will continue down the path it has taken in the next year as well. About Iran, well, the less said the better. With the regime feeling the pinch of sanctions deeply, there is every possibility that Iran will be led to the negotiating table kicking and screaming, whether it likes it or not. However, a lot depends on whether its nuclear program manages to go far enough to make others quake in their boots or not.

Finally, coming to India. My own country has quite a hill to climb. Forget battling poverty and illiteracy. It’s time to look beyond education, government and infrastructure. As the Delhi Rape Case shows, it’s time for the country to do some soul searching and finally discover itself. The next year should be marked by a middle class waking up to find itself, the youth understanding that rebelliousness is not just being belligerent on the streets, but actually doing something about it and women demanding the empowerment consciously being denied to them. The next year should be a year of change, a year of revolution, a year of a country cutting itself and discovering the colour of its blood.