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Do we need a celebrity to help us debate social causes? Or are programs like Satyameva Jayate only meant to increase TRPs?
Those who have read ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ by P Sainath will know that I have tweaked the name of his wonderful book just a little (the book is a must for every activist, especially of the armchair variety- it will give them a lot to think about).
I thought of this book when I saw that some readers of my earlier post ‘Amartya Sen To Aamir Khan’ had lambasted me for criticizing Satyamev Jayate (specifically the episode on female feticide/infanticide), or SMJ as it seems to be called these days. Reader Coomi B Singh asked me, “Why are we always so ready to criticize?”
That exactly is my point. Why are we always so ready to preach, pontificate, and point fingers? It does become easy to do all these things from a pedestal, more so if the preacher is being paid crores to make the right noises, and to shed a crocodile tear or two. I remember Aamir Khan had made a short-lived appearance in support of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, and had made a hasty exit as well, with the Supreme Court of India taking the Narmada Bachao Andolan Committee (NBAC) to task for being irresponsible on various counts.
It was on April 14, 2006, that Mr. Khan participated in the demonstrations put up by the Narmada Bachao Andolan Committee. He had then said, “As a concerned Indian citizen, I have come here to lend my support to these poor Adivasis who will lose their land and will be displaced from their homes if the height of the dam is raised”. Wags in the Gujarat bureaucracy tell me that the logistics of dam-building, rehabilitation, and the whole issue of nature vs. development had completely escaped Mr. Khan, and that he was there simply to reassert his image as an ‘evolved’ actor, without realizing the realities of life outside air-conditioning. And I agree with the wags; Mr. Khan has not been seen near the Narmada or the NBAC ever since.
I have nothing against Mr. Khan; I have everything against people (Mr. Khan included) making money by trampling over the misfortune of others, or by raising issues from a pedestal and converting them into TRPs.
Some readers of my earlier post told me that Mr. Khan’s raising of the issue of female feticide/infanticide (and later, the issues of dowry, etc) has generated a much needed debate. My only question here is why we need to debate crimes that have been rampant for centuries; the perpetrators should be identified and punished swiftly and severely. And why do we need well-heeled celebrities to tell us to debate on what happens in our own backyards?
Well, some other readers tried to tell me that maybe educated, aware people like us do not need Mr. Khan’s SMJ, but it does help to reach out to the illiterate and the rural people. I object here as well- it is ever so easy to deflect the unpleasant towards the poor, the illiterate and those who live in villages. Rinzu Rajan had rightly pointed out in her comment that the worst culprits are the urban middle class and the urban rich, or why should the sex-ratios be among the worst in some of the richest parts of big cities?
Mr. Khan or no Mr. Khan, we all are guilty of silence, of looking the other way and of being in denial. Those who need celebrity crutches to be able to debate are welcome to them; but let the media houses not use these crutches to walk over the dead bodies of unborn and little girls, brides who have been burnt and other victims of mindless violence just for TRPs.
“We act as if the hatred directed at women is something that can be dealt with by a stern talking to, as if the misogyny embedded in our culture is an unruly child rather than systematic oppression.” (From an article by Jessica Valenti in the Washington Post, February 21, 2010)
I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management and good governance. I am also the proud father of two lovely daughters. read more...
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Rajshri Deshpande, who played the fiery protagonist in Trial by Fire along with Abhay Deol speaks of her journey and her social work.
Rajshri Deshpande as the protagonist in ‘Trial by Fire’, the recent Netflix show has received raving reviews along with the show itself for its sensitive portrayal of the Uphaar Cinema Hall fire tragedy, 1997 and its aftermath.
The limited series is based on the book by the same name written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who lost both their children in the tragedy. We got an opportunity to interview Rajshri Deshpande who played Neelam Krishnamoorthy, the woman who has been relentlessly crusading in the court for holding the owners responsible for the sheer negligence.
Rajshri Deshpande is more than an actor. She is also a social warrior, the rare celebrity from the film industry who has also gone back to her roots to give to poverty struck farming villages in her native Marathwada, with her NGO Nabhangan Foundation. Of course a chance to speak with her one on one was a must!
“What is a woman’s job, Ramesh? Taking care of parents-in-law, husband, children, home and things at work—all at the same time? She isn’t God or a superhuman."
The arrays of workstations were occupied by people peering into their computer screens. The clicks of keyboard keys were punctuated by the occasional footsteps moving around to brainstorm or collaborate with colleagues in their cubicles. Most employees went about their tasks without looking at the person seated on either side of their workstation. Meenakshi was one of them.
The thirty-one-year-old marketing manager in a leading eCommerce company in India sat straight in her seat, her eyes on the screen, her fingers punching furiously into the keys. She was in a flow and wanted to finish the report while the thoughts and words were coming effortlessly into her mind.
Natu-Natu. The mellifluous ringtone interrupted her thoughts. She frowned at her mobile phone with half a mind to keep it ringing until she noticed the caller’s name on the screen, making her pick up the phone immediately.
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