A Request

Hello reader.

This is the first such post on this blog, that I’m doing, in the 4 years that this blog has been on the web. First, let me set the premise.

Sneha Sadan is a boys orphanage in the city of Bangalore, India that houses over 30 school-going children, who are either orphaned or abandoned by their parents. The orphanage, from a visit I was fortunate to be a part of, seems to be a rather healthy place with enough emotional and material strength in it to ensure a proper upbringing for these kids. However, there is a lack of certain amenities the orphanage could do with. Among these are very basic things like first aid kits, mattresses and shoes/chappals for the children.

I’d like to make a very simple request here and invite donations to Sneha Sadan. If you can directly get in touch with them, the contact details are on the website. But if you would like to make a donation without doing that, I would encourage you to email me – jaymaniyar [at] gmail [dot] com. This way, I can personally discuss and share bank account numbers and other details. In case, you’d like me to contact you, please leave your email address in the comment below. A point of note here is that I invite donations starting from a minimum basic amount of Rs. 200. Of course, higher nominations would be more than welcome.

In general, any substantial donation or personal involvement in any form is invited. India is home to over 257 lakh orphaned children (Source: Wikipedia). It is, hence, worth imagining (and bewildering) just how many kids in this country go to sleep at night without that person(s) sitting by his/her bed with one hand caressing the little head or sing them a song like this one.

Thank you.

[Photo Credit: The PicSnapr]


13/7–A Perspective

A few thoughts, following yet another terrorist attack on the city of Bombay.

1) An Indian reaction is overdue. It doesn’t matter if it has been 30 months or 10 years since we were struck by terror strikes. But it is high time India’s leaders understand that the buck really stops here. Two decades of suffering and loss of innocent lives cannot be put away under the carpet without a reaction that raises our dispirited levels, which are currently at an all-time low. The cycle of terror is currently unstoppable and we are all sitting ducks, waiting for that bomb to go off.

2) Yes, there has been improvement in India’s immediate reaction to attacks. The Home Minister was wise enough to not speculate which terrorist group was behind the blasts that killed 17 and injured over a hundred others. This helps avoid alerting the actual group that may be responsible for these vicious attacks. As of now, no group seems to have claimed responsibility and this blogger will also refrain from speculating who might be responsible.

3) News channels and newspapers have disappointed in their scramble for rating points, with gory images doing the rounds in both of these mediums. With the odd exception, most media sources crossed lines and it is unlikely they will ever learn when to respect the dead. Especially, given the way in which these lives have been lost.

4) While we await an official Indian reaction, it is distressing to note that the government admitted to having absolutely no intelligence prior to these attacks. One would expect that given the scale of the attacks in Mumbai less than three years back, India’s intelligence services would have learnt the lessons of failure and improved drastically. Instead, we were treated to question-mark faces. And these are the faces that are supposed to answer our questions in the first place.

5) Twitter, significantly more than Facebook or any other  form of social media, played a heart-warming role in circulating information, aiding the search for missing people and in general, spreading awareness. The idea of creating a spreadsheet listing down all the people capable of delivering help of several kinds stood out. Obviously, Twitter is incapable of helping actual on-ground operations, but it’s importance cannot be understated given how spreading information during a crisis is absolutely desirable. The occasional misleading/erroneous information aside, most of it is generally intended to be useful. I am not sure or qualified to comment if it helped emergency response systems on the ground, if there were any at all.

6) At this point, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader Narendra Modi have stressed the importance of unity. In my opinion, this misleads us. People are not empowered to do much, apart from the usual outrage and creation/circulation of public opinion. It is the leaders at the top who are supposed to make critical decisions that is supposed to justify why they were elected to be there in the first place. A mere statement like “India will not tolerate this” never saved our souls. Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has proved himself to be a top-notch humbug of a leader by claiming that the UPA has thwarted 99% of terror attacks, but 1% of attacks do get through. On what mathematical basis he has managed to come to this conclusion is sense-defying, and makes you want to pull your hair out. This is all the more worrying because this man is almost certain to take up India’s top job, come 2014.

In essence, it is disappointing, depressing and bewildering that yet another terror attack has managed to shackle up the Indian mainland and caused the loss of yet more innocent lives. It was supposed to be a perfectly normal day, with people going about their usual routines.

And suddenly, there came deafening sounds and blinding lights. And some blood.

Get Out Of That Vicious Circle

Following yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle in the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government, Twitter and other social networks witnessed one more of those innumerable jokesplosions. The stand out attempt at humor seemed to be ‘Why a reshuffle? They are all jokers in the pack, anyway’. Hmmm. Funny. So what’s wrong?

There’s an extremely serious underlying matter that goes unnoticed.

Freedom of speech and fun not withstanding, the spectre of political apathy runs deep in Indian civil society. Following any important/unimportant political event, it jumps out and makes it’s presence felt. This is not a defence of our politicians, who have much to do and make up for. But right there, it’s worth understanding that it’s the politicians, and nobody else, who have much to do. Hence, stemming political apathy and awakening political interest is necessary. Because politics matters. Dirty, ugly, whatever. It matters.

People, in a democracy, elect their representatives who must serve them. It doesn’t matter what you personally perceive of the person in power, but he/she holds a position that is of consequence to you. Mind you, political apathy could actually be one of the root causes behind terrorism or unemployment. Or any other malaise affecting Indian society. These very people elected to the top are meant to serve a purpose. And if the people in the republic sit back and never empathize, it offers no incentives whatsoever to the duty-bound. Not that it depends on incentives. But, still. So do that. Demand service and development in return for electing them to where they are.

Or else, we are all jokers in the pack anyway.

Losing The Plot

You thought it was a Baba Ramdev special. But err, no.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who once famously suggested we Indians watch TV instead of having sex at night in our innovative one-of-its-kind solution to our population ‘problem’, has said that homosexuality is a ‘Western disease’ and needs to be ‘cured’. Apparently, it’s not Indian. It’s also unnatural. The difference between Azad and Ramdev is that Azad is a direct representative of the Indian people and his views do a lot more damage than Arrow Baba incessantly repeating his medico-spiritual blah-blah on what homosexuality is or isn’t.

The statements have, as expected, received coverage in the foreign press. This does us no good and re-inforces India’s binding with archaic and uber-conservative medieval-era beliefs. The Health Minister seems bereft of rational advice and random sprouting of such public statements is what has actually helped create the Congress of today. This cannot be expected of a leader of a ministry so critical to the widespread acceptance of homosexuality in India.

Sadly, public statements in India are hardly ever well-thought out or researched. The power levied on to a person tends to create a misunderstanding in the mind that thinking can end, simply because the authority is that person himself. If such ignorance becomes commonplace, then India’s leaders are likely to match the views of non-thinking commoners or even groups that drive any agenda. Especially, the anti-gay ones. What one needs at this point in time is caution.

And add tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality to the mix, too.