How corruption killed Mahi

There was a little girl named Mahi. It was just any other day in her life until she went outside to play and fell in an illegally dug borewell, fell 70-feet deep to her death. People think it is the borewell and the fall that killed Mahi. Actually it was a monster with a thousand heads who murdered her. That monster has its tentacles spread all over the place and is eating away the roots of the Indian society. That monster is called ‘Corruption’ and it is Corruption that killed Mahi.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. I remember at least 2 other similar incidents that became national headlines at different times. Two other kids who fell in borewells and remained stuck there for days. Army was called for rescue, tunnels were dug to reach the children and news channels ran live telecasts of the rescue operations. One of those kids was rescued, I do not remember what was the fate of the other.

Whenever something like this happens, people are shaken by the tragedy. They talk about it for a while – in newspapers, on TV talk shows, and then they forget. We the people are very forgetful you see, but then it’s not really our fault. New issues come up, we forget about the old ones and start talking about the new. We like talking a lot, mostly talking, no doing. Take for instance Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade. People went crazy for a while, going gaga over Anna, holding debates on social media platforms, even changing their profile pictures to support Anna. And then what happened?

All of these people who “supported” Anna, I want to now go back and ask them. What change did they make in their own lives to make sure they do not feed the Corruption monster? Do they refuse to bribe the traffic policeman to avoid getting a challan (ticket) when stopped for breaking a rule on the road? Are they bold enough to not pay any money to the police walla who comes for their verification so that they can get a new passport, and bear the consequences? Did we suddenly stop building encroachments on our properties thinking we will be fine if we throw someone some money to keep their mouth shut?

I doubt if any of these happened. These small acts of corruption may sound harmless – who cares if you can get something done quickly by shelling some money – look at the example we are setting for the future generations. We are basically telling them that 1) it is okay to break the law as long as 2) you can bribe someone to let you get away with it. Just yesterday, I was watching the movie “Ferrari ki Sawari” (a ride on the Ferrari). It’s the story of an honest man who is compelled by circumstances to do something wrong to get the money he badly needs. There was one particular scene in which the guy and his son are riding on his scooter and he accidentally jumps the red traffic light. There was no traffic police in sight to stop them, so this person went to the nearest control room and offered to pay the fine. When the cop on duty asked him why had he come to pay the fine when no one was even watching him, he said – “There was someone watching me. My son.”.

Granted movies are a little over the top, but even in real life, we mock people who are honest and actually punish them instead of appreciating and rewarding them. I know that because I have seen that happening, up close and personal.

I now live in a place where kids, their safety and well being of people in general is given utmost importance. I have been here 4 years, but still feel a lump in my throat sometimes when I see all the traffic stop on the road when a school bus stops, to let the kids get down and cross the road safely. I can’t help but think of places in the world where kids die of malnourishment because some corrupt officials sold the food that was meant for the children, where Mahi had to die on the day she turned five because someone else did not want to follow the rules. I wonder why something as simple as following the rules is so difficult for us. And I hope that one day, we will be free from monsters like corruption who kill our children and kill the society. One day, that day will come.

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Racism?

Go to this link to read the article. Don’t forget the video at the end.

http://www.ndtv.com/article/hollywood/kutcher-ad-showing-him-as-indian-is-racist-205691

What do you think? Is it racist?

I think it is hilarious… especially the bollywood dance move.. and he pulled it off really well :)

A classic example, in my opinion, of how overuse of a word (racism in this case), undermines the real and serious episodes of that phenomenon that caused real harm.

India is the best? Not really

Falak is a two-year old baby girl. In her short lifespan, she has already gone through what no one should ever have to go through, let alone a helpless child. She has undergone four brain surgeries at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), is on ventilator support and is fighting infections in her brain. Even if she recovers, she will probably never live a normal life because of the damage to her brain. Exactly a month ago, she was brought to AIIMS, battered, with a broken skull and bite marks all over her body. Just the thought of what she went through, what she must have felt when these horrific injuries were inflicted on her, is enough to get anyone trembling with anger and sadness and the hopelessness of her situation.

I have been following her story ever since I first heard about it. What seemed like a case of severe child abuse at first, has morphed into something much bigger as the story has unravelled. It is a story about human trafficking, poverty and crimes against women. Falak’s mother was sold to get married and have 3 kids at a young age. When her “husband” passed away, she was made to abandon her children and marry someone else. Someone she knew was supposed to take care of the children and send them back to her once she got settled in her new life. Instead, the kids got separated and moved from one place to another to stay with different people.

Falak eventually landed with a 15-year-old girl who was the victim of abuse herself and was not mentally stable. This is the girl who allegedly beat Falak up and then brought her to the hospital claiming she was her daughter and had fallen from the bed. Ever since then, Falak has the attention of the media, NGOs and government authorities. She is getting the best treatment at government’s expense. Thousands of people are probably praying for her and thousands would be ready to adopt her to give her the life she deserves. Unfortunately, it is a little too late for her.

One cannot help but wonder how such huge gaps can exist in the same society. On one hand there is the India that is growing by leaps and bounds and finding its niche in the world. There are women who are educated, confident and empowered enough to live life the way they want to. India currently has a woman president and countless women in high power positions. We even had a much-loved (and equally hated by some) woman Prime Minister almost 50 years ago, who I believe was one of the most powerful  women of the world in 20th century. On the other hand, there are heinous crimes like female infanticide, honor killings and human trafficking. On one hand, there are the Kiran Bedis and the Barkha Dutts, and on the other, there are the Falaks of India.

The day when the Kiran Bedis will outnumber the Falaks will be the day I will proudly say that India is the best.. and mean it too.

Note: To find out more about baby Falak and the case, go here.

PS (2/28/2012): Just wanted to clarify the title of this post because I didn’t do a good job at that the first time. The Falak incident occurred shortly before India’s Republic Day when everyone starts posting patriotic stuff (rightfully so) on their social networking sites, especially if they live outside of India. We claim that India is the best (and in a way, it is, for us). We prefer to shut our eyes to the dark side of India pretending it doesn’t exist, let alone trying to do anything to change it. It was the irony of that simple statement that many of us have used many times – “India is the best” that struck me, and hence the title of this post.

Right or Wrong – who decides?

A news story has been doing the rounds at many Indian new channels these days. An Indian couple in Norway had their children taken away by the Child Protection Services. Allegedly, because they were feeding the children using their hands and the family slept in one bed, both of which are normal and acceptable in Indian culture (google “Indian couple in Norway” for the complete story).

Maybe there is more to it, but if that is the case, no one is talking about it. If there is nothing else to it, then taking kids away from their parents, separating the family for something as trivial as this, shows a serious lapse in judgement by the authorities. Seriously, what are they thinking? It is hard to imagine that in this age of globalization, a progressive government will refuse to acknowledge cultural differences while making such decisions. Cultural differences or not, since when did feeding kids by hand or co-sleeping become a crime?

Raising a child in a foreign country already has challenges of its own. You sometimes have to follow parenting methods you don’t really believe in, just to avoid being judged, and so that your child is not always the odd one out. It is a good thing to adapt and adjust, to do as Romans do when you are in Rome. In fact I would go one step forward and say it is not just good but necessary to be flexible and tolerant of new beliefs and ideas if you want to lead a happy and productive life, especially so if you live in a foreign land. However, you should not have to live with the fear of your child being taken away for doing what you think is normal, you should not have to compromise on your righteous beliefs and you should definitely not be punished for them.

When someone leaves their country to start a new life, they are looking for growth and a better life. This is not something they consider even in their wildest dreams. This is one of the worst nightmares of any parent that unfortunately came true for the Bhattacharyas.  I hope that the authorities come to their senses before any more damage is caused to the family, and if the parents are truly innocent (which I believe they are for the lack of any convincing evidence to the contrary), they be reunited with their children.