CS Sharada Prasad | Uncategorized
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Raised toilet seats – what do they really mean?

Erect toilet seat
Erect toilet seat is a symbol of perverse exhibitionism

Whenever I see a raised toilet seat, I not only think about the insensitivity of the man who used it before me, but also his perverse exhibitionism. I feel that the person who left that raised toilet seat behind also left his erection back for others to witness.

The practice of leaving erections behind is pervasive and is not limited just to public toilets. Men seem to stand and spray even at homes. They don’t seem to care and lower the toilet seat even if they share that bathroom with women.

Even if we end up finding that sitting and peeing has no real health or other benefits, I think that having a toilet I can enter without the worry of stepping on a floor or rug sprinkled with urine is a good enough reason not to stand and pee.

If being a man is about peeing standing and not putting the seats down, may be it is time for men to  stop being men . Masculinity has done no good to this world. It has only brought war, misogyny and sprinkled toilet seats! So, please put it down!

PS: If touching a toilet seat sprinkled by a stranger’s urine is disgusting, how must it feel to have been forced into a social and financial compulsion to clean a stranger’s toilet or scoop poop without wearing any safety gear from a dry toilet?

Why do people honk so much in India?

Yes, this is a question many people ask, including Indians. Over the last decade I have deeply thought about this confounding question and I think I have an answer.

India a country where the society vehemently controls and sometimes even rejects the strongest of the human instincts – sex. The society lacks the basic understanding that sex is a very human thing to have. If you come to think of it, without sex, there would be no humans around, but only cows in India.

Most people these days get to learn about sex through pornography. Hence the whole idea of bodies and expectations from sex is distorted. Not many people get to experience the intimacy in public – such as holding hands or kissing. Result – pent up sexual frustration.

You get better at a sport by playing it more often with different people. Same rule applies to sex. As the society is neither setup for dating nor divorces, most people probably don’t know how to have good sex. Result – pent up sexual frustration.

Just as the talk about sex, the actual act of sex in India is silent. How can one enjoy sex if we have to seal our lips because of the worry that our children, neighbors, or in-laws might hear us? The sonic suppression of sexual act coupled with the absence of orgasms push people to express their frustration through blaring honks on the road. Vatsayana is ashamed of us!

Suppressed orgasms have made India a violent country. They are the primary reason for the ever present road rage in India. Why else would one hit a fellow driver, without even starting a conversation, for a silly bumper dent?

According to my analysis, India is honking and yelling – “I AM HORNY!”

Next time when someone honks, please don’t be mad. Empathize and express your solidarity by smiling and honking back!

The memory game

Star Trail, Mexico

Star Trail, Mexico

Many of my friends brag about their children’s capability to identify cars from a distance. Some are such experts that they can name a car just by its engine sound. I am impressed. I am glad that children have developed such memory. Even I was fascinated by, if not obsessed with,  cars during my childhood days. The list of cars was small Ambassador, Maruti 800, Fiat, Premier Padmini, and Contessa Classic. Hence identifying them was not considered as a memory prowess. Also, there was no way for us get to know about cars other than those that were on the streets. There were no weekly magazines dedicated to cars, no internet, no huge billboards with insecure men standing next to huge cars, no car games on the computer or smartphones.

Even Srushti, my niece, will start identifying cars and we might all start bragging about it. Identifying soon become a norm and not a talent. What would be nice for children (and elders) is to identify plants and trees around them, and the stars above them. I walk past trees without knowing their names. They are there in the same place all the time, smiling at me, and greeting me with their shade. But I am this rude person who does not care to even know their names. I take them for granted. I have been walking under the starlit sky ever since my birth. But I can hardly identify any constellation. I don’t know the birds those chirping birds or names of the moths and butterflies that hover over the flowers in my garden.

Unless I get connected to the nature around me, I might not observe the changes in it. I easily recognize the sickness in a friend but not in stranger. Nature should no longer remain a stranger to me. I want to be re-introduced to it through Srushti. I hope the two of us will be able to develop stronger bonds with nature. I hope we both realize how diverse nature is and how boring man-made things can get.

Thank you for shopping with us!

The opportunity to spend the long weekends of Dasara and Diwali with my parents, brothers and their family excited me. My mind was pre-occupied with the ways to surprise my family with gifts and celebrate with gusto. I did not have much time to shop as I had to finish my assignments before I left for my break. I decided to do all my shopping online. The offers on the net made me beam with pride. India has progressed a lot! Online shopping, net banking, cellphone coverage, high-speed internet, and online train and bus ticket booking facilities. What more could I have asked for?

The home pages of these shopping portals are seductive. Limited stock cookware, 1 rupee pen drives, phones and TVs on incredible exchange offers. Shopping in the malls is a great exercise for the Indian middle class which is slowly turning obese and diabetic. Online shopping ruined it all by confining the middle class to the comfy couches. But now one can buy an exercising belt online which will vibrate, when tied around your abdomen or thigh, to keep our muscles in shape. That belt is the best innovation of the century.

To surprise my family, I spent several hours at office on the internet finding the best online deals.  I could not spend much time with my wife or child for next two days. I was shopping at office and working at home. But I was glad that I could find some fantastic deals and meet my project deadline. My family packed for the Diwali holidays with all the enthusiasm it could muster. When we reached the train station, it was clear that whole of India was going home to celebrate Diwali.

We reached Bangalore on Thursday morning. With four full days to go, we were giddy with the options of movies we could watch, food we could cook, and stories we could share. While everyone was catching up with one another, I was standing at the gate expecting the arrival of the courier guy. The website had assured me that I would receive my delivery before noon that day. It was already 11:55. I was growing impatient. The courier guy arrived at 12:20, full twenty minutes late. I yelled at him for not being punctual. I told him I would complain to the company about the delay. He apologized profusely. When I collected my big and heavy package with a stern warning, he wished me a happy Diwali, probably to lighten my mood up. I smiled and wished him back.

“How far is your house?” I asked.

“4 kilometers”

“That’s not far. You can go home to have special lunch today. Right?”

“I live alone. My wife and parents live in Bijapur”

“Oh? You should have applied for a two-day leave and spent all four days with your family.”

” We are not allowed to take any time off during the festival season as many people shop on our website and we have to deliver all the gifts by the assured date and time during the festival season. ”

He looked at his watch and said, “I am getting late for my next delivery. Happy Diwali. Thank you for shopping with us. ”

The big and heavy package in my hands seemed empty.

Protecting women?

Of late I am seeing videos and posts about how men ought to protect women, how protecting women is religion etc. An example video is below.

The worrying part of messages like these is that they portray perpetrators, men and religion, as saviours, and women as vulnerable beings who need protection. But that vulnerability, a kind of oppression, imposed on the women from the outside by the societies.  Before saying ‘men should protect women’, we should understand who has made them vulnerable. Then, instead of saying “Men should protect women”, we will say,  “Religions – stop oppressing women!” and “Men should stop being assholes!”

India’s rape culture

Why do people rape? I wish the answer was as pithy as the question. But some of the solutions that have emerged to end rape culture in India are short-sighted.

The most touted of all the solutions is introduction of harsher laws. Some people even stoop to the level of listing a few countries with tighter laws as examples India should follow. The irony is that those very countries also have strict laws to oppress women. For a law to be effective, its enforcement should be facilitated by an efficient police force and a prudent judiciary. But in India, rapes occur inside police stations, and lawyers, judges, and police ask demeaning questions to the victims in public. Indian state itself has been accused of using rape as a weapon in Jammu and Kashmir, North East, and regions affected by Naxalism.

Building toilets is not a solution either. No doubt, building toilets upholds the right of people to live with dignity, and reduces diseases due to water contamination, but, sadly, it cannot stop rapes. The fact that women with access to toilets are also harassed and sexually abused negates construction of toilets as a solution.

Installing Closed Circuit (CC) cameras in public areas and schools is not a solution because CC cameras cannot be installed everywhere, even where they are installed, there can be blind spots. CC cameras cannot always be used to identify the perpetrator, and they cannot be monitored all the time. CC TVs are an expensive and ineffective solution.

Signing online petitions won’t stop rapes. Such things are good for asking the government to extend bus timings, fill up potholes, and clean up a ditch in the neighbourhood. Online petitions have been effective in other countries. But in India, they have not been effective in prodding government to provide better governance. The heights of the naiveté of India middle class lies in sharing and liking posts on social media. Such things work well for kitten pictures, not for social change. The change happens on the ground, in the sweltering Sun. Social media has aided change by being a tool of effective communication and organization. But till people assemble in person, demonstrate, and exert demand, change remains elusive.

There are people who clearly understand that the above solutions don’t work. Such wise people, with deeper understanding of Indian society and culture, have listed radical reasons and solutions for thwarting sexual crimes. These people, mostly right-wing fundamentalists, blame women for aping western culture by wearing skimpy clothes, media for airing provocative images, and internet for facilitating access to pornography. Putting the burden on the victim reflects not the ignorance of these fundamentalists of the fact that women have been the victims even during the pre-public media and pre-internet era, and even when they are fully clad, but the shrewdness behind perpetuating male patriarchy and female oppression. This is also an evidence of the double standards of current Indian society dominated by fundamentalists who brag about the details depicted in Kamasutra and Khajuraho temples but supress expression of sexuality, one of the most natural human tendencies.

A person commits sexual violence for various non-sexual reasons. Though drugs, and alcohol top the list, sexual violence is used to vent pent up frustration and insecurity, and assert gender and caste superiority. The frustration could be a result childhood abuse, high school bullying, or disappointment due lack of upward mobility, and the perception of superiority could be the result of existing social structures. While the rape cases have been increasing, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, displacement in the name of development is increasing, migration to urban areas is raising, communal hatred and religious fundamentalism is growing, sexual expression is contained in the name of moral policing, middle class is becoming more and more self-centred, politician’s understanding of social issues has hit a new low, and judiciary continues to be slow and inefficient. Some of these factors might be strengthening existing social relations or manifesting themselves into frustrations and insecurities.

Increase in the number of sexual crimes is a reflection of the health of the society, not just of the individual who commits crime. As a society, we need to introspect. Together, we should work towards reducing income inequality, creating safer and educated environment for the interaction of men and women, providing opportunities for people to express their sexuality confidently, building better sanitation facilities, improving childcare and nutrition, treating men and women equally, eradicating caste system and other types of discrimination and exploitation, creating stronger democratic systems, providing employment opportunities, and eliminating of moral policing. As always, it is important to address the cause, not the symptom.

It is time to invest in future generations. Men, from an early age, should be taught to treat women as human beings and not as sexual objects. Men are not entitled to women. Unfortunately, the fact that forced marital sex is still not considered as rape in India legitimizes such entitlement. The oppression of women in Indian families in the name of traditional values is so sophisticated that the oppressed are not even aware of such an oppression. A married Hindu woman carries more external symbols such as mangal sutra, toe ring, and sindhoor, than a married man, that depict her as a property of some man. The confidence among girls needs to be boosted by reassuring them that they matter to the parents, and to the society, irrespective of their profession or complexion. The emphasis should be on girl’s independence and not on obedience to husbands and in-laws. She should be educated to make her realize her innate worth. She is more than a person who just bears a son for the family she is married into.

Time to rethink public radio in India?

Media in India will inevitably fall into the hands of businesses that have vested interest in politics. May be in India it is time to think of a donation and grant based, non for profit, public radio service such as National Public Radio of USA.

Why radio?

When I think of the term media, I hardly think of radio. TV and news-magazines have appropriated the term ‘media’, denying radio the well deserved credit. Compared to the radio, TV and news-magazines pose more barriers to production and consumption of programming. Though production of good quality radio programs is not easy, listening to a radio station cannot be simpler. One need not be literate and wait for a day or week for a new publication, one need not invest in expensive electronics and cable connection. A radio is a medium for all. It does not require the exclusive attention TV or news-magazines demand.

Private radio in India

Currently, private radio stations in India can only entertain people but not educate them. There are community radio stations which can do so, but cannot debate politics or broadcast news. News broadcasts and political discussions in India are monopolized by the radio owned by the government. When businesses control the government, they will also control the flow of information to the public. While a religious fundamentalist heads ICHR and claims that caste system has worked well, there is no discussions about the beneficiaries and victims of caste system on All India Radio. What are the implications of a muted sex education in a country like India?

The production of radio programs is controlled by Prasar Bharathi and people have no say in what kind of programs they want to listen to. Just as people request for their favourite film songs, there should also be a way to choose a favourite discussion panel on a sensitive issue. Though Prakash Javadekar is planning on opening up options for private stations to broadcast news, the sources are limited and the minister is not clear about whether the stations will be allowed to come up with their own news bulletins.

Independent radio stations should be encouraged in a country that touts democracy. People should have the freedom to choose news bulletins, listen to different views and opinions. This will help Indians to develop a well-rounded view of the world. When Indians are blindly supporting Israeli attacks and celebrating the formation of a new BRICS bank, there must be at least one radio station which informs people about the downsides. Democracy can only be strengthened by creating platforms for expressing dissent.

Public money – Private career

Today the finance minister announced the setting up of five new IITs, IIMs and 12 medical colleges. How much will they help India?

IITs and IIMs subsidize the education of Indians, most of whom, after their education,  migrate to other countries without contributing much back to the country that educated them. Some of the professors in these institutes conduct research using public money, patent the findings, and transfer the technology to private companies.

Medical schools are not any different. Very few doctors get into public service. It’s time that India rethinks the way it is subsidizing higher education.

Open defecation inside IIT Delhi Campus!

This morning I went for a run inside IIT Delhi campus. While running on the south side of the campus, I saw a person emerging out of the bushes with an empty plastic bottle. Considering that it’s 6:15am in the morning, I had a strong feeling that the person was defecating behind those bushes. I immediately looked around to see any informal settlements. I saw a large camp of people. I thought that they must be there working on some temporary maintenance or construction project. Not to embarrass anyone, I just continued running without striking any conversation with any of those people.

I went in search of that camp during lunch time and found another large camp of 30-40 people right by the side of the main road, next to the swimming pool. I went inside the camp hoping to speak to someone. A guy in the camp greeted me and we started chatting.

People in the camp are from Bihar, a state with large dalit population. The people in the camp don’t have access to toilets or washrooms. Everyone, including women, bathe near the water pump and defecate in open. Fortunately, they have access to water and electricity. They run tiny fans inside their tiny tents to get some reprieve from the heat of Delhi. I walked through the camp-site into the construction site. The huge hole in the wall led to into the swimming pool premises. No surprises here. No worker, other than the people who were cleaning the pool, wore any safety gear; not even the guy who was using a big demolishing driller. No goggles, no gloves. I took some photographs and returned to the campsite.

I am more concerned with lack of sanitation than lack of safety gear. That brings us to this question of – Why are people defecating in open inside IIT campus? My guess it this. When the contractor hires temporary / migrant workers to do the job, he does not account for the proper living conditions and facilities. These workers are compelled to live in shanty houses or tents without basic amenities like water, toilets, and electricity. Contractor either makes more money by not paying for these services or charges less money and hence appears competitive by not providing these basic services to his workers. The administrators at IIT Delhi, one of the technologically forward institutes in the country, should insist on providing better living conditions to these informal workers inside its campus.

What is the result of all this? Ordinary public thinks of migrant workers as dirty and shameless people. While the reality of the situation is that these people want to live a life of hygiene and dignity. But it comes at a cost. Construction and maintenance of toilets costs money, washing and bathing costs too – cost of water, cost of storage container, cost of soap, and cost of the washroom structure itself. The builder is not willing to pay that cost. The helplessness of the workers makes them take up jobs even if those jobs don’t provide any basic services.

The hot and humid climate of Delhi is a killer. I am staying in one of the boys hostels. A fan inside a badly ventilated room does not provide any respite from the heat of Delhi and IIT students are not allowed to have coolers (not AC) inside their rooms, unless you bribe the security. If a student cannot sleep well at night, he cannot be alert and productive in class during the day. But that room is any time better than the tents in which those workers are living in this heat. The bathrooms of the hostels with broken doors and dysfunctional taps are any time better than defecating in open. I am grateful for what I have but I am deeply troubled by what is provided to the workers inside the campus.

Apathy is deeply embedded in Indian society and IIT administration is no exception to that. The double standards of Indian government is appallingly visible in its own institutions. At one end, the government talks about safety regulations and total sanitation campaigns. At the other end, the same government is not providing any basic facilities or safety gear to the construction workers working inside its own premises.

I don’t know what happens in other government projects. But I am deeply disappointed with IIT Delhi. A premier institute in the country should know better and set an example for rest of the country. Every human being has the right to be treated with dignity. Exploiting the helplessness of the lower class in a society is social and political, tyranny.

Upset with the situation, I started walking out. I stumbled across a woman preparing pakoras.

“They smell good. I am sure lunch is going to be delicious” I said peering through the tent.

“Come, eat with us,” she invited me with a bright smile on her face.

“No no, my friends are waiting for me. But thanks”

I started walking towards the entrance of the camp and I saw a guy carving a lotus out of a sheet of foam. Two kids were staring at the process with complete concentration.

“Wow, that looks beautiful. Who is this for?” I asked. The kid standing next to the guy raised his hand. Another kid ran inside the house and fetched a large bird.

“Look at the peacock he made for me,” said the kid raising his hands to show me the bird. His prideful face was hiding behind the bird.

“It’s so big and colourful,” I replied.

“Oh it’s getting late. I should go and get something to eat,” I said looking at my watch.

“Why go somewhere, eat with us!” the kids said earnestly

“My friends are waiting for me. I have to go,”

“Come some other time then”

“Sure,” I said with heart filled with gratitude.

Here are some photos for you all