Monday, June 25, 2018

King of Pop, the world's biggest entertainer of all time, still stirs our hearts!

RIP Michael Jackson - August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009

I was acquainted with his music when I was in my teens. While the high point of the Convent Prom was that boys from St. Joseph's School, our brother school, were going to be there; the singularly most important part of the evening that made it so memorable was not the lanky boys in their new stubbles and croaky vocal chords, not their thin frames and cocky swagger, not even the fanciest of dresses that the girls wore. The lasting memory of that end-of-school-year Prom has been MJ’s distinctive voice that sang in a unique note and the sound that fell in its own genre like no other.

The second initiation came when I stepped into college; and a friend who was a BBC Radio regular boasted about being abreast with the latest musical fad of that time, yes Beat It, Billie Jean and Thriller. There was this mass hysteria that was fast engulfing the youth and I didn’t want to be left behind.

Once I had been indoctrinated by a gentle nudge from friends, I soon, of my own volition, got baptized into this holy sect of scintillating, never-heard-before sound. Such was the pull and drawing power of the music and the magnetism of its creator that we simply got sucked in.

The western music loving people of my generation had found a new God and his name was Michael Jackson. He was more than an enigma for us. To us, he was our musical messiah who herded us to the blessed land that lay beyond our daily trials and tribulations.

We grooved to his music at our dance parties that became so famous that they were sought-after in the Doon Valley of the 80s and early 90s. No jam sessions were complete without MJ’s albums being played to high decibels. My dancing partners and I chose Michael Jackson’s songs for our piece-de-resistance in the dance competitions which we ended up winning. Today, I would like to give credit to the music more than my alacrity and nimble-footedness on the dance floor.

Over the years, Michael Jackson’s music meant different things to me at different times. During the magical monsoons in Doon, I swayed to the lilting tunes of Ben, The Girl is Mine and Man in the Mirror. During my dancercises, I shook my body to his foot-tapping hits. Later, I marveled at the emotionality of his artistic temperament as I tuned into ‘We are the World,’ ‘Heal the World’ and ‘Black or White.’

The musical idol, who now twinkles amidst the stars, did not simply regale me with his unique beats and enchant me with his special music. MJ has left lasting impressions and a master class on life for me and a large number of people, both from my generation and beyond. Here’s what he brought into our lives -     

Acceptance – We were part of this large international community of young ones who were MJ converts. We had been transformed by his music and we were his disciples following his every dance move or new release. We found acceptance for ourselves amongst our peers and a sense of unity with the global world.

Confidence – That is what he instilled in us even from across the Atlantic. We knew his songs, we tried his thrusts and shimmies and walks. And because we did all this, we were never the shrinking violets or the wallflowers who dotted the corners of the room. We were out there having fun, bringing in a lot of back-slapping bonhomie, being the heart of the gatherings – the inspired lot who in turn inspired others in our coterie. And because we were confident souls in the social circuit, we were also bold not brazen, self-assured not cynical in our other pursuits as well.

Popularity – Because we attempted to move like him, because we were in step with what was in, because we were the groovy lot that jived to the MJ beat and were well-conversant with the MJ lingo, because we were this hip set that could sing MJ’s songs backwards and could use slang such as Beat It with a lot of élan; boy, were we popular.

I will always be indebted to Michael Jackson for helping me get an image makeover from a studious bookworm to this bubbly babe whom everybody wanted to know in college. And guess what, because I regarded MJ’s music with a sense of sanctity and enjoyed it for its sheer brilliance, uniqueness and ingenuity, I did not allow my reverence to get diluted with any peer pressure. So, I did no drugs, did not enjoy tipple – a dance party mainstay, did not let my grades fall and generally remained a good girl who was popular and fun-loving at the same time.  

Style - After his demise, I read in several of the obits that MJ was regarded as a style icon. My generation began following him long before the phrase was coined. We came out with our own versions of fedoras, white glove and socks, black shoes, skin-tight jeans and yes, belts. We not only cultivated this ‘MJ’ style but also had the smarts to carry it with a lot of chutzpah.

Stress –Michael Jackson’s music has been one of the biggest stress busters for a whole lot of us, even today. In my last job, at one point of time, getting to work became a nightmare. The commute to work used to be filled with dreadful thoughts of facing the hell boy at work, the only bright light being the Jackson CD playing on the car system. Willy-nilly it brought a smile to my lips, put a song in my heart, lightened my steps and proved to be more meditational and therapeutic than the entire course of Art of Living. Similarly, after a hard day’s work that stretched well beyond 10-11 hours, it was his music that helped me battle the stress.

Happiness – It can be said with utmost conviction that Michael Jackson’s music has always made us happy. Even ecstatic, at times euphoric, a lot of times rapturous but always, overridingly, happy.

If I wanted to shake myself from a state of ennui, if I wanted to put on my dancing shoes, if I wanted to beat the blues, if I wanted to stop being lazy and go for that walk, if I wanted a little pick-me-up, all I had to, nay have to do is listen to an MJ number. It always works for me. His music has that inherent feel-good quality to it that spells bliss, bright and bold.

Given the tragic life that he’s had, I wonder if he really knew how many lives he has touched positively and brought happiness to.

Talent - Michael Jackson was a huge trove of talent. He has been one of the most sensational singers of all time, his dancing skills were such that they are emulated to this day, his songwriting skills were extraordinary, his videos are legendary and above all, he was the most composite and ultimate entertainer. MJ has taught us that we, too, can multi-layer ourselves with multiple talents and endeavour to reach the zenith in our chosen areas.

Lessons of life – Finally, Michael’s iconic yet tragic life holds a lesson for all of us. Here are a few that hold a lot of meaning for me -

Little shining star Michael taught us that you can assume responsibility for your family and loved ones even at the tender ages of five or 11. You only need big shoulders and a genuine inclination in that direction.

You can face any assault to your person or mind and come out stronger. At least in the first 3-4 decades of his life, when he rode the upper crest, MJ seemed to have overcome all the negative influences of his childhood rather well. At one time he did seem to have slayed his personal demons triumphantly. 

In his leaving for eternity he has left this eternal lesson with us on how not to lead our lives. Drug abuse, accusations of child molestation, several liaisons – secret and otherwise, masks & gas chambers, needles & scalpels, tabloids & glowing tributes…………. Certain things in some professions are inherent. They come with the package. But for most, we ourselves are the decision-makers.

In his death, he has shown us that this is no way to go for anyone, leave alone a legend of his stature. The choices are in our hands. Are we willing to turn the stumbling stones into building blocks, the hazards into how-tos and the turbulence & turmoil into a tryst with destiny that strengthens the spirit and lays down the path for betterment?

MJ has taught us how to treasure all that one accumulates not by the stroke of luck but by the dint of one’s hard work. That he dithered it all away in his later years, should come as a sharp reminder to all of us, when we tend to get smug and snooty about it.

Michael Jackson, with his choicely penned lyrics and thoughtful words, urged us to look at the “man in the mirror and change some of his ways.”

He has shown us how talent and hard work can prevail over the biases. How the gifted and the genius can win over the prejudiced. With the global and incomparably huge recognition that MJ has received in his lifetime and so much more in death, he has overpowered the bias of colour, creed, race or religion.

In his musical prowess, his inventiveness, the sheer mastery over his craft and his uniqueness, Michael Jackson has taught us all to strive for excellence and aim for the stars.

And because he had it all before he lost everything – family, fortune, fame – Michael Jackson, in his tragic, untimely death, has taught us how not to squander away the reputation built with the building blocks of inspiration, perspicacity and sweat.

With his fan base and hysteria surpassing that seen for the likes of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll or the People’s Princess, Michael Jackson filled our hearts with love for him and adulation like for no other, just by the magic of his music and the brightness of his brilliance.

Michael, we miss you. I am sure you rest in peace, now that you are in God’s embrace, far from the world of ghouls and ghosts you created for yourself!


Picture courtesy - Google Images

Note - The article first appeared on Daily O on 25th June 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Self before Gender; Country before Self!

OK, I will address the elephant in the room.

Since when is adhering to a country's cultural lay-downs seen as misogynistic and regressive towards women?

Given all the Indian hypocrisy, aren't there different rules for both men and women in terms of attire, socially acceptable behaviour, sexually inclined conduct in public and so on that we'd like foreigners visiting India to adhere to? Similar patterns and expectations are found everywhere else in the world.

Would it not have been more mature and large-hearted and bigger minded for Soumya Swaminathan to keep her sporting spirit alive and play for her country?

Isn't country first, self second?

Also, playing in a country as a player from another country, in both places where gender issues thrive and women are considered second class citizens, would have been a far bigger win.

What's a mere headscarf to cover a head that encases a magnificent brain!

Social media may keep the issue alive for some time but history would have remembered Soumya more as a winning champ than as a girl who refused to wear a scarf.

While I do understand where Soumya is coming from, I think the examples that women should set must have a larger scope, deeper impression and more profound influence.

Picture courtesy - Pinterest and Elle

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Amitabh, Priyanka, Vidya, Sushmita, Ranbir, Ranveer, Aishwarya, Alia - So who is your favourite public speaking Bollywood actor?

The art and skill of oratory do not go hand in hand with the profession of acting it seems. There are scores of actors who light up only when the camera comes on. When asked to speak in interviews or at public forums, there are actors who turn out to be damp squibs and as scintillating as the night sky during New Moon.

Yet, put them in front of a camera, put on the arc lights and they shine out with their histrionics and very impressive oeuvre of high drama and finely nuanced performances. Names such as Ajay Devgn, Ranbir Kapoor, India’s first Superstar Rajesh Khanna, even Akshay Kumar come to mind. Aamir Khan, who I feel approaches his work like a genius and transforms completely for every role, fails to impress when at the podium. Shahid Kapur manages to pass muster but he still has to fine tune his oratorical skills. Ranveer Singh, true to the image he wishes to cultivate, hams it up everywhere. Shahrukh Khan appears laboured when attempting to be serious; while during a normal interaction he keeps it down to artlessness with his plain speak. 

The Shahenshah of the Indian film industry (he despises the term Bollywood), Amitabh Bachchan, stands torso, shoulder and head above most people before his time and now. The sheer magic of his rendition that is tailor-made to suit what he is mouthing – from poetry recital to a public discourse to an interview, his voice modulation, hell just his voice which is iconic in its own right, his fluency in any language he chooses to speak in, the diction, the attention given to pronouncing each word just the way it is meant to be, the effortlessness even if he may have practiced day and night; Big B’s skills with the spoken word are legendary. He has set a fine example for generations of people and has had people from his own fraternity follow and learn from him. From Rekha to Anushka, Amitabh Bachchan has been emulated by many.

That brings me to the moot point. Why aren’t all or most public figures good public speakers? Remember Rajiv Gandhi? And how, over time, he just had to pick up the threads and put enough effort into coming across as a passably moderate speaker! In direct contrast were leaders like Indira Gandhi and Atal Behari Vajpayee who had people eating out of their hands by the impeccable prowess over their public speaking.

Just as with political figures, with film stars too, I am quite confounded to note that most of them do not live up to their public personas each time they open their mouth. I seriously wonder why it is so when they have innumerable opportunities and sizeable experience to hone the skill and practice the form. Because, as an offshoot of their profession, whether they like it or not, they will always have to speak in public; then why don’t these highly public figures train themselves well and better their performance in public with every opportunity! Public speaking is an integral component and perpetual pressure of their profession that they cannot turn away from, yet many of them stay abysmal in their presentations.

The Hollywood film, The King’s Speech, imparts a fine lesson on the whys and wherefores of the significance of Public Speaking, taking it back to the time of King George VI. The future king had to hire a speech and language therapist who not only rids the royal of his stammering problem but instills confidence and interest for oratory in him.

The ordinary folk like us resort to practicing on family and friends and using the good ol’ ‘speaking in front of the mirror’ technique, but the influential and famous have the easy option to hire trainers, therapists, speech companions to come out in flying colours when in public.    

I have been closely watching the artists from my gender to see how they fare, once again marveling at those who hold the torch high and grossly displeased with the ones who just don’t get it right, after all these years and such wonderful opportunities.

Sadly, only a handful of Bollywood heroines are good public speakers; if you can call them that.

I think, of the entire lot, Priyanka Chopra is the most impressive. She has a slightly higher cerebral quotient than most, speaks well and lucidly, has a command over her talk capsules, keeps the audience engaged and interested, appears knowledgeable and molds herself well to suit the platform she is on - in India, in US, in Bangladesh. Yes, she does come across as fake and put on many a time, but even at that moment, she manages to ensnare and entertain the audience that she may be addressing. And that is a win-win.

I also like Vidya Balan a lot. In fact, I like Vidya Balan more than I like Priyanka Chopra. She stays rooted, appears sincere, connects with the pulse of the audience, is shorn off any pretense or frill, is intelligent, and knows when to inject pleasant peals of laughter even when dishing out a sharp pill. My only grouse - she makes very few public outings.

One of the rising stars, in more ways than one, is Alia Bhatt. In spite of what she went through - public ridicule-wise post her lack of GK on Koffee with Karan - Alia lets confidence and composure sit well on her petite shoulders. She is upfront somewhat - it is a mere fraction of what her father Mahesh Bhatt is known for but she will soon learn her lessons from her illustrious Dad. And there is this sense of honesty about her - you know the kind which says like me the way I am - that is quite endearing.

Readers of a brief Facebook post I wrote on this subject urged me to consider Kangana Ranaut. If anything, she has been extremely admirable for her turnaround. The fortitude with which she fought off her lisp, the manner in which she taught herself to speak in good Hindi and English, the way she steeled her nerves to come across as stable and confident, if I were to give a The King’s Speech award then I would give it to her without batting an eyelid.

Some of the readers have also suggested the name of the fabulous and fabled Waheeda Rehman. Whatever little I have heard of her, she has come across as a true blue Bollywood royalty, with grace and gravitas, with excellent enunciation and a voice that feels like silk on skin. But I have heard very little of her to talk about her at length with regard to speechmaking. 

Amongst the worst ones is easily Hema Malini. It is even more shockingly exasperating because Hema Malini has refused to get her locution right in spite of having worked in Hindi films for almost all her career span. Also because, once again, she chose a very public profession of Politics for her second innings! Yet the woman refuses to train herself, learn to speak clearly and coherently, attach importance to such things as flow and punctuation and pronunciation. Completely unmindful of the audience she continues to hyperventilate and let the sound of her voice crash against our ears each time she utters a word.

Then there is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. I mean come’ on now! An international beauty queen, a global icon, an international cosmetic brand ambassador and someone who has had a million high profile opportunities thrust upon her - such great platforms that any girl would die for; yet she is such an earsore to listen to. In fact, each time she opens her trap and is sitting on a panel, I literally have my heart in my mouth for fear that she will make a fool of herself in that august gathering. Aishwarya is a good tutorial on how not to speak in public. She must realize that her excessively punctuating, silly giggles do not save her from her lackluster performance.

As a matter of fact, I have always been scared for Aishwarya. From the time she began appearing on David Frost to David Letterman to the more recent Oprah Show and her myriad outings in Cannes. In 2018, yet again all she did was giggle uncontrollably, latch on like a teenager to Dame Helen and speak her favourite, oft-repeated ten lines, “Pleasure is all mine. It will remain a special memory. Incredible interest in our cinema. I get asked about my experience. We are very, very privileged and very very honoured. We have a rich body of work. Thank you for embracing us and our work. It is always fun to return to Paris, LA….Y’all are so loving.” 

While the French film director Lisa Azuelos was all meat, Dame Helen Mirren all grace and good content, our dear Ash remained as shaky and flimsy like a piece of jelly floating on her imaginary cloud of Bollywood Queenhood. Will somebody please tell her that a bunch of adjectives and interjections and very-verys liberally sprinkled with giggles don’t necessarily make a great speech.

The other offender is Jaya Bachchan, who is actually a master class on how to antagonize people. With her anger management issues, bad, rude behaviour, haughtiness and despicably condescending attitude, Jaya is like a raging bull let loose in a China Shop.

A real shocker on my list of bad speakers is the very polished and Swiss finishing school sophisticate Simi Grewal. Even with most things working in her favour - great looks, great body, great dressing sense, good exposure, good command over the language - yet when Simi speaks it has the vibrancy of a somnolence-inducing sedative. And the overly sweetness, well it will raise the blood sugar levels even in the non-diabetic.

Rekha, the quintessential Amitabh Bachchan acolyte and copycat, regardless of her inherent charm, the aura she has created for herself, the fondness for languages she displays when she speaks, the beauty she exudes, has not left a mark. She has carried out her Bachchan fetish too far, almost to laughable limits. And has forced herself to stay stuck in her Umrao Jaan courtesan character, which is good only for certain times, but on others, it becomes a tiresome caricature.

One lady who had everything going for her - intelligence, voice, presentation, body language, the sheer presence, her aura, her sexiness - and held a lot of promise has sadly lost the plot and gone downhill. Sushmita Sen used to be ravishing, riveting and razzmatazzy at one point. Now she orbits around Mars unhinged and stays in a place that earthlings don't wish to visit.

Before the detractors tell me to let the poor actresses be and the trolls come tumbling down to brand me as judgmental, let me explain why it is essential for public figures – politicians, business leaders, film stars – to be good public speakers. The first reason is obvious – they are in a very public profession and get to be in front of the camera and mike almost every day. With such exposure and with such opportunity, it beats me to think why would they not wish to present their best foot forward.

Also, more than politicians and business leaders, it is the film stars that are the most followed and emulated. Their fan following is huge and their influence extremely deep. What a fine example they would set in the minds of the young and the impressionable with their exemplary attributes, public speaking being one such essential trait.

Some actors are thankfully already setting great goals for us here. Tune back to Bachchan and tune ahead to Benedict Cumberbatch, Sandra Bullock, Will Smith, Wentworth Miller, Taraji P Henson, Sylvester Stallone, Peter Dinklage and Jim Carrey – the last two for their absolute magnificence and magnetism – for irresistibly profound tutelage and lasting inspiration! Watch the YouTube video on the Top Ten Speakers from Filmdom to see what I mean.

Mike drop!

Note - This article first appeared on Daily O on 13th June 2018

Picture courtesy - Google Images

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Kitchen hack - Re-heating a Pizza Pie!

Firstly pizzas should not be reheated. They must be had oven fresh; that too made in a wood-fired oven.

But we are not always lucky and have to resort to ordering take-aways.

In such cases, there is a right and wrong way of reheating the pizza pie. The wrong way, of course, is to put it in a microwave and heat. All that does for you is make the base saggy & soggy and the cheese lumpy.

The right way is to put the slices in a pan, sprinkle some drops of water around it, in the empty spaces, cover the pan with a lid and heat it on the stove for some time.

The pizza slices heated thus have crisp bases, almost oven toasted and the cheese cooks and melts in a proper manner.

Try it and let me know.

Friday, June 08, 2018

The Coppersmith Barbet, crimson-breasted Barbet!

"Like other barbets, they chisel out a hole inside a tree to build their nest. They are mainly fruit-eating but will take sometimes insects, especially winged termites. The call is a loud rather metallic tuk…tuk…tuk (or tunk), reminiscent of a copper sheet being beaten, giving the bird its name. Repeated monotonously for long periods, starting with a subdued tuk and building up to an even volume and tempo, the latter varying from 108 to 121 per minute and can continue with as many as 204 notes. They are silent and do not call in winter."

- Source Wikipedia

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Why do you need Godmen?

Please tell me why do you need a Godman - sort of a sleazy middleman - to get to "your" God?

Last night I was reading saved articles from the January 2018 issue of TOI and chanced upon the news on Virender Dev Dixit, another in the long line of ugly and evil Godmen. HIs devotees donated to him their hard earned money, their own selves and put their daughters in his service. The maniacal chap was known for Gupt Prasad under the garb of which he raped nubile girls.

It shocks and troubles me to think just how blinded can we get, in the name of fear, insecurity, hope for a better tomorrow, more wealth, better health and so on; so much that we bury all logic and reasoning and blind ourselves with ill-placed faith, often in meaningless rituals and harmful people.

The long list of devilish Godmen who keep raising their ugly head and have followers from every strata of society proves that we continue to be foolish and self-harming in the name of our belief.

Once, on our return from Rishikesh to Delhi, we met an NRI family during the pit stop. What attracted me to them was that they had their driver seated with them for lunch at the same table, enjoying the same fare. Since it is still not a common sight in India, I got talking to them.

While the man was gentlemanly and polite, his wife was ill-tempered, curt and rude.

Anyway, during our conversation, we got around to reasons for our travel. They were visiting Rishikesh from Seattle to spend some time with their Guru. With genuine interest, I quizzed them as to what did they seek from the Guru. The cantankerous lady made a face and retorted, "Well, he guides us and brings us closer to God."

More astonished by the minute, I asked again, "But why do you need a Guru for that. You can have a dialogue with 'your' God all by yourself. Why a middleman?"

Le Husband, upon seeing the situation get somewhat tense, mumbled quick goodbyes and pulled me in another direction.

Many years back, a few of Daddy's colleagues began to follow the legendary 'Kali kamli wale Baba.' They began cajoling my father to join the group on their weekly/fortnightly visit to the Baba's Ashram.

My Dad was a spiritual man but not given to too many rituals and blind faith. He believed in having a conversation with God, in the time he kept aside for 'dhyan' but shunned any communion practice or herd mentality towards religion. And I think he had a strong dislike for Babas of any kind.

Kali kamli wale Baba at Allahabad, I am told, was a genuine man who did not show any interest in wealth or display any other kind of greed or lasciviousness. During his darshan, he showed all kinds of tricks - walking on white sheets with mud-soiled bare feet yet leaving no mark, pulling out hot jalebis as prasad from his empty black blanket that he wrapped his bare body with and so on.

He became fond of Ma, who went more for the spectacle and tamasha and the Baba's congeniality than anything else. Each time Ma went, the Baba would ask for Dad and Ma would have to make one flimsy excuse or another.

POne time, at the behest of Issar Uncle, Dad's close friend and senior and Ma, Dad went to meet the Baba half-heartedly. The Baba gaugedPicture this, laughed on seeing my father and said, "PL you are one fine man, but very stubborn. I know that you have no faith in me, but we can at least be friends."

Ma used to tell me that Dad would join the group of friends infrequently on their Ashram trips. But the Baba and Dad struck an uncommon friendship, man to man, devoid of religion, faith, benefits et al. and the Baba showed respect and displayed his fondness for Dad knowing that here was a man who met him as a self-sure being and sought absolutely nothing from him.

I don't think Dad or Ma would have ever stepped into the lairs of Asarams of the world. And they made sure, we grew up with our heads clear and with no place for fear and false faiths.

If you really believe in God, or whatever divine force you assume it to be, then no bad energy will be able to draw you towards them.

Moreover, the divinity does not need any bribe or tip or via media for you to be in step with it!

Picture courtesy - mydigitalfc

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

When you like somebody.....

When you like somebody and when you don't!

Long back I read a very nice analogy - and to paraphrase it - If you like somebody then even if they topple a bowl in your lap, you will not mind it.

But if you do not like them, then even the way they hold their spoon will offend you. And I see it happening with me and others all the time!


Picture courtesy -

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Killing the demand! Saving life, ours and theirs!

Because circuses, mostly, have been banning the use of animals; because there are fewer takers for Elephant rides, and there is a huge outcry from activists for using elephants at temples; I reckon the greedy human will not resort to breaking the spirit of the baby elephant. That's still something to cheer about.

If we kill the demand for things that are not rightly ours - Ivory, Crocodile Skin bags, Camel skin shoes, the Rhino horn, the Fox fur and so on - we will learn to live and let live.

Picture courtesy - World Animal Protection and Reuters

Monday, June 04, 2018

Types of people in our lives!

There are basically three types of people in your world - real and virtual. Those who are empathetic towards you and feel for you and with you.

Then there are those who are apathetic - who couldn't care less about what goes on in your life.

Finally, there are the antipathetic - who will never wish you well and would rather send off negative energy towards you.

There are friends and then there are "friends."

In today's Social Media hijacked world, we have friends who follow us, like all our posts or comment at the drop of a hat. And generally, live out the overblown version of armchair friendship.

Then there are friends who will rally around you each time you fall down and will rush to lend a hand should you be in distress.

I hope my Karma attracts more of the latter. And I wish to be one such friend to others too.

Life is like that. But at least we know who to align ourselves with, who to expect what from and just who to ignore!

Picture courtesy - Creative Teacherette

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Good touch, Bad touch!

Photo credit - Google Images

In the climate made reception-ready and responsive by the collective energy of #metoo, please teach your children - girls and boys alike - the difference between good touch and bad touch.

For little girls, it is extremely important to tell the good from the bad and to raise hell even at the slightest hint. In patriarchal societies like India, a lot of effort must be made to take the shame out of the circle of the victim and plant it at the door of the accused.

Little girls must be told that danger lurks everywhere - from the closest of quarters to the farthest - from an oft-visiting Uncle, a favourite cousin to the School bus conductor, a teacher; further on to a passerby, a man met casually at a mall etc. etc.

From leaving lasting lessons imparted little by little in the course of a day to showing by example, Ma made sure I grew up with a steely spine. Ma and Dad brought us up in a way that one grew into a strong woman, able enough to protect her own rights, sensitive enough to what could be wrong for either sex, strong enough to chin up and give a good fight and sensitized to gender equality to the extent of giving space and respect to both men and women.

When I was very young, I must have sensed how Ma brought in barriers where required, sent out chaperones or stood guard herself or asked Dad to step in where the need arose. When I grew up to be six and seven and eight, she would tell me not to sit on laps of uncles if so invited. She explained to me the different types of hugs or hand-holding or shoulder patting or a peck on the cheek and so on.

Another time, I was in college in Doon. One fine morning I was taking Ma to the Sub Area Command to take care of an official task. The timing matched with that of the labour force that sets foot outside at that hour to seek work. We found a group of rowdy young labourers speed up with me on their bicycles while I zipped on my moped. One of them, the most villainous of the lot, brushed against Ma's legs as she sat pillion behind me, attempted to tease me wildly and gesture profanely. Ma told me to put the brakes in time to stop the erring lad too, caught him by his collar and gave him a resounding slap across his right cheek, then two. She then, in the sternest of her voice, reprimanded him and put the fear of God in him.

I marvel at how Ma dealt with all this, in her time. She put me in a co-educational school, made sure I had a healthy equation with the boys and girls, yet she was always guarded about how I could be exploited. Today I feel so deeply indebted to Ma for all this.

Years later, a similar scene played out with my niece at Dilli Haat. I made sure the lascivious lout who had touched her inappropriately was caught in public and that the niece got the satisfaction of delivering instance justice by slapping him as hard as she could.

My parents' lessons stood me in good stead even at my workplaces when faced with a male colleague who wanted to play dirty in office.

With little boys, one has to be more mindful and teach them lessons on two levels. The first that they cannot be perpetrators of such abuse and damage to women. That it is morally, principally and ethically wrong to take advantage of the other sex. Further on, it is unlawful and of criminal intent to engage in any foul practice towards women.

The second aspect is to teach the boys about the bad touch that they may face themselves. And we know that boys face it too. And that they may, due to social conditioning, find it even more difficult than women to open up and share their trauma.

Several schools these days are picking up on the "Good touch, Bad touch" initiative. But of course, like in most cases, the most important lessons are imparted at home.

Sow the right seeds. Make the soil conducive and fertile at home. Nurture the young plants such that they grow to be giant trees that will always give root to a healthy society.

Man vs. Cockroach!

Before starving to death, a cockroach can live for nine days without its head.

And, aided with arms and ammunition, man thinks he has power.

Picture courtesy - Google Images