Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Rumble on Ramayana

I grew up on Ramayana and Mahabharatha in my childhood, the illustrated versions though. As I matured into an immature fierce leftist, I devoured the book Ramayana Visha Vruksham (Ramayana- The Poisonous Tree ) by another immature leftist writer, Ranganayakamma. Though I loved the book at that point of time and used to quote profusely from the book to prove Rama did not exist, a decade later ( matured into an immature Capitalist sympathizer) when I re-read the book, I realized it was a complete trash. The adage, “ If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, confuse them with bull shit” suits best for this book. The point I wanted to make is two or three decades back a writer could trash Ramayana and Rama and still not get beaten up or shot at. We did not have then the saffron brigade demolishing mosques and lynching communities or green berets planting RDX in temples and public places. So it was very amusing to me following the recent high drama on the Rama Sethu ( Adam’s bridge ), where every politician had a ready sound bite.

This piece is just an attempt at humour. Malice to None.

A film buff like me who has dreams of making a film one day but doesn’t have money applies to National Film Development Corporation for finance to produce Ramayana. The NFDC did not want to take a call on its own scared of the controversy that has recently blown across the country. So NFDC formed a committee with all government departments to go through the script and comment. Here are the comments from each of the departments.

The National Commission for Women:- We strongly object to the portion of the script where Dasaratha is shown as bygamous having more than one wife. That portion needs to be deleted.

The Ministry of Child Welfare and Family Planning:- The script shows Dasaratha having four children. This negates all the progress we have made in convincing people to have not more than two children. The script needs to be amended accordingly.

The Ministry of Labour:- War being a hazardous industry, and Viswamithra has used both Rama and Laxmana in war with Demons while both of them are still minors , this depiction will be construed as a case of child labour. Also there is no record of being paid any compensation. This may also be deemed to be violatory of the provisions of The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and Minimum Wages Act, 1948. Such references in the script may be removed.

The Ministry of Women Welfare:- Sitha appears to be a minor at the time of marriage. This depiction can be construed as violation of Child Marriage Act. Such reference should be removed from the script.

Home Ministry:- The entire episode of Ravana and Maricha plotting and executing the abduction of Sitha is a punishable crime. Maricha should be booked for abetting abduction and Ravana booked for abduction. The script needs to be suitably amended.

The Ministry of Animal Welfare:- The episode of building Rama Sethu by Monkeys and making them participate in the war is depicting Violation of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Hence this needs to be deleted.

The Minitsry of Women Welfare:- The depiction of Sitha being asked to enter the fire pit to prove her purity falls under the purview of IPC 498 A, which is enacted to prevent husbands mistreating the wives. This is a non- bailable offense. This portion should be deleted.

In view of the above recommendations from various ministries, the NFDC finds itself with no script at all. Hence, NFDC informs the applicant, it is not in a position to finance the film.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Genocide in India

It was 1991. I held gingerly the bundle of joy, my little daughter born less than an hour ago. The doctor congratulated me on becoming a father and added I was lucky for having a girl child because by the time she grows up some 25 years later, there will be dearth of women due to the skewed sex ratio and I might even get dowry in reverse. I laughed out aloud.
Just 16 years later, it is no more a laughing matter. The belief that women will attain a better status because of their scarcity has been proved a myth. Far from the shortage of women increasing their worth and standing in society, as people like me and the good doctor have imagined, the result is just the opposite. Women are now being trafficked in increasing numbers to some Indian states like Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh from Southern states.. Some are sold into marriage. Others are forced to engage in polyandry – becoming wife to more than one man, often brothers. Those that fail to produce sons are often abandoned, sometimes killed. This further perpetuates the cycle of prejudice and injustice, ensuring many women themselves prefer to give birth to a son to ensure no child of theirs suffers a similar fate.
Unicef recently concluded that the alarming decline in the childsex-ratio in India is likely to result in more girls being married at a younger age, more girls dropping out of education, increased mortality as a result of early child-bearing and an associated increase in acts of violence against girls and women such as rape,abduction, trafficking and forced polyandry.
Although sex-selection tests have been illegal in India since 1994, unwanted female babies are now being aborted on such a staggering scale that it is estimated India has lost 6 to 10 million girls in the past 20 years.. While abortions have long been legal in India, choosing to terminate pregnancy because of the child’s sex is not. One recent Unicef report estimated that currently 7,000 fewer girls are born in India every day because of sex-selective abortion amounting to more than 2 million “missing girls” a year.”
Female foeticide is the result of the deadly alliance between the traditional preference for sons and the modern medical technology, the increasing greed of doctors, the rising demand for dowry that makes daughters financial burdens and the ineffectiveness of PNDT Act in fighting these problems. Female infanticides in most places have been replaced by female foeticide.
Dr Puneet Bedi, a respected obstetrician specialising in foetal medicine and advisor to the Indian government says,“Just as throughout history euphemisms have been used to mask mass killings, terms like ‘female foeticide’, ‘son preference’ and ‘sex selection’ are now being used to cover up what amount to illegal contract killings on a massive scale, with the contracts being between parents and doctors somehow justified as a form of consumer choice,”
This is Genocide against women and this must be urgently arrested. The government has to focus on this by encouraging birth of girl children. A hundred thousand rupees in fixed deposit for 21 years in the name of every girl child born for the next five years, free school education with high scholarship amounts for college education, shoot the doctor and the father for any violation of Pre-Natal Determination Test Act can to a large extent arrest this disturbing trend.
We are nearing a dangerous phase where testosterone-charged males will be running amok.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Papillon- Book Review

I read some books again and again. Not immediately though. Re-reading is done once every few years. I am always surprised to find some new insight even when I am reading it for the 4th or 5th time. Must be because as you age you mature like wine and things that you would skip with out a thought five or ten years back would hold you by neck and shake you now. Or it could be that I am a slow learner.

So when I read Papillon , ( someone who claims to have known French told me that it is pronounced with both LL s and N silent) may be 5th or 6th time after I bought the book some time after the movie with the same name was released late 70s, the extra-ordinary character of Papillon gets revealed more and more. The strong will to survive at any cost and break free from the inhuman French penal system, the goodness of the person not to succumb to the wild pleasures and passions of convicts in prisons, always standing for his friends and helping them even in life threatening situations, perseverance, endurance and never never even for a moment neglecting his goal- the Break. The character was portrayed brilliantly in the film by Stev Mcqeen as Papillion and Dustin Hoffman as his friend Dega.

This book hits the reader real hard. Right from the opening line ""It was a knock out blow— a punch so overwhelming that I didn't get back on my feet for fourteen years...".Papillon is a real life account of the author Henri Charriere ( in the picture here) who was wrongly sentenced for a crime he didn't commit, when he was 25. The book is an account of the years he has spent in French Guiana and the attempts to escape. In one attempt he sails a small boat along with his two friends more than a 1000 miles and reaches Trinidad and Columbia. As fate would have it, he is handed back to French authorities who puts him back in French Guiana, this time in a solitary confinement . His story describes the nine escape attempts he made from jail, finally securing his freedom in Venezuela. The suffering and anguish that he endures during his 13 years in captivity leaves the reader breathless and in awe of the courage this man possessed. You finish reading Papillon and you put the book down feeling that anything is possible.