Category Archives: Social Responsibilities

#MeToo – Things men should get, but don’t!

Last weekend I was faced with (what I thought) was my first #metoo moment. An incident when a lady says “no” and a guy continues to be inconsiderate and idiotic! Then, when pointed out, instead of apologising, walks away pretending to be offended.

We were at a cottage holiday among friends and family. The details of the incident are not important. Fact is it happened so quickly that almost 15 people didn’t notice it, but it didn’t matter that they didn’t notice. A moment of indiscretion in a public setting, made someone uncomfortable, brought back bad memories. The lady responded like most ladies do, retreated from the common area and went and spent some time with herself. Apparently that wasn’t a hint enough for the guy to get the fact that he had done something discomforting and wrong. It wasn’t obvious to him.

As the evening progressed, when the lady joined the group again, the guy went up to her and ‘innocently’ inquired ‘what happened?’. At this point the lady lost it and gave him a proper telling off ending with ‘… for me this is a #metoo moment!’. At that point, everyone’s ears perked up, everyone heard it, and everyone was suddenly aware something had gone wrong. The reaction of that guy and the other guys in the group was an eye-opener for me. None of them actually got what had preceded before that telling off.

There on, instead of focusing on why was there a need for the outburst, guys in the group were – ‘why bring up #metoo?’, ‘both should apologise to each other!’, ‘he didn’t mean to’ WTAF are you talking here mate! You just sounded like the orange faced cretin, where he said ‘there were fine people on both sides’ after Charlottesville, when a pig of a person mowed down a protestor with a car? Yes, you sound like that, when you say ‘both should apologise’… or ‘why did she say it publicly?’… f***’s sake, it happened publicly, so why should it not be said publicly!

I was stunned that the guys were asking these questions or saying these things. For them apparently #metoo was some ‘high bar for nasty, criminal behaviour’. I spent nearly the entire night trying to explain that it wasn’t the case, there was only one person in the wrong here, and only one person needed to apologise. I think I failed. Sadly! While I went and apologised profusely for the evening ruined, to our friend, the rest of the guys were worried about ‘establishing’ wrong behaviour and dissecting ‘why did she say #metoo?’

But things didn’t stop there, it got worse when, during my attempt to apologise for the incident, one of the ladies said “what happened is statistically true given the size of the group”. At this, two guys threw a hissy fit, as to how is that possible? They completely failed to see, it had already happened! Intentional or not, we were in a room where a woman had complained that she was made to feel physically uncomfortable by one of us. Instead of acknowledging that, they were still trying to agree what had happened actually warranted the use of the term #metoo, ugh!

The next day, when everyone had slept it over, before parting ways, the lady made a supreme effort go up to the guy and ask, “I wasn’t in a mood to listen to you last night, is there anything you wanted to say now?”, instead of apologizing profusely, his response (paraphrased) was ‘let bygones be bygones’!

Guys, I am writing this down in hopes that it will get into your head, maybe not today, someday…

  • Social norms and values are very dynamic and fluid, if you are not tuned to them when in a social setting, you should dial yourself down to a point were you approach things conservatively.
  • If you know and are aware of a social boundary, don’t try to push it in the name of occasion, how much alcohol you’ve had, or who initiated a chain of event.
  • If you realise you’ve crossed a boundary, whether on your own or by direct/indirect prompts, the only thing that will fix it is an unconditional apology at the very first opportunity you get. You may not understand why your seemingly innocuous actions were construed as an invasion of privacy or personal space, it only means you need to try to learn more, sincerely. Don’t try to brush it off with a ‘I didn’t mean it’!
  • The longer you take you apologise, the deeper the hurt gets and more difficult it becomes to treat it as an ‘honest mistake’. Taking 72 hours to talk about it, borders on acknowledgement of guilt, and then making it about yourself during the apology just makes it a non-apology and meaningless.
  • It is not about your intention ‘interpreted wrong’, it is about your actions resulting if someone feeling uncomfortable, due to myriad reasons possible.
  • Don’t feign innocence because no one complained to you before. Being human means being different from others in many many ways. You are not expected to know all the ways, but if someone says you goofed up, then admit it, learn from it, apologise genuinely, and back off.
  • Don’t make it about yourself. Getting accused of improper behaviour may come as a surprise, but it shouldn’t shock you into inaction. Quite the opposite, it should shock you into action. If you are among friends, it gives you an opportunity to course correct, introspect and come out a better person. The moment you make it about yourself because ‘it never happened to you before’ or ‘no one said it to you before’ you have lost it and probably the friendship.

Women should NOT have to cry out a hashtag for you to sit up and listen to her disagreements about personal space. Apart from the criminal behaviour that has brought #metoo to the fore, any of the following can bring back bad memories that are hurtful and hence just as detestable and protest-able

  • Every time you ‘did not hear’ her protest about encroachment of private space, however mild it was. A no is a no is a no!
  • Every time you forced a physical contact that may have been appropriate in another scenario (A hug as a greeting is not the same as hugging/touching when, say you are playing a game that doesn’t actually need such interaction)!
  • Every time you don’t try your hardest, to avoid physical contact in a public place, and don’t apologise for contact that was unavoidable (for example – crowded trains, buses, public transport are not a license to ‘lean in’ or ‘touch’),
  • Every time you threatened her with violence (don’t have to perpetuate, just being vocal is bad enough)
  • Every time you questioned a woman’s complaint about being uncomfortable/sick/nauseous etc. about a certain action, speech or gesture.

If you think getting the above is ‘hard’, imagine what goes through women when one or more of those things happens to them in varying frequencies over their lifetime!

For everyone who recognises what I have written here and still say ‘but…’ I present to you, Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

It was a very sobering few days for me, needing much introspection and how I (and guys in general) go about and how women have go about, socially. Even though I wasn’t the aggravator in this case, I have been around women who have been hurt and have not protested, or not been apologised to, for the hurt… it actually took someone near and dear to yell #metoo for me to understand that it happens far too often even in our closest circles. I guess it wasn’t my first #metoo event after all, just the one I heard clearly! Now pardon me while I go introspect my follies and figure out the apologies I owe!

 

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The Moonraker – Paper Modeling like never before

My 6yo has been asking for ‘Rocket’ projects (ever since he saw Tintin’s Moon adventure story), for a while now and we’ve staved it off with rockets like these

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Not that he didn’t enjoy them, he made one for his friend too.

But this weekend he wanted a space shuttle and he wanted it bad! He bugged his grandpa to lookup on the internet and surprise surprise, grandpa (my Dad) found this (PDF). 

Well, he was very excited and up early on Saturday morning, couldn’t wait for me to be done with my sleep, woke me up and chased me off to get the correct paper! Turns out you have the exact specs for the paper required, but here all I could ask for was ‘stiff A4 size sheet’ and I was given what the stationary shop refers to as ‘Drawing Sheet’. Well, with 10 drawing sheets we started our adventure.

The actual design was 5 pages long, we printed it out at home and the fun started. It took me and almost the whole of Saturday afternoon to cut up all the pieces and start with the work. It took me a major part of the evening to get the fuselage done. Later in the evening Praji took over the wings while I glued up the engine parts.

Finally on Sunday morning I was able finish everything off and we had our space shuttle Moonraker ready!

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This is the most breathtaking piece of craftwork I have done in a very very very long time and it reminded me of how much I loved craft when I was a kid.

Thank you http://axmpaperspacescalemodels.com. There are plenty of free models to download and build. If you have a kid half interested in rockets and spaceships, you MUST go there and try out some of the models. It costed a grand total of Rs. 5/- (INR) ($0.10) for the paper and some for the ink on your printer and provided nearly 8 hours of entertainment for the whole family!!! For folks in US, you can build the International Space Station (for crying out loud) for $25, just that it might take a couple of weekends if not more Smile.

Hopefully next week we can build another one. If we succeed, you’ll surely hear from me!!!

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Has India had enough?

[ This post is an outburst, so it has strong language and I don’t care if it hurts your sentiments, I’ve had enough. ]

The past three weeks has seen an outpouring of rage in India’s capital city, Delhi. I don’t have the heart to word what the flashpoint was. It was inhuman and barbaric, perpetrated by the sick-in-the-head people who deserve to be publicly stoned to death! Yes, a barbaric ending for the Neanderthal people who committed a heinous crime!

It was amazing to see the near spontaneous protest that formed, and then there was a sickening feeling in the gut when the government cracked down brutally on it! I mean how can the govt. crack down on a peaceful apolitical demonstration?

People are angry and arguably angry at the Govt. because the Govt. is where law-and-order is supposed to stem from, instead Govt. has become the flag-bearer of apathy to public sentiment. Simply speaking, to the common man, the Govt. doesn’t give a shit!

A lot of ink has been spilled over the last 15 days on what should change in Laws/Rules/Regulations blah blah!

Today I have a few questions for the people of India, ask these questions to yourself and act upon what’s missing. You don’t have to answer me!

Question 1: Have you had enough of a free ride? Democracy is not an auto-pilot where someone else votes, some people to power and some people form a govt. NO!!! You have to vote, you have to elect and you have to CHOOSE who forms a govt.

For years the so called educated middle class have treated day of voting as a holiday and for years the political system has been diverted by scoundrels, goons, ruffians and criminals. If you have criminals ruling the country how do you expect it to be run properly?

Start here by getting yourself a Voter ID, then go register yourself as a voter in your constituency! No FUCKING EXCUSES!

Question 2: So called Men of the country, are you really men?

Fucking MAN UP! Denigrating a woman makes you a wiener! If you can’t control your libido because women wear short-skirts maybe you should use your hand more often wank off your lonely pitiful existence!!!

Women are not objects, women are not there to serve you and they are definitely not there to be poked/prodded/groped or insulted every time they are in a public place. Again if you can’t control your hands, well use it to hold on to your wiener and keep your fucking trap shut!!!

Question 3: Stop feeding the corruption, what goes around comes around!

Stop feeding corruption at all levels, be it voting for a rapist/murderer/scumbag politician or bribing the havaldar for not getting your PUC done on time or getting a driving license without appearing for the test!!!

Question 4: To politicians – Stop being jerks!

It takes just one women oriented issue to get all the male jerks out of their woodwork. You hear comments like ‘dented and painted women’ or ‘paison ke liye thumke lagati thi’. You guys are big walking dicks for making such comments!!!

Women politicians, stop being bigger jerks by trying to convert a woman’s violation as a political drama!

Question 5: To the protectors of Law, stop harming people you swore to protect!

Yes, you have very little motivation to do well, you may have paid a huge amount of bribe to get your lowly positions in the ‘force’, the few of you who have had the motivation have been repeatedly scuttled by your political bosses, all that still doesn’t prevent you from ‘trying’ to do what is right!

– Don’t brutalize the victim of crime.

– Take suo-moto cognizance of the complaint.

– Don’t insult women who have had the guts to come report a crime.

– And answer all the questions above for yourself!

 

End of the Day

Yes, I am mad, I am frustrated, I really don’t know what needs to be done, but I know one thing, I live in a democracy, and no 66A is going to stop me from doing the right thing. BE PREPARED INDIA! Speak with your VOTE! You’ve had enough or ruffians/goons/sleazebags/rapists rule the country! TIME TO SPEAK IS NOW!!!

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Should Five year olds be allowed to play in a park with others of their age, without their parents around?

Today I saw something at our community park that’s kind of shaken me, surprised me and made me angry!

We live in a small gated community in Sacramento, CA. The community has one common open area that consists on a semi-circular grassy patch with a couple of picnic tables and a barbeque grill in the middle. There is a concrete path around it.

Ever since my five year old, got two scooters for his B’day (last week) we’ve been regular visitors of this park in the evenings. It’s a park and there are other kiddos around too. My champ makes friends easily and befriended everyone he met there. They share their scooters, bikes and chalks and have fun in general along the concrete path. The grass is too thick to cycle or scooter on. Needless to say kids are from all ethnic backgrounds. I roughly gauged all kiddo’s have at least one parent nearby except one little guy who’s mom I’ve seen come out only to get him back home when it gets dark. She’s not around all the time.

Things were fine till today!

When we arrived at the park all the kiddos were there, a toy basketball stand was setup on the path (one of the plastic Fisher Price ones that can go up to 6 feet high) and the kids were having fun with it. The scooters and bikes were lying around casually. When my kiddo went in with his scooter, he managed to distract a few from the basketball game and they joined him with their cycles and scooters. Fun went along nicely till one of the girls got bumped on the nose with the basket ball. One of the guys received a scolding for it (?!?!). Thereafter another kiddo (one who’s parents are not overlooking him) got shouted at a couple of times for trying to hang on the rim. It’s not that he was doing it alone. The other boys were doing it too! Second time he got shouted at he gave up on basketball and started playing around with a spare cycle. While cycling around he once went into one of the building’s staircase area (where I could see him but the other parents couldn’t). When he came out, one of the parents rushed to him and rather admonishingly said something to the order of – “that cycle does not belong to you, do not go out of sight with it”. From a distance I found the tone and gesturing really really rude. The kiddo took it sportingly, gave up on the cycle after a while and played with one of the spare scooters.

Then nasty things happened.

I was at a picnic table when my kiddo and this kid came over and were taking a breather. We saw two cars of our private security patrol come up to the park. Now I always tell my kid that if he is not nice, Security (or Cops) will come (want them to fear law rather than super-natural beasts and demons). So I was kidding with both of them asking them if they had been naughty and that was the reason the Security cars had come up.

Two security guards came out and were standing on the periphery when the lady who had made the rude comment walked up to them and talked to them. They were about 30 feet away and I couldn’t hear them, I only caught a few words that sounded like a complaint against this kiddo because no one was watching him!!! The two security guards then asked the kiddo to take them to his house and knocked on their door. What transpired I don’t know, but it ended up with this kiddo going back home and me feeling extremely confused! As I think about it now, I feel have mixed emotions and anger is one of them.

Questions that keep popping in my head are –

1. Should five year olds not play on their own with other kids of their own age? Fact is I don’t let my 5 year old go out on his own. Having broken his left arm before turning 5, at playschool, while doing monkey bars, I am not confident of his abilities to keep himself out of harm’s way! But if someone is confident about their kid of being able to take care of themselves in a gated community, what’s the harm?

2. As a parent do you really need to tell another kid that something is not his and he shouldn’t get out of sight with it? Five year olds? Come on!!! Now that I think back, a couple of days back one of the girls was playing with my son’s scooter and she dropped it on the path instead of putting it down softly. I believe the same lady admonished her for that too.

3. Calling Security? I mean that was ridiculous!!! Are we so insecure about ourselves and our neighbors? I mean these two families live in the same building. All one had to do was ring the bell introduce yourself and have a polite chat if you were so concerned.

Whatever the reason, I left the field today with a little bit of a culture shock!!! Now I know I have to be careful about the parents of kids whom my son plays with.

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Better Roads… Better Humans… Better Taxation…

Last week I became a part of an interesting debate in on of the online groups I am a member of.

The group was started by a set of well meaning gentleman who were thoroughly fed-up with the state of roads (or lack of them) in Pune, India. The news about the group spread like wildfire and soon if grew into a sizable social-organization. It kept going from strength to strength organizing meetings, public gatherings and even petitions in court. I am not an active part of those happenings and I admit I am NOT proud of that bit. I would really like to get over my ‘intertia/lethargy’ whatever you call it. I really really hope to contribute more to it. Given my lack of contribution to the group I kept from criticizing or patronizing.

The group from time to time would have enthusiastic people post about other social malises in the city/country and that when things would get more interesting. Some time back a similar post came to my notice. A well meaning gentleman laid his heart out about loss of values and moral in todays’ citizens of the country vis-a-vis days of Gandhian glory. Personally I am not the biggest fan of Gandhian philosophy where you are supposed to present the second cheek if slapped in one. I am more of a ‘fight-or-flight’ guy depending on secnarios and under no circumstance will take physical violence lying down. Nevertheless the loss of moral and and values has hit me time an time again ever since I ‘hit-the-road’ trying to make it on my own. I’ve tried to live up to certain self laid rules of acceptable civil behaviour that’s somewhere between Gandhian Non-Violence and Subhash Chandra Bose’s ‘give me your blood and I’ll give you freedom’. Leaning more towards the later.
Coming back to this gentleman’s post about his feelings, without doubt it invoked sharp responses. One gentleman pointed out that since only about 15% of the popluation paid taxes (he meant Income Taxes levied on your earnings) they were entitled to have materialistic dreams and had rights to ‘sit-back’ and enjoy them. He also cribbed about how the farming community never paid any taxes and hence didn’t ‘deserve’ the comforts the ‘tax-payers’ could afford. Though he had his facts slightly misplaced (only 2% of the earning population in India pays Income Taxes, the rest are all ‘farmers’, pun intended), it was a stark revelation of how modern India’s neo-rich and successful think. More importantly the huge bridge in thinking and doing. The gentleman was a part of the group which was essentially doing social work. So his reason of being there can be percieved to be well intentioned but his statement points at the growing arrogance of the neo-rich and their shallow knowledge of deeper social malice in the complex country. It is extremely sad to even think that non-tax-paying farmers did not deserve a better life.
If one looks deeper, its not the farmers who don’t pay taxes. Heck most of them don’t even make enought to afford 3 square meals for 365 days a year. Thousands of them have taken their lives because they couldn’t repay loans of loan sharks. These loan sharks are leechs who systematically rob the farmer of his rightful earning and bleeds the government of taxes. Add to that group the lot of politicians who thrive on the un-employment and un-educated. They are the most un-accountable/blood sucking group of ********* out there.  Next, the biggest grossers in terms of money are the best when it comes to avioding taxes they suddenly turn farmers. And then there are us, the ‘educated-illiterates’. We prefer to live in our false cocoon of safety… our false sense of success… our false belief of achievements. We thumb a few keys on a keyboard 16-20 hours a day and belive we work hard enough to consider ourselves insulated from all social responsibilities, including foregoing our right to vote. Yes, the election day is NOT a public holiday. We even dare to be armchair specialists of all the social malices in the world and cock a snook at anything that brings us closer to reality…

Get real guys… Better Roads would definitely be nice… but being better humans is the starting point… so make a start… after all we live in a democracy… Better taxation will follow…

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