With a little help from my friends

Many of my friends must have felt a little irritated when I sent around a series of requests for donations some weeks earlier. It was my effort at crowd funding from my friends for a social project supporting elderly women and adolescent girls in a few ‘slums’ in Kolkata. The fund raising was somewhat successful, and we have been able to raise funds for take-home rations for about 200 older women for a few months. Dear friends, thank you for your contributions, and do bear with me when I come back to you for your support a few months later. In my conversations with friends over the last months, I have come to realise that many of you make contributions to many social causes. As a person working in the non-profit or the voluntary sector for over three decades, this makes me incredibly happy. Financial support from those who can give it, is extremely important for the social sector, now more than ever before. I feel proud that my friends are so generous. I have learnt that while ther

Keep the Baul-Fakir Tradition Alive in West Bengal

The battlelines are drawn and getting deeper every day. The BJP is throwing in some mighty punches while the TMC is preparing for rear-guard action as many of its stalwarts are deserting the mothership. The Congress and the erstwhile Left Front have joined forces after having been bitter enemies during the long years of the Left Front rule in West Bengal. BJP moved early when it launched its Mission Bengal in early November last year. Within a month TMC intensified its outreach through the Duare Sarkar (Government at your doorstep) programme. There is already news of many scuffles. The BJP president’s convoy was attacked last month when he and other leaders were on their way to a meeting near Kolkata. It promises to be a long and bitter struggle till voting takes place in the first half of this year . (Image from TripAdvisor) Hindutva, Voting and Politics of Contestation Voting is a political act, but in India, citizenship is being increasingly conflated with cultural identity. I

A World of Privilege

The storming of the US Capitol has created shock waves around the world. The world was stunned at the way thousands of supporters of incumbent President Donald Trump, egged on by him, marched to the US Capitol, pushed past the guards and vandalised the building including the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. The President-elect John Biden while condemning the event as ‘one of the darkest days of our nation’s history’ said that the police was very lenient , unlike during the Black Lives Matter protest last year. Many reports are noting the muted response of the DC police to the predominantly white mob in this case compared to the earlier Black Lives Matter protests. This differential response of the police is drawing widespread condemnation of silent sympathy from authorities for the rioters this time around. This entire episode is also being considered a display of ‘white privilege’ . There have always been two Americas. The Capitol Hill riot proved it.   (Click for a video)  The

Covid Needs New Masked Heroes

  It was 1919, the world was recovering from the devastations of the Great War and the Spanish flu pandemic was raging around the world when Zorro burst into the scene through a serialised novel The Curse of Capistrano. Zorro is considered a precursor of the more well-known masked saviours like Phantom (introduced in 1936) and Batman (introduced in 1939). Superman also debuted at the same time (in 1938) but Clark Kent wore thick glasses and our favourite superhero did not need any masked subterfuge to hide his super-powers. Masked heroes have been a favourite among readers and writers to save people, cities, and countries from catastrophe. In hundreds of comic strips, novels and films they come out on top. When the enemy is defeated and the people are saved, the masked hero makes a quiet exit only to be resurrected when needed again. Exactly one hundred years from when Zorro made his screen debut through Douglas Fairbank in the Mark of Zorro, the world needs masked saviours once ag

Heeding August Lessons

We went through an interesting period during the first ten days this August. It was replete with events, memorials, and memories. First there was Bakr id or Id ul Zuha followed by Rakhi. Then in quick succession were three incredibly significant days of remembrance. On the 5 th of August, the foundation laying ceremony for the Ram temple in Ayodhya took place.   This auspicious act was done on a day that had little religious significance. In a country where timings, of events little or large, are decided through complex astrological calculations, the date for such an important event was aligned to the date of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. A political act was dressed in the garb of a social or religious one. The very next day was the 6 th of August. It is a day which possibly does not mean much anymore but is a day of immense significance in the history of the 20 th century. This year the 6 th and 9 th of August marked the 75 th year of the bombing

Gender Benders

The s ocial media dominates our world as many of us stay indoors trying to keep safe and healthy. Staying at ho me has not been something that many of us are used to. It was not surprising that a discussion started in one of the groups I am in, on what work is appropriate for men and women, and whether it was good time to teach sons how to cook. There were many arguments both from the women and the men. Some argued that domestic chores were no longer chores with machines and automation, and how cooking was irrelevant in the times of home delivery and to know how to cook an omelette or make khichri was sufficient survival skill. Others argued that both boys and girls need to be involved in cooking and cleaning and that the lockdown was the best opportunity for developing these skills. As in many social media arguments it could not be settled. So here is a short quiz you may choose to take and check out where you stand in this matter.  GenderBender Quiz . How much did you score? I

Minding your P's and Q's: What they don't tell you about the Population Question!

There is considerable concern that India’s population will soon become the highest in the world. And that is a victory we do not want over the Chinese ! But let's leave the border skirmish aside for some time. On the 'population' front China is considered to have done much better than India. India appears to have made a hash of its population problem and our population seems to be perpetually growing.  Let us pause for a moment and check out our P's and Q's ie. Population Quotient. Here is a Population Quiz. Q. Why is India’s population still growing while China’s population growth has come to a grinding halt? A. China’s population growth has NOT halted .  Both India and China have growing populations, the rate of growth is different. India has a growth of population growth rate of 1% per year while China has a population growth rate of 0.6% per year. According to current projections China’s population will stop growing and start declining by around 2030, for