Showing posts from 2020

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

Reboot and Recovery: Surviving the Virus Attack

For the last two months all our systems have been under a terrible virus attack. Various malwares and spywares have invaded our systems. Many of us have been looking at the ‘blue screen of death’ wondering how to recover our systems. The system administrators are promising to release an upgraded OS in a few days. Are there any steps that we could take to keep our systems safe and prevent another crash? One class of malwares that has spread rampantly during these last two months are the ‘stigma and discrimination’ worms. In our anxiety to keep our own systems safe we have stopped trusting everyone else. While the broadband network can run without wires and can be contact-free, the network of relationships requires one to be constant touch and express feelings. A common sign that this malware has spread across our cities is the fear of the domestic household support worker or the maid. While maids were paid for the month of March, many were not been paid for the months of April. With t

Covid Sutra : Dignity, Respect and Co-existence

When the second phase of lockdown was relaxed early this month the number of infections spiked and on the 10 th of May the number of new infections exceeded 4000. Now that the 3 rd phase of lockdown is over and 4 th begins from the 18 th of May the infection rates in India have now exceeded that of China. While our eyes are glued to the Covid 19 related statistics and dashboards, we probably need a little more clarity about Covid and how to live with it otherwise we may be paralysed with uncertainty and fear a situation death like in Italy or Spain or UK where the death rates were very high not so long ago. Has Covid 19 Virus Contributed to Excess Mortality in India? The fear of death is a primal fear and Covid 19 has been compared to the deadly scourges like Black Death in the middle ages and the Spanish Flu in the early twentieth century. The Black Death or bubonic plague laid waste to Europe, killing a large proportion of the population in middle of the 14 th Century

Coexisting with Covid: Time for a Bottom Up Approach

It is a good time to remember that Indians have lived for decades, if not centuries, with highly contagious and extremely lethal diseases like small-pox and cholera, and others less lethal, like tuberculosis or malaria. From the little that we know about this virus it is unpredictable, highly contagious but not extremely lethal. It can be fatal, but then it has been asymptomatic for many. We cannot wait till we achieve herd immunity or find a cure or vaccinate the entire population as none of these are likely to happen soon. Our best bet is probably that the virus ‘disappears’ on its own as happened with the Spanish flu. But a better bet is to evolve a model of co-existence based on caution while we wait for a ‘flattening of the curve’. Now that the central government has issued its top-down ‘restriction and permission’ based directives we probably need to balance these with some ‘bottom-up’ actions to reclaim some of the normalcy we have lost. Communities have survived with contagi

Covid Lessons: A Time for Masculinities to Change

The two news items that caught the eye on the first day of colour-coded lockdown were about the long queues in front of liquor shop s across the country and that of an Instagram group of young boys. In some places the line was long and orderly, in others all caution and distancing was thrown into the winds as people jostled for space. There were ‘lathi-charges’ and there were record sales. State governments saw a quick opportunity to make up for their depleted tax collections by announcing tax hikes. The other news was less dramatic but more shocking. It was about an Instagram group of young high-school students called ‘ Bois LockerRoom ’. Adolescent boys from relatively well-off families in Delhi were using this social media group to discuss rape, gang-rape, girls’ bodies, and other sexually degrading topics. Young men keep coming back into the news cycle for different reasons. Violence is one of the most common reasons. There is news of different kinds of ‘hate-crimes’ based on

Is Covid19 the only virus that we need to be worried about?

Everyday there is disturbing news of things happening during the lockdown that have nothing to do with the virus Covid 19. First, we had news of millions of frightened migrants who started moving towards their homes. The cities that they worked in provided them income. But the moment they learnt that livelihoods options were closed, the millions who live on the margins of our economic system started moving. They wanted to go to a safer haven, their homes. On the way they were sprayed with harmful chemicals, beaten up by the police, held in quarantine and many other forms of indignity were heaped upon them. While the message of ‘fear’ was clear, the message of succour, if and when it came, was always an afterthought. Then came the news of rising reports of violence against women and children at homes. The Childlines and the National Commission on Women reported higher than usual reporting of violence and abuse. We all know that reports to the formal complaint systems represent the ti