Monday, December 29, 2008

Hum bekhudi mein tumko pukare chale gaye...

It's about to be a month now since we became Mr and Mrs Vrushali Lad, and so far, things have been GREAT.

Never mind that I'm still a bit disorganised in the mornings and I'm STILL not used to not having a cup of tea handed to me first thing in the morning. The evenings are even worse, when I come tearing home and have to take 10 minutes just to list the chores to be done. But once the food is made (somehow) and I start on the rotis and the doorbell rings and the hubby comes home, somehow the effort is worth it with all the bullying him and ordering him about to set the table (I keep forgetting to do it every night) and then listening to him recount how his day either sucked or was terrific.

I even love the "Oye! Uth abhi!" routine we have every morning. Only difference is that when I say those words, he at least grudgingly gets out of bed, but when he does, I either don't hear him or just stay put.

It's been a nice time. Tomorrow I celebrate the first anniversary of the accident we had together last year. A year later, I have a deformed little finger and a cute little marriage to show for it :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just some stuff happening

In keeping with my reputation of being my own worst enemy, I am about to embark on an escapade that is already making those who know me completely hysterical and not helping my self-esteem one bit. Also in keeping with the way I have lived my life so far, I have decided to complicate matters inextricably, knowing fully well that I will have myself and also the boyfriend to blame.

That's right. I am about to get married.

We've fixed it for December. Because it's a cool month and it's the last month of the year and because it aptly signifies the last few days of my being single and happy. And because when I choose to marry and in which month is my business, not yours.

It's only a court marriage, so no point getting your best suit or most garish saree out, because you're going to feel (and look) silly. There is no after-party either, so bad luck there as well. Of course, Greta Garbo wanted to attend the Bachelor Bash and the Spinster Party and the Wedding Dinner, but by now, he understands. A lot of the people who now know of this strange turn of events are either questioning the logic behind such a ceremony ("It happens once in your life, do it in style, na!") or applauding our sturdy common sense. Either way, no frills and fancies.

Right now, I'm enjoying watching the shock spread slowly across the face of whichever sucker either Sandy or I give our happy news to. Also, we'll be doing up the house this month, so that should be fun.

See you'll later.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The thing about falling ill is that there's a constant feeling of being underfoot, and that you're probably annoying your mother by just being there. And of course, you don't want to EVER go back to work because let's face it, what's so wrong about never going back?

On the upside, however, I got waited on hand and foot at all times, and there was one memorable night when the fever kept rising and my head kept pounding and both parents and the hubby were at my beck and call. Hee!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kahan hai mera phone?

September 17, 2008

h/l: Mumbai, Bengaluru will decide for entire country

While cell phone companies may become more stringent about screening terrorists' text messages


Mumbai: Even as mobile phones increasingly become part of our lives, providing everything from accessibility to entertainment, the Centre may take the fun out of cell phone usage by imposing some rules.

Strangely enough, the entire country may come under the ambit of these rules though views have been canvassed only from Mumbai and Bengaluru.

"A Rajya Sabha committee on petitions, headed by BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu and six others, concluded their tour of Bengaluru, followed by Mumbai on Wednesday. The Committee was seeking opinions from concerned stakeholders after a Patiala resident, advocate Gurjit Singh, filed a petition seeking an "imposition of reasonable restrictions on the use of mobile phones" in certain places in the country.

As per Singh's petition, "mobile phones are being misused by the rank and file. There is a grave and urgent need to impose certain restrictions on the use of mobile phones, in such places as schools, colleges, vehicles when driving, places of worship, public offices and cremation grounds." He also contends that mobile phone cameras should be barred from use as some people take photographs of others without consent and 'waste time' watching video clips.

Naidu said, "We have taken meetings with students, parents, educators, cell phone operators, religious leaders and state government officials. The almost unanimous request from them has been that there should not be a complete ban on mobile phone usage in these places, but there may be reasonable restrictions."

However, Naidu conceded that some recommendations in the petitioner's plea may not be feasible. For example, Singh demands that jammers or decoders should be installed in educational institutions. Naidu said, "It becomes very expensive to fit every classroom with jammers. Also, it is not possible to bar networks in the entire building since such a system might hamper other buildings in the vicinity as well." Along with this and other points such as enacting laws barring the sale of phones with in-built cameras, increasing the penalties for talking on the phone while driving et al, Naidu said, would be deliberated on before compiling the report for submission to the Parliament.

However, the committee has made specific observations for cellular operators. "We have asked them to submit in writing if they have any mechanism to bar unwanted calls or obscene messages on the consumer's end. Also, in the wake of rising terrorism in the country, is it possible to screen messages sent from terrorists to pinpoint exact location?" Naidu said.

He also mentioned that with a lower spectrum use and lack of too many phone towers, cellular operators must not indiscriminately give out new connections to meet demand. The committee is scheduled to meet the health ministry for inputs on the harmful effects of cell phone radiation before taking a decision on towers' location vis-à-vis residential places.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mr Gandhi, Mr Gandhi

September 8, 2008

H/l: Help clear the Gandhi trail
Intro: Panel compiling information on places associated with Gandhi needs your help
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Even as West Bengal governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi stepped in to facilitate talks on the Tata Nano crisis in Singur, the youngest grandson of Mahatma Gandhi is busily looking for inputs of a different kind – a panel that he heads is documenting all the sites in the country associated with Gandhi.

Constituted in 2006 by the Centre, the Gandhi Heritage Sites (GHS) panel has painstakingly compiled a list of places that Gandhi visited or stayed in during his numerous travels for the freedom movement from 1920s onwards, but it requires help from historians and knowledgable members of the public to provide the specifics wherever the panel lacks sufficient data.

In an email reply sent to this reporter, in which Sakaal Times had asked for a list of places that the Mahatma had been associated with in Maharashtra, governor Gandhi sent a 288-page document containing such sites in the State. “We would like to have knowledgable persons’ response to the list,” he said.

As per the data provided by him, Gandhi visited Pune and Wardha the most, followed by Bombay, all between 1915 to 1946. He seemed to have covered all of Maharashtra, travelling often to Nashik, Yavatmal, Amravati, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Panvel, Thane, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar, Chiplun and Karjat.

However, certain data require more information before it is included in the final list. For instance, when Gandhi visited Kopargaon on February 18, 1927 to address a gathering of Marwaris at Rashtriya Pathshala, the GHS seeks to know if the Pathshala functions from the same venue today.

In Pune, Gandhi unveiled the bust of Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar on September 4, 1924. The GHS requirement is: what is the site of the bust and is there a plaque marking Gandhiji’s unveiling of it? (See box for other Pune requirements.)

It was also in Pune that Gandhi started studying Marathi on February 27, 1915, so that he could access the political literature in that language. On May 20, 1933, he began taking Sinhagad spring water mixed with soda bicarbonate to relieve nausea and acidity. And it was in Pune that he helped set up a nature cure centre in 1944 and subsequently shut it down.

The details that the panel has compiled so far reveal the enigma that was Gandhi – always forthright and sometimes plain humourous. Interestingly, he made some significant statements on Maharashtra’s soil. For instance, when Kasturba and he were travelling in a third class compartment to Pune from Shantiniketan in 1915, Kasturba used the toilet in the second-class coach. He wrote, “I knew that my wife had no right to avail herself of the second class bathroom, but I ultimately connived at the impropriety. This, I know, does not become a votary of truth.

Not that my wife was eager to use the bathroom, but a husband’s partiality for his wife got the better of his partiality for truth. The face of truth is hidden behind the golden veil of maya, says the Upanishad.”

Very few would know that Gandhi desired to work at the Bombay High Court and that he tried very hard via a recommendation from a white judge, as was required in those days. Also, he unwillingly underwent a ‘cleansing ritual’ after coming back from England as demanded by elders of his community, who felt that going to England and mixing with the meat-eating and alcohol-drinking Europeans was a sin.

In a most interesting reply that Gandhi gave to a press reporter who wanted to know if the test-tube method of having babies was not ideal since it eliminated lust and carnality from procreation, at Wardha in 1940, Gandhi said, “Your method, as far as I can see, can only result in multiplying idiots or monsters, not human beings, thrown into the sea of passions.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Geet gaata chal...

Hindi filmdom has songs for every situation. While other cultures faff about love and war and such immaterial things, our songs have drama, action and in some cases, even humanitarian appeals. Check these out:

World's only Worst Listener song:
She: Hi re, hi!
He: Neend nahin aaye.
She: Hi!
He: Chain nahin aaye.
She: Hi!
He: Dil mein tu samaye.
She: Hi!
He: Aaya pyar bhara mausam deewana. Deewana.

World's best Teach Your Kids Wrong Spellings song:
Krazzy with a K, that's the way,
Say K-R-A-Z-Z-Y.
Do it anyway, just put the K,
in K-R-A-Z-Z-Y.

World's best What Is He Effing Talking About song:
You gotta rule,
yeh na tu bhool…
Ki tu hai cool oh yaaron.
Zara dil khol ke mujhko bol…
What’s in your soul bata do.
So if you wanna… yeah…yeah…
Dil hai deewana…yeah… yeah
One and two and three and four
Swing it with me doston…

World's best Lost in Translation song:
Yeh kya hua...kaise hua...
kab hua...kyun hua...jab hua,
oh chhodo, yeh na socho.
Hmm hmm hmm, yeh kya hua...?

World's best Doormat song:
Kitne bhi tu kar le situm,
Has has ke sahenge hum.
Yeh pyar na hoga kum,
sanam teri kasam.

World's best Learning By Rote Song:
Jhalak dikhla jaa,
jhalak dikhla jaa,
jhalak dikhla jaa,
jhalak dikhla jaa.
Ek baar aaja aaja aaja aaja aa ja.
Ek baar aaja aaja aaja aaja aa ja.
Ek baar aaja aaja aaja aaja aa ja.
Ek baar aaja aaja aaja aaja aa ja.

World's best 'Ab Tak 13' song:
Dil ki surkh deewaron pe
deewaron pe...
Naam hai 13 13...
naam hai 13 13
naam hai 13 13
naam hai 13 13.

World's most Simple Dance Number:
Disco 82.
Disco 82.
Disco 82.
La la la.

World's best What To Tell Your Kidnapper song:
She: Jaane do na...
He: Paas aao na...
She: Chhuo na chhuo na mujhe
chhuo na chhuo na mujhe
chhuo na, chhuo na, chhuo na...

World's best Alarmist song:
baaton baaton mein pyar ho jayega.

World's best Voices In My Head song:
Bhooli hui yaadon,
mujhe itna na satao...
ab chain se rehne do,
mere paas na aao.

Worlds' best Half Information song:
Humein tumse pyar kitna
yeh hum nahin jaante.
Magar jee nahin sakte
tumhare bina.

World's best I Am Foolish song:
Na na karte pyar tumhi se kar baithe.
karna tha inkaar, magar iqraar
tumhi se kar baithe.

World's only Hindi SPCA theme song:
So ja, nindiya ki bela hai...
Aa ja panchhi akela hai.

World's best Security Vault song:
Tere dil mein main apne armaan rakh doon...
aa meri jaan...main tujh mein apni jaan rakh doon.

World's best In Praise of Drool song:
Saathiya saathiya,
maddham maddham teri geeli hansi.

World's best Drunk To The Eyeballs song:
Chhalke teri aankhon se,
sharab aur zyada,
khilte rahe hothon ke
gulab aur zyada.

World's best Trust A Guy To Bungle Up song:
Aadmi jo kehta hai, aadmi jo sunta hai,
zindagi bhar woh sadayein peechha karti hain.
Aadmi jo deta hai, aadmi jo leta hai,
zindagi bhar woh duwaein peechha karti hain.

World's first Solitary Confinement song:
Chal akela, chal akela, chal akela.
Tera mela peechhe chhoota rahi, chal akela.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Our royal fatness

h/l: Fat state of affairs in Maharashtra
Pune doc offers conclusive proof that younger populations are at higher risk of cardiac and other lifestyle disorders

Mumbai: In a first for the state, a Pune-based doctor has devised a scientific model to prevent the occurrence of heart diseases and obesity, simply by checking one's Body-Mass-Index (BMI).

A painstakingly compiled survey from September 2006 to January 2008 across four cities in the State - Pune, Mumbai, Ahmednagar and Aurangabad - at shopping malls, schools, lower and higher end corporate houses, the Pune Municipal Corporation, jogging parks, multiplexes and medicine OPDs in civic hospitals, Dr Shashank Shah of the Laparo Obese Centre, along with the Rotary Club of Pune, Pashan, the Grant Medical Foundation and the Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune have just released the findings exclusively to Sakaal Times.

The results bring bad news across all age groups. Speaking to Sakaal Times, Dr Shah said, "The findings are compiled through readings taken from 1,969 people who volunteered to undergo the BMI test. Of the results we have compiled, we find that more women than men in the age groups 21-30 and 31-40 are in the mild obese to very obese range."

A BMI of 23, which is a ratio compiled by comparing the height and weight of a person, is an ideal number at any age. "Given a plus or minus two, a person above 25 BMI can be categorised as mildly obese. As per our findings, in the age group 21-30, men averaged a BMI of 35, while women averaged at 39.

Also, in the age group 31-40, men and women averaged at 30 and 32.5 BMI respectively."

Interestingly, though, as men cross the 50-year barrier, their BMI is above women in the same age group. "This can be attributed to the fact that after retirement, men's activity patterns change while women's remain the same. Even when they're old, most women continue taking care of the house while men become sedentary. This leads to a higher BMI," Dr Shah said.

Dr Shah has a word of caution for the 40-and above age groups. "This generation is unhealthy because most people are settled in life and rarely exercise. They want to enjoy their lives at the expense of being healthy. This generation generally has a BMI higher by 10."

Meanwhile, young women in the age group of 21-30 tend to physiologically put on more weight than men. "This is the age group that eats more outside and has hardly any time to exercise," Dr Shah says.


The BMI is calculated using a machine that matches a person's height and weight

35 highest BMI for 21-30 year-old men

39 highest BMI for 21-30 year-old women

33 BMI for men above 60, 29 for women

The survey team suggests that places of work or colleges must incorporate exercise equipment and an hour of mandatory exercise daily

So easy being a columnist, no?

Gah, I give up. I tried - impartially at first, then with growing impatience - to see what all the fuss was about Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan. I mean, Come On! Quite apart from the blog being not that great (okay, that's her business, but STILL), the lady has taken to writing columns in newspapers, and that I take serious objection to, because the lady wastes half a page every Monday in both HT Cafe and Mumbai Mirror. And also because she writes tripe.

Or putting it mildly, she writes a lot of tripe.

Ms Madhavan pens A Column On Being Single In The City, titled 'Ms Adventure' (Miss Adventure, geddit? *Poke in the ribs, poke poke*) and the very first one was good. Then the standards of writing (if any had been set in the beginning) fell with a crash before you could say Yawn.

In today's MM column, Ms Madhavan concludes a two-part advice column on Some Basic Guidelines for being Single in Mumbai. Must say by the time I reached para 4, I wanted to move on to better things, because a) I am not single, b) Being single is not a disease that requires intervention from self-proclaimed Single Prats who Know It All, and c) I had had enough.

Sample these:
Continuing the theme, this week I'm going to go on with the Single Guidelines-making not being in a relationship as hassle-free as possible.
What a GRIPPING start! Can't wait to read more because I LOVE free advice. Also did not know that there were only two dimensions to living in Mumbai - Being Single and Being in a Relationship. And here I was, thinking having a good job and loads of laughs everyday actually mattered. My eyes have finally opened, but only for two minutes.

But two Bloody Marys on a Sunday afternoon down, and I'm filled with sentimentality for my women friends who have seen me boyfriend after boyfriend, have never judged -- at least not within earshot -- and who are the perfect wingwomen.
Two Bloody Marys on a Sunday afternoon fills her with sentimentality for her women friends. On my weekly off, all I think about on my Saturday afternoon after a good lunch and two glasses of water, is whether I should head straight to bed or go for a pedicure. Not once do I think of my women friends (not that I have very many). I am so shallow.

As you get older though, and more foolish, and loneliness and alcohol and late night drives enter the picture and there is a special guy friend or many special guy friends (get on with it, already) who are people who make you laugh till you cry or who look out for you as you look out for them, it's harder to keep the boundaries clear.
At this point, harder also to not tear the paper and jump on the remains. Does this lady live in a beer keg kept in a car? Almost every thing she writes deals with the drink-and-long-drive motif. She has successfully put me off both. Well, but at least she realises that the F-word applies to her, as in line 1 of this piece.

How to drive a car is the third thing I'm dealing with...of course, in our awesome city (which she calls Bombay, the prat) we can take public transport pretty much whenever. Then why drive, I hear you ask. Easy, because that way, you don't have to trudge down a flooded road for a rickshaw ruining your new shoes and also, let's face it, girls who can drive are very sexy.
Kay sangtay kay? Probably as a result of not being single in this awesome city and having some modicum of common sense, I do not wear new shoes in the rains and I don't need to sit behind a steering wheel to look sexy. But then, I come from the old school that thinks Sexy is in the mind and hence in the body. Also, my mum would have something to say if I ruined new shoes and the boyfriend would die laughing if I demanded a car because I wanted to look sexy. Besides, one needs something in one's nut, apart from all the booze and boy-thoughts floating around, to know how to use public transport in Mumbai. One cannot use new shoes well in public transport and there's no need to be sexy all the time, we're not Sophia Loren.

If you're the shy and retiring type, you can make yourself look mysterious and enigmatic by just smiling a little bit at introduction and then sitting somewhere in a room or at a table, crossing your legs and not saying very much.
Note to readers: Do the above also if you want to look slightly demented. All the women I've seen smiling a little and not saying much have always seemed like they were thinking with pleasure of their next hatchet job. But of course, lil ole unimaginative me equates enigmatic with Smita Patil or J K Rowling. Stupid only.

When you do decide to participate in a conversation, make sure it's something you have an informed opinion about or you'll just be dismissed out of hand.
No wonder I always dismiss Ms Madhavan.

Gawrsh, I need to lie down.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Close my eyes to God

August 29, 2008
h/l: Crafting God with her eyes closed
Mumbai resident makes Ganesh idols blindfolded, is a five-time Limca record holder

Mumbai: A lot of people make Ganesh idols at home. Only a few make them within a matter of minutes, still lesser numbers give away idols for free and hardly anyone can make them blindfolded. Sion resident Rama Shah (48) has managed all these for the last eight years.

Shah has been making Ganesh idols out of clay and a ‘secret ingredient’ that she uses and can make miniscule idols in about 40 seconds while larger ones take about half an hour. Ever since she was a child, she was interested in making different things and experimenting with various materials.In year 2000, she said, she inexplicably started dreaming of Ganesh idols. “I would dream of idols in different poses and colours. Then I would wonder why I was dreaming of the elephant God. Finally, I decided to make Ganesh idols and put all my skills to the test.”

Shah found that she loved crafting the idols but decided that she would never sell them. “I feel that there is something divine guiding my hands when I make these idols. I work in a room alone and undisturbed, and I give away the idols free to people who come to me for a murti. Many times I am able to advise them on which one to select. Almost all of them come back and tell me that after getting the idol home, their troubles have vanished,” she said.

Since 2000, she has made 80,000 idols and is aiming to reach the 1,00,000 mark. However, she made her first blindfolded idol out of irritation because a lot of people doubted that she was making all the idols herself. “Once a man kept asking if I had made so many idols myself. I retorted that I could make one blindfolded in front of him if he wished,” she said.Last year, she created a record when she made 500 different Ganesh idols in 20 hours non-stop, and without using a block or mould. “My name is featured in the Limca Book of Records five times already,” Shah beamed.

The material she uses gets hotter and hotter as the work progresses, and she said, most people are not able to work with it for more than a few minutes. “But every day at least four to five people come to me and take away some murtis. That makes me so happy that even though my hands hurt with the constant work, I feel like making more,” she said, gesturing towards the hundreds of idols she has arranged in her living room.

After crossing the 1,00,000 mark next year, Shah plans to teach the art of making murtis blindfolded to visually challenged persons so that they can make a living.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blackmail, is all.

Article Rank

Friday, August 22, 2008

Recycle that thermocol

August 21, 2008

h/l: With love from Pune: thermocol furniture
intro: First of its kind plant readies to turn waste thermocol into 100% remoldable furniture at cheap costs
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: While thermocol is a great material to build models out of or to pack away that old TV set, it is the bane of waste recyclers. It neither burns nor does it reduce to invisible units, and if set alight, the result is a molten mess that solidifies when cool and gives off acrid vapours.

Hence, Dr Rajendra Jagdale, Director General of Pune's Science and Technology Park (STP) helped set up a very special plant at Ranjangaon that would tame the otherwise monstrous thermocol into a friendlier avatar. In layman's terms, the plant would treat discarded thermocol to mould it into furniture items that are cheap, durable, recyclable and fire-proof. Interestingly, items made of this material can be used even for street furniture and picket fences.

"The thermocol is converted into fine powder, after which it undergoes a special process that makes it ready in the form of sheets. These can then be used to make a variety of things ranging from floor panels to window frames," Dr Jagdale told Sakaal Times.

The facility and the technology is the first of its kind in the country, though the technical know-how originates in Korea. "The Ranjangaon plant is almost ready, after which the manufacturing process using the treated thermocol would be done at another unit at the MIDC area," Dr Jagdale explained.

He is understandably excited at the prospect of using thermocol in this manner. "Ranjangaon is home to a host of electronics industries, and the area generates about 10 tonnes of thermocol waste daily. The civic conservancy workers do not pick up thermocol pieces since you can't destroy the material. Ragpickers too steer clear of it because one doesn't get more than Rs 3 per kilogram of thermocol while selling it," he explained.

The ecological and monetary benefits far outweigh any concerns about the costs of setting up and running the two plants in Pune. Once ready, the material looks just like wood but it is much lighter. Plus, several tests on the completed material have proved that it is waterproof and termite-resistant, it can withstand temperatures up to 900 degree Celsius and hence it is fire-proof and the best part is, it can be broken down completely and moulded into something else.

"Basically, you can use items made from treated thermocol in any season and in any manner since there are no hazards attached to it and it can't be easily damaged. This is an eco-friendly attempt to create lasting furniture without resorting to wood, thus saving trees," Dr Jagdale said.

Getting furniture made out of it would also be cheap at Rs 75 per square feet, a fraction of the cost as compared to wooden ply. An environmental benefit would be the chance to earn carbon credits if one gives up waste thermocol directly to the plant.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Too much...

It was a bad day. After Laxmi Chhaya last year, I covered the Bhendi Bazaar building collapse today. And after a long time, I cried while reporting.

I was strangely unmoved all throughout when taking pictures of the site and watching with a sick feeling in my stomach when the rescuers unearthed a bit of rubble and I could see the crown of a woman's head. Part of her green saree could be seen poking out of the rubble a metre away. Then I breathlessly waited till two young men, both miraculously alive and answering questions, were patiently pulled out. A woman who was pulled out shortly before them didn't make it.

Neither did over six children, some of them as young as two or three years old. All of these were mere statistics, though, which every reporter notes down since that is the stuff news reports are made of.

Then Sandeep and I went to JJ Hospital, and kept well out of the way of grieving relatives seated in a line outside the building. So far, so impassive. Then the body of a little boy was brought out on a stretcher uncovered. I saw his little face scratched and his rigid limbs either broken or caked with dried blood. His eyes were open, so were his little lips - in a scream or in surprise? The child probably died in his sleep, at least I hope he did. Then a group of women peeped into the open ambulance and recognised the child as one of their neighbours'.

And suddenly, I was crying. Crying like I'd lost my own child. The other reporters there looked at me strangely, Sandeep patted my shoulder. I kept seeing the sorry little face with its unseeing eyes and its torn clothes and its utter helplessness in its death. I can still see his little body all taut in death and subjected to curious stares even from strangers - who doesn't want to look at a corpse?

A little girl of four also died, and today was her fourth birthday. A young woman who had come to the city just 15 days ago to be with her husband died as well. I filed the story, updated the death and injured toll and then cried inside because there are such few occasions that actually move a reporter.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oh woman...

August 7, 2008

h/l: State women are strange paradoxes
More educated than before but harbour regressive attitudes about domestic violence and gender roles

Mumbai: The adage 'it is difficult to understand women' is probably true. Now the government has published findings that can back this claim. As per the National Family Health Survey 3 (NFHS 3) findings published for Maharashtra, the State's women are more emancipated than before but a surprising majority believes that a man is justified in beating up his wife.

This startling contradiction comes through in the report compiled for Maharashtra by three contributors, all women - Sulabha Parasuraman, Sunita Kishor and Y Vaidehi - who are affiliated with the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS).

As per their findings, "More than half of the women in the State have had sexual intercourse by the time they are 18 years of age, while half of the men have had sexual intercourse by the time they are about 24 years." However, this is not a sign of sexual liberation, but because many women are marrying at early ages.

"The earlier age at sexual intercourse for women than men is a consequence of the fact that in Maharashtra first sexual intercourse largely occurs within marriage and women marry at younger ages than men," the report says. Interestingly, a high 74 per cent of married women participate in making decisions for their households, either independently or jointly with their spouses.

The higher numbers of decision-making women abound in the State's urban areas, with 'women in nuclear households and women employed for cash being more likely to participate in the household decisions,' the contributors say.

"About 20 per cent of women have a bank or savings account that they themselves use, higher than the national average of 15 per cent," is an interesting finding. But with this rosy picture of women's empowerment, come a few startling findings.

"About 51 per cent of women believe that it is justifiable for a husband to beat his wife under specific circumstances. Women are most likely to say wife beating is justified if a woman shows disrespect for her in-laws (41 per cent) or if she neglects the house or children (34 per cent). Forty-eight per cent men agree that wife beating is justified under specific circumstances."

And yet, about two-third of women believe a woman can refuse to have sex with her husband if he has a sexually transmitted disease, if he has had sexual intercourse with other women, or if she is not in the mood.

Higher levels of education among women has resulted in a greater awareness of contraceptive methods both for themselves and their partners. "About 65.8 per cent women felt that having two children was enough, while only 3.1 per cent wanted three children. Correspondingly, 14.6 per cent men wanted three children," the findings reveal.

Also, more women want sons instead of daughters and a huge 80.1 per cent women aged 30-39 years want at least one son. The figures are much lower for men.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Goodwill hunting

Sadashiv Vaidya was very happy with this copy. And though his story isn't the only case in the world, it just goes to prove that whatever one's circumstances or geographical location or financial standing, a story is a story.

July 30, 2008

H/l: Rs 20 lakhs and a story of hope

Intro: How a man fought hard for his freedom and how he is teaching other men to do the same

Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Sadashiv Vaidya is a fiercely private man. But since his acquittal in a dowry harassment case filed by his wife three years ago, the 48-year-old electrical engineer has decided to make his private hell public. In the coming weeks, he and his two children will recount their story on national television in UAE, where they live.

"My kids have been with me throughout my trial," an emotional Vaidya told Sakaal Times. "Both of them told the court that they wanted to live with me. They helped me build evidence against their mother who was cheating on me with my best friend. Now that I am acquitted of all charges, I want all those men who are suffering to hear my story," he said.

Though not unique, his story is an interesting one. After Lata, his wife of over 15 years, filed a dowry harassment case against her husband in 2005 and demanded two crore rupees in damages, Vaidya decided to fight the charges. "She didn't want the children's custody, all she wanted was the money she thought I would give her. The day she filed the complaint, I went to jail.

But I got bail the next day and had to fight hard for the next three years to secure my acquittal. I had cleverly gathered a lot of evidence against her which proved her complicity in the adulterous relationship," he said. In fact, his acquittal without a monetary settlement in just three years is perhaps the fastest in the history of dowry harassment cases in the country.

However, Vaidya is still on the run because he had invested in bonds in his and Lata's name and he perceives a threat to his life. "If I die now, she will get the money. So when I come here, I don't tell anyone about it," he said, adding that all his money should go only to his children.

From May 2005 to January 2008, Vaidya has spent over Rs 20 lakhs only on litigations and is unable to secure a permanent job in Abu Dhabi because he must fly to Mumbai every month for court appearances. "This case ruined my life. I will never marry again but I am committed to helping other men fighting the dowry law."

For this, he and his two children will tell their story on TV and in the print media so that others may learn from it. "I have counselled about 25 men in UAE free of cost about the paperwork they must keep ready and how to gather evidence for court," Vaidya said.

"The justice system works for you if you know how to make it work. If you are innocent, you owe it to yourself to prove it," he signed off.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Move over PETA

July 23, 2008

h/l: Forest control rooms to check poaching
intro: State plans 33 control rooms to keep wildlife cruelty in check

Mumbai: As cases of poaching and maiming wild animals in the State's jungles come to light, the government has given the State's citizens a good chance to help combat poaching and cruelty against wildlife. Forest Minister Babanrao Pachpute has announced his department's ongoing project of setting up control rooms in 33 districts to register calls from concerned citizens.

Pachpute made the announcement via a written reply to a question put to him by MLAs Sudhir Mungantivar and others on the floor of the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

A senior official from Pachpute's office said, "Excluding two districts in Mumbai, 33 districts will have control rooms where people who have spotted a hunting activity or cruelty towards wild animals can call and register a complaint."

The control rooms would be attached with the local forest office and would have a fast access short code. The short code, to be operationalised by BSNL, would be the same all over the State and would be designated only for the use of registering these complaints.

Considering that major poaching activities for ivory and cutting down of sandalwood takes place after dark, the helplines would run for 24 hours. The assistant forest conservators in each district would monitor the working of the control rooms. Even such activities as disposing off carcasses, skinning animals or felling trees can be reported.

The Centre has given 155314 as the fast access code for Maharashtra. The necessary permissions to operationalise 33 separate control rooms for this project were given on May 15 this year.

Meanwhile, Pachpute said that of the 33, five control rooms are ready at Amravati, Buldhana, Paratwada, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur. "The project is fast nearing completion," he assured.

No word on Atram arrest
Interestingly, while explaining to the House that the Chinkara poaching incident of June 14, 2008 was 'still under investigation', Forest Minister Babanrao Pachpute avoided mentioning the Dharmarao Atram angle to the case.
Responding to questions about the action to be taken against those involved in the killing at Chaudharwadi, Pachpute replied, "Four persons have been arrested, and the statements of 23 witnesses have been recorded. We have recovered rifles, pistols and the vehicles used in the hunt."

Missing you...

July 25, 2008

h/l: Where in the world is Renge Patil?

intro: Missing ex-Sena MP is in hiding since last Sunday

Vrushali Lad

How's this for an irony? The Member of Parliament, who from August 2006 onwards, is a member of the Committee on Absence of Members from Sittings of the House, is himself missing from action. Tukaram Renge Patil, Shiv Sena MP expelled for defying the party whip to vote against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) during the trust vote held on Wednesday, has been 'untraceable' since last Sunday.

Interestingly, he has been giving interviews to television channels for the last two days, though the channels have not been revealing his location on air.

Renge Patil was spotted last in Delhi on Sunday morning, after which he has seemingly 'disappeared' but is in touch with family and close associates. He remained absent for the two-day special session of Parliament held on Sunday and Monday, and has not gone to his home at Jamb in Parbhani.

In fact, the phone number he usually uses is currently being operated by his close aide, Amul. Speaking to Sakaal Times on Friday evening, Amul said, "I am currently in Pune. Saheb (Renge Patil) is not here with me. I don't know where he is." On probing a little further, he confessed, "I cannot tell you where he is. All I can say is he is not here in Pune."

That Renge Patil was bound to defy the party whip had become obvious when he did not attend the party meeting at Sena chief Bal Thackeray's residence 'Matoshree' last Saturday. For two days after that, the Sena maintained that Renge Patil was with them and that all MPs would abide by the whip. However, that did not lessen the blow for the Sena when he did not show up for the trust vote and though his absence had a bearing on the NDA losing the vote, his defiance of the party whip stunned the Sena, which is not used to such rebellion.

Renge Patil has reportedly been changing his location every two days since Sunday to escape Shiv Sainiks, who are on the lookout for him. His home in Parbhani has been given police protection and sources said that the MP is due to return home next week, albeit under tight police protection.

The number that Amul provided to Sakaal Times has been consistently switched off. When he provided an alternate number, it was a wrong number. "That is the number we call saheb on," Amul insisted. Meanwhile, sources said that Renge Patil is not in talks to join any other political party as of now.

In Renge Patil's official profile as listed by the Lok Sabha book on MPs, the missing MP's sporting interests include kabaddi and kho kho. His skills at both sports should come in handy now as he dodges irate Sainiks baying for his blood after his 'betrayal'.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This book goes to...

If I ever write a book (and I'm as likely to do that as accepting that DDLJ is a good movie), the first thing I would keep ready would be the dedication. Whether I have a story to tell or not is not as important as who I dedicate the book to.

The following are likely to get a mention and the following dedication:
Golu: For tipping the balance, literally, with her cheeks. This book is a result of the agony I felt when the said cheeks went missing after a bout of paid self torture that fooled no-one.
Pooky: For showing me that where there's a laugh, there's a snort.
Mummy: For the most acidic and most hilarious sense of humour. This story was born just as my life was flashing by in front of my eyes, after I almost choked on my food with one of your observations.
Dad: For helping me with the fine tuning of this book, since I had to repeat everything thrice to get you to listen.
Babboo: For giving me the bright idea to write in the first place, and for innocently hoping that I'd be so busy with writing, I'd finally get out of your hair. Good luck with that thought.
Moh: For balancing the dual role of being Manmohan Engapoye and Manmohan Singh.
Sanju: For being the obliging (and expanding) punching bag for all seasons.
Prash: For practising tomorrow's on-air witticisms on me today.
Prasad Patil: For showing me what can be done with little brains and no spine - Nothing.
Satish Nandgaonkar: For being an online buddy and mentor without even meeting me yet. It's been over a year.
Dixit sir: For understanding that I have some brains and giving me the respect I deserve.
Vinod Kumar Menon: For adding a whole new dimension to crime reporting and dog-at-the-scene-of-crime coverage. Also for packing a Punch.
Sriram: For being more elusive than Greta Garbo. And for calling me 'item' and getting away with it.
Madhav Gokhale: For being my clean jokes and SMS buddy.
Ketan: For always having a joke ready, whatever the time or place or situation.

General dedications
National College batchmates: Just die, the whole lot of you. No dedication for you fuckers.
St Andrew's College batchmates: For being the craziest and funniest bunch in the world.
School: The only thing good about you is the location.
Dad's relatives: Who needs lobotomy when I have mind-numbers like you?
Journalism: Who you?
Writing: I love you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I KNEW somebody else was to blame

June 30, 2008

H/l: Current agro policies causing food crisis: UNESCO
Intro: Food report slams delink between technologies introduced by developed countries and poverty increase in developing nations
Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: A UNESCO-supported initiative in which 400 scientists worked for over three years to compile findings about the world's agricultural patterns and economies has been released at a time when the world is grappling with a food crisis. Interestingly, their findings raise pertinent questions about what the effects of agro-technology have been on countries like India.

Titled 'Why Modern Agriculture must change' and written by Susan Schneegans, the June-September 2008 report chronicles the current global food crisis and its effect on the economies of developing countries.

In the context of India, Schneegans writes, "How is it that in India, one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Green Revolution, the number of landless rural farmers rose from 28 million to over 50 million between 1951 and 1990s? And why does India grapple with one of the world's highest rates of child malnutrition?

Current international policies promoting economic growth through agriculture do not necessarily resolve the issue of poverty. The cost of structural adjustment policies advocated by the World Bank in recent decades is one cause of the high migration from the countryside to urban centers in search of jobs in India and elsewhere."

She further adds, "Resource constraints limit the extent to which many governments can actually support their farmers: for example, 8 to 10 per cent in India and Vietnam. Middle-level exporting countries like India are trying to obtain agreements which will maintain their own existing levels of support while reducing the levels allowed to developing countries."

The findings of the study point towards small-holder farmers suffering competition from cheaper imports than their own products. "Opening up sections of agricultural markets to liberalised trade led to a 55 per cent fall in cotton prices in India between 1996 and 2003 in the face of competing imports from subsidised producers like the USA. Many destitute cotton farmers have been driven to suicide," Schneegans writes.

Scientists have predicted that with growing populations, there will be a growing competition for water. "Under current water-use practices, increases in population and changes in diet will increase water consumption in food and fibre production by 70 to 90 per cent. Between now and 2020, the amount of water available per person in East and South Asia and the Pacific, for instance, will drop to one-third that in 1950, or even less," the report warns.

They also caution: one of the key factors causing the current food crisis is the global homogenisation in eating habits. "Many countries have abandoned their traditional foods in favour of a more Western model with its focus on a handful of cereals and a copious consumption of meat and sugar," Calvo said, adding, "this had created an enormous dependence on overseas markets. If countries don't maintain a rich agricultural biodiversity, they risk a growing dependence on a shrinking choice of cereals."

The investigators also say that "the current food crisis is a wake up call, a warning that a sporadic food crisis could turn into a chronic crisis if nothing is done to change modern agricultural practices in the days and months to come."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Looking for JB

June 15, 2008

H/l: 10,000 posters between hope and an answer
Intro: Family has made posters with details of missing Frenchman's disappearance from Mumbai last year; any new leads will emerge only out of them
from: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Jean Baptiste Talleu (26) went missing from Mumbai on December 5, 2007 and till date there is no news of the missing Frenchman’s probable whereabouts or worse, his death. His family visited Mumbai this year to meet the police, but as time passes, all further routes have dried up.

Jean’s mother Marie-Claire and brother Vincent are now banking on posters and a Rs 2,00,000 reward to help get the cycling enthusiast back. Speaking to Sakaal Times via email, Vincent said, “We have printed a total of 10,000 posters and flyers with Jean’s photo and details but we have left them with our friends in Mumbai. We are searching for a company of professionals that could help us with the posting of the posters and flyers. If you have any idea, please tell us. We need the posters to be placed at many strategic places but from here it is not easy. Jean-Baptiste could be anywhere in India.”

The search has dried up and the Talleus are nearing breaking point, especially since everything now hinges on the posters being put up and people responding to them. “The French Consulate has done everything, but didn't find any clues. They are now waiting for leads to come out of the posters,” Vincent said.

Marie-Claire may visit Mumbai again to speak to the cops and address the press. In the meantime, the Talleus have launched a desperate search on the internet with various forums but the key lies in India. “We have met the media, we also wrote on forums on the internet, but to touch local people in India the best is posters (sic), but we struggle with getting them spread,” Vincent said.

The family is hoping that Jean-Baptiste is still in Mumbai and may have embarked on his planned cycle tour of the country without knowing that an alert has been issued for him. “The police say they done (sic) everything they could. It seems obvious to me that there hasn't been any activity on his bank account after he arrived in Mumbai, otherwise we wouldn't be looking for him there,” he said.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

There is no justice in this world

Does it matter to you, God, that I really hate the rains? No, don't laugh, or I'll pull your moustache. It's all your fault, you with your three seasons and all that blah about the city getting respite from the heat. Call this blas-fucking-phemy, but you are a sadist.

I have had to wade to office in really yucky water at some parts near Churchgate station. Quite apart from that, despite a windcheater, my shoulders and my bum (!) got wet, and I was wearing denims. Every sucker who lives in denims knows that denims never dry up - not in the monsoons, anyway.

Then I reached office after a brisk and, by turns, slippery 15-minute walk to office. On the way, I got increasingly drenched and needed to go to the loo. Once I got there, I learnt that a) The peon on morning duty had decamped without telling anyone and b) The guy on afternoon duty had not turned up yet.

So I sat on the dusty, creaking and shadowy staircase because I needed to eat my packed lunch. Somehow I got the chicken and bread lunch out without spilling anything, noting grimly that the new Rs 1,300 Reebok sack, supposedly waterproof, had fuckin' ALLOWED WATER IN.

After I had finished my lunch and was seriously contemplating peeing on the staircase (it's wood and there was nobody in the building anyway), the peon on afternoon duty sauntered in and asked, "Arre, madam tumhi aalat?" Then he opened the front door whilst whistling a cheery tune, and once the door opened, watched in stupefied amazement as I made a bolt for the loo. I looked like I was chasing after my kid's kidnappers.

Then when I was nicely settled in my chair and turning the fan on a speed of 4 (for maximum and quick drying), the rain stopped and a weak ray of sunlight filtered in through the window.

After being drenched. After spending an hour on a dark and dusty staircase. After a torturous hour of thinking longingly of the toilet.

I put my head down on my desk and wept.

Advice for the rains: Whack all office boys and eat lunch before leaving home on Sundays. Also, carry extra plastic bag to furtively pee in.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The boy who lived

May 29, 2008

H/l: Aaj ki raat mere dil ki salaami le le...

Intro: Short film made after Naushad Ali's death is a great story well told

Byline: Vrushali Lad

It's easy recounting a rags-to-riches story of an ambitious young man setting out into the world to realise his dreams against all odds. But filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta didn't have it easy by any means – he was recounting a true story and the hero of his tale passed away just as research on his life was underway.

But Dasgupta persevered, and culling information from family collections, old associates, interviews and photographs, presented the journey of one of the greatest musicians of Hindi filmdom, in a fitting tribute to the boy who gave up all and won much more back. Dasgupta's 39-minute documentary film on the life and genius of musician Naushad Ali is sensitively put together in the Films Division-funded 'Naushad Ali – The Melody Continues'.

Naushad's story began in true filmi fashion: as a boy, he loved Hindi film music so much that he would regularly skip school to catch movies at a local theatre in Lucknow. Later his father told him to choose between music and his family. Naushad chose music and moved to Mumbai, never to return to his ancestral home in Lucknow but to remember his grandmother and the trees and houses of his childhood till his dying days.

This beginning leads into an absorbing story told through Dasgupta's eyes, as he chronicles the rise and rise of Hindi film music's enfant terrible Naushad Ali. The story within the story is that the film, screened this week by Films Division at Cuffe Parade, almost didn't get made.

Dasgupta almost shelved his work after Naushad died in year 2006. "I had started work on it just a few days before he was hospitalised in April 2006. I thought I would continue with it once he was discharged. But he didn't make it and I wondered how I could make a film about his life if he wasn't there on camera and to guide me as the work progressed," the Bengali filmmaker and National Awardee says.

"Then I internalised the idea that Naushad Ali would never die. I started afresh." The film initially seems dull since there are no family members on camera to describe Naushad's early life. But five minutes into the narration, the film picks up pace and comes to life when Dasgupta presents Naushad in Naushad's own words.

Most people forgot Naushad's second death anniversary this year. Dasgupta's film becomes especially precious for this reason, since it presents a picture of the composer in an impish yet sensitive manner.

For instance, in an early video clip, Naushad describes how his mother wrote to him in the 1950s, telling him that she had selected a bride for him but had told her family that the groom was a tailor in Mumbai. "When she wrote to me, I agreed to be a 'tailor' just to placate her. By then I had already scored the music for a few films and it was popular. And during the wedding, I was tickled to find that the band kept playing numbers from my films – my family finally realised that the tailor was famous!"

Another clip shows an old Naushad at his plush bungalow Aashiyana at Bandra's Carter Road, singing melodiously with family members while playing the harmonium. Dasgupta says, "Apart from being a great musician, he was a great singer and he lived constantly in the world of music. But he had other unusual interests. For instance, do you know that he was a keen fishermen and hunter? Till he died, he was President of the Maharashtra State Angling Association."

Naushad was also a photography enthusiast, and his love for the visual medium prompted him to produce three Hindi films.

However, Naushad slowly began to phase himself out of the film music scene when Western music began pervading Bollywood. "Suddenly there was the Rumba, then the Samba, then Cha Cha Cha. I had no use for such music. I always was and always will be committed to Hindustani classical music," Naushad states in a short colour video.

In fact, his score for the 1960 superhit Mughal-e-Azam was an acid test for him as a musician. "A lot of film composers told me that the public would reject the music outright. Nobody had the patience with classical music, especially when it was set to Urdu shayari. But my director K Asif had full faith in me, and this was proved in a surprising way.

We were to begin recording for the Tansen song, which plays in the background as Salim romances Anarkali in the palace. When Asifsaab asked me who would sing the songs, I said only Bade Ghulam Ali Khan had Tansen's genius. Asif agreed to get him on board. But Khansaab charged Rs 25,000 per song – a shocker since even top singers then charged about Rs 500 per song. But Asif agreed and immediately handed over Rs 10,000 as advance payment.

When you saw that people were willing to invest in true talent, it inspired you to give your best for them. Sadly, that devotion to the craft was missing in latter day filmfolk, and I was not interested in many projects offered to me later," Naushad reminisces emotionally on camera.

In an interview given to a film magazine in the 1960s, Naushad spoke of himself as a man who "did nothing to further the cause of music. The music has existed for several thousand years. I only presented old wine in new bottles."

Naushad faded from the public eye altogether after Pakeezah in 1971, only for his music to resurface one last time for the eminently forgettable Taj Mahal: An eternal love story in 2005, a year before he passed away. The fact that the film did not do well nor was Naushad's music lauded, only served to prove that the genius of his composition probably belonged to another forgotten era.

At the end of the film, Dasgupta cleverly weaves a voiceover by Naushad onto a visual showing the many awards and honours the musician won in his lifetime. In a soft voice laced with nostalgia, Naushad says, "A lot of people, many of them journalists, ask me to name three of my best songs. I often ask myself if I have a best song. My best song is still to come, I haven't composed it yet…"

Like Dasgupta promises, the melody continues…

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Accidental occurence

June 3, 2008

H/l: Male, young, and prey to the roads
Intro: A recently published study shows clear pattern in road accidents in Maharashtra
Byline: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: Even something as seemingly random as a road accident has a pattern. More worryingly, this pattern dictates that most road accidents in Maharashtra happen during the monsoon months and that most victims are in the age-group 21 to 29 years.

These findings emerge from a research conducted by four doctors at the Karad-based Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences University, and was recently published by the Indian Journal of Community Medicine. The study, titled 'Pattern of Road traffic injuries: A study of Western Maharashtra' comes up with some interesting points.

The study throws light on many aspects of road accidents, and can help hospitals and police plan first aid and surveillance on accident-prone roads better. Maharashtra has the highest number of registered vehicles and contributes 11.5 per cent of road accidents and 13 per cent of road accident deaths in the country.

An average of 200 accidents are reported daily resulting in 23 fatalities and 134 injured persons. As per the Central Institute for Road Transport, Maharashtra had 79,806 road accidents in 2007, resulting in 10,735 deaths.

"We studied over 400 road accident cases before tabulating the results. We found that the proportion of male victims was greater than female victims by a ratio of 4.6:1. Besides, most of the road accidents occurring in Maharashtra during the year happen during the monsoon months of June to September," said Dr Supriya Patil, one of the researchers.

This is to be noted particularly since the monsoon months are approaching. The study further states that a staggering 60 to 80 per cent casualties take place during the daylight hours, thus shattering the belief that night journeys by road are more dangerous. "There is a significant association between the type of vehicle and overcrowding," said Dr Patil, adding that the general tendency among travellers is to fill the vehicle up to twice or more of its seating capacity.

There is a pattern even to the injuries sustained – most of the deaths result due to head injuries, followed by huge blood loss due to injuries to extremeties and the head. "Motorised two wheelers involved in road accidents lead to the most head injuries," Dr Patil said.

Road accidents in numbers
79,806 in year 2007
10,735 deaths in 2007
25 per cent of deaths by injury are due to road accidents: WHO
200 average road accidents daily in Maharashtra
60 per cent of road accidents are caused by speeding

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Senior netizens

June 1, 2008

H/l: Senior citizens' tribe increases on internet
Intro: Study says senior citizens are fastest growing internet user group in 2007
byline: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: If you thought your grandparents or your retired father would be the last person to access the internet, think again. A new research study published by the Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) says that senior citizens, especially those above 60 years of age, were the fastest growing internet user group in India in year 2007.

The study was conducted last year, when the government of India declared year 2007 as the Broadband Year in the country. The results were tabulated and recently released, and the findings are surprising. Of the senior citizens surveyed in nine metros and 15 Tier II cities in the country, IAMAI found that senior citizens are using the internet for a range of activities from e-mail to matrimony.

The percentages translate into sizeable numbers since, as per UN estimates, the senior citizen population in the country is expected to touch 7.5 per cent of the total projected population of 1,147,677,000 in 2008. Of these, about 25 per cent are already internet-savvy, says IAMAI.
The report states, "The maximum usage by senior citizens on the internet is for emailing (99 per cent), followed by surfing for information (70 per cent), online banking (38 per cent) and online shopping (21 per cent).

Online chatting, long considered the domain of younger age groups, is also catching on among this age group. A high 47 per cent of senior netizens chat on the internet, while 17 per cent were recorded to use matrimonial websites while surfing. However, the major use remains in financial transactions, with an average of 30 per cent users logging on for stock trading, online shopping and bill payments.

Other activities include using search engines (66 per cent), research (23 per cent), job search (20 per cent), astrology (22 per cent) and spiritual information (19 per cent).

Sunday, June 1, 2008

For the forgotten ones

May 27, 2008

H/l: Old age knocks on government's doors
Intro: …while Mumbai gears up for programme to highlight elderly issues
Byline: Vrushali Lad

Mumbai: A group of professionals linked together by a love for the elderly and an empathy for their needs, have compiled a petition for CM Vilasrao Deshmukh's consideration. The petition includes everthing from securing a reasonable monthly pension for the elderly to amending laws for their protection.

"We will be taking the petition to the CM and the social justice department on June 14, a day before World Elder Abuse Day. We hope the government is receptive to the idea of treating senior citizens on par with the rest of society and stop the many abuses being meted out to them by their families and society," said one of the seven founders of the Silver Innings Foundation (SIF), Sailesh Mishra.

"Everybody gets old, but we tend to abuse our elders' rights to suit our convenience. SIF hopes to secure these rights and help families include the elderly in their daily functioning, instead of relegating them to the fringes," another SIF member, Amruta Lovekar said.

SIF, a coming together of professionals from various walks of life, has compiled the petition to target officials and citizens alike. "Apart from society, the government and police do not take senior citizens into account. Hence there are no specific laws and facilities for them, resulting in no clear framework and a gross abuse of basic rights," said Mishra. The petition will be posted on from May 29 to gather maximum popular support (see box).

Hearteningly, SIF is just a month old and works out of a tiny office at Lower Parel, but it already has over 150 members in a month since it started in April 2008 and over 40 per cent of them are youngsters. In an interesting twist, the website is being upgraded to include a blogging space for senior citizens, as also a dating service for the elderly. "It's basically about including them into mainstream life," said Mishra.

SIF is organising a month-long programme from June 1 to June 30 to highlight elderly issues, and will have workshops on legal rights, distribution of armbands and badges, and slots for dialogue between older and younger generations.

Attention: Vilasrao Deshmukh
The SIF petition recommends:
Form senior citizens forum in every community
Form vigilance committees in every urban residential colony
Set up multi-service community Gero-care centre
Start 4-digit national Elder Abuse Helpline
Give more power to local police station to act against elder abuse
Make elder abuse a non-bailable offense
Let third party lodge complaint on behalf of abused elders
Establish counselling centers
Have grievances centre in each tehsil/ taluka
Regular awareness campaigns through media