India Insight

Delhi rape case and the need to revamp policing

“My father has called me 15 times since yesterday,” a colleague told me today as New Delhi recovers from the shock of a woman being assaulted, gang-raped and thrown off a bus on Sunday night.

There were more comments from women on my Facebook feed: “It is a scary thought to go out for dinner at 9:15 pm”; “Men on Delhi streets can literally rape you with words … met one giggling a** just now. Felt like picking a stone and hitting it right where it all starts from …”

These comments made me think. Never had we discussed a rape case so vehemently in office; never before has a rape case moved me personally. Why? Perhaps, we are immune to such headlines in newspapers and used to the way things are.

I will be honest — there have been times when I felt that girls in New Delhi exaggerate the issue of safety. But this incident changed my opinion in just 24 hours.

In her blog, my colleague Anuja Jaiman wonders what mothers are teaching their sons nowadays. I do agree upbringing is one of the problems, but another is poor law enforcement in India.

Elsewhere in India: a Hitchcock escape at Kashmere gate, and more…

(Editor’s note: please bear with us as we find a digest that you can digest. Anything that causes indigestion is the result of something that the author said, and is in all likelihood incorrect, specious and wrong)

Here are some stories from the Indian press that caught our attention in recent days. We hope that you find them as interesting as we did.

    If you’re a police officer and transporting a robbery and murder suspect from one city to another, don’t do it via public transportation. Two cops from Gurgaon lost their suspect at the Kashmere Gate metro station in Delhi when he jumped on a train and slipped away Hitchcock-style. The suspect apparently was tied to one of the cops, who had to untie the rope quickly to avoid being dragged away by the train. The cops took a bus from Chandigarh to Delhi, along with the criminal, and were planning to take the Delhi metro back to Gurgaon, where the suspect was to be jailed. (Times News Now) Avoid insulting the protagonists in major Indian epics. Lawyer and BJP politician Ram Jethmalani is taking some heat after saying that Lord Ram of the Ramayan was a bad husband. The BJP, which relies on the support of often conservative Hindus, says it does not approve of Jethmalani’s statement. Without getting into the whole story — it is an epic, after all — I would say only this: according to his Wikipedia entry, Jethmalani married twice, back when polygamy was legal. Maybe he knows from good husbands? (The Asian Age) The same rule applies to insulting Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize-winning author of “Home and the World,” the “Kabuliwallah” and India’s national anthem and what feels like millions of other works large and small. “After his public criticism of V S Naipaul, writer-actor Girish Karnad has kicked up a fresh storm by calling Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore a “second-rate playwright”. Talking to reporters near Nelamangala in (Bangalore’s) outskirts, he said, “Tagore was a great poet but a mediocre and second-rate playwright. He produced his plays but those were never produced by his contemporaries. The contemporary Bengali theatre never accepted them. I think they did one or two plays. His comedy succeeded but not his other plays.” Not only that, poor people in his plays are “cardboard characters.” Karnad said. (PTI) One boy, two moms! “His genes will decide whether he is Ravish Kumar of Ranchi’s Sukhdeonagar or Sunil Oraon of Ganeshpur village in Chanho block.” (The Telegraph) Life is hard when you’re Malaysian national oil company Petronas. First, Canada blocks a huge buyout that you were about to pull off. Second, you start posting funeral music for major Indian holidays: “Malaysia’s national oil company Petronas was left red faced after angry viewers pointed out that a music video it posted on its official YouTube page to mark Diwali depicted a funeral dance. The three minute clip was pulled out after the Company reviewed the mixed feedback on the video, which had drawn more than 130,000 views. The video featured young Malaysian ethnic Indians performing the ‘Dappan Koothu’, an energetic form of Tamil folk dance performed to loud music on any occasion not necessarily funeral.” Hindu groups in Malaysia also took offense because they said the dance had nothing to do with Diwali and portrayed Indians as a bunch of dance-happy people. As one NGO chief said, “Dancing on the street is not Malaysian Indian culture.” (The Hindu Business Line) Honor killing? A man and his son were arrested for killing the man’s 24-year-old daughter. Police said that she was pregnant, and that the father and brother tried to procure an abortion for her before resorting to murder. (PTI) “A normal root canal treatment procedure at the Government Dental College Hospital here turned into a nightmare for a youth with a needle used in the surgery ending up in his stomach. ” Don’t ask yourself how this happened. The story never says. (TNN) A stray cobra has shown up at the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh. It reportedly was warming itself in the underground parking lot. Attendants found snake catcher Salim Khan, who was suffering from a “raging fever,” and hauled him off to work. The story features a sentence that I suspect my journalism career will never allow me to write on my own: “Reptiles often slither into the area from the wooded area nearby.” (TNN) A man was killed after confronting neighbors who told him that his children were watching TV cartoons with the volume turned up too high. They beat him with iron rods and bamboo. (TNN) Five hundred pigeons dropped dead in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district over four days. The incidents caused people “to fear that something was amiss.” (IANS) Being Naomi Campbell means having people around who can get arrested for you. Indian police arrested an event manager for excessive use of fireworks at an extravagant party hosted by supermodel Naomi Campbell in the desert city of Jodhpur, officials said on Friday. Mumbai-based P.K. Pareek was held on charges of “noise pollution” at Campbell’s star-studded party held to mark the 50th birthday of her billionaire Russian boyfriend Vladimir Doronin at a 15th-century fort.” Neighbors objected to the fireworks, among other noise. Among the guests: the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. The night’s entertainment was Diana Ross. (NDTV) The nose doesn’t lie: The Yamuna river really is an open sewer. That’s what you get when you dump the sewage of 17 million people into it every day. Here is a masterpiece of understatement: “The court noted the submission of CPCB counsel, Vijay Panjwan that the cumulative assessment of all parameters of water quality indicates that river Yamuna is not conforming to the desired levels and it more or less resembles a drain, especially after the Wazirabad area in Delhi. ” More bluntly, there is no fresh water in the river, Panjwan said. (PTI) And here, to end your day, is a collection of great Indian mustaches. (The Hindu Business Line)

 

Photo gallery: from Dussehra melas to Durga Puja pandals

I don’t know if the smartphone-toting Indian of the shopping malls still frequents festival melas. As for me, I can’t help but feel drawn to these vibrant mass gatherings during festivals.

Here, a spinning wheel juts out of a busy crossing in west Delhi. I spent a lot of time shooting it and finally settled on this image:

I am an ardent fan of jalebis and there’s hardly a month in my office that goes by without us feasting on them. I was tempted to grab these freshly cooked jalebis, but then I was in no mood to nurse a case of Delhi belly.

Photo gallery: On World Sight Day, photography by ‘Blind With Camera’

Photographers say you need to have an eye to take pictures. These children, who lack some or all of their vision, have applied the same maxim to their photography. The pictures that you see below are images that I took of an exhibition by the Mumbai-based project ‘Blind With Camera’. The show is on display at the Alliance Francaise in New Delhi until Oct. 18th, and I shot these images on the World Health Organization’s World Sight Day.

“…Tactile, audio clues, visual memories of sight, warmth of light and cognitive skills are used by the visually impaired photographers to create the mental image before they judge to take a picture,” said Partho Bhowmick, a member of the project.

The first picture was taken at Dadar Kabutarkhana in Mumbai during a workshop in 2010. The photographer, Bhavesh Patel, who was born blind, according to the exhibition brochure, said he followed the direction of the sound of pigeons flying and took the picture based on the audio clue.

Photo gallery: a Hipstamatic trip through Old Delhi

As an iPhone owner and an avid Hipstamatic user, I’ve been capturing daily life on the streets of Delhi for the past few months. As someone who was born and raised outside of India, I’m struck by how much of life is played out on the streets here. From bathing to cooking to sleeping, India’s streets are truly an extension of the home, and in many cases, is home itself.

Most of the photos are from Old Delhi, a world within a world in the heart of the Indian capital. The old quarters were once known as Shahjahanabad — named after Mughal Emperor Shahjahan who built the city in the 1600s.

Seventeenth-century writers and poets described the old city as “paradise” and “like a Garden of Eden”. Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi’s main thoroughfare, once had a canal running down the centre. Today, the canal has disappeared and Old Delhi is overcrowded and run down, and poverty is rife. Beggars line the narrow alleys alongside vendors selling everything from a fresh lime soda to used car parts, and young, homeless drug users huddle to smoke heroin before passing out on the side of the street.

Photo gallery: A walk through Mehrauli Archaeological Park

Next time you plan a visit to the Qutub Minar, venture beyond its crowded complex. Walk past the parking lot, which is on your left, and take the first right turn. Next to the Qutub Restaurant is an obscured path. Take the path, walk down a few steps and this is what you see:

 

You are inside the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, located in what was once the first of the seven historic cities of Delhi, dating back about a thousand years. The first structure (see below) is the Metcalfe House, which was once a tomb. Thomas Metcalfe was an agent of the Governor General of India to the court of Bahadur Shah Zafar, India’s last Mughal emperor.

 

As you move on, you’d find columns to your left and right, guiding you to several structures in this area. This also is a Delhi Development Authority park. Next stop is the Jamali Kamali mosque.

Peplum, ruffles, fascinators: Delhi Fashion Week, not the Royal Ascot

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It is not often that Indian designers do evening gowns and dresses without using any Indian elements. Designer duo Gauri and Nainika are two of the few who do.

Their show on day four of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in Delhi could as well have been a day at the races, with bold ruffles, mermaid cuts, pencil dresses, flares, slits and peplum.

“In England, you have the Royal Ascot, so we started out with that as out inspiration, but we wanted to use more of white,” Nainika said.

Nilanjana Roy on writing, English and telepathic cats

From Ahmed Ali’s “Twilight in Delhi” to William Dalrymple’s “City of Djinns”, many books have tried to unravel the layers of Delhi’s history. First-time fiction writer Nilanjana Roy took a less-trodden path in her novel “The Wildings,” which came out in August in India — and which might come out in the United States as soon as next year. She wrote of life in the alleys of Delhi, but chose to do it from the perspective of cats in her novel.

“The advantage of writing about animals is that you can make it all up,” she said. Walking around Delhi, the journalist and literary critic took a fancy to the secret lives of cats, got a kitten, and a couple of years later, wrote about them.

“I started noticing cats and dogs and all these subterranean creatures, and I stopped thinking of the city as a human space,” she said. “And at some point it occurred to me that there was something interesting going on in here.”

Delhi’s plastic bag and gutka ban: keep chewing it over

The Delhi government’s ban on plastic bags and gutka — the cheap mix of chewing tobacco and betel nut that you take for a quick high — is a welcome step, but it may be too soon to imagine city corners free of gutka “graffiti” and plastic-choked sewers.

Plastic bags lie strewn in city alleys, clogging drainage pipes, harming cows that eat them along with the garbage that they nibble on, and offer a prime breeding ground for harmful bacteria and disease.

Gutka, meanwhile, has an estimated 65 million users in India and causes tens of thousands of oral cancer cases every year.

Could Delhi University’s perfect 100 pct demand drive students abroad?

By Annie Banerji

Students across India did a double take this week when one of India’s most sought after commerce colleges declared that 100 percent marks in school-leaving examinations would be the eligibility criteria for admission to a bachelor’s degree course.

Delhi University, which attracts several thousand aspirants from all over the country annually, on Wednesday published its first list of admission criteria that had spiralling percentages in the late nineties and even a perfect 100 marks out of 100.

India's Human Resources and Development Minister Kapil Sibal gestures during a news conference in New Delhi April 11, 2011. Sibal has said the education system needs reforming in light of one University demanding students score 100% on an entry examination.Terming the perfect score demands “unfortunate” and “irrational”, the human resources and development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal told CNN-IBN that the education system needs reformation.

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