Me on FB

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"The Global Walk for India's Missing Girls" on May 5 2012 @ Fraser Town, Bangalore : Review / Experience


To those who read my blog posts regularly: the usual WARNING - NOT A BLOG POST, BUT A BOOK applies to this one too :)
You know what to do :) - you can scroll down a little to the "Jackie arrives" section and then read on from there, if you wanna read the main stuff ...

To those who are new to my blog / my writing:
My reviews / recollections are usually not blog posts - they're books in themselves, and extremely informal ones at that :D ..So don't be surprised if you see loads of bold, italics, CAPS, colors and smileys :) :) 

This one, being about a really special event, is bound to and gonna be a little longer than the rest - it is gonna be a really big book !! :) :) 



About this event:

The Global Walk for India's Missing Girls is a worldwide campaign against the utterly rampant female foeticide in India, started by Nyna Pais Caputi, a film-maker from San Francisco, who is even making a film on this brutal social evil, titled "Petals In The Dust". I've had the privilege of interacting with her on Facebook and I must congratulate her for doing this great job! In Bangalore, it is organized by Jacqueline Coleco, about whom you will be reading later on in this post :). I can only say I'm extremely privileged to have gotten a chance to interact with her today and take part in her event :). 

I was frustrated after missing the same event last year, by a whisker. I was a bit earlier than the scheduled time ( @ my friends - you know me, right? :P I'm always before time when it comes to attending something! :D )...Some idiot ( yes, a big idiot ! :D ) at Venkatappa Art Gallery told me that the march was already over! I had gone up to Cubbon Park and when I saw nobody there, I was disappointed and returned home, only to find that the walk had actually happened after I left. I was so pissed off that day! :)

When I read about the event this year, I decided that there was NO WAY I'm gonna miss it THIS TIME !! :) I was eagerly looking forward to it ever since I heard about it ..and I was excited too ! :) I have never campaigned "really" for anything in life - this was gonna be my first time! When I say really, I mean, getting my feet out there on the roads and physically marching on. Virtually, of course, as people who know me may have seen, I have raised my voice against female foeticide and corruption in my own special way :) ...by making songs...To those who dunno me or to those who know me only as Ashwin S Kumar the satirist or Ashwin S Kumar the T Rajendar fanatic, I should tell you that I'm also an aspiring musician :) I'm not formally trained nor do I have the best of music equipment, but I'm still trying my best ..and trying to do whatever I can !! :)

So yes, before going ahead, if you want, you may read my blog posts regarding what I personally feel about female foeticide and violence against women / minors ...because I don't want to write about them all over again in this post :) ...

So let me get on with the event :) ...I left home at around 1.35 pm ...Wanted to be there on time...Thankfully, there was no traffic ...and I reached the starting point - the Mosque at the intersection of M.M.Road and Mosque Road in Frazer Town at 2.15 pm itself :) ..I waited for a while until ...at around 2.35 pm ...

Jackie arrives:

Jacqueline Colaco, the organizer of the event arrived and was seated in her wheelchair. A banner about the walk was put up at the spot. There were just a couple of them at that point, as I watched from the opposite side of the road. 

Soon enough, I crossed over ..and within minutes ...there was a crowd of over 100 - all sorts of people holding all kinds of placards in all languages...but with ONE COMMON message :) That's the beauty of the whole thing :) - BRINGING PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE TOGETHER FOR THE BEST REASON I CAN POSSIBLY THINK OF !! 

I did my bit here too - this bit what I'm going to talk about now IS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE GROUND REALITY - A police officer who was in-charge of the event's security, who did not know English, asked me - "Yaake sir naditha idhira? Yen idhu?" (Why are you all walking? What's going on?). I explained to him in Kannada and made him understand the social evil, the brutal practice and the purpose of this whole event. Nothing great I know, but I'm happy I educated someone who didn't know about this !! :) One step for a man is a giant leap for mankind indeed ! I just hope he talks about the event to everyone he  comes across and the message spreads ! :)

The walk was to start at 2.45 pm but it was delayed by a half hour ...thanks to a lot of media coverage for this event :) Jackie was being interviewed by a reporter from The Hindu (who later interviewed Philomena Peris), followed by correspondents from News9, ANI, NewsX and CNN-IBN...after which Jackie decided that it was time to start off ...

So, exactly at 3:09 pm,

The march kicks off !

As the march began, a correspondent from NDTV covered the walk live, by walking along and interviewing Jackie ...I was at the first or second row...I constantly took care to see to it that I don't block the hoardings and placards because of my height :) ...

People were capturing photos and recording videos from all sides of the road....News correspondents and cameramen were hard at work...I must appreciate the traffic police here ...Throughout the walk, they were on guard, diverting traffic ..allowing us to literally own the road :) I'm not kidding when I say I felt like some celebrity here - police ensuring everyone makes way for you ....cameras all over you....Passersby and onlookers looking curiously ...Also, I must appreciate the guy who tirelessly guided Jackie on the wheelchair from start to finish :) Great spirit ! :)

At 3.16 pm, the head of Karnataka's Women's Commission, Manjula, joined us. At around 3.30 pm, I finally got to speak to Jackie. After introducing myself, I apologized to her about not having been able to help her out as a volunteer, due to other commitments. I also told her about how sad I felt on missing out on this event last year and how equally glad I was to have been there this year :) :) :)

There were quite a few other people on wheelchairs who joined the walk ...HATS OFF IS ALL I CAN SAY !! :) :) :) :)

Exactly at 3.32 pm, we

( A la Taro of "Mind Your Language" ) - Arrive at Coles Park-O ! Arrive at Coles-O Park ! :D

We arrived at Coles Park, the venue for all the speeches and by the time we settled down in our seats, it was 3.44 pm. Really, a fantastic effort by 100+ people to walk enthusiastically under the hot sun at 33 deg C !! :) ...The reporter from The Hindu sat next to me ...and in front of me were a couple of reporters too, I guess..given that they were continuously taking down notes ...Reshma Banu, the mother of the recently deceased Baby Afreen, was supposed to be there too, but she did not make it, for reasons nobody knows. The reporter next to me immediately exclaimed "no show" on hearing about this :D ...A couple of other  youngsters were discussing the death of Baby Afreen, saying that if the father didn't want the girl, he should've aborted her and he shouldn't have killed the girl in such a brutal manner. There you go ! -  An example of how THE MESSAGE STILL NEEDS TO SINK IN, EVEN AMONG THE EDUCATED CLASS !! Anyway, I guess the message has spread loud and clear to them, at least after the whole event :)

So yes, at exactly 3.54 pm

Jackie speaks !

She first thanked the rain Gods for being merciful today, expressed her delight at the fantastic turnout for showing solidarity with Baby Afreen...and to discuss various details pertaining to the cause ..

She started off with some statistics and the history of the movement - The movement was started by Nyna Pais Caputi, who came into India in search of a baby girl to adopt, but couldn't find any!!!! She then mentioned that

  • The overall sex ratio in India for 2011 is 1000 : 914 ( M : F )
  • The overall sex ratio in Karnataka is 1000 : 908 
  • The overall sex ratio in Bangalore, in spite of it being one of the cities with the most literate girls, is alarmingly less.
  • The overall sex ratio in Udupi, Chickmagalur and Hassan gives one a reason to smile, being 1000 :1500 ( M : F )
  • The overall sex ratio in Daman & Diu is the worst ever at a spine-chilling 1000 : 591 
  • The overall sex ratio in Punjab & Haryana is critical - 1000 : 750

She cited people's ignorance and the still unfortunately prevalent practice of dowry as the principal reasons for the atrocities. After introducing the panel of eminent personalities in the area, one of the panelists, at 4.03 pm, Priya Chetty, a successful woman in the corporate sector read out a superb poem written by Jackie herself, ( EDIT: Not written by Jackie) called "The Blessed Curse".

At 4.05 pm, Manjula lit a candle in memory of Baby Afreen, following which at 4.08 pm,  a minute's silence was observed in praying for the departed soul and the bereaved family. ( EDIT : Also, there was a lady who was using sign language to convey the essence of the speeches to the hearing impaired )

Manjula speaks:

Manjula began by congratulating Jackie for her stupendous efforts and offered a bouquet in appreciation. Manjula's speech was, for the most part, in Kannada.

She started off by saying that taking part in this walk was her responsibility AS A CITIZEN & AS A WOMAN, more than being the head of the state's commission for women. She appealed to victims of domestic violence to stand up for themselves and boldly seek the help of the law and society. She also realized that FATHERS LACK THE BASIC AWARENESS THAT A GIRL IS BORN DUE TO THEIR CHROMOSOME AS WELL, and STRAIGHTAWAY BLAME THE MOTHER FOR IT. She appealed to women not to be scared and approach the law and society for any help they need.

She talked about how she, along with the women's commission has counselled Reshma Banu post Baby Afreen's death and has ensured legal security for her for a lifetime. She also said that she has written to government officials to provide Reshma Banu with economic security as well. She also mentioned how Reshma Banu was tortured for one whole year before the atrocity happened. She said that IF ONLY RESHMA BANU HAD APPROACHED THE WOMEN'S COMMISSION INSTEAD OF SILENTLY TOLERATING EVERYTHING, THE COUPLE COULD HAVE BEEN COUNSELLED AND SUCH A TRAGIC DEATH COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED !!

She said that a woman shouldn't allow herself to be taken for granted, society is with her ! The microphone stopped working, however, Manjula continued as people listened with rapt attention. She stressed on the need for awareness to be created on this alarming issue. She also talked about how much pressure there is in villages, on mothers, to bear a boy. She also said that activists like us have a huge role to play in spreading awareness, AS DO DOCTORS, WHO SHOULD BE SPREADING THE GOOD MESSAGE, INSTEAD OF FALLING PREY INTO COMMITTING THE ATROCITY THEMSELVES !!

She talked about how the Women's Commission raided a hospital in Shimoga for indulging in this practice and said that the commission has referred the matter to the court. She also said that THE WOMEN'S COMMISSION NEEDS TO BE GIVEN PROSECUTING POWERS, WHICH IT CURRENTLY DOESN'T HAVE. She also added about HOW IMPORTANT A ROLE THE MEDIA HAS TO PLAY, CONSIDERING THAT EDUCATED PEOPLE ARE THEMSELVES COMMITTING THIS CRIME. 

She finally said that NGOs WHO ARE WILLING TO CREATE AWARENESS ON THE ISSUE WILL BE FULLY FUNDED BY THE WOMEN'S COMMISSION !!!! Wonderful gesture ! :) :) She concluded by re-iterating her fundamental point - that women who are silently suffering, SHOULD speak up ...and with their support alone, the issue can be solved !

At 4.20 pm, 

Donna Fernandes speaks:

Donna Fernandes is the head of Vimmochana, an organization that helps women in distress, victims of domestic violence. She said that though she could not speak Kannada fluently, she would make an attempt. She was so wrong :P she spoke wonderfully well !

She started off the difference between "Girls missing" and "missing girls". She said that WHAT IS GOING ON IS A GENOCIDE - A WAR AGAINST WOMEN ! She said that THE SEX RATIO HAS FALLEN FROM 1000 : 927 TO 1000 : 914 IN 10 YEARS !!!! She was very emotive and said that SEX DETERMINATION IS ILLEGAL and it is mainly the DOCTORS who are at fault !! 

She said that doctors determine the sex, used to mark a '+' to indicate a boy and '-' to indicate a girl !! Seriously, what crap?!!! :-O ...She also said that DOWRY HARASSMENT IS AT LARGE ...WEDDING EXPENSES ARE STILL BORNE BY THE GIRL'S SIDE ...THERE'S HARDLY ANY GUY WHO AGREES TO A 50-50 EXPENSE SPLIT UP !!

At around 4.24 pm, when the microphone started working again, she was more audible. She went on a tirade, blamed doctors and called them "murderers" !!! She said that doctors charge 10k-20k for a sex determination test !!! She even named a couple of well-known hospitals and the ward numbers where such nonsense used to happen !!!!!! 

She said that unlike olden days were 5-6 kids were the norm, THESE  DAYS, MOST PARENTS JUST PLAN ONE BABY - A BOY !!!! She too, said that THIS HAPPENS A LOT IN THE EDUCATED CLASSES, WITH THE HUSBAND SAYING "I'LL MARRY SOMEONE ELSE" IF IT IS A GIRL CHILD !! 

She cited the example of how in Mandya, which is the area of S.M.Krishna, has almost 30-40 clinics on a particular street, where this atrocity is RAMPANT. She said that Mandya has a weak sex ratio of 1500 M : 1000 F. She said that A LOT OF PEOPLE IN MANDYA THROW FEMALE FOETUSES IN BOILING WATER !!!!! My heart just skipped a beat listening to that and a chill went down my spine !!!!!!! HOW BRUTAL AND BARBARIC CAN PEOPLE GET !!!!! I WOULD DIE OF SHOCK EVEN IF A COTTON DOLL WERE GIVEN SUCH TREATMENT !!!!!! She once again blamed doctors with political connections, for this !!! 

She urged us to be conscious of the fact that there are 100 DEATHS EVERY MONTH DUE TO DOWRY HARASSMENT !! 

She had a MESSAGE FOR GUYS AS WELL AS GIRLS - GUYS, DO NOT DEMAND DOWRY ...GIRLS, PLEASE BE INDEPENDENT EVEN AFTER MARRIAGE ...

She asked girls not to marry early ...not to give EXTREME importance to marriage ...she said that in marriages, a lot of people just come for "oota" (food ) and go away ...when you have a problem, none of them will turn up to help you!!! :) ...Wow !!!

As was obvious, she said that she is highly passionate about fighting against this crime which begins right in the mother's womb. She said that a lot of women think that it is better for the girl to die in the womb rather than in the mother-in-law's house ...

She urged women NOT TO BE AFRAID OF WALKING OUT OF A HORRID MARRIAGE ...She urged women TO BE ECONOMICALLY INDEPENDENT ...SUICIDE IS NOT A SOLUTION !!!!!!!!....She almost said - "SCREW SOCIETY !!!!!! THEY ARE NO ONE IN YOUR LIFE !" ...She also spoke about how unfairly women are blamed in every crime....

She finally talked about how she wants to reach out to people with this message and concluded with the words "MARRIAGE ISN'T EVERYTHING ...NO MAN IS WORTH YOUR LIFE ...BE BOLD ..DON'T DIE !"

After this long and highly passionate speech, at 4.37 pm

Philomena Peris speaks: 

Philomena Peris was the former head of the State's Women's Commission. Starting off with the words "Hope Nyna's listening !", Peris went on to talk about how THE VERY PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT THE GIRL CHILD ARE KILLING THEM. She talked about the hypocrisy of Indians, who WORSHIP MANY GODDESSES IN SARASWATI, LAKSHMI, DURGA ETC ....BUT KILL THEM AT HOME ...

She talked about HOW 5 LAKH GIRLS DIE EVERY YEAR DUE TO FOETICIDE / INFANTICIDE ...She spoke of how foetuses are dumped in abundance on the banks of the river Tunga ..and in many toilets everywhere !!! She spoke of how the sex ratio has fallen from 1000:921 to 1000:900 ( dunno where ) ONLY BECAUSE OF MONEY ...She cited THE CARDINAL TRUTH - THAT MONEY IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF ALL EVIL !! 

She spoke of how parents fed girl children with poisonous fruits to kill them...and sometimes sat on them to crush them to death !!!!! Again, I just felt a lump go down my throat on hearing this !!! How can people be THAT STONE-HEARTED AND COLD-BLOODED !! 

She spoke of how girls are sold, tortured, sent into prostitution...She spoke of how ghastly the sights are ..of many burned bodies at Victoria Hospital ....She mentioned an article in The New York Times which mentioned that a matchstick and kerosene was all that was needed to kill a girl ....She spoke of how there are no girls among Jains and Sikhs today ..to marry ...she spoke of how girls from Kerala are being wooed by men from Punjab ...

She concluded by saying that TODAY IS THE TIME TO CHANGE THINGS ...and IT IS ALL IN OUR HANDS ...She showered heaps of praise on Jackie...by mentioning that the latter even represented India in Hockey ...and commended her spirit ...following which at 4.47 pm,

Priya Chetty speaks:

Priya started off by pointing out how easy it was to extinguish a candle and likened it to how easy it was to kill an unborn/newborn/child girl...She said that just like how the candle will glow bright in suitable conditions, a girl too, will shine bright if given love !! BRILLIANT !! :)

She ushered in a bit of a positivity when she spoke of how well girls in the corporate sector are doing in life ....She also spoke of how, SADLY, THE WORLD IS ALL ABOUT MONEY AND SOCIETY ...She said that female foeticide is a COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY AND NO ONE CAN BE SINGLED OUT ...

She said that India has got the world's largest youth population and urged the youth to make a difference. She said that she carries her father's name as well as her husbands name with pride, but most importantly, carries her first name with pride too! She also thanked the men, whom she considers as "partners" in this struggle !! ( Finally, someone thanking men too! :P :D ..hehe! :D ) ..Jokes apart :) ...She concluded by urging people living under a cultural shadow to wake up...and she then lit a candle ...

passing on the microphone at 4.55 pm, as 

Elaine Ghosh speaks: 

Elaine Ghosh is the head of Parinaam, an NGO. She began with a pleasantly surprising story of how 30 years ago, when she was pregnant with her first child, her husband told her that if it were a girl, he would gift her diamond ear-rings ...and if it were a guy, she would be given nothing at all ...and when it was a girl ...he indeed gifted her those ear-rings ..which she showed everyone ..that she has been wearing them for 30 years now ..WOW !! :) :) CLAP CLAP !!

She spoke about how shocked she was to have found SUCH a man 30 years ago ..especially when there was hardly ANYTHING being done about this issue those days ...In a lighter vein, she also said that she was given nothing when she gave birth to her two sons :D ..hehe! :)

She went on to ask a lot of questions which got people thinking - Are we bringing up our sons to love and respect women? Should we blame others for it, or should we introspect?  Shouldn't we start taking action ourselves?

She also echoed people's sentiments PERFECTLY - when she said that the walk had such a feel-good factor...especially when you're walking in support of a cause which you are highly passionate about ...BINGO !!!!!! :) :) :)

She then urged everyone to go and educate their servants about the same topic ...and clearly drove the message - "IT ALL BEGINS AT HOME !!" :) 

Then, at 5.01 pm, came THE BEST PART OF THE WHOLE SHOW - 

Chander speaks:

THIS WAS THE MOST TOUCHING PART IN THE WHOLE SHOW ...IT DID GET ME CRYING !! :) 

Chander, a visually challenged father of 2 girls ..asked his wife to speak first ...His wife, who spoke in Tamil, said - "engalukku rendu kuzhandhenga ...ponnkuzhandhenga thaan...periya ponnukku pannandu vayasu ...chinna ponnukku padhinonnu vayasu ...rendume disabled ...enakke evalo tharava thonum ...ivanga vaazhndhu enna prayojanam....nambale thaan paarthuka vendi irukku ...nambale thaan elllam panna vendi iruku ...ivangala edhavdhu hostel ku konduvudaalaam nu kooda naan sonnen ...aana en veetukkaarar vandhu ...'evanga thaan en uyir ..evanga illaama ennaala vaazha mudiyaadhu ...nee venumna unga appan veetukku poiko...ivanga saavanum naa ...naanum avangaloda saaven' apdi nu sonnaru...naan enna solla varen naa ...nambale namma ponnungala paarthukkumbodhu neenga ellarum kandippa paarthukanum!

( We have 2 kids ...both girls ..aged 12 and 11. ..both are disabled ...I would often feel - what is the use of these 2 living? Everything we should only do ...for them....We should only take care of them ...I even thought of putting them in a hostel ...but my husband said "These 2 are my life ...I can't live without them ...If you want, you go to your father's place and live ...if these 2 have to die, I will die with them!" ...What I'm trying to say is ..when we ourselves are taking care of our daughters in such conditions ...COME ON, you people surely can !!!!!! )

I STOOD UP AND APPLAUDED ...AS DID MANY OTHERS ...WOW !!!!!!! Was I dreaming ??!! OR DID SUCH A COUPLE ACTUALLY EXIST ?!!! WOW !!!! TRULY AWESOME !! 

Chander, spoke just one line in Kannada ...BUT THIS  ONE LINE ECHOED A MILLION TIMES - "Nimma makklu nimge devaru kottidhu ...avru hengidru sari ..channagi nodkoli

( Our children are God's gifts to us ...No matter how they are, please take good care of them ! )

WOW !! THIS WAS TRULY THE "PUNCH DIALOGUE" OF THE WHOLE EVENT ..if it can be called one !! JUST ONE LINE ..BUT SURELY SHOOTS EVERYONE'S HEART INSTANTLY LIKE A BULLET ..DOESN'T IT ?? :) :) :)

Manjula congratulated him straightaway ....A section of those reporters, including the one from The Hindu who was seated next to me, asked me about what exactly these 2 said, as it was in Tamil and Kannada ...I helped them ..the lady said - "You're from?" ( @Arun CS - I'm remembering T Rajendar - "You're from? Which television? :D :D )

I said - "Nowhere :) I'm just passionate about the cause"
"Do you have like a blog or something?"
"Yeah!"

I do wish it was more of a profession as well, than a passion :)

At 5.06 pm, 

Audience Volunteers speak:

A mother of a 24-year old girl said that she had seen on National Geographic, that EVEN PREDATORS DO NOT HARM CHILDREN OF THEIR PREY !! ...and talked about having seen a footage of HOW A CHEETAH TOOK CARE OF A BABY BABOON !!!!!! 

It is only HUMANS who indulge in this barbaric practice of killing children !!!! TRUE, ISN'T IT? :)

Another lady from a charitable trust urged people not to look down upon a girl child ....as her girl children also took very good care of her :) ...Lastly, a middle-aged man talked about how a girl child really brings LIFE into a house :) ..

WHEW !!!! That possibly ends the LONGEST ...& MOST DETAILED coverage of the event, doesn't it ?? :) :)

I can only say that EVERY BIT OF THIS WHOLE THING ...right from being excited about it ...to riding all the way across the city to the venue ...to walking to Coles Park ...to take down every bit of what was being said ...and typing every bit of it on this blog :)....WAS NOTHING SHORT OF AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT ...AND A MATTER OF PRIDE for me !! :) :)

As for my take on the whole thing, I can only tell my guy friends 2 things - 

1. Men of quality respect women's equality. 
2. A man who treats his wife like a princess is proof enough that he was raised in the arms of a queen :) 

Kudos to Jackie and the entire team behind this spectacular event ! :)


That's it folks ...
Thanks for your time :) Hope this got you thinking AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT !!
Cheers !
Ashwin ...
















5 comments:

Kumar said...

nice blog

Ashwin S Kumar said...

thanks :)

Padma said...

Thanks for the detailed commentary on the walk....had I been in Bangalore I would have certainly taken part..and your statement at the end ...man with quality treats his wife with equality.....touched me....god bless

Padma said...

Thanks for the detailed commentary ....and liked your statement at the end about quality men....god bless

Ashwin S Kumar said...

Thank you :)