Saturday, July 23, 2005

The victim complex

Some days you look back at everything you’ve been through and you feel this deep, humming happiness. You’ve survived it all to think about it today – without crashing apart afresh.

We weather so many rough patches – there are some days that are just sheer murder on your spirit… but you know that if you survive that, you will survive anything, and that wave carries you through triumphantly.

So you were knocked down, so you were traumatised, so you were shattered… so what? You dusted yourself off and walked on. Tougher and stronger than before. (When we can be such supremely strong beings, how can we ever have a phrase in our language like “im only human”…. It should be “im human”! It should be a proud statement of fact, not a grovelling excuse for weakness. )

We had gone to the beach recently and were watching the full moon glinting off the sea as we talked. She has always maintained this stance on the victim complex, which has intrigued me. This woman always maintains that the victim complex is deeply embedded in our conditioning. We most of us scream with pain and rage, of old scars, wear our tortures with a gruesome virtuous pride… but very few of us stand up tall after being knocked down to say “to hell with you. You think that’s going to keep me down?”. So few do not seek help or concession because we automatically assume the victims role.

Doesn’t that ring really true? Especially where we women are concerned, we are repeatedly told it is the end of the world if were raped, abused, tortured or beaten. We seldom hear the stories of women who have been through all that and are still striding on with their head held high. We just don’t hear enough about indomitable spirits that cannot be slapped down or punctured by a penis.

As much as it is important for women who have suffered to speak of their pain, I think its equally, if not more vital, that women who have sailed through speak of how they have healed. I had not thought it to be so earlier – I wondered what comfort one could possibly draw from hearing about more pain. What I realised is that the spirit after the pain is what makes the difference.

Rather than hear about how yet another person has been living on the scraps of sympathy she pleads for from society, when in despair I would hear about a woman like Maya Angelou, Germaine Greer, Andrea Dworkin, or one of the wonderful women I know, and feel reassured that there are such tremendous reserves of strength that it is possible to summon up!

This is a poem ill come back to for the rest of my life....

"Still I Rise"
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard'
Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

- Maya Angelou.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

truly the flavour of India

When I was in college, I happened to read this book called the Amul India Story, by Ruth Seredia. To put it mildly, the tale the book unfolded was magnificent. Now 4 years later, I am putting up a gist of what i read – and it still awes me! I really think this should be a part of our history text books when we study swadeshi. Read on – youll never think its “just” milk again! :)

For 30 odd years, the Utterly Butterly girl has captivated us. We have eagerly looked out for the Amul hoarding on our way to school, work or home to see what her tongue-in-cheek humour has decided to highlight. So much so that now the ads are ready to enter the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest advertising campaign ever. A simple measure of her fan following - a British company launched a butter calling it Utterly Butterly.

“Amul” is a sanskrit word meaning “priceless”. Formed in 1946, Amul initiated the dairy cooperative movement when it inspired the formation of an apex cooperative organisation, the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF). It is owned jointly by around 2.1 million milk producers in Gujarat. Its products are milk powders, milk, ghee, butter, cheese, chocolate, ice cream and pizza.

One of Amul's earliest orders was to provide butter for the railways. this was quite early : pre-independence. the contract was until then awarded to a british company, but after Amul stepped in and built up a reputation for timely deliveries and delicious butter, the british government appointed Amul to produce butter for them. since then Amul has grown to bill an annual turnover of around US$ 500 million every year.

Amul has come to be the symbol of the aspirations of millions of farmers, creating a pattern of liberation and self-reliance for every farmer to follow.

Dr. Verghese Kurien – Founder:

Amul is different from all the other industrial greats, in the sense that the founder - Dr. Kurien is a social entrepreneur. Dr. Kurien happened to enter the dairy sector by sheer chance! As a bright young man, studying at Guindy Engineering College, he enthusiastically joined the University Training Corps. His mother disliked the idea greatly and forbade him to leave for war. During this period, Kurien was finishing his engineering degree, the last six months of which had been cut short.

Both, the Indian Army and TISCO, were eagerly searching for young engineers to recruit. Kurien’s uncle (Dr. John Matthai) was then the Director of the Tata Industries, and responsible for TISCO. Assured of a job by his uncle, Kurien’s mother made him join the Tata company in 1944. Kurien was miserable there, as he felt singled out and self-conscious. He was so desperate to leave that as soon as he heard of the scholarship sponsored by the government, he applied for it. 500 youths would be selected and sent to US or the UK to study. The selection panel did not heed Kurien when he insisted that he wanted to do metallurgy: he was assigned dairy engineering! (GoI never made a wiser blunder!)

After a few more years, when he found himself in Kaira, he was approached by Tribhuvandas Patel for help with the malfunctioning plant of the local cooperative dairy. Being very bored with his assigned job, and with nothing else to do, he soon started going to the dairy every evening to tinker with the machinery and set things right.

Though the idea was Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s, and Tribhuvandas Patel had tried to gather the villagers to implement it, it was Dr. Verghese Kurien who built Amul from a small movement in Gujarat into a fantastic paradigm of development. For this he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, World Food Prize, Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Development, Carnegie Wateler World Peace Prize, etc.

Growth of Amul -

Impressive though its growth, the unique feature of the Amul saga does not lie in the extensive use of modern technology, nor the range of its products, or even the rapid inroads it made into the market for dairy products. The essence of the Amul story lies in the breakthrough it achieved in modernising the subsistence economy of a sector by organising the rural producers in the area.

Amul began with two village cooperatives (today it involves more than a thousand). Any farmer had to depend basically on his seasonal crops, as the income from milch buffaloes was undependable. The milk distribution and marketing system was controlled by private traders and middlemen. Milk being a perishable commodity, the farmers had to accept whatever price they were given, or let the milk spoil.

Realising that the oppression would continue as long as there were middlemen, the farmers rose in protest and decided to market and sell their milk themselves. This led to the formation of the Kaira District Coooperative Milk Producers’ Union (which grew over the years and is now popularly called Amul). It was formally registered on December 14th, 1946.

The Union started pasteurising milk for a government milk scheme in June 1948. The assurance of a market proved to be a great incentive and by the end of the year, 400 more farmers joined in the village societies. The daily quantum of milk handled rose from 250 l a day to 5000 l a day.
Integration and replanning led the cooperatives into animal husbandry and veterinary practices. By now, the production was so high that the farmers did not have adequate markets! In 1953, they had a brilliant solution: processing milk into milk products like cheese, butter, etc. A Rs.5 million plant was set up to do this. It was then but a small step to start making condensed sweetened milk. By then the Kaira Union had definitely marked its presence.

The government first gave them a defence contract and then later asked for an additional plant to be set up in 1963. Soon Amul had the facilities and resources to both encourage and support its members. They set up a 24-hour help service, provided bimonthly cattle inspections, introduced advanced techniques in animal husbandry, etc.

More than 900 village cooperatives have created jobs for more than 5000 people, and managed to do so without disturbing the socio-agro system. Also, such employment dramatically reduced the rate of migration to cities.

This model also promotes women's entrepreneurship and empowers women to support themselves and their families, enabling them to have a major say in the home economy. Perpetuating the voluntary mix of the various ethnic and social groups helped overcome social and communal problems and prejudices, thereby building up social stability.

Independent studies showed over the years that Amul and the movement accounted for 48% of the rural household income, thus not only helping people to liberate themselves from poverty but also elevating their standard of living.

Today Amul stands for many things: for high quality products sold at reasonable prices, for the genesis of a vast cooperative network, for the triumph of indigenous technology, for the marketing savvy of a farmers’ organisation…. and for a proven model for dairy development which is now followed around the globe.


Monday, July 11, 2005


Ive been meaning to write about them for a long time. But before we start any discussion, stop and try saying the word out loud. Not “boobs”, not “lajja”, not “assets” and most certainly not “tits”: just “breasts”. My gosh, what a rarity!

I always blow a fuse when I hear people referring to “her tits” when the “her” in question is not a cow, or some other animal. An adult human female has breasts. I find it infuriating and absolutely offensive to hear people call them tits. Because that word carries with it the insulting insinuation that the woman is a cow. While one doesn’t have to “hit on” a woman, theres certainly no call for such a malicious insult either.

Our language is loaded. There are undertones and whole books of meaning lurking behind every word, especially when these words pertain to sex. Using a word like “lajja” implies that a). a big built woman has to calmly accept an inevitable fate of harassment, b).that a small built or flat chested woman is not “woman” enough, c). that you cant ever just regard breasts as a part of the body with about as much erotic value as an oesophagus.

The last may seem funny to you. Why insist that breasts should also be regarded platonically, so to speak? Well because when theres always a sexual innuendo, theres also a huge amount of hypocrisy and hype, so some time, truth gets left behind. Here are some things that you may never have heard about breasts (especially if youre male) because they just don’t get discussed:

Dyou know the number of women who suffer agonies of guilt while breast feeding their child? Its common to feel aroused when suckling the child – and perfectly natural. Its just natures way of making what could well be an onerous task, a more pleasant one for the mother. Its also a very smart evolutionary strategy because if the mother got no joy from feeding the child and decided to ditch it, where would we all be!

But most women only feel terribly ashamed that they feel sexually aroused during breast feeding, because most of the times, nobody has bothered talking to them about it. Nobody can, because its taboo. It would be Talking About Sex, that too in the holier than thou context of motherhood, so its emphatically Not On. Period. (or should I say “periods” since were on the subject of taboos?!)

The bra industry is a booming one. As a feminist its one of my pet peeves that a comfortable bra should be so bloody expensive. It is. (note the irony there by the way: patriarchy has said breasts without bras are vulgar, and that bras should be expensive. hmm, look whos caught in the middle again. The concept of padded bras speaks eloquently for itself.)

And its yet another source of irritation that bras, like most branded clothing nowadays, should be made only for the “perfect” figure. What about 99% of the (im tempted to say “real”) women who aren’t built like that? Are we doomed eternally to ill fitting uncomfortable underwear? I guess we are. If breasts are so taboo and cannot be spoken about, how will we talk about how different breasts are shaped differently, how the left breast is never the same size as the right breast, and how we users would like the bras to be made?

Another issue that’s often ignored amidst all the hype on the breast front, is breast cancer. Breast cancer is terribly common, and usually not diagnosed until its very advanced. but please: like any woman is going to confess aloud that she palpitates her breast every month to see if the textures changed – shell get labelled some kind of sex maniac! (you know how realistic it is to expect someone to actually teach her how to do it…). Personally, I know very few women who know how to do a breast examination for themselves.

Actually, I know very few women who can say “breast” out loud and look you in the eye while saying it without undergoing agonies of shyness. I know throwing off the baggage from that word to reclaim it took me until undergrad! (And im still a little hesistant about posting this. Its one thing to say these things in person, and quite another to write em!)

From smaller issues like bras, to the worse ones like the fetish of bigger is better, there’s heaps that needs to be addressed about breasts. But it will all get swept under the rug and ignored or worse, made inaccessible by taboos, as long as we hide behind words like “tit”.

by the way, if youre male and you read this till the end, hats off to you. If women are embarrassed, this is another thing that decent guys usually squirm about – even after living with sisters and mothers!


Friday, July 08, 2005

"you can't sink a rainbow"!

Copyright: Greenpeace-Walsh

When man’s materialistic ways have threatened and abused the earth, stripping her of her bountiful resources, just before it is too late, the Great Spirit of the Indians will return to earth. A new race of warriors will come forth to fight for the earth, called the Rainbow Warriors. They will teach us to respect the earth again, and will restore harmony.
- A Cree Indian legend

Greenpeaceis a unique global organisation which was founded in 1979. They have done pioneering work since then. (no, really! These guys do do amazing stuff!)

They are a group which has developed the use of nonviolent, creative confrontation as a potent weapon with which to address global environmental problems and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace's goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity.

Greenpeace is committed to :

1. stopping climate change
2. saving the oceans
3. protecting old forests
4. combatting genetic engineering
5. eliminating toxic chemicals
6. campaigning for disarmament
7. encouraging sustainable trade.

Their activists sail around the world in a flagship called the Rainbow Warrior, christened by Bob Hunter. One of the co-founders of Greenpeace, he named the ship after an Indian legend when the story literally leapt into his hands one stormy night.

So why this sudden post you ask? Well, it’s the 20th anniversaryof the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior. That’s right. Bombing. Now why would a group reknown for “non violent confrontation” have their ship bombed? Well, probably because when you speak up for people, and force governments and corporates to acknowledge some issues and act on them, youre bound to get under their skin. And as history has amply demonstrated, both are not really averse to using mindless violence.

The Rainbow Warrior was bombed when she was taken out to protest against nuclear testing. the American government had been testing nuclear weapons in the Bikini Atoll. As a result, the nearby Rongelap island was contaminated. Nobody responded to the appeals of the Rongelapese people to be evacuated until Greenpeace came along. The Rainbow Warrior was used to evacuate the Rongelapese to Majeto. From there, they proceeded to Auckland to attend to the ship’s wear and tear and plan for the Pacific Peace Voyage which was to follow.

Their next strategy was to build a “peace flotilla” to protest against the French governments plans for underground nuclear testing. Though they expected stiff opposition from the french government, nobody was prepared for what eventually did happen. The french had ordered their secret service to sink the Rainbow Warrior at Waitemata Harbour, Auckland. After initially denying responsibility, the French government confessed to having sabotaged the ship and was ordered by the UN to pay $13 million to the New Zealand government, which then gave Greenpeace $8 million to build their next ship, Rainbow Warrior II.

Greenpeace being the irrepressible outfit it is (thank god!) rebuilt the Warrior and undeterred, continues with their amazing work around the world.

We NEED a group like Greenpeace today to stand up to rogue governments and corporate entities. There’s a link on the right hand side of this page dedicated to Exxon Mobil’s way of working, which you may like to check out. The link is called Exxon Secrets. It’s a crisp demonstration of how manipulation happens. (i got this off the greenpeace site of course!)
For samples of Greenpeace's campaign issues, please have a look at their work on these fronts.
They have also campaigned against use of toxic and hazardous chemicals and forced manufacturers of consumer goods (such as TVs, cellular phones, toys and so on) to remove toxic substances from their products.

So what can we do to help Greenpeace?

Would you like to help from wherever it is youre located? Look em uphere for more details.

Dyou have a blog or personal home page? link up: let more people know about GP.

Would you like to know about greener living? Here are some practical do-able things. (no, you don’t have to live like a hippie - just give this a shot! :) )

Work in your local Greenpeace office or volunteer (id love to do this some day! :d)

and of course, you can DONATE!

Kudos Greenpeace. You folks are amazing.


Monday, July 04, 2005

king of po(o)p.

I switched on a music channel today to see if I could catch any news on the live 8 concert. I certainly did not expect to see what I did find: the music channel was airing a documentary on Michael Jackson. The world can be a very cynical, sick place sometimes.

The man is a prime symbol of body dysmorphic disorder. ok, he just needs psychological help. But excuse me, he just went on trial for child sexual abuse… and were pulling a “we love you Michael”?? I felt sick and furious.

The court case turned out, predictably, to be a farce. Yeah right, all those kids were lying, and our man was the poor maligned dear wasn’t he. Why was I so cynical? Because of this. Because the (self proclaimed) most free nation on earth had refused to sign the UN charter guaranteeing the rights of its children to protect them against precisely this danger. Are you really surprised that he got off?

Admittedly I don’t see much TV, or read the newspapers often. Also I did make it a point to avoid the trial as far as possible - there are some things that I find simply too sickening to stomach. But when I happened to see any reporting during that court case, there was invariably a glimpse of fans screaming and cheering Mr. Jackson on his way to and from the court room.

What struck me was that I didn’t see a single placard saying “we love you Gavin Arvizo”, or "We admire you Gavin Arvizo". Or for that matter “don’t let the bastards make you feel bad, Gavin”.

What were all those fans screaming “we love you Michael” thinking of? Some of them were certainly old enough to have families of their own. Did they wonder how they would feel if their child was abused and the abuser was cheered on? Did they wonder how a terminally ill child would cope with the trauma of abuse in addition to his already huge burden?

Alright, so that was only one group of adults. There are still millions in the world. The next bunch I came across had decided to boost their viewership ratings by playing one of the mans songs on every show they had, screening documentaries on him and so on. The same channel also screens live 8 concerts. Oh wow. Talk about sincerity and honesty in politics.

Ever thought about how all those abused kids are going to feel when they flip the tv on and keep seeing their abuser? What message have we sent them? We have just declared again loudly, that we do not care for them. Let them hurt: we would so much rather turn our eyes away and not deal with our dirty baggage.

We have failed the children yet again.


Visit to help prevent environmental destruction.
Creative Commons License
This blog's content is protected. Whack this and you get whacked.