Brave in thought and word, but not in deed?

About a week back, Ms. Mohini Giri was on her way to her son’s house in New Delhi when she saw a young girl being molested by a group of men. She stopped her car and approached the group who then began hitting her for trying to intervene.

She tried to stop a PCR (Police Control Room) van which was passing by but they refused to stop “as they were taking their boss for some urgent work”. Finally, a police constable stopped and intervened in the matter. Giri says that she was too shaken by the incident to approach the police and file a complaint. Later, she emailed the Delhi Police, which then ordered an inquiry into the case.

Ms. Mohini Giri’s description of the incident, described above, was reported by Firstpost, which also gave Delhi Police’s version, which is quite different. Indian Express reports that “police claimed the girl had injured a resident in the area with her two-wheeler and angry residents had assaulted her” and that Ms. Giri “claimed that a beat constable told her that she should not have intervened in the altercation.” Later, she said, “As it is people don’t intervene when a woman is being assaulted. Why will anyone stop to help if this is the attitude?”

Even if the police version is correct, it can be correctly stated that Ms. Mohini Giri saw a girl in distress and tried to help her. For that, Mr. Giri was beaten up herself.

Ms. Mohini Giri is not a ‘common person’. According to the Wikipedia page on her, she “is an Indian social worker and activist, who has been Chairperson of the Guild of Service, a New Delhi-based social service organization …. She founded War Widows Association, New Delhi in 1972. She has also remained Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (1995-1998). In 2007, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan….. is the daughter-in-law of V. V. Giri, former President of India.

What happened to Ms. Mohini Giri is not unusual. Very often, a person who tries to help a victim ends up in trouble herself/himself. Sometimes, it is not very serious trouble, but it can be very serious trouble especially if the culprits involved are criminals or are politically connected.

Just imagine if a ‘common person’ had seen the same girl in distress and had tried to help her. This ‘common person’ would have been beaten up and, if (s)he had tried to pursue the matter further with the police, would have been arrested for assaulting the persons who were assaulting the girl. Since people don’t want to invite trouble, they “ignore a girl in distress or an accident victim on the road”.

What has each one of us done whenever we’ve seen an unknown girl in distress or an unknown accident victim on the road? If you have never faced this situation, please read this NDTV report about Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez and ask yourself what you would have done if you were one of the onlookers when Keenan and Reuben were being killed.

The sad truth is most, maybe all of us will speak passionately about this subject, we’ll write impressive blog posts on this subject, we’ll make meaningful comments on other people’s blog posts on this subject, but when we see an unknown girl in distress or an unknown accident victim on the road, we’ll do nothing. In all fairness, I wouldn’t blame any person for staying away. As Ms. Mohini Giri said, “Why will anyone stop to help if this is the attitude (of the police)?”

Can this situation ever change? I believe it can if and when people stop feeling insecure about helping other people in distress. How can that happen? That will be covered in another blog post.

As far as candlelight vigils/marches are concerned, I personally think candles can be put to better use. But, since I’ve not paid for the candles, I’ll keep my opinion to myself!

This post is in response to Indispire Edition 28: “People conveniently ignore a girl in distress or an accident victim on the road, but would enthusiastically march with candles in hand for a cause. Why?”


We educated Indians must stop pointing fingers at others

Recently, I overheard an interesting conversation between two persons. The conversation started with the man commenting on the bad habits of Indians (littering, smoking in public, spitting, urinating and defecating in public, breaking traffic rules, etc., etc.) and proclaiming that he had never seen such things in the 20 years that he’d lived in USA.

The woman replied, “Our people are so disgusting! They’ll never improve! It’s so frustrating!” and continued, “What about the function? Are all preparations done?”

The man replied that everything was under control, and added, “‘Didi’ (elder sister), I was really impressed by your husband’s contacts! Everybody gave us special treatment! Do you know I’m saving a hefty sum on the catering bill because the caterer offered to accept half the payment in cash, which means no tax on that amount!! He said he does this only for special people like Doctor Saab!”

Wow! This man had studied in USA and worked there for over a decade. After waxing eloquent about the lousy habits of Indians, he proudly proclaimed that he had saved money by doing something illegal, which had been facilitated by a highly respected medical practitioner!!! This man and his brother-in-law, both highly educated, did something that they knew was illegal.

We educated Indians are experts at criticizing the visible bad habits of our countrymen, but we ourselves have some really bad habits, which we do nothing about because we think they are invisible.
1. Have I always paid Income Tax in full, declaring all my income?
2. Have I never bought/used smuggled goods?
3. Have I never bribed a policeman or a government servant?
4. Have I never spoken on my cellphone while driving?
5. Have I never engaged child labour?
6. Have I never used official facilities (car, telephone, etc.) for personal use?
7. Have I never used software, books or CDs that are pirated?

I have listed 7 questions, but there are many more. We should ask ourselves these questions. If we can answer YES to all these questions, then, we have the right to criticise others. If not, we must first try to change ourselves for the better before trying to change others.

Many of the people who litter, smoke in public, spit, or urinate and defecate in public do not even realize that they are doing something wrong. In some cases, people urinate and defecate in public because they have no access to toilets.

However, we educated Indians indulge in wrong acts knowing that what we are doing is wrong! Further, we are not constrained by circumstances. For example, the man who paid half the catering bill in cash could easily have afforded to pay the tax on the entire bill.

Let us all remember: “When you point one finger at someone else, three of your own fingers point back to you.”

This post is being shared for Indispire Edition 24.

Genuine relationships or fairweather relationships?


This poster, sent by a friend, set me thinking.

Do we treat everybody with about the same amount of respect and consideration?

Or do we give immense amounts of respect and consideration to people only if they are wealthier and/or more powerful and/or better connected than us, and little or no respect and consideration to people if we are wealthier and/or more powerful and/or better connected than them and we are definitely unlikely to need their help in any way in the foreseeable future?
Worse, do we maintain relationships with people only when they are wealthier and/or more powerful and/or better connected than us, and end those relationships when we become wealthier and/or more powerful and/or better connected than them and we are definitely unlikely to need their help in any way in the foreseeable future?

Do we have genuine relationships? Or do we have fairweather relationships?


Generally late for meetings?
The ‘not-so-important’ person is unpunctual.
The ‘important’ person is punctual, but she/he gets delayed due to factors beyond her/his control.

Doesn’t work hard enough?
The ‘not-so-important’ person is a lazy bum.
The ‘important’ person is ‘not in the rat race’.

Doesn’t speak up?
The ‘not-so-important’ person doesn’t have courage.
The ‘important’ person is soft-spoken.

Didn’t achieve the desired result?
The ‘not-so-important’ person didn’t put in enough effort.
The ‘important’ person was unlucky.

The ‘not-so-important’ person is drunk.
The ‘important’ person is mildly intoxicated.

Drinks too much?
The ‘not-so-important’ person is a drunkard.
The ‘important’ person is fond of drinks.

Eats too much?
The ‘not-so-important’ person is a glutton.
The ‘important’ person is a gourmand.

Generally gets work done by bribing?
The ‘not-so-important’ person is corrupt.
The ‘important’ person is ‘street smart’.

Plans carefully?
The ‘not-so-important’ person is finicky.
The ‘important’ person is methodical.

Election results?
The winning party wins because of their ‘important’ persons.
The losing party loses because of their ‘not-so-important’ persons.

How come most situations are interpreted in almost diametrically opposite ways for the ‘not-so-important’ person and the ‘important’ person?

Is it ‘different strokes for different folks’? No!

Is it because we believe that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”? No way!


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. (Prompt: Your post has to revolve around the word Magic! What does it mean to you?)


Kyunki Maa-Baap Ek Din Saas-Sasur Banenge (Because parents will one day become parents-in-law)

Over lunch one Monday many years ago a colleague, who had just returned after a weekend visit to her recently married sister, was complaining bitterly about how her sister was always addressed or referred to by her parents-in-law by her ‘new name’. “This custom became obsolete many years back. How can it be followed in this day and age? I can’t imagine such old-fashioned people exist even today. I feel really sorry for my ‘didi’,” she said.

My colleague was not speaking about her sister’s surname. She was referring to the custom, followed by some communities in India, of a woman being given a new first name by her parents-in-law after marriage. Apparently, since some years, the particular ceremony was still followed as part of a traditional marriage, but just as a ritual/formality. The bride would continue to be addressed by her own first name after marriage.

This was a purely personal/family matter about which I could do nothing, so I did not comment. Of course, I felt sorry for my colleague’s sister and for my colleague.

One day, about a year later, the same colleague’s ‘maami’ (mother’s brother’s wife) came to our office for a few minutes. The colleague introduced her as Sita maami. The next day, another colleague said that Sita maami bore an uncanny resemblance to a woman called Meera who had been her neighbour in Delhi many years back. Our colleague laughed and explained that Meera from Delhi and Sita maami were the same person. Because her husband’s name was Ram, Meera’s name was changed to Sita after marriage.

Again, this was a purely personal/family matter about which I could do nothing, so I did not comment. Of course, I wondered how my colleague, who had complained bitterly when her sister’s mother-in-law followed an obsolete custom, laughed about the same obsolete custom when it was practised by her grandparents.

A few months later, this Sita maami’s son got married. To my surprise, my colleague, who had felt really sorry for her ‘didi’, started referring to and addressing her cousin’s wife by her new name!

This is only one small example of how many of us are quick to criticise our own and our sisters’ parents-in-law when they discriminate against their daughters-in-law, but gladly overlook the same discrimination when it is perpetrated by our own parents. Sometimes, as in the case of my colleague, they even perpetrate the same discrimination themselves!

I’ve always wondered how, while so many women complain about the regressive behavior of their parents-in-law, very few women speak about the regressive behavior of their parents!

If we want to get rid of old-fashioned, regressive, patriarchal attitudes, we must resist them and fight against them irrespective of whether they are displayed by our parents-in-law or our parents.

Each person must remember that her/his parents are, in most cases, another woman’s parents-in-law.

This applies to all social ills. We all examine others with a magnifying glass. We must also remember to look into the mirror.

To quote William Arthur Ward: It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.