Monthly Archives: February 2008

STOLEN CHILDHOODS

As preachy as this is going to sound, it is something that is horrifying and soul stirring. It is a hidden disease. I know that there are Doctors, Engineers, Journalists, Lawyers, Activists, Students, Mothers reading blogs. My only hope is that someone who read this blog spreads the word and help me make a difference. It is a cause. My only request,don’t be indifferent. It requires every one of us to change the world, one child at a time.  

I saw a movie today in school. A movie about how 246 million children around the world from Indonesia to the United States of America sit at the bottom of the poverty line forced to fish, farm, cook, clean, make rugs, pluck tobacco, make bricks, harvest coffee and cacao and often sell themselves all for less than a dollar a day to feed themselves and their debtors. “Stolen Childhoods” is a documentary shot in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Brazil, Mexico and US of A. It is a story of how around the world the needy consumer increasingly and often unknowingly feeds the child labour industry. Unlike other documentaries, this one had some solutions to offer too. That is what made the difference between being unaffected and passionate for me. The subtle message that by taking not of a few things, I can make sure another child is not beaten to death, or tied to a handmade carpet loom, or prevented from running away by cutting the soles of his feet and putting pepper in them.

It is a soul stirring moment. The little girl in the granite quarry in India who wants to have a education, who sees other girls marchng off to school wearing the matching uniforms and learning things, the fisher-boy in Indonesia who had to kill his captor to escape from an island and swim for two days and face manslaughter charges or be killed by his captor’s avengers all when he is 15 yrs. The children in Kenya who have lost their parents to AIDS and are working off debts by plucking coffee seeds amidst gruelling conditions, or the 11 year old in Brazil who is well developed to be sold off for prostitution. The native Indians in Mexico who work in the tobacco plantations living under trees, drinking water and breathing the air filled with pesticides that are banned everywhere else in the world because of their toxicity, their children as young as 5 and 6 dying of cancer, the immigrants in Texas hand farming onions and potatoes for under $2 a day and often dropping out. These are stark images, children whose live could have been instead of will never be. It is hard to sit there and watch the 13 year old putting in extra hours to let her 8 yr old sister go to school. It is hard to see her avert her eyes from the camera when asked if she would like to go to school.

The difference in the movie came not from these stories, but from the people who are working to put an end to this. Bal Ashram in India is one such organization giving an education and working sincerely to stop child labour and child abuse. Bolsa Escola is one of the largest scholarship programs in the world paying a stipend to families to send children to school in Brazil. Kenyan communities have gotten together to send children to school. While coffee prices around the world have increased, the income that the people earn have not. Companies make about 4000 times more money than they have been making and less than 1% reaches the labourers and even less than that the children. Fair trade coffee is one way of ensuring that eh proper amount gets to the right people and ultimately the children are in school where they ought to be. Starbucks sells Fairtrade coffee, but it is about 10% of their sales.

WHAT CAN THE CONSUMER DO

  • Look for the Rugmark symbol when buying carpets and rugs
  • Buy organic and local. It is expensive, I haven’t been buying organic or local, but I want to now. I realize I can send atleast one child to school if and when I do that.
  • Buy fairtrade. Demand Fairtrade when you buy coffee from Starbucks. By law they can’t refuse. Even if they have to open a packet, grind and give, they are supposed to…every shop has to.
  • Make people aware of the issues. the more the people become aware, the more easier it is to take steps.
  • Be aware. A little boy selling tea in the office, or the maid’s daughter or son coming o clean the house are things we can avoid and prevent. It is probably a very small thing, but it still feeds the monster.Stop it and you can ask others to stop.

India had a Shiksa Yatra, Native Indians are demanding the Phillip Morrises of the world listen to them, a movement demands that US one of the two countries along with Somalia ratify the Child rights treaty. There are STOP CHILD LABOR movements around the world. Be a part of it.


Ms Cacophoenix, I present to you Ms. Austen

“Ms. Austen, I am delighten to make your acquaitance. I have heard so much about you from my father. It is finally nice to see you in person.” PBS is such a kind channel for agreeing to host us every Sunday. I am sure we are going to have a splendid time. Have you heard that Mrs and Mr. Bingley will be coming to Netherfield for Michaelmas….Oh I am sure you have met the Darcy’s at Pemberly. I heard the sisters miss each other a lot, they will be arriving too, that is good news. Mr. Bennett will be delighted to see his daughters. How is Anne eliott. Heard her husband left the navy for good.”

Ok…I am not bonkers..well not entirely. But I can assure you that I do become a little silly every Sunday evening. PBS is airing an hour and a half of all Jane Austen’s work every Sunday. In a series of them titled “Masterpiece“, I have so far seen “Persuasion,” “Northanger Abbey,” “Mansfield Park”, and “Miss Austen regrets”. I just finished watching “Pride and Prejudice” with spunky Jennifer ehle doing complete justice to Elizabeth Bennet and the dreamy Colin Firth as Darcy. Oh boy, has life been good. I am a big fan of classics and I am even more pleased with the way that these classics have ben adapted for television. I am not a big fan of books being made into movies, but these series have been so truthful to the actual novel, and in some wierd way to the characters as I imagined them. I think that is where the problem lies with some adaptations. I have a vivid imagination adn love to put myself as a person in that time or place observing the whole story. I can actually visualize the whole book in my mind…much like Laxman’s common man. Wierd I know, but that’s me. Though initially reluctant , I forced myself to watch it and was abolutely florred to how true they have been, especially Pride and Prejudice. I have to confess I have like 5-6 copies of that book. It is exciting to watch the culture. A lot of the clothes and jewels they wear so resemble Indian sarees and jewels, makes sense because of the amount of things that were imported to Britain from India. The culture, the language and the way of life. There is almost a poetic nature to the English spoken and the language is just so beautiful.

Watching these shows also made me think of something else. The lives of these people were so consumed by making good matches, the availability of men and the proper behaviour and upbringing of girls, it is almost identical to any Indian family. Made me wonder how much of the arranged marriage, dowry giving, marrying according to status and everyting else Indians do are of our own culture and how much was adapted during the colonial times. I am sure a lot fo the cultures, behaviour, manners and way of life has been handed down to us from the British along with the English language, but what was India or the pieces that came to be India really like. Were arranged marriages common or was marrying for love common? Did people really bother about caste and status? How badly did a single man in possesion of a fortune in search of a good wife? Did girls have any say over who they married and was marriage really the ultimate goal? It would be very ironic if hte life that we lead today are not really ours, but are borrowed garbs in order to fit in. we still borrow a lot of garbs to keep seeing which one fits just right, maybe the one that fits right was the one cast aside the first. In search for acceptance and modernity, we have been ignoring the one thing that made us truly stand out and modern than the world ever was in the 1700’s. Makes me wonder…that’s all.


Maybe I will just go back to sleep..

How can you be a political science student and yet develop a strong disdain for politics. How can the sight of political candidates make you groan and how can debates make you scream and run????

Well if you have lived in this country for about 2 years now, you can do all the above and more. I beginning to understand the difference between learning about the science of politics and actual politics. There is a lot of difference folks, a lot and I am loving real politik less and less. It is not about the candidates or their views or anything of that sort. It is the biases of the media and the extent to which a modern, developed, industrialized nation can live this closeted life. It is appalling to say the least. Let me make some things clear now, I cannot vote here, this is the first election I am witnessing here and I am so far from being a feminist I can be an anti feminist (That’s another post..watch the brickbats..I have a thesis to finish). The media here has become so much a part of this election, that I can safely say that it will single handedly determine the outcome of this one. I have never seen so much Anti-Hillary tirades, or pro-Obama movements. It is hard to watch it and not feel as if there is something more than just hating the Clinton name.  Bill Clinton referring to Jesse jackson and comparing him to Obama was a racist slur and yet “pimping” out Chelsea as put so elegantly by a supposedly unbiased news anchor is making too much of a stupid off the cuff remark?!?! When Romney cries it is Oh so valiant and sensitive when Hillary does the same, it is hormonal or acting for the votes. Obama snickering and rolling eyes and agreeing to everything Hillary says in the debate is graciousness personified, yet when Hillary does the same it is weakening of her role. She is a worthy candidate and yet there has been so few comments which are positive. And don’t even start about the various dissections about her dress, cleavage, her laugh, her walk, her tone, raising her voice. My God ! I feel like I’ve stepped into some bygone century. There are white men who vote more for Obama than for Hillary and they have openly said it is because they cannot fathom a woman president. I am no feminist, I say again and yet all this makes me so enraged that men in my house are bearing the brunt of it. Are these people for real. Obama is a good guy, but I am not sure if he is so good that it turns into a sort of “Religious cult” (Not my words). People are actually fainting and crying at his speeches aka Michael Jackson’s concert. This is ridiculous. Gah! I understand that the youth have something to cheer about. A handsome, charming orator is not something you get everyday. But what are they cheering for…speeches that sound eerily like sermons or for his chants of change. Isn’t it important to see the real issues behind the scene. A person whose policies echoes an experienced senator and who agrees with everything she says in debates, a person who has had more than a hundred present not yes o no but present votes, a person who hasn’t so far stood up and defended his positions with a fury, but usually odes so meekly is far from being the President of a country which so badly needs a strong iron fist to shape it back into place. I am all for unifying, but you can’t get that with speeches alone. At some point there needs to be more and if there isn’t, it is going to get real dangerous. I am not warning or predicting a mess. He may be good for all I know. But seeing how a country can step back centuries in their mindset has made me question everything that I see and hear here. Maybe I should just turn of the TV and go back to sleep.