Monica Lewinsky and the Trolls of our Times

A couple of days back a woman of acquaintance committed suicide. The usual story : alleged extra marital affairs, a society that loves to take figments of weird imagination as the gospel truth, rumour, lack of emotional support from near ones, stress, depression, and fear of facing alone an antagonistic world. Remember, there were male parties to the whole issue. But, it was the woman who faced the majority of the insults and finally paid with her life.

Coincidentally, perhaps at the time when the woman was preparing to hang herself, in the comfortable surroundings of my home I was watching a series of TED talks, one of them being a talk by Monica Lewinsky about the trials and tribulations she faced after the news of her inappropriate actions in the White House became public. Well, those who were of news digestible age by 1998 need no introduction to her.

 

She recounts that it was an internet site that first broke the news. The president of the United States of the America had been caught pants down with a young intern in the white house. Within no time news spread like wild fire all over the world. The internet was full of nasty comments about her. All sorts of editors from the main stream media to the yellow press wanted to outdo one another in dishing out juicy details. And shaming her.

Bill Clinton was effected too. Of course, he was not as devastated as the lady. Nor was he trolled and shamed both offline and online, as vigorously as Monica was done. He was let off after the public was fed up with inventing banters about him. Ultimately, the US public did not want him to lose his job. His wife stood by his side and after a decade, she  was vying for the top post of the world.

Meanwhile, Monica was having a hard time reconciling with the nasty world. She recalls that at some point she too thought of committing suicide. Her mother stood by her. Her mother was so cautious, she insisted that Monica should keep the door open while taking her shower.

In India we have the idea that women are in the receiving end and the bearer of the bigger brunt only in orthodox countries like ours. We think women are better off in such matters in free, modern and progressive countries of the west.  But it seems whether it is in the west or in the east, society has been grossly unfair to the fairer sex.

Monica also recalls an incident of a girl committing suicide after someone filmed her intimate moments with  a boy friend and made it viral. These are some of the flip sides of the social media.

The talk also raises deeper issues of freedom and citizen responsibility. How can we demarcate a line when commercial interests (more visitors to the website/ more readers of the newspaper) override media ethics and an individual’s right to privacy?  Should freedom of expression push every humane consideration to the sideline?

Of course the main issue here is the way society treats women and men over similar mistakes. We know that in Ramayana, Sita did not go through the agniparikha (to pass through fire to prove her chastity) voluntarily. It was ordained by the keepers of morality. Same way, our historians who are now too obsessed with the Aryan Invasion theory, should do serious research to find out whether, during the Isalmic invasion and loot, women voluntarily went through the sati ritual or were coerced to do so.

cities inhabitable

air pollution

Hawa mein udta jae,
mora lal dupatta malmal ka
ooo…  ji… ooo ji

Hey girl. Don’t let your dupatta fly off your soft hands. Delhi is approaching. You will need it to cover your nose and mouth.

The air pollution in Delhi reaching alarming proportions is the top trending news these days. Of course for the weak lunged, most of the Indian cities are increasingly becoming inhabitable. After shifting to Bangalore when I went to a doctor friend for my persistent cough, the first advice he gave was to leave Bangalore.

In the WHO list of most polluted cities in terms of outdoor pollution, ten Indian cities have the honour of being included in the top twenty.  Delhi, which ranks fifth among Indian cities, gets highlighted the most because, the media men and VIPs stationed there think Delhi is the world.

Air pollution in cities has become a common phenomenon in hugely populated developed countries. Countries like India and China with their affluent population crowding the cities experience it the most. Recently there were newspaper reports that many city dwellers in China are forced to flee the cities.

In India, the major causes of pollution are industrial and vehicular emissions and inefficient cooking fuel. According to the WHO report the air quality in many of the thickly populated rural areas do not provide a back up for the city dweller.

Adulterated vehicle fuel and traffic congestion worsen the situation in cities. Following the example of China, the Delhi government implemented the odd even scheme to reduce number of vehicles on the road. But the impact of such schemes has not been on expected lines and these schemes are likely to end up as symbolic gestures in the long run as people find innovative ways to bypass the system. Maybe, the time has come for tougher measures like banning of all four-wheelers other than public transports and ambulances on fixed days.

Those who commute to office for less than  five kms can easily pedal to office. The healthier and more enthusiast ones will not mind the distance, provided there are dedicated cycle tracks. We need to create more awareness in this regard and the city planners must focus on decreasing traffic congestion and encouraging people to pedal around the city.

The sharp increase in use of personal vehicles can be attributed to increase in purchase power. But economic empowerment of people cannot be and should not be reversed. No doubt pollution is a byproduct of modernisation. However, scientific development in one field can be used to counter the ill effects of scientific development of another field. We can focus on developing technologies to have affordable cars like Nano or, improving the vehicles that run on no fuel. Further increase in standard of living makes people abandon basic bikes and cars in favour of luxury brands that consume more fuel. Problem is – it is the inessentials with money power who also influence legislative decisions. Thus, it becomes difficult to legislate and implement simple and practical solutions.

For a growing economy with a huge population the situation can only get worse as we go for more investment in manufacturing sector. Hope, side by side with the improvement of our ranking in ease of doing business,  we took tough steps to ease out our ranking from pollution index.

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Get a copy of my book ‘Idle Hours- Humour|Memoir|Essays ‘to read more of my takes on  social, trivial and selfhelp issues. You may find some of them hilarious too.  

Alone in the World of Technology?

After their adaptability to the mobiles, social media apps like Facebook have become a rage. On these very social media platforms quite often we get ‘forwarded as received messages ‘ ringing alarm bells as to how real relationships have taken a back seat as people spend more and more time on Facebook, Whatsapp etc. .

This week’s Indispire topic too raises questions linked to the above propagated fears. It says, “In this world so connected with technology, we have actually lost our real connections. Technology has actually surpassed human interactions. Real time conversations became texting and feelings became status updates…. “.

I am reminded of an often repeated theme in twentieth century Bollywood films. The hero would go to a foreign country for studies. When he comes back after twelve years  no body is able to recognize him. Sometimes, the story would take a ‘comedy of error’ twist.  Now you cannot present such a story to the present skype generation. It is a great loss to the Bollywood script writers.

Barring the above notional loss, I do not think there is any real cause for alarm. Rather three are reasons enough to rejoice.

We can look at it this way. Now we leverage technology to save a lot of time.  No more do we travel 20 kms to a railway station and stand in queue for two hours to book that vacation ticket. We do not have to visit a post office to send money or a letter or a telegram.  Some even do not go to office to their official job. This in turn gives us more time for creativity, productivity or have real life fun.

Even though my wife is very active on social media, she does not miss her daily quota of enlightening and philosophical  face to face conversations with her neighbours. Now there are more topics for discussion. Like, why her dress from Amazon cost more than her neighbour’s.

Jokes apart, now she is able to connect with her daughter in Switzerland on a daily basis almost at no extra cost. Sometimes during the video chat my daughter closes in on the dinner plate and they both cry. In a way it has deepened the feelings. Imagine how we would have interacted ten years back. Maybe once or twice a month a phone call. Or, an international mail. Hardly can our daughter be out of sight, to be out of mind.

There has been no let up in my face to face interactions with my family members, my neighbours and  my colleagues, even though I use technology a lot.  Now, due to these latest developments in communication technology, I am able to make connection with those with whom I would not have been able to do so if these latest developments were not there. In fact technology has helped me to connect more with real people, far and near.

Thanks to their status updates, now I feel being connected on a daily basis to hundreds of my school/college mates and ex- colleagues.  Many long lost friends have been found. Those who are nearby still come physically to express their feelings whenever the occasion demands.

The fear that the virtual world created by  technology has taken over the real world is over exaggerated. Especially in the case of India. Or else, every year you would not be seeing larger crowds at public events and holiday places with their friends and families.

In fact technology is providing me less and less excuses to be alone. The virtual reality provided by technology is only a medium. The people I interact with through this medium are real. Does not matter if they are far or near. And sometimes even if I have never met with them.

What about our blogging activity and our real time interactions over so many bloggers from India and outside?

Before the era of computers and BPO did you hear of someone earning a salary in one year, the equivalent of his father’s life time earnings in a private or government service?

Or the senior citizens (and the non-IT guys) attributing all the ills of present Bengaluru, including cost of living and heavy traffic jam, to ‘those IT guys’.

Well, that could be a kind of loss to those attached to the idea of good old Bangalore.

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