When a senior editor of Deccan Chronicle reached out to me to express my thoughts on the recent spurt of violence against women, it got me thinking. What if that girl had been my own sister? How would I then react? I locked myself in my room and started to jot down my thoughts.
I had a stiff deadline to meet as well. I had to send this 600 word article within an hour to make the deadline for printing. In a way it was a blessing in disguise as it really helped me focus.
Here is the photo of the article that appeared in today’s (Thursday, 20th December 2012) edition of Deccan Chronicle. Below the photo is the text of the article.
A WORLD BEYOND MEN-WOMEN DICHOTOMY
The entire nation is enraged with the news of the gang-rape of the 23 year old medical student in Delhi. For days in a row, it has been the focus of every major TV channel and newspaper. Facebook timeline and Twitter streams are seening outpouring of anger against the rapists with fervent calls for them to be severely punished. Now that most of the accused have been caught, I’m sure they will be dealt with.
However, my fear is that we as a society and the law making authorities are known for our knee-jerk reactions. The incident happened in a tinted bus? OK. Lets ban tinted glasses. Rumors were spread via SMS. OK, let’s ban SMS services!! Was there an objectionable Facebook update? Quick, arrest her! Some of these are understandable because the authorities may be under pressure to show action. But in this case, I really hope there are long term and stricter measures taken other than just imprisoning the culprits.
In my opinion, stringent laws with severe repercussions are the least that should happen. It should give the shudders to the men who even think of committing such an act. I would like to draw a parallel to incidents of ragging that went uncontrolled a couple of decades ago. It was nasty. Some of the acts that the junior students were subjected to do were unprintable. The more the victims kept quiet, the more atrocious the acts became. It took a series of suicides to wake up the nation and for stricter laws to be imposed. Fear of expulsion, imprisonment and a life of doom drove fear into the hearts of possible perpetrators. This cleaned up the system majorly.
I really hope tougher acts are enacted against violence against women. For every woman who gets raped, there are thousands that go unreported. Women wail in solitude fearing repercussions from the society. To change this, we should remove the fear and the stigma of walking to the police station and lodging a complaint. Keeping quiet will only encourage the culprits to continue with their dastardly acts.
Maybe now is a good time for us to dig deeper and look into our entire childhood upbringing. I have seen a stark difference in attitude of boys who study in a co-educational school versus a boys-only school. As a student, I have had the chance to study in both types of schools. While at co-educational schools, both boys and girls get to interact at a very young age and they learn to move with one other. Boys who study in boys-only school go through a bit of culture shock when they enter college. Not only are they less confident but tend to always see girls with coitus thoughts. I feel strongly that more co-educational institutions and early education to treat each other as equals and with respect may be one of the possible answers.
As a father of two daughters, I really want them to grow in a society that respects women and gives them a place to be their own. I would like to paraphrase my friend Vijay Anand who elucidates clearly, “I am ashamed that even in this century we draw such dividing lines, between a man and a woman – and somehow a man has to acknowledge that women are equals. Women are equal whether men admit it or not.” I would go one step further in hoping that there comes a time soon when we stop looking at us as men and women and start respecting each other as human beings.
As part of ‘Food For Though‘ Podcast series, D.Murali, a wonderful senior journalist with The Hindu Businessline newspaper, invited me for an interview. As part of the interview, he also me about Couchsurfing and why I’m passionate about it. This interview took place on May 8th, 2009. Can’t believe 2 years whizzed past so soon. Watch my take on Couchsurfing below.
Nandini Nair of Indian Express newspaper recently sent me a questionnaire for an article on blogs that she was working on. The article got published today. The article also features 5 other bloggers and their views. A small section of my answers were published in the article. Now that the article is published, I’m taking the liberty to publish the entire questionnaire and my answers I sent to her.
As the CEO of a social media consultancy can you tell me bit about the need for a social media consultancy. What exactly does it do? Why do we need it in today’s world?
As a social media consultancy, we aid companies with their digital strategies in tandem with their overall communication and marketing strategies. We understand that the company knows their business well and we understand the digital space well. We collaborate together to bring the best out of the two.
Without doubt, Internet is increasingly growing, both in numbers as well as in influence.
Most businesses and organizations are used to traditional advertising and broadcasting. Its something they have done for a long time and comfortable with it. It’s usually a one way communication. They broadcast their message. They get your attention and sell. Conversation is minimal.
With the advent of social media, its time for change. It’s become the first choice for researching before making a purchasing decision. It’s become easy to write down one’s opinion about a product, positive or negative. As people begin share their own similar experiences – the impact on a company’s reputation and sales can be dramatic. We help companies manage and grow their online presence.
Your book “Crowdsourcing Tweets”, is written in the form of tweets…is the 140 character message the future? Why and how did you decide to write a book in tweets? What were some of the challenges of writing such a book?
I decided to write the book ‘Crowdsourcing Tweets’ for three reasons. 1) I love the concept of crowdsourcing. 2) I love reading smaller books. 3) I love tweeting my thoughts.
Ask any author and he or she will tell you that it’s a painfully long process. It’s an arduous, lonesome journey. Honestly, I don’t have that kind of patience or the time. I wanted to eat the elephant in smaller bites and jotted down important points as tweets.
As someone who used to blog – today you feel that Twitter and Facebook have cannabalised blogging. Can you please elaborate on that? In what ways have social media changed blogging?
Blogs, Twitter or Facebook are all tools to share your experiences and thoughts with your friends and readers. Earlier, before the advent of Twitter and Facebook, blog was the only option available and hence we put in all our energies there. Once Twitter and Facebook gave us an opportunity to do the same task but quicker, it was easy migrating. Add to this is the social aspect where your updates automatically reflects in your friends’ page.
Has the Facebook update and the tweet taken over the space of the blog? Are these newer forms the new space for the confession and the voyeur?
I’d say yes. Facebook and Twitter makes use of brevity and that’s something that we appreciate. On the contrary, blogging requires significantly more effort in thinking and writing those couple of paras.
Twitter and Facebook also adapt well for mobile phones. Its easy to quickly take a picture and add in a few lines of comment. Besides, most of us are on the move and it greatly helps that the mobile phone is always with us.
Would you say that blogging has peaked and is now on the descent?
I won’t say that blogging is on its descent. It’s stagnating. There’s no denying the merits of blogging and honestly, it still holds a lot of importance. Search Engines give more important to any site with fresh content and this is where blogs add value. Blogs also have high archival value. Compare that with Facebook or Twitter where old updates seem to fall off the face of Earth!
Do you see blogs changing from single-person entities to platforms for multiple contributors? What has brought about this change?
Blogs work better as a group blog only because its easier to generate content regularly. When the frequency of updates increase, there’s more reasons for readers to come back. It also reduces the load work load of one single blogger.
Looking back at your own blog entries over the years, what are some of the changes you notice in your own entries? What are some of the changes in tone/content?
Oh, the changes are drastic. Five years back, I was averaging two posts a day. In 2010, which was my worst year in blogging, I did one post every two months! Its not that I stopped writing. I just moved my updates to Twitter and Facebook.
Quitting or slowing down on blogging is not a good thing. Each medium has its own advantages. Blogs are a great tool to write longer, well thought out pieces. In 2011, I intend to put in more time and effort on my blog.
Most bloggers in India tend to be in their 30′s or 40′s today…can you think of why younger people haven’t taken to blogs as much as they have to other online forums?
Oh, the answer is simple. The current generation has extremely small attention span. They are very vocal but they want to say it quicker. They are mobile. Facebook and Twitter fit in like a ‘T’.
Has the subversive potential of blogs been fully realised in India? Or have blogs remained largely private journals for public consumption?
Corporates have realized the important of blogging and are waking up to the fact that its an important tool. It complements their website well. It is an important platform to air their points of view. Blogs in India will never have the hockey stick growth but I see more and more corporate companies use it to their advantage.
Bloggers in the US have given mainstream journalists a run for their money. Why do you think that hasn’t really happened in India?
I think it could be because of two reasons. The first is the number of readers. Because t he US has great broadband connectivity, there are many more people online and subsequently greater chances for good blogs to have readers in hundreds of thousands. When blogs have large readership base, some greater than traditional newspapers, it commands respect. In India, broadband connectivity is not only stagnating but declining.
Second, the number of blogs in India that is insightful, critical and original aren’t many. The medium requires more people who can write with teeth to be taken seriously.
And finally, who are some of the Indian bloggers you read frequently? Any specific reasons why you like them?
Some of the blogs that I read are http://RajeshSetty.com , http://www.amitgupta.com/ , Basab Pradhan’s http://6ampacific.com/, Rajesh Jain’s http://Emergic.org .
This evening, the NDTV-Hindu crew came home to do a shoot for their tech show titled ‘Byte it’. It’s the soon-to-be-launched TV channel in which NDTV has a 51% stake and The Hindu holds the rest 49%. It was originally named Metronation Chennai but I think its new name ‘NDTV Hindu’ is far better as it draws upon the strength of two well entrenched brand names. I’m told it will be a Chennai centric channel with content being on the lines of NDTV GoodTimes, Profit & News combined.
We fixed the interview time at 4PM but I came in 45 minutes late, making the crew wait. Got stuck in the previous training and as luck would have it, traffic had to get real bad. After profuse apologies and locking away my pesky kids inside the room, we began the shoot.
One of the episodes was on writing for the web with an intention of making money and the other one was on the browser shoot-out with focus on Google Chrome. We nailed it after a few retakes.
Few interesting observations. Those focus lights were absolutely blinding. The first few seconds were actually painful and my eyes began to well up. It took a while before I could get used to the sheer brightness. If that wasn’t enough, the lights were producing a lot of heat and worse, the fans had to be switched off to cut down on ambient noise. I began to sweat almost instantly and had to wipe the sweat every few minutes.
TU Dinesh is the host and the producer of the show and it was heartening to see him again. Just a few years ago, I first met him as a student when I went to guest lecture at the Madras Christian College. He stood out from the crowd then with his enthusiasm. From a student to a trainee at Indian Interacts to his current role at NDTV-Hindu, that’s quite an appreciable climb.
I’m told that the new Channel is aiming for a pre-Diwali release. Will get to know the date and time of this episode’s telecast as we get closer towards the launch.
And oh, the next time, I should clean up my book shelf. Didn’t realize it was this messy.
Two weeks ago, CNN IBN covered the cycling movement in Bangalore and Chennai as part of its Citizen Journalist program. The team came over to Chennai for a day long shoot. The first part of the program has already been aired. Rohini Mohan, the brain behind this series, sent us the web version of the video.
In Chennai, me and a group of folks are on to a ‘Cycle to Work Day’ program where we encourage corporate companies to encourage some of their employees to cycle at least once a month to office. In Bangalore, there’s a team that encourages cycling in general called ‘Cycling Maadi’ (meaning Let’s Cycle).
CNN IBN wants to track these small citizen driven movements over four weeks. This would require us to document our efforts and the progress on handycams by us. Yup, no professional videographers. It’s us and our cameras.
I already played truant. I was supposed to send in my second piece tonight but missed the deadline thanks to a week long trip away from home. Now that I’m back, I hope to quickly catchup. Will let you know how it turns up.
Meanwhile, here’s the first episode of the video.