Yeah as an Indian, as an insensitive civilian, yeah I am pretty well at being complacently stable. You know it’s amazing how I can keep my calm even in times which require my active participation at the society level. I have this super awesome knack of being oblivious to things happening around me. And its not that I was always like this, I have taken my lessons from my parents my elders and from instances which after deep introspection prove that non-participation is the best way to stay out of trouble.
It all started after today’s incident. It was a normal day like every day is. Mum asked me to take her for some shopping to the nearby market area (it’s around 7 km from where I stay). So we took out the car and soon after a while found ourselves amidst heavy traffic. More than being pissed I was shocked because Jamshedpur is not really a city of jams (it’s a small little pretty town in the Eastern Singhbhum district of Jharkhand managed by the TATAs themselves). After 5 minutes of continuous horn honking and witnessing two wheelers overtake me from all sides, which made me all the more frustrated I reached the central crosspoint and found two traffic policemen there swiftly chatting away as one made a little khaini between the filthy warmth of his palms. I was not only disgusted to see this sight but also found my internal intestines writhe with anger , I had to just say something, I had to make an exception and not be complacent about this. As soon as I reached the crosspoint I gave them a nasty look and said: “ Kya kar rahe hai aap yha?(What are you doing here standing and chatting?)” The remark was of course rhetoric and meant to hurt, but the traffic policeman had something else in mind. He instead picked up his stick hit my car on the side door and said : “Bataaiyen kya, chal chal (Should I tell you what. Just run away)”. I knew I couldn’t put up my point in a more better way, stopping just didn’t make sense after I steered out of that nasty traffic and also because my mum was already apologizing for his son’s impulsive behavior to the policeman outside. You now see my angle don’t you?
Its not just this very instance, I am sure everyone has had an encounter of this kind. Last year my sister and her husband had an accident while she was driving her car somewhere in New Delhi. Both of them were terrified and scared, and to top it all, the situation was made worse by people nearby who took away their car keys and maybe asked for money as ransom. The thing is bad people are happy doing their bad deeds while others are happy being complacent and non-participative. Rather than changing the system we try and get accustomed to it. It’s easier to adapt and grow resistive than be against it. But the question is if I continue doing this wont I one day become a stagnant, rotten and off the track individual? A person who would fear change and always look for old accustomed things around him? Maybe I am just thinking a lot, or maybe it’s true. In either case I am here to say that I cant be this way. I am going to raise my voice against all that I think is wrong and needs to be spoken against and let the system go fuck itself.
The other day I was discussing with my sister who is settled abroad the possibilities of coming back to india and maybe start a family here, and she very judgmentally ruled out this possibility and I very well agree with her decision. India is a place where the possibility of a girl enjoying a late night walk alone is just found in fantasy novels, leave aside the point of raising a child here with the best possible facilities. I once asked a girl how she felt when every passer by crossing on the streets stared at her. She replied: “arey aadat ho gayi hai ab toh”. Her reply reminds me of an incident I once saw in Delhi Metro where a man ogling a girl got a very apt reply by the girl herself: “Kya bhaiya ladki nahi dekhi kabhi kya? (What , you never seen a girl?)”.
What are we making of ourselves? I was once travelling with a she friend of mine in an express train and I could sense the eyes of the entire bogey on us, like we had committed a heinous crime, or ran away from our respective homes. The same groups of people remain oblivious to jittery remarks made by assholes on girls travelling alone on the same express train. Have we really become so insensitive and stone hearted or have we become straight cut foolish? Isn’t the shroud of callousness clouding our existence, clouding our rights to speak up, clouding our consciousness and the judgment to decide between right and wrong?
The Supreme Court of India in a decision taken out today illegalized the Homosexuals. In a massive blow to the entire LGBT community, the SC of our country prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature" and verifies section 377 of our constitution. I know some people may have different views to what I have but I for one know that this is against our human rights. Renowned author and novelist Vikram Seth says:"There is a barbarism in treating choices of consenting adults as a crime. I wasn't a criminal yesterday. Today I am. I intend to continue being a criminal". I really don’t know which order of nature is the SC speaking of? Wasn’t it nature in the very first place that created them? Would the SC now pass judgments on our choices of love too(or people with whom we intend to make love to)? Fuck this crap !
And I really don’t get the fuss over the concept of “Feminism”? Feminism has not got to do with fighting for equal rights for the fairer sex only. Infact feminism aims at equal rights for both the sexes. In a stable and evolved society the male sex can only prosper when the female sex’s rights are taken into account. Yes I am a feminist and atleast I am taking sides and not making a fuss over it. People grow up ! having an opinion from what you see and learn on social networking sites is worse than having no opinion itself. Don’t make an issue of things which don’t need to be made. Enough said. Period.
Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.
There is something about this guy that makes you believe you can do it. Yes you can change your mere existence into something worth living for. So,What if you find your meaning in the most strangest of all things? So what if the way you choose for yourself is not compatible with the likes of your near-dear ones? So what if people make a mockery out of you and assign you different names and question your integrity and every passerby issues you a ‘bad’ character certificate? So what if all you encounter in your path towards excellence are Whats, Whys and Donts?
Well all you do is make a world class product, get it patented, help almost 260 villages with it and refuse to bow down before the MNCs willing to buy the product.
The Man :
"I am trying to create a second white revolution," says Muruganantham. Setting up 100,000 units, he says, will generate employment for one million women.
Before you get any more confused let me tell you about this man- Arunachalam Muruganantham, and his invention – the modern sanitary napkins at affordable, inexpensive rates, for the women living in the rural areas.
There is something about this man. He wears a formal half-shirt with decent checks, a trouser and an everlasting smile that goes pretty well with his persona. He speaks his mind out without hesitating about the language of conversation. He speaks at times in jumbled, broken up sentences but his ideas and lessons are firm and undaunted. So he recites us his 14 min. story of success. A 14-minute worth seeing, learning, and being impressed with his success story. His notion of having a meaningful life rather than a normal life, comes at the very first slide he presents, followed by a blank white slide wherein he tells us his story. For a man who was presented with endless obstacles of poverty, unemployment and family disagreement, Muruganantham surely emerged out as a winner. A self made man, who honestly followed his dreams, who devoted himself to the solution of his problem, who gave in all of his effort in the pursuit of excellence and in its realization, who fought for the sake of his zeal and never say die attitude and the awesome creative capabilities of his brain.
As he switches over to the other slides and makes people laugh at certain instances of his own life he gives out a bold, straight-cut message- “Enjoy your existence and do things not only for the sake of its usefulness or money but also to convince the real You inside You”. Born and brought up in extreme poor conditions Muruganantham had to start earning at a tender age of 14 to cater to the family’s needs. At 14 he initiated a successful tiffin system for the factory workers but soon had to drop the business due to threats issued by a local competitor. At 15 he then started making doors and windows with new different patterns. His entrepreneurial attitude helped him in every venture he undertook. Towards the end of his presentation as the crowd stands up on their feet and bathes him with their applauses, he says : “This moment is what I precisely worked for. This is why I do things.”
The Problem :
It was during his early days of marriage, when he noticed that his wife Shanti used filthy rags to clean herself during her menstrual cycle. On being asked why she didn’t use the modern day sanitary napkins, she answered that it was a choice either to buy her a sanitary pad or buy milk for the entire family. Muruganantham soon noticed that it was not only her problem but around more than 90% of women in India had the same problem. The sanitary pads available in the market were too expensive to be afforded by these low and middle class families. The alternatives that they used were ashes, old newspapers, and even husk sand. He started searching a solution for this problem which caused the women to be plagued with various reproductive tracts infection, in some cases even increasing the risk of being infected with Cancer.
The Solution :
"It wasn't easy," says Muruganantham. "They thought I would use it for black magic."
Faced with the challenge of making a low-cost, affordable sanitary pad for his wife, he started out by purchasing good quality cotton and making homemade pads. The only female volunteer at the beginning he received was his own wife: Shanti. Unaware of the menstrual cycles, he presented the pads to his wife and demanded an immediate answer. Soon enough he was educated about the female menstrual system, but was unsatisfied with the results he received from his wife. He then asked her sisters to co-operate, but they found it hard to communicate with him and shut their doors when they used to see him coming. Convinced that Muruganantham was using this as an execuse to get close to the other females, his wife left him temporarily.
But all this could not deter him in his path. He next asked few medical girl students to co-operate with the findings, but even they refused after initial tests. Left with no female volunteer, the man decided to test for himself the pad. He bought a female undergarment and together with an artificial bladder-and-tube contraption wore it for an entire week. The homemade uterus made out of a football bladder released goat’s blood (which he treated with a chemical to prevent coagulation) at specific periods. Unsatisfactory results still prompted him to ask other women for help in the research. He now distributed free pads to women and asked them to return the used ones. Even this was not easy to do as women thought he may do black magic with these. It was now her mothers turn to leave the house when she found him in a room filled with used sanitary pads.
Members of his family called him by names and said that the devil had possessed his soul. Finally after two tough years of research he found out that the pads were made of materials containing pine and coconut scrubs. He asked some foreign companies to send him samples of their materials by contacting them with fake IDs of a businessman pretending to invest in the business. After the samples arrived he took 10 days to figure out the costs to make them at a grand scale which came close to 300,000 Pounds. Unable to bring such a huge initial cost, the inventor in Muruganantham again came up with a mind blowing idea of making a self made machine at a much cheaper rate. Two years later his machine won the award for the best innovation at IIT Chennai. He got the patent rights for his new re-engineered machine soon after. It took him more 4 years of trial and error to finally put it to use in one of his factories. The result was the formation of Jayshree industries which now works in more than 23 states, having around 600 machines. These machines are independently bought by women Self help groups(SHGs), State governments, NGOs and even industrial enterprises. The centres established mostly in rural areas, employ only the local women and help them earn a decent 2500-3500 Rupees per month.
Currently the pads are sold as low as Rs 13 per 8-9 pads thereby assuring the safe, affordable sanitation of many Indian women. The machine costs around 1500 Pounds and makes around 1000 pads everyday. The village women are trained to use these machines in close to 3 hours. The whole thing works on a woman-to-woman basis. Right from manufacturing to sales, women are given the right and freedom to carry this campaign. “I want to start a second White Revolution”, he says proudly with a twinkle in his eyes. The magic in his eyes and his attracting persona, makes you feel impossible to digest the fact that this is the same man who had been subjected to public ridicule. He makes fun of himself and fondly recites all his antics. The point of not working for money but something more sane, moral and true attracts the viewers. The fountain of confidence and self-belief that he showers is not only amazing but also fills one with awe and respect for this modest man who now ranks among the country’s leading inventor turned entrepreneurs and shrugs shoulders with giants like P&G, Johnson & Johnson and is a visitor and guest lecturer at all the IIMs of the country. Such firm are his ideas, such strong are his morals and such is his stature. The man from rural parts of Coimbatore, Tamil-Nadu, has come a long way indeed.
Motivation & Connection
“A small chit of a paper was made, the ones you would see kids making while playing chor-sipahi, the only difference being that this chit wasn’t made for that purpose. Probably it had something else written inside it a one word thing which spoke of something being free. The young kid couldn’t decipher this code handed over to him by his mother. The only directions that were given to him was- “Go straight to the shuklajee ka ration shop and hand him this slip, the rest was for him to conclude.” What bothered the kid more was the way in which this thing was carried on, why couldn’t he just say this stuff to shuklajee, why did it require a written chit? Why? And the things which occurred at the ration shop was even more disturbing. Shuklajee after reading the slip, looked left-right, catered to all the other customers and then finally took out that blue bar sort of thing from the uppermost shelf, covered it with newspapers and then put that thing in a black plastic bag. The kid finally after handing over that stuff to his mother was now free to run and attend to his every day games.”
As I saw the video, the 10 yr. old in me suddenly unsurfaced and the thoughts hidden in my subconscious suddenly found a way out. The kid in me gradually grew up and came to know about all the hidden things which are considered to be a taboo even in the developed parts of our country. People hesitate to look at Sanitary Pads’ advertisements even, leave aside the topic of openly discussing such stuff. But then the step had to be taken. Not just this but topics related to LGBTs, female empowerment and the modern world issues need to be addressed openly. We as a society, as a country, as men need to speak up openly without fear of being judged, criticized or shunned. Speak up for people who cant say for themselves. We need to partner and prosper.
As a part of this continuous process, wherein we believe that present ideas of today are the only true investments, Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDx Gateway Mumbai.
“Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness... Give me truth.”