Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The betrayal

-by KParthasarathi Wednesday, October 31, 2007

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With the children gone to school and husband at office, Jaya found the days long and boring. A bit conservative in outlook, she had no hobbies or intellectual pursuits. Occasionally some friends visited her. She never watched TV serials. She used to take a nap in the afternoons.
In the opposite apartment there was a young couple, Govind and Ranjana. Govind worked as an executive in a foreign bank and generally returned after 8pm. Ranjana too worked in a reputed company in secretarial position. They were married for five years and seemed happy. The weekends saw them invariably in some outing. A very soft and well mannered person, Govind was not handsome.Ranjana on the other hand was very attractive. Except the hello when they met in the common stairs, Ranjana was aloof and never mixed with Jaya. The latter also did not take a liking for her for the way she dressed and talked in a coquettish manner. What irked her was that whenever Jaya and her husband met her on the way or in the market, she talked more with Jaya’s husband than with her. Govind left for office quite early and Ranjana would leave around 9am.
One day when Ranjana left for office, Jaya was following her about hundred yards behind on her way to bank. She saw a young man coming out of a waiting Maruti opening the front door for her. She saw the same thing happening on several occasions subsequently. Probably a colleague staying nearby giving lift to her, she thought. But being suspicious in nature, this rankled in her mind. When she mentioned to her husband, he chided her for being petty minded.
One afternoon around 1pm she heard a car stopping opposite her house. When she peeped thro the window, she saw Ranjana with the young man alight from the car. Jaya saw them thro the peep-hole getting into their flat with his arm around her shoulder. After about one hour they left the flat.Jaya felt that all is not well from the way he put her hand on her and their spending an hour alone in the flat. She stopped sleeping in the afternoons and kept a constant vigil to see whether they come again. Her vigil revealed to her that they came twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was the same routine of one hour secretive stay in the flat. Jaya’s husband was not amused at his wife playing the role of a peeping Tom.
On one Thursday the postman after delivering a parcel wanted Jaya to accept a registered letter for Govind.After telling him that Ranjana was in the house, she closed the door and observed thro the peephole.Ranjana in her nightie opened the door after a few minutes with disheveled hair and looked exasperated at the intrusion. She appeared relieved when she saw the door of Jaya’s flat closed.Jaya was now convinced that Ranjana was having secret liaison with that young man. She was sorry for the trusting Govind who was totally unaware of the betrayal behind his back.Jaya’s husband firmly said that it was none of their business to meddle in others’ private affairs. She was restless and felt her head would break if Govind was not apprised of the treachery.
An opportunity presented itself soon for her. There was a special Puja on a Thursday in Jaya’s house with the pundit performing some havans.Ranjana had left for office earlier and Govind started a bit late around 10 am. When Jaya saw him coming out of the flat, she opened the door and requested him to participate at 1-30pm and partake of the feast. When he mumbled some excuses, her husband too came out to invite him. He agreed when told it will be over in an hour.
Jaya‘s mind was more on the likely tempest in the afternoon than on the puja. As expected Govind came at the promised time only to find that there was no lock outside his door. He presumed that Jaya had invited Ranjana too and knocked his door eagerly to meet her. Meanwhile Jaya had opened the door of her flat to welcome him. Ranjana’s door opened after some minutes and Jaya could witness the horror and disbelief in her face. A beaming Govind entered the flat only to be followed soon by loud noises, shrieks and abuses.Jaya saw Govind dragging the young man in his under garments outside the flat unmindful of several eyes on them. The door closed with a big bang.
Jaya heaved a sigh of relief though she felt a tinge of regret for planning the ‘discovery’. The couple vacated the flat within a week leaving no address behind.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Do punishments reform the children?

-by KParthasarathi Monday, October 29, 2007
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The news item of the tragic demise of a young boy of eleventh standard after he was made to run around in the school ground at Ahmedabad for coming late to school by 15 minutes brings to sharp focus the still prevalent wrong notion that punishment brings about discipline. It is understood that one hundred and ninety two governments have accepted an obligation to take appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of violence (article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child). I have also read the news reports that the UN study on violence against children has set 2009 as target for the prohibition of all violence against children, including all corporal punishment. The case mentioned above is not an isolated one. Everyday hundreds of cases of such inhuman punishments do take place across the country in many schools and go unreported unless there is a fatal outcome.
There are several myths associated with punishments either in schools or at homes. They are that punishment reforms the errant child, it is the duty of teachers and parents to tame and train the children by punishment, it instills discipline early in life to become useful citizens later in life, it builds character and so on and so forth. It is erroneous to think that if the rod is spared, the child would be spoilt. I believe that all forms of punishment only leave a deep and permanent mental scar and that no child should be allowed to suffer it. Punishments indirectly teach the young things that violence in word or action is acceptable and a way to control others. They may replicate such a behaviour towards their peers or younger kids. While they may appear chastened immediately after punishments, they would deeply nurse resentment and anger. Quite often it would lower the self esteem and self confidence of the children. It would invariably smother all goodwill and naturalness in them. It would develop hatred inwardly towards the teacher. There is the risk of some of them turning violent and hard hearted in their later years. One thing is certain namely the children would be denied the happiness and freedom of childhood. Many children from the poorer sections would drop out of the school.
All these do not mean that a permissive society is recommended where there is no place for admonition or pulling up the erring kids. The children should be won by love and gentle ways. As a young boy I used to get beatings from my mom whenever I did a serious mischief, hitting the siblings, breaking in anger the things that come to hand etc.I always tried to run away from the scene and when I returned after sometime my mom would have forgotten the episode. But I do not remember a single occasion when my dad had ever hit me or used harsh words. A mere frown or change in the colour in his face would torment me for days and see me assuring him of my good behaviour.The point that I am trying to emphasize is that mere beatings fail to serve useful purpose while it can be achieved by gentler methods.
There should be a rethinking amongst the teaching community in particular and the parents that punishments as a mode of reform are passé and that hitting or punishing crudely is nothing but child abuse and a gutless act. As some one put it: "If you strike an adult, it’s called assault; if you strike an animal it is called cruelty; if you strike a child, it’s called discipline.” I think this puts the things in proper perspective. The school authorities must as a first step insist on hands-off policy amongst all the teachers and abjure violence in any form. Any repeated violation of this requirement should be visited upon with dismissal.

Jobless stranger at work

KParthasarathi Tuesday, October 30, 2007

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It was a big bungalow with the building far from the gate. It was guarded by a security man. The house did not appear to have been occupied by many occupants. No children were seen playing around in the lawn. There were no women appearing to live in the house. Occasionally some cars used to come only to go back soon. There was no specific time; it could be mid day or late nights. The gate remained always locked. Some new buildings were coming up in the posh area.
A fat man in white Kurta pyjama walking on the long verandah noticed a man sitting on the culvert on the opposite side of the road. The man had a few days stub on his face. His shirt was dirty and frayed at the collar. The fat man wondered why he was sitting there doing nothing. When he came out to the verandah after some time, he saw the same man still loitering there. He was seen frequenting a tea shop nearby. In the days that followed, he found this man always there. His suspicions were aroused as he thought he could be a burglar reconnoitering the area. It was not a very comfortable thought. He asked the durwan about the stranger who confirmed that he too saw him for the last one week but he seemed harmless. May be he came daily along with someone working in the new building that was coming up.
He asked the durwan to call him. When he came, the fat man asked “What are you doing here daily? I have been seeing you for a week doing nothing except sitting on the culvert or sipping tea in the teashop. What brings you here?” He replied in very deferential tone “Saheb, I come here daily hoping to get some work in the new buildings. I am a plumber and electrician but have no work for a fortnight. The tea shop owner is from my village and I take my food there.”
The fat man though not fully pleased with the answer told him that was fine though he felt he was wasting his time here. The stranger replied “I agree, Saheb, but will give it a try for a few more days. I think I will succeed in getting what I want.” He became stress-free when the stranger was not seen from the next day.
It was past noon a few days later, the fat man noticed that no stranger was visible on the culvert. He became a little relaxed and talked to some one on his mobile. In a few minutes a black sedan came and the gate was opened to allow the car inside. The fat man came down to receive the visitor. When the door did not open and the glass was drawn down by a few centimeters, the fat man spoke in hushed tone “Hurry up, I don’t see any stranger outside the gate. Be quick to unload the stuff and get away fast.”
The door opened and the driver came out with a dazed look. There was fear in his eyes. The fat man shouted “You fool, what has happened to you? Carry the stuff quickly to the first floor. I will kill you if you play any dirty tricks.” When the driver looked behind his shoulder, the stranger in tatters accompanied by three armed men in police uniform stepped out. “Your game is up and my job is completed. Yes, your suspicions were well founded. I had tips about the goings on here and I intercepted the car today. There are several police vans outside at the street corner. Do not attempt any tricks.” The constables promptly hand cuffed the fat man. The driver took them to the first floor along with the packets in the car. When the entire stack of contraband stuff was seized, the Superintendent of Police in frayed collar smiled happily.

Monday, October 22, 2007

A clever ploy

-by KParthasarathi Monday, October 22, 2007
The stench of urine from outside the compound wall was unbearable for Raman. It was a long stretch of a road with no shaded trees. There was just one big tree opposite his house that provided some cool. There was a small transformer box adjacent to the tree. The small hidden enclosure encouraged every passerby to relieve himself. It was miserable for Raman and his family. The doors and windows on the front side of his house remained always closed.
Raman put up a notice board cautioning prosecution if people urinated there. It was of no avail and someone threw cow dung at it obliterating the caution. Someone suggested his painting the wall outside with pictures of gods from different religions to dissuade the miscreants from desecrating the place. Initially it had some beneficial response but soon lost its efficacy. His representations to the municipal corporation did not help. He was at his wit’s end not knowing how to end this menace.
It was then his wife suggested a strategy. He collected a couple of short pieces of cable with the end revealing the wires. In the night when it was dark he inserted the cable wires in the earth with the ends protruding above. He wrote on the wall with a chalk piece “DANGER” prominently. What could not be done by appealing to their civic sense or the religious sentiment was resolved by appealing to the sense of fear. Men fear death as children fear darkness. Raman played on the strongest emotion of mankind namely fear to achieve his objective. Soon a cycle mechanic set up his wares at the place and a coconut vendor piled tender coconuts for sale to thirsty people.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Judge not by appearances

KParthasarathi Saturday, October 20, 2007

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Ramalingam and Srinivasulu were the President and Secretary of the committee managing the Sri RadhaKrishna temple. It was a small temple on a spacious plot of land on the outskirts of a city in the middle of a large colony of houses and apartments. The plot was donated by a rich Marwari businessman. The temple met the spiritual needs of the people with daily puja and celebration of important festivals. The number of devotees was swelling day by day. The management of the temple had an ambitious plan of having a school, an auditorium and a building for conducting auspicious functions by the residents of the colony. The budget was a whopping Rs.73 lakhs to be spent in stages based on the donations received. There was a big collection drive for donations.
One industrialist had assured sizable amount towards the construction of a school but could not give them time for appointment during the last two months as he was very busy outside the country. After several efforts, they were asked to meet him at the corporate office at 7pm on a particular day. The duo reached the place leisurely at 7.15pm.There was none in the 7th floor office except one person pacing from one end to the other in the front hall that opened onto a large office. There was a big room adjacent to the hall, presumably the industrialist’s office and a large conference hall adjoining it. That person in his early thirties darkish in complexion and small built was clad in an ordinary trouser and full sleeve shirt. Ramalingam told him that they had an appointment with the industrialist and asked him whether the sahib was inside the room. The man instead of replying asked them when the appointment was due and who they were.Srinivasulu showing a disinterest to reply the question told him to announce to his boss the arrival of the President and the Secretary of the Radhakrishna temple.
He quietly took them inside the large room and asked them to be seated while he sat in the large plush red leather upholstered chair opposite to them. Shell shocked both were as they expected to see the industrialist in a rich three piece suit and tie. They never visualized such a simple person without any airs owning a very large corporate group.
He broke the silence saying “I have been waiting for you since 7PM. Today being Saturday the staff had left. I have an important meeting elsewhere at 7.45PM and I was anxious to give the donation today itself.
Embarrassed at their foolishness in mistaking the industrialist for a staff member , they profusely apologized for their indiscretion and regretted their failure to respond properly when he asked who they were.
The industrialist ignored their explanations and said” Appearances are always deceptive. Never judge a man by his apparel. Secondly, you are seeking donation for building a school with a view to bring up children with right values. I think being punctual in all things that one does is an important lesson to be instilled in the children. You must be aware that nothing inspires confidence in a business man sooner than punctuality. By being punctual you show that you care and respect the other man’s time”
The two were speechless as he pulled out a cheque from the side drawer of the mahogany table. ” Here is a cheque for Rs. 10 lakhs as my humble contribution. I hope you will keep me informed about the progress of the project that is scheduled to be over by March. Please keep proper accounts and come back to me if you need more. “He stood up and waved his hand before abruptly leaving the office to keep his time for the next meeting.

"Promptitude is not only a duty, but is also a part of good manners; it is favourable to fortune, reputation, influence, and usefulness; a little attention and energy will form the habit, so as to make it easy and delightful." - Charles Simmons

Friday, October 19, 2007

Filial love

-by KParthasarathi Friday, October 19, 2007

I was a young doctor then having completed my internship. I had set up a private practice in that small town. It had not picked up momentum with hardly a dozen patients in the morning and even less in the evenings initially. I had converted the front hall as the consulting room and used the small space between my bed room and the consulting room for physical examination of the patients. Gradually the people started coming to my clinic there being no other medical practitioner nearby. There was one government hospital in the town that was under staffed and lacked many essential facilities. Poor people thronged the hospital though the free service was indifferent.
It was around 2am one night when there was a gentle knock on my door. A boy informed that an old lady in their adjacent apartment had fallen sick and that her condition was precarious. I asked him on the way in my jalopy whether there was anyone else in the house. He said his mom was by her side and that the old lady was living alone. He could throw no light on her illness except that it was an emergency.
I found a small woman in her eighties curled on the bed. The boy’s mom said she heard her groaning and came to see what the problem was. It appeared that she had vomited several times and that she was having high fever. Since there was none living with her and her condition caused alarm, she had taken the liberty of seeking my help. She added that she had come to my clinic more than once and found my medicines very effective.
I examined the lady. She was running high temperature and looked very weak and pale. As she had not taken anything since morning and had also vomited many times, she appeared dehydrated. The pulse was fast. She needed immediate drips and careful monitoring.
When I told her she needed to be admitted into the hospital, she replied feebly “Please allow me to die in peace. I do not wish to live any more. Nobody would feel sad if I departed from this world.”
The neighbour woman added that the old lady has a son abroad but had not visited her for ten years or more. She refused to accept from him any financial help too though she was hard pressed. Except for this flat of hers and a small family pension she had no other income. There is no contact with her only son. There were not many visitors to her except the residents of the complex.
I told the sick lady “You are like my mother. I cannot allow you to die like this. As a doctor, I have some professional obligations. I will take you to the hospital and see that you get the treatment. Please do not refuse, I beg of you.”
I could see her wiping a tear from her eyes touched by what she must have felt as genuine concern shown by a stranger. She said “I have no family left although one born to me is far away. I do not think I will live long. I am coming with you as I do not wish to trouble my neighbours.You are a kind young man almost my son’s age. How much I should pay you for your visit at this unearthly hour and for the trouble of taking me to hospital”
I replied “Do not worry. I will collect it later after you come back home strong and well. I got her admitted in the hospital and ensured the emergency treatment was started immediately.
It was around 8 am when I woke up. I remembered the old lady to whom I had a sort of filial affection and rushed to the hospital. The duty doctor said “Sorry, we did our best. She was too weak .She passed away peacefully early in the morning.”
When I went in to pay my last respects, the doctor added ‘She was talking about some money she owed to you. We could not make out clearly as her voice was very feeble.”
My voice was choked with emotion when I said “She was like my mom. She owed me nothing. I wish to give her decent last rites. I will come very soon with her neighbours for taking her body.”

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A gift with a difference

-by KParthasarathi Thursday, October 18, 2007
My husband Kumar hated meaningless spending on festival days like Diwali on clothes, jewellery, sweets, fireworks and varied gifts to near and dear. He felt they had no religious sanction and each family tried to outdo others in getting bigger and costlier things. While he did not belittle the religious part of the festival, he was against aping others in this mindless spending spree. But he never imposed his opinion on me or other members of the family. He used to gently point out that vast majority are suffering without basic requirements and that such lavish spending by the fortunate few is socially unacceptable.
He never accompanied me to shops on such occasions. I used to get him each year any one of the items like new suit lengths, good shirts, costly tie pins, branded shoes and even gold chain. He was a gentleman who cannot hurt others and when he accepted them with a small smile, I could guess what passed in his mind as sheer waste of money to demonstrate one’s love for the other. Still I could not allow such festive occasions to go by without a gift from me even though I was aware that they never impressed him.
Last year I did something different, something after his heart for Diwali. Kumar is not very rich though he earned enough to make us live comfortably. Yet he set apart a portion of his income for philanthropy no matter there was pressing needs elsewhere. He donated money to hospitals for treatment of poor, to schools for scholarships to needy students and in kind like blankets and sweaters for poor homes. He never mentioned this to others, not even to me on many occasions.
The idea came to me when I accompanied my friend Vasumati to a destitute home for girls run by private efforts with great difficulty. What was started as a noble cause floundered when the promised money from different sources was not forthcoming.Vasumati along with a few friends tried to keep it running. They were after persons who could afford to donate for the cause. She wanted to involve me too in this cause of seeking liberal contributions. It was a pathetic sight to see young girls of varied ages from two to sixteen dressed in tatters. The clothes were not even adequate to cover themselves with dignity and adequately. Some of them did not have spare sets to wear. They were walking in bare foot. They frequently stayed away from the school for want of a clean dress. The home found it difficult even to provide two square meals. Often they had to make do with conjee for the nights. There were about forty inmates then. I was so moved by their condition that I instantly wrote out a cheque for Rs.25000 from my personal account in favour of the home for purchase of two sets of dress for Diwali.I kept the receipt carefully. That Diwali I kept the purchases to bare minimum and skipped the gifts to friends and relatives.
I put the receipt in a brightly coloured envelope addressed to my husband with the inscription ‘With best wishes for a Happy Diwali”.On the day prior to Diwali when the family members assembled to see the purchases, they were a little shocked at the poor spread. No silks, no Conjeevarams, and no jewelry they found just one set of daily wear clothes for each from Khadi Gramodyog.To the surprised husband who could not believe what he saw, I thrust the envelope in his hand. With everyone curious to know the contents, Kumar broke into a large smile when he saw the receipt. He said this is the best gift that he had ever received from me. His happiness rubbed on others and soon we looked forward to celebrating the festival with gusto in our own new found way.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The deep scar

-by KParthasarathi Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Guna, a school drop out, fell into bad company and turned into a petty thief to find the money for his booze and other vices. While he had not graduated to more serious crimes like house breaking, he was content with picking the pockets in crowded places, stealing boxes in railway station and once in a while snatching chains in desolate roads during dusk. He had a stolen scooty for his easy mobility. He is accustomed to spending short durations in jail only to get back to his old ways when out of it. His name figured in the police records as a suspect and he used to be ‘interrogated’ in the police stations off and on whenever there was a theft from important people. He got a deep scar in his neck when there was an internecine fight amongst the different groups of bad elements. There was therefore no difficulty in identification. He came from a decent family and all attempts by his parents and siblings could not succeed in making him mend his ways. They gave up in disgust.

As ill luck would have it, his next victim was a family member of an important political functionary. His wife and daughter had made heavy purchases and were keeping the baggage in the boot of the car. As they were bringing some more packets from the portico, the packets already kept in the boot had mysteriously vanished. One of them should have stood guard while the other one brought the purchases. This elementary precaution they ignored to their big loss. The police swung into action to nab the culprit. They know the usual lot operating from different localities and some were even on friendly terms. One of the constables, Manickam, was assigned to look for Guna who had vanished from his usual haunts. The police could not get the lead and pressure was mounting on it to recover the stolen goods..

The police man was practically on the road for the last three days and wherever he went he was drawing a blank about Guna.He had to get him at any cost. On getting some tip that he might be in a village on the outskirts of the city, Manickam proceeded to the place. It was around 4pm when he entered the village. He saw a big fire raging and burning the large cluster of huts. Gusty winds helped the fire spread fast from one hut to another giving little time for the residents to bring out their belongings from their thatched houses. Scared people came out running with whatever worthwhile they could lay on. Some were found coming out with young children, some with invalid old men or women on their shoulders and some with boxes, beds, vessels and what not. There was utter confusion amidst the screams and wails rending the air. Black smoke enveloped the area.Manickam saw one young woman screaming that her baby was in the hut that was already in flames. None dared to go in. Suddenly one young man leapt into the hut thro the opening that served as an entrance and came out in a few seconds with a bundle wrapped in sheets of cloth. His dress was on fire on all sides. He gave the baby to the crying mother and fell down screaming in agony. The surrounding people tried to put out the firs by pouring sand and mud. Some poured water. He was badly burnt but looked he would survive.

Manickam craned his neck to see who the brave lad was. He saw the darkened face of the young man initially and soon his eyes froze on the deep scar on his neck that stood out clear. Everybody around him was praising the boy for risking his life to save the young baby. The tears of fear of the mom turned into tears of joy.Manickam wiped his misty eyes and pretended not to have seen any scar as he trudged his way back.

Monday, October 15, 2007

An act of gallantry

by KParthasarathi Monday, October 15, 2007
Kunal never wavered after he finished his graduation about his career. His dad, grandfather and several uncles had served in the army with distinction. When he decided to join the army, his relatives made fun of his family ‘monopolizing’ the army. It was a matter of genuine pride in the family that Kunal is continuing the family tradition. His only sister Kiran was unhappy and pleaded with him that there are other ways too of serving the country. She was close to him and wanted him to be near her. She has been watching in the TV the loss of young lives in the border and in the areas of insurgency. She was scared but could not express her fears to the other members in the family. She was already being ridiculed as a timid girl born in a martial family.Kunal comforted her assuring her he would be in touch with her regularly.
After the initial training and a couple of years in some postings in civilian areas, he was sent to Northern part of the country. Terrorists and spies were infiltrating from across the border and disturbing the peace of the country side. They were ruthless and cruel people bent upon creating disaffection amongst the people.Kunal and his group were combing the areas relentlessly to flush out the hiding insurgents. It was a risky and never ending job and one never knew where they were hidden. Some locals gave shelter to these under duress and threat.
It was a wintry evening.Kunal was seeing thro his binoculars the distant shanties and mud houses for any prowling figure. He suspected some movements.Focussed as he was in looking for the marauders, he got separated from his other colleagues. It was then he heard a shrill scream”Bachao, bachao”.He could see at a distance three young men dragging a young girl from out of her hut. There were none nearby to help the girl. Her shrieks became persistent but weaker. The three men had AK47 rifles. It was clear their intentions were not honest. For a fleeting moment, Kunal saw before his mind’s eye Kiran’s face plaintively seeking his help.Kunal realized there was no time to lose. They may soon hide behind the bushes with the girl to ruin her life. He knew he had slim chances of overcoming three thugs who are generally sharp shooters. He pictured his sister for a fleeting moment and wondered what he would do in such a situation. Without wasting a moment he took a careful aim and shot the fellow who was dragging the girl. It found its mark. The other two let loose the grip on the girl who started running away. There was immediately a shower of bullets at him. One hit his knee and he could hardly move. He knew they would be coming to get him. He was silent and intently looking for the slightest sound. It was all silent for long time in what looked like eternity. His knee was paining much and bleeding. He then heard a rustle of the leaves nearby and took an aim to fire a blind shot. It caught its quarry unawares. When he fell down screaming, Kunal heard a thunderous shot scrape past his neck. When he fell backwards, he saw the third terrorist aiming the gun at him unsure whether he had hit him already. In a split second Kunal shot him point blank even as the rebel emptied his gun on Kunal.There was a trace of proud smile in his face that he could save his ‘sister’ in time and also kill three terrorists single handed..
While he was given months later a posthumous award for his bravery, none knew of his act of gallantry except his unknown ‘sister’ whom he had rescued.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gender discrimination in work area
-by KParthasarathi Monday, October 08, 2007
We talk of gender equality but rarely practice it even in work area. When some construction work was taken up in my house I found the contractor paying to women workers seventy five percent of wages paid to men .When I asked him about the disparity ,he explained that this is the standard practice and that women cannot do hard job. What I actually observed was different in that the women workers were doing as much as or even more than the male workers. May be they cannot lift heavy weights but not all men are also strong except the few well built and able bodied.
The situation of pay gap is no different elsewhere as in retail stores, garment manufacturers, agricultural farms and such like .I have seen business houses prefer women for typists, call centre assistants and counter staff as they are willing to accept lower salary. Unlike in government, in private sector one never knows what each employee gets. There are no prescribed scales. Most women who are not highly skilled or educated seek employment to augment the family income and settle for whatever is paid by the employers. They have no negotiating strength. No doubt women prefer desk work than working in factories, engineering, construction, field work or those that involve heavy traveling where possibly the pay is higher and performance-based on the volume of business generated. It is likely a small percentage of women may also work for lesser hours to take care of the kids at home and agree for lesser emoluments. But all these cannot hide the gender discrimination in the remuneration.
If the discrimination is built in the system, where the women get paid less than men for the same job and same hours, it is wrong. There should be a system of checks. The governments should enact a law like Minimum Wages Act making equal pay for equivalent work mandatory even in private sector to do away with this discrimination.
I have seen in small offices or shop establishments the toilet and rest room facilities provided to women employees are not at par or adequate with those given for men. The reason could be that women employees still form a small percentage of the total employed. Things are changing with large number of women working in call centres and IT industry. The government has also a patronizing attitude towards women by abolishing night duties for women instead of upgrading the measures to ensure their security at work places. Instead of banning night duty and thereby curbing the scope for employment of women employees, the government could have made it optional for the women employees. This is a fit case for the women's organisations to take up against gender discrimination in work places. They should also and ponder over the fact why a large percentage of women have not raised to the executive levels leave alone top positions and board rooms despite their being no less qualified than men. . Is their glass ceiling preventing them to move up?
It is germane to remember that more than 50% of the students in class 12 are women and the top ranks are snatched away by them. Yet there is a sudden drop in the percentage at the higher levels education like engineering, medical, business schools and civil services. The reservation for women in legislatures that is yet to materialize would not address this serious malaise that afflicts the weaker gender.

Mangala's decision
KParthasarathi Thursday, October 11, 2007
Mangala did not fail to notice a young man trailing her wherever she went. This has been happening since a week. He kept a safe distance but was observing her movements meticulously. She dodged him many times but could not shake him off. She could surmise that this should be the handiwork of Mukund, her husband. He is a coward, never open and always doing things on the sly. Her marriage has become a disaster. She cursed none else than herself. She remembered her father telling “Mangala, be careful. I don’t like the look of this fellow. “ She was mad in love with him and dating him almost for a year. He was also an engineer like her and working in another firm. She met him at a common friend’s party.Tall, dark and muscular, he was the dream guy for any woman. Suave and charming in manners, he swept her off her feet. She was adamant in marrying him. Her parents gave in unwilling to displease their daughter. It was all hunky dory in the beginning. But she soon realized she had made a mistake in her choice.Mukund was not straightforward. Given to boozing and partying, he was not a home bird. She had heard from some of her friends that he was a Lothario. She wouldn’t believe them thinking the charges were the outcome of jealousy. She soon became a mother of two kids. He insisted that she relinquish her job and take care of the home. Her dad had meanwhile passed away and mom stayed in an ashram.
In nine years of married life, she found that the relationship was not close. She realized that being married to a handsome man may be good but the more important thing is the kind of person one is wedded to. It is the latter that determined the quality of married life. She discerned a growing distance these days from Mukund.He came usually late in the night and sat before TV with a bottle. There was hardly any conversation except in monosyllables. He frequently stayed away the whole night under some pretext of work. The cell is invariably switched off. A couple of times she got a response that he was not in office when she rang up the office in the night. She suspected of his having a mistress or a couple of them. One day when he had gone out to a nearby shop, his cell that was left behind rang. There was a woman’s voice”Mukund, are you there? You are supposed to spend the night here with me.“ It got cut when she did not respond. When he made the usual excuse to work in the office that night, she confronted him with the message. Cornered, he brazenly said “Yes, I have friends and I spend my time with them. I find their company more interesting than yours. What is it you are going to do? Divorce, you wish to seek. Take it.” Shocked she kept quiet sobbing at the same time. He left the house immediately.
She decided to teach him a lesson in his own way. After the kids left for school, a black car would come daily to pick her up. She would return by 3pm when the kids returned from school. She ensured that neighbours saw her leaving daily.Mukund received a typed letter “Do you know where your wife goes daily after you leave for office? A well wisher“. This rattled him so much he employed a private agency. The agency fellow confirmed her daily outings but could tell no more as to whom she was meeting. He decided to accompany the sleuth. When he saw her in well dressed clothes enter a house, the sleuth confirmed that this was the place she was daily visiting. He barged into the house in great anger calling”Mangala, I have found your secret hide out. Come out with your lover if you dare me.” After some minutes Mangala came out with her mother and other lady inmates of the house in ochre robes.
Mukund felt awfully embarrassed before their silent presence. He said with remorse “Sorry, Mangala.I have been a fool in assuming something different.. Kindly excuse me.”
Without uttering one word she produced the petition for divorce from her bag. Her mom said “Mukund,It is good for you to think about this carefully.Mangala has secured a good job too. Why carry on this pretence of a relationship that has turned sour? If you think you have turned a new leaf after six months, you can approach her. Please leave her alone for the present”
Mangala intervened to say “Sorry mom, I do not like to live with this person any more. I regret for ignoring dad’s warning on the first day that this man appeared to him a fake. I do not want to repeat the mistake.”
Was Mangala right in her decision to break the bad marriage or should have given him a chance?