What about people who don’t fit into your boxes?

In reply to my post on The Problem I have with Census 2011, a Swiss friend who has been married to an Indian friend and living in India for years with her husband and daughter, wrote a blog on her experiences with the census and dealing with daily prejudices. Being a Swiss, resident Indian with a PIO, she has faced it all. Do read it to understand why our government needs to wake up to the fact that people are mobile and not like furniture!

Then there’s a Facebook discussion it triggered. Sharing it here to understand the extent to which everyone is irritated by the Census. Is anyone listening?

  • G Yesss! and also so intrusive and leaves no space for anonymity. It’s like the big daddy watching and knowing everything about your life. HATE IT! Just got my friendly visit this morning!!!! In the name of census, this is how they accumulated data in Gujarat and massacred thousands of Muslims and changed the country forever! Left me feeling so exposed and vulnerable!
  • K They came to our place in Bangalore, and guess what? They didn’t even ask me about the other languages I know. Only the “head of the family”. I don’t think I have been asked my caste in ANY other official context. After a lifetime of answering curious foreigners, “hmm…yeah, I am not a practising anything”, it IS shocking to be asked these details by the government of my ‘own’ country.
  • A Wait till they ask you to enrol into UID .. give away your Picture, both you Iris scans and all ten Fingerprints
  • G Oh and you’ve got to check out the “PSA” for the census and the freakin justification! Please give govt all info so govt can plan and provide for every citizen! WTF! Do a little better than that if you must!
  • A And in case this missed the news .. The National Intelligence Grid – “According to informed sources, the data with 21 agencies and departments of government will now be forwarded to the NatGrid for integration. The data will include Pan car…d, voter ID card and ration card details, income tax returns, degrees obtained from schools and colleges, bank account numbers, financial transactions, travel documents, passport details, police stations and jails across the country among others.” DNA STORY
  • G Welcome to the gameshow! Big Brother’s watching your every move!
  • A Sometimes i wonder if its just a bunch of computer science / IT people od-ing on how cool will it be technically to integrate various data
  • G And marketing the idea to the govt babus to make money for their OD-ing trips! Totally!
  • K The thing that is really scary is that it would require just one inefficient, unscrupulous and/or corrupt babu for all the data to be used for all kinds of nefarious purposes

Reinvent your virtual life

The World Wide Web is a fast-changing, fast-moving space. Forget plain old email, Twitter and Facebook; now your online life is also shaped by the kind of apps you use (or don’t use). If you’re not in touch with what’s the latest in the world of app stores and on the Net, you will soon be left behind. We bring updates on some of the current trends in the online world.

Tag yourself geographically

Why you should: Status messages about what’s on your mind and what’s new are so last year. The burning question for social networking this year is where all you have been and where you are right now. Check-in or location-based apps are the latest way to interact with your connections—friends, family, colleagues—by telling them about your favourite places and where you are now in the city or outside it. If you think it’s a brag through a bot, especially if you are the jet-setting type, you’re probably right. It’s a fun one though.

How it works: The technology at the heart of these apps is called geolocation, which uses your GPS-enabled smartphone to locate your physical being. From there on, depending on the app you use and your preferences, these apps find out the nearby restaurants or hang-outs your online friends have been to and recommended, or the interesting people you might want to meet. They remotely check you in at clubs, bars and restaurants in live time and automatically share every place you have been to on your social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. You can do virtual check-ins at bars, restaurants, cafés, parks, offices, and pretty much any place else. There are around 6,000 apps to choose from in the market today, with the popular ones being Foursquare, Gowalla, BrightKite and Facebook Places. Of course, you do need to remember to turn off the app in case you’re not where your boss or spouse think you are.

What you pay: Zilch. Most of these applications are free. In fact, frequent a place enough and you might even get some freebies from them as a thanks. Foursquare, for example, has a massive list of places all over the world that offer special discounts and free drinks to regulars or to anyone who has registered a certain number of check-ins at their site.

To read the complete story please click here.

My first graphic novel with Campfire

Just discovered my debut novel’s cover on the Campfire website. Here’s a sneak into what the beautiful book, illustrated by Rajesh N, will look like. I am so, so excited about it!

Krishna, Defender of Dharma

The best part is that you can PRE-ORDER the book now! It costs Rs 195 and delivery worldwide is free! Click here to pre-order!

The problem I have with Census 2011

The Census lady just visited my house in Delhi with her long list of questions. With every question, I felt more and more disconnected with our government’s thinking and also angry. In their need to compartmentalize our beautifully diverse population, the government is killing our multiplicity—or wants to. You will be forcefully put in one compartment or the other and sadly have no choice about the matter. Here’s what five minutes of interacting with the census lady told me. Be prepared for a mental onslaught when the Census probe comes knocking by your door!

  1. The census begins by asking you who is the HEAD of the family section—which of course is assumed to be a man. I wonder what happens in the household with only women? All the other people living in the house are made relatives of the said ‘Head’ of the family. How can a government which is talking about Women equality and creating bills and laws to protect its women be so patriarchal in its forms? I always had a problem with the forms which asked Father/Husband only – as if a woman cannot exist alone. Always made by a male babu of course.
  2. The next question is RELIGION with six choices – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain and Buddhist. If you don’t have a religion, I am sorry but you cannot exist for our dear government.

    Boxed in by your caste
  3. The major issue which a lot of us coffee-house argumentative so-called-intellectuals have been talking about since months is the fact that we don’t want to give out our CASTE. We always hoped (without any action of course) that the government will be sensible enough to give us a choice of NO CASTE. That’s the third question and no, before you ask me, you don’t have a choice of saying NO CASTE. If you say so, the census lady will simply have to put one you depending on your mother tongue. You have to belong to a CASTE else you simply don’t exist for the votes that the government in power needs.

After these three initial questions, I was too emotional (and too scared) to read more of the census questions. It’s unfortunate when you start to see our government deliberately chopping our diverse society into cubes of castes. Our freedom fighters and social reformers must be turning in their graves. This is their nightmare come true.

My photo exhibits in BlrQueerFilmFest

Quite unexpected I must say! I saw a call for entries to the Bangalore Queer Film Festival and send in a photograph I took on recent roadtrip. It’s from Ajanta caves (yes, yes a blog on the travel experience coming soon!) and was my first experience of the spectacularness that is Ajanta. So I open my email on Sunday and I see an acceptance email from them!

Yes, my photograph will be exhibited during the Bangalore Queer Film Festival 2011 in Alliance Francaise to be held February end. Will post the photographs of my photograph (yes, vain I know but I am exhilarated!) soon 🙂

Unshackle the idiot box

The latest gadget in your home to open up to apps is the oldest one. Your television set is all set to get more interactive and smarter with Internet connectivity and browsable apps. Shweta Taneja

Google TV, for instance, allows you to browse the Internet, search videos and, yes, download apps via the comfort of your remote control. A lot of brands, in fact, offer Internet integration with TV. Sony has introduced its Internet Bravia’s Internet Video application in its high-end NX and EX series, Samsung offers Internet@TV in the latest LED 7000 and 8000 series, while Panasonic offers Internet integration in its TV with Viera Cast technology. Since the technology is relatively new, be prepared for hiccups.

Read the complete story here.

Idiot has no Idea

Do you think of yourself as a dud? Well Idea’s adverts will definitely make you feel like one. Though I don’t really want to talk about those silly ads with the overrated lazy boy-with-the-Bachchan-spoon, the compellingly dumb acts done by all the extras (the actors who would be called Foils to the Bachchan act in the ad) who represent the ‘harried customer’, push me to write this.

In other words, the customer whom they are trying to sell these ads, to use a mild term, are complete idiots. Here’s a case-by-case vent of what I term the ‘Idiot VS Idea’ ads.

Idea 1: Bimbette meets Bachchan

This ad has an independent, smart girl who’s holding a phone bill in her hand, reading it and STILL wondering where she’s spending more. The implication: The said woman does not understand what plan she has and what’s wrong with it.

Idea 2: Subah se call!

This one has this dumb colleague (don’t we all?) who is trying a number is morning, but cannot get up and just walk out where network might be better. Of course our Bachpan hero comes to rescue.

Oh, well. Can’t stand to see these ads even to write my blog. Vent over. Phew.

Exploring Lepakshi

Recently visited a small temple town – Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh. It’s about 120kms from Bangalore further onwards from the Airport. A mammoth Nandi greets you as soon as the town begins. It’s one of the biggest monolithic Nandi in the world. Other than that, the most thing in this beautiful centuries old temple is the humongous Shivalinga and Sheshnaag which is carved out at one end of a monolith.
Also, I think the king making it was either short of cash or smart. Most of the natural monolithic formations in the area are used either as walls or footpath.
Must see if you are in Bangalore! It’s a beautiful day trip but take your picnic. No nice food places on the way (except for wine makers).

A Word’s Journey

An older poem from my other blog (which I will be deleting most probably!)

A Word’s Journey

She resides
On a quivering, moist lip.

From the broken, beating, dying heart
To the boiling cortex lobe
Through an ignited stimuli,
To the barking voice box.

She came with lightening-speed
Grabbing on-edge, electric nerves
An angry flash from the larynx
Tornado-speed to the brink
Of the quivering, moist lip.

She hung, desperately
Wanting to break free
Fly like a free raven;
Not become an Albatross.

But gripped she was
Against her will,
Plastered to the skin
By a remnant of good sense.

So she tumbled back
Into the empty sinewy depths,
Endless cycles and nothingness
An eternal past tense.

(c) Shweta Taneja, August 2009

Bylanes of Old Agra

Afternoon Siesta
Gutka gluttons
Nights of desire
Shave on streets
Allah for afternoon
Knitting in technicolor
Old-age tenants
Flowing juices
Hostel for pigeons
View from the top
Broken dreams
Colourful starts
In anticipation
Barati’s bane
Where’s the postman?