Mallika Writes: Just Speaking

For the few years that I didnít write a column, many people wrote to me asking why not. So here it is, appearing in DNA, Ahmedabad every Sunday. For me Just Speaking is not only just speaking, but speaking justly.


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The Power of Art
For whom was Nadeem Saiyyad more a hindrance – for the accused of Naroda Patiya and those behind the accused, or for the many crooks in many garbs whose lies and deceit and dishonesty he was exposing through the hundred RTIs he had filed?

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November 7th
For whom was Nadeem Saiyyad more a hindrance – for the accused of Naroda Patiya and those behind the accused, or for the many crooks in many garbs whose lies and deceit and dishonesty he was exposing through the hundred RTIs he had filed?

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The Safe Woman
As you read this, the Chief Minister will be on his second farce.  This time the junket has moved to Dwarka.

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October 17th
As you read this, the Chief Minister will be on his second farce.  This time the junket has moved to Dwarka.

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The Report Card
Hype and hyperbole all around. This report card looks at facts and figures from the government of Gujarat’s own figures and those gleaned through RTIs. In as many diverse fields as I could find. So let us go over these and come to sensible conclusions, beyond the mesmerizing branding

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September 10th
Hindu gods cheat. They lie. When Indra hankered after Gautami, he took on the body and face of her husband and had sex with her. She, unsuspecting, thought it was her husband and couldn’t refuse.

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The Second Wave
It is exactly twenty five years since the first ever India Festival was launched in Paris, with great excitement and high profile guests including President Mitterand and the enthusiastic and voluble Minister of Culture Jack Lang. Peter Brook’s Mahabharata was the Piece de Resistance and went on to make theater history. As part of the production, I watched with amusement as Indian officials, who had nothing to do with the play or the funding of it, appropriated it as part of the Festival

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Kerala Calling
I am looking out at the remains of the old fort in Cochin. I am in an old Dutch Resident’s bungalow built in 1508 and beautifully restored, with much of the original flooring in teak intact, into a lovely small hotel. But it is not the beauty of Kerala that has brought me here, but the ugliness. The ugliness of what has been happening to women in this once matrilineal State

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25th June
The line up was impressive though the Asian presence thin, yet again.  Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and Wikinews. Dr Shirin Ebadi, former Chief Justice of Iran and winner of the Noble Peace Prize – also fugitive from her country.

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10th June
An ordinary educated woman gets a non medical job in a hospital, a good one. She is befriended by someone from the same caste, someone much higher up in the pecking order who promises to show her the ropes. She is comforted. They soon start up a normal friendship, chatting at tea breaks.

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Anna and after
So Anna has come and gone. He heard and met more people than we expected. He was heard by many times more people than we hoped and many in the State feared. He said what he felt, and he talked of what corruption does to our society Ė how corruption of one kind seeps into corrupting the soul.

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15th May
Chamanlal Bhimabhai Chavda is a marginal farmer in Khamblav village in Surendranagar. He owns four acres of non irrigated land which, for generations, he has tilled for desi cotton, or kala as it is colloquially called. Kala has a longer growth and harvesting cycle than BT cotton and is ready for selling in late March or April.

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8th May
A few months ago I was interviewing the woman considered the mother of Indian nutritional sciences, Dr Vijaya Venkat. Talking about the need for sustainability in food production and consumption she said, “Unless we understand that we and the environment are one and the same, there is no solution”.

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1st May
IThey were pouring in. A motley lot, speaking different dialects and representing all our State. It was yesterday afternoon with temperatures soaring. But their own temperatures were even higher, frustration, anger, grief brimming out of them.

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London Sizzling
There is an Indian Summer on in London’s spring. The sun is harsh, the heat intense. And unlike at home, no fans or air conditioners. Locals rejoice, I sweat

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United Against Corruption
Kudos to our Chief Minister. I was so very happy when he announced his support for our fight against corruption by saluting Anna Hazare and by writing him that long letter pledging his support. And I was even more thrilled to hear that the Gujarat Chief Justice, the Governor and the  Leader of the Opposition have agreed upon the name of retired Justice S Dave as the new (and 7 years overdue) Lokayukta.

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Modern day cowardice
What is the premium on being truthful now a days? What on obfuscation? These questions  come a begging because of the current overblown controversy about Leyveld’s book on Gandhiji.

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Be an Awake Shopper
When you grab a sandwich or stop for a Pepsi on your way from home or the gym or wherever, do you give even a single thought to what your purchase is going to do (besides the sale for the shop)? Well it is time we do.

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6th February
Food prices are soaring. Farmers weep and commit suicide as they do not get adequate rains, or get too much rain, or crops fail, or prices do not support agriculture. Pulse production falls by 30% leading to people eating less dals and thus leading to malnutrition.

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To My Sisters
Ask yourself these questions.

Have you noticed your tone changing depending on the “class” of person you are dealing with? Do you use the same tone for your maid, a stranger on the street and your secretary?

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December 19th
 In a short speech after the announcements of the results of the recently held City Lights Short Film Competition, jury member and film director Anusha Rizvi made a telling comment. “ All the films we have seen here have only one reference point – either directly or indirectly their reference point is the violence of 2002. Your city is 600 years old yet today it is defined by just one awful carnage. Where are the other stories?” she asked.

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December 12th
How is a city known? Sometimes by its monuments. Sometimes because of its food or art. But mostly by the people. One hears people saying, “Oh New Yorkers are always in a rush.” Or, “Parisiens are really unfriendly and arrogant”. Or, “The Italians are so warm”.

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Ahmedabad Live
Kailashben Gajjar is a widow who lives in Madhuban Park Society, Naroda. For several years she used to intermittently get a Rs 500 widow’s pension from the state government. Suddenly this meagre income stopped earlier this year. Kailashben went from pillar to post to be finally  told that having crossed 60, she was no longer qualified to get a widow’s pension.

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The Power of the Child
A few years ago Darpana was running a project in schools to get children involved in actively helping in waste segregation. Part of the project involved asking the children to pick up three bits of garbage each morning when they came to school and then putting it in the right bin or the correct composting heap.

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Somersaults in Numberland
I am on an adventure with Alex. That is my new acquaintance Alex Bellos,
journalist, peripatetic traveller and a wonderer in Numberland. Do I see a
puzzled look come into your eyes?

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Making Choices That Bring Light
Many years ago, as part of Darpana’s Centre For Non-violence Through the Arts we ran school pilot projects to understand how children perceived of violence. We worked with two age groups, five year olds and fifteen year olds, both in coeducational schools. For the young ones we created a loop made of various cartoons like Tweety and Silvester and Laurel and Hardy.

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Of Kept Women
Velusamy was married to Lakshmi in 1980. A son was born to them. A few years later Velusamy started a relationship with Patchaiammal. He lived with her for three years in her father’s house and then deserted her to return to his wife. Patchammal filed a petition for alimony and maintenance before a family court in which she alleged that she was married to Velusamy in 1986.

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10th October
It was with great anticipation that I left Ahmedabad last week. I was going to see the new international airport, the one like Changi airport in Singapore, built by the same firm. Wow, I thought, let’s see what a first rate firm and Rs.300 crores of our money has achieved

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Joy of Giving Week
This is Joy of Giving week. And my advice to you is to give to yourself. To be as selfish as you can possibly be. Yes, I mean it. After all if you do not give to yourself what  will  truly give you the greatest joy and pleasure and satisfaction and well being, what use is life? Correct? Correct. So let’s see what that entails, for all of us, yes each and every one of us

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Learning Vs Education
In my first week in college, a green kid from an “alternative” school (Shreyas) where the largest class I was in had 8 people, St Xavier’s terrified me. I parked myself in the last bench in a class of over a hundred. Shame shame, I sat with guys and went to the canteen. And got rusticated by Father D”Souza for reading a Georgette Hyer book in my World Religion class.

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The Difficulty of Being Good
Imagine two women claiming a baby as their own. Each presses the child to her heart. Each expends copious tears. Each shows similarities of physical appearance with the baby. Neighbours and family can not resolve the dispute and it goes to court. The judge hears both women, each as convincing as the other.

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Farewell Satyagrahi
On Saturday Gujarat lost a fearless warrior for truth, Digant Oza. Veteran journalist, he spent his life digging for facts and hidden lies amidst a flurry of half truths. Till the very end.

I can not remember when I first met Digantbhai. I do remember thinking how easily he could have been mistaken for Yassar Arafat, with the mere addition of a red and white checked head cloth.

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15th August DNA
It was the morning of what would have been his 91st birthday. From below I heard my son’s voice telling someone, “It is Dadaji’s birthday, so I went to PRL to plant a tree with Amma.”

I suddenly had a lump in my throat. Dadaji. He never got to hear our children say that – my oldest nephew wasn’t even talking when we lost him. How he would have loved to be called that. Dadaji. My son said it with so much love and pride.

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Rich Now Poor Tomorrow?
“Sanand farmers minting money” scream the newspaper headlines. GIDC is offering farmers around the Nano plant, and in several other places in Gujarat, many times the money that they could have sold their land for a couple of years ago. In fact, it is making some of the farmers into crorepatis. And every one is happy and smiling all the way to the bank. Or so the newspapers would have us believe. I decided to set off to interview as many of the farmers and families I could meet to figure out if, in fact, they were thrilled with the new found wealth..

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The Idea World
ow do you wake up a person who is pretending to be asleep?

This sentence really struck me at the TED conference in Oxford where I have spent the last week, listening to some extraordinary people with extraordinary thoughts.

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Root Causes
The government of India’s grain godowns are bulging with twice as much grain as is required blocking about Rs. 4000 crores. More grain rots on the sides of Punjab’s  roads waiting for godowns to empty so that this new grain can be picked up by the government. Meanwhile India’s hunger levels are back at the level of the 90’s, with 20% of the population chronically hungry. Worse, even those not hungry are ill or malnourished..

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Give Something Back
I begin with a heartfelt salute to Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.  Not because they are on the richest of the rich list, with the Mittals and Ambanis breathing down their backs. No not at all. And not even because they have, by giving away all their hard earned wealth for the common good, become the ideal mahapurush  of our Sanatan Dharma..

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