Archive for the ‘Social’ Category


There is a scene in Lion in which Nicole Kidman reveals to her on-screen son Dev Patel that she was never infertile but she chose to adopt him because she wanted to give a better life and a second chance to someone less privileged. This pretty much sums up the essence of director Garth Davi’s directorial venture Lion; hope, second chance, warmth and unconditional family bonding.

As we know by now, Lion is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley who got separated from his family at the age of 5, gets adopted by an Australian family and after 25 years emerges victorious in his quest for his biological mother with the help of Google earth. On paper, it looks a simple yet unique story. But, what Garth Davi brought out on screen is bound to pull your heart strings and moist your eyes for sure.

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Lion starts with five year old Saroo, played brilliantly by Sunny Pawar, pilfering coal lumps off a train with his brother Guddu. The fact that they exchange these coals for mere two milk packets-while craving for Jalebi– speaks volume about their financial condition. They take it home proudly to their mother, a labourer, who serves it in a bowl as their dinner. Few minutes more into the movie, Saroo is 1600 Kms away from his hometown Khandwa. He gets lost and is tragically transported to Calcutta, West Bengal (the story starts in 1986 so Calcutta, not Kolkata) in a passenger train. Alone, hungry, homeless, with no one to understand his language, Saroo’s journey becomes more heartbreaking with every passing minute. You can see him roaming the busy streets of Calcutta with a cardboard sheet as his bed. You just keep praying and whispering that nothing unfortunate comes his way. His runny nose, dirty nails, torn clothes and soiled hair will remind you of several kids you come across daily either begging or sleeping under a subway. Escaping human traffickers twice, Saroo lands up in a swarming orphanage from where gets adopted by an Australian couple played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham.

Life changes for good. Saroo (now Dev Patel) grows up to be a well-settled ‘Aussie’ and a hotel management student. However, a fleeting glimpse of Jalebi at an Indian friend’s house brings back all those old memories. He relies majorly on Google Earth and his vague visions to locate a place that he doesn’t even remember the name of. We see him go through a series of emotions when his efforts fail to lead him anywhere. He is obsessed, he is helpless, he is recluse, he is angry….he is anything but happy. We can relate to his agony and ordeal at every point. Until one day he maps out his home, like literally.

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Lion unearths what coming back to home means, what finding out yourself amidst all chaos means, what believing in miracle means, and what family means. You will also know why it is called Lion. When Saroo finally meets Kamala, his biological mother, you can feel the embrace, the squeeze, the kiss and the tears. Back home, I wish I had my mother to do the same. Lion will break your heart. Carry some tissues with you while watching this one because the lump-in-throat moments are many in the film.

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 P.S: Much like the protagonist of Lion, even I have relied on Google for images. All images are result of Google search and I have no copyright over them. 

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Constant preaching on women empowerment and safety has now lost all its credibility. Sharing Facebook posts and voicing opinion on gender equality has now become a gag probably for many of us. Gag because, we know nothing is going to change! The Bangalore mass molestation didn’t surprise me at all. Clearly, nothing has changed in the past few years. To be honest, we read or hear felonies on the same radar almost every hour now. Till few years back, I was under the impression that writing about it frantically would bring a change of ‘awareness’. I was oblivious to the verity that it is almost impossible to rattle the intrinsic evil in our men.

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So, what is really wrong with them? Or with us? Are men here really that much sexually deprived? I often wondered how a forceful touching or groping for fraction of seconds could render such level of pleasure. We all are perhaps still figuring that out. While we attribute misogyny and patriarchy to the root cause of this– thank god to the abundant newshour debates and newspaper articles for that–we tend to overlook the urgent need to address some issues from our end as well. And no, I am not going to talk about girls being more careful with their dressing, and other similar shit.

The Bangalore molestation case will die down soon and other breaking news will take over, but let me bring out some pointers where the onus falls on us too as a society.

  • When the news of a sexual assault comes out, you focus more on sex, and less on an inexcusable grave crime. More than the punishment for the accused, you show pity that the life of the victim has gone for a toss. Her ‘izzat’ (honour) is now compromised and she can spend rest of her life (if she is left alive) in giving interviews to news channels as a blurred face. End result: Nobody remembers the accused or what happened to them after that, but the ‘changed’ name and blurred face of the victim is etched in the memory of all of us.
  • You are out for your morning walk and see a man passing lewd comments on a woman. She is sweaty and panting after a run in the Joggers Park, just like you. You choose to ignore it. You go home, talk bath and get ready for your office. End result: Your willful ignorance instilled a confidence in the other man that he can go ahead with his acts and perhaps take it further someday.
  • You go to school/ college / office meet your female friends and make fun of their weight, height, and other physical attributes; sometimes on their face (as a fun banter) and most often on their back. End result: You effectively and ‘humorously’ establish that women of any age—even in today’s time—are nothing more than their mammary glands or waist.
  • You pass out from a reputed college, start working in a multinational company, earn good money, but when your family starts looking for a prospective bride for you or for your sibling, you emphasis on bringing home a girl who is educated but not willing to pursue a career so that your parents and future kids can be taken care of. End result: You are not leaving any role model for your son, younger brother or for any other men in your contact. You indirectly instill in their minds that only ‘homely’ girls are ‘good’ girls.
  • You have made a good name in your organization with your work, but when a slight rumour of two colleagues of opposite gender going out for lunch comes, you waste no time in aggravating the floating rumour. Worst, if the girl gets a promotion then it is by default assumed that she is advancing her reach to the boss by ‘other means’. End result: You become a major part of the obnoxious stares and wagging tongues that compels friendly and dynamic women to tone themselves down and think before talking.
  • Your son’s teacher calls to complain that he misbehaved with a girl. You tactfully discard that saying ‘he was just being funny’. End result: Congratulations! You carved the golden path for a future rapist.
  • Your daughter dares to give her opinion in a serious family discussion and in a minute she is shown the door to kitchen saying she doesn’t need to be part of all this. End result: You not only shake her confidence for many more years to come, her brother gets a vivid picture how he will treat his future wife and all other women he gets to interact with.

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I am sure there are many more every day instances where we are contributing to the toxic society in which we are breathing today. Be it multitasking or financial independence, women have been successful in outperforming men at many levels now. If not outperforming, women are at par with men. But, the thought of dominance and supremacy takes over, and bam in few minutes, we do things to women that has the potential to scar them for life.

This New Year, no more futile discussions, posts or writing! Let us first acknowledge that something is wrong with each one of us. There is something that we all have been doing wrong all these years. Try to figure that out and take baby steps. I believe we all can reach there and proudly label ourselves as good human being. But, first profound introspection is needed.

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P.S: All images are a result of Google search and I have no copyright over them.


 

Let’s get the record straight, yes we are experiencing a hurricane right now in the country with the onset of high-value currency demonetization. A lot has been said about it; the problems, long queues, hidden agendas, currency circulation, cash crunch, bankers as our new hero…and many other things. We have been filling our head with innumerable information, thanks to television and social media. Some are with the government while others not.

It’s time for a breather. Isn’t it?

Let’s give our relentlessly working mind a break and, for a change, look at things just the way they are. No political spin, please! I have been reading all the stories that have been going rounds from past couple of days. Having experienced the cash crunch myself I know one thing– that it is not an easy phase. However, this stage of adversity made me realize one basic thing. We Indians are not that complicated or apathetic as one would portray us to be.

If there are retired bankers who are offering to extend their helpful hands to wind up the work faster, there are also young bankers who don’t mind sacrificing their weekends and sitting daily till 10 at night. If there are restaurant chains like Pizza Hut offering free food to people standing in inexhaustible queues resembling 100 feet long anaconda, there are also shopping malls that have made their parking charge free for the entire week. If there are some local vendors who are delivering groceries at credit, there are also people who are voluntarily serving tea and water to people sweating in scorching heat just to get hold of the new currency at banks.

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Of course, there have been many inadequacies and I am sure we all are ranting about it. The entire country has toppled over, but honestly, can you guarantee that if there had been some other country things would have been better? Far from our image of a poor or a law-breaking country, there has not been a single incident of violence, hostility, ransacking or loot.

My father had to wait for four long hours at the esteemed PNB bank to get his old currency notes exchanged. Honestly, I was worried because growing age usually brings along many jigsaw puzzles. To my surprise, he came back with a beautiful story to narrate. There were few chairs in the bank lobby, and it was unanimously decided that the senior citizens and ladies will take turns to sit there and rest, while their place in the queue was being taken care by the person subsequent to them in the line. My father got his share of resting time. Not only that, he was also greeted with generosity- in the form of snacks- offered by strangers who had now become friends.

I am sure there must have been several other incidents as well, some inspiring, some depressing. The point is, let’s start looking at things in a transparent fashion, without being influenced by what is being said or written. Figure out your experience and then pass a judgment. We may not be the perfect law-abiding citizens, but we are not that bad as well. Some part of us still continues to be the caring, compassionate and refined one.

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P.S: All pictures are a result of Google search and I have no copyright over them.


Pink!

Feminine…Girly…Effeminate…Flowery…

These are the first musings that come to mind when we hear of this colour. Since yesterday I have added a new connotation to this word, strength.

Picture a situation. Three girls go for a dinner outing, fancy some drink, have a good time with decent looking acquaintances and intend to return home just like they usually do- unscathed. However, the length of their skirt and their affable attitude towards a group of men at wee hours makes them women of “questionable character”. This is the premise of director Anirudha Roy Choudhry’s PINK.

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We have Meenal Arora, Falak Ali and Andrew Tariang, three working professionals, who stay as tenants in a posh area of south Delhi. After a rock concert, they are invited to a nearby resort for dinner by a group of “educated, suited booted men” whom they befriended during the concert. Some inappropriate touches, forceful groping and filthy remarks provoked Meenal to smash a bottle on the head of one of the guys who happened to be relative of a powerful politician. The injury left him profusely bleeding, almost on the verge of losing his eye, and also with a vengeance to ruin the lives of these girls because “ladkiyo ko unki aukaad yaad dilate rehna chahiye” (girls should be reminded of their standing time and again). Later what unveils is an eye-opening courtroom drama powerfully led by the character of lawyer Deepak Sehgal, played by Amitabh Bachchan.

At one point, Amitabh Bachchan’s advocate character mouths such poignant dialogues that we feel shameful for being tied down to shackles of morality for such a long time. A woman who drinks is considered a characterless woman, whereas for men it’s simply a health hazard. He also goes on to establish that we as society have self created certain “safety modules” for women, according to which a woman must not appear gleeful or touchy while talking to men, should not go out after a certain time, should not be allowed to use mobile phones and most importantly should not drink. Abandoning any of these safety module criteria would not only jeopardize your wellbeing, but also be taken as a “hint” that you are open to any kind of assault.

Pink is not an ordinary movie. It will jolt you out of your comfortable world of resilience and introduce you to an unsettling patriarchal mindset prevailing perhaps since the origin of mankind. It puts a lid on all the slut-shaming we do for women who does not fit in the bracket of “ache ghar ki ladkiya”. And yes, for a long time we were battling to find out the real meaning of feminism and confused it with male bashing. Pink digs up the actual Feminism which somehow got buried under mindless protests, facebook posts and newshour debates. It delivers a message that needs to be heard loudly. If a woman says no, regardless of her appearance, it means NO! So hands off. She can be a woman you met recently, your friend, a sex worker or even your own wife….the meaning of NO should not be diluted at any stage.

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Times have changed but not the definition of womanhood. So, how do you define an ideal woman? Let me guess; one who sings bhajans, wear traditional clothes, cooks perfectly and prefers family gatherings over parties? We smirk upon women who wear short clothes, come home late, drink alcohol, and are friendly with the opposite gender. The truth is there is no way to define womanhood. Because defining itself means confinement. Let the women figure out their own choices and potential, just like we allow our men to do.

Pink is one movie that stirs up an issue that we usually sweep under the carpet and let go. For all those who are grappling with the blurred definition of modern women, always remember

“No is not a word but an entire sentence. It doesn’t matter if the girl is your girlfriend, a sex worker, or even your wife, no means no.”

Anirudha Roy Choudhry, take a bow!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Another honor killing case is staring right at us and perhaps smiling sheepishly and saying that keep empowering as many women you want, they will be silenced one by one. Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani social media star, was strangled to death by her own brother for “family honour”. The sad part of the story is when her brother, Waseem Azeem, was presented before media, he proudly confessed to be killing her because she was bringing shame to her family by posting her bold images on social media.

Certainly she was not “normal” as per her family. Basically, what is normalcy? How do you define normalcy? And is it necessary that your idea of normalcy should align with mine? We will keep debating and mourning about this issue for few weeks and eventually forget about it. Qandeel Baloch is not alone; there are many like her. I can’t do much to bring justice to her, but here is a tribute from a writer to countless girls like her who are beheaded every year on the name of normalcy.

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With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.

“Sorry Anjali I can’t do what you are asking me to do. I love you from the day I first saw you. I cannot regret all my life thinking that I let you go for such a stupid reason. Sorry.”

It is not stupid Parag. Anjali thought to herself. She dabbed tears from her eyes, picked her bag and got up to go out of the house.

Eating, laughing, talking, thinking, sleeping…….these things didn’t cross the mind of Anjali Ghosh nowadays. A software engineer by profession and a painter in spare time, Anjali had chiseled all her roles in life with care. Blatantly honest and following her passion with a raging fire would be the best words to describe her. However, of late she was completely overtaken by a sense of void; a void that knew no bounds; a void that was preventing her from becoming a wholesome person; a void that put a fire in her belly every day and night; a void which only Chaya could fulfill.

She took out her phone and opened her speed dial list. Chaya was the first name on it. Number dialed.

“I need to meet you right now….I don’t care …I don’t care if your husband would be coming back home for lunch. I just need to see you.?”

Whenever Anjali lost her temper in front of Chaya she knew deep within that the work would be done. The world knew they were inseparable, but their affection had many layers within, and opening that would have meant removing the lid from the Pandora box.

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Anjali’s phone beeped.

Meet me at Mani Square in half an hour. I have to leave early so don’t be late.

While sitting in cab clinching her handbag and phone, the visuals of Parag and his message sent in the morning started clouding her mind. Parag Paul was his elder brother’s ex-colleague who worked in Capegemini. With a salary package that screamed extravagance and two on-site visits to Houston and Dallas in the last 3 years, he was that one prospective matrimony website guy any parent would pounce on. No wonder he was the first choice for Anjali’s parents as well. Finally, they found the peace they longed for when Parag’s parents gave the nod to come to Ghosh house for an official meeting.

It was the typical boy’s family visiting the would-be daughter in law’s house. Parag was all dressed up in suit and his face exuding happiness that refused to hide. After the initial family-getting-to-know-each-other fixation, the girl and boy were left alone in the drawing-room for some time, while Anwesha’s parents took Parag’s parents to have a look around the house. Parag looked confused for couple of seconds and then seeing everyone disappear from the sight slowly whispered. “You know this is awkward. Leaving us alone and all. But, I would like to be upfront about it. We both are the so-called “gen X” people so let’s not say yes or no to each other right away. We need to meet more and talk more. Basically the courtship time we see in movies. This is what I feel. Tell me your views.”

Anjali felt a lump in her throat. She gulped a glass of water before answering. “Parag I don’t know why but I am not getting a good feeling about this. I mean you are good but it’s too early.”

Parag waved his hand dramatically. “Exactly. That is what I am saying. Let’s keep talking and meeting each other more. And hopefully we will come to a conclusion soon.”
Parag couldn’t come to a conclusion for the next 9 months or perhaps he didn’t want to face the situation that had a possibility of rebuff. Whenever he brought up the topic of togetherness, it was stashed with the latest-movie talks or anything else in the same lines. He couldn’t fathom why Anjali didn’t reciprocate beyond a caring friend.

Three days before, in a state of aggravation, Parag pestered her to reply with a final answer alongside a definite reasoning. Not all women are same but they all have one thing in common. They are all volcano material-who remain dormant for mostly all their lives until they are triggered by some inexplicable factor. That day Anjali escaped the drudgery of being patient.

“I am in love with a woman Parag. I have always been. Even before I understood the term gay or lesbian! I can’t think of anyone else. I cannot fathom how it feels making love to a man. It is not possible for me. Please say no to this marriage and make way for my peaceful existence.”

Anjali screeched at one breath. She seemed restless but also victorious because she was able to uphold her individuality in front of another person. Parag, on the other hand, stood lifeless wondering the malice that life just hurled at him. The girl he was in love with for past few months just now rejected him for another GIRL. For him, getting rejected was not that a big matter as being rejected for a GIRL. His man ego suffered a huge dent.

Is she crazy? Such a hot woman pining for another woman? What different have they got to offer each other!! It is STUPID. Just STUPID.

Parag was bursting out of the rim of rationality. He shook himself out of the stupor and said, “Thanks for being honest. I will think and let you know.” And with that he left hurriedly as if standing there for another minute would rip him off his manhood.
For three days there was absolutely no communication between them. It was akin to the kind of silence that prevails before a tempest. Finally, he mustered courage to declare what he did this morning—that he will not let a girl defeat him.

Anjali was feeling emotionally disintegrated after his message. She was blinded by the passionate love she had for Chaya. They didn’t care about the future except for the fact that they wanted it to continue as long as they can. They took admission in the same college, searched job in the company and stayed in the same city—everything together. However, with female child there is one basic hurdle. They grow up to marriageable age very fast. 23 is not the age for guys to marry, but for a girl she needs to get married as soon as possible in order to attain ‘moksha’. A year before the Parag episode Chaya was blackmailed into marriage stating her father’s frail health. Something inside Anjali died since that day. The thought of someone else looking at her love as an object of lust was unbearable. Albeit few intimate meetings continued between them, it lacked the sense of belonging. This was because now Anjali was the ‘other’ person between Chaya and her husband. Many sleepless months followed during which she crossed path with Parag at a party and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, once again there was a society to answer and then there was an inquisitive soul to answer. Both of them demanded to be satiated. Amidst all the puzzling thoughts she reached her destination- Mani Square. Chaya was already waiting for her.

“I am all fucked up Chaya. Despite telling about us he still wants to get married to me. I am losing my mind.”

Chaya was quiet. For the first time Anjali was seeing the lowest level of solidarity from Chaya’s end. Finally she asked, “What happened?”

“I am pregnant….. I am pregnant Anjali.” There was stillness in Chaya’s eyes.

Anjali didn’t know how to react. Whether to be happy for her partner’s fertility or to howl for the symbol that screamed Chaya and her husband’s intimate moments, which usually she tries not to think of! She was in a fix.

“Ohh…so what have you thought?” Anjali asked stoically.

“I never wanted this but now since a life has inhabited my body I don’t want to ruin it. Anjali we need to move ahead in life because no one will understand us. At the end, what we are doing is not normal. Let’s get back to normalcy.” Chaya was choking and dabbing her tears as she said this.

Anjali’s emotions automatically found a vent through her moist eyes. “Tell me the reason that you want to have a baby. Tell me the reason that you like your husband. Tell me the reason that you do not have the guts to fight the society. But don’t give me the reason that we feel is not normal. Loving someone, getting lost in praying for someone, craving for someone, getting the urge to be loyal to that one person, wanting to touch someone…wanting to kiss someone….is not abnormal. It’s just not in sync with the society. It’s not something our families and society expect us from. I am fine with it. But never call it abnormal.” Anjali broke down completely and stood up to come out of that place which gave her a reality check. Somewhere deep inside she was confident that Chaya would stop her. This time she didn’t.

Anjali had seen a new facet of life today. Her love for Chaya had turned carnivorous, which was feeding on her flesh and soul. That evening she went to see Parag as he had requested a lot to meet one last time before taking any major decision. He had asked her to come at one of his friends vacant flat. The reason being—he wanted her to understand his decision better. Being broken from inside, today she didn’t mind sharing few drinks with him. After couple of drinks, he advanced his hands towards her waist. She protested. It didn’t help. He empowered her with strength and in few minutes he was inside her. He kept repeating the same lines as a lunatic, “You haven’t really experienced what a man can give you. I will give you that and then you will never go to a woman again. You just need some brainwashing. Abnormal thinking is what spoiling our culture. Ssshhhhh…..”

In the next ten days, Anjali said yes to Parag for marriage in front of both the families. Perhaps Parag actually succeeded in making her normal—in his own way. On the day of her marriage Anjali messaged Chaya.

You were right. We are not normal. Normalcy is forcing someone to get married. Normalcy is making someone pregnant without her wish. Normalcy is raping someone to marriage. Normalcy is this. I am getting married Chaya. Hope we never meet in this normal world again.

And then she broke down her sim card for good!

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“Heart break is an inaccurate term I feel. It is your soul that splinters. It is up to you how you pick up your torn pieces again and ultimately negate all wrong moves that stymied your journey towards happiness.”

It was the year 2013 and I was imparting my usual spurts of divine counseling to a friend who just had a bitter breakup. It seemed the be all and end all factor. It seemed I knew all the general ethos of heartbreak industry. Well….at least till now. A Facebook notification was waiting for me. Rashmita Gupta had pinged me nearly 2 years after we passed out from our batch of Journalism and Mass Communication. I was little puzzled at first but then chose to go along with the conversation.

“Hey Cutie. How are you? Married?” She asked.

“Hey I am good. Nah…no trace of being married and I am enjoying my single-hood to the fullest. What about you? In Kolkata?”

“No..I am in Delhi”. She responded.

“Great. Doing job there?” I thought the conversation is going to head towards that boring zone of how much you have achieved—and how much I have achieved.

“I am here for my treatment”

“Treatment?” My yawn was interrupted midway.

“Yes.. I am suffering from blood cancer so here at AIIMS since last 6 months.”

“What? You are kidding right?

“No dear. Why will I joke about something like this?”

And my mind went numb just like an ECG reading going flat.

I was already battling my mom’s relapse of breast cancer at that time. With this news, again, my peace of mind was precariously eroded and it precipitated to an impending breakdown.

I typed like a fanatic. “Ohh shucks. How is that possible? I am feeling out of breath on learning this.”

“Chemo is going on and it will continue for next 2 years. I am a bald girl now. Hahahaha”

I was enormously impressed that despite discussing such a critical situation she still had her finger on the pulse of humour. Just like the old Rashmita we knew.

“Hey don’t say like that. Being bald is not that important. Important is that you should come out of this perfectly. Even my mom underwent chemotherapy so I am fairly accustomed to the process. The bottom line is that you should fight like a tigress and you will I know.”

Our chat continued for another 30 minutes and we signed off. But that was just the start of our occasional online nudging of each other’s well being. She notified me of the number of chemotherapies she was undergoing. 95 was the number when last time we spoke.

 

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Yesterday was again one such day. I was talking to my mom on phone and she was confiding how the regular doctor visits to hospital are getting more painful with each passing day. It was churning up my sanity to the extent that I was not able to think of anything else. Later in evening, my husband and I were having a philosophical talk on life and the nauseating hardships that comes along with it. Suddenly I saw a post from Rashmita that said “Watch me on Zee Bangla today on Dadagiri.” For all my non-bengali friends, Dadagiri is a game show hosted by none other than our dada Saurav Ganguly. I am always unmindful of TV shows in general, but something inside today told that I have to see her.

I called my husband and we both started watching the show reveling in the pleasure that there is someone known in television today, completely unaware of the fact that this will be more than a game show.

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She came and conquered not just the fellow participants and the host, but each and every person who get bogged down with little adversities of life. I once told her that fight like a tigress and she truly did.

The way she put a brave front on the show while talking about the day she got to know about her medical condition; how doctors told her that she has only 20% life expectancy; how she went for painful bone marrow test 4 times; how she took 160 chemotherapies in the tenure of 2 and half years; how some of her close people stopped coming to their house thinking that it is some contagious infection; how a firm rejected her on knowing that she has blood cancer, but hanged Yuvraaj Singh’s and Manisha Koirala’s picture outside their conference room with the tag line WE ARE PROUD OF YOU; how she kept repeating that she is a conqueror and will emerge strong out of it……It was so surreal……..and finally she won the game show.

She was so phenomenal that even Saurav Ganguly was forced to come at her place and shake hands to remove the stigma that cancer is contagious. It was bloody applause worthy. Pardon my language but I can’t control my soaring heart and gasping breath even while writing it. The show ended with her holding the trophy in hand and we having tears in our eyes. An hour before, we were discussing that how life can bring burden of prejudice and loathing at times, without having an iota of contemplation that life gives extreme highs and lows to everyone. It is up to us how we fight our torn reflection and see ourselves in the mirror every single day with the same zeal.

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We sat in front of the television as the end credits rolled and my mom called me.

“ I saw your friend today on Zee Bangla. If she can take 160 chemotherapies and refuse to give up, I will not let 8 chemotherapies breed fear and helplessness in me anymore.”

Many knotty issues got straightened out today. There are so many perspectives to ponder upon with that one hour episode and one phone call from my mother. Rashmita Gupta is an inspiration. And no matter how much I write it will always be less. My tank of angst is empty today.

Thank You Rashmita!


This Diwali was special. It had to be for many reasons. First, it was my initial attempt to celebrate the biggest festival of my country as a married woman (Phewww that sounds like lot of pressure and hype!!) Second, it was my hubby’s much anticipated birthday. And most importantly I was on a vacation that screamed adventure from Day 1. It was the Diwali day– the festival of lights; our vacation was over and we were giving rest to our acutely worn-out legs at the Delhi airport, waiting uncomplainingly for our next flight. What I didn’t know that this festival would become doubly memorable in the next few hours.

The entire airport was given a larger-than-life appearance; from mammoth lanterns and diyas, LED lightings, idols of Peacock (national bird of India), staff dressed in traditional attires, to usage of national and international languages on Diwali greetings. From the look of it, it was a delight for every passenger regardless of their nationality.

All with one sole reason- reminding passengers of our rich culture! Appreciated!!!

Everything was going well until Ratul, my husband, saw a woman of foreign origin weeping profusely at the other end. He immediately sprang up from his seat.

“Something is wrong with her. We need to check.”

“She must have come to drop someone at the airport and feeling emotional. It would look stupid if we probe. Sit down.” I smirked.

“Yes, but if you go and ask it won’t invite much trouble. My going would seem like a desperate man trying to friends with a firang.” He had a point.

I tried to amuse him with talks so that the rest time for my legs get extended to few minutes more.

“Fine. Go ahead. I want to see how good you are at flirting.”

“Please don’t joke. Look she is crying more now.”

“Okay. What do I get in return if I go?” We both started laughing letting our imagination run wild.

“Don’t ask me such questions or I will start my cheesy talks again.”

Undoubtedly going to the crying woman seemed more suitable at that time. I brushed the indolent expression aside and donned a more considerate expression.

“Hey is everything alright? I mean, you seem little distressed. Can I help you with something?”

She looked away and started crying again. I didn’t know how to react. Before I could think of calling any policeman there, a girl in her early 20s walked in with a club sandwich in her hand and offered that to the woman.

“Excuse me…do you know her? Actually my husband and I saw her crying so got little worried. You know her?” I asked.

“No didi. I just saw her this morning, just like you guys. Her name is Chlo. I don’t know the full name but she is here since last night. She had a direct flight from Goa to Delhi, but at the last moment Air India changed that into a connecting flight via Mumbai and because of some delay she missed her Air Canada flight and now she is stuck here. The worst part is that her Visa is going to expire tomorrow. She has not eaten anything so I got this for her.” She pointed at the sandwich.

“Okay. But talking to Air India will solve the problem. That’s not an issue I guess.” I was brimming with self-confidence and pride that when you are at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) nothing can go wrong. After all, we are taught since childhood that Athiti Devo Bhava (guests are god). Even Aamir Khan says so!

I was getting wide-eyed with my confidence when she intervened. “You think so didi? I have been trying that since morning; ran from one official to another. She even spoke to Air India officials but no one is willing to extend a helping hand.”

“How is that possible? That sounds little weird. I mean…..”

“What happened?” I was interrupted with Ratul’s query. He couldn’t control and finally jumped in the conversation. In the next 10 minutes he was told the entire story. In a fraction of second he passed the trolley luggage to me and went straight to the police official at the entry of visitor’s gate. This was followed by few other security officials. While the three of us followed him in a baffled state.

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“By the way, I am Dyutima Sharma. I am an Mphil student at Calcutta University. Originally from Bhopal.”

And an impromptu chit chat followed to lighten the tense situation.

“Nice to meet you Dyutima. I am Indrani Majumdar. I am a writer by profession.”

“Oh woow. Writer. Sounds good. Have you written any book till now?

“Ummm…yes…will tell you more about it.”

Meanwhile, there were many pseudo-humans who came, listened to the complete anecdote, sympathized and walked out saying “dekh lo beta tum log”?(You guys manage). A fellow passenger, probably to gather some fun, arrived at the scene and started spilling suggestions. “Book a ticket and go. As simple as that.” He said.

“She obviously doesn’t have money. She is a nurse and came here for some social service. Moreover, it happened because of the chaos of the connecting flight, why would she pay?” Dyutima retorted. In return, he rendered a vicious assault in the form of his next comment. “Then get stuck here poor woman.” He chuckled, made fun with hand gestures and walked away.

And there we were again!!!! All the big talks of Athiti Devo Bhava lay bare in front of Chlo. No matter how much you clean the city and endorse respecting humanity in front of the whole world, truth has a way to come to the surface. We felt naked in front of a person who came India for work and probably now will have a bad experience to narrate to people of her country. Situations like this can gnaw at your heart for a considerably long time. It was shameful. “If you can’t give hope then at least shut up.” Dyutima shouted at the top of her voice. While the man gave offensive looks as if he was abused.

Ratul kept moving from one place to another but everywhere he was shown the door with a remark “Ab kya kar sakte hai!” (What can be done now!) This remark was a cue that nothing can be done–you go now–do your own work– let us do ours– this woman will find her own way. In another 20 minutes we were caught in this whirlpool of flawed management. But, when a person is determined all cues go for a miss. I saw a remarkable comprehension of humanity in Ratul and Dyutima. Both of them refused to believe that there was no way out.

Ratul went to the customer support desk of Air India and argued for some time. “Please don’t repeat saying that nothing can be done. Of course something could be done. I want the phone number of airport manager.” I sensed restlessness in him. At last some ray of hope was seen when we got the number of Air Canada office. Alas, even that hope was being trampled upon mercilessly when the officials said that there is no facility of ISD calling from there. We kept inquiring that how do we call then. One of the staff said rudely, “Apne number se kar lo na call agar itna hi hai to.” (Call from your own number if you are so concerned). It was not the time to get into further loud bearish arguments so Ratul requested politely to guide regarding the phone call. Finally, we were asked to go downstairs.

Ratul asked Dyutima and me to wait as it was getting problematic to roam around with luggage. Chlo handed over her luggage to me and went with Ratul. Dyutima and I found a place to sit and waited in bated breath.

“Your boarding will start in another 1 hour. Aren’t you worried that you may miss your flight” I asked Dyutima looking at my watch.

“Yes I am worried, but you know didi I just don’t want Chlo to leave with a feeling that all Indians are uncooperative and awkward. I know eventually she will go, but I just want to stay for as long as I can. Change will come if we all at an individual level begin to change. Even my father says the same thing.”

I was amazed at the level of thoughtfulness she had at such a relatively young age.

“So didi what is your book about?” She asked with gleaming eyes.

“Ummm…it’s about eunuchs…transgender you can say…Its called The Paradox of Vantage Point. I am just rooting for a society in which all of us can peacefully co-exist without any kind of prejudice, and basically my story is about that.”

“Eunuch? Great I learnt a new word today. Someday I can even do my project on this topic because my subject is clinical psychology.”

“Of course you can. This is a good topic to explore.”

We plunged into an hour-long meaningful dialogue during which we spoke only about the solemn hope of making the world a better place in our own way, which was highly unlikely, considering two girls in their 20s were involved. On a normal day, you don’t see young people ditching their Facebook and latest shopping talks. Time was running fast. Dyutima was getting late for her boarding and so were we. I called up Ratul.

“Indrani I don’t know what is happening. She has called Air Canada and they have kept her for hold and she has discussed her problem already with 3 representatives, repeating the same story again and again. Now she is crying.”

“Ratul, Dyutima has to leave and so does we…I am worried.”

“I know..I know…But we can’t leave her midway crying like this…At least somebody has to take her responsibility. Her visa would expire tomorrow. Wait….somebody has responded to her..let me call you back.” He disconnected the phone. I kept urging Dyutima to leave, but she insisted to stay for 10 more minutes.

Finally the jigsaw puzzle started falling in place when I saw Ratul and Chlo coming out. A picture of happiness slowly started revealing itself.

He said smiling ear-to-ear .“Air Canada agreed to book her a ticket for midnight but she has to pay a certain amount, at least slightly lesser than the original amount.” It was the first time in those two hours when Chlo was smiling and we had emotions speaking through our moist eyes.

“I hope you have a safe journey and take care about connecting flights next time.” I advised.

We had a group hug. She folded her hands said “Namaste” and walked out.

I didn’t waste time in capturing the moment in my phone.

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Ever heard that when there is a will, there is a way? Well, someone just did that in front of my eyes.

I whispered in Ratul’s ears, “From where do you draw strength for all this?”

“Just one thing—always place yourself in the shoes of the sufferer. What if we go to Canada someday and are mocked the same way in time of crisis. I don’t know whether Chlo had any fault in this, but at least a basic level of kindness and guidance could have helped that girl a lot.” He smiled.

We keep ranting about humanity and compassion all day on Facebook and Twitter. But, when it comes to practicing it in real life, very few Ratul and Dyutima come out in open. Very few show the grit to overcome the limitations of an ordinary conscience. The epidemic of apathy is slowly engulfing each one of us, and thus sadly we don’t have ‘time’ for anyone else. For me, I had seen two real people today who didn’t believe in diluting goodness. Thankfully I am living with one of them.

As we started walking towards our respective boarding gates Dyutima said, “I know why you clicked the picture. You are going to write about this. Right?”

“I am a writer. I am always in hunt of stories. But you two gave something more than story to me today.” I winked and signed off.


It gives me immense pleasure and pride in announcing that my book The Paradox of Vantage Point is now a verified product with Amazon India. Please follow the link and order to your heart’s content. Flipkart link shall follow soon. 😊

http://www.amazon.in/dp/9385247220

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On 15 May 2008 two innocent lives were lost in House No. L-32 of Noida. One of the deceased was 45 years old Hemraj, and the other one was a bubbly, vivacious 14 year girl Aarushi. A promising life lay ahead of her. Unfortunately, it was cut short abruptly because of someone’s sudden impulse. Who was that someone? The Noida police, media channels and two distinguished teams of CBI left no stone unturned to bring the ‘truth’ to the surface. What we were left with was the character assassination of both parents and child, Narco test of three suspected domestic helps, CBI closure, divided opinions of public, and finally sentencing of life imprisonment to the parents for the charge of double murder in 2013.

What we didn’t know was that many more layers were also entailed in this tale of brutal slaughtering. Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar is that attempt to bring to forefront almost all the imperative investigation and case details meticulously and condense them to a two and half hours motion picture. First things first, it takes spine of a steel to take up a subject that is controversial enough to be regarded as one of the most high-profile and mysterious murder cases of the country till date. Writer Vishal Bhardawaj and director Meghna Gulzar, in spite of the possibility and leeway of over dramatization and incursion of songs in a Hindi movie, stuck only to the facts. It is shot completely in a documentary style, leaving the audience with an open end just like the Rashomon style (a form derived from a Japanese film in which there are different versions of the same incident). So, Talvar doesn’t tell you who was the killer that night; rather it focuses more on the botched up investigation process, helping the viewers to draw their own conclusions.

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Having followed the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case fervently since past 7 years, Talvar gave me many points to ponder upon. It’s intense. It’s gripping. It’s disturbing. It’s hard-hitting. Irfan Khan and Neeraj Kabi as the cinematic version of Arun Kumar and Rajesh Talwar respectively, are powerful. Seeing Konkana Sen Sharma on screen after such a long gap was satisfactory. Your heart would ache every time the teenage girl’s throat is slit on that fateful night. Talvar deserves to be seen by each one of us because it is a reflection of our system, our society and our media. If this movie is also sidelined by some leave-your-brain-at-home kind of movie then something is really wrong with the choices we as movie goers are making. Next time, we would not be in a position to anticipate Masaan, Maanjhi and Talvar.

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Who was the actual killer that night? Well, I am as clueless as you all. It can either be the parents or the domestic helps. What really matters is …… On 15 May 2008 two innocent lives were lost in House No. L-32 of Noida. One of the deceased was 45 years old Hemraj, and the other one was a bubbly, vivacious 14 year girl Aarushi. A promising life lay ahead of her. Unfortunately, it was cut short abruptly because of someone’s sudden impulse………

Rest in Peace Aarushi. You definitely deserved better.

P.S: All pictures are result of Google search and I have no copy right over them.

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The lid of discrimination and hatred that we open for  transgenders and eunuchs on a daily basis is not something alien. This time the axe has fallen on a 19-year-old transgender called Shivy who was a student at University of California till a few months ago until he (Shivy prefers to be referred as ‘he’) was hoodwinked to come to India on an urgency by his own parents. On coming here, his phone and laptop was confiscated and had to undergo verbal and physical abuse so that he transforms into a ‘proper girl’. The good news is that after all the ordeal now the Delhi High Court has granted him police protection. He still has to get hold of his passport and green card from his rigid parents so that he can return to US and pursue further studies.

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Couple of weeks back, a group of transgender appealed to Tamil Nadu government for Mercy Killing stating that despite getting the recognition of third gender last year they still struggle everyday to lead a dignified life. Just imagine what kind of extreme prejudice they were subjected to that made them experience these bouts of depression. Sure there are brave souls like Manabi Bandopadhyay and Laxmi Narayan Tripathi who dared to create a new world of equal opportunities. But, there are also thousands of eunuchs and transgenders who end up having a tragic end to their lives.

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You cannot blame a single person for the inadequacies prevailing; a tiny finger should be raised at each one us because we all are instrumental in encouraging those “stares”, “hijra jokes” and “comments” at some point while having harmless fun. But, at the end, who is taking the onus?

There has been many talks about peaceful coexistence till now. Howbeit, it seems, some cracks are irreparable. Time and again we have been told that transgender are as normal as us; they are not misfit–then why string together this tempestuous relationship between us?

I was once told by my dad that if you put an energy into the world then surely in someway it will come back to you. Lets try to put out an energy that brings aroma of equality and justness. My upcoming book ‘The Paradox of Vantage Point’ is a fictional tale which speaks volume about the treatment that is meted out to eunuchs by ‘normal’ people like us. It’s about that positive energy that we still need to release from within.

If you are yet to see the teaser, here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BweBy7ugNM0

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“It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.” — John Steinbeck

P.S: All images are from the website Scoopwoop and I have no copyright over them.


For all those kind followers, who were waiting for the first teaser of my book, The Paradox of Vantage Point, the wait is over.

Get a peek into the premise of the book.


While the whole country was busy in peeping into controversies of LaMo (Lalit Modi) and striking some innovative Yoga poses, a gentle and compassionate soul associated with Missionaries of Charity—that runs various leprosy centers, soup kitchens and home for women across 134 countries–breathed her last.

Nirmala Joshi, recognized worldwide as Sister Nirmala, who in 1997 succeeded Nobel Prize winner Mother Teresa as superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, passed away yesterday i.e. 23 June 2015 in Kolkata.

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Serving humanity selflessly with the aid of Missionaries of Charity was her only goal in life. Being chosen to fill in the shoes of Mother Teresa could have been highly intimidating for anyone. However, if someone is passionate about the realm of responsibility they are getting into, nothing can pin them down.

No wonder when she was questioned about carrying forward the legacy of Mother Teresa, she was quick to respond, “I never try to fill her shoes. I have to wear my own small shoes. I don’t have to be Mother Teresa, just Sister Nirmala, and being Sister Nirmala isn’t so difficult. If I had to be Mother Teresa, I would have collapsed.” Such was her level of willpower and fortitude when she sunk her teeth into this challenge. In the year 2009, she was awarded the second highest civilian award—Padma Vibhushan—for her immense contribution and devotion to underprivileged people.

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The legacy of superior general position of the Missionaries of Charity will continue like always. However, the act of serving humanity is not just restricted to a position. Her legacy can be continued by each one of us. How? Practice kindness and compassion to the best of your capacity. Look around and see if there is anyone who needs your help. Patronize people who show the impetus to break out of the confines of stereotypes. Raise your voice against wrongdoers and above all try to be a better human being. Sounding little theoretical? Well, benevolence is more like a volcano; it remains dormant unless a ghastly situation tries to trigger and shows you the mirror. Are you willing to wait for that?

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Her loss can only be replenished by accepting and following her true virtues. For her painstaking efforts, true free spirit, and altruistic body of work, my appreciation for Sister Nirmala knows no bounds.

“We don’t know who we are until we see what we can do.” – Martha Grimes

P.S: All pictures are a result of Google search and I have no copyright over them.


Its not even a week when Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through popular votes. A constitution that allows the same-sex couples to walk the aisle together was indeed a historic event wherein today Ireland is seen as the torchbearer of human equality on all grounds. Cut to 27 May 2015, couple of days after the profound victory, you open the newspaper and see that India has also put a step forward towards a more acceptable and evolved world. Defying all the “standard” norm of a civilized society, Krishnanagar Women’s College in West Bengal paved way for the world’s first transgender principal- Manabi Bandopadhyay.

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This bold move, taken by the College Service Commission, has propagated a strong social message that a successful professional career is only based on your talent as opposed to sexual orientation, caste or colour. Despite all the suffering and societal intimidation, Manabi worked hard, earned first class degree and became a Bengali lecturer in Jhargram College. Today, after becoming the first ever transgender principal, she is nothing less than a sough-after celebrity. However, this journey was never an easy one for her.

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Manabi, born as Somnath Banerjee, was fascinated with classical dance and music since childhood. Somnath’s inner soul always howled that probably he needs to deviate from what is expected out of him; he wanted to break free and get soaked in the joy of being a woman. Alas, Somnath was taunted ruthlessly by his father and forced to visit psychiatrist regularly where he was given sleeping pills. Even after attaining a doctorate degree, he was called a Hijra and asked to vacant the professor quarters. After getting support from West Bengal Human Rights Commission, a Bengali transsexuals group was established by him and a notice was sent to the college. She also penned down the national bestseller Endless Bondage that talks about the condition of transgenders.

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In 2003, after many years of discrimination, Somnath underwent a sex change operation and liberated his soul from the forever enslavement–she was now Manabi. To her delight, she could wear a saree and savour her feminism like every woman.

Soon she fell in love with a businessman and married him. However, her husband was forced to leave when they were recurrently attacked by the people who were against this “unnatural” marriage. The court case that followed recognized her as a minor since she was only 3 years old as a WOMAN when the incident took place. (delusional, isn’t it?) Apart from being accused of child abuse and witchcraft, she was once beaten up by group of eunuchs at a rally. Still nothing could tame the ever-growing quench of empowerment and equality within her.

 

 

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Leaving behind all days of misery, Manabi Bandopadhyay has today become a name to reckon with. Because of her will-power to move away from the prototype, her feet is no longer chained to the door that was keeping away her from happiness. Assigning her as the principal of an esteemed college wisely establishes that caliber should always be kept above social expectations.

While the whole country is battling the issue of feminism and rape- physical rape to be precise, the struggle story of Manabi -and several others like her- makes me wonder that still a lot has to be done to prevent the emotional rape that LGBT section is subjected to on a daily basis. It’s high time that we understand that the self-respect of an individual should not be injured because of frantic pretensions. Because putting chaos over credibility will only lead to suppressing of individuality. For now, kudos to Krishnanagar Women’s College for passing on the baton of goodwill ahead.

As someone has rightly said, “’To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly”

P.S: All pictures are a result of Google search and I have no copyright over them


The media is getting berserk and the common man is breaking into debates every now and then. The much-awaited verdict is out. Salman Khan’s fate was sealed yesterday when the case with several twists finally found its culmination; he was sentenced to 5 years of Jail in the infamous hit and run case of 2002. After Sanjay Dutt, this time our judiciary left no stone unturned to catch up with Bollywood.

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Many are feeling sympathetic and giving him an area of consideration because of his humanitarian work associated with Being Human NGO, while some are erupting in joy as apparently it has been established that law is above everyone. DW Deshpande, the session court judge who brought this verdict, was hell-bent on making this an exemplary decision. However, it is a known fact that, to his loyal fans, he will always be the invincible superhero who is –just like his on screen persona–good at heart but can resort to “little” law breaking aberrations when need be.

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Since yesterday I have been exposed to a steady stream of opinions. The sentiment that came through was either the thought that Salman Khan was paying the price of being an actor or how he deserves this for not giving value to human life. Honestly, I don’t have any stance at this moment. On the contrary, I have few questions that are refusing to leave my mind since yesterday.

  • Why it took 13 years for the witness (driver Ashok Singh) to claim that he was driving the car?
  • Why the sudden disappearance of Ravindra Patil- the key witness who later died of TB after leading an abandoned life- was not taken seriously?
  • What was the mistake of Constable Ravindra Patil; his sticking to one statement that Salman was drunk driving at more than 100 kms/hour on that fateful night?

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  • Why the investigation pace was so botched up that it took insane 13 years to arrive at the facts on a mere hit and run case?
  • Why the media is more obsessed with getting the viewers visuals of Salman and his family rather than the victims or their loved ones?
  • How can Salman Khan return to home on the same day when he was found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentenced to 5 years of jail?
  • Did the tedious legal battle made the victims give statements like, “the jail term to Salman will not fill our stomach. We just want compensation. Nothing else.”?

Surely he has a heart of gold and I really respect the kind of body of work he has in terms of philanthropy. In the coming days, we will see many more facets of this trial while the life of common man will return to normal and the superstar will perhaps continue with his movie run. But, in the democracy of India many questions stills needs to be answered and until then you can take sides and blurt anything in the name of support or justice.

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P.S: All pictures are a result of Google search and I have no copyright over them.