Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Hurt Syndrome

The news came from a Japanese friend. She had forwarded a message from a common friend in the US and the message said:

... I am asking that each of you send an email to Nick Park and Aardman Annimations to object to the manner in which persons affected by leprosy are being portrayed in the soon to be released movie titled, "The Pirates! Band of Misfits." In the event you have not seen the trailer, the characters board a "pirate leper ship" and a body part falls off one of the sailors. This is a cruel portrait of the millions of persons affected by leprosy and negatively creates a lasting image on the minds of the young viewers from throughout the world who will see this movie ...
For past couple of decades I have been working in the field of leprosy. One of the key issues that continues to trouble the finding of new cases with leprosy and then ensuring their treatment and rehabilitation is the common image of this disease in public perceptions all over the world. Afraid of the social stigma and virtual social banishment that the disease can cause, people with leprosy often try to hide as long as possible.

However, over the past three decades, the actual situation of leprosy has changed drammatically. Today it is possible to get free treatment all over the world and the persons can get cured easily and completely. Therefore, it should no longer be seen as a disease that causes fear and is seen as "curse of the God".

I can understand the anguish of my friends because when we talk of this disease today, it is about thousands of persons who still get it today and have to face the social consequences of having a "dreaded disease" that are unjustified. Though most persons feel that leprosy is a kind of relic of the past, the reality is that every year there are about 250,000 new cases of leprosy every year. India and Brazil are the two most important countries in terms of number of new cases of leprosy today.

However, I do not believe in banning of films or insisting that they cut the scenes that are wrong in our view. This is what all the groups seem to be asking for when they feel that their depiction in the media is inappropriate. They make protests and ask for changes.

Here are a few examples of fights of other "misrepresented" groups from recent past asking for censorship or banning:

(1) In India, such protests are common place with persons of different religious, caste and social groups getting angry is a person of their community is shown in a negative way or in humour. The protestors frequently threaten violence and often end up destroying public property. Most the the time Indian Government gives in easily to such demands refusing to protect the writers, actors, directors and producers, and hides behind the bogey of "law and order situations".

Similar protests in relation to Islamic symbols/ideas in other parts of the world also has had many violent episodes.

(2) Persons with mental illnesses and persons with disabilities in many parts of the world have been fighting for not using their sterotypes in the different media including TV and films all over the world.

(3) Using caricatures of jews as being nasty moneylenders, and of arabs or Muslims as being terrorists are some other common examples from Hollywood.

I believe that if we go on like this, artists, writers and film makers will always be forced to express their ideas in narrower spaces and the world will be a poorer place for all of us.

I do not believe that banning films or censoring them to cut certain scenes is correct, whatever their provocation unless it is explicity asking for violence or expressing hate about some group.

We all have a right to criticise and if we find depictions in a film to be wrong or derogatory or stereotypes, we have the right to express our opinions, to debate and to discuss, to write about it on our blogs, to organise forums and if we feel very strongly, to promote calls for boycotting. If you don't agree with something don't go to see it, don't watch it, don't read it, and tell all your friends to do the same.

If you feel that it may not be understood by children, ask that it should be only for those above a certain age.

But I believe that no one should be asking for banning of people or their books, art or films or websites just because you feel that it gives a negative view of your religion/caste/community/gods. And no government should give in to such demands.

The only exception  to this, in my opinion, is those expressions that ask for killing, violence and hate against specific group of persons.

***
PS 6 February 2012: I have heard that producers of the film "Pirates the band of misfits", following the protests, have decided to review and modify the parts related to persons affected with leprosy.

Monday, 23 January 2012

About language

I read an article on Chimurenga Chronicle about "Somali invasion of Nairobi" written by a Kenyan writer called Parselelo Kantai, and I was struck by the wonderful way that he describes the "Nairobi English" of a woman:
"For a people for whom ‘negative ethnicity’, the newspaper euphemism for the prevailing ethnic rancour that had shredded the nation into a farcical edifice of a thousand cuts, ‘othering’ the Somalis restored a sense of collective indignation. Hate and rancour were the only things holding us together…
I was surprised at her vehemence. She had always talked in a language that irritated me – the exultant language of the reaspora bubble in leafy-suburb Nairobi. It was a velvety, arriviste Nairobi English, full of possibilities and faux tourist innocence. It was an insider language that walked on water, saw no evil, advertised its privilege with cocktail kisses, intimate nods, bursts of happy laughter. It was used to suggest non-contamination, that one’s head was above the loud sucking sounds of this place, the descent into naked Nairobi calculations, pettiness, desperation. It was not the other thing: that guarded edge in your voice that revealed a loss of independence and optimism, that now your diaspora dollars were running dangerously low and you had recently turned a page in your contact book, and made the call to a powerful uncle for a job, a contract, a deal.
But Kileleshwa, an old mzungu suburb whose civil servant houses were being transformed into apartments for the yuppy beneficiaries of the Kibaki-era economic boom and the returning Western diaspora, exiled for two decades by Moi repression, was now under siege. There was no velvet to couch this new fear..."
Isn't it beautiful?

***

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A Scare

It was evening, I was working on my computer at home, and I clicked on the link to one of my blogs - a strange message appeared - "Your blog has been removed".

How strange, I thought, I had checked it 15 minutes earlier and it was working all right. Curious, I tried to open my other blogs, the same strange message appeared. All my blogs were gone.

Then I noticed my Gmail account had disconnected and there was a message that my password was wrong. I tried to connect to the Gmail account and the message said that I had changed my password. So I could not connect to my Gmail account.

I keep a copy of all my gmail posts so that was not a problem, but I was worried that someone could use my email account to send those fraud messages asking for help such as "that I was stranded in London and needed money".

I panicked, I had heard of hacking of gmail accounts.

How is it possible for someone to find out my password of Gmail? It is a real tough password (even I can't remember it) and I use it only for Gmail. At home, I did not even need to enter it, because no one else uses my computer so I am always connected to that Gmail account.

After another ten minutes, on trying to access Gmail again, I found a message that they had noticed some unusual activity on my account and I was asked to give my cell phone number to receive a security code. When I entered their security code, my account was restored.

A short time later, all my blogs were also restored.

After this, I have changed my password again, but I am worried. How did the hackers get my Gmail password and get in?

I have checked my computer for virus and malaware, but it seems clean. The only unusual thing that had happened yesterday was that while searching for something on Google, I had opened a page that had persistent pop-ups that refused to go away. At that time, my Gmail was also open. Whenever I tried to close those pop-ups new ones opend. It was strange because, normally my browser (Chrome) blocks all pop ups. After 3-4 minutes of struggle, through "Ctrl-Alt-Canc" I had managed to close off my browser and those annoying pages.

It had happened 5-6 hours before the Gmail scare episode. Could that be related to the account hacking?

What else can I do to improve my computer security?

And, if you have received an email from me yesterday saying that I am in trouble and need help, cancel it. It is not from me. I am fine.

***

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Best of People's pics, 2011

The summing of my photography experiences of 2011 continues today with a selection of best of people's pictures from 2011. I love taking candid pictures of people in all countries where I go. It is difficult to click pictures of persons who are complete strangers in a new city of a new country. Fortunately, my work requires me to travel often in small towns and villages where I can spend some time in knowing persons and their lives. This helps in creating a rapport that helps in getting better images. I especially love clicking pictures of children.

So here is a collection of twenty of my best people's pictures from 2011:

(1) Ice-hockey fan from Prague: The day I was visiting Prague city centre, there was final match of ice-hockey between Czech Republic and USA. The match was being shown on a giant screen in the city centre. I met many fans of their team, with their faces coloured in Czech Republic's national flag colours.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(2) Children in the music class in Goias Velho: I like this picture as it shows the diversity of races in Brazil and also because of the lovely blue background of the classroom.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(3) The boy rowing the tiny boat in Abaetetuba, a small city along Amazon coast, with his undervest over his head to save him from harsh sunlight, is one of my big favourites. These small water-hugging rowing boats in the huge never-ending river look fragile and dangerous, but in this area, these seemed to be very popular.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(4) The girl in Goias Velho: I had spent 4 days with these children and their idealist teachers, who dream of building a new Brazil, that is curious, modern and open, and yet is respectful of the African and Amerindian roots of its people.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(5) Dancing for life: My friend Pio teaches dance to in-mates of a house for elderly and mentally ill persons. It is a dance for becoming aware of our own bodies and for creating a relationship with others. The woman in the picture didn't join the dancers, she preferred to sit at a distance, hugging her doll and yet, laughing at the persons dancing with Pio.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(6) Man in the cattle market: I visited a cattle market in the town of Hegri Bomanahalli, about 40 km from Hampi. It was a lovely experience. I like this man's gentle expression, the lines on his face, and his barely perceptible Monalisa-like smile.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(7) Girl in the village: We had just come out of a health centre where I had interviewed a group of village health workers (ASHA workers), when I had seen this girl. Isn't she beautiful?

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(8) Mumtaz and her new born baby girl: That village had some rows of Muslim households and then some rows of Hindu households. Imam Bi, the president of the village women's self-help group, was an energetic and enthusiastic woman, and had taken me around in the village, introducing me to the persons and their families.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(9) The village boy: If I have to choose only one of my pictures from 2011, I think that I will choose this one. I love the expression in the child's face and the specks of light shining like stars in his eyes.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(10) The fish sellers from Tungabhadra dam near Hospet.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(11) The artist in the museum: When I was a student in Europe (long long time ago!), I used to love going around with my sketch book. Watching the art student sketching the statue in Victoria and Albert museum of London had brought back the memories of those forgotten days.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(12) Morning exercise in Manila: People all around the world, especially in hot tropical climates, wake up early morning to do exercises in a some park. I like the slow-motion kind of exercises done in Tai Chi. It looks like a dance.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(13) Chess and dama players of Geneva: Huge chess and dama playing boards drawn on the ground and persons of different countries joining together to play a game, including some persons in ties and suits who seem to have come out of some meeting, is a wonderful sight.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(14) Autumn and remembering the dead: The yellow of autumn leaves and the serious faces of people standing near the graves, it all fits in together so beautifully.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(15) The gondola and the tourists of Venice: T-shirts with red (or blue) stripes and caps with matching ribbons of the gondolieros make for beautiful pictures.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(16) The astronaut: He is Paulo Nespoli, an Italian engineer who has been many times in mission to the space station. He was being interviewed by some TV channel when I had clicked this picture. I like the expression and the light on his face. I makes me think of Star Trek.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(17) The protestor: On her cheeks she had written "Berlusconi Resign".

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(18) The changing world: FIOM, one the workers' unions of the main Fiat factory in Turin, continues to fight for workers' rights, but it is increasingly alone even among workers' unions, in a world dominated by globalization. At a workers' protest meeting in Bologna.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(19) A newly married couple walking out from the marriage registration office of the municipality. The carnation in his jacket's lapel and her beautful dress with the veil, they look so good together. Yet number of marriages (and number of children) continues to go down in the old continent.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

(20) Prayers in St. Petronio cathedral: The rows of candles illuminating the faces of the people makes for a magical ambience.

Best of people's pictures - S. Deepak, 2011

So do let me know which of these 20 pictures you liked most. Today is 1 January and I wish you all a 2012 of joy and peace.

***

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