About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started Pothi.com, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe (http://instascribe.com) with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: https://jayajha.wordpress.com Twitter: @jayajha Facebook: http://facebook.com/MovingOnTheBook

Want to Fix Nehru’s Mistakes? Try These Three Suggestions.

Hey there! Do you think Nehru is responsible for all of India’s problems? I have good news for you. You can’t be proved wrong. After all, he was the first prime minister of independent India, a position he held until his death. So yes – most of our problems can be traced back to him in one way or the other. (For the same reason, most of the good things can be traced back to him too, but let’s forget about that for a moment. And let’s also forget that hindsight is 20/20.)

So, what now? Do you want to fix it? Great! But even if Nehru is in some way responsible for Rahul Gandhi’s existence, eliminating Rahul Gandhi from politics is not going to solve any of the real issues. Instead, how about we do the following to fix Nehru’s mistakes?

Repeal Sedition Law

Nehru strongly spoke against the law. It is a reprehensible relic of the colonial era. I don’t know why he did not repeal it. Independent India should have treated its citizen with more respect than the law does. But hey! What stops us from doing it? Let’s fix the mistake and repeal it.

Make it Easy to do Business

License Raj cannot be explained away with our colonial past, right? It is Nehru’s legacy. But even after almost three decades of liberalization, doing business in Indian is incredibly difficult. Why don’t we simplify our laws and make it meaningful as well as easy for businesses to follow them?

Stop Trying to Impose One Language on the Country

I have an explanation for this, but Nehru and his ilk seemed to believe that one language is necessary to keep the country together and it resulted in some unsavory Hindi imposition. Why continue that today? With technology at our service, why shouldn’t the government be focussed on taking governance to the people in whatever language they understand, not just scheduled languages, but everything else to0? Let’s do it. Let’s not resort to language imposition. Let’s instead serve people in their language. Whatever it is.

But I understand. This is too much work. So, let’s get back to bashing Nehru for Rahul Gandhi instead.

Sexual harassment? No, let’s talk about sexual predators.

[Note: The language in the article below assumes victim and victimizer as a woman and a man respectively. That just reflects the majority of the scenarios I have seen. It doesn’t mean that the situation can’t exist with gender roles reversed, or even between people of the same sex.]

For all our Vishakha guidelines and progressive judicial stands and outrage at the normalization of sexual harassment, whenever a case pops up, the discourse gets muddled up with the same old issue. Who do you trust in the classic he-said-she-said scenario? Even when there are “electronic proofs”, there is always a question of context, consent, and that ultimate conundrum – was it harmless flirting or was it sexual harassment?

For this post, let’s step back from the issue of individual incidents. Let’s talk about a certain kind of person instead. And quite unabashedly, I label this person as a sexual predator.

I don’t know if I can define it in completely unambiguous and objective terms – a definition you can put down in a law and be sure that it will serve you right every time – but I know a sexual predator when I ‘see’ one. What is different about a sexual predator? It is the predictable consistency of his behavior.  You will know one too when you come across them. But if you are young, inexperienced, uncertain or in awe of the person, you may choose not to know it. Or you may not feel confident enough in your knowledge. You may question yourself, rather than that person. And you may go on pretending that nothing is wrong.

Have you known someone who casts his net wide? Whose default mode of interaction with someone of opposite sex (sometimes restricted to a ‘type’ they have) is flirting or behaving more intimately than their level of acquaintance justifies? Who makes women uncomfortable and leaves them wondering if something is wrong with that person or if their discomfort is the result of they themselves being too puritan, uncool and stuffy. For whom women’s sexual liberation means freedom for themselves to make any interaction with the opposite sex sexual in nature – subtle or otherwise? And who, if they were not slapped by the woman right then and there, claim that there was consent for whatever they said or did, and howsoever they behaved?

Don’t let your answer be affected by the fact that the person may be extremely successful, even legendary, nor by him being a nice and helpful person, not even by him being an avowed and fierce feminist. It is mighty difficult to believe that a person can be all of these and still be a sexual predator. So please keep these observations aside for a moment and think if the answer to any of the questions I asked in the previous paragraph is true? If it is, then you perhaps know a sexual predator, even if everything else about him is nice, inspiring and grand.

I know at least two such people. I have known them to be sexual predators since almost my first interaction with them. But I didn’t consciously acknowledge it until I was old and experienced enough to digest the idea. And until I got some external verification. One of them has a type (young women), the other is quite flexible.  They happen to be the kind of people I want to professionally keep in touch with, even if there isn’t something I need from them at the moment. They are successful, approachable, immensely articulate, well-connected, well-moneyed, and always eager to help. Both old enough to be my father too. The reason I mention age is that it is a factor that makes young people instinctively want to trust them. But they are sexual predators.

How can they be so? Especially when they have so much to lose? Successful people always have more to lose, right? I wonder as much as you do.

And I wonder if there is a point in fighting them? Not just because of the hopeless social discourse such a fight brings about. But also because of how they react to it. How confidently defensive they get. It doesn’t look like they would improve if you fight them.

I also wonder if we should give them a benefit of doubt. I am almost ready to concede that they themselves are victims. That sexual predation is not as much of a choice as we may think. That it isn’t as much about the power equation as we tend to ascribe it to, especially in the context of sexual harassment at workplace. That it is something pathological. That they have a problem in their brains because of which either 1) they genuinely “do not know what they are doing”. That is, they honestly believe that in a sexually liberated society they are not crossing a line, even when they take advantage of the weaker or vulnerable position of the other person, or 2) they know what they are doing, but their urges are so strong that they can’t control it.

Yes – I am ready to concede that they are victims. Or rather patients. Dangerous kinds of patients, though. Because they are a threat to other people.

So, let’s do this. Let’s not try to treat them like criminals. Let’s not try to analyze each individual incident to see if there is technically a power-equation or professional relationship that makes their behavior wrong and for which they can be convicted. Let’s not public-shame them. Instead, let’s start sending them references of good psychiatrists. Like you would do for someone suffering from depression. Or of behavior therapists. Like you would do for someone who has an uncontrollable, violent temper. If you are someone close enough to them, don’t let yourself be fooled by their well-articulated defenses on why they are not ill and don’t need help. Do the right thing and get them help. And till they get it, keep them out of the situations where their illness can show its ugly symptoms. Just like people with pedophilic tendencies should not be put in a situation where children have a reason to interact with them, people with sexual-predatory tendencies should not be put in a situation where others have a reason to interact with them.

The rest of us, let’s send them get-well-soon cards. And flowers, if they are not beyond your budget.

सीख

बचपन में सिखाया था
बुजुर्गों ने
कि बूंद-बूंद से ही
घड़ा भरता है।

कहीं और ये सीख
इतनी काम ना आई
जितनी बैंगलोर के ट्रैफ़िक में।

आखिर इंच-इंच खिसक के ही तो
हम घर पहुँचते हैं।

High Rises, High Season and Handicrafts (More Notes from Cambodia Trip)

Some missing stuff from the previous post.

  • The government doesn’t allow construction of anything higher than Angkor Wat in the nearby areas. So Siem Reap is pleasantly free of high rises. Even if it is some coercion on the part of the government, the outcome is not bad.
  • Online research led me to believe that as far as the tourism season is concerned, October is the border month, and the high season starts from November. But going by what local people in the business said, November is more of a border month and December is when the high season starts. So, pretty much by accident, we landed at a good time. It rained a little and sometimes relieved us from the heat. But not so much as to disrupt the plans. Tourist places were not shut down, but the crowd was not at its peak. And so on…
  • A curious difference between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. They call out to women as “Lady” in Siem Reap, but as “Madame” in Phnom Penh.
  • Cambodian food is rather bland. As if to compensate for it, a Thai restaurant we went to had overdone the chilies even for Indian taste-buds.
  • They don’t seem to believe in using salt in food. It was practically missing, not just from the Cambodian cuisine, but also from things like Pizzas we tried.
  • Most restaurants, quite annoyingly, do not serve water. So you end up buying packaged water.
  • In one strange case, we were not served water when we ordered the main course. But two glasses came when we ordered desserts later. I wonder if there was a minimum bill value constraint!
  • For some reason, I had a better time understanding people’s accent there than Abhaya and I was better at adapting my language and accent to theirs as well. By the end of it, I was pronouncing dollar as “dollaaaar”. In a proud moment, I even managed to negotiate the taxi prices down while talking in single words and short phrases on phone. The key was to ask “best price?” with suitable interrogative emphasis.
  • The middle-class penny-pincher in us was having a difficult time shopping there. Because handicrafts (or claimed handicraft) is what you can majorly shop for as souvenirs. And they looked so much like what you would find in India that we had a hard time shelling out dollars for them, even though prices might have been comparable to those in India.
  • Still, we did pick up some souvenirs and gifts including a couple of bottles of Sombai. Those who to our Christmas party can have a taste 😉

More/Zopnow Cash Fiasco

On a recent trip to More Hypermarket, I figured that they have an online shopping option too. I decided to give it a try and ordered some grocery. I paid online, as I usually do. Because scrambling for cash at the time of delivery is usually bad enough. And in these times of demonetisation, one doesn’t even want to think of it.

Now, as it turns out, More’s online delivery partner is Zopnow. When they came to deliver the product I was asked for pay Rs. 26/- in cash. I didn’t have anything other than a 2000 Rs. note on me. I had paid online precisely to avoid this. They won’t let me pay later, or pay online. If I didn’t pay the cash, the delivery will not be done.

I complained about it online and they sent me an explanation that the in-store price had changed. And I hadn’t been made to pay extra.

Sure, but I had something to tell them. And since the mail had come from an email id that didn’t accept the e-mails back, it has to go public. Here is the mail I sent them (which bounced).

When somebody has chosen to pay online in advance, not being ready to deliver the product because of your backend problems is outrageous. It isn’t about 26 Rs. so much, but consider this.

  • I didn’t know I had to pay cash (because in my mind I had paid online).
  • I didn’t have the cash on me (because in my mind I had paid online and hence did not need to pay for it).
  • When I asked to be allowed to pay online, I was told that was not possible. I must pay in cash. I can’t even pay later. They would take the product back if I didn’t pay.
  • Sure you would have refunded if you took the product back, but why I had ordered it online in the first place? Because I needed it by a certain time at a certain place. I didn’t want the money, I wanted the product.
  • So what did I have to do? I had to scramble around the office to get cash. And when I got 30 Rs. the delivery guy didn’t even have the change to return (Again, it isn’t about 4 Rs. but given the experience, I suppose you would excuse me if I wasn’t exactly in the mood to pay a ‘tip’)
  • So then I have scramble around the office again to get change.
I had paid you 886 Rs. in advance for the product. And you won’t trust me to pay 26 Rs. later. Especially when the entire fault lay with your system. I hadn’t asked to pay less, had I?
No need to send any further explanations to me. If you care, forward it to your management or tech teams if want to fix things.
I already avoid ordering on zopnow because of these cash collection issues especially while ordering vegetables. This time I had ordered on More, hadn’t even ordered vegetables and you spoiled that too.