March 27, 2012

Dharun Ravi Sentence - Will 'Justice' be Served, or will he be the Sacrificial Lamb for a Society Unable to Deal with the Winds of Change?

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What Dharun Ravi did was wrong, but will justice be done if this young man serves a ten year prison term for the wrong he did, is clearly debatable! If punishment accorded to the guilty in a court of justice aims to improve society, then the Dharun Ravi case does not appear to qualify.

By definition, society is a work in progress. With the passage of time social norms change, as does the social ethos, especially when new ideas and trends make their way into society; women’s suffrage was one such idea, cinema was another, and in recent times it is the advent of the internet that provides quick and easy dissemination of news and information. Our society is blanketed by this technology, and at times reels under its weight, especially that part of society housing the forty plus age group.  However, the same is not true about the younger generation; they have become adept users of trendy technology and at times use it with indiscretion, as did young Dharun Ravi. Youth by definition is foolhardy, and oftentimes falls prey to bravado and peer pressure; this may have been the case with the eighteen year old in question.

It isn’t just the fast changing technology, but also new ideas and new trends that frazzle us. One such trend being the need to acknowledge and recognize gay and lesbian rights unequivocally, and as a nation we are still grappling with this trend. I say grappling because until 2004, same-sex couples couldn’t wed anywhere in the country; however, now, gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine and most recently New Hampshire. Nonetheless, it is still 6 states out of 50 that have a clear resolution on gay and lesbian relationships!  In the light of this statistic, would it be fair to expect an eighteen year old Dharun Ravi to be nonchalant about what he witnessed in his dorm room?

Clearly, Dharun Ravi’s case illustrates the limitations of a justice system that along with a puritanical bias  often times selects juries with limited exposure to advanced technology; the Dharun Ravi case is an example.  The wrong of Dharun Ravi is ‘modern’ by definition; nevertheless, deserves punishment as it embeds a wrong, but it also showcases the ills and challenges of the 21st century which will not be recognized or/and addressed even after Dharun is sentenced because the justice system lacks the know how.  Unfortunately, it is still wearing blinders from the century before.  Our justice system, like our society, has some growing up to do, and expeditiously, so that offenders such as Dharun Ravi will receive punishment that is crime appropriate.

 Every now and again society is confronted with an idea or event that is avant-garde, and it is then that the flexibility and adaptability of a society is tested; the Dharun Ravi case is doing just that. The question here is not whether Dharun Ravi committed a crime with bias; maybe he did, but where did the bias stem from? Is this young man's proclivity unique to him, or do we all share in this prejudice which we often hide by feigning ambivalence? This, is the more significant question the jury and the justice system need to address: Do our fellow gays and lesbians enjoy equal status in society?  Until we, as a society, provide an unequivocal answer to that question, we cannot conclusively sentence a Dharun Ravi whose wrongdoing mirrors the predisposition of his family, his immediate community, and this society at large.  His biases, his thinking or his lack thereof, are a direct reflection of his environment, and yet he, an eigteen year old just out of high school, alone stands trial.  Dharun Ravi is scheduled to be sentenced in May this year, and the chances are he will be put behind bars, for a couple of years at least, with hardened criminals, and all this while a felonious society looks on. Dharun Ravi's wrong doing, a 'webcam case' of invading a dorm-mate's privacy, could well have been regarded as a teenage prank, were it not so closely associated with the larger issue of gay and lesbian relationships about which we as a society are still 'ambivalent'.

March 18, 2012

On The Fall of a Leaf - "killing time without injuring eternity"?

Another leaf falls.
A testimony
That I am.
To what end?
I know not.
I continue to be;
In a charade,
of chores,

another leaf falls.
A reminder
this too shall pass
like it did
the day before.
Forget I will,
like I did
the day before.

another leaf falls.
A fear
Will another be?
Just as green?
With flowers
for company?
And then what?
A new canvas?
A new pallet?
With hues familiar
to ponder upon?
Just as..

another leaf falls..
I react.
To move the plant
into the sun.
And water it.
Even talk to it.
For it must grow!
Healthy, happy, tall

Another leaf falls.

March 17, 2012

'Kahani' - Sujoy Ghosh's Classy Thriller

I have watched one too many Indian movies churned out of the Bollywood film factory where one size fits all, and one story reads all! 'Kahani' broke the status quo!  Indian cinema seems to be coming of age.  Sujoy Ghosh's two hour Indian movie, with English subtitles, had me glued to my seat enthralled.

The female lead, Ms. Balan has done a remarkable job! She is a very versatile actress and is to be commended for her outstanding performance as the overly pregnant Mrs. Bagchi from London looking for her missing husband, who came to Calcutta a month ago, at her insistence, on an assignment with the National Data Center.
A movie not to be missed!