Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Child Abuse and Parenting

Child abuse or molesting minor children is slowly becoming a popular topic. More so in the internet. However, it is not a well-advertised topic to people who aren't plugged into the internet. In news reports it is often dramatized to the point where it resembles an airplane accident or a ferrari crashing into 7 star hotel. A common man ends up thinking 'it happens to other people. Not me'. If an average news reader thinks this then I blame poor presentation of news items on this topic as the reason why people relate to it poorly.

An effective presentation of this news item must make any parent think that there is a high probability that their children can get molested or that they have already been molested. Once they see a news item on child abuse/molestation - parents should be able to clearly identify the amount of situations they have left open that is conducive for someone to molest their own children. A child molestor rarely creates opportunities to go after children. Mostly because he does not have to. Parents give their children to him on a platter. He just takes advantage of the situation. And most parents help him do so all the time. The amount of child molestation that surface up to parent's knowledge is probably 1/1000th of what actually happens. And those that surface to the news is 1/1000th of what actually gets to parent level awareness.

Good parents who are aware of this 'angle' have a growing list of potential suspects. They are conscious of people who can potentially get the privacy and opportunity to molest their children. In Madras, during 80s and 90s it was common to send children via rickshaws (not autos) to school. Parents rely on rickshawman to pick up the child from school and bring them home. Many schools have classes that end at different times (for e.g. 3rd standard ends at 3PM whereas 5th standard ends at 3:45). The first child that rickshaw man picks up could have had their school day end at 3PM. The last child that the rickshawman picks up could have their school day ending at 3;45 PM. That is a solid 45 mins of time spent with a child in a rickshaw in a private space under pretext of parking rickshaw in the shade of a tree. This is the 'exclusive time' that the parent has gifted to the rickshawman. And like most molestors, I am sure he looked very trustworthy in the eyes of the parents. Today parents trust a van driver, autorickshaw driver, their own car driver with at least 45 minutes - 1 hour of private time with children. They hand over their children on a platter like father of the bride setting up a wedding night bed. Why? because these parents trust that such things will never happen to them.

This is just the beginning. Good parents also will never leave their children in a relative's house, an uncle house, or a friend's house. Essentially any place where a person - who is 3 years or more older than the child - can have private time with the child. This could be anyone. Most commonly, I suspect the person who gets most private time is the 'anna upstairs'. The college going or Xth standard boy who is your house owner's kid or is the 'trust worthy boy' who lives downstairs. Your child wanders out from your house and is frequently seen going to neighboring door in same apartment floor. Sometimes the child wanders and goes near the gate of the apartment where the watchman is playing with it. Ofcourse, the neighbor's boy or your watchman has a trustable face. You have never seen him mastrubate or fantasise about other aunties. So obviously he has to be trustworthy. And while this boy who lives downstairs or watchman is 'taking care' of your child - you could get valuable housework done. Your child is not around to cry and nag you. So you were able to cook, clean the house, and arrange that furniture. Chores that would have taken 2 hours actually got done in 1 hour. Yay!

That the 1 hour you saved got tranfered as 1 hour of 'private time' for the watchman in the parking garage with your child or for the downstairs boy in his empty house never crosses your mind. Because such things never happen to you. You would have obviously seen some signs if it did. I suspect most child molestation instances is never known to the child themselves. A memory formed when a child is 3-6 years old is rarely a persistent one. Unless via some fluke it resides in subconcious and it comes out at a later stage - it is silent evidence. Dead and buried.

I had an opportunity to meet some good parents during this trip to India. They would never allow their driver to pick their daughter up alone. No matter how tired they were or how much office work or household work they had to do. No matter how personally they knew their driver or friend's father - they'd never let anyone else pick up their kid. They'd go in the car or drive in 2-wheeler to pick up the kid themselves. Parents and grandparents are the only trustworthy people around a kid. Until the child is 17 they should never for a moment be out of their own supervision. They'd never let kids stay in someone else's house. Even if it was an emergency. They kept a constant vigil. It was almost paranoid and unrelenting.

I also saw some parents who said "adhellam summa newsla varuudhu. You cant be doing this all the time. If you look at it with this angle you will never have peace of mind. You just need to have some trust in life. If you are good only good things will happen to you". The casual ones. Ones who took life as it comes and ones who didnt take life too seriously. The happy-go-lucky kind. I saw them handing their children over to complete strangers for close to 2 hours of 'private time'. I suppose nothing bad will happen to the child. The stranger's face had that trustworthy look. I suppose that is enough, no?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lightning Strikes Everyday - X

Just for the record: I am the only guy in this planet to have bought Apple stock at $80 an Amazon at $48 in 2008 and still made a loss.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Scholarly Debates with Roommates

While studying in grad school, roommates tend to spend extraordinary amount of time discussing and arguing about the vettiest of topics. These arguments tended to be very intense, created so much tension and anger causing the said roommates to not speak to each other for days together. And the topic of discussion was usually the most worthless topic on the planet.

I was reminded of one such discussion that happened 12 years ago. This was around the time the movie Alaipayuthey got released. In our apartmment corridor there were 3 houses packed close to each other. There were a total of 16-17 people in this little thamizh ghetto. And the discussion started the way such discussions usually start - innocuously at about 8PM or so.

My roommate Xinu (nicknamed after the Operating System) observed that the site of Shalini accident was mentioned as Nelson Manickkam Road. But we could all clearly see Cozee restaurant in the background. Manirathnam had obviously shot the scene in Beasant Nagar. Xinu was totally pissed off at that goof-up. According to him that flaw killed the entire credibility of the scene. Leading him to believe that the critical accident scene in the movie was completely destroyed thereby significantly weakening the movie's believability.

One the other hand :-) I felt some other aspect of the accident scene was what killed the believability. My criticism went thus. Madhavan was supposed to receive shalini in the railway station. That is why he comes directly to the railway station, waits in the stairs for sometime and then goes straight to the railway platform and waits for shalini there. This meant that Shalini was used to Madhavan picking her up everyday inside the railway station. But if you remember the way that scene played out; Shalini comes to station by train, gets off and goes straight to Nelson Manickkam road without waiting for Madhavan. And she walks arbitrarily/purposelessly on the side of the road (This is where she gets pleasantly surprised to meet her sister Swarnamalya who happens to be dating the Hyundai company works manager Raghuraman. And then she crosses the road lost in thought and meets with car accident). There is no reason offered as to why she did not wait for Madhavan inside the train station.

Now why would she not wait for Madhavan in the railway station? The accident would have never happened had she waited. It goes completely against the plot of the situation. She knows he is coming to pick her up. Yet in order to contrive this accident scene Manirathnam ignores that assumption and deliberately shows her walking outside on the road. This is a critical logal flaw. Cozee restaurant being in Nelson Manickam road is easily explained. Its a fictional place in a fictional movie. Cozee isn't known to people outside of Chennai. In this fictional story Manirathnam could've easily claimed that the Cozee sardar opened another branch in Nelson Manickam road. But having Shalini walk out of the station goes against the self-created logic of the movie.

I felt that my criticism was more valid and wanted the group of friends assembled to firmly establish the fact that this flaw was what made the scene less believable. Xinu on the other hand was clearly trying his best to make a case that Cozee restaurant must be held as the reason why that scene was less credible. And we argued for 7 straight hours. Late into the night. Tempers flared. Insults exchanged. And we were stuck on this topic for the next few days until we were distracted by the next huge fight on whether a roommate called ChisBeer was run out or not.

The beauty of pointlessness in having pointless discussions and trying to bring out tightly woven analogies with nuanced logic was what defined a vetti boy. I miss those days.

Friday, January 06, 2012


An interesting phenomena on duping that happens in Madras in Bangalore was pointed out to me by a family member. And then I started observing it with alarming regularity.

Lets say you go to a petrol bank and put fuel for Rs 100. You give the guy Rs 500 and you see him counting four 100 rupee notes to give back to you. He counts four 100s. He makes sure you see him count four 100s. He gives you the money. You think you've got Rs 400 back. In reality he has given you only three 100s. The other one by some sleight of hand is still with him. He relies on the trust he has established with you by counting so clearly in front of you to make you not double check the note count. If you trust him and put the money in your pocket without counting and leave - the guy pockets Rs 100. If you don't trust him and he sees you counting the money again and you reach the third hundred and give the confused look, he will be waiting hand outstretched with the fourth Rs 100. He pretends that he is giving you the last 100 separately. Like it was unintentional and matter-of-fact absent mindedness.

I noticed that this happened both in Bangalore and Madras quite consistently.

That leads us to an interesting story, which can only happen to the likes of me. There is a petrol bank in the intersection of Venkat Narayana road and Mt. Road. Its on Mt Round right before you take a left into V. Narayana road. My cousin and I were driving two separate scooters and we both put petrol for Rs 100 each. So total cost is Rs 200. I hand out Rs 500 and see the guy counting three 100 rupees. He hands over the money to me. I start counting it. There are only two 100s. I smile as I see him stretching out his hand a giving me another 100.

After we reach home I gloat about this to my cousin. Tell him how easily observable this ruse is. He looks a bit curious and asks me, "why did you pay Rs 200, I thought you only put petrol for Rs 100". And then I told him "thats because I paid for you as well". He then shouts at me angrily " you idiot! don't you have to tell me that. I paid Rs 100 as well"

Thursday, January 05, 2012


Last week same time I ordered 1 Ghee Roast masala Dosai and 1 Mixed Vegetable Parotta in HSB.

Now, standing in front of Subway counter and ordering veggie max. Feels like erstwhile villain Senthamarai took a huge thick leather belt and is slapping me with it in a panchayat punishment.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The NRI conundrum

They try to be a local in a foreign land. Speak the accent, use the slang, eat the burger, wear the Abercrombie, be street smart, navigate the culture, get deals in planes and be the roman in rome.

They try to be the foreigner in their home land. Use it as a shopping destination. Refuse to drive scooter or car. Travel in taxi. Stay inside. Speak like a tourist. Act dumb like a tourist. No Street smartness. Cant navigate the culture. Be a dependent on other locals for travelling bargaining and generally moving around.