Thursday, April 25, 2013

Come! UnRape Me

Come! Unrape Me.
Take me back in time.
Take me to the time I was walking in the lonely street.
The time , when 2 men were following me.
Take me to the time when they came too close for comfort.
Take me to the time when I was touched.
Take me to the time I was bottom pinched.
Take me to the time when I was dragged to the bushes.
Take me to the time when all they wanted was a piece of meat.
And they had their piece of flesh - me.
Take me to that time, when you reached there too.
But for a change, change your stance.
Stand with me, not aside watching me voyeuristically.
You had a phone, but no heart, no will, no balls,
Now, if you can do something for me.
Come Unrape Me!

- Harish Iyer

#TrueStory #FirstPersonAccount

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Five things I picked up at Sankalp 2013

At the largest ‘unconvention’ for social entrepreneurs in India that wound up last week, this writer was both the insider and outsider. Here are some insights from the experience…

- Malay Desai

 1. An accent

Okay, no. Just kidding. But if the Sankalp Unconvention Summit would’ve continued for longer, I would’ve definitely picked up an Ahmedabad-to-LA-and-back accent. I don’t yet know what to make of the evidently high number of Western and American-Indian entrepreneurs at the event, though I found most of them to be bright speakers, having earnest intentions backed by foreign education and experience.

Notable heads from the dozens were Ajaita Shah of Frontier Markets who promised reliable lighting in rural India, Nathan Sigworth whose ‘Pharmasecure’ provides unique alpha-numeric codes to medicines to verify their authenticity.. and the star of the summit Neil Patel (who turned out to be a relative of Samir Patel, whom I’d written about in Mumbai Mirror in 2009) of Awaaz.De, a venture that won the biggest prize. Mark Kahn, Founder/Partner of Omnivore fund, was my pick of the speakers for his irreverent speech that cracked through jargon like a warm knife through butter.

It was also heartening to hear idea-powered folks from the Nashiks and Guwahatis of India talking confidently in their own ‘accents’ on the big platform. To summarise, that feeling of sharing a ballroom with a hundred-odd ‘Mohan Bhargavs’ of Swades is always cool, innit?

      2.Money has to wear suits, apparently

Given the above nature of the attendees, it shouldn't appear as a surprise that the corridors of The Renaissance Hotel were filled with suits during Sankalp. While I hold no reservations against the sartorial habits of Western gentry, it would have been pleasing to see more kurtas and salwars given that many of the visiting delegates wear those in their day jobs in Tier II and III towns of our hinterland.

On day two, almost to defy the cookie-cutters, I donned my short maroon kurta which I’d like to believe garnered me slightly more attention than my formals on day one. I also found a handful of Indian delegates having done the same, besides Vineet Rai of Avishkaar who comfortably sought limelight in a desi achkan.

Question to mull is – to what extent would you tailor your appearance to conform to the norms of a high-profile event, one where first impressions mean much? My vote is for whatever that lets your confidence fly on that sleeve.

3. Some big ideas

Looking back, at the heart of Sankalp 2013 was quite the Kumbh Mela of ideas, some of which are in shape, many of which need Vitamin M to take off. The truth that nothing in the world is as powerful as an idea was palpable through the summit, with the awards, pitches, workshops and just conversations during lunch.
Minister for Social Welfare, 
Government of Bihar, 
Ms Parveen Amanullah was 
one of the distinguished
 names at Sankalp this year

From the big-bang theories at the G20 Inclusive Summit to the patterns of hope charted out by representatives of Afghanistan and Africa to the social concerns of Bihar Minister Parveen Amanullah, there was much to get the macro-minded listeners going. My picks, however were the simple applications of technologies to better or save the lives of many – Green Power Systems’ ‘Waste-to-Energy’ reactor, IQST’s ambition to provide skill-based training to the youth and the most intriguing – the story of one Popatrao Pawar’s socio-economic experiment in Ahmednagar that changed the face of the town.

If there would be just one reason for me to attend Sankalp forums in the future, it would be listening to the cross-section of these engaging ideas.

4. A few biz cards

With great and simple ideas also come bright, unconventional minds and this congregation was a milieu of them. I must shoot a confession here that if there were a World Cup for networking, I’d be the Indian football team. My distaste for networking in formal environments stems from the belief that one must see a person as a person first, not as a contact. I’d rather prefer to strike conversations at parties and casual gatherings, and that too not in a compulsive way. That said, the slow coffee machine at Sankalp did help many networkers score little heaps of business cards ..and as some fund-seeking delegates told me, this was a huge platform to get the word about your venture to the ears of the right people.
Another thing, the interactions with leaders and followers of the social entrepreneurship sector (not exactly the one in which I work but have a growing interest in) were a mighty exercise in self-reflection, if not anything else. If you, like, I go home and ask yourself how many people in your town/country does your day job directly impact, it would be worthwhile.

5. Promises that are working

picture credit : 
            Finally, taking off from the ‘plenty of ideas’ point, it must be said that I cannot help but draw a parallel with Sankalp of that conference the world has taken   a    liking to in the past five years – TED. Having been a follower of TED’s videos and attended the Mumbai editions of TEDx, I have become partly cynical of many of the terrific ideas discussed there – set-ups that provide clean water from mucky water in minutes, wheel-assisted trolleys for rural women who walk for water.. and so on. While they make you clap heartily after listening to them, I haven’t come across many of them being implemented. Of course, this is true to the premise of the organisation – ‘ideas worth spreading.’

           On the other hand, I’d call Sankalp ‘ideas worth getting inspired from’ as the platform invites pre-filtered talents who’ve already proven their worth in their fields and have begun impacting lives at many levels. That the event holds ‘promise’ for a better India (world, actually) is an understatement. It’s rather an annual audit of the promises.


          [Malay Desai writes on youth trends, humour, sports for various media and runs his social media and content outfit, Punchlines.]

          hiyer's note: This post is by my favorite ex-journalist and friend - Malay Desai. It was his sensitively written article on Child Sexual Abuse in Mumbai Mirror (read the unedited article here) about my life that inspired a national award winning film ( I AM)  take takes a leaf out of my life. If today I am a  household name as a crusader for the cause of Child Sexual Abuse, I should say, it all started with this article by Malay. This is an example of how sensitive journalism can help take humanitarian causes to the next level and make icons out of common people. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

DOMA and Indian Curry - My article in Tehelka

"Everyone has the right to be miserable. It is not a heterosexual domain".

- extract from my article in Tehelka on the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) in USA. 

You Will Fall In Love With You

you are trying hard to avoid me,
for you know you are losing control. 
i am trying hard to not reveal all my heart, 
i don't want to be seen as a troll. 

it is a fact that we both know -
that to the same emotion, we both are falling prey. 
funny how we run away, 
from colour of love to shades of black and white and grey. 

don't run away, thinking that it is a change, don't change at all, 
i like you in the purest form of you. 
look at yourself from within me, 
you will fall in love with you. 


                            © Harish Iyer 

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

"I am sorry" says a mother #SurvivorStory

A month ago, had met a single mother of an adult boy who was sexually abused by a close female relative as a child. The mother was being overtly sympathetic towards the abuser as "she must have been upset about something". The boy was braving serious psychological complications. Dropped out from school. Stayed depressed most of the time,  was very reserved and oblivious towards the simple joys of life. When the boy told his mother, she simply hugged him and asked him to forget it. She "scolded" the abuser for her misbehavior and she thought - the chapter was closed forever. She thought that her child was just one spoiled brat. The boy was reprimanded for every mistake he did. The boy always tried to draw his mothers attention in the wrong way.

All this I got to know when I probed the mother. The mother didn't feel like approaching anyone when her child was abused and she quickly made assumptions about abuse and had in a big-hearted gesture pardoned the abuser by making excuses for her. The mother contacted me because she discovered copies of bombay dost in her son's closet. She was only worried that he was in one too. She thought this would bring her family a bad name.

I spoke to her every day from 01 march 2013. And yesterday, finally she said sorry to her son. She hugged him and cried. She told him that she was sorry that she was silent and didn't take action against the abuser. She said she was sorry that she thought her son was sexually wayward and 'kinky' to have sex with men. She told him that she accepts him as he is, she believes him and she loves him. The boy hugged  his mothers breast and asked "what took you so many years mom?". She didn't have an answer to that. 

Yesterday, late at night, her son called me for the first time. His voice was choked. His words were trembling. After 30 minutes of just thank yous from him. He asked me if he was gay because he was abused by a woman. I told him that I am gay even though I was abused by a man. I probed, and found out that he had sexual encounters with women but thought naturally about men. Told him that love and his being is beyond reason. Told him "you are gay because you are gay and that's the truth because you feel that way... And no science and no age old wisdom and no experience is needed to justify your feelings"

He said that he wishes to be a child again. He said he wishes to be born to me. As a reflex action, I quickly shed some tears of joy for he rekindled the fact that I always thought that deep-within me lies the soul of a mother. He asked me what he could gift me for my birthday. I asked him if his mother and he were okay with his story being shared publicly - that could be the biggest ego booster I need, for it is like an oasis in the desert of traumatic abuse stories everyday. Today morning he said mom and he were fine with me sharing their story but requested me to conceal their identity and obvious references. They asked me if there was anything they could do for me or gift me. I have asked them to keep in touch because they are still just overwhelmed, and healing is a process not an impulsive high. They insisted that they wish to gift me something, I replied that their consent was the biggest gift and that I will flaunt this mail on my blog and other sites - the big drama queen that I am! :)

And... here it is! 

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