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With this dowry I now own your son: Indian brides turn tables

indian bride has a dowry & owns the groom image www.goodgorlsgo.com

“Ask nicely, and I might let you use my things,” says this bride in a video made for the government campaign Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save your Daughter, Teach your Daughter) in India. Photo: Supplied

New Delhi: India’s efforts to stop baby girls being aborted are seeing the circulation of some surprisingly hard-hitting videos that are turning the tables on men, using the issue of dowry to turn them into pathetic “objects”.

Having to give a dowry to daughters is the single most powerful reason that Indian parents prefer boys. The dowry – cash, fridges, jewellery, TVs, scooters, furniture, sewing machines, cooking utensils – can bankrupt families but without it, no daughter will ever find a husband.

In one video, made for the government campaign Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save your Daughter, Teach your Daughter), a young bride is shown about to go for a ride on a scooter with her husband. The woman’s father-in-law tells her contemptuously that she had better think again because he needs the scooter to do his chores.

“Monthly instalments are only for objects,” says this bride to her mother-in-law in response to suggestions how dowry payments should continue, in a videos for Save your Daughter, Teach your Daughter campaign. Photo: Supplied

The bride retorts: “I’m the one who paid the quoted price. I gave you the scooter as part of the dowry I brought so I own the scooter and your son. Ask nicely, and I might let you use my things.”

The second video, too, alters the usual image of a new bride in her in-laws’ home, namely, tense, eager to please, everyone’s doormat. It shows her in the kitchen with her mother-in-law who is goading her into asking her parents for a new fridge.

The bride says her parents only recently gave a sewing machine. “What is this? Do I have to give monthly instalments or what?” asks the young woman. The mother-in-law’s reply is why not?

The wife answers: “Well, monthly instalments are only for objects, so if you expect monthly instalments from me, that means your son is an object I can use as I wish”.

The videos were funded by business consultant Sunil Alagh in Mumbai.  He says he wanted to contribute to the government’s campaign to empower women but not with a preachy sermon on the evils of dowry that everyone has heard before.

“I was at a friend’s house where the servant told me that a girl in his village had told her prospective father-in-law that if he wanted a dowry from her, he had better accept that he was selling his son to her. It was brilliant, I knew I had to use that line,” said Mr Alagh.

The two videos, produced by Red Carpet Entertainment, have attracted two million views on Facebook, more than 225,000 hits on YouTube and are being shown at all INOX cinemas in India. They have also generated intense debate because Indians are accustomed to homily-laden education campaigns, not videos which savage traditions in this fashion.

Reactions have ranged from praise to criticism that the videos implicitly accept the practice of dowry instead of questioning it. “All the ad is doing is discouraging audiences from finding an educated bride for their family … because education, apparently, transforms a woman into the quip-hurling bitch who’s out to isolate her husband from his parents, according to this advertisement,” wrote Rohan Venkataramakrishnan on the current affairs website Scroll.

For New Delhi economist Anuradha Bhasin, such criticism is absurd. “They are clever and funny. While the setting is traditional [mother-in-law hectoring the daughter-in-law], the daughter-in-law is educated and knows her rights. And equating a dowry with the buying of a son is fantastic,” she said.

The practice of dowry has etched the preference for boys deep in the psyche. Last month, some doctors practising the traditional Indian system of medicine known as ayurveda were arrested in Bhopal during a herbal fair for selling herbs that ensured women would conceive baby boys.

Last February, India’s most famous yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, came under attack for selling an ayurvedic potion to infertile couples that “guarantees” a male child.

With female foeticide still rampant, the sex ratio has fallen from 927 girls per 1000 boys in 2001 to 918 girls for every 1000 boys in 2011.

In launching the Save your Daughter, Teach your Daughter campaign in January, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited members of the public to devise their own ways of promoting women’s empowerment.

Mr Alagh is one of many Indians who have tried to do something innovative to change attitudes. Another was Sunil Jaglan, a father in Haryana who organised a “Selfie with Daughter” campaign on social media, which Mr Modi promptly helped promote on his own Twitter account.

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Henry Sapiecha

Indian teenager becomes a rapist’s nightmare

Rape is common in Indian villages because the men responsible don’t face consequences. That could now be changing.

Bitiya, who agreed to be photographed with her face covered, in her village image www.goodgirlsgo.com

Bitiya, who agreed to be photographed with her face covered, in her village. Photo: Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times

For as long as anyone can remember, upper-caste men in a village in northern India preyed on young girls. The rapes continued because there was no risk: the girls were destroyed, but the men faced no repercussions.

Now that might be changing in the area, partly because of the courage of one teenage girl who is fighting back. Indian law does not permit naming of rape victims, so she requested she be called Bitiya, and she is a rapist’s nightmare. This isn’t one more tragedy of sexual victimisation but rather a portrait of an indomitable teenager whose willingness to take on the system inspires us and helps protect other Indian girls.

I want them in jail, then everyone watching will know that people can get punished for this.

Bitiya

I see in Bitiya a lesson for the world about the importance of ending the impunity that so often surrounds sexual violence.

The young rape victim pushing to see her attackers punished wants other Indian girls to be able to live free of the fear of sexual violence.

Bitiya, who is from the bottom of the caste system, is fuzzy about her age, but thinks she was 13 in 2012 when four upper-caste village men grabbed her as she worked in a field, stripped her and raped her. They filmed the assault and warned her that if she told anyone, they would release the video and also kill her brother, so Bitiya initially kept quiet.

Six weeks later, Bitiya’s father saw a 15-year-old boy watching a pornographic video and was aghast to see his daughter in it. The men were selling the video in a local store for a dollar a copy.

Bitiya is crying in the video and is held down by the men, so her family accepted she was blameless. Her father went to the police to file a report.

The police weren’t interested in following up, but the village elders were. They decided Bitiya, an excellent student, should be barred from the public school.

“They said I was the wrong kind of girl and it would affect other girls,” Bitiya said. “I felt very bad about that.”

Eventually, public pressure forced the school to take her back, but the village elders continue to block the family from receiving government food rations, apparently as punishment for speaking out.

In the background hovers caste. Bitiya is a Dalit, once considered untouchable, at the bottom of the hierarchy.

Civil society scrutiny belatedly led to the arrest of four men, who were then released on bail. The case has been dragging on since, and Bitiya’s father died of a heart attack after one particularly brutal court hearing. The family also fears members of upper castes will kill Bitiya’s 16-year-old brother, so he mostly stays home,  which means he cannot work, leaving the family struggling to afford food.

The rape suspects offered a $20,000 settlement if Bitiya’s family would drop the case, bringing the money in cash to her home with its dirt floor. Bitiya had never seen so much cash – but scoffs that she would not accept twice as much.

“I want them in jail,” Bitiya says, “then everyone watching will know that people can get punished for this.”

“I never felt tempted,” her grandfather adds.

Bitiya says she does not feel disgraced, because the dishonour lies in raping rather than in being raped. And the resolve that she and her family display is having an impact. The rape suspects had to sell land to pay bail, and everybody in the area now understands that raping girls might actually carry consequences. So while there were many rapes in the village before Bitiya’s, none are believed to have occurred since.

Madhavi Kuckreja​, a longtime women’s activist who is helping Bitiya, says the case reflects a measure of progress against sexual violence.

“There has been a breaking of the silence,” Kuckreja says. “People are speaking up and filing cases.”

Kuckreja notes that the cost of sexual violence is a paralysinging fear that affects all women and girls. Fearful parents “protect” daughters from sexual violence and boys in ways that impede the girls’ ability to get an education, use the internet or cellphones, or get a good job. For every girl who is raped, Kuckreja says, many thousands lose opportunities and mobility because of fear of such violence.

That holds back women, but also all of India. The International Monetary Fund says India’s economy is stunted by the lack of women in the formal economy.

In one village, I asked a large group of men about rape. They insisted they honour women and deplore rape – and then added that the best solution after a rape is for the girl to be married to the rapist, to smooth over upset feelings.

“If he raped her, he probably likes her,” Shiv Govind, 18, explained.

I’m supporting Bitiya and strong girls like her to change those attitudes and end the impunity that oppresses women and impoverishes nations.

Nicholas Kristof is a New York Times columnist.

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Henry Sapiecha

Female Indian rape victim dies after 42 years in coma

Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse, was left bedridden after she was raped at a hospital image www.goodgirlsgo

Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse, was left bedridden after she was raped at a hospital.

Delhi: A nurse has died after 42 years in a coma following a brutal rape, in a case that led India to ease some restrictions on euthanasia.

Aruna Shanbaug suffered brain damage and had been in a vegetative state in a Mumbai hospital since being strangled with a dog chain and sexually assaulted by a hospital worker in 1973.

The 66-year-old Shanbaug had suffered a bout of pneumonia in recent days and was on a ventilator, officials at King Edward Hospital in Mumbai told the Press Trust of India news agency.
Aruna Shanbaug in a photo submitted as part of her CV.

Aruna Shanbaug in a photo submitted as part of her CV. Photo: Supplied

Shanbaug was attacked by a ward boy in the basement of the hospital where she was discovered 11 hours later, blind and suffering from a severe brain stem injury.
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Left bedridden, she spent more than four decades being cared for by a team of doctors and nurses at the hospital.

Her attacker was freed after a seven-year jail sentence.

“Her actual death happened in 1973 (the date of the attack). Now what has happened is her legal death,” her friend and journalist Pinki Virani told Zee News TV channel.

Aruna Shanbaug in a photo submitted as part of her CV.image www.goodgirlsgo

“Our Aruna has given our country a big thing in the form of a law on passive euthanasia,” Virani said.

Shanbaug’s plight became a focal point of debate on euthanasia in India after Virani appealed to India’s top court in 1999 to allow her to die with dignity.

Indian laws do not permit euthanasia or self-starvation to the point of death.

But in 2011 the Supreme Court decided that life support could be legally removed for some terminally ill patients in a landmark ruling that allowed “passive euthanasia” for the first time.

The court said withdrawing life support could be allowed in exceptional circumstances, provided the request was from family and supervised by doctors and the courts.

The supervision was required to prevent “unscrupulous” family members attempting to kill off wealthy relatives, the Supreme Court had said.

The court however rejected Virani’s request to stop Shanbaug being force-fed on the grounds that she was not legally eligible to make the demand on Shanbaug’s behalf.

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Henry Sapiecha

Indian student drags drunk attacker to police by his hair

An Indian student has been hailed as a heroine for standing up to a man molesting her at a train station in the middle of the day, and dragging him by the hair to the police – while dozens of people did nothing to help.

Pradnya Mandhare, 20, was travelling home after a day of classes at Sathaye College, in the Mumbai suburb of Vile Parle, when she was approached by an obviously drunken man.

“This visibly drunk person came to me and touched me inappropriately,” she said. “When I tried to avoid him, he grabbed me. I was shocked for a couple of seconds, but then I started hitting him with my bag.

Pradnya Mandhare has dragged a drunk man by his hair to the police station after he allegedly attacked her.

Pradnya Mandhare has dragged a drunk man by his hair to the police station after he allegedly attacked her. Photo: Facebook

“He was trying to hit me, but I could overpower him because he was stinking of alcohol and I could make out that he was drunk.”

Kandivli station was crowded with people, but Miss Mandhare’s fellow travellers did not move to help her.

“No one came forward to help,” said the media student. “People stopped to stare, but no one bothered to even ask what was going on.

“Since the man was filthy, I found it difficult to even touch him. I caught him by his hair and dragged him to the government railway police.”

She said that hauling him to the police was difficult, but still no one came to her aid.

“Dragging him by the hair and walking was tough, because he was trying to escape and I was afraid he would attack me.

“He kept telling me not to drag him along and that he would come with me on his own, but I did not let go. I finally managed to hand him over to the police.”

She told a local newspaper that most women are scared of approaching the police, because filing a complaint is a lengthy process and the police, she said, can be “uncooperative”.

A policeman from the Borivli GRP said: “We have arrested the accused, Chavan (25), who is a drug addict and was also drunk when the incident took place. We conducted a medical test of the accused and he will be produced in court. We are verifying whether he has a previous criminal record.”

And Miss Mandhare said that other women should not be afraid to come forward and denounce such attacks.

“Every woman should fight back in such cases and they should not keep quiet. I am grateful that the police also helped me and arrested the accused. I also asked the police officers to teach the accused a lesson so that he would not dare to molest a woman ever again.

“Parents of girls also think that going to a police station would tarnish their daughter’s reputation.

“But, women should raise their voice and teach such people a lesson. Women are not objects for anyone to touch at will.”

The Telegraph, London

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Henry Sapiecha

THE WOMAN POWER OF 49%

WOMEN VOTING AS A BLOCK CAN ENFORCE CHANGE WORLD WIDE

Comprising 49 per cent of the electorate, Indian women could easily skew the general elections any which way they like, says Averil Nunes.

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Women form 48.46 per cent (as per the 2011 Census) of the largest democracy in the world. How does that translate into 11 per cent elected representatives in the Lok Sabha (as per PRS Legislative Research) and a mere 14 per cent of women in senior management positions (as per the Grant Thornton 2012 International Business Report)? We could blame patriarchy, we could debate the reservations policy, or we could do something to change the status quo.

“Work as a block, vote as a block,” suggests actress and activist Gul Panag. “Dalits vote as a block, Hindus vote as a block, Muslims vote as a block, Communists vote as a block. Why can’t women vote as a block to effect change?” The question then becomes, can women unite despite the diverse cultural, communal, regional, and religious beliefs that often define their identities? We’re skeptical on that front.

“We want women to understand the power of their vote and to use it wisely, based on how political parties respond to their issues. Women’s votes in India usually go to the party that the men in the family vote for, but the issues women face are different from those that men face. Logically, there is no reason for women to always vote with the man. The Power of 49 campaign is also a message to politicians, that women can make or break them, because in India they form the single largest voting block,” explains Vikram Grover, Vice President, Tata Global Beverages (TGB), the company branded by the popular Jaago Re campaign.

Yet, is there a party or even a single candidate with a vision to change the way things work for women in this country? The candidacy of women in the general elections has been less than 10 per cent in the past. Should more women be contesting the elections? “Women would certainly be better leaders. They are far more caring, compassionate, patient and non-violent than men,” says socio-political activist Sudheendra Kulkarni. “They have proven their capability through the one/third reservations at the Panchayat level. There are 1.5 million women representatives in local self-governing bodies. Through micro-finance and self-help organisations, they are already making a difference to their families and communities. But the shackles—family restraints as well as gender biases in political parties—need to be broken for women to play an active role in public life.”

The idealistic Jaago Re campaigns are generally followed up with practical measures. For instance, a voting campaign prior to the 2009 elections led to over six lakh voter registrations on Jaagore.com. Another Jaago Re anti-corruption campaign “Khilana band, pilana shuru”, resulted in two lakh people pledging never to bribe again. And then, there’s the famous, “Bade badlav ke liye, choti shuruvat” ad released on Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, where Shah Rukh Khan vows to list women before men in his movie credits. An oath he honoured with the Chennai Express credits. Will the Power of 49 campaign make a difference to the women of India before the upcoming general elections? As cause partner for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) 2013, the campaign garnered a lot of support from the stars of India’s favourite city, Bollywood.

Chances are these stars will come out to make the Power of 49 come alive, in the run up to the elections. The plans are hush-hush for now. So we’ll have to wait and watch. Or better still, apply our minds on ways to take the Power of 49 from concept to reality.

The Paradox
Women form 48.46% (as per the 2011 Census)of the largest democracy in the world. How does that translate into 11% elected representatives in the Lok Sabha (as per PRS Legislative Research) and a mere 14% of Indian women in senior management positions (as per the Grant Thornton 2012 International Business Report)?

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Henry Sapiecha

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THREE PROFESSIONAL WOMEN IN INDIA SHARE THEIR SUCCESSES WITH YOU HERE

THESE WOMEN GIVE THEIR OPINIONS ON MATTERS OF CONCERN TO ALL WOMEN

Aishwarya Nair
Corporate Food & Wine Consultant
The Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts(Mumbai)

Aishwarya Nair

Women make excellent leaders because they communicate effectively and have more patience than men who bring more resilience and assertiveness to the table. In my opinion, it would be wrong to compare the sexes. Both women and men have their own strengths and shortcomings.

The food and wine department in the hotel industry usually features fewer women due to the long hours the job demands. I am an extremely positive person and tend to use my challenges as opportunities. This gives me the ability to let my skills do the talking. A glass ceiling does exist, but definitely not for me. There are several women who do not get top jobs like men do. Even statistics show that women don’t get paid as much for doing the same work. However, there are a growing number of women putting this trend to rest across different industries, which is encouraging. Values such as being true to oneself and always being willing to listen to others have been instrumental in shaping my life.

Honesty, getting straight to the point, and politeness are virtues that I hold dear. Life has taught me never to take myself too seriously.  Success is turning my ideas into reality while gaining respect from the people who matter to me the most. And to achieve that, I closely follow three mantras: persistence, speed and imagination! Habits shape your road to success. I believe in being proactive, and using synergy to create win-win situations. I maintain a positive attitude and face challenges by always looking at the bigger picture.

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Devita Saraf
CEO, Vu Technologies (Mumbai)

Devita Saraf

Leadership depends on personal talent, capability, and sometimes situations. Leadership is gender neutral. The biggest challenge in being a young woman in a man’s world is that there is difference in energy levels. Men have more physical energy and can put in longer hours without burning out. The rest depends on the  industry you work in and your personality. It’s very easy for my male subordinates to take orders from me. I am a decisive leader with vision and discipline. I am driven by values that teach me to constantly look forward and innovate. Also, I don’t work with people or companies where there isn’t mutual respect. Kindness is one virtue that is more important than confidence, intelligence and personality; it is your kindness that will make people want to work with you. This doesn’t mean you are a pushover, it just shows your consideration towards employees, customers and suppliers without getting a bad deal.

I am constantly learning to re-invent myself. I get bored easily and I am driven by the idea of being a new Devita every 2-3 years. To me, success is making my parents proud and comfortable. The success mantra that I live by is—however far you’ve come, you can always go further. In times of adversities, I allow myself to wallow and vent. Then I snap out of it and take action. I stay calm during panicky situations. Habits are important to climb the success ladder. I believe in being proactive. Even on the dullest day, I do not wait for things to happen, I make them happen.

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Apurva Purohit
CEO Radio City,
91.1 FM (Mumbai)

Apurva Purohit

I think both men and women have unique skills and capabilities as leaders. In a woman-led organisation, younger women, who see role models in their women leaders, feel more confident of holding on to their career than giving up. I believe that women need to feel empowered and realise that they are as capable as men. This can only happen when you treat them on par and have the high expectations of them. There is always a way to understand and work around different types of people and different genders. Ultimately if you are a leader with sound strategic sense, great implementation and team building skills, and can create an enabling culture, it doesn’t matter what your gender is, you will be respected across the board.

I strongly believe there is no substitute for hard work and perseverance. I believe in being grounded and having a strong in-built moral compass which guides you in separating right from wrong.

My success formula is simple. Focus on the critical drivers for the business, teach the team to manage the rest and play with a straight bat! Create an empowering and fair culture and make your people the central focus of your strategy. Balance strategy and implementation equally and take decisions quickly. Everything else will fall into place. We face challenges big and small all the time. The way to deal with them is to not get into a victim mentality but to look at them positively and with a solution-seeking mindset.

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Henry Sapiecha

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INDIAN WOMEN’S LOT IN INDIA EXPOSED

India A Dangerous Place to Be a Woman BBC     documentary 2013 Video

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Henry Sapiecha

GOOD GIRLS DON’T DANCE…!! A FILM FOR THE MUMBAI FILM FESTIVAL

Oh really? Padmalatha Ravi’s 15-minute documentary presents prejudice at its worst. Rama Sreekant attempts to decipher the ‘good girl’ checklist.

Padmalatha Ravi

16 December 2012 is a black date in Indian history. Angry voices, national outrage, high decibel prime-time debates and a case that set a precedent on how the judiciary responds to cases of rape. It was not the first rape we, as a nation, witnessed; it was not the last either. While most of us engaged in online rants, armchair conversations and dinner-table discussions, Bangalore-based Padmalatha Ravi decided to walk the talk.

GOOD BUT BAD
A journalist, by profession, Padmalatha who has written extensively on gender-related issues, was pushed to the brink after the Delhi rape. That the pen is mightier than the sword may be true but Padmalatha wanted a voice for her words, a voice that would question the stereotypes, the moral policing and the misogynist attitudes. “The debate on whether the victim was right in stepping out at night that too with a man she was not related to, was loud. I had to understand why this was so, hence the film,” she says.

Good Girls Don’t Dance, a 15-minute documentary, is Padmalatha’s first independent crowd-sourced film that questions the notions of society’s reactions to sexual harassment, molestation and rape.

Released earlier this year, the film attempts to understand why victim-blaming is so rampant. It explores how individuals define  ‘good girl’ and ‘bad girl’ through interviews with 45 people from Bangalore, across age groups, social and economic backgrounds.

The list to check off while attempting to be a “good girl” is long. But the don’ts outnumber the dos. “The conversations in the film will tell you that our reactions depend on whether the woman is considered good or bad. Notions of good and bad are ruled by morality and patriarchy, which are so deeply entrenched we don’t even realize it,” says Padmalatha.

THE BLAME GAME
Long after the Delhi and Shakti Mills rapes, questions like ‘Why did she go out so late in the night, what was she wearing?’ are still being asked. And being asked by the fairer sex, as well. In a recent interview, actress Gul Panag had categorically stated, “Women, in India, are their own worst enemy.” But Padmalatha refuses to understand the urgency to blame women for their own plight. Women, she says, are a part of the same society that has confined them to gender stereotypes for several ages. In her opinion, the question to ask is, “When will men realise that women are people too; and that women need not be a means to show off their machismo?”

Just like the hijab has, in France, a special power to inflame public debate, in India too, what women should wear has been a point of argument, for decades. Can clothes  really be a yardstick of virtue? Padmalatha firmly believes that this is the biggest myth that has been perennially recycled. “Sexual violence is never about lust, it is about power and domination. It will happen no matter what clothes women do or do not wear, as long as the man thinks it is normal to subjugate a woman,” she explains. Campaigns such as Pink Chaddi and Sampat Pal’s Gulabi Gang were born of these attitudes.

While both movements garnered an equal amount of brickbats and bouquets, they have often been trivialised by pseudo-moral conformists. More recently, actor Kalki Koechlin and VJ Juhi Pandey hammered home with a satirical online video, Rape, it’s my fault!, which lamented the deep-seated patriarchal belief system wherein women are invariably held responsible for inviting sexual harassment. Sustained campaigning is the need of the hour, according to Padmalatha. Many outspoken traditionalists have openly declared that women should cover themselves, not go out after sunset, be ‘good girls’ and obey other moral bindings.

It’s a matter of perspective, she says. “Many of the dance forms that we are so proud of today were once considered immoral. In the early days, only Devdasis and courtesans performed, not women from ‘decent families’. Today, we respect artists and revere their art forms,” she elaborates.

Good Girls Don’t Dance, was recently nominated to be a part of the Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival. While it didn’t win an award, Padmalatha was moved to see that, “young women took away the fact that you cannot be blamed for what you are wearing.” She now plans to have screenings of the film at various colleges and start a sustained discussion. While a well-known college in Bangalore turned her down, “because the subject was too controversial,” Padmalatha continues to be hopeful.

When will men realize that women are people too and that women need not be a means to show off their machismo? — Padmalatha Ravi

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Henry Sapiecha