The Telegraph
Sunday , April 27 , 2014
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Big question: to vote or not to vote

Suhel Seth and Shazia Ilmi at a talk hosted by YFLO at Taj Bengal. Picture by Arnab Mondal

Does one’s vote really make a difference — the question sparked a lively debate with brand guru and The Telegraph columnist Suhel Seth taking on Shazia Ilmi of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) at a talk presented by YFLO (the young women’s chapter of FICCI) on Friday.

“It’s important to start somewhere. Accept the problems and cast your vote to make a difference,” urged Ilmi, who gave up journalism and stepped into politics because “injustices everywhere bothered me”. “I wanted to be part of a change and do something positive for the nation.”

“Mother Teresa would have been proud...,” began Seth in his retort. “We need to follow the laws first. All politicians are scoundrels in my book. I should not vote simply because I have to. I should first follow the laws and have the gumption to stick to my principles,” said Seth, who himself could not vote this year.

“We are the ones who have elected the corrupt people. To blame the politicians and uphold our right to vote is silly. As long as we continue to vote on the basis of religion, caste and creed, there is not much hope for our country. I am not being cynical, only a realist,” he said.

For Ilmi, it was important to do something for a greater cause. “If you seek a change, be a part of the machinery. Spread awareness.... Maybe it’s time we took more interest in politics and governance.”

Seth blamed Mumbai’s low turnout on the fact that people are disillusioned. “We have not motivated the youth on citizenship. We are just creating a banana republic. Everybody is a rascal here, accusing and abusing one another. We are trivialising the whole electoral process. First we should ban criminals from contesting and shame the chargesheeted politicians.... We are creating a valueless society where we don’t have the courage to speak out.”

But Ilmi maintained: “You even lose the right to complain if you don’t vote.”

Green stories

Students of Bidhannagar Government High School stage Duiti Pakhir Golpo at American Center on Earth Day. Picture by Rashbehari Das

Eighty schoolchildren invoked Mother Earth by sending out green messages through skits and posters at the American Center on Earth Day. The programme was presented in collaboration with Earth Day Network and Banglanatak dot com.

Students from The New Horizon High School, Patipukur Pallisree Vidyalaya and Bidhannagar Government High School staged plays on environmental issues and took part in quizzes.

The New Horizon High School highlighted issues like water and power wastage, plastic pollution and cutting down of trees while Bidhannagar Government High School depicted the effects of pollution on wildlife and the Patipukur school focused on deforestation.

Third gender

Team Addlife Caring Minds after the session on Thursday. Picture by Arnab Mondal

What is the difference between transgenders and hijras? Are sex and gender the same? What does the term “intersex” mean? All this and more were discussed at a special workshop on Awareness of Transgenders hosted by Addlife Caring Minds to mark the centre’s first anniversary on Thursday. Teachers, counsellors and other professionals attended the event that sought to clear doubts about the “third gender” and to discuss the real impact of the Supreme Court ruling “recognising” transgenders and calling for equal treatment.

The chief guest at the event was Calcutta High Court advocate Kaushik Gupta who explained the verdict. “This is an issue about human rights,” he said. “It is shameful that the Supreme Court had to come up with a judgment to help give some people equal rights that they naturally deserve,”

Preeti Athreya’s performance. (Anup Bhattacharya)

Welcoming the Supreme Court ruling, Minu Budhia, the founder and director of Addlife, said: “This community will finally get the recognition it deserves. They have a right to dignity and respect and should also get jobs.”

Addlife counsellors took over from her to clear common misconceptions.

Doodle dance

A dance inspired by Tagore’s doodles was the highlight of the second Merck-Tagore Award ceremony at Max Mueller Bhavan.

The 45-minute choreography, aNki buNki kata by Preethi Athreya from Chennai, borrowed from the manuscripts of Mon je bole chini chini and Bidhir badhon katbe tumi among others.

Pramod Talgeri, the vice-chancellor of India International Multiversity, received the Merck-Tagore Award, which seeks to promote cultural exchange between India and Germany.

The award was introduced by Merck, a global pharmaceuticals and chemical company, in 2012 as a tribute to Tagore. “It was the Merck family that introduced Tagore to Germany,” said Talgeri.

Tagore’s association with the Mercks goes back to when Elisabeth Wolff-Merck translated his play Chitra into German. Her husband Kurt Wolff owned Kurt Wolff Verlag, which started publishing Tagore’s works in Germany in 1914.

As Talgeri highlighted Tagore’s relationship with Germans, he also mentioned how the bard visited Germany even after the World War I to help and provide relief to the survivors.

Participants at an inter-college poster contest hosted by the Eco Club of Women’s Christian College on Earth Day, April 22. The theme was Kolkata as a Green City. Picture by Arnab Mondal

Contributed by Chandreyee Ghose