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Free speech, free post

>> We have written about R Jagannathan’s excellent web-zine First Post in another context recently, but for our money G Pramod Kumar’s essay on the site is one of the finest comments on the shocking arrest of Shaheen Dhada and the State assault on free speech.

“The death of Bal Thackeray on Sunday was marked by a deluge of encomiums from the entire spectrum of politicians, businessmen and the Bollywood-elite,” writes Kumar, adding, “But a day later, things have completely changed, thanks to two faceless young girls in Mumbai who spoke their mind on their Facebook pages and subsequently got picked up by local police… The world has changed and the Indian politicians and governments will have to ultimately change.

There will be a million Shaheens forcing this¬†change in contemporary India.”

Another one bites the dust?
>> Word has come in that the lovely Nonita Kalra, Elle India’s attractive editor who combines a certain gamine charm with a strong head on her shoulders has put in her papers after almost 14 years with the fashion glossy.

As far as media moves go, this is a veritable storm in a C-cup as Kalra has been known to be one of the country’s longest serving eds and credited for building the magazine.

We sought a clarification from Kalra on the subject as we went to press but none has been forthcoming so far. Meanwhile, we hear of the imminent resignation of four members of her editorial team

At the feet of the Master
>> Next week we will have the privilege of hearing His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak in Mumbai on World Compassion Day, organised by Pritish Nandy.

‘World Compassion Day is a forum for dialogue and exchange with some of the world’s foremost apostles of Ahimsa and Compassion’ he writes. We like!

Heart and sole by Malini
>> Malini Ramani, the dimpled daughter of leading socialite and activist Bina Ramani is involved in a sole-enhancing experience. The talented designer has launched a collection for the iconic Bata shoe company called ‘Malini for Bata’.

On inspection, the slippers seem to be a fashionable spin on the hardy Kolhapuri chappals that we have grown up wearing. A perfect accessory for Malini’s international chic resort wear we think.

Vive le difference!
>> The first transgender person we met was Farrah (nee Faroukh) Rustom, the long limbed, high strung piano teacher who used to accompany us members of the Round Table (a spiritual and philanthropic organisation in Juhu run by the late great Parsi spinster Jer Jussawalla) on field trips to Matheran where he would endeavour to introduce us to the fine prose of Oscar Wilde.

Rustom was your central casting transgender and it came as no surprise when as a young adult, we were reacquainted with him in his new avatar as the glamorous Farrah Rustom. Since then, we have known many transgender people, from Kamatipura’s Shabana ‘Asli chatiwalli’ who we profiled in a cover story called ‘Walking the Wild Side’ on Mumbai’s seedy underbelly for the Illustrated Weekly of India, to scions of leading industrial houses to celebrity sportspeople like Pinki Pramanik and the recently deceased Aida Banaji.

Their lives have been examples of courage over insurmountable odds and of grace under pressure. In pop culture too, the presence of transgender people has elicited admiration and interest. One of our favourite characters in ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ the brilliant non-fiction novel by John Berendt (who we met at author Siddharth Shanghvi’s a couple of years ago) was Lady Chablis — the fast talking transgender showgirl ( who played herself in the film version of the book to great accolade).

Wikipedia describes a transgender to be ‘the state of one’s gender identity (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one’s assigned sex (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex). Transgender does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation’, it says. Famous transgender people include American filmmaker Lana Wachowski, Canadian rock musician Lucas Silveira and Rebecca Allison, the American cardiologist. We bring you this information because yesterday happened to be The Transgender Day of Remembrance founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender graphic designer, in 1998 in memory of fellow transgender Rita Hester who was murdered. It has been described as ‘a day to memorialise those who have been killed as a result of transphobia, or the hatred or fear of transgender and gender non-conforming people’.

That we live in a world where people like Pinki Pramanik have to face ignominy and misunderstanding for their personal choices is a shame. And though Mumbai is always one to adopt special ‘days’, it seemed to miss ‘World Transgender Day’. We salute it belatedly and all those who struggle to embrace their true identities.

Love is blue
>> When the chips are down, there’s nothing quite like the blues.

We love the blues down to our blue suede shoes! Which is why we are looking forward to the ‘Himalayan Blues Festival’ tomorrow night at the Blue Frog (full disclosure: my family has an interest in the club).

Featuring musicians like Dhruv Ghanekar, Gino Banks and Steve Baker, it’s a night that promises to be exactly what the doctor ordered! ¬†

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