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>OTHER INDIA STORIES: Dalit Women’s Venture and Deep Joshi’s Magsaysay Award Trampled by Rakhi’s Swayamvar and Other Enlightening Stuff

>Just back from India and quite a few acquaintances are asking me what struck me there other than the skin-searing heat of the summer. Well, a couple of things for sure.

Almost all summer, Indians were busy watching on cable TV a reality show called “Rakhi Sawant Ka Swayamvar” (Rakhi Sawant’s Swayamvar Wedding — roughly translated).

Rakhi, a Bollywood starlet and ‘item girl’ as she has been called (much to her hatred of that term), went on TV to choose her partner from among a bevy of hopefuls, hoping eventually to marry him. She chose ‘swayamvar’, an ancient Indian partner-preference method whereby a number of suitors assemble at the lady’s place of choice and try winning her hand through a series of challenges offered to the men. She gets to test and measure the men and garlands one finally.

I too watched some snippets of the show and in snatches found Rakhi’s quest outrageous and audacious. Audacious because she seemed to enjoy this ‘new-found’ liberatedness that Bollywood has eluded her thus far, and outrageous because she indulged in a few stupid run-of-the-mill “good wifely” things to project a certain marriageable image of herself.

Now don’t tell me you are from India and you haven’t peeked a boo into that show even once! Shame on you, for, even some of my PINK UNDIE campaigner (The Pink Chaddi Campaign) friends have watched her brazen realism.

So go here and enlighten yourself about Rakhi’s public wedding “ek khoj” where she was short of waving her pink undie ‘in your face’!

While all this went on, prominent Indian social activist Deep Joshi, who has done pioneering work for “development of rural communities”, was named along with five others for the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2009, considered as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Joshi was being recognized for “his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India, by effectively combining ‘head’ and ‘heart’ in the transformative development of rural communities,” the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said in a press statement from its headquarters in Manila.

A masters in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Masters in Management from the Sloan School, MIT, Joshi worked with the Systems Research Institute, the Ford Foundation and has nearly 30 years of experience in the field of rural development and livelihood promotion. Read more on the website of PRADAN (

Joshi’s historical achievement went through very low-key airing on cable TV. After all, Rakhi Sawant was educating the public on how to get married as a liberated woman using a method documented in the mythologies.
Also, another news almost completely missed the broadcast bandwagon.

Newspaper run entirely by ‘low-caste’, rural women in Uttar Pradesh wins UNESCO literacy award (friend and writer Subir Ghosh provides this link on his website). Here’s a portion from the report:

Writer and women’s activist Farah Naqvi, who has captured
the story in her book “Waves in the Hinterland, the journey of a newspaper”,
sums up the women’s story like this: “They have battled with their inner demons
and with the images thrust upon them by the world. Images which told them that
journalists are only educated men, demons that fed on fear and applauded and
laughed every time they failed. They have not only redefined the very male
notion of citizenship but turned the very notion of women in India on its

In the end, Rakhi’s romping home with the winner from among the 16 suitors (no, she’s not married yet… suspense!!) came out a far more important spectacle (!). Other smaller scandals/scoops also held sway over the TV-loving public. Anyway, post me your comments on any of the above or if there are parallels to the above anywhere else (someone mentioned “Octomum”).

One comment on “>OTHER INDIA STORIES: Dalit Women’s Venture and Deep Joshi’s Magsaysay Award Trampled by Rakhi’s Swayamvar and Other Enlightening Stuff

  1. Abhinav
    August 31, 2009

    >Which is why we have blogs. I often find out pertinent and important information on blogs rather than on cable TV.

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