21-27 Nov, 2012
small world
Grit
The Determination of Geetha Bai

BANGALORE ~ Geetha Bai has won three gold, 11 silver and 16 bronze medals in power-lifting at the national level. In the Karnataka state championships, she has set an unbroken record of winning 27 times. At an international meet in Finland, she came heartbreakingly close to winning a bronze. And what has India’s appreciation of her efforts been? She now sells plastic carry bags in a dingy shop located inside a fish market in Mangalore. Recently, following a decision by the local administration to ban plastic bags, the meagre life that she has managed to make for herself is also in danger.

Geetha is 38 years old. She started competing in 1995. Even now she trains from 5 am to 9 am at a gym. Though she used to participate in the 90 kg and 90 plus kg power-lifting events, she has now lost weight and wants to be in the 82 kg category. “My brother died recently. I will not be able to participate in any event for the next six months as his three school-going children are my responsibility. My sister-in-law too has just had an operation,’’ she says.

She was selected 16 times to participate in international meets, but found herself grounded due to lack of sponsors. But to get awards and recognition, she needs to keep participating in international events. “Government babus tell me to spend my own money, they will reimburse me later. If I had the money, why would I need to beg anyone?’’

Geetha started off as a kabaddi and tug-of-war player. Her muscle weight and build brought her to the notice of a coach who taught her power-lifting. To practice at home, she bought weights from scrap dealers. “There were quite a few women power-lifters in the coastal belt. They were my inspiration,’’ she says.

Her juniors have jobs in banks or central public sector undertakings through sports quotas. But Geetha has to clear her tenth standard to be eligible. She continues to take the exam regularly. “In 2011, I passed in three subjects. I need to take the other three subjects to qualify for a job. But I can’t concentrate this year,’’ she says.

Take Two
Sex and the General
Contrast the Petraeus resignation with Indian attitudes to the sexual affairs of public figures

Soon after the resignation of David Petraeus as CIA chief over an extramarital affair, Subramanian Swamy retweeted this by one of his followers: ‘In US CIA director resigns over an affair..In India, person caught on pants down is a spokesperson of national party..’ It is advisable to pick and choose the stuff Swamy puts out—some of it has substance; much of it, especially against the Congress, is wild and malicious; all of it is entertaining.

This one appears to have merit on the surface. If the director of the CIA has to resign, how does Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the subject of that tweet who was caught on camera, stay unaccountable? Or to draw the larger point, how is it that extramarital affairs of Indian politicians have almost no bearing on their public life? ND Tiwari fathered a child and has been humiliated by the courts into accepting it. Even a CD of his cavorting with prostitutes became public. But he still seems to be politically erect. Nehru’s affair, platonic or whatever, with Edwina Mountbatten is not a patch on his reputation. Pramod Mahajan’s other life and the motive for his murder is even now a subject of whispers.

And yet, Swamy and anyone who thinks that an extramarital affair is an automatic disqualification are wrong. It is not even true in the US. In the Petraeus case, precisely because he was director of the CIA, it killed his career—the keeper of a nation’s worst secrets can’t leave himself open to blackmail. And some columnists there expect him to be contrite for a while and resurface as, guess what, a politician.

Extramarital affairs by themselves are not enough to damn a person. On a moral plane, it is not the sex that is wrong, but the deception involved. For a politician, the argument would go like this: if he is capable of cheating his own wife, why would he not cheat the public? In India, we are however half a century away from such a question because most politicians are seen as dishonest at every moral level possible. Cheating the wife is just part of the rounded personality. There is no outrage, only the mirth that he got caught. And no one gets fired for making people snigger.

Back Off
Say Whaat?

A great way to get over a scandal is to show the paparazzi your backside. That’s what Twilight’s Kristen Stewart did. The star, who is still reeling from the media and fan backlash on her affair with Rupert Sanders while she was dating her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson, turned up for the premiere of Breaking Dawn 2 in a let’s-show-it-all getup. The nude colour see-through dress showed a lot of leg, torso and yes, butt. She effectively made sure nobody asked her if she had been a bad girl. They only said how hot she looked.