All for a fair fight
Pleasure of the binge drink
All for a fair fight
Students of a girls college in Orissa are learning traditional techniques of self defence.
Bibhuti Mishra reports
They are learning techniques of self defence but no judo, karate or kung-fu for the girls of Silpanchala Mahila Mahavidyalaya in Talcher. Instead, they take after Rani Sukadei.
Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi? Yes. Not many have heard of Rani Sukadei of Banki. Not even in Orissa, where her exploits are recorded in history. The first woman warrior of Orissa, queen Sukadei had successfully defended the independence of her kingdom in Banki after her husband was killed in war. With a sword in hand, she had led the brave soldiers and compelled the enemy to beat a retreat.
With passage of time, Rani Sukadei became history and the saga of her fighting spirit and love for her motherland sank into oblivion. But no more. The students of a women’s college in Orissa are on a mission to resurrect her memory.
Students of Silpanchala Mahila Mahavidyalaya, a women’s college in Talcher in Angul district of Orissa, have formed a Rani Sukadei regiment. Every day they learn and practice martial arts and keep themselves fit through physical exercises. According to the Principal Sovagini Devi, under whose guildance the regiment is functioning since 2001, "Training in martial arts gives the girls a lot of self- confidence, courage and pride. Our girls, inspired by the warrior queen, are in a position to defend themselves. What with victimisation of women and eve teasing being the order of the day, our girls have to be well versed in the art of self-defence. Instead of opting for judo and karate, we thought about adopting our own martial arts tradition as an inspiration. So we set up the regiment and today more and more girls are joining it."
In fact, Rani Sukadei regiment was the only women’s martial arts group to take part and give a demonstration at the state level martial arts festival held in Bhubaneswar recently. Their sword fighting came in for a lot of praise from the experts too. Guru Nakula Sahu who is all praise for the dedication of these girls is training them.
Their inspiration goes much beyond
martial arts. Some of the girls reveal, "Rani Sukadei was known for
her kindness and broad mindedness. After the enemy king was taken
captive, he was set free later. On the one hand, she was bold on the
other hand; she had motherly affection and love. She stands as an
example of Indian womanhood, the role model for us to follow."
Pleasure of the binge drink
I hate it when middle-class people go on about how life isn't fair and - now while I go on to defend, in a very middle-class way, a middle-class pleasure, that of the binge drink.
But someone has to. After all, John Reid is too busy defending working-class pleasures such as smoking: "As my mother would put it, people from those lower socio-economic categories have very few pleasures in life and one of them they regard as smoking," he said in June this year.
So I will take it on myself, because someone has to: the defence of our right to drink a unit, or six, at the end of a working week.
I was born in the late 1970s, and for those of us with no real gripes, no experience of hunger or world war, or life before the welfare state, our lifetimes have been one long whirl of stopping us having fun. Alcohol has been the only way left to enjoy ourselves.
First came the anti-drugs message. During the mid-Eighties the children's drama Grange Hill gave a character, Zammo, a heroin addiction, and off the back of this the cast released a single - "Just say no". Catching me and my peers in our impressionable pre-teen years, many of us took this message to heart. Plus, what was there to rebel against when our parents were of the first generation to experience widely available drugs, or to know someone who did. Some friends had parents who offered them their first spliff.
Where's the fun in trying illegal things with parental blessing? No, drugs for Nineties children just didn't do it. The harder drugs, the ones that people wanted to try - well, who could afford an ecstasy tablet for a nightclub or some cocaine for a Saturday night? Pills for a few pounds and cheap coke flooding the streets is a Noughties phenomenon. For us, it was unaffordable on the pre-minimum wages paid by lousy Saturday jobs.
Then in the 1990s, the decade in which I lived all my teenage years, came the anti-sex drive. Despite free and available contraception and the general acknowledgement that sex in itself is not bad, no one ever did it.
We were the children who grew up knowing about Aids, understanding that there were more severe consequences of unsafe sex than an unwanted pregnancy. We had magazines devoted to telling women that it was okay to say no, and we took it to mean that you should say no.
To grow up in the 1990s was to grow up with the knowledge that you were likely to live a long life. Not for us the fatalistic attitude of those who grew up during the Cold War, when the world could end any day so you might as well enjoy it.
No, we grew up in the knowledge that we were destroying the world, but we were doing it slowly, through greenhouse gas emissions and holes in the ozone. We couldn't even use our aerosol deodorants without feeling guilty. Yet this damage was going to affect future humans, not us. We were going to live long lives working in dull jobs in the service industry and ending life surviving on pensions that were already in the middle of crisis.
In the 198os, it was okay to make money, it was even encouraged. In the 1990s, to have money was an embarrassment. No longer could we go and work in the City and earn some cash straight after school. Even if we could overcome the social conscience, by then there were few opportunities.
Apprentice schemes had all but disappeared. Public servants were underpaid and undervalued. The best option was to stay studying for as long as possible and then worry about it afterwards.
Even at university the children of the 1990s had a miserable time. No student grants meant leaving university thousands of pounds in debt. Yet we couldn't even be bothered to be angry. No student shouted in the Nineties.
I had thought university would be the time of protests and marches and picket lines. And what did I find was the issue of the day? A debate over whether to change the name of the students' union building, called the Steve Biko building, to the Malcolm X building.
And then, instead of building up support against Section 28 or against tuition fees, what did the Labour Club do? It campaigned that the union be called the Denzel Washington building, the name of the actor who played both Steve Biko and Malcolm X.
So what was there left for us in a world ruined by sex education, drugs awareness and environmental awareness? Drink of course, particularly with this vast array of pretty looking bottles of sweet-tasting liquid, the alcopop. And we took to alcohol like people never had before, with excessive drinking, especially among girls, becoming more prolific than ever.
And is it going to kill us? Unlikely. For most of us, we'll get jobs that require no hangover, families that need looking after and interests that involve being able to focus, before we cause irretrievable damage to our livers. Just as very few of the dopeheads of the 1960s lived their adult lives through a fug of smoke, so will most of us give up the binge just as soon as we need to stop seeing double in order to jump in our four-by-fours and pick up the kids from ballet classes.
In the meantime, stop denying us our middle-class pleasures.
Writer and actress Meera Syal has made it to the list of the most powerful Asians in the UK media published for the first time by Asians in Media magazine.
According to the BBC, the list largely featuring executives in the media industry was topped by TV executive Waheed Alli, with Syal named as the second-most powerful by a panel put together by the magazine.
While studying at Manchester University, Meera Syal won the National Student Drama Award for her play One of us. She appeared in the show Sammi and Rosie Get Laid in the late 1980s. A role in Band Of Gold followed but it was the sketch show, The Real McCoy that introduced Meera to the nation as a writer. BBC2 has enlisted Meera for the drama on the convicted fraudster Joyti De Laurey, the PA who stole millions. Goodness Gracious Me and Kumars at Number 42 brought further recognition to Meera, who also co-authored Bombay Dreams. Proud of her Indian roots, she was aware of her racial difference from an early age. At school, Meera was not a victim of racism, but was picked on because she was ‘mouthy’.
"I’d grown up with the lads in the yard, I’d hit anyone if they called me names… we were all at the bottom of the social pile. We had that in common." She lived in a ‘little India’ – a world preserved by her parents and an extended family of ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ who weren’t blood relatives but connected by something deeper, India. As a child, she always felt the need to do something different and follow her heart. From a young age, Meera wanted to do something creative with her life but didn’t feel that she could. Her parents had hoped for her to become a doctor.
When she told them at 15, that she didn’t want a career in medicine, her parents accepted it. But her father gave her some advice ‘Whatever you do, be bloody good at it, better than the White person next to you. That’s the way it is." And, luckily, that is the way it has been for Meera.