Lady on the
name of the father...
With increasing disposable incomes, a new breed of women travellers has emerged, writes Mannika Chopra
Statistics say that globally, women travellers are increasingly forming the highest growth segment in the travel industry. A recent report, brought out by the Singapore-based Mastercards International, nails the argument.
Based on a survey of 13 countries in the Asia Pacific region, including India, the report shows that the ratio of men to women travellers has catapulted from a 90:10 ratio 30 years ago to a 60:40 level currently. This suggests that today 56 million of the 139 million travellers in this region are women, and by 2011, if the growth continues with the same intensity, they may even surpass men.
In India, a gender breakdown of travellers is almost unheard of. The Ministry of Tourism has no data. Trade bodies like the Indian Association of Travel Operators (IATO) and the Federation of Hotels and Restaurants of India (FHRI) also have no data in this regard.
For an accurate segmentation of 300 million domestic tourists in 2004, an intensive web search also proves unproductive. The only authentic gender information on the five million inbound tourists and the six million outbound tourists estimated this year (2005) lies with the notoriously secretive Immigration Department.
Despite this appalling lack of data within the trade and official establishment, there is an absolute conviction that women are coming into their own as far as travelling is concerned. Far from being simply part of conventional pilgrimage tours, women are travelling as business executives, as part of leisure groups and even solo.
Subhash Goyal, President of IATO, and proprietor of Stic Travels, believes that the increase in this segment has been 30 per cent over the past three years. He recalls how in the late 1970s he had organised a group of 100 women from the Lakshmi Club of Ludhiana to travel to Japan.
"At that time it was an unheard of for so many women to travel abroad without the supervision of their husbands or any male escorts. Now my company routinely organises such groups."
The upper crust hotels are promoting the security and special facilities they provide for the physical and psychological well being of their female guests. For instance, chains like the Oberoi Group and ITC Limited provide dedicated floors for their female clientele. The Leela Kampinsky in Mumbai has a wing reserved for its women guests. The Taj’s Residency in Bangalore provides a screen next to the guest’s bed to see who is ringing the bell.
Specially deputed women butlers for room service, intimate breakfast rooms, companion services, screened calls, women tour guides are all apart of the deal to make a harried women executive feel "safe" for a steep price.
Ankur Bhatia, who runs Amadeus, an online travel booking, says, many travel agencies give special discounted fares to women and throw value add-ons to their itineraries like a shopping spree to attract women.
In a sense, the escalation in this segment was waiting to happen. Ever since the 1991 economic reforms took place, travel for personal pleasure lost its exalted status. As disposable incomes increased among the women, so did the confidence levels.
"The propensity to travel was more the result of affluence than biology," explains Nina Rao, who teaches Travel and Tourism in Delhi University and is associated with an NGO, Equations, that focuses on tourism policy issues. The urge to cross the seven seas was further triggered by technology. Access to information available on the internet fuelled the market potential. Women grabbed the opportunity and were willing and happy to travel independently.
But somehow, even today, women travellers in India are far from being adventurous divas, ditching the daily grind, struggling against odds to conquer the last frontier. They don’t appear as radical disturbers of the peace. For the most part, these tourists come from elite background opting for safe group tours reminiscent of the package tours originally started by Thomas Cook for the women in the Victorian era in the 1900s.
Typically, today, independent women travellers are in the age group of 20s to late 60s. The younger travellers tend to be single, working women and more creative in their choice of destinations. The older travellers, unburdened by familial responsibility and economic disadvantages are forming a new segment: Well past their 50s, they are old enough to use prudently accumulated life savings and not too young to be hampered by demanding husbands and children.
Unlike their western counterparts, Asian women travellers still hanker for family connections, so they relish the shared experience while travelling. Women travelling for pleasure may be a privileged activity; it may not have caused a social transformation but its very presence is changing mindsets leading to progressive thinking. — WFS
The liberal attitude of the young towards sex and ‘assisted births’ with improved medical technology have made many fathers go for DNA testing to confirm that they are the biological parent of their offspring. Vimla Patil reports.
"A large number of young people in metro India experience pre-marital sex today. There are reports that women are as much a part of this sexual liberalisation as men," says Vasant Rao, a computer engineer. "So when I found my wife through the Internet, I expected that she would have had sex before marrying me just as I had had a few relationships before finding her. This was true and both of us were honest with each other about our past. But when she continued her relationship with her lover after marriage, I became suspicious. When our son was born, I chose to have a DNA test done to ensure that the child was indeed mine. Fortunately, my wife did not object."
Relaxed sexual behaviour among urban Indian women and the galloping march of medical technology have created insecurity among many young fathers, who are queuing up at hi-tech laboratories to ensure that they are indeed the biological fathers of their children.
In another case of DNA testing, Ajit Keswani, a management executive, who had a low sperm count, took his wife to a fertility specialist "The doctors said that they had used my sperm for artificial insemination. But when my wife conceived within two months of the treatment, I was astounded. I was so insecure that I searched the Net for possible remedies and located a centre where they would test the DNA of my daughter to confirm that she was my child. Such tests, the data said, was scientific and delivered infallible conclusions. I persuaded my wife to go through this for my peace of mind and she agreed because she cared about my happiness. Fortunately, we found that the baby was truly mine and we have been happy parents ever since."
However, not all couples are so lucky. In the case of Madhu and Sampada Kher of Pune, though the DNA test proved that Madhu was the father, his parents were unwilling to accept the report of the laboratory. They began to treat the daughter-in-law with utter contempt and constantly abused her, casting aspersions on her ‘character’ so that within five years, the couple was separated. "Fertility doctors and clinics cannot be trusted these days," say the elderly couple, "Making money and grabbing business in a competitive world has become the sole aim of all human activity and doctors are no exception. They want a high success ratio for their fertility treatments. So while they take the sperm of the husband, there is no knowing whether they actually use the agreed-upon method or take some other sperm to guarantee a pregnancy within a given period. Doubts are natural in such circumstances. With every step which science takes in the unknown future, human society has to face new problems." In fact, so common have such fears become that when couples go to court for paternity or divorce suits, they involve doctors and nurses in their law cases to prove their point of view. Many doctors and experts, therefore, avoid getting involved in conducting paternity tests.
Also causing concern is the old ‘cinematic’ situation in which babies are given to wrong parents in crowded hospitals by nurses or attendants who are harried and have little value for ethical behaviour. Bizarre as it may seem, many couples have taken home babies that are not theirs at all. Social observers say that this situation has come about as a result of the huge increase in India’s population and lack of authorised, well-run maternity clinics and hospitals where responsible doctors are accountable for the births of babies.
Today, the major cause for insecurity among young husbands remains the infidelity of their wives. "Sexual pleasures are no longer the preserve of men," says Kumar Rangan, a young lawyer, "Most urban educated women today have gone through several relationships before marriage and while their bridegrooms accept this social reality, both parties feel that such affairs should not continue after marriage. Security is the first and most important requirement of a marital relationship. Fidelity is a necessity in a lasting marriage and dishonesty or secrecy can make the best of marriages collapse without a sign. Young men and women who wish to create marital harmony, should be aware of the need to build trust and bonds of caring and loving with their partners."
Whatever the realities of India’s modern frenetic society, there is no denying that DNA testing labs and paternity tests are becoming available on a burgeoning scale. Such tests can cost anything from a few thousand rupees to huge amounts depending on the time taken and the methodology of the tests. But those who choose to have the tests, believe that they are well worth the cost for they bring peace of mind to otherwise harried fathers who fear that their marriages are mere tinsel if such vital information is withheld from them. DNA tests are available at the Centre for DNA Finger-printing and Diagnostics (CDFD) in Hyderabad. The number of cases coming to this centre has been increasing sharply in the recent past.
Television channels, especially the cartoon network, increasingly occupy a child’s mind space these days, writes Jyoti Singh.
THE main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth. —Erasmus
Children traditionally have been looking up to their parents, teachers and other members of the family as role models. In the absence of TV and radio, they would draw on their limited experience of meeting various people to look for inspiration. Teachers and parents instilled in them virtues of order, discipline, reason and humility.
A child today may no longer look upon people around him as role models. A plethora of television channels for children, especially the cartoon network, fill the child’s mind, replacing icons of the past like Swami Vivekananda, the Buddha, Jagdish Chander Bose, etc as role models.
Children love to identify with child-heroes of movies like Home Alone. They are fascinated by stories of Harry Potter, Batman and Spiderman. Video games are no exception either. Television has been a powerful force for amalgamation of ideas and values across nations, universalising certain symbols like Mickey Mouse and Tom and Jerry to the point where they lack any cultural identification. Such programmes keep the children glued to the television screen, reducing them to mere couch potatoes. Apart from posing a serious health hazard, this kind of passivity reduces their social interaction too.
Cartoon serials and video games have become profitable enterprises these days. Watching or playing them also affects the attitude and the behaviour of the children. Violence shown in serials even where the good fight the evil leaves a negative impression on the psyche of the child.
The markets these days are flooded with Pokemons and Beyblades. A Beyblade costs anything from Rs 250 to Rs 1,000 and even more. Submitting to the children’s demands, parents sometimes spend beyond their means. It is in the interest of broadcasters and advertisers alike to attract a large clientele and get the best possible returns for their clients.
Children exposed to casual depiction of crime and violence on television, in comic books, movies, etc have been known to be maladjusted or aggressive at times and they may also exhibit delinquent behaviour. Besides, such behaviour could manifest when they grow up.
Cartoon serials should aim at developing aesthetic taste among children, which is not always the case. We should ponder whether we are so bankrupt culturally that we have to depend on cartoons strips and serials of foreign origin to entertain our children. Why can’t we draw inspiration from our rich, native literary heritage—Panchtantra, Vikram Betaal, etc— and other stories of Indian origin that not only entertain but educate as well? We could make animation films on these popular stories and on the lives of great Indian heroes like Pherozshah Mehta, Maulana Azad and C. Rajgopalachari, to name a few.
MIHIR BHATIA had tried everything. From Hibiscus juice to Chinese concoction, homeopathy, allopathy and naturopathy he had done it all. Nothing, however, proved to be useful. As the few hair on Mihir’s head grew scarcer by the day, he plunged into deep delves of depression.
Mihir Bhatia is a typical example of thousands of young men across the globe who go bald every year. In fact, according to recent statistics a major section of the adult male population globally suffers from the typical male pattern baldness.
This form of baldness usually begins in the teenage years, and becomes more common as men age. The latest scientific research reveals the male hormone, testosterone, is converted to another male hormone, 5-DHT, in the hair follicles. In genetically susceptible men, the hair follicles on the front and top of their scalps will begin to miniaturise (become more fine causing hair not to grow as long) over the years, under the influence of 5-DHT. Eventually the hair completely disappears causing typical male pattern baldness.
Over the years physicians have tried to find a cure for this problem that afflicts majority of males in the society. In fact, men have been attempting to treat their hair loss for over 5000 years, beginning perhaps with a compendium of medical knowledge, dating back to approximately 3500 BC that included prescriptions for hair loss treatment.The Ebers Papyrus, discovered in Luxor, is the oldest complete medical text ever found. It is devoted to treatments for skin diseases and cosmetic conditions, and includes the oldest known prescription for treating baldness. The prescription is for a mixture of iron, red lead, onions, alabaster, and honey which was to be swallowed, after first reciting a magical invocation to the sun god.
The father of modern medicine Hippocrates too tried his level best to find an anti- baldness treatment. He created a mixture of opium, horseradish, pigeon droppings, beetroot, and various spices applied to the scalp. It didn’t work. In fact, Hippocrates eventually became so bald that extreme cases of baldness became known as "Hippocratic baldness".
Hippocrates, however, was among the first to note that eunuchs never went bald. He thus summarized that "Castration before and after puberty stops baldness." Approximately 2,400 years later, in March 1995, researchers at Duke University published the same results. It was noted that "While castration may be a cure, it is not commercially acceptable". The search for hair loss cures went on.
In ancient India, kabirajes or traditional doctors always had cures for hair loss if diagonised at a proper stage, says Kabiraj Nityanad Ghorai of Kolkata. In Ayurveda, hair is considered to be a byproduct of bone formation. The tissues responsible for building bones are also responsible for the growth of hair. Ayurvedic doctors believe that early hair loss is related to body type and the balance of the mind-body constitution or doshas. "Individuals who have excess pitta in their system, are likely to lose their hair early in life, or have prematurely thin or gray hair. Excess pitta in the sebaceous gland, at the root of the hair, or folliculitis can make the person start losing hair," he says. Hair loss is treated in Ayurveda with a combination of diet, herbs, oil massage, meditation, aromatherapy, breathing and yoga.
The latest buzzword in this hair care scenario is Trichoanalysis which helps to determine three important technical fundamental parameters of the hair and the condition of the scalp. This check reveals the exact cause of one’s hair problems resulting into tailor-made treatments carried out using trichological medicines and Tricho-active products.
However, in extreme case of baldness, where the roots of the hair are dead, camouflage or hair transplantation seems to be the only solution. During hair transplantation, a strip of hair filled with follicular units is removed from the back of the scalp and then placed into the front of the scalp where it is balding. The follicular unit of hair is removed during transplantation in a narrow strip and then that area is sutured so that nothing is left open.
After healing, this leaves a thin white line scar that is not visible unless you shave your scalp. The follicular units of hair from this strip will grow wherever it is planted just as it did in the back of the scalp. This is known as donor dominance. The replacement hair from transplantation will last a lifetime. It is not susceptible to male pattern baldness. — TWF