Victoria with husband David Beckham
Forcing children to participate in fashion shows can be harmful.
— Photo by Pradeep Tewari
‘We saw Hitler in person...'
This nonagenarian looks
back and shares with Rashmi Talwar memorable
snapshots — some historically significant and some evocative and personal
hollered ‘India, India!’ into the hooter that I had made to cheer
the Indian team and watch the finest dribbling the world had ever seen
of Indian hockey wizard Dhyan Chand. This was at the Berlin Olympics in
1936. Our coat lapels flaunting the Indian National Congress flag (there
was no Indian flag then), 25 of us Indians had the rare opportunity to
watch sports history being made as India drubbed Germany 8-0,"
recalls 92-year-old Parkash Chand Mehra, who was then 22.
"Only days earlier we had sat in the Berlin Olympics stadium, where we saw Adolf Hitler in person. We saw him descend the steps of the stadium in his military uniform and inaugurate the games. The dictator had literally made Olympics-1936 a showcase for extolling the ‘greatness’ of Germany under him. Towards this end, he instituted a torch-carrying ceremony in the parts of Europe under Nazi rule.
"Berlin was swamped
with uniformed Germans and Nazi flags flying right next to Olympic
flags. Photographs of the Fuehrer sold like hot cakes, while soldiers
marched through the streets of Berlin — all this lent an unnerving
feel to the place," remembers this resident of Amritsar, whose
business of dyes and chemicals took him to different countries.
Excitedly showing rare photographs of Dhyan Chand and the then Indian hockey team clicked with his camera (Roliflex model) in Berlin’s Olympic Village, this nonagenarian said: "The visit was made possible by one Swami, manager of the Indian hockey team, who was from our Forman Christian College, Lahore. In fact, even before the Olympics, the masterful jugglery of Dhyan Chand had become legendry."
A prosperous businessman, Mehra reminiscences about two highlights of the Games: Dhyan Chand’s jugglery that defeated the German team and Jesse Owen’s (a Black) impressive victory that dented Hitler’s propaganda about the ‘superior Aryan race’.
Mehra, born in 1914 in Amritsar, incidentally shares his year and place of birth with Field Marshal Sam HFJ Manekshaw — who led India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war. They were classmates for a while at Hindu Sabha College.
Agile and with a sharp memory, Mehra recalls the aftermath of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919. Just five years old then, he admits that he didn’t hear the booming gunshots ordered by General O’Dyer as they (Mehra’s family) lived in the congested and noisy Sirkian Bandan Bazaar where the sound may not have carried. However he recollects standing near a large window and seeing men loot textile rolls and running helter-skelter. "Later, I saw troops coming to the bazaar. Our locality was agog with talk of people returning to their houses by crawling on their bellies at gunpoint. My father had left Jallianwala Bagh just 15 minutes before the firing started. A 12-year old cousin Jai Gopal was untraceable for some time and his return brought relief."
A year later, Mehra went to DAV school, Lahore, where he used to see freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai, a strong proponent of DAV institutions, almost daily in his house opposite the school. Then one day the headlines in Urdu newspapers Vir Pratap and Milap screamed of a barbarous attack on Lalaji by SSP, Lahore, J. A. Scott, during a silent protest on October 30, 1928, to boycott the Simon Commission. Eighteen days after this assault, Lalaji succumbed to his injuries. Angered by the brutality, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev along with other freedom fighters decided to kill Scott.
Recalling the assassination of JP Saunders by Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and others, Mehra reminiscences, "It was a chilly day on December 15, 1928, the last day before winter break in DAV School — where Bhagat Singh had also studied. Saunders was shot outside the police station just opposite our school. Hidden behind the boundary wall grill in DAV College, adjoining the school, they fired shots from there and then escaped. Troops surrounded the police station soon after, while some chased the shooters. Our entire hostelo was searched. The next day the confusion cleared — ASP JP Saunders was killed and not SSP JA Scott."
Looking back, Mehra smiles at the recollection of the most magnificent moment when he watched the royal procession for Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in London. George VI was the last to hold the title of ‘Emperor of India’ when India and Pakistan became independent.
On May 12, 1937, the coronation was the first televised event in history of Britain. Only about a handful of people could watch as the relay was limited. The live scene, however, held one spellbound.
Describing the royal spectacle, Mehra said: "As I stood as part of the crowd outside Westminster Abbey in London, I saw the King and Queen ride in the Grand Gold Coach. I saw little Princess Elizabeth (the present Queen, she was 11 years old then) with Princess Margaret Rose, wearing identical gowns with flowing trains and little coronets resting delicately on their heads. The event was a spectrum of activity with a galaxy of men in military uniforms, hundreds of troops — mounted and on foot — and scores of bands played martial tunes. The address of the new King was broadcast on radio. Days ahead, London was bathed in gossamer lights. Churches, banks, hotels, stores and private places were illuminated; gardens and parks were most enchantingly decorated. The Royal Canadian mounted Police looked bright in crimson coats, while as many as 600 Indians in turbans had come with trumpeters and drums.
Ten years after this event, Mehra witnessed the trauma of Partition in his hometown Amritsar, when riots broke out. Looting and hooliganism went on unabated as rumours ruled and truth became a casualty. Hordes of refugees came across the newly created Radcliff Line. "We kept an ‘open house’ where anyone was welcome. Half a dozen families stayed with us. They related stories of the maar-kaat. My family’s flourishing raw silk business was temporarily affected."
Mehra, called Angrez by friends, talks of the holy city’s Civil Lines that literally developed before his eyes. The Thandi Khui outside the summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was ironically ‘partitioned’ between Muslims and Hindus even before Partition. They went in for separate pulleys, buckets, glasses, but drew from the common (sanjaaha) water.
Mehra’s is moved as he turns the yellowed pages of a letter in a photo-album. It has been written by a German girl, Hildegard Susmann, who he has been trying to locate for the past 50 years. This Angrez, whose fitness invites envy as he takes no pills and even walks without a walking stick, says he was in love with this German. Her family had suffered immensely during World War II. However the family — half-Jewish — carried his portrait made by Hildegard’s artist mother when they were forced to abandon their house during bombardment in 1943. "I did not leave ‘you’ behind," wrote Hildegard to Mehra after fleeing Germany.
Family constraints made them drift apart. They met for the last time in 1957 in Rome. In a letter thereafter, she wrote: "A lovely dream, paradise on earth still lingers`85." That was the last he heard from her.
Despite the tragedy of losing his wife Kamlavati, daughter Rajeshwari and daughter-in-law Mini in quick succession — and all to cancer — Mehra prefers to stay alone but looks forward to the visits of his son Prem and his family. At the end of each day, Mehra quietly lays back on his rocking chair to listen to World Space Radio to update himself on the latest happenings in the world.
She spends more than £ 1,000 a month on looking good and admires Victoria Beckham more than any other woman. Welcome to the world of the average twenty-something female.
Rejecting the "have it all" mantra of previous generations, the majority of young women in the UK aged between 21 and 25 appear to aspire to being a WAG (footballer’s wife or girlfriend) rather than a powerbroking executive, according to a survey. More than half still live with their parents, only a quarter believe a career is important and a third admit that they behave more like a child than an independent woman.
The survey by More magazine of 2,000 women in their early twenties found that they were more concerned with femininity rather than feminism. While earning an average of just over `A3 18,000 a year, respondents spent `A3 1,156 a month on clothes, beauty products and entertainment.
The average young woman’s wardrobe contains 151 items, including 25 pairs of shoes, eight handbags and four hats —but only six per cent wear everything they own. Almost half — 46 per cent — have credit card debts and owe an average of `A3 3,380. Four out of ten admit that they still rely on their parents to bale them out when they overspend.
Seven out of ten say their social life is better than their mother’s at the same age and more than half believe they have a better sex life, but 55 per cent admit that they experience less romance than their parents.
At top of the ten most admired women came Victoria Beckham, followed by Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Aniston and the glamour model Jordan. Donna Armstrong, editor of More magazine, said: "This generation of young women are having the time of their lives and 23 is the ultimate age.
"Most [six out of ten] want to be a Wag — shopping and partying with their mates and having a gorgeous, preferably rich bloke on their arm.
— By arrangement with The Independent
Kids’ fashion shows are becoming an everyday affair in the region. Anandita Gupta reports
A ramp runs through a grassy patch towards the bridge of a mini pond. This makeshift ramp, erected amidst a resort’s sprawling greenery, is all set for a fashion show — for kids. In full media spotlight, this ramp has it all — pulsating music, bright lights and an eager audience made up of starry-eyed parents.
There are tees in solids for the boys who sport the snooty ‘boys will be boys look’, while the little girls walk with a verve in pinks and floral tops and ponytails. Soon, proud clapping rocks the venue.
Now, what is the other side of this fairy tale? What about the not-so-good-looking kids who are rejected during painful rehearsels? What about the less-smart ones who are pushed to the back rows with a prejudiced remark? Are we not putting the stamp of prejudice about looks on their innocent minds?
In their over enthusiasm to see their children walking the ramp at an early age, many parents in the region seem to be in a great rush to make their infants join the rat race for the ramp. And so they are packing off their kids to rehearsals for kiddie fashion shows.
Says psychologist Rajshree Sharda, throwing light on the negative side of infants participating in fashion shows, "Fashion shows, beauty pageants and F TV present a glitzy world, which children love to be a part of. And there’s no harm in the little ones trotting down the ramps sporting bright ensembles and carrying stuffed toys. However, if infants are forced to do so, it could have serious repercussions."
But are kids actually being forced towards such thing? Replies Vaishali Aggarwal, at present teaching at Bhawan Vidyalaya, Panchkula, "I’ve always encouraged my students to take up different activities for their overall development. But I’ve often felt that parents are too keen on pushing their children into the so-called glamorous activities. And children begin to associate themselves with just the way they look and the clothes they wear. It is good to be concerned about one’s self-image, but to be unnecessarily concerned about one’s looks can do the personalities a lot of harm."
Laments Ludhiana-based-executive Nirmal Singh, a mother of two growing daughters, "I’ve observed that most girls participating in kids’ fashion shows display a lot attitude. And parents glow unabashedly, as the spotlight caresses their kids. But some kids who are non-participating get the feeling that such shows are only for those who look good. Also most parents are not willing to see the underbelly. For, behind the scenes, marketers jazz up their promotions and use children as robotic agents for a greater brand recall."
In fact, fashion-conscious pre-teens have become an important target group for Pogo. Along with Mattel, the channel launched the Fashion Guru contest for which participants had to send designs based on ‘My scene Barbie themes’. The three winners got their 15 minutes of fame by prime Pogo on the show.
Argues nursery school trainer Ambika Kalra, "Anything forced upon the child during infancy can later lead to serious personality disorders. And especially when it’s something like participating in a fashion show, it’s both funny and sad to see people cribbing about their kid shying away from such a so-called golden opportunity."
Says Gagreen Saini of Fashion Revealer, an event management firm based at Chandigarh, "We are operating since 1999 but suddenly there has been a spurt in designers from Ludhiana, Chandigarh and Jalandhar approaching us for organising kids’ fashion shows."
Well parents, Page three might have taken a leap to Page one. Your kid may be sporting clothes that are bold and vibrant but don’t force your tiny tots to do something they don’t enjoy.
Any power given by law has to be used judiciously, fairly and for the good of the community. And any misuse of that power can have severe repercussions. Take the consumer courts. They got the power to issue interim orders only in 2003. And already, by misusing this power, they have invited severe criticism from the apex consumer court.
In fact, the apex consumer court, in its order of July 7, has gone to the extent of saying that in future, no such interim orders permitting students to either pursue a course or a study or to appear for an examination shall be passed by the Consumer Fora. Saying that this is not the function of the Fora, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has gone to the extent of saying that granting of such interim orders would amount to "misconduct" on the part of these courts.
The Commission’s order has its origin in a bunch of revision petitions filed by university authorities in Haryana against interim orders passed by the District Forum, Faridabad, in the case of Ruchika Jain and by the Forum in Rohtak, in the case of Parul Midha. As per the order of the apex consumer court, Ruchika was admitted to the BDS course in Sudha Rastogi Dental Sciences and Research, Faridabad, through the management quota, even though she did not have the requisite marks in physics. So she was not permitted by the university to appear for the examination scheduled on August 2, 2004.
However, on August 2, she filed a petition before the District Forum, with a prayer that she be permitted to appear for the examination. And with unusual speed, on the same day, the District Forum, Faridabad, passed an interim order directing the university to issue her a regular roll number and allow her to appear for the examination that day. Thereafter, on October 4, the District Forum issued another interim order directing the university to declare her result within seven days of the order and grant her provisional admission to the next class if she was found eligible as per the result.
Yet again, the District Forum, through another interim order dated December 21, 2004, directed the university to permit her to re-appear for the anatomy examination to be conducted on December 27, 2004 and to treat her as a regular student of BDS. The appeals filed by the university against these orders were dismissed by the State Commission, following which revision petitions were filed.
Then on March 29, 2005, the District Forum allowed Ruchika’s complaint and even directed the university to treat her as a regular student of BDS and also pay her a compensation of Rs 50,000. The State Commission rejected the university’s appeal for interim stay of this order and finally the National Commission granted a stay. Thereafter, the appeal was heard on merit by the State Commission. On examining the evidence, it held that the university was right in opposing Ruchika’s admission on the ground that she did not have the requisite qualification for admission to the BDS course. The certificate issued by the CBSE in respect of Ruchika held the candidate as successful, but physics was not mentioned in the certificate, indicating that she had failed in the subject. However it dismissed the argument of the university that a student was not a consumer. The university challenged this view before the National Commission.
In the case of Parul Midha, the District Forum, Rohtak, through an interim order issued on October 14, 2003, had directed the university to grant admission to the complainant to the BEd (regular) course. Again through an interim order dated July 16, 2004, the District Forum directed the university to declare the result of Parul provisionally and to issue provisional migration certificate and to deliver the original certificates deposited with it to the complainant. These were challenged by the university.
While setting aside all the interim orders of the lower consumer courts, the apex consumer court quoted several decisions of the Supreme Court saying that such interim orders subverted academic discipline.
Then it also re-examined the general question raised by the university and re-affirmed its earlier decisions. That is, examinations conducted by a university or a college constitute statutory functions and, therefore, disputes pertaining to these cannot be adjudicated by the consumer courts. However, in so far as matters pertaining to admissions (where fees are charged) to educational institutions are concerned, if there is any dispute with regard to the validity of such admissions or illegality, irregularity committed by institutions in giving admissions, or if there is deficiency in service or an unfair trade practice then such disputes clearly come under the purview of the consumer courts.