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Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Sunshine and Shock-Horror

Mumbai News : This week’s noise: With the objective of hiring educated young graduates who could provide empathy and assistance to senior citizens who for one reason or the other live alone, the venture hopes to address the needs of this vulnerable demographic of India’s 15 million elderlies, in order to improve their outlook, health and emotional well-being Malavika’s Mumbaistan.

A ray of sunshine emerged this week when corporate legend Ratan Tata (ably supported by the thirty-year-old mop-headed, bright-as-a-spark general manager of his office, Shantanu Naidu) unveiled Goodfellows, India’s first companionship start-up for elders.

With the objective of hiring educated young graduates who could provide empathy and assistance to senior citizens who for one reason or the other live alone, the venture hopes to address the needs of this vulnerable demographic of India’s 15 million elderlies, in order to improve their outlook, health and emotional well-being.

“Companionship means different things to different people,” said the Cornell -educated Naidu, a fifth-generation Tata employee, whose presence by Mr Tata’s side appears to have galvanised the business leader to spend his golden years taking up causes and enterprises at the very core of his heart and the perceived Tata ideology.

Indeed, images of the octogenarian corporate statesman alongside the delightfully un-corporate-looking Naidu, bursting with youthful energy and empathy in a bright green kurta, is perhaps the start-up’s most winning endorsement, a paean to the benefits of intergenerational relations.

In fact, it has long been proven that the old and the young (indeed people across every demographic persuasion) can only benefit from each other’s company. The elderly by offering their wisdom and equanimity culled from life’s experiences and the young with their enthusiasm and energy, can enhance each other’s lives in a myriad of different ways. It is a win-win situation and it is to Tata and Naidu’s credit that they have given the concept a business structure and a formal vision.

Already, over the past six months, the team at Goodfellows is said to have successfully completed a beta version receiving 800 applications from young graduates looking for employment. And there are plans to roll out in Mumbai Pune, Chennai and Bengaluru over the next few months.

“You do not mind getting old until you get old. Then you find it’s a different world.” Tata had stated poignantly in his speech at the launch.

Of course, this view on ageing has been delightfully challenged with a rash of images of ageing but still, very glamorous senior citizens like Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Halle Berry and Salma Hayek amongst others, who obviously refuse to go gentle into that good night, flaunting their well-toned, tanned (and certainly airbrushed) bikini body pix recently on social media, proving, that age is just a number and you’re only as old as you feel.

***

The shock horror felt as a result of the brutal and senseless stabbing of one of the most celebrated symbols of free speech Salman Rushdie in New York was palpable. From being regarded as a major security breach, that took place ironically at a seminar to highlight how the US was a safe haven for literary exiles, to the more dismaying evidence that religious extremism stares us in the face and threatens the world, at every corner, the author’s fans, friends and champions of free speech were momentarily left speechless.

“You do not mind getting old until you get old. Then you find it’s a different world.” Tata had stated poignantly in his speech at the launch.

Of course, this view on ageing has been delightfully challenged with a rash of images of ageing but still, very glamorous senior citizens like Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Halle Berry and Salma Hayek amongst others, who obviously refuse to go gentle into that good night, flaunting their well-toned, tanned (and certainly airbrushed) bikini body pix recently on social media, proving, that age is just a number and you’re only as old as you feel.

***

The shock horror felt as a result of the brutal and senseless stabbing of one of the most celebrated symbols of free speech Salman Rushdie in New York was palpable. From being regarded as a major security breach, that took place ironically at a seminar to highlight how the US was a safe haven for literary exiles, to the more dismaying evidence that religious extremism stares us in the face and threatens the world, at every corner, the author’s fans, friends and champions of free speech were momentarily left speechless.

In India, the land of his birth there was further anxiety that one of the country’s most brilliant sons born in the same year as its birth as a republic, who in fact so famously ‘had been mysteriously handcuffed to history; whose destinies in- dissolubly chained to those of his country,’ must not succumb to his grievous wounds, on the eve of the country’s 75th birth anniversary. After all, the inherent symbolism in such a tragedy would have been too unbearable to consider.

Fortunately, with timely medical intervention and what must be superhuman reserves of his resilience the much-beloved author despite suffering life-threatening wounds was reported to be rallying and news that he had been taken off the ventilator and regained some of his ‘feisty defiant humour’ brought reassurance.

The attack on Rushdie also saw a spate of people sharing a profusion of memorabilia concerning the author. From old interviews with him to stories of his childhood In Mumbai and experiences of random encounters and personal recollections of the impact his books had on their own lives, social media and everyday conversations were rife with Rushdie-remembrances as if he’d touched the lives of countless individuals; this, in fact, is a common concurrence in the age of hectic social media interaction and increasing offline isolation. No sooner has news of the demise of a famous personality been announced, like in the recent cases of Issey Miyake and Olivia Newton-John and there will be a torrent of posts stating how deeply and personally affected people are by the news.

Could this really be the case, or is it more that such emotive instances give people an excuse to make common cause with others, in a world where they feel increasingly isolated and alone?

When we collectively mourn the passing of distant icons so personally, could it be that actually what we are mourning is ourselves and a way of life we’ve lost?

***

What can one say about the release and subsequent feting of Bilkis Bano’s rapists and the murderers of her family? I watched as legal luminary after legal luminary tied themselves up into knots arguing about the legal merits of their release.

And of course, heard the plethora of whataboutery that was thrown at those appalled by it. From the unspeakable violence that is being faced by Kashmiri pandits to the crowds that showed up at the funeral of Yakub Memon, to the acquittal and reinstating of rape -accused Bishop Mulakkal the arguments went on and on.

But whatever the legal worth of the case there is no denying the fact that morally it has left a legion of people appalled and given international India baiters one more reason to critique the country.

Surely the powers that be must care if for nothing else at least about the optics of rape and murder convicts being garlanded?

And, is there no concern for how these things will be received by the general populace- especially womenfolk across the electorate at all? And isn’t the absence of that, among the most worrying issues of all?

Of course, no less searing is the murder of the Dalit boy in Rajasthan, beaten to death by his school teacher for touching a pot of water reserved for upper-class Hindus.

Extremism, brutality and crimes against humanity are not the preserve of one community alone and no amount of whataboutery can remove the concern of sensible Indians everywhere that perhaps VS Naipaul (who had he been alive would have celebrated his 90th birthday last week) was right in what he wrote in his 1990 book A Million Mutinies Now: ‘The liberation of spirit that has come to India could not come as release alone. In India, with its layer below the layer of distress and cruelty, it had to come as a disturbance. It had to come as rage and revolt. India was now a country of a million little mutinies.”

one hopes not.

***

As for the pre-release jitters around the much-awaited Brahmastra, hopefully, these extreme levels of toxicity polarisation and hatred of the other will abate and good sense will prevail and we can go back to the days when films were watched -or not watched- on their merit alone and not for their political implications.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by GOVT.in staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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