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  Opinion   Oped  03 Apr 2017  Are we still in the dark ages...?

Are we still in the dark ages...?

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : Apr 3, 2017, 2:26 am IST
Updated : Apr 3, 2017, 6:10 am IST

The Mail’s defence was that they often critique the physical appearance of male leaders as well.

British Prime Minister Theresa May. (Photo: AP)
 British Prime Minister Theresa May. (Photo: AP)

Of course, no one expected the “legs” angle to Brexit. Just around the time when Prime Minister Theresa May was expected to trigger Brexit — it was unusual to find the debate being hijacked by whether she or Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister for Scotland, had better “pins”, as the Daily Mail so politely put it. The two are the most powerful women in the UK right now and under discussion was a photograph of them on the cover of the Daily Mail — in skirts and the ubiquitous kitten heels. They are both good looking, intelligent women — and it should have been a moment of pride for feminists. There was not a single man on the horizon.

To make matters worse, the article accompanying the photograph was written by Sarah Vine, columnist and wife of the former education secretary, Michael Gove, who for some time was also in the running for Prime Minister. Was this revenge being served cold? Nonetheless, the fact that a woman journalist was being sexist and checking who has better legs from between the two female leaders, further trivialised the moment. It seemed as though it didn’t matter that Ms May was about to make the most important decision of the century or that Ms Sturgeon was asking her to make another crucial one of giving Scotland another referendum for independence. Perhaps we are still in the dark ages — discussing what clothes women leaders wear and how they look!


The Mail’s defence was that they often critique the physical appearance of male leaders as well. Oh well — but at least we could take heart that the two women leaders reacted confidently and shrugged the incident away. Even then, it was a rather tiresome hiccup in the history of journalism and one felt sorry for Ms Vine… why do hacks lose their judgment? Ms Vine has lost it publicly before when an email detailing plans for her husband’s succession was “leaked”.

Meanwhile, in these days of global terrorism, sometime one thinks that it only takes one tiny stroke of luck to get away safe and secure. I remember around a year and half ago — I was to visit France for a literature festival. At the very last minute I had to cancel unfortunately. The organisers of the festival and I were equally distressed. But the next morning I heaved a sigh of relief looking at the headlines about the barbaric attack. Similarly, a few days ago when Parliament was attacked by a terrorist, we were just lucky that Meghnad was not there. And it all happened through a series of misunderstandings. We had thought we were booked on an evening flight to India, when it turned out to be that very morning. And so suddenly programmes were changed and we left — little knowing that such mayhem was to ensue that day. It was only after we landed and checked our phone messages that we realised that what had happened. Though no parliamentarian was harmed, the number of deaths and people hurt has left the country extremely distressed.


Questions are again being raised about the radicalisation of British-born citizens. Khalid Masood, the terrorist who cruelly mowed down more than 50 people and killed four — was attempting to break into Parliament when he shot dead. While the ISIS have claimed responsibility for the attack there is no denying that many susceptible young men and women, looking for some meaning to their lives — are easy pickings for those who are determined to destroy democratic regimes. Once a person has been radicalised it would be difficult to turn back — and Masood, who converted to Islam, might have fallen into that trap.

Worse, with his history of violence — it would have been very easy to mould him into terrorism.


However, recruitment to this world remains shadowy.

Personally, we had always enjoyed the unobtrusive manner in which the parliamentary security officers conducted themselves. Now, I imagine, things will be much more strict. And the tragedy is that while the strong intelligence networks in the UK have prevented many similar attacks, it takes only one to go through — and the entire atmosphere changes!

And now let’s mull over the life and travails of little Prince George who at three is going to attend a primary school — where he will even be taught ballet. Really. The British press has revealed that he have to wear tights and ballet shoes! The school costs more than £5,000 per term and he will be first among the royals to go to a coeducational or mixed-sex school! I suppose the royals are thinking ahead so that Charlotte will also eventually go there.


The idea that there are schools which teach both boys and girls to dance is utterly charming — it takes guts to break the stereotypes which we encounter every day. However, will George be able to pirouette though all the barriers of being a future king? Only time will tell… watch this space!

Tags: brexit, theresa may, khalid masood, isis