Twelve years ago, in 2000, my hometown witnessed one of the most horrifying attacks it had ever seen. You can read about the Arti Shrivastav acid attack here, a case that shook an entire city. Because incidents like these always shake cities and sensibilities. For a while. A few years later, one of my cousins told me about the pepper spray she carries with her and how she’s had guys follow her in car and how she’s had some very narrow escapes. Then there was that night I spent on the Blank Noise website trying to understand how rating women(something that me and most of my friends – male or otherwise – had/have occasionally indulged in)  classifies as eve-teasing(about the same time I learned not to use the C-word while talking about people from the North-east).

And then, there was the Guwahati incident.

This is one of those posts which can be regarded as an aftermath of that incident. I’ve read a lot of them lately. There’s Localteaparty on teaching your son some lessons. There’s daddy_san with a flowchart. There’s Lavanyan’s two cents(which has a link to a DIY tutorial on making a pepper spray). Calamur draws a parallel with Draupadi in her column. There’s subfusced on violence against women. There’s Sandygrains on her experience (with a video on self-defense). And then there’s UnnamedEntity’s post(of a series) and Krtgrphr’s on male sexuality(in the Indian context) and Natasha Badhwar’s moving post on the same issue.

I’ve never witnessed any such incident in real life but I did see a few of them on Youtube(there was one in Mumbai where this guy was beaten up and his girl molested). The Guwahati incident was the first, in-your-face account of mob brutality that I had seen. But more than that video, I found Natasha’s account(link above) disturbing. Disturbing because of the sheer helplessness one experiences in that moment. Probably the same one a ragging victim experiences. Just that there’s a lot more to lose in case of the former.[1]

All this in a country that has a twisted sense of morality and an even more twisted interpretation of its own culture and history. A country whose police force is as sensitive as a rusted knob  on an 80s radio. Where the moral police is swifter than the real one and at times you can’t really tell the difference between the two. And then there’s the extremely efficient judicial system that forgets to measure up the injustice freely being delivered, while it takes its sweet little time to decide and deliver a  verdict(if at all it feels like delivering one). Then there’s the censor board that has been showing rape scenes in graphic detail in a pre-Mahesh-bhatt era, while innocent lovers had to hide behind flowers and trees. That’s been telling the audience that you need a Screaming Sunny Deol to get justice in this country. Then there’s an overzealous media and politics and people like me who have never really cared to vote or to change things.

So there are a lot of vicious circles and they overlap like a fucked up venn diagram. And there’s no point in endlessly ranting about it. And no way to fix this machine without bringing it all down and putting it together again(something I’m hoping 2012 would do, unless the Mayans were mistaken and we’ll still have this shit forever).

However, Natasha’s experience and the other blog posts had me thinking. Thinking of how technology can help where other things refuse to work.

A few days ago I read about the 1is2Many initiative. As a part of the 1is2Many initiative, the department of health and human services organized an app challenge that “encourages the development of applications that provide college students and young adults with the tools to help prevent dating violence and sexual assault.” 32 apps were submitted in this challenge(you can read about them here) and two apps won the challenge. You can read about OnWatch and Circle of 6. There are more apps listed later in this post.

I was also thinking of other ways in which we can approach this problem:

#1 Mimicking Animal Defense Mechanisms?

Lavanya, in her post(link above), mentions how women can start fighting molestation attempts by not being silent. But that’s not easy, at least not always. Between fight and flight, the flight is often the easier option and safer too perhaps. We’ve been conditioned to be silent and not ‘make a scene’ and breaking that mold isn’t easy. And things could always get worse. But what if this act of defense wasn’t reactive and proactive?

I am thinking of a phone that shrieks on behalf of the victim. There’s a T-Mobile phone that does that. What if there was an app that a girl could activate/use to create a scream that could disorient her attackers and attract attention at the same time? In case of drunken assaults, such an act could surely startle the attackers and give the victim a window of opportunity. I do have my doubts as to the efficiency of this method but I’d like to see someone try. Instead of a scream, an app may use crowd voices/alerts/police signals or a number of other sounds and see if any of them are effective. If a phone’s speaker isn’t powerful enough, speakers/devices that could be attached to bags, kept in pockets – basically something that someone’s able to carry around without attracting any eyeballs – could be designed. Who knows?

(Check out the YWCA app – – it also works by simply shaking the iPod)

I’m just thinking aloud here(which I’ll probably do a lot in this post) but there could also be a way of using light as a distraction. An app or a device that can create a blinding flash of light? The only con of this method is that it may probably disorient the victim as well.

and then there’s the skunk.

The skunk has a crazy defense mechanism where it uses a scent gland to spray a chemical with “a highly offensive smell that can be described as a combination of the odors of rotten eggs, garlic, and burnt rubber. The odor of the fluid is strong enough to ward off bears and other potential attackers and can be difficult to remove from clothing. Muscles located next to the scent glands allow them to spray with a high degree of accuracy, as far as 3 metres (10 ft). The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness and is sufficiently powerful to be detected by a human nose up to a mile downwind.” [2]

Though the human olfactory system isn’t as sensitive as other animals, if there were a way to use a similar mechanism to disperse such a spray in case of a molestation/rape attempt, it’d certainly disorient the attackers. I am not sure but I feel that an obnoxious smell emanating from the victim(and something that can infect the attacker’s clothing) would definitely put them off.

Another way of achieving this may include a tagging chemical that leaves an permanent(long enough not to be temporary) imprint on attackers. If your son or husband comes home with that print on his t-shirt, there is a 50% chance that he tried molesting someone earlier that day. (Again a completely ridiculous thought but who knows)

As ridiculous as this may have sounded, there are people asking the same questions and products that are being considered by the department of defense somewhere, based on similar ideas.

Say a range of clothing armed with such chemicals, which if ripped, lets loose these chemicals. A locket or a ring with a capsule which can be crushed to release it.

Whatever works.

#2 Stun-suits, anyone?

I checked out this article on Stun-gun on HowStuffWorks and somehow, I feel, that can be formed/fitted into a dress/accessory(say buttons on shirt) which can be activated in case the victim senses danger. Or something that makes the victim’s dress statically charged so that any molester touching her gets a funny sensation(or a not-so-funny one). I am not sure how feasible, safe or even legal this is but worth imagining, no?


#3 Applications that help? (most of this already exists)

Read about Circle of 6 and OnWatch –

There’s an app to share your story on the Hollaback blog –

In Egypt, use HarassMap to report via. SMS.

Believe it or not, there’s actually a article on the topic –

There’s an app for finding sex offenders in your area(US based only) –

There’s an Indian app as well –

The YWCA Safety Siren app –

There’s this article on that’s worth a read too(with an idea very similar to @daddy_san’s post) –

We can probably borrow from these apps or build one that suits/adapts to the Indian context and borrows data from national databases(I have no clue what I’m talking about).

What I’ve also noticed from the Guwahati incident is that nothing can fuck up molesters more than people identifying them and screwing their lives. Which sounds brutal but is probably just the right amount of punishment. In that case, ideas on devices that can capture their images or record their conversations could help. In case of molestation by a group of attackers, identification becomes a concern. But that’s a lot of grey territory with privacy variables and stuff like that(till we get surveillance cameras and traffic cameras in India).

or how about using real-time updates(something like harassmap above), gathered in an anonymous format(no point asking me how, I don’t know. yet.) to map ongoing incidents of harassment/molestation on a map and alerting local residents/police stations/patrols/others? This will also help in identifying high-risk areas(I think such maps already exist for India, not sure).


#4 Elements in town planning/design?

What if our streets were smart enough to fight molestation? (and I am not just talking about surveillance cameras). So here’s the deal. Suppose on every street light, we attach a device(let’s call it The Box) that detects a certain frequency and when a victim sends out a distress signal(from any device, let’s say an imaginary one), The Box sounds an alarm that lets the neighbourhood know something’s wrong. The Box also sends this info to the police department and alerts a passing patrol to revisit that area.


Let’s extend this a bit too far and imagine in case a victim’s abducted and she activates this device. Say she dials a number(say 999 – this approach eliminates the need of a smartphone) and the service provider geolocates the device, sends signals to the nearest Box and alerts it. That way, in case of a victim who’s location is changing, the service provide keeps sending out an alert to The Box every 3 seconds, so that every time the location changes, a new box is alerted and thus the route of this abduction can also be deduced.



Extend this further and let’s say we program this box in a manner that it can only be overridden manually(that too by someone from the neighbourhood/police/something). And that it is not shutdown in say, 10 seconds, it alerts the next nearest Box and so on. This way, even if the crime happens in a remote/lonely neighbourhood, the alert reaches people who can help. Breadcrumbs, anyone? Imagine placing such devices in high-risk areas. Near pubs or discotheques or brothels or railway stations?

I’ve run out of ideas and words so I’ll stop here. Some(rather most) of this may sound ridiculous, creepy even. But I’d say they are ideas and questions worth pondering and make for worthier summer projects than that ‘library management system’. If you have similar ideas or have heard of other applications, leave me a comment. I’ll update this post with your recommendations.

If you think any of the above mumbo-jumbo makes sense and you can translate it into a device/application/prototype/something, please go ahead and do it. If you need my help/suggestion/anything else, leave a comment or get in touch using the Contact form(or drop a mail on shantanu dot adhicary/gmail).


For more horrors and such, you can try reading the Tehelka series of articles – Anatomy of Rape and The rapes will go on. There’s also this article which is in two minds about the use of technology as well(can be used to balance perspective, just in case) –


or you can choose to do nothing, which is perfectly fine by me. I’ve been doing that for the past 20+ years as well.


[1] – Personal opinion. I am aware of the horrors of ragging, thank you.

[2] – from

[3] – I’ll keep adding to this post as and when ideas/comments arrive. If you want to be updated, everytime I edit this post, drop me an email and I’ll keep you posted.


Sperm ho toh Nathoolaal(B.E.IIT-E) jaise hon, warna na hon.

After tigers, sperms are probably the most endangered wild animals in the world. Millions are produced everyday and very few actually get a chance to realize their potential. In such a cut-throat world, it is hardly surprising that an Indian couple posted an advertisement seeking ‘Sperms of an IITian’. (Not the students of Ideal Institute of Technology, Ghaziabad. The real ones.)

The couple is ready to pay 20,000 Rs. for the swimmers of any healthy, good looking IITian who doesn’t have any bad habits(apart from being studious). They are ready to compromise on height and complexion if the donor is right. They want to start a family filled with love and prosperity(with probably a wee bit more stress on the latter).

My own sperms have been moderately outraged at this advertisement and have decided to do a #OccupyVasDeferens to register their outrage. As it turns out, this advertisement has not only outraged my swimmers, but has also managed to disturb the mental peace of several IITians and non-IITians around the globe. Frankly, I don’t see any reason to outrage here. This advertisement is just a biological equivalent of every matrimonial advertisement you’ve ever seen. However the mention of a #worldfamous national institute(*cough* Jai Ram Ramesh*cough) puts this advertisement into the WTF section of major Indian dailies.

Infertility specialists from all over the country may disapprove but the couple do seem to have a point. Considering the per-capita emotions throttled in every male IITian, given the ratio of boys vs. girls on the campus, an IITian sperm is probably one of the horniest sperms around. And unlike the other horny sperms of the country, this one would be quite talented, unlike say its Kanpur University counterparts. The IITian sperm simply needs to come out of its hostel plumbing lines and become more mainstream.




However the advertisement in question could have been more detailed. For example, they do not specify whether the Sperm should belong to an IITian from an old IIT or one from the new ones would do. It also doesn’t specify whether the IITian should be a wala IITian or a M.Tech wala IITian(because an true IITian will tell you that the latter is an IITian in theory but not in practice). The advertisement also doesn’t specify any CGPA or JEE AIR that the IITian must have. Also, 20000 Rs. is just not enough. Firstly, the price has to be in dollars. Secondly, it has to be more than that awarded to any Indian Sperm ever. (unless it is an IIM sperm)

Another question worth pondering is whether an IITian’s sperm will grow up to be an IITian. I mean, as a sperm, I may have been very talented. I could probably code an Angry Bird app from the womb or play Hotel California with the umbilical cord back then. But as I grew up, things got fucked up. The same may happen to this IITian sperm. What if it decides to give up on life, like at least two characters in every Vidhu Vinod Chopra movie? What if it decides to grow up and become Chetan Bhagat? or worse, Arjun Rampal?

Non-IITians(like me) would probably use this piece of news to diss the IITs. Something that I’ve been doing since I scored AIR 5^36 in IIT JEE. Others would use it to fuel circular arguments like ‘Some of the most successful people I know are not from IIT and some of the dumbest people I know are from IIT’. But to tell you the truth, If I ever needed sperms(Biology forbid), I’d go for a politician’s sperm. Probably the smartest and richest sperm around. A politician’s sperm could bribe its way to the vagina even if it is the slowest slimmer.


MLA Sperm

Plus with all the walkouts experience, pay-rise, the ability to fuck-up every system they touch and the magic of making money where money doesn’t exist, this is the best sperm possible in the history of spermatogenesis.

If prosperity is the defining metric for selective natural selection, then an IPL sperm would be a decent buy too. I mean where else would you find a sperm endorsed  by the curviest Bollywood heroines, hugged by corporate big-wigs and frowned upon by the ICC?


(On the downside, they sometimes don’t show up in Tests)

The more musically inclined families can go for a Ranbir Kapoor-esque sperm who goes ‘AATHEY RAQ’ every now and then. Though their prosperity quotient can be reasonably questioned, there is no doubt that they’ll spread a lot of lou(and sex). Good at breaking barricades, a rockstar sperm is a great way to have a musical labour period.



And for those of use who can’t afford all these exotic sperms, we can always buy the Social Media sperm, available at a Facebook page near you.



All said and done, I understand this couple’s desire to have an IITian kid. It is 2012 and brands matter. They always have. From wedding cards to Facebook user names, our degrees and the brands that we associate ourselves with, follow us everywhere. Even into labor rooms. A Polytechnic sperm just doesn’t cut it. Everyone wants a kid that’s the human equivalent of an Onida TV – ‘Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’.

But I do wish this couple a happy married life and some success with their endeavor. I just hope their offspring doesn’t come with this tattoo:



Badhai ho, Engineer hua hai.

There is a scene in 3 Idiots where newly born R.Madhavan is in his crib and his dad proudly proclaims ‘Mera beta engineer banega’. Though I am not sure about the rest of the movie,I think this particular part is pretty close to reality. If you were born in one of the IIT-bearing cities of India or cities like Kota, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I was  born in one such city and was a part of the majority that, accidently or by divine intervention of Lord Vishwakarma, lands in an engineering college.

Not that I wanted to be an engineer. In fact I tried really hard not to become one – which shouldn’t have been too difficult considering my hatred for mathematics. You see, me and mathematics share a yin/yang, team anna/non-team anna  or Sunny Deol/Balwant Rai kind of a relationship. Still we managed to stay together till class 10th like an unhappily married couple considering divorce. When I moved to Class 11th, I had the option to say ‘Talaq x 3’ and choose between Commerce stream and Science stream. The choice was easily made – Commerce had Maths plus Accounts(another subject that involves numbers) – opting for it would been like playing a villain in a Bobby Deol movie where Bobby Deol has a double role. So I decided to go for Science. To counter the side-effects of Mathematics, I chose Biology as my fifth subject(thus getting access to a wonderful lab that had a reverse-Haryana-sex-ratio and photosynthesis lamps that would keep you warm in freezing Kanpur winters).

Now in Kanpur, you don’t take the science stream unless you want to be an Engineer or a Doctor. In my case, I could have been either. So to narrow my career choices, my neighbors and our numerous family friends decided that I join something known as IIT-JEE classes. I, being the clueless teenager(something I still am), fell prey to the cruel will of society and enrolled in one such class. It was and is, one of the worst decisions I ever took.

IIT-JEE classes are a one-of-a-kind experience. Imagine a marriage hall filled with benches. A central surveillance system to monitor students during classes and tests. A line of Four hundred(plus) students. Four hundred(plus) students, ready to trample each other to get a bench in the front row(I wasn’t a part of this race). Classes that started at 2 in the afternoon and went up to 11 in the night. Classes on weekends, weekdays and National Holidays. Tests, assignments, more tests, more assignments. It was a crazy time. Of course, all this wasn’t meant for me.

The only thing that I learnt from these classes was that I sucked at more things than Mathematics.

I gave up on these classes soon. It is easier to quit when you are not getting paid for doing something. I gave my class 12th examination and scored more marks in Biology than Mathematics. The next logical thing was to drop an year.

Don’t be surprised. That was a time when dropping an year to prepare for IIT-JEE was in fashion. So much so that I knew a few people who had been dropping an year, every year, trying to get into IIT-JEE. Most never reached beyond the ‘Pre-qualified’ tag. I didn’t even make it to that.

You see, I hadn’t learned my lesson. I still kept fighting a losing battle with mathematics.After that year, I appeared for all possible examinations – Engineering, Architecture, Medical entrance. I even went to the Delhi University, seeking admission in an English Literature course(I missed the first list at Hindu by 1%). I wasn’t cool enough for Delhi anyway. By the time the second list arrived, I was in Nagpur trying to wriggle into an engineering college. I eventually got into one and after a few more battles with Mathematics, I graduated as an Industrial Engineer.

The point is that in India, an Engineer is one of the coveted species. They(we) keep the marriage market active(you see, Doctors usually marry doctors, Engineers will mostly marry anything). They keep Manmohan Singh happy. Give them a few malls and pubs and Engineers will settle in any city you want. They’ll also leave the country for a few years and then come back and buy a nice house and a car with their ‘on-site’ savings. It is a nice scheme of things with an ‘Engineer’ at its center.

But all that is a thing of the past.

Earlier this month, some of the IIMs announced that they’ll be awarding ‘grace’ marks to girls and non-engineering students. Their argument, if you believe Times of India, is:

‘For years, every class at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) was boringly uniform. Students were mostly boys, with only a sprinkling of the other sex. In class, these young men thought similarly, used identical logic and took decisions that were alike, for they were all hardwired to behave in a certain fashion at the engineering campuses they came from.’

Now while I support IIMs on the ‘MOAR GIRLS’ part, I am a bit skeptical about the ‘Non-engineer’ bit. Now I understand how America felt when they downgraded her to AA+. I hope the IIMs don’t start hanging placards saying ‘Boys and Engineers not allowed’ on their gates. In fact, I am not even sure what they mean by ‘Non-engineers’. Most engineers produced in India are Non-engineers anyway.  The argument that they are hard-wired to behave in a certain fashion is mildly confusing. Confusing because most people who clear the CAT are hard-wired to clear the CAT. They are hard-wired to clear to the GDs, hard-wired to behave themselves in personal interviews. We are a hard-wired generation. What to do?

Thanks to this move, the IIMs have successfully quashed the dowry-benchmarking-abilities of the engineering degree. Not only that, they’ve labeled engineers as this mob that thinks similarly and behaves similarly. They have also, I feel, shifted the onus of encouraging creative thinking from themselves to under-graduate institutions(a fancier term for college). They have somehow indicated that they’ll not bother to re-wire a hard-wired brain and instead prefer pre-non-hard-wired cerebrums.

I sincerely wish the IIMs achieve what they are trying to achieve with this. I hope diverse non-male non-engineer people from diverse backgrounds appear for CAT and qualify for IIMs. I hope they bring non-hard-wired ideas to the table, behave in unique ways and achieve true Brownian properties in thoughts, behavior and ideas.

If you are a male, engineering student contemplating a sex-change/fake B.A degree, I suggest you try for some other management college which is more MNS-like in its approach and still has some affection left for engineers. And if you are a ‘female’ engineering student rooting for the IIMs, well, something is better than nothing. All the best for CAT 2011. May the grace be with you!

(Psst. Here is Pagal Patrakar’s take on the issue)