Tuesday October 22, 2019
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Akshay Talks About Building a ‘Society’

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But as a celebrity, I should be changing one thought. I should be influencing youngsters to contribute to a good cause. That is how we can build a society. I am doing it in my way,
Akshay Kumar at an event, wikimedia commons

Whether it is standing up for the rights of stuntmen in the Indian film industry or training girls for self-defence, supporting the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ or narrating the story of a man who took up the cause of menstrual hygiene — National Award-winning actor Akshay Kumar has dabbled in it all. He says his social work is a result of compassion towards humanity.

“I am really fortunate that God has given me fame, money and a celebrity status, and many youngsters get influenced by what I do. So, I think my whole idea of standing for any cause is to utilise the power in a responsible manner. My social work comes from pure compassion. I talk about issues that I feel for,” Akshay told IANS here.

Once known as the poster boy of action dramas in Bollywood, over the past few years Akshay has associated himself with films with patriotic themes — like “Airlift” and “Rustom” — and those with a social message, like “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha” and “Pad Man”. While “Toilet…” was about the need of toilets, “Pad Man” was aimed at spreading awareness on menstrual hygiene — both hardly spoken about subjects.

He says though he can make a lot of money from films, he also feels responsible to help in building the society.

He says though he can make a lot of money from films, he also feels responsible to help in building the society.
Akshay Kumar IANS

“If I want, I can make a ‘Singh Is King’ part 2… I know I have an audience for that. I know I can make millions of money from such a film. Not that I am not interested… But as a celebrity, I should be changing one thought. I should be influencing youngsters to contribute to a good cause. That is how we can build a society. I am doing it in my way,” he said with a smile.

The actor, 50, has become the brand ambassador of the New India Conclave 2018, which will recognise rural achievers of the country.

He says change will be visible in the society when people start focusing more on solutions than problems.

“What is the point of endlessly talking about our problems? We know what is the issue that our society is going through. The ideal thing would be find out the root cause and try to resolve them.

“The best part about the New India Conclave is that we are creating a platform where people, who resolve some problems in their living area, will share their story… So that others can follow that same idea to resolve the same issue — water, greenery and pollution.

“This conclave intends to celebrate the ideas, success stories and implement ideas. That is how we can redevelop the bonding and support among each state,” he added.

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So, what is the issue that he feels should be addressed as a priority?

“I think farmer’s issues — their problems, lifestyle, income. There should be a solution to that.”

The New India Conclave is scheduled to take place in July in New Delhi in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief ministers of various states. (IANS)

 

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Society Needs to Be Educated and Sensitised to Ensure There is No Discrimination

I was open and accepted by my friends, family and team long before Section 377's repeal

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Society, Educated, Sensitised
It has been a year since Section 377 was repealed. Pixabay

A year after the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) decriminalizing homosexuality, the LGBTQ community still struggles with social stigma and lack of opportunities, but people have found the courage to speak up and come out of the closet, says Keshav Suri, who was at the forefront of LGBTQ community’s battle for equality.

In an interview with IANSlife, the Executive Director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group shares the changes he has observed in the society in the past one year.

Excerpts:

It has been a year since Section 377 was repealed. As a member of the LGBTQ community, has the Supreme Court decision brought any changes in your life?

Society, Educated, Sensitised
A year after the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) decriminalizing homosexuality, the LGBTQ community still struggles with social stigma. Pixabay

KS: I was open and accepted by my friends, family and team long before Section 377’s repeal. However, as a community member, the judgement affirms my believe in the Constitution of my country. It means I, and several others from my community, can walk freely in our country without being made to feel like a criminal. It signifies freedom! A lot changed in my life last year. I married my long-term partner, Cyril. Though the wedding happened in Paris, we hosted a reception in Goa. I also performed in drag with my mother. It was a big day in my life, the wedding videos and photographs went viral and there has been no backlash. It is a positive change.

Since then, what changes did you see in the society?

KS: In the last one year, I see a positive change of attitude and acceptance towards the community. Millions of queer people have found the courage to speak up and come out of the closet. There is serious intent with regard to conversations and engagement with the community members. Several content creators have produced content with protagonists from the community. To name a few there’s the movie “Ek Ladki ko Dekha To”, series “Made in Heaven” and short film “Intezaar”. Also the coming out of athlete Dutee Chand is a classic example of growing social acceptance.

I see the corporate India trying to establish a connect with the community, by forming ERG groups, doing sensitivity workshops and creating safe environment. We recently hosted India’s first LGBTQ job fair, which saw a healthy participation from the community and corporates. Affirmative action is the need of the hour. I am glad work in that direction has begun. But there is still a long way to go. The community still battles social stigma, lack of education and equal job opportunities. We are giving 100 per cent scholarships for LGBT individuals at the Lalit Suri Hospitality School to ensure a fair opportunity is given to them. urge more and more corporates, thought leaders to come forward and embrace the change.

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Your group has always stood for inclusivity. But members of the LGBTQ community usually get little space in organisations. How can these places be made more inclusive?

KS: Start with regular sensitisation workshops. A lot of homophobia gets generated out of lack of knowledge. It is important to address it. I have taken session with teams at all my hotels across the country. We also do sensitisation workshops at The Lalit Suri Hospitality School and have introduced a Drag Queen Story Hour to educate children and make our work an inclusive and safe space for all.

What can be done to create a safe working environment for LGBTQ employees?

KS: It is essential to form Employee Resource Groups (ERG) and ensure the teams are sensitised. The community members should feel safe and wanted. There are issues like locker rooms and toilets that need to be taken care of. Organisations should to be mindful of their needs such as leaves etc, especially in the case of trans community. Make an effort to provide equal opportunities and benefits such as insurance. It is good to have a psychologist on board as a lot of people from the community find it easier to talk to one. We, at The Lalit, have taken the Lalit Equality Pledge that upholds our core value of ‘Respect to Individual’ and ensures equality.

Society, Educated, Sensitised
In an interview with IANSlife, the Executive Director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group shares the changes he has observed in the society in the past one year. Pixabay

Do you think the Indian society is not evolved enough to embrace homosexual people?

KS: Homophobia is a western concept. There are several examples of queer gods and goddesses in our scriptures. I believe we are an extremely tolerant and loving society, as opposed to what people think. We need to be educated, open our minds and rid ourselves of our prejudices. At some level, I feel we all are closeted. We need to open and embrace the change, and our society and its people.

How do you see the path ahead?

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KS: The road to equality is a long one. We need representation across industries and functions. We need marriage equality, health insurance, housing, education and adoption rights to begin with. As of now, the community has only been told that they are not criminals. It was said in the judgement, the society needs to be educated and sensitised to ensure there is no discrimination. The community should stand together, support each other and keep the dialogue alive to ensure equality. (IANS)