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The recent cases of hapless women being caught unawares by groups of vagrants, raped and then brutally murdered — evidently to block detection and identification of the offenders — have justly evoked an indignant outburst from the nation. The country should have risen earlier to demand accountability of all those who together constituted the criminal justice system, when the sex crimes against women registered a sharp increase over the last few years.
The horrific cases now being reported show how lawless elements in our cities and towns, having enough money to drink together often in public space, ‘hunt in packs’ at the sight of a woman in a vulnerable situation. They display a dangerous mix of lack of fear of law, social degeneration hastened by an excessive exposure to nudity and porn and a perception that the governance of the country — pre-occupied with bigger things — would tend to leave it to local authorities and not come down ‘with a tonne of bricks’ in any individual case. This reading of the scene itself suggests what should go into the strategy of providing safety and security to women.
The issue of dastardly crimes against women, that has now become so urgent in the collective conscience of the nation, might have suffered some neglect earlier because it was caught in a hundred other points of debate ranging from freedom to choose personal life style to paucity of moral education. An offence of rape could be committed within the social circle of people known to each other or could arise out of allegations of violation made by women at the work place. On the other hand, it could be the animalistic crime perpetrated either by a gang of drunken predators who happened to chance upon a lone woman or by a degenerate who forced himself on a minor girl separated from her family members.
While the dimensions of the problem connected with the social rights of women or the revival of moral coaching of the young can be worked on, what cannot wait is the prevention of wild attacks on women and children by perverts who went undetected because they could otherwise pass off as a part of the acceptable socio-economic scenario. There is a lot that can be done to counter this hidden menace if the ‘dangerous mix’ of factors that lies behind it as mentioned earlier, is seriously addressed.
There is certainly a lack of fear of law in the sense that police oversight of the crime situation was not making any social impact and the great instrument of crime prevention — feed back from the public — did not exist for reasons that are not far to seek. In practical terms, the much needed detailing of a part of the police station strength for intense patrolling in dark hours in cities was just not there. In olden times the Superintendent of Police (SP) would make a surprise check on this by doing a night out himself or herself — say once a week. It is not clear if the DGPs were sorting out any resource issues faced by the district concerned in this regard.
A perception has to be created that there was police presence closer to the ground — in the lanes and mohallas — since availability of stringent law by itself may not inspire confidence. The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2018 prescribes death penalty for rape of a girl below 12 and completion of the investigation of the case in two months but this has not yet produced results. Not much use is made of a provision like Sec 42 of the CrPC that empowered a policeman on duty to stop a suspicious looking person on the street and ask him to give his identity, address and a reason for his presence there. Further, consuming alcohol in public places is an offence punishable with heavy fine — but, in reality, this is a law that is hardly enforced in India. Patrolling after sunset should focus on checking vagrants, ones found loitering and those drinking in public. This will certainly create an environment that demands lawful behaviour on the street.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the rise in the crass offence of rape in a society that is full of elements who barely had the benefit of normal grooming or a purposeful pursuit in life, is attributable substantially to the easy exposure that people -particularly the pervert minds-had today to nudity, obscenity and raw sex on the internet. While the hopes of moral corrections improving the society had their relevance, the enforcement machinery of the state must come into full swing to implement the available laws for establishing the desired level of deterrence. Sections 67 and 67A of the IT Act, for instance, are the most important tools to curtail circulation on the internet, of obscene and sexually explicit material respectively. Major internet platforms must be made to obey the law of the land. On nudity, apart from Sections 292 and 294 of IPC that punish obscene acts in public, the more specific Indecent Representation of Women Act 1986 prohibits obscene advertisements, publications, writings, paintings and figures. Look at the nudity in posters, magazines and the bikini clad mannequins at display all over — some prosecutions must start at least to show the intent of the state to enforce this law. Also, I&B Ministry seems to be failing to censor films and TV shows for nudity-related violation of the law.
The incidence of rape cases brings out the weakness of law and order situation in the states but it also reflects on the protraction-ridden ‘due process of law’ that our higher judicial authority on the appellate turf puts up with, even when a most heinous crime ends in conviction at the trial court of a Sessions Judge. These both destroy the deterrence of law that criminals in a well governed country must face. In India, the Centre has enough of locus standi to follow cases like those of Hyderabad and Unnao and take them to their logical conclusion. Among other things, getting a special court created specifically for an individual case that had the potential of destabilising the society, would help. Crime control may be the constitutional responsibility of the states but the frequency of assaults on women is affecting the reputation of India and calls for initiatives from the Centre as well.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi rightly used the occasion of the DGPs Conference held recently at Pune to advise the police chiefs to give urgent attention to the matter of protection of women and expressed that there was need also for the police to improve its own public image. To start with, the Centre should insist on having police stations in populous cities manned by Deputy SPs and the strength of thanas augmented to put patrolling in dark hours as a work of priority. The gazetted officers handling police stations will also in that case be the circle officers of their jurisdiction reporting directly to the SP — which will save many posts of SDPOs. Police modernisation funds should be used for sharing the burden of this upgrade — this initiative of the Centre would set the pace of reform in the law and order management. (IANS)
As kids growing up in different states, Shoba Narayan and Michael Maliakel shared a love of one favorite film — "Aladdin." Both are of Indian descent, and in the animated movie, they saw people who looked like them.
That shared love has gone full-circle this month as Narayan and Maliakel lead the Broadway company of the musical "Aladdin" out of the pandemic, playing Princess Jasmine and the hero from the title, respectively.
"Growing up, there was such little South Asian and Middle Eastern representation in the American media, and Princess Jasmine was really all I had. She was a huge role model to me as someone who was intelligent and strong and independent and beautifully curious, and that's who I wanted to be," says Narayan, who grew up in Pennsylvania.
The pair arrived at "Aladdin" in very different ways. Maliakel is making his Broadway debut, but Narayan is a musical theater veteran, having made her Broadway debut in "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" and touring with "Hamilton" as Eliza Hamilton.
She was in "Wicked" as Nessarose when the pandemic shut down Broadway in March 2020. Her agent called in April with the prospect of auditioning for Jasmine. She sang "A Whole New World" over Zoom on gallery mode, pretending to be on a magic carpet. "It was a very unique experience," she says, laughing.
Disney producers flew her to New York to meet face-to-face and go through the material again. Narayan was asked to read with different Aladdin potential actors. She got the gig: "I went from a wicked witch to a Disney princess. Can't complain."
Maliakel, a native of New Jersey, came from the world of opera, a baritone who studied at Johns Hopkins University and the 2014 winner at the National Musical Theatre Competition. He trained his voice to be flexible, waiting for the right window to open.
"I didn't really see a lot of people doing what I wanted to do in the world," he says. "There just wasn't a whole lot of representation. So it's really hard to imagine yourself in those scenarios when you have no one to look up to as a role model or an example of how it could be done."
He played Porter and understudied Raoul in a national tour of "The Phantom of the Opera," which ended its run in Toronto just before the pandemic hit.
"I always dreamed that Broadway might happen someday," he says, laughing. "I'm just kind of dipping my toes into the waters in one of the biggest male roles in the business right now, and it's kind of surreal."
'Aladdin' featured as a Broadway Musical with a cast of Indian origin playing the main roles Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Broadway's "Aladdin" is a musical adaptation of the 1992 movie starring Robin Williams. The musical's story by Chad Beguelin hews close to the film: A street urchin finds a genie in a lamp and hopes to woo a princess while staying true to his values and away from palace intrigue.
Key Alan Menken songs from the film — including "Friend Like Me," ″Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World" — are used. The lyricists are the late Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin.
The show — and it's two new leads — had a few performances to celebrate Broadway's return from the pandemic this fall before it was forced to close for several days when breakthrough COVID-19 cases were detected. The actors say the safety of the cast, crew and audience are paramount and closing was the smart move.
"This is how we keep theater going in the pandemic," Maliakel says. "The other option is to just not do it at all. And that's not an option. A week's worth of lost performances, when we look back on things in a year or so, I think will just be a little blip on the radar."
They both look back with heart-thumping appreciation at the early performances when they welcomed back theater-starved audiences, who gave the company 3-minute standing ovations just for singing "A Whole New World."
"It is every brown girl's dream to be singing that song on an actual flying carpet," says Narayan. "And the fact that I got to do it on Broadway in the full costume with the lights and the 32-piece orchestra beneath me — oh, my gosh, I really had to hold it together. It was emotional overload for me."
Maliakel recalls that he and his brothers wore out their VHS cassette version of "Aladdin." He remembers having lunchboxes, pajamas and bed sheets with the film's theme. Aladdin was "every little brown kid's prince." Now he is that prince.
"Now, finally, to get to get paid to do it on the world's largest stage — it's not lost on me how crazy that is," he says. "The responsibility of my position right now feels really great. This moment sort of feels bigger than me in some ways, and I don't take that lightly. I think it's a really exciting time." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Aladdin, Broadway, Musical, Indian Descendant cast,
Jack Daniel's is the world's most popular whiskey brand, but until recently, few people knew the liquor was created by Nathan "Nearest" Green, an enslaved Black man who mentored Daniel.
"We've always known," says Debbie Staples, a great-great-granddaughter of Green's who heard the story from her grandmother. … "He made the whiskey, and he taught Jack Daniel. And people didn't believe it … it's hurtful. I don't know if it was because he was a Black man."
But people believe it now — in large part because Brown-Forman Corporation, owner of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, has acknowledged the foundational role Green played in the brand's development.
"The truth of the matter is, Nearest Green was the first head distiller of Jack Daniels whiskey," says Matt Blevins, global brand director for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. "We're very proud of this story and are very committed to amplifying it and acknowledging that. In the past, we did not amplify it the way that we could have in earlier eras, but we're about the future and moving forward."
America's first-known Black master distiller
The story begins in Lynchburg, Tennessee, current home of the Jack Daniel Distillery. In the mid-1800s, Green's slaveholders hired him out to a local preacher named Dan Call. Green, who had a reputation as a skilled distiller, made whiskey for Call, using a sugar maple charcoal filtering process that is believed to have originated in West Africa. Daniel, a boy who worked for Call, became Green's apprentice and learned the special technique that gave the Tennessee whiskey its smooth taste.
After emancipation in 1863, when all enslaved people were freed, Daniel purchased Call's distillery and hired Green as Jack Daniel Distillery's first master distiller.
"The best knowledge that we have is that they had a mentor-and-mentee sort of a relationship, and I would say, a friendship," says Blevins. "The stories that have been passed down [talk] about the care that Jack Daniel took to always acknowledge … the Green family."
Historic photo of Jack Daniel (in white hat) seated next to George Green, the son of Nathan "Nearest" Green Image source: VOA
There are no known pictures of Green, but there is one of Daniel with Green's son, George, sitting next to Daniel, rather than being relegated to the back.
"That photograph shows the respect that they had for one another and for their families," says Stefanie Benjamin, an assistant professor of tourism management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "To be not only allowed in that photograph, but also positioned in the foreground and sitting right next to Jack Daniels himself."
Search for the truth
Green's role in the history of the brand was uncovered by a writer and entrepreneur named Fawn Weaver, who became fascinated by Green's unheralded contribution to the world's most popular whiskey. After extensive research, including interviews with Green's descendants, Weaver shared her documentation with the company.
"I was very pleasantly surprised when they embraced my research and updated their records to reflect that," Weaver told VOA via email. "I think it said a lot about the character of their company that they moved that quickly to course correct."
Jack Daniel's has incorporated Green's contributions into the official history of the brand, but Weaver has gone a step further. She invested $1 million of her own money to establish Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which is now the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in U.S. history.
Fawn Weaver (center in red) with her leadership team at Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, including master distiller Victoria Eady Butler (far left), the great‐great‐granddaughter of Nearest Green. (Photo courtesy Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey) Image credit: VOA
The company's master distiller is Victoria Eady Butler, Green's great‐great‐granddaughter.
"Uncle Nearest is the most-awarded American whiskey or bourbon of 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the fact that it is the bloodline of Nearest Green blending and approving what goes into our bottles is something I marvel at regularly," Weaver says. "Victoria is an absolute natural when it comes to blending, and to watch her work is to see something pretty darn close to perfection."
Seven generations of Green's family have worked at the Jack Daniel Distillery, a tradition that continues today with Staples and two of her siblings. But the Green family did not benefit when the Daniel family sold the Jack Daniel distillery to Brown-Forman for $20 million in 1956.
"Although they [the Green family] were very well off in terms of finances [in the 1800s] in that time, they were not the owners or co-owners of the Jack Daniel distillery," Benjamin says. "And so, those millions of dollars have been passed down through generations of the Jack Daniel family, and not necessarily the Green family."
Maturing barrels of whiskey in a barrel house on the grounds of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy Jack Daniel's) Image credit: VOA
Weaver's Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has joined forces with Jack Daniel's to launch a program that provides support, expertise and resources to African-American entrepreneurs entering the spirits industry.
Staples says her family is thrilled their great-great-grandfather is finally being recognized.
"It's kind of mind-boggling … and we are so proud," Staples says. "And to think that from here to Africa, that recipe goes all the way back. And to think that he played such an important role in establishing this company. It sometimes seems unreal. It really does."
Because of Weaver's tenacity, Green's story, although left untold for more than a century, will not be lost to history. But that's not the case with so many other stories of Black achievement and contributions to the nation.
"Part of telling his story and sharing his legacy is to give credit and to give attention to a person who, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have the Jack Daniel whiskey as we know it today," Benjamin says. "It showcases yet another example of how formerly enslaved people, Black people, African American people who have really built this country, are left out of the dominant narrative that we tell." (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally written by Dora Mekouar)
Keywords: Jack Daniel's, Whiskey, Nathan Green, Slavery, Black achievement
Cricket fans can now book the ultimate experience with the official accommodation booking partner for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, Booking.com. The T20 Pavillion, a bespoke cricket-themed luxury stay that transforms the Presidential Suite at Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel and Residences into a classic cricket stadium.
The suite offers guests an all-inclusive once-in-a-lifetime experience during the India vs Pakistan ICC Men's T20 World Cup match on October 24, 2021, packed with quirks and luxuries that is sure to satisfy even the biggest cricket enthusiast. Additionally, as a part of the experience, guests will also have the exclusive opportunity to meet Bollywood actor Shraddha Kapoor at The T20 Pavilion.
The booking window that opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021 and check-out on October 25, 2021. | Photo by Alessandro Bogliari on Unsplash
For one night only, guests can soak in the energy of a roaring stadium to enjoy the epic match on a life-sized screen while seated on comfortable sofas -- just like the luxury box seats at the stadium. They can also head to the locker room (dining room) next to the field (living room) to have some energy drinks, just like a cricketer would do or head to the bedroom, transformed into a net practice area. It's got the field, the pitch, the locker room, pitching nets and cricket memorabilia infused in every element of the room.
The booking window opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021, and check-out on October 25, 2021. The T20 Pavilion is priced at Rs 6666 only in honour of all the great sixes smashed at the T20 World Cup. The T20 Pavilion can accommodate up to four guests. Cricket fans can visit the website or mobile app to book this cricket-inspired stay. (IANS/ MBI)