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Salil Kumar | January 20, 2004 02:00 IST

If the hymen is torn, does it mean the woman is not a virgin?

This was one of the three questions that I fielded from Shivi Kumar, a member of Right Now, a youth organisation that works in areas of youth and sexuality.

Right Now was set up by a dozen college students and operates in the cities of Pune and Kolkata, Shivi said.

It is one of the few outfits at the International Youth Forum not to have any political affiliations, she added quite proudly. "We are totally dependent on donations," she said.

Coming back to my grilling. Shivi asked me to close my eyes and place a finger on a chart divided into squares. The squares were of three colours and the questions would depend on where I placed my finger.

And if I got all questions right, there would be a prize for me. I asked Shivi what the prize was and she said, "It is a surprise."

The next two questions were of the true and false type:

Can a man rape his wife?

Can a man cure an STD by having sex with a virgin?

Pretty elementary stuff, you would think, but it is amazing how many people are clueless about these things.

Anyway, Shivi informed me that I had passed the test and reached into a box to get my prize, condoms, and not surprisingly Nirodh.

Who is he? Bob Marley?

Ashok Anjara, a member of the Democratic Youth Federation of India and one of the delegates at the International Youth Forum, sounded disappointed.

Like all wannabe revolutionaries, his idol is the South American legend Ernesto 'Che' Guevera.

"I have read everything about his life, his work," Ashok, who had on him a T-shirt, a key chain and a badge with the legend's photo, said. "He died so young! He dedicated his life to a cause. And that how a life should be – dedicated to a cause."

At this point, I tried to veer the conversation and remarked that perhaps no one else's face had adorned so many merchandises.

"But you know," he said, "there are still people who do not know who he is! I have had people come up to me and ask, 'Is that Bob Marley?'"

"One asked if it was the European footballer Hernan Craspo."

But the best was this: "There was a guy who came and asked me if I had converted. When I said no, he asked, 'Then why are you wearing a T-shirt with Jesus Christ's mug on it!'

"I mean I can understand the Marley part, but Christ…"

'Please spit here...'

On the opening day, around 60 students and workers from the Loyola College in Chennai took out a march.

In the hubbub, they danced and sang in Tamil, and raised a lot of dust.

They held cardboard dustbins on which anti-American and anti-globalisation slogans were written. Also written was this message: 'Please spit here.'

"We are protesting against the WTO and globalisation," John Alen, a student, said. "By spitting here people will spit on globalisation. It is also a good way to maintain cleanliness at the venue."

Just do it...

I think I now know what the height of globalisation is -- a dyed-in-the-wool socialist wearing Nike or Reebok sneakers and raving and ranting about the need to boycott American goods and smash imperialism.

It is a sight that one witnesses often. Asked, a couple of them gave identical answers: "What options do we have."

Yet another said she was not wholly against globalisation, but only "certain aspects of it".

Methinks they should walk the talk. To borrow a line from an imperialist company -- Just do it.

All fundas clear

College students from Mumbai seem to be free of ideological encumbrances. Most of them at the IYC are working in the capacity of 'volunteer' and can be seen feverishly running around, lending a hand wherever there is a need.

They say all the right things, of course, about how globalisation is the root cause of all evils, how equality is what the world needs right now.

And they also know all the right words.

But prod them a bit and they sheepishly admit that they were briefed before the jamboree; point to their Nokias and they say it is a necessary evil.

One student, who was against "imperialist liberation", said he was doing BBA. He added he wanted an MBA degree. Asked if he wanted the degree from an American university, he said no, IIM would be fine.

"But what will you do if you get a job offer from an MNC, a job that pays you a lot of money," I asked. He replied: "Hmmm."

A lyrical protest

Heard at a seminar on anti-globalisation:

'Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me, over me

And before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave… I'll go home to my people and be free…

Oh, justice, oh justice, oh justice over me, over me

And before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave… I'll go home to my people and be free…

World Social Forum 2004

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