Why we need women CEOs

The appointment of Jyoti Deshpande, CEO, Viacom 18 Pvt Ltd as the co-chair of FICCI Media and Entertainment Board gives as a tremendous boost to the confidence of women.

Deshpande joins the league of five other powerful women in the media industry recently featured among the top 50 most powerful women in India in the business magazine Fortune India which include Shobhana Bhartia, Chairperson and Editorial Director, HT Media and Kalli Purie, Vice Chairperson, India Today Group among others.

Surely and steadily women are conquering every male bastion there is. From the Defence and Police forces to space, steel, real estate and liquor. An alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, Hina Nagarajan became the managing Director and CEO of Diageo India in July 2021 and in the same year in January, Soma Mondal, a graduate in electrical engineering from National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, took over as Chairman of SAIL.

With the growing list of women CEOs, the outlook of corporate India appears to be changing. According to the Business 2021 report by global accounting firm Grant Thornton, India ranks third in the world for women working in senior management positions. As per the study, the percentage of women in senior management for India stood at 39 per cent, against the global average of 31 per cent. The report also said that 47 per cent of mid-market businesses in India now have women chief executive officers (CEOs) compared with 26 per cent globally.

Although there’s decline in board chairs held by women in 2021, it witnessed an increase in the number of women taking up CEO roles: 4.7 per cent female CEOs against 3.4 per cent reported in 2018 according to the Deloitte Global’s Women in the boardroom report published by The Economic Times. Interestingly, the report also said that there was a ‘positive correlation’ between appointing a female CEO and the diversity on the board. Also, globally, companies with women CEOs have significantly more women on their boards than those run by men, 33.5 per cent versus 19.4 per cent.

Women promote equality and bring soft skills to workplace
Having women in leadership roles has proved advantageous as they bring equality and soft skills to their workplace. Especially during the pandemic crisis, women played a crucial role. According to a news report published in US News, countries led by women such as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, Germany and Slovakia have been internationally recognized for the effective response to the pandemic. The article also quoted a Harvard Business School study saying that ‘the presence of women leaders in national, local and community level governance leads to an increase in policy making that advances rights, promotes equality and improves quality of life for those overlooked in society’.

In fact, according to a report in Borgen magazine, with better representation of women in the political system, neglected sectors such as healthcare, education will become priorities.

Better representation in politics needed
The Women’s Reservation Bill that proposes to reserve 1/3rd of all seats in the Lower house of Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha, and in all state legislative assemblies for women is still pending.

In world rankings, India ranks 122 out of 153 countries when it comes to women’s representation in parliament, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020.At the national-level, while the 2019 Lok Sabha elections saw an increase in representation of women representatives, only 14% of the Members of Parliament (MPs) in India are women. At the state-level, women make up only nine per cent of the elected candidates of state legislative assemblies. If the management of the pandemic crisis by women led countries is an example to go by then clearly, the need of the hour is better representation of women in politics.

Malnutrition and equal pay package

However, despite the progress made by women, malnutrition and equal pay package continue to plague Indian women. According to a news report in Borgen magazine, half of the young women are anemic and enter pregnancy underweight.

And even when women take on leadership roles, women make 25 per cent of the income men make and generally take on childcare responsibilities, making it very challenging for women to have ambitious careers.

Supportive polices, access to education and nutrition and equal pay package will certainly pave the way for equal representation of women in every sphere of work.




“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”
-Abraham Maslow

Be it NCC, NDA, OTA or IMA, the Indian defence institutions are famed worldwide for the quality of trained (wo)men they produce. With the aim of involving the youth to create an organised and trained Human Resource, the National Cadet Corps was raised in 1948 at the school and university levels.
The National Cadet Corps is the youth wing of the Indian military which gives basic military training to girls and boys. I am an NCC cadet myself and my journey till now has been quite an adventure. The uniform had always appealed to me and I wanted to earn the name plate since I was a kid.
I got myself enrolled into Miranda House, University of Delhi majorly to be a part of its NCC Company. The reputation and legacy it holds is coveted. I came in as a shy cadet but the past 1.5 years of rigorous training and exertion has transformed me into a confident and self reliant woman. The process is physically and mentally very challenging but the toil has been worth it.
The female cadets are trained at par with their male counterparts and are given opportunities, be it marching proudly on the Rajpath or receiving training in firing arms.It has only made me stronger and more resilient in the face of life’s challenges. We, in NCC, have mastered the art of accomplishing what others consider impossible. Following one of the DG’s four cardinal principles, we’ve learned to work hard without making any fuss. NCC is a second family to me, a home away from home.
We strive to live up to the name of ATHENAS and act wisely in all aspects of life, and the experiences I’ve gathered during my time prepare me for the aspirations and goals I have.

Creativity in children

Creativity is a means of self-expression, an act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality.  It helps boost one’s confidence, relieves stress and enhances personal growth. Children are naturally creative and they need to be given an outlet for exploring this creative side of theirs. We, as parents need to give them the freedom, the materials and the space and let them blossom. They will try doing new things, once, twice, many times. They may or may not succeed in their attempts, but they will learn from the mistakes they make and this learning will stay with them. Do not discourage them. Don’t compare them with anyone else Let them climb up the ladder slowly and steadily.

In the past two years, children have definitely been missing out on creative learning. Schools have moved online and the students have not been able to interact with their teachers or their classmates in the same manner as they would have been, if they had been going to school. There, they would have been engaged in some group activity, made up charts to put in the classroom or practiced for some special assembly. All that has come to a stop now. Being with friends has a huge positive impact on mental health, brings about happiness and joy and relieves loneliness.

The Covid-19 scenario has pushed us all indoors. The easiest thing for children to do is to reach out to the phone or laptop, play some games or watch something. These gadgets can provide some relief but their lives should not revolve around them. We need to strike a balance by getting the child involved in different activities that may be of interest to him/her. Don’t push them to do anything and everything, keep their skill level and interests in mind.

Art and craft activities like drawing, painting, clay modelling, origami not only nurture your child’s creativity, they also help them focus and pay attention to details. They further improve their colour sense and hand-eye coordination.

Make reading a daily habit, maybe a bedtime ritual. Read out stories to the younger ones. Older children can be encouraged to read out to you. Keep a dictionary near them so that they can look up the meanings of the difficult words. Discuss the characters in the book. Ask what the child would have done in a similar situation. Reading fuels your child’s imagination and further helps them improve their vocabulary, their storytelling and their writing skills.

Get your child involved in helping with cooking and other chores around the house. Children can help with washing and cutting vegetables or rolling out their own rotis. They can help lay the table and clear it after the meal. And NO saying, ye to ladka hai, what will he do in the kitchen??? this is equally important for the boys too. The children can also help in cleaning the rooms, folding the laundry. They are in this process learning something, being occupied and away from gadgets. It will help them become more independent, confident and self-sufficient.

Thinking activities like Jigsaw puzzles, Word games, Crossword puzzles, Sudoku help boost your child’s logical and reasoning skills.

Children will have a great learning experience while having fun when engaged in gardening. Planting seeds and watching them grow gives a sense of purpose. You will hear them talking for long about the flowers they help grow. One can maintain a kitchen garden and teach them about different plants and vegetables at the same time.

Encourage your child to turn on their favourite music, sing and dance along. Get on the floor to sing and dance with your children. You can even make this an exercise routine which will be beneficial to you as well. You will be making priceless memories.

From board games to card games, from antakshari to dumb charades. There are numerous games one can play together as a family.  Spending time together, having some fun, helps strengthen the parent-child connection. Celebrate festivals and occasions together. Grandparents at home can also guide the children towards these celebrations. Teach the children the importance of these festivals, get them involved in decorating the house. The past two years have been full of online birthday parties and this has brought the extended families closer.

The children can be encouraged to maintain a Diary. Here they can note down whatever comes to their mind. It could be something they have enjoyed doing during the day, some lines that they have thought of. It’s not possible to remember so much over time and this diary will serve as a good reference source on a later date. Who knows, maybe they dish out some short stories or poems in this way.

The internet is both a boon and a bane. For slightly older kids who are able to absorb and understand online courses, a balance between such activities online and at home needs to be arrived at. Many children have been able to do short term courses, internships online. They have been able to volunteer with NGOs and coordinated for help during the pandemic times. This gives them a sense of goodness, of having contributed (in a small way) in giving back to the society. It further helps widen their horizon and builds their portfolio. The gadget is not our enemy, we only need to use it judiciously.

The education system needs to move away from rote learning. More practical knowledge needs to be provided. A few suggestions for that would be-

Children need to be taught how to write out a cheque, a pay in slip, understand about bank interest rates. Habit of saving needs to be inculcated in them. Open a bank account for them, encourage them to deposit money and see it grow.

They need to be taught how to act in cases of emergencies such as earthquakes, fire, getting locked in a car or in a lift. These are all very essential tools for survival.

Emergency CPR techniques is something every child and adult should be taught. God forbid if one is put in such a situation, they should know how to handle it.

RWA’s should take up the initiative of each one, teach one. The children should also be involved in it. They could teach a kid younger to them or they could collectively hold classes for the children of the house help, the guards, gardener etc.

Remember! Kids learn a lot from what they see around them. You are their role model. So be mindful and be an inspiration to your kids.

Remembering bell hooks, the undaunted feminist

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”

The world still mourns the incalculable loss of an inimitable author, professor and activist, bell hooks. The impact of her works that range from gender, race, class to education and critical pedagogy could clearly be felt as people from all corners of the world took to social media, expressing their grief and paying tribute.
Born as Gloria Jean Watkins, she borrowed the pen name “bell hooks” from her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. Some of us might wonder, “why did she prefer writing her name in lowercase?” Well, there were alot of reasons for it, this is how she explained it herself – “Many of us took the names of our female ancestors — bell hooks is my maternal great grandmother — to honor them and debunk the notion that we were these unique, exceptional women. We wanted to say, actually, we were the products of the women who’d gone before us,” she expressed in an interview with Randy Lowens in 2009. “I think it’s more important that you read my work, reflect on it, and allow it to transform your life and your thinking in some way,” she added.

Her spirit was truly unmatched, her writings sparked every soul it reached, her critical perspectives made us all wander into the path less taken and her words so powerful that they moved us all, irrespective of whatever race, gender, caste and class one was born into.
Her legacy has initiated conversations around almost every social issue and she will always be remembered for what she lived for; a black woman not afraid to call out the perpetual system of oppression and class domination, a radical feminist who was ready to shake the pre-existing feminist notions built around prejudices and exclusion, an educationist who asserted the importance of allowing students to question the dominant ideologies instead of becoming passive recepients in the classroom and an author who reminds us that we can be a part of a loving community. (All About Love, 2000)
HER WORLD INDIA celebrates bell hooks for her nonpareil boldness, authenticity and uniqueness.


Imagine waking up one morning and your parents telling you that you have been sold-off!Imagine been forced into sex work by older men and not being able to do anything at all, becoming a product to customers who come at their will and force you to do sex work all day. Shefali (name changed for discretion) a teenage girl was forced into sex work as a child, when asked about the amount of customers she was subjected to in a day she replied sobbingly, “I couldn’t tell you even if I wanted to.” She was abducted and duped and forcefully taken from her village. Several such minor girls are abducted, raped, sold-off by their own parents as minors to brothels in Sonagachi a well known red-light district in Kolkata. They are abducted at such a young age that some even failed to remember their parents faces as they were taken away from them when they were just toddlers.

This situation arises when the thought process of people is not developed enough to recognize how and why a girl child is stigmatized in our country, instead of the prevalent practice of infanticide and foeticide parents are now deeming it fit sell their girl child, she is seen just as an extra mouth that will have to be fed and will eventually grow up and drain the economic resources of the family in the form of dowry. Sometimes these toddlers were handed over to families in the city to give them time to grow-up but don’t heave a sigh to relief just yet, these girls were given enough time to grow till they were 5 years old when they were pushed to do work as domestic labour washing dishes, doing laundry and cleaning houses .On top of that they were tortured as well.

The lockdown proved catastrophic for many daily wage workers leaving them jobless and without a penny in their pocket. But as the economic distress set-in many were forced into sex work. In the 6 months of lockdown 1098, the national helpline set up by the Ministry of Women and Child Development received 27 lakh distress calls. On July 6, the Union Home Ministry issued an appeal to states in a note describing the unspeakable tragedy “Children and youth are more likely to be persuaded or tricked by criminals who take advantage of their emotional instability and missing support system. Once trafficked, the victims fall prey to many forms of unfair treatment such as forced prostitution, forced labour, forced begging, forced marriages, etc,” it said. The Supreme Court had asked the central and state government to gear up for possible increase in child
prostitution when the lockdown was lifted. A bench led by Cheif Justice of India S.A. Bobde suggested “only policing will do.”
While there are several laws in place against child prostitution to deal with child abuse cases, the Government had brought in a special law i.e. ‘The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012’. The Act came into force on 14th November, 2012 along with the rules framed there under. The Act defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years and provides protection to all the
children from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography.

An offence is treated as ‘aggravated’ when committed by a person in a position of trust or authority of child such as a member of security forces, public officer, public servant etc. The Act provides for the establishment of Special Courts for trial of offences under the Act, keeping the best interest of the child as of paramount importance at every stage of the judicial process. The Act incorporates child friendly procedures for reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences.The government also released an app called “Khoya-Paya” to track children who went missing.
While these initiatives are appreciable their is still a long way to go and their is a requirement of strict and stringent execution of such laws to free such children from the clutches of agents who sell these children into forced sexual labour.

Women In The Indian Workforce: A Critically Untapped Resource

“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult” – Melinda Gates

The value of the labour of women has historically been underappreciated in India-be it in the domestic sphere or otherwise. Perhaps this underappreciation is why women’s participation in the Indian workforce today is severely lacking.  On the Global Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum (WEF), India has fallen four places from 2018, now ranking 112 of 153 countries, largely due to its economic gender gap. Female participation rates declined from 34.1% in 1990-00 to 27.2% in 2011-12) and further down to 20.5 percent in 2019.

Source: TheDiplomat

While the universal data is discouraging, examining the demographic divisions of this data might provide some explanations. Expectedly, there are considerable variations between urban and rural areas. The participation rates of rural women decreased from 26.5% in 2009-20 to 23.5% in 2011-12 while the rate for urban women increased from 14.6% to 15.5% during the same period. The size of agricultural landholdings has shrunk with concomitant divisions within families causing fewer agricultural work opportunities are partly responsible for this decline in the rural case. Moreover, male members of the family are given preference over female members during land inheriting, despite provisions such as the Hindu Succession(Amendment) Act, 2005.

The other aspect is education. Secondary education has increased which may account for the withdrawal of women of secondary school-going age from the informal sector labour force. The few paid, formal jobs available, besides MGNREGS in rural India, tend to go to men and women with degrees, leaving women educated only till the secondary school level in limb, even with skills that qualify them for non-agricultural work. For women past secondary school-going age, the workforce population has increased for urban women, while it has declined for rural women, reflecting the greater availability of formal jobs in urban areas.

The urban-rural angle is not the only consideration to be taken. Women with no education and women with tertiary education display the highest rates of labour force participation among Indian women. It can be argued that the rising incomes of Indian households have led Indian women to withdraw from the labour market and focus on their role in ‘status production’ i.e. domestic and caregiving activities that are considered the “natural and morally correct” duty of Indian women. 

The societal importance placed on marriage over career for Indian women is another cause behind these figures. Marriage is still looked up as a source of social dignity, economic dependence.  Because of this, women who choose to marry after becoming successful in the professional arena are less in number.

Photo Credit: Ruchita Choudhary from HER-WORLD

A survey in the Economic and Political Weekly in 2016 finds that around 40-60 percent of women and men in rural and urban parts of India believe that married women whose husbands earn a good living should not work outside the home. A survey by Avtar Group, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm, finds that women are paid 34 percent less than men for the same job with the same qualifications, despite India’s Equal Remuneration Act of 1976 that mandates equal pay for the same work and prohibits hiring discrimination. 

Besides that Indian women are also obliged to well-meaning but discriminatory government policies like amended India’s Maternity Benefit Act 2017, which increased women’s paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This act reinforces women’s role as primary caregivers and increases employer bias, especially in the absence of similar benefits for fathers. Moreover, a significant amount of women’s work is not accounted for. On average, Indian women perform nearly six hours of unpaid work each day, while men spend a paltry 52 minutes. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the scenario. Surveys show that women have lost more jobs as compared to their male counterparts. In terms of the total population, 23.3 percent of men employees were laid off, as compared to 26.3 percent of women. According to Ms. Neetu Ahuja, Senior VP, Public Policy and Govt Affairs, Kotak Mahindra Bank, one in three mothers have considered leaving the workforce during the pandemic, this, of course, includes women in top leadership positions. Representation of women CEOs & MD in Indian listed companies today already stands at only 3.7% despite companies with women in executive positions reportedly having 50% higher profitability & share performance 

Studies have shown that the financial performance of firms improves with more gender-equal corporate boards. The bottom half of the countries in terms of gender inequality in their sample could increase their GDP by an average of 35% if they close their gender gap. However, India is falling behind to reap the benefits of increasing the labour force participation of women. 

Labour Force Participation Rate In India in 2017, Source: NSSO

To improve parity between gender in the labour force, as stated by Ms. Neetu Ahuja, wee need  “Strong enablers such as favourable social support systems, flexible working hours, reservation in higher premier education institutions, reserved cabinet positions at Centre & State, not just in the parliament or assembly and increase in corporate boards positions.” Surveys have also found that the construction of either a kutcha or a pucca road increased the odds of women’s participation in non-farm work by 1.5 and 1.4 times. This highlights an urgent need to reduce occupation segregation and increase good and equal policies and awareness. 

The road to having a voice in decision making is indeed tough, but once it starts it becomes a remarkable process because “empowered women, empower women”
and soon enough, an empowered society!

Arranged By Jaya Narayan


In a deeply patriarchal society like India, where the notion that men and women are equivalent in worth is still appalling to many: it shouldn’t be a surprise that domestic violence is not only prevalent but also dangerously normalized. Domestic violence, although criminalized by law, goes unreported in most cases. To many women, “home” is not a safe place of love and support but an inescapable cage of neglect at best and abuse at worst. 

The stressor of the global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have obviously not helped the case either. According to global statistics, domestic violence cases nearly doubled in the lockdown period. In countries like France and China, cases of domestic violence increased by 30% and 90% respectively. In India, from March 25, 2020, to May 31, 2020, nearly 1477 complaints of domestic violence were made by women. While this may seem like a small number, given the population of India; two things must be considered. Firstly, this number was much higher than the reported cases in the March-May period of the past ten years. The second factor to be considered is under-reporting. Of the women who did report(only 14.3%), only 7% reached out to relevant authorities-police, doctors, lawyers or social service organizations. More than 90% chose to reach out to friends, family and neighbours. The aforementioned pattern is clearly reflective of Indian society’s perception of domestic violence as a “private matter” to be resolved within the family or community. Seeking legal intervention is often seen as a betrayal to the family. Moreover, for many people, the husband, as a man has a right to “discipline” his wife, by whatever means necessary. 

During the lockdown, access to help even from within the community was greatly limited, legal pathways, even more so. Although steps have been taken by governments to make help accessible to women, most of them have been tech-focussed-helpline numbers and online counselling. Given that only about 35% of Indian women have access to technology, these measures have largely fallen short. Moreover, even when cases do go through the criminal justice system, adequate justice is not guaranteed to the survivors. 

A call for more efficient and wide-reaching solutions to combat the lockdown-domestic violence came mostly from NGOs and independent organizations instead of the government. The Delhi High Court, responded to a petition by the All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties and Social Justice (AICHLS) issued notices to the Ministry of Women and Child Development; Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; Government of NCT of Delhi; National Commission for Women; Delhi Commission for Women and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of India to act upon the suggestions of the petition. The Karnataka High Court also responded to a similar petition guiding para-legal professionals to aid survivors of domestic violence seek help. 

In addition to awareness drives about available resources to seek legal help against domestic violence, there is also a need to set up a strong infrastructure to aid the rehabilitation of survivors. For instance, the  Gauravi one-stop crisis centre in Bhopal introduced an initiative that trained survivors of domestic violence as auto-rickshaw drivers to deliver rations to families in slum areas and simultaneously reach out to women facing domestic violence in these areas. Rehabilitation must also include active measures towards providing mental healthcare to survivors. The answer to annihilating domestic violence is found in the movement of women empowerment. Initiatives must be introduced to educate and financially empower women so they do not have to remain dependent on their abusers.

Her-World: In conversation with ASHA sisters- battling COVID-19

It is all about respect and mobility transport services, says the Asha workers. They walk 5kms tirelessly to fetch water for the thirsty, deliver buckets house to house, and lend major help and support in helping women give birth. Deliveries happen at home, they say; there are no hospitals, dubious sanitation, and pressure to deliver at home because of finances. They are more than simply midwives: they advise the new mothers to wash their clothes with soap and water, dry them in the sun, and give valuable advice that banishes some of the strong, prevalent myths that still abound, like the myth that new mothers shouldn’t breastfeed their babies till three days- which is harmful for the baby, because the feeding should be done within 30 minutes, and not three days. Important, time-sensitive information, without which there would be a lot of health concerns and diseases, are taken care of by the Asha sisters.
Their social and financial status, is less than satisfactory. There are organisational changes that could benefit the voluntary group; salary increase and beneficiary to them, according to the efforts made; media involved should play a positive role which grants them the respect that has not been awarded to them until now- so that their work becomes smoother and without fewer hurdles towards completion. If all these conditions are fulfilled, then their work could also reach the status of being their main work bringing in the most financial returns.
Their work is collaborative; the Sarpanch and Zilla Parishads, put in a joint effort to alleviate the concerns of the people. Main elections have been successful because of the network and the legwork of the Asha sisters, and for the work they do which is invaluable, yet which no one else dares to do- they deserve District, and State level recognition.

But the issue runs deeper than that. Since this is a voluntary organisation, they cannot receive a fixed salary; if it comes under the aegis of the government body, then it will become a departmental section, which might alter its foundations. Their income can only be increased by incentives, and a minimum incentive, though set, has not been replenished since the Coronavirus hit. Under regular circumstances, this minimum incentive plus a top-up reflective of the services rendered, the equivalent of the time spent while working, and incentive rates adjusted for inflation- would be more than deserved for their hard work.
The organisation is at the grassroots level. And 80% of the grassroots consist of unmanicured land, which is difficult to work at, and lots of things to be done. There is a school for the children, but only the boys go there since it is very far from their immediate vicinities, and girls are occupied doing housework. In this situation, t becomes increasingly tougher to introduce them to education, and much more important that that education happens nearer to them to be availed. The girls had to be painstakingly convinced, and dragged to school from their household chores to study, for they did not appreciate the value of education, they remain so cut off from it.
There are too many difficulties to battle, too many hurdles to overcome, the sisters say. They need to be joined with education, especially health education and especially the old midwives with no education and little training, because good health is not possible without it. Education workers need to work together with the Asha sisters, be a part of their community to bring essential services to the society.

TalkShow: Walking Against the Odds: Women at Work



Date – 29th August, 2020

Times – 05:00 PM Onwards

Register Here : https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdOIJkC4Gfc-NalbKXYpBDF5RchazSrLyaUcHWKLvBJhNM_eA/viewform?usp=sf_link

Zoom link : https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3784819509?pwd=YUtURGk1RHJpYlViT0tBUW9Vak40dz09

Guest Speakers

            Ms. IRA SINGHAL- IAS, Bureaucrat, New Delhi.

Ms. SUCHITRA KRISHNAMOORTHI – Actor and Singer, Mumbai.

Ms. MALINI NAIR – Author, Poetess, Painter, Netherlands.

Talks Host 

Rakhee Bakshee

Founder & Editor-in-Chief HER-WORLD 

World Environment Day : Hope Amidst Dark Times

Strange are the ways of nature and mankind. As we the citizens of Earth continue our battle with the unseen enemy, the World Environment Day falling on June 5 has brought with it the dual message of despair and hope. There is so much to grieve over, and also to raise a toast to. It all boils down to what we choose to believe, and how we act.

Two apparently unrelated events, occurring in the same week a few days ago but in different parts of India, reflect how we view the glass: half-empty or half-full. The first is the unfortunate killing of a pregnant elephant in Kerala, by making her eat a pineapple stuffed with crackers which burst in her mouth. She, and her unborn baby, met a horrible end. Our media and social media are justifiably going hammer and tongs over the unspeakable crime.

At around the same time this elephant died in Kerala, something wonderful happened in Rajasthan. Two tiger cubs were born in the newly set up Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve near Kota. At first glance, this may not look like much of an important occurrence. After all, what’s so special about a tigress giving birth to cubs? Doesn’t it happens all the time and is a part of the circle of life and death? 

Maybe yes, but the cubs of Mukundra Hill underscore an extra-ordinary development. Given the threatened status, as well as huge appeal, of tigers in India, the state of Rajasthan till now had two tiger sanctuaries: Ranthambore and Sariska. Yes, Mukundra Hills was announced as a tiger reserve few years ago, but it could be seriously considered that only after a tigress gives birth to cubs there. The logic may seem strange, but is quite simple actually. A tigress will rarely conceive in a region, let alone give birth, unless she considers that area to one hundred percent safe for her off springs.

After declaring Mukundra Hills as a tiger reserve, two tigers (a male and a female) were translocated here a few years ago. Then subsequently, another tiger walked over here from Ranthambore and made this place his home. But Mukundra Hills had still not passed the litmus test, of welcoming new cubs. This week it passed the test with flying colours, and that’s why it is such a big deal. 

A member of our species killed a pregnant elephant, but collectively we also ensured a brand new healthy habitat for tigers! It showed us humans as both destroyers and creators. At a miniscule level, I would like to believe, we may be matching steps with Lord Shiva’s dance of life and death.

And therefore the World Environment Day, arriving as it does in these dark times of death, disease and crushed human spirit the world over, also brings with it hopes of better days ahead. The tiger cubs of Mukundra Hills may just turn out to be the much-needed light at the far end of the seemingly unending tunnel.

Ajay Suri is writer, wildlife film-maker and nature photographer.

He is also the recipient of Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Environment Reporting.

His blog is tigersandbeyond.com and he can be reached at suriajay@gmail.com