perceptions of common man

Sunday morning is indulgence time. I normally go to the local parlour to get a pedicure and manicure. The hour or so spent there is the one luxury I allow myself. But unlike other women who spend their time chatting on their cell phones or reading magazines totally ignoring the staff working on their hands or feet, I like engaging in conversation with the staff. It gives me an insight into yet another world. I always let the others lead the conversation.

It always begins with a chat on the weather: the incredible heat, the delayed rains, the clogged streets post a deluge and so on. This week it was the eluding rain! Then after a short while he asked me whether I was planning to go to Jantar Mantar for the Ana Hazare protest. I guess he remembered that I had gone last summer. I told him I was not. After a few more moments he brought up the topic again and said that he felt that Ana Hazare was doing all this to get his statue erected after his death. I was perplexed as I could not understand what he was getting at. I really wanted to know so I asked him why he had said that. The answer was to the point. For him Ana Hazare did not have a family and hence would be forgotten by one and all unless he did something that would make the Nation remember him. Hence his need to do something big. I guess this is a way of looking at it.

Ana Hazare brought the topic of corruption and then very quickly the one of price rise. I guess they are linked in the perceptions of the common man. Every one present joined the chorus to complain about the price rise in vegetables, food, petrol, electricity. Life was becoming very difficult for one and all particularly for people like Kailash and his colleagues who were at the mercy of their employer. If they ask for a salary increase they run the risk of losing their jobs unlike unionised workers and state employees. Kailsah who always has to come up with something unique stated with humour: thee politicians shouls come and spend a month living like us to understand the harsh realities of the common man adding with a twinkle in his eye: and we would love to spend that month in their homes! Reminded me of TV shows like trading places!

There we go again

While scrolling on my Facebook page I came across yet another murder of a woman as she failed to give birth to a male child. An apparently happy marriage went down the hill when the second child was born. It was a little girl! The taunts of family and friends were too much to bear and the husband more so after the second daughter and the he kicked his wife to death. The blame for the gender of the child was once again laid on the innocent shoulders of the wife. What this incident shows once again is the total failure of all campaigns aimed at removing the prejudices against the girl child.

Not matter how many Satyamev Jayate kind of programmes we have, mindsets will not change unless issues are addressed in a different way. I have written about this issue many times. My approach is slightly different as I feel that we have first and foremost to free women from the scientifically wrong burden of determining the sex of the child. The X/Y story has to be told loud and clear. The fact that women do not have the Y chromosome and therefore cannot produce a son has to be screamed from every roof top. The softer approach of trying to enhance the value of daughters has failed miserably. Programmes like Satyamev Jayate is just a middle feel good show. An extremely interesting critique of the programme can be found in this article that I urge you to read. The author states: Every Sunday we watch programs sanitised to suit middle-class taste buds. We cry. We feel a little guilt, but hardly any anger. If we’re feeling extra lucky, we’ll send an SMS so that our Rs 2 goes to the cause. We might even donate to the said NGO once in a while. But the reality remains unchanged. Post the episode on the important of daughters one has heard of umpteen murders of wives who failed to give birth to daughters.

So where is the solution. One should maybe try and dissect the situation with dispassion. Why are daughters unwanted? And please do not give me the c*** about lineage and succession and upholding the name. Women do as well if not better. And if that were the reason then for Pete sake we are not all kings or feudal lords. Girls are unwanted because the skewed marriage drama we have is unfairly loaded towards the girl’s side. I wonder, as I have written before, whether there would be male foeticides if the whole marriage game was turned on its head! So girls seem to be unwanted because you need spend on their food, clothing, education etc and then also on their weddings. Then there is the terrible mindset of girls being the holder of the family’s honour. Let us be honest and word it differently: if a girl steps out of line you may have a pregnancy on your hands whereas the boy goes scot-free. So maybe these are the issues that need to be talked about.

Everyone knows that women are essential to life itself. The mothers of the so beloved sons will one day go looking for brides for them in the hope that they produce them grandsons. Is this not an absurd situation to say the least. Maybe it is also time this absurdity is brought center stage. The mother we all love are also girls. Where would we have been had they been aborted!

The situation is becoming perilous and something needs to be done. Let us begin with the X/Y story.

Sadafulee – so that pwhy children always bloom

Sadafulee means always blooming! It is the name of a flower that blooms no matter what the time of the year. What a spirited plant. Sadafulee is the name one of our most caring supporter decided to give her new venture set up to help the children of project why. I can only borrow Kashmira’s words to describe this unique jewelry store: This venture comes from my passion for art and for helping underprivileged children. I plan to donate most of the proceeds from this store to a charity working with slum children in India. I am hoping the universe will help me grow this store to help the children to “always bloom”!

Kashmira and I met on line about three years ago when we were facing one of our financial crisis and needed to find a way to raise funds. If I recall well it was at the time when we were trying to set up a sponsorship programme. Kahsmira was not only one of the first persons to take on a child but also promised to help us raise the much needed funds. Since that time we remained in touch and Kashmira was always there for our kids.

Some time back she talked to me about a new venture she had in mind: crafting hand made jewelry to raise funds for project why! It was a beautiful thought but I must admit sheepishly that I thought that it would never truly take off. I was so wrong. In no time she had set up her venture and I started seeing pictures of lovely jewels on Facebook. And some time later she sent me a link to her store: I was wowed! The jewelry is beautiful and I wish I owned them all. But what makes each and every piece precious is the love that is woven in every bead.

I am humbled and overwhelmed. It is so easy to write a cheque but to spend your precious time in creating something to help children is unique. Kashmira is unique! And if you really want to know how much love gos into each piece read her blog. This is a true labour of love, one that is blessed.

Every piece sold helps a special child smile, a child remain in school, a child who cannot walk aspire to a bright future, the son of a fruit seller get a job in a bank. Every piece sold allows small miracles happen. Every piece sold will allow project why to be always blooming.

I hope you  will help sadafulee bloom and own a very special piece of jewelry and make Kashmira and our dream come true.

To know more :
The Sadafulee Store
Sadafulee’s facebook Page
Sadafulee’s blog

chotta bheem

I have been hearing about Chotta Bheem for quite some time. It began with Utpal and then kids from the project. I figure out it was a cartoon serial aired on TV channels for children. I also saw kids with CB school bags, CB pencil boxes and more of the same. I have never liked cartoons or animated films, even as a kid if I recall well. The only comic strips I did read would be Tintin and Asterix. I preferred losing myself in a good Enid Blyton and other adventure books.

My kids saw their share of cartoon movies and Disney films. But I rarely sat with them. For me it translated into ‘alone time’ and was often spent reading.The children grew up. Then one day three and a half year ago I became a grandmother and my life changed to fit the tune of my darling grandson.

He is with me for his summer holidays and is now into cartoons, his favourite being Chotta Bheem. So for the past weeks now bye bye news, bye bye Masterchef, bye bye all other shows. TV time is now Chotta Bheem time. Twice a day before afternoon siesta and bedtime. And quite willingly I watch episodes after episodes of Chotta Bheem and wonder of wonders find myself enjoying them. I think what I enjoy is the little fellow’s presence next to me, his giggles and his questions. I could turn my face the other way and read a book. But that would cheating myself of some extraordinary moments that come once in a life time.

As for the content of Chotta Bheem, it is quite interesting and good clean viewing recommended to all, particularly grandmothers.

Pray for rain @ of 170 millions

The Karnataka Government has earmarked 170 million rupees for prayers for rain! True we need rain and need it desperately. Many of us urbanites do not know what drought means to the farmer and the villager. For us in towns it translates into food inflation that we bear grudgingly. When our taps run dry we grumble some more and call for a water tank to fill up our tanks that seem growing in size by the day but never put breaks on our consumption.

The humid heat makes us long for rain clouds but then again we have our air conditioners on!  But for the farmer rain is life. Everyone is praying for rains. But the Karnataka Government decided to it go for it king size. 170 millions of rupees will be used so that every single temple in the state – 34 000 – propitiates the Rain GoBlogger: Project Why – Edit Post “Pray for rain @ of 170 millions”ds! This is no joke.  So water will be poured on Gods while His children are dying of thirst. Where are we heading and what have we become!

I am a believer and I too pray everyday in the sanctity of my home. I must admit I too seek divine intervention but I do it quietly and without any fuss. I have always been appalled at the quantities of milk and honey poured on stone statues and by the feeding frenzies that occur with obsessive regularity at given times of the year and result in vast amounts of food thrown on the streets. Each time I come across such instances I cannot but remember the 5000+ children that die everyday of malnutrition related causes. Wonder how many could be saved if the milk poured on the Gods was given to them. And I wonder how many lives could be saved if the 170 million rupees meant to propitiate the rain Gods were used to alleviate poverty.

But coming back to the main issue that is water and the rains, would not the rain Gods be appeased  and would shower us with rain if we committed to treat water with respect? If we pledged not to waste water and above all if we wowed to harvest the rainwater we so desperately seek?

Water is the worst crisis looming at the horizon. It is time we realised that and did something credible. Maybe then the rain Gods would be appeased and would send us the rain we so desperately need.

Action taken report

Were you to approach any of the Commissions set up in independent India presumably to redress torts, what you would get after few days of your filing a report is a printed letter informing you that the Commission has taken note of your complaint and directed the pertinent authorities to give an Action Taken Report by such and such date! This very official and officious letter is probably all you will ever get!

During a recent TV debate post the Gauwahati incident, the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women proclaimed that she has asked for an Action Taken Report (ATR) and was waiting for it! The long forgotten words jolted my mind! Yes, I too was the recipient of a letter stating that an ATR had been solicited in the case of my complaint no: xxx! Many years ago we had started a small outreach at the gypsy camp that was located along the main road next to a busy intersection, the kind of location always preferred by these gypsy iron smiths as it enables them to sell their ware. It was a heart warming place replete with love, dignity and abundant common sense. I soon was to discover that the place was illegal ( I wonder how illegal any place that has survived 3 or more decades, has a postal address and voter’s ID cards for its inhabitants is). I also found some old tattered official looking papers that had promised relocation to these nomadic tribes.

Remember, these were early days of pwhy and I was still naive and gullible. I had been told by the chieftain of the clan, a man I had profound respect for, that their camp was regularly bulldozed and then after greasing some palms allowed to be re erected. I witnessed one such bulldozing and my blood ran cold as one child was retrieved in the nick of time! I had heard about all those wonderful sounding Commissions one being the Human Rights one. I took pen to paper and poured out my anger, indignation and compassion seeking intervention from those meant to protect torts. My complaint, as that is what such writing is called, was duly received and I was informed that an ATR had been sought. In those days I thought I had conquered the moon and my lohar friends would soon be safe. Silly me! A few days later I got a strange phone call from the local cop station. I was incomprehensible as what i was asked is whether the lohars were bothering me as they ! You can imagine my bewilderment! I did not know what to say.  To cut a long story short all my attempts failed: PIL in court, appeal to the CM etc etc.

We managed to buy some time though and withstood some storms. But then came our greatest adversary: the Commonwealth Games and Delhi had to be made beautiful. On 28 August 2010 the camp was destroyed once for all. The tribe got shelter in different parts of the city but I lost my friends. I wonder of the city gained in beauty. I know I learnt my lessons and never approached a Commission again. I know what an Action Taken report means not forgetting that a member of the Commission made the unforgivable blunder of revealing the name of the victim.

So to get back to the Guwahati case I wonder what the NCW will achieve with this report. This brings us to asking ourselves the role and effectiveness of such commissions which are, let us not forget, funded by tax payers. Are they convenient institutions that allow the ruling party to reward or rid itself of someone. Perhaps. So one needs to review such bodies and give them teeth and independence. Then perhaps those they are meant to protect will be truly heard!

we are sick and tired…

We, women, are sick and tired of being told how to dress, how to behave, what to eat or drink, when to go out etc. Where are our constitutional rights! If we are to hear the Baghpat Panchayat or Ministers post the Gauwahati incident, we are responsible for every aberration that befalls us: eve teasing, molestation, rape etc. I would say something is wrong with our men. Maybe that is the question that needs to be addressed. Whether the reports we have been bombarded with in the past days are genuine or media created is another question. But the bottom line is that we women make good copy! And the sad reality is that brutalising women is the rule rather than the exception.

What is frightening is the brazen reporting of such incidents by a somewhat irresponsible media. And what is terrifying is that in India today when cameras roll the culprits do not hide themselves and scoot but shamelessly play to the gallery. And what is scary is that people watch the show, just as they would in their drawing room in front of a screen, rather than stop the abuse.

But what is the most petrifying is the new found regressive belief that women are the keepers of social morality as is evident in dispensations like those made by a Minister who says with impunity: “Women should dress in such a way that they invoke respect in others”. And my blood boils, curdles and freezes at the same time when I hear the National Commission for Women Chairperson, a woman, state: be careful about how you dress!

Something has changed in the fabric of our society. From a caring people we seem to have mutated into a voyeuristic one. We enjoy seeing gore and abuse, the more the better. And this new appetite is being fully exploited by TRP hungry media. One wishes they restrain themselves before it is too late. One wonders if the young girl who suffered terrible abuse in Guwahati would have been let off where the cameras not rolling.

I cannot but feel sorry for the 41 year old hospital staff who was made the fall guy and lost his job courtesy another media circus.  The man was the sole earner of a family of 10. The media made him a ward boy/sweeper whereas he was an OT assistant with 19 years experience. He did what we was told and paid a heavy price. It is sad but true that in many hospitals Doctors go AWOL and other staff are made to pitch in. They often do a great job and even save lives. They are not the culprits. The real culprit is the administration and the rulers who have not been able to get their act together even after six decades of freedom.

In my early days working in slums I too felt outraged at the number of quacks that operated in the slums. But then with time I realised that they were often the only care givers and often did a reasonable if not good job. The alternatives were not viable. The better Doctors, if any were to expensive, the government dispensaries few and poorly manned, and the hospitals too far and too time consuming.

Apologies for the digression but too many things are cluttering my brain. But let us get back to the main issue: that of women and their fundamental rights! This attitude of making women responsible for any and every aberration is not acceptable. There is something wrong with men. Maybe legalising porn, sex shows and other such things would reign them in! If not, then let us just lock them up and loose the key.

Way to go…and not to go..

In 2001 a child fell and died in a bore well in Tamil Nadu. The state government swung into action. A law was passed, the administration was on its toes and no bore well could be dug without permission and the bore had to be covered the same day! Moreover everyone worked in tandem rather then passing the buck. Policemen on beats alert the right authorities immediately and the boles/drains/pits are immediately covered. The result: no child has fallen to its death since that fateful day! This is the reality on the other side of the Vindyas.

On June 28th little Mahi feel in a deep bore well and was rescued too late. There was a hue and cry and India, as reported by newscasters, wanted answers and action. Everyone screamed that this should never happen again. Yet a day later another child died, and then another, and yet another! The outrage went unheard, at least this side of the Vindhyas. Why is it that simple rules cannot be followed. Even the Supreme Court decree of 2009 held no meaning. Open drains are the rule rather than the exceptions, and as of bore wells there seem to be 10 000 abandoned ones across the land. Does that mean that it will take 10 000 kids dying before the issue is resolved? And the question that begs to be asked is how come one state acts efficiently and not the rest of the country. A simple diktat on compulsory rain water harvesting in all homes, new and old, was/is the magic wand needed. Rain water harvesting = recharging of water table = shallow wells with tiny diameters = no child falling. There is a lesson for the CEO of our city where construction is booming. But I do not see the day dawn soon or ever. We need to pray for it hard. Will we ever learn. Only time will tell.