Living Right Above a Happening Lane

Living “near” a lane or a street is perhaps merely noisy and dusty !!

But after a year, I realize that living right “above” a lane, with some view of an open space and a city skyline, is great fun despite it being noisy and dusty during day time.

One gets to see so much of life…

Dawn : a sky full of purpose, freedom and hope unfolds with an air of freshness, birds fly around and the lake reflects on the soul amid enchanting bells of nearby temples… a little later – one sees enthusiastic morning-walkers, the carefree appearances of the colourful garland-makers, the business of water-tanks, milk supply and newspapers, the hectic pace of the bai (domestic help in India) who otherwise never misses the malli-phool gajra (a jasmine flower garland) :), the time-bound biking cooks, the grunt and the smile of school-goers, the anxiety of job-seekers, the contentment and stress of office-goers, the gazing cabs and autos seeking to be hired… the gathers of daily-wage earners queuing in their yellow helmets and some holding tools… the luring calls of the vegetable and fruit vendors… the errands of the peon, the hopping and laborious tasks of the courier and packer-mover agents………

Noon : and then one can see some cattle grazing on the few green patches near the lake… grannies idling on the lawn, playing cards or chatting and waiting to collect their grand-children from the school-bus..some mummies too can be seen chatting on the phone as they wait near their society gates… vendors of aluminium utensils and other domestic goods start calling aloud as they know mummies, naanis (mothers’ mothers) and daadis (fathers’ mothers) are bored by now :)… the gardener attending to every detail in brown and green… as some men and women are seen rushing home for a quick lunch………

Dusk : the sky and the skyline glow in a golden radiance along with pearly clouds… school-goers flood the streets..now as playful as kittens and the society playgrounds resound with their chirpy echoes… the college-goers who are a bundle of joviality, dreams and achievements now merrily catch up in various groups at paani-poori (an Indian street food) or ice-cream stalls… uncles and aunties are out for a stroll or to shop at a mandi (an open vegetable market)… early office-goers speed back home amid all the traffic hurls and snarls… and then the daily-wage earners return with their aprons ridden with dust, grime and sweat – now the yellow helmet is balanced in the angle at the elbow of one hand, and white poly-bags of onion, garlic, masala (spices), oil and a black poly-bag suggestive of a meaty feast hang from the tired, infirm fingers of the other :)………

Evening and Night : the moon gracing the dark sky… the late office-goer walking down the lane in a relaxed mood with ear-phones plugged in or loud phone calls made to their far native land, boasting how the boss called him up and asked to apply for a visa :)… then the pretty lass (a new office-goer) is heard urging on her mobile ‘kya kundli-kundli karte rehte ho aap log ??..maiine bola na Papa, mujhe wahan shaadi nahiiiii karni..frequency toh bilkul bhi match nahi ho rahi..aap Bhaiyya se bhi pooch lo !!‘ (a disagreement with parents over a marriage proposal which they have approved solely on horoscope match) :)… the hurrying traders and shop-keepers… the closing of gates and the change of guard… the heart-to-heart conversations of distressed and homeless souls………

the other Occasional Scenes of sorrow, delight, interest and concern : a holy janaja (funeral procession), a sincerely chanting humble group of Siridi Sai Baba bhakts (devotees), that..in sharp contrast to a gaudily crazy procession of some so-called god-man, neatly cladded men – mostly in white – returning from the nearby mosque as the Jumu’ah prayer concludes on Fridays, a fleet of Ganapati bappa morya processions, a dazzling view – far, high – and below – during Diwali, a band-bajaa baraat to whose pulsating tune I can happily do a balle-balle in the inconspicuous dark balcony :)… a beautiful rain and the beaming joy of youngsters getting drenched… a talented show of various street musicians and other artists… a lamp-post repair that makes me the first person in the apartment to know ‘ki aaj se apan yahan pe light jalne wali hai‘ (that this part of my lane is thus going to be lit up), likewise the first person to know where a transformer has blown off or which areas in and around have or lack power supply, who’s moved in and who’s moved out of the society… a political rally, a public announcement, a ‘press gaddi‘ (OB vehicle), a street fight, an instance of moral policing, an accident, a speeding ambulance, a chase by the Police…………

So far, so good…

One Episode, Two Realizations: an Emotional, a Funny

Every year on Rakhsha Bandhan, I remember the early morning gift (a Raakhi and a Coconut) from the priests of Jagannath temple at my hometown. (In this festival, this is also a ritual between temple priests and yajmaans (hosts); the yajamaans in turn gift them due dakshinas.) Being the only child, I used to much look forward to it because to celebrate the occasion, I neither had a brother nor I was/am a brother to someone. Actually, I more desired that someone tied a Raakhi to me ! Moreover, my near cousins were either too young or too old or resided in remote terrains or atheists.

Hence to fill all sorts of emotional gaps on this day, my sister-in-law has now made it a point to include a Raakhi for me too in her annual Raakhi parcels to Bangalore. I was indeed elated with her idea…

Last year, she sent a beautiful gem-studded Raakhi. But while it was in transit, thieves stole it 😦 !

So this year, she sent a ‘Jaga-aakhi’ Raakhi (based on Lord Jagannath’s eyes). As usual, thieves have torn the envelope but it seemed the ‘Jaga-aakhi’ deterred them !! My sister-in-law’s trick worked this time 🙂 .

IMG_20140810_102755

The other realization : chor adat se toh majboor hain hii… saath mein, police-ke-dandey aur divya-netron ke ” sirf ahesaas” se bhi majboor hain 🙂 ! (no doubt, thieves have a habitual compulsion… at the same time, they also have another compulsion owing to “mere realization” of police-batons and divine-eyes !)

Scene of a Real Drama – Request: “No Repetition Please”!

One year, Durga Puja was a real vacation for me after a long gap – after some 8-10 years.

We have the usual Puja celebrations and in addition, we have a cultural function on the last day of the vacation – on the Poornima (Full Moon) day. Kids, young school/college going girls and boys, and even senior citizens of our village including our guests and relatives participate in that function. Small skits, competitions, cultural shows, quiz and many more events are arranged to celebrate the evening.  Like every year, that year also we had that great function.

The evening and the events were going on smoothly. I was asked to be a part of the organizing team but I opted to be an observer. The reason – “Drink “- every one in the organizing team were drunk, literally not on their feet; they were drunk so badly that they were not even able to speak coherently. They had beer, whisky, vodka etc. as a part of the “organization arrangement”. Initially I thought of raising a protest, but whom to speak? No one was in a mood to listen; every body was rather drinking. I maintained silence and was keeping an eye on the event.

More than 500 people (of which 60% were below the age of 12) were attending the event. Suddenly some one from the organizing team entered the dais and started shouting on the microphone. Shouting in fact is not the appropriate word !! He was abusing the anchor with all kinds of vulgar words. To that, the anchor (who was drunk too) started reacting – retaliating with equally vulgar words. In a fraction of a second, the dais became a battleground, the cultural evening became a farce and a travesty of what people name as “culture”. Audience watching the show tried to pacify the matter but in vain. The other organizers too tried their best (with their so called ‘wisdom words’) to pacify this. Nothing happened… no one stopped and we all were watching helplessly.

Finally they were taken away forcefully by the guests. Later, the chief guest, who happened to be a retired Head Master and a seasoned artist rose to the occasion and gave his gandhigiri speech which had the following content:

“Like many good and bad scenes of a drama, this (abusing scene) incident is a real scene of a real drama. However, the taste of this scene is bad. And there is a public demand, ‘no repetition please !!!’.”

Not only that, he took two Rs 50/- notes from his pocket and awarded the two battling organizers for their scene – for their action, their show in the drama, and the function continued smoothly afterwards.

But what surprised me then and now is the deteriorating social and cultural ethics. This is not the only story of one village… This is the common story of many villages and cities. No marriage ceremony or reception can be arranged without these bottles and their side-effects.  Not a single election can be thought of without the so-called ‘feast and foreign brand bottles’.

Just wondering… is this called modernization and development ? Is this the baton we are passing to our future generation ?

Aamjunta – think of it…

17th-20th April !!

On 17th, Karnataka and some other states would be going to the polls; it is a holiday

18th is Good Friday, a declared holiday or an optional holiday

19th and 20th are Saturday and Sunday, the usual weekly holidays.

Wow!…Four continuous holidays !!

No, please.

Let us keep this otherwise long weekend restricted between 18th-20th only…and make all sincere efforts to cast our votes in great interest of the nation ! There cannot be a more peaceful opportunity than an aware and spirited democracy to affect such a destiny.

Percentage figures of polling from the far-flung north-east and insurgency-hit regions are inspiring !!!

Elsewhere, we just need to take care of the heat and dust…by carrying umbrellas, sufficient water and arriving a little early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Jai Hind and Happy Voting…

A Home-made Recipe of Cereals and Nuts

Since ages, we know that many cereals-and-nuts based food items are prepared in Indian villages and towns, and some are carried in containers for months together by native pilgrims.

Here’s one such recipe slightly modified (I would rather say upgraded) by my diligent mother-in-law, especially with the aim to control sugar-levels and check obesity. During her stays in the village, it also grants her good space and time from preparing a routine breakfast when she has to rather hurry for a special occasion of Pooja during the morning hours. 🙂

This recipe is designed to be easily stored and carried even during long-distance journeys. Having learnt the art from her, I now definitely prepare this food-pack for my husband on his tours abroad because it makes life easy for a hard-core vegetarian like him ! And of course, sometimes I manage to find a bearer to send these packs for both our families who prefer to reside at our respective native places, near the realm of Nature.

Here now, I bring to you this blissful recipe…

Ingredients:

For sake of convenience, I have referred the measure of cups. You can scale up the required quantity in the same proportion of these ingredients or adjust as you like it.

1.  Oats (replacing rice grains or puffed-rice or flattened-rice) – 2 cups
2.  Broken Wheat – 1 cup
3.  Soya Granules – 1 cup
4.  Cornflakes (normal variety) – as preferred
5.  Almonds – as preferred
6.  Raisins – as preferred
7.  Aniseed – as preferred
8.  Cardamom – as preferred
9.  Cloves – as preferred
10. Black Pepper – as preferred
11. Salt – a pinch

Method:

1. Take a deep non-stick pan; it should allow you enough room to stir properly. Dry-roast the Oats, Broken Wheat, Soya Granules and Almonds separately in the pan over low-heat. It must be adequately roasted (brownish) and emit the ‘dry-roasting’ flavour. Stir each ingredient continuously during this step so that all the grains or Almonds get a uniform heat and are not charred.

2. Allow the three dry-roasted cereals and Almonds to cool.

3. This step is attached only with the Wheat. Take small amounts of the roasted quantity and grind it to a slightly powdery texture such that it blends well when it is served with hot Milk or Water. This part of processing will require some further efforts –  each time you will need to extract the desired form from the grinder by using a hand-sieve, put back the coarse part in the grinder, add some more fresh Broken Wheat and then repeat the process. You need to do this till you obtain a consistent texture for all of this dry-roasted Wheat. At the end, you shall get the 1-2 tbsp coarse Wheat grains left; you may store it for making Wheat Porridge later on.

4. Mix this hand-sieved slightly powdery Wheat part with all the remaining ingredients. Aniseed (slightly fried or raw), Cardamom, Cloves and Black Pepper may be mixed as is or coarsely crushed. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture.

Its done.

Store it in an air-tight container. You can roughly estimate the expiry date of the whole mixture as the expiry date of its constituent ingredient that expires the earliest ! (So you should choose the ingredients such that they all have nearly the same expiry date.) Once you get it, do label the date on the container.

Serving:

Whenever you desire to eat, take hot Water or Milk in a bowl and mix the required amount of the mixture in it. Depending on your health conditions, you may have it simply that way or further season it with Fruits, dried-Dates, Sugar, Honey, Syrup, Jaggery, Sugar-free tablets, Ragi or Oats sugar-free biscuits, etc.

My father likes it as a snack with typical Indian Tea; so he sprinkles some crunchy salt items (like Haldiram‘s) in the mixture. 🙂

Aamjunta, do try this healthy recipe and let us know your feedback.

The Chaste of Liberty

Last week, it was reported that the Maulanas in Aligarh (India) are opposing burqas that are trendy with laces, studs, gems, etc. Reason – they fear it will ‘attract the attention’ and ’embolden’ the evil-eyed people !

Many ordinary persons, social or religious organisations and celebrities have also held similar views in the recent past.

Well, I think statements as these are not baseless in view of certain present circumstances as long as they mean to protect women in unknown zones (physical or social) or when they go out alone in places lacking proper gender awareness.

Many may not agree with my opinion but I would still request them to take a look at my reasons, even briefly.

In this regard, I would first of all like to make a small but very appreciative note on my recent observations of some foreign tourists (mostly westerners) visiting south-India. I found everyone of them to abide by certain directions, probably issued from their respective Embassies, in their attire. They all wore traditional Indian dresses and cast a very lasting impression on the native folks by respecting their values.

The gruesome Nirbhaya incident in December-2012 led to some modifications in India’s rape law. Even then, numerous such cases of either rape or molestation or eve-teasing or brutal murder after a sexual assault or acid-attacks have been reported. Sometimes it appears as if these occurrences have rather increased exponentially, like a severely infectious or viral disease ! To add salt to the diabolic wounds, age of the victim or the offender seems to be no more restricted to the country’s present definition of an adult, that is, a biological age.

With regard to rising rape cases, a year back, the Supreme Court of India had asked the Delhi Police to find out the root-cause of such brutal incidents happening every day even in the capital of India. Many psychiatrists like Dr. Nimish G. Desai are of the opinion that rapists are not mentally ill but attribute sexual perversions or psychopathic behaviour to them due to rapidly changing and non-monitored social mechanisms. They recommend institutionalization of gender studies wherein such people of inherent or acquired violent behaviour and/or having feelings of disengagement from society (work or family) can be identified and reared towards a positive direction before they commit such an offence.

In this context, let us delve into a bit more analysis. We all know that nudity is a form of both ancient and modern art expressed as any gender type, and it continues to be unblemished in some regions or societies. It is unblemished with regard to gender studies and characteristics of art itself. There it is accepted and appreciated as a normal, genteel perception. Now here is the sharp contrast. In other regions, a fearsome trend persists or has emerged of late – women (yes, mostly women and young girls) in attire like tight-fitted outfits, jeans, flashy tops, kurtis or even salwar-suits, are being watched with lustful glare. It happens anywhere, at any time and at any age in a society that is not well-versed with gender-related chapters. Formal education, high social status or financial riches are not always a dissuasion to check grossly misconstrued sexual desires. Rather some people’s disengagement from society combined with their lack of awareness of gender studies can turn out to be extremely distressful for others, as rightly cautioned by psychiatrists.

Now consider juveniles and how susceptible they are to committing crimes, the degree of which is comparable to that done by adults. In this post-modern age, juveniles, almost everywhere find quickly streaming information and easily accessible hi-end gadgets. These gadgets are often provided to the young generation either by unsuspecting parents to make them merely happy or by irresponsible parents to promote through the gifted devices a sign of their proud possession or affordability in the neighbourhood. With swiftly changing times, today children are more intelligent and smart enough to use these gadgets, irrespective of whether the usage is right or wrong. If both the parents are working, then there is hardly any one at home to guard against its misuses; and this may further worsen matters. Sometimes, family woes stir the mud in already troubled waters. Unless duly checked, it is possible that the unwanted or violent behavioural trends of juveniles would continue to get perpetrated across their peers or younger groups.

Perhaps, the same logic would apply for potential eve-teasers, molesters, acid-attackers and other type of abusers or violence instigators, abettors or perpetrators.

And obviously, with rising crimes the already feeble police:public and the judge:public ratios will also further deteriorate, thus delaying justice !

Now let’s explore two of our crucial roles in a society that is not only waiting to get adequate lessons in gender studies but having to already confront frequent crimes ridden with sexual components.

First and foremost of all, we must sensibly regulate or restrain certain type of entertainment and media channels, both print and electronic. Films and documentaries should be more censored, very strictly categorized according to various age groups and then distributed with immense precautionary measures. Particularly, women, young girls and eunuchs depicted on reels or magazines must always be shown in a respectable manner; it should not bear the slightest hint of any vulgarity or obscenity just for maximizing commercial profits. Here I want to highlight a very important point – where gender studies profusely lag, mindless projection of any sensual element for promoting modernity or liberalism, or for gaining commercial goals, further exposes the ‘aam aurat’ (ordinary women) and the eunuchs to sexual glares, pounces and pats !! Instances in an elite society may be rare but the ‘aam aurat’ generally bears the bigger brunt. Surely, there are other factors to be reasoned out but the one of mindless projections is definitely very crucial. Such projections can have an immediate negative impact on the minds of both the adult men and young boys; more severely, if they are disengaged from their family, friends or work-place and/or are already associated with anti-social elements or unhealthy environments like taking banned drugs. When every day we get to hear numerous crimes against women, then as responsible citizens, should we not check certain filming or broadcastings ? By preventing thus, we can help a meek society to muster fortitude, act and practically care for preserving the dignity of its weaker sexes.

Secondly, comes our role as parents or guardians or teachers of the current generation of children. It is a gradual effort. Right from an early age, we must educate them on various aspects of gender, and teach them to dress, converse and behave as suited to our culture and society, that is, where we live. Wearing full-length attire (whether oriental or occidental) should not make us a judge in our own minds even; we are not supposed to be labelled traditional or modern merely by our clothes or appearances. The terms are antonyms but it is wise to interpret them such that adhering to one outweighs the other according to relevant occasions. We should thus adequately put bridle on what we wear and appreciate. We should not fall into any sort of crazy rat-race. Our matured thoughts must do the smart talk and walk. Young boys and girls must be taught to equally respect each other and accommodate their issues. Gone are the outdated ways of gender-based barriers and patriarchal dominance ensnared by attitudinal issues!

Similarly, social or official guidelines must be adhered to by all groups of gender in corporates and other social gatherings. These are awfully necessary safeguards in our very own interests.

Well, now consider the provisions and protection sought under law. If enforced properly, it can take a tougher stand against mere violators of law and criminals. But it should not be just to punish them or deter potential offenders. It should also be because children witnessing depictions in any form of media or offences in society, that has sexual components or differential roles of man and woman, imbibe an awful sense of gender inequality at a tender age, and it would in all probability remain with them life-long or worse still, may find their yet scurrilous or violent vent in some form of anonymity at a later stage !! Moreover, changing rules should be in accordance with the definition of gender, the attributed social patterns of which are changeable over time. Hence, it needs thorough discussions and debates and cannot be simply listed over-night.

Nevertheless, law is definitely one of the greatest tools of social transformation. But legal reforms must be supported by an efficient administration, institutionalization of gender studies, holistic understanding of other socio-economic issues by the people of the land, their active participation in large numbers in associated programmes and awareness generation by a responsible media. Without all of us realizing these various aspects and acting in a co-ordinated manner, it would be quite impossible to root out the causes of such diabolical crimes and prevent these in some present societies.

As a well-known Indian columnist has aptly remarked yesterday in a leading newspaper- ‘Empowerment doesn’t work without maturity‘ !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Delightful Diwali but… NO crackers, Please !!

Over the years in the Indian subcontinent, we have celebrated Deepavali or Diwali by lighting clay lamps and bursting fire-crackers to drive away evil spirits.

Now, let’s reflect from a different but existing interpretation from our ancient holy texts. It is the festival of lights, which signifies a “consciousness of the Inner Light- the Atma” dispelling ignorance and also generating compassion for all beings.

Looking at things around in this age, one can observe with a little insight that any unmeasured or unconsidered practice of bursting fire-crackers can fatally harm, aggravate and disturb four major cases of life on Earth –

1. already high levels of pollution
2. conditions of ailing people (particularly, the heart-ached or migraine-affected)
3. the common man living on the streets or slums, or awfully needing to rush his/her child, aged-parents, spouse, relative, friend to the hospital
4. creatures living on the ground or underground

Many of us have ourselves confronted these situations or watched others helplessly struggling against it. Is not it then our responsibility to check the way we celebrate Diwali and also educate the younger generations?

Let us care a little for Mother Earth and ALL beings living on it. Human beings are the highest kind of intelligent animals here. Therefore, as long as it is within our control, we should avoid killing or hurting even lower and weaker life forms; we should rather strive to protect them.  FOREMOST, we can surely try and make things Safe, Secured and Clean !!! That would in fact bring us closest to attaining the real “ananda” or “rejoice of the Inner Light”…

Lets make it a festival of lights for all; not festival of darkness for some !

Wishing everyone a truly Delightful Diwali.

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Eunuch or ‘Hijra’ – the third sex in India

Before delving into our current title, I would like to make a small note on three important (re-)defined terms which I came across reliable sources in the internet: Gender, Gender Equality and Gender Mainstreaming.

Gender: Prior to John Money’s work in 1955, the word “gender” was commonly used to refer to grammatical categories only. Gradually, as various sociological contexts were understood or emerged, this term also evolved in its definition. It now assimilates the aspects of biological sex (i.e., male or female or inter-sex), social roles (as the Hijra of India and Pakistan) or gender identity. In simple terms, it distinguishes between masculinity and feminity in a broader socio-cultural context which is also time-specific. The socio-cultural contexts include considerations for class, race, ethnic group, age and poverty level.

Gender Equality: It means that rights, needs, interests, resources, responsibilities, protection and opportunities (including decision-making) must be equal for all, irrespective of their sex or socio-cultural diversity. The United Nations Millennium Project that aims to end world poverty by 2015 claims that no society can develop in a “sustainable” manner unless it is modelled on gender equality.

Gender Mainstreaming: It is the process of integrating a gender perspective into all policies, legislations, programmes and activities in political, societal and economic spheres, at all levels, to transform that which generates or perpetuates gender inequality. Therefore, the ultimate aim of this socialisation process is to achieve gender equality.

Now, coming to the topic…

The eunuch or Hijra (in Hindi) is usually considered as a social stigma in India. Though the concept of “third sex” or “tritiya prakriti” exists in India from its ancient era, it was formally recognized in India in 1994. At present, “third sex” is being recognized in India with an option to identify them as “Eunuch (E)” on Passports and on certain other documents. However, it is yet to be accommodated fully in all other departments. Though there are efforts seen within and outside the Government to grant the basic civil rights to the eunuchs, it is still discriminatory in many cases. For example, in 2003, the Election Commission of India did not allow eunuchs to vote, unless they identified themselves either as male or female. In 2009, three eunuchs were not allowed to contest election, citing the very same rule- male or female.

The discrimination towards eunuchs is not new in modern India. During the British Raj, authorities attempted to eradicate eunuchs, citing them as a breach of public decency. Eunuchs were labelled as criminal tribe and were placed under the Criminals Tribe Act, 1871. They were subjected to compulsory registration, monitoring and stigmatized. However, on a positive note, independent India de-notified this in 1952; still the century-old stigma continues which labels the Hijra only as a social role and not as a “third sex”.

For their survival, the Hijras have developed a secret language called Hijra Farsi, which has a sentence structure loosely based on Urdu and a unique vocabulary of at least thousand words. Beyond the Urdu-Hindi speaking areas of the Indian subcontinent, this vocabulary is still used by the Hijra community within their own native languages.

On a socio-economic analysis, eunuchs in India live at the margins of the society, with a derogatory reference to the term Hijra. Hijras are not defined by specific sexual orientation, but rather by renouncing sexuality altogether. Many believe that their sexual energy is transformed into sacred powers. For this very reason, the Hijras were employed in royal houses and during ‘hom’ (a Hindu ritual of making holy offerings) in the past. Until even a few years back, the Hijras were invited by rich families /landlords to distribute sweets and clothes to the poor during festivals or bless a bride on the day of her wedding. But in reality – Hijras are today often self-employed as prostitutes for survival reasons.

It is often noticed that without any major employment opportunity and social acceptance, eunuchs in general get their income by begging, sex-work, working as escorts, performing ceremonies, etc. Study conducted by Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties, Karnataka in 2003, is an eye-opener in many forms. Without any social acceptance and with the discrimination in health-care, education, employment, income, housing, legal and social justice, etc., eunuchs in India are forced to live in sub-standard conditions and in inhuman life style. With a eunuch population of 10 lakh or more, and with such little efforts, the acceptance of the “third sex” in the Indian main stream is a dream that may not be fulfilled at all in the near future. Unless a comprehensive civil rights legislation is enacted to offer eunuchs the same protection and rights as guaranteed to the two other forms of biological sex i.e. male and female, nothing can be expected from the society.

The religious India however treats the Hijras in a different form – the bahuchara mata in Gujarat, a form of ardha-nari-swar (Lord Shiva and Parvati) and the aravanis in Tamil Nadu. On a different note, beginning 2006, eunuchs were engaged to accompany Patna city revenue officials to collect unpaid taxes, receiving a 4-percent commission. India’s first eunuch legislator, 40-year-old Shabnam Maushi joined the mainstream politics in the state of Madhya Pradesh in the year 2000. The success story of Shabnam Maushi has encouraged other eunuchs in India, resulting in more of their participation in Indian politics and policy-making as Mayors, Legislators, Councillors, etc. But surely, more remains to be achieved for them in any advanced civil society.

Moreover, as Gender Mainstreaming is gaining momentum in India, we should therefore no more ignore the eunuch or Hijra… but respectfully treat them and work for their well-being at par with every other strata in our society.

Aamjunta – What do you say?

Socialism in India – Some Ground Realities

A guest article by a fellow aamjunta

Implementation of socialism – whatever be its form or type – without properly educating (not just formal Degrees) the targeted audience, will always be a disaster anywhere in this world !!

I am now of the opinion that Socialism, whatsoever be the form or type, would be perhaps unwise to implement to the fullest extent in our country.

I have always tried to the best of my capacity, to extend all possible help and uphold fair treatment towards the section of Domestic Workers – during childhood under the guidance of my parents, then during working years in a self-motivated way and now, with more inspiration and support from my family-in-law. Irrespective of the communities and cities they come from, I find most of these people get disoriented from work at some point of time. Then they suddenly become highly ungrateful, rude or may be even disloyal to any extent !

I don’t buy the argument that disparity in wealth is the reason. Here are my observations regarding this point.

This section of people I am particularly talking about were initially in poverty and they have been through lot of struggle. Some of these families now control agricultural plots and/or produces. When they stepped out seeking work, there was no sign of disengagement from society, no resentment or a rebellious tone. They were rather focussed, sincere and polite. Hope bloomed in their lives in the form of better employment, they toiled and they prospered; they were able to send their kids to standard schools and colleges. They could avail most of the welfare schemes launched by the respective governments. In general, their living standards improved.

But almost all of them, at one point, still seem to lose their base… their humble connection to the soil or rather say, roots. They think they have become mega-haves, and it does not matter whether their achievements were by right or lucky charm or some sort of vote-bank politics or by their hard efforts.

This year, the Indian festival of Teej (Gowri Habba /Tay /Bali Trutiya) was on a Sunday, followed by Ganesh Chaturthi the next day. Our Cook had obtained an approved Leave for both the occasions, mainly to observe fasting. I also agreed to accommodate her preparing our dinner for Tuesday on the same day morning as she expressed her desire to celebrate her younger son’s birthday in the evening. The same schedule was also supposed to be repeated on Friday for her elder son. I also offered her half-duty on both these ‘birthday’ occasions so that she could make it early to her household and prepare well. Even Saturday’s ‘rotiz‘ (Indian bread) at dinner were agreed to be made during the day time, if it was not possible to do so in the evening.

All these, assuming traffic and unpredictable rain while her festival-shopping would be on. Things looked fine till Saturday late afternoon when I became doubtful… I called her up to ensure that she comes in the evening to at least make the ‘rotiz‘ for dinner. This especially because all the three ‘tavaas‘ (flat pans) in my kitchen got seasoned as per her expertise, including the non-stick ones which were reduced to raw pieces of iron plates – I just could not further manage making ‘rotiz‘ using them !

She did not respond to my three calls, though paced at good intervals. Thankfully somehow, my fourth call was received amidst hullabaloo of many busy bees (kids). Thinking that she might be shopping for the festival, I went on to ask her “when are you coming today evening ?… its fine even if you come at 10:30” (11:00 PM being her last slot and by her own suitable choice). Without any hesitation or an iota of guiltiness, she promptly replied “kyaaa Didi, ek din nahi khane se nahi chalega ???… aap bhi vrat kar lijiye naa !” (“Didi (an address to an elder sister in many Indian languages), can’t you skip meal for a day… you too can observe a fast !”)

I lost my cool for a few seconds. Not because I was bent upon having ‘rotiz‘ at dinner but the reason was that my generosity seemed to be unhesitatingly taken for a ride !! My granting extra Leaves or spontaneously agreeing to let my palate chew cold ‘rotiz‘ were not the only signs of free-handedness towards someone whose labour I equally respected like mine or anybody from the upper echelons of the society; there have been considerable ones- small and big, over the months.

Managing to quickly gather myself, I said “aap bhi ek kam kijiye- yahan aake khana banaiyye aur kuch khaa lijiye…ek din vrat rakh kar kya milega !” (“you too do one thing- come here, cook and do eat something…what would you gain by fasting just for a single day!”)

She perhaps understood the sarcasm. She then muttered that she would make it in the evening, which of course she did, though much reluctantly. And as if I was the person responsible for the incomplete cleaning activities in regard with the festival at her house !

I am sure all of us keep facing these type of situations in our daily lives in India- big or trivial…

These are not just isolated incidences. As I am preparing to launch my ideas and goals to improve lives of such classes of people in our society, these incidences in fact de-motivate me, weaken me. I am stuck with such confusion that it sometimes make me ponder for days if I am doing justice to all the other strata by attempting to uplift the plight of these folks… would I be really helping these under-privileged people in bettering their lives or simply fuelling their recklessness, vanity and ego ? Is the improvement in their financial and social conditions teaching them some sort of defiance in the wrong context ? Would this dwarf trend one day grow up into a big giant ?

These people are known to stir the most touchy heart-to-heart conversations, be the protagonists of almost all the famous writers and poets of the world, subjects of famous revolutions, real strength of kings and emperors, nature’s most admired children….. Now, where is that wonderful emotion gone ? Why these type of lackadaisicalness from the same folks ?!

These type of indifferent attitude and lack of work ethics is not limited to the  un-organized sector as illustrated above. Therefore, I do not see how moulding an un-organized sector into an organized one can help promote simple affairs of the heart ! And we are perhaps concerned more about those values and less about scheduled performances routinely guided by brains.

So, is it the absence of education (the intellectual or emotional wealth) in their families and communities ?

Perhaps, socialism minus education will always act in the negative direction. It will perturb the society even more. It is quite similar to saying that power corrupts without sanity !!! In the realistic world, it would be perhaps wiser to have two groups- one, that of educated and financially privileged people and the other, of rustic simpletons toiling hard, than to form a society based on all equal terms for every strata BUT minus the most effective factor of progress- education, whether of formal degrees or of moral lessons !

Its high time to quickly check Maslow’s pyramid vis-a-vis education, and may be along with a few other factors recommended by social scientists, psychiatrists, social activists, government authorities and other stakeholders. This is very much required, at least, in the present Indian scenario !

Aamjunta — what do you think ?

Beer bar, Liquor Shop and Aamjunta

Are yaar, chalo… yahan so jate hain,
Haan, achhi jagah hai… kyon hostel jayenge? yahan hi so jaate hain..

This was the post job treat conversation between two students. They fell from their cycle on their way to hostel from the main gate, after taking a heavy dinner and nice cock-tail in a reputed beer bar. Interestingly, we were also in the same job treat and were on our way walking to hostel too. When we saw them lying flat on the road, we could not believe our eyes. But, what to do? We put them into an auto-rickshaw and brought them to hostel. Before bringing them back, we picked and kept their cycle (badly damaged) near a tree.

This is just one among many incidents, which can be observed in our every-day life. Some times, the drunk-policeman on the road, or some time the drunk workers or rickshaw-wallah on the road, or some time the drunk officer in the office. It is observed everywhere, irrespective of place and culture.

A friend of mine went for a high profile international research workshop. He is a non-drinker and a vegetarian. Some of his course-mates who were members of faculty in different universities, teased him that he is not an “intellectual” because he doesn’t share a drink. The friend replied them in return that he doesn’t mind people drinking in front of him, even though he doesn’t drink himself. He added what had “intellectualism” to do with drinking or not drinking. The other group replied that an intellectual breaks stereotypes and societal norms by drinking. In fact, we get cool ideas and inspiration after a drink. Moreover, you may not gain entry into high profile circles if you do not share a drink — you would not be called an intellectual.

My friend was listening carefully and smiled a bit, listening to their statement. After a pause, he replied, “so an intellectual is a radical who deviates from societal norms and establishes himself as a revolutionary?” Everyone nodded. He then continued, “by drinking an intellectual gets entry into certain exclusive circles? also breaks norms“? People looked at him intently.

He continued, “precisely that is the reason why I don’t drink. Not for religious or political causes. I don’t drink because I want to break this new norm that has been established by intellectual community. By breaking tradition through drinking you are also creating new tradition of drinking. I refuse to be a part of any. My intellectualism (if that is what it means) is not to follow any tradition, and I refuse to follow ‘the intellectual tradition’. If getting drunk defines intellectualism, then I refuse to be called an intellectual.”

In an another incident, I could not believe my eyes, when I saw people making fun of a drunk bank officer in a reputed nationalized bank. Some of the customers were getting irritated and some were enjoying the free entertainment, where his colleagues were standing helpless. Finally, the branch manager had to intervene, and the officer was cordoned-off to some room in the bank. What an embarrassing scene!

If you follow newspapers or TV channels regularly, you can definitely mark/find regular news on drunken-driving, drunken-beating (wife/parents or both), feeding month’s salary (currency notes) in drunk state to Bulls/Cow or rapes/killing under the influence of heavy drinking. These kind of incidents are of course not new to us. It happens in our society, mostly in cities (villages are not far-off though). Drinking or serving drinks in parties/treats (irrespective of high/low profile parties) is not new. In fact, it is considered to be a status symbol in our society.

Beer-bars/dance bars (including ladies bars) are mushrooming, both in metros and in other cities. If the bars are just serving liquor or dance, then the harm to the society is not much. However, that does not happen in real life. Beer-bars/dance bars are becoming the hubs of all anti-social activities, starting from terrorist activities to eve-teasing, hooliganism to drug peddling, under-world activities to supari killing activities and also to violent moral policing. Does that serve the society in a healthy manner? I doubt!

Writing incidents about cities is nether sufficient nor complete to discuss these issues. Now a days, one can find many liquor shops in small cities and even in Panchayat Headquarters. You can find all brands (including deshi and videshi) of liquors there. Not only liquors, one can find other brands of Ganja/Charas there. Some of these shops are licensed while some are not. As long as they are paying haftas to the local leaders/gundas and Police, no one can stop them from doing their business. They prosper, even if they spend a lot on bribing various organizations/individuals.

On a different note. Last week, I was in Puri Swargadvara (literally Heaven’s Gate) to attend a funeral there. There is a liquor shop adjacent to the cremation ground “Swarga Dwar“. The proximity of the liquor shop to the funeral grounds was so close that one could smell the fumes of human cremation while one drank. Every one coming to the cremation ground asked one question, what is the “Foreign Liquor Shop” doing here? I too could not understand how come the shop keeper got the license there? Mostly I was thinking, “who is buying here”? at this locality? near the cremation ground!” Suddenly, two college girls (hardly in their early 20s) got down from a cycle rickshaw, went to the shop and bought 4 bottles of different brand. In no time they just vanished. After some time, couple of people came there, bought some bottles of wines and started making lewd comments on the ladies attending the funeral. I am still wondering, whether allowing to open the shop at that place is appropriate or not. It is definitely a subject for larger debate

If we (many of us, including the Govt.) understand the bad-effects of these kind of shops/bars or activities, then why do we allow these shops/bars to mushroom? This is a major problem in the south Indian cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Trivendrum, etc., where one can find liquor shops in every 20/30 meters… and that too most of the times open 24/7. Why? Is it because, the Govt. gets huge tax or revenue? or is it because these shop keepers or bar owners are influential or do we really need them? Many of us drink, some are occasional and some are regular. Some can afford, whereas many cannot; resulting in regular disturbances, fights, suicides, killings, rapes, eve teasing and stealing, etc. For some of us it is a status symbol, for some of us it is a fight between life and death, for some of us it might be a medicine…

And for the aamjunta …. let aamjunta decides what is good and what is bad; we all are independent in thinking, life style and expressing our views 🙂

Note: The incidents described are inspired from real-life stories. Neither I support drinking, nor I object. But, I am strongly against the ill-effects of drinking.

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