Monday, December 10, 2012

Guns Roses n I

Circa 1988.

We are travelling in a car in Delhi; my cuz sitting up front with the driver, me behind. And he keeps replaying 'Paradise City', looping the tape back to the beginning and stopping exactly when the guitar takes over. Just the clear, strong sound of the percussion vibrates through the car (it was equipped with the state-of-the-art Sony system) and as much as I liked to believe then that it was irritating, I can admit now, that I turned into a fan that winter evening in Delhi.

Guns n Roses. I got hooked to their music and yes, I do have the cuz to blame!

In the all-girls convent I went to, most of my friends were listening to Wham, Madonna and the like. Pop music was 'in' and I found myself strangely alienated because I loved hard rock, a bit of metal, soft rock and I also listened to the popular music of the time.  But if there was someone in class who had tapes of GnR, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Bruce Springsteen etc, it was me.

And it was, yes, you guessed that right, all because of the cuz!

Circa 2012.

When I first heard that GnR were coming to India on a three city tour I was instantly transported back to those days, when we, the first of the MTV generation, would sit glued to the idiot box watching videos of songs we'd only heard before! And we saw Slash actually strum those chords, and Axl, well...Axl...the archetypal bad boy of the 80s and 90s, was irresistible. His voice, his long locks of hair, his....well...suffice to say that if you loved hard rock, you'd definitely like Axl.

And here was this opportunity presenting itself to me. All I had to do was find someone to babysit the children, travel to Mumbai and decide what to wear!!!

So after much hemming and hawing, I finally made it to the Guns n Roses, Appetite for Democracy tour, Mumbai concert on 9th December.

I watched him for three hours. strutting about on the whole stage. He hardly stood still, kept running about, kept singing, kept entertaining us. But what struck me real hard is that he has mellowed. This was a not-so-hyper Axl, so different from his younger avataar.

Yes, 25 years can age anyone, and it is not easy, not easy to watch your icons look old-er; not easy to see their long locks disappeared somewhere, not easy to see the bags under the eyes, the sagging chin, the expanded waistline.... Somewhere it makes you aware of your own aging.

His voice still sounded the same....and he still held us in thrall the whole time! The way he looked at us and said, "I've been waiting 27 years to come to India"....and while I thought, "Oh Gosh! Why didn't you!!!" my knees turned jelly...



I walked out with a lump in my throat and a resolve, that I will allow my children to see their idols and icons perform LIVE any opportunity I can 'afford'. Because we must be able to live the experience of our adulation in its entirety. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Blue on White

Blue on white
Little squares, many scribbles
Love, fondness, desire
distance, desperation, memories
...a time of recklessness...

Blue on white
Little squares, lay scattered
as she snipped apart
through the center, through the being
of her aching heart... 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Joy of Giving Week is back

The Joy of Giving week starts tomorrow, October 2nd.

Many cynical people do ask, how will it help to spread joy for just one week, just as the the act of switching lights off for one hour during Earth Hour invokes very adverse reactions from people... To them all I say, "At least do it for one week/hour..."

During the Joy of Giving week, NGOs, corporates and individuals like you and me reach out to those not as privileged as us to spread the message of hope and joy... Its not much I agree, but its a small baby step in the right direction and for that, it gets my full support.

Last year we had organised a Day Out for patients of Ataxia in Pune. What a feeling it was to see those who had not stepped out of their homes for simple pleasures like watching a movie in almost 10 years!

This year, I am supporting a few JoG exercises from the outside due to work pressures. But have resolved to continue following the JoG cards here on Vivify and keep my children in touch with their humane side too.




Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reservation Quota for an "Indian"

The quota issue has raised its head again (I won’t say ‘ugly head’ for fear of being chastised as privileged-educated-middle class-drives a car-has a maid-kids study in private school-nondalit-Hindu and who knows what else) and I have serious issues with the “let us reserve for those who are needy/underprivileged/minority/victims of casteism” simply because the other side (not necessarily the opposite of the adjectives that describe the “need reservations” group) is unrepresented and therefore, ignored.

To understand what I am getting at, all you would have to do is go to the Tehsil office in your district and observe the queues for ‘domicile certificates’ and hear what those standing in the queues, who are not natives of the state, have to endure.

Today the reality of an Indian like me (of Marwari origin, born in Delhi, raised in Kerala, married to a Tamilian Brahmin, lived across the country courtesy spouse’s service in the Armed Forces, now stationed in Maharashtra, and who can speak 6 Indian languages with absolute ease) is that my identity has become restrictive.

Simply because I cannot respond with confidence to queries regarding region, home state, mother tongue etc with an emphatic “I am an Indian” and leave it there. It is not enough.

“Ha ha…yes I know. We are all Indians. But really, which state do you belong to?” I am often questioned by incredulous acquaintances who also announce rather alarmingly when told the truth about my multi-cultural upbringing, “Really? Baniya from Kerala? But you don’t have a mallu accent at all!!!!” the blame of which I usually shift to the missionary-run school I attended through my academic life in uniform that insisted we speak in English all the time. “Yes, but still, your English has no malayali accent…”

Ok I admit I do feel a cheap thrill when I am told that my accent carries no traces of my education from Kerala where the accent is the butt of several thousand jokes. But that is where it ends, because inclined as I could be (or should be) to be known as a Keralite minus the accent, I am keener to be known as an Indian.

Sadly that is a card that is not working and as time goes by, it is getting tougher for our tribe to survive.

I have to belong to some place in India to qualify to be part of a socio-cultural or socio-economic group. As an out of work journalist, I am not part of any socio-economic structure any way and my socio-cultural identity was long ago snatched after it became mandatory to “belong” to some state in the country.
So while I “must” technically belong to Kerala (on paper; the heart is a different matter altogether), I do not, because I don’t vote from Kerala not having lived there for over 23 years. I do not belong to Maharashtra, where I currently live, even though I vote from here, because I have not resided here for fifteen or more years (to claim domicile). I cannot belong to Haryana, where my father grew up because we no longer have any property, friends, relatives or bonds there and furthermore I have never lived there.

Despite all this, I have managed to trundle through life proud of my unique identity as an Indian who did not base her allegiance to a region/state to feel a sense of belonging to her Motherland.

But this I reckon (practical as I am) will not be of much help to my children, who from a very young age have been questioned, amongst others, by class teachers about religion, caste and home states (to which we have continued emphasising a zealous “Indian” as an answer), and who will have to make a choice eventually because when we seek admissions into colleges, universities and the like, our ‘regional’ orientation will matter as much, if not more than our sexual orientation.

It will matter a few years from now when my daughter needs admission into a college, and where the existing sundry reservations would mean one of these three choices: either she scores a 120% marks to get a seat through merit (the cut offs for colleges are getting distressingly unachievable), look for a reservation category that we fall under (so far there isn’t any), or compel her to make a different career choice.

So, finally, after years of being subjected to religion-caste-region questions I have come to the conclusion that people like me, who are a veritable cocktail of the cultures that makes India what it is, need to have our have our very own reservation too.

There must be a reservation for those whose hearts beat for India and who do not stake a claim on any particular region, language or culture as their own – who are Indians first and Indians forever; a reservation quota for “Indians” in academic institutions, government jobs and the like.

Now that I have my ideology clear, all I would need to do is focus my energy towards finding the perfect poster boy, celebrity, mouthpiece who could be suitably instated chairperson of the movement and who will passionately vocalise our “feelings”. A dharna, march, bandh etc can follow later (those will be part of Plan B).

Please wish us luck!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Moral Policing - Pune Nightclub Incident


I have a problem with this phrase – Moral Policing. Because these two words, that briefly mean, “the effort of a select few individuals to ‘protect’ India’s ‘culture’ against ‘western influence’”, can cover all manner of sins.

Case in point is the rounding up of 300 individuals who were partying in a nightclub in Pune, their subsequent detention and the harassment they went through for over 12 hours, being held, without food or water, at the venue.

This nightclub, which has a restaurant attached, located in the suburb on the Eastern side of Pune is known amongst party goers as a hip place to hang out in, where the music is good, the dance floor large and the crowd that comprises of mostly techies and working professionals, (which would qualify in clubbing parlance as a ‘safe’ crowd,) a place devoid of hooliganism, where groups of women (unaccompanied by men) can have fun without the fear of groping, or soliciting.

Pune rural police that swooped down on the club say that the party organisers didn’t have requisite permissions and a large quantity of ‘illegal’ foreign liquor was being served. The party continued way beyond midnight and while rumours were agog about the presence of narcotics there is no concrete evidence so far to prove that guests were using drugs.

So far, it doesn’t seem like the guests at the party were indulging in any nefarious activities other than drinking, dancing and having fun. And this is where the problem is.

This was no rave party nor a private party; the attendees paid Rs 1000 per couple as an entry charge for a night of dancing that was advertised on a radio channel too.  It was a typical Saturday night out for over-worked professionals who like letting their hair down.

Unfortunately what we are witnessing is that lawmakers are entrapping themselves in these dual roles – one of law enforcers as the police and the other of morality enforcers as moral police.

If the organisers were flouting rules (such as closing time) or didn’t have requisite permissions, why were 300 guests detained and held for hours without food or water? If the police suspected underage drinking, why were those who are of legal drinking age not allowed to leave?  The onus of serving liquor to underage guests lies with the organisers, then why were others detained beyond a reasonable time?

The media meanwhile, indulged in hyperbole so typical of the moral brigade terming the action of the police a “raid”. They went berserk on the so-called statistics of the so-called raid – “There were Iranian nationals at the party” – (Is there a law against foreign nationals enjoying an evening out?); “The party was even attended by 110 women” – (What does “even by women” imply? That women cannot have fun in a nightclub?); “Some boys and girls were found in compromising positions” – (Compromising position? Have they been inside a cinema for a matinee on a weekday, where the cover of darkness hides a lot more than a compromising position?)

Hypocrisy is the benchmark of moral policing – the same brigade that has a problem with smoking, drinking or dancing but won’t bat an eyelid nor raise a furore when a porn star turned actor is the chief guest at Dahi Handi celebrations in this very same city.  This moral police won’t save the dignity of a girl being groped in public by lascivious men, but will mind if girls mingle with the opposite sex at their own free will. This same bunch of people who claim to uphold the culture of our land will stand by and do nothing when two young men are stabbed and killed for standing up to their girl friends in Mumbai.

Moral Policing – actually sounds like the only implement that these select individuals have to mete out their fanatical, hypocritical and diabolical ideologies on the youth of this country. The detention of these guests is an unfortunate occurrence and must be condemned by all those who believe that as long as they function within the ambit of the law, their right to have fun should not be violated by anybody – not the “police”, not the “moral police.”




Friday, August 17, 2012

Where is Home?

I have mixed feelings about the exodus of our brethren from the North East going back to their respective states after the reprehensible attack on some of them in what would perhaps be the most cosmopolitan cities of India, Pune and Bangalore.

I do not for one moment condone their reaction - that of leaving these cities that are part of their Motherland to return to their "homes".  Yes, when there is a presumable threat on the lives of ordinary people based purely on their state of origin, it is but human to pack up your bags and head home.

When I think deeper, the feeling I really have is that of envy. Because these, my fellow citizens, have a place called home to go back to.

I am a marwari who was born and raised in Kerala and who has lived more than half her life in several parts of the country (courtesy that husband was in the Defence). So ask me what is home to me and I don't have a better answer than India.

My forefathers belonged to Rajasthan but had migrated to Haryana long before my father was born. Does that make Haryana home to me? A state where my father no longer lives, nor has any family, property, or connections...is that my "home"?

I was born and raised in Kerala where my father chose to move to, to earn his living almost 45 years ago. We have blended in enough to speak the language and adopt various facets of their culture and cuisine....to the extent that comfort food for my siblings and I is avial and red rice. But since we don't look like them we are branded as "non-Malayalis".  Even if I, as a young adult introduced myself to a class full of students in Delhi University as a Keralite, the reality is that we are not treated or considered as one of them. And perhaps we never will. So what then is "home" for us - my parents and siblings?

Today I live in Pune - a city I have chosen to live in for the last six years. But just because I cannot speak Marathi as well as the locals, or because I drive a car that was registered in Delhi, I am a "non-Maharashtrian"... So I have to accept that this, my favourite city in the whole world, is not "home" to me either.

When Raj Thackeray, at the peak of his anti-North Indian rhetoric had urged us to go "home", I often discussed with my South Indian husband, the absurdity of it all. Where would I go, if push had come to shove and if all North Indians REALLY did have to go back?  I had no place called "home" to go to...

I am just an ordinary Indian, who has grown up to emulate the languages and cultures of all the places I have lived in. For me, India is home....which is clearly not enough. When such threats raise their ugly heads time and again, its the ordinary citizen like me, a marwari-malayali who lives in Maharashtra, displaced, without a concrete 'identity' or home state, who has no where to run or hide.

Because today clearly, in our land of diversity, it is not enough to call my Motherland my Home!

Yes, I envy my North East fellow citizens because when they felt the pressure of threat they decided to return to their "homes"...leaving behind their colleges, careers, job opportunities etc. They have a place where they will not be discriminated against on the basis of their religion or looks. They have a safe haven, where their loved ones wait for them.

While the rest of the country laments this unnecessary 'migration' back to their homes, I can only see the silver lining. Lucky them, I say!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 34 - We made paper bags

When every word you type begins to sound like an excuse, we must stop and reconsider what we are about to express.

My absence from the blog world and the Joy of Giving, which looking back I now realise was over a month ago, has been quite inexplicable, even to me. I was and still am going through a phase of turmoil, which (this being my blog, you'll just have to read about it) boring as it may sound, is a sort of identity crisis one faces when one is out of a job (out of choice) and therefore with much time at their hands; which despite their best efforts and intention, is spent largely pursuing 'relaxation' and 'leisure', but which at the end of the day makes them want to run away because they realised they didn't really enjoy the so called sabbatical or break...simply because they never thought it would leave them feeling so useless and unproductive.

So a lesson learnt the hard way is that people like me are incapable of actual relaxation until we believe in our hearts we've earned it. Strangely, for the four years of virtually non-stop, almost-workaholic life I led, I now believe a 15 days break (including the ten glorious days I spent in Bhutan) would be 'enough' for me; and now that I have ended up extending to SIX months, I am almost crying out of boredom and the monotony of having "nothing" to do!

Phew! Now that I am done rambling, which any of you who are still visiting my blog (after my disappearances, I won't blame you if you've removed me from your blog reader too), have just had had to put up with, I can get down to the actual reason I began writing this post.

We made 15 paper bags. Yes, finally we did. The daughter, the son and I sat for less than an hour and made 15 bags out of newspaper. We did use a lots of stapling pins and some tape. All in all, it made us feel immensely satisfied. Tomorrow we will try and hand it over to a store-keeper who needs them and will put them to good use... 

Joy of Giving, sorry to have neglected you for a month, but I am back!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Find Yourself

Find Yourself

a random day to enjoy
the pouring rain, sipping chai
biting into a khaari on a highway
close to your heart

a morning so inspiring as
the Sun's rays filter down
from its celestial abode
pink and blue and grey

huddled close to a fire on a cold
winter night, that flushes freezing
cheeks and noses and ears under monkey caps
to a red warmth

a terrace that you can climb, spread
a blanket of comfort, lying and gazing
at the twinkling sky, watching the stars
and nothing else

a soul you can sleep contentedly with
holding hands under the quilt
or kissing when you stir from a dream
blissfully "one"

a reason to smile joyously
for no reason at all...

Find "yourself"
for life can keep moving
events passing you by
halting for no one...

until one day
someone you love
dies and
you die with them....

Monday, July 2, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 34

Ever since I began the Joy of Giving exercise way back in September 2011, strangely and coincidentally, the cards picked out for the week, almost always reflect a thought in my mind, or offer me a way ahead for something I've been struggling with. It is strange because the cards are picked out at random, by my children.

The Joy of Giving card for this week is For Our World.


The reason why this card is important is because I have been wondering how I can help those shopkeepers who cannot afford paper bags in place of the villainous plastic bag. 

I am strictly against using plastic bags for any reason whatsoever. Here's why. To the extent that I actually 'return' plastic bags given to me by well meaning storekeepers. 

I believe that the first step to reducing plastic consumption is to say NO to it at every level, even when it comes to lining your garbage bins.

Pune Municipal Corporation banned the plastic bag in January 2010 and it gets my goat when I see people taking one from their neighbourhood kirana store for 2 biscuit packets! Why can't they just put it in their purses or backpacks instead of taking a plastic bag? Why can't they just bring their own bag?

So I've become the neighbourhood meanie. When I see someone asking for a plastic bag, I ask the shop keeper really loud, "Are you still giving plastic bags? Isn't it banned?"

Most often storekeepers are stunned and sheepishly reply, "Kya karen madam... Logon ko chahiye rehta hai.... What do we do Madam? People need it..."

To which I usually say, "If it is banned you cannot give it. Corporation has imposed a penalty of Rs 15,000 on shopkeepers who do it..."

Sometimes shopkeepers say, "We charge them money Madam...." and ask the customer for a rupee for the small sized bag (this practice has the approval of the Ministry of Environment and Forests). Often when they have to "pay" customers walk away without one, miraculously finding place in their bags for their goodies...

I also find brown paper bags a complete monstrosity. What is the point of doling out paper bags that are also cause of environmental degradation (cutting down trees???) 

However, I make small concessions for bags made out of newspaper because they are recycled and (usually) made by the underprivileged who earn some money making them. The only problem is that buying these bags costs the shopkeepers more money than plastic bags so most don't keep them.

To honour the Joy of Giving Card 34, I have decided to make 50 paper bags and give it to the shop keepers in my area who cannot afford to buy them - the cobbler for example.

Wish me luck my friends and join in too!

Join in the journey. Here's how! 

Go to the page titled Joy Of Giving where I have posted all the cards selected so far. Those of you who'd like to start this exercise from the beginning, just follow the cards in the order they are posted!

OR

To join the Joy of Giving right away just follow the cards every week as they are posted on the blog.

Please REMEMBER to post your experiences in a public forum - your own blog, note on FaceBook - or leave your story in the comment section of this blog. Do remember to tag me in your posts...

To know how it started click here.

To track the Joy of Giving through the past thirty three weeks, click here

DO spread the message of this unique movement. Encourage your friends to start following the cards and spreading joy...



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 33 - Rahmath's Organ Donor Card

Rahmath has been one of the most consistent followers of the Joy of Giving and she has kept up the rhythm by signing her very own Organ Donor card.

You can read her post here... So the Path- Joy of Giving - Week 33

If you're inspired to carry an Organ Donor Card download it and express your wish to donate your organs after your demise.

All the best!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Joy of Giving Card 33 - Sign up for Organ Donation

When the Joy of Giving card 33 prompted us to donate our organs, my first instinct was to go to a hospital and pick up an Organ Donation card.

When I did enquire at one of the leading hospitals in Pune, to my utter shock and dismay I was told that there is no such thing as a card that you need to fill out.  The "Medical Social Worker" at the hospital explained that donating eyes and skin were most common and easily executed. She seemed to be a bit confused about the donation of vital organs and kept repeating that the same can only be done if the patient was declared "brain dead."

So my first reaction was to come home and Google. This is what I found:

1. Organ Donation is in a very dismal state in India. Thousands of lives are lost annually due to lack of organs from cadavers.

2. Tamil Nadu tops the organ donor stats in India with a total of 1464 organs donated from Oct 2008 - May 2012. That is a meagre 36 donations per year! And even with this they top the list!!!

3. The law on Organ Donation was formulated in 1994 with the Transplantation of Human Organ Act (THOA).

According to this law two types of donations are permitted:

a) Living related donors: Only immediate blood relations (brother, sister, parents & children) can donate as per the THOA. Living donor can donate only few organs, one kidney (as one kidney is capable of maintaining the body functions), a portion of pancreas (as half of the pancreas is adequate for sustaining pancreatic functions) and part of the liver (as the few segments that are donated will regenerate after a period of time) can be donated.

b) Cadaver Organ donor: Can donate all organs after brain death.

4. Cadaver donations are accepted after a team of four doctors declares a patient "brain dead" twice in a span of six hours. Brain death is the irreversible and permanent cessation of all brain functions. Brain can no longer send messages to the body to perform vital functions like breathing, sensation, obeying commands etc. Such persons are kept on artificial support (ventilation) to maintain oxygenation of organs so that the organs are in healthy condition until they are removed. Most cases of brain death are the end result of head injuries, brain tumours patients from Intensive care units. Organs of such patients can be transplanted in organ failure patients to provide them a new lease of life.

Thus it is important for the patient who has desired to donate his/her organs be kept on life support system to ensure oxygen supply is not cut off and the organs can still be used. 

5. What can you donate?
Cornea, skin, heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestine, bone and bone marrow.

6. The biggest criteria to be able to donate your organs is that your near and dear ones, family or immediate relatives should not raise an objection to your wish. If they do, the "wish" of the donor even if it is in writing will be overlooked. I found that quite preposterous and sad. If I do have an Organ Donor card I need to first convince my family and friends about it!

So strangely in our country, first of all people don't donate organs easily and when they want to, if their family feels otherwise, the organ donation can be set aside!

There seems to be a deep rooted misunderstanding as far as the whole concept goes and I searched more to find out why Indians were so wary of donating their organs "after they deaths". The answer came to me in a conversation with my daughter.

Her first reaction to my search for Organ Donor cards was, "Noooo... You can't give away your organs!!!"

After I sat down to explain to her WHY one must donate, she still stuck to her views, "NO Maa. We would like to cremate ALL of you when you die, not with missing organs!"

She is twelve, but I fathom this must be the most common refrain amongst the relatives of those who have passed on and have desired to donate their organs.

None of this has deterred me. I downloaded this form from a website and request all you to do as well. Once the form is filled, it must be carried on your person (just like you would a Driver's License) and hope as hell that when the Good Lord comes calling, and its time for us to go, our siblings, spouse, parents or children will respect and fulfill our wish....



For more information on organ donation please log into DonateOrgans.net.




Thursday, June 14, 2012

India - Worst country for women

Its official.

According to a G20 poll that is to be presented at the G20 Summit on June 18-19, India is listed as the WORST country amongst the 20 member nations to be a woman in!

What's worse is (I say this for all our bravado and "assumptions" that we have more liberty, freedom and all that than our counterparts in the Arab World) even Saudi Arabia is one place ahead of us!

According to the poll infanticide, dowry deaths, child marriage and domestic slavery make India the worst amongst 20 nations for a woman. And while Saudi Arabia where women are banned from driving and only won the right to vote in 2011 is better off because the women are very well educated.

"In India, women and girls continue to be sold as chattels, married off as young as 10, burned alive as a result of dowry-related disputes and young girls exploited and abused as domestic slave labor," said Gulshun Rehman, health program development adviser at Save the UK, who was one of those polled.

"This is despite a groundbreakingly progressive Domestic Violence Act enacted in 2005 outlawing all forms of violence against women and girls."

TrustLaw (the agency that conducted the poll) asked aid professionals, academics, health workers, policymakers, journalists and development specialists with expertise in gender issues to rank the 19 countries of the G20 in terms of the overall best and worst to be a woman.

They also ranked countries in six categories: quality of health, freedom from violence, participation in politics, work place opportunities, access to resources such as education and property rights and freedom from trafficking and slavery. (Source: Reuters.com)


Canada was voted the number one country for women. As the European Union was not included in the poll we have been awarded the 20th position, else with competition from countries like Finland and Sweden we would have been pushed to a negative position. 

No need to wax eloquent about "a country that reveres its women, worships them as Goddesses" etc...the ground reality as has been getting increasingly clear with the attacks on the woman (dowry, acid attacks, honour killings, rapes) and the girl child (foeticide, infanticide, child marriage, rapes) and prostitution regardless of their age, coupled with the lack of education, empowerment etc...is very very grim....

There is no other way to end this ramble but to say - disgusting and shameful....

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dowry and Killing the Girl child - Make the connection. Stop the practice

It turns out that they are not just killing them in the womb any more.

In the past few months, cases of absolute brutality have surfaced against toddlers - 2.5 year old Tara who eventually died from her injuries, 3 month old Afreen who was admitted in a Bangalore hospital and who also succumbed to her injuries and more recently, Shireen eighteen months old from Indore who was brutally beaten by an adult...all girls.

Recently the government crack down on Sex Determination (under the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), as amended in 2002) by nursing homes, hospitals and clinics (yes, including those that exist in bye-lanes and hidden corners) has made news in all leading newspapers, as some very renowned hospitals were also caught revealing the sex of the unborn child to parents.

Suddenly I found hospitals put up boards to announce that the practice of sex determination is illegal and they wouldn't indulge in it. The crackdown perhaps helped more girl children to come into this world, but the fact remains that many of them are unwelcome and undesired.

There is a deep malaise in the core of the very fabric of our society that looks upon the birth of a boy as a cause for celebration and of a girl as cause for unhappiness.

Because boys ensure the continuance of family lineage with their precious XY Chromosome and girls...well...girls only end up getting married the cost of which has to be borne by the parents.

The absurd reality of the culture that India is so famous for in Western countries is not lost on parents who have girls of 'marriageable' age and whose biggest concern and perhaps life's biggest achievement and expenditure would be to ensure that the girls are married off with as much pomp and gaiety as they can afford.

Being rich or poor has nothing to do with it. The pressure on parents who have a daughter is immense since the demands of the "marriage market" keep increasing by the day.

From having weddings at resorts, to designer clothes to diamond jewellery, the average cost of hosting a 'simple' wedding ranges from 45 - 150 million rupees based on which segment of society you belong to. Most parents go beyond their financial capacities to host a "good wedding", in other words, satisfy the groom's and his parent's demands, because of the deep rooted belief that money can go a long way in ensuring the happiness of the wedlock.

While you would expect that girls, with a rise in education, employment opportunities and increase in awareness, would be keen on curbing practices that virtually entrap their parents, the fact is that nothing has changed. If anything the scenario has only changed for the worse.

Girls themselves want fairytale weddings. They are unwilling to compromise on the "best" money can buy/they can afford for their big day and succumb to the pressures of the wedding hullabaloo.

Couples who seek to get married with the concurrence of their parents (read: love matches as opposed to arranged), also expect the parents to bear the cost of the wedding. From fancy locations, to hiring specialised photographers and wedding planners, the concept of a 'simple' wedding no longer exists.

And that’s the reason why couples even from affluent families are scared of having more than one daughter. And if another is on the way, she is simply killed in the womb to ensure that the burden is not theirs to bear. Lately what is being witnessed is also that even if she is born, her life is nothing short of living hell.

I've written about this before and it still pains me to know that my own cousins sisters are being put through the ignominy of aborting female foetuses to fulfill the desire to have a male child/heir. Many of my cousins brothers have forced their wives to it too.

Doesn’t this act of absolute brutality diminish the lines that distinguish us from animals?

It has been suggested by law makers that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1986, must carry the mandatory provision of consent of the mother for aborting the foetus. But such amendments to existing laws are useless as perpetrators do not seek refuge under the provisos of law. Instead they find a nursing home in the next bye-lane that will bend the rules for monetary benefits. Moreover, women, even in rich families, are not emancipated enough to go against the decision of the elders or the husband.

The discrimination girls in India face has to do with cultural beliefs and social norms. Until we challenge these norms, no legislation can stop the selective murders of the girl child, either in the womb or after her birth. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Love is in the air...

The quietly humming air conditioner had illuminated the room with its display light. Lying in bed, I was hoping to fall asleep when I turned sides and saw my son was awake too. He was staring at the window the shades of which I'd purposefully left undrawn. I whispered to him (so as not to wake up the other sleeping child) what he was thinking about.

"Not what mamma... who"... he said.

"Ok...who are you thinking about...?"

"Oh you know...."

"No I don't..."

He smiled from ear to ear and blushingly blurted out her name, "Mohana..."

"Ohhhh.... nice..."

Mohana is a classmate from his old school, the one he left in March. I wasn't aware of the presence of this girl until one day, a friend whose home the kids were staying in for 2 days while the hubby and I shifted to another locality in the city, called to tell me that he'd been telling her 8 year old daughter about Mohana - "the love of my life!"

"So do you like her?" I asked.

"Mamma...not LIKE..." he answered and clarified... "L O V E ...love.."

"Ah! Ok!!" I said grinning to myself comfortably camouflaged in the darkness as he continued to stare at some point beyond me.

"So have you told her that you love her?" I asked

"No! I am scared..." he answered

"You don't have to be scared. You can tell her..."

"No mamma. I am too young..."

"Ah!!!" I thought to myself - too young to tell her but not too young to 'fall' in love!!!!

The conversation moved to how much he was missing Mohana and the other friends from his old school. I assured him that he will make friends in this school too.

He sighed and said, "But there cannot be anyone like Mohana!"....

I asked my love lorn nine year old if he'd like to go visit her sometime this week to which he jumped up and hugged me and said, "Oh thank you so much!"

Smiling he shared more with me, "I dream sometimes that we are married and we have kids and that my handwriting is still bad and I ask Mohana to do all the writing for me..."

"My children have PSPs to play with but I have invented them..." and went on to explain at great length the PSP he will invent in the future...

"But Mamma, she is a Christian..."

"That doesn't matter. As long as you love her" I assured him...

"Ok. Good. I think she is from Brazil..." he added his eyes travelling once more to some point beyond me, out of the window...

Eventually we drifted off to sleep, him and I. I have a feeling he was dreaming of Mohana as a faint smile played on his lips ....




Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 32, 33

Its the holiday season and I knew most of my fellow bloggers were vacationing...getting away from the Summer heat... So I decided to delay posting Card 32 by a week.

Got my daughter to pick two cards (to catch up) and the cards are both immensely important - one for "Ourselves" and the other "For Strangers" who we may end up giving the greatest joy of all!

Card 32

Card 33


Join in the journey. Here's how! 

Go to the page titled Joy Of Giving where I have posted all the cards selected so far. Those of you who'd like to start this exercise from the beginning, just follow the cards in the order they are posted!

OR

To join the Joy of Giving right away just follow the cards every week as they are posted on the blog.

Please REMEMBER to post your experiences in a public forum - your own blog, note on FaceBook - or leave your story in the comment section of this blog. Do remember to tag me in your posts...

To know how it started 
click here.

To track the Joy of Giving through the past thirty one weeksclick here

DO spread the message of this unique movement. Encourage your friends to start following the cards and spreading joy...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 31

Breaks from the blog world are never on purpose. Taking a break as I did from the Joy of Giving also made me feel 'inadequate' in many ways...like something was grossly missing from my life..like I didn't have "anything" to focus on...

So here I am with this week's card. Card 31 that is simple and welcome in the blistering Summer heat...



Join in the journey. Here's how! 

Go to the page titled Joy Of Giving where I have posted all the cards selected so far. Those of you who'd like to start this exercise from the beginning, just follow the cards in the order they are posted!

OR

To join the Joy of Giving right away just follow the cards every week as they are posted on the blog.

Please REMEMBER to post your experiences in a public forum - your own blog, note on FaceBook - or leave your story in the comment section of this blog. Do remember to tag me in your posts...

To know how it started 
click here.

To track the Joy of Giving through the past thirty weeksclick here

DO spread the message of this unique movement. Encourage your friends to start following the cards and spreading joy...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Break

My Joy of Giving friends, I am taking a two week break from posting the cards as I am swamped with a personal issue that needs my full attention. So I'll see you all with a new card on 14th May... Love and luck until then and do co

Monday, April 23, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 30 experience

So this is what they call "hitting two birds with one stone"!

I wanted to give my maid a paid day off as the 30th Joy of Giving card suggested during the week gone by. From Monday to Thursday, courtesy the fact that I was dropping my children off to a new school 20 kms away every morning and would go house hunting after that (I am planning to move locations within Pune) I would miss the maid. She has had a key to my home since I employed her about a year ago and she'd be gone by the time I'd get back home.

On Saturday however, the grand plan of this confusion came to light.

A friend, who lives one floor below me called to talk about something when I mentioned to her that I am moving homes. She said she has been looking for a maid for almost a month and asked me to send my good lady over to her place on Sunday.

Grabbing this as the best opportunity to follow the card I called my lady and asked her to go to this friend's place, instead of mine on Sunday. I would be giving her a paid day off and the new opening would help her fill the time slot which would fall vacant once I leave.

When I told my friend later that evening about it, she added to the 'joy of giving' saying that following this card also gave her happiness!

One card - three happy people!!! Can't get better than this, can it???


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Joy of Giving - Week 31 - Card 30

We've hit T H I R T Y! A good number and a wonderful card too...one that encourages us to spread joy towards the 'helpers' in our daily lives!

Tough? Or easy? You decide!!!


New to the Joy of Giving? Here's what you can do:

Go to the page titled Joy Of Giving where I have posted all the cards selected so far. Those of you who'd like to start this exercise from the beginning, just follow the cards in the order they are posted!

OR

To join the Joy of Giving right away just follow the cards every week as they are posted on the blog.

Please REMEMBER to post your experiences in a public forum - your own blog, note on FaceBook - or leave your story in the comment section of this blog. Do remember to tag me in your posts...

To know how it started 
click here.

To track the Joy of Giving through the past twenty nine weeksclick here

DO spread the message of this unique movement. Encourage your friends to start following the cards and spreading joy...

Joy of Giving - Rahmath's Gratitude List

Rahmath went into Gratitude mode (Card 10) and wrote down all the things she was grateful for on bits of paper, every time something struck her. Such a wonderful post!!!!

I am sharing it here, but you must go to her original blogpost to see the pictures she's posted!

Joy of Giving Week 22-23 card that Ritu posted was to avoid plastics and clean out your cupboard and donate the clothes you don't use. I have recorded my experience on Week 22 card here and as I already had decided to donate clothes every Christmas Eve to Goonj as I have recorded in this post I thought I will follow an older card.

Week 10 card - Start a Gratitude Diary, seemed to be a perfect choice.

The times I have an organized form of prayer,(which means standing in one place , lighting agarbattis and reading scriptures sort of thing) it normally starts like this, 'Thanks dear God for all the happiness you have given me and my loved ones. Thanks for the food we eat, for the roof on top of our head and the love that you shower upon us through our friends and family'.

At this point my hubby always quips in saying "why have you forgotten the walls and columns, after all if there were no walls the roof wouldn't be on top of our heads". I have learnt to ignore that sentence. It's almost a family tradition now. I say that prayer and he says this sentence cheekily :)

So in March, I decided to start one. Whenever I felt thankful about something I just wrote it on any piece of paper I got my hand into. I wrote so for around 8 days. I wonder how does one write a gratitude diary everyday. Does it not start repeating??? that's a genuine question. But I loved writing it. Helped me stay positive. Just to sum it up

What Am I thankful for right now?
1. My husband.

2. Stability - the roof on top of my head and the walls and the columns :)

3. Financial independence.

4. Love from friends and family.

5. Health.

6. Education

7. Work that I enjoy.

8. Hope that everything will be ok.

9. Happy memories old and new.

10. Belonging to a Democratic Secular Country.

Joy of Giving - Updates

I have been trying my very best to follow all the Joy of Giving cards that I post here (recently with increasing irregularity - a condition I am hoping to change soon). I thought that a short update was due since the last experience I wrote about was for Card 25 after which we've been through 4 more cards.

So here goes:

Card 26 -  This was a tough one for me. I read the card and pondered over it for more than a week realising that I am not really "attached" to material things. I feel sad when I lose something or something I use has got spoilt (just because I will have to buy another one) but I am not really fixated or attached to any sort of possessions. I don't have a favourite footwear, or lipstick (like some friends I know do), or a favourite outfit, piece of jewellery... Infact, I have the habit of saying "favourite" for everything I have... Eventually I gave something away that was perhaps "one" of my favourite things...a set of CDs to someone who I know would appreciate them too. And strangely I don't miss it. At all.



Card 27 - This one was accomplished quite simply, when on a trip to Bhutan, I travelled by public transportation in Kolkata instead of opting for the comfort of a taxi (and I must add that the bus was very comfortable too!)... Recently after dropping my kids at school, I gave away the saved money to a speech & hearing impaired person at a traffic signal.
Card 28NOT an easy card for most of us. I did eventually give a JKJ to the sweeper in my building and she was shocked and shy, all at the same time. Now she smiles ear to ear whenever she sees me... :-D








Card 29  - I did get the opportunity to offer my seat to a stranger - an elderly lady on the shuttle bus from the departure lounge to the aircraft in Hyderabad recently, travelling with too many handbags. This is a card I follow every time I travel. I prefer giving my seat away to a woman with a baby/small child, an elderly gentleman or lady... Often I cannot fathom why an able man or woman won't vacate their seat for those who need it - be it on a bus or the Metro. Doesn't hurt and costs nothing. Showing kindness is not THAT easy I guess. Which is why the Joy of Giving means so much to me... 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Abhir

When you were just a baby, tiny and frail
I'd shed tears watching your travails

In one year you turned the tables around
As I spent one sleepless night after another cradling you as you howled

The terrible twos I thought would change the tide
But you traded a sleep pattern for "I love to cling to my mother and whine"..

At three you began hugging us but wiping away your cheeks when kissed
By four you discovered that cuddling was something you'd missed

At five your struggles found a new name - some call it dyslexia, some LD
We geared up for the battle as you struggled with your As and Zs

Six was a milestone year as you began opening up to friends
By seven you were a pro at social interactions

At eight we were elated to find that you had begun reading and enjoying it
And you began bowling us over with your intelligence, warmth and wit

At nine, my dear son, who I call "buddy boy"
You've beaten the odds and given us unsurmountable joy
You express yourself in words and actions
Your hugs, kisses and I love you's are miracles I bask in

As I wish you a Happy Birthday today, again, meri jaan
I can't help but marvel at the journey so far
And ask me if I'd change anything in the nine gone by
I'd say "No, I will do it in very much the same way, all over again..."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Joy of Giving Card 29 Week 29

I am late again! No, I am trying my best not to make it a bad habit but too many things happened... I hate giving excuses so won't offer any my dear Joy of Givers...but will plunge into the card for this week, picked out by my daughter, straight away:

I don't travel much by public transport but when I do, I automatically give my seat away to the elderly (men or women) and mothers with children, even women with too many shopping bags and such. To fulfill this card I will have to travel by bus. Hopefully I will find someone to give my seat away to. Tell me about your experience.


New to the Joy of Giving? Here's what you can do:

Go to the page titled Joy Of Giving where I have posted all the cards selected so far. Those of you who'd like to start this exercise from the beginning, just follow the cards in the order they are posted!

OR

To join the Joy of Giving right away just follow the cards every week as they are posted on the blog.

Please REMEMBER to post your experiences in a public forum - your own blog, note on FaceBook - or leave your story in the comment section of this blog. Do remember to tag me in your posts...

To know how it started 
click here.

To track the Joy of Giving through the past twenty eight weeksclick here

DO spread the message of this unique movement. Encourage your friends to start following the cards and spreading joy...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Low Cost No Frill Experience Served Hot...

I have been flying since I was 6. Not only on cloud 9, but flying, literally, on aircrafts, and it is only recently that I have begun loathing the experience.

I took my first flight when I was 6, from Cochin to Bombay and was overjoyed at the attention I received by the airport staff (even though I was flying the (in)famous Indian Airlines - the only AIRLINE in the country those days), the bag of chocolates I carried back with me and the first row seat that was reserved for me! The most exciting part was to open the table from the handrest rather than a seat in front of you - which was so 'regular' and 'passe' to my young mind!

So technically I've been flying for over 3 decades (if you're good at Math, you'll know my age)...and many of these years have been spent flying the national airline Indian Airlines with its cantankerous air hostesses, its unpalatable food and its peculiar "Aeroplane" odour.

For the longest time, I'd squirm inside the aircrafts tottering between wanting to throw up after smelling the 'food' or even the canned orange juice they'd be serving, and trying to eat the stuff or ignoring it as the hostess slammed it down on the table...

Most often I'd give the whole package a miss because as a child, the food was not important, the experience was! Needless to say as I grew older, the food seems to have become more important than the experience....

As a child I flew IA because they were the only airline ruling Indian skies, as a student because they offered a student's discount and as a married woman because they offered an Armed Forces discount. After a few years, when economic viability was not a concern (for the shortest period in my life) I took to flying Jet Airways and loved it so much I would think "If I fly it has to be Jet, else I won't fly at all!"

Unfortunately for my 'flying' dreams, the economics of travelling took over my life as there were no more "discounts" I could avail (not being a student anymore and becoming a mere civilian), and as my presence in all the family weddings became essential and required me to fly up North to my erstwhile home and favourite city (saddi Dilli) more than just a couple of times a year. Add to that parties, and general get-aways, vacations to meet mom and dad, or pay a 'flying' visit when they were hospitalised or the like started to take its toll on our annual travel budget.

Soon we realised that I was spending more on travelling by air every year than on our investments and savings. This led us to quickly shift gears and thought processes (in that order) and I began viewing the so called "low cost no frill" (LCNF) airlines in a new light.

Heck! So what if they didn't serve any meals on board? "All I wanted to do was get from point A to point B. I could eat before boarding and after disembarking" I told myself secretly envying the Jet(airways)setters and the Kingfisher(s)...

Spicejet was the first LCNF I flew. Not bad I thought. Yes, they were not serving any food (only water and cookies on sale), the travelling gentry was well, lets say, used to travelling Haryana Roadways buses before their 'first flight' and the leg space was dismal (didn't matter much to me because I am five feet nothing). But...I was saving money and that mattered!

Over the years I've sampled them all - Indigo, Go, Air Deccan - now Kingfisher Red, Sahara - now Jet Lite/Konnect, can never figure which one is which any more and was quite happy that they'd managed to rise above (get the pun?) the LCNF tag and started serving free water and smiles (in that order), and also selling food onboard.

All was well in my Utpoic paradise even as I thanked God for my height (or lack of it - people like me seemed to be built for LCNF leg space), bought exorbitantly priced insipid sandwiches onboard and adhered to the 20kg baggage restrictions, until I flew Spicejet again, very recently on a long haul (by Indian standards) flight from Pune to Kolkata.

This is what I wrote in my diary:

"So its official now. After having given up leg space inside cabins, baggage allowances and hot gourmet (!) food I am also required to give up on FOOD altogether on low cost airlines. The flight I am on doesn't have any vegetarian fare and I have to make do with a lime juice (or have a cold spinach-cheese sandwich the sight of which makes me nauseous).

According to a Spicejet cabin crew member they carry very 'limited' numbers of food packets for fear of them getting wasted and because they are a low cost airline they avoid that!

It doesn't matter to them that off the 189 passengers that can be accommodated on their Boeing 737-800, 12% of who may have placed their orders online, the 80% may be HUNGRY for all of the following reasons:

1. It is a long haul flight (if you take into account 1.5 hours prior checking time, 5 hours of the flight itself and all the rest of the 'inadvertent' delays)
2. It is a "lunch time" flight
3. The flight IS late for crying out loud!

After fooling us into believing that we could have 'hot gourmet food' as 'buy-on-board' options, we will be denied that too just because they've decided that 150 passengers don't want to eat on a 5 hour flight!!!!

Its not enough to have a full wallet. You'll still go empty stomach when you fly LCNF!"

Friday, March 30, 2012

Joy of Giving - Rahmath - Card 22

Rahmath has been following the Joy of Giving cards and has written about her experience with the 'Avoid plastic bags for 7 days' card 22. Its a sweet post reminding us of the way our own parents used to shop before the plastic bag replaced the cloth bag as a shopping bag... Must read.

You should visit her blog for more insightful posts on life... Thank you for this post Rahmath and for being such an ardent Joy of Giving practiontioner...

Avoid Plastic for Seven Days.Use Cloth Bag Instead.

The sewing machine in my parent's house has helped my mother (and me) sew a lot of things. One of the things my mother used to sew was cloth bags. She used to recycle my father's old pants into durable and strong cloth bags. And my father used to take these bags whenever he went for groceries. I guess he still does.

Theirs was a generation in which nothing was wasted, even the free flimsy plastic covers. Father used to take a plastic cover for milk packets and the egg dabba for buying eggs. Very very rarely did my parent's house ever have too many plastic covers. In fact i don't remember if it ever did. Infact as a child, I remember scouring the house for the bubblegum type plastic covers to make plastic flowers and hardly finding two or three.

How easy it is to forget such subtle lessons. That's why I like Ritu's en devour for Joy of Giving. Truthfully speaking, most of the cards are nothing new. Come on, Let's give our parents some credit. They have already taught us many of these lessons.

Then why follow these these Joy of Giving Cards?

Well my dears, it's because they are reminders,extremely important reminders. We have to go through these reminders again and again and again; Else it's so easy to forget.

Nowadays I try a bit harder. I try to CAB (Carry A Bag). Please visit Ritu's page and go through the video she has composed.In her video she has emphasized the importance of not using plastics or paper covers for our environment. It's worth it. I am still trying to CAB and am not 100% CAB - ing. I am still trying to make it a habit.

Now, I have two three small plastic cover's in my handbag and a cloth bag which we bought for 5 rupees from spencers retail. Instead of home delivering, nowadays we try to get groceries when we go for a walk or while we come from office and use our plastic covers or cloth bags.

We refuse bags, plastic or paper from shops as far as possible. I give my hubby a plastic cover or two when he goes grocery shopping or vegetable shopping and thereby, trying to reuse the ones already in our house.Sometimes Yes, we forget or we feel lazy and indifferent but the habit is slowly kicking in. Hopefully, soon we will kick out plastic covers and paper covers from our lifestyle completely.

By sharing this, I Hope to inspire you too the way Ritu has inspired me.

Let's do Mother Earth Proud.

Hope!!!! Such a sweet word...