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Monday, 24 March 2008

I don’t play Holi anymore.

Not that I don’t like this festival, (Actually I do) but the mess that follows later (cleaning the house and the bathrooms) is unnecessary waste of time. Early morning I heard the laughter of kids who were playing with color in the building compound. There were sounds of children running, shouting, and giggling. After saying a short morning prayers, I went to my bedroom balcony to watch the children play. Happily they sprinkled colors on faces of their friends, red, blue, green and the festival had arrived with vibrant hues and the celebration of life was here again. Hoil, the festival of colors, mischief, pranks, a day when you get away with any practical jokes and yet dance to a loud music. Holi is a festival of universal brotherhood and happiness. The bonfires that are lit on the eve of Holi are in reminder of the value of true faith in God. Many years ago, we would lit the fire in the lane and all the neighbors would come with coconut, sweets and water, and we would walk three times around the bonfire, break the coconut, sprinkle water and red color powder and then we would play games like antakshri or dumbsheras till late nights. This year I went with my sister to the corner of the street and watched while my sister went closer to the fire to pray. Didn’t want to risk walking around the bonfires, was afraid that I might slip on the wet ground and harm myself. Many years ago, we looked forward to these festivals and took part in all the festivities. We were young then, our vocal chord had higher decibels. We knew all the bollywood numbers and a great stamina to keep awake all night with friends and sing and laugh. Now, Holi is a day to celebrate with family, enjoying lunch, chat and play a game of cards with family and friends. I like to watch children play Hoil, like to watch youngster dance to the loud music and do rain dance, I enjoy this festival, but now I watch it from a distance. Not that I have become old, it is just that now my priorities have changed.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

A true story ... of hope and determination

This is a true story of a woman, Shalini, who would help me cope with my housework When I lived in Spain, what I hated most was doing the odd jobs at home like sweeping, swabbing, dusting or washing clothes. Therefore,when I returned back to India, I started to enjoy the comfort of a helper which is easily available in India' I appointed Shalini to help me clean my house. Shalini worked in my house with a salary of just Rs500. Having her help in the house was a blessing I enjoyed and I was kind of living in luxury. She worked in four different houses in my building, doing the same job, over and over again, and seven days a week. I would ask her to take a day off and she would refuse telling me that she would be bored at home. Every evening, she would come to my house and make me a cup of tea, and while she and I sipped the tea together, she would relate to me the stories of her life and her family. Shalini had no husband and her family had cheated her out of the family property and she had been forced to work as a housemaid, because she was not educated nor qualified to do any other work. She had one daughter, Rupa, whom she would take with her everywhere because she did not trust the neighbor for her daughter's safety. While she worked, Rupa would sit and watch her mother do cleaning and swabbing at other people's houses. One day, Shalini's employer suggested that she educate her daughter, because she felt that her daughter was very pretty and education would do her good. On the insistence of her employer, she enrolled Rupa in the municipal school. Rupa would be seen following Shalini with a book in her hand. Rupa would get help in her studies from the children in the building, all the used books, and clothes were passed on to her from Shalini's employers. Rupa started to enjoy the attention she was getting from all people in the neighborhood and she took more interest in her studies and was getting good result. Years passed, Rupa grew up, educated and graduated. Shalini would tell me the stories of how people had helped her financially to get her daughter educated and how proud she was of her pretty, educated daughter. One day, she told me that Rupa had got a good job, she didn't know where her daughter was working but she said that she had started working in some office which was open all night and she had comapany transport at her service. I guessed it must be some call centre. While her daughter lived in style, she was still travelling by bus and doing menial work. For next six months, she would tell me about her daughter earning good salary, and improving her standard of living. First came, radio with stereo, then telephone, 24 inch TV, sewing machine, furniture and then washing machine....and she told me that her daughter wanted her to stop working as house maid, as she was making enough money to support her. But Shalini was a proud woman and she didn't want to live on her daughter's expense, so she continued to work in four houses, doing the same drab work that she had been doing for 25 years. Her own clothes were washed in the washing machine at home, while she washed people's clothes at work. I would wonder if her daughter was proud of her mother for getting her educated or was she ashamed of her mother, doing the menial work and earning only ten percent of her daughter's salary. She was a very good maid; she worked hard and was very honest. Many other employers did not want her to leave them. They were afraid they would not be able to replace her and therefore they discouraged her for their own selfish comforts. They were happy that she was a self respecting woman who did not want to live on her aughter's expenses. I ask her to leave the job and rest at home and tried to explain to her that she deserved to live comfortably because she had made an effort to educate her daughter but she would not listen, telling me that she would be bored at home. Her daughter got married and forced her to stay with her and it was her son-in-law who finally cajoled her into leaving the job and start enjoying the comfort in her old age. I lost a good maid but I was happy that her efforts had paid off. She visits me sometimes, and I feel happy to see her proud smile and glow on her face when she lovingly talks about her daughter's success. Cross posted on another blog on 'Unchaai – Crying for Love’ at

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Woman of leisure

Dark eyes and long eyelashes She might even have a sparkle that will reflect on her mood When her lover to her beckons. She will have a colorful make-up If for a feast, there is an invite But on warm and lazy summers She stretches till late nights She is a woman of leisure Who has no rules nor any plans Each day for her is different Dependent on her beloved friends Today I finally finished my painting ‘Women of leisure’ it is done in acrylics. What I like about acrylics is that it dries faster and therefore, it is easier to finish it faster. The jewelry and the curved border is done with em-seal and painted with gold. It took me 2 months to complete it. It is added to my collection. Hope I will be able to sell one day. Till then, it sits perched on the top of my cabinet…

Monday, 17 March 2008

This Saturday I attended a seminar on ‘Woman and Legal/property Right’.

It was quite an interesting event with the attendance of over one hundred ladies and it also included few men. Most of the women came loaded with their own pockets of grievance, hoping to find solutions to their problems that related to their property rights We had different speaker that included Adv. Y.P.singh, ADV. Arvind Jain, Dr Mahendre Mehta, Adv Rajesh Mudholkar. Dr Indu Shahani, the women ‘Sheriff of Mumbai City’ was the chief guest. She is the driving force behind women’s empowerment and she has coordinated with various NGO’s in addressing the various problems of women. She has started a helpline (call 1298) for women who are facing sexual or violence harassments. She pointed out to the powers of the youth and how they can be encouraged in redefining leadership. Dr Shashi Sharma, WGG Chairperson, expressed the need for the mind set of the society to change, citing different examples about how a girl is programmed to work and help in the housework while boys are encouraged to study or to play. The division of the responsibility and difference in sex privileges are marked out at early age. She stressed the need to change this mind set and believed that everybody could be encouraged to perform to their best of their ability, irrespective of their sex preferences Advocate, Ms Flavia Agnes, chairperson of MAJLIS, spoke about the different sexual and violence problems that women are facing and leading them to commit suicide. The issues of dowry death, sexual harassment and violence have not increased over the years, but it seems so, because initially many of these crimes would go unreported. There is a vulnerability of the women that subjects them to crime and violence. They are afraid to report because they are blamed for the crime. She argued that women would not commit suicide if she is educated and independent and has her own bank account. She believes that woman should not marry under the pressure of family and society; she should first be educated and independent and marry only when she is ready to marry some one of her choice. It should not be mandatory but it should be a decision of one’s free will. She stressed the fact that if woman is educated and has a position of power, nobody can touch her. General scenario of property laws for women was discussed by advocate Arvind Jain. After 56 years of independence, woman is still discriminated in becoming an heir to the estate on par with her counterpart man. In fact, discrimination, though unconstitutional in the face of sacred Article 14 of the constitution is not uniform and does not guarantee that no citizen shall be discriminated on the basis of sex. Needless to say, thus, the laws which aim at empowering the vulnerable section of the society must not be read down. After the delicious, vegetarian lunch of assorted vegetables, snacks, ice cream and sweets, second segment of the seminar continued. Adv Y.P. Singh focused on women's denied rights and how we could deal formally/ informally/legally with them. He stressed the need for ‘Right to Information’ he said that it is very important to be well informed of all the assets and the liability of the family wealth and weigh the options with a open mind. Woman of the house should know her financial and the property status of the family. Dr Mahendra Mehta discussed the need for woman to know her rights. She should know about all the assets that are owned by the family such as shares, mutual funds, art and paintings, silver/gold/diamond ornaments, cash, real estate, etc. She should be aware of her property status, investments and retirement plans and she should have a proper understanding of taxation and various legal issues. He enlightened us on the financial issues, its understanding and methods of savings/long term plans. Adv Rajesh Mudholkar discussed the importance of 'Will Making', reading the finer prints and understanding the details which could help in facing the pressures of relatives. There were question/answer sessions which were discussed in great details and that added color and hue to the meeting. The seminar that lasted for over eight hours was not enough to satiate the curiosity of the empowered women. It was an interesting debate to drum the men’s minds and chew their brains for many more days, thereafter….

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

March Read Meet under Open Skies.

One more lovely evening, I attended with my Caferati folks, this time in South Mumbai, Kemps Corner, to be exact. The theme this month was on sharing notes on the workshops that we had attended during Kala Ghoda Festival in February 2008. I was surprised by the number of people who were anxious to attend. The members at the read-meets were dwindling lately, sometimes as low as five members, but this read-meet was choc-a-bloc. Writers were waiting for some other members to drop out, so that, they could be accommodated. Was it because there were notes to be shared or was it because it was at a convenient location? Whatever, I think people always need a reason to attend, especially if they are not a regular. And, members who attended were not disappointed. Who would? A read meet on a terrace, facing the sea, a generous crowd, who is willing to share their knowledge with people, some of those, whom they are meeting for the first time, a perfect hostess, Kareena Merchant, who made everybody comfortable with her warm chats and tasty chaats and a meticulous organizer, Suniti Joshi, who did lot of leg work alone and yet, so precisely perfect. Hats off to Suniti, who always takes extra effort and time and responds to every member patiently! I was lucky this time to find two friends, who were willing to share a taxi with me and we reached at the venue on the dot of 5pm. After warm up and the introduction of 27 members in Kareena’s house, we went upstairs to the terrace to bathe in the sunshine amidst the cool winds of the open seas. The meeting continued with poem read by Jaya Bhandari, a fiction by Soma Sarkar and a descriptive poem by John. So engrossed was I in their readings, that I forgot to watch the sun-set. (Actually I was sitting in a wrong direction, facing the tall buildings and a cliff of the ‘Hanging Gardens’), But I saw a black bird, resting up there, on a TV antenna, who wanted an audience too, but his verses swayed in the breeze. A short break after the readings was not very short because the snacks were too tasty. It takes time to eat Sev Puri, sandwiches, batatwadas and walnut cake and drown it with a cup of tea/coffee. Second session started with Suniti sharing her ‘Performance Poetry’, Ramesh on ‘Writing for Children’, Samarth on ‘Screen Writing’ Archana on ‘Pastoral Poetry and Kareena on “Freelancing’. I was aware of the time limit of the read meet, and I wanted to hear about other’s experience (and not waste my time, hearing myself speak,) therefore I had prepared notes (Xeroxed it 15 times) on the points that were discussed during the workshop on ‘Getting Published’ and I was happy to distribute it to those, who were interested. I am glad I did that, because the meeting had extended for too long, (9:30pm) and it was getting very late to reach back home. Some of the busy members had to rush off half way to attend to their other commitments, and I was glad that I was able to share my notes with them too.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Spam’s made a fool of me……

Some days ago I got a mail in my inbox with a subject line of ‘Yahoo warning me to verify my password or else I would have to face suspension.’ I hold a Yahoo email account since five years and I have never received a mail like that., although, I am aware of the amount of spam that are doing rounds. So when this mail warned me that due to congestion of Yahoo users, yahoo would be shutting down all unused account and that I should verify my email and my password to in order to avoid de-activation of my yahoo account, I got trapped into their bait and foolishly gave my email and the password. Then started another string of spam’s, that started floating from my account and they were very embarrassing for me. There were spam’s sent to all the people in my mailing list asking for money or sending porn’s from my email account. I ignored them all after reporting these spam mail to the Yahoo help line. One email really gave me the jitters. It thanked me for my support and was transferring huge sum money in certain bank under my name! Was the crime of transferring money really happening, I was not sure, but I did not want my name to be associated with such transaction at all. I panicked and called few friends asking them for their advice. I even lodged a complaint at the cyber crime police on the net informing them about my non-involvement. Later, when I spoke to my cousin, she asked me to just chill and relax. These crimes are very common in Africa and anybody who is foolish enough to do transactions without confirming it on phone has only himself to blame. Since I had not signed any papers or documents, I had nothing to worry about. However, after complaining to cyber police, and reporting that I am not responsible for any transaction of any money, I started to feel relaxed. I have changed my passwords (stronger this time, with the combination of Caps and numbers) and I am no more sending or reading any emails from my yahoo or hotmail accounts.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Three years from now, Mumbaikars might travel in style....

This Saturday, when I visited my friend at Versova, I saw the construction right in the middle of the street. There was a huge crane digging out stones and tar. The centre of the two way road was cordoned off with the metal sheets displaying advertisement of ‘Reliance Metro’. On investigation, I discovered that the construction for metro rail had begun and the initial activity comprising trial pits and pile load tests had started. The eleven kilometer Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor will be completed within three years by a special purpose vehicle formed by Mumbai Metro-I consortium. (That’s what they say, although Mumbaikars had witnessed many uncompleted or delayed projects in the past.) The other corridors in the first phase include 38 km Colaba-Mahim_Charkop and 14 km Bandra-Kurla-Mankhurd route. Eleven of the 36 fully air-conditioned stations will be underground. Initially, four-car, air-conditioned trains that can accommodate 1500 passengers will run on the line-one train every four minutes. The cost will be shares by the Central and state government. This 19 months delay, caused by several problems which remain unresolved even now ((such as felling of the trees and allotments of the shops in the Malls for affected shop owners) has escalated the project cost from Rs 1,500 crore to Rs 2,356 crore. Img source of metro:

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Yesterday, I went to watch a film (at Fame ad lab in InOrbit Mall) called ‘The Lives of Others’.

One word I heard myself after a long silence, during watching the film was ‘Beautiful’ I just loved the film and it really moved me. The emotions of the characters in the film are very real. It was really worth watching it in the theatre and I took my friends along who knew nothing about what they were to see. They didn’t even know that it was German film with English subtitles, but they came along, because I said so, and they too loved it. It haunted us long after we left our seat. Winner of the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, ‘The Lives of Others’ is on one level a political thriller no doubt, but it’s also a remarkable study of human emotion. It is the story of a celebrated playwright Dreyman, whose house is bugged by Stasi officer, Wiesler (backed by a top governmental bigwig who’s looking for dirt on Dreyman whose girlfriend he wants to sleep with.) in the hope of collecting evidence against him. The story is set in East Germany in 1984, five years before the Berlin Wall came down, and at a time when the Stasi, the country’s relentless secret police was closely watching everyone in the Communist German Democratic Republic. Immersing himself in the case, Wiesler listens in on Dreyman’s private moments and chances upon enough evidence that can easily implicate Dreyman, but finds himself convinced of Dreyman’s innocence and makes significant effort to protect him. The scene where Wiesler walks into a bookstore to buy a book, authored by Dreyman, and dedicated to Wiesler, really moved me. The star of the film however, is its first time writer-director Florian von Donnersmarck who creates such a genius work. Image Source :

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Children on Mumbai streets

I get very disturbed when I see kids on the streets. They should be studying in some school. Education in India is not very expensive, and there are many NGO’s who are willing to help, but still, how these kids land up on the road and beg at every street signals, is a mystery to me. I don’t like to give them money or patronize them in any ways because I am worried about their future, if they get the taste of money at this young age, and learn that they can earn money by begging or selling on the streets, they will never understand that education is more important. While rich children lead a sheltered and comfortable life, we have poor children who are doing all kids of odd jobs like selling their wares, or begging in the local trains or cooking on the street. Rich parents would never allow their kids to even light a match and here we have street kids as young as five years old, lighting the fire and sitting so close to it. We have six year old child selling her wares in the local train. Seven year old child will do streets shows like tight rope walking Eight year old might be the street musicians Ten year old might be seen begging and crying of pain. Some of the kids are tortured and forced to beg. And some of them are learning to steal at this tender age. I remember of a day, when I was traveling in an auto and I had a food packet in my hand. At one signal, one child came and snatched the food packet from my hand. The signal changed to green and my auto drove on, but I was sorry that the child had to forcibly snatch the food packet from my hand, had he asked me politely I might have given it to him. What these children will grow up to be? I dread about its outcome

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