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Saturday, 28 August 2010

Hostel Room 131

Whenever there is a book lunch or any other event/promotion at Crossword, I get a SMS alert. This book store is just five minutes walking distance away from my home and it is a good place to relax. Moreover, this is the only place where I can go alone on my own.

So, today morning I got a SMS : “Meet noted filmmaker Onir at the release of ‘Hostel Room 131’ by R.Raj Roa at 7pm.”

It was raining all day which switched me off to a silent mode and I was quite lazy to test the sturdiness of those wet broken streets. Mumbai is not the safe place to do any jay walking, the minute I venture out alone; I have to recite some strong prayers hoping that I don’t tumble down too close to the ground over pot-holes or trip over chipped interlocking tiles. I can easily spend a carefree day trekking on the outskirts of the city or even take a comfortable walk on the steep hills of Europe, but Mumbai streets don’t qualify for such pleasures. More on that some other time, but for now, I looked at the skies. By 6pm the clouds had cleared and I was brave enough to go out to the book launch.

As soon as I reached the bookstore I saw two transsexual men at the entrance. They were dressed in tee and jeans and had gaudy make-up. I couldn’t help staring at them. It was early, so I decided to browse over some magazine racks. I had no idea what the new book was all about but I noticed that there were more men than women attendees.

The launch started with introduction about the writer who is the professor in the department of English at ‘University of Pune’, two of his books, ‘BomGay’ and ‘The Boyfriend’ is regarded as cult classic. His other books include ‘One Day I Locked My Flat in Soul City’ (short stories), slide show (poems), ‘The Wisest Fool on the earth’ and other plays. He seemed to be quite a popular writer (although I had not heard about him) but the bookstore was jam-packed.

When Raj started to read the excerpts it dawned upon me that this was a queer literature, that ‘Hostel Room 131’ is being marketed as Gay novel, that it is a story of two boys in the hostel madly in love with each other, struggling with society values and parental reservations. At one instance, I saw one man on my right stretch over and fondly ruffle the head of the man who was sitting next to me. I found that very odd. Now I have never been in the company of gay men, and have never seen group of men so happy in each other’s company unless they are sharing a drink or a cigarette puff.

Here I was, surrounded by men who were looking at each other, exchanging raised eyebrows and some of them holding hands.

(And for the first time, nobody was staring at me.) hahaaha!!

I was especially distracted by one photographer who was dressed in a very peculiar manner. He wore the most stylish black clothes with colorful mirrored jacket and a turban. Ears, ten fingers, wrist, arms, neck, ankles, and even toes were covered with silver jewelry and huge precious stones.

It was when the discussions and feedback started, that I realized that this was no laughing matter.

It was sad to hear about their struggle in the mainstream, about being different. How does it feel to be rejected by the society? Dirty, used, humiliating, worthless, crushing, devastating, useless … all these normal emotions I read between their lines. I have seen mentally challenged children at school but they are the happier lot because they don’t understand the society’s indifference. The blind people are happy too because they cannot see the cruel expression of the presumed-sane world. Deaf and dumb are lucky too.

But being born different and intelligent can be quite challenging sometimes.

Surprisingly, society wants perfection on all counts or else they cannot stop judging you. They find it very difficult to accept the people as they are or respect their way of being who they are. The discussions were quite thought provoking, sometimes black humor and sometimes pathetic.

At one point I was highly amused when one of them said that gay person is likely to get aroused by seeing the butt of the men who are shitting on the railway tracks during early morning train journeys.

But most of the time I was uncomfortable. I could not explain my own behavior, maybe because we are conditioned thus or maybe because this was my first encounter with them. We don’t normally see them differently in the usual crowd because they don’t get chance to show their real self but here they were, their actions loud and clear.

As soon as the discussions were done, I rushed back home. I did not wait in queue of hundred men to get my autographed copy.

When I came back home I was highly disturbed and wanted to speak to somebody who would understand me. I spoke to my online friend, who understands me the most and she encouraged me to blog about it.

I told her that I was afraid to hurt the sentiments of their kind and wouldn’t know the proper words to use. But she reassured me, confirming the fact that we are so used to the idea of heterosexual and that is what that seems normal to everyone. She told me to befriend at least one of them and they won’t bite and the truth is that they have been here for ages and the acceptance has just started and then added “Don’t worry, write, it wont hurt them”

I told her that it was very difficult for me to understand my own rude behavior and she laughed out loud, ‘lol’ing “You behave thus because it is your first encounter with them but soon you will see gays taking over the world” she said.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Watching through my green lens

I always have a camera in my handbag; one never knows when one might get a good shot. Over the period of three years, I have collected many, many pictures. Today I saw ektitli asking for submission, I am tempted to share my pictures there.

This is the interesting contest where there is a theme. There are three categories. We are asked to share two of our favorite pictures that touch their theme.

• Strength & Spirit:

Under this theme participants can send in their own photographic interpretations of strength, endurance and spirit. It could be anything from a massive bridge to a row of working ants or even your personal pillar of strength!

• Under this category, I have posted:

Caption: Talent has no age

With no cares of the world, young painters paint on the walls of the street for happy sunshine, now that’s the spirit!!!

Category: Strength and Spirit

Location: Mumbai (Wall project)

Caption: Dancing on the wheels

Differently-able children skate happily holding ribbons, falling at regular intervals does not dampen their spirit.

Category: Strength and Spirit

Location: Swami Bramananad Pratishthan, centre for mentally challenged, Navi Mumbai

• Moving Stills:

Under this theme participants can send in pictures of anything that has moved, inspired or motivated them. This a free category with no specific theme.

Caption: Tiny steps to liberation of soul

We, like a young monk, can be happy too, if we learn to be content in our own beautiful world

Category: Moving stills

Location: Gangtok, Sikkim

Caption: Careless Shopping

Unlike in those shiny AC malls, we can squat on the floor, haggle over price and still come back home fully satisfied

Category: Moving stills

Location: Darjeeling

Seven Deadly Sins:

This is a theme based category revolving around the seven deadly sins of pride, envy, lust, sloth, greed, gluttony and wrath…..except with a GREEN twist. Here the participants can send in entries depicting any one, two or all of these sins but relate them not to people but to the environment! (eg. ‘Wrath’ of global warming on our climate patterns, “Pride” of towering concrete cities after merciless felling of trees) We have to relate a sin to any crisis of environment

• Under this category I have posted

Caption: Fishy Business

Ignorant of its freedom, the fishes glide in two by two foot colorful tide, bringing joy to the human’s pride

Category: Seven deadly sins

Location: Darjeeling

Caption: Endangered Nature

Re-development will devour off the rivers and trees, there will no waters for dogs and human to swim

Category: Seven deadly sins

Location: Raighad, Maharashtra

If you like my pictures, I will appreciate if you vote for me at ektitli

Thank you so much in advance :))

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Life is still tough

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Freedom to Dignity

On August 15th, every body puffed out their chest to sing National Anthem, remembering the heroes of yesteryears whose sacrifice gave us freedom from British rule to lead a life of dignity.

Some watched the celebration on TV and some formed groups and went to celebrate at far off resorts, further away from the city, there were even many cycling groups, who peddled from different nodes of Mumbai and converged at Prabhadevi. School children were asked to come to school on Sunday morning for flag hoisting. They too had a small celebration with stories and lots of goodies.

Everybody had fun in their own way.

But, somewhere else on the streets of Mumbai, an eight year old child sat hunched, leaning against the iron railing outside a railway station, dressed in traditional clothes, spreading her wares in front of her on the ground, she requested every passerby to buy her stuff. She was selling friendship bands. On a sheet spread before her were hundreds of plastic buttons with alphabets, each at Rupees two.

She didn’t know to read and write but she knew that one could patch together a word by simply stringing them together. A four year old, (must be her brother), unmindful of the greenish snort that leaked down his nostrils and the broken buttons on his shirt, exposing his bare chest, playfully jumped over the railing, performing different aerobics.

There was one more child, a ten-year-old girl, who stood quietly behind them.

India was celebrating its 64th Independence Day, but these children and many more like them, have not been able to cross over the threshold of poverty, nor are they fortunate enough to go to school. They sat on the streets learning alphabets by sight reading from those tiny printed buttons, learnt mathematics by calculating their earnings in numbers at the end of the day, learning the value of those numbers by meeting their basic needs, they honed their manual skills by crafting a macramé with cords and beads to make some friendship bands.

Addressing to the Nation on this I-Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said

"Today, India stands among the fastest growing economies of the world. As the world's largest democracy, we have become an example for many other countries to emulate. Our citizens have the right to make their voice heard. Our country is viewed with respect all over the world. Our views command attention in international fora.

We are building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake, an India which would be prosperous and in which all citizens would be able to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill. An India in which all problems could be solved through democratic means. An India in which the basic rights of every citizen would be protected."

Read more: Text of PM's address to the nation on I-Day -

The world listen to his speech with rapt attention, believing every word.......

Unfortunetely, these children are not aware that education could change their world. They are not aware that there are programmes especially targeted to the welfare of the socially and economically backward sections of our society. They did not hear nor would understand even if they heard the speech that said "It is our endeavour that every child, irrespective of whether he is rich or poor and which section of the society he belongs to, should be given an education that enables him to realize his potential and makes him a responsible citizen of our country."

They are not aware because they are simply invisible.
If only somebody cared enough to guide them to a proper channel. If only they found some real friends whom she could happily tie their beautiful friendship bands.

If only they would learn the meaning of freedom some day and they too could march ahead together on the path of progress and prosperity and proudly chant 'Jai Hind!!'.

Other bloggers who wrote on this day too.....
 for Mera Bharat Mahan at Blogadda
all aiming for the mug from Pringoo and wish I could get one..want to have coffee if they are kind...:))

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Tiranga!! Our National Flag

'At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new...' said Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India.
Recently my aunt, who lives in Trinidad, came to visit me and she saw an Indian flag in my house. It was one of those flags that we find at the streets. I had purchased it at one of the signals, but I don’t own a car and therefore all I could do was to keep it on my dresser. She was delighted to see the flag on my dresser and asked me to buy for her too because she said that she is a proud Indian and loves to flaunt her nationality in her adopted place. She asked me to buy ten flags for her. Why would she want ten flags, I had asked her and she had said that she would like to distribute it to her friends because she was very proud to be an Indian.

I could not buy for her immediately because these flags are only available on January 26th and on August 15th when Indians are super patriotic.

Actually, ordinary Indians can only fly the flag on Republic Day (January 26), Independence Day (August 15), and Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) even though it was ordinary Indians who won India's independence.

Worse, our politicians and bureaucrats (who during the freedom struggle remained loyal to the British and now they remain disloyal to their own people) have the right to fly the flag when and where they pleased.

It is mainly because Indian flag entails huge responsibility upon its citizens, known as the Flag Code, such as, it must be maintained well; it must not be torn; when the flag is hoisted, all must stand at attention; likewise when it is pulled down, and so on.

But how many people know that? The next day of those two important days, we do see these on the streets flying with the rest of the garbage, little value for a piece of tri-colored flag.

A little Samajdhari on national flag:

The Indian national flag was originally designed by Pingali Venkayya in 1921. With a few necessary changes, the flag was adopted during an ad hoc meeting of the Constituent Assembly on July 22, 1947, just a couple of weeks before India won her independence. The flag served as the national flag of the Dominion of India from August 15, 1947 to January 26, 1950 and as the national flag for the Republic of India thereafter. Based on the flag of the Indian National Congress, the flag is a horizontal tricolour with saffron on top, white in the middle and green at the bottom. A navy blue wheel known as the Ashok Chakra lies at the centre. The wheel with 24 spokes has been taken from the Lion Capital of Ashoka on the Ashoka Pillar.

The Indian national flag, when presented to Mahatma Gandhi, had two colours; red for the Hindus and green for the Muslims. The traditional spinning wheel suggesting self-reliance took up the centre. Gandhi modified the flag by adding a white stripe in the centre for other religious communities. The red was later changed to saffron to avoid narrow-minded associations. The tricolour comes to mean what the country represents with orange standing for courage and sacrifice, white for peace and truth and green for faith and chivalry.
Nevertheless, I am sure it will have its greatest respect at my aunt’s house in Trinidad. It will be stored in a better place and distriuted with pride.

I hope to pick up a dozen or two for my aunt on this August 15th

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The long wait

The wait was long. Almost nine months. My sister waited for her first grandchild.

I waited patiently looking at her DIL’s tummy as it bloated each month. And when she spoke of the child’s movement, she complained about the activity of the baby inside her womb.

“I think he is playing football” she would say.

“How do you know it’s a boy or a girl? It could be 'she' stretching out of discomfort” said I.

“Well, from the boisterous activity that is going on inside my tummy, it cannot be a girl” she said

She wanted to know the sex of the child.

“What does it matter?” I said

“I need to shop for the baby, don’t know if it’s blue or pink.” So much planning before the child is born. She bought clothes in yellows and greens but posponed the purchase of the baby cot.

And finally he arrived….a baby boy…

There was too much excitement in the family, everybody congratulating on entry of a new member in the family, too much activity, more than one could see during football season.

But he looked so serene and calm, cannot believe he had so much activity in there.

The new life has just begun. It’s a miracle. Really!!!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Celebrating Friendship and Chocolate day!!

On Friday, when I entered the school, I was in for a surprise. The children were in festive mood, some of them singing into the mike while others dancing to the music. Group of children sat on the floor to enjoy the show while most of the other children were excitedly greeting each other ‘Happy Friendship day’

Now you may wonder if all children understand the meaning of ‘Friendship day’ especially if they are mentally challenged, It’s true they may not understand the word ‘friendship’ but every child understands the meaning of chocolate and teachers had cleverly named the day as 'friendship and chocolate day'.

After the singing and dancing session, each child was given a packet containing assorted sweets and some friendship bands and they were asked to tie the band on the wrist of their friends. Soon the children popped the first sweet into their own mouth and then went about tying friendship band to their friends' wrist and exchanging sweets.

After they were done with the friends of their choice, some of them came to the staff room to put the band over their favorite teacher’s wrist. Soon our wrist were covered with many colored bands and we had collected so many sweets.

When this child came to my side and tied one friendship band on my wrist, I exchanged sweets with him and he bend down to touch my feet…..

Such sweet kids who know neither to hate nor do they judge their friends, when we smile they smile, we exchange chocolates, they accept it with gratitude and become our friends.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Comfort Zone

During my visits to one of the blogs, I came across the woes of the blogger who complained that worldclass T3 is built to welcome the visitors of Common Wealth Games and he was wondering why the station like VT, which handles more than 2 million commuters are given a raw deal.

He then spoke of a lady who was picking up the garbage with two pieces of cardboard and was not even given a something better to pick up the trash.

This sets me thinking. Some people are used to doing things which is most convenient for them and giving them something better is not going to make any difference to them, they might discard that fancy better stuff or even sell them off and continue to do what they are comfortable.

Don’t believe it?

I have this fruit seller who visits me regularly, climbing up two floors to give me his service. The other day he came to sell apples. I wanted half kilo but he had no 500gms-weight. He weighed one kilo apples and then distributed equally into two plates of the scale to give me my half kilo.


But silly me, I asked to buy half-kilo-weight to avoid this problem and he said it cost Rs40. I gave him money to buy one, thinking it will be nice if he had a proper way to measure his fruits.

The next time he visited me, I asked him if he had bought one, he still hadn’t. He said he had not yet found time to go to purchase it.

It has been four months now and he has still not bought it. He is comfortable weighing the fruits the way he is used to.

I want my money back. I feel cheated.

And since, I ask him whenever he knocks on my door, he has stopped visiting me. No more door service for me. Haaha!!

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