Archive for the ‘people’ Category

Honey, Iron and Conscience

Imagine not eating for 16 years. Sounds like an impossible crazy idea. But this is what one woman did in protest against state sponsored violence. The “Iron Lady” of Manipur started her fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in November 2000, when the Assam rifles gunned down 10 civilians at a bustand in Malom, Imphal. Decades after independence, we still have the armed forces controlling various parts of the country. So much for the world’s largest democracy and power to the people. 

Yesterday, after 16 years of non-violent protest to repeal the AFSPA, Irom Sharmila ended her fast. The Iron Lady symbolically had a taste of honey. The repealing of the act will be a sweeter victory. 

Some years ago I watched theatre artist Ojas SV’s beautiful performance of Irom Sharmila’s story. A prisoner.  Of Conscience. A young girl launching a non-violent protest. In this day and age of patriotic fervour and nationalistic jingoism, a quiet, almost odd thing to do. And now, her move to stand for elections and continue to protest against violence is a tribute to her courage. To fight peacefully. As oxymoronic as fasting for 16 years? 

Irom Sharmila, carry on the good fight! 

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Celebrating ShaRon

Last week we lost a young cousin, unexpectedly in a road traffic accident. She was a bundle of colour, energy and fun. I saw her last at A’s wedding some months ago. Where of course she soon displaced the men behind the sound console and took over the DJ-ing, getting everyone out onto the dance floor. She will be sorely missed by the many people whose lives she was an integral part of.

She danced into our family 3 decades ago

Her inimitable style and her bike in tow

Around her was laughter, and on somedays tears

Rest in peace, Sharon, you’ve laid down your fears

Order and chaos, whirlwind and calm

Now breathe on us solace, soul’s comfort and balm

 

 

Aazadi, aazadi

“Freedom IN India!” says the president of the JNU Students Union,  Kanhaiya Kumar, 28. “Aazadi” or freedom from poverty, from hunger, from castism, from corruption. Neatly shaven in a white shirt and black jacket, he addresses the cheering crowds of students last night. Double mic in hand, he lilts out the greeting chants of Jai Bhim and lal salaam. The students cheer him on- aazadi, aazadi! The young man has just returned to university from a fortnight in Delhi’s  Tihar jail. Charged under the colonial law of “sedition”, the PhD student was the victim of a media trial that labeled him a ‘terrorist’. Doctored videos of Kanhaiya shouting ‘anti-national’ slogans went viral. His bail hearings were postponed. He was attacked and beaten in the court premises, with the police watching. His bail order reads almost like a ‘guilty’ verdict. But the resilient young man smiles sweetly and roars electrifyingly at the crowd – Aaazadiii!

Kanhaiya speaks of socialism, secularim, equality. Of his ordinary rural background. He politely refers to those opposed to him as opposition and not enemies. He talks of jawan and kisan, soldier and farmer. Of Rohith Vemula, Ambedkar, of the constables he met in jail. Sons of farmers, just like Kanhaiya. He has the young students laughing out loud at his puns and clever digs at various fanatical politicians who have been maligning JNU and it’s students.

Kanhaiya, you bring us hope. Stay relisiant and strong. Keep dreaming. We dream with you of an India where all are respected and can live with dignity. We dream with you of Aazadi IN India. Aazadi, Aazadi!

Ps. Watch his return to JNU speech here

Of marriages and market places

The season of weddings is here and we traveled to Bangalore for A&J’s wedding and again for A&M’s marriage. Interestingly both the A’s lived with me in BC in the latter half of 2011! Both weddings were beautiful and much love to the wonderful couples and their fun families. Here are some pics of the Z’s (courtesy NT and her vantage point from the choir stalls)

On our return trip, we stopped at the Madiwala market for veggies. Living in BC makes it almost impossible to walk past any green leafy vegetables without buying a few bunches. So I took a deep breath and took a few photos instead. We didn’t even reach the fruits, coconuts, paper plates and plastics sections of the long rows of shacks parallel to the main road. Of course the traffic and dust all added to the atmosphere (and to the atmospheric pollution!)

So what’s the link between marriage and markets? As my aunt told me she was asked in Kerala – Have you put her on the market yet? She did a double take, what? Who are you talking about? Cattle market? Fish market? It turns out she was being asked if her daughter was available for marriage. So much for modernity, India Shining and Smriti Irani.

But marriages and markets aside, I had a chance encounter which gave me new perspective on my 1.2 Billion fellow Indians and the immensely stratified society that we live in.

After lunch yesterday, a few of the family decided to walk over to JP for a coffee. We sauntered down the road and into the restaurant at JP. Which being a heritage building, has a lovely welcoming notice that ‘Arms and Ammunition are not allowed’. We had 5 pairs of arms between us but they let us in.

The other notices that caught our attention were the ‘so and so weds so and so’ signboards. We could even see one lovely couple posing for their official photographer. We ordered our coffees while the happy couple walked past the restaurant. Suddenly some creaky gears turned in my brain and I put two and two together to get twenty two. “I know that bride” I announced, “she visited us in BC last year!” And yes, of the 1.2 Billion Indians who could have been getting married at JP in Bangalore, this bride turned out to be A’s classmate, an engineer-turned-teacher who had visited us in BC! Small world of only a Billion people?! Or is my social class and status so exclusive that fancy heritage hotels, top universities and institutes of excellence are populated only by my tribe of upper middle class Indians?! Probably is, I’m afraid. Still, I went over and said my hellos and good wishes to the gorgeous bride, wonderstuck at the serendipity of life!

Happy New Year to you all!

Thankfulness

This week JCO challenged us to think of the many things we can be thankful for. It reminded me of Pollyanna and the ‘just being glad’ game! We could all do with playing a bit more of that one. I have a long and growing list of things and people I’m grateful for, and today I wanted to share just one. 
Last month we published a series of children’s Kuvi story books – eight tales, by the kids, teachers, young people, village elders. Historical stories, folktales, originals, songs. Bright colourful and fun! The team is amazing and I would love to spend more time with them. And every day I’m thankful for the chance to be where I am. Here and Now

 SG with Wadu Aju Kerina! 

Farsighted vision(ary)

Today I was told about my farsightedness! Usually I’d take this as a compliment to my wonderful planning abilities or efficient management skills. Today however, I was at the Mary Taber Schell campus of CMCH  – so all statements about farsightedness need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Or rather, with a convex lens. Because I got my first pair (or rather pairs) of specs (spectacles and not specifications!). It felt like a sort of coming of age (literally!?) especially since hypermetropia is supposed to hit you in the 40’s and I still have a long way to go. Last week, with much trepidation, I (and my two grandmothers, uncle, father and friend) visited the ophthalmologist. Incidentally, he’s hypermetropic too! Optometry, fogging, drops for dilation and slit lamp –  minutes later I was in the optical shop selecting frames. That’s how quick it was. Today I picked up the finished products. Apparently, I’ve used up my accommodating power; or at least my eyes have. So to relax them, the convex lenses act like a magnifying glass. Pretty straightforward stuff actually. But the whole deal of wearing spectacles is far from straightforward.

Wear them all the time

Take them off with both hands

Don’t wipe them dry

They fog up when you drink your morning coffee

Don’t scratch them-don’t sit on them

Don’t get them splashed with splatter from the kitchen

So much helpful advice. Diopters, focal length, IOLs, cilliary muscles, blurred.

Plastic lenses are better than glass

Lenses scratch easily

Frameless ones pinch your nose

Big frames are heavy on your nose

You look strict and stern

You look like a school teacher!

Advice to be taken with a bagful of salt!

All of last week, in anticipation of the new specs, I’ve been much more observant of other peoples glasses. The most exotic were Mr Tharoor’s magnetic clics which seem quite funky (when you are 60 and keep losing them!) Maybe I’ll get a pair of those next time!

Brownies and (p)bumpkins

Last week T made brownies. We somehow mixed up the quantities  of flour and sugar. So they turned out super sweet. Not at all a problem in this household fortunately. We had to ration some out for M, who was away, before they were all gobbled up by the troops. pumpkin brownies

But only country bumpkins could have got things so mixed up. To make up for our country bumpkin-ness, T and A bought pumpkin flowers from the market. These beautiful yellow blooms with long stalks looked just right for plonking into a tall glass vase. But D Didi pounced on them and in no time we were eating pumpkin flower pakodas!! I really enjoyed the sweet, delicate flavour, hidden in a spicy batter. Banana flower I’ve cooked and eaten often but pumpkin flower was a first. Take a look at some pics and next time someone’s feeling blue – don’t say it with flowers – try cooking them!

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