Thursday, October 11, 2018

I Stand with #MeToo

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Stories are coming out that at first are shocking, then disgusting and then blood boiling. 

#MeToo has opened a can of worms and these worms are so disgusting that you can feel them crawl under your skin. It is clear that sexual harassment has been going on in every field undeterred and women have been painfully putting up with these arrogant, privileged, shameless men for a long period, sometimes decades, the whole time questioning themselves, blaming themselves, convincing themselves and sometimes even hurting themselves. It is heart-breaking to read many of the stories as the trauma and the pain underwent by many women is unimaginable. Men who are considered icons in the field of arts, politics, journalism, cinema are being revealed of their hidden predatory character and it is shocking to imagine how easily they have been fooling the public and their own people by acting normal.

How can they act normally? I cannot imagine the kind of effort they would be putting in to show how good a father, a son, a brother or a friend each one is while their real character is that of a sexual predator. Just imagine, he molests a woman and then gets back home as if nothing has happened and has dinner with family, talks to his son/daughter or goes hang out with friends or even worse gets back home and watches TV or reads books and sleeps peacefully. At the other end, the woman who is actually the victim gets back home, molested, feeling insulted, feeling confused, feeling shocked, feeling let down, feeling cheated, stays silent feeling afraid and spends the night and many nights afterwards, sleepless questioning herself and ultimately either quits the job or  shifts job or continues to work under the same person facing him every day reminding her of the incident again and again never allowing her to recover from the trauma or worse she is shamed, shunned, sidelined or removed from her job.  It is disgusting.

What kind of a society have we become? It is never the fault of the perpetrator, it is always the fault of the victim. It is either her dress or the way she smiles or walks or the way she talks to him or that she drinks with him or that she is ambitious or that she is famous or that she is fame hungry or that she does not have talents or that she is too talented and arrogant or that she is a difficult woman or many other reasons that she was molested for. And "She asked for it"/"She deserves it"/"This had to happen to her anyway"/"Why only you not any of us?"/"Why did you go when he called?"/"Why did you not walk away?"/"Why did not quit the job?" etc, etc are the first reactions that we get to see when a woman complains of being sexually harassed.  It is blood boiling.

When patriarchy and power come to terms it forms a deadly combination. When rich, popular, influential man sexually harasses a woman it is important that the story is put out because such a man has the power to silence, normalize, influence and set a path for many men and women who look up to him. Such men should be held accountable for their actions at any cost.

It is easy to question the victim but it takes a lot of maturity, courage, sensibility and sensitivity to support a woman when she comes out with a story like this.  It does not matter when she comes out or after how many years she comes out. It does not matter through which medium she prefers to narrate her story. It does not matter how old the perpetrator is or how good he is in his field of work or how influential he is. It does not matter if the victim is still in the field of work or not. It does not matter how famous she is. It does not matter what her sexual preferences are. It does not matter what caste she belongs to. It does not matter whether she was drinking with him, dancing with him or travelling with him. If she was sexually harassed we should question the perpetrator and not the victim. We should shame the perpetrator and not the victim. We should stand with the victim and not with the perpetrator. Only then can we make this world a safer place for everyone to live peacefully.

I stand with the victims, do you?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Withering Flower

'She' born as the second gender, Oh!

but why is she the second gender?
Do you know?

She who played with a Barbie doll.
How did she come to choose Barbie doll and not an aeroplane?
Is it genealogy or social ideology?

She who wanted to be a superwoman like her working mother;
but why? I don't know.
Neither did anyone tell her not to be nor what to be.

And then she who was told to be careful always;
later learnt to be on alert anyway.
No, no one stalked her or attacked her,
but her cousin was stalked, her sister was teased, her friend was groped.
Her fellow second genders were molested and raped.
And she heard all their stories.

She put on a dupatta, wore longer skirts,
avoided talking loudly or laughing out,
never walked alone in the dark,
never walked alone on a deserted road,
never walked with head held high on a busy street,
never walked carefreely,
never got on a bus without being alert in all senses,
never travelled in a cab without fear,
never slept peacefully on any journey,
never felt safe alone in a deserted office,
never felt confident to raise a question,
never felt strong to put up a fight,
never learnt to be confident of her body,
never learnt to look at a mirror without worrying about her dress and looks,
never loved herself for what she was.

She learnt to hide in the shadow of her father.
She mastered the art of being cautious and never let her guard down.

Then she without a choice chose to wear the almighty Kavach that is the MangalSutra.
She never forgot her headgear - the Sindhoor.
Believing in its extraordinary powers to save her.

She became the superwoman that she was told she was.
She stood behind his success.
His shadow became her world.
She became an expert in hiding in his shadows.
She saw his dreams.
Her own dreams had died a slow death and she had no time to mourn.

Then they arrived and took up her time and energy.
She now learnt to see through their dreams.
Even after being a super woman she hid inside her Kavach and head gear.

Even when her fingers were hooked to their tiny fingers for their safety,
she found ways to adjust her dupatta.

The journey continues like a withering flower.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Shunned Reality of Manual Scavengers in India

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 defines ‘manual scavenger’ as:
a person engaged or employed, at the commencement of this Act or at any time thereafter, by an individual or local authority or an agency or a contractor, for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of, or on a railway track or in such other spaces or premises, as the Central Government of a State Government may notify, before the excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be prescribed…

I asked naively, "does this still happen in our society? I know these kinds of things happen in villages but do they happen in cities like Chennai?". There is nothing wrong in the question. It does not happen in cities. It absolutely does not happen in my neighbourhood. It certainly has never happened in front of my eyes. I have never seen anything like that happen. I know you could not agree with me more on this. Such a thing does not exist. These people don't exist. And even if we see anyone like that we believe it's their job. They are doing their job and they get paid for it. One thing we know for sure is that they don't do their job properly. Otherwise, why would public toilets be so dirty? You know, these people, they don't do their work properly.

I could not stop the tears that were rolling down my cheeks. In the dark, I was sure no one could see. I cried silently because I did not want anybody else to think that I am being over sensitive and trying to show off. But then I heard sniffing sounds from here and there. Even in the dark, I could feel the desperation in the room. The building up anger and the muffling helplessness. The guilt was looming above when they finally switched on the lights. With minds filled with questions, everyone clapped. No one could speak a word. How could we? We had just watched the documentary "Kakkoos" (the Toilet).

My question, in the beginning, I knew was not only wrong but sinful. I realised manual scavenging is real. As a normal person when I read the definition, I didn't really understand it. So when I searched the internet I found an article on "The Wire" where I found a much simpler definition. The article says:
"The Asian Human Rights Commission, for instance, describes manual scavenging in the following terms:
“Manual scavenging in India is officially defined as ‘lifting and removal of human excreta manually’, at private homes and toilets maintained by municipal authorities. The practice consists of gathering human excreta from an individual or community dry latrines with bare hands, brooms or metal scrapers into woven baskets or buckets. This the scavengers then carry on their heads, shoulders or against their hips, (and in wheelbarrows if they can afford it) into dumping sites or water bodies. Apart from this, many scavengers are similarly employed to collect, carry and dispose excreta from sewers, septic tanks, drains and railway tracks.

This definition makes it much easier to understand the definition of the word. This also gave me a realisation that every person who works in public toilets, by these terms is a manual scavenger in India. We very well know the condition of public toilets in our country. And don't even ask about the railway stations and railway tracks. We all know how the toilets in trains work. So who cleans all the shit on the tracks? By this definition, all those men whom we see getting into open ditches and manholes are manual scavengers. Even those who sweep roads are manual scavengers because they sweep everything including human excreta. This happens in our cities under our nose. Do you feel nauseating on hearing the word human excreta or shit? Do you feel nauseating when you see people doing it on the roads and on our beaches? Then just imagine the lives of these people who have to clean it every day many times with bare hands.

The documentary showed at length about the plight of these people. How they are employed and the conditions under which they work. The kind of exploitation they are subjected to. How they work as contract workers and how their disgusting and dangerous job is garbed using sophisticated words like sanitation worker. It was an eye opener on why still humans are being employed to do this work when clearly there are machinery available and being used in other countries. It clearly showed their helplessness in not being able to come out of this situation in life generation after generation because of the most heinous system called the caste in India. Above all, it showed the apathy they face in the hands of officials and the public(you and me) every day when they live and even after they die.

We read in newspapers every week about 2 or 3 men dying due to suffocation while cleaning manholes, septic tanks and ditches but how many times do we give a second thought about it. How many times have we discussed it? How many times have we imagined what their lives were like to live cleaning septic tanks, ditches and manholes? What kind of life do their families live? Do we even consider them human beings? The documentary answers so many questions like for instance we ask, "why don't they leave this job and go get a better job?". So many questions that we ask without even trying to understand their lives are answered. So many questions are raised. The deaths are under-reported, deliberately wrongly reported as accidents, compensations are denied citing fake reasons to escape punishment for employing them illegally. Those who get compensation have to pay a bribe to get it. Mr.Bezwada Wilson( Indian activist and one of the founders and National convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an Indian human rights organization that has been campaigninC for the eradication of manual scavenging and winner of Ramon Magsaysay Award) spoke after the screening and he said, "since 1993 when The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act was passed, 16 times deadlines were set to eradicate manual scavenging and every time it has been unsuccessful. It still continues unabated."

In a nation where a massive activity like demonetisation which affected crores of people could be implemented overnight, can't the same messiah implement this law and stop manual scavenging overnight? A question again raised during the discussion after the screening. What is our role in this society? What is our responsibility as a citizen moreover as a human being? What can we do about this inhuman practice? How can we change it? How can we eradicate it? Questions each one of us should ask ourselves. Our silence is a crime. Our indifference can cost many more lives. Watch Kakkoos.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Book Review - The Liberation of Sita

This book, I bought it on the suggestion of Nalini Chettur of the famous "Giggles" - The Biggest Little bookshop in Chennai. I have been a regular at her shop and I love buying books from her. I love my interactions with her. She is someone who has details about every book she sells in her finger-tip and can also make some great suggestions according to your reading taste. So when she suggested this one for me, I knew it would not go wrong. Okay, enough of the introduction, now about the book.

Book Title: The Liberation of Sita

Author: Volga
Translated from Telugu by T.VijayaKumar and C.Vijayashree
Publisher: HarperPerennial

This book has been crafted with the woman characters from the epic Valmiki's Ramayana. There are five stories in the book with Sita (Wife of Shri Ramachandra) as the central character. Ramayana is a book that speaks volumes about Lord Rama and his righteousness and up keeping of Arya Dharma. But there are so many minor female characters in the story whose lives are toppled in the journey of Dharma. This book delves into those female characters and weaves a story which speaks the other side of Ramayana - the life and learning of its female characters.

Surpanakha, Ahalya, Renuka and Urmila are the females whose lives change in the course of Dharma as much that of Sita. Sita is abandoned by Rama in the name of a King's Dharma. This and all other painful experiences in Sita's life is dealt with in this book from her perspective. The author takes us through the life of each female character through their conversation with Sita. The injustice meted upon each woman by the men and their journey to empowerment is a lesson to Sita ultimately leading her to self-realization and liberation. There is an amazing sisterhood which is established among these women through these stories. Each story is a beautiful interlock of episodes from Ramayana and the creativity of the Author. The Author being a feminist writer has effectively brought out the female perspective of Ramayana.

This book definitely comes strongly against the male domination and blind propagation of Dharma. It is a perfect take on the inner strength and resilience of women and how they don't always need a man to feel complete. But even when delivering a strong picture of women, this book binds her to an image of sacrifice and withdrawal which has always been expected out of a woman. As a reader, there are few questions that have been playing around in my mind. Why do women always have to choose self-retreat as a glorious option when fighting patriarchy? Even when self-realisation is a great state of mind, why can't we opt for a different ending to each life even in fiction?

This book is a definite read for all those people who believe in fighting back patriarchy and who want to get a feel of an empowered woman. It made me feel liberated. I could relate to various points that are raised by the characters and I think that is why an epic like Ramayana wrote centuries ago is relevant even today. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Amazing GlassBlower

He heats one end of a long glass tube holding it in his hand and when it just starts to take a gluey liquid form he gently blows through the other end of the tube with his mouth and simultaneously rolls the tube. Slowly a small bulb-like swelling appears at the hot end. He continues to do it with precision and concentration and in a few minutes magically a small super cute perfume bottle takes form. He checks the base of the bottle by pressing the base on a black stone and again after heating the other end which is still attached to the tube, breaks it away and finishes it with perfection and places the hot bottle before me. I am completely awestruck looking at the cute little thing. I try to touch it but he stops me saying "It is hot". Yes, it is. So I just keep looking at it without touching. He smiles and takes up another glass stick to start his next magical art. Oh! I turn quickly to him with my camera capturing his hands working with the hot glass in detail.

He is Mr.Srinivasan Raghavan - The GlassBlower

Mr.Srinivasan Raghavan

When a friend suggested that I write about Mr.Srinivasan in my blog I was thrilled. Glass blowing was something that I had never seen before. I set out on my journey of about 30 Kilometres on a Saturday afternoon. I reached Dakshinchitra - “A cross-cultural museum of art, architecture, lifestyles, crafts and performing arts of South India” where Mr.Srinivasan is a consultant craftsman. Immediately after checking into their guest house I went to meet Mr.Srinivasan.  I told him about my interest in writing about him on my blog and he readily agreed to talk about himself and his journey in this field.

As he talked his hands started working with the glass rod and the flame. Technically glass is called super cool liquid. Glass is not a solid matter. Glass is made from silica(sand) and soda lime. According to him, Glass forms naturally in the environment around us. The lava of a volcano is basically glass as it is formed with silica and soda lime and when it mixes with other minerals it acquires its colour and its texture. There are 2 varieties of working with glass. One is glass blowing where the air is blown into hot glass tubes to creates hollow glass objects. The other method is where with strokes of straight lines and circles the hot glass is sculpted upon with hands to create intricate art forms. He is adept in both these techniques. Glass work is done when the glass in its frozen form is heated to 1400 degree Celsius and for this, he uses both LPG and oxygen cylinder. 

As he spoke to me he continued working and within few minutes he created a little elephant and handed it to me and told me that he begins his day by making a Lord Ganesha - The elephant-headed god known to be the remover of obstacles in Indian Mythology.

His journey in this field started with a government Job as a technical assistant at Pantnagar University in Nainital after completing his Diploma is Scientific glassblowing. But the boring work made him quit the job and move to Mumbai where he decided to find a job in the glass industry. This did not go well with his father who stopped communicating with him for almost 4 years after that. In Mumbai, he landed a job in Borosil India. But the monotonous work was not his calling and he resigned that too. It was during a seminar on scientific glass blowing conducted by Indian society for scientific glass blowers that he met art glass blowers from Hyderabad working with Regional Research Laboratory who introduced him to the art glass blowing. It was a big industry in Hyderabad from where perfume bottles were exported to Middle east and other countries. He spent next 2 and a half years learning the art and working in Hyderabad. With dedication and hard work he sharpened his skills in the art form. When he returned to his hometown and set up a workshop at home he was happy to earn through his art. People started hearing about him and he became a regular in art exhibitions and art shows. While participating in one such event he struck up an acquaintance with the Secretary of Dakshinchitra which led his way back to Chennai and to Dakshinchitra where he started working as a consultant craftsman. Being a consultant he was free to work and sell inside the village. Dakshinchitra is visited by local and foreign tourists throughout the year and hence he became famous and made friends with many art enthusiasts. He has been in this field for 30 years and still continues to follow it with passion. Mr.Srinivasan has been invited to give demos and lectured by various art institutions and organisations. He has also travelled the world to different countries where he is a regular at many cultural festivals and exhibitions showcasing this rare art form.
The Horsecart

As he was talking to me a group of visitors came in to see his work. Mr.Srinivasan started all over again explaining how he works showing them practically the techniques as they all watched in awe. Being a weekend there was a steady flow of visitors and he being a true entertainer never once failed in making his audience happy. He is at his cheerful best when curious onlookers flock him to get a glimpse and also to have a feel of his work. There is a magic in glass and even after watching the process numerous times I never felt bored of it. One of the visitors was curious to know how he made a living out of this art. Mr.Srinivasan being the simple person he is replied saying “If you are an artist you have to be content with what we make. I am content with whatever I earn and hence I make a living out of it”. Some visitors wanted to know how they could learn this art. Mr.Srinivasan had an answer for that too, which he tells his students too. The 3P principle - Passion, Patience, Practice. But there was also a 4th P which he believed was very important for art to flourish - “Patron”.
The Boatman and the Beauty - This was made in 3 hours

I spent about 3 hours with Mr.Srinivasan over the 2 days I stayed in Dakshinchitra and talked about many things. A well-read person, a humble and good human being and a great artist, he kept me engaged with his pleasant nature and informative chat. He believes that an artist should also be an entertainer and I can say he is a true entertainer. When I bid goodbye to him and left Dakshinchitra I felt happy about the time well spent. The hissing sound of the gas burning, the magical work of glass blowing and the smiling face that creates the magic will remain in my memory forever.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dream, Imagination, Possibility, Reality - Human and Science

Human beings are the most advanced species on this earth. We are the most dangerous species too. Since we are both advanced and dangerous we have been surviving on this earth for a very long time. We have travelled and developed from the primitive stage to the current stage of civilisation, science and technology. Where will we go from here? This is what is dealt with in the book "Homo Deus" by "Yuval Noah Harari" an Israeli Historian. I have not read the book. My husband has been reading it and whenever he finds something very interesting or compelling he reads it to me. It has kindled my curiosity and I can't wait to get my hands on the book. Not until he finishes it. So now my mind has started imagining the world in a different perspective.

One point the book says is the possibility of science finding ways to make "immortality" a reality. I and my husband discussed how would life be in that case? Would any of the things that we do make any sense in such a scenario? Even if we imagine that a human being will live up to 200 years young and healthy, the scenario seems bewildering. Would the education that we get during our schools be any time relevant after say 150 years? Would a marriage which is done in the 30s survive togetherness for a whopping 200 years? Wouldn't you get bored of your partner? And regarding children - if one is hale, healthy and fertile for 150 years, how many children will a woman deliver? What would be the kind of relationship parents and children share when parents are of 150 years and a kid is 20 years old? How would they even communicate effectively? With so many years guaranteed, what would be the kind things people will do in their lifetime? Would the aim of a middle class still be to own a car by 30 and a house by 40? What would they do for the rest of the, say, 150 years? What would the dreams be like for people?

When we were discussing, I had a doubt. Would the earth be able to support the population outburst? How would we feed the long living increasing population? what about the natural resources like water, fresh air? What about all the waste that we generate? With people living till 200 and producing dozens of children, the human population will kill this earth with its demands. What will happen to the earth? But we did find out a solution ourselves. When science will find a way to increase life period by maintaining youth and health, it will definitely find a way for people to survive without food and water. Maybe in such a time, the food we eat today will become irrelevant. And science will find ways for the body to stay hydrated without water. Since long life and youth cannot be achieved without regenerating cells, that kind of a development will definitely push development in the biology of our body and the way the human body works.

And about the waste generation, our imagination was that maybe the waste will be dumped on some other planet. Rockets might regularly be launched to dump waste into other planets. That way another planet would become our dump yard.  Or might be scientists will find out another planet for humans to move into. That way the earth can become a dump yard. Reminds me of the movie "Wall-E". Such a cinematic and fictional dream. But who knows these might become a reality after few hundred years. Science has made leaps and bounds in curing once fatal diseases. Science and technology have created robots who think and work like humans.  Science can create human embryo outside the human body. A baby with DNA from 3 parents has been born(Just now read the article) which has helped the boy escape a fatal disorder his mother suffers from which would otherwise have been transferred to the baby. Science is making advances faster than we can imagine. Hence all these fictional imaginations might very well become a reality in the future. I am sure these things might not happen in my lifetime but it might happen 2 generations down the line.

Oh! how I wish I could live to see such possibilities becoming realities. It would be great if normal people could open up their mind to these kinds of wonderful things happening around us and try to revel in the practical science. We can keep talking and clinging on to a bygone so called prosperous past getting us nowhere or we can walk towards the future of endless possibilities with open hands and enjoy the benefits. It is hypocrisy to want both in equal amounts.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"My Skin color" - The crisis of many childhood.

What is your skin colour? How much importance do you give to your own skin colour? Let me answer that question from the standing point of a Malayalee brahmin middle-class teenager that once I was. Skin colour is how I measure my beauty and how I identify myself. That much important it is for a teenager that I was. It is one of the many obnoxious parameters that this society has defined for measuring the beauty of a girl. 

To say the least, I was not even a dark skinned girl. I was, what is generally called a brown skinned Indian, a south Indian and that too a Malayalee. Therein was the problem. I did not fit into the fair and shiny skinned Malayalee girl image which was the well-known description given to her. People would not believe when I would call myself a Malayalee. I looked like a Bengali, a Marathi, a Muslim, but never a Malayalee Brahmin. So I always hesitated to show off my Brahmin identity, although I was, by the superiority bestowed upon me by my caste, immensely proud of being Brahmin. I felt ashamed that I was a dark Brahmin girl.

You might be wondering why I felt ashamed. How else would you expect me to have felt when an elderly commented: "You don't look like a Brahmin." So It was a full-scale identity crisis for me. I neither looked like a Malayalee girl nor a Brahmin girl. But I was both. Hence I felt bad about myself. I once asked my mum why she had produced me brown. I believed it was unfair on her part to have produced me dark skinned and my sister a fair skinned girl. She did her best to tell me that herself and dad loved us both equally and that I was as beautiful as my sister. But my inferiority complex never allowed me to see through the haze.

It was exactly the period when India was stepping into the bliss of the fashion industry and the "Fair & lovely" advertisement was the most popular on television. It was the period when the standards of beauty that we see today was just beginning to get defined and products like "Fair & Lovely" and "Vicco ayurvedic" cream were doing their best to set these standards. It was actually the period when India opened it's gate to globalisation. I have seen young girls and women using these creams lavishly applying it on the face along with talcum powder which would look like a white paint. The cream and powder along with the sweat were the grossest sights. These creams were very popular among the young women of Tamilnadu. Tamilians are in general dark skinned and they have always been obsessed with white skinned people. They considered white skinned people to be sophisticated and beautiful and hence there was immense fan fair for such people everywhere in the state. Starting from schools to the cinema, at every level, this obsession was clearly visible. I feel this admiration for fair skin is prevalent even today. Hence it again made me feel bad. I was not fair enough to be beautiful and to be admired.

Today when I look at the young Malini, I pity myself for having felt so bad. Today I realise that skin colour is nothing but a skin colour. It has nothing to do with what I am and what I am capable of. Skin colour has nothing to do with my identity. What matters is what kind of a person I have come to be and what talents I possess. But by the time people realise this, they would have lost their whole childhood buried in the embarrassment of something that they have no control over. How pathetic it is to burden the innocent childhood with such kinds of the wrong definition of beauty and identity. In many people, the effect is so disastrous that they live with inferiority complex throughout their life. They lose their self-confidence and live a pathetic life just because they were born with dark skin. Many people like me do grow out of this phase and learn the reality of life, but many get stuck in it and live a life of self-loath. Today I love myself and I am proud of my skin colour.

I strongly feel that products and companies that propagate wrong ideas of beauty should be banned. Every company has a responsibility towards the people that it caters to. They should be held accountable for what they provide. In this consumeristic society, it is easy for such big corporates to wash their hands off such responsibilities in the name of development and money. But young girls and boys should be brought up in such a way that they respect themselves and others irrespective of their skin colour and physical appearance in general. Fair skin is not an achievement to be proud of because it comes from genes and you have no control over it. Benefits bestowed by birth can never make a person superior. We as a society should start gauging and respecting a personality not based on physical appearance or on monetary achievements but on his/her character, humanity and how they contribute to the society. Every person should be proud about their skin colour. It is what nature has given to you and you should cherish it. You should love yourself no matter how others treat you. This confidence should be given to our next generation.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Plastic - The boon that is a bane

I read a news today which was shocking, at the same time very painful. A veterinary doctor performed a surgery on a cow and removed around 98 Kg of plastic and other deadly waste from its stomach. The waste included nails, screws, wire, socks and clothes along with lots of plastic covers. The cow was in immense pain and was unable to walk when it was brought in. This news disturbed me a lot. What are we humans doing to this earth? What has happened to us? Why have we become so insensitive? Why have we become so selfish? All these questions started boiling inside my head.

Plastic is the most useful, but the most dangerous substance as it is not bio-degradable. Hence when it is disposed of in the open it just keeps piling up and they stay, maybe forever. It just does not biodegrade. We use plastic for everything. From bags for carrying stuff to plastic boxes for storing things at home, from a small clip to big electronics everything is made of plastic. None of these is bio-degradable. Hence every bit of it has to be collected and treated specially. This is a costly as well as a time-consuming process. It has to be a systematic process. Hence plastic just piles up everywhere, on the roads, fields, in the forests, in the river and also in the sea. Everywhere they just live forever polluting this planet. Some people do try to dispose of it by burning it, but that too is a risky thing to do as the fumes pollute the air and breathing it for a longer time can cause severe illness in humans.

The most affected by this use of plastics are the animals. They are not aware of this substance and when we throw food waste and other things in plastic bags, animals like cows gobble them up thinking it is some kind of food. This plastic it just stays inside their system. Neither does it get digested nor does it get excreted. It just stays. Imagine a plastic bag stuck in your stomach for 2 days. It is shuddering. But these poor things don't know what they have swallowed. They don't know what is the problem with their stomach. Perhaps it just pains and they have to live with it until one day they collapse. Does it sound sad? To me, it sounds horrible. It makes me hate people who produce plastic, it makes me hate people who use it so carelessly. It makes me hate all those who either don't know what they are doing or who intentionally do it. It is so selfish of us to think only about us.

Plastic has been banned in many places most recently in Bangalore where there was a blanket ban. There are strict rules in the country which say plastic below 50 microns should not be manufactured. But how strictly these rules get implemented is a big question. None of the citizens who use plastics has any idea where the discarded plastic items go. We never bother to think where all the plastic waste is taken and what is done with them. We complain about clogged sewage and water logging but we turn a blind eye to the fact that it mostly the plastic bags that we discard which is the cause of this problem. They are so light that they just fly around in the air and land up anywhere. They are not only sour to eyes but also very dangerous pollutants.

The manufacturers seem to have no accountability what so ever in this matter. They manufacture it in mass and earn huge profits. But aren't they accountable too? In the case of plastic bags I understand, it is difficult. Because they have to be collected in bulk and recycled or else it is cumbersome work. In that case, the citizens have to be educated on the ill effects of using plastic bags. They should be educated on how to recycle it and also government/outsourced organisations should set up collection centres in towns where people can bring in collected plastic bags and give it for recycling. The manufacturers should pay some amount to the government for recycling purpose which the government can use in setting up collection points and recycling units. It is the responsibility of each person to leave this world a better place for the future generation. Steps should be taken to educate the uneducated and also to provide them with affordable eco-friendly alternatives to plastic bags.

Right now we are in a period where the life of holy cows are much dear and precious than human lives. But even among all this drama, the real pain of these animals go unseen and unheard of. There are no Gau-rakshas who can save these animals from this kind of silent cruelty. It is a great irony that the same people who kill humans for slaughtering cows cannot make any arrangements for making these animals eat safely. So much of hypocrisy in the name of politics and development.

We cannot completely avoid plastics but we need to learn to use them responsibly and as a system, define steps and actions to process them.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Groundnut Festival

We are familiar with various types of festivals celebrated in our place. Festivals in India are very colourful. Celebrations are a big part of our tradition. So when I heard about this unique kind of festival celebrated near the Dodda Ganesha temple in Basavanagudi hillock of Bengaluru, I could not stop myself from attending it. The festival is called "Kadalakkayi Parishe" which literally translates into Groundnut Festival.

Like all other festivals and carnivals in our country, this celebration is also marked by makeshift shops selling colourful toys, bangles and cosmetics and also a lot of eatables. As the name signifies this is a festival of Groundnuts. This festival is celebrated to offer the annual yield of groundnut to Lord Basava (Lord Nandi-Bull god) the Vahana (mount) of Lord Shiva. Every festival has a mythical story behind it and this one is no different.

The story goes like this. It happened centuries ago. The groundnut farmers in this area noticed that someone was destroying their crops in the night. They launched an investigation. They found out something bizarre. They were shocked to find out that a bull was the culprit. In order to please Lord Basava and stop the bull from ruining their crops, they decided to offer the first yield of every year to Lord Basava. After this incident, a statue of Lord Nandi mysteriously appeared in their village. The villagers were stunned to find out that the statue was gradually growing in size. To stop it from growing enormously, the villagers drilled an iron nail on the top of its head. This nail is believed to be the Trishul that is found on the Nandi's head today.

Later , following the instruction of Kempe Gowda - the founder of Bengaluru, a temple was constructed for Lord Nandi in the year 1537 where the statue was found. The temple is known as the "Bull Temple" today. The statue of a bull inside this temple is considered to be the largest statue with its 15 feet height and 20 feet length. 

The festival is a two days celebration which starts on the last Monday of the "Karthick" month ( a month in Hindu calendar). During these two days, many farmers including those from the surrounding towns come in with their first yield of the year and offer it to Lord Nandi in the Bull temple. Later brisk business happens in the temple fair where farmers sell and buy the yield. Various types of groundnuts are sold here during this time. The festival is so famous that farmers from neighbouring states like TamilNadu and AndhraPradesh also participate in it. Lakhs of small lamps are lighted all around the temple marking the beginning of the festival.  There is no doubt that this festival presents a unique experience to anyone who becomes a part of it

Her Destroyer

Oh! You, hanging in there;
Lashing out at her.
Hang in there, and stay rolled up.

How you slash away;
Splitting budding dreams into pieces,
With your sharp edges.

Stay there rolled up will you?
Out you come killing lives,
no matter how small you are.

Spitting out venom;
freezing the minds of all dumbos;
Riding the horse of your ego.

You destroy lives and families.
Laden with no guilt at all,
You are capable of annihilation.

Stay rolled up and let her live.
You lick away her dignity with no remorse.
Your war can destroy the unborn hers.

Breaking the fighting soul,
you question her morality.
Creeping into her privacy, what is your morality?

She is just a human yearning to live her dreams.
She fights back and you got to roll up and hide.
Live, she shall; you listen, his sharp little tongue.