Friday, 29 April 2016

WE NEED VICTIMS TO CELEBRATE



There was once a girl out there in Japan. She strongly believed in the Japanese myth that making 1000 origami cranes will save her from death. She was a victim of The Hiroshima nuclear bomb blasts. Her name was Sadako Sasaki. She died at the age of 12 of blood cancer. We still make nuclear bombs and rarely do we make paper cranes.

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Hundreds of student protestors of Tianmen square were shot down by the Chinese military on April 1989. The students were mourning on the death of a political leader.We romanticized the struggle and celebrate the day each year.
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There was a girl in Pakistan ,named after Malalai of malwand famous pashtun poet. She was shot at head while travelling in school bus for they were afraid of educated girls.We awarded her the nobel peace prize and amended our constitution to make child labour legal.
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There was a girl Nujood, a divorcee at the age of 13.We condemned and empathized with nujoom and child marriages still continues.
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There was Govardhan who was hanged to death because his neck fit the noose perfectly.We shed tears for  Govardhan but the list of Govardhans continued with Yakub Memon, Perarivalan or Afsal Guru.
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While we were busy creating borders, a kid by the name of Aylan kurdi drowned to death. We shed a gut wrenching pain and went back to glorify the soldiers who are struggling to protect borders.
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There was a college student who wanted to become a writer like carl sagen and all that he got to write was his suicide note. This happened because he was a Dalit. Still we continue to debate about caste based reservations.
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There were three professors- Kalburgi , Dabolkar and Pansare. 3 of them were shot to death because they were atheists. And still we talk about secularism of the Indian constitution.
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There was one Ekalavya, a myth some say , who was asked for his index finger coz they were afraid of his talent. Nobody called him a hero, but heroes were borne out of his charity
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The moment a victim is created we celebrate.
We want martyrs rather than intellects
When thousands are denied even the right to dream,
dreaming itself becomes a privilege.
And we are all privileged.
Isn’t it time to stop romanticizing the struggles of people?
Isn’t it time to come out of comfort zones?
The world isn’t solely ours. They too deserve to live.





OF THE KNOWN AND UNKNOWN 

WOMENHOOD OF KERALA



In 1858, one year after the first war of independence, far in south, at Travancore a group of women belonging to the Nadar community fought for the right to cover their breasts. The lower caste women were not permitted to cover their breast and were brutally raped by the aristocratic male of the province. It was one of the first women movements that occurred in the country and it arose at a time when most of the women around the country feared to speak up. What happened later is all part of history; an event came to be known as “Channar revolt”.  Kerala has a long history of women movements in its hands and owing to them is the status of women in the state. Travancore might be the only province that saw these many women rulers. The state also had uncrowned women queens, women were the decision makers of the house and the birth of a girl child was a matter of celebration unlike many other Indian states.
What makes the state of Kerala different from rest of them is the significant development in material conditions of living over the years. The human development index of the state is much higher than the national average. The development that state achieved came to be known as Kerala model development. The quality of life is very high though the per capita income is low. With highest literacy rate among the country and almost no female foeticide the women folk of the country are independent. Unlike many northern states and its southern peers the status of women in Kerala is quite good. A fair population (above 90%) is educated and more than 70% of the women are working. Those who are not working are organized by Kudumbasree (an initiative by govt. of Kerala), and works in small scale production activities and small scale industries. All the major political parties have a women’s wing which show active participation in the public. The system of “she taxi” and “vanitha auto rickshaws” makes it easier for the safe travel of women and gives women more employment opportunities. But these all are spoken about time and again.
Well that is history, history that we all know and speak about, the history about which Keralites are proud of. But the unspoken is always more important than the spoken truths. Every time when we pompously speak about our literacy and culture I use to remember Hanna, a classmate of mine in class tenth. ”I don’t want to get married, I want to study” cried her one fine morning in the class. Hanna was a highly talented girl, she dreamt of being a writer. She used to write beautiful poems. But by the time we completed our intermediate she was married off and didn’t pursue her education any further. This is another face of the same Kerala that we boasted about. Though most of the Muslim marriages now happen at an age of 18-21, the saddest part is that most of them are not permitted to pursue their education or work after marriage. Though there are exceptions too. Though parties have women’s wing and though they are active the seats given to women candidates are restricted and the no.of women participants in the government too is quite low compared to the sex ratio of the state.similar is th condition with assets, though the state has a good working population of women the property concentration of women is too less.
Status of women in any state can be analyzed by four factors- sex ratio, violence against women, educational status and freedom she enjoys. Kerala has a higher literacy rate among the women and the sex ratio is also high as told earlier. So what bothers next are the violence against women and the freedom.Kerala has India’s third-highest official rate of crimes against women, with 34 offences per 100,000 citizens in 2011.While in 2014 the list grew up to 13880 crimes against women and domestic violence topped the list. Though the women in Kerala are self-independent and literate they are still exploited by the patriarchal mindsets. Like any other society, the people there clings to their traditions, norms and values and normally women ends up being the sufferers. One of the most brutal rape cases of the country where more than 40 people raped a young school girl occurred in Sooryanelli,Kerala.
 A study by Sakhi,women’s organization brought out the fact that over 90% of malayali women fears to walk in the roadside because of harassment and bullying. A movement called “irittu nunayam edikale (let’s taste the darkness)” was held in the state, where women were asked to come out of their house and walk in the dark. However the movement showed very little participation from the female folks. There are quite a lot of reasons behind it. Usually those who walk out at night are considered to be “loose”, even a girl holding a guy’s hand and walking in public is an issue here. Interestingly, this march a guy and girl who were seen in a bike were beaten in the public by the moral police and later they were found out to be siblings, a similar issue happened to another women Thasni Banu while she was going for her night shift work with her guy friend. Another terrible issue that a woman faces in the state is of the working conditions. The sales girls are never permitted to sit, most of the offices don’t have separate toilet facilities and so goes the endless list. On January 2015 all the female workers of a particular company in state was undressed and checked to find out who dropped a used napkin in the dustbin. It later led to massive protest in the state however the insult that the women faced cannot be undone.
So when we are to analyze what went wrong? We will have to begin from the very base. In the educational institution the kids are separated into two sections, in one side girls would sit and the other boys. So the distinction begins at a very smaller age. As the kids grow up the information that is hidden from them too increases. The process of growing up also sees widespread disparities. While boys are permitted to wear anything they want, a girl wearing a jean and t-shirt is seen as lacking worth. Women are made to fit into the shells of dignity. While men are permitted to live life the way they want it, women are inside restrictions. They hear don’ts more than do’s. I agree similar is the condition with many other states however Kerala as a literate state should have redeemed those mistakes. But we are just a bunch of literate idiots.

However, the youth of the state is quite active. To protest against moral policing a movement called “kiss of love” was organized which then spread to different parts of the country. “Love festo” was another such programme that established love as a new political tool. The” irippu samaram “ done by the sales girls of the state and the sanitary pad movement  for better treatment at workplaces are some other in the list .These new generation movements saw active participation from the womenfolk. So girls of the new age band are ready to come out of that shell of so called dignities , they have self-realizations , and are well aware of their capabilities. Perhaps that is the first step towards a better future. Well in comparison to any other state of the country, the state of Kerala is farbetter but we have to compare the state with its own circumstances. We are to break our boundaries and develop within our surroundings. Only once the family and the public are democratized, eminence of the womankind is reinforced.
‘A LIFE WORTH LIVING’


One month after coming from Kerala to Shillong just like any other hostel student, pestered with the hostel food I was in search of a good affordable restaurant, for a temporary relief. It was then I heard about Neef bistro, which was next to IIM and EFLU girls’ hostel at Nongthymmai. If you ask what was Neef all about? Then a typical answer might go like this - A small cozy place, with decorative white lights, purple coloured walls, a total of six tables of which two are located in the balcony giving a view to the street. The tables  decorated with bowls that carry lotuses. However apart from other eateries what makes this place special is the Ba with an ever smiling face at neef whom everyone lovingly calls as the ‘neef uncle’.
So Neef uncle is the hero of our story. Everyone who goes to eat at neef will speak about the Ba, even if they forget to mention about the food. In between Ba is what we call uncle over here.He loves to talk, to smile and to serve. The tits and bits of information gathered from the neef customers increased the curiosity rather than decreasing it. Finally one day while having food at the restaurant curiosity broke its boundary and made me ask to him “your story seems to be so intriguing. Will you tell me the whole of it?” As expected Ba was happy and started his story. The person who was the ‘neef uncle’ for us for a long time was getting a new identity when he introduced himself as N.D Wijamani.
“What would you like to know?” was the first question he asked me, to which I replied “everything!!” Without much hesitation he began his story- the journey from childhood to being the owner of neef bistro. Born to a well-known family at Manipur, his mother belonged to the royal family and his father was a millionaire.  However unlike those kids who should get a colourful life Ba went through a lot of difficulties. He had a big tiff with his father who married thrice and left his home. He grew up at his grandmother’s home at Imphal.
He completed his 10th standard from Ram Krishna mission at Kolkata. “The life at Bengal brought about a sea change in attitude” recalls Ba. He did his pre degrees from Delhi Public School. Then he pursued engineering from Bangalore. It was during the Bangalore days that he met his present wife whom we can call the ‘neef aunty’ and fell in love with her.  soon after he completed his M.tech he got married. Later he started working for the PWD department as a contractor. Many a times, it’s told life is quite uncertain and that is what makes it beautiful. He, who was working under government sector left his job because of the bad experiences from a senior officer and started doing business. “Those days  I wanted to be independent. I wanted to earn money in the easiest way. So I started doing teak wood business” He recollects.
But fate was not in his favour. Just when the business started to flourish the Supreme Court brought a statutory ban on teak wood selling. With the money left, Wijamani and reached  Shillong in the late 90’s in search of a job.Here they opened a small hostel. Life  finally started showing its fairer sides to them. The hostel was a great success. Then his wife started a small garment shop, which too was successful and finally in 2008 they opened Neef Bistro.
7 years after the opening of the shop, it developed a whole lot. Neef is one of the best and favourite hangout places for college students. The hostel students at Nongthymmai and the pupils from IIM are regular visitors of the hotel .Ba explains “I started Neef because I believe serving people is serving god. And food is one way to have a place at people’s heart.” Neef which stands for North East Ethnic Food provides you with a lot of desi foods both veggie and non-veg. The mostly sold food items are aloo paratha, triple fried rice, pork chilly, chicken crispy, veg roll, egg roll and so on. However personally I would recommend the tea and coffee of neef, bet me you cannot find a similar taste anywhere.
“Chicken crispy and veg chow are my favorites” says Arunakshi , from orissa studying at IIM. “I like aloo paratha the most and the tea. One of the best thing about neef is that for cheap price you get good food in large quantities.” says Rikhiya of EFL university.”More than the food this is a cozy place, silent with light music, one of the best places at Nongthymmai were you can hangout with friends and have short discussions” says Rona of IIM. Neef uncle who is well awae of the fact that most of his customers are students, always charges 25% less than the actual price, which has helped in popularizing the hotel a lot.He says “come and eat, who talks about money here? Pay me when you have!!”
My grandmother always tells food becomes tasty when it is served with love. The food at neef is good not just because of the way it is made or it is served, it’s also because of the warmth of welcome that the neef uncle gives us. The experiences he had in his life have turned him to a respectable man with aninordinate ,unique outlook towards life.  Looking back to life he has no regrets. At the age of 53 he has turned out to be someone whom we can look up to. He says “Life is short, make it sweet, and seize every moment. Live for the day for who knows what awaits you tomorrow.Live and love everyone”Hebore the smile of a man who has won over life when he said those words. He is indeed a person whom you can behold and say “life is worth living.”