Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Let us change for a better India.............

Let us change for a better India……
Change is required and is a very important ingredient of any evolving society. When we look around us and exasperate over various issues, bad roads, traffic, politics, corrupt and/or inefficient politicians let’s take a few seconds and give a thought on whether we contribute towards the solution or add to the problems with our own actions- knowingly or inadvertently sometimes.
 Don’t we contribute to the garbage in the city by not segregating our waste at home and also not reducing/avoiding plastics?
 Don’t we not add on to the pollution by not car - pooling, not using public traffic and not switching off at signals ?
 Do we follow traffic rules –Always?
 Do we pay our taxes regularly?
 Don’t we not sometimes get carried away by our own biases for religion or region and end up casting our vote for the wrong person?
I could go on, but the point is when each one of us finds it difficult to make small changes in our ways or our attitude to various things around us how can we see a change in our country? Why complain then?
At Jwalamukhi we train school children with these simple values and develop an attitude of making small changes in themselves . When these children grow up they will definitely be part of the change that we want to see in India.
On August 11th Jwalamukhi children took a rally on New Bel road, Bangalore to spread these social messages among people .
Children carried banners that had messages like,” I am a Hindu, I speak Tamil. But I am an Indian first”, “ I will not litter the streets.”,” I will not throw chocolate wrappers or on the street”, and were picking up plastics thrown on the streets by others. There were more socially relevant messages. They stuck stickers which said:” I will follow traffic rules” on vehicles. They also gave brochures with pledges by them to do the right thing when they grow up and also few ways of how others could make a difference.Children wearing t-shirts that said-“ I stand for change”, and with their faces painted with tri - colours not only looked cute , vibrant and energetic, but I ‘m sure they carried all the messages they were spreading back with them in their hearts too.
Happy Independence Day to all!
Together we can make a difference!!
Let’s start now!!!

Link for pictures of the rally:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Those were the Days

Bombay - the early ‘70’s.

Tring ….Tring…………….Trinnng rang our phone. We three sisters would dash towards our living room vying with each other to be the one to answer the call. We always felt important answering the phone, even though we knew it was always for our father. The first time we answered the phone we picked it up and barked, "Hullo who is speaking??”. My
father, not at all happy with his daughters’ lack of etiquette instructed us in not so patient terms, “Always start with a polite and soft 'hello' and then follow it up with 'who is speaking please?'…..and it would never hurt you to finish it with a 'thank you' now will it? And there is no need to scream into the phone at the top of your voice now, is there? Do you want the caller to hear you directly??".

After these lessons in etiquette and numerous corrections we finally learnt our way with the phone.

The telephone was always an important fixture at home, with a spot designated and furniture designed specially for it. It was either kept on a prestigious stand or in the corner table right beside its 6 inches thick directory. Learning to read the directory was another lesson we had to go through.

It wasn't just in our home; the phone was considered an important part of many families. A person's status was decided based on whether he or she owned a phone. It was common to come across this in the classified matrimonial columns- “Wanted - a tall, slim, beautiful, highly educated, home loving, caring, pious, obedient girl for a well placed, post-graduate
boy from a respectable family owning a phone and a car”.

No other information about the boy was required!

This generation would never be able to appreciate what it took to talk to person in a different city, state or country. We had to book a trunk call with the operator and linger around near the phone for the call to come in. As soon as we picked it up, the operator, in her well trained automated voice, will ask us to take our call. We had to rattle out our conversation quickly. We had all become experts in clearly planning out what we wanted to say in those three minutes. And of course we girls never got to talk in important trunk calls, lest we waste time in our "hullo who is speaking” ramble.

If it was a trunk call it was always our father who would drop everything, even his favourite newspaper and run towards the phone. And once he had picked up the phone , he would constantly keep waving his hand at us to keep quiet so can hear clearly. Quietening three girls and their mother was not easy, so he sometimes had to resort to throwing a pen or pencil at us to catch our attention. My father’s voice would also slowly increase in decibels to make himself be heard clearly - the trunk lines were always inaudible. We wouldn’t dare to throw the same line back at him now - “do you want to be heard directly?”... I’m sure the nosy aunty in the ground floor flat could hear him clearly all the way from our third floor flat :).

My father was so used to running to the phone and picking it up that even in recent years, whenever our mobile phone started ringing and we were not around, he would start announcing “ Phone! , Phone!”. It took a while for him to understand that there was no urgency nowadays to pounce on the phone. We could always call back if we wanted to, or we could avoid the call too if we didn’t want to take it!.

Another person made important by these phones was the line man. He was always in demand and would come in like a hero and saviour to repair our precious instrument whenever it was out-of-order. A couple of days before Diwali, our phone would invariably stop working and this Hero would to make many a visit to our place for repairs. The reason for this well-timed phone outage would become evident to us on Diwali day when he came home for his Diwali Baksheesh. We would dare not turn him away without a packet of homemade sweets and a Rs.100 bill...

Being one of the few houses to possess a phone in our building made us feel privileged, and we never missed out on an opportunity to throw in a casual line here and there “Oh! Want my phone number.?”, or “ Call me? Oh sorry you don’t have a phone, do you?”, or even a sad “ You see my phone has not been working from yesterday...” :)

But the downside of this was that every one in the building would give our phone number as their own contact number to all and sundry. And so whenever the phone would ring it was invariably “Please call Mini ‘s mother from flat no. 3?” or "Please pass on this message to Mrs Menon in flat...". Sometimes Rao uncle would turn us out with a "Tell him I am not at home!!”, and we would promptly return back home and tell the caller, "Rao uncle says he is not home now” :)

These calls would see us girls running up and down the building to call Mini’s mother or Menon Aunty... these days when everyone has a phone of their own these things seem trivial, and ancient.

But those were memorable days when we took pleasure in our huge black phone with rotary dialing. The sound when we turned different numbers is still lingering in my ears. The phone was kept on a beautiful stand in a prominently visible area and was covered with a decorative napkin. The maid had an added chore to dust and wipe it to shiny black everyday.

Now? We gift an expensive iPhone to our children and all we get out of them is "Oh! iPhone 4? But I wanted an iPhone 5!"...

Those were days when we took a lot of pleasure in small and simple things.

Phone lost its charm when it became mobile..

Monday, February 18, 2013

Religion and Child Rights

Religion and child rights
Until 1977 we lived in Chembur, Bombay . There are some things that will never be erased from my memory - When I was in VII standard a class mate –Chanda , Gujarathi Jain , very naughty, playing pranks on all of us and constantly talking and getting into trouble with teachers for talking during class , suddenly stopped coming to class. She was one person who was missed by teachers and students alike. Every teacher who came to class would invariably ask after five minutes of class- Where’s Chanda ? Why is she absent? Class is so quiet? No one had the answer.
Later one day we came to know that Chanda was going to become a saint-renounce material life in a special ceremony that evening. Few of us who went to see her later could not believe it was the same Chanda who loved bright floral prints and had beautifu l straight hair- in a white sari, head shaven and looking serene and quiet. I couldnot undersand- why ?
A few years after moving to Coimbatore we were watching on T.V, a young sharp and bright looking boy being chosen as the next Shankarcharya of Kanchipuram . The news that caught my attention and has stayed in my mind so long was not the ritual itself but that the 14 year old lad was being fed by his mother his favourite food Poories and Aloo sabzi. His last meal before renunciation. After that neither will he be allowed to meet his mother nor will he be allowed to eat what his heart yearns for. He was going to take Sanyas.
While in college , a convent college, we had as classmates a few Christian nuns in the class with us. They were just like all of us girls when it came to giggling and chatting etc but for their attire. Our class mate was a sweet petite ever smiling nun by the name Regina Mary. We called her Sister Regi. Once a month on Mondays post lunch was movie time in our college. Even if we girls gave it a skip our Sr. Regi would definitely go to see it. We would tease and rag sister Regi when some “ love scenes “ were on screen and ask her to close her eyes. She would just laugh us off. Kamal Haasan was her favourite actor too- like he was to all of us then. She would also hide Mills and Boon inside her note books and read them secretly. We didn’t see anything wrong of course. They were just like us.
Once while chatting I posed the question that was chewing my brains for a long time- why did you choose to become a nun? She very matter or factly told us- we are a very poor and big family. When my younger brother was very sick my parents prayed to God and they took an oath that if he gets well they would pledge one child to the church-so I was sent here. To the question- don’t you miss home? She said,” when I left home I was much younger so cried and even ran away to home once to be sent back here,but now I have got used to this and accepted this life. I did this for my brother Right? “
Now very recently, a couple of days back I read an article about how young boys were chosen, and sent away with the Naga Sadhus after a 12 year training and preparation period during which they learn to live a life of rigour and sainthood.The article ( In Deccan Chronicle) mentioned how when a 12 yr old bal naga was asked why he was becoming a sadhu he said- “After his parents’ death his uncle could not take care of him and wanted him to join an ashram in Tamil Nadu. He chose this.”
What forces a child to suddenly take up Sanyas? Does he have a say in this big decision of his life? Does the child know what he is getting into? Do you think the child will be told that he will not get ice cream, will not get to play always, will not get to see his parents or fuss while his mother feeds him, will not get to wear good clothes, will not get to play with toys. He has renounced all the worldly pleasures, remember? All this when rest of his family members and friends are enjoying a normal family. When his brother or sister chips a nail his mother would go running to kiss the wounds away but this sanyasi boy will either be doing his prayers in church, or keeping a fast or living in a cave in Himalayas.
Has any one questioned this? Do we dare question religion? NO WAY.
What about child rights? Who will become their voice? Or doesn’t anybody care.
Is every thing done in the name of religion right ? No, Never, Then why aren’t there any rules to stop any one from forcing their minor child into religious sainthood.
In a day and age when there’s a school of thought that says that a child is not born a Hindu, Muslim, or Christian or atheist . And he should be allowed to decide that for himself when he grows up. How can religion give us the license of robbing his childhood from a child. What about the Child’s right to stay home, his home with his family and follow his dreams-be it become a cricketer or scientist or if he chooses later in life the spiritual path. It should be his choice?

Think about this:
• Most of these children are from poor families. A case of Religion exploiting the poor in yet another way.
• When a minor ( by 3 months) brutally raped and murdered a young girl in Delhi , as per law his right to be treated as a minor was called upon. What about these young children who are sent by their families to live a life bereft of childhood and lot of restrain and hardship ?
• When an Indian child in Norway was taken away from his parents it made headlines in all media. But why isn’t media debating this right misused by religion?
* Thers's a legal age fo marraige. Not renunciation or Sanyas.

Isn’t there any law to stop this?
Who will stand up against religion in such cases? Who dares to?