We The People Of India

I wrote this post out for a website, however, it couldn’t be published there in time. Just wanted to share it…

I owe this post to Jerry Pinto, a well known journalist, poet and a writer. As a professor whose aim was to introduce us to journalism, he asked us to read a couple of books, one of which was the Constitution of India. “You are living in the country, na? You should find out what the country is all about otherwise each one of you pay me Rs.17.56 paisa! Most of your education comes from the taxes I pay and if you don’t know this much also na, my money went to waste, I want it back. Ok?”

That’s when it dawned on me. We take pride in being Indian, we get a lump in our throats when we hear our National anthem and we take pride in slamming the politicians for totally screwing the system up, but how many of us bother to find out what being an Indian legally means, what are the fundamental factors that built India. How many of us have ever read the Constitution leave alone possess it?

As we approach the 2009 elections, various groups are being proactive in urging citizens of India to vote. The tedious process of registration is being simplified and a lot of questions are being thrown at the political parties hoping to get power.

Most important of all though, is self-introspection. It is important to understand your own civil duties and rights before you choose the leaders of the nation. It is your duty to find out what we stand for. It’s easy for us to blame the government and ministers for debacles but we as a society are to be blamed.

Here is what our Preamble says. Read it and ask yourselves, is this what my country stands for, am I, as a citizen of India ensuring that these words do not remain just words:

“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a _1[SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC] and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the _2[unity and integrity of the Nation];

Source: http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/coifiles/preamble.htm

While there’s poverty, while there’s corruption and while there exists communalism how can these words ever be held true?

So as we ready ourselves to vote and exercise our right, let’s take it upon ourselves to make sure that the preamble stands for more than just words. Lets fight for a better tomorrow, for you, me and the generations to come. And that’s where I recommend you watch this ad campaign featuring Aamir Khan.

So lets make sure that each one of us uses our vote sensibly and sensitively. Jai Hind!


Women’s Day Followed by Barbie Day!

Yesterday was International Women’s Day (8th march) and quite a few people wondered what the relevance was. But that’s not what this post is about. You can read about the origins of International Women’s Day right here.

In short, on this day we remember the women who stood up against oppression, fought for their rights. It’s a day you acknowledge the contribution of these women to the freedom we enjoy today. And yes, one mustn’t dwell in the past too long and therefore, we must also celebrate and encourage the dreams of the modern woman.

I received a long list of SMSs wishing me ‘Happy Women’s Day’ because the message told them, ‘pass this along to every beautiful woman you know.’ To me this is pointless. I haven’t done enough to be celebrated on this day, in fact, I want to do something and say thank you to women like Savitree Phule and Iravati Karve who made sure women in India got a right to education. It is thanks to these women that I can dare to go out there, support myself and look the world in the eye.

So anyway, this whole Hallmarkisation of women’s day was kinda getting on my nerves. Newspapers carried guest columns by women, and yes some of these women were actually women of substance but many of these were socialites, industrialists’ wives. The modern day Indian woman who struggles with a career, home and social pressures got a rare mention.  Her struggle continues, whether or not its 8th of March.
She is given the education and the liberty to work, but time and again she’s also reminded that her responsibilities towards the family are greater. Where does this start?

A small girl proudly displays her ‘bhatukli’, Marathi for toy kitchen sets. She makes her first cup of imaginary tea, and she’s praised. She starts to make believe she’s cooking and serving, and she starts enjoying the process.
Speaking of play, another thing that subconsciously reinstates a woman’s role in her life to come is a doll. The doll, very often brings out a maternal side of the child. They care for it, they dress them up, they cook imaginary food to feed the doll.

I couldn’t help but wonder. In play do we start defining her role for her? That said, seeing one of my toddler friends take keen interest in ‘bhatukli’ despite being boy, made me feel awesome. I relished the tea he served me. So what if it was imaginary, we have a dream!
Being a total tomboy, I rarely played with my tea-set and almost always beheaded my Barbies. But I still enjoy cooking (occasionally :P) and can tackle kids much better than many people my age. So I’m not saying playing with dolls or playing bhatukli make you a better home maker or anything. I’m just wondering if the fact that Barbie’s birthday falls the day after women’s day symbolizes something. What do you think?

Jaago Re Aur Kuch Karo Re!

Yes, I am a procrastinator and I was convinced I am my country’s worst citizen. Jaagore.com reminded me time and again and yet, I would say ‘next weekend!’

Finally, I managed to get my documents together, ensured I had true copies, photos and set off to the ERO situated at the address mentioned on Jaagore.com to ensure that my name gets added to the voters’ list. I blessed Raj, who had made things so damn easy for jokers like me. Thank God for Raj, lazy bums like me could easily get their right to vote or so I thought.

Of course, as soon as I reached the address I was told the office had moved. So, I went in search of the municipal school where the office was now situated.
‘Documents are all okay, but you don’t have Form 1A.’
‘Jaago Re says its not compulsory,’
‘No No, here fill out and come back after 1st February.’

So yeah, though the website said 23rd Jan was the date, the guy refused to take my form. I had no choice. I made another trip yesterday.
‘Why passport? Ration card is needed,’ he looked at my documents with disdain.
‘Passport is the most relevant document for age, address and identity proof. I am sure this will be accepted,’
‘I don’t think so. Why is your father’s voter id here? Its too old. Finding the number will take too much time, find someone nearby whose id was issued recently.’
‘Nobody in my building has a new one!’
‘Go and find, don’t say no without checking.’

And then I lost it. I started arguing that it was his job to find the number not mine. Finally I was redirected to a lady who sweetly told me that the passport was okay but the form won’t be accepted until 1st week of March.
‘Will my name appear in the list though?’
‘It will after the revision,’
‘Will the revision happen before election?’
‘I think so!’

I walked out with my documents. Angry.

This is my country that prides on being the largest democracy. However, the basic right to vote is a pain to get. I blame myself. I should have done this ages ago. I should have known all the facts and been able to fight it out.

But fight with who? The man who sweetly speaks to the guy who came through the Corporator and guides him with utmost courtesy but is extremely rude to a senior citizen who wants to rectify his erroneous name in the list. Or should I fight with the man who refuses to look up a number even though it is his job to do so? Or should I fight with a system where the minimum qualification for being a leader is a couple of criminal records and a few trips to the jail? Or should I fight people like me who do not find out how the system works or why it works the way it does?

And then I get daunted. I get bogged down.

Our country probably deserves this political apathy. Somebody pointed out to me a few weeks back that this is because we lack the fiery, passionate love for our country. We forget that loving the country goes beyond singing patriotic songs. We have brought on this apathy on ourselves because we refuse to change. We refuse to question and we refuse to fight back even if the battle is immensely long!

BIG thank you to Jaago Re. At least our eyes have opened. Now, lets get up and do something!

PS: My overanalytical mind thinks that these guys are hostile to guys who come through Jaago Re probably on instruction from politicians. Afterall, the parties benefit from low turnouts on voting day and the guys at the ERO have lesser work to do.

Mumbai Terror Attacks: Lesson For Us To Learn!

The past 13 hours have been numbing for every single Mumbaikar. There’s no point in explaining what happened. It’s all over the media. If you don’t know what happened, close the window and read a paper right now.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I have been up almost all through the night. Worried sick for friends, then for the city and then for the bloody morale of this country, just worried. I have been surfing news channels. Gladdened by the sense of responsibility that some channels are showing, angered by unnecessary sensationalising of news.

This is a rant a bloody rant of a grieved citizen, a grieved Mumbaite and more than anything else, a shattered human being.

As I write this, I hear that the operation carried out by terrorists was just to cause mayhem and killing. They have no demands! This is ridiculous. We cannot tolerate these fanatics doing this for the fun of it.

We cannot tolerate these fanatics arriving in a boat on the Mumbai coast armed with explosives and guns. We cannot tolerate the fact that they got into high security stations and so called well protected hotels with guns and bombs and held people hostages. We cannot tolerate the fact that they killed people to just prove that they were capable of doing so.

I refuse to be resilient. I refuse to be tolerant. I want answers and I want them now. I want to know why the intelligence did not spot this. I want to know why the coast guard did not spot this. And I want us all to ask those questions.

This is a cue for us to get up and ask. How can we let these uncivilised bastards hold the city at siege? I don’t care if this post does not make sense. This is how I feel and I will continue to feel so until I hear that ATS chief Hemant Karkare, SI Vijay Salaskar, DIG Kamte and many other individuals did not lose their lives in vain.

As I post this, Barkha Dutt is questioning the info. More than 100 people are trapped in Trident and blasts have been heard.

A big thank you to Barkha Dutt, Kashif Khusro, the entire Times Now team for responsible journalism and for asking the right questions and keeping the citizens informed.

Right now, some sources said that the weapons used were H&K MP5s which are the Pkistan Military’s standard weapon and are produced in Pakistan on a license. The pieces of the puzzle if fit together create a scary picture.

Mother?! India?!

I am a woman, I am Brahmin,I am Maharashtrian, I am Hindu, I am Indian, I am human. It doesn’t matter who I am or who you are. All that matters is if you are a human being sensitive to the world, to the good or bad, to the right or wrong. If your blood doesn’t boil when you see injustice, if your heart doesn’t cry when you see suffering around you or if your soul doesn’t itch to do something about the things falling apart, don’t read this post…
The Orissa government has finally asked the state crime branch to investigate the rape of a nun- Hindustan Times, Mumbai, 4th October 2008.
On August 25, a 29 year old Catholic nun was allegedly raped by a fanatic Hindu mob and paraded through the streets shouting Bharat mata Ki Jai- TOI, Mumbai, 4th October 2008

I am shamed, disgusted and appalled. You consider you country your mother and you think you have honored her by raping and humiliating a woman? Disgusting. What disgusts me more as a woman citizen of this country is that the police refused to help the victim and delayed investigation. It took 38 days of violence, protests and lot more for the State to decide that there was a disgusting crime committed and that the police officials who failed to protect or bring justice to the victim needed punishment.
Why did it take them so many days? Because there has to be a detailed report, a lot of letters that shuttle around and a lot of press before action can be taken. I am not convinced by Mr. Naveen Patnaiks’s assurance that the culprits will be duly punished, for obvious reasons. If he keeps his word, great but I still think it would make very little difference to this situation in the long run.

By all means punish the culprit, that is the Judiciary’s job. But who’s doing what about preventing such horrific incidents in the future? While the judicial process ensures justice to the victim, there are a couple of things that need attention. First up, these people need education to gain a certain level of maturity and understanding. They need to stop blaming the missionaries for conversion of poor Hindus. Look, your system and your relgion failed to give them their basic rights of food shelter and clothing. If they seek that and more through another religion, it’s their call. We are a secular nation and we are free to follow the religion we want. It is not our place to decide which religion is better nor is it our place to decide whether he missionaries are forcibly converting the poor against their will. If they are being forcefully converted, there needs to be positive action. Torchig missionaries and raping nuns is not the answer.
By the way, no evidence of forced conversions was found in Karnataka. NDTV is flashing that as I write this.

The poor in this country are helpless and there is a passion to seek justice. Certain religious leaders disillusion them into believing that death and violence will bring their religion/country to glory. Wrong. These guys need to be sensitised to understand that their actions cause harm and only harm. They need to understand that there is no glory brough forth by hurting or insulting any human being, religion no bar! If they dig deep into the religion, with the aid of education and ratinale, they can see for themselves that these acts are not endorsed by their ‘supreme’ religion. If there is one thing that these extremists need, its education. They need awareness and they need a lesson in human values. Can we as a country try and do that?
Look at the names that strived hard to make our nation. There are Muslim, Parsi, Hindu, Sikh names. They didn’t see themselves as the representatives of their religion. They fought with a spirit of being Indian and the strived for a united country. They hoped for an independent India, with a better tomorrow for one and all. And they believed it could be achieved. They believed in the spirit of Indianness above everything. Where is that spirit? Why can’t we forget our classifications and move forth?

Why am I writing in this tone, you might ask.I am pained by what’s happening around and even more pained by how indifferent our urban society is to the issues that hamper our growth and development… Move beyond the rise and fall of stock markets, stop obsessing over Obama and McCain and take a hard look at your country. This is YOUR country.

A friend’s update on twitter reminded me of a valuable quote from Mahatma Gandhi: You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

I am an Indian, nothing else matters…

A piece of peace please!

Mahatma Gandhi gave the world Satyagraha, a weapon sans violence. Gandhi followers speak of his dislike for violence and his ability to fight for the truth without resorting to violence. This man known as the FAther of our nation, must be disappointed with what we have made this country.

All the newspapers’ front pages are adorned with horrifying photographs of the Agartala blasts. Most also speak about the loopholes in the report prepared for the 7/11 Mumbai blasts. There is a report about the victims of the Malegaon blasts. Another report says that the death toll in the Chamunda Devi mishap has reached 150. The anti-Christian violence in Orissa has also claimed quite a few lives.

Everywhere I read about death. There is death in the name of religion, death in the and of fame, money and God knows what other reasons death uses to use as it’s accomplice. I wonder if Gandhiji, Nehru and Ambedkar foresaw this sorry state of affairs…

Faster’s feast

I have lived and loved Mumbai with a passion. I have combed through it’s crowded streets and hid in it’s quiet corners. I have loved it’s openness and enjoyed it’s diversity and yet, I have been taking the city’s spirit for granted. It takes an RK and WK to make me see the city like never before.
RK n his wife W live in London, while RK grew up in India, W grew up in London. Both have a passion for food and are very enthusiastic and outgoing. RK announced last morning that he wanted to visit Mohammed Ali Road during Ramadan. I had heard about it, I had seen celebrity photos but never been there.

So we started the adventure. Parents, A Mama and family, RK, W and family in tow. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic crowd on the streets. The steady flow of people ensured that one kept moving at a steady pace. Once we crossed the main road and stepped into the Minara Masjid lane, aromas of meat crackling on fiery coal, malpua sizzling in oil made sure that our mouth was watering. I wasn’t going to brave the roadside eateries, not with a bunch of pardesis whose digestive systems could collapse with the unhygienic conditions. However, those street stalls are all about the vibe or as they say in Urdu, ‘Mahoul’. Lights that made the Minarets of the Masjid sparkle, women dressed up in glittering outfits, add to that the street side shops shimmering with trinkets and more. One word for it all- fantastic (a bit chaotic but I am not complaining).

Minara Masjid by the night
Minara Masjid by the night

It’s one thing to enjoy the madness on the street but quite another to attempt eating there. If you like eating your food in a slightly less chaotic ambience head straight to one of the restaurants in the locality. I suggest you get there early- say by about 8.30 pm to avoid a long wait for the table. Shalimar Restaurant is said to be a one stop shop for all the Ramadan goodies and has an awesome AC section you can comfortably settle into. What’s more, the food is authentic and delectable!

We were all in a celebratory mood, so good conversation flowed. The table was soon jam packed with kebabs, cold drinks and more. There was Bhuna gosht, which was greasy enough to give my dietician a stroke. The tikkas, shammis and seekhs were succulent and packed with flavour. I’m guessing they came straight off an authentic Sigdi! No electric oven can match the distinct taste of the meat cooked on charcoal.

The Bhunas and Kadais were very oily, but they were so good on the flavour that just a bite sent me straight into heaven. We decided to take the adventure further with some Bheja fry and Bheja masala. The sweet n spicy masala, with the luscious brain meat made me go back to my childhood, when I enjoyed Bheja Masala served in Crystal Punjab (RIP). The rotis and Naans straight off the tandoor with the curries and kebabs were a match made in heaven! There was just no reason for us to complain about the food. I guess this is why the fast is worth it, spiritual reasons aside.

The entire meal would have been incomplete without dessert. We were directed to the Mithai section of the restaurant. Out came the Aflatoons, which were greasy to the core but they were packed with such wholesome taste and texture. Although the kulfis and the faloodas were mind-blowing, what took the cake was the Malpua. A dude sat there cracking eggs into a vessel to mix a batter and frying humungous pancakes and then stuffing them with cream and dried fruits and nuts. Just plain awesome.

Of course, last evening set me back by a month in terms of my weightloss goal, but I am not complaining. It was worth every single calorie and I mean it. You have two more days. Shun your inhibition and head to the food heaven that is Mohammed Ali Road. If you can’t make it this year, make sure you go next year. But do make sure you go there atleast once in your lifetime, because this, my friend, is a true foodie’s Mecca!