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Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Houses I have Lived In Since My Birth: My First Home #1


Yesterday I noticed a post on soulsisters about no.of houses a person moves in their lifetime, with an average being 8-9 it said. That got me counting and counting and counting…I did till 14 but it wasn’t the end. Having lived in 4 countries across 2 continents, I thought I will document them in a blog instead of counting them… This post may interest whose paths may have crossed our, in our life’s journey while in any of these houses.

My First Home:

“Jain Sweets wala makaan”…this is how this first house of my life is referred to by our family. It was in F Block Model Town Stop 2 in Delhi. When Papa and Ammi got married on 5th Jan 1964, within a month, Papa moved, with his new bride, out of his ancestral home in 120 Bazar Matia Mahal, Jama Masjid, Delhi 110006, to rent this modest 2 room portion of a home on the 1st floor in F Block Model Town 2, Delhi.

The house was the first floor, front portion of the house located on the main road and had Jain Sweets and other shops on the ground floor. Jain Sweets remained was one of the most important landmarks in Model Town for decades. Across the central open space at the back lived a widower father Mohan sb. with his 3 children in their late teens and early 20s- Anita, Neeru and their little brother Nanna. Within weeks Ammi became friends with Anita and Neeru Didis, while Papa and Mohan sb who they all ended up calling Daddy till the end, became buddies, discussing politics, books and other intellectual stuff. Papa was called Bhai Sb and Ammi Bhabi ji by the 3 kids. They all became one family. Ammi taught the girls how to cook ‘meat’, in varieties like “qorma”, aloo salan”, ‘koftas’ etc.It is in this home that I and then my twin brothers were born. And we literally grew up as toddlers play all day in the Daddy’s quarters.

The house was owned by a couple I remember as Chacha ji and Chachi ji. Chacha ji in my vision( as we kept in touch for decades later ttoo) was a lean and thin, inconspicuous, unassuming, old man. Chachiji, I swear am not exaggerating was the size of Tuntun, and was the real landlord for the two tenant families. As Ammi says, “she would suddenly appear on the floor peeping into ‘our quarters’ and of Anita Neeru to check if the houses were well kept.”
She would be particularly impressed that a Muslim couple had kept a tasteful teak sofa and a decent bedroom. And the kitchen was clean too. She would tell Ammi, “Ap log parhe likhe ho naa.. “

As the word spread that a Muslim family is living in the neighborhood, a poor Muslim woman from Rajasthan and her 15 year old son Nizam came up to see my Mom. Ammi was excited that she too was from Rajasthan, as Ammi had recently arrived after marriage from Jaipur too.
They were traditional tie and dyers from Jodhpur. Papa suggested them to start a small dyeing business in the corner of the road. Within years they became a roaring success, bought 2 shops, a van and a house. And until I got married, in 1990, Nizam remained our dyer and never charged us a penny.

Papa’s phupi amma lived with them most of the time in this small house as she was the one who had raised Papa. She was the only person who influenced control over him. Not even his father did, as Papa and Dada Abba had fallen apart on many issues, he being a maulana snd Papa being a ardent Leftist who chose Political Science as his field of study instead of Islamiyaat, at that time. In fact the reason for Papa to move out of Jama Masjids ancestral home was that Dada Abba had demanded, “Dulhan ko parda karwaogey…” and instead of arguing or confronting his father, Papa decided to move out. The excuse he gave was that, “Model Town is closer to my University.”
So this Phupi Amma was the only one Papa would listen to.

Of course, in those days, especially in old conservative minds like Phupi Amma, privacy was not a thing, not even for a newly married couple. She would insist Ammi to sleep with her as she was afraid of the chupkalis (lizards) that navigated all night all across the walls of her room. According to Ammi, “Your Papa would be strolling in the open verandah, anxiously waiting when would Phupi Amma sleep and when I would slip out of her room.”
Once, just to pull her leg, I told Ammi, “Come on, Ammi. You had all your kids in that house. Don’t blame Phupi Amma for not letting you be with Papa.” She didn’t find it funny. 😀

It is in this house that my parents with me as a few month old baby, saw the 1965 Indo-Pak war. There used to be back outs in Delhi. Once Ammi said she got up to make a milk bottle for me at night and lighted a candle and there was a scream from someone in the neighbors, “Shut off the light. What are you trying to do?” Ammi said being a muslim, she was so scared if they would be misunderstood, as the Hindu-Muslim tensions always rose high in such times. Although in 1965, it was still much safer that what if the same scenario had to repeat in 2021.

I was told by Papa that even though his family had grown from 2 to 5, they felt living in that house with wonderful neighbors was a huge plus point so they never moved until the following happened:
I was 3 and my baby brother were still infants. So I was sent to a cutest Nursery school nearby called, Jack n Jill School. So I had gotten wiser and my imagination was growing wider. Papa used to ride a Vespa scooter then, and he would pick me up from school and drop himself. I would stand in the front as he rode the scooter, and we would ride back home chatting about what happened in the school. One day, I told him, “Papa hum gate wale ghar meyn kyun nahin rehtey?” (Why don’t we live in a gated house?). What i had meant was, “Why don’t we live in a bungalow?”
Papa was so moved by this innocent query that he decided to move out and rent a bungalow.
That house will be the next story in the next blog.

I wonder, is the famous Jain Sweets still there?
Is that house still there or demolished?
Is Nizam’s Dyers shop still there. He must be an old man in 70s now.
It merits a visit to this area on my next visit to Delhi.

Unfortunately, despite a lot of searches, i have not been able to find Anita or Neeru Didi on social media. They must be in their 70s now.
Nanne bhaiya, called Deepak Mohan had become a Sous Chef in Taj Intercontinental and was last I know posted in Hyderabad and living on Banjara Hills. He must have retired now.

Wonder if this post might reach them? Social media is powerful. YOU NEVER KNOW.

PS: Next houses in next blogposts.
Pic below was taken at Jain Sweets house rooftop by Papas photographer friend Nisar Bharti. Lost touch with Nisar uncle since Papa’s death in 1998.

Farewell To My Friend Dr. Syed Fasihuddin


Aah it was a 36 years of friendship in total with 30 years of marital association of two people of opposite personalities.
Fasih was quiet, gentle yet nerves of steel, living in the moment and a fearless risk taker. And despite being not too talkative, he was a people’s person, and a helper.
I am, as always expressive, explosive, yet a loner, super cautious bordering to being fearful, never living or enjoying the present, mind always planning 5 years ahead.
Yet for some weird reason we clicked very well. And clicked so much that both of us did not need to change our personalities. I learned from Fasih how to give space to the other partner. He let me be me and certainly wanted me to let him be him.
But the fearless risktaker that he was, I tried my best to be a check on him. But I always failed. And he always proved me wrong.

Whether it was his decision to marry an Indian and the practical challenges related to it. (This is another story, that deserves another memoir).
Or refusing to hand over his wallet on gunpoint at Sharei Faisal( Karachi) traffick jam in rain and handing that boy a brown envelope with patties saying, “I don’t keep wallet, eat this it must be hard work as there are so many cars.”
T
he guy remarked, “Fauji lagtey ho is liye itni himmat dikha rahe ho.”(You look an armed forces man and hence being so daring). And the boy walked to the next car.
Or whenever we travelled, which were very frequent, he would leave at the nick of time, despite my cries to keep some margin of time, speeding to reach on time. Once when we were travelling from Makkah to Jeddah airport to catch PIA flight for Karachi, the car’s tyre burst and we ended up reaching airport 2 hours late when the counter was closed and they were wrapping the list.
Fasih went straight to the manager desk, who was Manzoor Junior ( A Pakistani Hockey Olympian). He was very angry.
Fasih said, “Sir tyre got burst.”
He replied, “Yes this is an old excuse.”
He was not in a mood to listen to Fasih’s pleas. He then touched the chin of Manzoor Sb, “Sir aap hockey bahut achi kheltey the.” (Sir you played awesome hockey.)
Manzoor SB got even angrier and yet said, “No. Sorry.”
Fasih them told him, “Sir aap tou 1984 olympic team ke captain they. Sir, gold medal bhi mila tha….” (Sir you were the captain of 1984 Olympic Team. You even got the Gold Medal).
Manzoor Junior laughed and told his staff….“Inko toilet ke pass wali jo khali seat hai woh issue ker do. Family for peeche wali row de dou.”
(Give him the empty seat near toilet and the row behind to the family).

I wanted to travel Egypt, as it from his Egyptian experience and stay that inspired my father to name me Ilmana. Fasih suggested we drive by car all along River Nile from Luxor to Alexandria in Egypt, even though there were some news Muslim Brotherhood’s recent surgence in Upper Egypt in 1996/1997. I dreaded and he said, “With two toddlers car journey is the safest journey.”
In the area of Asyut, half way through, the Egyptian Army stopped us. “Pakistani?What are you doing here?”
Fasih replied, “Long drive along Nile al Gameel.” (River Nile, the beautiful)
The armed forces guys were so cordial, they drove ahead of us all along 1200km or more, proudly stopping to show us the historical points. And Fasih said, “See we have free guides. You just fear for no reason.”



Or when he gave up his lucrative job abroad to build a hospital in Karachi Pakistan, when target killing of doctors were at its peak in the city. I lived those years with my heart in my throat. I owe this to one of his politician friends who suggested to him, “Fasih bhai at least in haalaat mein bachon ko tou mut Karachi laao.” (Fasih bhai at least in these risky times dont bring your kids to Karachi). So my kids and I came to Canada in 2009.

In the middle or all forms of corruption and bribery in Pakistan he wanted to do good work. So for approval of his hospital plan, confronting the Director General of Karachi Building Control Authority, KBCA (who is now a fugitive for corruption) in his polite affirmness Fasih demanded, “I want to make a quality healthcare setup that provides honest and ethical care in Karachi but I dont have any money to give bribe. I am a salaried man, not a builder.”
And imagine the miracle, the man famous for not sparing a penny of bribe relented saying, “Pray for me in Haram”.
Fasih then took out a box of Ajwa dates as a reward for him. With his mild sense of humor, he came out smiling from the Director’s office saying, “This ajwa dates will control his hypoglycemia for not have got any bribe.”
He was famous in Building Control( KBCA) that, “ye doctor tou kangla hai.” (This doctor is a pauper). And Fasih enjoyed his nickname.

When we inaugurated the dream of his life, Taj Clinics( now Taj Consultants Clinics) he named after his mother Tajunnisa, and realized the hard work wasn’t yet over and it was now a 14 hour per day job, with no vacations, no salary, not even a car for first 2 years of the startup.
I often joked to him, “Deewane tou pehle hi the, ab aur tarah ki deewangi hai.” (Crazy you were already, now this is another level of craziness).
He just laughed and retorted, “Zindagi kya hai jaanne ke liye, Karachi mein rehna bahut zaroori hai.” (To know what living means, you must experience living in Karachi).
He did not regret for a single minute the U-turn his life had taken from a high salaried Consultant luxurious life in the Middle East, to a life in Karachi far from family, with no rest, no money and loads of sweat, loadshedding, manipulations, navigating a thororughly corrupt system for every paperwork, and most of all never ending expenses in newly begun Taj Consultants Clinics.

At our inauguration of Taj Consultants Clinics on April 5, 2015

In 30 years there must have been 100s of such incidents when I feared but he just kept taking risks but with a belief that he is not doing anything unfair or unjust. And that this is the right way and nothing good happens by being fearful. He kept proving my fears wrong.

Last pic together near Niagara Falls on May 11, 2020

He came for a 2 week spring break to us in Mississauga on March 1, 2020. With blessing in disguise due to lockdown and no flights he got stranded here with us for 10 weeks. He travelled back to Pakistan on May 15, 2020, despite our pleas to not go, as I feared he will risk his life in COVID 19 as a Pulmonologist in a madhouse called Karachi. He said he has his patients, his staff that needs to be paid salary before Eid ( May 23, 2020) and,
“I can’t hide from what I am trained to do. My patients will die. I promise I will be safe.”
He started his Chest Clinic at Taj Consultants Clinics on May 25 and saw tens of patients each day with at least a quarter of them were clinically COVID 19. He used to tell me with frustration that many of them are negative on tests and they refuse to accept and to be referred to COVID Centres. On asked to be tested from a relaible lab one man even said, “Sir I have 3 daughters. How can I label myself COVID 19.”
And I kept worrying yet praying and nagging him across oceans, as usual, to follow strict precautions, PPE and SOPs knowing this time too I will be proven wrong.
But this was not meant to be. And as I always told him, “If any risk goes wrong, we wont get a second chance
Last he saw on Friday 19 after which he developed fever and isolated himself. He was admitted on Sunday. Alas, Fasih lost his battle to COVID 19 on Friday 26 June 2020.

Hisaab e umr ka buss itnaa sa goshwaara hai,
Tumhein nikaal ker dekha tou buss khasara hai
.
(This is the mere calculation in the ledger of my life,
If I see excluding you, it is nothing but a total loss).

Farewell My Friend

Shadeism is rooted in anti-Black Racism


Have we not heard over and over and over again, one of the first comments we often get to hear when a new baby, boy or girl is born:
“Iska rang itna gehra kyun hai. Kis per chala gaya?”
(His/her skin color so dark. Who has he/she taken on.)
“Arrey iska rang tou itna saaf hai. Bari sunder hai”
(Wow, she is so fair, she is so pretty)
Matrimonial Ad: “Chahiye, ek PhD larke ke liye ek gori, lambi, parhi likhi….”
(Required for a PhD boy a girl fair, tall, educated…)
Don’t fail to notice that fairness is emphesized before the qualifications… 😀

This list can go on. Majority of our conversation on looks hovers around complexion.
Our Bollywood superstars, including top actresses including the so called ‘intellectual’ Ashwarya Rai have adverstised for fairness creams. #Fair&Lovely

Not just women, Bollywood men, even superstar #KingKhan have also been complicit in shamelessly endorsing bleach creams for men.
#Fair&Handsome

It is estimated that in India alone, over $430-million worth of skin lightening products are consumed annually.
This is not all. In a brown-skinned India, you hardly see a dark skinned girl as a heroine. Of course unless you have to show her as an ugly or a destitute.
Here is an Ad from Pakistan by a senior icon, who is herself pretty wheatish branding her own fairness cream. Don’t miss how dusky girls are portrayed as sad, depressed and unfortunate.


We even make fun of the skin tones, hair textures, names and language of African black people, calling them derogatory words like #Kaala #Kalia #Kallu.
A couple of years ago two Nigerian black students were a target of violence in Greater Noisa, near Delhi. (Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-39482239)
In defence to that one of India’s Federal Ministers remarked:
“Indians are not racists. We have been living with South Indians, black people around us.”
How tragically comical can that statement be.
(Wonder if this is for real? Here is the link: https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/racist-tarun-vijays-we-have-south-india-we-live-black-people-comment-sparks-row-59990

#YourStoryTeller developed a story called Shade ( Saanwali) based on a true story:

World has seen enough racial prejudice. It is not just for Black people to rise and protest against anti-Black racism. South Asians too must stand with them in solidarity, and also wake up and rid ourselves of anti-black prejudice and internalized racism in the form of shadeism.

Two Pandemics: Domestic Violence & COVID-19


Here is a story:

Sonia and Vicky( names not real) are both a working couple.
Sonia works as a school teacher. Vicky works in a hotel as a floor manager. He loves socializing with friends and spent at least 3-4 evenings with his friends drinking. Freuently, he comes home drunk, and it just takes him a silly excuse to either hurl abuses or sometimes even physically hit Sonia. Kids are scared of him when drunk. Sonia tries to avoid too. But often questions herself: “Why did I say this or do this to enrage him?”
She has mentioned this to her Mom and her reply was, “Havent you seen your father? How he behaves when drunk?”
She tries her best to not trigger Vicky, but she unfortunately always fails.
Then came Corona. Soon it was declared a pandemic and all countries started to lock down.
Within 2 weeks Vicky was laid off. He was depressed, not just because he had lost his job but also because he could not drink with his friends.
Sonia was asked by school to work remotely and she had to spend extra hours learning the art of digital lessons. Her two kids, 5 and 9 were also home, as the schools were closed. Sonia helped them navigate the digital lessons and homeworks too. Ofcourse cooking, cleaning, washing were part of her responsibilities too.
One day Vicky woke up at 12 Noon with loud laughter from the kids room.
“Why are the kids screaming? Sonia? I cant even sleep?”
Sonia was busy on the dining table with her laptop and preparing lessons for her next class.
“Sonia, why cant you listen? Why cant you mind the kids?” screamed Vicky from the room.
Sonia: “I am working for my lesson. They are on a break after 2 hours of work.”
V
icky: “But I am heaving a headache.”
Sonia: “Yes, I understand. But please bear with it. I will tell the kids to not be too noisy. “
Vicky: “Make me a cup of tea.” ( shouts from the room).
Sonia: “Okay. Just 5 minutes. I am about to finish the work. Just relax.”
In 15 minutes, she makes the cup of tea and takes for Vicky in the bedroom.
Vicky: “Is this your 5 minutes?
Sonia: “I was just finishing the school lesson. I have been up since 7:30 AM. But did not have a minute to spare.”
Vicky: “You want to prove that you that your work is more imprtant than me? Just because I dont have a job? “
Sonia keeps quiet and goes back to the kitchen as she now has to cook for the lunch, during her 1 hour school lunch break.
Vicky( shouts from inside): “What is this? How much sugar have you put in the tea? “
Sonia: “Oh, maybe I put it twice. Sorry, I was just absent minded.”
Vicky: “You are a useless woman. Its like a cold sherbet. I needed a good cup of hot tea for my headache.
Sonia: “You drank a lot late in the night. This is a hangover from that?”
Vicky gets enraged, and slaps Sonia: “How dare you taunt me? You will now question my drinking? Bitch !”

In the evening Sonia tells her husband that she has to go out for groceries.
He shouts again, “So you now want to stroll outside and bring home infection for me and kids?”
Sonia: “So who will get the groceries? Will you go?
Vicky slaps her and shouts: “Shut up you bitch ! You want me to go out and die?”
Now Vicky’s triggers leading to abuses and slappings have become more frequent. Sonia does not know how to change this? She cannot even go to her mother’s home for a respite, and nor can she speak to her or anyone of her friends because of Vicky being around all the time during lockdown.

Sonia has a question for you all: Am I at fault for all of Vicky’s triggers? Do I have to live like this all my life or is there anything that can change my life ?

This is a story not from one country, one community or one faith group. This is the story from all across the globe.

A self explanatory picture of DV during COVID-19 by Nirjhar Som.

Gender based violence aka Domestic violence or violence against women has been a pandemic ever since the human life began. In each crisis or natural disaster it has been a best evidence that there occurs a spike in GBV. So has it happened in #COVID19 crisis.
From Japan to China to Phillipines to India to pakistan to Turkey to France to UK to US to Canada there are reports of increase domestic violence during lockdown.
Public authorities insist people to ‘Stay home, stay safe’.
However home is not safe for many victims of abuse and they are in more vulnerable and exposed to violence during social distancing and lockdown.

Please do leave your answers to the above question in the comments below.
The intent of these stories is to initiate conversation on domestic violence and create a better awareness on this global pandemic.

Here are a few tips for those facing violence at home during lockdown:

Ammi’s Pandaan


I have many pleasant memories of this pandaan from my childhood.
Papa used to eat pan and this pandaan was a functional part of our house.
However it had a different look then. It had a silver qalai(coat) on all the pieces of this beauty, as it sat on the outermost edge of the kitchen slab. Fresh crispy pans that Ammi bought regularly from her trips to Jama Masjid area, wrapped in wet cloth were placed on the top tray. A sarauta (beetlenut cutter), missing here also shared the space on the tray along with pans.
The containers under the tray all had their specific contents:
The two mini handias with the flat spoons were for Choona (white) and katha (brown) pastes. The tiny spoons were applicators for their contents on the pan. I even remember how Ammi bought dry solid katha and then cooked it with water to melt it, which finally was transferred in the little handiya.
The two big canisters housed- chhaliya(betelnut)- one as full rounded nuts and the other cut into small pieces by the sarauta. The third canister contained saunf(anise). The thin canister in the middle contained tobacco leaves.
Each time papa wanted a pan, either ammi or sometimes Papa himself followed the process of ‘making a pan’ applying the contents in the following order- choona, katha, chaliya and tambaku- and finally the whole pan was folded into a conical form called gilori.
Interestingly the only person who ate pan was papa. Ammi made them several times in a day, but I never saw her eating herself. We kids also never seemed interested in trying one.
When I was in high school, papa decided to give up tobacco. He just left it cold turkey. Pandaan still remained functional. But some years down the road he realized pan was unhealthy and he must cut down if not stop it altogether. So the pandaan was wrapped up and he chose to get a single pan in a day from the panwala.
This pandaan from 1930s that came to our household in Ammi’s jahez(dowry) in 1964 was carefully packed in a plastic bag and kept on the topmost shelf in the kitchen.
With tarnished and dull look, the pandaan rested on the shelf for about 25 years. Out of sight is out of mind and we all forgot about its existence.
About 15 years, as my siblings renovated the kitchen, this pandaan again came down on the kitchen slab. I happened to visit them during that period, and the sight of an ugly big ‘thing’ brought back the memories of its heydays.
Seeing my interest in it, I was chosen to be the next owner of this treasure by my siblings and Ammi saying, “You treasure such things.”

I brought it with me and it became a part of our desi decor in Makkah. As we moved from there it was dumped in a carton for almost a decade. Periodically I looked around for a trusted person who would repair it, refurbish it and can bring out it’s original copper instead of the silver enamel.

Today, on the last day of 2019, the person who agreed to follow my instructions, and did this job chose to come himself with the finished form and proudly present it to us, tell us how precious this piece is, and most importantly to inform us how much personal efforts he has put in to bring this pandaan to a new life.
The sight of this sparkling gem not just made my day, but also made me feel accomplished in life. 😀
I hope the next decade also brings such wonderful outcomes and happiness for us and for you all.
Happy 2020 folks !

India is Secular- Kisi ke Baap ka Hindostan Thori Hai


Born, raised and educated in India, I learned how live secular values and co-exist with people of all faiths, race and cultures not just in India, but abroad. My political scientist parents told us that as we will grow up, whatever religious prejudices that exist will be gone.
Alas that was not meant to be !
Previous two decades( which began with anti-muslim riots in 1992 post Babri Masjid fall), we have seen all my parents’ prophesies and confidence in Indian secularism regress from confidence, to doubt, to fear and to a shattered dream today.
Citizenship Ammendment Act is a testimony that the gagging of Indian secularism is deliberate by design, not by default.
However, the incredible Indian student uprising against CAA, that began with 3 girls in Jamia Millia, and has now spread like wild fire across the globe is not a surprise to me. This is the only way you can respond when you feel your secular existence being strangled by fascists. I know Indians of all faiths who breathe secularism and will fight back till their last breath.

This is my India I was born, raised and educated in….so proud of my cousins, friends and all compatriots who are fighting oppression from the frontlines against CAA & NRA.


For the naive, who may need to educate themselves of the serious discriminatory intent that has been deliberately inserted in the Act and why are decent Indians outraging against it, can browse through these brilliant infographics for a quick understanding:

The poster below touched me the most. Perhaps this is a great lesson for people of all faiths, on how too shoo off the bigotry and divisive hatred of their own religious rightwingers.

I am a Hindu, not an a**h*le

The emotions are high and the willpower is unshakable.
Hear these powerful couplets by Rahat Indori which eloquently convey the indomitable resolve and anger of every secular Indian.

Agar khilaaf hain hone do jaan thodi hai,
Ye sab dhuwan hai koi aasman thodi hai,

(If they are against us, let them be, its not our life,
Its all a smokescreen, they are not open skies).

Lagegi aag to aayenge ghar kayi zaddd mein,
Yaha pe sirf hamara makaan thodi hai,

(If the fire errupts many houses will be engulfed,
There is not just our house in the vicinity here)

Main janta hoon ki dushman bhi kam nahi lekin,
Hamaari tarah hatheli pe jaan thodi hai,

(I know the enemies are no less adament,
But are they living on the edge like us? )

Hamaare munh se jo nikle wahi sadaqat hai,
Hamare munh mein tumhaari zubaan thodi hai,

{What comes out of our mouth is the truth,
Our mouths dont have your tongues(that lie)}

Jo aaj sahib-e-masnad hai kal nahi honge,
Kiraaye daar hain zaati makaan thodi hai,

(Those who are in power today, will not be tommorrow,
They are mere tenents here, they are not landlords)
.

Sabhi ka khoon hai shamil yahan ki mitti mein,
Kisi ke baap ka HINDOSTAN thori hai !!!

(Every Indian’s blood and sweat is mixed in this soil,
No one (community/faith) is the sole proprieter of Hindostan).

Choking and Laughing in Delhi’s Pollution


When there is little you can do to change the ridiculous situation, the best tool you can resort to is satire. Satire and jokes through social media posts, memes, and even poetry are the ways Delhiites these days are coping with the frustrations and helplessness in the choked air.
Its hard to preserve the health of your lungs in the months from October to December when the Air Quality Index reaches ‘Hazardous’ levels of 500+, but good humor can at least preserve your sanity. Dark humor perhaps.

Below are some of the most eye catching memes I cam across on social media:





Being a cricekting nation, how could there not be a meme with Cricket:


Ofcourse there has to be memes relating to Bollywood films & its stars too!



The two memes below are my absolute favourites:

POETRY ON POLLUTION:

I came across a few pieces of poetry too on pollution.
Here is one by:

Firecracker

The leaves on the Ashoka tree outside my window droop.
There is no breeze to caress them.
There is no fresh dew.
They droop with dust, soot and smog.
And as they droop, so does my heart.
An eagle flies through a dusty haze and trees in the distance are foggy.
A tired insect flies by, its wings so heavy, as if the drag of the soot- laden air makes it fly through treacle.
A truck blares a horn far away.
The parakeets are absent. The pigeons have fled. The squirrels are not running about.
My eyes dart here and there, searching for my familiar morning sights.
It is quiet. Oh so quiet.
And no one is awake.
And the leaves on the Ashoka tree droop as they bear witness. Her leaves cry silent tears as the birds flee. The guava tree is laden but I don’t need to chase the parrots away.
As I hear another firecracker in the distance,
I push back my chair, and I sigh.

~ A poem by Jhilmil Breckenridge

Credits: I read this poem in a brilliant firsthand account by Mayank Soofi on Delhi’s pollution “Oh Ghalib, give us a verse on Delhi Smog”. Link to the whole article: https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/M6rO1l78bW8jkDMSxDPJtM/Oh-Ghalib-give-us-a-verse-for-the-smog.html

At the political front, the supporters of AAP’s Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal at state level and BJP’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the centre indulge in mudslinging, blaming each other for the root cause. Meanwhile, the kids take the most toll, not just in terms of health risk, but also by missing schools after the announced closure. 😦
Some samples of this political tit-for-tat can be seen in the slide-show below:

Then there are honorable Ministers like these who are walking talking memes themsleves.

Politics of religion is not ingnored either in this catastrope that spares no one, from any faith or class. Last year when the Delhi Govt announced a total ban on crackers on Diwali, a classmate of mine from Grade 8th taunted on the Montfort Class WhatsApp group:
“Yeah on Bakr Eid, killing animals is good for soil, but bursting crakcers on Diwali is bad for air pollution.”
Sigh ! I could only pity his self-destructive bigotry.

On a serious note, there can be no lighter side to an issue as dark and deadly as this. According to Air Pollution Index Hazardious ( Severe Grade 6) its health implications as described by WHO are:
Healthy people will experience reduced endurance in activities and may also show noticeably strong symptoms. Other illnesses may be triggered in healthy people. Elders and the sick should remain indoors and avoid exercise. Healthy individuals should avoid outdoor activities.”
This is a textbook example of a slow-killer.

Being born, raised and educated in Delhi, it hurts to realize the catastropic health consequences that over 20 million face in my homecity. I thought Delhi was unlivable even in the late 1980s as a student when every girl of my age group had to endure regular eveteasing( aka sexual harrassment) in horridly crowded DTC buses. (Thats another story of my Delhi that merits a separate session of storytelling.) Tbh today’s Delhi is a living hell.
With an ever widening rich-poor divide, Delhi’s pollution has proven to be a great equalizer. Now the rich, ruling and the powerful elite cannot escape in their safe havens from the poisonous air.
During my last visit to Delhi in November 2017, I experienced suffocation, breathlessness and buring eyes, accompanied by hours of traffic jam on the roads.
I took a deep breath of fresh air as I landed in Toronto 3 days later. My heart still ached for the loved ones, including my mother in her late 70s and three beautiful nephews and a neice, I had left behind waving at the Delhi airport, who like millions of other seniors and children in the NCR waited eagerly for a breeze that could blow away the smog until next Diwali season. That breeze did not blow until mid-December.

I do agree with the Manager of Haji Hotel ( ref in Mayank Soofi’s article) that we dearly miss Ghalib’s brilliant satire on the current state of Delhi.
In the heart of my hearts I also thank my God that free-spirited Mirza lived in Delhi in a different era. You all can guess why.

Just to leave a pleasant taste in my own mouth( and maybe yours), let me pen off this blog with this song:
Pollution by Rahul Ram:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ggVfvauo28

Story #8: Good Touch Bad Touch


YOURSTORYTELLER

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Story #8: Good Touch Bad Touch

Do you think it is right to inform children about ‘Good Touch’ and ‘Bad Touch’ at a very early age? 

We teach our children to be safe from fire, from falls, from strangers, from other hazards, but we often fail to teach them how to be safe from body harm( from sexual abuse).
What is really worrying is that the statistics of sexual abuse in children are high- 1 in 3 in girls and 1 in 6 in boys before 18 years of age. Scary fact is that 90% of the perpetrators are known to the children.
Sexual abuse is a confusing concept for little kids. They feel awkward of certain actions of adults, but do not inform their parents/loved ones about them. Long term xhildhood sexual abuse has devastating consequences as they grow up as adults.
Why do parents avoid sharing with children the idea of body safety? Most think it is too early to tell them about sexual abuse without realizing that this is the age when they are the most vulnerable. Also, not teaching them skills to protect themsleves from abuse actually makes them more vulnerable for sexual abuse. It is never too early to empower children on how to confidently stay safe from sexual abuse.
This story is a small attempt to empower children in simple and easy way on body safety.

Story #7: Broken Doll


YOURSTORYTELLER

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Story #7: Broken Doll ( Tooti Huyi Guriya):

Question: Do you think Sapna’s treatment of Rani was appropriate? 
Answer in Yes or No in the comments. 
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Child Domestic Work:

ILO published a report “Global Estimates on Forced Labour” in 2012.

According to the report there are approximately 20.9 million forced labourers
who are children aged 17 years and below, representing 26% of all forced labour victims (or 5.5 million children). While the specific number of children in forced labour and trafficking for domestic work remains unknown, evidence points to the existence of significant numbers of children in debt bondage, victims of trafficking and in servitude situations.

Child labour in domestic work refers to situations where domestic work is performed by children below the relevant minimum age (for light work, full-time non-hazardous work), in hazardous conditions or in a slavery-like situation.

  • 67.1% of all child domestic workers are girls;
  • 65.1% of all child domestic workers are below 14 years: 7.4 million aged 5 to 11 and 3.8 million aged 12 to 14;
  • child domestic work touches all regions of the world

The ILO has identified a number of hazards to which domestic workers are particularly vulnerable and the reason it may be considered in some cases a worst form of child labour. Some of the most common risks children face in domestic service include: long and tiring working days; use of toxic chemicals; carrying heavy loads; handling dangerous items such as knives, axes and hot pans; insufficient or inadequate food and accommodation, and humiliating or degrading treatment including physical and verbal violence, and sexual abuse. The risks are compounded when a child lives in the household where he or she works as a domestic worker. These hazards need to be seen in association with the denial of fundamental rights of the child, such as, for example, access to education and health care, the right to rest, leisure, play and recreation, and the right to be cared for and to have regular contact with their parents and peers. These factors can have an irreversible physical, psychological and moral impact on the development, health and wellbeing of a child.

Amrita Pritam- the Legend Lives On…


Amrita Pritam turns 100 yrs old on August 31, 2019.
She lives in her poetry and in her two love stories- Sahir Ludhianvi & Imroz.

These was the last words in the form of a couplet (shair) Sahir said to her as they parted:

Tum chali jaaogi, parchhaiyaan rah jaayengi,
Kuchh na kuchh Ishq ki raanaaiyaan rah jaayengi.
When you leave, your lovely silhouettes shall remain,
Memories and traces of love will refresh me time and again.

Amrita wrote an ode to her love for Imroz as her last parting poetry:

“Mayn tennu pher milangi….” Link to my blog on this poetry is here

Imroz, who’s love for Amrita Pritam remains unmatched, is alive at 91 years and still refers to her in present tense. After her passing away he started to write poetry and called his book: “Jashn Jaari Hai (The Celebration is on).

One of the verses he wrote for Amrita are:

Main jab khamosh hota hun
Aur khayal bhi khamosh hote hain
To ek halki halki sargoshi hoti hai
Uske ehsaas ki
Uske shayron ki…Whenever I am quiet,
And so are my thoughts silent,
Then happens very faint whisper(babble)
Of her being
Of her poetry

However my favourite of Amrita Pritam remains her power poetry “Aaj Akhan Waris Shah Nu” which deserves its own blog and will share one in days to come.

 

This was Google’s tribute to Amrita Pritam:Amrita

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