Here are 4 songs. These Bengali songs form part of our village level campaign, by team SWADHINA , at times with small street plays. On this GANDHI JAYANTI we remember the large section of women who still have a long journey to make to reach towards living a life with equality and dignity.
BAKRID IN CALCUTTA : 50 YEARS AGO
There is an overall aura of happiness in the house…Deep’s elder sister and mother both are engrossed in making the ginger and garlic paste, using the heavy crushing stone. Deep has already made two visits outside, at the main-road junction. No, the black Landmaster car is yet to be seen. Ah, soon the car surely will arrive, with the meat of qurbani from Hashim Sahib’s home. Today is the Bakrid Day !
Deep’s father always says ‘we are poor, but that is our pride’. Going was tough for the family, with four children, and with a meager salary that his father was earning as an LDC. Deep knows the full form of LDC- Lower Division Clerk ! It is not that they do not get to eat meat. Every Sunday his father buys goat meat from local shop of Abdul. One Poa (quarter of a seer – about 200 gram) for the whole family of 6. The mutton curry will have a lot of potatoes and lot of light gravy. Deep gets 3 small pieces, nothing to complain. Mother takes only one piece and a few potato pieces – it seems she does not like meat! (It is years later Deep realized that mother did like meat, but never had much choice than just to accept one piece !). But on a Bakrid Day it is different. Every year mother will serve large serving spoon full of meat, and every time Deep finishes the plate, mother will insist he takes a bit more rice and some more meat ! Oh, great day !
Deep is third time lucky ! The black car finally arrives, and Deep goes near the car enthusiastically and asks the driver “ house number 34, Doctor Memsaab” ? “Yes, come on in, show me the house”. Deep takes the short ride and the car stops near Doctor Memsaab’s house, located next to Deep’s house. Inside the car were large brass trays, on which large chunk of meat were placed. The trays were covered by nicely embroidered white cloth coverings. There were several such trays, taken to the house one by one. Deep could not wait any longer and ran home “Mom, it has arrived, several trays.. a lot of meat.”
The next thing would be a loud call from the next door. It would be the voice of Boro Masi (Eldest Aunt) . “Deep, come on, bring some large vessels”.
Boro Masi was the eldest sister of Deep’s mother. Doctor Memsaab (we fondly called her Granny) was Boro Masi’s mother in law. And then, like every year, the rest of the routine will follow. Mom will cut the meat into large pieces … lot of them, in a large pot and cook in coal-fired oven for long time. The entire home will be filled in with the nice aroma of spices.
During lunch time everyone will be on a joyous mood, and, every year all will agree in unison that Hashim Saahib always gives the very best qurbani meat.
Hashim Saahib was a businessman, owner of several cinema halls in the central part of Calcutta. Doctor Memsaab was the family doctor. She was very able senior retired nurse, and in those days such person in all practical purpose was entrusted with all health matter of the entire family. Most of child delivery was administered by Doctor Memsaab, at home itself. She made a daily visit to the family, check every one -starting from checking the blood pressure of the elders to the treating common cold of the children in Hashim Saahib’s family. She was respected and revered very much in the family, and, the idea of sending so much meat to her was that this kind lady will keep a little for the family, and, the rest will be shared among the neighbours. One of the important aspect of Bakrid was sharing of Qurbani meat with poor neighbours.
This annual festivity for us continued many years, even after the death of our dear Granny. The children of Hashim family, continued the tradition for many more years.We still do get qurbani meat. Our old house-keeping aunty, Jameela Bibi who still feels I am his ‘little son`, collects meat from a couple houses around her slum, and comes in the evening and hands me over the meat. HAPPY BAKRID !
Kitchen Garden Promotion Programme of Swadhina
The train reached at Ghatsila station around 9 in the night. As soon as the train touched platform I could locate the smiling face of Laduram, waiving desperately at me. I waived back, assuring him that I too have located him. As soon as I got down at the platform, Laduram took from me the carry-bag and now I only have my shoulder
bag. We were all set for the little walk till we reach our destination – the local Swadhina camp office located near the daily village market (Haat). Swadhina, a voluntary organisation is working in this area of Jharkhand on a women’s empowerment and livelihood enhancement programme for the past many years now. Laduram is the able field- organiser for Swadhina here.
After finishing the packed dinner, of chapati and vegetable curry procured from the local eatery , we spent a little time about the next day’s visit to the villages. My sole purpose of coming here was to visit the Household Vegetable Farming or Kitchen Garden Programme of Swadhina.
Next couple of days Laduram took me in villages around Ghatsila in his over-used motorcycle ! It gives relatively more sound than speed, and, I anyway had no complains to make since I myself drive at a moderate pace ! At the end of the trip, with the help of the project documents I could gather many insights which are shared here.
Objective: The basic objective of the programme, supported by SARRA, is to raise Kitchen Garden not only to have Food for All In The Home, but also to enhance nutrition intake in the family. It is also envisaged to promote organic way of farming, with organic fertilizers and organic pesticides. As a result this programme would
– Provide Food Security & Nutritional support to families using their available household land resources.
– Provide scope for local women to stake claim on family plots
– Change the attitude of the families and the society towards women’s land ownership
– Encourage land-based livelihood among communities. As a follow-up activity, efforts will be vested on encouraging people for seed preservation. The programme was facilitated by: SARRA, under ILC and implemented by: Swadhina
Activities: 3 participants from Swadhina participated in the Training of Trainers (TOT) organized by SARRA at Tirupathi last year4. Mr. Laduram Mahato , Ms. Yashoda Mardi and Ms. Karmi Kisku participated in the 3 day intense training programme on the Basics of Kitchen Garden preparation, Food and Nutrition through Kitchen Garden, preparation of organic composts for Kitchen Garden.
Later a 3 day Training Programme was organised at Ghatsila, East Singbhum in Jharkhand. The trainers who had attended the TOT, along with Resource Persons from Swadhina explained the process of kitchen garden preparation and organic fertiliser/pesticide preparation and usage, through charts/ posters/ Flash-Cards.
Through socio-economic family survey, the field workers identified potential implementors of the Kitchen Garden programme. These women were chosen for the Kitchen Garden Training and trained accordingly.
The implementation of the gardens initially received a huge set-back as Jharkhand experienced a massive rainfall in the region continuously throughout August and September. The plots that were being identified and prepared couldn’t be developed as a result of the continuous rainfall. However work began with rapid ferocity as soon as the rainfall subsided. The families members supported the women in developing plots, applying primary layer of organic fertilizers (as prepared by the trainees of SARRA training). Fencing was given to all the plots.
Seeds of red amaranthus, pumpkin, green chillies, tomato, brinjal, ladies finger, and several variety of leafy-vegetables were provided to the women.
This programme has been taken up in four villages, covering 21 families who are mostly belonging to Scheduled Tribe and backward class communities in East Singbhum district in Jharkhand state.
SOME REFLECTIONS: -Though the families are yet to experience the direct benefits of food security and nutrition from the kitchen garden, the fact that they have an access to direct nutrition in their back or front yard is an exciting prospect for the beneficiaries.
– The trainings have convinced the local families of the benefits of organic farming, they have especially learnt to use local natural fruit and vegetable resources to prepare organic fertilizers at home itself.
– Earmarking a plot in the name of the woman of the family has given a strong message to the society about women’s land ownership. To the woman, it is her personal piece of land.
– Those who had successfully implemented FAITH Gardens earlier could set a very good example to others about the farming abilities of women. In the words of Karmi Kisku – “The quality of my produce was so good that my husband took tips from me on how to actually grow such vegetables. He and his friends used my technique and had a good produce”
“ Well, you are now free of stomach ulcer” the doctor announced. Pakhi, my wife was visibly happy on this news. “But you must follow certain food restrictions…. no chillies… no hard spices” doctor added.
At home the relatives those who assembled, were all happy. Those days a horde of relatives, especially the elderly aunts and uncles would eagerly await for the patients, to get the first-hand news. There were some elderly aunts who suggested that she should take tender coconut water every day. “Before lunch”.. one aunt added.
Now, I thought it was easy. Tender coconut or Daab as it is locally called, was available in Paan (bittle nut) -cigarette shops. Ganesh Rout’s shop was near our house…. this was the place we used to fetch Daab in our youth-days. I set out for the shop.
On reaching at the shop, two things I noticed. One, Ganesh is no more there… there was an young man managing the small shop. Two, the shop is more decently decorated. When asked, this young man informed that he is the son of Ganesh, and, he never sells coconuts any more. “In fact, no paan-cigarette shops would be selling coconuts any more”.he informed me. Now I was panicked, and, asked is there a way out ? He gave me a tip. “Go near the temple of our locality, and, wait. Soon Sushilda would turn up…. he sells them”. I waited in front of the temple, nearly an hour and finally found my redeemer! He assured me steady supply…. every day before lunch time. Next several months Sushil dutifully accomplished his job religiously.. no matter it is a rainy day or a scorching sunny noon. Near our house we could hear him shout “Daab….Daab”. He re-modelled his cycle by making two bamboo-made fence-like structure on both sides of his cycle where he hanged bunches of tender coconut.Soon he became my friend…. I learned that his full name was Sushil Halder, and he lived in a village called Raipur in our neighboring district.. 24 parganas.
Our grand daughter Ruhani, studying at 5th standard, was about to set out for her school when she complained that last night she had a stomach problem. And right at the moment ….. we heard the loud calling……”Daab…..Daab”. I rushed out…. and lo behold – Sushil. I never knew he is still in the same business ! He is a a bit old now….. so am I.
We both were happy, meeting each other, after a long interval of several years. Ruhani left for school, happy and relieved, after having the coconut water.
Sushil on his part , as usual, informed that going is tough these days. No…no. He has no complain about the price he gets. The tender-coconuts he used to sell me those days for Rs. 4/- only, now fetches 20/-. He feels, because of our mobile phones…… tall mobile towers….. which disturbs the tall coconut trees, the size of coconuts are fast getting reduced ! I did not contest his scientific theories, but could only say “thanks”….. which sounded very dry and artificial, even to my own ears !
A group of women, 21 to be precise, have decided to take care of the nutritional needs of their families and worked out a way. They all belong to an area near Mosaboni in East Singbhum district in Jharkhand. Kadamdih, Amai Nagar and Benasole are villages located in remote forest region and these women here are mostly daily-labourers work in agricultural fields. Agriculture being a rainfed, most of the time it is a lean period – when they work as daily workers in various sites. They provide labour support at a wide variety of places – from brick klins to construction sites in the distant towns of Ghatsila or Mosaboni.
So, each of the women urged their families to earmark a small plot of land for their own use. This was the first time that the women demanding a piece of land for their own use. Once acquired, the plots were marked with small bamboo poles and wire mesh as fence. Then they attended regular orientation on Organic Farming organised by Swadhina – civil society organisation. 3 volunteers who earliler recieved TOT (Training of Trainors) held by SARRA/ILC at Tirupati, skillfully conducted these orientations.
The result is amazing. Despite the area being drought prone, there is lush green cover in the vegetable gardens – all done in organic farming mode.
They say they now have vegetables at every lunch meal. The children at home feel the home-grown vegetables are very tasty and sweeter than had earlier. The women too now get nutrition-rich vegetables. Purchased vegetables are often costly and they could not afford to buy them . So, very rarely they had vegetables for the meals, and hence lacked sufficient nutrition intake.But that problem is now solved.
Kudos to these village women !
Kolkata is the haven for Street Food. This is the cheapest place, and, fresh and healthy. You bet! At our locality – Bondel Road, southern end of Kolkata, we have street food galore.
Start your morning with a glass of ‘sattu serbat’ – ground gram, stirred in water, a few drops of lime added, and finally sprinkled with salt and spices. Rs. 10/- for about a litter. It is said to be good for a healthy stomach and helps improve your digestion capacity.
You may have your break-fast at Ajit’s mobile stall. For Rs. 16/- you get 4 pieces of freshly fried Pooris, and, you have a choice of two curries to go with it:
large helpings of potato sabjis or thick dal fry. It is homely in the true sense of the term – while Ajit’s wife makes raw poories with the rolling pin, Ajit fries them quite fast, so that you always get them piping hot.
You have another choice of breakfast. Hari’s fresh Samosa and a cup of hot tea in a earthen pot. You get 3 samosas and a pot of tea for Rs. 15/-. You may also opt for Kachori – a hard-fried.version of Poori, more crispy for the same price, tea included.
For lunch, you may opt for Bapi’s Food Stall, literary on the street, sitting on a wooden bench! You have a good choice of menu : a vegetable meal will have rice, fried potato, vegetable curry, dal, cucumber salad and a piece of papad costing Rs.20/-. A fish meal will have all these with a fish curry for Rs. 40/- and with chicken curry the meal will cost you Rs. 50/-.
If on some evenings you wish to eat some heavy snacks, go for the snacks stall near the railway gate. Here you may have Vegetable chowmin for Rs. 25/- enough for 2 persons. With egg added, it will cost you Rs. 30/-.
At Binode’s snacks joint, you can also have an egg-roll for Rs. 20/-, it is quite filling.
After this if you wish to have a little fruits, you may buy bananas. 4 ripe ones for Rs. 10/-. He will also have many other fruits of your choice, you may take an economy pack for Rs. 10/- if you chose judiciously.
For Dinner, you may again come to Bapi’s Food Stall. You have take-home pack (literary packed in foil packs) of Tarka Fry and 10 atta-rotis for Rs. 40/- quite sufficient for 2 to 3 persons.