KERALA: LET US SET THE PERSPECTIVE RIGHT

KERALA FLOOD : LET US SET THE PERSPECTIVE RIGHT

A lot is questioned on Kerala flood and ensuing relief need, promises, allotment and so on. This note is basically an attempt to look into various issues on certain perspective, based on a varied logical realization.

To equate Kerala flood and the need for appropriate relief and rehabilitation measures, at par with all other states,  will be incorrect. There are number of reasons:

  1. Keralites are basically very hard working and generally a Giver and not Receiver. There are many occasions when they themselves raise money for their own community needs and do not wish to seek outside support. (I have long term experience working in development and funding agencies, including overseas  ones. At any given time there are a large number of applications we handle mailed by all states across our country for relief, rehabilitation and development support. We hardly find personal or organisational requisition from Kerala. )

Since independence how many times you may recall Kerala asked for relief help, for any natural calamity, or, for any other cause for that matter ?

My submission is that if Kerala is expressing its need for fund, it is not as a “help” or “bail out”. It is Just.  It is rather an opportunity for participation – opportunity for all of us, and, it is basically a matter of rights for them.

  1. Assessing the loss of properties. This again needs to be seen in proper perspective. Keralites are hard working  and spend judiciously on their hard earned money on certain assets. Loss in the Housing is an important aspect which needs to be assessed very much differently. ( I have taken direct part in relief and rehabilitation operations  in all major disasters in the country in Andhra, Orissa, Bihar, uptill Tsunami in Tamilnadu and Andamans. Also I had the privilege to visit and stay in many Kerala homes across the state.)  Kerala houses are mostly architect designed and aesthetically built and an average Keralite would spend her/his hard earned money primarily on housing, and, that too in most befitting manner, even if that means spending a bit more money. Same goes for the furniture and other house-hold items which complete  a home  – like fridge, tv, furniture and so on.  Hence rebuilding need is quite different, certainly requiring much higher financial involvement, than understood as a regular relief operation.

Dignity is important for all. Hence before we judge what is the justified means and to what extent support  should be given to Kerala , let us prepare ourselves not to equate all states at par. The following  illustration will perhaps provide clarity about my submission :

A boy was making preparation for his marriage. He worked very hard, earned  handsome money, and, was buying all things on his own. The dad asked what is it that he can do for the son’s marriage. The son replied “dad I can manage on my own, do not worry”. Now that reply made the father really worried and he said “ Arrey  Baap honey ke naatey, mera bhi kuch karney kaa haq banta hai. Oh to karney de” (Listen I am your dad, and as your dad I too have some right to do something for you. Allow me to do that !)

Well, you got the point !

 

 

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Fresh Vegetables at Doorstep: Organic Way

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.

IMG-20171128-WA0083Objective: 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

Activities3 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 IMG-20171128-WA0030to 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”

 

RAFI – LIVE SHOW !

(This is a repeat posting – a tribute on his Death Anniversary)

Rafi: a tribute

Not only me, my entire family is still an ardent supporter of Rafi. Even my grandson feels Rafi has a golden voice, and, a regular story telling session, by me, on the greatness of Rafi, made him more addicted to his melodious renditions.
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It was Amirchand who first broke the news that Rafi would be coming for a musical night and both Radhanath and Deep were all excited about it, and, instantly decided that they would not miss this opportunity to hear Rafi – live, for the first time. These youth were all die-hard fans of Rafi – Mohammed Rafi. It is then that Amirchand disclosed that the event was to be held in a place called Kanchrapara – a place quite far, in another district, and one has to take a train from Calcutta to reach to the place. The lowest level of ticket to the show would cost Rs. 5/-.

After an early dinner, on the D-day, the three set out for the place, a kind of a leap into the unknown! After reaching at the Railway station, it was not difficult to locate the Railway Ground where the show was on. A herd of people were heading for the ground and these three only had to quietly follow them. On reaching they found a large tent made, and lo behold, all the tickets were sold out. But the locals told them not to lose heart and just wait. The show started much earlier, in the evening, and in any case Rafi Saab’s performance would take place at the end part of the programme.

In those days such shows were organised not for any profit, but to enjoy, and once the tickets were over, and if there were still many people wanting to join, the organisers would open the side screens so that all and sundry could still enjoy the show, sitting on the ground outside the arena. The stage was made quite high so that everyone could see the show. So, soon the side screens were lifted and Deep, Radhanath and Amirchand too became part of the crowd enjoying the show…..even if they did not purchase the ticket !
At this time an unexpected thing happened. Deep noticed a local volunteer, with a large Usher Badge approaching this side, and he recognised him – Biman ! “Hey Biman” ! Deep ran towards him and they hugged in sheer joy of finding each other’s childhood friend. “I did not know you stay in Kanchrapara”, said Deep. Biman explained that he lives in the railway area and it is their youth organisation which was holding this function. Biman asked all three to follow him quietly. Biman took them to the front row where there were cushioned chairs – places reserved for special guests. Now they were seated at the front seat…. just few feet away from the performers!

rafiAround mid-night Rafi entered the stage with a shout “Yahoo…Yahoo” .What an entry ! Deep felt breathless. Now they realised why so many people loved him. He could shout full throated just at the beginning of his show – without bothering whether his voice would be choked or cracked with that huge shout. Such was the genuineness of his intention of giving his best, and all out to his audience. The audience was passing on request slips to him and he was singing accordingly. Then he stopped for a while, reading a slip and asked “Who among you passed on this slip, please stand up”. Rafi said.“This is my favourite too.. ‘O duniyakerakhwalle’”. An old man got up and raised his hand. Rafi Saab assured him “Kindly remind me later”. Thereafter he kept on singing. At one point there was a request for a duet song.He asked among the audience “Can someone come up to the stage and join me?” A young girl braved and went up to sing.Together they sang quite a few numbers and all along Rafi was guiding her like his daughter and managing every slip in notes with ease. Little did we realise that it was well past midnight and the new dawn had already arrived with the sun-rise . A few organisers came up to the stage – perhaps to remind him that he had to stop now. At this Rafi Saab requested the organisers to give him a little more time and asked “Is the gentleman still here who requested for Duniya Ke Rakhwalle ?” Before he could finish the sentence the old man got up and raised his hand.
When Rafi Saab finished the song it was already day light outside. The arena was still crowded and not a single soul had left the arena -such was his audience connect.
Deep and his friends came back home – content with a memorable experience for a life time.
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No wonder people have never forgotten him…Rafi lives on and on.

(NOW CLOSE YOUR EYES, CLICK BELOW AND FEEL THE PRESENCE OF RAFI )
“Tum Mujhe yun bhoola naa paaogey
Jab kabhi bhi sunogey geet mere,
Sangg sangg tumbhi gun guano gey”

(You will never be able to forget me,
Whenever you would hear my song,
You too would be humming with me.)

CLICK HERE

 

 

“Auto-Man”

THIS INDIA, ONE INDIA

Despite our varied cultural plurality and many known – unknown sectarian identity, at the core of us we ARE ONE, JUST ONE INDIA. No amount of difference, be it religion, region or language can break our tolerance.  I have planned to pen down a series on this very bondage that makes us  One … ONE INDIA.

This is the second in the series….. “Auto-Man” !


I was still standing at the Reception Counter of Vellore Hospital and trying to explain things. But somehow could not make the person follow of what I was wanting! To my rescue came an elderly gentleman and asked me about my queries. I was those days working in Bangalore. There was a Community Health Training programme organised jointly by CMC and a voluntary organisation. My wife is involved in an NGO, in Calcutta, and they had sent 4 participants for this event. She told me to meet them and greet them. I explained all these to this gentleman. He apparently was aware of this event and vellore temple2directed me to go to the Rural Campus of CMC. He said any auto-rickshaw driver would know the place and take me there.

I came to the auto-rickshaw stand and got hold of one who readily agreed to take me there. He was more enthused when I told him that I would go there for about ten minutes and then return again, which would mean he would have an assured return fare.

With the word ‘go’ my ordeal started. After about five minutes journey our man stopped the Auto-rickshaw, digged in his hands into the dash board, collected some stuff andvelore mosque vanished into oblivion. In about 4 minutes he returned, singing happily, he started driving again. He explained that the Rural Campus is the place where CMC has training premise, and, he assured me that I would like the place for its scenic beauty. I was indeed enjoying the outskirt area. But lo, behold. My amusement was short lived. Our man again stopped his auto-rickshaw, digged his hand into the dashboard again and vanished somewhere. This time he returned after a little more time than his last trip. I, on my  part, did a wrong thing this time. I peeped into his hand and could catch the glimpse of a matchbox! Now I knew what was happening. This man must be a hard core drug addict, could not even stop for more than 15 minutes before he goes for a next puff ! I decided to give him a full lecture on this bad habit once we return to Vellore, no matter even if I am late in returning to Bangalore.

As  promised I could finish my visitation within ten minutes. Those colleagues of my wife were  visibly happy as they were invited to visit Bangalore on their return journey to Calcutta once they complete this training.

vellore churchOn our way back, only once our Auto-rickshaw stopped for a while, this time at a semi urban spot. Once he returned, placed back the matchbox into the dashboard and started his vehicle….. I barged in with my first question, “Since how long are you taking this” ? To this our man wore a very perplexed look and shot back “Sorry, Sir, I could not get you”.  “Okay, okay…. Let me be straight. Taking  drugs can be fun, but you know it would soon ruin you, more over I am sure you must be wasting much of your hard earned money on it. And do not try to cover up…. I saw you taking the matchbox, and, also some packet in your hand”.

Our man got the auto-rickshaw halt to a standstill. Came very near to me and said “No one has told me the things that you are telling. Of course my ways of doing things must have made you to think this way “ ! He quietly walked near the dashboard, took out the things. He handed over me those stuff –  a small pack of agarbattis, a small pack of vermillion, a matchbox.  Then he narrated. “ Sir, I have a small but nice family. My sole earning is from this auto-rickshaw. As you come out of CMC Hospital and take this small road to Rural Campus there is a Mosque. Every evening , without fail, I make a short prayer there. Then further up, there is a temple where I say a small prayer for the happiness of my family. And finally near the CMC there is a very old church. I never fail to pray here at least once in the evening. Believe me Sir it gives me happiness for my entire family. Just think Sir, my family gets happiness showered from all ! Balaji, Allah & Jesus … what else do I need!”

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Around night I took a bus to Bangalore. I had a very guilt feeling. Our man must have returned home, happily eating his night meal and must be telling his wife “You know, today I met a gentleman ….. a good man – but with a very narrow mind !”

 

 

Pre-Christmas in Kolkata : Then & Now !

dsc_0022In our teen age days the pre-Christmas outing was a visit to the New Market. We are located at an extreme end locality in South Calcutta and this visit to the central Calcutta was some thing great for us. I always eagerly awaited for the day. My grandpa would come around noon, a few days before Christmas, and we will set out for this journey to the wonder-land ! I always narrated about this dream outing to my grand children – they are 3 in number. The elder one Rijul, who is at his final class of schooling, always had many interesting queries about  this… my olden days New Market trip !

This Christmas I promised Rijul to take him on a similar pre-Christmas trip to New dsc_0016Market. More than him, I was the one who was keen on re-living history !

dsc_0014When we reached near the main entrance the area was too crowded and there was a near stampede situation. Ah.. that was the Light House Cinema…. this is the spot where there were some head-loaders… they will come running with a large bamboo basket…. go along nmwith you to collect whatever you buy from the New Market… carry the load on their head and at the end of your shopping, come to the taxi stand and put all the packets inside the taxi neatly…. and finally be happy with whatever bakhsis (tips) you offer… after all its the festive time ! I was feeling sorry that none of them were found here, they must have found much lucrative alternative vocations !

At the New Market entrance, in olden days, we used to make short stop over at the greetings-card shops…. there were about 10 such shops. dsc_0012Only one we found still surviving, but with no takers. In the internet era none is interested in those greetings cards. Once inside the market, the scenario did not change much. Many of the old charming clothing shops were still there, though they did not have much buyers. Most of the families go for online shopping for their readymade clothes, and, even the sarees are procured by the same method.

The mistletoes and other decorative selling shops are still there. They are doing some what better business than others. The cake shops are doing brisk business. I was indeed upset as dsc_0009I did not find the same old charming New Market hopping experience. But for Rijul, he was enjoying the visit… I was showing him some of the old shops still in the business. I bought him a heart-cake and a hot patties ! I tasted a bit. Ummm…. some what nearer the olden-day –taste, except less buttery ! Well… at least some good things still survived the test of the time.

Those days our return trip was by a tram ride. Then the trams had less riders and it was a pleasant smooth journey. I did not propose the repeat mode for our return journey. It was a very difficult time to get hold of the taxi to take us.

Finally we managed to get one taxi after putting half and hour effort, and, reached home. It was indeed an enjoyable trip…. a good start for Christmas 2016 !

Journey Recharged !

The seat looked dusty. I looked around myself. There were hardly any co-passengers around. The train had arrived at the platform an hour earlier than scheduled and I guess people were yet to find their respective coaches. There was only a young girl in the opposite seat – a young woman rather. With jeans and a loose T-shirt and a silver colored nose-ring she looked weird. Her eyes were glued to her mobile phone.

Huh! Another of those gadget geeks!

I put my hands in my pocket searching for a piece of paper or even my handkerchief. No way would I sit on the dusty train seat.

“Tissues?”

The voice startled me. I looked up. A smiling face looked at me in return. Her left hand held out a muddled bundle of fresh tissues. That same weird girl!

How on earth did she know that I was actually looking for a piece of paper?

“Take some. I cleaned mine with these”, she laughed. As she laughed I noticed the twinkle in her eyes.

scf1224Normally I refuse help from strangers – that too such a strange looking stranger – but right then I had no option.

But before I could even give her a formal thanks, she got up from her seat with a spring and began cleaning my dusty seat.

“Aha..ha…why….”

“Ha, it’s all right uncle. I would have done the same for my Dad”, she smiled the same way, having cleaned the seat in a jiffy.

“Tadaaa…here you are”, she pointed to my nearly clean seat.

“Thanks”, I thanked her softly.

A few of the co-passengers had begun arriving. Porters, noisy children, worried mothers, see-off relatives….

I looked outside. There was no one for me. Geeta had to pick up her son from school, Sekhar had his office to attend. It was more than enough that they had bothered to drop me at the station atleast.

“Sorry Appa. Please….I have to pick up Rohan in another hour, the school is pretty far away from here, if I don’t leave now I would never reach and you know how Rohan is….he would just keep crying!”, she had sounded apologetic.

“No problem.  Anyway, I just have to carry a single bag. It’s no big deal”, I had tried to comfort her in my own way. Afterall  she was my daughter. And it wasn’t wrong either. How much would the bag of a sixty five year old weigh anyway? The heart weighed heavier!

I adjusted my sole bag near my feet. The other passengers had mostly arrived.

Someone somewhere had perhaps opened a tiffin can of freshly fried Vade. The smell of crisply fried fritters wafted through the air. If Sudha had been around she would have certainly packed in a dozen….idlis…puliyothare….she always ensured she carried meals during her journey….she hated meals from pantry.

I closed my eyes, trying not to think about the past or even food for that matter. Without Sudha, life had become a burden. Staying with married daughter is not an easy option but with a son in the IT sector in Kolkata, with an erratic work schedule, staying with him wasn’t an option either. Thought of Ravi gave me a sudden jerk – a jolt rather. That conversation two weeks back had knocked off my sleep. Geeta hasn’t stopped crying since then.

It was just a three line monologue from Ravi.

“Ummm….Appa, I have found a girl for myself….Bengali, Christian…RebecaaBiswas. I know you will never agree to the match. But please, please, please come and meet her. She would be coming from Bangalore after her training in another two weeks.”

No way would I agree to the match! A vegetarian, Tamil boy from a Brahmin family marrying a non-vegetarian, Bengali, Christian girl!  I would go and try to reason with him. If he doesn’t agree I will sever all my ties with him –forever! I shook my head unknowingly! I opened my eyes.

The train had begun with a jerk. Loud good-byes,sobs , laughter filled the coach! A few of them began to call their relatives informing them of the train’s departure.

I too took out my mobile phone from my pocket. I know it wouldn’t really matter but as a courtesy I wanted to call Geeta.  Just as I began to press the numbers I suddenly realised there wasn’t a single rupee balance left in my mobile. I had been asking Geeta, requesting Sekhar but they had either forgotten or not bothered. I had even gone out to recharge the phone myself but the nearest shop was closed for over a week.

I stared helplessly at the screen.

“Here, use mine!”, a hand with pink nail colour held out a mobile phone.

That weird girl again! Her face was still smiley with that strange twinkle.

“I…I..no..thanks”

“It’s alright. Use mine.”

“Okay then…no need to call. Just send an sms to my daughter: Train started-Appa”, I felt weird and ashamed at the same time.

img913With deft fingers she typed out the message and the number as I dictated.

Beep!

“Here, it’s done!”, she smiled.

“I..I..actually I forgot to recharge my phone…and I can’t blame my daughter either…she has her hands full”, I sounded apologetic yet again.

“ It happens….with most of us. Why don’t you try one of  those re-charge systems ? They are quite useful.  It is actually  easy and user-friendly.”

“Ha ha ha….those are for young people like you! Not for oldies like us!”, for a change I tried to sound informal.

“But online dealings are never safe. Frankly, I don’t trust these online facilities. Every other day you hear of an online scam. But in any case it sounds interesting….actually I keep forgetting about these things like recharge and bill payment. And when I remember it is either too late or too difficult. And by then I am already into trouble…like I was, just a few minutes ago.”, I laughed.

I was really impressed with this girl. Not like the usual ones, and what I liked about her is that she was very sincere in her approach. Who on earth would waste time on explaining all those things.

“Would you care for some Vade?”

I saw the girl holding out a tiffin box of freshly Vade and Chutney.

This time I didn’t mind. I helped myself to one. I suddenly felt recharged.

“Did you make these?”

“Oh no! Not exactly ! One of my neighbours made all the preparations, I only fried them ……. of course upon strict instructions from that neighbourhood aunty !  I am originally travelling from Bangalore. I didn’t get a direct ticket to Kolkata. So I had to take a stop-over at Chennai.”

She bowed her head a little – perhaps in a short prayer- before she touched her piece. That is when I noticed the little golden cross adorning her neck! Sudha would do just the same. She would close her eyes and mutter “Sarveswara”, before she would touch her food.

Before I could ask further she spoke again – this time with her mouthful, “Mmm…but you know I can almost make these as tasty but that little hole in the middle just wouldn’t come. I have to practice some more. I need to impress my father-in-law …to be that is!”, she giggled.

I loved the innocence in her. Irrespective of what she was, how she was, her dress, her mannerisms and even her religion, I loved her. How I wish I had someone like her as my daughter in law.

“What is your name  Maa ?”, I asked her.

“Rebecca Biswas.  And what’s yours, uncle?”

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