Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Speaking may kill, Silence will kill for sure...

Everyone is writing/tweeting about #metoo in India. Either coming out and having the courage to tell their story, or to express what is it that they feel when they hear about the experiences of these women or the silence /apologies etc of the men...

I wanted to stay quiet on the subject but decided not to... People are angry with those who sided with the abusers and or did not take action when they received the complain... Rightly so... However I am not angry with this category of people who stay silent... We all have to make a choice when we are faced with a situation  and let me tell you most people men and women do not have the courage.

Before becoming an artist I was in the corporate world and for more than a decade. I was in the HR side and most of my experience was in media houses. I experienced sexual assault from the day 1 of my career. Either as a victim or sometimes as the one people came to when they faced with a situation...  I was 25, in my 1st job as a trainee, in the 1st week itself... The VP admin, (an ex fauji) , touched me inappropriately in an open office on the sly and when saw the shocked look on my face went away laughing... That expression 'gotcha...' I did not know who to go to, he was a VP of a big big company, no one wud believe me, I went to the loo and  cried and then rest of my stint, stayed away from him...

In another job, my own boss who had a roving eye for all us girls would make us so uncomfortable that despite repeated complains to the Directors and even MD, he was never touched. He wasn't even a great performer... But the men in power refused to believe the girls who worked for the organisation. I remember I was told by a colleague, "so when u go to his cabin make sure your duppata is covering you nicely..." Yes I was told that... We all left the organisation but that man continued to be where he was...

In my last organisation, a very well known media house, in my stint of 6 years I heard sexual complaints by several colleagues... Each time I would go to the management and I could sense the uneasiness that the management had in dealing with the issues. Many a times I felt helpless, many a times I insisted that the concerned person should be issued a warning. The two times when the cases actually reached sexual harrasment committe, one could sense the tension. Both were cases where the abuser was victim's boss. In one case, the victim complained 3months after the incident and it pained me that everyone blamed her that she must have got a bad appraisal... Whatever happened in the committee, the woman, left the organization coz the boss wasn't asked to go and was just asked to apologise. How horrible I felt both as a woman and senior HR person... The next incident the woman complained immediately and the management had no option but to take action. The abuser was a blue eyed boy and several verbal complains had come against him but this was the 1st in writing... Action had to be taken and the management despite fear of hurting the business took the call. The girl was labeled as the one who got the boss ousted... The ousted boss left but not with an iota of  remorse... It was almost like "you guys will suffer now...". My faith in  HR and humanity was restored but for a bit...

Meanwhile I quit my job and became an artist. Only to learn some months later that the perpetrator had joined back the organisation. The same management who chucked him out rehired him despite a policy that you cannot rehire a person sacked on account of sexual offence. The management sided with the abuser. Giving clear signal to the women that profit comes before you. The person now in organization with even more power yet again crossed his limit. The victim raised her voice but management turned a blind eye and a deaf year... She left, still fighting on the outside, he continues as the boss...

Yes the blue eyed boy continues to rule... I am happy I am out of the dirty world and the women tell me he is back with a vengeance...

When the heads of  a media house breaking stories and claiming that truth is their game, side with profits, with abusers, with chauvinism and patriarchy then what's the fault of people in smaller organisations who just look the other way... (that's what I thought and didn't allow myself to get angry)

But angry I am... Everyone has to go back and sleep and I often wonder  if all these people ever sleep peacefully?

I know I do coz I did all I could to raise my  voice, make a noise and force people to look...

#metoo, #metooinindia

Shubhra (c)

8th October, 2018

Monday, April 29, 2019

A part of us... Gagan Sardana!!

Yesterday morning at 4 am I woke up to the terrible news about Gagan Sardana. Our dear friend from graduation days was no more. Message exchanges at wee hours actually got home the point. Shell shocked. Our friend, our age, cardiac arrest, just like that gone in a whiff. Impossible but true it was...

The whole day went by in just talking to various friends and sharing each other's grief. Then it struck me. All of us were from a phase in our life where we were together most of the days. Sitting on footpath outside college or in canteen or just going out to various monuments or to someone's house. Teaming up for festivals, having a keen interest in the love lives of each of us... Being a rock support when the love was serious stuff  and leaving no chance to pull leg when it was just a one sided infatuation...  We may not have had one on one equation with all in the group but as a group we all were there for each other...  3 years went past in a jiffy and we all moved on... Life happened and we all got busy in our new ventures... We kept in touch with a few not so much with others...

Cut to many years later when social media happened. Facebook got us all connected. And we caught up with each other. Then WhatsApp happened and the WhatsApp groups... Soon reunions and get togethers were on the card and it was such joy to meet up these friends again. From footpath we graduated to a nice restaurant or pub and sometimes even home. Everyone was busy managing life and schedules and no one really got around to really knowing the real life of another. What is it that is happening with another, barring the close ones we have kept in touch with over the years. However, meeting for those few hours once a year was such a stress buster. We would remember the good old days, crack jokes like the yesteryears. Catch up on friends and news of friends we have not been in touch with and needless to say still bond over food.

Yesterday, news of Gagan's death took away from us all (me for sure) a part of that era. We all grew up together and then suddenly one of us is not there. I realised that how little I knew of Gagan's life, his struggles and his achievements, but I cannot and will not erase the memory of him from college time. His unmatched wit, humour and laughter. He was the entertainment quotient of the group. In fact in all these years if anything was common it was still his wit and entertainment quotient... If he was around we had to roll off laughing. But now he has gone and left us in tears, shocked and numb.

I will remember you Gagan for the way you made us all feel and made us laugh and for your crazy ideas...

Rest in peace my dear friend.

For the rest of us, we stand together and hug each other.  While we all have limited time let us never leave an opportunity to let others know how we feel for them.

shubhra (c) 

29th April, 2019 

Asheeth Monika Nalini Joshi Samir Bhushan Shalini Farah Simrat Judge Venkataraman Balakrishnan Sona Dutta  Agendra Mukul Rohit Kilam Satish Kumar

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy 2014 it was and happy 2015 it will be...

As another year went by, I sat down  to ponder on how the year faired. The tasks left undone, the accomplishments, the failures and the success all started flashing through my mind...  It's then I realised that what's important to savour are the experiences and not so much the annual to do list.

So I decided to recall my various experiences both  direct and indirect.

2014 gave me my biggest project till date,  another stepping stone.  A project that made me come out as a  stronger person.  I saw dreams coming true and  friends and relationships falling apart. I saw money taking control of people and their behavior. I also had friends bailing me out of the crisis.  I saw the joy of work well done on the faces of the labourers and I felt the muscles strain in the effort to meet deadlines.

The year made me cross my comfort zone and made me do work I had never attempted before.  It made me experiment and it saw me out-perform my earlier work.  I also connected with many new kids.  Passionate about art and totally fun to be with.  It had me teach art to moms who had their plate  full but wanted to vent creatively.

While I felt the joy of playing the piano again,  I missed my vocal lessons as my guru became too frail now to sing. I had the joy of growing my own vegetables and see little tomatoes...  And I also felt pain when my 10 year old plant just died... 

I  attended a wild Bachelorette party where almost every one let their hair down... And painted the town (read Hyderabad) red with my girl friends...

In 2014 I lost a few old friends,  people I had been with for years. With reasons not clear best course of action was to move on...  Beginning of the year saw me through the roller coaster of first finding  and then letting go of someone who was perceived to be my soul mate for last 22 years. Alas what's not meant to be is not meant to be...

They say that when a door closes another opens.  I met new people and I experienced the joy of reconnecting with school mates  from kanpur. The joy of talking  about the days gone by was priceless. 

This year I also vicariously went through a lot.  Joys,  sorrows and ecstasy...  A knee surgery and painful  recovery... A  birth of boy child... Managing the tantrums of a 2 year old  who was visibly upset at the entry of  the little brother in her life... An adoption of a girl... And even taking the plunge to tie the knot.  Each of these life changing event I witnessed and lived them closely. 

I lost my favorite uncle and felt my aunt's loss of a partnership that had lasted 57 years.

I ran marathons and kept bettering my record. I walked and I cycled. I  baked and cooked and experimented with the spices. I tried hard to diet and through some I was a success and somewhere else a failure.

Be it my own or others from all the experiences one thing I realised that everyone goes through their own shit. Some find  others lose.  Some lose their love,  other their spouse,  some their parents and other their siblings.  Some lose their pets and some their jobs.  And almost everyone tries to lose weight.

In 2014 I saw the high and low,  I lost and found,  I surged ahead and often staggered.  I lacked discipline but not determination.  I lost heart but never hope. I cried a lot but laughed even more. 

With joy in my heart and determination in mind I surge ahead to welcome the year 2015 with another annual to do list.  Tasks I'd like to  complete,  projects  to undertake,  places to visit,  people to meet  but keeping in mind to focus on and savour all the experiences big and small and good and bad alike...  Happy 2014 it was and I hope happy 2015 it will be...

(c) shubhra
January 4,  2015

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"aaj sir ke yahan baithak hai..."

It's been a year today  since Khurshid Anwar jumped off his house.  He succumbed to the trauma that he had been subjected to.  Falsely accused of rape,  instead of following the process and the law,  he was pronounced guilty by a section of media and many others who maligned him,  his reputation and his entire existence on social media and off it.  He on 18th December,  2013 at about this time gave in to it all... 

His perpetrators are free,  enjoying life,  active on Facebook, in social circles and some also in political circles. The said victim never showed up after her accusation. The police have still not filed an FIR on the complain registered by the family against some prominent people.  The court has given dates and the process is on... System is working at its own pace.

Khurshid Anwar is no more and the world has moved on...  His house got wound up.  Family which was away from him but had united on his demise has also moved on.  Organisation which was closest to him as they were together almost 24x7, picked pieces and pledged to take ahead what Khurshid had left behind.  They faced financial crisis, board crisis but they got around it.  They got a new board,  and responsibilities were realigned. Not a single employee left the organization. They organised events,  brought out books and tried to keep Khurshid alive through their work.  But the void continues...

I knew Khurshid through Shruti my sister who works for ISD and in his absence now has been appointed the Chief Functionary of the organization. ISD was shruti's 1st job and Khurshid made sure she learns and learns well.  He would be happy to see her perform today. He mentored her, was her friend and shared an amazing rapport with her. Every other  day she would call and say "aaj sir ke yahan baithak hai,  will eat there". 

Through this one year I have seen whatever has happened through Shruti's eyes and through the voices of some of her colleagues.  I have seen her cry and I have seen her angry.  I have seen the team anxious before meeting with the funder and I have seen the team helpless when court extended the dates.  Each in their own way want justice.  Each in their own way are frustrated.  They maybe the closest people Khurshid had but it's the family who takes decisions. Life is funny,  those who are with you in life have little say about you when you are dead.

One year is over...  Life changed for many,  as it did for my sister.  Khurshid is no more but alive in memories, in his stories,  through his work.  Often I hear Khurshid would have said this,  he would have said that... his presence is missed by many... Magar ab koi message nahi aata Shruti se.. 

kyunki ab koi baithak  hi nahi hoti... 

(c) Shubhra
December 18, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A conversation with a 8 yr old girl...

I take these interactive sessions on art with kids.  In other  words I go and teach them a thing or two about painting etc..  The kids are generally 6 yrs plus studying in various schools of South Delhi and Gurgaon. 
Yesterday, was class with  2 girls who are close friends all of 8 years and studying in one of the best school of Delhi.  During the class a conversation happened between these two which left me disturbed.

For now referring to the girls as A and  B. The class was at A's house and  B goes to the wash room and this is the conversation that follows...

" Do you have guests at home? " asked B to A. 

" Yes,  my dadu's friends have come." A replied.

"Are they from US or Canada?" B asked.

"No they are from Pakistan." 

B jumps and says "Pakistan! please don't take me in front of them"

"They will be terrorist"
"We know them they  are friends  and they are not terrorist " said A.

I promptly intervened and asked B, "who told you people from Pakistan are terrorist?"

"My nani,  told me that people from Pakistan came to Mumbai and killed many at the hotel. Even Nani's friend was killed." replied B

"But all people from Pakistan are not terrorist. There can be bad people anywhere.  In India,  in your own Delhi there are people who are bad who are doing wrong. In US or in any place there will be good people  and bad people ",  I tried to put some gyan in the little girl's  head.

"Mam,  then who are terrorist? Why do they kill?" asked A

"Beta these are people who are unwell in their head,  they have lost sense of good and bad, someone tells them and they pick their guns and kill innocent people. They need treatment,  they are not normal people. "

"If I take a gun and kill someone,  will I also be called a terrorist?"  asked B

Now, I knew I had to answer that carefully, so I said,  if you surrender say sorry to court,  you will be punished,  you serve your punishment and then try to be a good human you will not be called a terrorist.

The kids seemed satisfied and got distracted with their art.

But it left me wondering.  Today the kids have an information over load.  They watch TV  sit with adults when discussions are happening and by and by form opinions.  All Pakistanis are terrorist,  who is a terrorist,  can I be a terrorist...  All serious and dangerous thoughts and questions that are crossing the minds of these  7-8 year old kids.

As adults,  teachers,  parents we need to be better equipped with answers and with thoughts that will not prejudice a young mind.  I have no clue whether how I handled the question was right or not... 

But on the 26/11 anniversary a little girl telling me a Pakistani came to Mumbai and killed her nani's friend hence all Pakistanis are terrorist was  a disturbing conversation...

November 27, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Is it worth it?

Is it worth it?

On Saturday, November 1, 2014, I had an experience. One which is not unique to me but I am sure will resonate with many who read this. The thoughts that followed seemed to have rustled me up and prompted me to write this note. 

It was a busy Saturday afternoon and I was on the road running from here to there completing one chore to another. Every minute was calculated. I was in a rush to reach home as my niece and nephew were visiting us. Standing on a red signal waiting for the signal to turn green, I was listening to music loud to keep away the noise from the road.  Suddenly I heard the cars behind me honk loudly and before I realized the truck standing next to my car was almost over me, at least so it seemed…  In a reflex action I pressed the horn of my car with all my force. My heart was beating fast and I thought if he doesn’t stop now, I am gone. Since the truck was not in a momentum it stopped almost immediately as it hit me. The huge tire of his truck was almost inside my door… and at that moment all I could think of was oh no… Oh God now what? I rolled the window, untangled the side view mirror and tried to sway the car to left to get out of the grip of that huge monster. The cars behind me and some people on the road were all shouting and even though for a minute I did manage to have everyone’s attention. As luck would have it my car started and I was able to move away from the truck and instead of stopping and talking to him, I decided to just move on.
The cars behind me were relieved no end. I am sure they must have thought, “ab jhagdha hoga, traffic jam hoga uff”

 I did stop to catch my breath and to see who was behind the wheels of this huge truck; It was a private crane service. The helper and driver both looked stoned. The helper from his side looked at me and his face clearly showed that he was happy I am not stopping to fight with him.

I reached where I had to and narrated the incident and showed the damage to my car, immediate reaction was why didn’t I stop the truck and asked him to pay for the damages? I said, “kaun jhagda kare beech sadak pe, usne jaan boojh ke to kiya nahi, ye sab to kisi se bhi ho sakta hai”  No they were not convinced. I was made to look like I just left the guy when I shouldn’t have and hence too na├»ve…

The whole episode scared me a bit due to the suddenness of the event and the size of the truck but left me with questions.

Why are we so unforgiving?
Why are we so impatient and selfish?

Anyone can make mistakes. Yes there are people who drive rashly and cause harm to fellow travelers but I feel mostly an accident or a brush like this is just a basic miss. A delayed reflex action or just a situation. Whatever be the case is it so big that we cannot forgive?

Now imagine what would the alternate scenario to this situation be like? I take out the car from the situation, block the truck and get to driver’s side and give him choicest abuses, ask onlookers to pull him down, some may even thrash him and I ask him for money for the damages. There would be a swamp of onlookers standing by and some just giving expert advice. All this would result in a road jam, honking and chaos on the road. Is it worth it all?

I know I will have to get my car repaired and spend a whole lot of money. I am not rich to be able to afford all this. But I still feel that all the fight and rage was not worth it. The drivers would have called their owners, and there would be police and negotiations and if the owner did give some compensation the same would definitely be adjusted with the salary of the drivers. It’s not that I haven’t been on the other side. I clearly remember two incidences when for no fault of mine a bully person harassed me no end and really extorted money out of me. I remember the humiliation and helplessness that I felt that day.

Each day the news paper is full of road rage stories. Every time you are out on the road you will see a case of people fighting in the middle of the road over such incidents. My questions are to all those people who have been involved in road scuffles and to those who drive in big clustered cities and face this threat each day?

Is it really worth it?
Can the vehicle be more valuable than human life and peace of mind?  
Was I really a loser or was I just too scared to tackle the big truck driver or scared of the chaos that would follow or the hurry of wanting to reach home? 

The questions are never ending… and each one of us will have a different answer and or a different take on this subject.

Whatever be the answer, personally, I feel that we all need to slow down a bit, pause, think, take a deep breath and just ask is it so difficult to forgive?

Is it so important to show down the person who is physically or economically weaker than us?
Is all this worth it?

Have we all never made mistakes? Is it not possible that we damage someone’s vehicle by mistake?

9 out of 10 times the answers will be  NO and all we need is that in the heat of the moment just remember this… It’s not worth it…

November 3, 2014

Thursday, January 3, 2013

“Bhay makes Nirbhayaas”

“Bhay makes Nirbhayaas”

We fail to teach our children, especially girls, that it’s not their fault…

When I was a child about to reach the age of puberty, I found myself arguing with my mother. My question was why were my cousins (boys) allowed many things that I was not. These were simple things. Like they could go to see an Amitabh Bachchan movie in the theatre and I could not, not even with them. They could go to the nearby market by themselves but I could not. My mother tried hard to explain rather than just say NO. She started, “Beta it is not safe for girls.” “And it is safe for boys?,” I replied.

“You think someone can kidnap us, but they can kidnap boys too,” I added. My mother replied, “It’s not just about kidnapping…” There was an exasperated look on her face, she did not know how to explain. Finally she said, “It’s different with girls, it’s the way God has made you. Some day you will understand”. Angered and unable to see her logic I stomped out of the room. I had lost the first battle. 

Kanpur was a city known for its rowdy, slimy, sick and uneducated boys and men. Eve teasing was a norm. No girl, no matter what the age, could escape it. Growing up in Kanpur I learnt what it was to be a girl in India. At each step I waged several battles and I lost several of them. Today I am reminded of some of them as I attempt to weave them together to see how and when the problem with women really starts.

Some years later, I went with a friend to get a dress stitched and I got a knee length straight skirt with a coat stitched. All of 15 years, I was thrilled and believed it was the best dress I ever had. My mother however ripped me apart when she saw it. “Tum aise kapde pehan kar rickshaw pe baith ke ghar se bahar jaogi?” (You are going to wear these clothes and step out of house and travel by a rickshaw?) I argued. But in vain. I was never allowed to wear the dress as long as I stayed in Kanpur. I had lost another battle.

I moved to Delhi for my graduation and was on my own for the first time in real sense of the word. Though I lived with relatives but being on the road on my own was a new experience. I was given a list of things to do and not to do by my folks at home. “Don’t venture out in the summer afternoon or after dark,”  “Don’t take lonely, arterial roads,” “Don’t take crowded DTC buses”…  Among all the instructions none said, “Carry a safety pin or a Swiss knife,” or “Shout out loud if someone misbehaves or report to police or at home.” So instead of facing things upfront, and shouting at someone when they pinched, or standing up against eve teasing, I would silently suffer. I would avoid crowded places or when I couldn’t avoid places like the Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan, I would just feel humiliated and come back telling myself that I would not go there again. I never spoke at home for the fear of my freedom being curbed and even more sanctions put on me. By now I had lost so many battles I had lost the count.

After that several times, with known and unknown people, at a friend’s house, on a train from Mumbai to Delhi, at bus stops while waiting for chartered buses and even in the office (where my boss always scanned us up and down before assigning us some task ), numerous instances happened and I suffered all of them. I never had the courage to talk about them for the fear that I would be scolded. “Why did you get up from your seat of the train?”, “Why did you go to your friend’s house so late in the evening?”, “Why were you wearing such tight jeans?” At every step I felt that if I spoke up, my rights would be curtailed further. I chose to suffer for the little freedom that I had earned in all these years.

The last instance in this fabric that I am trying to weave is of a man, (supposedly a friend), who kissed me without my consent. The look on his face, the feeling he left me with…it all hit me only the next day. The first thought that came to my mind was I should have said No to him coming home, “Na wo aata na ye hota” (If he had not come, this would not have happened). This time I suffered but not in silence. I shared it with a friend and with my sisters. All were supportive and asked me to confront the person but I did not have the courage. In my heart, I felt that maybe I had invited it, that I did not choose my friends well. I had lost yet another battle and almost felt like loosing a war.

As women we lose these battles right from childhood. I do not blame my mother or relatives for telling me what they did. We all want safety for ourselves and for our children. Hence we have to tell them to be careful, avoid lonely patches, be aware etc. But what we fail to teach our children, especially girls, is that it’s not their fault. That they can come out and speak and that they should if need be use a pin, a knife, a pepper spray or whatever. For, as parents and as women too, we know that it’s best to stay away as much as we can from the police, lawyers, etc… We know that they are all somehow part of the larger picture. We know that road rage is the in thing and if you kick the male ego once you can always live in fear of being stalked, of acid being thrown at you, of being thrashed or even overpowered and raped…

A statement I have heard every second citizen of this country say to someone, no matter where you live is “Arre bhaiya apni suraksha apne haath, in logon se kya pange lena”(Our safety is in our hands don’t get into trouble with these people). Till this attitude changes, till the time we can’t come out and complain without fear, till the time the oppressors do not have fear of punishment, humiliation, till the time the police and the judiciary are seen as people willing to help rather than in cahoots with the oppressors, more “Nirbhayaas” will happen. Some will cause a ripple, most will go unnoticed and we will feel the pain of each of these and silently think “Oh I got saved today, it could have been me…”

©Shubhra Chaturvedi, 3rd Jan 2013.

(Shubhra Chaturvedi is an Artist and a Photographer from Delhi)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It Takes Guts to Stand Up: Outrage at Radhika’s Murder

The media, the police and the people at large are protesting at how no one is coming forth to offer some leads on the culprit.

Radhika Tanwar, all of 20 years of age was shot dead on a foot over bridge near her college in broad day light on March 8, 2011, at point blank range. She was with her friends when the culprit came from behind, shot at her and then ran away. As per the news paper reports, her friends who were walking with her fled away and no one even dared to take her to the hospital till a police constable did the needful.

A day later, students of her college and the other colleges are protesting on the streets demanding justice. The Chief Minister visits the family and voices her concerns over the security of women in the city. The ACP of Delhi Police is shouting out loud asking people to come forward and help. The headlines in news papers and television, the facebook updates and the tweets all seem to be blaming the public at large for not coming in front to help the cause of Radhika.

The students who are protesting and blocking the roads in all probability do not include with them the few who were with Radhika when she was on the foot over bridge. The reason is very clear. It’s easier to march to India Gate and light candles, initiate a Facebook cause but it really takes guts to stand up against the system, the goons and the mighty that have the power of money and the bullets with them. The police really cannot ensure fool proof protection to any such person who stands up. Not because the police cannot, but because the goons in such case are mightier then the constable who is guarding the house of the witness. It has been proven many a times and quite often true that many of the people in the system are bought over by the mighty and then all pleas for justice fall on deaf ear.

I write this today because I wonder what I would have done in this situation. My head and heart tells me that I would have come out and spoken. But what if I get a phone call in the middle of the night, “your parents live in Bhiwadi, they are old and alone……” or “we know what time your sister leaves the house and where she goes exactly…” This may sound dramatic, but I guess that’s how the threats are. Would I still have the guts? Can I afford to risk my parent’s life and security? These questions will definitely come to my mind. I really do not know what kind of courage it takes to still stand against all odds. But I do know only one in a thousand have that courage.

The two examples of what I am saying are from two cases that were in news recently. Jessica Lal and Ruchika Ghirhotra. While in Jessica’s case the witness all backed off due to the fear of the bullet. I remember a dialogue from the recent movie, “No one killed Jessica”, where one of the witness (Shyan Munshi) who turned hostile said, “I did not want Rs 1 crore but I also did not want a bullet”. In Ruchika’s case on the other hand, her friend Aradhna Prakash showed exemplary courage in standing against the mighty and powerful, Rathore. As per the reports in her case, one can see the harassment Ruchika and her family faced for complaining and how upon her suicide, her friend Aradhana and her family relentlessly kept at it to see that the guilty be punished. How many ARADHANA’s are there today?

The failure therefore is not in people’s mindset. The failure is largely on account of the law-order and justice system. A person who has a gun in his hand has the confidence that he will get away. It will be ages before he is caught, if he is he will get bail. Even after being charged, he has the money to hire big lawyers and who knows maybe influence the judges too. So the mindset is that if one has a Godfather, a gun and loads of money power, he/she can get away with murder. The mindset of the people who do not have money and power is different. Most of them are honest and want to fight injustice but lack the courage to fight against the mighty. They know that tomorrow it could be their daughter in Radhika’s situation, but they still fear that if they stand up today, tomorrow they will surely be in a situation similar.

So till the time somehow the police and judiciary come out clean and give the mighty the message that despite of your gun and money, you can still be hanged, they will continue on their criminal spree. The public at large will continue to face the dilemma: To stand up or not; To think of your loved ones or to think of the larger issues; To think of your life ahead or to risk it being wasted in coutrs.

We definitely need more Aradhnas and we need no Shayan Munshis but till then let us take a heart.

© shubhra chaturvedi, March 10, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Do we have a Choice?

Do we give up because life is unaffordable now?

Mukesh and Reena stay at the dairy near the Vasant Kunj block B-11. For their living they iron clothes. In addition Mukesh cleans the cars early morning. They have two children, a daughter and a son and an ailing mother to look after.

I had a chance to interact with Mukesh at length and figured out his journey from village to Delhi. He has taken two rooms in the nearby dairy, for himself and his mother, paying Rs 3000/- pm as rent. He uses almost 3-4 kgs of coal for his ironing. The cost of coal these days is Rs 40/kg. He charges Rs 3 per cloth from the households and clothes like saris and bed sheets are charged at Rs 7 and Rs 10 respectively. Reena and Mukesh got their daughter admission in a renowned south delhi school, DPS, Vasant Kunj. They got through under the category of economically weaker section. They are not paying as much fees but the monetary pressure of teaching children in a good school is always there.

Having all of the above expenses and their limited means of earning, life for them is indeed tough as it is for everyone. However they do not crib, Mukesh says, “jiske pass hai wo dabayega, jisko chaihiye wo dabega” very profound statement. Mukesh and Reena are just examples. There are several such couples who have come from their villages and are surviving in the city. Each of these people has done their cost analysis. On the basis of their expenses, they charge for their services, whether it is cleaning cars, doing domestic work, ironing clothes or whatever. Whether onions come at Rs 65/kg or Rs 15/kg they have found a way to survive and so is the case for the other classes of society. The local vegetable vendor tells me that he gets up at 1 am to get his stock from the “Azadpur Mandi” and therefore whatever price he gets there he hikes it up by at least Rs 5/kg and sometimes more sells it. Though it pinches my pocket but can I blame him for his strategy? The spirit is to survive; no one can just give up because life is unaffordable.

So when Mr. Montek Singh Alhuwalia says that the rising prices show economic growth and indicate people’s buying power, I wish to ask him if he really thinks it is true. Does the common man or the not so common man have a choice? On the pretext of inflation, everyone is hiking prices and those with power are negotiating prices. It’s a war of wits, whose need is more, who will crack first.

We maybe a democracy, but it almost seems like a monarchy. Billions of rupees have been siphoned away by the ministers, corporate, bureaucrats etc on account of their corrupt deeds. Neither have the guilty been punished nor has the money been recovered. The food prices have been rising, so have the petrol prices and the government say it really cannot do much to control inflation. Mr. Prime Minister, was the one to bail the country out when the worst economic crisis had gripped us and yet he has no solutions now. I am totally amazed at the helplessness displayed by the government. Even in a country like the US, the food prices are subsidized.

I was shocked and angry and still am when I read a few days back that Rahul Gandhi thinks it’s the coalition alliance which is holding the govt back from being able to control prices, and Mr Ahluwalia says that rising prices show prosperity. These are our leaders and our policy makers and who are so far away from the ground reality.

So Mr. Ahluwalia, please check your data again, maybe you can walk to your own kitchen and find out the difference. How much was being spent on cooking a meal for you earlier and how much is being spent now. Your salary is constant (I assume) but you are in a league where you may not feel the pinch at all. Maybe you could ask your cook if he thinks that the rising prices indicate prosperity.

© Shubhra Chaturvedi, January 20, 2011