Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The S-Pad : Designing as if women mattered.....

No, it isn't the non-egotistical version of the I-pad. Far, far from it.

But something that predates it by decades and centuries. Something every woman has to live with, in what maybe, learningwise, her most productive years.

A year ago , i participated in a local Women's Day essay competition on womens' empowerment, and in the course of researching came up with some shocking information.

A study done by Ms Fernandes of WaterAid,  in Chhattisgarh, documented the menstrualhygiene practices followed by rural women, and highlighted their impact on the availability of education for women

Schools, typically,  had inadequate toilet facilities for girls. Shame at being noticed by boys during “those days”, having to come to the one single tap to wash, and inability to change, were cited as reasons by many young girls for giving up school. In some societies in Madhya Pradesh, the girl who was menstruating was prohibited by her mother from using the one bathroom of the house, because she was “impure”.   In Sheopur district , a woman mentioned that she had been using the same cloth for 4 years, sometimes, inadequately washed and dried, and was helpless.   In some tribes, the menstruating women were confined to cowsheds and ended up using paper, straw, and cloth, including their clothes to contain the bleeding. Infections and diseases of the urinary and genital tracts were rampant, thanks to having to share premises with cows, dirt and dung, while their families, treated them exactly the same; like cows , dirt, and dung.   

While discussion on these subjects were socially taboo, greatly influenced by  ancient customs and fears, the end result, was that so many  women were unable to go to school, get educated, and look for a better life for their families.   .

Thousands of miles away in the South, Muruganantham,   son of a weaver and a farm laborer, earned a meager sum as a helper in a machine workshop.  He once observed his wife, who was a Plus 2 level educated woman, furtively pass by with something she wanted to throw, and chanced upon the dynamics of the women’s curse, as it was perceived.   Sanitary napkins were known, but for a poor family, it was either that or the daily supply of food.   To the intense displeasure and embarrassment of the women of the family (who thought he was out of his senses), Muruganatham embarked on basic  R and D about what the fancy sanitary pads contained, and started his own experiments. 

Suffice it to say, that he was able to devise a simple cotton pad with cellulose.  He decided to design a low cost machine that would make these pads.   He sought help and advice from medical colleges and some IIT’s, eventually came to the notice of MIT, who purchased his machine for use in Africa.  Typically, once the West acknowledged, our IIM’s sprung into action, and invited him to lecture them on his entrepreneurship.   Muruganatham decided, that he would sell these machines only to rural self help groups of women, train them,  he would provide the raw material, and women in that area would benefit from better hygiene and better health, some income, and,  , possibly better education.  

Read all details about this here.   The details are amazing .

Kudos are due to Muruganantham, for not selling out to one of our big industrial houses,  and increasing the number of middlemen.
From Kashmir to the South, several women’s cooperatives and self help groups, today,  locally provide these pads   to women.  Old taboos, propagated by the older women in villages are disappearing...

Today, these women’s groups are manufacturing sanitary pads, that cost as little as Rs 3; a huge difference from those, unaffordable, manufactured by MNC’s and advertised by page 3 types on television, wearing white capris and leaping over boulders and streams..

Muruganatham’s effort educated us about one aspect of empowering women in the realm of education and health.. 

Why am i recalling all this now ? Because I recently attended a womens' blogmeet where we heard how one of the biggest multinational pharma companies manufacturers of Stayfree , and Unicef,  are now working on a special project in Bihar and Jharkhand , having to do with health, sanitation, hygiene, and education for women in rural areas. 

 We also saw a wonderful  AV called "Mujhe pankh do" (Give me wings) , made as an anthem ( lyrics/music : Prasoon Joshi-Shubha Mudgal)  to celebrate and encourage folks to participate in this project.

There are excellent schemes being announced where if you pay Rs 575 as a donation, the rural woman will be provided with  sanitary pads, folic acid and calcium free, together will a medical consultation, over a period of several months. 

But I wonder.  Will this be like a handout ? And go the way of all handouts ? Will the problem again be in the implementation ?

Is Muruganatham's project still on ?   Are the multinational folks and the Unicef people planning to collaborate with him ?  In his scheme of things, the women are a part of the movement that works for their own betterment. By being part of a sanitary pads producing small scale set up, they learn so much more, earn an honorable  livelihood, and contribute to increasing opportunities for their children in the future. This is so much more sensible than just being the recipient of a fancy package every month. 

Is some agency planning to improve sanitation facilities for children and specifically girls in rural schools ?  

These are times, unfortunately, when we seem to be obsessed with entrance exam pyrotechnics for admission to engineering and medical colleges, and we agonize over whether 3 is better than 2 and 2 is worse than 1 exam.  Nothing is being said about primary education , facilities for teachers who are posted there, and special facilities for the girl child.  Right to Education is not about acronyms,  words in the Constitution; it is about creating an environment where girls will rush in because they want to study and learn, and be a useful part of society. 
Empowering does not happen by decree. It does not happen by issuing edicts from a distance

The empowerer, must have a vested interest in the “empoweree”, must share the joys , troubles and sorrows, and be directly involved in the empowering process.

Empowering also never happens automatically.   Many have hampered their health, been deprived of education, and continue to lead substandard lives, because they didn’t meet someone like Muruganantham., when they needed to.

Today's Times of India (30th May 2012, page 16) has a feature on   how the women in the a Dakshin Kannada district of Karnataka, have set up a small scale Muruganantham style sanitary pad unit and  and with orders pouring in from school districts, and hospitals, banks have also shown great interest in helping them with their capital, so that more and more of these set ups can be created and maintained. empowering the women of the region. 

The brand name is "Safety-Feel Free" .  (It will then later be possible for the woman to StayFree..... ?  )

 But we have a long way to go. 

Ajibai, the mother of my household help "S.", recently stayed over at "S"'s house for a fortnight . 1.5 rooms, choc-a-bloc with 3 sons, 1 daughter, 3 daughters-in-law, 4 grandkids, and S herself, because everyone wanted her to and she had not come to stay in a long time.  Every morning, before day break,  one of the ladies, (S , daughter, daughters-in-law) , would slowly walk the  old lady of 80, down the road , some distance away, to the public toilet facility, to avoid the daytime rush of males.

This in Mumbai,  hankering to become Shanghai, and having sister relations with all kinds of European towns, and now boasting the highest real estate prices , many more 5 star places, infinity swimming pools on the 15th floors, and  folks buying fancy accessories stuff at prices, that would be enough to build three bathrooms for a rural school, , say 60 miles from Mumbai.. 

It isn't about investments per head, how many crores in the donation, who made the donation, inaugurating schemes, and doing publicity. 

It is really about designing something , as if women mattered.......   


Sunday, May 20, 2012

"S" and her own Satyamevjayate.....

Sunday mornings at 11.

Satyamev Jayate happens . The daughter watches . I am busy with something in another room. My household help, "S", (who has appeared on this blog very often)  is just back from a long break, and is getting things organized in the kitchen, from where she can see the TV, and she is making a much needed decent cup of ginger tea for the three of us. She isn't really watching TV, but glances that way intermittently.

Somewhere during a break, the daughter comes into the room where I am , aghast. Reading stuff in the papers is one thing. Seeing an actual person telling about it is something else.

The story  (watch post minute 17.00)  of Nishana. The lecturer from Madurai's  American College, whose parents acceded to every demand of her in laws, during and after marriage. Money, gold, vehicles, and the oddest demand, cosmetic surgery on her nose. Then  her verbal humiliation regarding her looks, from her husband rubbishing her looks in public phone messages. The slow sharp denting of a mind, and how a cheerful girl, whose parents gave her everything that was demanded pre and post marriage, finally killed herself.

"S" came in while I was listening to this shocking story.

"How can parents listen to such nonsense from in laws? " she asked.

And then she was telling me about her own daughter.  (S has three sons and one daughter, all adults).

Married off with  great celebration to someone who lived in the district next to Mumbai, on some relative's recommendation, it slowly became clear that there were a lot of lies and untruths dotting the landscape of the in-laws.

The boy was supposed to be working in a printing press.   He wasn't. He didn't have any job.

The entire family depended on his income.  There were days when there was no food for 3-4 days.  A case of mixed up and messed up priorities, and parents with a vagabond undisciplined lazy son.

Strangely, there was a TV bought on installments, and the company was  threatening to recover the TV if the payments were not made. And so , S's daughter started getting hints of how her folks should come up with ten thousand rupees.  Not stopping at commanding the daughter, the family independently communicated this to S.

The brothers were prepared to mobilize things somehow, for their only sister. But the daughter called and  conveyed her displeasure with all this and told them to bluntly refuse. S was worried.  She herself had been rescued , 30 years ago, from a drunkard, violent, psychotic husband by her parents , and she worried for her daughter's future. S alone was now father and mother to her grownup kids. 

The young girl was humiliated, beaten frequently by the husband in a drunken stupor. One day, he beat her, dragged her to the nearby suburban railway station, left her unconscious on the platform, and disappeared.  I don't know why no one on the platform questioned him, since our platforms are perennially crowded regardless of time of day.

When she came to, some vegetable vendor ladies were sprinkling water on her face, and trying to revive her. They listened to her story, and one of the ladies took her to her own home to feed her. Accompanied her back to her mother's home, almost 2 hours away by train, late that rainy night, and told everyone what had happened.

A few days later the father-in-law came. With a helpless look and a semblance of an apology.  S, who has had the worst kind of marriage and married life herself, thought it over, discussed it with her daughter,  and the fellow was given one more chance. In her own case, 30 years ago, no one was apologetic, no one even saw her out when her parents came to take her back home , and there were whispers.

The daughter went back.

Two months later, the beatings and drinking had commenced, and slowly , so did new demands.  The daughter sat the family down. In front of her father-in-law, she said she had tolerated a lot, even agreed to give the fellow a second chance, but this was it. She mentioned the name of the intermediary who had suggested this alliance.  Telling him this story would expose her in laws.  They were wary of that.

She demanded that she be taken back to her mother's place, and she would not be returning. She packed, and left with the father-in-law, came back home, and despite several entreaties, requests and pleadings, her mother and brothers not only refused to send her back, they even initiated divorce proceedings, that documented the fellow's behaviour etc, and saw it to completion.

She has her own name back.

S's daughter  has trained in stitching clothes, as a beauticians assistant, and has a daily job in a ladies hostel as a cook now.  She contributes to the family kitty, volunteers to look after the nephews/kids when she is free,  and S,  is currently tension free.

 Though she will often discuss with me how she wants to see the daughter  independently settled in her own lifetime...

The great thing is that she learned from her own experience and her daughter's. And took action. She has the confidence to face the chatterers and the gossipers.

With zero formal education, her own life has shaped her thoughts, and she doesn't worry if  someone is shocked by her thinking.

She was shocked by the story of Nishana.  More so by the capitulation by her parents to the in law's demands.  Nishana , like her(S.),  and  S.'s  daughter, should have been brought back by her parents to her own home,  and should have been alive today. 

In her own way, S. has her own SatyaMev Jayate......

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kyrabai of Kokan

She has mostly forgotten about being Elena.

She is Kyrabai now, ever since  she married Suryakant , as he is called, in Velas, the village near Ratnagiri from where his family hails. 

They change the bride's name after marriage ,  Aji, the old matriarch said.   And so , she is now Kyra. Named after Kairi, the raw mango.

Aji often complains about the sun these days.  It wasn't like this when she came to live in Velas , many years ago, as a new bride. She'd then be out on the beach, waving goodbye at the boats, as they bobbed on the waves, flags aflutter, or waiting for the boats , in the evening or late afternoon, sometimes helping with some  general boat repair, and daily sorting of the catch. A decent rub of coconut milk and oil, and a scrub of turmeric and she would be fresh for another day.  Life was all about making a life in Velas, under the guidance of the elders.

Then her eldest, Suryakant, left the village to earn some extra money at a job in the plains , against her wishes. Life changed.   And he returned, with Kyra as his wife.

A very lively and active daughter-in-law, Kyra participated in everything, learnt the traditional cooking, and everyone was curious about her....

At first Aji would laugh at all the stuff that Kyra used to put on her face, when she went out in the sun.  But then she learned something.

Like the institution of the family, the Sun too had changed. Authority was being challenged in subtle ways.   A protective layer way up in the sky, above the clouds,  that filtered out the dangerous variety of Sun's rays, had developed, holes, like the Mumbai roads, thanks to a sudden rush of various machines like refrigerators, that used and emitted some undesirable gases. And the Sun, like a fellow gone berserk in a BMW  without a driver's licence, simply pushed on, down to us, with all the dangerous components in its rays.

And so Kantabai from two houses away had developed these spots from working in the fields last summer, and Bhaurao's folks complained of uncomfortable scratches and rough scaly skin after having to travel daily  for hours on foot , to the Taluka place.

It all changed after Kyra arrived.  She would have these bright yellow tubes in her bag. And particularly when she planned to be out for a longish time, and almost daily in the hot summer, she would apply stuff from the tubes, to all the exposed skin.

Sometime in March, when the Olive Ridley Turtles (for which Velas was justifiably famous ) hatched, there would be droves of people coming in from the cities, to participate in the Olive Ridley program, where the hatched turtles were escorted safely back into the sea. Kyra was a member of a local NGO, that did this work, with some others, with great dedication and care.   

Of coure, Kyra and Suryakant  made many friends with the regular visitors,  and some of the girls had volunteered to get these yellow tubes for Kyra.

And so, Aji had some applied on to her arms ,face and legs, when she was to walk to the next village for a pre-marriage ceremony in the family.  Suryakant's cousins who accompanied her, made use of it too.  It is an Indian company called Lakme, and Aji is very proud that they make, what she calls, "all these fancy things, like in films".

She doesn't mean the Bollywood movies. Thanks to the cricket mania now prevalent through the length and breadth of the country, Aji saw all these grown up chaps slathered with off white stuff on their noses and cheeks , on the cricket pitch on TV. Her grandsons clarified that this was called "sunscreen ", like a "purdah" to shelter you from the bad effects of the sun.

The guys on the field looked a bit stupid, but Aji is just happy, that women like her, Kyra and the younger ones, who gallivanted in the mango orchards up the road,had something that you could properly rub in, was invisible, and  much better.  Some of it was even sweat proof, and didn't run .....

This summer is a bit special. Kyra and Suryakant are starting a seafood restaurant down the beach , some distance away.   Some of Aji's great traditional recipe's will be made for guests.  The cousins are polishing up their English.  Some fancy glasses like in films have been purchased to serve Kokum juice and Soul Kadhi in a very posh way. 

Aji is preparing some dry masalas for them on a grand scale. Some of the whole masalas  were drying in the sun, outside the house, watched over by the younger kids.

Till Aji got there.

They waited. A day in the Sun, always meant Aji's tryst with the Lakme Sun Magic....

It wouldn't take long at all. Aji would be there in five minutes ! ......   

(This is being submitted as an entry for the Indiblogger Lakme Diva Blogger Contest. )

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mothers and mothers

As a child, there was a certain no-nonsense element to her growing-up years. In what was then called the outskirts of Pune City, in a very traditional , conservative locality....

At a time which really set the standards in what she hankered for, what she got and what she learned....

She remembers, in 4th grade, being totally impressed with buckram frocks (that kept things permanently flared), and what were called rock-and-roll shoes. While the former was acceded to by the elders in the form of a buckram slip you wore inside a skirt, there were fine skirmishes on the subject of the shoes.  Naughty Boy black shoes in school, keds for games,  sandals/chappals otherwise, and her lifestyle really didn't demand the rock-and-roll shoes, heels and stuff. She got them, when she was much older, in high school, but always looked on in awe seeing her 5th grade friends wearing them on school birthdays .

Pune Camp was a different place in those days, with a full Anglo-Indian/Parsi/military ethos, folks in suits and frocks, high heels clicking, air kissing and stuff, Jim Reeves singing in the background, and people talking of "jam sessions",  and her biggest mortification was when she once ended up going there with her mother, wearing a pale green and black zari  bordered parkar polka and ran into one of her classmates called Darius Cooper walking with his Mom. While she , dying of embarrassment, tried to hide and look elsewhere, Darius's mother simply loved the parkar polka, and had a discussion about it with her Mom.  A small learning about how you may be simply making a noise about something unimportant to other folks, so chill!

For a while, she started behaving like the fashionable folks in her class. There were these strange things that were followed, like not fully eating or drinking whatever was on your plate/glass. And so we used to think we were being extra modern when we left a centimetre  of colas and fruit juices to waste in the glass, and remnants of food on our plates, with a fork placed just so. Polishing up your plate was infra-dig and not done. You also didn't turn the glass upside down, swallow the drink till the last molecule, and then make air-swallowing noises.

This worked, till her mother noticed it one day, and declared in no uncertain terms, that nothing, but nothing on the plate was to be wasted, and same held for whatever you drank. At home, you dare not turn up noses at food, you ate whatever was served initially on your plate, and seconds were your choice. But the end result had to be a clean plate . (Sometimes , we even looked at our image reflected in it :-)....)

In her childhood, the recommended  movies were either mythologicals, or something like "Tenzing Conquers Everest"; the Indian News Review before a movie was never to be missed in those non-TV days; you saw umpteen shots of Nehru cutting a ribbon to inaugurate something, shots of molten steel flowing in some factory,  a bunch of worthies walking in a shop floor both hands clasped behind , as was the approved officially favored style, and for a long time she would think that big hockey games (that were shown there) were played with lilting fast background music.

 In all this strict lifestyle, the parents however, encouraged hobbies in elocution, writing, music and the arts and sports.  Sometimes in the face of disapproving smirks from folks .

By and by, she slogged a lot and she sometimes succeeded. But she learnt, as they say, to treat ecstatic wins and depressing losses with the same equanimity. She never went overboard, and hissing a loud "yes" and pumping of her  hands did not happen. She simply got on with what she had to do.  There was, really,  no lottery mentality in her life.

She studied and worked as an adult and  had the same philosophy. Sometimes she succeeded and sometimes she didn't, despite the slog. She also learned , that there were different rules for different people at work. But so firmly was the work ethos dinned into her head, that it was clear that she worked to her own ethical and work standards, within the rules.

Funny situations like  someone who did not do any work, being favored, occurred. She explained it to herself, saying, she worked at stuff that was evaluated and subject to acceptance levels. Those who didn't do any work, had nothing to be evaluated, and hence by default, people simply overlooked that part of the evaluation form !  Whether it was work, sports, or even catching a bus , a decent dedicated slog was always her first difficult step, and she would then reach some place from where she could see the top in the distance.

And so, today,  she is surprised , that in her old age, when there is nothing of work left to evaluate, and no new opinions to be formed, she is suddenly tasting , an enjoyable  success of sorts.  A childhood hobby of writing was brought out of storage and dusted clean. The technology is different, there is no one to draw a red line through words, and glare at her. She blogs and writes poems. Sometimes she also thinks she is an artist.  And she doesn't care who laughs and /or passes snide comments.  The younger working years and her childhood,  have toughened her.

Strangely, there is now, what can be called, a lottery element in her life. Though nothing  ever, like scratching cards in malls, all expenses paid holiday trips,  winning 15 gms gold or maybe even a car......:-)

 She tends to win prizes for what she writes. She blogs and she has many virtual friends.

It started with writing a  tribute post on a retired cricketer and winning his coffee-table book as a prize.

Then a series of writing  competitions based on specific subjects  related to Mothers, Fathers, Friends , Country etc etc , where she won gift vouchers and painstakingly made, one at a time,  a set of 6 personalized coffee mugs depicting a recent family trip.

Then there were some Facebook competitions where you captioned pictures and they had daily prizes in the form of hefty gift vouchers.  She won one !

A travel portal had a Haiko tweeting competition, and her practice at writing instant poetry helped. She won three times.They sent her a camera bag, a 16GB SDS  data card, and an electric kettle !

The same portal then had a poem constructing competition, where , given some previous line, you completed poem lines, one a day, and they selected daily winners.  She won once and was the proud owner of a journal and a Schaeffers  pen.

In between A Women's Web portal held a few competitions. She won twice, and was presented with gift vouchers of amazing amounts and mugs to commemorate that!

Recently, she was one of the 5 main winners of a sunglasses company blog post competition organised by the same folks who gave her her first win, the Cricket book.    A pair of amazing Rayban Aviators came in the mail.

And very recently, she participated in a Family Memories Blog Competition,  and was lucky again to be declared the winner, the prize being a Flipkart Voucher of , what she actually considers, an obscene amount.

It isn't a surprise that every time something has to be spent online to use an earned voucher, the daughter desperately needs something, and has been looking for it.

Naturally, the 16 GB SDS card doesn't work on her old ancient camera, but nicely works on her daughter's new  DSLR. The camera bag holds the daughter's old camera, batteries, and stuff from her pre DSLR days. The daughter  must use the Schaeffers pen for an official workshop she is attending as part of her job, and various kinds of Green tea have been imbibed in the assorted personalized mugs.  Then, of course,  her daughter's 346 friends on Facebook have recently found out that she always wanted to get Rayban Aviator sunglasses, and guess what, here they are !  

Like she says,  there  now appears to be a lottery element in  her life.  And looks like, also, in her daughter's life.....

And so she looks back at her life, and her childhood with great nostalgia,  and thinks about those gone before and now no more, who encouraged her in her hobbies in her younger days and also taught her to ensure that her feet were always touching the Terra Firma, particularly when the mind tended to soar.......

She also thinks they are watching, and what's more, they think that grandchildren can do wrong......

 She looks up, and thanks them .

She should have actually done that long ago.

 But Mothers Day is happening, and it seems to be a good idea to do that now !    

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Vegetarian Politics or Political Veggies ?

The mango season is well upon us, amidst rumors of  the Hapoos Alphonso mangoes being priced out of reach of the Hoi-polloi this year, and counterfeit carbide tainted "hapoos "  from non-Kokan areas of the country rampant in the market.

Intrigued as I was , about the intrusion of a Portuguese name   , I was aghast to find Wikipedia saying that some guy called Afonso de Albuquerque used to travel around Goa, and bring these mangoes with him. They also then say that this variety was then taken to the Kokan region , and other parts of India.  It seems the locals couldn't pronounce Afonso, and started calling it Ahpoos. ( If Afonso was bringing these from , say Portugal, we should have heard  praises of Portuguese mangoes, by now, which we don't.).  To me, it is more believable, that the Portuguese who relentlessly forced their own culture on the original inhabitants of Goa, might have forced someone to name this great mango variety as a compulsory tribute of sorts to the Afonso....

Folks in Uttar Pradesh now will not have any such problems. They have recently decided to name a mango variety grown there , after their latest Chief Minister, and so we now have the  ....(drum roll).....Akhilesh Mango.  Turns out that the same folks have also introduced the world to the Sachin Tendulkar Mango and Aishwarya Rai mango, but such is the stature of the Devgad Hapoos Mangoes, that these celebrity mangoes kind of fade into oblivion.

The West has a tradition of naming  prepared foods  rather than grown produce , after folks . While I haven't heard anyone naming popular snacks after eminent folks in India, maybe the guy naming Mangoes in Uttar Pradesh will set a precedent.

The possibilities  simply boggle the mind.

---Like the Bamata (Manerjee) Mirchi,  short, quick to get angry, fiery, and something you cannot ignore, because it is so badly needed. In cooking and coalitions...

---Like the Mranabda Ukerji Onions ,  who, without fail, unravel, each year in February-March,  layers and layers of new taxes, designed to bring a copious flow of tears for the common man...

--Like the  Sapil Quibble cauliflower,  declaring all broccolis the same as cauliflowers.  So what if it costs more to get them . He will make it so that everyone can buy broccoli, and its OK if someone suffers.

-- -Like the Pawarful  high-glycemic-index Sweet Corns, and other  ex sweet corns, now introducing the Baby Corns , to walk in their footsteps, and like girls, these baby corns have flowing (golden) silky tressses

--- Like the Anna Karela,  with poky tendencies,  spilling the bitter truth to all and bitter, it is actually better to fast....

---- Like the  Swaraj Kakdi,  with a big spot of red chilly powder, always fresh in the Delhi and legislative heat, full of argumentative juice....

---- Like the Multi-Karat Red Beetroots,  angry at being ignored at the sabjiwallas....

-----Like the Lal-ooo(h)! tomatoes, and it's such a pity you cannot use them in Cabinet Samosa as stuffing.....

----Like,  the NarunaKidhi variety of different types of related green beans, or is it "has beens" ?   All slightly more mature now, folks uninterested in buying and using them, and yet they follow the dictum, "I'll  break (veggie coalitions), but I simply wont bend" causing some problems in the main sabji organization.....

---Like,  Waayamati Capsicums,  sometimes  a dangerous angry  red, sometimes, flush with gold yellow, but mostly  green, to counter all that concrete environment overflowing in the statue parks, and then even elephants prefer green woods...

----Like the High-a-lalita Hoopla, sorry Bhop-la, resplendent in yellow and upset in orange,  vociferous and crackling about the government making a NCTC Raita out of it.

----Like the wayward legislative Methis and  Kothmirs, green every five years, weeded out every now and then,  but individually , the leaves light enough to flit  all over the scam cooking chambers

It's not just the veggies.  It's even sometimes the grass.

 Back in the 1950's ,  the country imported wheat from the US under the PL 480 scheme. Along with the wheat, we also received a weed,  impressively named Parthenium Hysterophorus. First noticed in Pune, it was ignored, till it spread rapidly in North Karnataka,  and even as far as Jammu . A grass with an erect green shoot system, with a creamy white flower profusion at the top, this was promptly dubbed  Congress Grass, since it emulated the very fast growing greedy political folks who sported white Gandhi caps.

In the last so many years, the white cap has become synonymous with politicians , per se, regardless of party.   350 lakh hectares of land in the country (or over 10% or our land area) including 20 lakh hectares of arable land has been infested with the actual weed.  The cumulative loss on account of this weed till date with its impact on humans, animals as well as crops so far has been estimated at a whopping Rs 160,516 crores!

They say a Mexican Beetle , with another impressive name ,  Zygogramma bicolorata, has now been introduced as it simply eats up and destroys the  Parthenium Hysterophorus .

Shades of 160,516 Crore Scams, investigations, and Lok Zygogramma Anna ....

This year , vegetable prices have soared beyond imagination. The analogy with politicians is complete.

In the meanwhile Hapoos mangoes continue being out of reach.

 Some say, they are being exported now ever since the then-President  George Bush  had some in Delhi, and promptly allowed their import into the US, so he could enjoy them in Texas in retirement......

Another scam ? ....:-))

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Life events that clicked.....

Pursuing a sport seriously , say in Mumbai,   or for that matter , traveling out of town for it,  is  , to say the least, NOT an easy thing. 

For her, daily training was the simpler part.  A great pool  with a great coach within 10 minutes jogging distance,  a two wheeler mother who daily took her for her workouts  of several kilometres in the water,  a very very strict coach, great fellow swimmers, and they would rush back at 9 pm, dripping hair,windbreakers and huge bags held precariously on the two wheeler, revving up the incline.

Going for competitions was another thing. Traveling in the Mumbai suburban trains, and one always carried sufficient water, fluids, and assorted  fresh cooked carb foods, boiled eggs, bananas, not to mention an old bedsheet to spread on the ground around the pool. Insisting on warmups, inside and outside the water,  avoiding wilful hunger pangs, keeping one ear attuned to announcements of her events, while she met her long lost friends from other pools;  mobilizing by the other end of the pool to cheer oneself hoarse beseeching the child to  "Pull !  Pull !", and sometimes, both being delighted with the result.  Travel in Mumbai was short but unpredictably crowded,  not meant for lugging big kit bags and food along with two little wilful girls, and you had to ensure they exited the train with you through the crowds, and didn't leave anything behind.

Out of town trips for meets, were even more unpredictable.

 Some were very much within the cities, but some were very much on some terrible undulating outskirts in the middle of nowhere, where you lugged a tired child and heavy wet bags for huge distances in the evening trafficless gloom , till you spied a ricksha and prayed that he agreed to take you back to civilization.  If he did not, you simply pushed on, luggage and tired child  in tow. There were usually, simply no arrangements by the organizers  to drop competitors at the nearest bus or train station.  Most arrangments for food and lodging pertained to the officials.  

Some were  very much in the hinterland of the state, and the official government  arrangements assumed you would be travelling with bedding, clothes and buckets and tumblers.  Overrun  by hundreds of swimmers wandering around with cycling shorts and tees (amidst the wandering local pigs trying to figure out what all the excitement was), something unheard of in that town, the pool gallery would be hugely packed daily, with folks rushing in to enjoy sights of folks in speedos, racing each other. Staying in whatever available hotel, giving pieces of one's mind to  staff who knocked at odd times, and occasionally simply changing hotels in anger.  The electricity going off at the station crowded with 200 swimmers waiting for two trains , and having to approximately board the right train.

And then there were the 5 km Sea Races. In Mumbai.

Held in the dirtiest area of the Sea, at The Gateway of India.  Usually packed with catamarans and boats, diesel smells,  and oil splotches in the water.  A small shamiana enclosure(without a roof) , ideal for 10-15 girls , but used by 7-8 times as many, meant for changing. And the mother carrying two 5 litre huge bottles of water from home, 40 kilometres away ,  since showers at the Gateway were nonexistent . The daughter emerging 3rd, coming out of the water, studded with dissolved fuel, dirt and assorted black junk stuff , and the mother emptying the two lugged water containers over her head. And then in a sudden discovery,  some of the girls rushing to the posh loo of the Taj Mahal Hotel nearby in desperation, after the race.

There have been sulks, arguments, questions, whoops, cribs, guffaws, tears and stampings of feet, over the years, and the mother has had to maintain  somewhat of a earth anchor through it all.

Today, for the mother,   for many years,  evenings have not meant the pool,  her daughter's practice , or managing the transportation. The daughter is on her own there. In a kind of zone.  She still does workouts, but  competitions are passé and old hat. The new buzzword is coaching.  Encouraging older women and  young children to swim, under her own coach's watchful eye.

Things like work and Facebook appear to be more attractive.  Lots of friends and photos.

The mother, in her own old fashioned way, is also on Facebook.

And she got a notification yesterday. Asking for a confirmation of something on her daughter's Timeline. 

Typically she didn't understand what was happening, and how she came into the scheme of things.

The daughter leaned over from her laptop, clicked on some link in the notification,  turned to her and said, " You were so much and always a part of all this.  You need to confirm  this , so it appears on my Timeline....."

The mother looked  confusedly at the screen, absorbing the words "Life event" , went back so many years in her mind , and  clicked.

The young girl had tagged her. 

It was a photograph of a very young girl, with her very first medal haul in November 1996........