Sophie’s choice and a touch of Corneille

Sophie’s choice and a touch of Corneille

From the instant I found the strength to look deep into Manu‘s eyes and made him part of my morrows, I took the irrevocable decision of making the dreams of others mine. From that moment there was no coming back. That was also the day I felt the weight of a Damocles’s sword hanging above my head. That was because to make these dreams come true I would have to depend on others till the day I could attain what is known as sustainability. I assure you that I tried everything under the sun to reach that sustainability but failed. The Damocles sword inched closer and closer.

In the past years there have been times when the sword has almost fallen but was stopped in time as some miracle occurred and we were able to carry on unscathed. But a mail that dropped in my box yesterday gave the final push granting me a short reprieve to put my house in order. In this case it means closing some of our centres. Easy peasy some would say. But not for me.

Today I am faced with a Sophie’s choice. I need to send one or more of my children to the slaughter house. The Cartesian in me would say: look at the figure that will be withdrawn, look at the costs of each centre, assess the value of each programme and do the maths. If I do that, then the axe falls on the tiniest ones: the creche. Why is is that these Cornelian dilemmas where one is obliged to choose between two courses of action either of which having a detrimental effect on ourselves or on someone near and dear to us always affect the ones who have no voice. I cannot begin to imagine how these tiny tots aged between 2 and 5 will feel when they are told one fine morning that the three wheeler will never come to fetch them again. What have they done to deserve this. They do not even have a voice to say what they feel. No more singing and dancing; no more picnics in the parks, no more cartoons on the big TV no more joy or laughter.

The reason for this cut is that India is no more the flavour of the day. Rape cases and a negative international press has taken us off the tourism map. And of course there is donor fatigue. All this is understandable when you think with your head but when the heart jumps in then you are bound to say: what did these little kids do to deserve this.

I knew this day would come. I knew it from the moment I realised that Planet Why could never become a reality and that we would have to remain dependent on the generosity of others, a generosity that one cannot expect to be limitless. And yet these little children cost a bauble for many, less than a dinner in a starred restaurant.

Today I sit helpless and bewildered. Do I even have the right to pray for another miracle. Only time will tell. 

Off with their heads and other shenanigans

Off with their heads and other shenanigans

A few months ago, when a new party that promised to clean up our political system arrived upon, it sounded like a breath of fresh air. Sadly the air has become stale faster than one would have thought. It has become difficult if not impossible to defend this new kid on the block who now threatens to send media persons to jail if a probe found them guilty. It almost sounds like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland and her Off with their heads! Somehow this new political kid believes that chopping off heads will solve all India’s problems.

I began this blog a while back and then somehow stopped writing as I watched helplessly and with a tinge of sadness the shenanigans we are being treated to in this rather baffling election campaign.

A few months back the emergence of the AAP seemed God sent and we all went out to support them. They seemed like a breath of fresh air, an option we could honestly vote for. And more than that, we all felt, I certainly did, that they would provide a new force that could compel the well greased political parties to relook at themselves and clean their stables. The euphoria died too soon and we watched helplessly as hubris that seems to be in osmosis with power, hijacked the new face of Indian politics.

I wonder what brought this change? Dealing with corruption and ending it is no mean task and cannot be done in a day. It certainly cannot be done by sending every one to jail! Corruption has become second nature and almost a way of life. To root it out would necessitate finding the neck of this hydra headed monster whose numerous heads have to be killed one by one, till one finally gets at its vulnerable neck. Off with their heads is no panacea here.

For David to take on Goliath is a tough task that Goliath can only achieve with wisdom, restraint and above all cunning. as it is a matter of beating them in games they are masters at. In my humble opinion they fell into a well laid trap when they decided to form a Government without having the numbers and with the support of the very people they were seen to despise. In hindsight, they would have been better off not forming any government even if that meant another election. It was still honeymoon period and they would have come back with a bang. For the next 49 days I watched with woe the games the opponents played as they reeled out the rope that would ultimately hang them. They left a city that had entrusted its hopes rudderless. Promises made were forgotten and we will soon be paying the price as from April 1st – and this is no April Fool – our electricity bills will soar. I am now contemplating solar energy panels on my roof.

Has David been seduced by hubris. It looks like it as one watches the AAP story enfold. One cannot begin to imagine what their plan is. The sagacious way would have been to remain a counterpoint to other well entrenched political parties. A kind of pressure group that would have compelled them to mend their ways. A waiting time that would have helped them develop the ruses and stratagems needed to slay all the heads of the corruption and poor governance Hydra. The hurried jump into national politics seems very premature and leaves us voters perplexed to say the least.

So what are we going to do come election day. My heart still tells me to give them a chance as it maybe a long time before an alternative comes our way. True one is a little worried about their programmes and strategies and most of all their ability to run a country as vast and complex as India, but if would be refreshing, again in my humble opinion, to have them form a substantial pressure group within the hallowed halls of Parliament to ensure that Parliament works and bills are passed. One would hope that it would also give them time to learn.

If not they, then who? That is a big question. What we have seen in the last weeks is a real masterpiece of the theatre of of absurd. Can one hold on to ideologies anymore? The answer is no. Every day we see people from one party joining their bitter rivals. It is almost the flavour of election 2014. Winnability is the key word, sleeping with the enemy is kosher and sulking is a new entrant. You do not get a ticket, you sulk and either crossover the other side or stand as an independent. Anything to spoil the game. Over the past weeks one has not heard any politician spell out its vision for India. Will they build new schools, new hospitals. No one knows. At present everyone is busy pulling out the other and the dirty department tricks is in full swing.

Everyone had shouted loud and clear about denying tickets to ‘corrupt’ candidates. It seems that the word corruption is interpreted in a very different manner by politicians. It is not a matter of perception but a convoluted set of legalese that is nothing short of absurd. Many of the people contesting are corrupt and no jargon can whitewash them. Yet they have found tickets with all political parties. Winnability again! It is also carpe diem for all relatives: son, daughters, brothers and all else. If the father is suspect let the son get a ticket, it is all in the family.

Do political parties think that a few glib slogans, page long advertisements and extended and dramatic commercials on the idiot box suffice to convince voters who are fully aware of the day-to-day live drama behind the scenes? What it all looks like is a bunch of unruly kids fighting for a share of the pie.

The latest act in this absurd and unending play was the induction of the leader of a rabid religious party whose 3 minutes of fame came courtesy a shameful attack on young people in a pub. The man was accepted then refused by one party and if that was not enough, the rival party induced a member of the same gang to boot him out hours later. It almost seemed orchestrated.

I would like to believe that the Indian electorate has come of age. I hope it comes out to vote with sagacity. But the question remains: who do we vote for this time.

Ethan and Meher a fairy tale

Ethan and Meher a fairy tale

About a decade ago two beautiful children were born at about the same time, one somewhere in India and the other somewhere in the United States. One was a little boy and the other a little girl. One was named Ethan and the other Meher! No one would have ever thought that their paths would cross some day, as not only did thousands of miles across land and sea separate them but they belonged to very different worlds. You see in our time and age we put people in boxes often according to how rich and well off they are and if Ethan belonged to what one calls the privileged world, little Meher was from a very poor one. But there was someone, the one who lives upstairs, who was smiling as he had set a miracle in motion, a miracle that would take a decade to enfold.

The miracle in question could possibly have sprung because of a mistake – intended or inadvertent – that our man upstairs wanted to correct. Whilst Ethan’s life was set on course, Meher’s was not quite so. When she was just a baby her cot caught fire and she suffered terrible burns. Her face and head were badly burnt and her tiny fingers fused together. This meant she would never be able to lead a normal life and most of all never be able to hold a pencil. The doors of learning closed for her.

Ethan grew up and went to school but Meher played in the graveyard next to her home in the village and was made fun of by her peers because of her ungainly scars. That is when the man upstairs decided to set his miracle in motion. Meher was brought to Delhi and and the tiny hovel in which her family moved was located next to our centre. Her mother use to let Meher wander around and one day our coordinator saw her rummaging the garbage that lay around a sweet shop, looking for scraps to eat. Meher entered the project why world and life would never be the same.

A volunteer with a huge heart decided to take matters in hand. The rest is history. We all realised that the only salvation for this little girl was through education and the first thing to do was to give her her hands back. For that to happen her story had to be told and it was and somewhere thousands of miles away people got touched by her story and decided to make it theirs.

A series of corrective surgeries done by a kind doctor and lots of chess games made the miracle a reality. Meher could go to school and she did. Today she is in Class IV and top of her class. A few days ago I met Ethan for the first time. A beautiful picture landed on my screen. I was informed that this young man had been instrumental in collecting the funds for her school fees. I was moved to tears but not a surprised as one would have thought because I know that children see with their hearts instinctively till adults mess around with them. Blessed are those whose parents also see with their hearts.

Meher saw Ethan’s picture and wrote him a letter. I hope and pray that these two children meet some day. I know that they hold the key to many more miracles. Who said fairy tales do not exist.

Happy birthday Popples

Happy birthday Popples

Wednesday was Popples’s birthday. He is 12 now. How time flies. This was his first birthday in his new school and unlike his other school, birthdays are celebrated with style here. Something we did not know. Utpal had called me last week and given me a list of things he wanted me to bring: a cake baked by Shamika, fruit juices, sweets to give his pals and of course his present. What he forgot to tell us was that we had to reach before the day boarders left so that we could all celebrate together. I thought that we could only meet him after school hours. I was told that he was in tears as he wanted to take all his friends to the ‘party room’ he had ‘booked’. I felt like a rat and kicked myself hard. Next year I would be there an hour before time.

We reached as school was over so his day boarder friends were leaving. We had nevertheless ensured that he was given sweets to distribute. We finally got to see him and he stood out as in this school kids are allowed to wear home clothes on their birthdays. One more point to remember: next birthday I will make sure he gets new clothes to wear!

After a big hug he told us about the party room and the fact that he had to go and get the key and we should follow his pals who would guide us. We gathered all our wares and followed meekly. I was a little worried as I did not know if we had enough to eat but mercifully the school has a lovely canteen run by a set of resourceful ladies. Mamaji who had accompanied us was commandeered to go to the canteen and pick up whatever we could. The loot was 15 hot dogs and 14 patties all yum. The key and lady in charge were found and the room opened. It had a long table and many chairs and though the lights were dim, our enthusiasm made up for all the shortcomings. We were a merry band with Utpal the perfect host. His little pals were settled. They came not only from far corners of India but form Afghanistan and the Maldives. Quite an international gathering. The cake was brought out, candles lit and happy birthday sung with fervour. The cake was cut amidst song and laughter.

Then Utpal told me that they wanted to dance so we needed to go outside. We did and Utpal danced while Nawab, his Afghan pal sang. It was a memorable experience that brought tears to my eyes. Then everyone danced to the sound of a cell phone. We would have wanted to stay longer but could not and left the boys in a happy mood.

I was moved and happy. God bless my darling Popples.

How can you quit being a woman

How can you quit being a woman

Dear India Women, you are condemned to play second fiddle as your  biological and natural constraints preclude you from attaining certain goals. These words are not mine but those of our Air Chief who believes that these ‘constraints’ is what makes it impossible for us women become fighter pilots and go into combat mode. The reason is, and again it is not my opinion but his, that flying fighter planes is concerned, it’s a very challenging job. Women are by nature not physically suited for flying fighters for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems. I must quickly state that this does not apply to women from the US, Russia, Turkey, Malaysia, Srilanka, Bangladesh et al. This is only for us Indian women. Are we biologically different to our sisters in other lands. 

This is absurd and ridiculous but so in sync with our patriarchal society. We are not even accorded with having the minimum amount of common sense to understand the demands of such jobs before we decide to go for them. No, like in all matters, a man will decide how we feel, how strong we are, what are our biological limitations and so on. And we must demurely accept their diktats. That is called PATRIARCHY and we women are bound to live under its tyranny.

Who are men to understand our biological and natural constraints. Does any man know what menstruation feels like, what menstrual cramps or labour pain are? An dear Air Chief if you think that a flying job is challenging than what would you say about the job that is thrust at us just because we are women. I mean housewife though I find the term derogatory and would prefer to call it home management. And what about motherhood when you become and are held responsible for a life you create, nurture and tend to till death does you part. Have you not, like so many fathers, quipped ‘your child’ when faced with a challenging situation. You are only there for the good times and strangely absent for the difficult ones. The wonderful job every woman has to fulfil is that of a cook, cleaner, wife, mother, partner, sexual gratifier, hostess, doctor, psychologist, teacher, finance manager, human resource manager and many more. Who do you run to when you have a problem at your work? Who do you go to when you feel insecure and inadequate? And you expect quite merrily that one woman, yes just one single woman does all that with a smile and with no room for error. Have you ever wondered who she runs to? I wish every man could walk into a woman shoes for just a day, maybe that would earn us their respect. Being a woman is challenging.

You take our multi-tasking for granted. We work without leave or absence even when we are ill and hurting. We cannot quit our job. How does one quit being a woman when you are reminded everyday that you just that a woman. I forgot to mention that above all that I have stated women are also working and contributing to the family kitty. So we too have a 9 to 5  job but cannot come and demand a meal or a cuppa when we come back tired after a hard day at work. So looks like our biological and natural constraints are not constraints after all but quite the opposite. We must be having helluva body and spirit to manage all that after all!

And no one lets us forget that we are a woman. Each time we step out of the house we are ogled at, pinched or abused in some way or the other. We may not by nature not physically suited for flying fighters but it seems we are good fodder for abuse, abuse of all kinds, insidious or open. We are also a good commodity to trade and of course rape material as we ‘invite’ rape by the way we dress, talk, look even if we are three and half year old. 

You think I am talking a load of c***.  Read this article about trafficking where women are sold, yes sold, to vegetable processing units @ 100 rs, a soap bar and a bottle of oil a month! That is what we are worth a soap bar and a bottle of oil and yet we survive and help others. That is what a woman is all about a survivor, no matter what you throw at her face.

I am proud of being a woman and if I were to be born again I would want to be a woman.

So you can keep your cockpit, ours is far more challenging!