I am in love!

Yet again.

Its not about the nation, politics or any social cause. This time its me. Yes, I’m in love.

Every time I decide to leave the city and go back to my hometown, the city of joy gives me a reason to stay back, fight, fall and get up. And keep falling and getting up till you’ve achieved what you’ve come for.

It appears as if some unseen force holds me back. That something somewhere lies pending. Okay, I stop here with the flow of my emotions because it’s getting more philosophical than my mother can ever be.

So by now you would have understood that I am in love with the city, the people who justify its suffix ‘of joy’. Only a couple of weeks back I was down with fever. In the PG (Paying Guest House) I lay on my bed in need of medical attention. 103 degrees body temperature. These are busy times; people do not bother what’s happening to you unless it concerns them. None turned up to peek on me or ask what is it that I need. I struggled and had the Sinarest that I had in store for an emergency like this.

Its in the evening that I hear the ‘Bai’ narrating what she shopped from the nearly store for her daughter and son-in-law on the occasion of Jamai Shashti. I could hardly open my eyes, my subconscious mind receiving the sounds. The everyday music of shutting the door, banging of locker, giggles of the girls in PG and suddenly the clinging of bangles become distinct. Someone’s tapping my right foot. “Cholo Utho, aami tomaake daactar.er kaacche niye jayi. O akhoni boshe. Ei jor.ta bhaalo noy. Eita aamaro hoye chilo goto shopta.he. Eita viral. Shehetu tomaake daactar.er kaacche jete hobe, na hole aaro beshi shomay laagbe thik hote”, the Bai says. It roughly translates to “Come on get up. I’ll take you to the doc. He sits at this time of the day. This fever isn’t good. Even I had it last week, it is viral. You need to see the doctor else you may take longer to recover).

I could barely respond and signalled her to let me rest and that I’ve taken tablets. She did not perturb my sleep again.

I got well soon. The day after, she comes for the household chores again and grins at me. I feel connected top her. It is extraordinary that you find association in strangers and a bond forms, to cherish for lifetime.

Howrah Bridge during the day, Kolkata

Howrah Bridge during the day, Kolkata

Not So Lavish!

20141215_174754-1“Kim Kardashian spends $ 10,000 a month on styling team for 17 month-old daughter” reports The Times of India on its Global page (15th December, 2014). (This of course does not include nutrition and health care).

Brilliant! Now let’s take a look at some more facts and figures:

  • More than one billion children are severely deprived of at least one of the essential goods and services they require to survive, grow and develop—these include nutrition, water, sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, adequate shelter, education and information. As a result almost 9.2 million children under-five die every year. A further 3.3 million babies are stillborn.
  • Over one third of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition.
  • Poor families are often unable to obtain even the most basic health care for their children. Poor or delayed care-seeking contributes to up to 70% of all under-five child deaths.

(Source: WHO’s Maternal, Newborn and Child healthcare portal

http://www.who.int/pmnch/media/press_materials/fs/fs_mdg4_childmortality/en/)

In the midst of such contrasting statistics, we still prefer to turn a blind eye towards what needs utmost assiduity except for few dedicated NGOs and organs of United nations like WHO and UNICEF. My motive is not to highlight the way the celebrities or the financially well off section of our society spend, but the appalling fashion of distribution of wealth. This is applicable not only to the popular faces of our society but you and me.

Fine, let us not bring up the question of what are we, as individuals, doing to rid the society and nation as a whole of aforesaid impairity. Reflect on this: You do not hesitate to pay 105 rupees for a sip of coffee at CCD, Barista or Brewberry but would speculate thousand times before clicking on the DONATE button on a website of a non-profit organisation fronting for a cause like this, wherein it tries to bridge this gap on inequality.

We choose to be reluctant. Why? Because that amount shall hurt my pocket as it will neither be an investment nor a source of pleasure.

Well in terms of healthcare its better if I do not shed light on the government’s role- Mass tubectomy where the surgeon wanted to create a record of most number of surgeries in a day. Resulted in death of 13 women;Mid Day Meal scheme of Bihar Govt. became the last meal consumed by more than 20 children

…and the list might go on. We can keep the rest for next. The world is coming up with new virus and diseases before we can eradicate the existing ones. Time is running, so are people in the race of show off and the countdown begins.

City Of Joy…. And hopes

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), already salivating at the mention of the name huh?

I am not particularly fond of brands be it of clothes, food or any other product. The well decorated walls with the posters of chicken and rice prepared in different styles and pleasant milieu only add to the seducing smell of the food. On my first visit to one of the avenues of the restaurant, I could not help noticing the strangeness in the attendants there. They never speak.

This is so because they are differently able. To put it in a raw manner: they can neither speak nor hear. If one wants to place an order, one may communicate through sign language. Or show the food item on the menu card and let know the quantity on finger count.

I learned from one of the managers in the shift, (who does not prefer to be named)  that the organisation has tie ups with certain NGOs ( Non Governmental Organisations) who help them hire the PWDs (persons with disabilities).  The manager is not aware as to how this act of encouragement came into being but has certainly proved to be a boon for the PWDs. “With this cut throat competition and the astringence, its difficult to earn a living for a normal person forget the ones with hearing and speech impairment. Thanks to initiative like these, which has helped them to carve a niche for themselves and earn a descent living as well as respect” she adds.

As per the management the boys are quite amicable and quick. They have also been functional in diminishing complaints. Although the culture over there is more or less ‘help yourself’ but if you require something like an extra spoon or a serviette, you can explain through gestures for the same. As per the October 19th, 2014 report in Business Line under the head “Retail outlets hiring differently-abled” retailers such as Shoppers Stop, Costa Coffee, Cafe Coffee Day (CCD), McDonald’s also have shown a drive in the endeavour.

Today I went there to know more about their work process. Whenever I looked around in the mid of scribbling of my notes to observe the surrounding, Chandrajit, one of the servitors greets me with a smile. Perhaps he would have whiffed the presence of an unusual customer with a notepad and pen in the food court.

Albeit cliched but most appropriate that opportunities like these are akin to a silver lining in the lives of many other Chandrajits around us.

Far Away Dreams

It is noteworthy that the BJP led government, is showing intense interest in modifying education for the better (I hope). Recently, there has been a lot of debate whether German or Sanskrit should be the third language in Kendriya Vidyalayas.

Let me spice it up a bit. I have got some better statistics to share. In India today, 4% of our children never start school, 58% don’t complete primary school. And 90% do not complete school. In the light of these figures, our prestigious parliamentarians are busy scuffling over the selection of third language where for majority there’s no show of even a single language!

Can we as concerned commoners know what our government is doing to improve these data? And how far have they reached in their course to educate every child? Well! the scenario points in the usual direction- of going nowhere. I am sorry to be harsh with my words but what’s there to appreciate? The girder of undone work and poorly implemented policies, is far more overwhelming than the few initiatives which have helped in improving prospects of the underprivileged kids going to school.

Not only the future of the children who cannot afford schooling due to various reasons (one of the biggest being lack of finance), is grim but our country shall continue to lag behind the other giants in education sector. It is more complex than we perceive. Even if the villages or towns are facilitated with school buildings, most of them are indigent of basic amenities like drinking water, classrooms, blackboards. Most girls opt out of schools for lack of toilet facilities. The mid-day meal turned out to be a disaster.

As a bonus, we have more beautiful surveys to ponder upon (pun intended). A national report revealed that 53% of children cannot read a class two level text and 75% of class five children are unable to do simple division. The reason being untrained teachers or may be no teachers at all. With such demography coming into picture we cannot help but conclude the inevitable: that the authority is least bothered if a child learns or not, perhaps the aim is to show a literate nation only on papers and government records.

Many more eyebrow raising review and audit of the education standards await attention. As for now let them rest in peace. Do not disturb, our government is sleeping.

Captured these kids in the frame frolicking around on the streets of kestopur, kolkata

Captured these kids in the frame frolicking around on the streets of Kestopur, kolkata

Biased or Prejudiced?

Only a month ago Malala Yousafzai was honoured for a noble cause of promoting female education. And back in India, the fact of no access to library for girls in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) comes into the limelight.

There cannot be a better irony than this. Moreover, when a national newspaper the Times Of India highlighted it; the Vice Chancellor did not hesitate to ban the newspaper from the campus as well.

Four years back I too appeared for the entrance examination for medical course in the same university. Fortunately, I did not get through. Had I been, I too would have followed their ‘school of thought’ justifying the decisions within the campus; as they say, “A teacher affects eternity.” Instead, I went to a college where creativity and individualism were promoted. Well! that’s another story for some other day.

Coming back to the situation in a  renowned institution of education, things are still classified not as per age (or any other reasonable defining criteria) but on the basis of gender. The authority could have come up with solutions to the problems and threats of allowing girls in the library rather than curbing the admittance itself. Such as, they can reserve the morning hours for girls and afternoon for boys. Or maybe, spare three days of the week for girls and the rest three for boys (one day can be a holiday).

Alas! the management and faculty hardly bothered to give these aspects a thought. Perhaps, they might even be expecting applauds for allowing women to be educated at all. Depriving somebody or a group on the basis of gender today sounds ancient but is a certitude of existence in a democratic, developing country like India.

Where are the voices? Why are we silent? Wake up all its high time!