Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘Karnataka’

Thaati Nungu for the tired soul

It is that time of the year when Bangalore is all decked in color. The flame of the forest is flaming, the Bougainvilleas are magenta pink, the Burmese Padoga is in full bloom, so are the TV trees, even the Croton leaves have taken on a bright yellow in the warm sun … and this is one time of the year when I wish I had wings 🙂

This is also the time of year when the familiar voice of the Thaati Nungu seller fills the evening air. Thaati Nungu in Kannada or palm fruit in English is a delicious translucent soft jelly like fruit. It is the fruit of the Palmyrah tree or toddy palm and comes encased in a hard purple casing.  If you’ve the quizzing type don’t forget that the Palmyrah tree or Nongu as it is called in Tamil is the state tree of Tamil Nadu.

Thaati Nungu

The Thaati Nungu looks very similar to a small coconut. In each nut are a set of three fruits with a light brown covering. Watching the Thaati Nungu seller shaving off the husk to carefully extract the fruits without cutting into them is a treat.  The task involves skill as the husk is large, the fruit itself tiny, heart shaped and a small palm size. Each fruit contains a small quantity of water and the Thaati Nungu peeler must ensure he does not cut the fruit and cause the water to drip away.

As dusk falls over Bangalore the Thaati Nungu seller sets out on his bicycle with a large flat bamboo basket on the bicycle bracket. Perched on it is a kerosene lamp surrounded by the brown Thaati Nungu fruit. He walks from lane to lane calling out “Thaati Nungu” in a clear loud voice so characteristic of hawkers.

One of the ways to determine if the fruit is fresh is to actually pick and press it. The fresh ones are soft to the touch, moist and have a jelly like feel. The stale ones are hardish. When you try to eat them they taste more like mature coconut only a bit rubbery.

To eat the Thaati Nungu fruit you have to gently peel off the soft brown skin around it and take a large bite, turning your head back to prevent the juice inside from dripping down your chin and wasting away.

Until recently I thought the Thaati Nungu fruit was found only in south India but it seems not. Thaati Nungu is available in Maharashtra and Gujarat as well, where it is called Taadgola.

Thaati Nungu has more than a few resemblances to a coconut and that includes its taste which is very similar to tender coconut. The fruit is not just delicious but very refreshing too and come April I ensure I get my fill of this seasonal delight while it lasts.

The fruit is known to be rich in calcium and phosphorus. It also contains B complex vitamins like thiamine and riboflavin and on a tiring evening this cooling fruit instantaneously fills me with energy.

So the next time you hear the Thaati Nungu seller call out don’t forget to rush out and buy a few.

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Bullying the big ‘B’ in schools

Bullying the big ‘B’ in schools

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I couple of days back, at a little past 6.p.m, I was rushing through the last few things for the day, getting ready to dash for the bus, and psychologically preparing for the tiring task of standing the 45 minutes home, when I was a distracted by the incoming mail as it popped up in Gmail window. It said an old school friend had tagged me on Facebook.

It has been nearly 4 years that I have left Goa, a lot more since I lost contact with people and events in my village and so it has been years. But my school stands large and looming, not just physically but also in my minds eye. My twelve years of school were right there. Twelve years of memory, imprinted on a developing mind can fill up a rather large space, even now when tons of experiences and day to day life clutters on. My school, the village can still be recalled, a large bulky volume? and so that mail from this old school mate instantly filled me with a warm glow. The same kind as soft golden wine would bring, on a tiring day.

I accepted the invitation to add him to my Facebook instantly, saved his mail id and sent him a brief mail in minutes. He was excited that I was online and had written back to him so fast. Our words instantaneous, warm. In my minds eye I could see him, sitting somewhere at a desk with that huge ear to ear smile that always filled his face, that unforgettable sparkle in his jet black eyes. The pictures that filled my mind were old ones, his hair straight and falling over his forehead, and then some other thoughts intruded into the forefront.

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I have worked ‘officially’ on disability issues for a little under a year, but my friends with disability have had a lasting impact on my life. My time with them has since coloured my perception and it popped up here too. My old school friend and fellow villager from Saligao, Goa was also a person with disabilities (PwDs), thought he probably would not fit in with the definition used by the government. But he definitely was my first exposure with a PwDs. Then, I didn’t know about ‘disability’ as an issue and would have described him as someone with a strange gait.

Some more memories, of kids in maroon short pants and pink shirts, running after each other on the playground. Kids have endless and uncontainable energy and in my minds ear I could hear, calling names……, names that weren’t pleasant. They were used to tease. Relentlessly through the day, for years, and the warm glow, wasn’t all that warm anymore.

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I particularly remember this school mate being teased and bullied for having a deformity and can empathize with him because I myself was bullied and teased. Relentlessly, for years. I was tiny, still am, and that became point of ridicule. If somebody told me children as little as five and six years of age can tease, to the point of harass and bully each other, I would never have believed then, definitely not if I had not been a victim myself.

In my minds eye, images are fresh, like they happened yesterday of yet another classmate who was again constantly bullied. His bag hidden in the bin, in the sink, I can still see him frantically searching for his bag even while the other kids ran around teasing and laughing.

Undoubtedly, bulling and teasing that actually amounts to harassment, is an issue in schools. I know it is a big and recognized issue in schools abroad, I don’t believe it is recognized as a serious issue in schools in India or in its numerous States.

Bullying gains an additionally serious dimension when the person being bullied is a person with disabilities. I know I carry the scars of the constant bullying and harassment, I’m sure my old classmate carries them too, since it was a lot harsher for him.

When I look back I’m filled with anger. Couldn’t the teachers see and hear the bullying, I never heard a single teacher voice her disapproval nor did I hear a reprimand. I wonder if teachers have since become aware of the issue of bullying, if they take a stand about it now.

In hind sight I feel shocked, that not a single teacher in my school was sensitive enough to see this boy’s pain, forget about address it.

Children with disabilities have a huge battle when it comes to simply attending schools. Finding an accessible school is a big challenge and additionally is the burden of being bullied.

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If there is something I’d like to advocate from this rambling piece is that bullying in school should be addressed with zero tolerance. Parents, school children and most importantly teachers need to make themselves aware about the lasting effects of bullying.

If you are a parent in India reading this, please raise the issue of bullying in your Parent Teachers Association (PTA), if you’ve a student please take a stand against bullying. School should be fun, I would not wish anyone to experience the pain I or my classmate with disabilities did, simply because other children had not been taught to be sensitive.

If you are a teacher, please sensitize your students to issues related to disability. After all these are the students who will grow to be parents themselves, doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, shopkeepers, bureaucrats etc. Insensitive children make insensitive adults.

How secure are women with disabilities?

How secure are women with

disabilities?

womenrightsRecently I heard of two incidents which made me ask myself this very question, how secure are women with disabilities (WwD)?

In one incident a young mother of 35 hung her two teenage daughters both intellectually challenged, and herself. I guess she got tired of the pressures of life, the social stigma for having intellectually challenged daughters and an alcoholic husband. In the second case, a intellectually challenged girl, in a near by rural district, was taking food for her father in the field. On the way she was accosted, raped and murdered.

rightsThese two incidents bring to the fore one prominent fact, WwD; particularly women with mental illness and those intellectually challenged are not safe, either in their homes or in public.

In the first incident, the girls were obviously a burden to their mother, who was a poor lady, fighting for sustenance. She probably worried about what would happen to her children after she grew too old to provide for them. To her tormented mind, suicide was the only option.

Yet, she needed to be told that there was help. She needed to be given help. We have the Mental Health Act 1987, The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities and Full Participation) Act 1995, The Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act 1995, the Indian Penal Code and probably more legislations than you and I can recall. Yet how many of these legislations are preventive, how many call for policy changes, how many policies that have been drafted and passed are being implemented? So many questions and the death of these girls is answer enough, about the situation of despair.

In the second incident, the girl was probably mildly intellectually challenged, so she was able to follow simple instructions and was taking lunch to her father. Obviously some lecherous man found in this simply girl a soft target. He also found in her a dispensable target. Undoubtedly this incident reveals a debased mind, but what about the girl, what does her family learn from this incident. What do other families with intellectually challenged girls learn from this incident? Do any of us expect that the girl and her family will get justice? Should we write this off as yet another death that will go by with no lessons learnt?

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All those who are intellectually challenged are not ‘useless’. There are different degrees of disability. Depending upon the degree, they can be trained, to take care of themselves, to take simple decisions and even do simple tasks that can allow them to earn a small living. Yet families are made to believe they have people who are vegetables.

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This article is full of questions. I don’t have answers to all of them, but I am searching, and perhaps you would like to join in too.

If you are an NGO or an association for people with disabilities (PwD), please put the security of WwD prominent on your agenda. If you are a parent with an intellectually challenged child please join parents associations, experience the strength of a collective and begin lobbing the government for welfare facilities. If you are a sensitive citizen and are concerned about PwD and WwD, please volunteer time. If you are a bureaucrat or are in a position of power please leverage it so that the lives of a few PwD are made better or even saved.

Moral police drive girl to suicide

Moral police drive schoolgirl to

suicide

Deccan Herald, 12th February 2009

Mangalore ‘moral police’ drive schoolgirl to suicide Mangalore, DHNS: A 15-year-old girl committed suicide at Aikala near Kinnigoli here on Wednesday, allegedly after being harassed by suspected Bajrang Dal men for talking to a Muslim youth.


Ashwini, a 9th standard student of Aikala school, and her friend Mahadevi, went in a bus to Venur allegedly to meet Saleem, 28, a bus owner. The trio was trapped near Venur by a group said to be belonging to Bajrang Dal. Another group  stopped the bus at Paddanthadka and took Saleem’s bus conductor Rafeeq into ‘custody’. All the four were brought to Maroor in the Moodbidre police station limits.

After conducting an ‘inquiry’ the ‘moral police’ informed Moodbidre police sub-inspector Bharathi who rushed to the spot.

To read more click

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This is a tragedy of grave consequences and utterly disgraceful. These Bajrang Dal men need to be arrested for abetting suicide and murder.

These right wing fundamentalist groups go about promoting themselves as protectors of Indian culture but all they have to show for their work is violence, hatred, murder and communal riots.

I am filled with anger and revulsion at how these right wing fundamentalist groups widening the fault lines in this country and divide people on religion. I am seething mad that their rabid actions have lead to the suicide of this teenage girl.

Teenage is a vulnerable time, emotionally, and it is at this time that values of respect and love need to be taught and explained to young people. Instead these wicked men with their dirty filthy mindsets go about emotionally wrecking and hurting young people.

When they tried to shame older women in Mangalore by pulling them out of a pub and beating them up before the glare of the media, the women of India rallied together to send these right wing fundamentalist pink underwear in the Pink Chaddi Campaign. But this little 15 years old girl could not have stood up to all these hooligans and now they have the blood of an innocent teenager on their hands.

May she haunt these Bajrang Dal men for the rest of their lives and curse them to feel her pain in every breath they take.

Hail Pink Chaddis

Hail Pink Chaddis

n1137520119_30280986_81481For those who are not Indian and don’t know what a Chaddi is, it is a underwear and yes, the Pink Chaddi Campaign is a rather odd name for a protest, but that is, until you hear how it came about.

A little more than a couple of weeks back, right wing Hindu fundamentalist known as the Shri Ram Sena barged into a little pub in Mangalore, a coastal town in Karnataka, dragged out the girls there and beat them up. All in full media glare. The group led by its chief Pramod Muthalik, were arrested and released on bail shortly thereafter.

Since the media was present at the beating up, the violent scenes of women being hit, flung to the ground and chased were run on numerous television channels for days on end. This highlighted and polarized the issue adequately.

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Having hogged the limelight for days and strengthened by their experience the Shri Ram Sena went on to threaten that they would carry out similar protests for Valentines Day and get couples married should they be found together in public!

Drinking, wearing skimpy clothes, dancing, and unmarried young couples moving around in public, according to the Shri Ram Sena is just not Indian Culture. (gosh, do these guys need a reality check and paradigm shift in perspective)

While for some women this hooliganism was a terrifying reminder of the consequences of living ones life in relative independence, for others it brought indignation at the patriarchy and hegemony that still sort and fought for place in this time and age!.

3266029660_6fa0206dd8_b1The event itself is highly political and richly layered, allowing for numerous interpretations and analysis along caste, religious, class, patriarchal and economic lines. But keeping that aside, most women understood the event and the Shri Ram Senas agenda for what it was worth, the need to use the primordial controlling mechanism ‘fear’ to regiment society. And they decided to have none of it.

If the Shri Ram Sena could embarrass women by beating them up in public, the women of India know how to embarrass the Shri Ram Sena and so some of them got together and launched a nationwide Pink Chaddis Campaign.

So what’s this campaign about? Well its simple. Those who support the Pink Chaddis Campaign can either courier a pink underwear to Mr Pramod Muthaliks house, no he’s not running out of underwear 😉 its a potent mark of protest  or they can drop one of at the various collection centres in the top cities of India and hurray, on 14th February Valentines Day, the Shri Ram Sena will receive a consignment of pink underwear of all sizes, shapes and designs. How cooler can it get.

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So don’t loose this opportunity to thump your nose at these right wing fundamentalist who want to determine how the billion people of this country ought to live their life, and what a women’s place should be, men and women please send a signed pink underwear

Memorable weekends

Memorable weekends at home!

Jas-Naz-Abhrajit-me-NagarajThe recession can be a tough time. Job loss, salary cuts, longer work hours, less sleep, more work, less rest and the stress can pile up even while the conventional methods of de-stressing become unaffordable. Not that I am used to pubing, dancing and eating out, but when most people try and complain about the salary cut, for example, expect your HR to get candid and offer some suggestions on cost cutting, which include ‘stop eating out’.

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After having to tighten our belt, some of us who needed to catch up with each other dropped the plan to restaurant hop and shop, and meet instead at my place. Small and cozy five of us filled my little room. Tea cups served as glasses, we sipped on our coke and gossiped and bitched and spat venom at right wing activist trying to disrupt Valentines Day. We bought boxes of take away Biryani, chomped into thick chunking grilled chicken, washed it all down with sweet curd and yapped on, it alludes me now, on what exactly we yapped!

The small spread

The day wore on and cups of strong tea were passed around by Naz. The round nutty Ferrero Rocher chocolate bought by Abharajit were delicious as we dozed through some of the footage Nagaraj recently short in Andhra Pradesh as part of a short film.

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I don’t know how but the discussion gently moved towards Naz and her experiences with ghosts! yes you read me right. When she  lived in her college hostel a few years ago, she had quiet a few horrific runins with these ‘smoky’ figures. This opened up a Pandora’s Box, Nagaraj had his tales to recount of his encounters and as the clock, unnoticed, edged towards 7.00 p.m we realized we had to wind up and call it a day.

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Poor Abharajit had an hour and a half to travel before he reached home, which was at the other end of town. Jasmine had a date waiting since 4.00 p.m that evening and yet, we had some much more to chat about. Good ,thought I, another reason to meet again.

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Most people would think it is the fancy restaurant and its ritzy glamour, expensive food and wines that would make it a memorable day. Yesterday I was reminded, yet again, that it is not the money, just the warmth of the people around you that makes all the difference.

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Sankranti in Keeramanda

Sankranti in Keeramanda

ScenerySankranti the harvest festival is celebrated all over India under various names, Lohri in the North, Makaharra Sankranti in the North West, Bihu in Assam, Pongal in Tamil Nadu and so on.

As most of you would know, India is largely agrarian and the heart of this country still beats among the rich and vast variety of grain and cash crops that are grown in the country. Sankranti is celebrated when the first crop is harvested, it is a time of thanks giving to the Gods, to the mother earth and gusto in the celebrations is determined by the plentifulness of the crop.

This year, as part of the Adobe project, five of my colleagues and me found ourselves in Keeramanda. Keeramanda is a tiny clutch of mud huts on the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border and actually falls in AP. We were there on a three day film shoot as we planned to make a short film on how Keeramanda celebrates Sankranti, the much awaited harvest festival.

We had heard that on Sankranti this village held a competition, in which hundreds of bulls from the village and neighboring ones would gather and to the sound of much hollering and screaming there would be a race. A small crowded 100 yard stretch where the bulls would have to run, and the one who managed to complete the race fastest, and this year the time set was 8 seconds, would win a fairly large prize. But wait, I’m moving too fast.

reservoir_2We arrived in the village of Keeramanda two days earlier and set up camp in the thatched extension of the house of a distant relative. Spending most of my days in the dirt, dust, noise and hurry of Bangalore, Keeramanda was the ideal get away. A four hour bumpy ride away from forgettable Bangalore and we were in the lap of nature, green verdant hills, the sound of bulbuls and parakeets filling our ears, the little village pond waited invitingly and we needed no invitation. I and the guys plunged in head long, swimming from one end of shallow pond to the other in long languid strides. The air much much cleaner, cooler. The pace of life so much slower, time to smell the flower and watch the birds fly by, we pulled out our camera and shot away, footage and stills, we just couldn’t get enough.

sun-riseOn the day of Sankranti the village wakes up at 3 in the morning to make large fires, where they sit around and warm themselves and at the first cock crow which signals eminent dawn the women of the house get bustling, making pots of hot water for all to bath in. They then head into the courtyard to do the traditional Rangoli.

rangoliThe Rangoli is a decoration on the floor, done in various coloured powered; The Rangoli is usually done everyday in the courtyard, but for Sankranti and such other festivals it’s done in an elaborate manner. Besides numerous other things the Rangoli for Sankranti must include the relief of two large sugarcane stocks made in brown powder, with green foliage on top, and a pot in the centre.

Sugarcane is another central part of Sankranti and since in Keeramanda they grew it, people just went to their fields and lopped off a few cane. With so much of cane, my colleagues spend hours exercising their jaws and stocking up on as much sugar as they could get out of the cane.

animal_flowers1Later in the morning, the family goes on to bedeck their cows and goats with flowers and a small puja is performed. Sankranti is when the domestic animals who worked just as hard as their masters to realize the crop are honoured. In preparation for the puja the animals have their horns sharpened and oil painted! sometimes they are also bathed, lovingly groomed and fed with specially made sweets.

cock-fightA central part of Sankranti is the entertainment, more for men then women. Cock fights are a great source of entertainment, thought they are banned and so….., no the cock fights have not stopped, camera persons like us are strictly supervised and prohibited from taking any pictures for publication. Grooming, feeding and watching the cocks grow into sturdy birds just for a day like this is what a lot of men in the village live for, and our host was kind enough to let two of his home grown favourites launch at each with all their flaming red plumage on display. But I can’t go into the fine art of cock fighting or cock rearing here, however I did smuggle out a few pictures of some of those brave busters going for each other. Thankfully they didn’t have their killer spurs on J

cock-fight_actionBesides the cock fights organized on the sly, is the bull racing. The bull racing attracts much crowds and frenzy in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and it too raised the courts ire and was banned for a short while, of course without success. Recently they have been allowed again and can be held under a strict set of rules framed by the Chief Justice himself.

One of the main reasons for banning these bull racing events was not just because of the way the animals were handled but because of the way in which a large number of people seriously endangered their lives. I think some of those seriously injured also succumbed to them later on and therefore the ban.

bull-race_crowdTo the small village of Keeramanda this Sankranti came over 260 bulls, of all shades and colour, sizes and age. With all kinds of temperaments, some kicking the dirt and all riled up, other timid, having to be dragged through the venue even while the large crowds smacked their flanks and screamed.

The little lane in which the race was to be held was packed, narrowing the race track to a sliver. The roofs, terraces, walls and mud path had all the assembly it could carry, the air thick with dust and full of excited hollering. It’s an all men’s show. It’s just not safe for a woman to be in the path of a raging bull, who often is so confused and terrified, and so simply ploughs through the crowd, thereby injuring many in the crowd.

bull_chargeIf I somehow gave you the idea that bull racing is a huge fun sport, I’m sorry; this sport is more than fun. The winner of that race can walk away with a hefty cash prize and also a few grams of gold and so it’s a hotly contested race. Thanks to some of those very skittish bulls Keeramanda saw four injuries this year; thankfully none of them were serious. All in all, we came away exhausted but with some warm memories not forgetting some excellent footage of a very heady sport indeed.

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