If you have been to Varkala, you will know it is one of the topmost beach destinations in the world. It promises economic international cafes, free WiFi, and a good swim. To me, it was all that, and more. It introduced me to a community that is striving for sustenance as storms, both literal and metaphorical, ravage their lives.
I had come face to face with fishermen previously as well – it was when I was in Cochin, I saw them using traditional Chinese nets; I remember being enthralled by the extensive manual labour; and I remember the silver catch. But it was only in Varkala where I understood the real problems these fishing communities face today. It was perhaps Raman’s friendly smile which started it all; which beckoned me to come and get a closer look at their work and become a part of their morning ritual.
Raman, a 48-year-old fisherman, said he had been to Mumbai, and even Kolkata, and could speak a scatter of Hindi and Bengali interspersed with English. He and his friend Babu stood on the shore, waiting for the pull to begin and calmly recounted the many flaws of modern day development using words and often frantic hand action – logging, development, pollution, dams water diversions – and the list was going on when I finally said the fateful word – “global warming”. They nodded their heads vigorously. Raman sighed, “āgēāḷatāpanaṁ”. A later search on Google pointed out that this was the Malayalam word for global warming.
Yes, one of the major threats to the environment in the 21st century is of course that of global warming. One only needs to go back to their school textbooks to remember how the water affects the temperature of the earth and vice versa. In view of increasing global warming, coastal communities are doubly disadvantaged. First, the fractured aquatic ecosystem impacts their livelihoods. Secondly, the effect of a rise in sea level means that coastal fishing communities are in the front line of climate change, frequented by storms and heavy rainfall. Babu, a 33-year-old fisherman voiced the very same concern. He told me that his sons feel fishing is a cursed trade in today’s world. The income is dwindling for traditional fishermen in the light of commercial fishing trawlers, and increased export. And moreover, the expenditure on daily maintenance is on the rise, as they have no catch to spare for meals, or money to repair their shanties after every monsoon. Raman pointed out that his generation could not refute the youngsters’ argument. This is why they are desperately trying to educate them well enough, so that they can get jobs in the cities, deep in the mainland.
Artisanal fishing provides a critical source of food and income to thousands of Indians, but the ever-increasing local and international demand for fish, combined with rapidly depleting stocks, is increasing strain on their way of life. Lack of modern equipments and skills has left thousands of small-scale fishermen, who provide directly for their families, unable to access deep-water species or make the best of diminishing coastal stocks. Raman’s group of fishermen use simple methods of nets stuck on stumps at mid-sea. This promises a regular catch of few small fishes that helps them earn around 900-1400 rupees at the local market, depending on the quality. The fish is shared among 13-14 fishermen, thus each earns around 100 rupees, or even less. The catch of the day is only worth around 1000 rupees. I was touched by their generosity when they offered me a few fishes despite their dire economic condition, as I had given company during their endeavour.
Locals eat 3-4 of those fishes, fried for lunch; people in well-to-do households that is. Some of the fishermen saved the black or spotted ones for home, tying them in their lungi, because these don’t sell well. Their wives will return home after working on the fields, or making pickle, to cook these for the entire family. They stood around the boats, laughing and teasing, while some others mended the nets where they had snags, and the fish- some blue, some silver, others a beautiful green, shined like jewels in the sunlight.
People assume there must be certain fatalism in continuing the early morning rise and reign. But quite the contrary is true. Amidst howling waves, and sparkling fins, groups of men continue to make a life for themselves and their families on the shores of India…and they do this with a smile on their face. This is a real struggle for conservatism of nature, culture and an older way of life.
The Supreme Court verdict of December 11th, 2013 set aside the landmark Delhi High Court ruling which said that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, that criminalizes homosexuality in this country, was problematic at its very roots – that it is a blow on the very idea of unity in diversity that the Constitution of the nation upholds; that it is against a person’s basic constitutional right to freedom and equality. Not recognizing same-sex marriages, though why not would be a valid question here, is one thing. Raising eyebrows at public display of affection by same-sex couples, though why would be a valid question here, is one thing. But criminalizing what two consenting adults choose to do in the privacy of their rooms with one another, is against the very notion of democracy. The verdict left not only the LGBTIQ+ community, but even others angry and disappointed.
Jawaharlal Nehru University, which has spear-headed many movements of national significance in the past and continues to do so even today, found a beautiful way to celebrate ‘free love’.
From fighting against autocratic forces and establishing the Gender Sensitization Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) and trying to ensure its unbiased functioning, to installing sanitary napkin dispensers on campus, the campus has embraced ‘difference’ and been vocal about issues on gender and sexuality. A couple of large posters by SFI, for example, donning the back wall of the Central Library shows one how JNU has never shied away from doing what is right –
One morning, in the December of 2014, a few unassuming people painted a tree in the colours of the rainbow. They called it The Rainbow Tree. The tree was located centrally – at the busy “T-Point” of the campus, standing tall (but not ‘straight’) as a symbol of Queer Pride and people’s choice to love freely. When the temperatures dropped drastically in the city and the fog descended on its people like a plague, the colours of the tree lent its warmth and brightness to an otherwise cold environment.
Mysteriously, some mornings later, the body of the tree was found violated. Some people, not brave enough to engage in a political debate in broad daylight (because the tree did turn out to be a symbol of a certain kind of politics), had stealthily, taking refuge in the dark covers of the night, performed this act of vandalism – The Rainbow Tree was found stripped of its colours, one grey morning. That is when Gourab Ghosh, a senior PhD scholar at the University and a leading gay-rights activist on campus, decided to paint the campus in the varied hues of the rainbow – openly challenging the miscreants to destroy every symbol of ‘free love’ if they so dared. Collecting funds from shopkeepers in JNU, students, friends and activists of Queer Rights, with the support of members of Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA), JNU Staff Association, Dhanak (a queer group in JNU), student representatives of GSCASH and Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU), Ghosh along with a group of young people, including students and activists from political organizations like AISA, DSU and SFI undertook the mission of colouring the campus in shades that scream of equality, liberty and fraternity. ‘The Rainbow Walk’ as they called it, according to Sumit Dey, a PhD Scholar in the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, was a “response to the intolerant attitude of reactionary, neo-conservative forces that try to undermine and curb diversity”. Singing, dancing and raising slogans against homophobia the group walked around the campus for over five hours, with their bottles of paint and coloured ribbons. The result is for everybody to see.
“The campaign was meant to create awareness about the freedom of choice in general and queer rights in particular”, says Dey and clearly they have left a mark on the campus – literally and metaphorically. Ghosh, who is now in Calcutta for his PhD fieldwork, sends “Rainbow Salaams” to all those who helped him in this venture. “It feels good to see students stopping at T-Point or Central Library and posing against the colours”, says Ghosh. “It feels good to go through all the photographs that these people then post and to spot smiling faces tying colourful ribbons on the trees.”
Case: Jharia Name: Jharia Coal Fields Alternate Names: The Living Pyre, Hell on Earth Location: Dhanbad District, Jharkhand, India Population: 81,979 (2001 Census) Future: Unknown
Jharia is not only one of the largest coal mines in India, but also one of the largest in Asia. What once was a dense forest populated by tribes, Jharia, famous for its rich coal resources, was sacrificed at the altar of development. Uncontrollable fires have been raging havoc and spewing dirty smoke for the last 98 years.
Reports indicate that as many as 70 fires are burning in Jharia coalfield.
Reports indicate that over 2300 families have been relocated
Many promises like schools, hospitals and free utilities remain undelivered
“How can any project that leads to further impoverishment of the communities…be called development?” — Stalin K, human rights activist.
This narrative is not for the faint-hearted, and definitely not for the judgemental. As you scroll down, do so with an open mind because what you are about to witness is going to gobsmack you. It is the breaking of societal and cultural norms; a catalyst unlike any other. A message to open our minds and hearts; before we judge, before we limit, before we stereotype and before we objectify. You are about to see photography in its most honest form.
As a college project, a young womanÂ in Bangalore decided to shoot the following photographs to portray that there is nothing wrong with showing skin, it’s all in the way we think and react. Chavi Sethi from New Delhi says that her photo project is a means to make people think. “How can a country grow, when half of its people are not comfortable in their skin?” During my conversation with her, Chavi mentioned that at a family member’s wedding in the recent past, she encountered some aunts and theyÂ asked,Â “who will marry youÂ if youÂ keep shaking yourÂ leg like that?” As a limerick, she added, “Tell my prospective husbands that I have obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
Chavi’s project is a subtle yet powerful portrayal of everything that is wrong with our mentalities. We have all been judgemental and biased, we have all at some point looked at a girl dressed in hot pants and thought, ‘that is so indecent’, or judged a girl for showing her cleavage. Even today, sleeveless clothes are banned in colleges, and adding just two inches of cloth to a sleeveless top apparently makes it more decent. I ask you, is the absence of those two inches enough to brand someone vulgar, to seek them out and stare at them, to lech at them in public spaces, to leave them uncomfortable and fearful? Is that reason enough to touch them? I am not judging you for being intrusive, so why are you judging me for minding my own business? It seems that the message from this photo project is pretty clear; women in India are uncomfortable in their own skin for fear of judgement and disrespect. You should be able to wear whatever you want, while being able to carry it, without caring about unknown people harming you mentally or physically. Feminism is about two genders and about a shared responsibility. So women and men alike owe it to each other to be more sensitive and open minded toward each other.
What is the ideology behind your project? The general idea is that there are a lot of dogmas attached to general things women use and do, which we as Indian men and women, cannot seem to accept. Buying a pad from a male attendant is an embarrassment, because he quickly bills it and wraps it in newspaper and gives it to you as if it’s an explosive or just leaves it there for you to pick up. What also bothers me is that people think that rape is only about the woman’s body. Rape is perpetrated on babies aged 3 months, little girls and boys, young women and middle aged women as well as women aged 85. Rape is about aggression and power, it is about control. Also, we can’t assume that men are sex mongers; they too can not want sex and it is not fair to label them so. Our country is stagnating because our beliefs are speed bumps and ditches which refuse to be repaired.
What were the challenges you faced with this project? I’ll list it down for you so that it becomes simpler:
1. No one agreed to be the model for ‘a revealing shoot’ like mine, so for a moment I thought I would do self-portraits, till I found the perfect person. She too was very reluctant and stiff in front of the camera and I had to engage her in conversation for quite some time before we started shooting.
2. No one would cover the article except one forum for the fear that it was ‘explicit’ and possibly ‘erotic’.
3. My relativesÂ were against it. TheyÂ told me, ‘what if someone Googles you and sees this post? No one will marry you.’ I don’t need someone who disagrees with my opinions to marry me, everyone should have that choice. Women are not born so men can accept and reject them for marriage.
4. A few NGOs too disagreed to use the content for awareness drives because it was not art oriented and seemed revealing.
5. My uncle asked me why I am rebelling. I told him that this is not rebellion, this is an opinion. Is having an opinion rebellious?
This is not modernization, this is acceptance. When I wear a crop top, it seems smutty, but the few inches of stomach shown in a saree are not? Our mentalities are holding us back.
This project is a catalyst for change in the way that it compels you to look at the woman in the pictures as a person with her own choices and opinions. Nothing gives us the right to judge her for her choice of clothing or her decision to do the shoot. But how many of you think this way? You’ve seen what you had to; tell us what’s on your mind.
On 15 September 2014, a day before the Rajasthan poll results were announced, about a thousand Banjaras from 6 districts of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh came together to demand justice for the victimized Banjara community of Dungari Basti at a protest organized by the Banjara Sangharsh Samiti at the Collector’s office in Bhilwada. “We are demanding the prosecution of the still at large main conspirators, provision of a relief package of Rs. 10 Lakh and return of the stolen jewellery to each family, as well as hastening the allocation process of the promised BPL cards and pattas. We will not stop till the people get justice” said Paras Banjara. He is the president of the Samiti that was formed in the wake of events of 19th august, when all 42 houses in the Banjara Basti of Dungari in Dhikola Panchayat of Bhilwada district, Rajasthan were burnt and looted of all valuables by a mob of about 2500 people.
About 2 kilometres away from the main village of Dhikola, the Banjara community settled in Dungari about 40 years ago. Now working largely as farmers, buffalo traders and labourers, they broke away from a traditionally nomadic nature to live more stable lives. Classified as a De-Notified Criminal Tribe, a hangover of the Criminal Tribe status imposed on them by the British, they remain a heavily stigmatized and oppressed community.
What I saw when I visited Dungari on 31st August was horrifying. All 42 houses had been burnt to rubble. Everything from the houses had been looted, and what was not, had been broken. The people were frightened, angry and in disbelief. Many were still wearing the same clothes they had been on the 19th, as they had none others left. In the habit of buying gold and silver with dispensable cash, and not keeping money in a bank or on them; the Banjaras had lost all they had- savings in the form jewellery carried over many generations, accumulated over decades and decades.
Each family took me to their house to show me how much had been destroyed, and have me photograph it. Even 12 days on, it seemed the village had not got much attention.
All houses had been destroyed with the same precision and hatred. The door broken down, jewellery boxes looted, cots, trunks, utensils, switch boards- smashed ruthlessly with rods; and finally the house sprayed with kerosene and set alight.
What remained was piled outside – Charred motorcycles, burnt grain, broken pots, plates and glasses, charred beds, burnt mattresses and blankets; smashed trunks, burnt bamboo, burnt bricks, disfigured grain canisters, broken jewellery boxes…
The mob had even vandalized the few tube wells the basti had- the pipes leading to them hacked, motors broken and thrown, rocks dropped into the bore to block water. Nothing left in the village had any value or use.
Not grain, not a cloth, not a cup, not a well.
According to eyewitnesses, the mob came from Dhikola, down the main highway towards Dungari in the morning, in full view of all. The rioters were armed with guns, iron rods, sticks and swords; many on foot and some on tractors and motorcycles. This was a strategic time to attack, as a majority of the Banjaras had gone on their annual pilgrimage to the Ramdev temple in Jaisalmer district, leaving their houses unguarded.
At a meeting in Dhikola on the eve of the attack, it was allegedly announced that any household not wanting to participate in the destruction would need to pay Rs. 11, 000 as a fine. Only two families had the money and paid, and thus many people in the mob were there without choice.
A police chowki is located right on the main road between Dungari and Dhikola. According to the Banjaras themselves; the police had prior information about what was planned. They warned them to flee that morning, and also aided in their evacuation- maintaining they would be unable to stop the mob; and could only help them flee. The police allegedly stood by throughout the mob’s activities, from 8.30 AM to about 4 PM.
Kamli, a woman of about 28 was unable to flee, as she had an eight month old child with her; and her husband had gone on the pilgrimage. She described the riot to me- of the men climbing on her house; clubbing on the roof and walls with rods; breaking down her door and the locks of all her trunks; stealing the money and jewels before her eyes; and finally burning her house and motorcycle. They threatened her that if she protested, they would burn her as well, along with her two children.
“The mob had fit one tractor with a tank of kerosene oil, and the spraying machine normally used to spray pesticide in farms was used to spray kerosene on the houses.” An eyewitness recounted.
Three fire brigades which tried to come in to put out the fire were blocked by the mob, and so were people from nearby villages wanting to help the Banjaras. It was only after the Tehsildar and District Collector reached in the afternoon that some attempt was made to douse the fire.
The mood of the violence can be understood by the fact that after setting the houses afire, the mob members roasted chickens reared by the Banjaras on the same fire, and ate them.
Suresh Banjara, a spirited boy of 8, had been in the fields that morning and was unable to flee with his parents. When he returned, seeing the thousands of people around and the mob burning houses, he ran into his house to save his family’s money and jewellery. On seeing him running away with the box- the rioters hit him with sticks on his hands and feet, and snatched it from him. His dog Sheru protected him and attacked whoever came too close. When Suresh tried to save some other things, the mob locked him up inside his house, sprayed kerosene and put the house on fire. On hearing his screams some present people broke down the door and saved him. A man from Dhikola itself, who knew Suresh, took the courageous step of taking him away. A six year old boy, Batul Banjara, was also saved like this.
The children present in the primary school located in the village were saved by the courage of their school teachers- two women of a different caste who belong to another village. Having taken full responsibility of the children that morning, they hadn’t even allowed parents to take their children with them while fleeing. They both fought fiercely with the mob and saved the children from assault, getting injured themselves.
The strength of these individuals was in stark contrast to the impassivity the administration displayed.
The reasons for an attack of this scale are not understood properly. The construction of a new highway near the basti had caused the demand of the land to increase, and powerful men in Dhikola had allegedly wanted to occupy the land themselves and sell it to developers.
Further, opposite the Banjara basti some land belonging to the electricity board is given on lease for grazing to someone every year. This year, a Banjara had got the contract instead of a politically influential man from Dhikola, who had had it in all previous years. A major upset to the social status quo, a fight had ensued.
Many are of the opinion that since the same man had wanted the Banjara’s to move from the basti to allow the expansion of his factory, he had used this to instigate the mob.
“Such a criminal incident has taken place in his constituency, and neither the MLA nor the MP has even visited us. It is clear that they were party to it.” Sardar Banjara said.
It is ironic that at the time of the attack, an elaborate ‘Aapki Sarkaar Aapke Dwaar’ program-in which representatives from various ministries were visiting panchayat’s to address problems-was in a nearby village.
In a similar incident just two days later on 21st August, 6 kilometres from Dungari, a small settlement of the Kalbeliya tribe-another nomadic community-was attacked by a mob. Individual families of Kalbeliyas being displaced is not unheard of in Rajasthan.
Till date, these attacks have not had the national media coverage they need.
“No prior threat had ever been made to us. We knew some people had been eyeing the land, but our relations were okay before this. The police told us to flee, so we just locked our houses and left. How could we have known something like this would happen?” asked Mohan Banjara.
“Look at the brutality. Had we been here, we would have been burnt as well. We are very scared now.” said Anichi, who returned to the village the first to find her son, Suresh Banjara.
Despite the District Collector and other officials having visited the village, the only relief that the families have received so far from the government has been a one-time grant of Rs. 50,000, and that too following the intervention of Mazdoor Kissan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). The Sangathan facilitated a meeting between the Banjara’s and the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. It was only at her behest that the administrative machinery stirred.
FIRs have been filed by each household, and 43 people have been arrested so far, though the chief instigators are still at large. Bail petitions have been refused in the lower court; and the decision of Jodhpur High Court is awaited. The police are a continuous presence now; and will be deployed in Dungari for the coming 3 to 4 months.
There is an eerie silence about the issue in the area, and no one from any other community has visited the Banjaras to express their concern. On our way out, we drove through Dhikola. The entire village was deserted. Most people, terrified by the arrests and attention, had run away for the time being.
It is clear that the masterminds of this attack never thought that the weak Banjara community would ever get support from anyone.
“Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic.” as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has said.
The crushing influence of the intolerant feudal system on the fate of this finally prospering marginalized community, an emerging trend of displacing the weak to make profit from rising land prices, and the ambivalence of the police’s response are questions that arise and must be addressed.
Note: This is an updated version of a previously published report here.
Kolkata, erstwhile Calcutta, has been in a constant state of economic stagnation for a long time now. The new government, which enjoyed a massive victory over the 35-year-old (as old as the hills themselves) previous government, has done little to help the city break out of the stalemate it is currently stuck with. Make no mistake, the city is still a behemoth, albeit, one on the decline for a very long time. Industries are past their prime, new start ups are virtually nonexistent, jobs are few, earnings are stagnated, the best minds tend to leave the city as soon as they get the opportunity, even the cultural environment is not what it used to be a decade back or so; in short, the city is suffering from the winter blues of Westeros for a really long time now.
There is one time of the year, however, when the city roars back to life. For five days or so, in the months of September or October, the ordinary Calcuttan is in a constant state of euphoria. The streets are alive with thrumming sound of pulsating life at 4 am in the morning, the eateries struggle overtime to feed the massive throngs of people who hop from one location to another to marvel at the creativity of the temporary structures (called pandals) which house the goddess herself, in their best new attire, operating on barely 3 hours of sleep each night (early morning rather), but with an enthusiasm that is so infectious that it makes you giddy with sheer joy.
Welcome to the Durga Pujo week, where the city of joy, forgets it sorrows and revels in its own, unbridled, chaotically poetic self and lives up to its name.
The preparation for the festival takes months. The whole structure has to be conceived keeping fire safety and other norms in place, advertisers have to be visited and re visited to bank roll the entire event, permission of the plan has to be obtained from Kolkata Police and so on and so forth.
And of course, the most important thing- the presence of Ma Durga herself.
The idol makers and artisans of a small dingy block in chaotic North Calcutta called Kumratuli are the ones that make sure that the goddess graces all with her presence. These artists have been engaged in their craft for several decades, some studios spawning over the turn of centuries!
In a photowalk with friend and photographer Kashyap Mitra, we tried to capture the essence of these artisans and their creations.
One of the first sights that greeted us as we entered the small dingy lane that lead up to the artisans studios, were half completed protimas of Ma Durga, Mahishasur and Ganesh and a very camera shy artisan in the background.
Meet Bhavesh Pal. He’s the guardian standing at the gate to Kumortuli Ticketghar. The ticketghar is the place where a photographer can purchase a photo permit ticket or card to take snaps of the idols and artisans at work. He’s been helming this duty for the better part of a decade now along with being an artist of his own studio which was set up by his father.
On being quizzed at the number of tickets being sold, without taking his eyes of his newspaper he says, “We usually have 40-50 photographers purchasing a daily photo permit ticket on weekdays. The number goes up to 200 on Sundays and other holidays.” Folding up his paper and staring into the distance he remarks sagely, “the closer you get to the Pujo, the more is the footfall.”
Here’s what a season’s photo permit card looks like. A daily photo permit slip costs Rs.10, a weekly card costs Rs. 25 whereas a season’s permit costs Rs. 50. All proceedings from these sales are collected and used for the betterment of the artisans.
Ranjeet Sarkar (not in picture), the person in charge of the fund says, “Kumartuli Mritsilpa Sanskrity Samity has been established to help out artisans with the primary objective of healthcare. With the money that we collect, we set up medical camps, where visiting doctors perform the regular medical checkups for free for the artisans. We take special care to set up eye testing centres, because while the limbs create, they have to be guided by the eyes.”
The fund is also used to loan artisans money in time of their need at nominal or no interest.
At the ticketghar, we are greeted by the Tapash Pal (in picture) who promptly agrees to answer the tiresome questions. On the walk to the studio, he wastes no time in filling us with his life story. He is a second generation artist, who has been plying this trade for 23 years at Krishna Studio set up by his father Ishwar Haripada Pal. His studio has contracts with 16 Pujos, few of which come from places as far as Kharagpur (120 odd kilometres away from the city)
When quizzed about his financial affairs, the affable man’s face does fall a little.
“Arthik shomosha to achey e. Ota to eikhane motamoti sobar e achey. Kintu etai pari to etai kori.”
(Financial difficulties are always present. More or less, every artist here is in some kind of financial problem. But this is the only craft we know, so we put our energies in this.)
On being quizzed about his work, he refused to give his name but gave out one of his trade secrets.
Ganga mati aar Uluberia’r Aankle maati diye thakur er much ta toiri kori,’ he whispers softly before turning his attention back to his work.
(I use the mixture of soil of the Ganga (Hooghly) and soil from Uluberia to make the face of the idol)
The wonder briefly tells us that unending rains for the past 7 days have considerably slowed down work and everyone is struggling to finish their idols on time, before rushing off to touch up the moulding.
One of the biggest workshops in Kumartuli, Gora Chand Paul and Sons produces undoubtedly one of the best works here.
Gora Chand Paul and Sons boast of having customer bases stretching to as far as Richmond, Virginia and Dallas, Texas in the U.S. where NRI associations preserve some of their Bangaliana by ordering idols from Kumartuli.
When quizzed about his life, this artist says he has been working over three decades at this studio, has no family and works from 8 in the morning till well past 9 at night. When asked about his dwelling, he shrugs and points at a dusty loft above and goes back to his work.
Another artist (not in the picture) speaks in a tired drawl and wrinkled smile,” Taka poisha to beshi nei, kintu maa er kripa ta shodai achey.”
(Money may not be there, but Maa’s benevolence and kindness gets us going always.)
While the demon has been vanquished eons ago by the mother goddess, the demons of hunger and poverty still linger and prey on most of the artisans at Kumartuli.
It is not difficult to find her workshop, even though the board of her studio is half hidden behind unfinished idols. Everyone knows who China Pal is. Probably the first woman artisan in the whole Kumartuli, she holds her own in a profession completely dominated by men. Over steaming cups of tea, she narrates to us her life story.
She took over the studio following the sudden demise of her father in 1994, just one month before the start of Pujo. She confessed she knew very little about the craft when she started so that served as a hindrance. To top it all, the artists working under her father, Hemant Kumar Pal, had all but given up at a time where work on two major orders was pending. Miraculously, or as ‘Maa er kripa’ as China Pal puts it, she pulled off the job and took over the studio full time. Since then, there has been no looking back for her.
On being asked about her struggle she gets expansive. “The artists did not respect me, the customers were sceptical, some of my father’s artisans left because they couldn’t stand the thought of working under a woman. My own eldest brother objected my taking over the family business as he didn’t want a woman of the family to work as an artisan. But I had no choice; I had to carry on the legacy of my father.”
On being asked on the accolades she has received she beams with pride. “I received the Rajyapal Puroshkar from the Governor of West Bengal in 2011. That has been the crowning glory of my journey so far. I have also been humbled by invitations to be present at the inauguration of some pujos. It feels good to be recognized for your work.”
She, however, stresses, that idol making is still very much a male bastion.
“I still face trouble in keeping my idols outside for lack of space. Everyone does it, but the committee issues warnings to just one person- me. I still don’t understand why me being a woman artisan bothers other people. I work as hard as they do. I have the same skill set; why shouldn’t I make a living like the others?”
She also attributes her success to Maa Durge.
“It is all because of the supreme mother that I have achieved what I have today. I’m very satisfied with the way things have gone and I couldn’t ask Maa for more.”
The hand that lovingly crafts the goddess does not often get enough to eat. But it seldom complains. It is satisfied from working from the month of March right up till the Pujo, steadfast, unwavering in its commitment, seemingly oblivious to the hardships surrounding it.
One slogan, however, always seems to cheer it up.
“Asthey bochor abar hobe.”
(Till the next year, when it happens again…)
It was the peak ofÂ the placement season. The final batch had moved back into campus after completing their internships during spring break.Â Â Mails were swarming in asking for critical data and updating the status of the program. Questions were being asked, answers were sought, roomsÂ were crowded, and there was an urgent energy in the air. By the end of the first week, following these, came a mail with the subject ‘Grooming For Life‘. It was about a mandatory placement precursor event and a formal photo shoot.
The night before the event was aÂ rapid phase; things were happening all around the gentlemen’s residence leading to drastic transformation in ones identity. People were building up their profiles and some of them had actually started from the scratch. They were sorting all their achievements and certificates in various fields. Some of them were really happy to have discovered something related to their majors.
Trimmers were fully charged and the mirrors were all occupied in the men’s room. While some thought that their identities were masked in the process and they would instead like to present themselves the way they were,Â many were happy and excited about the professional transformation, immersed in this ambiance full of surprises.
Here’s a photo series called ‘Grooming for life‘, which portrays the sudden transformation of an engineering student, as he prepares for his campus placements.
You see them everywhere- children doing things that were never meant for them. Children cleaning streets, sweeping railway stations, working in factories, toiling at construction sites; children working as servants, begging, serving at hotels, washing clothes, selling tea. This list is endless and it is extremely brutal. But even more shocking is our apathy towards these kids and the fact that we have learned to ignore, turn around and forget them without a single emotion or thought.
With rampant employment of children as labour around us, we have learned to cover ourselves with this numb indifference which won’t help them in any way. What happens when we make a conscious effort to look at them and try to find out ways to change their situation? With just one honestÂ effort to focus, we find them everywhere, and a simple look into the innocent eyesÂ of these children can make us do a lot more than turning away.
As an agent of change, CRY-Child Rights and You, ensures that the fundamental rights of underprivileged children in India are protected and honoured. As a part of its ongoing campaign “Click Rights”, CRY has used the power of photography to bring those innocent lives in front of you. Now is the time to look at this harsh reality of our society, to not avoid the truth and to take action.
The founder of CRY, Late Rippan Kapur once said, “What I can do, I must do.” It’s your time now. Pledge your support to stop child labour here.
“Kisi ko bolna mat ki hum Bangladesh se hain, theek? Humein maar denge, ya wapas bhej denge. Hum wahan nahi jaana chaahte. Wahan kuch nahi hai. Yahan humein acha lagta hai. Wahan toh hum bhooke mar jaate the” (Don’t tell anyone that we are from Bangladesh. They’ll kill us or send us back. We don’t want to go there. We like it here. We were starving there.)Â
This is the story of Ms. Rani and many more like her who are inhabitants of the rag pickers’ colony in Delhi or ‘BangaliBasiti’ as they call it. All the inhabitants are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and hence they fear recognition by the authorities. Little do these people know that everybody- from local police officers to highest government officials are very much aware of the fact that they are illegal immigrants and they really don’t care. They don’t care where do these people live or to be more precise, how do they live. The authorities don’t care whether their living conditions are the most substandard in the nation, they don’t care whether their children study or not, they don’t care about the number of people who die due to diseases caught by living in such pathetic condition; simply for the reason that these immigrants don’t matter. India doesn’t recognize them, they are not on the voters list and hence it’s not important to work for them- the most marginalized section of the society.
As I stepped in the Basti, I gasped. I have been to various slum areas but this was nothing like I have ever seen. KatchaÂ makaans made out of garbage. No running water. No stable source of electricity. No sanitation- at all. Heaps and heaps of garbage inches away from people’s homes. But when you talk to people, they will tell you how happy they are in India. ‘India is heaven for us’ one resident said in Bengali. “Really? Why do you say that?” I asked. And then he told me how his family is able to eat meals here in India. All of them- from grandmother to the 5-year-old child is engaged in rag picking, sorting and selling, which fetches them around Rs 5000 a month. There in Bangladesh they had nothing, absolutely nothing to do, many even starved to death. Hence, they find beauty in the garbage here.
These people expect very little. However, they do have certain complaints. The biggest one being the lack of any sort of identity. They don’t have any identity card- ration, Aadhar, voter, BPL. This deprives them of making their voice heard or availing the benefits of various government schemes. They have applied for Aadhar cards many times- but their application is either rejected because of lack of any identity proof or they never hear back from the Dalaals who take Rs 50 from them and never return. So what has happened is that a viscous cycle has been created- they can’t get any identity proof because they don’t have an identity proof, and hence they can’t avail the benefits of any developmental scheme.
Continuing the vicious cycle, even their kids are subjected to poverty, discrimination, poor living standards and are deprived of a healthy childhood. Most kids can’t get admissions to schools because, again, there are no identity cards. This is one of saddest things in the area. What have these kids done? Is it their fault that they are born to immigrant parents? Furthermore, they don’t know anything about RTE- Right to Education. In fact, clauses in RTE act dictates that sections from underprivileged society don’t need to have any identity proof to get admissions in private schools, all they need to do is sign an undertaking. However, like most laws in our country- this remains, largely, on paper. Adding to this already messed up situation, the residents simply refuse to sign any sort of paper. When my co-interns tried to get them sign the undertaking, they simply refused because they are sceptical, scared that we are deceiving them. It has only been after a month of trust building that they signed the undertaking.
Talking about the living conditions, they are far worse than you can imagine. The ‘toilets’ consist of two bricks in between which, they have dug a hole which is full of water. The houses are made of garbage- tarpaulins, torn sarees, shirts, and tins to hold the tent. The only source of water in the hand-pump which is almost a kilometre away. There is an illegal electricity connection which allows them to use one bulb in each house. Because the area is ignored by all authorities- even law and order eludes the place. The place serves as a breeding ground for all sorts of illegal activities, crimes against women living in slums is common. And obviously- health of people living in the basti is down the drains- malaria, dengue, cholera is more than common. I won’t say more about the living conditions as I will let the pictures do the talking.
My day at rag pickers colony came as a tight slap on my face. It showed me the reality of our ‘Mahaan Bharat’. Moreover, it showed me how petty I am- thinking of buying fancy phones and laptops and clothes when a large chunk of my country’s people live right in the middle of garbage, defecate in complete mess, when all that little kids play with are thrown tins and used jars. It’s funny that in a city where lavish malls are mushrooming everywhere, we have places like this, where people are content and happy with having two meals a day, where people live without any identity, where all that kids see around them is garbage and more garbage. Bangali Basti was a solid proof that India is not growing together, the rich are getting richer and this gap is increasing with every passing day.
This collection of pictures depict the life on the shore of the Golden Beach in Puri, Odisha, a couple of months before cyclone Phailin struck the coast. The community of Telugu speaking fishermen, who migrated to the coast some six decades back in search of a life and livelihood, settled on the beach and made it their home. Generations of fishermen have fished on the shore, their women catering to the tourists in makeshift shacks, while back home, some three-hundred yards from the shore, children rush through the narrow lanes of their small settlement. On 12th October 2013, Cyclone Phailin made landfall on the coast of Odisha, displacing a million people and affecting lives of even more. It washed away the small settlement that had created a life for the fishermen community.
On a bright sunny morning in August, a couple of months before the cyclone hit the coat, some men carried wooden rows in one hand and a bunch of fishing nets in the other, walking toward the small wooden boat bobbing on the shore water. Little girls sold beads and fake, dazzling white pearls to tourists, while their mother catered to them with coconut water and cups of tea. Most of the children of this community spend their days on the beach trying to make some quick money. They have dropped out of school and happily run on the golden sandy beach. They speak broken Hindi and are fluent in Telugu.
I met a man in his mid forties who sold cigarettes, and while negotiating over the price of a pack, he asked me to come see their colony. The lanes were narrow and murky and the smell of dry fish was unbearable. We sat on the small veranda of his ancestral house where fish skins were laid bare and sprawled out in the sun. He promised me a cup of tea and went inside while I was talking with his father. He told me how they were a group of small fishermen who migrated here in search of a livelihood and settled thereafter, continuing fishing to this day.
‘Ah, the government seldom hears us and reaches out to us‘, he said in between quick sips of hot tea, talking about how fishing as an industry was dying and it was getting difficult to support the whole family by fishing.
‘That’s why our girls and little boys sell tea and coconut water and beads out there.‘
This is the story of the eyes of people pained and subjugated, alienated by mankind and shunned by history. The Tibetan Movement for freedom and its many manifestations are realised all over Majnu-ka-tilla, the Tibetan settlements in Delhi, ardent posters, graffiti and nationalist posters filling the locality with an enthusiastic fervour. At the head of this movement, is an ideology of freedom and the aspiration of a lost identity. It is a struggle to be heard, to raise a much drowned voice against the aggressor that has clipped the wings of hope of manyÂ people. Various forms of art, literature and expression have been used to depict the uprising of these people, telling of their plight and their constant, undaunted courage in the face of adversity.
It is where the flag is held high, where you see my passion fly high; it is there that you shall know the fire of my soul and the tales of my people. The flags are hard to miss- they helped me spot the otherwise secluded colony of Tibetan refugees
From the gate a road winds down, and leads you into a story untold. Of lands far away and stories unnoticed.
The fire of suppressed passion has been lit, the lamp still burns… a cause emerges, Bridges are crossed, and all the while, lay entangled, the hopeful demand of a lost nation.
While exploring the walls that box this cause, I noticed the rendition of a voice that cannot go unheard.
Follow the white rabbit into its den and it opens to you secrets from now and then- fascinated as I was, life in this colony fills the veins of its darkest lanes.
An interesting walk, life emerges and slides into the roads and the lanes, the old and the young converge… all the while their eyes glint with the gleam of a singular dream- one they have dreamt together. The one they have passed on as legacy.
Here amongst the fiery love for their lost land, lay a world of colour- one that meant sustenance, sustenance of their hopes, all holding on to the singular idea of the hues of freedom.
Their bricked walls and their dingy lanes, a life forced upon their existence and yet so vivid, so lively so real, one they use for a survival. While I made my tour around this locality, I realised how Majnu-ka-tilla is certainly about a cause, but way more importantly it was about the faces behind this story.
While I traced my steps back, I caught a glimpse of an unmissable light, one that emerged from a heart and rose to the skies… and in a trickle my heart, felt the warmth; the warmth that rose from the candle of this fight.
Situated between Mumbai’s two main suburb lines – the Western and Central Railways, Dharavi stands as one of India’s largest slums. Often called “Asia’s largest slum”, Dharavi is now competing with four other slums in Mumbai itself for that distinction.Â With an economy of $1 billion per year, DharaviÂ spreads across 200 hectares, and houses a population of anything between 300,000 people to a million (the estimates vary widely).
Photo: Drying clothes aside the railway line that runs between Dharavi.
While there have been many a discussions on the redevelopment of Dharavi, theÂ latest urbanÂ redevelopmentÂ plan proposed for the Dharavi area is managed by American-trainedÂ architectÂ Mukesh Mehta. But beyond the vast discussions around redevlopment, being one of India’s largest slum, and the thriving economy are the lives of the people who live in this area.
Dharavi has a long history of epidemics and disasters.Â ItÂ has severe problems with public health, due to the scarcity of toilet facilities, due in turn to the fact that most housing and 90% of the commercial units in Dharavi are illegal. As of November 2006 there was only one toilet per 1,440 residents in Dharavi. Mahim Creek, a local river, is widely used by local residents for urination and defecation, leading to the spread of contagious diseases. The area also suffers from problems with inadequate drinking water supply.
As photographer lecercle puts it, “Ramshackle corrugated tin, plywood, plastic, pukkah bricks, sheets of asbestos, sweat, toil, people and garbage make Dharavi, just like piles of earth, sand, clay and other materials make ant hills. Dharavi and many other slums like it are nothing but human ant colonies built by legions of our urban poor. They are places which are at same time sombre, moving, joyful and interesting .Push and pull factors, bring people from our villages here everyday in search for something better. They settle here much to the neglect of our apathetic eyes. But under the squalor is great spirit and ingenuity. I went looking for this spirit in this place most people refer to as ‘Asia’s largest slum’ but I would prefer to call the ‘Heart of Mumbai’.”
Problems for Dharavi are not limited to health and sanitation. Water scarcity remains on top of the troubles of the people in the slum. As discussed by Joanna Lobo & Vishakha Avachat in this report, “In Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, water scarcity has been the rule rather than the exception that tests it. Fifty-year-old, Laxmi Shinde’s daily routine revolves around water. She wakes up every morning at 6am. She then waits half-an-hour at a common tap, shared by six families.”
In May 2009, the group of students of the MSc programmes Urban Design and planning in Development at the DPU visit the so-called Asia’s largest slum ‘Dharavi’ in the heart of Mumbai. You can read and download the report produced here.
In addition to the traditional pottery and textile industries in Dharavi, there is an increasingly large recycling industry, processing recyclable waste from other parts of Mumbai. The district has an estimated 5000 businesses and 15,000 single-room factories.
As per a report in the National Geographic, “Many kids start school in Dharavi; few of them finish. One of the community’s greatest challenges is education. Though employment of children under age 14 in factories and at other hazardous work is illegal in India, child labor persists. Girls are frequently classified as helpers or domestic workers to get around the law. Children’s labor and income can be crucial to a family’s survival. Some factory owners convince parents that youth will gain skills and have better lives if they work away from home. But by the time the children finish their long commitments to these employers, they’ve fallen too far behind to resume school.”
Photo credits: Meena Kadri, Lecercle, Ishan Khosla, MM, Tobias Leeger, Martin Selva and Thomas Leuthard via Flickr. Find more such photographs here.
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It was late afternoon. He took time off from work, and resting his back against a wooden post he was humming away old Bachchan songs with a gentle smile showing on his face when he tried to sing harder, closing his eyes in between-
“One of my friends decided to contest elections on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket and I helped him through everything. He lost three times but managed to win the next elections. I was delighted. But after sometime he chose a completely different path and didn’t do the work that he was meant to do. I tried to talk to him but he was in a different world. All these years I helped him with everything, hoping things that would be become possible if he won and worked. He changed, like a lizard changes colour. He back stabbed me, you know. What made him change all of a sudden?”
“Well, I don’t know who am I going to vote but it is possible that I may not vote. Who should I vote, tell me. Congress has been in power for six decades and with an experience of six decades at hand they cannot control the price rise. Corruption and our ever increasing population just add to the rise. Subsidizing cooking gas at the time of elections won’t solve anything, you know. And I don’t trust the BJP with peace and development. How can one man change a country? Such a big and poor country.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is too young to run the nation from the centre. Hmm, you see, I don’t know what I am going to do. I don’t have time to give them time to prove themselves again and again. I have suffered and seen enough. Everybody is feeling like I am.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that. I understand that we all have to go and vote. We elect the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, and the MLA, who, I learn, has to take care of us who go out and vote. But neither of the three ever made me feel I or my family was taken care of; what do they have in America? The same system? I heard they are just 17 crores and the best in the world.”
‘Well, my family has been anti-Congress since the beginning of democracy in this country. My grandfather voted against them, my father voted against them, and I have always voted against them. You see, these days these elections don’t make any difference because all the parties contesting follow the same ideology after forming government at the centre. AAP is too young to lead India right now. I don’t know if Modi can deliver his promises after becoming the PM. He is not like Lal Bahadur Shastri or Morarji Desai. To tell the truth, nobody is.’
‘I am thirty years old. I fix punctured tyres for a living. I have been doing this since the time I first voted. Have seen many elections, many campaigns, and many promises. I used to earn about 150 rupees per day when I started and I earn almost the same today. Prices have risen sharply and jobs are hard to find these days. I have a brother in law who is fairly educated and works as a watchman to earn his bread and butter. Yes, I will vote this time like I have all these years. I believe things will change. This is why they ask us to go out and vote. I am ready to give them another chance.’
I worked all my life in the Maharashtra Forest Department. There were many corrupt officers and bureaucrats working as directed more corrupt ministers. I worked honestly all my life. Now they deny me even my share of pension. I have to visit the office again and again to ask for my pension that is my right. Vilasrao Deshmukh ran a terrible government that violated environmental regulations. Actually I am fed up of this electoral system you call democracy. Each time I went out and voted, corruption escalated as years passed. Anyway, I will not live to see another government.’
In 2012, 2.9 million babies died within 28 days of being born: 2 out of every 5 child deaths. Of these, 1 million babies died within 24 hours, their first, and only day of life.3 causes of these deaths include premature birth,
complications during birth and infections. This is heart-breaking and unacceptable.
We must be clear: newborn deaths are not inevitable. Most are easily avoided if the simplest of interventions are made available to all. Systemic change is needed from governments, donors and health professionals. This year, 2014, offers an unprecedented opportunity to focus on this topic and set in motion the revolutions needed. Together, we can ensure that no baby is born to die.
Dr. Nonika Goyal is Program Manager MCH (Maternal andChild Health), Fortis Hospital Gurgaon, New Delhi India.
India’s out-of-pocket expenditure stands at 60% which means poor cannot access or afford the critical health care readily available for those who can afford.Â Save the Children report highlights that equity is a critical factor determining newborn and child survival – the newborn mortality rate among the wealthiest 20 percent of India’s population is 26 per 1,000 babies, while among the poorest households 56 newborn babies out of 1,000 die in the very first month of life.
Namit, one month old, was born premature at the Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, New Delhi India, to Manju, 30 and her husband Sanjeev, 34.
Without timely care and attention over 6 lack newborns succumb to birth related complications leading to death. India has made dramatic progress in reducing under-5 mortality, however, there is a real danger that progress in reducing child deaths could stall and we will fail in our ambition to be the generation that can end all preventable child deaths.
Manju, 30, was admitted in intensive care unit at the Fortis Hospital in Gurgaon, New Delhi, with severe medical difficulties which resulted in Manju’s child being delivered pre-term via cesarean. Manju was having trouble breathing with fluid around her lungs. Doctors informed the couple that this was an extraordinary occurrence and they had few options, which, if they didn’t work, would mean death for Manju. Thankfully, procedures worked and Manju is now recovering.
She must feel lucky as there are many women who do not receive crucial medical care and attention, often leading to complications and even death.
Deepanshi, 4, with her brother Namit, one month old, at the Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, New Delhi.
Namit was born pre-term via cesarean while Manju was suffering from a life threatening condition. Thanks to the critical care and attention she received at a medical facility, she survived. In India, every 10 minutes a woman dies while giving birth in the absence of health care she needs.
Hemlata, 27, gave birth to Virika, two months, a healthy baby girl without any major complications.
From the early days of her pregnancy she had access to good medical care via a health insurance programme.
As an educated, informed mother Hemlata was able to make important decisions regarding her pregnancy and the care she was receiving. Not satisfied with the medical advice she was initially given she sought out another Doctor who was able to identify a Vitamin D deficiency, which was causing bad morning sickness.
Upon being born it was found that the child has an infection, which was treated immediately with antibiotics. She was kept in the hospital for seven days after which she was discharged a healthy child.
Evidence shows that neonatal mortality rate among children born to illiterate mothers has been consistently higher than those born to mothers with some education.
The 1,000 days window from the start of a woman’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday is critical. Low-cost nutrition solutions like exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months can make the difference between life and death for children.
For instance, breastfed children are at least six times more likely to survive in the early months of life than non-breastfed children.
New Delhi is home to almost 17 million people. According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation, one out of five people in Delhi is a slum dweller.
With poor health care facilities, children are most vulnerable to malaria, diarrhoea and other common ailments, including stomach infections impacting the health and chances of survival of children.
Reshma, 20, Kalander Colony, New Delhi, India. Pregnant for the first time, Reshma lost her child due to complications at the time of birth. The child suffocated in the womb and was still born. Reshma had initially gone to the hospital with her mother and mother-in-law to get all of her initial check-ups and medications but an untrained traditional midwife convinced the whole family that it was better for the child to be born at home.
She scared the family by talking of ‘big operations’ that may occur in the hospital. It was only when it was too late that the traditional midwife recommended going to the hospital.
Sabir, 45, Reshma’s father runs an iron shop for a living. The ironing shop is located in front of their house in Kalander Colony, New Delhi, India. Pregnant for the first time, Reshma is living with her parents.
Shilpi, 24, lives in Shahdara, New Delhi and has two children, a daughter and a son Yash, aged seven months. Before giving birth to Yash, Shilpi was pregnant with a child she lost after six and a half months due to severe internal bleeding and infection. It is only through the intervention of a Community Health Volunteer that she did not suffer the same fate as her child.
During Shilpi’s third pregnancy, her mother-in-law continued with her traditional practices, ignoring the needs of Shilpi. It was only after the intervention of Sunita, Save the Children health volunteer that the family began to understand the need to look after a pregnant mother and to make use of the available medical care.
Sunita, visited the family and persuaded the husband and mother-in-law to allow Shilpi to be taken to the doctor. Her son Yash, was born without complications. He is now seven months old, a happy, healthy child. Health workers are the real ‘foot soldier’ saving precious lives.
Shilpi with her son Yash, now seven months old. There is a close link between the education level of a mother and chances of her child’s survival.
For successive years, neonatal mortality rate among children born to illiterate mothers has been consistently higher than those born to mothers with some education. According to NFHS 3, newborn mortality stands at a high of 45.7 per 1000 live births if the mother has had no education compared to 19.6 per 1000 if the mother has completed 12 or more years of education. This shows that newborn mortality is 2.3 times higher among women who have received no education.
Sunita is a health worker. She works tirelessly, delivering crucial care and counselling that can save precious life of the mother and babies.
A child is five-times more likely to survive to their fifth birthday if they live in a country with enough midwives, nurses and doctors.
India must ensure that there is a health worker within reach of every mother and every child.
Here’s wishing you a very happy, colourful, respectable, safe and awesome Holi. These pictures are meant to brighten up your day with more blues, greens and yellows; and to remind you that there are many colours inside you. It’s just a matter of making time to bring them out and paint the world in gorgeous shades. Hope you find your colours within.
My skin is kind of sort of brownish Pinkish yellowish white. My eyes are grayish blueish green, But I’m told they look orange in the night. My hair is reddish blondish brown, But it’s silver when it’s wet. And all the colors I am inside Have not been invented yet.
– Shel Silverstein
I recently returned from a visit in January 2014, to the Relief Camps at Muzaffarnagar, U.P – where thousands of displaced people affected by the recent communal riots are taking refuge. Even months after the incidents, perpetrators are still at large, and people in the camps still suffer from lack of even basic amenities. The refugees were provided some warm clothes and ration by our group, and a few medical camps were set up.
Of all the heart-wrenching scenes, the sub-human conditions that people are living under in the camps – the most troubling for me is the condition of the children there; innocent lives caught up in the politics of communalism and fascism, in the violence of those who think that the country belongs to them and suffering under the apathy of an insensitive government. I wonder what future they shall have, if they manage to survive the present.
Though perhaps these people shall still somehow survive and move on with what is left of their lives – I wish we could ensure that politics of hate, fear, polarization and ethno-nationalism shall never survive in our country, whatever symbols or achievements they hide under. Yet still, I don’t know if the children’s scars shall ever heal, or if our hearts and our minds shall ever heal of the scars of the partition, polarization and communalism. These broken lives represent our broken society and broken consciences.
These are a few images of life in the camps for the children of Muzaffarnagar. For our ‘viewing pleasure’.
After long standing legal tangles and regulatory issues, the world’s biggest solar power plant opened for business today. An initiative by The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS), which is jointly owned by NRG Energy, Google, and BrightSource Energy; this plant will provide reliable solar electricity to more than 140,000 homes. The plant is located in Ivanpah Dry Lake, California.
[blockquote source=”Official news release”]The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is now operational and delivering solar electricity to California customers. At full capacity, the facility’s trio of 450-foot high towers produces a gross total of 392 megawatts (MW) of solar power, enough electricity to provide 140,000 California homes with clean energy and avoid 400,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equal to removing 72,000 vehicles off the road.[/blockquote]
To understand in simple words, there are 300,000 panels, each being 7 feet high and 10 feet wide, which will be computer controlled to focus the sun’s light on 450 foot tall towers where water is turned into steam to run turbines. According to Ivanpah’s website, the electricity from this project will avoid millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emission and other air pollutants, thus being equivalent to taking 70,000 cars off the road.
Spread across 5 square miles of land, the plant can be described in two perfect words; Beautiful and Smart. This is a huge project that the world can learn from. Here are a few pictures of the beauty that will light up a large number of Californian homes:
What started as a peaceful anti-government rally on Venezuela’s National Youth Day, led to the death of at least 3 people in the capital city, Caracas. The march was called to protest against the arrest of 13 student protestors who were arrested during previous protests. After the rally, while many protestors had returned, a small group stayed behind. There was a clash with security forces and it was at this time that few men on motorbikes shot at the crowd which led to chaos.
Cradled by the bay, where life knows no luxury, but makes no complaint, the landscape of Sunderban, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is poetry written by the hands of God. It is not the obvious sort of poetry that appeals to you immediately but the subtle sort that lingers on in unused corner of your mind to haunt your senses naggingly, when perhaps you see a sunset one lonely evening, or hear the quiet song of some faraway sea at sunrise — that’s when you go back to Sunderban imaginatively again and its handful of people, for whom the line between life and death is so blurred that they have to struggle daily to keep this channel of demarcation aflow. Their sole modes of subsistence are fishing and collecting honey. On the land, the tiger prowls stealthily to disbalance them; on the water the waves threaten to swallow them. And yet they live. They have battled the Royal Bengals and the Ailas, the stings of the honey bees and the stings of hunger and yet they live. This photo story is a dedication to the fierce spirit of the people of Sunderban and the land that they live on; five years since Cyclone Aila washed away most of what these marshes had, this photo story is a celebration of what the people still cling on to.
Sometimes the land lets them down; but mostly it lets them live.
When you are alive, you need to show signs of life. After a long hard day, they unwind, the locals, by celebrating their life and their legends. I was lucky to catch a performance of the Bon Bibi’r Pala — a rudimentary stage act hailing the goddess that saves them from the perils of the tiger and the sea, Bon Bibi.
Be it a thatched roof hut, or a glass-ceilinged mansion, it takes a little loving and a lot of living to make it a home.
And when you come out of this marshland, you finally learn to count your blessings, and to be thankful, very very thankful for all that you always had and never appreciated. Because the Sunderbans is a land where life knows no luxury, and yet makes no complaint.
The birthplace of street fashion in Delhi, Sarojini Nagar market, lives up to its reputation of being a shopper’s paradise. I entered the market dazed by the sheer magnitude of clothes, a bubble of self-confidence rising in my throat as vendors from all directions craved for my attention. I ventured deeper into the market and ended up with clothes enough to last me an year and bargaining skills honed enough to last me a lifetime. It introduced me to a perfect combination of original designs as well as an army of clones of clothes and accessories from atrociously expensive brands like Zara. It redefines a divine shopping experience, as you walk away feeling satiated without going bankrupt.
“The early bird catches the worm!” I realized the significance of this thought on a Sunday morning when I advertently went for a walk in early morning with a jacket and a digital camera in one hand. The majestic landscapes I saw filled me with joy and there was a long-lasting freshness intact throughout the day.
As I walked through the bridge I saw colors changing every 5 minutes. I chose the beautiful Bund Garden Area of Pune that is famous for beautiful landscapes and migratory birds!
The sky changed to a purple colour after 10 minutes. I came here looking for birds and I did see some! I also got to capture the Bund Garden bridges connecting Ahmadnagar and Lohgaon international airport to Pune.
As I came back from the mountain I had painstakingly climbed to observe this beautiful moment and met some travellers waiting for their bus.
I also met the sweeping lady. We really underestimate their contribution in keeping the environment clean. I really developed a lot of respect for these people in my mind.
I caught a lot of birds flying away from their homes in search of food and was also able to spot some beautiful ones along the river side. Indeed, these birds are so similar to humans leaving for their jobs early morning.
Morning seems to be one of the most pleasant times of the day. When I came back, I was more energetic and happy than usual. If you want to experience a beautiful 60 minute journey like this, just grab your jacket and a camera and go for an adventure and you will thoroughly enjoy what nature has to offer every morning!
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