Don’t cry my dear, it’ll just take a few days and you’ll become habitual to all this,” uttered Rani to her daughter Sita. 

Mother, what do you mean, I’ve to go through all this for my entire life?” impatiently asked Sita. “Yes my dear, that’s how our society works. Your father used to beat me till hours after coming home drunk, but the next day he would bring me ‘besan ke ladoos’ from Kaka’s shop and I would just swallow my pain along with ladoos,” said her teary-eyed mother. 

Sita was astonished to hear her mother’s reply. She wondered whether it’s so easy to adjust women’s dignity and pain with a few ladoos. 

And 1,200 kms away in a posh locality in Mumbai, another mother was conditioning her newlywed daughter. “My child, you have to accept this. I know, you have a job from 9 to 5, but you cannot absolve your duties of cooking and taking care of your in-laws.” 

Hearing this, Ruhani asked her mother, “If we both earn the same, why is household work entirely shouldered upon me?” 

A still from the movie Lunch Box

What do these two tales talk about? Isn’t it strange that despite proclaiming gender equality in our constitution we live in a highly stratified society? 

Despite having laws about the prohibition of dowry to domestic violence, we see scars on women’s faces. Despite giving a clarion call for “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao”, the State of World Population, 2020, laments that India accounts for 40% of the world’s “missing girls”. 

Despite applauding Priyanka Chopra for breaking the glass ceiling and admiring Gita Gopinath’s success, we have one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world. 

So where are we going wrong? Are we short on legal or policy aspects? Not exactly. So is it about our socialization? Let’s check. 

Socialization is the process by which we learn to become members of society. So let’s take a look at our “gendered socialization”. 

Sita and Ruhani’s stories are not rare. There are many who have accepted domestic violence as part and parcel of married life and consider this burden as something natural for a woman, like household work and her job. 

What else can they do? In fact, we’re all brought up like this. Starting from — pink is for girls and blue is for boys, kitchen set for girls and bat ball for boys, rearing and caring for girls and earning for boys, abusive language in the name of girls and masculinity in the name of boys, four walls for girls and open streets for boys. 

The list is endless but this will suffice to throw light on our gendered socialization. I get astonished sometimes when people ask, “What’s my fault in the rising cases of sexual harassment or feminization of poverty?” 

Aristotle once said that family was the first institution. 

Thus, it becomes crucial what values are being propagated within our families. 

Now you can go to a flashback to make yourself clearer. Some of you would be amazed to realise, “I always wanted to be an engineer, how did I end up in the kitchen”. 

Please don’t judge me as someone who hates pink or undervalues household duties. In fact, I believe to nurture and raise a family by sacrificing your own dreams is the toughest task that many women do happily. 

I’m just raising the matter of choices. It was never about task distinction amongst males and females. Rather, the reality is that “nature created sex and society created gender”. With this came the role of stereotypes. And this is being passed along generations. 

So when Chandro Tomar went for sharpshooting events, the males in the house got enraged. They scorned her dreams by saying “these things are not meant for females”. 

This is being propagated in our media industry too. It has become too banal that nobody considers it wrong, when only women are broadcasted in “washing powder nirma”, Harpic or Johnson Baby’s advertisements. 

And on the extreme side movies like Kabir Singh portray misogyny and earn crores. Eve-teasing culture is propounded in movies like Dabang or Love Aaj Kal. It’s promoted as a form of love. And if a boy commits a crime by taking revenge with the girl for a “no”, it becomes “her” mistake. Nobody considers it problematic if all this boils down to rape culture. 

Various studies have highlighted that rape is as much a social issue as it’s a psychological one. When a girl is sexually assaulted, society goes on tagging her attire, companionship and timing as an offence. 

But then what do you call marital rape? How are you fine with the fact that 94% of rapes are done by offenders who are known to the victims — family members, friends, employers, etc. 

When will we start contemplating such issues? When will we realise the wrongs being propagated within our families? The next time you appreciate commodification of women in songs, think twice. The next time you debase a movie like Thappad because it portrays women’s dignity and her choices, think twice. 

Also read: Does My Father’s Feminism Carry Ingrained Casual Sexism?

In a historic judgment, ordering equal roles for women in the army, the Supreme Court asserted “gender inequality is about mindsets”. It’s true that patriarchy, misogyny and role stereotyping take its roots from our mindsets. So let us start with setting our homes right first. 

Before adjusting the deadline for daughters, ask where your sons are roaming late at night. Before shouting at her for the skirt’s length, teach him to respect girls. Before crying over your daughter’s assault, slap your sons if they eve-tease a girl. 

Before asking your daughters-in-law whether they can cook or not, start allocating household duties among children, regardless of gender, equally. Before asking a working woman how she manages family and work together, make yourself realise you are a gender bigot. 

And for Sita and Ruhani’s mothers, I would say stop propagating gendered socialization.

Women’s Colleges Have Everything To Do With Men. Yet Not. Read How.

Empowerment, Equality, Bikini-bottoms: Why Women’s Colleges Are Relevant In Contemporary Times

“Why are you joining a Feminazi hot-spot?”

As much as some of us women enjoy sitting in circles, throwing in creative jibes at men, we wouldn’t establish a college to do so.

The purpose of this article is to outline the contemporary relevance of women’s colleges and why these institutes have nothing to do with men yet everything to do with them too.

The announcement of my joining a women’s college was received with a juxtaposed reaction- snarky yet glazed-in-pity comments from my friends and sighs of relief from distant family. Both of these, judgements borne of a stereotypical understanding of women’s colleges.

Representational image.

Having studied in a co-ed institute all my life, this decision came equally as a surprise to me as it was to people who know me. Many of my friends couldn’t fathom why I would travel as far as Delhi, from Bombay, to study in a women’s college which is off-campus, when I had the option of leading an unsupervised life of unlimited depravity in an equally good co-ed college in the north campus. I must say, that prospect did seem rather enticing for a bit, but as soon as I entered the campus, I shed every shred of doubt.

The sight of ambitious women, with keen, intelligent faces, empathetic smiles and a stubbornness to be unconquered- it was simply electric.

Women’s colleges are evolving from conservative grooming and breeding grounds that set rules for women, to increasingly liberal gardens where seeds of equality and solidarity are sown, and women set rules through democracy and dissent. The social, political and economic context of our life plays a very powerful role in shaping it. Each aspect of the identity of an individual may alter an experience and we often take for granted the privilege associated with our identity.

The journey of a woman and the way she navigates through school, college and so on is often rather different from that of a man. When we add another layer to the identity of the person, let’s say a woman from the North-east, the experience may be altered yet again. Sexism and misogyny, so deeply embedded in our social and political institutions therefore often make journeys of women a thorny path and so does casteism, transphobia, homophobia and Islamophobia among many other prejudices against marginalized identities. Individuals of each of these identities show immense grit and work double or triple as hard to prove their worth.

The point to note here is this- marginalized identities, in this context,- women do not want to be glorified for making it through the thorny path, neither should they have to take a complicated path by virtue of their gender, or any aspect of their identity.

Representational image. Students of Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi, India (Lady Sriram College, LSR) (Photo by Sipra Das/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

This is not to say that all men have it easy. They don’t. But they are spared of institutionalized oppression specifically owing to their gender. This is also not to say that women’s colleges are absolutely egalitarian spaces. Trans women are not given their rightful space. It’s a rather convenient and typical to look the other way when it comes to the self-determination of trans individuals, isn’t it? Discrimination in the campus on the basis of caste, class and religion have been well preserved across decades, just as these red brick walls.

Surprisingly, removing men from the equation doesn’t solve all the problems. The purpose of these institutions is not to wage war against men, maybe to instil a sense of self-dependency and a space to thrive as a woman, but no, not to wage war.

“I feel that personally, before coming to college, I was living in a world where I was majorly dependent on older men in my family or outside. The power and responsibilities were in their hands and so, learning was derived from them. After being in a women’s college (LSR), it has given me an environment where I got to know what a world would look like if there were no men in them and women in my college, specifically the seniors, showed me how I could get that learning from women and this actually helped me break a lot of structures in my mind”,  says Aishwarya Singh, a third-year student from Lady Shri Ram College.

Leadership opportunities, a learning environment where women are in charge, freedom to explore without any inhibitions. That is the purpose of a women’s college.

To have and become role models, currently a concept which is dominated by cisgender men. To ensure they derive purpose from themselves and not a man. To establish free will and a right to self-determination. To dissent freely against injustice. To wear a sweater with bikini bottoms if I please.

Also read: I’ve Finally Found Answers For My 17-Year-Old Me: “You’ll Love LSR”

The article was first published here.

The blushing bride dressed in fineries, surrounded by her bridesmaids, the gallant groom dressed royally, being hyped by his band of groomsmen. Families on both sides, extremely involved in all the proceedings, with the elders showering their blessings and the young ones creating mischief. Fragrant flowers adorning all possible surfaces, and delicious smells wafting from the kitchens. The photographer, equally torn between taking gorgeous shots of the bride and groom, and cheeky clicks of the guests gorging on food. Indian weddings have always been a celebration unto themselves.

Weddings signify much more than just a bond between two people. They are a testament to the strong familial values in our society and a celebration of togetherness of all.

Enter 2020, and with it, the COVID-19 nationwide lockdown in March, 60% of the weddings had to be rescheduled or cancelled, according to one survey. According to a KPMG report in 2019, India’s current wedding market estimated at $50 billion growing with a rate of 25-30% per year, having over 10 million people associated directly or indirectly, had come to a standstill.

The pandemic morphed the celebrated concept of togetherness into an atmosphere of apprehension and uncertainty. When lockdowns were being implemented country-wide, ingenious trends of weddings over video calls became the rage. So much so that in the first couple of instances, even the bride and groom were at separate locations and connected over a video call. As subsequent easing of the lockdown has begun, gatherings of 100 people are being allowed so as to institutionalize the holy matrimony of two individuals. Still, this time around, there is a ‘new normal’.

In the new normal, even though there is a cap on the number of guests, which would lead one to believe that expenditure has been reduced, this, I feel, is not the case. The phenomenon of ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’ has become the main driver, with the expenditure remaining almost the same in pre and post lockdown.

Instead of planning one huge event, the bride and groom are now throwing multiple small events to engage with all their friends, family, and colleagues. This is also keeping the wedding industry well in business. In fact, users’ time on matrimonial sites like Shaadi.com, Jeevansaathi.com, has seen an increase of over 20-25%. These sites have taken initiatives for Home Nuptials where they are providing end to end services to facilitate marriages over videos, and guests are provided with login ids and passwords to stream live weddings.

Unfortunately, not all situations have been able to turn the pandemic around for the better, and the pandemic’s effect has been observed for the worse in certain circumstances. As the mobility of married individuals has diminished, and people have started looking inward for increased amounts of time, support, and entertainment, friction has started brewing, testing the tenacity of the bond of marriage. Divorce rates have witnessed an uptrend as compared to pre-covid times.

The pandemic has not only disrupted education but also given rise to an unprecedented increase in child marriages. Government officials mentioned that Maharashtra is considering the quick reopening of residential schools to tackle an ‘unexpected’ rise in child marriage. Authorities in the state have prevented more than 100 such weddings from April to July but fear that many others may have gone unreported.

Also read: Great Indian ‘Zero Waste Wedding’: Here’s How The Couple Tied The Eco-Friendly Knot

Having explored both sides of the effects of the pandemic on Indian weddings, it is too early to comment on the institution’s future. The best that can come out of the situation is that we as Indians continue to cherish the love, joy, and togetherness that the bond of marriage brings and keep the celebration alive in our hearts.

After the government unveiled the new National Education Policy (NEP), the discourse has centred around positive steps suggested in the document to overhaul the rigidity of the education system. Many doubts raised have been surrounding the government’s implementation of the NEP. However, a closer reading of the document reveals its focus on ‘vocational training’ and ‘multiple exit points’ which merits a critical overview and discussion.

This article attempts to understand the terms in the NEP and what they mean for the class, caste, and gender divide in the country. The following are excerpts from conversations with a student activist, professor, and trade union activist to better understand what the NEP really means.

NEP 2020
“Whose family will be able to afford higher education and a four-year degree?”

Shambhavi, an M.Phil student from AUD and a student activist at Collective Delhi says, “They have formalized dropping out through an ‘exit option’, allowing people to exit and do a specialized vocational course from ITI [or Industrial Training Institute]. The formalizing of people dropping out and getting technical and vocational training in the form of an exit option. It says we are not even bothered to educate people till class 12, we will just give them an exit option.”

She points out that while these choices to drop out might be seen as choices of free will, the picture, in reality, is different. She asks, “Whose family will be able to afford higher education and a four-year degree? The government has now stopped even keeping up the facade of caring for public education.” According to her, the situation is now “jo padh sakte hai, padhe (only those who can study, will study)” while the rest are pushed into the labour market.  

There has been a lot of pushback regarding the NEP by student groups and teachers ever since the draft NEP came out in 2016. The document was seen as a way for the government to commercialize education and make it unattainable for a large percentage of the population.

A statement from Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) on 3rd March 2020 perfectly summarizes the feelings among teachers about the NEP. It reads “ teachers across the country have been unanimous in their opposition to the NEP as its imposition will lead to the destruction of public-funded education. The DUTA categorically rejects NEP as it will categorically destroy DU and DUTA by facilitating fragmentation, privatization, and commercialization.”    

From the perspective of an educationist, Dr Abha Dev Habib, the treasurer of DUTA and a professor of Physics at Miranda House, while agreeing to the possibility of a class divide, brings another angle to the fore. She raises the point that making every Higher Educational Institute multidisciplinary and offering vocational courses will only lead to a dilution of the quality of education and the ability to critically think cultivated at these institutes. 

“We have to think about the fact that we cannot ape the situations which remain in the USA and European countries and implement it here. People through their vocational training, through skilled labour, can earn enough wages for a suitable life in those countries.

What money does an electrician or plumber get in India? So extensive vocationalization will only lead to the availability of a cheap labour force in the market. 50% of the population is under 25, and people have two options, either you can put in input in higher education or research and there is knowledge production from the human resource, or you will be converted into a market of cheap labour.

This regime [referring to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government] is the same which hasn’t filled 10 thousand empty posts in universities. 10 lakh post in schools are empty. And if this is the model which they propose to follow with ‘multidisciplinarity’, I don’t get charmed.”

“The small choices that are offered will not materialize on their own if there is a lack of teachers or professors. When you open the system, when there are too many choices, unless there is mentorship people will end up making the wrong choices, something which looks very comfortable today which because it might ease out your pressure might not be an intelligent decision.” 

Prof. Abha further explains her statement with an example of students choosing Generic Elective (GE) in DU. A GE is a supplementary course taken from outside the discipline one is enrolled in. She points out that many students take a simple or high scoring GE which eventually does not help their careers.

The professor also equates this to many choosing Physical Education at the higher secondary level simply because it is high scoring. “You might think you are cheating the system but the system is cheating you. Eventually, all of this will lead to students making or being forced to make the wrong choices under NEP which will lead to a dilution of the rigour and course work in higher education which will eventually lead to a lower standard, an unemployable and vulnerable workforce, and a loss of the ability to think critically.”

“There is a huge portion of [students from] SC, ST, OBC in every college, from marginalized sections, who will be pushed towards vocational courses but it will be at the cost of your pure sciences, humanities, social sciences. There is only a limited amount of things that can be done in the duration of a course” she adds.

According to an AIFRTE report in 2016, out of all children who get admitted in class 1, only 6% SCs, 8% STs, 9% Muslims, and 10% OBCs actually finish schooling till class 12. Keeping in mind these figures, and that women also struggle to complete schooling and apply for higher education, there appears a clear-cut view of who will actually move into vocational courses and who will go into higher education. 

Before attempting to understand the perspective in terms of the labour force, there is a need to understand the nature of vocational training in India. The route to a certificate or diploma in vocational training is two-fold. Firstly, one can go to an Industrial Training Institute and enrol in a course, getting their certification upon completion.

The second, and more prevalent, form under the current regime is the apprenticeship. Programmes like National Employment Enhancement Mission (NEEM), a skilling programme launched in 2013 and ramped up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sends applicants straight into a factory to ‘learn’ for 3-36 months, get a fixed stipend, and certification at the end of the program. While on paper this seems like a great way to alleviate the problems of labour scarcity, the reality surrounding vocational training and apprenticeships is different.

Amit is a trade union activist working in the Gurgaon-Manesar belt with the Workers Solidarity Centre. He stresses on the need to view the NEP’s push for vocationalization with the weakening of labour laws in the country. “Firstly, what I feel as a trade union activist is that, in the last 5 years, the regime has brought a lot of changes to labour laws. The Labour Code brought in the idea of ‘Fixed Term Employment’ and allowed contract workers to work in ‘core’ production. The basis of permanent jobs in labour has been ended by this policy move. This trend of contract work has been happening for the past 15-20 years in the Gurgaon-Manesar belt but now it has been formalized.” 

“Second, after regime change in 2014, there began a discourse around Skill India. At that time, National Skill Development Corporation, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, [and] the idea of giving people jobs as apprentices and attaching them to the labour force started increasing, and from there a category of NEEM trainee or student trainee developed. The idea was that someone would work, and along with that also get a certificate after a period of time [3 to 36 months].

The person will not be able to claim that job after apprenticeship, Sounds good doesn’t it, that someone can study till class 10 and get into an apprenticeship? [After] changes in the apprentice law, their stipend is less than that of the minimum wage of skilled labour. They are not treated as workers, because as an apprentice, they won’t come under the purview of labour laws. The apprentice is therefore exploited, socially vulnerable, not allowed to unionize, can’t dispute if they are removed, and they are also not guaranteed employment after their course is over.” 

He points out that because of these reasons, industrialists have started moving towards NEEM trainees as an alternate form of cheap labour. “The government also pays half the stipend, so the industrialists are getting already cheap labour at a subsidized price without any bargaining capacity. Combining the NEP with vocational training, while it sounds good on paper will only lead to companies getting a cheap workforce for which they are not liable, who they can replace with a new batch every 3 years. Fokat ka mazdoori (free labour) in a sense.”

college students
Fees are being increased in ITI too, as in the case of Haryana, where ITIs are going to get privatized and the fees are to be increased from Rs 480 a year to Rs 28,000.

Coming to what will happen to the labour market when you link dilution of labour laws with the push for vocational training in NEP, Amit points out, “Contract and permanent workers will get weakened and their ability to bargain and mobilize will be reduced even more. In the last 5 years, workers’ rights and trade unions have been immensely weakened by the regime. The long history of the right to the 8 hour day, social security, ESI [Employees’ State Insurance], PF [Provident Fund], gratuity, collective bargaining… all get a serious blow. If the same kind of work is done at a cheaper rate [then] the salary bargaining power of the worker will go down.  In the current climate of unemployment… a lot of these apprentices will be willing to work somewhere else at a lower rate. Despite rising productivity and accumulation of profit, the real wage of the worker will go down, and the transformation has come concretely in the last 5 years.”

It may be argued that the government will safeguard workers’ interests and employers will not resort to these measures. However, Amit points out that in December 2019, the Honda factory in Manesar was allowed to shut down a contract staff uprising for fair wages by hiring 800 trainees to keep the production lines moving.

The NEP and the influx of apprentices and trainees will only make this more common. Another argument that could be raised is that those looking for vocational training can go to an ITI instead of being ‘exploited’. Fees are being increased in ITI too, as in the case of Haryana, where ITIs are going to get privatized and the fees are to be increased from Rs 480 a year to Rs 28,000.

Also read: Opinion: Nep 2020 Is An Attempt To Centralize, Privatize And Commercialize Education

In conclusion, after observing the vocational training aspect of the NEP from multiple perspectives, it seems to serve a few purposes for the BJP-RSS regime.

Firstly, it transforms the workforce into a cheap, docile, and powerless entity for industrialists the world over which cannot collectivize and fight for their rights.

It makes the caste, class, and gender divide deeper by pushing the disenfranchised into low paying and exploitative work.

Finally, it dilutes Higher Educational Institutions by making them ‘multidisciplinary’ and adding ‘vocational’ courses, eventually weakening the ability to think critically.

The NEP, when viewed alongside other policies carried out by the current regime, paints a sinister picture of what is to come for the labour market and education in India.

The Students Of The 60s Were Rebels With A Cause

Their rebellion against the Vietnam War, and the underground student Naxalite movement, ushered in an era of anti-authoritarian student politics across the globe. It politicized the lives of thousands of students in Delhi University, leading to a desire for a strong student democracy.

Set nearest to the heart of country politics, for nearly six decades, the democracy in this university has been a reflection of, and reactionary to national politics. Political activity is most rampant in places that are academically most stimulating, and where students from different walks of life interact. And therefore, it is not a coincidence that universities like Patna University, Allahabad University and Delhi University were hotbeds for anti-emergency activity, during the rule of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

A clip out of The Hindu newspaper from the emergency era.

The 70s Were Tumultuous Times

PM Indira Gandhi grappled with the increasing discontentment of the masses, which was heightened by the imposition of the Emergency. Authoritarian governments crush opinions that they fear will resonate with the public. So, they jail opposition leaders, activists and academics, and thrive by creating echo chambers. Students and professors who speak of liberty, rights, freedom and democracy, are threats to an Iron throne. Stirred awake from their state of dormancy, students mobilised to reclaim their spaces.

The two predominant student fronts in Delhi University were National Students Union of India (NSUI), the student front of the Congress party, and therefore pro-establishment at that point of time. The other major party was Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student front of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Rising leftist parties included Students Federation of India (SFI), All India Students Association (AISA) and All India Students Federation (AISF). However, much like today, most students back then did not affiliate themselves with any political party and adopted free-floating ideas. They did not believe in unconditional devotion to a party ideology, and frequently took a variety of political positions.

The jailing of late Mr Arun Jaitley, who was then an ABVP leader and President of Delhi University Student’s Union (DUSU) had one implication for students- The centre fears its ability to mobilise against them. Therefore, in sharp contrast to today, ABVP between the 60s and 80s was able to legitimise itself as a democratic organisation, because of the role it played in anti-authoritarian and anti-emergency protests.

Then DUSU president Arun Jaitley serenaded by supporters.

The anti-emergency movement led by students paved the way for the democratisation of university spaces. While the electoral politics in Delhi University continued to be Bi-partisan, left parties and its factions began to expand. The campus was charged with political activity, dialogues and hot debates. Delhi University could not become an authoritarian space again.

There were few people at that time who openly committed themselves to the right-wing ideology. Yet ABVP won most of the elections and most of the seats. There were people who were professedly Marxist, but would still vote for ABVP for the simple reason that ABVP at that point of time, had cultivated an image of hands-on anti-establishmentarian politics. And for the same reason, they garnered votes from students who did not affiliate with any party or ideology as well. They would not try to find alibis for the government’s policies like NSUI did,” says Professor Pankaj Jha, Ramjas Batch of 90.

Although SFI was increasing its reach on campus in the 80s, it couldn’t permeate electoral politics. SFI has always been driven strongly by their ideological position and did not mind taking up causes that were unpopular at that time.

Mr Pankaj recalls an instance, where female students of Ramjas were eve teased by male students of another college. A fight broke between boys of the respective colleges; not because the assault angered them, but because they felt territorial about the women in their college. The political landscape in the 70s and 80s was not friendly to women.

Although those years shaped some powerful female leaders of today, politics at the time was primarily fought by, against and amongst male students. And they were fought in a way that was exclusive of women and their concerns. Both NSUI and ABVP did not take a stance on the incident. They feared becoming unpopular amongst male students. However, the student front who protested against this injustice was SFI.

“Back then, the average student couldn’t relate and rally with the passionate causes SFI took up. They wouldn’t always ensure that hot water ran in the taps, and fests were well funded. They would bring up issues of national and international importance, they would hold reading sessions, and thrive in intellectual spheres,” shares an alumnus of DU.

However, today AISF, SFI, and AISA have a strong presence in Delhi university and national politics. They are working towards mobilising students to rally peacefully through talks, sloganeering, art, music and theatre. Several times in the recent past, unaffiliated students, different factions of the left, and the NSUI have united to protest against the anti-democratic and communalist CAA/NRC, pogroming of Muslims in Jaffrabad, unlawful arrests of academia, etc.

Students protest against the communalist Citizenship Amendment Act.

NSUI and ABVP have been well funded by their parent organisations, the Congress and the RSS respectively. When universities become a medium for these fossilised organisations to materialise their agenda, student’s interest and reform take a backseat. The money they pour in, and the careful appointments they make gives them direct access to control intellectual enquiry. When this happens, there is a disconnect. And parties need to go back and read the Constitution.

With BJP in power, the roles have reversed in comparison to the 70s-80s. ABVP, which then fought against authoritarianism, is now a pro-establishment puppet in the hands of RSS, and its radical right-wing ideology. This tells us that the fight in the 70s, wasn’t for a free democracy where dissenting voices are acknowledged, but to instill a dominant right-wing ideology among students.

“The ABVP-led Delhi University Students’ Union has put up hoardings on the DU’s North Campus blaming the Left for the January 5 violence at JNU. It claims that the country was being broken on the pretext of protesting against the amended citizenship law,” Business Standard, January 16, 2020.

Also read: Has The Pandemic Brought In Political Helplessness And Snatched Our Right To Dissent?

DUSU, which was trusted as the guardian of the student democracy, yet again finds alibis, and it also propagates the hateful policies of the centre. There is a fear of activism and academicians. In 2017, Ramjas college was forced to cancel a seminar with JNU students Umar Khalid and Sheila Rashid, due to intimidation by ABVP members. This is one of the several instances where people, talks and discussions have been named “anti-national”- a recent term lazily used to avoid an actual conversation.

Repression and violence.

Apathy and alibis.

Why do we keep becoming prisoners to political parties?

Originally published on DU Beat

Image sources: Scroll.in, The Hindu, The Indian Express

I’ve always enjoyed browsing on the internet for topics related to blogging, part-time jobs, freelancing, internships etc. During one of such random browsing sessions, I stumbled upon Internshala. I tend to quickly register on the sites which excite me (I have accounts almost everywhere over the internet!). I made an account on Internshala too and went through the different internships. However, I didn’t apply to internships at that time and then completely forgot about it.

Fast forward to a couple of years – I was searching for training programs to build my resume. I already knew JavaScript and then heard about its framework that was maintained by Google itself – AngularJS. I’m from Lucknow and it wasn’t possible for me to leave the city for training. I started searching on Google for different avenues to learn AngularJS in Lucknow. I got some results and Internshala Trainings was one of them.

There were hardly any coaching centres providing meaningful training on AngularJS; either they were too costly or their timings were not suitable for me. When I finally went through Internshala’s website, I was in for a surprise. I really liked the demo that was provided. Moreover, I didn’t have to travel and could learn according to my own schedule and comfort. I registered for the training program.

a person working on a laptop, online
Representational image.

The training started and the introduction was very informative. It provided the ideal time period that one needed to devote for individual modules as the program was divided into four modules. At the end of every module, a test had to be cleared to unlock the next module. There was also a final exam at the end of the program which one needed to clear to get the certificate. The questions tested the concepts that were taught in the training and their practical applications. The tutor, Samarth Agarwal, provided many intricate details and solved each and every query of the students. He even made sure to check our codes and if we still had any problems, he would rectify them. The one on one chat sessions with him were really helpful.

Now, the best thing that I would like to share with everyone – Internshala’s support team. They value their relationship with the students. All the queries and doubts were solved on time through live chat and forums. In the middle of the training, due to some personal reasons, I couldn’t make out time for the program and eventually couldn’t complete it at the end. I was disheartened that I wasn’t able to complete the project.

I quickly composed an email and sent it to the support team asking for help. I also contacted through their Facebook page. I got the reply from their page and next day itself I received an email stating that they had extended my training period by 3 weeks so that I could complete it efficiently. I was simply awestruck! All I had asked in the email was that I wanted to have access to the training material! I’m grateful to the Internshala team for helping me out.

Also read: With Fierce Competition In The COVID-19 Era, Here’s How You Can Find Internships

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and this experience really helped me in frontend development. I even brag at times, as AngularJS provides many easy features in comparison to the lengthy and complex features in other technologies for frontend development that my peers know. Now, I can easily work on the technologies that implement Angular such as MEAN stack.

About the Author: Ajay Kumar Rajak is pursuing B.Tech in Computer Science and Engineering from Goel Institute of Technology and Management, Lucknow. He joined Internshala Training for AngularJS training and shares how he learned the ropes of AngularJS. This article was first published on Internshala Trainings (trainings.Internshala.com) – an online training platform.

By Jessica Mayberry

The digital divide in India is huge and COVID-19 has deepened it, furthering inequality. ‘Physical distancing’ on account of the COVID-19 crisis, is devastating for communities that are offline, or barely online. For these ‘barely online’ communities, it has been exponentially harder to get information, access food and education, and organise with neighbours or connect with the government.

Video is one of several great tools for the social sector to invest in right now because it amplifies community voices. It doesn’t require high degrees of literacy and can capture unedited narratives and ground realities. We, at Video Volunteers, employ community video as a tool for social change. There are various definitions of community video, but for us, it represents media that is of, for, and by communities.

With community video, youth and other local volunteers can use even a basic smartphone to capture evidence of their communities’ needs or organisations’ work, share them with their neighbours and the outside world, and spread accurate information about their circumstances.

Recently, we’ve been seeing an increased interest from nonprofits in community media and generating video content. Many of them work in remote rural areas, where the need to see ground realities in real-time is huge. Today, technology has made this possible; but there are also challenges we need to acknowledge.

Barriers To Amplifying Video Content

YouTube is not designed with the needs of nonprofits in mind. Rather, its great strength is that a video producer, no matter where they are sitting, can potentially reach a global audience. But global virality is rarely the goal of nonprofits, who are usually interested in reaching the ‘right audience’ not a global one. That ‘right audience’ might be a particular demographic, a particular government official, or very niche geography.

So, as you begin your YouTube journey, you may face the challenge of making a video on a narrow specific topic and saying in frustration, ‘why can’t I target this more directly to the people I know are interested in it?’ YouTube does not make it easy to target a particular audience.

“YouTube’s algorithm favours high-quality content. But if you are creating content about the communities you work with, you may be more concerned about the message.”

A second challenge is around the notion of quality. The algorithm favours high-quality content with mass appeal. But, if you are creating content about, for instance, your work, or the lives of the communities you work with, you may not be concerned about the visual quality, but rather, about the message. As a community media organisation, we publish nearly everything our producers send us, and we don’t implement strict quality control (though we do have standards for fake news). It would be counter-mission for us to publish only expertly produced content.

Below, we share some of our observations, lessons, and tips for setting up or running a YouTube channel.

1. A Single YouTube Channel Is An Easy Place To Start

Make one primary channel
This ensures that your audience doesn’t get split. At first, we thought of setting up many different YouTube channels, even separate channels for separate villages or individual channels for individual producers, to allow them to develop their own ‘brand’ and following. In late 2018, we were winners of the Google News Initiative through which we received mentorship support. Our mentors at YouTube decided this would not be a good idea—it would split our viewership too broadly, and it wouldn’t help individual correspondents to grow their audience, as they benefit from being on a channel with lots of subscribers.
Use playlists and tags
Organise playlists based on geography, language, and particular themes, and promote those individual playlists with tags and a strong visual identity. In this way, you tell the audience which specific geographies and issues you focus on, and the algorithm may pick that up.
Label your videos smartly
If your channel has content made by multiple people (ours has content produced by more than 400 people) it is challenging to find content made by a particular individual. Remember to always tag and label the videos’ creators—their first name and last name. Then, if you are logged into the channel, you can find all of their videos by searching for their first name and last name. In this way, different creators can promote their own videos as if it’s their own channel. With videos, it’s important to be localised while also centralised.
Rita devi dong a story interview_Video VolunteersFocus on an issue that is important to your organisation and create a series of videos on the same, then, put all the videos on a single YouTube playlist you can share. | Photo courtesy: Video Volunteers

2. Don’t Get Overwhelmed By Too Much Or Too Little Content

Many nonprofits want to use their YouTube channel to document their work and create an archive. If so, you might quickly be overwhelmed by a mass of content. In this case, organising your playlist is really important. Also, remember that you can mark certain playlists as private; in this way, YouTube, with its excellent and free and accessible storage system, can be your main archive.

Other nonprofits may face the opposite problem. They start a YouTube channel with only a single video—say a well-produced promotional video. In that case, create playlists with other good content from around the web on your issue of expertise. This is also a way to say thank you to others who have worked on the same issue you care about.

Even if you have a good system in place to turn your raw footage into watchable videos, the number of videos on your channel will grow quickly. Our challenge has been we don’t have enough staff resources to promote each video, so many videos come and go without any sort of ‘bang’.

3. Produce Content That Will Appeal To A Wide Audience

Produce content that is evergreen
This means that the topic your video is addressing will be of interest at any time. So, instead of giving a headline that references something in the news at that moment, title your video about a long-standing issue that will still be of interest a year later.
Frame videos as explainers
Explainers, also known as ‘how to’ videos, are a nonprofit-friendly format. How-tos such as ‘How to access NREGA’ or ‘How to register for the widow pension programme’ are almost non-existent in many Indian languages on YouTube, and could go a long way in helping citizens access government welfare schemes.
Create a series of videos on a single issue
Focus on an issue that you think is important, one that your organisation or community is particularly focused on. For instance, when we observed that lots of our correspondents were reporting on gaps in the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, we converted it into a video series called ‘ODF Pass ya Fail’, that monitored whether the scheme was working for villagers. Producing five videos on one topic costs the same as producing five videos on five different topics. Create a series of videos on the issue, then, put all the videos on a single playlist you can share. This is an example not just of strategically using the content communities create, but also of fashioning disparate voices into a collective call for change.

4. What Language Should You Publish In?

With India’s linguistic diversity, it’s often hard to know what the main language of a YouTube video should be. For instance, if a video is entirely in a regional language (for example, Marathi), but the subtitles are in English and the text plates are in English, should the video be considered as an English video or a Marathi video?

This is made harder by the fact that YouTube doesn’t currently allow you to see and analyse your audience based on language. If they did, you would be able to put the video’s title, description, and thumbnail in the language most of your viewers speak.

Based on suggestions from the YouTube Google News Initiative India team, here is what we’re doing to address this:

  • Put titles in more than one language, separated by a pipe (|). The downside to this though, is that it means the titles have to be very short.
  • Put some English words in anyway, because many non-English speakers still search using English words. Use English words in tags, descriptions, or titles.
  • Make language or region-specific playlists, so that people can find everything they can watch in a particular language, in one place.

Lastly, help people with their writing. Regardless of language, every video should be accompanied by a coherent sentence and description, that will make people want to watch it.

5. Get Seen Locally

As more people get online, the chances of hyperlocal content from India’s rural areas being seen by people in those areas is increasing. Remember, using video for social change is rarely about getting millions of views. Rather, it’s about getting the right viewers, and often, those viewers are the people who live close to you.

On YouTube, tag the block, village, district, and state for both where the video was shot and where the producer of the video comes from.

“Encourage outreach through WhatsApp groups as they have tremendous power. We also use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, in that order of priority, to share our videos.”

Encourage outreach through WhatsApp groups—they have tremendous power. We also use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—in that order of priority—to share our videos. Facebook was the first social media platform to emerge in a big way in India and has a large following; Instagram allows nonprofits to give people a visual window into their work, and Twitter (and often WhatsApp) is a great way to reach officials. During the pandemic, we’ve seen a few instances where government officials have engaged via social media and taken action immediately.

Related article: Building your website 101

So, What’s The Best Way To Get Started?

For organisations that want to get their feet wet with video, it’s important to start by doing your research. Identify a particular theme for your YouTube channels, such as the issue your nonprofit works on, or the particular geographic area (maybe a village, panchayat, block, or district) where you work. Work out the logistics as well: How often can you upload on your channel? Who will do it? How will you publicise it? Where will your audience be based—in India, in other countries, or a mix of both?

Next, consider equipment. If your videos are being produced on a budget, existing smartphones that people may already have work well. We usually work in places where people only have very simple phones, and so we give our trainees an equipment set. It costs around INR 15,000 in total for a tablet to shoot, screen, and upload; headphones; a microphone; and a tripod.

Last, orient your staff and hire strategically. Sometimes, the best way to start producing videos in your organisation is to make it part of the workflow for your communications team. If you’re making any fresh hires, hire a digital native who says they love to make videos or spend lots of time watching YouTube creators and online news shows.

Build video into your ‘work from home’ strategy, at a time where many nonprofits are finding that their volunteers and staff cannot do their regular work. If you are looking for new activities for your teams, consider asking your team members to shoot explainers, or share videos online, as they work from home, to spread information.

And then you are off!

This article was originally published on India Development Review (IDR).

About the author: 

Jessica Mayberry is the founding director of Video Volunteers, an organisation working towards empowering marginalised communities with a voice. For more than a decade, Video Volunteers has devised models for community video production which emphasise on empowerment, community mobilising, and engaging large audiences. Jessica is an Echoing Green, TED, and Ashoka Fellow, and a graduate of Oxford University.

By Anuja Sirohi and Sneha Tatapudy

What we know, what we need to know and what we can do to advance the urban poor’s right to relief

 “For how long will things be like this? No business, nothing. From where will we bring money? From where will we eat? If we have to continue like this, we won’t have anything.” These words from Sheela, a street-vendor living in a slum in Jogeshwari, Mumbai, echo the growing need for relevant relief provisions that can equip the urban poor to cope with the ugly aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Relief As A Right, Not Charity

While various civil society groups remain rightfully concerned about the long-term perils of replacing ration with direct cash transfers, the pandemic and its impact on the urban poor has drawn attention to how these forms of much-needed relief can effectively complement each other. Given the unequal and devastating impact of the pandemic on the nation’s poorest, ration and cash transfers for the urban poor is both an urgent need and a means to uphold the right to life. With incomes slashed and a crashing economy, food on the table needs to be made available along with cash in-hand to ensure that the city’s poorest communities have the power to make choices about how to respond to their own emerging needs.

In response to India’s deepening hunger crisis due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, the government of India introduced an INR 20 lakh crore relief package. With regard to immediate relief for the urban poor, this included provisions for additional grains and pulses to priority ration card-holders, ration for people without ration cards and direct cash transfers to several vulnerable groups including pensioners, widows, people living with disabilities, women and construction workers.

India’s migrant workers faced a long walk home amid the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Reuters

Despite being overtly inadequate in most of their offerings, it has become increasingly clear that such measures are the need of the hour—not only to firefight the ongoing humanitarian crisis but more importantly, as a means to safeguard the basic rights of communities that continue to grapple with the impact of long histories of systemic exclusion.

Even though the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was a direct outcome of a widespread understanding that food is a human right and a means to ensure the dignity of life for all, the rhetoric surrounding government-led relief initiatives in a COVID-affected world indicates a repackaging of ‘rights’ and ‘entitlements’ in the form of ‘charity’.

While the severe lack of food for the urban poor emerges as the most prominent non-health outcome of the pandemic, relief provisions are being offered to the urban poor in the form of disaster-response measures, with no recognition that these are, in fact, their most fundamental rights.

At this juncture, some skeptics may wonder, does it matter whether relief is given as a right or as a favour? In the end, aren’t we most interested in ensuring that the poorest communities receive the help they need? Why is it important to reevaluate ‘how’ we achieve this? The simple answer to this is that when we do not inform our emergency response efforts with a rights-based approach, we have no means of holding the state and society accountable.

It is easy to forget that it is the state’s ‘duty’ to advance the dignity of life for its poorest people and as a result, it is also easy to overlook major trends of exclusion that continue to unsee and silence the struggles of India’s  most oppressed communities.

Exclusionary Errors Within Provisions For Ration And Cash Transfers: What The Data Says

It is no secret that the people of India are constantly faced with the paradox of ‘rising hunger in a growing economy’. Recently, the country ranked 94 among 107 countries on the Global Hunger Index. Riddled with major exclusion errors that denied access to the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) and Direct Cash Transfers for those most in need, these systems have been out of reach for millions of people living on the margins.

When any form of government-support for marginalized groups is announced, the unsaid expectation is that civil society organizations and local-level leaders will build bridges to increase people’s access and awareness of their entitlements. This trend continued during the pandemic, and as a result, several NGOs stepped in as relief and awareness-providers for Mumbai’s poorest communities whose fundamental rights were violated indiscriminately during the pandemic.

Local leaders who were tasked with providing cooked meals to their constituents as well as with the responsibility of overseeing the effective implementation of relief measures were often seen as being disinterested in learning about the practical challenges experienced by the communities they served.

Instead of intentionally addressing predictable challenges of exclusion due to pre-existing gaps in the urban poor’s access to basic services, the relief measures offered to India’s urban poor during the COVID-19 pandemic depended upon the idea that dysfunctional public service systems would suddenly transform and become responsive to people whose struggles were overlooked for years. As per the norm, people’s right to information was not prioritized enough while rolling out provisions that promised to strengthen the urban poor’s linkages to basic services at the peak of a global emergency.

A recent study conducted by Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), titled  ‘Living with Multiple Vulnerabilities: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Urban Poor in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region’ highlighted some of the major barriers of access to relief and entitlements experienced by 39,562 urban poor individuals living across 10 cities who attempted to receive food, cash transfers and social security during the pandemic.

Specifically, this study surveyed 18,218 households regarding enrollment in the TPDS, 4,111 households regarding Aadhar and ration card linkages and 3,908 registered construction workers on 16 constriction sites regarding receiving cash transfers. The study also included 175 in-depth interviews with people living in urban poor communities.

1. Exclusion From The Public Distribution System

Data from YUVA’s study revealed that 17.22% of the urban poor in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region reported not having a ration card at all. Even people with ration cards faced severe challenges of access, availability and adequacy of ration. Many couldn’t access state-provided ration because they had no money to pay for long commutes to ration stores and were given lesser quantities of grains due to arbitrary decisions made by shopkeepers and because of the unavailability of sufficient ration especially at the beginning of the lockdown.

Photo taken during a rapid assessment survey conducted by YUVA in March 2020

Additionally, a sizeable population of migrant workers and their families who were enrolled in the PDS had no access to ration while they remained stranded in the city. Only 45.49% of the surveyed households had  ration cards registered within the MMR. Among those who lived on construction sites, only 10.38% reported having a ration card registered in the city.

On 14 May 2020, 21 days after the lockdown was announced, the government announced the provision of ration—5 kg of grain (wheat or rice) per person and 1 kg of channa per family per month for two months, free of cost—for migrant workers and urban poor individuals who didn’t possess ration cards.

These provisions were made accessible to excluded groups who were able to present a valid Aadhar card to access ration, thereby overlooking the food-related needs of urban poor individuals who didn’t have both Aadhar cards and ration cards. In some cases, people were denied access to ration even if they had an Aadhar card due to rampant misinformation among shopkeepers at the fair price shops.

Calling attention to this major roadblock in the implementation of relief provisions, Sarita, a participant in YUVA’s study explained, “The shopkeeper said that we will give ration only to (ration) cardholders; that the people not having a ration card would get something from NGOs. But the government said that we could show our Aadhaar card and get ration.”

With no form of livelihood and limited savings, India’s urban poor have solely relied on state-provided entitlements that are both inaccessible and insufficient in response to the ongoing health crisis. At this time, India’s flagship Mid Day Meal (MDM) system, the largest school feeding program in the world that served as a daily necessity rather than a complimentary meal for children belonging to poor families, stopped providing food after schools closed due to the lockdown.

This created greater risks for hunger and starvation among children from poor households. The food safety net provided by Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Centers for 0-6 year old children also came to an immediate halt, impeding access to basic nutrition for children.

2. Exclusion From Access To Cash Transfers

With the head of the household being a daily-wage earner in 56.91 per cent of surveyed households, people’s financial distress immediately intensified upon the sudden announcement of a nation-wide lockdown. Millions of urban poor families were unable to purchase food, medicines or pay for rent due to the loss of work. The Finance Minister announced a DCT of INR 500 to all women for April, May and June under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY).

Given that these cash transfers could be accessed by poor households only if a woman in the family had a bank account, the fact that only 23.13 per cent of the women in YUVA’s study reported having a bank account raises major concerns about how a large majority of urban poor women would be able to access their cash transfers. Meanwhile, transgender people have been left out altogether—they have not been listed as potential recipients for the cash transfer or any of the other relief packages.

Construction workers needed to be registered with the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (BOCW–WB) to be eligible to receive the Maharashtra government-facilitated Rs 2,000 cash transfer (a second tranche announcement of Rs 3,000 has recently been made). Data from the study revealed that only 24.64 per cent of the surveyed construction workers were registered with the BOCW–WB.

Even though 87.64 per cent of registered workers reported having a bank account, a mere 29.49 per cent of them reported receiving their Rs 2,000 cash transfer. Without inclusive methods of relief-delivery and reliable beneficiary identification mechanisms, the needs of the most marginalized communities will remain forgotten.

Despite the poorest people across India repeatedly questioning how their families are expected to survive on a meagre amount of Rs 500 per month, their protest hasn’t been registered. Even with experts stating that the per-person expenditure of the poorest of the poor is 20% higher than the INR 500 per month relief amount, there has been no change to the total amount of money offered to the urban poor. The lack of action on this front is both a failure of state and society—it reflects a blatant unwillingness to value the lives of the people who make our cities function and thrive.

Also read: How The Pandemic Has Affected Womxn Disproportionately

Taking Action To Uphold People’s Right To Relief

With the number of COVID-affected individuals increasing manifold each day, it is a well-known fact that the process of recovery will continue for a very long time. Given the reality of these circumstances, we need to re-evaluate what we really want ‘recovery’ to look like: In what ways are we ensuring that COVID-recovery isn’t simply about restoring the status quo?

In order to build resilience for the long haul, it is imperative that we not only revive the economy but also aim to build back better. We need to reorganize power structures and ensure that our efforts are guided by a consistent engagement with the ideals of democracy and human rights, instead of reducing these revolutionary concepts to meaningless buzzwords. Here’s what we can do to get started:

1. Listen to the voices that matter and understand gaps in implementation of relief measures

Even before the emergence of the ongoing humanitarian crisis, it was common to hear stories about brokers asking migrant families to pay thousands of rupees if they wanted to access their Aadhar cards and ration cards.  It was also a well-known fact that many people simply didn’t know if they had a PMJDY bank account (a requirement for access to cash transfers) or how to withdraw and deposit money.

YUVA’s study recommends paying attention to such loopholes and designing provisions that navigate around predictable challenges and barriers of access, for eg., the ration should be made accessible to the poorest of the poor regardless of where their card was issued or what legal documentation they don’t have, income brackets for ration-eligibility should be expanded, community-level camps to issue emergency ration cards and Aadhar cards should be organized, Aanganwadi workers should resume remote check-ins with women and children, and a monthly cash transfer of INR 5000 should be made available to all urban poor households regardless of whether or not they have a PMJDY account.

2. Identify and invest in inclusive public service infrastructures to ensure greater access to basic rights for all

The urban poor’s predicament during the COVID-19 lockdown is a direct result of the unpreparedness of institutional support mechanisms that were designed to uphold the rights and entitlements of the most vulnerable populations. Whether it is a young boy in an adivasi pada who cannot afford a long commute to the ration store or an elderly widow who is unaware of her food and cash-related entitlements during the pandemic, there is a rising need for tangible responses from the government through investment in relief programs that reach out to the most excluded populations.

This would involve introducing the community-level provision of essential foods, a greater focus on financial literacy for women and other vulnerable groups, access to cash at fair price stores, and a dedicated effort to train government staff (including fair price shopkeepers, police officers and locally elected representatives) with a rights-based approach towards the implementation of relief and response programs. The undisclosed amount collected through the PM Cares fund can be used to ensure that inclusive relief for all is urgently prioritized.

  • Ask tough questions and promote a culture of accountability

At this point, we know that when entitlements are denied to the nation’s poorest, people remain stuck in a cycle of poverty and marginalization. We know that when a pandemic hits and disproportionately affects the poorest communities, rights that were previously denied are ‘given’ in the form of ‘relief’ to people who are rendered vulnerable by unjust systems.

We know that there is a lot that can be done to reimagine and recreate a society that prioritizes the idea of freedom, dignity and justice for all. It’s time for us to confront some of the toughest questions. What led us to this point? What can be done now? What will we do about all that we know?

Even the most inclusive policies don’t automatically translate into practice. While a policy may set an expectation, it only creates new norms when there is a consistent, collaborative movement for transformative change. Months since the first lockdown was imposed, we are at a significant turning point – collective action to build accountability mechanisms that pursue the transparent and effective use of unspent funds can pave the way for new norms, where people’s right to relief during a global crisis is both recognized and respected.

Also read: Sensex, Stock Markets, And Supply Chains Have Been Hit By COVID-19. What Next?

The results are out. I knew I was not going to make it. It was after I was told about the results that I remembered about my dream the night before. Something I had almost forgotten about. This surprises me and makes me think on a different tangent that whether dreams have anything to do with real-life and that too just before the results came out.

Nevertheless, I started my journey of preparation after leaving University in May 2019 from the position of a teaching fellow. I wanted to pursue my dream job of becoming an IAS Officer and also had to get married in November 2019. I felt like it was the right time. I studied but it was not like how a serious aspirant would have approached the exam. I didn’t take any coaching because for some reason, I had never believed in it.

I kept studying, kept shopping for my shaadi, and kept enjoying every aspect of staying at home. I got married and moved to Gujarat. I constantly felt that I am studying but it was only by February did I realise that I still needed to do so much. Then the CSE (Civil Services Exam) was not postponed. I used to be distracted very often and I’d force myself to study. After Masters in Environment and Development in 2013, I have been a part of various research projects, and also as a teaching fellow, ‘reading’ was a part of life but studying ‘exam-specific’ and retaining the same is a different ball game altogether.

10 Ways to Reuse Old Material as Wedding Decorations
I kept studying, kept shopping for shaadi, and kept enjoying every aspect of staying at home. I got married and moved to Gujarat. Representational image.

Moving to Porbandar with my husband provided me with a good amount of time for myself but feeling mentally diverted was a constant. Amid my mental distraction, I kept completing my syllabus but I still had uncompleted targets.

It was announced that the exam had been postponed for a good period. I felt confident that now I would be able to complete everything and to my surprise, I did complete everything. My practice towards keeping myself focused while studying became my behaviour except for some time, which is a part of the process. I was able to handle my anxiety and understood that it came with not being disciplined. The understanding of being disciplined and consistent was for the first time executed. I had heard those words before but I felt their importance only after practising it.

It was already late September with me following my routine and also enjoying it but it was only now, after being this regular and consistent, that I started gaining on my strategy and requirement of the exam. It was late. I was late. But it all made sense only now. I kept revising all the subjects, current affairs, last years’ papers and felt a little confident. But I did lack in writing mocks under a time limit. I did many but not under time constraints. I did but only a few under a time constraint. And this is what that made me learn one of the other most important skills – to decide ‘right’ under pressure.

Representational image.

I made many silly mistakes. After the exam, I told my husband about my silliness and how I knew it all. He, a Defense Officer, replied, “The exam is not just about your knowledge but also how you act under pressure”. He was right.

In the exam hall, I faltered in the concepts I knew really well. I knew then that I had lost this chance and it can’t just be blamed on just ‘silly mistakes’. It was my lack of marking ‘right’ under pressure. Either you remain calm, decide calmly, and are fast with your decision or you try to remain calm, make your decision but it’s not the ‘right’ decision under pressure.

I had lost and due to my upper age limit, I could not write the next exam. I did learn the approach and strategy but I was late. I am late but I know I haven’t lost it. If I look back, I have only gained. I have not just gained knowledge through different subjects that I definitely would not have, if not for this exam, but, also skills that I would practice to not lose ever – consistency, focus, and being calm and patient under pressure.

We do hear all the toppers talking about these skills required for CSE. They are right but not only for CSE, for any career that you chose and want to excel in and also in your personal everyday life.

I learned this because I lacked this, I am sure the others who were serious about this exam would have learned something or the other. What matters now is to not forget what we learned and try to excel in what we choose next.

Also read: Dear Reader, Let’s You And I Have A Chat, Shall We?
लोजपा प्रमुख चिराग पासवान ने कहा था कि वे राज्य में भाजपा के खिलाफ प्रत्याशी नहीं खड़ा करेंगे, पर दूसरे चरण में कुल पांच ऐसी सीटें हैं, जहां से लोजपा ने भाजपा के खिलाफ प्रत्याशी उतारे हैं। इन्हीं में एक सीट भागलपुर की भी है, जहां चिराग की पार्टी भाजपा का खेल बिगाड़ सकती है।
A young leader like Chirag Paswan has a unique style of politics in his state. He has worked amply hard to build his party and prepared a plan to increase his party position by choosing a different plan. He does not ignore the soft hits of the Janata Dal-United in the political arena.
Nonetheless, he did not appear to be scared of what others might think of his political steps. His solo entry into the state’s assembly electoral complexities endorsed his solitary decision after his father’s recent death.
Under the able guidance of his poll advisors and supporters, he has distanced himself from the JDU but remained on holding his side with the BJP. However, his Bhagalpur candidates mar his position despite assurances. Yet, he was every inch confident of his party’s position in the polling in the fast nearing second phase.
Chirag Paswan’s solo entry into the state’s assembly electoral complexities endorsed his solitary decision after his father’s recent death.
Indicating at the voting trend in the initial phase, he did not fail to assert that his party workers are quite exuberant after the polling was over. He looked quite anxious as to why Nitish Kumar was not ready to accept his stance and still regularly to emphasise upon.
He continued that it is beyond his hopeful apprehension of why the BJP leaders console Nitish Kumar by saying that they have nothing to do with the LJP leader Chirag Paswan? Despite the repeated affirmations coming from the BJP, Nitish Kumar does not get wholly satisfied, he maintained.
“So long as he does not hear from the Prime Minister, he will not be convinced. It seems to me that he would like to hear this fact from the President or other country’s President or American President even,” he added that Nitish Kumar would no longer be Bihar’s CM after coming November 10.
“I don’t know what to do anymore. I mean sure, I love playing politics like other players. But that’s not what all the leaders think about, dream about and talk about”, he stated openly, frankly, and candidly.

भारतीय शिक्षण संस्थानों की बात होते ही कई सवाल ज़हन में उठने शुरू हो जाते हैं। इस संदर्भ में सरकारी और प्राइवेट शिक्षण संस्थानों के बीच का गैप आकर्षण का केन्द्र रहता है। मिडिल क्लास फैमिली से आने वाले स्टूडेंट्स के पास भी तमाम ऑपशन्स ज़रूर होते हैं मगर बात रिस्क की भी आ जाती है।

वहीं, आर्थिक तौर पर सम्पन्न परिवारों से आने वाले स्टूडेंट्स के पास शिक्षण संस्थानों के चयन हेतु तमाम संभावनाएं होती हैं। अगर इंजीनियरिंग की बात की जाए तो आईआईटी में उत्तीर्ण नहीं होने पर भी डोनेशन के रास्ते अच्छे प्राइवेट कॉलेजों में एंट्री हो जाती है। अब मिडिल क्लास के स्टूडेंट्स क्या करें?

उनके पास सीमित संभावनाओं के बीच रिस्क अधिक होता है। हां, एक बात ज़रूर है कि यदि आपका वास्ता मिडिल क्लास या लोअर मिडिल क्लास से भी है फिर तो बचपन से ही आपको अपनी पढ़ाई मज़बूत रखने की ज़रूरत है मगर संभवत: ऐसा हो नहीं पाता है।

मसला यह भी है कि हमारे तमाम शिक्षण संस्थानों में क्या कोर्स की पढ़ाई के अलावा पेशेवर तौर पर स्टूडेंट्स खुद को कैसे स्थापित करें, इसके लिए कोई व्यवस्था है?

जहां तक मेरा निजी अनुभव है, मैं समझता हूं कि शिक्षण संस्थानों में पेशेवर तौर पर आपको सक्षम बनाने के लिए बहुत कम स्कोप है। मैं इंजीनियरिंग कॉलेज का ही उदाहरण इसलिए दे रहा हूं, क्योंकि मैंने चार साल बीटेक की पढ़ाई की है और मुझे मालूम है कि छोटे शहरों की गलियों से निकलकर अपने सपनों को साकार करने के लिए जब तमाम स्टूडेंट्स दूसरे शहरों या महानगरों में स्थित शिक्षण संस्थानों का रुख करते हैं, तब कई चुनौतियां निलकर सामने आती हैं।

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर
प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर। फोटो साभार: Flickr

उन्हीं चुनौतियों में से एक है शिक्षण संस्थानों में वोकेशनल ट्रेनिंग की अच्छी व्यवस्था का ना हो पाना। जब चंडीगढ़ के एक प्राइवेट इंजीनियरिंग कॉलेज में मेरा दाखिला हुआ था, कई सपने लेकर मैं हर रोज़ क्लास रूम में जाता था। ऐसा लगता था कि यही तो ज़िन्दगी है, जो लोग गाँवों या शहरों में छूट गए, उन्होंने बहुत कुछ छोड़ दिया।

और पढ़ें: “इंटरव्यू के दौरान कोर्स की चीज़ें ना पूछकर सिर्फ मेरे अंग्रेज़ी का ज्ञान चेक किया गया”

हम तो निकले सबसे भाग्यशाली मगर एक दिन उस वक्त हमारा यह वहम टूट गया, जब कैंपस में प्लेसमेंट के लिए अच्छी कंपनियां आई ही नहीं और हमें बाहर जाकर जॉब तलाशना पड़ा।

लाखों की फीस खर्च कर इंजीनियरिंग कॉलेज में एडमिशन लेकर यूं लगा था, जैसे जॉब लगने के बाद लाइफ अच्छी हो जाएगी। जॉब तो लग गई मगर कम सैलरी और ओवरटाइम के दबाव ने मेरे आत्मविश्ववास को छीनकर मुझे डिप्रेशन में डाल दिया।

यदि कॉलेज में वोकेशनल ट्रेनिंग की अच्छी व्यवस्था होती, तो शायद हम स्टूडेट्स और अधिक आउटपुट दे पाते। खैर, इससे पहले एक लेख में हमने वे तमाम बातें लिखी हैं कि कैसे पहली नौकरी मिली और उसके पीछे की कहानी क्या थी।

मुझे जब पहली नौकरी मिली, तब अंदाज़ा हुआ कि हमारे कॉलेज में सिर्फ किताबों का ज्ञान ही दिया गया। हमें पेशेवर तौर पर खुद को स्थापित करने के लिए कुछ भी नहीं बताया गया। बाज़ार की ज़रूरत के मुताबिक हमें एक कुशल इंजीनियर नहीं बनाया गया, वह तो शुक्र है कि इंटरनेट के ज़रिये हमने वह सारी चीज़ें बड़ी शिद्दत से सीखी जिससे हमें वंचित रखा गया था।

स्टूडेंट्स
प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर। फोटो साभार: Flickr

मेरा कहना यह है कि प्राइवेट शिक्षण संस्थानों द्वारा स्टूडेट्स से मोटी रकम क्या सिर्फ इसलिए वसूली जाती है कि एक दिन कोर्स खत्म हो जाए और आप बाहर जाकर जॉब तलाशने लगें? ऐसे में यह कहना गलत नहीं होगा कि इंजीनियरिंग कॉलेज मतलब कोर्स खत्म और पैसा हजम!

और पढ़ें: “रवीश कुमार के आलोचक से फैन बनने की मेरी कहानी”

एक और अजीब बात यह भी है कि जब हम कंपनियों में नौकरी के लिए जाते हैं, तब उनके लिए हम कोई इंटर्न नहीं होते कि हमारी हर गलतियों के लिए हमें माफी मिले अब अगर कॉलेज में हमें प्रैक्टिकल चीज़ों के बारे में अधिक नहीं बताया गया है फिर ज्ञान आएगा कहां से?

अब रास्ता एक ही बच जाता है कि यूट्यूब पर वीडियोज़ देखकर हम प्रैक्टिकल नॉलेज बढ़ा पाएं ताकि कंपनियों में नौकरी के दौरान बेइज्ज़ती ना हो। मैं अपने निजी अनुभव के आधार पर यही कहना चाहूंगा कि भारत सरकार को प्राइवेट और सरकारी शिक्षण संस्थानों में ना सिर्फ वोकेशनल ट्रेनिंग अनिवार्य करने की ज़रूरत है, बल्कि जांच टीम द्वारा यह भी चेक करना होगा कि क्या वाकई में ऐसी कोई व्यवस्था है भी या नहीं!

मेलों का हमारे ग्रामीण वनांचल क्षेत्रों की संस्कृति में महत्वपूर्ण स्थान है। यह अतिशयोक्ति नहीं होगी अगर कहा जाए कि मेला ही वह स्थान है जहां सांस्कृतिक जीवन की सभी वस्तुओं का क्रय-विक्रय किया जाता है।

चाहे वह आध्यात्मिक, भौतिक दृष्टि से हो या फिर मनोरंजन की दृष्टि से, हमारे लिए सभी उपयोगी वस्तु एक ही स्थान पर उपलब्ध होती हैं। कहीं-कहीं इसे मड़ाई के नाम से भी जाना जाता है। 

मेले में लोग करते हैं मनपसंद चीज़ों की खरीदारी

छत्तीसगढ़ में मेले का मतलब मेलना, फेंकना होता है। जिससे यह आशय होता है कि लोग मेले में जाकर खरीददारी करें, घुमे-फिरें, खाए-पिएं और मौज-मस्ती करें। मेले में जिन्हें भी अपने साथ में लाएं चाहे वह परिवार के लोग हों या दोस्त-यार, सभी के साथ मेले का आनंद लें।

मेले के बारे में मेरी मनपसंद बात यह है कि यहां सभी जाति-धर्म के लोग भाईचारे के साथ मिल-जुलकर घूमते-फिरते और खरीदारी करते हैं। कोई किसी की ना ही जाति पूछता है और ना धर्म। मेले में कोई छोटा-बड़ा नहीं होता, सब अपने सामर्थ्य के अनुसार खरीदारी करते हैं।

मेले की तस्वीर

मेले का नज़ारा होता है शानदार

हमारे कटघोरा में लोग मेले में जाने के लिए बहुत ही उत्साहित रहते हैं। पूरे परिवार एक साथ मेला घूमने जाते हैं। मेला साल में एक ही बार आता है।

ऐसे में लोग खुद के लिए और अपने परिवार के लिए साल भर एक-एक रुपये जोड़ते हैं, ताकि पूरा परिवार मेला जा सके। लोग मेले को एक त्यौहार के रूप में मनाते हैं।

छत्तीसगढ़ के कई क्षेत्रों में होता है मेले का आयोजन 

मेले का आयोजन अलग-अलग जगहों पर अलग-अलग अवधि के लिए किया जाता है। यह अवधि कहीं पंद्रह दिन, कहीं सप्ताह भर और बस्तर को देखें, तो यहां के मेले पचहत्तर दिनों तक चलते हैं। पूरा बस्तर ही नहीं, बल्कि पूरे देश से लोग बस्तर के मेले में घूमने आते हैं। यह मेला पूरे देश में अपनी लोक संस्कृति कला के लिए प्रसिद्ध है। 

कुछ महत्वपूर्ण अवसर जैसे मांघ पूर्णिमा, महा शिवरात्रि, दशहरा, नाग-पंचमी, सावन सोमवार की अंतिम तिथि, शीत व चैत नव रात्रि, बसंत-पंचमी इन अवसरों के मेले का महत्व विशेष होता है। हर प्रांत व क्षेत्र में अलग-अलग तिथियों पर मेले का आयोजन किया जाता है, जिसकी तैयारी व्यापारी वर्ग के लोग करते रहते हैं। 

हमारे छत्तीसगढ़ का अधिकांश हिस्सा ग्रामीण इलाका है। कई गाँव में वाहनों की व्यवस्था नहीं हो पाती। गाँव और पहाड़ी क्षेत्रों में रहने वाले लोग मेले के दिन सुबह से ही पैदल मेले के लिए निकल पड़ते हैं। बच्चों को कंधे पर बिठाकर लोग उन्हें मेला घुमाने ले जाते हैं। यह दृश्य बहुत ही मनोरम होता है और दिल को छू लेता है। 

मेले में एक दुकान

मेले में अनेक प्रकार की चीज़ें बेची जाती हैं

मेले में सभी ज़रूरी चीज़ें मिल जाती हैं। जो कभी-कभी कई क्षेत्रों में घूम-घूमकर भी नहीं मिल पाती। यहां छोटी-से-छोटी और बड़ी-से-बड़ी वस्तु चाहे वह घर के उपयोग के लिए हों या घर के बाहर उपयोगी हों, यह सब मेले में काफी कम दामों में ही उपलब्ध होता है।

कपड़ों से लेकर जूतों तक, बच्चों के खिलौनों से लेकर आभूषण तक, लोग अपनी अपनी ज़रूरतों और दिलचस्पी के मुताबिक चीज़ें खरीदते हैं।

बच्चों का झूला

मेला है लोगों के लिए आनंद का साधन 

गाँव के लोगों के लिए मेला एक खुशी और आनंद देने वाला त्यौहार है, क्योंकि लोग इसकी तैयारी साल भर करते हैं। बड़े उल्लास के साथ अति उत्साह पूर्वक इसकी राह देखते हैं।

मेले में आकर लोगों को अच्छी चीज़ें मिलती हैं बड़े झूले-झूलने का और अलग व्यंजन और मिठाइयां खाने-पीने का भी मौका मिलता है। सबसे ज़्यादा खुशी इसमें बच्चों को होती है, क्योंकि अनेक प्रकार के झूले, खेल, जादूगर और आकर्षक वस्तुएं उन्हें देखने और अनुभव करने को मिलती हैं। बच्चों का सबसे प्रिय झूला होता है डिस्को डांस झूला और सांप झूला। 

मौत का कुंआ

मौत का कुंआ होता है सबसे बड़ा आकर्षण

मेले का सबसे बड़ा आकर्षण होता है मौत का कुंआ, जिसे हर व्यक्ति देखना चाहता है। मेले की राह हर साल लोग आतुरता से देखते हैं। मेला आने पर पूरा का पूरा गाँव मेला देखने चल पड़ता है।

यह बहुत ही आनंदी वातावरण निर्माण करता है। मैं आशा करता हूं यह मेले ऐसे ही हर साल आयोजित किए जाएं।


लेखक के बारे में- राकेश नागदेव छत्तीसगढ़ के निवासी हैं और मोबाइल रिपेयरिंग का काम करते हैं। यह खुद की दुकान भी चलाते हैं। इन्हें लोगों के साथ मिलजुल कर रहना पसंद है और यह लोगों को अपने काम और कार्य से खुश करना चाहते हैं। इन्हें गाने का और जंगलों में प्रकृति के बीच समय बिताने का बहुत शौक है।

भारत को गाँवों का देश कहा जाता है। आज जब पूरे देश में लॉकडाउन के हालात हैं तो ऐसे में प्रत्येक व्यक्ति कभी जीविका के नाम पर तो कभी स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं आदि के अभाव के कारण गाँव से शहरों की तरफ गए थे, अपने वापस घर आने को व्याकुल हैं।

उन्हें लगता है कि इस समय गाँव ज़्यादा सुरक्षित है। गाँव छोड़कर शहर जाने के अनेक कारण होते हैं। उन सबकी भी कभी चर्चा करूंगा लेकिन आज मैं ग्रामीण स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं पर चर्चा करना चाहता हूं।

मौका भी ऐसा बन पड़ा है कि इस दौर में स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं की ही जीवन के लिए सर्वाधिक आवश्यकता प्रतीत होती दिखाई देती है।

ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में नज़दीकी अस्पताल उपलब्ध नहीं है

मैं एक ग्रामीण परिवेश में पला-बढ़ा हूं। मैं बचपन से ही इस परिवेश की स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं को देखता आया हूं। मैंने देखा है कि हमारे ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में कोई नज़दीकी अस्पताल उपलब्ध नहीं हैं। अधिकतर अस्पताल ज़िला मुख्यालयों में ही होते हैं।

जनपद के अंतिम छोर पर स्थित गाँव की दूरी मुख्यालय से औसतन 55 से 60 किलोमीटर होती है। ऐसी स्थिति में कल्पना कीजिए अगर कोई व्यक्ति एकाएक किसी जानलेवा रोग जैसे- हार्ट अटैक आदि से ग्रसित हो जाए तो इतनी दूरी तय करने में ही कोई अनहोनी घट सकती है।

अप्रशिक्षित डॉक्टरों से इलाज करवाना ग्रामीणों की मजबूरी

फोटो साभार- Flickr
प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर। फोटो साभार- Flickr

सरकार नें यद्यपि इस स्थिति से निपटने के लिए गाँवों में सामुदायिक स्वास्थ्य केंद्र खोले हैं लेकिन वहां कोई विशेषज्ञ डॉक्टर जाने को जल्दी तैयार ही नहीं होते हैं।

अगर कोई मुश्किल से तैयार भी होता है तो उस सामुदायिक स्वास्थ्य केंद्र पर चिकित्सकीय उपकरण के अभाव के कारण अपने आपको इलाज करने में असहाय पाता है।

आज भी मैंने सामान्य दिनों में देखा है कि ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में अधिकांश लोग अपने इलाज के लिए अप्रशिक्षित डॉक्टरों से सम्पर्क करते हैं।

ऐसा क्यो?

इसके दो पहलू होते हैं। एक तो ये डॉक्टर सीधे घर पर उपलब्ध रहते हैं और दूसरा यह कि ये डॉक्टर फीस नहीं लेते हैं। जो पैसे ये इलाज के लिए लेते हैं उनमें दवा ही दे देते हैं।

गरीब ग्रामीण सोचता है कि चलो डॉक्टर साहब ने सस्ता इलाज किया है। उसे इस बात की चिंता नहीं रहती कि यह डॉक्टर अप्रशिक्षित है और इनसे इलाज कराना उसकी जान के लिए खतरा हो सकता है। खैर, उन ग्रामीणों‌ के पास इसके अलावा विकल्प भी बहुत सीमित हैं।

प्रसव कार्य भी अप्रशिक्षित महिला ही करती हैं

आज भी मैंने ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में प्रसव कार्य देखा है। कुछ महिलाएं जिन्हें गाँव में प्रसव कार्य करने के लिए दक्ष माना जाता है, वे आत्मविश्वास के साथ यह काम करती हैं। भले ही उन्हें प्रसव कार्य की कोई विशेष जानकारी ना हो।

और पढ़ें: “मुझे कोरोना के उपचार के तौर पर काली मिर्च खाने के लिए कहा गया”

कई बार तो यह बहुत जोखिम भरा भी होता है। आज भी ग्रामीण भारत में जागरूकता, स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं की कम उपलब्धता आदि के कारण अधिकांश लोग घरेलू नुस्खों, जड़ी बूटियों आदि का प्रयोग इलाज के लिए ज़्यादा करते हैं।

कभी-कभी ये ग्रामीण झाड़-फूंक, जादू मन्त्र आदि के सहारे भी रोगमुक्त होने का प्रयास करते हैं। इन झाड़-फूंक, जादू मन्त्र से उपचार करने वालों को ग्रामीण बड़े ही सम्मान की दृष्टि से देखते हैं।

स्वास्थ्य सेवाएं बेहतर करने की ज़रूरत

इन सब स्थितियों से लोगों को निकालने के लिए ज़रूरी है कि स्वास्थ्य सेवाएं बेहतर की जाएं। स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं को उस स्तर तक पहुंचाया जाए ताकि वह लोगों की पहुंच में हो। फिर लोगों को इन स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं से लाभ लेने के लिए जागरूक भी करना होगा जैसे कि आज कल आशा बहुएं, आगनबाड़ी सेविकाएं आदि को गाँवों में जाकर लोगों को जागरूक करने के काम में लगाया जा रहा है।

इससे यह होगा कि लोग इन स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं के प्रति आकर्षित होंगे। यद्यपि पहले की तुलना में इन स्थितियों में काफी सुधार आया है और अधिकांश स्वास्थ्य सेवाएं पहले की तुलना में बेहतर भी हुई हैं।

आज ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में आशा बहुएं, आगनबाड़ी सेविकाएं आदि ने ग्रामीणों में जागरूकता फैलाने के लिए बहुत मेहनत की है। फिर भी हम अपने आपको पूर्ण रूप से संतुष्ट नहीं कर सकते हैं। अभी भी मूल स्तर पर बहुत कुछ किया जाना बाकी है।

कोरोना ने ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में पांव पसार लिया तो क्या होगा?

आज भी कभी-कभी मैं यह सोचकर सिहर जाता हूं कि अगर कोरोना ने ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में पांव पसार लिया तो क्या होगा? उन ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में जहां लोग सामान्य बुखार आदि के लिए घरेलू नुस्खों का सहारा लेते हैं। क्या वे इस विपदा को झेल पाएंगे?

मैं तो ईश्वर से दुआ करूंगा कि हमें इस विपदा से बचाएं। हमें इसके लिए खुद जागरूक होकर लोगों से दूरी बनाकर लॉकडाउन का पालन करना होगा।

साथ में हमें स्वास्थ्य मंत्रालय, सरकार के निर्देशों का पालन करते रहना होगा। हमें कोशिश करनी होगी कि यह रोग ग्रामीण क्षेत्रों में पसरने ही ना पाए। ध्यान रखना है कि बचाव ही इससे निपटने का सबसे बेहतर उपाय है।

लाखों लेखों के बीच शायद यह एक और लेख बन कर रह जाए लेकिन अगर लिखना भी छोड़ दिया तो खुद ही छूट जाऊंगी, इसलिए लिखूंगी। भले ही पढ़ने वाले गालियां दें।

21वीं सदी के जिस पायदान पर हम खड़े हैं, वहां से देखा जाए तो हम काफी कुछ पीछे छोड़, आगे निकल चुके हैं। हम उस दौर से बहुत दूर हैं जहां Simone de Beauvoir और Hélène Cixous जैसे लोगों ने नारी शक्ति की बात की थी। नारीवाद आज एक ज़रूरत से ज़्यादा फैशन सिम्बल बन गया है।

नारीवाद पर बातें होने के बावजूद क्या हम आज़ाद हैं?

पश्चिम के बाद पूरब में, उत्तर में, दक्षिण में हर जगह नारीवाद, नारी सशक्तिकरण के मुद्दे से बढ़कर एक नया मुद्दा बन गया है। बात श्याम वर्ण की औरतों के बराबरी तक भी पहुंच गई है। भारत-वर्ष भी इससे कहीं अछूता नहीं रहा। नंदिता दास जैसी बड़ी हस्तियांं ‘डार्क इज़ बीउटीफुल’ अर्थात ‘सांवल ही सुंदर है’ जैसे कैम्पेन लेकर आई।

इनके अलावा और भी ना जाने कितने तरह के  कैम्पेन चलाये जा रहें हैं।  एड फिल्मो से लेकर किताबों और कोर्स बुक्स तथा हर जात-धर्म की औरतों ने जिस हद तक और जिस तरह से हो सके इसे अपनाया है। पर क्या हम आज भी हर उस चीज़ से आज़ाद हैं जो कभी धर्म तो कभी संस्कृति बन कर औरतों के शासन का ज़रिया बना।

फोटो क्रेडिट – Getty images

ट्रिपल तलाक और अन्य इस्लामिक देश

यूं तो पूरी दुनिया और भारत में भी हर समाज की औरतों पर दमन के कई सारे बहाने हैं, पर मैं यहां बात मुस्लिम समाज की करना चाहूंगी। अभी-अभी हमारे देश ने एक ऐतिहासिक फेरबदल देखा जो काफी दिनो की मशक्कत के बाद हासिल हुआ। जी हां, यहां बात अति चर्चित ‘ट्रिपल तलाक’ की हो रही है, जिसे 22 अगस्त 2017 को सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने असंवैधानिक करार दिया था।

बात बहुत क्रांतिकारी या अधार्मिक नहीं थी क्योंकि कई सारे इस्लामिक देशों जिनमें अरब, पाकिस्तान इत्यादि भी हैं उन्होने काफी पहले इसे असंवैधानिक करार दे दिया था। परंतु इसके बावाजूद जो ‘ड्रामा’ इसे लेकर था वो देखते बना। बहरहाल, जीत उन औरतों की हुई जिन्होंने वर्षों पहले इस मुहिम को शुरू किया था।

पर क्या वाकई इससे मुस्लिम समाज की महिलाओं का दोहन रुक जायेगा? बात गौर करने वाली है।

क्या कहता है इस्लाम?

मैं एक बड़ी होती हुई, इस्लाम को समझती हुई और एक मुसलमान होने के नाते, अपने और अपने जैसे कुछ लोगों के अनुभव पेश करना चाहूंगी। मेरा मकसद किसी को ठेस पहुंचाना या खुद को बढ़ा के दिखाना बिल्कुल भी नहीं है। बल्कि, हम जैसे नौजवानों के तजुर्बे और उनपर आधारित कुछ सवाल हैं।

इस्लाम को जैसा कि मैंने जाना और पढ़ा है, एक ऐसा धर्म है जो हर किसी को बराबर मानता है, चाहे वह राजा हो या रंक। बल्कि देश- विदेश में काफी लोगों ने इस्लाम धर्म सिर्फ इसलिए कुबूल किया क्योंकि इसमें किसी तरह की ‘Hierarchy’ (अर्थात वर्गीकरण) नहीं है । मोहम्मद (स.अ.व) ने फरमाया है,

लोगों! तुम्हारे खुदा एक हैं और पिता भी एक (आदम)। ना कोई अरब किसी गैर-अरब से महान है और ना कोई गैर-अरब किसी अरब से, ना कोई श्वेत, श्याम से बड़ा है, ना कोई श्याम श्वेत से, सिवाय तक्वा (धर्म-निष्ठता) के।

जहां तक बात नस्लवाद की आती है तो बिलाल नाम के एक गुलाम की कहानी है जो श्याम वर्ण का था। उसे मोहम्मद ने आज़ाद करवाया। जैसा कि इस्लाम मे कहा जाता है कि किसी का तक्वा (धर्म-निष्ठता) ही किसी का असल मापदंड है और कुछ भी नहीं। उस वक्त अरब मे भी नस्लवाद था लेकिन मोहम्मद ने हर चीज़ के खिलाफ जाकर बिलाल को पहला आज़ान देने के लिये मुअज़्ज़िन नियुक्त किया।

प्रतीकात्मक फोटो, फोटो क्रेडिट – Pixabay

इस्लाम कहता है कि अगर दूसरा कोई मापदंड है तो वह है अच्छाई का, नेक आमाल का। जो कि इल्म से हासिल हो सकती है। इल्म अर्थात पढ़ाई। पढ़ाई इस्लाम मे कितनी महत्वपूर्ण है इसका अंदाज़ा इस बात से लगाया जा सकता है कि जब पहली बार मोहम्म्द (स) से फरिश्ते मिलने आए तो उनके द्वारा बोले जाने वाल पहला शब्द था “इक्रा” अर्थात “पढ”। वे पहले पैगम्बर थे जिन्होंने अरब की लड़कियों के पैदा होते ही मार डालने पर रोक लगवाई थी । और खुद मोहम्मद (स) का एक कथ्य है :

लोगों मे सबसे अच्छा वह है जो अपनी बीवी से साथ अच्छा सुलूक करे।

इसके अलावा ऐसे कई हदीस हैं जिनमें इस्लाम में हर किसी की बराबरी की बात बताई गई है।

एक मुस्लिम लड़की होने के नाते मेरा पहला अनुभव

इस्लाम में कही गई इन बातों को क्या वाकई उसे मानने वाले उसी तरह से अपनाते हैं जैसा कि इस्लाम का बखान है या वह एक स्वयं रचित हथियार मात्र है जिसे हुकूमत करने वाले अपने सहुलियत से बनाते और संवारते रहेंगे।

इस बात का सबसे ज़्यादा असर हमें उस वक़्त दिखता है जब बात शादी-ब्याह की आती है। यहां कुछ ऐसे किस्से पेश करूंगी जो यह सोचने पर मजबूर कर देता है कि क्या हम वाकई 21वीं सदी मे जी रहे हैं?

पहला किस्सा एक ऐसी फैमिली का है जिनका लड़का कॉन्वेंट से पढ़ा लिखा “वेल सेटल्ड” इंजीनियर था। यह रिश्ता खुद मेरे लिए आया था और उन्हें ये रिश्ता इसलिए पसंद था क्योंकि उन्हें एक पढ़ी-लिखी लड़की चाहिए थी। मैं सलवार कमीज़ और सर पर दुपट्टा लेकर बहुत खुशी से यह सोच कर गई कि ये काफी प्रगतिवादी लोग हैं।

मुझे देखते ही लड़के के पिता, जो की एक ‘सच्चा इस्लामिक हाजी’ था, उनके चेहरे पर शिकन आ गई। कारण था मेरा रंग। उन्होंने मुझे पहले बल्ब में फिर ट्यूब्लाईट की रौशनी में बिठा कर देखा। इस फीमेल ऑब्जेक्टिफिकेशन  अर्थात ‘नारी को वस्तु के रूप में देखना’ के बारे में मैं पिछले सात सालों से पढ़तीआई थी और आज खुद उसे झेल रही थी।

इसके बाद,

लड़के की माँ की बारी थी, जिनको बेहद दुख था की मैं सलवार कमीज़ और दुपट्टे में गई थी ना की बुर्के में। दरअसल, उनके यहाँ ‘पर्दा इतना ज़रुरी है कि लडकियां कपडे़ उठाने बालकनी में भी नहीं जाती।

माँ के बाद,

बारी थी बहन के टीका-टिपण्णी की जिसने मुझपर काफी मशक्कत की और बारीकियों में जाते हुए मुझे बताया कि मेरे दाएं गाल में पिम्पल एवं गड्ढे हैं।

उनके आंकलन के बाद मैंने अपना एक नया रूप देखा जिसमें ना तो मेरी पीएचडी और ना ही मेरा करियर किसी काम का था। मैं एक बेहद बेपर्दा एवं कुरूप लड़की के अलावा कुछ भी नहीं थी।

इन सब पर मैं चुप थी क्योंकि मूझे मेरी माँ से पहले ही हिदायत मिल चुकी थी कि मैं कुछ न बोलूं क्योंकि वह “तहज़ीब” के खिलाफ था। उन तेहज़ीबदारों का सुलूक मुझे आजीवन याद रहेगा।

प्रतीकात्मक फोटो, फोटो क्रेडिट – Pixabay

मेरा दूसरा अनुभव- “Equality और Justice”

दूसरा प्रसंग है एक लड्के का जो कि बेहद पढा-लिखा सरकारी नौकरी पेशा था। ये जनाब मैट्रिमोनिअल वेबसाइट पर थे। इन्होंने उस वेबसाइट के हर कॉलम को काफी संजीदगी से भरा था। जिनमें खुद के बारे मे लिखा था कि कैसे वह “Equality और Justice” के  पक्षधर थे। फिर इनकी अगली लाइन थी कि उन्हें किसी चीज़ से कोई प्रॉब्लम नहीं है सिवाय इसके कि लड़की की ज़ात ऊंची होनी चाहिए।

इस्लाम में ज़ात की कोई बात नहीं है, किन्तु अगर हम भारत के कास्ट सिस्टम की बात करें तो भी कास्ट की शुरुआत व्यवसाय से जुड़ी थी। मतलब अगर कोई पढ़ा लिखा ज्ञानी हो तो वह ब्राह्मण यानी उच्च जाति का होगा। यह बात अलग है कि भारत में कोई कितना भी पढ़ ले चाहे वह किसी भी धर्म का हो, उसकी जाति उसके मरने पर भी खत्म नहीं होती। वह उसके साथ रहती है, एक मैले, ज़िद्दी धब्बे की तरह जिसे न पढ़ाई ना रुतबा खत्म कर सकता है।

हां, अब वह वोट बैंक तथा Tokenism के काम ज़रूर आता है। सो कहने को तो हम स्कूल, कॉलेज तथा सोशल मीडिया तक बराबरी का ताल ठोकते हैं और उस पर बड़ी टिप्पणियां भी करते हैं, पर शादियों से पहले हम ज़ात पूछ ही लेते हैं। अतएव, लड़की का अति पढ़ा लिखा होना, जो कि उस लड़के से भी कहीं ज़्यादा था, उसकी ज़ात को धुला ना सका। यहां लोगों को सिर्फ इस्लाम नहीं बल्कि बिलाल के बारे में भी सोचने की ज़रूरत है।

मेरा तीसरा अनुभव- Moral Judgement

अगला वृत्तांत है एक ऐसे जोड़े का जिसमें लड़का एवं लड़की एक समान थे। चाहे बात शिक्षा-दीक्षा की हो या ज़ात या रंग की। बस एक फर्क था और वह था जेन्डर अथवा लिंग का। आखिर लड़की तो लड़की थी, सो लड़के के पिता ने अपनी शर्त हक से रखी और कहा,

लड़की शादी के बाद काम नहीं करेगी, क्यूंकि बाहर काम करने वाली लड़कियां बदचलन होती हैं।

यह 21वीं सदी के पढ़े लिखे लोग थे जिन्होंने बहुत बेबाक होकर कामकाजी महिलाओंं पर अपना ‘मोरल जजमेंट’ अर्थात नैतिक फैसला सुना दिया था। इस तरह इन्होंने अपने बारे में भी बहुत कुछ साफ कर दिया था कि उन्होंने धर्म, संस्कृति और समाज का सहारा लेकर औरतों का शोषण एवं चरित्र हनन करना ना छोड़ा है और ना छोड़ेंगे।

ये वही मर्द हैं जो घरों से बाहर शायद प्रेम प्रसंग या फ्लर्ट करने में कोई झिझक ना करते हों क्योंकि वे मर्द हैं, जो उन्हें उनकी मानसिकता के अनुसार शायद ऐसा करने का प्राकृतिक दायित्व देता हो।

मेरा चौथा अनुभव- Radical Thinking

दिल्ली 2016 अगला वाकया है। यह प्रसंग एक प्रोफेसर साहब का है जिनकी रेडिकल थिंकिंग के लोग कायल थे। इसी के मद्देनज़र उन्होंने एक हमसफर भी चुना जो खूबसूरत थीं और शायद उम्र में उनके बराबर रही होंगी।

बात जब शादी तक पहुंची तो जनाब के घरवालों को अचानक याद आया कि लड़की उन्हें कमसिन और कम उम्र चाहिए थी। फिर जनाब को भी ख्याल आया कि कमसिन कम उम्र बीवी का ख्याल अच्छा था।

बाद में उन्हें इस्लाम की पाबंदियों की भी याद आई की बीवी परदे में रहे तो भली और नौकरी ना करें तो शर्त आगे बढ़ाएं और प्यार को शादी में तब्दील करें।

एक तरफ जहां ऐसे लोग हर चीज़ को इस्लाम और समाज का लहज़ा देकर खुद को सही साबित करते हैं, वहीं वे इस्लाम के सबसे बड़े पैगम्बर मुहम्मद स० और ख़दीजा र० की शादी भूल जाते हैं, जहां  मुहम्मद स० 25 के थे जबकि ख़दीजा र० 40 की।

मेरा पांचवां अनुभव – दूसरी पत्नी

अगला प्रसंग सन 2014 का है। यहां मैं एक ऐसी लड़की की बात बता रही हूं जो कि गाँव की रहने वाली थी। जिस लड़के से इसकी शादी हो रही थी वह लड़का भी गाँव का ही था। शादी अरमानों से हुई और डोली एक राज्य से दूसरे राज्य यानी झारखण्ड से यूपी पहुंचती है।

लड़की पहले से ही लड़के के इच्छानुसार घरेलू है। कुछ दिनों तक सब कुछ ठीक रहता है फिर बच्चा होने पर उसके खर्च लायक पैसे नहीं होते। लड़का लड़की को मायके छोड़ता है और फिर किसी दूसरी की तलाश में रफूचक्कर हो जाता है। उसे पता है इस्लाम में चार शादियां हो सकती हैं। 

इस्लाम की इस दलील को पेश करने वाले लोग इस चीज़ को भूल जाते हैं कि अरब में जाहिलियत के दौर में होने वाली अनगिनत शादियों को रोकने के लिए चार शादियों का नियम बनाया गया था, और वह भी इस शर्त से कि हर औरत को बराबर हक मिले चाहे वो पैसों का हो या भावनाओं का, ताकि औरतों पर शोषण कम हो।

एक वाकये में आया है कि मोहम्मद स० अपनी बेटी फातिमा र० के पति को दूसरी शादी करने से रोकते हैं।  ये सिर्फ कुछ घटनाएं नहीं हैं, बल्कि ऐसी हज़ारों लाखों घटनाएं होती हैं जिन्हें बिलकुल ही ‘नॉर्मलाइज़ड’ अर्थात साधारण या सामान्य समझ कर भूल जाया जाता है परंतु समाज और खासकर मुस्लिम समुदाय के लोगों, विशेषकर पुरुषों को अपनी पितृसत्तात्मक सोच, जिसे वो धर्म और संस्कृति के आंचल तले छिपा लेते हैं, उनसे बाहर निकलने की ज़रूरत है।

वरना शाह बानो से शायरा बानो तक का सफर हर औरत को प्रेरणा देने के लिए काफी है कि अगर ज़ुल्म समय पर ना रुके और हद से बढ़ जाए तो बगावत उनका हक है, क्योंकि इस्लाम में जुर्म सहना भी मना है।

स्वच्छ भारत मिशन के तहत केन्द्र सरकार ने बिते कुछ वर्षों में देश के अलग-अलग इलाकों में लोगों के घरों में शौचालय बनवाए हैं। केन्द्र सराकर की ओर से दावे किए गए कि स्वच्छता के मद्देनज़र यह एक सराहनीय कार्य है, जिसके ज़रिये शौच के लिए अब लोगों को खेतों में नहीं जाना पड़ेगा।

ठीक है, मैं मानता हूं कि ग्रामीण महिलाओं को भी खेतों में शौच के लिए नहीं जाना पड़ेगा मगर हमें स्वच्छ भारत मिशन के तहत बनाए जाने वाले शौचालयों की गुणवत्ता पर भी चर्चा करने की ज़रूरत है। इस विषय पर सोचने के बाद हम यह जान पाएंगे कि स्वच्छ भारत मिशन के नाम पर शौचालयों की गुणवत्ता के साथ मज़ाक किया गया है।

और पढ़ें: “जिनका पखाना हम अपने हाथों से साफ करते हैं वही हमें छूने से कतराते हैं”

मैंने अपने दुमका ज़िले के आस-पास के ग्रामीण इलाकों में देखा है कि जो भी शौचालय बनवाए गए हैं, उनमें पानी की कोई व्यवस्था नहीं है। यानि कि शौचालयों के बाहर एक छोटी सी जगह है जिसमें पानी इकट्ठा करने के बाद ही प्रयोग किया जा सकता है।

अब यह तो आपको भी पता है कि एक गाँव में कितने चापाकल होते हैं। हर रोज़ उनमें पानी डालना कतई संभव नहीं है। इस वजह से औसत शौचालयों को लोगों ने स्टोर रूम बना दिया है। ऐसे में हम कैसे दावा कर सकते हैं कि स्वच्छ भारत मिशन के तहत ‘हर घर शौचालय’ योजना सफल है?

प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर
प्रतीकात्मक तस्वीर। फोटो साभार- Flickr

मैं मानता हूं कि सरकार की अच्छी पहल है मगर इन शौचालयों को बनवाने की ज़िम्मेदारी जिन लोगों को दी गई थी, क्या उन्होंने अपने काम को ईमानदारी से किया है? आपकी जानकारी के लिए बता दूं कि एक शौचालय निर्माण के लिए सरकार 12,000 रुपये देती है, जो राशि मुखिया और जल-सहिया के ज्वॉइंट अकाउंट में जमा कर दिए जाते हैं।

मैंने देखा है मेरे पास वाले घरों में किस तरीके से खराब क्वालिटी की ईंट से शौचालय का निर्माण होता है। ढाई-ढाई फिट के दो गड्डे किए जाते हैं, जिनमें मल भर जाने के बाद उन गड्ढों को बंद कर दूसरा गड्ढा किया जाता है। जब सुनने में ही ये चीज़ें इतनी जटिल हैं फिर तो प्रयोग करने में लोगों को कितनी परेशानी होती होगी, इसका अंदाज़ा हम लगा सकते हैं।

और पढ़ें: “मैंने बेरोज़गारी पर सरकार को ना कोसकर अपनी कंप्यूटर स्किल बढ़ाई”

अभी लगभग एक साल पहले की बात है जब मेरे गाँव में कई लड़के हाथ में मोबाइल लेकर आए और कुछ लोगों को हड़काते हुए कहा कि आपमें से जिन लोगों ने शौचालय नहीं बनवाए हैं, उनके नाम पर एफआईआर दर्ज़ किया जाएगा। यह बात बोलकर उन लड़कों ने कई ग्रामीणों से पैसे वसूल लिए।

इन उदाहरणों के ज़रिये इस बात का अंदाज़ा लगाया जा सकता है कि किस तरीके से सराकारी पैसों की लूट हो रही है। मैंने सरकारी योजनाओं में होने वाले भ्रष्टाचार को बहुत करीब से देखा है मगर पहली दफा इसपर लिख रहा हूं।

अब तक खामोश इसलिए था क्योंकि कहीं ना कहीं सब कुछ ठीक होने की उम्मीद थी, जो अब टूट चुकी है। आपसे भी अनुरोध है कि सराकरी योजनाओं में गड़बड़ियों की जो भी खबरें हैं, उन्हें मुखरता से उठाइए। हम और आप यदि इस काम को नहीं करेंगे, तो आखिर करेगा कौन?

Whether India is tolerant or intolerant, is a debate that has been going on for quite some time now, to be precise, 2014.

The very fact that people in India can keep on calling India intolerant and continue to live peacefully proves that India is a tolerant country! How can a country, in which people get away with using abusive language against the Prime Minister be intolerant? How is a country in which people of so many religious faiths live and practice their religion without any restrictions, be intolerant? India has even responded to terror attacks in a more tolerant manner than other countries.

France & USA: Are They Tolerant?

Let us take a look at the state of Muslims in the US post 9/11.

Can we call the USA tolerant?

After the 9/11 attacks, there was a definite increase in the number of hate crimes against Muslims. These hate crimes ranged from discrimination, destruction of private property, and violent threats and assaults leading to deaths.

The hate crimes also included harassment of Muslim women wearing the hijab. Many of these women were forced to stay at home while others gave up the hijab. And, we are all aware of how Muslim visitors to the US are checked extensively at the airports. Also, the world knows how Osama Bin Laden was chased and vanquished by the US.

Another example is France:

In 2015 after the Paris attacks, France closed three mosques in the country. Between the years 2015-2018, 22 terror attacks have been reported in France with 249 deaths and 928 people being wounded.

As a result of the rising terror attacks, the French Government is likely to pass a new bill in the Parliament in early 2021 which will include measures such as a ban on foreign imams, restrictions on homeschooling, and many more.

Are these countries tolerant?

It is not just about tolerance and intolerance; what we need to understand is why these countries have adopted such anti-Muslim policies. It is simply because of the terror attacks they have faced. And, they need to take more such measures to protect their country and citizens against such attacks.

Also read: “From Cow Lynching To Anti-CAA Arrests: Is India’s Multiculturalism Fading Into Intolerance?”

India & Hindusim: No, We Are NOT Intolerant

Now by the same logic, let us take the case of India:

  • Bomb blasts in Mumbai (1993)
  • Attack on Parliament (2001)
  • 26/11 attacks in Mumbai (2008)

These are some of the more prominent ones. In addition to these, there have been attacks going on in the country. And, not to forget the cross-border terrorism from Pakistan.

The question is, has India done anything as drastic as France or the US? For India to be called intolerant?

All that India has done post-2014 is take action against cross-border terrorism. Is that intolerance?

In a country where people say “chowkidar chor hai” about the Prime Minister, the freedom of speech is questioned?
India is definitely not intolerant because India is a land with a majority Hindu population. And, Hinduism is THE MOST tolerant religion in the world.

Hinduism
India is definitely not intolerant because India is a land with a majority Hindu population. And, Hinduism is THE MOST tolerant religion in the world.

Have you heard of any Hindu king going out of India and attacking other countries like Alexander or Changez Khan in history? No!

Have you heard of people being forced to convert to Hinduism? No!

Have you heard of terrorist attacks by Hindu groups anywhere in the world? No!

Then how do Hindus become intolerant compared to other religions?

The concept of intolerance in India is a myth and has been propagated by people with vested interests to misguide the youth of the country.

Unfortunately, these forces have been successful in building the intolerant narrative to a large extent.

I only wish that the youth of this country would open their eyes to this reality and work positively towards the growth of the nation.

Humanity wins over religion with the establishment of the inter-faith marriage institution. Many years ago Dr B R Ambedkar stated inter-caste marriage as the real remedy for the abolition of caste. Same as in this time, accepting interfaith marriages can remove the barriers between people belonging to different religions. Though legally it is acceptable in our society, still there are lots of barriers not only for interfaith marriage but inter-caste and inter-state marriages as well.

According to the constitution of India, a person can marry irrespective of their religion. There are provisions under the Special Marriage Act, but religious perspective does not allow such marriages. Religions like Hinduism and Islam don’t restrict inter-faith marriage, but there are some conditions. If a Muslim man wants to marry a non-Muslim woman, the women must convert to Islam. Same as, if a Hindu woman wants to marry a non-Hindu man, the person must convert to Hinduism. This is the big issue a couple has to face to establish an inter-faith marriage.

Accepting a person entirely from a different religion is not the same as accepting another faith forcefully. Believing in the almighty is very personal. Marriage and religion are different institutions and have a different role in life.

Some people say humanity is beyond religion and some prioritise religion over humanity. Family, marriage, school, office, etc., all the institutions have an important role in socialisation which is the building block of our behaviour. Our behaviour, perception, faith and nature is dependent on the people and society we share. We reflect what we absorb.

secular india
We enjoy “Eid ki Biryani” with Muslim friends and “Diwali ki Lighting” with Hindu friends.

Nowadays, the young generation lives in a mixed cultural society not only within a country but globally. School, college, working place; everywhere we meet people from a different place, caste, class, religion and learn to accept people as they are. Thus, we socialise.

Acceptance, sharing, thinking beyond the boundary and humanity is the characteristics we prioritise most. For example, we enjoy “Eid ki Biryani” with Muslim friends and “Diwali ki Lighting” with Hindu friends. We love each other, help, and share and enjoy all kinds of occasion together.

Just one generation back the situation was not as it is today and of course the value systems differ man to man, family to family. We can say in crowd “unity in diversity”, but there are very few people who can accept such diversity in their own house.

Marriage is an emotional, social and physical bond between two people who are willing to make a new family. But the family of the people consider a marriage a bond between two families and prioritise their caste, class, religion and value system more than the happiness of two people. Generally, with this concept, accepting people from a different religion becomes difficult.

In this era, people are free from superstition; we are more open and liberal. This is the time people should follow the way of peace and harmony. We should judge people by virtue. Good job, the same faith, expert in cooking and beauty can’t be the pillar of any successful marriage. Nowadays, we can find several examples of divorce due to several reasons. There is a huge difference between a child of a happy couple and an unhappy couple.

People are getting depressed for small reasons. They hate each other without reason, jealousy or anxiety. All of these are common psychological disorders people are facing. No counsellor is needed to solve the issue if one has a beautiful, supportive family.

To establish a happy family with a successful marriage, one needs unconditional love, trust and understanding between two people. In 2020, society should value these things more than orthodox concepts.

Also read: 73 Years Of Independence But Interfaith Love Remains ‘Taboo’ In India

Two wrongs never make a right. How do we go around in agreeing and abiding by the tenets of French secularism and constitutionalism? Why have spaces for articulating and expressing one’s faith been deliberately done away with? Arguments in favour can be put as the state would want to sound as a neutral umpire instead of being blamed as biased. Perfectly okay. But how can a state justify its interference in the practice and propagation of a particular religious action?

Well, if it were for organising a homogeneous character and conduct of the state and society, then the Europeans are grossly mistaken. That won’t work and will continue hindering the prospects of rescuing Islam from radicalism.

Past few days incidents in France calls for an immediate and urgent task at hand. As for the integration, acceptance and accommodation of Muslims in popular customs, codes and culture of France. This could have surely avoided the ugly scenes which we saw outside a church in the French city of Nice or for that matter the beheading of a French teacher by one of his students for allegedly defaming the Prophet.

After 9/11, most Europeans believe that Muslims are enemies and anarchists who are for the structural and systematic violation of supremacy and sovereignty of the state. Never have the French taken any initiative to acknowledge and appreciate the versions of their fellow brethren. Otherwise, in the first place, such a situation and circumstance would have never arisen.

Promoting equality, fraternity and brotherhood as for seeking solutions through consultations, consensus and dialogue. Overreacting to the Nice incident was uncalled for as for matching the aspirations and expectations of the vested interests. Emmanuel Macron is an intelligent and inspiring leader who knows how to place pride and faith in the community, which is already in a deep state of crisis.

Islamic organisations should come forward in abhorring the Chinese method of putting the Uyghur Muslims in tight control and order. Round the clock, they are put under surveillance if they dare speak up against any of the customary laws of Red China. But they won’t prefer speaking up as for their convenience rather than for their choice. But someone will have to take the lead in ensuring a challenge against the values and ways of social conservatism, orthodoxy and extremism if not beyond.

How many are ready to take this line, as then you can be a better watchdog.

Also read: Opinion: To Protect India’s Future, We Need To Leave Religion And Caste At Home

मुझे थोड़ा धक्का सा लगा जब उसने यह कहा कि सॉरी मगर मेरे लिए तुम उम्र में बहुत छोटे हो। गे डेटिंग एप्प, ग्राइंडर पर उससे लंबी बातें करने के बाद उसे अपनी फोटो व्हाट्सएप्प की। उसकी इस बात के बाद मैंने वापस उस फोटो को देखा, पकी हुई दाढ़ी और झड़ते हुए बालों के साथ मैं कहीं से भी यंग नहीं दिखता था मगर उसके लिए मैं यंग था।

यह मेरी तारीफ नहीं, मेरे उपर तंज़ था। उसे झुर्रियों वाला आदमी चाहिए था, जितना बूढ़ा उतना अच्छा। मैंने सोचा कि बूढ़े लोग किसको पसंद आते हैं? मुंबई के बाहर एक जूनियर कॉलेज में पढ़ाने वाले इस तीस-चालीस के गबरू, घनी मूंछों और मज़बूत कलाई वाले प्रॉफेसर को बूढ़े लोग ही पसंद थे। तुमने जिनके साथ सेक्स किया, उनमें सबसे बूढ़े की उम्र क्या थी? 85, उसने जवाब दिया, यानि पच्चासी!

इस तरह की पसंद रखने वालों से जान-पहचान हाल में ही हुई थी

जवान मर्द, जो अब घर बसाना चाहते थे, जिन्हें बुज़ुर्ग आदमी पसंद आते थे और वो उनको ही तलाशते थे। एक बार गाज़ियाबाद में मेरी मुलाकात एक रईस, चौड़े कंधों और लंबी जांघों वाले आदमी से हुई। उसने बताया कि उसे वे मर्द पसंद हैं, जो उसके बाप जैसे दिखते हैं। ताकतवर, मूंछों वाले और जिनकी तोंद हो।

मैंने उससे पूछा कि यह उसको थोड़ा गलत सा नहीं लगता, घर वालों के साथ ही मौजा टाइप? मज़ाक करने की मेरी यह कोशिश बेकार रही। मेरी इस बात पर उसे गुस्सा आया और उसने कहा, “मैं बस बता रहा हूं कि मुझे किस टाइप के मर्द पसंद हैं।” उसने आगे कहा, “यह भी कि जिन मर्दों को मैं जानता हूं, उनमें मेरे पिताजी ही सबसे हैंडसम हैं।”

यह सुनकर मुझे मेरी बेवकूफी का अंदाज़ा हुआ। यह चाहत उसके रोम-रोम में यूं बसी हुई थी कि उसे ऐसे लोगों के अलावा और कोई पसंद ना आता था। मैं कहीं से भी उसकी चाहतों की लिस्ट में फिट नहीं बैठता था। ना ही मेरी दाढ़ी थी और ना ही लंबा-चौड़ा था और ना ही मुझे तोंद है।

हमें लगता है हम जानते हैं कि लोगों को क्या पसंद आता है। शायद मुझे यह लगता था कि मुझे पता है कि लोगों को क्या पसंद है। जैसे- जवान, फिट बॉडी, गोरी त्वचा, सुडौल शरीर, दाढ़ी या सुंदर चेहरा। मुझे भी यह सब आज भी अच्छा लगता है लेकिन ज़रूरी नहीं है कि बाकी लोगों की भी यही लिस्ट हो। जिन लड़कों ने जवानी में मुझसे नज़रें फेर लीं, उसी तरह के लड़के मेरी ढलती उम्र के दीवाने बन गए। सब नहीं लेकिन ऐसे लोगों की काफी संख्या थी। उन लोगों की प्रोफाइल में साफ-साफ लिखा था, “अधेड़ उम्र के मर्द ही पसंद हैं, चालीस के नीचे वाले कृपया दूर रहें।”

ऐसी दीवानगी इससे पहले देखी ना थी कभी

पॉर्न साइट्स में मैंने ऐसे वीडियोज़ देखे जिनमें जवान मर्द, अधेड़ उम्र के मर्द के साथ सेक्स कर रहे थे और बिना सोचे समझे ही मैंने इनकी मन ही मन निंदा भी की। यह देखो कैसे बेताब जवान मर्द हैं और साथ में ज़रूरत से ज़्यादा गर्म बूढ़े मर्द भी। ऐसे वीडियोज़ बनाने के खास पैसे मिलते होंगे क्या? मैंने मन ही मन खुद को समझा लिया था कि ऐसा सेक्स कोई अपनी मर्ज़ी से तो नहीं करेगा। सभी को जवान लोग ही पसंद होते हैं।

अधेड़ उम्र के मर्द जवान औरतों को अपना निशाना बनाते हैं, अधेड़ उम्र की महिलाएं जवान औरतों पर हावी होती हैं, बूढ़े लोग जवान लोगों को ढूंढते रहते हैं, यही होता है ना?

मुझे हमेशा से पता था कि मैं गे हूं मगर जवानी में किसी भी दूसरे गे मर्द के साथ मेरी जमी नहीं। उनके लिए मैं गंभीर था, उम्र के हिसाब से कुछ ज़्यादा ही समझदार। जैसे एक अधेड़ उम्र का आदमी जवान शरीर में कैद हो। ना उन्हें मैं पसंद आता था और ना ही वे मुझे। जो चीज़ें जवान करते थे, वे मुझे कभी अच्छी नहीं लगीं। ना शराब पसंद थी, ना पार्टी करने का शौक, ना तेज़ म्यूज़िक, ना नाच-गाना और ना ही शॉपिंग या फिल्में देखना। मुझे वह सब पसंद था जो बड़ी उम्र के साथ जुड़ा होता है मगर मुझे बड़े उम्र के आदमी पसंद ना थे। मुझे जवान बदन की चाह थी और जवान आदमियों को मेरा जवान बदन नहीं रिझाता था।

मैं इस युवा पीढ़ी का था ही नहीं

मेरे गे फ्रेंड्स मुझसे कैरियर के बारे में और अपने दिल की बात शेयर करते। उनके लिए मैं बड़े भाई जैसा था, समझदार, सेक्स की मोह-माया से दूर रहने वाला दोस्त। मुझे पहले भी और आज भी अपने शरीर को लेकर कॉन्फिडेंस नहीं रहा है। मुझे लगता था कि लोग मुझे मोटा होने के कारण नीची निगाहों से देखते हैं। बेडौल बदन, ऐसे टाइट कपड़े पहने जो मुझे फिट नहीं होते और तो और, मैं इलास्टिक बैंड वाली पैंट भी  पहनता था। मुझे लगता था कि लोगों को मेरी चॉइस नापसंद है, साथ-साथ वे मुझे मेरी बॉडी की वजह से भी रिजेक्ट करते हैं।

मुझे हमेशा ऐसा फील होता था कि मैं सबके साथ जुड़ नहीं सकता, हमेशा पराया, ग्रुप के बाहर ही रह पाऊंगा। इसलिए भी मैंने अपने काम पर ज़्यादा ध्यान दिया। एक सीरियस अफेयर और दिल टूटने के बाद मैंने किसी को को डेट नहीं किया।

मैंने अपने कैरियर पर ध्यान दिया और कॉरपोरेट लाइफ की सीढ़ियां चढ़ता गया। पैसे कमाए और पैसे देकर लड़कों के साथ सेक्स भी किया। ये वह जिज्ञासु जवान लड़के थे, जो इन्टरनेट पर आसानी से मिल जाते थे या किसी और नेटवर्क पर भी। एक छोटी सी फीस देकर उनके लिए भी आसान था और मेरे लिए भी। वे आते थे, हम सेक्स करते थे, वे पैसे लेकर वापस चले जाते थे। कोई इमोशनल रिश्ता नहीं, ना कोई ड्रामा और ना ही खतरा। जिस चीज़ को पा ना सको, उसके दर्द से कोसों दूर रहो।

मुझे वे पसंद नहीं थे जिनकी गर्लफ्रेंड होती थीं

उन अजनबियों के साथ किसी भी समय मुझे ऐसा नहीं लगा कि उन्हें मेरे शरीर से प्यार है। सच तो यह था कि मैंने कभी अपने को ऐसा सोचने ही नहीं दिया। मैं उनके साथ अच्छे से पेश आता था। अगर वे मुझे दिल से त्यौहारों पर बधाई देते थे तो मुझे लगता था कि उन्हें और पैसे चाहिए, जो कि अक्सर होता था।

जब हम दोनों साथ होते थेे तो उनका कामुक होना उनकी जवानी की निशानी होती थी। जब वे मेरे साथ सेक्स करने के लिए पॉर्न देखना चाहते, वह भी औरतों वाला, तो मुझे अच्छा नहीं लगता था। ऐसे लोगों को मैं वापस नहीं बुलाता था।

मुझे वे लोग भी पसंद नहीं थे, जो सेक्स के बाद बताते थे कि उनकी गर्लफ्रेंड है और मर्दों के साथ सेक्स करना बस उनका एक शौक है। यह मेरे लिए उन्हें वापस ना बुलाने की सबसे बड़ी वजह होती थी। मैं उन्हें पैसे देकर भेज देता। मुझे वे मर्द पसंद थे, जो कम बोलते थे, काम ज़्यादा करते थे और हवाबाज़ी कम करते थे।

मैं जितना कॉन्फिडेंट कॉरपोरेट जगत में था, उतना ही चारदीवारी के अंदर दब्बू था, बिल्कुल ज़ीरो कॉन्फिडेंस। मैं अपनी लाइफ से खुश था, सिंगल मर्द वाली लाइफ। घर की रख-रखाई के लिए स्टाफ था। सेक्स के लिए जवान मर्द। दिल की बात करने के लिए दोस्त थे ही। थोड़ा दिमागी कसरत करने के लिए भी एक अलग दोस्तों का ग्रुप था। मेरी लाइफ कई हिस्सों में अच्छे से बंटी हुई थी। सब सही चल रहा था, फिर एक दिन लॉकडाउन के दौरान आप यह सब मिस करने लगते हो। वेबिनार और वीडियो कॉल से तंग आकर, ग्राइंडर पर ज़्यादा समय बिताने लगते हो।

खुद के स्वास्थ और सुरक्षा के लिए सोशल डिस्टेंसिंग का पालन करना पड़ रहा है और लोगों से मिल भी नहीं सकते हो। इसलिए अपनी इच्छाओं को शांत करने के लिए डिजिटल दुनिया का सहारा लेना पड़ रहा है। इसी दुनिया में घूमते-घामते मुझे सेक्शुअलिटी के बगीचे में यग एक नई क्यारी दिखी, जहां जवान मर्द अपने से उम्र में बड़े मर्दों को ढूंढते हैं। उनको उनमें अपने डैडी दिखते हैं, जो उनका ख्याल रखेंगे।

ट्विंक क्लब यानि जवान और छरहरे होते हैं, शरीर पर कोई बाल नहीं होता, स्ट्रेट  एक्टिंग क्लब यानि विषमलैंगिक वाले हाव-भाव रखने वाले, मसल क्लब यानि बॉडी बिल्डर टाइप, शुगर डैडी यानि बड़ी उम्र के मर्द, बेर क्लब जिनके शरीर पर बाल ही बाल होते हैं और औटर क्लब यानि बेर क्लब से थोड़े कम बाल वाले मर्द में हमारा समाज अपनी पसंद तलाशता है। इस तरह का बंटवारा डेटिंग एप्स में काफी कॉमन होता है। लोगों को मालूम होता है कि उन्हें क्या चाहिए।

इंटरनेट पर ऐसी जगह है, जो बड़ी तोंद और शरीर पर हद से ज़्यादा बाल वाले अधेड़ उम्र के मर्द को पसंद करने वालों के लिए खास रची गई है। उन मर्दों के लिए, जिन्हें चिकने यंग लड़के पसंद नहीं आते। इसके अलावा और भी च्वाइस होती हैं, जो पॉपुलर नहीं हैं। मुझे तो इस बात से ताजुब्ब हुआ कि कितने सारे ट्विंक्स और मसल्स वाले मर्द हैं, जिनको बड़े शरीर वाले बेअर्स पसंद हैं, जिन्हें देखते ही झप्पी देने और लेने का मन करता है। यह सब देखकर मैं सोचता कि सांता क्लाउज़ और लाफिंग बुद्धा तो इन जवानों के शरीर में आग लगा देते होंगे।

जब मैंने दाढ़ी बढ़ानी शुरू की, मेरी दुनिया बदल गई

मैं हमेशा क्लीन शेव रहता था, थोड़ा सा मोटा क्यूट था और हमेशा खुश दिखता था। यह सोचकर कि खुश दिखने से मर्द मेरी ओर आकर्षित होंगे। जबकि ऐसा बहुत कम होता था मगर जब मैंने दाढ़ी बढ़ाई और वह पकनी शुरू हुई, तभी मुझे मेरी डिमांड का अंदाज़ा हुआ। मैं खुद थोड़ा सरप्राइज़ हो गया था। लोग मेरे लुक्स की तारीफ करने लगे। क्या औरत क्या मर्द, दोनों ही। उस दाढ़ी ने ही ग्राइंडर पर मेरा भाव बढ़ा दिया। खासतौर पर इसलिए कि मेरी दाढ़ी अधपकी सी थी। मैं भी अब ऑफिशियली एक “पापा बीअर” था।

ग्रिंडर तो अपनी पॉर्न टॉक के लिए फेमस है। इसलिए जब मैंने वहां निर्मलता और रोमांस देखा, तो हैरान हुआ। वहां कई ऐसे लड़के थे, जो बड़ी उम्र के मर्द से प्यार चाहते थे। उन्हें पैसे नहीं चाहिए थे, ना ही उनको बस एक बदन चाहिए था। उनकी इच्छाओं में एक संपूर्णता थी, जो सीमाओं को मिटा रही थी। उन्हें दोस्ती चाहिए थी, संरक्षण, चाहत, सहयोग आदि उन्हें प्यार में वैसा कुछ चाहिए था जैसा किसी छोटे की देखरेख करने वाला एक बड़ा देता है।

यानि कि अभिभावक वाला प्यार। इसका सही शब्द शायद “वात्सल्य” होगा, जिसमें श्रृंगार और माधुर्य, यानि सेक्स और रोमांस दोनों हों। एक जवान और एक उम्रदराज़ मर्द के बीच का कोमल रिश्ता। जैसे कि उनमें से ही एक मर्द ने कहा था, ‘निर्मल भाव’ जिसे कम लोग मान और समझ पाते हैं।

गे क्लब के पोस्टर बॉय

लॉकडाउन के दौरान मैं जिन-जिन लड़कों से ऑनलाइन मिला, वे सब मुझसे घंटों बातें करते थे। कभी अपने कैरियर, कभी अपने स्वभाव, तो कभी राजनीति के बारे में। मैं उनसे पूछा करता कि अपनी उम्र के दोस्त नहीं मिलते हैं तुमको? तो वे बताते कि हां मिलते हैं लेकिन उनके साथ वे PUBG खेलते हैं। उससे वे संतुष्ट नहीं होते। उनको मेरे जैसे उम्रदराज़़, दाढ़ी वाले मर्द ज़्यादा पसंद आते थे, क्योंकि वे अपने साथ ढेर सारे अनुभव लाते थे।

वे लोग गे सीन का हिस्सा नहीं थे। यानि यूं समझो कि वे पार्टियों में नहीं जाना चाहते थे। वे यंग समलैंगिक मर्दों से मिलना नहीं चाहते थे। उन्हें क्वीयर पॉलिटिक्स में कोई दिलचस्पी नहीं थी। वे तो उससे बोर होते थे। कभी-कभी जब यंग लड़के उन पर लाइन मारते थे, तो वे उन पर हंस दिया करते थे। सच कहूं तो इनमें से कुछ लड़के तो बहुत ही अच्छे दिखते हैं। जिम्म जाते हैं, वे अपने शरीर को तराशकर रखते हैं, बल्कि वे तो गे क्लब के पोस्टर बॉय भी बन सकते हैं।

उन्हें पता था कि समलैंगिक दुनिया में उनकी बहुत एहमियत थी लेकिन उनको उसमें दिलचस्पी नहीं थी। यंग लड़के उन्हें कभी आकर्षित कर ही नहीं पाए। उनका जिम्म जाना उम्रदराज़ मर्दों को लुभाने का हथकंडा नहीं था। वे इसलिए जाते थे, क्योंकि उनको अपने शरीर से प्यार था। उन्हें सुंदर और आकर्षक दिखना पसंद था। ऐसे में मेरी शंकाएं लौट आती हैं। आखिर उनको मुझसे क्या चाहिए! उनको मेरी बॉडी में दिलचस्पी हो यह तो मुमकिन नहीं।

यह उम्र वह स्वर्ग है, जिसे मैंने पहले कभी देखा ही नहीं

आपने बॉलीवुड स्टार्स और सेलिब्रिटी, क्रिएटर्स को देखा होगा। वे हेयर डाई, फेस लिफ्ट्स, टमी टक्स, कीटो डाइट और इंस्टाग्राम पोस्ट्स के सहारे अपनी जवानी के सुनहरे समय को बरकरार रखना चाहते हैं, क्योंकि उनको बुढ़ापे से डर लगता है और वे उसे अपनाना ही नहीं चाहते हैं लेकिन मैं उल्टा चाहता हूं।

ज़िंदगी का यह मुकाम, यह उम्र वह स्वर्ग है, जिसे मैंने पहले कभी देखा ही नहीं था। हो सकता है, मैं पहले मानने को तैयार ही नहीं था। जहां मैं जैसा हूं, वैसा ही पसंद किया जा रहा था यानि परिपक्व भी और थोड़ा गोल मटोल भी! मेरे लिए मैं जैसा हूं, वैसे रहने की यह एक तरह की आज़ादी थी।

फिर भी सोच दूसरी तरफ चली ही जाती थी। भले ही हम सब मैच्योर थे, फिर भी क्या सामने वाले को मैं किसी विकृत वजह से पसंद आ रहा था? यूं उम्मीद करना कि मैं उसे सच में पसंद हूं, ठीक था क्या? मैं इस बात पर गौर ही नहीं कर रहा था कि सामने वाला भी पॉलिटिकल साइंस में पोस्ट-ग्रैजुएट है, कोई दूध पीता बच्चा नहीं।

फिर भी धीरे-धीरे मुझे यह महसूस हुआ कि यहां पर दोनों मैच्योर लोगों के बीच एक परस्पर समझ है। बाकी जो भी अटकलें दिमाग में आ रही हैं, वे बस मेरे पुराने, बुरे अनुभवों पर आधारित हैं। समलैंगिक लोगों के लिए ये नियम किसने बनाए? ऐसा किसने कहा कि सिर्फ यंग लोग ही प्यार में पड़ सकते हैं? यंग लोग सिर्फ यंग लोगों के साथ ही प्यार में पड़ सकते हैं? दूसरों के बनाए नियमों और कही बातों की वजह से भला हम अपनी इच्छाएं क्यों मारें?

जिन लड़कों से मैं मिला हूं, उनकी जो बात मुझे सबसे प्यारी लगती है, वह है उनकी ज़िंदादिली और जीवन को भरपूर जीने का तरीका। एक मुझे अपने हेअरकट की तस्वीरें भेजता है। मैं बड़ाई कर दूं, तो खुश हो जाता है। दूसरा बताता है कि वह अपने परिवार से दूर इसलिए रहता है, क्योंकि वह उनको अपने बारे में खुलकर बता नहीं सकता है।

एक तो यह चाहता है कि मैं उसे रोज़ सेल्फी भेजूं, वह भी नार्मल चीज़ें करते हुए। एक और है जो मुझे बचकाने जोक भेजता है और तुरंत जवाब ना दूं तो नाराज़ हो जाता है। एक मुंब्रा की एक झुग्गी में रहता है, दूसरा कोटा के पास अपने छोटे से गाँव में, एक काकीनाडा में सेल्स पर्सन है, तो एक अजमेर में छोटा सा व्यापारी। कोई मुझे बिना कपड़ों के देखना पसंद करता है, तो कोई बस इमोजी भेजने से ही खुश हो जाता है।

वीडियो चैट होते भी हैं तो काफी छोटे। सिर्फ एक किस्स या एक स्माइल या एक-दूसरे को सराहने वाला छोटा सा पल। कभी चादर में छुपकर, तो कभी बाथरूम से अपने-अपने परिवार की नज़र से बचकर। कभी-कभी मुझे उनकी मासूमियत दिखती है, तो कभी-कभी उनका डर।

समाज यंग लोगों पर जो बोझ डाले बैठा है, वह देखकर दुख भी होता है। यह आदमी बनने की ओर जाते हुए लड़के, मेरी छाती पर चैन से सोने की कामना रखते हैं। शायद मेरे पास सुरक्षित महसूस करते हैं और मुझे लगता है कि नज़दीकियां बढ़ने का यह एक ज़रूरी और सुंदर अंदेशा है।

मैं कभी भी एक पर नहीं टिका

यानि मैं मोनोगमस नहीं हूं। मोनोगैमी का मतलब है एक टाइम पर किसी एक व्यक्ति के साथ ही रिलेशन में रहना। इसलिए मैं एक साथ कई लोगों से चैट करता हूं। मैं यहां स्पष्ट कर दूं कि मुझे कभी भी एक्सक्लूज़िविटी विशिष्टता की चाहत नहीं रही है। यानि उनकी ज़िंदगी में बस मैं इकलौता पार्टनर बनूं।

कुछ को इस बात से दिक्कत होती है लेकिन अधिकतर सवाल नहीं करते हैं। मैं इस बात पर एहतियात ज़रूर रखता हूं कि एक की बात दूसरे से नहीं करता, क्योंकि मुझे लगता है वह प्राइवेसी के नियम के खिलाफ होगा लेकिन वे सब जानते हैं कि मेरी ज़िंदगी में और लोग हैं।

कभी-कभी वे मुझसे मेरे पार्टनर के बारे में पूछते भी हैं। मैं हंसकर टाल देता हूं और वे मुझे अपनी ज़िंदगी में आए किसी दूसरे पापा बेयर के बारे में बताते हैं, ताकि मैं उससे जलूं, उल्टा मुझे राहत महसूस होती है, क्योंकि मैं उनकी ज़िंदगी का अकेला पार्टनर होने का प्रेशर नहीं लेना चाहता।

मैंने ऐसे बॉयफ्रेंडस की कहानियां सुनी हैं, जो बहुत जलते हैं। अपने साथी को पकड़कर अपने पास रखना चाहते हैं। वे आत्महत्या करने की कोशिश करते हैं, कई तरह के नाटक करते हैं, डिप्रेशन में चले जाते हैं। उस चिपकने वाली प्रजाति और उनकी दुनिया से मुझे डर लगता है। मेरी चाहत अकेलेपन में नहीं, बल्कि अनेकों को पाने और उन अनेकों में एकांत ढूंढने के बारे में है।

मेरी डिमांड इसलिए भी ज़्यादा है, क्योंकि मैं अकेला हूं। मुझे यह पता है कि ज़्यादातर उम्रदराज़ लोग शादीशुदा ही होते हैं। यह शादीशुदा मर्द किसी ट्रिप के दौरान होटल के कमरों में यंग मर्दों से मिलते हैं। उनका मकसद बस सेक्स होता है। वे भी बिल्कुल गुप्त तरीकों से, जैसे यह सब करने में उनको खुद से घृणा हो रही हो।

वे बातचीत में समय बर्बाद नहीं करना चाहते हैं लेकिन ये जो यंग मर्द हैं, उनको सिर्फ सेक्स नहीं चाहिए। उनको एक दोस्त की तलाश रहती है। वे इन उम्रदराज़ मर्दों के विवाहित जीवन को खराब नहीं करना चाहते हैं मगर ऐसे गुप्त तरीकों से छुपकर मिलना भी नहीं चाहते हैं। ऐसे रहना उनको अपमानित, अस्वीकृत और वंचित महसूस कराता है। जैसे किसी कोने में बैठ, वे एक टुकड़ा फेंके जाने का इंतज़ार कर रहे हों।

एक बहुत ही खुशमिज़ाज यंग बैंकर का वाक्या

वह जोगेश्वरी के एक बहुत ही संपन्न नॉर्थ इंडियन परिवार से है। उसने मुझे बताया कि उसका बीस साल की उम्र से ही एक वकील के साथ संबंध था और वह खत्म तब हुआ जब उस वकील की पत्नी और बच्चों को इसके बारे में पता चल गया। उसका दूसरा रिश्ता एक सिविल सर्वेंट के साथ था, जो उससे बीस साल बड़ा था।

पांच साल तक वह आदमी कई बार उससे मिलने उसके शहर गया और दोनों को इतना टाइम साथ में बिताता देख उसकी बीवी को शक हो गया। बीवी ने महसूस किया कि यह सिर्फ दोस्ती नहीं थी और बस फिर उसे इस रिश्ते को तोड़ने के लिए मजबूर कर दिया गया।

ये दोनों रिश्ते लंबे समय तक चले थे। वह अभी भी उन लोगों के संपर्क में था, जो अब तीस साल से ऊपर का था और इन दो रिश्तों का बोझ लिए घूम रहा था। मैंने उससे पूछा कि क्या वह खुद कभी शादी करेगा और उसने बिना सोचे-समझे ही कह दिया कि हां वह करेगा।

उसने माना कि वह बहुत दिन तक इससे बचकर नहीं रह सकता है, जो होना है वह तो हो के ही रहेगा। भले ही वह इससे खुश नहीं था मगर इससे बच भी नहीं सकता था। उसके हिसाब से शादी को सहमति देते हुए भी वह किसी उम्रदराज़ आदमी से प्यार करे। उससे इमोशनल रिश्ता बनाए तो गलत क्या है।

उसे नहीं लगता था कि उसकी सेक्शुअलिटी उसकी शादी में कोई रुकावट पैदा कर सकती थी। वह इससे कम्फर्टेबल था। उसके दिमाग में किसी तरह का दुःख या कोई शंका नहीं थी। तो क्या वह अपनी बीवी को भी आज़ादी देगा कि वह भी किसी और से प्यार कर सकती है।

मैंने पूछा मगर उसने कोई जवाब नहीं दिया। उसने इस बारे में कभी सोचा ही नहीं था। अगर उसके बच्चों को पता चल गया तो? इस सवाल के बाद तो उसने मुझे ब्लॉक ही कर दिया। मुझे लगता है, उसे ऐसे ‘डैडी’ पसंद थे, जो उससे जुड़कर रहें ना कि उससे सवाल करते फिरें।

इन पिछले कुछ महीनों में मुझे यह पता चला है कि समलैंगिक दुनिया पर लोगों की सोच इतनी दकियानूसी क्यों है? क्योंकि बार-बार वही पुरानी बातें हर जगह दोहराई जाती हैं। इस तरह इस दुनिया को सीमित ही रखा जाता है। अगर हम आंखों पर छाए धुंधलेपन को पोंछकर देखें तो हमें ऐसी कई दुनिया मिलेंगी जो छुपी ज़रूर हैं मगर मौजूद हैं और अच्छी चल रही हैं।

मैंने ऐसे कई मर्दों को देखा है, जो मुझे लगता था मेरी पहुंच के बाहर हैं। आज वे खुलकर मुझे अपने आगोश में ले रहे हैं, मेरे बॉडी को एन्जॉय कर रहे हैं। मेरी मैच्योरिटी को पसंद कर रहे हैं। उनके साथ मैं जैसा हूं, वैसा रहता हूं। कोई नाटक नहीं, कोई लेन-देन नहीं। बस एक-एक पल को गहराई तक जीता हूं। हां, हो सकता है कि इन लड़कों को एक पिता समान इंसान की ज़रूरत हो।

शायद मेरे अपने सेक्शुअल और कामुक इच्छाओं के पीछे उन कभी ना हो सकने वाले बच्चों को प्यार करने की चाह हो। मैं उनका पिता नहीं हूं और वे मेरे बच्चे नहीं हैं। इस तरह के आकर्षण को अनाचार या फेटिश का नाम देना भी एक तरह से इन अलग तरह की इच्छाओं को स्वीकार ना करने का तरीका है। मैं किसी तरह के विश्लेषण का हिस्सा बने बिना इस फीलिंग को एन्जॉय करना चाहता हूं। जो जैसा है, वैसा ही रहने दो बिल्कुल नैचुरल।


नोट: अंकुर मेहता (बदला हुआ नाम), जो बहुत ही जल्द रिटायर होने वाले IT कंसलटेंट हैं, जो ज़्यादातर बेंगलुरु में रहते हैं लेकिन मैसूर को पसंद करते हैं।

लेख: अंकुर मेहता

चित्रण: पूर्णता

Think of this as a rapid-fire and ask yourself what do we know about social media platforms?

  • They are exciting.
  • They help us kill time.
  • They are ever engaging.
  • They help us stayed connected with the world.
  • The recommendations are powerful and find me content that I love to watch.
  • They make us smarter and more interactive.
  • Helps me connect with people of similar interests and opinions.

Let’s look at these perceived benefits under a different lens now.

  • They are exciting. Or dosing us with social approvals every few minutes, making us perceive our lives around short-term happiness.
  • They help us kill time. Or steal our attention and sell it as a product to companies, businesses and governments.
  • They are ever engaging. Or they’re using the basic biological imperative to connect with humans to manipulate you in ways you can’t imagine.
  • They help us stayed connected with the world. Or sneaky AI algorithms are at their best to keep you hooked by playing with your emotional triggers and vulnerabilities.
  • The recommendations are powerful and find me content that I love to watch. Or are you being manipulated into believing something by persuasive AI tactics?
  • They make us smarter and more interactive. Or are they polarising us on multiple levels and controlling our opinions?

I’m not pointing out at how social platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook amongst others are bad for you, but alluding to the fact that as users, we need to be cognisant of how we utilise these platforms and what share of our time and energy we give them. Be aware of what information is being fed to you and choose to critically think of the opinion that you are being dosed with. A study shows that fake news travels six times faster on Twitter than the real one. With laws running behind digital privacy, we are making ourselves vulnerable to being manipulated for the interests of powerful organizations.

If not used wisely, technology has the power of evolving as an existential threat to humanity soon. So, could we be looking at degraded democracies, ruined global economy, willful ignorance or civil war, in a few years from now? The path has been set already and the work is in great progress:

  • Teen and pre-teens (especially girls) within the Gen Z demographic (people born after 1996) are more susceptible to depression, loneliness, and suicide. In middle school, kids are already addicted to being online and show a perpetual desire for greater social validation.
  • This addiction is making users more fragile, lonely, less risk-taking, depressed, unhappy, socially disconnected and alienated.
  • Opinions are so hard to tolerate and unwelcomed. There’s an ever-decreasing sense of shared beliefs.
  • Countries are using data to create polarisation and difference of opinion in other countries.
  • News is being falsified for commercial interest.

While social platforms may not have been designed to be malicious, they always tapped into the aspect of addiction or obsession. Today, big companies, billion-dollar businesses, or even governments have the ability to change the way we think, impose opinions and generate influence on us without us knowing we’re being played.

The need of the hour is to:

  • have stringent digital privacy laws.
  • for us to limit the time we spend online on these virtual platforms and focus on making real human connections.
  • have AI algorithms revamped to help us and not use us as a product to sell to the biggies.

We must curb our social media addiction by shifting focus to healthy activities and behaviours, such as reading a book, going on a social media detox, painting, working out, taking a solo trip, meditating, learning a new skill, engaging in meaningful conversations, picking up a new hobby; there’s just so much to do and learn outside of social media. Let’s not restrict our worlds to social media. At the end of the day, it should be us controlling technology and not the other way around.

Also read: How Does Micro-Targeting Influence Our Political Beliefs And Important Actions?

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below