Wednesday, December 31, 2008


It is close to midnight as I sit on my bed comfy in my navy blue, reindeer print PJs and write this. No big bash this year.....just watching TV at home and sending out New Year wishes.

HAPPY NEW YEAR WORLD!!! Hope 2009 is filled with peace and joy and beautiful moments for all of us.

Looking back I think I managed to keep to most of the resolutions I made last year; of course the most important one was shedding weight. Last time I checked I had lost seven kilos in a month. Felt really good but I had to go and stuff my face with all that yummy plum cake we had at home.

Have to make that extra effort to get in shape; promised Tulsi I would get into shape for her big day and I realize to my horror that I have only three and a half months left. Quickly put down that slice I was going to sink my teeth into!!

The minutes tick by and it is the last half hour of 2008; time for my resolution for the New Year. Stick to the same old ones with losing weight topping the list. Old wine, new bottle story? But hey hang on, this time the resolution comes with a twist. I am going to aim for the 2010 Kingfisher Calendar.

I aspire for a shoot at the Bondi Beach, Australia. Atul Kasbekar, watch this space. Same time next year you will want to get in touch with me!!!!

Hahahhhahahaaaa.......have a good laugh people! Continue the laughter into the New Year.

Loads of love and God Bless

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Wish

Rama, a dear friend and colleague, sent me this poem that she received along with a mail from the author - Naveen Thomas. I told her that I hated her for sending it to me; it moved me so much that I felt I had turned to dust and one could easily sweep me off the floor with a broom. I have too much love and a deep respect for Rama to be serious about the hating her part but I was serious when I told her that I would put this up on my blog.

Naveen Thomas, I hope you read this someday. Thank you and God Bless.

A Christmas Wish

- dedicated to all the people of Kandhamal, Orissa, especially to the 8000+ people still living in relief camps, and to all those who live under the shadow of violence, anywhere in the world.

It was almost 12 at night
I tiptoed to where my children lay
Christmas was here, here at last, it was just a few moments away.
The Christmas star was burning bright
and it showed me the way, as I slowly tiptoed, very slowly tiptoed
to where my children lay.

Last year we had a blast,
Christmas had been a merry day
This year we are on a fast, on this beautiful Christmas day

By then I had reached the spot
the spot where they lay,
my children's grave was bathed in light, in the silvery whey.
The Christmas star looked so bright
as it did that early Christmas morn,
much like the time in Bethlehem, when the little baby Jesus was born.

As in those days, Herod had said,
no baby boy should be alive, kill them all, show no mercy,
all I want is their head.

So it happened 2000 years later, in our very land,
in the land we call our home, they came,
and desecrated it with a sleight of hand
They burnt our places of worship
and set our fields on fire.
Next they came to our home with lathis and burning tyres.

As they looked at my sleeping children, I pleaded
and fell at their bloodied feet. Spare them, my brothers, and take my life, I cried.
but it fell on stone deaf ears.

2008 has been an eventful year for us.
driven out of home, plundered and murdered, were we
but Christmas this year has become, has become very real!
The baby who was born
on that cold Christmas night, grew up to show
that God's love is for all, yea for all, irrespective of who we were.

Give it, spread it, never withhold it, He said,
more for those who hate you, than for a friend.
As a witness of this love, you I send.

As I knelt down at my children's graves
I shed a silent tear. Yes, for my little children,
but also for those who shed their innocent blood.
With hearts cold with haterd, and eyes filled with fury,
no rest, no peace they knew
for as they killed my children, they killed a piece of themselves too.

With these thoughts raging in my head,
I wondered, if peace I would ever know,
Must be the same, I thought, for those, who had struck the fatal blow.

As I closed my eye in prayer, His Spirit did I feel
urging me to love them,
for they too needed to heal.
Filled with His Spirit, I shouted into the night,
Lord I have a Christmas wish. Help me to love as you did,
so much, that for us you even died!

- Naveen I. Thomas
Dec 24, 2008

Baba at Christmas

It was my Catholic mother who first told me the story of Christ and Christmas and I fell in love with Jesus; it was easy considering that my Papa was also called Jesus. I was a little girl then, not much older to Aarzoo. I hope to tell the story to my daughters someday and hope that I can sow the seeds of peace, joy and hope into their beings too.

As I sit here writing these lines, I think of the Christmases past when in Cochin, we used to have Baba and Amma over for lunch and it became tradition with the family. Parag used to join me in the kitchen and we would rustle up a fairly decent meal with Mummy cooking her special ginger garlic rice and chicken curry. Shibu, dear Shibu, would traipze in just in time for lunch. Baba used to sing a couple of carols and "Silent Night" was mandatory. I still remember the rich baritone of his singing voice and the manner in which the song would resonate with our home; it was as if the angels were playing the harp and bringing in the blessings of the festive season!!

Last year, Baba went away and Christmas was spent with Mano Mama, Lola Memi and Appu at their place in Pune. Amma was there too. The home in Bangalore left bare and no mention of the times in Cochin. I could not take it. Christmas would never be the same again. Would probably have let it be this year as well if it were not for Aarzoo who seemed was very excited at the prospect of attending the various parties in the Complex we live in. She also kept up a steady and ever increasing in decibel demand that I put up our Christmas tree. I did and it was well worth the effort just to see the delight in her face. Must say she did irritate me a hell of a lot with her constant singing; songs she made up for the most part set to the tune of jingle bells!!

The other reason I made a big deal about Christmas this year was because I wanted to sock it in the face of all the violence that has been a part of our lives. For Kauser, for the victims of Kandamal, for those who survived and live in relief camps, for those who fell to bullets and those that survived in Mumbai, for the victims of riots and war across the world. Against hatred that seems to consume us. Turn us into beasts of the worst kind. For my own soul and for the love that threatens to leave my being.

We had Tulsi and Appu over for lunch; a celebration of their love for each other. Kusum Bojawa came too after much cajoling; it is always such a delight to have her over. Runa, Samrat and Aditya, who are family now and a joy to be with, followed. Tripti didi graceful and beautiful as ever was the last to arrive. It was a happy time with much laughter and teasing, much shrieking from the little ones and a heavy meal. I missed Amma and Manoj who is on holiday in Cochin. Missed Shibu, Santosh and Bisu and Cochin and the times past when life was different. But I did hear the baritone in the background and knew in my heart that Baba was here today and had brought with him the angels and their harps to bless our home. And keep my soul from being consumed by hatred.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of Fathers and Daughters

I intended to conclude the earlier entry (which was meant to be an introduction) with this piece. However, as usual I got so carried away that the introduction turned out to be a complete identity by itself. This piece is a letter that Parag wrote to one of the schools whose approach to education he totally endorses. He is telling them about Aarzoo and seeing her through his eyes, I am amazed at the love and tenderness that this Leo carries within him. Need I add that I am bursting with pride at the father he is……..

Dear Sir/Madam,

Aarzoo, our elder daughter is all of five and loves everything that a regular five year old should - chocolates, ice-cream, music, dance (the bollywood type), colouring, fish, chicken et al. As usual she hates vegetables. But she also understands that eating vegetable is important for one's growth and when in mood she devours the most unlikely of the stuff - bitter gourd, brinjal! These events happen not so regularly, though we would prefer they happen more often. A 'language girl' she speaks fluent english, hindi, malayalam & bengali. By birth bengali, malayalam & kodava would be her mother tongues (father bengali, mother half kodava & half malayali). Interestingly, she picked up these languages while growing up, without being goaded into learning them (except perhaps english). More interestingly, she rightly chooses who to talk to in what language!

She goes to Little Feat Montessori in Bangalore and loves her teachers and friends there. Last year when she was ready for M3, she refused to change her class as she wanted to be with the same teacher and friends! She continued to sit in the old teacher's class for a few days. By herself she realized the oddity and walked upto her teacher one day to ask if she can go to the other class! Since then she has fallen in love with her new teacher and loves to chat with her. At home she has assumed the mantle of elder sister after Tamanna, our second daughter was born. She does the role to perfection. Oh! she also loves play-acting - about her teacher, about her doctor, about her mother et al. She loves to watch Pogo and somehow manages to understand that it is time for Pogo though she does not know to read time! We are yet to find out how she manages that, as she is dead right every time. Like any usual girl of five not going to a 'regular school' she has learnt everything she needs to continue enjoying her childhood. The Montessori environment has given her enough space to grow up as an individual.

Next year she will complete her M3 from Little Feat and we will have to get her to a new school. A school where she can continue to do the usual stuff that she does now. Without having to bother too much about what others are doing. She deserves an environment where she can do her thing and where she would be encouraged to be herself! Needless to say, ________ School interests us a lot. I was hoping if we get a chance to visit your school and interact with the staff. Of course take Aarzoo along with to let her see the place. Whether she finally gets admission in your school, only time will tell. Its a chance we would certainly like to invest our time and efforts on.

with warm regards,
Parag Sen

Of Schools and Education

Parag and I believe in the alternate method of education which is child-centric. But of course he is the stronger and more vociferous advocate of this philosophy of pedagogy. Our move to Bangalore, the proposed move to Bombay and the final decision to stay on in namma Bengaluru, have all been the outcome of the availability and proximity of schools that profess this philosophy, where the child and not the academics/syllabus is the focus of attention.

The teaching methodology practiced in the majority of schools today is such that the child is under tremendous pressure to perform according to certain set standards. Anything below that is unacceptable. The increase in suicides amongst the young is most certainly an indicator of how taut and tension-filled is the wiring within.

My brother-in-law, Gautam, in the course of a recent conversation recounted his experience with learning Math whilst he was enrolled in one of the top notch schools in the city. His story, at least the part about struggling with Math is something that most of us will empathize with. Anyway, he was telling me about this school he went to where he had a tough time with the subject but he was expected to perform well and cope nevertheless. His move to the school where he subsequently passed out from proved to be a real blessing for him. Here the onus of his education and understanding of the syllabus was not his alone, but mainly that of his teachers’. It was his teacher’s responsibility to ensure that he understood the mathematical concepts that were being taught in class. And if he did not, then constant efforts were made till he did! The teacher approached the problems / concepts in a variety of ways to ensure that he understood them. There was no question of taking extra tuitions. It was a journey that both teacher and taught made together and Math was no longer the “Bogeyman”.

Cryin' Back to Mamma

This piece was an attempt at songwriting. I have made attempts at writing poetry in the past; and in that sense this is my first attempt at writing a song.

It was an effort that was inspired by the presentation on the blues by the group – Barracuda Blues – in the course of the seminar in performance in literature. I wrote this sitting there in the Christ University Auditorium (which has fantastic acoustics) and listening to them. Thank you, guys!!

This song may not cover the day and time when the Blues originated, the beats to it are set to that style; in my mind at least. Anyone out there who wants to give it a shot at setting it to music / singing it? To me the story that the song conveys seems more contemporary and could surprisingly reflect the story and setting closer to home!

And dear Reader, if you consider this a pathetic piece, the brick bats are mine alone.


I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Coz if that ain’t gonna work
Then nothing ever will…..
I wan’ a dress for the dance in the fall
And pretty shoes to match steps at the ball
Mamma says she ain’t have no money
But I don’t care much for that honey
She can sell her body, her soul for all I care
But my need, my greed is bare.

I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Mamma she works day and night
Toiling by the firelight
Working on the floor, the mop, the bowl,
The oven, the dough, the meat and fowl

I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Now Pop he ain’t gonna do nothin’
But park his fat arse on the couch, a cretin
He came in one day drunk to the gills
Yelling at Mamma for not paying the bills
Beer in his belly
Bad breath and burp in his gully
Eye candy on his arm
For darlin’ he had his charm
He walked away taking her dreams
Left her cryin’ streams

I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Will give my shoulder in need
Coz I gotta protect my greed
Now my baby waiting for me
At the coffee house by Lincoln Street
He is a dream
Tall, dark and handsome
Perfect for me who is lissome
He and I will buy a house by the lake
Make babies and keep awake
Life will be beautiful and perfect
I shall have the chance to resurrect
My life and dreams, passion and hope
I shall go meet sweet Willie o mine,
Not the Pope
But for now

I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Really need that red satin dress
Feels great to caress
And the dancing shoes
Shake the booty and land the hottie
That was my plan
Mamma she worked three jobs
Toilin’ even on the day of the Lord
Told me to stay away from trouble named Willie
I thought she was being jealous ‘n’ silly
I cried to Mamma, my eyes swollen ‘n’ red
So she got me the dress and the shoes, she did

Willie and I we made out
In his car in the parkin’ lot
We made babies we did
Twins, I named Rosie ‘n’ Sid
Willie did not buy the house by the lake
Turned out to be a bloody rake
He beat me up black ‘n’ blue
And shacked with a bitch named Sue
I have no house by the lake
No dreams either
My babies keep me awake

I don’t go no cryin’ to Mamma
God bless her soul, she passed on
And I’m livin’ on
I can’t go no cryin’ back to Mamma
But I’m toiling on

- Written September 21, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Talking Texts / Backstage Passes

My young friend Ashwini is responsible for this. Sunday, September 21st could have been spent at home lazing!! But Deepti, her best friend and she felt that I would enjoy the workshop being held in their college – Christ University.

It turned out to be a day well spent. Talking Texts was a fantastic concept which examined literature in the performing arts – Theatre, music and dance. Seminars have been held and discussions held ad nauseam about the various authors, poets, playwrights and their body of work and contribution to literature. In that sense this effort by the students from the Department of Media Studies at Christ University was unique and truly commendable.

I had planned this blog entry the following day and did make simple notes that Sunday night. But……….sigh!!!! So memory is a bit dim as I sit multi-tasking; watching the news of Sachin dedicating his century to the victims of the Mumbai terror attack, President George Bush having boots thrown at him by an Iraqi reporter (for those who missed it I am not being irreverent or joking or kidding you), Aamir Khan’s eight pack, cash for votes scam, blah, blah, blah and try to make sense of my notes. I think they also had the title “Backstage Passes” and I am not sure if this was the main title for the workshop. Sorry!!!

Anyways, when it came to music, the workshop dealt with the history of the Blues by a fine group of musicians – Barracuda Blues – as well as the rock music and its contribution to literature. It was amazing and I learnt a great deal. The education was priceless. My notes pertain to the session on the Blues - “History of the Blues”. It began with the music of the slaves who were brought in from Africa to work in the plantations in America. This music which had its seeds sown in the dark continent, was evolved in the plantations, fanned out and spread from plantation to plantation. The lyrics that have been penned over the ages, reflect the times and the rebellion of the people. The spirit could not be enslaved!! The Blues also depict the spiritual essence of those that penned the lyrics and this style of music played a major role in the civil rights movement.

I was fascinated and can’t thank Ashwini and Deepti enough. Trust girlfriends to know how, what and when you need some “time off”.

What struck me during the course of the presentation on the “Blues music” was that here again there was no mention of women’s voices though. To think of the indignity and humiliation they had to undergo not to mention the exploitation and violence that would have been part of their daily lives. Was there no desire to give back in equal measure? No song in their hearts?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Hi there,

I am sitting at the desk allotted to me at the NCPEDP office working away for the big campaign tomorrow. It's a chilly winter night here in Delhi and I am looking forward to the warmth of my little cot and desperate to snuggle under the blanket. But before I go I had to share this with you. This is a piece that was written by Javed Abidi, friend and an undisputed leader of the disability sector that is my 'karm bhoomi'. I stop here else I can go on and on.....


Preparing for this World Disability Day has not been easy.

A grave terror attack hit our Nation on 26th November. We have become so immune to bomb blasts that earlier in the evening as news trickled in, I didn't pay much attention. I switched off the TV, had late dinner and concentrated on work. It was only very late in the night, at about 2 or 3 a.m. that I switched on the TV and was quite awestruck because by that time, almost a full battle was on at The Taj in Mumbai. I could not believe my eyes and kept switching from one channel to the other. And as I surfed, the enormity and the vastness of the tragedy unfolded. I remained glued to the TV till almost 6 or 7 a.m. Finally, I had to go to sleep, only to wake up some hours later but the picture on the telly had still not changed. And then, it went on and on and on…

How does one divorce oneself from such real grief. Well, you can switch off the television but how do you switch off your own mind, your heart, your soul? It could be me. I could have been there or one of my loved ones. I and my family have absolute fond memories of Bombay, now forcibly called Mumbai. My sister got her education there and worked there for many years. My brother's sasural is there. And I have visited the city a zillion times.

I could never afford staying at The Taj but always made it a point to visit its Coffee Shop overlooking the sea and the magnificent Gateway of India. At the Trident, I have stayed many a times. One of the things that most of you wouldn't know is that it has one of the most disabled-friendly toilet anywhere in the world! Also, the largest. The room was so-so-so accessible that leaving the routine features aside, you could even draw or open the curtains by merely pressing a few buttons on a remote control, sitting in your bed. While it may seem funny or odd to some of you, ask me as a paraplegic as to what a delight such little facilities are. I truly wish all our hoteliers and developers were as humane as the Oberois are.

The Sea Attack in Mumbai has finally ended. The burst of the AK 47s has given way to a loud chatter. Switch on any television screen and people are speaking loudly. Generally, people are angry, upset and above all, helpless. Can we change the system? Is it possible for us to change the system?

Some basic questions continue to haunt:

* How come we were caught so off guard? Especially, with all the intelligence inputs available much in advance.
* Why did it take NSG 9 hours to get there?
* Why did it take 67 hours for NSG, Army and Navy, not to mention Mumbai's police force combined to kill a mere 9 terrorists?
* Were there many more? How come they escaped and where did they escape to?

While one was/ is coming to grips with the tragedy of almost 200 people dead and hundreds injured, came two more shockers: (1) The Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, RR Patil said, "Such small incidents do happen in big cities". (2) The Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh visited The Taj to inspect its scarred remains and decided to bring his son along, who is a mere second rate film actor, called Ritesh Deshmukh. The son, in turn, decided to bring along his friend, a third rate film maker by the name Ram Gopal Verma. What saved India from committing mass suicide, woh bhi chullu bhar pani mein, is the fact that Ram Gopal Verma did not take Urmila Matondkar along or whosoever his latest 'muse' is!

Horrible. The Nation has a lot to introspect.

I feel good when I see people angry. Anger is the catalyst that leads to change. If you are not angry, then you are content and that contentment invariably leads to status quo, even lethargy.

We the disabled people of India were angry too. Angry at being neglected. Angry because this Nation still does not treat us as equal citizens. Angry because inspite of all the lip service, only Sminu Jindal can "inaugurate" the fourth or fifth edition of the ramp at Qutab Minar; and Sanjeev Sachdeva/ Anjalee Agarrwal can endorse Delhi Metro to be disabled friendly when a significant number of its stations are completely inaccessible. Angry because basic education is out of reach for 98% of disabled children. Angry because inspite of all the noise made by UGC and the promises made by our HRD Minister, not one of our 300+ Universities are accessible to a wheelchair user like me. Angry because a Nation that produces the world's best bicycles, has till date not been able to manufacture a half decent wheelchair. Angry because our deaf still do not have access to basic sign language facilities. Angry because our blind cannot access 99% of the Indian websites; while everyone is racing away on the so-called Information Highway, they can't access even NASSCOM's Website. Angry because employers still discriminate, because CII has got a Corporate Code which it does not enforce, and because FICCI doesn't even pretend to do that much. Angry because the Finance Minister's scheme which was supposed to create 100,000 jobs for disabled people in one year, has not yielded even a single job with over 6 months having gone by.

Over a year ago, we had to undergo tremendous hardship to be able to get a Chapter of our choice (on disability rights) in the XIth Five Year Plan. It was the dharna outside the Planning Commission, where we almost got beaten up by the Delhi Police, that forced their eyes open. Montek Singh Ahluwalia called us in, admitted his guilt in so many words and promised the moon. Within six months of the approval of the XIth Plan, all the relevant Ministries will chalk out their respective schemes/ policies vis a vis disability issues. Each Ministry would allocate 3% of its budget towards disability schemes. The Disability Division in the Ministry of Social Justice would be upgraded to a full fledged Department. We of course were/ are demanding a Ministry. The dream Ministry. The Ministry of Disability Affairs.

That was one year ago.

Till now, NOTHING has been done.

No wonder then that we were/ are angry. About a month ago, we decided that we will not celebrate World Disability Day this year. Instead, we would agitate. Hold a Night Vigil. An all night vigil, which if need be will continue forever. The idea was/ is to force the attention of the Nation and its Prime Minister towards our cause, our dreams, our aspirations. Because, otherwise, the World Disability Day is meaningless.

However, now we are caught in an awkward situation. World Disability Day is less than 24 hours away but the Nation is faced with a serious situation. A very serious situation.

And at a time like this, would it be appropriate on our part to launch an agitation? Would we not be taking away the Prime Minister's attention away from an issue (fighting terror) which is far more important?

We cannot cancel the vigil either. Thousands of disabled people are already on their way to Delhi. It was/ is practically impossible to inform them. Therefore, I am proposing that we convert this Night Vigil into a SOLIDARITY VIGIL. Let us, all of us, all the 10,000+ of us, express first of all our condolences to the families of those who have died. Let us then express our solidarity with the Nation and all those who protect us. Let us pray that the politician becomes a better human being. Let us remind them that it is we, the ordinary men and women of this country, who bring them to power. And we bring them to power to serve us, not to serve themselves and their political affiliations.

We the 70 million disabled people of India are Indians first and Indians last. We just want to be equal partners, to be able to work, to be self-reliant, to be able to serve our great Nation, to be able to contribute to its economy, to be tax payers and not be a burden on society.

With best regards,

Javed Abidi


Disabled Rights Group (DRG)