Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolutions Again

Old habits die hard and there are certain lessons one never learns. Or perhaps one does not wish to. After all they are somehow connected to the matters of the heart. Anyways, I am back a year later in my reindeer print PJs and ready to pen down my resolutions for the New Year. Last year's resolution did not go down the drain....still a work in progress I assure myself.

2009 is on its last legs and 2010 is waiting in the wings. As I sit and write, I can hear the revelry outside. The DJ at the Woodrose Club has really pumped up the volume and I can hear the popular Hindi film ditties that are traversing the air waves. Earlier in the evening I was told that by the time he is through, the dance floor would break. That was his famed notoriety!!

The house is quiet and almost like an empty shell. Every member of my large family is away in some other city except for the daughters. My babies are asleep and so is my Aunt (dear Kusum Bojawa) who is visiting along with Boogie her little old Dog. I tried to get drunk and fixed myself a stiff one but hey it was a failed attempt. So here I wait for the clock to strike the midnight hour. Will then light the lamp, say a little prayer and head for my babies under the covers. The toddler's snore and warm breath is very calming. When she grows up I must tell Tamanna that it was she who breathed the lullabies to me. And Aarzoo's long limbs come out of nowhere and land on me. She has healing hands that one....its been a blessed decade with the arrival of the girls.

So it is about time I took a good hard look at the life that I have lived so far. And in doing so have decided that "Shut up and Listen" is going to be my New Year resolution. So here's to a new me......


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tamanna's Initiation

Tamanna, turned two and a half in October this year. Perfect timing to start school and Little Feat Montessori was the answer for her as it was for Aarzoo when we moved to Bangalore in 2006. Perfect timing also because late September this year had India celebrating Dusshera, a ten day festival, which culminates in Vijayadashami.

Vijayadashami, is the day when most children are initiated into the world of learning. In the southern states of India, a big deal is made of it with the toddlers taken to the temples and carted off to scholars and others who the parents decide are the ideal candidates to guide their precious little ones at the start of this long journey. Though I could describe myself as agnostic, there are certain specific philosophies and rituals that I put my weight behind. The initiation of toddlers on Vijayadashami is a very Hindu practice. But my mother, a practicing Catholic, tells me that this has become the norm amongst the Muslims and Christians in Kerala with the little ones being taken to their respective places of worship.

For those in school or college, across India, this festival is a very special time and looked forward to with great earnestness and fervour. For a great many of these kids, it is not because of any high special purpose or spiritual understanding. It is an escape from the drudgery they are subjected to for the major part of the year. This is the only time that parents who are otherwise nagging the kids to “study, study, study”, voluntarily ask them not to touch their books. On the 8th day of the festival, known as Ashtami, books and other tools or instruments of academic interest, are placed before Saraswati, the Goddess of learning and worshipped. A lamp is lit and many a prayer sent with fervent requests to help them get through the academic year without any major skirmishes with red marks in Progress Report, which arrives with clock work precision at the end of the term. Though they look quite cute in aesthetic terms on the said Report, the downside is that one had to deal with the red faced folks at home and teachers at school! These books are moved from the altar on the 10th day after elaborate prayers. Despite the fact that there was no nagging or bullying to study from my parents, I adopted this ritual when we moved to Madras (now Chennai) and I saw my friends, Sridhar and Vijayshree, who lived next door, practice it. Of course, my way of practicing it was minus all the rituals and the paraphernalia. But the prayers were very heartfelt and the kind where I meant every word to propitiate the Goddess of Learning!

My oldest, Manoj, is in his final year of undergraduate college. My fervent prayer (among other requests put forth) this year to her, was that he carry on in academics for a few years more before bidding "Good Bye” to the academic world. And the baby of the family has just stepped into the fascinating world of stories and rituals and learning. As for me, I have begun a journey of whys, whats, wheres, hows, buts, ifs…..all over again. With B.T.Venkatesh, one of the finest human beings in our little world today, as the first Guru having helped her take the first step, Tamanna has a lot of promises to fulfil and miles to go before she sleeps. I am sure Baba, who initiated Aarzoo, must be sitting beside Saraswati and nodding his head in approval.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bend it like Alex P.Thazhamon

The son will tell you that no conversation on football goes anywhere without fat Momma mentioning Alex P.Thazhamon. Alex was my classmate during the last three years of school and captain of the school football team, Kendriya Vidyalaya - Port Trust. And if memory serves me right, he also played with the big guns on the Cochin Port Trust Football team. A champion and an athlete to the core he was also very aggressive in any sport that he played; and he played to win. This made him quite a hero in school, not to mention the couple of hundred thousand crushes and broken hearts that he was the root cause of.

But all those who knew us will tell you that Alex and I had an unreasonable mutual hate society going. I don’t know what Alex’s reasons were. But after all these years, I finally figured out the “why” from my end. For me it was the fact that Mom considered him a good boy. A good sportsman and footballer and the blah, blah, blah!! Talk about irony. Of all the guys in my class, Mom liked the guy who picked on me for no reason that I could fathom! And when you are sixteen that is just not done. It was like mutiny at home! At some seminal level I probably felt that Mom wished that he was her son instead of me being the daughter. Totally, irrational and unjustified, I know. But that my friend is the whole truth. The days when Mom and I had the most turbulent times in our relationship, were the times when this feeling assumed monstrous proportions!!

Historically the mother-daughter relationship has always been one bumpy ride. All hell can break loose when they do not see eye to eye. And despite the few breaks in between, the tradition continues from generation to generation in most homes. There is always some amount of bickering. But this really took the cake for me. Could she not see that he was mean to me? He was constantly teasing me and making me miserable. Did the reports of this rift not mean anything to her? Any other girl in my place would probably have given up school, cried buckets and got daddy dearest to meet the Principal. Highly dramatic I know but for sure it is true. It was thick skinned me who behaved as if it was water off a duck’s back and stood my ground.

Coming back to Mom who heaped praises on Alex. Could she not have picked K.J.Antony who by far was the most even tempered guy? With his cute dimples and an ever smiling face, he was a church goer to boot. In all the three years that we studied under that asbestos roof, KJ lost his cool only once. It took every one in class by surprise and caused a major stir. I still remember that murderous look on his face and still find it hard to believe that it was dear good-humoured KJ.

That Deep Pande was IIT material and the favourite of the parent’s collective of the school was a given. So no issues there for lesser mortals like me. I knew my place under the academic sun. References to him were made from time to time by the old lady but they did not give rise to bile. Or thoughts of murder for that matter!!

I could list the entire class here. But will save it for another story. Writing all this down has been quite cathartic. I am glad I lived through it all and it is out of the way.

Yet, despite all that negativity, I really cared for Alex as I did for the others in my class. I rooted for him, cried myself hoarse and cheered him on when he was on the field. As he did for me. Despite all that anger and resentment, I know he watched out for me and wished me well. Go ahead, call me biased or whatever, I still think he is leagues ahead of the current crop of footballers, anywhere in the world!

And it looks like this sport and memories of those times gone by will have me in a bind for kingdom come. My son is a crazy football fanatic and a Chelsea supporter. It goes without saying that he has turned me into one too. My older daughter plays football in school. The toddler, all of two and a half, too seems to have the knack for it, along with the style and the chutzpah of my champion friend!! The son is a major influence on the girls and the three of them spend a considerable amount of time kicking a ball around. For all you know my girls are probably going to do a “Bend it like Beckham” on me!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Baby P - A Tribute

The time has come
The womb has begun to spew vitriol
And messes with the mind
So the end is near
That's right Humans
The end is near
There is no way out

Words so harsh
They sear the soul
Mince the gut
Wince is all one can do

Where has the love gone
That of maternal origins
Which was meant to nurture
But now all askew

The boy named It
Was the first story, I guess
To be documented
Violence inflicted on the innocent

Videos circulate in cyber space
About Baby P
Wounded, battered and bruised
The concept of right and wrong
Not even an idea within
The life that had just begun it journey
But a life's journey cut short

The hands that were meant
To nurture, turned murderous
Caused unbearable pain and suffering
A mother's compliant silence
A father's brutality
And a baby who turned one
Passes on

And we go all teary eyed and say
He is far safer and happier
Where he is now

Rest in peace
Baby P
Rest in Peace!!


For more details on this story, please check the following link

Friday, October 23, 2009

Psalms from my Bible

This forward has probably gone round the world and still continues its jet setting as I write. The originator of this was a person of Indian origin, our very own desi Jitendra Singh. He has no idea of who I am, but if I were to draw parallels from the family tree then I would say that he is a friend four times removed; that is to say he is a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend!! Phew……but thanks a ton Jitendra for taking the effort.

Anyway, lucky to have him in the pyramid of friends because I have been able to read through some lines which are profound in their very simplicity.


Anna Quindlen was a first rate New York Times reporter who left at her prime to pursue her life as a writer. A few years ago she was invited to speak at the commencement at Villanova University. But given her views on abortion, some people threatened to demonstrate against her. She declined to speak, since she thought the students did not deserve protest demonstrations for their graduation ceremony. But when some students wrote her for the text of the speech, she did e-mail it out and it became an internet legend of sorts.


"It's a great honor for me to be the third member of my family to receive an honorary doctorate from this great university. It's an honor to follow my great-uncle Jim, who was a gifted physician, and my Uncle Jack, who is a remarkable businessman. Both of them could have told you something important about their professions, about medicine or commerce. I have no specialized field of interest or expertise, which puts me at a disadvantage, talking to you today.

I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first. Don't ever forget what a friend once wrote Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator decided not to run for reelection because he'd been diagnosed with cancer: "No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office." Don't ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: "If you win the rat race, you're still a rat." Or what John Lennon wrote before he was gunned down in the driveway of the Dakota: "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."

You walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. It's so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you're sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you've gotten back the test results and they're not so good.

Here is my resume:

• I am a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my profession stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the center of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.
• I am a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.
• I am a good friend to my friends, and they to me. Without them, there would be nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cutout. But I call them on the phone, and I meet them for lunch. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.

I would be rotten, or at best mediocre at my job, if those other things were not true. You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are.

So here's what I wanted to tell you today: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast?

Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.

Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an E-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad.

Get a life in which you are generous. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. It is so easy to waste our lives: our days, our hours, our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the color of our kids eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again.

It is so easy to exist instead of live. I learned to live many years ago. Something really, really bad happened to me, something that changed my life in ways that, if I had my druthers, it would never have been changed at all. And what I learned from it is what, today, seems to be the hardest lesson of all. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that it is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get.

I learned to look at all the good in the world and to try to give some of it back because I believed in it completely and utterly. And I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this:

Consider the lilies of the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the backyard with the sun on your face. Learn to be happy. And think of life as a terminal illness because if you do you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived.

Well, you can learn all those things, out there, if you get a real life, a full life, a professional life, yes, but another life, too, a life of love and laughs and a connection to other human beings. Just keep your eyes and ears open. Here you could learn in the classroom. There the classroom is everywhere. The exam comes at the very end. No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office.

I found one of my best teachers on the boardwalk at Coney Island maybe 15 years ago. It was December, and I was doing a story about how the homeless survive in the winter months. He and I sat on the edge of the wooden supports, dangling our feet over the side, and he told me about his schedule, panhandling the boulevard when the summer crowds were gone, sleeping in a church when the temperature went below freezing, hiding from the police amidst the Tilt a Whirl and the Cyclone and some of the other seasonal rides. But he told me that most of the time he stayed on the boardwalk, facing the water, just the way we were sitting now even when it got cold and he had to wear his newspapers after he read them. And I asked him why. Why didn't he go to one of the shelters? Why didn't
he check himself into the hospital for detox? And he just stared out at the ocean and said, "Look at the view, young lady. Look at the view."

And every day, in some little way, I try to do what he said. I try to look at the view. And that's the last thing I have to tell you today, words of wisdom from a man with not a dime in his pocket, no place to go, nowhere to be. Look at the view. You'll never be disappointed."

I find a lot of people are making it easier for me by handing me adequate props for use in my role as a mother. And also as mentor, teacher and friend. Thanks to friends even a hundred times removed, I am able to collect the Psalms for my own personal little Bible!! Take for example the video of Kate Bornstein speaking at the 40th reunion of the Class of 69, at Brown University. It was posted by Anita Mathew, friend (and co-actor from The Roosters) on her profile on a social networking site and I copied it onto my profile as well.

Hope someday my children would care enough to read from my Bible of Life as well!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Footballer and A Legend

Danny Varghese was my junior in school; by three to four years, I think. I went to quite a few schools thanks to my old man and so have to specifically mention that school in this instance refers to KV Port Trust, Cochin. I remember Danny as a footballer and a cute guy; very cute with a curly mop on his head. If memory serves me right, he played on the school team as well.

Danny was more interested in football than in the Chemistry classes and therefore preferred the hospitality industry over pharmaceuticals. I don’t quite know how the two or rather three add up. But that is his story. He quit the B.Pharm course he enrolled in and opted for a Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Management. He started his career as a Restaurateur, which unfortunately was cut short by a major accident. Not to let these “little incidents” deter him, the champ set up a medical transcription firm. He invited me to his wedding, which I could not attend. Unfortunate for me.

I remember him as a delightful young boy with an ever smiling disposition. A few years ago he sent me this beautiful story with an awe inspiring lesson.


Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player was dying of AIDS which he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983. From world over, he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed: "Why does GOD have to select you for such a bad disease"?

To this Arthur Ashe replied: The world over -- 5 million children start playing tennis, 50 thousand learn to play tennis, 5 thousand learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon , 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals, When I was holding a cup I never asked GOD "Why me?". And today in pain I should not be asking GOD "Why me?"

I came upon it a couple of days ago while going through my old mails. I guess it says a lot about Dan’s outlook to life as it did of the great legend Arthur Ashe. So this is my tribute to you Dan, for overcoming the odds and beating them down.

And yes I try to remember this little message you sent me.

Happiness keeps you Sweet,
Trials keep you Strong,
Sorrow keeps you Human,
Failure keeps you Humble,
Success keeps you Glowing,
But only God keeps you Going.....

Keep Going.....

Cheers to you Danny Varghese.

I finally figured why I don’t go all ga-ga over the so called heroes. It’s because I went to school (and college) with them. And now there are heroes in my life that I have the good fortune to be working with. People who put their lives on the line for what they believe in.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Erma Bombeck

Erma Louise Bombeck – Rest in Peace. I am a huge fan. Do not possess the same felicity and verve with words that you did, but this is my tribute to you.

She had me well and truly hooked, booked and cooked from the time I read her book – “Motherhood – the World’s Second Oldest Profession”. Arguments about the veracity of the title abound; considering that one could easily claim Motherhood as being almost as old as life itself. But hey, also considering that the title of the Oldest Profession had already been taken or rather thrust upon a certain group, we would not want to get into silly little technicalities now, would we?

Anyway, I have been a huge fan of her writing. I confess that for a short fuse like me, it has been her writing that has kept me from bursting arteries and veins and what have you in my role as “Mommy”!! I have been able to maintain a sense of humour in some of the most trying situations with the kids, thanks to those words she cared to pen down. There has been many a moment that hairbrush did not connect to bottoms, when it should have and my brood may want to confer sainthood on her. They owe it to her that I was able to see “funny side up”.

“At Wit’s End” is a book of hers that I am keen to read. The irony is that I have it in my personal collection but have never been able to lay my hands on it simply because it is constantly in circulation!! And yours truly has been stupidly generous enough; not just with urging people to read but giving them the copy as well!

A few years ago, this piece was forwarded to me by a friend. I had not deleted the mail and chanced upon it recently. I realized that I just had to share it. I could not give better advice to my children or to those that I love or to the world at large. As for me, I am trying hard to follow the lessons Erma learnt instead of reinventing the wheel.

(Written after she found out she was dying from cancer.)

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the
earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it
melted in storage.

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was
stained, or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and
worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble
about his youth.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about
grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and
more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical,
wouldn't show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have
cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me
was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, Later,
now go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more "I love you's." More "I'm sorry's."

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every
minute...look at it and really see it ... live it... and never give it

Stop sweating the small stuff.

Don't worry about who doesn't like you, who has more, or who's doing what.
Instead, let's cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.

Let's think about what God HAS blessed us with.
And what we are doing each day to promote ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, as well as spiritually.

Life is too short to let it pass you by.
We only have one shot at this and then it's gone.

I hope you all have a blessed day.

We Didn't Start The Fire

Title Copyright - Billy Joel...

Mathew Jacob was my classmate in College. He would always start the day with a rendition of "We Didn't Start The Fire" replete with drumming the table and head banging and foot stomping. Turned it into some sort of an anthem during my undergrad days. Sat right behind me and hummed even when we had some time between classes and in the breaks. And no, unlike what it sounds there was no romance budding!! He just sat behind me in the most uncomfortable seating arrangements there ever were.

Today I just have to listen to the song and Mathew comes hurtling out of the recesses of memory. With all the accompanying images. Sorry Billy Joel. Mathew made me forget it was you who sang it originally and it was almost the same with that song about the Nile. Sue him on copyright issues....LOL!

And then there comes Anita Iyer...who a while ago did such a brilliant parody that I just had to share her version of the lyrics. Billy I am sure you will approve. True artiste that you are. But of course you will have to appreciate it in the Indian context as well. Anita is a colleague in the Disability Sector and we have never met but are friends on the phone and have some idea of one another thanks to Facebook. And thank you very much Mark Zuchenburg.

Here is Anita's version that was her status message on Facebook. I so loved it that I had to copy it. Have her gracious permission to do so.....

We didn't start the fire...

Obama ko Nobel, Amitabh ko doctorate,
Sharukh Khan - black belt..Rakhi Sawant finds a mate

Akshay Kumar fly in soup...A R Rehman and his troupe
Thackray, Johar, everyone is in the loop...

Saas bahu saw its end, reality sets a trend
little kids - big talk...stop driving us round the bend...


Have a good laugh folks. I am sure you will agree it is indeed very apt.

Dedicated to new friend Anita Iyer for bringing it on and to old pal Mathew Jacob for the ample supply of happy memories. Priceless!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Right to Education

For the past week the news channels were full of the Right to Education Bill and the protest marches that were being held at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and in solidarity across cities in the country. I know a good many of the cynics have snorted and cried hoarse that this was motivated and was done for the sake of it. A large number who did not know any better were appalled that there actually were people who would have objections to something as important and as crucial in this country as the Right to Education. I wonder if the reaction would have been the same if the latter had known at the time that the reason was the a good twenty million children in the country found no place, no mention in what was to each citizen a significant and far reaching piece of legislation for every Indian and the future of this great Nation. Children with disabilities. This despite the fact that India had ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and thereby made a commitment not only to its citizens but also to the International Community at large.

Events that unfolded thereafter was nothing short of a miracle. It was unheard of. Unbelievable. I am still in a trance. The naysayers have gone into hiding.....

Be that as it may I share here a piece that truly tells the story of this disappointmment, this crusade that had to be undertaken. The whys and the wherefores..... It appeared in the edit pages of the Indian Express dated 3rd August, 2009. Written by Javed Abidi, the pioneer of the Disability Rights Movement in India.


As most people are aware, the Right to Education Bill 2008 is before the Lok Sabha since last Thursday. It is due for debate later today and if passed, the Bill will become an Act, i.e. the law of the land. Rajya Sabha has passed it already.

The entire disability sector and its leadership are strongly opposed to this Bill in its present shape. If it is allowed to be passed by the Lok Sabha later today, it will exclude 30 million children with disabilities from the so - called ‘Right to Education’. It will have a gravely damaging impact on the life and future of these children, who are already excluded from the mainstream.

There are three fundamental flaws in the present Bill:

1. Under definitions, disabled children have been excluded from the definition of children belonging to ‘disadvantaged group’. The term disadvantaged has been classified as owing to social, cultural, economical, geographical, linguistic and gender, but the term disability which was there in the previous draft, right until last year, has been deliberately left out.

2. Similarly, where the term ‘school’ is defined, there obviously is no mention of special schools or other unique infrastructures that are needed by various types of children with disabilities.

3. Under the chapter on Right to Free and Compulsory Education, there is a reference to children ‘suffering’ from disability! But even there, the Ministry of HRD has failed to capture the genuine challenges that disabled children face. Here, the Bill restricts the definition of ‘disability’ to only the Disability Act of 1995. The babus were either unaware or have deliberately neglected the other most important piece of legislation, namely the National Trust Act of 1999. For the average reader, it is important to know that the Disability Act covers only the physical disabilities, for example blindness, deafness, locomotor impairments, etc. Other disabilities, the more difficult ones, namely cerebral palsy, autism, multiple disabilities, etc. are all covered under the National Trust Act.

If the Bill is not corrected at once and God forbid, if it is passed by Lok Sabha later today, it will automatically exclude all these severely and multiply disabled children. I am a physically disabled person. As a child, I started on crutches but soon had to start using the wheelchair. I have seen it all; I have experienced it up close. And inspite of all the difficulties and challenges that I faced as a physically disabled child (and most certainly not, I was not suffering!), let me clearly say it on record that those difficulties are nothing as compared to the challenges faced by a boy with autism or a girl with cerebral palsy or a child with deaf - blindness or mental retardation or muscular dystrophy, etc.

The babus are infamous for their insensitivity but callousness of this kind??? I could not have imagined this day in the worst of my nightmares. How the Ministry of HRD has bungled and bungled so - so badly, I am unable to comprehend.

It is extremely important for the Nation to know that the disability sector was not sleeping on this issue! We have put in hard work and not since yesterday or last week or even last month. Our struggle is more than a decade old.

It was in early 90s that the disability movement advocated that the Nation and its laws and policies must move away from the paradigm of charity and welfare to that of development and rights. The concept of ‘inclusiveness’ was put forth and defined, that people with disabilities especially children should not be segregated, that they should firmly be part of the mainstream. Until then, the so - called education of disabled children was restricted to ‘special’ schools, mostly badly run by NGOs. Blind school for the visually impaired. Deaf school for those with hearing impairments. Spastic Societies for children with cerebral palsy and so on.

No one paused. No one bothered to think or to worry as to what would happen to these kids after they finish their schooling in these artificially created, supposedly protective environments? Wouldn’t she or he have to be mainstreamed one day? Wouldn’t she or he attend a regular (normal!) college or university some day? And if so, then why not prepare them from Day One! Why segregate them? Why not allow them to be an integral part of the regular, mainstream educational system?

That is when, India decided to move away from the so - called special education to integrated education, and then finally to the concept of inclusive education. That is when, India first passed the Disability Act in 1995 and then, the National Trust Act in 1999. And since then, we have covered a long road. There is a National Disability Policy. The current XIth Five Year Plan has a whole chapter on disability issues, where firm commitments have been made, not only about policy but also about resources. Finally, as recent as two years ago, India ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

In the previous government, when Arjun Singh was the HRD Minister, Dr. Mithu Alur and I were asked to serve on Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). We and several other experts from the disability movement actively participated on several Sub - Committees and Working Groups.

And all this hard work of a decade and more, finally lead us to a day in 2008 where disability and related issues were firmly entrenched in the Right to Education Bill 2008. If you take a look at that draft Bill, disability is clearly listed as a category under ‘disadvantaged groups’. And several other measures.

Now, suddenly, literally out of the blue, we find that all of that has been quietly deleted! Why? The colour of the government is still the same, with Dr. Manmohan Singh as our Prime Minister and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi as Chairperson, UPA. Two individuals, who beyond a shadow of doubt are extremely pro - disability. They must intervene, firmly and urgently. The Bill must be withdrawn.

We are asking for only three changes. All three, to my mind, are totally non - controversial – (1) Include disability under the definition of ‘disadvantaged groups’; (2) Include special schools and other necessary infrastructures under the definition of the term ‘school’; and (3) Under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education, firmly mention the National Trust Act of 1999, along with the Disability Act of 1995.

Without these three changes, the Bill must not be allowed to be passed by the Lok Sabha later today. To commit a mistake unknowingly is one thing, but to do it knowingly based on arrogance of power and the strength of numbers would be no less than a crime. I hope better sense prevails.

* Javed Abidi is the Convenor of Disabled Rights Group (DRG). He is himself a wheelchair user.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


"Making millions of friends is not a miracle
Miracle is to make such a friend who will stand by you
When millions stand against you"

A message from Rupan sent on the 28th of January 2009. It was one of those messages that I did not delete from my Inbox.

It probably must have come as a cheesy forward to her in the morning and she quickly shared it with me. But the thing is that in all the years that we have known each other (and we have packed in quite some), she has lived by this diktat. It is something that she actually stood by when it came to me.

So in my list of "been there done that" I think I can add "created miracle". All thanks to a certain Ms. Rupan Bedi......

And the next day the woman sends me the following message -

"Dear GOD,

Touch the people I care for.

Keep them safe and happy.

Give them love and good health

Bless them


the ONE reading this message."

The person sending it meant every word and that to me is the biggest blessing.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Instinct vs Logic

I have a problem with logic; yeah go ahead and make snide remarks about women and logic! But hope you will hear me out.

If you speak of instinct well then now you are talking and I am a firm believer of this little niggler which watches out for most of us. Where logic is concerned, I tend to treat it more like I would my child. Let me explain.......instinct to me is more me more something that was born with me so it is more a part of me that I can trust and rely on. But logic is a different matter altogether. It reeks of potential in the future and as a woman I would say that it is to me the same as the potential to bear a child.

Women and instinct and I think - Calpurnia. Have not done much Shakespeare, so I hope I got it right.

Logic - yes at workplace

Loads of people I have met who keep referring to logic to disrupt proceedings

Many a time logic stops you from actually listening to a person and assimilating the information he/she is providing. Instead you are listening to the conversation that is going on in your head with yourself. Which is fine if you are at the workplace and at your workstation when it is important for you to challenge yourself in order to ensure that the project/report/paper or whatever it is you are working on meets the deadline......

But when you are having a dialogue with another person, a physical entity, then surely it is disrespectful to say the least if one does not listen to the other's point of view.

I found this draft while looking through my blog. This was dated last August 28, 2008, so I am not even sure if I wrote it. But hey I second these thoughts and this was in my draft list, so what the hell.....

In case you who is reading this at this point is the one who wrote it, then by all means take credit love.....

If it is indeed I who wrote it then I am darned sure that I had more to add but as my fingers pummel the keys into words, I have no idea what it was that I wanted to say. But I hope what is said would suffice and that it says it all......

Friday, June 26, 2009

Inbox 100% full

The inbox of my cell is constantly getting jammed and I should have had the good sense to delete all the old messages. But no I had to hang on to them like they were the family heirlooms!!

The wise old timers; they are right as always - old habits do indeed die hard. For the longest time I remember collecting the wrappers of gifts received on birthdays, special occasions and even rotten dates for crying out loud!! Then there were the diaries, the clothes, the news clippings, the candy wrappers, yes candy wrappers, ticket stubs of dates at the movies, a train ride, Aarzoo's first boarding pass......and a gazillion other things were squirreled away. For what? I don't know. Really cannot answer that question without honestly admitting that I am a really pathetic and emotional basketcase!!

Well that was forcibly cured when we had to move to Bombay. And Baba, in his infinite wisdom asked me if I wanted a home for my family or my furniture? That was it, out went the heirlooms by the truck loads. Cochin and its huge homes can be really spoiling. In comparison, the multi-storeyed flats in Bombay would seem like tree houses or in most cases doll houses.

But coming back to the Inbox of my cell which warned me at least 20 times in a day that it was 100% full. This meant that I had to delete some messages. That was a hard task. No, could not, absolutely could not delete those from the son....even if all they conveyed that he would be late coming home as he was either playing football or jamming with his friends or attending a birthday party!! Not those from the Boss who is the icon of all night owls; his messages conveyed the chores for the workday ahead. Did I mention that he worked through the night? And ensured that we slaved through the day! The ones that encouraged me to check out my future life / love / partner etc. were easier to delete as even I knew it to be pure bunkum. Then there were those that told me to send / download the popular songs / ring tones. DELETE. No doubt about that.

But then there does come a time when one has to let go - the son off the apron strings and the to do list from the Boss is completed. No other option for the latter unless you wanted to get the BOOT on the BUTT. So those messages got deleted too. The ones that reminded you of bills to be paid went once you got your pay cheque and did the needful. Then what was it that jammed the damn Inbox?

Well here I am sitting through the night sifting through the messages and realizing that I am not fully cured of my emotional "basket caseness". Yes the son's, the boss and the hubby messages were all there and did get deleted from time to time but there was also this huge pile which grew over time. I could never bring myself to delete these. After all these were which came at the lowest ebbs from that very special person who just knew that you had to gain from this ancient wisdom, corny though some of it may be. This person who knew that you needed that smile that laugh to get you through the day. It came with the Good Morning wish across the miles, over the Vindhyas headed south on the sub-continent and made sure it brought a smile onto the face of the reader - me.

I guess that Supreme Power that guides me through life on Earth, gave me this Soul Sister for a very special reason. And I just could not hit the delete button. Instead I found a new storage space. Infinite and fast unfolding its secrets to millions. My very own space under the cyber sun.........

So here they are.....not hidden away in the Inbox. Its time they outed....corny, wise, silly, school girl autographish, whatever...some of these "heirlooms" still brought joy on the cloudiest of days. And on other days, they reminded me to count my blessings for the warmth and love of my loved ones. Thank you Rupan!

When we walk alone, we wish that we could reach the end of the road.
But when we walk with friends, we wish that the road never ends.....

I asked God to give me everything so that I can enjoy life
God replied: I have given you Life to enjoy everything!
So enjoy LIFE....

Friendship is the rainbow between two hearts
Sharing seven feelings
And most important

Every morning has a new beginning
A new blessing
A new Hope
And its a perfect day
Because it is God's gift
Have a blessed, hopeful perfect day

A Honest smile from a smiling heart
Crossing many kilometres
Has just reached
Wishing you a life
Full of SMILES

Just got a great health tip!!
There's no reason to fear
It's the eggs that expire...
Not the hen!!

One stone is enough to break a glass
One sentence enough to break a Heart
One second enough to fall in love
One SMS enough to keep relations in touch!!

A sunset here is a sunrise on the other end of the world.
Never give up because what appears to be the end
May actually be a new beginning

Friendship is a collection of hearts
Ready to forgive and understand
It never fades and never ends
It only reminds us life is not perfect
Without a good friend

Friends are like streetlights along the road
They don't make the distance any shorter
But they
Light up the path
Make the walk worthwhile

If you wait for happy moments
You will wait forever
But if you start believing
That you are happy
You will be
Happy Forever

Life is not an iPod
To listen to your
Favourite songs
It's a radio
You must adjust yourself
To every frequency
Enjoy whatever comes in it!!

There are more, many more. But I guess I will let them be for a little longer. Moving is a lot of effort. When you move house, the Packers and Movers are there to help you - dime a dozen. But emotional baggage; that is a totally different pie to bake dearies.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Thousand Hits...

Nothing but some kind of depraved vanity led me to put the hits counter onto my blog. This coupled with dollops of low self esteem issues on my writing skills and it was quite a confusing time when I decided to see how many of the millions of people in cyber space would be interested in what I have to say. I must say visions of each entry being a best seller and publishers queuing up outside my door and the millions I would make did cross my mind. I also spent the millions by the way!!!!

Anyway the reason why I am going on and on like a hyperventilating rabbit is the fact that I happened to see the counter a couple of minutes ago and saw the magic number - 1000!! Yippeeeeeee

Thanks everyone.....its worth more that the millions I spent in my dreams. And you got it, that is the extent of my creativity and imagination folks.....nothing short of raking in the millions which is my next target on the hits counter of my dreams!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mixed up family

This entry is a few months behind schedule and is dedicated to Shalini Froiland who gently kicked my butt to ensure that I woke up from the lazy stupor I had gotten into....

"Mummy, I know Runa Aunty's full name", was how the conversation began.

"Oh really! What is it?", I responded

Aarzoo : I know all the full names. I'll tell?

Me : Tell

A : Runa Banerjee, Samrat Banerjee and Aditya Banerjee.

(Sam is Parag's colleague and over time he, his wife Runa and son Aditya, have grown into family)

A: Everybody is Banerjee, like Shitiz Banerjee

(Shitiz & Aarzoo were best friends when we were neighbours. He lived across the corridor in Flat No. 1308 and we lived in 1306. Runa lives in the same complex but in Flat No. 1306 of another building. We too moved into another building and live in Flat 404)

A : Everybody in 1306 & 1308 are Banerjee. Only 404 is only Sen.....

M : No Aarzoo, Sen & Devaya

A : Yes, I know. This is a mixed up family. Even the languages are mixed up; Bengali, Malayali, Hindi.......

My daughter's take on the linguistic & cultural diversity of our family had me laughing till my sides ached.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This Could be Your Story

This is a rather long piece, so sit back and get ready to be shocked or numbed or spurred to action or whatever. A friend had posted it on Facebook and I had to put it in this edits at all.....put it in as is......

Buzz up! ShareThisFeb 13 2009 | Views 889 | Comments (50)
Tags: Standingup Being counted
This shocking yet at some level encouraging tale is reported by a friend who knows Sugata Chaterji the rapporteur of this shocker...Boohoo to ramsene and idiots of their ilk.DOWN WITH OBSCURANTIST POLITICIANS AND MORALPOLICE

Millionaire slumdogs and how things change.... (read this, for you may have a role to play!) 10:38am
Yes, everything changes.

The fantastic invisible sweep of time rushes and roars past us every dull and intense second that ticks relentlessly away every day, and all around us things constantly morph. Twin towers crumble, good people die, the good earth turns brown and bare, and old love fades.

And what precisely is your role in the incredible kaleidoscope of change?

A slack-jaw by-stander who barely registers the impact and implications? A commentator spectator who freely critiques but somehow rises above being affected by it all? A fatalist loser who bemoans everything and blames it all on circumstances and other people?

Look around you, you who reside in the so-called mind and knowledge capital of the shining new India. This is Bangalore.

Many of the quiet avenues that used to snake through the wooded shades and fragrant flower-scatters of a thousand gulmohars, flames of the forest, bougenvillias and silver oaks are now shorn of even a single blade of grass, their tar guts upturned by mammoth earth moving equipment, tortured sites full of grime, steel and concrete through which an endless procession of loud vehicles crawl back and forth, utterly indisciplined, frothing with impotent anger and frustration, from the early dusty dawns to the midnight hours, every single day.

We are the victims, you say? The civic governance of Bangalore is sub standard, you claim? Well, you may be right, but does that mean that even as an individual citizen whose real powers to influence matters is way less than what it theoretically should be, we have absolutely nothing to do?

I am re-thinking this premise, my friend. Unfortunately not a self realization case, but prompted by a black incident last Friday, 6th February, 2009. And this time it was not about aspects that affect your life and mine indirectly. It wasn't the death of yet another 100+ year old tree. It wasn't another instance of criminal neglect of any civic infrastructure. It wasn't road rage. It was a kick in the groin. Literally. And it woke me up all right.

So, in brief, this is how the drama unfolded:

A few of my friends and I were just paying our bills and coming out of our regular Friday night watering hole and dinner place in Rest House Road, just off Brigade Road, and most of the women in the company were already standing outside. Some of us outside were smoking, people were happy, there was laughter and jokes, as there were many other people in the street, all coming out, satiated, in the closing hour of the various pubs and restaurants around.

Suddenly from up the street a massive SUV comes revving and speeding, hurtling down, and stops in a scream of brakes and swirling dust, millimeters away from this group of 4 women, barely missing one of their legs. A white Audi, imported, still under transfer, with the registration plate of KA-51 TR-2767. Some millionaire's toy thing, that in the wrong hands can kill.

Naturally the women are in shock. And quickly following the shock comes indignation. These are self made women running their own businesses, managing state responsibilities for global NGO firms, successful doctors. They are not used to being bullied. So they turn around, instead of shrinking back in fear. They protest.

And as soon as they turn around in protest, the car doors are flung open, and a stream of 4-5 rabid men run out towards these women, screaming obscenities in Hindi and Kannada against women in general, fists flailing. Some of us who came in running at the sound of the screaming brakes now stand in the middle in defense of our women, and then blows start raining down. One of the goons make a couple of calls over the cellphone, and in seconds a stream of other equally rabid goondas land up. They gun straight for the women, and everyone – a few well-meaning bystanders, acquaintances who know us from the restaurant, basically everyone who tries to help the women – starts getting thoroughly beaten up.

Women are kicked in the groin, punched in the stomach, slapped across the face, grabbed everywhere, abused constantly. Men are smashed up professionally, blows aimed at livers, groins, kidneys and nose. A friend is hit repeatedly on the head by a stone until he passes out in a flood of blood.

A plain-clothes policeman (Vittal Kumar) who saunters in late stands by watching and urging people to stop, but doing absolutely nothing else. A 'cheetah' biker cop comes in, with our women pleading him to stop this madness, but he refuses action, saying a police van will come in soon and he cannot do anything. Everyone keeps getting hammered. Relentlessly.

The carnage continues for over 20 minutes.

Finally when the police van does come in it is this vandals who are raging and ranting, claiming to be true "sons of the Kannadiga soil", and we are positioned to be the villainous outsiders, bleeding, outraged. How do the cops believe them, especially seeing the bloody faces of our men and the violated rage of our women, while they carry nary a scratch on their bodies? Don't ask me! Yet, it is us who these goondas urge the newly arrived law-keepers to arrest, and the police promptly comply, and we are bundled into the van, some still being beaten as we are pushed in. Some blessed relief from pain inside the police van at least, even if we are inside and the real goons outside, driving alongside in their spanking white Audi. The guy who was hit by the stone is taken separately by the women to Mallya hospital.

Inside the police station at Cubbon Park it becomes clear that these goons and the police know each other by their first names. The policeman in charge (Thimmappa) initially refuses to even register any complaint from me, on the purported grounds that I am not fluent in Kannada and I have taken a few drinks (3 Kingfisher pints, to be precise) over the evening. No, it doesn't matter that I didn't have my car and was not driving, and no, it doesn't mater that the complaint will be written in English. We watch them and the goons exchange smiles and nods with our our bloodied and swelling eyes and realize in our pain-clouded still-in-shock brains the extent of truth in the claim of one of the main goons when he claimed earlier in the evening in virulent aggression: we own this town, this car belongs to an MLA, we will see how you return to this street!!

This was the turning point of the saga, I guess. For we refused to lie down quietly and be victims.

One of our girls, a vintage and proud Bangalorean who is running one of the town's most successful organic farming initiatives, took upon herself to write the complaint, when I was not allowed to write the same. Another Bangalore girl, a state director of a global NGO firm, wrote the other molestation complaint separately on behalf of all the girls. Some of us called our friends in the media and corporate world. Everyone stepped up. And even when the odds were down and we were out, we did not give up, and as a singular body of violated citizens we spoke in one voice of courage and indomitable spirit. That voice had no limitation of language, not Kannada, nor English, or Hindi. It was the voice of human spirit that cannot be broken.

And in the face of that spirit, for the first time, we saw the ugly visage of vandalism, hiding behind the thin and inadequate veil of political corrupt power, narrow-vision regionalism and self-serving morality, start to wilt.

We spent 6 hours next day in the police station. The sub-inspector of police who filed our FIR, Ajay R M, seemed a breath of fresh air inasmuch that he did not appear a-priori biased like others, even though the hand of corruption and politico-criminal power backing these goons was still manifest in many ways: a starched, white-linen power-broker walked in handing over his card to the sub-inspector in support of the goons; the goons got an audience with the Inspector because of this intervention, while we had to interact one level lower down in the hierarchy; the plains cloth policeman of last night, even though he had arrived far too late in the crime scene, gave a warped statement, passing it off as a "neutral" point of view, repeatedly stressing that we came out of a pub and hence were drinking, positioning this as a 'drunken brawl', while completely forgetting to mention the unprovoked attack against the women and the one-sided vandalism and violence that ensued. I guess one cannot blame the low ranked police officer – the criminal connections of these goons must be pervasive enough for him to be careful.

Thanks however to the impartial handling of the situation by Ajay, soon the goons were all identified. The lead actor was one Ravi Mallaya (38), a real estate honcho and owner of a small property off Brigade Road which he has converted into a "gaming" (you know what that means, don't you?) adda. The others identified are Mohan Basava (22) of Chamarajapet 12th Cross, R. Vijay Kumar Ramalingaraju (25) and Shivu Rajashekar (20). All are residents of 12th & 13th Cross in Vyalikaval. Their bravado and machismo were by that time evaporated. It was good to see their faces then.

Of course nothing much happened to them, nor did we expect it. They were supposed to be in lock up for at least the weekend till they were produced in court, but we understand that they were quickly released on (anticipatory?) bail. The car, purportedly belonging to an MLA, also does not figure in the FIR, apparently for reasons of "irrelevance to the case".The media also have given us fantastic coverage and support so far, strengthening the cause.

The goons meanwhile, as an after thought, also filed the customary reverse complaint on the morning after we filed our own complaint: the women have apparently scratched the car! (Why did they not file the complaint the same night, considering they came to the Police Station in the same car? Why was the car allowed to be taken off police custody? Why is the car still irrelevant to the case and not in the FIR? Questions.. questions..).

Is this the end of this saga? Probably not. Are these women, more precious to us as friends and wives than most things in our lives, safe to walk or drive down Brigade Road from now on or are the goonda elements, slighted by this arrest and disgrace, are lying in ambush, waiting, biding their time to cause some of us more grievous harm? We don't know. Is there reason for us to remain apprehensive of future attacks and victimization? Perhaps.

But here is the point.

We stood up.

We believed in the power of individual citizens even in the face of hooliganism, intolerance, corruption and power mongering. Even though many of us have the option of leveraging political or government connections, we deliberately chose to fight this battle as individuals. Sure, these connections have been activated and they have been kept informed, should the worst case scenario unfold tomorrow. But we have chosen to not leverage them. And in every small win we register as a group of individual outraged citizens of Bangalore and India, however insignificant these milestones may be in the larger scheme of things, there is one small notch adding up in favor of what is right, one small notch against what is wrong. And we believe that every such small notch counts, each such mark is absolutely invaluable.

It is the people who make this city, this country, this world. It is you and I, as much as the terrorists inside and outside. And in our small insignificant little ways, it is my responsibility and yours to not shirk from investing effort – not just lip service or any token attempt, but real effort – in backing up what we ourselves believe in. It is so easy to logically argue that everything is corrupt, nothing is worth it, there are so many risks involved. We must not fall trap to this escapist trend. We must not fail to try.

Next time you feel outraged, violated, abused, don't let it go by and add up to your list of litanies and complaints. Stand up and take it to the limit - at least your own limit. Not in the same way as they wrong you, but in the way that every citizen, at least in theory, is entitled to complain and protest. Do not let the hooligans power rant scare you or prompt you into submission. Do not allow the corrupt cop make you give up trying. Carry the flame forward. Try harder.

If are up to it, start right now.

Forward this note to everyone you want to be made aware of this. Post it in your own blogs. Talk about it amongst your circles. And if anyone of you should like to step forward with a word of empathy or advise, talk to me. Comment.

It is not Bangalore that is going to the dogs. It is us. We have far too long become accustomed to let everything go. And the more we let things go without any protest or fight, the dormant criminal and dark elements of the society get that much more encouraged. Every time we turn the other way, the hooligan next street gets incentivized to push the boundary a little further, provoke a little more, try something a little more atrocious. It is time for us to refuse to let this go on. We are responsible for making ourselves proud. Lets believe in ourselves. We can do this.

My name is Saugata Chatterjee. And I am standing up.I refuse to let Bangalore go to the hooligan slumdogs, even if some of them are pets of corrupt power millionaires.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Promises to myself

I had promised myself that I would write regularly in my blog....but I find that the promises I break are the ones I make to myself. I am ever willing to let myself down at the drop of a hat so should I crib when others do? What is so tough about writing that I cannot update this little space that I have created for myself. Suchi was cribbing the other day about my disappearance from the blogger world.

I have some stuff that I had written down some time ago but have not yet found time to punch it in. Also have some lovely forwards waiting in my Inbox but then again have deadlines hanging over my head and let the writing get least priority.

Anyway, here I am trying to keep awake in office and dealing with the hurting eye. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I am writing. Keeps me from growling and being nasty to everyone.......