Reflection In The Shallows

Quite often our thoughts seem to entwine between what our mind processes and what our heart feels. We do face situations or are rather are put through certain crossroads where we are compelled to make a choice no matter how involuted the pick is.
As they say, to have the ‘best of both worlds’, isn’t as simple as it sounds!  My thoughts on the idea of ‘reflecting’ when the options available are shallow… Like how most of us wish for how life should go our way, there come repeated reminders of how it is not all sunshine but also hay!!!
Reflection In The Shallows
 
As I stood at another crossroad,
It was not just a few choices I had to make.
 
There was a plethora of emotions which swung in my mind,
As disappointments and secret expectations confined.
Yet another crossroad and life tested me for being emotional, naive and kind.
 
When only few could understand me, many chose not to as I now fill with fright.
I stand scared at this crossroad,
While an experience of how beautiful life could be passed and glowed for a while.
Smiles got reason but didn’t last as hopes went futile.
 
When the world is full of hate,
Why can we not spread a smile, love all and frame our own fate?
As I stand on this crossroad, I don’t wish to but I hesitate.
 
Scared of being let down, I build a guard around me,
I wish for someone to break through it and tell me that my smile does matter
That it was not a crossroad at all and no hopes of mine would now shatter.
 
Only if the human behavior I wanted ever came true,
Life would no longer be a crossroad but a canvas on which I drew…
Experience is indeed the best pedagogue. While the crossroads make you go numb for a while, it is the satisfaction post making decisions, which does infuse a sense of liberation into your kindling souls.
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EC vs AAP: A big blow to AAP’s ‘Office of Credibility’?

For a party which started with a promise of literally ‘sweeping’ away corruption, 4 years down the line, its credibility stands questioned. This, being probably the last expectation in line of what the potentially strong, then debutant party must have anticipated during the time of its inception.

It all started with the recent revival of the petition filed by Prakash Patel around 3 years ago. While Patel’s petition moved at a glacial pace initially, owing to multiple RTI applications and follow ups, it was just recently that the Election Commission took cognisance of the petition.  Why the delay? The fact that the next Delhi Assembly Elections are slated for contest next year is being seen as a probable reason behind the sudden uproar.

INTERNAL AAP RIFT INFLAMES EXTERNAL SPARK?

The trouble-shoot game for the Aam Aadmi Party started soon after former AAP leader, Kapil Mishra came out in the open against the AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal in May 2017 itself. There was no stopping of fissures for the Aam Aadmi Party eversince. Next in line came the internal rift within the party post AAP’s Rajya Sabha Nominations. Kumar Vishwas, one of the closest aides of AAP Chief, Arwind Kejriwal and also one of the main founders of the Party openly expressed his disappointment and discontent with the party chief after he failed to make it to the Rajya Sabha. Even now, the Aam Aadmi Party appears all split over the Upper House berths.

While the party clearly stands disunited, it is the opposition which has a lot to discredit the AAP for, making the party a soft target for many against those who still wish to trust the common man’s party. If one is to ponder in the backdrop of the corruption charges laid by Kapil Mishra against Arvind Kejriwal and Co., the ‘Office of Profit’ case doesn’t seem like a  false theory, making the party’s internal factions validate and account for its reputation being at stake.

VICTIM CARD TO TRIGGER PUBLIC SYMPATHY?

One of the most pertinent questions around the controversy, however, is- ‘Why did EC end up targeting AAP when BJP and Congress have had a similar past as well?’ This very question in itself is an indirect factor which would trigger public sympathy in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party. In fact, this may work wonders for the party whose credibility has been under the questioning lens over the past few weeks with the latest charges against the party chief. Kejriwal, who has been accused of selling Rajya Sabha seats quite recently could utilize this inferno as a political mileage. This crisis can possibly help Kejriwal to unify the party around him yet another time. If or if not the argument stands true, the Delhi chief minister will now get an opportunity to play the victim and the party cadre and volunteers will be expected to rally around his leadership, thereby garnishing support from voters which would make AAP recover its lost ground.

BLAME GAME NOT ENOUGH

Keeping the political plank aside, there now lies a dire urgency to redefine or rather expand the definition of ‘power’ in the ‘Office of Power’. With multiple instances of blame game and no concrete conclusion in the past, we must move towards inclusion of ‘power and influence’ within the purpose of creating such offices or instead, removing the provision as it fails to achieve the goal of legislative independence.

The big question here, therefore is if and can the poll panel apply a selective law under the dependence of the existing political equations? As not many would withhold themselves from openly acknowledging, this debate is way beyond than just any other random debate about the corruption free promising AAP’s credibility or Office to Profit Case, it is about the principle of impartiality which the common voter of this country expects the vanguard of our democracy to function with. It just doesn’t end at EC vs AAP.

(Feature image courtesy: YouTube)

Why ‘PadMan’ is only a ‘Means’ to the ‘End’…

As an issue which continues to plague the country for as long as we can recollect, the taboo around periods and sanitary pads seems to have mustered some kind of support from  cinema. The Super Star Stunt-Man of the Indian Cinema, Akshay Kumar, has turned into a Pad-Man to reflect upon a key issue as he puts on the domino of a man with a mission- a mission to perish the perils associated with menstrual menace in India.  With Pad-Man not being a first to highlight periods in the cinema, Phullu was another movie which got released in 2017 but failed to induce dialogue or provoke thought. PadMan on the other hand, is based on true events, the upcoming movie is a fiction on the story of Arunachalam Muruganatham who in 1988 embarked upon a seemingly impossible journey of making sanitary pads easily available for women after he saw his wife using old rags as substitute for the essential commodity.

WHEN AEONIAL LAXITY CALLS FOR ACTION​

Since decades, there has been a complete state of denial and stigma attached to confronting the menstrual troubles of women or even discussing periods for that matter in our country. The societal taboos have pervaded reality where Barely 12% of India’s menstruating women use sanitary pads. While most women are not allowed to visit temples during their periods, others are treated as untouchables within the premises of their own houses.  While stepping inside the kitchen (which is considered to be the most pious spot of a house) during periods is forbidden for most of them, it is men on the other hand who refrain from acknowledging the various medical ailments and problems their counterparts tend to go through.

While nobody forgets to expect a baby out of a woman, what they forget is that she too is a human and needs proper care for maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle which will eventually lead to the birth of a healthy baby.

Substandard state of menstrual hygiene over a long stretch of time, has led to worsening health conditions. Women in our country now suffer from reproductive tract infections, urinary tract infections which in most cases leads to cervical cancer which itself kills around 72,000 women in India every year, more than anywhere else on the globe.

MENSTRUAL WOES BREAK WALLS- IT’S HYGIENE VS EDUCATION

So far, there has been an immutable trade off between women trying to educate themselves and women on going through their menstrual cycle. This grave situation has been on the rise due to lack of basic facilities and hygienic access to women during menstruation. In India alone, 1 girl out of every 5 girls drop out of schools because of something as natural and basic as menstruation. A total of 28% girls in our country end up abstaining from school and the ones who attend tend to perform poorly owing to the stigmatized perceptions and hesitations their minds are preoccupied with. As unfortunate as it may sound- in a country which envisages itself as one of the major global fore-runners when it comes to technology and power, at least 1 in every 5 girls drop out of the schools due to something as basic and natural as menstruation.

BIG SCREEN VS SMALL AUDIENCE?

Though the movie carries forth a message as strong as that of promoting menstrual health, the question is, how many people in our country will be able to visit cinema halls to watch it?

India accounts for the largest number of people living below international poverty line, with over 30 per cent of its population under the $1.90 (Rs.121.28) a- day poverty measure. While a movie ticket costs way beyond what the daily poverty limit is, it is clearly not something which 50% of the rural Indians- Indians who indeed need the maximum awareness regarding menstruation will be able to afford. So, then it again boils down to what more do we need beyond a star studded and intensely promoted movie to sensitize the masses?  Certainly, a lot of active campaigning, and counselling by the renowned celebrities along with ‘free’ access to sanitary napkins to people who certainly cannot afford.

What our governments fail to realize is that, while we can certainly manage without ‘free’ laptop distributions (SP Govt in UP distributed free laptops to to the people of the state), what continues to be a dire need of the hour is free sanitary napkins to the ‘betis’ of the nation.

DISCUSSIONS IMPERATIVE. PERIOD

And, here we are, selling sanitary pads as a blotted commodity enclosed in black wraps. Irony lies in how we don’t shy away from yelling while we purchase cigarettes or alcohol but when it comes to buying sanitary pads, our voices can barely be heard as the chemist wraps up the sanitary napkins in a black polythene, only to depict how dark and blocked the mindset of the so-called progressive India is.

On the other hand, as the men in our country continue to have the privilege of not being questioned, there lies a larger onus of responsibility on them. More men need to come up and speak for those millions of women while they succumb to the societal mindset. The discussion which needs to be striked is- ‘If, a menstruating woman’s blood is impure, isn’t so the entire human existence?’ ….. Definitely, while movies like ‘PadMan’ can act as catalytic initiator, it is imperative discussions, acceptance, receptivity and campaigns by the masses which need to take the lead in the long run. PERIOD…..

A Dog’s ‘Purpose’…

This is in memory of my dear pet dog, Simba. He left us on October 19, 2017, a day ahead of the Indian festival of Diwali. For a 6 year old golden labrador as active as him to die of a stomach infection just within a day of ailment, was an extremely unexpected and uneasy situation for my family to go through.  Of what they tell me, he had tears in his eyes while he was being treated. When I think of it (which I do almost daily), one of the biggest regrets of my life or rather one of the unluckiest things to have happened to me was that I couldn’t see him one last time. The same  morning when I reached home to celebrate Diwali, I was shocked to realise that he wasn’t their to jump, rejoice and welcome me- that he was gone the same day just 4 hours before I arrived…

This little piece is an expression of what Simba or for that matter all the dogs who leave behind their human companions alone in this world would tell us if they met us or rather if they could speak. A glimpse into a Dog’s mind, analyzing what their ‘Life’s Purpose’ is… This, I feel is what Simba wishes to tell me:

 

I may not be able to snuggle in your bed, lick your hands or hold you with my paws … 
But I loved you unconditionally because for me, you had no flaws… 
Today, I may not be around you but I am always watching you. I still crave for the love which is all I ever wanted from you.
I always made you laugh and smile when I lived, even when I’m gone, sorrow is the last thing I want to see you with.
I want you to remember me with a smile for else it will fail the purpose of my life.
I know I left you suddenly, you couldn’t anticipate. But see, that’s again something I did with a purpose for seeing me suffer for days would have made you feel worse, my mate. 
I may not virtually exist to wag my tail, welcome you home and then hide, 
But my soul does remember playing with you when you’re alone as I know you miss me being by your side… 
When you get a new one, assume its me for if it were in my hands, I would spend all my lives with you- this, my dear friend was, is and will be my life’s purpose. 

 

Simba was more than just a pet. I may not have been quite expressive with him which is my general pattern of behaviour with the people I adore the most, but whenever I felt low, all I needed to do was go play with him for a minute or two and I would be all fine- he was therapeutic- a dog which made everyone who visited our house- even dog haters fall in love with him…

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5 years to Nirbhaya- What has changed?

5 years ago on 16th of December, an incident which took place in the national capital not only shook the nation on multiple levels but it also raised several question marks on the mindset of the Indian men- the sense of ease and normality with which the crimes are committed, increasing frequency and cipher fear of repercussions leading  to augmented incidents of sexual assaults, molestation and rapes.

Here is an unsettling compilation of some shockers which have covered the entire country over the past 1 year- but need deep contemplation on our part for us to decipher as to where our society is heading to. And more importantly, why is it that the men in our country have turned completely fearless?

PAEDOPHILIA AS A COVER?

An 18 month old child gets raped by a 33 year old man-  this happens in the presence of the man’s children as they watch while the baby girl gets raped. The 18 month-old girl had gone to visit the neighbour’s house to play with their two children when the incident took place. POSCO Act or no, why is their no punishment? Is the pervert mindset of men getting covered under the cloak of paedophilia? 

INEBRIATION NO EXCUSE

Also, towards the end of October, a woman as old as 100 years of age was raped resulting in her death. Investigation suggests that he was inebriated but that certainly can neither act as an excuse nor as  a justification.

SCHOOLS STILL NOT SAFE

Multiple incidents of abusing chlildren, raping girls were reported from schools across the national capital region. Amongst these, there was one where a  9 year old was raped by a school teacher. Also, another 11 year old was raped twice by her teachers in Kolkata, a city which is also home to the Mother House. Arrested but no action till now- the fast track courts do not seem to be fast enough.

STAYING INDOORS NO SOLUTION

This one shook me. An 11-Year-Old was gang raped at gunpoint in front of her very own family- including her mother and her elder brother.The incident took place at 1am when 3 people barged inside a house in Madhya Pradesh, the heart of ‘Incredible India’. While two accused threatened to shoot her mother and brother, the third one raped the girl. So much so for all the advice directed towards girls to stay indoors in order to avoid such incidents- women seem to be no longer safe in their own houses, let alone streets.

WHEN CRIME CROSSED SPECIES

This one is ‘inhuman’ in the literal sense of the word as this is  a crime committed on a female puppy and not a woman! Yes, you heard that right. A 34 year old taxi driver raped the puppy & dumped her where she bled to death in Delhi.  This accused is a father of 2 girls.

Despite having got booked, no punishments for any of these criminals have been announced so far or at least none has been highlighted to infuse a sense of horror amongst other such inhumane perpetrators.

Though a number of reforms including the Nirbhaya Fund, fast track courts, etc were introduced in the wake of the gruesome Nirbhaya gangrape, but nothing helped in the decrescence of crime. Girls  still fear being alone even in the most advanced metropolitan cities post 8 at night,  women are still being advised by honourable ministers like Mrs. Kirron Kher to not sit in auto-rickshaws with men. They named her ‘Nirbhaya’ (Fearless) but wistfully, us being fearless isn’t an option until men are compelled to be fearful. 

So has anything changed?

Sadly, what are being men told? Nothing. What restrictions have been imposed on their activities? Nothing. What death sentences or life imprisonment deters have been issued to the sexual abusers? None. Do they fear anything? Nothing. Are women afraid? Yes. Has anything altered? On paper yes- practically- nothing.

Its been 5 years since Nirbhaya got murdered- an incident which shook the conscience of all but the criminals- a crime which put women safety on priority. However, here we are, in a time where not much has changed on ground. It is not only important to remember Nirbhaya and many more like her but it is also equally important to introspect- for in a country where women’s lives hold no value in front of the disgusting lust of men, we need to take a step beyond ‘metoo’. And, that step is to prevent, report, and demand immediate action. This is our Right to Life and No Pervert has the Right to Play with it.

From ‘Disabled’ to an ‘Enabled’ India: Transforming towards inclusion…

Today, as India celebrates the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, there lies a stark reality in the form of an alarming statistical account which continues to haunt the country. According to the 2011 Census (2016 updated), 2.21% of India’s total population, that is, 21 million people are disabled, out of which 45 percent are illiterates. Despite the passage of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2012, the rate of exclusion is far away from improvement as 79% schools across the country still do not adhere to  inclusive education for the disabled children.  

While the disabled population of India already faces an immense degree of exclusion, being illiterate just adds to the pre-existing predicaments, resulting in increased dependency and barrred inclusion. Just as for any other human being, employment and education are correlatedly significant essentials for the disadvantaged section as well. Thankfully, there are stratum of people who do not depend on the state alone but do believe in bringing about the anticipated transformation at hand. 

ATULYAKALA- EMPLOYING THE DEAF COMMUNITY…  

Atulyakala is one such step towards  evolution. It is a Non-Profit Organization in the Indian capital of New Delhi which was founded in 2013. It is among the select few establishments which solely cater towards generating employment for the deaf community.  

 

(Pictures: Atulyakala)

“Employment opportunities for deaf are less because of lack of proper education, there is a lack of proper education because there are no inclusive schools. We at Atulyakala, focus on generating employment opportunities for the deaf community. Our organization produces lifestyle products all of which are designed by our deaf artists.”, says Oshin Dhawan, the Communication Head at Atulyakala. 

70% of employees at Atulyakala are deaf and within just 4 years of its foundation, the NPO has initiated a desire to create something different, with an extraordinary set of people. 

DISHA- GIVING DIRECTION TO THE MENTALLY DISABLED

Founded in 1994, ‘DISHA’ is a school of special education for mentally disabled children aged above 5 years. Based in a small city like Meerut, Disha is one of the first schools to have been set up in Uttar Pradesh, with a desire to take care of the mentally challenged children lest they are crushed by the juggernaut of the society. 

“Our son was born in 1983. For years we took him to Delhi for treatment and therapy but soon realised that we must usher something at a local level in  our very own city to help more like him”, says Poonam Bansal, wife of one of the founders at Disha. 

According to Dr. Anil Bansal, President  of the Management Committee at Disha, “One of the biggest and recurring hurdles which we face is that of making the disabled students commute to the school. For this, we have especially recruited staff which would support each child and patiently carry them from one doorstep to the other. We also have vans of our own because no transport companies are willing to collaborate with us”.

At present, Disha has over 120 students who, are given prevocational training in terms of increasing their employability. 

EXCLUSIONARY vs RESILIENT SOCIETY

While most of the existing special institutions and NPOs do not fall under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, India needs broader initiatives with similar intentions like those of Atulyakala and Disha. This resilience will be an encouraging advancement  towards re-defiining the word ‘Disabled’as ‘Differently-Abled’, thereby adhering to the this year’s United Nations theme on International Day for Persons with Disabilities, that is, Transformation towards sustainable and resiliensociety for all.
Feature Picture Courtesy: Better India

‘Alzheimer-free’ India: A must for Developed India

He begins his day with flipping the newspaper pages, going for fresh walks and  spending time with his grandchildren, only to forget all these memories by the next day. Mr. Narayan Mehta* , an 83 year old man who lives in CR Park, Delhi, not only forgets what he had in lunch but there is more to it as he quite often doesn’t recognize his children. He is an Alzheimer patient who caught the disorder 4 years ago post a brain surgery.

“I always accompanied my father to the bank. I had to because he would forget the way back home from the bank which was hardly at a straight stretch of a few yards”, says Amita Sharma, daughter of late Ramprakash Sharma*, an Alzheimer patient who died 3 years ago in Meerut.

“Quite often he complained of the caregiver not giving him food. He would also leave the house out of anger, irritation and protest. Altogether, it was extremely difficult to assess whether he was being troubled or abused by the caregiver because of his disease and the forgetfulness which comes with it“, she adds.

Research has indicated a huge lapse between the actual number of elder abuse cases and the legal help sought. When an elderly patient who is suffering from Alzheimer disease is abused, it is almost impossible to identify the source due to the forgetful tendencies of the patient who fails to communicate the same.

“Obviously caregivers are aware of the memory loss issues associated with elders suffering from Alzheimer. This is mostly why all the doctors treating Alzheimer patient advise their family members to be extra cautious while appointing caregivers. It is equally important to request investigation of nursing homes before making a selection”, says Dr. Sudeep, a practising doctor based in Delhi.

A report jointly brought out by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Help Age International says: India has around 100 million elderly at present and the number is expected to increase to 323 million, constituting 20 per cent of the total population, by 2050.

More than 20% of people across the globe suffer from mild dementia above the age of 80. India alone, is home to more than 3 million suffering from dementia in its different forms including Alzheimer. In 20 years alone, the number of the afflicted are believed to doubly multiply.  Of the 100 million elder people who live in India, more than 39% are abused in more ways than one. This World Elderly day, it is important to pay heed to the fact that India has the highest number of Alzheimers cases after US and China and hence there lies a pertinent need to battle it.

 

(*: names have been modified)