Friday, March 29, 2013

My Own Soldier Who Stood By Me through the Journey of My Life

Blogadda has asked us bloggers to write about a man who stood up for a woman with courage and integrity. He became the soldier for her. This takes me back in time and remind me of an incidence when a tiny soldier once had asked me, ‘why children have to take the surname of their father and not mother. Mothers do much more for children than father, even carrying them in the tummy, feeding them, and caring for them until they become independent to fend for themselves.’ The question from my son shocked me, because being a mom; I had never given a thought to this matter. Neither had I thought of taking my mom’s name but proudly went by with my father’s family name and then with that of my husband. I had never felt grateful to my mom for carrying me in her tummy, feeding me nor caring for me, because I assumed that is what mothers do. I had taken this wonderful gift for granted until now.To get out of the sticky situation, I said, ‘it is easy for boys to take name of their father, because it goes well with their own male names’. Kids are smart and they always have few counter questions ready to attack us. He had one too… ‘what about the girls, why do they have the male names attached to theirs?’ I had lost the argument in just three sentences. I conceded defeat and told him that I would think about this later.
When people ask me who has been the strongest support in my journey of life, I always have to say it is my son. Since a tender age he has been there with me, lending his support whenever I needed it the most. Without him, dealing with cancer, uncomfortable marriage, special needs child and other tough situations of life was impossible for me. My brother, father or husband can never do what he has done in empowering me, even though he is younger to me by 24 years. With his tiny enlightening revelations about my importance and with his ever constant encouragement, I started realizing my own potential at the age of 38 years. A silly woman who had thrown away her education and independence, slowly started picking it up once again.
A person who strictly follows non-violence in his life, he has never flexed his muscles for any reason. He does not create any violent situation in his life at all, as he peacefully solves all the issues around him. People, who often think of heroes, imagine them to be those bodyguard types who will bash up people who threaten their women. Are they the only heroes? For me they are not, as they are ones who think women need protection and they are the ones who can care for and protect them. The real hero is the person who can give strength, respect and independence to women where they will not need a man to rescue them. That is what my son has been to me until now.  
He is not ashamed to do any household chores even when my friends or teen girls are visiting our home. His friends, who made fun of him initially, realized later that being a good helpful son is not a wrong thing or something to be ashamed of. By helping me finish off the household chores quickly, he allows me to spend time with my children watching some movie or playing games.
 In a village with narrow minded people, he never voiced his views but silently went on helping me manage my house work like any daughter would do. He set example there with his actions.
His major contribution in my life has been his sharing responsibility of bringing up my special needs daughter. He is the most caring and loving elder brother a sister can have, moreover he is a proud brother who has made her a part of life. When most brothers tell their sisters never to come in contact with their friends, my son not only introduces her to his friends but sees to it that she gets a bit of attention and respect from people around her, so that she will never feel left out.  Though I have collected a lot of information from doctors, internet and counselors, the best solution for my daughter’s problems comes from him. When I being a mother struggle to understand what she is saying because of her limited vocabulary, Rayyan does understand her so quickly.
My mother, sister and sister-in-law, all have received the same respect from him. I have never seen him treat any girl with disrespect or call her names no matter what she is wearing. He believes that every person has their own choice of dress code, and they should be allowed to wear what they are comfortable with.
He often reminds me to take some fun time for myself in a day. The boy, who never pesters me for anything he wants, does that when he sees me working too hard, urging me slow down and have some fun too. Whenever I have to go out for some work, he takes excellent care of my daughter, treating her like a princess. Without his support, I would never been a graduate, freelance writer nor blogger. He has given me the insight into what I really am and given me courage to stop pretending to be someone else just to please people around me.
This is my hero and my soldier who has given me the power to fight for my rights and be what I want to be. I am glad and proud to have him in my life. You rock my son!
This post is a part of #Soldierforwomen in association with

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bangalore for Women with Special Needs

My winning entry from Bangalore For Women IndiBlogger Meet featured in The Times of India, Bangalore. (4th April 2013, Page 5). The response for this post overwhelmed me. 
On 23rd March I planned on attending Indiblogger and TOI’s Bloggers Meet which had an agenda Bangalore for Women. I knew this was serious event, so thought of leaving behind Farheena and going there alone. Unfortunately, the only care-taker I can trust for her, Rayyan, was not available due to the event he had to attend in Arena Jayanagar. Farheena was eager to come over and watch the bloggers who give her special attention; therefore I decided to tag her along with me.
When walking out of home with my daughter who is 17 year old young woman with special needs, I realized how difficult it is to manage a special needs person, especially a girl or woman in a city like Bangalore. No one follows the rules of do's and don'ts in the city regarding people with special needs. The city is built assuming all the citizens of Bangalore are healthy, strong and do not need support. The steps do not have banisters, neither do we have public toilets that a special needs person can use. The use of toilets is a common problem, but we all know how conveniently men stain the compound walls to relieve themselves. Women have to struggle a lot, and when you have mobility problems the toilets situated in inaccessible corners, which are dangerous, without facility for special people to use them are kind of cruel.
Getting on the public transport buses that ply on the city roads can be horrible experience for women, but it is almost impossible for special needs girl. Due to my ugly experiences, I have now given up traveling with my daughter on public transport buses. I am forced to take autos even if I have to skip a meal or something for affording it. When some perverts are taking advantage of educated, independent, working women in public transport, can you just imagine the plight of women with special needs?
Be it the railway station, bus stands, shopping malls or any place in Bangalore, I have to struggle with my daughter to get from one point to another. No one has twice as to how a person with mobility problem walk all that distance. There are unnecessary steps where there is no support for her to hold on. I know this is of concern to any person with challenged mobility, but it becomes worse for the girls because they get stared at. At times men try to help, and it is a matter of concern how they help, and how they touch them. When they hold my daughters hand or try to support her, I have to keep quite at times, because I do not want to discourage people from coming forward to help their fellow human beings.  We already have a great problem with that kind of attitude our citizens are famous for. But sometimes when I feel my daughter is uncomfortable, I tell them I can manage her on my own, thanks for the help.
When a girl needs help, why only men come forward and give her support as the women watch on? Don’t they understand that a girl would be uncomfortable being held and supported by a man? I wish women would be more responsible and not just stare and go cluck cluck with their tongues and say “Ayyo Paapa” when they see a special needs girl having trouble. Lending a hand and giving a bit of support is not a big deal. More than Bangalore for women, we need more women who will support women in public places not only when they need help or support, but even when they are being harassed or teased. It is high time we need to see a change in the Sari clad woman who sees a girl in jeans being teased and says she invited it. 
I have observed few more trends which is discriminating the girl child with disabilities. Recently my daughter did not have her regular transport to school. I had to drop her to school and pick her up in the evening. What I observed was that many boys come to FAME India, in wheel chairs but I did not see any girl in wheel chair coming to school.
This was disturbing fact for me, because I know that the school itself does not discriminate between girl or boy students. Are there no girls with disabilities which would need wheel chairs for them? Are parents hesitating to take trouble and send girls on wheel chairs to school? What is happening to the girls who are wheelchair bound?
I had seen one mother taking exceptional care of her son who is totally dependent on her for everything. She shows a lot of love towards him, much more than what she does towards her daughters. Being me and unable to keep quiet, I asked her about the great love she had for her son whereas she did not show the same affection towards her daughters. She had no doubt about what she was doing as she quickly answered me, “Our son is going to save us from hell and take us to heaven”. At first I thought she was making fun of me but something in her tone told me she was serious. On seeing my surprised expression she said, “You don’t know because you haven’t read Mahabharata. There is Shloka that says
pumnamno narakadyastu trayate pitaram sutah
tasmat putra iti proktah svayameva swayambhuva
which means a son of our own, by birth saves a father from the hell called Put or Pu hence he is called Putra.
I asked her “can’t a daughter save you from hell?” At this she laughed and said, “No way”.
In our society where people still opt for girl childinfanticide, what would happen to girls who are severely disabled? It is time for Bangalore to wake up and conduct surveys to check out what is the condition of its special needs women? When girls who are attending regular schools are being abused in the safety of their homes, what is happening to the girls who are not able to venture out of their homes independently?

Talking to few parents, what I have learned recently is very shocking. Most of the girls with disability go through hysterectomy so that they do not have to deal with their menstruation. The girl cannot say anything; the government does not want to say anything about this. Is it fair on part of doctors, parents and society to just remove an organ from the girl’s body so that the situation is convenient for everyone? I have personally heard from a mother that hysterectomy is necessary for her intellectually challenged daughter because pregnancy could lead to social stigma. This is a shocking revelation for me. Does that mean that the parents are already prepared for the abuse the girl may go through?
Can Bangalore doctors take initiative to conduct survey regarding hysterectomy being done of girls as young as 9-12?
Parents of the girl child with disabilities have to worry about many more things than the parents of a boy have to do. As a parent of special needs girl, life has been a journey of constant fear for her safety which has been forcefully induced into me by society. The reports about rapes, abduction and subtle molestation make me so much more alert about my daughter. Sometimes it looks like she has become a part of me because I am scared to leave her alone anywhere. The fear stems not from her childlike innocence but more from her physical vulnerability. We need a society that will make us feel secure that its citizens are not going to take advantage of this vulnerability oftheir fellow human beings.
The auto drivers who demand more than double the fare when they see my daughter has mobility problem, the bus drivers who say take private transport we need to be at the destination on time, or women who turn away without lending a hand to support, need to change. Is this possible and whether this will ever happen is another issue we need to address.

The Baby Steps towards Much Needed Change

Bangalore For Women
I was very excited about the coming together of the Times of India and IndiBlogger to discuss issues affecting women. The event which was open to both men and women, was a part of The Times of India’s Bangalore for Women initiative which highlights the city’s duty towards its female citizens. A duty that the city has been repeatedly ignoring.
The event promised a lot, and I went there with lot of hopes and enthusiasm. The room was a bit small for 100 bloggers and I was kind of scared that I may get thrown out when there would lack of place to fit in all. I met my fellow bloggers, and settled down comfortably in a seat to exchange few words with friends.
The meet did not go about with the Indicry, or blogger introductions.  Anoop was up to point and quick in introducing us to Mr. Franklin Joseph who is Women Self Defense Specialist with combined experience of more than 14 years working, researching and designing workshops for women. He has modeled his defense mechanisms after getting in touch with women who underwent sexual abuse, women who faced violence and women victims of crime. He has been conducting workshops for women teaching them techniques of getting out safely from a sticky situation.
Some of the points he brought up were very useful with a new perspective which many people tend to ignore.  Here is a brief list of them though I may not be able to portray his points accurately:
1)      A woman often ventures out when there is a male escort, though she would be scared to do so when alone. He proved how this does not change anything. A man becomes nervous and helpless when the woman he is escorting is attacked.
2)      Carrying pepper powders and weapons is not the answer. When abusers and attackers realize this is what women are carrying they will find a defense for it, or maybe they turn more violent to subdue the women from attacking back.
3)      The attitude, confidence and presence of mind are the best defense mechanisms women can adopt.
Frankly, I did not have any trouble agreeing with Mr. Franklin because I have always believed in this.  My personal experience tells me the same. I usually walk on the streets with a confidence that I can handle myself. I have not been teased, abused or troubled by men on roads or in public places. But the whole situation changed when I was in Byndoor. When I had to wear Burkha to cover up myself and my attitude, the confidence lacking, men started teasing me, passing lewd comments and in one instance taking advantage of the rush in the public transport to touch my legs. Off course it was followed by me stomping hard on his feet and hurting his toe badly which led to a verbal duel, with mute spectators watching us like it was Rajkumar’s movie.
Once Franklin left, bloggers were allowed to voice their concerns about safety of women in Bangalore. For some weird reason, Anoop asked me start it off and then was at loss as to how to stop me. He will know better the next time ;).
My concern was about the differentiation taking place among girls with special needs. There were other bloggers who shared their own good or bad experiences with Indibloggers openly. With more time to spare, it could have been a good debate.
Amazingly none of the topics overlapped each other. Every blogger present there, had their own set of concerns, which is something we all have seen at one time or other.
From positive response of an auto driver who helped a lady in distress, not even asking for fare from her to people who threw out a girl from the rented house in middle of the night and that too for being the victim of another tenants pervert behavior, there were different life experiences shared by the bloggers.
In defense of men, a male blogger pointed out how he was scolded by a woman when he tried to help her. I agree this happens too. With rising crime, every man is being viewed as potential rapist or pervert by the women.
After some bloggers got to present their views, it was time for lunch. After lunch there were 3 representatives from TOI including Mr. Narayanan Krishnaswami, one of the editors, who told about recent initiative ‘Bangalore for Women’ which has been moving ahead in full throttle. I read TOI on my Apple iPad and somehow it is not visible there. If it was, I may have attended at least of those workshops.
All  the three TOI representatives had just few minutes to spare to hear from nearly 100 bloggers about their experience and what solutions do they expect for those problems. That was kind of funny. The bloggers, creative and passionate as they are came up with so many questions and solutions that the TOI team looked stumped. As usual everyone had their own version of solutions to the problems people face in Bangalore today. Some were good whereas some were like bollywood justice.
I had a message for TOI too. In the past few months, I have been regularly reading about the young girls being abused by their fathers in the once considered secure environment of their homes. Every time the report starts with the same sentence, “In a very shocking incidence, a father was found raping his ** year old minor daughter  ………….”. This is being reported on an everyday scale, and yet the report starts as same shocking indicence. Somehow Mr.Narayanan got confused about what I was trying to say and asked me whether I wanted them to write ‘ho hum.. another father rapes his daughter’. I don’t think I would be that silly, my point is to keep count of the incidences, create awareness, rather than just reporting it as a shocking incident.  Let the society know that this is happening so often that it is not shocking anymore.
In my opinion, with the frequency it is happening, TOI should not report it as a rare shocking incidence, but rather as “In the 28th incidence coming to light in 2013 a father was found abusing his minor daughter….” , so that the frequency of the incidences will be noticed by the concerned people. Our society too needs a shock treatment, because they still believe such things cannot happen in their midst.  A message for ‘Women and Child Development’ department can be added too.  
Another initiative TOI can take is to find more information about the report.
·         What led to child being abused by father?
·         Is this very common with step fathers?
·         What methods do these men use to silence these girls from reporting it to others?
·         What is the role of the mother?
·         Why is the child not confiding in mother?
·          Is the mother herself a mute spectator?
 Journalists can probe deeper into the cases and come up with some vital information which could really help in stopping this heinous menace shaming our society.  If there is a repeated pattern being followed, it could be brought to the notice of the public and awareness created in the victims. The meet ended abruptly with bloggers having so much more to say.
So now we are back to our comfort zones where we are going to blog about how we can make Bangalore a better place for women. I am going to write a post on the condition of girls with disability in Bangalore. I am not sure about the results, but I think this will be the first step in the miles and miles of journey which is required to bring about a change.
I am glad that the initiative has been taken by Indiblogger and TOI which itself needs a loud applause, whether it turns out to be a great success or not. 

Bangalore For Women 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Two Pony Tails and One Tale with a Happy Ending…

Those were the days filled with fun, studies and games. Time just flew past me from morning till evening, without internet or TV. Hmmm .....pick up that jaw which you have dropped down, because life without TV and Internet can be fun too, or at least it was in my childhood.
I loved school and books. My mom used to have our hair cut short and trimmed often, so that it would be easy for her to manage time in the morning more than as a fashion statement. Without the shampoos to turn our hairs silky, it was a great ordeal in the morning to comb and tie up our hair neatly. In addition, when left alone, the hair would turn coarse with lots of split ends because we did not have the ‘Dove Split End Rescue System’ back then. 

Once I was in first standard, I decided I was grown up enough to have plaits of my own. Somehow, I was cajoled, given a chocolate and taken to the barber for trimming my hair. Half way through the hair cut I decided I did not want short hair and started to wail at the top of my voice. The barber snipped his hands, mumbled at first and then loudly growled at my aunt. 
My aunt who had accompanied me as my sister refused, tried to console me, and said in a soft voice somehow she could manage, “Beti, people will make fun of you if you don’t cut your hair now. Have you seen anyone with half trimmed hair?”  I replied between sobs, “I do not want short hair. Stick back the hair you have cut from my head and make it look nice once again”. I started to wail louder now. Two people who were waiting to get their hair cut left, another started pulling out his hair vehemently. The barber looked around for some solution, and then started peering at the knife he kept on the table.

My aunt promised me 5 big chocolates if I went ahead and had my hair cut to which I succumbed once again. With mouth shut, but tears still dripping I was given a hair cut which looked quite weird. When questioned by my aunt, the barber gave her such a nasty look that she paid him and walked out quietly.
Back home, they decided that they will allow me to grow hair, horn or whatever I wanted on my head to avoid those loud screeching wails in public places. 
The drama I created in the barber shop had given me two thick pony tails by the end of the second standard and memories to be treasured forever due to an incident which happened later, which was directly connected to my ponytails. My hair was so thick that it could not be plaited when it was short. Two white ribbons adorned my head, and I loved them. 
When I stood first in my second standard final exams, my father presented me a wrist watch which was beautiful. After a few months of watching over the watch at home I decided to wear it to school. I wasn't very sure because I was still in third standard (Indian way of grading) and no one sported watches that early. Some students in 6th or 7th std wore them but not lower class students. Any way I went ahead and wore the watch as it was a gift for my achievement and it made me proud.
What I did not know back then was that wrist watches were worn on left hand, therefore I strapped it on my right hand and marched to school, as two pony tails bounced happily on my head. The response was good. All congratulated me and they said it was very pretty. No one could make out I was wearing it on the wrong hand. Most of my classmates asked me for time and I proudly told them what time it was. Life couldn't be better than this.

  At break, I finished my lunch quickly and then sat    at my favorite spot reading a comic which I had brought along with me.  After all the attention I got in the morning, I wanted to be alone and quite for some time. It was when I was totally immersed in the comic book pictures that this boy arrived haughtily on his bicycle and asked me what the time was. I hesitated a while, why should I answer him, but then replied “one seven”, at which point he burst out laughing. I felt embarrassed that may be I did not read the time properly and looked again at my watch. I knew I was right.

Then he said, “Silly girl, no one says one seven one eight etc. they say one, one five, one ten and so on. And you are wearing your watch on the wrong hand. Why don’t you learn to wear it properly and also to read the time before showing it off?”

He had provoked the terrible anger in me and now we both were in trouble for sure, because, whenever I was angry I landed in trouble and he had to be trouble because he was the source of it. I felt the heat burning my cheeks. I felt an urge to say something mean to him but couldn't find words to express my anger.
 At last I blurted “If you are that smart then make one of those many mothers you have to present you a watch and stop asking me the time”. 
I didn't knew what happened next because there was sudden change in his expression … It was as though I had taken a knife and put it through his heart. Before that, if someone told me people can physically change colors I would not have believed them but he changed few hues and then looked so dark all of sudden that I was scared.  I put up the bravest face I could manage and looked him straight avoiding only his eyes. 
He slowly came over to me, caught hold of my precious pony tail and pulled it so hard that I had shooting pain not only in my head but also in my neck. I thought I must have lost the pony tail for which I had fought  so hard two years ago.
Image Courtesy The Animator

I could not believe that someone could dare to pull my precious hair. My teachers did not punish me nor did my parents for silly things. No one ever had touched my hair since the barber incident; other than my mother who combed it every morning. And here, someone just walked up asking about  time, making fun of me and now was walking away after hurting me so bad. I wanted to pluck every single strand of hair from his scalp, but I did not dare to touch him because he had appeared very wild for a while. Even before this happened I was a bit afraid of him, as he came to our school occasionally from nowhere. Our Physical Trainer who was in charge of discipline during the lunch period was absent for that day and I did know whom to approach.

At last I went to the office room of the school and sat crying as I couldn't find anyone in there either. I involuntarily changed the watch and strapped on my left hand.  In a short while the mother superior of the convent, Mother Claudia walked in.Oh No! My heart skipped few beats. Everyone was afraid of her. She was the most stern of all the staff. Short, a bit stout with white hair peeking out from the head scarf, she sent a shiver down my spine and all of a sudden I wanted to forget everything and go back. 
Somehow there was no escape as she would ask me why I was in office room, moreover, I just couldn't let the matter end like that. So I became bold enough to talk to her, though it was the first time I was going to talk to her. She approached me and looked at me and asked me what the matter was that I was in the office room crying. Her voice was kind and soft which encouraged me to talk. In between sobs I narrated the incident, making a slight change that I had only asked him to buy a watch of his own when he suddenly attacked me.
She had me seated near her and sent for him. Meanwhile she told me that was a beautiful watch I was wearing. I told her it was a gift from my dad for standing first. At this point she smiled and said she was very happy with the way I had written my exams. I was surprised to know that she had seen my papers and moreover remembered them. She said my papers were so good that my teacher Mary had shown it to her and she was very amazed by the fact that there were no mistakes at all.
 Getting praised by mother superior had made me happy, thus, by the time he walked in my sobs had vanished. She asked him why he had pulled my hair. I was afraid that he would accuse me with something I had said and also what I had not said. But he did not say anything other than “sorry mother, I lost my temper. I will not do it again.” Mother scolded him for being rude and then said “I want you to apologize”. He turned to me and said “sorry”.
 Mother superior started to open the ledger in front of her thinking it was the end of the matter. I was aghast. I expected something more from her as she was known for harsh punishment to erring students. I had already become bold and so went on “mother he pulled my hair”. She looked up at me quizzically. I fumbled for words but said something which sounded like  “I want you to pull his hair too, because he has hurt me and if by saying sorry he can get away with it then he will do it again”. Mother was surprised and amused to hear me talk like that. She said calmly, “I can’t pull his hair. He has realized that he has made a mistake and he has sincerely apologized. You can now go back to your class”.
“No I won’t go back to my class until he is punished. Even before he pulled my hair I hated him, and now I want him punished”.

“Why? ” asked Mother Claudia, but even before the word was out of her mouth I had started off,“Because God has given him everything. It is not fair for someone to be perfect when others are not. He can play well, he is not afraid, and he is very beautiful. I hate his perfect face and feel like scratching it to make it look normal. I hate him. You all shower so much of love on him. He should be punished more………..” I just blurted everything out very fast and suddenly stopped fearing the outcome of this outburst and stood staring at the floor. To my astonishment I heard nothing. I looked up to find the mother smiling broadly at me and also the boy was smiling now. I got confused as to why it was so. Mother said slowly “if I pull your hair will you say something nice to me?” and she laughed openly now. The first time I had seen her laugh. She slowly pulled my hair and said “you sure have a way of praising people”. It was then that he walked to me bent his head and said “ OK. Here. Pull my hair as hard as you want”. I don’t know why I did not feel like pulling his hair. For one, he was a big boy and it appeared silly of me to pull his hair right then.  I said “ OK, I will accept the sorry. I will go back to my class now. Thank you mother”. I was feeling uncomfortable and uneasy and wanted to bolt out of there as soon as possible, though I did not know what had happened.
So that is how it began. From then on whenever mother superior was near me she would slightly tug my pony tail and give me a questioning look, which said "What do you have to say about me?" 
The boy later approached me when I was walking towards my class and said in a sincere voice,“I am so sorry I made fun of you. You are really very bold girl directly complaining to mother superior. But I want to thank you for what you said. I never thought someone could be jealous of me. I am an orphan and I live in Abhayadhama. There are people who pity me a lot but you are the first person who got jealous of me. It made me feel good”. 
I did not say anything much that day, because I was confused with so many different things happening within the short span of 23 minutes – yeah I had checked the time on my new watch. By realizing that he was from an orphanage connected to our school, took out my negative feelings for him and I could now really appreciate his good qualities.
 From then on we became good friends and would talk sometimes when we met. Even to this day I don’t see someone who has been a better friend to me than him. When his term was finished and he had to go away, he said that he would never wear a watch, because asking time could win him another good friend. When I surprisingly met him 15 years later when I was travelling, I knew he was serious about what he said back then. 
So that is how the tragic tale of my ponytails ended in a happy ending…

This post is a part of a contest organized by Dove on Indiblogger. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I promote Girl Child Infanticide..Yes! You got it right!

Blog about any social cause you are passionate about, and its potential solution as a part of blogging contest organized by iDiya. I read this on Indiblogger and said it is time to write about issues regarding women, given that, being a woman blogger it is expected from me. After pondering deeply over the women’s issues I want to write about, my head is spinning now as I recall reading about the rising crime against women in India.

Child rape has been on rise, the age drastically falling down to 3 or less. Child prostitution is on rise. Abuse and rapes of women on streets, even in the metros are becoming common. Another problem that is prevailing in India is the girl child infanticide, which survey tells is common even among educated people who know and can afford the procedure. Many of the NGO’s, government of India and doctors have joined their hands together to eradicate this social evil which is a shame for civilized society. I would have happily joined the force and promoted the cause, only if I had known how is this really going to benefit the girl child.
Are we really looking from a distance where we can see the whole picture clearly?
Normally this is how it goes-
A woman is pregnant with a child, whose sex the couple and their family do not know. In normal situation, in absence of any psychological abnormality in the people, the woman would gestate for 9 months and give birth to a baby who will be lovingly accepted and loved by everyone.  In case of some severe psychological abnormality present in the people, they would decide to have a male progeny and only male progeny because of various reasons which are all baseless, which again shows the immaturity of these people.
The dumb reasons -
1)      The male child will be the heir to their family – Unfortunately the stupidity of this whole drama of waaris, or name carrier  is that the boy cannot give birth to the child which is going to continue their lineage. He will have to marry a girl who has been brought into this world by people who are smarter than his own parents.
2)      The male child will remain with the parents and take care of them- Really? Other than the legendary Shravana Kumara or some other mythological being I have read about,  I have yet to see a male child who is dedicated to taking care of the parents, in more sincere manner than a girl child would. Bite me if I am wrong. These dumb people who are thinking in terms of being taken care of by their male child are actually again dependent on the girl child whom he is going to marry. The daughter in law is often given the responsibility of taking care of them, which is if they are lucky. So often we hear news about how the son assaulted the parents who refused to give money for drinks, how they are kicked out of their homes for their properties, insulted and killed all for some trivial reasons. Give me the ratio of such crimes committed by daughters if the other digit is not zero.

3)      Girl child should be married off and given hefty dowry for doing so- Is this really important? Are women all over the world paying men hefty money to marry them, be enslaved by them and treat them like dirt? Is this not the result of those dumb people who were allowed to give birth to girl child who bring her up by stripping her off her confidence, trust, respect, love and education? Give the daughter the same love, respect, care, education and encouragement you give to your sons and no one will dare ask dowry from this empowered woman. The people who are paying dowry are falling into the pit they have dug for themselves.

4)      Some Indians believe that a father who does not have a son will go to hell called PU. Putra means one who saves the father from the hell Pu. OK, so the ticket to heaven is based on one of the copulations with wife and determination of the sex of progeny? I would think twice before coming to that conclusion.
5)      When a girl child is born we spend our lives being worried for their safety- Is this not the result of your own failure to teach the sons to respect the women? It we bring up the men teaching those values, they will not look at everything with a skirt, sari, or dress as a sex object. We teach them from birth that women are meant to serve them and that is how they have learnt to rape and treat women bad.

The government will introduce stricter laws; people will not be allowed to follow gendercides. What happens to the girls that are forced to be born to these dumb, prejudiced and cruel people who wanted to kill her before she even opened her eyes? Some may kill her after she is born in a way where they will not be held responsible. Some common practices of infanticide are strangulation, poisoning, abandonment, dumping the baby along with garbage,  drowning, live burials, starving the new born baby,  stuffing her mouth with salt, or leaving her outdoors either in cold biting nights, or in burning sun until she dies of exposure. If she somehow overcomes this hurdle and survives, she will be looked down upon as an unwanted burden, not educated, respected, nor encouraged to be empowered in the society. She grows being subordinate to her brother and father, at times being abused by them, later to be sold like some cattle to people who will marry her to their son expecting her to bear sons to continue their progeny.

Then if she bears a girl child, she will be forced to abort her baby. In case she refuses, she will be subjected to torture, humiliation and even death threats. The law and police will be again showing sympathy with her family because their minds are lying low and stinking in the gutters as they are coming from the same patriarchal society. The mother is accused for bearing girl child. The circle continues forever.
What right do we have to force these people who are not fit to be humans, leave alone parents, to have girl child? Is it right to subject the girl child to continuous humiliation and torture in name of stopping gendercide? We don’t have right to take away a life, but do we have right to subject a young baby to torture, humiliation and abuse for a life time? Only people who can care and love a daughter deserve to have her, not just every dumb and stupid person who does not know her value. I prefer encouraging those people who prefer the male child to go ahead and have them. I suggest that we stop preventing them from determining the sex of the child. It is going to create imbalance, which is already seen in states like Punjab and Haryana. One day when they cannot find the girl to marry their sons they will realize the value of the girl child. The society will learn to respect the girls and value them when they realize that those male progenies cannot carry forward their family names without a girl.

If daughters are born only in families which will love and respect them, then their future will be bright. They will be protected, educated and loved, thus giving them confidence to live their lives respectfully in the society. These people will never marry their daughters into families who demand dowry and ill treat their women. These girls, who have grown up with confidence, will look forward to having a child, not just a son, because they will know that gender does not make any difference. Along with those fetuses will die the patriarch society which uses women like doormats.
I am mother and I love my son and my daughter equally. The best compliment I give my son is “Beta you are so understanding and caring that you are like a daughter to me”. The clever young man acknowledges this compliment without questioning me because he knows the worth of being a woman in someone’s life, especially a mother’s life. 

This blog post is a part of iDiya which is ISB's National Social Venture Competition that aims to stimulate, enable and develop high-impact, self-sustaining social businesses in India, who are partnering with Indichange where bloggers are allowed to blog about any social cause they are passionate about, and its potential solution. If there are any inspiring people or organizations working towards solving it, blog about them as well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Uff yeh Uppama Bloggers Meet

A tiny group of Bangalore Indibloggers got together over a bowl of Uppama and Ice creams, when rest of the bloggers were bored with their routine life. The most important part of this bloggers meet was not the dvd’s T-shirts or pen drives, but an excellent Uppama prepared by the smart bachelor with potatoes(?) and other veggies.  The taste of the Uppama was so good that in the end everyone unanimously voted to call the meet as Bangalore Bloggers Uppama Meet, and I am very sure every blogger present there feels honored to be a part of this unique group.
The bloggers met at Suresh. C's (yeah yeah the guy with few hairs who makes fun of you) apartment which is one of the most spacious one you will find in BTM 1st stage. Honestly he could entertain a group of 25-50 people comfortably at his place.  I was held up with Farheena and her rehearsals so could not be there earlier, but reached on time to save one single blogger who was left out of the group of fictional writers and future millionaires of the blogging world.
During the surf excel meet, I had heard beautiful voice from behind which described the functioning of vibrating molecules with such details that it had left with everyone else with a feeling of being hit by a thunder, including the one who asked the question. I met the source of that voice at this meet, who was sweet Radha. Unfortunately I can never look at her without thinking about the vibrating molecules.
It as a world of books, serenity and bloggers chit chat... Wonderful way to spend an evening for a blogger, when I say this I don’t have any intention of making those who missed this opportunity to be jealous. Book lovers, if there is a place on earth you should invade then it is here and here in Suresh’s home. This is wrong timing for me to chance upon those books; as I barely have time to scratch my head which itches due to dandruff, leave alone steal books and read them. For time being, I am not invading Suresh’s home for those books or Uppama.
It was bliss for fiction writers, as this meet included some wonderful discussions, tips and topics regarding fiction writing. Though discussed in hushed tones, I have a blueprint of the next fiction best seller that is going to hit the market.
I got an Uff Yeh Emotions book for free from one of authors. Guess who. It is a collection of 11 award winning love stories.  I have read one of them so far, ‘A Path of Thorns which is written by Suresh C. The narration is excellent, especially the details about people and their thoughts. The people in the story are not some extraordinary people, though the heroine has some positive qualities you can appreciate. What I loved about the story is the way the hero accepts his follies and behaves like a man with desires rather than being a saint, which is so common in our Indian fictions. This is a piece of entirely professional work, from a great writer in the making. It is written in impeccable language, great visualization and good topic for story. Looking forward to more stories from the author. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pratibha - Celebrating Ability

Pratibha – 2013 by FAME India
The much awaited cultural program Pratibha, the Special Talents Day was organized by FAME India at the JSS auditorium on 2nd March 2013. Like Shefali mentioned, it was a Habba, a festival and a celebration. The colorful event which showcased the efforts of the staff and students in preparation of the props and accessories required for the event left everyone present spell bound. More than anything, the show which flowed smoothly like a knife through the butter with perfect performance by the differently abled children was more than praise worthy. I have attended quite a few school cultural events in my life time because I am involved in preparing children for the programs, but honestly I have never been impressed so much with any event ever in my life.

The Guest of Honor was Mr.Manikandan Kumar, the gold medal winner in para climbing event at the World Sport Climbing Championships in Paris. The young lad, whose right leg is affected by Polio had bolted up the 15 meter wall ahead of 21 professional climbers from across the world to snatch the gold. Not many know about the tough climb of this young man through the wall of poverty which could be tougher than any competition he faces in sports. A humble person of few words he impressed the audience with his simplicity.

The school gives away the Pratibha awards to people who contribute to the society. The award of 2013 was given to Ms.Yvonne Lomax ofBelgaum who runs a Home for the Homeless. Click here to know more about her amazing contribution to the society, as it would be injustice if I write about her in a sentence.

Mr. Nadathur Sarangapani Raghavan an Indian industrialist, one of the seven founders of Infosys Technologies and the founder of the School, Mr S Vaitheeswaran, MD and CEO of Manipal Global Education services, Mrs Janaki Vishwanath the glue that has held the institution together for years were present on the stage.

The introduction was given by a student, who delivered quite a big narration. WOW! That is what I could say. Regarding the crowd, this was a different situation from the one we are used to in Byndoor where Farheena studied previously. I remember how we had to plead with the parents and relatives to come to the cultural program of her school to encourage children, and finally resort to rope in school children as audience. The huge auditorium here was jam packed with excited parents who had almost forgotten even to breathe, as they looked ahead to see their children on the stage. I could see the surprise on Rayyan’s face, when he looked around, for it was clear even he did not expect such crowd.

The Principal of the school Mrs. Kalaivani Raipet deserves accolades for handling the event in such an effective manner that everything went smoothly like a well oiled engine. The challenge for the staff to train their students with Cerebral Palsy, Down ’s syndrome, Intellectual disability, learning disability, autism, and mobility related challenges is not an easy task. I have been hearing about the training and rehearsals from Farheena from past 2 months so I know how it went…

Chauffeuring Farheena to school every day in absence of her regular transport, I have seen the students of FAME India from close quarters.  The attraction of the children is their untouched innocence. Their communication is free of all the style, pretence and artificial flair, so is their thoughts like the special angels. Most of them are very polite and courteous. The wonderful angels like Swati, Pooja, Nikhil, and others have won my heart. I wish I did not have to work so that I could spend more time with these amazing angels from whom we can learn so many lessons of our lives.

The colorful event was not an exhibition of talent by the children, but a festivity to be enjoyed by one and all to repeat the words of MCP Shefali. The program started and ended exactly as scheduled. The annual report showed the diversity and integrity of the program followed by the school, where they prepare their wards to function as much as possible in their surroundings. Like the principal mentioned it was a moment of joy for me when Farheena prepared cucumber salad for my sister’s family, handling knife deftly, for the lunch we had arranged for them. She has gained the confidence by helping out the school kitchen along with her friends. 

The theme was about the journey of India, through her glorious days where she was ruled by wealthy kings, the arrival of British and other Europeans as traders, how they took advantage of the internal conflicts among the Indian rulers and established colonial rule in the land. The scene then shifted to the freedom movement and later on to India after Freedom. The message about acceptance, respect and love for the girl child was also included in the theme without taking it out of rhythm.

Every student was given a part and a chance to be there on the stage. They were shrewdly fitted into the parts which they could manage. A boy who walks with support was smartly given the part of Gandhi so that two of his assistants could make him walk around without it looking out of place. The children who could not follow orders were made to sit in the Durbar or stand as the part of the group. It was not just hard work on part of the organizers, but extremely smart handling of the students.

During one of the performance, a girl tried to get off the stage to join her mother in audience, sending panic through everyone. The incident is an eye opener that the staff does take risk even with their students who exhibit behavioral problems instead of pushing them to the back stage. Putting the interest of students ahead of success is something I appreciate very much.

The whole program was a play of colors, innocence of the students and efforts of the staff. Some of the moments that touched my heart were when Kittur Rani Chenamma pulled out her sword with such a vehemence which was enough to scare the British out of India if there were here, when Miss World Aishwarya broke into dance steps as the music started, the cutest Abdul Kalaam peering through his flowing tresses, and the smartest Dr.Ambedkar preparing the constitution of India. The dance and performance of the students was astounding to say the least. They stomped their feet and flayed their arms as though their life depended on it.

Who would have thought of involving special children in a puppet show that brought out the terrible happening at Jalianwala bagh where thousands were mercilessly massacred by the colonial rulers? Hats off to Mrs. Revati who prepared the students for the show.  She also created the puppets, the show appliances and everything required from scratch with the help of students, staff and volunteers.

The program ended with the students holding a giant flag of India and shouting Jai Hind at the top of their voices. A great successful event which left every one thrilled. It almost moved me to tears to see the tremendous performance by children who have been challenged by their lives.

I saw some of the parents walking away with their child as soon as their performance was over. I wish everyone would stay back and enjoy the whole event, as there is so much of effort put by the children to bring out such performance. Every child up there on the stage is a part of the whole unit of which includes our own special child. For me, every scene was special and my hands are still aching due to the loud clapping I did involuntarily.

Now let me write regarding Farheena’s first experience at the Pratibha. I had seen the excitement in Farheena regarding her tiny part as a British trader who looks at the wealth of India and then decides to loot India. She told me that she carries a gun and shoots it in the air. One day she came home and told me that she does not shoot the gun anymore. I did not take her seriously, but encouraged her to do whatever she can as much as possible and have fun. So, she was excited again to try out her outfit in the rehearsals and walk around the stage looking at the wealth, spices and other goods spread there as a staff member helped her.

Where I messed up is that I did not expect her to get jitters on the final day neither did I realize that she wanted to hold the gun. This is my first experience with Farheena going on the stage in front of huge crowd, therefore I failed to inform the school that she could be nervous.  Unfortunately, the big day turned out to be a nightmare for her when she was scared without her support person who she expected to accompany her on the stage. The bright lights, the crowd, the noise and being alone confused and scared her a lot; again this was her first experience in front of such a big crowd. I could see her being very nervous when she took her steps, and then went back. I can just imagine the cajoling that would have been needed by the school to send her on the stage. If this is the case of one student, I cannot imagine what effort had gone to extract such huge performances from rest of their wards.
Rayyan and I were both disappointed that we did not get a glimpse of her pretty face as the scared girl turned away from the crowd. The most beautiful event of the whole evening awaited me when I went to collect Farheena from the back stage. When everyone was busy handling the event, which does demand a lot of attention, her fellow student Pooja sensing Farheena’s fear was trying to pacify her saying everything is going to be alright. Don’t worry. That was so awesome gesture from a special needs child. The love and concern she showed for Farheena is what a school should teach their children.

As Farheena shared the seat with us she pointed the banner Rayyan had created for the school and said that he is more important there …did I sense I hint of anger or jealousy? I am not sure. Anyway it was the stupid Maa who had told her proudly that the banner up there is created by Rayyan. I know this is not to be said the next time. After sitting there with a droopy face she asked Rayyan whether he had got her picture to share with her friends on facebook, especially her American friends who were waiting for pictures. When Rayyan showed her the pictures he had clicked she was more upset that her face was hidden. She pointed at a girl in front of us and said she hated her because she carried the gun instead of her.
Farheena in the light blue dress making her appearance
It took some time for us to pacify her. I took her out on dinner at her favorite place so that I could cheer her up. Monday she did not want to go to school and said she is not feeling well. I allowed her a day off but cajoled her to attend school the next day. The advantage of being a special child is that nothing lasts for long in their mind. She came back home super excited telling me that they served noodles for lunch in her school, her friend was angry with her for being absent because she felt bored without her and one of her classmate took down her phone number and promised to call her. That made up for everything. The school is a beautiful place again for Farheena….

I have seen the affection, passion and effort with which the staff works with their students, which once again made me realize that I had made the right choice for Farheena. There is such a beautiful bond between the staff, volunteers and the students which is not seen very often. Mrs. Kalaivani, Mrs. Janaki and Mrs. Geetha Murthy were standing a short distance from us, and I could clearly see the excitement, joy and sheer pleasure which they expressed as the students performed on stage. I could not be happier for Farheena and Rayyan as a mother than they were for their students. That should sum it up all.  I wish the school more success and good luck in all their coming ventures.

FAME India is setting an example for special education in India with the support of many people who contribute to the organization in whatever way they can. You can help too. Click here to know more about how YOU can help them. 

Pictures can be viewed on the website of the school here

Tasty Chicken Cones

No that was not a typo. It is actually a Chicken cone, not the regular ice-cream cone. The recipe was introduced to me by my former student Aysha Yusra, who is known to come up with bright cooking ideas which are not just tasty, but also aesthetically very pleasing. So when Blogadda asked to share recipes, I took her help in coming up with one of the tasty looking recipe, that is prepared with Fortune rice bran oil, so that you don’t compromise with your health either.
Method of Preparation for Cone
Maida - 500 gms
Salt to taste
Butter – I tb
Water to mix dough

Warm the water and mix the flour to form dough which is neither too soft nor hard. You should be able to roll it into a chapatti easily. Knead it well and keep it aside for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into equal portions and roll out chapattis from them. Cut the chapattis into inch long strips. Wrap them lightly across the cone moulds. Fry them one by one heated Fortune Rice Barn Oil one by one, until they turn golden brown in color. Do not overcook them, because then they become too crispy and lose the taste. Remove the moulds when you are frying the cones.

Onions – 4 Medium sizes diced
Boneless chicken – 400 gms cut into small pieces
Tomatoes – 2 medium sizes diced
Salt to taste
Green peas – ½ cup
Caspicum – I big diced
Grated cheese – 1 cup
Coriander leaves – ½ cup
Mint Leaves – ¼ cup
Red Chilies – 1 tsp
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tsp
Fry the onions in fortune rice bran oil, until they turn golden brown. Add tomatoes, capsicum and fry few minutes, before adding chicken, ginger garlic paste, salt, red chilies, turmeric, mint leaves and half of the coriander leaves to the mix and cook it stirring once in a while. Add boiled green peas to the chicken masala, once the chicken is tender and water evaporated.

Final Preparation
Fill the cone with the chicken masala. Top it up with grated cheese and coriander leaves. Bake it at 200°F in a preheated oven for 5 minutes. Serve hot with Chutney or sauce. 

This post is a part of Healthy & Tasty Recipe Contest with Fortune Rice Bran Health Oil &

Fortune Rice Bran Health Oil Contest

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Lost Art of Kindness

The Lost Art of Kindness

Seeking the glory, wanting to shine
Everyone madly runs after success divine
On the path a little heart is broken
A tiny tear shed, a word not spoken
A little plea for help, an outstretched arm
Is not to be cared for as it holds no charm
Achieving success and treading path of fame
Ignoring humanity is no more a shame

By Farida Rizwan

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Couple With a Mission...

I have always felt Farheena is safest when she is with me… with just one exception in my whole life. There has been just one person, a man who is from foreign land who made me feel that she would be much safer with him than she is with me. I am not exaggerating here, because during our visit to USA, Farheena had bonded well with lot many people who have left an inedible impact on her heart. Picking out a single person is not going to be fair, but if I got a feeling that is it. I cannot help spontaneous feeling which creeps in without my knowledge.
The wonderful and most humble person I am talking about is Mr. Rick White, a man with such a big heart that I wonder how God fitted it into his chest. When my friends, Rayyan and me went on rides and had fun in Disney World, he stayed back with Farheena and took care of her. I hesitate at least for a moment when I have to leave Farheena with someone, wondering whether she is going to be safe, can they manage her, will they get distracted by something and lose her and all those kind of crazy thoughts. It was shock for me when nothing like that crept in my mind when I had to leave her behind with Rick. He almost made me feel she is going to be safer with him, with us crazy people gone for good ;).
I wish I could have spent some more time and got to know Rick in a much better way than we managed, but then there is no need to know more than what you feel for him in a short while because it tells a lot. My friend and Sister in cancer survival Deb Rizor White, his wife is an amazing woman who can listen and understand even the weirdest kind of experience you would share with her. What strikes me most about this amazing friend I have is her subtle and unique sense of humor.. which does not make you laugh out loud, but leaves you smiling for a long long time. Together, they reach out and make a difference to their community, by connecting with people who need guidance to manage their lives in the big bad world. 
I am so proud to know these people, who in a simple way can make huge difference to the life of the people they touch. Hope to see a project like this in India some day. Another dream to be fulfilled.

 About Rick White, Deb White and thier dream child 'Community Connections'

This is the story of a man who decided to turn his life's work into something with real meaning.. Not just to him, but to a great many others. It's never too late to follow dream. And with determination and hopefulness, "Community Connections" is that place, where more than 75 individuals are finding their dreams becoming reality every day.
Community Connections is an Adult Day Habilitation Program in northeast Ohio. It began with a simple, yet extraordinary need- to provide individuals with developmental disabilities a place to learn, work and live to their fullest potential.
Community Connections was designed around the wants and needs of the individuals served. As a Christian-based facility, we knew the importance of words of encouragement. Where better to start than God's own words: Hope, Faith, Love, Inspire, Dream, Grow and Believe? As we created the workshop from their list of wants and needs, it was important that wherever you looked you would find words to inspire. That was the creation of the wall of inspiration. (Paintings in the dining area). These words are for all of us to read and live by. Above the words is the phrase "I Can". I can do anything and everything to the best of my abilities. This allowed us to remove the labels that hold us all back.
Some individuals have learned to read, write, sew, knit, cook, act, and study the sciences-such as weather and physiology. They love gardening, using a computer, and making crafts to sell in the gift shop. More importantly, as the individuals realize their own potential, they strive to do more new things. Some want jobs in the community earning a paycheck. We also provide life-skills training. These areas include cooking, laundry, washing dishes, sweeping the floor, job research and interviewing skills. One of our individuals drives a van to pick up contract work supplies! As we look for job opportunities in the community, those jobs are centered around the preferences and abilities of the individuals.
There is no better feeling than to see the individuals accomplish something new or to see their faces with their first big paycheck. For the last seven years I have been given the opportunity to make dreams come true, and to live my own dream. I hope in some small way I have changed the lives of the individuals I am so honored to serve as much as they have changed mine. As we continue to grow, we will always remember how we started with Faith, Hope and Love.

Farheena having fun with Sandy and Rick who has oreos ready to feed her. 

Rick Trying hard to fix MP3 player for Farheena so that she could listen to her favorite songs. Right is Deb, being there for Farheena. 


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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