Manipur: a go-to before it is appropriated by big brands and droves of quasi-travellers

A loaded title. Let me load it a little more.

Sometimes it is important to say hello to a place with its original, un-enhanced, un-standardized being – just like meeting someone who has left the sleepy state but has not put on the mask to meet the social world. That is the state where you are likely to find the place’s own self and not the front which is designed by the wishes and whims of pseudo-travelers, visitors who demand home-conditions and refuse to mingle with the place they are in, and the marketers who generally ruin the place as it is.

What I mean is, one needs to recognize the kind of traveler one is. Does one like to meet a place at face value? Accept it as it is? And find its uniqueness while accepting that not every city, every town, every place wears its signature on its sleeve?

Places are also quite like people. You have to take a step towards them, work a bit, stretch your arm so that you begin to sense who they are. While in place A, thinking of place B, to me, is like being an infidel. Also, while being in place A, asking for food, living arrangements and such to be like place B (most of the times like one’s home/hometown etc) is like refusing to even want to recognize the place one is in.

Of course, one is constantly juggling choices of places, constraints of time, and what seems to be appealing in the midst of suggestions by people and sites. So, there is always that feeling that one cannot really explore a place fully – but there is that joy of catching a glimpse of whatever one can, in the brief window, that is open.

I am going to write more about my encounter with Manipur over 8 days. But the brief plan is like this:

  1. Arrive in Manipur in the morning. Depending on the time you have, do the city sight-seeing. Whatever you may do, keep a couple of hours for the Kangla Fort Gardens. if you have time, visit the nearby museum where the artifacts from all over Manipur are housed. Attend one Aarati at the Govindaji temple. More about this, soon.

    Sunset at Kangla Fort Gardens

    Sunset at Kangla Fort Gardens

  2.  Get used to the clock. This is the unsung land of rising sun. 4 AM is the time of Arunodaya – the time of daybreak when the pitch dark begins to turn gray and pink and then orange within half an hour when the sun rises. Similarly, by 5 PM it is dark.
  3. Next day, leave for Loktak lake. Stop on the way to take numerous places, greet unknown people, and see some more sights. More, soon, on this as well.
  4. If you can, stay at Sendra Tourist Lodge. It is located at a height and has the best view of the place. Explore the lodge and its campus. Descend its winding steps to meet the lake. Reflect.  As soon as lunchtime is over, head towards the boathouse. Get reminded of the novel by Daphney DuMorrier and the pivotal role played by the boathouse. But this boathouse is nothing like the one Manderly had.
    From the Sendra Lodge

    From the Sendra Lodge

    Ask the in-charge to get a local boatman to take you for a two-hour ride in the slim, narrow, signature boats of Manipur. Spend the first hour moving away towards a homestay hotel located in the middle (so to say) of the lake, climb up its viewing tower. Listen to the peace. Drink the beauty. Get heady and head towards the boathouse as the darkness begins to envelop you. wonder if any other place allowed you night-boating. Feel the weight of the blanket of complete darkness in which the sound of water lapping against your boat and the rhythmic rowing is the only indication that you are in the water.  More on this soon.

    Loktak and KLN Park

    Loktak and KLN Park

  5. Next day, start for the Keibul Lanjao National Park. Get a guide. Climb the hill to watch the Sangai deer graze lazily. Be draped in amazement that you are standing on a floating island – yes, you read that right – it is a *floating* island made of biomass. Go for a boat ride with the guide. Get down mid-way and try to step on the ‘land’. More on this, soon.

    Loktak Lake

    Loktak Lake

  6. Ask the Sendra staff to pack an early breakfast for you and head to Moreh. You need not pass through Imphal. There is a road from Keibul Lamjao to Moreh. Stop at Gaby’s for an overnight stay at their cottages. Both Sendra and Gaby’s are expensive, but there is no regret. The food at Gaby’s was not very good, but coffee is to be enjoyed, relatively speaking. Also, enjoy the cottage and the view it offers.

    Loktak to Gaby's

    Keibul Lamjao National Park to Gaby’s near Moreh

  7. Have early breakfast and leave for Myanmar border. Do carry Aadhar card. Pass through checking and queries, and arrive in Burma – Myanmar. Hire a local vehical, be stirred by curiosity, wonder, and a strange sense of meeting a neighbor who is an erstwhile family. Eat at Waterworld. More on this, soon.

    A day in the life at Myanmar

    A day in the life at Myanmar

  8. Come back home to India and leave for Ukhrul. Stay at Chiko’s, at their hotel named 25 [degrees] by the North. Their food is expensive. Be open to explore the local rice-hotels which serve a bowl of rice, a dal, and a vegetable – also with nonvegetarian options. Enjoy conversation with Shangcham Shangjam and retire early. Leave early next day after early breakfast for Shiroi hill trek.
    Looking back at Shiroi Camp Site

    Looking back at Shiroi Camp Site

    It is a medium level trek, may take 4 to 5 hours. Climb down and head to Nungbi town. Visit Machihan Sasa’s house of black pottery. Get fascinated by their story of rising to fame and distinction in the middle of continued resource crunch. See some eye-catching shapes of black pottery, and return – totally exhausted.

  9. Next day, again get up early as if you had spent the previous day just window-shopping. Today, head to Khangkhui village which is the home to Khangkhui caves. Hire a 4×4 vehicle and meet Kasar, an enthusiastic youth who will guide you while weaving the facts and perspective of this village, these caves.
  10. Inside the first (and the easiest) cave at Khangkhui

    Inside the first (and the easiest) cave at Khangkhui

    When we asked if there could be some lunch somewhere, he took us to his house where his wife and sister made rice grown in his field, boiled cabbage, and a curry made of squash and split beans which resembled Moong. It was delicious, and there were several nonvegetarian choices also. More on this, soon.

  11. Leave for Imphal. Book a homestay through Airbnb – we did ours at Singjamei. Stroll nearly and eat at Laneima Food. Their red Thai curry with bamboo shoots was particularly interesting. Rest and get ready for the last day with Manipur.
  12. Next day, visit Ratan Thiyam’s Chorus Repertory Theatre. It is a place to visit and realize once again how much about Manipur is known to the rest of the world, without you knowing it. While at Kangla Fort, at numerous war memorials, museum, khangkhui, …   you learn that ‘North East’ is not just one lump.

This is Manipur, with its own diversity and distinction across its regions. Your local guide could tell you that he knows and speaks six different languages (and he says that in English, and doesn’t count English in his list). Likewise, Ratan Thiyam is a world-renowned stage director but in all likelihood, you may have never heard of him, let alone see some of the plays directed by him.

Later, have lunch at Shri Govindaji temple. You may have to register for it in the morning. Another option is to eat at Laxmi kitchen, which enigmatically closes at 2 PM. Period. Then spend the rest of the day looking for Moonga silk, and other Manipuri textile or whatever you may fancy, or do whatever else you like from the suggestions floating on the internet. Rest well, and return home.

Manipur dots

Manipur dots

More, soon.

 

 

Striking the Adultery section from IPC: A British era provision?

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When we say that when the Supreme Court of India on September 27 scrapped the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 497, ending a British-era crime, we forget the Indian legacy of law. Adultery was a crime even in the post-Vedic era, as evident from a book ‘Shukraniti’ which provides a detailed guideline on effective governance. We do not read our texts – and if we do, we seem to think that the codes such as Manu or Yajnavalkya are for non-criminal offences and property rights. That is not correct.

The scrapping of this section is more of a recognition of the fact that only the man is not the culprit, and the woman is not always someone to be mindlessly lured by another man. For example, here is a lawyer’s opinion:  The legislation was only holding men responsible. Its criminality was based on the view of women as property – if you (the man having an affair with someone’s wife) trespass my property (my wife), you can be held criminally liable,” (source: https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/chennai-womans-suicide-shows-sc-verdict-adultery-has-been-misunderstood-89259 )

Shukraniti also seems to share this view. It is a text supposedly written anytime between 4th century BC to 11th century AD, adultery appears as a punishable crime – along with tens of others – where the reference to the gender of the nouns (Grammatically, masculine or पुल्लिंग).

Shukraniti also advocates a reformist purpose of punishment in a way that helps the criminal can re-join the society and be a more constructive member (note the last part of the translation).

For those who might be curious about the list, I am sharing my translation (forthcoming) below:

Punishable offenders (4-1-98:4-1-112)

… These are: a drunkard, gambler, thief, adulterer, cruel, violent, one who has stopped following the class arrangements, faithless, false accuser, slanderers, one who defiles gentlemen and deities, liar, interrupting someone else’s livelihood, intolerant of other people’s ascent, involved in taking bribe, doer of wrong deeds, revealing confidential tasks, speaking evil, speaking harsh words, one interrupting water and resting places, fake astrologers, traitor, giver of wrong counsel, one who knows about a plot to deceive someone, quacks, inauspicious and unclean by character, encroacher of roads, false witness, arsonist, mixing poison with food and water, one given to prostitutes, punishing others out of proportion, member of assembly who is partial (not neutral), one who takes statements from others by coercion, perpetrating injustice, quarreling, deserter from war, tampering with or destroying testimony or evidence, committing treachery with father, mother, a loyal wife or friend, a jealous person, one serving enemy, hurting someone deeply, a deceiver, a hater of own people, one indulging in covert activities, a contemptible person, one seeking selfish pursuit or knowledge while neglecting duty towards family, an able-bodied person living on alms and begging, seller of daughter, damaging a family’s livelihood, failing to notify any wrong-doing, the one who ignores impending danger to the king, a woman of bad character, a woman who has killed her husband or son, a wanton woman censured by elderly women, the woman who always refuses to do household work, and a daughter-in-law who is given to wicked activities.

The king should educate and train such people who are given to wicked ways or are corrupted by bad company. He should bring them back to good ways by punishment.

Life at the edge of losing it

Sometimes one seeks the thick, the green, the shadowy, the plentiful jungle from a parched, denuded life of the city. Lot of wishing and thinking, planning and waiting finally leads to the thick of the jungle.

But the jungle is not very different from the human heart. It doesn’t reveal itself – not so easily, at least – shrouded in the dark.

It’s not just the jungle that remains wrapped in the dark

Meeting the dark in the evening gives hope that one might find life in the day.

But the day reveals the contrary. One wonders what happened to the lush, rich, bountiful thick and green. Or any color for that matter. Save some tiny dots strewn on the ground, all is perishing as the brown slowly swallows it all.

 It would all be brown soon (c)margieparikh

Was the starkness outside, that was being spotted? … Or was it …?

 

The answer was not that easy. For one, there indeed was the dry, brown world all around. Every inch of it was an open flashback to the endless, relentless heat that dried out the last drop of life.

Or could it?

 

One only had to lift the gaze from the ground and look around.

 

 

It was a middle-of-nowhere place.

Everyone goes there at some point 

Not to worry, this is not just the issue of territory under GPS. One only has to look inside. There are countless, nameless phenomena, relations, and areas of being that can give a good competition to the zones like this.

What does one do when the life leaves wit the leaves?

For now, back to the nameless area and leafless life – all around, as far as the eyes can go. Tree after tree, zone after zone.

The thorns have an ethos of their own

But wait. Hope lives. Even when the life seems sucked out of it, even when thorny skin is all it has in the name of cladding which rips the skin at slightest of the contact, the dry branch reaches out for another.

A moment of rest, if not shade to the passers-by

They stand out for the others who pass by, may be just for a moment.

Amid all the dryness, I see the eternal wisdom.

When robbed of glory and ripped of grace, look for others, think for what can be done for them. That seals the distance from one day to another. That is how the severest of heat is seen through and nothing ever lasts, even the heat.

The glory and grace come back.

 

 

 

 

અમે ચાલ્યાં આહવા!

અમારી વાણી અને તસવીરોને મૂક બનાવતાં …*

લખાણ: માર્ગી પરીખ                                                                                                                                તસવીર: સહજ પરીખ, ગૌરાંગ પટેલ                                                                   

Geera falls

મથાળું વાંચીને ક્યાંક એમ રખે સમજી બેસતા કે એમેઝોન કે નાઈલનાં જંગલોમાં, બાકીના વિશ્વથી સાવ અણપ્રીચ્છ્યા જંગલ પ્રદેશની આ ઝલક છે. અહીં જવા માટે સડક છે, અહીંના લોકો ગુજરાતી ભાષા સમજે છે, એમની પાસે આધાર અને બીપીએલ કાર્ડ, અને જન-ધન ખાતાં પણ છે! છતાં, આ એક એવો પ્રદેશ છે, જે આહવા ગામથી જરાક જ દૂર અને ઘણા સહેલાણીઓથી અણજાણ્યો હોય એવું સ્પષ્ટ છે: ચોમાસાની ઋતુ જાઉં-જાઉં કરતી હોય પણ ઉઠી ન હોય એવામાં એક રવિવારે, જ્યારે સુરતબાજુના સહેલાણીઓ ભરપૂર માત્રામાં દેખાઈ રહ્યા હોય, ત્યારે અહીં ફક્ત રહેવાસીઓનાં મોટર-સાયકલ નજરે પડે છે.

હજી આગળ વાંચતા હો, તો એ પણ કહી દઉં કે અહીં જે તસવીરો મૂકી છે એ આ જગ્યાઓને પૂરેપૂરો ન્યાય કરી જ શકતી નથી. સવારના ત્રાંસા તડકામાં એક તાજા, વિશિષ્ટ એવા લીલા રંગમાં શોભતી વનદેવી, માટીનો રંગ ભળીને રજસ્વલા બનેલી નદીઓ, ક્યાંક-ક્યાંક બગલાઓના ઉડવાથી સફેદ ટીકીઓથી મઢાઈ જતું આકાશ… કેમેરાની શી મજાલ કે એ બધાંને અસલી રંગતમાં કેદ કરે? ને જંગલનાં જીવડાંનો, ધોળે દિવસે પણ સતત ચાલુ એવો, તાનપુરાની સંગત જેવો અવાજ, નહીં ઠંડી-નહીં ગરમ એવી ભીની હવા, ખળખળ વહેતા પાણીનો પુન:ચેતના લાવી દેતો સ્પર્શ… એ તો જાતે અનુભવ્યું હોય તો જ બને! તે છતાં, મારી આ ટૂંકી મુલાકાતની ઝલક રજૂ કર્યા વિના રહેવાતું નથી.

ભૌગોલિક દૃષ્ટિએ ડાંગ બે હિસ્સામાં વહેંચવામાં આવે છે: ઉપલું ડાંગ અને નીચલું ડાંગ. ઊપરનો હિસ્સો પહાડી છે – મહત્તમ ઉંચાઈ લગભગ ૧,૨૯૦ મીટર. ત્યાં થતો ભારે વરસાદ ગિરા, પૂર્ણા, ખાપરી, અને અંબિકા એમ ચાર-ચાર નદીઓના પ્રવાહથકી નીચે આવે છે. નીચલા ડાંગમાં મહત્તમ ઉંચાઈ ૫૯૦ મીટર છે.  ડાંગનાં ઘટાટોપ વૃક્ષો સૂરજના તડકાને પણ રોકી રાખે એવાં ઘેઘૂર છે. સાગ, ખેર, ટીમરુ, ઉમરો, ખાખરો, વડ, આમલી, પીપળો … ગણ્યા જ કરો!

મપડાંગ એ પ્રાચીન મનાતો પ્રદેશ છે. વાર્તા તો એવું કહે છે કે રામાયણમાંનું દંડકારણ્ય એ જ આ ડાંગનાં જંગલ. પ્રકૃતિના ખોળામાં એનાં ત્રણસો ગામડાં લપાઈને પડ્યાં છે. એની અઢી લાખની વસ્તી અમદાવાદના પાંસઠ લાખના માનવ-મહેરામણ સામે સાવ ટચૂકડી લાગે. નકશામાં ડાંગ જિલ્લો પોતે પણ જાણે ગુજરાતની શિખાની ગાંઠને છેડે બાંધેલું ગલગોટાનું ફૂલ ન હોય, એવો લાગે. આહવા એની રાજધાની છે. વસ્તીના ૯૪% તો આદિવાસી જાતિઓ છે, જેમની પોતાની ડાંગી, કોંકાઈ જેવી ભાષાઓ છે. પણ ગુજરાતી, મરાઠી સમજનારા અને બોલનારા ઘણા નીકળી આવે. વતનીઓ આદિવાસી છે, પણ પહેરવેશમાં શર્ટ-પેન્ટ, સાડી દેખાય છે.

અહીંના રહેવાસીઓની આદિમતાની ગવાહી એમની વારલી નામે ઓળખાતી ચિત્રકળામાં દેખાય છે, જે યુગો પહેલાંનાં ગુફાચિત્રો-શાં જણાય છે અને એમના સમાજ-જીવનની ઝાંખી કરાવે છે. નીચે મેં જોયેલાંમાંનું એક ચિત્ર પાનની પિચકારી અને પગની છાપો લાગેલી ભીંત ઉપરનું છે, અને મેં સફેદ-કાળા રંગોમાં તેને ફેરવીને અરેરાટી ન થાય એવો પ્રયત્ન કર્યો છે.

આદિવાસી

વઘઈ એ બીજું મોટું ગામ છે. મોટર રસ્તે વાંસદા રાષ્ટ્રીય અભયારણ્યથી બહુ દૂર નથી. ચોમાસું એ ડાંગને મળવાનો ઉત્તમ સમય છે, પણ વાંસદા અભયારણ્ય આ ગાળામાં બંધ રહે છે. એને કોરાણે મૂકી ને નકશામાં બતાવ્યા પ્રમાણે અમે વઘઈથી મહાલ તરીકે ઓળખાતા જંગલ પ્રદેશમાં પહોંચ્યાં.

મેપ૨

…પણ રસ્તામાં ગિરા ધોધની મુલાકાત લેવાનું કેવી રીતે ચૂકાય? ગિરા નદીનો આ ધોધ, વરસાદ પડ્યો હોય ત્યારે તો જબરદસ્ત જોશથી અને દિલ ખોલીને વહે છે: આપણી આશાઓની જેમ જ, કદાચ ખબર હશે કે આગળ જઈને પત્થર ઉપર ટૂટવાનું જ છે, પણ છતાં વણથંભ્યો એ ધોધ પડ્યા જ કરે છે!

IMG_4017a

આખા રસ્તે અમને જંગલ અને ખેતર એકમેકમાં પરોવાયેલાં દેખાય છે. અત્યારે ડાંગરની ઋતુ છે. અહીંના લોકો ડાંગરને પણ ’ભાત’ જ કહે છે. રસ્તાના કિનારાની નજીક ચોખાથી ભારે થયેલાં છોડવાનાં માથાં પવનમાં ડોલે છે અને રંગમાં ભૂખરાં લાગે છે. દૂરના છોડનો રંગ, દૂરના ડુંગરાની જેમ જ રળિયામણો લીલો છે.

મેપ૩

મહાલ કેમ્પસાઈટ પાસે નાનકડો ટ્રેક છે. ભર બપોરે જંગલમાં છાંયો છે. એક ભાઈ એમની વાંસની પટ્ટીઓથી વણેલી સાદડી લઈ સામે મળે છે. અમે ગાઈડ લીધો નહતો, પણ એમને રસ્તો પૂછી ખાતરી કરી લીધી.

મેપ૪

વળી થોડા વળાંકો અને ચઢાણ આવે છે અને અમને મૂંઝવણ થાય છે કે અમે સાચા રસ્તે છીએ કે નહીં. બીજા એક ભાઈ મળે છે. જંગલમાં પોતાના ખભા જેવો કોઈ  સધિયારો નથી.

મેપ૫

આ ભાઈને ખભે કુહાડી છે. “તમે લાકડાં કાપો છો?” જવાબમાં એ હસ્યા. “જંગલમાંરા આવું કાંઈંક રાખવું પડે. વખતે કામ લાગે.” “અહીં દીપડા આવે?” અમારી ઉત્સુકતા પામી જઈને એ ફરી હસ્યા. “આવે, પણ આવા બપોરના ના આવે.” અમે વળી રસ્તે પડ્યાં.

હવે આગળ થોડી ગાયો ઝાડનીચે વાગોળતી બેઠી હતી અને એમને ચરાવવા બે ભાઈઓ સાથે આવ્યા હતા. ગાયો આરામમાં હતી એટલે એ લોકો પણ નિરાંત-જીવે ઉભેલા હતા. પોતાનો ફોટો લેવાતાં તેમને કદાચ સભાનતા આવી ગઈ હશે. પણ લીધેલા ફોટા અમે જયારે એમને બતાવ્યા ત્યારે જ એ જરા હળવા થયા.

મેપ૬

સવારનાં નીકાળેલાં અમે બાપોરના સમયે અમારી મુલાકાતના બીજા ચરણમાં પ્રવેશવા તૈયાર હતાં.

અમને અણસાર સુદ્ધાં નહતો કે આગળ શું હશે – અમારે જવું હતું સુંડા ગામ પાસે, બીજી કેમ્પસાઇટ છે તેનાથી ઉલટા રસ્તે. સુંડાથી અંબિકા નદીનો કિનારો પકડી રાખીને અમે ચાલ્યાં.

મેપ૭

રસ્તામાં વળી ભેટો થયો – માછલાં પકડવામાટેનાં વાંસનાં બે પાંજરાં નદીમાં ગોઠવવા જતા એક દાદા અને એમનો બકરાં ચરાવી ને પછો આવતો પૌત્ર …

મેપ૮

… નદી ઉપરના નાના પુલને છેડે, જમીન ઉપર પર બેસી , મિત્ર સાથે દૂર ક્યાંક નજર ઠારીને બેઠેલા સજ્જન…

મેપ૯

અને હાથમાં તમાકુ ચોળતો એક નિજાનંદી, જેને અમારું એમને તાકી રહેવું બહુ ગમ્યું હોય એમ ન લાગ્યું. પણ તસવીર ખેંચવા સામે એમણે વિરોધ પણ ન કર્યો અને સંમતિ આપી.

મેપ૧૦

અમે સોએક પગથિયાં ચડીને જર્જરતાનો અંચળો ઓઢીને ટેકરી પર છૂપાયેલા મહાદેવ મંદિરમાં દર્શન કરવા ગયાં. દા’ડી પતાવી પાછી વળતી છોકરીઓ અમને જોઈને હસી પડે છે, ને છોકરાઓ દોટ મૂકે છે.

મેપ૧૧

સમી સાંજનું ધુમ્મસ ઉઠવા લાગે છે એમ લોકો છાપરાની છત્રછાયામાં શરણ શોધે છે.

મેપ૧૨

પરસેવે રેબઝેબ એવાં અમે અંબિકાનું શરણું શોધીએ છીએ. ઢળતા તડકાએ નદીના પાણીમાં ચાંદી ઢોળી દીધી છે. નદીની આ ડૂબકી શાતા અને તરવરાટ બન્ને સાથે આપે છે.

મેપ૧૩

એટલામાં જંગલખાતાના અધિકારીઓની જીપ આવે છે. સાંજ ઢળી ગઈ હોવાથી આ જગ્યા બહુ સલામત નથી, કેમકે જંગલના જીવોને પાણી પીવાનો સમય થયો છે તેવું એ લોકો અમને કહે છે. અમે આહવા જઈ સ્થાનિક ભોજન: નાગલીના રોટલા, પરવળનું શાક, વાલની દાળ – જે અહીંનું પારંપરિક ભોજન છે, તેનો ભરપેટ આસ્વાદ લઈએ છીએ, અને ડાંગને વિદાય આપીએ છીએ.

  • A version of this Blog appeared in the October, 2017 issue of Railbandhu – the article makes the best sense with these original pictures.

Tumhari, Sulu

The movie began. Would it be about pen pals? Love affair? Scene after scene passed by – but it didn’t feel like a movie at all, forget about the plot.
The lead actress, the supporting actors, their setting, and props – nothing looked or felt as if it was a movie. Probably for two reasons: either I had been too conditioned about what a movie should be – perhaps I expected superheroes and sirens frolicking in fantasy land. Or, and more seriously, perhaps the movie was about something so common that it didn’t come to my notice as movie stuff.
Yes, that is what Tumhari Sulu is about: an everyday story of the woman next door, whom we meet so often, whom we mock so often, who we are so much so, that we have to be sequestered into a movie hall to spare two thoughts about.
Had I not met such Sulus myself, I would have hated the movie. Instead, I watched on. I saw the woman who waltzes through her daily mundane tasks so that others can do what they can, the woman who suspects that she *can do* [it] but has had no chance to discover quite what, the autistic education system that can sense only the academic scores, collective mediocrity, movie actors as benchmarks of performance, sprouts of warmth and belonging, striving to survive in a relationship without sunshine, the pole-vaults of assertion indenting the lows of question-less submission and compliance.
Worst of all, a toxic family.
Writers, poets, and women themselves have revealed enough about the dark realms of the in-laws. But, who talks about the refusals, denials, and put-downs that come from one’s own parents and elder siblings? Some parents sound legitimate, but they actually discriminate against one child – because one (usually the elder) is bright in a regular way, but the other (usually younger) is ‘differently able’.
Experiences like that are so historically painful that they hurt without one realizing where the pain comes from.
The movie dramatizes the story by handing Sulu a job when her husband’s job is in jeopardy, while she is asked to do what is somewhat questionable. But what about other Sulus who are stopped, questioned, criticized, assaulted, branded and stereotyped, ostracized, and punished, just because they are trying to discover who they can be? Why is their struggle laughable just because they could not discover it earlier in school? Why is their discovery any lesser because it does not involve marks in schools?
Let’ talk about it.
Tumhari Sulu is not a movie, this is a slice of life from a large percentage of women you and I meet every day – and God forbid, live with.

Continue reading

Silent eloquence

On the day 7 of our field immersion, we were in Bikaner to visit the women who sort wool. What had got me attracted to them were their nimbleness, alertness and light-hearted, spirited way of working when I had visited their wool-sorting center for understanding the field operations involved in manufacturing hand-woven rugs. During my first two visits, I struck some conversations with several of them to find out that their work was not among the highly remunerative ones.

The ladies came from socially and economically challenged backgrounds. Yet, they were so gracious (I got invited for homestay), vivacious (talked freely and candidly with me), happy (their smiles were so beautiful), and downright jovial (pulled my leg unabashedly and we all laughed out aloud as I blushed). So, I had two more visits made to them, with a gap of one and a half years. They recognized me and we met with the familiarity of neighbors.

But this boy was literally the new kid on the block.

So you will take my picture, huh?

My colleague was shooting pictures and videos as I talked to the two ladies that I wanted to reconnect with in particular. And this boy had curiosity written all over his whole being. At first, he eyed us keenly from a distance as he remained closely covered by his mother’s body which leaned over the heap of wool that she was sorting.

When he saw others talking with us, laughing, and us occasionally hugging, he began to move more freely, but his eyes conveyed that we were still a potential danger.

Perhaps Gaurang sensed this ambivalence between curiosity and threat as he turned towards the boy to take his picture.

And boy! How I wish I could move to a suitable place to click this picture in a better light. But the moment was precious and fleeting.

I imagined how he must have felt so tiny in front of a tall man with equipment in hand, aiming it straight at him, and still, our little man is completely undaunted.  He silently negotiated his space amid the dynamics involving the rest of us. It was his eyes that did all the talking. So eloquent!

 

 

 

The Birth Canal

“No man steps in the same river twice”, said Heraclitus (not these exact words).

But if that river be the mighty, gushing river of life, most people get cold feet.

IMG_3956a

Such is the momentum of the river of life that let alone stepping in the same waters twice, sometimes the whole life passes by before dipping as much as a toe in it.

That is the state of having cold feet. Cold feet are much like a laser gun.

Cold feet are much like a laser gun. They cut the life into two: the life that is…

IMG_3982a

and the life that could have been.

IMG_4017a.jpg

What could have been a crowning glory is dismissed out of fear that it will be a drowning fury.

While the life as it is, goes on with full apparent glitter, one cannot know if it is hallow or full, unless one puts the ears to the ground.

But one only puts the feet to the ground.

The feet cannot hear.

So – we pass through the canal of this birth like this: Wide, pulsating, gushing flow – followed by a built up, stone-walled, restrictive life –

Birth canal.jpg

Then there is a hope only for the next life to be liberated again.

PERHAPS.

That PERHAPS has a promise only if something was done to explore this life.

But if something was done in this life, then the canal of birth will not be a narrow conduit.

It will be a bankless, endless, ageless flow.