Wednesday, 4 February 2015

And God Created Women

When Noshto Nir’s Charulata gazed at the world with her vintage binoculars and romanced by heart with her brother-in-law, the world stared stunned. While Ray’s Bimala surpassed marital fringes and romanced her husband’s friend- the radical Sandip, there were murmurs and hushed voices during those trivial times of post-partition effect in the early 20th century when women were supposed to remain behind curtains and indulge in household chores. Decades later with the leap of generation and faith, we clapped and ah-ed when Hermione Granger punched Draco Malfoy, for teasing her friends.
From the renaissance women to modern day women, there has been a gradual drift of the portrayal of nature’s softer creation from those meek beings to brave hearts. We cried out our hearts as post-independence mother Radha shoots Birju, in Mahboob’s Mother India. Women, have always been a subject of integral interest for literature and the motion pictures. Be it Shakespeare or Jhumpa Lahiri, Satyajit Ray or Hitchcock, Prem Chand or Tagore, Sheldon or Rowling; women have always been the substantial subject for authors and filmmakers alike.
Even before what we consider the renaissance times, literature has always revolved greatly around the role of women. Whether it was Ved Vyas’ Draupadi and Kunti or Valmiki’s Sita and Kaikeyi. Women with a variety of shades and hue, have been a part of our lives through literature, folklores and fables since times immemorial. And they are the women, we remember every day. Women for their worth. Women for their gray shades. Valimiki’s Sita or Surpanakha, Rowling’s Hermione or Lily Potter, Sheldon’s sexual assault victim- Ashley Patterson or Tagore’s Sucharita, Austen’s Fanny Price or Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Indira;  every women, as we might notice have had a strong impact on the society and culture with the characters that they were infused into. While some set moral standards with their compassion and sacrifice, the others turned inspirations with their bravery and grit whereas a few stupefied us with their darker shades of the conscience.
As is widely said that women have been portrayed as timid beings in ancient literature and motion pictures; how can we ever forget a Phyliis Dietrichson challenging her fidelity for the sake of wealth! Can we ever not remember Birju’s mother, Radha shooting him, all for the virtuousness in her and rise to become India’s evergreen Mother!
Women have been forever, strong and brave, thanks to the patriarchal society that never recognized their stronger side of the conscience. Had they not been strong, in literature, movies and society; had we ever got the gutsy Sita in the Ramayana, the moral and hungry-for-enlightenment Sucharita in Tagore’s Gora or the hard working sales-girl Aarti in Ray’s Mahanagar. They were forever there. The bold and the beautiful. In our folklores, in our society, in our hearts.
With the advent of modern times, and the die-hard disposal attitude of the patriarchal society, have we accepted women as the ones with guts and a brave heart? We have seen them getting ripped by heart and soul and yet fight back to regain their esteem. We have them as a part of our everyday lives. As that doting mother, as that innocent sister, as that multi tasking wife, as the company CEO who still makes cheese omlettes for her son while checking out the stock market values on her Tab, that lady who earns her family the bread by being a bus-conductor, that young girl who wakes up to provide police statements right after being sexually assaulted. If women were meek anytime, they were so in the minds of the stereo type society. The society that has forever fidgeted to grant women the status she deserves- all because of her physical constraints! But are women genuinely weak physically? If they had been so, they could not have nurtured life within them for 270 days! They could not have taken rigorous physical and trainings to be navy officers or run planes!
Realistic literature and motion pictures have always focused on their stronger conscience. Women, who dared to challenge societal restrictions, surpass superstitious rituals and rise as inspiration for generations, and at the same time; be moral and ethical in their approach towards life. Had they not been their braver selves, we would never have had an Aarti who went door-to-door to sell goods for money or a Ritwik Ghatak’s Neeta who smilingly sacrificed her love for her sister. Mother India Radha would have been a distant dream and Gora would never have achieved his ultimate spiritual awakening without Sucharita’s aide.
Their role has been the same since ages- to take control, when situations get worse. Like Christie’s Miss Marple solving crime mysteries, like Sheldon’s Diane Stevens and Kelly Harris finding out their husbands’ killers. Like Rowling’s Hermione, Lily and Ginny with their grit and affection. Like the Pari(s) of Hosseini who went beyond capabilities to quench their thirst for the ultimate truth of their identity.
Woman shall always be that goddess. The goddess of virtue, the goddess of truth, the inspiration of bravery! It’s more in our conscience than in our society where we need to give women their deserved recognition.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Journey of a sex-worker- Excerpt from 12th International Sex Workers' Freedom Festival, Kolkata

Jayamma started working as a sex worker way back in 1999. It was financial constraints in her family that led her to be in such a profession. Being married to a person who spent all the money on liquor, life had become difficult to sustain. She came from a poor family and was married off at an early age. Due to financial problems, her parents could not continue her education. Hence it was difficult for an uneducated lady like her to find a respectable job. Her husband was an alcoholic and she had to run the family. Finding no other way out, she jumped into this profession.
“Initially it was not easy for me to adapt to the certain change in my lifestyle and the surroundings. The thought of abandoning the profession came several times into my mind. But then I thought, what would I do after that? Who would feed me? How shall I run my family? These questions used to haunt me like anything and never let me leave the work I had started. But gradually I adopted and fitted well in the so called ‘dark’ world. Eventually I got to know the difficulties of the sex workers that they were facing in their lives,” said Jayamma B. sitting under a tree shade and fanning herself with a Japanese fan at Swabhumi. She had been in town recently to attend the International Sex Worker’s Freedom Festival. She represented her Community Based Organization, Chaithanya Mahila Mandali which happens to be the largest CBO for sex workers at Andhra Pradesh.
She was into prostitution for around 6 years and it was in the year 2000 that she felt the need to do something for the sex workers that would help them lead better lives. She felt that collectively she and her co –workers could actually do something for themselves and for the many other women suffering like them.
“Andhra Pradesh accounts for ten percent of the sex workers in India. Like in any other region, sex workers over here also have to face social boycott. They are always seen in a bad eye. This sums up the problems of the sex workers. They do not get the opportunities to make their lives beautiful. Hence I wanted to do something which would help them establish their lives in a refreshed way. I also wanted to establish a strong platform that would help us fight for the rights of the sex workers,” says Jayamma.
In Andhra Pradesh, young girls, especially from poor economic backgrounds, are lured into sex trade. There have also been cases when a young girl is married off to her first maternal uncle as per their tradition and then the man abandons her. In such cases, when these girls have no other way to earn money they are compelled to go into sex trade.
Archana Rao,technical documentation officer, CARE-India, a capacity building organization operating in 70 countries states, “We have been working with CMM since 2010. Our organization was impressed with the kind of work CMM was doing. Hence we decided to offer onsite capacity building trainings to many such upcoming CBOs and NGOs in the state in collaboration with CMM. We have been working in collaboration since then. It has brought welcome changes in the scenario. Today trafficking has decreased manifold in the region. Minor girls forced into sex trade are rescued and they undergo rigorous counseling. They are given vocational trainings. CMM has many such programmes such as candle making, pickle making, sewing, phenyl making. We also impart onsite mentoring to other CBOs and NGOs through CMM. It’s a large scale rehabilitation program that is conducted. It was all started by CMM.”
Chaithanya Mahila Mandali is the 1st CBO for Sex Workers in Andhra Pradesh. Jayamma abandoned prostitution and inspired many others like her to do the same. It had not been an easy start for them, since the Indian society has always shunned sex workers.
“Initially people were apprehensive in believing in our goals. They did not want to cooperate with us and that was quite obvious. But I never lost hope. I was prepared to face denials from the society. Even the media looked down upon us in a bad eye. Who would come to lend a helping hand to people who are sex workers? But gradually when we formed a strong group and people came to know of our efforts, we did get recognition. Media since then has played a great role in focusing on our activities and letting people know of the kind of work we are doing. Eventually the police also cooperated with us in several ways. Now the government also holds rehabilitation programs for the sex workers in collaboration with us. Isn’t that a great achievement?” Jayamma says with that proud grin over her face.
Lately, CMM has been granted a special category of the Sarva Shiksha Aviyaan by the Andhra Pradesh state government for the educating the “second generation” categories, i.e the children of the sex workers. None of them want their children to be in this profession. They want them to be educated and lead respectable lives. CMM looks into this quite minutely that these children are not affected by their mother’s profession and get the best out of life. It makes it a point to get them educated and be a better human being. Extracurricular activities are also arranged for these children to incite confidence and sportsmanship spirits within them.
 Jayamma, today, is a well known figure for her rehabilitation works and the service she has been silently providing to the society

Gender No Bar- A transgender speaks at the 12th International Sex Workers' Freedom Festival, Kolkata

Ruksar Mirza stays at Charminar bazaar, Hyderabad. She is 26-year-old. She has been staying here since she was 19. Her monthly earnings are around Rs 8000 a month out of which she sends Rs 4000 to her old mother every month. She has 2 sisters and a brother. Though her brothers are earning well enough to feed their families they do not offer any financial help to their mother. Its all Ruksar who alone looks after her mother. Every weekend she takes her mother to some restaurant because she cannot meet her mother at her very own home.
“How shall I meet my mother at my home? I am not allowed to even enter into my locality. Forget about outsiders, my own brother shuns my presence in the home. But my parents loved me a lot. My father was always by my side till his last breath. In fact he always had this feeling that he could not do much to help me live a better life,” says Ruksar. Ruksar is a sex worker. She is a transgender.
Born an eunuch to Muslim parents, life had never been an easy ride for Ruksar. Right from her school days she has always been shunned by the people around. It was only her parents who were always beside her. Though due to financial constraints in the family her father could hardly do anything for her.
“When I was at school, my classmates always made fun of me. They would ask me derogatory questions. My teachers at my own school were cooperative. I hated going to school due to such reasons. I wanted to study further and earn a respectable position in the society but back then I did not know that being an eunuch would earn me such difficulties. Still I continued my studies but the jolt came during my matriculate examinations when the invigilators at the exam venue misbehaved with me. The teachers even made fun of me. I was greatly disheartened and could not appear for the rest of the examinations,” laments Ruksar.
Applying kohl over her eyes and gearing up for the warming up session to be held for the sex workers at the International Sex workers Freedom Festival at Swabhumi. Ruksar and many more like her attended the festival and represented their respective CBOs and NGOs. Of late, many CBOs have been started for the all round development of the eunuchs, male sex workers and transgenders.
 Suraksha, a Hyderabad based CBO is one of them.  Ruksar is now employed at Suraksha as one of its volunteers. Suraksha was founded in the year 2004 by a collective group of male sex workers and transgenders. Since then it has been involved in various reform programs such as engaging the MSM and TG sex workers in various vocational training programs, arranging large scale HIV and AIDS awareness programs for the community people. Ruksar has also been sponsored by Suraksha when she wanted to undergo the sex change surgery at the age of 19.
Since she could not continue her education, she decided to take up some work to support her family. Her father arranged a job for her at the same printing press where he worked. But even there she was badly humiliated. She then took up job as a domestic help at a clinic. But she had to face insult over there also.
“I still hadn’t lost hope but when I was denied to apply for a voter card just because I had an indefinite sex, I was broken. I felt as if I had no identity. I was just 15. It was that moment when I decided to be a sex worker,” says Ruksar.
Eunuchs have always faced difficulties in living a respectable life. Ruksar was no exception. But she had the spirits to still fight for her rights. The bitter experiences made her more determined to fight for her rights.
In her words, whatever the gender is, why should one be denied to live as a human? “Is it my fault that I was born an eunuch? It is all natural. If I being a 10th grade dropout can understand this fact then why not the educated mass? Why do we still have to face humiliation in public places? Even we are human beings. We are also born to a family. We love our family. But sometimes the societal pressure even does not allow living peacefully with one’s family.”
“When I came to know of Suraksha, I contacted them they offered great help and relief. The counseling programs helped me attain mental peace. When at the age of 19, I decided to undergo a sex change surgery, it was Suraksha which funded most of the money. Out of 60000 rupees spent for the surgery, 40000 rupees was granted to me by Suraksha,” Ruksar says.
Since then Ruksar has been associated with the CBO meant especially for the transgenders. Life has been a pleasant journey for Ruksar and many more like her after joining Suraksha. They get paid on a monthly basis for the various volunteership programs they are involved into.
Ruksar’s father expired two years back and her aged mother stays alone at her home. Her brother does not allow her to meet her mother. Hence Ruksar arranges to meet her mother at places away from her home.
In a country, where transgenders are still fighting for a dignified position in the society, Ruksar has set an example for many like her in leading a respectable life. She will serve as an inspiration for generations to come. It's high time that we stop shunning these real-life bravehearts and treat them with respect.

Through a common man's eye

VV impact example 1-Zaffar is a Muslim afghan born in India. His family had to flee Afghanistan back in 1978 due to the Russian invasions. Zaffar stays at Kolkata currently and manages his sports based nonprofit. He plays rugby and through this he helps children bond across cultural and communal barriers. With parents of Afghan origin he has been brought up in India and learned to value the ethics and celebrate the festivals of his community. He is quite proud to be a member of the Kabuliwala community that swept into Kolkata in the late 19th and early 20th century. But the localites  hardly know of their culture which they are proud of. It was Zaffar who narrated the story of Kabuliwalas to the world through his video. Zaffar is a Video Volunteer correspondent.
VV impact example 2-There was a time when Choki village in Limdee Taluka of Gujarat, a Dalit habituated area, did not have proper water supply. The women of the village had to walk miles and miles every day to fetch water for survival. The area which is particularly dry has no water resource nearby. The villagers had to fight to get ample of water to survive. But back in 2010 came the welcome change with the long struggle of the village women. They decided to fight for themselves and appeal to the authorities to provide proper water supply to the village. They formed a small group under the leadership of Kanta Ben, a member of the same community and approached the district collector also filing a complaint to obtain water, in accordance with the law. Though initially they did not get the required response yet later the authorities were forced to listen to their water woes and install a water supply pipe to the village.  It all started after a screening of a video by a local CVU Apna Malak Maa (In our Land) that led to the enlightenment of the villagers.
With the utter commercialization of mainstream media all around, the focus has moved to yellow journalism. The society misses out the factual pegs that account for a greater part of the society. What the masses are basically concerned for is politics, power, corruption, economical problems, page 3 news etc. the mainstream media hardly gets to touch down to the real life issues other than incidents of murder, corruption, theft or molestation. Knowingly or unknowingly they have always tended not to touch the reality at the grass root level. The problem lies in us. We always tend to forget the very fact that there are certain sections of the society which form an integral part of the system. Yet they are looked down upon in either ways. And so has the media. Especially in a developing nation like India, one can never overlook the problem of caste system prevailing since ages or the gender discrimination faced by women in the country. We talk, we debate but how many of us actually get involved and imply actions to improve conditions?
Of late numerous NGOs have come forward in solving such issues yet much more coordination is needed. But the unique strategy that Video Volunteers has initiated implied and executed is one among many. An international community media organization that equips men and women from the underdeveloped areas with critical thinking, creative, activist and video journalism skills has actually helped many backward communities in exposing their underreported stories  as well as take appropriate action to fight against poverty,untouchability, injustices or caste system prevailing in the society. India happens to be the country where the largest network of salaried community video producers sustains under this organization. What started as a small community based program by US journalist Jessica Mayberry has today become a globally based program operating in various nations with the backwards communities.
Their main aim is to empower the people from their targeted group of backward communities. In a society where only 2% of the rural part is touched by the media and the rest 98% only moving to the urbane news, such an organization has worked wonders in terms of educating and empowering those looked down upon. It has also been successful in bringing issues to the core and bringing remarkable reforms to the lives of people. The videos act as the tool to create changes and empower men and women.
 The issues covered by them are versatile. It may be the problems faced by members of Dalit community in some remote village not being provided access to drinking water or it may even be women in an area facing gender discrimination.
As Siddharth Pillai, Communications Manager, Video Volunteers, India says, “Most members of the target groups are illiterate and uneducated. Most of them are school dropouts. Hence the concept of Video creation came into inception. Its easy on their part to learn the techniques. Its also easy for the trainers to train and teach them the know how within a short period of time.”
VV partners with citizen groups by sending professional filmmakers as volunteers or trainers to train community leaders, preferably women. Basically each community video unit has four reporter and producer who are trained to report, shoot and edit. Each unit has access to four cameras, a TV, a VCR, editing software and a wide screen projector for outdoor screening. Monthly video magazines containing news, documentaries, local culture and arts, tips and vox pop segments focusing on issues important to them and their communities. The projector travels from one village to the next, viewed by as many as 20,000 people per month.
How often is It that one gets to see women from India hosting documentaries or a once upon a time farmer from rural Gujarat hosting a video focusing on issues faced by his Dalit community? But such is the mission of VV and had been its soul mission since its inception-to empower the poor and forgotten people, to give them the opportunity to tell their stories to the world and above all, to themselves.
The importance of community media is supported by studies such as the World Bank’s 1999 “Voices of the Poor” which states that people worldwide identified “having a voice” as their No. 1 need above food and shelter.
As Bhan Sahu, a Video Volunteer correspondent from Chhattisgarh says, “I had been associated with social work such as women empowerment work since I was 15. But I did not the right weapon to fight against all odds. It was back in 2010 when I got to know of their training camp being held at Ahmadabad through a Lucknow based friend of mine who also happens to be a journalist that India Unheard would be holding such a camp. At the very mention of it I knew that I should attend this camp. After the rigorous 14 day training, I had nurtured more and I had the instinct to fight fearlessly. What Video Volunteers has given me is worth acknowledgeable. It has changed the way I approached my goals.”
Bhan Sahu has been associated with VV since 2010 and since then it has been a never ending association. She is widow with two grown up children. She has been associated with such NGOs much before her marriage. But after her husband expired things became difficult for her as she did not have much money to sustain and feed her children. It was VV that gave her the right weapon,as she calls. With the training that she acquired, she now very effortlessly makes videos of isssues related to her community, provides them to VV and in return gets paid also for her worthy work. Its benefits have acted manifold for her. She can both highlight her some social issues related to her community through mainstream media, many of which have been resolved as a result of her efforts and her NGO-,there is spread of awareness also among the people of backward classes regarding resolution of problems faced by them.
“VV has become my voice. My in laws were very apprehensive regarding me working as a social worker and they had snatched the only piece of land that my husband had left for me. But with earnings from VV,I fought the case and won my land back. Though it’s a very small piece of land, yet it acts a big piece of contentment for me. Today my NGO, the people of my village and many surrounding areas are quite aware of VV as there have been many changes in our area due to the videos that I have broadcast. Petty issues such as dowry problems, gender discrimination and caste system have been resolved to a great extent in my area. Today not a single woman over here is a victim of gender discrimination or dowry torture, repartees Bhan with that glint of pride in her eyes.

As is Mayberry’s dream, to produce a legion of “barefoot filmmakers” most of whom cannot read or write yet would be able to tell their stories round the world.

Friday, 16 August 2013

India- Still Not Independent

My country will be celebrating its 67th Independence Day this year. And just like we follow rituals for Durga Puja, Eid, Christmas, Easter, Moharram, Diwali like tradition coming down since ages immemorial, the entire country would be celebrating Independence Day. A parade at Red Fort, the Prime Minister’s speech, honouring our great Jawans and martyrs, schools and colleges organizing cultural programmes, sending messages to family and friends wishing Independence Day (and at the same time cursing the telecom companies for not providing rate cutter services) putting up photos and status updates on facebook, celebrities would tweet and fans would be delighted at them (as if they fought for our Independence) and all wound end with nightfall with the National Anthem and the National Song being played innumerous times all over the country. And not to forget some NRIs in distant countries and continents across the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Pacific celebrating August 15 the Indian way and showing off their patriotism.
 Amidst all this somewhere in some village of the same India, a poor child would be crying out of hunger, a widow would still be looking across the broken village road for her husband to return who had promised to bring colourful bangles for her despite the known fact that he lost his life in some hawai-jahaj crash to rescue the bhakts trapped in Uttarkashi. Somewhere in the capital-Delhi of the same India, yes the same India which is celebrating its Independence Day, a mother would ask her teenaged daughter to return back home before it gets dark reminding her of the plight of the girl who became a prey to monsters on the fateful day of December 16 last year. A lean and frail father would be walking all alone to the doctor because his young son is dead. The one who died while participating in a rally in Kolkata whose cause of death has kicked off a political debate among parties blaming each other for his death but no one remembering that he would never walk back from the dead. A mother would be crying all alone throughout the night because her son committed suicide as he was bogged down due to debt, the reason for which was actually a bhodrolok from Saltlake, Kolkata who promised him to return double the money once he put in some cash.
 A state would still be burning due to clashes of the people erupting out of the proposed bifurcation. Some foreign tourists who felt delighted to be visiting a Himalayan hill station in India would be regretting for their decision since the hill people have called for an indefinite strike in their area demanding an ‘extra’ state just for them.
At the same time, journalists on the broadcast media would be speculating who would be the next PM? Which would the next ‘new’ state of India? Should anti-rape laws be harsher? And at the end of every bulletin they shall be wishing the entire Hindustan a Happy Independence Day. Yes, the 67th Independence Day. Matter to be proud of. Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Nehru, Matangini Hazra, Rani Laxmibai, Netaji and many others, they all fought for the country, The class 8 history books says they fought for us. But today I question, “Did they really fight for us? Us, the people who never care to think twice before throwing off food which we do not find tasteful whereas still the majority of the nation’s population is under below poverty line who cannot even afford to have a full square meal a day even if it just costs Rs12!. Us, the people who never stop ourselves from calling a woman wearing a knee-length dress and coming out of a pub at 10 in the night, a slut.
  Yes we are celebrating the 67th Independence Day. The era when my mother still could not abandon her fears of visiting Kashmir because of the fear of terrorist attacks. The era when, I, an educated and independent girl, and many more girls like me would still fear to step of home once it’s dark. Even though we belong to the age of independent thinking and equal respect for women! When a boy at a University would seek first class results and yet be looked down upon because he belongs to a lower caste community or might be because his father could not afford to buy him an iPhone. The same father, who has only one square meal a day to ensure that he saves enough money for his son’s education.
   And we tell we are independent. We debate, write long words and sentences discussing on the future of independent India once it becomes the superpower! And I keep wondering out of my illiteracy on the issue, that on what basis are we planning to emerge as a Superpower!! I still do not understand what would be our characteristics of emerging a superpower! Now I know, superpower of having more and more people dying due top hunger, more girls being molested, raped and their rapists roaming free (because some generous Human Rights group fought for him, I wonder where does humanity run away when it comes to the dignity of the girl!), more and more Jawans dying to save the country from militants, our dearest mantris still fighting into how many more states can they divide India!( Might be they think the more they divide the soul, the more powerful it becomes. Might be they are great fans of Lord Voldemort and sought the idea from his horcruxes!)
    No I am not proud of celebrating the Independence Day. I feel ashamed of singing the national flag and saluting the National Flag. Because we failed the very purpose of Independence. August 15 for me, for the entire nation, is very much like another day (Of course with ‘beefed up security at airports, railway stations and places of national importance). But apart from that, it’s nothing different. We are still not independent of corruption, crime, harassment and oppression of the weak, rising poverty, gender inequality, terrorism, communal clashes. We still have a long way to achieve ‘Independence’.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Sons of the Soil...

At a distant countryside at Kalagachia, around three kilometers interior from Diamond Harbour road at Thakurpukur bazaar, when the village folks are sheltered inside their homes, on a drizzling July morning, Bashir Ali Sheikh is busy digging tons of soil and mud. He is working at a gentleman’s house to dig out a well assisted by his team of laborers.
Drawing out large pools of mud from the digged soil, wiping off his hands in the gamchha tied round his waist, Bashir says, “I have been working here since morning. Though its raining we would not let that affect our work since I’ve given my word to them.”
An eighth grade dropout, Bashir was bound to join his father’s profession around seven years back to support his family financially.
“None of my siblings could complete our education due to lack of money. I am the only child who had the privilege to continue education till eighth grade. My brothers and sisters are not even that educated.”
Bashir started assisting his father in the well digging job while his brother and sister started doing zari work at home itself. These are the only sources of income for the entire family which includes of his parents, his wife and two sons, his brother and a sister.
“My father has been in this profession since the last forty five years. It’s our family tradition, it was my grandfather Rustam Ali Sheikh who started the tradition and the legacy has come down to me. Though I am continuing this work yet I do not want my sons to do this. I want them to study and be educated. My wife Zenatun bibi,is a matriculate and she holds daily tuitions and teaches the primary school children the income from there is exclusively invested in my son’s education.”
At a time, when technology has well placed itself into the well digging scenario, one may question if that has lessened the well digger’s demand. But a timid and hesitant Bashir remains undeterred by this. As per him, there are still certain works related to well digging which a machine can’t do, came the prompt reply. After all a machine or its accessories cannot penetrate into every nook and corner under the ground.
Its quite true well digging demands quite a good amount of manual labor and hardship. Its quite a risk to the digger’s life also as sometimes fatal accidents take place. Sometimes while digging the ground soil, the surrounding area mud slides across the unfitted well walls which causes death of the person working inside the well. Moreover work gets completely stopped in monsoons and it’s like a starvation period for these people.
As Bashir says “Often I’ve to mortgage some property or asset of mine. If there’s no work for around two months how shall we earn and how shall we feed the family? It’s impossible to work during such heavy downpour.”
But for the rest of the year we do get work. Sometimes on contract basis, may be for a week or a month and sometimes on a daily basis.
Bashir also keeps in account of his counterparts at other places. “I know what happened at Liluah and I am proud the way those three well diggers acted. As I already said, not all job can be done by machines. The incident is a proof regarding how human labor is still important in such cases.”
Though he never had a call to rescue any distressed soul fallen in to the well, he did have to rescue the animals who quite often fall in to deep bore wells at his locality. “It’s a common issue. I frequently have a call from my neighbors or friends asking me to rescue their cow or goat that had fallen there.”
“We earn up to Rs 200-300 a day. Sometimes if luck permits, I earn up to even 450-500. But that is not enough to feed the entire family. As a subsidiary, my younger brother does zari work at home.
In view of the recent incidents when the nation has suddenly turned its eyes on these folks and the Government is actually making plans to hire them in the disaster management services, hardly makes any differences to Bashir.
On being asked came the prompt reply, “Is it so? We don’t have any idea regarding all this. I stay at a remote area far from the city at a village called Choukijati. It is quite far away from the city, on the outskirts of Kolkata nearby Diamond Harbour. We even do not have any idea regarding the schemes, the rehabilitation programmes for the BPL families.”
Though Bashir knows his family falls under the BPL category, they still do not have a BPL card to avail the provisions provided for he feels that there are people who earn less than him and they are in more need of that than his family.
I at least earn around 200-300 rupees a day. But there are people who just manage to earn just Rs 50. I feel they need help more than me. We do not even get any help from our village panchayat. But that does not bother us as I can always take care of my family.
Bashir is least bothered of the happenings around him, whether its regarding the government’s decision to include well diggers in Disaster Management services or whether it’s the advent of advanced technology.  He even feels that ten years down the line, their demand in the society shall increase since with increasing people demand for homes and amenities shall increase.
As he finally says that people shall never stop living in homes and whatever the matter is wells will always be required for some purpose or the other. He is happy the way life is moving for him with a distant vision to enhance his business though he knows that requires large amount of monetary investment. “I do want to expand this business but it needs large investment and I really do not have any idea as to how to apply for loans at banks. Hence I have to be content with what I am doing.”
Bashir’s father plans to continue this work for the next five years and Bashir says he would work till the day his health persists. “I do not want my sons to follow in my lines hence I have to earn and save more for their future.”
The twinkle in his eyes speaks high of his dreams regarding his sons who are yet to know of the mundane world. Though timid in expressions yet determined in voice and work, Bashir and many more like him shall always strive to make life a better place more for others than for themselves.

Saturday, 14 July 2012


 ‘The Street That Never Sleeps’ was originally known to the masses as The Burial Ground Road during the British era. The so called ‘Food Street’ of Kolkata was later renamed The Park Street as it runs through the once existent deer park of  Sir Elijah Impey(Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at Calcutta reigning from 1773-1789). The Kolkata Municipal Corporation later rechristened it as the Mother Teresa Sarani in the year 2004 as an honorary tribute to Mother Teresa.
Since genesis occurred at the Burial Ground Road, it has been constantly evolving from The Asiatic Society to The Park Hotel to the latest facebook status update on The Park street page!!! Whether it’s the indomitable spirit of the music maniacs at the Someplace Else or the pioneers in production at The Saint Xavier’s University, Park Street never tended to lose its panoramic charm. It’s a kaleidoscope of life rotating among different forms ranging from mindboggling music to good food, from colourful fiestas to good wine, from season’s best baked bread to the Christmas carols. Park Street takes you through a roller coaster stroll of what not you can even wonder!! This street is a well defined conjunction of the west and the east, of music and dance, of Satyajit Ray and Aparna Sen, of Trincas and Barista and much more than can be fantasised in any other street under the sky. You call it the Entertainment hub or you call it the Carnival corner, you name it the Scholar’s room or the Commercial complex, words fall short, phrases shy away and adjectives fail when deciding the apt definition of this lively street in The City of Joy. Lending smiles to joys, hues to colours, rhythm to music, lives to life, wings to butterflies, Park Street is the candescence donor to the incandescent.
Drastic is the word that describes the change of the street right from the very 1940s to the present day scenario. Park Street is the place where the ultimate night life of Kolkata is placed. Whether it’s the decade of the 1970s or the 1980s or times even before that scrolling down to the 1940s, Park Street has always been the most dynamic host to the most prolific,musical,extravaganza night life of our lovely city. Till date it has successfully managed to be the best dining district of Kolkata with varied restaurants and pubs such as the evergreen Trincas or the city’s grilling plate Bar-B-Q!!! Want to have a slurp of the delicacies at the fast food outlets??Then there’s the McDonalds or the Barista!! And if along with being a foodie, you are the novel hunter, then there’s the Oxford Book Store treat for you!!!!Isn’t it very much like Aladdin’s genie??You name it and Park Street presents it!!!
Park Street is where souls intertwine, where dreams dare to dream, where illusions fantasise, where fog lends the warmth, where the rain quenches its thirst, where the eyes speak!! Park Street is where the heart lies!!