India

Investigative Journalism in India

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A week ago, I was visiting Yale-NUS in Singapore when I met a rather endearing student there by the name of Angela. I’m going to take you speedily through the background so sit up now: Following typical Yale-NUS tradition, on one of the many travel+learn opportunities the College offers, Angela had come to Tamil Nadu (southernmost state of India) and admits to have completely fallen in love with ‘India’. I say ‘India’ because I have heard this oversimplification far too many times from tourists and locals alike to either be totally enthralled with a particular part of India or totally disgusted by it and hence either love or loathe ‘India’. But more on that later.

So during one of our sessions at the College, we were asked what we would like to be if money and norms played no hindrance in our dreams. (I wanted to be an archaeologist, surprise surprise!) That is when Angela said it- she wanted to be an investigative journalist…. in India.

I realise now that the reason she sought me out later to talk about this might have been because I gaped at her on hearing this. I have a lot of explanations to make. So here we go.

#1 Safety in India

I was born and brought up in Delhi so one should assume I must be totally in vibe with how Delhi works. That would be one’s first mistake. One should never assume anything about India, and I’ll say that all through this blog post. Even as I step out of the gate of my apartments and cross the road, I can have days that I have been leered at and (once) grabbed so much so that I want to go right back home and listen to peace prayers. Then there are also days that I brave gusts and rains in shorts and walk right on, not caring for the world.

I have been gifted a complete Swiss Army pocket knife set. I take kickboxing classes. I’m trying to download safety alert apps on my neolithic phone.

And I’m not trying to scare you. Being a girl in India can be a cautious everyday job. Not because every man on the streets is trying to rape you. But because You Know that India has a huuuuge population, a lot of it is totally unoccupied for entire days, a lot of it doesn’t fear the law, and sometimes, the law may not even help you.

India is a struggling country in many ways- it’s caught between ages, it’s caught between ideas, and it’s got far too many people in it to ever agree on something completely.

That makes even the simplest proposals for safety hard to legalise, implement and maintain. Should streets have cameras? Should there be neighborhood watch? Should there be fast courts? Should law degrees be made simpler to have lawyers in each neighborhood?

For all you know you’ll put up a street camera in a high risk neighborhood and the next day find that someone stole the wiring. Or that someone committed armed robbery in front of it and then smiled at the camera, knowing that his “connections” will never let him be convicted. Or it may even actually serve its purpose and make that neighborhood a little safer.

At the end of the day, the only certainty there is to the security situation in India is that the girls of this country are still taught to “prevent being harmed” than people in general are taught to “not harm”.

And if you’re not local, have fairer skin, speak in a different accent, and are hence easier to fool, you are at a riskier place. Which brings me to my next point- Who you are.

#2 Who You Are in India

It’s not always foreigners versus Indians when talking about security. It is also about the individual. Are you messy, are you cautious, are you over-cautious (if that’s a thing)… Do you have someone who can help you at a moment’s notice? Do you know the place you’re going to? Do you know your routes and have emergency contacts? I hate to say this but- Do you have “connections”? Are you rich- yes that comes into play. Are you confident- will you shut a guard up if he’s asking to frisk you for no reason? Are you wearing heels?

Are you generally more calm, composed and can you think on your feet, or do you rely on others.

I can give you an example with military kids. I have some personal experience with military kids- or as they are called more affectionately, BRATs (Born, Raised and Transferred)- with some of my dearest cousins having hopped all over the Indian map, and us having followed them every summer vacation. These children mostly live in Air Force bases or Cantonment areas, and are generally brought up with easy familiarity with men in uniforms. So- does that mean a BRAT won’t freeze if someone points a knife at her? Is it guaranteed that he’ll fight his assailant, AND come out of it victorious?

There are questions of upbringing, personality, self concept, outlook to the world, preparedness, health, and so much more.

The simple point is: human nature, just like India, can not be subjected to assumptions.

Every incident of wrong doing depends on a number of factors that all worked together to one fateful/happy outcome.

Yet, I will point out to you that if reality worked as strictly as this blog post is written, day to day activity in India would be a total zero. Thousands of people travel in Delhi Metro on any single day- they wouldn’t do that if one’s every move was a threat to one’s life. In Mumbai, thousands board the infamous Local every minute. Just imagine how things must be there if fear was our basis of movement.

Which brings me to…

#3 There is no ‘India’

I am all for ‘unity in diversity’ and have no plans of breaking India up into millions of factions: let that be clear.

It is no secret that India is a land of incredible diversity. In fact, it is said that the predominant language of the region changes every two kilometers outside metropolitan cities. There are religions in India no one has even heard of. There are gods worthy of their own Nat Geo coverage. There are so many customs- loud and silent- that one can spend a lifetime simply trying to know India. And I am not even discussing the big things- political setup, patriarchy or matriarchy, settled groups or shifting tribes-  I am talking of whether smiling is considered impolite in X’s temple and whether Y won’t eat a bite before you do.

Factor this to a scale of more than a billion people that call India home. Can you really say anything about ‘India’ as a whole anymore?

So when Angela went to Tamil Nadu, she ONLY went to Tamil Nadu.  While I am very glad to hear she thinks she loves India (a country like India deserves more people trying to befriend it), I am also curious how much of it she actually knows of.

It is perfectly all right to leave pieces of one’s heart in Tamil Nadu and not identify with, say, Haryana at all. I am an Indian, and I know at least five places I hate going to.

You also need to factor in some large regional differences- something like “Texan and New Yorker differences”. There is a wide disparity in the ways things function in the North (like in New Delhi) and in the South (like in Tamil Nadu). The sentimentality is different, the weather, food, language, religion, political aspirations, stage of development, literacy- just about everything. In fact, after Independence, the North and the South were in a skirmish of whether Hindi should be the national language or English (respectively). The result: We have the aforementioned two languages as ‘official languages’ and a list of another 22 as ‘recognised languages’ and no national language.

In fact, there are hotspots all over India that no longer consider themselves parts of India. The north-east is continuously in an identity battle. The 29th state was just formed. Four more areas want independent states too.

So when you say India… be sure you mean India.

#4 Journalism,  or India’s version of it.

I admit that I don’t know about the journalism industry any more than what I see in the news- talk about a conflict of interest! If you can ask an Indian journalist about it, you should freely ignore this section.

All I know is that I did not want to choose journalism for my college degree because I don’t like having to fight for credit. But that’s besides the point.

There is one super-famous Indian woman journalism by the name of Barkha Dutt. I am not in a position to comment on her career, but I shall ask you to look for yourself how she is dealt with by the masses and by others on the camera. She gets adulation and respect, but she also gets slandered. She wins awards and uncovers groundbreaking news, but she also gets called out on various aspects that relate to being a woman. A lot of this commentary is not based on her work or a critique of it, it is based on HER.

But I wonder now what with ISIS beheading journalists on camera and all the Hollywood movies I rot my biases with, how I should compare the Indian journalism scene.

Daring is a job requirement for journalism, I say turn that up a bit for doing it in India.

You will find enough coverage, enough stories and enough people to help you along. All you need is an iron will, true passion and that love for India without which this job will feel like death everyday.

Angela, if you are reading this, I remember how excited about India you were when we talked. I am sorry if I rubbed off around the idea negatively- we tend to judge our own cultures most harshly. I hope you find an opportunity to try investigate journalism here, and if you choose to continue, I hope you find your success. I hope you travel India anyway, and continue to fall in love with all this total pinata of wonders has to offer.

I also hope to see you soon, if all goes well, at Yale-NUS, this Fall.

All the best, to you and to the world, so we may all test our dreams for ourselves, and ourselves alone.

shortlink to this article: http://wp.me/p2myBd-173

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In The Palace Of Patiala

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The Indian flag soared. Revelry and celebration hadn’t stopped all year, and it
didn’t seem to stop now. Hearts were soaring, memories were smiling, heads
were held high as the massacre was behind them and the sweet scent of
independence hung thick in the air. By now, a government was in place, and such
a government that had the burden of bringing two million people satisfaction
with a common policy, in a common polity. For this, it worked relentless, in dark
and in light, pushing and crooning and sighing with each conquered mass, inching
steadily towards success with each tribe that said yes to Independent India.
Not far from the new capital was the kingdom of lush royalty, the State of Patiala.

The palace swooned over stretches of green pastures, windows cracked open to
let rosy sunlight in, fountains squeaked and burst attempting to touch the clouds.
The maidens admired their chiseled noses in the mirrors as the dasis draped
heavy silk on their shoulders, and the men twirled their moustaches with pride.
The world was impressed with India. In one year, most of the princely states had
succumbed to the power of democracy; covert titles were all that was left of the
royalty. Yet, the Maharaj of Patiala was not celebrating. Today, the man they
called their Prime Minister was coming to steal his land. He would start with
humble requests until he brought the Maharaj down on his knees and forced
negotiation. But the Maharaj was not born yesterday. He had dealt with many a
colonial Viceroys and princesses, and many more Indian kings in far off valleys and
gone on to win their daughters. Today would be just another victory, as had
always been.

The regalia were laid out, as he approached in his purple velvet robes, the smell
of roses fuming. He studied the zari of Benaras, pure gold sewn on his sherwani.
Khaddi silk from the East delicately trapped between diamonds brought all the
way from Britain, were all a small part of his magnificent attire. He had told the
dasis to bring out the finest. Today, the Maharaj had the pride of Patiala on his
mind, almost ready for battle if so required.

Maharaj clapped his hands. An echo raced throughout the palace, and the
servants who waited outside rushed in to turn this mortal into a king. The
sherwani was tied, the jutiyan placed under his feet, endless maroon satin
wrapped over his shoulder and arm. Two men daintily carried a silver tray into the
room, and another two picked the royal turban and set it carefully on the
Maharaj’s head as the sapphires beamed. He put up his hand and they went out
as quickly as they had come. Not a word was spoken, for it was forbidden. The
Maharaj studied his reflection. The Prime Minister shall not win Patiala!

But he was leaving no stone unturned. There was a treasure in the Palace of
Patiala that subdued the fiercest of egos and burnt the envious. It had taken two
years to complete this beauty, in which was enshrined the beauty of Patiala. In its
radiance shined his kingdom’s crop and in its sound the sound of the people’s joy.
The Maharaj walked towards the inner room now, head higher with each step. He
grasped the sordid black box, wondrously gazing at the elegance it had gained
since its occupant. His fingers were steady in this moment of anticipation. Slowly
now, he cracked open the brass lock and twisting the knob, he pulled the lid off.

His eyes ached to see a sparkling sun inside, and he threw the lid away… And
gaped.

It was gone.
A tiger roar shocked all of Patiala, trumpets were blown, and gongs were
sounded, dhols were beaten with urgent strength as soldiers fled into the country.
Catastrophe had struck.

The Patiala necklace had been stolen.

Holi, Day 1

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So here we are, in the middle of India’s second favourite festival, and it goes on for two days, today and tomorrow. I blogged about the festive season coming earlier and you can find that text here- Festival Incoming

Day 1 today. Day for the rituals part of the festival, and tomorrow will be the totally fun making day.

Thousands of women from Hindu Indian households will be performing the offering and tying thread to a five-six foot (or however much the colony can put up) wood pyre and after the day is over, all the people from the colony will set fire to the pyre and roast popcorn nearby. And groundnuts too sometimes.

I was hoping to get some photos, which is hard, because part of the fun making is to throw color bombs, and water bombs, and coloured water bombs at innocent passers, so I didn’t know if I should risk my camera. But, heavens be praised, it turns out most people in my colony will let me go dry and un-pelted with bombs if i ask them not to nicely, because most of these people have sent their kids to my mom for math tutoring. 🙂 Thanks, mommie!

But that still doesn’t mean that some sneak will not throw something at you, probably from a rooftop, from hiding… They do. Ask my shorts, my poor drenched shorts. Holi, people, is not the time for light colours. Specially not white. Not if you love those clothes anyway.

But some people, are just so unfortunate that all their coloured shorts are in the wash at the same time and all their whites are available. Poor people, like me.

Anyway, I took the camera along, to the ceremony. And it came back in one piece. Yes, do pat my back. 😀

I’ll explain the ceremony as the pictures come along..

Water Offering

That’s my gran by the way. So first u say hi to this pyre and offer some grain and water to it. Of course the water is holy. Have you ever heard of not-holy water in anything religion? Don’t ask me for any explanation about the proceedings, just cheerio, enjoy the pics if you may, an wait for tomorrow.. Hopefully, I’ll shutter in some awesome pics. Tomorrow’s the day, I keep saying.

Offerings being made. Highly vegetarian offerings. Hinduism is a vegetarian eligion, as I like to say. Can you by nay chanc see some paintings, some darker colour on the fingertips of the fairer hand? Okay.. its a long shot… just the married women do most of the stuff in the whole ritual and the kids watch, the men don’t come… and the married women put some simple designs on their hands. These are called mehendi. They happen on every religious occasion.Family

That is my family. I don’t really know yet who is gonna get furious that their pic is on the WWW, and they didn’t put it.. So the least I can do is talk nice. Hehe, just kidding.

The Materials

And that is the tray of all the holy stuff that’s basic requirements for any religious deal. There are two mud coloured small bowls like things? Those are called diyas.. you put oil and a wick and it burns, like a candle. There’s some grain and rice, raw, that’s offered. Vegetarian offering remember? Then, there’s that red cloth.. almost all holy or supposedly holy cloths for Hindus are red, golden and shiny. There is a matchbox… of course.. and some coins. The money that’s put in isn’t big money, it’s coins, of small value but symbolic existence.

Someone Else's Offerings

So that is someone’s else’s offering.. Some other group of women. They’ve made their base near the pyre, and this will all either be collected for the cattle, HOLY cattle, or be burnt with the pyre later in the evening. Though I doubt fruit being burnt..

Taking the rounds

Ooh and this is my favourite part! After the prayer, that happens fixed to one place, there’s this part when the women walk around the pyre, wrapping two folds of a thread, and circling with water… It looks like Ring A Ring Of roses version, for the older women! And mom laughs with me, every time she has to do that.. No reason really…

This time, I was following her around with the camera, but its such bizarre coincidence that I got the best pics when I was NOT following her.. She’s in blue by the way. We are still looking at the pics and wondering what kinda combination is that. (She’s good sport 😀 )

And around

So finally, how the whole affair ends is with a kid, not from the family, asked to break the end of the thread. This year it happened to be one of the cutest lil kids in my colony, and he’s my friend! Hi5 cutie!

Friend!

The lil guy is so sweet, he came down from his house, three storeys up, just to ask me if he could hit me with a water balloon 😀

I’m posting a day late.. this all happened yesterday, on the 26th of March.. Today was the big day, will post the meager pictures I got from today soon. These dates are not fixed, they follow some lunar calendar or something.

It’s a good Holi today. But that day’s not over. Let’s see if it becomes awesome 🙂

 

Value Is Based In These Questions

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Tenth standard in India once had a uniform system of examination. The government board, CBSE, would hold the annuals together for all schools in a city, for all students of tenth grade.

The system started changing. The annual exam became in house. The schools now receive many sets of question papers and choose one and that is tested. Then the papers are checked in the school but the final result is compiled by the board. Basically, the board sends some questions, and then copies out the result on official looking paper.

That’s where I am these days. Awaiting my annuals.

And enter the new twist. The exams now have some new fad called Value Based Questions.

So.. what’s this, board?

Answer: We thought your life was going too much by your terms.

Of course you did. Now, in the exam paper of every subject, EVERY (you’ll know what that means jussst now..) there are a few questions, three or four, that try to “sensitize students”, “invoke empathy for the society” and “instil moral values” in them. The board realised long back that they could make us do anything if they put it up for marks. They know how to buy.

Here go the examples now.. one for each subject whose paper I’ll be taking. Let’s take the ‘less crazy’ to ‘absolute bewilderment’ order…

Least Crazy Subject for VBQ: In the Social Studies (These include History, Political Science, Geography and Economics all together)

The Vietnamese war sprung from discomfort among the Vietnamese people under the colonisers, in all spheres of life. (1) What spheres were these? (2) What  virtues and qualities did the Vietnamese show?

Notice how the first part of the question relates to he chapter but the second is moral buttering on the examiner, “patriotism, love for the country, and social responsibility”. 😛

Number Two: In English Literature

“Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”

(1) Why was the albatross hung around the mariner’s neck? (2) What quality does this show of the mariner?

Technically the second question, which is the VBQ, it would have been normal if we could give a study of the mariner’s emotions, but the answers, according to the answer key are “Guilt, Dire repentence.” No views. Definite fixed answer required.

Now We Are Talking: In the Sciences (Physics, Biology, Chemistry)

‘Sania and Shreya’ are best friends and study in grade 4, recently, Sania has been
facing difficulty in reading the black-board text from the last desk. Shreya is little
uncomfortable and wonders why sania avoids sitting on the last desk. On observation
she found that sania often carries junk food in her lunch. Shreya has started sharing
her lunch – full of green vegetables and fruits with her. Sania is now better and has
also started taking a ‘balanced diet’.
(i) Name the eye defect Sania is suffering from?
(ii) What value is shown by Shreya and Sania?

Answer for Ques Two- ACCORDING TO ANSWER KEY, SO WE HAVE TO WRITE THIS ONLY!- Love for her friend.

Let’s just move on.

Now, Now: Mathematics!!!

Ramesh, a juice seller has set up his juice shop. He has three types of glasses of inner
diameter 5 cm to serve the customers. The height of the glasses is 10 cm.(use π =3.14)
– A glass with a plane bottom.
Type A
– A glass with hemispherical raised bottom. So that the bottom is curved in, and less juice will fill.
Type B
– A glass with conical raised bottom of height 1.5 cm. So that the least amount of juice is filled in.
Type C
He decided to serve the customer in “A” type of glasses.
1. Find the volume of glass of type A.
2. Which mathematical concept is used in above problem?
3. By choosing a glass of type A, which value is depicted by juice seller Ramesh?

Answer to Ques 3- HONESTY! I would say, Lack of creativity dude! You had all those shapes and you used the normals??? Cmon!

Sigh.

There is no scope for imagination in the board.

Tut-tut.

But all this isn’t very new. Recently, we were given a booklet, with 700 questions about who’s this and who’s that in the life of a historical/religious saint of India. Apparently the board is a huge fan. Great!

But we don’t get any free books… so what’s this? Lo and jolly behold! It’s a TEST 😛

That called a long period of whining, collectively from students and baffled teachers, but only some joined me in organised whining, like asking “Where is the secularism?!”

(That leader is kinda religious, and well, you know them all… even if they aren’t religious they’re all constantly talking about God. I mean, half of their policies that they lead social reform/political stance/ any thing what so ever on is based on God! Most people believe, I get it, but just because I don’t, I shouldn’t be made to feel like an outcast, an alien! The Constitution of the country says I shouldn’t!)

The board and I have hardly ever agreed on what’s a GOOD addition to the curriculum and what’s harm under a layer of sweet-talking…

But they are the ones who are heard, of course. No one even knows I’m speaking.. unless they know where to find this blog.

Anyway, I’m not joining the education board, not now not ever, so my opinions and cares go as far as my grades 🙂 Selfish much. Saves my life much.

Anyway, let me go now and baffle my in-sensitized self over the immense value in these Value Based Questions and you carry on with sane life!

See ya! 🙂

 

The Legend of Diwali

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Christmas may be The thing all over the globe, but here, in India, it doesn’t stand a CHANCE against Diwali. So you could say Diwali is India’s Christmas, or you could say it correct and say Christmas is the world’s Diwali. 🙂

Growing up in India, I pretty much fell into a tradition of celebrating Diwali. But when I was old enough to actually sit and listen to stories that I won’t forget with the next meal, I realized there’s so much to this mega-festival that’s it really a sin to try and grumble on Diwali day, let alone not celebrate!

And before we divulge in that beautiful mythological/historical (not my debate) tale, I should let you know that Diwali follows a lunar calendar of sorts to occur, and that this year, you could mark 13th November for it. But we do start celebrating much earlier, and I admit I just jumped with a sudden firecracker.

So long long ago, in the land of Ayodhya, there was a king who we shall call just that because there is really no point in giving you many names, just to confuse. So the King had three wives, no such thing as Law Court to stop him you see, but he had no kids. And he wanted some. So he did a prayer (don’t ask me why) and long story short, some years later, he had four handsome able sons for princes. (One wife had two, duh.)

Now that may mean joy for some, but for the second Queen’s maid, mind you, the freaking maid, this was a problem. She turned the second Queen into a doubting and jealous wife, who wanted her own son to be crown-prince, and not the oldest son as was custom. So she goes to the King and she makes him promise he’d do as she asked BEFORE  she told him what she wanted. EPIC mistake in almost every Hindu Myth Tale, but boys never learn! All a girl’s got to do is bat her eyelashes, or in this case, trust the Queen’s innocence and not check up on their servants!

Oh boy. Poor King is heartbroken. The second Queen has asked for the oldest son to be sent away, to live in a forest for 14 years and the throne to be her son’s. The King would gladly give the throne, but he can’t part with his dear son!

Anyway, while all this is happening, the son in question, whose name is Ram (important name, please don’t make him sheep, it’s Raaaam, like in… like in Homage.) So Ram is off helping some priests with their prayers (get used to these) and protecting them from demons trying to disrupt the said prayers. And grateful for his help, a priest lets him tag along to a king’s ceremony he has been invited to, where his daughter, a famed beauty, would choose a husband from a group of suitors who’d compete for her. Talk about ‘winning’ the girl. 🙂

Now please tell me you saw it coming. Ram goes and sits like a prince in the audience and watches suitors make a fool of themselves. The challenge is to break a particularly heavy bow, bows were elaborate and heavy and made of gold back then, and practically owned by everyone because hunting was a hit. This particular bow was a God’s bow, so it was realll tough. But when all the suitors can’t even manage to pick it up, let alone crack it, the girl’s father announces in despair, that anyone who thinks he can do it may come forward, royalty or not, lest his daughter go unmarried. So Ram, polite as he was to not butt in when not invited, goes over, looks at it, touches, just touches the bow with his foot, and BAAAAAAAAMMMM, it’s down into pieces. I can’t imagine how he walked the earth without pressing it in then, but anyway.

So Ram returns with his pretty wife, Sita (Yeah okay, humour her with See-ta) and remember her name, without her the tale wouldn’t have existed. So the couple return to Ram’s father’s kingdom and get thrown back out. Or rather, get tear-waved out. And he’s such a  beloved, Ram, that one of his brothers wants to leave with him, and he does. So off go Ram, Sita and the younger loyal brother Lakshman, leaving sad hearts throughout the kingdom.

Scene change. The forest. Enter third king of the story, our villain, Ravanna. (Ra-One) Turns out he prays devoutly to the Gods and he’s blessed with certain superpowers. So is his uncle. And when they hear that Sita married Ram, and Ravanna couldn’t get her before, he’s furious! YEP LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, IT’S ALL A FIGHT OVER A GIRL. PS Some religious Indian is gonna kill me soon, for slander or disrespecting or something, so you know if the posts stop coming.

So our superpower-ed Ravanna and his superpower-ed uncle hatch a plan to kidnap Sita. Talk about royalty pride. Out of the window! So the uncle changes into a deer (the story was medieval, not the superpowers) and lures Sita’s attention. She sends poor Ram after the deer, to get it for her, and the deer takes Ram off way into the forest. Once inside, he mimicks Ram and shouts in Ram’s voice, “Lakshman, SAVE ME!” Can you BELIEVE it?!So loyal brother Lakshman wants to run to his brother’s aid, thinking some tragedy had befallen. But he can’t leave his beautiful sister-in-law to the mercy of fate, what if something happened to her in his absence, wild animals for instance? So out comes some praying, and Lakshman calls the grace of the gods to protect his sister-in-law as long as she remains inside a boundary he draws around their humble cottage.

But with the men away from the scene, out comes Ravanna dressed as a priest, and calls for Sita’s devotion to step outside the boundary and offer him food. How could she refuse? So after all Ravanna does catch her, takes her off in his flying cart (which gives the Wright Brothers competition as to who really discovered airplanes)

It takes a few years, a journey across India to Sri Lanka, and the loyalty of an army of monkeys (Literally) trusting Ram’s mission, that Ram and Lakshman finally reach to fight for Sita, and take her back. You really do want to skip 170 pages of Ram’s suffering and people showing their trust and faith and absolute love for Ram, and hence helping him get his wife back.

Let’s skip to the action. So there we are, on a HUGE barren ground, Ram’s army on one side and Ravanna’s on the other. Clash! Boom! Zapook! Bazooka-medieval-style!

Everyone’s down and crouching in pain, an arrow through the stomach, blood pouring, all except Ram and Ravanna. Showdown! Ram sends arrow after arrow through Ravanna’s head, but he just seems to GROW a new one! That is until a person who’s been on the other side, tells Ram Ravanna’s blessed with the Gods to have ten heads, and you could only kill him by an arrow through the belly button. (I always wondered why Ram didn’t just attack the head ten times, till the last head fill, rather than kill him the gross way.)

He wins. Sita’s back. Consequently 14 years are over and they return. And the people of Ayodhya welcome all three with great joy. They light their houses with diyas. I don’t know if you know what those are, so here’s a picture. Millions and millions of diyas in all the houses throughout the kingdom, and Ayodhya looks like a huge candle from a distance. And this is Diwali, welcoming the favourite prince, now God, Ram back, with such triumph. Every year we celebrate Diwali, with as much light as possible, with diyas and candles everywhere, and since this is the 21st century, lots and lots of fireworks too.

Diya
Their warmth, you wouldn’t believe, is sooo good you can spend hours holding one and just looking. Earth shaped into a cup-like structure, oil inside, and flame at the peak.

Epic isn’t it? I know I’m flourishing praise a lot, but you still get to disagree. And I’ve heard this story a billion times so I might have skipped something thinking I’d already said it or whatever, so please ask what you didn’t get. But, believe me, it couldn’t be better if I made it up!

There are some bits and pieces that I skipped today. Like Dusshera, another festival we celebrate before Diwali, and that’s the day Ravanna was killed. Like how some people demanded Sita be purified by fire since she had spent so long so away. Maybe good tales for when I return…I’m not gonna be writing for some time, you’ll probably hear from me On Diwali itself. So, see you on 13th, with a Diya in hand? 🙂

The 65th 15 Aug

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The Independence Day patriotism has weaned off completely. I don’t feel as enthusiastic today for several disappointing reasons, so excuse me if I sound dull in this update of the 65th Indian Independence Day on the 15th.

As is tradition, the colony I live in organised a Flag Hoisting Ceremony, with the rose petals that flutter to the ground as the flag unfolds on its short mast. As is tradition, that started off a day of kite-filled skies, as has been done for the last 65 years of India’s Independence- flying the kites as free as us! So what happens is, all the people get on as high ground as possible, or if they can afford it, as huge grounds as possible, and fly their kites, and since that becomes monotonic after a time, the trend to try and cut each other’s kites’ strings ensues. This string, in Hindi, is called maanjaa. Maan, as pronounced in Tar and Jaa as in lalala… Yeah, the same in both…

Have you ever looked up at the sky and found it a very surreal expanse, like a painted top? Well that’s what changes magically with these kites. Look at the sky for a moment and suddenly it turns into a dome- like the clouds are now painted not on a flat top, but a wide wide dome, and the little kites that dance in it are like those little shiny nothings in a snow globe. It’s a sight. And if I hadn’t left my camera in another town, I could have given you pictures. By all means, if you can, visit India near the 15th of August, and let me know if you’re coming to Delhi.

Anyway, this is what happens basically, besides old freedom songs, martyr songs, nightingale voice shrilly songs blare out from hundreds of loudspeakers and all the roads light up extra special with tricolour (The Indian flag) strings of bulbs on the sidewalks and above the dividers. The camera… I wish…

And even though most of today’s youth is clone-skeptical of anything patriotic or ‘Indian’, everyone joins in to celebrate, maybe because of the mad kite-flying. Oh yeah- another part of it- when you finally cut someone else’s maanjaa, you yell in delight, “Aieee Woooo!”. It’s like a signal to Kite Runners that run, a kite is falling for you to catch. The words literally mean ‘It comes.’ That’s my favourite part. Because I’m master only at sinking kites, not flying them, and blessed with a loud voice as I am, I can shout out in better than many. 😀

This is basically tradition. But what is NOT tradition is young boys bursting out in cacophany, the National Anthem, in the middle of the day and fumble over the ending paragraph so they repeat it all over again, and sigh, again. I wonder how many people stood absolutely still when this happened and for how long. Though I wasn’t a willing accomplice, they were singing right under my house and I jumped and dropped a utensil in the kitchen and gave them the perfect crescendo. Did my bit, it appears. Half a minute later, it seems a friend who got late for this proposed performance came running to find the boys signing off but of course, his entry called for a Redo. Five times, ladies and gentlemen, five whole times these previously cute boys minstreled their neighbours without mercy.
Sweet Independence.

Ah, what else?

Oh yes- the poor pigeon.

See, there’s a problem with kites now. Where the human concentration is higher, the kite concentration increases likewise. That increases the cut maanjaa concentration, because we Indians are master players. So these strings eventually fall on land, and on trees and poles… And so do the kites, in fact, there was once a competition for the picture that showed the max number of kites stuck on a tree….

Anyway, this year, to my very great surprise, there formed a WEB of maanjaas on the ground soon after the flying began. And when I stepped out on my balcony, I found in horror, a poor poor pigeon stuck in an invisible bundle of maanjaas. We got him out, sure. But while it was stuck, its wings were bent in such a painful tangle, and it looked so young and scared that everyone held their breaths. I wish such accidents don’t become as much a tradition as kite flying in the years to come.

Though that hope is a little dangerous, as I tripped twice myself for the first time in my life, and that’s after I walk carefully. Something went wrong… but the people won’t let it continue, I know. The respect for Independence Day is too great for such trivialities to be allowed to occur.

So, Happy 65th Birthday India! And believe me when I say this, India earned it.

 

 

 

 

 

National Crisis…. Oh cool!

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I respect my nationalist leaders, all the freedom fighters, every single man, woman and child who has struggled for anything ever. That sent out right, why I consider ‘National Crisis’ cool is not really blasphemous as you will come to know. Just how many times have you been proved wrong when you prejudged at this blog, by the way? Anyways… 😀

I am an avid history fan. I love the idea that this world has been doing its rounds longggg before I was born and now that I am here I get to listen to all the tales and open my eyes wide, mesmerized. Hence, I have followed every major movement in history diligently down the Wikipedia pages and reveled the interesting words of passionate blogs and articles.  (Though that doesn’t mean I remember everything!) But could I ever imagine that I, a citizen with good enough rights in the twenty-first century, would be a PART of one in my time?!

Oh no.

But I am!

This was intended to be just an update so I can’t possibly let loose with the imaginative feelings budding up now.

The National Crises is….

The entire Northern Grid electricity has gone bonkers! And 19 of India’s 28 states are *zu-ippp* facing power cut. In a sense, this is professing equality isn’t it? Or fraternity?

Anyways, so with this big a crisis on, surely it’s National and I find myself a part of blessed history. I mean, come on! How often does half the nation silently mourn lack of electricity and shows solidarity and there aren’t possibly politicians with contradicting views on this one issue!

And I can proudly say I am not giving away a national secret too. Because I heard we were pulling some energy from Bhutan, was it? Think of it… imported electricity. Bet you want to steal the phrase.

Yeah, that’s my update. Cool, remember? Yeah, frowning won’t make it any uhh… electrical…. or so…

And that’s why… TADADA!…. I might have trouble putting up posts regularly for some time. The real update. That’s the reason I’m so late today itself.

Hey say what? Care to send over help so you could read your favourite blog?! Which blog? Uhh.. this one?

Anyways. 😀