Friday, December 30, 2016

(Patna) “We have been working in this plant nursery for last four years.”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

(New Delhi) “I am a kathak dancer and it is more than a hobby for me. I started my training from Class 3 in school but took a break after some years for board exams and college studies. When some of the regular jobs didn’t work out for me, I thought it was a good time to start my kathak training again. I enjoy giving stage performances. I still get stage fright but I just love it.”

Friday, December 16, 2016

(New Delhi) “I got married in 2004 and for the next four years, I faced physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. I don’t want to talk about the abuses because later all the bad memories rush back and I feel very disturbed. I was still trying to compromise and trying to lead a normal life but after one particular incident, I felt enough was enough and that I couldn’t continue any longer. I moved to Delhi with my one and a half years old son and then I filed a domestic violence case through an NGO and got a job at another women’s rights organisation.

But the case went on for 4-5 years with no end in sight, and it was increasingly becoming difficult to take leave from my office to attend court dates. After I filed my case, the court ordered my case to be transfered and during this process my court file was lost. The court clerks took around 7-8 months to locate my file and put before the judge. The case kept getting prolonged for years for various reasons. There seemed to be no relief and on top of it, my husband started calling all my family members and relatives and saying he wanted a reconciliation and that he would try to improve himself. My husband’s calls troubled everyone and I couldn’t let my family suffer because of me and so I withdrew the case. Right now I am still with my husband. The situation didn’t change much but it’s better. 

I lived on my own for over 4 years. I had a job. I raised my kid as a single parent. I got school admission for my son on my own in a city like Delhi. I did everything on my own and it gave me a lot of confidence. Sometimes, I feel I took a wrong decision, but I try to be happy; let’s see what the future has for me.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

(Patna) “I am a teacher and have been teaching for the last 33 years. I always tell my students that their parents are working hard to build their future, and so they should work hard too. If they understand their parents feelings, only then they will progress in life.When students come back to meet me, it feels good. I remember once I wanted to visit a temple but it was very crowded and I couldn’t go inside. Then I saw a girl in a police uniform walk up to me, and said let me take you inside. She was a former student. 

I have eight sisters. As kids we used to study together and help each other out. Someone was good at Science while someone else in Maths. Now, one sister is a lecturer, another is a home maker, one is a doctor, and five of us are teachers. We were in a joint family. I feel joint family is a good practice and that’s how I was able to do my job as there was always someone in the family to look after my child.”

Sunday, November 27, 2016

(Nepura, Bihar) “She is my daughter. She doesn’t go to school because the school asks for Rs. 500 per month. How are we going to manage that much money? We hardly earn Rs. 200 per month. Rice is Rs. 25 per kg, potatoes are for Rs. 12 per kg, goitha is for Rs. 20.”

Friday, November 18, 2016

(Nepura) “I am making thread out of cocoon. I have been working for several years and people often come and take my picture. Sometimes people buy the cloth that we make here. This thread is used to make tassar silk.”

Friday, November 11, 2016

This is in context of the JNU incident of February to March 2016 where sedition charges were levied against the students of JNU:

(New Delhi) “Look at current situation in the country. We are a country of over 100 crores; we have more than 22 languages, people come from different kinds of background. We have every religion in the world in this country. Everybody dresses differently. In a country like this when somebody dissents from what the state thinks, you can’t call that person anti-national. I have a right to dissent; that’s the basis of democracy. The minute I say something that you do not like, you can criticize me, but you cannot imprison me, and you can’t call me anti-national. 
Are you saying that there shouldn’t be any questioning in the Universities? That is the time to experiment and question all kinds of thoughts. We are living in a very troubled time. You can’t impose prohibition on a thought process or a way of living or on what you eat.
It is not only disappointing but dangerous that the Lawyers, Police and Politicians who are sworn to uphold the Constitution don’t understand what rule of law means. Also, everyone is entitled to a fair trial, and is innocent until proven guilty, but sometimes it just turns into a lynch mob justice. 

There was a protest by a very powerful community in one of the states where they burned buses, homes, and allegedly raped women. They killed an army officer but we don’t call them anti-national. We have to understand the word sedition and usage of word anti-national. It has political connotations and we don’t understand this in our country.”

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

(New Delhi) “I am someone who has grown up being discriminated against for my skin colour and weight. It is typically related to the fact that you are a girl; nobody asks men these questions. The criteria when judging a man is that he should be doing well for himself in his career. But for a girl, it is not enough. You have to be a lot of other things as well. 

It started with the family because a number of my relatives used to say, “Oh, you are so cute and you have beautiful features but you are dark” or “How can you be so nice looking and yet be dark.” As if someone dark-skinned can’t be nice looking. At a younger age even your friends can  also be insensitive. I have heard things like “Your mother and sister don’t even look like you; are you sure you are related to them?” or “How can they be so nice looking and how can you be so ugly”.

I was in a co-ed boarding school right from the beginning. You know how teenage boys are. They can get very mean. I was left out of a lot of activities because I was not nice looking. I have grown up with the idea that you have to be nice looking, otherwise people are going to be rude and mean to you. 

I think that’s an insecurity that hardly ever goes away. So whenever something on a personal front goes wrong, then you start questioning everything all over again. Being at a “marriageable  age”, when certain things don’t work out, then you keep thinking if this is why it has not worked out. You start doing all the permutations and combinations in your head. It all adds up and snowballs in your head.

The same people really compliment me and say all kinds of things to flatter me but it doesn’t matter now. The whole point is that we shouldn’t judge someone by their colour or weight; it doesn’t define them as a person.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

(Patna) “I retired as a teacher in 2010. I worked for 34 years, during which I taught Political Science to high school students. Initially, there were only four students - two in Arts and two in Science. When I retired, high school was a much bigger place.  

Both my parents were doctors. They were also freedom fighters in the Indian National Army led by Subhash Chandra Bose. I had studied in an orthodox convent school, which was like finishing schools. One time after I had gotten married, a school principal from one of the reputed convent schools in Patna mentioned to me that I would be a good teacher. I told her that my family was conservative, so I wouldn’t be allowed to work. She told me “don’t waste yourself, go and talk to your family”. I spoke to my husband and he said that there was no harm in trying and if I liked the job then I could continue teaching. Since he was so supportive, I went to teach in that school the very next day, and I stayed on for the next 34 years. 

Teaching and learning methods should be simplified to such an extent that each and every student can understand. I told my students not to cram and emphasized learning and understanding in the most basic form. Every child is gifted, and phrases like “weak students” should not be used. Some students are good at academics and some in sports or singing. Some of the girls used to tell me that they are not good at anything. Then I assigned them the responsibility to save electricity in the classroom and ensured that the class applauded their efforts. In addition, if the class representatives needed to take any matter before the Principal, these girls would go along with them and voice their opinions. Once their confidence was built up, they picked up on their studies as well. I wanted my students to be confident, and to have a holistic personality.

When I joined the school along with a few others, it was with a genuine interest in teaching. We were all driven to work hard. When the teachers met in the staff room or outside, our main area of conversation was what we could do for our students. Occasionally, when somebody joked to break the monotony, we used to break into laughter. But we mainly discussed issues and challenges that were related to education. We didn’t waste our time. We were in a less materialistic age. 

Even now, I am happy to help my students. I make myself available at any time if they want to prepare for job interviews or even if they are feeling low and just want to chat. When somebody is moving abroad for further studies or for work, I put them in touch with my students already living in that city. I am so lucky that whenever I ask my students for any help, they never refuse. My school is still a special place where students and teachers have a special rapport.”

Thursday, September 22, 2016

(New Delhi) “I am studying in Class 10. I am not too worried about my school exams. In the future, I want to do something to help Syrian and Afghan refugees. 
I like to read about the history of India and Pakistan, and this has triggered my fascination for  Persian poems and Sufi songs. My favorite poets are Shams Tabrizi and Hafez.”

Friday, September 2, 2016

(Bhopal) “I am a journalist. I have been working for almost 22 years and I have worked with a leading national daily for 15 years. I love writing, especially stories. I still work the old school way- I take notes and then I go home or to the office and write my stories. I want to travel around Madhya Pradesh to uncover and write stories that tell ground realities, which can change some lives. I have always been interested in social and rural polity.
I am from Nagpur and came to Bhopal in 2003. I did M.Sc. Tech in Applied Geology and I was a University topper. Everyone expected that I would take up Geology as my career and was even offered an immediate teaching assignment. But I accidentally became a journalist. A friend had mentioned that there was a job opening for a journalist and had suggested that I should apply for it since I was good at writing. Till then I had no idea what journalism was all about, what my schedule would be, and how my lifestyle would change. When I started working, I moved around all day in buses and auto and had hectic schedules. I would come back home at 10 pm after leaving home early in the morning.
Professionally, I didn’t have to struggle a lot. I might have been lucky. I always kept my focus on work. I have always been a field reporter from day one. Earlier, there were very few women reporters. But I developed an attitude where I was very comfortable with my surroundings. As I became more experienced, I had the freedom to choose my stories. Apart from writing on health, women and child rights, education, heritage and social concern issues, I have covered elections, assembly sessions and crime stories.
The only thing in life is to stand by your principles; then life becomes very easy. Your mantra can be pursuing anything that makes you happy and confident. I gave up my cushy job as Deputy Editor because I felt it was going against my journalistic principles. I would have earned a lot of money but I would not have been able to do the kind of work that I was interested in. The other important thing in life is not to hurt anyone.
When I was starting my career, my parents were very supportive. However, they were also apprehensive about how I would manage if it got late at work. A few years later I decided to move out and started living on my own because my schedule was disturbing the entire family. My father (he is no more now) didn’t used to keep well. But he would stay up for me until late at night and eat only when I come back. I realised this was not going to work for me. So when I was given a job opportunity to stay in Nagpur or move to Raipur, I chose Raipur. I am still single and live alone but now my schedule doesn’t disturb anyone. I get to do what I want and devote my entire time to my career. Slowly, my parents also realised that I am doing well and I love my work.
Initially, my parents and a lot of other people were persistent that I should get married at the right time. But somehow I was very clear from a very young age that I didn’t want to get married. I love doing things on my own. People often tell me there is still a chance that I can still get married. I laugh and tell them I am happy the way I am. I guess single people have to hear this till their old age. I am a very open and jovial kind of a person. I keep laughing and cracking jokes. That is my persona. Some juniors at work come and tell me that they look up to me and that they also don’t want to get married. I tell them not to make anybody else their ideal because everyone’s situation in life is different. What is good for me might not be good for them.
I feel happy to be a woman in India. Women are doing well in India. Of course, there are still several challenges. I know because I have been writing about them. But I think one should also try to portray the positive stories.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

(Bhopal) “I heard you are clicking everybody’s pictures. Please click mine too. I got married 2 years ago and I have a son. Can I go now?”

Friday, August 5, 2016

(Bhopal) “I have three sons. My husband died in 2005. My youngest son is unable to move one of his legs. When he was born, he was healthy. Doctors say a lot of money is needed for his treatment. Where will I get money for his treatment? I don’t want anything except his good health. But only one of my sons is earning, which is not enough for the treatment. All the money he earns goes into household expenses.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

(Bhopal) “I am a clinical psychologist. In 1984, there were only two national institutes that offered a course in clinical psychology in India with only 12 seats in each institute. It was not difficult for me to get admission in the course. Being the daughter of a doctor, understanding and serving human beings grew in me as a passion.

Despite being immensely useful in the changing modern world, clinical psychology in India did not have many job opportunities. The mental health facilities and medical set up hardly had any vacancies. It was a surprise and a challenge for both my husband (also a clinical psychologist) as well as for me. The medical fraternity and administrators were ill informed about mental health issues. Awareness was abysmal. People used to misinterpret psychological problems as being “mad” and the treatment as “shock treatment”.

I started writing weekly articles in both English and Hindi newspapers and devoted myself to raising awareness in the society. Through mass media, people started recognizing me as a writer rather than a professional. But it helped me to establish myself and my clinic and enabled me to help the people who needed such services. With the help of my husband, I started an NGO for persons with mental disability. It provided functional vocational and education guidance to them. But gradually we were able to develop more services and now we have training centers, where we train teachers to teach persons with disability. We started with partial government aid and now we are almost self-sustained. Our NGO was granted National Award for its services. Once the first organization became successful, my husband and I started a second private institute, which serves as rehabilitation centre and long-stay home for people with chronic mental illnesses.  

I started my journey alone. I worked hard to establish a clinic and an NGO. Gradually, we built two successful organizations with a number of employees and patients under care. In the past 30 years I have seen more than 20000 cases and I have learnt from each case. Each case narrates a different story, and when we see things from their angle, it teaches us about various dimensions of life and, of course, how to deal with challenges. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

(Bhopal) “This is my tea stall. My husband and I run this tea stall together. I have two daughters and a son. They are all married. Everything is good at home.”

Friday, July 8, 2016

(Bhopal) “I am a Medical Officer and I work at one of the largest reproductive and sexual health organization in India. I have my own clinic too. I have been working for last 22 years. For me, patient satisfaction is the best part of my professional life.”    

Friday, July 1, 2016

(Bhopal) “I am a final year law student and I plan to work on women’s rights issues. Soon I am going to start working with a litigation lawyer. I have interned at a corporate firm and realized it wasn’t for me. Also, while I was interning at a non-profit organization, I met a number of victims of domestic violence who were trying to find their way back to a normal life. Their stories inspired me a lot.

I feel very passionately about women’s rights issues. There were a lot of reasons that pushed me into this field. When I was born, my grandparents were very unhappy because my parents already had a daughter. My grandparents tried to force my parents to have a third child but my parents were happy to have us and didn’t go for a third child.

Then there were smaller instances like my relatives asking me to wear salwar suits as I was growing up. In college, there was a weird stigma attached to girls seen talking to boys or being friendly with boys. Also, when I would tell people that I go for swimming, then they would ask me if boys and girls swam together and if I wore a swimming costume. I didn’t know how to respond to that.

I came from an army background and I was brought up in a completely different environment. Some of these things were like a cultural shock to me. When I was really young, I didn’t understand the situation; with time it dawned on me the whole world is like that.”

Saturday, June 18, 2016

(Bhopal) “I live alone. It’s been 19-20 years since my husband died. I have a daughter who is married. I would prefer to work as a domestic help where the family talks to me nicely and I can take care of their children. I want to work so that I have two meals to eat everyday.”

Sunday, June 12, 2016

(Bhopal) “Today we went for boating and then strolled around the boat club while chatting; we had a lot of fun.”

Monday, June 6, 2016

(Bhopal) “We have been friends since school and were together even during our BCA course. After BCA, two of us continued with our MCA, but today we skipped college to meet and catch up.”   

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

(Bhopal) “Some of my batchmates told me that a very dear friend of mine has met with an accident that but he was okay. I was not told anything beyond that. When I reached the hospital, I saw his parents crying a lot; I had an intuition that something was wrong. Finally, I was told that my friend was in a coma.

Amongst all of our batchmates, he is the youngest. He is 19 now. He was 17 when we joined college. For all of us, he is like a kid. He was never rude to anyone even when someone was rude to him. He is a good human being and everyone in the college knows him for his kindness. I knew him right from the first day of our first year in college. He is my best friend and is like a younger brother to me. So it is difficult to see my younger brother in that place. His parents were obviously in shock to see their child in that condition but they are doing better now as half of our classmates and my friend’s relatives are also in the hospital with his parents. They are stronger.

He is on the ventilator. There is no deterioration or improvement in his condition. We are all mentally prepared that he may take a long time to recover but we want him out of danger and healthy like before. For the time being, we will assume that he is sleeping, taking rest.

He is a very good man and doesn’t deserve this. But I know he will fight till the end. It has been a lesson for the entire college that everyone should take care of certain rules. Please don’t drink and drive. Even if you are taking only a peg or a sip, don’t drive. The one who was driving was physically uninjured, but it is really unfortunate that another friend, who was with them, passed away.”

Friday, May 20, 2016

(Delhi) “As a kid I was very fond of dancing. In those days, TV was not available in every household so I used to watch TV at my neighbour’s house. I also started learning dance and then I went to Bombay where I worked in dance bars. I used the money to send my 7-year old brother to school. I came back to Delhi and continued dancing in a hotel.  I was very beautiful and my work was much appreciated.

Another girl, working in the same hotel grew insecure because of my work. She had worked in the hotel for over 4 years and said that her work is being hampered because of me. One day she threatened me that if I don’t leave my job at the hotel, she will throw acid at my face. I filed a complaint against her. In the evening two police officers from the police station came to the hotel where I worked. The police called the owner of the hotel, the other girl and me. She apologized several times in front of the owner and police officers. Everyone asked me to forgive her, and so I forgave her.

One evening as I was leaving for work, her brother was standing at the corner of my house with acid in his hand. The moment I was about to enter an auto-rickshaw, her brother threw acid at me. My face and clothes burnt immediately. I started screaming for help. There were a few people around who poured water and milk to ease my pain. The auto-rickshaw driver gave his shirt to me to cover my body as my clothes had burnt and my chest was bare. I was taken to a hospital, where doctors immediately started my dressing. I was in the ICU for three months, and my treatment went on for a long time.

Not only was my face disfigured, I lost my eyesight too. My nose had melted because of the attack and as a result I couldn’t even breathe. Recently, I spent Rs. 2.5 lakhs on restructuring of my nose. I also went to a lot of hospitals for my eye treatment. I went to hospitals in Delhi, Amritsar, Hyderabad, and they all could not help me in restoring my eyesight. I went to a very reputed hospital in Chennai where they said they could restore my eyesight but I will have to stay there for over 6 months and will have to pay around Rs. 8-10 lakhs for my treatment.

In the court case, I pleaded that I lost my eyesight and don’t have parents to support me and needed life long support. After 7 years in the fast track court, only Rs. 2 lakhs of compensation was granted to me by the court, out of which, I received Rs. 1.4 lakhs. This is the story of our country. The girl and her brother were sentenced for only 5 years of imprisonment. After spending six months in the jail they were released on bail and till date they are out leading a normal life,  while I have spent all my savings on my treatment. Today, I am under a debt of Rs. 7 lakhs. My brother left his studies and took a job to support me. I went to national and local leaders and to a lot of other people but have received no help so far. After 12 years of the incident, my case is still pending in High Court. When I go to court, I get just another date and when I go to the leaders, they just write letters and then send me to another person. But no one helps. Under the direction of Supreme Court of India, I was given a job but the salary hardly takes care of any medical needs or any other basic necessity.”

**Dear Friends,
Ms. Anu Mukherji is looking for monetary support for her eye treatment. Anyone interested in contributing can click on the link below for further details:

Monday, May 9, 2016

(Bhopal) “I work for the city Municipal Corporation and collect garbage in the morning and work here after 2 pm. There are a lot of problems in our lives. For instance, my husband and I only get Rs. 3700/- per month. It is difficult to manage in this little amount. I have five children. My children are the reason why I smile all the time.” 

Friday, April 29, 2016

(Bhopal) “I am a labourer. I have four children. Life is smooth, there is no special reason to be happy or sad.”    

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

(Bhopal) “We all are from one family. Currently, we work as day labourers but are looking for some home-based work. We live in a rented accommodation; none of us has a house. Also, we do not have a ration card. We applied for a ration card and we even gave money whenever somebody asked, but we could never get it.”    

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

(Delhi) “I have a few concepts twirling in my mind, as soon as they crystallize, I shall begin my new book. My last book ‘The Curse of Nalanda’ was released in February 2016. Earlier I worked with Doordarshan, which was the only channel available then. The highest TRP grosser was ‘Saptahiki’ as it provided glimpses of the movie to be shown on Sunday evening and clips of film songs for Chitrahaar. I was lucky to be compering this programme. People still remember Mahabharat serial. I was assigned the interview of its most popular character Krishna; the interview was a huge hit. That was the peak of my career with Doordarshan, as I lost my voice after working there for 13-14 years. I was unable to speak, and used paper and pen to convey what I had to say. Doctors, Homeopaths, Vaid, Hakim, speech therapist were all consulted, but there was no improvement. Someone suggested music therapy, yoga and Pranayam. This suggestion was helpful. I started learning music and slowly my voice started coming back; people are able to understand what I say now, but still at times it goes off completely.

My professional career was over. I used to be a regular child artist with All India Radio, Patna. My voice was my biggest asset right from the beginning; to lose it at the peak of my career was traumatic. Those days if anybody said, “Sorry, what did you say?”, something would stiffen inside me and I would stop talking. I went into a shell, shunned company, and was totally depressed. Gradually, I began reasoning with myself, “Okay fine, one profession is over, but that does not mean the end of life.” I resolved that no matter what, I would continue with my creativity. Creativity has been like life and meditation for me. I started painting, and had a number of successful exhibitions, where a number of my paintings were sold. I understood and felt the pain of handicapped people. I realised that there is a world of pent up emotions inside all of us, waiting to explode. I started penning my thoughts. People have given positive feedback on my books that encourages me to write more. Now I feel comfortable even with my distorted voice. I have been an optimistic person, and God has been very kind to me. If one door closes, the other is sure to open up. If you have faltered, gone through a bad experience or have some serious ailment, your life does not end there. Make disabilities your strength by focusing on areas under your control. If you decide not to stay pessimistic, you will pull through. One thing I strongly believe in is to never run after name, fame and money. True success is in dealing with everyday life situations. If you are able to adjust with your life and people around you, you have achieved tremendous success.”

Friday, March 11, 2016

(Bhopal) “Over the past several years, my students and I have organised talks, round table discussions, essay competitions and national seminars on issues related to gender justice. I have also organised legal literacy camps for women in surrounding villages so that my students could get an experience of working with women who are living without any knowledge of their own rights. We also worked as a service provider under the domestic violence law. The Gender Justice Cell, created by my students and me, had contributions from both boys and girls. My students also conduct field studies on the impact of the law that they are going to practise some day. These students are going to be the Lawyers and Judges of the future, and so if they are free from societal biases, which are actually responsible for the suffering of women, it will serve society well. consider my students to be my children. I not only have a duty to teach them, but also to help them become humane individuals. Whether they become a Lawyer, Judge or even join corporate firms, they should be understanding, sensible, forthcoming and should empathise with the vulnerable. 
My students know what they want to do in their lives; they are adults, and they know what path they want to take. I just try to give some kind of direction and provide an open forum where they can speak to me anytime about any issue. I talk to them as a teacher and as a friend. I am strict as an administrator but I am not an arbitrator. I don’t impose my will on them, and there is always an open dialogue. If their rights are ever violated, I am here to help them.” (2/2)

Monday, March 7, 2016

(Bhopal) “I am a teacher. I teach Political Science, Law, Women & Human Rights, and International Space Law. Both my parents died almost at the same time, while I was still pursuing my education. Things were quite difficult for my siblings and me but we stayed together and cared for each other. We all worked together for each other's success and helped one another in taking important decisions. The circumstances had put us in a tight spot but we overcame all problems. I was able to pursue my higher studies and get a job.

In India, the society generally prompts us towards gender-related work. If you are a woman, the kind of treatment you are given at all levels, be it family or society or formal institutions, makes you feel that you are a secondary consideration in society. Also, the status of women in India is highly dependent on their marital status. Oftentimes their individual talent and persona is disregarded.  Furthermore, a girl's parents are always thinking that they have to get their daughter married- a process that begins from the birth of a daughter. I always wanted to set my parents free from this thought process but could not do it until the time of their death. Instead of entering the institution of marriage, I decided to study law so that I could not only stand up for myself but also to help those women who want to stand up for themselves and fight for their rights. (1/2)