Monday, August 5, 2013

Escape to freedom - a real life adventure

Age need not be the criteria for one to have an experience of a life time. Sometimes one undergoes such experiences at a very young age. This was the saga of one such person whom I got to know. This girl who is now in her early twenties had this to tell me.

She hails from a village where once upon a time her grandparents owned farm lands. As is the case many a time with the farmers where they depend on the vagaries of nature and on the money lenders over a period of time they could not sustain to retain their land and slowly lost all their land. They were reduced to a poverty stricken life.

This girls parents had four girls and one boy. The father being a drunkard, used to eke a living working on others lands. Once a person came to their village and told the villagers that he had come to recruit people to work in a far off place promising good pay. So about ten families opted to go to that land of hope. Now this girl was at that time about 6 years old and hence they left her older sisters and her brother at their grandparents place and took their little one along with them.

Within a few days these people became aware that the promised land of hope had reduced them to being bonded laborers! Everyday they were herded into a van and taken to a quarry where they were made to work for long hours. Food was provided. After work they were taken back in the van to the tents where they were put up. The catch was they were not allowed to go outside the perimeter and they were paid meager wages.This was the way they ensured that these people would not run away! They were actually like prisoners of war. The children were also not spared and they were made to work along with their parents. As this place was in a remote area with no habitat around, these people did not even know the name of the place.

The next part reads like an adventure. After a few months these people decided to escape form there. Since they were living in isolation and several miles away from civilization they did not have any means of contacting the outside world. They decided on a plan. Every night two members from the group would venture out to chalk a route to get to the nearby village. They had to do this very cautiously as they had to be back to work the next day morning. Day after day they would go further and further and finally one day they were able to locate a villager who gave them directions to the closest village. On the day they decided to escape, they set out clandestinely and luckily made it to the closest village by early morning and as soon as they saw a bus boarded it.

Since they had very little money, they were not able to go to their village. In order to earn and save enough money to go back they had to work.They landed a job at a coffee estate. This again turned out to be a nightmarish experience for them. All of them had to stay cramped in one room. This little girl also helped her parents with their work. One day there was trouble at the estate. The workers went on a strike demanding better pay and better working conditions. The situation got out of control and some of them got hurt and bruised. Finally this girl's family decided that they had to go back to their village. Atleast they had freedom there. And that is where they are now. The three elder sisters of this girl are married and this girl with her sister and her brother is now working here.

As she finished, I was awestruck by the fact that at such a young age this girl had undergone such extreme experiences which normally we only read about. But here she was right in front of me. I salute this girl and many like her who with sheer grit and determination have come so far in life despite all the odds that life has doled out to them. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

My little superheroes

The moment my children get to know the dates of the release of movies of their super-heroes, we are into constant reminding mode to book tickets for the movie (not that we need to be goaded, as we still enjoy our childhood super-heroes) and that is how this Sunday we landed at the theater to watch "Man of Steel". We thoroughly enjoyed the action, the emotional drama and the histrionics woven into the movie so superbly.

The usual story of Good triumphing over the Evil is something which has been written about since time immemorial. However in this case, the Heroes are coming from an alien planet flying to dizzying heights like Superman, or are born out of a scientific experiment gone haywire to make an ordinary mortal like Peter Parker weave a web of spell around us by becoming the Spiderman, or get dressed in a highly sophisticated experimental suit with which Batman protects Gotham City. One has to just go to the theaters to experience this journey, as irrespective of  age or country that one belongs to, one can find people thronging to embark on a journey of super adventure with their favorite superheroes.

When I was a kid, I never got a chance to read any of these comic books. So sometime in the seventies when the first Superman comic was made into a movie and released, I became a fan of Superman. The love for the super-heroes grew once we started seeing them on Television, Sunday after Sunday. And, I still hum the jingle of Spiderman.

When my children were around three and five we took them to the theater to watch their first ever Superhero movie 'Spiderman'. After watching the movie, there was no respite for any of us, as we were pounced upon from their 'imaginary high-rise buildings' like tables, chairs, and beds and were trapped in their web as they went about saving the world from the bad guys. All my tablecloths disappeared only to be found swooshing and trailing from behind their backs a la Superman and Batman. The day they were gifted with Superman and Spiderman outfits their joy knew no bounds. It became their second skin until they outgrew it. The outfits have now been given to my nephew who now almost eats and sleeps in it!

Even today the saga continues. Every now and then my younger son sighs and tells me "how I wish I could fly like Superman or spin a web like Spiderman, Mama". One of his dream is to create an Ironman suit. Amen to that. I guess we will never ever outgrow these Superheroes, as each one of us has this dream of soaring into a world beyond our imagination.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Tourist in our own city

Vacations are a time when we all look forward to getting away from the rut of life. The first thing even before vacations start, is planning your getaway. We all look forward to catching a few days of rest and come back rejuvenated to our routine, hectic life.

But the hitch with families whose children are in those two crucial years of 11th and 12th grade, vacation is a distant dream, what with all the coaching classes that they have to go to and simply cannot miss.

Hence when my son had just a couple of days holiday during his vacation, we wondered what could we plan for such a short duration? Going to resorts was out of question as just one and half day did not seem  worth the trouble. Then we hit upon an idea - why not take a tour of our very own Bengaluru? As is the case, most of us feel that since we are living in this city there is always time in future when we can visit places that we ought to visit, which believe me does not happen.

So we planned our itinerary, and started at 6.30 am. Children were also quite enthusiastic with this novel idea. Our first stop was the Dodda Ganapati Temple in Basavanagudi. This is a huge monolithic idol which is 18 feet in height and 16 feet in width. Close by, is another monolithic idol of Nandi - which is 15 feet in height and 20 feet long built in 1537! It is astounding when you see it looming right in front of you.

Next from there we went to one of the ancient temples famous in Bangalore - the Gavi Gangadhareshwar Temple again in Basavangudi built in the 9th century and is in a cave. It is as the name suggests a Shiva temple with the Shivlinga with a small nandi in front. The special feature of this temple is that once a year in mid January, the sunrays fall on the Shivalinga for one hour as it passes through the horns of the Nandi. Just imagine the knowledge our architects had, not only about designing and sculpting but also of astronomy? Isn't it amazing? When we were inside the cave we could feel the vibes and could feel such spiritual contentment which is indescribable! We finished visiting these temples in the morning - I think the best time for divine communion.

By this time we were all hungry and went to a nearby restaurant - The Kamath Bugle Rock and had what Bangalore is famous for Idli, Vada and Upma. We had a long time before our next meal so we really hogged. After rejuvenating with hot cup of Filter Coffee, we were back to the next destination - the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum. Children had a good time working out the gadgets displayed and thoroughly enjoyed the Fun Section where one could learn science the fun way. After this the next stop was the Bangalore Palace.

Even after being here for so long somehow we had missed visiting the Bangalore Palace. The best part is the narrowcast instrument we are provided with, with which we can go around the palace and get to know the history of each and every room or some of the significant items that is on display. This was  an enjoyable experience seeing the beautiful columns and arches, rooms with wooden rafters and stairs, the beautiful Chandeliers , the ornate furniture and the artefacts displayed, photographs of the royal family, the paintings of some famous artists and so on and so forth which made us travel back in time to royalty and riches.

By this it was lunch time and lunch was at Cafe Masala at Eva Mall. It was a buffet and all of us enjoyed the wide spread and the food was also good. After a leisurely meal we walked to the Metro Station on M.G Road. Yes you guessed it - our next program was to travel by Metro. Though it has been operational for a long time we never had time to experience it. I must say the people who were involved with the designing and execution of this have done a simply superb job. We bought tickets for the last stop and the ride itself was just 12 to 13 minutes but absolutely enjoyable. Specially when one thinks of the time that one would have taken for the same distance if one were to go by car or bus or bike...... just can't imagine. Once we got down we visited the Gopalan Mall which is quite good I must say and picked up a few things though shopping was not on our itinerary! This was turning out to be better than we expected. We then took the Metro back to M.G.Road and as was our custom when we were teenagers loitered from one end to another on Brigade road. Finally we called it a day and reached home at around 9.30.

I guess all of us had a great time being "tourists" in our own city for a day. It was a spiritual, intellectual, gastronomic as well as a fun experience. Well isn't this what a holiday is supposed to be - a balance that caters to all the senses? Atleast for us this turned out to be the best holiday that we had in a long time. Until next holidays ciao...  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Being an 'unsocial' generation

This was what my grandmother used to tell us about their times. They hailed from a small village where there were just a few families. All of them knew each other in and out. Nothing would happen nor move without the knowledge of the whole village. Evenings meant the families sitting together on the portico outside and chatting. Neighbors passing by would join in. Almost all the children of the street would play together. Games would be played using materials available. So a wooden plank would turn into a bat, rolled rags would become the ball, stones found lying would be used to play four corners or eight houses. Seeds of trees would be used to play snake and ladder.

If there was a function in a family then it would not just be a function of only that family but the whole village would chip in. All women folks would get together and prepare sweets. Men folk would be busy getting materials and decorating the venue while children would play and have fun eating all that was prepared. When I think back on the lifestyle led by people like my grandmother I feel life was so very uncomplicated and simple.

Compared to those days, the life we are leading now generally is so stressful. Family size has shrunk. People stick to their homes and the sense of belonging in a neighborhood seems very limited. All of us live cooped up without bothering about others. Best friends and playmates of present day children are gadgets that they use day in and day out. In fact the situation is so bad that they hardly know who their cousins, uncles and aunts are. Indigenous toys are out. Branded toys are in.

Family functions are rare. Getting the whole family together to attend the function itself is a big question mark. I feel further down the generation will lose that wonderful human bonding. Will empathy, harmony, friendship, sharing, humaneness and other wonderful qualities that are required for us human beings to function in this society vanish? Looking at the speed at which the world is changing, will we live through this situation during our life time itself?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mother or stranger?

One of my friends has employed a full time house help whom she got from her village. My friend told me that this lady had been deserted by her husband and that she has a five year old child. She left her child with her parents who are now looking after the little one. To sustain herself and her child she has decided to work for my friend. Once in five or six months she goes to visit her child, stays there for a week or so and comes back again.

My friend has two children aged about four and seven. The house help looks after these children so well that they have become quite attached to her. She feeds them, bathes them, plays with them. In short, she does everything for them with lots of love and joy.

What a paradox life can be when one is under dire straits. On one hand as a mother she is forced to entrust the care of her child to her parents while looking after my friend's children with so much of love. She must be missing out on sharing that special bond of love which can exist only between a mother and child. How she would be worried every moment wondering how her child is faring back in the village, anxious if her child has been fed properly and on time, worried if her child is being taken good care when he falls sick, or wondering if he is crying out for his mother.

When I put my thoughts across to my friend she told me that the lady had told her after coming back from one of her sojourns to the village her child was not at all showing any signs of missing his mother. In fact the little boy was so very attached to his grandparents that for the child his mother had become a total stranger who would come once in a while bringing with her lots of gifts for him.

Well is that also not the harsh truth of life? A child gets attached to an adult person who takes care of  its needs. So for all you know one can give birth to a child and be the biological mother, but it is the person who nurtures the baby who will finally take the place of the mother.This being the case my mind crisscrossed into the question will the same not hold true for children who are adopted? When people hesitate to adopt saying blood relation is more important, I would think motherhood is all about nurturing the child with great love and affection and for this to happen, one doesn't necessarily have to be a biological mother.      

Friday, June 14, 2013

Closing Down Stop Last date 15th July Stop

"Sir Telegram Sir"....... would always get the householder to just leave whatever he or she was doing and rushing to the door with great trepidation, wondering what news it would be bearing. God help if the telegram was delivered at night, the whole household would land up at the front door fearing the worst of the news.

Even though over the last two decades I have hardly given a thought nor remembered that telegram existed it was with a sad feeling I read in the newspapers that BSNL was planning to close the telegram services from July 15th of 2013 as it was running on a loss of massive scale. Where at one time Delhi alone was sending one lakh telegrams now the whole country is estimated to be sending one lakh telegrams.

This got me interested to know more about the history of telegraph in India. It was started in the year 1833 by a young Irishman of 24 years William Brooke O' Shaughnessy , who was sent as an Assistant Surgeon by the East India Company. He was asked to string a telegraph line between Kolkatta to Diamond Harbour a distance of 43.5 Kms. The first telegraph message was transmitted in the year 1850 on November 5th. It was opened to the general public from 1855 February.

As a kid I used to associate telegram with sad news of either someone being seriously ill or that someone had passed away. So the moment the person would knock on the door and shout  "Telegram Sir" all of us would look at each other and wait for dad to open it and tell us the content. But not all of it was sad it would also be the harbinger of good news such as birth of a baby in the family, or someone getting engaged or date of marriage being fixed and so on.

We all know how important it was to wish the newly wedded couple if one was not able to attend the wedding. So we had lots of telegrams being delivered on the morning of the wedding. I remember during the time I got married, It was with great joy that I received for the first time in my name a host of telegrams from my family and friends who could not make it on the D day wishing me. I have retained all of them and now it would really be souvenirs retained for posterity and one which would give me great joy whenever I want to reminiscence of my special day.

Not only then but we also got congratulatory telegrams on the arrival of our first child from some of our old time relatives who still valued sending telegraphic message than call on the telephone. During that time as long distance calling was expensive we used to send telegrams wishing our near and dear ones through telegrams. I remember once we suddenly decided to send a happy republic day message to our 5 year old nephew on Jan 25th evening to be delivered the next day!!!

But now all that seems so very ancient. My kids do not even know about telegrams except for what they have read as part of their textbook lesson. So we now bid adieu to this once very important tool of communication also known as poor man's quick communication services after 160 years. As The Hindu Newspaper titled its article on this aptly -  "Dot, dash, Full stop" - Telegraph service ends on July 15th.