Thank you!!!! 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 790 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Charity vs empowerment

India is a poverty ridden country. According to the Rangarajan committee 29.5% of the Indian population lives below the poverty line. The fact is more pronounced in the rural and backward states of the country which is primarily dependent on agriculture as the basic occupation. The land holdings there are controlled by the few rich people and the rest are the farm labor who depend on their daily earnings for the survival of their entire family. This goes to say that a bad spell of monsoon would mean that they would have to pull their children out of the schools and they would have to migrate to the cities in search of a livelihood.

Most banks provide ample support by way of reduction of interest rates in the loans or by way of deferred payments. The Government in some cases also has helped these farmers by writing off the outstanding loans to these farmers. This helps them tide over the bad patch but in the long run these farmers and also the landless labor who are never at the receiving end of these benefits fall prey to looking up to calamities to tide through the bad patches.

The NGO’s and Government organisations who work extensively in the slums and poverty stricken rural dwellings provide for the people and give them ample support. In most cases their medical and basic needs are met but it also inculcates a sense of dependency on these organisations to fund their monetary requirements. Sometimes they look up to these organisations as their only source of livelihood.  Also corruption in these areas makes it impossible for the people to get what is allotted to them and most NGO’s working with poverty ridden people soon realised it.

The need to empower people to find their own feet therefore became of paramount importance.  Today most of the NGO’s have skill training programs where they teach the adult men and womenfolk of the households basic life skills which would help them supplement their earnings and in cases where there is absolutely no earning this training module has helped them find a source to provide for the entire family.

India is famous for her handicrafts. The handicraft and cottage industry has proven to be one of the major export oriented industry. Handicrafts have not only found its place in the urban haats and exhibitions but also in our urban malls. The skill required for this has been handed over from generations by grandmothers and mothers to their children. In other cases the NGO’s have started skill centers to provide such training. Be it the Kantha and jute industry in West Bengal, the handwoven sarees of the south of India or the Katki silk sarees and Pipli work in Odisha or the Warli Painting industry are just some examples of successful attempts by NGO’s to promote the artisans to find a source of livelihood without leaving the confines of their homes. Also the lace industry in Hyderabad and Karnataka and Chikan embroidery industry in Lucknow  helps young girls to help their parents earn more than Rs 50 a day to supplement their family income. The Lijjat papad movement and Anand have empowered women in Gujarat and Maharashtra and are success stories for such models.

The Kantha and chikan are no longer limited as the must haves in feminine wardrobes but it features in most fashion ramps and found its place in the international fashion scenario as well. I have worked with some organisations who have been providing training to young girls and women in the urban slums to find a means to earn a livelihood through such cottage industry. The upcoming festival of Diwali and Christmas has these girls and women make candles and colorful diyas and sell them. Also the embroidery business and garment business takes little capital and widely popular skill. In some cases the girls and women are trained in the beauty industry to enhance their income and provide for a career.

Dharavi in Mumbai is an excellent example of the cottage industry which houses not only one of the largest leather goods industry but it is also a major exporter of the leather goods. Dharavi has most of the garment industry within its confines. Entrepreneurship and the need to generate employment are the only means to eradicate poverty and empower the masses. If you can’t find a job for you, why not create it and create it for others as well. If one skilled person can teach another person the art…… he is empowering more people and helping more people to a means of livelihood just by sharing information and skill. Skill is something that can stand by you when nothing else does.

We donate money to various causes involving people but instead if we donate our time and teach or share some life skills that we have emulated over our life time we can help people to perhaps develop a skill to last a lifetime and also a sureshot means to earn a livelihood and support a family. They will no longer need the help of any charitable institutions but rather be independent as to provide support to many like them.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day…… Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Lao Tzu

 

Water Politics

Water is one of the most essential components for all living beings on the face of earth. It is also a fast disappearing resource. Scarcity of water is something that my city has faced stoically over the years. From getting a meagre supply of two hours a day to no water for days together. Scarcity of water therefore is something that is very close to our heart also something that irks and makes us happy. It has been a long time since we have been able to take this precious resource for granted.

We are totally dependent on the three months of moderate rainfall in monsoons for our annual supply of water. The entire agriculture is also dependent on the monsoons. The inflation rate rising prices are all dependent on the three months of monsoon. So it is but natural that when it comes to the political scenario the bigwigs make water one of the issues in the elections.

So far we haven’t got a single party who talks for the people. Most people are out to fill their own pockets. Most of the local politicians have vested interests or own the water tankers that supply water to the impoverished rich people in times of scarcity. You rarely hear of the rich ever having a water problem. It is only the middle class and poor who are dealing with this on a day-to-day basis. They wake up at odd hours to fill buckets with water to sustain the day or sometimes the days or week while the rich on the other hand fill their swimming pools and jacuzzi with potable water lest their skin gets affected.

The politicians wish to keep the pressure of the water scarcity in the minds of the people at all times in spite of heavy rains. The “one time a day” water supply to the city has been on in spite of the heavy rains. Authorities say that the catchment areas are  still only 95% full….. this in the wake of a very good continuous and optimum rainfall.

The politicians now have started their vote bank politics whereby they are diverting water to their own jurisdiction in view of the upcoming elections and creating a false scarcity in the minds of people. In spite of the so-called water shortage the farmers in rural India are still being encouraged to grow water sucking cash crops like sugarcane. Sugarcane has been responsible for draining the water table but the politicians who own these agricultural farms  and the sugar factories pay no heed to the woes of the people and continue to grow them thereby diverting potable water to these water hungry parts of the state.

Water harvesting is something that is being used for domestic use and watering gardens in the city is something that these sugarcane growers have never even heard of. The corporations make it mandatory for all housing societies to install borewells and water harvesting in their premises. The same has not even been implemented in the rural areas which need the water more.

Many novel villages have now implemented various methods of water harvesting in their villages. Many man-made lakes have been created to supplement the water shortage and supply water to the villagers and farmers throughout the year. The technology used is cheap and expertise is available at lot of NGOs who provide them free of charge.

We have had a late monsoon this year but once it has started it has made up for the deficit. Most of the rivers and lakes are full but the irrigation dept says it is not enuf. These days the current slogan the parties are making is that the villages need water and so in spite of rain we have to live with water cuts and they divert the water to feed the water guzzling cash crops. It is as if my city is responsible for the water crisis of the entire state. These villages have not made any attempt at water harvesting or even changed their crop pattern to low water requiring crops.

The politicians are also investing in expensive townships which has water guzzling golf courts. All the potable water is being diverted to these townships to feed their swimming pools and man-made lakes while the people who deserve this water continue to live in the misconception of having a deficit rainfall and subsequent water cuts.

5 Black Things that I want.

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Black is a forbidden color in my family. As a child I was never allowed to wear black in festivals and functions. It is considered a sad inauspicious color. In my mums language “It spells doom”  😀  I have never been allowed to wear it. So for me it has always been a coveted color. The times that i have thrown tantrums and rebelled for that perfect black dress…… only to be allowed a very dark blue…… but never black.

After I got married I have wanted to change things but never really got around to getting the “black dress” as I never really had a place to wear it. My mum and in laws would have banned me at any social occasion. I found it a very trivial topic to cause grief so it is still on my wish list…… since for like “forever”…… Hence my first really coveted Black thing would be a black dress.

The second is really easy. Black Stilettos to go with that perfect black dress. I have never had really really high stilettos. The max that I could get into were 4 inch pumps. Stilettos are really sexy stuff especially the Jimmy Choo ones. I’ve had my eye on the one that I want since a very long time.

The third black thing is a black box. I have wanted a black box for my camera and photography equipment since a very long time. Actually I think that it would top my black list. Especially in monsoons when the humidity is very high I live on the edge wondering what happens to my lenses and mount. A black box would really put my fears at rest. At other times I live in fear that all my photography equipment and external hard disks would get a  fungal attack.

The fourth black item on my list is black roses. I really really want to photograph black roses. I have never seen them in real and quite frankly I don’t think they exist…… but I am pretty sure that I could photoshop some dark red roses to black ones. I want to take pictures of fully bloomed dark black roses with lovely whorls of glossy black petals. Of late i have been totally enamored with black and white photography and the chance to photograph black roses has been a dream.

The thing about black and white photography is that it bares the skeleton of the photograph with out the frills of color only to reveal the stark beauty of the subject and virtually no photoshop involved. I have looked long for the really dark red roses at the florist only to be grossly disappointed. In the end I have planted my own. The ones at the florist gave me a grey touch. They aren’t black enough. I have the first batch of buds come and I took some shots to confirm that I got the color right. Now all I have to do is wait for them to fully bloom and hope that the rose doesn’t lose the color else I am back to my list. (The pics of the bud that I posted at the start of the post are the ones that I took today)

The fifth and last black item on my list is of course the “coveted by all” black diamond 😀  😀  😀  After all diamonds are a girls best friend. It is definitely the most must have on my list or may be it is the black box which i need so badly………. Needs and wants…….Well this is gonna take “forever” to decide !!!

This post is a part of #WhatTheBlack activity at BlogAdda.com

Three songs that are significant to you.

Music is the essence of all beings. We find music and rhythm in everything that we do. The birds chirping, the water falling, the sounds of cooking…… there is music all around as and in everything that we do. Music is a great mood uplifter for me. I can’t imagine my life without music. I would probably shrivel and die if I was denied music.

I was introduced to music at a very young age and since then my day has started with songs sung by my mother and ended with her humming a tune. Strangely my mother never required a source of music to listen to……. no iPod….. no stereo. Sometimes she would listen to the radio as she went about her daily chores….. but that was about it. I was introduced to a rather serious form of music….. Hindustani classical. It was supposed to fine tune my voice after which I was supposed to have branched into Rabindra Sangeet. I didn’t go that far as to become a maestro but enough to understand the delicacy and movements in music. I simply didn’t have the commitment and discipline required for the training….. but music remained my passion. My choice of music is eclectic. I can be happy listening to pop or disco and be equally comfortable listening to a rendition of  Raga bhimpalasi.

I am an Indian so my choice of songs will essentially be Hindi or Bengali the language that I am comfortable with.  I love so  many songs that I am not able to decide which one to put up. The crazy thing is that the top ten on my charts keep changing so often that I really can’t keep track of it.

So I am going to go with my first song being my all time favorite. Its a song by Pankaj Udhas from the album “Aman” : Song is Abhi ghar na jana.….. This song gets me nostalgic every time I hear it. This song is something of a blast from the past that I have not been able to shake off till date. I don’t know whether it is the slow tempo or the lyrics or maybe the piano used as the main musical instrument…… the song always has me in a sort of nostalgic and melancholy mood. I remember when I first heard the song I was in college and I must have replayed the song a hundred times.  The song really has no significance just that it is a beautiful piece of music by a great singer that I had come to adore. The music is light and it is soothing to hear. The lyrics are meaningful and there isn’t much as far as instruments….. just a piano.  I am posting the video of the same. (Courtesy You Tube)

 

The second song that I chose came to my mind as soon as I read the post. It is a very strange choice of music. It is a bhajan by Saint Kabir. Why it was my choice I wouldn’t be able to tell…… just that it was something my mother left in some corner of my mind. My mother would often sing this song. More often than I can remember. It made quite an impact on me. (Courtesy : YouTube )

LYRICS

Maati Kahe Kumhar Se, Tu Kya Rundhe Mohe
Ek Din Aisa Ayega, Main Rundhungi Tohe…

Aaye Hai So Jayenge Raaja Rank Fakir
Ek Sinhaasan Chadh Chale, Ek Bandhe Janjir
Durbal Ko Naa Satayiye, Jaaki Maati Hoye
Bina Jeev K Shwas So, Loha Basam Ho Jaye…

Chalti Chakki Dekh Ke, Diya Kabira Roye
Do Patan Ke Bich Me, Sabut Bacha Naa Koi
Dukh Me Sumiraan Sab Kare, Sukh Me Kare Naa Koi
Jo Dukh Me Sumiran Kare, To Dukh Kahe Ko Hoye…

Patta Tuta Dal Se, Le Gayi Pawan Udaye
Ab Ke Bichade Kab Milenge, Door Padenge Jaye
Kabir Aap Thagiye, Or Na Thagiye Koi
Aap Thage Sukh Upaje, Aur Thage Dukh Hoye

TRANSLATION

Clay asks potter why do you knead me
one day it will be my turn to knead you
( it refers to the day when the potter will be dead and would be buried in ground).

Everyone who is born will die some day, be it a  king or a poor man.
one goes on a throne and another one goes with chains on its body.
Don’t harass the weak, there is a lot of power in curses.
just like a lifeless dhokni can melt a strong thing like iron. 
( Dhokni is a hollow cylindrical tube used to blow air in furnace to make it hotter) 

On seeing the grinding stone (which grinds the flour), Kabir cries
nobody can survive between the two stones of karma and family 
Everyone remembers god in bad times, no one remembers god in good times.
if you remember god in good times, then you would never have bad times .

A leaf  falls off the branch and is carried away by the wind
Now that they have got separated who knows when they will meet
Kabir says don’t con others and don’t get conned by others as well ,                
You cant con anybody and get away with it.

The third song is by Frank SinatraMy Way“. I love all his songs but this one especially for the lyrics. He kind of talks about my motto in life. I love the song simply because it is a very meaningful song and a very beautiful rendition.  I identify myself with the song and the way he has sung it. He has encompassed his whole life in the song. It is a beautiful composition. (Courtesy : YouTube)

If you had the power to get somewhere where would you go right now?

Memories are tricky things. Bad memories can take us to a place where we are uncomfortable and unsafe……  whereas a Good and Beautiful memory can take us to a place where we not only feel safe but also it is something that stands out in the course of our life.

In my case some of my best memories are at the fort of Sinhagad,  in the outskirts of  Pune.  The winding lanes leading to the fort are lined with little yellow and orange wild flowers. So much that from far it looks like a carpet of yellow and orange. The low clouds touch your hair as you drive up the lanes. The cold wet feeling of having them over your face  is a wonderful feeling. Then comes the lovely trek up the fort…… Yeah it is tiring but reaching on top is worth every drop of sweat. By the time you are on the top you have the blood pounding in your ears. You stop awhile to catch your breath and take a small break and drink the cool clear water from the well and then look down to the beauty of the city way below you.

Everything seems so small and inconsequential at that moment. No problem or worry seems too big that it cant be handled. You feel invincible…… you can do anything. The moment of peace envelops you and you feel calm. Thats the feeling everytime…… every single time.

That moment when all the sounds in your mind stop and you can not really speaking hear anything, is what I try to capture. I dont really have any thoughts passing through my mind at that moment….. just a sense of stillness. Nothing seems to matter at that moment. I get that feeling every single time I have been there.

I havent been to sinhagad in a very long time now…… almost a decade plus……. now that I go back and calculate. Guess I have to rectify that before long.  With the industrialisation and IT boom in my city there has been a total geographic and demographic change in the city and the outlook of the people of the city. I doubt whether things are still the same….. or is it just me who has gotten older, bitter and disillusioned.

Sinhagad has been and will be for more years than any person living right now on earth.  Only people change around it.  A new generation looking for peace and solace like I did years before…… I hope they find it as I did and still do!!!

 

 

Snapshot stories

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Ever since I laid my hands on the first camera I was hooked. Totally hooked!!! I was 8 yrs old and the camera was my Dad’s black and white Agfa ever since that time till today I am still behind the camera. So when I had to go back in history to find a snapshot of myself where I could tell a story, I had to go really down memory lane.

This pic was taken at Valvan dam near Karla caves. The two ladies in the pic are my aunts. The pic was taken in the rains. I went to valvan dam for the first time a week before this pics was taken. The dam is located in a valley. It is surrounded by hills on all sides and the lake in the middle.  The first time I saw it, I instantly fell in love with the place. The day we went there we had very heavy showers and the place was full of waterfalls.  The pic is really fresh with the green grass and the hills covered with green grass. It was a sight to behold. The day I spent with my aunts we had been to Lonavala and Khandala and then I took them to Valvan dam. It was a beautiful day spent with two beautiful ladies.

Valvan dam really inspires a lot of happy memories. The beauty of the place is highlighted in the monsoon season.  When the waterfalls begin to enhance the beauty of the scenery. The dam is accessible only by a narrow winding road. The drive therefore is excellent. It goes up the hill and then down to the valley.  A favorite place of mine…..

 

 

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