Many an angry verse

Avleen Kaur Lamba

They are young and restless, and unafraid. They are rising from the crowd to make a point with their words. Words that are making a noise we grown-ups can’t dare to. From nationalism to depression and anxiety, from sexual pleasure to periods — every topic under the sun is explored by these spoken word poets. The style is conversational and makes an instant connect.

Most poems by Bengaluru-based spoken word poet Daniel Sukumar are usually dark and ‘not cheerful’. However, he believes that the hopelessness is there to tell people in such situations that they are not alone. He aims to reach out to people who don’t have the privilege of being on stage and plans to share their stories with the world. He says, “It’s a poet’s job to save the world — one poem, one story at a time. We can’t fit into tights, but we can be superheroes!”

Shamir Reuben, a poet attached to Kommune, a storytelling community in Mumbai, wouldn’t agree less. “I firmly believe in the strength of personal narrative. Poetry keeps me company when I’m going through good and bad times and I want to be there for people in the same way in their journey through life.” 

These poets don’t just want to share others’ woes and lend a shoulder, they believe verse can bring change too. Antarpreet, a Punjabi poet and student activist from Panjab University, feels the true purpose of poetry is to transform the society. He feels the onus to transform the socio-political scenario of any place is on those like him. And revolution doesn’t mean challenging political status quo alone; it is also about societal myths and psychological dilemmas. Agrees Samreen Chhabra from Chandigarh: “The intention is to question and challenge the common discourse around human dynamics.”

Yamini Krishnan, a 19-year-old poet from Pune, finds poetry empowering and talks about body image issues, mental health problems and racial and gender stereotypes in her spoken word performances. She calls poetry a platform to talk about things one can’t discuss in casual conversations. Similarly, Priyanka Sutaria, a poet and member of the Mumbai based organisation called ‘Why Indian Men Rape’, through her poetry, explores fluidity of existence in a world that tries to make objects out of our identities. She banishes gender constructs and talks about women’s sexual needs through her work.

With the idea of reaching out to the masses in mind, poetry is activism for these youths. Sabika Abbas Naqvi, a Delhi-based activist and poet, says she wants to sprinkle love around and talk about the reality of oppression on the roads, in the bazaars and reclaim spaces and spread love in these places. She is currently taking her poetry to the streets of Lucknow, Chandigarh and Bengaluru.

There is another category of poets too. These poets write for they have to! It flows in their veins and is meant to be delivered on paper. No, they don’t write to provide comfort or bring about a revolution. Like Anam Narula, a shayar writing in Hindustani (a mix of Hindi and Urdu). “I write solely for myself; in English to express my frustration and anger and in Hindustani when I want to write about love and beauty.” Gursahiba Gill, a student of psychology (Hons) and a poet from Chandigarh, supports Anam but feels that if an artist creates only to achieve an objective, he isn’t really being true to his potential.

These young poets don’t see life through tinted glasses. They are practical. For them, poetry is not about flowery words. Even if it is a celebration. Like Bengaluru-based Bharath Divakar’s verse. “At the end of the day, I want my poetry to be a celebration of self, us as individuals. My poetry is rebellion, but of a different kind. It is a rebellion by existing and celebrating difference.”

Source Link: http://www.tribuneindia.com

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A genius with foresight

By B. K. Nehru

Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia

Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia

SARDAR Dyal Singh Majithia was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable pioneers who led India out of the darkness of ignorance to the enlightenment of modernity. He did for North India what Raja Rammohun Roy had done for Bengal three quarters of a century earlier. It is unfortunate that we know so little about his contribution to liberal education, a factor which was instrumental in India’s freedom.

Sardar Dyal Singh had come to the conclusion well before 1880 that India’s salvation lay in the education of the masses. He insisted on spreading English education, and established a college of the most modern kind. He made available the latest books to the Indian people. This the Sardar did through the establishment of a public library well endowed with books.

The establishment of The Tribune was another noteworthy contribution by him. The aim of the newspaper was to spread the doctrine of Indian nationalism and to bring about unity in a society that was afflicted by differences on questions of religion, caste, language and region. His nationalism was also reflected in his strong support for the foundation of the Indian National Congress.

A man who could analyse so clearly, a century and a half ago, the reasons for the downfall of the people of our country from the very top of the civilised world to its very bottom and then establish the institutions which would generate the forces to restore it to its old position, can only be regarded as a genius with great foresight and courage. He died on September 9, 1898.

Source Link: http://www.tribuneindia.com


Controversy about changing the name of Dyal Singh College, Delhi

For additional information on the great philanthropist

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This one trip for Mom

Suniti Kharbanda

MY 74-year-old widowed mother is a fiercely independent woman, staying on her own and managing the day-to-day running of the house without help from her children. We try to look for opportunities where we could be of some use to her.

One day, my mother, my sister and I were chatting about everything, and nothing — as most mothers and daughters do. She happened to mention that her passport was never used. Her wistful look pierced our hearts. My sister and I decided to accompany her on a foreign holiday. We zeroed in on Thailand as it met our requirements. There was no dearth of tour operators and we finalised our departure date for a five-day trip.

The day arrived and we left for our jaunt. Her passport was finally stamped, which brought her a smile of fulfilment. We explored the island, saw a dance performance and relaxed with massages and fish spa. We visited one of the largest zoos of the world. The water and amusement parks added to the fun element. We were still left with one free day in Bangkok, which turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

We woke up on time to get an early start. We took a taxi to the Golden Palace, but learnt that there were still two hours before it would open. We were loitering around when we struck a conversation with a Bangladeshi settled there. He suggested we go on a river cruise. He hailed a taxi for us, spoke to the driver in the local language and sent us on our way. On reaching the pier, we had many boatmen vying for our attention. We tried to bargain, but were unsuccessful. Our driver came to our aid and got us a enviable discount. The boat-ride and the floating markets were charming.

We returned to the palace but were disheartened to see long queues for entry. Our driver told us to return in two hours, by when the rush would have abated. He said we could go to a jewellery shop that was offering attractive schemes on its 50th anniversary. We bought a beautiful gemstone-studded bracelet for our mother. Since we had time, we thought of window-shopping. Strolling along, we came across a quaint Buddha temple. It was an old temple in need of repairs. An American art restorer was at work and he graciously guided us around, showing us the finer details of the carvings; it was an educational experience. When we decided to finally leave, to our delight, the American insisted on seeing us off and hailed a ‘tuk-tuk’ for us, so we could experience authentic Thai transportation back to our hotel.

By the time we reached the hotel, we were exhausted, but emotionally on a high note, as on our unplanned reserve day of vacation, we had savoured the warmth of the people around. We did not see the Golden Palace, but instead, filled our hearts with golden memories. No amount of planning could have resulted in the delights we enjoyed that day. When we let fate have its way, it is ready to share its treasure troves.

Thank you, Mom, you were the trigger for this unforgettable holiday.

Source Link: http://www.tribuneindia.com

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Punjabi hospitality at its best

SS Chhina

I WAS attending a seminar on multiculturalism organised by Trent University, Ontario. The university was situated at a beautiful place surrounded by tall trees in a small town of Peter Brough. There were 36 participants from different countries from all five continents. In the programme itinerary was a visit to the heritage village of Canada, about 20 km from the university. The traditional lifestyle of Canada was depicted in this village, where items like a hand-operated chopper, the Persian wheel, bricked hearth, old houses with wooden doors and windows, etc. were preserved.

I and a companion from Multan University, Pakistan, observed that there was nothing extraordinary about these items since they were quite common in Indian and Pakistani villages. It took us about three hours to take the round of the village owing to the interest elicited by other delegates.

While returning, we came across sprawling fields of wheat and maize on either side of the long road. The vast expanse resembled Punjab fields. Though it was June, it felt like February in Punjab. We had hardly gone about 5-6 km when I saw a big board on a gate — ‘Grewal Farms’. I guessed that it must belong to some Punjabi, and so I requested the coordinator, Ms Malinee, who was driving the car, to allow me to enquire about this farm. She agreed after a little hesitation.

When I reached the gate, I saw two white men and was disappointed, thinking I had mistaken the owners to be Punjabis. I dithered to go ahead, but a tall, well-dressed Sikh gentleman beckoned me inside and invited us all.

We sat in a veranda of his big house and he narrated how he came to own the farm. When he landed in Canada, his indomitable spirit to have a farm was ignited by two successful farmers from Punjab. ‘I changed farms and later purchased this farm spread over 1,200 acres. It was a desolate piece of land at that time. Now, it is a high-yielding ‘model farm’ of this area,’ he revealed.

That was a lot of hard work, and I felt proud of being a Punjabi. As we sat talking, his wife — an elderly lady — brought us juice, and when we begged our leave after about 15 minutes, the host said it was not possible without partaking of some tea. His wife then served us tea and snacks. We sat for a while and he came to see us off at the gate.

While sitting in the car, Mr Zafar Iqbal from Pakistan, addressing Ms Malinee, said with some pride: ‘Ma’am, you showed us your Canadian heritage and we have shown you our common Punjabi heritage!’

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A teacher one of a kind

RS Mehta

ABOUT 50 years ago, I was admitted to Kendriya Vidyalaya in Class VII in Ahmednagar. Despite being the first position holder in my village school in Haryana, I failed in the pre-admission test. The Principal, however, gave me a chance to study there, perhaps in consideration of my father, who was an Army man.

I remember my first day in school. I took a seat on the last bench and tried to be invisible. Mrs Bano was interacting with children as it was the beginning of the session. They appeared to be talking in English which I could neither understand nor speak. After sometime, Mrs Bano riveted her attention on me. What she said was beyond me, but her expression turned furious when her volley of questions failed to elicit any response. I kept standing with my head bowed.

Exasperated, she shouted: ‘Kahan se aay ho?’ Finding myself on familiar territory, I beamed: ‘Haryana se.’ She shot back: ‘Hindi ke siwai kya jante ho?’ I answered with pride: ‘Bari A, B, C, aur chhoti a, b, c.’ The class broke into a derisive laughter. Mrs Bano, however, was not amused. She issued some instructions and in no time three-four books were placed on my desk. ‘Yeh sirf English subject ki kitaben hai. Tum saat saal bhi pass nahin ho sakte. Gaon wapis chale jao,’ she said firmly.

Another round of jeering followed. Humiliated and crestfallen, I stood like a joker. Tears welled up in my eyes. Perhaps moved by my plight, she told me to meet her daily during recess. She began to encourage and guide me to learn basic English, giving me 10-15 new words every day. Slowly, my phobia of English receded. Within three-four months, I picked up enough vocabulary to get along and follow textbooks. As my ignited interest turned into a passion, I got exemption from sports period and focused on English. The language barrier gradually diminished and my confidence soared. I devoted myself to my studies even at the cost of sleep — Mrs Bano’s warning of ‘seven years’ kept me awake.

I surprised her by standing first in the class. Her eyes were moist as she handed me my report card, among thunderous claps. After a year, we had to move to Babina following my father’s posting. I went to seek her blessings. She advised to me to continue to study with diligence and listen to English news.

Her word was my command. I was hooked to English — reading books and listening to English news became my life-long passion. I have since retired as a Group A officer, but my affair with English, initiated by Mrs Bano, continues unabated.

Thank you, ma’am, for everything. You were a teacher and a guide in word and deed. I am eternally indebted to you.

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Naming and shaming

Ratna Raman

RULES exist in order to set and mark boundaries. The rule book sets the perimeters of civic life. Yet, of late, “white collar crimes” (non-violent crimes committed by respectable people) have revealed abuse of office or authority by the powerful. Rules in such situations have allowed for many uncomfortable details “to be swept under the carpet” (to ignore or conceal).

Recently at the Supreme Court, the hearing of petitions by a Bench of judges was re-allotted by none other than the Chief Justice himself. Normally, if a petition names any particular member of the judiciary, the judge is meant to “recuse” (stay out of the hearing) himself. Drawing upon the argument that the right to preside over a hearing and choose who will form part of the board rests with the Chief Justice of India, the CJ declared himself to be the “master of the roster” (schedule).

This is a “piquant” (intriguing) situation. If a person who is complicit can also function as “judge and jury” (making all decisions pertaining to fact and law), we need to conclude that “loopholes” (ambiguity) exist in the laws we have framed.

Given such contexts, it becomes useful to look at the possibilities provided by older cultural practices of “naming and shaming”. This involves saying publicly that a person or a company has behaved incorrectly. Earlier, authority figures in smaller social units singled out offenders who were humiliated or shamed. Recently, overzealous officials of Swacch Bharat used it to name and shame people in order to end open defecation. Naming and shaming can’t operate as part of a “hegemonic” (ruling by the dominant) exercise to victimise the helpless.

When a system based on rational rules and relying on empirical evidence does not address issues of non-compliance on the part of the powerful, what options exist? When rules fail us, naming and shaming is possibly a resource, although it can never replace procedure or detailed investigation.

The RBI policy of publicly naming “wilful defaulters who have taken banks for a ride” (cheating on repayment) put a list of offenders in the dock. Little money came back, proving that naming and shaming has “no bite” (efficacy) as part of any official programme of redress. In matters dealing with the abuse of power or office, however, naming and shaming can provide checks and balances in the case of non-monetary crimes, committed by the rich and the powerful.

Naming and shaming on social media has drawn attention to the misdemeanour of powerful and influential men in politics, entertainment, sport and academia. Can it enable self-assessment and introspection? Could the implicated respond in the high tradition of “kar seva” (voluntary service) enabling serious exchanges that could transform an atmosphere of cynicism and fear? Else these modern mechanisms of naming and shaming will remain cautionary warnings that will replace the smog of gossip and intrigue that continues to envelop public life at large.

Source Link: http://www.tribuneindia.com

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Holy ecownomics!

Mahesh Grover

THE Lion King had been avidly following the affairs of humandom, listening to debates extolling the virtues of a cow. “Her urine is precious as ‘gold’ while its excreta more valuable than Kohinoor,” declared one human nonchalantly.

The king was overwhelmed. The insignificant cow was hogging so much limelight in humandom, to do the jungle proud. Instantly, he sent for the fox and said: “Cow’s pee and poo are so valuable that it can fuel and sustain the jungle’s development.”

The fox was perplexed and asked what the king proposed to do. “Summon the cows. It is time for some ‘ecownomics’,” he said.

The petrified cows were herded to the royal den where they stood trembling with fear. The lion rushed and fell at the cow’s feet, who backed off in panic and mooed weakly.

The king, drooling at the sight of cows, planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek and said: “Oh holiness, my ancestors and my clan have sinned by being so harsh on you and your ilk. I did not know your pee is worth gold while your poo is invaluable. Sell us these treasures and alleviate our sufferings.”

The cow, taken aback at this unexpected outburst, spluttered: “Er! Er! you can have it for free!”

The king had tears in his eyes. “No wonder they call you holy, so selfless and noble.”

“Very well then, I’ll put the entire jungle folks on the job, with pails to collect your pee and poo and now nobody dare kill you. The wolves and hyenas will be there in packs to put down those who go for you.”

Elated, the cows mooed their way back to the meadows. All animals became busy collecting pee-poo while the wolves and hyenas went on maiming, lynching those who ventured to cast a gluttonous eye on the cows.

Soon pee and poo was all over, with the important jungle affairs lying in utter neglect. Hungry and deprived animals wailed in distress, but the king was unfazed and proudly displayed his wealth that he had created to the fox, “See the jungle is overflowing with liquid gold and, ah! these sparkling Kohinoors!”

“It is all bullshit,” the fox retorted. “No it is cow’s,” said the king.

“I mean it is humbug,” said the fox, exasperated at the king’s ignorance.

“I don’t see any bugs,” shot back the king, giving the fox a condescending look. At her wits’ end, the fox said: “Oh king, the whole jungle is suffering from hunger and poverty. Unless you give up on this misadventure, we would all be consumed by it.” Saying this, she left the den, hoping against hope that he would see reason and give up on ‘ecownomics’ and revert to economics.

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