Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Special Normal

How many times have we hid ourselves in fear or made a sympathetic look or laughed at a person who looked different? Someone who has slow mental growth. Someone who isn’t normal but special.
Students engaging themselves in Creative Activities

In search of these special individuals we visited Kamayani School. A school which falls in an upbeat but quiet area of Pradhikaran. Searching for the school wasn’t a big problem. A rusted board then confirmed us that we had reached our destination. KAMAYANI SCHOOL FOR THE MENTALLY CHALLENGED. I could see a playground with boys in an all white uniform playing cricket. For me they just looked like normal kids who played cricket like each one of us play. I still believed that mentally challenged is too harsh a word. We entered the main gate of the school. The children were just surprised to see unknown people enter their school.
Cooking Class

But they welcomed us with smiles. We were amazed. When asked about the principal’s office, they politely denied her presence.

After about a minute the principal Mrs. Sujata Ambe welcomed us into her office. She explained us in detail about Kamayani.

The Rally held in Support of the Girl-Child during Ganesh Chaturthi
The school was started by Mrs. Sindhutai Joshi in 1964 named after her house. Earlier these students were just a taboo and were pelted with stones by the so called normal people and were subject to taunts. Mrs. Ambe continues talking about Kamayani. The biggest challenge was to educate people that such kids shouldn’t be ignored. She then recalls how people started accepting the cause Kamayani had taken up and today the school she is in-charge of has a headcount of 100 with a student to teacher ratio of 8:1 which again is astounding.
Kamayani isn’t just a school; here students are prepared to be practical in life and self-dependent.

Their curriculum is beyond academics. Music, dance, cooking and other activities are part of Kamayani’s time table. Mrs. Ambe pulls out an album which contains photos of their students from an annual gathering held in October 2012. While showing us some pictures of the annual gatherings, Mrs. Ambe calls one of the students to bring her spectacles. She brings it willingly. Mrs. Ambe thanks her. The girl’s Welcome was louder than my Thank You. She isn’t normal? I’m sorry I won’t believe that.

The photos looked expressive and elegant. From candle making to embroidery, sewing to garland making, these kids are capable to do anything which we shy away from. She further adds that many students who have been given vocational training easily earn anywhere between 600 to 12,000 rupees a month. Even at the ZP (Zilla Parishad) Level, Mrs. Ambe insists the officials to include her students in the normal category and she proudly shows us the 2nd runners up trophy they won.
Preparing themselves for the Annual Gathering

During Ganesh festival a rally was held by the children with the motto of ‘Save the Girl-Child.’
As we are prepared to leave, we notice a biometric system which is fixed to monitor the attendance of the students.

Standing near the gate we look into the PMPML bus and are given a million goodbyes by the ever so loving students of Kamayani. I look at the bus as it leaves and wonder about the skills these kids possess. Incredible.

Yes they are mentally challenged. The things they can do with their minds can hardly be challenges by us. The talent they have is special. The next time you meet such individuals go give them a handshake and the smile you receive in return can be treasured for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Drops of Joy 4

She walked down the road. A million thoughts. The pouring rain. The smell from the earth was so tempting that she felt like eating it. She had a sense of loneliness. She loved that though. There was also this emptiness which crawled into her life from nowhere.

Tantra was drenched.

She was sitting by the window, reading and had already gulped 4 cups of tea. Hence she went out. She went out of her flat. Exited her building.

Looked towards the crying sky. With blinking eyes. She allowed the water to go into her eyes. She loved that moment when she suddenly shut her eyes as soon as raindrops pierced through her eyes.
Water in its purest form. She spread her hands horizontally and stared into the clouds. The rain was in full flow.

Tantra saw a puddle of water about 100 meters from the place she was standing. There were about 4 kids playing in the puddle. Fresh water filled into the large pothole on a recently constructed road.

She played with the kids. Being one amongst them. They had fun in that rare form joy, the government could gift its citizens. She got up from the puddle. She didn't care to wipe off the soiled part on her white kurti. 

She allowed the raindrops to once again fall into her eyes. What if, in a year’s time, it might just be acid rain from above, thanks to global warming?

She was just living the moment. A moment she wouldn't allow to pass off so easily.

Tantra found joy in that raindrop which fell into her eye and hurt her eyeball. She couldn’t feel the same raindrop again. A new one fell into her eyes as soon as she stared again.

Every moment in our lives will have something we can cherish. It might be a raindrop, a puddle or just the crying sky. 

Break free.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Not So Nervous Nineties

(The following post has been written in first person.)

I was waiting for that black Dio to enter my building. Tuffy came. He parked his vehicle. Pulled up the seat and took out a Crossword plastic cover from the compartment. After a brief chat, he handed me the cover.

He left.

I took off the book. Khushwant Singh's face was all over the cover. Absolute Khushwant was the title. I just had Train to Pakistan in my mind which unfortunately I've never read.

Once I started reading the book, I realised the amazing human being he is. Never have I read a person write extensively about the partition and proclaiming his love for Pakistan but being a truly patriotic Indian at the same time. It wasn’t just reading the book but knowing who this nonagenarian was. It was about knowing who Khushwant Singh is. I have seen many joke books written by him in the school library. Never have I tried to read them.

He fuming on the various riots which happened in India reminded me of my Godmother Arundhati Roy. Their stark criticism and undaunting courage startles me.

The way Khushwant Singh openly talks about sex indeed took me aback. He has written a few books on sex but it shows the immense respect he has for them. He still goes to meet them.

He is 97. Nor is he underrated neither overrated. He is amongst the few writers in India who has got his due. He has a fetish towards Urdu literature and excerpts from them can be seen in his life.

He isn’t a great writer just like he confesses but an honest human being. Sadly as per this article ( he won’t be writing anymore. I pity myself to have started reading him this late.

Let’s hope the dirty old man of Indian Journalism keeps writing. Some Sardars are hardworking, some head the government but some form into one formidable man. Khushwant Singh.

P.S. With inputs from Tushar Kathuria.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The One Night Stand

Tuffy was too tired. The one night stand was keeping him awake all night. He was awake. Wide awake. He was completing his office related work amidst the one night stand he had for the night.

The one night stand he had for the day was literally burning. She was fuming because of the time taken by Tuffy to complete his work.

Every night the electricity went off and she would just be sweating and waiting for him. Sometimes the wait was so long that she would just fall down and Tuffy would also crash down. Sometimes Tuffy would hit the hay forgetting about her.

Every night he had a new one. Sometimes two of them a night.

The first one would just be sweating it out until he would start off with a new one.
 The old ones would just be the past for him. Just another one which kept him awake the entire night.

He never used the same one again so that’s how the term 'one night stand' came into existence.

The stand he had for all of them was the same which was he invested a lot of money. He knew it would never happen in office and every night from 2100 hours to 0000 hours the electricity would be gone so this was his only source of entertainment.

His office time would be from 0500 hours to 1400 hours but he waited until 1700 hours and took the rest of the paperwork home. Whilst going home on his bike he would stop near a housing colony, pick a pretty looking one, pay, never bargained and come home.

Exactly when the electricity goes he would take the candle from his bag and fix it on his night stand. He had purchased the night stand from a handicrafts shop in Delhi. He had a paid a good 15000 rupees for the copper plated night stand which had engravings from various religious texts.

So his only form of entertainment was his office work.

Today he just needed one candle as he was going to sleep in an hour’s time an not wait for the candle to fall of the stand and clean the wax it sweated out. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Romancing the Books

And then she cleaned her bookshelf for the seventh time in one day. It was a Saturday noon. The weekend had finally arrived after five days of pleasure at work.

Yesterday she had to go with Roy to an awful nightclub right after work.
She thought of cleaning the bookshelf. Browsing through her own collection of books again and again was hilarious but Tantra loved doing that. 

Picking one from the shelf, opening it and smelling the book thoroughly. It was a drug. She could easily distinguish between a pirated one and an original one. The pirated one never gave the addictive smell hence she never purchased or accepted one as a gift.

Accepting a pirated one was disrespect for the love she had for books.
She never had a library membership. The only reason being that she loved owning a book rather than take it on rent and give it back within a stipulated time. She loved savoring the book page by page. Travel with the characters.
Hence she is in a relationship with every single book.

Sometimes with the characters, sometimes with the author or sometimes just with the book itself. It’s one thing she enjoyed.

She never exchanged or gave her books to the scrap vendor just because a parent would never give their kid to an orphanage.

And it started raining. She quickly ran, made some tea, grabbed her book from her dustless bookshelf, sat by the window and started to read.

P.S.[So any of you readers have books which you no longer need/want feel free to mail me on and I’ll be more then happy to adopt them and provide them a shelter]

The Stalker

Tantra was out with Roy after she was forced to accompany him to a nightclub. She didn’t consume alcohol. Roy did.

She ordered juice and Roy asked for beer. Roy was just about to take out his card until Tantra knocked his hand, heading towards his wallet in the back pocket.

She took off her card and got it swiped.

Tantra reached for the receipt to sign it.

“450 bucks for a Minute Maid, that’s what I think this citrus thing is, and your stupid beer,” she yelled at Roy.

“Hey, hey that’s not Minute Maid, it’s a mocktail and the beer is imported, I’m a regular here, don’t humiliate me,” Roy yelled back.

“I’m sorry to have invited you here, Roy,” Tantra replied in a sarcastic tone and continued saying, “I guess I’m being stalked by someone here.”

“Oh yes! You’re high,” Roy laughed off the last line.

Tantra wasn’t high. She really felt someone was stalking her. She felt the same whenever she went grocery shopping, online shopping and even at some book stores where she swiped her card and purchased a dozen books.

She left the nightclub with Roy at around 1 am. She went in her flat and crashed on her bed expecting text messages from her stalker the very next day.

She woke up, grabbed her phone and there it was. Two text messages from CITI bank, one informing the Rs. 450 she swiped and the other, her remaining balance. Her stalker was right in her bag, her debit card which followed her wherever she went to shop.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Drops of Joy 2

Walking down the beach holding a wrapped box made her wonder the life she lives now. She looked at the waves. She looked at how each wave wanted to be higher than the other. She looked at the people playing in the water and awaiting for the next big wave. She keenly observed how some of them were afraid of the big waves and went a step backward and how some of them fearlessly jumped towards the charging wave. 
Far far away she saw a vessel (a ship) lying stagnant. She wondered about the life the people on that ship must be leading. Far away from their families. Looking at her endlessly stare at the vessel a kid came and touched her.

“Do you have anyone on that ship?” asked the kid.

Tantra nodded her head in the negative.

To this, the kid replied, ”Well you know my dad is on that, I may not be able to see him but he might be glaring in through a binocular to check on his little boy. So I come here daily to wave at him. He may well as may catch a glimpse.”

The kid waved at the stagnant vessel, stared at the box in Tantra’s hand and ran away.

Tantra was moved. She had to move on with her life. Her parents just died in a car accident. She didn’t go to see her parents’ burn down to ashes. Roy managed to collect the ashes in a pot, wrap it and give it to Tantra.
She just stood on the beach holding the ashes. It was almost a week and even after repeated requests from friends she failed to move on.
Perhaps the big waves and the kid might have made a difference.

She looked up and saw one cloud stand out.

She looked down.

She looked at her footprints on the sand.

She saw that whenever her left leg was behind it always wanted to overtake the right leg. She saw a fierce competition between her legs. The universe wanted her to move on.

Tantra had saw her parents smile from above. In the form of a cloud. That finally made the difference.

So whatever be the problem, the Universe never wants you to moan and cry forever. Live your life, surpass the obstacles and watch out. 
Someone somewhere always wants you to be happy.

It sometimes comes, even in the form of a Happy Cloud.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Orphan-A Dogged One

“You know all I did was lead a life on my own standards. I lived it through the toughest times. My parents died, I had no siblings, and I was orphaned. I was just 19 years old. What could a 19 year old possibly have done? My relatives said they would shelter me and take care of my education. I denied the offers because that came out of sheer sympathy and not from their hearts.

I sat wondering what could be done. I didn’t sit crying over the fact that I lost everyone who actually cared for me. I took up a job. The whereabouts of the job are not important, why would you anyway care, just because you waited all day long? Alongside my job I did some diplomas to enhance my painting skills. And then I found you. You just became an integral part of my life. I thought of naming you behind two weird sitcom actors I had come across, Barney and Chandler, Bandler.

Bandler the dog.

You have just not been a dog but my friend. You waited for me to get back from work. Even though I kept food for you, you starve and eat only once I arrive. Walking you has been the best mornings I ever had and you made sure my health was always at the zenith. My relatives didn’t care to check on me post my denial but who cares when I had you.
Thanks for everything, Bandler.”

The last few words bring tears into his eyes as he reads this note standing besides Bandler’s grave.
Bandler died in a road accident. Run over by a speeding car. Tuffy had no idea why Bandler ventured out that night. He probably did every night. After all Bandler was a street dog. He belonged to the streets. Thanks to his faithful nature, he used to wait home, the whole day, eagerly waiting for Tuffy.
According to the people who witnessed the accident, shockingly recalled how a speeding car brushed through the dog throwing it 500 metres away with its head severely damaged. With no care for a living creature writhe in pain, vehicles just ran above it.

Several pleas from animal lovers to erect fences on highways to stop the dogs and other animals cross the road fell on deaf ears.

Bandler died.

Tuffy was orphaned again.

Before and After: Here is an example of a dog rescued 
after being hit by a motor bike and now he's on the run after few weeks of physical therapy.

FYI: As traffic in India increases so do the number of road accidents leaving dogs severely injured, paralysed, brain damaged and with broken limbs. Dogs who have been hit by cars and who have sustained an injury to their spine causing paralysis in their hind legs STILL have a chance of living a happy life provided they are given immediate medical attention which is not the case here in India. We do not have a record or a website which gives actual facts and figures regarding dogs involved in road accidents but if a pedestrian is run over by a vehicle and dies, which happens many a times, imagine the number of animals killed in road accidents. 150 are the number of elephants killed since 2000 on the Indian Railways. Alarming. Since those are endangered. Let’s not endanger the dogs because every dog is a Bandler.  

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Locked Door 2

       A Sequel to The Locked Door 1 (

Nihar now sits with his mom on the floor under the fan for dinner. His dad joins in as well but it’s the same even now, he hasn’t been able to open up completely to his parents. The psychiatry sessions might have cracked a major part of his silence. Seven years of his lonely life might have changed his attitude and approach towards his parents. He was always more open to his friends than his parents. 

Nihar never felt secured to open up his personal life. Perhaps being a teenager he thought some things are better, kept unsaid. He heard enough of his parents brag about the tensions and the pressures of their work lives which would sometimes change into personal glitches, especially on their children. Even silly matters which can be ignored would turn into major issues. Initially he would try to think about it but now as it was regular, he started to look past it.

The lonely life had hit him hard. His academic performance was on a downfall. The kid who used to be at the pinnacle of the ranking system until 5th grade surprisingly fell to the level of an average student. It was a shock to his parents, who thought it might affect the status quo they had in the society amongst other parents. Nihar was moderate at sports, so there was nothing that could be shown to the society to outshine their status. 

The competition amongst parents to show off their children as numero uno had been a trend, not only amongst friends and social circles, even in the family. As for him, his cousins were always good in something or the other, and whenever he visited them, he went through the constant praises of his fellow cousins. It never made a difference to him, but he did not know it was affecting his parents as their son was falling down from what he used to do best, study, leaving them with absolutely nothing to praise about him. 

Perhaps the competitive world had set its mark in the academic life of children.

Instead of investigating his problem in regards to the downfall, they only forced him to participate in different sports activities. The life of being lonely had rendered his competitive mentality, paralytic. It was as if his brain was rusting. He became inconsistent in everything. He couldn’t set his mind on anything. It made him a loser in all aspects of life. He became a reserved and a silent student in class, good amongst the teachers but not amongst the other fun loving students. He desperately wanted to come out of it but it was too late.

That’s when he started to find solace in a selected few friends. They had become a totally different world for him. He started to enjoy their presence, even though he never told them about the inner demon he was fighting.
Although he had only male friends, he never knew a girl could bring comfort into his life. He was a shy person especially towards women so never knew how to talk or be around girls. It happened in his tenth grade. She entered his already disturbing life, later known, to be the girl who changed the life of the most silent, reserved and infamous student of the class…..

P.S. To be continued.
FYI: Based on a true story. Currently the character Nihar(name changed), in real life, is partly, a successful individual, maintaining a good relationship with his parents. The posts are a look back into his disturbed life. The sender is anonymous.

Monday, 18 June 2012

When the Baby Smokes

                                    Based on an incident witnessed by AVB

Yet another pleasant Monday morning was here. The so called Monday blues never affected her. Monday blues are for those, she felt, who probably were out partying and have a hangover and hate the sheer existence of a Monday. If Monday didn’t exist, people would hate Tuesday. Hence she loved Monday just because it saved Tuesday from the blame.

Dont Make The Baby Smoke!
She spent her entire Sunday hosting a drawing competition in the nearby orphanage. She woke up to that satisfaction. She started her Activa and zoomed past her building. It was 10am. Tantra kept noticing the surroundings whilst riding. She saw the green signal tick down to 3 seconds and slowed down her vehicle and managed to stop just before the zebra crossing until the signal turned red.

Some miscreants still passed by only to be caught by the traffic constable hiding behind a rickshaw across the road in search of his prey.

 A 6 year old boy came near her flashing an aeroplane. She found something past that. A family. Probably. She didn’t feel like they were a family. The man was smoking a bidi with a lady sitting right next to him with a baby in her arms. Tantra was blown apart. It didn’t stop there. The woman, well, the mother grabs the bidi and smokes it. The mother looked healthy. The smoke wreaks havoc at a critical time in the development of the lungs of the baby. Tantra crossed the road once the signal turned green, parked the vehicle, didn’t care to give an explanation to the traffic constable and stood right in front of the ‘family.’

She grabbed the baby from the woman, pushed the charging man. The man, probably a chain smoker, was weak enough to crash-land with that push. With the baby in Tantra’s arms, she pulled the lady by her hand, crossed the road and made her sit on the nearby bench. The conversation happened in Hindi.

Tantra not only explained the effects of smoking on her body but also the adverse effects on the baby.

“Oh madam! Mera baccha nahi hai, subah kaam ke liye mil jaata hai, waise bhi dawaai ghusaya hai iske andar taaki roye na,” (Madam, this is not my child. I just received it in the morning. Drugs have been injected into the child so that it doesn’t cry) the woman yelled back. 

Tantra was shocked to the core. She called up the orphanage to come with a doctor and also summoned the traffic constable about the incident. He listened patiently and stormed off. The orphanage van arrived. Just to remove her frustration, Tantra slapped through the lady’s face and shouted, “Maa bano, phir baat karenge.”  (Lets talk once you become a mother.) The lady didn’t react realizing her mistake, probably.

Tantra went to work, visited the orphanage in the evening only to know that it’ll take some time for the baby to recover. The baby, eventually, did recover.

She didn’t find the lady again.

She might probably be at some other signal with a new ‘drugged’ baby.

FYI:Tobacco smoke wreaks havoc in babies at a critical time in the development of lungs when millions of tiny cells called alveoli (pronounced al-VEE-o-lye) are being formed. Alveoli are the place where oxygen passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. Human infants are born with only about one-fifth of the 300 million alveoli they will need as adults. They construct almost all those 300 million alveoli between birth and age 8. Thus, this early exposure to environmental tobacco smoke created a long-lasting and perhaps permanent asthma-like condition. In some cases it also causes ear infection or deafness.
With medical inputs from Komal Kokare and