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The Grand Masters meet

 

This is one rare occasion i was a witness to, more so was a catalyst to make it happen. A Historic moment for Indian sports, no doubt. It wouldn’t have been possible without the tip from Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh who had invited   grandmaster V Anand & we at Press Club who had invited the Mumbai players from Indian cricket team in 2000-01.

I look up to both of them. One who revolutionised chess in India. His commitment, loyalty is seen time & again. And i don’t believe that if an Indian who believes he is a true Indian needs to have residency in the country to prove it. Unlike other many award winning personalities who are so ashamed to be called Indians, Anand is rarity.

Cut to, Date – April 2, 2011. Sachin Tendulkar will now go on the field with the aim of achieving the historic landmark milestone -100th century. May god help him fulfill this milestone. Many hours from now we will know exactly what happens. I don’t know if Indians realise one important point -most Indians aspirations, desires, very high expectations are carried on these broad but a human’s shoulders. He is one among us, though more talented with lot more money & lot more skills. But he too has his own PERSONAL goals, which often get mix, blurred or diluted with those of a billion people -who are from different socio-economic strata & more so absolutely varying incomes.

Let’s all wish him luck. This boy is special to me. I am sure he is to many more billion people. But i can say i’ve seen him grow on the field-From school to now. I’m immensely happy that i contributed a small happiness in his life. In 2000-01 i happened to be the first lady joint secretary of Mumbai press club & turned out in India. Our elected panel was of sports journalists. My best friends have been sports journos.  It was to be one big challenge & some fun too.

Till then Press Club Mumbai was one spooky, dark, shady watering hole. There were plenty of dance, item numbers. Our panel was first to come up with various interactive events. The path-makers rarely get recognition. But we started a trend that has caught on to hold face-face with famous personalities, politicians & sportsmen.

One such was to felicitate Indian sports team. The senior sports journalists got it all organised & around 12 noon Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar was to lead a team of 7 people. I was told i would felicitate them. What i wasn’t told was that the then official, a sports enthusiast (now he’s no more) late PV made a secret deal with Vishy to alllow only him to give the bouquet to Sachin. So small people think & they got away with it.

Meanwhile the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh (MPS) officials got a whiff of our plans & called on with a scoop of an idea. Although the MPS & PC are neighbours & we need to ideally be civil & warm with each other, journalists are most political. So there are constant fights & threats of filing suits.

Now they too had an ace up their sleeve, MPS had invited the Grandmaster of Chess V Anand. Wow! I wanted to meet Vishy as much as i wanted to meet the Indian team. The MPS suggested why don’t we get the 2 masters together? Brilliant Front page news for this nation. And from what i knew, till then they had never met each other.

I know Sachin is hard pressed for time. He is in fact a stickler for time & doesn’t like to hang around for too long at events. So when i called Vishy, PV & gang, they said that “No Sachin is a busy man, Neeta you can’t do this. Also we haven’t taken his permission.” I said look “We are creating history. We are getting the 2 grandasters to meet for the 1st time. Pl ask him & i’m sure he won’t say no. even Anand is a v busy man MPS has agreed to keep him waiting. But these sports journos they could’ve been good baniyas. Vishy convinced the others who were accompanying Sachin. I stood at the gate doing fielding with Marathi journos from MPS who had convinced Anand.

What the Marathi journos learnt in the interim period was Anand’s wife is a HUGE fan of Sachin & she was dying to meet him. Believe me it was as if the Universe had conspired to get us this treat.

Meanwhile i called all photogrpahers including wire agency friends. They were kicked. Especially, those sports photographers who knew Sachin. They reassured me “Kahi kalji karu nakos, tyala amhi patvun deu.”

Then came the fleet of cars. And this little man Sachin got out. All frenzy, chaos & pandemonium broke out. I was of course pushed into the iron railings…

The MPS journos shouted “neeta Sachin la aan ithe.” There was jostling for space, shouting. Both are shy & polished, but both are smart, they know this was BIG news & cooperated.  And the great historic moment took place.

For the first time ever, India’s 2 best, most talented sportsman came together. Face-face in black & white as you see it. This was the picture for front pages across India, picked up by wire agencies & flashed across the globe. I’m proud of this. I’m excessively satisfied, my contribution isn’t about giving only flowers to Sachin.

Anand’s wife’s happiness knew no bounds. You could see she was ecstatic smiling from ear to ear. After the initial shouts, “Sachin pll look, ikde bagha, Vishy, Ananad pl look here, 1 more shot” there was hushed silence. For 15 minutes it was as if the world had come to a standstill. The 2 grand masters spoke. Anand’s wife told him how she admires him with a broadest grin. Have you seen Sachin blush. Oh…sooo cute. Embarrassed, happy & he told Anand “I admire you & Its an honour to meet you.” both were polished, humble & thrilled to meet each other.

As promised the photographers said, “One big black & white photo for you is a promise neeta. You gave us the photo of this century.” I don’t know of this century, but surely of this lifetime.

The press club members & my panel officials were sour. Life is like this. MPS got no credit in English newspapers, yes elite attitude; But they got huge credit in Marathi papers.

Thereafter i have witnessed some of the rare historic moments of Sachin Tendulkar. A man most special to me. In the Year -1998, Australian team led by Mark Taylor had come to India after 11 years! Wankhede stadium was overfull. It was a one day international match. People had climbed the trees and the India-Australia match had begun. Saurav was opening. After 17 Saurav got out. The spectators were from across the country. There was such cheer i was shocked. Saurav was angry, but he couldn’t do anything. I was as usual inside the press box. The journalists too were thrilled, with the exception of 2 Bong reporters. I asked Vishy, he whispered, “Arey silly. now is Sachin’s batting. Warne’s bowling for the first time against Sachin on Wankhede. This IS considered THE biggest tussle.” I saw the smile on my face too.

I luuuuuuv Sachin period. No one can say anything against him. I have my ups & downs but i’ve NOT seen this man change one bit….still the same-Humble & polite.

Suddenly there was silence. A small man with medium frame walked in with his bat…all of a sudden the crowds went beserk. Wankhede had come alive. There was only one name being called out. “Sachin Sachin…cheers…Sachin Sachin…” then as the lad walked to the crease, pin drop silence. First ever ball Warne bowled to Sachin there was thunderous applause. I haven’t seen crowds so mad. The bat in Sachin’s hands looked like a mere tooth pick. Total #pyaar.  He is sheer magic to the eyes.

There was dhamal inside the press box. This contd for good 98 runs. And Sachin got out. I mean i’ve gone to even Ranji trophy matches, international matches, but i have never seen what i saw that day. Suddenly Wankhede stadium was emptied in few minutes. The spectators had lost interest thereafter in the Indian team’s result.

I was baffled. Here is this lad, the whole country thinks they own him, feel him wanted. While its exhilarating, it’s scary for this man. He will always have to live out other people’s dreams. Problem is he has been aware of this & imagine the weight of a nation’s expectation that Sachin carries on his shoulders. Stupid criticism levelled against him like he scores a ton & India loses. This is all ridiculous & lose talk.

Now whenever i see Sachin, my memory rewinds to the late 80s. A short teenager curly haired was playing Harris Shield & my nose for news had made me run to the play ground. Dammit a world record by two youngsters who’s friendship was equated to Jai-Veeru of Sholay. None other than Vinod Kambli & Sachin Tendulkar. Cute fellas. One whose socio-economic & cultural background was from Vikhroli slums -Vinod. while the other  lower middle class poet’s son – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

Soft spoken, shy, a smile that can partially compete with India’s dhak-dhak Madhuri, Sachin had begun winning friends, well wishers in high places & many a heart. He was young, eager to play, had immense energy & enthusiasm that could have been matched to that of a warrior.

Initially Sachin too wasn’t used getting disturbed or repeating questions to our channel in hindi. He would ask in his soft voice, “Me attach marathi it bollo na, ata parat bolayacha?” I could bully him him then, ofcourse politely. Telling him how its a Hindi bulletin (Aaj Tak) on DD, national news channel . He would comply.

Now he’s grown big -in stature,  he is hard pressed for time & there are just too many names to remember. Earlier he would hang on in the dressing room & talk us all. Now life has changed. I too don’t cover sports anymore.

But back then Sachin’s rules were stricter. He would bite his lips shake his head if ever i tried talking to his wife Anjali. I’m surprised how times change. Today she talks happily to media. More so he allows once in a while, earlier that was strictly private. Yet he is firm about allowing or not the media. He recognises the photographers & more so respects them. He knows how they spend time on the field, toiling like he does. With each one he promises a photo treat & remembers each one.

I wish he achieves this milestone today. He deserves it. While i know somewhere in this world there’s another Grandmaster with his wife will be sitting up & watching his innings.

My tryst with the King of Pop

The death of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, brings back memories of his visit to Mumbai nearly 13 years ago. I was in my third job with a Hindi news channel — a music lover, but definitely not an MJ fan — and was given the daunting task of covering his stay in Mumbai.

Jackson was to perform on November 1, 1996, at the Andheri Sports Complex as part of his History world tour. Raj Thackeray (now president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) had floated an organisation called the Shiv Udyog Sena, and being a fan of MJ, roped in event company Wizcraft to get Jackson to perform in Mumbai.

Raj was still a part of the Shiv Sena at the time, and close to his uncle, Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Raj received tremendous flak for the event, but Thackeray senior stood by his nephew.

On October 30, 1996, MJ was to land at Mumbai’s Sahar airport in his private jet. For days in advance, I had been pursuing people closely connected with the event, one of them being a man who was to provide MJ and his troupe with vehicles.

Along with the contract that he’d signed came a nine-point letter listing out conditions. The man was given a specific time frame within which MJ would have to reach Hotel Oberoi, now the Trident; there was to be no lapse. Part of my assignment was to cover trial runs of the vehicles prior to MJ’s landing, and these would take place at odd hours, from the wee hours of the morning till late at night. Eventually, my efforts paid off and the man allowed me to take a video of the contract he’d signed for the event.

Waiting for Jackson to arrive was thoroughly entertaining in itself. Lakhs of people had thronged the airport to catch a glimpse of him. Before he landed, I moved around trying to catch hold of all people I knew, so that we could get a closer glimpse of the King of Pop.

Among the celebrities and dignitaries present there, I remember actress Sonali Bendre clad in a nine-yard sari and a Maharashtrian nathni (nose ring), standing with an aarti thali to welcome MJ, along with Raj Thackeray, Sharmila Thackeray and innumerable politicians who were there to receive Jackson.

When he landed, Gajanan the cameraman, Irshad the assistant and I went around trying to get fresh visuals of the frenzied mob calling out to Jacko. Outside, Raj had organised a performance by a troupe of lezhim dancers with dholaks, and they wore traditional Maharashtrian clothes. They danced even as cars whizzed passed them, little knowing that they would soon have a ‘moonwalker’ in their midst.

Suddenly, an Air India employee I knew called out to me from the cordon around the lezhim dancers. He screamed in Marathi that MJ was at the centre of the formation. This was my moment as a journalist, exclusive footage: I was pulled inside the cordon and suddenly found myself standing next to a person white as snow, with pink lips and a hat, toggling his black glares at me in greeting! I stood stupefied and realised the pink lips weren’t those of Madonna — it was Michael Jackson himself.

This assignment raised my stature in the eyes of close relatives, who wanted to attend Jacko’s show. Being part of the so-called vernacular media, we were not considered eligible for free passes; however, we got entry passes for the entire camera crew, along with strict instructions. There were no cell phones at the time, only pagers and telephones.

However, I was thoroughly in demand for the numerous requests I got, asking for passes. Businessmen were willing to pay five times the cost of the most expensive ticket, which was Rs5,000. From that point on, my life wasn’t the same.

I was on duty round the clock. Girls thronged the Oberoi to catch a glimpse of the pop star, and I hovered nearby for a dekho. MJ was ensconced in the hotel’s Presidential Suite and later left his autograph on one of its mirrors. We were heard tales from the hotel of how he slept under an oxygen tent, and there was a lot of secrecy surrounding his lifestyle. During his short stay here, life in Mumbai centred around MJ and his “stories”.

Constables from the Mumbai Police complained that their lives now revolved around controlling frenzied fans outside the Oberoi. Facilities provided to them were even more basic than today: they subsisted on vada paav and sometimes did not go home despite being on duty for 48 hours straight outside the hotel. Local celebrities, meanwhile, did not leave any stone unturned to get that coveted pass and invitation to a dinner hosted in Jackson’s honour.

On the day of the concert, I was to reach early because we were categorically told that the crew needed to check their equipment, we would have to undergo security checks and finally would be allowed to shoot only 1.14 minutes of footage! The organisers would then give us some extra visuals to use as fillers for the story. It was a daunting task, and as someone who was not a fan of MJ’s music, all this contributed to putting me off.

But, I admit, I stood in stunned silence when the King of Pop MJ made his grand entry. I’ve seen innumerable shows thereafter in India, and I admit I never saw anything like it. MJ was brought down a crane amid a cloud of artificial smoke. There was thunderous applause and screams, and I feared that someone in the crowd might just suffer a coronary. I actually found myself tapping a foot to the music, and a colleague said to me, “You don’t like his music, Neeta, but look at you enjoying it.”

Suddenly, MJ pulled a girl from the crowd and for the next 10 minutes, we saw them clinging to each other, as if transfixed. Later, when she stepped off the stage, she told me it had been a dream come true for her.

Women’s day

March 8 is Women’s day. Yes i know I’m writing few days later, all the more reason, as few events have left me perturbed.

This IS the day for women, in memory of women’s fight to get an equal footing in a male dominated society. That the ways of the world too have been scripted by men for women is a known fact. To be born in this world & live on one’s own terms & conditions, is still NOT possible for many women. My salam to all those women who have been fighting these age old barriers, stigmas & this world basically.

I can list over a 100 women who have taken it upon themselves to be before their times & make our lives easier. However this day, our fight wc is on-going is made into a commodity as the Women’s day is marketed by all & sundry.

Many frivolous media, marketing & advertising experts have marketed Women’s day. I won’t go into those details. However we celebrate this landmark day. This time it is a blot on our calendar in India.

A young student was killed at point blank range. The accused was her stalker neighbour, who bumped off Radhika Tanwar & the killer saw her die coldly & slipped away. There can be many a pros-cons. I don’t think it’s easy to pass a judgement on those who witnessed it. He had a gun, let’s not forget it so to expect all commuters to leave everything to nab the killer is asking superman qualities in normal struggling humans. I may theorise, how everybody could have spontaneously surrounded & overpowered him. But we are talking of a society, which is struggling to make peace in their lives with their own problems. A killer with a gun on the loose one’s life is imp.

So Tanwar’s killer slipped away from Delhi University campus while the rest of the world moved on & women celebrated women’s day. 3 days down & the killer is yet to be caught. I thought there was vigilance thanks to police, the CCTV cameras. I don’t know how but the man has slipped from the clutches of law initially.

Back home in Mumbai, a early 30s housewife & mother of 2 threw her children from 19th floor & then flung herself to death. Again on women’s day. I have been asking myself this question, something surely grave has happened, NOT suddenly that she motivated herself to do something as violent as this.

Imagine a lady who had to take such a step. The son who, she dangled for a while before throwing him down, truly Sad. Then that naive little girl of hers. What must’ve gone through her mind till the last moment, we will never know & what must’ve transpired there too we’ll never know. But the truth can’t get burnt on their pyre.

Something surely must’ve snapped in her mind. Nidhi saw no road at all, didn’t think there was an alternative. She didn’t share with anyone her problems, or then saw no recourse at all. With all roads blocked this lady took such a step.

Many a man said, “How could she do this?” “She’s not a good woman, mother.” “At least she should’ve spared her children.” Should she have spared them? If she were to have done that, then just killed herself? Surely Nidhi knew that all their lives her kids would’ve had to listen to the taunts- their mother was evil, society would have bad mouthed her & they’d have been left to the mercy of god.

It still gives me shudders. Years ago i covered a story of a young middle class, creative director’s daughter throwing herself from SNDT college’s terrace. Eeks. I still get goose pimples. These acts of killing are NOT acts of bravery, they also are NOT acts of losers. The person is helpless. I just can’t imagine killing myself. NO way. Nidhi was a CA. i still can’t believe why she was mentally, emotionally dependent, saw NO hope. didn’t ever think of doing something of her own – be free & happy.

It is only concrete, a true concrete jungle.. Cold & hard. Imagine the sound of banging down of bodies with a loud thud. Ouch. It hurts. Does anyone deserve this kind of a harsh death? I don’t think so.

As for Nidhi, she got her children ready while she had made up her mind, that this IS it. NO more giving life another chance. She told at home she’s going to drop the kids to school. She takes the elevator up to the top most floor. Makes the kids remove their shoes, school bags, lunch boxes; she aligns them in a line. First throws the son who apparently when Nidhi tried to get the balance kept him dangling for few seconds & he bit her as per the marks on her body.  Then imagine she picked up her tot of 3 years, threw her & in a split of a second Nidhi threw herself from the 19th floor.

Why? What is it that makes people like Nidhi do this? Since last 2 days all people are talking is she was a CA, studying MBA. She spoke to her parents & she had a friend, what kind of a lady is she? We simply don’t know what has transpired within their four walls everyday & every night. And you know what we’ll never know. The man even if by remote chance gets arrested, will go out on bail, remarry & have new children. That’s how they live a false life.

Meanwhile an artist, who works using art therapy on psychologically & emotionally affected persons told me, “She has done whatever with a very cool mind.” May be i said. But what right did she have to kill her children? ”

“She didn’t want them to suffer like her. She didn’t want them to be reminded everyday that their mother was weak, had some problem & killed herself. She chose to die leaving them behind, would’ve given them grief, plus the situation in their house would never have favoured the children.” Didn’t know that an artist could see all this through her photograph, plus the pics of the way Nidhi had arranged the shoes, kids’ school bags, etc. “The cool mind with which she planned all this shows nothing in her action was on an impulse. It was done in a calculative manner.”

After this gruesome death came news of 2 more girls’ bodies being found in suitases. There were strangulation marks, obviously some sort of consensual sex, which again is not an issue. But the fact that the men who kept a relation with them resorted to such violent behaviour.

They were not just hit or strangulated, they were murdered in cold blooded manner. AS if this violence is not enough, their bodies were then dumped in a suitcase. This is the worth of a person a man once loved? this what levels people will resort to? I’m too shocked by these events.

For all the talks, we are a peaceful nation, we love & respect women, this is contradictory. The fact is that violence on women has increased, it yet again shows we still are vulnerable. I really don’t know what we have to celebrate.

Serving a death sentence

There has been talk post Kasab’s verdict. Smsz galore, sarcastic comments, snide remarks & then if that is not sufficient, for some like me who do believe death doesn’t erase the ideology or erase the violence. I am asked how can I be a nationalist, how can I support a terrorist is the personal attack I face.
I was at the court, not inside but covering from outside. I saw how reporters brought in their personal tones, remarks in their coverage. I I am aware my personal view is of the minority opinion. Even this view i don’t ever bring in my reporting. But most in their emotional bid that revenge should be taken on Pakistan people think others’ view is lopsided. I don’t believe in death penalty. I also don’t believe death can solve problems.

There has been talk post Kasab’s verdict. Smsz galore, sarcastic comments, snide remarks & then if that is not sufficient, for some like me who do believe death doesn’t erase the ideology or erase the violence. I am asked how can I be a nationalist, how can I support a terrorist is the personal attack I face.
I was at the court, not inside but covering from outside. I saw how reporters brought in their personal tones, remarks in their coverage. I I am aware my personal view is of the minority opinion. Even this view i don’t ever bring in my reporting. But most in their emotional bid that revenge should be taken on Pakistan people think others’ view is lopsided. I don’t believe in death penalty. I also don’t believe death can solve problems.

don’t much understand what is true as regards Indo-Pakistan politics. On one hand we suck up to them. On the other we snub them & scream rhetoric. But we somehow seem pale in our response when we need to. I don’t know how it should be I am NO expert on it. But yes one thing i know a peaceful neighbour country is beneficial to India as much it is to Pakistan itself.

I am immensely shocked with the 26/11 2008 attacks. I lost on a mentor & few friends. The way they were killed is one part of the immense grief & shock. The more aggravating part is how the very police who should have rushed help and they had the time to rescue the shot officers –Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Salaskar -were thrown on the street & were made to stay to there for over half an hour. Sad, this shouldn’t be the end that I’d ever wish even for my enemy. That is why even i felt, if the police had that once chance, they should’ve shot Kasab then and there. That didn’t happen.

Now he is in our custody. The custody & hearing has been written about, spoken at length, debated, no sorry being debated all the while. I have no energy or inclination to even comment on it. What i do know is Kasab is desperate & hence he resorts to all sorts of behaviour.

On my scholarship course for conflict management, i came across a Pakistani MA who was then attending a peace course. He did everything under the sun to try & get an opportunity to stay on in Bangkok, far away from the ravaged country –Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. He & I had our differences, our talks & even debates. The 1 thing he slipped casually while talking was that MA was once a LeT operative. I was taken aback immediately. I kept it in my mind.

I worked for a newspaper then which hadn’t cared for my scholarship, especially in the middle of global recession i took it up-Mid career scholarship-the newspaper HR & editors didn’t even support me. I went without a salary for 4 months. So why the hell should i give this superb story to that newspaper? Yet i did only because my journalistic instinct told me this is a ‘dhasu’ story Neeta.

I got talking to MA 1 evening. I persuaded him to give me his full story. The reason i am telling it now, is because i now can understand Kasab’s life. The ease with which the perpetuators of terror lure jobless youth in Pakistan, giving attractive sops of physical training & then fascinating their imagination with rocket launchers & eventually brain washing them. I can imagine how these reckless youth are willing to unleash terror on others. In case they cross over they are dead, if they join advanced jihadi training & don’t cross border, then too they are dead. That is Kasab a dead man alive.

On road to terror, mother’s love stopped him

Strap: A Kashmiri travels from a terror camp to university after seeing the light of reason in time

MA Shafqat, like many young men caught in his circumstances, acquired training in insurgency from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to cross over the border from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). But as the day of reckoning came closer, Shafqat’s soul was tormented by the gentle feelings he got whenever he thought about his mother. He fled the terror camp.

Today, Shafqat, who believes Kashmir should be free, attends a peace course in Bangkok from where he plans to reach out to the world with his ‘Azad Kashmir’ cause.

“My mission is still the same: to see a united, peaceful Kashmir. However, I feel that the means to achieve it must change. I strongly believe that my dream cannot be realised through violence. We have to take recourse to peaceful means,” Shafqat, a fellow at the Rotary Peace and Conflict Studies Centre, Chulalongkorn University, says, explaining the profound change he has undergone in his political outlook and personal life.

He says it is easy for him to put himself in the shoes of Ajmal Amir, aka Kasab, the lone terrorist to be caught in 26/11, an event that for Shafqat brought back memories of his days in the ISI’s terror nursery. “You must understand that had Ajmal refused to do what he did, he would not have remained alive. I backed out after the first round of training. Had I crossed over into Kashmir, my fate would have been sealed.”

Shafqat’s journey into the terror camp started from his college — Khan Mohammad Khan College in Plandari, PoK — where he was active in the students’ movement, the main agenda of which was Kashmiri liberation. Insurgency training was a step away. “The camps had been originally set up by the United States to fight the Russians in Afghanistan by proxy. When the Russians pulled out, the ISI took over the camps from the Americans,” he says. “During the day we were given discourses and other training. At night we learnt how to handle arms and rocket launchers. It was hush-hush. People in the vicinity didn’t even have a whiff about our activities.”

The key moment in Shafqat’s transformation came when he realised that he had to ultimately cross the border. “My mother would have died of shock,” he says. “I could feel her pain. After being through the first phase, I knew if I became a terrorist my family would be ruined. It was my mother’s love that stopped me.”

After the change of course, he decided to see the world and spend time in the pursuit of knowledge. He read voraciously and met new people. All this opened his mind to fresh possibilities of pursuing his dream. “Through my peace studies, I have realised there are many ways to reach out to people… I am trying to find answers to questions like why isn’t China — Asia’s superpower — taking a stand on Kashmir? Why do we need to be slaves of either Pakistan or India?” Shafqat asks rhetorically, then pauses and ponders. There is a glint of optimism in his eyes, the sort of thing that differentiates radicals, but not when they are far gone in the alley of terror.

Kasab & his fellows were given some specific details. They got lost, they went to some other places & fired aimlessly out of frustration. Nariman House was on their list, but were the others, NOBODY knows for sure. They were DITCHED by his bosses, the assassins who masterminded the whole thing. Those real criminals live in their haven – Pakistan. They are being protected, while Kasab is doomed to die.

But he shouldn’t be killed, i don’t think killing will solve our basic problem –terror. The whole ideology & perpetuation of this crime has to be totally wiped out & for that those who abet this crime, allow it to fester, or spread & more so who turn blind eye to it need to be taught a severe lesson. Kasab has to be kept alive. I don’t care, my taxes are being wasted on digging roads, filling pot holes, on flying the skunk of politicians helping them to lead a luxurious life at my cost, then feeding 1 poor Pakistani is NO drain on my economy or tax. He needs to be kept alive to make him realise his mistake.

Everyday his living should be a curse for him. Every minute a reminder to what he has done. Yes, he shouldn’t get instant death for the terror he unleashed on all. But i also know he has a mother too, he has a family back home too who will be reminded everyday that they lost a SON to a misled ideology. That they were used, abused by the people in their homeland for their misplaced mission –to destroy human beings. The Kasab family should be an example for more poor families across the globe & Kasab an example for such misled souls that life is doomed.


‘Blue Lagoon’ – films & Bombay’s old theatres

The last time I recollect reading ‘Blue Lagoon” was in 1980 when i must’ve been in the sixth grade. Brooke Shields & Christopher Atkins. What a siren the leading star was or the hype around her was, although with absolute Bushy eyebrows….urggh. Though she rocked the film.
 
Now this is kind of over 2 decades ago. The poster says, ‘Return of the Blue lagoon’ a romantic & adventure film. Starring Milla Jovovich. Sorry leading star as insignificant as the name suggests. But don’t miss fine print, in Hindi.
 
The interesting point is I took a photograph of this poster in a running taxi because of the poster. More so it was put up at Imperial. Now if anyone remembers old Mumbai or the original Bombay, this theatre is a landmark.
 
Like Imperial there were 18 old theatres in the same lane or around that vicinity. As a kid we would go to these single screen cinema theatres – Shalimar, Novelty, Swastik, Don haathi –because at the entrance of the theatre are 2 elephants!- Majestic, Opera House, Roxy & Imperial cinema halls. 
 
Ugly smells would emit, scary looking people because tickets were most cheap & disgusting smelling toilets. All members of our family are fillum buffs. We loved to go for films & as kids the ONLY leeway I got for having a ‘party’ was taking paltan to watch films.
 
Now the story of old theatres is as old as the structures! ‘m total supporter of old heritage, architecture, buildings. Only because they have solid character. They convey certain pattern in architecture, construction & more so each structure is distinct. It is not a mass product. Hence although every multiplex may have a diff name, they more or less look the same. Malls below or within the building & structure that conveys this is a modern theatre.
 
Single screen the hoardings are definitely Prominent plus they still have hand painted hoardings. And these old theatres, though they are now redundant i believe are worth more than just nostalgia pieces. They are landmark places of the old Bombay, while the new Mumbai IGNORES.
 
Imagine which multiplex will allow forget hoardings even to screen, ‘andheri rat mein diya tere haath mein’ ‘Khooni atma’ ‘tanha dil’ ‘sharabi yaadein’ and I will not be able to remember the B & C grade films that get adequate screening, space & dekho the way they should.
 
These cinema halls were first constructed for labour class. By closing them down, removing them we erasing history of our city. Let us not forget this Bombay, urf Mumbai city has been built essentially by the labour class. The migrant workers originally from Konkan came resided & then the cinema halls began etching our city’s horizon for these labourers, working class. Hence the tickets too were less & it still is. Imagine seeing Fanaa for Rs 60/- while most saw it for 280/- minimum.  The working class helped the film industry. Yes because they paid ticket fares from their daily wages & let us remember that the single film theatres still make or break film fortunes. A multiplex doesn’t. Definitely Dhobi Ghat can’t run in single screen…it would have been fun though coz the reactions, CTs are imp.
 
Now Opera House theatre is one place where i have most good memories. I saw ‘Amar Akbar Anthony,’ on my b’day in my 4th standard. The last film i saw at Opera House theatre Gumnam, Aa Galey lag jaa. Then one fine day we heard the theatre has shut down! It was as sudden as this. Imagine sitting in the boxes instead of balcony. One box for every family or couple could too. My baba though BIG. My happy birthday he allowed me to take building friends to see my favourite movie fm a box!
 
But due to some internal family issues this theatre ruts now. I really liked the theatre. Wow! I felt soo high when I went to the Opera Theatre in New York, when i saw ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ Yes, Opera House is no match to the American theatres, but hello, we should be proud of the fact that we have one theatre wherein Opera was played live during the British times.
 
Roxy & i have a special bond. In 1994 when i returned from one of my many trips to Marathwada-Latur & Osmanabad, which was rocked by the earthquake in Marathwada – 1993, my father reminded me to go & get my snap clicked by the govt officials for election I card. On my way back i detoured, went for a walk to chill & suddenly saw NO Roxy building. I stood there open mouthed & gaped. I crossed the road in  a rush & asked nearby strangers, hawkers “what happened to Roxy?” “What is coming here? Who pulled this theatre down?” I didn’t realise that tears were running down my cheeks. One of the oldish hawkers smirked & asked me, “What is it with you? How does Roxy not being here change your life?”
 
I was upset, “How can you ask me that? I saw films here, it is our theatre, for our locality. Now god knows what will come up here.” Roxy was our landmark. In Bombay-Mumbai usually meeting places have traditionally been bars or theatres. By theatres i mean single screen cinema halls. So Roxy was name for the bus stop on the side of that theatre & Opera House for the opp side. No one calls or knows the bus depot, stop as Pt Paluskar Chowk. It is known as Opera House.
 
One day in 70s a tall sky scraper was seen rising adjacent to Roxy theatre. How can i forget that ‘Ek Dukhe ke liye’ ran for months on end at this cinema hall. The first few weeks EDKL flopped! Miserably. Therafter suddenly, no one knows what changed the fate of this film, we saw queues from Roxy sprawling till Kennedy Bridge, good 400 odd metres long. Roxy was on top of everyone’s minds. After the spate of suicides more & more people went to see EDKL. I know of people who saw that film over 10 times. The romantic phillum that rocked the nation. If i’m not mistaken some politician had to also send our appeals to public asking them to take this film as fiction. Well may be the name ‘Roxy’ had some role to play in the film’s destiny.
 
The Theatre after ‘Antarnaad’ a film on Pandurang Shastri Athavle, a baba man. Called himself spiritual but would get the first model of a new car hitting the market & had income or collection (since he was some religious fellow) of rs 900 crore. I’m yet to see 900 lakhs…that apart…te film was made by Shyam Benegal, i don’t know why. I wanted to ask him all my life…that film sealed the fate of Roxy.
 
Since then many a theatre has shut shop. I live in an area where dance, music, art forms, films thrived & i sure wasn’t deprived. Now every day i walk to office which is on Lamington Road. I pass these theatres & my heart bleeds to see them shut. They are forced to remain open & charge not above a certain amount. Whatever the collections are made to pay up 47% entertainment tax. Multiplexes have it free for rfirst 5 yrs yet they charge a bomb & make up. We need these theatres & Blue films too.

Adieu Pandit Bhimsen Joshi

I hate writing obituaries & especially of my favourite persons. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was unwell for months & he passed away today. May his soul rest in peace. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is my abso favourite classical music singer. I grew up in a house listening to him, i’ve got a collection of some of Panditji’s unreleased recordings. In addition, a municipal school adjacent to our kitchen played Ptji’s songs, abhangs & bhajans every morning before their bell rang. Pt Bhimsenji was like part of our daily living & household.

“Vithala tu veda Kumbhar…Vithala, Vithala,” Vithal Umap & Pt Bhimsen Joshi 2 sterling voices that will be missed..the true voice of nation we lost today as I heard the news. While personally i do feel he is a relieved man, at least he won’t have to suffer the way he did, respiratory failure, old age illnesses. i also will miss seeing his programmes, attending his baithaks. But he has left a strong legacy of Kirana gharana. His khayals, alaaps held me in rapture. Somehow he made his listeners feel he was part of their lives.

How? because he was simple. I was lucky to have heard Panditji’s music since childhood. I have patience & good ear to listen to classical music,i love classical music so i enjoy it. Raag Malhar, Bhoopali of Panditji, his Khyals especially when he held onto a note for long would sooth me. His natyasnageet recordings were nice and so were the innumerable bhajans.

May be many will get upset that i write this. However, when i was growing up i also remember hearing stories of Pandiji’s love for the drink. Sadly but true. There were reports of him missing concerts & his true supporters, the audiences began airing concerns of his future. It takes courage to accept one’s own fault & failure, keep it behind and go ahead in life. Panditji overcame this low phase in his life and how. He came out of this depression. He had sponsors & people who believed in his talent. But mostly his faith in himself was renewed. Sadly it took toll on his eldest son. Who interestingly has a lovely voice, but lived in the shadows of his father. He took to the bottle too. There were occasions when his son was a public embarrassment but that too Panditji took in his stride. I was a witness to one such incident in my college days. Panditji’s second wife was rock solid. She is one woman who really stood through his ups and downs. She pulled him out of doom & there he was back to his first love -Singing classical songs.

His performances were fantastic. His fans who never left his side and always had faith in him were there thronging his concerts. When i was in my last year of college i got an opprtunity to take photographs of leading maestros for IMG Jan Fest. They included Pandit Bhimsen Joshi & few other maestros. The most supporting were Panditji, Zakir Hussain who floored me with compliments & Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur -he was sooo adorable & lastly Ustaad Allah Rakha. He was thrilled i recognised him as a young student & requested if I could take his photo. I made one friend then, who sadly passed away before the other 2. Panditji was very encouraging.

Indian Music Group sponsored by Britannia company held the annual IMG nights at St. Xavier’s college. The society’s who”s who would attend. Not many understood, many didn’t even claim to hide their ignorance, but many would come so that they were seen. Panditji could read people. He understood. But he also knew the truth that they were the ones who had  the money. However he would not let it bother him. He had a smart wife who tackled them well. He did what he knew the best, “Sang.”

Though let me highlight one thing here. He encouraged the youngsters, students. He told me i could whatever photographs i needed. He only made it clear, “Don’t use that flash child, it disturbs us.” I told Panditji, “It is 1600 asa role, high speed ahe, muleech flash vapanar nahi.” can you believe to what level this conversation had taken me? Up in the sky i was high. Imagine talking to THE maestro! swapnat  pan khara vatla nasta.

Thereafter i followed Panditji like a shadow. He sat let me click him in his most candid moments. He loved chewing tobacco, i asked and he smiled, ‘ghe’ is all he said. The above picture was taken when he was doing his riyaz inside the IMG music room. Being with panditji made me a lesser skeptic of a spirit, god, something inexplicable. Panditji is one person who i saw closely being connected to ‘god.’

He always got the prime slot, night time just pre-midnight. Panditji and rest of maestros had 2 hours time. max 4. Panditji saw NO time when he’d begin singing. He would simply sing. What dedication, what passion, what immense love for his art -music. I’d see that and say to myself, even if one tenth of that if i could achieve i’d consider myself lucky. I feel frustrated with my job, often with the bosses, especially when discrimination i feel really down, music uplifts me & at that time Hindustani classical music & i simply remember Panditji’s dedication.

What’s my pain in comparison to theirs, nothing. These maestros have achieved all this due to immense sacrifices, discipline, hard work & it also means struggle & pain. Ptji ha to run away to pursue his dream. Why is struggle only romanticised by Bollywood, which rakes in tons of money…Kumarji, Panditji, their devotion to their art is simply inspiring. In addition, Panditji was immensely simple & that came so naturally to him. He did NOT have to take efforts to be simple. He was. Panditji was humble but had such high thoughts, he was a great visionary & believed in the youngsters. He would come sit in a corner at Sawai Gandharva festival that he started as tribute to his guru. He would talk to public, it is us who feel shy of keeping away from such persons, but he was a model for us ordinary persons.

Panditji also had fantastic wit. He loved fast cars. He knew his cars in & out & the others too. He knew the gears, pick up, run calculations, Engine, parts, spare parts, he would go on fast drives down the Khandala ghats. In fact he told in his interviews if he weren’t a classical music singer, he would have become a car racer. He loved driving. I can imagine a stress buster is required for those who lead hectic lives & driving was for him. In fact once at NCPA all the rich aunties thronged around him, “Panditji panditji…” he looked at 2 of his friends & equated these ladies with ancient car, Bentley. They had a hearty laugh & he didn’t get upset even after NCPA organisers showered him with a mogra flower shawl. The mogra shwal one puts on a idol, dead person’s kabrasthan. Someone else in his place would’ve created a ruckus, thrown a tantrum. He cracked jokes with his friends & pardoned these elite clueless humans. This is the crowd that recognised Panditji only to “Miley sur mera tumhara…” they should Thank Arti & Kaislash Surendranath to realise this maestro’s worth….Panditji wouldn’t get offended because he acknowledged it as their lack of knowledge. Immense insight & understanding of life that is.

Panditji unlike few playback singers & contemporaries never counted his monies. And may be that was the reason he could remain so simple, humble, connected to people & enjoy such warmth. Not that he didn’t command a high fee. But the difference was, he didn’t only weigh his art in terms of money. He threw NO tantrums like few others. He didn’t make his disciples dominate his shows & just add some sur, well many classical musicians did so. We’d bitch saying, “Shikavnya chalu ahet!” lol!. Panditji would sing his songs cough or fever. He was someone special. He took the song to another level & one actually felt he was in another world when he sang the bhajans. Which god would have ignored him.

I’m his huge fan, like i said I don’t like orbits. He will live on always in my life, ears, in this world…always..thank you Pt Bhimsen Joshi…you meant a lot to me…

Dadoji hey kon?

 

 

In our school history i am sure we studied History on Shivaji King. Having studied in a English protestant, elite school, Queen Mary school i have really vague memories of Shivaji Maharaj. i’d read a lot of Amar chitra Katha and that’s where i learnt true history. In that Dadoji was sports master of Shivaji, swords master & taught him few rules of the games.

This is all that one should be knowing abt Dadoji, yes its my personal opinion. I studied in ICSE so all except British raj, Indian freedom movement, the US independence, world history mattered rest was history as they say.

Dadoji was in the services of Shahji Raje Bhonsale. He developed city Shivapur as per order by Shahajiraje in 1636 and Lal Mahal in Pune the followingyear. Dadoji was a tutor of Shivaji and took care of Maharaj’s education from 1636 to 1646.

For me this is all the connection we should have had with Dadoji. Why? Because that’s all his place was in history & it should’ve been restricted to that much. The historians later on were educated. I mean post Shivaji. When education was introduced by the British. Now since the time i’ve learnt Indian history, society, social norms, Hindu religion, i’ve heard of Manu, the man who wrote his whims & fancies called as Manu smruti which became binding on our society. So he realised most in this country are naive, uneducated & could be taken for one big, long ride. Manu said the Brahmins only had the intellect. That’s a joke, coz I can find most dumb & unintellect Brahmins too. This apart, the fact is Brahmins wrote our history, that they were mostly men is another tickling issue. As a result majority feel ourhistory is skewed, lop sided & biased.

From the vague memories of Hisotry i have, i studied ICSE. Hence in the central board cirriculum Dadoji got just a mention i think. Shivaji Maharaj ofcourse had more pages and aptly so. However for the state board where the interference of politicians & educated intellectuals is more, the historians in Maharashtra have got lot more freedom to insert topics their personal bias & add extra information. It is obvious because the historians in the name of Shivaji have passed on ridiculous information which these Brahmins have gossiped since generations-abt Jija aau’s marital & sexual status. Which should be NOBODY’s concern. And that too from Brahmins, who’s women obviously must’ve been smarter than the Brahmin men during British time to have suddenly got kids that were so fair with green, blue & grey eyes. So they should be the last to talk about anybody’s personal lives. Let alone Jija aau, a single woman left to take care of an entire empire & groom a son to be a future King. And she did it ably, so no surprise that men gossiped & talked, espeically from upper castes.

The brahmin historians leaked this bit of information to an American writer, James Laine, who wrote a now-banned book Shivaji : The hindu king in Istlamic India. The Brahmin scholars in Pune from Bhandarkar Institute in the name of ‘folklore’ as in loose innane gossip passed on personal remarks alleging Jija aau to have personal relations with another man. The same they have stealthily tried to do with Dadoji’s existence in Shivaji Maharaj’s life. My point is even if this speculation had remotely existed, we were never born to corroborate it. So till now we have heard & read ONLY one side of hisotry -Elite, educated, intellectual historians.

Is this THE real history? We will never know. Should it be considered as history? Why, when some bit of information which is NOT corroborated, with no scientific analysis or investigation has been forced on us as history. Is it time to change this history? well Yes. And that is exactly what Sambhaji Brigade (SB) with behind the curtian support fm Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is doing. Attempting to change history. When the underdog, when the deprived want to change history they are NOT taken seriously. They are questioned. Hence they have to fight, they have to make some noise to be heard. Then they are considered rebels. So that’s what SB did. The Sambhaji Brigade attacked the symbols that represented the Brahmins – first was Bhandarkar Institute. Now remember all this was being done in Pune metro. So-called intellectual city of Mah. It is called as the Educaiton capital..amusing because the educated accept information in the name of history & refus eot question it.

The SB members stoned Bhandarkar Institute and escalated violence betwen Right wing parties & Sambhaji Briagde took place. NCP supported SB and SB ensured James Laine’s book was banned. While i believe in creative freedom & expression, that shouldn’t be a garb for anyone to hurl unqualified accusations & taint character of any individual alive and more so dead. Becasue first & foremost it gets imprinted in black & white that the so-called piece of lewd gossip is then believed as true. Most often society gossips about women.

From Jaimes Laine’s controversy it was evident that the SB has come into being & will not allow loose comments on Shivaji King, history on Shivaji or his mother Jija mata. And they are justified. That is also the reason SB has become alert about Dadoji Konddeo’s information and they refuse to let it be accepted as ultimate in History.

Why do i agree with it? Because anything that should not be blown out of proportion, that shouldn’t be sensationalised is happening. As a result the younger generation tends to believe that since there are statues of Dadoji, even a full fledged stadium then there must be some truth to the information of Daoji. Dadoji must’ve really been a great sportsperson to have trained Shivaji maharaj. Well, not all are skeptics like me who question even history. See the result. loL!

The underdogs, Sambhaji Brigade have become watch dogs and how. Meticulously, they used the RTI -Right to Information Act to acquire information. They asked all official sources including Bal Bharti, the state eduation body questions on Shivaji’s history, whether Dadoji Konddeo was a sports master in teh first place. “Is there proof that Dadoji was Shivaji maharaj’s sports master? Was he maharaj’s trainer? They got a NO from every quarter.

Then they are justified in demanding – 1. Stop references to Dadjoi in Shivaji’s history, stop giving him more prominence than reqd. b. Remove all his statues and more importantly. C. Remove the name from Dadoji Konddeo stadium in Thane.

Sometimes underdogs are compelled to take extreme steps or indulge in few excesses, only then will we majority wake up to some reality & truths. I do hope this makes us question, see history in more neutral manner.

Living with an alcoholic, now former

I received a call last night. “Hi! Sis.” Me – “Oh, Hi! how are you?” MK – “I’m fine. I have a surprise for you..” Me – “Is it? You’re getting married?” MK – “No way..hahaha what a joke.” Me – “Well i’m glad you know it’s a joke. Bcoz everytime you say a surprise my heart misses a beat.” Me – “Oh! so you cleared your entrance…aah…yeah yeah…i’d forgotten…so is it?” MK – “Yes. I passed and with 76%.”

This is my younger brother MK. Who is an alcoholic -now reformed. But it is a daily challenge and a herculean one mind you. MK finished conversing with me andcalled my best friend Anne & her mother. The 2 women after my mother (india) who have prayed for this man’s best only. They were thrilled to say the least. Not that i am not. But i’m the taskmaster (mistress sounds too demeaning). so for me he has just begun to get on the long track ahead. He has many milestones to reach and that’s something i keep drilling in MK’s mind.

16 years or may be few years more must be a haze for MK. They are imprinted in my mind. People say forget andforgive. I would like to. But it is also said Don’t ever forget your past, history. My family’s hoistory, mine, that of my parents the family house…all is interconnected. The near to 2 decades of a younger brother who should’ve done something for himself, instead was busy in a drunken stupor is  easy to be forgotten, yes. But the memories and incidents involving his certain acts, not possible to forget. Also i do NOT have intentions of allowing him to forget. He shouldn’t ever forget. God forbid, something of this sort shouldn’t even come on any one’s enemies. Also, MK shouldn’t forget how he wasted his life’s precious nearly 17 yrs which could’ve been brilliant. My best years were of my college moments & days. Every day memorable. I could achieve Milestones because i lived life everyday. How can I let MK forget the 17 years that my only my aai-baba went through pain, guilt, shame, battling with a question everyday -When will this boy get off his drinks? How can i forget or let MK forget that he will never be able to bring back those 17 years which are kindof the best in your life? How do i let him forget that he made THE biggest mistake of his life for opting for utilitarian people, false friends who instigated him against us, the family? MK opted out of the family realising a little too late it was finally the family that had stood by him despite his drinking ways.

A bright, good looking boy MK was born after 2 sisters. Espeically after the 2nd one, me. So basically MK was god sent, plus he was born bhau beez, bhai duj or whatever. So, we were supposed to feel tremendously lucky that we have got him as in a brother. MK was a loving, handsome child. Tall andlong legs completely on lines of my mother & maternal grand mother, aai-aaji who was tall. Shapely eye brows for a boy was such fascination among the femal gender, all his teachers and mother’s friends would fall for him. Naughty he was and somehow MK always had the knack of attracting people to him.

He was nutty from the beginning. He destroyed things, fiddled with electronic gadgets and more so being spolit by the mother-aai, grandmother -aaji, the whole family and neighbourhood, he always got his way. that was the time co-incidentally that my father’s business began going downwards. Too many mouths to feed, no help on hand, baba was no wonder in a hurry to make more money. That is a different story.

So basically my brother had little to work towards. He wasn’t ever pushed to give that extra, he got it easy. If he failed, his teachers, fascinated by MK’s eyebrows andlooks would give him grace marks. All methods to ‘save’ him always were put in place. I took on people ALWAYS.

one evening my sister & I were returning from school and the whole wadi residents came running to us, “MK was taken to the police today, you know. He was lost. He hid himeslf and your family lodged a missing person’s complaint.” we were semi-amused the 2 sisters, i was spaced out most of the time, i was curious. What got him to do this. I was dying to know the mood back home. So we listened, semi-rushed me veryy excited wanting to know more from the family itself. so we ran upstairs.

I had never seen my aaij-paternal grandmother- so distraught. She was reeling under the prank played by silly prankster brother. My atya-paternal aunty had sobbed her eyes out. In between laughter she was crying. My niece had come from Pune along with this atya. They had fought & she threatened to complain so this boy went & hid behind 1 door of in parents’ room. Now we have a decently big sized house. 5 rooms, 20 ft long passage in wc we’ve played cricket and a balcony. Also, 2nd flr is NOT high in old buildings and it was easier then to slip out of the house unnoticed. 

So for 4 hours the whole Kolhatkar family was on a searching spree foMK. Meanwhile that brat MK fell off to sleep behindthe door. he was oblivious to the pain, panic & drama he had caused beyond the door of that room. While all that time the search contd. And where did the family not search! The water tank, all doors except that, the whole building, other surrounding buildings, phone calls, shopkeepers were asked. other kids jumped behind the walls around. We reached home and began the whole emotional drama.

While MK slept, the whole Kolhatkar, extended families of paternal aunty, neighbours, neighbourhood, wadi and residents of neighbouring wadis began on a ‘MK search’ mission. They were dead sure, he’s got lost out of fear -wc was next to impossible- kidnapped or loitered somewhere to unknown place. They even went with MK’s picture to the godmanwho lived below our house. How god sent he was! Andwhat divine words he mouthed, “MK will be found.” Mind you, that was the day our dear aai was NOT at home. So imagine the stress weighing so very heavily on my poor aaji, atya andthe search gang. I giggled through out. I found the whole thing so selfish & comic. Yes MK has a very selfish trait..not many know that. Obviously, since he always got his way.

finally the photo was sent to the police. And then little brat MK woke up, my aunt who sat crest fallen wondering how to face her brother’s wife saw a moving shadow. She shouted an alarm, again they searched & found him. He told them all the truth. First they hugged him then wanted to beat him, wc they should have. He was of course taken to the police -this 1st time was friendly, never thereafter.

so alls well that ends well, not quite really. This is just one of the many incidents that can give you an insight into MK’s life. He made friends & their influence was fast beginning to be seen. I opposed those friendships, because they were brazenly richer, with NO class, for whose families true education didn’t matter, worse still values were never their concern. They only spulrged money, they did not earn or know how to spend sensbily. Kolhatkar family was embroiled in education, arts, fine arts, photography, music and principled family. So the writing was clearly visible to us on all the surrounding walls. Kolhatkars have always held one policy, when our own sibling is wrong, we can not blame an outsider. “Jab apna he sikka nakli nikalta hai toh samaj pe ungli kaise uthaye?” I would always tell him & even now i do so, “MK those friends have wasted their lives. Have the brains to see how much time you spend with them, how much you can imbibe from them & how much they help you to grow. You may have something good that you influence them, ok. But you have a life. So either spend minimal time wt them, laugh, talk & leave or stop talking. Draw the line clearly.” But the lines between the family & MK were being drawn then. So thick they would get that finally it became a thick wall, which MK himself found diffcult to climb over to.

He barely managed to complete his 10th. I already knew by then, that he had tasted the fine wine, dark rum & beer and that he begun liking it. Solowly that began to take precedence. He’d skip his classes & go beer binging to the beach, while we paid for his tuitions, etc. His college flopped. He deicded to work, despite shouts i supported him. On the condition, he takes a break works, sustains and goes back to studies. However the friends and their hold over him got stronger. He changed jobs worked as a chemist. Urged him to completed studies & go in for pharmaceutical or BSc. No MK preferred to be a worker. Now that was the choice he made.

He would travel to Thane, there began the complete downfall. He’d stay over, go binging. Worse still MK spoilt others in his company. Now again i can’t blame the others to fall for his charms and go out drinking wt him. MK’spersonality is attractive i admit. Meanwhile many public festivities took place annually, many binges happened more frequently then we began getting complaints. “Your son/ your brother is spoiling our son.” I’d tell my baba, “This fucking idiot has NO brains to decipher the good from bad. He could never choose good friends and now instead of blaming their children the parents & friends of those spoilt blame MK.” “When will he learn?” Don’t know and more so I believed till he realised he’s hit the bottom he would never.

In this interim period, the mother India our aai continued to support her son, to the extent that i blame her solely for what had become of him. Useless lad, drunk & burden on the family. He needed to be thrown out. My mother & i became absolutely distant. We fought severely & while i held her responsible, wc she knew & had earlier refused to accept obstinately provided him withextra money, gave him freedom, leeway & held me & babaresponsible for his condition! living in that house had become immensely difficult. My baba found it tough to deal with him.

I moved to Bangalore. During that period my aai-babahad just begun going on few of their annual visits to spend time with my sister. Nannies…grandchildren were born, their growing up so it was all another emotional pull. I returned after 9 months home andsmelt burning odour. I went near the meter i did see some shavings of wood. MK insisted he got some work done. Foundit most shocking, causeas he grew older the destructive tendency had increased mutli fold. at NO point did i know this was just the beginning.

The next few days i went aroundsniffing like a dog. I’m serious, i did do it & MK still says that he’s scared of me the most in this family primarily because of my nose & sharp detective like logic. He feels i’m born in the wrong country-one thing i agree with him. As it turned out, finally my neighbours fearing i would handover MK to police or throw him -both wc i finally did- had hidden a huge crime of his. Master Lord MK (replacing Falkland) was in drunken stupor on my parents’ bed with a cigarette in his hand. Old classic wooden bed with mattresses, blankets, etc. What he was doing no one knows. I wasn’t there. The whole thing caught fire, smoke came out. The beds had got burnt. Before the house burnt down the neighbours averted a huge disaster, something i am indebted to them for the rest of our lives. They broke open the ventilator, threw nearly a tank of water to douse that fire.

I can’t explain my anger here & may be never will. All neighbours are just few years younger to my father. This was in 1999, not like way to ago. So confronted MK. Tirades, dog house timings, rules, restrictions. All that an older sister can do before the parents arrived.

However on one of those scary days i entered the house at a time i wasn’t ‘supposed’ to if you pl. I walk into a stinky house. With a young boy who smiled into my face i entered my parents’ room. “WTF are you?” “how can you sleep in my parents room? Who allowed you in here?” I’ve NO clue who he was. Some friend, or according to me a drinking partner of MK whom he let in without my permission?

 Over the next few days now i haveblurred memories & visions, i foundbrass vase missing, it was one with beautiful carvings my ajoba- paternal grandfather- had bought from Bali. He conveniently sold it. Along with a CD deck player, my Mon Blanc pen, many other things. MK my younger brother was on a total destruction path. I had a gut feel i needed to keep my aai-baba’s keys safely, away from his clutches. I wanted to ask my dear friend Altaf whether my thoughts were correct. That i’m not being cruel on a person who happens to be my younger brother but is an alcoholic. Altaf is one absobalanced person to whom i turn to for harsh truth. He thought i was late in taking this decision. “Do you know your mother’s jewellery? Do you know how much is gone or still there? What about your father’s cupboard? Do you know what’s there?” Well most answers were obviously a BIG no. Why wld i want to sneak inside my parent’s cupboards. In the 6 months they weren’t there, you won’t believe. I’d not enter the room for like months.

So i took possession of all the keys. I hid a lot of items, many i still can’t find. I lost a lot of items, then i felt really bad & wanted to kill MK for it…i’ve no remorse today. Because the worse was yet to come.

One night before going out which was supposed to be late night i had told MK to keep the door open fminside. “I was coming home late.” The word fear doens’t exist in my dictionary. Shame hereafter won’t. I was left to battle a completely double locked house. It was me alone. From 12.30 midnight to 4.00am i kept ringing the door bell, the phone. My cell battery drained out completely. I knocked, kicked, woke neighbours. The ones abovewho peered out & said why am I loud? I sat in the staircase. I went off to sleep on stairs, sitting ofcourse. Yet it was in English – slept off on the stairs. NOTHING can be more shameful than this. What did i have to fear, nothing. The person who was oblivious to this all was fast asleep, Lord MK.

I went over to my cousin’s house. I woke up the family. His wife was livid at MK. They were immensely sympathetic. They stay near by so its ok. I also stepped out because the domestic helps, workers, neighbours begin to move around. It would havebeen worse. Cousin & sis-in-law were upset i didn’t come earlier. They would’veskinned MK alive. I was waiting for it.

I finally had to ask my father to return after MK’s drinking began increasing & heard of the fire story, in addition strangers coming over to the house. Baba returned to find his wallet was cleaned dry! I told him a lot of things gone. Now here began the real problem. How to convince parents, “Your son is an alcoholic?” “you think you know everything. You think you’re most educated in this family so you have understanding the world?” Me – “Baba may be yes…have you thought of it? Why did i opt for social work? Why did i work in hosp & with a psychiatrist?” Me-  “Also issue is NOT me baba, it’s MK’s alcoholism.” So i had to work on 2 fronts, baba & MK, alcoholic brother. It took a while, he finally accepted. It’s not easy mind you. Emotional frustration &Immense guilt that parents feel. Like they are responsible for their son’s alocoholism.

My aai returned in her time only. Now was still the time she was into her son. We had to start working on her. I wld have immense fights with her. I still hold her responsible for the way her son turned out. Baba too tried, we soon became villains. I was mad at her, but also empathised with her. Her 2nd daughter, me & she had hate relationship when i was growing, turns out to be her only solid support, while the apple of her eye is the one she can rely on the least. I could understand her predicament…but such is life. We have no animosity despite all this. We both can get on each other’s nerves, irritate each other, but can’t do without each other…but those months were unliveable with my mother.

By then i’d convinced my father. He saw reason, aai was still emotional. I as usual turned to Altaf. I wanted the fights to end. Because we weren’t the focus, MK was the core of all this turmoil & he had become a problem. My aai listens to Altaf. She likes him, is fond of him & it means a big deal to me bcoz we’ve had Indo-Pakwars in that house over Altaf. Yeah baba& me. Aai’s reading of people is dead right. She likes or doesn’t & she’s fond of Altaf. She knows he speaks right, even if we may not like it. She listened to him finally.

Imagine the day my parents attended the AA meeting at St Francis Xavier’s church? It was one the worst days of their lives. It is for most parents of alcoholics. Then Chetan my rainman & me exchanged notes on our brothers. Chetan told me, “Mama my brother is Mk’s older bro’ we’ve done all this, gone through it all. Bewde ka rakhwala khuda hota hai!” that is a joke among AAs. We laughed at our fates. I’d seen Chetan get depressed, emotional, upset bcoz his brother had slipped. I’ve seen it all, done it & been there! Both had seen it all.

We’d share our woes and more our families’ woes. Knowing how the women in the lives of these men havefailed to give them a kick up their backside.  Slowly things got bad. We asked MK to leavethe house finally. It was a HUGE blow, he should’ve seen it coming. However MK was living in a fools’ paradise till now & would continue to do so for some more years, till he had finally got cleansed. But that aai & Baba could tell him FO, get yourself in order, then return, is something he couldn’t believe.

This was only a minor hindrance. He teamed with other alcoholics, bewdas, those whom i simply wouldn’t look at. But what’s the point? He took things, he had sold them & then continued to use his mother till he pushed her to a break point.  But what he never anticipated & could’ve imagined was she’d want to kill him one day. To lead a mother to the point of being a MOTHER INDIA, you have to see the film to understand the pathos, pain that a mother who has kept her baby in the womb for 9 months, shielded him against all & made him feel like god, finally she turns totally against the same offspring & never wants to set her eyes on him…

After this gap of few months the Psalm, ‘The Prodigal son’ unfolded in front of eyes and how! I spotted MK sleeping in the building passage way. Can you imagine to what drama the persons whom you think you knew can resort to when any sort of substance –drugs or alcohol has completely over taken them? I saw for sure coz i would go for walks early in the morning. I came & told my father. The first thing was pain, shame, guilt to some extent. Remember the dramas resorted finally take toll on the very parents who are the creators of these beings. They wonder what has made them resort to such lowly acts. See, someone is so full of themselves when under the influence of any substance that they never pause to think. How can they? They are not at all in position to ‘think.’

I began talking to both aai-baba convincing them how they needn’t feel guilty, more so ashamed. They understood. It was tough to se your son sleep in the public passage while he walked away. Finally baba being the father summoned MK to the house, asked him to have a bath, eat & then talk. As usual with dog house rules, restrictions. NOTHING that would help. He needed desperate detox. I finally threw him out of the house with many more episodes of hitting the bottle.

Now is the most ridiculous part, something that hit me for a while. MK always shared everything withme. Primarily becauseI was always in the house, more vocal about my thoughts, views. Also withMK & younger M (Cousin brother) in the house, i would chat with them as elder sister buddy. Talk of adolescence, the changes, impact. I somewhere had a feeling MK was tad too close withone RS guy friend. Who like i said earlier was vella, never any male in their family had to work for a living & this feeling got rubbed off on my my bro’ lord MK. So i thought sending MK to Muktangan, the one successful detox place for substance abusers, wc is like adjacent Yerwada jail in Pune was the best choice. Again this was piece of advice from Altaf.

I strongly think till we immediate relatives accept, admit the substance abuser in the family nothing can help us face the ultimate reality. The person needs to heal self, we can only support & more so give the push. So when i finally threw him out-believe me i would’ve killed my brother at that time. I never wanted to see him again or live through any moment with him in life for sure. I told my father i want him out of my sight. He has to learn to live on his own at least, forget fend for us.

When i did, MK told me, “My friends told me don’t go out of your house MK, your sister doesn’t want you to reform, she is throwing you out because she wants to take possession of this house.” I was shocked that people have voiced their personal intentions in my name! How dare they do that? I told MK. “Think for a minute it is true. Just for your reassurance. Have you little brains? Is there no law of the land? Also can i even take over this house? With or without a will isn’t there judiciary court? Also, do you know your sister even 1%? Will Neeta ever break any law in her life?”

MK knew the truth. More importantly, my point to him is & will always be this is NOT my house, it’s our parents’ house. It is their choice whom they leave it to, even if it is a charity organisation we HAVE to abide by it, because its theirs. More so if they feel this should be a family for 3 of us then so be it, we 3 HAVE to learn to share. “So MK use your brains, think a little. This is NOT about the house, their supplier & drink buddy will be gone. Basically you are free entertainment for them, so get real whatever anyone may say you have to get out.”

That was it, MK finally landed drunk on the steps of Muktangan. He did NOT finish the detox full terms. I paid for 3 yrs for a brother’s detox programme which he did not finish. In fact after 1 detox we were forced to come & appreciate. I even told aai-baba, “We have to go and pat the back of the same person who has stabbed us, what is this way of the world?” Mk came out, father was very hopeful, mother now had become total Mother India & did not even want see her son’s face. In all this i was the person talking to the counsellors. They wanted my father to come there. We went & some relatives too came to hear the sob stories of the abusers.

My gut feel was MK was not fine. He had NO kind for his family at this talk, for him his co-abusers were the be all & only had kind words for them. I knew instantly this wasn’t detox. Why? Because i am clear the provider has a benchmark of expectation & the taker needs to fulfil it. That’s my rule & belief. I wasn’t wrong. MK began working at IT place. His computer skills surfaced. MK has the best memory for stats in our family. Although my sister was brilliant in maths, MK has a fab memory. But now he had a demeanour of a lion. He felt he’s healed & knows all. There was a trace of arrogance & again he slipped. This behavioural streak is something to be noted with abusers. They are not the original person with traits they’ve always had. The moment they slip or go back to substance abuse, they are different personalities. It’s like a split personality syndrome. They take on a persona which they may fantasize about. They get tremendously aggressive, selfish & more violent.

I began telling my parents how security is important. My sister questioned my father the need for adding new security door then. With MK’s darker side surfacing time & again i threatened him of police lock up & arrest. He overslept twice, was found drunk & twice taken to the lock up, but since his personality is attractive & did not look like a street youth he was let off. MK knows of my police contacts & political, which i’ve NEVER used despite being locked outside my own house, he is aware i could ask police to hit him too.

His counsellors tried to tell us how we should be empathetic to MK, more kind, understanding. I began talking tough with them. “My parents will not be questioned anymore or even be asked to be nice. It is time to began dealing tough with MK. He needs to take a hard look at himself. He has to reform, else we are dead for him. He cannot expect us to come & pat his back. Enough is enough. I am providing for his cure this is not for free. He has to get on with cleaning up.”

This continued for 1 more year. Then i went to visit. I made it clear to his counsellors i do not like the company he keeps of that friend RS. He is not a good influence on him, but this brother needs to realise it. It is time MK began behaving like a man. Take responsibility of his own life. Then MK began taking more interest in his life. By now he was nearing 38 years. A man who lost to substance abuse, became and alcoholic & blamed the world for it. Slow is understating the recovery process.

Yes, i am hard, i am not soft on him and have made it clear i won’t be. I’ve told him my money is investment in his life. I do NOT want the returns, but yes he owes his parents. The slow process may have begun, meanwhile came other problems. A youth who should’ve enjoyed his youth, college days with girl friends, etc and clean fun was lost in the world of alcohol. So when he reformed, got clean he was older by 17 more years  but had urges of re-living those lost years. How can anyone ever bring them back? A sheer waste of a life. Suddenly MK realised from wanting to end his life 40, he wanted to live, re-live & have fun that he had missed.

I don’t want this to become about me. I have not brooded about what i lost in life. I lost the most, could never have a brother, he was always a patient or lost case who needed help. More still we lost Peace of mind as a family and it was never a home. The parents lost critical years of living in pain, shame & guilt, they spent time blaming themselves & struggling with their emotions.

I also think the recovery is slow & it needs to be because then it is sure. I wish men became more aware of their emotions, their real sexuality, sexual needs. A lot of substance abuseis because men do not understand their sexuality, or how to cope with their needs. Chetan was the one who told me & read upon that thereafter, the basic reason for substance abuseamong men often is because of the unacceptance of their sexuality. After my long talk with Chetan was the biggest challenge to sensitisemy parents more so my father about accepting his son may probably be a gay. I learnt of this because once while talking to my pilot cousin brother & his wife, she told me MK had been talking some lewd things. I had a feeling that the comments he made about RS must’ve not gone down well with the cousin & sister-in-law.

Sometimes talking about these things is tough, especially with a father who although educated, has seen the world has a set of baggage cause of the environment he grew in. So once casually in humour broached the topic of homosexuality. Then alerted him his son may be gay. It did disturb him for few days. It is bound to happen. He wanted reassurance but i’d tell him to accept it IF it was. So shared this bit with his counsellors. Now this is a sore topic between us, his dear friend RS. However the life in Muktangan took precedence over all. Finally MK began showing real signs of progress.

In the interim period many would try to tell us to change, to be lot lenient, look at him with more softness. I’d been through that. They would in turn try & convince us about how good he was! I stood rock solid. NO these were his tricks, i knew how charming he is & what all he is capable of. He rarely proved me wrong. So it was helpful, he’d land doing exactly what i’d share. So when the difference began to be seen, his counsellors too noticed the changes. They reliased i wasn’t off target.

As MK began to progress his counsellors, fellow abusers cum reformed friends began seeing his real charm & qualities. MK has always been a BIG hit with women. He has a nice smile & like my friend Anne says he has a ‘Buddha smile.’ He looks at peace now as he has dealt with his personal devils & dark side. He began giving me different shocks. Couple of times he has reads a little too much into a relationship when none existed.

MK’s come a long way. He burnt bridges with immediate family, relatives, friends. He has been the favourite with all & then to re-mend bridges takes a long time. Plus dealing with his own emotions, guilt & then the heavy burden to face the truth that “I’m no more wanted.” Repeated slipping also made relatives & friends distrust him. I’ve already made it clear i will have the right till the last minute of his death to suspect him & demand he has to give money to his parents when he begins to earns. That he has NO choice about. It’s his way of paying me returns.

Sad part is my elder sister has no play in this whole journey of MK. Its interesting to note how some people and when they happen to be your own it hurts more, cut off once married. You can’t disown your own, if at all I have the first right. She had no connection being in US. But at no point of time has been there to guide, talk, either MK or me. Not that i need. But it’s interesting how we can simply cut blood connection. She has never paused to ask & think what i may have gone through, or read stuff written by the brother about his years of stupidity & how he’s come out of it. Not a kind word to the parents who mutely witnessed this all & suffered too.

MK is 40+. But he is on way to completing his graduation. I explained to him one major point. Till you don’t study you’re a daily wage worker and will be considered in labour class. “Whether you’re from a good family or not. Till then you are bleeding the economy & me dry. Once you graduate you can move into a higher income, you add to the economy of our country. Simple logic.” He sat for the entrance exams which had to clear then only can MK sow he has moved on to be a clean person. It is a daily challenge.

Yes, i put pressure on him. He tells me sometimes “Neeta you’re putting pressure on me.” I told him we are all accountable & there is nothing wrong. After all the pressure & stress aai, baba & I have been put through, me putting pressure on him to be reasonable, unemotional, detached till he completes graduation is NO pressure. And if MK thinks so, so be it. It will exist & i will ensure he achieves this goal.

When i say the mission in my life is to give back to our society, i think THIS is one of the best ways. I can proudly say my brother won’t be a burden on teh economy & society anymore. He will no more be an alcoholic, a former only. But for that he needs to focus, he needs to see each day as a new one with newer challenges. That he is facing it is very important. Some graduate at the age of 20, its ok my brother will graduate at age of 42.

Dr Binayak Sen -fighting charges of sedition

The medical practice is the only profession in our country (atleast i know India) that has to take an oath. The docs are not supposed to be profit oriented and more so, since diligent tax payers like me file returns & pay taxes, their medical education is highly subsidised. So they are supposed to take an oath of serving 1 yr in rural villages & be committed to public. That is the main reason for subsidisation of this otherwise expensive studies.

One such diligent medical professional & gold medallist is the man in the picture above. Dr Binayak Sen. Who has a wife, Ilina & 2 daughters. Today the family is scattered thanks to Govt of Jharkhand, GOI & High Court that has ordered him to life imprisonment.

Dr Sen went on to Chattisgarh which was once part of Bihar before. Sen dedicated his life to the poor, mostly those who can’t afford to eat even rice twice a day, forget 3 times. And they are totally deprived from absolute basics like food, opportunity to earn living, basic education & will to survive. Most of us will never be able to identify with that. So let’s be honest about this fact.

Sen gives them medication, helps them to live, ensures the women don’t die while pregnant, at the time of delivery, lack of nutrition,  don’t die after delivery due to lack of iron or blood. He ensures the children in that region don’t die due to malnutrition & starvation. This i am sure is of most significance. He also treats them for diarrhoea, cholera, malaria & they get medicines free of cost.

People in cities may never know the importance of these things. It is so vital to have healthy, normal citizens who are not a burden on our economy. Ill, disabled deprived population adds burden to the economy, Which the governments should be reducing, but play politics with it. This most valuable difference is so vital. Even more when we realise he’s made a difference in an area where govt has never bothered to reach or never will.

In the interim period. The Communist Party of India (Maoist) reached in these remote, tribal areas of India. The cadre & workers mostly educated, rich, who left their comforts & warm environments came to dedicate their lives to the betterment of these poor tribals. Well they never will get medals for sure. Yet someone was acknowledging them, someone valued & cared for them. The fact that the tribals would never forget. Soon many felt frustrated, the lack of governmental intervention has its limits too. The cadre also began feeling it. They realised things & systems are not changing & soon we saw the rise of extreme Maoist, Naxal activities of their cadres resorting to violence.

Killings took place -till now mostly of the officials, administration of those who were key players of our corrupt systems. Till then most felt, “Its ok, the govt calls for trouble if they don’t change & get to the grassroots.” the govt never has done it & will never do. So then anger, frustration drove many to guerilla war fare. The naxals began attacking civilians. However the tribals never diminished their support to the naxals. For the reason that they survived indifferent death.

Dr Sen meanwhile dedicated his life to serving these poor tribals. His wife & children lived in Wardha & would frequently visit him in Raipur too. their lives took a change for sudden. Dr Sen was arrested. The last 7 years he is fighting all sorts of charges put on him forcibly, for which there is NO evidence at all.

OK, tell me when you go to visit your personal doctor how do you like your dr to be? Detached, Impersonal, straight up, come to the point Ms/Mrs/Mr so & so. Or at least i like my dr to smile, laugh, relax, be warm welcoming & i want to tell him something personal -my illness.

May be its an Indian trait or what i don’t know, we don’t stop here. We patients know about the doc’s life, more so he knows lots more about ours. We feel nice if our doc enquired about our spouse, gf/bf, children, their progress, our personal problems, etc. The usual appointments of docs go on for a while.

We tend to consult the doc see him as a guide & in a country like India, Doc is equated with GOD. Whoever, whatever there may be. Many of us want our parents or kids to listen, follow certain course of medication, diet we ask our doc to do so. We request him to have a talk with our family members, because we are confident they will listen to the doc. Its understood. The doc doesn’t simply ‘passes on our message’ goes beyond & convinces the individual. So we want the doc to be our advisor, counsellor or communicator, to get some work done.

Imagine this situation a tribal area. It’s far more intensified. The families who may know nothing about medication, treatments & illness in the first place. Besides imagine the activists who lived here, leaving behind their families in cities while they lived in remotest corners. Now take this further. Some of these got arrested. Not all have worked in arms training or imparted arms training or even picked up arms. Some really went there to teach -educate the children/adults.

The informal non-religious, non-formal and absolute socialist form of education. So what. At least they informed poor, illiterate tribals of their rights, schemes, funds available that they can use. As a result, many who got arrested and have been sent on rotation from 1 jail to another do have families. Some have multiple families. Some have really tiny kids. In fact one alleged Naxal saw his kid last when he was just born! They feel lonely. They too are human concenred of their families & more so the academic progress of their kids. They are given crap food, with worms, stones, etc. Most have been beaten. You can make out after their releases interim ones though.

These Dr Sen types have been languishing in jail for like 7 years plus. So while they are in jail they also would to reassure their wife, kids, daughters especially how to cope with these circumstances. They want to tell their children to not fall for loose talk, taunts NOT to get emotionally vulnerable. Also words of caution, ask them to be careful.

This is NORMAL. I’d have done or communicated lot more. Remember the arrested naxals are denied all rights. NOT even allowed to write letters to their families. What if they have sent encoded messages you know!

So the Chattisgarh govt of BJP stepped up its anti-naxal activities. & while they wanted to arrest the violent Naxals, whom they couldn’t zero down upon, they simply arrested Dr Sen. He got bail after 7 years and trial began. Unfortunately during the trial most media IGNORED the issue. in this interim period i happened to write a piece on children of few naxal leaders. I spoke to Pranhita.

“When rumours of Binayak’s Sen’s arrest were doing the rounds in Raipur, where he lived and worked, his family was on edge. Pranhita was at the time studying in a college in Kharnagar, a few hours from Raipur. Her life changed after Sen was arrested on May 14, 2007. She started getting threats.  Leaflets would be slipped under my door, saying ‘they’ knew I lived alone she says. I am now scared to talk to people. Even when you messaged me for this interview, I felt nervous. Free Binayak Sen campaign, and is the cinematographer for a documentary the People’s Union for Civil Liberties is making on the case. Working for the campaign has also helped Pranhita appreciate her father’s work. ” At the same time, she says she holds no grudge against the neighbours who shut their doors and windows when a posse of nearly a hundred policemen arrived to take her father away. “They called my father a terrorist and shut us out. But calling him names does not make it true.”

The daughter & other children have to live with these tags like “terrorists”. The Chattisgarh court has charged Dr Sen with ‘sedition;’ The definition – “actions or speech urging rebellion against the authority of a state  or ruler.” So to treat the poor, live among them. To pass on messages if the cops are to be believed, is this a crime? More over to prevent illnesses, death of women & premature babies, immunise them is going against the country.

Do we not always communicate, send messages to one another? what’s social networking i wonder? Now if Dr sen has sent messages of these arrested in Jail to their family members, it becomes sedition? This is maths gone wrong. Bcoz the police aren’t doing thorough investigations, they have failed to catch real culprits. They can’t put an end to Moaism so they catch the person doing some good work there. Sure some good work this is.

Instead of calling for other NGOs, calling CPI (M) cadre to talk, taking schemes to the poor in those remote areas, ensuring even if there’s 1 child he gets to study, instead the govts send para military troops, naxal combat teams to finish the activists, people? the real problems remain unsolved.

But the truth is those who know less about the movement, about Maoism, Communism in this country, will draw their own conclusions. Worse still, since most do not have family doctors who take the extra effort, charging pittance & helps to prevent disease, we will never believe Dr Sen is only pracitising medicine. Dr Sen has at no time propounded, promoted or supported violence & killing in the name of maosim. To call him naxal in itself is wrong. Actually they are driving nice people towards it. Worse still they’ve called Dr Sen as terrorist? Who exactly has given us the right to call this med doc such names?

People also say, “what’s the truth, he was a naxal na?” He helped the naxals, maoists, so he is anti-national . On what basis are these allegations being made? Read what i’ve written. Ask ourselves the basic questions we have read. Draw your conclusions based on it. Else find a better family doctor yourselves.

Bal Bhavan

Last few days my walking friend cum junior fm DNA cum budding good journalist cum soon to be teacher Mahafreed & I are on exploration trip for walk friendly places. She’s live wire, great comic timing, may be being a bawi is an added gentic quality wc other mortals lack. coming to our walks, we have experimented galore first me singly then Mahafreed & now us both. Same experience – difficult to walk in Mumbai city even for exercise. Very walker unfriendly city this is.

Few days ago she told me lets go to Bal Bhavan – our childhood garden. No fantasy please this is THE most beautiful garden, green spot between Charni Rd & the Arabian Sea. What a location in the 1st place. Now i’m in my 40s so imagine over half a century old this garden is.

Most of the garden is as it is. However there are many new things. First things first. This is solely reserved for Women & children below 12 years. Whatta fun this is. I love reservations, that topic is for debate and discussion later. We women & rest of the Bahujan, deprived sections of society deserve reservations for the next century.

That apart, as we enter Bal Bhavan main entrance on the left is the gargen gate behind is the Arabian sea side, on the right is a new small garden with all scienc gadgets. The Nehru Science Centre has put these things for kids. There are some metal gadgets that depict solar sys as seen in Jantar Mantar of Jaipur & Delhi. As the name ‘Bal Bhavan’ suggests the building premises, gardens, gym, et al are dedicated supposedly for the benefit of children. And here they declare the 10th & 12th board exam results.

In the science garden, they have plasitc manequinn blocks placed separately. When you see them fm all angles they look separate. Then you have to place your face near a metal board wc has a tiny hole & look through it & you see a wholisitic figure! So now you know how Mahafreed & I have some fun during our walk in wee hours of morning.

Mahafreed is scared of guards. She says all guards scold her. She look naughty while i am naughty..in my childhood all shouted at me, now roles have changed i guess..hehe

The garden has lovely morning dew. I saw a lady walk on it 2 days ago. We exchanged notes on walking on the dew. Scientifically we need to understand things. as we began walking this morning, M felt the garden was watered. It wasn’t. We removed our shoes at a bench which is well coloured. Imagine cobalt blue colour! How children friendly is that! We sat down for some time to enjoy sitting on that bench. Then we walked on the grass like little kids. And we remarked how lucky today’s kids are na. We both were amazed with these efforts taken byt the govt, education dept for the kids.

M says she used to come here to play, learn karate and she did duck walks etc. I don’t remember if i had to do all this. I was never atracted to Karate. May be because the trainers looked uninspiring, dunno too far back my childhood is. What i do remember is we played here, my sister & me. At that time there were slides, jungle gym thingies, swings & sand pits. Yes you guessed right. i would roll in the sand pits, take big swings and luuuuved jungle gym. Most of those things are there & some new additions. Plus now i see 1 extended part of the garden.

I’m sure that additional garden must’ve existed then too, but i’m not sure such a big one did. Or it was surely restricted to us children. Because now when we began walking it seems large. It was fun as we walked barefooted. We realised the different variety of grass that is there…most of the garden has soft nice levelled grass wc resembles Neem leaves. This holds the more dew and water. M wasn’t willing to believe that the grass wasn’t watered & there can so much of dew wt previous evening’s water. She asked the gardener & he confirmed he waters only in evenings. Plus we saw some abso dry portions of sand…slowly M got convinced. The magic of dew we began discovering…

We noticed Many nice flowering plants & trees, rat rani, champa- 1freshly bloomed flower had fallen wc i wore above my ear. My best friend who’s no more, CD would always tell me, “keep a flower wt you babes it’ll make you feel nice. When you get angry or upset, take a deep breath of it then think…all else is insignificant…” yeah Chetan’s right, the fragrance makes you forget everything else!

So we walk around this garden everyday…i feel young yet again. Not that i ever know what it is to be in 40s..really speaking. I mean i would never have imagined that i would return to this garden to take walks. Interestingly this garden is reserved for women & besides M & me only 4 women come to gossip or share tid bits abt their lives. Rest pass by and look from outside the fence at M & me as if we’re animals in some zoo.

I don’t want to be seen by people or show off that i go for walks in the mornings…also too much noise these walkers make…they are a nuisance actually. They talk too much checking out others while they expose their fatty stomachs through slinky sarees…shee

Everyday we decide to add some spunk to our lives…i love my Bal Bhavan. We were also surprised to see the door to a govt building open at 7.00am! Times surely have changed…. 🙂