Monday, November 29, 2010

Brindle and Polo

This is my four month-old Labrador Retriever whom I adopted recently. He is by far, the naughtiest and the craziest dog I've ever had.

Polo, after having dug into the sack of flour in the kitchen. The white powder on the nose says it all.

He has a shoe fetish that I hope is just a temporary teething phase, for I've already lost four pairs of shoes to that. But the queerer part is that he never chews the same shoe he's attacked once and he always assaults in solitude. How many more to go, Polo? I've been trying really hard to train you, but you've been very stubborn about this.

I finally gave up the fight yesterday evening, when the fifth attack was made on my clothes. I discovered my kurta lying torn on the floor when I returned from college and I didn't know what to do with him, this time! 

Later that night, my friend Dodo, sent me a blog post written by my favorite columnist to cheer me up. It was about Jug Suraiya's dog, Brindle, who recently passed away, after having lived 13 good years of his life with Jug's family. Despite it being a painful subject, Jug manages to sound light-hearted, even as emotions flow through the post. And as wittily as it is written, it taught me a couple of things. 

It is not Polo who needs to be trained, but I, who carelessly leaves things lying around in my room for him to chew. The poor soul only chews it because he misses me when I am not there, for the odor lingers.

The same way I'll miss him when he won't be there anymore, and I won't even have the canines to chew his collar. But Brindle has taught me another way to cope with it. I wouldn't think of him as having gone somewhere far far away from me, I would consider him free, free to be in everything around me.

Or as the late (or free) Brindle puts it,
"I am the laughter of children. I am the noise of traffic, the dust of the streets, the sound of water. I am the greenness of leaves and the blue of the sky. I am every where and every thing. People have a big word for it; they call it the Universe. We dogs, we Indian street dogs, have a simpler word for it. We call it Freedom."
My condolences to Jug and my love to Polo.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The How What Why

I recently came across a blog post on the sanduskyregister that got me thinking. It talked about a Supreme Court case in the U.S. involving a certain radical group that shouted anti-gay slogans during the funeral procession of a U.S. Marine. The blogger referred to an article written on the same issue, that said that the law should not try to silence this group if it allows others (for eg. preachers who profess that gay people are sinners bound to hell) to voice their opinions so openly. The blogger went on to say -
To ask the law to distinguish between what they say and how they say it puts our freedom of expression at risk. 
So, shouting some thing on the streets is punishable by law while saying the same thing in a sermon by a religious authority is protected by the law. How something is said becomes as important as what is being said, when it comes to the freedom of speech and expression.

If I apply the same logic to the Arundhati Roy sedition case, I would argue that if she had written the same speeches in the form of a book, it might have been acceptable within the limits of freedom of speech and expression (though there's a chance the book would have been censored too). But since she chose to shout it out on the microphone in front of an audience, it was immediately termed seditious and punishable.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Miss Roy misses the prize

A Spanish photographer, Emilio Morenatti was awarded the first Freedom of Speech prize for Journalistic Values, yesterday. Interesting! Didn't know such prizes existed.

Was that why the whole fuss over Kashmir and its freedom created by Arundhati Roy? Was she eying a similar prize for writers too? It's rather sad all her efforts went in vain though. All the work she put in to prepare those speeches, delivering them without violating the country's sedition laws, following up with other discourses on the freedom of speech and expression, and someone else walked away with the prize! All that hard work and not even a special mention. It's sad.

Her freedom story

When we were hiring a maid the last time round, my family was told the woman had abandoned her family and run off to Mumbai without a notice. On hearing that, we were apprehensive if she would be serious towards her commitment with us but we still hired her. Later, I got to know the story behind her running away.

It was 7:30 p.m. when she entered the house that day. I was sitting in grandma's room, working on an assignment. She came into the room and sat down on the floor. I didn't pay attention at first. Her head was down and she was staring at the floor. I didn't notice her till I heard a voice say, "He is such a *" (due to reasons of decency and forgetfulness, I don't remember what she said).

I looked at her then. Her other sentences came between her sobs. It was difficult to understand with the broken Hindi. But with the bits and pieces I could gather, she was cursing her husband. Her daughter had fallen sick. Medical bills were pouring in. The money she earned working at the houses was not enough. And the husband earned a meager sum and idled rest of his time away. But before I could respond, she dialed someone's number and started babbling in Bengali on the phone.

It is then that I noticed a small circle of singed skin near her wrist.

As if she could read what was on my mind, she put down the phone and said, "This is when my husband burnt me with the end of his burning bidi." I have heard of stories of domestic violence before, but to see the scars of the act with my own eyes was unnerving. I was shocked.  I couldn't say anything. I just stared. She went on, "He comes home and beats me. I work all day earning for him, my daughter, my son and he just sits there and orders me to work more."

Her eyes spoke of sexual abuse too, but she didn't know how to voice it to me. And then she finally said, "I am tired of being his slave. I want to run away again." This is why she had run away earlier. She'd wanted freedom. She was tired of living for her husband. I asked her then, "Why did you come back from Mumbai, the last time?" She said, "He got me back."

Hers is just one example among the many lurking behind those closed doors. About 70% of married women in India are victims of physical or sexual abuse, according to a UN Population Fund report. That's a shameful statistic! And I wish I knew the means to change it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The lost arts of India

Yesterday, our class went to the 18th Dastkar Mela, for an assignment shoot. The mela was better than any fair I have seen in Delhi before. Besides beautiful artistry, the artists themselves were a treat to watch and talk to. Each one of them had a tale to tell and I felt like spending the whole day with them, just listening. These artists have come from across India - Bengal, Kerala, Rajasthan, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and so on. And apart from their creations on display, you could see live performances of dancers, puppet shows and painters painting in front of you. Here I am posting some pictures from the fair. Hope you enjoy them!

A manipulative puppet "The Magician" bows. Manipulative puppets are those that have a fixed identity and cannot be used for any other role in the story. At times, it costs Rs 10,000 and takes about a week to make a manipulative puppet.

Kerala dancers perform Kavadiyattam, balancing 6-10 feet tall wooden structures on their heads.

One of the puppeteers from a gypsy family that has traveled to 16 countries showcasing their art. Their troupe was the one that had made the giant puppets for the CWG Opening Ceremony.   

Rajasthani Bhelpuri, an Indian snack- tempting colors.

Paintings by Bengali artists. It takes a week to complete a painting that costs Rs 600.

The colors used for these paintings are made from flower extracts. The pictures are based on mythology and folklore.

More puppets from Rajasthan

An interesting pair of pixie boots belonging to a member of the puppeteer family. For them, puppets are a part of their family.

Big elephant puppets from Rajasthan

Animal wall hangings made of paper. The mela was based on the theme of going back to nature.

All kinds of dolls made of recycled material

A visitor tries her hand at pottery

A common thing every artist said was that these arts are losing their importance and respect in India. Nobody seems to care about them anymore. These craftsmen are not just traders, but original artists who don't get a fair price for their beautiful creations. Visitors say the fair is expensive, but before you go on to believing that, ask the craftsman how much time, money and effort he put in to make an item. The fair is a mirror of India's lost arts. So, if you missed it this year, don't forget to go in the next!