Monday, July 17, 2006

Deal of a Shoe-Polish Box

6 pm … Pune Camp area … riding on the bike … someone playing the song ‘aa aa ashiqui me teri’ … and I was imagining Isha Koppikar or Karina standing outside ‘West Side’ weaving hand at me.

It was a pretty long time since I had been to Pune camp area. This time the visit was going to be different … far different. Varun and Raga were already there (and not Kareena or Isha), waiting for me. I parked my bike and met them. We walked a few steps on road and saw two small children sitting by the road, as if they were waiting for ages. There was a small want in their eyes. I could not really make out if that was for some monetary help or something else. They were shoe-polish walas.

“Bhaiyya itana late kyun aye?”
(why are you late?)

I had absolutely no idea that the word ‘bhaiyya’ was going to astound me like anything in next few minutes. The visit was all about these kids. Varun had met them on the same street a day before and found them interested in schools. However they had their story and reasons why they walked out of school.

Our conversation stared with a deal. A deal of shoe polish box. They agreed to join the school if we give them a shoe polish box! The shoe-polish box was supposed to double their income. In a few minutes we realized that the elder boy, 15 years old kid, was able to comprehend English and was also able to speak a little. The deal of a box at the cost of education of 2 children was certainly a good one and also was not a big issue for us but then a few unanswered questions were still there. We were afraid what if these kids give up schools n studies within a week or two after getting shoe-polish box. Who will guarantee that their parents would allow them to spare time from the ‘business’ to ‘waste’ in school? And why would one believe or agree to us. We were just street walkers and strangers to them. Why would they care and understand the motto benefits this.

There were quite a few children on the road – some selling balloons, some polishing shoes – but all wondering on the road behind people asking for money. We talked to a few and the story was same everywhere. A father who drinks, a mother who begs and a sister whose marriage is these children’s responsibility –
“ma, behen bhik magnate hai to achcHa nahi na lagata bhaiyya, is liye hamane school cHoda aur yaha agaye polish karane ke liye” they lamented.
(it doesn’t look good when our mother and sister beg hence we left school and started shoe-polishing)

I could really see pains in their eyes when they said that. But then it was also true that they did not know what they have sacrificed.

We decided to talk to their parents to find the way out. I was with 2 kids on my bike. They were showing me the way to their home which was in Hadapsar - a pretty long way from camp – especially in weekend traffics. I was hero for those children now. After all a free ride on the bike was something very big for them. They started becoming more n more frank. And at the max what could be a child’s imagination? In a few minutes I had to redefine all my beliefs.

I remember, in my childhood, I used to show people the Mahalakshmi Temple near my house or a lake, or a park. Well … these kids started with a graveyard! They showed me one as if it was a zoo or a playing garden. The childhood for them was all different. I should have realized this fact when they talked about their sister’s marriage and father –

“baap to bekar hai, bhaiyya. woh ghar nahi ata, daru pike pada rehata hai kahipe! Tabhi to hame kama karana padata hai! (Smiles)”.
(father is a waste. That’s why we have to work)
These guys continued to guide me on the road showing and narrating all the pretty places like graveyard! They showed me the train track. Train is always an attraction to any child.

“parasu, yaha ek bachcha baitHa tha. woh sun aur bol nahi sakata. Train ne uda diya use. Mar gaya fir!”
(a dumb n deaf boy was got hit from the train on the tracks! He died)
I was shocked. Not because of the event but by the way they told me. The tone was like ‘I went to market and bought some vegetables and while coming back everything fell off’. How do you react to such situations? I seriously could not understand whether I was supposed to say some consoling words or was just supposed give some reply like ‘pick up the vegetables and go to home’!
I didn’t say anything.

They took me to a remote place. I could guess that they were adivasis. There was a series of small huts like a home we make out of playing cards. Lot many children surrounded my bike at the moment I entered the area. These two kids who were sitting on my bike were catching all the attention now. We got down and started talking to the people there. As expected, people had their arguments ready.
“inako padhayenge to khayenge kya?”
“subeh school jayenge to fir dhanda kaise hoga?”

(what will we eat if we teach them?)
(how would they earn if they go to school in the morning?)

We explained them the importance of education. The folks there also talked about cast and religion! Phew … and we say that we are in 21st century! We also had to explain them that education has nothing to do with cast and religion. At the end the people agreed. I don’t really think that we said anything different. Even now while writing this, I am not sure why those folks argued in the beginning and why did they agree at the end. We had not really addressed their concern about money. But then at least we got green signal from the community. There are lot many things still to be done. We need volunteers in that area – Vaidhwadi, Hadapsar. We need to get these children enrolled in the school and track their progress. But then the good thing was the dialogue with their parents which apparently appears me to be successful.

We came back to Camp. The same couple of children were with me on my bike. I wonder where do children get the question bank. They were not over. They started with even more enthusiasm.
“Bhaiyya, log kyon marate hai?”
(Why do people die?)

Like most of the earlier cases, I struggled to answer.
“Bhaiyya, agar log mar jate hai, to bhagwan unhe wapis kyon bhejata hai?”
(And if people die, why does God sends them back?)

Now this was really a genuine query!
No doubts these kids have been exposed to some weird truths of life but then still it doesn’t explain a child looking for an explanation about life and death instead of asking about cartoon characters and games. These kids also told me about Solar System! When asked where they learned it, they mentioned they had learnt it once somewhere. 10 years old boy who has left school a way back and working as shoe polish wala, talking about Solar System which he probably had read ‘somewhere’ was something worth giving a thought. That boy really had some good memory or grasping capacity. He was able to read English hoardings – no wonders – but he knew about Solar System as well.

He is still there on MG Road running behind people for show polish and dreaming about the shoe polish box which would double his earnings! Not sure, whether I was supposed to be happy to know about his knowledge or sad.

We let them disappear again in the crowd at Camp and came back to the place where we had started from. An education for one child at the cost of one shoe-polish box was really not a bad deal. We, At Dream India team, are going to try our best to make sure that these kids get some education. Would that solve the problem? Perhaps we don’t know the answer but surely it will make a difference.

We need volunteers who can visit this place and track the progress of these children – perhaps twice a month.

8 pm … Pune Camp area … walking towards the bike … someone playing ‘some’ song again ‘… … ashiqui … teri’ … and I was trying to find out those kids in the crowd standing outside ‘West End’ weaving hand at me.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Anti-Quota Rally - 21st may

Today we attended anti-quota rally. The rally was against government’s decision to implement cast-based system in higher education. Lots have been said and lots have happened so far on this issue of reservation and quota. Students have come out on streets demanding equality.

It really needs courage to shout for own rights and the youth is rightly doing that in many cities now. It was just a beginning for Pune. A few days back received an email about the rally and it happened today. It was one more ‘First Ever’ for me.

Though all over it was projected that ‘Medical students are protesting' and 'medicos have come on the streets’, the fact there was much more pleasant. It was really good to see the people from all the fields gathered and that too for the same cause. There were professionals, there were engineers too. When there is a mob, different mentalities and views are bound to be there. When the crowd grows beyond 1500 in number then the task controlling these people becomes really tough. I did not know that I was going to get chance to see everything.

The entire event was (to be) organized by ‘Youth for Equality’ – who had come up with their own way. Their pamphlets had clear list of their motto and the purpose behind the rally. The group had completed the legal formalities for the rally almost 3 days in advance however the scene there was a bit different.

Police had informed them in the morning that they could not allow the rally to happen. It was due to the fact that the protest in other cities had taken a violent face. However no one from the gathered crowd was in the mood of taking a back at that moment.

In spite of this bad beginning, the group went ahead with a big sabha. People cheered the speakers and it ended with following note,

“There will not be any official rally. ‘Youth for Equality’ is not officially going to take any responsibility of the any rally. However if you all fee that this rally should happen then you can still do it. Start marching in pairs of 2. We can have silent march WITHOUT disturbing traffic or anybody. Indian constitution gives us right of expression. Let us practice it.”

That was amazing stand taken by the organizers considering the fact that there were police standing outside. The march began as expected. The Entire mob (of almost 2000) started walking from SNDT play ground and finally came down on the road. Every one was in a team of 2 and was walking. A few also had the sign boards in hand. The group which was NOT officially organizing the rally was controlling the crowd which was now a line of thousands of teams of 2.

The organizers made it sure that the march is not disturbing the traffic. It was almost 4.30 pm and traffic had just started building up.

It might be little exaggeration, but I had started remembering all the freedom fighters and their stories. Not many times, we get chance to fight against the wrong. And believe me, when we do, it feels really great.

Finally everyone reached Sambhaji Park where the rally was supposed to end. The organizers thanked the participants and requested to disperse. They promised to convey the further updates to everyone.

And the next drama started …

The police van was standing outside the park since it was almost past 6pm. The peak traffic and the busiest road along with the HUGE crowd inside the park were perhaps making them worried. The organizers mentioned that during the whole movement nobody would make any illegal act and hence would not gather collectively at the park because it was also not legal.

A few from crowd came forward and asked, “Why the heck did we walk for last 2 hours?? Just to disperse?” “We would not go anywhere. Why to go when we are fighting for right thing”

Well… dint I say, we are bound to get people with different mentality! No doubts that everyone there was with the same cause but perhaps the patience levels were different. The moment people found no further clear course of action, they started thinking. Thousands of minds came up with thousands of ideas and it was the beginning of the chaos. The mob which walked silently during the peak traffic hours without disturbing anybody was about to burst on the busiest road of Pune in just 15 minutes.

The “organizers” really had tough time explaining the after-effects to the crowd. The crowd was now in hundreds only but still together it was still BIG. Police were about to call double police force than the crowd. The organizers did not really want anything wrong to happen. The reason was clear – because they had some plans to do and one wrong move was going to ruin them before they could have even started. Who cares? In such moments, no one listens to the logic!

All the freedom fighters whom I was remembering a few minutes ago were now staring at me. That was bad. That was really bad. People started arguments there inside the park. A few of them started shouting and booing some politicians. Gosh! It was irony. Everyone had gathered there to get away with castism in the country and now the crowd was now screaming against some people and not their decision. Had someone brought those people in front of crowd and killed them right away, perhaps the anger would have died out … despite of the existence of the cast-based systems. No wonders why people said ‘hate the crime and not the criminals’.

I really hope, what I said just now was not the fact.

Finally I realized one more scary fact. To make this rally happen, almost hundreds of students had signed non-bailable warrants. Meaning thereby, hundreds of careers which had not even started were at stake. And still a few asked to these organizers “WHY? Why did you sign such warrants?”

Organizers who were arguing with the Police a few hours ago were now struggling with their own people! I don’t know what should I name it but the entire scenario was disheartening. After the successful march of 2 hours, the last half an hour was really heart-breaking.

There were people who had some really good plans in their minds and made the march successful. There were people who were really upset with government’s decisions like others and were part of the march. With the crowd gathered around the latter were really making the situation tensed.

Make no mistake; no one was having ill-thoughts. But still it happened. After lots of debates and arguments, the crowd dispersed. Perhaps a few went because there was nothing ‘happening’ for a long time. A few vanished because they wanted to and a few disappeared by seeing the less crowd.

Finally everyone – the organizers and the remaining public – agreed to come up with a strong plan next time and went off. Police also were happy to see that their extra force did not have to come and the situation did not go out of control.

A few were still wondering in the park in small groups and deciding about the action they can take independently! Perhaps this is what people call ‘divide and rule’. There was a mob that was together a few minutes ago and was all set to protest against the government’s decision. And now after a few arguments by a very few people the crowd was in different groups deciding for themselves and forming their own groups. Those who were wise … said the things and went off. But those who were not, they were still there.

Whatever happened, that was happened inside the park. For outsiders, it was enough to understand that the youth has really awakened. The organizers also would have realized the same!

Let me end this with a very positive note. Despite all arguments and debates that took place there, the whole mob would surely come together again whenever the next steps would be taken. The reason is very simple – all are young and hence they do not have much ego! And all share really good motive. Hence they are bound to come together.

Let us come together people and do a collective effort to remove the cast based system from the country. It is not for any individual … it is for everyone … it is for us!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Comedy Show (contd)

With an opplogy for being late in posting the next sequence let me start. It is already pretty late anyway ... now even we are about to get the VCDs soon.

Anyway, coming back to the show.

Dedipyaman aNi pradirgh Tejas

Tejas entered for his Shirish Kanekar act.

Right from the beginning with "pradirgh aNi dedipyaman karkird" till the end, he kept on commenting on the bollywood movies.

Continuing the theme of bollywood, the next sequence was Koffee with Caran! Gujjua buddha introduced the show as the one which his bahu liked much.

Kofee with Caran

The show made Caran (Arun) a popular personality among all the HOMOsapians of Persistent!

All his guests were very unique - SRK, Dharamji and Hema (Priyanka), Ajhar and Siddhu (all performed by Amber). Every sequence left audiance laughing and jumpin like popcorns! ;-)
Hema's "main to nachungi" became a tag line for Priyanka.

The show was supposed to take 30 minutes and it went past 45 minutes.

The next sequence was the dance sequence which was to be introduced by the 3 oldies but because of the ime crunch, it did not happen and the dance started with absolutely no clue!

A tapori (Rohit) entered on the stage running and a cop following him (Kaushik). After music making some funny sound and spoiling the dance, again the whole tapori chase happened and this time it was better music (thankas to Tejas!)

Statues do see

Tapori started acting as a statue ... and then the whole dance sequence. Though started with little problems, rest of the sequence went well.

Oldies and the statue dancing ...

Finally after lots of funny sequnces in dance, the oldies also entered and comedy show ended.

Friday, May 05, 2006

RD show and great comedy show at Persistent

[25th April ... Siddhi Lawns ... 7:30pm]

The comedy show began after 7 vocal performances ...

Here is the group that rocked

Troup of Singers ...

Music n the voice ... both were simply awesome ... still remember the tunes ...!

Comedy show started with 3 Buddhas - One Parshi (Arun), one Gujju (Amber) and one maratHi (Kaushik)

Buddhas Introducing each other

when Kau gathered public's attention by commenting on outsiders in Pune right in the beginning ...

It followed by the sequence 'ek woh jamana tha jab ... aur aaj ek yeh jamana hai ...'. The buddha's commented on various topics right from Sachin Tendulkar, Shivsena till Persistent Systems of old age and this age.

Finally sequence broke when Mangal (Rohit) Entered on the stage ...

Mangal with Coke

All the Buddha's outsmarted Mangal/Amir and he left the stage finally with a bottle of coke and straw in hand...

Show continued when Gujju told about her niece's experience when she had to interview one guy who was die-hard bollywood fan ... It was next scene.

Interview opened when Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (Mayuresh) entered as an interviewee and starts all his crazy dialogues.

Interview Begins ...

Interviewer (Swati) tries her patience with this irritating fellow ...

Vijay did all the tricks with famous dialogues of Amitabh ... nana ... dilip kumar ... amir khan and at the same time Interviwer was catching attention of public by good reflexes ...

Interview ended when Vijay left with "aye teri beNdi .. yeh to Hindi jaNati hai yaar ....."

Show returned again to 3 oldies sitting in a park ... when the parshi baba find his x-patient Bilawa gates (Abhijit) with i-Pod who described himself as software consultant (SC).

SC ke funde

Public enjoyed a lot when SC cracked his fundas about IT industry and PSPL ... ;-)

SC did mention about slow lifts ... software belly syndrome ... lot many things ...!

Finally he left the stage and the next sequence to follow was Tejas doing Shirish Kanekar ... and a few more ...

(continued ....)