Thursday, February 21, 2019

Baran !

Baran, The rain in Persian, assimilates in her eyes and innocence, a 10 year old Afghani girl who portrays central role in the movie Baran. The story takes place in Iran in 1980s, significant decade in the chronology of revolutions. It revolves around Afghan refugees who have migrated to Iran due to instability in their homeland and work illegally as cheap laborers on construction sites in Iran.‘ The devastation combined with an ensuing civil war, reign of Taliban regime, Three year drought; prompted millions of Afghans to flee their country. The UN estimates that Iran now hosts 1.5 million Afghan refugees.’ Say the lines on the screen to make us understand the gravity of the circumstances, before the movie starts. In spite of being characterized worldwide as a romantic fable, in less than two hours, this movie communicates an intensity of various problems faced by masses during the years of volatility ranging from denial of insurance benefits, other official benefits of savings in public institutions, forced low wages due to non availability of identity cards, corruption to rising inequality between aristocracy and grassroots and many more. On a broader level, Baran is an expression of a proletariat’s life in today’s world. Director and script writer Majid Majidi, justifying his mark of authentic and characteristic expression of art, culture and society of Persian terrain; has been successful in making yet another impact on spectator through this movie. The movie interacts with the audience rather than explicitly stating the facts or the hardships faced by ordinary people. The space given to the audience by the director to interpret and understand the film makes it a powerful medium of communication. An existence of sheer compassion makes the protagonists evolve out of grassroots in Majidi’s movies. This, I feel, is the soul of his creations. Latif, a lazy, immature and resentful young man from Iran has to shift from his effortless job as a tea maker on the construction site to the real job as a worker at the same construction site because of Rahamat, an Afghan refugee, who starts to work in his father’s place to feed his family after a catastrophe at the site where his father loses his leg. Latif discovers that Rahamat is infact a girl in disguise. In the movie, Latif, in spite of being lazy and unproductive retains his job and earns more than the hard working underpaid afghan refugees. Nafez, after losing his leg in an accident on the construction site doesn’t get paid for the treatment because of unavailability of insurance. Also, he loses his job for being absent on the work as a daily wage earner. A girl has to work in a boy’s attire with a false name Rahamat, in her father’s place because in a male dominated society women are not allowed to work. The employers at the construction site take a risk of employing Afghan refugees in spite of the frequent raids of the government to track down illegal workers. This gives us an idea of immense benefit received by the employers due to availability of cheap labor though after deducting the cost of the bribe paid to the officers. Life in the refugee camps gives an idea of the plight in day to day life of the families who are struggling for mere survival and means to earn. Hence, the movie, not colorful but grey and dusty in the appearance throughout, is a true picture of grassroots. Due to the consequences of migration as a macro level problem such as increasing burden over public services, increase in insurgent activities, threat to the national security etc. it has occupied great significance in countries’ domestic and international policies while at the micro level, a proletariat’s susceptible life has been ruining irrevocably. But in his relentless search of means to survive, vivacity in his life is still remaining as Majidi illustrates it through lingering glimpses of footprint in the rain, fish in the pond outside a muddy hut or a waving curtain of the shrine.

Sunday, January 27, 2019


वाडा म्हणजे खरतर माझं आजोळ पण मी ते कधीच पाहिलं नाही. एकदा धरणाचं पाणी बघायला गेल्यावर आईने मला सांगितलं 'हे बघ, इथे आपलं गाव होतं, आणि तो डोंगर आहे नं, तिकडे महादेवाचं मंदिर. बाबाकाका त्याची रोज पूजा करायचा.' असं म्हणून ती तिच्या आठवणींमध्ये रंगून गेली. इतकाच माझा वाडयाशी संबंध. पण मला तिथल्या गोष्टी ऐकायला खूप आवडायच्या. पणजीआजीच्या रांगोळीची गोष्टं तर खूपच. ओसरीच्या बाहेर पायरया उतरून अंगणात आलं की समोर मुख्य दरवाज्यावरच्या जाई- जुईचा मंद सुगंध. त्यात पणजी आजी नुकतीच न्हाऊन येऊन सडा शिंपडायची तो संमिश्रित वास. ठिपक्यांच्या रांगोळीचा इतका संग्रह तिच्या डोक्यात असायचा की कधीच तिला एक रांगोळी पुन्हा काढावी लागली नाही. मी पणजीला ठिपक्यांची रांगोळी काढताना पहिलं नाही पण आजही आईला घरासमोर रांगोळी काढताना बघितलं की स्वच्छ नववारी मध्ये डोक्याला पंचा गुंडाळून प्रशस्त अंगणात स्तोत्र गुणगुणत पाठमोरं बसून रांगोळी काढणाऱ्या पणजीचं चित्र इतकं टवटवीत माझ्या डोळ्यासमोर उभं राहतं की खरचं तिच्या मागे पारिजातकाची फुलं वेचत मी हे सगळ अनुभवलंय असं वाटावं.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Immersing Into the Village !

It was 10th august, 2012! I was at the Chaupal of the village which is a familiar and informal bus-stop in every village of India. There were children from the school, standing and amazed to see me with the two heavy bags!
 "Didi, athe rahisi, didi athe rahisi, didi athe rahisi" was the loud excitement and everybody on the streets knew that 'didi is going to stay here!' We started walking towards one of my new home stay during village immersion.
Twenty days before this day, I was standing at the same bus stop, knowing nothing about the village except its name. Twenty days before this day, I was walking in search of the school which I was expected to reach to, knowing nothing except the name of the headmaster. And then the journey started with this village, with these people, with these children and with myself. 
A townie, who was craving for rooted experiences had landed in the village with presumptions. I started to live with these people and the conflict began between my conceptions and the reality in front of me.
I started to explore everything from socio- political dynamics to heritage and monuments in the village. The journey began, deepening the thought process.
An entire month was freakish and crazy!
Now, when I am back from a village named Loha situated besides the state highway 7 in Churu district of Rajasthan, I must say, I am certainly enriched with the lifetime experience of staying in the village and gasping the beauty of it in every sense.
The first amazing concept I encountered was Goga, a folk-lord. Devotion of every villager irrespective of his caste and religion towards Goga was highlighted in the community celebration of the festival on the Goga medhi, a temple of Gogaji maharaj situated in a village. The fact amused me because I was a witness to caste and religion based social structure in the very same community.
In context to this, I was also privileged to come across a magnificent concept of ‘dharam-relatives’ where people from different castes & religions establish a relation between each other as a symbol of emotions one shares with the other person. I was touched by their affection and warmth when folks initiated to be my sister, brother, mother and father as I was further immersing with them. Truly being one of them.
I think these evolved traditions are somewhere a cause of harmony amongst these people when one can see widespread rivalry and tensions between various social divisions.
I was also a spectator of celebrations at the village level. In one of my family from village, bhaiyaji was going to go to Muscat for work as a labourer. The ladies from village were invited to sing traditional Marwari songs and to perform rituals to wish good luck to him.
 I, being a person from technologically progressive area, couldn’t ever imagine celebrating such occasions but thinking of the celebration as exaggeration. Here, I could understand the need and exact reason behind celebrating every little occasion so explicitly. I could understand the sanctity behind their emotions.
Being “socially educated and aware”, I was very ambitious about dynamic change. Here, the prejudice was challenged. ‘Early age marriages and superstitions are the setbacks for development’ was a statement I had studied in my textbooks, certainly they are hindrances to the progress but one can’t just think about dynamic reforms to abolish such evolved customs, in fact, one should not attempt that. There is a lot to understand other than just thinking about being radical. The tradition of early age marriage is provided with the condition that a girl can go to her in-laws’ place only after she becomes mature enough. Not to deny the fact that awareness has been tremendously increased due to measures taken to prevent these kinds of social obstacles; people knew consequences of early age marriages since long time before we started propagation about them.
To state the point further, once Didiji from my other home in the village was pregnant with 9 months baby, on a rainy night, she was in labor. Her husband was not present at home because he has migrated to a city to earn wages from which it takes more than a day to come to village. A compounder from village was not confident to do anything because of the complications and the hospital was approximately 2 hours away from the village. There was no one educated in the family except me but I was of no use. Nobody was able to provide a facility such as hospital or at least a required medical support. The only person to take care of a mother & a child was Daai, traditionally an old village lady to take care of deliveries in a village and having no formal medical training. With her help, didiji was sent to the hospital. Meanwhile, didiji’s mother-in-law was praying, offering something or the other to God, tying a sacred thread on everybody’s hand, and much more to gather strength.
I would have been upset and angry if my grandmother would have done that back at home. Here, what else did she have to rely upon? How could I tell them not to believe in such superstitions? They were trying to adapt to the technology, they were trying to adapt to this “progressive world”. They didn’t check the sex of the baby before it is born. They were ready to let the baby born in a hospital though it was far away. But without facilities provided in such circumstances what else do they have to rest upon except their God and faith in it?  I could understand reason behind the extreme belief in God.
Yet another aspect of village for a city person has always been an inhalation of richness of nature. For me, sitting under a tree in the farm in a cloudy weather, sitting on the only bench in the evenings at the lonely railway station, exploring devastated historical monuments in the village were moments of an absolute solitude. Many indestructible thoughts have been built during this time.
I was back from my village after month, overwhelmed with the fact that I have a home in a small village of Rajasthan. I have families out there. It seems a dream. Certainly it is.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rakesh !

It was raining. I was walking through the lanes towards Rakesh's house. For the third time I was going to visit his place. A bit annoyed.
Previously, I was promised that Rakesh would definitely come to the school after 15 days.
He didn't come.
Again I was promised by his mother " Didi, Rakesh pakka aasi school. Padhsi. abhi wo ghara koni." We waited for him for a month. He didn’t.
Today, I was determined to see what was actually happening with him.
He was a boy, studying in 7th std., who started working in 'chudi ka karkhana’ and never returned to school, same story as most of the dropped out students in a village.
I was walking with Rakesh's friend, asking him about Rakesh.
Rakesh was a clever boy and only literate child at home and so was his arrogance, evident. “ Didi, Rakesh ke pitaji.” My guide stopped and pointed towards a man at chaupal who was already looking at me and talking about me to the other man. I smiled at him, said ‘Namaste’ and went ahead. I sensed something suspicious. The same man came following us as I expected.
I entered Rakesh’s house. The man entered immediately after us. He was furious.
Rakesh school koni aasi.” He shouted at me.
I swallowed anger and fear and asked him “ kya karega phir woh?
usko main dusre gaaw bhejunga kamane ke liye.
I ignored him, looked at Rakesh who was pretending to watch TV.
“Do you want to come to school or work?”
He looked at his father and said “I’ll go to school.” Rage was manifested in his eyes.
Harami kaise bol raha hain dekho. Sab hua hai padhai se.” the man lit a cigarette.
M********t, tu anpadh reh gaya. Isko bhi aisehi rakhega garib.” suddenly a woman's voice arose shocking me and the man. It was Rakesh's mother, talking back to her shohar  instead of taking care of his dignity, who further turned to me, saying, I’ll send him to school everyday. He won’t work until he passes his 10th standard. 
I turned to his father. He came out with all possible reasons for not to let his child study; ranging from poverty to Rakesh’s irregularity in studies, his spoilt friends and what not.
After an infinite time had gone in shouting, abusing, arguing, I took a challenge on behalf of Rakesh saying that he would come to school regularly, would study hard for next two months otherwise his father would personally come and withdraw his name from school permanently.
For me it was a challenge, for Rakesh it was second chance, for his mother it was hope, actually an investment to live in better conditions.
The days passed, he was regular, studious, and sincere. My tasks in the village were over. I started coming once in a month but he stood by his words.
One day, on my periodical visit to a village, students from school told me about Rakesh’s wedding in the next week. I was shocked. I went to meet him at his home. Everybody was busy. I could see his father, revengeful at me. I couldn’t see his mother; she had found a better investment to come out of poverty.
I called Rakesh outside. He didn’t speak a word.
tumne bataya nai.” I said.
haan didi woh behen ki shaadi hain na to uske saath meri bhi…” his voice was deepening.
ab tum padhai chhod doge phir
nahi nahi didi, bas ye 15 din school nahi jaoonga
I patted on his back, smiled at him, silent, started to walk away.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lakshmi and Suman !

Lakshmi is exceptionally excited to show me her piece of land. Suman is very keen to come with us. We three leave the house to reach to the farm; gossiping, singing, photographing, chit-chating with folks on our way. It swiftly gets gloomy and misty as we reach to an elevated piece of land, I would rather say, Lakshmi’s piece of solitude.
Suman and Lakshmi start to work hurriedly. They want to go home as early as possible. They have voluntarily taken my responsibility hence both of them don’t want me to get wet when it will start to pour. As time flies, I manage to convince them to stay there for a longer period of time.
While working relentlessly, Lakshmi and I try to convince Suman to sing. Suman’s father is traditional classical singer living in Bhilwara. Suman, very shy and introvert, lives with her grandmother in a village. After our rigorous efforts, she starts to sing.. ‘ Kesariya balam padharo mhare des..’ Her voice runs through you.
I stand up, ecstatic feelings running through me..

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Anil !

 Anil is a boy studying in 8th standard, not coming to the school since a month or two. Teachers and Headmaster don't know why but they claim that they have tried to call him via his friends. He doesn't come. The staff is sort of challenging me if I am able to make him come back to school. I accept the challenge 'blindly.'

An entry on a random date in July when I just stared to go to school !

I didn't know anything about him apart from whatever his friend had told me while walking towards his house. His house is just a room with a Macha and curtains made up of old sarees; 4-5 utensils, pot and chulha in a small place with a wooden 'gate'!
His mother was busy in daily chores. I didn't see Anil anywhere. "I am from Anil's school" was an enough introduction. I started to talk to them, Anil came home with his sheep. His mother introduced me to him as 'his new madam.' It seemed that he already knew. I started to interrogate.
" Padhai achhi lagti hain?"
"School achha hain?" 
"Guruji marte hain?"
"to kyon nahi ate?"
"kya hua?"
"tum kuchh nahi bologe to hum kaise kuchh kar sakenge?"

His mother broke it.
'Anil's father is no more. He has two brothers. One lives in the house besides Anil's, doesn't care about the family. The second is just 16 years old working in a factory in Jaipur. Anil is the smallest one who has to look after his mother and for daily earnings. He has no option than to go to work in farms.'

His mother was talking to me in Marwadi and crying hard. I was trying to collect her words and ultimately could just hug her while searching for the words to speak.
I told him to come to school the next day and left the house in some time.

'Why would he come to school? Teachers have tried. His friends have tried that was of no use. What solution am I going to find over this in case he comes tomorrow? What am I going to talk with the headmaster? What is the use of coming to school for him? What? Why?'
I am restless.