Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Winter came and went. Nepal's Game of Thrones Continues

It’s been almost 10 months after the massive earthquake and people still fear even remembering it.  Nearly, ten thousand people got killed, about 850,000 houses got destroyed and millions are displaced. In addition, unofficial blockade by India has further aggravated the situation with stark fuel crisis and price hikes in the commodities.
Tired of Kathmandu’s daily struggle, I made my mind to visit my best friend's place i.e. Tupche, Nuwakot. It’s almost 3.5 hrs drive northwest of Kathmandu. It is also one of the worst hits by earthquake.  Her home was destroyed and they were rebuilding it so thought I could lend some assistance and also meet my friend.

After spending almost 8 days at the village, I came to realize how women despite being severely affected are playing pivotal role in handling the disaster and how late it has already become to act for the lives of the people.

Delay in rebuilding
Temporary shelter
Monsoon came and passed away, winter approached and about to end soon and yet government is way sluggish instead of carrying out the reconstruction and rebuilding as soon as possible. Tens of thousands of people are compelled to face the wrath of winter under thin tents or corrugated metal. And many of them even couldn't approach building on their own because they fear the new structures may not conform the new standards set up by government and could be knocked down.  Though the government had convinced people in starting rebuilding after the earthquake rendered millions of people, there is a bleak effort shown by government.  Besides, lack of male members in the family is a pressing issue for the families as well nation in the lack of labors for construction. Remittances from their family members working abroad was there to support them financially however, the families left with woman, children and elderly people have to go through lots of difficulties in the absence of young ones in the family.

Winter woes
Winter is quite severe in Nepal along with snow and rains. The families staying in corrugated metal or tents as shelters are suffering from fever, pneumonia, chest infection too. Women are having hard times for themselves as they have to look after the elderly and children who are already vulnerable. Plus, the lacks of fuel has promoted the use of firewood which in turn has severe effect on lungs and eyes.  All these have led to chronic illness among women these days in villages as well as cities.

Household issues
In cities women are having trouble in managing the house with increased price in almost everything. Vegetables, oils, food, and many daily commodities' price have tripled than the normal and woman have challenge accommodating all those in the limited budget. Similarly, in villages women are facing challenges of preserving the stored rice and other commodities from rats. Lacking a proper storage after losing houses is creating problem in rural Nepal as the food they retrieved out of the rubbles are being damaged by cold and also domestic predators.

Conclusively, women already had lots of pressure in consoling the mental trauma that children and elderly members of family are facing after the disaster. In addition, the blockade, labor crunch and winter woes have further worsen the situation for them.  While people are facing the worst of everything, government is still busy playing the game of thrones with no sign of relief to its fellow citizens.
                                              Some clicks in and around Nuwakot :)

With my besty :)

Trishuli river
The ancient Bhairavi temple in ruins after the earthquake

People performing shraadha(religious ceremony)at Betrawati river
the famous Nuwakot Palace

The most adorable ad amazing ladies I came across 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Karnataka Calling-2: September 2015

Well, I would like to apologize for delaying to post the second part but finally here it goes :)

Moving from IISC to Mysore
After the conference, I had 2 more days at Karnataka and I was headstrong to visit Mysore aka Mysuru, the land of Mahisasura. It is about 140 kms away from Bangalore. I was already swayed by the legacy of Wadiyar dynasty and the flamboyant Mysore palace beforehand. Therefore, I sought some information with local volunteers, friends and concluded to go Mysore in a train. Early morning we rushed to SBC, Bangalore City Station in Majestic Street, this was my first journey via train and all I remembered was DDLJ and Chennai Express's train scenes when SRK gives hand to Kajol and Deepika respectively when they were late to get in the train.

 I silently smiled and wished for the similar scene to occur with me but a loud noise of the starting train shattered my dream and we jumped into a compartment. We sat wherever the seats were vacant and laughed at each other with a relief that finally we made it. There were very pretty women by our side and suddenly a very handsome lad came near our seat and we helped him to accommodate.

As I have mentioned earlier, I am a huge fanatics of south Indian movies, mainly Telugu movies and my favorite actor is Ram charan and the guy who was staying besides me was very similar to him. I was thanking God for at least sending someone like Ram charan if not Shah rukh ;) We all had a smooth journey in the train; shared our famous wai wai noodles and in return tasted a crunchy maddur wada (kind of pakoda), talked about cultures in both countries, they also enquired about the earthquake and our family which was very sweet of them. The ultimate spice of the trip was a gay dressed in saree as we see in lots of bollywood movies entered the train and asked for donation with all the men. Balkumar, my friend was quite scared and I felt like laughing at his cherubic face. For the first time ever, I felt happy to be a woman and seeing how males were being ragged publicly ;). We were so much enjoying the conversation and observing the people that it seemed the 3.30hr journey passed in a blink of an eye. Btw, Ramcharan like looking guy's name is Harsha and we have become good buddies already. Thanks to the Zuckerburg's creation!
Harsha,Balkumar n me ;)

As soon as we reached Mysore station, we were surrounded by some taxi drivers. After some minutes of discussion and bargaining, we hired one of them, his name was Ravi Chandra. I realized that he would be really happy when I called him Ravi Anna. So, he was our guide for a day and was responsible to help us in exploring Mysore. Our 3 main wish lists included:
                      1) Mysore Palace
                      2) Mysore Zoo and shopping if possible
                      3) Brindavan Garden with Musical fountains

Mysore is also regarded as City of Palaces and cultural epicenter of Karnataka. Mysore palace was the place I was craving to visit and as per my expectations, its charm never fails to enchant. Often termed as Pink palace was designed by English Architect, Henry Irwin was built in between 1897-1912. The three storied structure in the Indo-Saracenic style gleam with its beauty. A brief tour inside the palace took me to those times with its ornate domed ceiling, hanging paintings, glazing floors, jewel encrusted throne. It was completely enthralling experience. Likewise, Shwetha Varahswamy temple has further flourished its magnificence.
Mysore palace
After assuaging our eyes with the captivating palace, we rushed towards zoo. The city's proximity to famous wildlife sanctuaries and its own zoo make it a very popular attraction for the wildlife enthusiasts. I am usually against the zoo because I prefer seeing animals in the wild and free. I utterly disliked the way animals were kept in relatively narrower and smaller cages than they need. Many were abused and also indicating some abnormal behaviors. However, Mysore zoo has been famous for its well maintained and animal friendly compartments. We strolled around the zoo to encounter animals we had never seen before like giraffes, zebras, wolves and lions. The zoo was soo huge that I was completely exhausted. We had to rush out as our Ravi anna as he had apportioned 2 hours for zoo tour and then explore more of Mysore. All of sudden, I caught an eye of a hawker who was selling Gajra (Jasmine weaved hair accessory) which is quite famous in India and has important cultural value as well. I was looking for it and while waiting for rest of our friends I could buy it and pose with the flowers.
Mysore zoo
After that, we were taken to a government certified shop. The shop was famous of Mysore silk sarees and other traditional wears. Though they were expensive, I was lured to get some Saree and Kurta for my parents. I felt very accomplished with the gifts to my parents and then we headed towards Brindavan Garden. I did not know about the place but it was known for the colorful and dancing artificial water fountains besides Kaveri river. It was already dusky when we reached and it was so much crowdie.
 Nonetheless, we three crazy people made the hell of out it. It was already dark but we decided to go on a boat ride amid the beautiful colorful water fountains all over. It was such a mesmerizing experience. Then, as soon as we got off, we rushed to observe the main attraction i.e. dancing colorful water fountain. To my surprise, there was like thousands of people yelling out loud with their glow sticks which reminded me of having thousands of fireflies all over. The demonstration would be occurring every 10 minutes so we were waiting for the next one to come. Suddenly, there was this yodeling of Bollywood music and I was literally startled to see the water fountains dancing in the beats. Getting up higher and lower, red, green, pink and what not, it was a very entertaining showcase. The way they had used the water to be the source of attraction was quite impressive. It was getting late so ran like some crazy bunch of thugs. It was indeed a very serene feeling to be free like a bird.  It was a very short and sweet trip to Mysore which still leaves me in awe.
Mysore station
Next day, we rushed back to Bangalore and all we gotta do was shopping.Well, I would say it was a very intense day for me in terms of getting back, searching for place to stay and then get back to shopping. I am a very bad person to shop with but I had to.  We strolled around Gandhi nagar and later to majestic streets. It was a very busy day for the locals as well. The whole streets were full of hawkers and people, everyone was shopping, it somewhat resembled like a fair to me. You could get anything, anywhere J It was crazy as you even wouldn't have space to walk properly.  I was buying whole lots of things; dresses, cutlery, and much more. Bal Kumar was already getting pissed off as I was taking lots of time and buying lots of things. We had to get back to our Hotel but we were not sure about the exact location. As soon as we thought of getting back, there started a heavy downpour. After a lot of trying, we could get an auto. The problem was we didn't know the exact location. However, I did remember some of the landmarks nearby which helped us to locate our hotel Lavanya at the end. We were relieved that almost everything is sorted but then we were dog tired and starving. We even didn’t have time to stop and eat so we again went out nearby to get final south Indian dinner. 
Upma wid coconut sauce :) 
No matter how desperate we were to get back home, however there certainly was a strange feeling of sadness to leave this amazing place which embraced us soo dearly and bestowed  us with all the love and sweet memories to take along us back home. I am so much grateful to all the people I met, places I visited and myself ;) coz it all worked out soo well. I got back to all alone but this time I was more confident and happy :) Yay, Birdie gets back to her nest.

"It's good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." Ernest 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Diary of a Bachelorette

Like always, my morning started with updates from the facebook world. After scrolling for a while, I turned down my laptop and yelled, ‘Mom, where is my tea?’ I realized she was busy in kitchen so went to get it myself. One of my aunts had come and they were busy in their own chitchats. She is a hilarious woman and often reminds me of Indian daily soaps’ typical mother choosing most eligible Bachelor for her daughter and left overs to any other girls in the family.
She is a more a posh version of typical aunties

I grinned with a Namaste and as expected she scanned me from head to toe first and turned towards my mom, ‘It’s high time for her to get married; the perfect age, time and condition. I will update the list and contact you soon.’I interfered in a polite tone, ‘Aunt, look at me. I am still quite young, just completed my Bachelors. I will do my masters first and then think of getting married.’She gave a disgusting look and asked suddenly, ‘Do you have a boy-friend?’I replied innocently, ‘No. I don’t!’ Then, she started to convince saying, 'What’s the problem? You need to get married now. It’s going to be late!’

The discussion was never ending. Later, I turned taciturn because it was pointless to discuss with her. Moreover, I don’t want to be rude to her. I had to lie to escape from her saying I have some assignments to complete.

She was busy talking with my parent explaining how hard it has become to find a good guy. And her famous 'funnel' theory was, the more a girl has higher degrees, lesser the chances of getting a guy according to her academic level. For instance, if a girl has finished masters then she would need a man of at least Masters degree and a man with Masters degree will obviously less in number than the boy with Bachelors degree. Forget about PhD, you will only find old men. Hence, Bachelors is the perfect qualification to get married. 

This has become my daily routine these days. Every day, I am showered with marriage proposals; He is engineer in US, he is a government job holder, he is this and that. Sometimes, my parents try to lure me and sometimes they signal as if I won’t have any boy left for me to get married if I reject all of them. I have been also accused of disheartening my relatives who are so much concerned to find a better match for me. Man can get woman of any age but woman’s life is quite delicate like a glass. I often hear my relatives saying me that woman’s life is always on an edge; a small mistake and everything is ruined. The most important thing is her character which is directly linked with virginity to offer for her mate. She has to be decent, demure, modest, benevolent, civil, home maker, conflict resolver if there exists any, submissive plus much more characteristics. 

Nowadays, there is much more pressure on women as they have to manage office as well as home unlike past days. Undoubtedly, girls have to go through more nagging; however, men also aren't devoid of such family pressure. Parents want their daughters to get married sooner-the-better to get rid of the responsibility. Daughters are usually regarded as the keepsake and need to be returned to their real owners. So, it's better to get rid of the burden as soon as possible. In addition, they are also insecure about losing their pride in the society; what if she elopes with a boy from lower caste, what if she becomes debauched. They are plunged into the quagmire of doubts and insecurities. But what about all those dreams I have, what about all those small happiness that I want to gift them in return? The smile that they had holding me for the first time in their hands, those standby fingers that didn't let me fall or held me when I was about to fall. All those knowledge, life-long lessons they instilled in me can't be washed away that easily. I have whole world to explore, to at least be independent enough to support me and my family. It would be unfair to pass me to somebody else all of sudden as if I am a toy you are tired of playing with and gifting it to somebody else. That toy has a life and she wants to live life on her own terms. I have much more to achieve before getting married and I can't let them choked to suffocate.

It is quite strange where one part of the world is celebrating its victory on same sex marriage, the other is still struggling to decide for oneself either to marry or not. We are still crippled by the age-old malady based on caste, class, gender etc. I wouldn't deny the fact that the situation has been ameliorated than it ever used to be but it's equally unjust to judge a woman for not having a man in her early twenties. Many of us would be more than happy to share what we have learnt, accomplished or been pursuing by now rather than complaining for being deprived of man in our lives.

I would plea to every family to at least give your children liberty to make choices for themselves, to explore the world, to stumble yet to rise on their own. If they don't want to marry doesn't mean they are having affairs or they have problems but they are pursuing their dreams and will settle later or do what makes them gleeful. In addition, I do have a strong hope that our society would perceive woman on the content of their character over sexuality.