Archive for the ‘survival’ Category

prison

Picture from the internet

Rape, molestation, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace – women have finally come forward to tell their stories. But some stories are never told. Not many men would discuss how their wives harassed them, how they were slapped with the wife-beater tag for no fault of theirs, and how they had to fight the stigma of being jailed for something they hadn’t done. Misuse of Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which is meant to protect a woman from cruelty by her husband and relatives, have landed so many innocent men in trouble that 498A has been branded as a section used for “legal terrorism”.

Aarav (not his real name) agreed to speak about what he went through. He had no issues giving his name and picture for this blog but that would mean giving away his ex-wife’s identity, something he didn’t want.

Aarav’s story is spine-chilling. He was like any of us, holding a well-paying 9-5 job, had his share of differences of opinion with his wife but never thought they would part ways and never thought that his life would turn topsy-turvy on a dark, rainy evening.

Over to Aarav:

No food for two days
 Those eyes….I still remember them

I still remember his eyes. They were very dull if you looked at them. But there was a strange sparkle in those pupils, something that you would never miss.

So far as I remember, his name was Sanatan. I really felt scared when I saw him watching me at first — when I was huddled in a corner along with thugs, rapists, thieves and killers. I saw him watching me when these people were running their hands all over my body trying to figure out if I had any money hidden anywhere in my clothes. Some would squeeze my private part hard and look at me for a possible reaction. I had none. I hadn’t eaten for two days and I was not allowed water more than two times a day for the past two days.

A drastic thing happened
I was in a daze and unable to react. My body was aching. All I remembered was that it was raining heavily. It was a typically heavy rainy day in Kolkata with gusts of cold wind.

I was having a drink with a colleague — who was trying to calm me down after I had screamed at a management trainee for doing a job wrong. It was always the case. I ended up losing my cool if I saw irresponsible behaviour at the workplace. He was telling me unless something drastic happened to me, it would not change me as a person.

That ‘drastic thing’ was about to happen.

I was comfortably high after three large pegs. It started raining harder. The night was amazingly dark. I was missing my wife as usual. We had fought that morning and she had left for work in a huff. I didn’t know when I returned if she’d be home or she would still be at work.

As I came out of the pub, three burly, dark, striking looking men stopped me. I looked up at them. There were three vehicles standing in front of me. A white ambassador, a white Tata Sumo and a khaki police jeep.

The man asked me my name. He asked my dad’s name. And then my wife’s name.

I took offence to the last question. I tried to avoid a fight and just walked past them. My colleague had already started his car. As I stepped forward to walk towards his car, one man grabbed my collar and I felt something sticking to the back of my waist— it was a gun.

Then the beating started
They were cops. I remember how I was pushed and shoved inside a Tata Sumo. How it hurt when they started hitting me with their fists. They were asking all the while whether I used to beat up my wife the same way. They tore open my shirt and took my mobile away.

They told me that I had asked for dowry from my wife. They wanted to know the amount of money that I had asked from my father-in-law as dowry.

I tried to tell them that they were making a mistake. They hit me even more. The blows were specifically aimed at my back, waist and shoulders. Each time they would beat me, I would gasp for breath. It seemed the world would come crashing down on me.

The ordeal went on for about two hours. By that time, we had crossed the borders of the city and the vehicle stopped at a non-descript police outpost. They were supposed to ‘hide’ me there.

The guy who was beating me up had J as his initials, you can call him Jayen, that’s his pet name. Jayen was a tall policeman, about six feet, with a protruding gut and a thick moustache. Jayen was stark drunk and he was beating me up almost mechanically…he did that every day.

It was time to sign some papers. I didn’t want to.

They played statue
I was asked to sit on a bench. I asked Jayen and his colleagues whether I could go to the washroom. They said unless I signed the papers I woudn’t be allowed to move.

I didn’t understand them at first. ‘Don’t move’ in their terms meant DON’T MOVE. You can’t move a single limb. Not even tilt your head from side-to-side. Try doing that for 10 minutes. You will understand what I mean.

After an hour of playing ‘statue’, I made my first move. I had to. I was almost losing my consciousness, I was almost peeing in my pants and my lungs were dying to scream out.

‘Sorry you are not allowed to talk. Be still’— Jayen’s dark burly stinky colleague said. Jayen had left by then.

I was sitting straight for about three hours and I wanted to sleep. It was about four in the morning and I wanted to sleep.

I signed all the papers.

The cop behind me kicked me on my face as soon as I finished signing the last paper. He started mocking me as if he would kick my abdomen— he said that would make me pee in my pants.

Fear of HIV
The eyes still haunt me. It was Sanatan who had actually saved my life. He was the guy who came to me in the prison van and told me that I should not try to sleep…anywhere….

If any of the prisoners got to sodomise me, then I might contract HIV, he said. I must not sleep at any cost.

“Just keep your eyes open. Do whatever you want. Hit yourself…but stay awake. Don’t let those people take your a**.”

Sanatan was using very coarse Bengali which was difficult for me to follow. But I understood what he meant.

He then patted my back and said “Khub Koshto Hochhe?”

I didn’t cry but….

Sanatan’s story
Let me tell you Sanatan’s story now.

Sanatan’s wife committed suicide when he had gone to man his shop. His wife, Sanatan said, couldn’t digest the fact that he was developing a fondness for her sister. Sanatan said he was falling in love with his sister-in-law and he kissed her once.

Sanatan said God punished him for that kiss.

His wife committed suicide. She slit the vein on her wrist and jumped into the nearby pond. The police booked him for harassing his wife for dowry and driving her to death. Charged under ‘Abetment to suicide’ meant Sanatan would not have got bail from the court. The ‘wife torture’ law ensured that Sanatan would be in jail for at least a month. Without trial, without investigations, without any evidence — it is the only law under the IPC that says you are guilty until you are proven innocent.

Sanatan told me that I had been charged under the same clause and I should be prepared to wait for a while before I am set free.

He said when you are in jail….you should try to save yourself. It’s the survival of the toughest. The toughest bodies survive. Also, the toughest minds.

I didn’t cry.

One arm was pulled out from the shoulder joint
Back in the police station, I didn’t cry at all. The mocks and the jeers hardly made a difference. I got to pee and I was feeling very sleepy.

They let me sleep. And even showed me a bench where I was supposed to sleep.

I had slept. But a kick on my back woke me up.

I found that a rubber rod was continuously hitting me on my ankles. As I shrieked out in pain, one of the cops caught hold of my right hand and turned it from the shoulder.

Before I could scream, my shoulder had become numb. The pain was hitting me in my spine. I later understood that he had pulled my hand out of the shoulder joint. That is why it didn’t hurt there and immediately became numb. It pained terribly near the neck and spinal cord.

I can’t describe the pain. But it had one good thing about it – it was so overwhelming that it didn’t let me think about anything else.

They stuffed some dirty handkerchiefs into my mouth. They put some gunny bags on my back. They then turned me around and started hitting me on my back.

The blows rained on the gunny bags which meant that I never had a spot on my body. I felt a similar pain along my tummy.

I learnt later on that it was a hairline fracture on the last bone of my rib-cage. Five minutes of that beating seemed like five years. My senses became numb. But it was okay. I didn’t cry.

I remember a sentence but.

Rs 5000 each for the beatings
One of the guys beating me up said that they had each been paid Rs 5,000 to beat me up. They had a ‘party’ before they decided to go ahead and arrest me.

They said that it was their responsibility to beat me up since they had taken the money.

They asked me when did my wife die?

I said that she was in sound health and had gone to office that day.

They said, “Which office?”

I said the name of the company…

They had stopped beating me by then. Then they asked the constable to bring the ‘complaint book’.

They went somewhere for 10 minutes.

I guess they thought I was somebody else.

I was lifted up from the ground and placed on a wooden bench. They put some files under my head. Those files were pillows.

Tablets for pain management
I found that I had peed again in my pants. The pain was so overwhelming that it didn’t make a difference.

But now, the problem was: They stopped beating me. They even adjusted my arm back into the shoulder socket. As I screamed in pain, they offered me some chai.

They gave a handful of tablets and told me to gulp them down — they said I would feel better.

I didn’t.

The tears came
I did cry finally, in front of Sanatan, a day later inside the central jail. It was a day when they had placed a bowl of rice in front of me. Just rice and something that they called dal.

My lips and tongue burned as the dal touched my lips, probably because it had too much chilli in it. But that let me cry. I watched myself in amazement as tears rolled down my cheeks.

The medical examination said that there are no ‘visible signs of torture on my body’. But I could barely speak, couldn’t move my hands and found it difficult to sit.

But I cried.

It was a strange cry. There were no sounds, only tears rolling down my cheeks.

I knew I had survived.

But there was more to come…

 

(What happened to Aarav? Could he get out of jail? Could he prove his innocence? Read this post

Actress Sudipta Chakraborty turned reporter to interview voters before the Loksabha elections

Actress Sudipta Chakraborty turned reporter to interview voters before the Loksabha elections

Sudiptaa Chakraborty might be a National Award winning actress (Best Supporting actress for Rituparno Ghosh’s Bariwali) and one of the most well-known faces in West Bengal’s film and television industry, but there is a side to her which I have always admired and liked immensely. Sudiptaa is the kind who gets away by speaking her mind all the time and is absolutely clued in about what’s happening around her. So I was not surprised when I found Sudiptaa anchoring the television show Tarokar Chokhey Taroka Kendro (Star constituency through a star’s eyes) on ABP Ananda.

For the programme, Sudiptaa turned reporter and travelled with her boom to constituencies like Midnapore, Dakkhin (South) Kolkata and Tamluk. She travelled to Midnapore town, Kharagpur and different villages of East Midnapore. For Dakkhin Kolkata, she covered Rashbehari Avenue, Behala, Kolkata Port Area (Kidderpore dock), Parnasree, Bhowanipore and Hazra area. For Tamluk she travelled to Tamluk township, Haldia and other villages.

She has come back with a treasure trove of experiences. She shares it all in this blog. Read on, it’s indeed an eye opener….

“Many villagers have no clue that the elections are here”

A large number of people in the villages, mostly women, are not really aware of who all are contesting from their respective constituencies, what this election is for, what the difference is between an assembly election and parliament election and all that.  I have even met a number of people who actually have no clue that elections are at their doorstep.

“Bengal has no major issue”

With my limited knowledge gathered on this tour, all I can say is there is no big issue in Bengal. All that a common Bengali wants is a peaceful life with a decent job, a full stomach and a roof over his/her head. More than 80% voters of Bengal demand nothing more than that. It sounds crazy, yet it is true.

“Most people have no time to think about women’s issues”

Educated lot is really concerned about it. The rest have no time to think over it. They devote the entire day to earn their bread.

This lady fetching fish eggs in chest-deep water told Sudipta her election demand is a big utensil

This lady fetching fish eggs in chest-deep water told Sudiptaa her election demand is a big utensil

“One woman demanded a big utensil”

I met a woman near Haldia, who earns her living by collecting fish eggs from the river. She spoke to me with a wide smile while standing in chest-deep water. She earns Rs 150 -200 per day. She doesn’t have electricity in her home. She spoke her heart out to me and in the end all she demanded was a big utensil (ekta boro handi), in which she could accommodate maximum number of fish eggs each time she went down in the water. She was amazing. I still can’t forget her unconditional smiling face despite the toil she has to do every day to earn Rs 150.

“There isn’t a single commoner happy with a politician”

The party workers are happy for obvious reasons. But barring them, I didn’t meet a single commoner who sounded happy with the politicians. From Midnapore to Kolkata, from a village to a city, only one sentence echoed in my ears, “Vote er aage shobai eshe onek boro boro katha bole, vote chole gele aar tader khuje paoa jaye na.” (They all come before elections and promise big but after elections you can’t find them.)

“This experience has made me a more conscious citizen”

Facing the truth on the ground has made me more conscious as a citizen and as an actress as well. This experience has enriched me as a human being and I am sure it will reflect in my future projects.

 

 

 

Picture taken from the internet

Picture taken from the internet

I had been married for five years then and I had gone for a job interview in a magazine. After checking my CV, the editor (lady) asked me about my capacity to handle the heavy workload in an understaffed department, asked me about my willingness to stay late on most evenings, and asked me if I was available on weekends. Then the editor shot a question for which I was not really prepared.

“Are you planning to get pregnant soon?” she asked. I was tongue-tied for a moment. I wanted to tell her this was a personal question and had no relevance to the interview. But instead I chose a diplomatic path because I knew she wanted to hear a “no”. I laughed and said, “I am extremely ambitious.” (Although personally I believe most ambitious and successful women are great mothers too, but the answer satisfied her.)

The Editor smiled. But later I thought to myself if after joining I had got pregnant in three months would she have terminated my contract?

But that is exactly what happened to a reporter working in a reputed news channel in Mumbai. This piece of news published in the website meant for media professionals, The Hoot, caught my attention recently. It reported that a lady reporter working in a reputed news channel in India was handed the termination letter when she got pregnant.

Why she moved court

The company said that she was asked to leave her job because she was underperforming but she moved court saying that the real reason for termination was her pregnancy. She questioned the company that for the two years she was in the job she had got extremely good appraisals, how come she became an underperformer the moment she informed her boss about her pregnancy?

In an interim order the judge in a labour court in Mumbai has upheld the fact that an unfair labour practice has taken place and has ordered her re-instatement.

For details of the case go to The Hoot

Pregnancy discrimination is rampant

I really appreciate the guts of this journalist, who moved court and is fighting for her rights. I think this is a landmark judgment in a country where many women are forced to leave their jobs because of pregnancy and are often denied a pay hike or promotion when they have a baby. Pregnancy discrimination is something that is rampant around the world the only difference is women in the West are fighting it – in the US more than 3000 pregnancy discrimination cases were filed in 2012 and in UK steps are being taken by the government to stop discrimination– but in India women are still shoving the issue under the carpet.

Sexual harassment that women face in the workplace might be a more serious issue that is addressed these days but discrimination because of pregnancy and child birth is an equally serious issue that people rarely talk about.

Women professionals talk their mind

I asked women from different professions if they had faced any problems from their bosses or management during and post pregnancy. A few said that they had extremely supportive colleagues and management and never had any problems but some said they have themselves dealt with discrimination because of pregnancy and many said they have seen others facing it.

Here is what they said:

A lady doctor: Pregnancy discrimination is common even in the medical profession when men pass comments like “oh she will get light duties now that she is pregnant.” One has to either ignore or challenge these stereotyping.

An IT professional: Though I worked for eight months that year, carried the project on my shoulder and only then went on maternity leave I got a low performance band as my assessor said I had not worked for four months. This was eight years back, since then policies have changed. But IT as a whole is not sympathetic or encouraging towards women going into pregnancy or women with small children.

A risk management expert: I have seen women losing promotions and raises because of their pregnancy. We have a Women’s Council in our company through which we try to push for better rights for women. But most often the person who is pregnant does not raise her voice for fear of losing her job or ruining her future chances. When a woman gets pregnant or has a baby the common perception is they can’t stay late, they have to rush off for doc appointments. After child birth they need to stay home if the maid does not come or the daycare is closed or the child is ill. They can’t take late night calls as the baby needs attention…so on and so forth.

A journalist: When I was pregnant I worked doubly hard so that no one could raise a finger at me. But I wish my company had flexible timings and work-from-home opportunities then I could have continued in my job. When my daughter was three I left my full-time job because I felt I was spending all my time in office and giving her very little time.

An Indian media person based in the US: I got my promotion when I was pregnant. After I had a baby, I was still rated for above target performance and got my bonus. But I wish we had longer maternity leave which is usually between six and eight weeks and one joins back after the doctor gives a fitness certificate. I have to travel in my job but I did not travel for a year after my daughter was born. And when I started travelling I took my daughter and even family along because I was still nursing and my company was perfectly okay with that.

A banker: When I was pregnant I got my raise. I was very lucky to have extremely understanding and supportive colleagues. They made all the difference.

 

Jashodaben Modi

Jashodaben Modi

On the contrary I think she is a woman with a mind of her own. The reports that have come out in the media might say things like:  “the wife of Narendra Modi washes her own clothes”, “she lives alone and survives on a salary of Rs 10,000”, “she is waiting for that one call from Modi”, but if I have read right between the lines, she is a strong-willed woman, who has carved her own niche in her village in Gujarat.

What I gather is Jashodaben Modi did not sit in one corner of her home and cry over her fate when she was sent back to her maternal home by her husband at the age of 19. Instead she found her own calling. She studied and became a teacher. Her compassion and kindness is the talking point among her students, (many of whom belong to the Muslim community) and their parents.

For me Jashodaben Modi is a woman, who has had the guts to turn the circumstances in her favour and live her life on her own terms. Here are five reasons why I find her inspiring.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

 

  1. She was not afraid to live her life alone: Her brothers said that they proposed remarriage to her but she rejected it. It is clear that she is woman who doesn’t think that the presence of a man is a must in her life to make her feel more secure. Only after retirement she has moved into a house which is located four houses away from her brother’s home, otherwise she lived in a different village.
  2. She is financially independent: All her life she lived in her own small rented accommodation and has taken care of her own expenses.
  3. She has made a difference in other people’s lives in her own small way:  She has been a passionate and loving teacher. She regularly visited her students at their home if they failed to attend school because of illness. The whole village of Rajosana, where she taught, came to attend her retirement function.
  4. She hasn’t used her husband’s power position to get favours: If she had wanted she could have gone to the press long before Open Magazine went knocking on her door in 2009. True Modi is a powerful man, but Modi is also someone who is surrounded by adversaries. Jashodaben could have used her status to her advantage, something she never did.
  5. Modi needs her now, but she doesn’t need him: Modi acknowledged Jashodaben in an affidavit filed before the Election Commission last week. To fulfill his political ambitions Modi had to do this but ironically if Jashodaben never acknowledges Modi as her husband it would not make a difference in her life. And come on, if the phone call from him hasn’t come in 40 years it would probably never come. A woman, who has fought the battle of life on her own, definitely knows that. But she is dignified enough to speak well about him in public and pray for his well being.
Ullash Group raised Rs 3 lakhs 65 thousand during the Uttarkhand floods

Ullash Group raised Rs 3 lakhs 65 thousand during the Uttarkhand floods

When war and natural disaster unfolds in front of us on the television, we often want to do something to make a difference in the lives of people who have been affected by these circumstances. A common way of doing it is to donate in cash or kind to organizations who are working on the ground in these disaster zones.

But there are people who go one step further to make a difference. This story is about them. These individuals from Dubai took the initiative to knock on doors and within weeks raised money or gathered clothes to help out people dealing with crisis in their respective home countries.

Their story is inspiring because it doesn’t take a lot to be in their shoes. Anyone can follow their footsteps, all one needs is the will to make a difference. I tell you who they are and what they did…

Who? Ullash Group, a group of Indian (Bengali) friends 

Why did you decide to take the initiative? After seeing the TV grabs of the floods in Uttarkhand we could not sit around and do nothing about it.

What did you collect? We collected Rs 365,000 (Dhs21,778).

How long did it take you to do the collection? One week.

How did you do your collection? We got in touch with friends and colleagues. Amal Banerjee, who is a member of our group, told his colleagues at Ducast Factory LLC about our initiative. Each and every person in that company donated a day’s salary and that helped to increase the collected amount in a big way.

What kind of response did you get? Everyone contributed within their means, no one said no.

How did you ensure it reached the right people? One of us personally handed over the money to Ramakrishna Mission in Kolkata, India. The oganisation is building homes to rehabilitate thousands in Uttarkhand.

What kind of satisfaction did you get out of this? We are a group which is into regular weekend parties, adda (chat) sessions and cultural meets. The satisfaction was in the fact that we could use our friendship and respective relationships to help other people.

Salam Al Amir went over to people's places to collect cash and clothes

Salam Al Amir went over to people’s places to collect cash and clothes

 Who? Salam Al Amir, Journalist, Jordanian

Why did you decide to take the initiative? I know how cold it gets in Jordan during winter and the thought of Syrians, especially children, weathering it in refugee camps without adequate clothing kept disturbing me. I just thought I had to do something about it and wrote down my intention on my FB status.

What did you collect? Some people gave me cash in order to go shop for warm clothes others gave me blankets and warm clothes. The shops where I bought warm jackets, hats and socks (mainly for children) donated some stuff themselves and other shops gave me real good discounts when they came to know my purpose. In all I had around 10 huge bags filled to the brim.

How long did it take you to do the collection? Less than a week.

How did you do your collection? I went over to people’s homes and offices to pick up the stuff (clothes and money).

What kind of response did you get? It was good. But some of those who responded with much enthusiasm on FB didn’t even get back to me later to coordinate how I could pick up their donations.

How did you ensure it reached the right people? I was going to send it to a close friend in Jordan so that he could deliver it personally. But then I came to know that there are certain procedures and donations had to go through an organizing body. I chose to send them with the Big Heart Campaign, organised by Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler of Sharjah. They are doing an amazing job.

What kind of satisfaction did you get out of it? Frankly, I got very little satisfaction. I feel we should do a lot more but most often can’t because we are so bogged down by life’s responsibilities.

Nerry Toledo collected clothes and canned food for people affected by Typhoon Haiyan

Nerry Toledo collected clothes and canned food for people affected by Typhoon Haiyan

Who? Nerry Azores Toledo, PR Professional, Filipino

Why did you decide to take the initiative? Typhoon Haiyan left an estimated 4.4 million people homeless in the Philippines and I knew that somehow I had to do something to help in my own little way.

What did you collect? We managed to collect 12 boxes of clothing and goods combined.

How long did it take you to do the collection? It took two weeks.

Nerry couriered 12 boxes  full of clothes to Philippines

Nerry couriered 12 boxes full of clothes to Philippines

How did you do your collection? People back home needed basic things and I started talking to friends and colleagues if they could donate old clothes. I had some friends who were doing the same, so we joined hands and had a collection drive. Some generous people donated canned food even without knowing how I was going to ship it to the Philippines. Many people came over to my place to drop their stuff.

What kind of response did you get? It was an overwhelming response. I realized the world is full of kind-hearted, well-meaning people.

How did you ensure it reached the right people? During that time, the only way to send donation was through the courier. It was sent to a charity organization in the Philippines that was working on the ground. I also gave some of the collected items to people organizing similar drives from the Filipino community in Dubai so that they could ship it with their collected stuff.

What kind of satisfaction did you get out of it? I sincerely strive to lead a purpose-driven life. In that way my life becomes meaningful.

Samah Hamza Junaid donated her kidney when she was 22

Samah Hamza Junaid donated her kidney when she was 24

I have known Shubhojit Kumar Ganguly, a media consultant based in Kolkata, for years and I have met Samah Hamza Junaid, a marketing and PR professional working in the hospitality industry in Dubai, through blogging. Both have done something in their life which many of us would laud but when it comes to doing it ourselves we might end up having second thoughts about it.

Samah, the daughter of a Bangladeshi mother and Palestinian father, donated her kidney to her ailing father when she was just 24. It’s been three years since then and Samah says: “Organ donation is beautiful and people need to do away with misconceptions and fear associated with it.” Samah has written about her entire experience in her blog A Day In The Life Of ME.

Shubhojit Kumar Ganguly has pledged all his organs

Shubhojit Kumar Ganguly has pledged all his organs

Shubhojit, on the other hand, has an altogether different reason for acquiring his donor card and says, “I wasn’t sure people were taking my after-death wish seriously, so I went ahead and made it clear that I am serious.”

Some cynics might say what is the big deal about donating your organs when you are dead? But I would say it is. Because when you are doing that, you are surmounting age-old superstitions and religious beliefs, not something everyone can easily do. That’s why Aishwarya Rai’s failed eye donation campaign in India is a sure pointer to how most people think and that is why so many people die every year waiting for a donor.

In my entire life Samah and Shubhojit are the only two people I know who have done something like this so I thought it would be inspiring to share their reasons and experiences…

“I still work out six times a week and my father has regained his health” -Samah

How did your father react when you told him you would give him your kidney?

His initial reaction was silence. I convinced him that I will be okay by showing him websites that educate people on the beauty and simplicity of organ donation and explain how it does not impair your lifestyle. But he was still worried. Then I asked him, ‘What would you do if you were in my place?’ He answered in a heartbeat that he wouldn’t think twice, given the same circumstances and he would give all he had if required. 

And people around you…what was their reaction?

People around me were shocked, some by the thought of a young girl putting her life at risk and some by the generosity and extent of my courage. Some people even made my parents feel guilty by asking them how they could accept my donation. I politely smiled at everyone, who volunteered to find a good donor so that I would not have to donate. They couldn’t find anyone. Today the same people (family/friends) praise me for my ‘courage’. Now that they see the normal and active lifestyle I am leading, I am pretty sure they are gradually putting all organ donation myths to rest.

Did you have to make any lifestyle changes after the donation?

There have been no lifestyle changes at all. I have always been very cautious about my health, eating the right kind of food and exercising six times a week. Having one kidney to do the job of both, I would say I am extra cautious now in terms of not slipping on my fitness goals. I still have my cheat days and over-indulge, but most days I maintain the same healthy lifestyle that I did, prior to the surgery. The only possible change would be getting annual health check-ups done to keep a tab on my numbers.

Samah with her father Faeq Hamza

Samah with her father Faeq Hamza

Thankfully I have not. Rather people say that I have earned a place in Heaven. However, I really think there is a lot more to achieve, correct and repent for in this world to make it there.

What is the greatest satisfaction you have got out of your donation?

The greatest satisfaction out of my donation would be my father’s smile, his energy and him brimming with health and guarding it as though he has something precious. Also, I have come out as a stronger person, nothing scares me anymore – needles, pins, tattoo, cuts, bleeding, pain. Also, it has taught me to be more compassionate. Initially what I did was just out of love for my father, but now the act has opened my eyes. If you can add years to someone’s life and God has given you that power, then why not? I admire, salute and respect people who go out of their way and donate to non-related patients.

Would you encourage others to donate?

Others should do it only if they are completely sure they can, have acquired enough knowledge about the process and are not scared about it. We can get over our fears at times and at times we can’t. That’s normal. But if you really want to contribute, don’t let anything hold you back, listen to your heart. What transpires is a beautiful miracle – a gift of life.

Would you pledge your organs for use after death?

I want to pledge my eyes. I would love to bring light into one person’s life.

“Apart from my organs, I have donated my body to medical science” – Shubhojit

What does it mean to have a donor card?

Having a donor card helps in making people aware of my wish to donate. It will also hopefully help in resolving any issues that people have after I die. I have also asked that my body be donated for medical science. That would help in reducing pollution and carbon footprint as there would be no need for cremation.

Many people talk about organ donation but never manage to take the step. What was your push?

I was worried that people might not realise the seriousness of my wish.

Shubhojit's donor card

Shubhojit’s donor card

What procedure did you have to go through in order to donate?

I have not donated as yet so I don’t know the procedure. For registering as a donor, I did it online.

So you are okay with donating your kidney if someone needs it now…

Absolutely. If someone really needs my kidney and I am a match I will not think twice before donating.

After your death how will one ensure that your organs reach the right people?

There are no right people or wrong people. I just hope that young people get it. My job is to donate and who gets it does not make me anxious because hopefully I will be happily dead then.

Why do you think people have a mind block about organ donation?

I think religion and the greed to go to Heaven are the two main reasons for which people do not donate. This is also one of the main reasons why most of the criminals and corrupt people are highly religious.

Do you know anyone who has done the same like you?

No. But, I hear of a lot of people looking forward to doing so, especially after they are a few pegs down. It is perhaps because we become nobler then than when sober.

What satisfaction did you get out of donating your organs?

I haven’t thought about this actually. I will be dead, remember!

Picture taken from internet

Picture taken from internet

At a time when Indian men are making headlines for all the wrong reasons, this story comes as a breath of fresh air – reinforcing the fact that there are more good men in this world than bad. This story is about four men, who went out of their way to make a difference in a woman’s life.

This story takes off when a few months back my close friend from South Point School, Joydeep Sengupta, who works at CESC and lives in Kolkata, was running his last check on Facebook before he retired to bed. A status update drew his attention.

Joydeep Sengupta didn't have Samrajni's address. He just knew he had to stop her.

Joydeep Sengupta didn’t have Samrajni’s address. He just knew he had to stop her from committing suicide

From here I am penning the story in Joydeep’s own words:

“Her message on FB said she wanted to end her life that night”

10.30pm

I had joined a group of like-minded people on FB. Few I knew in this group, most I didn’t and some I had met at a get-together organised by the group. Now the status that was in front of me was written by a lady named Samrajni Sengupta, who belonged to the same group. The update on her Timeline said she wanted to end her life that night because she didn’t find life worth living. I was in shock. I had met her just once at the get-together and knew from a common friend that she was having some issues in her marriage. Beyond that I didn’t know anything.

Within seconds other people had seen the message too and we started talking in the group wall, although there was no way of reaching out to her because she had logged out.

“I didn’t know where she lived but I left home to find her”

11pm

Once I recovered from my shock, I decided that I could not sit back at home and do nothing about it. I had to try and stop her. People in our group could tell vaguely that she lived in Garia, located in the southern fringes of Kolkata, but beyond that no information was available. Another member of our group, Sourav Sarkar, who works as a crew member in Air India International and lives in Behala like me, wanted to join me too. We managed to hail a cab and left for Garia.

Sourav Sarkar joined Joydeep in his mission to find Samrajni

Sourav Sarkar joined Joydeep in his mission to find Samrajni

“We wandered aimlessly on the streets as the minutes ticked by

12am

Let alone an address, we didn’t even know a proper landmark near her house. We just had the belief that we had to stop her, somehow. Standing in the middle of the road in the middle of the night, we were not willing to give up hope. Nor were at least 30 people from our group, not only from Kolkata, but even the US and other parts of India, who were all logged in and were desperately trying to use their networks to find someone, who could give her address. Finally, Somnath Chowdhury, a law graduate, who lives in Baranagar, and belongs to our group, said that one day he was travelling with Samrajni in the bus and she pointed at an apartment building and told him it was her home. He vaguely remembered where it was and could guide us.

“Monali Sengupta woke up her husband and told him to help us out

1am

While Somnath was on the phone describing landmarks to us and we were trying to follow his directions, the exasperation was building up. We were really worried that we might have lost all the time in our search and wouldn’t be successful in our mission. On top of that there was nobody on the road to ask for directions and all the gates of the apartment buildings were locked.

Meanwhile, Monali Sengupta, mother of a one-year-old, who lives in the same area, was awake and was just browsing through FB when she chanced upon our exchanges on the wall. She didn’t know any of us, just saw a connection through a common friend, but she woke up her husband Sayan Sengupta and told him to call me. My number was on the wall by then. She felt that since her husband knew the area well, he might be able to help in the search. At 1am Sayan came down from his apartment and joined us but we failed to find the building despite his help and Somnath’s directions.

Sayan Sengupta did not know any of them but joined them in the search

Sayan Sengupta did not know any of them but joined them in the search

“Somnath travelled an hour to join us”

2am

After trying so hard I wasn’t ready to live with the fact that I wasn’t successful in reaching Samrajni. Both Saurav and Somnath agreed with me. That is why Somnath decided to come down from Baranagar – which is located in north Kolkata and is more than an hour’s journey from Garia – to join us. He was sure if he was in the area he would be able to recognize the apartment building.

“At 2am Sayan took two unknown men home”

2.30am

Sayan didn’t want us to stand on the road and wait for Somnath, so he took us home. The fact that he did not know us at all, and that it was 2am, did not make any difference to him or his wife Monali. Sitting in their house, we all hoped and prayed together that we would be able to save Samrajni.

“We jumped over the wall of the apartment building to reach the watchman’s room”

3.30am

Somnath came and he managed to point out the building to us. We had no option but to jump over the wall in order to reach the watchman’s room. We woke him up and asked him if Samrajni Sengupta lived in the building. Initially he wasn’t sure who we were, but sensing our urgency and proper intent said he would take us to her apartment.

Somnath Chowdhury travelled for an hour in the middle of the night to ensure Samrajni was safe

Somnath Chowdhury travelled for an hour in the middle of the night to ensure Samrajni was safe

“We were not sure if we were too late”

4am

Samrajni’s father opened the door and was shocked to see the three of us – Saurav, Somnath and I standing there. We told him to call Samrajni without asking any further questions. He said she was sleeping with her door closed. I felt a knot in my stomach and a cold sweat. Were we too late? He knocked on her door and our heart was racing. She finally opened. We were almost jumping with joy seeing her alive. When we told her why we had come she just couldn’t believe it.

SAMRAJNI SENGUPTA tells her story:

“These guys came as messiahs and taught me to think anew”

I was in severe depression due to the situation I was in and had developed a suicidal tendency. I started feeling that if I ended my life all my problems would come to an end. After writing on FB that I would end my life that night I had started making the preparations for doing so. My mother, who had been keeping a close watch on me, sensed my intent and insisted on sleeping with me that night. I remember I kept crying and my mother consoled me and tried to put sense into my head. She stroked my forehead till I fell asleep at around 4am. Then father woke us up.

I was so groggy I couldn’t understand why Joydeep, Sourav and Somnath had come. When they told me I felt like they had come like a new morning in my life. I had reached the lowest point of my self confidence and felt the world was full of horrible people and bad things kept happening to me all the time. Their efforts and those of all the people, who stayed glued to FB to make sure that I was safe, made me believe that there is good in this world.

I am a 38-year-old divorcee with a 12-year-old son, who studies in a good boarding school in Kolkata. I did not take any alimony from my husband because it hurt my pride. I met this other gentleman on Facebook, who is in his early 50s and he wanted to marry me. We had a registration marriage and soon he took me to Dubai, where he works and lives, on a resident visa. There my nightmare started. He lived in a 10X10 single room, expected me to do all the housework and he turned into a pervert and sadist the moment he came home from work. He beat me up at the slightest opportunity. Once he even broke my arm and took me to a doctor a month later when I was screaming in pain. He constantly threatened to kill me and if I raised my voice, his brutality increased. I didn’t know anyone in Dubai and I couldn’t figure out where I could go for help. I just wanted to escape from his clutches. So when he agreed to buy me tickets to see my parents I found my escape. When I did not return he kept calling me and harassing me over the phone and he even told my parents that they were actually doing “business” through me.

I was also facing acute financial woes and did not have enough money to file a divorce suit against him. I thought death would rescue me from this mess.

But these guys came as messiahs and taught me to think anew. I have never thought of suicide after that night. I know no matter what, I will have to live for my son. Now I know these wonderful people are there to support me if I need them. I am not alone in my fight anymore.

sexual harassment

Our Editor-In-Chief was in town from Mumbai and he had thrown a party at a city disco in Kolkata, something he always did when he was down and something we all looked forward to. I was in a bit of a hurry to leave because of some pressing responsibility back home and when I went to say bye to him, he said, “Why are you leaving so early?” I gave my reasons. Then he said, “But there will be transfer.”

I froze. I thought now it’s happening to me too, another whimsical editor threatening me with transfer if I did not stay on and dance with him.

Looking at my anxious face he looked puzzled. “Why are you looking so worried? There will be transport to take you home.”

I heaved a sigh of relief – he meant transport then and not transfer. He was trying to be genuinely nice but I think I can’t be blamed for presuming what he said. From the day I joined the Indian media as a trainee journalist I have been fed stories of brilliant editors who were equally talented womanizers. Editors who would unleash their libido in the company corridors, on the office couch, in the lifts, at parties and on working tours. Some accounts sounded realistic, some grossly exaggerated, and some figments of imagination, but like mothers tell children fairy tales and tell them to be scared of the demons and the monsters, our seniors told us tales of predatory editors and our imagination went astray.

So much so that when I was a trainee journalist, all of us would huddle into one room and avoid the Editor-In- Chief, like the plague, every time he dropped into town. Why? Because he had a reputation with women, that walked into a room long before he did. We would even discuss what we would do if he asked one of us to visit him in his hotel room. (Apparently that was his way of making a pass at women journalists and that’s what once again our seniors had told us.) At that point our unanimous decision was: we would obviously leave the job immediately.

Nothing like that ever happened. He didn’t even give us a second look when he rebuked us at the department meetings for all the wrong headlines. Then he walked off in a huff to lunch with our immediate boss, the prettiest woman I have ever met.

So were the stories we heard about him true? I don’t know. Or was our pretty boss the buffer that kept him from turning his attention to us? I don’t know either. But this much I know that we quickly put aside our unwarranted fears. Years later I met a journalist, much senior to me, and I was telling her this story with a laugh, she startled me with her confession. She said she had actually gone to meet him in his hotel room while working as a trainee journalist. (Her account is in my post tomorrow.)

As I gained experience in journalism I realised editors do hit on women, more precisely take their chances with them. It is the most common thing in the newsroom. Some women reciprocate, often looking at it as a good opportunity to go up the ladder, some don’t. But what is incredible is the shockwaves that Tarun Tejpal is sending down the spine of the media people. Isn’t this something we have always known? What has Tejpal suddenly done that has shaken us all? Aren’t we used to discussing stories like this over coffee right there in the office cafeteria? Is it shocking now because this story has spilled over from the cafeteria to the common man’s sitting room?

There is a pattern to the whole thing. Most often the relationships are consensual and when it is not, the woman journalist handles it in her own way. When she can’t, she leaves the job. But sometimes she does complain. It is always dealt with “amicably” and yes, Vishakha (Judgement) is kept out of the door consciously. After it has been dealt with, the woman journalist inevitably finds it tough to carry on in the job and resigns. But I have also heard of editors losing their jobs because there had been too many complaints against them. Also, as a male ex-colleague said, he has seen a couple of cases of false charges. Whatever the situation, it is always an “internal issue”. The only person to have had the guts to move court and fight a case for 10 long years is journalist Rina Mukherji.

Journalist Rina Mukherji moved court against her employer and fought her case for 10 long years

Journalist Rina Mukherji moved court against her employer and fought her case for 10 long years

Personally I have faced harassment too. I have to admit that no one has ever made any overt suggestion but the subtle hints were enough and in one job I have even lost a promotion because I failed to keep the boss “happy”. I never complained to higher authorities because I always felt, apart from making the gossip mills go on an overdrive, it would do nothing for me. There was also the chance of being labeled “the girl who sc***** her boss’ happiness” and my chances of finding another job would have been remote, in an industry where “news” travels fast.

And what would I have complained about, that my boss asks me out for a drink every day? What’s wrong with that? Because I didn’t go, I didn’t get a promotion. Come on, you are not good enough. My boss wants to walk into every party with me. Why, can’t a boss go to a party with a colleague? He often insists on having dinner from my plate at the party. Umm…what does that have to do with sexual harassment?

So in the end I have handled it my own way by sometimes wriggling out of a situation, by putting my foot down or by taking the help of supportive colleagues. In this regard I have to admit that it’s because of sensitive colleagues and some nice, caring, supportive senior people and editors (both men and women) women journalists are thriving in the industry. I remember there was an editor who was not even my boss but whenever I travelled with him in the office car, late in the night, he would step out of the car when I reached home. He stood in front of the gate till I had stepped in and locked it behind me. He got back to the car only after ensuring I was safe.

Sadly these amazing people will never make the headlines for all the good reasons, the Tejpals will. But instead of resorting to Tejpal-bashing (that his closest friends from the circuit are doing and behaving as if they never knew this side of him) and expressing well-rehearsed “shock” and “disbelief” at a fellow journalist’s folly, shouldn’t they be taking a closer look at their own lifts? You never know what’s lurking there.

(I have spoken to 10 journalists, all of whom are currently holding senior positions in different organizations. They have jotted down their personal experiences of sexual harassment which I have published in Part II.)

Check another post about Indian media:

At 23 when I joined journalism no one told me…

A very interesting take on Tehelka.Check it out

The Greatbong Blog & Podcast

Being a very filmy person (but you already knew that I suppose), my ideal of a reporter was the character played by Sekhar Suman in “Tridev” whose murder, while doing investigative journalism piece on the dangerous Bhujang, let loose a sequence of spectacular events, that included but was not limited to Sunny Deol looking at the camera and saying, in a deadpan voice, “Ek aur sipahi desh ke liye shaheed ho gaye”.

In real life, the only people who came close to that khadi-clad, jhola-carrying ideal were the guys at Tehelka. Or that’s the way I saw things when they did the match-fixing sting, blowing the lid off the conspiracy of silence in a most spectacular way. And if that was not enough, then went up against the might of the NDA government and in the process was almost finished off by them.

This was brave stuff. They wrote their pieces…

View original post 1,267 more words

Suzette Jordan

Suzette Jordan

Suzette Jordan has defied all perceptions of women in India. And for that, she has had to fight a battle which is still on – she is still awaiting the verdict over the Park Street gang rape case where she was the victim on the night of February 5, 2012. But in her refusal to cower down to the forces against her, she has won herself a stream of admirers, of which, I am definitely one.

Suzette chose to push away the trauma and despair that threatened to take over her life. She decided to talk about her experience to the media, reclaim her name which had become “the Park Street rape victim”, and repossess her face that had become a consistent blur on television and newspapers and, most importantly, find her voice that had been swallowed up by the storm that hit her on that fateful night.

Read her earlier interview here : https://amritaspeaks.com/2013/07/04/after-revealing-my-identity-as-the-park-street-rape-victim-i-have-got-more-respect-and-also-more-threats-suzette-jordan/

Now Suzette has been invited to the THiNK 2013, to talk her mind alongside speakers like Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Medha Patkar, Shekhar Kapur, Robert De Niro, Farooq Abdullah and Garry Kasparov and a host of other notable personalities from around the world.

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan

Farhan Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar

Organised by Tehelka, THiNK is a thought-provoking and egalitarian platform for ideas from across the globe.  http://thinkworks.in/

“I am honoured to be part of THiNK 2013. There is a lot to say and I am glad I have got this platform,” Suzette told me.

“Life has been a realization for me since the incident happened. I have been constantly made to feel like a piece of shit, humiliated at every opportunity and fooled considerably, but I have refused to give up my dignity. It has been terribly hard but today I am glad I did not give up,” she said.

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro

At THiNK 2013, Suzette will be talking about her ongoing struggle and how life can be made a bit easier for women going through trauma like her. “You need counsellors to help you deal with things like post-traumatic disorder, something I had never heard of before. You need them to accompany you to the medical tests or prepare you for the gruelling sessions at the court,” said Suzette, adding, “I have to actually mentally and physically prepare myself for the cross-questioning in court so that my nerves don’t give way.”

After the Nirbhaya verdict, Suzette has much hope. She has so far has been through 16 such cross-questioning sessions and awaits more but she believes in patience. “It is not possible to hurry law and I know I have to be patient. Everything is worth it if there is justice in the end,” said Suzette.