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A beautiful short story by fellow blogger Fiza…

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Kasha: The love of a Hijra

by Fiza Pathan

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My name is Lily and I am a Hijra belonging to the Hijra or the eunuch community of Mumbai. My Guru baptized me with this name after my operation, when my private parts were chopped off from my body infront of all my Hijra friends and elders, as a sign that now I had become one of them. My Guru named me Lily, for she felt that I was as pure as a lily flower and because I spread the fragrance of my love all through the shambles of the shanty in which we resided in.

After my operation I started to wear a sari like a woman. My Guru taught me the body language of a Hijra, and after a few months, I was acting like a regular Hijra. I would spend my morning and afternoon at signal stops begging…

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A still from the film The Bridges of Madison County

A still from the film The Bridges of Madison County

My all-time favourite love story is TheBridges of Madison County. I have always been attracted to the book or film maybe because it is not a typical boy-meets-girl story nor can you classify it as an extra-marital affair.

The story takes off when a housewife meets a freelance photographer while her husband and children are away for four days. Love happens in those four days but they never meet again since she stays behind for her family and he moves on. But till death, they do not pass a single day without thinking of each other. It’s a unique love story, a story of a love that doesn’t expect anything in return, a love that probably exists only in fictions.

In my quest for love stories I have realized every person has a love story. And some stories are even as unique as The Bridges of Madison County. I share with you four such unique real-life love stories that my two ex-colleagues and two friends have told me.

“I married her despite knowing she is HIV positive”

We met on the Net and I really liked her and we got talking. I was divorced, so was she, but when she told me she was HIV + I was so shocked I did not contact her for months. When she was sure that I had made an exit after what she told me, I came back and popped the question.

This guy went ahead with marriage despite knowing his girlfriend was HIV+ (picture from internet)

This guy went ahead with marriage despite knowing his girlfriend was HIV+ (picture from internet)

This time I managed to shock her. All this while I fought with my own mind and my family because I felt that she was such a nice person and she deserved a normal life. Most importantly I loved her and that is all that mattered. We are married now and I think this is the best decision of my life.

“We met when we were 16, then for 10 years we didn’t meet”

I had met him at a wedding and I instantly liked him and I know he liked me too. I had never felt what I did when I saw him at the wedding. Once the wedding function was over he went back home in another state of India and I came to mine in Kolkata. He was on my mind for a long time but at 16 you cannot keep holding on to a person you don’t know whether you will meet again. I fell for someone and later I came to know he too had fallen for someone. Both our relationships did not work out and 10 years later we were suddenly face-to- face again at another relative’s wedding. This time we quickly jotted down our addresses in two pieces of paper and there started our correspondence through letters.

We are married to each other for 18 years now and I truly believe that our marriage was made in heaven because we were destined to fall in love.

He wanted her ex-girlfriend to be happy because he really loved her

He wanted her ex-girlfriend to be happy because he really loved her

“I found love for my ex-girlfriend”

We were a madly-in-love couple till things started going wrong. Issues started arising in our relationship and we finally parted ways but we decided not to harbour any ill feelings for each other since we had always respected each other.

My family fixed a match for me and I got married. Months later I met her at a common friend’s party and she was with a colleague. The guy was very good-looking and looked hopelessly in love with her. After talking to him I liked him immensely. But when I asked her about him, she said she wasn’t sure if she was in love with him. I just told her, ‘You will make a mistake if you let this guy go.”

She told me later my words helped her take a decision. They are happily married now with a kid. I feel if you really love a person you will always want her to be happy.

He thought she looked like a boy in her baggy jeans and short hair

He thought she looked like a boy in her baggy jeans and short hair

“I thought she looked like an ugly boy”

The first time I saw her she had come to meet my father at our place because he taught her English at the university. Her hair was so short that she could put any guy to shame and she was wearing an ill-fitting T-shirt and baggy jeans. Had I not taken a second look I would have mistaken her for a Chinese boy. Then my father dropped the bomb. He told me that he really liked her and that she would be a good match for me. I was aghast but still agreed to meet her.

After our first meeting I don’t know why I asked her, ‘When are we meeting next?’ In the second meeting she made it very clear that she would go into a third meeting only if there was a commitment from my side, otherwise she wasn’t wasting any time. I think I got so attracted to her strong mind that I completely overlooked her hair and clothing. After several meetings one fine day I realized I was dating a girl with very short hair.

Now that we are the proud parents of two sons I continue to admire her strong mind and my father’s ability to look through the short crop and baggy pants.

PS: It’s another thing that my wife is nowadays sporting danglers, long hair and skinny jeans.

(Although some of my friends were comfortable giving their names in this post, some were not. So I decided to keep them nameless. I guess what matters here is the love story and not the name.)  

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.

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…

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rape 45_2

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland. The psychiatrist, who got his undergraduate medical degree from NRS Medical College, Kolkata, is passionate about women’s issues. While discussing the recent rise in violence against women in India, Dr Gangopadhyay very patiently answered all the questions that I had. In this post I am sharing my interview with him, where Dr Gangopadhyay not only talks about the current situation in India and the way forward but also shares very interesting information with us. Here goes:

Q: What is the psychology of rape?

A: There is nothing which can be branded as typical of a rapist and no particular traits that can help us isolate rapists. Rape is the most extreme form of sexual violence. We all have inherent capacities to be violent but various inhibitions such as social norms, education, environment, religion and cultural attributes modify the primal instincts. However, in certain circumstances we all are capable of presenting with violence, which can be most often manifested in the context of domestic violence.

Offenders who have engaged in some kind of sexual offence are more likely to commit rape

What can be stated with certainty is that offenders who have engaged in some kind of sexual offence such as exhibitionism or indecent assaults are more likely to engage in the commission of rape. Moreover, research indicates that the presence of disinhibiting factors (In psychology disinhibition is a lack of restraint manifested in several ways, including disregard for social conventions and poor risk assessment) such as alcohol, illicit drugs and anger have been noted to be associated with extreme acts of violence such as rape.

People with no criminal history commit marital rape

However, in my view, it is quite possible for somebody with no criminal history, in absence of disinhibiting factors to engage in such heinous behaviour which is probably most pronounced in the context of “marital rape”.

Q: Apart from incarceration can psychological counselling be used as a means to reform rapists?

A: Custodial sentences only act as a form of punishment and are a punitive measure. They are not effective in changing the behaviour of offenders including sexual offenders.

In the UK there are psychological programmes for rapists in prisons

In the UK, an individual who has been convicted of serious sexual offences, including rape, would need to compulsorily participate in psychological programs in prison which are delivered by Forensic Psychologists within the Criminal Justice Services. These programs would often address issues such as victim empathy, anger management, impact of misusing illicit drugs and alcohol and would be delivered through various means such as role-plays, group discussions and individual therapy.

Anti-libidinal medications are also used for therapy

Recently, there has also been an interest in the use of anti-libidinal medications i.e. medications which reduce sex-drive, in the management of sexual offenders.

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland

Dr Partha Gangopadhyay is a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist based in Scotland

Q: Why do you think there is a rise in violent crimes against women in India?

A: There can be several reasons for this:

We are getting to know because of greater media coverage

Firstly I should comment that what we are seeing as a rise might be due to more effective media coverage and greater awareness of the general public, particularly women, regarding the absolute non-acceptance of such criminal behaviour.

Sexual violence is not the norm anymore

Women are more convinced now as individuals that any kind of violence against them which includes sexual violence is “not the norm” and this then leads to a greater chance for women who have experienced violence to be open about it and report it to the criminal justice system.

The skewed sex ratio in India is also to blame

The second reason probably is the high male to female Sex ratio in India. Sex ratio is expressed as the number of women per thousand men in a given population at a given time. The high sex ratio in India can be attributed to sex-selective abortion and infanticide due to a strong preference for male heirs. This affects future marriage patterns and fertility patterns and causes unrest among young adult males who are unable to find partners. Except Kerala and Puducherry all other states and union territories in India have a negative sex ratio i.e. less than 1000 women for every 1000 men, with Haryana faring the worst among states (877 women per 1000 men in 2011) and Delhi near the bottom for Union territories (866 women per 1000 men in 2011). This might explain to some extent the high incidence of sexually violent crimes in these areas.

Q: What steps can be taken in India to handle the current situation?  

A: Firstly there has to be an absolute political will to tackle this which has to go beyond narrow party interests. Secondly, I believe that there is enough legislation in India to protect women and prosecute offenders. What is lacking is effective enforcement of these legislations due to various factors such as shortage of resources, corruption and political (and various other) interferences on the public protection and prosecution systems (Police & Courts). This has to change.

India should stop projecting women as commodity

I also consider that mass entertainment media such as advertisements and films have been sometimes guilty of projecting women as a commodity whose only goal in life is to appear beautiful and obediently serve the men folk whether as a daughter, sister or wife. Such projections only nourish a derogatory view towards women which can be manifested in thoughts such as it is permissible to use force including sexual violence towards women.

The notion that women attract the attention of rapists by their behaviour and clothing should be attacked aggressively 

Finally, though unfortunate, it is still widely considered in India that a woman who is dressed seductively is more likely to be sexually violated because she is almost inviting it. This notion has to be attacked aggressively through various perspectives such as education, media, politics and it has to be spelt out clearly that whatever way a woman chooses to behave or dress, it does not give any individual any right to violate her privacy.

Q: There is violence against women in UK and there is violence in India too but in what way are these two places different?

A: There are a few separate issues that we need to consider. Firstly, UK and India belong to two different socio-economic categories. With respect to violence against women, the important relevant differences would be in literacy levels and a more effective, well-resourced public protection system (Police & Courts) who are relatively free from political influence.

In UK there is greater social acceptance of a victim

Secondly, there is greater social acceptance of a victim who has been subject to sexual violence. This then facilitates the reporting of such incidents. There is also an understanding that a woman is free to choose what she wears but that does not give any man a right to behave in an inappropriate manner.

Convictions for rape are not easy to achieve in UK either

However, convictions for rape are not easy to achieve in UK either and often prosecution is abandoned owing to lack of evidence in spite of access to better Forensic facilities.

Support and rehabilitation of victims is necessary

Finally, there are a lot of agencies (Government and NGO’s) who provide support and rehabilitation for victims of sexual offences and their families in the UK, which might be a development need for India.

(Dr Partha Gangopadhyay trained in Psychiatry in London and then undertook further training in Forensic Psychiatry in Scotland for four years. His work involves looking after people who have a mental disorder but who have also committed a crime i.e. mentally disordered offenders (MDO). His research interests lie in Medical Education, specifically assessment for undergraduate medical students. His other interest is Medical Ethics & Law in which he is pursuing a Masters.)

How two women use their mountaineering skills to reach where most people can’t. A story of courage, humanity and willpower. Must read…

kracktivist

A group of ace climbers, which includes Mt Everest conquerors Bachendri Pal and Premlata Agarwal, have quietly arrived in Uttarkashi from across India ” trekking up to villages where even the Army jawans haven’t reached, providing essential supplies to marooned villagers who have no food, water or power

June 30, 2013
MUMBAI
Dhiman Chattopadhyay, Mid Day

 

They have conquered the highest peaks in the world and maneuvered dangerous gorges, endured heavy snowfall and lack of oxygen. But all that pales in comparison to what they are doing now — helping thousands of stranded, starved and ill villagers of Uttarkashi with food and essential supplies in areas so remote that even the army jawans have failed to make their way to these places.


Mountaineers Bachendri Pal, Premlata Agarwal and their group  managed to reach stranded villagers at Bidsari, Pilang, Jadau and some other places in Uttarakhand. Pics Courtesy/Anusha Subramanian…

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Stolen Childhoods

Posted: June 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

A collection of photographs about child labourers that touches you deeply.