This article was originally written for The Alternative. Reblogging it here.
For all those who are not aware there was the demolition of EWS quarters of around 1000 families at Ejipura just opposite the National Games Village, Kormangala in Bangalore last week. This demolition has happened for building up another mall by the builders of Garuda Mall. Even the Garuda Mall at MG Road is not legally built. The land was given for a multilevel car parking but the mall has come up instead of the parking. The residents of Ejipura whose houses have been demolished are out in the open in the cold without water, power, food and shelter.
“My 8 months old child is suffering from jaundice and fever. My husband is not there and I have lost my job. “says one on the residents of Ejipura whose house has been demolished. In spite of all these challenges she has been helping the volunteers in distributing food and clothes to the right people.
Pic: Mayank Rungta
Can we who live in our comfortable houses with food and snuggled into warm blankets be so strong? I am really amazed by these people who are greeting us with a smile even in the difficult times when they have lost their shelter. They have not forgotten to care for their neighbors checking if they received the food and blankets. Apart from that they are also taking care of their pets, mostly dogs and cats.
They are out in the open, on the footpaths on both sides of the road with their minimal belongings with nowhere to go. What was their crime that the houses of 1000 families have been demolished? Even a criminal has a roof over his head in the jail. The toilets have been destroyed. The first day itself water supply and power supply was cut off. And in just 2-3 days the ground where once these people used to live has been grounded and the area has been fenced. I really should appreciate BBMP for the efficient work they have been doing in demolishing the houses. They have carried out this eviction very strategically in phases, first the houses were demolished, then people were pressurized to vacate the place, then they started leveling the ground without looking at what’s on the ground and this debris was piled on all the sides to block various entrance so that supply of food, water and other essentials arranged by volunteers can be ruptured and finally fencing the whole area with very high tin sheets. If they channelize this efficiency towards the grappling problems of our city, I am sure Bangalore would be a much better and a cleaner place in no time.
With no access to power supply, water supply, toilets, food and shelter the government has left them out in the open to suffer and not even taking the responsibility of providing them an alternative shelter. To add to it yesterday they demolished more houses in the area. It is only because of the continuous efforts of few people and volunteers that these victims are able to get food, water and blankets regularly. Even we volunteers faced resistance by the police in distributing food and blankets. The vehicles carrying food was not allowed to enter the area. We had to walk with the food cans to find people among the rubbles in the dark and distribute food to them. It is really unbelievable how much callousness exist around us.
My emotions have been overwhelming to put everything in words. I feel angry. I feel helpless not able to fight for them. I am sure after all this my conscience will never ever allow me to step into the mall which would be standing here in next few months or years or rather any mall. How many malls do Bangaloreans need? I and my husband rarely visit a mall and our life goes on smoothly.
I, along with other volunteers, have been visiting the site for the last one week. I can’t really explain the plight of the people in words; how people have been sitting or sleeping in the cold. I would request that we all to go to the site and see for ourselves what it feels like when you lose your home. At least, the residents would feel that they are not alone. We know how much it matters when someone is there with you just to talk to you in the difficult times. Many of the residents have lost their jobs and it would be good if we can help them find jobs. They are mostly home maids, driver, cook etc.
Appealing all to come out and help the residents of Ejipura in any way – helping them fight for their ‘Right to Shelter’ or help in spreading the awareness or help with the logistics or finding them a home or a job.
You can follow the updates on Ejipura and volunteer for relief work through the Relief for EWS Ejipura Demolition Victims Facebook page or the hashtag #EWSEjipura on Twitter.
I would like to tell my readers that we have started a blog exclusively on travel and Food. Please checkout our new blog “Wandering Taste Buds”. Visit http://wanderingtastebuds.com . Do give your feedback on the posts. Happy Reading :)
Last Sunday I was at one of my friend’s place and was just peeping through the small window in his apartment. It was a sunny day just like any other scorching summer day. I stood for an hour staring at a small old-designed house with an open verandah with around 5-6 kids sitting and playing carrom. Even the parents were sitting besides them and watching them play. As soon as the sun started setting, the kids came out of the house and started playing cricket.
That scene took me back to my childhood – Myself and my 2 younger brothers sitting on the floor around the carom-board with my dad and mom inside the house. All doors and windows closed with curtains pulled to not let the hot air into the house or even a ray of the sun. You could hear the strong hot winds blowing outside. Sipping chilled lassi in the glass we would play for hours and also talk about our friends, school and studies. This was a regular scene each and every day of our Summer holidays.
The only difference would be that carom would sometimes be replaced with Chess, Ludo, Snake and Ladder, Monopoly, Checkers, Scrabble or Brainvita. And instead of cold lassi we might be relishing nimbu pani or sattu mixed in water with salt and lemon or the evergreen ruhafza or Rasna or watermelon or some sharbat, custard or icecream.
As the sun would start setting we would be allowed to sneak out of the house to the big playground in front of the house or to the terrace. And then would start the evening outdoor game either cricket or badminton with my dad , brothers and the friends in our neighborhood. Those were one of the real moments that we enjoyed in our life and thinking about them really took me back to the good childhood days.
The days when only people that meant to us was our parents and our brothers and sisters. And there’s so much to remember about.
I was sitting at my home flipping through a book and enjoying the nice rain when suddenly a temptation to eat something ‘chatpata‘ made my taste buds restless. Keeping the book aside my foodie soul woke up and placed floating images of ‘garam pakoda‘, ‘samosa‘ in front of my eyes. Seeing those mouth watering images the eyes gleamed, but I was in no mood to cook for myself. So I consoled my foodie soul and was back to my book.
But the taste buds were really getting restless and again a sudden temptation arose to have the ‘pani puris’. Waited for the rain to stop and stepped out of the house in search of the ‘panipuriwaala’. Just next to my street on the main road are 2-3 of them. Circling around the stand were 4 of us with our plates. Gulping one paani puri, waiting for another round I savoured them. My soul was filled with the satisfaction after gulping 10 of those and then one “Churmur Chaat“.
While having those pani puris, I was remembering the paani puri bhaiya who used to have stall at our school. I know him for now 21 long years. Still his face is fresh in my mind and the speed with which he used to serve those pani puris.
A man with his thela( its a vehicle with four wheels and gets pushed to move) which carried a box full of paani puri and few other vessels enters the main gate of the school. Pushes his vehicle till the big playground under a tree and places his gaadi with other gaadi of Dosa/Idli and icecream waala. Little girls playing in the playground turn their faces as if waiting for him, runs towards him and stands around the gaadi in a circle. Atleast 20 of them around the gaadi and bhaiya in the center with his fast moving hands serving one by one. You will not believe but by the time you are still relishing the first paani puri, he would have placed the second one. The fast moving hands were so good at their work.
Enjoyed the 10 years of his paani puri when I was in school. Seen the price rise from 4 pieces for 25 paise to 2 pieces for 2 rupees but he continued serving with the same speed and same taste. In those days there was not much concept of pocket money. I used to cycle to school , so I used to get some money for the puncture , air filling etc. Saving from those or sometimes faking a puncture would arrange for the pani puri.
Till 2 years back I met him and tasted his pani puris. We knew the place where he used to place his gaadi in the evening after school. Whenever we went back from our college we used to visit him and he would also recognize our faces with his old eyes. And still served with the same dedication.
I am sure all the Notre Dame Students from Patna would remember him. Sometimes people who might not be anything to us might be something and we might have lots of memories around them. I know you will not read this but we really enjoyed your pani puri :). Your memories dominates a great part of our school life. And now I realize that whenever I have gone with any of my friends to have pani puri at other places I have always mentioned about you telling I have never tasted the ones by you and the speed with which you served.
Back to the Present…
Oh that was only the first pani puri that I gulped. It got digested too and now the time for the second piece. Another customer standing there says “Sir mere ko akele alag se khilao. Mazaa nahi aa raha hai. Wo jaldi jaldi khilao to mazaa aata hai.” (Sir please serve me separately. I am not able to enjoy. If you serve fast then it is fun). I give him a smile and walk away.
Just a post remembering someone. :)
Stopping at the traffic signals I had always wanted to know more about them. I watched them walk and approaching the male riders and drivers, clapping hands and asking for money. I often had discussion with my bus mate or bike mate keeping me perplexed about them. I always had this question in mind -who are they how they are like this, how difficult their life would be , whether to give them money or not when they are begging. I had wanted to read more about them.
It was one of those usual days when all the books that I had was read and wanted to get few more. I was browsing through Flipkart.com for buying few books. My friend had generously parted away with his parting gift of the Flipkart gift coupon of 2000 INR . Thanks to the Kindle that he owns that I got those gift coupons :) . Browsing through the list of books on flipkart, I got few interesting books related to travel, non -fictions and classics. One of the books which caught my attention was an autobiography “The Truth About Me – A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi “. Finally I got something to read about them. I added it to cart. Due to Flipkart fast delivery all my book were there in next 48 hours.
I started reading “The Great Railway Bazar by Paul Theroux” – another interesting book on travel journey. Meanwhile another friend who doesn’t have much inclination towards reading wanted to read a book. I have a collection of few books. I asked him to select and he picked the autobiography of Eunuchs(Hijra). As I was reading another book, I let myself part with the book. He finished reading the book in 2 days. Imagine a non lover of books finishing the book in 2 nights :) – Must be really a book which would keep you fully engrossed.
He started discussing what he read about the eunuchs. I got the book from him and started reading. The way it has been written you feel the images/pictures moving in front of your eyes. The ordeal which she had to go through which make you shiver while reading the book. The book is all about the author’s first hand experience of her life and her fellow hijra friends. Its all about from her childhood till date. She says “she felt like a woman captured in the body of a man” . And its all about the small desires and feelings she had and all the ordeals she had to go through in her home and outside. A very moving autobiography which gives you insights about how a hijra(eunuch) life is. There are only very very few happy moments and most of others are depressing and sad.
Here are few excerpts from the book:
“This confused me – I was a boy and yet I felt I could love other boys. Was this right or wrong? I could not talk to anyone about my confusions. Not to my brothers, or my parents. Nor could I stop my heart from wandering and so I went about as if crazed. I was fed up of being teased“
“We got stared at a lot. People asked out loudly- some out of curiosity, others out of malice- whether we were men or women or “number nines” or devadasis. Several men made bold to touch us, on our backs, on our shoulders. Some attempted to grab our breasts. “Original or Duplicate?” they shouted and hooted. At such moments I felt despair and wondered if there would ever be a way for us to live with dignity and make a decent living“
“We want to live as women, and if we are granted the facilities that enable us to do so, we’ll live as other women do. We were not born to beg or do sex work. Circumstances, family laws and social hatred have left us with no course but to beg and do sex work. Our parents begot us like they did other children. We are also human.”
The author A. Revathi is currently a writer , actor and activist based in Bangalore. She works with Sangama – NGO which works for the human rights of sexual minorities. I guess our government needs to come up with programmes for them and also have them come to mainstream society and work as normal similar to the other countries. This would also bring a change in attitude of people towards them.
Must Read book to know about the other community of people living with us. If we know about them, then we know to respect them. I really recommend this book to all so that we know how we as a society has added pains and difficulties to their life. Hats off to the author !!!
“Thank you Sister” were the words of an 11 year old girl named Abhirami. I couldn’t guess what the words were for and asked her. “I got an A grade and my sister got A+ grade in English. Thank you Sister!!! “. And just a day before that I was pondering on the question “Is it really helping with what or how we are doing with the kids “. I am not sure whether her grade was a direct result of our teaching as I am not even aware of last year result. But the words were enough to motivate you.
And 2 days after that when I went to the place (Desire Society) she was again there telling me in Kannada ” Sister I want to learn more and more English. Also teach me Hindi” and there she came with an English story book and Hindi notebook ready to learn everything. The way she told reflected her crave for learning.
The change might be slow and gradual but there was a change – an interest kindling to learn something, a curiosity to know more about things around them.
This gift was not enough for the day. There was another gift also which I received from a 4-year old girl Ganga. As soon as I had entered the gate she seemed to be waiting for me and called me “Sister Banni(Kannada word for Come)”. I followed her small footsteps and she sat on the stairs asking me to sit. And gave me a flower carefully wrapped in a piece of paper and an Eclairs with a white piece of cloth calling it a handkerchief. Another Smile for the day :).
May be I am not able to express my feelings in my words. But sometimes when not everything is going good with you or you are not satisfied with what you are doing the small things like this give you a smile on your face and the motivation which you need to move ahead.
2010 just passed a few hours ago. Time to reminisce the year. This was one of the most eventful year with
ups and downs to the extremes. Lots of ups and downs, lots of activities, new friends, old friends, new people, good moments with few hitches. Reminiscing only the good moments but the hitches and tough moments were also in one way good ones adding different colours to life and teaching few things. All is a sweet memory now. Biding 2010 a farewell with a video with few good moments which I was part of and people who were there throughout the journey in 2010.
Wishing myself and you all a very happy new year 2011 !!!! :)