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Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Ejipura: “How many malls do Bangaloreans need?”

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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.

Written by Priyanka Varma

January 28, 2013 at 8:40 am

Life Story of a Eunuch through a Book !!!

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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 !!!

The Truth About Me

The Truth About Me

Written by Priyanka Varma

September 25, 2011 at 3:54 am

Posted in Society

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The Gift !!!

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“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.

Written by Priyanka Varma

April 18, 2011 at 6:33 am

Amazing moment

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He hugs me clutching me with both his hands, not ready to leave me. He recognizes me touching me with his soft hands. That was one of the most amazing moment. He is a 5 year old kid without the power of vision. But it seems he has got a different power compensating his power of vision with which he can feel and recognize people around him. Every weekend I visit him. That day I visited after 1 month. And to my surprise he could feel my presence and recognized me. He came towards me, called me by my name, indicating me to lift him and he hugged me strongly with his hands. He was not ready to leave me as if asking why I didn’t see him for so many days. I really was amazed and happy by this gesture of his.

Before this I had not thought that a small kid who can’t see with his eyes would recognize me. But each time I visit this place, I get to know about them more and more – How they live, how they ‘see’.  But this was the most touching one that I experienced.

Written by Priyanka Varma

March 13, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Bangalore, Society

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A Rendezvous with Reality

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Salim, a 7 year old boy, came to Bangalore from Kolkata by train all alone. Speaking in Bengali, with cuts on both of his hands,  injuries on his face, roaming around the railway station, was picked up by the Child helpline and brought to the Govt. homes. Talking to him we get to know that his parents had put him on a job as a servant. The master used to physically abuse him regularly. Somehow he got the chance to run away and landed up in Bangalore. And moreover he is not ready to go back to his parents as he thinks they might send him back to work.  He was fortunate enough that he was not caught into the wrong hands and was safely brought to the “Child Welfare Committee”.

Roopa, a 12 year old girl, with a deep cut on her face and an expression of shock and fear on her face. She is an eye witness of her parents committing suicide and a victim of sexual abuse by an uncle of hers after the death of her parents.  Somehow she was able to escape and brought to the Govt. Homes by a cop. She is still in the state of shock reluctant to speak to anyone.

A very small, lean 4-day old newborn girl kid, sleeping with a cute little smile on her face in the cradle. Unaware about her parents,  she was found in a dustbin near to a hospital by the localities. Sleeping beside her is a 1-year old girl, with a cut on her neck which seemed as if someone had tried to slit her throat with a knife, was found on the railway tracks.

Gausheela, a 4-year old very sweet girl, with a green strip of cloth wrapped around the upper part of her left hand.  While we tried to remove the piece of cloth, she doesn’t let us do that and replies very sweetly in hindi that it should not be removed as it is a protection from the evil. She was found alone on one of the trains from Chennai and was repeating continuously a name “Meebo”.

Preeti, a 13-year old girl, has very deep cuts all over her hands. It was very much unbelievable to hear that the cut was made by her mother. Daughter of a well-educated parents and father working as a software engineer, the girl was in such a pitiful state. Her mother cut Preeti’s hands just because she had not finished with some kitchen chores. The caretaker at the Govt. homes are not allowing her to get back to her home as they are not convinced whether the parents will take care of the child.

Neelima, a 14-year old girl, continuously raped by her own father somehow ran away from her home. But unluckily she fell into the wrong place. Again raped by an old man on the streets of Bangalore with no one to help her. She was found by the cop and the moment she was going to give the details of the accused, she went into a state of disassociation where she has started hallucinating things and people. You can see the pain in her eyes and on her face and can’t stop tears rolling down from your eyes.

Pooja, a 15-year old girl forced to sleep with her stepfather by her own mother is standing very boldly against both stepfather and mother just to protect her other eight sisters despite all the pains she has to go through. She didn’t have anyone else to go to for help, so to protect herself she ran away from her home with one of her younger sister.  Luckily she landed up in a safe place and also got the support and help to stand against the accused. There was a spark of happiness in her eyes to see that her sisters will be safe.

There were 120 boys like Salim in the Boys Home aged from 5years to 18years.  They all had a different story – victims of child labour, child abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and child trafficking. And there were around 200 girls like Roopa, Preeti,  Gausheela, Pooja, Neelima who were either victims of rape, sexual abuse, child trafficking, stranded by parents or physical abuse.  The Govt. Homes is a shelter to lots of kids who are victim to problems like child trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse etc. A Child Welfare Committee has been set up by the Govt. which takes care of these kids and decides upon their future.

I got an opportunity to visit this place last Saturday. It was really a tough 4 hours for us to be there with them and knowing their heart-wrenching stories and to control our emotions in front of them. I really can’t express in words their experiences and what we were going through while we were there.   It was really depressing to know about the experiences these kids had to go through in such a small age but it was also very encouraging to know that there are few people in society who are helping them so that they forget their pasts and lead a good future.  Met people like Miss Vasanti who is a Superintendent and has fully dedicated her life  for these kids. You can see the love and affection she showers on them as if they are her own kids. Really hats off to them.

This blog is just an attempt to sensitize the others in the society with what all are happening in our society.  Everyday we read about these types of stories in newspapers but we have become so much used to it that we don’t think about these or we are so much into our own life that all these things seems to be unbelievable. Before this visit even I was one of those people. But after meeting these kids who really had gone through such pains,  I have become more aware of the ground realities and I think we need to be sensitive towards these issues and do something for this. A small step of yours can change the path of life of a child.

To start with, if you come across any child on the streets or in the trains or anywhere who you think is unprotected or you are suspicious of anything just call the Child Helpline at 1098 in Bangalore or report to any of the police station as it has become mandatory that a Child Welfare Officer is present in all the police stations of Bangalore. Doing this you may save a child from any unfortunate things happening to him/her. You can save a child from getting into the clutches of child trafficker, child abuser.  There must be other Helplines like this in other cities too.

Each child has the Right to lead a safe and protected life. These are the kids who will form the next generation of the society and if they are unprotected, we will have an unprotected society. Let more people know about the Child Helpline and help them in their good cause.

Written by Priyanka Varma

August 10, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Pankhudi Sahayata: Collection Drive – Full Swing, Help needed !!!

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Did you know that there are some underprivileged and unfortunate kids living around us who can’t afford the basic things for their living? Well, don’t just sit there, do something about it! Help us in our collection drive.

~Pankhudi — A family of many in the service of underprivileged and unfortunate children of our society. Working for the cause, care of the slum, disabled and orphaned or uncared children to improve the quality of their childhood is our prime motto. Pankhudi is spread over Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, and Hyderabad.

Pankhudi Bangalore is involved in lots of activities like ~DivyaDrishti – Education for visually-impaired children,~Sahayata – Pankhudi Collection Drives. The Bangalore chapter has recently involved itself with a new activity (Computer Education) at an orphanage “Anatha Shishu Sevashram” at Wilson Garden Bangalore. The orphanage accommodates around 60 kids (both boys and girls) aged from 5 to 25 years old.

The need of having a collection drive was felt after the visit to the orphanage. The Bangalore chapter has started a collection drive on 5th July and will be collecting items around the city till 19th July 2009. On Sunday, July 19 the chapter will deliver all of the collected items at the orphanage. Everyone is invited to make a donation. See around in your wardrobes – It may be wastage for you but a resource for others.

For all those who can contribute in the collection drive, following are the items you can donate:

1. Highest Priority Requirement – Sweaters and Blankets.

2. Important requirements – Cloths (any size will work, if its kid size – simply awesome), toys, sports item (cricket bat, badminton, chess), electronic item (like torch, radio).

3. Any other item which you think will be useful for the kids

You don’t want to do this alone so recruit anyone and everyone to help you out. It would be great if you can spread the word among your family, friends.

Don’t worry if you are having trouble in delivering the collected items. If you get a good collection and because of “any” reason you are unable to collect it. Let us know the place or address here: http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=cjNydXI4QUN0RUNPNFRtOVpjaGxKQXc6MA .

We will be there to collect it from the specified place. However if possible we suggest you can also come over in person and also get a firsthand look at how your donations are put to use.

Pankhudi Contact Details:
Vaibhav: 98867 96985
Lipika: 99456 00788

Anatha Shishu Sevashram
#14, 2nd Cross
Wilson Garden,
Bangalore-560027
Landmark: Opposite Hindustan Marbel & Granites
Phone: 080-22236892
Mobile: 9845695924

Written by Priyanka Varma

July 15, 2009 at 5:35 am

Love into Action

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Staying around 2500kms away from my parents for the last 6 years, have been used to doing everything on my own without being dependent on my parents. But still I take their opinion in all my decisions, share my happiness and my sorrows with them. I have a conscious feeling always in my mind that there is someone for me , someone who will be always supporting me. Sometimes I feel they could be here with me in my happiness, my sorrows.

But what about those small kids whose parents have died or whose parents have left them alone in this world to lead their life on their own. I cherish my childhood when I think about these kids. I had a happy, free childhood with my parents taking care of me, my education, my health, my needs etc. No worries, No tensions.

Recently I got a chance to go to an orphanage “Anatha Shishu Sevashram” in wilson Garden, Bangalore through Pankhudi. The orphanage is run by an elderly lady Saraswati madam who herself is visually challenged.( She
is the first student of SRMAB where Pankhudi has started their initiative of teaching computer and english course to the kids.) This orphanage houses around 60 kids aged between 5 years to 25 years. The owner of the orphanage takes care of their schooling, food and other needs with the donations she receives from some of the people. We met these kids and they looked so happy playing with each other, dancing. They all had a sweet smile on their face hiding all the hardships they have to face.

The kids here are very much creative. Enter their room and you will see some beautiful paintings on the walls. Paintings of a tiger with all intricate details , Hanuman flying towards the Sun(the expression of the sun in the painting is amazing) – These are few of the paintings there are on their walls.  Some of them are good in dancing. We also got a chance to see their acting skills. Some of them are brilliant actors full of expressions and good dialog-delivery skills.

We hope to give them a better future and so we at Pankhudi Bangalore has decided to organize computer courses and personality development courses. Looking at their creativeness, we have planned to expose them to few of the software tools which may help them in putting down their creative ideas into a presentable way and showcase it to the outside world. Anyone of you out there can give in your ideas how we can help them or are free to help out can contact bangalore@pankhudifoundation.org .

We can’t be their parents but atleast we can try to give the love and support as we have got from our parents. There is no time to just watch and feel sorry but its time to put our “Love for them into Action” .

Written by Priyanka Varma

July 9, 2009 at 6:00 am