Monthly Archives: February 2006

There Is Something About India

Read mallika’s come back blog.. and her raves – barring the airport – about her trip.. was thrilled to learn that the little ones loved it too…one of the comments did mention the fact that normally children who live outside, ‘hate’ India..

That is not quite so.. as children are open to new experiences and are almost intuitive about love.. and what better place than India to be loved, cared, pampered.. by everyone..your cheeks are pulled and you are gathered in big hugs and after the first bewildered reaction come the giggles and the fun.. food is plenty, granny grants all your wishes, you get to sleep late and suddenly find yourself in a land where there seem to be no rules.. for any child india is a delight to the senses, the noise, the colours, the smells.. everything is king size…

True that some kids as they grow older tend to wrinkle their nose at many things, but much of it is due to the messages adults have poured in their heads..

I have many friends who wonder how their kids would react to project why’s slum children . and to their dismay, kids who come by have a great time interacting with a just another peer group..

It is all a matter of putting things in the right perspective and above all talking about the problems head on.. children of Indian origin have a right to know what their land is all about, and that is where sometimes adults fail them.. true there are terrible things around us, but then are we not responsible for much of the mess? Over the years we have let things slip out of control simply because we were not willing to stand in a queue, wait for our turn and so on…

India is what it is: an amalgam of experiences, a vibrant land where opinions abound, where emotions tend to overtake and even bewilder you.. a beautiful land that is sometimes only visible to the eyes of an innocent child…

Agnihotra: Communing With Nature

In the complexity of rituals that surround us and often lose their intrinsic meaning, I recently got introduced to agnihotra by a friend. 

The first reaction was of course one of quiet irritation; iit seemed complicated and where was one to get dried cow dung!

But the friend in question was someone one did not brush aside, and if he did it well it was something one had to look at.. and then he had even ordered the required vessel.

i browsed the site and as I discovered that actually it was coming full circle to what i call vedism in preference to the misnomer hinduism: vedism in its purest form where a sacred link exists between creation and the created.

Cow dung was easy to get and so was the rest. A time sheet accompanied the copper vessel and i set out on my journey

Agnihotra is simple, it takes but a few minutes–a smokeless fire of renewable energy, two grains of rice and a simple invocation. A circadian rhythm to be followed as sun rises and sets..

i am sure like everything in vedism, everyone will find what he or she seeks. To me it was re-establishing a connection, re-anchoring one’s self day after a day in times where everything seems to want to destabilise you.
It has also become that one tiny moment in time where the mind is still as you commune with the ultimate and nothing else matters.  I have always found it hard to still my mind, and so meditation and other techniques have failed with me. But this simple act that links me to my roots has changed my life.

Has anyone tried it?

No Guarantee

Without transparency, the law cannot assure employment to the needy

After the passage of the Employment Guarantee Act last year a journalist went to the village Purwa Maan in Hardoi district of UP, one of the 200 districts covered under the Act, to ask how the villagers felt about the new law. Most villagers, except for a few associated with social or political organisations, were not aware of the passage of the new law.

They were then informed of the provisions of the progressive law and encouraged to respond. One old man hesitatingly said that he did not expect that he would overnight start getting his full minimum due wages — Rs 58 for a day’s difficult labour in UP. In his area he would consider himself lucky if he got Rs 30 in a private work and Rs 40 in a government work. For women labourers, the rates would be lower.

The situation remains bleak in spite of promises of the employment guarantee. The norms of the new law are being blatantly violated. Contractors and machines are employed to get the work done. Muster rolls are fabricated with false entries and are not available for public scrutiny. Workers do not get their full payment, especially the ‘food’ component in almost never given. Along with the Food for Work scheme, there is massive siphoning off of foodgrain coming as part of the Public Distribution System.

In panchayat Atwa Danda, for instance, Below Poverty Line ration cards holders have not received a single food grain in the last five years. The situation is not better in other villages across UP.

During the last two years, we see a new phenomenon in UP. There are reports, from mostly the eastern parts, of people dying of hunger and committing suicides when they are not able to pay off their debts. The administration ascribes these deaths to illness or something else.

In village panchayat Nagepur of District Varanasi, a block level official asked the newly elected pradhan to reduce the number of ration cards meant for the poor by three, probably a method adopted by government to show reduction of poverty. Normally, village committees do not have the freedom of deciding the number of ration cards in their village, these decisions are taken by officials. Often decisions are taken without any comprehensive survey. Even in making simple decisions, the bureaucracy does not want to give up its control. The wishes of the people are ignored. Until the people have a say in determining decisions, things will not improve.

Bureaucracy will have to change its mindset. Gone are the days when they could take all decisions by themselves. The Right to Information Act is going to make it more difficult for them to take decisions in an arbitrary manner. They must start relying more on the common people and people’s organisations for implementing important schemes like the Food for Work instead of the contractors and mafia, which right now exercise complete control over the machinery. Until there is transparency in maintaining muster rolls and payments are made, of cash and food grains, according to the rules, once in every seven days, for the workers there cannot be any guarantee of employment.


This article appeared in Indian Express on 28/01/2006.

That Man

Last week I was shooting for a comic scene for one of my films and the doctor, who was doing some tests on someone that I am very close to, informed me that he has cancer of the urinary bladder. The scene was to become funnier as it progressed.

I was sad that even after the news I was still doing those scenes funnily. To some extent I was also feeling guilty. I am sure and hope he’ll be fine with all the medication and an early operation but strangely I remembered a story, again from my childhood.

The story…

There was this man who went to a doctor and told him that he has various illnesses, doesn’t feel hungry, doesn’t feel good about anything and doesn’t feel like living. The doctor examined him and said, that he was suffering with acute depression, and that he has to develop the will to live. He told him to watch funny movies and just try to be happy. The man replied that he has tried everything but nothing works. Suddenly the doctor smiled and laughed loudly and said "I know what can cure you and what can make you laugh. There is this circus going on in town and the joker (clown) is the funniest man he has ever seen. That man can make anybody laugh". The doctor said that he must go and see this circus especially this man who plays the joker. Infact he should go for10 days in a row. The doctor guaranteed him laughter and a strong desire to live through this man. He said he is 100% sure that this man would make him feel better.

The man picked up his medical file quietly and walked towards the door.

The doctor asked him "what happened".

The man replied "I am that man in the circus".

I don’t know why I have shared this story with you or why this story came to my mind. Maybe to feel better or maybe…

Unlikely Classrooms

I remember that one of the persons I cut off my ‘social’ list was the one who declared smuggly.. "I know all.. and do not need to learn anything, anymore’ How pitiable he looked!

This man was a well known and respected person; he had degrees from foreign unisversities, a sound business and a house worth featuring in lifestyle magazines with its pitcure perfect rooms, manicured lawns and pedigreed dogs.. Yet instead of admiring him, I felt extremely sad for one who had condemned himsled to live in darkness for the rest of his life..

I have often said to myself that I would like to learn till my last breath, and learn from everyone and everything.. I guess such an attitude means that you have to accept your shortcomings, your mistakes and your failures… probaly one of the most difficult things to do, more so if you are sitting in a position of power.. so in my set of lessons to children maybe the next one would be to accept your failures and mistakes with humility and above all to look at them as ways to better yourself..

You need to look with your eyes, with your reason but above all with your heart, for only then can you see the full picture.. and take the right decisions.

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