Saturday, April 30, 2011

Many thanks!

Rayna gave me this lovely award a long time ago, after which I sat on it for a very long time, almost a year :(
Thank you, and sorry for not having acknowledged it for so long. I think it is much too late to pass this on, but let me thank Rayna herself for bringing so much sunshine into my life with her brilliant writing, wonderful photographs, delightful sons, incredible warmth and her kindness.
I am glad to have you in my life, and hope to meet you in the real world someday soon!

Sanand gave me The Versatile Blogger award just a few days ago. He does not blog very frequently, but his personal integrity shines through in whatever he writes.
Thank you for considering me worthy of this award. I am supposed to share some little known facts about myself, which is difficult, because I'm sure I've shared all the shareable stuff already!
Let's see what I can rustle up:
1. I can survive for days without watching any TV at all. I also act very dumb around the TV- I watch very silly stuff when I do watch. I need to watch it at least a little more intelligently than I do now.
2. I optimistically pile up newspapers to read again, and then never get round to doing that. Most annoying, since I love my Sunday papers and never manage to do justice to them.
3. There are some people whom I actually find repugnant, whom I find it very difficult to interact with. It might not be their fault, but......
4. I love doing up my house. Very simple stuff, but a lot of thought and effort goes into it.
5. Since I can be very lazy, I'm happy if the SRE travels for a day or two. Longer tours get very lonely though, so I go in for huge cleaning/tidying projects which tire me out.
6. I can happily re-read books that I like, even immediately after finishing them the first time.
7. I'm very fond of lightly steamed vegetables!

Having shared these rather inane facts about me, let me proceed to the good part: passing on this award!
Yasmeen Sait is an old friend but a recent blogger, who writes about various aspects of her life, of different cities, of fascinating people. I love being connected to her life through her blog.
Kiran Manral needs no introduction. She can write about anything from weddings to weighing scales with great elan. She is one of those people who actually make a difference to this often terrible world we live in. Her commitment to what she believes in is just amazing.
Choxbox and I started blogging around the same time. She writes about food, kids, cities, museums, books, her contribution to society and so much more, and generates huge amounts of positive energy. I haven't met her yet, but I know I will, some day.
Uttara writes brilliantly on Hindustani classical music, gardening, law, politics, feminism, dogs, her many travels, and so much more. Definitely versatile!
And last but not least,
Salil Chaturvedi, whom I am proud to call my friend. His blog is a delightful storehouse of poetry, photographs, plants, nature, very profound philosophy, and so much more. The award may not mean very much to him, but is an excuse to send my readers to visit him.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Street Abuse

This happened yesterday afternoon. I was walking down Park Street after paying my mobile phone bill at the Airtel outlet, hoping to see my friendly fruit-wallah there with some good guavas. (In season he has excellent jamun, and often has rose apples and a beautiful, hollow yellow fruit that tastes of rose petals). Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a man who wore filthy clothing and looked deranged crossing my path, and before I knew it he had spat upon me and continued on his way. It was obviously upsetting. I pulled out a handkerchief and wiped my neck, thankful that his spittle had not landed on my face.
Given the fact that he looked both filthy and crazy, I had no intention of confronting him. (Neither did anyone else, obviously). I wonder what triggered this unwarranted attack. I was wearing corduroy jeans and a top with three quarter length sleeves, and dangly earrings. Maybe I was looking happy- the weather was good- cloudy with a good breeze and wee driplets of drizzle.
Whatever the trigger, I hate to say that I am quite sure that despite my being in my mid-fifties, it was a gender based violation.

My fruit-wallah was on the far end of that stretch. He commented on my not being my normal self, and when I told him of this episode, he said that the number of crazies had greatly increased. I did buy some excellent guavas and the rose-petal fruit.

When I reached my car I sat and briefly messaged a friend about this event, was duly sympathized with and tried to forget about it. I obviously haven't succeeded in doing so.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Most intriguing!

On our way back from Delhi last week, we saw a girl in a very heavy bridal outfit on our flight, which landed after ten p.m.
I wondered at how terribly uncomfortable she must have been, in that heavy lehnga and jewellery. It seemed rather strange. According to the SRE, there was just one couple escorting her.
Maybe she was getting married late that night in Kolkata. Maybe she'd escaped from an unwanted wedding. (In which case I'm sure she would have shed some of that jewellery).
The SRE had far more sinister scenarios in mind.
Trust us both to worry about something that is really none of our business!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Still making the children's charts!

We just got back last night from a wedding in Delhi. My oldest child thought that it was too good an opportunity to miss!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On CSA- a brief note

Sexual abuse is insidious, pervasive, and can lurk in the most unexpected corners. As a young child, I never understood why my mother was so particular about never leaving my sister and I alone with male cousins or uncles. If we were staying at my aunt's house, my aunt would be very much there. My sister and I were never ever abused by a family member
As students using public transport in Delhi, we lived with unwanted touches and pinches and gropes, which were sickening but impersonal. Catcalls on the road were also ignored, although most annoying.

Unfortunately, I could not offer the same protection to my own girls. On separate occasions, we had to leave each of our teenage daughters with friends, as they had important school exams to deal with and we had to leave town for a few days, and the couple we left them with were close friends of ours. It was only much much later that we learned from the girls that they had both been groped by the man in question. I was horror struck. The episodes had not occurred while the girls were staying with them, but in a far more daring and insidious fashion. On one occasion we had all been sitting in our friend's front garden, when our daughter offered to make coffee for all of us- given that we had all been very close the girls were quite familiar with my friend's kitchen. A while later the man excused himself- we didn't think twice about it, thinking that he needed to use the washroom. Many years later our daughter told us that he went into the kitchen, tried to fondle her breasts and told her that he loved her. I cannot imagine how shocked and upset the child was. The saddest thing was that she kept this to herself, not even confiding in her own sister till much later, when a similar incident occurred with her sister, with the same man.

By the time we got to know about it, these people had left our town, and our girls were much older, no-nonsense women. It still saddens me immensely to think of these episodes.

The number of people I have met who have been pawed at or groped by their own uncles or grand-uncles is legion. I wonder how we can protect our children without making them totally paranoid about the possibility of abuse. Young boys are also not immune to sexual abuse. In The God of Small Things the entire tragedy was, to my mind, almost directly caused by the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man molesting Estha, and frightening him even more because the child had told him where he lived.

How do we successfully protect our children's innocence without making them fundamentally suspicious of everyone?
It's a question to which I still have no answers.

Edited to add: After reading several heart-breaking posts over this month, the one thing that comes through is that parents' need to listen to their children so that children feel that they can share anything and everything with them, confident in the knowledge that their parents will love them and cherish them and protect them, come what may. Goofy Mumma made a very valuable statement in her post here :one cannot be friends with both the victim and the perpetrator.
As parents we have to be prepared to make that choice, and cut out known perpetrators from our lives, whatever the cost, in order to provide the least bit of justice to our children.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Give blood, save a life

I was reading this post by the redoubtable Ugich Konitari, about her experiences with blood donation and blood banking, and my own experiences of blood donation came whooshing out of my memory bank!
The first time ever was when I was a few months short of eighteen, the official age when you can donate blood.
My mother had been hospitalized and needed several units of blood. My father and my sister were the first to donate. One cousin came forth. His older brother didn't come, allegedly because his wife said "What will happen to our daughter if anything happens to you when you give blood?"
Given that more blood was needed and I was a willing volunteer, my blood group was tested, haemoglobin levels were fine, and I went through my first experience of giving blood. I do remember feeling a little light headed when I sat up, after it was over, but once I'd consumed the carton of juice and biscuits that were given to me, I felt fine and that was that!
After that there was no stopping me. Any blood donation camp in college would find me in the forefront, and it was nothing out of the usual for me to donate a unit of blood every few months.
After completing my Master's degree, I went to work as a lecturer in a college in a small town in Uttar Pradesh. Among my colleagues was a physiology teacher, married to a doctor. It was a women's college, with perhaps a dozen or so lecturers. When a blood donation camp was organized in the college, we needed at least one staff member to volunteer, in order to encourage our students as well as reassure them that it was perfectly safe to donate blood. Of this dozen odd women, some were too old, some were underweight, and a few were anaemic. The physiology teacher and I were both fit to volunteer, but the lady refused to do so, because she had children!!!!!!!! I was appalled- on what basis was she teaching physiology to her students if she had no fundamental knowledge of the physiology of blood, and how soon it regenerates. That she was married to a practising physician made it even more annoying. We had a successful drive, nonetheless!

Marriage and childbirth happened. A debilitating illness also occurred, in the course of which I was hospitalized and also received two units of blood.

As the years passed, the regularity of donating blood went down, but I was always willing to give blood to friends and family members who needed it. After an interval of a year or so since my last donation , a notice in our daily newspaper caught my eye, in which an army officer required my particular blood group for his ailing mother. It seemed to be calling out to me, so I went down to the army hospital and met the officer, and he escorted me to the blood bank. To my utter chagrin, the nurse couldn't find the vein in my arm. I was utterly disheartened, but agreed for the nurse to try a blind prick. You can imagine my joy when a vein was found and the blood emerged! The officer's mother recovered, and I received a very warm letter from him subsequently.

Many years later, a family member required large volumes of blood and plasma for a major surgery. I can never forget the kindness of those strangers who donated blood for this dear one.
Giving one unit of blood may not be a huge act for the donor, but for the recipient it is often the gift of Life itself.

There are, sadly, some religious communities which prohibit blood transfusions. A few months ago I heard of the highly preventable death of a person from such a religious background. I wish that their beliefs could be revised.

I'm now unable to donate blood because I'm on medication for various conditions and am probably too old as well. But if you are of the right age, are not anaemic or underweight, please do donate blood. You give just a little blood, and gain immeasurable good will. You are also given a card that entitles you to receive blood, if you need it for yourself or your family if you are a donor at a blood bank.

It is not difficult. Find out if you are fit enough to give blood. If you are, please do so. And do encourage the people you know to donate blood too. Think about it, talk about it, write about it. Each bit of information will help.