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Kitaab World : Diverse Is Beautiful

I love reading children’s books. Picture books with colored illustrations are my favorite. I enjoy them as much as my children, sometimes even more than them. But as I read them “The Day The Crayons Came Home” or the Elephant and the Piggie books or even the classics like the Red Riding Hood, I also crave to read to them books that I have grown up reading. The Panchatantra, The Folk Tales from India, Akbar Birbal, Goplal Bhad (in Bengali) and many others. I would put in a request to whoever was traveling to India to get some books or search on Amazon like a mad woman.  Continue reading “Kitaab World : Diverse Is Beautiful”

Women’s Day And My Trip To The Police Station

After days of putting it on the back burner, I decided that I will get a work done with for once and all. The work was nothing extraordinary. I had to go to the police station and report a lost passbook (a document used in many banks to keep log of banking transactions). I have crossed this particular police station near my home many times before and observed all kinds of people lining up in front of the station. Some looked harassed, may be they were there to lodge a complaint. Some certainly looked like they had done or were associated with something criminal. There were rowdy, bully sort of people, who could care for nothing. A police station is not a place a woman would ever want to visit in India. That is the primary reason I was putting off my visit for a month now. 
Finally, I mustered the courage and went to the police station yesterday. There was a cop sitting and working at his desk. He noticed the perplexed look on my face. He took a look at the draft of the complaint in my hand and directed me to another officer. I walked into the room next door. There was a cop working on his computer and reading a newspaper. It looked as if he was typing something off the newspaper. There was another one sitting behind a pile of files and folders (unsolved cases perhaps). A few people stood in the room waiting for their turn to discuss their matter. They were being made to wait because the cop has all the authority and no one else dare challenge him, even if the cop was doing nothing. There was an awkward silence in the room, interrupted by the occasional sound of the wireless walkie-talkie every now and then. 
One of the cop looked at me and said, “Madam, What do you need?” 
I handed the draft of my complaint to him. He asked for a valid ID proof, I handed that as well. He then read the complaint (called FIR in India) and said to me, “Please, add you husband’s name to the report.” 
“Why do you need my husband’s name? My passbook is lost. Not his.“ 

“We cannot file it without your husband’s name. We need his name for your identification.” 
That definitely did not make any sense. Sounding a bit furious, I asked the policeman, “If my husband lost his passbook, would you need my name in the report for identification?” 

The people who stood in the room let out a laugh. 
The policeman got severely annoyed. He looked at me, furious, I could tell. “That is the rule. This is how it has been happening for years. If you want to file this complaint, we need you husband’s name on the report for your identification.” 
A woman in many government documents in India, still needs to have a person assigned who is responsible for her, a father or a guardian if unmarried and the husband if she is married. This is after presenting a valid ID proof of her own. A police station in India is not the right place to argue about the validity of such requirement. To avoid being mistreated, very unwillingly I wrote my husband’s name in the report and it was filed. 

This incident happened a day after the world celebrated International Women’s Day. The celebrations seem almost ironic since we still cannot respect the existence of a woman by herself. Women’s day and all the talks around it, seem like a joke. Every woman encounters such challenges here on a day-to-day basis and nothing is still being done to correct it. 

In the face of reality, all this talk about equal place for women in the society, just falls flat. 

Written by : Sonali Banerjee, our regular storyteller. This is based on a real incident that took place this week, just a day after International Women’s Day, 8 March, 2015. 

The Unsung Heroes : The Parents Of India’s Daughter

By now most of you reading this post have already watched the much discussed BBC documentary, India’s Daughter, a documentary film about the heinous crime that took place in Delhi on the night of December 16, 2012.
The Indian government decided to ban the film in India in true reflection of the prevalent traditional attitude in the society of hushing things up. Lets push it under the already over-heaped carpet and pretend it never happened. Well, that is impossible in the age and times of the Internet and Social Media. Clearly the power of which was underestimated.
Several links floated on different social media channels and like many of you, I watched the film. I read that the film has been globally banned now and this is beyond my comprehension. Why?
Enough has been written and said about the documentary already. I have spent hours reading posts and opinions on the film. Yes, the statements from the defense lawyers were beyond outrageous, the accused interviewed did not bear any signs of remorse, the sentence for the juvenile in comparison to the crime committed is non-reconcilable and this is a wide-spread broader issue of how women are looked at in the country. The documentary is about only one such case.
My piece of writing, after seeing the film, is solely dedicated to the courageous and forthright parents of Jyoti Singh.
For when they spoke of their girl, it was with the kind of love one has for their children and with the grief that one suffers on losing a child. The mother narrates that her first words to her daughter after the incident were that they would stand by her, no matter what.  That is rare in the sub-continent where women are shamed for the crimes done against them – domestic violence, harassment for dowry, sexual assaults and rapes. Shamed by the society. Shamed by their own family and loved ones.
A victim becomes a social outcast and most often is disowned by her own family, her own parents. But here the parents stood by her, fought for her even after her death and would have still been by her side today if she were alive. They did not feel shamed for what was done to their daughter. Instead they stood strong, spoke for her and fought for the cause. 
That speaks a lot for itself. That must have taken a lot of courage. They must have faced a lot of hurdles. But they have also set an example for many parents who fail to shelter their own children in the face of meaningless norms and boundaries created by the society.
Shame? Who should be shamed? The victim? Or the accused? Is there any other form of crime where we lay the blame on the victim?
Why blame the society when even the girl’s parents look in the wrong direction in such cases. There is a deep-rooted culture of misogyny in the Indian society and universally as well. One that education cannot diminish single handedly. It will take much more than that.
If education alone could eradicate such behaviorism, we would not have heard those remarks from the “educated and qualified” defense lawyers, said so unflinchingly. Change in mindset begins at home, within the family first. In the patriarchal society, children grow up observing and knowing that women could be treated with disrespect and that treatment is deemed acceptable.
For this reason, Jyoti’s parents are no less than heroes. There stood the grieving eyes of a father holding the fond memories of once teaching his child how to walk, giving her wings to reach her dreams and then living the nightmare that overpowered it all. But their daughter was and will always remain their pride. She will always be loved. She will always be defended no matter what. Some one will always be there to fight for her. Someone will not worry about the stereotypes.
I have nothing but my utmost respect for them. And I hope and pray that every girl has a parent like them. That every daughter is loved and respected at home, even when she has been wronged outside.
Written By : Piya Mukherjee Kalra 

An Undefined Bond Of Love

Love sometimes has no name. It is just pure and blissful like the sunshine. 

In response to our writing prompt – “We had nothing in common and then…”, this story tells how love needs no name. It does not need a definition.  

Sometimes I feel relationships, attachment, love, affection all these are strange words. All these words are somehow always associated with your partner, your siblings, your kids, your parents…rarely with someone else. Recently I read an article about a young man, a self-confessed drug addict, one fine morning fell in love with a stray kitten, and his life changed. If we keep our minds open, we find these GOD-sent people or other living beings or things in our lives when we are in need. 

In my life or as some like to say, during my mid-life crisis I was surrounded by loneliness. My daughter had gone away to college, my husband was posted at a remote mine and I was left all alone. Every day returning home after work was not something I looked forward to. The empty house was there to tease me. Music, books, even the telephone were not  friends anymore. Hours, days, months, turned into four years. How did I survive? 

Because of our neighbor ‘s small granddaughter. She had not started going to school yet. She used to think that both the houses were her own house and we were also her parents. They were vegetarians, but she enjoyed our non-veg food, much to her grandma’s chargin. On weekends when my husband came home, she would come to us with her lunch plate in hand and exchange it with Papa’s (my husband’s) plate.  

We would watch TV together. Between our houses, there was a low boundary wall. She and I, one on each side of the wall, spent the evenings talking about many interesting things. When she used to go to visit her maternal grandparents, I used to miss her a lot  and would repeatedly ask her grandma when she would return. Her grandma would not understand my need and would get irritated and cross. 

Years passed, she started going to school, we had many more secrets to share. Then one day my husband resigned from his job, I also did the same and we decided to sell the house and move across the country to our hometown. She came to know about it but did not utter a word. One week before we moved, she stopped coming to us and started avoiding us. 

On the day we were leaving, before getting into the car, we were exchanging pleasantries with her mom and grandma, but she was not there. I called out her name and my little friend came running towards us. As I bend my head forward, she held it in both her hands and started crying, the front of her white school shirt drenched with tears. 

We have kept in touch over the years. My little friend is a college student now and I call her to wish her on her birthday every year. She will forever have a special place in my heart and I hope I have in her’s too. 

Written by: Swapna Haldar, a teacher, a mother, a grandmother and a storyteller. You can read her other stories here

Love is life ; Love is all the little things we do in life

“Love is an extension of self love”…someone wise had quoted this to me once but the true sense of those words had dawned at me only years later. Although celebrating love needs no special day or even moment (for it is omnipresent and eternal I believe), acknowledging this sense in our lives or rather everyday life seems to be a good tribute.

When I first read the theme for this month, I was amazed, somewhat confused as to how we can portray anything about love without the mention of a person in it; but guess I was wrong for then as I started to pen down my thoughts about the subject, I realized how magnificent the feeling is in itself that it almost has an identity of its own. So I decided to write about my love for LOVE itself (given that there are too many tidbits in my life that I am absolutely in love with).

To me, Love is life; Love is as small as waking up in the morning with a smile to as colossal as finding oneself walking in the seventh heaven of happiness (no matter what the reason is). Love is sharing your favorite chocolate chip muffle with that special someone or walking an extra mile to reach that rustic bookstore (that very few are aware of) round the corner with all its aroma and ambience. 

Love is visiting the forests/mountains/oceans for the infinite time to capture the rarest of the rare in our camera or just for pleasure; Love is finishing up your assignment or putting in an extra hour of work/study to watch the first day first show of your favorite star’s movie; Love is overcoming your own fear to go scuba diving with your friend or children who almost live for it; Love is everything big or small that is beautiful to the eyes and senses. 

Love seems to be reasonless as it knows no leaps and bounds, many a times the only hope to survive when everything else seems bleak. Love is forgiveness and endurance, the willingness to take a chance even in a near lost case. Although sometimes love can end in up heartbreaks and pains (that seem irreparable for the moment), it is love alone that can mend the break for in love we find the strength to trust.   
Love is the biggest and the most significant jigsaw puzzle piece that completes the enigma called life. So let’s fill our lives (and in turn all those lives that we touch every day, we all seem to be connected in some strange way remember?) with so much love that we leave no room for hatred!

Written By : Anindita Sengupta  Picture By : Vipin Kalra 

A Salute To Selfless Love

An officer posted on the border is on duty protecting his nation. The officer’s 75 year old mother is getting ready to go under the knife. She wishes for her son to be by her side. But she knows well, love for motherland comes first and for that she needs to let go of her desire. The officer swallows the lump in his throat too. 

Aporajita Jain cover this beautiful facet of love between her own brother and mother.  A salute to all soldiers, their mothers and their selfless love for their nation. 

His moustache had icicles on them….
His toes frost- bitten….
His fingers numb….
Yet,he stood alert at the borders that night….all night….

At dawn,as the guns paused for a while,
He turned on his cell and eagerly texted his mom…
“Ma,i love you….
Ma, i’ll be home soon…”

Close to her seventy-fifth b’day,
She was going under the knife for the first time….
She looked at his message again….yet again….
“He says he’s on his way….”
We smiled….
“Yes, he is……”

We knew he wasn’t….couldn’t be….
For he was standing with his men in knee- deep snow,
Where the silence of the valleys was being pierced by the gunshots…..

His heart was with his mother….
He craved to be with her….
But he put his hand on his heart…
Hardened his nerves…
Wiped his moist eyes….
And remembered his oath….
“….me and my family will come last….
Always and every time….”

Salute the mother,who taught him to love….
His Motherland….
Salute the son,for whom ‘The Oath’ is etched in stoned to this day….
Salute you, brother,for your selfless love….. 

Authored By : Aporajita Jain 
Picture By : Smita Ranjan Keron 

A Bouquet Of Flowers

In response to our request for a mushy romantic story, here is a narration by one of our readers. She is keeping it anonymous and we can understand why. 

He sent her flowers that got delivered to her roommate instead. He had not put a name on the card thinking she would understand. The roommate who received the flowers (while being a little surprised), thought it was her’s because she had recently met someone and had taken quite a bit of liking for him. The roommate emailed this “someone” and asked for a dinner date later that night. That date and many other dates later, they decided to get engaged. Make it official. 

Just at the onset of the engagement party, she said to him, “Thank you for sending me flowers on Valentine’s day. If not for that gesture, we would not be here today.” He told her he had not sent her any flowers and they had laughed about it. How wicked! She had accepted someone else’s flower and fallen in love herself. 

Later that night, realization hit ground. Those flowers were never meant for her. It came in for her friend, her roommate. She perhaps knew from where. Though a wild shot, she took a chance. The next day she called the guy that she thought had sent the flowers. Jackpot ! She was right. He was the one who had sent the flowers. Flowers that she had received. Flowers that were not meant for her. Flowers that were sent to her friend, her roommate. 

Months had passed by then. The friend, the designated recipient of the flowers had moved cities. The guy who sent her the flowers had not made another attempt. Too much of a gentleman, he had not felt it right to bother a girl who had not responded in the first attempt. Sigh ! 

That night both former roommates got onto Skype and the flower delivery saga was discussed. 

“You mean, he likes me?” 
“Yes. Of Course. It is written all over him.” 
“He never said a word. Even the night when I was moving, he dropped me at the airport. I was hoping he would say something.” 
“He thought you were not interested. He was being nice.” 
“What do I do now? “ 
“What do you want to do? 

She knew exactly what to do and she did so without any hesitation. She sent him an email with this message. “Hi, You got the right address but the wrong person last time. Here is the right address for the right person. That is, if you still wish to send flowers.” 

He did send her flowers and the rest as they say, “They lived happily ever after!”

Happy Valentines’s Day everyone ! 

Love is beautiful, love is overrated.

Love is beautiful, love is overrated… But what is love?

We have all fallen prey to love without even knowing what is love. Love is life, love is power, love is obsession, love is desire. There is no life without love, yet we often fail to define the power of love. Sometimes we are obsessed with love and sometimes it is beyond our logical minds to explain the desire for love. But we love to say, “I’m in love”!

Keeping up with its pace and entwined in the labyrinth of life, we seldom ask ourselves, what do we love? We often accept what we are told to love. Love is illusion, love is enlightenment, love is conscience love is enchantment. Sometimes we are in the illusion of being in love and sometimes we feel enlightened after receiving love. Love awakens our conscience and our souls and we feel enchanted by love. But who knows what is love?

Love is inexplicable, love is unreasonable, yet, love is desirable, love is irresistible! 

Written by : Jolly Datta. Jolly Datta, the newest writer on the block is an engineer by profession, a poetess and a die hard romantic at heart and a mother of two beautiful children. 

Pingu – The Soulmate

In response to our writing prompt :We had nothing in common and then…  / They had nothing to say to each other and then…. (where we hinted at writing about a friend, a soulmate, a life partner), here is a surprising response from another young author. We were in awe of the loving relationship between the author and his soulmate – Pingu. 

I have a penguin that I got when I was four years old. I’ve had him for six years now. He has been with me in all the states that I’ve lived in: Illinois, Florida, and California. He accompanies me on all my trips, in the country and abroad. His name is Pingu. I named him after the T.V. show that I used to watch, Pingu. We have a special relationship, the two of us. And here are many reasons why.
I help Pingu. I made a house for him. I collect miniature objects for him, such as chairs, tables, sofas, closets, food, toys, and more. But I never sleep with him. He’s so tiny that he always gets lost in the blanket. That’s why I got him a mini wooden bed, a mini pillow, and a mini blanket. I also had my aunt design some bed linen for him. Last Christmas he got a mini dog as a pet. Once, I got my sister to sew a vest for him. Above Pingu’s house is a whole wall about him, covered in pictures of penguins and the story of how he came into my life! When I used to watch the show Pingu, he would watch it with me. He even has a rocking chair. Sometimes I draw him and his antics. But there are also many ways that he helps me.

At six years old, there’s a lot that Pingu can do. He helps me when I have injuries. When I get hurt, he sits next to me, which cheers me up. That’s how much he comforts me. But Pingu also  helps me have fun. I can toss him in the air, kick him like a soccer ball, and do all sorts of stuff like that with him. He doesn’t mind one bit! That just fits in some parts of his daily exercise. In darkness, his mini Christmas tree lights up the room. That’s how he helps me.

Pingu is a six-year old penguin who has lived with me his whole life. We communicate with each other by special telepathic brainwaves. My family hasn’t implanted the messaging chips yet, so they can’t hear him. We have a special relationship that is thicker than blood. Pingu is the best penguin ever!

Story and Pictures by: Shish Kabob – an intrepid adventurer, a cartoonist and an aspiring young author.

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