Thursday, December 10, 2015

FTII : Put them on mute mode

My dear family, friends, colleagues and students,

When I posted "Dark days ahead - be prepared to resist!" on 16 May 2014, little did I anticipate the heroic struggle of the FTII students in Pune. Their protest, resistance and struggle has given me, and thousands of other upright & patriotic citizens, the hope and courage to carry on.

Khushboo Upadhyay, my diploma student, passed out from the Department of Communication of Journalism, University of Pune, in 2011. Later, she joined the Acting Department at FTII, Pune.

I asked Khushboo, one of my most sincere & honest students, to write about the struggle of the FTII students, which is an inspiration to students and to citizens who uphold "dissent in democracy".

She wrote the piece on 30 August 2015. But somehow, I forgot to post it on my blog. Sorry, my dear Khushboo, I post it now. 


Intolerance is not new to India or the world. Socrates and Tukaram faced it.

"Intolerance has been growing" for as long as we can remember: since the Partition of 1947; the Indira Emergency of 1975-77; the anti-Sikh riots of 1984; the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and the subsequent blasts & riots in Mumbai; the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat of 2002.

Three scholars have been assassinated by intolerant fanatics: Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi.

The FTII strike may be over. But, like all struggles to uphold "dissent in democracy" across the world, their resistance and protest goes on ... 

I will always remember the questions of the FTII students.

By Khushboo Upadhyay



I sit here at the window of my room, in my home, thinking about my friends “striking” on the campus of our film-school in Pune. We are kilometres apart. But I can feel every bit of the pain & frustration they are going through. 

They are my batch-mates, my friends. It's my batch, who is fighting. I was in the Acting Department, which has only a two-year course. So I left the place earlier. My friends got stuck in the strike.

The guys especially (Vikas Urs, Ranjit Nair, Pradyatan Bera), whom I see debating with ‘intellectuals?’, shouting slogans, asking questions, on TV channels today, were the most what you call ‘polite, quiet, low profile’ men on campus. We worked together. We shared feelings; our pasts, our memories, our dreams for the future; our expectations from each other.

And so many more things beyond …

I feel terrible that I can't do anything, now for them; other than mulling over the situation, writing about it (the maximum I can do is write). I feel dependent, caged, in an independent state.

There they are questioning, protesting; getting beaten up, going to jail, sleeping sleepless nights; counting days, minutes & seconds; waiting for THE decision.

Am I talking about thieves? rapists? law breakers? criminals? politicians? high-profile people? You would think so. But ...  

No! No! No!  

None of them.  

I am talking about students, who are protesting against the illogical steps taken by their government for their school.

Their only fault -- they are FILM students.



*****

Film? Yes, that thing which gives you “entertainment”. Ohhhh that Saturday-Sunday thing? There is a school for that? Who studies there?

Definitely some drop-outs, brainless creatures. Obviously, they can’t be some of the best brains in the country. The best brains go abroad; they don't wait for government answers.

And who needs to study Art, anyways? It’s inborn. You are either born with talent, or not. There should definitely not be a school for that. Bullshit!

Ohhhh, there is one? World wide, film-makers respect it? We give national awards to them, each passing year?

Then we should do something about it. 

Please ask that guy, what’s his name? The one who leads our rallies, somewhere. He does some TV shows, and some films to entertain people at night. I have seen him give a speech in bhakti samarohs. You remembered the name? No. Let go of the name. Just ask him to head them.

And ask 2-3 more of our supporters, who made PowerPoint presentations, during the elections to be his core team. They know how and which slides to keep.

They will definitely see to it that our children will show the best slides of our nation to the world.

Task completed.



*****


The students are protesting against it.

Students? Please.

Our children, they are.  

Please ask the PT teachers to give them punishment.

Task completed.



*****


Still protesting? Forget it. Ignore.

Children, if ignored, listen to their parents. There is nowhere else they can go or do.

They are watching world cinema, organising film festivals, making superlative art, listening to lectures by eminent personalities and documenting their lives, using such harmful ways to protest.

Today's kids!

Start examinations, ask them to show their projects. They haven’t completed it? These are unannounced, wrong assessments? Teachers are against it too? Remove such teachers.

Send letters to their parents. Tell the nation their tax money is being used by these kids. These kids are irresponsible and ungrateful.

So what if they earned their admissions by passing exams? Any Tom, Dick and Harry can study, make films, photograph, write scripts, act, and so on?

My assistant clicked so many pictures of our beautiful visits abroad. Such good photographer he is. See! Without wasting time, in getting educated.

And we did every bit to upgrade their course. Coloured campus walls, hanged paintings, put AC in the offices, wallpapers in departments. But to no avail. Poor tax-payer’s money is going down the drain and the nation is not progressing. All due to these children not submitting class projects.

But their parents are law-abiding citizens, paying taxes; their school seniors pay hefty amounts in the name of various taxes.
 
So what? They didn’t do homework. If they protest now, pack them up and lock them in a room. The darkness will frighten them, enough.

Task completed.



*****



THEY ARE STILL ASKING QUESTIONS.

Their seniors also did the same thing. They ask a lot of questions.

Put their situation in mute mode. Like always. Enough time wasted.

You know today there is golden long-grain biryani for lunch with delegates. But you were fasting? I can eat once a day during fasts. And you should never say, “No, never insult it, never ask questions."
 
Our sanskàars.


*****


Postscript, dated 10 December 2015: "My batch-mates, who were actively involved, now say 'Let us just concentrate on our working and filming. That can be our only way of agitation now.' "

Your support is my strength.

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India; Thursday, 10 December 2015.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My idol, my grand-father: “I am working for the public and not for publicity”


My dear family, friends, colleagues, students and well-wishers,

Amrita Haldipur, SIMC-2006, one of my most sincere & honest students, leads marketing for National Geographic Channel in India. On the 95th birth anniversary of her grand-father, the late Bhalchandra Ambadas Haldipur (1917-1992), she wrote his story.

By Amrita Haldipur

This is a story that I have been wanting to share since a long time now. It’s special, very close to my heart, something that makes my heart swell with pride and brings the widest smile. The hero of my story is my idol, my grandfather.

His name was Bhalchandra Ambadas Haldipur (1917-1992). We all fondly called him ‘Daddy’.

The ONLY person I have ever been scared of. And that fear came from the immense respect I had for him, for the school of discipline he belonged to.

Born in 1917, he joined the Bombay City Police in 1939 as Sub-Inspector, and retired in 1975, as the Deputy Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

He was forced to leave studies midway and join the police. But he went on to become a successful police officer of his time and won accolades for his achievements: he was awarded the President’s Police Medal in 1956 and the President’s Police & Fire Service Medal in 1975.

I was 10 when Daddy passed away in 1992, but the memories he left behind, as a result of his deep-rooted values and beliefs, charming personality; the aura he created, when he was with his family and friends; his tongue-in-cheek humour in the most difficult times, his last words to me – are nuggets that help me move on and lead a life in all its fullness.

Here is why he is special –

Thoroughly ‘clean and incorruptible’, he was known for his tireless and thorough investigations, and fearless drive against crime during his hectic career spanning 36 years in the police force. Whether working in the Crime Branch or Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), he remained a courageous, fearless crime-fighter, who led his men from the front.

*****
My grand-mom has always had interesting tales to tell us about the way he worked. One of my favourite anecdotes is the way he nabbed two of Mahatma Gandhi’s killers – Narayan Apte and Vishnu Karkare in 1948. What set him apart in his investigation procedures was a set of sketches he drew during his chase and trial of the killers.

Sifting through the album, containing yellowish sheets of these sketches, my grand-mom would go on to say:

“Daddy was part of the special cell to trace Gandhiji’s assassins. A team set out to scour the country for the absconders soon after January 30th, 1948.


“And he was asked to track Apte and Karkare, two of the co-conspirators of Nathuram Godse in the assassination. He was posted in the Red Fort, Delhi, during the entire trial period. He drew images of whoever he met – be it the then DSP of Delhi, a sub-inspector at Gwalior, a Pune tailor or an IAF official, for the record.

“During the chase, for weeks, he did not come home, and we didn’t know where he was. (You’ll are lucky to live in the day and age of mobile phones. I wish I had some such help to avoid the sleepless nights, wondering where he is and how is he.) He survived on raw eggs and followed the two from Gwalior to Ahmednagar, their hometown.

“During the days, he would go hunting for both, with guns; and during the nights, he sketched those he met or interrogated, with pencils.

"The day Apte and Karkare checked into Pyrkes Apollo Hospital, near Regal Cinema in South Mumbai, under assumed names, Daddy finally nabbed them, after waiting there for them for seven hours."


*****    
Besides this major investigation, he was a key official in the Justice Kapur Commission, set up by the Govt. of India to investigate into various events leading to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

During the completion of 150 years of the Mumbai Police Commissionerate, he was declared as one of the most important police officers from the Mumbai Police Division to have significantly contributed to the country in the immediate post-independence era.

And this wasn’t all. There was more to him.

A body builder; a pole-vault gold medallist at the National Olympics in 1940; a multi-linguist (he had passed three examinations in Urdu, while in service); started the annual Ganesh Chathurthi festival at Santa Cruz Police Station; one of the founders of the Senior Citizens’ Club of Bombay; a music and instrument buff.

A sincere friend; a loving husband, father and grandfather. Above all, a selfless and modest man. He never discussed his work at home or spoke about his achievements and never let anyone promote him either.

All he said was, “I am working for the public and not for publicity.”

He is the real cool dude, who won hearts at work and in life for his discipline, at a time when there was no media, no PROs, no unnecessary tamasha.

If I had a time machine, I would have had only one wish – more time with Daddy. But I’m glad I have no such privilege, because he would have only been disheartened to live and watch the country go to dogs today, as far as corruption and discipline are concerned.

We miss you, Daddy! 

*****
Amrita describes herself as “a vagabond, a people-watcher, a dream chaser” on her blog ‘Being Footloosish’ (a diary of my favourite life experiences that have made me richer with each passing day). I have edited her story of her 'Daddy'. Click here for the original, written as an FB note on 26 August 2012 and posted on her blog on 29 August 2012.

Since I wrote a five-part memoir of my mother on this blog in 2009, I have encouraged my family, friends, colleagues and students to write about the persons who enriched their lives.

Amrita Haldipur’s story of her grand-father is one in this series. I hope others will feel motivated to send me their stories of people who mattered to them - for publication on my blog.

Your support is my strength.Peace and love,
- Joe.


Pune, India; Sunday, 7 September 2014.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Taher Shaikh, editor and a guru to reporters in Pune, is no more


The late Taher Shaikh (1941-2004) was one of the three senior-most reporters, along with Harry David and Y.V. Krishnamurthy, who personified Maharashtra Herald (MH), the local daily English newspaper, published in Pune during 1963-2003.

Taher passed away in Pune on 21 May 2014. He leaves behind his wife Saeeda, daughter Farheen and son Suhail and four grand-children. With my colleagues at MH and other papers in Pune, I share in the grief of his family.

When I joined MH in 1983 as a sub-editor, Taher was at the peak of his reporting career. One of my gurus, Taher held my hand as I learned editing.

In the piece that follows, Babu Kalyanpur, my colleague at the MH Desk, pays tribute to Taher, the story-teller.

*****

By Babu Kalyanpur

A great journalist and a thorough gentleman has passed into the Blue Yonder, now sharing his vast repertoire of tales with the gods.

Taher was endearing. No airs, despite his decades-old experience as a newsman. Young or old, you could count on him, any time.

So many young cubs, ensnared by the glamour and the glitter, were taught the grim realities of, what they thought was, a romantic profession. Taher gave it straight as it comes: a story here and an anecdote there. If you were quick on the draw you picked it up.

No egos involved; no “I am better than you” attitude. Taher understood that every budding scribe needs help, not sniggering comments.

It wasn't just the young hopefuls. He was also the man to go to, whenever there was a crisis. And there were many during the old days. Nothing illustrates his attitude better than the Tale of the Power Cut.

Back in the 1980s, a major grid failure caused darkness in many parts of Maharashtra. Pune city was almost in total darkness. Most newspapers gave up hope and scrapped their editions. There was no option but for MH to follow suit.

This writer, on duty, was still waiting, eternally hopeful. And Taher, as was his wont, was among the last man standing at work. It was getting to nearly 1am. Time was running out.

Just a casual question, about whether there was any hope at all, turned into action. A few phone calls and Taher had information that there was only one newspaper, which had electricity and was printing. There was no stopping after that. Taher called the owners and within minutes we went there and got the issue out.

The point here is that Taher knew everybody. Like a good journalist, he made his contacts and kept in touch with them regularly. It could be an office clerk or a minister, Taher knew them.

He was literally 'King' when it came to the Pune Municipal Corporation. He had inside stories which nobody would get.

That extended to court cases too. He was thorough and accurate when reporting these. His easy style and economy of wordage made the job easier for us, at the desk. Like good journalists, he wrote simple and to the point.

MH was lucky to have such top-shot pioneers – Harry David, Y.V. Krishnamurthy and Taher Shaikh – at the same time: a combined experience of more than 100 years.

Taher was a great fan of cricket and, in his middle-age, even played the game for MH. His only drawback in later life was the “Yes, no, maybe” while running between the wickets, which once earned the ire of this writer. But then …

Back on 15 March this year, a get-together was arranged, for which Taher also came. It was heart-breaking to hold this frail man by the hand and help him to the Food Court at Dorabjee's. Age and disease had their say on this fit and sprightly man. However, his spirit, slightly dimmed, was still there.

This was the last time this writer saw him. And was honoured to give him a helping hand. Must put that picture away now.

And remember Taher Shaikh, smoking incessantly, holding court with tales of yore at the MH office!

*****

Please add your tribute to Taher in the comments.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dark days ahead – be prepared to resist!

My dear family, friends, colleagues, students and well-wishers, 

Democrats and freedom-fighters in India are prepared for the dark days, now ahead of us.

Life goes on ... Such dark days have ended; they have prepared us for today:
  • The Emergency of 1975-77, imposed by Indira of the Indian National Congress (INC).
  • The anti-Sikh riots of 1984, following the assassination of Indira, when the INC was in power.
  • The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) / Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • The riots, following the terrorist attack in Mumbai, in 1992.
  • The privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation (LPG) of the Indian economy since 1992, begun by Manmohan Singh of the INC and continued by the BJP/NDA.
  • The anti-Muslim riots of March 2002, when Modi of the RSS/BJP was CM in Gujarat.

The sad fact, which democrats have to understand and accept, is that the forces of darkness can be elected by a majority.

Such forces of darkness have been elected in earlier times:
  • Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy.
  • Reagan in USA and Thatcher in Britain.
So, India in 2014 is not the first time.

How do ordinary people resist the forces of darkness?

From personal experience and lessons learned from resistance movements, I suggest:
  • Listen to your inner voice, ie, conscience. Be sincere & honest. No indoctrination or intimidation can silence the inner voice.
  • Trust working people 100%: work patiently and learn from them.
  • Do not submit to the dictates of authority. Resist the personality cult; do not glorify the rights of the individual, especially the rich.
  • Resist temptation.
  • Question constantly till U are satisfied.
  • Our earth belongs to the citizens of the world. 
  • Democracy and freedom are for ALL: the poor need them the most.

Your support is my strength. 

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India; Friday, 16 May 2014.

Monday, April 7, 2014

AAP raises sincere & honest hope in me


My dear family, friends, colleagues, students and well-wishers,

The Aam Aadmi Party, with its strong & forthright anti-corruption plank, has raised hope in me and all of us – sincere & honest human beings and Indians – for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Many social activists, like Medha Patkar, who have worked “against the tide” for decades in mass organisations and taken up social causes for the working poor in cities and villages, have been nominated as AAP candidates.

I share a past – “against the tide” – too with such social activists, of having taken active part in mass organisations and social work at the grass-roots, during the decade 1973-83:
·        ‘Alleviating distress’ in the drought-prone villages of Pathardi taluka, Ahmednagar district, Maharashtra, during 1973-77;
·        Working to build the Centre for Education & Documentation (CED), Mumbai, during 1977-80;
·        Taking science to the working masses, with the Science Education Group, Mumbai, and Lok Vidnyan Sanghatana, Maharashtra, since 1977;
·        Working with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) at Kaju Tekdi, Bhandup, Mumbai, with the late Comrade Prabhakar Sanzgiri,
·        And many other such activities.

Having joined newspaper journalism full-time, firstly at Maharashtra Herald, Pune, during 1983-96 and then Gomantak Times, Panaji, Goa, during 2003-04; and teaching print journalism, as a regular visiting faculty at University of Pune, since 1987, and SIMC, since 1990; I have kept in regular touch with social and political causes.

Claude Alvares, one of my close & dear friends, since St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, in the late 1960s, is a founder of the Goa Foundation and Other India Bookstore in Goa.

Below Claude writes about two such AAP candidates, who are standing for the two Lok Sabha seats from Goa. His profiles of Dattaram Desai and Swati Kerkar, posted on FB on 31 March and 5 April respectively, have been slightly edited by me.

*****

“Dr Dattaram Desai, the AAP candidate from North Goa, did something that few Goans ever thought possible: get rid of Du Pont, America’s largest chemical multinational. Even now when one looks at his frail frame, it strains the imagination how this slim individual (with his village folk) could pit himself against such unimaginable corporate power and win!

Dattaram is everything that one longs for in an election that sends people to India's highest law making body – Parliament. He is committed to social issues: I have rarely found him absent from meetings called to discuss social campaigns or problems. Like Dr Oscar Rebello, he is a medical doctor very well known in Ponda, Kerim and Savio Verem.

“He is so well respected that, when SP Gautam arrested him at the height of the anti-Du Pont campaign, took him to the Ponda police station, and stripped him of his clothes in order to humiliate him, the whole of Ponda went into a rage. After that, it was downhill all the way for Du Pont. All the King's Horses and All the King's Men could not put Humpty Duponty together again.

The villagers of Querim and Savio Verem taught us Goans courage of extraordinary quality. They crashed into the Du Pont property and demolished an entire building. In order to prevent access by the police, they dug up a one metre segment of the tarred road that led to the Du Pont plot. They prevented Du Pont's helicopter from landing thereafter. After Nilesh Naik, one of Dr Desai's close agitators was shot dead by police, Du Pont staff and security were escorted out of the town by Dr Desai's men and told to run, run, run and get out before any further harm came to them. Then the people invaded the offices of DuPont in Ponda and reduced everything to ashes, including batches of 500 rupee notes used to bribe officials.

(For details see articles in “Corporate Watch” and “Do or Die" – Voices from the Eco Resistance.)

After that, Du Pont not only dismantled its plans to set up in Goa or India, it stayed out of Asia. It is yet to return! My god, anyone will ask in awe, what sort of man is this?

That's why I like this guy: difficult to hug him because he is too thin. We got some idea of his determination when Du Pont came calling, despite being told to stay away. 

"I think, if I want this place called Goa to be protected from corporates and other thieves of the public spaces and resources that are ours; if I want a decent, honest bloke to represent me and my family and neighbours with consummate intelligence, from all sorts of public perfidy, manipulation, self-interest and greed; if I want to make one decision that I will not regret even in the next generation, then I can only think of Dr Dattaram Desai.

*****

"Do you know that there was one single person – and that too a very young Goan woman – who played key roles in the popular Goan agitations that got rid of 18 Special Economic Zones (SEZ) in a single day; the agitation against the white elephant airport at Mopa; the Goa Bachao Andolan which revolutionized village level land use planning through the Regional Plan 2021; India Against Corruption, the Goenchea Xetcarancho Ekvott (Goan Farmer’s Union) and the Goenchea Ostoreacho Awaaz (Goan Women’s Voice)?

"Do you know that the same woman was also with the Vasco Khariawada protest against the attempt to displace fisher-folk from their traditional locations, and that she also helped organize the women vegetable vendors of Panaji market to form an association and secure their rightful space there?

"In your mind, you’re going to say, Wow! That’s the effect of Swati Kerkar on people. Swati is AAP's candidate for the south Goa Lok Sabha seat. I am doing the honours because I am convinced she is the country's political future.

"Swati sometimes shadows, sometimes over-shadows Dr Dattaram Desai’s activism in many ways. Both are jewels in the Goan crown. We Goans can be well and truly proud that we have come up with these two amazing, blemish-free, activist-candidates for Parliament who have shown in the past that they are capable of changing things.

"One cooked Du Pont’s goose. The other knocked the shit out of SEZ.

While the entire country in fact is still trying to get rid of SEZs, imagine conking 18 SEZs in a single day!

"Swati’s the only woman candidate nominated in this Lok Sabha election. Of course, she’s with AAP. And yes, none of the other candidates can match her record in organizing those significant political battles either. Or the coherence, clarity and passion of her speeches.

I saw her ramrod straight, at the AAP meeting in Panaji. She has not an inch of extra flab. She is spartan in her ways. She doesn’t go abroad (she doesn’t have the money). Many of her supporters have pooled in funds to make it possible for her to pay the security deposit which was needed to file her nomination: typical AAM ADMI heritage. She is not seen at socializing parties or fashionable malls.

"She did not ask for the South Goa Lok Sabha ticket. She was simply asked to take the challenge by all the activists, men and women, of South Goa because she represented the best this country can offer as a woman, as a speaker, as an activist, as someone who cares about injustice and simply can’t sleep if she sees it around.

"She has taken up the cases of a number of young victims of rape and molestation, including the investigation of a rape case involving a schoolteacher in which the victim committed suicide due to harassment. Nothing appears to faze her.

"This deadliness about social injustice issues, this fearlessness against odds, she has inherited from Shridhar Kerkar, one of our better known freedom fighters. But good news, she can smile as well.

*****

Claude concludes his two FB profiles:

I hope hundreds of you who think like me will vote for Dattaram and Swati. We want corruption-free men and women. We want elimination of corruption. We want a corruption-free society and republic.

“So why would we, from North Goa, bypass Dr Dattaram Desai -- who has never been associated with corruption all his life -- and vote for candidates and parties whose very soul is corruption? So fellow-Goans from South Goa, also be good to Swati on the 12th of April.

“If you send these two sincere & honest human beings to Delhi, they'll join Kejriwal and put this country on the right track, out of the sewer, into which the conventional parties have taken it.

“If you agree with what I am saying, send this message around to everyone who will count on April 12. If you can translate it, that would be even better.”

“Thanks!” – Claude Alvares.

*****

Hundreds of AAP candidates, like Dattaram Desai and Swati Kerkar from Goa, deserve our precious vote in the Lok Sabha constituency to which we belong. I say, "Seek them out and vote for them!" 

Here in Pune, I vote for Subhash Ware of the AAP.

This blog-post is dedicated to all my justice-loving, sincere & honest Goan friends -- in Goa, India and across the only Earth, we share. Claude’s clarion call must move us out of our complacent chairs and into the polling booths when Goa goes to vote.

One year (2003-04) in Goa, as editor of Gomantak Times, demonstrated to me the corruption of both the Parrikar-led BJP and numerous Congress governments.

Like my favourite song by John Lennon "Give Peace a Chance", I say, "Give AAP a Chance" in Goa.


Your support is my strength.

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India; Monday, 7 April 2014.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The late Rupali Hota: a voice from our past speaks to us today



“Rupali Hota (July 14, 1975 - December 15, 2008), the second-born child of Prasanna and Rama Hota, was born to be a star. As a child, she donned her mother’s highest heels and tottered about boldly, much to the delight of her doting parents. As a teenager, she was the maverick leader of her sisters and idol for her cousins.

As a young woman, she grew up to be a fashionista, a journalist, a food critic, a teacher. Not only was she vivacious, generous and spirited but she also gave herself completely to those she loved.

“Most knew Rupali as a fantastic friend, a darling daughter and sister, a perfect wife and an exemplary mother. However, few knew that she was also a painter, a singer, a dancer, an actress and a talented writer.

She was extraordinary, accomplished and greatly loved. Her jokes, her laughter, her endearments will echo in our minds. In her smiles, she hid her pain, only to keep us laughing and joyous. She lives on in our hearts and in Nirvaan.

Another beautiful young life lost to Fate!!

“R.I.P. Princess!!! Love you …!!!”

*****

Rupali, an SIMC alumni, was also one of my most sincere and honest students. Simrin Chahal, her close & dear friend from college, runs an open FB group called “R.I.P. Rupali”. The above tribute is taken from that FB page.

At my request, Simrin sent me one of Rupali’s articles, which was recovered from Rupali’s computer. Though it is incomplete, I am posting it ‘as is’ on the occasion of Rupali’s death anniversary. She passed away on 15 December, five years ago.

______________________

By Rupali Hota

The chilly fall wind had blown the leaves everywhere and the tree stood bare trying to shield its nakedness. Just a minute ago, it was beautifully wrapped in the red and yellow-colored splendor and now there was nothing. A recycling bin and garbage can were its only companions on the lonely street corner, where a big bold sign was placed in front of the larger-than-life model home. “Prices Reduced”, it said. The home was striking, in an unsightly way: very brown and very large and a bit smug. Even the breeze went around it to revel in the sights of the beautifully landscaped backyard with the fire pit and the meticulously planted flower beds. It had taken a month or even more to put together this amazing feat of labor and it showed.

But Naima hated it.

Naima was a middle-aged Muslim housewife, who lived next door to the sights and sounds of the model home. Her husband, Afzal, was a pleasant and lazy man, who made a living selling New Zealand lamb and organic chicken in a tiny smelly store on the wrong side of town. Naima herself worked behind the counter, saving money on hiring extra employees, while her husband listened to the music of the machine grating and cutting through the gristle and bone of the meat and packed them swiftly in little bags to hand them over. It was after fifteen years of living in a one room apartment in a shoddy neighborhood where homeless hobos rummaged through the garbage for food and cigarette stubs that they had put away enough money to put down for a home in this upper class community. It had its own park and a man-made lake with duck and geese swimming in it.

An ordinary life, coupled with a barren womb, had held her back, keeping her aloof and remote in her grief. Moving into her own home made her feel alive again. She went for long walks in the drizzle that always kept Seattle green and lush and sat on a bench next to the lake, listening to the throaty croaking of the frogs, seemingly immune to the rain falling on her head. People ran and jogged by her, wondering at the brown lady sitting in the rain, busy with their schedules and their appointments, too busy to stop their pace. She didn’t mind. Her eyes were too busy absorbing the tranquility of the scene, a far cry from her cramped and smelly workplace.

Her home in the neighborhood was beautiful too. They bought it when it had been just a piece of land and had personally chosen the finish and colors of the house. It was the end of a deep struggle and was their haven after a long and tired day of rank odors and thankless customers. Her favorite part of the day was to escape to her big bathroom and take a hot bath in the jetted tub with fragrant bath salts. The woman suppressed by the grind and bustle of mundane life turned into a water nymph, electrifying and seductive in her abandonment to this simple pleasure.

Soon her views from the bathroom window got darker and, to her dismay, a very sizable home next door seemed to have blocked the lake. The model home was built with great speed to attract future customers and had been adorned with every upgrade there was to offer. Her bath time shortened and the smells from the bottles of bath salts fell flat. ‘All these years and all this work and she couldn’t even be in her favorite place in peace now.’

Afzal had loved his evenings in his new home. Their lonely and isolated lives had new warmth as he waited for Naima to come out of her bath everyday, looking oh so happy and fresh! They would then eat their dinner in bed together, watching the Indian channels she so enjoyed, their bodies touching each other, radiating camaraderie. They had no children, an unspoken sadness between them for years, finally taken over by their new baby, their dream home.

But Naima seemed to have become moody lately and did not seem too eager to come back home from work and it worried him. He would see her looking out of the bathroom window listlessly, playing with her graying hair; staring at the brown walls of the home next to theirs. This new house had been her child and he had thought she was happy. Maybe he was wrong. He sighed, muted by the silent melancholy that always surrounded their life.

Every morning before work, Naima would go into the model home and wish the realtor in her beautifully decorated office. The real estate market had crashed, but the realtor was there unfailingly, convincing the diminishing trickle of potential buyers about the rebounding economy and the good investments to be made by buying a home. Naima saw the realtor’s confident smile getting brittle every day, shadowed by an ailing mother in the nursing home and rising dry cleaning costs of her branded work clothes.

Naima entered the house everyday and after greeting the realtor, took her customary tour around the house to see new upgrades. She never got tired of looking at the warm tiles in the bathroom; the bedroom turned into a theatre room and, of course, her all-time favorite, the television in the mirror of the bathroom!!! The rich furnishings and trimmings of the model home titillated and angered her and she would go to work in their little shop with a vengeance, counting out money and tallying receipts, her eyes filled with faraway yearning.

The week after, everything changed. As she entered the model home, the realtor was unusually busy, not bothering to look up at Naima, who had become the crazy Indian lady fixture of the day. “It seems like your morning routine will be different from next week,” she said, busily chewing on her acrylic nails. “Why is that?” Naima asked confusedly. “Are you not going to be here anymore?” ‘Maybe her mother is really ill’, thought Naima to herself, saddened by her realization. “No, I will not be. I have just sold the home and the new owners will be here.”

The realtor seemed animated as she told Naima the details, oblivious to the pinched look on her face. ‘That’s it. Life was so unfair. Now she won’t even be able to come in and enjoy the ambience anymore. Now she would have to be in her bathroom, sans the window view, looking at this gargantuan house from the outside.’ Not bothering to say farewell, Naima rushed out, rubbing angry tears which threatened to escape. The realtor looked after her retreating figure thoughtfully, thinking about how lucky she was to get that commission to pay for her mother’s nursing home bills.

The week passed in a blur and the movers van came and went. The garbage bin started being put outside the house on Thursdays and the big bold sign came off. The new neighbors left cookies at Naima and Afzal’s doorstep to say hello and decorated their windows with colorful drapes. Naima ceased her usual stopover at the model home in the mornings. She would stare disdainfully at the trikes and Krazr scooters left outside the house by the children. Her house looked desolate, no toys peppering the sidewalk and no chalk drawings in the driveway.

As night fell, she would take her customary bath and eat dinner quietly with her tired husband and then she would leave the warm bed and step out for a walk in the crisp black night. Standing next to the model home, she looked around furtively. Knowing all the people would be in bed by that late hour, she would walk around the house into the backyard and sit next to the fire pit, looking at the stars, not daunted by the fact that she was trespassing. Afzal could see her from the bathroom window and he would steal secret glances at the face of the woman who he had been with for years. Naima never saw and never realized, wrapped up in her own sadness like the bare and naked tree standing out in the front of their yard.

(… Incomplete …)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

My dear friend and close comrade Balu is no more – Part 1

By Joseph M. Pinto

Dr Y. Bala Murali Krishna, one of India’s most honest correspondents, attached to the United News of India (UNI) agency, as well as one of India’s world-class science writers, is no more.

For me, it is also a deep personal loss.

"Balu" as he was fondly called, was one of my closest friends and professional colleagues in journalism. We first came across each other when I joined Gomantak Times (GT), a small daily newspaper in Panaji, as editor in June 2003 –- exactly ten years ago. He was then the UNI bureau chief in Panaji, Goa.

We stayed close to each other in the Sant Inez locality: Balu in the government quarters, allotted to UNI, and I in a small flat, opposite Sant Inez Church.

One of our favourite breakfast points was an Udipi hotel, opposite his office-cum-house, where he learned me how to eat idli-sambhar -- like he did. As a native of Mangalore and a resident of Mumbai, I had believed that the art of eating idli-sambhar (popularised by Udipi hotels around the world), was our prerogative. But Balu, an Andhra man, learned me his way: first, mash the rice-idli; soak the mash in lots of sambhar; eat with a slurping spoon; finish and burp!

We hit it off -- for both of us it was "mutual respect – at first sight"!

We shared a hundred things ... and more passion, in common. He was one of India's world-class science writers and I had been a founder-member and one of the first three general secretaries and full-timers of the Lok Vidnyan Sanghatana ('science for the people') in Maharashtra.

While in a local paper at Pune, Maharashtra Herald (estd. 1963-2003), I used to write science pieces. But Balu learned me how to put an everyday human face on to science and technology (S & T). He had an uncanny knack for uncovering how the inventions and discoveries of modern S & T touched the everyday life of the common masses.

His science pieces did not impress with needless mumbo-jumbo; he mercilessly stripped away the jargon of S & T and its mysteries were laid bare for all to know and use.

*****

When I met him in Goa, I used to wonder how a world-class science writer survived in a land hyped by the media merely as a tourist hot-spot. The answer came to me slowly but surely:

“Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

(Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2.1.13)

"Exempt from public haunt", Dr Balu found precious stories – “tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything” – where no one else even cared to look. Vividly, I recall the day he called me early one morning for our ritual idli-sambhar.

Today, he wants to go to Kamat, an Udipi hotel, near the big white church that greets you as you enter Panaji. We sit on the first floor of the hotel, from whose windows you can look down into the road. He has made a discovery and wants to share it with me!

Near Kala Akademi, along the Mandovi river-side, there used to be open spaces (before Parrikar ruined them with up-market Goa Film Festival depredations), which were given out for exhibitions. A handicraft fair is going on. And here he has discovered artisans and their handiwork!

Balu is an excellent photographer too. In a fabled era, when the world wide web (www) has not been invented and “convergence” has not become a horrible buzz-word -– a swear-word to seduce rich-lazy-louts into mass-com assembly lines, extracting exorbitant fees –- Balu is one of THE great & good & original all-rounders.

He has learned himself most of what he knows and practises; is not ashamed to work hard at journalism and learns the little skills and tiny techniques, expected of an effective communicator. At the same time, he is a trade union leader, to the core, and does not allow newspaper and agency managements to overload working journalists with unfair working hours and practices. He mourns the extermination of proof-readers, when he catches ‘devils’ in print or online.

Patiently, he guides me around the handicraft fair. He is intimate with many of the artisans; he is meeting some of them for the second or third time. A mere handicraft fair is, to him, a gold-mine for a series of features! Balu boldly dares to go – and find stories – where no one else even cares to look.

I pick his UNI dispatch from the scroll that evening; illustrate it with his pictures; anchor the front-page of GT with his little gem the next morning. I have given Balu a byline for his story and a credit for his pics – an unusual treatment of an agency item. But Balu is not the usual hack.

"Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."

(From "An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray)

That event marks the official beginning of our enduring friendship, which ends today with his sudden but expected death.

*****

Just a few days ago, I spoke with him, inviting him to Pune for our daughter’s wedding on 15 July. I know he cannot come and tell him so. He is undergoing dialysis at home and every time I chat with him, his fading voice warns me that my dearest friend is going to be with us only for a few days more.

Today morning, his daughter Jyoti calls to say, “Dad passed away last night”.

*****

I was close to Balu and his family too. Journalists keep their personal and private lives separate from their professional work. But it was as if Balu was allowing me into a secret room few knew even existed.

When I wanted to attend the wedding of his son, Vamsi, Balu invited me into his home in Hyderabad. I stayed with his family, took part in the celebrations, and won the privilege to become a member of his family.

For this honour, I have been more grateful to him than all our professional associations put together. It was as if he was saying, “Joe, you are not only my close comrade in journalism but you are my dear brother also.”

Balu, I miss you!

---------------
End of item.