Homeward bound…..

…..how I wish!!!! No, I am not going back to India but I am fighting this intense urge to pack my bags and leave UK after living here for 10 years. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH of this gloomy weather, not knowing my neighbours, not seeing people on the streets, having to switch on lights the whole day due to the lack of sunlight and most of all living alone. I was talking to my dad today and asked him why he did not advise me against going to UK for my education when they had lived abroad for more than 10 years, surely they must have know how it was going to be. His answer was simple, I wanted you to experience it. Sure, I did. I learnt to work whilst studying, to live independently, to keep up my self-respect and dignity which might not have happened if I studied in India. But after 10 years, after all the things I’ve learnt, I want to go back.

I read some blogs about people contemplating to go back after living in UK/US for many many years and everyone’s concerned of how it might. Some are nervous about job prospects, some about the traffic, some corruption…everyone’s got their reasons….but let me tell you this….GO BACK IF YOUR HEART IS IN INDIA. Some of us will get to a stage in our lives when we’ll start missing the pollution of India, the cows on the roads, the traffic, the intense heat…and this is when I think is the right take to make ‘that’ decision 😉 Sure, we all miss our families back home…but it is when you miss the ‘not so nice things’ about India…that you are ready to pack your bags.

Last year, I was in India for 6 months. By the end of my holiday, it felt like I was living there and I was visiting UK. I didn’t want to leave at all. I won’t say that my holiday was all hunky dory….there were pros and cons….but the good thing about the holiday was…it gave me an insight into how life in India has changed since 2001 (when I first left). Prices have gone up….even a simple OLAY moisturising cream will cost you more than 500 bucks….parking tickets no less than 100, food prices…..don’t even get me started on this…..snide remarks from men on the streets 😉 and the disrespectful manner in which superiors treat the people who work under them. These are just some of the things I find difficult to digest….but you’ll get used to it eventually. It took me six months to soak myself back again into ‘Indian Culture’ which isn’t that long really. When the time came for me to leave….it was difficult. I was part of the system by then. When it was time to leave, It felt like 2001, the first time I left India and everyone I knew and moved to a new country….the only difference being….I was excited then….in 2009….I was sad. Nothing about returning to UK excited me….S was here and that was the only reason I wanted to to be back.

Most of my friends in UK have always told me that they’ll go back some day but no one has managed to. I always wondered why. There must be a strong reason which is keeping them here? Will I make the same mistake? If the day came when I’ve had enough and wanted to leave….I should be able to pack my bags and LEAVE….simple.

So what is it that has made me think so hard about going back? Let me tell you. I am a social animal. I need people around me all the time. I absolutely hate living alone. Unlucky me, the job market in the UK is crap….so it’s been quite difficult to find a job. I do not know if I’d want to go back if I had a 9-5 job. So anyway, for now it is S and I….we know a few neighbours and most of our friends are scattered all over UK. I barely see anyone on the streets…it’s quite odd. As a student, this was not the case. I lived in halls so you always saw someone. It is this feeling of being alone that annoys me everyday. In India, you at least have a maid who comes home everyday, the ‘phoolwala’, the vegetable vendor, the ‘sweetwala’ etc etc. It is this constant flow of people I miss. Oh….how enjoyable it was…watching my mom bargain with the ‘sweetwala’.

Your priorities change when you have kids. I don’t have any but since most of my friends do….I always end up asking them…..why do you guys still live the UK??? I see most women just stay at home once they have children. All the child gets to see is the mother and the father…and some friends who occasionally visit them but is that enough??? Since the husband goes to work….it is the wife who has to take care of everything….her world revolves around her child and all the child does is climb up the stairs and roll down ….since he/she cannot go out and play because of the disgusting weather. How boring must it be? But somehow they manage. Recently, I offered to help a friend’s son study in the evening. I asked him to bring home some of his books. Apparently, they do not have any. Whatever they need is online…..or something like that. His mom had to buy some books in a store to help him study….it was her initiative. Most of us complain about the burden Indian students are put through in schools…I agree….it is a lot….we can get some sanity into the number of books a child has to carry to school….but no books at all?????

Most of all, when I see my friends kids growing up here….without their grandparents, aunts and uncles….I wonder if they will ever have the ‘family structure’ that most of us had growing up. Family is the most important influence on young people. Meeting your grandparents, visiting them on holidays, going out with your cousins, celebrating birthdays, visiting your uncles and aunts….this is all important….isn’t it??? Because at the end of the day….you might have shit loads of money….a career to die for…but if you do not have family…..it’s not worth a single penny. I would want my children to grow up in front of their grand parents. I will not be happy with 6 month visits (which is in the hands of VFS Chennai) or a phone call when my baby starts walking….or his/her first day of school. If it’s a sports day….I want it to be a family affair….I want my children to have the opportunity of playing cricket or football or what ever they wish OUTSIDE….not just stay indoors and play stupid video games. That is how I grew up. I want them to have a ‘proper family’….not just a mother and a father.

I have so many wishes and so much optimism for the future. Not all plans work out the way we want them to…..and not all dreams come true….but I DON’T WANT TO GIVE UP ON THIS ONE!

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And the Most Farcical Awards are…

Couple of days ago, I was browsing through the NDTV website when I came across something called the ‘GR8 Women’s Achievers  Awards’. These were new to me but apparently Kelvinator has given them for the last 2 years. I was browsing through the photos of the event to see who got the awards….some inspirational stories maybe?…stories of women who achieved something against all odds…who contributed positively to our society…?NO! But who do I end up seeing…Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen, Bhagyashree (yup..the one from Maine Pyar Kiya), Diya Mirza (she’s every where these days), Yuktha Mookhey, Aarti Chabria, Zarine Khan etc in their beautiful sarees showing off their blouses and some in their skimpy clothes showing off their well-toned abs and yea..how can I forget….Shabana Azmi..she’s all things feminist isn’t she?

I was so disappointed…there was no one who I could admire, who actually contributed something to our society. Did Kelvinator conviniently ignore people like Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, the founder of Prajwala and many other women who are aplenty in our country? Do GR8 Women Achievers all have to be bollywood starlets? Dr Sunitha Krishnan, the founder of an NGO called Prajwala, who was gang raped at a young age fought back her horrors to become a psychiatrist and help children who are severely abused and sometimes sold and trafficked. Isn’t she inspirational to other women? Isn’t she deserving of this award?

What exactly have the bollywood startlets achieved may I ask? Most of them were models before they became actors or progeny of stars. They get paid crap load of money for their work…live in posh homes, drive extremely comfortable cars and dress in designer labels. For me, a GR8 Achiever is someone like Dr. Sunitha Krishnan…who is ACTUALLY doing something good for our society against all odds.

She is the only one I can think of now but this doesn’t mean there is no other woman in our country who is helping another. I am sure you will find one in every street corner. Such awards should carry some value…give it to people who really deserve them, to encourage them, to motivate them, to recognise their efforts and to show to the world what they do so that their organisations/NGO’s get the much-needed support. It doesn’t matter if you don’t give these awards to actors, they will still be fine…they won’t be missing out on anything. Who will it be next yr? Katrina, Kareena, Deepika etc?

Shame On You Kelvinator and the GR8 Women’s Achievers Awards panel!

Channel 4 and its Love Affair with the Slums of Mumbai

OK…at first when I saw a bunch of  Indians (and cows) getting out of a truck in their various outfits, holding variety of props…I had my doubts of how this Indian winter would turn out on Channel 4 and wallahh….it’s lived up to my expectations. It’s totally crap!!! What’s with channel 4 and its love affair with slums. Gimme a break but India is not all slums and stray dogs. I am not saying channel 4 should not show the slums at all, but I guess one program should’ve been enough. But no, the season started off with Slumdog Millionaire the movie, and then Kevin McCloud Slumming It, and Slumdog Secret Millionaire with Seema Sharma and The Slumdog Children of Mumbai. There’s just one show that appealed to me in this season and that is Gordon Ramsay’s The Great Escape. Watched the first episode yesterday and I really liked it. His trip to Lucknow and his meeting with the really old muslim chef (whose name I cannot remember now) was fantastic…and the biriyani…wow!

But enough with the slums already! India is not all slums and open drains and cows roaming about on the roads. There is so much more. Discovering Indian food is a step in the right direction. It is so diverse. Every state has its own cuisine. Classical dance of India, like its food, is unique to the states. The history of India is immense. The architecture of India does not end with the Taj Mahal…there is so much more…like Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, Sun Temple in Orissa, the Meenakshi Temple in Tamil Nadu, Golconda Fort in Hyderabad just to name a few.

We really don’t need Kevin McCloud and Seema Sharma slumming it out for us to understand the problems of the slum dwellers. Though I really appreciate what they are doing…I think most of us already know that dreadful conditions these people live in. It is good if we can help but please please do not portray India as a country of slums. If you cannot resist, then at lease show some positives along with the negatives. I think Slumdog Millionaire did its jobs well when it comes to slums and Mumbai. We do not need anymore!!

Save the Childhood

November 14th, the birthday of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru 0r Chacha Nehru as he is fondly called is celebrated as Children’s Day in India. As a child, celebrating Children’s Day meant distributing chocolates amongst students and teachers. It never once crossed my mind what it meant to children who were less previliged than I was. I was happy because my friends were happy..every kid I knew was safe…so really…I didn’t bother.

Living abroad for the last 6 years has taught me many things. It’s changed my personality and the way I see things. Now that I live in a ‘developed’ country where its citizens are taken care of with utmost sincerity, I started to wonder why my country could not be the same. Why it could not take care of the most vulnerable. Is it because our country was raped over and over again and was robbed of all our wealth…or is it our attitude of turning a blind eye to what’s happening around us?

image borrowed from indiadialy.com

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During my last visit to India, I had been to this restaurant in Hyderabad. A family with 4 kids had come to enjoy a night out at the same restaurant. The family was accompanied by a 13 or14 yr old girl…who’s job was to look after the other 4 kids…one of whom was barely a months old baby. I quickly asked my parents if it was illegal to do so. I wanted to call the cops and let them know what was happening but something stopped me. I was scared. I feared repercussions but even today I curse myself for not doing anything about it. I feel so useless.

I could not take my eyes off the little girl who had to carry the baby around while the family sat and ate to their hearts content. This incident happened when THE ABOLITION OF CHILD LABOUR BILL, 2006 was introduced…when there was NEWS splashed all across media that people employing under-age kids could face imprisonment…and here I see a family least bothered about what could happen to them if caught. 

picture borrowed from http://members.tripod.com/sadashivan_nair/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/ragpicker.jpg

The problem lies within us. Not all of us employ kids…but when we see something like this happening…we tend to ignore and move on because we are scared.

India has the largest number of Child Labour in the world…estimated ranging from 70 million to 114 million. They are forced to do a variety of things…from falling prey to paedophiles…to becoming members of a highly organised begging groups where they are forced to work on streets for upto 16 hrs a day…from domestic servants who are physically and mentally abused…to stone cutters or toiling for hours together for retail giants like GAP.

But how do we stop this from happening. Yes, children are made to work…their precious childhood is robbed but if they are sent to Govt. schools…are the facilities good enough for them to survive. It has been shown many a times that the facilities  provided for children at a governement school are pathetic…stale food…no books…no teachers just to name a few. Also will their parents allow them to study when they could make 200 bucks a day? Is there a way out of all this? All the furore about India being the next economic super power…but are the most vulnerable reaping any benefits out of this new found weath. When I visit Hyderabad…I see these huge buildings coming up in every corner…but at the same bend…I see kids begging and seraching for food in garbage disposal tanks.

I am not saying all this should change overnight…or not least in the next 10 years. But what I am saying is that change starts at home…yours and mine. Refuse to accept tea served by a child at your local tea store…refuse to accept your take away food to be delivered by a kid…refuse to accept your street and your apartment complex to be cleaned by a kid…I am sure such small things will be invaluable in brining positive change to the society we live in. Lets not leave everything to the government and the politicians.

You can start by helping and actively supporting oragnisations like Bachpan Bachao Andolan or Save the Childhood Foundation just to name a few.

Every child deserves a beautiful childhood. You and were lucky enough to get it…so why shoudn’t the rest? Let us try and make this possible in our own little way.

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