More than Half the Sky

Of late, I am not sure about heroes – of who they are, why they are so and how do they become so. And do they change the times we live in? I am conflicted.

Heroes do not make history alone.But, it is seen that very often men and women as individuals and sometimes in groups within the same society are able to see, feel and act in ways which are way ahead of the prevailing times, even before the large masses of this society are able to realize, organize or even agitate against its inequities. To that extent, they shall always be remembered and revered as the courageous first blooms who paved the not-so-manicured garden paths- of a better and more fragrant world.

Bharat Bala with his roving camera as promised travels the length and breadth of India seeking the frequently missed sights, smells and sounds. This time in the sylvan settings of a village in Maharashtra he discovers the “Aajibainchi Shaala”-School for Grandmother’s to celebrate a pioneer woman who definitely is quite the torchbearer of the Second Sex-and unarguably, holds more than half the sky.Enough, to make our small hearts throb with self-belief and much needed pride!

Around the time Marx was writing his Communist Manifesto Savitribai Phule had made the first school for girls in a remote village called Naigaon in Maharashtra, with the help of a courageous husband JyotiRao Phule in 1848. Savitribai most prized possession was a book given to her by a Christian missionary. Deeply taken in by her enthusiasm to learn, Jyotirao taught Savitribai to read and write. Savitribai undertook teachers’ training at Ahmednagar and in Pune. She became a qualified teacher after she passed her 4th examination in 1847.She went on to open several schools for girls in the surrounding villages. When the exploitive dowry system, the dreadful practice of Sati, early widowhood of girls and the pernicious caste system inspired a Raja Ram Mohan and a Vidyasagar to combat the evils with the benefits of education and literacy among other things in distant Bengal,she along with her husband dug a well in their own backyard, letting the discriminated lower castes to drink and fill water like all others. The Brahmanical Village elders did not take kindly to this and she was frequently attacked with cow dung on her way to school. The hopeless condition of widows and young needy girls made her open a Destitute Shelter in the year 1864 and hand-hold her husband to conceive and establish Satyashodhak Samaj (The Truthseeker’s Society) in 1873 followed by Satyashodhak Marriage wherein you swore to promoting education and equality. She also adopted a boy from one of her shelters Yashwantrao.If all of this was not enough she broke all customs and norms to light the funeral pyre of her dead husband riling the frustrated, hide-bound conservative social order. It is to the credit of the English masters that they recognized the many path breaking initiatives of this pioneering woman and declared her the Best Teacher in the entire State. The Bubonic plague of 1897 once again compelled her to open a clinic in Hadapsar, Pune, and it was while carrying a ten –year old in her arms, she contracted plague and breathed her last in the same year on the Tenth of March.

Nivedita Menon in the Outlook magazine underlines the changes she brought about almost a century and ayear later when she says “Eleven year old Muktabai, a Dalit student at the school in Pune established by Savitribai and Jotiba Phule, gave a damn about where the critique of caste came from when she wrote in the Marathi journal Dyanodaya in 1855:

Earlier, Gokhale, Apate, Trimkaji [a series of other Brahmin surnames]…who showed their bravery by killing rats in their homes, persecuted us, not even sparing pregnant women, without any rhyme or reason. That has stopped now…Harassment and torture of mahars and mangs, common during the rule of Peshwas in Pune, has stopped…

‘Earlier’ was under the rule of the Peshwas, ‘now’ was under British colonialism. The West was her saviour from indigenous caste society.”

May your tribe thrive and be born in the thousands. Salutations.

while I was sleeping

“Comrade,What’s up?Stay safe,” my good friend Doc buzzed  flying out of Delhi .Friends and family kept calling equally concerned.I had no clue of these missives.Was bemused as I do not watch TV and remain closeted indoors – only to move as far as my Mayur Vihar Pan shop for an occasional puff. Business seemed ,the usual.The Twitteratti on my mobile was still quiet except for the faithful who were talking of the Army to move in to save an imminent bloody riot. That was a couple of days ago…

North East Delhi by now is burning.I am still rubbing my eyes or shaking my ears in disbelief.A mosque has been vandalised,one Dargha burnt down , some dead and over a hundred injured.The Muslims campaigning democratically and peacefully for their citizenship rights under challenge at the behest of the ruling dispensation are either defending, resisting, retreating or just running to safety. The Saffron flags and sticks in hand, pelting stones,mouths covered in handkerchiefs, emblematic of a kind of  definitive Hindu mob were chasing them everywhere shouting terrifying slogans. The Police stands and watches or selects the Muslims for questioning while going through the motions of crowd control – benign and suspiciously lazy. A well- rehearsed chronology and sequence of the macabre perfected by the present Home Minister Amit Shah on the streets of Gujarat in early 2000 was /or is unfolding – the fratricidal blood-letting.

Trump dodging pointed questions on the backdrop of uncalled for violence and attack on minorities  was around and has since left, feted and feasted in the erstwhile Royal Durbars of a much abused “Lutyens Delhi” by a Modi and Govind.Some cutie-pies have even seen the immorality of the protest when the new “Latt- Sahib,” our revered guest was at home.How very wicked,you know !

AAP has returned to power on the back of some good  public work and disgust of the public at the hatred spitting bigotry of the BJP and the waiting-to-be-mothballed, disconnected and dormant Congress. The Muslims are still waiting to see the “other” Hindus to come out in large numbers in their support while the opposition Party leaders are yet to be seen in front or by their side. A mixed-up ,confused and slouched Kejriwal  sits Gandhi- like in Raj Ghat praying for the communal virus to vanish while a sizeable lot of the “normal” Hindus are looking away with mocking shrugs.The Army would soon be coming in to restore peace  after the damage has been done . A small group of lawyers,businessmen,social activists,journalists, public spirited citizens ,young girls and boys, also known as students – probably the “new Hindus” share space and sticks with the Muslims adding an unrecognized colour to this theatre of the Absurd…

And here we are over some shots of some cheap scotch squabble amongst ourselves on questions of when and who did it first.Was it not always there?Did the Congress not appease them?Why were the Muslims not asked to go to Pakistan during Partition?Why can’t they keep quiet and pay respects to our religion?Oh,these are those termites from Bangladesh?We have had enough?The Congis and Commies and all such anti-nationals need to rot in hell.And that bloody-Gandhi?

… No more can I recognize my friends  from the others.They all speak the same and have started to look alike, even – so woke, to believe, that the desecration of the Babri Masjid was only a reminder of the Avatar of Deliverance,long overdue – was ready to return in Ram’s Ayodhya.The famous poet Neeraj rues too.

जितना कम सामान रहेगा उतना सफ़र आसान रहेगा

जितनी भारी गठरी होगी उतना तू हैरान रहेगा

हाथ मिलें और दिल न मिलें

ऐसे में नुक़सान रहेगा

जब तक मन्दिर और मस्जिद हैं

मुश्क़िल में इन्सान रहेगा। #गोपालदास_नीरज

Quixote-like, I keep crossing swords with imaginary windmills. I am safe and the mobiles no longer buzz.Delhi burns in parts.Life is normal, when last reports came in…


MayDay!May Day!May Day!

#Left-Out: Not the football of Politics!
It is May Day and what a travesty.That day which symbolises everything about empowerment of the labour, justice, fair play, egalitarianism and power to the people is no longer celebrated.Much less remembered.In another extraordinary way the call – ” May Day! Mayday! May Day!” is an internationally acknowledged call of distress.Is it frightful coincidence or serendipity that such a call for help is being heard for some time now from the fore and aft of the sinking ship: the Left?

The Left would need to explain at the grass roots what it is to be seeking its own individual identity, a collaboration with the far left and the broader spectrum of the unity of pro-secular forces.It would need to examine the globalised surge towards individualism and self-aggrandisement and the disenchantment of the millennials: the young who grew to adulthood without a sense of history and pride of the nation’s true strengths of diversity and pluralism and near-obsessive preoccupation with poverty.The people would like to know how and why the world is swinging to an anti-people philosophy and programme of action and the sudden honeymoon to play surrogates to the vile designs of world domination of the USA.

The downslide had started since Independence.Only the termites of compromise were too small or invisible.The legacies of anti-colonial movements and the overarching presence of the Soviet Union and the rise of China had kept the Left lulled and seduced in a sense of false well-being.Until the deluge…

The people would like to see the Left to once again be on the streets among them and from whose seeds this radical idea of political, social and economic transformation was born.The people want to be led and also to lead.Leadership, organisation, participation, party, flag and a philosophy of action is the crying need.

Bengal stands in the crosshairs of all such questions and much more.Chauvinistically, perhaps pride in that very parochial saying”what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.” might still leave them inspired, to say the least!

Setbacks, retreats or defeats can only be temporary.Do they have it in them to arrest the decline, overturn the debacle to rise in defiance and usher in hope for the victory of the people?may day

Sitaram Yechury with great political acumen and sagacity talks honestly about what went or is going wrong with the Left movement and CPI(M) in particular.For all patriots irrespective of where you stand in the final analysis: an insightful and must read…

Click Here

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Musings on Martyrdom: Ibaadat sey Shahdat!

Since India became independent its uneven development and fractured growth, huge differences between the rich and poor or the majority and minority communities, the disenfranchisement of the tribal and the Dalits, among other things, have raised ugly questions afresh on the basic concept of freedom, egalitarianism, justice and sovereignty. State power has been frequently misused to repress the various voices of dissent, agitations and resistance struggles, who have strongly challenged the meaningless of it all. People’s Movements like Tebhaga, Telangana, the Naxalism, Free Kashmir and the demand of Naga liberation have left many thousands dead, even more, embittered. It is today in the crosshairs of what is true martyrdom. In Free India are they to be called, known, reviled or celebrated as terrorists or Freedom Fighters, secessionists or liberators? Is violence against organised state power unconstitutional and only non-violent resistance legit? Is defending and fighting for your legitimate rights fundamental? Will dying in such actions honour them to be called martyrs?

Source: Musings on Martyrdom: Ibaadat sey Shahdat!


Akashganga: They also Serve, who Just Stand and Wait – XV

Behind the risk of life and limb stood the woman by his man. Running from sick quarters to banks and schools, buying groceries riding cycles or by walk, receiving and seeing off loved relatives all by themselves, while her loved man was away is a quality taken for granted and an unwritten part of the wife’s job description. Cooking late meals without notice with nothing in store for an unannounced number of gatecrashers, the free-flowing rum and groggy men being the proverbial last straw. Do not get it wrong here! These were still early days for the women to enjoy much less taste the tabooed liquor. It took a while before the docile and submissive Nari came into her own. In her Sunday best, she soldiered on with a smile. Tears there must have been and many at that but these were to be borne and shared by each husband in the dark corners of the bedroom.

Source: Akashganga: They also Serve, who Just Stand and Wait – XV

Akashganga: Daffodils in the Sky and Butterflies in the Belly – XIV

Akashganga never had it so good. Enthused and awed by the sense of spectacle, for the first time in the history of the Air Force, a full load of 37 skydivers in spanking new and fancy dungarees jumped to join an assembled parade contingent on ground consisting of nine Squadrons of three flights each of about a thousand Vayuputras, in 1989. They then joined the ceremonial march past in the august presence of Mini Bawa, the Mukhya Deva Adhikari of the Central Command. Banjo was commended by the Chief of Air Staff for this unique planning and exhibition of military freefalling skills imbued with the spirit and festivity of sports skydiving. Sunil tells us more about the thrill and threats of Akashganga, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Source: Akashganga: Daffodils in the Sky and Butterflies in the Belly – XIV

Akashganga: Trails of Stardust and Swirling Black Holes – XIII

Members of Akashganga moved on to multi-tasking and become a lean mean fighting machine. Sport and military parachuting complemented each other. for more

Source: Akashganga: Trails of Stardust and Swirling Black Holes – XIII

Akashganga: The Old Maketh way for the New- XII

What a Fall !

On having reached a destination or goal is not to be at the finish line.The struggle begins only then and afterwards.To nurture,develop and sustain the new born. Akashganga the Indian Air Force Skydiving Team was poised to undergo that much known journey.For more read on…

Source: Akashganga: The Old Maketh way for the New- XII

Akashganga: The D-Day and Lift-off – XI

The An-32 got airborne with 37 Dhartiputras on board for the inaugural jump of Akashganga. Chugh was the Devaputra, who did the honours in getting this

Source: Akashganga: The D-Day and Lift-off – XI

Akashganga: A new Star in the Galaxy – X

Gomes worked silently to convert into reality the ambitions and aspirations of the illustrious predecessors – to make an Air force Skydiving Display Team. The

Source: Akashganga: A new Star in the Galaxy – X