Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I wonder..........

My day starts very early. It was even earlier today; being a pious day. Mom told me it was a full-moon today, Kartik purnima. This day we are supposed to go to Ganga maiya (River Ganges) and take the holy dip. I have been feeling very cold lately and shivering at nights too. Perhaps I would be spared from dip in cold waters of Ganga; thinking such I approached my mother. “How can you even think like that; it is up to the women in the house to keep the religious tradition alive. Just one dip is going to wash away all your sins! Look at your grandmother and look at you. Shame on you!” came the reply. My 70 year old grandmother was fighting with my father to take her to Ganges for a dip. She has been on bed for many years now; and somehow has stopped growing older even. My mind kept running with thoughts that what sins have I done to wash away in Ganges? May be my grandmother needs the dip more than me.

Anyways after the dip I was allowed to eat; not the usual vegetable and roti but a special dish made of rice and gur (jagerry). As my younger brothers eat it with interest; I cant help but wonder whether we would be able to eat at night or not. It has happened earlier this year too, when on chatt we had to pray to Sun god offering him a lot of sweet dishes and fruits (wow! That’s the only time we eat fruits). It was only after my mother stood in water fasting whole day that we ate. Why did she do that? Because her religion wants only her to do so. I wonder why?

We completely enjoyed ourselves that day; but the whole family had to go without food for the next three days. My grandmother tells me life is ephemeral in nature; enjoy today, do not think about tomorrow. But I wonder how sensible is it eat today and not tomorrow? This way we would remain poor all our lives!

Sitting at my doorstep, all my hair wet; I look at storms of people passing by. All have taken their holy dip and returning to their houses. What surprises me is that there were hardly any cars present at the Ghat. Only poor could be seen everywhere. Do the rich not celebrate this? It is a festival of poor, when the ones who can afford such a luxury are spared from it. I kept on wondering…..

Orange sindur (sign of a married lady) right from the nose till deep into the hair makes me giggle. The women almost look like Orangutans right out of the jungle. Do they actually feel they look good in it or they just have to follow it because their mothers did it too?  Again the tradition comes up here!

Recently I came to know that the guy who lived 3 houses down the lane was a criminal! Do you know how? Police had come to his house yesterday. His mother and wife were abused! Then his wife was taken to Police station for the night. She came home next day, looking horrified. Her hair was disheveled and even her clothes were torn. The reason she was taken because her husband has committed a murder; she kept on blaming herself for that. But I wonder if a person has absconded from home and committed a murder; what sensitivity would he have about his wife being tortured?   

Why is that all the women are the final victims? Of traditions and of cruelty? Who would break this chain, when we ourselves feel that we are responsible for such acts of others? If we feel tradition is our burden, who would like to lift it off our shoulders? I keep wondering as my grandmother waits for the next Kartik purnima for the dip in the Ganges!     


Interviews have always been dreaded by me. His twin brother at school level; Science vivas have also evoked great fear in me. The stern look of the External (examiner) had such an effect that I was almost paralyzed every time. Now after many years, here I sit at the other side of the table.  I can’t help but wonder how hideous I would be seeming to the interviewee today!

As you enter the room and face the interview panel, comes the most difficult question in the wrap of being the most easiest one…………”Aur apne bare main kuch batai” (Tell us something about you). When we were hiring trainers for our project, here is what my interviewees told me about them…….

Panel: “You are very young, not even completed your Graduation; how do you think you would convince people during training sessions?”

Interviewee 1: “Its not about study, its about knowledge. When I have knowledge better than my participants, I would be respected. You train me and I would work as best as I can.”

I could not help but admire the confidence of this young ‘not even Graduate’ girl who left all of us amused!

Interviewee 2: “………we are 7 sisters; 6 are married. We lost our father and mother very early. Everyone wants me to get married and settle in life; but I want to work first. Stand on my own feet and be responsible for myself.”

Panel: “Your CV has great experience in corporate sector but absolutely no experience in social sector. Why is that you want to switch to this?”

Interviewee 3:“I agree I have no experience, but I am a woman! I can understand maternal health better than any of you. I want an experience like this……..”

When I got such bold answers in a row, I had to sit back for a while and think that woman is no longer a shy bride in Bihar. She is ready to take everyone with a storm today. A common cause (a factor actually) of maternal deaths that we came across during the interview was marriage before legal age. The answer was prevalent in all age groups and both the sex. This surely means that we have woken up to the ill effects of an early marriage.

With a lot of noise from the waiting room, we had to ask our Program assistant to hush them up!

Boss: “Kyu itna shor ho ra hai?”

PA: “Sir, Mahilayen hai na interviewee….jahan 2 mahilayen ho, shor to hoga hi J

And my colleagues give me a sly smile and go to the next interviewee when I jokingly fume at the comment!

Apart from making me feel proud of women empowerment in our conservative society, the interview gave us many reasons to smile too! Our same old question, “Aur apne bare main kuch batai” (Tell us something about you), tickled our funny bone:

Interviewee 4:“Apne bare main sir? Sir resume to mera hai hi aapke paas…….. (About myself? Well you already have my CV)

Interviewee 5: My name is Virender Prasad, my village is parva tola, my block is Dulhin Baazar and my Thana is also Dulhin bazaar. (And that ends the introduction he has for himself!)

Panel: Why did you stop working in between?

Interviewee 6: Ji? Maa off ho gyi hai (My mother passed away)……. Well, I am sorry to laugh on that, but Off gyi thi?

Some random people also turned up who were not called prior for the interview. One of them entered into the room as we were about to wrap up the interview sessions for the day.

“Excuse me Sir, Main Devanand hun…..” To which my Boss’s reaction was a real classic” … baithiye main kya aapko Nargis dikh ra hu jo itna muskura rahe hain?” We could not stop laughing for a good 5 minutes.

We have at this job become accustomed to take interviews and identify ‘our’ kind of people now! As the day comes to an end, I realize three clear categories of interviewees. One, ‘Just for the interview’ types. This category has not yet completed their education; or working somewhere already coming to ‘just have an idea’ what the vacancy is all about! Second, ‘Trial at the Job’ types Housewives who are well educated and want to utilize their time in part-time jobs. They are here for trials!

And the last one, ‘I will do the job’ who is ‘our person’ (I purposefully omitted ‘our man’!) He/She would accept all the terms and commit to work. But ultimately what the selection turns out to be is the test of time!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

From a Mother’s kitchen….

Being a mother isn’t easy! I am NOT talking about the 9 hard months of pregnancy, (of course they are really tough too) but the post-delivery effects; when your kids are beyond that ‘Cerelac’ age.

With two kids, Jassi, age 8 and Harry age 5, I had a rough time, especially in kitchen! One would want South Indian all the time, whereas other would be happy only with a Burger! There was only one thing in common-both used to make faces looking at the greens. Even I was not an easy mother to them; after all I had to make sure my children ate right. Thus, every meal time turned out to be a battlefield. That was when I started to prepare innovative dishes.

From putting all green vegetables like lauki, tori, tinda etc in home-made Pav-Bhaji (Mumbai Street food) to putting a good mix of vegetables in Sambhar (South Indian Curry), I tried a variety of dishes. But their fight of ‘South Indo-Western’ remained then and there. I had to always make separate dish for the other when South Indian was the menu.

On one such taxing day, when I was done preparing batter for Dosa, my younger one strolled into the kitchen. Looking at the South Indian menu for dinner, rude words were exchanged; “You don’t love me, why do you keep making this!” Before I could pacify him with my words, angrily he stormed out of kitchen, and I ended up feeling sorry for him.

Finally I opened the refrigerator to make something else for him, when my eyes fell on eggs lying in the basket. Something stuck me! I picked out some carrots, cabbage, capsicum and onions. Cutting them into small pieces, I sautéed them in a little oil. Then I put some batter of Dosa onto a hot non-stick pan. When one side of the Dosa was done; I broke an egg on it. Turning the Dosa on the pan, I allowed the egg to cook well. Then I spread some sauce on the Egg-Dosa; put the vegetables in it and rolled it up. Voila Egg-Dosa Roll was ready! And it was full of vegetables. Finally I could also resolve the problem of varied tastes of my kids all at one time; one having Dosa and the other loving Egg-Dosa Roll. Try out friends its Easy, Tasty and Healthy!     

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lesser evil?

After a long overbearing period of pregnancy, when the ‘result’ turned out to be a girl, the family was overjoyed! Yes you read it right, overjoyed! You may not believe this as an incident of a village in India, but it is. When the birth of a girl child is celebrated because she would turn out to be a bread winner for the family; her brothers and father! Baffling isn’t it? It isn’t westernization of thoughts; it’s a story about a village where flesh trade is a tradition-a Riwaaz!

The young nubile girl is well taken care of. She is given the choicest of gifts and allowed all kinds of indulgence except love! Love isn’t permitted! This is because Love would bring thoughts about marriage in her mind and in turn would end their source of income. When she becomes old to get any ‘customers’, she marries and waits for another girl to be born; who would take care of them.

The first time she is ‘inaugurated’, it is almost like reverence. The highest bidder gets to bed the virgin. She is decorated like a bride with complete haldi-rasam (a tradition of putting turmeric on the bride’s body for a glowing skin.) Prayers are offered at the temple, lamps lit and she is escorted to the house of her ‘husband for the night’. This tradition is still alive in many remote areas of India; where birth of girls is incidentally rejoiced!

Rest of the India is an exact opposite story (for good or worse, who knows!) Killing of infants just born by dipping her in milk, has been common news in Rajasthan lately; parents fearful of a huge sum of dowry to be paid when she would get married. When a well behind a nursing home in Patiala was found full of female fetuses; the worst face of a human came into picture. The so called advanced state of India, Punjab has the worst sex ratio. What has education or economy to do with such a mentality?

When I was born, my family members distributed sweets in the complete maternity ward. Nurses were scared about miscommunication and finally had to gather the courage to come up to my father and ask him “It’s a girl, didn’t anyone tell you that?” When we women still behave like that, what do we expect of men?

The reasons of population explosion we witness in states like Bihar and Jharkhand too needs to be looked into seriously. “I would agree to operation only when I have two sons, who knows when this one might die”, said a young mother who was holding a boy child of 4 months; she already has 3 elder daughters. Maximum torture tales of daughter-in-laws are written; executed by mother-in-laws and sister-in-laws. What do we derive?

Women have been subjected to oppression since a long time now; because we have been accepting it as a way of our life. We have been quiet about it. The silence has to be broken because it holds back a whole new beginning. The unheard have to be heard, because there will never be a tomorrow.

Finally, who is the worst enemy of women? Our age old traditions, our mindset or our silence?   

What we have endured has stretched too far now! Be it in any form, evil has been done against women, just thinking about which is a lesser evil? Killing the girl child immediately after birth due to traditions of dowry or making her a bread earner with a tradition of flesh trade! Thoughts anyone?  

A dream come true..............

Of unending rains, and mighty stains!

Cups of tea looking at a pile of clothes; oh poor me!

Are my prayers heard? Can someone actually hear me?

“Ding dong! Your prayers are heard………..Surf Excel Matic is here! It cleans the stains smartly, while you spend your precious time with your family!” Hearing this commercial on TV, my curiosity arose. I usually go into sleep mode when such advertisements play on TV in between the shows. But here actually seemed an answer to my long time request sent to God. (May be God gave the contract to fulfill the request to Surf Excel Matic!)

Ever since my childhood, washing clothes has been a routine fixed for Sundays! Watching my mom juggling from kitchen to bathroom every Sunday was usual for us, as we sat in front of the television watching our favourite cartoon shows (Even then we were not spared of commercial breaks!). Being a working woman, washing clothes was a hectic full time job for her. We decided to ease her labour by getting a brand new ‘intelligent washing machine’ but to no use. She continued to stop the machine in between; rub the hard stains with her hands and be occupied on all Sundays! We could not even go out for our favourite round of ice-creams as she used to be so tired till the evening.

Time passed and I came in the category of ‘working’; staying away from home. From the basics of buying groceries to cooking food has to be done all by myself! And on top of that, washing clothes had become a headache for me! Being single still has advantages that I have only my set of clothes to wash; still Sundays used to go in that routine!

Then came Magic; oops, Matic in my life! And here I am a free bird today! All I have to do is load my dirty clothes in the washing machine (Another intelligent one; though I know that hardly works!) and forget about them! It really works.

Now, Sundays are ‘My Days” and not days for washing clothes. The childhood rule has been re-written! Next thing, I am going to gift my Mom is of course Surf Excel Matic!

Sitting calmly on my cushion bed, I can be online even when my clothes are being cleaned; just right for those stubborn stains! I remember that line well, “Daag ache hain”. I could never imagine such pleasure while my clothes were washed since standing at the edge of washing machine and watching the knob had become my habit! Now I find all the time to catch up with my friends on Facebook. All the restaurant waiters are getting to know me well. My long due ‘to read’ list is getting slowly read. Earlier I used to think about stories while washing clothes and they used to rinse away from my mind as soon as the clothes did! This doesn’t happen now!

And I can blog more now. Why do you think I could spot this contest? Had I stuck to my old detergent I would still have been washing clothes this Sunday!     

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hues of the city of Joy (Part-2)

“Dear Brothers and Sisters……….” Vivekananda’s salutation to his audience in US speaks volumes about his concept of ‘One World’. The foundation of the modern concept of communication as “Global Village” was conceived then and there.

In the colour of mud, the real colour of India; stands a magnificent structure wrapped in a peaceful atmosphere of prayers. Monks are seen all over the place; many in saffron, few in white! They were ‘Brahmacharis’, white had to observe mental and physical Brahmacharya for 12 long years to turn to saffron!

A journey down the lane was shared by a saffron monk. 1987 was when he ran and came to the math. His parents didn’t want him to join the mission and came to take him back. He went back, paid obeisance to all and joined the math on Buddha purnima!

Me: “Don’t you have any duty towards your parents?”

He: “I do and I realize that! I call up my Mom and listen to her woes. In the end, she wraps up and says you are following a great path, continue don’t worry about us”.

Me: “Why not marry, build a home and lead a life through the path of peace; that achieves salvation too? Then, why Brahmacharya?”

He: “Yes it does! Many saints have also thought like that. Brining your senses in your control, but it isn’t easy always like that. We have to conserve energy to unify it in one direction, my direction is salvation. That’s the reason for Brahmacharya.”

Me: “Do you think studying the Vedas would help more or doing service to Humanity would?”

He: “Well when we invite others for food, we need to serve all different dishes in different pots! Only one dish would not suffice. Similarly, in this world, only working in one sphere let it be studying sculptures, praying to God or service of humanity is not enough. Each pot has to be filled as per one’s own capabilities and passion. All work towards the same destination, but on different paths.”

With this view, Ramakrishna Mission was established by Swami Vivekananda on 1 May, 1897 with head quarters in Belur Math, Howrah (Wow, visited the best!) to take the work and thoughts of his guru forward. It runs many projects on livelihood promotion, health, schools apart from study of Vedas.

“No one can be truly free until all of us are. Even desire for personal salvation has to be given up-only tireless work for salvation of others is the true mark of an enlightened person” was the powerful speech of the orange monk, Swami Vivekananda. From the time of Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Rabindra Nath Tagore, all led to a powerful change-Bengal Renaissance. It was a unique blend of religious and social reform in Bengal; science and revolution bringing change all at the same time. Jagdish Chandra Bose came up with plant science; and was known as father of radio-waves whereas Subash Chandra Bose brought everyone back to life with his Azad Hind Fauj. Such a varied range of changes in the society literally made Bengal as a learning center!


On the entrance of the building sits a peacock encircled by a snake; with majestic elephants on both sides. It spoke to me of harmony between enemies as the most powerful of assets (Elephant being the symbol of power). It has the architectural features of Mosque, Hindu temple, Buddhist cave and a Christian church; all religions at one place. The main temple stands high with strong marble pillars on both sides of the hall. Hanging lamps glowing between two pillars give an unearthly aura. There were three chandeliers in the hall-simple yet elegant! The shadow of chandeliers is seen on the roof and the shadow is much longer! Once we lit up something small, shadow would always grow larger; things would magnify slowly! Only that first fire has to be lit……..

Music vibrates in the hall as the aarti begins; saffrons and whites sing together. Oil lamps lit the plate to do aarti of the statue of Ramakrishna Paramhans (I didn’t know he was even worshipped like this!) and tabla, sarangi, chimti and violin. I didn’t know what they sang; not the language nor the words! But something in me arose! Somehow the concept of aarti of a statue is what I can’t still digest! How many Gods can we keep on making out of mortals! My God is within; speaks to me on wrong and right. So, let me just go back and listen intently.           

Friday, November 11, 2011


Sitting at the back seat, chirping happily on the way back from school 10 year old Rohini pleaded to ride the bicycle. Her escort, 16 year old Ajay allowed her to do so. Just then she felt his hand caressing her. She immediately lost her balance and fell. Badly bruised, crying she reached back home. She never rode with him to school after that incident.

It was late one evening. Rohini was pedaling furiously to get back home from tuitions before it begins to rain. It was her 10th board exam the very next day. At the lonely turn on the road, another bicycle crossed her. A hand hit her on the breast with giggling following it. She dared not turn; heavy with tears managed to reach home with a pain in her heart.

It was Diwali. The whole house was lit like a marriage palace. A flood of relatives had come over the home. Rohini was serving around the eats and drinks to the guests. A hand held hers while handling over a glass of sharbat. She eyed him questioningly. It was her own uncle, her mother’s sister’s husband. Later that night, he tried to touch her again while crossing by her. She broke a complete set of glasses and ended up spending the Diwali night crying all by herself locked up in her room.

What are all these tears worth? Would it ever make any difference to the eve-teaser? Our minds have been raped! Relative, neighbor or stranger; all have been equally unworthy of trust to Rohini. May be Rohini resides in all of us. It isn’t about physical but mental abuse. It’s about the broken trust of a human being; its being helpless!

Rape is a scary word. It’s not even limited to women. A recent article about sexual abuse among war victims is a real eye opener. About 80% women were abused among refugees at a camp in South Africa whereas all the men were abused! It crosses the lines of humanity and shatters the dignity of a human being. The abused starts feeling ‘dirty’ about oneself! What is the root cause of this?

A few years back when sexual health was proposed to be introduced in school curriculum, there was a huge hue and cry. ‘It would degrade the minds of our children’ parents said.

It is as if thinking that the promotion of condoms will instigate people to have sex! The scarcity of knowledge about opposite sex and reproductive organs is what leads to making of pervert minds in the society. Remember our biology classes, where automatically we used to separate out in ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ group. Many of us ended up bunking the classes to escape the awkwardness to study about ‘such’ a thing together!

Health and Physical Education, a subject introduced by NCERT which aimed at looking at the health and hygiene aspects in school was degraded from a ‘compulsory subject to less important than the core subjects’. Before the policy changes result at a higher level, we all can contribute at our levels. The only time we can shape the mind is when it is young, once we loose that opportunity it’s very difficult to re-design the dried mud-pot. The time should not slip away to make it a better, safer and respectful world.          

How Brutal are we?

Day’s hard labour has brought the night’s supper. Pots are put to boil and family members are gathering around the fire to talk about ‘small nothings’. Elders are cajoling children to come back home after play and themselves retiring on their cots!’

This is just when the silence of the night is broken by a loud scream from one of the houses. The shrill heart rendering scream marks a cold blooded-murder. A huge sword was still quenching its thirst when a small crowd gathered around the house. Then the massacre began! In just about 20 minutes, the complete Dalit tola of Aandhari village was turned to a graveyard. A total of 150 people who lived in the tola were killed; all beheaded. None was spared except for a thin girl who had climbed a tree escaping the eyes of the slaughterers. Later on, she identified the murderers as Rajputs of the neighboring village who had a feud on the use of near by temple by Dalits. It was the year 1997 in Bhojpur district of Bihar. How brutal was that?

 A young woman was burnt alive. She was put kerosene on and lit on fire. One could see her running across the fields burning at the same time; none had the courage to save her. After all she had wronged her husband by not bringing any dowry! The incident occurred in Itarhi village of Buxar district of Bihar way back in 2002. Is that brutal?

It is not a thing of past still! During my visit I came across an AWW who had a deformed face. She was chatting happily when her husband entered the scene. He was drunk in broad day-light and abusing her at the top of his voice. She hushed him in the house and resumed her talk. ‘I won’t have been alive if I would not have been working as AWW. He would have cut me into pieces and thrown me into Soan river!’ Do any of us even consider it brutal?

Traveling back from work one day, I am privileged to have company of a lady who has by all means survived this Barbaric age. She has not only survived it; but has continued to work in such extreme areas as supervisor in ICDS system. Her profile related to interacting with people in the villages who were extremists in all true senses. ‘They would touch my feet when I helped them but not even think for a second before splitting your throat open! ‘The society was such, there was no regulation of any sort’ she tells me. ‘People become as they see around themselves. If we experience violence all around us; it is not very difficult to adopt the same way even by a child’. The dark-age as we call it has now passed, but has the violence ended?

Apart from cases of eve-teasing, rapes, physical assault, mental assault, another demon is eating up our society-Corruption. Don’t worry I am not going into the right or wrong of Anna Hazare’s movement; I am just quoting that it took such a big shape since we all realize that it is a ‘common problem’ of us all. Corruption’s root lies in greed. Greed instigates us to do something which is not moral; it is eternal violence. Such a thing (Greed) can thus only be outcome of a violent mind!

As told by Gautam Buddha, ‘Doing violence is not violence, thinking violence is violence’. Primitive man was barbaric too but he killed only for his needs; today we kill since we can’t control ourselves. We have just modified our way of doing violence; we create violence in minds now! So how brutal are we today?

Hues of the city of Joy! (Part-1)

Sandes, Naru and Mishti Dahi……a paradise for sweet lovers-Bengal! The name of the place comes from being situated just next to Bay of Bengal. Just the name of the place brings all the sweetness in my mouth…aah!

First thing that stuck me in the capital was the bright yellow cabs! They were all over the place with taxi drivers trying to woo the travelers. Here I noticed a very queer custom. There was this yellow line outside the station; all taxi drivers stood at ‘THE’ line. None of them crossed the line; all followed the unspoken law; unlike the taxi drivers in Delhi! 

It was early morning and the weather a slightly chill. The taxi glided on the road and I got the first few glances of the beautiful city of Joy!

When I was just 11 years old, there was a chapter in my English book called ‘The Living Saint’. I had dreamt of coming to Kolkotta since then. I wanted to see her walk through her home; dressed so pure in white giving her comforting smile to one and all.

My dream came true; I came to her home (Only difference was that it was Kolkotta not Calcutta now!). Just as I stepped into the room where her tomb was there, I felt a reverence which can be felt only in the house of God! Next stop was Shishu Niketan; where children who were ‘not wanted’ by the society were cared for. Even unwed mothers were given shelter; their baby delivered and cared for as they began a new life at Mother’s doorstep. Playing, No worries in the world; as I looked at these children, I wished to hug each and tell them how special they all were! Stood at a corner, I suddenly realized that a sister was watching me keenly. Her name was Amrit Jose. She was from Jharkhand and had come to the ‘Home’ when she was just 19. Today after 25 years she held the same love and care for all (I told her even my age was not 25 yet!). When I asked her how come she fought the society in a time when women were not strong enough for it? “It was a calling for me; felt as if I was born for it”. Just then a small hand held mine. I looked down to see a beautiful face crying! He tugged me to come along. He wanted to ride a swing and none was allowing him to. As I turned after pacifying him, there was another sound of cry. A girl was sitting on ground; all angry and throwing off her shoes! I was about to pick her shoe when a girl almost her age (even younger) ran to get her shoe back. She then tried to fit the shoe back on her friend’s foot. The girl had only three fingers. These children of the ‘Lesser God’ taught me a valuable lesson that day; love is universal and everyone needs it!

On the roads again we headed for the famous Victoria memorial. Women seated on the front seat of an auto was a common sight on roads. (I remember once an auto vala tell me in Patna, “Madam you may not mind sitting in the front but Bihar is not so advanced till now!”; well may be Kokotta is then!) The building stood all white, polished and breathtaking! The statue of a cupid with a …………..  standing proudly on the highest point of Victoria caught my attention. The sculptures were a delight to my eyes. And to top it with chocolate ice-cream, there was a painting exhibition going on. Collection was from painters from Kalighat, a low lying area of Kolkotta near Ganges. The exhibition gave me an insight into minds of men and women. The essence of domination of men in some and women in others was very amusing as well as creative. ‘Lover as a sheep’ tied with a rope held by a woman, sword in hand with a bowed head in front of a woman, giving attention to a courtesan while the wife suffers in a corner and woman imagining her lover in the mirror were some amazing pieces I saw!

Marble Palace was another marvel in itself. In the midst of huge spacious garden (not well maintained though) stands a structure in pure white. The gatekeeper stopped us and asked if we had the permission to go inside; well the entrance costed us a Rs 10 note! It was a private property, Palace of Maharaja…………..with restricted entrance (surely I don’t mean the gatekeeper incident) and absolutely ‘No Photography Allowed’. We had to wait our turn in a small group where the guide would take us around the palace. But the guide was hardly a guide for a collection like that! The palace was full of magnificent sculptures; all in marble. It was like a mini-Rome! Four seasons-Autumn, Spring, Summer and Winter, Dawn and Night, Continents-Asia, America, Africa had amazing expressions all of women. One particular sculpture on the wall held my attention. It was the size of a black board in middle school used to. Placed right in the centre of the platform (where I was told Kali puja happens every year) this sculpture spoke to me about slaying of women, huge pots and cross of the Christ. The episode of witch-hunting in Europe came in front of my eyes; where powerful single women were murdered by accusing them as witches. It is so weird that just in front of the sculpture, we hold our worship of a lady, Goddess Kali! Humans aren’t very clear what they want from themselves!      

Next stop being the International Dance Festival, it was just right to set my mood to blend in cultural beauty of the land; away from our closed mindsets. The venue, Satyajit Ray auditorium was itself a beauty, with marvelous pieces of art all around as you enter. Dancing to the classical Indian we saw dancers from Bangladesh and South Africa. Unmatched beauty of the expressions, dance postures and music caught my heart in a web where I was proud to be an Indian! With much more to come the next day I peacefully went off to sleep!