Sunday, July 26, 2009

Whom are we kidding??

"Lifting The Mask Off Child Labour" read the title of the photograph in the paper. The image showed several kids with masks that had, "Stop Child Labour" written on the forehead. Below, the caption read of how school students had held a rally to celebrate the World Day Against Child Labour. In another corner of the page, the paper declared how the working conditions of the kids on TV were being brought under the scanner. Good! I said to myself. We were finally going somewhere! There was some action being taken! Mentally, I patted my back and the backs of all those who were even remotely concerned about the issue. Finally, all our concern and raising of voices was going somewhere! Feeling very proud and extremely satisfied, I made to turn the page, a smile on my lips.

Just then, a sharp voice rammed onto my eardrums, as the lady next to me in the local train screamed,
"Arrey! Kya kar raha hai? Mera dupatta kharab kar diya!" (What are you doing? You've spoilt my dupatta!)
With a scorn fit for the devil distorting her heavily made up features, she turned to a little figure standing in the aisle.

There stood a little boy, no more than 5 years old. Drab, extremely dirty clothes cladding an even dirtier body. There was a thick layer of grime on the little face. On careful scrutiny, one could have spotted tear marks which were covered with another layer of the city's faithful dust. Two large brown eyes were peering back at the lady, a tiny hand which had been indulging in the criminal act of tugging at her expensively laundered dupatta hung limply by his side. The other slightly curled fingers were semi extended in a gesture of begging; a sort of involuntary reflex inculcated in him since birth. 

The eyes, even on being incriminated were hardly guilty; they were too busy begging. He looked up at each of us in turn, extending his little arm almost robotically. 

He didn’t go to tug any more dupattas; instead, he tried tugging at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, they too were stiff from expensive laundry.
He looked at me. I gazed back at the little child, and the paper in my hand seemed to be a mockery. 
All the pride, joy and satisfaction that had been grinning on my lips, slipped away. And anguish filled me. Action was being taken? Changes were happening? Where? Definitely not here. Not for this little kid. We were getting rid of child labour..... That’s well and fine and really good for us.

But what about this child? When will he get rid of it?
Lifting The Mask Off Child Labour?? Please! Whom are we kidding?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Train...

Now here, a little about the train itself. 
I'll begin from the last compartment, which was a storage car. All our supplies etc were in there. This was a compartment u couldn't access from within. U had to go from outside. There was also a bathroom (!!!) in a similar compartment. Then was one compartment that was accessable from within the train which was a bathroom too... It was one of the most well designed innovations i'd seen!! It was a usual passenger train compartment. Each section of six seats was draped into a 'cubical' made of tenting cloth. And within it, between the two sets of seats was a plastic tank-turned-tub. We had to carry water from one of the storage tanks which was stationed in a combined space of two seating sections and one right at the end of the compartment and have a bath here... Only thing was... Yeah u guessed it... NO warm water!!!!!!!
Well, we got over that pretty soon.... Then was one compartment for the staff, and the security etc. Then were two girl's compartments, and then two a/c chair cars, these were the 'common rooms'. We met here for our discussions, presentations and spent a lot of our spare time here... There were these LCD screens in each compartment that showed us what was happening in the other compartment when we had our presentations. 
Then there were three a/c compartments where the team, media and others stayed. Then there were the three guy's compartments and then the pantry... 
About a billion times a day, we've pranced about the train, from one end to the other. By the end of the second day, we'd become experts in walking in jerking, moving wobbling floors!!!
Such was the expertise that for around a week after our return, we felt funny walking on unshakeable ground.... Wouldn't you say the yatra made us ready for unsteady grounds..?? In more ways than one, I'd say...

Getting Acquainted...

Date: 24th of dec, 2008
Time: 11.30 P.M. 
Place: Jagriti Yatra Express

The night we left behind Mumbai Central station, all on cloud 9, all excited, all with stars in our eyes and all set to take on the world....
I had been just a few hours since we'd all met for the first time at IIT Powai. Well, First time meaning first time physically. We'd been meeting up online for ages before we actually met that day. 
So there we were, as the dust settled and it really started sinking in, we started looking around the train compartments with new eyes. These berths, our room for the next 18 days.... these girls around me, my room mates... Wow.... I was on my way..... 

Then once the cheering had died down and the noise of the train, which was soon to become our companion started taking over, we looked at each other. Then began the "Hi, I'm So-and-So from XXX. " and the "Nice to meet you's ". It was amazing to watch everyone getting our of their shells and getting to know each others.  For some time, it was just the girls getting to know (or trying to remember) all the names around, settling on the berths, getting ready to change for the night, etc. It was later in the evening that we met in the 'common room' for our first session on the train... 
It was after this that we really started getting to know the team, the people around us and in all the chaos that errupted in our minds, a slight sense of order began to form. Within hours of meeting each others, we'd started understanding each others. Only time was to tell us how deep our bonds were gonna go.... and not till we left each other at the Mumbai Central Station 18 days later that we acknowledged that we'd tied ourselves in these inextricable, deep and marvelous bonds that were to last us a lifetime.....

Monday, January 19, 2009

From the beginning...

Ok, From this blog post on, i'll be talking of the Tata Jagriti Yatra.

Date: 24th of dec, 2008
Time: Early morning
Place: Outside my building

I'd spent the earlier night ensuring that I'd packed all that I could possibly need for the 18 day Tata Jagriti Yatra. There was still this air of disbelief all around me. Right from the time when I got that mail saying that I had qualified for the yatra and that I had also gotten myself a full sponsorship, I'd been pinching myself a fare few times a day to make sure that it wasn't all a dream. (there still is a pink patch on my arm) And now finally, after all the packing and unpacking, the thinking, planning, announcing and declaring, the time was here to leave. 
Mom had to leave in the morning for her school so it was dad who came to leave me. we took a rickshaw to Goregaon and a bus from there to Powai ( I love my Mumbai! Everyone from the rickshaw fellow, the bus people and everyone around took a look at my bags and gently directed us to the right bus stops, etc...) 
Reached IIT Powai and the fellows at the gate directed us to the Convocation Hall where we were to gather. We took the internal bus. My heart was thumping so loud, I thought they'd bring in the bomb detection n disposal squad to check for a time bomb!!!!
Then finally we reached!!
And there they were!!! All those splendid people who were going to be with me on the train and who had been in constant touch with each other (including me) via e-mail sharing the pre-yatra jitters!! So it was NOT a dream, finally!!
I went in, registered, got my group and cohort details and came out again to see if I could find anyone from group 'R'..... No-one.... :(
Well, then I spent some time with Disha and the other girls who'd come there before me. We introduced ourselves, had breakfast and some time later, I heard someone talk of group 'R' and I bounced up. "Did you say Group 'R' ?"
"Yes. Those guys out there were looking out for people from group 'R'. Are you in group....."
I'd already dashed away in the direction that he's pointed out. 
"Hey. You guys from group 'R'?"
"Yes. You?"
Thank God!!!!!!
And so gathered the first few members of group 'R'. Then one of the people from within came to ask us o get into our respective groups. What followed was a cacophony of calls for all the alphabets!! I'm sure I heard someone yell for Group 'Y'!!! 
Even we began our full throated call for our group, barely knowing that we weren't calling for random other travellers but people who we were going to become fast friends within a question of hours!!
And sure enough, by the time it was time for the initial ceremony, we'd become great friends!
The ceremony was another thing!!
We were told about the last Yatra and other details about this Yatra, but the most interesting part of all, we were taught the Yatri Geet with the actions!!
had fun learning it...
We then had our first Role Model Session with Jyoti Naik of Lijjat Papad. It was amazing and inspiring to see how the organizatin had come about and how they had reached where they are today..... 
Well, then we headed for the Flag off ceremony to the Ravindra Natya Mandir. after a series of one of the most inspiring talks by a representative of the Dabba walla association of Mumbai and Mr. T.R. Doongaji  :-) of Tata Services, we performed the Jagriti Geet!!!
It was a brilliant experience to see the "Train" being "flagged off" at the ceremony and then, from there, we headed straight for the station, to board the real train and really get going....
And after all the running around, finally, the train took off from Mumbai Central station at 11 in the night on a journey that was to modify all our lives......

Saturday, January 17, 2009

So Sorry!!!

i've been off for like ages!!!!
but there has been reason enough!!!!
i've been on the Tata Jagriti Yatra  ( )from the 24th od dec to the 11th of jan. and on my return, there was so much of stuff acumilated that i took time catching up... but now i'm back in full form!!!
and there's so much to talk about!!!
there were a billion and ten things i wanted to blog about!! now that i'm back, i'll re live every moment of the Yatra (which i miss too much, by the way.....) here, on the blog...
i promise that i'll write in every day and try to bring out some special mments of the yatra, as they happened.....
but have t shut up now....
have to go for a lecture with Sudhakar Sir... I Know I know... he calls us even on sundays... 
but that's cool!!! he's a nice person and i won't mind going for the lecture...
will write some day about him too.....
ok leaving now!!