Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dream of New India - A Healthy India !!!

I remember as a child, watching Maa watering plants. Specially the Money Plant which was considered good omen  for the house. She ensured right amount of water and sunlight for all the plants in the house. As the seedlings grew taller with full grown leaves and flowers, she would smile and look satisfied. Today, I could not help but draw a parallel between kids of our nation and those seedlings. Both are valuable assets for a rich future of our country and a healthy next generation will ensure a robust nation, ready to take on any challenges globally. 

The biggest advantage of our country lies in the fact that we are full of natural resources and strategically covered by mountains, water and desert. And these ensure that we as a nation have a balanced climate which is conducive to make us stronger and acclimatize to any weather conditions. However despite being a nation that has everything going for, it is ironical that India is ranked at a lower 119th out of 190 States by World Health Organization (WHO) in ranking of Health systems. As a nation, we still need to take gigantic steps towards that dream of being one of the healthiest globally from this current scenario.

One of the most critical challenges that our country faces today is death of a child within few years of birth. WHO reports that 5 out of 1000 kids in India have probability to die below 5 years. This is largely due to malnutrition and environment in which they grow. A recent project “Help a Child Reach 5” undertaken by Lifebuoy- Hindustan Lever Limited has  brought in light a simple fact that kids in India up to age 5 die because of improper hand washing, leading to diahorrea and jaundice. This highlights one of the most crucial points of availability – Water, one of the basic elements of nature and also a critical ingredient for our survival. 
Till date drinking water is still not available properly in many places in our country and even if it is available water not always in cleanest form. While it is primary duty of Government to ensure clean water however as society we can ensure small and easy steps taken to protect our future our kids.  

a)  We should start developing good habits in our children both at home and school, the importance of washing hands properly before meal and not to drink water from anywhere.
b   School Management particularly government/municipality schools should ensure proper drinking water facilities inside school campuses for kids.
c)   NGOs should engage in more and more Awareness Campaign particularly in rural areas about drinking water, especially through techniques like boiling. Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers can run this as CSR Project whereby small packets of water are available in primary level municipal/govt. schools. Corporate may make this available at subsidized cost to Govt and have state-level tie-ups. Also Corporate should look to support NGO’s in building more deep tube wells specially in villages so that clean water is available to kids from very childhood.

Parents and Teachers bear a great social responsibility in building Good Habits in kids at an early stage so that these qualities become so deeply inculcated in them that generations after them too imbibe the same and it works like a chain reaction. These basic steps will ensure prevention of dangerous bacteria, viruses born out of water from entering into the human system and affecting immunity.

It is ironical that India whose GDP growth is largely driven by agricultural economy is also one of the highest when it comes to malnutrition among children. Appropriate Food Intake along with proper Nutrition is a must for an Immune India. While Public Distribution System in India is a matter of grave concern, to begin with following steps can be taken to do some immediate improvement in the short term:

a)    Mid-day Meal Schemes (more popularly known as Anganwadi) that run in India, in government and government –aided schools should be implemented 100% across all states and there should be regulatory system in every Block/Taluka, which should include surprise Audits, to ensure strict monitoring and implementation of the same. It is equally important that government exercises due caution when it comes to selection of vendors who supplies raw materials for food for kids and personally check the environment where food is prepared as often disturbing news of

b)   State Govt. should further look at ensuring at 1 glass of Milk and egg per day under Breakfast Scheme in Govt. and Govt. aided schools for Kids from 3 – 7 years particularly in Rural and Semi-Urban area. This will also have double advantage of incentivizing kids to come to school and study. Amul being one of the largest distributors of Processed Milk can be entered into tie-up with Government for supplying subsidized Milk at Co-operative and Ration Stores.

While the kids from well to do families may have access to Milk and egg, but the tendency of same kids to eat Junk Foods instead of nutritious food is not helping matters either. Burgers/Chips/Colas have replaced the usual Bread - Butter and Fruits. The availability of nutritious food like eggs, milk, fruits, and pulses is very important as right amount of vitamin, protein, and calcium goes a long way in building healthy body.

Also the fact that today’s kids are more attached to their gazettes is not helping the matters either, which means there is less of physical activity/sports which is again important part to build fitness among kids.

a)    Physical Education should be compulsory part of curriculum in schools until Class 5 and compulsory Grades should be applicable. In many occasions even if the Kids are willing to play, lack of infrastructure near their home prevents them from doing so.

b)  Corporate who runs school as part of CSR activity should look at building advance infrastructure like football/cricket ground/swimming pool/Indoor games in their school premises itself to encourage kids to take up sporting activity.At least a Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Saina Nehiwal has ensured that sports can  considered as a career in small town as much it is done in big cities.

Environment and Collusion in Food Quality is another important aspect when it comes to immunity. Everybody in the world can tell how important it is to live in pollution free environment and breathe under clean sky. However easier said than done in a country which is one of the fastest growing economies under the carpet of infrastructure and industrialization.

One of the Mantras one hears is Go Green – which essentially means not only to work towards pollution free environment but also to preserve natural resources be it paper or electricity. While it is a still largely an urban concept, it is heartening to see certain corporate houses taking these initiatives to villages by introducing Solar Lantern.

As a concept Go- Green is fantastic and in fact should be promoted as a culture in each child. Just like how much we like our children to grow into a strong individual, it would be fantastic if our children too learn small habits like switching lights when not on use, do not waste papers, or even grow a plant in the window of their room.

Environment not only in our houses but also public infrastructure needs attention. Lack of proper garbage system, often results in accumulation of garbage in roadside resulting in spreading of harmful diseases like malaria. Proper Fines should be implemented in Societies/Houses who dump garbage on roadside. Municipality Corporation has to implement this and they can appoint volunteers or take help of Scouts in neighborhood schools to ensure a clean city. Government should allocate more funds towards infrastructure of Public Toilets, built in Roads/Stations so that people do not use Roadside. Our kids grow these environment and all these little aspects that adds harm to our kids if not taken proper care of.

If we have intent, we can deliver. Eradication of Polio in our Country along with Use of Contraceptives (Mala-D) to curb population is examples of successful campaign of Public awareness. Similar Campaigns are much required for very important Health Issues like Breast Feeding, Compulsory Vaccinations of Kids, and Usage of Sanitary Napkins among adolescent girls. Government has to have large scale social campaigns and rope in Popular Brand Ambassadors/icons for each of these issues so that the people follow the same.

To build a strong healthy immune nation – our government, society and we as individuals have to work with each other and parallel to each other to make it happen. While government has managed to increase a 7% towards health sector from last time, it is still not even 5% of our GDP. However important is proper allocation of funds given that India also enjoys funding from UN and other international bodies towards health. The social structures like School, Hospitals, and Municipality have to play a very critical role in development of our kids. And at building individual habits will lie solely on the shoulders of parents who will have to act as role model and ensure along with all these, kids get a loving environment to grow. I hope to wake up one day to an India where no kid has to every sleep hungry, where every kid is smiling and suddenly we will realize we have found heaven on this earth itself.

This blog is part of "An Immune India" contest hosted by Indiblogger and Dabur. To have a healthy body please visit Images used are taken from Google Images.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Peddler of Dreams

The sky was an opened faucet few moments back. The tar black clouds have passed away and behind the light gray linings, crimson red rays of the setting sun are peeping in. The wind is still strong but promises to calm down. It is that time of the day, when Adil needs to prepare himself for the long evening ahead. As he gently pushed the cart to the road, he realized over the years, his enthusiasm has gone down considerably. The cart was neatly designed with a red cloth in the base enhancing its beauty and fairly clean, keeping in mind the hygienic conscious new generation Indians. However Adil knew that these brands of food is a perennial business in India and has its own appeal amidst the high rise.

The food cart was the only cherished asset in Adil’s life other than his wife’s memories. He needed to walk down at least 2000 meters’ before he reached his regular spot near Bandra Fort, where he sold his Potpourri - Bhelpuri, Papri Chaat and Gol guppah which was hot cake among college going crowd. His food helped to spice up the evening of those loves –struck couples. Watching them, he was reminded of his younger days, when he was new in the city which was known as Bombay then. Taking a deep breath, he recollected his journey from Bombay to Mumbai.

Suddenly, he chanced upon a street fight at the corner of the road where it bends towards dead end. Couples of kids were mercilessly beaten by College students and three other kids tried to defend their friends. An overdose of abusive verbose was on flow, when a kid was being slapped and pushed in the road. Adil left his cart to intervene. The men got violent and pushed him but he valiantly defended those kids from getting hurt. Soon he gained support from local public in driving those goons away.

As he cleaned up his bruises, dolts from his memories were out in open. Adil had lost his son in one of those random street fights seven years back which claims so many lives in Mumbai every day. His bruised body lay for 8 hours before Adil came to know. It was too late by then when police informed. While his son’s killers were never caught , Adil never cared for it either. He had lost him to the harsh realities of life long back. His son had big dreams and chose short cuts to achieve those.

After a brief distraction, it was time to concentrate on his day’s business. He saw those 5 kids standing just behind him. At this tender age, their faces had a stark story to tell. Their eyes were simmering with tears as if someone had touched their chords for the first time. They rushed to hug Adil. This sudden gesture of warmth had taken back the man deprived of love of past few years. He smiled first but later rebuked them for their behavior and warned them against fighting in the future.

The kids thanked him for his concern and also expressed their anguish for being an orphan in this world. For the first time in years, he felt human again. He felt loved and important. For those kids Adil was a hero. His wife, even in her last days, told him to be live life positively with the happy memories, before she finally succumbed to cancer.
He offered the kids some food from his cart.

The kids looked at each other and refused saying they were not hungry. But their eyes reflected otherwise.

Adil understood their predicament, smiled and said “If you guys like this food, you can tell this people around here and then my food will sell”. The kids looked convinced and accepted the food. In no time they gobbled it up. Satisfied, they introduced themselves one by one. Meena, Bittoo, Gudiya, Aslam and Raja. Meena was the youngest and Aslam was like their eldest brother. Since they had no one whom they could call their own, they have grown to be each other’s family. The pavements of Mumbai were their home to sleep at night and the signals their workplace to make their living. In the evening, they came to this place to play and also if they could earn a little more.

But from that day, Adil too became their extended family. After work hours, late evening, Adil would sit with them and narrate tales of his childhood and his dream to come to Bombay from Sultanpur in UP. And how fate changed in the City of Dreams - Bombay. He would tell them story of famous Bollywood heroes who made it from rags to riches. And how he met his princess called Nikhat who changed her life forever.

Young Nikhat was also born out of the streets of Mumbai. She got to learn magic from a fellow peddler, which became her profession when she grew up. She made a living by performing at Gateway of India. Her shows were popular among kids. And that’s where Nikhat met Adil. Love blossomed and they got married. Nikhat and Adil worked tirelessly, not only to make their two ends meet but to buy a Kholi, before they could start their family.

Nikhat was source of strength to young Adil. She ensured he was a fighter. They wanted their best for their son but despite their best efforts, they lost their son to street crimes. Adil saw Nikhat break down post their son’s death and gradually faded away to oblivion. Adil had mortgaged his Kholi to borrow money for her treatment, which is yet to be repaid fully till date.

The kid’s voice brought him back to present. They were looking to hear the story of the princess called Nikhat. Adil always narrated the happy stories of his life to them. And most stories involved Nikhat. Kids were excited and demanded to meet her.

Adil promised some day she would come and give them lot of love and gifts. At night, when sound of the waves would grow, he would point at them and that Life is just like sea, and it always gives back what it takes. He ensured that the hope and dreams in these kids life never got lost. The young kids would stare at him while listening to his stories and often hug him, as if Life has given him as their gift. He loved them as his own child.

Six months have passed since then. Adil had managed to put Rajaa, Meena and Guddu in Municipal school, with help of some support. And that ensured their mid-day meal as well. Aslam and Bittoo still had to earn their living but had promised Adil they will never gamble again.

On Diwali night, Adil took them to show magic in the sky at Marine Drive. It was an artistic display of scintillating fireworks and the sky had turned into rainbow of colors. As if some magician was painting it with light. Mesmerized Meena asked innocently “Abba, when we will magic happen in our lives”.

He smiled and replied “On the Christmas Day, my fairy Nikhat will send Santa Claus to you all and fulfill your dreams”. Adil instructed them to write their secret wish so that he can send it to his fairy and get it for them. The kids looked at each other, discussed and then Guddu wrote it in piece of paper and gave it to Adil. Nikhat had told him about how older men in garb of Santa Claus, fulfilled dreams of kids.

Adil was unwell for last couple of months. He had a promise to keep. Thoughts of fulfilling their promise kept troubling him. Their dreams and hope became his objective in life. More he feared another Aslam or Bittoo dying in the streets. He missed Nikhat. She would have patted her back and given her confidence. But this fifty year old man had an important battle to fight for him and these kids.

Two days before Christmas, Adil met the kids. Meena, Rajaa was excited to show him that they had learnt how to write A to Z and 1 to 100 completely. Adil looked pale. They did not understand but knew something was not alright. Scared, Aslam hugged him. He felt a sense of security. He has been the guardian of these kids all these years but for the first time he felt like having a guardian too. Adil tried to drift their attention by gifting their Christmas dresses, which they promised to wear on Christmas night.

Christmas Eve was night of celebrations. Young smiling faces flocked everywhere. One of the kindest men of the world was born this day. The streets and the church , looked beautiful in their lights and color. One could hear the Christmas choir round the corner.
As promised, kids reached their destination, well before mid-night and waited with baited breath for their surprise to unfold. On the way, they had seen Santa Claus so they wondered how they will identify their Santa.

It was well past midnight and there wasn’t trace of Abba or Santa Claus. Disappointed as they planned to return, they saw a tall man in a red cloak and beard all over the face, smiling at them from a distance. They rushed towards him and asked about Abba. He leaned forward to handover chocolates and kissed them softly. He asked them to follow him quietly. They were driven down to a narrow lane, down a bridge. Santa asked them to close their eyes. When they opened their eyes, they found themselves in a well-decorated room, with red-lights and gifts on table. And right above the table, they saw photo of Abba with a lady. Santa softly whispered in their ears “This is what you wished for. A home for you all where you can stay with your Abba”.

They screamed with joy. They had a new home. They had to no more sleep on roads. They hugged Santa and wondered if Santa was their Abba after all. Santa looked at them and said Abba has gone to meet his fairy Nikhat and he will take care of them till he comes back. As kids got engrossed themselves in opening the gifts, Santa left the room teary eyed, wondering if the happiness of the kids were momentary.

Adil had passed away the night he last met the kids. He was suffering from tuberculosis. He knew he would not survive but he was determined to fulfill their wish.
And only way he could was to give them his Kholi. But he had to repay loan for that. Nikhat had handed over some of mother’s jewellery to him and asked him to use it when he needed it. Adil had preserved it for so many years like a guarded treasure. But he knew that was the only means by which he could get his Kholi back. Nikhat’s soul would also be happier knowing that it meant providing home to few street kids. He not only repaid his loan but with help of his best friend Asfar, he ensured the Kholi was transferred to these kids and assigned his best friend as their custodian. He knew his end was near and hence had planned Christmas for the kids in advance and in case, he failed to make it Asfar would on his behalf. He did not allow death to come between him and the dreams he promised to the kids.

Asfar wondered if Adil couldn’t fulfill their second dream of staying with them. But then he knew that the souls of Adil and Nikhat were bestowed in that home forever. He looked at the sky and thanked Allah for allowing him to fulfill this great act of kindness of Adil. Kids will probably not know for long that Adil is gone forever, for them he was the peddler of their dreams which will remain in their heart forever. And for other things, Santa Claus is there to take care of them. After all act of kindness do not need any face, it just needs good intentions and faith.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Smelly to Smiley: Memories Reloaded !!!

If one carve out pieces of memories from the backyard of our mind and arrange them in a cardboard, we invariably will end up in reviving some beautiful and interesting tales. And especially when it is about your home . A place where we have grown up – bundle of childhood memories from being a kids to our adolescence. Somewhere we tend to outgrow these memories as soon as we step out of our house to an external world – in different cities, places, environment for our studies, careers but somehow they are deeply embedded in our subconscious minds and heart. And it takes just one trigger to refresh all of them – and probably smell is one of those catalysts that plays an activate role to redeem those memories.

In our houses we have what we called this small room or study room – in mine too we had such a place but along with books it was an abode for God too. In India, deities holds utmost social status and hence we are always found overboard when it comes to pleasing them. And where we have deities, it is unlikely incense sticks won’t be found. The smell of incense stick in fact is a signal that God lives somewhere nearby. Over the years that strong smell of amber has kind of stayed in that room. So till today whenever I enter the room, it hits my senses and takes me often to a nostalgic trip – my granny used to offer those amber- scented sticks to Gods as a mark of her devotion. She is no more but her aura is still there in that room though that smell - Her affectionate smile and her silent beckoning at me to join her in offering prayers to God. And my secret temptation for the “Prasad” – delicious Ladoo offered to God, made me listen to her each time.

Today we have different brands of personal care available in the market – be it Body Shop or Lush or Forest Essentials. These brands have conveniently found way to my home back in Kolkata also. However till date when I am at home and enter the wash room for a bath, the first thing that binds me is a strong smell of Sandal – The Mysore sandalwood soap still lies in a corner as it has been for last 20 years. That smell has a strange charm that can hypnotize you. It used to do that to me as a child as I used to use that every day and spent long hours bathing with that soap until Maa had to literally pull me out. Despite all the luxury brands, that Mysore Sandal wood soap still manages to rekindle my memories and allows me to get lost in the sweet memories of growing years. The post effect of that fragrance was awesome.

As a blogger, my relationship status with Books has been “Committed” for a long time. Probably it is hereditary as my father also shared a similar status. The Book Cupboard was a testimonial to that - his treasured collections, consisting of Tagore, Satyajit Ray and Sharadchandra found place there. Ask a bong and they will tell you, the perceived values of those books are nothing short of gold. Luckily my fairy tale stories also found place there. So over the years the books has been lying there and it now literally a treasure hunt to find out a particular book. So whenever the cupboard is opened, that famous old book smell grips us and opens up Pandora’s Box. I have read somewhere that Smell is chemistry and that Old Book Smell is combination of Grass with tang of acids and hint of vanilla. Dont know about the same but definitely very powerful. 

Powerful enough to take you back to pleasant childhood - Dad reading me stories on Sunday after-noon. Specially my Grimm Brother Collection of Fairy Tales – Hansel and Gretel or Snow White – and to add to that strong smell that came out of its hardcover. It also allows me to transcend into memories of excitement on getting new school books every year and how much I loved the smell of it. And promised to myself I would take studies diligently this year. It’s another story how with gradual fading away of the fresh smell, my interest too evaporated from studies.

Food is one of the core members of Indian household. From spicy to sweet, Indian Kitchen is a wonderful blend of different smells And my kitchen household was no different. I was one of the few privileged kids who have had the guilty pleasure of eating Donuts long before Mad about Donuts made way to our hearts. Of course from my Nanny’s kitchen and finally to my Mom’s kitchen…..that sweet smell of it when it was made…probably that of mixture of flour and yeast.....always rejuvenated my spirits. 
When I am there at my home, my Mom makes it and it brings back my fond memories how impatient I used to be to eat and I used to go from behind and give a surprise hug to her, and pleads her to give me one. I struggled to get hold of her because of my height then. And another delicious offering from my mother’s kitchen – was orange flavored cake. Peeled Orange cover was used for fragrance. That orange flavor used to seduce my senses so much so that once I burnt my finger touching a hot oven in an attempt to see if cake was made or not.

Such are memories – Mostly sweet and sometimes bitter. And Fragrances has always been part of our nostalgic trip adding a zing to them and we hope that Ambipur set of offering, being a part of our household will help us to create new memories in the coming years

This blog is submitted as part of Indi blogger Ambipur Contest. Pl visit to know about the details of their products. Spread happiness in your lives through sweet fragrances of AmbiPurIndia. The images used are taken from Google.Com

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lootera: Flawed but Steals Your Heart

It is definitely exciting times for Indian Cinema, and enticing to  see  more and more Indian Film Makers open to adopting great  pieces of Literature, and  transforming them into good cinema. “Lootera”,  directed    by    Vikramaditya  Motwane, partly  adopts  O  Henry’s  beautiful  short   story “ The  Last Leaf”, to tell a  heart  aching love story, weaved  beautifully  through some brilliant art. Vikramaditya ,  who  had  earlier directed  the  very  hard  hitting  and  at  your  face,  Udaan, manages  to  tug  strings  of your  heart,  through  his current rendition.

However, Lootera , being a period film, will not appeal to all audiences. Leisurely paced, it unfolds aesthetically, capturing every frame beautifully and with precision to finer details. From aesthetics to costume to look and feel, Vikram reminds of his mentor Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Though the latter was more obsessed with the art rather than the story and characters itself. Lootera too suffers from that syndrome occasionally, but by and large, the director manages to convey emotions strongly, restraining the beautiful canvas, as a perfect background only.

Like all recent cult films, Parineeti , Kahaani, Barfi, Lootera too thrives on the Bong Connection – while the film first half and characters are set in West Bengal, the second half shifts to picturesque Dalhousie. Set in post independence era, the film gives an insight in life of Zamindar and their sense of loss, at their dethroning from their position of power and prized possession and moves on to explore how vulnerability of one human being becomes weapon of another human to exploit. Amidst all this is an enchanting love story between Varun and Pakhi, which grows from innocence to intense, inter-twined between conversations and prolonged silences. The camera captures those silent glances of love beautifully.

The fact that the antagonist of the film also happens to be the hero, and the female lead is more expressive in love, makes it a more interesting watch. The chemistry between the lead pair is complex yet fascinating. Particularly the conflict scenes between two protagonists, not only against each other but at the same time, with self, are high points of the movie. At one point, one can’t stop wondering what magic; SRK-Kajol would have created, had they been cast in the movie.

The film can easily boast of, one of the finest camera work and cinematography, ever portrayed in Indian cinema, with such finesse. The craft enhances the viewing experience by several notches in this tale of love, betrayal and self-conflict. Another high point of the film is the soulful music and background score of Amit Trivedi, which simply is outstanding, portraying innocence and pain in love, with equal measure.

The characters in the film, being multi-layered appears real. The supporting actors, be it Vikram Massey as hero’s friend, Barun Chanda as Pakhi’s dad or Adil as police inspector are superb. However the young protagonists of the movie should be truly credited to ensure that the film rises above just being a picture perfect, to portray the tale of strong conflicting heart wrenching emotions. While Sonakshi as Pakhi is quite a surprise and complete revelation (her best work till date) , Ranveer Singh is exceptional in an intense role, which he downplays beautifully. Watch the emotions in the eyes of Varun and Pakhi in the 2nd half, from hatred to despair to love and hope, it pretty much conveys the graph and mood of this heart-wrenching love story.

The film adopts portion of “The Last Leaf” well into its screenplay although one wished the director would have relied a little more on Indian audience’s intelligence and not dropped so many hints, from much before, on the beautiful climax, than it actually unfolds. Those who have read the book can relate how the final reels of the movie,  transforms  those scenes of the book into exotic visuals and at the same time equally depicts strong under currents of emotions. While the film falters in story telling in second half with some glorious flaws  but full kudos to Vikramaditya  for overhauling those glitches and managing to deliver yet another emotional master-craft. Come with a peaceful mind…and enjoy the experience!!!!