Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Katta and cutting chai...

Katta- this word is a part of every Puneite’s life. ‘Kattyashivay college mhanje sugandhashivay phool.’ (A college without a Katta is like a flower without scent). Okay, for those who do not know what this Katta is let me define it for you. Katta is a place in a college where collegians chill out, chat, tease each other, bitch about professors and fellow students, get ‘ideas’ for their projects, line-maro on a girl or a guy and do other such ‘productive’ things. The frequency of a student spending time on this Katta could differ from student to student. Some people are padeek on the Katta the whole day and some find an hour or so for it. Time on the Katta is best enjoyed with friends having a good sense of humour, lots of bekaar time and loads of faltoo topics to debate on.

Pune is also known as the ‘Oxford of the East’ (a very clich├ęd phrase) and you can spot dozens of the species called ‘college students’ hanging around their colleges. A Katta could be a non-college one also i.e. not in the college but somewhere near the college. It is a meeting spot of chuddy-buddies, lovers, enemies (to remove khunnas- tapori style) and also a place where the cutting chai is best enjoyed. Anna’s cutting chai, to be specific. The ‘Anna’ is found everywhere- in colleges, office canteens and in Udipi hotels and I have met many such Annas in my life. And the common dialogue with the Anna, “Anna chai do’, ‘Anna wada garam chahiye’ and ‘Anna paisa kal doonga’.

Katta (The word Katta is repeated too many times and also to make it sound cool, I am referring to it as ‘K’ from now on) sees the rise (!) of many talents. Singers wail here, dancers dance, poets churn out poetry and artists decorate their very own K. The singers get listeners here, dancers get audience and the poets get recognition. Poor K has to bear it all! The K makes a great venue for debaters and ‘orators’ to debate and discuss hot topics and also for the ‘intellectual’ types to hold their intelli-seminars. K essentially should have some kind of a tree around it, so that the K-padeeks can enjoy some cool breeze and if it is a fruiting tree (such as peru or chikoo), eat some fruits when hungry.

My tryst with the Katta is of seven long years- from 11th Std to final year of my post-graduation, I have basked in the glory of the K. I was a very studious (a phenomenon misunderstood by many, looking at my glasses) person and therefore had only an hour or so to spend on the K everyday. In Modern College, where I did my 11th to BSc study, the K was sometimes my classroom and sometimes the corridors, as it was a small college. I had a great bunch of friends so the place didn’t matter. But while in Ranade Institute, where I studied journalism, I had a two hour break between my foreign language lecture and my journalism lecture, so my frequency on the K increased. Also, if our journo lectures were cancelled (which happened most of the times) we would be padeek on the K and do stupid stuff like cracking PJs and harass serious members of the group when studying. My ‘Japanese’ group and I enjoyed some really beautiful moments of fun, timepass and actual work related talks on this K, which had a Christmas tree look-alike tree.

Thank you K, for being the best part of my college life and giving me such wonderful memories and I am sure that many others also thank K for their college memories.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Taxidermy- an art unheard....

Taxidermy- yeah, the name sounds cool… but I had no idea what it meant. I was assigned to do a story on the subject. (I asked Anjali, my then boss to repeat the word atleast thrice and I was like ‘yeh kya hai bhai?’). Lekin mera bharosemand saathi ‘Google’ is always there with me in trying times like these. I googled the word ‘taxidermy’ (nothing to do with taxis, ok!) and came to know that it is a science of stuffing dead animals in order to preserve their skin. Sounds interesting, right? I hopped at the idea of doing something different. But the task was to find taxidermy practitioners in Mumbai.

A rival newspaper article had mentioned the name of Prof Santosh Gaikwad, a professor in the Bombay Veterinary College. The next day, I went to meet him in his college which for me was quite a scary place. There were animals all around- lots of dogs, cats. I met Prof Gaikwad, who told me about his art in details. He started practicing this art as a hobby and now he has got permission of the Forest Department to stuff a dead leopard and a tiger. He started with stuffing small animals like fish and cocks. (No animal is killed for the purpose, he uses dead animals). This art is a combination of physiology, sculpture and painting. The body parts of the dead animal are carefully removed and the fat on the skin is also removed. All this has to be done very fast as the body starts decomposing. Then a sculpture of the body structure is done and the skin is put on it using chemical treatment. The entire process requires a lot of patience (rarely found in people like me :) and the sculpture has to be kept in an airtight container to avoid decaying. He showed me the photographs of his ‘creations’.

The next task was to find out one more taxidermy practitioner in the city. And I managed to found one! (Which was an exclusive because all other newspapers had carried only Prof Gaikwad). I called up museums in the city asking for taxidermy practitioners and came across Mr Dilip Ranade of Prince of Wales Museum. He used to practice the art, but doesn’t anymore. I went to meet him at the museum. A museum, according to many people, is a very boring place to go but for me it is quite interesting to know about what olden people were like and how they dressed and stuff like that. Mr Ranade is a GD Art from JJ College and initially worked as an illustrator in the museum. He also showed me his lovely drawings. As a taxidermist, he has stuffed small squirrels and gigantic animals such as rhinos and elephants! In the museum, there was a scene of some flamingos in their natural habitat. He told me that the Britishers actually went to their habitat and killed the flamingos as per their requirement- two males, two females, four juveniles. I was really disgusted when I heard this! How cruel can someone get. He also added that taxidermy was a ‘cruel art’. Now it isn’t because the animals which are stuffed nowadays are already dead. (and hunting is also banned).

The basic aim of taxidermy today, is to preserve skin of animals of the endangered animals so that we can at least show the stuffed animal to our future generations. Taxidermy is indeed an interesting art which needs a lot of knowledge, practice and dedication. I love to do articles on such interesting subjects as I get a lot to learn.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dial xxxx to get entertained… ;)

As a journalist, I always need to speak to people (sometimes even if I don’t want to) - may be by meeting them or by having a telephonic conversation. Btw, this new era of calling people and getting their comments is called ‘telephonic journalism’. (As we journos are getting tech savvy, newer methods are also coming up ;). So, getting back to the original topic (as I tend to fluctuate very easily), I have come across three hilarious ‘tele-talks’ till now. They are listed below in chronological order (to remain unbiased :) –

Tele-talk no. 1: These wannabe singing sensations are a real pain to one’s ears. One chance and they can do anything to make their voice heard (literary!). I was doing an article on the occasion of Navratri and Dandiya. The topic was ‘will Falguni Pathak have a successor or will she reign as a Dandiya Queen forever’. I never liked the topic, though. So I had to call some to-be-singing sensations of reality shows. I was talking to one such ever-enthusiastic participant DD (name withheld without request), who said ‘Bas Falguni ji ko retire hone dijiye, agala Dandiya King toh main hi hoo’. When asked for his favourite Dandiya song he started singing a song from the movie ‘Pyaasa’- not the classic Guru Dutt one, it didn’t have anything related to Dandiya, but the super duper flop movie (wrongly) starring Aftab Shivdasani and Yukta Mookhey. The song is such a pain in itself and listening to the wannabe DD sing it gala-fadke for good 5 minutes was a real earache!

Tele-talk no. 2: This was when I was given a one day deadline to finish a story on ‘World Disability Day’. I had to talk to NGO spokespersons and ask them whether they were organizing any event for the same. I googled (see, I told you we are getting tech savvy!) some NGOs working with the specially challenged. Then, I called NGO xyz, a lady picked up the phone. Her voice sounded that she was in a hurry to finish off her work and go home to catch up with some pending house work. I asked her whether they were planning any event for tomorrow i.e. World Disability Day, she said without even hearing me properly- ‘Arey, yeh kya hai? Aisa kaise kar sakte hai aap? Why didn’t you call me earlier, on such a short notice how can I organize something for the WDD?’ I explained to her that I didn’t want her to organize anything but was just asking if they had any plans to do so and I hung up. I knew journalism has a lot of power, but it also has the power of organizing events to publish reports, that I didn’t know. ;)

Tele-talk no. 3: Another ‘Day’- Human Rights Day. The same old thing to do- call up NGOS and find out any events on this day and also what do they think about Human Rights and blah blah blah…. I called up an ‘international’ NGO’s board-line in Delhi. (I think, I had got a wrong number...). For the first few seconds there was pin-drop silence and suddenly it started- ‘Baar baar phone karte ho tum, kyu mujhe tang karte rehte ho… Kyu mujhe hamesha phone karke pareshan karte ho. Kal bhi phone kiya tha na tumne? Kyu, kyu, kyu?’ And behold, now comes the climax- ‘Arey itne bhi nahi samjhe, April fool banaya tumhe…ha ha ha.’ For two minutes, I didn’t get what had happened. I tried to regain consciousness and then hung up. I definitely has dialed a wrong number with this bhayanak caller tune. But I didn’t mind the dumb joke as I was bored that day and I laughed my heart out at this one. Funneee..I must say…

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Think as an Indian first…

Terror attacks…terror attacks and only terror attacks- this is the only thing that on every Mumbaikar’s mind. But some still feel that regionalism will help fight terrorism. How, that I can’t tell. On 27th November, just a night after the whole gruesome act started, I got a message from an acquaintance of mine which said, ‘Where is Raj Thackeray hiding? Why isn’t he bringing his MNS goondas to fight terrorism? Why should the NSG troops fight to save lives of the Marathi manoos?’ and related stuff. I felt bad and angry after reading the message. Let me be clear that I am not a follower of Raj Thackeray. The thing which bothered me so much was ‘why bring the unwanted regionalism into the picture, when the life of thousands of Indians is at stake?’ Mind you, I said INDIANS and not Maharashtrians or Gujaratis or Punjabis. The message read that why should NSG commandos save life of Mumbaikars when they are not Marathi. The point is, what about the three top cops- Karkare, Salsakar and Kamte- they were all Marathi. Almost 90% of the Mumbai Police is Marathi. But while saving lives of so many people did they ask them ‘Are you a Marathi, I will save your life only if you are a Maharashtrian.’

One should fight such battles dealing with the whole country as an Indian and nothing else. MNS has donated 400+ bottles of blood towards the victims of the attacks. I am not trying to praise them or something. It’s just that when they did something bad, it was widely reported and it was correct but when they did something good, not even a 100 word story appeared.I feel enough is enough. Everybody loves their region and religion but how far should we go?

Every Indian should make a point of thinking as an Indian first and then as a Marathi, Bengali or Malayali.

Mumbai- a terror hotspot?

Mumbai has been targeted- again. This time different venues and a different action plan which was unthought-of and unimagined. Earlier, the terrorists would just bomb off places and run away, but now terror is getting brave and matured. This time they are targeting top police officials. Three of which have already faced martyrdom. Shocking? It is.

Terror- the word has become a part of every Mumbaikar’s life. Mumbai, the financial capital of the country has also become a terror capital. Terrorists feel that Mumbai is their playground and they can merrily drop bombs like they are bursting crackers and kill people as they wish. What has happened to the conscious of the species called ‘human beings’? Has being ‘inhuman’ become a part of the ‘humans’? God has forgotten to give heart and emotions to these ruthless species called terrorists.The attack was planned so efficiently that the terrorists managed to get in the topmost hotels with AK-47s and all the required ammunition. The police, army, commandos and the firemen are trying their best to get control of the situation and the media is keeping people update about the situation. But I think media should not disclose crucial facts on TV because if the terrorists come to know about their action plan the situation will worsen. But all in all, the media is doing a good job this time. Reporters and cameramen are tirelessly reporting the situation while endangering their lives in the process.

I hope that the situation comes under control soon and may God save the lives of the remaining people. As for the terrorists, I hope that all of them die and go to hell. But hell also won’t have any place for such gross ‘inhuman beings’.

Safe Injection Drive- 'We' need to do something...

Friends, we really need to think about this- 3 lakh Indians die annually due to the use of unsterilised injections. A small negligence on the part of us and the doctor can lead in to the spread of fatal diseases and consequently the death of innocent lives.

The ‘Safe Injection’ has been started by SafePoint trust UK, initiated by its founder Marc Koska. He works in the field of medical equipment designing, that’s why this cause is so close to his heart. The press conference of the launch of this extensive media awareness programme in the form of PSAs on television, radio and cinema houses was held at ITC Grand, Parel on November 19th. I attended the conference as a DNA reporter, but as an Indian, one thought kept on pondering in my mind- Why does someone from an another country has to come and spread awareness among Indians, cant someone from ‘us’ do it?Following are some of the facts that I came to know through the PC.

Mark Koska said that he came across a study conducted by the IndiaCLEN Program Evaluation Network on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Government of India and World Bank (2002-2004) and found that around 65% syringes used in the country are not disposed or sterilized and re-used to inject another person. This could lead in the transmission of the deadly HIV and Hepatitis viruses. He waited till 2008 for something to be done by the Indian government but nothing really happened. So he decided that its high time that something should be done now. That’s why he founded SafePoint Trust UK to spread awareness about syringes all across the world. Koska is the inventor of the AD syringe (Auto Disable) which is in use worldwide.The campaign kicked off on November 14 in New Delhi. Fifteen Brits associated with SafePoint have flown down to India for this cause.

This campaign will include showcasing of short films in over 300 cinema theatres in the country, airing Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on television channels and also on AIR and FM radio. The voice-overs to the announcements have been given by none other than Kiran Bedi. The cost of the week long extensive media campaign is around 7,00,000 euros. Koska said that they will also be airing the PSAs in the ODI telecast between India and England on November 20 on television channels.Koska added that the response to the announcements has been good so far. He proclaims that at the end of the campaign at least 100 million people will become aware and will demand their rights. He has also observed that ragpickers collect these syringes from the dump, wash them and pack them for reuse. He adds in that India needs around 6 billion syringes in a year and the number of available syringes is around 2 billion.SafePoint has been spreading awareness in many developing countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda. When asked Koska whether they approached the Health Ministry for support, he answers diplomatically, “We tried to gain access to the Health Ministry, but we failed to get through.” But he has found support in the form of Former President of India Abdul Kalam, Kiran Bedi, Lila Poonawalla and Nana Chudasama among the others.

It’s high time the Indian government takes a clue from this whole campaign and does something to save innocent lives. Someone from an another country has started educating us on our health rights and it’s the need of the hour that we Indians awake and do something for our own betterment.

Commuting woes...

Commuting by trains is not an easy job. It needs courage, braveness, fearlessness and an arrogant gait and attitude. Be it a local train or an outbound express train, possession of all these qualities is a must. The whole story starts from the ticket counter itself. You are getting late for a meeting, or for your job or to meet your loved one, you stand in the queue for a good half an hour or so and suddenly someone comes to you and says, “Kya aap mera bhi ticket nikalenge?” [Aise logon ko dekhkar to jee karta hai ki inka upar ka ticket katwa doon :)] I call these kind of people as ‘ghuskhors’. (In Hindi, ghooskhor means the one who takes bribe and in Marathi, it is a sarcastic expression for the ones who come in between.) If you dare to say NO or say “Are we mad to stand in the queue for such a long time?”, they give you an expression of neglect and that you’re a just a ‘tuchha jeev’ surviving on this earth and that you should forget all this social welfare and get back to work!! I hate such people and strongly disapprove of their existence on this earth ;).

There is an another category of people who commute by trains called the ‘Ever-bimaar’ types. The ones who commute by Pune-Mumbai trains will be in a better position to understand this praanijat (species). These women (as I travel in the ladies compartment, which is wrongly termed as ‘ladies’, I can give only their example.), who are generally monthly pass-holders believe that the whole Pragati or Intercity Express is a gift of the Indian railways to them and they can (mis-) utilize it in the way they want to. They sleep on the seat on which 3 people can sit and when asked to get up, they make an ugly face and say “Main bahut bimaar hoon.” This is the reason they tell everyday, so they are the ‘ever-bimaar’ types. They don’t have the humanity and courtesy to offer seats to elderly women or women carrying babies and small children. They just say “I am bimaar.” I think that’s all they have been taught in life. These types should sit at home and not travel at all, that will surely cure their illness (and that of others too!!).And ofcourse, there are sant-atmas also, who offer place to the elderly and the sick people and stand in the queue to get tickets without even trying to break the law. (the one’s like me J).I think appropriate measures should be taken by the railway authorities, police and aware and conscious commuters like us to make the above mentioned species extinct from planet Earth and do good to its deserving citizens. (What say?)So the next time your in a queue and someone asks you to take a ticket for them, DO NOT encourage such people.

And in the trains, if you see these ladies sleeping and occupying the whole seat, don’t hesitate and just empty your water bottle and wake them up from their slumber…..!

My life in Mumbaaiii...

Mumbai, popularly known as the city of dreams is a city that keeps you wanting more out of it… Thousands of people from all parts of the country come here to make it big in aamchi Mumbai. I am just a miniscule part of those hordes of people. I come from Pune- the cultural capital of Maharashtra, the city of great history and intellectual people [like me :)] Adapting to the fast pace of Mumbai’s life was a challenge though. I have become a bindaas Mumbaikar from a Puneri Punekar in just 5 months!!

Mumbai is a city of challenges and I’m loving it…The challenge started on the very first day of reaching Mumbai. From searching accommodation to searching destinations… everything involved challenges. Thanks to my grandparents, who stayed here, I was fairly acquainted with the city. Travelling in the local trains at peak hours, getting into the second class by pushing in atleast 10 women and getting out of it doing the same, prove that you are strong enough to do anything in life… seriously!

Mumbai, apart from being sapno ki duniya, is a bheed ki, katar ki duniya too. Every where you go, you are welcomed by atleast 50 people in a row. From bus-stops, taxi stands, office elevators to even loos, standing in a queue becomes a part of a Mumbaikar’s daily routine. Another thing that holds Mumbai together is the fighting spirit that Mumbains have. Serial train blasts, bomb blasts, floods- nothing could shake the unshaken spirit of a city called Mumbai. People here know how to live life, even when they’re not sure when it will end.Staying in Mumbai for the past 5 months, I have learnt many things. From being independent, to facing more people (and people of different types) than ever to discovering ‘myself and my inner strength’, Mumbai has taught me everything. [I know, I know, I’m getting too philosophical :)

At the end, all I want to say is ‘Salaam Mumbai’.