|HER WORLD||Sunday, May 2, 2004, Chandigarh, India|
It has been a long journey for Ram Hingole, who has chosen to rehabilitate children of commercial sex workers. Reema Anand meets the man who has touched many lives.
MY destination was a three-room house, situated on the periphery of Nagpur city. It was evening and more than half of the city seemed to have crawled back to their respective shelters. It wasn’t a motorable road, but we drove and parked at a ‘God forbid’ place. A short, stocky man in his forties, wearing a white khadi kurta pyjama stood outside his main gate, with his hands folded in a welcoming namaste. What struck me was his smile.
Confident, yet an unassuming demeanour, with a reasonable amount of cheerfulness around him — this was Ram Hingole. A new chapter being added to the history of Nagpur. Around him revolve destinies of 37 children of Commercial Sex Workers of Nagpur (he doesn’t acknowledge this).
"I have kept the media away from these children, because of the sensitivity of their situation. I don’t want them to get hurt".
It has been a long journey for Ram Hingole — from 1990s to 2004.
"When I entered the Ganga Jamuna Basti (the red light area) in 1980s, for a research-based study, I didn’t know how strongly I shall be bound to the lives of the women living there."
In mid-1980s, the then Commissioner of Police, Nagpur, initiated a hafta vasool drive against the Commercial Sex Workers (CSW). Poor women ended up paying most of their earnings to the police. They decided to protest and refused to give in. The Commissioner retaliated and ordered their arrest. Trucksful of these women would land in the thana and then in the district courts. Realising their predicament, the district judge would grant them bail and send them home. When this cat-mouse game didn’t stop for six months, the judge reprimanded the Commissioner severely. His ego dented, he got important civil functionaries along with the local politicians to start a movement for the removal of the Ganga Jamuna Basti from the interiors of Nagpur. Enter Ram Hingole.
He was associated with another social activist Jamuvant Rao Dotte, and to know the basics of the situation, he spoke to and interviewed 450 commercial sex workers. A case was filed in the courts, and after lot of hard work, Hingole won the case for these women. The Basti still stands where it was originally designed by the then King Raghaji Rao Bhosale. The funny part is that most of the respectable citizens of Nagpur today end their mortal journey in the cremation grounds built in the same area.
"Having seen the lives of these women from a very close quarter, it was difficult for me to let go! According to my analysis, they are fine as long as they are functioning, but once age sets in, they have a miserable time. 90 per cent of them commit suicide. So I started persuading them to save money." How did he do this?
"I would request the agents of cooperative banks, get these ladies to fill forms and get money as less as five rupees deposited. My purpose was that by the time they reach fifties, they should have enough bank-balance for their survival."
All these efforts did not ease his personal trauma. The children of these workers filled every nook and corner of his mind. They were suffering for no fault of theirs. Ram Hingole was running a brick-kiln then and his earnings were just sufficient for a decent living. Still he took two kids from the CSW colony and put them in a hostel in Nagpur itself. He maintained a follow-up on those two for two years. To his dismay, he found that despite changed environment, the kids were not responding favourably.
"I realised then that they needed the atmosphere of a normal average home. Perhaps a family around them!" It was at this stage, that Hingole started discussing the whole issue with some of his close friends, who shared the same ideology as his. To start with, he brought one child to his own home. Did his family accept the kid?
"No! But they stopped their cribbing after some time. This was 1993. Nana Dhotekar was a very close friend. He offered to help. So with Rs 10,000 in his pocket, Ram Hingole rented a house and brought four kids of CSW to live with him.
"It was tough. They needed parents and I could just be a father figure. I was not married." Then began his search for a couple who would provide affection to these children in return for money.
"God was kind. I found a couple who fitted my notes. Things went on smoothly, till Nana was bitten by a dog and he developed rabies. With his death, my financial support vanished. I could not afford the couple any longer. My own work had already come to a standstill, because I was spending most of my time organising food, bills and clothes for children."
He was totally in despair, when his friends volunteered to help. They persuaded him to seek media’s help too. Contributions started pouring in. Clothes, books, food and in different forms.
"But I was very conscious that their self esteem should not be hurt or underminded. I would sit with them and rip open all the clothes, stitch by stitch. Then they themselves would design their own clothes. It worked wonders for their confidence." These children know that they have no option except to study and they are damn serious about their education. Even while we sat talking, all kids were engrossed in studying for their annual exams. Today Ram Hingole proudly claims.
"One of my sons is a lawyer, while my eldest daughter is doing her graduation through correspondence," and he points towards Pinky Singh, who is married and has a small daughter. Ram Hingole’s is mamaji to all these 37 children. He is not only rearing them but is also teaching them culture and developing their finer sensibilities. "I want them to be sensitive to humans less fortunate than them. Frankly, I am a happy man today. I see my children contributing in tits and bits to the very society which rejected them in the beginning." The boys who have grown up in Ram Hingole’s house, have started earning and are living separately with their mothers." "Don’t they hate their mothers?" "No! I have taught them to respect the mother figure. It is their profession, which they hate."
Pinky Singh brings to my notice a news item published a month back. It is a story of a twenty-year-old girl, who was kept in a home made cage by her poor, labourer parents for twenty odd years. This resulted in stunting her mental and physical growth. The media had got hold of the news item and it was a public announcement by a Nagpur daily, asking for help for that misshapen child. Pinky brought a child near me and said, "This is the child!"
Pinky had taken the initiative of going to this village which was sixty kilometres from Nagpur, and had brought the child to Ram Hingole’s house. She was attending to the girl, massaging her twisted body thrice a day. "She can sit on her haunches now," Pinky declares proudly.
"My children," informs Hingole, "have started a school for the poor children of quarry workers. They cannot afford school, so my eldest group takes copies pencils, slates, chalks and hold classes for them over the weekend. Pinky talks to the female labourers about birth control, AIDS and HIV and safe abortion."
It is very difficult for an average Indian to inculcate in his child who has been nurtured in normal circumstances, that life is not just eat, sleep, study and make merry, but here is Ram Hingole with his adopted brood of 37 kids coming from a black and white background, who is conscious of what his kids must imbibe and give back to the society. And his satis faction grows when he sees his efforts bearing fruit.
This is one classic case, where a new story unfolds every day, and
the climax shall be reached when each character in the story develops
into a rich story by itself. We definitely need more Ram Hingoles to
Doing the tight-rope walk between home and work, a woman often tends to neglect her own nutritional needs, Priya Chaddha gives a few dietary tips to time-strapped women.
A majority of working women are perpetually strapped for time and on fast-forward to meet deadlines. A change in work schedules and pressures of life have altered eating habits because in the rush to fulfil family needs and squeeze in chores, a woman often jeopardises her health.
How to shed a few kilos or quash hunger pangs is becoming a part of the daily conversation of women who do not understand that obesity is caused by unhealthy eating habits and a sendentary lifestyle. With the emphasis on fast foods, restaurants and conveniently available foods, more and more women are eating out than ever before. An unhealthy lifestlyle and fad diets prevent the bodies from attaining optimum health. As a consequence, women increasingly end up with nutritional deficiencies which they try to cover up with make-up, beauty and spa treatments.
A woman’s eating habits become a role model for her children in the family. It helps them to develop healthy eating habits. It is of utmost importance for every woman to inculcate knowledge about nutrition, alter her unhealthy eating habits by implementing nutritional measures which will enhance her body, help her look good and work better.
Nutritional requirements are different for different women depending upon age, height and physical activity. A recommended dietary allowance for a sendentary woman worker whose body weight is 50kg is approximately 1875 kcal. A moderate worker requires approximately 2225 kcal and a heavy worker requires approximately 2855 kcal. A woman is the best judge and must be able to exercise her nutritional knowledge according to her work schedules, so that she can make judicious use of food which will not only give her value for money but also value for her health.
Breakfast: The wee hours of morning and time constraints sometimes compell working women to leave their home without breakfast. An important meal of the day that is normally taken after 10 to 12 hours, one should never skip breakfast. A woman should begin her day with a glass of soy milk or fresh juice or a glass of fresh lime which will fuel the body for the morning workouts. Those with time constraints, can opt for pre-cooked soy cereal which is healthy and requires less time to cook. Studies have shown that soy products protect your body against breast and ovarian cancer. In fact, a balanced breakfast will keep the body geared up till lunch time.
Lunch: Very few working women are lucky enough to go back to their homes for lunch. A majority of them nibble whatever is conveniently available nearby or in their office canteens. The best option for them is to go for a bowl of clear soup, sprouts, a veggie sandwich and a bowl of fruits and raw salad. They can also go for home-made food which should include wholegrains, vegetables, pulses and fruits. Avoid having large heavy meals, if possible, one should opt for six small meals in a day. Lunch should be low in carbohydrate and high in proteins. Working women should avoid having foods high in car bohydrates like starchy vegetables like potatoes, rice and fried foods because they tend to make one sluggish and lethargic. As result, a woman will not be able to work to her full efficiency.
Dinner: Some women don't eat the entire day or eat only once a
day. This culminates in tiredness, weightloss or weightgain and
nutritional deficiencies. Most of them feel too tired at end of the
day to prepare a meal in the evening. Sometimes, if her family is
away, she even settles for a cup of coffee and cookies. Dinner is the
time when you can compensate with the food which you were unable to
have during the day. One can go for a complete meal which should
include a bowl of soup followed by wholegrains, lentils, fresh
vegetables and raw salads. Lentils are a good source of Vitamin B
which gives you relief during painful periods. For desert, one can opt
for frozen low-fat yoghurt, a good source of calcium to protect the
body against osteoporosis. Dinner should be taken two to three hours
before retiring. One must learn to drink eight to 10 hours of water
everyday. It should be taken half an hour before and after having
"COMING to Preetnagar was renewing my emotional bond which my father Faiz Ahmad Faiz, a great Urdu poet, had established during his many visits to this abode of intellectuals, writers and poets of different hues in the pre-Partition era where bonhomie was a way of life."
Professor Salima Hashmi, Dean, School of Visual Arts at Beacon House National University in Lahore, was nostalgic while recalling her last visit to this city. She had accompanied her father in 1956 to attend the first-ever conference of Asian writers at New Delhi at the initiative of Jawahar Lal Nehru. Salima said that at that time Faiz was jailed in Pakistan for his critical views of the then regime. He felt no malice for his detractors but continued his pursuit for liberal views through his excellent Urdu verse.
Describing her father Faiz a progressive poet who always wrote against repressive governments who were trying to crush liberal thinkers. Narrating an incident when she was a young girl and her father was taken away by the police, her mother was found it difficult to explain why Faiz was taken without being a criminal as she believed only "bad persons were sent to jail."
She carried the impression that only those were targeted by the regimes who become the voice of the people and were symbols of the true modern liberal society. Fondly remembering her father, Salima said that Faiz always stood for steadfast maturity and never buckled under pressure of his adversaries.
Prof Hashmi said that her father was emotionally inclined towards progressive writers movement spearheaded by founder of Preet Nagar, Gurbax Singh Preetlari and lent his support during her frequent visits to the utopian village of intellectuals. She vividly recalled the visits to Preetlari and joyous memories of time spent in her second home.
MISS India 2004, Tanushree Dutta, was recently in Chandigarh and a meeting was enough to guage the winning streak. The stylish Tanushree Dutta won the crown because of her winning answer in the Miss India pageant. Sanjay Dutt, one of the celebrity judges, had asked her: "Who wins when the competition is unhealthy?" A smart answer from the Bengali lass had the gathering cheering wildly for her. Tanushree had shot back: "When the competition is unhealthy, everyone is a loser."
The vibrant young dame has quite a history as a winner. She was on the top in all beauty contests ever organised in the steel town of Jamshedpur, her hometown. Only last year she was crowned Miss Pune, even while she had her eyes bang on target — the Miss India title.
The reigning beauty queen loves to have her head halfway up in the clouds. "That's my way of ensuring victory. Aim big, achieve big, they say," declares Tanushree. She is bowled over by two things — good food and majestic hills. "Cooking is something I love. I grew up nurturing two dreams – becoming a Miss India like Sushmita and Aishwayra and owning a classy restaurant. One mission has been accomplished. I also love treks in the hills. They inspire me to excel."
Out of the ordinary
RASHEEDA Bee (48) and Champa Devi Shukla (52) are a classic case of ordinary women showing extraordinary grit and resilience. The perseverance of these two frail activists in fighting for compensation to the 1984 Bhopal gas leak victims was globally acknowledged when they won this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize recently, along with several others.
"We are still finding children being born without lips, noses or ears. Sometimes complete hands are missing, and women have severe reproductive problems," Rashida Bee has been quoted as having said. Her own respiratory and vision defects are a fallout of that terrible night when she woke up to find her nephew coughing in the midst of a toxic cloud. The tragedy caused irreparable damage to the health of her family as after 1984, she lost six members to cancer.
Shukla, whose one grandchild was born with congenital deformities, lost both her husband and health on that ill-fated day.
In 2002, they organized a 19-day fast in New Delhi to demand, among other things, extradition of Union Carbide officials to face trial in Bhopal, clean-up of the former factory plus medical, economic and social support for the survivors.
Role model for Bush family
WHILE her uncle was facing flak in the UN for his role in Iraq, Lauren Bush, daughter of Bush’s brother Neil, was named honorary spokeswoman for a new UN World Food Programme. A Princeton University student and Elite agency model, Lauren would spearhead the project aimed at students to organise anti-hunger campaigns. Lauren is convinced that hunger is an issue that transcends all political and national boundaries. At last the Bush family has something to cheer for. — AFP