The fighting face of the girl next door
Tales for teaching
Joys of being a granny
The fighting face of the girl next door
Sonia from Asanda has shown that khap panchayats can be taken on and that too with success. Raman Mohan reports
Men hate her. Women adore her. Street urchins call her Sonia Gandhi. Life has indeed changed for Asanda’s Sonia. In six odd weeks, this meek 20-year-old middle school drop out with muddy feet and dirty hands has transformed into an icon for the young. Newspaper clippings carrying her photographs can be found in common rooms of many girls’ colleges in Haryana. This is the reward for Sonia’s resilience. Alone she took on the might of a kangaroo court which ordered her to dissolve her 18-month-old marriage to a marginal farmer and treat husband Rampal as a sibling since the khap panchayat did not approve the liaison because of a gotra controversy.
"I would rather die", she told the representatives of the khap panchayat when they went to her small dwelling in Asanda village of Jhajjar district to apprise her of their diktat. Sonia was exiled from the village that very moment. Grudgingly she stomped through the dusty village lane and told them she would come back. And back she came on Diwali eve. Thanks to the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s intervention, her month long struggle not only saved her marriage but also paved the way for possible legal action against the kangaroo courts that have been wrecking lives of young couples on the pretext of outdated social traditions.
"I just muttered what I believed. I never knew those four words would mark the beginning of the end of the khap panchayats. It just happened. But it is the media and the court that deserve the kudos really", Sonia says modestly as she recalls the harrowing time she has had. Nevertheless, she is happy that her righteous stand motivated another couple exiled from nearby Jaundhi village for five years to move court against the decision of a khap panchayat that had declared their marriage socially unacceptable on similar grounds. The couple Aashish and Darshana are back in their village.
Sonia’s bravado has turned the clock back. It is the panchayatis who now face exodus from their villages. The court has already served them notices and they could well end up behind bars. Yet, the Jat heartland refuses to learn its lessons. The self-styled community leaders are seething with rage. They find it hard to digest that they have been humbled by a "lowly woman". The male ego has taken a blow. It seeks revenge. The frustration shows. And it shows in the foul epithets voiced by men in Asanda to describe Sonia. But women differ. For them she is bold and beautiful.
In the villages of the Deshwali belt, women are second grade citizens in their homes or outside their homes. Their designated place is the kitchen, cowshed, fields and the village pond. They have no say in matters social. They work from dawn to dusk while the men busy themselves playing cards and discussing politics and yet they are the custodians of society who organise or attend khap panchayats. If the hapless victim is not one of their own, they are always merciless.
Over the ages, these panchayats have lost their relevance. Bereft of legal teeth, the khap panchayats derive their strength from the rural male mindset and muscle power of the village rowdies. The victims fear for their lives for which reason they meekly submit. But some stand up. Like Sonia and, after her, Darshana of Jaundhi. Over the years, lovers have been hacked to death and dozens of couples exiled. Still others have been forced to abandon marriage plans.
An unfortunate aspect is the general indifference towards the activities of khap panchayats. The administration turned a blind eye till the court jolted it out of the slumber. "What could we do? The local political leadership wanted us to steer clear of the controversy. I tell you, had the court not intervened, Sonia and Rampal would have been condemned as ‘siblings’ by now. The child in Sonia’s womb would have been in a gutter," a senior official admitted.
The court intervention in these two cases notwithstanding, panchayats continue to meet and decide. The most recent one was at Narnaund on November 23. Sonia may have won a battle but the rural women have a long way to go before they free themselves from the clutches of this oppressive social institution.
Any mention of Punjabi folk music would be incomplete without a reference to the sparkling repertoire of its Nightingale, Surinder Kaur, who turned 75 last week. It is Surinder who captured the essence of Punjab in her earthy style. But for her, Punjabi music would never have been as blessed as it is now.
As the leading exponent of the folk musical styles of this region, Surinder Kaur has bequeathed the land of five rivers with what can be termed as "true, unadulterated, original" music. Together with stalwarts Parkash Kaur and Asa Singh Mastana, she struck earthy melodies that linger in recesses of memory and the lips. Her music is rich with the fragrance of Punjab’s soil, the vigour of its men and the exuberance of its lasses. No wonder, Punjabis the world over have religiously respected her musical genius and still soak in her timeless melodies.
The range of Surinder Kaur’s music, its universal appeal and its rustic feel have endeared generations after generations. Her songs inspire eternally and are meant for all occasions. Although better known for her short but powerful appearance in the Dilip Kumar-starrer Shaheed, Surinder Kaur went on to offer spellbinding music and lyrics that best epitomize the heart and soul of Punjab. Although she has largely maintained the reputation of being a soloist, some of her duets with elder sister Parkash Kaur, including Kalaa Doria Kunde Naal Adia Oye and Suhe Ve Cheere Waliye Mai Kehndi Aan`85 have remained reminiscent of the classic style the two singers shared.
Among her best solos have been the famed Haye Oye Mere Daadia Rabba, the earthy Bale Bale Ni Ambaraan To Rab Jhakda and the inimitable Lathe Dee Chaadar Utte Saleti Chan Mahiya and Laung Gawacha. Many more of her melodies pulsate with the energy of Punjab. With a repertoire so rich and a profile so strong, Surinder Kaur rightfully deserved the grand tribute which a host of eminent Punjabi singers like Hans Raj Hans, Gurdas Mann and Sardool Sikander paid to her at Kalagram.
Tales for teaching
The foyer of the Sanlam Theatre in Cape Town was jampacked with teachers, authors, publishers, librarians and children when Vijay Lakshmi Nagaraj showcased the Indian tradition of story-telling for young children during the recently held 29th Conference on International Board on Books for Young People in South Africa.
The narration of her story Innocence, based on the celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi and the innocence of a little girl, supported by puppets she had prepared herself, was so successful that the Director of Cape Libraries, Johnny Jacob later invited her to the centrally located library in the town where the local schoolchildren had come for another story-telling session. Her narration of Little no-no-girl was another success. She later gifted story books and puppets to the children.
For Vijay Lakshmi, a prominent educationist, writer and illustrator of children’s books, to be part of the Indian delegation at the conference was an enriching experience, where one could meet like-minded people from 68 countries. It offered many opportunities for discussing books for children and learning innovative ways to reach out to young people.
Nagaraj has been a member of IBBY since 1985 and she found the exposure to a cross-section of global views at the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) conference was tremendously rewarding. With its headquarters in Basil, Switzerland, IBBY was set up by a German journalist, Jella Lepman, in 1953 as a non-profit voluntary organisation representing people from all over the world for bringing children and books together.
A qualified teacher and an Army wife, Vijay Lakshmi preferred to teach primary classes whenever and wherever she took up a teaching job. She would introduce innovative teaching techniques, encourage children to discover latent creativity into learning process. As principal of the primary school in Dinjan, Assam, she had to deal with children from rural belt and tea gardens. Here she found that oral story-telling was an excellent source of learning and felt the need for stories which children could connect with local conditions. Tales of Birbal, Panchantra, Akbar, Tenali Ram and Jataka Katha, among others, were excellent Indian stories which could stimulate a child’s mind.
Vijay Lakshmi now devotes time to research-oriented articles on children’s literature and conducting workshops in creating writing with the help of National Book Trust. The audio story Nilgiris made for NCERT to be broadcast on AIR for an overseas audience is another feather in Nagaraj’s cap. As executive member of the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC), she is also involved in the association’s library project, where story books are made available to children in hospital. She finds the old Montessori method — integrating story-telling with text book learning — the best way to stimulate a child’s mind and feels parents must take out time and read to the child.
Vijay Lakshmi stresses upon making the library the hub of activities in schools, where children could have fun with a purpose. One such library, being run by the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA) in Shimla, has become a hub of activity. Children here are encouraged to develop confidence through story telling, creative writing, fine arts, dance, music and a host of other activities.
As president of the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) unit of AWWA, a job which comes with her husband, Lieut-Gen K Nagaraj’s appointment as the GOC-in-C, ARTRAC, she has many other duties and responsibilities. Under the ‘Veer Naari’ concept, she has found novel avenues for rehabilitation of war widows. Rita Devi is the first Veer Naari to be appointed as a salesperson at a CSD canteen in Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh, while Solachna Kumari has been given a job in non-CSD canteen in Shimla.
Joys of being a granny
A woman reinvents herself so many times in her life—a daughter, a sweet heart, a wife, a daughter in law, a mother. For the modern, educated woman, along with the warp of above relationships is also woven the woof of her education, career and the skill of a rope dancer to balance the two. The pilgrim’s progress is anything but easy: some cherished dreams are realised, others are put on the backburner ,and a few stowed away for another day, or may be another life time, who knows? In the evening of her life, as the woman gathers up her dreams and disappointments, the sweet, the bitter, and the bitter sweet into her big bag, she suddenly receives a bonus: a grandchild.
Rab tainu pota daye (may you be blessed with your son’s son), one of the most common blessings in our culture is also the most cherished one .I realised this when I spent a month with my two year old grandson. In fact, our love affair began much earlier. He was the first one( and the only one so far) to recognise my musical talent and gurgled with delight when I sang to him. My son teased me, "Mom the poor infant can’t run so he’s simply making fun of you. But I persisted with my singing and non-stop chatter. On this visit I realised what it was to live in a dictatorship, also how a "loveable dictator" was not really a contradictory term. I was delighted as he recognised me almost at once and smiled shyly from the safe haven of his mother’s lap. By the next day he realised that I was a "bona fide" citizen of his little kingdom and so worthy of his serious consideration.
After dispatching his two loyal subjects ( his parents) to office he turned his attention to me , like a good employer he first viewed my potential, observed my doings and then decided on what he wanted. So each morning after his two other obedient subjects ( his parents) were dispatched to the office he held my finger and firmly lead me to the music system, "Listen to the paath" as I exercised with the music he hung around flitting in and out of the room.But when I lay down on the exercise mat , he thought enough was enough so now he insisted on sitting on my stomach or legs and wanted me to swing him, if I did not comply he simply tickled me till I did his bidding.
My children were quite excited about their state of the art large, plasma TV. But all that we watched for the whole month was "Barney" for his royal highness wanted to see only that and nothing else. The adults around tended to be teachy so we kept saying, "five birds`A8, "yellow flower" "green grass". Most of the time he tolerated us with majestic grace. I learnt a lot from the little fella:
Eat sparingly, remain busy, enjoy and celebrate the moment, try(or cry) relentlessly for what you want. Smile like an angel the moment you get it.
Also do not bear grudges. Be frank about your emotions.
If all the time you cannot be with the person you love the most, love the people you are with.
How did it feel to have my
structured, well-ordered life in a topsy-turvy could not exercise, I
could not read, I most certainly could not watch my favourite soaps on
TV. Was it a happy holiday? It was blissful.
Numerically they may be quite less as far as the population of the country is concerned but Jains and Christians occupy the first two positions as far as the literacy rate goes.
These religions also take a lead in the spread of education in the remote areas of the country. In urban areas, getting admission in schools run by Christian missionaries is a status symbol.
Analysts have only considered the population of various religions and their growth rates in the decade 1991-2001. No one has tried to compare the literacy rate among the people of various religions.
The population of Jains and Christians is just 0.4 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively, in proportion to the total population of India. The Jains, with a literacy rate of 94.1 per cent, take the lead. The female literacy rate among the Jains is 90.6 per cent. The literacy rate in India is 65.38 per cent and the female literacy rate is 54.16 per cent.
In the 35 states and union territories, the literacy rate among the Jains is lowest in Mizoram (61.7 per cent), followed by Meghalaya with 69.9 per cent. In all other states it is above 85 per cent.
In the northern states and UTs, Chandigarh with a literacy rate of 97.3 per cent in Jains tops the list. The female literacy rate in Jains in Chandigarh is 95.8 per cent. In Jammu and Kashmir, the literacy rate of Jains is 86.5 per cent, in Himachal Pradesh 96.3 per cent, in Punjab 95.9 per cent, in Haryana 94.2 per cent, Delhi 96.8 per cent, in Rajasthan 94 per cent and Uttar Pradesh 93.2 per cent.
Christians, with 80.3 per cent literacy rate, occupy the second place. In female literacy rate also Christians with 76.2 per cent rank second in the country. As regards various states, the first three positions are held by Kerala (94.8 per cent), Delhi (94 per cent) and Mizoram (93.1 per cent). The same positions are for female literacy rates.
Leaving aside Delhi, the capital of India, Chandigarh is at top with 88.5 per cent literacy rate in the northern states and UTs. The female literacy rate among Christians in Chandigarh is 85.1 per cent. Jammu and Kashmir has a literacy rate of 74.8 per cent in Christians, Himachal Pradesh 82.8 per cent, Punjab 54.6 per cent, Haryana 85.3 per cent and Rajasthan 83 per cent.
Buddhists, with a population of 0.8 per cent in proportion to the total population of the country, but the literacy rate among them is 72.7 per cent. This means they rank third in the country. However, their female literacy rate does not reach the third position. It has given third berth in this category to Sikhs. Hence, the female literacy rate among Buddhists is 61.7 per cent and that in Sikhs 63.1 per cent.
The highest literacy rate in Buddhists is in Pondicherry where it is 92.8 per cent followed by Kerala (92.1 per cent) and Chandigarh (91.7 per cent). The female literacy rate among these three states and UTs is Pondicherry (93..3 per cent), Chandigarh (89.1 per cent) and Kerala (88.4 per cent).
Buddhists have a literacy rate of 59.7 per cent in Jammu and Kashmir, 73.7 per cent in Himachal Pradesh, 72.7 per cent in Punjab. 67.4 per cent in Haryana, 83.8 per cent in Delhi, 71.4 per cent in Rajasthan and 56.2 per cent in U.P.
The next come Sikhs, with a literacy rate of 69.4 per cent in the country and the female literacy rate of 63.1 per cent. The maximum population of Sikhs is in Punjab but the literacy rate for Sikhs is just 67. 3 per cent and that of female literacy rate is 61.2 per cent. Chandigarh has a literacy rate of 92 per cent for Sikhs, Jammu and Kashmir 85.4 per cent, Himachal Pradesh 83 per cent, Haryana 68.9 per cent, Delhi 92.1 per cent and Rajasthan 64.7 per cent.
Hindus are 80..5 per cent in India but their literacy rate is just 65.1 per cent. The female literacy rate among women is 53.2 per cent, which experts consider as low. Kerala Hindus’ literacy rate is the highest at 90.2 per cent. Delhi, with 82.8 per cent, comes second and Goa with 81.9 per cent is third.
The literacy rate among Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir is 71.2 per cent, Himachal Pradesh 76.8 per cent, Punjab 74.8 per cent, Haryana 69.4 per cent, Rajasthan 60.2 per cent and Uttar Pradesh 58 per cent.