SOCIETY

A mission of charity
June 23 would be the 20th anniversary of the Kanishka crash. Lalit Mohan writes about a hospital near Gurgaon that has been built in memory of the victims
H
E dismisses the verdict of the Canadian court in the Kanishka case with a stoic shrug. "If those acquitted were actually culpable, they will have to live with this guilt in their conscience for the rest of their lives," says Devi Dayal Jain.

Her motherís daughter
Seema Sachdeva
W
HEN one hears Dolly Guleria singing, comparison is inevitable with her mother Surinder Kaur, the nightingale of Punjab. However, not just as the motherís daughter, 54-year-old Dolly Guleria has come into her own in Punjabi folk singing both India and abroad.

Penchant for causes
Minna Zutshi comes away impressed with a woman sarpanch who refuses to notch up publicity points
D
USTY roads, women caught in patriarchy, girls strapped to illiteracy, gossips doing regular rounds and menfolk swearing by their macho image. A village setting is not the best of places to practise women empowerment.

Samosa millionaire
W
HILE you may be adding calories by the hundreds gorging on mouth-watering samosas, Perween Warsi has been making her millions by selling this potato-stuffed Indian specialty in the UK.

MAking Waves
Born to theatre
Nirupama Dutt goes down memory lane, recounting episodes from the life of Amal Allana, who was recently appointed the NSD chairperson
I
T all started in a fifth-floor Mumbai flat way back in the 1950s when Ebrahim and Roshan Alkazi, Alyque and Pearl Padamsee, Amin Sayani and others would get together on the terrace and stage plays.

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A mission of charity

June 23 would be the 20th anniversary of the Kanishka crash. Lalit Mohan writes about a hospital near Gurgaon that has been built in memory of the victims

The dispensary run by Om Indu Jain Charitable Trust
The dispensary run by Om Indu Jain Charitable Trust

The hospital has become the focal point of medical care in Dhankot and surrounding villages
The hospital has become the focal point of medical care in Dhankot and surrounding villages

HE dismisses the verdict of the Canadian court in the Kanishka case with a stoic shrug. "If those acquitted were actually culpable, they will have to live with this guilt in their conscience for the rest of their lives," says Devi Dayal Jain.

"This is their punishment. For us, the memory of my brother and his family will always remain alive in this hospital." Jain was standing in front of Om Indu Jain Rural Hospital in Dhankot village, 9 km from Gurgaon. It was 20 years ago, on June 23, 1985 when he heard the news on television that the Air-India flight from Toronto had crashed off the Irish coast on June 23, 1985, killing all 329 on board. His elder brother Om Prakash, his wife Indu, daughter Ruchi and son Rikki were among those aboard.

Back in their ancestral village, the family got together after the funeral. When someone asked their father, Mangat Ram Jain, what should be done with the compensation money and the familyís assets in Canada. The old man was quite clear. "We will use it for a good cause." Thus was born the Om Indu Jain Charitable Trust and, later, the eponymous hospital which has become the focal point of medical care in Dhankot and surrounding villages.

After doing his graduation from Ambala Cantt, Om Prakash went on to do his Engineering degree and M. Tech from Pilani. Later, on a scholarship, he went to Canada from where he eventually joined Bell Laboratories in Canada and was a senior telecom engineer when he died. His wife Indu was from Delhi.

The trust formed in their memory was chaired initially by the familyís patriarch and after his demise in 2000 by Devi Dayal. His younger brother Sunil and Induís two siblings, together with three medical specialists are also members of the trust board.

A photograph of Om Prakash, Indu, Ruchi and Rikki on the hospital premises
A photograph of Om Prakash, Indu, Ruchi and Rikki on the hospital premises

They started with a corpus of Rs 42 lakh and first put up a dispensary in the village temple. Then they acquired their own land and building and in 1987 engaged a physician for consultation in diabetes and heart ailments. The big leap came with "Operation Nayandeep", which aims at making Gurgaon district cataract-free. It was felt that too many operations went wrong in the past because in the dusty village environment, post-surgery hygiene was neglected. There have been on an average 4000 cataract procedures a year ever since. There are 35 beds in the hospital for eye patients.

The hospital has added a mother and child (gynae and paediatric) unit, ENT, minor surgery, and radiological and pathological services. A womenís polytechnic is another facility for the local population. But, after eye, the next big thrust centres around dental care.

Known as "Project Smile", the campaign was launched in July 2004 among school children in Dhankot, Basai, Kherki and Dhanwapur villages to impart dental care and oral health education.

A survey conducted in the four villages at the beginning of the campaign showed that of 1300 students, 953 had caries, 14 had missing teeth and 300 had gingivitis, among other problems. In less than a year 1251 children received treatment, which included about 800 fillings of various kinds, 66 RCs, 19 extractions and 115 x-rays.

Initially, every service was provided free of cost. But that did not help their budget. "Besides," says Devi Dayal Jain, "we found that a totally free is not taken too seriously."

A nominal registration charge of Rs 10 and a fee of Rs 5 per consultation has been fixed. Even after that many of the services are subsidised. The eye operation run by the Venu Eye Institute is free for the poor.

Sadly, the Om Indu Trust has run into financial problems. While the Venu Eye Institute handles the ocular treatment, the other operations cost the trust Rs 18 lakh last year. The income from fees and registration charges came to Rs 14 lakh. For the balance they had to dip into the corpus. The other problem concerns the availability of specialists and volunteers who would be willing to visit Dhankot to work in the hospital.
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Her motherís daughter
Seema Sachdeva

Dolly Guleria
Dolly Guleria

WHEN one hears Dolly Guleria singing, comparison is inevitable with her mother Surinder Kaur, the nightingale of Punjab. However, not just as the motherís daughter, 54-year-old Dolly Guleria has come into her own in Punjabi folk singing both India and abroad. Bestowed with honours such as Minar-e-Pakistan and Punjab Di Dhi, Dolly Guleria, who has recently opened The Nightingale Music Academy, is trying to sustain her motherís legacy of keeping Punjabi folk music alive. Her mother has sung Punjabi folk music for 62 years. Now Dolly has carved a niche for herself in Punjabi pop with her album Nikka Jeha of which Amritsar de Papad is the best known.

Born in a house where singing was held with much reverence, she would sit beside her mother when the maestros came and sing with her. Dolly too had the privilege of training from masters like Khan Sahib Abdul Rehman Khan of Patiala Gharana, K. Pannalal, Kundan Lal Sharma, and Pt Mani Prasad.

Starting at 16 with AIR, two years later she cut her first album Gurbani with her mother. "My mother didnít want me to take up professional singing. So it was after marriage that I it took up," she confesses.

Being Surinder Kaurís daughter made it difficult to acquire her own identity. "That always made me strive to prove that I was different. I realised that just singing songs like my mother would not take me anywhere. On my fatherís advice, I started singing ghazals and heavy lyrics."

Her father, J. S. Sodhi, a Professor of Literature, shaped her creative interests, including a love for literary poetry. Perhaps, here lies the origin of her two volumes of Shiv Kumar Batalviís Geetan Da Paraga and Iqbal Mohanís poetry Dilan De Mehran. She has sung five solo albums of Bhai Veer Singhís poetry and Gurbani Shabad each and she did Maawan te Dhiyan and Surinder Kaur: the three generations, which she did with her mother.

On her motherís 75th birthday in November last, Dolly announced the opening up of the academy. Making a beginning without any official financial aid, Dolly aims to develop her institute as a platform for those with a talent for music. After the completion of the eight-week workshop at the institute, the students would get a chance to perform at Kalagram. "Good music comes with training, hard work and perseverance. I have learnt this from my gurus and want to inculcate the habit in my students", says Dolly.
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Penchant for causes

Minna Zutshi comes away impressed with a woman sarpanch who refuses to notch up publicity points

Balbir Kaur, Sarpanch of Bundala village
Balbir Kaur, Sarpanch of Bundala village

DUSTY roads, women caught in patriarchy, girls strapped to illiteracy, gossips doing regular rounds and menfolk swearing by their macho image. A village setting is not the best of places to practise women empowerment. But Balbir Kaur, Sarpanch of Bundala village, 35 km from Jalandhar, has her priorities etched out clearly. You cannot foist empowerment on women. It has to come from within. And for this, you have to create awareness and dialogue among women, letting them savour the tingling freshness of independent thinking, she says.

"The mahila mandal of our village is involved in a host of programmes, including running craft and computer centres. Our aim is to help girls to be self-reliant," says this secretary of the mahila mandal in Bundala.

Today, she is in charge of at least 15 projects like daycare centre for elders, anganwadi and library. Some of these projects are partly government sponsored, while for others she has to network with NRIs from the village.

This retired teacherís day begins early in the morning. Attending to regular panchayat work, listening to peopleís problems and holding corner meetings, she has taken upon herself the role of a counsellor and social worker.

"I donít believe in tokenism. If you do something just to notch up publicity points, you do disservice to a cause," she says, adding, "In our village, we used to hold lohri celebrations for girls. For a few years, we continued with it. But when I found that it was being reduced to a mere routine I did away with it."

Brought up on the staple diet of Russian novels of Maxim Gorky and Leo Tolstoy, she developed a taste for literature and egalitarian ideology. Her own anthology of poems, Ehsaas, is awaiting publication. A keen naturopath, she maintains a sated-with-herbs kitchen garden. "Green is the colour of life. It is soothing and rejuvenating," she remarks.

Village ecology is one of her major concerns. "Ponds have dried up in villages. Itís time that we got our facts straight. Why not take a cue from water preservation practices of the olden days? Do we need to wait for the water table to drop so low that we have to trudge miles for a glass of potable water?" she says emphatically.

Itís not that she has a magic wand to solve all problems. Female foeticide is still carried out in her village. "There are a few colonies in Bundala where no girl was born in the past few years. Itís very unnatural," she rues. So, these days she is reworking her priority list. The drive against female foeticide is high on her agenda. "Selective abortion must stop. No one has the right to snuff out an unborn childís life, not even the mother," feels this ardent supporter of womenís rights.
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Samosa millionaire

Perween Warsi
Perween Warsi

WHILE you may be adding calories by the hundreds gorging on mouth-watering samosas, Perween Warsi has been making her millions by selling this potato-stuffed Indian specialty in the UK. This Indian immigrant recently received the First Womenís Lifetime Achievement Award by the Confederation of British Industry and has been placed among Britainís 10 most remarkable women.

Perween started off by making samosas and selling them from her home in Derby. Today, the "Samosa Queen" employs 1300 people in four factories.

Her business, S&A Foods, has an annual turnover of more than £100 million and has recently expanded its range of products by supplying Malaysian, Thai and Chinese food to British supermarkets.

Passionate about innovation and high standards, Perween started her entrepreneurial career from her kitchen with samosas and bhajis. Today her company produces a huge range of sensational foods ó Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, American and even traditional English. Perween has an international team of chefs, each distinguished in his or her culinary background.

Perween arrived in England with her general practitioner husband and one small baby in the 1970s. She learnt English, was surprised by the customs and ways, and was astounded by the lack of exciting vegetables, potatoes and cauliflower being the available staples.

Disappointed by the bland samosas sold in the local supermarket, this mother of two sons took it upon herself in the mid-eighties to bring good-quality Indian type of samosas to the people in Britain.
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MAking Waves
Born to theatre

Nirupama Dutt goes down memory lane, recounting episodes from the life of Amal Allana, who was recently appointed the NSD chairperson

Amal Allana
Amal Allana

IT all started in a fifth-floor Mumbai flat way back in the 1950s when Ebrahim and Roshan Alkazi, Alyque and Pearl Padamsee, Amin Sayani and others would get together on the terrace and stage plays. Amal and Feisal, children of the Alkazis, grew up acting as stagehands. Looking back, Amal recalls: "We would be called to push back the drawing room furniture and roll up the carpets to make space for rehearsals." So they literally grew up with theatre. Younger Feisal went on to do theatre as a tool for raising awareness and therapy. Amal was more of her fatherís daughter, inheriting the tradition of her father to probe the psychological layers of human experience while creating a stupendous visual experience. What is significant is that Amal was able to create her own space and develop her own distinct style and not merely remain a shadow of her celebrated father.

Thus, the news of her appointment as chairperson of the National School of Drama, New Delhi, for a period of four years, following the resignation of Anupam Kher in January this year, has been widely welcomed in theatre circles. "It is real god news for theatre and the NSD," says Chandigarh-based theatre director Neelam Mansingh. Rani Balbir Kaur, who was a colleague of Amalís in the Department of Indian Theatre at Panjab University, says: "Amal had directed Brechtís Three-Penny Opera for my group, Folk Theatre Workshop, and Anupam Kher and I played the lead. It was a great experience. She is one of the best theatre directors in the country."

A scene from Nagamandala, directed by Amal Allana
A scene from Nagamandala, directed by Amal Allana

Straight out of school, Amal became her fatherís student at the NSD for those days graduation was not a requisite for admission. Later, she married her childhood sweetheart Nissar Allana, a medicine man who gave up his calling as a doctor to work in theatre design. The two have been running The Dramatic Art and Design Academy (DADA) for the past few years at New Delhi. Come summer and they are in the US as guest lecturers in different universities. That is where they are now when the news of her appointment has come.

The play that first brought notice to Amalís talent in the seventies was Mohan Rakeshís Adhe Adhure in which she cast three great actors trained by her father. They were the late Manohar Singh, Surekha Sikri and Uttara Baokar. Decades later, after her father had left theatre, she directed Manohar Singh in a number of productions, including Himmat Mai, an adaptation of Brechtís Mother Courage, and Satish Alekarís Begum Barve. Manohar used to go on record, saying, "I am a directorís actor. My favourite directors are Alkazi and Amal. They have always brought out the best in me." Manohar played a woman in the first and a female impersonator in the second. The other two plays with Manohar were King Lear and Girish Karnadís Nagamandala. Having studied Brechtian theatre in Germany in her younger days, her experiments with Brecht have been very interesting. In her two-year tenure at Panjab University, her direction of Exception and the Rule was a landmark production. Punjabi poet Manjit Tiwana, who acted in it along with Anupam Kher and Anita Kanwar, says: "It was a great experience. The role has always lived with me."

Watching Amal do a rehearsal is a rare experience that one has been witness to a number of times. Amal transmits her kinetic energy to the actors, labouring hard over each detail and expression. In recent years, she has done a number of plays, which have focussed on womenís themes like Char Chowgi, Sonata and Erendira, the last based on a story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Amal and Nissar make a fine team together, complementing each otherís work. "Theatre is my life, I couldnít and wouldnít do anything else," is Amalís quotable quote.

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