SOCIETY
 



Mountain maiden is village pradhan
Ashu Kanwar, the young pradhan of Mahori village in Himachal talks to Roshni Johar about her plans
I
intensely desire to live amidst my hill folk and serve them. My happiness lies in moral stimulation of work, in the joy of its achievement and in thrill of putting in one’s best effort, not in money or fame. Nothing’s impossible. If one aims at the moon, perhaps one will fall among the stars,” asserts the young and energetic Ashu Kanwar, pradhan of gram panchayat Mahori village, tucked in Himachal’s valleys.


Ashu Kanwar with Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh at a public function.

Ashu Kanwar with Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh at a public function

A radio of their own
A community radio station set up in Machnoor village, Andhra Pradesh, by Dalit women as a forum for the voiceless is a non-starter thanks to the apathy of the policy makers, reports Ramesh Kandula
F
inanced by Deccan Development Society, an NGO, the community radio station was set up almost eight years back in a remote village about 100 km from Hyderabad. It was envisaged as media space to articulate the concerns and issues of the marginalised villagers.

FM buzz in Aligarh
A
ligarh is on a song ever since an FM station opened here some time back. In a town known for its sedate and slow paced life, everyone —roadside tea vendors, small hotels, tempos and almost all homes and students of the Aligarh Muslim University — are hooked on to FM music. Just when most people thought radio was dead, the medium sprung to life in its new avatar, one that is friendly, intimate and interesting.

Summer with Monika
We are not talking about urban young India where live-in relationships have been happening for some time; even for the not so young, live-in seems to be the preferred route. Ritusmita Biswas tells you more about what makes them click
Remember Summer with Monika, the sexually explicit 1953 film of Ingmar Bergman portraying the adventurous summer of Harry (Lars Ekborg) and Monika (unforgettable Harriet Andersson) spent in a boat? Remember the messy embittered end of that wild live-in relationship in a boat when it culminated in marriage? The Sweden of 1953 is no different from India of today.



There has been a paradigm shift in the attitude of Indians vis a vis marriage.
There has been a paradigm shift in the attitude of Indians vis a vis marriage

 





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Mountain maiden is village pradhan
Ashu Kanwar, the young pradhan of Mahori village in Himachal talks to Roshni Johar about her plans

For Ashu, nothing is impossible
For Ashu, nothing is impossible

I intensely desire to live amidst my hill folk and serve them. My happiness lies in moral stimulation of work, in the joy of its achievement and in thrill of putting in one’s best effort, not in money or fame. Nothing’s impossible. If one aims at the moon, perhaps one will fall among the stars,” asserts the young and energetic Ashu Kanwar, pradhan of gram panchayat Mahori village, tucked in Himachal’s valleys.

A dynamic leader, Ashu is also the vice-chairman of the Presidents Association of the Theog block. An apple orchardist’s daughter, Ashu’s strong bonds with the locals along with the leadership qualities acquired as an NCC cadet inspired her to give her best. It was the confidence and the power to lead, which she feels she inherited from her grandfather and greatgrandfather, both lambardars, led to the outspoken Ashu to be elected as a pradhan.

A keen follower of Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of gram swaraj, she quotes Rajiv Gandhi to prove her point, “Panchayati Raj is a revolution to put power in the hands of people.” She opines, “India lives in villages. Panchayati raj institutions are primary units of democracy.” It’s her earnest endeavour to bridge the gap between the Government and the governed.

At 25, she’s Himachal’s youngest pradhan, having already carved a niche for her at grassroots level, fulfilling public’s needs. In her eight months tenure, she’s upgraded Mahori’s school till plus two and, another one at Darjolidhar till middle level. In a recent medical camp, Ashu’s provided wheel chairs, crutches, hearing aids, spectacles, etc. to the disabled and needy. It was this zeal to improve the lot of the villagers that motivated Ashu to attend a camp called Sanitation and Swajaldhara, a course for trainers at Nainital where she learnt repair and construction of water tanks. Roads have also been metalled in her area.

“I will soon form an NGO for the development of education, health/ hygiene, social welfare, etc. so that paharis don’t have to go outside Himachal to avail of these facilties,” says Ashu.

Ashu reveals, “As a child I dreamt of being a judge in a court of law but now as a pradhan, I try cases in a different kind of court.” Even as a student, she couldn’t stand injustice and defiantly took up cudgels for a cause and refused to take things lying down. She upholds Ahilya Bai, famed Rani of Jhansi for her courage and leadership qualities. She is all praise for her mother for sacrifice and support.

Says Ashu, “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves. Remember, a society’s progress is linked with that of its women. The main villain is people’s mindset, regarding girls as burden. We must combat anti-women traditions by implementing the PNDT Act, empowering females through quality/ effective scientific education, health services and job opportunities that will develop their innate capacities to face future challenges.

But legislation alone cannot cure/prevent this social malaise. The Government must implement it with societal mobilisation, requiring effective administrative machinery.”

Ashu has a masters in journalism too but like she admits, “Learning is a continuous process. I have a lot to learn and experience the world.” Working with energy and speed, Ashu’s virtually unstoppable.

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A radio of their own
A community radio station set up in Machnoor village, Andhra Pradesh, by Dalit women as a forum for the voiceless is a non-starter thanks to the apathy of the policy makers, reports Ramesh Kandula

Narsamma managing the radio station
Narsamma managing the radio station

A performance by Dalit women
A performance by Dalit women

Financed by Deccan Development Society, an NGO, the community radio station was set up almost eight years back in a remote village about 100 km from Hyderabad. It was envisaged as media space to articulate the concerns and issues of the marginalised villagers.

The station at Machnoor village of Zaheerabad mandal of Medak district has an enviable infrastructure with a full-fledged studio and two 100 watts FM stereo transmitters with a coverage area of 30 km radius. The studio equipment includes stereo mixers, cassette recorders and a Macintosh computer for editing.

But it is the content and production that differentiates this station from umpteen number of commercial FM stations permitted by the government. This radio is run by the community for the community on the issues relevant to them and in a quaint lingo of their own.

“Our issues are of no interest to them (mainstream radio). We needed a platform to discuss our problems, share our knowledge and disseminate our experiences,” says Pushpalata, a farmer. Started in 1998, the ready-to-air broadcast facility has three Dalit women who manage and run the station. After some basic training by a couple of radio professionals, the women started recording and editing their own programmes. “Our concerns mostly revolve around agricultural practices, seeds, and crops, besides traditional folklore, gender issues, personal interviews and discussions on women’s health. We bring local folk artistes to our studio and record their performances. We also go out into the field,” says Narasamma, one of the three girls, who manage the station.

Since the government failed to come up with a licensing policy all these years, the community radio station had not been able to broadcast their programmes, which show a nuanced feel and understanding of the life around them. To overcome this problem, the audio tapes are sent to each of the 75 villages where DDS is present, and the members sit around and listen to them. The Centre has now come up with a favourable policy on community radio, but the modalities are still to be worked out. “Though delayed inordinately, the new policy is politically important. The marginalised sections are till now condemned to be only media consumers, now they can be producers of the information of their choice,” points out P.V. Sateesh, Director, DDS.

Besides enabling horizontal communication, community radio such as the Machnoor station will help preserve the diversity of the country in areas such as language, culture, traditional practices and narrative forms, he said. More than 600 hours of original programming in the library throws light on how these unlettered women have remarkably surpassed their social and educational barriers to ensure that the hitherto unheard voices are heard. If only the babus in Delhi were not to come in the way.

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FM buzz in Aligarh

Aligarh is on a song ever since an FM station opened here some time back. In a town known for its sedate and slow paced life, everyone —roadside tea vendors, small hotels, tempos and almost all homes and students of the Aligarh Muslim University — are hooked on to FM music. Just when most people thought radio was dead, the medium sprung to life in its new avatar, one that is friendly, intimate and interesting.

In a highly conservative society like Aligarh’s, FM has come as a fresh ray of hope — and some sort of liberation from the straightjacket. It is being heard in the rural hinterland with as much passion as in the towns around Aligarh like Sikandra Rau, Atrauli, Iglas, Sadabad, Hathras, Khurja, Bulandshahr, Anoop Nagar, Dibai and Soron. At railway stations, bus stands, show rooms, dhabas, just everywhere, FM radios blare away programmes by celebrities, says producer and programming head of Big FM, Yashir Khan. Some interactive programmes involve the locals. They are asked to express their views, like in Kehta hai dil.

Electronic goods sale has registered an all time boom, say shopkeepers.

No wonder Aligarhians can be heard chanting punch lines of the FM radio stations: “Suno Sunao, Life Banao”. — IANS

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Summer with Monika
We are not talking about urban young India where live-in relationships have been happening for some time; even for the not so young, live-in seems to be the preferred route. Ritusmita Biswas tells you more about what makes them click

Remember Summer with Monika, the sexually explicit 1953 film of Ingmar Bergman portraying the adventurous summer of Harry (Lars Ekborg) and Monika (unforgettable Harriet Andersson) spent in a boat? Remember the messy embittered end of that wild live-in relationship in a boat when it culminated in marriage? The Sweden of 1953 is no different from India of today.

Once bitten twice shy seems to be the new mantra in man-woman relationship of the not-so-young population now instead of the often hugely farcical and asinine “till death do us part”.

You need to check out, calculate and then take the final leap of tying the knot, believes the not-so-young urban India. Not just the young urban India but quite a few middle aged and even old couple is going for live-in relationships. And as per a 2006 survey, 28 per cent of Indians feel it is okay to stay with a person you love before you get married.

Well a part of the Indians might raise a storm over Khushboo’s comment over pre-marital sex but there is no denying the fact that the concept of Indians vis-a-vis the institution of marriage has undergone a paradigm shift. Marriage is still a sacrosanct institution but one can indulge in it only if one is mentally prepared and dead sure about the partner’s commitment. However hard we might try to turn our backs but live-in relationships are definitely happening today.

Take the case of Manini Sharma. This 42-year-old divorcee had been staying with her colleague Amit for over a year. The affair was passionate right from the start until there was the entry of the third woman. The memory of Amit’s infidelity burned a scar in her heart like a bad tattoo. Manini could not take it any more. She walked out. She could afford to do so easily as she was not in a marriage but in a live-in relationship. “This is the precise reason why most of us are opting for living together. We are not sure about our partners or us. And it is no point getting into a lifelong relationship unless you are dead sure,” says TV reporter Sujatha who is in a live-in relationship with Vinayak, her colleague. “Of course the final destination can be marriage but I am really not sure. After all I had tried it once and had failed,” she says.

Her partner Vinayak feels that the obvious benefit of live-in is that you get to know a person before making a lifelong commitment. But then, in some cases, familiarity breeds contempt and getting to know a person too much before marriage makes it a bit difficult, he believes. “And also the fact that you have many options available makes you greedy and look out for more,” he adds.

Agrees 42-year-old Smita Agarwal who is living in for the last three years with her boss Suresh. “In live-in relationships tolerance levels are very low. It is so easy to break up. In my last relationship, I had been staying with this guy for four years. One day I returned from office and found out that he had just packed his bags and left. There was not even a note of explanation.”

“I am not an exception. I know several people who broke up after several years of a live-in relationship. They went around for a few weeks with some other person and got married. Why? Because too much familiarity could breed contempt and they did not want history to repeat itself,” she says.

What makes these middle-aged couples go for live-in relationships? In most cases they have usually tasted once the bitter experience of marriage and are not willing to go for it a second time. And in many other cases they do not have to live up to anyone’s expectations and are independent to take their own decisions, however radical they might be. Also most of them are keen to avoid the publicity associated with marriage and prefer the quieter live-in option.

Says Chandra who is in a live-in relationship with Shyam Sharma: “We have been friends for several years. Now both of us have lost our spouses whose memory we cherish. Nonetheless we cannot think of staying alone the rest of our lives. And therefore we are in this relationship and it suits both of us.” — TWF

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