If there is one good thing you do this year…

… please help Sonali Mukherjee. Take a look at the picture and read the story below. Call the numbers and do your due diligence if you must. But I beg you, please send her some money. Think about it – even if you send her what you’d spend on airfare for a holiday and take a train instead, you’ll be sending her a substantial sum. Also, read this piece if you get the chance. —————- On April 22, 2003, I, Sonali Mukherjee, was severely injured in an acid attack, that left me with a burnt face, burnt body, blind and partially deaf. I was just 17-years-old then. Three assailants – Tapas Mitra, Sanjay Paswan, and Bhrahmadev Hajra, our neighbors in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, poured acid on me while I slept. Before I could realize I felt as if my body was on fire and I collapsed. They punished me because I dared to complain against their eve teasing. When I warned them, they told me I was haughty and proud about my looks. They said they will ruin my face beyond recognition. And when that did not deter me, they carried through their threat and you can see the consequences.

The accused were immediately taken into custody, but were released on bail in 2006. My father and I approached the high court, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, MPs and various other authorities for justice, but no one listened. Since then, they are roaming scot-free. For 9-years we have been fighting a case against them and requesting the authorites to cancle their bail, but no success has come our way yet. I am in extreme pain since the incident and don’t have the capacity to withhold it anymore – neither the money nor the hope.
My father, Chandi Das Mukherjee, has spent everything we had to keep me alive – land, jewellery, everything! My treatment has already cost us 12-15 lakhs, as a result of which we owe a lot of money to our relatives. The medical authorities require another 10-15 lakhs for my further treatment. Additionally, substantial amount of money has been spent on the court cases. Therefore, I demand either justice and help in treatment or permission to end my life. If there is any possibility of getting my rightful life back, then please help me by signing this plea of mine to the prime leaders of this country.
PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION and help me get justice and means to live the remaining part of my life without pain and agony. Should you want to help us monetarily or in any other way, send your donations to
Chandi Das Mukherjee A/C – 0612000103217964, Punjab National Bank, Nauroji Nagar Branch, IFSC Code: 0061200 New Delhi
Contact Numbers:
Chandi Das Mukherjee: 09437638600
Sonali Mukherjee – 09210022919
Devashish Mukherjee – 09437638600

I’m tagged, I am

I’ve been tagged to write about all the things I do that go against my gender, by Dipali, Monika and Sandhya.

I’ve also been tagged by Chinkurli to make three resolutions on going green.

I’ll begin with the gender one. As Dipali mentions in her post, there are a lot of things that I did simply because they were natural to me. It is only over the years that I realised that they were considered manly.

1. I was quite a tomboy, climbing trees, cycling and playing with the boys. Now I can’t because of my bum knee, but at 14 I was wearing a saree and climbing trees.

2. I grew up in a town where girls listened to Richard Marx and boys listened to Metallica. No guesses what was on my playlist. I’d still not be caught with Enrique on my iPod.

3. I hate cooking. Most girls were taught to cook – I’d rather die of starvation than enter the kitchen. Unless it is to have a glass of milk, a sandwich or a bowl of instant noodles.

4. I have a strong sense of pride in my family and name. So while men tend to want to carry on the family name, I not only kept my own, but gave it to my kids as a hyphenated name. I also don’t believe in doing anything that the husband doesn’t equally do so we both only wear wedding bands. I am also very clear that in their old age, my parents will be taken care of by me, just as his will expect to be. In that sense, I take my duty towards my parents as seriously as any son traditionally might have.

5. I used to be rather wiry and strong and used to beat some boys and also a boyfriend at arm wrestling. I can still lift heavier weights than most women but avoid it for the pressure it puts on my knees. The OA says the boyfriend was too besotted (and busy staring at my face and holding my hand) to really put any effort in to winning. I think the OA is an ass. I can still push a car along if there is a flat and also change a tire. Atleast I could a while ago, now I need a refresher.

6. I am prickly about money. I must pay my share and I hate having anyone spend on a meal for me or buy me something unless its family. I have great trouble taking money from the OA  – even now I only take for the essentials. Frills are my own.

7. I don’t know if this counts but inspite of being a teetotaller and a non-smoker I could pour a good drink and roll a neat joint. Something the boys swore was a very male trait – the ability to support while not partaking. There’s also the weird compliment I got from many men – that I sit pillion like a man. Which basically meant I got on to the bike without them having to take my weight, would sit a decent couple of inches away from them and no matter how hard they jammed brakes – never fly into them and hit them smack in the back with my boobs. Might have something to do with the fact that I even learnt to drive a bike but gave it up because it mussed up my hair. And err, stopped playing the guitar because it broke my nails and my fingertips were calloused.

8. Okay, damnit. I don’t seem to have too many gender sins. I’m actually a very girly girl. I like to wear sarees, wear my make up, do my nails, be driven to places, have doors opened for me and do up my house to look good. I don’t watch sports, I can’t whistle, I can embroider circles around you and I can shop for hours. I have always loved babies and I am thrilled and overwhelmed by motherhood. Hell – I AM the stereotypical woman.

There is however one trait that drags me out of the pink and I think that is my attitude. Even though my voice isn’t loud, I am very determined. Steel claws in velvet paws, my grandmother used to call it. Most people don’t give this much credit, but I am the tough nut in the family. The OA is firm on certain issues but mostly a gentle soul who is often mistaken for a pushover. I on the other hand, strike terror in the heart of all the odd job men, the landlord or anyone else who has to deal with us. If I had to think of a word, I’d say I’m fearless. If someone messes with me, I’ll find a way to do without them, but I’ll be damned if I put up with their nonsense. So the OA is left to do the wifely task of calming me down and soothing ruffled feathers. For some reason – most people forget all the rest once they see me in action and find it very masculine. Me, I simply get back to painting my nails and ignore them.

The going-green tag is easier. I am the original earth mother. Sometimes I border on cheap, maybe!

  • I ensure that taps are shut well, lights turned off if the room is empty, geysers switched off and ACs not put on uselessly.
  • I use the back of every sheet for the kids to scribble on, carry bottles of water when we’re out some place and carry cloth bags. We used to get Bisleri but I insisted on shifting to an RO machine so that spares us the expense.
  • I cloth diapered my kids, breast fed them and have never given them tinned food. Other than tissue when they were runny nosed I’ve never used any paper products on them, wet wipes etc were bought and kept for emergencies. I still have some bought when the Bean was a baby. I washed their bums with water, I potty trained early and used a rubber sheet.
  • All masalas and food are prepared  fresh, no canned, frozen stuff unless its absolutely necessary. Saving on carbon footprint too, by not having tuna flown in from half way across the world.
  • Uneaten food at a restaurant is packed and taken home or fed to street dogs. We only serve what we will eat and take seconds if we must. Food is not reheated a million times. Its kept in a hotcase.
  • I recycle, recycle, recycle. Clothes that dont fit the brat go to the bean. Clothes she outgrows are given to other kids. Shabby sheets are used as dusters or to line drawers. Old bottles used as planters. Which is not to say I am a hoarder, but I am close.
  • I like what Chinkurli said about the problem simply being the way we think. We don’t mind wasting because hey, we paid for it. My landlord is down from the US and the landlady was cribbing about the lack of storage space there, saying that with the culture of things being disposable, there is no storage space. My new house however has two store rooms and a pantry and endless cupboards. I put aside utensils that are broken and get them repaired, stuff we buy but end up not using is dutifully carried to the orphanage and so on.
  • I walk. As much as I can. Partly driven by the fact that I don’t drive! But I enjoy it. Its my exercise as well as my way of reducing the carbon footprint. You know that short run that most people make to the market for groceries? I walk it.
  • I only use the washing machine if it is full and stuff that doesnt need a full wash just gets a bucket rinse.

There might be more but I am going to shift to the point of the tag which is to make resolutions.

1. I am going to remember to switch off the mains that remain on standby for the radio etc. Its something that slips my mind so I resolve to work harder at that.

2. I am going to stick to buying fresh veggies from the local mandi even after shifting to Gurgaon where you tend to shop at your local department store for veggies with stickers and in packets. Support your local vendors and local produce, people.

3. I am going to stick to these two resolutions. I’m probably having a bad day if I can’t even come up with enough points on a tag, but I must remind you guys of my New Years resolve  – no wastage. Well, I’ve been faring pretty well. I haven’t dropped off the bandwagan and am currently struggling to finish a tube of shampoo, resisting the urge to just chuck the remainder in the wastebin and fall on that lovely bottle of Charles Worthington that a friend brought me.

Dinaben and the Lions of Gir

I’d like to present our very own stars, bloggy pals and now published authors, Praba Ram and Meera Sriram  – and their book, Dinaben and the Lions of Gir. Did I tell you guys how insanely proud of you two I am? And incase you don’t know, Praba is the force behind Saffron Tree, the children’s book review blog I contribute to.

Published by Tulika, the book talks about the Maldhari tribe, whose main occupation is dairy farming, and also the Asiatic Lion. Read this to know more about the story behind the story. And read this to get to know more about our two authors.

We’ve all been going on about saving the remaining 1141 tigers - but did you know there are only 350 Asiatic Lions remaining? Are you as horrified as I am? Go on and read the review and then go out and buy the book for your babies. And oh – can we start a Save the Lion campaign too?

I started it in my own small way. The Brat loves lions and when I told him that soon all the Asiatic lions will be dead and he’ll only be able to look at them in picture books, like his beloved dinosaurs, he was most upset.

He had this school fancy dress competition a few days ago and when I asked him what he wanted to be, he said he wanted to be an Asiatic lion!! So that is what we went with. I got him a pair of brown trousers, and hunted in vain for a plain brown shirt or teeshirt. Finally on our Mussoorie holiday I found a very cute yellow sweater with a lion made on the tummy. On our return I began work on a mane. I picked up a brown woollen cap, and brown wool and began to pull long strands through it. But the wool wouldn’t fluff out like a mane and he just looked like a very weird little girl in a wig. Of course that upset him because even he, at 4 and a half could see that he didn’t look like a lion! We finally got (read: tailored!) a brown body suit and got a mane and taught him his lines, – which included the last cheeky line – “There are only 350 lions like me left. Please save me before you save the tiger.”

The OA and I roared with laughter each time he said it and the Bean went as a little fairy because that is her current craze. When we reached school on the big day, there were the usual round of social messages – donate blood, save the earth etc with some very well made costumes. One parent whose kid is learning classical Indian dance sent her in her dance costume and her tape and she first spent a good three monotonous moments telling us what she would do… and then another 4 -5 minutes dancing. She was only 4.5 and undoubtedly learning, but it wasn’t meant to be a dance recital, it was meant to be a fancy dress – so coming and performing something that you have been learning for a year isn’t the deal. My personal favourite was a little drop of water who said her lines beautifully. The one that really got my goat was someone who copied last year’s winner – a Thank You card to the school. Gah – apple polishers. Did I mention there were a whole bunch of tigers asking to be saved too!

I gave the Brat very few lines and he drove me nuts when I was teaching them to him. He’d change them everyday and say anything he pleased – “I am an Asiatic lion and I like chasing deer… ” or “I am an Asiatic lion and I am going to eat you up. Growwwwwl”. It would be funny if I weren’t trying to get him to stand still on stage and say his lines. After his recent setback and suspected learning problem, I didn’t want his school to have yet another reason to complain about him. Day after day the OA and I chased him around pretending to be lions, laughing, joking, having fun, practicing in front of the mirror with a comb held like a mike. But the Brat would not say his lines right. We shoud have realised he would say it eventually after  last year’s drama over the fancy dress but we didn’t want to regret not trying hard enough.

So as I sat there watching the other children shuffle on to stage and slowly and indistinctly mumble lines that no one understood I crossed my fingers and prayed really hard that my son wouldn’t get upset by the crowd and run away. I saw him standing in the wings and smiled at him. He glared at me and growled. I gave up hope and made my peace with the fact that it was after all, only a children’s contest.

And finally his turn came and I felt my stomach clench. And then Someone Up There smiled down on mother and son and the Brat bounded on to stage cheerfully where every other child had reluctantly shuffled on. He grinned confidently into the audience, bestowed his sweetest smile on me and said his lines beautifully after introducing himself. Loud and clear. His words distinct, his voice ringing crystal clear across the audience. I felt my eyes well up and I fumbled to take pictures of him. Perhaps I am biased and if I don’t write it down here where else will I – I think he was the best. My little lion cub rocked his few simple lines, bowed and said thank you, and walked off stage.

Maybe if this were a hindi movie like Taare Zameen Par, I’d be able to end this saying that he came first. But he didn’t so I can’t. The apple-polishing Thank you card came first (the grapes ARE sour !!;)). But it didn’t matter at all. I think he had wonderful stage presence and if he lost out at all it’s because we didn’t trust him with a more complicated message. And perhaps because his costume wasn’t the most creative either.

It’s also a lesson to me to not expect so little of my son. Other parents have high expectations and are disappointed when they aren’t met. I tentatively give my children lower benchmarks to meet and end up pleasantly surprised when they surpass them and also kick myself for not  helping them push that bar higher.

The Bean on the other hand spent a good fortnight preening in front of the mirror and saying her lines to any visitor. The OA was after me to give her a nice lengthy poem to go with it but I figured the point was to just participate. With no house help (again!), my job, a recalcitrant Brat who was refusing to learn his lines and the  Mussoorie holiday bang in the middle, I really didn’t want to rock that boat. She was just doing so damn well that I didn’t want to add to my work.

A good thing too because she woke up on the morning of the show and began to cry for just about everything. She didn’t want to eat, to dress, to brush her teeth.. anything, nothing.

We reached school and she howled while waiting her turn. A lot of the other 2-3 year olds were also crying and parents were encouraged to go on stage with them. I walked up to her, carrying a little handful of fairy dust that was to be thrown the moment she said her lines. She decided it was a good time to play Holi with me and by the time our turn came she had my face shining like the moon.

She wrenched herself away as we walked on to stage and I groaned inwardly. Kicking myself for thinking less of my son and too much of her. And then the moment she reached the mike, the little diva in her took over and she grabbed it, grinned confidently at the audience and said her lines. I threw her fairy dust over her and we walked off the stage to applause.

End of one headache for the year!!

Anyone want to predict the next?!

Let me end by thanking Praba and Meera for their lovely book and the idea, once again, and wishing them luck. Anyone else want to join hands and start a proper campaign for the Asiatic Lion?

Please help

Two requests. One from a reader, Swati.

One, please help spread the word and find her friend, Pranita. Here is the link to a blog that you can get back to in case you have any information, or know who to contact. Do take this as seriously as you can, please. May we never know the grief and fear of losing a loved one.  I’m going to request all of you to pass on this link on Pranita through FB, Twitter, anything, because you never know what works.

This one is via Parul. Save the Tiger. Join up, sign up, do what you can, please. I did mention we were at Corbett a few months ago and didn’t see hide or hair of a tiger. Well, here’s why – only 1411 of them left. Here’s what you can do if you want to help.

Spread the Word
Let everyone know that our tigers are on the brink of extinction and that they need us. Now. You can start by joining the Save Our Tigers movement on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and spreading the word wherever you go – online or offline.

SMS
A short message can go a long way to help save our tigers. Let all your friends know about the movement through SMS – just type in your message and ask them to visit SaveOurTigers.com to join the roar.

Write to Editors
Write a letter or an email to editors of popular newspapers and magazines, asking them to support the cause and highlight the urgency to save our tigers. The more people we can reach and inform, the louder our roar will be.

Donate
Organizations such as WWF and The Corbett Foundation work for tiger conservation and need our active support. If possible, you can chip in with funds, volunteer for work or donate clothes, etc. for the forest guards by tying up with such organizations.

Volunteer for Our Tigers
Your time is the most important contribution for our tigers. If you think you have the skills or the commitment to help the tigers on-site, do contact an NGO working for tiger conservation to volunteer for our tigers.

Preserve our Natural Resources
Loss of habitat is one of our tigers’ biggest problems. We can reduce pressure on forests by avoiding unnecessary use of forest-derived products, such as paper and timber.

Be a Responsible Tourist
Visit tiger sanctuaries and national parks and discover our country’s natural heritage. But please remember that the wilderness is to be experienced, not to be polluted by packets of chips, etc.

What’s your colour?

If you’re alive and have an internet presence its unlikely that you haven’t caught a glimpse of the email doing the rounds asking you to display your bra colour as your status. This is what I received -

Some fun is going on…. just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. And send this on to ONLY girls, no men …. It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before the men will wonder why all the girls have a color in their status.

Pass it on & be sure to do your breast self-exams!

And before I could say Jack Robinson (why would one want to say that anyway?!) my gtalk list was a rainbow of colours – ‘teal’, cerulean blue’, ‘salmon pink and grey lace’.  Yes, it was cheesy. Yes, the men figured it out in ten minutes flat. Yes, a lot of fun was had thanks to it.

It took us straight back to our school days. When training bras were in vogue. When the girls who developed early had their noses up and those who didn’t, looked sheepish. But one thing was clear, you didn’t talk about your breasts in public. Or your bras. Boob bags, over the shoulder boulder holders, sling shots, flopper stoppers, call ‘em what you like.

People are quick to criticise this campaign that started off as fun. But I don’t mind it at all. One – because it brought bras out of the closet and we can write ‘white lace’, ‘leopard’ or even ‘nothing in our status, boldly going where no other status has gone before. Two because it is spreading awareness.

How is this helping breast cancer awareness, asked a pal or two. Simple – I haven’t done a self examination in months. I am thirty one. I should be doing regular examinations. This campaign made me laugh and it reminded me to do one. Also, atleast two women who pinged me to ask me about my status, had never bothered to do a self examination – various reasons like – oh it won’t happen to me and ugh, I don’t want to (!).

And this is how it helped. Because I talked them into it and I hope they went home and did one. After all, how does wearing a red ribbon help spread AIDs awareness? It just reminds you to slip on a raincoat if you were planning not to. It takes a taboo health topic out of the closet. Similarly this bra thing reminds all of us women to be grateful for the healthy breasts we have encased in them. Big, small, floppy, wrinkly, stretchmarked, uneven – anything. It is so much more than the woman who has only two scars left. And I know a couple of them already.

Have you read Thanks for the Mammaries? The author, Sarah Darmody lost an aunt to breast cancer and you can see how strongly she feels about it – she even underwent a double mastectomy herself. The stories are funny, poignant and some just leave you wishing you’d got your hands on the book before. I was also glad to see that royalties go the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Which is why I bought a book instead of borrowing one.

Yes, funds are needed. Yes, more research would be good. Yes, other cancers need more awareness and funds. Yes, a link in your status would help too and no, armchair activism doesn’t help much but it’s a little more than nothing. So here’s the deal. I’ve given you a laugh and now I give you the link to the breast self exam. Promise me you’ll do this tonight before you sleep.

Once you’re through with that, be a sport and join in. Get your bras out of the closet. It won’t make you cheaper or crasser. It will just make you loosen up a little. It will give us a laugh and if you don’t want to – hey – the rest of us will make you laugh. And yes, we’ll also have the grace to blush!

Here’s mine – Peach. Tell me yours in the comment box. As the Bean is known to say – Go on, I know you can do it!

And while we’re on armchair activism – have you signed for Ruchika?

Edited to add: Here’s Khizzy’s post on it the same topic.