A Crappy Affair

World toilet day
The UN has declared Nov.19th as the world Toilet day.
We have lived and grown up with toilets, of course during our younger days when we travelled we never used public toilets since we were worried about hygiene with the advent of pay toilets those are taken care off too.
The impact of open defection never really struck in, after all at school we were thought that one method of seed dispersion was undigested seeds in the faecal matter.
At the medical school the impact of water borne disease and zoonosis kind of seeped in.
Last year when I went with the Banega Swach Bharat drive of NDTV I realized the greater impact of it, there was a man who wanted toilets constructed because he wife died when she slipped as she went out the fields. Gone were the days people looked at costing, the issue that the public presented was know how, they knew they needed toilets, they wanted the toilets too, the issue was how would the sewage handle it self they did not want it let loose into the fields and rivers as it would cause contamination. The knowledge partners organized by NDTV addressed this fundamental issue.
maybe if a year back somebody told me that the international toilet day was linked with equality, dignity and gender violence and sanitation I would have rolled with laughter. But the exposure a year ago and working with the migrant workers have really opened my eyes to something larger.
I heard stories of villagers who want to send their daughters to school but the fact that there were no toilets and the trees had been cut off to widen the roads made them aware of the desperate need for toilets and trees.
On the flip side were elders who were psychologically comfortable doing their daily rituals in the open environment so they had bowel constriction when they had to use the toilets. Interestingly the resource person suggested roofless toilets and planting of trees, or keeping flower pots.
When we are dealing with the migrant labour and informal work force things take a different turn. In a supermarket or a mall there are staff toilets and toilets for the public, but in a village market, or construction site we have neither.
Some village markets have now come up with pay toilets but construction sites are still open. The workers have nowhere to ease themselves through their 10hrs of working. Neither do they have access to potable water unless they are carrying it.
It is easy to say that India as a nation has no sense of hygiene/dignity/whatever, to a certain extent yes, but if we do not provide the toilets where on earth are the people to go, they have to ease themselves so they will go into the shrubs if they are available or go in the open.
An year back I met a company that dealt with portable toilets, when we asked them why were these not used in places where temporary toilets were required, we were told
• Their initial costing is high
• They were western toilets and Indians were not comfortable using it.
By the way the company has come up with an Indian model this year. The waste was dealt with chemically so there was no odour emitted.
The sanitation maintenance people on the Indian railway have another thing to say. Yes, the train toilets are public places. The Indian railway has recently shifted to bio-cleansing toilet units, they put up signage’s to tell people not to throw their diapers, the sanitary towels and tissues down the toilet , yet people do so, particularly in the first class section which is supposed to occupied by the more educated aware citizens as opposed to the plebiscites of the sleeper class.
The international toilet day would be a great point to start an awareness drive, and toilet training—yes I use it deliberately because we need to learn how to use a public toilet, keep it clean and conserve resources.

Three learning From a Spider Sting


Instead of the usually kick into the system energy spike and sparkle in my eye, all that my tympanic membrane transmitted was a disturbance in transmission.

Of course there was this feeling of ants crawling on my scalp and my ear is on fire. Herpes of the Auriculotemporal Nerve was my diagnosis. Continue reading “Three learning From a Spider Sting”

Bus-stops to Bus-bays

<Country roads take me home…

The wonderful lyrics that we had, like Wendell Berry says in the Agrarian Essays, “ the difference between path and a road is not only the oblivious one. the path is a little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation through experience and familiarity of movement to place. It obeys the natural contours such obstacles it meets goes around.”

Some where the quiet country roads were the same. Before we decided to go global, there were bus-stops and not bus bays, solid stone structures, the roads were narrow and vehicles fewer each giving way for the other. Accidents were also less in number, people walked on the footpath, and crossed the roads comfortable.

The shelter where people awaited the arrival of the bus was the bus-stop. Usually painted either blue or green distemper so that the rain would not get it. inner half of it would have the bus timings written on it, and the other half would have the agrarian wholesale market price of various commodities. Then of course there would be the current campaign run by the government written too.

With advertising boom, people started sticking handbills on these spaces. And now despite the heavy taxing road building has been outsources… to whom…we do not know the RTI applications are not answered. Or if they are the answer given is document not available. What was the procedure for outsourcing, that information is not available too.

However my current concern is the busbays that are created off the so-called main roads, the bus drivers do not enter that space. Bus timings are not mentioned, these bus-bays have become places for advertisements and hooligans to hang out. When I mentioned this, I was told to Google the bus timings.

Potholes, Mercy-these-Bhains undoubtedly rule the roads, I do agree animals have the right of way,So the Jackass on the motarbike gets to zoom through on the pedestrian walks, like the “great Indian mother” on the scooter she is late to pick her child up, so it is okay for to push the elderly woman on the footpath after all the elderly woman does not have to go anywhere, while our diligent mother has to get back to office.Bus stop

How much are we going to abuse our pedestrians? Zebra crossings have become zones, where if you die hit by a vehicle then you know that person who hit was in the wrong. Like the noted Architect and Tedex speaker V.Naresh Narasimhan from Bangalore like to say broader roads, does not mean less congestion. Maybe it is time to hear what Tavleen Mehendrita has to say.

Continue reading “Bus-stops to Bus-bays”

Discovering Date Berries

I am back to my transit home the Indian Railways. This time it is to Ahmadabad.

It is the first time we travelled to Ahmadabad, as we entered the city; it gave an impression of opening the skies and allowing us to fly, instead of the usual claustrophobic urban appearance.

Wide roads, no doubt messy, and busy, but they were definitely more conscious of where they dumped their garbage. As we zoomed through to Gandhinagar, the road side vendors had heaps yellow and red berries; I made a mental note check it out. Somehow I could not really do so.

On our way back there was young boy Abu Bhakar, a Malayalee, who was conducting his first business trip on behalf of his family. They were into trading fresh dates to the Middle East. Apparently these dates came into the market at Gandhigram annually during early monsoon; they would be processed and dried in the Middle East. The boy was pretty excited with this venture he shared the samples with us.

The red berries apparently turn into the deep brown flesh fresh dates that are known as Karjura in kannada, while the yellow ones would be processed into uttute.

On my second trip of course I picked up quarter kilo of each, on eating them raw they were crunchy and mildly sweet, though the yellow one left a mild acrid after taste.

Then came the big question what do I do with it?

Though I scourged the net there seemed no recipe for the date berries… when I remembered a fresh date recipe my mother made though it was a disaster then I thought it might work with as these were berries.

I had a collective of ½ kilo dates, which I soaked in hot water for few minutes and skinned. The acrid after taste reduced after being soaked in hot water and the sweetness enhanced.

dates 2
cooked yellow and red dates with dry nuts and spices.
  • The berries had to be deseeded, which I did.
  • Added in about 1 and half cup of sugar, and left it over night.
  • next morning I picked dates out, measured the sugar syrup left behind, added twice the quantity of water and let it simmer,
  • I then made a powder of:
    • ¼ cup dry coconut scraping.
    • 1 pod cardamom
    • 1 clove
    • Pinch of cinnamon powder
    • ½ cup of assorted nuts like cashew nut, walnut, pistachio’s, and almonds.
  • Fill in the deseeded dates with this mixture and put it back into the sugar syrup.
  • Let it simmer for about 2-3mnts and take it off the fire,

This was really interesting; alternately maybe I should have just chunked it all. Anyway all experiments now  are deferred for another year


Do you suffer from chronic illness?

Great inputs, I have had great effects with layering hypnotherapy and conventional medicine

Norwich Hypnotherapy Services

Do you feel let down by modern medicine?

Unfortunately medicine has its limits and many of you may have been told that there is nothing more that can be done. Diseases like fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis fall into the class of ‘chronic illness’s’ where modern medicine has reached an impasse.

Chronic illness doesn’t usually come from nowhere, its a culmination of lifelong experiences. Childhood trauma has a bearing on illness as does long term emotional repression, insecurity, anger, fear, guilt and shame. These very ‘important’ issues are usually ignored by modern medicine but many of you suffering from a chronic illness may recognise some of these.

Your mind has been programmed by your past experiences. Your past experiences are where you developed your beliefs. If you believed that you were unlovable, had to please everyone else or were useless, stupid or undeserving of happiness when you were young…

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The Ladies Lounge

Welcome to Ladies Lounge,

If you wondered what this is, well, let me walk you through the history, Once upon a time there was the anthapura, the zanana the women’s quarters where women discussed things that were important to them. this was the place from where the women wielded their power. In the Mughal Zanana being in-charge of it was a prestigious issue.

The village well was another place where women, brainstormed, did troubleshooting and of course a bit of bitching and a whole lot of gossiping. In the postraj urban India, the village well the centre of lot of social changes and emotional support was looked down on. the so called emancipated Indian woman had actually become weaker, for she was all about turning masculine.

The nurturing qualities of the female energy are consistently mis-presented as home-management, child rearing and subjugation to the male energy. Its independent strength and potency is ridiculed and still worse it is not acknowledged in its totality.

The early modern woman is handed a super-cape from her mother but guess what there is this constant pressure to use a rather ill-fitting cape from MIL, well not that the mother’s cape fits to the T.. but one can manipulate it. The village well has vanished, so no collective wisdom was available.

The village well magical remerged in various spaces one being the school yard where women waited to pick up their kids, the ladies room in every workspace, the mother-in-law, sister-in-law and other extended family replaced, by colleague, boss and other key players. The issues have remained the same, breaking ice, finding my voice and space, establishing my energy.

The cape gave us various hues to play with the victim, the warrior, and the survivor, whatever.

The Ladies Lounge is for the woman in 50’s the baby boomer generation, the epiphany that mother-in-law is no more the person who annoys us, but we are the mother-in-law can be quite scary..Ladies Lounge… a space where they can unwind and feel their energy, brainstorm, troubleshoot, bitch or just gossip.

This is an unique space where men are denied access, they were never there.

Well here is the deal, you can share anything you feel appropriate, and the interaction can happen. Brainstorming, Troubleshooting and gossiping is on.


International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Given the current situation, suddenly there is seems to an increase in public lynching, police versus the commoner situation. So maybe today is the right day to see where we are on this one.

In 1997 UN launched the international day in support of torture victims this is a result of the UN convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This convention is binding according to international law

Torture could be infliction of physical or mental pain through violence, fear or massive humiliation. The UN also includes governmental torture like police or interrogative procedures to extract confessions, but pain or suffering caused by legal penalty is not considered torture.

In India the use of torture is quite widespread and predominant it is quite unchallenged and unopposed that it has sadly become normal and legitimate practise in investigating crimes or extracting confessions. Women face custodial rape, molestation and other form of sexual harassment, this is not just inflicted on accused but legitimate petitioners, complainants or informants are also subjected to inhuman degrading treatment that violates human dignity.

The constitution of India provides for life , dignity and honour in the chapter of fundamental rights, that makes it the primary obligation of the judiciary to ensure that its dignity is maintains. Article 5 of UDHR 1948 specifically proclaims, “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.  Article 7 of ICCPR (International covenant on civil and political rights) adds an addendum that no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experiment.  The Human Rights Commission has been delegated the responsibility of implementation of the above decree under the Article 40v-4 of ICCPR,..as the purpose of this article is to maintain human dignity, it is applicable even in situations of public emergency.

The Human rights committee includes corporal punishment at educational institutes and patients in medical institutions.

The Convention Against Torture And Other Cruel Inhuman Or Degrading Treatment,(CAT) adopted on Dec.10th 1984 aims to prevent and prohibits acts of torture  in the

Article 1     it defines torture.

Article 2     says torture cannot be justified even during war or public emergency

Article 3     forbids states parties to expel or extradite a person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he could be in danger of being tortured. It also allows the extradition of people accused on torture.

The implementation of this is monitored by a Committee Against Torture which consists of 10 experts elected by the state parties to the convention and they serve in their personal capacity.

India has signed the convention against torture but not ratified it, India has expressed concern over Art.20 and Art.22 of the convention.

Victims of torture tend to feel a lot of rage and focus on revenge and very defensive.  Torture survivors tend to get angry at the slightest provocation resulting in people staying away from them, social isolation and loneliness has tremendous impact on the person’s physical and mental health. Anxiety disorder triggered by recurring nightmares and flashbacks could happen. Sounds and sights associated with the torture could trigger the anxiety episode. Post torture anxiety victims tend to avoid social situation where they fear being judged, embarrassed or humiliated. Depression is wide spread in torture survivors and could experience recurring thoughts of death and suicide.  There are victims who go to great lengths to avoid thoughts, conversations, activities and places that could trigger a recollection of the trauma, leading to social withdrawal and isolation this is Emotional Numbing And Avoidance. Some torture survivors are suffer from hyper arousal, this is a condition where they are very vigilant and alert and are easily startled, this is a constant state and does not need a trigger. This in turn makes them stressed and angry many times they are not able to handle day to day activities. They tend to have outburst of angers. About 51% of the people suffering from post torture tend to exhibit sexual dysfunction particularly if they have suffered sexual torture or rape.  This at times is linked to depression or PTSD this in turn could affect the person’s confidence and the way he or she interacts socially.

The psychological effect varies with each individual so it becomes necessary to plan the treatment also case by case.


With The Refugees

World Refugee Day commemorates the obstacles that Refugees face each year. It also honours their courage and strength, on June 20th the United Nations observes the World Refugee Day.

The United Nations High Commission has set up #WithRefugees petition to create an action plan to bring about solidarity and global responsibility on behalf of refugee. Asylum seekers differ from Refugees as they are individuals who have sought international protection and their claim for refugee status has not yet been determined.

According to the UN-refugee body as of 2015 there are about 2,07,861 persons of concern  and 6,480 asylum seeks.  India has offered sheltered to Tibetans, the chakmas the Afghans and ethnic Srilankan Tamils.  Despite of one of the largest refugee population in South Asia we are yet to enact an uniform law that addresses the issue of asylum.

Interestingly  none of the domestic laws speak in reference to the term “refugee” India has not signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention on the status of Refugees nor has the 1967 protocol dealing with rights and services the host state must provide the refugees been signed.  Though there is an informal refuge regime, parallel to the international one, no formal asylum policy is devised; the decision for granting of asylum is ad hoc and case-to-case basis. In 2015 the congress MP Shashi Tharoor introduced a private member bill called the asylum bill 2015 it is to provide for the establishment of a legal framework to harmonize India’s refugee policy, this has not yet been taken up for consideration.

The Tibetans who came seeking asylum in 1959 along with the Dalai Lama were treated as refugee’s and given land and housing, it since been discontinued.  They can avail all the privileges of an Indian citizen though they cannot vote or take government jobs provided they have a registration certificate (RC) the RC a prerequisite to live in India is issued by the passport office Delhi on recommendations of the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama Delhi.

The Sri Lankan Tamil refugees could be either camp refugees or non-camp refugees  this depends on the socio-economic parameter. They cannot vote or own property though they can own cattle and purchase things for domestic use. The identity card is issued either for the family or to individuals, and it would document details of the names, age, relationships, gender, date and location of arrival in India their education background and the address in SriLanka, the camp revenue inspector also issues a refugee certificate which is required for them to return to SriLanka.

Since July 2016 the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jains Parsis and Christians refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan staying in India on Term Visa’s have been regularized, they are allowed to open bank accounts, purchase property for self occupation and suitable accommodation for carrying out self employment, take self-employment and obtain documents like driving licenses, PAN cards and Aadhar numbers. They are also given privileges like free movement within the state or union Territory; transfer fo visa paper from one state to the other, waiver of penalty on non-extension of short-term or long term visas on time.

Bangladeshi’s and Pakistani’s who belong to minority communities and have entered India on or before Dec.31,2014 have exempted from relevant provisions of rules and order made under the Passport Act 1920 (Entry into India) and the Foreigners Act 1946 with respect to their entry and stay in India without documents or after the expiry of those documents.