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.

Helping our kids learn pedestrian skills.

image courtesy google.
image courtesy google.

We do our morning walks very purposefully before the traffic. If we do reside at place where the traffic does not let up then we drive in our SUV’s to the  thata-paati park and walk, yet we have abandonded this in our daily life. maybe it is a good idea to teach our kids to walk.

Yet walking is fun and and healthy way to spend time with your child, the child learns from us, so we become the child’s most important role model. Children learn from watching, so maybe as parents teaching our kids to walk we could look at these thingsdo the following things,

  • Obey all traffic signs and signals
  • Choose routes that provide space to walk and have the least amount of traffic and lowest speed.
  • Look for traffic at all drive ways and intersections.
  • If possible cross at a pedestrian crossing or at an intersection with a walk signal.
  • Stop at the curb and look for the traffic in all directions.
  • At intersections watch out for the vehicles might turn.
  • Walk across do not run.
  • Talk to your child about what we are doing and why as we walk. This way the child learns to recognize the safe and unsafe.
  • As drivers we respect the pedestrian and follow rules.
image courtesy google
image courtesy google

A child between 4-6yrs has limited judgement it, makes it hard for them to know when and where it is safe to cross. Niether are they in position of gauging the speed on oncoming traffic.  They can be impulsive and tend to get distracted easily that means focusing on a single task like crossing the road would be tough on them. this age group would need an adult to walk them. safely should be a priority, that is learning what it means to be safe. they should always be with an adult while walking. The best way to ensure that kids learn is by repeating the safe walking rules, and by being a role model.

Between 7-10yrs, supervision would be required as they learn more complicated pedestrian safety skills, they begin identify safe crossing zones with help and practise. they also learn focusing so they cn identify traffic and stay focused while crossing the street and with help and practise. this is the right time to inculcate skills that make the children safe walkers through out their lives. The children are now capable of learning more complicated pedestrian safety tasks. Even though they are older, they always should be with an adult while walking near or around traffic. The best way to learn is by repeating safe pedestrian skills.

Children over 10, need specific instruction and modelling as they begin to learn more complicated pedestrian skills. they are now in position to identify safe crossing site, gauge traffic flow with help. They are also able to focus as they cross. Its a stage of finding the mix between independence and supervision. Despite being older, it is a good idea to have an adult around until they demonstrate safe pedestrian skills consistently. They best way for these kids to learn is by practising safe pedestrian sills with adults, and revisiting safety issues often also helps.

How can we help?

Children learn by observing so we need to be consistant and follow the rules.

  • Walking our child to school following safety behaviours.
  • Pick the safest routes for routes that will be repeated daily. Explain to the child to always follow this route.
  • Making the child aware of the importance of stoping to look for the traffic in all directions before crossing.
  • Maybe waiting at the curb and explaining the traffic signal is also an good idea.
  • Ensuring that the child is focused as she/he crosses.

    image courtsey internet
    image courtesy internet

Choosing the safest route.

  • The route should have fewest streets to cross
  • Avoid busy or high speed streets
  • Places with sidewalks whenever possible. If there are no sidewalks then walk facing the direction of the vehicle.
  • Be consistent in the route.


image courtesy google
image courtesy google


This morning as I was riding my bike down to the Kala Academy at Goa, a teenage kid from the college near by just dashed on, almost knocking me and my bike. She of course swore rather pathetically, at that moment I was nasty I told her, “if she wanted to die she should go under a bus or SUV bikes are bad choice.”

But what I did realize we have begun to negate pedestrians, or maybe I should say pedestrians are near extinction.

the international walk to school month. Better known as IWALK is annual global event.

With the increase in the number of parents who drive their kids to school, this event has been created to look at active transport and its related issue. It also intends to introduce the communities to active and safe school routes.

Event i-walk re-emphasises the preservation of environment and requires everyone to collectively do their part in any way possible.

The proportions of journeys to school made by car has increased considerably in the last years, with the knock-off effect being a gradual decline in the numbers of children walking and wheeling to and from school on a regular basis. If the child does use his/her own wheels to school then it is usually the non-geared motor vehicles.

i-walk promotes increasing daily physical activity. improving pedestrian safety, enhancing the environment, reducing crime levels, developing community cohesion, promoting social interaction, and reducing traffic congestion, pollution and speed near schools.

There is a lot we could do as communities this was an interesting handout I came across,  this said “Teach your child to walk

Walking with parents or another caregiver is an important way for children to practise crossing real streets and picking safe places to walk. There is no magical age when the child is declared fit to walk alone, but as parents we decide when we trust of child enough to take responsibility. But we would of course have the onus of giving the child skills and experience to deal with traffic.

Some things that the pamphlet said was really interesting like,

  • Wear bright coloured clothes, and carry torches if you are walking in the evening.
  • Wear reflective gear if it is dark or hard to see.
  • Look for traffic at every drive way and intersection.
  • Beware of drivers in parked cars they might be getting ready to move.
  • Obey all traffic signs and signs.

As kids we were taught to cross the street safely, I do not remember teaching my child this, because either they went by school bus, or my husband or I dropped them. so basic road crossing skills would involve.

  1. Stop at the curb of the street,
  2. Cross at the pedestrian crossings.
  3. Look left, look right, look left, look behind you and in front of you for traffic.
  4. Wait till there is no traffic, or wait for the walkers signal.
  5. Keep an eye on traffic till you have crossed.
  6. Walk , don’t run.
image courtsey internet
image courtsey internet

Somehow we do not seem to understand that it takes time and practise for a child to develop the ability to deal with lots of traffic. Over time, children develop the ability to accurately judge the speed and distance of the oncoming traffic. Usual mistake that children make is that since they can see the driver they assume the driver can see them, they have to be made to realize that it is not so.

Again there are speed limits and parking criteria at school zones which somehow we do not seem to practise. parking on the curbs, and sidewalks are quite normal leaving no space for the pedestrian to walk.

The i-walk event is also to create a community responsibility towards pedestrians.

With our obsession of aping the west, one thing we could do well in learning is strengthening the community school, such that children do not commute to school but attend the school nearest to their residence. People tend to pick residences in and around schools that they would like their child to attend.

When I was Young…

mahila samaj#BachpanWithFlinto

A legacy I received… I wish I could hand it down

Do I remember the good old days, of course the time I we played hide and seek and how we played it climbing roof tops and tree tops, baking when our mothers were not around, waiting for the letters from cousins after holidays, the Saturday half day school meant we returned early and enroute we picked up inland letters to write to our grandparents. Of course when television did enter the family the Sunday morning He-man and Mahabharat.

We did lot more things and we did it choosing to do so, simply because our families were not child dominated, my mother specially was juggling, home, school, 6 houseguests at any given time, not to mention Mahila Samaj  Haldi-Kumkum  making of pickles and papad and god knows what.

There is so much that I could share and I have shared like playing Safari imagining that our bicycles were horses…Yes we named our bicycles, and lassoing the pigs. Or stealing Mangoes from Kannamma-auntie’s house we had a ball.

One of the vibrant memories is about the “annual day/ independence day” and some other event that we performed. There was none of this profession theatre hangover, no reality shows as benchmark it was plain and stark write your script, direct your moves, beg borrow costumes  if it was really so important than the great man himself would descend that is the one and only legendary “Basha Saheb”

But end of July I went home for my father’s year’s mind, when it was the fiftieth founder’s day of Manipal Mahila Samaj, it brought back so many memories. My first ever memory of a stage performance, I can still see Mrs.Kusuma Panduranga Pai in a Navy Blue BellBottom, and top her hair open to me she was the ultimate Diva.

Generations of children have grown up in Manipal experimenting flexing with their creativity, no judgements made everyone was encouraged as long as our grades were good.  This time round the women had the lesser known women charecters from the epics it was humbling to see these very same people who guided us through life still vibrant and walking the ramp in their sixties and seventies.

When I look back, we had to reach school by 9.30 AM so 9 a clock we would meet at the end of the road, and one friend would perpetually be late, and we would yell out “Ana Maria….”

Mahila samaj 2Coming yaa” would be her response and an immediate adjoined would be “Paal kudichitu school po” ie drink your milk before you leave. Parents didn’t bother about dropping us to school; of course the “Sissies” took the school bus.  There were kids who walked uptown 5kms, to school and some who lived far way took the local bus. we knew not the traffic jams.

Evenings we went for a walk, or library or swimming nothing was structured. That was the greatest gift our parents generation gave us, a legacy that my generation failed to hand down, micromanage our kids so much, drop them to school, pick them us, take them to their tuitions, extra-activities of our choice, insist on guiding their homework an euphemism for ensuring their homework is done all in the guise of being an concern responsible parent.

If there is one thing from my childhood that I wish kids today could do, it is being able to explore and experiment without being controlled. As for my little ones, they are pretty women today I have tried to give them that.

The post is being written for the #BachpanWithFlinto blogger contest 

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akshayapatraWhen we were kids, it was quite acceptable for kids from the villages to attend the town school; those who had relatives in town went to their house for lunch.

Then there were houses that took on “vaarada oota” that is families would take on feeding couple of school going kids once a week. The kids would each at a particular house on a particular day and move on another the next. The families had a system so that the financial burden would be shared. The parent’s kids if they could afford it, thank the feeders in kind, but otherwise just bless them.

Then there were those that carried their lunch, and for those did not fit into any of these there were free lunches at the temples. These are called as prasadams, or blessings usually sponsored by the donations people made to the temple.

This system ensured that the children had a proper lunch and it also built bonds between people and built a community. somehow somewhere this system has died out.

I am come from the temple town of Udupi, where every temple has the concept of annadhana.  Anyone can walk in there to eat.

Temples of Sringeri, Dharmasthala and many places even the small ones do have an entire time and space block for school kids to eat. The fare is nothing fancy, rice, dal, some vegetable usually locally grown non glamorous one, and a glass of chaas. Fair enough.

Gurudwaras up north have these facilities too.

Many small towns the school timings take to account the temple lunch hours. The problem with the temples in the south is that the NGO’s created various issues about the temple feeding the children. Like quality of food, there are accusations of segregation of children and anything that catches the fancy.

I really do not see, what is wrong with it. The government does have the midday meal courtesy UNISCEF but why get into something when the community has created something for itself?

As long as the children are provided with food, that is nutritious, and education to carry on with life and livelihood I think we have made a start.

If we as a community, can take responsibility of nurturing our community, in the long run we would have greater bonding between us, and it would also bring about tremendous emotional intelligence within the society. If ever I could envision Akshay Patra—be it the current NGO that tries to feed, or the one Draupadi owned I really look at it like a community kitchen.

I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda

Can We Be Mini’s father for a change?

tata capital 2

My niece Saraswati and sister Shyamala are negotiating a sari, it costs 26.000Rs. And here I am standing beside them. I am reminded of Marie Antoinette, here is a debate on blowing up 26000/Rs. on a sari to be draped once in the life time, and on the other hand Saraswati Mandir, would be satisfied with just half the amount to bring literacy to its 20 students.  The irony of it all.

Megma (W.Bengal) in the Indo Nepal border to me brings a picture of a peaceful Himalayan town 9, 9000 ft. Altitude.

The children of a forgotten populace, no media sees them nor do they make it to their reach out sob-stories like their more glamorous counterparts at the Tibetan borderteachersrs. Well, it is simply because these children are hoping skipping and entering their school, where Sri Chandrakanth Pradhan teaches them.

If you are imagining a “Mohobatein style”   posh corridors, air-conditioned rooms, well look again this is a humble 3-room school, run by a retired teacher.  Shaky benches faded and cracked blackboards and an infrastructure that threatens to crumble.  The teacher is not paid, yet he is there diligently present share his literacy with the smiling faced young ones.  http://www.indiblogger.in/topic.php?topic=103

Somewhere this imbalance makes me wonder, sometimes it makes me a little guilty to the support that Mr.Pradhan needs is

Rs.3500/ for black boards and

9000/ for stationary kits,

He does not provide an elaborate fancy budget no budgeting for his remuneration.  He is worried about the lack of nutrition in the children sometimes food is just not available. He says when food and survival are the issues child coming to school is great things.

the draconian teacher
There are teachers and teachers. And here is a teacher who in his 4th standard wrote that he wanted to be a rural school teacher lighting lives of children with literacy.

Latin Maxim states grammar speaks, dialects teach us truth; rhetoric gives colouring to our speech; music signs; arithmetic numbers; astronomy teaches us to know the stars — The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth—Dan Rather.

Over the years I have official teachers, and people from whom I have learnt. I can remember quite a few of them, the best ones and the worst ones. Those who I realize in retrospect have had good or bad influence on me.

At school I was the rebel, I refused to conform to the norms, I was curious and was quite unabashed about it, and I read a lot.  Along my reading I learnt that things had to be classified, so here is my classification of my teachers. The Draconian teacher a teacher who is rigorous, unusually severe or cruel, with draconian forms of punishment, they still live in my nightmare.  These teachers were equipped with shrill voices, wooden scales, and harsh words; they also had the capacity of carrying tales to the parents all in the name of doing well. In today’s world we would call they control freaks, our time we got away with under the breath epitaph of Hitler.
What we did learn from them is how to break rules, and circumvent hurdles without being caught.

Then is the hypocrite teacher this is the teacher who say things and not honour them. They would have one set of rules for the Lodges and another for the Cabot’s, the plebeians didn’t exist in their reckoning.

Then is the person I would call the Guru Edward Bulwer-Lytton identifies them as — the person who suggests rather than dogkabuliwallahmat
ize, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself, the purpose of this teacher is not create students in his own image but to develop students who can create their own image.

Working on this piece I realize that teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum of choice of text or special placement of students, the only autonomy they have is inside the classroom. This is something shared only by few other occupations like the police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.

How do I think this half story could change the lives of people it touches well I do not know, but I do wish the Kabuliwallah – experience  from Tagore’s kabuliwallah happens, do remember when the Kabuliwallah returns from jail to see Mini he realizes that his daughter would be old enough to be married off too, that moment the father in Mini’s father empathize with the kabuliwallah he cuts down the wedding extravagances to donate the money to the Kabuliwallah so that he could visit his daughter.

Lif-tick lore

lipstick 1We were in class three, the parents day, our class was to perform the folk dance called Koravanji.

The checked cotton sari’s collected beads chains and ear hoops, colourful flowers, bells on the feet. Mothers had diligently packed the list the teachers gave and we went to school “half day” on reaching the school in “colour dress’ we were huddled into the van “according to class and height.” Finally we reached the KMC physiology auditorium where the event was to take place.

The class teacher assisted by some mothers and “Bhasha” the make-up man were busy getting ready. Our faces done and hold your breath, that bright red gooey stuff that went on our lips called the lipstick the excitement ran high. Once the lipstick was applied, we had to ensure that it stayed so we ate such that our lips didn’t touch or else our “lif-tick” would fade.lipstick 2

Eating the goodies was a feat that would shame the Punjabi aunties eating Golgappa at Paharganj.  The lips were at a perfect”O” through the eating valiantly we spoke maintain the”O”

There was something very enticing about the lipstick, a forbidden charm. Kajal in the eyes was acceptable but lipstick screamed “fast girls” Older girls did apply lipsticks on occasions so that they would look more dressed up than every day.

Lakme in the early 80’s went plebeian they came up with a range of nail colours of sober pinks and baby blushes which the mother’s of teenagers found acceptable. It made them feel progressive “oh! I allow my daughters wear nail polish but it has to be sober colours.” Baby blush was the colour.

lipstick 3Lakme went smarter still, with two nail polish you got a lipstick free, thus lipsticks landed on the dressing table of very respectable teenager.

The sheens, the coco butter one, the nudes its fun.dove

Once lipstick gained acceptability and respectability it has become indispensable, I remember using it as a blusher substitute, or eye shadow substitute, there were times it helped out as a bindi too, remember the original Golmaal?

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