Friday, February 26, 2010

Update on registration of marriage, Dehradun

On 8th February 2010, the district administration of Dehradun passed a rule that now makes it compulsory for one of the applicants for registration of marriage to be domiciled within the district. Those of you who want to apply, please note that the rule is only applicable for the district of Dehradun. However, it makes even more sense for all applicants to first check what the local rules are.

The domicile rule angers me for several reasons.

1. Mian and I went to the Marriage registrar's office in Jan, when this rule had not been passed. Our application was not accepted, giving the same reason, and our questions as to it's validity were shot down. I realize now that is was illegal for the ADM to refuse our application on the basis of a rule that had not been passed yet but I don’t know what to do about it.
2. The reason stated in their official press statement is that a lot of 'outside' people were applying at the Dehradun office, and this created more work for them. The district admin needs to wake up to the fact that Dun is now the state capital. State capitals often become vibrant cosmopolitan areas with a lot of outsiders. This is a good thing, people. As for the second argument, can you imagine going up to your boss and asking him/her to make a radical policy change because it would lessen your work? No, I can't either.
3. And now for the most important reason. I am a citizen of India and more or less fond of the country. Whatever my issues with certain policies, it has been drummed into me since my childhood that India has a right to my allegiance. But in return, this country also owes me something. It owes me a sense of belonging. Within its boundaries, no one should be able to tell me," You don't belong here. Go back to where you came from." But this is what this rule tells me, and all the other applicants it dismisses as 'outsiders'. Xenophobia is always unacceptable , even when expressed by crazy groups. But the government has absolutely no right to label the citizens of its own country as 'outsiders'. And this is what makes me angry.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

looking for more reasons to visit UP?

Because the railway station at Badaun, UP is beautiful

A chana-seller's cart, Badaun. I like this snap with the solitary, untended cart in front of a moving train crammed with travelers. And yes, I liked the chanas too. Buying five rupees worth of warm, freshly roasted gram and munching them with one's colleagues is a nice way to start the day.

And while eating, there was much entertainment to be had from the is one posing for a pretty picture.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Another reason to visit UP

Because no one has yet built a functioning time machine..

In UP, there happily co-exist several different eras. Cities like Bareilly and Kanpur are everyday urban areas with motorcycles, malls, multiplexes and mayhem. Travel a little beyond them though, and the visitor can pick and choose what decade s/he wants to experience.
Let's begin with movies. The latest Bollywood release being shown in Badaun was Damini, and doing pretty well, I expect. Only was released in 1993. The last decade-and-a-half apparently never happened in UP.

And then, an astonishing amount of travel is carried out with muscle power-either human or animal.  You have met Basant earlier, and the only taxi-service available in Badaun were the cycle-rickshaws. I loved the way they were decorated.
I of course, photographed one that appealed to the romantic in me, but the predominant theme was macho-gun-wielding-hero. Here is an example.

This road that I traveled on from Soron to Lahare..

I took it to be one of those many ephemeral paths that get created one year to disappear the other. Till I saw these buildings, and realised that I was travelling on an old, old, important highway.
 The structure  in the photo is a rather handsomely built well that's part of a caravanserai. This particular caravanserai was only one of many such along the road, showing how important this route was. This is achingly Ozymandian, considering that I had never before heard of either village

On a happier note, I came across a horse-fair!

 The picture above is the only one I had that gives some idea of the bustle and fair-like atmosphere. But I initially hated it because of that motorbike smack front and centre. What was I thinking? Now however, I think it fits in well with the theme of this post, don't you?

I spoke with the owner of these horses. He had come from the West, he told me..from across punjab and Haryana. Well, in a scene from Kim, it is only fitting that I speak to Mahbub Ali!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why I would like to visit Uttar Pradesh again..

Because the people we met have been truly nice.
There are several other reasons, and I will talk of them all, but we need to start with the important things, don’t we?
The people we met in the course of interviews turned our assumptions about the uncouth badlands topsy-turvy. People gave up their seats for us, didn’t let us get lost, and threw themselves whole heartedly into our research and gave us tips and additional information. If they saw we were unsettled by anything, they immediately reassured us. Each of us was invited to a respondents home for a meal atleast once.This is remarkable anywhere, but more so here, where the living is so incredibly tough. The struggle-filled lives that everyone led matter-of-factly caused me to weep at times.
  • There was young Tulsi, exactly the same age as my niece. She had never been to school and now helped her brother run his chai stall. Soon, she would probably be married off. A bit of the child in her still shone through when she spoke of playing in the river.
  • There was the choodiyan seller with his sadhu friend. In that bustling pilgrim town, these two misfits, one a muslim and the other an exiled sadhu had found each othere.
  • Basant’s owner, posing with Basant in the picture. A one-armed tangawallah who was ecstatic when we paid him a bit more than the agreed price. Basant himself was the healthiest and most well-fed living being we had seen in that entire poverty-stricken area. His love for his master is very clear in the way he has turned his head to nuzzle him.
  • The Prasad-seller who was dreading Holi. She had no money to buy clothes for her family, she said. Every day she prayed to Ganga, “ kaise bhi karake dhak do inhe. Somehow, cover their bodies.” But she gifted a pedha apiece to three weary surveyors.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Grand Trunk Road

I wanted to do this in chronological order, but how can I delay answering Nadi?

The Grand Trunk road then, is 2,500 Km of poetry. It has been a constant part of India through four empires (the Mauryan, the Mughal, the British, and democratic India). It is a river of life, a catalyst for trade, a creator of wanderlust, a fount of stories, an enabler of dreams, the physical manifestation of great travel.  It has been called  the Sadak-e-Azam, the Grand Trunk road, and even its modern, humdrum name reflects its importance: NH1.

I have read about it and lusted to travel its length. And so living in a hotel the front door of which opened out onto The Road is surely the best of locations. From there we saw trucks, buses, horse-carts, cycle rickshaws, pedestrians..If we chose we could have bought biriyani, dahi, jalebis, samosas, fruit, pots, chillums, rope, condoms*, electronics, clothes, marble. We quite literally inhaled the breadth of the sub-continent.

Which brings us to why it is the worst of locations. Living in the middle of the river of life is not a restful experience. It is always noisy, and gets noisier at night when trucks ply. I like the tunes they play on their horns, mind you, but not all night, every night. And they belch exhaust and churn the gangetic silt..

Wonderful for the travel experience, terrible for the rest it allows.

*I mention these because here I saw for the first time the vending machines actually being used. A government initiative to make condoms more accessible to high-risk groups, the vending machines are often sadly misused. Not here, where India's excellent outreach program has worked and the CVMs were sans grafitti and displayed in accessible areas.

Travelling in Uttar Pradesh

Now, I love to travel. A friend and I often joke that creating a map with little green flags to mark the places we want to visit wouldn't work for us..we would just have to get a spray can of paint and colour the entire globe green. That is not quite true. I have never had an urge to visit the Hindi heartland of India, The Darkness as Adiga calls it. So you can guess how excited I was when I began working on a project that requires travel here..
Where exactly is 'here'?

here's a map of where my colleagues and I spent a couple of weeks:

View travelling in Uttar Pradesh in a larger map

week 1: we travelled from Dehradun-Bareilly-Badayoon. We then stayed at the quite acceptable Tourist Guesthouse in Badayoon and commuted to Kachla ghat to conduct surveys.
week 2: We moved our base from Badayoon to Kalyanpur. We stayed in Kalyanpur (bang on the Grand Trunk Road, which is simultaneously the best and worst of locations) and commuted to Bithoor.
end of the 2nd week, we returned to Dun and enjoyed being cosseted by our families.

stories and photos follow. But here is a glimpse of 'India Shining ' UP-style..
young coin-collectors, kachhla bridge

Monday, February 15, 2010


Blast at the German Bakery, 13 February 2010

There is something very wrong about a world where the innocent are targeted by terrorists.

There is something even more wrong about a world where their deaths are used for political mileage and to derail any attempts at peace: The BJP opposition to Indo-Pak talks

Friday, February 12, 2010

a dozen reasons for me to move to Goa

12. It is sunny and warm. In the winter

11. Lotuses grow in paddy fields

10. Bakeries operating out of village homes sell little bites of heaven for 8/- each. The Jila bakery, Loutolim.
 9. Whatever the state of the Republic, every citizen is guaranteed a competent haircut
8. The street names are hand painted on tiles

As are house names
7. Ferries are free, and allow tired vendors to take a short break

6. Dogs have jet-skis to chase. And beaches to run on.

5. The most unassuming places have food that makes one swoon with pleasure.

4. The scariest things around are fruits with demon mouths

3. The High Court is housed in a building that resembles a mango flavoured wedding cake

2. Trust: People cheerfully hand over scooter keys to absolute strangers

1. Honesty: Shopkeepers follow truth-in-advertising guidelines

And thanks to the Mian for photos 6 and 1..

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

So, do you feel any different?

This is the question that I am asked most often.

The answer? Actually, I don't know it myself.

I had not expected to feel any different. All my life, I believed that a piece of paper does not really make a difference. And all I had seen of the Hindu marriage ceremony were the externalities- the display of things, the stroking of egos, the submission of the bride AND her family.

But there is much more to it than that.

I still believe that Mian and I do not need a certificate or the ceremony to establish our commitment to each other. But the rituals- the vows, the blessings, the ritual depiction of the stages of togetherness- made  me realise what this commitment actually entails. And made me realise the significance of this willingness to trust in each other.

And perhaps even more special than the traditional wedding rites were the ways in which the ceremony was  tweaked to accommodate us.
• My family's making sure that every teeny wish of mine came true- from mehendi the night before, to marigolds at the venue.
• My mum doing the kanyadaan after a minor strike (me) and some cajoling (my sis).
• The mid-ritual breaks for English translation, sanctioned by a beaming priest who was thrilled by the international nature of the wedding.
• The discreet letting go of the conversion and lena-dena aspect.
• And above all, my Mian and my family with their shared love for this one individual and because of that, their seeking to establish a friendship.

So do I feel any different? 

No. And Yes.

There are no 'new' emotions. I do not feel disconnected from my family. My connection with my Mian was already there.

But now, it is strangely easier to make long-term plans without a whispered insh'llah. My family now looks at us as more of a pair than they did just a week earlier. I feel more connected to his family than I did a couple of weeks ago.

I always loved both Mian and my family, but now I am overcome by a rush of love whenever I think of the time we all spent together and their welcoming of each other. And above all else, there is overwhelming gratitude towards them. For the laying down of reservations, for the acceptance of rituals, for the reaching out, for the coming together to celebrate this togetherness.

So maybe, it was an affirmation and a strengthening of that which already existed. And a reminder to continue feeling happy and grateful.

Monday, February 8, 2010

20 jan 2010

For friendship, 
For attaining success and prosperity, 
For partnership
For exploring our sensual sides, 
To lead an ethical life,
and by doing all this to attain moksha, we embark together on this journey of our marriage.

Our Hindu wedding vows.
My Mian and I. Each other's friend, partner, beloved, spouse.

The photo? taken by the best man, N. Thank you, and not just for the photos.