Monday, June 25, 2012

No longer in safe custody

I wonder if anyone remembers the note titled 'Every woman should have' that was circulating the internet a couple of years ago. It listed a number of things some of which made sense- like a set of tools, and a reliable recipe for 'company'. I would like to add one thing to that list: a landline.

Shortly, very shortly after I moved to Dehradun I went and got me a phone. I did it myself and acquired a good dose of self-confidence along with the phone connection. I met interesting people along the way, and they helped me feel at home. The broadband connection allowed me to skype with Mian and enabled me to sail through times that would otherwise have been lonely. That phone bill increased my legitimacy and allowed me to open a separate bank account, renew my passport, replace my lost PAN card. In case of a glitch in cellphone connections, I had the landline as a backup. Above all, it was mine. It was a phone connection I had untangled red tape for. It was my claim to responsible citizenship.

And so when I left Dun I was loth to abandon the phone. Despite not knowing where we would be going, and despite the fact that I could always get another, I did not want to let this go. Instead, I ran through bureaucratic  loops once more, and put it  in safe custody- a lovely term for BSNL's holding on to the connection for me.

But it is not working out well. There are no phones where I stay. Getting them to lay a line will take more energy than I have. And today, I started the process of terminating my phone connection by applying that it be taken out of safe custody.

It has been nine months since I left Dun. The hard, nearly homeless, cold days are over. Now we have a home, furniture, a garden, a dog even. I have two cell connections and a data card that allows  me to be connected no matter where I am. I am glad to stop paying every month for a phone that I do not use, and do not see any way to begin using.

Why then, do I feel bereft?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One of those who watch

Shona-Bhaloo with best friend Rambo in the background. He trotted over that day for a self-planned play date.
Sho, of course, was extremely happy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What Shona and I gaze at most evenings.

The Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon. Stunningly beautiful. These are distinguishable from the Pompadour because only the male has the red blush on his wings. What I find most enthralling is the orange glow at the throat.They come every evening to a tree with berries on it and fill the air with their cooing. Yesterday, a pair flew to the lemon tree and posed for us. How could I not obey?

And for those of you who  remember my camera-less state, the Mian changed all that. I now have a gorgeous machine whose standards I need to educate myself to!

Friday, June 8, 2012

What is wrong with these men?

Imagine this. A well-lit and fully occupied bus traveling down the highway. The driver's love for music has created all the passengers to realize that they will not be able to sleep this night. A woman is traveling. She is galloping towards her forties,and her grey hairs attest to this. She sports a mangalsutra, and the rest of her outfit is frumpy enough to cause her concern at times. She is confident and assured. Sitting next to her is a man in his fifties. He is traveling for work, and has spoken on the phone of wanting to get back to his family. He has ingested nothing but water throughout the journey. A safe enough scene. No victims,no perpetrators that leap out.

In the middle of the night, the man tries the old surreptitiously-stroking-with-extended-fingers.

Seriously? Did he think I would not notice? Did he think that I would be too intimidated to protest? Or, I shudder to think, did he think I would welcome it? Perhaps he thought that I would not have seen the trick before. Perhaps he thought he was the first man  ever to think of it, and did not know that every woman in the subcontinent has experienced it a dozen times.

These men should know that we have perfected our 'strategically-poised-thumbnail' trick.

Go ahead and lust after every woman you see. Go ahead and think you are God's gift to the world. But do yourself a favour and don't underestimate our intelligence.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Burning mountains

I am sitting here on the porch anxiously waiting for Mian to return. It has been two hours since he went off to fight a forest fire. I know there are other people around, I know that two hours is nothing when it comes to fire, I know Mian is a careful and responsible man, but still I worry.

The fire as it was last night. See how it is restricted to the top of the ridge
But back to the fires. The hills around us have been burning for the last several days. Some set accidentally, some 'controlled fires' that weren't, and some lit by embers from other fires.

And still we are lucky. In most areas, forest fires are a sort of Somebody Else's Problem. The villagers believe that it is the forest department's job (which, one may argue, it is) while the forest department has no personnel, equipment, or funds  for anything other than painting 'prevent fire' hoardings (which is also true). The area we live in is different. Right now, there are about 20-30 people trying to control the fire I see in front of me.

Methods for fire prevention are primitive, to put it kindly. A bunch of people go to where the forest is, and stand there in the heat and smoke. Using branches, they beat out embers and the advancing flames. Other people use rakes, sticks, and their bare hands to clear away enough litter to create a sizeable fire line. Their hands and faces are blackened, they inhale smoke, and are cut by thorns. It is hot, thankless work. And so not surprising, perhaps that people don't go to put fires out.

Except here.
The forest fire as it is now, at 5:30 pm. It is daylight, but smoke covers the valley, and I can hear the crackle as it burns

If here, people tend to run towards a fire rather than away from it, it is thanks to the wonderful people at Sonapani. These people have taken it  upon themselves to protect the forest they love. Since the area started burning, they have been out there with rakes and determination. And they do not restrict themselves to the fires that threaten them. The last marathon 18-hour fight was for a forest across the valley. Today, they are here with the Chatola villagers. Bless them.