Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shalu's fantasies

Nidhi was playing with her 3 year old son and waiting impatiently for her maid. It was her husband’s birthday and a lot of cooking was yet to be done before guests arrived for dinner. The door bell rang and Shalu walked in. Nidhi noticed her dark lipstick, dangling earrings and new salwar kameez. “Anything special?”, enquired Nidhi. Shalu smiled and replied, “No you have guest coming , so I thought I should dress up for the occasion!” She laughed and went in to the kitchen.
At night Nidhi told her husband of how fashion consciousness and an urge to be at par with the world had penetrated even in lower middle class. Her husband was in agreement. As kids we never saw children of the house helps getting any education and today every person be it a daily wage labourer ensures that his child goes to school. It is a different matter what quality of education is received to these children or whether they work and earn for the family post school. Yet it is reflects the positive development of the community to seek education and hence seek a better life.
Nidhi started noticing that the maid tried to ape her in every possible way be it dresses, jewellary or make up, needless to mention the numerous phone calls she got. Shalu got increasingly difficult to cope with. She asserted that she could not cook any more as it hindered her evening “freaking out”. She kept demanding for increase in wage and Nidhi kept succumbing to her as she could not manage her little one and the household alone.
One fine day Shalu turned up and announced that she was leaving for “Dilli” with an acquaintance. She was extremely excited about her new life waiting for her- the big city, the lavish life, the salary etc. Nidhi let her go with a heavy heart but had no other option. With passage of time a new maid arrived. However Nidhi always thought of Shalu and wondered how she was doing.
The new maid one day brought news which almost choked Nidhi. Shalu was no more…………
The news was heavily reported in the media. She was yet another victim of trafficking from poor performing states like Jharkhand and Orissa. Abused, tortured and exploited on a regular basis the girl was made to work long hours. One day her owner beat her up on the pretext that “she had not worked enough for the day”. The beating was so severe that Shalu succumbed to her injuries. Today her parents can do nothing but lament her death.
The issue is not as simple as the want of a teenage girl to live a good life and experience all the joys that any well to do girl does. It is far more complicated which has led to a vicious cycle of such instances in the country. The poor states having very little to offer coupled with the big money and false promises are able to lure parents who send away their little children to far off cities from where they are never able to come back. Many work as bonded labours. The Government is struggling to handle the situation and yet finds itself ill equipped. The department of labour conducts raids and rescues these children but have no facilities of keeping these children in transit homes of their own. In many cases they have to let go of these children who ultimately return back to their employers and all the effort goes in vain.
It is time when we open our eyes and report any suspected cases of abuse and torture of house helps. In fact a recent survey has reported maximum cases of child labour in the form of domestic servants and we can make our contribution by reporting such cases.
Lets pray for justice to Moin, a 10 year old who was beaten up to death by his employer recently in New Delhi at a bidi factory…..

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Girls this is for u!

Today being the world cup finals and seeing the excitement all around I wished to invite all my friends over and enjoy the match over snacks and drinks. This made me think that how lucky I am to have so many good pals when the world today lives behind closed doors..... have been working with this NGO for the past 5 years. Have made several friends all these years but the “girl gang” that we have here today is the best part about working together under roof. I call it a “girl gang” though 70 percent of us are above 30 and married with kids! Our enthusiasm and flair for fun makes us as young as a 20 year old college girl :) When I had joined CINI, there was a group of young girls freshly passed out from TISS and XISS and I had come back home from Delhi after working with Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). At CSE I had made friends for a life time and am still very much in touch with them and never lose an opportunity to meet them. Back in Ranchi I was not expecting the kind of crowd I actually across in my new office. Ranchi had also changed a lot (see my post- The changing face of Ranchi) and by the way Ranchi has come a step further from the time this post was written with a Five Star Hotel (Raddisson), a 4 star, International food fests, Dominos, the National Games complex, a new mall with 3 screen multiplex, 2 exclusive outlets of Satya Paul and many more… Well I love to see my town progressing! Coming back to the point…so I was having a nice time in my new office at Ranchi with the girls, shopping at Delhi and Bangalore and organising trainings at resorts in Puri. Then there was a lag phase, the girls left, I got married and then pregnant, and then my little one came like a spark in my life. As he grew up gradually changes kept happening on the office front with new people coming in and many leaving (we have a very high turn over rate). None of the new faces were exciting (specially the men!) and then like luck would have it suddenly the office was bubbling with girls! They were from Bangalore, Kolkata, Ranchi itself and from varied backgrounds with strong qualifications (Cornell & Columbia alumnus too :)). As we got to know each other better we found that we may not have much in common yet we all gelled along very well. Then came this idea to us that we should get together beyond office and have fun (of course getting out kids with us). Since then we periodically try and break the monotony in life with our outings and get togethers. Everyone in the gang has her own specialty from good cooks, to bakers, to homemakers, to singers, to number queens, to community workers and yes all of us are good dancers :) This girl gang too is destined to split some day, the process has already begun but I also know for sure that we will always be in touch and good friends. Isn’t it girls?