Monday, June 5, 2017

Those 12 minutes...

For those 12 minutes, I was on cloud nine - awestruck by the voluptuous curves and unsullied gorgeousness that lay in front of me. Her vastness had a humbling impact on me, whereas the abundance was simply captivating.

The profusion of virgin beauty of the earth below compelled me to gawk at it, while riding the chopper that takes pilgrims from Phata to the Kedarnath shrine, in the Uttarakhand state of India.

Interestingly, it was not my maiden ride, on a chopper.

Back in 2007, I had travelled in a helicopter with the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh state, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, during his election campaign. For about 10 hours, I had accompanied him to more than a dozen public meetings at various places in the state. However, at that point of time, my sole concentration was on covering his meetings and weaving news stories around his campaign [LINK]. The mode of transport couldn’t hold my fancy.

However, this time, the story was altogether different. It was a journey amidst lush green, colossal mountains.

We had arrived in Uttarakhand only a day before. The overnight train journey (from Lucknow to Dehradun) followed by the day-long road travel (from Dehradun to Guptkashi via Rishikesh) had drained us. Yet, fatigue was not an issue at all. We were up at 04:00 AM. An early morning shower with chilled water (in biting cold) only infused a fresh life in us.

By 06:00 AM, we were at the chopper company office. The guy at the reception asked us to wait until 13:00 hrs, as we had originally opted to stay the night at Kedarnath. But the excitement was too high for us to wait that long. We decided to play our charm and managed to get the tickets changed to same day journey. Even then, we had to wait for a couple of hours, which we utilised in exploring the surroundings and stealing a few shots (photography is prohibited in the area).


Finally, it was our turn. We queued up at the waiting area, where the usher handed us our boarding passes and baggage tags. And, then began the extensive briefing sessions (preparing the passengers, majority of whom travelling in a chopper for the first time). There were numerous directives -  “Do not touch the seat or the seat belt”, “Do not touch anything inside the chopper”, “Do not talk to each other”, “Do not use your phone”, “Do not use your camera”, “Do not walk towards the back of the chopper where the propeller runs so fast that it becomes invisible and poses danger”, “If you drop something, do not try to pick it up but wait for the ground staff to help you”, and many many more such instructions.

The company had deployed two sets of ground staff – one for pilgrims returning from the Shrine and the other for those ready to board the flight. Each passenger was individually assisted by one ground staff member.

Guided by our leads, we were rushed towards the chopper as soon as it landed. The staff hardly took two minutes in helping onboard passengers getting off safely, and assisting the ongoing ones getting on and buckling up. The whole process was ultra swift and super efficient.

The pilot and the ground staff had their routine communication gesturing a thumbs-up sign implying all set to take off.

I was fortunate to be seated in the front next to the pilot, although the privilege came with some additional riders – “Do not touch any button on the panels in front or around you”, “Do not talk to the pilot” etc etc.

I was still struggling to emerge from those ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’, when the pilot asked me to wear the headphones hanging in front of me. Obediently, I followed that instruction as well.

“Hi, this is Vicky,” a friendly voice rang into my ears. I realised that it was not a routine announcement as it happens in commercial airlines but the pilot here was trying to establish a dialogue with me. “This is Alka,” I blurted awkwardly.

An ex-army-man, flying the shuttle service (this is how the chopper service to Kedarnath is commonly referred to as) for 6-8 hours daily, Vicky was manoeuvring the machine smoothly and effortlessly. Even his face showed no signs of tension. His eyes were free of any worries. I realised that he must be used to seeing people feeling nervous while travelling in a chopper; and he must have evolved an affable way of easing the passengers, at least the one sitting shotgun. He had succeeded in his endeavour.

I found myself slowly getting in-sync with my surreal surroundings. We were more than 6,000 feet above the ground flying amidst huge and lush green mountains. The sun was bright and the clean air made the sky look pristine blue. A play of light and shadows had created distinct layers on different peaks, reflecting various shades of blue and green, blending well with each other. The snow-covered pinnacles gleamed like gold in the bright sunshine.

The splendour of the nature had left me speechless. At the same time, the magnificent view from above had facilitated my imagination to take a flight of fancy. “Had there been a heaven on earth, it would have looked like this,” my mind wandered.

As we veered right towards Kedar valley, Vicky pointed at the river Mandakini, gently flowing below. Squeezed between massive mountains on both sides, the narrow stream of the river appeared innocent and harmless. This was the same river that had caused wreckage in 2013 [LINK], after a disparaging cloudburst and terrible landslides. The tragedy had left thousands of people dead and injured and had caused heavy damage to properties.

The whole picture of that catastrophe whirled in front of my eyes for a second. At that moment, Vicky, as if reading my mind, drew my attention to the old but damaged route of yatra that pilgrims used before the disaster. The ramshackled route was full of the remnants of devastation.

“And, that is the new route,” Vicky interrupted my stupor and brought me back to hope and positivity.

I spotted swarms of devotees walking on the 20 odd km long, newly paved track [LINK]. From above, everything down looked diminutive. There were also mules and pitthus (carrier men) transporting old, invalid and children or any other person who was unable to take the journey on foot or couldn’t afford the chopper ride.

It was a landscape displaying the faith of humanity walking in pursuit of an unknown but the omnipresent power. The scenario brought an involuntary smile to my face and brightened my eyes.

“So, we are here! You can see the Kedarnath Shrine,” Vicky announced.

I could see the shrine in front of us. Surrounded by mammoth mountains, it appeared comparatively small, but the exhilaration this journey had ignited in me was enormous.

Landing at the helipad in the Kedarnath valley felt like a dream come true – an experience to be cherished forever!






More information about shuttle service to Kedarnath can be found here [LINK]

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trek: 9 km – Age: 50 plus

We made it!

There was a child-like exhilaration on our faces. The victory grin was only adding to it. The smell of sweat, for once, did not bother us. In fact, it was making the freshly tanned skin glisten like copper. There was a race going on between our heartfelt laughter and pounding hearts. Obviously, the laughter was superseding the breathlessness.

We had completed our maiden trek from Chopta to Tungnath – about 9 km!

“What’s the big deal?” The regular trekkers may laugh and ridicule us for our miniscule achievement. However, digging deep they also may end up patting our backs.

Three working-women – all fond of luxury life, fond of drinking and eating all sorts of vices and junk, none is into any kind of regular fitness regime, and all in our mid-50s – suffering from some or the other kind of middle age ailments.  

For us it was a big achievement, which compelled me to jot it down and share with others. Who knows whom it may inspire!

We were on a pilgrimage with our focus on Badrinath and Kedarnath shrines in Uttarakhand State. All logistics for that Yatra (journey) were methodically planned. Chopta and Tungnath were only a subsidiary of this journey and no one had given it a second thought.

On reaching Chopta (LINK), which is a village in district Chamoli, our driver, Negi (who, by now, had become our partner in crime) stopped the car on a narrow road. On the right hand side were a couple of dhabas (roadside kiosks selling tea and food) and small warehouse like structures. Sun had already hidden itself behind mountains. Slight rain had been adding to the beauty of the nature.

We presumed Negi has gone out for some road permit or something to do with his taxi. Meanwhile, he popped his head inside the car and asked us to come out and check. “Check what?” our spontaneous reaction.  In this rain, on the roadside what does he want us to check! However, reluctantly, two of us got out and crossed the 10 feet (narrow) road to enter one of the rooms in this 3-roomed warehouse.

One of the three rooms in the blue structure was our abode 

It was our abode for the night. Two double beds with thick quilts. No electricity, no hot water, actually no water. For records, located in Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, Chopta has only solar generated power, which is not available when it’s raining. The idea behind this is to dissuade urbane tourism and related activities and protect the environment. The absence of modern life facilities, help the flora and fauna flourish in peace.

Within no time, we made ourselves comfortable – tucked in beds. Our phones showed 40C. No one moaned about hot water or even not having water at all. Rather, we enjoyed the thunder and lightning outside which intermittently penetrated the darkness of our room through a small window at the back, which we opened to get some oxygen.
Tired with our Kedarnath Yatra, soon every one of us was snoring.

The morning brought a new day. We were up at 04:30. The door of our room opened on the road. I stepped out, and what I saw made me pinch myself to ensure I am not dreaming. We were surrounded by snow-covered mountain. In front of us were vast and lush meadows (known in Uttarakhand as Bhugyal).
The serenity of the place was simply breathtaking

Chopta is known as ‘Mini Switzerland of India’ (LINK); and we were there!
I walked to the teashop next to us and surprised my friends with nicely brewed ginger tea. All of us were out on the road breathing fresh air, enjoying the fragrance the nature was exuding. Sun was gradually coming up shining the mountains peaks like gold.

We were told that Tungnath (LINK) is 3 km steep trek with pebbled pathway. To us, 6 km sounded doable and we were up and about around 06:30 to start our maiden trek. As preparation, we had in our backpacks water, toffees, sunscreen lotion, and buns and butter (someone told us that there would not be any eatable available up there. It was cold and we were equipped with jackets, scarves, and boots.  We dragged Negi along with us, who kept narrating fables about the place.

We must have walked only half a km. There emerged green meadows sitting and waiting to astound us. Soon, we realised that the lack of oxygen was making us breathless. A km uphill, and we were panting and gasping for breath. However, our determination was too strong and the natural beauty was too compelling to stop us midway. We decided that we may make it slow but we WILL. 

Taking innumerable breaks, talking to every passer-by, making friends all the way up and doing some photography all the while, we finally made it to Tungnath – the highest temple of Shiva (LINK) – one of the Panch Kedars.

The beauty of this temple is that it still maintains the natural structure. Constructed in stones, the temple merges with nature as part of it. The serenity of the atmosphere actually makes one feel closer to the almighty. There is no pushing or shoving for darshan and one can perform puja in peace, and can take as long as one wishes. No one seemed to be in hurry and rushing for the next activity.

Steps leading to Tungnath 
I have no qualms in admitting that this was one of the rarest of temples, where I could actually imagine all my near and dear ones sitting next to me while I prayed to God.

Unfortunately, we could not muster courage and strength to trek another km to reach Chandrashila and get the surreal view of Himalayas. Nonetheless, we have already committed to ourselves for a second time; and then we will go more prepared, so no regrets.

After having some tea and consuming buns and butter which we tagged along, we started descending, which was comparatively easier. (Will write separately about the tea vendor we met in Tungnath).

It took us three hours to reach and more or less similar time to come down, although our hotel owner was surprised to see us back so quickly. Interestingly, it turned out that the trek was not 6 but around 9 km – the difference may be between the pathway and the shortcuts through the meadow, which we explored while coming back. 

However, we were happy that at least we could make it!



Now, this Tungnath trek will always remain one of the key elements of our pilgrimage.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rescuing a cat...

It was a week-long story.
Cats getting stuck on big trees, high buildings, chimneys, and other such places that fascinate the feline creature, is a world-wide common phenomenon. First time, I was part of one such story.
We returned home after spending 4-5 days in Delhi, on the evening of 14th April. The first thing we noticed was the howling of a cat in the vicinity. Two days passed with intermittent crying. On every cry, we expressed our concern to each other, but we could not reckon the helplessness in the sound.
Eventually, we realised that the howling was not any ordinary mewing of a cat but was definitely a desperate SOS call. The Sherlock Holmes in us squirmed and we started our silent investigation.
The building we live in is three-storeyed with 12 flats. Adjacent to it, is the other block with similar set up. In total, we have 24 apartments in Block A and B. Out of these 24 flats, at least 10 were locked as its inmates were out.
The first challenge before us was to zero in as to which flats she has got stuck in. The search began. We mewed and she responded. We stood in front of every flat with our ears stuck to the locked doors. We made efforts to find out where she was locked in.
The neighbours looked at us weirdly. Their loud expressions cried hoarse that we were mad. Luckily, that did not deter us. We had our discovery of the day.
On the sixth day, we found that the poor creature was got locked in the balcony of the flat just below us.
We asked the caretaker to open the doors of that flat. Reluctantly enough, he opened the door. What happened next was expected. The hungry and irritated cat was so scared that she hid herself in the hole that contains all drain pipes.
The caretaker was not in a mood to wait outside and give the cat anytime to calm down and come out. He waited for 5 minutes by the clock and insisted that he had to lock the flat again. Our requests amused him as he refused to understand why a wild and stray cat can be so important for anyone.
At least we succeeded in motivating the man, who obviously had no compassion for animals, to leave open the doors of the grilled cage that secures the balcony.
Now, the cat was just below us. The doors of our balcony, and the balcony below us, were wide open. We could see the helpless cat, as she stepped out of the hiding minutes later the front door was locked again.
We started sending her comforting sounds, as many as we could make.
Our biggest concern was the wellbeing of the animal. Six days, or maybe more, without food or water, in scorching heat, was a serious issue.
This concern was motivating enough to make us think. We tied a small basket with a rope and put some milk in a bowl inside, and lowered the basket in the balcony below. We placed an aluminium foil in the basket the sound of which confirmed that the cat was eating the food. The basket carried water, then tinned Tuna and then some more milk and two days we kept feeding the poor creature.
Nevertheless, we needed to free the cat.
We forced the caretaker to open the doors of the flat again so that she can come out. They opened the door but stood there like police and once again the cat did not come out. She again locked herself midst drains.
The attitude of the caretaker was worse this time. He was a bit annoyed as we disturbed his siesta (of course, during duty hours). He appeared irritated and without even waiting for our advice, he announced that he was going to lock the door.
We were disappointed but we did not give up.    
Now we were sure that the onus of saving her life was on us.We racked our brain, and eureka, the bulb of idea gave us light.
The door of the balcony cage just below us proved to be a window of opportunity.
This time we used a bigger basket and kept the food inside making sure that she had to sit inside the basket, to eat.
The moment she sat in the basket, we pulled it up.
Coming to our balcony was freedom which made the cat's rescue calls to an angry growl. She jumped on walls, over the washing machine, banged her head to the door. We quietly closed the balcony door leaving her there to acclimatise with this free but strange world.
She did not take much time in calming down.
We opened the balcony door and our front door and she zipped outside. Having gained energy with milk and Tuna, the cat jumped from the second floor to the ground and found a safe hiding under a car.
We quietly gave her food there so that she is safe and strong and thus free to mew around. We were happy that she is free but also sad as she had become the centre of our attention for last one week.
Now, I am sure we will miss her and look for her and wait to see her again, roaming free and healthy.

These photos are only symbolic








Tuesday, February 28, 2017

While they fill their coffers, someone chokes on their dust



Knowing that one is passing through Kabrai city [LINK] is not a challenge for the ones with vision or hearing impairment. One doesn’t need to see the thick clouds of stone dust or hear the roaring of monstrous machines. Just normal breathing is enough to tell that one has entered Kabrai, as one invariably inhales the fine particles of that killing dust that comprise the air.

Kabrai is a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is part of Bundelkhand, infamous for decades of drought and frequent suicides by farmers.

On 21 February 2017, along with my colleague, I took the National Highway 76 [NH 76 - LINK] to travel from Chitrakoot to Mahoba, for work. Looking forward to viewing a beautiful countryside, we were appalled to the sight that was waiting for us.

I can vouch that the stretch of Highway in Kabrai is so far the most polluted site anywhere in the country.

My colleague is from Uttarakhand [LINK] the hill state that was carved out of Uttar Pradesh, and which is focusing on development without damaging the environment, was aghast to see the sacrilege.

I come from the state of Uttar Pradesh, even though; I was shocked to see the horrifying surroundings. I had travelled on this road in 2007, exactly 10 years ago. At that time also the environment was polluted but this time the situation was 100 times worse.

Nothing was visible on both sides of the highway as the air was filled with solid dust emerging from the horrendous stone crushers, chaotically functioning on both sides of the road.

Each leaf of every plant and big trees had a thick coating of white stone dust. We all know that plants breathe from leaves. How much the vegetation in Kabrai is thriving, that can be anyone’s guess.

The houses were covered in a thick white shroud of dust. (See pictures)

The health of the people living in this area, and most importantly those working in these crushers, is definitely at risk. There have been stories of people suffering from Asthma or Tuberculosis but the danger and threat to the lives of people has remained restricted to sporadic newspaper reports, on which no action has ever been taken.

The indiscriminate stone crushing is also changing the topography of the area. Bundelkhand is known for its rocky hills which give it a picturesque look.

However, now these mute rocky hills are gradually turning into plane surfaces. Some rocks which the greedy industrialists are digging ruthlessly to get stones, present an obnoxious and ugly picture. The diggers have gone so deep that water has emerged from the ground (See pictures).

Once they finish with one rocky hill, they simply move on to the other, leaving the first one raped and molested brutally.

My colleague was bewildered as to why no environmentalist has ever filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) so a legal check could have been enforced on the stone mafia of the state.

On reaching Mahoba and talking to a different section of people answered all our queries.

The whole state of Uttar Pradesh is thriving on quarrying mafia, sand mafia, stone mafia, and many other types of mafia – all white-collared, mostly politicians or their close mates.

We were told that on that highway there are 375 stone crushers in an area of 10 kilometres.

Of these, 36 belong to Siddh Gopal Sahu. The influential man started his political career as Panchayat Chairman. Even since, he has headed the Laghu Udyog Vikas Nigam (Small Industries Development Corporation) and has been a Minister for Mining, in Uttar Pradesh. He has contested the current assembly election also this time.

Other 10 crushers belong to Raj Narain Budhaulia – another powerful politician of the state. He has been known for party hopping to stay close to the power.

The rest also belong to powerful and influential people, having major political affiliations that help them carry on with their work without any hindrance.

We were also told that tragedies are common in these crushers, obviously with no record of people dying. People who work in these stone crushers do not get any safety gears.

Moreover, the cost of ‘settling’ a labourer’s death is mere Rs 30,000 (Approximately US$ 455), that too doesn’t go to his family. This money includes payments to various stakeholders, including Police and Media to keep the matter under wraps or project it in such a way that it does not come under the purview of compensation.

Some residents with high credentials also claim that the District Magistrate is the in charge of collecting money from the crushers to carry it forward to his/her superiors in the government.

Anyone who raises a voice against the damage to the environment, or reports any casualty, the influential well-connected, ruthless industrialists cum politicians cum contractors cum mafia not only crush that voice, but even gag that throat that is causing the noise.

Even the Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) that normally dares to speak against all big-wig playing with environment, has been silent on these stone quarrying and stone crushers.

Giving CSE a benefit of doubt, I believe they are not even aware of any such thing happening on a National Highway passing through Uttar Pradesh.

Hence, there is business as usual!






Friday, January 13, 2017

When a smooth drive turned into an adventure!


When we decided to pack our bags and leave for some tempting place, for Christmas holidays, adventure was the last thing on our minds. What we had been planning was a quiet and peaceful holiday. However, as they say: Man proposes, God disposes, our journey was meant to be something else than what we had planned.

Since 302 km Lucknow-Agra expressway had been inaugurated by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, and on his orders it was also to be opened for public on 23 December, our logic told us that it would be ready a day in advance, except finishing touches.

Aiming to avoid the traffic of driving enthusiasts, who, we thought, would be hitting the road when it is opened for public, we decided to leave a day in advance, on 22 December.

Soon, we realised that we were tad too optimistic, or we took the Uttar Pradesh government a bit too seriously. Whereas, when the government says open it for public, it doesn't really mean it.

So, the early morning we were set for our brief Christmas holiday sojourn. Our nearly 12-year-old humble but fiercely loyal Hyundai Santro was all decked up with new head lights, fog lamps and brand spanking tyres. Excited, we headed towards Lucknow-Agra Expressway. Getting out of Lucknow never felt like this ever before.

Our happiness knew no boundary when we spotted the first sign: "Welcome to India's longest Lucknow-Agra Expressway". The sign displayed a poked-faced Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. The road was smooth with practically zero traffic. We were so proud of our decision to leave a day early (on 22 December) and thought the drive would be a memorable one.

But, it was too early to feel at the top of the world. Looking back, I feel we were optimistic fools!

Our's was the only car on the black tarmac road. There were no more signs, after the Chief Minister welcoming us - not even for diversions. There were workers, machines and lorries all along the way.

Yet, it didn't make us suspicious. The argument was if the road was to be opened for public a day later, it has to be complete a day before even with diversions.

The workers were either fixing the fence on the divider or erecting the railing on the sides of the road. At places, there were big machines and vehicle busy in digging and carrying construction material. We kept enquiring the workers about the condition of the road further, but got no hint of any road block.

However, our positive attitude could not take us far. The reality was soon staring us in the face. As we crossed Kannauj, there was a big machine blocking both sides of the road - a bridge was under construction. We were taken aback - especially because no worker on the highway confronted that the road was incomplete, or in a state where it would take at least 3 months for it to be useable.

Disappointed, we took a U turn, hoping to find some slip road to come off the expressway. Luckily, we spotted a lorry on a temporary road made for lorries to carry the construction material. Thanks to Hyundai technology, we dared to take our humble vehicle on that freshly-poured mud road. Driving carefully for about 200 metres, we finally touched an old and narrow but tarmac road.

Driving on this road for over 80 KM we found ourselves on the same old National Highway 2, which we usually take to drive to Delhi. There was no way that could have connected us to Expressway again.

Anyway, we were still happy that at least we have been able to avoid the traffic jam in Kanpur.

What else! we had to justify our decision and our faith in the government.

The lesson we got was "not to take government announcements on face value."

Our advice: All those who are planning to drive on Yamuna Expressway via Lucknow-Agra Expressway - Beware, the road will not be ready in at least 3 months. So, take the old tried and tested National Highway 2 to reach the Yamuna Expressway.

P.S. This was just the beginning of our journey. Watch this place for more adventures and fun which we had until reaching home safely after a fortnight.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

I live in a HOME!

"I live in a Home!"

It was not a statement but sort of a question.

These five words, she spoke casually, but with a stress on the word 'home'. There was a pregnant pause. Her eyes wide open, were questioning everyone sitting across the dining table. She was trying to gauge our understanding. She wanted to know if we were able to grasp what she wanted to convey.

She resumed her story only after scanning the eyes of each one of us and assuring herself of our understanding.

The expression of her face, the quizzing eyes and the confused lips that didn't know whether to spread in a smile or quiver to cry - it was a moment that is going to stay in my mind for long, if not forever.

Her wide questioning eyes brought back so many feelings in a flash of a second. They dragged me down memory lane when I was an adolescent and living a carefree life in my 'home', protected by loving parents and siblings. That was the best time of my life - no worries, no tension only eat, play and study. I never tried to analyse or dig deep into the meeting of the word 'home'. For me, it was simply a place where my parents were and which gave me happiness and where I felt safe, protected, loved, happy and carefree.  

However, this young girl changed my perspective and compelled me to look at the other side of the coin as well. Her 'home' was different to my 'home'. Her experiences of living in a 'home' are different to my experiences of living in a 'home'. 

She is 15 and lives in a Shelter Home. I will not name her or share her whereabouts as I respect her private space. However, I must share my feelings which have been bursting ever since, inside me.

Until I met this girl, I couldn't fathom that one simple word like 'home' can have such different connotations for different people.

The meaning of the word 'home' has changed for me, forever.

        

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pink is the New Red (Bold)


I am not a movie critic. I am not a Hindi movie buff either. I rather relish English movies simply because the acting in not loud, there are no unnecessary songs and dances, and they are a tad more realistic.

Nevertheless, I do watch Hindi cinema occasionally when there is something out of the box, such as the latest Hindi flick, Pink.

The movie overwhelmed me, and compelled me to express my emotions publicly. Being a mother of a young daughter, I could easily and very well relate to it. With each dialogue and scene, I dived deep within.

Before I start with my story, firstly, my heartfelt congratulations to the director for raising such a relevant issue that concerns every girl and every parent.

Secondly, a big thanks to the dialogue writer for not beating around the bush but calling a spade a spade. It was a treat to see people talking openly on the screen about issues that are considered a taboo in Indian society. For example, pre-marital sex, virginity, or women taking hard liquor in the company of their male friends – I don’t think the director left any issue, which needed to be raised.

And most importantly, kudos to the perfect casting. I cannot think of a better cast. Every character was well chosen and played his/her part so realistically and beautifully that I could not contain my eyes from filling up on several occasions.

As the story unfolded, I started missing my daughter sitting next to me and both of us crying together.

She recently expressed her desire to live an independent life and learn how to survive alone without the family cushion. She wants to face her own struggles in making her life instead of piggy riding someone – be her mother, brother, boyfriend or husband. She wants to feel self-reliant to deal with her own issues.

The girls shown in the movie were no different. But, they were seen as promiscuous because they live alone, go out in the evenings with friends (read boys) and drink hard liquor! My children faced all these behind-the-back gossip of neighbours and even distant family members who did not approve the way I was bringing up my children – in an open environment. 

Thank God, I don’t belong to that clan who have different rules for girls and boys. I never paid any heed to what people said and did what I thought was the best – to give my children their space, which every grown up individual needs, to evolve and flourish.

The movie refreshed the memory of a conversation I recently had with my daughter, while having a straight-from-the-heart talk. That was one of our emotional moments. She was talking about a boy who proposed to her and she refused. The boy was persistent which annoyed and irritated her. But, she remained friendly and polite to him. I asked why wasn’t she straight to him on the issue, and what she said not only shocked me but also opened my eyes to the problems of the new world. She said she was dead scared of acid attack and the ghost of that probable threat forced her to be ‘nice’ to the person, whom she could not stand, forget about loving. She didn’t want to annoy him to tthat extent where he may throw acid on her.

What Pink showed – the revenge of a hurt male ego, underlined the seriousness and the base of my daughter’s fears. I must admit that after ages I have seen a movie which really touched my core.

This is one film, I believe, every parent should go and watch with their children. It will not only help parents in understanding their children’s needs, fears, aspirations, weaknesses, and strengths, but will also help them remove their blinkers and see things in a broad spectrum, and treat their children as humans, individuals, and the grown-up, responsible citizens who have the right to choose what kind of life they want to live.