Songs For Dark Times

May 30, 2019 at 9:15 AMMay (Activism, Literature, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy, Uncategorized)

Bertolt Brecht, the German dramatist and poet, in a poem asks if there will be songs in the dark times, and answers the question as, “Yes there will be songs about the dark times.” Nada Maninalkur who now is on an all-Karnataka journey asks and also answers the possibility of turning songs into light, not just to walk cutting through the dark times but also to fight the darkness.

***

As Nada Maninalkur sings the song by Janardhan Kesaratti which asks the listener to cleanse the dirt accumulated in the mind (manssiganTida koLeya tikki toLeduko) he pauses to ask, “How many of you feel healthy?” and the high-school students raise their hands. “Do you notice that all of you have raised your right hand?” asks Nada and the students wonder what is so unusual about it. When Nada follows it with, “Why do you raise your right hand always when you have to ask a question in the class or know the answer to a question asked by the teacher?” the students are pushed to think why for the first time. Nada helps them to find the answer when he says, “We have all been schooled to think that right hand is superior to the left, like white is superior to black. This hierarchy and discrimination is taught in the form of culture.” The students are visibly unsettled by the new thoughts but also have started finding such hierarchy wrong.

Nada Maninalkur has been travelling across all the districts of Karnataka since August, 2018 with around 50 songs which speak of various issues like gender, caste, superstition, social inclusion, pluralism etc. When Nada announced his ‘Karnataka Yatra’ on social media, individuals, organizations, educational institutions from all districts invited him to come perform for them and promised audience too.
In a B.Ed college, a set of students who earlier walked out of the concert by Nada come sit by him while having lunch post-concert. They say, “We disagree,” in a self-guarding tone. Nada smiles and continues to eat. Later when he is about to leave the campus the same students come to him again and say, “We have been thinking about it. But still we disagree.” Nada says, “I am glad you are thinking,” and continues to say, “My job is done.”

The back story of this story goes like this:

At this particular B.Ed. College, Nada decided to begin the concert by singing kalisu guruve kalisu, a song which originally is a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to his son’s teacher. Like the method he employed for this journey, this song rendition too was paused for conversations after every stanza. At one point the conversation moved to the popular Kannada folk song govina haaDu (song of the cow) which tells the tale of a tiger killing itself after witnessing the truthfulness of a cow named Punyakoti who it wanted to eat earlier. Nada Maninalkur, referring to this song, spoke about poetic imagination and its politics which made some among the audience uneasy and restless. Next when Nada sang the song, namma elubina handaradallondu, (There are places of worship- temple masjid church- and Gods in our skeleton) a bunch of students got up to say, “This song is unscientific. How can there be a temple or a masjid inside us?” Not satisfied by the question they raised, the statement they made the students also walked out of the concert. Later at the mess he met the same set of students who came to him to register their disagreement yet again.

Recollecting these episodes Nada Maninalkur says, “Change is a process. When the first stone is thrown it stirs the water and muddies the water. But slowly it also creates ripples.” He continues the conversation to say, “Songs by themselves are inadequate. But they can initiate a dialogue in a much effective manner than a lecture or a sermon. Hence I use songs while the most important thing for me is to have a dialogue with people.”

Nada Maninalkur who started Arivu, an NGO, in 2012 arrived at this understanding slowly through personal experiences. The one major incident that made this realization dawn on Nada was a series of programmes they held after an infamous rape incident of a young girl in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka. The Arivu team visited college after college and discussed body politics using theatre, songs and literature. That made students open up, though it made the lecturers uncomfortable. “Education is left with no space to think alternatively and think rightly. This space needs to be filled and songs can become an effective and immediate way to build bonds and initiate a dialogue,” says Nada and recollects another story from the same time period.

A lady teacher who came from a conservative family came in contact with Nada and team while they were working with some of her students. Over a period of two years the teacher who earlier would insist on purity of food, water and not share her food or water with anyone, eventually cast off her casteist worldview and now holds a liberal outlook. This was possible, according to Nada, only because of a continuous interaction with humanistic ideas and continuous dialogues with fellow humans, outside the boundary of caste class and gender. Now the same teacher helps over 200 students a year to shed off their biases and reinvent their ‘self’, says Nada.

In Nada’s opinion, “In our growing up years we spend most of our time in educational spaces and hence it is important to speak in educational spaces.”

“Working with ‘Self’ is important,” opines Nada and elaborates on it. During this ‘Karnataka Yatra’ at a school in the district of Shimogga when Nada sang a song on menstruation, the dialogue with students arrived at the issue of Shabarimala. During this discussion a student said, “Respecting belief and practice is a part of our democratic values.” Nada spoke the importance of respecting people’s faith and practice and went to speak about the beliefs and practices which harms human, like caste etc and also narrated the story of Nangeli. The student then agreed with Nada when he said, “We need to get rid of beliefs and practices when they do not respect human dignity and doesn’t believe in equality.”

In other schools, Nada remembers, whenever he sang the song on menstruation, the students would either giggle or put their heads down in embarrassment. In a school, he recollects, a girl who spoke about menstruation covered her face with a scarf while speaking. The girl said that this issue is not discussed in a normal way even among girls. “We are made to believe that it is a shameful thing,” Nada says and adds in a firm voice, “We haven’t worked on ‘self’ and hence we fail to build on the idea of rights and justice. First we need to realize and make people realize that the dignity of ‘self’ is of utmost importance.”

Though most of the concerts of Karnataka Yatra have been in schools and colleges, Nada as a part of this Yatra has also performed in Temples, Masjids, Central Jail. He has also accepted invitations of activists, youth groups, journalist circles etc. In all these places, he says, he would first asses the audience and on the spot makes a choice of the songs to be sung for them. He has been singing 4-5 songs in each concert from his archive of around 50. Most of these songs are from contemporary Kannada poets. But his archive also includes verses by the 12th century Vachana movement and of saints like Shishunala Shareef, Kabeer etc.

Even when Nada is in the last leg of his Yatra, to his credit, not even once he has been stopped from singing or discussing in any of the districts of Karnataka. But yes there have been discussions of high voltage, which is okay according to him since there is still dialogue happening there. This, he says, is the power of songs. It makes you introspect, he opines, and it doesn’t have the aggression which one way communications such as lectures and seminars carry. Songs make space for a dialogue, for conversations to take place, opines Nada. The proof, he says, is seen in the invitations he got from teachers in several schools to teach the same songs to the students and also the invitation he received from some teachers to come stay with them for that day. The students, he says, either openly come and talk to him or write letters to him or tag him on social media and thus express their acceptance of and appreciation for the pedagogy he employed.

Nada also has some funny anecdotes to share like instances where people considered him to be a religious saint and would come and offer dakshinNe (money offered in kindness) and a particular instance where someone equated him with an extreme right wing speaker saying, “You too travel to inspire the youth, like him.” Nada’s reply to this person was simply, “I am not here to inspire youth but to sensitize the youth. That is the difference. Also, he speaks politics and I speak about humans and human self.”

A friend of Nada suggested him to bring out a CD of these 50 songs with which he travelled across Karnataka and Nada politely rejected the idea. His reason for it is spelled out like this: “If brought out as a CD, these songs will turn into a commodity of entertainment and it will just become one with the innumerable songs of this world which some sing and some remember. To me the dialogue that these songs initiate is important.” That is precisely why Nada says that when he was asked to teach these songs, he suggested a one month residential workshop, “because it is not just about learning the lyrics of the song in a particular tune and singing it in a melodious manner. It is not about songs but responding to the times and holding a dialogue. For that one needs to be trained in things other than music.” Nada himself isn’t a trained singer nor is he trained to play the two stringed instrument he plays.

“When I started this journey, I started with great despair. But this travel has made me hopeful. I have learnt during this journey that there are innumerable human beings out there in the world who are doing several work in small scale which is making a positive impact on some life. There are unimaginable number of people who in their daily lives are keeping the spirit of humanity alive. This they are doing not because they think it is their duty but because it is their default nature,” says Nada before he continues with his journey with songs in his pocket.

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Love is Labour

April 5, 2019 at 9:15 AMApr (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life)

When my niece Aarushi was born I was far from home in a place that feels like home- Kashmir. I was in between a very engaging conversation with Shams when Dad called to inform me about my sister giving birth to a girl child, half an hour ago. My first response was, “Wasnt it supposed to happen ten days later?” because I had scheduled my trip as per the date given by the doctor. But nature is beyond human calculations.

I cut short my trip and returned home not because I was excited but because I was expected to be back home. Srinagar to Jammu, Jammu to Delhi and Delhi to Manipal I traveled to reach home only some minutes of my sister and niece arriving home being discharged from the hospital.

When I saw my niece for the first time, I absolutely did not know how to react. There was this sweet little thing which brought a smile on my face but I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. The omnipresent gaze of family and extended family pressurized me to feel something though nothing was said to me. So I kind of made my amusement of seeing anew born baby seem like my joy of being an uncle.

Within ten days I had to leave for Ranchi and I was only glad about it. I was glad because I have never been good with kids. To be honest, I was quite apprehensive when my sister was to move to Manipal for delivery. Just because I am just not fond of kids and I dont know how to be around them or with them around me! So the Ranchi plan made beforehand was, I felt, a savior.

I very enthusiastically went to Ranchi and even after I finished my work in Ranchi went to Delhi and then to Bhopal and kind of tried my level best to stay away from home. But then I couldnt do that for long and had to come back home.

On returning home I had to engage with the new born! But slowly with time and more engagement slowly silently and softly without realizing it I became not just fond of Aarushi but also very attached to her. I did not even notice the shift in me and my equation with my niece.

Interestingly a lot of my friends were either visiting Manipal or crossing by Manipal during the same time and almost everyone visited home and met Aarushi too, with great love.

One friend very curiously asked my sister how she felt when she first saw the child. For a moment I felt really awkward because it sounded like a TV9 journalist question, “how do you feel about it?” no matter what the occasion is. Also to my mind, thanks to our cultured social upbringing, the mother feels bliss when she sees her child. But I was shocked when my sister told my friend that she felt absolutely nothing! She said she did not feel anything for over ten days and she had to remind herself that she is responsible for the child and she needs to attend to it.

“But slowly I began to love her,” my sister said.

In a way I was glad that neither of my parents or any of my relative wasnt around because we are all made to have such romantic ideas about motherhood that a honest statement like this might sound blasphemous! Forget my parents or relatives, even I had almost the same idea. It did surprise me to hear what my sister said but it did not take much time to realize that it could be true because my relation with Aarushi had also formed in a similar way.

That evening after dropping my friends to the lodge they were put up in, I went on a long solitary drive because I had realized something quite significant: Love, of all shades, is finally an outcome of time and labour! Love just doesnt happen. Love demands time and labour and of course dedication.

This is something that hadnt occurred to me earlier for all the yash raj films I had consumed over and over again and again. I felt light and there was a newborn respect for the idea of labour in the super lazy me.

The realization always happens as a result of a series of incidents, happenings. But to internalize the realization and make it a way of life again requires time and labour! That is love for life.

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GR the lion

April 3, 2019 at 9:15 PMApr (Activism, Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Two years ago when a circus company arrived in Udupi, I was keen on seeing a show but was not getting company to go with. One day when my friend Sahamata called to say she was coming to Udupi for some work, I suggested we could together go watch circus. She agreed but never came. I was disappointed.

Around the same time, I got a call from G. Rajashekhar. He had called to ask if he could borrow my copy of Teesta Setalvad’s autobiography. I agreed to lend him my copy on the condition that he would take me along when he goes to watch the circus. Not many who know GR as our conscience keeper and his remarkable life of activism and literary criticism that he has seen all the circus shows that arrived to Udupi in his lifetime. Since I knew of this, I was sure he would be going to watch a show that year too. So I made this offer on listening to which he said, “I usually sit in the Gandhi class and watch circus. I am not sure if that would be okay with you.” I said it was fine with me and in the following week GR and I went to watch circus.

That night I promptly called Sahamata and told her I had just returned home after watching a circus show. “Nice,” she said and asked if I had gone alone. When I told her I had gone with GR, she laughed aloud saying, “People go to the circus to see a lion. But you went to see the circus with a lion.” I too joined her in the laughter.

Photo: Kuntady Nitesh

Within a month after this, we all comrades of concern had gathered at the clock tower in Udupi for a protest. I was talking to GR who was sitting besides the flag post with the national emblem. When I saw another friend (Idrees, if I remember correctly) come join us I went to greet him, who stood on the other side of the the flag post. While I was talking to Idrees I could see the three lions in the national emblem of India and behind the emblem was GR. At one moment GR turned back and it looked like the fourth invisible lion in the national emblem had turned around to look back!

I remembered what Sahamata had said and in that moment I imagined the fourth lion of the national emblem looked like GR. Even if not so, I dont think it would be any unfair to see GR as the invisible lion in the national emblem for he has dedicated his life to defending democracy.

Today is 3rd of April. GR turned 73. Happy birthday, Sir!

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Hug

March 20, 2019 at 9:15 AMMar (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

A friend who met after long hugged me tightly, while about to leave after our brief meeting. The hug lasted a bit more than what the usual “okay bye” hug lasts. “Are you fine?” I asked and the answer came, “I just wanted to be hugged.” It immediately reminded me of another friend who had once mentioned of the intense desire felt to be just cuddled to sleep.

On both occasions I just wished I could be comfortable enough to effortlessly express my desire, the way my friends did; to be held, to be embraced, to be cuddled.

For some reason we are culturally conditioned to believe that to seek love, to seek affection is a sign of weakness and hence not good. As a continuation of the same, we are unconsciously made to feel guilty for wanting to be held, to be hugged, to be loved. ‘Desperate’ becomes the word to label such a harmless need. It stems from a feeling of disgust towards vulnerability which the society shames and has taught us to look down upon.

In a society that celebrates only strength but never prepares humans to accept vulnerability, sadly, embrace becomes just a photo-op and a formal gesture of networking.

A warm hug to all of you who are reading this. If we cross paths ever in life, please come give me a hug. The chips of this unbearable loneliness of being might just erode to some extent when held, when embraced.

PS: Kindly don’t use the cheesy expression ‘jaadoo ki jhappi‘ when you come hug me.

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Liberation from the Past

March 16, 2019 at 9:15 AMMar (Cinema, Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

The eldest brother asks the youngest brother to take him to a therapist. The middle one is lying in a secluded place with the lady of his love, holding her hands. The two threads are inter-cut. The perpetually fighting brothers, for the first time in the film, begin to speak of the long shadow of past that is cast on the present causing friction between the two; one to the therapist and the other to the girl he is in love with. The stories unfold & both make way for the frozen tears to flow down their cheek. Both feel relieved with the unburdening of their hearts. The middle one holds his lover to his chest and the elder brother puts his hand around his youngest brother’s shoulder as they walk out of the clinic of the therapist.

To outgrow one’s own past one requires help from outside in the form of therapy and solidarity in the absence of love. In love the healing happens from within.

Even over couple of weeks after I watched Kumbalangi Nights, I haven’t been able to get over this sequence.

Finally, in the film, it is love which liberates all (men in the film) from their past and strengthens the solidarity.

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At the saloon…

March 11, 2019 at 9:15 PMMar (Friends, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

There are a few things that I grudgingly have to do regularly. Going to the saloon to get a shave and haircut is one such thing. I conveniently avoid getting a haircut and shave no matter how long the hair and beard grows. If asked I just say, “When I have a beard I look less ugly. This is my social service,” and avoid further conversation. But then there is one thing that I cannot avoid; mustache when it grows long! It makes eating and drinking quite difficult and it is only when the mustache comes in the way of my food and me that I finally drag myself to the saloon.

Today was one such day.

From the past one year I have been going to this particular saloon at a walk-able distance near my house. The only barber of this saloon, a no nonsense fellow, left for his home town in Uttar Pradesh few months ago and he was replaced here in the saloon by his cousin Sameer. I happened to be the first customer of Sameer in this saloon and by the end of that haircut and shave, Sameer and I became friendly with each other.

My usual conversations with Sameer and prior to him with his cousin is a reflection of the complexities of this society about which I will write some other day. Today is about what happened today.

Sameer had just mopped the floor of the shop when I entered today. As always he greeted me with a warm smile asking how I have been. As I took my seat he asked, “kitana choTa kardun?” (how short should I trim your hair?). Not being in a good state of mind, I said, “aapko jitna sahi lagta hai utana karo.” (As much as you think is neat enough.) He immediately exclaimed, “yeh bhi koi baat huyi?” (What are you saying?) to which I said, “aap pey bharosa hai.” (I trust you.) Sameer took a pause to register and extended his hand to pick up the machine saying, “Theek hai.” (Okay!)

After shortening my hair he looked at my quite a long beard and asked, “kitana?” (how short?) raising his eyebrows as he asked. I just made a face indicating an ‘I dont know’. He stared at me and smiled. “aap hee ko nahi pata toh kisko pata?” (If you yourself dont know [what you want], who else will?) came words from between the smiling lips. “aapko jo sahi lagta hai woh karo,” (Do it however you wish to do it) I said to which Sameer said, “Theek hai phir,” (Okay then…) dragging his expression of “Theeek.” That dragging of the word made me fear he woul do some funky stuff which just wouldnt go well with me. So i immediately said, “ek kaam kaaro French beard rakhtey hai. aadha kaTega toh maa khush, aadha rahega toh main bhi khush.” (Lets keep a French beard. It will make my Mom hapy for I am not completely bearded and I will also be happy because I am not completely shaven.) Sameer quickly said, “poora shave kartey hai phir. maa ko khush rakhna chaahiye.” (Let me give you a complete shave then. One should keep mothers happy always.) I laughed and said, “khushi mukammal kisi ko nahi milti. na unki pasand na meri pasand, chalo French beard final hai.” (Happiness never arrives unwaxed. Neither her choice nor my choice, let us go for a French beard.) Sameer agreed saying, “Theeeek hai.” (Okay!)

Taking another machine meant for cleaning the beard he got to work. He trimmed the bread with the machine first then took a scissor to shape it a bit and then asked me if I wanted a clean shave on the remaining parts of the cheek or if I wished to have very short remains of the beard for the texture of it. I was in no mood to think about it all. So I went back to what I had told him earlier; that I trust him and he could make the decision. Sameer, this time, said “Theek hai” but did not drag the ‘Theek’ and was firm i his expression. It seemed like he had decided to take complete charge! He let a short turf of beard remain on my cheeks and shaped the French beard around my mouth neatly and looked at it, moving my head once to the right and then once to the left, sharpening the focus of his eyes. “baraabar?” (is it alright?) he asked me in a firm voice and I answered raising my thumbs up!

When I put down my hand on the handle of the seat and was about to push myself up from the seat Sameer instructed, “baiTho,” (bea seated/ dont get up) and continued to say, “face wash kartey hai.” (I will give you a face wash.) I immediately refused. But Sameer tried to convince me by saying, “bahut time baad thoDa chehra dikh raha hai toh face wash achcha rahega.” (After long a portion of your face is seen. So it is better to get a face wash done.) Very hesitantly I, the fashion illiterate, asked Sameer what does face wash include?” To the ignorant he explained as an elaborate wash of the face. This time I was the one who said, “Theek hai” dragging the “Theeeek”.

Sameer got to action quickly. He changed the cloth spread over my body, pulled my hair back, put a band around my forehead, brought tissue papers, tucked it around the collar of my shirt. Then he went to the corner of the saloon where he has a cubboard kept. Stadning there he asked me, “kaunsa flavour?” (Which flavour?) I felt uncomfortable realizing this face wash to be some fancy thing. I said I dint want to get a face wash and explaned to him I had never indulged in such things and that it is not something that intersts me either. Sameer came to me pushed me back to my seat while I was about o get up. “poochna he nahi chaahiye tha. agar koi particular nahi ho toh aise bolo ki kuch bhi chalega,” (I shouldnt have asked you in the first place. If you are not particular about the flavour say that anything would do!) said Sameer and brought a small box of some cream and neatly took out a scoop of it with his finers and started smearing them on my face. “kuch der aankh band karke baiTho,” (close your eyes for a while) instructed Sameer. I just followed the instruction.

As Sameer kept giving me a face-wash I struggled with all the dark thoughts in my head which I couldn’t avoid with my eyes shut. When he was scrubbing my forehead I also asked him quite melodramatically, “wahan jo bhi likha hai ussey miThaa do.” (Erase what is written in my fate) Sameer just laughed at it and continued doing his work. As he continued to do his work I struggled to keep my eyes shut. Couple of time when I tried to open my eyes Sameer said the face wash material might get into my eyes if I opened my eyes. I politely told him I had work (of course a lie) and did not have much time to spend on face-wash.

Sameer quickened his actions and in a while was wiping my face with a wet cloth. He was done in a while. “ab aankhein kholo,” (now open your eyes) he said and I did. As I looked into the mirror to see what had been done, Sameer said, “pata hai log ghanTo lagaatey hai inn sab cheezon mein.” (You know, people invest hours together for this purpose.) Not knowing what to say Isaid, “unka bhala karey bhagwaan.” (May God bless them.) Sameer laughed and said something interesting. He said, “log jitna achcha dikhney mein mehnat lagaatey hai utna mehnat achcha ban’ney mein lagaatey toh ya baat hoti.” (It would have been so nice if the energy people invest into looking good is invested into becoming good humans.)

I was moved deeply. I paid Sameer and while leaving promised him to try and invest more energy in becoming a good human being. Sameer guiltily siad, “woh aapke liye nahi bola tha.” (I was not referring to you while saying that.) But I know it is something that I need to tell myself and listen to.

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Bajrang Dal Men Torched Two Muslim Women’s Canteen Accusing Them of Selling Beef

February 28, 2019 at 9:15 PMFeb (Uncategorized)

A make-shift canteen run by Khamrunissa (70) and Shamim (50) at Sakleshpur in Hasan district of Karnataka was vandalised and then set on fire by miscreants, allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal, who accused the women of selling beef at their canteen.

For forty years, Khamrunissa has been running the canteen at the weekly market where she sells idly and paratha with chicken and mutton curry. She has been accompanied in the business by her sister-in-law, Shamim, for several years now.

The incident took place on Thursday, January 31 at the APMC market ground during the weekly town market at 15:30 hrs.

The Bajrang Dal unit in Sakleshpur later on their Facebook page shared photos of the make-shift canteen being vandalised and claimed responsibility for the attack saying, “Good beginning for Sakleshpur Chalo. Destroyed the illegal selling of beef at the town market,” and “While creating awareness at the APMC market, with the support of public, a shop selling beef illegally was attacked and damaged.”

As a run-up to the Sakleskpur Chalo event to be held on February 14, with cow protection as its central issue, the organisers—Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)—took out a precursor rally on January 31 through the streets of Sakleshpur. It also passed from near the APMC market area.

Recollecting the attack before the Karwan-e-Mohabbat team, Khamrunissa said, “We were selling mutton when eight Bajrang Dal goons came to our shop around 3:30 that noon and accused us of selling beef. There was no space given to us to explain that it wasn’t beef but chicken and mutton. They were very aggressive and they smashed all the vessels in the shop. They kicked the stove on which we were boiling the curry and threw the hot curry on my body. They threatened me with fatal consequences if I were to sell meat again in my shop. They burst the stove to set the shop, which we build every week with a tarpaulin sheet, on fire.”

In-depth: Bajrang Dal Men Torched Two Muslim Women’s Canteen Accusing Them of Selling Beef
“Some of the boys who vandalised my shop grew up before my eyes,” said seventy-year-old Khamrunissa.
By Samvartha Sahil On Feb 7, 2019 Last updated Feb 8, 2019
Bajrang Dal Men Torched Two Muslim Women’s Canteen Shamim stands helplessly as the Bajrang Dal goons vandalise their shop.
A make-shift canteen run by Khamrunissa (70) and Shamim (50) at Sakleshpur in Hasan district of Karnataka was vandalised and then set on fire by miscreants, allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal, who accused the women of selling beef at their canteen.

For forty years, Khamrunissa has been running the canteen at the weekly market where she sells idly and paratha with chicken and mutton curry. She has been accompanied in the business by her sister-in-law, Shamim, for several years now.

The incident took place on Thursday, January 31 at the APMC market ground during the weekly town market at 15:30 hrs.

The Bajrang Dal unit in Sakleshpur later on their Facebook page shared photos of the make-shift canteen being vandalised and claimed responsibility for the attack saying, “Good beginning for Sakleshpur Chalo. Destroyed the illegal selling of beef at the town market,” and “While creating awareness at the APMC market, with the support of public, a shop selling beef illegally was attacked and damaged.”

Bajrang Dal
Sakleshpur Bajrang Dal claiming responsibility, in a celebratory tone, for the attack on Khamrunissa’s shop.
As a run-up to the Sakleskpur Chalo event to be held on February 14, with cow protection as its central issue, the organisers—Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)—took out a precursor rally on January 31 through the streets of Sakleshpur. It also passed from near the APMC market area.

Recollecting the attack before the Karwan-e-Mohabbat team, Khamrunissa said, “We were selling mutton when eight Bajrang Dal goons came to our shop around 3:30 that noon and accused us of selling beef. There was no space given to us to explain that it wasn’t beef but chicken and mutton. They were very aggressive and they smashed all the vessels in the shop. They kicked the stove on which we were boiling the curry and threw the hot curry on my body. They threatened me with fatal consequences if I were to sell meat again in my shop. They burst the stove to set the shop, which we build every week with a tarpaulin sheet, on fire.”

Khamrunissa amidst her destroyed shop
She added that nobody in the whole market came to their help as everyone was scared at the sudden outbreak of violence. She also said that she overheard the Bajrang Dal goons calling the police, asking them to come to the market, “By the time the police came to the spot, the shop was reduced to ashes.” The police, she recalls, asked the goons why they were called after they (the Bajrang Dal) had already damaged everything.

Khamrunissa further said, “My husband passed away very early. For 40 years now, I have been running this make shift shop during the weekly market and running my family.” She explained that for over 40 years, the customers who come to her shop have been from all religions and this sort of attack had never happened. “There was harmony in our town between religions for long. But in recent times, the inter-religious harmony has been disturbed,” she said, adding, “Some of the boys who vandalised my shop grew up before my eyes and some years ago lived close to our home.”

The burning down of her shop has left Khamrunissa with a loss of nearly Rs.50,000/- when her granddaughter’s wedding is just a month away. She said she would not stop setting up her shop at the weekly market fearing the Bajrang Dal. But she seemed worried about the fear that the attack has caused in the minds of the people, which might reduce the number of customers to her shop.

The police did not register Khamrunissa’s complaint the same evening and an FIR was filed (under the IPC sections 143, 147, 148, 149, 323, 354, 427, 436 and 504) only on the next day. The police confirmed that the meat being sold at Khamrunissa’s shop was not beef.
In-depth: Bajrang Dal Men Torched Two Muslim Women’s Canteen Accusing Them of Selling Beef
“Some of the boys who vandalised my shop grew up before my eyes,” said seventy-year-old Khamrunissa.
By Samvartha Sahil On Feb 7, 2019 Last updated Feb 8, 2019
Bajrang Dal Men Torched Two Muslim Women’s Canteen Shamim stands helplessly as the Bajrang Dal goons vandalise their shop.
A make-shift canteen run by Khamrunissa (70) and Shamim (50) at Sakleshpur in Hasan district of Karnataka was vandalised and then set on fire by miscreants, allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal, who accused the women of selling beef at their canteen.

For forty years, Khamrunissa has been running the canteen at the weekly market where she sells idly and paratha with chicken and mutton curry. She has been accompanied in the business by her sister-in-law, Shamim, for several years now.

The incident took place on Thursday, January 31 at the APMC market ground during the weekly town market at 15:30 hrs.

The Bajrang Dal unit in Sakleshpur later on their Facebook page shared photos of the make-shift canteen being vandalised and claimed responsibility for the attack saying, “Good beginning for Sakleshpur Chalo. Destroyed the illegal selling of beef at the town market,” and “While creating awareness at the APMC market, with the support of public, a shop selling beef illegally was attacked and damaged.”

Bajrang Dal
Sakleshpur Bajrang Dal claiming responsibility, in a celebratory tone, for the attack on Khamrunissa’s shop.
As a run-up to the Sakleskpur Chalo event to be held on February 14, with cow protection as its central issue, the organisers—Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)—took out a precursor rally on January 31 through the streets of Sakleshpur. It also passed from near the APMC market area.

Recollecting the attack before the Karwan-e-Mohabbat team, Khamrunissa said, “We were selling mutton when eight Bajrang Dal goons came to our shop around 3:30 that noon and accused us of selling beef. There was no space given to us to explain that it wasn’t beef but chicken and mutton. They were very aggressive and they smashed all the vessels in the shop. They kicked the stove on which we were boiling the curry and threw the hot curry on my body. They threatened me with fatal consequences if I were to sell meat again in my shop. They burst the stove to set the shop, which we build every week with a tarpaulin sheet, on fire.”

Bajrang Dal Men Torched Two Muslim Women’s Canteen
Khamrunissa amidst her destroyed shop
She added that nobody in the whole market came to their help as everyone was scared at the sudden outbreak of violence. She also said that she overheard the Bajrang Dal goons calling the police, asking them to come to the market, “By the time the police came to the spot, the shop was reduced to ashes.” The police, she recalls, asked the goons why they were called after they (the Bajrang Dal) had already damaged everything.

Khamrunissa further said, “My husband passed away very early. For 40 years now, I have been running this make shift shop during the weekly market and running my family.” She explained that for over 40 years, the customers who come to her shop have been from all religions and this sort of attack had never happened. “There was harmony in our town between religions for long. But in recent times, the inter-religious harmony has been disturbed,” she said, adding, “Some of the boys who vandalised my shop grew up before my eyes and some years ago lived close to our home.”

The burning down of her shop has left Khamrunissa with a loss of nearly Rs.50,000/- when her granddaughter’s wedding is just a month away. She said she would not stop setting up her shop at the weekly market fearing the Bajrang Dal. But she seemed worried about the fear that the attack has caused in the minds of the people, which might reduce the number of customers to her shop.

The police did not register Khamrunissa’s complaint the same evening and an FIR was filed (under the IPC sections 143, 147, 148, 149, 323, 354, 427, 436 and 504) only on the next day. The police confirmed that the meat being sold at Khamrunissa’s shop was not beef.

Sakleshpur Bajrang Dal claiming responsibility, in a celebratory tone, for the attack on Khamrunissa’s canteen.
Naveen Sadaa, a reporter from a local daily named Haasana Vaani, was not allowed by the police to take photos of the vandalised and burnt-down shop. This, he says, hints at the close nexus between the police system and the Bajrang Dal in Sakleshpur. Another reporter, on condition of anonymity, told the Karwan-e-Mohabbat team that Raghu Sakleshpur, under whose leadership Sakleshpur Chalo is being organised on February 14, is a rowdy history-sheeter who has several criminal cases registered against him.

“How is such a man given police permission to hold such an event on the 14th and what is the guarantee that no violence will erupt on that day in the town?” asked the journalist. The fear of the journalist wishing to remain anonymous stems from a press note issued by Dharmesh, the Bajrang Dal President of Sakleshpur Taluk. In the note, Dharmesh accuses a journalist named Mehboob of stirring communal tension in the town by highlighting the issue of the attack on Khamrunissa’s shop.

Speaking to the Karwan-e-Mohabbat team, ex-President of the VHP’s Sakleshpur unit Jai Maaruthi Devraj said that although Raghu Sakleshpur’s team claims to be Bajrang Dal-VHP and are using the names of Bajrang Dal and VHP in organising Sakleshpur Chalo, he does not belong to either of the outfits. Raghu, he claimed, had started his own organisation named Ramadhoota Sanghatane. He added that the higher-ups in the VHP and Bajrang Dal are unaware of Raghu’s workings and they have not been taken into confidence in organising Sakleshpur Chalo.

“It has become difficult for us to oppose this since we are in solidarity with the issue but at the same time, we cannot support it also since the name of our organisation is being misused,” said Mr. Devraj.

The Bajrang Dal unit in Sakleshpur, on their Facebook page, have quoted Raghu having said in a speech at Belthangady, “Our next aim is to hoist the Bhagwa flag on Mosques.”

When reached out to, Sakleshpur MLA Mr. HK Kumarswamy said, “This is nothing new and is just an extension of what you see in Mangalore and Udupi. These are done by immature people lacking wisdom,” adding that the police was looking into the matter and would be quick to act. Later that night, the Karwan-e-Mohabbat team learnt that five people from the Bajrang Dal were arrested.

The arrested are Karthik (24), Deepu (21), Prathap (29) and Raghu (20) and a fifth whose name wasn’t revealed to protect his identity as he is a minor. The Bajrang Dal, on their Facebook page, expressed anger over the arrests and called for a protest on the following day (February 6) at 11:00 in the morning.

(This article originally published in Newscentral24x7.com was supported by the Karwan-e-Mohabbat media fellowship.)

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A Speech Prepared and Rehearsed

January 31, 2019 at 9:15 AMJan (Friends, Literature, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Three years ago when the West Indies cricket team won the T20 World-Cup naturally they were celebrating their success and everyone were watching it with not much involvement. Later that day at the press conference the Captain of the WI team revealed of the economical constrains they had faced during the run-through to the World Cup, despite which they won the Cup. His words won the hearts of the people and people saluted the team of West Indies for their victory against odds. After the captain at the press conference the team member who won the man of the series title addressed the press with his legs placed on the table. This behaviour irked many and called it arrogant and indecent.

All of this made me ask myself if our indifference, compassion, intolerance everything, are they independent?

Do people of certain colour, caste, country, class become worthy of our attention and compassion only when there is a miserable touch to their existence? Why are we not understanding of the anger of the very same people? Is anger and pride permitted only to a few with social capital alone? Why the pride of some people comes across as indecent behaviour to us? When people deprived of social capital are discriminated based on colour, race, caste, class, religion and identity, have their guards high and their personality forms rough edges, why do we not understand it but only judge the behaviour of theirs? Why is this roughness largely unavoidable? Why does it become unacceptable while self-pity or imaging of self in misery becomes acceptable to an extent? Why striking a balance between self-pitying misery and rough edged pride/ arrogance to establish dignity becomes so difficult? How is one to achieve this balance?

Though not very deprived socially and economically, in the course of my journey of life love, basic human respect and social acceptance was quite absent. I spent a major portion of my life battling with depression, indulging in a sort of self-pity and in this battle, in order to protect my self-respect and the idea of self-worthiness, also have displayed arrogance thanks to the rough edges that got formed in my personality. Both these cost me quite a bit, in terms of my social life and my own development. It also created a dent in my emotional health.

Writing did help me a bit in striking the necessary balance between self-pity and egotism or roughness. It is true that I had to face discrimination, insult, and intolerance even because of my writing. But it did not break me like it did earlier. This was majorly because slowly writing had strengthened my ‘self’ to some extent.

Saying all of this, that too on the day of the release of my book is not to say I have answered life and the world for what I was made to go through. I say this just to remember what writing did to me and celebrate this journey for a moment. As life continues the efforts to strike this balance and uphold dignity will also continue. It is never ending because the shadows of certain experiences are cast on our entire lives.

The reason to have this book release on this very day is because today my father completes 70. All through my life he has supported, sheltered and encouraged me like most fathers do. But more importantly he has constantly redrawn his own boundaries in his attempt to understand my eccentricities, my madness and be by me in all of this. That is rare or not I know not. But I know the significance of it. So as he completes 70 what else can I gift him other than an attempt to tell him that in this life I have managed to weave words, managed to strike this balance between self-pity and egotism to some extent, managed get a hold of myself to an extent, managed to not lose my mind completely, managed to earn some basic human respect which was denied in several ways, and earn friends like you all who are a part of all my seasons! Within my limitations this is the least I could do in life which I can present before my father. Hence the book launch is scheduled on this day.

Akshata Hunchadakatte, Publisher Aharnishi Prakashana \ Dr. Vijay, Pricipal, MGM College, Udupi \ G. Rajashekhar, Cultural Critic and Kannada Writer \ Rajaram Thallur, Former Journalist, Writer, Translator and Media Critic \ Your’s truly \ K. Phairaj, Writer-Activist. (Left to Right)

(Speech I prepared and rehearsed several times in my mind for the release function of my book ‘baaLkaTTey’ on 27 Jan 2019, which in my nervousness couldn’t deliver as planned)

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Happy Birthday Ghalib

December 27, 2018 at 9:15 AMDec (Literature, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

Today happens to be the birth anniversary of the unparalleled Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib. There is a lot that has been written about the master poet and his poems have been understood, explained, analyzed and interpreted multiple times. It would sound a cliche if I am to say Ghalib’s poetry offers something new every time one revisits them. But I have known it from my own experience that, with more life experience one experiences Ghalib quite differently and more deeply. With age Ghalib only becomes more and more apna!

I am not someone who longs for a long life and sometimes fear having a long life. In such moments I tell myself, “Imagine what more meanings and truths of life will flow out of Ghalib at that age!” And that excites me. I wonder what hidden gems will emerge from within his poetry when engagement with life gets more intensified. A long life will be worth it just to look at oneself and one’s life in the mirror of Ghalib’s poetry, in the light of Ghalib’s poetry.

This photo is from the restaurant section in a hotel in Haygam, Kashmir named Time Pass. I was put up in this hotel during my visit to the valley this summer and on seeing Ghalib’s portrait there I immediately felt at home though it was my first time there.

Happy birthday Ghalib and thanks for everything.

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Odd thoughts on Children’s Day

November 14, 2018 at 9:15 PMNov (Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Those were the days which ingrained a sense of inferiority in me and ensured I have a low self esteem. Childhood was not rosy for me and though childhood evaporated long ago the impact of childhood experiences continue to bear their weight on my heart. A long process of unlearning in the days after childhood ensured my worldview undergoes a fundamental change but my idea about myself and my position in this world, in relation to my fellow human beings, are still colored by the experiences of childhood marked by discrimination, humiliation and alienation. Those who remember me from my childhood, remember me as “an angry child,” and cant/ don’t see why I was angry and why I am still angry. Life after childhood has seen many battles one among them has been a very personal and internal battle to overcome the burden of my childhood which I have been carrying within me since my childhood.

There are many who have had childhood experiences more traumatic and paralyzing than my experiences. To all of them and to all those who have been crippled in one or the other way by childhood experiences here, take a warm hug for love and warmth is more important than laddoos in schools and discount offers in the market.

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