Friday, August 13, 2010

THE VILLAGE DIARIES 2

I am overwhelmed...
This morning was where it finally began...
I so realize the meaning of having found a purpose and having started to work towards achieving something that is not just going to bring me happiness, but going to bring thousands of people along with us a peace which they so hope for.
THE VILLAGE PROJECT INDIA  finally took off with a painting competion between 50 of the Khar Danda Municipal School's best artistes.
Each painting was to die for...
Each drawing spoke...
Children from the age group of 9 to 12 sat for two long hours and poured out colors from their hearts on their drawing sheets... and in pin drop silence, the three judges, Actor/Model Adam Bedi, Fashion Designer Salim Asgarally and Artiste Bina Aziz, watched over them and at the end, had a hard time making up their minds about who the best three were.
Vilas Chavdi, the Shiv Sena Corporator of Khar Danda, graced the occasion and gave away the prizes to the best. He also emphasized the need for proper health services and requested everyone to be pro active in the process. All fifty children belonging to various communities, painted their interpretations of Lord Ganesha and it was declared that the best three paintings will be printed on T Shirts designed by Salim Asgarally and distributed to the organizers and workers of the Ganesh Seva Mandal at Khar Danda during Ganpati Festival next month. Twenty five top artistes will be helped to hone their skills by some of India's top artistes in a workshop organized by Artiste Bina Aziz during fall vacation this year.
Nisha Harale Bedi compered the event and made the children participate in the celebration of art and made them pledge that they will help THE VILLAGE PROJECT to maintain a safe and healthy environment.
Akash Thakker, Treasurer, The Village Project India, managed the event which was conducted seamlessly and his team, Nitin Pore and Ritchelle Nanda worked hard to make it successful.
Dale Bhagwagar, member of the Governing Council and PR and Brand Management Expert, handled media and enjoyed working hard to bring it all together.
Camlin sponsored the paints and colors for the children and Parle Agro sponsored the snacks and drinks. Hippo was a hit with the kids and Frooti went real fine too.
Most of the respected elders and senior citizens of the Fishermen's Village attended the prize distribution and congratulated the children as well as pledged to support the project.
THE VILLAGE PROJECT will soon begin the process of cleaning up the beach as well as flagging off various communications and training programs.
Some youth of the village will be trained by experts for disaster and crisis management and the team will be made available to the inhabitants 24/7.
THE VILLAGE PROJECT will help the people of Khar Danda to also run an ambulance service of their own and build other enterprise which will give employment to all the young and talented.
It has started and with the support and good will of all our friends, we will make it happen.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

THE VILLAGE DIARIES 1

It was only January 2010 when Brinda Chudasama Miller asked me to work with the Kala Ghoda Festival team and curate the film section for the 2010 edition of the festival. A part of the process was to produce some short films with people other than film makers. One of the most fulfilling experiences as a creative producer for me was to make three short films directed by Artiste Bina Aziz, Fashion Designer Salim Asgarally and Chef Max which were then screened at the festival as well as many other occasions later.

Chef Max took us on a journey with him to discover how he shops for seafood in Mumbai city. When he took the camera team to Khar Danda Fishermen's Village where he purchases his lobsters from, he introduced us to Bhaichand, who is one of the most senior and respected citizens of the village. Bhaichand told us about the village and took us to the jetty from where the boats leave to bring back the catch everyday.
We were stunned to silence with the beauty at the sea front and completely taken aback with the state it was in. It was filty beyond imagination with waste collected more than 10 feet deep, drowning the beach which Bhaichand explained, they once played football on. With years of negligence, one of the oldest and purest places Mumbai can enjoy, has also been allowed to waste away.

Narrow lanes lead to the sea front and the filthy beach and it was preposterous that none of us who pass that way on an average 10 times a month, didn't even know of its existence. The Khar Danda Fishermen's Village Association, formed by roughly 4000 families who are the present generation of the original inhabitants of Mumbai and headed by Ashish Shellar, along with Shiv Sena elected Corporator Vilas Chavdi had been fighting a losing battle with authorities to bring to their notice, a paradise gone waste, for years now.

THE VILLAGE PROJECT INDIA was born right there and then. All those involved with the making of the three short films came together to form the NGO which in partnership with the Fishermen's Village Association pledged to clean the sea front and assist the 45000 plus population of the village, to maintain and keep it clean. As we collectively explored further, the need to assist the inhabitants of the village to build adequate toilets, provide ambulances for emergency and basic health services as well as help create awareness and enterprise to improve the quality of lives of the people of the village came up. A crisis management team trained by experts is also being prepared by the youth in the urban village with the help of the NGO. A campaign to inform the people of their legal rights, specially the women and children, is also underway.

THE VILLAGE PROJECT INDIA has its office strategically placed opposite the local Municipal School and what better way is there, but to launch all initiatives by involving the children of the village, who are the future of the country, on the 63rd Independence Day of India, first.
Taking forward the motto 'ART CREATES AND VIOLENCE DESTROYS', the members of the Governing Council of the NGO along with the Fishermen's Village Association, Bhaichand, Ashish Shellar and Vilas Chavdi have organized a painting competition amongst 50 children from the school, of which 20 will be selected for a 2 day workshop with India's top artistes to be held around Diwali this year.
The top three winners will also be given kits and tools to take their art further and their paintings will be selected as the designs on the T Shirts which the 230 organizers of the Ganpathi Mandal of the Village will wear during the Ganpathi festival in the 2nd week of September.

Chef Max Orlati, Fashion Designer Salim Asgarally, Choreographer Nisha Harale Bedi, Artiste and Curator Bina Aziz, Graphics Artiste Madhuri Iyer, Waste Management Expert Stewart Klevan, Executive Producer Akash Thakker, Youth Activist Nitin Pore, PR expert Dale Bhagwagar and I, aim to engage with the people of the Khar Danda Fishermen's Village through various activities by way of which we can communicate and disseminate information about a clean and healthy environment.
Hands on we are, and toil we will, along with the Association, the villagers and their leaders, to give to Mumbai one more corner to be proud of.

A special thanks to Camlin for sponsoring the colors, crayons, paints and brushes for the children to use and Parle Agro for providing drinking water, soft drinks and snacks.

The Village Project India would like to thank our friends Nadia Chauhan Kurup, Raj Kurup and Surekha Kotwani for supporting the initiative and our mentors Subhash Kamath and Mahesh Murthy for giving the project vision.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

GREAT INDIAN TELEVISION!

Nidhi Razdan, Barkha Dutt, Dr. Prannoy Roy, Vikram Chandra, Arnab Goswami, Navika Kumar, Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghosh, all make compelling television. Great Indian Television!

In the last few months, television seems to have finally arrived, if only on the shoulders of the few names I've taken above. I have to say that we are getting back to where we started from in that space which had been vandalized and completely destroyed by a business which was desperately chasing TRP's, and pandering to the demands of mindless politicians who seemed threatening to the honest voice and the inner conscience of India.

Between 830PM and 11PM, you cannot ignore the set.
On the contrary you go crazy trying to figure out what you should watch.
This week NDTV has introduced a new show at 830PM hosted by Nidhi Razdan who takes you through the events of the day and discusses them with a respected editor of a leading national daily, sitting right across her table.
On it's first day, it was Shekhar Gupta, and on Tuesday it was Dilip Padgaonkar, both equally articulate and both of whom, with the depth of knowledge it requires to analyse the way Indian Politics functions, made critical comment.
From the CWG corruption scandal, to Kashmir and Mamata Bannerjee flirting with the Maoists in West Bengal, all issues that haunt India today, it was engaging discussion which made me feel like we were finally in search of solutions and bringing the guilty to book without mincing words instead of just chasing ratings with sensational content.

It gets hard to choose what to watch at 9PM because there's Dr. Prannoy Roy or Vikram Chandra on NDTV, Arnab Goswami and Navika Kumar on the News Hour on Times Now and Rajdeep Sardesai on CNNIbn.
One goes crazy switching channels because it is criminal to lose out on even a minute of the heated debates on all three channels running simultaneously, although its interesting to note regulars like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Rajiv Pratab Rudy and others switch camera's for a perfectly coordinated appearance on all three channels in the same one hour.
Despite the fact that most of the panelists will be the same, I spend the evening figuring out which of the three I should leave for watching during the repeats, and which of the two I should watch alternately between that one hour so as to catch the best of both. It's really not as much about the panelists, as it is about the anchors because all three channels maintain their difference, respecting it as well.
Dr. Roy and Chandra are gentle and engaging, Arnab grills and wants answers right here and now, and Rajdeep has the amazing talent to present things as they are and all three perspectives count.

Come 10PM and I'm decided.
Its 'The Buck Stops Here' with Barkha Dutt for me and 'Face the Nation' with Sagarika Ghosh is my late night fix before I retire to my writing.
The Buck Stops Here took a break for sometime only to return on all week nights since last week, presumably to give Kalmadi a chance to carry the baton and try his luck with the placard on his table which eventually had to and also did fail him.
Back in her place each week night, Barkha takes you through events and discussion with ease, putting her panelists in the dock and getting more of her own tribe on board to fire at them and raise the right issues.
Kashmir is close to Barkha's heart, it is obvious.
She's spent more than a decade now bringing news from the valley to India with a certain empathy which puts her apart from the rest of the reporters who tend to make it sound like they are reporting from a war torn zone where those who die were meant to. Barkha on the other hand reaches out to people, be it soldiers and officers from the armed forces who dare the relentless battle and risk their lives, or the people of Kashmir who have now lived more than two decades in a paradise lost to violence,
Of recent past Barkha has been bringing young Kashmiri's to participate in her panel and present to the people of India an honest picture of what is going on in the minds of the people of the state who have lost all faith and hope.
It is so sad to watch students and young teachers vent their anger at the failures of the administration and not surprising that each one of them supports azaadi, the freedom of Kashmir from India.
The Government keeps harping about an economic package and an education package which is yet to be visible or seen by the Kashmiri's. Now they are trying to create jobs for the young in Kashmir to cool down tempers as well, they say.
But where is there any sign of development?
Where is there employment in Kashmir for its youth and where is there education for its young, even after the so called third democratically elected Government is in place? When there is peace in the valley, it is as forgotten a part of India as the North Eastern states of India are while the anti establishment forces lie low there.
Ecomomic, education, health and employment packages are words which have no meaning for alienated people who have no opportunity to progress on their own land. When unrest surfaces, packages are promised again.
Nothing changes.
Nothing has, since the time the Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homeland about twenty years ago.
My suggestion to Barkha, bring the young Pandits and the young Kashmiri Muslims face to face on Television. See sparks fly and make them speak. Get them out there to talk, discuss and solve the problems of their homeland which concerns nobody other than they themselves and give them the space to resolve issues, because left to the Government of India, nothing will happen.
I am shocked that in 20 years, not once has anybody in India brought the original inhabitants of the valley on a common platform and asked them what it is that they really want. A mindless politics between India and Pakistan is being played out since our Independence between leaders who neither belong to Kashmir, nor will ever go there to make a life.

I believe that the media is really our last hope and each member of civil society should support it.
Ironically, Face the Nation with Sagarika Ghosh took on the judiciary for trying to gag the media on basis of a litigation filed against various channels and reporters by Dr. Talwar and his wife for having lost repute during the investigation of their own 14 year old daughters murder. The infamous NOIDA murder which rocked the country some time back.
I'm refering to the Aarushi murder case, where the 14 year old girls father is still an accused.
The discussion between the panelists was about the limits media can go to and I sat wondering why is reportage being blamed for the lack of delivery of administration in our country?
Should the media put off its camera's and shut their recorders when the IG of Police calls a press conference and insinuates an illicit relationship between a minor and her middle aged servant and also suspects her own father for having killed her?
How bizzarre is that!!!
Should the media throw those tapes out of the window which carry sick recordings of the servants and family members go through lie detector tests and what else not?
Let the judiciary question a perverse NOIDA police, the CBI and those beaurocrats who got vicarious pleasure in discussing a suspected sexual liason of a poor 14 year old and loved watching themselves do that on national television.
Dr. Talwar and his lawyers should file a complaint against all those who were a part of the investigation, not against media which only reported a most absurd reality unfolding before their eyes.

The mother of all facts is, that our media is a reflection of us.
If we change, so will the media.
If we don't want to see blood and gore, let there be none.
If we don't want corruption exposed, weed it out of the system.
If we don't want systems to fail, make them work.
If we don't want politicians to be cursed and criticized, improve the quality of politics.

It is no longer the time when media can be blamed for everything, because a committed tribe of journalists are here to expose, correct and put to task a system and politics that has failed the nation for over 63 years and a civil society out here is alert and aware of its rights.

Friday, August 6, 2010

WHAM THE GRAND SCAM!

We are at the... er... well almost at the juncture where India is prepared to call a spade a spade.
How many people are the powerful going to go after, and how many will they be able to nab and destroy and where in the world are they go to go and drag out to punish all those voices which speak out against them? They can eliminate two RTI activists, one in Pune and one in Gujarat, but how many more will they be able to manage do away with?
India is at the threshold of its independence for the first time now.
With the power of the opinion in the hands of its people, whether because of online or interactive media, the Government of India is left with no choice but to act and perform, or else, one by one, each politician, beaurocrat and every cheat who has manipulated the system to amass wealth illegitimately, is going to be revealed and hanged.

Trust me, its not just the media which is the watchdog of the politics of India that is making this happen. It is also the people of India who have finally got the right to their opinion because of online media in their hands and their close proximity to other media, so intimately today, that even the media is being watched over by them, and the barons know it, the barons who have waited for it for years while they silently supported the corrupt, however angry it made them, for the sake of their own survival.
This time the media dare not relent in its pursuit to root out the rot which has collected for over six decades of a latent dictatorship and authoritarian rule which has conveniently operated behind the veil of democracy ever since the 15th of August, 1947. This time it has to weed out the filth, the dirt from the ground.

Tonight on Prime Time Television, it was so apparent, that every news channel went on from where it had left off on the CWG scandal yesterday, inspite of the fact that every politician consumed by it or afraid to be, had abandoned them. One poor Salman Khurshid, in all his decency appeared on Headlines Today to salvage the face of the Congress Party but he looked so distressed because of his own position, that one felt sorry for him.

While everyone is slamming the Organizing Committee, the Sports Ministry, the DDA, Ministry of Urban Development and every other body involved with putting together the games, a handful, like Khursheed, Vinod Sharma, the new treasurer of the OC, Mr. AK Matoo are virtually pleading with the panelists who for once are representing the people of India unanimously, to allow the games to take place and let there then be an inquiry on the accountability of the huge funds which have been grossly misused, embezzled, laundered and syphoned and which there is substantial evidence and proof of.
When neither the opposition, nor the party in power have the guts to appear on the debates, it is obvious that they are admitting to their failures and hoping that some miracle takes place and the games are achieved at the end of the fifty ninth day from now.

How?
How on earth are they going to achieve it? I smell a rat here as well.
I know, that the Government is aware of the fact that the Common Wealth Games are not going to happen. It knows we are not ready for it, which is why it has allowed the scandal to catch fire and burn the country's pride, so at the end of this horrendous period they can turn around and accuse the media as well as the people of India by saying, that had they been left to themselves, and had they not been questioned or compelled to suspend key corrupt officials of the OC, they would have met the deadline, but because India rocked, and the people and media insisted that culprits be brought to book, the games cannot happen.

However convoluted it may sound, but believe me, that is what is going to happen.
Our leaders are so far removed from reality and the truth, the parliament is so distant from its purpose, that MS Gill, the sports Minister, could actually crack a few jokes, and get a few laughs, when he spoke amongst his ilk at Parliament House today.
That is how shameless and unaffected our Government is.

Are they going to carry on the games in substandard stadia?
Are they going to host millions of guests and tourists in a chaotic city which is already bursting at its seams?
Or are they going to bring it all together in 59 days by rebuilding and recreating everything from scratch?
Lets see how it unfolds.

I was watching the promotion for a series on sports and sportspersons, which is the beginning of a campaign for the Olympics to be held in UK in 2012, on BBC today. 2012. Here, we have less than 60 days left for the launch of the games, and we're swimming in shame.
When the hell are we going to start talking about our infrastructure with pride?
When will be bring our athletes to the forefront? Those athletes of India who, for the first time, had advantage home ground, in the Common Wealth Games but yet haven't stepped into stadia to practice?
After the games are over? When all the equipment which has been hired, is returned to its rightful owners after having paid them 3 times the amount of the cost of the equipment?

Are we going to carry on with the scandal till the day that the games start and then declare celebration, like schizophrenics, like hypocrites, who have to impress our guests, the outsiders in the name of patriotism and national pride?
What nonsense is this?
Can't one out of the 565 elected members of Parliament step out and apologize to the country?
Shouldn't they step out in the open and admit to their ineptness and systemic failures?

Let me tell you, the Commonwealth Games are just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg.
If a leader doesn't emerge from the system, and doesn't take charge, there is going to be anarchy.
The people of India have to be taken in confidence now and an honest representative has to step out and be the healer by admitting to and apologizing for the failure of governance at every level, every state, every layer of society which is lying torn with lies, deceit and fraud.

This is the moment to face the truth.
This is the moment which can turn around everything and bring us to the beginning of the change,,the beginning the shining India which we keep talking about.
This is the moment which can bring us that freedom which was an illusion, which we had never ever had before.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

SHAME ON OUR SILENCE!!!

India has quite had it.
Although it surprises me that everyone seems shocked with what is being exposed of Kalmadi and the kala dhanda behind the Common Wealth Games, because I thought everyone must know whats been going on for decades now?
Thank heavens for RTI and thank heavens for a media which is leaving no stone unturned on all the dirty play behind our politics, else we would have gone on like somnabulists through life and let the rot lie.
I like the fact that our media has arrived at the stage where it is able to pit one party against another and therefore make the world see politicians reveal themselves by exposing another in the process.
CWG is an answer to the embarrassment caused to BJP with IPL because it attacked the UPA.
So the story which started with Tharoor, went on to expose Modi and has climaxed with stripping Kalmadi naked, but in the bargain, the people of India have seen with their eyes, what they always knew about corruption, deals and debauchery with the exchequers money when it came to politics and governance. (I'm ignoring price rise, thousands of tonnes of rotting grain, Amit Shah, Modi and all other things forgotten for now).

The least common denominator in this game of sport is the athlete.
The less said the better here, as every channel, every bit of old and new media is burning with anger and shame.
Unfortunately, a politician like Tom Vaddakan isn't.
I think the rest of UPA spokespersons have abandoned their positions on this one and I'm not surprised that none of them, Jayanti Natarajan, Manish Tewari or for that matter Abhishek Manusinghvi were visible on TV this evening.
I'm sure they refused to defend Kalmadi and make fools of themselves like Tom Vaddakan did.
Has he lost it?!!!
Or is he so far removed from reality that he thinks Indians are fools?!!!

This time, politicians better get it straight.
They had better know that Indians are not sleeping, they never were.
Thanks to interactive media that today we are able to engage in the process and let them know what they always thought we didn't know.
Ordinary citizens of India have been taken for a ride by the politicians and the rich and the powerful right from the time of our independence. It has always been advantage, the wealthy, and disadvantage, the poor. And the poor have always paid a huge price for it.
I salute each one of those athletes, players and sports persons who have gone on to bring India pride and continue to do so despite these criminals who have the audacity to charge 4000 bucks for a roll of toilet paper and forge documents to justify their acts. I salute that labor which is treated worse than animals in hell in India, who have built that stadia despite poor and adulterated materials and lost their lives despite a constitution which upholds a law to protect them.
Who the hell do these guys who sit in high offices think they are? What gives them the right to such evil?
Where are their values, where is their morality?
How dare they do this to the country and how dare they then have the gall to appear on National Television to defend themselves?
Vaddakan is using national pride as a bait to save the skin of his party while the party, which has gone into hiding, is left with no choice but to confront the truth.
And the greatest tragedy here is, that it is five days since, and the UPA has still not sacked Kalmadi, on the contrary, is allowing him, the most tainted, to head a three member team to investigate his own filth.
Also that Vaddakan is pleading on national television that we should let the games go on for the sake of national pride.

The shame these guys have brought to the nation in front of the rest of the world is unparalleled. They have made India fall apart and crawl because of their greed for power and money. They have terrorized the very people they represent and hidden fact from them about the misuse of their money. They have blatantly lied for decades and pimped our integrity and self respect, and above all that want us to let the games go on for the sake of national pride and not question them about their crime?
Indians are unforgiving today.

Look at Kashmir. Look at UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal which are burning with poor jawans fighting poorer citizens and losing their lives, because of the complacency of the government?
Look at the neglect in the North East.
Look at how urbanization is taking place and how ordinary people are being raped by an inefficient archaic system.
Today, you go out in Mumbai where the roads are the pits in a car, and you feel like you are in a bullock cart. You try getting into a local train and it's horrendous what you go through.
New Delhi, the capital of India looks like a city bombed.
Look at the way the poor live in the worst weathers and look at how children suffer disease, and this man Tom Vaddakan, actually has the confidence to go on national television to barter patriotism for peoples pride?
Every young Indian who struggles is angry, and every young Indian who is opportune is guilty. This is what our next generation is about, and these loud obnoxious creatures, who have managed to find themselves in positions of power, sit and pontificate patriotism like each alphabet in the word bleeds with the blood of their ancestors?
Shame Shame Shame Vaddakan. Shame on you UPA, BJP and all other political party's of India which have not been able to clean their acts and prepare themselves for the challenges of the 21st century.
Ravi Shankar Prasad went ballistic on News Hour on Times Now, crying foul when Harish Salve called all politicians corrupt. He was hurt and offended that all politicians were being painted by the stroke of the same brush. I was laughing as he said that there are people like him in politics who have integrity and are honest. I wanted to tell him that he may be honest and may have integrity, but the fact that he keeps silent about what goes on within his party, be it when he defends Modi or be it when he keeps mum about Hindu terror supported by the RSS, it makes him equally to blame.
I saw Barkha Dutt on her show, The Buck Stops Here, talk to two Kashmiri youth this evening. I couldn't help tears roll. Forget the politicians Barkha. Start talking only to the people of India. In their words is the truth, the reality. Let the lies rest for a while and let the politicians work instead of inviting them to your studios and allowing them to paint a picture of India which is completely untrue.
I saw Arnab Goswami question his panel and couldn't stop anger from gripping me as all the truth tumbled out.
What have we done to our country? How have we brought it to this?
Our silence is to blame and if we don't break it immediately, it is our silence which is all that's going to remain way after us, as the world has already gone miles ahead.
If there is one thing which might save us, help us to speak out and protect us, it is our media. Fortunately, it has arrived at the place where politicians dare not attempt to muzzle it or else what is happening in Kashmir today, will happen in the rest of India as well, and they know it very well.
No Mark Tully, you are nobody to call the expression of our angst a tamasha as you did on NDTV on The Buck Stops Here last night. Be assured your agenda's are visible.
In this one time in our History, India stands at the cusp of change. And if the Common Wealth Games do not take place, we probably deserve it as it will wake us up.
This piece is dedicated to the whole of media which has the power and the will to redefine India and end the rule of those drunk on power and lusting for money.