Rough roads, beautiful memories


img_20161026_235546Off late the surgical strikes of Indian Army has been making news and after Saheed Hanumant Thappa Indian Army has gone viral in social media. In some places as the social media shows, BJP made posters on election campaign, Mr Kejriwal asked the PM to provide proofs of the attack and Congress released cross LOC attacks in public. The Uri attack and our return fire made lot of us little patriotic and what’s app also flooded with a candle wala DP and many forwarded messages.

Being a silent watcher of those activities I visited Srinagar, Leh, Nubra, Turtuk and Pangong where every single day and every single hour I saw a numbers of Indian Army personnel, their camps, their trucks, rocket launcherss and many things which I want to share it here.

img_20161004_155301445-copyFirst of all, above all bullets and kinds of guns, there lies a lot of artists. All army camps I went across during my visit are colorful. Beautifully decorated, well maintained and clean. I was amazed to see their cretivity and trust on my words, the arial view of any army camp of these places I mentioned will give a natural smile in your eyes.

There creativity is not only limited to colors but also in terms of words. All the camps are beautifully named and some mountains are creatively carved with those names along with the tricolor. There comes  BRO; a Familiar name you will see in every hundred meter with signage and boards. Its not the gen X term ‘Yes Bro’ kind of stuff rather an organisation originated from Indian Army. Officially known as Border Roads Organization (BRO) has been mainting and developing roads across borders in India. The people are so creative, every hundred metre you will see some funny, witty, informative and useful messages on road safety and cleanliness. And let me tell you, you can’t avoid reading them even if you are at a speed of 80km or more. They will hold ur nerves and put pressure on your right hand to lessen the accelerator.

Some messages are like

“Don’t be a Gama, in the land of Lama”

“Drinking whisky, driving risky”

“Do not gossip, let him drive”

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Above all, I have never seen any armed force or security agency so much hospitable. While crossing the hilly difficult terrains, amidst all tension and adventure what makes you smile is, you salute any army truck or jeepsy or any officer on he way, they will revert back with saluting you back and with a million dollar smile. They will give you ways to pass the roads safely. When there is jamming, first they will make your ways clear and then they will move. Remember the tracks might carry cooked food, water or fuel for the jawans at the base or at different check posts. They make sure, you travel safe.
They are more hospitable than any service industry. Can you see the softer hearts behind the tough soldiers??? I did every time during the trip.

img_20161004_145408171-copyNow let me come to the point what I have been waiting to spell out loud. I was crossing a check post and got time to interact few army personnel. It was on my way to the northern most village of India, Turtuk which was once a part of India. The check post was in the valley where, on the west, there was Pakistan just a mountain away and on the east, there was China again a mountain away. It was near the Siachen glaciers and the Hanumant Thappa point was not very far from the check post. They narrated till 1971 that post was under Pakistan and we won that during 1971 war. The valley was freaking beautiful and I was amazed to know, they remain their round the year no matter how cold it is. This is the condition of all such check posts and all such base camps. And in winter the temperature go beyond zero degree and they experience that for the sake of serving the country.

I wanted to hug few of them and let them know how proud I am feeling. But it was lunch time and they said to meet them while coming back. I crossed the check post and visited the last Indian Village Turtuk. It was worth achieving. The village is one of the beautiful experience I had during my trip. The children are most beautiful in India as many previous visitors say. These Balti tribe children are with blue eyes and blond hairs. The army has set up schools there till class 12th and you can see some children going to such schools in army trucks in fact. They will wave their hands to the visitors and with a cute smile and that will give you goosebumps.

While coming back, I crossed the same check post and I saw new army personnel and I asked for the familiar name I had met few hours before while crossing the post. The tall dark smiling face came from the down the bridge with a camouflage T-shirt and was looking fresh after his lunch. I shaken hands, we talked again. I asked his well-being. He reverted with the same. But why he is so important and why I am mentioning about him is something that will make you little emotional.

He was nonother than, an Odia bhai from a southern odisha city. Thousands miles away, when I was fascinated about Indian Army, I met this man with an Insass and when he saw my passport started talking to me in Odia. What could be more proud moment for me !!!

edited_img_20161006_145528974It felt, each member of Indian Army is someone from my family, my city, my state. They are just like us. They never bothered about what we post social media. Not bothered about what political parties claim on their victory and efforts. They don’t bother about how much salary our corporate employees get and how much they deserve. They stay with limited connectivity, limited food, limited resources, limited options. But they don’t complain. They do not show their outrage in Facebook or through open letters. They just stand there, putting their life in stake, keeping the family away, entertaining oneself with nature and with memories.img_20161005_113300123-copy

I have taken a lot of pictures and selfies during the trip but this is my personal favorite. A selfie with the man himself, can’t mention his name. I hugged him and said we all are proud of them. I hugged his friends as well.

I crossed the check post and moved ahead waving a salute and getting few in return, saw a series of army trucks few meters later and I was murmuring the song in mind.

“Kandhe se milte hain kandhein, Kadmo se kada Milte hain,
Hum Chalte hain toh aise jab, Dil dushman ke hilte hain”

Happily…

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Voice of the Valley


I am Srinagar
A misspelled word
Not once, time n again
Used abused and misused
Like never before.
They came, they saw and they conquered me
On their own wishes
And own style.
Not even once
I could say what I wanted to.
My voice was curtailed
With bullets or landmines and now the palet guns,
I don’t know who is a militant or army or who has what, AK 47 or 56
I took them all
In my chest.
Every bullet fired since decades
I have only seen blood, hatred.
I am little tired now
Not for the bullets but for the battles, I am fighting within me.

 

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Early morning fishing at Dal lake.

 

I am just stand-still
Amidst the simplicity
The beauty of nature
The curvy roads and wooden glass houses
The Jhelum and Dal,
I am Srinagar, I am alive.
Ask me, what I want
Ask me, the solution of your problems.
Ask me, what you do not know.
Ask me, before you take a stand about me.
I am a silent monk
Preaching peace, but nobody cares
I am Srinagar and i m struggling
Between life and death
Between love n hatred
Between stones n bullets
Between misfortune and mistakes
Yes, I am alive, like you all.

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I am not a symbol of Indo-Pak tension.
I am the valley of affection.
The nature at its perfection,
I am just like your favorite music
You listen to it once
Again, once again, then again
I am the messenger of peace
With much love to spread across the hearts,
I am the silent strings of a broken guitar
Been failing to be tuned in.
My wishes are in shambles.
I m scared of losing myself
In the crowd of political jargons
Amidst the laws that hold me tight
Even tighter.
I am unable to breathe.
Losing my confidence
To fight back to all adversities
And judgemental eyes
Quite unsure about the future
Rather I must say next day,
I am Srinagar, alive
Just alive without the Life
I am Srinagar, alive
Just alive, with a mere hope
Peace prevails everywhere.
Peace prevails everywhere.

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Happily…

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One Night inside JNU


I was getting late for my morning flight so I had to leave the gathering and meeting early.  After a 15 Minute walk loaded with heavy thoughts to pen down this article, I reached the Gate No 1 of JNU. It was almost 3am at the night. To my surprise almost a huge herd of media persons with camera and boom were standing and trying to get some sneak peak of incidents happening inside JNU. Few of them were facing the camera to give a P2C (Piece to Camera). To my surprise among the few, I could recognise Rahul Kanwal of TV Today group was standing holding the boom and mike. At this odd hour, though it was unusual I could understand the importance of the situation and the dedication of the journalist.

I spent around 3-4 hours inside the campus and tried to get the feel of the JNU heat. Since the controversy has started. There has been a fight within us. Some of us support the ‘Anti Nationals’ being termed by a few so called ‘Nationalists’. Well, that’s a million dollar question who is a real Nationalist. To find an answer to this I took pain of watching more than 20 YouTube videos related to issue and also read more than 50 such most shared articles covering both the perceptions.

Some people we call rightist and some leftist. But there are a large number of people who are free thinkers. They decision is evidence based, logic based and mostly biased with first-hand information. They keep one foot on rightist philosophy and the other feet on leftist ideology to take a stand based on their own judgement. On the same note, being liberal and logical I took another step to go JNU and get in more details about it. The atmosphere there must guide me, was the idea which I am sure I can convey properly to all.

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Image Courtesy : Indian Express

A fact has evolved now, the judicial authority in India being the court has now being partially transferred to people like Arnab Goswami and channels like Zee News. If the whole country is divided in the name of National and Anti-national, then this is not because we had anti national slogans enchanted by few students. Rather because the media trail led by Arnab Goswami and Zee News provoked the whole country to do so.

While walking along the deserted roads of JNU along few of my friends from JNU, I could hear the slogans from Ad block and we headed towards that. It was around 11.30pm at night. I was trying to overheard different conversations of students discussing in different groups amidst pro JNU slogans by JUNSU. I was trying to get the real sense of democracy and the gaps. Was it antinational and violation of democratic rights or fight against the hypocrisy?

What does our democracy teach us !! To question or to blame?

I do not buy the slogans of picturing Afjal as Martyr but questioning the trial of Afjal won’t make anyone anti-national.  But who is there to take decision of sedition charges or booking someone as Anti-national; Arnab Goswami who in a way spreading hatred by his rudeness and biased media trial or Zee News, who produced the doctored video to get maximum TRP. Media as I have learned it from the best Media Institute of India, is ethical and it’s a service. Serving with facts and information is something media should be doing rather put forth the decision creating mass hatred which leads to Patiala House court incident.

Shehla Rashid started with addressing the legal complications that the JNU movement has been facing and this time her stand was much logical than before which I could see getting praised by the crowd. Mind it, this crowd is not the crowd pulled by any political party, rather gathered suo-motto in solidarity where, i could over heard, the ABVP crowd in the campus was having some DJ night in any one of the boys hostel.

My eyes were then on Umar Khalid, who said in his speech last night, ‘I am Umar Khalid and I am not a Terrorist”. Though an extreme leftist, he has also put very valid question on the media trial and without any court trial how can one be termed as Anti National. I am not at all defending him rather my views are towards the safe keeper of democracy. I was more interested to listen to Rama Naga, the GS of JNUSU originally hailed from Koraput, Odisha who is also accused of being an Anti-National. As he stated he is the only member in his family to go beyond matriculation. His anger and outrage got translated to his words and he started addressing ‘Sathiyon’ to the gathered crowd. With confidence, not very loud voice, he started and addressed the biggest question which many were asking since last few days. He made it clear, that they had not escaped. They were very much presence in the campus rather, they were avoiding legal complications.

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Image Courtesy: Indian Express

Again Naga addressed with the basic idea of why the fight!!!! It is not about supporting Afjal or being Anti-National. It is being the fight against injustice. He was worried and he was concerned about his parents and family being targeted by media and others which, he has appealed not to do so.

Many people may not like me or dislike me after my this post, which may sound like pro-communist. But let me be very frank I believe in free thinking and liberal politics rather than biased decision making and fooling the whole country with miss-information which may harm the communal harmony in the country. The latest video by India Today exposing the Lawers who had beaten Kanheya and other journalists is just so pathetic in the name of patriotism.

I am amazed again to see the irresponsibility of Indian Home minister issuing false information believing on a fake social media updates. The stand of HRD Minister of putting flags all across Indian central universities and the most popular Mr Modi is silent on the issue. Where is the country heading and how the government is responding to the whole fiasco, along with unfair arrest of Kanheya Kumar has united the student mass. The #StandwithJNU tag is now trending and leading to unite more student groups all across India against the system and government.

There are questions unsolved, the release of kanheya, and trial of other accused students and so on. There is a challenge to be tolerant and face this issue. The social media fights have gone to a different level and the leaders are in making. The future of India seems bright. The leader of India is in Making. Inside the Tihar Jail.

While writing this piece inside the flight, I could see the silver lining in the sky and could feel ‘Achhedin aa gaye’.

The Irony Of A Festival That Celebrates Menstruation


I belong to a rather poor state and the State government often demands funds from the Centre to alleviate this dire issue of poverty. When I say poor, there is a lot that can be added to this definition of poverty. A state which is infamous for witchcraft and the violence on women leading to murders has a long way to go before it sees a change in the mind sets of people. This state is still witnessing pregnant mothers migrating from native villages to work in the brick kilns of neighbouring states, giving birth to babies inside dingy settlements in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. This state is still struggling with an open defecation problem which is a rampant habit among men and women, but the irony is that women can only go to defecate either before sunrise or after sunset to ward off and avoid onlookers.

Amidst many such issues which put women in the back seat, there is yet another concern which is still a taboo and not much effort has been made in that direction and not many social media campaigns have been initiated to make people understand that women’s menstrual cycles are commonplace occurrence just like any other act of daily life. Being a man, I may not be able to justify the issue to others to a life-changing extent but, yes I can definitely set an example by talking about it in the open.

If I look back on my graduation days, I can still remember that menstruation was a funny topic used to crack dirty jokes against those girls who were both our batch-mates and friends.  I came to learn more about it only when I first had a girlfriend and there was this guilty feeling I underwent when I came to know about the pain and suffering she went through every month. Now however, I have been seeing a lot of awareness about this on the internet and in other forms of social media but the state is yet to become fully aware of this problem. Hence, it is now time to educate statesmen about some very important facts of life which they may or may not be aware of.

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Courtesy : Menstrupedia.com

While I was listening to Mr. Anshu Gupta, the Magasaysay awardee, speak on this issue, he mentioned the poor and unhygienic sanitary practices of women and girls in many rural parts of the state. I could relate quiet well to it since I have seen that in most of the villages, shopkeepers do not even store sanitary pads and this is an indicator of the seriousness of the issue. However, in urban settings and cities even, menstruation is ridden with myths and many don’t like to talk about it In public; shopkeepers in fact use a piece of newspaper to wrap them up in.

Funnily enough, the same state celebrates a four-day long festival across the region and most importantly in rural areas, in celebration of womanhood. This festival is primarily meant for young girls and symbolizes those cultural practices which applaud the fertility of mother earth. Symbolically, the young girls celebrate the festival as a matter of joy and enjoy these four days with great enthusiasm. During the first three days of the festival and on the last day, it is traditionally a time to get cleaned up which is symbolically done by women washing their grinding stones with turmeric paste and adorning it with flowers and sindoor.

During the festival, girls wear new clothes every day and they do not do any other work apart from sitting, relaxing, roaming around and playing on tree swings since they are banned to walk about barefoot. They apply make – up and walk around in groups, visit friends and eat locally made cakes. There are several other customs and traditions and flexibility that these young girls enjoy without knowing as much as the crux the festival is premised upon. Some historians and cultural enthusiasts are absolutely clueless about the origin of this festival. However, many have admitted that the seriousness of the festival lies in the fact that people do not actually know why it is being celebrated in the first place.

‘Raja Mahotsava’ or ‘Raja Paraba’ is an annual festival that is dedicated to the celebration of womanhood, fertility and more importantly, menstruation. The word ‘Raja’ comes from ‘Rajaswala’, which actually means menstruating women. It is believed that during this time, mother earth menstruates and hence she must be given respite from work. It is even believed that the rain god/s pours heavily during this time in order to lessen the pain that mother earth undergoes. Unfortunately, this festival is being celebrated among ignorant young girls and hardly any of them even know the basics about it. It is high time they did. When people and mostly young men and women are vocal enough in many Indian cities to talk about menstrual taboos and practices, there is a further requirement for everybody to talk more about it in public spaces. Fathers should make their daughters comfortable enough to discuss these issues with and this should be included in educational curriculum across the country to make both girls and boys aware of things which are natural processes and certainly not taboos.

In most parts of the state, when people annually celebrate womanhood, it is much more welcoming and important indeed to let people know the reasons and importance behind celebrating this festival. Given the many problems when it comes to gender issues in my state, it is now time for everyone to open up about the fact that just like mother earth, every single woman menstruates as well and there is absolutely nothing to hide or be ashamed of!

This Article was first published in Menstrupedia.com

Happily…

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Kodak to Canon; My journey to see things differently


I do not remember exactly but it was sometime around when I was in class 6-7. I was quiet active in extracurricular activities and used to win prizes in many competitions. Those days, digital camera had not hit the market. During all those prize distribution ceremony most of the kids would come with their parents and with a camera to click a photo of their child getting prize. That was the time when I got developed the craze of being photographed but I was helpless and I never have a photograph of any award ceremony till 2006 when I got my first camera gifted by my brother-in-law Mr Biswa Bhusan Chhotaray.

KODAK EC 200

It was also a funny incident when the marriage proposal of my sister got confirmed all were happy for the obvious reason but I was happy more than anyone because he was a cinematographer and I could now get a camera gifted. I told my sister Anusruta that I want him to gift me a camera, because he must have loads of camera, which I was perhaps too ignorant of then. However, I got my first camera KODAK EC 200. It was not a digital camera but I kept clicking. My first guide in photography was a friend who is a great artist now Sitaram, who had amazing ideas of photography. No wonder he was amazingly creative then and happens to be a very popular before he joined JJ School of Art. It was a silver color glossy Kodak which I still have and I cherish my memories with the beauty. However, the irony remained same though i had a camera but i had no one to click when i gets prize. However, this made me trying my hands on photography. The journey started with KODAK EC 200.

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Quest to Succeed: A scene at Gopalpur Beach My only Photo which got awarded and i had got Rs 3000 cash prize.

I used to save money to buy reel and get those photos printed.  I still remember I was growing and my craze for a digital camera was increasingly growing. Then it came a time when i took admission in my mass com. I took this as a huge opportunity to buy a camera of my own as I was supposed to apply for study loan. It was Dhenkanal and Indian Institute of Mass Communication and I got a brand new black color Fuji Film HD 1000 Camera. The real journey of color, light, distance, micro, macro everything started with the sexy black beauty whose curves were my weakness those days.

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FUJIFILM

I kept clicking with that for more than 3 years apparently which gave me loads of good names as a photographer, which I never had considered myself neither today I consider. Those days It was like I used to sleep with the camera and it had become my companion. It was very close to my heart still it reminds me those good old days.

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Sometime in 2012

It was a time when it started showing issues and I wanted to upgrade to a DSLR. I had then revived from my joblessness and struggle. However, I wanted a good decent DSLR which could give me both experience of digital photo and video where I can experiment a lot. However, I had no money and I wanted to get it by loan which was a difficult task for me to get it from bank. At the same time I was also saving money , so that I can afford the down payment of a new car which I needed badly as doctor had strictly restricted from riding bike after my ligament tear surgery. However, it was also a fact that i had got the phobia of riding bike. So I wanted to go for a car which I still do not have. One of the sad angle of the story. Anyway, according to the plan, I messaged a lot of people who were very close to me and asked for some money, I had thought I will get small amount of money from these people who won’t ask for it for next 2-3 months. It is worth mentioned that these were the people whom I had helped a lot both in cash and in kind earlier; ever few had borrowed money from me. But not a single person replied and helped. So I had only option to buy either car or camera.

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Canon 550D

For both the thing I needed 50,000 ruppes and only one friend Bikram who still is one of my closest friend borrowed me 10000 rupees and went Narayani Motors. Car was my first priority and that time only Maruti Alto 800 was available with a down payment of 50K. I went inside. Discussed everything and all documents were verified. They took me to show the car and comfort. I get into the car. Sat onto the driver’s seat and I could feel my extra-long legs were touching the steering wheels and it was such a discomfort to people with height. With the stroke of that disappointment my wishes of buying car got scattered and I am yet to have since last 3 years.

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My First Solo open Air Photo Exhibition at Anjali National Children’s Festival in 2012

I came from the Narayani Motors and then immediately headed towards Bapujee Nagar, Spectra Vision. Our very own Prasant Bhai was waiting eagerly with his typical smile. I got the beast CANON 550D wit 18-135 Kit Lens.

Alok Mohanty, is the person who taught me basics of DSLR photography. I owe this to him. In due course i learned a lot of techniques. Starting from Sankar, Sunnil to Raj Sampad a lot of people have influenced me in their work. A lot many people have appreciated my work and i owe them for their constant encouragement. I would like to thank few subjects, who inspired me to click them. Anuradha, Madhu, Puspa these are few of my friends whom i loved to click and some of my best shots have featured their beauty.

The rest is history. I still consider myself an amateur and feel ashamed of saying myself as a photographer. Yes. I am a story teller with visuals. But there are a lot more to learn in photography. But yes, one decision I feel I took right that I never learned Photoshop. Because someone initially had told me Photoshop makes a photo better not a Photographer.

HAPPY PHOTOGRAPHY DAY.

Happily… 

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