Thursday, July 4, 2013

An idea that changed lives

                  We have all, at some point of time in our lives, been miffed by the jokes on our community. Like every South Indian rolls his eyes at the stand up acts which ridicule the accent of Dravidians, like every Sikh boils at the "sardar" jokes and the list goes on. We hate to be stereotyped. As if that was not enough, we have constant reference to our traditional occupations. So what if my ancestors were potters,barbers, dancers or maybe even grass-cutters. We are way past the varna system that requires me to follow my father's profession. Correction! In that case I would have been just resigned to be at home being a female that I m.

                   If you thought the above points were ludicrous, just imagine being called a "habitual criminal" because of the community you belong to. Imagine never having a place to call home because you are born in a downtrodden nomadic tribe. It is the shocking reality of thousands of people in India. Sad but true.
                   I have lived in a place where these people were a regular sight to see.

           chaaku-chhuri wala, the man who came on cycle to sharpen knives and sickles
          bhandi-bartan wali, the woman who came to collect rags and old clothes and gave utensils in return.
          he boys who came with a whip and lashed themselves

                    These people never came more than once a year or maybe more. Where did they go? Except for the churi wala who had some sort of a regular base, the rest kept migrating. They carried their world around. How would their children ever go to school if they never stayed put at one place? How would they make a home? The next generations were destined to continue the nomadic life. We make a great hue and cry when we talk of reservations for these communities under the nomadic tribes but does the ear marking ever make a difference to such lives? Do they even know that they might get to study medicine under these reservations? Of course, they have to prove their family tree to avail of these rights and we all know they don't have a scrap of paper to even identify themselves!  Where do they bring their certificates from? For all you know, they haven't even been included in census!

                     Ration cards are not issued without a permanent address. Without a ration card you cannot get a voter card. I could not register for voter card because of my change in address which hadn't yet been made on my ration card. For a simple thing like that, I was denied and felt humiliated because I had every other document needed! I witnessed the crude way in which people in such positions talk. If it can happen to a well to do citizen in a metro, who would even entertain people who did not have any document. They are the nameless ones living throughout the country.

                     More heart wrenching is the plight of women forced into prostitution as the "traditional occupation". In the video link shared below, they say they never get married though everyone has a child and that's how the legacy continues. I don't know what else can be more disgracing!

                    I never knew there were communities called the "criminal tribes" during the British raj and they continued to be called "habituated criminals" in post-independence period. It is ridiculous to say the least. You stamp someone with a tag that he is a criminal without him ever doing a crime, then what do you expect them to become? It was a barbaric act to start with, but we turned a blind eye to their sufferings for decades. Even if the fresh blood in the community wants to surge ahead, they are pulled back by their past. They were made to register like criminals and pulled up for crimes that happened in that area. History sheeters by birth!

                   The situation looks depressing. Makes one wonder what is to happen to this country where millions are still struggling for the basics, thousands are trying to make a living and a few hundreds are exploiting the potential of this country. What can anyone do  in the face of the bureaucracy and red tape? What steps can one individual take for the betterment of such a vast problem? We think about it, feel sorry and carry on with our lives. We have our own battles to fight. We are the working class. This is how it is for the unfortunate ones and they have to suffer their karma. Until one young woman dared to change it.

                   Mittal Patel, a journalist from Gujarat, has been working with these communities closely and has succeeded in making them live with dignity. She started an NGO and her achievements are commendable.

She has helped these communities get lands allocated. Thousands of these people now have  a PERMANENT address.
She started tent schools to educate the young minds.
She organised marriages in the community where prostitution passed on as a tradition. Once a girl is married, she isn't pushed into flesh trade and that is her rescue!
She has helped them become self sufficient with new skills.
The denotified tribes are now given ids to not get them punished for crimes of their ancestors!

It is a long struggle ahead. IF one woman can make it happen with her sheer determination and courage, what could the government not do?

Watch the Video that inspired this post.

Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reliance Digital Experience

                 For the first time,I chose to participate in Indiblogger event that requires me to be present in flesh and blood. Seriously, with the voting based contests and blogger meets that happen when I cannot make it, I started literally ignoring the Indiblogger mails. I m glad I did not miss this one.

                 So as per the conditions, I had to first choose a Reliance Digital outlet and apply for an invite. I selected the one at Growel's 101 mall which is in Kandivali East. I was promptly sent an invite to visit the store on 29th or 30th June between 11 am and 8 pm. I thought it was a convenient date and the timings were relaxed. I had to take a printout of the mail.

                 I reached the mall at 1 pm on 29th June. I had a friend for company who wanted to check out digital cameras. The store is a duplex. I went through the first floor entrance. I flashed my invite at the desk. The person manning that desk was unaware of the contest and directed me to the second floor. I again asked a staff for the store manager and I was directed to him. Up to this point I was apprehensive. What if no one knows about the contest? What a first time! As I approached the desk of the manager, a lady sitting on the couch next to it asked me , "Aap blogger hai?"  I instantly relaxed. There was somebody!
                The manager appeared on the scene and I showed him the print out. He asked us for an id proof and told us to look around the store and he would be back soon. I asked him if someone would show us around and if we can take photographs. We were told we would be guided at individual departments and the answer to the latter was negative.
                Reviewing books is one thing and writing about a store is completely different. Especially if one is
technologically handicapped not very tech-savvy. I write about the experience in a totally novice way. I m no expert at electronics goods but hey I m 90% of the crowd that enters the store.
               With an electronic store ( where I usually would be spending anywhere between 3-50 K) a lot more matters than just the goods. I would categorize them as my 5 S system.

Space:  Space here implies the ambiance, the free movement and of course the layout of the store. This is the most critical and deciding factor for the store. Will you enter it? Will you like to shop here? 
Reliance Digital store looks welcoming with its peaceful and calming appearance. A store totally in white can look boring but it is kept interesting with the arrangement of the gadgets. The music keeps you company but is hardly distracting.
Each department is spacious to allow one to be at ease and stroll the entire length of goods.
Another point about space is if the shop really gives you "space" to decide for yourself. I hate those stores where staff keeps nudging you to decide. It's probably going to be a long term investment or maybe just a temporary arrangement to buy that gadget and I need to THINK what to buy. This store gives that SPACE.

Stuff:  The range of stuff on shelf was wide. Both brand wise and cost wise. The variety was great to choose from. I made a list of things to buy on my next visit.
They also had a wide range of products. Cameras, accessories, phones, TV, laptops, refrigerators, male grooming etc etc. It was actually exhausting to check out everything. It is also a plus that you can buy lot of stuff from one store :)

Staff:  The staff, dressed in white and light blue, actually blend in with the surrounding. You never notice them but they will appear magically when you need help with something. Unlike some stores where the staff is keeping a hawk eye on  you, I found the staff pretty relaxed and cool . We checked out  digicams and my friend had lots of questions about the models which the staff was able to answer. I was helped with the grooming products I was eyeing. Two of the products have made it to my list :)

Schemes:  No matter how affluent you are, everyone likes attractive offers! The store offers some real good deals. I liked the extended warranty offers and extended service offers they had. The installment offers also looked good for grabs. The best part about the schemes was that they were displayed on the goods. I found it helpful in making an informed choice. Refrigerators, washing machines etc had different stickers. One having extending warranty price, one having payment options, one having sale offer.

Security:  Last but not the least comes the aspect of security. I was just discussing with a blog friend about how the store had no baggage counter and we had to carry our stuff around ( I had just returned from college and it was a rainy day so we had umbrellas as well) to which he said, "That's good na, you can keep everything with you." That's one way of looking at it. Not everyone is comfortable with leaving their belongings, specially a laptop, at the baggage counter. So I guess that's their point of security.
The exit door beeps if you are carrying anything from the store :P One has to produce the bill at the door in that case !
Another funny thing happened. I was looking around when a woman was checking ipods. She lifted the piece from its panel and the buzzer went off. She panicked (anyone would !) and placed it back but the buzzer kept roaring for sometime. She quickly made her way to other station, visibly embarrassed.
However, the same caution does not extend in case the customer loses something. So take care of your belongings!

I finished my walk around the store and was stunned to get an apple ipod shuffle at the end of it. I was told that the goodie bag will be sent by mail. :D
It was an altogether fun experience :)
Thanks to Indiblogger and Reliance Digital.