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Jyoti Dhawale Surve – An Unsung Hero 

“I am divorcing you, I can’t live with you anymore”, said my (ex) husband, whom I married in 2004 (when I was negative and got the virus through MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE), who finally divorced me in 2008, and even took the custody of my only child

“You are HIV Positive?!”, exclaimed the HR of the company “But I thought that only prostitutes and drug users get it.” 

“She is HIV positive, don’t even go near her. If you talk to her or even be friends with her, the whole society will outcast you. Even your friends will abandon you…What will people say? We have a reputation to protect”, said a mother of my friend when he spoke of what good work I am doing for the community and disclosed my status to her. 

 “What did you say? She is HIV Positive? Don’t even bring her inside the house. Get her out from here right now, right this moment”, said a mother of another friend, and she dusted the sofa where I once sat, took the glass of water where I had sipped and threw it in the dustbin.

“My doctor tells me that saliva transmit the virus thus no kissing”, said my boyfriend, “and Jo, he is a well–qualified doctor, who holds several degrees” ..and the lump formed on my throat knowing that nothing I will do or say will convince him that it is NOT true. But still I educated him that the virus in saliva is not transmissible and virus from blood don’t thrive outside the body and die within few seconds after coming in contact with air. At least he listened. – Jyoti Dhawale Surve

In our society, HIV is perceived as a disease of “others” – of people living on the margins of society, whose lifestyles are considered “perverted” and “sinful.” People suffering from it face Denial, stigmatization and Discrimination in every walk of their life.  In order to break this preconceived notion of HIV being a “disease”, I interviewed Ms. Jyoti Dhawale Surve, a lady who herself is suffering from HIV.

She is not only a member of the Community advisory for the Well Project USA. According to the website of the organisation, it is “a global hub for resources that help women and girls overcome the inequalities, barriers, and stigma that contribute to the epidemic among women”, but is also the Indian ambassador at the Stigma Project-“An organization that aims to lower the HIV infection rate and neutralize the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS through education and awareness via social media. It seeks to create an HIV neutral world, free of judgement and fear by working with both positive and negative individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, or background,” as per the Stigma Project website. In March 2015, Jyoti Dhawale who is  known mononymously as Jo, won the prestigious Karamveer Chakra award in New Delhi. This award is  instituted in the partnership with the United Nations for Global empowerment and citizen justice.

Jo contracted HIV due to medical Negligence but definitely NOT from blood transfusion – because as far as she remembers, she never had a blood transfusion during any of those forceful attempts for abortions that I had undergone.

“Forceful” yes, as it wasn’t her idea or wish to abort. Her ex wasn’t ready to start a family and every time she get pregnant (she got pregnant thrice!), she was taken to do MTP.

Before one could think why she hadn’t tried any contraceptive measures, the answer is that she did. “Oral pills had adverse affect on my body and hence I couldn’t take it. Vaginal contraceptive has its own time frame (10-15 minutes of waiting period) and the failure rate is high. Top of all, when  a man is forcing himself upon you (which I term as “marital rape”) then one is very helpless in this condition.

She did not realize it back then but can clearly  assert now that she has been a victim of marital rape. “Rape is RAPE, whether in marriage or outside it. Anything that is ‘forced upon’ the body without consent is Rape. If a man does not like to wear a condom, then, a woman, even if she happens to be his wife, has the right to refuse and say NO. Why have I gone through this thrice and ended up being HIV positive? Why am I living with stigma and discrimination – I blame the government first and the Society next! The government – which does not recognize marital rape as a crime; and this society – which blames the woman for everything.” She reiterates .

She was entranced by her ex husbands gentlemanly behaviour. Things went fine until she missed her period for the first time in her life. “When I missed my period, I remember rushing to the store to buy a home pregnancy test kit. Oh! The joy of being a mother; of having a child of my own!” That joy lasted till she informed her husband of the news. “He told me to go in for an abortion,” she recalls.

“I was dealing with the shock of having learnt that I was HIV positive and postpartum depression simultaneously. Amidst this my ex- husband informed me that he had been having an extramarital affair and would be leaving me for her. So I needed to become financially independent, and began searching for a job. I was not yet ready to give up on my marriage. But when my maid informed me that my husband had been bringing his girlfriend to our home behind my back, I knew it was over. Whatever that was written in the divorce agreement was NOT mutual. As per the court, it was the duty of a judge to call the husband and the wife and hear both sides of the story – which in my case has never happened. I was never produced in court, never produced before any judge. A forceful signature means nothing.” Says Ms Surve as she fumes.

Jo has no regrets about her failed marriage  as she believe life is a learning experience – LIFE being the greatest teacher and PEOPLE being an experience.  She has no regrets because she believes that whatever she went through only made her and moulded her into a better person mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Jo met her current husband- Vivek Surve an HIV negative partner, in an online chatroom. “He was a ‘chat’ friend.  He sent me a request not once, not twice, but five or six times. I kept rejecting him until I decided to scan his profile. What fascinated me (not ‘attracted’, she clarifies) were the biker jacket and Honda Fireblade next to him! That got me to finally accept his request. At that time I was working for an IT firm, doing the graveyard shift. This ‘Hi how are you doing, I am fine, I hope you are fine, take care, bye’ saga continued for six months. Then came a day I could never imagine.”
Her father passed away on 28th June, 2011. She wanted to pay her last respects but her stepmother would not allow her near him. “He was all I had” she says. “Anger and hatred for my stepmother, and grief over my father’s death was eating me up. My best friend was in Dubai. However, Vivek, my new friend,  drove down all the way to be with me, emotionally and physically.” They planned to meet the next weekend. “My husband says it was love at second sight for him,” Jyoti says.
 “Vivek’s parents were naturally apprehensive about their son marrying an HIV positive partner. But when they saw how happy she made him, their objections dwindled. Their fears were dictated by ignorance. Once they came to know that HIV is nothing more than a illness and that it can be controlled by medication, they accepted me wholeheartedly.” Says Jyoti with a slight blush on her face.
According to Jo,the biggest misconception people have about living with HIV and AIDS is that they think That HIV is a “dangerous” disease. NO IT IS NOT. It can be controlled and managed with proper care and medication.

People also tend to think that HIV and AIDS are the same which isn’t true. Though HIV and AIDS are from the same virus, it is a different medical condition. HIV is an ILLNESS whereas AIDS is a DISEASE. Not necessary all people who suffer from HIV die from AIDS. With better medication coming into the market, one can live a happy healthy positive life despite being HIV Positive. Another misconception among people is that one cannot marry and has to abstain from sexual intercourse with an HIV positive person which isn’t true. One can live a happy healthy married life and even plan to have a baby provided that you follow up on the treatment with strict discipline and never ever miss the dose (of ART medication).

“Now when anyone tells me “You are HIV positive? But I thought that only prostitutes and drug users get it” I reply back with a pitiful smile (pitiful yes, because of their ignorance) “Have you ever tested yourself? You too may never know. I didn’t know I was carrying the virus until my blood got tested when I was undergoing abortion” And I could hear the gasp, I could see their stunned face with wide eyes, open mouth and dropping jaw, and believe me, I ABSOLUTELY love the reactions I get!”
As for “She is positive, don’t even go near her. If you talk to her or even be friends with her, the whole society will outcast you. Even your friends will abandon you…What will people say? We have a reputation to protect”, I had replied to that lady straight on her face, “Aunty, there are thousands of people who admire our courage to speak up. And they are those people who back us up. And your son is one of them who had participated in Awareness Program and who encouraged others to join in.” And she was glaring at her son as if wanting to know what I had just said was right and her son was facing her proudly and boldly saying “She will always be my friend”.

And oh yes….coming to the point of a hysterical mother of my friend “What did you say? She is HIV Positive? Don’t even bring her inside the house. Get her out from here right now, right this moment,”, said a mother of another friend, and she dusted the sofa where I once sat, took the glass of water where I had sipped and threw it in the dustbin. Before leaving the house I had told her that HIV Virus is not transmittable by air/water/sharing. I reminded her that I had come to this house many times and she had served me many tea/coffee/water in crockery that has also been used and reused for other guests. She wasn’t aware of my status then and now that she is, just throwing off one glass in the dustbin won’t suffice, she should throw off all the crockery in the kitchen if and only if she find one of the guest having contracted the same. Having said that, I could almost hear my friend giggle.

My ex boyfriend is now my husband. We got married on 2013. He still kisses me, heck, more than that, the husband-wife do.Once a year he tests himself which is always “negative”. And HIV negative he should always be.

Last but not least, as for the divorce from my ex husband, I am blessed that it had happened because now I realized the “purpose” of my life. This is where I belong and this is where my heart is: HIV Activism….To reach out…To give love to many people who need it and to spread the love to those seeking it. My suffering is not mine alone, it is also their suffering as they are also the part of my journey, walking through the same winding thorny path, having many long way to go, many difficulties and hurdles to cross to finally find the path laden with bed of roses.

My article on Jyoti Dhawale Surve-An Unsung Hero published in the August 2016 addition of Bandra Buzz.





 

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As the Dark Knight resigns,The Joker has won.-supporting the Policies of RBI governor Raghuram Rajan.

In any country in the world, a central banker who has managed to reduce inflation from 11% to 5% while simultaneously enabling an increase in growth from 5% to 8% in just three years would have a guaranteed reconfirmation. Not in India. The governor of India’s Central Bank, Raghuram Rajan, much admired by the international press, is under heavy attack in his country.

Before becoming the 23rd governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Rajan was the Chief Economic advisor at the International Monetary Fund and a professor of finance at The University of Chicago. He was appointed to the post when the UPA government was in power however continued to hold his post under the BJP.

Subramianian Swamy, recently wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking the latter to remove Raghuram Rajan. The former has done his Phd in economics from the prestigious Harvard university however I do not agree with the points he put forth.

He stated that fighting inflation with higher interest rates is disastrous. Well if interest rates are high, the cost of borrowing increases. This leaves consumers with lesser money to spend. with lesser spending, the economy tends to slow down thereby reducing inflation. Moreover one country recently decreased its interest rates  as compared to its inflation- Turkey and what happened later is well known.

Swamy also argued that Rajan should have been looking at the trend in wholesale rather than retail prices but isn’t that exactly what the previous UPA government did? This mistake resulted in a double-digit inflation, a shift of savings into gold and an eventual rupee crisis.

Swamy claims that small businesses are uniquely hurt by high interest rates—even though the most recent data from the ministry of corporate affairs shows they are doing better than large businesses.


Swamy points to the fact that bad loans have doubled over the past two years as proof of Rajan’s incompetence. Evidently, this is not because banks have been forced to recognize them but because we have a central bank governor who is not completely Indian in mind despite having been born and raised in India, and to date he has only an Indian passport.

He also goes ahead to say- “the consumer price index has not declined because of retail prices”. It is like saying rainfall was high because there were good rains.

Well there you go. An A level economics graduate proving a person with a Phd in economics wrong. As the Dark Knight resigns, the Joker wins once again.

 

 

 

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Acceptance : Love yourself and Embrace your flaws.

We always hear about the whole idea of acceptance in today’s world. They say to be who you want to be, to be who you truly are, to embrace yourself – and that society will accept you no matter what. Letting your personality shine, letting you explore and experience life the way you want is supposed to make you happy. We have our thoughts all tied up in a pretty, little, black and white bow. Well, life isn’t black and white. Deal with it.  

 Okay, so, don’t get me wrong, I accept that society has eased up on the pressures of fitting the same old stereotypes, of being the perfect picture that they want to see. But, facing the facts, everyone is still a critic. Everyone is still judgmental. We have simply gotten better at silently judging and hiding what we think.

Personally, I feel more like we are not accepted by the society as a whole, but by smaller pockets of people who are like us, the ones who understand us. You’re an outcast, but you have other outcasts beside you. At least that’s something… right?

As a teenager, acceptance becomes an important factor in our day to day lives. Take school for an example, everybody will have somebody, but there will always be cliques. You’re acquainted with the people who aren’t like you, the ones with vastly different personalities, but can you consider them friends? And if we aren’t friends with people who aren’t like us, the ones in other circles, then truly ask yourself, what is the idea of acceptance sown in people’s minds? With this logic, acceptance is only the common courtesies that should be in our lives by default. It isn’t some great feat to say hi to someone you know in the hallways, it isn’t some great deed to smile as you pass a stranger.

When a girl walks past, in provocative clothes, does no one judge her as dressing like a slut?

When a guy is flirting, does no one judge him as a playboy?

When a boy acts more feminine than what is deemed usual, does no one judge him as gay?

We maybe Dark, Short, Loud,Soft spoken, Nerdy, Dyslexic, Fat, Skinny, Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian…(the list is never ending!) however these are mere tags put on us by the society. Personally I feel tags should be put only on jars and bottles and not on people. It’s time we stop seeking VALIDATION from others and start ACCEPTING ourselves and EMBRACING our flaws.

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The Curse

Two brothers. One Curse. Intertwined together, helping each other in their moments of need, but at what price?

Scott’s Bedroom…

Beads of sweat formed and trickled down his face, waking him up with a sudden jolt of anxiety. No, not anxiety, maybe panic, or just complete confusion. His once bright blue eyes had become bloodshot, making them an unrecognizable grey, with more and more water building up by the second. The saltiness had managed to reach his lips, cascading down his now pale eyelids, blinding him temporarily as he blinked away the haze blocking his vision. “Where am I?” He thought to himself, as he attempted to analyze his surroundings, “what is happening?” Moments passed before he could finally recognize the familiarity of his own room.

There was a faint, but cool breeze, coming in, making him shiver. As he maneuvered towards the window, his movements were weak, seeming to drain more of his energy with every step. “How can I be sweating and still be cold,” he began to question, but stopped in shock in front of the mirror. The ghostly silhouette that stood before him, reflected his every move, but all that was running through his mind was one name. Damian.

Meanwhile…

There was a cool October breeze, Damian was coming home from his midnight walk. The fresh air engulfed him, making him forget the world around him. He noticed the white moonbeams reflect on the deep blue river surface, mesmerized. He could barely notice the faint engine noises getting louder. He could barely see the headlights approaching. He could barely hear the panicked screams of the passengers. The car swiveled between lanes. The driver’s attempts to control it were lost in vain, as Damian was thrown into the river. “Aaaah,” he screamed as he plummeted, the pain freezing his body and mind. The cold water numbed him, becoming unbearable. For every moment of sharp pain, a surge of strength engulfed him. His worry grew, not for himself, but for his brother. “Scott,” he whimpered, “I’m sorry.”

Mutually assured destruction. The question is not whether it exists, but rather how much it actually impacts our lives. Though on a much smaller, infinitely more metaphoric scale, should we be grateful for having someone willing to go so far for us, or should we be more worried about their true motives, questioning their reasons why? After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Curse or blessing, up to us to decide…

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What Teenagers think of the new ‘F’  word? 

when I told my mom that I am going to be writing of feminism and asked her if she is a feminist, she cringed a bit. Don’t get her wrong, She is all up for the upliftment and empowerment of women, for breaking down systems of oppression and systems that coerce and constrain choices of both men and women however, she regards “Feminism” as the new “F word” in todays world.
Maybe because of the over simplification of the term “feminist” has made it lose its essance. Maybe because of the entire Deepika Padukone – Vouge – My choice controversey that endorsed infeditily, adultry and sexism instead of celebrating womenhood and feminism.

I went ahead and spoke to a few teenagers to have their take on the new “F word” in todays generation and their reactions were rather intresting-

“Feminism is the belief that women are and should be treated as potential intellectual equals and social equals to men. Personally, I practice feminism. However i do not call myself a feminist. This is essentially because this term can hype any situation due to its sensitivity. Let me explain. The general argument is women are not treated equally at work place and society. In a country like India, this was the “knowledge” passed down to us. However that was centuries back and that school of thought is evolving. And with today’s scenario with women ruling the business world, I rest my case. However, the often avoided topic is how insensitive the world is to the cruelty and the abuse of feminism. We barely know and hear about male rape cases because there is no menism. Feminists, if they please can freely accuse any male including powerful political persons without any base. Today, I believe feminism still exists not to empower women who are helpless but it seems as though they want to overpower and dominate the society. Im not againsts feminism. Im against the angry feminists.”- Viraj Gandhi

“I’m not a “Lady’s first” type of woman. I’m more of a “first come first serve” type of person. This does not mean that I do not support the idea of Women Empowerment. Not the type of Empowerment that puts the women before men when both have contributed equally. The word Feminism should be replaced with Humanism. Because equality is not something which can be achieved by keeping women before men. Instead, they should stand beside each other fighting for a greater cause, supporting and understanding each other to make the world a better place.”- Mahima Khare

Kamlesh Kapoor is a stronger supporter of feminism and defines it as to walk step to step with menfolk or even ahead of them! 


While Rajvi Malbari believes that “Feminism is something women who have nothing to do do. They are frustrated people who want to put the blame on men for having a miserable life. Girls, if you sit in that NGO AC office, you better not scream about feminism. Yes, we do have a patriarchal society and I don’t really see feminists making it an egalitarian world. I see them wanting to make it a matriarchal world. So if you’re soooooo feminist, don’t use that women’s quota and don’t expect to be put first in the line and don’t expect guys to remove their jackets when you’re feeling cold. It’s about being equal.”

According to Yuganti Kaswala-  “today the word feminism is not correctly used : anything that is anti men or pro women is considered feminism , which is really misleading . In my opinion It is more than just about equal rights , we have all the rights we need but it’s about equality of life style, setting free the tethers from orthodoxy, about independence. I think what we need is to be able to come home after midnight, maybe drunk maybe not, with a short or a long piece of clothing, with or without a boy, and not to be judged. What we want is to be able to drive without being criticised. Maybe that is what feminism is about bringing an end to all the stereotypes that tag along with females. People always confuse between the terms chivalry and feminism, when we want to you to hold the door for us it’s not feminism it’s chivalry. These things are every gender specific just like the words handsome and beautiful, you can’t call a man beautiful, now can you?” While Nathan Jacinto believes “Feminism is one of the cornerstone of a healthy society, where the ‘other’ sex is not second, and definitely not first either.
 Zeehen Sherry does support feminism for sure and she does consider herself as a feminist. She believe in equality amongst men and women. She doesn’t believe she is a radical feminist and definitely doesn’t support “male bashing”. She believes that in society, women for years haven’t been given the position they actually deserve and she definitely support all causes that will help bring men and women on the same level in society. She think it’s important for the growth of society that equality is achieved as soon as possible and the level of oppression among women is irradicated.

“To me Feminism is a term that encompasses a platform and movement that can be used to ask for equality for women in all aspects of life, be it social, economic, political, religious or legal. I think has a concept it’s actually gender inclusive and is often misunderstood as being discriminatory or negative towards men when in fact for gender equality to exist , both the genders should be equally willing to participate in such an effort. Yes, I do consider myself a feminist. I also consider myself an equalist and use both the terms interchangeably”- Teesta Sen.

Recently a new hasthtag was trending on twitter. #Menism. While the Oxford Dictionary defines menism as “The worship of spirits of the dead; ancestor-worship”, Twitteratis took a completely different meaning of the word.

While Kautilya RajyaGuru has never heard of the term “Menism” but believes it to be quoted ” its because men are superior” which is false.” leading posts in top MNC’s and for a matter of fact even our new RBI governor will be held by a lady. you can’t prejudice all men for raping . There are several articles I have read of men where men are forced into sexual activities to satisfy the desire of the partner. The men can’t lodge a complain as they are laughed of saying ” who wont be up for it” ? and the great law and order of india which states you are not considered to be rape until medical tests prove it..so any man raped wont be considered rape as it cannot be proved medically? If this is feminism then I am sorry.”
On the other hand Teesta, just like me has  heard of Menism on Twitter. “I read up on it post that. While I think the thought process behind menism is to ask for equal opportunities for men and call out any sort of unfair bias towards women, it’s definitely a huge setback for feminism because the execution of that thought process attempts to trivialise the feminist movement as a whole.” – Teesta Sen.

Personally I agree with Mahima and do believe that we need to replace words like “Feminism” and “Menism” with the word “Humanism” where no sex is greater or lesser than the other. This will not only promote “Equalism” in the society where Issues like pay gaps, being afraid to walk out of the house after 9pm or letting the government have a say on your reproductive rights are a great concern but also promote peace and harmony between both the sexes that are constantly on a war.

Irom Sharmila and malaise de Manipur 

Let’s talk about Malaise de Manipur, the underrated sibling of Malaise de Kashmir and unkempt child of Malaise de India—some say illegitimate child, though in these modern times, tender constitutional love and developmental care can still paper over old-fashioned irregularities.

There is every need. The birth in 1949 didn’t go so well. It rarely does, with squabbling parents fresh from a shotgun wedding, the certificate of marriage to the Indian union still contested after 67 years. Then there is Manipur’s lot of seeing its own children being beaten, raped, murdered and legally ill-treated as non-citizens, the good cop of India’s Constitution diminished by the bad cops led by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA).It can drive people to rage. It has—several rebel groups’ worth. It can drive people to near-insanity. It has—a whole state’s worth, nearing three million people, suffering a decades-long run of error and terror from state and non-state actors alike. Permanent Traumatic Stress Disorder.
And now Manipur is in a moment. Is it because of Irom Sharmila, the steadfastly fasting lady, who on Tuesday broke her 16-year fast of protest against the AFSPA? Yes, but there’s much more.
Sharmila is free on a personal bond. Her undertaking to give up her fast brought about this roundabout acquittal from a morally decrepit case for the prosecution that kept her jailed all these years on a charge of trying to commit suicide. She cast herself as a protester after the November 2000 massacre of ten civilians by troopers of 8 Assam Rifles, in reprisal for being attacked by Manipur rebels. The governments of India and Manipur then recast Sharmila as what I have repeatedly termed a living martyr.

Rebel groups born of the majority Meitei community, Sharmila’s own, have always kept her at arms’ length, unnerved by a competing moral stand. Sharmila out of jail is for them a pariah with a Gandhian death wish: to lead with peace. They will hypocritically damn Sharmila for selling out to the highest bidder—not India’s intelligence agencies but, as it happens, the dictates of her own life choices. Rebels will light this path for many elders of Manipur, among them some entrenched activists of Manipur—some of whom openly take ideological cues from rebels. All enraged, as they cannot control an icon.
And if agents of the governments of India and Manipur, and various political parties, rejoice in Sharmila’s decision to end her fast, to integrate with the Indian electoral system to contest assembly elections due by March 2017, they will perpetuate the error of their ways. Sharmila isn’t theirs to run either.
Sharmila freed will not reduce human rights overhang for government. And it will matter little if this bedraggled innocent, this sensitive eccentric, this lady of courage beyond belief is unable to make a transition into an Aung San Suu Kyi that many now expect her to.
Because, as martyr or living martyr, younger Manipuris will embrace Sharmila. As a candidate, or a T-shirt, or campaign button, Sharmila will be the face of the youth, their fortitude, hope in a future. I believe younger Manipuris, no less scarred than their elders but with greater urge to attain escape velocity from the morass of the present, will carry the idea of Sharmila, the politics of Sharmila, even as the elders so easily reject her, so easily mock her when she—again, so spectacularly—shows a mind of her own. Where the unwise elders see betrayal, the younger and wiser will see betterment.

I believe that younger Manipuris will carry the vote. I believe they will travel to Manipur from wherever else in Northeast India and Mainland India they work and study. Unlike their elders, they don’t believe in miracle cures for collective madness. They believe in the curative principle of mandates.

Damn. This will be big.

 

Book Review: Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.

Stuck in traffic? Alarm clock didn’t go off? There’s nothing quite like the complete panic that shocks your system when you realize you’re going to miss your flight from Delhi to Mumbai. The pathetic WiFi service at the Indira Gandhi International Airport propelled me towards grabbing a copy of the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage- Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.

Here is what I liked and what I did not.

After the release of the last book, I never thought I would be putting my life on a hold to devour a new Harry Potter book, but 9 years, scattered Pottermore stories and many-Rowling-interviews-denying-said-book later, here I am. Reading Harry Potter & The Cursed Child was a thrilling ride, and not just because I couldn’t believe my luck at being given another chance to visit Rowling’s magical world. Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long. There was plenty I loved about the book, but there were also many things that left me irked. Below, I list a few of each.

Mild spoilers ahead!

What I loved:

Scorpius Malfoy
Once again, what a glorious character Rowling has created. He is the most stand-out addition to the series’ already glowing roster of fantastic characters. Warm, thoughtful, charming, nerdy, funny and loyal, Scorpius is everything I thought a Malfoy could never be. He is the most well-defined of the characters from the book and every page he is on sparkles.

The play format
While I enjoyed the twisting and turning, fast-paced plot in its script form, the stage directions and the dialogues left me wanting to witness its realisation on the stage. If the reviews are anything to go by, the play on West End is turning into a theatrical phenomena and after reading the book, I can only imagine how thrilling the experience must be.

Return of old favourites
The time-travel-involving plot of the book made it possible for us to see the return of some of our favourite characters from the series. Naturally, the most delightful was the comeback of Severus Snape, reminding us why we love him so much. Harry’s interaction with Dumbledore or rather Portrait Dumbledore, where he hashes out his grievances with his old mentor and father-figure, is also among the more moving scenes of the book.

What we did not like:

Missing JKR
Reading this book was a surreal experience, because while we were in Rowling’s familiar magical world, it seemed as if the point of view had shifted. The playwright did a great job with the dialogues and staging of scenes, but we were acutely aware that it wasn’t Rowling’s own voice we were reading – a rather disconcerting feeling for her loyal fans. Her signature wit, humour, charm and heart were there in parts, but the rich and vivid details with which she paints her world and soulfulness that made it iconic were sorely missed. The material was only a shadow of what it would have been in her hands.

Albus and Harry’s conflict
The central conflict of the story was the relationship between Harry and his younger son, Albus Severus. We get why Albus had trouble coping with being the son of The Boy Who Lived, especially considering how angsty teenagers are even when their parents aren’t famous for defeating the darkest wizard of all-time and saving the world. However, we didn’t quite buy that Harry would have trouble accepting his son just because he gets sorted into Slytherin and isn’t particularly popular at school. We are just told that they have a troubled relationship and are expected to go along with it.

Time travel
Rowling has gone on record to admit that she did away with the possibility of time travel in her previous books because it would have opened up too many plot loopholes. In light of that, we can’t understand why they chose to bring back Time Turners and hinge the entire action of the plot on them. As many fans have pointed out, the rules of time travel as used in this book don’t match those that Rowling wrote of in Prisoner of Azkaban. Not only that, it created a plot that was ultimately too convoluted and at the same time, a bit convenient, to really stick with the reader.

Treatment of other characters
Albus’ character isn’t defined sharply enough to truly make a mark. Harry has been stripped of his usual wit and good-heartedness — telling Albus he wished he wasn’t his son, forcing him to break up with his best friend, ordering a professor to surveil him at all times. All of these felt inauthentic to the character we all grew up with. We are told Ginny is bold, fierce and funny, but never really shown it. Ron, one of the central characters of the books has been reduced to background noise, serving nothing more than a mild comedic purpose. Harry and Ginny’s other children and Ron and Hermione’s children are hardly mentioned, let alone given a piece of the action. Teddy Lupin and the other Weasleys aren’t a part of the plot at all. We recognise that these omissions are probably to suit the format of a play, but we missed them nonetheless.

My take:
A lot of people have compared the experience of reading this book to reading excellent fan-fiction and I can’t say I disagree. Read the book as it is meant to be — the script of a play — and you might feel like you’ve just had some Fizzing Whizbees. It is an exceptional script based in a beloved world, and I am sure it translates into a fantastic play. Read it as the next Harry Potter book, which some of us couldn’t help but do, and you will probably be left feeling like you just ate an Earwax flavoured Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans.

Tattoos- A form of expression or aggression?

In the past, only sailors used to get tattoos all over their body but today, body art has become a popular form of self expression not just restricted to sailors. On one hand some may percieve people with tattoos to be aggressive, immature and rebellious while on the other it is considered as a popular form of art that expresses ones individuality and uniqueness.

It is almost impossible to understand why do people choose to go through the pain to get inked without actually talking to an accomplished tattoo artist who has inked clients right from the age  as young as 10 to 72 year olds . After all, why would someone endure the feeling of a cat continously scratching them or a feeling of being repeatedly being poked/stabbed by a needle right?

I recently interviewed Jeffry Dsouza,  an experienced tattoo artist located in Santacruz East. Tattooing has always fascinated Jeffrey. Whenever he would look at someone with a tattoo, he used to wonder how a tattoo can remain permanent as in life there is nothing permanent as such. It got him curious and that’s how he fell in love with tattoos.

All of us used to make tattoos on our hands back in school days with markers and sketch pens, Jeffrey was no different. However,  what makes him really different from you and I is the fact that he actually went ahead to make a career out of his passion to make tattoos.

        Jeffry inking one of his clients. 

When one tends to chose an offbeat career (other than becoming a doctor, engineer or something in the corporate world),  people tend to look at that person wondering if their future would be secure and for how long would such a profession sustain them. There were many who tried to demotivate and demoralise Jeffrey however his mother supported him by getting him his first tattoo kit in 2011. He has never looked back since then.  Whenever someone asks him for how long would he continue to make tattoos and his future would be secured by making tattoos he tends to ask them- “For how long do you think you would work and does your job guarantee a secured future?  God forbid but what if the company starts to make losses,  the company decides to relocate or shut down.  What will you do then? Will your 9-5 job yet guarantee a secured future? “

 A tattoo remake for a client who wished to change his previous tattoo. 

When this young tattoo artist showed me his several master pieces, I was left dumbstruck like a gapping frog. However I decided to write on ‘The Timeless Watch’ as it caught my fascination. This client travelled all the way from Kolkata with his story to get inked by Jeffry. Their are no digits or numbers in the clock as this client doesn’t believe in the concept of time. You are never too old or too young to try something new. The roman number conotates the client and his better half’s anniversary date. Having been born at 4am, the arms of the clock are frozen at that time moreover his client had been brought up in a Christian area, thus a cross has been drawn. The cross symbolises the impact the Christian traditions and religious customs that left on him as a kid.Timesless Watch & my article on Jeffry D’souza being featured in the August 2016 edition of Bandra Buzz. 

‘Tattoos are not being used in the same way , they don’t symbolise aggression, you can’t go with that assumption any more. People are attempting to emphasise their uniqueness as an individual. Tattoos have become an accessory.

Jeffry also strongly believes that it isn’t necessary to get inked just because your friend has got a tattoo. According to him, one should get inked to express themselves or get tattoo with a memory which they would cherish throughout their life.

wp-1470556079092.jpg                       Mandala lion tattoo

Jeffry also advises Bandra Buzz readers to do a lot of research about the tattoo artist, his work and experience before going in to make a tattoo. He also warns readers to beware of artist who plagiarise other artist’s work and cheat people. He  tells the  readers to avoid inking names of their lovers because in future it can put them in a terrible situation after they decide to end their relationship . He also says that one must  always go for good quality tattoos, even if it is on a slightly expensive side because it will remain with you for the rest of your life.

” This is a tattoo that I had inked for a client from italy curently working as a chef in India. Having faced  many ups and downs in his life, he wanted a  tattoo which shows both the good and the bad phases of his life.After meeting him and undastnding his story, I spent time  on sketching this tattoo. The left portrays the peaceful part of his life while the right half portrays the bad time of life which  includes his additicon to drugs, weed, cocain. He paid me in Euros instead of Indian  currency.”- Jeffry. 

Contact details-

Facebook– Jeffry D’souza
Studio location-Shop Number-5,
Noble Apartment,
Near Shiv Sena Shaka,
Santacruz East.
Phone– +91 99304 23307

 

 

From Kolkata to Mumbai with sweet love- an interview with an accomplished Baker-Shradha Agarwalla (The Dessert Cart). 

“Stressed? Eat desserts first!” says Shradha, the  founder and owner of The Dessert Cart (www.facebook.com/thedessertcart1)

She is a home maker, a passionate baker, a mother of two wonderful children, an avid reader and a big fan of romantic Hindi movie songs; she is a self-taught baker and big time foodie……always struggling to balance between her passion for food and burning it out at the gym!

In the little over  four years since she created the Facebook page of The Dessert Cart, she now has over 15,000 people from different parts of the world following the page. Pictures of her food and recipes generate a lot of interest, likes and comments from foodies across multiple nationalities and diverse cultural backgrounds. There have been instances, when she’s received enquiries from people asking for recipes, wanting to place orders for cakes or requests for holding workshops only to realize that she’s based in Mumbai, India and the enquiry is from a totally different time zone. At another time, a Mumbai based lady who was referred to the Facebook page of The Dessert Cart by a friend, called, to say that she’d come across this page on Facebook earlier, but always thought that it was some international food page and hence, she would look hungrily at the pictures, sigh and then go away!

The Chocolate Florentine Cheesecake is indeed a sinful indulgence😍

The baking workshops she conducts evoke very good response and learners come back for more. In the last 15 months, since formally conducting these workshops in Mumbai,she has trained a lot of foodies to make different types of desserts and breads. She has held workshops at numerous lifestyle stores like Sanctum, and art spaces like The Art Loft, Extra Mile Café and has also been featured by publications such as Bombay Times, HT Café, DNA After Hrs. 

Here is an account of my one on one conversation with this affable lady-

How did you get the idea to start “The Dessert Cart”?

I have been baking since I was 15; earlier I would rely on my brothers to be my critics, actually they would polish off (read, lick off) whatever I baked and post marriage, my husband and children have been my greatest critics and also my biggest support; always encouraging and egging me on. My eureka moment was when I attended a cooking class at 16; and since then I’ve been hooked on baking. Now, since my children have grown up and are busy with their studies etc. I chanced upon blogging and this was when The Dessert Cart was born. Since the start of the page, about a year ago, I have received phenomenal encouragement, feedback and response from people all of which has egged me on each day.

 What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?

The biggest challenge in conducting workshops is the last minute cancellations / no-shows. There is a lot of effort, hard work, thinking and organizing (not to mention monetary commitments) that go behind organizing any workshop and when people who’ve confirmed attendance simply do not show up (or call in the morning of the workshop, to cancel and a few other who do not even bother to call) it is quite unethical and demoralizing; and while accepting bookings, when one demands for advance payments (cash, cheque, online transfer) the participants mention about the hassles of coming over twice, ignorance about wire transfers etc! There is only one way to tackle this problem. Insist on advance. If people are hesitant /reluctant to pay advance, they are not serious about learning the craft. I have, since a few bad experiences, started insisting on advance payment, which now participants are agreeing to.

Plagiarism is another big challenge that I have faced. When other bakers / confectioners have copied pictures of my creations and shared with their clientele as their own. While copying is one form of praise, but, it is quite unethical and unfair. On one such occasion, when I first confronted with this lady in question, she flatly brushed me off, saying she picked up the picture from the Internet. I was quite upset and so I wrote about it on The Dessert Cart’s page, asking for advice. The fans of the page then went on a rampage on this lady’s facebook page, posting on each picture ‘if this is from the net’, ‘is this your creation’ etc. etc. The lady, within a couple of hours of my first call to her, called me back, apologized profusely and took off the picture from her facebook page.

The other challenge, while accepting party / birthday orders is that the people expect the home bakers’ products to be inexpensive, cheaper than the stores as we don’t have similar overheads. What they fail to understand is that the home baker does not compromise on quality, uses best in class ingredients which are sourced fresh and so the quality speaks for itself. There are a few prospective customers who expect you to give out free samples (as we have not tasted your creations, they claim), but have actually reached out to you through a reference or have seen your work on the Internet.Such people have to be told politely, but firmly, that if they want quality stuff, they should be ready to pay the price and that if they compare home baker’s products with that of a commercial store, they are comparing apples and oranges.

 Among dishes what is your forte?

I think some of my favorites / best sellers are Walnut Chocolate Brownies, Chocolate Lava Cake, Cupcakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Red Velvet Cake (I was told by one of the leading journalist in Mumbai that my Red Velvet Cake are the best he’s had in Mumbai. They are like the ones they make in NYC!). 

Walnut Chocolate Brownie. 

Diwali themed cupcakes🎆

During each festival, like Holi, RakshaBandhan, Diwali, Halloween and Christmas,over the last 3 years, I’ve developed themed based cakes and cupcakes. At the cost of modesty, I can say that these have been very well accepted in the market. The leading newspapers in Mumbai have featured them year on year. Workshops where I teach them have been presold and orders have kept me busy each such festivity. So,working with fondant is a forte.

Halloween special spooky cakes. 👻👻👻

Your baking workshops are really popular not just in Mumbai but across India. You were recently invited to Kolkata to conduct workshops. please share your experience.
My passion for baking began in Kolkata, and being invited to conduct workshops there, was an amazing feeling, with interesting, enthusiastic participants, and having Swastika Mukherjee attend both was really lovely. It felt like I was giving back to my hometown, and was a heady experience overall. 

What do you plan to teach in your upcoming workshops? Is there any age limit to attend them?

I believe in easy-to-follow basic recipes which give spectacular results. Something that you don’t have to put in too much effort to whip up, and with things you have available on hand, so you can just bake on whim. So, my upcoming workshops will feature fun, simple, deserts like these. I have participants as young as five attending at times, and there’s no age limit to attend them. As the saying goes, learning never ends!

My previous feature on Ms. Agarwalla featured in Bandra Buzz,  May 2014 issue ☺️

Ramazan is, in its essence, a month of humanist spirituality.

Hola! so after really very long I finally did an article for The Bandra Buzz on Ramazan.

Ramzan is the ninth month according to Islamic Lunar calendar. Ramzan (written as Ramadan) is derived from the Arabic root word ‘ramida’ or ‘arramad’ that means intense scorching heat and dryness, especially of the ground. Ramadan is so called to indicate the heating sensation in the stomach as a result of thirst. Others said it is so called because Ramadan scorches out the sins as it burns the ground. Some said it is so called because the hearts and souls are more readily receptive to the admonition and remembrance of Allah during Ramadan, as the sand and stones are receptive to the sun’s heat. Read to find out more 🙂

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Udta Nihalani

The recent brawl between film maker Anurag Kyshap and the head of the Central Board Film Certification of India Pahlaj Nihalani is making headlines once again over the film Udta Punjab staring Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, and Diljit Dosanjh in pivotal roles.The film follows the lives of four people in the state – a rock star, a migrant labourer, a doctor and a police officer – exploring how each of them fights drug addiction in different ways.

The ripples have turned into a raging controversy, with the ensuing political slugfest and  the ongoing tussle between the makers of Udta Punjab and the Censor Board hogging all the limelight. Within 2 days, the CBFC revising committee recommended 89 cuts instead of the 40 cuts it had originally presented.It wants the film to remove or mute all references to Punjab, including its title, dialogues, and a close-up shot of a signboard as the BJP lead National democratic alliance – Akali Dal has a problem with how the film has portrayed the harsh reality of Punjab instead of portraying the stereotypical sarsoon ke khet and showing tractors and cows. They fear this could impact their standing in the assembly poll elections 9 months down the line.

The crux of the issue again boils down to the restrictions being imposed on artistic freedom. Article 19 part 1 a of the Indian Constitution grants freedom of speech and expression to all its citizens with reasonable restrictions however can these reasonable restrictions be used to mask the harsh reality being shown in a film?  India supposedly has a progressive society however words like ‘lesbian’ are still muted on both the big and small screen. We need a certification board and not a censor board. Remmeber how Deepika Padukone’s bilingual romantic comedy was stuck with the Censor Board for the most unsuspicious of reasons; having the word “virgin” in one of the dialogues? Even after 41 scenes getting deleted, a scene from Haider got scissored because it featured a bare-back. Heroine had Kareena Kapoor smoking in a scence, the Censor Board had makers cut the scene because she was apparently “defying the Indian morality by smoking a cigarette.”

By merely turning off location, the fact that the net worthy drugs consumed in Punjab is Rs 7500 crore annually. The sensor board also wants them to cut close-up shots of characters injecting themselves with drugs on the pretext that people would get influenced and start injecting drugs. In that context, songs like chaar bottle vodka should never have been passed as it would influence people to consume alcohol and make them alcoholics.

We need to stop dragging politics into anything and everything.We are a Progressive  pluralistic and pragmatic society. We do not want to download an uncensored  version of Udta Punjab like we did for 50 Shades of Grey. We for once want to enjoy the film and do not want it to be the third film of Anurag Kyshap being banned after Paanch and Black Friday.What has been forgotten during this tussle is that debates around the film should be focusing on  solving drug abuse issues, the main purpose behind making the movie and not on making 89 editorial changes.


 

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