The Children of Working Women & Their Dreams

Posted 14 Nov 2015 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

There are close to 5 million domestic workers in India. 2/3rd of them are women.

For Children’s Day and in the wake of recent debates around objectification of domestic workers and their timeless struggle for basic rights, a group of young filmmakers decided to explore the other side of the story – a brighter side.

They made a short film called Women Work.

It takes you through routine elements from the daily lives of the women as, in the background, their children read an English poem, Woman Work, by well-known author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. A poem which talks about the work these women do for their children’s future.

The film tells stories of hope and happiness scattered across the urban slums of Delhi. Here’s a glimpse:


Pinki , 36, is a mother and a cook. She works to put food on the table and educate her kids. Earlier, only her husband used to work but, later, to support a family of 4, she started doing cooking and other domestic work. Her dreams are tied with her kids whose mention brings a smile on her face.


Komal, 43, is an energetic woman with a strong voice and an unfazed demeanour. She asserts her opinion with a ringing voice filled with confidence. She wants her kids to become well educated and for that, she works tirelessly and selflessly.


The thing Jyoti (25) likes most is taking care of her kid. She is a free bird not bound by the petty desires of this world. “We won’t take anything with us after we die,” she says but hope glimmers in her eyes when she talks about her little kid.

Share their story!

About the filmmakers:

Sana Amir
Sana Amir works as News producer with – Hindustan Times Media group. She studied Convergent Journalism from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia. She loves to cover culture, gender and society. Her documentary ‘Flipside’ was screened at International Documentary and Short Film Festival Kerela (2013) and motion-graphics story ‘Let’s Cycle’ was screened at 2013 organised by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Her radio documentary ‘Empathy @35′ was screened at The International Association of Women in Radio & Television

Syed Farhan Aqeel Zaidi

Farhan works as Digital Copywriter with Genesis Burson-Mastellar. An MBA from FORE School of Management – Delhi, Farhan has keen interest in cinema and literature. Farhan writes fiction and doesn’t live to just eat.


Posted 08 Jan 2015 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Ahsan Jilani, 18

By some you may be loved, by some you may be hated
No matter what you do your actions will be debated
Sometimes you may have good fortune, sometimes you may be ill-fated
But to achieve in life you must always be dedicated
Life is a rocky road.
Everything may not go as per your anticipation
Don’t give up at the first sight of defeat
For success is a journey not a destination
When the world knocks you down
don’t look for a place to hide
Don’t give up the battle
Go against the tide
Forget about money, property and wealth
After death they won’t be worth a dime
Cherish the roses while you still have good health
Learn to live life before you’re out of time.

Ahsan has written the book ‘The Secrets of the Summer Camp’  available here


Posted 17 Dec 2014 — by admin
Category Uncategorized
After trawling through the Net all day for news on the horrific siege in Peshawar, and after going through zillions of Twitter and FB posts, it is clear to us that some very basic common sense is missing in many people.
And it is clear that years of education is not endowing them with any measure of real intelligence. The same tired old exclamations about Pakistan, Islam, religion is being trotted out.

So here is a crash course in common sense.

It is simplistic to blame religion for Peshawar. Or for the Partition, for Babri Masjid, Gujarat riots… These incidents are political. Because a religion is used to propagate political agendas, can you demonise the religion, and its followers?

It is the misuse of religion by power-hungry men which needs to be addressed. And yes, every person practising religion needs to constantly evolve and question its diktats.

Moving on…

The RSS, BJP, VHP etc are not representatives of Hinduism. The Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS et al are not representatives of Islam. Hindutva nutjobs and TTP/ISIS etc will not hijack Hinduism/Islam.

Just as a person wearing a lotus on their T shirt or the colour saffron does not equal Hindutva / RSS sympathiser, neither does a skull cap and beard mean the person underneath is an extremist or intolerant bigot of some kind.

So please, here’s a heartfelt request — if you want to change the world. start thinking deeply. Look at history closely, inside and out. Don’t just read abbreviated and insufficient school text books. Examine how the Taliban was created in the first place; who funded them and why. Everything that is happening today has a reason that goes back deep into the past.

Do not make lazy, half-baked assumptions. Inform yourselves, analyse, and understand issues. If you cannot be bothered, then please refrain from making any comment at all.

Maybe an eligibility test should be put in place for potential parents, educators, politicians and media reps. Candidates likely to spread hatred and intolerance for any religion, race, country, or other non-human species should be rejected.

Meet the superstars

Posted 14 Nov 2014 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

The Superstars of Koti is an interlinked story of three boys, living in a remote Himalayan village in Uttarakhand.

The lives of three teenage boys in a mountain village in India get pinned to each other through the revered deity of their region. In a macrocosm evolved out of an ancient belief where the deity inhabits a few chosen ones, the three boys reflect upon paths that have been laid out for them by the deity. As they clash in a flight of adolescent aspirations, will a coming of age entail harmony, or will equilibrium be restored by God’s own hand?

The Superstars of Koti is a feature-length documentary film, produced by Films Division, Mumbai. The official trailer for the film will be released on November 14th. The film will hit the screens from February 2015.

The film has been directed by 27-year-old Anuj Adlakha and 25-year-old Farha Alam – both students of AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Milia University, Delhi. Adlakha was on his way to being an economist when he dropped out of college. A couple of theatre productions, films crew shifts and a few failed guitar lessons later, he went on to study filmmaking at AJK Mass Communication & Research Centre of Jamia Millia Islamia. Farha is a photographer and filmmaker. Meshed between a degree in philosophy, Hindustani classical music, and working with print magazines and research societies, filmmaking occurred to her at AJKMCRC. Farha firmly believes in the conjoined and lateral lives we all lead and tries her best to translate that in her work. The Superstars of Koti is her first documentary feature.

“We are trying our best to take the film to villages in the Himalayan region apart from the cities,” says Farha.

Here’s a bit about the three boys – the superstars: 14-year-old Devdass Verma belongs to the dholak playing community of the village. He has been the chosen one since he was eight or nine. The dholak community is also the official service providers to the khash community, the seniormost in the village. So Devdass is also a service provider. Every day, at dusk, he goes around the village collecting food offered by the khash or the pandits in return for services. Dev has a role that he needs to keep up to –  to play the dholak, listen to the voice of the deity and collect food which his family depends on. Possesson is thought to skip a generation and affects the eldest of the siblings. Devdass’s grandfather used to get possessed, so it was thought that he too would be possessed.

Thirteen-year-old Kuldeep Singh Rana studies in the city (Dehradun) and always comes back to the village during his holidays. His uncle is the village seer. The seer is the medium through which the deity speaks to the villagers. Matters like land disputes, personal difficulties, are presented to him and he then provides solutions. The seer can only be from the Khash community, the highest in community hierarchy. They are also the only ones allowed to step inside the temple or pray to the deity. If a child or an adult falls sick he is taken to the village’s seer who then analyses if it is a physical sickness or the onset of a divine possession. There are very few doctors in the area and they’ too are used to referring the sick to the seers. Kuldeep has a sense of authority about him. And he has to keep up his authority, his upper hand, and his power. As much as he’d want to go and mingle with the other kids, he is not allowed to. He has to assume and represent this control that his community exercises when he grows up.

Fifteen-year-old Ramprakash Giri is from Nepal. He is about to be possessed for the very first time and is extremely excited about it. The possession has skipped one generation in his family too. Prakash takes care of his father’s dhaba, is streetsmart, inquisitive and a regular mobile internet user. He can’t seem to wait for all the privileges he thinks he’ll be bestowed with once he gets possessed. Ramprakash is an amalgamation of two cultures – his own (Nepali) and the one he lives and breathes every day. He seems confused with the ideals he is supposed to follow and with the deity set to enter him soon, he is occupied with thoughts of where he really belongs. The only particular role that he is to follow in the village that he does and doesn’t belong in, is that of an outsider.”

Devdass is anticipating the time when he will be able to speak in the deity’s voice. Ramprakash is inquisitive about the entire process and wishes to bridge the gap very soon. He has an entire world ahead of him and getting possessed is one of the many things he’s anticipating. Kuldeep is in transition and knows he belongs to two different worlds, the city and the village. He feels blessed to be bestowed with this kind of power and is not really anticipating anything. But he feels honored being the carrier of the culture, and proud to be able to reflect on an entire generation ahead of him.

We spoke to the directors about the film.

Q: What got you interested in this subject? What’s special about it?

A: My uncle is from Dehradun and one night he mentioned the idea to me. Next week we packed our bags, gathered some money and went to the area, which is when, we stumbled upon Koti. This is our first film. We were initially caught up with the idea of deitydom, rituals and a faraway culture.

But after visiting Koti and spending some time in the village, they got to know almost all the children in Koti. “We became interested in the concept of faith existing in the minds of the village children, and wanted to express their formative and coming of age story. The idea was to reflect upon social conditioning, faith and identity through the lives of these three children, against the backdrop of an ancient culture. Also the boys were very open with us, so it enabled us to be frank yet intimate with the narrative.”

Q. What do the boys want to do when they grow up? What are their individual dreams?

A. Devdass wants to work where his father works now, The Forest Reserve department. He and his brother Manoj are quite obsessed with their father’s job. Ramprakash has multiple dreams- to be an army man, mechanical engineer, video game parlor owner and the last one is always about ‘eventually only being able to take care of the dhaba’. Kuldeep interestingly doesn’t know at all. He hasn’t thought of it and has always escaped this question.

Q. Do girls also get possessed or is it just a boy thing?

A. Girls do get possessed. But men are lauded more because of the ways in which they perform when in a trance- acrobatics, fire- eating etc. The only reason we don’t have a girl in the film is because we particularly wanted to focus on boyhood.

Q: How long did it take you to complete filming? How did the boys evolve over the period of shooting?

We started in late 2012 and continued filming till March 2014, and we were editing simultaneously. We kept going back because of the need to film transitions, seasons, festivals and most importantly our character graphs which could only be projected over a period of time. It was not about documenting for us, because the issue at hand had to be stabilised for it to look like any other part of the character’s life. The boys also evolved over the period. Each visit gave us a new trajectory of their lives (this made it challenging to edit).

Q: How did the children learn to work with being in a documentary?

A: All they needed was a little brief when we first arrived. After we explained what we were doing, they didn’t need anything else. The attraction and curiosity towards the equipment and the process didn’t last very long; they got quite used to it. We were usually a two-member or maximum three-member crew so it wasn’t a ‘phenomenon’ for them.

You can find more information about the film here.

It’s World Food Day! Ditch the Kellogs. Go Traditional, Stay Healthy

Posted 16 Oct 2014 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Today is World Food Day. Forget oats and cornflakes. Ditch the soft drinks. Here are recipes of some nourishing traditional foods you should add to your diets. They are great for you. And for the planet too.

Aparajita Flower Syrup

You will find these edible flowers almost all over India. Aparajita is a perennial climber, its flowers can be blue or white. In Burma, the blue variety is dipped in batter and fried. You can use them as edible garnishes for salads. Or make a refreshing drink or tea from the blue flowers. To make a syrup, add sugar and water to a cup of flowers and boil for 15 minutes. The ratio is one part sugar to one part water. For tea, pour boiling water over petals and leave them to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain and drink with honey.

Kokum Juice

The fruit kokum or garcinia indica belongs to the mangosteen family. Apart from flavouring curries, dals and sherbets, it is also used as a medicinal plant. Kokum butter is used is cosmetics. To make a cooling kokum sherbet, soak dried pods in water for 3 hours. Add black salt, thinly sliced ginger, chopped coriander leaves and finely chopped deseeded green chillies.

Bajra Porridge

Bajra or pearl millet has been eaten in India for centuries. It is an ancient grain packed with loads of calcium and iron. In Rajasthan, they make thick rotis with it and have them with chhaas (buttermilk). Here’s a quick recipe to make porridge. Add 2 cups of water to half cup bajra flour and stir to mix. Leave this for about an hour and half. While it’s soaking, roughly grind cooked half a cup of rice with some water. Put the bajra flour to boil in a heavy bottomed vessel. Add coarsely rice and cook them till it thickens. Turn off the flame and add some butter milk to dilute it. The porridge should be had at room temperature.

Rajgira Porridge

Known as ramdana or rajgira, amaranth has been around in India for generations. It is not a grain, but a seed of the amaranth plant. It doesn’t contain any gluten. It is a complete protein as it contains all the essential amino acids.  The leaves of amaranth are sold in local markets as chauli bhaji. You can also pop the seeds like popcorn. Or eat it as chikki – with the seeds enveloped by a sticky toffee. Or as laddoos. Yum. You can start your day with a nourishing amaranth porridge. Boil raw amaranth grains in water for about 25 minutes. Add milk and jaggery or honey. Have warm.

The Privilege Of Being Underprivileged

Posted 14 Sep 2014 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Simran Malhotra

I’ve written a poem from the viewpoint of a street-child or a child who is underprivileged, to bring out his/her feelings about the farce of empathy. As a 17-year-old who has always been told to “give back to society”, I recently joined two NGOs. Initially it was to make the summer before university look ‘good’ but slowly it became about a lot more than just that. I realised that I love talking to these children, I enjoy learning about their lives. I have realized in the past 1 month, that what these children want is much more than just clothes or food. They want resolve, they want determination. They want to see faces who are willing to teach them how to help themselves, rather than simply helping them. It’s like that saying: Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime. The children can easily identify the difference between someone who actually cares and someone who wants to feed their ego or pander to some other checklist for school/college/university. They can see through the mask, they can see who you really are. Does that scare you? If you are just going to sit back, read through my poem, praise my literary skills. Then please don’t. If you actually plan on making a change, contact me and I’ll show you a million ways to do that. There is so much resolve in this world, so much hatred and so many lies. It’s your choice, which path will you choose?

The Privilege Of Being Underprivileged

There are so many things I wish to say,

Now that I have a voice

I’m being heard finally and how?

The world has no choice.

You made me this way you know

So poor and so vain

If only you could try to step out

Open your eyes, see my pain.

I didn’t do any wrong,

Not yet anyways

My heart understood, although

My brain did not

There was a choice

So easy, yet not easily got

I was born poor not made so

My situation had betrayed me

Why should that prevent exploration?

I am in fact- free.

I could do something new

Finally some progress

Your pitiful eyes, such a farce

Dropping pennies in my chaffed palm

Free food; free clothes

My life became easy, like an ocean calm

It was wrong- the helplessness;

I owe you the truth complete

Education was the choice

But clearly, I chose to retreat.

I’m privileged yet not complete

Sometimes I have the things I need

The lack of which doesn’t concern me,

It’s easy for your ego’s feed.

Don’t give, I don’t need more pity

Empower me; Teach me how.

I’d rather learn than receive

Do you get my point now?

A 17 Year Old’s Take On The 2014 General Elections

Posted 10 Apr 2014 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Khadija Khan

I’m a 17 year old girl living in Delhi. And in approximately three days, it’s general election time. As a 17 year old I really don’t understand how to feel about this election. It’s definitely a bit of a nuisance because my class 12 board examinations got postponed by 11 days.

But all around me I see that elections are all that people seem to talk about these days. Every time somebody in our house switches on the television, I hear Modi’s voice blaring in my living room because obviously Rahul Gandhi’s is too meek to be heard.  Every time I check my Facebook, I see everyone right from the age of 13 up till the age of 70 ( because I don’t have anyone older than that in my friend’s list) has something or the other to say about these elections.

This cute chubby 6th grader, my junior in school, who keeps updating us all on how madly she is in love with One Direction has also reoriented herself according to the changing times. These days she proudly posts: “Modi ROXXXX….. <3 <3 :D

The young adults in my friends list who are a little more politically aware express the same sentiment , however a bit more articulately. Some people do not even know what they are talking about. They just do it to show the world that we too are politically aware.

Every time somebody posts a status urging their friends to vote for a particular party and giving reasons for the same, the comments section becomes longer than the queue outside the Apple Store, the day the new iPhone <insert a number greater than 5 and the letter S> is launched.

All of us teenagers are becoming politically charged in this politically charged atmosphere irregardless of the fact that most of us still have a few years to kill before we get to vote. I don’t have any political preferences and I’m very honest about it. Even if I could vote, I would press the ‘none of the above’ option.

Some of us Delhiwallahs still have a little faith in Arvind Kejriwal because at least he has good intentions. At least he wants to change this corrupt system. However I refuse to trust a man who presented himself as a very humble, austere, simple, straightforward political activist and when we finally believed in him, he walked out because he had bigger ambitions. I wouldn’t trust any man who is easily willing to walk out on people who placed their trust in him. Also he seems to focus more on issues like how is a middle class man and his Blue WagonR rather than AAP’s manifesto.

Now coming to Modi.

For those of you who don’t know I’m a Muslim. And I can use another 1000 words to convince you about the role Modi played in the 2002 riots where thousands of my community were ruthlessly massacred, but I won’t do that because either you already believe in it or you don’t. However, as a member of a minority, honestly speaking, Modi scares the living daylights out of me. I have watched his interviews. I have seen him comparing the trauma faced by us to that of a puppy dog coming under the wheel. I have heard his speeches. The ones where he shouts in a furore, “We are all Hindus. This nation belongs to us Hindus. Zor se balo hum Hindu hain. Jai Hind.” And my mind goes back to what I learned in my textbooks about how our the leaders of newly independent India, despite undergoing the severe trauma of Partition, chose to commit themselves and our constitution to the ideas of secularism, of unity in diversity and of accommodation. And when I look at Modi and his sectarian ideals it seems to me that they could shake the very foundations that our country was built upon. The same foundations that Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Mahatma Gandhi and countless others spent their lives building. One fascist ruler and it could all vanish. Then we probably wouldn’t be the largest successful democratic experiment that we are any more.

And to all teenagers those who are proudly proclaiming that Modi is the better alternative because he stands for development, I would just like to know how steel plants, power plants and gigantic dams that have displaced millions of Adivasis really benefit you in the future?

I know all of this seems extremely precocious coming from a young adult who is not allowed to vote however these are just my pure, undiluted views on the elections in my state and I couldn’t have expressed these through any platform other than Jalebi Ink since it allows me, as a young adult to exercise my freedom of expression.

A Day At A Delhi Synagogue

Posted 03 Aug 2013 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Rhea Kumar

Situated on a quiet corner of Humayun’s Road, Judah Hyam Hall is Delhi’s first and only synagogue, and the newest synagogue in India.  Unlike Mumbai or Cochin where the number of Jews is still significant, there are only 7-8 Jewish families residing in Delhi today. The presence of Jews in Delhi dates back to several centuries, and when the capital shifted to Delhi in 1911, Jews held important posts in the railways and administrative services.  During World War II, several Jewish soldiers came to India, as well as some German and Polish Jews who fled the Holocaust. The land on which the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery stand today was acquired way back in 1930.  The cemetery was established almost right away in 1930. The oldest grave in the cemetery is of a soldier in the British army who died in 1946.

To cater to the growing religious, social and cultural needs of the community, the Jewish Welfare Association was formed in 1949 by Late Mr. Ezra Kolet, Mr. Joshua Benjamin Bhonkar, Mr. Baruch B. Benjamin and Mr. Jacob Solomon. This Association established the synagogue on 12th February 1956.  In 1979, an annex was added to the Prayer Hall, which served as a library and inter-faith centre.  The library houses books on all religions and sacred scriptures.

I had the opportunity to attend a prayer ceremony at The Judah Hyam Hall on a warm Friday evening in the early part of June. The hall is not very large, but elaborately decorated.  In its centre is the Reading Desk (tebah), which faces an ornate hanging displaying the Ten Commandments, behind which lies the Torah, the holy book of the Jews.  The area that houses the Torah is known as the Ark and symbolizes Jerusalem.  A Hanukkah candle stand adorns one corner, and a table on the side is stacked with prayer books and the holy prayer shawls.  The Star of David is prominently positioned on the wall above the Ark. Between the Ark and the Reading Desk are the Shabbath lamp and Nere Tamid, the eternal light.  Both lamps are lit.  The Shabbath prayer service is about to begin.

The Reading Desk facing the Ark and the Star of David visible overhead

Nere Tamid, the Eternal Light

Donning the holy shawl (tallit) with the 613 commandments woven into its fringes (tsisith) and the Jewish skullcap (kippa), an energetic and cheerful man walks around busily greeting his visitors and handing out the prayer books.  He is Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, Honorary Secretary, Judah Hyam Hall.

The hall has only about 15 people.  Although not all the Jews were residents of Delhi, what amazed me was that everyone seemed to know everybody else.  It seems that the small community of Indian Jews form a tight-knit network, and are almost like one big joint family.

The prayer congregation: Jews from far and wide

Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar with the ram's horn and the tallit

Mr. Malekar and two others took their place on the Reading Desk, and the prayer ceremony began.  Each psalm would begin with the priest announcing the psalm number and corresponding page in the prayer book.

The Prayer Ceremony in progress

One of the members on the Reading Desk would chant the psalm; similar to the way Hindus chant mantras.  When I pointed this out to Mr. Malekar after the ceremony, he told me that the two religions have many more similarities, such as the Star of David and the fact that both religions follow a moon -based calendar.  Some of the psalms were also chanted in chorus.

The prayer ceremony lasted about an hour. At the end of the ceremony, Mr. Malekar invited Jonathan, a young Jewish man from UK, to explain the next day’s Torah portion.  For Jews, the day begins at sunset of the previous day, and hence, Shabbath, their holy day, had begun Friday evening.  A certain portion from the Torah is read for the Shabbath service every week.  This week’s story was about a rebellion against Prophet Moses and his brother Prophet Aaron by a number of Jews.  As the rebel leader went door-to-door recruiting men for his rebel group, he came face to face with the `wise’ wife of one particular man who did not want her husband to join the rebellion. This woman stood in the doorway and uncovered her hair to prevent the leader from approaching her and entering her house to speak with her husband.  The earth swallowed up the rebels when they performed their own prayer service without Prophet Moses and Prophet Aaron, and thus the woman’s husband was saved.  Jonathan concluded by saying, “The lesson here is that the wisdom of the woman keeps and protects the house.  And the wisdom doesn’t stem from great genius, but from being able to keep calm in times of conflict.”

The narrative was impressive: well-formed, detailed and spoken with great confidence. I was impressed that such a young person knew his scriptures so well.  Mr. Malekar later told me that it is imperative for young Jews to know their religion.  “We hold Hebrew classes in the library adjoining the prayer hall for Jewish children, and the Bat Mitzvah ceremony encourages young boys and girls to read portions from the Torah.”

Jalebi Ink Correspondent Rhea Kumar with Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar

After the prayer service, I got a chance to talk to Mr. Malekar about the history of Delhi’s Jews and the Jewish faith. “Delhi has always had a floating Jewish community, unlike many other Indian cities.  But we do get a lot of foreign visitors, almost 10,000 every year,” he proclaimed proudly.  Before retiring and voluntarily taking up duties at the synagogue, Mr. Malekar was a human rights activist and lawyer and worked with the National Human Rights Commission as Deputy Registrar (Law).  He now lives at the synagogue premises with his wife Diana and son Noel who is a talented drummer with his own music band. His daughter Shulamith recently got married and moved to Mumbai. Mr. Malekar is a liberal Jew in many ways. He allows women to be part of the minyan, the traditional quorum of 10 males that is required for reading the Torah.  He has also conducted 12 interfaith marriages as a Rabbi and is a faith healer.

Mr. Malekar firmly believes that “everyone must follow their own religion and respect every other religion”.   “I hate the word conversion,” he says.   “The inter-faith centre at the synagogue promotes learning of all religions and helps its students to draw comparisons between different religions as a means of understanding them.”

It was an evening well spent. I will always cherish the warmth with which Mr. Malekar welcomed me and other visitors to the prayer ceremony at the synagogue that evening. As I bade him goodbye, he blessed me with good luck in my studies and for my future. For some strange reason, I got the feeling that his blessings carried real weight.

Join The Comic Bugs

Posted 05 May 2013 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

A series of funky workshops with Delhi-based graphic artist Arjun Vijaya where you get to create your own comic books and action hero stories. For young adults in Kolkata 15 years and under. Interested? Get in touch at for more details.

Say 'seeerious'. Arjun at his studio in Kolkata

Poring over Arjun's amazing collection of comics

Little people, big change

Posted 07 Apr 2013 — by admin
Category Uncategorized
By Rhea Kumar, 16 years
From repainting a school in Kolkata to raising funds to help victims of a flood in Slovenia, from fighting bullies to cheering up the sick and old, from making efforts to reduce the consumption of shark fin soup in Singapore (in order to conserve the endangered shark) to working towards a ‘zero waste’ school in Bhutan, they have done it all. Through fundraisers, awareness campaigns and clean up drives, they have truly made a difference in their communities. And no, I am not talking about NGOs or adult social workers, but young school going children, aged between roughly 9 to 15 years.
The Design for Change (DFC) movement identifies and connects with such children. From its humble beginnings in Riverside School, Ahmedabad, the movement has spread to 33 countries around the world. DFC has developed a four-step process to enable children to become effective drivers of change:  to feel (any issue that bothered them), imagine (a way to make it better), do (implement the act of change) and share (make the change visible). Through its efforts, DFC has enabled over 25 million children across the globe to say ‘I Can!’ instead of ‘Can I?’
Some of these inspiring stories have been compiled in two volumes, I Can (DFC 2010 program) and I Can 2 (DFC 2011 program). The books have been written by Devika Rangachari, an award-winning children’s author, and published by Amar Chitra Katha. The stories have been fictionalized and organized under various heads such as Health and Community, Preserving Cultures and City Infrastructure.
The stories are not only geographically diverse, but also vary greatly in the manner in which children approach an issue. In a story set in Taipei, Taiwan, a boy named Zhang Tuo Ye helps his blind friend Jack English ‘see’ the faces of all his classmates by feeling their faces with his hands. Zhang and his other friends make cards for the rest of their classmates and solicit their willingness to participate in this unique experiment. In contrast with this compassionate and highly emotional story, there is the story of a group of kids from Chalco, Mexico, who repair the city’s potholed roads on their own steam, when faced with apathy from the mayor and other government officials. The determination and perseverance of the children is indeed commendable!
What really impressed me was that some of these children were able to bring about change despite their own handicaps and poor circumstances. For instance, Saachi, Ila and Jagriti, students at the Blind People’s Association, Ahmedabad, are afflicted by Rubella as their mothers contracted it during pregnancy. With help from the local doctors, they organize an awareness campaign and a vaccination camp for girls from the neighbouring schools.
A few months ago, Devika Rangachari interacted with schoolchildren in New Delhi about her two books at the monthly session of the Habitat Children’s Book Forum. While I could not attend the session, I managed to meet her at India Habitat Centre a few days after the session. She is a powerhouse of emotions; bubbly and engaging, far from the shy person she claims she was in her schooldays.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
Me: So ma’am, tell us a bit about your childhood?  Were there any significant influences that helped develop your passion for reading and writing?
Devika: I was a studious and rather shy child in school. I always loved reading but never really imagined that I would be an author someday.  Even though my English teachers always pushed me to contribute to the school magazine and participate in essay writing competitions, I never really wrote much at that time.  My family, my English teachers and my librarian at Loreto Convent, who would constantly challenge me with books way beyond my age, were significant influences who somewhat pushed me in this direction.

Devika (left) with Jalebi Ink correspondent Rhea

Me: You mentioned that you never imagined yourself as an author.  So when and how did this happen?
Devika: I didn’t write through my senior years at school and in college.  But sometime after my BA or MA, I don’t really remember when, I saw an advertisement in the paper for a competition for children’s writers. I don’t know what struck me, but I began writing a novel, just as an experiment. It was a daunting task; moreover, I had to work on a typewriter, which doesn’t have a backspace option, so that was physically tiring. But my manuscript won the prize and came back with a publishing contract from Children’s Book Trust. That was Company for Manisha, a book loosely based on my classmate, Manisha.  I submitted two more manuscripts to the same competition the next two years, both of which won prizes and publishing contracts.
Me: Wow!  You’ve come a long way since then, with your book, Harshavardhana, being placed on the CBSE Supplementary Readers list?  Did you face any challenges on this journey?
Devika: Surprisingly and thankfully, I didn’t face too many challenges. After my first three books, publishers starting approaching me themselves and I never had to go through the struggles that most amateur writers face.  In any case, a very limited number of Indian authors write for children. Publishers often share names of authors, so if you are in touch with one, others are bound to approach you.  I’m still supremely under-confident, though, and usually send manuscripts to publishers with a warning saying ‘its terrible!’
Me: That’s really modest! Well, moving on to Design for Change and the I Can series.  How did you get to know about the Design for Change program, and how did you get involved?
Devika: My editor, Sayoni Basu, earlier at Scholastic and then at Amar Chitra Katha, got in touch with me about the Design for Change program. The idea of fictionalizing true life stories of children who had made a difference with minimal intervention of adults seemed very interesting to me and I decided to take up the project.
Me: So how did you go about writing the books?  Were you in direct contact with the children, or were you connected to someone on the Design for Change team?  And is every bit of the stories true or have you woven fiction into it?
Devika: Writing the books was quite a challenge.  Each book features ten top stories from India and ten top stories from outside India. In most of the stories, I was given a hundred-word prompt on the problem and what the children did to solve it.  I was given the names of children and YouTube links to the stories in very few cases, so I had to imagine and weave the story from start to finish. After I wrote a story, I would send it to my editor who would then forward it to the school concerned.  Here, it would be checked for its accuracy and would be fleshed out by names of students, teachers and other details.  So while the core idea and the sequence was fact, the conversations between characters, and the physical descriptions were often fictitious.
Me: Well, the stories have been portrayed in a very interesting manner, so I guess you have met the perfect balance between fact and fiction.  It has been an inspiring read, especially since some of the kids were really young, merely in fourth and fifth grade. Finally, what feedback have you received for this book, and what message do you think it carries for the youth today?
Devika: In the session at the Habitat Children’s Book Forum, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that some children had already read the books.  They connected to many of the children in these stories, who faced the same issues and pressures as they did, notwithstanding differences in culture and language.  They felt inspired and motivated by the stories and expressed a desire to do something similar in order to bring about meaningful changes in their communities and lives.  I’m pleased that the stories have been able to create a conviction among young children that if they have the desire and the determination, they do have the potential and resilience required to bring about positive changes in the community.  Doing something like this would be a source of pride for them and is an important part of growing up. Also, adults generally tend to underestimate children’s abilities and attempt to ‘micromanage’ their lives, so this book acts as an eye opener for them.  This, according to me, is the main idea behind the books.
The DFC movement is a continuing one and will hopefully spread further and deeper in the years to come. It reinforces the power of youth and harnesses the creativity and innovative energy of young minds to address everyday problems and issues. Like a student says in one of the stories, “We really did it.  We did become the change we wanted to see in our world.”

My Mohalla: Art on the walls

Posted 18 Mar 2010 — by admin
Category My mohalla, Public spaces, neighbourhoods

One morning, we woke up to see the walls in our neighbourhood, Bandra, in Mumbai had been adorned with paintings  – some beautiful, some fantastical, others strange but interesting and some that were like bad squiggles in our text books. It was fascinating – a walk to the school or bazaar is now a completely different experience. We don’t know what we will come across. A barber with a razor, twirling his moustache. A skeleton calling itself the ‘ghost of Bandra’.  Amitabh Bachchan. A blue face with a red tongue sticking out – this reminded us of the image of goddess Kali, only it was a man’s face with a moustache. We decided to spend a sunny afternoon exploring the painted walls.

Here are some photos of that afternoon. More graffiti is coming up all around us. We will keep track and keep you posted.


My Mohalla, Jalebi Ink’s Neighbourhood Project, tracks the history and culture of neighbourhoods through the people who inhabit the spaces, their individual histories and cultural influences. Would you like to join us? Write to us at

My friend, Ningraj Baburao

Posted 23 Mar 2010 — by admin
Category My friend Ningraj, TalkAbout

By Abhimanyu Sengupta, 10

I used to walk my dog in a big ground near my house called Goowadi. One day me and my friend Kabir saw some kids playing in the ground. I asked them can I play with you? Yes, they said. One of the children from that bunch was called Ningraj. He lives in a shanty near the ground. His father has made many of the buildings in our neighbourhood in Bombay. He is a construction labourer. Whenever I went to the ground from then, I would pass Ninraj’s shanty. We would go to Goowadi with my dog and play. This is a photo of Ningraj (on the left), me and my friend Kabir (on the right) with my dog, Spirit.

One day I asked him to come to my house. He said hello to my mother. I took him to play with the rest of my friends in MTNL Colony. Soon we were good friends. And now this is the third year of our friendship and I know many things about him. Like his full name is Ningraj Baburao. And how much he can sleep. And when he grows up he wants to be a pilot. He also told my mother he wants to be an inspector to stop bad things from happening to people. Actually, he has not decided yet what he wants to be. This is a photo of Ningraj with some of my friends in MTNL Colony.

Ningraj has a small brother and his name is Sonu. Sonu and Ningraj study in the same class. This is me below, with Sonu and Ningraj in front of their house. It was Sonu’s birthday that day. Their parents had decorated the area with a very colourful pandal and streamers.

Ningraj has a dog called Moti. He is huge. Really huge. But he hates going into the main road as he is very scared of cars. And he has lovely eyes. And a pointy face. I go to Ningraj’s house sometimes to play with Moti.

Ningraj’s  house is made out of wooden planks. I have been there many times.

I like his house – it is open on all sides and has many trees around it. But Ningraj told me that it is sinking. There is a big hole next to it which was dug because someone wanted to build a house there. But it was not made. But the hole is still there. Every time it rains in the monsoons, the hole is filled with water – it looks like a pond but is very dirty. All the ground near the pond is sinking into the water. And the water comes into Ningraj’s place.

One day we had gone to Crossword with Ningraj. Crossword is one of my favourite places in Bandra. It is a book store. But it also has lots of toys and games. Ningraj and I go there many times with my mother. One day we were entering Crossword. Ningraj stopped and pointed to the building opposite and said very proudly, “My father has built this building.” It was a very big building and very shiny with glass in front. His father works very hard to build buildings like this in Bombay. But Ningraj stays in a shanty. He told me his father used to work for a ‘Seth’ and then he had a quarrel with him. Now he works for someone else. This Seth is now trying to throw them out of the shanty.

Ningraj can climb trees in Goowadi super fast. He is a very good climber.

Many people do not like me and Ningraj being friends. In the beginning the other people  living in my building told my mother that Ningraj could not come into the building. They said people like him are “not allowed.” I was very upset. My mother was very angry. One day, when Ningraj continued to come to our building, the building secretary slapped him. I was crying. I was so angry.  My mother went down and took him into our building holding his hand. No one could say anything. Now slowly people have accepted him. No one complains anymore. Somebody even gave him a second-hand bicycle that they did not use anymore. Even when I go to shops like Crossword with him, the people there stare at him. Many times he was told to get out as they thought he had just wandered in. My mother told them he was with us. Then they would say sorry.

I have a lot of fun with Ningraj. We spend a lot of time together. He comes to my house in the evening after his school gets over. I can hear the loud trrring trrring of his bicycle bell from my window.  I think he does that to tell me he is coming. We play cricket, hockey, football, go cycling. We climb trees and pluck guavas and mangoes. We play games like Twister and Scotland Yard. We love watching Dragon BallZ together at my place and then pretending to be Goku or Gohaan and and we love to wrestle.

I have begun to teach Ningraj to read and write in English. He is very good in maths. And his handwriting is very neat. But he gets confused with spellings and cannot read. My mother is trying to teach him too. She gets very angry with him sometimes when he makes mistakes. Then he gets scared.

In my holidays, I will go to Goa to visit our friends and family who live there. I want to take Ningraj with me. He has been to my school. All my friends in Bombay know him.

“I want to tell all children that mines in Goa must be closed”

Posted 06 Apr 2010 — by admin
Category GreenWatch, child rights, environment

A report by Sushila Mendonca

Meet 9-year-old Akash Sham Sunder Naik – a veritable David taking on a Goliath. After all, mining companies in Goa, and for that matter anywhere in the world, are no small fry to take on and oppose. Akash has done just that. He has filed a PIL (public interest litigation) in the high court of Bombay (Goa Bench) against one of Goa’s largest mining companies, Sesa Goa, for unlawful mining activity. Akash Naik has filed a petition against Sesa Goa, charging them of unlawful mining activity in Advalpal.

Thanks to Akash, Sesa Goa was told to restrain all mining operations at Advalpal by the Goa bench of Bombay High Court in an interim order.

Till a couple of months back, Akash used to live in the village of Advalpal in Bicholim district in North Goa. Bicholim is one of the worst affected villages by iron-ore mining that has taken over Goa. The villages here have red roads, and red houses and red trees and red grass and a red haze in the air which doesn’t always make the locals see as red as we the non- affected would expect them to feel from our safe places. Perhaps the only green seen is that which buys silence.

He shifted to the outskirts of Panjim city after his doctor advised his parents to shift away from the area in order to improve their health. Akash misses his carefree days in his village. He could never be found at home – if he wasn’t in the neighbors house, he was running around in the village, exploring the hill side, picking at wild berries and playing in whichever natural water bodies he and his band of merry friends could find.

His source of inspiration is his father, Shyamsunder Naik, an activist who has been protesting about mining companies and the damage they are doing to his village since 2005. Because of this, Akash, along with other children from the village, have attended many protests and public meetings. This has included rallies to the pollution board and to the premises of a mining company.

I went to visit Akash at his house in the outskirts of Panjim where he now stays. This is what he had to say:

“My name is Akash Sham Sunder Naik. I am nine years old. Till some months back, I used to live in our old village — Advalpal in Bicholim taluka in North Goa. But I had to shift to another place because of all the destruction happening due to mining in our village. The mining companies are cutting up whole hills and they are spoiling our village. Because of that, there is so much pollution. The red dust is everywhere – it is entering our noses and mouths. Children in our village are falling sick, getting breathing problems and other complications. I too fell sick. I had repeated bouts of cough and cold and I missed a lot of school. I got typhoid. My doctor told me it is all because of the red dust in the air.
Our springs were also drying up and people’s fields were drying up. After the mining began, wild animals from the forested hills started coming into our homes. People got bitten by snakes. One day, after it rained heavily during the monsoons, a mudslide happened in the night on one of the mined hills. All the excavated and loosened mud caused by the mining turned to slush, slid down the hill entered houses from the rear and exiting from the front sweeping away the houses along with it into the fields. People were sleeping in the houses. This was the turning point. We felt we couldn’t take it anymore. I filed a case so all this does not happen in the future. I would like to tell all children that they may be just children but they too should come forward to help close that iron-ore mine in our old village. Close all mines. Only if this mining stops, will our houses, our villages remain. And only then will we get water. If these mines are not stopped we will not get water in the future. That’s why I filed a PIL. I want to tell all children that all mines in Goa need to be closed. My request to everyone is please help us close down the mines that are destroying Goa.”

The Goa Foundation (, a well-known environmental action group which is pursuing several litigations against mining firms helped Akash file a case.

Akash’s petition has been a nasty jolt to the leading mining company owned by the UK-based Vedanta Group. The company recently made headlines when it bought mining leases worth over Rs17 billion from Goa-based Dempo Group.

How you can help:

1. Leave your comments to this story in the comments box. The more reactions people see, the more they will realise this is an issue that matters to you.

2.Write to to take part in a campaign to stop mining in Goa.

My Mohalla: The Keymaker

Posted 22 Apr 2010 — by admin
Category My mohalla, Street Vendors, neighbourhoods

By Subhashri Acharya, 10

Have you ever been locked out of your house because you left your housekeys behind inside the house? It’s happened to many people I know. Who do you go to? The local keymaker of course.

In Bandra, where I live, you can see many keymakers on the pavements. All of them use colourful handpainted signs to advertise themselves.

But the one who gets noticed most is Javed Khan. His ad is a giant, bright yellow and red key hanging from a tree. You can see it from really far away.

Javed Khan has been making keys for 35 years now. He says he began making keys when he was just ten years old. Sometimes he gets many customers. Some days he gets a lot less. Human beings keep losing the many different keys they have in their lives – the car keys, the keys to the cupboard, two-wheeler keys, keys to a safe or a locker.

He says he makes anything from five to fifteen keys in a day. He showed us a huge bunch of old keys and different sets of key blanks. When anyone comes to him to make a duplicate, he cuts the key blanks into the required shape. Sometimes when you do not have a key at all because you have lost it, he can measure the keyhole and make a key for you.

He uses many tools to make keys. When he is making a duplicate, he uses a special prong to measure the distance between the notches in a key. Then he cuts and files the duplicate key according to the measurements he has taken. He uses different files to shape keys.

Sometimes he uses this machine to cut the notches in the key. He ordered it all the way from Delhi. It costs Rs20,000!  It uses two things to make a copy of a key in less than a minute — a sensor and a cutter.

Are you wondering how much it would cost to make a key? Anything from Rs5 to Rs40, depending on the key.

We gave him a key to make a duplicate of and he made it in eight minutes ten seconds flat.

I asked him what if some thief or a criminal comes to him to get a key made, can he make out if someone has bad intentions? Khan said that it is very difficult to make out. But if gets suspicious of someone because of wrong signals or vibes, he just refuses to make a key.

Javed Khan told us he is from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh in north India. He says people in his family have been making keys for many years. His uncle was a keymaker too. He likes to live in Bombay because the climate is always pleasant here.

Watch a video report of this story on Jalebi Ink’s YouTube channel:

The Keymaker on YouTube

A street play for strays

On Sunday evening (April 25), we joined a group of street theatre artists who put up a roadside performance to protest against cruelty towards animals, especially strays. We first met Durga Rai, the head of the group. She is a student of NSD (National School of Drama).  She is also a member of the animal welfare organization called Karuna.

She had some students of KC College with her who were performing in the play. They said they were performing every day at some public spot in Mumbai. The last performance will be on May 30 and then they would wrap it up for the time being.

The troupe began their journey from Linking Road, Bandra. We went with them shooting with our cameras. First they went around distributing pamphlets which talked about the need to stop cruelty to animals to people on the road. We also helped them distribute the pamphlets.

Durga told everyone that if you see an injured animal, please call on the number given on the pamphlets. She also told them if anyone tries to injure an animal, they can be sentenced for up to seven years.

After that they went to New Hanuman Nagar, near Carter Road and performed their play. This was a slum and it many kids came to watch the play.

In the play, Durga is asked by two very rude men to stop feeding dogs. They also tell her if she loves them so much, to take them home with her. That they are dirty and they bite.

Durga replies that humans have taken over their homes – the dogs used to live in the same places where we have built our houses. We uproot animals and then do not want them around. She said humans too dirty up places. Look at rail tracks – people are using public spaces as toilets too. So why pick on animals? And if you think the dog population is getting too big and think killing them is a good idea, then humans too should face the same treatment because they too are growing in large numbers. All this made the audience think.

After the play, Durga made the children promise they would never be unkind to street dogs. We saw lots of children petting the dogs in the area after the play was over. And some people were feeding the dogs. One man came and said I like dogs and feed them but my wife chases them with a stick. Another man came and asked her how to round up the dogs for sterilization and send to Karuna.

After everything was over, we said bye to Durga and the team took one last picture together. I hope we meet them again.

My day at The Farmer’s Market

Posted 01 May 2010 — by admin
Category GreenWatch, Jalebi Ink Events

By Parina Muchhala, 11

I had been to the Farmer’s Market at Bandra (West) in Mumbai on Sunday, the 25th of April. Here all the food sold was organic and chemical-free. As I stepped in, a fresh smell of vegetables greeted me. It was a huge garden, with different stalls selling vegetables, beads, solar caps, juice, herbal medicines and so on.

Some people were performing Agnihotra, a yagna to purify the air. There were many farmers selling different vegetables, most of them being potatoes, onions etc. And some food counters too. There was a bhel puri counter where it was all naturally grown ingredients used. ‘95% organic bhelpuri’ said the poster. There was a book exhibition and a sushi counter too.

You would also get organic sugarcane juice! And there were some herbal medicine counters selling medicines to cure almost any type of fever.

I went to interview a few farmers and some people. At first I went to Mr. Anand Bhave, a 47 year old man who lives in Andheri and does paper folding art. He says, “I make furniture out of recycled paper and use natural colours. I love nature and so I don’t want it to get destroyed.” On asking him at what age he started doing this he says, “I started doing paper craft on my own when I was 10 and no one taught me to do it.” He says he uses only a few tools to do this. “I only use some tools like cutters, pokers and hands, most of the time.” He has 12 hobbies like skating, traveling, making things etc. Bhave loves to do this at any time, any place and has a company called ‘Oricraft’.

Next we went to a farmer called Mr. Sampat Balnath Dhamane. He has come from Nasik to sell his crop. I asked him how he fertilized his crop, and he says, “I use gobar (cow dung) to fertilize my crop. I take more time to grow it and more of my efforts are wasted.” When asked why organic foods are better Dhamane says, “There is no chemical and you get natural sweetness in the food.” He grows bottle gourd, onions etc. on his farm. The government does not support him in any way, he only has a certified right to grow such crops. Whenever he goes to places like Bhajji Gali, the farmers and sellers using chemicals protest against him. “They do not let me sell my things there, so I have to go somewhere else.” He delivers fresh things at your doorstep and you can contact him at 9004259600.

Then I interviewed another farmer called Ramesh Pawar, who too had come here from Nasik. It was his family business. He says, “Organic foods are better for you because there is no chemical in it. I use gobar (cow dung), chana ka aata, gomutra (cow urine), neem leaves and jaggery to make a slurry. That is the fertilizer I use.” They have a certified group called ‘Kashap Group of Organic Farmer’ which includes 5 other farmers like him. They are running it since 13 years. He ends by saying that all should eat organic foods for the betterment of their health.

And suddenly, I bumped into Mrs. Kavita Mukhi, the person who started this market. On asking her how and why she started the market she said, “I had started a company called Conscious Foods in 1990 to sell the dry versions of food. But I wanted to give fresh food to everyone. So the farmers came together and I could make this market. Also, because my son was a colicky child, and I realized it was due to harmful chemicals in food, I studied nutrition. This market started before 6 weeks.” She says that the farmers get all their earnings. “I do not take any commission from the farmers and they take home the full price. Only we take a little bit from the stall owners.” Mrs. Mukhi was a journalist before becoming a nutritionist. “I was one of the first employees with Gentlemen magazine, and I yet dabble in writing every now and then.” I asked her if she has and special message for all the readers and she says, “Choose organic not for your health but for the earth’s health. This market is open to all of you. You can come and organize workshops, play around, and do whatever you like.”  And there ended my interview with her.

I really had a lot of fun paying a visit to the farmers market and you must go too. There are many activities here and you would enjoy it. And yes, as Mrs. Mukhi says, ‘Choose organic not for your health, but for the earth’s health.’ I pay a tribute to this lady who has tried to save our mother earth in small steps.

My Mohalla: Rafoowaale Chacha

Posted 03 May 2010 — by admin
Category My mohalla, Street Vendors, Uncategorized, neighbourhoods

By Sakshi Khanna, 12

I see him every day when I come back from school, sitting on a little ledge next to an old dry cleaning shop on Bazaar Road in Bandra (west). He sits there from 10 till 1 pm every day, squinting at the piece of cloth draped over his, stitching deftly. Sometimes he looks up, straightens his back and shrugs his shoulders. He is a darner – that is, he mends torn clothes. This skill is known as rafoo – the delicate and very old art of hand-mending torn clothes, using tiny, almost invisible stitches.

He has a handpainted sign behind him advertising his services. When  asked him what his name was he said “Just call me Rafoowaale Chacha (Rafoo Uncle), that’s how everyone knows me.” He told me he has done this for as long as he can remember. “I think I am sixty or sixty seven years old. And I have been doing this for more than fifty years. And I will continue till my eyesight’s fine.” He lives in JJ Colony and walks at least a kilometer every day.

With him, he brings a bag full of scraps of cloth. He unravels the cloth pieces to get thread of different colours for rafoo. He says this is how the best rafoo is done  – either with thread from the original fabric itself or from scraps. He has a very thin needle with him so as to not leave any marks of repairing. “It should look like it has never been torn.” He makes between Rs100 to Rs200 per day.

While I am talking to him, four customers come up. A woman comes up with a pair of jeans. Another customer, Prajukta, says her kurta was torn while traveling in the local train.

Prajukta  says she swears by Rafoowaale Chacha. Once she had given him a dupatta with many holes and he darned it perfectly.

Rafoowaale Chacha tells me he lives with his wife – “all my sons have left with their wives.” And that they suffer from many health problems – “diabetes, heart”. He requests me to put his phone number in my story about him in case anyone can help them. Here it is: 9867446323.

By then, it’s nearly one o clock. Rafoowaale chacha wraps us everything, picks up his bag full of scraps and smiles at me. Then he leaves for home.

My Mohalla: Counting crosses in Bandra

Posted 06 May 2010 — by admin
Category My mohalla, neighbourhoods

By Aiden Lillywhite, Akul and Sheldon

Akul, Aiden and Sheldon

The narrow street on which we spotted many crosses

In Bandra where we stay, there’s a small area with many old houses with tiled roofs. This is Runwar Village.  Some of these houses are more than a century old. That is why this area has been declared a ‘heritage precinct’.

One thing that strikes anyone who comes here is the large number of crosses.

We counted – on just two very small lanes, there were 23 crosses.

Some right next to each other. Some were on the road.  Some in people’s verandahs. One turn on the road had six crosses.

We were curious. We set out to find out the reason behind the crosses. Some people said it was because the area was full of Catholics. Some said to help people pray on their way to work or back.

Mr John Gomes tells us the story of the plague

Then we met Mr John Gomes, a resident of Chapel Road. There are six crosses all a stone’s throw away from his house. He told us almost a century back, Bandra had been struck by a plague. Many people died. This place was overtaken by rats who spread the disease by biting people. “People were dying like flies, Mr Gomes told us. “We would bury someone, some back and see another person had died. The dead were sometimes carried away in cartloads. Many people packed their belongings and fled to the mountain.” Which mountain, we asked. Mt Mary, he replied. (Mt Mary is a church in Bandra situated on a little hill facing the sea). That is why people built the crosses, Mr Gomes said, to protect themselves from the plague. As a plea to Jesus to save them. Had anyone died in his family? No, he replied.

This cross was built in 1907. The plague ended in 1906.

We later found out that the plague happened between 1896 to 1906. Lord Sandhurst, who was the Governor of Bombay at that time, appointed a committee headed to combat the plague. There are over 150 commemorative crosses in Bandra.

There were other reasons for building some of the crosses. In a very old book called ‘Bandra: Its Religious and Secular History’ (published in 1939), local historian Bras Fernandes writes this: “People believed that evil spirits haunted the junctions of three roads, burial grounds and even the ponds in the paddy fields that stretched beyond Hill Road. Many stone crosses were thus erected on “less frequented roads and along the seashore, chiefly to preserve the living from the fear of ghosts and the spirits of darkness”.

Nowadays the crosses are spots where people stop to pray. Or hang garlands. People gather in front of the big ones during religious festivals and sing and chant.

The idli seller

Posted 06 May 2010 — by admin
Category My mohalla

By Nikita Arivazhagan (11) and Subhashri Acharya (10)

Every morning at around eight, a man in a short lungi walks up to the pavement on the road in front of our apartment in Bandra (west), Mumbai. He unloads five steel containers which are precariously balanced on his head and serves up generous helpings of a most delicious morning breakfast. This is Raman. He has been selling his idlis and vadas with finger-licking coconut chutney in our neighbourhood from the same spot for the past eight years.

Raman with his mobile restaurant. He comes equipped with a bunch of paper (cut from magazines and newspapers) to serve his snacks on

You can have a plate of four steaming fluffy idlis and four crispy vadas for as little as Rs10.

Raman ladles a generous dollop of his trademark coconut chutney on to some idlis
The piping hot breakfast has many takers in the area

We have had this breakfast on many lazy Sunday mornings. We have also ordered the snacks in bulk for some of our birthday parties. Many people love his food  –  the office-goers in the area, people who work from the pavement like the nearby newspaper stall owner and others who are just passing by – they all have breakfast here.

Nikita (left) and Subhashri talk to Raman, their neighbourhood idli seller for Jalebi Ink’s My Mohalla Project

Raman lives in Dharavi and comes all the way to Bandra every morning. He wakes up at 4am to steam the idlis and fry the vadas and grind the ingredients for the coconut chutney. His chutney was the best we have had so far. He takes the local train to Bandra and arrives around 8am to serve up breakfast to early morning office-goers. By 11am, all the food is over. Raman is from Madurai, a city in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He says he came to Mumbai to make a living selling idli-vada. “This wouldn’t have worked in Tamil Nadu – everyone in that part of the world is making idlis! So I thought of Mumbai.”

My Mohalla: The champion of strays

Posted 10 Jun 2010 — by admin
Category Animal rights, My mohalla, Public spaces, neighborhoods, neighbourhoods, strays

By Malaika Mathew Chawla, 13

We know her as Padma Aunty. Every day I see her giving food to the strays in our area – once in the morning and once in the evening. I have spoken to her many times, sometimes to tell her about an injured stray I had seen, sometimes to ask her what to do about a dog with fleas in my housing colony. Jalebi Ink had asked us to choose some people in our neighbourhood who we see every day but know very little about. I decided to get to know Padma Aunty better. Here’s what I found out.

Her name is Padma Chandansingh Disorya. She lives in Dadar (west). She was born in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Padma works with In Defence of Animals (IDA), a company that looks after strays in Mumbai and fights for their rights. Her boss’s office is in ONGC Complex, behind my housing colony in Bandra. She has been working with animals for five years. Before this, she used to work in an STD booth. She also took a course in nursing. “But all this remained incomplete,” she says. Her husband is dead and she stays with her parents and has a daughter and son.

When I asked her how and when she began working with animals, this is what she said: “A few days after my husband died, I heard a dog howling in the street. In our family we have a tradition – widows are not allowed to step out of the house for some days. But I was worried. So I asked my father. He allowed me to go see what the problem was. He also gave me 100-rupee note in case it was needed. I found the dog – one of the bones in its vertebral column was broken and the dog was in agony. I took the dog to the animal hospital in Parel where it was treated by Dr Sangeeta Vengsarkar [a well-known vet in Mumbai] free of charge. Soon the dog became okay and I saw it was a very lively dog. I still hadn’t thought of taking up animal relief work. Some days later, I rescued a girl who was being harassed by some people. I took her to the police and helped file a complaint. After coming back home, I felt scared that the same people harassing her could harm me too. I used to barely step out of the house.  I wouldn’t even go to the terrace to hang clothes to dry. I was working in an STD booth – something that requires you to be in full public view. I had stopped going to work. One day I received a call from Dr Sangeeta and I told her about my problem. She told me she knew someone who had an animal relief association who was looking for someone. I went and I got the job.”

Padma Aunty knows the names of all the strays – cats and dogs – in the area and they all love her. She feeds 26 dogs and 20 cats every day. I asked her how the animals in the area reacted when they saw her: “Tipsy jumps on me and gets very excited. Brownie comes running with great speed. And starts doing strange somersaults in the air. The cats keep walking around my legs, brushing against me.

In what language does she speak to them? “When they start barking unnecessarily sometimes I say ‘Kathee kidhar hai?’ (Where’s the stick?). I speak to them in Hindi. They understand me.”

I asked Padma Aunty to share some stories of how some of the strays came to her. “Babli was found in a garage dump. Rhea was attacked when she had puppies and we rescued her. I found Winny with swollen red marks all over her as if a hot iron had been pressed on  her. It’s strange how nasty humans can be.”

There are many cars on the roads around us and they keep increasing. A couple of years back a car rental service set up its office here. Padma Aunty says she has had to rescue many injured dogs who were harmed by cars.

That's me with one of the strays

She has had to deal with many complaints over the years from residents who wanted her to stop taking care of the dogs. “But I have a lot of support too. Nobody has harmed me or my strays till now.”

What makers her sad? “Sometimes a child calls me and asks me to rescue some animal in distress. I call the ambulance but sometimes they do not react on time and it’s too late. This makes me very sad.”

Kids to make their own newspaper

Posted 12 Jun 2010 — by admin
Category Jalebi Ink Events, child rights
Hindustan Times
Mumbai, June 12, 2010
First Published: 01:22 IST(12/6/2010)

Next week, children can sign to learn how to create a newspaper, right from reporting and interviewing to writing and editing.

Jalebi INK, a media blog for young people, will conduct a four-day ‘Create your own Newspaper’ workshop for six to 18-year-olds from June 21 to 24.

The children will bring out a ‘green’ newspaper after interviewing people such as corporator Adolf D’Souza and environmental activist Sumaira Abdulali.

Children will be divided into smaller, age-appropriate groups to produce the newspaper, which will be printed and sent to their homes by the organisation.

“We want to conduct more such workshops. Eventually this will be a monthly newspaper which children can subscribe to,” said Anuradha Sengupta, founder and managing editor of Jalebi INK, which has previously conducted workshops on trash recycling and use of pedal-power.

Jalebi INK hopes to encourage children to speak on matters important to them.

“Children have a lot to talk about their world, from favouritism and bullying in school to the books they are reading,” added Sengupta.

My Mohalla: The neighbourhood candy store

Posted 25 Jun 2010 — by admin
Category My mohalla, neighborhoods, neighbourhoods

By Abhimanyu, 10 and Akul, 9

Opposite St Stanislaus’s rear gate is Cardoz Store, the shop where we buy a lot of candy from. It’s off Waroda Road in Bandra (west). Their homemade orange and lemonade is yummy! In the afternoon, they shut down for two hours and you can see their bright red sign saying ‘Coca Cola’ quite clearly.

This time, when we visited the store, we met Debra Carvalho behind the counter. She was looking after the shop. Cardoz Stores is a neighbourhood shop selling confectioneries, and daily grocery items like milk, bread, eggs, cheese etc. Debra said she is 42 years old and not married. The shop is run by her brother. She helps him look after it. “Since this is close to St Stanislaus School, we keep all items that children like having like all kinds of candy and sweets; and cold drinks. We also cater to parties with snacks like sandwiches, chicken rolls, hot dogs etc.” They also sell some Goan dishes like Chicken Xacuti and snacks like potato chops. What is available is handwritten on a blackboard the day before and people have to order 24 hours before delivery.

She said what she loved about her neighbourhood was that it was “very safe and there were no hassles, everybody is bindass. You can come as late as you want.”

When she was our age, she went to a nearby school St Joseph. Earlier this area was dominated by East Indians and the shops around here were owned by them. There were beautiful houses here – it was like the countryside. Now everything has been taken over by builders. Now you can only see big-big buildings.

Debra says she gets up every day at 5am as the water supply starts at that time. “It stops by 10am, so within that time we have to wash and bathe. Then I come to the shop. In the afternoon from 2 to 5, we take a siesta and then open the shop again. From five to seven, I take tuition classes for neighbourhood kids. By 9.30 we close the shop.”

Sunday is our day – we take a break. We go for an outing to the nearby seaside promenade at Bandstand or Carter Road. Or we go to Jogger’s Park. In the evening, we go for mass. That’s how our days go.”

Debra says she goes for holidays to Goa often where she has a house in Arpora Goa at Melha Rosa. While we were talking her niece and nephew came in. We all had some delicious homemade lemonade.

My Mohalla: Flaurian, the tailor

Posted 25 Jun 2010 — by admin
Category My mohalla, Public spaces, neighborhoods, neighbourhoods

By Malaika Mathew Chawla, 13 and Subhashri Acharya 10

Bandra, our suburb, is full of all kinds of tailors.

Most of them are ladies tailors. Amongst these there are those who stitch sawar kameezes and churidars only. And those who stitch ‘western’ dresses (skirts, blouses, dresses etc).

Some do only alterations.

And others specialise in men’s outfits. You can come to them with the photo from a magazine of a snazzy outfit and they will stitch it up for you.

If you ever want to get a pair of pants tailored, go to Flaurian D’Souza. He is 51 years old and one of the many tailors who dot the bylanes of Bandra. He has been a tailor since 1976. He studied till Standard V. He could not continue his education as at the age of 5, he broke his leg. “An old building on Hill Road collapsed. I was standing nearby and two pillars fell on me.”

He wears a a false leg. He took it off and showed it to us. “I used to play good hockey. I would have liked to be a hockey player or a coach,” he says.

Flaurian begins his work at 9.30am and closes shop at 8pm. You can get tailored pants for Rs180 to Rs200. “There’s no fixed rate for shirts and I don’t do any alterations,” he said. We asked him if the BMC ever troubles him. “Oh yes, the BMC had come once, but I took off my leg and waved it at them and they ran away,” he grins. Flaurian loves doing this. “When beggars come and ask for money and refuse to leave, I take a hammer and bang it on my artificial leg. They get scared probably think I am crazy and they run away.”

What’s your dream we ask him. “I want to be able to run freely and naturally like other people. I want to go to Australia and get a new leg.”

We asked him if he liked animals (as we did very much). “No, I hate animals – dogs, cats and especially monkeys.” But why do you hate them? “Because I was bitten by a monkey once.” Why did the monkey bite you? “I think probably because I was touching the tree it was sitting on.”

My Mohalla: Shoemaker, shoemaker

By Malaika Mathew Chawla, 13 and Subhashri Acharya, 10

We play, run around a lot and our shoes keep getting scuffed, coming apart at the seams. Especially now during the rains. We don’t throw them away when they tear. No, we take them to the cobbler near our apartment block. Dinkar Krishna Kamble is a cobbler who repairs shoes and slippers every day in a narrow bylane in Bandra. He is 45 years old and has been doing this for 20 years. He travels to Bandra from Sion-Dharavi. He works from 7am to 7pm. He gets 10 to 20 customers in a day and earns about Rs250 every day stitching and mending shoes. There were many bottles of shoe polish, gum, thread, all kinds of needles arranged around him. He gets all his material from Kurla.

“My father and grandfather were cobblers – they would sit whole days stitching shoe, polishing them. They would make an old shoe look as good as new. I used to love looking at them work. My grandfather taught me the skill. So I came to do the same work.” He has a wife and two sons – “one of them go to college.”


My Mohalla, Jalebi Ink’s Neighbourhood Project, tracks the history and culture of neighbourhoods through the people who inhabit the spaces, their individual histories and cultural influences. If you’d like to write about your neighbourhood, e-mail us at

A youth newspaper on environmental issues

Posted 08 Jul 2010 — by admin
Category GreenWatch, Jalebi Ink Events, children's media, environment

Round one of Jalebi Ink’s workshop,  Create Your Own Newspaper is drawing to a close. All the young journos who participated have been working hard to meet their deadlines. Once their articles are in, there will be a round of editing, design and production work. And then it’s off for printing.

The newspaper will focus on environment issues in Mumbai. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s been happening:

Participants spent some time in Dharavi’s Thirteen Compounds where our garbage gets recycled.

Jalebi Ink reporter Maitri speaks to the children in the recycling compound in Dharavi

Children sort through trash at a recycling unit in Dharavi

Jalebi Ink reporter Abhishek with some children at Dharavi

Workshop participants also checked out how a citizen’s rainwater harvesting project is supplying most of their water needs.

Jalebi Ink reporters Shalvi, Mitali, Krittvee, Mehr and Krisha with residents of a housing society in Dadar who have initiated a rainwater harvesting project on their own

And went on a tour with a member of the Tree Authority of India to find out why the current tree census indicates Mumbai’s tree population has mysteriously gone up.

Our My Mohalla project appeared in Hindustan Times

Posted 08 Jul 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Young people to report news from their world, their POV

Posted 20 Jul 2010 — by admin
Category Jalebi Ink Events, Uncategorized, children's media

A workshop in progress

Ever wanted to report on stories that you see in the news from your point of view? Jalebi Ink, a media collective for children and youth gives you a chance to do just that. Children and young people are affected by most news stories — from urban planning issues that give importance to car parking to environmental issues. But too often their perspective is missing in the mainstream media.

Jalebi Ink seeks to change the situation. We hold workshops and programmes with young adults that enable them to report, write and discuss issues that are important to them – from the environment to animal rights, bullying etc.

Recently, at a workshop for a newspaper on the environment,  our young participants were able to understand green issues better through interactions with eco warriors and hands-on sessions on composting and recycling from trash.

Children also write about literature and arts, discuss books, write book reviews, discover different art forms and styles used in  books.

Through our unique My Mohalla project, they have explored the streets, cultures, histories and people of their neighbourhoods. The project was written about in Hindustan Times:

Jalebi Ink reporters talking to a street theatre activist

Through our workshops, participants have learnt how to bring out a newspaper and shoot a video on environmental issues, interview people for podcasts and radio. They have reported on Mumbai’s vanishing green cover, visited Dharavi’s Thirteen Compounds where the city’s waste is recycled by workers who are sometimes children themselves. They have met  Tree Authority members and talked to a group of residents who have begun rainwater harvesting in their building society.

To register for our workshops, call 98193-75527 or email

Also check out our Manifesto written by young people:

About Jalebi Ink

JI is an independent media collective for children and young people. We specialise in the development and production of media created by and for young people. The Jalebi Ink team consists of award-winning journalists, writers, artists, filmmakers, activists, youth and parents. Over the years, collectively, we have built a body of work that displays a consistent interest in engaging with issues that affect children in the form of children’s newspapers, films and documentaries. Our work has been screened in festivals abroad – from Brazil, Kabul, Tehran to USA, Hiroshima and Cairo.We have brought out international award-winning children’s magazines like YA! (Young Adults) for DNA newspaper and TELEKids for The Telegraph newspaper in Calcutta.


Jalebi Ink in the press and the webosphere:





Why are girls crazy about Twilight?

Posted 23 Jul 2010 — by admin
Category Bookshelf, TalkAbout, Uncategorized

By Khadija Khan, 14

It was in the last few months of 2008 that I heard of Twilight. All of a sudden everyone seemed to be talking about the Twilight Saga. I was very curious to find out what the Twilight Saga was all about. So I bought a copy of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer for myself. It took me a week to finish the book. But it wasn’t really up to my expectations. Neither was it gripping and interesting.

It was about a vampire with heavenly good looks who fell in love with the clumsiest girl just because her blood was delicious. I didn’t find that very interesting. The character of Bella, the protagonist was beyond clumsy. The author never gave many details about her. This enabled the millions of female twilight fans to easily mould themselves into her character. Stephanie Meyer has spent 70 percent of the pages of this book describing how perfect, handsome and strong Edward Cullen, the vampire is.  She has put into him all the divine qualities that any teenage girl can ever desire in her prince charming. Edward Cullen was the reason the book sold millions of copies.

Twilight is also very lengthy and contains a lot of non essential information which has made it boring. It’s not at all fast -paced. And the author has put in too many chapters about the Bella-Edward romance. After reading Twilight, I didn’t want to read New moon, Eclipse or Breaking dawn which are successors of the same book

Till date I have not heard of a single male twilight fan. Because this book only contains everything a girl wants.

But it was only in the mid 2009 that everybody started reading Twilight. Girls, who used to run from the sight of books had Twilight and its sequels hidden in their school bags. This was because by then the Twilight movie had also come out. The movie was worse than the book and yet it earned so much money. Why? Because the male leads were exceptionally handsome new boys.

By 2010, the Twilight saga was not just a series of books, it was major business. Television serials about vampires, Twilight movies, Twilight based music bands, Twilight bags, bottles, tiffins, pencil boxes, coloring books, scrapbooks had become a daily sight .

In terms of popularity the Twilight Saga has left behind Harry Potter. This is evident by the fact that the Twilight movies sweep all the awards at the teenage award shows.

But judging by the current scenario of entertainment, I’m very certain of the fact that in a year or two some other series of books will come out which will make people forget that Twilight ever existed.

Jalebi Ink reporters on radio

Posted 07 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Did you ever wish there was a radio show that wasn’t an unending recital of filmi music, gossip and general  mind-boggling, brain-draining nonsense? Meet our latest partner, Tiffin Talk, Mumbai’s only radio show dedicated to intelligent discussion of news that actually matters to people, as well as some great, non-Bollywood music. The man behind the show is Arthor Danchest, a young American who lives and works in Mumbai. A fan of vibrant radio programming in the US, Arthor has been hosting Tiffin Talk since January 2010 with a host of guests talking about everything from the finding of a fully intact snake fossil in Gujarat to plans to start a community basketball league in India.

You can hear the show on, where we talked about a number of our projects, including the always popular My Mohalla, as well as our newspaper workshops. JI reporter Maitri Bheda also talked about the process of working on the ‘green’ newspaper with us, and about the problem of getting adults to understand that ‘youth’ does not always mean ‘light and trivial’. The idea behind JI is to let young people talk about anything and everything they feel matters in their lives.

Each month, JI reporters will be fanning across to city to create a very special report for Tiffin Talk, from the point of view of young people. First up on these bulletins will be Maitri on Tiffin Talk’s eleventh episode with her report from Dharavi, and an interview with Parasher Baruah, director of Waste, a documentary on the ragpickers of Dharavi.

If you would like to be part of these, or other JI initiatives, write to us at

Let’s Talk Freedom

Posted 14 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Is being free all that it’s cracked up to be? Have you ever felt completely free in your life? And if you could decide on freedom for a day, what kind would you choose?

Starting from August 15th, at the stroke of the midnight hour, Jalebi Ink  launched a series on what freedom means to young people. It will run through the month of  August. You can write in with your views and thoughts to You can also draw out your thoughts or make a poster or take a photo of your idea of freedom.

Freedom is different things to different people. Some want freedom from school, to others freedom means being able to go to school. Freedom could mean being able to choose where you want to live, for others it could mean freedom from worrying about where they will spend the night.


Freedom means the right to wear what I want instead of being told to wear what I should. Dakshata Shah, 14

I want freedom from studies. And from reading books I don’t want to, because I get very bored of doing both. If I didn’t have to study or read all the time, I’d play computer games, the Wii, PSP, listen to songs on my Ipod. Aryan Muchhala, 9

I want freedom from so much studying…. From having to come back and study at home all over again. Manvi Vakharia, 10.


I want freedom from Ruchit – a boy in another class who irritates me a lot; from my Hindi teacher and Science teacher. Saumya Vora, 11.

Ningraj Baburao

I want freedom from afternoon shift in my school. I go to school at 12 noon and  there’s so much traffic at that time. If I could, I would go to school early morning – like all other children. I would be able to cycle peacefully to my school. The roads would be quieter, with less cars. I would come back by afternoon, eat something, sleep and then go out to play. I would also be able to do my homework peacefully. There’s hardly any time in the morning. I work at a grocery store nearby in the mornings. I get tired after coming back from school at six. I go to play after that, but I feel sleepy. I also want a road where children can cycle peacefully. Roads are all full of cars, there’s no space for children. Ningraj Baburao, 12

Freedom to me means the right to be able to go to school, to learn how to read and write. I love school. I also want enough money to be able to buy books. Meena Surve, 13

I want freedom from studies and exams and our Hindi teacher. Munira Badani, 11.



Freedom to me is not being questioned for my identity or caste or religion, in any context. So many times people say, oh, it will be easy for you to get admission in a college since you are from a scheduled class. You won’t ever be failed in any educational institution. I feel there should no reservation based on caste system. Because of the way people around me react to my identity, I like to keep it secret. This Independence Day, I would like to have the freedom to be open and comfortable about who I am, about my identity. Sampan Kamble

‘Freedom’ is a word everyone needs and craves for. From the wealthiest man to the poorest. The meaning of that freedom changes or the list increases with time. So did my list, my definition. When I was in 12th, I wanted freedom from studies. When I was in my first year at college, I wanted freedom from college. Today I want my freedom from all my pending projects. I want freedom for my creativity. I want no rules and regulations. But when I heard about my maid’s daughter, my definition of freedom changed. My maid has a 13-year-old daughter and a son. They all stay in a joint family including her uncle (my maid’s husband’s brother) and grandparents. I’ve heard many stories about the men coming home drunk and harassing the wife and ill-treating her. But not about a brother-in-law harrasing a 13 year old girl!  “He harasses her and is nasty to her all the time. And if she runs away, she’s beaten with a cane,” said my maid, crying. The girl is so scared of her uncle, that she tries not to be at home as much as possible. She hates coming back home. I sat wondering what freedom will she will be asking for? Freedom from her family? Or freedom from her identity as a girl child? And when I compare my lists of freedom with hers, they seem so lame. That incident made me realise that I am free. I have wings to fly to my own home. I have wings to go places where I like. I have wings to do whatever I want to do. So today I can say I want freedom for other people. I want freedom for girls so they can fight back, I want freedom for people who have to strive so hard to even have basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter, education, safety and hygiene. And today I will add few more words…. Freedom to have love, family and security. Maitri Bheda, 19

Let’s Talk Freedom: “I want freedom for girls so they can fight back”

Posted 16 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Maitri Bheda, 19

Schoolgirls in South India (photo for representative purpose ony)

‘Freedom’ is a word everyone needs and craves for. From the wealthiest man to the poorest. The meaning of that freedom changes or the list increases with time. So did my list, my definition. When I was in 12th, I wanted freedom from studies. When I was in my first year at college, I wanted freedom from college. Today I want my freedom from all my pending projects. I want freedom for my creativity. I want no rules and regulations.

But when I heard about my maid’s daughter, my definition of freedom changed.

My maid has a 13-year-old daughter and a son. They all stay in a joint family including her uncle (my maid’s husband’s brother) and grandparents. I’ve heard many stories about the men coming home drunk and harassing the wife and ill-treating her. But not about a brother-in-law harrasing a 13 year old girl!  “He harasses her and is nasty to her all the time. And if she runs away, she’s beaten with a cane,” said my maid, crying. The girl is so scared of her uncle, that she tries not to be at home as much as possible. She hates coming back home. I sat wondering what freedom will she will be asking for? Freedom from her family? Or freedom from her identity as a girl child? And when I compare my lists of freedom with hers, they seem so lame. That incident made me realise that I am free. I have wings to fly to my own home. I have wings to go places where I like. I have wings to do whatever I want to do. So today I can say I want freedom for other people. I want freedom for girls so they can fight back, I want freedom for people who have to strive so hard to even have basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter, education, safety and hygiene. And today I will add few more words…. Freedom to have love, family and security.


Is being free all that it’s cracked up to be? Have you ever felt completely free in your life? And if you could decide on freedom for a day, what kind would you choose? Starting from August 15th, Jalebi Ink will be running a series on what freedom means to young people. You too can write in with your views and thoughts to

Let’s Talk Freedom: Do We Have The Right To Protest?

Posted 16 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Freedom, Public spaces, child rights

We just read a report about a person called Antony D’Silva who was arrested by the police when he staged a protest to highlight the problem of plastic garbage in Goa.

Here are details from the story:

Today morning at around 8.45 am Anthony D’Silva was taken in police custody in Margao when he staged protest to highlight plastic garbage in Goa. Anthony dressed in boiler suit costumes with plastic empty bottles tied all over his body got into the venue of flag hosting site on Independence site. South Goa collector called in police force and ordered Anthony be detained at police station till the official independence day function gets over at around 11.00 am.

Read more here:

This reminds us of the time when Jalebi Ink staged a peaceful walkabout protest at the Kala Ghoda Festival against Shiv Sena’s ban on My Name Is Khan. We too were asked to leave or we were told cops would be called.

Read the story written by our young reporter Anand Benegal here:

There have been so many instances like these where cops have landed up to get rid of/arrest people protesting against an issue — from price rise to cruelty towards astray animals to the war against naxals.

Which leaves us wondering if we are indeed living in a democracy. And do we have the right to a peaceful protest?    

“We are not free”

Posted 16 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Are we really free ? No. Because today also a hundreds of people are dying for no reason at all. Why then do we celebrate Independence Day? We are not free from corruption. I DON’T THINK WE SHOULD CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE DAY.


Let’s Talk Freedom: “Freedom from violence and corruption”

Posted 16 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Freedom, TalkAbout, Uncategorized, child rights

“Let’s Talk Freedom” — the title here itself suggests the idea we should talk freely. Freedom for a child and freedom for a grown human is different. We talk about having a society free of violence and corruption all the time. But how many of you have freed yourself from thoughts of violence and corruption? As someone said: “A man is free from the time he’s free from his thoughts.” So let’s be free to think, to speak, to spread happiness, to make mistakes and, most importantly, be free to forgive them and to build a “free society”.

Akshay Ghag

I want freedom from bad news so the world can live in peace

Posted 19 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Parina Muchhala

Now, ‘freedom’ is nothing more than a word in our dictionaries. We know how to perfectly define it as ‘to be free from something’, but have you ever thought of what we actually need freedom from? For a kid, it may be studies, exams. For a teen, assignments, college, routines, schedules etc. And for an adult, pressure, business, the house and more. All of us think in a similar way. Like after I surveyed what my friends wanted freedom from, maximum votes went to studies. But, we need to know the deeper meaning of it.

Almost everyday, newspapers are filled with news about attacks on people, be it terrorist or rapes or protests or anything else. I hate listening or reading about attacks and bad news. That phrase is similar to what I think – ‘Isse sun ne ke pehle mere kaan kyo nahi fat gaye?’ I love peace and harmony, and the worst part about all this is that innocent people are attacked. What if it were your family members? Wouldn’t you cry? I guess freedom from bad news is really necessary, as someday you might just get tired of reading about news. Just today, I read in a newspaper about Devdasis having a semi-nude protest. What is this? Couldn’t we just be happy with all we have? If I get it, this freedom will give me (maybe all of us!), PEACE. No mental pressures on us, and happiness on our face. We can move around freely, not in the tension that a terrorist might come and take me away. We can clear our minds, live in peace and enrich the world with goodness and goodness.

I just wish I can do something from my part so that I can get freedom from BAD NEWS, and endow PEACE in the world.

Bond with Mr Bond

Posted 22 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Kabeer Khurana

Kabeer with his favourite author

I was very excited when my mom told me that Ruskin Bond was coming to Crossword book store in Bandra. I jumped at the opportunity. As I was leaving at six o’clock for his new book launch, I decided to write a short poem for him.

As I reached there, an elderly man with a pair of glasses and a neat haircut entered the book store. He looked of European descent. The crowd cheered and clapped as he sat on a comfortable chair. The compere introduced Ruskin Bond to us by reading out a short note about his life and times. He had come to Crossword for a reading and discussion on his latest book, Mr. Oliver’s Diary.

Mr. Bond told us about his friends and his schoolteacher – Mr. Oliver and how there were no dull moments at his prep school. The story is about a gun-toting, violin-playing headmaster, a homicidal barber, a hungry leopard, about a hundred frogs and boys with a talent for pranks. These fresh new school stories are a non-stop laugh riot.

After the introduction, Mr. Bond read the first chapter. It was really interesting. Subsequently, there was a Q&A session when a member of the audience asked “Did  your grandfather really have a pet snake?” “Were you really so mischievous?” Even at 76, he was very witty and sharp in his responses.

I wanted to read the poem I had written for Mr. Bond but I was really nervous. So I gave Mr. Bond the paper and requested him to read. Everyone in the audience welcomed me with claps. After he finished reading the poem, people cheered and congratulated me and the best part was that I got to shake hands with him!! People lined up in a queue for his autographs. He not only signed my book, but also wrote a short personal note thanking me for the poem. My day was made as I was honoured to meet such an eminent author as him. And his parting words resonate in my mind “All it takes to be come a writer is a pencil, paper and a dustbin.”

Here is the poem I wrote for the occasion:

Your stories are full of magic

Sometimes romantic, sometimes tragic

The train journeys are sometimes high sometimes low

To the Mussourie hills off we go

Reading your glorious omnibus

Gave me natural romantic bliss

I love to read about your granny

Who made her home on a tree

Between us I hope there is a “Special Bond”

Of you I am extremely fond

Your stories take me in a trance

I can see Dehradun at a glance.

Why you should cycle

Posted 31 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Jalebi Ink got a mail from Reesha Ranjiv Jhangiani:  “One of my goals in life is to become a successful writer, journalist and playwright, so one of my mother’s friends reccomended you to me.” Reesha is in the 10th standard and likes the idea of Jalebi Ink.  She says “I am an environmentalist and it is both mine and my father’s dream to make Mumbai a cycle friendly city.” Her father Ranjiv Jhangiani is the co-founder and trustee of the KBS (Khar- Bandra- Santacruz) Foundation which was responsible for the Car-Free Day which took pace at Carter Road in Feb 2010. Reesha was the editor for all the Sunday Cycle Mails which her father sent out every Sunday evening after their early morning cycle ride. “Both I and my father enjoy cycling immensely and are working for the construction of cycle tracks in at least Bandra, if not Mumbai,” says Reesha.
Reesha sent this article on the joys and benefits of cycling to Jalebi Ink.We hope this inspires people to get their cycles out or buy one. Cycling is the civilised thing to do. We are mighty tired of cars in our faces, edging us off the road,  and traffic jams and noise.

I love to cycle

By Reesha Jhangiani
I was always keen on environment protection, but what really got me interested in cycling was my father. He began organizing events to promote cycling, like the Sunday morning cycle ride and the screening of Streetfilms on Carter Road. I myself began cycling to school, but when the principal found out things got a little out of hand. She said that cycling isn’t safe, though I always wear my helmet when I cycle. Dad wasn’t too happy about it, but there was nothing he could do. He’s taking a break from the KBS Foundation as he’s been elected President of the RCBB (Rotary Club of Bombay Bandra). That takes up quite a bit of his time. So I’m taking things into my own hand for now.”

Go Cycling

Q: Why ride bicycles?
A: There are numerous benefits of using bicycles for daily trips. Some are listed below:
1) They don’t pollute 2) they take up little space as compared to motorized vehicles (cars, rickshaws, motorbikes) 3) they’re cheap and require little to no maintenance 5) If used in dedicated bicycle infrastructure, they will be much faster than cars for journeys between 1km and 6km 6) important cardiovascular and other health benefits

Q: We’re living in the age of space travel; isn’t riding bicycles a thing of the past? Isn’t it anti-development?
A: Development means developing and using technologies that help better everyone’s quality of life. Bicycles are one of the oldest technologies still utilized today and they have survived and thrived in many places because of the high utilitarian value. Some of the best technologies in the world are the oldest. Newer doesn’t necessarily equate to better.

Q: What is dedicated bicycle infrastructure?
A: Dedicated bicycle infrastructure comprises of separate facilities for bicyclists: segregated lanes, bicycle parking stands, signage, and traffic signals for bicycles. However, not all streets need to have segregated lanes; in the inner streets that are less motorized, with the help of traffic calming interventions like speed breakers and roundabouts, a low enough speed (20-30km/h) can be ensured for motor vehicles, allowing for bicycles to be mixed in with traffic. Lower vehicle speeds also allows for more livable streets, with children and pedestrians feeling safer playing and commuting. Segregated bicycle lanes and related infrastructure is a must on arterial and other busy roads in order to promote bicycle use and cyclist’s safety.

Q: There’s already no space on the roads! Where do we build bicycle lanes? Even so, it won’t help with traffic or pollution anyways.
A: The answer is two-fold.
1) If we believe in a democratic society, then everyone has equal rights on the street. Therefore, if there are a considerable number of bicycle users, they must be given space. A survey (2004) found that there were as many people using bicycles in Mumbai as used cars. Bicycles are less visible than cars because they utilize significantly less space on the roads.
2) An increase in the use of bicycles will relieve congestion from the street if dedicated bicycle infrastructure is carefully planned, implemented, and enforced. Research done in The Netherlands, where a high percentage of citizens use bicycles daily, has shown that if bicycle infrastructure is built, the number of bicyclists increases and the number of cars and other motorized modes will reduce. Likewise, if more motorized vehicle infrastructure is built, more motorized vehicle usage will follow, creating more traffic, not less. Therefore, by building bicycle infrastructure, the number of bicycles will increase, the number of cars will decrease, leading to less pollution in our air.
Q: Not many people ride bicycles in Bombay, so who will use the bicycle lanes?
A: This is a false notion.
-There are more bicycles and bicyclists in India than in any European country. Bicycle usage in smaller Indian cities is as high as 25-30% of the overall trips.
- Only 6% of Mumbai’s population has ever used a car for transportation
- The other 94% use public transportation, bicycles, auto rickshaws, taxis, etc.

Q: There’s no political will for this. This is India.
A: Political will starts on an individual level. If there is political will to build roads and flyovers for cars, there can be political will for the city’s bicycle riders, which presently equal if not outnumber cars. There already are a number of dedicated bicycle infrastructure initiatives that are ongoing in India: New Delhi has already built a pilot bicycle lane, there is more than 16km of bicycle lane in Pune, and several kms has been built in Nanded. Initiatives are continuing in many other Indian cities. Political will starts at a local, neighborhood level, and Bandra will be used as a model for the rest of Mumbai.

Q: Why should I really care anyways?
A: Because it will directly benefit YOU and YOUR family. Whether you’re a car owner, a bicycle rider, or commute by foot, bicycle infrastructure is one important step closer to living in a less congested, less polluted, and more pleasant city. Bicycle infrastructure embodies the idea of a Democratic India: a free, fair and equitable society.

Q: How can we do this? What are we going to do? What can I do?
A: Since the problem and its solutions directly affects you and your community, it is up to individuals like us and the neighborhoods that we live in that need to get directly involved in organizing for a more livable, equitable society. Here’s what you can do right now:
1) Start bicycling yourself if you don’t already do so. Once you start, it becomes an enjoyable routine and you will better understand the benefits of bicycle riding and the importance of implementing bicycle infrastructure
2) Tell your family, friends, and coworkers about why this will help everybody– bicyclists, rickshaw drivers, motorcyclists, and even car drivers!
3) Talk to your local corporator and insist on bicycling parking and lockup facilities
4) Ride your bicycle with family, friends, and coworkers together in order to publicly assert the presence and importance of cyclists on the roadways
5) Write in the newspapers, target local media, and letters to the editor, etc.

Jalebi Ink Wants Freedom From…

Posted 31 Aug 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

We wrap up this month’s freedom wishlist with a list of our own.


Kids today are busier than adults. They come back home, barely freshen up and are out to attend tuition classes. Some don’t even come back home till late evening – going to various tuitions and classes straight from school. So many times when we ask children to write something for us, they consult their schedule and say: “Let me see…nope. I am busy for the next three months. I have X project, Y classes and Z tuitions.” They sound like busy executives. We say Enough Already! Give kids the chance to enjoy their childhoods.

All those ugly mugs of politicians

You cannot go more than a kilometer in this city without coming across posters with mugs ugly of smirking politicians. The other day we saw a really small stretch of road being repaired. In that stretch – measuring about 13 feet – there were five posters of a politician taking credit — for something like a road repair job!

Heavy school bags

Schoolbags are a real pain in the back. School authorities should be asked to carry your bags every day so they know what it’s like. The can give you serious back problems. A study in the January issue of the medical journal on back problems called Spine shows that carrying heavy packs may increase a child’s risk of developing spinal disorders. According to the medical experts at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), this is a very important area to study as children may be causing some increased risks of arthritis to their backs. Sometimes worse things can happen: In 2002 in Hong Kong, a 9-year old boy fell 20 floors to his death after his heavy backpack pulled him over the safety rail of a building.

Reality TV shows with kids. It’s a cause for worry that so many children are being paraded on TV ostensibly to show off their talents – singing and dancing to risqué numbers and getting stressed and crying over prime-time humiliation.

Abusive teachers

Countless studies have proven that verbal abuse can be as bad for you as physical abuse. Did you know that research studies have been conducted around the world where many adults mention past incidences of verbal abuse by the teacher as the most overwhelming negative experience in their lives? So why do some teachers insist on putting down children? We are not talking about shouting at kids who misbehave here. And whining “But controlling a classroom of kids is so stressful, so I let fly off the handle once in a while” is no excuse. Teachers, listen up. If you have to resort to putting down children to control them, you just do not have it in you to be a teacher. In fact, you shouldn’t be around children.

Loud horns on vehicles

In ancient Indian and Chinese texts, writers noted that the ultimate form of torture involved subjecting captives to loud and horrible noises. It’s an interesting paradox that we now live in the modern world as free citizens, and all we need to do is stroll down the street to be exposed to noise loud enough to become physically ill, elevating our blood pressure to unhealthy levels, interfering with our sleeping patterns, and causing a whole host of stress related diseases. On the majority of roads in cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi, noise pollution can measure nearly 80-90 decibels during peak hours. That’s roughly the equivalent of standing just 15 feet from a passing freight train! Our brains are getting fried on all that cacophony.

Being asked to perform in front of adults. Parents, asking your kids to perform for the benefit of your guests is not cool. “Pinky can recite the whole poem The Boy Stood On The Burning Deck” is not going to go down well with us. Argh!

Bullies and bullying. We can’t stand bullies. And that refers to a whole spectrum – from kids to whole countries who behave like bullies.

Violent video games. What’s with video game creators? Can they not devise a game without men and women toting guns?

Animal cruelty. We have said this countless times before: This planet is not meant for humans only. So show some respect to your fellow creatures please.

My take on the Commonwealth Games

Posted 27 Sep 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Khadija Khan, 14

For the past 3 months, everyone has been talking about the 19th Commonwealth games which will take place in Delhi. Being a Delhite, I’ve seen all sorts of things during this time.
Whenever we get out of the house, we get stuck in traffic. There are dug up roads all over the city. There is so much chaos! And then there’s the dengue crisis. There are mosquitoes everywhere. Almost everyone is getting typhoid or dengue or they are too afraid to get out of the house from the fear of mosquitoes. And the icing on the cake is that it’s been raining like cats and dogs since July. Last year, there was scarcity of rains and shortage of food crops. And this year it’s been raining relentlessly.
I feel so sad for my city. Due to the poor organization of the concerned authorities we have to see this day. One of my relative’s houses got flooded with water and they had to come live with us.  The government is not even repairing the water logging and that is why Delhi is flooding and there are so many traffic jams waiting for us to get trapped into.
Going to school is a problem too. We have to stay in class during the games period and the recess. What can be worse than that?
And my heart aches to see that all the news channels and newspapers over the world are mocking and embarrassing our country. Everything is falling down, nothing is organized, and the taxes have risen. Everybody is suffering.

Jalebi Ink at The Global Work Party!

Posted 07 Oct 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

A poster for a 350 event in New Zealand

10.10.10. That’s a very special date.

10.10.10 has been declared as  the Global Work Party Day by 350, an international movement for climate change.  The number 350 refers to Co2 in parts per million – a benchmark we need to avoid, scientists, to avoid major global climate problems.

On 10/10/10, people all over the world will get together to do projects that cut carbon and celebrate climate solutions. Over 6,000 events are planned in 184 countries. Check out for more.

Jalebi Ink has tied with 350 and is organising several events. Come be a part of the celebrations!

If you would like to take part in any of these events, or volunteer to help our team, write to us at or call 9819375527 or 9867790610. We can do with extra hands! Join our Facebook page to stay connected.

Here is an outline of some of the activities planned for 10.10.10 with JI reporters.
  • A My Mohalla Walk on Climate Change, Bandra: As part of the My Mohalla programme of Jalebi Ink, we will hold a special My Mohalla Climate Change Walk which will explore the impact of climate change on their neighbourhood. The interactive walk will be conducted by a facilitator who is familiar with the issues and will deal with themes like impact on livelihoods, the delicate ecosystem of coastal areas and changes that will unfold in local landmarks–all of this in an accessible, on-the-move manner. Jalebi Ink’s young reporters will talk to communities around the area, like the fishing village, or concerned citizens. They will also distribute copies of the newspaper ‘JunkNama’ created in collaboration with 350 at this location. Content from this walk will be uploaded on the JI website. Assemble at 3.30 pm for the walk in front of CCD, Carter Road.
  • Jalebi Ink reporters will stage a short street play on climate change between 5 and 6pm on Carter Road promenade, Bandra.
  • After sunset, children will stage a solar lantern walk. The lanterns have been donated by TEAM S.O.L.A.R  ( Save Our Land and Rise ). You can read more about their initiative here:
  • Poster making: Children will create works of art around climate change on Carter Road promenade.
  • Farmers Market, Cuffe Parade: JI reporters will be present at this venue, talking to organic farmers about what climate change means to them, and interacting with visitors and participants at this venue. For earlier reports on this event see our link here:
JI members will also distribute copies of the newspaper ‘JunkNama’ to visitors and participants at this location. We will also be taking video bytes of young people on climate change and how it affects their lives . These will be uploaded on our website and also our Youtube channel Jalebi Ink TV

My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist. (Though everyone makes me feel like one)

Posted 07 Oct 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Khadija Khan, 14

My name is Khadija Khan, and ever since I was in the first grade people have been accusing me of being a terrorist.
Why? Because I’m a Muslim, that’s why
As ridiculous as it sounds, it’s true. When I was 6 years old, my classmates used to say, “Oh your father must be having a long beard and your mother must be wearing a burqa at all times.” And I used to say, “Err..No.”

But they were only children at that time. However most of them haven’t stopped that stereotyping habit of theirs even today when we have reached high school.  Some people tease me and say, “Why don’t you go to Pakistan?” They call me Pakistani and terrorist and other such names.  I’m the only Muslim girl in my entire Catholic school. Even the teachers make snide remarks. Once, my teacher said, “It was the Muslims who bombed the twin towers.” What she had actually meant to say was,”terrorists”.  Some people think all Muslims are Pakistani, which is not true. Others feel that Islam teaches violence which is not true in the slightest bit. People need to stop stereotyping and accept the fact that Muslims belong to India.

When I was in class 6th, my partner Michellle used to bombard me with racist remarks. She said all sorts of rude things to me. I even used to cry in the class. But Michelle, being a teacher’s daughter always used to get away with it. Our class teacher was a horrible old lady. Neither did she change my partner nor did she scold Michelle. That was the worst year of my life.

I tolerate all these remarks silently but I take out my frustration by writing. All these years my question has been: Why am I treated as a second class citizen or an outsider in my own country?

Snapshots from our Global Work Party

Posted 01 Nov 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Images from Jalebi Ink’s Global Work Party with, including a talk by environmentalist Rishi Agarwal, the release of JunkNama — our newspaper on green issues — a street play on climate change, poster creation by kids and a solar lantern march with the kids from T.E.A.M. SOLAR, at Carter Road, Mumbai.

Click here for more photos.

A Street Play for Children, By Children

Posted 04 Nov 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Young members of Jalebi Ink stage a street play to highlight green issues in Mumbai (October 2010)

On November 13, as a run-up to Children’s Day, young members of Jalebi Ink will stage a street play in support of children in distress. The event  is in association with Childline.

Venue:  Carter Road.

Time: 5pm onwards.

Be there to show your support.

The Festival Of Fear

Posted 05 Nov 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

“Diwali is called the Festival of Light. Its transformation into a festival of noise and smoke is an unwelcome and unhealthy development — I hope it’s one that more and more people will over time help in reversing.”

Read this post about what is (or has become) the most unsavoury  festival in India:

JInk reporter Shagorika finds out more about a helpline for children in distress

Posted 20 Nov 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Check the latest episode of the online radio show Tiffin Talk —

In this episode, Jalebi Ink correspondent, Shagorika Ghosh, interviews Shikha Grover of ChildLine.  Childline is “India’s first 24 hour emergency phone outreach system for children in need of care and protection.”  Shagorika asks Shikha about how the system works, how their model of creating a network amongst all relevant on-the-ground NGO’s has been successful, and about their recently held Childline Se Dosti campaign.

Leopard to be shot

Posted 28 Nov 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

In south Gujarat there are a lots of sugarcane fields. A leopard has killed 4 people in last 3 weeks. Locals poisoned a leopard few days back. Forest dept has set up 20 cages but the animal is still at large. Now shoot at sight orders have been given by forest dept. They are not going about it in scientific way.

How many animals will they shoot? Last time it happened the shooters shot down even hyneas.


Please call up the forest secretary Mr Nanda on 09978406114 and mail to stop it immediately.

An Appeal From Citizens For Animal Rights

Jalebi Ink spotlighted at Sanctuary Asia Awards

Posted 08 Dec 2010 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Thanks to all the efforts of our wonderful team, Jalebi Ink was spotlighted at the Sanctuary RBS Awards, held recently in Mumbai. The awards highlight contributions by everyday heroes towards saving and preserving the environment.  The awards team was especially impressed by JunkNama, our green newspaper brought out entirely by young people.

We were thrilled to be sharing the limelight with some of our favourite people, who you have read about here. Like noise pollution activist Sumaira Abdulali, whom we wrote about in our Car-Free Day Report.  There were also people like Naina Kathpalia and Neera Punj of Citispace, who are fighting to preserve open spaces and playgrounds in Mumbai, which is an issue that is very important to all of us.

The event was very varied and colourful, with an amazing performance by Warli artistes telling the story about the link between tigers and humans.

We were really happy to see people from all over India being honoured at these awards for their inspiring work. We met the women forest guard from Kaziranga National Park, tiger trackers from the Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve, Tana Tapi and Takum Nabum who guard the Pakke Tiger Reserve from poachers and Mahesh Kumar Jiwrajka, a former forest officer who has been working to save India’s forests forests from timber merchants and corrupt bureaucrats trying to clear ‘development’ projects.

Women guards of Kaziranga National Park

Tribal forest guards Arthi Venkatesham, Bhumani Venkatesham and Dansam Mallaiah

The three recipients of the Young Naturalist Award were Zeeshan Mirza and Sooraj Bishnoi, both from Mumbai, and Monsoon Jyoti Gogoi from Assam. 22 year old Zeeshan is a reptile enthusiast, spider and scorpion expert and researcher. When people need a snake rescued in Mumbai, they call Zeeshan.  Sooraj is an avid birdwatcher and a student member of the Bombay Natural History Society. Monsoon’s passion is butterflies. He has spent the past five years recording and photographing over 500 butterfly species in upper Assam, including rare and endangered species.

Young Naturalists Monsoon, Sooraj and Zeeshan

We thank Sanctuary Asia for a wonderful evening and for putting in the efforts of the Jalebi Ink team with such great and inspiring company.

My Mohalla: A Walk Through Bazaar Road

Posted 24 Jan 2011 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Malaika Mathew Chawla, 13

Jalebi Ink recently invited me to do another assignment for My Mohalla.

This time after thinking about what to do, I decided to interview the people who sell different wares on Bazaar Road in Bandra, Bombay. Bandra  is the suburb where I live. Bazaar Road is a narrow lane in the old part of the neighbourhood with wooden balconies and staircases in houses. I and my mother both visit Bazaar Road often to stock up on groceries and other stuff…. you can find vegetables, fruits, spices, paapads, cereals, idli and dosa mixes, wooden frames, glass bangles, hair clips, household wares… everything under the sun, actually.

I decided to meet some people I have seen many times and even bought things from. Like the Picklewala, Chakkiwala, Koli women ( fisherwomen), a glass bangle and hair band seller. But as I walked around, I came across many other interesting people who I had not noticed earlier. I came across old buildings – built more than seventy years back and  funky wall art…

I landed up in Bazaar Road on a Sunday morning. It was a beehive of activity. We had to weave our way through a lane crammed with baskets full of vegetable, fruit, spices… plump red tomatoes, orange pumpkins and carrots, bunches of diferent kinds of saag, fresh green bunches of dhania and pudina leaves with yellow lemons, long and thin mooli (raddish), beans and bhindi. It was like a feast for our senses. There were sights and smells of different kinds of foods and colours. There was the musky scent of melons at one point. Then we became aware of the rich clove and pepper smells from the spice sellers. And the appetising smell of fresh bread from the bakeries.

This bustling market place is on Bazaar Road which, I now know, is a historic place and is built in an old style of a Goan/ East Indian village neighbourhood, with people living close to their neighbours and knowing them well.

Mr Naushad

As I entered the market, I came to the Crystal Tea and Masala Shop. The owner of this small shop was Mr Naushad. He is 57 years old and has been selling spices like turmeric, cumin and coriander, and tea leaves for the past thirty years. Earlier, he used to work as an accountant with Rajshree Pictures. He lives above his shop. Mr Naushad enjoys his work and always wanted to be in this business. He has two children. His son is a computer engineer in USA and his daughter is a model. He speaks Gujarati and has lived in Bandra his entire life. He studied in St Aloysius School in Bandra and recounted an incident when a teacher had caned him, as a punishment for a firecracker hitting a girl. This has remained an enduring memory. He buys his wares from the wholesale market and earns Rs5,000 a month. He opens his shop at 9am and closes for lunch at 2pm. After a siesta, he is open from 5pm to 8pm. He told us people do not buy loose tea leaves any more as everything comes packaged. So his business has not been doing well.

That's me (in the middle) with Mr Salem, the chakkiwala, and my friend Nikita

Right next to Mr Naushad was a flour grinding shop. Here sits one of the most interesting people I have met in Bazaar Road — Mr Salem, the chakkiwala (flourmill owner). Looking at him, you will think it has been snowing in Bandra. He is always covered in white flour. People come to him with whole wheat grains and he crushes them and makes it into atta (wheat flour). Mr Salem sells atta for Rs 3.5 per kg. He is 25 years old and has been working here for ten years. He gets about a hundred customers daily and works 12 hours a day.

He says he likes Bandra because “yahaan public solid hain” (“people are nice here”). He is good at driving and would have been a driver, if he had not had the flour mill. He has studied till SSC level. “I was a good football player in school,” he told us proudly.

Mr Fakruddin, the bangle and knick-knack seller

My next stop was at Mr Fakruddin, the bangle and knick-knack seller. He was there withy his wife today. I buy my hair clips, bands and sometimes junk ear rings from him for as little as Rs5 and Rs10. He has an amazing collection of beautiful glass bangles in all colours.

That's me checking out a headband. Mr Fakruddin and his wife were looking on

As I went through the gullies of Bazaar Road looking for interesting people, I spotted a man painting butterflies sculpted out of wood and some strange looking yellow tubes. I stopped to ask him what he was doing.

Mr Sanji Kalicharan, fisherman

Mr Kalicharan was painting these flower holders

Wooden butterflies

He said he was a fisherman. But since fishing activity has gone down due to the recent oil spill, to make some money, he does wedding décor. The tubes were flower holders for wedding ceremonies. His name was Sanji Kalicharan.

Further ahead, I came across a dhobiwala — Baburao Diwakar. He was ironing clothes with a hefty, large metal iron which had coals in them. He irons over two hundred clothes a day. He bought his iron from Dadar. He told us that he uses ten kilos of coal every day.

Mr Baburao, the dhobiwala

Mr Baburao's tools of trade - a really heavy iron and coal burner

My walk was almost coming to an end by now. The sun was mercilessly beating down and I was feeling a bit hot. I decided to take refuge in the fish market, which has a covered ceiling.

My mother and I come here several times in the month to buy fresh catch from the sea. The fish sellers are all women. They are called Kolis and are the oldest inhabitants of Bombay. They wear colourful sarees, and beautiful jewellery like nose rings and lots of glass bangles. And they talk loudly, shouting out their wares, and price, calling out to customers walking by. And they laugh loudly too. I like watching them. At the market, I met Janabi, Lalitha and Bhagirathi. They were selling many types of fish and seafood like mackerel, pomfret, ravas (salmon), shrimps, prawns, lobsters and crabs.

In the corner there was a man on a cycle-like contraption who was sharpening the knives of the fisherwomen.

The knife sharpener at the fish market

I had thought this would be the last stop but on my way back, I just had to make a stop at Fakhruddin Frames. I met Mr Fakhruddin who is 64 years old and sells wooden, acrylic and plastic frames. He also stocks  aluminium and plastic mirrors. His shop is eighty years old.

Mr Fakruddin in front of his frames shop

It was stimulating to see people from different walks of life who give Bazaar Road colour and character. I returned home energised. Here are some more pictures from my walk on Bazaar Road — interesting graffiti, a ‘Seahorse Boys Club’, old buildings, children in doorways, wall art… you should come to Bazaar Road some day.


Posted 26 Jan 2011 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

We are celebrating the republic of India today … the idea of democracy and social justice and equality.

And we are putting a man who is working for all these ideas in jail.

Does that make sense?

Follow your dreams

Posted 10 Feb 2011 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

By Zoe Subbiah, 16

I’ve been dancing for three years now. It hasn’t always been easy. Dancing is a lot of hard work but it’s worth it. I’m now on a Basic Intermediate Level. Dancing is my life and everything I think about but my parents don’t approve. Journalism is my back up option if dancing doesn’t work out. My parents insist I focus on journalism instead. But how will I know if I don’t try first? They don’t understand the passion I have for dancing. It dominates my heart and I just NEED to dance. I’ve fought with my parents a lot about it but I am going to try before I give up and follow what my head says instead of what my heart does. For all I know, I may become a great dancer and choreographer. I just have to try.

Our time on earth is limited. We aren’t going to live forever. We can’t waste our time living somebody else’s life. Don’t live by the thoughts and opinions of others. Follow your heart, your dreams, your intuition. When you give up your dreams, a piece of you dies. Only you know what you want to make of your life, everything else is secondary.

I believe when you love something, you should go for it. If you follow your heart and do what you love, success will follow.

Parents sometimes tell us “You can follow your dreams someday. This is more important”

When is ‘someday’? We never know when we are going to die. There is no guarantee that we will have a tomorrow where we can follow our dreams.

They tell us we’ll be in a fix if it doesn’t work out.

How do we know if it’s going to work out or not if we don’t risk it? We just have to have faith and leap in, sometimes.

Some say it’s impossible.

If we love it that much, I think we can MAKE it possible. Nobody can stop you from following your dreams except yourself.

Everybody says that only a lucky few make it.

Those “lucky” ones made it because they followed their hearts and DID something about it. They didn’t let others’ opinions dominate their heart.

There’s always that nagging feeling that we’re going to fail somehow.

So what if you fail a couple of times? Not everybody is perfect. Failure truly is the stepping stone to success and we can’t let that fear rule our lives.

Following our dreams may be scary sometimes, because we never know what’s going to happen. But in the end, nothing is more gratifying than following your dreams and knowing that you MADE it. It may be a lot of hard work but all we can do is be true to ourselves and success will come through our passion.

“A new initiative makes anthropologists of young people in the city”: My Mohalla makes it to Time Out magazine

Posted 10 Feb 2011 — by admin
Category Uncategorized
My Mohalla —  our project on exploring neighbourhoods through the eyes of young people, was featured in Time Out magazine this month. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Most Bandra (W) residents know Flaurian D’Souza on Chapel Road as the go-to man for getting a pair of pants stitched. But locals Malaika Mathew Chawla, 13, and Subhashri Acharya, 10, are among the few who know a little more: at the age of five, D’Souza’s right leg was crushed in a building collapse and the one time that municipal officials paid the tailor a visit for haftaa, D’Souza took off his fake leg and brandished it until they ran away. Chawla knows this story because of a neighbourhood initiative called My Mohalla, by Jalebi Ink, a group that introduces children to media through workshops and other activities. The project encouraged Chawla to speak to the shopkeepers in Bandra’s bazaars and write a series of reports on their lives. Started a year ago, My Mohalla attempts to track the history and culture of Mumbai neighbourhoods through interviews, images and narratives about its people and places. So far, the project has got almost 30 children to document their neighbourhoods such as Mohammed Ali Road, Bandra and Khar, and their reports and photos have been published on Jalebi Ink’s website. My Mohalla was started, said Anuradha Sengupta, journalist and co-founder of Jalebi Ink, because they felt younger people are often isolated from their own community. “Children should be aware that they are linked to a larger whole,” said Sengupta, who previously edited YA!, a children’s newspaper published by DNA.
Bandra children have tramped across Bazaar Road and met their neighbourhood cobblers, fisherwomen, a bangle seller, an idli seller and a phone booth operator.”

Read more here

My Mohalla: Joseph and All That Jazz

Posted 13 Feb 2011 — by admin
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By Anna Abraham, 14 1/2

Walking up Bandra’s Bazaar Road on a lazy Sunday you can hear the people talking, children run up and down the streets, and the calls of many streetside vendors.

And somewhere in the middle of all this, you can hear the deep and warm tones of a sax being played. You can track the sound down to an old white house with a wooden balcony in a really narrow lane. This is the house of Joseph Vessoaker, a dedicated musician who practices for at least 4 hours a day with his whole heart and soul.

You can hear the strains of Joseph's sax in Bandra's Bazaar Road on lazy Sunday mornings. Photo by Anna Abraham

Joseph is one of the several jazz musicians one can find in Bandra. Bandra is famous for the sounds of jazz that float in its lanes and alleys. Here you will find many old musicians who were part of the Hindi film industry at one time when all the music was recorded live with real people. In the early days of Hindi films, music was not composed and played by synthesizers and computers as it is done today, but by real orchestras with real musicians. Just listen to a song from those days – it will be quite different when you listen to music played by an orchestra.

Photo by Anna Abraham

Many Goans have played a very important role in shaping the sound of Hindi film music in the 60s and 70s. A lot of fun tunes – fox trot, ragtime, cha cha cha, waltzes, polkas and square dances – were arranged and played by them. In the days of the orchestra, formed large orchestras where sometimes as many as 80 to 100 musicians had to play the entire song together – perfectly. Can you imagine that? So many people playing different instruments – pianos, harmoniums, violins, drums, saxophones, trumpets, dholaks etc. What kind of practice and perfection would have gone into it? It was like a performance. If someone faltered, everybody had to start all over again.

The sound of these large film orchestras characterized the sound of Bollywood then.

Joseph has worked with some of the best music composers from the Hindi film industry — like RD Burman, Kalyanji Anandji, Laxmikant Pyarelal.

I visited Joseph on a Sunday morning and a had a long chat with him.

Anna and Joseph at his house in Bandra

Q- Hi Joseph, what’s your full name?

A- I’m Joseph V. Vessoaker. But everyone calls me Joe.

Q- Okay, how old are you Joe?
A- Well I don’t usually tell people my age but I am 61 years old.

Q- Wow! How long have you been playing the saxophone for?
A- I’ve been playing for the Sax for 35 years…

Q- 35 years!! Do you play any different types of saxophones or other instruments?
A- Yes I play the tenor, alto and soprano sax. I also play the drums, guitar and trumpet… The trumpet is the hardest to play… One actually has to sing the notes into the trumpet rather than just play them.

Q- How young were you when you started playing an instrument?
A- I started around the age of 16 with my father in St. Pauls Band. I played the drums.

Q- Did you have a band?
A- Yeah, we were called ‘Len & the Rebels.’ We were quite good.

Q-I heard you used to be in an orchestra as well… What was it like?
A- Orchestras were grand. The precision of the musicians was wonderful. Everyone had to be in sync. When you play solo you can cover up your mistakes and no one will notice. But when you play in an orchestra each little mistake can be noticed. Especially when you are playing live.

Q- That must be a lot of pressure… Did you and the orchestra play in any movies?
A- Yes we did. I can’t even remember their names. [Laughs] I was a part of the Cine Musician Association. I worked a lot for Pyarelal Sir. He would ask for many instruments and would add a tabla here and a trumpet there when he felt like it.
He was a true musical genius.

Q-Oh! Have you recorded anything recently?
A- Well you might recognize this tune… It’s from Dev D… It’s called ‘Emosanal Attyachaar’… [Starts playing the song]

Q- Wow! I love that song! So which do you prefer? Playing for movies or for a live audience?
A- Live audience without a doubt!!! There’s something magical about playing for a live audience. When you’re playing for a movie, you are stuck in a studio, and there is no interaction with the audience who watches the movie. When you play live, you can feed off of the energy the crowd gives you.

Q-You must miss those days… What has happened to jazz and live music?
A- I do… Jazz music is fading away now. Your generation is more into hip-hop and rap and rock and those things. No one cares much for jazz. Live music is dying as well. CD-s and downloading is very popular. And because of the verdict increasing the tax on live entertainment, musicians are losing jobs.

Q-So what do you do now days? Do you teach kids?
A- I do teach kids. I teach at Campion, St Stanislaus and if there are any new members in the school band of the American School of Bombay, I teach them the basics.

Join A Youth Radio Show

Posted 21 Feb 2011 — by admin
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Jalebi Ink, with Dabba Radio, is calling for motivated, community minded youth who are interested in reshaping media in India.  Positions are available for reporters, hosts, producers, and other contributors to be involved with India’s first independent youth radio show.  The content of the show will be decided and driven by the youths involved, thereby creating a unique perspective on Mumbai as a locale in a contemporary global context.  The show will be hosted by students aged 14-17, however students as young as 10 are invited to participate – there will be roles for everyone and students who join early will have opportunities to take on greater responsibility as they gain experience.

“I want to grow up and be an officer like them, so that no one ever dares to destroy my house like this ever again”

Posted 16 Dec 2012 — by admin
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Report by Maitri Bheda, 19

Photo courtesy: Faiza Khan

I wonder how I would feel if my home, the house I had stayed in all my life, was destroyed before my eyes? If my family was brutally shoved out of their home by the police one day? Just because the state and the builders wanted to build high rises and malls and airports?

This is what happened to the people in Ganesh Krupa Society in Mumbai’s Khar East Golibar area.

I visited the area recently. But before I proceed, here is a brief backgrounder on the situation in Golibar:

Golibar’s Ganesh Krupa Society was formed in 1994 and in 1996, it was declared as a slum for rehabilitation purpose. The residents, for their rehabilitation purpose signed an agreement with the real estate company Madhu Constructions in 2004. However Madhu Constructions, without the knowledge of Golibar residents, got into an agreement with Shivalik Constructions – a real estate company which has several court cases pending against them. Residents of the area were asked to leave their houses by the builders one fine day – just like that. Despite the fact that the required 70 per cent of signatures of residents had not been acquired. The people filed an RTI (Right To Information) case and found out that the company had forged the consent signatures!

This list of consent signatures include one (in English) of an illiterate woman who had died in 2005!

The residents took the builders to court. And on February 2nd, the Mumbai High Court said that the persons responsible for the fraud and irregularities in the slum rehabilitation process should be arrested within 15 days.

Time for celebrations, right? You would think that when you walk down the streets of Golibar, you will see people happily staying in their chawls and the rehabilitation process would be going on peacefully with another builder. No, this is not the scene you will be seeing. In fact all you will find is aggressive police people posted allover, people from the collector’s office in yellow helmets.

People who have tried defending their homes were pulled mercilessly, women and children were brutally manhandled. And this was done by none other than our police force. The same policemen who were ordered to investigate against the builders were seen working with them. The same police who so stubbornly had refused to lodge an FIR against the builders when the forged signatures were found out, till the court ordered them to do so.

Golibar residents have been told to stay in a transit camp. However not only is the building under construction and also under litigation as an illegal structure, it is also in a bad shape. the living conditions are really bad.

This area had 323 homes. Now it is down to almost 100. Since the demolitions began, people here have ben risking their jobs to stand guard at the entrances to their Society, to resist the demolition team that threatened to come everyday. The atmosphere here is very tense. People here are living in fear… thinking will it be my house this time?

The builders have appointed their own men who at regular intervals harrass the people. This is led to the death of one young man who was at forefront of the struggle to save homes.

The sad thing is this issue has hardly been covered by the media.

I decided to visit the place as I had heard that the children of the area were documenting what’s happening to their homes and their lives. They had been given cameras by documentary filmamaker Faiza Khan to capture what was going on.

I saw several children walking around with cameras in their hands. I met Vrushali, an eleven year old girl who said, “I don’t want these uncles to break my home.” She had a friend with her who said “I do not want to be separated from my friends. There are many transit camps and we will all be sent to different ones.”

“I hate the transit camps. I went there with my parents and it was very dirty. There was dirty water everywhere. We saw some people who have been living there for five years. They were also told they will be given houses later but they have not been given anything yet. So they still live there.”

I also met 13 year old Vinayak Yadav who was roaming around in his school uniform with a camera in his hand. “I am filming these people,” he smiled. Is your house going to be broken today? I asked. “It has already been broken. They hammered on the door first. We had locked ourselves in – all my family. My small sister, mother and father, my grandmother. We did not open. They broke open the door. They hauled us out brutally. We were hurt and bleeding. They threw out all our stuff.”

Where is he staying now? “We cleared the rubble and stay out in the open. We cannot cook – people who still have their homes cook for us.” The kids stay the nights sleeping in the middle of all the rubble, doing their homework in all this confusion and then going to school again the next day. Vinayak makes sure he attends school every day. “School is important for people like us. I want to grow up and be an officer like them, so that no one dares to destroy my house like this ever again.”

When I first approached the area, I was shocked to see the state of the houses. It was like someone had bombed the place. There was rubble and debris all around, and the outer shells of what used to be people’s homes. Some homes still remained. The day I arrived the civic authorities were going to demolish some more. I came across many old people and children sitting outside their broken homes, amidst the rubble.

There were lots and lots of police people. On many of the broken walls I could see the graffiti of a clenched fist, and slogans like “You want to build your airports and malls on the rubble of poor people’s homes.”

Photo courtesy: Faiza Khan

Many people were pleading with or shouting at the police and the people with bulldozers, asking them to not break their homes.

Photo courtesy: Faiza Khan

People had shut themselves in their houses as a mark of protest against the demolition. They were refusing to leave their houses. But the police were breaking the doors, hauling people, including women and kids out brutally, sometimes by their hair. They were being beaten up for resisting the breaking of their homes and taken away in police vans.

Photo courtesy: Faiza Khan

Photo courtesy: Faiza Khan

Photo courtesy: Faiza Khan

The people of Golibar have set up a website  – www. On the site, I read that this is what the people of the area have to say:

“Our home is a slum, and like slum colonies across the city, will eventually be demolished to make way for buildings. We are not against redevelopment. Only, we insist it be just and legal. We insist on people’s participation in redevelopment.
Our houses are small, beautiful and clean. Were, until two weeks ago. Today we live in a Society ravaged by the demolition team that comes every day. The symbols of resistance are on every unbroken wall, and in every one of us – even our children – is the true spirit of Mumbai. Because we are Mumbaikars. We settled this land when it was a marshland. We are the working-classes – we run small businesses and render the services that keep this city moving, ever alive.”

You can read more about Golibar here:


Posted 18 Dec 2011 — by admin
Category Uncategorized

Jalebi Ink was in Afghanistan talking to young Afghans about their dreams and hopes for their country. We held several workshops on citizenship, on what being a young citizen of Afghanistan means to them. At the end of it all, the children made a short film which was screened in Kabul.

Make Festivals Less Damaging To The Earth

Posted 24 Oct 2012 — by admin
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These are posters on Durga Pujo done by Mustard Seeds member, Rishika Bose, Class 7, who stays in Kolkata.

Rishika is deeply concerned about the litter problem that comes along with the Pujo street food frenzy in Kolkata — especially the use of thermacol plates and plastic cups that put toxins into our soil and our bodies and never biodegrade.

As an independent project, Mustard Seeds (which is a Kolkata-based reading room for children and family project to support traditional artisans and social welfare and fair trade organizations) made some posters to send around to get people thinking about how to make the pujas greener and cleaner from this year onward. They also hope to speak to some of the puja committees in their locality, asking them to provide proper trash receptacles that are emptied when full and urging vendors to use only biodegradable cups and plates. They hope you will join them in spreading the important message: we need to start talking about our trash.

A message from Mustard Seeds: Please share the posters around if you like the message. Ask people to print them and hang them up somewhere where many will see them.

To read more about Mustard Seeds, click here and here

“All females in Delhi have been harassed at some point”

Posted 26 Dec 2012 — by admin
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Hello. My name is Khadija Khan and as much as I hate to say this, I am from Delhi. That’s right Delhi! The rape capital of India. The same place in which women are living with a cloud of fear above their heads. The fear of being raped. It’s like a big suffocating cloud hanging over you, every single day of your life. Life in the capital is harsh for women. A rape is reported every 20 minutes. This is the official record. Obviously the unofficial number must be much more.

Any woman and any girl above the age of 12 even has to be extremely cautious about the way she talks, the way she walks and most importantly what she wears here. It’s a shame the men are not taught to behave themselves, abstain from wolf-whistling, cat calling and ‘eve teasing’ (a strange term for harassment).

Welcome to Delhi!

Where any woman who is out of the four walls of her house is a fair game or as the station master in the movie Jab We Met says, “khuli tijori” (an open treasure chest).

You may be covered from head to toe, not baring an inch of body, but we will rape you. You may have a male accomplice with you, he may even be your father, but we will rape you. You may not have flirted, smiled or even looked at us but we are made of sterner stuff. You may be a woman well above 50 who has reached her menopause or a tiny girl who doesn’t even know what rape is and who has probably just hit her menarche but that doesn’t matter because we will rape you!

I’m sure all of you are well aware of the gang- rape of the 23 year old girl. It has shaken the nation. People just can’t take it any more. Some people blame the government. Others blame the police. Some blame the whole system. And some even blame the women for “attracting attention in the wrong way.”

Some say, “Death penalty is the ultimate solution.” But is it really? In 1990, a man called Dhananjoy Chatterjee was given a death penalty for raping a 14 year old girl in Kolkata and it’s not like that has deterred the rapists from committing further horrendous acts.

Now let me tell you my story. Every time I step out of the house I have to take my phone. Even when I go to school I have to take my phone. And my parents call me constantly to check upon me. I don’t travel by public transport but my sister does. And often she tells me that even in the ladies compartment of the Delhi Metro, many men occupy the seats and harass the women. And whatever happens we have to be home before dark.

Wearing a mini skirt on the streets of Delhi is like being around a flame when you’re soaked in kerosene.

After the rape incident, all schools in Delhi informed the girls about how to protect themselves, how to defend themselves in case of a catastrophe, how to hit, where to hit, to carry a safety pin and pepper spray at all times.

All females in Delhi have been harassed at some point, in one way or another. The other day in class we were discussing the rape incident and three girls broke down in the middle of telling their story. You go to a crowded place, somebody will smack your bum and by the time you turn your head there won’t be any one there. A friend of mine told me that she was travelling in a DTC bus and a man groped her and when she shouted at him, he had the audacity to ask her, “ So, what can you do about it?” with a lewd grin spread across his godforsaken face.

The Delhi government has come up with an Anti-Stalking Helpline but let me tell you what happens when one calls on it. The receiver asks you questions like: Do you know the guy? Is he your past lover? Have you ever smiled at him? Have you flirted with him? What are you wearing right now? And my favourite, “are you wearing any coloured hair bands?” Imagine the anger one would feel if she’s being harassed and then asked such questions on top of that.

Imagine if that someone was you.

By Khadija Khan, 16 yrs

The world did not end this year, but humanity did

Posted 01 Jan 2013 — by admin
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By Zoë Dominique Subbiah, 18

We have all heard the story. She was a 23 year old girl who was coming back with her friend after watching Life of Pi. They got onto the bus where 6 men… We all know how the rest of it goes. The entire nation is appalled. But my question is, why now?
Almost every single day, there is some rape case or the other. So why has the country precipitously decided to wake up now?
Yes, I understand the brutality of what happened to her. But rape is rape. And it is horrendous no matter how it unfolds.
It is high time we did something about it. I do have to agree – it is better late than never.
It is amazing to see what a brouhaha this incident has caused and how Indian youth is reacting to it. Large hordes of Indian youth have been protesting against this obscenity at the president’s residence, the parliament and India gate. However, our so called ‘democratic’ government has only responded by having the Delhi police lead lathi charges, aim water cannons and throw tear bombs  at the protesting masses.
However, no matter how valiant and noble the Indian youth have been and despite their honourable actions, we need to look at the other side of the coin. Would this have happened if from the very beginning we taught our men not to rape? That rape is wrong?
We cannot sit and blame the government alone. At some level, we need to blame ourselves. It does not start with changing your profile pictures or writing Facebook statuses about it or even protesting about it. It starts with introspection. Recognize the problem and start instigating the solutions. We can start by teaching our children, our siblings, our friends to have morally right values and to stand by them no matter what the situation is. By creating awareness in schools and colleges, starting at the grass root level and then spreading it over the length and breadth of the country. Gandhi had said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. So if we want a clean, rape-free India, the change should start within ourselves.
Whenever I go to the nearby “hangout” area where kids of my age tend to meet up, wearing shorts, I get leering glances from all the rickshaw-walas or drivers waiting outside. Well, all girls, to be specific. These men don’t even try to hide the fact that they are being lecherous.  Often in shopping places like Janpath and Sarojni Nagar, men shamelessly grope women or harass them. 23% of total rapes in India occur in Delhi and there was a total of 568 rape cases in Delhi in 2011. It would have gone up significantly in the past year (obviously). The fact of the matter is, even if police are around these areas, they are the least concerned. So I wonder, if the police don’t really care about the safety of the citizens, what’s the point of even having them around? Police officers have said things like –  “It is a social issue and it is impossible to come out with an initiative or strategy to curb such offences. Many cases registered are technical (with victim’s consent).” Even the President’s son has made casual remarks such as – “The anti-rape demonstration is a “pink revolution” by women wearing heavy make-up who think it is fashionable to protest.”
Our constitution says “By the people, for the people, of the people”. Is it really? Let me tell you, if this is how much our ruling party or even the opposition cares, then they should know there is no way in hell that anybody is voting for the Congress or BJP in the 2014 elections! We may have the right to elect who to rule us, but it’s only as good as token power if our representatives care more about their money and power than they do about the citizens’ welfare.
What would the very same people say if this happened to THEIR daughters, THEIR wives, THEIR mothers? Would it still be “They were inappropriately dressed”, “ They were out at an inappropriate time”, “They were out with inappropriate company.” ???
No, it sure as hell wouldn’t. They would have moved heaven and hell to get down to the bottom of it if it happened to one of their loved ones. Come hell or high water, they would have ENSURED “JUSTICE” for THIER loved ones. But as long as it doesn’t concern them, they don’t have reason enough to care. So much for a welfare state, huh? Our government unquestionably needs a wake-up call and leaders like Ms. Gandhi, Ms. Dixit and other women MPs should have been at the forefront of this agitation.
So maybe the world didn’t end this year, but humanity sure did. We may all be living, but many are morally dead. So maybe it would have been better if the world did end. Unless we follow in Gandhi’s footsteps and be the change in the world.

A day at Bookaroo

Posted 21 Feb 2013 — by admin
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By Shivesh Bhatia and Ipsita Agarwal

The Bookaroo festival entered its 5th year in November, 2012. Amazed by the line up of inspiring speakers and authors, Jalebi Ink decided to cover all the action there on 25th November.

So there we were at the Arjangarh metro station, from where the Bookaroo shuttle bus took us to the venue. The place was so green and clean that you felt you were in a new world. There was passion in the air, and love for literature was evident. It’s going to be a great day, I was sure.
Unfortunately, Ruskin Bond could not make it to the festival due to health issues. The event ‘Hot Seat’ which was to be anchored by Ruskin, was done by five other authors.
The Hot Seat at the Amphitheatre was the first event we attended and it was a wonderful start to the festival. Bookaroo put five authors on the hot seat: Grant S. Clark, Penny Dolan, Ranjit Lal, Shamim Padamsee and Petr Horacek. The writers first introduced themselves and then the children shot their questions. Some questions were hilarious and the witty replies made everyone laugh.

Penny Dolan gave out a very interesting tip while answering the question – “How do you get ideas?”. She advised the little boy who had asked the question to maintain an ‘idea box’ and put in an idea whenever it struck him. She also said it would be great to out and observe people and make notes.
When someone asked Ranjit Lal how does one become a writer, he said, “Write whatever comes to your mind, just write. Edit it later, and it will do the job!”Another very interesting thing he said: “I take revenge from people by making them insects in my stories and killing them.” Ha ha.
Grant S. Clark, who was a sports journalist, said he gets inspiration from pictures and art. Petr, who trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague before becoming a graphic designer, illustrator and painter, said he does not like plain books. So his books are colourful and have pop-outs and holes. He also drew Suzie the Goose from his book for the little children.
Sounds of loud laughter guided us to the Glade, where Neeraj Jain was amusing little kids by reading out a book. Neeraj Jain is a volunteer with ITIHAAS. He has also served as a member of ITIHAAS’ Advisory Council. What I loved the most about his session was that children were an intrinsic part of his storytelling. After the session, they all got a ‘jaadu ki jhappi‘ from the stuffed elephant Neeraj brought with him.
Another session that really engrossed the children was the Creative Writing Workshop by Asha Nehemiah. She gave out techniques like ‘Dive into Technique’ and ‘X-ray Technique’ and explained them in a way that made it all so easy to understand.

Hachette’s area was buzzing with children. They had a lot going on: creating a buzz at the spelling bee, being a whiz at quiz, creating rhymes and book readings. And there were prizes. I think it was the best decorated area, nicely done up with flags and banners of book covers.
When we entered the Pavilion,  author Imtiaz Ali’s niece was reading a from his book. After it ended, we asked him how would you introduce yourself to the readers of Jalebi Ink ? ”I am a banker turned author, who writes books for children,” he replied. Ipsita Agarwal, another Jalebi Ink reporter asked Imtiaz Ali, “What inspires you to write children’s books?” “I love writing books for children. I write books on my experiences an books for children take me back to my childhood. I find ancient Urdu literature very inspiring. “
Next to join the ‘Bookathon’ was the very wonderful Shabnam Minwala. We missed her programme but we got her talking about her book and Bookaroo. How would you introduce yourself to Jalebi Ink, e asked her. “My name is Shabnam Minwala. I was a senior assistant editor with Times of India. My three children got me into an even more brain-scrambling job and so I left TOI. After they grew up, I got into writing. I sent my script to Hachette and got a reply from them and this is how I got into writing.” What drove you here, to Bookaroo ?
“Hachette asked me to do a session here and I was thrilled! My passion for meeting new people drove me here from Mumbai. At the end of the day, when you write a book, you want it to be read and so I came here to meet children who might like it and might want to read it.”
So, how was the response you received? “It is just great! I did a long session yesterday and it was so much fun. We did a lot of activities like making charm bags and our own charms. For me magic is something that you wish to do to get what you really want. In my book, little children want to use magic to prevent their new neighbours from cutting down a couple of trees in the garden. And we also did the bad neighbour dance!” (Laughs) How would you describe the place to the readers who could not attend the festival? “Bookaroo is fabulous! It is so clean and open! I mean you children are so fortunate that a festival like Bookaroo is happening in your city. It is great to see so many children here for their love for books.”
We talked to Niveditha Subrimanyim at her reading session at Kahani Tree. She is excited by the possibilities of picture books and comics, and enjoys photography and illustration. She told us she has a special thing for storytelling because it involves interaction and makes a book come alive. She said she always wanted to write books for children.
Paro Anand, an award winning author of children’s books was the highlight of the day for me. She was at the amphitheater making poetry easy for every kid who struggles with rhymes and rhythm. She gave children some easy recipes that made poetry simply delicious for them. When we aked her to tell us a little abou herself, she said: “I am a writer, performance storyteller and a world record holder for helping children make the world’s longest newspaper!” What brings you to Bookaroo? “I love being with kids, I love this place and meeting others who do what I do. I have been attending Bookaroo for the last 6 years. I have seen young children gain confidence. Now they interact more. Six years back, they were shy and used to ask me the same three questions. But now they ask me wonderful questions, just like you are asking and that is what I treasure.”

Observing Nature Through Art

Posted 21 Feb 2013 — by admin
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Hemlata Pradhan is a botanical illustrator from Kalimpong, Darjeeling district, West Bengal. She has a diploma in Botanical Illustration with distinction from the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, England. And a Master’s in Natural History Illustration and Ecological Studies from the Royal College of Art, London. She is the winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal as well as the 18th world Orchid Conference Gold Medal for her paintings of Indian Jewel Orchids and the Indian Wild Orchids in habitat.

She decided to return to her hometown Kalimpong and begin a wonderful art school for local children. We met her and some of her students at her art school and were totally bowled over.

Hemlata Pradhan with some of her students at her art school in Kalimpong

We asked her to write about her school and her students for Jalebi Ink. Here’s her story.

When Ordinary becomes Extraordinary:

“My dream was to begin a school of Natural History Art in Kalimpong (my hometown) in Darjeeling district, where I could teach children and my local community about various art forms involving nature and natural objects that surround us, while promoting environmental consciousness at the grassroots level through the medium of art and helping them bring livelihood and sustenance in the future.

I initiated a charitable trust with seed funds gifted to me by Lady Lisa Sainsbury (London) to begin the art school. The Himalayan Trust for Natural History Art is presently building the Himalayan Institute of Natural History Art in Kalimpong where nature will form the basis of learning. Although the Institute may take some time to begin functioning, the Trust has already begun conducting various hands-on workshops and classes since last year for children from under-privileged families in the field of Natural history art and various other art forms like textile and ceramics using traditional methods and materials.

About the art school and my students: They were ordinary village kids when they first joined the Natural History art classes I had begun a year ago. The common factor that bonded them were grimy nails and clothes, unkept hair infested with lice, smelling of sour sweat, unbrushed teeth, unruly and difficult, no hopes or dreams to call their own and a difficult family life.

On their first day I asked them if they attended regular schools. I came to know that they did and I sighed, ‘Ok, that’s a silver lining at least!’ Only to have Pushpakala, the oldest student saying with a pinch of regret in her voice, ‘Miss, if there are too many chores around the house our parents tell us not to go to school.’ I literally wanted to bang my head against a wall! There was also the fact that these children had never touched colours in their lives nor were they aware of the art world. And to put the icing on the cake, the parents of the children did not want them to learn ‘art’ and waste their precious time when they could be better off just helping around the house or earning a rupee or two doing odd jobs. I knew I had a tough challenge ahead of me.

Hemlata and her students on a field study (Photo: Hemlata Pradhan)

To begin with, I made some thumb rules that were simple and practical to follow for the children whilst also trying to get the support of the parents and the village folk.

Thumb rule No. 1: This little art school expects you to leave all your worries and problems at the gate, don’t bring the baggage in. Rejoice in being here and just enjoy creating and having fun in the process. After classes, we can discuss your problems and see if we can find solutions.

Thumb rule no.2: I promise, dear diary and sketchbooks, to maintain you with respect and dedication.

Thumb rule No. 3: It is compulsory to complete all your homework, studies and house chores before you can sit down with art.

At the beginning of each new session the children are presented with diaries and sketchbook. It is mandatory for them to maintain the same each day, even when they attend regular school. They create field drawings and sketches during their lunch breaks and any free time they get during the day. This practice has helped them to familiarise themselves as well as become more observant of their natural surroundings. It has also helped them improve their drawing skills, bond with nature, increase their vocabulary and communication skills.

Celestina Lepcha engrossed in her painting (photo: Hemlata Pradhan)

Photo: Hemlata Pradhan

It is compulsory for them to complete their morning chores (waking up sometimes as early as 4am to cut grass for the cattle, grazing them, cleaning, cooking for the family etc). They go to school at 8:30am. They are back by 4:30pm excited to be at the art school – each one eager to relate his or her story of the day. Most days, they are at the art school as late as 9pm, drawing, painting, studying and even dancing and singing. But if they have duties and evening chores at home, they leave by 6pm (though reluctantly). All in a day’s work. They have learnt how to multi-task with the ease of a professional with smiles on their faces which inspire and motivate us to move forward.

Photo: Hemlata Pradhan

Photo: Hemlata Pradhan

Jewellery design inspired by the field drawings of students (photo: Hemlata Pradhan)

A year down the line, these children have metamorphosed into responsible human beings, shown talent and dedication to art, and are much more cheerful than they used to be. The very hands that looked grimy have been creating beautiful works of art that go beyond their age.  Their knowledge of the natural world and their surroundings come from the daily chores that they carry out like cutting grass and collecting firewood from the forests. They know a .ot about indigenous medicine from local plants and trees. You ask them about ‘jungle medicines’ and they will give you a list of them for broken bones, headache, jaundice, fever, high blood pressure, diabetes etc. What we have added on to that knowledge is the power of observation through drawings, lectures and field trips with the help of professionals in the field of art, botany and natural history.

Student Gayatri Chhetri with her works (photo: Hemlata Pradhan)

I keep a diary about our art studio. Here’s an anecdote from it: Celestina Lepcha, a 13 year old girl, came back from school all flushed with excitement. She told me that she had seen a giant bird on a fig tree near her school. The very next day I could see all the children shouting with excitement outside the art school. Just as I came outside to see what the hulla-bulla was about, I heard and saw a huge bird sweeping past the school building. It was the Great Indian Hornbill! It was a rare sight and a treat for us all. Celestina told me later that this was the very bird she had observed on the fig tree eating the fruits.

Photo: Hemlata Pradhan

Documentation of such experiences and truth in the form of art and writing is what makes natural history exciting, and I feel documentation by children can be even more prolific, fun and easy that even a layman can understand.

Photo: Hemlata Pradhan

At the studio, the children are taught how to be innovative and versatile with their drawings and are also encouraged to try different styles, techniques and mediums. Educational field trips form a vital part of the curriculum. Besides art classes, we encourage different schools to visit us so that children can interact and learn from each other bringing a sense of unity, sharing, communication, exchange of knowledge, ideas and friendship amongst them. I feel such exchanges are a wonderful source of inspiration, learning and encouragement for all. Over time they are slowly but steadily not only learning about art, nature and natural history but are also learning how to come out of their shells, gaining confidence and self-belief. Their relationships at home have changed for the better as they have become more responsible with their duties and education and the parents are beginning to see the value of what the children are learning.

Clay work and ceramics (photo: Hemlata Pradhan)

The paintings and art works they create bring to focus the splendid and myriad forms and colours of nature that abound around us here in the hills. These artworks are not just meant for aesthetic purpose but will also serve to bridge the gap between art and science, raise public awareness of our flora and fauna and contribute towards preservation of our traditional art forms and the natural world.”