November 25, 2007

In Laws' hands

ALUR (ANDHRA PRADESH): Pain, agony and distress – these words sound heavy even for a mature person – but for 13-year-old Janaki amma – it was a nighmare. Not able to withstand the torture by her 45-year-old husband anymore, she drank kerosene one night, in a bid to commit suicide. After her recovery, she refused to stay with her husband any longer and left the house. It's been six months now, and Janaki is doing a bridge course for enrolling into Class VI in a government school next year.

The journey from the house of her 45-year-old husband, who used to force her to work in the cotton fields and also beat her up every night, to the residential camp in Alur run by a NGO where she is studying in Class VII now, was not easy for the 16-year-old Revati of Bandeliki Chealra village. Married to a husband, who already had two wives, this minor was tortured by her in-laws too, until one day she gathered courage to file a complaint against them in the police station, and refused to go back. Now, all she dreams about is her first day in court as a practising lawyer.

"I want to study law to help lakhs of hapless girls like me," says Revati. If the story of these child-wives of various villages in Ranga Reddy district is anything to go by, more and more minor girls married off by their parents against their will have been courageously walking out their marital homes, choosing to study instead, with the dream for a better future ahead.

"After working for 15 hours in the cotton and chilli fields, I had work at my in-law's house and then got beaten up by my drunkard-husband at night. Life was hell for me," recalls Janaki, who wants to be a nurse. Even as child-marriages are rampant, of late, the trend to walk out of the marriage is also being seen in various villages of the district. There are over two dozen such young girls who have walked out of marriages.

A recent survey conducted across all 17 blocks of the district by M V Foundation, a NGO working to curb child labour in the state, stated that eight out of 10 girls here are married off before they attain the age of 18. The study also reveals that 36% of women, who were married off early but are now single, are below 25 years.

"This is a positive trend, with these girls willing to study to make a future of their own. Despite getting no co-operation from their parents, these girls prefer to walk out of a bad marriage," said Md Rahim, co-ordinator of M V Foundation.

November 5, 2007

Bollywood Love Affair

If you thought Bollywood was only about Shilpa Shetty in the UK then you’ve got it wrong. Long before Shilpa Shetty the small town of Southampton (UK) was bedazzled by all things Bollywood. With Europeans having acquired a seemingly insatiable appetite for Indian culture in all its forms be it art culture or the films, it seems that it cannot get enough of the vibrant colours, passion, glamour and energy of India. One would think it would be our very own Indian Janta spreading the spice and flavors, but surprisingly that is not the case. Mr Afghan (no names and I Kinda like the sound of Mr Afghan) Afghan has a different story to tell.

5 years ago, Mr Afghan came to the UK, leaving behind him memories of a war torn country. Not the one to give up, He has been having a 5 year long love affair with Bollywood. Today, he boasts of the best collection of Bollywood films and music in Southampton.” His quaint little shop is a definitive anthology of all Bollywood music right from the evergreen classics to the current foot tapping fusion and you might just find locals dancing along with Shah Rukh Khan or Aishwarya Rai doing their Bollywood routine!

The local Indians and all Bollywood lovers alike swear by Mr Afghan’s collection and come from all across Southampton to get their dose of Bollywood Films and music! –As they say Cinema has no language…and no barriers. It merely blurs the shadow lines that separate countries through the arts of expression be it music or films.

So, if you are ever in this part of the world make sure (take me along!) you visit Mr Afghan because his love for Bollywood and the music in its own special way will make you feel at home far-away from home.