Rabbit Hole Day 2009

Okay, so today I am going to celebrate The Rabbit Hole Day by writing a post about a matter which I have not used ever. I did not know about this festival. Lane wrote me a mail today explaining about this festival and I thought that I should also celebrate it.I chosenthe monkeys of Mathura city to celebrate this festival. Mathura is the birth place of Krishna and one of the most important holy cities for Hindus. This city is a big attraction for India and foreign tourists. I have been to Mathura four times. I went there first time when I was ten years old and my last trip was four years ago.

This city has huge number of very very smart monkeys. I think they have more monkeys than Benares. Once I was in Mathura with my mother and we were going to some temple through very narrow alleys. I was watching the people, the old houses, the color, the culture, the religion… It was awesome. At the same time someone stopped us and said that we should not carry anything in our hands and take the glasses out because sometimes monkeys can take the stuffs you are having in your hands or just take your glasses and ran away.

I thought that maybe monkeys can catch the things from my hand but why they would like to take my glasses so never took my glasses off. My mother had a purse which she hided but she also did not take her glasses off. We started walking and again somebody told us the same story. Again we did not take it seriously. I think four-five people had told us the same story. They were concerned about our glasses but I never wanted to go blind without my glasses so I did not listen them.

After walking for few minutes my mother shouted- Oh! My Glasses. By the time I turned back and could understand anything, a monkey had taken my mother’s glasses and now he was sitting on a tree. Both of us were laughing and watching this monkey. We had never expected something like that. There are lots of monkeys in my city city also but they never do anything like this. I went under the tree and I was telling monkey to return the glasses but he did not want to return it. He was trying to wear it.

After few minutes a guy came to us and asked if we would like to get the glasses back and obviously we said yes. He said that if we pay him Rs. 100 then he would get the glasses back from the monkey. We asked how would he get the glasses back but he did not want to leak the secret. He said- you just give me money and I will get your glasses back. I bargained with him, as we usually do in Indian market, and agreed with a amount of Rs. 25. I gave him Rs. 25 and he went to a nearby shop and bought garbanzo worth Rs. 2.

I had noticed that monkey was kept watching him. It looked like everything was already planned. He brought the garbanzo and threw it on the tree. The monkey was so smart. He put the glasses safely on a branch of the tree and then caughtthe garbanzo packet. After getting the garbanzo packet, the monkey threw the glasses to this guy but unfortunately he could not catch it and the glasses fell down on the ground and broke. This guy said sorry to us. He said that he tried his best but it did not work. We started walking again towards the temple but now I had taken my glasses off.

We thought to get the glasses repaired and started asking the locals about a glasses shop. When we asked a person he immediately asked us if the monkey had broke our glasses and I said yes. I asked him how did he know about it and he said that there were lots of people who had trained monkeys to do it. I was shocked to hear it. He said that their monkeys always look for people carrying something and then take their stuffs and run away and the owner comes and make deal with the person who lost his stuffs.

We could not get the glasses repaired and my mother had to watch Mathura without her glasses which was very important to her, maybe I can say that her glasses are her eyes. Monkeys are given respect in Hindu society because they belong to the God Hanuman. Baby Hanuman was very naughty. Once Hanuman had swallowed the sun thinking that it was a red fruit. He would also disturb people for fun so maybe these naughty activities are impact of Hanuman:) Anyway whatever it is but I enjoyed whatever happened with us. There was some problem to my mother but its okay, she also enjoyed it. We still talk about it and laugh. HAPPY RABBIT HOLE DAY.

Per capita income India

This is a big question in India- How much is your salary? Since the India has started developing, people have changed the way they used to talk. About twenty years ago, the first question after meeting someone was- What your parents do? But today the first question is what do you do and then what your parents do. The family is still very important in Indian society so I am sure it will be present for long times. But the problem is that salary is always a confusing number in India. People don’t know how much money do they make. Even though they have a fixed salary but still they don’t know the right amount they make because bribery is a big part of their income.

This is the way this question goes:- Someone asks other person:- What is your salary? The first person:- ten thousand but I make about twenty including everything. This everything means bribe. Sometimes people say only their right salary then other person asks does it include everything. This bribe has become a part of people’s salary, specially government employees. Most of the government employees are involved in bribery. They just don’t work without taking bribe. I can not think of any government department where I can get any work done without offering bribe to the government officers.

Whether it is civil courts, electricity department, water department, municipality, road transport office, police… just any department. If someone wants a case to be heard after a month, it is very easy. I just need to offer some money to the clerks and they give a date as per my convenience. If someone doesn’t want to pay the actual electricity bill, it is very easy. They can pay 25% of the bill to a electricity office employee and get the bill decreased by 50%. Getting a fake driving license, no problem. You never go through any test. Just bribe someone and they give you the driving license. It doesn’t matter if you can drive or not.

Sometimes I wonder how big the difference is between Indian government offices and western government offices. When any western person asks me about my salary and I tell them a amount then they ask me if this amount is after tax or before tax. But in India people say if the amount is after bribe or before bribe. What a huge difference. Most of the people don’t pay any income tax. It is very easy to hide the income and do not pay any tax. People decide how much do they want to pay as income tax.

Since India is still in lack of jobs, very few people get their salary in their bank accounts.Most of the people get their salary direct in hand and government never knows about it. There is a another problem with getting salary in hand. All the cities have a standard minimum wage but I don’t think if any employer thinks about it. Huge number of people get only half of the standard wage. Even companies like Coca-Cola don’t pay standard wage to its temporary employees. I think we need more records in computers and maybe this will solve a lot of problems. But who knows, maybe a new technique to defeat computers.

Neetu in Pain

Neetu is a sixteen-year-old girl who lives with one of my relatives in Mau district. She was thrown out in the garbage right near Mau railway station after she came on our planet. She was in the garbage and just kept weeping and weeping. A lot of people were there but they were just watching her crying and not doing anything. Nobody picked her up from the garbage. One of my relatives saw Neetu crying and then he could not stop himself picking her up from the garbage. He picked her up and brought her to his place.

He showed Neetu to his wife and his wife started yelling at him. She was angry at her husband because they had already seven kids, two daughters and five sons. She did not want to keep Neetu but her husband told her that Neetu was in the garbage and if he puts her again in garbage, maybe some animal would kill her. They still did not know that Neetu was a female. They were thinking that Neetu was a male baby. Finally aunt took Neetu inside her house and gave her a bath. While giving the bath she realized that Neetu was a female baby.

She started crying thinking that how will she manage Neetu because she had already two more daughters. She was concerned about the dowry for Neetu’s wedding. Aunt again told uncle to take Neetu out of the house. But uncle did not want to do it. Finally they agreed on keeping Neetu in the house. Now Neetu is sixteen years old and has passed 10th class with good marks. My aunt died a few years ago and now my uncle lives with Neetu. My uncle’s other children do not take care of him. My uncle is now old and retired from his job and his children don’t want to see him anymore. They live somewhere away from his place and not take care of him.

Now my uncle is completely dependent on Neetu and is very proud of his decision of making Neetu part of his family. But he is concerned about Neetu’s wedding. He wants Neetu to get married as soon as possible and has been looking for a groom for Neetu. But the problem is that when people hear that she was found in garbage, nobody wants to marry her. Neetu wants to live with my uncle but he wants her to get married because he is not sure what will happen with Neetu after his death.

Neetu lives in Mau district which is kind of undeveloped district even on Indian standard therefore the society is very very male dominating. None of uncle’s son want to help Neetu and it is also one of the biggest concerns of uncle. I have heard of people rejecting girls if they think that girl is not beautiful or is not educated or is not fare or whatever strange reasons but this is first time when I heard people rejecting a girl because she was found on garbage. She is being punished for the reason she is not responsible for.

I think Neetu needs to get married and it will be better for her to get married before uncle dies because there will no one for her after uncle’s death but I don’t know if it possible. The way uncle has been looking for the groom for past two years and every time people rejected Neetu, it seems like it will be very hard for uncle to find a groom for Neetu. Uncle wanted to get Neetu married in the same caste but now he has changed his decision and is agree to accept even a inter-caste groom but still no hope for Neetu. People hear that she was found in garbage and reject her right away.

I don’t know how to help Neetu but I hope that someday she will get her dream boy. I don’t know when people will stop discriminating between girls and boys. I see this problem because in Indian society boys are given more importance than girls. A lot of people get aborted if they have a female baby because sometimes they are concerned about the dowry, and sometime they just don’t like the females. The people who have only girls have hard time in our society. People criticize you in different ways if you have only daughters.

Sometimes they say that there will be no one to give you shoulder (carry your body) when you die. The thing to be noticed is that only males are allowed to give shoulder to a dead body. I don’t think it is a problem if females give you shoulder. And now it is happening. I heard of lot of cases where somebody died and he had only daughters and these daughters gave shoulder to their father and cremated the body. It sounded strange to a lot of people but I don’t see it as any problem. Hinduism has give very high place to girls but I don’t know when and where the problem came from. But I still have a hope that someday there will be no discrimination between boys and girls and girls like Neetu will not be thrown out in the garbage again.

Ganges sewage…

This video is a award winning video on India TV news channel. I sent this video to India TV news channel and it was selected as the best video of the day and I won a color TV. Even though I had to pay twenty-five percent tax and had to make phone calls worth almost a thousand rupee and wait for six months but finally I got the television. I was not expecting for this much trouble but I had to do all the things. Even I had to go to Lucknow and bring the TV to Benares by bus. I used bus becasue I was scared of the police. They are always in the trains and at the railway stations looking for a new customer. If they see you travelling with anything big, new and expensive then they want a party from you. But I did not want to share my happy moments with the people who make others sad.

I made this video with Lane two years ago when he is was in India. We went together to the sewage discharge point in Nagwa and used his camera to make the video.

Kite festival in Varanasi

A boy busy with his kite

A boy busy with his kite

It was kite festival on the 14th and 15th which I like a lot. I used to fly kites for at least four-five months a year but stopped doing it about six-seven years ago. Now I fly kites only on this festival. This festival is called Khichadi. Khichadi is a dish also and everybody cooks Khichadi for this festival. It has a religious importance to donate something on this festival day and everybody makes some donation. I have been donating my blood on this day for the past ten years but I could not do it this year.

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Kites everywhere

I went to the hospital but they did not take my blood because I was suffering from cold and cough. I will go after a week again and make the blood donation. I flew few kites but not as much as I was expecting. I had bought about fifty kites but I few only five. My friends flew other ones. This festival more kind of family festival. People come on the roof, they have loud music, Khichdi and kites for the whole day. The number of kite flyers have decreased a lot now. The whole sky used to be stuffed with the kites but now its not like that.

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Sky full of kites

A lot of parents do not want their kids to fly kites because they relate kite flying with bad-kids. They love taking their kids to McDonalds and get them all the garbage food with Coca-Cola but kite flying is not good for them. I think it is okay. It is thousand times better than sitting in front of a TV and watching all the politics. There is a bad thing also about this festival that few kids fall off the roof. Sometimes they die also. I think every year almost 15-20 kids get injured and maybe one or two die. But its fun to fly kites.

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This guy had a big music system on roof

The other danger thing about kite flying is new and done by Chinese. Now we have Chinese strings which has a lot of iron in it. Its obvious to get a little cut on fingers while flying kites but if there is Chinese string then one can get tetanus if not takes any injection. The other dangerous thing about Chinese strings is that it can give you a electrical shock if your strings touch any electrical wire. And off course all of our electricity wires are open in Varanasi. Indian string has only glass powder and is more safe than Chinese one but a lot of people prefer Chinese one because it is stronger than Indian one, its sad.

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Kites & Kites & Kites...

I ask my foreign friends about their kites in their country and it sounds like their kite flying is boring. Once I asked about kites to Adam, my friend in Chicago, and he was proud to say that he can turn the kites to different sides, even spin them around. He said that they he has some stuff from which he can add more than one string to kite if he wants to spin them around or turn them towards different sides. I laughed when I heard this because we also do the same thing but with only one string. I showed him our kites he was wondering how is it possible to spin a kite around with only one string.

I asked him if they cut others’ kites or not and he said “NO”. I think it will be no fun if you can not cut other kites down. He watched our kites and was shocked to see us spinning kites around with one string and cutting other kites down. You have to have some techniques to cut other kites down. We have an international kite festival this year in Gujarat where a lot of people from different countries will come to participate. But no need to say that either India, China or Pakistan wins the competition.

Tabla lessons in Varanasi

A student named Allen Roda from University of New York came to my guest house on the 12th. He is doing research on Tabla making which sounds like nobody has done before. He is going to write about everything about tabla making e.i. where does the skin come from, who makes them, where does the wood come from… just everything. He already knew few people in Varanasi and had already contacted them before. I thought it would be good for him to meet Mr. Deobrat Mishra. I introduced him to Mr. Mishra and Allen told me that he really liked Mr. Mishra’s suggestions.

I wanted to introduce Allen to Mr. Praveen Uddhav who is senior lecturererof Tabla at BHU and by chance Mr. Mishra also advised Allen to meet him. We went to Mr. Uddhav’s place and met him. Mr. Uddhav seemed a little bit concerned about Allen meeting with other Tabla makers in Varanasi. He introduced us to a Irish guy named Steve at his place who had been cheated by a tout a few days ago. Steve said that he came to Varanasi to learn Tabla. He wanted to do M.Mus. from BHU.

He met a guy named Siddharth who told Steve that he will have to buy different instruments even if he just wanted to learn Tabla at BHU. Steve believed him and went for shopping with Siddharth. Siddharth made him buy 30-40 different instruments worth $23,000. I don’t know why Steve believed him. He paid this big amount and bought all kinds of instruments that were available in the shop, even he bought western drums and other instruments. After it, Siddhrath stopped meeting him. After few days Steve went to BHU for admission and met Mr. Uddhav. He said Mr. Uddhav that he had bought all the instruments and wanted to get admission in M. Mus.

Mr. Uddhav asked him whey did he buy all those instruments if he just wanted to learn Tabla and Steve explained what had happened with him. He still did not know that he was cheated. Finally he came to know that he needed only a pair of Tabla to start learning which is something like $100. He went to the police and lodged a FIR against Siddharth. Police arrested Siddharath’s father because he was now not in the city. Siddhrath’s father gave Rs. 4,00,000 ($8,000) back to Steve and promised to give the rest in next few days. I feel so sorry for whatever happened with Steve but it happens in Varanasi.

I think this is the reason why Mr. Uddav did not want Allen to meet too much new people. I think it is Okay with Allen to meet as many people as he wants. I am sure he will never ever give even $23 to anyone without making proper enquiry. We saw Mr. Uddhav’s 8 years old daughter playing Tabla. She was too good on Tabla. Mr. Uddhav said that she can play all the different sounds. She just needs to boost up her finger’s speed on Tabla and she will be just like other famous players.

I think Allen met at least fifteen new people which is very good for his research. He is leaving on the 18th and will be back again for his research in June when he will spend one year in Varanasi. He wants to come with his wife, Nikki, who works for Federal Reserve Bank. Nikki wants to spend her time in Varanasi volunteering. She was looking for a organization that can give her some work related to economics and she found found one called Cashpor India. They are a micro finance trust and give small loans to poor people. I think this trust will be perfect for Nikki.

Protecting Hindu temples in Varanasi

A temple barricaded by bamboos

There is a Muslim’s festival tomorrow called Muharram . Right before a night of this festival Muslims do a parade in the night starting from different mosques in the city where most of the male Muslims run on the road and beat their chest. By beating their chest they show their sadness. They say that right before one night of this festival, one of their Gods had died. I always watch this parade and enjoy it as I have very much respect for their feelings, festival, culture and religion. All the parades have a horse which is completely decorated by flowers. People take these flowers as blessings. I also take one flower every year.

This year I noticed something very strange. Yesterday I saw some municipality workers covering all the Hindu temples on road by bamboos in my neighborhood. I did not understand why they were doing it. I asked them and they said that since it was the parade that night they wanted to make all the temples secured. I did not understand why Hindu temples are not secured on the parade night and they said that Muslims can harm Hindu temples. I had heard about it but never thought that it was true. I have seen their parade and to be honest they really look like in violent mood.

There are always a lot of Police, Rapid Action Force and other security guards for their parade. I have heard that they used to kill people while the parade. I don’t know if it is true or not but after watching the barriers around Hindu temple, it makes me think like maybe the things I had heard about this festival was true. Varanasi is famous for its Ganga-Jamuni culture. Ganga represents Hindus and Jamuna represents Muslims in this expression. It is said that Hindus and Muslims are very friendly in Varanasi but is it the kind of friendship we have? I am sure that Ganga-Jamuni culture doesn’t exist anymore. We had big tension after Babri mosque was destroyed in Ayodhya and that tension is still there, maybe it is hided but it is still there.

Poor Durga

Another temple barricaded by bamboos at Assi crossing

It is not an big issue for me to see the God in prison, after all Krishna was also born in prison, but it doesn’t look good to make an effort to save the temples. How is it possible that the government or the people are afraid that the temples will be destroyed? It is India where more than eighty percent of the population is Hindu and we have to make an effort to save our culture? Its not something that needs to be taken care of. It is only the impact of Indian government making Muslims feel powerful than Hindus in India only for the vote bank. Now Muslims feel so powerful and think that they can do anything, even destroy temples.

Last year on the 6th of December, the anniversary of demolish of Babri mosque, all the Muslims had closed their shops in Varanasi to protest. They did sitting in front of city office demanding Indian government to built the mosque again. Even though they also know that there was a temple before mosque but still they want to get the mosque back. A group of Muslims protested in front of Indian parliament in Delhi putting the same demand- built the mosque. This case is pending in supreme court of India for the last fifteen years and I don’t think that it will be ever solved because Indian government doesn’t want to hurt Muslims. I think they must built either the temple or the mosque as soon as possible. But please do not keep this case in Supreme court anymore.

People often get violent against each other. I remember once about seven-eight years ago when Muslims had murdered a Hindu guy. They were protesting against something and had blocked the road. A Hindu guy was coming back to home from work and Muslims stopped him and murdered him on the main road. This guy was newly married. His wife was so unlucky because she will have to live as a widow maybe for her whole life. I don’t know what to say about these things but it is very painful to see people fighting for religion. And I am sure that these kinds of issue could never ever be solved.

Poor Shiva

3rd temple barricaded by bamboos near Assi crossing

People say that the tension between Hindus and Muslims is because of religion, but I don’t believe it. I think our government is completely responsible it. Our government educates people for not doing any kind of discrimination between boys and girls but the same government is doing discrimination between Hindus and Muslims which is a big issue for every India whether they are Hindus or Muslims. Muslims are given subsidy when they make a pilgrimage to Makka but why not Hindus are given help of a single rupee when they make any pilgrimage? Why Muslims are considered as a minority group and given special facilities in few states when Hindus are not considered as a minority in Jammu and Kashmir?

This kind of discrimination always creates tension in any kind of society. I believe that it is always good to talk about similarity because if we talk about similarity between two people then it makes them feel like there is something common between them and it brings them closer but our government always talks about differences and promote people who can talk about differences. There is a Indian guy named Mr. Zakir Nayak. I think he is dangerous than a terrorist. I believe that human tongue could be more dangerous than a nuclear bomb if it is used properly and Mr. Nayak knows how to use the tongue.

He has amazing knowledge of all the religions and he organizes religious lectures and talks about differences between Islam and other religions. I have heard his conferences on TV and I see how he invites religious leaders of different religion and talks them about the differences. Most of the listeners in the conference, maybe more than 99%, are usually Muslims and they all like to hear him and clap after he proves that Islam is greater than other religions. I see him as Laden of India. There is only one difference between Laden and Mr. Nayak which is Laden works by guns and he works by tongue. He still organizes conferences and making people violent which will blast like a nuclear bomb someday.

Indian government seems okay to put the God in prison but they don’t like putting the terrorists like Zakir Nayak and a lot of other religious leaders, who make people fight for religion, in jail. I am not sad to see the temples in barriers but I am not happy either. It should not be done. It makes me feel like our government is afraid of Muslims and Muslims feel like they can do anything, even hurt others feelings and culture. I can bet that this problem will never ever be solved until there is any kind of discrimination between Hindus and Muslims and I am sure about one thing that this discrimination is not going to end soon. I used to see the god in prison only once in a year, on Krishna’s birthday when people and temples organize play of Krishna’s birthday but now I will see it twice a year. No problem. But I am not happy.

Swiss family takes Hindi class

My new guest

My new guest

It is the first time when I am hosting a family. They are a couplewith two kids. Nadia is doing masters with Hindi Literature and Sanskrit from University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Her husband is an engineer. They say that it is their family vacation. Nadia goes to a Hindi teacher named Mr. Vimal Mehra. Mr. Mehra taught Hindi last year at Nadia’s university so she had already chosen him as her Hindi teacher. Yesterday I took Nadia to Mr. Mehra’s place which is about three minutes of walk from my place. Mr. Mehra seemed very nice person to me. I am not sure but one of friends told me that he teaches at Wisconsin University as well. One thing is sure that he teaches at Wisconsin University’s Varanasi center with Mr. Virendra Singh.

Elio's family

Elio's family

It is first time when my any guest is going to learn Hindi with Mr. Mehra.I had already heard about him but had never met. A lot of people say that he is a very good teacher. So I am not concerned about Nadia’s classes. I am sure she has got a very good teacher and she will improve her Hindi. Nadia is also happy because she says that her teacher makes her talk which is she wanted. She says that she has been learning Hindi for the past two years but never got opportunity to speak but now she is very happy with her classes.

baby Elio

baby Elio

I also like their family a lot. They are very very organized people (complete Swiss). Once Gaitano, Nadia’s elder son, threw a plastic on the floor and Nadia saw it, she immediately came to Gaitano and punished him which was very impressive to me. Gaitano doesn’t like Indian food. So we have to prepare noodles and Pasta specially for him. It seems like Elio likes our food. He eats with his parents. Nadia has brought a lot of instant food and powder milk for Elio.Elio is very cute. I love him. He always smiles. Everybody in my family and in neighborhood likes him a lot. Whenever he comes on the roof, I see other people looking at him from different roofs.

Paolo, Nadia’s husband, speaks a little English which creates a barrier between me and him but its okay. We understand each other. I like talking to him because I want to learn about his job. Gaitano also doesn’t speak any English but Elio speaks international language, means nothing which I like a lot.He can only say MaMa, that’s all. Nadia is planning to go to Bombay on the 20th of February after completing her Hindi classes in Varanasi and then Singapore, and then Australia.