Child sponsorship in Varanasi

I came in contact with a Hungarian guy, Attila, who is a computer engineer in Hungary and volunteers for a Hungarian NGO (www.afroaid.hu). This NGO runs a child sponsorship program in Africa. Attila wanted to volunteer in Varanasi. He wanted to come to India next year with his wife for a year and was interested in the NGOs working with children. He was mostly interested in education programs for children. I took him to different NGOs and he was interested in working with few of them. I was already interested in working on the same kind of program so I just asked Attila if we could start our own program in Varanasi.

Attila liked this idea a lot. He said that he had very good experience of working with kids in Africa and would love to use his experience to establish the same kind of program in Varanasi. We talked about how we can start this program in Varanasi and decided to do some research first. We went to a few schools nearby to get an idea of estimated cost of the education fee for one child. Attila was interested in providing one meal everyday to the children so that they don’t have to waste time preparing their meal at home. We decided to start the program with 30 kids, 10 from the city area and 20 from the village area.

We visited Mehndiganj once because Lok Samiti has an education program and Attila wanted to see it. We visited Lok Samiti’s school and training centers. We talked with the kids and a few of them had terrible stories. Lok Samiti has a evening time classes for the day time child workers. I love this program, it is my favorite amongst all of their programs. Mehndiganj has a lot of child laborers and most of them are bonded laborers. It was really interesting to see the kids work for 12 hours a day but they still come for evening classes. I think there were more than 30 kids at the evening center.

The kids at the evening center were so innocent. They just did not know anything except what they had. They asked Attila if he had any goat at his home in Hungary, what did he grow up at his farms, how did he come to India, how much money does he make. The kids make about Rs. 1000 per month so it was very hard for Attila to answer this question. We visited a few of the training centers of Lok Samiti which is for the girls above 14 years of age. They get sewing, embroidery, dance and basic education training like reading and writing. The idea behind running such program is to make the girls self dependent.

We asked Nandlal Master, the president of Lok Samiti, to choose 20 kids from his education program who are poor but interested in continuing their education and whose parents are also supportive. We did the same thing in the city also. I knew of a few families who are really poor and want to send their kids to the school but they cannot afford it. We met twelve families and chose 10 kids who seemed interested in learning. We met a 12 year old girl who used to go a English medium private school but had to stop because of the financial problems.

I think she is the most impressive girl in our program. Her name is Rashmi and she went to the school up to 6th standard. My niece who also goes to the same school where Rashmi was going, told me about her. My niece told me that her teachers still talk about how smart Rashmi was and how she had to stop her education. We met her and I found her to be a really smart girl. She was the only girl who really knew what she wanted to become and she answered all the questions Attila asked her. Other kids also knew what they wanted to become but this girl was something different. Her mother was also very concerned about Rashmi’s education.

Attila asked her what she wanted to become and she said “engineer”. Attila asked what kind of engineer and Rashmi said “computer engineer”. Attila asked why and Rashmi said she wanted to develop some computer program that could help poor people. Neither Attila nor I were expecting that kind of answer from a 12 year old girl. All the kids whom we met were super interested in going to the schools but they were having problems. A few of them had already stopped going to school only because their parents could not afford it or there were a few kids who were smart enough to go to a good school but they were going to a government school which is just like passing time.

Finally we have chosen a few schools and we will send our kids to the nearest good school to their residence starting from March 2010. A few of the kids need basic English language training so that they don’t have any problem at English medium schools. We are working on organizing two hours of evening classes for the kids whom we have chosen for the program. Now thirty families have a hope from me because I was the local guy and I am completely dependent on Attila. Attila is back to Hungary now. He has already found few supporters and hopes to find supporters for all the kids.

We have decided to not have any office expenses until we have 50 kids. Attila will be living in Varanasi with his wife for one year and he will be managing the office work for the program. We have decided to not have an office so that all the money goes for the program. I feel so happy to be involved in this program and I am looking forward to work with Attila.

French hippie causes problems

I hosted a few new guests at my guest house and it was the first time when I had some problem with my guest and my guest had problems with me, my family and my guest house. A French girl contacted me for housing through my ad somewhere online. We shared a few e-mails and I thought it was okay to host her as she said that she wanted to study Hindi in Benares and had been living in India for the past six months. She seemed like an ideal guest to me because it seemed to me that she already knew India. I arranged Hindi classes for her and went to Gwalior for my tour guide training.

I asked to my other guests about her and they said she seemed a little bit hippie to them but she was not crazy. I asked her if she was feeling well at my place and she said that she was happy. But when I came back to Benares after a few days and met her in person, she seemed not happy at all. She said that I had written on my ad online that there is a kitchen also but in fact the kitchen was not furnished at all. She said that kitchens in the west are furnished and come with gas connection and other utilities but it just doesn’t happen in India.

I tried to explain it to her but she just did not want to hear anything and the second dispute was the rent. She said that the rent I had written on my ad was different than what I was asking for. I asked for Rs. 1000 per month for unlimited broadband Internet access in her room and it seemed too much to her. She said that she would not pay anything for Internet. Rs. 3000 per month for the meal (lunch, dinner and breakfast) was also too much for her. Finally I asked her to decide the rent and she said Rs. 6800 per month for room, meals and Internet. It is not something I charge to my other guests and I was not happy with it.

I asked her two times to go somewhere else if she was not happy at my place but she said everything was fine. But she had problem with everyone at my home. I have few plants in each flat and keep them under the grate so that the plants can get some direct sun light but she moved all the plants to a darker side of the flat and put her mattress right under the grate. When my mother saw it, she moved the plants again under the grate and she got mad. I don’t really know what she wanted. She wanted to stay out of home until late night and this is something I just don’t recommend to my female guests and I don’t know what people can do in the late nights in Varanasi.

There is nothing to do after 9 o’clock but she wanted to stay out until 12 or 1 sometimes. My other guest told me that she had seen this French girl drinking on a boat in Ganga. It was crazy. Finally she left after two months. After she left I went in her flat and saw a big packet of garbage. I wanted to see if she had left some clothes or some items that could be reused. I usually donate the clothes left by my guests to Mother Teresa Home. I found a bottle of Thums Up soft drink and I put it in the toilet because soft drinks are very good to clean toilets.

She left at 7 but came back again around 9 because her train was delayed. When she saw that somebody had touched her garbage, she got really mad. She did not tell me anything that time but she wrote me several emails asking why I saw her garbage. I tried to explain to her the reason behind it but she just did not want to hear anything. I don’t really know if she was crazy, but actually she behaved like a crazy person. It was my house and I did whatever I wanted. I had not seen her garbage while she was staying. Once she left, it was my house again. But her stay taught me several lessons and now I am more attentive choosing any guest.

Tawayaf culture

I am hosting a FulBright scholar, Megan, who is doing her research from University of Pittsburgh. Her research topic is tawayaf culture. She has rented a whole flat and will stay till June 2010. We discussed a few things about tawayaf culture in Varanasi. I already knew that Lucknow was the most famous place of tawayafs.Varanasi has also been a famous center for tawayafs but according to Megan, it doesn’t exist anymore. I also talked with a few of my friends and relatives and they were telling that there are few places where tawayafs still perform.

Most of the people think that tawayaf is one other name for prostitutes but it is not true. They were highly educated women and and trained in their skills such and dancing, singing, literature and were very well respected in society. My friend Ravi told me that kids of royal families were sent to tawayafs to get training which included behavioural training, gazal writing and few other skills. The place were tawayafs used to live was called kotha and now kotha is also referred as a brothel which is also not true. Kothas were a place for tawayafs to live and perform.

Usually kothas had more than one tawayaf where one, the most senior, was the head. The head of the tawayfs was responsible for training other tawayfas. Usually kothas had a dance performance every evening where anyone was allowed to enter. They had male musicians who played different musical instruments and tawayafs were the one who performed dance. Alcohol was also served to special clients or sometimes to everyone. Sex work was also involved there but it was not like today’s brothels where someone pays Rs. 50 and sleep with the sex workers till he cums.

Tawayafs were expensive and I have heard that they had right to choose whom did they want to sleep with, so it was not like anyone could pay and sleep with them. Usually they had one special client who was very close to the tawayaf and this relationship was also not like a relationship of a sex worker and her client; it was something special. Tawayfs had children also and this special person would act as their father. Tawayafs were called at the palaces also perform and entertain the royal families. Whatever I heard about tawayfs made me feel like tawayafs were accepted and respected in our society but kothas were still a disrespected place.

There is not much information available about tawayafs but I have heard that there are a few places in Varanasi and Lucknow where they still have few kothas which run illegally. Megan’s subject is awesome but she is more interested in prostitutes now because she said that it would not be possible for her to write her thesis on tawayfas because there is not much information available about them. I want to know more about tawayfs and looking at Megan’s thesis if she writes something about them.

Mumbai Gay Pride 2009

I loved his costume

I loved his costume

I attended Mumbai gay pride on the 16th of August. It is celebrated on this particular date because the gay community organizing this event says that India got freedom on the 15th of August but gay community never got freedom so they decided to celebrate their freedom one day after the independence day of India. The event was basically organized by an NGO called Humsafar that works with the gay community in Mumbai. I had already contacted people at Humsafar about my project and they were very welcoming. I was in Gwalior doing my training but I took a leave of 4 days and flew to Mumbai. I arrived in Mumbai on the night of the 14th.

They were at Delhi pride also

They were at Delhi pride also

I had attended this year’s Delhi Pride on the 26th of June and I really missed a video camera but I had arranged a video camera to record Mumbai Gay Pride. I had asked my friend Yogesh, who works in Bollywood, to arrange a camera for me and he provided me everything I wanted. I went to Humsafar on the 16th with a camera person and a friend from the US named Ryan. We met in Benares and I invited him to attend Mumbai Pride with me. I wanted to cover the preparation for the parade, interview a few people at Humsafar, interview a few people at the parade, participate in it, enjoy the party and make some new contacts to work together in the future.

Preparation for the parade

Preparation for the parade

I was supposed to start interviews at Humsafar at 12 o’clock but when I reached there I found that there were already a few media people interviewing Humsafar guys but they arranged a guy to show me their office. The office was amazing; they had an HIV and AIDS testing center. I had already been to a few NGOs but I had never seen any NGO having an HIV and AIDS testing center before, so it was really impressive. The Humsafar guy took me to the second floor of the office where they were preparing for the next day’s parade. There were about 20 guys practicing dance. A few of them hijras also. They had a guy to play Punjabi dhol and a big music system. I was surprised to see that they were practicing some traditional dance of hijra culture.

A poster at Humsafar office

A poster at Humsafar office

I just spent sometime watching the people preparing for the parade; they were really working hard and seemed so excited for the parade. All of the performers were either homosexuals or hijras who come to Humsafar if they need any help. The guy showing us the office told me that the CEO of Humsafar, Mr. Vivek Raj Anand, had just arrived at office and he asked me if I would like to interview him and I really felt lucky that I got to interview him. He was really amazing, very well educated, had very good knowledge of the issue and he really knew what he was talking about. He did not have much time but I got 15 minutes and I think it was good enough to start.

Mr. Vivek Raj Anand, The CEO of Humsafar and I

Mr. Vivek Raj Anand, The CEO of Humsafar and I

I believe that the gay community has always been in existence in India but a lot of people see it as a disease which came from the West so whenever I interview someone about gay culture, I always ask them about the history of gay culture in India. I ask them to tell me about the presence of gay culture in Hindu religious books because I know that Indians do not want to compromise with the religion and once they know something is part of their religion and culture, they are always so welcoming to this idea. And I also wanted to do the same thing, because I believe that if people know that gay culture has always been part of our culture, the it would be easy to make them understand the issue.

A participant of the parade

A participant of the parade

My idea behind interviewing all these people was to interview them and put the interviews online. I had intentionally done the interviews in Hindi so that people living in India could understand them. The interviewee told me a few stories that came from Ramayana and other Hindu religious books which showed the presence of gay culture even during Ram’s time. He talked about what kind of problems he had to face in society, how people discriminated against him, how he came out of it and what is the hope for the future. It was really interesting to learn the history of gay culture in India. He had very good knowledge about history of gay culture in India, especially in Hinduism.

Its true

Posters at the parade

Mr. Anand asked me to work with the MSM community in Benares. He said that he could give me a project or he could get me one through the UP government which was something I really wanted to do. We talked about working together in Benares but he said that Humsafar doesn’t work out of Mumbai and Thane district. He said that he would help me with anything I wanted- funding, training or any other thing but they will not go out of Mumbai and Thane district officially to work. I think I will not be able to work with him soon as my NGO is not registered under section 12 A and any NGO can not get this registration until they are at least 1 year old. But now Sanjeevani Booti has completed its 1 year and now I can apply for this registration.

Thank you Baba Ramdev

Thank you Baba Ramdev

Mr. Anand told me during his interview that he wants to thank Baba Ramdev on behalf of the whole gay community because Baba is the one who challenged the judgment of the high court of Delhi in the Supereme Court of India to revoke of section 377. He said that the Supereme Court of India would also give the judgment in favor of the gay community and this way they would have equal rights very soon. He said that there was no one who bothered coming against the judgment of Delhi high court but it was Ramdev Baba who brought this matter to the the Supereme Court of India so thanks to him. I would also like to thank Baba Ramdev for making the process faster.

Absolutely not

Absolutely not

I interviewed the Mr. Anand, the manager of Humsafar, one bisexual , two hijras, and few gays. It was really a nice experience interviewing them and listening to them and their stories. All of them were a little different from each other but they had the same issues. I think everybody whom I interviewed at Humsafar talked about discrimination the most. The manager of Humsafar told me that he wanted to get his passport with his gender showing either a girl or a hijra or a transgender but the government officials do not want to do it. Government officials tell him that they just do not know what a transgender is.

This was really interesting

She was really interesting

He said that he has gotten his name changed officially to a female’s name and now preparing for a gender change operation but still the government doesn’t want to issue him a passport showing his gender as a female or as a hijra or as a transgender. He has sued the government for this reason. He was saying that gender change operation facility is not very good in India and he wants to go abroad to get it done but since the government is not issuing his passport he is unable to do it. He said that he has decided that he will take his passport only if they issue the passport with his gender showing as a female or a hijra or a transgender.

The hijras I interviewed

The hijras I interviewed and I

He told me that he only looks like a man from his body but he is not a man, he is a woman. I interviewed one Muslim guy also who was with a group of two hijras. This interview was also very interesting. It was the first time when I interviewed any Muslim gay. He said that his family will never allow him to get married with a man, which is what he wanted, so he has decided to either escape from the home or just stay unmarried for his whole life. The hijras were also fantastic. They told me a lot of things about hijras that I did not know before.

Biggest attraction of the parade

Biggest attraction of the parade, for me:)

I never understood the difference between people’s use of the word “hijra” and a “gay” and when I asked him about it they said that educated people use the word gay and uneducated use the word hijra, that’s all. They also talked about the issues hijra community is facing in India and it was exactly as the issues of other people whom I had interviewed at Humsafar. Hijras told me something really interesting that there are two different kinds of hijras.

look at the costume, awesome

look at the costume, awesome

One of them is more respected in amongst hijras. They get married to the hijra goddess when they are so young. They have to wear a thread all the time which represents their marriage with their goddess. They can live with their family as well which doesn’t happen with the other kind of hijras. The hijras who bless and dance at the weddings are different than them; it was really interesting, and I need to do some research about it. I interviewed a bisexual who was in fact a male sex worker. It was the first time when I had ever met any male sex worker and it was amazing talking to him. He also had few issues likes discrimination because he was a bisexual guy.

Participants at the parade

Participants at the parade

He said that when he was 14 years old and would go out with his friends and his friends used to look at the girls but he never felt like he had any interest in girls. He said that when he turned a bit older, he met Mr. Anand who brought him to Humsafar and that was the time when he came to know why he did not have any interest in girls. He joined Humsafar and now he works there as a program manager. He said that he used to distribute condoms to the male sex workers at railway stations and once he gave a pack of condoms to a policeman thinking that this policeman was a male sex worker. The policeman slapped him and kicked him out of the railway station; it was a funny story.

Aceept our sexuality, it is not a defection

Aceept our sexuality, it is not a defect

The first day was all about watching people preparing for the event and interviewing a few people at Humsafar. After completing the interviews on the first day, we came out of the Humsafar office and we were standing on the road waiting for an auto-rickshaw and at the same time a 25-26 year old guy named Sourendra came to me and started talking about what we were doing in Humsafar office. I had already seen him in the office so I also didn’t hesitate telling him about my project. He asked me where I was from, what I was doing at Humsafar etc. and then he asked me about my project and said that he was also gay and visits Humsafar on regular basis.

Folk dance performers at the parade

Folk dance performers at the parade

He seemed to be an educated and interesting guy. He asked me where I was going and after my answer he said that he was also going to the same direction. He said that he also wanted to come with me. I asked him if he would like to be interviewed and he said- why not. We went together to my friend’s place and my friend drove us to somewhere where there was a litti-chokha (very famous Bihari food) party. We all went together and I interviewed him over the dinner at 1 o’clock night time.

377 out

377 out

Actually I regretted that I took him to that party because the guys over there at the party got too much interested in him after hearing that he was a gay. They would all come, look at him and laugh. I was really not comfortable there and I told my friend to change the place but since it was already 1 o’clock night time, we just decided to continue the interview at same party place. Sourendra was such an open and energetic and nice person. He talked about a lot of things that usually people do not want to talk about.

Participants at the parade

Participants at the parade

He talked about his sex practices and this conversation was really interesting. He talked about discrimination in the society, family, friends and discrimination at his job. He used to work at a call center and everything was fine for him. After a few months the call center in-charge changed and a new guy came who seemed like did not like gays. Sourendra’s voice was was sweet, like a girl, but this new in-charge wanted him to speak with a heavy voice which was something unnatural for him. He said that he pretended to speak with a heavy voice but it did not work and his performance level decreased and finally he had to leave the job only because he could not speak with a heavy voice.

Neither less nor more, we just ask for equal rights

Neither less nor more, we just ask for equal rights

When I asked him about the existence of gays and hijras in our religion and history, he told me something really interesting. He told me about the existence of gays and hijras during Krishna’s time. He said that once Krishna also wanted to sleep with a man. It was something that I had never ever heard before. I know that Ramayana in North India is different than Ramayana in South India. They have some difference between them like Ramayana in North India says that Hanuman was a celebate and South Indian Ramayan says that Hauman had more than one wife. People living in the North do not eat fish because it is meat for them and people living in West Bengal eat fish because it is sea food for them.

Bijay with his friend

Bijay with his friend

Different people have different beliefs about the same thing and maybe the case here was also the same: the Mahabharta Sourendra had read was a little bit different from the one I have read, not an issue at all. I liked interviewing Sourendra. After completing the interview we dropped Sourendra at the railway station. I was so excited for the next day’s parade. I was supposed to meet my friend Bijay, who lives in Chennai, at the parade. He was also gay and was in Mumbai to attend the parade.

Aadimanav

Aadimanav

We met at the Church Gate and headed together to the parade. I had two other guys to help me with the camera and other things. Mumbai Gay Pride seemed different than Delhi Gay Pride. I think the organizers had tried to give a cultural look to the parade. There were folk dance and song performers from South India and they were performing local dance of South India. I met Laxmi also at the parade. The parade was a little bit delayed as other things in India and started around 12 o’clock. I think the number of people at Delhi Gay Pride and the Mumbai one was same, something around 3000 people.

Youngest participant of the parade

Youngest participant of the parade

A group of people was carrying a huge rainbow flag. Mumbai seemed more respectful to the flag than Delhi. People at the Delhi parade were so excited that they started jumping with the flag and tore it off only few minutes after the parade had started. I saw a guy with his four or five year old daughter at the parade. She was sitting on her father’s shoulders and was holding the flag. A few of my foreign friends tell me that although they support gay rights they do not like gay pride parades as they are so vulgar but in India situation was the completely different- very cultural, good enough even for a five year old girl.

Laxmi and Celina

Laxmi and Celina

People were dancing, jumping and laughing so it seemed like a very happy event. I was also enjoying it. An hour after the parade started, a Bollywood actress named Celina Jaitely joined the parade. She has been involved with gay rights issue for a long time in India. I saw many Bollywood and TV stars at the parade. I think she was in the parade for more than an hour. There were a few guys with Celina and they had dressed amazingly. I had never ever seen anything like that before. Laxmi, Celina and everyone else at the parade were dancing and enjoying themselves.

bombay gay pride 194

look at the masks

I saw two Muslim girls also at the parade who were wearing Burka. They joined the parade an hour before its end but they also seemed to be enjoying it. They were also dancing with other people but most of the time they wanted to be under the gay pride flag. I think they were concerned about their identity. Many people seemed concerned about their identity like at Delhi Pride. They had covered their faces with clothes or some kind of masks. I just don’t understand why people come to the gay parade if they are so concerned about their identity? Better stay at home and watch it on TV if they can not support it openly.

Baba Ramdev would like it

Baba Ramdev would like it

Mumbai Gay Pride seemed more organized in some ways. They had a van stuffed with banners, posters, masks, t-shirts etc. But masks and t-shirts were the most demanded items. I also tried to get one t-shirt but could not because they ran out within few minutes. They were distributing bottled water also to the participants. They had few volunteers with big bags who were collecting all the garbage, poly bags and bottles used during the parade. They said that they did not want to leave anything as garbage on the road, so this was a very clean festival which usually doesn’t happen in India.

live and let live

live and let live

I saw many people looking through their balconies and windows of their houses. I am sure they were surprised. Many people just joined the parade serendipitously. I saw a few people who were standing somewhere along the road doing their business, and then they saw the parade and joined it. One thing was very sure that Mumbai pride had more transgenders and hijras than at Delhi parade. There was a group of hijras which was right behind the flag performing some traditional hijra dance but this dance was not something I had seen hijras doing where I live. This hijra dance seemed more organized and calm, but usually hijra dance is very energetic and loud.

Meeting after the parade

Meeting after the parade

The parade was moving and moving and I was just filming the parade, talking with participants and enjoying it. Finally the parade stopped at August Kranti Marg sometime around 4 o’clock where a few social workers and NGO members delivered a speech about gay rights and their future planning. I also took a break and went to the beach nearby. I did some filming there also and interviewed a gay couple whom I had seen at the parade. One other thing that was in my mind was the repeal of Section 377 and I wanted to talk about it with the participants of the parade and members of Humsafar.

They were so happy

They were so happy

I asked about repeal of Section 377 to almost everyone I talked with and everybody was so happy about it. There was a guy who told me that these kind of laws are very important for bringing change in the society. Section 377 did not affect gay culture very much in India, even when it was effected, because you never know who is doing what inside their room but the worst thing that happened because of implementation of 377 was that it changed the thinking of people over time. But now since 377 is repealed, it will take some time, maybe 50 or 100 years, but someday gays will have equal rights in India. I also believed what he said.

Hijras

Hijras

After the parade ended, my friend Bijay took me to a very famous and old restaurant near August Kranti Marg. After having a few bottles of beer, we headed to Bijay’s hotel. I spent some time at Bijay’s hotel and then we headed to the party place. The party was organized at a disco but the Mumbai party was different from Delhi one. The Delhi party was organized by the organizers of the parade whereas the Mumbai party was organized by the participants. Delhi party’s entry was free but Mumbai party’s entry was Rs. 500 but they gave me three free drinks.

I with my friends after the party

my friends and I after the party

The Mumbai party had more people than the Delhi one and it had more lesbian couples also. It was my second time at any disco after the Delhi pride party and I was so excited for it. I don’t know why but I drank a lot of beer that night at party and got completely drunk. I saw many gay couples kissing and hugging each other which was not new to me but my friends were so surprised to see it the way I was surprised at the Delhi party. The party was supposed to last for the whole night but I had to leave early as my flight back to Bhopal was at 6 o’clock morning time.

look at the costume

look at the costume

Ryan helped me by packing up my stuff and bringing me to the airport. Somehow I arrived safely in Gwalior but that I will not forget that party night, it was crazy, I loved it. This trip was very successful because I got to meet with a lot of new people, interviewed them, learnt a lot and built some business relationship with Humsafar. They have invited me again to the parade next year and I will try to attend it. I still think about the people I talked with, their issues, their stories… it was so nice talking with them.They are fighting for a issue which should just not be an issue.

very happy picture

very happy picture

My friend Sanjay, who helped me with camera, told me what I was doing was crazy when I explained him my reason for being in Mumbai but after listening to the people I interviewed, his mind also changed. He also told me that gays should also have equal rights in our society. Actually my question stories of gay culture in Hindu religion worked for him. All of the interviewees told me few stories and it changed Sanjay’s mind. I know it very well that if somehow people can come to know about the existence of gays in Hindu religion, then there will be less problem for gays to get acceptance in Hindu society.

rainbow flag

rainbow flag

I think the basic reason behind the discrimination against gays in India is the communication gap, especially about sex practices, between straights and gays and 150 years of section 377. Section 377 changed our society a lot; it changed the mind overtime. When I look at Hindu religious books and history I find that gay sex practices have always been part of Hindu culture. It was not any issue at all and we were the most liberal society on the planet but the British changed everything in India. Well, we are getting rid of the poverty given by them slowly and I hope to get rid of this crazy system also.

VIDEOS ARE COMING SOON

Sunita Williams missing

I lived in JNU for two days with my Muslim friend. His brother and cousin are also student at JNU and they also live here in the hostel. They told me a really crazy story. They said that when they were in Aligarh Muslim University a few years back, once all the students were called together to listen to a lecture which was going to be delivered by a mullah (a religious leader of Islam). They did not know what this mullah was supposed to talk about but what they heard in his lecture made them really angry. The lecture was supposed to be about Islam but in fact it was against America.

The mullah talked about the India-origin astronaut named Sunita Williams who went to space under a NASA program in the year 2006. The mullah said that when Sunita was in space and looked towards the earth, she found the whole earth dark but two places- Mecca and Medina ( two holiest cities of Islam). He said that everything looked dark to Sunita but Mekka and Madina were shining like a star. It was a miracle of Allah and it proved that Allah is the greatest one and Islam is the only true religion. After seeing this, Sunita with other six astronauts, who were working together in space, turned highly devoted to Islam.

And after coming back to earth they converted to Islam. But the American government did not like it and they did something and now Sunita and the other six astronauts were missing. The mullah did not say anything about what happened with them but it was a clear indication that something wrong had happened with them. He meant to say that Sunita and the other people were missing only because they converted to Islam and the American government did not like it. My friend told me that the mullahs were so angry and loud when they were telling this story.

The mullah was saying that Sunita was always on Indian TV before she went to space and even after coming from space for few days. But after a few days she never appeared on the TV again. The mullahs were asking to the students where was Sunita? Was this her fault that she found Mecca and Medina most shining cities on the planet and realized the truth that Islam was the real religion and Allah is the only God and finally they converted to Islam? After hearing this students were so angry. Even my friend who is doing a PhD also believed him. My friend is not an exception but I was shocked to see such an educated person believing this kind of crazy story.

I knew that this story was bullshit so I showed him some information online. I already knew that Las Vegas was the most shining city on the planet and I told him about it. He was pretending to be against that mullah’s story after reading the Las Vegas article on Wikipedia but still it seemed like he believed that mullah’s story more. I remember that once my friend had told me that it was his dream to see the complete destruction of America sometime before he dies. I asked him why and he told me several stories of America in Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq…

I do not understand why a few religious leaders do such things. What is the problem with them. They must understand that spreading wrong information and getting involved in politics is also one the reasons why Christians have stopped going to the Churches. I don’t think religion is bad but religion becomes really bad when such religious leaders become the leaders of the religion. A few of my Christan friends told me that churches in the West used to issue a certificate saying that the all the sins are forgiven and they charge money for it. People stop practicing religion when such things take place and when people come to know about the reality and these religious leaders must understand it.

They must know that they are not doing something good for the religion, in fact it will show a terribly negative impact in the future when people will have information and Internet is spreading fast and they should consider it as a alarm of danger for them. People will question them and they will have no answer.

Music in Islam

I made a lot of new friends while living in Gwalior for the tour guide training and two of them were Muslims. Actually I shared an apartment with one them. He is a doctoral student from JNU. Basically he is from a very small village in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district. He did his schooling from a village school in Sitamarhi and then moved to Aligarh Muslim University for his B.A. and now finally he is in JNU doing his PhD. He works as an Spanish escort so makes very good money also. He is in love with music. A good amount of his computer hard-disk is full of music.

He would play music most of the time. I saw a big music system at his hostel room in JNU. Now he is going to get married in the coming December. His brother also lives in JNU and once I saw them discussing how they will arrange the music for the wedding. They want to have a band party for the wedding parade and music for the wedding party but Islam doesn’t allow it and his family and neighbors are very strict Islam followers. He said that nobody can even listen to the radio, not even news on the radio.

If somebody is found playing any kind of music in his village, the other people living in the village yell at him and stop the music immediately. He said that if he is found playing music then people would say that even after being educated and doing PhD, he is doing such a bad thing. Music is really a serious issue in his village. I heard him and his brother discussing about this issue for at least an hour and finally they could not find any way to have music at the wedding. I told him that change always takes place sometime in the society and maybe this is the time for him to bring a change but he said that it is kind of impossible to bring this change in his society.

I have never been to any Muslim wedding but I have seen a few from the outside and I saw music going on in those weddings so I told him about it and he said that rules are made by big people and if they break it, then nobody cares. If the same rules are broken by general people, then it always creates problems. He said that everything is allowed among the rich Muslim community, they can play music, they can have dances and they can enjoy alcohol but it is not possible for the general Muslims. I asked him what the general people think of rich Muslims enjoying music and he said that general people think that big people are out of their community.

Music has always been respected amongst most of the societies of the world. In Hinduism there is a goddess Saraswati for music and people do rituals of their music instruments. It is really hard for me to believe that there could be any wedding without music. Hindu weddings are so fun and this is what I am used to. There is always a lot of music and people dancing in the wedding. I have heard that Christian weddings are also very boring but I am sure they must have music. Music is fun and even scientific researches have shown that there are certain kinds of music which are good even for our health.

I respect people’s feeling but this issue is something which is hard for me to understand. Most of the Mughal emperors were fond of music. Akbar is a very good example. Tansen was among the nine Jewels at his court. I have noticed that in all the religions there are certain rules and regulations that are people made; it is not written anywhere in any religious books but people still follow it and even if it is written, there is wrong interpretation and people follow the wrong idea. After listening to this issue, which is definitely not an issue for me, I still don’t understand if music is really that bad…

Project for the guide training program

After completing the classroom teaching and orientation tour, now I am supposed to do field work for two months in my local town. I wanted to choose the subject LGBT tourism because nobody has done it before in India and it was a good opportunity for me to relate my NGO and the research I have done about LGBT society in India with this project. I was so excited for it but finally I had to cancel my plan because a few of my friends and other people advised me not to do my project on LGBT tourism.

They said when a professor interviews someone, everything depends on his mood. If the professor likes the project then green signal otherwise red for sure. It doesn’t matter what is written in the project and since LGBT tourism is a new concept in India and most of the people are against it, maybe the professor would not like it. I also found it true because I have seen how against people are against LBGT society in India so I decided to work on ecotourism. I wanted to promote rock paintings and waterfalls of Mirzapur district. I did some research online and found that nobody was selling the tour of Mirzapur which seems like an ideal place for ecotourism.

Two days before I was supposed to inform the institute about my project I read a news article online that three foreigners were robbed at a very famous waterfall of Mirzapur. A few parts of Mirzapur district are known as a Naxalite affected area and this was the only concern I had in my mind and after reading this article I realized that if I promote such a destination where there is no security, it will be really bad. Now I had only one option to do my project which was Benares itself which I did not want to do. All of the guides who have done their project on Benares before wrote about heritage, culture and mythology and I was really not interested in those.

I know that tourists are not same as they used to be ten or fifteen years before. I have noticed that tourists do not want to hear much only about history. They like to hear about society, social issues and politics more than art and history. So I chose the subject Benares but my topic is “Benares: A Place for Everyone”. I want to write about diversity. My professor also liked this subject. She said that nobody had written about it before and it seems more interesting than the history of Benares.

The reason I have chosen this subject is because Benares seems to have amazing diversity. I don’t really know if it is true or not but maybe it is the most diverse city of India. I want to write about how this one city is a very important place for Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Christians. I know that there are not many Christians in the town but there are few very old churches which I can write about. I want to write about how the reputation of the city for dying has changed to a city of life.

Benares has always been famous as the best place to die for Hindus but now we have huge a number of migrants from other districts who come here to live. People come to Benares to have a job and survive. It’s a new thing going on in Benares and it is an interesting thing for me. I can write about a lot of things but I don’t really know how much I want to write and how much would I be able to write or how much would I be able put my thinking in my project report but I am excited for it.