Plastic Kills

Baba

Baba

We have always been hearing about how plastic is a serious threat for our planet but not many people seem serious about the issue. Especially in India where there is plastic just everywhere, even the blessings at temples are packed in plastic. Government does all the propaganda by making laws that plastic should be prohibited but nothing is implemented. Just like anyone else living in this country I am also affected by plastic but something happened a few days ago which just blew my mind. Actually I met with someone new in my life a few weeks ago and we became really good friends. A few weeks ago I was sitting at Assi crossing and suddenly a bullock came to me.

Baba with Rahul

Baba with Rahul

He was very cute, just came to me like we had known each other for long time and put his face over my lap. I started stroking him and he seemed very relaxed by me doing it. Suddenly a few of my other friends also came and the bullock behaved very friendly with them as well. We offered him some food but he didn’t seem to be very excited about eating it. Anyways, we named him the same evening and his name was Baba. Baba was with us for almost an hour and then we went back home. We saw Baba the next day at the same place where we met yesterday.

Now we noticed something strange in Baba’s body. His stomach looked kind of bigger than his size. We tried to touch it and it seemed very tight. We decided to ask someone who does dairy business if Baba’s stomach looked strange to him as well. Luckily there is a dairy businessman right at Assi crossing. We called him and asked about what he thought about Baba’s stomach. Based on his experience he said that Baba has eaten a lot of plastic and that’s why his growth has stopped, he doesn’t feel like eating, he is not happy and something is not done soon then he might die as well.

We had also noticed some problems that Baba seemed hungry but he could not eat. His seemed bigger in age than his physical growth. All of my friends were very sad to hear it and we decided to contact some doctor. A friend of mine who owns a cow contacted the doctor and doctor said if the plastic is in Baba’s body for long time then the only possible way to take it out is an operation. Baba’s was not in good shape at all, we noticed that he was becoming more and more skinny everyday. We were still discussing what to do with Baba and suddenly we saw his dead body by the corner of the street where we used to meet.

It was very sad to see him dead and I don’t really think that we will forget him ever. But by looking at what happened with Baba, we can easily imagine what is the condition of our animals in India, the country where each and every form of life is worshiped. Talking about Varanasi, this city had a tradition of setting up big containers at every corner of the alleys which would be filled with water and food by the locals of Varanasi so that street animals could stay happy and healthy but now the situation has become really worse that our street animals are dying by eating garbage which is mixed with plastic.

I have no hope from the government and I think the only way to solve this problem would be some initiative from the people themselves. But it also seems very complicated because whatever we get is always packed in plastic and it has to go somewhere. Usually people put their garbage on the street from where it should be collected by municipality. We also don’t have any system of separating the garbage and everything is mixed. I think the best thing would be use as less plastic as possible. I don’t know when things will change but I will try my best to change myself for sure. RIP Baba.

Baba Dead

Baba Dead

Interview with Mr. Rajendra Singh

I interviewed Mr. Rajendra Singh, one of the members of the National River Ganga Basin Authority, also known as Waterman of Rajasthan when I was visiting his NGO to get a training about ecology of Ganga. I made two interviews- one about his thoughts on why Ganga Action Plan was a complete failure and other one was about the current National River Ganga Basin Authority. I was really happy to have it done.

Rajendra Singh talking about the complete failure of Ganga Action Plan-

 

2nd interview of Mr. Singh where he talks about the National River Ganga Basin Authority-

Environment training at Tarun Bharat Sangh

wall paintings at the TBS office

I got this really special opportunity to visit Tarun Bharat Sanghand get a training about environment, especially rivers, personally from Mr. Rajendra Singh. Mr. Rajendra Singh who is one of the members of Ganga Basin Authority is involved in Coca-Cola issue in Varanasi as well and my colleague Mr. Nandlal Master is the main leader behind Coke movement in Varanasi. Nandlal Master told me that Mr. Singh was not happy with the way government of India was dealing with Ganga. He was demanding for a river policy and community involvement in the program and wanted to encourage people to think about it and ask the government for same. I also believe in the community involvement in non-profit projects.

our whole group at a work site of TBS

He wanted to start this campaign from Varanasi and needed support of local people and organizations. He asked Nandlal Master to organize community in Varanasi and Nanlal Master asked me to organize the boat rower community in the city area. So finally we organized two meetings between the boat rower community and Rajendra Singh. After seeing our interest in Ganga, Mr. Singh offered us a training of five days at his NGO in Alwar, Rajasthan. We made three groups of trainees- 5 from the boat rower community, 5 from my group and 5 from Nandlal Master’s NGO and we all went to Tarun Bharat Sangh to get training.

wall paintings at TBS

Tarun Bharat Sangh provided us fund to buy the train tickets and arranged our lodging and fooding at their NGO. Mr. Singh was not present at the office the day we arrived there but he had given the responsibility of training us to the General Secretary of TBS Mr. Kanhaiya Lal Gurjar. Our training included class room teaching and site visit both. In the first session on the first day we were introduced about the TBS, the local area, the people and some other general things. They especially focused on how they were able to make five dead rivers alive again only by educating community about traditional knowledge of ecology of rivers and right usage of water. It was really interesting to see how they had great belief in the traditional knowledge and the way people used to behave with their enviornment.

small dam calld Johad

Mr. Kanahaiya told us that all the five dead rivers went dead because community had forgotten its own knowledge of ecology and had become completely dependent on the government. He said that one of the biggest reasons behind their success was community’s active involvement in all of their projects. Actually they built several small dams called “Johad” on several rivers so that at least water stays in the river always asked the community to spend 25% of the costing. They always had enough money to fund the entire project but they always wanted the community to feel their responsibility and to make them responsible, using their money seemed best idea to them.

This river has water all year long

They built several small dams one after each other on all of the rivers they worked on. Mr Gurjar said that these small dams are good because they recharge the ground water which means that people who are not living close to the river will also have access to water through their wells. Mr. Singh they got huge community support when people started getting water in their dried wells. A lot of people from far away villages came to TBS asking to built such small dams on the rivers which were close to their villages.

such pools used to be dry but now they are full with water

I also believe the same and have used the same system in Chance India Program as well and it worked very well. Anyways, they built all those small dams but it was a huge challenge for them because they did not have good maps of the area so they had to do the mapping first. They really needed good maps because building dams just anywhere was not going to solve their problems. They had to do huge data collection of almost everything such as ponds, wells, canals and everything. And based on the data they made a plan and implemented it.

community money is always involved in TBS's projects

He said that in the ancient time people were more aware about usage of water and they had a simple but good way of calculating the quantity of water they used. He said that in the ancient time people would take the water out of the wells for irrigation depending on the rain fall they had. If there was less rain fall then they would take less water out of their wells but now there is no such system. Now people have starting growing crops like rice which needs a lot of water and government has no control or any program to educate people.

Mr. Gurjar explaining a site

Anyways, it was really good getting training from Mr. Gurjar. He was really knowledgeable person. He took us on site visits for three days and showed us their work. We were shocked to see their work. It was just awesome. All of the rivers had water and quality of water way better than Ganga or a lot of big rivers I had seen before. Mr. Gurjar took us to places which there was no human living but they still had their projects there. There were several places where there was no access of any road but they still had their Johad built there. It was just awesome work.

Mr. Gurjar explaining a site to us-

Mr. Singh training us

Finally Mr. Singh arrived back to the office and we had two days of training with him. The first session of the first day with him was about eco system of rivers. This class was just like a blessing for me, I felt so informed after finishing the class. Second session was about Ganga and a river policy which Mr. Singh was working on. Mr. Singh was just super knowledgeable. He told us about things which are not easy to find any books or journal. He told us about the complete basin area of Ganga. He had names of all of the subsidiarity rivers of Ganga in his mind and he knew about all of them very well.

Mr. Singh and I

We had several hours of classes with him and it was always an amazing experience of learning. I was really impressed with his knowledge of rivers, his belief in the community involvement and using science and traditional knowledge of Indian society to solve the problem of Ganga. He said that the Government of India won’t be able to clean the river until there is a river policy and the government works honestly on it. He had already made a river policy by taking suggestions by thousands of people from all over India and wanted to share it with us.

Plantation

He wanted our suggestion as well. We read the whole document in front of him and had a discussion about it. The policy was really big but he was really nice answering all of the questions we raised. The policy covered almost anything anyone can ever imagine about Ganga. It was just awesome. During the training we did plantation also at the NGO office campus. The office campus was huge with a lot of trees. We did plantation together with Mr. Singh and Gurjar and planted over 300 plants. It was a really nice experience.

Mr. Singh training us:-

After attending the training at TBS for five days we all felt so informed about the ecology of rivers, especially Ganga and this will help me a lot in future. I definitely would like to work again with Mr. Singh and if possible visit TBS again for more training.

My whole group with Mr. Singh after plantation

Union Carbide Gas Disaster, Bhopal

union carbide gas disaster

I went to Bhopal a few days ago with my friend to visit the city and the NGOs working on Bhopal gas disaster that took place in 1984. I had no idea about NGOs working on this issue so I called my friend Nandlal Master from Lok Samiti, Varanasi to see if he knew someone and he named me an NGO called Chingari Trust.  Nandlal Master is a social activist from Varanasi and he knew about Chingari Trust because Chingari Trust gives award to the women working against bad corporations and they had chosen 5 women from Nandlal Master’s NGO in Varanasi. I was sure that there would be other NGOs working on this issue but after reaching there I learnt that Chingari was the only NGO in all of Bhopal working continuously on this issue.

wall paintings around factory are

I was really surprised to see that no other NGO was helping the people affected by that disaster. Anyways, I called the NGO and they seemed so helpful and invited me to visit their office and working site. Their office was very close to the affected area. By mistake we reached their rehabilitation center instead of their office and to be honest I was hoping to see an office with a few people working there and was not expecting to see anyone who was personally affected but as I stepped in the office building I was shocked to see the number of affected people.

families with the affected kids

There were so many families who had brought their kids to the office because the Chingari Trust offers physical exercise classes to the affected people. I saw at least 100 kids, all aged starting from a few months to 20 years old. I just could not believe how badly they were affected. I had heard about this issue several times before and knew that the people who were present near to the affected area during the accident time were the only people who got affected and now no more new case is seen but after visiting Chingari Trust and talking with people there I came to know that still new kids are born with the diseases.

really sad

The Chingari Trust was just awesome, doing really honest business. The president of the Chingari Trust, Rashida Bee, was awarded with almost Rs. 50,00,000 in San Francisco, USA for her work with the affected people and she used the same money to form the Chingari trust and donated the rest to the Chingari trust itself. She told me that they were working on another project to open a new hospital for the affected people as the hospital they had was not enough to host all of the affected people. Now I was more shocked to hear that there were more people needing help.

newpaper cuttings

I was talking with the IT guy of the Chingari Trust and he told me that all the ground water near the affected area is completely contaminated due to the chemicals leak after the accident and is causing huge problems to the local community. Many people living around the affected area complain about it. He gave me a tour of the affected area which was hardly 10 minutes walk from the Chingari Trust. There was another surprise waiting for me near to the affected area. Now I was surprised to see that the government has allowed people to live just across the road from the Dow Chemical factory.

he was trying to say something to me

It just seemed like any other neighborhood in India. I was talking with Lane about it and he told me that in the United States usually such factories are setup away from the city so that in case of any problem the community doesn’t get affected which made sense to me and I was wondering if our government never thought about it while giving the license to Dow Chemicals. Don’t they think that they should at least moved people away after that accident took place? So many questions. We all know that there is huge politics involved in this issue also but government should never play with the lives of thousands of innocent people. After talking with Rashida Bee and other people at the NGO my idea about the issue completely changed. Now I also believe that not only Dow Chemicals but Indian government people working with Dow Chemicals in India are also responsible for the condition and they must be punished.

Please click here to see more photos of Chingari Trust office

Parrots

my parrots

my parrots

My family brought a parrot home a few days ago but when I first saw him, I got seriously upset because I do not like to see birds in a cage. I believe that they are made to fly, not to be stuck in a small crazy cage. I decided to let him fly back into the sky but by the time I took him on my roof top, he had already injured himself very badly and was just not able to fly. He was trying hard to fly but he could hardly walk a little bit. He hid himself behind a plant on my roof and just did not want to come out of there. My guest Attila also saw that parrot and told me that this parrot needed some more time because he noticed that his wings were already clipped.

sports inside the cage

sports inside the cage

We decided to keep the parrot for a few weeks and feed him well and make him practice flying so Attila gave him one of his rooms where the parrot was living alone and freely. Attila asked me if there was any parrot doctor or expert in Varanasi and I also inquired about it and found that there was no such person in all of Varanasi who could tell us something about Indian parrots. Finally Attila contacted some parrot expert in Hungry and fixed an online video meeting and showed the parrot to the expert.

they love having a partner

they love having a partner

This meeting really opened our eyes and was very helpful to plan the future of this parrot. My family was told that this parrot was only six months old but the expert said that this parrot was at least three years old. The expert told us that this parrot was a male parrot and he was seriously injured as his wings were clipped. The expert said that if his wings were not clipped forcibly then there was a possibility of  the wings growing again. I was so happy hear all this but I was not sure if his wings were clipped forcibly or just were cut off.

their bedroom

their bedroom

Attila was in regular touch with this expert and the expert told us so many things that we just did not know before and I am sure most of the people in India who have parrots do not know about these things and this was the reason why I decided to write a post about parrots also so that other people may also be benefited by this knowledge. Indians love parrots but we do not know what is good and what is bad for the parrots and we do so many bad things with the parrots which literally kill them. The expert told us that the average life of a parrot is about 25-30 years but most of the parrots in India survive hardly for a few years. So here I will mention some of the things that I learnt about parrots:

  • Never keep them in small cage as the parrots are wild birds and they are made to be in nature, not to be in a small cage where they can’t even move properly. The truth is that size is very important to your birds mental and physical health. You must take into account how active your bird is and how much time he spends in his cage. It is best to get the biggest cage you can afford and fit in your house. My cage is 3 feet deep, 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
  • Make sure that the cage is not painted because parrots love to climb using their beak and it could be dangerous for them if they eat the paint which is nothing but dangerous chemicals.
  • Make sure to put some sticks and if possible arrange a swing also inside the cage because parrots love to play. So just think what parrots could enjoy and arrange it for them. And yes, mind it that parrots do not play cricket or football:)
  • If your parrot is facing in circles all the time then believe me he is not happy. He is seriously bored and it is really bad for his physical and mental health.
  • Never feed anything cooked to your parrots as they are used to eating raw food. Raw fruits, vegetables and raw grains are the best food for parrots.
  • Never feed chilis to your parrots. Many people in India believe that parrots love chilis but the reality is that parrots can not taste hot taste thus they never know what they are eating and if you don’t give them anything except chilis then they would obviously eat the chilis which is really bad for parrots health.
  • Put a small bowl of sand in the cage because parrots need to eat a little bit of sand sometimes because sand has some minerals which help parrots to digest their food.
  • Give some free flying time to your parrot every once in a while, once a week for a few hours is an ideal time, so that they practice flying. This really helps parrot a lot in enjoying being in your house.
  • Cover a corner of the cage from the outside with a piece of cloth or hard paper. This covered space is really an important place for the parrots inside the cage. This is where they feel secured and usually spend most of the time under this shade. They feel like it is their bedroom.
  • If you are planning to keep your parrot for a long time then please bring a life partner for your parrot. Parrots are the second smartest wild creatures on the planet and they really miss their friends and just hate being alone and bored.

I never believe in the idea of catching someone’s freedom but if you decide make a parrot into a pet then please follow above instructions. I strongly believe that if someone follows these rules then their parrots will be happily living inside the cage and they will also be happy to see their parrots playing and enjoying being with them. I will keep updating this post whenever I learn something new but if you have any question about parrots then feel free to write me and I will try my best to get the right answer to you. Thanks.

Shimla

Kalka-Shimla railway track

Kalka-Shimla railway track

It was the first time when I visited Shimla and I was so excited for this visit as I was going for vacations after a really long time and heat was just killing me in Varanasi and the weather was really nice in Himanchal Pradesh. We took an overnight train from Varanasi to Delhi first and then took another train from Delhi to Kalka in the evening and stayed overnight in Kalka because we wanted to go to Shimla by a toy train and the next train was only in the early morning time. We had tried to book the tickets online for this toy train but all the seats were already booked.

The world heritage train

The world heritage train

There were other options also but we wanted to take this train only because Kalka-Shimla train route is world heritage site and we wanted to experience it. We showed up at the Kalka railway station in the morning time and they told us that there were seats vacant in the train which would be leaving after only ten minutes.  Our hotel was at least five minutes walk from the railway station but we decided to take a risk by buying the tickets. We ran to the hotel, packed all of our luggage and showed up at the railway station within ten minutes.

Open compartment of the train

Open compartment of the train

We had to do everything very fast because the railway officers told us that the train was going to leave within ten minutes but the train left  after an hour. Anyways, we were able to catch the train. We were told that it would take about six hours from Kalka to Shimla but it took about ten hours, but still we enjoyed it actually. I was amazed to see how the British had built this railway line on the mountains. There were 102 tunnels and 988 bridges only during the small railway track of 96 kilometers. Some of the bridges just shocked me. I have heard that many photographers come from all over the world just to photograph those bridges and engineers come from all over the world to see those bridges to learn about the construction.

Vire from the train

View from the train

The nature was just awesome all the way starting from Kalka till Shimla. The train was running all the time on the mountains. It was green everywhere. There were several stations in between Kalka and Shimla where the train would stop. I tasted a lot of different kinds of fruits which are available only on the mountains. Finally we arrived in Shimla after eleven hours of tiring but nice journey. We decided to leave all of our luggage at the railway station and go looking for hotels. As we started walking out of the railway station, one porter asked us if we need a hotel.

Beautiful bridge

Beautiful bridge

We told him that we would find the hotel on our own but this creepy man did not want to leave us alone. He was following us continuously. We went to a few hotels but could not get any room. This porter was still following us so finally we decided to give him a chance and asked us to take us to some hotel. He took us to a few hotels and all of those hotels were expensive and did not want to sell the room alone and they said that they would give us a room only if we take the taxi from them. It was crazy. Then we decided to go to any travel agent to book the hotel and taxi both because we wanted to hire a taxi next for the couple of days.

Such writings were everywehre on the train stations

Such writings were everywhere on the train stations

Then we went to a travel agent and this guy was asking just too much money. Actually before leaving Varanasi once we had contacted a car rental service in Chandigarah and they wanted to charge Rs. 14,000 for the taxi and these guys in Shimla were asking for Rs. 24,000. This porter was continuously following us and we started feeling uncomfortable with it. I told him several times very politely to leave us alone but he was just too much. Once I got angry and started shouting at him but he still wanted to chase us. It was getting late and finally we decided to get cheated and buy the hotel and taxi from a travel agent.

Another writing

Another writing

The major problem in Shimla with us was that neither the hotels nor the travel agents wanted to sell the room alone; they all wanted to sell the room, the taxi, sight seeing and guide all together. You ask them for a hotel room and they tell you rates for all those services. It was a very well organized crime by the hotels and travel agents. Finally we paid Rs. 22,000 for the taxi for five days and two rooms for one night in Shimla. The travel agent showed us a video of the hotel room but once we arrived there, we realized that the room we were shown was different than the room we got.

Shimla

Shimla

After all these problems we decided to get out of Shimla as soon as possible.  We slept in the same hotel and when I woke up I found that my glasses were gone somewhere. I searched for my glasses everywhere in the room but could not find them. Then I called the hotel reception and asked them if they knew something about it and their answer was really shocking. They asked me if the room’s window was open and I said yes and then they said: monkey took your glasses. I was like how is this possible? I asked him why did he not inform  me if there was such problem in that area or why did they not screen all the windows but those crazy people had no answer.

Look at this word

Look at this word

I bought some new glasses in Shimla, took the taxi and left Shimla immediately. We just did not feel like staying there even for a few minutes. I just hate Shimla because of the people working in the tourism sector there. They are criminals. But there were a few good things also. There is a place called Mall Road in Shimla which had the cleanest street I had ever seen in all of India. Even vehicles are also prohibited in Mall Road. The architecture was completely British. Attila and his wife Dora told me that Shimla looked exactly like European cities. Especially the architecture of the buildings and the English word they were using in Shimla were complete British.

People also looked different

People also looked different

This always strikes me that although British updated themselves but we still follow all the British things. The buildings were nice but what about their crazy rules that were never updated? We had to come back to Shimla after visiting Manali and Tirthan valley. I left for Chennai to work and Bunti, Babu, Attila and Dora stayed in Shimla for two more nights because they wanted to see nearby places. Attila looked for some hotels in lonely planet and we found a really nice and honest hotel in Shimla called Hotel White. The location was just awesome, it being hardly 2 minutes from the Mall Road. We asked our driver to take us to the Hotel White but he did not know about this hotel. We asked a few locals and somehow reached the hotel.

View of Shimla from the Hotel White

View of Shimla from the Hotel White

This was the first hotel we had been in whole Shimla that had mentioned all of their rates clearly on a board near the reception. I always try to get a discount in hotels by showing my tour guide ID card and did the same with this hotel also but they did not give me any discount but I was happy that at least I was not over charged. I asked them why not many people knew about their hotel and they said that since they do not give any commission to the drivers or travel agents, nobody knows them. I felt like staying for some time in Shimla after finding this hotel but unfortunately I had to leave because of my work in Chennai. I would like to go to Shimla again and stay at Hotel White in Lakkad Bazaar and explore the town.

Rohtang Pass

the traffic jam

After Shimla and Manali we went to Rohtang Pass which was the only place in whole journey where we could see snow. We were all so excited to be there. Our driver told us that we have to leave early in the morning otherwise there will be a huge traffic jam late in the day time and we won’t be able to reach to the snow. We woke up by 5 am and were ready to leave by 6. The driver told us that we were already late but it was only 6 and we thought that he was joking but in reality he was right. We were stuck in a huge traffic jam starting from about 15 Kms before the snow. I had never ever seen that huge traffic jam in my whole life.

people enjoying the snow

I could easily see the vehicles lined up for kilometers on the mountain, it was just a disaster. I just could not believe on my eyes. We were stuck in the traffic for hours. Before we started our trip, our driver asked us if we had brought some warm clothes for the snow. We showed him our clothes and he said that it was not warm enough for the snow and we needed to either buy or hire some special clothes for snow. Attila told me that he had already been to several places where there is regular snow and he thought that I did not need any special clothing for Rohtang but since my driver was keep insisting me to rent a special cloth, I asked him to take me to some shop where I could either buy or rent the clothes.

Buddha

I was mostly worried about my baby and wife. He took me to a shop where they were renting all those custom rejected long jackets. They were renting those jackets with a pair of shoes for Rs. 1000. It was very expensive that kind of clothing. I asked my driver to take me somewhere else but he said that there are only a few shops and after we leave that place, we wont find any shop on the way to Rohtang. After bargaining they agreed on the Rs. 500. I knew that I was paying them extra but I did not have any other way. After renting the clothes we moved to Rohtang pass which was still about 40 Kms.

it was everywhere

After moving from there I realized that my driver had cheated me. There were hundreds of shops everywhere on the way to Rohtang and they had a fixed rate of Rs. 50 for the clothes I had rented for Rs. 500. There were shops even in Rohtang pass and in any case it was not that cold that we needed such clothing. We did not use those clothes at all because it was just not needed. Anyways, we arrived Rohtang and it was nice. There was snow but people had ruined it with the garbage that they brought with themselves. The snow was black, there were animals shitting and peeing everywhere and of course plastic everywhere as usual.

really sad

There were people renting snowboard, snow bikes and there was some hand pulled service also. This pulled thing was really sad and I was thinking about the people who were enjoying it. It was already kind of hard to breath there and a lot of people were hiring this service where they sit in a chair kind of thing and then two three people pull the chair up on the height and then bring them down. It was really hard work and I did not understand how people could support such service?  Anyways, the snow bike drivers were also crazy. Although the whole area was full with people but they would still drive the bike like crazy.

snow bikes

The skiboard guys were more crazy. They had only one pair of shoes to wear with the board and they wanted all feet size people to use  this same shoes. I had never skied but it looked strange to me so I asked Attila about it and he said its very important to have right size shoes when skiing otherwise it can brake your ankles. A lot of were hiring those ski boards and were struggling with it. It was so funny to watch them.  We were on the snow for almost four hours  and enjoyed it a lot. We drove back to our hotel around 5 PM. It was a nice experience except the driving cheating us for a few hundred rupees.

Please click here to see more pictures:

Winning a television

I was watching news on India TV news channel today and it made remember of my best video of the day prize I had won on India TV three years ago. Actually once I and Lane went to see the untreated sewage discharge in Nagwa, Varanasi and Lane had a digital camera and used his camera and captured the video of the untreated sewage mixing in Ganga. Later I sent this video to India TV news channel and selected my video as best video of the day and I won a prize a color TV. I was so excited to have won this prize and actually I did not have a TV at that time and no money to buy it so the prize was really nice.

I contacted India TV and they asked me to send them a bank draft of Rs. 2300 which was supposed to be a tax which is given on lottery winning amount. I was so happy for the prize and I decided to give them Rs. 2300 as tax. I sent the money and then sent me a letter saying that I had won a TV and I could get it at the nearest Sansui TV store. Actually this latter was written on Sansui’s letterhead because Sansui was the sponsor of the program. They had mentioned their Varanasi office address on the letterhead and I went to the address mentioned.

When I arrived at the address, I came to know that the office was closed an year ago. I immediately contacted India TV again and they asked me to contact Sansui Mumbai office. I contacted Sansui Mumbai office and they asked me to contact their Lucknow office. I contacted Lucknow office and they asked me to contact them after a week. I contacted them again after a week and they told me that no Sansui dealer in Varanasi had the TV model I had won so I would have to wait again. I again contacted them after a week but same story.

I contacted India TV to make a complaint and they told me that their responsibility was only to collect money from me and send it to Sansui, that’s all, now it was Sansui’s responsibility to give me the TV. I was shocked to hear their answer. I told them that I would go to police if they don’t help me and they said I was free to do so. I was continously in touch with Sansui Mumbai office, Lucknow office, Varanasi dealers, India TV and nobody was helping me. The letter they had given me was only valid for three months and now I was going to pass this six months and I was really worried about it.

I called to the Sansui’s Lucknow and Mumbai office and told them that I was going to police and they also said it was up to me. Their Lucknow office would tell me again and again to contact them later and I just did not know what to do. Lucknow office was telling me that they were running in shortage of TVs because of the festival season. Finally I decided to go to the police to register my complaint so that I could have a written evidence of me contacting Sansui and India TV before expiration of the document. I went to my nearest police station and asked them to register my complaint.

But their response was more shocking than India TV and Sansui. The policemen told me that they did not know under which act they would register the complaint. I told them that my complaint should go under act for cheating but said they were not aware of such act. They asked me to contact the bigger police station. As I was about to leave the police station, one of the policemen sitting there called me and asked if I knew someone at the bigger police station and I said no. And then he told me that if I did not know anyone at the bigger police station, then my complaint would not be registered.

I was shocked to hear this. I finally gave up on this idea of registering a complaint and contacted Sansui’s Lucknow office again and I was pretending to be so polite with them this time. Finally after spending over six months I got my prize but I had to go to Lucknow to get it. I took an overnight train to Lucknow, got my prize there and brought it back by a bus. I am sure that I had spent more than Rs. 1500 on telephone calls and trip to Lucknow. I was not that excited for a color TV but I was more excited for a prize I had won but I had to go through some serious trouble to get it.

I have made several videos after this incident and I would have loved to send it to India TV but I just don’t want to do anymore because their approach after taking money from me was just as crazy as it could be. I just could not believe what India TV, Sansui and police did with me.

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.

Guide training program – week 3

Finally half of the training is completed. Now three weeks of classroom teaching and one week of orientation tour are left and after that I will have to do my field work. I am so excited for my field work. I talked with the other participants of the program about my field work on LGBT tourism and all of them said that maybe the institute will not approve my subject. It’s disturbing but I will have to do something. I am trying to get some basic information about LGBT tourism so that I can talk with my professor and try to convince him to approve my subject.

In the case that they don’t allow me to work on LGBT tourism, I will go for either eco or rural tourism. I don’t want to do my field work on those traditional Indian tourism subjects like heritage or culture. I want to learn about heritage and culture as well and I will have to learn about it; I will have to mention the heritage and culture of Benares in my research even if I am permitted to do my research on LGBT tourism, but I would love to be specialized in LGBT tourism. Nobody has ever done it in India before and nobody else is going to do it in the present batch so it will be very good for me if they approve my subject.

If my subject is not approved, then I would like to do my field work in Mirzapur district about eco-tourism becuase Mirzapur district is only 75 kms from Benares and is full of beautiful nature. The professors taught us about caves, cave temples and rock painting of Mirzapur which is very interesting to me. Mirzapur is not a touristic place because government never promoted Mirzapur as a tourist destination but I would like to do it because there are lots of opportunities there. Mirzapur has a lot of waterfalls, dams, rivers, lakes, hills… Maybe I can start trekking and camping tours in Mirzapur.

Even if my LGBT subject is approved, I would still like to promote and work in Mirzapur. Mirzapur is basically rural area so I can promote Mirzapur as a rural tourism site as well. I am so excited for this project. This week we had very interesting lectures. One of our guest lectures was Mr. Pandya who won the best tour guide award for the year 2008. He works in Agra. He was telling that he is the highest paid tour guide of India. When a tour guide is giving tour to some tourist, the client stays in a fancy hotel and the tour guide stays in a budget class hotel. But Mr. Pandya has his own rules and he stays in the same five start hotels where his clients stay.

He was telling that because of his own rules and high charges he doesn’t get much work. He hardly does five or six assignments in a year. He charges $100 per day which doesn’t seem too much, but I don’t know why he was describing this amount as too much. Sometimes I make that much money by working with students as their translator. He had amazing knowledge of the golden triangle. He was advising us about improving our accent. He said that Indians have their own English but since we work with tourists and we get paid for it, we should try to learn their English.

This week I was taught about a word called ” Chabbi” which I had never heard before. It is a tourist sector Hindi word which means commission. We had a Muslim professor who was an expert on tourism in Jammu & Kashmir and he said that he did not want to take commission by the shop keepers by making his clients shop at their shops in the beginning of his career because Islam did not allow commission but now he also enjoys it. He said that this is what the system is and this system is popular all over the world. He said that tour guides all over the world are doing same thing.

In a few countries they call it profit sharing which sounds better, and specially for Muslims it is good word. He said that if he doesn’t bring the clients to the travel agency stores, he will be kicked out of the job. We had few very interesting lectures about India tourism offices working in India and abroad, Islam, female foreign tourists in India, condition of women in medieval Indian history, eco tourism, water tourism, adventure tourism, architectural heritage of India, Kamasutra, Khajuraho sculptures…

I asked the professor who was giving lecture about Kamasutra if Kamasutra talks about homosexuality or not and he said that homosexuality is in existence for the long time, even Babar was fond of males. He said that Afghanistan seems to have the most strong gay culture in the world at present time. It was a really interesting answer. Something else very interesting thing happened while one of our classes about Islam. We had a professor from Jamia Milia Islamia University, New Delhi to deliver a lecturer about Islam. One of the participants asked him about the condition of women in Islam and his answer was the condition of women is terrible in all the religions.

He did not say anything in particular about the condition of women in Islam. Then one other participant told him about how liberal Hindi society was in terms of condition of women, and then the professor just smiled and said why Sita had to give Agni Pariksha . The participant wanted to say something but the professor did not want to hear him. He just left the classroom saying that he was getting late.The program is very nice and I am loving it. I am looking forward to the next four weeks of the training.