What should be the requirement to become a Police?

What kind of Police do we all want- honest, educated, helping and polite, right? But when we think about Indian police, UP police for sure, the first thing we think about them is their cruelty, corruption, no sentiments for people and no politeness at all. I don’t know any person who would ever like to go to the Police station because of their such qualities. In fact nobody has any faith in them. There is no work done at any Police station without taking bribe. Even if someone wants to register a complaint they have to pay a bribe. I read so many articles in the news paper when media reports about how they do not even register the complaints for even serious crimes like rape or murder.

It happens all the time and everyone is very well aware of it but it has become so much part of the system that people expect for such kind of behavior by Police. The only thing UP Police is expert in is how to torture people and loot their money. I think the biggest reason behind it is bad governance and this is the reason why the condition of UP Police is getting worse and worse everyday. There are two political parties which have been ruling the state of Uttar Pradesh for long time. One of them is Bahujan Samaj Party and the other one is Samajwadi Party. Bahujan Samaj Party does the caste based politics all the time but policing is better during their time. They are good in controlling the criminals but no difference when it comes to control the Police.

Samajwadi Party is the worse political party ruling the state of UP in my lifetime. They do the politics of religion and caste both. During their times Muslims and Yadavs (a Hindu caste) can do anything they want. As soon as Samajwai Party comes in power they immediately put only Yadavs and Muslims on all of the higher rank jobs in the state does not matter whether they deserve it or not. They also recruit a lot of Police but they are also either Yadav or Muslims. They do all these things only to get attention of their vote bank which is enough to keep them in power. Police reform is a very big issue and everyone wants to see honest and helping police and I think it will be the biggest gift for us if anyone can make it possible.

But it seems like these political parties like Samajwadi Party want to make the situation worse. Its impossible to believe but the Chief Minsiter of Uttar Pradesh Mr. Akhilesh Yadav announced that there won’t be any written exams for Police recruitment in the state. He believes that only physical test along with the marks in tenth and twelfth class is enough. I was shocked to hear it. I believe that whatever Police does is because of political pressure and their training but still education is needed. And the situation becomes more horrible when a government like Samajwadi Party makes such announcement which is known for allowing cheating in the exams. The whole of nation knows how the percentage of students passing the tenth and twelfth grade exams increase dramatically as soon as they come in power.

In fact a lot of people from other states come to UP to pass tenth and twelfth grade exams during the Samajwadi Party rule because cheating happens openly and it is also very common practice that students won’t even participate in the exams, they just give some money to the school or the teachers and they will arrange someone to write the exam for them. One of my friends who was living in Mumbai literally came to Varanasi to pass tenth grade exams because he tried it three times but not succeed but now when he heard that Samajwadi Party is back in power, he came to UP and got his tenth grade certificate. In his case he went for the first two tests but then the teachers came to him saying that why he tortures his fingers and mind by writing the paper, they had another option of having someone else write his papers for a few hundred rupees.

He liked this idea, just gave some money to the teacher and was sitting at home watching TV and passed the exams. UP government wants to recruit Police on the basis of merit and I wonder what does merit mean if everyone is openly cheating the exams??? It scares me to think what will happen in future when we will have such uneducated Policemen? The situation is already horrible but future seems more dark. I still remember when I was talking with a friend who is a Policeman in The Netherlands and he said that the general impression of Police in his country is that Police is friend but here they are already our enemy. I think that an educated enemy is thousand time better than an uneducated enemy and its very sad UP government wants to create a whole force of uneducated enemies to torture us.

I think if they want to solve the problems then they should better end the system of interviews because that is the place where major corruption starts. The people wanting a job in the Police have to bribe the officers taking their interview and if they get a job after bribing a huge amount of money then they will be needing it back as well. And who will repay it? We the regular people ! I don’t have any hope from people like Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav or Akhilesh Yadav who have been ruling the state for long time. The only way to get some relief is by kicking them off the power completely but it seems very very hard because of the vote bank politics. Muslims and Yadav will still vote for Samajwaadi Party and all people coming from lower castes will still vote for Mayawati does not matter if they can bring any change in their lives. But I never loose hope, I still hope that people of UP will not forget corrupt and communal governance of Samajwaadi Party and will throw them out of power in the next elections of 2017. Jai Hind.

Amarnath Yatra 2013

Indian Army welcomes the Yatris

Indian Army welcomes the Yatris

I first tried to visit Amarnath in 2010 but could not as the Police stopped us by entering in the Kashmir valley area by saying that the weather was not good and it was not possible to drive on high mountains. Later we learnt that weather was not the issue but the problem was locals of Anantnag and Kashmir valley area attacking the pilgrims. We were literally shocked and sad to hear that we were not allowed to travel in our country and people of our own country hate us. After that incident I had promised myself that I won’t go to Kashmir ever until the India-Pakistan and Kashmir issue is solved. But the only next year I made a road trip to Leh via Kashmir valley, talked with people and learnt a lot.

Viccky, Chintu, Driver and I (Left to right)

Viccky, Chintu, Driver and I (Left to right)

That experienced changed my view and motivated me to plan another trip so that I could experience and learn more about the people living in that area, their issues and problems. My friends were planning a trip to Amarnath in June this year and I immediately subscribed to it with so much excitement and hope to learn and experience more Kashmir. The Supreme Court of India was very strict this year with number of visitors and their health condition. The Supreme court made it mandatory for every pilgrim to go through necessary health checkup and proper registration because more than 250 people had died during the Yatra in 2012. Because of ecological concerns of the Amarnath glacier, the court also ordered to limit the number of visitors at 7500 per day.

Baltal Basecamp

Baltal Basecamp

We applied for our registration and health checkup in Varanasi. We had to go through the health checkup at first at our government district hospital. The procedure was insane as it involved a lot of bureaucracy and that same crazy behavior of government officers. The health checkup included three tests : A general blood test, orthopedic test and a very mysterious naked body checkup:) I call it mysterious because the doctor did not tell me why he wanted to see me naked. hahaha. Anyways, the blood test was fine but the orthopedist was so busy on phone that he did not perform proper checkup instead just stamped the paper saying that everything was all right.

Rates for tents

Rates for tents

That naked body test was so funny. There were all aged people in the line everyone was either laughing or kind of upset coming out of the doctor’s room. I also had the same experience when I came out of the room. The doctor asked me to stand about ten meters away from him, take of my pants and then cough. When I asked him what was this test for, he just looked at me with anger and asked me to do my business. Most probably he wanted to check hernia, I am not sure. Anyways, after getting the health certificate we had to go to Punjab National Bank because this bank was authorized by Amarnath Shrine Board to make the registration. There was a fee of Rs. 30 to get the registration but it was all right.

We wanted to go on Yatra through Pahalgam checkpoint but it was already full for sever

Helipad at Baltal

Helipad at Baltal

al days so we got permission from Baltal checkpoint. Most of the people prefer to start the yatra from Pahalgam as the route to Amarnath cave is very steep from Baltal side. Anyways, we got our so called health certificate and registration paper without going through proper health checkup. We started our trip from Varanasi by taking a train to Jammu. It was a 28 hours train ride hence we decided to stay over night in Jammu and take a rest. We started our journey again the next morning and our plan was to reach Baltal base camp by the same evening.

Beautiful nature

Beautiful nature

It was kind of surprising to see the number of Police and Army here and there but its quite normal in Jammu and Kashmir. Anyways, another shocking thing was police checking on the way to Baltal, We were stopped several times on the way, even in Srinagar where they wanted to see our registration certificate, check our bags etc. It was still 3 hours for sun to set and we were hardly 2 hours away from base camp and suddenly our vehicle was stopped and asked to park in an Army base camp. Once we entered in the base camp, we saw minimum of 200 other vehicles of such people like us who wanted to go on Amarnath yatra. We asked others about why they were stopping the yatris but nobody knew the answer.

River

River

Even Army people did not want to tell anything. They had arranged free water, tea and snacks but we needed an answer. Finally we asked an Army guy who looked from South India and he said that people from Anantnag area were attacking the vehicles of pilgrims therefore for security reasons the vehicles were stopped. He also mentioned that the traffic will be allowed again once the security is arranged on the street. It was so sad to hear such thing but what to do. We were waiting at that Army camp for two hours and finally heard that now we could start again. The fleet was guarded by Indian Army and they were with us until we crossed the sensitive area.

Pilgrims on the way to the Holy cave

Pilgrims on the way to the Holy cave

But it took a lot of time and we were stopped again around 70 KMs from the base camp and we had to spend a night at another Indian Army camp. There was a huge langar setup by someone from Lucknow. I had heard a lot about langars enroute to the cave but it was the first time when I saw one and I was really impressed. They had almost all of the food I can buy in my city, they were offering free blankets, hot water and several other services and everything was free of cost. Anyways, I did not eat there as the line was also huge. We hired a tent for Rs. 700 and spent the night there. The tent was small but there was nothing better than it. There were only 4-5 restrooms for maybe 5000 people so we did not take a risk and started our journey early in the morning time the next day.

I near to the Holy cave

I near to the Holy cave

We arrived at Baltal around 8 am and were planning to start trekking immediately but could not as our registration was valid for 3rd of July and we were in Baltal on the 1st. I was the only person in my whole ground who had not been to Amarnath  before and everyone was telling me that the date doesn’t matter, what matters is the registration certificate. Hence we were quite sure that we would get to go on the 1st even our registration was valid for the 3rd. But because of strict orders of the Supreme court all of the rules were properly followed, rarely happens in my world:) We tried our best by talking with Police but it seemed impossible for us to start trekking that day. So we started looking for a Langar to stay and luckily found one run by someone from my own city.

Super crowded near the cave

Super crowded near the cave

When they heard that we were from Varanasi they immediately offered us free sleeping arrangement with free food, hot water, clean and private washrooms… what else do you need, it was just awesome. We spent that day just wandering around, looking at different langars, talking with people, testing different food etc. Since our registration was valid for the 3rd and it was the 1st, we did not know what we were going to do the next day. Everything was so restricted that it was not even allowed to go further away from the base camp. We met with an Army guy the same evening who suggested us to reach at the entry gate at 4 am the next day. He said that if we can reach that early then there is a possibility that we will allowed for yatra even a day early.

The black is not clay, its dirty snow

The black is not clay, its dirty snow

We had two seriously fat guys in our group and they were having really hard time in walking. Walking on high altitude mountains was a serious problem for them. Everyone suggested them to take helicopter service which would reduce the journey by 6 KMs. I had also never sat on a helicopter so I also decided to go with them. The next morning all of my friends, excluding my two fat friends and me, left the camp 3.30 am and luckily they were allowed to start the yatra. We arrived at the helicopter station around 7 am bought our tickets but the process so crazy that it took us 7 hours to get our boarding pass. I am not joking, it literally took us 7 hours. The guys working at the ticket counter did not have a computer, they were managing all the data on register.

Local phone booth run by solar panel

Local phone booth run by solar panel

I could easily see that they were not trained at all and did not know what they were doing. The helicopters were standing and waiting for passengers and they could not sort out who to send in which helicopter. It was seriously frustrating and hilarious. Finally we boarded on the helicopter at 1.30 PM. It was a very short journey of 7-8 minutes but good enough to get a sense about this flying machine, I liked it. The helicopter left us at Panchtarni which was 6 Kms passing the cave on the other side (en route to Pahalgam). The walk to the cave was seriously steep and fat friends could not walk hence they got on a pony. There were more ponies than human which was a serious pane. The route was very steep and narrow and then thousands of ponies running continuously was just too much.

Indian army offering warm water to the pilgrims

Indian army offering warm water to the pilgrims

The dust and all the shit of ponies was kind of killing the experience but the nature was absolutely fantastic. Beautiful clean rivers, water falls, mountains, snow, green valleys, lakes…it was amazing experience to hike. I had to walk on snow at several place en route to the cave. Finally I reached at the cave but the line was huge. I had to spend around 3 hours in line and then I finally got inside the cave. Everyone in the line was talking about the holy pigeons. But different people had different stories. Some of them were saying that the real holy pigeon is white, another one was saying that the real one is always with its pair… Anyways, I got to see several, minimum of 10.

Security everywhere

Security everywhere

I was seriously excited about seeing the Shivalingam but at first I could not really understand where the lingam was because there was snow everywhere in the cave. Other people in the line showed me a 4 feet tall piece of snow and referred it as the lingam. They said that other pieces of snow represent Ganesha and Parvati. I paid my respect and came out of the cave. It rained continuously when I was line and since I was not wearing my shoes and had not eaten  anything since that morning, I felt affected by hypothermia. I was dizzy and felt seriously confused. I had never experience such physical condition before but I knew what it was.

Inside a langar

Inside a langar

I immediately tried to find a langar where they were offering hot Kheer. It was just like heaven to have found some food. I felt a lot better after having it. I also found my friends who had left early morning on foot. We decided to leave cave area and try to walk back as much as possible. We had decided to reach Seshnag by the night it did not work. The Indian army had closed the exit point at Panchtarni by 7 PM and it was not possible to go further. We rented a tent and spent night there. The next day we started walking back early in the morning time and reached Seshnag by 12. I know that we could have made it much more faster but I always to see the lake at Seshnag and spend some time there so we walked slowly, enjoyed the nature, talked with people…

Snow everywhere

Snow everywhere

We were only three friends who wanted to stay over night in Seshnag and rest proceeded  to Pahalgam the same day and arrived there by the evening. One of my friends brother in law, Mr. Amarpal Sharma who is a member of State Assembly in UP from Sahibabad, runs his own langar at Seshnag. We stayed at his langar overnight and it was a very big relief. They provided us private tent, comfortable bed and private clean washroom. We relaxed overnight there and the next day proceeded for Pahalgam. I had always wanted to visit Seshnag lake but I noticed that nobody was going down to the lake. Everyone just walked the lake on mountain and literally there was no one other than a few pony owners. We went down to the lake and it was amazing. The lake was crystal clear with blue water.

Beautiful nature

Beautiful nature

But my friend said that he had seen change in the color of the lake because all of the waste created by hundreds of tents at Seshnag is drained into the river. This was very sad to hear. I asked one of the pony owners if they drink water out of the pond and he said they used to but not anymore because of pollution in it. He also seemed very concerned about the pond dying. I don’t know when our governments will become serious about the dying nature, seems like they have learnt nothing by the Ganges. Anyways, we left the lake and started walking towards Pahalgam. We arrived there after three hours and then took a taxi back to Jammu. We were back in Jammu the same night around 3 AM. The yatra finished but it raised several questions to me :

1) Amarnath shrine board and Jammu Kashmir government’s attitude towards the yatra and pilgram.

2) Jammu and Kashmir state police behavior

3) Locals behavior and their feeling about yatris visiting their land

4) Threat to the environment in the name of religion and pilgrimage

5) Social harmony

Pilgrims and Ponnys

Pilgrims and Ponnys

Going back to point number one- Amarnath shrine board and Jammu Kashmir government’s attitude towards the yatra and pilgram. This was a very strange thing I noticed that the Amarnath shrine board and Jammu Kashmir government did not seem helpful at all. All the people run langars and pilgrims were complaining about the Shrine Board and Jammu and kashmir government. The people who run langars were saying that it was very easy for them to run their langar until last year when Indian Army was given responsibility to organize the yatra. But this year its state police and Shrine board organizing the yatra and they are trying to make it as complicated as possible for langars to survive.

Indian flag, just love it

Indian flag, just love it

They said that everyday and several times some officers from either the Shrine board or the government come, try to inspect their services and always say that something is not correct. It was really funny to hear that they had made it prohibited for langars to serve anything cooked in Desi Ghee and sweets like Gulab jamun. Their argument was that Desi ghee is very heavy and people can get heart attack by eating anything which is made of desi ghee. They were just trying somehow to disturb the langar runners. By law they had prohibited carrying any plastic and were literally each and every person’s pocket and bags to see if anyone was carrying anything that had plastic. I was really happy to see such action to protect environment but after a while I realized that this rule was only for pilgrims and not for the locals at all. Locals were openly selling plastic packaged food and other items and nobody was there to stop them.

Sheshnag Base camp, Himalayas & Sheshnag lake

Sheshnag Base camp, Himalayas & Sheshnag lake

Point number 2- Jammu Kashmir Police was so rude and cruel to the pilgrims that I never felt safe around them. They stopped us at several places on the way to the base camp to check our identity, luggage and our pockets in such a way that we were terrorists. The local drivers also informed us to be more careful when being checked by such officers because sometimes they already have some illegal items with themselves which they put in the luggage of passengers while checking their bags. Just looking at them was really horrifying experience. Once our vehicle was stopped on the way to the base camp and we were asked to just wait at a parking place where there were already more than a couple of hundreds of vehicle were waiting.

Indian Army medical camp for pilgrims

Indian Army medical camp for pilgrims

We had no idea why we all these vehicles were stopped so we tried to contact some police officers there but again they were so rude that it seemed like they wanted to kill us. Finally I saw an Army personal and contacted but his behavior was completely different, he was so polite and answered all of our questions and finally we learnt that we were stopped because the locals were attacking the vehicles of the pilgrims hence extra security was needed. Finally all of the vehicles were released in security of Indian army that helped us crossing the area where tension was. I also spoke with several Indian army guys regarding their view on Jammu and Kashmir police behavior and even Army guys said that if Indian army was not present in the valley then forget about locals even the police would kill the pilgrims. It was very very unhappy feeling to see state government behavior.

Sheshnag Lake

Sheshnag Lake

Point number 3- In my view most of the locals do not like pilgrims at all. They literally called us Indian and made fun of us wherever and whenever it was possible. I could easily see hate and anger on their face for me. The locals attacking the pilgrims is not a new situation at all in the valley area and I had read about it so many times but when I went through it personally then I realized how horrible the situation was. I once talked with a guy from Punjab who runs a restaurant during the tourist season and he told me half of the people of valley area support outsiders visiting their land half area completely against it. And even the half who support it are the ones who somehow make money out of tourism. If there was no money for them they won’t support it either.

Sheshnag Lake

Sheshnag Lake

One of the stops during the journey was Sheshnag which is named after a beautiful Himalayan lake Sheshnag Lake. Most of the people just stop here to take rest and then continue walking, nobody really goes close to the lake but I did. The lake was beautiful but again I experienced something which turned all of the joy to a sad experience. I went to visit the lake with my two friends Sonu and Kuvar. When we arrived, there were no other tourists but we saw a few locals (lets say 8 or 10 young boys) who were just hanging out having fun. As soon as they saw us, their behavior changed immediately. They started throwing stones towards us, were using abusive words, a few of them got naked so that we go fight with them. All of those guys were the once who make their living by renting their ponnys to the pilgrims, very sad and scary feeling. And it was not only at Sheshnag, we noticed similar or worse behavior everywhere in the valley area.

A dead ponny in the lake

A dead ponny in the lake

Point number 4- Because of no regulations environment is seriously harmed by the pilgrims. I saw garbage and plastic everywhere. The snow had turned black in the entire route used by the pilgrims. All of the camps discharge their entire waste, including raw sewage, directly to the nearest river or the pond. Sheshnag had minimum of 100-200 camps offering lodging and food to the pilgrims. I am sure that minimum of 4-5000 people were sleeping everyday in Sheshnag and entire waste was being directly discharged into the Sheshnag lake. I also spoke with a few locals of that area and they said until 10-15 years ago when the yatra was not so popular and the number pilgrims was also not much the primary source of their drinking water was the water coming from Sheshnag lake but its impossible for them to use that water anymore because of all the raw sewage and other waste in it which comes directly from the camps of the pilgrims.

It only looks clean, it has sewage in it

It only looks clean, it has sewage in it

And this situation was not only at the Sheshnag area but it was at all of the spots wherever camps are situated for the pilgrims. There was no waste management at all and imagine the waste created by hundred of thousands of people every year who do the yatra. There is no proper waste management anywhere in India and we are used to it but seeing such beautiful and sacred place going in the same condition like any other Indian cities was one of the most disappointing feeling for me. I had a chat regarding this issue with one of the camp owners and he said that their feeling is also the same like us and they are more than willing to provide whatever is required to make the situation better and have contacted the concerned departments and government but there is no help at all. I don’t know how long those glaciers will be able to survive and we need to understand that if those glaciers area not there there then even the Amarnath won’t be able to survive there at all because he is also made of snow.

Indian Army temple

Indian Army temple

Point number 4- It is my personal opinion that the best human feeling is the harmony with the people around us and worse situation is when there is attraction or harmony in people’s relationship. It was not my first visit to the valley area, definitely first time to Amarnath but I had been to Kashmir several times before, and I have realized one thing for sure that the people of Kashmir do not like the people who come from out of valley area. There are several groups with different demands. Some of them want to go with Pakistan, some of them want to have a free nation, some of them don’t like the pilgrims because they are non-Muslims and some of them want to convert everyone to Islam.

Water everywhere

Water everywhere

And this movement is so strong that they have no space for outsiders. They just hate anyone visiting their land. As an outsider, for themselves, I could not enjoy as much as I could have if they were welcoming to us. The biggest reason behind my travel is to talk with the locals and it was impossible to interact with locals in the valley area. In fact I was surrendered but only because they wanted to sell me something or were begging or cigarettes or candies. The poverty in the valley is so extreme that you might encounter with groups of people begging of chewing gum if you are chewing one or they will ask you get food from the pilgrims camps for them. Other than this they have no interest at all which was very sad feeling for me. If they can just maintain social harmony then their entire situation could change in one tourist season.

A waterfall

A waterfall

Kashmir is like a heaven for Indians and everyone wants to go there but just because such experience I had, not many people return back or recommend others to visit. Tourism can bring huge amount of money to the valley which could solve most of the biggest problems they are facing but just because of the bad information spread by the locals militants and other groups they have no respect at all for tourists. It is very unfortunate situation and someday Kashmir has to come over it otherwise they will be in the same condition for coming unlimited years as they are now- poor, violence, illiterate and overall seriously crazy. The great poet Amir Khusro wrote a poetry in Persian to describe the beauty of Kashmir in this way- “Agar firdaus bar ru-ye zamin ast, Hamin ast o hamin ast o hamin ast ” meaning “If there is a paradise on earth,It is this, it is this, it is this.”

Anyways, the nature was beautiful and the experience was once in a life time experience. I hope that someday there will  be peach and prosperity in Kashmir as well and the attitude of people will also be welcoming and they would also be proud of their Indian identity just like any other Indian citizen.

Bharat Mata ki Jai, भारत माता की जय

Bharat Mata ki Jai, भारत माता की जय

 

Europe visa approved

Finding any category of visa to any developed nation has always been a huge problem for us Indians. In fact once I had applied for an American tourist visa and it was also denied because they thought that my economical relations with India was not strong enough to prove that I will be coming back after the trip and it happened only 2-3 years ago. This time I got an opportunity to visit Europe. I was invited to Hungary by a friend of mine, Attila, who started an education program for poor kids in Varanasi with my help. Other than Hungary Attila had planned a trip to Slovakia and Austria as well. I did not need to get separate visa for all three different countries because they are all part of Schengen countries and only one visa for Schengen area was enough for me.

I had so many invitation letters sent by my American friends when they wanted to invite me to the US and all of those letters were written on just plain paper but they had provided their residence and income proof with a covering letter stating that they will be taking care of me while I will be in the US but still my visa was denied. Attila did something different. He went to concerned government office in Budapest and wrote an invitation letter through them and sent it to me. The letter looked very professional, it had signature of Attila and some government officer. Other than this it had some basic information about Attila and me also.

I went to Delhi with all the supporting documents, in fact I carried whatever I had. All the certificates, residence proof, income proof and other documents. Now Hungarian embassy also works with VFS for visa document verification which was not the case only until a few months ago. So I went to VFS office instead of Hungarian embassy to apply for my visa. It was kind of confusing place but luckily I found it. The office was located at International Business Center next to Nehru Place metro station. This building had several different VFS offices working for different countries.

For popular destinations they had different rooms but for a place like Hungary, France, Italy, Switzerland they had only different counters in one room. I went to the counter for Hungary and as I was expecting there were not many people in the line because not many people go to Hungary. In fact Hungarian counter was working for France:) Anyways, the staffs were helpful. They checked all of my documents, charged me the visa fee, VFS service fee and that’s all. But they did not have any information about when I will be called for the interview. They just asked me to go back to Varanasi and wait for the phone call.

I asked him to just to give me a clue and said that it was jut not possible at all for him to make any guess. It could take any time up to 15 days. I decided to stay somewhere close to Delhi hence went traveling to Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradoon. I was expecting to get a call within next two-three days because Hungarian embassy doesn’t process so many visa applications. But I was not right at all, they called me on the 6th day after applying and asked me to come to the Hungarian embassy a week after which was on the 12 day after applying for visa.

Another interesting thing was that they asked me to bring the evidence of contract which I did not understand. They were asking me to bring photographs of Attila working with me, traveling in India, doing anything…they just wanted to see the proof of my relations with him. I had so many pics so that was not an issue at all. I returned back to Varanasi stayed here for a few days and then went back to Delhi again for interview. I arrived at the embassy on time but the counselor was late by 20 minutes. The counselor was just like the counselor I had met at the American embassy two years ago- she was nothing but a robot.

She would ask me questions and write about it on a piece of paper, then ask another questions, that’s all. She asked me for the pics but did not even look at it. It seemed like she was the busiest person in the world. She just did not want to talk with me. haha. To be honest American counselor was more like trying to read my mind, he was playing with my answer but this lady was only interested in asking questions and writing down my answers. Her questions were very interesting. The best one I liked was if I knew the last name of Attila and his wife. Luckily I knew their last name so it was no problem. After all these questions she showed interest in keeping my original documents for verification.

She took my income tax return document along with tour guide training certificate. She told me that I will be informed once they have made any decision. I got a call by VFS after a week or so that my passport was ready at the VFS center in New Delhi. But I was already in Varanasi by this time so sent an authorization letter to my brother to collect the passport on my behalf. He collected the passport and saw that visa was approved. They issued visa for Schengen countries which meant visa for 26 countries. Nothing was so complicated but I won’t say that anything was easy at all.

I had to go to Delhi at first and then nobody knew how long would it take for interview after applying for visa at the VFS, I was just wandering around here and there spending all of my money, and when they called me for the interview it was after a week. Anyways, I am not really upset with anything but I think such things could be easily avoided if they want. They just need to book an appointment right away for the interview or take maximum of one day because the passport and application is sent the same day to the embassy from VFS office. If they could have informed me the date of the interview even the next day then I would have saved at least Rs. 25,000 which I spent just traveling here and there near to Delhi.

Passport office in Varanasi

Government has been trying to make the passport application process easier and they opened a passport office in Varanasi hoping that it will solve a lot of problems. I got my passport two years ago and I still remember that I had to wait for 11 months after applying for it. When I heard that we have got a passport office in Varanasi, I was so happy because earlier there was only one passport office for whole Poorvanchal region of UP state which was in Lucknow. I got to visit this office with my friend who wanted to apply for a fresh passport. The building looked new and organized and definitely it had all the unnecessary formalities which we usually find at Indian offices.

They did not even allow carrying any bags inside, no camera, helmet..The office looked hi-tech and full with young employees. Later I learnt that first step document verification and other inquiries are done by Tata Consultancy which was very good because private companies always work better than government. We did some inquiry about the process of applying the passport and asked for the form. They told us that there is no system of filling up the forms manually exists anymore and now everything is done online. You apply for the passport online by filling up the form and booking an appointment on their new website.

You the just supposed to bring all the documents on the appointment date and go for the interview. They have a website with the name Passport Seva Porta with all the information available on it. This new system sounded beautiful but I don’t really think that this is a good system for whole India, especially my region of Poorvanchal where thousands of villages still don’t have electricity, just forget about having computers or Internet. There are so many places where they have got computers but there is no Internet or if there is Internet then people just don’t know how to use.

And in any case the website is in English which is a huge problem for a lot of people. I was discussing about this issue with a few people and they told me that the people who don’t even have electricity or the ones who do not speak English or don’t know how to use Internet won’t ever need passport. But the fact is that there are thousands of uneducated but skilled laborers from Poorvanchal who go to Arab countries to work every year. If fact when I think about the people I saw at the passport office, it seems like most of them wanted to go to Arab countries to work and they were having huge problems with applying for passport online.

All of them were having some kind of problem. The website says that you need to bring certain kinds of residential proofs, identity proofs and other documents but the website doesn’t say that they don’t only need the original documents but they need a print out of the same document from the concerned government office website. When I had applied for the passport only my PAN Card was enough but now they want the original PAN card, a xerox of it with the print out of information available on Income Tax Department ‘s website about my PAN card. The same thing was there with all other documents.

Now they don’t entertain any document which has no record available online. For example driving license is not accepted anymore. All these formalities sounded like a huge problem even for a person like me who uses Internet all the time. I was thinking about all those people who had never used computers before. At the same time I met a gentleman who needed an urgent passport for his wife. He was working abroad and wanted to bring his wife also with him. He had his ticket booked after 15 days or something. Government promises to provide urgent passport within a week by charging some extra money.

He booked the appointment online and his appointment was issued for Varanasi office. He showed up at Varanasi office and they told him that Varanasi office is not authorized to take applications for urgent passport and he needed to go to Lucknow only which is like 10 hours by train from Varanasi. He went to Lucknow the same evening where he was told that since his appointment was issued for Varanasi office he needed to go there. He again came back to Varanasi office when I met with him. And again the same story. The people at the Varanasi office were saying that they were not authorized to take applications for urgent passport.

Now this guy was so angry, he was asking if they are not authorized to take the application for urgent passport then why do they issue the appointment and no one had any answer. They were kept saying that they could not help him and he needed to go to Lucknow only. Now this guy wanted to talk with some big officer and they were kept asking him to wait. He passed more than an hour waiting for some response and finally they said that no one would meet with him and he can do whatever he wanted. I was kind of scared after looking at all these conditions and was not sure whether one should apply the passport at the office or go to some agent.

I started asking to my friends if they knew some reliable passport agent and they told me about a person named Rehan Bhai who has got his office in front Diamond Hotel, Bhelupur. I went to him and he seemed thousand time more helping than anyone working at the passport office. He charged me only Rs. 1000 as his service fee but he offered me a lot in exchange of it. At first my friend did not have to fill up the form or anything. He informed us about the documents which were accepted nowadays by the passport office. We just provided him all the documents and he took care of the rest. He booked the appointment as well. He went online and printed the online records of his documents, booked the appointment, prepared all the documents in order, kept them in a file and handed it over to us. Now we just needed to go to the office on appointment date.

It hardly took us 2 hours to complete everything and yes, he promised that he will us the passport within two months because he had some connections with the officers working at the passport office. My friend reached to the office on the appointment date then everything was very professional. All the problems that we had to face were in the beginning stage. At the office he was sent to a desk where people were sitting with their computers. All the computers had two screen- one facing to the computer operator and other one facing to the applicant so that applicant could also see what information was filled in.

They asked my friend after filling each page to confirm if all the spellings and other information was right which was a very good system because in the past so many people had problems with the name or address printed wrongly on the passport  and with such system I don’t really think that it will happen any more. After this he had to meet with three different government officers who verified the original documents. It was really funny that one of the recognized that we were taking help of Rehan Bhai only by looking at the file. I asked Rehan Bhai about it and he told me that he writes some secret code somewhere and that is why the officer was able to recognize it.

Anyways, all the formalities were done. My friend hardly spent 30 minutes inside the office which was very impressive for me because I still remember the time when I had applied for my passport. But the most important thing is that we saved all the time and everything was so smooth for us only because we were taking help of Rehan Bhai. It would have not been possible to get the work done that easily without his help. Finally my friend received his passport also only within 2 months But I still feel sorry for all the those people who were at the office facing all the problems. Government of India has always been crazy and I definitely have no hope from them but I was not hoping for them to be this stupid of ending the entire system of filling up the forms manually. I think they should keep the both systems alive and have a help desk to fill up the forms for uneducated people.

I would like to share mobile no. of Mr. Rehan Bhai so that if someone looking for an agent or information regarding passport office in Varanasi, reads my post may contact him directly. His mobile no. is- 9415291050. He has an assistant also named Deepu whose mobile no is- 9336633322. Feel free to contact them as I already have their permission. I hope this post will help people wanting information about getting their passport without any hassle. Please don’t think that I am advertising for Rehan Bhai, his services were really awesome.

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-

Interview with Arun Pathak

Mr. Pathak addressing a public meeting

Arun Pathakis a politician and a social worker from Varanasi. He is famous all over the world for his style of protest by committing suicide. His protest against the movie water in the year 2000 made him popular all over the world. I had been hearing about him ever since I started hearing, had seen him several times in my neighborhood and had read his name in the newspapers and magazines several times but I got to meet with him last year when I was working with Irene, a researcher from Italy. When Irene asked me to arrange a meeting with Mr. Pathak, I was not really if I would be able to arrange it because Arun Pathak has become a very powerful politician now.

Mr. Pathak on the stage

I was thinking about Arun Pathak like any other Indian politician who do not have time for people after the elections are over but my impression about him completely wrong. I was able to arrange the meeting with Arun Pathak and I was seriously surprised to see how helping nature person he was. I went to interview him with Irene at least 20 times in 2 months and he was always so welcoming. He treated us very well and answered all of our questions. I got to learn about him a lot by interviewing him.

Mr. Pathak at Roja Iftar party in Varanasi

I was seriously surprised to listen his stories about his politics, style of protest and his struggles. Mr. Pathak’s family was very poor. His father worked at Jain Dharamshala in Varanasi as a store keeper. Pathak said that often times they did not have enough money to buy both meals everyday and they slept empty stomachs several times. He had to stop his studies and he was sent to his uncle’s house in the village only because the family could not afford to send him to the school.

Mr. Pathak at a meeting

He returned to Varanasi only after a few months because his uncle also not nice to him. Finally Pathak joined municipality school (free schools but just waste of time) in Varanasi. During his schooling when he was only 14 years old, he went to a shop in his neighborhood asking for a job because he wanted to make some money to help his family. The shopkeeper laughed at him and said that he could employ a 14 year old student. Arun Pathak said that he wanted a part time job for evenings.

Mr. Pathak in 2002

After so much request by Pathak, the shopkeeper agreed to have him as a part time employee. Pathak worked at his shop for one month and when he got his first salary, which was only Rs. 30, he was so happy to share it with his family. But when he was going back to his home with his salary, a few bullies stopped him and took his money. They asked him to buy them alcohol using the same money. After drinking alcohol they all went together and beat his family. Mr. Pathak says that his family was beaten up only because they were not able to pay the rent of their apartment on time.

Arrest

Those days a political party called Shiv Sena was very popular in India for working with youth. Shiv Sena has always been known for being a radical Hindu party. There was a rumor those days that Shiv Sena was providing a pistol to all of their new members and after hearing this Mr. Pathak also thought to join the Shiv Sena so that he could get a pistol to kill the people who had beaten his family. Since it was only a rumor, Mr. Pathak was never provided any pistol by Shiv Sena but Mr. Pathak proudly says he found nuclear bombs instead of pistols in Shiv Sena.

Distributing books in Mumbai

When talking about nuclear bombs he talks about the radical people of Shiv Sena. He says he had always led the life of a leader even during his school times and after joining Shiv Sena he again became popular because of leadership quality and so many people in his party became his fans who were ready to die or kill anyone for himself. He did so many programs organized under the banner of Shiv Sena and became so popular very soon. After 11 years of hard work he became district chief of Shiv Sena in the year 2000.

Honored by Sankaracharya

His protests were always huge and always became matter of conversation in the society. His protests against the movie Water, Girlfriend and Chori-Chori Chupke-Chupke was talked about all over the world. Shiv Sena has always been protesting against the Valentines Day celebration in India and he also organized huge protests against the festival in Varanasi. His protest against the liquor stores, corruption and several other things also got huge popularity. Very soon Mr. Pathak had became a very big name all over India.

Hunger strike

Mr. Pathak has always been known for his extreme way of protesting. He has consumed poison five times in order to protest. Once he cut veins of his right hand when he stopped from entering in a temple. When I asked Mr. Pathak about why he did such things, he laughs and says that nobody listens to the poor people. If you are poor and powerless then this is what you do to make people listen to you. He proudly says that he is the inventor of staging suicide as a form of protest.

Attack

I had read so many articles about him and some of them said that the thing Mr. Pathak consumed was not basically poison and when I asked Mr. Pathak about it he showed me his palm which sweats all the time and he says that his body developed this problem ever since he consumed poison first time.  He showed me his medical prescription which says that he can not eat any heavy or spicy food, he has to drink filtered water and it all happened because of the affect of the poison he consumed several times.

offering food to poor

He says that it was not only himself who consumed poison but there were other people as well who consumed poison or tried to burn themselves only because he asked them to do so in order to protest. After saying this he called one of his workers named Bulli. Bulli is 29 years old and had consumed poison when he was only 14. He did it in order to protest against the movie Chor-Chori Chupke-Chupke. I asked Bulli several times when I met him alone about why did he consume poison and ever time his answer was same that he did not know.

offering food to blinds

He always says that Mr. Pathak had asked him to consume poison so he did it. I asked him if he ever regret about it and says- why would I regret? It was Bhaiya’s order. He knows what is best for me. I was shocked to hear it. How come someone can have this big control over someone else? The bigger shock is people’s belief in Mr. Pathak. Anyways, he worked with Shiv Sena till 2003 and then left because he was not happy with the way Shiv Sena was discriminating against certain communities.

at a school

Actually Shiv Sena was beating the North Indians living in Maharastra and was kicking them out and Mr. Pathak was seriously hurt with the situation that he decided to leave the party. He formed his own political party and run it for four years. Finally in the year 2007 he realized that he needed a bigger platform to raise his voice and fight against big evils. Finally he joined Bahujan Samaj Party which is known for working with lower caste community and fighting against Mafias.

offering food to lepers

Again because of leadership quality he was appointed as co-coordinator for two state assembly seats in Varanasi. During his work period he made Bahujan Samaj Party very popular in Varanasi where there was no existence of Bahujan Samaj Party before. He has been kind of away from politics for the past one year and has been devoting his complete time in social service and religion. He says that he has been doing a research on the outcome of religious practices. To do it he has hired 11 priests who perform vedic yagyas everyday.

Mr. Pathak's priests

These yagayas including other rituals have been going on continuously since October 2010.  He says that he wants bring the truth in the society. If there is no outcome of such practices then people should not waste their time and if performing rituals really work then they should do it in right way. He believes that rituals do not really seem helpful nowadays because they were made thousands of years ago and now when the time has changed they also need to changed. And he wants to know this change.

distributing books to poor students

I have been to Mr. Pathak’s place several times and every time I go there I see people coming to him asking for help. He makes some kind of donation almost everyday. I have seen him offering food to the lepers, blind or physically challenged people. I have seen him paying poor students fee or buying them books. I have seen him paying for poor people weddings. I think he does all kind of donation possible. He never any new cloth until he donates the same to a few poor people. I still remember that once he bought 12 tracksuits. 11 were donated to the beggars on the street first and only then he wore one.

performing aarti at Assi ghat

I have seen people running behind him, I am sure he thousands of fans only in Varanasi. He is like a star in Varanasi who is always surrounded by minimum of 6 security guards. He says that there is threat of life for him because there are so many people who do not like his popularity hence he needs security guards all the time with himself. After saying this he stops for a while and then said that can you imagine that I started working at the age of 14 because of my poor family background. He proudly says that his first salary was only Rs. 30 and now he has to spend good amount of money only on his security.

Mr. Pathak with his security guards

It is definitely a huge change for anyone and Mr. Pathak definitely deserves it. Now I have met Mr. Pathak several times and I like him a lot. I love his style of working, his devotion for his work, his understanding of the society and his super helpful nature. I am sure that I have also become his fan and would love to see him progressing in his life because I personally believe that he is a thousand time better leader and politician than anyone I have ever met. My society definitely needs people like him.

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

Mumbai Gay Pride 2011

rainbow flag at the parade

Mumbai, the place of most happening Gay events in India hosted its gay pride march on 29th of January and I went to attend it. The parade was organized by Humsafar Trust which is the biggest organization working on LGBT rights in Maharastra. They used to celebrate the pride on 16th of August every year but this year date was changed because of hot weather conditions in Mumbai in the month of August. They used to celebrate pride on the 16th because they believe that India got independence on the 15th of August 1947 but the gay community in India never got independence hence they started celebrating pride on the next day of independence day.

Celina Jaitely at the parade

I had already been to the Mumbai pride parade in 2009 so I also felt that it was good decision to change the date. Anyways, the parade started from the same place where it started last year- Azad Maidan and ended at Girgaum Chowpatty. It was like 5-6 Kms walk. At least a few hundred people had already gathered before I arrived at Azad Maidan and they had speeches going on. Only after a few minutes Celina Jaitely, a very famous Bollywood actress, arrived which brought extra energy amongst the participants. Celina has always been interested in LGBT issues and has been supporting the NGOs working on it. Once she admitted that her ex-boyfriend was a homosexual. She is one of the biggest names working on LGBT issues in India. I have seen her several interviews on TV and newspapers where she talks about equal rights for LGBT community.  I had seen her in 2009 parade as well. It is nice that such celebrities participate in the pride event.

Azaad Bazaar

After a speech from Celina and other social activists the parade finally started. I saw something new this year that Humsafar Trust opened India’s first LGBT friendly store in Mumbai and they were advertising it in the parade. The shop is called Azaad Bazaar means independent store in Hindi. The liked the idea of having a special place for LGBT community because there is huge discrimination against them in India, they are made fun of. They do not feel comfortable just everywhere. And if there are such places like Azaad Bazaar then the LGBT community people could go shopping freely and meet up. In fact such places could bring change into the society because they are 365 days an year advertisement place. They are visible places and if straight community people see it then at least they would talk about it for sure and I always believe that communication can solve a lot of problems.

the parade

The parade started with at least 1500 people but soon it turned into a happy parade event of at least 2500-3000 people. The entire road was full of participants dancing and cheering up. There were people from many different places, even foreign countries.This year parade was also mix of tradition and modern culture. I got to see the most modern looking people in whole India and at the same time there were so many groups who had dressed very traditionally and were performing traditional dances and were singing traditional songs.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi

I had once asked an officer at the Humsafar Trust about why there were so many people dressed very traditionally and he said that it is done intentionally so that Mumbai pride parade doesn’t become completely western and it is always easier to get acceptance if local culture in involved in it. And since India has the oldest gay culture in the whole world, it is always nice to mix the gay events with traditions and culture. I loved this idea. Anyways, the parade was full of joy, happiness and freedom. I saw less people wearing masks this year which clearly means that the LGBT community in Mumbai is becoming open and is fighting for their rights. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a famous Hijra social activist, also joined the parade. She is just awesome. I have already met her several times, interviewed her and I like her a lot. I think she is the most famous Hijra in the whole world.

God loves everyone

I was noticing a person for a while but did not know who he was. He was dressed like a king and I had seen him in 2009 parade also. I asked a friend and he said that he belonged to a royal family from Gujrat and was an open gay. His name was Manvendra Singh Gohil. After he revealed his homosexuality, there was some tension in the royal family and he finally started working with LGBT community in India. He started his work first with the LGBT community in Gujrat. He has in fact announced that he would adopt a child. It was nice to see big names coming out in the society and accepting their sexuality and demanding for equal rights. It was especially nice of Mr. Gohil because he comes from a royal family in India and royal families are very important for the society. If they make any changes then the society accepts it easily the same way change in the caste system along with a lot of other changes were accepted without any question.

support

I also noticed more family support this year. I saw a few people with writings like I am proud of my gay son or grand son. I saw a writing saying proud of my gay brother. I am sure that the people who are proud of their gay family members are not even one percent in number but I see the change, more and more people are accepting LGBT community. The parade finally ended at the Girgaum Chowpaty with a few speeches from social activists demanding for equal rights for LGBT community. India has already legalized gay sex practices and now they are demanding for legalizing gay marriages and equal rights. I am not sure if the situation is going to change soon. Doesn’t matter whether government allows gay marriages or not or whether they promise equal rights or not but society is not going to change soon. I have not personally seen any change in the ideas for LGBT community amongst the people of India.

great

But the good thing is that at least people have started talking about it. I see more open gay couples in the society which is a clear indication of change. But I think LGBT community is also a little bit responsible for discrimination amongst them. Sometimes they do strange things like I saw a couple of people opening their pants and showing their genitalia to the people. They were kissing each other on the main road which is not seen in India. I am not against the idea of kissing each other but I believe that if such thing is not practiced in India openly on the road then they should also not do this.

society

They won’t become part of the mainstream society until they start acting like mainstream. I believe that human feeling is same doesn’t matter whether they are gay or straight but there are some social rules and everyone should follow it. Anyways, it was good to attend the parade learn more about the community. I plan to attend the parade next year as well with a better camera. I could not make videos or interview people this year but next year I will definitely come up with more digital records of the event.

Happy Ending of the Parade

Please click here for more pictures of the pride parade-

Delhi Gay Pride 2010

Delhi pride

Delhi celebrated its Gay pride parade this year on 28th of November and I again went to attend it. They used to organize it in the month of June until last year but this year the date was changed because Delhi gets horribly hot during the month of June. I also feel that it was a nice decision. This year was important for me as it was Delhi’s first biggest gay event after decriminalization of section 377and I wanted to see the reaction of people. This year I went to the parade with my friend Babu. Later Ravikant also joined me who was me in Delhi for some personal business.

participants

I had already been to so many gay parades taking place in India hence nothing was surprising for me but Babu and Ravi were just shocked. They had no idea of what was going on. Anyways, the parade started from Barakhambha road and ended at Jantar Mantar which was around 2 hours of walk. When I arrived at Barakhambha, there were already a few hundred people. A lot of them were dressing up, a few people were distributing masks, pamphlets and candies. I have noticed one thing that Delhi pride has always a good number of Hijras.

demands

The parade seemed way bigger than the last year and it was more diverse as well. There were all kinds of people- families, Hijras, LGBT community people, students, straights… The parade started with dancing, music, slogans… and very soon hundreds of more people joined in. The paraded was guarded with hundreds of police who would sometimes stop the traffic as well so that the parade could pass easily.  The parade lasted for about three hours and it was just like any other gay pride parade in India which was a blender of modernity and tradition. A few groups were dressed traditionally and a few people looked very very modern. The parade had a huge support of students. There were a lot of young people in the parade.

love

The parade finally arrived at its destination- Jantar Mantar where they had a few speeches of social workers, organizers and participants. A huge organization called NAPM also joined the parade this year and they announced that they are also with the LGBT community in India and would fight for them. NAPM is a huge organization working of several different issues all over India and if they also support LGBT community activity then I am sure it could bring a huge change in the society. I have been working with one of the state conveyors of NAPM in UP named Nandlal Master for a long time so it was good to see that NAPM also got involved. It was a good news because I have already been planning to organize a gay pride parade in Varanasi and if NAPM supports it then it could be a big help for me.

support

All the speeches happened and people talked about different issues but mostly people talked about how they are discriminated in the society. A few people came on the state with masks over their face but after arriving on the stage, they took off their mask and said that they were feeling so confident after attending the parade and now did not want to hide their identity and sexuality anymore. Finally they had a candle lighting program which ended the parade for this year. I was told that there would a party after the parade and I was so excited for it. I had already attended a few post parade parties and I really loved them. Somebody told me that since the number of participants increased in the parade, they have organized parties at several different places. Some of them were paid and some were free.

definitely

I asked about it to a few people and they gave me several different addresses which means this year the parade was bigger and they needed more than one place to host the party. I went back home, got ready and left again for the party. I went to a club near to Qutubminar. But after arriving there we realized that only those people were allowed who had some kind of SMS on their mobile sent by the organizing committee. I told the security guard that I came all the way from Varanasi and I had already talked with the organizers and I was actually invited to attend the party but still they were not allowing me. The system was completely different last time when I attend the parade. Last year anyone was allowed to attend the party and there was no restriction at all.

family

It was very disturbing and frustrating. Finally I met one of the organizers on the street near the club and I asked him to me. He called someone who was inside the club to pick me up. This guy showed up at the entrance and brought me in. The club was fantastic and they had a party on the rooftop with music, drinks and food. Everything was super expensive. They were serving a small bottle of beer for Rs. 600 which is usually available in the market for Rs. 50. One small shot of cheapest whiskey they had costed Rs. 600. Anyways, I bought a few drinks and was basically enjoying the party. My friends also enjoyed the party a lot. I could easily see how shocked they were but at the same time it was a interesting time for them, especially for Ravikant.

participants

Suddenly police showed up and asked the DJ to stop the music. Actually its not allowed to play loud music after 10 PM at public places anywhere in India. The organizers tried to settle the police but these guys did not want to hear anything. Finally party was stopped and we were asked to move out of the club immediately. I was kind of disappointed because post pride parties are different than regular parties, are so much fun and I enjoy them a lot but this time I could not.  But I do not regret at all, I was happy that at least I got to attend the parade. It was a nice experience and I got to learn a lot. Hope to attend Delhi pride again next year.

Please click here for more pictures of the pride parade-

Commonwealth Games 2010, New Delhi

India was so excited about Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and we were preparing for it for years. The Indian government was saying so many things like a lot of money would come, tourism will increase, we will get international identity… which is in fact true if we would have organized it well but because of the corruption everything turned out to be just opposite of what the government was promising. We lost billions of rupees, less tourism this year and very had reputation all over the world.

I was always suspicious if were prepared to host this huge event and I always had this idea that it was going to be bad for us and same thing happened. The bridge which was being built for the visitors collapsed only a few days before the event, how is this possible? and then Chief Minister of Delhi Sheela Dixit says that fortunately there no foreigners when the bridge collapsed.  What the hell is this. We were told by the government of India that the total budget of the games would be close to Rs. 16.2 billion ($365 million) but the final costing was Rs. 300 billion ($2.6 billion). How this huge difference is possible?

The games were full of corruption and I am sure that all the government officers and people involved in the games ate all of that money. They were holding the tickets hoping for foreign visitors to come and buy them but finally they had to give free tickets to the school kids so that they could show that stadiums were full. Games village was also a great example of the corruption involved in the games. They had built several flats for the players and we were always getting news that the roof was leaking, the bed was broken, the toilets were super dirty, animals were here and there, cobra snakes were also found… I don’t know what to say about this.

When I was doing my tour guide training last year in Gwalior, we were told several times by professors and tourism ministry officers that a lot of tourists would come to see commonwealth games in India and this was the only reason why our training was organized and we needed to ready to work hard but in reality not even regular number of tourists came. I think it happened only because of all the news people were getting all over the world. And of course the news said nothing nice about India and commonwealth games.

An Australian journalist was able to walk with a bomb inside the games village and nobody check him. What kind of security arrangement was this? Anyways, the government must have realized how happy people were by their corruption by the hooting on Kalmadi during the inauguration ceremony. I hope that government learnt something and would not even think about hosting any other event like commonwealth games in near future but the biggest question is that does government ever learn?