Sunday, October 13, 2013

Navratra 2013

Was home for the festival after a long time.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013



There's a certain amount of restlessness brewing up. An uneasy feeling takes over when you feel something big is going to happen, or that it's about time things change and something big happens, or rather that things don't change at all and instead tread back into time and freeze exactly at those moments you decide.


There's also a certain calm. Strange, that it can coexist with restlessness. But there is a realization that whether things change or not, for good or better, the status quo is quite pleasant and that life at this point is such that many may envy.

Every year, there is a certain month and a certain date that creeps up suddenly from behind you and demands a ledger of your life till then. It is on days preceding such dates that you get into a solemn state of mind, curb your jokes and randomness, those  smiles, and everything else that you do to hide your old hurt and wounded self from the world. Most of the times these remedies work.

And when they don't, you snuggle up to your father, or your cat, or imagine a love that could be. Even as you imagine, you remeber to thank God that everything is just the way it is, not an inch better, not an inch worse.

It is the present that is the most mysterious and the most giving; a strange mix of calm and restlessness and I wouldn't want it any other way.


Monday, July 01, 2013

Why 30 is not the new 20

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013


You didn't come into this house so I might tear off
a piece of your life. Perhaps when you leave
you'll take something of mine: chestnuts, roses or
a surety of roots or boats
that I wanted to share with you, comrade.

From Neruda's poem 'Wine'

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Dream Horses

...There is a country stretched across the sky
strewn with the rainbow's superstitious carpets
and evening's vegetation:
that way I go - not without some fatigue,
treading grave loam, fresh from the spade,
dreaming among these doubtful greens...

This is a stanza taken from Pablo Neruda's poem 'Dream Horses.'

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An accident

This evening a strange thing happened.

 At the exact moment that I decided to push my plate of food away and lean on the wooden railing to gaze at the river and the old bridge, I heard a woman scream. A man had met with an accident. I just saw his dusty footwear and his shaking legs by a truck parked below the restaurant.

 When I ran down to the couple, the man was foaming at the mouth, shaking uncontrollably and a head wound was oozing blood. He was clutching the axe that was lying by his side. The truck was full of sand, and the man, a daily wager, apparently had an attack of epilepsy and fell head down from the truck on the traffic-packed road. The woman was sobbing hysterically and was cradling her man with a passionate urgency.

 As I went up to my food later, the first thought that came was a selfish one. I told myself that the insecurities that had occupied me for the past two days seemed atrociously superficial and criminal to worry about after what I saw. My mind remained clouded with the thoughts of the woman. I can still see how she held her man, how she held his hands tight, pressed his wound with her torn saree and dabbed her tears with the same cloth, touched his cheeks lightly with her fingers to get him to talk to her. I can't forget how the man looked back at her, defeated, tired and very scared. How effortlessly some people get love and how shamelessly some cling to it.


Citizen Journalism and Children

Childhood, or more specifically, the process of growing up, is perhaps one of the most dynamic subjects for sociological study. Of what I am today, a major chunk must be attributed to the experiences and associations I made from mid-school upwards to graduating from high school. College, then, was essentially an opportunity to refine and modify the experiences of early life and see them play out in the fun sociological web of adulthood.

 Even if you don't have children, don't plan to have any, or are at that stage in life where dealing with adolescents or teens is a distant memory, the care and attention that must go to children must be still relevant to you.

 Why and how?

 Simple. Because every adult has once been a child. It would be a rare (and a blessed) adult who would not want to tweak bits and pieces of his/her upbringing with the hypothetical hope that those few changes here and there in the past might have resulted in them being a better adult. Perhaps, that is why each generation's attitude to the next generation is often vastly different from the previous.

 Countries and cultures also differ in their approach to education and upbringing.
In India, and many of our neighbours in South Asia, children often remain "children" much after the expiry date of 18. Many relevant social questions are evaded by the magic formula, "You won't understand it yet, you are just a child." Of course, continuos guidance and support from elders is required at any stage, but such abrupt fool stops to conversations are not fair.

As a journalist, it amazes me to see the potential of our young adults, and also disappoints me that there aren't enough opportunities available (compared to say, the US) to suitably assist them into making them confident and worthy of exercising their adult franchise.

For my masters thesis at the University of Pune, I chose to do a content analysis of a children's newspaper. It was essentially the in-depth study of the editorial style and content of a weekly supplement of a local English daily that catered to children from mid-school upwards to high school. It was disappointing to note that a large chunk of the paper was devoted to colourful and overly cheerful cartoons and drawings, fables and moral folklores, puzzles and riddles, recipes and fashion suggestions. What was missing was a solid dialogue in issues that would concern these kids directly in the near future, if not now. Civic responsibilities and issues were sparsely discussed, politics was scare and there was no mention of sex education.

By the age of 12, all children start getting highly curious of their surroundings, their questions are much more complex and much more inquisitive, their queries and concerns are genuine and it is essential that during this time we find a way to give them knowledge patiently and adequately. "You won't understand yet, you are just a child," is likely not going to work because if your child has asked a question, it means the neurone spark plug has already been ignited. If you don't respond convincingly and truthfully, the young adult will catch the evasion and find his/her own ways to get to the truth.

Students of Don Bosco High School loved the JuniorScoop concept.
At the end of the short content analysis, I was certain about at least one thing: There is a huge void in the Indian news media that proactively focuses on young adults as their target audience. It is high time that children be given the dignity and the credit for their intellect and curiosity, and that they be groomed to larger responsibilities that they will be suddenly burdened with in near future.

I found a satisfying way of inching towards this goal by joining Juniorscoop.

Juniorscoop is a proposed citizen journalism project that will produce an online video magazine with stories contributed by high school students from five countries- Afganistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. We are a group of alumni of the scholarship programs funded by the US Department of State and our project has emerged a finalist. Out of about 600 proposed projects for the Alumni Exchange Innovation Fund 2013, only about 150 made it to the final round. Juniorscoop is proud to be in the race. If we get support, we might be funded by the US State Department to go ahead with our vision for grooming children as citizen journalists.

If you are a registered alum, sign in at and vote for us here

Voting ends June 16.

All my readers, friends and colleagues, please like our Facebook page without fail

-Gauri Gharpure

Fulbright-Nehru Masters Fellow in Leadership Development 2011-2012

MS Magazine, Columbia University in the City of New York

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Motherhood Is Not a Gender

My Facebook timeline is flooded with my beautiful friends posing with their more-beautiful mothers. I wouldn't want to classify my reactions to these lovely photos as those mixed with an inexplicable tinge of loss, or void, or any other such negative.

It's just that growing up exactly half my life without my mother, I have kind of forgotten how it feels to have one.

Of course, there are memories, some amazingly endearing and funny ones, but I have to stress all my faculties a lot if I want to remember how she smelt, or her voice, or how her touch felt. The process of recalling those physical memories is so intricate, time consuming and often painful, that I leave those at a safe distance most of the times.

In these 14 years, though, I have discovered how life makes up for one profound loss by infinite, disguised, daily gifts. Most of all, I have learned that motherhood has nothing to do with gender, or relationship, or age of the person who fills up as your mother.

Sometimes, the person may not even know he/she is being trusted with the priced emotional crown of foster motherhood. But, it's best to keep these secret associations to yourself. I don't know how many people I would freak out if I would tell them that for a split second, they became the mother I irreversibly lost.

My father fit in the role of a mother effortlessly. My grandmother then thought it wise to become the (very) stern father figure. If it were my father's turn to leave us unexpectedly that morning, I am sure my gentle mother would have overnight morphed into the man of the house just as well. For friends who have lost both their parents pretty young, God has more than compensated in His mysterious ways in the form of one kindness or the other.

Yes, I miss my mother. But honest to God, I must admit that I cannot imagine how life were to be if she were still around. Some things are not meant to be. The sooner you accept the losses that God orders, the easier it is to discover his hidden scheme of things.

-Gauri Gharpure
May 12, 2013

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Everyone Needs Attention

As I type, my cat insists on grabbing the hand that hovers over the keyboard for a minute too long. Actually, he just mewed a very annoyed mew of a kitten that is being fooled into false company. My cat wants my full attention, nothing less will do. He just got insulted and jumped off my lap to make me feel guilty, btw.

So, the crux of this musing is, how everyone, or rather everything, needs attention and how often we fail to notice those silent pleas.

The flowers look sad and forlorn and stoop like an anaemic if one day goes without water. I choose to ignore some new seedlings in those black plastic bags out of sheer laziness (or too much on my plate) and next I know is they have died a silent, uncomplaining death. Guilty again.

The books gather a thin layer of dust and the pages turn yellow even before I have leafed through them once. The writing on the first page, a sweet dedication on what was once a special day, suddenly lashes at me from the past. I tear that page off, rubbish that writing I was so familiar with to bits. Guilty.

Father calls just as the man is going to say something really sweet to the woman he secretly loves. I talk half-distracted out of daughterly obligation knowing full well from his tone that he has nothing to say, but that he is missing me sorely. My cat gives me a look with his big green eyes and I know he has pronounced me guilty.    

Everyone needs attention. The rational man will decide how much to give and when. But then, it is the irrational who are always happy. At least they are seldom guilty.

GG 1220 hrs April 18, 2013

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Monday, February 18, 2013

An Unwritten Letter

She hugged me tenderly. And she held me close in her lap, soothing my hair with her weathered, bony hands. "Sshh, my love, it's going to be OK," she said. Her soft voice somehow reminded me of the discomforts I had braved and my cries turned to sobs. She held me till I had cried myself to sleep. I took her address but did not write a letter.

I was 12 and with my cousins, one also 12 and her sister two years older, I was on my first trekking adventure to the Himalayas. Things had gone wrong from the start. When we reached the Ahmedabad railway station to leave for New Delhi, we could not find the man who had arranged the trip. He showed up minutes before the scheduled departure, teary-eyed. He said he had failed to book our tickets. He promised a full refund for those who chose to drop out, and said those who still wanted to go ahead with the journey had to go in an unreserved coach. Things from New Delhi to Manali and back would be as planned, he said.

A group of about 20, a cluster of a large extended family with children our age and elder college-going sisters and brothers told our parents they would take care of us. Another group of four, all college-going guys, also wanted to go ahead. Three-four parents backed out. Ours asked us what we wanted to do. With less than 15 minutes for departure, we had to make a decision fast. The three of us decided we would go and jumped in the train.

We grabbed window seats and grinned animated goodbyes. We were too excited to notice the petrified faces of our parents; they were still trying to make sense of our hasty departure and their audacious permission. "The moment the train got out of sight, I thought I had made a wrong decision. I was scared of your grandmother," my mother later told me. My paternal grandparents were not enthusiastic about three girls going alone; my maternal grandmother had resigned by cooking three bagsful of deep-fried Gujarati snacks to last us more than a month. Both the sets, especially my paternal grandmother, were vocal about their displeasure after they got to know of the unreserved travel.

Something must be said about traveling in a general compartment in India. The general ticket from Ahmedabad to New Delhi, a distance of 578 miles, costs under Rs. 200 (less than USD 4) now; then it was cheaper. That ticket just gives you the right to board the train and does not guarantee a seat. You have to fight for seats. As we were a mixed group, we could not board the ladies' compartment. The guys did a good job of encroaching the seats, though, and the thirty-odd group made a comfortable nest in a space for 12.

That train ride to New Delhi was a party. We sang songs, played dumb charades and cards, listened to music, binged on cheap, spicy snacks sold by vendors hopping in and out of the train at different stations. We rarely slept in the 24-hour journey to New Delhi. Those who dozed off had toothpaste slathered on their face; I woke up to the smell of mint. There were no mobile phones, our parents lived in suspense and prayers till we called late the next night. We had a small common room in the Swaminarayan temple but the limited amenities did not matter much in our excitement for the onward journey. The temple had strict rules: no non-veg food and no liquor. The devotees served piping-hot food, unlimited and free, three times a day, and the foodie in me was over-joyed.

The next day we took a bus to Manali. Our base camp was by the Beas river. We used ditches for toilets and washed our dishes. My cousins said they would share their chores but often bickered. I tried to make peace once, and one of them told me to back off: "This is between us." Images of those cold nights when we sat by the flowing, freezing waters with a grumpy face to wash dishes with soap and river-sand, our fingers stony and numb, still make me laugh. In spite of minor differences, we sisters kept our unity.

On the highest camp the air was thin, our stomachs grumbled, and it rained continuously.

My cousins wore these smart yellow raincoats that my aunt had bought from the U.S. These were thick and durable, with hoodies and pockets, and best part, they could fold in a 6-inch bag. One rainy evening the camp instructor and his sister - whom we immediately disliked for their fake sweet-talking- somehow coaxed my cousins into giving them both the coats. I came to know when I found them crying in the tent. "Chor!"* I shouted, "Let's go, get those back." But, my sisters were not as assertive as they used to be back home; they let go. “I am not crying for the raincoat,” my cousin said, “but it was a gift from mummy. I miss her."

In the silence of the mountains it was easy to translate one small disappointment to other and tears flowed freely.

One night, as I lay tucked in my sleeping bag, teeth clattering, I entertained a random thought: What if my mother died. I cried the whole night imagining life without her. Once I called home and asked to talk with my grandfather. Mother warned me before handing him the phone; "He's missing you a lot," she said. He did not speak, but mewed like a kitten on the other end, my grandmother quickly took the phone from him.

We had an eventful climb to the heavenly Himalayan peaks and came back to the base camp where cherry trees were dotted with the fruit. We had one day to explore Manali. We bargained to buy at atrocious prices little gifts for family, I had my first taste of vegetable Manchurian on the recommendation of a new friend; we exchanged addresses and returned to New Delhi, to the same temple.

That evening, my sister pounded the bathroom door and asked me to come out immediately. From the crack, I saw she was crying. She told me she had opened the snack bags grandma had packed to find liquor bottles instead. I rushed to our room and the three of us had an emergency conference.

"I don't know what to do, they will kick us out." 'They' meant the temple, the Swaminarayan sect had a no-tolerance attitude to liquor, so we were told. We sat and sniffled, not knowing how to dispose of the bottles, fuming at the college guys who, we assumed, had bought them, cursing them for trying to use us to bootleg the bottles to our dry state, Gujarat. We finally told a woman from the extended family cluster and she took the bottles away and disposed them. An hour or two after the liquor episode, we got to know that we still did not have reserved tickets for the next day's train travel.
That was it. I began to moo like a calf that is tied away from its mother. All I said over and over was, "I want to go home. Now!"

And that was when she came to sit by my side. My foster mother, because that is what she became for those small hours.

She was intuitive about how to calm an unruly child. She asked me about my family, my city, and maintained a clever stream of questions to keep me talking. I answered her questions between rubbing my face of the tear stains and repeated the same questions to her.

She was in her 70s. The faded image I have saved of her brings up a skinny small woman in a light-blue cheap synthetic saree and an old white cotton blouse. She tied her silver-grey hair in a bun as small as a tennis ball. She wore thin gold bangles and wore a rosary of tulsi beads on the neck. She said she had no kids. She stayed with her sister and nephew in Mumbai.  She had come to visit the city with her sister who joined the conversation at will. But it was mostly the talkative childless woman who took me under her wings. I do not remember her name.

As we packed our bags the next morning, she sat nearby. She was overjoyed when I took her address and promised I would write. She asked me to visit her without fail when I visited Mumbai. She gave me landmarks, ‘behind this temple, near this sweet store’, many instructions too precise to remember, and I said simply said yes to everything. She had put enough love and assurance in my system for my homebound adventure.

Our camp leaders were not able to get hold of tickets and we travelled unreserved again. I returned home to my grandparents who hugged me like there was no tomorrow. My mother finally heaved a sigh of relief. “Your grandmother would have killed me if something had gone wrong!” I told my grandma all about the granny who had stopped my sobbing and grandma said she couldn’t thank the kind woman enough. I saw my small address book as I was unpacking but could not get myself to write a letter. I was too shy to put on paper the difference she had made, I was too shy to thank her, love her. A few years later I found the diary again, but kept from writing thinking it was too late. “May be she’s dead. May be I’ll look like a fool.”

It’s been fifteen years now but I still suffer the guilt that this unwritten letter has branded on my heart. Of all the unwritten letters, this unfaithfulness hurts the most.
*Chor= Thief

Gauri Gharpure 1646 words April 2, 2012
This was written as a personal essay assignment for my favorite professor, The New Yorker's senior editor, John Bennet's class
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Monday, January 07, 2013

Quilled mini diaries and fridge magnets

More products made for Meow:

Keep these quilled mini-diaries beside the landline phone /  desk to take short messages.
Assorted quilled flowers used for different Meow products
Colorful fridge magnets to cheer up your day.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Delhi Gang Rape - Video of protests at India Gate

This is a short clip edited from a 7-8 min video I shot of these two bravehearts standing up to the Delhi Police all by themselves on the evening on December 23, 2012 at India Gate in New Delhi.

An unprecedented mass outrage followed the brutal gangrape and assault on a 23-year-old medicine intern by six men in a moving public bus near New Delhi's Vasant Vihar area.

Indian national dailies variously called the rape victim Nirbhaya (which means fearless), Amanat (which means something trusted with you for safe-keeping, the colloquial reference is usually a person or thing entrusted to you by God and so, which needs to be protected and loved till death) and Damini (called after the female protagonist of a Bollywood film who fought single-handedly to get justice for a rape victim).

Nirbhaya was announced dead on December 29, 2012 in a Singapore hospital. Doctors at New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital said Nirbhaya was someone with an unusual willpower and inner strength. Being a doctor, Nirbhaya precisely knew what she was going through, and perhaps knew it was a losing battle she was fighting. Still, she kept about her calm, poise, dignity and presence of mind in spite of bearing unimaginable pain, Nirbhaya recorded a police statement before her body could no longer keep up with her will.

The government's immediate response - if it can at all be qualified so - was of apathy, blame-game and a complete disconnect with the ground realities of molest, sexual assaults and rapes that Indian women face every single day.

Chief minister Sheila Dixit refused to meet a group of protestors that sought an interaction with her outside her residence. Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said they understood the nation's pain because "they also had daughters." To this lame talk, the most staple response of all young women protesting at India Gate, including that of Kritika (seen in the video) was: "Have their daughters ever travelled daily in a public bus? Waited for an auto at night? Look who's talking!"

Lt. Governor Tejender Khanna, under whose authority lies the Delhi Police, was vactioning in the US when India was boiling. He reportedly had to be "called back" (which gives us a ground to assume that he did not voluntarily curtail his trip) to take charge of the situation after a public and on-television blame-game by chief minister Sheila Dixit. Khanna returned to Delhi only on Sunday night, December 23, 2012. On Sunday evening, police constable Subhash Tomar collapsed after reportedly being roughed up by a mob protesting at India Gate. Tomar was announced dead on Tuesday morning, December 25.

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