Thursday, September 27, 2007

Have you ever been in the storm?

There is silence before and after the storm…

But being in the storm is again different…

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Confession…

The stomach is getting filled by

Writing stories of the starved millions…

Be with the hunger is again different from


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Causes behind Homelessness in Madurai...

It is strange and also interesting to look at the life as a series of cause and effects. By stating that we do not intend to discuss about the whole lot of ‘Karma’ theory here. But we want to put the homelessness at the ‘effect-end’ as in Madurai people are homeless not because they were in that state of life. It is this presumption demands us to look beyond and trace out the causes, which made these people to lead a homeless life. There are surely certain situations/incidents happened behind the scenes. We can also assure that most of those situations would have been unavoidable by the people who are homeless now. It is the unavoidable causes lead to undesirable effects.

When we say ‘unavoidable’, it is death which comes first in our mind (It is different matter whether death can be said to be a cause or it is an effect? Still, we refer ‘death’ as a cause for the interpreting comport). Most of the life stories collected in Madurai state the ‘death’ of a dear one or dear ones as the important milestone from which their journey towards homelessness has started. The death of a husband or wife, by leaving the other alone in the midst of non-caring children, relatives and society, naturally leads the widowed to live in an unbearable loneliness. If they (the lonely ones) are not strong enough, both emotionally and economically, the non-caring and also exploitative people around drive them simply into the life of homeless. It is the same case when the parents of a child die at his/her earlier age where the relatives ill-treat him/her or deny taking care of his livelihood. Even if the ‘orphan’ child is left with the assets of his/her parents, it never assures him/her a better livelihood rather the exploitative relatives snatch it off by leaving the child to be homeless.

Next to the death, it is the ‘loss’ of something becomes unavoidable in many instances. In our exploration for the causes for homelessness, we are also able to trace out certain losses in the life stories of people who are pushed to be homeless. Loss of health, job, property, etc. When a person suffers from incurable illness, it marks the loss of his/her health and thereby the loss of physical capital. In the Indian context being employed is mostly dependent upon one’s own physical capital. An incurable illness or any sustained injury affects the person’s physical capital severely which automatically reflects in his/her loss of employment. A woman becoming unemployed would not be a serious issue in the Indian family life. But when the same is happening with a man it creates serious implications in the family. He is supposed to be the primary breadwinner and the principal contributor on its economic front. When it gets disturbed, the non-caring and also economically vulnerable family of him has no other way except ill-treating which would naturally perusable him to walk-out (!) of the house.

Spending for the treatment of any incurable illness and selling out the properties for getting the children (especially girls) married are certain other factors seen in the life stories as the causes for the loss of house and other properties, which naturally leaves the people with a single option of being homeless.

When we talk about these unavoidable situations/causes, which lead the people to be homeless, we mean that they were unavoidable only at the personal level of the homeless and not at the societal level. There is a probable past for this present homeless live. All these situational causes could have been avoided if the society or at least the family would have shown their human face to these lonely people. This is well-reflected in the responses of the homeless people we met with as more than half of them have stated different family related problems, such as, abandonment by family, absence of family, family abuse, etc., as the causes for their homelessness. Also the public of ‘Madurai’ is of the same opinion as most of them emphasized more on the failures from the part of the family as the major reason for homelessness.

There are also certain avoidable causes (from the part of homeless people) which could be sensed from the life stories. Drug addiction, extra-marital relationships, love affairs and even the wish to be a “Sannyasi’ (saint) are some of them.

For a certain group of homeless people in Madurai, being homeless and nomadic are their ways of life as they are all ‘perform-beggars’. Interestingly they all have houses in their villages, which obviously serve as their retreat homes.

Most interestingly, the ‘City of Madurai’ itself is being viewed as one among the factors for homelessness. Because, most of the homeless as well as non-homeless people were referring to the hospitable nature of Madurai, which never harasses the homeless people and never horrifies the homeless life. They also referred to the provision of free food through different means as one of the factor why they do not want to leave Madurai and return to their villages/homes.

Encroachment of their living places by Government and private parties could be seen as the sole administrative failure, which again turned out to be a cause for the homelessness of a very small portion of homeless population in Madurai.

We can conclude with the understanding that in Madurai, homelessness is obviously not the effect of urbanization of the city (as it is yet to develop an urbanite character). The causes for Madurai’s homelessness are mostly due to the failures of families and societies in and around the city, which are otherwise expected to have a humane nature.

Coping Strategies of Madurai Homeless...

Life’s music has never been a monotonous one. It includes different tunes and makes the living a musical one. But when the same type of tune is played again and again, one gets stuck and starts searching for new tunes to regain the rhythm of life. We can hardly identify the efforts that the homeless people make to give different shades to their monotonous life. Still, they find different events to mark their life into a bunch of varied experiences.

A few homeless people who in part of their ‘Philosophization’ of life reveal that human enter into this world without anything in the hand and die without taking anything with them. This, they continue to tell, makes them not to own anything. Their owning nothing is not a curse, but they visualize it as their choice. “I am happy to be like this”, tells each one of these philosophers. “I am happier even than the people who own many thing”, there is no letting themselves down.

Especially, some of these ‘philosophizing’ homeless people touch the extremes by saying “Even if some relatives/family members/friends approach me with an offer to help, I deny them”. They want to make it sure that they can manage the life by themselves. Thus ‘philosophizing’ seems to be the easy way to cope up with the abnormality of their life.

But this type of people are really very few and the other homeless people, who can not ‘philosophize’ the life need to find out hard ways to move along with homelessness.

Next comes the usage of drugs. This is another major technique used by the homeless people to get out of the space and time that visualizes them as homeless. There are different varieties of intoxicants ranging from beedi, tobacco to liquor, ganja, etc.., When they are in the state of intoxicated, they feel themselves of entering into a different sphere, which temporarily destroy the fact that they are homeless. Interestingly, this usage of drugs creates a kind of group cohesiveness among the users, which is again a bonus to resist with the lonely nature of homeless life.

Recreational activities, to a small extent, try to pave the way for coping up with homelessness. There are some important recreational activities which cerate happiness for a short duration in the long days and nights of homeless, such as, street plays, going for movies, listening to radio and sometimes even watching television by standing in front of any shop. But, these recreational activities are not much effective as the usage of drugs.

A major proportion of the homeless people, when they can not ‘philosophize’ their lives, can not get themselves intoxicated by using any substance or when they can not console themselves with recreational activities, tries to stay under the shelter of ‘pseudo spirituality’. By ‘pseudo spirituality’ we mean the attitude that makes the ‘Fate’ and ‘God’ as the responsible factors for whatever is happening in the life.

(“Religion is the opium of man” – Marx). This kind of spirituality or belief helps them to ‘go on’ with the mantra of just two words, “It happens”.

‘Relationships’ are another factor that plays a significant role in the ‘coping strategies’ of homeless people. The relationships, which they develop with other homeless people or with any other non-homeless, create a kind of belongingness (to the worldly life) in the minds of the homeless. There are several noted cases of co-habitating partners who live a kind of married life, though informally. It is only their homelessness that unites them in many instances.

Also there are a few homeless people who come out with new meanings for their homelessness, such as, homelessness as a ‘Tapasya’ (penance) homelessness as the need for punishing ones own self, homelessness as free and uncontrolled life, etc..,

All the discussed strategies help the ‘social animals’, though they are homeless, to have a ‘storied’ face/life. Still, most of the homeless people are miserable most of the time as they continuously fail to make these stories as their own. They have the masks that never fit on their faces, but they still cover their faces with that or at least trying to.

A Short Visit into the Past

It was an “as usual” Sunday. The friends who would have otherwise slept in their homes were called to Thiruvannamalai for being a member of a group which had planned to have a short visit into the past.

As per Dakshin and Kalyani it was a sudden idea as they had visited the ‘Perumal’ temple in a place called ‘Chengam’ only two days before that Sunday. There they happened to see the paintings in the roof of the main hall, describing the Legend of Ramayana. The paintings are of nearly five hundred years old. Unfortunately the natural paintings are almost destroyed and it was told to them that the temple authorities are planning for renovating the temple which would indeed cause in washing away the antiques with newness and without knowing their values. There came their idea to take some children to the temple so as to introduce them the beautiful past which is there present but may not be there in the future.

Here is again our Sunday. When all of us gathered near the sacred hill of Thiruvannamalai, we were a good team to explore the beauty of the past (as well as the past of the beauty!). Let me introduce the team first… there were Dakshin and Kalyani as navigators; twenty one children from the village of Alampundi; James who facilitate the functioning of the Eco-Art centre for children in Alampundi; three volunteers from Italy who are now working with the children of ‘Alampundi Eco-Art centre’ in their own innovative ways; and myself.

As I told you the visit was planned to visit the ‘Perumal’ temple of ‘Chengam’, a place which is 30 kilometers far from Thiruvannamalai. It was really a musical journey as the children kept on singing on our way to the temple.

When we reached the temple, the mid-day sun was there above the tower to welcome all of us. Dakshin gave a small introduction to the children about the purpose of our visit and a little about the temple (Especially the greatness of that big wooden door!). There was only a little shadow in the temple premises for all the bare-foots to stay cool. By that time the door was opened to enter the main hall. The whole team must have experienced a kind of quantum leap into the past when entered the main hall.

When everyone were into the beauty of the past, Dakshin started explaining the facts about the temple, the King who built it, when it was built, what is depicted on those paintings, how it would have been drawn, what might be the materials used, and it went on. When he was about to finish, almost all the team members were lying down on the floor and were comfortably (!) looking at the paintings of the roof.

But our mission has made us to wake up and work. All the children were given a chart and a pencil each and were asked to draw any object or painting of that temple. They really enjoyed the task and started exploring the artist inside. After sometime there were lots of artists tracing down the past in their charts. It was an authentic trial to save the past so as to present it to the future.
We could manage to get some red soil, leaves and flowers by the time the young artists finish their mission. Then started a fresh task to introduce a form of Eco-art to the children, i.e., to create paintings with natural materials. Dakshin came out with an expert show by explaining different forms of paintings that can be done with red soil, leaves and flowers. Both the children and we the elder(!) people have become the ‘amazed-spectators’ of the show.

The children were allowed to experiment the new eco-art for some more time before closing the doors of the past. There was an ending session to share all our experiences and excitements.

The children made again the way back a musical one and our time machine stopped when we were dropped in our worlds.

When we were back to our places, I just thought it was not an “as usual” Sunday.


That was a morning. I was walking with my cousin and we were on the way to our office. A typical sunny day. It was an uncultured (!) way. There was a man standing on the road and directing his friend to go to some place. He was very much dynamic and I took utmost care while crossing him. Despite of me taking care, he suddenly turned, with the right hand held straight up, to show his friend the exact place. That was enough for his hand to hit my face. The hit was exactly on the lips. The lower one smashed with my teeth and some droplets of blood flowered out of my lips.

Yes, what you think is right… He just uttered a word “Sorry…” and turned again to his friend to continue to be the messiah. I took my kerchief out, wiped the first drop of blood, second, third… Finally it stopped when my kerchief got six blood spots. I told my cousin, “At least he had the mind to tell a sorry to me”. He just smiled and started telling another story. That is what I actually wanted to share with you.

He started like this, “When ever I hear someone saying sorry for committing any mistake, I get tempted to laugh”.

I asked him, “Why?”.

“There was a manager in Vadakkencherry (our native town in Kerala) VVR shop, named_______ (I don’t remember it now)”.

I was just curious, “What happened with him?”.

“That was a rainy day of Kerala. This guy was sitting in his shop. There was a passerby stopped a little near to the shop and started urinating (Of course that was a rainy day!). The so called manager of the shop could not bear the scene that a third party (even he himself could not do that!) urinating on the walls of his shop. He came out of the shop and neared that man. By that time the other has fully responded to the nature’s call. That was really a hilarious situation. He asked that guy, ‘You fool! What are you doing here? Don’t you have sense that it’s not the place for urinating?’. The passerby was in a great relaxation after the task. He casually looked at the manager and uttered carelessly… ‘Sorry!’. It made our manager more irritated. He fired his next question, ‘You idiot… Will the smell of your urine goes off when you just tell a sorry?’. Wow… that was really a nice question. This time the man was answerless. I really could not control myself from laughing out loudly. After that incident whenever I come across a sorry I just get tempted to laugh and of course try to control myself with a smile”.

That was really a good story to remember. So I just need all of you to remember this story before you utter a SORRY to others.

And… and… I am really SORRY for making you to read this story.

The 10th Platform...

That was an evening and I entered one of the electric railway stations of Chennai. After getting the ticket for Guindy station, I asked the man in the ticket counter, “Which is the platform?”. He stared at me for some time and spelled out the answer with a great frustration, “It is 9th platform”. I thanked him and moved from the counter.

There was an over-bridge in the railway station to move between different platforms. When I was walking on it a man neared me and asked, “Hello, which is the platform to go to Guindy?”. It was the same place where I need to go. I just told him, “It’s 9th platform”.

There came a sign board soon after I answered him, ‘Way to platform 8 & 9’. I viewed the 9th platform from the top of the bridge. There was nobody. I was a little confused as there were persons in 10th platform who seem to travel in my route. Again that was on the other side of the track. When I got ready to go to the 10th I saw the same person who asked me about the platform, trying to get down into 9th platform. I then said to him, “I am doubtful about 9th, though the person in the counter said it so. Look there is no one in 9th. There might be changes. Do please clarify with someone else”. He seemed not to be convinced of my words (or my expression was not strong enough to convince him). He just got down and entered 9th platform. I thought that he would come back when he sees no one there.

I moved towards the 10th and got down from the bridge. Started waiting in the 10th as it was the right platform. I was just looking at the girls over there. I then suddenly saw that man on the other side of the track, waiting alone in the 9th platform. I was puzzled. ‘Why is this man standing alone there? Why doesn’t he come this side?’.

I tried a lot to ignore him from my sight. But I was constantly getting into a kind of guiltiness as I was the person who directed him to go there. I finally decided to go to him and tell that he should wait in 10. I again climbed the stairs of the same over-bridge, crossed the track and entered 9th platform.

He was on the other end of the same platform. Thus I started walking towards the other end. On the half of the way I suddenly realized that he has already left the platform. I saw him crossing the tracks and climbing on to the 10th platform. Of course he took a short-cut route, jumped into the tracks and crossed.

I had no other way than returning to the 10th. Yes, you are correct. The very same over-bridge. When I was walking over it I saw a train leaving from the 10th platform. Almost all of the passengers have left by that train. I also could not see my FRIEND there. He might have left by the same train.

I was not worried of missing a train then. Instead, there was some kind of relief that I could feel while waiting for the next train.

The over-bridge was silently looking at the 10th platform as life goes on…

The Continuum

Dear All,

Thought of writing you something from the heart...

I am continuously failing to feel myself as being in my home. There is a growing inconvenience with all the jobs I am indulged in. It is a continuum of meaninglessness everywhere. The search for meanings by my own is also going futile. A state of perfectness has never been achievable it seems. I am losing my words and going silent most of the time. A gravest silence. Having our own initiative is also a non-satisfactory idea in this present situation. Still we need to go for it atleast for my temporary escape. Going out of this boring life can be a permanent escape but I will not be dared to be so.

Of course all the people are good here but.....

and life is still beautiful too...

Yet there is this search for my own home... It may even prevail nowhere...

No one is sharing the platform with me is something which makes this drama so boring... Need to find out more actors to come into it very soon...

Interestingly there are several audiences who go on applauding at my mono-acting and the fact is that I am not acting at all... Being a motionless picture, a snap shot of an artistic moment and that is still making people to get interested in me...

You would find it illogical so as I am...

Just a curious question of a fellow traveler --- Where could/did you reach in the journey? Are you in peace with yourself?