Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My child’s trip to school on a rainy day

Today, Aug 14, my son Ismail was at the gates of his Patshala  Montessori  School sharp at 9 AM. It was pouring; my child was walking towards the open gate when it was shut on his face. I tried to yell from my scooter, to take him in, he was on time but my words fell on dear ears. I came on the door and tired argue that it’s pouring, don’t be harsh, he was not late,  at least you could consider this before shutting the gate. However, no reason seems to convince the learned lady and my call for compassion was sacrificed on the alter of discipline. The highhandedness of the school staff made my child cry. He was getting drenched in rains, listening to the arguments. I thought there was no point to stand in rains and  accepted the marching orders with all the pain and agony it deserves. If the doors had been shut before we arrived, I could have accepted it as a part of discipline, but the way the discipline was enforced on a rainy day, made a mockery of Montessori Method of education. I was wondering, if Lady Montessori was on door how she would have reacted. Today the behavior of the school staff was disgusting. It no way it lived to the ideals for which this school professes and attracts parents. My child loves his school.  Every day he is keen to go to his school, even on holidays he wants to go to his school. Today was a rainy day and we did not want to send him to school. However, he was keen to go to school. He traveled to the school in a two wheeler in raincoat.  But the treatment he got at the school made him sad. He was quite depressed while returning home. He slept all day in dismay. In evening he narrated the humiliation at his school several times to me. As a teacher I feel very upset about this episode. As I was part of the proceedings, I even broached the idea of going to the police station or to the court to seek reprieve from this mental agony. However, I have other things to do, so I take this in a stride. However, it does not stops me from thinking, what is the purpose of education if it does not teach compassion, forbearance and gratitude? None of these was sold today at the gates of Patshala Montessori School. On the contrary my three year old child got the lesson on how be cruel in life. It was really a sad day for my child’s trip to his favorite school, that too on a rainy day. I hope and pray that the school hears my cry and do not hurt any child like this in future. However I am not sure that memories like this will erase from the child’s mind soon.
SYEDA &SYED proud parents of Syed Ali Ismail

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ratnam Pens - A Legacy of Freedom Struggle

Ratnam Pens - A Legacy of Freedom Struggle
Syed Ali Mujtaba
Rajahmundry started making pens in 1932! The jeweler brothers started to manufacture pens in response Gandhiji's 'swadeshi' policy to ensure that there are local pens of good quality available as a replacement to the foreign ones that were availa
ble in the market then.

Ratnam Pens continue to make pens of a very high quality till date! Their high quality ink pens (and ball pens) come with wonderful craftsmanship and in very simple colours and forms. It is sheer writing pleasure to use these ink pens.

In what may be considered a remarkable honour for any product manufacturer in India, the company has got a hand written note by Gandhiji himself (and he got the Ratnam pen given to him by none other than Kupurappa!) stating that the pen writes very well!!

Not many use pens these as writing seems to have gone down altogether. However, for those who still seek pleasure in using pens and are happy to have a good pen, an ink pen at that. Here is an opportunity to hold a pen that has some history, lineage and pride about it.

Communalism gaining ground in North Indian Cities

Communalism gaining ground in North Indian Cities
Syed Ali Mujtaba

There is a series of communal riots of low intensity happening in north India. The latest was in Tonk Rajasthan; where one person died due to police firing. In Merrut some mischievous elements tried to tease Muslims at evening prayers of Ramazan, playing loud music in front of the mosque leading to communal tension.  In Allahabad, event like kite flying by kids vitiated communal atmosphere. In Lucknow communal tension is smearing for long. So are some other cities in north that’s on boil.

All this is a matter of concern of any Indian citizen but the so called national media is soft paddling such news? Even the social media that’s free from any one’s control is too ignoring such news. Even the champions of secularism are maintaining stoking silence on these developments and that’s something really worrisome.

The macro-picture in Uttar Pradesh regarding communal polarization is alarming. The Samajwadi Party's pro-minority politics versus the Bharatiya Janata Party's pro-Hindutva politics versus the Bahujan Samaj Party's pro caste based politics is pulling the state in three directions.

The overt desperation of the Samajwadi Party to keep the Muslims in good humour is evoking sharp reaction from the saffron party. They are evident signs of staging small communal riots for a sharper religious polarization at the grassroots level.

 The cow slaughter issue is again being raked up, with slogan like "Na perh katenge, na gaye kategi (neither trees will be cut nor will cows be slaughtered)" being visible at several places.  Is it not Hindu communalism at its very best?

The cow slaughter issue was raised up by Hindu right wing elements there during the freedom struggle. It was raised in the 1930’s that pushed some disgruntled Muslims at that time to demand for Pakistan.
The situation has changed now but the issue has not. With such calls being given the helpless puppies are sure to incur the wrath of Hindutva juggernaut and likely to come underneath, with some shedding crocodile tears of feeling hurt.

What is seen is the saffron party’s protests have become louder with Narender Modi’s fortune on an upswing.  His henchman Amit Shah, who is in charge of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh is orchestrating the communal polarization. It appears that the new guard has instructed the cadres to maintain a hard line against the Muslims in UP. This is to vitiate the UP politics once again on communal lines so that the BJP gains mileage out of it.

Uttar Pradesh is a communal tinder box that can be blow any time with slightest spark. With 80 Lok Sabha seats at stake, the communal polarization taking place in India’s most populous state is indeed an alarming trend and no one is making a note of it.

In developing communal polarization the way the suspension of Noida SDM Durga Shakti Nagpal by the UP government is projected is again a disturbing development.

While the so called national media projected Ms Nagpal as an upright IAS officer who was trying to take on the powerful sand mafia that incurred the wrath of the political bosses who suspended her to protect the wrong doers, the contrary facts that has come out about this is really startling.

The new facts suggest acts of communalism by the IAS officer that has totally changed the perspective of her suspension. According to UP government, Ms Nagpal went out of the way and presided over the demolition of the boundary wall of a mosque in her administrative area in Noida. The wall of the mosque was reportedly being built on government land that was allegedly demolished by the villagers. The villagers were emboldened as they received protection from Ms Nagpal who was present with a large pose of police force there.  It’s only the restrained attitude of the aggrieved Muslims that prevented communal riots.

UP Chief Minister Akilesh Yadav has come out in defence of his suspension orders; "The officers have equal responsibility in maintaining harmony in the state. How could the officers demolish the wall of a mosque during the month of Ramzan?" he asked.

This development has sparked off a big debate in the country and the issue of communalism is once again being brought on the centre stage. While some view that Samajwadi Party wants to send the political message that it has saved another mosque from being demolished, others feels that an upright IAS officer is being haunted and her suspension is arbitrarily.

In building this opinion the role of media is very significant. The media has all along projected Ms Nagpal an upright officer, who is up in arms against corrupt political leaders, without even mentioning the actual cause of suspension.  The one sided reporting has left the readers with little choice to make the judgement based on the given facts. However this is contrary to the official reasons of her suspension.

The true colours of so called national media are exposed in the reportage of Ms Nagpal suspension. The media by doing so has not done any service to journalism. It’s sad commentary on our country.

It’s high time that such issues should be put on national radar and the concern raised should be nipped in the bud. Brushing them under that carpet could be convenient way out, but when we relate it with the statement of a political leader that some political parties are planning Hindu- Muslim communal riots in north India before 2014 general elections then alarm bells must ring.

The conspiracy of silence about the communal developments in north India is the most worrisome thing that’s happening at the moment.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

‘Aman Chaupal’ forges India -Pakistan Friendship

‘Aman Chaupal’ forges India -Pakistan Friendship
By Syed Ali Mujtaba
In a rare gesture towards mending India Pakistan ties, a new peace initiative called Aman Chaupal was organized in New Delhi with the aim to enhance people-to-people contact between the two countries.
Imitating the traditional South Asian village life style, where folks sit together in a common place called Chaupal and discuss issues facing them, in Aman Chaupal, people from India or Pakistan share their experiences with common citizens.

'Aman Chaupal' is an initiative by India-based organization Mission Bhartiyam that works to create unwavering bonds of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan and call it of Aaghaz-e-Dosti or beginning of friendship.

The first Aman Chaupal was organized in July 2013 at Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, Vikaspuri, New Delhi and was attended by 6th to 12th class students.

It was addressed by Ms Saeeda Diep, a renowned Peace activist and Chairperson of Institute of Peace & Secular Studies (IPSS), Lahore, Pakistan.

Like in our traditional Chaupals, this too had an interactive session meant to address the concerns of the
Indian students about Pakistan and clear their misperceptions and arouses curiosity among them about the much hated neighbouring country.

The interaction was entirely in Hindiustani as according to Ms Saeeda, speaking in English would be very "artificial" and the essence of communication will be lost in the process. She gave the example of words such as ‘Beta’ which in Hindustani means my loving child, could best be described as ‘my dear’ in English, that tweaks of its affection.

In her address Ms Saeeda Diep talked about the general stereotypes and misconceptions that the people in India have about Pakistan and Pakistanis. In fact, she listed them out and said that a few more can be added to such hyperbole.

The peace activist tried to describe about the other side of Pakistan that the common Indians do not know because of lack of communication. She blamed the "hawkish" media that’s biased towards Pakistan and is one of the reasons behind Indians having the negative image of Pakistan.  

The session was entirely devoted to a question-answer format wherein Ms Saeeda answered students' questions with great affection and aplomb.

Question -Ma'm, Do Hindus live in Pakistan? Asked a student

Answer - Yes Beta, there are Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and people of other religions living in Pakistan.

Question - What do people from Pakistan think about us, was another question.

Answer - Pakistanis know about your country and culture much better then you know about Pakistan because they have access to Indian TV channels. Unfortunately, no Pakistani channels are permitted in India, so Indians only know what the Indian media portray to them about Pakistan. Indian newspapers and TV channels do not truly portray Pakistan, she felt.

During the interaction, several other questions were posed to Ms Saeeda, some of them related to political issues and controversies surrounding Pakistan and she gave a very candid reply to all of them.

The Principal of Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, Ms. Deepshika Dandu shared her personal experiences with Pakistanis during her stay in a foreign country.

She remarked that, "In a foreign nation, Indians and Pakistanis often form a transnational community bounded by a shared culture, language and experience."

The students had quite a learning experience through Aman Chaupal initiative and many of them were pleased about the knowledge they acquired about Pakistan from this interactive session.

‘My entire perception has changed after this interaction; I only had negative perception about Pakistan, now I feel there is more in common then simply hating Pakistan’, said Sandeep Singh Pramar, a class eight student of the Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, New Delhi.

This programme was co-ordinated by Mission Bhartiyam’s initiative Aaghaz-e-Dosti team that consists of Ravi Nitesh, Devika Mittal and V Arun Kumar. Ms. Meenu, the coordinator from the Columbia Foundation Sr Sec School, helped organizing this program.

The organizers of Aman Chaupal plan to have similar programes organized in several other schools in India as well as in Pakistan.

At a time when political agenda is ruling the roost and the so called national media is poisoning the social relationship, it’s high time the hate mongers free run should be checked by initiatives such as Aman Chaupal.
This is more so because recently events such as the killing of Srabajit Singh in Pakistan and Sanaullah in India, has soured the Indian- Pakistan relationship to all time low.

The event such as Aman Chaupal tries to build bridges of peace and friendship between the two countries.  It essentially tries to preach that India and Pakistan has more things in common than the much hyped incorrigible differences.

In such initiatives like this and others effort is made to highlight the similarities between the two countries.  These similarities are based on common language values, mores and norms that have longer history then the differences that are essentially of recent origin and politically motivated.
In such context it is important that common Indians should know what the people from the other side of the border think about them.

Similarly, the messengers of peace from India should go to Pakistan to dispel their misconceptions and spread the message of peace and friendship. The message should be that India and Pakistan are not two nations but essentially one country.  
Aman Chaupal is one such initiative to mend the disturbed relationship and the need is to have many more events such as these being organized in the two countries at regular intervals.

Peace and harmony in South Asia can only be built when India and Pakistan, shun their differences and embark on the process of cooperation for the betterment of the people living in this part of the world.Sooner this wisdom downs upon the leadership of these two countries, the place where we live now would be much better habitat for dwelling.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at