Patriarchy of the Pandemic

Text: Shriya, Editing and Sketch: Neha

Coronavirus. Just a health and economic issue? No, a gender issue too. How am I so sure? Let me explain. 


Who has the role of the bread earner and who belongs to the domestic world? Yes, men are the earners and women belong to the domestic world. That is the construct we live in thanks to the nature of patriarchy and capitalism. Now, in a typical scenario men tend to establish their superiority by earning from the outside world. Suddenly due to the lockdown imposed by various governments across the world including India, these ‘outer-world’ creatures are now forced to sit at home and become domestic. So how do these men cope with the given situation? By dominating over women in the domestic world too, by not helping them in their chores, by increasing it many fold and by being more violent against them. 


Consequently, women are completely drowning in domestic and care work without any help, especially housewives who previously had some spare time for themselves after the children and the men of the household would leave home for the day. Suddenly they find themselves overburdened since the entire family is indoors all the time, perennially making demands, adding to the regular workload. Also, with no domestic help coming in, women’s work has not only increased (without domestic help, work at the moment has increased for all women, whether she is earning a living or not) but their communication with the outside world has considerably reduced, if not completely cut off. 


Women may also lose their sexual and reproductive rights because in the process of being subject to male superiority, women will also have to succumb to the sexual pleasures of men where her consent may not matter as much. And in such cases of emergency, one is unsure of how much importance will be given to their abortion rights and other aspects of sexual and reproductive health.


Also, isolation can increase the risk of violence, not only at home but also in public spaces. For women, being in isolation wards can be quite risky, making them vulnerable to sexual violence. In Bihar, we hear of such a case where a migrant woman was sexually abused in the isolation ward and subsequently died. (


It has also come to light that the government has received 92,000 calls as complaints against violence and child abuse over a span of 11 days. Domestic violence victims are the most vulnerable at the moment. NCW mentions that domestic violence complaints have been increasing by the day (since the lockdown) with 69 complaints registered only via email. (   


Often, for women facing violence, according to NFHS data, 75% of them do not seek help from anyone. In such cases, domestic help and other people coming and going in and out of their homes keep them relatively safe and in touch. But now their communication and movements are hindered by the lockdown and in isolation, there are no safe places to move to. 


Another reason for the pandemic being patriarchal is that women as caregivers often fall into the vulnerable category of coming into direct contact with the virus (though there isn’t sufficient data about COVID-19 affecting more women than men). 


The livelihoods of women in the unorganised sector will be among the first to get affected. In the given situation, there might be a huge drop in sex work and domestic work. Many beedi workers and fisherwomen’s livelihoods may be hit by this disaster. 


Girls’ education may also seriously come into question because soon after the lockdown, the nation will most likely have to work through a deep economic crisis, where amongst many other important areas, girls’ education is most likely to be cut down upon. Therefore, female drop-outs may increase. 

Strengthen Urban Local Bodies & Empower Corporators, our first-responders in the crisis

India has been on a nationwide lockdown since 24 March to contain the spread of novel coronavirus. Since the announcement of the lockdown, several Corporators in GHMC have been swamped with calls requesting cooked food, grains, protective gear etc. The number of distress calls received by individuals and NGOs too has been steadily increasing.  Its sudden announcement has created a significant degree of anxiety and concern among people. There is anxiety about supply of essential goods and services during this period. There are concerns for the large numbers of Indians who lack steady incomes, stable shelters, and access to food and water. The sudden nationwide shutdown of public transport left migrant workers with no time to return to their home states. Unaddressed, the chaos being faced by displaced and stranded migrant workers is currently becoming a major crisis in many parts of India.

Many relief measures have been pledged by governments (central and state) and private actors (ranging from large charities to smaller local networks). On March 29, the Chief Minister of Telangana, K. Chandrashekhar Rao, made a commendable statement about migrant workers being partners in the state’s development and pledged relief measures. The next step is to ensure the timely and efficient delivery of the various resources to those in need, which requires active networks and communications at the local level.

In light of this situation, in Hyderabad, we at Hyderabad Urban Lab alongside many other collaborators in the city are putting together a “Civic Response Team” which can connect public offices, private organizations and individuals in order to deal with situations at a local level.

As a first step, we reached out to the 150 elected Municipal Corporators in Hyderabad. The effort was led by Ayesha Minhaz, Indivar Jonnalagadda, and several volunteers. The goal was to establish communications with the Corporators, find out resources they have, and challenges they are facing. In this note, we build on our conversations with 100 Corporators, to highlight the need to strengthen urban local bodies and empower Corporators as first-responders in the fight against COVID19.

Why Are Corporators Important?

  1. Corporators are the first-responders of our democracy. Take Boudhnagar Corporator B. Dhananjana Bai, for example, she told us: “People have been calling me non-stop. It starts at 7 am. They even come to my house with concerns!” 

Corporators have everyday social relations with many of their constituents, and they have direct access to local political cadres who can be mobilized for various tasks. They are  able to proactively recognize and address needs, like Seethaphalmandi Corporator Samala Hema, who is collaborating with the State Deputy Speaker and other Corporators, to distribute rations to those without White Ration Cards.

  1. Corporators know the neighbourhood and its infrastructure. They have an idea of the existing infrastructure and resources and given the capacity, can repurpose them for the present situation. For example, we spoke to a number of Corporators such as A. Rupha (Monda Market), Jagadeeshwar (Madhapur) and B. Navatha Reddy (Chanda Nagar) who do not have night shelters in their ward, but have created makeshift shelters at function halls, old municipal offices, etc.
  2. With COVID we need know-how at the local level. We cannot always rely on command chains that stretch up to the state or central government. As Moula Ali Corporator Mumtaz Fatima pointed out, “Distribution is not a problem, procurement is”. Empowering Corporators with resources, and connecting them to those with know-how can make things more efficient and effective. Although the responsiveness and alertness of corporators might differ, as our survey surely discovered, there is a lot of potential in the office, if they also have the capacities.

What Corporators Are Already Doing

A majority of the Corporators we spoke to were already involved in many relief activities. Many responded to our call with interest and welcomed further support. While the initiatives differ in emphasis and scale in different areas, we found that the following processes were already being managed by Corporators:  

  • Coordinating with the Deputy Commissioner and the police in general to manage the lockdown.
  • Gathering funds and other resources from private individuals and mobilizing local party workers and volunteers to distribute food, medical supplies, and other services where needed.
  • Co-ordinating the existing programs of the city, state, and central governments such as the Annapurna Canteens, and working with ASHA (accredited social health activist) workers 
  • Repurposing existing structures to create temporary shelters and other infrastructures

What Challenges They Are Facing

Similarly, while the problems being faced by Corporators are unevenly distributed based on their location in the city, we found some common challenges across the board:

  • An urgent need for new Annapurna canteens to be set-up, and additional ones in areas with higher numbers of migrant workers.
  • Requirement of supply of dry ration in areas where poor, non-ration card holders live.
  • Concern over the availability of masks and sanitizers.
  • A requirement of volunteers especially to help to distribute food to the migrant workers 
  • Need to counsel and talk to the migrant workers (some of them want to go back).
  • Need help to draw chalk markings near markets and kirana stores to ensure social distancing. Some of them expressed lacking know-how and resources. 
  • Responding to anxieties of citizens (fear of outsiders and recent travellers, anxiety about sanitation programs like fumigation). 


How can they help civil society initiatives?

From activists on the ground, we are hearing that there is a need for the government to work with and facilitate civil society groups to support relief works.

They have also raised a number of other pressing concerns. For a region as big as GHMC, 150 canteens, especially in times of lockdown aren’t sufficient. There needs to be an increase in the number of canteens. Mobile canteens are needed too. Efforts have to be directed towards ensuring that garbage collectors, transgender people, disabled persons, homeless people, pavement dwellers and other vulnerable people have adequate access to food/rations until lockdown. Like COVID medical bulletin, GHMC should issue ration disbursement bulletin daily or at least every alternate day. In fact, this should happen at the state level too as there is panic among people about the availability of food grains. Repeated announcements will ease anxieties.

Even during this medical emergency, sanitation workers in several areas are continuing to collect garbage with bare hands. This is extremely dangerous. Please provide them with masks, gloves, soap and detergent. Also, please issue an advisory that they stop using WHISTLES. This will be risky for them.

Many challenges being faced by activists and relief workers could be addressed by a dedicated response unit managed by the government. Many activists rely on social media to find resources and help. We are suggesting that instead, if we make Corporators accountable at the Ward level, and make them a node connecting Civil society initiatives with governmental programs, it would be easier to optimize the use of governmental and non-governmental resources.



Considering our survey findings, the suggestions from activists, and our conviction that we need strong local institutions and infrastructures to make the efforts to contain the coronavirus successful, we strongly recommend immediate measures to:

  1. empower and support our Corporators.
  2. make them a node connecting the governmental and non-governmental relief work taking place at the ward level.
  3. enable them to seek volunteers to meet various needs such as drawing chalk markings for social distancing; managing food distribution; addressing citizens’ anxieties 

We extend this appeal to the Government of Telangana. We also encourage everyone (individuals and organizations) to get to know your local representatives (municipal or panchayat). Encourage and support them. Volunteer your skills. Even though we are confined to our houses for the moment, this is an opportunity for us to strengthen local democracy and make the best use of our civic life.

Note by Ayesha Minhaz and Indivar Jonnalagadda

Survey Volunteers: Vanshika Singh, Yamini Krishna, Tekumal Santhosh, Shakeel ur Rahman, Solomon Vijay Kiran, Mohd Abdul Sayeed, Sadeem Shaik, Lakshmi Swathi Gandham, Sanjana Bajaj, Gayathri, Raghavendra Yadavalli, Ahmed

Gender Story

– Vidhi and Shriya

Every set of data has a story to narrate, a story which has an answer to many curious questions. Data storytelling workshop, organized by the Department of Communication at University of Hyderabad gave a bright opportunity to learn the art of data storytelling. A two day workshop was conducted by Dr. Rahul Bhargava, a research scientist at MIT Center for Civic Media. The participants at the workshop came from various professional and educational backgrounds. This created a space for multidisciplinary interaction on data sets.

Dr Rahul is currently working on the Data Culture Project which helps organizations to create data culture. The program introduces free tools and activities for data analysis and data visualizations rather than providing spreadsheet training.

On the first day of the workshop participants were engaged in to activities where they had to ask questions, find stories and tell stories using given data sets.

Day 1 started with an activity of evaluating an infographic on the basis of data presented. The infographic was a pretty basic and conventional. We started with our basic description of the infographic, listed the visible data sets and tried to understand the flaws in it.

Later we went on to another activity of analysing data, for us it made sense because it gave insights of the components on the basis of which we could raise further questions on the presented data. It was like the background checks before formulating a research question. Followed by another activity of interpretation of data where we analysed words used by music bands or singers and then represented in form of sketches. Particularly for our group we created a comic strip with kind of psychoanalysis of Metallica.Towards, end of the day we also learnt about different types of charts and maps and the data story telling methods with respect to those. It seemed sketching data as a whole from process to output can need lots of visualisations.

The first day ended with participants feeling quite comfortable with the data and they left the room with much excitement for the coming day. It was thus an ice breaking day between “the data sheets” and “people who feared looking at the data”.

Second day of the workshop dealt with ways of representing the data like creating a data sculpture, formulating a data game and putting a hand over data visualization tools using Tableau.

Day 2 we started with building data sculptures with one of the two given data sets. We created models representing those with simple objects. It looked like some exhibition of data representation with everyday objects. Then we went for gallery walk analysing various aspects of data. Our group particularly looked at the visualisation of data in different posters and infographics. Being a team with more visual people it was a great to look at the data from different angles of visualisation. Some visualisation of data was really impeccable and easy to understand where others needed little more effort to get through. Later to that, we were given a set of data and an activity where we questioned through data and demanded for the missing data sets. Followed by it was the group activity of choosing a data representation technique and use it. So we chose Data Game where we made a game out of the same given data set where each team got 100 points and had to use it to use least gallons of water and maximum amount of nutrition and the team doing it successfully wins it.

Followed by that is the time when we tried our hands on Tableau to analyse data through different data charts and then we created a comic strip out of the analysed data. We created a story out of the analysed dog data. We analysed the dog data on the basis of breeds and gender. We found that like the patriarchal structure in the human world, there is also gender disparity among dogs irrespective of the breeds. In some breeds the gap is less but the gap is throughout all the breeds. In pure breeds the gap was higher than the mixed breeds. We saw gender preference in dogs as well. So we created a comic on the basis of these data naming “Are we equal to Dogs or Dogs are equal to us?” Like written in the comic we were actually surprised at the male dogs preference over the female dogs. We know on going deeper on this data we will able to find out an answer or rather a probable cause of this disparity, but we didn’t need that for this particular activity. We created the comic of dog adoption with this data and ended with a note of No Discrimination.

We were pleasantly surprised to see the connection between data and storytelling. The stories that the group produced out of the data that was given to us were catchy, funny, informative and thought provoking. The workshop was successful in dispelling incomprehension and in creating an interest in all matters data, among the participants.

Indian Motor Vehicles Law: Overview

– By Dr. Ali Adil

If you drive or ride in Hyderabad, you must have already heard about the hefty fines traffic rules violators are likely to face once the recently approved changes are put into effect this Independence day. Although the penalties have been jacked up several times over, it is not the first time that penalization was construed as the be-all-and-end-all for creating orderly and ideal driving conditions on Indian roads.

The legislation governing all motor vehicles in India is over a century old, introduced first in 1914 and then in 1939 with wider impact. Largely from the English mainland, the 1939 law introduced the concept of registration, permits and delineated categories of different motor vehicles, in addition to putting rules and procedures in place to obtain a driving licence. One aspect, as highlighted in the infographic, is the restriction on making driver-employees drive for more than 8 hours in a day and that too without a half-hour break every 5 hours. One might wonder at the benevolence of colonizers who had put the law in place, especially considering the odd times and unearthly hours drivers tend to drive these days in order to make a paltry living. Compulsory insurance was amended into the 1939 law, replacing provisions requiring compensatory payments to accident victims; Rs. 15,000 for death and Rs. 7000 for permanent disablement. Now, one could bear monetary loss for having killed or injured someone while driving by simply making regular payments to an insurance provider.

Only after 41 years of native rule was the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 by elected Indian lawmakers enacted, effectively replacing, but continuing some provisions of, the 1939 law. While compulsory insurance continued to remain on the books, restrictions on hours of work for driver-employees were effectively waived, by turning the decision over to State governments, in ‘cases of emergency or delays by reason of circumstance which could not be foreseen’. More importantly, by the late 80s, Indian growth had started inscribing itself on the Indian transportation landscape, with increasing passenger and freight movement, intensifying urban and regional road network and improvements in traffic management technologies. The provisions introduced through this law continue to govern India’s passenger and goods movement, even as it has been amended a few times since, most recently this year.

It was the amendment in 2000 that had increased penalties before the 2019 amendment in view of improving road safety in addition to reducing vehicular pollution. Materially, to stay mobile on Indian roads you would now have to have a pollution control certificate added to your vehicle registration (additional permits for non-commercial transport vehicle), driving licence (according to the vehicle type you drive or ride), and a certificate of insurance. These four pieces of documents continue to be compulsory for anyone driving in India.

And yet, despite a fairly robust law in place, covering aspects ranging from vehicle fitness to liability insurance to environmental pollution, the state of traffic congestion and vehicular pollution seems worse than ever. Although presented as solutions to reduce these quintessential urban ills, alternative mobility options, including the heavily invested metro rail and all sorts of ride hailing, car/bike sharing apps have only gone so far. In fact, in many cities, the lack of regulation around the latter aggregator-type businesses is the reason for increasing on-road traffic despite declining car ownership in the country. Prompted, by and large, by driver protests against exploitation by app-based aggregators like Ola, Uber and Swiggy, central government advisories and judicial directives for regulating them have made to it the headlines, but none thus far have made into effective law. All that exists on the books, since the 2016 amendment that failed to get passed into law, is qualification of what an aggregator is and the State-level licencing required for it to legally operate.

The mapping of legal history of the Motor Vehicles Act in India discussed in this blog post is based on preliminary insights from a project currently underway at HUL. In addition to rapidly declining earning potential of app-based aggregator drivers and worsening working conditions facing them, the project digs into the history of taxi-cab industry in Hyderabad and the role of technology in orchestrating disempowering socio-economic transformations in their lives.



प्रीती का हमेशा से यही एक सपना था – हैदराबाद के उस बस्तीनुमा मोहल्ला की किराये की दुछत्ती से निकल के, सड़क के उस पार जैसी गेटेड कॉलोनी में रहने का.

अमित शादी के २ साल पहले से इसी इलाके में रह रहा था. मथुरा के प्राइवेट इंजीनियरिंग कॉलेज से ग्रेजुएट होने पर उसकी पहली नौकरी यहीं पीछे वाले आई.टी. पार्क में लगी थी. डेढ़ साल पहले शादी कर के प्रीती को भी यहीं ले आया बस, पी. जी. से निकल के एक कमरा किराये पे ले लिया था.

अभी भी याद है प्रीती को जब वो पहली बार उन्नाव से हैदराबाद आयी थी . उसे इस शहर की विशालता ने आक्रांत और आकर्षित दोनों ही किया था. मगर चौड़ी सड़को और बड़ी इमारतों को पार करता हुआ जब ऑटो इस मोहल्ले में आ के रुका, प्रीती को अचानक ही लगा उसके साथ धोका हुआ है. इससे तो उसका उन्नाओ वाला घर ही बेहतर था.

पिछले साल उसी आई.टी. पार्क की दूसरी कंपनी में अमित को ज़्यादा तनख्वाह के साथ नयी नौकरी मिल गयी. तब प्रीती ने कहा था मकान बदलने को, इस मोहल्ले से निकलने को, मगर पता नही क्यों अमित को ये जगह इतनी पसंद है. खैर जो भी हो, यहाँ रहने से कम से कम पैसे तो बच गए. उसने और अमित ने न जाने कितने समझौते करते हुए किसी तरह पैसे जोड़े, तब कहीं जा के शहर के बाहर एक सरकारी स्कीम के तहत बन रहे आधुनिक फ्लैट के लिए डाउन पेमेंट कर पाएं. अमित की नौकरी की बदौलत बैंक ने होम लोन भी दे दिया. अब भी कुछ महीने बचे हैं, वहां कंस्ट्रक्शन ख़तम होने में. मगर अब प्रीती से और बर्दाश्त नही हो पा रहा.

आज फिर से नल खोला तो हवा की आवाज़ के साथ २-३ बूंदें ही टपकी. वो वहीँ छत पे नल के बगल में खड़ी खड़ी चिल्लाई, “ओ आंटी! आज भी नही आया पानी क्या?” नीचे वाली आंटी की तो नही, मगर सामने वाले घर से विमला की आवाज़ आयी, ” नहीं, आज भी नही आया, मेरे भी कपड़े कल से भीगे पड़े हैं”. इतने में आंटी, घर से निकल के विमला के पास उसके घर के बाहर चबूतरे में आ बैठती हैं. विमला बबलू को, जो बगल से निकल रहा होता है, आवाज़ दे कर रोकती है, ” ओ बबलू, जा के ज़रा मयंक मामा (वहां के लोकल कॉर्पोरेटर) के यहाँ पूछ के आओ पानी क्यों नही आया दो दिन से. बिट्टू को भी साथ ले जा.”

प्रीती छत पे खड़े खड़े ही देख रही थी सब और सोचती है, बस कुछ दिन की ही तो बात और है, फिर इस रोज़ की चिकचिक से छुटकारा. घर का सारा काम छोड़ के वही पेड़ के नीचे बैठे रहो, कभी बिजली नही, कभी पानी नही, कभी रोड खुदी पड़ी है, तो कभी नालियां जाम है. रोज़ कॉर्पोरेटर के पास जाओ, वार्ड ऑफिस के चक्कर काटो, यही ज़िन्दगी है क्या.

खैर दिन बीतते गए और आखिरकार, उसके गृहप्रवेश की घडी आ ही गयी. न चाहते हुए भी आंटी को तो बुलाना ही था, मगर उनके साथ साथ सामने वाली विमला, बगल वाली शब्बो के परिवार को भी बुलाना पड़ा. क्या दिन था वो भी! प्रीती कभी इधर कभी उधर, कहीं कोई अपने तेल वाले बाल से दिवार पे टेक न लगा दे, या अपने बच्चे को बालकनी में सुसु न करा दे. कहाँ बुला लिया इन सबको. अजीब सा लगा उस मोहल्ले के लोगों को वहां से अलग कहीं देखना. मगर दिलासा ये था, की अब रोज़ रोज़ सबके मुँह नही लगना पड़ेगा.

कितने हफ़्ते गुज़र गए प्रीती को घर सजाते सजाते. अमित को काम के सिलसिले में अक्सर बाहर जाना पड़ता था अब, मगर नए मकान ने उसे व्यस्त रखा.

पर आज अचानक से दोपहर के खाने के बाद जब प्रीती ने हाथ धोने के लिए नल खोला तो पानी नही आया. पता नहीं कहाँ से दबी  हुई पुरानी आदत फिर से उबर आयी और वो आंटी!

चिल्लाते चिल्लाते बीच में रुक गयी. थोड़ा रुक के, वो फ्रिज से एक बोतल निकाल कर हाथ धोती है फिर बैठ जाती है. पता नहीं, क्या हुआ? आ जाएग पानी थोड़ी देर में शायद. २ घंटे बीत गए, शाम होने को आयी. सिंक में बर्तन गंदे पड़े है, पर पानी नहीं आया.

वो हिचकिचाते हुए सामने वाले फ्लैट की घंटी बजाती है, वहां पास की कंपनी में काम करने वाले २-३ लड़के रहते है. एक लड़का अपनी आँखे मलते हुए दरवाज़ा खोलता है, तो प्रीती उससे पूछती है की उसके यहाँ पानी आ रहा है की नहीं. वो चेक कर के वापस आता है और बोलता है नहीं आंटी, आप गार्ड से पूछ लो नीचे एक बार.

प्रीती लिफ्ट से नीचे उतरती है, पर गार्ड नहीं मिलता. उसके केबिन में इसकी बीवी और बच्चे है. वो उनसे पूछती है, तो वो बोली, की दीदी पानी कल से आया नहीं, टैंक खाली हो गया है. हमे नहीं पता अब क्या करे हम.

प्रीती वापस अपने फ्लैट की तरफ बढ़ती है. शहर की बाहर बानी इस चार बिल्डिंग्स वाली कॉलोनी में ज़्यादातर फ्लैट अभी खाली ही पड़े है. उसे समझ नहीं आता अब वो किसके पास जाए.

वो वापस घर में आ के बैठ जाती है. किसी तरह, फ्रिज के पानी से रात का खाना बनती है फिर चिंतित मन के साथ सोने को चली जाती है. सुबह उठ के सबसे पहले नल को खोल के देखती है की पानी आया की नहीं. पानी अभी तक नहीं आया. फ्रिज में भी आखिरी पानी की बोतल पड़ी है. वो थोड़ा परेशान हो कर सामान इधर से उधर करती है फिर एक जगह आ के बैठ जाती है. हिम्मत कर के फिर सामने वाले फ्लैट की घंटी बजाने के लिए घर से निकलती है तो देखती है कल वाला लड़का ही पीठ पे बैग टाँगे, एक पैर में जूता पहनते हुए, दरवाज़े पे लॉक लगा रहा है. प्रीती उसकी तरफ बढ़ती है, पर उसके बोलने के पहले ही वो लड़का बोलता है, ” अरे आंटी पानी तोह अभी तक नहीं आया, मैं अपने फ्रेंड्स के यहाँ जा रहा हूँ, वही नाहा लूँगा, आप चिंता मत करो मैंने ट्विटर पे ट्वीट कर दिया है.”

प्रीती वापस फ्लैट में आ कर बैठ जाती है और बबलू को याद करती है. आज बबलू होता तो कुछ तो पता चल ही जाता. अब वो यहाँ पे क्या करे, किसके पास जाए. इतना असहाय तो उसने कभी नही महसूस किया था खुद को. हार के वो फ़ोन उठाती है और एक नंबर डायल करती है.

“हेलो आंटी, मैं प्रीती. यहाँ थोड़ी दिक्कत है आज, क्या मैं आपके यहाँ आ सकती हूँ….”

Balloon Wala

– By Dipon Bose

बलून वाला

रंग बिरंगे सतरंगे रंगे
गुब्बारों की फुलवारी लाया 
देर दोपहर की धूप में 
मैं तो बचपन ही बेच डाला 

क्रासिंग में, पार्क में, अकेला 
ठहरा प्यासा अलबेला मैं 
लाल पीले नीले गुब्बारे
मैं तुम्हारा बलून वाला 

कोरी आंखों से आस लगाए 
बैठा रहता में दिन भर 
एक गुब्बारा बिक गया भी तो
मानो खुशी के दो पल मिल जाए

गुब्बारा भी अनोखा एक पल सा
ज़िन्दगी में खुशी लाये पर
चंद घंटों में ही उसकी हवा
निकल , या फूट जाए, 

इस घने शहर को रंग देता मैं
गुब्बारा , दो पल की सांसे ले लूँ मैं
ज़िन्दगी भी कैसी अलबेली सी
कभी चलते रहे या मिट जाए

Language Has No Religion

No language is as pervasive, as beautiful and as misunderstood as Urdu. We had the pleasure of listening to Dr. (Wajeehuddin) Shehpar Rasool, Professor at Department of Urdu, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Delhi and Vice-Chairman of Delhi Urdu Academy. From clarifying that Urdu is neither a foreign language nor a ‘lashkari zabaan’ to the story of its naming from ‘Hindvi’ to ‘Rekhta’ to ‘Urdu’, Prof. Shehpar Rasool weaved for us the travelling tale of a language connecting three cities – Delhi, Calcutta and Hyderabad, right up till the time when progressive poetry flourished in the 1930s. We were told that it was the Colonial rule that sowed the seeds of division. In1800 Fort William College was set up in Calcutta with Urdu and Hindi as distinct departments, manned respectively by people of Muslim and Hindu faiths, setting Urdu as the language of Muslims and Hindi as the language of Hindus. Yet, the institute saw the likes of Lallu Lal Ji, who carried the knowledge of Persian and Hindustani, instructed in Hindustani, and honed original works including The Grammar of Brijbhasha (1811), in Urdu script. We will cherish the core of Prof. Shehpar Rasool’s talk – that language has no religion.


Here is some shayari he recited for us:

“Ab ke bhi ik aandhi chali, ab ke bhi sab kuchh ud gaya
ab ke bhi sab baten huiin lekin hua kuchh bhi nahin”

“Ek aañsū ajnabiyat kā nadī bantā gayā
ek lamha thā takalluf kā sadī bantā gayā
kyā labālab roz o shab the aur kyā vahshī thā maiñ
zindagī se duur ho kar aadmī bantā gayā
kab junūñ meñ khiñch ga.ī pairoñ se arz-e-e’tidāl
aur ik yūñhī sā jazba āshiqī bantā gayā
rafta rafta tīrgī ne dasht-e-jāñ sar kar liyā
raushnī kā har fasāna an-kahī bantā gayā
zindagī ne kaise rāzoñ kī piTārī khol dī
āgahī kā har tayaqqun gumrahī bantā gayā
shahr kā chehra samajh kar dekhte the sab use
aur vo ḳhud se bhī ‘shahpar’ ajnabī bantā gayā”

Recounting Nanakramguda

Vanshika’s notes from our walk in Nanakramguda

A spider of a village surrounded by hypermodern materiality.

In the preliminary studies on water, the first text I was asked to pick up was ‘Cities of Delhi’ – its title evoked a Delhi which was ‘cities within a city’. I immediately started thinking of Madanpur Khader, a Laldora Village and Sarita Vihar, the DDA colony where I put up in Delhi as the closest I ever
felt about adjacent cities in a city. I thought this is what contrast is – in legislation over land, in the ways services come to people, in
the way materials and people flow. After visiting Nanakramguda this image of adjacency changed into the image of a spider
webbed around on all sides. Nanakramguda is a spider of a village surrounded by hypermodern materiality of the financial
district, be it in terms of residential complexes or multinational offices or the shining lights inside offices that form the
foreground of a village without a street light – making do with the bulbs and tube-lights of the many shops that partook in the economy of this place.

Blank Out ! It’s scale

When our shared Ola ride was taking us through the offices and buildings of the financial district, Dipon and Dr. Ali were
conversing about how all of these buildings would get a ‘green building certificate’ for lack of any standards, and misconstrued
sense of what is eco-friendly. I was surprised that a conversation that I was highly interested in was something I was not able to
offer my attention to. I later learnt something very surprising (and funny) about myself – such massive scale shuts my mind off
completely to the extent that my psychomotor skills are rendered dysfunctional for some time. It’s not that I have not seen
Gurgaon earlier, it’s not that I have not been  to the gigantic malls of Delhi, Mumbai or Hyderabad. But, something in Nanakramguda
just shut me off, and I am still grappling with what that was. I do not concur with Dipon that it was the car’s air conditioner, in which
case I should have dozed off earlier than reaching Nanakramguda. Hence, my slightly disoriented self got out of the cab, and found
some breath in going straight into the temple. It was too early to strike a conversation and in facial expression parlance the man seemed a little disinterested – yet, I was really hoping that someone would be able to talk to the Sikh watchman of the temple, wearing his service uniform. Of the many security jobs advertised for MNC companies, here was one who had landed at the gates of a temple.

Humara Gaon Kaisa Laga ?

The name ‘Nanakramguda’ has been of interest to almost everyone in TURN since Kabeer spoke about his work in the December
workshop itself. I’d love to know if ever the etymology gets unpacked. I think the temple, its quietness and the smell of the Sooji Halwa settled me a bit – it calmed my nerves which the scale of a particular kind of development – partly in making, and partly in full swing shook. This place is a striking assemblage of things and people moving from the region – mostly all the cement and sand trucks I saw near Trendset Apartments, just when we exited the temple carried the label ‘Zorawar Singh Enterprises’ from Mettur Dam, Madhya Pradesh. Then as we proceeded to the walks in two groups to the point of dividing ourselves, I was most struck of how small units of scrap operated on the main Nanakramguda Road.
They appeared makeshift, and mostly kept plastic. Then we took the left from the temple where Mother India’s statue is placed. The first
house I saw was that of ‘Urmila Devi’ – this was a single storied house, and Kabeer quickly whispered to me ‘Lodha Rajput’. We were walking on uneven and unlevelled terrain that felt covered, only recently. Kabeer later clarified that it’s only been a month since the underground lines for sewerage have gone in. We walked in the area and three things stuck with me, even after a week later : a) The Hindi Wedding Murals indicative of marriage b) A hulk of a mega building that envelopes the rental buildings of the village – mostly PGs and hostels and c) A woman who was gearing up for evening snack sails who asked me ‘Humara Gaon Kaisa Laga?’ – as if there was no sense of identifying with Nanakramguda – the financial district.

On the other side, the Eat Street, the terrain felt a lot more uneven and steep at the same time. The distinct form of housing here were
the labour quarters, hinted at by the yellow safety caps that hung on the doors. The infamous barbed wires were crossed, the wall which read a number for septic tanks and its cleaning. From what seemed like a place waking up to its evening motions, the eat street felt like a space where the two forms of existence, that felt like a stark contrast, met.

A different mode of service provisioning ?

The most significant clue I took from Nanakramguda is the ground itself, that invited me to ask the politics behind the materials that
flow beneath it. Courtesy my interest in water, I had closely followed the articles on scarcity that come up every summer. One of the most common headlines this year was how the North West part of the city undergoes heightened water woes or how there are more
number of tankers that flow through the North West. I have my doubts on the North West they speak about – is it the North West of the multinational offices and mega apartments or is this the North West of Nanakramguda village ? Nevertheless, the question of water and waste resonated with me especially when Kabeer told me that people here do feel that the financial district has taken their groundwater away. Given such dealings with water, it occurred to me that the subject in Bholakpur contesting to get his file in the HMWSSB manager’s office by crafting a politics of neglect, especially after the 2009 water contamination is very different from the subject of Nanakramguda village asking for water. Coming from a desire to unpack what exactly went in getting those underground
pipes laid, the questions that Nanakramguda left me with are a) Where are the claims for service provisioning for the village made ?
b)Who makes the claims for the village ? c) How do the two sides across the road and the Dalitwada partake in making claims ? Since we walked on an uneven, recently covered pathways on both sides; is there a unified Nanakramguda that presents itself while
making claims? Or is there something else about the water and sanitation infrastructure negotiation story here ?

Kabeer’s sketches:  Fieldwork in Nanakramguda

Dipon reviews 20 Angosht

I made this quick graphic upon my understanding of 20-angosth (20 fingers).

Apart from reading the subtitles, the audible script vividly connected me with the Indo-Iranian language family with words like angosth (angutha/toes) baccho (baccha/kids), shokt (shakth/hard) etc. which reminded me of the Farsi imports in  Aryan and Hindustani languages.


About the movie review :

The movie 20 fingers is a splendid work of film making, story telling, dialectics, debate, spatial framing set in the Iranian cultural context which also relates to a wider audience in the Indo-Iranian cultural continent and the world at large.

The movie is set in 6 vignettes with distinct spatial carriers  :

  1. Car
  2. Gondola
  3. Motorbike
  4. Restaurant
  5. Train
  6. Speedboat

The couple discusses some major issues pertaining to identity, culture, religion, logic and interpersonal relationship as the spatial narrative moves forward from one vignette to another.

The difference in positions of two opposite genders set in a similar cultural context is outlined distinctly in the mobile transport mediums/spatial themes as well as when they overlap, push and pull each others boundaries and also converge and compromise in some static mediums.

Both the genders equally exercise their freedom of gender based privilege, power and position at different plots to discuss some heated topics of sex, adultery, love, relationship, moral policing, sexual identity orientation, abortion, duties and responsibilities.

The movie is a an excellent example to analyse storytelling in a play of words and space.

  • As a layman, I would read the story line as a dominant polarity in gender based lived experience and formation of opinions.
  • The movie starkly showcases the female body and mind questioning the conventions and tries to negotiate its boundaries within the domains of a cis-gendered heterosexual married relationship as well interpersonal debate and compromise through reasoning and power struggle.
  • As a queer man, the scene at the restaurant is of my particular interest. The line in the film, ” My grandmother used to say, if a girl pees beside a rainbow, she will become a boy…”and vice versa, was quite amusing. My poetic self would read it as a superfluity in describing something like that as the entire idea of sex change or homosexuality is a beautifully acknowledged affair in unbiased cultures however is thought to be an impossible and arduous task (most specifically a purely illusional task) of peeing beside a rainbow. This is further supplemented by the fact when the protagonist husband  says that his mom dressed himself as a girl when he was child (my own mom also did it). The protagonist man turns out to be straight while me as a queer man. The point I want to elucidate here is that culturally, sex change, crossdressing or homo-eroticism MAY not be frowned upon, its only frowned upon when it clashes with the traditional roles and conventions of family, sexual ACTS , producing a progeny etc. and the acts which are acceptable in childhood are seen as a radical thought or act in teenage or adult life.
  • With respect to the same theme, when the wife asks the husband, “what would you do if you were a woman?” to which the husband replies, ” I would go out with all the good looking men in this room”. My positionality and lived experience as a cis-man growing among cis-men and affirming to their animal, tribal and civilizational roles and ideas reads in affirmation with the man’s definition of lust based attraction in romantic relationship among majority of cis – gendered men vis a vis the controlled, conditioned and thought over attraction of majority of cis-gendered women or trans-women. Also I feel a polarity in the internal cultural conditioning of the male tribe vs the female tribe with respect to roles, responsibilities, attraction, sexual acts, ideas of respect , romance and their social expression.
“I also feel the conditioning of the ideas of attraction and romance and sexual acts highly controlled by the man and he is the dominant mind in  shaping the flow of the dialectic. He also involves in shaping the opinion of the female didactically in other scenes by taking help of pure logics, ethics  and religion.”
  • The man and the woman both differ in their assumed positionality in a Muslim Persian household in contemporary days. The woman depicts a free thinking woman with logical questions popping in her mind, executing her positionality as a woman, a wife, a pregnant woman, an oppressed gender and more largely the progenitor of questions which only SHE could ask rightfully at her position.At the same time the male executes his positionality as a husband, as a man, as a Muslim man, as a lover, as a facilitator of logical discourse. Both of them go far at times being attacking and violent on each other howver reconcile and compromise in subsequent plots.
  • About the representation about them being seven couples, yes at times while watching the movie, it did occur to me to check if the actors have changed. Though they might portray different life events in the life a single couple they do also represent altogether different couples. As I was discussing with Ravi, it surfaced out that , The disconnect about not being able to reach a direct conclusion each time they debated and fought has been kept as it is and also the reconciliation and understanding nature has been depicted in the 4th, 5th and 7th vignette.
  • On the whole, I would say it depicted the necessity of effective communication, debate and logical discourse to address day to day life problems, maintaining effective and healthy interpersonal relationships and shaping and moulding the human civilization and culture at large.

Vanshika: ‘What Gauri Lankesh Gave Me’

Vanshika Singh at the Tribute to Gauri Lankesh at Lamakaan on Sunday, September 10, 2017. Being in the mid-twenties in such a socio-political climate compels me to question me and my future – where am I headed, where are the times headed and where does the genuine possibility of change lie?
I need not repeat the nuances of the political environment and the potential response that Dr. Anant Maringanti just presented to us. What I do wish to share though is what I think where this meets my understanding of Ms Gauri Lankesh’s politics – an understanding I attempted to fine tune for myself in the last three days. The last three days witnessed her writings surfacing vociferously on several mediums, and all of them are writings of hope brought into action, laying the ground for what any piece of moving writing does – gives space for the reader to take something that can be thought over, that can be practiced, that can be internalized. The last three days were also an opportunity for me to be honest to myself – to acknowledge that here’s a senior woman journalist whose politics I do not have any understanding or grasp over, but I should try.
In her final editorial against fake news, I saw a woman who had the courage to foremost acknowledge her mistakes and yet continue to fight for truth.

Her ability to transcend the barrier of language told me of the power of speaking to people in their own language. To let the vernacular speak for itself. To let the subaltern speak.

Her practice of independent journalism – making ends meet by putting on stake her personal resources for something larger than her that she believed in while being at valid crossroads from her own fraternity (captured in essence by Poorna Swami’s ‘Here’s the News You Could
Not Live to See’) tells me that a political commitment is essentially a personal commitment.
And, I’d be fooling myself if I would say, I am Gauri. In fact, I am far far far away from it. And, I’d rather understand a politics that I can live, that I can commit to, that I can take responsibility for. I’d rather acknowledge, commend and understand the 17 years of fighting of genuine fears and challenges that superscripted her commitment to Lankesh Patrike. I’d rather acknowledge that while my training says ‘Freedom of Speech’ is important, those who practice it actually have to fight for it moment to moment.
Indeed, I am far far away from Gauri but if she were to speak to us today, would she have asked me to be her clone? I am afraid not. I do not know the intimate details of her private life. But, purely by following her public expressions, I could see in her a woman who was open to mediums. Here’s a woman who supported comedians, encouraging humor to reveal the fissures in our social fabric. Here’s a woman who stood by contempary student leaders -someone who was encouraging of student politics that stood for what the Indian social fabric

actually is – diverse. Look closely, unlike the trolls who claim that she supported antinationals, you will find that those she supported themselves practice politics of different kinds. Umar Khalid chooses a politics very different from that of Kanhaiya Kumar. In supporting Rana Ayyub’s investigative journalism, irrespective of our personal judgments on the kind of investigative journalism this was, I saw someone who rendered concrete support when Ayyub’s contemparies and seniors gave up on her. Perhaps, someone who knows how to hang on alone indeed bridges the gap for someone who is new. And that just tells me that her politics was a politics open to difference, open to mediums, but one that demanded critical self-awareness and a committed desire to pursue your own truth.
This is the time when I think a tribute to her for me means honing that critical self-reflexivity, giving myself an opportunity to find that commitment at the first place, and recognizing that the means are very well around us in our own surroundings. The difference however, is someone like Ms Gauri Lankesh goes all out in chasing them.
I’d like to end with two pieces from another terrific young journalist and human rights activist from Palestine whose politics I found similar to that of Gauri Lankesh. Similar in fighting a politics of hate, in using the creative intelligence of words, and in crossing the barriers of the English language for sticking to both Arabic and English.

The excerpts are from two pieces ‘Shades of Anger’ and ‘We Teach Life, Sir’:
Rafeef begins by saying, ‘So I was lying on the ground and this guy came and kicked me in the guts and said: – ‘You deserve to be raped before you have your terrorist children!’
At the time I said nothing, but then I wrote this poem for this young gentleman.

Allow me to speak my arab tongue before they occupy my language as well.

Allow me to speak my mother tongue before they colonize her memory as well.

I am an arab woman of color and we come in all shades of anger.

But you tell me this womb inside of me will only bring you your next terrorist.

Beard wearing, gun waving, towel head, sand Niger

You tell me I send my children out to die.

But those are your ‘copters, your F16s in our skies.

And let’s talk about this terrorism business, for a second.

Wasn’t it the CIA that killed?

And who trained Osama in the first place?

My grandparents didn’t run around like clowns with white capes and white hoods on their heads lynching black people.

I am an Arab woman of color and we come in all shades of anger.

So who’s that brown woman screaming in a demonstration?

Sorry. Should I not scream?

I forgot to be your every orientalist dream, genie in a bottle, belly dancer, harem girl, soft spoken arab woman

– ‘Yes master. No master. Thank you for the peanut butter sandwiches raining down on us from your F16s master.’

Yes my liberators are here to kill my children and call them collateral damage.

I am an arab woman of color and we come in all shades of anger.’

‘But today, my body was a TV massacre made to fit into sound-bites and word limits.

And just give us a story, a human story.

You see, this is not political.

We just want to tell people about you and your people so give us a human story.

Don’t mention that word “apartheid” and “occupation”.

This is not political.

You have to help me as a journalist to help you tell your story which is not a political story.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre.


How about you give us a story of a woman in Gaza who needs medication

How about you?

Do you have enough bone-broken limbs to cover the sun?

Hand me over your dead and give me the list of their names in one thousand two hundred word limits.

Today, my body was a TV’d massacre that had to fit into sound-bites and word limits and move those that are desensitized to terrorist blood.

But they felt sorry.

They felt sorry for the cattle over Gaza.

So, I give them UN resolutions and statistics and we condemn and we deplore and we reject.

And these are not two equal sides: occupier and occupied.

And a hundred dead, two hundred dead, and a thousand dead.

And between that, war crime and massacre, I vent out words and smile “not exotic”, “not terrorist”.

And I recount, I recount a hundred dead, a thousand dead.

Is anyone out there?

Will anyone listen?’

Visit to YK Antiques

On  18th of April 2017, ten members of the HUL team set out for Lothkunta, Alwal. The 16 km long drive was undertaken to visit the home of Mr. YK which he has lovingly transformed into a museum of old household and kitchen items. Mr. YK has procured them from places far and near, over the last many decades.

Since the team was not familiar with Mr. YK, it only had a vague idea of what to expect. On entering the home and encountering the aesthetic arrangements of the artifacts on the floor, along the walls and adorning the staircase, everyone was fascinated. The most striking feature of the place was the easy integration of art and life.


Many of the object of arts have been turned into objects of reality. Large copper vessels have become glass-topped centre tables and puja thalis are used as trays. No object is too small for his collection, The humble grain measuring cup shares pride of place with the most elegant and elaborate paan daan and with Mr. YK’s school lunch box from the 1940s. And each item has a tale that he narrates in a gentle smiling tone.He is 76 going on and 26 if his enthusiastic energy is anything to go by.

For the HUL team, the trip was extra special because we are the first formal visitors to Mr. YK’s unique museum.

Our second visit to YK sir’s house on Saturday, 27th of May 2017, comprised a diverse group of people who made their way to Lothkunta from Masaab Tank and from other parts of the city by 5: 30 p.m. All newcomers on entering the house froze for a few seconds. Others had happy anticipation on their faces which was justified as the host promises to offer something new at each visit..

After a brief introduction, YK sir guided the group through his house, describing each set of items and narrating the story behind his acquiring it. Two hours whizzed by with no one complaining.

Guests listened and asked questions and also shared their memories of childhood and ideas about the home museum.

The mood was upbeat and positive when refreshments were served. The HUL team will be putting up an interesting line-up of activities.

Today I couldn’t help but compare the girls to meerkats. Meerkats are cute little naturally curious creatures. They are always found in groups, huddled together, always on the lookout. They will come close and examine every detail by running their tiny hands all over, prodding and stroking.

From Neha’s notes on working with school girls on First Lancer, Ahmed Nagar

As usual on our entering, the meerkats flocked together and surrounded us, walking along with us, saying the usual hellos, salaams, giggles and a forceful invitation to play badminton. We made our way up the stairs. Some of the girls ran to the classroom, shrieking, to inform the others that we were approaching.

The mythical creatures had arrived and the meerkats ran helter-skelker to receive them. They quickly formed the same groups as the day before and sat down. About ten girls who were absent on the previous day had showed up. They were each attached to one existing group. Soon they started working on their maps with the same kind of enthusiasm.