July 28, 2007

life in general: my parikrama (worship) of river narmada and her daughters & sons...

My last week in Outlook (see my previous post), I decided to take a breather from work and do something that feels dear to my soul -- to touch base with people in far-off places (mostly non-affluent) to get a feel of issues affecting them. That was also the basis of
my trip to Narmada valley in December 2005.

This week, once again, saw my taking off to the same place in Narmada Valley -- this time I stayed at Prakash Kumawat's home in Eklara village in Badwani in Madhya Pradesh. Excluding 32 hours of travel time to reach there and come back, I was there from Wednesday (July 25) noon to Friday (July 27) noon. Prakash is a 26-year old farmer with whom I developed a good friendship during my last trip and with whom I have been in touch on the phone since then.

While I was there I could not meet Medha Patkar this time as my priority was to stay in the village and interact with the villagers. Medha
ji was again engrossed in an ongoing protest against the governmental authorities on issues arising out of the Sardar Sarovar Nigam Dam Project. And, on the evening of Wednesday (July 25) she, her fellow colleagues from Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement) and villagers including children were arrested in a human rights-violating manner by the police of Madhya Pradesh under instructions from the chief minister of the state, Shivraj Chauhan.

Below are some pics of the Eklara villagers and Narmada River (Eklara village is on the bank of the river) I took while I was there. I have more pics uploaded here.

I have also uploaded on youtube
a one-minute video of the Eklara river bank on Narmada.

Update (29 October 2007): On 28 October 2007 I have written a follow-up post on my July visit to Narmada valley.

July 23, 2007

life in journalism: my resignation from outlook

Two weeks ago, I put in my papers at Outlook group where I have worked as a journalist for last 10 years. I wrote for Outlook Money till mid-December 2006 and thereafter for the weekly Outlook. I am joining Business World magazine from August 1, 2007.

Here is my resignation letter I sent to my immediate boss, Alam Srinivas, business editor in Outlook, and to the overall chief, Vinod Mehta, editor-in-chief:

July 13, 2007

Vinod Mehta & Alam Srinivas,

My Resignation

Dear Vinod & Alam,

As per my email to Alam on Tuesday, July 10, about my decision to accept an offer from Business World to join them, I would like to resign from Outlook.

As with most aspects of life, no matter whom we interact—or work—with, I have had a mix of enlightening, fun, useful, wonderful, tough, challenging and at times distressing experiences in my 10-year stint with Outlook group (I joined the group on September 17, 1997 as a member in the then-Intelligent Investor founding team).

The last seven months with you and main Outlook also had a similar mix of rewards and concerns. I do not expect anything fundamentally different in my new workplace but there is always some further improvement one hopes for in a change and that is how I am seeing it too.

I hope the readers of Outlook Money and Outlook have derived something useful and enjoyable for themselves from my contributions to the extent they got reflected in the published stories. I hope these readers have got—and would continue to get—the same from many other stories in Outlook. My brightest wishes remain with you both and everyone else in Outlook.

I would appreciate it if I can be relieved as of the end of this month, that is July 31. I would also require a release letter from Outlook as a matter of formality since it is required to be presented at the new place.

Bright regards,

Rajesh Gajra

PS: I am sending this same letter—one each—to both of you.

July 16, 2007

life in general: gujarat 2002-2007: genocide's aftermath

Communalism Combat magazine's latest issue (June 2007) is a focused one on the aftermath of Gujarat February-March 2002 genocide.

I read it. My sadness continues on knowing that the perpetrators of the heinous crimes in Gujarat in the 3-4 weeks from February 28, 2002, have not been brought to justice in the courts of our country. But we should still continue to seek justice and also do all that we can to prevent such horrors from repeating themselves again.

Here are the links to the issue's stories:
Communalism Combat, June 2007
Editorial: Why we cannot forget
Introduction: Gujarat 2002-2007: Genocide’s aftermath
Compensation: Betrayal by the state
Mass Graves: Mass graves and missing lives
Crime and Punishment: The charge sheet
Hindu Taliban: Pockets of resistance , Assault on ideals , Cultural fascism , Hating Muslims is a natural thing in Gujarat , Shadows and silences

July 08, 2007

life in general: bombay's rain-greened forest

Today morning, I went for a nature trail (which I do every now and then) in the hilly forest of Bombay. There are two public entrances to the forest – one which is on the west of the hills and is in the Borivli suburb (near to where I reside—Kandivli suburb) and the eastern one (called Yeeor) which is in Thane and enters the forest from the east side of the hills. In the adjacent photo see the circled portion – thats the forest, and see the two arrows – those are roughly the two public entrances.

My visits to the forest from Borivli are much more frequent than from Yeeor due to the proximity of the former. So I look out for opportunities to go from Yeeor side.

A local nature group—Bombay Nature History Society—of wh
ich I am a member organises regular nature trails in and around Bombay and at least once a year it includes the trail from Yeeor. Today was one such and I went for it. There were about 25 of us in today's trail.

Look at two photos from the trail – the rains have made the forest look green and beautiful! There was a spot where a strong stream coming down from the hills curved and some of us (including me) had a with-clothes-on dip in it. It felt really nice – the clean and cool water caressing my feet and legs and when my splashing the water on my face and hair.

We in Bombay (and surrounding Thane city) are lucky to have this forest. About 30-40 years ago the central government of India (and not the state government of Maharashtra) earmarked a big region in the hilly northern-central part of Bombay as a protected national park banning all construction in it and restricting access to the public. Had this not happened the corrupt state politicians (of all political parties) of Maharashtra would have completely destroyed the green cover within the forest.

Which is what is happened in the rest of Bombay. Its a concrete jungle with 95% surface being covered by buildings and cemented roads. So when the rains come the rainwater which would otherwise have seeped in the earth and filled up the groundwater table is now forced to go to the drainage system. The rainwater which can be used by Bombay for non-drinking purpose is thus wasted. And since the drainage system gets choked with all the plastic (from dry food packets, tobacco pouches, chocolate wrappers, plastic bags etc) that Bombay's insensitive people throw on the streets and railway tracks, heavy rains floods many parts of Bombay and damaging infrastructure and people's homes.

July 04, 2007

life in journalism: in honour of a brave iraqi journalist

Journalists who cover politics, strife-torn regions and other sensitive 'beats' are at times subject to threats to their lives by those whose dark deeds they throw a torchlight on.

I dedicate this post in the honour of Sahar Hussein al-Haideri, an Iraqi journ
alist, who was murdered by Iraqi extremist forces (who are not genuine resistance forces to the American-British occupation of Iraq) last month on June 7 outside her house in Mosul, Iraq.

Sahar had written extensively on the plight of Iraqis--particularly Iraqi women--post 2003 US-invasion&occupation. One such distressing story highlighted how a few sick Iraqi men were sexually abusing women of helpless Iraqi families whose lives were uprooted due to the chaos emanating from the US-UK's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq from March 2003 onwards.

What I have to say here is that forced prostitution or sexual exploitation in various other forms of women happen all over the world under the very noses of supposedly-democratic governments who show very very little inclination to bring sexual offenders to justice (the law itself is biased against helpless women by making 'prostituting' a crime and not 'visiting a prostitute'...i tell you if the men who encourage the existence of heavily-exploited prostitution through their visits to prostitutes are put behind bars for even just a month it will act as a very good deterence against their future visits and the financial motivation of pimps to trick and force women into prostitution will come down substantially as not many men customers will want to risk being jailed).

However, in Iraq, such crimes against women are at least 10 times more heinous because the helplessness and vulnerability of women and common Iraqi families have been brought upon due to the US-UK governments who criminally invaded--and are occupying--Iraq for no legally-valid reasons. Saddam Hussein was a threat to his own countrymen and women and not to US or UK (no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq) and I have no doubt in my mind that the people of Iraq would have managed to uproot Hussein sooner or later (and even if they would have required external assistance it would have not involved its country's oil resources and military control being in the hands of non-Iraqis).

I salute the soul of Sahar and end this post with an obituary on her by Guardian.

July 01, 2007

life in general: my visit to tirupur...today's return to post-rain-deluged bombay

On an official assignment, I was in Tirupur town (in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu) this Thursday and Friday (June 28 & 29, 2007) and on a non-official purpose I was in Bangalore on Saturday (June 30 '07).

Here are two--this and this--of many pictures (non-work related) I took in Tirupur.

And, while landing in post-deluge Bombay today noon (it rained very heavily in Bombay yesterday and day-before bringing the city to a standstill yesterday), I took this picture from the plane window.

...and have a look at this post-deluge scene from my home window of the compound of my residential building in Kandivli East.