Waiting and watching on the momentous 9th day of The Fast. Enjoyed reading historian Ramachandra Guha's scholarly comment on the subject this morning (Hindustan Times). If interested in an objective analysis, do read "A Diffenrential Calculus" where he states, "There are pivotal differences between Jayaprakash Narayan's and Anna Hazare's movements.As there are between Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh."
This appeared in The Week.
SPARROW needs you….
Look at the irony of it all. The common, household sparrow is about to disappear from cities and is on the list of endangered birds.If we aren’t more vigilant, SPARROW (Sound & Picture Archives For Research On Women ) may face the same fate. C.S. Lakshmi, the feisty founder of SPARROW (along with two other founder trustees) is uncharacteristically worried ( she always projects such an upbeat personality), as she struggles to keep her organization afloat. Started 23-years-ago, with the sole purpose of recording women’s histories in a systematic way, SPARROW provided an important space for documenting and chronicling the changes taking place in our lives – often, without our even realizing what was going on. I have known Lakshmi since her early days as a writer (she earned her doctorate from the prestigious JNU in American Studies) . And we met again recently, for this update. We discussed the importance of archiving women’s lives in a more meaningful way, and she laughed! Lakshmi admitted that talking to government agencies for the much needed support and funding has become a waste of time, since babudom’s idea of ‘help’ for women’s causes generally does not extend beyond “providing 20 sewing machines for widows.” How aptly Lakshmi summed up India’s official attitude towards women’s ‘development’! Lakshmi’s vision has always gone well beyond the sewing machine approach. It was a blueprint that earned attention, respect and - most importantly – money. This support was provided mainly by foreign agencies which came forward with monetary aid meant for specific projects, such as the publication of books (Paper Dreams) with titles like “Hot is the Moon : Poems and Stories of Women in Kannada,Tamil,Konkani and Tulu.” Or ‘Feminism as Experience: Thoughts and Narratives.” These are but a few of the varied and rich titles available at a modest price. In 1997, SPARROW attempted to create a video documentation of women’s lives after conducting a series of visual history workshops with various artists representing the Arts. This series was followed by Women in Theatre and Women’s Activism, which saw ten significant films on pioneering women activists like Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi, Shajehan Appa ( who was part of the anti-dowry movement), besides several others. In eleven years, SPARROW made twenty-five films, plus documented a five-day writer’s camp: “From Silence to Words,From Words to Silence’. These are just a few important initiatives….what happens to SPARROW’s future plans?
Lakhsmi’s eyes still dance with enthusiasm as she continues the narrative, undaunted and far from discouraged at the prospect of shutting shop unless the situation improves. She is sure the money will come somehow, even though with the precarious state of the economy in most of Europe and America, funding priorities have changed considerably. As she points out accurately, funds readily flow in for high profile initiatives like AIDS-related projects. But for anything else, it is a huge struggle. Investing in women’s lives , it would appear, is pretty low priority. Convincing fat cat donors to set aside funds for something they do not consider vital, is Lakshmi’s toughest challenge. But what can be more vital to the health of society than the health of its women? Physical, psychological, spiritual? What is so obvious to the converted, is clearly not so for the majority. Lakshmi’s idealism and belief in what SPARROW does so effectively and well, keeps her motivated and upbeat. But, for how long? Lakshmi’s personal story is equally inspiring. Married to her ‘best friend’, the two of them decided not to have biological children of their own, preferring to adopt three underprivileged kids of their building’s Nepali watchman and his wife.I met Lakshmi’s poised and lovely foster daughter at an art raffle last year, and was thrilled to know how well she’s doing at college. Her siblings are attending a good school as well, and chances are, they will continue on the path carved out for them by Lakshmi and Vishnu. How hard has it been assuming the responsibility of these children, who share their home…. their lives… their difficulties? Pretty! With Lakshmi’s impressive academic qualifications, she could so easily have moved up the academic ladder and acquired an array of awards. That was never the objective, Lakshmi smiles. But times have changed. She is aware of the years ahead, dealing with shrinking funds, worrying she may not be able to pay staff salaries. With that basic concern in mind, Lakshmi is keen to set up ‘Friends of SPARROW.’ I have signed on. Why? Because there is much more to women’s development than donating 20 sewing machines to widows. If you feel the same way, you can sign on , too. Check out the website: www.sparrowonline.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because our voices… our lives… count . And we must be heard.