Saturday, 24 February 2018

Mirror translated In Hindi

This is one of my favorite poems by Sylvia Plath, one which I wanted to translate to Hindi for a long time. So here it is finally, the original poem in English and then its Hindi version. Of course it's not a word-by-word translation, I have tried to just convey the essence of the protagonist's feelings and thoughts about the woman who owns her. 
Do drop in a comment how you find the translation. 


I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.

मैं रुपहला, चमकदार और यथार्थ हूँ. मेरे ह्रदय में किसी के लिए कोई पूर्वाग्रह नहीं है।

मेरे समक्ष जो भी जैसे भी आता है मैं उसे वैसे ही स्वीकार कर लेता हूँ
बिना किसी पक्षपात की भावना के, चाहे वो प्रेम हो या द्वेष।
मैं निर्दयी नहीं, सिर्फ सच के साथ हूँ
ईश्वर की चतुर्मुखी दृष्टि की तरह।
ज्यादातर मैं अपने सामने वाली दीवार को निहारता रहता हूँ
जो गुलाबी धब्बों से आच्छादित है। मैं इतने समय से इसे देख रहा हूँ कि
मानो ये मेरे ह्रदय का एक हिस्सा बन ही गयी है। पर यह दृश्य बदलता रहता है
चेहरे और अँधेरा हमें बार बार अलग कर देते हैं।

अब मैं एक झील की तरह हूँ। एक महिला मेरे ऊपर झुक जाती है
मेरी गहराइयों में अपने 'स्व' को तलाशती हुई।
फिर वो पलट जाती है उन झूठे चाँद और मोमबत्तियों की ओर
मुझे सिर्फ उसकी पीठ दिखाई देती है, उसे भी मैं हमेशा की तरह स्वीकार लेता हूँ।
फिर वो मुझे नवाज़ती है अपने आँसुओं और लरजते हाथों की बेचैनी से
मैं उसके लिए बेहद ज़रूरी हूँ , इसीलिए वो मेरे पास आती है लेक़िन फिर वापस चली जाती है
हर सुबह उसके चेहरे के दीदार के साथ ही ये रात का अँधेरा दूर होता है,
आख़िर मुझ में ही तो उसने एक ख़ूबसूरत नौजवान लड़की को खोया था, और मुझ में से झाँकती
एक बूढ़ी औरत उसे निराश कर देती है, हर सुबह, एक जल बिन तड़पती बदसूरत मछली की तरह। 

Friday, 2 February 2018

Annual Budget 2018 and Its Impact on Women

Here's my take on the budgetary provisions for women in the Finance Minister's budget speech yesterday. This article has been published by #WomensWeb today at the link shared below. Please drop in a comment about the budget and my article too.
The new budget for 2018 is prima facie a great one for Indian women, but there may be loopholes and pitfalls that will need to be worked on.
In the annual budget for 2018-19 today, the govt has announced a series of sops for women, especially the ‘working women’ (how I dislike the term because it insinuates that the stay-at-home women don’t do any worthwhile work). These are aimed at empowering women by improving their participation in the workforce which has dwindled to a measly 24% in 2015-16 from a much healthier 36% in 2005-06. The new proposals also seek to promote Ease of Living and instill a greater sense of gender equality in society.
The finance minister has announced that continuing from the 5 crore last year, 8 crore women will be benefited by free cooking gas connection under the Ujjwala Yojana this year.
Loans to self-help women groups are to be increased to as much as 37 per cent. This is likely to provide a much-needed impetus to the sector. Women self-help groups will also be encouraged to take up organic farming.
In an effort to encourage women entrepreneurs, under the Mudra Yojana, a total lending amount of Rs 3 lakh crore has been set aside for women to start new ventures. Under the Saubhagya Yojana, under-privileged women will also get four crore electricity connections under the allocations made by this budget.
Working towards the primary objectives of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, i.e. to end open defecation, the FM has made provisions in this budget to construct an additional two crore toilets in India. This will help ensure safety and hygiene to more women.
It was also announced by the Finance Minister that women taking up a job for the first time in the formal sectorwill now have to contribute only 8% of their basic salary towards their provident fund while the employers will continue to contribute their share at 12%. This would mean an increase by 4% in women’s take home salary.
In his budget speech, the Finance Minister said, “To incentivize employment of more women in the formal sector and to enable higher take-home wages, I propose to make amendments in the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, to reduce women employees’ contribution to 8% for the first three years of their employment against the existing rate of 12% or 10% with no change in employers’ contribution.” Many experts are also also lauding this move as a boost to women workforce since the increased take home salary would encourage more families to send the women to work.
But is this move really as attractive as it is being made out to? Is this even a valid reason for more women to be sent out to work? Would it really lead to creation of more jobs, that too for women?
A reduction in PF contribution may mean more money in hand at present but that also means lesser money in their provident fund which is their compulsory saving and also their retirement fund. 4% more salary at the beginning of their career may not even be a substantial amount to spend but it may make a significant addition to their savings for the future.
Though the govt, as already promised, will continue to contribute 12% of all new employees’ basic salary towards their provident fund for the next three years. In my humble opinion, this proposal which can be implemented only after bringing in an amendment in the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1952 is more of a sham than any real benefit.
In another supposedly major relief and benefit to women, provision for maternity leave has been increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Govt also proposes to set up creches in workplaces to facilitate women to participate in the workforce even after childbirth.
While this definitely is a much needed benefit for new mothers but if we consider it in depth, this move of increasing maternity leave may actually result in retrenchment for women working in the private sector as soon as they disclose their pregnancy. In fact, as is already much feared, hiring women will no longer be considered a good proposition as they will have to be given six months maternity leave and the employer will have to hire another person to undertake her work during that period adding more financial burden to the employer. To avoid this burden, the employers may dismiss the female employee from her job or not employ any woman in the first place. As things stand in the private sector, women are, very often, not given adequate maternity leave and other facilities, and even if they are allowed maternity leave it is without any salary. They are often forced to return to work earlier even if their health may not permit it.
If the govt is really keen on ensuring gender equality, it should have increased paternity leave which is non-existent in many organizations and a grossly insufficient one to two weeks in others. A longer paternity leave for the men would mean the women can regain their health faster and also return to work earlier. It would also give the father more time with the children and also help forge a much closer bond between them.
While the intentions of the govt behind these new budget proposals are quite noble and will hopefully achieve their objectives, yet in view of these not so unfounded fears, the govt must maintain stringent checks over the employers to ensure that the new rule is strictly adhered to and women are not disadvantaged further.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

My Worst Writer's Block

So I have been away from the blog for a good three months and it may seem that I have literally abandoned my blog. But believe me I have not. How can I even think of doing that when this is the first place I created to express myself through fiction, poetry, articles, photo blogs; to rant, to blabber, to spread awareness, to scorn people, to spread love, to share my the blog title suggests this is a place where I can give words and shape to my moods whether they are geeky (sensible) or freaky.
So why have I been keeping away from my favorite haunt for so long?
Believe me guys, it's not by design, it's not intensional, it's not deliberate. I have been going through the worst writer's block of my writing journey and it doesn't seem to end anytime soon. 
It's not that I don't feel like writing these days, it's not that I don't have topics to write, it's not even that I am super busy and don't get time to or night, apun ke paas to time hi time hai janaab and you know what! I am a sucker for news and we all know know how watching and hearing the over zealous, blabber mouth 'news' anchors can set even the most dull and barren minds to mutiny. 
Cacophony over a 'historical' movie stirs me into action but as I sit down to write hoping to type away to glory, unfortunately ideas do the vanishing trick leaving me twiddling my thumbs in frustration. My words get knotted up like a tangled ball of wool and I am unable to proceed beyond a few sentences. Battery depletes even before I can plug it in!
So I resort to the tried and tested tricks of writers to get over this annoying mental block. I leave the draft when I can't think of anything more to write and revisit it after a few hours, take a second look, then third and fourth...but nothing helps. I simply abandon the draft for the time being. Now I have at least seven eight incomplete articles/stories in my drafts folder sneering and sniggering at my mental block.    
My friends suggested reading more to get inspiration from famous authors. I do that too. No go, bro! The stubborn brain refuses to pop open but does a mocking twirl instead, just like a bunch of brash youngsters in 'Khalbali Hai Khalbali - Hai khalbali. Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ye Zubaan Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Ziddi Armaan, Ziddi hai toofan. Ziddi hum bhi yahaan. Khalbali hai khalbali...
The ziddi brain doesn't cooperate this time too and so there is neither 'khalbali' in the zubaan nor any rejuvenating toofan to end this drought of words and it's 'dil ke armaan aansuon me bah gaye' for me once again.
Now I turn to the idiot box once more, this time to watch the ultra melodramatic TV soaps so that some of the plotting and planning churned out unceasingly from the highly agile and fertile minds of the scriptwriters that keeps the viewers glued to it for hours, can force open the rusted floodgates of my words too. But they connive and plot against me only. Just like me, the laptop remains in hibernate mode too. 
Better luck next time! I console myself.
'Pick up the newspaper again, read it from front to last page. Don't quit the good habit. What if it contains negative news mostly, it will help revive the depleting flow of thoughts', My husband reminded me today, such a kind and helpful man he is, you know. So I pick up the day's newspaper dutifully, obediently. The first few pages immediately grab my eyeballs and tempt me with the words in their colorful and bold best....Final Sale, The Spirit of India offer, Bachat ka Sabse Bada Dhamaka, the Great Indian Sale. Enamored by this sudden gust of amazing discount offers, yet determined to read the 'news' I decide to begin with the last page...Happy Denim Days and Sabse Saste 5 Din firm up my resolve without much effort. 
Finally I get my inspiration. 
This time I write for an hour. Non stop. A mile long shopping list.

I am stuck in the quagmire, guys. Rock solid. 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

तुम कब लौटोगे?

जब से रुख़सत हुए तुम अमावस की उस काली रात
मुड़ कर एक बार भी ना देखा तुम ने,
एक आलिंगन के साथ वादा किया था कि
लौट आओगे पूनम के चाँद से पहले।
ना जाने कितने चाँद ढल चुके,
रोशन ना हुआ अब तक ईद का चाँद मेरा!
क्या दीदारे-यार ना होगा अब कभी?
रुख़ बदल चुका इस दास्ताने-मोहब्बत का,
तुम कब लौटोगे?

मैं कोशिश करुँ क्या, एक बार फिर
कि खोल सकूँ वो जंग लग चुके ताले,
मुद्दतों से जो कभी खुले नहीं,
वो चरमराते दरवाज़े
जर्जर हो चुके जो इतने सालों में,
मेरे मन की खिड़कियां
जिनमें किसी ने झाँका नहीं एक अरसे से,
ख़ुशनुमा यादों पे लगे जाले बुहारने की
कोशिश करे क्या ये दिल, तुम्हारे लिए फिर एक बार?

क्या याद है तुम्हें अब भी
वो छोटी-छोटी घंटियों वाली नेमप्लेट
इश्क़ के रंगों से उकेरे थे जिस पे
तुम ने एक दूल्हा दुल्हन
और मैं ने, नाम हम दोनों के?
वो अब भी वहीं लटकी है, अकेली,
बंद दरवाज़े के बाहर,
उन घंटियों की मौसिक़ी भी अब खामोश है,
इंतज़ार में तुम्हारे।

मुझे आज भी याद है वो पल
जब एहतराम किया था हरसिंगार के पेड़ ने
पहले दिन हमारा इस आँगन में
ख़ूबसूरत सफ़ेद-नारंगी फूलों की बारिश से,
मानो दुआएं दे रहा हो,
महकता रहे सदा गुलिस्तां तुम्हारा
इनकी मनभावनी खुशबू सा। पर अफ़सोस,
वो हरसिंगार अब नहीं रहा,
बिलकुल हमारे रिश्ते की तरह।

हाँ, उसका उजड़ा ठूँठ अब भी है,
सूखा, मुरझाया, ग़मज़दा,
गोया बसंत में भी पतझड़ का मारा,
बिलकुल मेरी तरह।
हाँ लेकिन, उम्मीद का एक पत्ता बाकी है,
मेरी साँसों की तरह अब भी,
पूरी ताक़त से लड़ते हुए तूफ़ानों से,
कि शायद वो बिछड़ा हमसफ़र मिल जाये
पीछे छूट गए तन्हा राही को।

पर कितनी देर और?
कितने मौसम बीत चले, बरसात के साथ
इन ग़मगीन आँखों का काजल भी धुल चुका,
मौसमे-बहार का इंतज़ार करूँ तो कब तक
जबकि पतझड़ मेरे जीवन का हिस्सा बन चुका है?
कड़वी ही सही, पर हक़ीक़त यही है
कि रुत बदल रही है और ना जाने कौन से पल,
उम्मीद का वो एक आख़िरी पत्ता भी ढह जाए, क्योंकि
एक कमज़ोर शाख़ से ज्यादा कमज़ोर होता है एक तन्हा दिल।

तो फैसला अब ये है कि, तुम हो ना हो,
कमज़ोर ना पड़ेंगे अब कभी ये दरो-दीवार,
ये खिड़कियाँ बंद ही रहेंगी अब, तुम्हारे लिए।
हरसिंगार फिर महकेगा, पर सिर्फ़ मेरे लिए।
कोई उम्मीद तुम ना रखना अब
कि राह तकती रहेगी दुल्हन आख़िरी दम तक
आँखें बिछाए तुम्हारे इंतज़ार में, क्योंकि
नेमप्लेट पे धुंधलाते तुम्हारे नाम की तरह
वजूद मिट चुका होगा तुम्हारा मेरे मन के कैनवास से,

तुम जब तक लौटोगे।

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Battle With Self

The letter had just been delivered. Neha picked up the yellow official envelope with trembling hands.
She had been pining for this day for years.
Neha was born in a small village to poor peasant parents. She was the third born, a daughter after two brothers. After her birth, the family's fortunes turned upwards suddenly. Their almost barren fields started rewarding them with bumper crops year after year. The poor farmers, who once struggled to feed their children two square meals in a day, were now flush with enough funds to send their three children to a good school in the nearby city. 
The English medium school and hostel life refined the rustic manners and language of the siblings and honed their co-curricular skills too. Her brothers were good in studies but Neha turned out to be an exceptionally confident speaker who was also bestowed with a powerful voice. She had an insatiable hunger for knowledge and was feted by her teachers and classmates alike for bringing laurels to the school in inter-school debates and elocutions. She performed equally well in studies and sports and won awards as the best student almost every year.
Then tragedy struck.
Neha was delivering a powerful speech in the morning assembly when she happened to clutch the mic in her hand and boom! Sparks flew all around and she started writhing in pain...the mic had electric current leaking through it and had struck Neha. She was rushed to a nearby hospital in the Principal's car where the doctors revealed that she was not only burnt partially due to the electric current but unfortunately she had also lost her voice and the movement in the right side of her body too. They expressed hope that she would regain strength and movement in her body with proper treatment and physiotherapy but there was no certainty how much time her recovery would take.
Her family was devastated with the crushing news. They were quite proud of her achievements and had pinned many hopes on her. Her brothers had by then passed out of the school and were studying in professional colleges. They rushed to be with their sister but had to leave after a few days. The parents also needed to go back to their farms but Neha's mother refused to leave her side. She stayed back to look after her darling daughter who had just entered her teens and was in quite a fragile state, physically, mentally and emotionally. 
Physiotherapy, medicines, speech therapy, nutritious diet were to continue for months. The school extended all possible financial and moral support, her classmates kept visiting her to cheer her up but Neha's silence didn't break. Her friends and mother would keep talking to her, pepping her up so that she would utter a few words. Her family prayed incessantly for her wellbeing. She tried her best too, but no words came out. Nor did the movement in her hand. It upset her mother to see her normally chirpy and active daughter struggling to speak and move on her own. Neha had fallen into severe depression and would keep staring into nothingness for hours.
Her doctors advised her to gradually start using her left hand so that she may regain some of her lost confidence. Her teachers would come and read out her lessons while her friends would bring notes for her. Bit-by-bit Neha began to get up and sit on her hospital bed. One day she gestured to indicate that she wanted to eat food herself. The next day she picked up her text book in her left hand and started reading. Her doctors, nurses, teachers...all were overjoyed at this tiny sign of her getting onto the path of recovery.
A few months later, Neha went back to her school. Her voice had not returned but some movement in the right side of her body had. Her teachers advised her to apply for disability certificate so that she could get certain exemptions in academics. Neha refused politely. She was determined to prove that she was quite capable of managing herself well despite her multiple challenges, most importantly to herself.
She would drag herself up the stairs, climb down slowly, write slowly, fumble in asking questions in the newly learnt sign language but still tried to complete her work herself. She would read and watch the inspirational tales of high achievers who had refused to get bogged down by their disabilities. Years passed but her struggle with herself didn't cease. Her doctors, in the meanwhile, informed her about a new implant which could bring back some of her speech. Neha and her family were overjoyed when she spoke her first words in years. She had crossed one more post! 
The turning point in her life came when she met the new district magistrate who had been invited to inaugurate the new auditorium in her college. He was a physically challenged person with limited movement in his body just like her but was extremely articulate and confident. He spoke at length about his personal challenges and how he overcame them to become an IAS officer. She was greatly impressed by his grit and determination as also his self-assured demeanor. This fortuitous meeting inspired her to attempt the highly coveted civil services examination.
She started preparing for the extremely competitive examination in right earnest but was disappointed when she realized that her writing speed was not enough to cope up with the newly revised pattern of examination. Her coaching institute faculty encouraged her to practice writing long answers but one day Neha was so upset that she just threw away her pen and notebooks and started crying in frustration and desperation. 
A strong hand tapped her on the shoulder. 'You have come this far only on your own strength, Neha. How can you put an end to your journey like this? It has just begun.' His mentor's angry voice poured into her ears. 'No sir, I can't carry on like this any more. I give up.' Neha cried bitterly. 'So many people look up to you for inspiration, you can't let them down, can you? And how about failing your own self? You had set out to win, didn't you? Then how can you allow yourself to cry and accept defeat without even trying?' The district magistrate who had kept in constant touch with her and had become more of her friend, philosopher and guide over the years, chided her. 'This struggle is not just your own. This is the struggle of many more challenged people like you and me. Get up and get going girl.'
Immensely shaken up by his reprimand, Neha stood up immediately. She wiped her tears, picked up her pen and notebooks, arranged them neatly on her study table, bowed to her mentor gratefully and resolutely began her studies once again. 
That was the last day she cried.
Today was an exception. Her eyes were moist but these were tears of joy today.
She had finally achieved the dream of her life. She had become an IAS officer, a true inspiration for many. A mentor for many people with disabilities like her, just like she had found her mentor that fateful day. Silently she thanked everyone who had lent their strong shoulders and supported her in her struggle-her family and friends, her teachers and her mentor. She thanked her disability; for drawing out the ocean of strength and grit she didn't know she had. 
She had won the battle with herself, finally.