January 27, 2015

BluePencil's new book: "HydandSeek: A visual tribute to Hyderabad"

We worked hard. Real hard, on this book -- Lakshmi, Ragini and I. At the end of it, there was excitement, nervousness, tension. When the book came from the press, it looked perfect, as a new born baby looks to a mother. I suddenly felt possessive. I did not want to give any copies to anyone. Wanted to keep them all to myself and only give copies to Lakshmi and Ragini!

The launch is done. Unfortunately it was not a perfect event. But the time and place were more than perfect. Day 1, the festival book store told us we were the best sellers that day! Smiles and high fives! People said good things. It seemed like everyone was talking about this book.

There is a feeling of elation after the launch.

It is like a beautifully crafted paper boat is now sailing down a flowing river. Off it goes! We know not what path it will take, where it will go, what lands it will travel to.

As I said before, a book is like a child. It needs nurturing. Holding hands. Guiding. I hope we will be able to do all this with HydandSeek.

This is what the book looks like, in a book store.


And these are the people behind the book. 

 You can follow the story of HydandSeek as it happens on this Facebook page

January 17, 2015

After 12 years of hard work MISSION GARBAGE successful!

This is a story I should have written a month back. But I haven't been getting any alone time to write blog posts. There is a lot of detail I could write about here - actually, I could write a book - but I will keep it short. Better something than nothing.

This was a fight we began in 2002 when we moved into this apartment complex. There has always been a garbage bin in front of Kaundinya Apartments, and even earlier when we had our independent house. Year after year, to our dismay and disgust, it grew bigger and bigger, and before we knew what was happening, it became a sorting centre. The noise and smell became unbearable. The rag pickers increased in number, occupied more and more space thus causing traffic jams, and became a real threat to our building and locality. We had no control over them at all. We ran from pillar to post, our 'garbage file' grew bigger and bigger, and in 2011, we came close to a solution, with GHMC showing great interest and promising to change the system. But the officer who tried to help us was transferred and the whole thing fell through. We felt devastated. Still we kept going to the GHMC office with our file and tragic tale with the regularity with which one goes to a supermarket. Nothing happened for years.

It became a mission we hoped would be fulfilled in our lifetime.

In 2014, after Prime Minister Modi  announced his Swacch Bharat campaign, the MLA of our locality had a meeting for the residents of Himayatnagar, and promised to address this serious issue. He gave us his mobile number and told us to call any time and assured us that he would pick up the phone. He followed up on his promise, and one Sunday, came to our locality with a broom. People from various apartment complexes were out on the streets  -- children, young and old were seen wielding brooms and cleaning up dirty corners -- suddenly it seemed to have become a movement. We took this opportunity and got the garbage place cleaned, washed and painted, and placed some potted plants in its place.

The MLA came to our apartment complex for breakfast and promised continued support. I have never before seen an MLA as approachable as this. I must give credit where it is due, even though this is actually as it should be.

The garbage bin was removed, but it took some time for the garbage to go. The rag pickers made sure it came back. Deccan Chronicle sent their reporter and she spoke to all of us and wrote a story on our problem. The day the article was published, the place became clean again. We then made an offer to the rag pickers that we would pool in money so that they could buy an auto with a trailer to pick up garbage door-to-door. We would also pay them every month for doing this. A lot of arguments, discussions, fights and a visit to the police station later, they stopped the littering and finally left us alone. Perhaps they were convinced that they would not be out of work.

Since end-November 2014, we have been garbage-bin free and the new system is working well. We cannot believe that this actually happened. We will be eternally grateful to all the people who worked for this to happen and to all the people who helped make this a reality. We will always be indebted to the MLA and to the Swachh Bharat movement.

During the process of this protest, we discovered many ground realities, and the many layers a society has. And each layer hides several stories within it, and it was with shock, disbelief, sadness and anger that we discovered these stories within stories within stories. But these are not to be written about. They are to be narrated over mirchi bajjis and a cup of tea, or a glass of rum and coke, in our very Indian oral tradition. And we have been telling people interesting anecdotes about the truths we have unearthed over the last several years.

Hopefully, one day we can tell you these stories too, dear reader.

Now for the before-after photos. Brace yourself!



You can read the story in somewhat more detail, with a few more photographs, on my Twitter account.#SwachhBharat #GHMC


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