Tag Archives: stall

Trafficking, tourism, and death penalties

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A brief update on the week for you.

Last Friday saw me attending a workshop on the prevention of trafficking, at the Indian Social Institute in Bangalore. It was good to learn a bit more about trafficking in general, and it highlighted lots of things I never knew. Karnataka it turns out is the second highest source region for trafficking in India, and a lot of girls are tricked away from Bangalore itself, at one of the major bus stations. Most shockingly, I learnt that the vast, vast majority of street beggars, especially those under the age of 12, have been trafficked (often from the other end of the country), and forced to beg under a person who holds them captive under threat or sedative drugs. More information on the institute can be found here.

Following this, I went to my first Hindi lesson the next day, where the domineering but very efficient teacher gave me a crash course in the alphabet and naming body parts. Classic beginner’s first lesson! Having spent the last week completing the homework she set me, I’m a little nervous for tomorrow’s second installment  I’d like to learn the second half of the alphabet though, so I can’t really find an excuse to run away!

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Jama Masjid

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Gateway at the fort

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Hanuman statue at a temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday became an unashamedly touristy day. I made a beeline for the Sri Kanteerava Stadium near Cubbon Park, where I eventually found what I was looking for after spending half an hour walking around the entire thing. The climbing wall was a stand-alone, outdoor facility with three sides – maybe 15 feet tall. It was totally abandoned though, and I didn’t have any ropes or quickdraws with which to climb, so I set to some low-level bouldering. My pumps were poorly suited to it however, and I soon had to give up, meaning to return for their climbing league in the near future.

Next on the list was a visit to the Jama Masjid about two kilometres southwest, where, after eventually finding the right entrance, unknowingly parked myself right where the 1’o’clock prayers would commence. Stupid, uncultured westerner. I even tried to be sensitive beforehand by finding my way up to the women’s quarters, but the room was filled with women crashed out asleep in the dark. After the Imam very gently directed me to shift my bum to a more suitable location, I made my way out to the nearby KR Market for some retail therapy.

It was a huge, stinking place, but full of activity and traders calling out. Between the cowpats and mud streaked by tyre treads, everything from shabji to sarees to books was on sale. Finding myself drawn to a fixed-price pile of saris on the pavement, I became part of a horde of women vying to get the best piece. In the end I settled for a dark green cotton blend sari, strangely embroidered in places with a baby’s face, and a second in red and gold satin sheen. Very pleased with my bargain purchases at 200 rupees each, I trotted off up the street, only to walk past several more stalls and shops selling the very same for only 150!

I carried on to Bangalore’s fort, Tipu Sultan’s Palace, the Bull Temple and Dodda Ganesha Temple. By the time I was finished, the opening night of the art exhibition in which my work was being displayed was about to begin.

There I met Emma, as the inauguration began. Various members of the small gathering added their taper to the large diya stood in the room’s centre, before a few individuals said some words about the One Billion Rising movement. Then we all had chai – obviously the most important part of the evening! I found my own painting in a corner, and was astounded at the price the gallery had placed on it. Prices on different canvases there ranged from 5000/- to 18,000/-. My own picture was up for 8000/-! Even in pound sterling that rounds to £100! And it’s not a painting I’m particularly proud of, given that I had only a few hours to produce it. Does this mean I can officially call myself an artist now?

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My painting on the theme of One Billion Rising

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Astounded by the price tag!

I didn’t think the week could get more exciting, but Mathews asked me on Tuesday morning to draft an emergency memorandum on the need to abolish the death penalty. Four men had been sentenced to death the day before, and SICHREM was desperately trying to halt the hangings.

He called me and Chithra – a hilarious, bossy and exceedingly kind lady – to the court where most of SICHREM’s staff were that day. They had been arrested for protesting in January on a different issue, and whilst the hearing continued Mathews finalised the document with me. It became a petition, which various individuals and civil society members signed at a protest later that day, and was given to the governor of Bangalore.

I’m pleased to say that the whole process had the desired result, staying the men’s deaths by six weeks. Some semblance of democracy has been restored in Bangalore, and SICHREM has been doing its job excellently once again! I feel proud to be part of this organisation.

Art Galleries and Women’s Rights

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Art Galleries and Women’s Rights

Another exciting weekend as my third week in India draws to a close. Working days in the office so far this week have been fairly uneventful. I’ve been busy getting on with my assigned tasks, and though it’s very difficult working six days a week, sat in an office all day, I’m starting to get used to it.

Each morning I trawl the same six newspapers and select articles relating to human rights violations, or issues in general, and collect them to put into a quarterly report. This is my daily task for the year, and I’ll be doing four such reports, and hopefully the data will then contribute to a much larger annual report from SICHREM as a whole.

In addition to that, I’ve been working on a funding proposal for their Human Rights Helpline. My other longer-term task is to conduct a larger research project into the functioning of the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission; interviewing Members and the Chairperson, as well as several civil society groups dealing with the Commission. I’ll hopefully finish my research and get the report written at least by May, which will then be published as part of SICHREM’s series of short reports they are bringing out. My own name in print!

VIGBYOR 2013

More excitingly though, Julika and I got called into Mr Mathews’ office on Friday. Thinking this could only be bad, I was totally surprised when he asked if we wanted to go to Kerala on SICHREM’s behalf, all expenses paid. “I’ll give you some days to think about it and give me your decision,” he says. Julika and I both instantly told him it was a definite yes. So as of this Thursday, we’ll be manning a stall at Thrissur’s own international film festival – VIBGYOR – raising money from the sale of SICHREM’s own branded mugs etc. Even better, we’re free to watch whatever films we like in between stall sessions, and attend talks and debates that are also happening alongside. I’ve already been poring over my Lonely Planet guide for things to do.

On Saturday I got the chance to accompany Chithra to a meeting with representatives from several other NGOs, where the discussion centred around an upcoming event they were planning. It was only when we arrived that I learnt we were at the offices of Vimochana – a charity I’d heard about in England, who work with gender issues and women’s rights – so I was in my element! The event being organised was to coincide with the global movement 1 Billion Rising. This movement is a protest by women the world over against the growing culture of violence in so many countries, and aims to use dance and movement as a means of resistance and hope.

 

So the event is going to focus on these two themes, using dance, music, poetry and spoken word, street plays, painting, rangolis on the street, and a candle-lit march at sundown. Amidst the continuous stream of argument and voices talking over one another, it emerged that they hoped to mobilise between 5000 and 10,000 people! I had no idea how big this way going to be. So many passionate individuals from youth theatre groups were there, and people were talking about flash mobs, and occupying the Police Commissioner’s office to get permission for the day. I can’t wait to be involved! I’m hoping I might be able to offer to document the day in some form with my camera, or blogging – who knows.

After the meeting, I went back to my original plan for the half-day, and continued onto a supposedly good area to shop called Kammanahalli, where I ended up buying material for four outfits (they’re just all so nice).

Sunday came and I left to meet a fellow volunteer from 2WayDevelopment called Emma, who was stationed with street children’s charity BOSCO. After Thalli, and exchanging stories of our respective placements, we spent the hot afternoon in CubbonPark. It was free – a nice surprise in a country where even looking is a commodity – and full of couples and children playing cricket. The place was stuffed with huge bamboo stalks and lots of massive, spreading trees that I wish I knew the name of. To tick some things off the tourist list, we headed over to the Government-run museum and art gallery within the park, which again was only 4 Rs, with no foreigner’s tax! Though the museum was full of poorly-labelled pottery fragments and weaponry (some shining examples were “brick”, “clay pieces”, and “swords”), the art gallery had plenty of interesting statues (read lots of very busty women in a state of undress) and some modern canvases upstairs.

We discovered a quiet spot next to a lily pond, and sat for a bit in the shade, before following the sound of loud drum beats and music to an event in a stadium nearby. It turns out this was an inspirational event being held to encourage young Bangaloreans to volunteer in their communities. We could glimpse some men dancing and playing drums, but felt a bit out of place with everyone else there wearing the event’s branded t-shirt.

Leaving for MG Road, the main shopping street, we stopped at India’s version of Starbucks – Café Coffee Day. Though ludicrously priced, the slice of chocolate cake I had, with melting sauce and toffee centre, was so delicious I didn’t really care. I’ve been craving cake since I got here! After a quick look at some books further up the road, the afternoon was getting late, so we parted ways and planned to meet up again. Hopefully at 1 Billion Rising!

ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.

ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY

ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION

On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, 14 February 2013, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders.

What does ONE BILLION look like? On 14 February 2013, it will look like a REVOLUTION.

via One Billion Rising.

A Busy Week

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As the title suggests, this week has been a bit jam-packed. Thus, despite my good intentions, I have again not come around to putting up this blog post as soon as I would have liked.

Anyhow, I received a call late on Thursday night last week from a lady I have been liaising with from Brigg Town Council, asking if I wanted to gatecrash another event (not quite her words) the following evening. I went along with bucket and fresh raffle ticket book in hand, and perched at the top of the stairs waiting for any unsuspecting attendees to walk in. My placement was clearly spot-on, as it enabled me to capture £46 from all the people who didn’t manage to sprint past me fast enough. What a fantastic and rapid way to boost my fundraising! I also succeeded in inundating all of these lovely people with flyers for my upcoming fundraising evening with local business Design Orchard. Looks like my efforts might be more successful yet!

The Saturday following this was devoted then to a pre-planned stall at Wrawby Autumn Fair, in the village hall. I was indecisively umm-ing and aah-ing about going beforehand, as I was meant to be at work that day, but committed in the end to the fundraising task ahead – and I am so glad I did!

I walked into the hall during the initial set-up expecting it be dead, and was shocked at the number of stalls that were already in place. I think I was the last one to be ready. I had a huge table (which I spent about 20 minutes re-arranging, much to my Nan’s annoyance – thanks Nan for the help by the way!).

My Nan, the ever-faithful helper

There was a real village atmosphere (or was that just me?) as I saw old faces from my primary school years coming in  and pretty much every one of them bought something from me. Even though the completion of some of the Christmas tree decorations was still ongoing during the 2 hours that the fair was open to the public, I managed to make £42.50! That’s over £80 in two days – enough for…about a month’s food in India? Or perhaps a quarter of the cost of my visa if you want to put it that way.

I was so pleased with myself, and the stall looked fantastic, as did all the decorations.

Some girl stood behind a stall

The professional touch…

After clearing up and taking the remaining stock home, I spent the rest of my week putting the finishing touches to the final few decorations still needing buttons/ribbons/wire. It may not sound like a lot of work, but such small things can take a very long time to get through, especially when you keep stabbing yourself with the needle. If I wasn’t self-employed, I’d be able to sue my boss for damages.

Just when it seemed that all was nearly completed, with only the final 20 or so pieces to finish, my poor, overworked sewing machine had a massive tantrum and started eating anything I put under its foot. Feeling confident, I pulled out my special lubricating oil and subjected every moving part I could see to rivers of the stuff. After this didn’t work however, and my machine continued to make a horrible clacking noise, I enlisted the help of my Dad. Together, we nearly dismantled the thing in an attempt to get at the inner machinery. Eventually I found the problem, smothered all the cogs in petroleum jelly, and it began sewing again like a dream. Pity it only took me a whole afternoon to figure that out.

Thursday evening then saw the completion of the final favour, which brings us to today.

This Saturday was the date I’ve been counting down to for over a month and a half, the one which began the entire crazed sewing project. The Humberside WI Christmas Fair. I therefore expected to sell as much of my stock as possible, and in the best scenario sell out, making a couple of hundred pounds in the process. I also had some silk scarves imported from India which sold like hot-cakes at the Wrawby fair.

Scarves imported from India, modelled by my mannequin

But I was bitterly disappointed by the lack of customer interest. Despite a great deal of footfall throughout the day, and the fair being open for six hours, I only sold 5 items from my stall, and made up the rest of my pitiful £34.50 profit from raffle ticket sales. In all honesty it wasn’t really worth me going, and I’ll now have to put the rest of my (mountain) of stock onto ebay or etsy (more to come on that). It’s ironic that I did much better on an event which only arose because I was already planning to attend this one. It wasn’t for lack of customer interest. I think the people who came to the fair were in general more interested in having an afternoon out than seriously purchasing goods, as several of the other stall holders also did poorly on sales.

Well, the experience has still served me a valuable lesson. I’ll now be focussing more of my attention onto selling raffle tickets – they’re easy to carry on me at all times and have a low mark-up price which encourages more people to buy. Furthermore, they don’t need to run out, as I can always purchase another book. 🙂

On a brighter note, my next upcoming event should be great fun. Scunthorpe’s Amnesty International group have kindly agreed to hold a joint fundraiser evening for me, where some of the profits will be mine, and the rest Amnesty’s. It’s basically a curry evening where people pay to attend and get their meal. I still need to think of something to contribute, edible or otherwise…until next time!