Mar 31, 2008

Abida Sultan - The Best Nawab Bhopal Never Had (2)

The most touching part of Abida Sultan's life, and one that throws light on the way these Pathan Begums of Bhopal were treated more than equal to their male counterparts is her description about how she cannot remember herself without agun ever, even as a toddler when she could not handle nothing more tha a toy gun. 'Sarkar Amman' (HH Sultan Jahan Begum) was very proud of Abida Sultan's riding and shooting skills from a very young age, but the discipline was very strict. Sarkar amman brought the sisters (three sisters - Abida alias Barkul the eldest, Sajida alias Majkul the middle one and Rabia alias Rabboo) up single handedly and was sole dominating influence in the upbringing. Nawab Hamidullah Khan lived in the mardana (Gents quarters) and showed little interest in the education of the girls while the mother was simply not allowed to do so. 

By Abida's own admission, when Sarkar Amman was attending her ailing son Obaidullah Khan, Abida was going wild riding tonga horses, donkeys and even the pet cheetal. She went tearing around in a car, propped up by several cushions as a nine year olds legs were not long enough to reach the pedals. Sajida preferred playing with dolls, but the younger Rabboo spent her time body-building and eating eight or ten poached eggs a day to be able to defeat Abida in whatever she did!

Abida finally discovered her parents during in London during the Bhopal Succesion case . Hamidullah Khan and Maimoona Sultan became her friends during the long stay in a gloomy London during the long drawn legal battle, which ended on Hamidullah Khan being declared the last Nawab and Sultan Jahan abdicating in his favour. By the end of the case Abida was asked to start observing purdah (veil) by her grand mother, who wanted her to get married to Sarwar Ali Khan of Kurwai. Brought up under strict discipline by Sultan Jahan Begum and competing with the boys of the household, Abida did not know anything about sex. The Nikah of Abida Sultan with Sarwar Ali Khan of Kurwai, known as Dadabhai took place on Friday, 18th June 1926.

Mar 26, 2008

Lessons from the museum

Published in Business Standard
Sreelatha Menon / New Delhi March 25, 2008
A unique experiment of teaching that started in three museums in  Bhopal will now be replicated in three other metros.
The four walls of a museum can be a substitute for a school. Pradeep Ghosh thought so, four years ago wracking his brain for a solution to bring light into the lives of thousands of children who have no access to schools in Bhopal.
Ghosh, a former IT professional decided to leave the business world ten years ago to take the plunge in the development sector. It began as a job with Plan International.

He then decided that he could work for human development himself. Thus was born the Organisation for Awareness of Integrated Social Security (OASIS), in Bhopal.
Bhopal’s museum school was born three years ago with the intention of removing the disparity in the quality of education in urban areas and teaching the school runaways.
The model is already expanding. Next month, Delhi will have its first museum school and that would be followed by Chennai and Bangalore.
Ghosh was dreaming of a model education method which had the best elements of the teaching system followed by Shanti Niketan in Bengal, Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry and the Japanese system of education. Ghosh decided to take them all and combined them with the information offered by museums in Bhopal.
Ghosh explains how his 120 students learnt their first lessons at the National Museum for Mankind, the only museum of its kind in the country. An entire hill has been shaped into actual habitats of various tribal communities of the country. There are three actual houses on tree tops depicting the houses of a tribe of the North East, and the children can learn about culture and habitat from this museum, he says.
The 20 teachers mostly volunteers from various colleges and BeD students are trained by Ghosh and the museum staff and are exposed to training sessions on child psychology from time to time.
The only people Ghosh has to pay are the literacy workers from the slums which send the children.
In the first few years, the accent is on literacy skills, followed by letting the children respond to the senses and learn what they see and hear.
The museum helps in this. It is a textbook which children can respond to easily. Oasis picks up its 120 odd children from various slums in Bhopal after 1 pm and brings them to the three museums where they have permission to work.
The children are split in groups, and while some may have material inside the museum, others sit in groups outside and learn.
The buses go and drop back the children in their homes.
Ghosh says that the children are also being trained in wood and clay modelling and as they grow older, they are taught business management and entrepreneurial skills.
The children are registered in the National Open School where they are free to take examinations whenever they are ready for it, says Ghosh.
The children, many of them rag pickers, continue to ply their trades, some have started going to regular schools, but all of them are attending this unique museum school.
Encouraged, Ghosh wants to extend the timing to 5 pm. Apart from the children, Ghosh’s museum school has admirers in museums themselves.The Museum School in Bhopal started in 2005 in collaboration with 3 Museums: The Regional Science Centre, National Museum of Mankind and the Regional Museum of Natural History.
OASIS has received encouragement and acceptance from 5 museums in Delhi: National Science Centre, National Museum of Natural History, National Crafts Museum, National Rail Museum and Shankar’s International Doll Museum.
Ghosh calls museums ready-made schools waiting to be used. His idea has found ready takers in NGOs and social entrepreneurs in Delhi Chennai and Bangalore.
In Delhi children living in Savda Ghevra slums relocation colony in Rohini will benefit from the museum school that opens there. About 20,000 families shifted from Jamuna Pushta to live there. “We expect 100 students in the first batch,” says Ghosh, an Ashoka social entrepreneur.
Insurance for the disabled
When the UPA Government announces the nation’s first ever insurance policy for the disabled this week, one person who will be celebrating is Pradeep Ghosh and his OASIS which initiated the movement towards getting insurance companies to include disabled persons among their customers.
Says Ghosh: “I was on the verge of filing a case against New India Assurance for not offering insurance cover to disabled persons. The threat worked and the company came to us to workout a policy structure for the disabled.”
This led to consultations at the Government-NGO levels leading to the final product which will be announced by the Government on March 26. Ghosh and OASIS remained one of the consultants for the Government for the programme.

Mar 24, 2008

Summer Vacation At Bhopal Without BCL

The summer of 2008 happens to be one of the most challenging for the young ones of Bhopal. The schools will be closed for more than two months and the summer will be at it's peak. A leading news paper of the city has announced in banner headlines that the summer will be sever than usual. The options are limited for the little ones of the city. With the most beloved British Council Library (BCL) of Bhopal closing for good on 1st March 2008 inspite of the best efforts of the citizens, the options for the little ones of Bhopal have shrunk drastically.
Most children retire to the television and video games - the ill efects of which is not lost on any body. For ready reference you may refer to this piece below.
So what are the options? Can we all get togather  to collect the options that are available? Maybe, just maybe, we can still save the childhood from the all encompassing monster that the television has become in our lives. Please email to or post a comment.
by Roald Dahl
The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set –
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink –
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rate and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

Mar 11, 2008

To Adarniya Mayawatiji

Adarniya Behenji,
I would humbly request you to consider my application. I started writing this blog about two years back, motivated by the big void of information about Bhopal. A simple search on Google about Bhopal throws up lakhs of sites about the Union Carbide MIC Gas accident and nothing else! As if Bhopal came into being just on that night, and there was nothing else to be mentioned about Bhopal. That is the reason of this BLOG, and I hoped it goes "Beyond The Gas" and gets me some big money from Google Adsense. The dreams were duly shattered as dreams usually are.  That was till the Union Budget of India was presented for the year 2008-09. A true example of open source project effort,  after this budget Sharad Pawar said: “The Budget has shown that my main concern is for the farming sector”, Telugu Desam leader Chandrababu Naidu said the UPA government “stole the TDP’s idea”. In Karnataka, Deve Gowda’s son said the credit for the loan write-off should go to his dad. In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena said their rallies forced the finance minister’s hand. You, Mayawatiji have brought immense hope to me.  Without loosing any time you have  brought out full page advertisements in the newspapers pointing out that small craftsmen, weavers and artisans and “lakhs of unemployed, small and marginal entrepreneurs” should all get a loan waiver. This blogs author also surely qualifies as one of "lakhs of unemployed, small and marginal enterpreneurs", hence kindly consider my request as part of your ongoing effort to stregthen your base in MP. I meanwhile will figure out how to secure that damn loan to be eventually waived.
With warm regards
PS: Click on the ad to read. Link courtesy

Mar 10, 2008

Job Hunt

"Even if they deem it constitutional to pass the issue on to the restored judges, the outcome is unlikely to be any different.President Musharraf can still choose a somewhat honourable exit and resign in coming weeks," says an analyst.
"The alternative is to put himself through the humiliation of impeachment, and even imprisonment for overthrowing Mr Sharif's government." BBC News Report

Toon Link

Abida Sultan - The Best Nawab Bhopal Never Had (1)

Those who have followed the amazing journey of Bhopal state from foundation by Dost Muhammad Khan till  end with Hamidullah Khan would have observed the strange consistency with which the male rulers were miserable rulers while the strength of the Bhopal state were the women rulers. The 13th Nawab of Bhopal State Hamidullah Khan's eldest daughter was Abida Sultan. Till date, many older families of Bhopal consider Abida Sultan the true successor of the Bhopal state.

Bhopale-Abida Sultan
Abida Sultan was brought up by Sultan Jahan Begum in the mould of the traditional, devout, but independent Begums of Bhopal.  She was an able rider of horse by the age of eight, who could not be controlled by her horse riding coach Thakur Chiman Singh, and had to be transferred to her fathers riding school where she trained with her father's Polo team as well as tent pegging with sword and lance. She was an ace shooter and could handle firearms from a very young age. Encouraged by her father, she escaped to the freedom of riding, shooting and enjoying manly sports, turning into a headstrong tomboy who loved danger, the open skies and eventually adopting a defiant attitude towards her aging grandmother. It was only much later that Abida Sultan recognized that Sultan Begum's greatest gift to her was her discipline - of knowing her God and her religion. It helped her carry her torch of revolt, especially against the misinterpretation of Islam by the bigoted mullahs. 

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain

Bhopal : A Prayer for Rain, a film on the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, was declared tax-free in Madhya Pradesh by chief minister Shivraj ...