A Foreigner In My Own Land
Duration – 65 minutes
Directed By
Nishajyoti Sharma
Produced By
School of Media and Cultural Studies (Early Career Film Fellowship 2017); Supported by the Jamsetji Tata Trust

 

Poster

Synopsis (Watch the trailer here.)
Nepalis (Gorkhas) of Assam are not foreigners or outsiders, except for few who may have migrated to Assam (India) post 1971. However, the prevalent sentiment among the Assamese masses is quite contrary to what history says and the Assam Accord of 1985 has agreed to.

Through this self-reflexive film, the filmmaker (who herself is an Asameli Nepali/Gorkha) explores the notion of identity of the community in Assam. The film encompasses the feelings of a common Asameli Nepali person regarding her/his own identity and her/his standing in the Axomiya society, the politics surrounding the ‘identity issues’ in Assam and the degree of assimilation by an Asameli Nepali to prove one’s projected notion of identity and loyalty.

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About Assam Agitation and Assam Accord: The Assam Movement (1979-1985) was a popular movement in Assam, which was intended to repel ‘illegal immigrants’. The movement however affected and hurt the core of Non-Assamese communities (specifically Bengalis, Muslims and Nepalis) who wholeheartedly considered Assam as their motherland and ended up creating an irreversible divide of ‘us’ vs ‘them’. The movement finally ended in 1985 with the signing of the Assam Accord (between Centre and the Assam government) and a cut off date was decided for expelling illegal immigrants. The Clause 5.8 of the Accord said that the foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971 shall be detected and expelled. For the Nepali immigrants, the cut-off year was 1976.

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“I’m terribly scared mother”, I’d say every night

Clutching the tattered end of her sari as she put me to sleep

“Don’t leave me alone mother for I fear the Monster!”

I pleaded and implored her to not leave

There are no monsters in this world, my child” she’d say

But I saw monsters, each and every day

I saw the monster in my mother’s terrified eyes

In the bruises she tried very hard to hide

I could see that the monster hurt her everyday

Yet, never for once she paid heed to what I had to say

 

“There’s a Monster in the house mother!”, I’d say

I hear it yell and growl behind closed doors everyday

Too scared I am to come out of my room mother.

I know it is very much out there!

“Honey, these are your imaginations or maybe just a dream”, said she

Was she fighting it alone just to keep it away from me?

 

One chilly night, she died – fighting the monster all alone

How brave she was to give up her life – A hero for me she was!

Quietly as I sobbed, my father approached me with open arms

Tightly I shut my eyes as he came closer and closer

And tried convincing myself, “There are no Monster’s in this world”

“There are no Monster’s in this world”


I love colors… and I have always admired bold colored hair streaks. However, I never had the courage to go for something that would last for months (permanent hair coloring). In fact, till date I had never applied any dyes or chemicals to my hair except for basic oil and shampoo.

A few days back, an acquaintance introduced me to the BBLUNT Temporary Hair color, called ‘One Night Stand’. I Googled it and voila! There it was! After reading few reviews in amazon I decided to order it and give it a shot. After all, it was temporary and if I did not like it I could just shampoo it off…!!!

The BBLUNT One Night Stand range gives you a choice of 4 wonderful colors –

Blue and Green colors for bold and vibrant statement look. Copper and Bronze colors for subtle and sophisticated look.

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How to Use:

– Wash your hair and let it dry (don’t spray on wet hair as the color itself takes some time to dry). Wrap a towel around your shoulders to avoid staining your cloth (do not worry, the spray isn’t that strong).

– Shake the spray can well enough so that the color thickens and gets uniform (I didn’t shake it long enough and hence the initial spray was light and did not show at all). Fret not, it will be thick and shiny after few initial sprays.

– You can place your hair over a cardboard (if you have long hair) and spray the color uniformly. If you have short hair you can sit in front of a mirror or ask a friend to color it.

– Try to close your eyes and do not breathe when you spray it (for few seconds) to avoid inhaling the spray.

– Let if dry for few minutes and comb out the extra color from the hair. If you want a stronger (bold) shade repeat it again. If you want the color to give subtle tone, spray it from a distance and don’t coat too many times.

The Outcome:

This is how my hair looks after 2-3 coats of spray. I am loving it…

4d5f83_IMG-20150207-WA0014After I was done, I went out and my friends were really excited to see this amazing shade. They were too excited and wanted to experiment on their hair too. Hence, we decided to have some fun. I hastily sprayed some color on them and here we go…!!!

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Cost:

INR – 300 Rs + 70 Rs Delivery Charges.

Quantity:  54 ml/ 37 gms

Pros:

– Easy to use and gives quick result. Easily washable with shampoo.

– It is a temporary hair coloring option. You can play around with different streaks and colors.

– Amazing colors that shows and makes a statement.

Cons:

– Not permanent. (Well, thats why I bought it)

– The hair becomes rough to touch after the color is sprayed. However, it returns to normal after washing.

Verdict:

Try it out if you want to add some color to your life.  The price isn’t high and doesn’t dig a hole in your pocket. Its fun, and you wont regret it.


I love food. The first thing that I was enthusiastic about after I landed in Mumbai was the variety of food available to satiate one’s taste buds and hunger, of course! Mumbai is known for its wide variety of street food, especially since it has people coming in from all over India laden with their own skills and talents. The mouth-watering sight of Paani Poori, Bhel Puri, Ragda Puri, Vada Pav, Bhajjiya Pav, Batata Vada, Masala Dosa, Idli/Vada Shambar, Chaats, Seasonal fruit juices, Kulfi, Tender Coconut, Poha, momos and what not… is enough to make even a diet conscious person give in to temptations.

1Sai Ki Palkhi, a street stall selling colourful and mouth watering flavours of Kulfi at a beach in Mumbai

Street food is not just about taste. To me and to thousand others like me, street food is an attractive alternative to home-cooked food at affordable prices. At a price that ranges from Rs. 5 to Rs. 30/- per plate they provide significant relief to the local population in times when we speak of inflation as one of the major hurdle to be tackled. Street food hawkers provide food at really low cost compared to restaurant meals. They provide an essential source of inexpensive ready-to-eat food for workers of every class and occupation. Street site hawkers (women and men) who make and sell ready to eat food on the street, provide significant income for themselves and their families, as well.

These stalls are usually temporary stalls run by one or two person, usually in a busy street corner. In F.G. Winarno and A. Allain’s words, “…customer orders the meal which can be consumed where it is purchased or taken away.” However, despite certain similarities, street food and fast-food enterprises differ in variety, environment, marketing techniques and ownership. To delve into the depths and behind the scenes story of street food, I chose to speak to them to have a better understanding of their lives. Every stall has its own story to tell – stories of despair, stories of life away from loved ones, stories of struggles for daily bread, struggles of love, hope, satisfaction and finally, stories of triumph.

8Young Karthik from Mysore has been working at the early morning and late night stall outside Chembur railway station (Mumbai) for over one year. He sells Poha, Idly/Vada Shambar, Sheera etc. from 4 am to 10 am in the morning and after 11 pm at night. Karthik is employed by the stall owner who also hails from Karnataka. Early risers or later sleepers come in hordes to this stall for odd-time meals.

2Suresh, who hails from Kerala sells coconut water at MG Road, Mumbai. He gets his supply of tender coconut from Mysore, Orissa and Gujarat. The stall his not his own but he works for his seth who also is a Keralite. Suresh works from 8.00 am to 8.30 pm, i.e. for over twelve hours a day with no off-days at all. He lives with his family in Mumbai.

3Anil Patel who hails from Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh) sells sugarcane Juice at MG Road, Mumbai. He has been selling sugarcane juice in the same spot for over 6 years. He earns a meagre six thousand Rupees salary that he uses for his sustenance and sends the rest to his family of four who still live in his village house. He works for over 15 hours a day.

5Karuna Karan from Tamil Nadu has been selling Dosa, Idly/Vasda Sambhar near Govandi Station (Mumbai) for over fifteen years. The energy with which he makes delicious masala dosas and his capacity to remember orders is astonishing. He says he derives satisfaction from feeding so many people, everyday. He too does not own the stall but rather works for his boss who is of Tamil origin too.

9Santosh sells Chinese Pakoda (with and without Pav) in the street near Govandi station. He has left his home and come to Mumbai just 3 months back. This is his first job. The owner of the stall is also hails from Uttar Pradesh. Heavy rains and hailstones ruined all crops in his village and he had no choice but to leave his home-state (Mirzapur, UP) in search of a job to sustain his family back home. He says he likes Mumbai and is enjoying his job.

7Ramesh Gupta owns the Paani Puri stall that he puts up every day outside the HP Gas station at Deonar, Mumbai. Young Ramesh began his journey as a street food hawker 14 years back owing to financial constraints back home. He has been selling Paani Puri at the same spot for over five years now. He was completely disdainful when he spoke about people who write about hawkers like him. He had started to believe that no one could be of any help to improve the condition and situation of street hawkers, no matter what they write.

6Heeralal has been selling Vada Pav and Bhajjiya Pav outside TISS campus at Deonar for past 14 years. He hails from Jonpur and so does his owner. His family still live in his village. When asked how come he chose to sell Vada Pav (a Maharashtrian speciality) despite being an UPite he replies, “dimag lagana hota hai… business samajhna hota hai” (translation: you have to understand business and use brains accordingly).

4Shiv VadaPav, at MG Road (Mumbai) during the busy lunch hours. Employees from nearby offices, policemen, Autowallas, Taxiwallahs and travellers flock to this street food vendor for hot, spicy, on the spot cooked food.

In the process of enjoying economical yet delicious food at road-side hawkers, we often tend to forget the people involved in the business. Despite its huge presence and popularity in daily life, it is not a recognized industry. Complex or non-existent licensing system makes life difficult for them. Instances of organized bribing and evacuations often play havoc in the lives of these vendors. The street food hawkers are not always owners of the business, as we have already seen in above mentioned examples. They are usually employed by old and experienced hawkers, who had started their profession in a similar manner.

IMG_4116Vishal’s tea stall adjacent to Heeralal’s VadaPav Stall. It is interesting to note that different fast food and tea/juice vendors form a cluster so as to give a complete package to the customers in terms of food, beverage et al.

We may consider street food as poor and unhygienic but (barring certain unpleasant instances) in fact, street food vendors use fresh ingredients compared to restaurants and other eateries. They do not use refrigeration and hence prepare fresh food and spices on daily basis. The quick on the spot preparation is possible with these home prepared spices. In fact, they provide nutritious (most of the time) at really low prices. Their profit margins are very less compared to other places of eating.

It is interesting to observe that the street food vendors sell food based on their origins. For example- The Street vendors who sell Dosa/Vada Sambhar usually used to be of South Indian origin. Similarly, a Momo seller would be a person from Darjeeling, Nepal, Tibet or from North Eastern India; A Keralite a tender coconut seller and so forth. Also, it is really interesting to note that owner of a stall employs people form their own origin, most of the time. However this trend has now begun to change. Suresh confirms this in fluent Hindi when he says, “these days there are many Bihari’s and UPwalas involved in tender coconut business. And even Marathi owners keep non Marathi employees.” Almost every vendor seemed to agree on this change (globalisation) happening around them.

Their marketing success of street food hawkers depends exclusively on location and word-of-mouth promotion. They carefully choose certain spots that will attract consumers on daily basis – on a busy footpath, outside railway stations, near school and colleges and offices. People across all ages, class, sex, communities flock to these temporary eating places every day. In fact street food is an integral part of our culture and society. They bring together people from all aspects and bind them with one common thread – a combination of quick, cheap and delicious fresh food to satiate hunger and taste buds. Yet, the hawkers feel and experience a lack of social status. In Ramesh’s disdainful words – Kya hum hawkers ka kabhi kuch acha ho sakta hai…!!! (translation: Can anything good ever happen to hawkers like us…!!!)


I do not have a driving license. Not that I am woman who is afraid of driving. In fact, I love to race a two wheeler.  I fulfill my driving dreams whenever I visit my hometown, where there is no police on the road to stop me and ask me to show my license. An idealist, I have never passed my driving test exams because I have refused to pay bribe. And back home (Assam), it is impossible to get a DL without paying a bribe of thousand Rupees. People called me an irrational idealist.

My travel expenses skyrocketed after I joined a distant workplace. And, at the age of 25, I had almost given up on my ideals to get my DL at any cost when I witnessed the greatest mass upsurge against corruption in India, led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.  I was  awestruck to see Lakhs of people from all walks of life come together onto the streets in every part of the country expressing intense anger against the corrupt political and economic system. I now knew, I was not the only one! Then and there, I again chucked my idea of bribing for my DL.

The upsurge settled down with false assurances from politicians; and the Lokpal Bill was never passed. I, like million others Indians, felt disappointed. I felt that nothing could save our corrupt nation when politicians went to an extent of ridiculing Kejriwal (and fellow activists) and challenged them to contest in elections. There was small news from here and there about formation of the Aam Aadmi Party. Media had stopped covering about it anymore. And, everyone had completely forgotten about the revolution amidst the hustles and bustles of life. But one fine day to everyone’s surprise, Aam Aadmi Party declared their decision to contest elections in Delhi. A team of social worker and activists had taken the challenge of cleaning up “corrupt India.” Undoubtedly, jhadu was the symbol of AAP!

Till then, it was universally believed that the elections of 2014 will be a fight between Narendra Modi of the BJP and Rahul Gandhi of the Congress. To everyone’s surprise, AAP emerged victorious in Delhi, defeating prominent congress leaders by thousand of votes. Suddenly, Third Front idea was no longer any fictional rant, but a distinct possibility. Kejriwal became the Chief Mister of Delhi.

Today, this young team of enthusiastic activists and reformers is an inspiration to many. Especially to the younger generation, who had been frustrated with corrupt and inefficient governance in India. The success of someone (all AAP candidates) with no Godfather amidst the dynastic rulers was in-fact refreshing (and inspiring) to every common man and woman. The refusal to accept any extra privilege like Laal Batti, sirens, extensive security and luxury enjoyed by traditional politicians and bureaucrats immediately caught attention of media and the citizens. So did the Dharna against the five Delhi cops. Many called it a publicity stunt and labelled it as drama. But Kejriwal, the shrewd and efficient leader of the party has answers to everything. He has his facts, figures and economics very much in place.

“Until politics is fixed, economic policies won’t work,” believes AAP CM Arvind Kejriwal. AAP has never been sitting idle ever since it came to power. As an emerging national party, they have made declarations on economics, law and order, foreign and social policies. It is not a power hungry group of political leaders but a refreshingly young, modern, and tech/media-savvy team of people. AAP has been very active in social networking sites and has kept the public aware of its every moves and actions. Surprisingly, they have revealed new scandals of UPA that were under the wraps – the 3600 crore worth helicopter scandal (ordered for VVIPs in India. Even Obama had refused them stating that it was too expensive).

The governments (be it Congress or BJP) have only talked about inclusiveness. It is only AAP who has practised it. The immediate orders and construction of Night Shelters for poor street dwellers of Delhi, the economical oath ceremony in public speaks for itself. The oath ceremony cost only 6.3 Lakhs as compared to 13 Lakhs on Sheila Dixit’s oath-taking ceremony five years back. The filing of FIR against Mukesh Ambani is astonishingly bold step by the Delhi Government. No other political party or group had ever dared to confront the corporate giant Reliance. In Kejriwal’s words, “BJP and Congress are both “faces of Reliance” and have openly challenged Rahul Gandhi to justify gas price hike.

“Agree/disagree with him, as a journalist like the fact that @ArvindKejriwal takes all questions. Rare among today’s netas.” Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted after interviewing the AAP Chief Minister. AAP has in fact brought a paradigm shift to the politics of India. People have become much aware of their votes and voting rights.  It is interesting (fun) to see the dominant political parties coming up with strategies, tactics and marketing techniques to compete with AAP. The threatened Congress party’s fear of losing the race is very much evident from the shift in the pattern of their hoardings and advertisements. The latest “Mein nahi hum” featuring Rahul Gandhi is a perfect example of the same.

Of course, AAP is not a perfect political party either. It had its own share of foot in mouth moments. Comments on Khap Panchayat by its minister Yogendar Yadav, alleged acceptance of cash as donations by party members etc. has created enough controversy. Critics have termed AAP government as Populist Anarchy that lacks governance skills. My question to the constantly cynical critics is – why not let AAP work for some time and then pass a judgement. It is very much evident and even polls show that Kejriwal and his ministers were obviously not allowed to work (disrupted on every step they took). Hadn’t we been blindly accepting nepotism, corruption and worst form of so called democracy without any question for years and years? Here, we have a young set activists turned politicians who speak so straight forward and with such vision and hope for a better India. They need our constructive criticism, not cynical judgements.

Kejriwal’s resignation came as a shock and disappointment. But in hindsight, maybe that was the best thing to do at that point of time. Before AAP came to power, Congress and BJP clearly conspired against the Janlokpal Bill. After years of hard work when AAP finally came to power, anti-corruption bill was again blocked in the state assembly. AAP certainly needs to work on a wider vision and not keep just anti-corruption as the only agenda. Yet, their efforts are highly commendable. No one can claim if AAP shall become a successful national party. It is too early to make such a claim. But victory of AAP in Delhi has created disgust with organised politics in other parts of the country as well. However, the AAP Lok Sabha candidates, winnable or not, make a fine, respectable list. Social activists like Medha Patker’s decision to join AAP certainly cannot be devalued.

I wish AAP all success, for in its vision and success lies the gateway to hope in millions of lives – freedom from corruption in ration cards, in old age pensions, in mid day meals, in Indira Awas Yojana et al to humongous corporate scams. I still continue to believe that one fine day I shall get my driving license, without bribing anyone!

A Love Letter

Posted: January 10, 2014 in Stories

(This  is a letter from one street to an other parallel running street in the adjacent village)

Dear Love,

It is true that we have never met. Nor shall we ever meet – for we are nothing but mere parallel streets running through two rival villages. Not that they were enemies since time immemorial. They were rather in most friendly terms as far as I can remember. But as they say that happiness donot last forever, those loving villagers turned foes one very fine day. Well, I was saying, maybe we shall never meet. Nor can we ever connect – for humans seldom mend ways or change courses. They would rather move forward than make time for reconciliation, friendship and love. I know they will rather move on (move forward than spend time in connecting us and the villagers).

Do you remember the first day we saw each other? Maybe not! You were too young to remember that day. I was just a trail of soil and stones, created by trampling of feet over my chest, over years and years. People from both the villagers walked/passed through me. I was their backbone. I was the heart of the two villages. I liked it when they would meet and chat as they walked on me. I loved to listen to their conversations… I especially loved it, when two little kids would walk on me, run about and pick stones from my chest… and sometimes decorate me with wild flowers picked from the jungle. I saw them growing… Little did I know that they would fall in love. I was happy when they kissed for the first time, standing by my side.

But soon one day, I saw their bloodied bodies being dragged over my chest. I had stones all over me. I could not absorb their pain but rather inflicted more. For the first time, I regretted being a street. I wished I had grass and flowers on me to soothe their bruised bodies that were being mercilessly towed away. The kids were from these two villages. The villagers turned enemies from that very day. It was then when they created you. The other village was no longer allowed to walk on me. I cried bitterly to see this hatred. I missed the “loving pair” but I never saw them again, anymore. I heard few passersby talk about them once in a while. From what I could make out from their conversations, they were both killed and thrown into the river Sonali that flows through both of us.

You came into being as my enemy. But I could never find a reason to hate you. Rather I am wording this letter to confess that I have fallen in love with you. I often ask Sonali about you. She says, you are beautiful with pretty daffodils blooming by your side and shiny pebbles and stones strewed on your breast. I look at you every day. I see the villagers walking on you… I wish I too could be united with you and unite the two villages, once again!

But I fear… What if they come to know about my love for you? What if they destroy us just the way they destroyed those lovers? But still, I would choose to remain optimistic… I long to remain your lover and unite with you one day! I long to see the villages unite again. And I wish that we give birth to hundred other streets that connects everywhere – criss crossed, zig-zagged and what not! I wish, no barriers could seal us but rather we grow and lovingly intertwine with each other in every possible manner without any trace of enmity and hatred. I wish there exists nothing save love within us! I hope you shall reciprocate my love!

Yours Hopeful Lover

The Parallel Street of your adjacent village


Image Credit: Google Images

Image Credit: Google Images

Water water everywhere
But not a drop to drink

These lines of Coleridge seem to be so true in today’s context. Water is one of the most important natural resources available on this earth, or rather, in this whole world. We need it for every other activity in our daily lives, be it for drinking, cooking, cleaning or washing and what not!!! Yet we take water for granted most of the time, despite clearly knowing the fact that our water supply is limited. 97% of all the water on the earth is salt water which is not suitable for drinking. Only 3% of all the water is fresh water, and only 1% is available as drinking water.
Water is the very foundation of life. As the most intelligent and responsible beings dwelling on this earth, it is our duty to conserve water and preserve its quality for our future generations. Water conservation reduces the efforts and energy required to process and deliver water, which in turn helps in reducing pollution and in conserving other natural resources. It is also the most effective and environmental friendly method to fight global warming!

Image Credit: Google Images

Image Credit: Google Images

Water conservation needs to be a way of life, not just something that we think about once in a while. We can start this from our own kitchens. For instance, when washing dishes by hand, we should not leave the water running for rinsing. If there is a double-sink, we should fill one sink with soapy water and the other with rinse water or if there is a single sink, we should gather dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray or panful of hot water. For dishwashers, there is usually no need to pre-rinse the dishes. One should also ensure that the dishwasher and clotheswasher should be fully loaded for optimum water conservation. Hence it is very important that we start reducing wastage by using right methods, products and appliances in our kitchens.

One such company that is the pioneering manufacturer of products in the area of water purification and conservation is Kent RO Systems Ltd. Their unique product, the Kent tap guard is a cutting-edge innovation that prevents wastage of water in the filtering process itself. Another product by Kent is the Vegetable & Fruit Purifier, which ensures water conservation along with healthy washing of vegetables and fruits without the need of running tap water. The water used for rinsing fruits and vegetables can also be reused to water houseplants.
Every drop counts. Water conservation is not a job that is limited to the scientists, hydrologist, foresters, and farmers alone. It is a personal responsibility for each of us. We all must make a conscious commitment to change our lifestyles to conserve water. Maybe one day Coleridge will be forced to change his lines altogether…

Water water everywhere
And every drop to drink

Related Articles: blog.kent.co.in