From messed up wall to a beautiful painting….

IMG_6229

Ayush was not shy exactly but he was reluctant to ask the question publicly. Jey had just made an offer to the kids that they can ask him anything.

Ayush came to him and took him to the stairs and asked the pertinent question going on in almost every kid’s mind, ‘How to tackle the pressure from parents in terms of career selection?’

This question has a background. In Bihar or anywhere, parents want a secure career for their children and put immense pressure.

IMG_6188

Almost all the schools are under pressure to produce more engineers and doctors and Vidya Vihar residential school in purnea is no exception though they promote art and other activities in a massive way.

Jey asked other assembled kids whether they also have that question in their mind. Everyone kept quite which meant it was an important question.

Then we explained that one can follow his/her dreams even if they become doctor or engineer. We gave the example of Steve jobs (co-founder of apple who never completed his college), Atul gawande  (a well known surgeon who also write books) and many more.

We asked kids to imaging beyond the obvious and think of newer ways of tackling pressure. One of them was taking a teacher into confidence and talk to parents with an alternative career plan.

IMG_6271

The point of having an alternative plan excited everyone. We asked them to enjoy the paintings being made on the walls by other students who were interested in the painting.

In the school, we almost painted ten walls. Nine small walls by kids and One big wall ( 15×15 ft) by Meenakshi.

IMG_6165

We asked kids to paint something they haven’t seen yet. After the initial hesitation they came up with ideas such as….a man on a shuttlecock travelling in the sky……a bird giving birth to hand prints…..pink duck and a peacock together….green sea with a lighthouse and a scenery of night with trees in silhouettes.

IMG_6534

Quite extraordinary imagination..I would say….though few kids made an apple and a butterfly on their designated walls as they couldn’t create what they imagined. Nevertheless they enjoyed.

IMG_6538

 

IMG_6535

 

IMG_6536

 

IMG_6539

 

IMG_6537

 

 

IMG_6532

 

In two days of painting, we involved the administrative staff and teachers as well. They reacted very positively towards our request but the best reaction came from bablooji who took care of us with constant supply of tea, coffee and snacks.

IMG_6435

On second day when Meenakshi was finalizing the big painting, Bablooji came and said, ‘Madam, yesterday I thought you guys are messing up the wall but today it is looking so good. I don’t know what it is but it looks soothing and beautiful.’

IMG_6487

With that memorable reaction we ended our work in the school. It was time to move to a village to learn something new.

We will write about that learning soon.

IMG_6502

 

 

The story of an Incomplete Painting…

School was in a bad stateThe journey towards Muzaffarpur started with Rain. We were drenched and reached late to the school where we were supposed to paint.

We wanted to paint in a school which is deprived or under privileged. People suggested us to paint in any school in the red light area named Chaturbhuj Sthan. We were put in touch with a local leader who promised to help. We wanted to paint with sex workers as well and share their joys and troubles with our audience but we were unable to convince the concerned authority for any help.

kids playing hopscotch

In India, Prostitution is still illegal so we understand the dilemma. We reached our destination crossing the crowded markets of Muzaffarpur city which is also famous for the litchi fruit and also for Hindi poets like Late Suryakant Tripathi Nirala and Late Pandit Jananki vallabh shastri.

We got to know that Muzaffarpur is also known for the deadly mosquitoes which are called Machhar, hence Muzaffarpur is also called as Macchapur jokingly.

kids eating mid day meal

We reached the dingy, dirty and utterly disorganized school where the local leader was waiting for us with the principal and one teacher.

There were 40 students of different ages sitting together in one room. The school had no toilet and the children used the nearby Sulabh Shauchalaya for bathing and other purposes. When Meenakshi needed the use the toilet, she was forced to use the men’s toilet because of the intolerable stench and clogged toilets for the females.

food was not great

We started interacting with students and played with them Kit Kit also called hopscotch. Students were really poor and most of them came to school to get free food. They were a bit difficult to handle as they kept shouting all along.

We tried to make blocks where we planned to paint Hindi and English alphabet puzzles.

This kid was smart

We ensured that each child painted at least one block. Jey kept asking kids to keep quite but everyone was so excited and they started fighting to paint.

It really went haywire at some point when few girls started fighting and there was no one to manage them. Teachers kept sitting in their chairs chatting among themselves.

After two and half hours of struggle the situation went really chaotic. Meenakshi got really annoyed with the non cooperation of the teachers and decided to pack up and leave without finishing her painting.

Now the painting startsmore and more kids joined

We came out of the school and got surrounded by the local people. They started complaining about the teachers.

We kept quite. We knew about the teachers in Bihar. There are good ones but there are also teachers who came to school just to collect their salary.

everyone got a chance

We were told that this is one of those schools where teachers only came to receive their salary.

We didn’t react to anything as we were upset because of our half done painting.

It was for the first time in our two and half year journey that we left a painting incomplete.

It was sad but we couldn’t have helped. God save those kids who were handled by such teachers.

Jey helped kids

Building blocks of life….and much more

When we have great hosts we end up painting more. That’s what happened in Amnour village of Vaishali. so this blog will have more pictures and endless pleasure we had in the rural setting.

Meenakshi preparing the colrs

The work in Amnour started with Meenakshi arranging and mixing the colors.

Kids ready to paint

Next Jey had to help kids to prepare for the painting. Meenakshi is making the basic sketch.

The hand prints

Awesome kid, one of the youngest from LKG wanted to color the whole wall then suddenly she wanted to pose.

rabbits and snails

Now some serious work. Elder kids came forward to fine tune the hand print painting made by nursery kids.

Everyone will paint

Rural life- A Tree, a house, a rabbit, a snail, sky, flowers…all painted with the help of hand prints.

Building blocks

The school is few years old and still the buildings are in progress. Meenakshi got this idea of building blocks from there…and why not.Schools are also building blocks of life.

painting completed with hand printsMeanwhile kids from the nursery completed their painting. They are fast. now they wanted to do more…

the kodak moment

Hey Jey…Click my picture……Kids are smart these days….everyone got the chance to paint one block at least.

waiting for their chance

Mera Number Kab Aayega….Oh Sorry..these kids are asking…When will we get the chance to paint….Meenakshi said-SOON and they surely painted their share of blocks.

The completed oneAlmost completed Blocks. It was not easy controlling kids but we managed to work with 150 kids.

Help from another painter

Shamshad is a local painter who came forward to make the black outlines…Tough job but he felt appreciate by us.

The group photo

All the kids of the school..They came for the group photo. You can see the long wall with blocks giving a wavy feeling.

Lets go to school

Next Day….New wall …same school….Typical Meenakshi’s idea to paint kids going to school. This time teachers painted.

One more sketch

Meenakshi made the primary sketch and then fine tuned the whole work. lot to do…but Meenakshi was determined.detailed

The work….Lets go to school in full detail. Happy kids going to school. It looks awesome ..Isn’t it?

Masti time

And Now the Masti time….Jey and Meenakshi…..Lets do the photo session…..where is the cameraman

more funWe wanted to capture the happiness we were feeling. Jey was saying…….guess guess……I love you Meenakshi.

Complete one

And Yes the whole picture of Lets Go to School…Before I forgot to upload the full picture.

Meenakshi with building blocks

Meenakshi wanted to get her photo clicked with the Building blocks…She liked this one….

with the host shekhar

Here is Shekhar, Our friend and host. we came to paint one wall….and ended up painting three…all because of him. our eyes were moist when we said goodbye to Shekhar.

More fun by Jey

I liked the Lets go to school Idea most so ……I got one more picture with that painting.

Last pic but not the leastLast Picture but not the least… Our Bihar-Jharkhand rural India trip is still one. Hope to meet wonderful people and make amazing murals on the walls and in the hearts of people we meet.

Smileys…music and expressions…

Meenakshi explaining about our work to teachers

Meenakshi explaining about our work to teachers

Location: Saint Paul’s school, Boring Canal Road Patna.

Time- 9.00 am

Meenakshi and Jey meeting the teachers who have been asked to come for few hours.

Their reactions before meeting us (which they themselves told us later)

Teacher 1- Who are they? We have lot of other work to do.

School was getting prepared for the new session.

School was getting prepared for the new session.

Teacher 2- Oh, another useless workshop.

Teacher 3- I was curious about you guys. I wanted to learn something new

Teacher 4- We had to check answer sheets. Why are we called for this. What is this thing?

They painted smileys as well.

They painted smileys as well.

Teacher 5- I thought you guys will teach us some paper and scissor work.

Teacher 6- Waste of time. Don’t understand why we were called from home.

Teacher 7- Oh no, not again. No more workshops.

Teachers decided to paint Alphabets with a twist

Teachers decided to paint Alphabets with a twist

Frankly speaking teachers had no idea about what we do and how we do it. No one told us that we travel on a Green bullet and we have travelled many schools

They didn’t know that we do not do workshop. We do not teach.

 

Actually we learn from them and help them make their school good. So for three hours we painted on the walls with the help of these teachers only.

They painted hindi alphabets as well.

They painted hindi alphabets as well.

They proposed the idea of marine life, facial expressions with alphabets and the musical instruments. Meenakshi helped with the colour scheme and designs.

They wasted a bit of color but at the end of the day their reaction was something like this.

Teaches who were reluctant get involved deeply

Teaches who were reluctant get involved deeply

Teacher 1- I loved it.

Teacher 2- I never imagined, I can paint.

Teacher 3- I learnt something new.

Teacher 4- I would like to do something like you guys do.

Meenakshi with all her smiles.

Meenakshi with all her smiles.

Teacher 5- It’s not wastage of time. This is interesting.

Teacher 6- I think we can paint all the walls in the school.

The idea proposed by Meenakshi an executed by teachers. the human figures by Meenakshi

The idea proposed by Meenakshi an executed by teachers. the human figures by Meenakshi

Teacher 7- Thanks for coming. We really enjoyed (all teachers in chorus almost)

Do I need to write more….

Now the time for Group photo.

Now the time for Group photo.

Epilogue- Next day few teachers brought their kids as well to paint on some more walls.

 

Meenakshi at work. feeling happy.

Meenakshi at work. feeling happy.

 

 

गोलियां, बंदूक और रंग…ये जहानाबाद है.

meenakshi explaining about art to the kids

जहानाबाद भी चलना है. बहुत ही गरीब बच्चे वहां आप दोनों का इंतज़ार कर रहे हैं. हमारे मित्र निराला जी ने जब जहानाबाद का नाम लिया तो हमारी पहली प्रतिक्रिया थी कि जहानाबाद तो नक्सली इलाक़ा है और दूर भी होगा न पटना से
उन्होंने कहा नहीं नहीं बगल में ही है.

वाकई सिर्फ पचास किलोमीटर पटना से दूर है जहानाबाद जो कुछ साल पहले तक ही नक्सलियों का मज़बूत गढ़ माना जाता था.
थोड़ा डर भी लगा लेकिन तय किया गया कि मुठेर गांव के बच्चों से मिला जाएगा.

पटना से निकलते ही परसा, डुमरी और तरेगना और ऐसे ही कई नाम हमें बिल्कुल गांव वाले माहौल में ले गए थे. सड़क के एक तरफ रेलवे लाइन और दूसरी तरफ खेत ही खेत.

colours colours and colours

मुख्य हाईवे से सटा हुआ है मुठेर गांव. गलियों से होकर स्कूल पहुंचे तो बच्चे उत्सुकता से इंतज़ार में थे.

हमने काम तुरंत शुरु किया. मीनाक्षी ने कुछ कुछ बताना और मैंने कुछ कुछ पूछना.

बच्चों में आत्मविश्वास की इतनी कमी थी कि वो अपना नाम भी बताने में डर रहे थे. किसी बच्ची ने कहा कि डांसर बनना चाहती हूं तो सब हंस पड़े.

हमने समझाया कि ये हंसने की बात नहीं है. बच्चों के मुश्किल से पेंटिंग के लिए तैयार किया गया.

 

 

ऐसा नहीं था कि वो पेंटिंग करने के लिए तैयार नहीं थे लेकिन वो डरे हुए थे कि पता नहीं हम उनसे क्या करने को कह दें.

फिर हमने कल्पनाओं के घोड़े दौड़ाए और बच्चों से कहा कि उन्हें जो मन है वो बनाएं..तो सुझाव आए….बंदूक, टैंक, डाकू, फूल, जेवर, डॉक्टर का आला, जोकर.

बंदूक और डाकू का सुझाव सुनकर मैंने और मीनाक्षी ने एकबारगी ही एक दूसरे को देखा तो साथ में आए पंकज ने कहा कि अरे मैं बताता हूं
पंकज ने बताया कि गांव का नाम मुठेर भी संभवत मुठभेड़ से आया है क्योंकि यहां अक्सर पुलिस और नक्सलियों की मुठभेड़ें हुआ करती थीं.
कितना सच है ये तो नहीं पता लेकिन हां इस बातचीत के दौरान गांव के मुखिया ने साफ साफ कहा कि कुछ ही दिन पहले इन स्कूलों में शाम घिरते ही नक्सलियों का कब्ज़ा हो जाया करता था.aeroplane

 

ज़ाहिर है गांव के भी कई परिवार नक्सली हो गए थे लेकिन अब स्थिति बेहतर है.

शायद ये एक कारण था कि बच्चों ने डाकू और बंदूकें पेंट करने का सुझाव दिया होगा. जिस बच्चे ने डाकू बनाने का सुझाव दिया उसका कहना था कि डाकू सबसे ताकतवर होता है.

खैर हमने डाकू तो नहीं बनाया लेकिन बंदूक और टैंक ज़रुर बने दीवारों पर.

गांव के मुखिया पेंटिंग्स के कार्यक्रम से इतने खुश थे कि पेंटिंग के दौरान उन्होंने भी कहा, ‘क्या मैं भी कहीं रंग भर सकता हूं.’
मीनाक्षी ने कहा क्यों नहीं…तो हुआ यूं कि बच्चों के साथ बड़े भी लग गए.

kids playing on the walls

बच्चों के साथ समय कम बीता. शाम हुई और जब रंग समेटन लगे तो हमने देखा कि कई बच्चे जो क्लास में बिल्कुल चुप थे वो क्लास के अंदर अपने ही मन से दीवारों को रंग रहे थे.

देर हो रही थी. सामान समेटना था. बच्चों ने वादा किया कि वो पेंटिंग्स पूरा करेंगे.

Our hari bhari bullet with kids

 

जो बच्चे सुबह में अपना नाम भी बोलने में शर्मा रहे थे, डर रहे थे वो अब मीनाक्षी से रंग और ब्रश मांग रहे थे.

हमने रंग और ब्रश दिए और बच्चों से ये वादा लेकर आए कि वो स्कूल को सुंदर बनाएंगे.

रास्ते भर कई बच्चे हरी भरी यानी हमारी बुलेट के पीछे भाग कर आते रहे और हिप हिप हुर्रे कहते रहे…जो हमने ही उन्हें सिखाया था.

हिप हिप हुर्रे…….

IMG_5845

Going back to the Roots…

The new cartoon by Ashok Adepal

The new cartoon by Ashok Adepal

अगर हम अंग्रेज़ होते तो लिखते कि Travelling to the most notorious part of India, which is Bihar. लेकिन हम अभी अंंग्रेज़ नहीं हुए हैं तो कहना ये है कि इस बार यात्रा बिहार और झारखंड की है. जो हम दोनों के लिए जड़ोंं की ओर लौटने जैसा है.

झारखंड-बिहार की यात्रा को लेकर डरे हुए तो नहींं हैं लेकिन हां आर्टोलॉग और उसके रिस्पांस को लेकर थोड़ी दुविधा ज़रुर है. इस बार मामला थोड़ा अलग भी है.

वैसे इस दुविधा को दूर करने के लिए विकास कुमार ने खूब तस्वीरें खींची. हम अक्सर जब तनाव में होते हैं तो विकास आ जाता है और फोटो खींच कर मन हल्का कर देता है. सारी तस्वीरें विकास की ही ली हुई हैं.

Meenakshi did this quick painting in deer park.

Meenakshi did this quick painting in deer park. Picture Credit- Vikas Kumar

बिहार में वो लोग हमारी मदद कर रहे हैं जिनसे फेसबुक के ज़रिए मित्रता हुई है और उन्होंंने आर्टोलॉग को बिहार ले चलने की बात की. चाहे वो गिरिन्द्र हों, बिदेशिया रंग हों, अमित आनंद हों या फिर शेखर हर्षवर्धन हों.

जाना इलाहाबाद, बनारस भी था लेकिन छु्ट्टियां इतनी भी नहीं मिलती है.

वैसे हम जानते हैं कि यात्रा शुरु होते ही जे के लिए वो ही सवाल फिर आएंगे. उन्हें इतनी छुट्टी कैसे मिल जाती है…आपसे इर्ष्या होती है आदि आदि.

In a foggy morning in Deer park, Delhi.

In a foggy morning in Deer park, Delhi.

इन सवालोंं से इतर जे चिंतित है अपनी बुलेट को लेकर. गियर बॉक्स की समस्या पूरी तरह से दूर नहीं हुई है.

कल ट्रेन है और बुलेट को एक बार फिर मैकेनिक के पास ले जाना है. सबसे अधिक तनाव जे को उसी का है.

खैर रास्ता कुछ यूंं है पटना से वैशाली….वैशाली से मुज़फ्फरपुर……मुज़फ्फरपुर से महिषी…..महिषी से पूर्णिया…पूर्णिया से भागलपुर…..और भागलपुर से रांची.

2 and 2 four...

2 and 2 four…

अब इस रास्ते में जिसे जहां रोकना हो रोक ले मिल ले…पेंटिंग हर जगह कर पाएंगे इसकी गारंटी नहीं है.

लेकिन हां आर्टोलॉग के बारे में बात ज़रुर कर पाएंगे. कोई एक रात रोक ले…कोई दिन का भोजन करवा दे…कोई रात का खाना खिलवा दे…

समझिए कुछ जिप्सियों जैसा ही मामला रहेगा.

Meenakshi feels happy when she is painting

Meenakshi feels happy when she is painting

भागलपुर से रांची के बीच में कहीं रुकने की जगह अभी तक मिली नहीं है. अगर उस रास्ते में कोई मित्र हो तो हमें रोक सकता है. एक रात उनके घर बिताएंगे.

बाद बाकी झारखंड में जे रहे हैं लंबे समय तक. जमशेदपुर के पास जादूगोड़ा में और मीनाक्षी भागलपुर के पास सुल्तानगंज  में.

Meenakshi is engrossed in the canvas

Meenakshi is engrossed in the canvas

इस यात्रा में अपनी जड़ों से सीखने को बहुत कुछ मिलेगा. इसी उम्मीद में यात्रा शुरु करते हैं और आपसे मांगते हैं शुभकामनाएंं.

हमारे रंग अब शुरु होते हैं. ठीक होली के बाद…हमारी रंगोंं की होली कई हफ्तों तक चलेगी.

so we are done with the shoot.

so we are done with the shoot.

World through pillion rider’s eyes

As we are starting a new journey of artologue, Meenakshi Jey is taking you through another world. A world seen by a Pillion rider. You must have read the world of a rider, a motorcycle but this is the world of a pillion rider, her perils, her problems and her enjoyments.

The new cartoon by Ashok Adepal

The new cartoon by Ashok Adepal

Travelling, that now seems an integral part of my life, was something that I hardly enjoyed till I met Jey. I was an absolute misfit for any kinds of travel as within minutes of starting the journey, I would dose off. No matter how fascinating the view, how bumpy the ride, how torturous the weather and how

the seating was, I would instantly slip into hibernation mode. My father relentlessly coaxed me to look out and stay awake by bombarding me with interesting historical facts about the places but all in vain. Now five years in the company of Jey and Green Bullet, I can’t really recall why and how I started enjoying the journeys. I don’t exactly know when I learnt the art of dreaming with eyes open.

On the bullet, little help from Meenakshi

On the bullet, little help from Meenakshi

Sitting on the back seat of my darling Green Bullet and in the company of Jey, I often live a dreamy life. I imagine running across the lush green and golden fields, rocky hills, sandy beaches, exuberant forests while Jey is fully (hopefully) focusing on road. Enjoying the light and shadow game of sun and clouds, observing the images and patterns they form, clicking photographs of human-like-feature formation of hills and weaving stories about their creation is my favourite job as a pillion rider.

Since we travel long distances quite frequently, before we start our journey, we both experience anxieties concerning different issues. While Jey would worry about the traffic, road condition, and time duration, I worry about the weather, food and comfort during our long road journeys. Sitting behind is quite relaxing than driving. I feel it is true even when someone loves riding because the rider can’t really enjoy the scenery (fully as they pass by quickly and riders can’t and must not turn back to adore them), the momentary magical instances, and camouflaged treasures of nature. Besides enjoying the nature, I, as the pillion rider, have the luxury to wander away in my imaginary world (of course with eyes open) as often as I wish, unlike the rider who has to be fully alert for any surprise on road.

Sometimes I need a push as well

Sometimes Green Bullet need a push as well

Also, in our case, I take the privilege of waving off to the children and people cheering to us on stranger roads. Waving hands to the people, showing victory signs to other riders and blowing kisses to kids is something that Jey misses on to. It is elating to see the excitement of school going children dressed in uniform shouting to attract our attention. Those smiles and cheers and at times ugly remarks, not just energise us but also break the monotony of the roads.

If I am giving an impression that being a pillion rider on long road journeys is all fun, then I must confess it is not so.
As a pillion rider and an obsessively concerned wife, I have to ensure a number of things for safety measures during the journeys. On the roads I ensure that we both stay hydrated, energized, comfortable and alert. As the hours pass and sun rises higher, cold water is my first safety measure.

You can see ie Green Bullet and Jey and Meenakshi in background

You can see ie Green Bullet and Jey and Meenakshi in background

In all weathers, cold water not just hydrates us, it also forces Jey to stop at regular intervals to pee. These short breaks are critical for the long run for us as well as for the Green Bullet. While we stretch our limbs, straiten our backs, Bullet cools down to be ready for the newer roads. Also these short breaks give us a chance to connect to the local area, talk to the people and make necessary re-arrangements and refills for the rest of the journey.

Another, my personal favorite, safety trick up my sleeves to keep my companion energized and alert is citrus fruits. Citrus nature is a necessary condition for me to carry a fruit on our journeys. Jey has a high metabolic rate, that means he is like those supermodels who are blessed with slim frame regardless of their diet. People of this category, eat little, eat frequently and digest quickly, so they need to eat more often than the people with moderate or low metabolic rate.

travelling in rajasthan

travelling in rajasthan

Besides the cold water and citrus fruit tricks, as a pillion rider, I have to be in absolute synchronization with Jey. Reading face or body language is not a tough task if it is not from behind. Sitting behind Jey, it is difficult to read and immediately and appropriately reacting to restlessness of Jey; a scratch here, an itching there, a strained shoulder muscle, a slight pain in the lower back, a flying face covering, all unsaid troubles ought to be attended unasked.

During out travels I have to rely heavily on my intuitions about the comforts and discomforts of Jey because there are times when we can hardly hear each other. By attending to these things, I ensure that our travels be comfortable as well as our stays.

While reading a sign of discomfort is important, to be able to sense torpor is crucial. Often an arid region, a sunny afternoon, post-lunch rides, monotonous stretch, empty road sides and warm weather makes us feel low. Feeling bored and tired, we stop talking to each other. It is during these times of our journeys when our body and minds are close to hibernation mode, any surprise on road could prove fatal. And then I have to be my wild self. I (with enormous efforts which is difficult to fathom) start singing cheap popular songs often enacted by Govinda; lyrics that lighten our moods and tickles our imaginations. These songs are the best way to stay awake, alert and ‘up’, and to be able to enjoy every bit of our long road journeys.

The bike painted on the wall was our high point

The bike painted on the wall was our high point

I personally feel that having a female (or minor) as a pillion rider is very strenuous for a male rider in comparison to having an adult male. The reason being that a male rider (in a patriarchal society) innately considers himself responsible for the safety and security of the female/ minor pillion rider. However in our case, I ensure that being a companion of the life journey of Jey, I should also be an equally responsible companion on our road journeys.

There have been quite a few instances when our Bullet broke down on the way, we ran short of petrol or lost our way. Those were the moments when Jey gets very tense and I, despite being a xenophobic (I suffer from strange attacks of palpitation and perspiration when I am alone in an unfamiliar place or among unfamiliar faces) I try to brave my fears of foreign elements.

Preparing for the travel to south

Preparing for the travel to south

Jey has to ensure the safety of the Bullet and his wife and also reach a help as soon as possible. In these cases we push and pull our Bullet on rough and unknown roads to the nearest service stations, in one case the nearest service station was over a kilometer away. As happened in Goa in 2014, our Bullet broke and showing a rare sense of humor and optimism, I stated thanking god for not getting us stranded in a worst place or condition. Such words, however illogical in the given circumstances, give us courage to face troubles with zeal. I started pushing the Bullet from behind while Jey was pulling and steering it forward. After a kilometers push to the nearest service station we nearly collapsed in the after-noon humid heat of Goa. It was a test of my endurance and optimism but I felt incredibly good for not being a burden on Jey.

The same year there was another similar incident when we ran short of petrol. We were in the outskirts of Banglore, stuck in heavy highway traffic with enormous trucks and buses honking crazily from all sides. We could not stop for there was no way we could stop amidst such crazy traffic and there was no escape route to leave the highway and pull over on the sides because the highway lane was fenced with over three feet high concrete dividers. But somehow I managed by jumping the concrete dividers and buying petrol on the roadside.

Another day in our lives

Another day in our lives

However besides the safety measures and worries there is another aspect of our journey that as a female pillion rider I would like to share.

On the way back from Pahalgam (Kashmir) to New Delhi, we got stuck on a 12 km long traffic jam near Jawahar Tunnel. On a sunny afternoon we tried making our way through the snake like lines of buses, trucks and innumerable vehicles on a ‘high’ highway. Many men, women and children looked curiously at two people with green helmets on green Bullet, red wind cheaters and blue dungarees. Many inquired from Jey about the purpose and duration of our journey and cheered us until I took off my helmet and face covering.

Within seconds the reactions and gestures of people changed. Women started talking loud and pin-pointing at me for other to not-miss-the spectacle and men began sharing their concern about dangers of travelling on a bike with a lady. Many, out of sympathy, advised Jey to opt for safer mode of transport for my safety. Initially I felt a little awkward but decided to enjoy the attention of the people. I started smiling back at men and women and youngsters alike who were staring at my hair pleated in two braids falling to my thighs and vermilion mark on my head. Perhaps it was due to the fact that Jey was with a Lady pillion rider, few men came forward relieving me of pushing the bike and ensured that we clear pass the traffic jam by making way for us. I very much loved the attention and concern both.

One of those intimate moments

One of those intimate moments

Besides these there is a fun part that tickles me even now. There have been instances when I needed to pee and we were in the middle of nowhere. Raised up in a big home with four toilets, I ran from one to another whenever I felt the need to do so. A rural fantasy of peeing or poo in the open never really suited my asocial nature. But on our journey from Hampi to Banglore, on a lush green stretch with sea on one side and forest on other, I felt an uncontrollable urge to pee.

The beginning of journey was not easy

The beginning of journey was not easy

We found no house for over a couple of kilometers and finally Jey advised me to take refuge in the greenery of forest. For the first time, I had no other option but to try this new thing in my life. Every time I found a dense enough bush to squat, I realized there were colonies of ants or termites. Running from one place to another, I was losing control over my bowl. Completely unnerved and vexed, I finally stopped looking for a bush and sat at a non-grassy patch of soil to pee. Unbuttoning my dungaree and quivering with the thought of being seen, I relieved myself.

Just as I was to stand up, I realized there was a mongoose staring at me. A chill ran up my spine and I screamed as if I saw a lion and ran to Jey who was waiting for me near the Bullet. I narrated all that I suffered looking for an appropriate spot to pee and he went crazy laughing for a long time.

I was totally embarrassed but a little more experienced. I love these journeys because the travels teach us as much as the stays with the strangers who become our families.

The first cartoon by ashok adepal

The first cartoon by ashok adepal

जेल के करतब और कलाकार होने का अनुभव

हमारी हरी बुलेट डासना जेल के गेट पर रुकने ही वाली थी कि सिपाही ने डपटा, ‘इधर किधर जाय रहे हो.’  हमने कहा जेलर साब ने बुलाया है.

पूछताछ हुई. बड़ा सा ताला खुला. मोबाइल फोन जब्त किए गए. बैग ले लिया गया और हाथों में लगाया गया स्टांप. जैसे डिस्को वगैरह में जाने पर लगता है.

जेल सुपरिटेंडेंट शिव प्रकाश यादव, बेहद मिलनसार. कहा, आप जैसा कहेंगे वैसी व्यवस्था हो जाएगी. बस मोबाइल, जेल परिसर में नहीं जाएगा. पेंटिंग्स की तस्वीरों के लिए कैमरा ले जा सकेंगे.

हमने कहा ज़रा हमारी हरी बुलेट प्रांगण में बढ़िया से पार्क हो जाती तो अच्छा रहता. अनुमति मिली तो वापस गए.

The Green One

The Green One

अब बाहर बैठे पुलिस वाले ने हमारे लंबे बालों…….हरी बुलेट और मिलिट्रीनुमा वर्दी को देखकर जो सवाल पूछा वो अभूतपूर्व था.

सिपाही साहब बोले- ‘इ करतब वाली बुलेट है न.’ इससे पहले कि हम कुछ कहते वो फिर बोले, ‘करतब यहीं दिखाओगे या जेल के भीतर.’

हमारी हंसी ऐसी छूटी कि बंद ही न हो. हमने कहा- अरे हम लोग पेंटिंग करने आए हैं……करतब दिखाने नहीं.

खैर अंदर डिप्टी जेलर हरबंस पांडे ने चक्कर लगवाया. किशोर अपराधियों के वार्ड से लेकर, महिलाओं की बैरक और मुख्य कैदियों की बैरक देखने के बाद हमने तय किया कि शुरुआत किशोरों के वार्ड से की जाए.

We reached the jail early in the morning

We reached the jail early in the morning

नूपुर तलवार से मिलना

हां बताना भूल गए..जेल सुपरिटेंडेंट के कमरे में एक महिला मिली. मुझे चेहरा जाना पहचाना सा लगा.

इससे पहले कि कुछ कहता, जेल सुपरिटेंडेंट बोले, ‘इनसे मिलिए… ये नुपुर तलवार हैं.’ मीनाक्षी ने चहकते हुए कहा, ‘आप पेंटिंग कीजिएगा हमारे साथ.’ नुपुर ने अंग्रेज़ी में जवाब दिया था, ‘नहीं नहीं….मैं आर्टिस्ट नहीं हूं.‘ उनके हाथ में किताब थी. पता चला वो जेल के प्रशासनिक कार्यों में मदद करती हैं कई अन्य कैदियों की तरह.

ठहरी हुई आंखे कहीं उदासी में घूम रही होंगी. जेल में दो चार बार उनसे सामना हुआ. महिलाओं के वार्ड में मीनाक्षी ने उनसे एक बार फिर कहा….ज्वाइन अस, लेकिन वो मुस्कुरा कर मना कर गईं. उस मुस्कुराहाट में उदासी घुली थी या उपेक्षा…हम समझ नहीं पाए.

जेल अधिकारियों ने बताया कि राजेश और नुपुर जेल में दांतों के डॉक्टर का काम भी करते हैं.

(जिन्हें नहीं मालूम उनके लिए…नुपुर और राजेश तलवार मृतक आरुषि के मां बाप हैं और डासना में सज़ा काट रहे हैं.)

the painting completed in few hours

the painting completed in few hours

नंबरदार और पीले कपड़े

हां एक बात और…कई लोग पीले कपड़ों में दिखे. हमने पूछताछ जारी रखी तो पता चला ये सजायाफ्ता कैदी हैं. मुख्यत आजीवन कारावास. पीले कपड़े एक ड्रेस है जो नंबरदार पहनते हैं. नंबरदार यानी जेल प्रशासन की मदद करने वाले, कैदियों को मैनेज करने में.

इनमें से कई गंभीर अपराधों में सज़ा काट रहे हैं और जेल प्रशासन इनके अच्छे रवैय्ये को देखते हुए इन्हें नंबरदार बनाता होगा क्योंकि ये अपराधी संभवत लंबी सज़ा के कारण जेल में कुछ काम करना चाहते होंगे.

इनके अलावा कुछ कैदी राइटर्स भी कहे जाते हैं जिनके जिम्मे लिखा पढ़ी में मदद करना होता है. आगंतुकों को चाय पिलाना, भोजन कराना आदि. इन नंबरदारों और राइटरों से विनम्र लोग मैंने अपने जीवन में बहुत कम देखे थे. दो दिनों में लगा ही नहीं कि हम अपराधियों के साथ हैं.

खैर किशोरों के वार्ड में वरली आर्ट के नाचने वाले फिगर्स बनाए गए जिनके बारे में यहां पढ़ा जा सकता है.

painting in the women cell was energy sapping for us.

painting in the women cell was energy sapping for us.

महिला वार्ड की दिक्कतें

दोपहर का खाना जेल में भी खाना था. हम डर रहे थे कि पता नहीं खाना कैसा होगा लेकिन शुद्ध शाकाहारी बेहतरीन भोजन. हां रह रह के बचपन का वो गीत ज़रुर याद आ रहा था…..’’अब तो जेल में जाना पड़ेगा जेल का रोटी खाना पड़ेगा.’’

दोपहर में पेंटिंग करने के लिए महिला वार्ड में गए. महिलाएं मुश्किल से तैयार हुईं और एक बार जो हुईं तो फिर दीवार पर जो मन आया उनका, वो बनाती चली गईं.

यहां काम अधिक मुश्किल था क्योंकि अठारह बच्चों को भी संभालना पड़ा. महिला कैदियों में अहं का टकराव अधिक था. शायद गुटबाजी भी थी.

सिमरन और उसके साथी एक दृश्य बना रहे थे तो बीच में एक और कैदी ने आकर बड़ा सा गुलाब का फूल बना दिया. झिक झिक होते बची. शाम के समय अंडे, पकौड़े, स्पेशल सब्जी बेचने के लिए लोग आए जो महिला कैदी खरीद सकते थे.

हम ये पूछना भूल गए कि इसके लिए पैसे कहां से मिलते हैं. शायद मुलाकात के दौरान परिवार वाले देते होंगे. हमने अनुमान ही लगाया.

Various design carved by prisoners.

Various design carved by prisoners.

रिहाई का परवाना

पेंटिंग करने के दौरान एक पुलिसवाला कोई चिट लेकर आया तो महिलाओं में खुशी की लहर दौड़ पड़ी…आवाज़ आई…तुम्हारा परवाना आ गया..परवाना आ गया…

परवाना मतलब रिहाई की सूचना. शाम तक संभवत रिहाई हो जानी थी उन महिला की.

शाम के समय डिप्टी जेलर के कमरे में कैदियों की रिहाई का नज़ारा ज़िंदगी का एक बड़ा सबक साबित हुआ.

हम कमरे में बैठे थे तभी एक नंबरदार आया और उसने फाइलें ठीक कर के मेज पर रखना शुरु किया. एकदम यंत्रवत, फाइलों के बाद कलम रखा गया और सफेद बोर्ड पर रिहा होने वाले कैदियों की संख्या लिखी गई.

डिप्टी जेलर आए. कुर्सी पर बैठे. फाइल से नाम पुकारा…नंबरदार एक पुरुष कैदी की बाईं कलाई पकड़ कर लाया. क़ैदी की शर्ट उतार दी गई थी.

फिर तो सवालों का झटपट सिलसिला शुरु हुआ…नाम…बाप का नाम..मां का नाम..कितने बच्चे हैं…बच्चों के नाम..पूरा पता बताओ….किस आरोप में थे..कौन से थाने से आए हो…और कोई मामला है या नहीं….किस तारीख को जेल में आए थे..

इन सवालों के जवाब कैदी को देने होते थे. ये सवाल खत्म होते ही जेलर आधे सवाल पूछता जिसका जवाब नंबरदार देते और वो सवाल होते कुछ यूं.

दाईं बांह…..नंबरदार कहता- तिल का निशान…

बाएं भुजदंड पर…नंबरदार कहता- ऊं गुदा हुआ.

बाईं गाल पर….नंबरदार कहता…दो मस्से एक साथ.

हाथों पर ….नंबरदार कहता….कटने के निशान.

ये पहचान के निशान थे जो रजिस्टर में दर्ज़ थे और जेलर, नंबरदार की मदद से पुष्ट कर रहे थे कि सही आदमी को ही रिहा किया जा रहा है या नहीं.

आखिरी सवाल होता, जेलर का- मोबाइल नंबर. कैदी को अपना मोबाइल नंबर बताना होता.

कोई चालीस पचास कैदी रिहा हुए होंगे उस शाम. हम दोनों की सांसे अटकी हुई थीं. अधिकतर कैदी जवान थे …20 से 26 साल के. झगड़ा, मारपीट, अपहरण जैसे मामलों में बंद थे. जमानत पर रिहा हो रहे थे. अधिकतर शादीशुदा थे..एक दो लड़के….लंबे समय के बाद रिहा हो रहे थे दो तीन साल बाद. उनके चेहरे पर हल्की सी खुशी थी.

रिहाई खत्म करने के बाद डिप्टी जेलर ने हम दोनों को देखा और पूछा, कैसा रहा ये अनुभव?

ये अनुभव हम दोनों को अंदर तक हिला देने वाला था. दोनों ही चुप रहे. डिप्टी जेलर मुस्कुराए और बोले ज्यादातर अपराधी हैं…कुछेक बेकसूर भी होंगे लेकिन हम क्या कर सकते हैं.

The long wall got geometrical designs by prisoners.

The long wall got geometrical designs by prisoners.

फेसबुक और साहित्य

कुछ क्षणों के लिए मौन पसरा रहा. फिर उन्होंने कहा, ‘चलिए सुपरिटेंडेट साहब घर पर आपका इंतज़ार कर रहे हैं.’

जेल से सटे हुए बंगले में खाने पर बातचीत हुई फेसबुक से लेकर हिंदी साहित्य के बारे में. शिव प्रकाश यादव जी की साहित्य में रुचि देखकर अच्छा लगा. घर में छोटी मोटी लाइब्रेरी बना रखी है उन्होंने.

दूसरे दिन पेंटिंग का काम जेल के मुख्य हिस्से में था जिसे सर्कल कहा जाता है. हमारी मदद के लिए अजय, कृष्णा और विवेक थे जो पहले से ही जेल में पेंटिंग कर रहे थे. उन्होंने कुछ दीवारों पर दृश्य भी बनाए थे.

अजय और कृष्णा ने बच्चों के वार्ड में पेंटिंग में हमारी मदद की ही थी. मुख्य वार्ड में लंबी दीवार पहले ही सफेद की जा चुकी थी.

हमने काम शुरु किया तो चारों तरफ से कैदियों ने घेर लिया. पेंटिंग के लिए तो कोई राज़ी नहीं था लेकिन सब देखने के लिए खड़े ज़रुर थे.

मीनाक्षी के बार बार आग्रह करने पर सबसे पहले अनुज ने ब्रश उठाया और एक आकृति बनाने लगा. फिर तो कैदियों को रोकना मुश्किल हो गया.

जिसे जहां मन हुआ वहीं अपनी कलाकारी दिखाने लगा. उनकी ये कलाकारी यहां पढ़ी और देखी जा सकती है.

Jey with the Jail superintendent Shiv prakash Yadav

Jey with the Jail superintendent Shiv prakash Yadav

जेल के पेंटर

हां अजय के बारे में बताना रह गया. अजय डकैती के आरोप में पांच साल से जेल काट रहा है. दुबला पतला सांवला अजय मिठुन चक्रवर्ती जैसा लगता है. मिठुन जवानी में ऐसा दिखता होगा. उससे खूब बातें हुई.

अजय 23 फरवरी को जेल से रिहा होगा. वो पेंटिंग करना चाहता है जेल से निकल कर. जेल लोगों को बदल देता है. अजय बदला है या नहीं मुझे मालूम नहीं लेकिन कई घंटों तक उसके साथ रहने के बाद हम ये कह सकते हैं कि उसने एक बार भी नज़र उठाकर बात नहीं की.

जेल के लोगों से उसे शिकायतें भी हो सकती हैं. मैंने बातों बातों में पूछा तो बोला अब क्या शिकायत. अब तो निकल जाएंगे तो कुछ अच्छा काम करेंगे.

All the painters of the jail. from left- Vivek, krishna, Ajay and Amit

All the painters of the jail. from left- Vivek, krishna, Ajay and Amit

कृष्णा अभी ट्रायल पर है. उस पर अपनी बीवी को मारने का आरोप है. इलेक्ट्रिक सामानों की दुकान बर्बाद हो गई. धीर गंभीर कृष्णा को नहीं पता जेल से कब छूटेगा लेकिन उम्मीद है उसे अभी तभी पेंटिंग करता है.

विवेक भी ऐसा ही एक है. एकदम चुप. तिहाड़ में पेंटिंग सीखी. अब डासना में है दूसरे मामले में. सधे हाथों वाले विवेक ने कहा, अगर छूट कर बाहर आया तो पेंटिंग का काम दिलवा दीजिएगा. हम इसी में करियर बनाना चाहते हैं.

अजय और विवेक आखिर में हमारे पास आए थे ये कहने कि उन्हें हम थोड़ा गाइड कर दें. हमने जो संभव था बता दिया कि हम लोग खुद भी अभी तक अपने आप को खोज रहे हैं.

थोड़ा सा ही कुछ बता पाए होंगे हुसैन, रज़ा और पिकासो, सुबोध गुप्ता के बारे में. हम इतना ही कह पाए कि तुम्हारे जैसा अनुभव दुनिया में किसी का नहीं होगा. उस अनुभव को अगर कैनवास पर उतार पाए तो तुम्हें बड़ा कलाकार होने से कोई रोक नहीं सकेगा.

Time for the group photo.

Time for the group photo.

Moments make you what you are…

The long wall got geometrical designs by prisoners.

The long wall got geometrical designs by prisoners.

Dasna jail broke all the myths we had about a jail. Actually till now, we had seen jails only in films. We expected the scenes of dreaded criminals, bad food, stern jailers beating the prisoners and barracks overflowing with shit.

Contrary to that, we found a very neat and clean jail campus where bad elements were guarded by the convicted ones in yellow dresses.

Food was off good quality and prisoners were given the jobs of their choice such as gardening, painting, stitching, legal help, making tea, helping jailers in other admin jobs.

We have been told that there are bad elements and everything is not perfect in any jail but Dasna jail authorities were trying hard to engage the prisoners in different activities.

We met Ajay, Krishna, Vivek and Amit here who were known as artists in the jail. They were to help us.

We chose an area known as circle in the jail. It’s literally a circle where deputy jailers sit and work. It’s hexagonal in shape. It is then circled by walls….as usual…Huge walls.

Various design carved by prisoners.

Various design carved by prisoners.

Probably those shapes inspired Meenakshi to make geometrical designs on the walls. Triangles, rectangles, circles and then prisoners were asked to improve and make their own designs.

The painters picked the brushes and colors. Others started watching it curiously. One of them was Anuj nicknamed Majnu Bhai by his friends. Meenakshi went to him and asked, ‘‘Why don’t you paint?’’

”No madam, Iam a powerlifter, never painted in life.”

”Try once.”

”No No..Iam fine.” Meenakshi pursued Majnu bhai relentlessly.

The power lifter’s hands were shaking when he dipped the brush in the color and started painting.

Anuj's hands were shaking when he painted

Anuj’s hands were shaking when he painted

Seeing him many others came forward to paint. Arun, Sanjeev, Amit….it was difficult to keep the track of names and their crimes.

By that time Ajay, Krishna and Vivek took the charge of guiding them with colors and Meenakshi decided to paint two fishes in the hexagonal structure.

Meenakshi's trademark signature.

Meenakshi’s trademark signature.

In between Jey was constantly talking to them and encouraging them. Many prisoners asked, ”Which NGO you work for and what is the message of these paintings.’’

We said, ‘We work on our own. The message is simple…you all are artist.’

One of the old prisoners looked at the paintings for a long time and said, ‘This is modern art……you can interpret them on your own way.’

We asked him, ‘Are you an artist?’ He smiled and walked away without saying a word.

In the male ward we painted a 50 ft wall with the help of prisoners.

In the male ward we painted a 50 ft wall with the help of prisoners.

When we finished, every prisoner wanted to get a photograph with us. The photo session went for 30 minutes and in between they told their stories.

Kidnapping, murder, fraud cases, dowry killings and what not..Mostly done in the heat of the moment, we felt. The agony, the regret was in their eyes.

Time for the group photo.

Time for the group photo.

It was time to leave. We packed our colors. Ajay who is finishing his five year jail on 23 February said, ‘I want to be an artist. Guide me please. ‘

The power lifter Anuj came with us to the main gate and said, ‘Take me with you. I will leave guns and paint with you guys.’

It was an emotional moment for all of us. They were emotional at that moment….maybe they were violent at some moment which landed them here.

We learnt an important lesson that day : Each moment is crucial in our lives. Moments are important in life. Moments make you what you are.

Goosebumps in the jail…

We reached the jail early in the morning

We reached the jail early in the morning

We were not exactly excited by the offer to paint in the Dasna jail with the prisoners. We were nervous, sceptical and worried about what is going to happen.

Jey was tense as he didn’t want this to happen like a media managed PR event where media gets a limited access to prisoners and all babus surround you all the time.

On a Saturday morning we started our 50 km journey to the jail via the crowded national highway 24, crisscrossing the over-crowded auto rickshaws and honking cars.

We were stopped at the gate of the jail and our bags were literally seized and our wrists stamped with the jail stamp. We were officially in the jail.

The wrist got stamped

The wrist got stamped

The superintendent of the jail Mr Shiv Prakas Yadav was a well read and friendly man who had invited us. He asked the deputy jailor Harbansh Pandey to give us a tour of the jail.

Painting started in the juvenile ward.

Painting started in the juvenile ward.

We started our first work in the juvenile ward of the jail. It was funny to wander in the jail premise. We have this image of jail where prisoners are beaten up, bad food and dreaded criminals.

Here we found nothing of that sort. Off course Meenakshi got few scary glances from some juveniles who were in the jail for heinous crimes such as murder and kidnapping.

Meenakshi decided to paint the dancing figures from the Warli art form. For the first time in the artologue project we had such enormous walls to paint; jails have walls….huge walls.

These are prisoners of the jail

These are prisoners of the jail

Jail authorities have provided us with two prisoners who have been painting in the jail Ajay and Krishna. Their job was to clean the walls and also involve other prisoners as initially we avoided the direct contact with the prisoners.

Once we made the outlines, many prisoners came forward and asked, ‘can we paint as well.’

Meenakshi replied, ‘Why not?’

The juvenile prisoners decided to increase the area of the painting and they started making figures with pencil. We stood and enjoyed the spectacle.

we did the sketch then prisoners filled the colors

we did the sketch then prisoners filled the colors

It was difficult to imagine that they were dreaded criminals.

With the juveniles, there was another barrack where some of the sensitive prisoners were staying.

One of them was a doctor named Vijay Verma. He came forward and explained, “Can we make something like a hand and butterflies?”

The guy in white is vijay verma the doctor

The guy in white is vijay verma the doctor

Vijay verma is a trained doctor who was in jail because of a medical scam in Uttar Pradesh. He has a four month old daughter. He wanted to paint something to stop the female foeticide. That’s why he gave the idea of butterflies and a pair hands.

the painting completed in few hours

the painting completed in few hours

We did the sketch and he filled the colors. I felt that he got emotional while painting. He asked about our Artologue project and said, ‘Please go to my house in lucknow. If I get bail in next few months, I will welcome you guys.’

While talking with him, we found out that many had picked the colours even the policemen who were there to protect us from the prisoners.

everyone contributed in the painting

everyone contributed in the painting

WOMEN CELL

Meenakshi thought that painting in the women cell would be easier which proved wrong.

It proved difficult to paint because there were 18 small kids along with 132 women to manage and one transgender too.

women in the jail

women in the jail

Simran was a transgender serving her life sentence. She was confident and readily agreed to paint on the designated wall. Few others came forward to paint with her.

She chose the design and started painting scenery on the wall. Meenakshi advised them on and off but that proved to be more difficult as different group of prisoners started painting their own different designs.

Jey had to manage the 18 kids living on the women cell. We wondered about these women, their crimes. We chatted with them about what they have done. Some talked…some avoided…but I remember Simran’s words.

18 small kids were in the jail with their mothers

18 small kids were in the jail with their mothers

I asked her, ‘you are so beautiful. What’s the charge on you?’

“Murder….” came the reply

“Whom did you murder?”

“Dusman tha” (He was an enemy)

The way she said those words….we had goose bumps. We really don’t know what is the truth and what is the lie…but we can say for sure we saw many different faces of humanity in the Dasna jail.

final painting in the women cell

final painting in the women cell

The group photo after the painting session.

The group photo

The group photo

(The experience of painting with the male prisoners was quite different. Next blog will be about them so wait for it.)