Archive for January, 2011

Palke (The eyes)

In jhuki palko ne inkar karna na sikha, izhar kya karengi……..

Teri in nigahoon ne intezaar karna na seekha, aitbaar kya karengi… ——–Diwane-e- Sahil


For Freedom and Honour

Today India will be celebrating its 62nd republic day and on this republic day given the tradition, we will see the military might of Indian soldiers and Indian Armforces, which would create a great sense of pride in us . We would be also remembering those who sacrificed their lives, their youth and relationships to protect us. Those who fought for this freedom, our beloved freedom fighters. I wish to remember someone too, someone whom I have seen closely, for someone to whom freedom meant a lot. He was my grandfather Raghunath Singh, he fought in an army which is virtually forgotten. He was a soldier in AZAD HIND FAUJ. It was an army which constituted of 40,000 Indian soldiers which were earlier captives of Japanese during world war in Singapore and Burma. Their leader was Netaji Subhash Chander Bose. I remember his words when I asked him in my childhood that why did he fight in the army with Netaji against Britishers. His answer was plainly simple for Freedom and Honour; he died in 2002 at an age of 92 years. In his old age he was a fragile man but it was this persona that he was a freedom fighter which use to fascinate me deeply . I use to go to my ancestral village where he resided along with his 3 brothers. His old age and my childhood did create confusion in understanding his words and narratives of his past but my admiration for him was supreme. He was not my biological grandfather but rather my biological grandfather’s eldest brother (out of the other 3 brothers) and use to be affectionately called “BABA”.

During the war when he was captured most of the individuals in the village had considered him dead, but his return and a heroic one, being a freedom fighter in “Indian National Army” was full of emotional rollercoaster for the entire family. It was more delightful for his wife who had lost all the hopes in life. He had 2 daughters. I never got an idea that why none of the future generations in our family ever enlisted in army. I sensed that they were disillusioned with the job at army considering it very hard and non-rewarding. There by not continuing his legacy. His younger brother was also in army but was not a member of Azad Hind Fauj. The whole existence and actions of Azad Hind Fauj were full of contempt from the British; there was a period of non-recognition of the soldiers as freedom fighters till 1972 since 1947. This apathy from Indian government at that time added to many conspiracy theories about the political elite and British involvement. They were given their dues after 1972, people cite that it was an after effect of 1971 war victory to honour the “first soldiers of National Indian Army”.

I never knew about the whole politics of recognition and de-recognition, for me my grandfather remained a hero who fought for our Independence. I still believe in him and remember him, It was he who first introduced Bhagat Singh to me and told me about his sacrifice. I always thought that the best way to honour his memory would have been if anyone from the family would have joined Indian Armforces, but alas that was not to be. For his courage and sacrifice he would always be remembered and loved by our family.

Microfinance: The way to end poverty ?

The west and most of the developing countries are looking towards micro-finance as one of the tool to eradicate poverty. Though many critics do point out that poverty is a complex problem which needs equally complex answers but none the less, MicroFinance offers hope. The Indian banks for one are toying with the idea first initiated by Mohd Younus of Bangladesh. His Grameen Bank’s main objective was to give loans to those poor people to whom banks do not wish to give loans owing to risk involved in return of the money. The idea has been a revolutionary one and like all revolutionary ideas it has made world leaders sit up and take notice.

The banks in particular in lending loans look into the credit history of an individual on whose name the loan is being taken. Bank looks into potential recovery options in terms of mortgages. In the case of the poor however there is a huge risk as returns are not guaranteed. Many like the former Governor General of RBI Dr Reddy have said that “microfinance” is the “subprime loan” of India. That is the risk driven loan something which crashed US economy. None the less Microfinance has showed its potential to scholars, the loans given are not of higher amount and are given collectively. It is this collective duty that results in the recovery and namely that it is mostly given to rural women. Grameen Bank in particular claims a recovery of about 97%. In India SKS is the biggest Micro Financing institution for lending. Grameen Bank also boasts of 97% of its borrowers are women, thereby being an instrumental tool in emancipation and economic independence of womenfolk.

According to CGAP, “Comprehensive impact studies have demonstrated that:

  • Microfinance helps very poor households meet basic needs and protect against risks
  • The use of financial services by low-income households is associated with improvements in household economic welfare and enterprise stability or growth.
  • By supporting women’s economic participation, microfinance helps to empower women, thus promoting gender-equity and improving household well-being.
  • For almost all significant impacts, the magnitude of impact is positively related to the length of time that clients have been in the program. (UNCDF Microfinance)

Micro Finance is an advantage as access to money allows the poor the purchasing power and with an opportunity to fulfill their dream and be self employed. There by boosting small scale entrepreneurship which in long run reduces that massive load of the government to provide jobs and source of living to its citizens. It provides an opportunity to the poor to be partners in the growth of the nation rather being burden. The various Indian banks especially government owned banks are trying to create separate wings for dealing which micro finance issues where loans could be provided for the poor and they could be helped to get out of poverty.

  • In Bangladesh, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) clients increased household expenditures by 28% and assets by 112%. The incomes of Grameen members were 43% higher than incomes in non-program villages.
  • In El Salvador, the weekly income of FINCA clients increased on average by 145%.
  • In India, half of SHARE clients graduated out of poverty.
  • In Ghana, 80% of clients of Freedom from Hunger had secondary income sources, compared to 50% for non-clients.
  • In Lombok, Indonesia, the average income of Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) borrowers increased by 112%, and 90% of households graduated out of poverty.
  • In Vietnam, Save the Children clients reduced food deficits from three months to one month.

Though like all the noble efforts there are some concerns which are genuine such as this industry needs regulation via RBI. This has been a pivotal point which has been highlighted by the industry wise men. They say the micro-finance industry seems not to be a non-profit organization anymore( as many people are trying to get their IPOs etc ) but rather is converting into a profit oriented venture where in regulations are important as it may become an entity taking benefits and profits from the poor.

Like all the situations in the world there are places where Micro finance has restrictions. Microcredit may be not successful and run into losses where conditions pose severe challenges to loan repayment. For example, populations that are geographically dispersed or have a high incidence of disease may not be suitable microfinance clients. It may also be an issue in a war torn scenario where it is tough to keep a track of things therefore there are some debates of getting it into Afghanistan. In these cases, grants, infrastructure improvements or education and training programs are more effective. For microcredit to be appropriate, the clients must have the capacity to repay the loan under the terms by which it is provided.

Though there are many debates going on within the systems where Mohd Younus wishes to retain the Non-Profit philosophy of the Microfinance but there is no debate on the point that it has helped women empower and helped make many people economically sound and sufficient.

Gatka has been part of north Indian culture for over 300 years. Guru Angad Dev, encouraged followers to train the body physically, mentally and spiritually.

Guru Hargobind propagated the theory of the warrior saint and emphasized the need for his followers to practice fighting for self-defence. When fifty-two Rajput princes were captured by the Muslim conquerors, he assembled an army to free them. This led to further exchanges in the martial cultures of the Sikhs and Rajputs. Both the Rajputs and Punjabi communities favored the sword as their main weapon.

Gatka is a weapon-based Indian martial art created by the Sikhs of the Punjab. The Punjabi word gatka refers to the wooden stick used in sparring matches. The term might have originated as a diminutive of the Sanskrit word gadha or mace. A more popular theory is that it derives from the Punjabi words gat and ka. Gat means grace, liberation, and respect in one’s own power, while ka means someone who belongs or is part of a group. Gatka would therefore translate as “one whose freedom belongs to grace”.

Like all people who watch it, I was also truly mesmerized by it. It was more seen as an army’s practice before going to the war. Gatka is not gender specific and both boys and girls and perform it side by side. In India Gatka is generally at public display during religious processions. It is a showcasing of the might of Sikhs. The Gatka Federation of India, in collaboration with Punjab Gatka Association, for the first time, has formulated and standardized the in-depth Rules and Regulations Book in September 2009 for playing of Gatka game with pictorial guidelines and providing training to the budding Gatkebaaz through workshops, seminars and camps under the new Gatka rules.The best part of Gatka training is that it is not religion based. Anyone can join Sikhs in practicing this great martial art. It’s objective it help you defend against an attack.

The weapons used in the training process are :

  • Barcha — The spear is a long shafted weapon and has a hook at the spearhead used to pull away the opponent’s shield.
  • Chakram – The chakram is a flat steel ring, five to 12 inches in diameter, from half an inch to an inch and a half wide, and with a sharp outer edge. While not being used, it is carried “fixed” to the Turban. Several of different sizes were often carried on a pointed turban, the “dastar ungaa” or behind the back. It is held between the thumb and index finger and thrown towards the opponent with an underhand flick. Thrown with sufficient force and accuracy it can cut off a green bamboo three-quarter of an inch in diameter at a distance of thirty yards.
  • Dahl or Shield. It is nearly always round and varies in diameter from about eight inches to about twenty-four. Some are very nearly flat while others are strongly convex. The edges may be flat or rolled back in the reverse curvature of the shield. It is held by two handles fastened to ring bolds that pass through the shield and are riveted to bosses on the outside, sometimes formed to spikes. Between the handles there is a square cushion for the knuckles to rest against. The handles are so placed that, when tightly grasped, they force the backs of the fingers against the cushion giving a very firm and comfortable hold. These shields are nearly always of steel or leather.
  • Gurj or Mace: Indian maces have great variations in their shape. From simply curved steel bars to Persian influenced maces with openings in the head which gives a whistling sound when the blow was struck to plane massive heads. They often have guard hilts like the Khanda
  • Katar – The Katar is a double-edged and straight bladed dagger used to pierce armour. The handle has two sidebars to provide protection and a better grip.
  • Khanda – This is a typical Indian sword and has a broad, straight blade, usually widening towards the point, which is blunt. Sometimes it is also double-edged.
  • Kirpan – The Kirpan is a short curved dagger and all Sikhs are required to carry it by tradition.
  • Lathi – The lathi or quarterstaff is a wooden stick as tall as the warrior and made of oak.
  • Marati – Trainig device: The Marati is a bamboo stick with wooden or cloth balls on its ends. It is mainly used for training purposes but there are variations with blades or burning cloth on its ends, to attack and distract elephants and for psychological warfare.
  • Soti – This is made from fire hardened bamboo or ratan, 1m long and usually has a hand guard. It is mainly used for practice and “playing Gatka”, the training fight. For combat they were replaced by oak ore ironwood sticks, without hand guards.
  • Tapar – The battle-axe is very distinct from the normal axe and sometimes has a dagger concealed in the handle.
  • Talwar – The sword is usually curved with a thin and sharp blade. The Talwar is greatly respected and treated with care.
  • Tir Kaman – The bow and arrow is a potent weapon. The arrow is made of steel heads with reed shafts. The bow is also composite and made of layers of wood and steel.
  • Chakar – The Chakar looks like a wagon wheel with weights at the end of each spoke. The chakar is wielded by grasping the centre and spinning it around, causing damage upon anyone coming too close to the spinning weights.

If someone observed carefully, then it was performed in the opening ceremony of the commonwealth games. It is truly an art that needs to be remembered and kept alive. Though in this modern world where weapons have changed many would not agree, but the gatka techniques and the meditation that it involves while practicing does really makes the mind calm of a warrior. That calm mind helps him to fight better in any domain of life.

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