A visitor's Observations

I was born in Pennsylvania, US, and shortly after, moved to Korea. I am 17 years old. Then I moved back to the United States, this time in California. Here I attended lower and middle school. Currently, I am a high school student studying in Connecticut. I am part of the swim and golf teams, and train in dance. Recently, I went on a trip to India and enjoyed it very much. I was awestruck by the amazing, deep culture and wanted to study more. One of the most striking aspects to me was the role of women in the Indian society, which is why I have been researching this topic.

I was born in Pennsylvania, US, and shortly after, moved to Korea. I am 17 years old. Then I moved back to the United States, this time in California. Here I attended lower and middle school. Currently, I am a high school student studying in Connecticut. I am part of the swim and golf teams, and train in dance. Recently, I went on a trip to India and enjoyed it very much. I was awestruck by the amazing, deep culture and wanted to study more. One of the most striking aspects to me was the role of women in the Indian society, which is why I have been researching this topic.

India, like almost every other country, has a long history of women’s empowerment issues, including rape and abuse towards women, perpetrated by men. In India, women may be very suppressed and are not granted the same opportunities as men. For example, only about 10 percent of people in politics are women, as opposed to the 17 percent in the US. Although both countries are lacking in this area and there is so much room for improvement, India is noticeably behind in this aspect. The government’s “laws” such as affirmative action and help for women are not doing much help. Why is this? Because the issue is deeper than that of politics. It is a social issue.

A study reported that about 1 in 6 women have been victim to successful or attempted rape, and that number must go down. But the culture has depicted women as powerless, and the men being superior. However, it is important for people to understand that this is not the case. Women can make a difference, and must not be oppressed. But how do we combat age-old social traditions? It will be a long process, but look how far we have already come. Stigma around women’s rights has been slightly lowered, and the UN introduced a body called the UN women for the progression towards gender equality. Education for young girls is also necessary, as well as education for society to help overturn the belief that women are less than men.

When I visited India a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that there were much more boys than girls at schools. Education is so crucial for success, and we must provide that same opportunity for the girls so they are equipped to deal with social traditions. I stayed in Indore and a city near the Narmada River. In the latter, I saw that mostly men were bathing in the river. A man told me that many women refused to bathe because of the stigma surrounded by their bodies. If they get wet, the women would be more vulnerable because they would be more exposed. To be confident in one’s own bodies is so crucial, and this is a part of the so-important empowerment.

I want to make sure that women in India are granted the opportunities needed to succeed, whatever that means for herself. We must start this process, starting with girls in school and doing our best to allow women to live their lives to the fullest.

The Lunar Eclipse

We usually chat about “stuff” after our English conversational classes, which by the way are going great! Today we happen to discuss the red moon eclipse. I asked, “why did the eclipse happen?” Got a very prompt reply " jab bhagwaan naraaz hote hai grahan hota hai' (when God’s are angry with us, eclipse happens)." All the ladies nodded in full agreement. Further, I was told that to appease the angry gods, we should not cook during the eclipse and can have a bath only after the eclipse is over.

I love these ladies and they love me back so with shocked expressions trying not to show disbelief, they heard me talking about science..logic..alignment of the moon..sun..and the Earth. I don’t know if they understood or believed what I said but one of them told me, "I live in an imaginary superstitious world and it's difficult to change but I don't want my children to be like me".

As for me, I don’t want to convert or bring a radical change. We discuss most issues. They get a chance to voice their opinion and so do I. We don’t want to necessarily rock any one’s world. They hear me out, I listen to them, we absorb, we question each other and then get ready to deal with the realities of life. 
#bhopaldiaries #englishclasses #voicingopinions#raisingquestions #discussions #learning #women#nonprofit

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"Say no to Plastic"

All these days I kept ranting "no plastic,no plastic" at our workshed and everyone complied. Today after the English class, one of the ladies said didi(means sister in Hindi) plastic bags are so useful..”sabzi le sakte hai usme..tiffin baandh ker le aao..kuda bhi phek sakte hai usme”. They gave examples of how useful a plastic bag is, we can carry vegetables, we can carry our tiffin bags or simply to throw away garbage. They continued..' just because cows eat those plastic bags we can't stop using it.'

So as a computer training exercise everyone googled images of plastic pollution today. It was an eye opener for many of us. A discussion on the effects of plastic on air, water, soil and even marine animals started to percolate in our thoughts. Now the damage way went beyond neighbourhood cows. 

Our discussion finally ended with a genuine pledge to say no to plastic. I am proud to say that now everyone at MSK genuinely and consciously says no to plastic. #notoplastic.

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MOTHER TERESA THE KARAM YOGI

My experiences with Saint Mother Teresa

I am writing this note to share my personal experiences with Mother. She was my guru. Although she never tried to teach me anything deliberately, I kept following her like a disciple during her numerous visits to Bhopal.

Mother was a family friend since our days in Calcutta. My relationship continued in Bhopal. Mother’s first mission was to build a house in Bhopal for the destitute. My Mother Magdalene Bourbon nee Ghosal donated land for this cause in the heart of Bhopal. Being a Bourbon, who were very close to the Begums of Bhopal, Magdalene Ghosal inherited property in the heart of Bhopal. To start this process of land transfer, we decided to meet Mr. M. N. Buch, an IAS officer and an Administrator of the Municipal Cooperation. Mother Teresa, another Bhopal based sister and myself went to his office in Saddar Manzil. I had to introduce Mother to Mr. Buch since at that time she was not a well-known figure. Mother Teresa started to explain why she wanted to build a home for the Destitute. After twenty minutes I heard Mr Buch saying, “Mother you don’t worry, I will build a house for the destitute for you”. I was shocked! A government officer saying that he is willing to build the house with government funds was unheard of. That was the first miracle!

Mother Teresa is canonized now, but for me she became a Saint when she started her Order[Missionaries of Charities] in Calcutta. In 1960 I met her in Calcutta, my Father Col. S.C.Ghosal held an important post at the Calcutta Transport Corporation. Once my father was very sick and my mother, who was Mother Teresa’s friend, asked her to pray for my father. He soon recovered. Magdaline Ghosal wanted to thank Mother by giving her something. She couldn’t find anything at hand so she presented Mother with a beautiful saree, though doubting what a nun will do with a silver color saree. We went to Mother’s lower circular road house and we sat in the parlor. There we heard Mother saying“I have built the alter now we need a beautiful cloth to put on it”.  My mother got up and gave the saree to her.

From the day I saw her, I knew she was different. She had something to tell the world, some message to give. When Mother started visiting Bhopal, I always met her at the Airport. She used be wearing her usual 4 yard saree, carrying her petite blue bag and rubber slippers. Nothing extraordinary and the biggest thing was she never preached.

 I was very young, to understand her mission. Gradually working with her I learned what her mission was. It was not only religion but something more - love for humanity. She saw Jesus in a leper, or a destitute. People built hospitals, but why would any one build a safe place for people to die- Home for the destitute and dying. She would bring people from the roadside to give them a peaceful and a dignified death. These people couldnt witness a dignified life, but atleast their last days were full of love and dignity. Later on she build a home for the unwanted Children.

Once we were serving food to the lepers near the railway Station gutter. They wanted some more rotis. I was placing the rotis in their plates. Mother apologized to them and softly instructed me, “when you give food, bend your back and give food. They are our guest. We need to rest respect them”. For her, wealthy and the poor were all the same.

One day Shri Arjun Singh ji, the then Chief Minister, invited her with his full cabinet. Mother and myself got down from the car, the Chief Minister’s driver caught her feet crying saying that his son was very sick. With the Chief Minister and his cabinet waiting, Mother did not move till the time she prayed over the driver. That was the first time we saw some sign of the events to come. She started her journey to sainthood.      

On 3rd Dec. 1984 Bhopal suffered the biggest man-made chemical disaster in the world- the Bhopal Gas tragedy. At a time when everyone was fleeing Bhopal, Mother came with a plane-load of blankets, medicine for the eyes, some tin food, etc. There was a rumor that the leak has continued and Bhopal is un-safe for civilization. People were asked to evacuate. Mother refused to leave and she insisted on sitting in the Church, with her rosary. Some of us joined her and kept on praying for the safety of Bhopal. After sometime, Arjun Singh ji came and informed her to not worry and that Bhopal is safe. We kept going inside people’s houses in the slums near the railway station and those who were alive, kept putting eye drops that Mother had brought with her. I loaded my jeep everyday with those drops and along with Mother distributed to the lucky people who were alive. The government health care centers were running short of those eye drops.

At that time, Mother became more popular with the non-Christians. They gave a big reception for her at Sadar Manzil. It was given by Ramash Aggarwal Chairman Bhaskar group of Publications. Governor, Mr. Chandy, Chief Minister Mr. Motilal Vohra felicitated the event. Many eminent dignitaries were present for the occasion. The event was to honor Mother for her service for humanity. 

At a ceremony in Bhopal with Mother

The next crisis that Bhopal witnessed was the fall of Babri Masjid was in 1992. Bhopal had faced its worst communal riots. Missionaries of Charity sisters were ready with food packets. This time Mother couldn’t visit, but promptly sent food for the victims which was distributed at both Hindu and Muslim camps.

Mother and I spent a lot of time together and had many conversations Her life showed me the way. I have seen miracles happen with her. Some days there was no food at her home and by evening, someone or the other would come with a bag full of wheat flour. She has immense trust in the lord. I learnt how Christianity could be practiced in real life through her. I came to the know the meaning of “Love thy neighbor” from her acts. She still remains an inspiration to me and my actions. 

Mother and Me

By

Mrs Indira Iyengar 

Chairperson, MSK