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Priyanka Gupta
Thursday , August 15, 2013

In times of turmoil - Little Egypt

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It was 6 am when Samy Sharkawo, a 60 year old limousine driver from Astoria, Queens saw his television set beaming images from Cairo. Overnight, at least 90 people were killed, and hundreds injured. Bulldozers were flattening pro-Morsi camps, bullets were piercing the air. The morgues were full and there was chaos on the streets of Cairo. It was one of the bloodiest days in the history of modern Egypt. Samy ran to the Egyptian Coffee Shop on Steinway Street and was glued to the television set ever since. Soon his other Egyptian friends joined in, watching the violent scenes unfold from their country, over hookah and mint coffee. He lost four hundred dollars of pay on Wednesday, but he said it does't matter. "Egypt is in my heart", he said, "Muslim Brotherhood terrorised Egyptians, we want to clean the country from the garbage. In six months you will see....

Monday , August 05, 2013

Eggs to order

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It's 2 am, yet it feels like an evening still to come. The slow hum of traffic grates on the asphalt as engines roar and tyres screech and the wails of ambulances and patrol cars zip across the city. That's New York City at 2 am with its slow percussion of traffic and footsteps. Like Mumbai, Kolkata or even parts of Delhi - the familiarity is unnerving. Brash, unyielding and tough as hell- these cities move along with their people through traffic and elevators, climbing up and down the stairs, shutting doors, opening windows, slamming cars. Their skylines reflect the vaulting ambitions of its invisible people. In New York there are almost two worlds coexisting, separated by pitch and soil, one that drives on wheels and one that chugs on rails beneath. The heights of Manhattan skyline, the depths of New York subway and the teeming millions in between, the....

Tuesday , July 23, 2013

American dream: what is that?

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Usually, it's a rainy morning when at the crack of dawn, the shivering and shrunken mass of moldy clothes are seen sailing to the promised land of unlimited potential. The Statue of Liberty, trapped in its task of being the beacon of hopes and dreams of its fellow immigrants, smiles a beatific smile with the first ray of sunlight clearing the clouds in a great cinematic time warp. I am sure these things do happen, or did till a few years ago, at least it did in the movies! So I was faintly disappointed when I did not see the Parisian lady from the plane above. My fellow passenger, an old lady from Tamil Nadu whose only way to communicate with me in a 15-hour flight was through phlegmatic episodes of asking me to open bottles of water for her- exclaimed - 'Amerrrrrica herrrre?' The Punjabi family right behind, caught....

Thursday , July 11, 2013

The human cost: Bengal politics and its cycle of violence

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A small plastic cup with a drop of lebu cha is often a great leveler if you are in Bengal. The sharp contrast of political colors often gets blurred in the pale brownness of the tea almost like the earth beneath. They come in hoards, in trucks and on bikes, criss-crossing the sun baked lanes of Kolkata, chanting slogans, carrying flags, bringing the hopes of their towns and villages to the city's doors. The fabled city of trams and metros, of Victoria memorial and Alipore Zoo, of Alimuddin street and Kalighat, the stories they will carry with them of the sights and sounds to their neighbors, till next year for the next leader. As the flags flutter in the wind, their humble obeisance for promises of a better life gather beneath the wooden boards of the podium at the majestic Brigade Parade grounds. They are the party workers of....

Saturday , March 09, 2013

The new calendar: looking back at International Women's Day

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Day after, the many declarations and the many speeches, the many self-congratulatory concessions and earnest prayers of hope, the pink balloons, pink t-shirts and pink ribbons. It's the day after the many rolls of films and wads of paper and a bulk of thought were poured at the altar of equality. Day after we were sisters, mothers, wives and daughters to be congratulated for being a woman first, at birth, by our organs, for society. Day after, we were told of our indomitable spirit and undying courage and all things human in hyperbole. We were told how we have been wronged, subjugated and humbled by the penetrating powers of patriarchy that dominates us through force, through sex and through language. It's the day after the invented time and the convenient calendar created for the exonerating bubble of the deeply gendered hierarchies of government, politics, business and media....

Tuesday , January 01, 2013

Out of the ash, I rise with my red hair and I eat men like air

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(Event: Take Back the Night, Location: Southern Avenue, Kolkata) There's something astir. The leaves crackle like stones under our heels. The sky has been silenced by the ground beneath. Their hair aflame, their tongues giddy, their eyes slice through the winds. They are women reclaiming the night I am taking what's mine. The city, its air, its streets. Men don't stare, you know me as I know you. My comrade, my friend, my equal- I am a woman ....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Where is my freedom?

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No it's not the usual self-gratifying introspection about where my country is headed, not a futile fury over my prime minister's I- day speech which could comatose the country and its youth for the next two years, not a self-defeating rile over the rancour by third/fourth/nth Anna camp which can spoil anyone's eggs in the morning... No this is not about the leaders at the altars of power but a farmer A farmer, a vote that all parties covet with sops, with money, with liquor, and often with boots. A farmer, the aam admi of congress, the mool of Trinamool, the quintessential common man of India who brings votes for our netas and zing to their speeches. Everyone bleeds for the farmer , their plight, their land, their debt , their suicides. The incredible farmers of our incredible India. Today when my country completes 65 years of its....

Saturday , July 21, 2012

No country for women?

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Rape has ceased to shock me, molestation is just a word. Newspapers, television headlines, blogs, twitter feeds, even Facebook posts don't contain enough outrage to shake me from the insensate stupor my humanity has submitted itself to. First came Pinki Pramanik. Some screamed rape, some screamed no rape, some sniggered oh but she can't because she is not a man after all!! Leaving the facts for the police to uncover and the public to judge what troubled me as a woman is the baffling logic that only a man can rape. Well our laws say so for now, so I better shut up. Laws which only permit a hetero-normative definition of rape where the violence of force is replaced by the violence of laws leaving nothing queer to chance let alone reality. Then came images that bombarded our living rooms for days to come as we all became....

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A little ray of light in the dark saga of sanitation in India

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53.1 per cent of Indians don't have toilets. It's not just data. It's a fact, a fact that threw me off when I was doing my research on this story. More than half the population of my country don't have toilets! How can that be? I asked myself. I checked and cross-checked shuddering how naïve I have been or should I say self-absorbed with not an iota of self-reproach, not a whiff of willingness to know beyond my clean, urban haven. You can watch/read the full story here. I knew open defecation is wildly common, as a young girl I have giggled many a times my train would cross rows of men and women defecating near the tracks as I would force myself to stay up to see the sunrise glistening through my window. Now, I am too tired, so the shutters go....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A disease lurks Byangoland

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It's a terrible disease and it's spreading very fast. The symptoms are pronounced. It is known to make humans contort their faces, sometimes even expose their teeth. Bodies shake violently with strange sounds coming from the lips. It has been there since the time of plague but no one noticed it till it claimed its first victim in several years in the Eastern state of Byangoland last week. According to records, the victim was a 50-year-old chemistry professor. First, the local quacks tried to beat the virus out of the body but nothing worked. The doctors had to intervene. They took him and his 74-year-old neighbour to the local hospital to surgically remove a bone which causes and spread this dangerous malaise. The operation lasted several hours through the night. They were released the next day but there are apprehensions that they haven't been fully cured and might....


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