Monday, April 25, 2016

The Business of Women

By Eisha Sarkar
Posted on the Pax Populi blog on 25 April 2916 

This April, I had the privilege to meet Tinku Gupta, my fellow Pax Populi tutor at her home in Kolkata, India. While videoconferencing is great, meeting people in person allows you to discover so much more about the person and even yourself.

Sitting at the dining table of Tinku's seventh-floor apartment which offers a panoramic view of the city, we discussed cultures, our marriages, education, home interiors, cooking, Mughal history, Kolkata and Afghanistan. “My husband is fed up with Afghanistan,” she said and burst out laughing. For the last five years, Tinku, who runs a travel agency, has been facilitating medical treatments and consultation in India for Afghans. “It started with a Rotary project on thalassemia,” she said. Her agency had helped an Afghan child get blood transfusions and treatment in Kolkata. Since then, she has been swamped with emails, messages and pictures of people in Afghanistan who are looking to get treated for various ailments in India. “There, the medical services are almost non-existent and many Afghans cannot afford treatment in Western countries. Indian doctors are very competent and because of the cultural similarities, Afghans prefer to be treated here,” she explained.

Tinku's business partners in Kabul screen patients who apply to them for transplants, transfusions, amputations, knee replacements and cataract surgeries. They send her the medical histories of patients, which are often in Dari or Pashto and need to be translated into English. “When I go to the shop to get a photocopy, they think it is Urdu and ask me if it has come from Pakistan. Then they see 'Kabul' written on the envelopes and curiously ask, 'Afghanistan?' I enjoy their reactions,” she chuckled.

I watched Tinku closely as she giggled through the two-hour conversation. She had worked very hard to make this business model work and while she did feel let down a few times, she asserted, “Afghans are wonderful people to work with.” I agreed. We talked about Pax Populi and her student, Jamal. Tinku shared a memory from one of their tutoring sessions: “I once asked him what he wants to do in the future. Jamal told me he wishes to go to the US and study. I asked him, 'Will you come back to Afghanistan after your studies?' He said, 'Of course! I want to do something for my country.' I loved it. The youngsters in Afghanistan are very keen to see their country develop. It's a very positive thing.”

When I had contacted Tinku to ask her if she would meet me over a coffee, I had intended it to be a discussion about Pax Populi, peace-building and education. I walked away from this meeting with a sense of wonder and a feeling of gratitude that I had met a woman of tremendous courage and strength, who in spite of claiming to be “not ambitious,” had challenged the set norms for a married Indian woman and found a business opportunity where few had dared to go.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I Search for You

There are those days,
When I am with friends:
Happy faces and wishes,
With laughter all around,
I search for you.

There are those days,
When I see a picture:
Its fine composition,
Light and filter,
I search for you.

There are those days,
When I make art:
Lines and strokes,
Colours and forms,
I search for you.

There are those days,
When I shine like a star,
The audience applauds:
Claps and whistles,
I search for you.

There are those days,
When I write a poem,
Of gifts and memories,
Both old and new,
I search for you.

- Eisha

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The woman in a fancy headscarf

Headscarves have been associated with religious and cultural identities, respect and honour. Some cultures force it upon people, some climates do the same. Here, I choose to look at it like a garment, to protect your hair from the wind and sun, no different from a cap, but more fashionable than a cloak can ever be. The Woman in a Fancy Headscarf combines the craft of papier mâché and collage with acrylic painting.

Monday, April 4, 2016

My Mango Slice recipe

For the icecream layer: 1 slab vanilla icecream + 1 slab mango icecream + 3 tbsp lemon juice + 20g salted butter + 250 ml mango pulp/crush = mix well and set aside in the fridge 

Cookie layer: Grind 2 large packets of Marie biscuits (or arrowroot) + 80 g butter + 3-4 tbsp of cocoa powder. Then ladle 3-4 spoons of the icecream mix and mix well till you have clumps forming

Line a baking dish with butter paper and grease it with butter. Add the cookie dough and press it till it forms a uniform layer. Bake 220 deg C for 15 minutes.

Take the hot tray out of the oven and pour the icecream mix onto it and layer it evenly. Make a random pattern with a bit of the pulp and a spoon handle. Put it in the freezer (yup hot tray in cold freezer). Takes 5-6 hours to set before you can cut slices. Overnight setting recommended.