I write about people’s experiences of living in Aligarh and their response to its changing landscape and environment. I have also reported on refugees, social justice and rights issues in India.
Conversations held under trees: Aligarh’s women voters on electricity, elections and climate change
On election day—February 10th—I set out to talk to women, who make up 47% of Aligarh’s total population. I wanted to understand their concerns and hopes for this election and whether their day-to-day struggles were in any way tied to the realities of our warming planet.
Listening to voices: How Kabul became the “heroine” of a book
An interview with Taran N Khan about her non fiction title “Shadow city: a woman walks Kabul”.
A week after protests, AMU keeps peaceful dissent alive
Aligarh: On the night of 15 December, Ayesha (20) and Tuba (21), two students of AMU sat in their homes listening to the sound of tear gas bombs coming from the university. Then students started calling them saying that they were being beaten up by the police. “Hamein itna hopeless mehsoos hua—We felt so hopeless,” says Tuba. They discussed among themselves and, after the violence that had marred Sunday night protests, they decided that a peaceful,...
AMU Protests: Detained students released; protestors recall night of terror
Aligarh: At least nine detained Aligarh Muslim University students were released Monday night at around 8 pm following pressure from local Aligarh residents, who gathered on the streets near the university to protest the students’ detention.
Syed Zamin Mehdi (18)’s older brother, Syed Mohammad Mehdi was one of the students who was detained by the police and rapid action force (RAF) on Sunday night during protests. He was released at 8.30 pm from Civil Lines Police...
Smart City plans hit Aligarh’s small businesses
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his campaign speech in Aligarh on April 14th, invoked three main development indicators, “bijli…kanoon vyavastha…sadak” (electricity, law and order and roads)**.” Development or “vikas” has been one of two constants in his campaign; the other being “karobaar ” or business. In his Aligarh speech, he specifically mentioned how this election was a fight to get “nyay” not only for youth, women and farmers but also for “chote karobaari” or small business owners.
A widow’s vote: A photo essay
Aligarh went to the polls on April 18, 2019 with almost a 60% voter turnout. Before it happened, we were bombarded with images and sound bytes of politicians, election gurus and journalists. Most were men. Many of these people argued that this election is about India’s “soul”. This photo essay is an attempt at understanding and sharing another narrative, that of women and specifically widows who live and work in Aligarh.
For these women, this elect...
A room of one’s own: Why Rohingya refugees keep returning to Aligarh
Aligarh:-– Guran Miya (30), a Rohingya refugee, returned with his family to Aligarh in mid-2018, just nine months after he had left.
During this time, he lived in Bangalore and then Hyderabad. It was a struggle, especially in Hyderabad, where he lived in a refugee camp. He says that people had to get in line to use the toilet and there was also a lack of privacy, especially for his wife, when she went to take a bath.
Though he lived rent-free in both the cities, h...
Deportation Fears Turn Rohingya Community Leaders Into Refugee Negotiators
Aligarh: A good community leader, says Mohammad Zafar (24), should have three qualities: “Thanda dimagh, padhai-likhai, aur aadmi se nafrat nahi honee chahiye (He should have a cool head, be educated, and have no hatred toward anyone).”
Zafar is a Rohingya refugee and a leader, or zimmedaar, of the Rohingya community in Aligarh.
In November last year, just a month after Zafar was elected zimmedaar, officers from the local unit of the CID landed up at the community centre built by Rohingyas. A...
“They want to accept us but as foreigners”: Aligarh’s Rohingyas on Myanmar
Mohammad Bilal, 43, is proud of the “community centre” that he and other Rohingyas have built with their own hands in Aligarh.
It is a simple tin shed with a cement floor, covered wall-to-wall with a thin rug.
Each refugee contributed what they could, deciding against asking for outside help. It’s as the Prophet said, points out Bilal: “Neeche ke haath se upar ka haath achcha hai,” (The hand that offers a blessing is better than the hand that offers support.)
Just outside is a small space of ...
The Karchobi embroiderers of Marehra
Rifat Bano (30) sits on the brick floor of her home in Marehra, Etah, chatting with her sister Sabina and their two nieces. Between them is a snow-white satin cloth stretched tautly on a rectangular wooden frame.
Her hands move at a habitual pace: one places an index-finger-length hooked needle, filled with white and silver beads, on a specific point in the cloth panel. As the needle goes through the cloth, the hand underneath guides a plastic wire to latch onto t...
“This, the hands tell me”: Basket weavers of Mahmoodpur Nagariya
Mahmoodpur Nagariya is a village of basket weavers.
It is located ten kilometres from Marehra, in Etah district of western Uttar Pradesh.
Nem Singh is about 80 years old and among the oldest weavers in the village.
He sits on the mud floor of his aangan or courtyard, in the mid-morning heat of June, under the shade of a neem tree, weaving wooden baskets.
In dehati or village parlance, the weaving process is known as bardana.
Nem Singh first lays down fifteen vine-like strips of wood on the gr...
The ‘Matri’-Makers of Aligarh
Aligarh ki matri or Aligarh ke biscuit, as it is also called, is nothing special to look at: it just looks like a giant cookie, the size of a quarter plate.
But when you bite into it, its taste arguably puts any French biscuit to shame: it is sweet with a subtle taste of spices, especially cardamom, and is usually eaten with butter lathered on top, with your morning cup of tea.
No one knows who invented Aligarh ki matri but the oldest kaarigar or craftsman, as ...
“Wherever a person lives, he ends up belonging to it”: A brief anecdotal history of Upar Kot
This essay focuses on qissas or anecdotes of small incidents that make up everyday life in small towns in India. These can be seen as alternative histories of a place, removed from official census and surveys that categorize communities and are preoccupied with accuracy of facts. It uses both image and text to tell the story.
An Uncertain Refugee
The government is unable to deport them to Myanmar and unwilling to release them, thus condemning 3 Rohingya refugees to arbitrary detention. An investigation. This story was awarded the RedInk Award 2016 by the Mumbai Press Club in the 'Human Rights' Category.
Privacy in the Decade of the CMO
Rather than see demands for digital privacy and transparency as a challenge, can technology companies see it as an opportunity to establish a genuine connection with their users?