Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Spaces and people in Berlin and Munich. July 2016.

So finally I got to go to the city where Nadeem spent more than two years of his life. Berlin. Where our dear friend Monika lives. Where Zunnoon, the child Nadeem spent most of his time with while in Berlin, and has loved dearly, has grown up. And it proved to be as good as he always told me. In fact, once there, it didn't seem like it was my first time. I had the feeling of being there before. Strange, I know. But this is how I felt, like I knew its corners and bends and streets and buildings from before.

In Berlin and Munich I got to see some interesting places. And very inspiring too. Thanks to the Visitors Programme conducted by the Federal Foreign Office, Germany that I was a part of. Sharing a few pictures and stories from my trip.

My kind of place. This is at the garden restaurant of the urban gardening project, Prinzessinnengarten (Princess Garden). This is a 6000 marea of wasteland near Moritzplatz, in the district of Kreuzberg, which was transformed into an ecological and social urban farm in 2009. It not only grows agricultural products, but has also become a space for a new kind of urban lifestyle where friends, neighbours and other interested parties can work, learn, rest and play together.

Garden restaurant, Prinzessinnengarten (Princess Garden)

With my colleagues from the programme at Prinzessinnengarten (Princess Garden)

Murals at Prinzessinnengarten (Princess Garden)   

This is at Agora Collective, a network and co-working space at Kopfstrasse that facilitates the encounter of ideas and resource development among people and projects. It has bright office spaces, large art studios, silent zones and an awesome cafe.

Young people at the co-working space, Agora Collective.

Now this is at Tempelhof, Berlin, which used to be one of the major World War II airports in the country. The airport ceased operating from 2008 amidst controversy. Now it is a huge open space where families come to picnic and a group of inspiring women negotiated with the government and are using a patch of land here for community gardening especially for refugees and middle class people to grow their own veggies, etc.  

Relaxing at Tempelhof community gardening site :) The interesting thing is, all plants and veggies at Templehof are grown over the ground in containers. Digging the ground is not allowed because there might be mines that would go off since it used to be an airfield during World War II. 

Hotel Piep for little friends with feathers :) Tempelhof.

At Tempelhof, they are growing anything anywhere! Old boots, mugs, footballs, shoes, etc.

The inspiring women who run the community project at Tempelhof.

View from the United Services Union office at Paula-Thiede-Ufer.

Welcoming refugees! Sight from the United Services Union office at Paula-Thiede-Ufer.

Now this is where I went for lunch one day. It used to be a hospital formerly where the Squatter's Movement started. Since then it has been transformed into a cultural space.

"The squatters’ movement that started in the late 1970s was motivated by concerns both political and personal. On the one hand, the movement attracted those who wished to protest the lack of affordable housing and the negative effects of postwar urban renewal. On the other hand, however, it also appealed to some young people who were primarily interested in escaping both parental control and the burden of paying rent."  (Source: GHDI http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=440)

There are beautiful sculptures all over Berlin and Munich. These two are near the Friedrichstra├če station (railway station) in central Berlin (Berlin Mitte). 

A group photo with my colleagues from the programme at Brandenburg Gate.

"The Brandenburg Gate, a monumental gate built in the eighteenth century as a symbol of peace, is Berlin's most famous landmark. During the Cold War, when the gate was located right near the border between East and West Berlin, it became a symbol of a divided city." (Source: http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/brandenburgertor.htm) 

The Quadriga, Brandenburg Gate. 

The bronze quadriga of victory crowning the gate was created in 1793 by Johann Gottfried Schadow. The four-horse chariot is driven by the winged goddess of peace. 

"In 1806, when Berlin was occupied by French troops, Napoleon ordered the quadriga to be taken to Paris. After Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the quadriga was triumphantly taken back to Berlin, and was turned into a symbol of victory: an iron cross and eagle were added to the laurel wreath. At the same time the square near the gate was renamed Pariser Platz and the statue on the quadriga was now called Victoria, after the Roman goddess of victory." (Source: http://www.aviewoncities.com/berlin/brandenburgertor.htm)

And then finally, I got to see where Nadeem lived while he was in Berlin. Thanks to Aunty (Monika's lovely mom) who drove us down to Wedding.

Aunty and I at Lynnarstrasse (in Wedding), where Nadeem lived. And where Hitler committed suicide with his wife of a few hours, but long time companion, Eva Braun.

Monika and I right in front of the building where Nadeem stayed for more than two years. So, you see, historically how important this trip has been for me :D :D 

Very close to the building is this fantastic place where Aunty treated us to the most amazing pizza I have ever had in my life and some awesome beer from the brewery the place owns! 

This is the Central rail station in Berlin

At Berlin Mitte, where I was staying, was this awesome Sushi Bar at rates much cheaper than anywhere in Delhi (for sushis). I loved the sushis as well as this young girl who had just arrived from Vietnam a couple of months ago and helped out her uncle at the restaurant. Her uncle had started this place long long ago. She wanted me to teach her English. So after the sushi and some great Berlin beer, I gave her a half an hour English class :D 

This is one evening when I went to spend some time with Monika. We walked up to her apartment at Kreuzberg, which is a cosmopolitan neighbourhood. She took me to a Vietnamese place somewhere nearby for great food :) The picture here was taken by me just as we were about to enter the area where she lives. Would anyone believe me if I said that this place was primarily constructed and still houses lower income group people?  

A corner in Monika's house. A beautiful handcrafted piece she had picked up, I think, from Afghanistan.

And here we see Monika's baby (the plant), resting in her bedroom, whom she has to give a wash every once in a while in the bathroom :D

And when Monika is not researching/teaching/presenting papers at Max Planck, this is what she does. Be out on the balcony, lounge and celebrate the gorgeous evening sky ;)

Now this is in Munich. At Marienplatz.

Marienplatz is a very old town centre, and is the heart of Munich.

A pretty shop at Mareinplatz

Interesting things one gets to see here.

Our guide was excellent. She took us through the main town centre, giving interesting history about the place.

She showed us this. A symbol that Hitler had put up on the tower of the Old Town Hall in Munich. After Hitler's death, this symbol was taken off. Interestingly, it is in Munich where Hitler had found supporters when he was starting out with his political ambitions. He founded his Nazi Party here.

A walk inside a mall at Marienplatz

The blue trams that charmed me in Munich :)

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Addressing Trafficking, Prostitution and Vulnerabilities in India (published in Thomson Reuters Foundation, 10 August 2016)

Recently someone asked me how is inter-generational prostitution akin to trafficking. There is consent involved as girls grow up seeing their mothers and aunts in prostitution, and they are initiated into it by their own family. I was conducting a session on human trafficking with a group of Panchayati Raj Institution members from West Bengal, and one of them posed this question. For many who don't know that there is something like inter-generational prostitution, let me tell you that I work with this anti-sex trafficking organisation called Apne Aap Women Worldwide (www.apneaap.org) which works with prostituted, marginalised and at-risk of being trafficked women and girls from red light areas as well as certain caste communities in Delhi, Bihar and West Bengal in India which suffer from 'inter-generational prostitution'. That is, for these caste communities, 'inter-generational prostitution' is a form of livelihood. But, at Apne Aap, we look at it as a case of trafficking.

Read rest of the text at http://news.trust.org/item/20160810073430-k84bf/

My short story 'Where is Arsalan Miyan?' in Himal Southasian on 27 April 2018

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