Saturday, April 25, 2015

At The Regional Rail Museum In Chennai!

I discovered a nice little place in Chennai that many parents might like to take their children to. Why only children, it might be of interest to adults too; especially those who are train enthusiasts. It is the Regional Rail Museum. I did not know of its existence until a few days ago. Situated in the premises of the Integrated Coach Factory, it has exhibits that are both indoor and outdoor, technical and heritage. The ticket office is in an out-of-use train coach. Along with tickets, one can get miniature models of coaches and cards as souvenirs here. There is a small food court outside, actually it is more of a food stall.

I spent some time at the museum recently. It was hot, but the trees and other plants made walking in the outdoor exhibit area bearable. The indoor exhibits are full of information in the form of posters, pictures and models. But the outdoor is more appealing to the eye. The magnificent engines and coaches standing in the lawns are a photographer's delight. And there is a toy train too. Here are some of my pictures, taken both indoor and outdoor.

This beauty is one of the outdoor exhibits.

What is a rail museum without a toy train?

A tiny train, a small platform!

 This lovely fountain close to the toy train station is refreshing on a hot summer day.

 Where there is a train, there is a tunnel too!

 One of the paintings on the outer wall of the tunnel.

The indoor exhibits have several "to scale" models of old and new coaches. This is a model of a III class wooden coach.

 A double decker coach.

 An LHB air-conditioned chair car.

A large area in the hall is occupied by a running scale model in three different levels representing the Metro train, the suburban train and the MRTS. A view of Indira Nagar station.

And a running model train.

This gleaming Fowler Plough Engine (1895) stands elegantly just outside the main building housing the indoor exhibits.

Almost all the outdoor exhibits are equipped with ladders which help one to climb up to the cabins to see the interior. This ladder is attached to a steam engine. In another area, there is a gigantic crane too.

Members of Chennai Weekend Artists, a group of amateur artists have adorned some walls at the museum with their colourful and bright art. A pretty sample!

I am told that the paints are supplied by the museum, while the artists give their precious time and talent. The result is beautiful!

A little hut storing some maintenance or gardening tools has this impressive engine roaring out of its walls!

Friday, April 17, 2015

On Akshaya Tritiya, A look At Child Brides and "Rehaai"!

"Rajasthan gears up to prevent child marriages on Akshaya Tritiya*", screams a headline in one of the papers I was reading the other day. The accompanying report goes on: The Annual Health Survey for 2012-2013 says that over 14 per cent of the girls in the state were married when they were below the legal age of 18. According to Health Minister Rajendra Rathore, Accredited Social Health Activists and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives, paramedical staff, health workers and NGOs have been asked to prevent child marriages in their areas. A massive campaign in the state is making people aware of the fact that not only parents and guests, but all those involved in child marriages like priests, tent-house owners, caterers and band-owners could be booked under the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2006.

With these measures, hope the figures for child marriages are much lower in the current Annual Health Survey. No doubt, the issue of child marriages is a serious one; but what made me realize its gravity is a Pakistani drama "Rehaai" that I watched recently. Just 15 episodes of intense drama drive home a social message so effectively that no other medium could possibly have. A child bride is not merely a statistic here, but a living breathing adolescent who undergoes the trials and tribulations of this social evil. And we, as viewers are left red-faced looking in the mirror it holds to the after-effects of this custom that thrives in parts of India and Pakistan alike.

Photo: UNFPA/Stephanie Sinclair
The story of "Rehaai" deals primarily with child marriage, but several other issues are woven beautifully into it. Like the desire for male offspring, pregnancy at a young age, polygyny and the insecurity it brings with it for women, confining women to home and hearth under the notion that it is against a man's pride to send his woman out for earning money, and domestic violence. But in spite of all this, it is not a weepy, depressing tale. It is a superb portrayal of grit and resilience shown by a bunch of women who are ill-prepared to handle situations that they find themselves in. If seeing them as targets of atrocities makes your blood boil,  looking at the way they face and fight the difficulties warms the cockles of your heart.

Kudos to the team of this wonderful drama. This is meaningful television at its best. The more I see of Samina Peerzada, the more I like her. She is brilliant as the troubled matriarch of this family, struggling to deal with the ways of her wayward son. Her talent is matched in equal measure by Noman Ijaz, who plays her headstrong son. Another significant feature of this drama is that it is played out in a lower/lower-middle class neighbourhood. The language, the dress sense of the characters and the whole ambience reflects their class with a blunt honesty. No opulent mansions, no flowery language, no fancy cars and definitely no designer clothes or jewellery. There is a certain "rawness" about the way it is presented, lending it its authenticity and credibility. Farhat Ishtiaq's story is accentuated by Mehreen Jabbar's nuanced direction. Watch out for her attention to detail. It brings the location alive on your screen.

Tailpiece: I watched this drama when Deepika Padukone's "My Choice" was doing the rounds on social and news media. The glossy women appearing in that video and the lines they were mouthing sounded inane, and paled in comparison with what the women did and said in "Rehaai" in terms of women empowerment. And no, being in that situation was not their choice!

*Akshaya Tritiya falls on April 21 this year.