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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Chp 774. When Cops raid a Spa

Every time there is news related to Spas in the Mizo online world, like the recent tragic event of a Mizo therapist who lost her life in Mumbai, the issue about the dignity and reputation of Mizo girls working at various Spas across India always pops up.

And as usual, it is filled with the usual rhetoric of how it is a demeaning job filled with shady deals and sleazy tasks where women must fulfil the most perverse demands of their clients, straight out of a Human Digest story.

It is so easy to sit in the sweet comfort of our home hundreds of miles away smoking "V" cigarette and sipping on thingpui sen while criticizing these women (and few men) who work extremely hard at Spas, usually more than 12 hours a day and 6 days a week, with no holidays on weekends and public holidays, as that is their busiest time of the week.

Am I saying those people who work at Spas are all morally virtuous and celibate? Of course not, just as how I'm saying all those who work at any other industries like the medical field, corporate sector or administrative service aren't either. It's a big pond, and there will always be different fishes in each pond.

But we continue to judge such women under the same microscope, especially when the police "raids" a Spa and "takes them into custody", we immediately imagine the worst and accuse them of giving us Mizos a bad name. So, why don't you just take a step back, sit down, and let me take you through the exact journey of what happens when someone is "taken into custody" during a Spa raid.

As some of you may know, I live in Koregaon Park here in Pune. It is a prime area, considered to be one of the more expensive localities in Pune in terms of rent and cost of living. There are a lot of luxury Hotels and Day Spas in Koregaon Park (KP), and many Mizos work at such places. Most of them stay in their Spa accommodations within KP itself, provided by their Spa employers. Hence, at least 80% of the Mizos currently living in KP work at various Day Spas and luxury Hotels.

I got to know a lot of these girls really well, and we hung out many times. They were some of the nicest people I had come to know. In fact, I wrote my two fictional short-stories The Beast: Sins of a Woman and its concluding part 2  Neighbour of the Beast based on many of their experiences and conversations I had with them. [Do read them later if you haven't yet]

The most important thing you should know is that whenever the police raids a Spa and takes all the employees into custody, it DOES NOT mean ALL the employees are guilty of doing "something illegal". It could be because of various reasons - the owner of the Spa didn't have a proper permit, or didn't renew his license, or one of the therapists was soliciting an undercover cop, etc. In such cases, it is a common rule for the cops to take every single employee present in Spa at that time into custody (the lucky ones are those therapists who weren't at the Spa at that moment due to different shift timings, and such therapists aren't required to report to the police and surrender).

And by "taken into custody", that doesn't mean they were "thrown inside a lock-up or prison". This is where most people get it wrong. It just means those women were taken to a Rescue Home. Big difference. I've known four Mizos so far who had been through such an ordeal across during the five years that I've stayed here in KP, and they were all brave enough to share their experiences with me for my blog update, so here is basically a timeline of what happens when cops raid a Spa.

The Raid.

Many of you must have seen those videos on Facebook, of police barging into Spas and recording on their mobile phones and video cameras, with half naked clients quickly putting on their clothes etc. Well, things aren't always that dramatic. The four women I asked each said there was never anybody recording anything. Instead everything was done very politely and there was no shouting or banging of doors etc.

Around two men in civilian clothes and another four in police uniform entered their Spa, followed by a few women constable and one woman clad in a burkha. The civvies were the ones giving the orders.

After speaking to the manager, the female constables called all the female therapists into one of the rooms, where they were told to hand over their mobile phones and ID cards. And then they were told to leave all their belongings behind and led outside the Spa where there was a Bolero waiting for them. They got inside and the women constables sat with them, while the male cops sat in another vehicle.

All this while, the therapists had no idea what was going on, while the female constables lied to them by telling them everything would be alright, and that pacified them.

They were taken to a Police Station in Koregaon Park, where they were led into a room and told to wait. The door was unlocked and they were free to roam around but couldn't call anybody as their mobile phones were confiscated.

After around 30 minutes, they were all told to get in the Bolero again, and accompanied by the same women constables, they were driven to the Police Commissioner's office.

At the Commissioner's office, they were questioned one by one by an officer inside a room, and he apparently even went through their mobile phones. Most of the questions they were asked were about their manager or owner, and how long they'd worked for him and how well they knew him etc. Frankly, I was surprised that none of these four girls were asked if they had performed sexual favours for their clients.

After around 2 hours at the Commissioner's office, they were taken back to the Police Station in Koregaon Park, where they were offered some snacks and tea, after which they were told to get inside the Bolero again, and finally taken to the Rescue Home.

It was only then that they realized they were going to be put at the Rescue Home.

The Rescue Home.

There are a number of Rescue Homes for women in Pune. People taken from Spas are usually kept in the one at Hadapsar or the one at Mundhwa. These two Rescue Homes serve as a destination for women rescued from the flesh trade or from human trafficking.

The one in Hadapsar was a narrow but tall building, and a female cop stood guard at the gate entrance. Barbed wires covered the compound walls. The ground floor consisted of an office space, and most of the employees were women.

After walking across the office area and filling up some forms, they were taken inside through a kitchen, and right opposite the kitchen was a flight of steps that led upstairs. There was a chain gate in front of the steps which remained locked most of the time.

They were taken up the steps which led to the bedroom (dormitory). The bedroom consisted of a number of triple-bunk beds and they were all assigned a bunk each. Each bunk had a comfortable thick mattress with bedsheet, pillow with pillow case and a thin blanket. They were all clean.

As they were assigned their beds, they were also given toiletries which consisted of a fresh toothbrush, toothpaste, body soap and a soap for washing clothes, along with a sachet of Clinic plus shampoo. They were also given 1-2 pairs of clean Kurta kameeze to wear, based on their body size, which were all of random design and not a "uniform".

All four women I spoke to, who were taken to the Rescue Home at different time period, all said the other inmates were all extremely friendly. There were women of different age and nationality, most of them Thais and Eastern Europeans. There were also a lot of women from Bangladesh, who were duped into a promise of a better life only to fall a victim of human trafficking. There was no "jailhouse bully" or somebody trying to throw their weight around, everybody was just super caring and understanding.

The women admitted they cried themselves to sleep when the actual realization hit them that they were going to be like that for the next couple of days.

The next morning, the lights were turned on at 5 AM and they were all woken up by the senior inmates. After brushing and doing their toilet business, they were taken to the terrace where they all did Yoga and other breathing exercises.

At 7 AM, breakfast was served. The senior inmates who had been there for a long time were the ones who cooked the breakfast in the kitchen downstairs. They were the only ones allowed to come out of the locked gate near the stairs.

Breakfast usually consisted of Poha, Upma, Idli and sometimes Dosas. They each had a plate and a cup which they rinsed and used in the hall next to the terrace.

After breakfast, they headed back to their bedroom downstairs and relaxed for a bit.

At 10 AM, they were all told to assemble again upstairs.

There were a couple of tutors waiting for them (volunteers from different organizations outside) who were going to teach them how to stitch clothes, learn English etc. They could select whichever course they wanted to learn. Even the English tutors were further divided, like one tutor was teaching a group the basic A, B, C, while another tutor was teaching a different group a little bit more advanced English sentence structures.

Lunch was served at around 1 PM, and it usually consisted of a veg thaali, with chicken being served on Sundays.

After lunch, they could relax for a bit, and after that, all those women who had an appointment with the Court were called out, and they were escorted out of the Rescue Home by female constables, where there was a vehicle waiting for them to take them to Court.

The rest of the women at the Rescue Home continued with the learning courses.

Around 4 PM, snacks were served, which usually consisted of vada pav and tea.

Once all those women who had gone for their Court appointment were back, dinner was served, and after dinner, it was time to relax and chat with others, until "lights out", which was at 9 PM. And then the same routine repeated every day.

There were no recreational facilities like playing cards or board games, and some of the younger inmates would run around playing "tag" with each other. Other than that, the only way to pass the time was to chat with the others.

For those inmates who were taken to the Court during the day, I guess it was also more or less just a formality process for the State to verify that they were still staying at the Rescue Home. They were all seated in the courtroom, and when their names were called out, they had to stand up, and after a couple of exchanges between the lawyers (none of the women were questioned), the next name was called, and finally once all names were completed, they were escorted back to the Rescue Home by the female constables.

Some of the women I interviewed told me that there was a really nice female constable who would buy things for them with her own money, and even called up the phone numbers of their friends and family to tell them that they were doing fine.

The Release.

Eventually, they all stayed in the Rescue Home for more than a month!

The problem was that, getting them out of the Rescue Home was (and is) an extremely difficult process. Even the Pune Mizo Welfare Association (PMWA) was powerless to help such women, because only a direct blood relative could bail them out, that too after going through many hoops of bureaucratic red-tape. Even cousins or uncles and aunts were not allowed to bail out such individuals.

Hence, whenever such incidents arise, the best the PMWA could do was speak to the concerned relatives in Mizoram and instruct them on what procedure to take. And I am really proud of our PMWA for going the extra mile to help out such families.

Basically, you would need to speak to the Social Welfare department in Mizoram about this issue, and they in turn would contact their Social Welfare counterpart in Maharashtra. Once all required papers had been done, the direct blood relatives of the girl (father, mother, brother or sister) had to travel to Pune.

Once in Pune, PMWA members acted as a guide if required, and the family had to get a confirmed stamp from a Magistrate proving that they were indeed blood relatives of the inmate by showing documents such as a ration card.

Meanwhile, the Rescue Home officials were informed that the particular inmate was about to be released soon, so she was taken out of the Rescue Home with a female constable escort and taken to her Spa or apartment to get a change of fresh clothes and collect her employment agreement and work certificate, like a training certificate.

There was usually a sad and tear-filled goodbye moment with the other inmates, with whom they had bonded quite well during the past 1-2 months, and some of the other inmates would joke, "See you again soon!" :D

Once their family members had presented all the required paperwork at the office in the ground floor, along with the employment agreement and work certificate from the therapist, they were finally free to go.

Yayy, freedommmmm!

The Conclusion.

So this is what Spa therapists usually endure when their Spa gets raided by the police.

Now just imagine, before you judge these women again, think of all they had to go through, every day, repeat again and again, for 1-2 straight months, including the utter embarrassment of having to summon down their own dad or mom to bail them out (who also usually happened to be financially weak and could not afford air travel), all for a crime that they themselves did not commit but paid the price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just imagine that.

And I don't want to trivialize it, but one of their biggest complaints was about the food. I have no problem eating such food every day because of my upbringing, but they were definitely not used to it. Imagine having Mizo cuisines all your life and then coming to a new location and suddenly abstaining from it and eating a completely different dish for 1-2 months?

Yes, I know, there should be awareness made about working in shady Day Spas, but not all therapists qualify enough to work at 5-star Hotel Spas. And one can't really know which Day Spa is shady or not until the policeman in civilian clothing comes knocking at your door, by which time, it is already too late.

I hope my blog post managed to enlighten some of you to some degree, and might make you hesitate a bit next time before judging someone when something similar happens again. You need to walk a mile in their shoes first, and I hope this post was able to help you do that to some extent. Half a mile maybe?

Cheers for now, and feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Chp 773. How to make Sanpiau

Ok so here is a short blog update on how to make Sanpiau, a very popular Mizo delicacy.

Although Sanpiau is extremely popular across Mizoram, the original recipe came from a type of Burmese Congee called "Hysan byok", where "hysan" means rice and "byok" means boiled in Burmese. And as the dish started spreading across Mizoram, "Hysan byok" came to be known as "San Peuh" and eventually, "Sanpiau" (the word sanpiau has no meaning in Mizo).

If you search on Google for "Sanpiau", you'll see that most of the search result tells you to add boiled eggs or scrambled eggs to it. Actually, no! A typical Mizo Sanpiau isn't served with eggs, so please ignore those instructions!

Here is how you can easily make authentic Sanpiau at home. I took the trouble of asking my neighbour and close friend Siami here in Koregaon Park, Pune, to make our original Mizo Sanpiau so I could document it for my blog.

1. First up - the base. Rice porridge.

When I cook rice, I normally add 2 and a half cups of water to 1 cup of rice. That way, the rice turns out perfect. However, if you're making Sanpiau, it has to be in a porridge form, so add around a litre of water to 1 cup of rice.

Also add half tbsp of Ajinomoto and 1 tbsp of "Knorr Chicken seasoning powder" to give it a good umami flavour. Cook them all together in a Pressure Cooker and the base is ready.

2. Chilli chutney - Grind hot Mizo chillies or even Naga King Chillies with onions. Simple.

3. Coriander (dhania) - Wash and chop them into small pieces.

4. Sanpiau wafers / crispy papad.

You can buy these from many shops in Mizoram. Otherwise feel free to use any other ready-made wafers, as long as they don't have a heavy flavour (like masala flavour or mint flavour etc as that will divert your sensory taste from the actual flavour of the dish).

5. The meat - People usually use chicken or beef as the meat.

The meat is usually fried dry and not with gravy. The crispier the meat, the tastier the dish.

6. The finishing touch - Once you have all the above ingredients ready:

a) Pour the rice porridge in a bowl
b) Add 1 tbsp of the spicy chilli chutney on top
c) Place around a handful of papad on top
d) Sprinkle the coriander on top
e) Add 1 tbsp of the fried meat on top

Very important to note - unlike other non-veg dishes, only very small amount of meat is included in a Sanpiau bowl. I don't know why, maybe probably to maintain the flavour of the porridge.

Once you have placed all the above ingredients as instructed, add a little bit of Salt, Black pepper, Soy sauce and Fish sauce on top. Thadaaaa, your Sanpiau is ready!

Much thanks to Siami for cooking the above Sanpiau for my blog update. It was super delicious.

I think one of the reasons why Sanpiau is so awesome and popular in our Mizo community is because, after you place all the above ingredients on the bowl, since the porridge is thick, the spices and condiments do not mix with each other, and so, depending on which part of the bowl you dip your spoon and scoop, you get different different flavours! Sooo good!

Hope you find this blog post useful. Cheers for now.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Chp 772. Giskaa Final Review

Since I wrote a very positive review about 3 years ago, I think it is only fair that I now write a negative review about it.

For those of you unaware, GISKAA was the first online e-com site where you can order Northeastern delicacies like pickles and stuff that you get only from the NE. I kinda guess their Business model work the same way as Amazon where different products from different sellers are stored in the same warehouse, since you get them all together in one parcel when you place an order from multiple sellers.

Now here's why GISKAA truly sucks. They have stopped operating a long time ago, but their website is still active! You can still make an online purchase. Yeah, how is this even possible? Is this not illegal or something? All your payments will be accepted, but nothing will be sent to you!

The problem is, most of the targeted customers are Northeasterners, and we Northeasterners are well known for complaining about something on our social media pages and then not doing anything about it further, like actually writing a complaint to the Consumer Forum or threatening a legal action.

Yeah, I too plead guilty to that. Unlike Mainland Indians, most of us just shrug our shoulders and move on. This is bad and we should change this mentality of ours.

So in my case, it had been more than a year now since I placed an order. Here's my prepaid invoice.

Order #42340
Order date: 05 August 2018
Prepaid amount: ₹ 1,320/-

What a scam artist indeed. Unless they are taking more than a year to ferment the meat and king chilli pickles I ordered, I guess I will never see my money again.

Bye bye 1320. I love you 1320.

I'm just putting this blog post up for those of you who might be searching for "Giskaa Review" before you make a purchase, in the hope that this blog post of mine comes up on the first page of Google search result.

In order to take away some of the depression, here are some of the pickles I took to Pune from my recent vacation back home. Soooo good right?

My favorite from all the above is definitely the "Bamboo Shoot with King Chilli" by HORNBILL FOOD. From the name, I am guessing it is a Nagaland based manufacturer.

I love spicy Bamboo shoot pickles, but from all the ones that I have tasted, including the ones locally made in Mizoram, none of them are as good as the ones made by Hornbill Food. The king chilli is super spicy and yet the bamboo shoot has a very prominent flavour as well.

Sorry Mizoram manufacturers, you all aren't just good enough.

But speaking of Mizoram manufacturers, here's a pickle I just loveeeee - Chilli Pickle by RINS PICKLE.

Best chilli pickle I have ever tasted!

I don't know who they are (their phone number is mentioned in the pic), but trust me, you gotta try their chilli pickles. I mean, their other pickles like the kaikuang (prawns) pickle in the pic above is ok-ok. Nothing great or outstanding. But their chilli pickle is just… out of this world mind-blowing! Do try it out, you won't regret it.

So I'll end my short rant here. Once again, DO NOT fall for GISKAA.