Thursday, September 28, 2006


The day, when it was my turn to be created, God decided to go for a holiday.
He left the clay unattended, lying in a heap, and rushed off to take some days of rest.
Everybody takes holiday, so why shouldn’t God take one too?

Holidays are important stress busters. I usually take one too!
Offended, I am not, if God takes holiday, offended I was, at His timings wronged!
‘Let me be born perfect’ I had pleaded to God many a times, when we spoke of me.
Yes, that’s what I had always wished. But alas! That was not to be.

For days, the clay lay unattended, forgotten, unused on a table top.
One fine day, an apprentice entered the holy workshop.
Roving a glance at the unattended clay, didn’t know what to do.
Messaged God to ask him, “Should I shape it with water, or just bind with glue?”
“Use a human manual,” said God, “And shape a woman fragile,
Let there be curves, pay attention and make something divine.”
And thus I was created from a manual kept on his side

Foolish apprentice created me divine, ugly and totally blind!
Overwhelmed, I traveled a thousand miles to find the Creator of all.
Resting on a Royal seat,saw Him with my inner eye, enjoying the waterfall

Before I could speak a word, I had lost my normal cool
“Lord, please help me! I can’t see! Not fair to me!” I screamed,
“Enjoy, I cannot, a fatal err has been made!” “Oh My Gosh!” said my Lord.
“Shush! Relax! Fear not! I will rub you with my Grace.”
Silently, we traveled back, He and me and my confused mind.
In his workshop He looked for the tools that would give me an outer shine.
“No, cannot restore your sight, damage is already done.” He said,
Giving me a glass of talent, He asked me to take a gulp.

Hope returned to my dark world with talent of word and song.
Inside my heart, he planted compassion with a promise it would not decay
Smile, it would bring to the helpless and mend their broken soul.

Surrounded me with caring family and pals who pampered me night and day
Oh! The eye that failed to see the colors of life saw the rainbow of love within!
Never again did I ever complain of imperfect physical gleam.
So blessed was I with final touches of my great Lord.

Hidden message
by picking first letter from each sentence, the hidden message revealed is
'The Holy Formula For blessing His Sons'

Monday, September 25, 2006

I am not the only one

I am not the only one
Who nervously says:
Black is black and
White is white

I am not the only one
Who meanders aimlessly
Through perfumed dreams
And champagne days

I am not the only one
Who diligently weaves
A branded tapestry
Of misery and pain

I am happy to know
That I am no stranger
In this hopeless world of

Welcome Rains!

The rains have arrived
And I am prepared.

I have booked shelters
at the bus depots,
in public schools,
and in conference rooms.

I have learnt to swim safely
In the murky stinking waters.

I have shopped
for rafts,
for boats,
and for life jackets.

I will use my walking stick
To poke into the knee deep water
and look for unexpected manhole.

I close my eyes for moments longer
and train myself
to sit in darkness

I have learnt few tunes
to kill the silence

Yes I am prepared,
they who promised
are not yet prepared.

Time for nursery rhymes

One two unbuckle my shoe
I want to beat them
Black and blue

Three four come to the door
See them shaking
At the dance floor

Five six follow the chicks
That’s what they say
In between the flicks

Seven eight throw them out of gate
Why are they here
It is so late?

Nine ten Ah those men!
Always following us
To our dens.

Farewell to Lord Ganesha

“Come home on Sunday for lunch, I am having Ganpati prayers in my house.” said my friend, Deepu, when I met him during my regular walks at the Jogger’s park. It had been many years, since I had last attended a Ganpati Festival in Mumbai. I had lived in Canary Islands for many years, and Ganpati Festival was celebrated there, within the small Indian community, that resembled more like a private party than like a festival. My friends, back home, would relate to me about the celebrations of the festival but I had always wanted to be in India to experience it first hand. Now, that I was finally having the opportunity to celebrate the Ganpati festival in India, I was curious and most eager to attend.

“For how many days will you bring Lord Ganesha at your house?” I asked him as I sipped the water from my bottle.

“It will be for one and half day.” Said my friend, “Although many people bring home idol of Lord Ganesha and celebrate the festival by worshipping the Lord in a special way, some for a day and half, or 5 days, 7 days or 11 days, depending on the family tradition and commitment of each individual..” My friend informed me.

Ganpati Festival started on 27th August this year. Deepu brought the idol of Lord Ganesha to his house with much love and devotion. He had devoted one week prior to the festival to cleaning and decorating his house. All his friends and relatives, who came to seek the blessing of Lord Ganesha, were welcomed to stay for meals and sweets. Deepu informed me that this wonderful custom was popularized by Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak (in the year 1893 in Pune, India,) to bring together the ‘Hindustanis’ during the British rule. Originally, worshipping Lord Ganesha was a family affair. Wet clay was fashioned into a symbolic Ganesha form, placed on the left palm and worshipped with the chanting of mantras, followed by the rituals. The idol was then immersed in the well or a pond. A devout Hindu believes that what came from the earth should return there.

After one and half day it was time for the farewell. We gathered at his house at 5 o’clock in the evening to perform the aarti. (An Aarti is a devotional hymn accompanied by musical chimes, with one devotee moving the plate containing rice, sindoor and burning lamp, in circular motion in front of the deity). Deepu’s family had hired a special open truck for transporting Lord Ganesha to the beach. The truck was decorated with yellow and purple flowers. After the aarti, he carefully positioned the Ganesha idol in the truck. Some of us sat facing the idol and the rest followed us by walking behind the truck..

As the truck crawled down the crowded streets of Mumbai, we all happily chanted devotional songs and hymns. Deepu’s mother had made lot of Prasad, which she distributed to every passerby who cared to accept. We passed the streets that were decorated with chains of lights and were flooded with long procession of devotees. A Spanish native would have called this ‘Hindu Carnival’. We saw some groups of people in the procession dance to the Bollywood numbers while some other group danced at the traditional music of layzims and drums. (a layzim is a kind of musical instrument that has a long metal chain of chimes, that converges into an arc connecting the two ends of a wooden rod. A dancer holds the wooden rod in one hand and the metal chain of chimes in other hand and produces the music by swinging the arms in rhythm) The festivity was everywhere. There was a huge crowd of spectators lining both sides of the street, some sitting on the foot paths, others perched on the building fence and many stood leaning against the wall.

We reached Juhu beach after a long ride of one hour. (Normally it takes just ten minutes) Deepu carefully lifted the idol of Ganesha from the truck and took it to the beach and placed it on the sand. His mom dug a large hole into the sand and placed the burning lamp and other puja materials in front of the idol of Lord Ganesha. They, then performed a farewell aarti for the last time.

After the farewell aarti, I saw everybody whisper something in Lord Ganesha ear. Deepu’s mother asked me to make a wish in Lord Ganesha ear and she assured me that it would be answered!! She informed me that whenever she selected an idol of Lord Ganesha, she looked for the idol with large ears and big belly. The big belly signified the prosperity for the family and the huge ears would guarantee the listening capacity of Lord Ganesha!!

Deepu lifted the idol of Lord Ganesha and placed it on his head. Each family member touched their head to the idol’s feet to seek the farewell blessings. He carried the idol on his head and waded into the waters as far as he could, while we waited at the shore with our feet immersed in water. When he could go no further, he, and all the other family members who had accompanied him, chanted loudly ‘Ganpati Baba Morya! Pudcha Varshi Laukarya!’ that means ‘O Ganpati, Return soon next year’. He, then, slowly immersed the idol into the water and waited for it to disappear.

When he returned, tears clouded his eyes as he announced his decision of bringing the idol of Lord Ganesha to his house once more, next year!!!

Those Dreadful Boxes

I have a small attic,
that stores five boxes;
they have been labelled and
I don’t let them fall.
Many times I avoid,
But, sometimes on and off,
I go up the attic
to meddle one or all.

Boxes that contain danger
are labelled Ego and Anger,
When I flip open its cover
and drop it down the shelf;
A scene that I create
Makes me a fool of myself!

All time people crash
Into the box called Ego
You'd think they'd learn
Sometime, it isn't easy to let go
Knocking over the box of Anger
Spilling its contents all over my mind
As my senses lose all direction
And my normal voice is tough to find

If people don’t behave
The way I would expect
The rules that I enforce
They fail to respect
My ‘Ego’ gets shattered
My ‘Anger’ knows no bounds
My senses lose direction
Normal voice cannot be found.

I quickly shut the boxes
Of ‘Ego’ and ‘Anger’
Peace returns once more
My tranquility out of danger.

I stare at other three boxes
Of ‘Attachment’, ‘Lust’ and ‘Greed’
Dreading its effects
of commotion on my deeds.
If first two were harmful
I imagined the rest
I decide not to meddle
And subject myself to test.

So, once again I seal them,
Those five dreadful boxes;
Pushed them into the attic.
A little bit more behind;
Than where it was placed
At the back of my mind.

At the Caferati

With empty box of ‘Grey Cells’
I walked into the room
Amidst the group of writers
That loaded words in their boots.

With meekly introduction
Expecting an applause
With clich├ęs and metaphors
I waited to fill the box.

It started with a poem
Followed by the prose
And then there was story
Essay and a report,

Soon the words came crawling
All over in the room
The ‘puns’ climbed the walls
The ‘similes’ on the roof

Arrows of ‘no’ ‘buts’ and ‘ifs’
Missiles of ‘must’ ‘could’ ‘should’
In the symphony of emotions
The words began their jazz.

I looked from right to left
Grabbing the dancing words
Stuffed them one by one
Into the box of ‘Grey Cells’

Silently I left the room
My booty beneath by arms
Reaching to a secured place
Planted them in my farm.

Udaipur – the city of dreams

It is a Sunday afternoon. I stretch to pick up the remote control and shut off the television. James Bond 007’s movie ‘Octupussy’ was good and entertaining. Its location of the city and the palaces brings up many forgotten memories. I grow drowsy as my mind drifts to that enchanted city called ‘Udaipur’, situated in the north Indian state of Rajasthan. A city, famous across the land through its song and story, Udaipur, which was once the capital of a vast hilly region called Mewar. Its rulers, the soldiers of Rajput clan, ruled non-stop right up to the independence of India, in 1947, for an incredible 75 generations!

Me? I was busy playing out ‘what ifs?’ as I went boating on the lake Pitchola in the heart of Udaipur. As in what if I had lived in those palaces, or danced with my royal friends to the beat of folk music, or simply a royal bath with maids of honor waiting upon me? Then there was the prettiest ‘What if’ of all. What if the clock turned back and the Moguls and the Rajput filled the palaces and I actually relived the past! Ah, but it was so easy to dream up such experiences in the penumbra of such perfections!

And this city and this palace are twin peaks of perfections. Now, a luxury hotel, rated amongst the most exotic in the world, Lake Palace Hotel was once called the ‘Jal Nivas”. It was built in 1740 as the cool pleasure palace for royals and their dancing girls. Its rich wealth of marble structure with stained glass and rich artifacts make it truly a great holiday retreat, available to anyone who can afford to stay. Visitors, who just want to look around, can come to this palace hotel for a meal or the sunset cocktail. In fact the price includes the boat ride from the mainland. There is a story that goes that the lake surrounding the palace was infested, in those days, with crocodiles. While the royals enjoyed the comfort of the boat rides, the dancing girls had to walk on a tight rope to reach the mainland.

My two companions and I had swapped our Air-India flight at Delhi Airport for a rented car. Some few hours later, our car had finally taxied off the highway. Passing through the villages, you catch the smell of cooking fires. The streets are crowded with villagers, with men dressed in colorful turbans, short kurtas and skin tight pajamas. Women dressed in hand printed sari that cover from head to toe. Silver jewelery adorns their head, neck, waist, hands and feet. Bare-footed children waved and shouted excitedly as our car snailed down the narrow path created by the moving villagers. You catch a glimpse of the city palace hotel which dominates the sky line. The city, the palaces and the prismatic sky, is why you are here. You only have to look around you to get the emotional kick-start of a lifetime.

The evening is warm and pleasant. The rays of light, filters through the shades, into my bedroom, I rouse from my reverie, draw up the shades and take a deep breath. Telephone starts to ring, I go to answer. It is my friend, who is inviting me over for a game of a scrabble and dinner. I decline politely, having already decided to spend the day all by myself- alone. I wander up to the kitchen and prepare a cup of coffee. Balancing a cup of coffee in one hand, and a book, ‘Life isn’t all ha ha hee hee’ by Meera Syal in another hand, I make my way through the rooms, on to my balcony and plop down against the corner seat. The view from my balcony is beautiful with small children playing in my building compound. But my mind can neither concentrate on this immediate beauty nor on my favorite book, it drift back to Udaipur dreamscape.

The city palace dominates the skyline of Udaipur like no other structure. It is famous for its fine style of painting and stained glass. The complex was deliberately laid out like a maze to confuse the armed intruders. Eleven palaces in granite and marble built since Mogul Udaisingh’s time make this the largest palace in Rajasthan with many hidden splendors.

Days were spent doing what you do in Udaipur. I reduced my consumption of novels and went exploring instead. We visited the Peacock Court known as ‘Morchowk’. This part had a huge peacock made of 5000 pieces of stained glass. I focused my pocket torch on them and they glittered producing a fabulous spectrum of light.

Just facing the ‘Morchowk’ is the women’s quarters called ‘Janana mahal’. This is one of the finest rooms in the palace. Its walls are adorned with famous theme- scene from the life of lord Krishna. The palace also hides other delightful rooms. Like one of the king’s bedrooms- ‘Maharana ki kothi’ its walls are adorned throughout with the mosaic of precious stones and mirrors. It is very much common amongst the royals and moguls alike. The most perfect palace I have ever set my eyes on.

Next, we were led to the ‘Krishna Vilas’. Our guide informed us that this part of the palace recalls a great tragedy. It is said that this palace was built in the memory of the sixteen year old princess by the name of Krishnakumari, who drank poison to avoid the dilemma of choosing a groom from the two rival lands of Jodhpur and Jaipur – the neighboring cities of Udaipur. They say that she drank the deadly drink with such great dignity and grace that even the sternest of the warriors wept like children.

As we walked ahead, we came across a meshed, net-like structure. It looked so sinister that we watched in wonder. Our guide informed us that it was the woman’s private quarters. This enclosed existence is in marked contrast to the harsh war-like world of man. The women would sit at a distance and watch all the activity of the palace without being noticed. The woman did have their outdoor fun too. There was a secluded garden built just for them where their natural exuberance would gush freely.

Next day, we had visited the garden of ‘maid of honor’ known as ‘Sahilon ki Badi’. This is situated to the north of Udaipur. In the interior of this garden, there is a big open ground where you will find the group of loyal villagers. These villagers performed the folk music with traditional dances- a music so enticing that you were led to believe as though you are reliving the past. For shopping, we headed towards the roadside market known as Jagdish market. This is a unique market where you would find cabin-like stalls laid close together side by side. There were variety of things on sale including artifacts, silver jewelry, handicraft gifts, embroidered clothes and most cute of all- puppets. We were told that there were also state run emporiums that sold high quality goods at reasonable bargains.

And for typical Udaipur entertainment, we enjoyed a traditional Rajasthan cuisine, which is mostly vegetarian with puris, lentils and vegetables cooked in sweetest spicy sauces. Late evenings, we were entertained by watching a puppet show with folk music and dance. The music was so lively and stimulating that everybody present, were unconsciously shaking their heads and tapping their feet. Me? I surprised myself by swinging and dancing to the rhythm of folk music holding the hands of local performers.

Now, I tap my feet as I watch the sun go down behind the mountains. It is getting late and chilly. I get up and put away the book. That was the wonderful experience to crown my visit to this fairy land. I hate coming down to the earth. But alas, all good things must come to an end. I pick up the phone and call my friend. “Listen dear; is the invitation to the game of Scrabble and dinner still open?”

Women’s world wide struggle

Shobha shrieked with pain: the blows continued to shower. When she could not defend herself against her husband’s cruelty, she fainted. She found herself in the hospital ward as she opened her eyes. “Do you have something to report ma’am?” asked the police officer. “No,” she replied simply.

Men subject more than 60 percent of women in the poor countries to domestic violence, according to the UN development program. It says: “Women may be half of the world’s population, but seven tenth of the poor people around the globe are women. Two third of the illiterate adults are women, and those who remain, if they are lucky enough to have the freedom to work, can only expect 75 percent of the salary as the man doing the same job. Everywhere women continue to be the victims of violence listed as significant cause of disability and death among women of reproductive age.

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8. The idea of celebrating this day is for recognizing the importance of women’s role in the society. It is an occasion to review how far they have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. It is also an opportunity to unite, network and mobilize for meaningful change.

It dates to the year 1857, when one of the first organized actions by the workingwomen anywhere in the world took place. Hundreds of garment and textile women workers went sent on strike in the New York city protesting against low wages, long working hours and inhumane working conditions. The event ended in violent struggle with the police. Fifty-three years later, in August 1910, at a meeting in Copenhagen, the women’s Socialist International decided to commemorate the strike by observing an annual International Women’s Day.

Today, they still refuse justice to women in those countries, where women are treated as second-class citizens or the property of men. Women’s work is unrecognized everywhere in the world and there are still disputes over women’s rights, sometimes cultural, sometimes religious and sometimes social. There are some women, who feel that there is no point in having the international woman’s day every year if the woman is forgotten for the remaining 364 days of the year.

Man and woman, both are essential parts of the most basic human equation. While the circumstances of the cobbler and the judge may clearly differ, nobody would question the right of each human to equality as a citizen, or before the law. In the same way, man and woman can only reach the true equality through the recognition of their substantial differences. A truly civilized society would relish those differences rather than punish women for their sex. But still, nowhere in the world can a woman claim to have same right and opportunities as man. “The advancement of the woman and the achievement of equality between woman and man is the matter of human right and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a woman’s issue.” According to the Platform for Action the final document of the conference held in Beijing in 1995. “They are the only way to build a sustainable just and developed society.”

Society neither helps a mother to work, nor makes her feel that she has right to do so. Regardless of the evidence of research, a deep almost subliminal idea is encouraged to needle away at her conscience that the child needs his mother all the time. The guilt can go with her everywhere, augmented by the notion, that only woman has the natural proclivity towards the mother. At work she feels the guilt of not being a good mother and not spending more time with her children. Since she has children, she also suffers the guilt of not working hard enough at her job. In both the quarters, working mothers feel compromise and inadequate.

International Women’s Day is the day we need in order to remind the women around the world to stop, take a deep breath, and think about where we are, what have we achieved, to re-energize ourselves, to mobilize ourselves and set new goals to where we want to reach. This is the day, which the UN has conferred for women because it also enables nationals to stop and think about what they want their women to achieve.

Addressing the problems faced by the women is at heart of a global agenda promoted by the United Nations. By adopting international laws and treaties, United Nations has established a common standard for society to achieve equality between man and the woman. The world now has a growing number of women as policy makers, with a recorded ten women as heads of the state or government.

In his message marking the International Women’s Day in 1995, at Beijing, Boutros Boutros said; “In the global efforts for peace and enduring progress, the promotion and protection of women’s rights are central. Success in the tasks means progress for everyone, young and old, men, women and children,”

Cohabiting Before Marriage: Good or Bad?

The recent release of Bollywood film ‘Salaam Namaste’ (copied from English version of the same theme) created quite a furore in India. Set in Melbourne, Ambar, played by Preity Zeinta and Nick, played by Saif Ali Khan are a young unmarried couple who have decided to continue to develop their relationship by moving in together. The story unfolds further when the two have to deal with an unplanned pregnancy.
Although living patterns are changing, and ‘love-cum-arranged’ marriages are more prevalent, Indian parents still prefer to take the responsibility of choosing a spouse for their children. When their children reach a mature marriageable age, an Indian parent will go to great length to find a spouse for their children of equal social and financial status, matching horoscope and a similar family background.

However, as Indian families are spreading to different parts of the world, the pattern of love and marriage is also changing and the concept of a ‘Trial Marriage’ or ‘Cohabitation’ is slowly creeping in. Even our latest Bollywood hit film, Salaam Namaste, encourages this notion.

But before we accept such concepts as acceptable or perhaps beneficial, we must consider the results of societies where cohabiting as a couple is part of the norm. According to a recent study by Reuters Health, approximately, 25% of the women living with a man say that they don’t ever plan on marrying him. “This result suggests that for many people, living together is not a step on the road to marriage,” author Dr. Wendy D. Manning of Bowling Green State University in Ohio told Reuters Health.

Having a Trial Marriage to make sure that you are compatible before plunging into the real thing seems sensible. Anjali Daryanani, a young girl from Spain, feels that living together before marriage is the best way of getting to know your partner. She says, “How many times have we heard ‘but I never knew...’ why should we spend so much money on wedding dresses and parties only to realise later that he/she is not the right person. We are living in the 21st century and we have to keep up with the times. Why should we (the Indian community) be different from other cultures where this is accepted? Those who decide to live together before marriage should not be looked down upon by the Indian community. Their decisions should be accepted because we live for ourselves not for the society we are part of.”

Unfortunately, data from the University of Wisconsin provides a painful bottom line: Couples that cohabit before marriage increase their odds of divorce by 50 percent. Dr. Ed Sondick, director of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) National Center for Health Statistics, said that the analysis went "beyond the basic bookends of marriage and divorce to look more closely at how the issue of cohabitation impacts the life of a relationship." The study found that the likelihood of a first marriage ending in separation or divorce within five years is 20 percent, while the probability of a pre-marital cohabitation ending in a breakup within five years is 49 percent. After 10 years, those figures rise to 33 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

Cohabiting partnerships are not legally bound together—that is, of course, the whole point of cohabitation. They are also not institutionally supported. This makes it difficult for others—family, society, social institutions- to offer their support since they are not sure what the cohabiters themselves expect from the relationship. Cohabiters are less likely than married partners to have been introduced by family members, less likely to have met through religious ceremonies, less likely to know each other’s family, and less likely to know each other’s friends. Eventually this affects the relationship because they are left alone to fend for themselves in time of crisis.
Cohabiting couples are much less likely than married couples to pool their finances, to assume responsibility for support of their partner, to own appliances or property together. Returning to the film ‘Salaam Namaste’ Nick and Ambar are young, they're cool, they're independent - and together they make the BEST pair! Or do they? Surrounded by quirky friends, bosses and landlords but far away from home, they take a huge leap of faith as they decide to move in together. And now they must tiptoe towards getting to know each other. They are attracted to each other - but they fight. They live together, but as friends and in different rooms. They seem to want the same things, but also seem to have very little in common. So are they really made for each other? Are they actually compatible? After all, if a relationship is what happens when you're busy not thinking about it - then what does it mean when everything has to be such a "decision?"
There are more effective ways to get to know a potential spouse than living together. You can start by asking yourself whether you’re ready to make an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. Take time to consider whether you and your potential partner have physical attraction, friendship, common interests, companionship, and share similar values. Ask yourself if you are willing to put another person’s interests and needs above your own. Seek the counsel of other people, especially those who are happily married.

So, stop, take a deep breath, and think before you plunge into the muddy puddles of this complicated adjustment. Whatever decision we make, we have to carefully consider all of our options and make sure that cohabitation is for us and we are ready to take the full responsibility of the possible consequences.

Life Is Fair!

Cradling a cup of hot coffee, I walk towards the window of my apartment in the Bandra suburb. I do not even acknowledge my awkward gait. I have had this peculiar walk as long as I can remember, much before I began to figure out the causes and the effects of any disease. Mom told me that I was born a perfect child, fairest of five sisters, envy of the neighborhood. The medical facilities were very primitive in those days and a mid-wife would suffice for a normal childbirth. Enjoying the attention and endearments doted on a beautiful child like me for full six months; polio attacked me and crippled all my four limbs, and then began the long and endless journey to the doctor’s clinic and hospitals. With my family’s support and care, I did recover, but not completely. A slight limp and a curved backbone stayed on and have been my visible defect since then. Maybe if there were awareness (as much as it is now) about the polio drops in those days, my parents and my family would have taken the necessary precautions! And, I too would have enjoyed the joys of living a normal life (that is, if normal life is all about getting married and rising new generation). However, I have lived an almost normal life and sometimes I have used it to my advantage too. But then I have learnt to look to the positive perspective at every angle. And, to pretend that the unpleasant things don’t exist at all.

I stand drinking coffee at the window, looking out onto a playground I have been looking at for past thirty years and thinking about how it looked to me when I first moved in, and how it looks to me now. This year, I am one year older, and have reached the age when the society decides you're ready to be put to pasture. For me, the years have been one of reckoning: an assessment of the past undertaken for the sake of getting on with the future. Behind such an act always lies the unspoken question: Who am I, and how did I get here?

I take another sip of the cooling coffee, stare at the playground, and inevitably, begin to brood on what now looks to me like a lifelong struggles to become a human being: an independent human being. Looking back on this struggle, I see that this question of "becoming" is a preoccupation of mine that has found its way repeatedly into my work. Much of what I have done over the past years; is riddled through with it. And at every junction of my life, I have stopped, focused and presented the proof of my ability, at times, I have even pleaded to everyone, who cared to listen, to see my ability and not my disability!

I remember long ago, after graduating with first class honors in Bachelor’s Degree, I had applied for an admission to teachers’ college to pursue my career as a qualified teacher (the dream that I had natured since childhood) but, in spite of having all the qualifications of a perfect teacher, I was refused admission for ‘the post-graduation’ in the teachers college. The principal had shamelessly admitted that she suspected my inability to disciple a class room of rowdy kids and therefore could not be qualified as an efficient teacher. The pain of rejection was very intense. I believed I was a loser! I cursed God that day! However, stubbornly, I went on for training in special education teachers’ college instead, and I proved her wrong! I started my career as the head teacher of the special school and set a fine example to my peers.

I taught in the special school for six years and then moved on to teach in main stream school for another two years. A job that was done with so much perfection, that it brought great progress even to a lazy student. During my course of teaching, I noticed that students hardly ever noticed my limp. At the first meeting, they would curiously ask me as to why I walked so, some even would try to train me to walk straight, some of them going to the extend of walking in front of me and telling me to notice and ape their walk and learn the correct way of walking but when I spoke to them in an animated and confident expressions, my handicap was soon forgotten and they became more interested in learning. Many of my students have won national prizes in the inter-school competitions during my teaching career.

Life moved on, I migrated to Surinam and later to Canary Islands to help my brother in retailing business, but kept abreast with my teaching skills, teaching (informally) every child that I could touch. During my stay in Surinam for three years, the kids of Suriname developed a strange bond with me. I was invited to every child’s party. I would organize Diwali parties and other Indian festival programs for kids where in I would train the children in drama and dance. The parents would take interest in their children and lend me their support. They were very happy that they could find another Indian in a foreign land who loved their children. I soon became popular with my event management activities and the Indian Embassy of Surinam enrolled me in their committee of cultural events. Over the years, I developed interest in reading and writing and honed my talent on writing skills too.

Now, back in India, I can boast of two published books on ‘computer for kids’ and a set of 24 modules in Mathematics for young kids called “Learning Mathematics with Pushi didi’. This set of 24 mathematics books has got good response and the parents have confirmed that it is helping to develop the strong mathematical foundation in their children. In addition, I have a set of five modules on ‘English Grammar’ (for young kids), awaiting a publisher, while my book on Sindhi ‘Cooking’ is on back burner. Presently, I am also NGO of a ‘Swami Brahmanand Prathisthan, centre for mentally challenged’, where I help in management and fund raising activities and a freelance translator for a Spanish company in India. Besides this, I also paint and make Indian dolls and I have sold many of my art works in local exhibitions at huge profit!

Relishing the coffee taste, I wonder how able-body people live life differently. They have the same dreams, and same opportunities (sometimes better) as everybody else. Now, in my middle age, I get a glimpse of the reality that my dreams are no different, nor my goals, whatever they may be. I too have muddled through my life, day by day, going along without direction. Wondering what would happen next. Wondering now how I find myself stuck again, and how I got here, and how to get out. Not entirely miserable, but not feeling like I fit in. Not feeling like this is where I belong. But how many mistakes will I make, how many changes, how many moves, before I find that place? Before I know I belong? I know where I think I want to be, but there is no clear path, it’s the same path that we all take and the same frustrations that we must experience. Over the years, I have realized that it is not the innocent children who notice the imperfections in adults, but it is the mature, educated adults, who are embarrassed to be in company of not so perfect people, and these are the same people who fail to recognize their own hidden shortcomings!

Finally at this point of my life, I and my life have finally come face to face, and I can have a heart-to-heart talk with myself. I can almost touch the person I am, and I have learnt to depend and have faith on myself and not to be influenced or disillusioned by the attitudes of the world. It's a beautiful experience. It feels so good, freeing, as if a rebirth. I am at this point, or so it sounds to me. I didn't find it easy to begin my creation process (it wasn't a re-creation because I had no idea what the "me" was before) but I have found it exciting, enervating -- more than worth all that I had been through to get to this point.

As I wash the coffee stains off my used cup, I promise myself that at no point in my life, will I allow myself to be singled out!

Hospital, Operation and all that Jazz!

In my life time, I have been to the hospital many times, but always as a visitor. I usually occupy the narrow bed by the wall or an uncomfortable chair. Looking at the patient, I wonder what he is sulking about. Why can’t he just relax? He has undivided attention of team of doctors and nurses, he has waiters and butlers attending to his demands and a social gathering during the visiting hours. His room and bathroom are cleaned at regular hours, he is neatly tucked into a clean bed, he is served with fancy meal of assorted vegetables, soup and sweet dish and the unlimited pampering of his close relatives and friends, and also (of course) he can control the TV channels. Okay, I agree, he might have little pain, but they give him painkillers and antibiotics. Don’t they? Envying his luxuries and style, I had decided then, that, when my turn comes (it always does, at least once in a life time) I would have fun, just chill and enjoy the paid leave. I would not have to worry about the monetary problems too since my company would foot the bill.

The day finally arrived. I had to go for a minor surgery for the removal of the renal stones and had to be hospitalized for a day.
“Only one day?” I asked the doctor.
“Yes, the entire necessary medical tests should be done in OPD.” He said.
“Can’t I stay longer? I need rest too.”
“You can rest at home. We have only 300 beds and all are booked.”
(All the beds are full? Is this hospital busier than the city hotels?)

I started receiving many calls as the news of my stay in the hospital was spreading. (Normally, my phone hardly rings, many a times I have to call from my landline to my mobile to check whether it is still working) Everybody wanted to re-confirm my disease, and educate me on its precautions and treatments. (I wished they had known of my existence before) They promised to pray for my swift recovery. (Gosh! I was so lucky!) I reassured them that it was just a minor surgery but still, some believed that they might never see me again. Suddenly, so many people were offering to keep me company. I had almost become a star! I selected just one introvert person to accompany me to the hospital, while the talkative ones were invited to visit me during the visiting hours.

Neatly dressed, with my hand bag, medical reports and shiny suitcase, I reported at the concierge at 6am. I had packed my suitcase with all the necessary items such as: toothpaste, tooth brush, one night gown, under garments, hair brush, lipstick, deodorant, and mp3, mobile, a bestseller hard bound, few magazines and an extra pair of clothes for the next day. (Later on, during the day, I was to realize that such items were necessary only when I had occupied the narrow bed by the wall)

As soon as I entered the ward room, I was asked to change into a fresh set of pin striped clothes. It took me some time to figure out the art of tying out the knots of the garment. (As I unclipped my wrist watch, I felt naked without my jewelry) I settled on a big metal bed that was inclined at an awkward angle. My medical file was placed at the foot of the bed. (Prisoner no 1022, scheduled for electric chair at 10 am). I was asked to autograph a form stating that I am ready to be butchered at my own free will. Popping in few pills, I watched the idiot box, surfing the channels and waited.

At 10am I heard the rumble of the wheel chair being rolled down the corridor to my door and bedside.
“I don’t need the wheelchair, I can walk” I protested.
“Never mind. Please sit down.” The nurse told me sternly.
Ah well! I might as well enjoy the ride.
As I was wheeled down the corridor, into the lift, and towards the operating theatre, I smiled or waved to every passerby and studied the panorama of every passing wall and the doors.

Finally I reached the operating theatre. (Do they call this theatre because the act performed here is without any rehearsals?) I roved a glance at the gleaming instruments that would shortly rip open my body, the tubes, knobs, valves and gadgets that would try to keep me alive, the surgical team in its green overalls and masked faces and caps resembling the characters I had only seen in TV serials. The room was so crowded. Why do they need so many people to make a surgical team? (Are some of them attending tutorials?)

I lay down on a high narrow couch, in front of crowded surgical team. The lights came on, above and the theatre was complete. I was given a spinal block, a not too painful anesthetic in the spine, the lower lumber region, and from waist down I became two logs of dead wood. A curtain was drawn separating my upper body from the lower and blocking my view but I could hear the doctor ask for scalpel, scissors, knives, guts, swabs.

And I could also hear them gossiping.
“Sister Mary is having an affair with Dr. Satish, our heart specialist”
“How do you know?”
“I met them at Chinese restaurant yesterday.”
“Wow! Are you sure?”
“Why else would he take her out for dinner so late at night?”
“Shut up! Don’t make up stories.”
The mobile rang a tune, people talked.
Finally I inquired, “When is the operation starting?”
“It has been on 30 minutes.”

“You have been a very co-operative patient.” said the doctor as I was transferred to a stretcher. (I do not know how I could have been otherwise.) As I emerged from the theatre, I was in yogic coma, people who saw me, stood up and stared hard to see if I was blinking. I was tempted to play peek-a-boo.

I dozed for the rest of the day. The only discomfort was the saline water, blood bottle and the urine bag that were plugged to my body, hindering my freedom of movement. I accepted all in my stride because whimpering can deepen ugly lines on my smooth face.


Last train from riot town

“Lets meet at 8 pm, the usual place. Okay?” Shalin chirped happily into her mobile phone as she stepped into the local train. Talking to Abi was always a pleasure and she would cherish every moment of their meetings. It had been more than two years since she first met him, but his presence still had the same strange effects on her. Her cheeks would warm up, her palms would perspire, and her heart would skip a beat and then double its beat after every memory. She loved the way he winked after his every joke, she loved the way he moved his head, slightly inclined, listening attentively to her every word. She loved the way he teased her. He made her feel so special, holding on to her arm, protecting her in that special way. As the train began to move, she adjusted her dhupatta over her shoulder, walked carefully into the train compartment and plopped into a space between two ladies. The trains at this hour were always packed and she was lucky to find a room.

‘Tonight, after dinner, I shall ask him to come to meet my parents’ she thought as she surveyed the train compartment. The compartment was full of ladies and children. All the seats were tightly occupied, and there were many ladies, who stood unsteadily in double rows. There was not enough room for them to stand and they kept swaying from side to side as they held on to the handle, on the bar above, while clutching their handbag with the other hand. Her attention was diverted by shrill cry of a blinded beggar singing a Bollywood tune. Some women took turns to stretch their arms to place few coins into his outstretched palm. A lady on her right was busy rummaging through the box of assorted clips and ear rings. A youth had squeezed his way through the crowd and had dumped the box of his wares onto her lap. In Mumbai, the local trains may be packed with flesh to flesh, but still; beggars and vendors always managed to find their way in.

Shalin found herself focusing on a dandy long earring in the box containing the wares. The red stone shone so brightly. ‘Maybe I could wear it today, I am sure Abi will love it’ she thought as she remembered how Abi always commented on everything that she wore. Whenever they met, he always started a conversation with a flattering complimen

The Laughter Club

As I walked towards the group, the cool morning breeze slapped against my cheeks. Normally, I am not an earlier riser: I stay up late checking my mail and chatting on the Internet, but this one morning I decided to accept my friend’s 6:00 A.M. invitation to join her at the “Laughter Club.” I reached the Jogger’s Park, in Bandra, only to witness and participate in the most enjoyable, early morning exercise.

There was a group of about 30 people laughing hysterically. In what was called laughter therapy; they performed the exercises by clapping in rhythm and chanting ‘Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho!’ in unison. The beautiful package of stimulated laughter consisted of different types of laughter, including a hearty laugh (laughing as loudly as they could), a single laugh with the mouth wide open, a cocktail laugh (laughing in various tones), an arm-swing laugh (laughing during the exercises), a silent laughter (producing laughing sounds with mouth closed), a “jhoola” laughter (swinging the body and laughing), and a one-meter laugh (pretending to measure one meter of cloth and laughing). Each "laugh" lasted for about 30-45 seconds. Between "laughs," members practiced deep breathing and neck, shoulder, and stretching exercises, which are similar to many yogic asanas.

I stood behind the group and watched in amazement. Midway through the second set of laughter, I was struck by the strong sense of friendship and familiarity that I felt with people whom I met only a few minutes prior. I wonder if this is one of the great social benefits of large group "laughter"; although, I don't recall experiencing those feelings at venues such as comedy concerts where people laugh wildly. In the Laughter Club, there is a sense of camaraderie and welcome. A new dimension to the interpersonal relationship aspect of the Laughter Clubs is added by celebrating birthdays of each and every member after the laughter session. New members and visitors are introduced with a hearty and welcoming laugh. The session ended with a small prayer of seeking the art of forgiveness and understanding human relationships.

Since I was attending the session for the first time, I was introduced by my friend to the members with a happy laugher and each member came forward and shook my hand and laughed heartily. One couple had returned from their holiday and they were welcomed back with another loud laugher. Then they celebrated the birthday of Mr. Gosh, a regular at laughing club “A new dimension to the interpersonal relationship aspect of the Laughter Club is added by celebrating birthdays of each and every member after the laughter session” explained the club member. “Since I have lived alone, I had never celebrated my birthday at home,” said Mr. Gosh, “but now, I get to celebrate my birthday with so many important people!” He laughed loudly and invited every member for a special treat of herbal tea after the session.

The idea of Laughter Clubs is the brainchild of Dr. Madan Kataria, editor of ‘Your Own Doctor’ and ‘Mera Doctor.’ On March 13, 1995, he invited four people to start laughing, standing in one corner of his garden. Initially, some people scoffed and ridiculed the idea, but when the potential health benefits were explained, interests were peaked and attendance increased. In the beginning, all the participants stood in a circle and invited someone to come to the center and crack a joke or tell a humorous anecdote. People enjoyed the fun and felt refreshed after 10-20 minutes of laughter every morning. Everything went well for about 15 days, after which the stock of good jokes ran out. Stale jokes, jokes targeted at particular communities, hurtful jokes, and dirty jokes began to embarrass many members, especially the ladies. It was then decided that the club members would laugh without any jokes.

Laughter needs to be taken seriously. In 1998, this message proliferated the world when more than 10,000 participants from laughter clubs across the country laughed together at the Race Course grounds in Mumbai. The people agreed that laughter was not only the result of comedy but also an effective means therapy. The laughter therapy is, in fact, based on yogic principles and exercises, and the members are more like devotees of a form of laughter yoga. The diversity of the members is quite phenomenal with members representing a broad spectrum of cultural, economic, and religious backgrounds. Hindus, Muslims and Christians mingle and laugh with each other, erasing all religious and social boundaries. The outstanding success of the program was the result of excellent dedication of several Laughter Clubs. The enthusiastic participation by thousands of members proved that these Laughter Clubs are not a laughing matter. Today, there are 70 Laughter clubs in Mumbai and nearly 400 all over India.

How to Start a Laughter Club in Your Area Find a place in your locality where people can assemble early in the morning when they go for a walk. It can either be a public garden, a ground, or a beach. The advantage of selecting such a place is that you can combine your laughter therapy session with your morning walk. You may have a laughing session of about 15-20 minutes and then proceed with your walk. Also, it is easier to gather a large number of people at such places. The chosen place should not be in the immediate vicinity of residential complexes so as to prevent disturbance to others.

The ideal time to start a laughing session is between 6 A.M.. and 7 A.M. "The advantage of laughing in the morning," according Dr. Kataria, "is that 20 minutes of laughter in the morning keeps you in good spirits throughout the day. It energizes your body and charges you with happiness." Morning walks and laughter therapy sessions are complementary to each other, and the benefits of both can be experienced together at the same place and time of the day. Moreover, pollution levels are lowest in the morning, and this ensures a good supply of relatively fresh air. Anyone wishing to start a Laughter Club in India has to organize a group of at least 25 people (the larger the number of people, the easier it is to laugh) and then get in touch with the group leader of the Laughter Club. He then organizes a team of experts who go to that location to demonstrate the various techniques of "Laughter Therapy" and to train some people from the group as "Anchor Persons" (facilitators/leaders) who give the instructions that initiate the different kinds of laughter.

‘World Laughter Day’ is celebrated on first Sunday in the month of May. The reason for organizing ‘World Laughter Day’ is to remind people of the many benefits of laughter and to actually show them that to laugh is not as difficult as it is thought to be. One has to merely remove the usual inhibitions, be ready to laugh, and, then, just go ahead and laugh. Studies have shown that patients who laugh easily or more jovially suffer almost 40% less heart attacks as compared to those who don’t. Also, when people laugh heartily with those classic, jerky movements, mucous plugged inside the respiratory and digestive systems loosen up. This indirectly reduces the risk of various other infections. This new concept of group laughter is most economical and least time consuming. It helps expand health benefits, improve inter-personal relationship, enhances communication, reduces tensions, and increases productivity at workplace.

“The one benefit everybody gets is a sense of well being. After 15 minutes of laughter in the morning, I feel fresh throughout the day.” Mrs. Mansukhani, a regular member of the Laughter club, also says, “There is no medicine like laughter therapy which can give you instant results. I start feeling the freshness straightaway; many of my friends have found that they don't get irritated over small, little things after starting this therapy. Their approach towards life has changed.”

After our laughing session, we made a stop at the herbal juice stall. This is a customary stop for most club members in Mumbai. I chose a “Tulsi Sudha” and sipped my juice with my eyes tightly shut, feeling a sense of relief and looking forward to starting my new day.

Surprisingly, I reported to work in good humor. The sound of laughter reverberated in my minds as I went about finishing my chores. Truly, laughter is both, tranquilizer and equalizer. If you are one of those who snicker and smirk every time you pass a laughing group, do try and join them next time. It will do you good. Otherwise, those veterans might have the last laugh, at your expense.

Quotation by Dr Madan Kataria

“Laughter in Laughter clubs is not meant to be only outer laughter or physical exercise, but also inner laughter, that is, developing the spirit of laughter by being happy and making others happy. It is a joint effort to search for different formulas for stress-free living.”

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I, me, Myself

Here I go on an ego trip! Coz we live in the plastic world. Ppl never agree with us. when we praise ourselves, ppl will tell us to shut up and stop being conceited and when we say that we are just another ordinary person, a big failure, have achieved nothing in life, and the same ppl will disagree and add that u r their idol and how much they admire your courage and strength!! Such is the world we live in!!!

My favorite cousin tells me that I have an Attitude. And I am happy that I have an attitude because Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.

I m very self respecting person, I don’t like to take favors from any body, and like to run my own life at my own risk. I don’t like to depend on any body for anything. I don’t like ppl to impose rules on me. I don’t like ppl to feel sorry for me although I do take advantage of the certain privileges to make my life easier. For example I don’t stand in any long queues! Or, I do accept a seat with a smile in the crowded buses or trains!

I go out of my way to make ppls life easier if I can. Many ppl ask me what is there in it for me? Why am I helping them?. I don’t expect anything in return. although I do get special pleasure in helping ppl. It boosts my ego. I don’t expect ppl to call me and ask abt my well being. If somebody won’t talk to me, or ignore me or be embarrassed in my company, then I don’t impose myself on them. I don’t get offended by cold attitudes of some persons and I accept ppl as they r and I expect them to accept me as I am!

I am shy of making new friends and I never make the first move because I am afraid of rejection. I don’t choose friends but my friends choose me. My friends enjoy my company. They like my sense of humor and my happy-go-lucky nature. They are always reachable when I need them. When ever I need to go for a film, or shopping, or just for a small walk, I am always assured of a company. I always have some joke or some interesting thing to talk about. Sometimes I get away with some bitchy remarks because I say it all in good humor. I am very frank person. If I have a problem with anybody, I prefer to talk to the person concerned. I tell them rite away and then forget abt it. I don’t nurse grudges. But I don’t like to criticize or talk abt ppls shortcomings in their absence. I don’t like ppl with double standards. I am very honest person and don’t lie even to save face. Sometimes ppl get put off by my blunt remarks. i don’t like ppl who lie or make false promises.

I cannot stand injustice. If anything is wrong or illegal, I openly voice my opinion. My society members respect my opinion and I often take an active part in the society affairs. I live in a friendly neighborhood and we live like one large family.

Whenever I go for shopping, I am very embarrassed if ppl bargain or haggle over the price. I prefer to shop at ‘Fixed price’ stores. I usually buy vegetables and fruits from the vendors who come home. I never bargain or argue for few rupees with the vegetable or fruit seller. If they r overcharging, I take it in my stride, justifying that at least they are not begging and they r giving me service by bringing it to my house. I never encourage beggars. I am sympathetic only towards old ppl who r helpless and have nobody to look after them.

I have a lousy housemaid. In last 3 years I have changes 6 of them but now I have come to a conclusion that they are all same. They work only for money and cleanliness is not their priority. That is why I help my maid with the cleaning instead of yelling at her. And therefore I have good relation with my maid.

My life is comfortable although I was more comfortable when I lived with my brother’s fmly in Spain for 10 years. I was materialistically very happy, but the problem is that my brother stays in a remote and hilly regions of Canary Islands and though the scenery and climate was perfect, but I was not able to move about freely. I chose to stay on my own in Mumbai because I love my freedom.

Maybe, there are ppl out there who might criticize me, or may dislike me for the reason known best to them. But I like to live a good life and to be sincere and capable in everything that I do. I lead my own life buried in my own activities such as reading, drawing, painting, handicraft, watching TV or listening to radio. I am never lonely because I am never alone. Chatting and surfing on the computer is my favorite pastime.
I enjoy the company of fun loving ppl and I love to go for a film or lunch with them. Life is fair to me and I am very happy, self sufficient and contended person…touch wood!!!

Thank U for this award

Thank U for this award
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