Tuesday, November 17, 2009

24...



The first few minutes of being "24".

Pampered and immensely loved all my life. Blessed with best friends who also happen to be my parents; a younger sister who is the only person who knows me inside out and loves me despite it and an aunt who never lets me forget the little girl in me. And then there are my two soul sisters (yes, I do believe in that term), with whom I can relish the joy of silence without being compelled to indulge in mindless, superficial chatter. My kid cousins, whom I love a lot and I can’t remember what my world was like before those two were born. A career in the noble profession of medicine, a library full of books, a soul yearning to travel the world, a heart rejoicing at simple pleasures, an ambition to write, and contentment at creating my own happiness.

I’ve been on an emotional roller-coaster ride for the past four years. Dealing with my obsessive compulsive disorder which fuels anxiety and panic at the slightest stress; learnt a lesson too late about trusting people too easily; was misunderstood a million times; hurt my loved ones more than I ever intended; studies suffered for more than a year due to my OCD; came close to nearly losing my father in May…I wasn’t happy being 23.

But as I always say...the world thrives on hope and so do I.

Being 24 is going to be good.

Very, very good.

Note: Caught up with studies and exams the past few months and this will continue till January. Will get back to blogging as soon as my exams are over.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book review- 'Empires of the Indus' by Alice Albinia



A year ago I bought a copy of the ‘Outlook Traveler’ magazine and was highly intrigued by an extract from Alice Albinia’s book “Empires of the Indus”. But it was only recently while browsing through a bookstore at Mumbai airport I came upon the paperback edition and bought it immediately. But  my reading of this delightful book got delayed and it was only yesterday that I sat down to read the book that included two of my biggest passions: Travel and History.

Alice Albinia’s book is the best book in the travel literature genre that I’ve read in recent times. Wanderlust, astonishing sense of adventure, and a never-ending hunger to gather little known facts and the history of every place she visits is what makes her such a brilliant travel writer. A lot of research has gone into the making of the book, and it is evident from the numerous journals, books and ancient scripts she quotes to emphasize her findings. It’s the best kind of book with such a delightful mixture of travel, descriptions of the people, the culture, the history, the flaws, the merits, the geography, the architecture, the political scenario, quaint facts and trivia about every place she sets foot on while tracing the course of Indus.

She traces the Indus from it’s delta in Sindh, Pakistan and reaches up to it’s source in the mountains of Tibet and travelling through Afghanistan, India and China in between. I won’t mention the details of the exhaustive list of facts she unearths during her travels, but here is a glimpse of few intriguing facts that the book describes.

1. Pakistan’s current political, cultural and social scenario through the eyes of a foreigner who is well accustomed to their language and mingles effortlessly into their customs. An in-depth view of the delta region to swat valley. She brings into light for us the various tribes, their cultures, their living conditions within the country...Sheedis in particular, who claim to be descendants of Bilal, an Ethiopian man who was Prophet Mohammed’s companion.

2. She traces and co-relates the origin, rise or fall of various religions on the banks of the Indus. Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Christianity, all evolved through centuries and highly influenced by invasions and pilgrimages on the Indus valley. Hinduism proliferated during the early eleventh and tenth century A.D. and has persisted through the centuries despite invasion by Muslim rulers in the Indus Valley. She describes the Sadhubela temple in Pakistan, the Hindus worshipping Uderolal or Jhule Lal, the river God of Indus who travels on four palla fish. And then there was the spread of Buddhism mainly by King Asoka as far as the borders of Afghanistan. The Buddhist stupas, the Bamiyan Buddha, the Buddhist people of Ladakh and Tibet, Chinese pilgrims tracing the routes of spread of Buddhism centuries ago…everything comes alive in Albinia’s descriptions. Then Islam came with Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, whose plundering of the famed Indian treasures is a historical legend. Mughals followed but with varying tolerance for other religions, from Emperor Akbar’s exemplary tolerance to Aurangazeb’s zilch religious tolerance.

Then Sikhism started out in 15th century, with Guru Nanak’s birth in the Indus valley, and the spread of Sikhism throughout the centuries by the rest of the ten Gurus, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule, and the holy place Nankana Sahib still in Pakistan. She also visits the Golden Temple in Amritsar, on the banks of the tributaries of the Indus. Christianity came late with the British invasion of India, and it’s spread by Christian missionaries. The influence of British on the people and the customs of this region, the tactics followed by the British to spread their empire are wonderfully detailed too. Right up to the Independence of India.

3. She deals with the Partition of India, the after-effects, the large-scale migration, and the horrible massacres in the name of religion and the geographical boundaries which were peacefully cohabited by the same people for ages. The “divide and rule” policy of British culminating in the Partition of India, the thoughts and arguments of the Indian and Pakistani politicians who witnessed, welcomed or argued this change; a valuable insight is provided by the book.

4. She also describes the people and their varying customs in every place with perfect detailing; the Pashtuns, the Sheedis, the Ladakhis, the Dards, the Kalash being the most interesting. The Kalash have their own religion, resides in mountainous Northern Pakistan, a community whose customs have remained unvaried through thousands of years, believed to be the original Aryans, has the custom of burying people in open coffins, and the women enjoys the kind of freedom which is rare in the country. She also writes about the polyandrous communities of Ladakh and Tibet, where women have dominated men throughout the centuries. The polyandry is more out of necessity than personal choice, the limited resources makes traditional marriages a no-no because inheritance problems will arise in the little provisions the families have.

5. Architecture and heritage sites are a prominent feature in this book. The Harrapan and Mohenjo-Daro civilizations, the Buddhist statues and stupas, the numerous caves and stone circles populating the Indus banks, the temples and mosques dating back thousands of years, and stone carvings some dating back to 80,000 years, she encounters them all. But is dismayed by the indifference these architectural jewels are treated by people and little has been done for their preservation by the archaeological societies.

6. Albinia writes beautifully about her final and highly adventurous journey to the source of Indus in Tibet. But she’s in for a terrible shock when she realizes that the Chinese had dammed the Indus a few months ago and she had actually been following the tributaries of Indus all along. The construction of dams altering the course of a river, that originated far earlier than humans arrived on this Earth and had flowed without anyone disturbing it’s course, for purposes like generating electricity and irrigation has altered the entire geography and as a result the lives of the people inhabiting that region. Poorly planned and injudicious construction of dams by all the countries through which the Indus flows is highly condemned in the book. By construction of the dams in India and Pakistan, Punjab has the best irrigated fields but the people of the delta have to drink diluted sewage water or the highly saline water. Agriculture is impossible and only fishing in the ocean remains the only source of livelihood there. The aquatic animals have suffered too, by dams blocking their routes of migration.

7. She describes the Indian and Pakistani border military camps, the Kargil war, the sentiments of the people involved, Kargil now, and the issue of Kashmir, the object of dispute since Partition.

I’ve left out a million details, but I highly recommend this book to everyone if history and travel even remotely intrigues you.

Mishaps Along The Road To Beautification



WARNING: THIS IS A VERY GIRLIE POST! MEN WOULD BE BORED BY IT.

I am overweight, 5’5”, and haven’t been able to tame my hair since the past 23 years. Not a favorable description for a young girl. But that’s the reality of my life.

The ugly duckling never turned into a swan. Fat, slim, short, tall, fair, dark, ugly, beautiful; I’d never really invested much thought in physical attributes. A person may have drop dead gorgeous looks and consider himself a boon to womankind; but if he doesn’t have a pleasing personality, a good sense of humor, and most importantly if I’m able to see the back of his head when I look into his eyes, I won’t give him a second glance. Character, personality, intellect, wit; that’s what interests me more.

And then I started hearing comments from my peers and family. There were few kids in school who used to tease me always because I didn’t have that peaches and cream complexion, had very short hair and was reed thin back then. In my family too, I used to hear random comments and comparisons with the good looking cousins. I’d had enough.

I know I can’t turn into a beauty overnight. But some serious damage control had to be done...but I was completely clueless about where to start.

1. Clothes, I decided. The only colors in my wardrobe then were black (98%), white (1%) and blue (1%). High time I introduced some more color to my clothes collection. But I don't know the first thing about clothes design, color matching, embroidery, different clothing materials. And so many choices! Guys have it so easy; just shirts, tees and pants. Here's a sample: In November, I was wondering what to wear for my brother's wedding and my Bhabhi suggested, "Buy an Anarkali dress". Right. But what on earth was that! Flashes of the movie Mughal-e-azam came to me. I had to call up few friends to find out what it was, and they were all aghast at my negligible knowledge of fashion! Too complicated, I tell you; especially coordinating the different pieces. What goes well with Harem pants, tees or kurtis, or are the pants out of trend already?

I decided not to fuss about clothes trends anymore and wear what I feel comfortable in.I started taking care that I wear simple yet tasteful clothes and make myself as presentable as I could.

2. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Own about 20 pairs now, and slowly adding to the list.

3. Accessories: No improvement on that field yet. I hate jewellery, but I’d started wearing a pendant bearing the letter “M” since past few years. Simple yet elegant. Non fussy. Just the way I like things to be. I have a few Esprit watches and bags. That completes the collection.

4. Make up was and is still a no-no. I feel awkward wearing make up. It is too much of a bother; applying lipstick, mascara, foundation and what not in the never ending list of options women have.

A couple of years back I started reading the occasional Cosmo and was amazed at the collection of cosmetics available. I have this fetish for moisturizers: body butter, lotion, body cream, face moisturizer, tinted moisturizer, night cream, day cream, winter cream; I started hoarding all of them. I say hoarding because an average bottle lasts me a year. As for applying lipstick, I swallow it within an hour of application. I get raccoon eyes with eyeliner and mascara, even the water-proof ones.

One of my most painful memories is of waxing. I quit after that first attempt. Depilatory creams were a pain free yet messy boon. I haven't got used to even threading my eyebrows because of my low pain tolerance, and roam around with bushy eyebrows most of the time.

But now I try to remain loyal to the routine of cleansing, applying sunscreen, moisturizing, and short cuticle-free nails. Four basic steps in my road to beautification.

5. Perfumes: A fruity, citrusy note.

6. Hair cut at a proper beauty salon rather than the neighborhood 'Aunty' who had been giving me and my sister haircuts at home since a long time.

7. Bright red nail polish, I find them irresistible. Short nails with rounded tips and bright cheery red nail polish painted on them is one pretty sight.

8. Black mascara: that’s the only piece of make up I wear and try not to get raccoon eyes.

After years of neglecting the way I look, I am on the road to beautification to look somewhat presentable. I can’t change my physical attributes but the least I can do is be confident enough to face the world and that confidence is boosted by wearing the right clothes(not necessarily branded expensive ones), having a sensible non fussy hairstyle, and proper accessories. I’m making the effort despite laziness and enjoying it too!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Come here...



Just wanted to share two of my favorite love songs…the first one is from a movie I absolutely love..."Before Sunrise"

COME HERE

-Kath Bloom

There's a wind that blows in from the north,
And it says that loving takes its course.
Come here. Come here.
No I'm not impossible to touch,
I have never wanted you so much.
Come here. Come here.
Have I never lay down by your side?
Baby, let's forget about this pride.
Come here. Come here.
Well, I'm in no hurry.
You don't have to run away this time.



WHEN I NEED YOU

When I need you
I just close my eyes and I’m with you
And all that I so want to give you
It’s only a heartbeat away
When I need love
I hold out my hands and I touch love
I never knew there was so much love
Keeping me warm night and day
Miles and miles of empty space in between us

The telephone can’t take the place of your smile
But you know I won’t be traveling forever
It’s cold out, but hold out, and do like I do
When I need you
I just close my eyes and I’m with you
And all that I so want to give you
It’s only a heartbeat away
It’s not easy when the road is your driver
Honey that’s a heavy load that we bear
But you know I won’t be traveling a lifetime
It’s cold out, but hold out; and do like I do
Oh, I need you
When I need love
I hold out my hands and I touch love
I never knew there was so much love
Keeping me warm night and day

Friday, June 12, 2009

Vices (not men)...Can't live without them, can't live with them!

I had earlier written a post about Virtues, Vices and Ethics; in which I concentrated upon ethics and virtues. This is part two of the series and I’d like to mention my vices. I know my flaws; a few I try to avoid, and the rest has become a part of me.

Instant gratification
: I want something, I want it RIGHT NOW. Pronto! Immediately! It can be anything; a craving for my favorite dish, a new dream I want to pursue, letting someone know what’s exactly on my mind or a task I want done. I thrive on the adrenaline rush and pleasure of doing a task as soon as possible. This hurry and rashness in action without giving thought to prudence has put me in many a difficult situation. This can be a virtue if used constructively to pursue one’s goals in life. But can be a disaster if indulged in under the influence of anger or jealousy. I often find myself in a situation when I know I will be ashamed and embarrassed about the words I speak, but in that moment I just have to say it. I do it even with this awareness lurking in the subconscious that I’ll regret saying the very words soon enough. These are words and actions I would resolutely forbid others to do if they came to me for advice,; but when I find myself in the same situation, I’m guided by my instincts for instant gratification. But then it’s always easy to guide other’s lives than our own. I’ll say what I want to say and I’ll do what I want to do. Most often these are irrational words and actions that aren't accurate portrayals of how I am as a person and done in an irresistible impulse.

Anger: I tolerate a great deal, but there’s a limit to it. And when that limit is crossed, God save the person who brought about this anger. My anger is (in) famous in the family and everyone likes to trace the anger genes I’d inherited. My father’s family is notorious for their mercurial temper and his sisters being the only female versions of angry young women in the past, they are often referred to as my predecessors! I get angry quickly, and then cool down just as quick. And I have mastered the art of being angry and torturing the person who made me angry with varying degrees of anger right from 'exaggerated indifference to their existence' to 'a violent outburst'. But I don’t use expletives; I would instead use sentences that would wrench the heart out of the person. But getting angry is very human; few control it better than others. I never hold grudges and the anger episodes hardly lasts more than a week.

Jealousy: I’m a Scorpio, and although I’ve none of the Scorpio traits of being beautiful, mysterious and sexy (whatever that means); the fact that I’m a Scorpio shows on me only because of one trait, Jealousy. Not of riches, achievements or material things. It’s only romantic jealousy that I suffer from. And it’s this jealousy that brings about anger which in turn brings about the instant gratification I derive from irrational words and actions that makes me feel better at that moment and which I thoroughly regret later. It’s a vicious cycle. Not being in love has broken the cycle and I’ve been anger-free, jealousy-free and embarrassment-free for a long and happy period.

Perfectionist: When I set about doing something, I’ve to ensure it’s perfect. This causes irritation if other people are involved. I can never bring myself to trust another person completely to do something, exactly as I want it, without involvement from myself. If some task is entrusted to me, I want to be involved in its implementation at all levels and ensure that it is perfect. Every person has their own way of doing things, and most of the people I’ve encountered in group projects and tasks are quite laid back which is not my way of doing things. I can feel as uneasy as how Monica Geller feels if she is prevented from removing a dirt spot in the wall instantly. I want to tackle things as soon as I can, plan and organize them, and not just complete it but make sure it’s the best we could have done. As a result of this, I have some initial trouble adjusting to a group of laid back workers. And have to resist the temptation to organize and speed up things so as not to irritate anybody. But sometimes it’s too hard to resist and I take upon myself doing the whole task alone, much to the delight of the rest of the group who can relax as much they want then. The end result makes me happy but very tired, and it’s high time I can let go of this perfectionist trait to make my life simpler.

Sloth: Apart from studies and work I like to spend my spare time mostly lazing around; curling up with a good book, going on leisurely walks, watching movies, traveling once in a while or just catching up on sleep. In fact I spend most of my free time immobile in a couch or my bed, and the lack of activity is so sleep inducing. Another vicious cycle. Physical activity of any sort has gone way down in the past six years and I find myself huffing and puffing nowadays after climbing few flights of stairs. And I’m just 23. And over-weight (no surprises there). I was highly active till I was in the 11th std. Swimming and badminton were routine and I thoroughly enjoyed them and I was quite a fitness maniac. I had joined the local gym at the age of 13 and attended it for four years. Then sloth came into my life. Studies took up most of my time, and I took a break from all the physical activity and now I find myself unable to go back to my earlier routine.
(Note: I've erased this vice from my life now!)

Low Confidence: I’m a huge introvert and most of the time like the company of a select but thoroughly treasured individuals. I’ve problems socializing and meeting new people. I'm wary of hurried first impressions because of my non-existent conversational skills. Very few people are eager to delve into the depths of knowing a person; and frankly no one has the time and patience. It’s not that I dread meeting new people but I’m a loner by choice. I love spending my free time doing the things I enjoy. I’m trying to shed the barriers of low confidence and slowly getting to know more people. Blogging is one way of meeting so many like-minded people with a certain anonymity factor.

There are few more additions to the list: Getting too involved in solving other’s troubles and neglecting my own life, too trusting to the point of being taken advantage of, outspokenness to the point of being misinterpreted as rudeness at times, and white lies at times to excuse myself from doing something I abhor (which I thoroughly enjoy inventing)!

I’ve done it. Publicly listed my vices!

Well Wisher

Wake up my dreams,
Envision them; revel in the pictures they paint.
Lost in infinity, a billion lives intermingle;
Lurking among them, don’t remain.

Witness my life, each moment,
In you, a mentor, a protector I search;
Shield the blows, cushioning me so,
Hold my hand, steady my stumbling steps,
Encourage my ventures into the unknown,
Remain forever, if you will, my well wisher.

P.S: This is for my well-wishers who have always believed in me, encouraged me and saw me through many a difficult time. Thanks a ton. I will always be grateful to you all.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Misunderstood Insomniac


She noticed the whirl of the ceiling fan in the faint glow of the light streaming through her window. If she peered closely she could distinguish the individual blades of the fan; and resembled a spinning top when she half-shut her eyes. She checked the time. Eleven pm. For the next half an hour she tossed and turned in bed, but sleep eluded her.

She checked the bedside stool for a bottle of water. Empty. Reluctantly, she got out of bed and walked towards the kitchen. The icy gulps of water felt blissful. Humidity made the night unbearable. She felt sweat trickling down her neck and headed for the shower. A refreshing shower might help her sleep better. Once in the bathroom, she took off her sweat drenched t-shirt and examined it. The colors were fast fading; the material over-stretched yet soft, and a clumsily stitched patch of cloth on the sleeve was quite distinct. It was a decade old but she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of it. Every night she slipped into it; the soft feel and the faint, powdery smell of the fabric was a source of comfort. Her mother teased her about it, called her a pack-rat. She smiled thinking about it as she stood under the shower, briefly shivering as the first drops of the cold water fell on her. Drying herself off, she stood in front of the mirror and checked her reflection; she loved being curvaceous, but resolved to shed the few extra pounds off her waistline. Chuckling at how often she made this resolve and its earlier feebleness, she slipped into the first t-shirt she could lay her hands on. It was bubble gum pink, a color she wouldn’t be caught dead in. But with no one around, she put it on and cursed her sister for gifting it a couple of years ago. Her mother is right; she is a pack-rat hoarding even the stuff with the least sentimental value. She checked the time again. Midnight.

She knew she had to leave for work at six in the morning for a 24-hour shift at the hospital, but sleep still eluded her. Maybe she can utilize the time she is awake to surf the net and gather information about the obstetric procedures she might get a chance to assist. An hour of peering closely into the computer screen and scribbling tiny notes on her obstetric and gynaecology text followed. She even updated her blog and checked her mail. One a.m.

She hurriedly got into bed, and desperately wished for a meagre four hours of sleep! Lights dimmed, pillows fluffed up, fan on full speed, few drops of lavender oil on the pillow, a glass of warm milk; she didn’t want to miss a single trick in the book. After half an hour of eyes tightly shut, she sat up wearily on the bed. There wasn’t any use pretending, she wasn’t feeling the least bit sleepy.

Her stomach grumbled. That wasn’t the sound she wanted to hear. She wanted to hear a yawn! Maybe she would sleep better on a full stomach; noodles for dinner are hardly filling. She made a mental note to strike off Maggi from next month’s grocery list. A frantic search for mustard sauce to make her favorite sandwich followed. Plopping down the couch with sandwiches in hand, she thought about the sleepless ordeal before her. The professor who would be on the rounds was infamous for terrorizing the interns; and tomorrow would be no exception. No sleep and a tough taskmaster prodding all day would literally be a lethal combination! She checked the time again. Two a.m.

She picked up the TV guide; and was torn with indecisiveness about whether to watch “American Graffiti” or “Annie Hall”. Never being good with decisions she alternately surfed both the channels watching bits and pieces of both the movies. Woody Allen isn’t half as amusing when one is struggling to sleep. She thought of how closely the gum-chewing dude, driving around town in the first movie, resembled her first crush in high school. And instantly fell into reminiscing those days. Bliss! She was snapped out of her fantasies by the ZooZoos giggling in the new Vodafone ads; and she burst into a fit off giggles to how these egg-headed characters resembled her next door neighbor. Drawing resemblances is something that comes to her instinctively, a secret pleasure that delights her often.

She walked into the balcony to watch the sunrise two and half hours later; basking in the first rays of the day and also enjoying the slight chill of the morning breeze. She dashed into the kitchen for a quick cup of green tea and sat on the balcony again, enjoying the calmness and serenity of this part of the day. A few people were out on the streets…the joggers heading for the nearby park, the vendors on the way to the market, and even few teenagers grudgingly setting off to early morning tuition (the gawky, tall one slouching all the way resembled a character from "The Corpse Bride").

Five a.m. She had bath again, breakfasted on milk and cereals, and then got dressed for work.

Five-thirty a.m. She lied down on the couch, waiting for her colleague to pick her up at six. A thirty minute long wait.

*Rrrrrrrrrrring Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrring*

She rubbed her sleepy eyes, picked up the phone and mumbled groggily, “Hello”.

“Wake up you sleepyhead! We’ll be late. I’ve been waiting for you downstairs for the past ten minutes."

"Oh sorry! I must have dozed off."

"No surprises there. You ALWAYS oversleep!”

"But I..."

"What?"

"Nothing. I'll be downstairs in two minutes."

Photo Courtesy: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Dm4sFu73cJo/R5h0pzi3JDI/AAAAAAAAEdk/2tn4wEQRbO4/s400/01aInsomnia.jpg

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Hair...(Almost) Gone with the wind



The social network Orkut had a question in the personal profile section, 'What is the first thing people notice about you?'
I so wanted to write liquid eyes, tall stature or dimpled cheeks. But who was I kidding? Even a one-eyed drunk can notice from a mile away the disaster that is my hair. My unfortunate hair. Forget a silky, glossy mane; I don’t even have common, dull, thick hair. How do I count the ways to emphasize my point!

First is the sparsely populated scalp! Sometimes I feel I have like what a hundred hairs, which is reducing at an alarming rate! At the age of 23, I google for “female pattern baldness” and “hair transplantation”!

Second is the limpness. The world might change overnight and the sun may rise in the west but my hair would refuse to fluff up. And then I discovered mousse. God bless the makers of this miracle product!

Thirdly, the humidity factor. Humidity and extreme dry weather, both have disastrous effects on my hair. It doesn’t add volume as such, but turns me into a live demonstration of static electricity. Strands of hair flying in all direction; and untamed at any cost except for maybe shaving it off completely.


And the last, but not the least, the consistency of 'bad hair days' that it maintains. The rest of the world at least has a rare bad hair day, while good hair day continues to elude me. I was born with the unmanageable and unstructured curliest curls ever in our family.

And now I’ve no option but to wear my hair short to conceal the alarming hair loss. I’ve tried every remedy in the book, but in vain. I never thought hair could cause so much distress. Nearly every romantic Hindi song has at least one couplet praising the heroine’s lovely long tresses. I’ve been searching in vain for a song without the mention of those damn tresses that my beloved might someday be able to sing for me! It wrenches my heart when I see those shampoo ads and long, jet black hair blowing in the wind. I guess I’ll never have that. Or maybe I would. Let me google for wigs now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

TaT Contest # 1: My Childhood Dream



A true story.

Five sons, two daughters, a tiny hut, some land, and a salary of Rs.48 per month. That’s all he had in life. He brooded day in and day out about where he went wrong, while his children were left to fend for themselves. His children were extraordinarily hard-working and slogged for many hours everyday ploughing the fields, selling vegetables, doing odd jobs for neighbors; somehow gathering two meals a day for the entire family. They were overworked, perpetually exhausted; but they never ceased to dream about a way out of the drudgery of their daily lives. They thrived on this single hope.

And one day, the elder two sons joined school on their father’s insistence. They braved the opposition from the rest of village about two boys from the “untouchable caste” mingling with the higher caste students. On the first day of school, they woke up at three in the morning and went about doing their routine chore of ploughing the field so that they can attend school on time. The school was at a distance of sixteen kilometers from their home, but they were too excited to notice the long way ahead of them. They took their slates and pencils for the first time in hand and nervously copied the letters the teacher penned on the blackboard. They learnt to count. And suddenly a new world of infinite possibilities opened before them. A world where nothing was impossible. Despite being the poorest of poor in a remote village, they can now dream of being high officials, lawyers, teachers and even Prime Minister of India! They realized for the first time their capacity to think, to mould their own futures. So, for the rest of the decade and half they diligently studied; and even enrolled the younger siblings in school. They worked day and night to earn money but somehow fitted few hours of school every day.

The eldest son was more academically inclined than the rest. So, the second son took over himself all the responsibility of running the household at the tender age of 15. He attended school and college about twice or thrice a week, and rest of the days he slogged to somehow make ends meet so that the rest of his siblings’ education doesn’t get hampered. Even though his own future seemed bleak, he still nursed his childhood dream of becoming a high official, earning a decent salary, buying a good house and a car. Simple dreams, but way out of his reach.

He was 28 years old by the time his siblings completed their education. He had a commerce degree at hand and no job. And still the responsibility of running the household, as his siblings went for higher studies or on job hunts. One day a girl he had met and befriended in college forced him to appear for a job interview. He refused as he had no time to waste job hunting as his daily income runs his family. But she was adamant, and he finally relented. He got a clerical job in an insurance company. And by dint of hard work over the years he not only overcame his poverty but rose to the position of a high-ranking official in the insurance company. He married the girl, who changed his entire life through a little coaxing. He built not one but two houses, and bought two cars. He surpassed what he dreamt of as a child during the daily sixteen kilometer walk to school. But his greatest satisfaction was that his siblings too had broken the chains of poverty and were all well-placed in life. There was a bank manager, an engineer, a high-ranking government official, and a professor. He had the satisfaction of knowing that his years of sacrifice for his siblings didn’t go to waste. And nothing could surpass the smiles he had put on his parents’ faces. Theirs were the first family from that remote village to have dreamt big, worked continually towards it, and finally achieving it. Others followed their example, having understood the value of education, sheer determination and hard work.

No childhood dream is unattainable. That’s what I had learnt from this story. That’s what I’d learnt from the story of my father’s life, the second son in the story. And he’s the biggest inspiration in my life. And I too am halfway through of attaining my childhood dream of becoming a doctor.

Once again, nothing is impossible! So, dream big!

Holiday from Hell

I took a sudden decision to go on a short vacation to Bangalore in the second week of May. My sister had a medical entrance exam there and I decided to accompany her and my dad and hoped to explore Bangalore while they were busy with exams. We set off to Bangalore on the fourteenth of May. We stayed over at my brother's place and my brother and bhabhi went out of their way to make our stay in Bangalore quite enjoyable. Good food, shopping, sight-seeing, and just enough time off to curl up with a good book. It was bliss! It was also quite wonderful to watch the young newly-weds, my brother and bhabhi, run their home so efficiently.

And then things went horribly wrong. After a humongous shopping spree on 16th, we decided to have lunch in a restaurant on MG road. Pa along with the rest in the group ate seafood, while I being vegetarian stuck to typical North-Indian fare. Pa had slight indigestion the next day. But after I gave him some OTC medicines; he felt quite okay. On 18th we had an early morning flight to Mumbai and from there an evening flight to Guwahati.

After reaching home on 18th night, Pa felt seriously ill and had to be admitted to the hospital. at 10pm. He was shifted to the ICU that midnight. Everything was so sudden, that we were at a loss of what to do. He collapsed and his vital organs began to fail. He had food poisoning which spread in his entire body in a matter of few hours, aided by the fact that he is a diabetic. He was diagnosed with sepsis and multi-organ dysfunction. He was slipping away and doctors said that he had very little chances of survival, but they were fighting hard against controlling the infection. All our relatives from every nook and corner of the country gathered in the hospital. My mother who had recovered from a recent myocardial infarction was another great worry, and I had to make sure she was able to cope with whatever the outcome was.

And then on the third day in the ICU, my father's spontaneous breathing stopped. I felt my whole world had collapsed. Nothing mattered and nothing will matter ever again. All I could think of was how four days back we were happily discussing the national election result and making guesses about the likely cabinet ministers, and then on the flight back home how I was busy reading a novel and hardly checked on him. I vomited in the corridor outside the ICU. I can't describe in words how I felt. My sister fainted and I had to take care of my mother too. This can't be happening to us, this wasn't how it was all supposed to be. And then my uncle came running to us, and said that the doctors had been able to successfully resuscitate Pa. He was breathing again. I immediately ran to the ICU, forced my way in despite visitor restrictions and confirmed what my uncle said. I, who was never so much of a religious person, began praying day and night after that moment. After ten harrowing days of battling for life in the ICU, my father was finally out of danger. He was shifted to the ward. Two days after that, he was back home. But he needs to be on complete bed rest for a month. So, here I am, thankful for every moment to God, and the amazing critical care specialists in the hospital, esp Dr.Vandana Sinha. I will always be indebted to her for the miracle of my father's surviving sepsis at the age of 59yrs and with the complicating co-morbidities of diabetes and hypertension. I'm thankful to all my relatives, near and far, who made every effort to decrease this ordeal for us through comforting words and actions. The help my dad's office colleagues offered is something I will always remember and be thankful for.

It was a bad time for our family; fear, tension, anxiety and pain. Fear of losing the most important person in our lives. Time stood still for us, as we waited day and night outside the ICU, praying for his recovery, dreading every time the doctor called us in for an 'important' talk. But they fade into oblivion when I see Pa at home now, reading the morning newspaper and watching cricket. So many times I've taken this man for granted, his very presence as something I would have for life. But this incident, least expected and so sudden, shook me up completely. Never ever I would give my parents a reason to worry or grieve because of me.

A lot of things have changed for me in the past month. My whole life was on the verge of coming to a standstill and picked up at the last minute. At times like this, we realize the true value of family, relatives and friends. And the need to believe in a higher being with the power to drive away all your troubles. I started believing in God instinctively, when I saw Pa in the hospital bed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Book Tag!

I've been tagged by lostonthestreet to do this book tag:

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Hemingway, Milan Kundera, Ayn Rand

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown. I bought a copy in 2006 and friends and relatives have gifted the book to me twice till now; and I also have the eBook. So, I’ve got four copies.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Not really

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Francisco D’anconia (Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand), Richard Kane (The Prodigal Daughter, by Jeffrey Archer)

5) What book have you read the most times in your life?
Four books I never get tired of reading…Speedpost (the letters in the book I could so relate to and were an important part of my adolescence), We the Living (especially for Kira and Andrei), Buri Ai’r Hadhu (a collection of stories by Lakhinath Bezbaruah), the complete short stories by Guy de Maupassant.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
I loved “Swiss Family Robinson” and “Buri Ai’r Hadhu”.

7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
By the river Piedra, I sat down and wept. (B-O-R-I-N-G!)

8) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
“The Sea and the Jungle”, by H.M.Tomlinson and Carson McCullers’ “The heart is a lonely hunter”, and "Ignorance", by Milan Kundera.

9) If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be?
“Anthem”-Ayn Rand


10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?
Amitav Ghosh…I love travel literature (I don’t mean travel guides here), and the journeys he depicts in his books, the characters so profound and their intermingling…the research that precedes the writing of the book shows in the authenticity of the era portrayed in his novels, the language, the narrative…he’s far ahead of his contemporaries, cashing on in the same topics of NRIs, corruption etc. He’s a refreshing change.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
The Class- Erich Segal

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Any of the chick lit books plaguing the market these days.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
It was way back in school days. There was these J-17 series that were hidden in our library, and I found one of the books in the series, “Too hot to Handle” (can’t get cheesier than this!), about two best friends holidaying in Greece. There is this character, Karl, in the book…and I fantasized about being his girlfriend throughout the last year of my school.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
A chick lit novel, “Trust Me” that I got last year.

15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Mrs. Dalloway, when the movie “The Hours” released. But I couldn’t grasp even half of it then.

16) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare

17) Austen or Eliot?
Austen

18) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I have hardly read any science fiction novels. I discovered the works of Rabindranath Tagore, Henry James only recently. And I haven’t read War and Peace and Ulysses yet!!

19) What is your favorite novel?
I can’t pinpoint just one novel. I’m still discovering amazing works every year. This year I found travel literature dating back to the early 18th century. So much more to read…

20) Play?
The Cherry Orchard-Chekov

21) Short story?
The works of Edgar Allen Poe, O. Henry, Guy de Maupassant and Chekov. Recently read “The Murders at the Rue Morgue”, by Poe. Love Dupin now!

22) Work of non-fiction?
The Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux

23) Who is your favorite writer?
Guy De Maupassant, Chekov, Nikolai Gogol, Virginia Woolf, Ayn Rand, Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri (Just for ‘Namesake’), Milan Kundera, Hemingway and Rabindranath Tagore.

And I tag any fellow bookaholic (Is that a valid word?? Or should I be the one to patent it?) to write about their favorite books and authors.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pure Delight



Pulsating through her very being
Untamed, fervent, inexplicable…a feeling so strong,
Riveting is its course, unyielding to fluid;
Erupting in unison, the euphoric tremors.

Desires escalated, feverish fantasies reigned,
Emboldened by this new power, and exploring;
Lust and love osmosed into one,
Infusing each moment with warmth;
Gripping was the journey, and the union,
He is in her arms now, finally;
Taming, enticing, loving, espousing this man…pure delight!

(First attempt at poetry after six years. I have a major writer's block when it comes to expressing emotions through poetry. But anyways, here it is...)

Photo Courtesy http://adiberlin.deviantart.com/art/hidden-121232601

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Interpreting the silence



Tell a Tale prompt for Week 7: Silence

She smiled imagining Arjun’s delight on hearing the news of her pregnancy, and had a sudden desire to be near him. Cuddling up in the couch, running her fingers through his hair, a quick kiss by him and although secretly delighted, she always feigned anger at this. She longed to be with him; recreating images of their last meeting repeatedly, relishing his presence as if he were actually there. Her mind was full of his thoughts when she felt an arm around her waist, “Don’t, Arjun”, she cried out in mock anger, the words slipping out of her mouth even before she realized she was in her home, not Arjun’s. She turned; and although she had imagined this moment of truth and confrontation a million times in her mind, nothing prepared her for the look of sheer disbelief and hurt on her husband’s face.

She was at a loss of words. What can she say to soften the blow, and ease his pain? A gamut of emotions engulfed her. Shame, guilt, defiance, anger, fear, impatience, grief. Guilt predominated. The gut wrenching silence that followed her words seemed to shake her very existence, the existence of their marriage of seven years. The tension prevailed, and she didn’t have the courage to break it. He left the bed to wait by the window. The seconds ticked by and all she could do was wait. Life never seemed so uncertain.

Seven years ago:
Her family fixed a suitable match for her; and after meeting him a few times in company of numerous relatives, they were married. As she sat on her new bed awaiting the man, whose preference of reading old English classics is the only personal detail she overheard apart from his name; and to whom she’s married now. He came into the room and sat next to her. She could sense his nervousness, the silence punctuated with occasional clearing of his throat. He was waiting for appropriate words or moves to initiate their first interaction alone. She smiled at this endearing cautiousness on his part not to ruin the moment for her. Emboldened by the shared nervousness and indecisiveness, she put her hand over his and looked at him. They smiled. Shyly at first, and then burst into peals of laughter sensing each other’s nervousness on their wedding night. And then they talked. Sharing bits and pieces of their lives, sowing the first seeds of love. They talked into the wee hours of morning. Then they made love, collapsing into each other’s arms. They laid there in a warm, companionable silence; embracing each other; contemplating this new start, the future, and the delightful promises and hopes it held now. Marriage was a plunge into the unknown for them, and they were ecstatic at their good fortune of finding each other. Love, laughter, passion tinctured their days. Life was blissful.

Four years ago:
He explored new ventures at work; frequent travels became a part of his life, and the heavy work load began eating into his time with her. She tried to be understanding, vainly convincing herself that this phase won’t last long. But she was wrong. As time went by, the tenderness and love that marked the initial years of their relationship vanished. He seemed like a man possessed to achieve the heights of success at any cost, even his marriage. She tried to talk it out with him, remind him of his responsibility towards her; but to no avail. She expressed her desire of having a baby, but he didn’t have time to take care of a child at this stage in life. He called it nagging and said she was too insecure and dependent on him. He considered her lack of ambition a shame, and ridiculed her for being “just a housewife”, nagging and creating obstacles at her husband’s work. The insensitiveness that marked his remarks that day convinced her of how much he has changed; the man she had grown to love so deeply seemed to have disappeared all of a sudden. She got a job, and started working to fill the void in her life. She worked at a pace that defied fatigue and time, because the deafening silence that prevailed at home, even in the company of her husband filled her with the dread of her life passing away in such horrible monotony, and devoid of the love of the man whose bed she continued to share. Life became stagnant.

A year ago:
She had met Arjun at work, the new trainee under her. He was a couple of years younger than her, but she couldn’t help blush each time he set his impish gaze on her. He was attracted to her and he didn’t try to conceal it, which made her more resolute to avoid familiarity with him. But the more you try to resist something, the more it plagues your every waking moment. She found herself charmed by his youthful enthusiasm, infectious laughter, and his eagerness to listen to her. They talked for long at work, and slowly the meetings shifted to venues outside of work. And even though they shared a platonic relationship, she found herself concealing these meetings from her husband. Friendship serendipitously transitioned into love and soon they were inseparable. He cherished her, and it awakened new emotions and passions in her. Soon the dual lives she led with her husband and Arjun became a burden. She wondered why she was holding onto a marriage when her husband considered her as a piece of furniture, and refused to acknowledge that she harbored dormant feelings of love and care towards him. But as Arjun lay sleeping in her arms, the silence of the night breathed a new whiff of love in her dreary life. She decided to leave her husband. Life was about to change soon.

The present:

She waited for her husband to say something. Nothing came. She tried to justify to herself the circumstances that led to her infidelity. This time it didn’t sound convincing to even her. The hurt in her husband’s eyes seemed to have erased her former convictions about her relationship with Arjun. It was the longest night of her life, and in the morning her husband left for work. She packed her bags and drove off to Arjun’s home. Cocooned in his arms, she told him about the previous night and then about her pregnancy. The way his body tensed on this bit of news, made her instantly realize that the worst is far from over, it is yet to come. The numbing silence that greeted her this time didn’t shock her. It was as if deep in her heart she always knew and feared this possibility. After what seemed like ages, Arjun tried to calmly explain to her how he wasn’t ready to start a family, or even get married. She nodded and left his home. This can’t be happening to her, this is not how her life was supposed to turn out. She didn’t know where she was driving, and when she finally stopped the car; she saw that she had driven herself home, the only place she had associated with love and comfort. When her husband lied next to her that night, she turned towards him. No one spoke a word. And then the tears came, as the unspoken apologies poured out of their hearts, the regret of the years lost, mourning the setback their love suffered. She waited, wondering whether he could ever love her again; and this time he put his hand over hers and smiled. They embraced, remembering and renewing their love. This time the silence of the night spoke of realization, and an unspoken promise.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Things I wish I hadn't said in school" aka "What was I thinking?!?"



1. “I am absent”

(In response to the query why I’d not submitted my homework the day before)

2. “Miss, she took my copy and (longest pause of my life as I’d the sudden realization that I didn’t knew about the existence of the word ‘tore’) fali dile.”

(‘Fali dile’ is the Assamese translation of ‘tore it’)

3. “My mother is blind”.

(Because I couldn’t explain to the teacher that my mother is myopic and had difficulty helping me with the school project at night)

4.“Pride has a fall.”

(Because the two guys sitting immediately in front of me were making a huge racket and I wanted to say something to quieten them!)

5. “Sir, I can’t attend the sports drill today.”
“Why?”
“Personal problem of a girl, Sir.”

(And worse…I used the ‘personal problem’ excuse nearly three times a month and felt smug about conning the PT teacher!)

6. Teacher: “How come you failed on the spelling test?”
Me: “Because I was trying to fail the guy who sat next to me!”

(Once there was a spelling test, and the guy sitting next to me didn’t know anything and was trying to copy from me. I thought I would mislead him, and deliberately wrote the wrong spellings which he copied while I was sniggering all the time. Then the teacher announced we have only two minutes left to submit our papers. I panicked. I erased all the wrong answers and she took the copy from me before I could write down even a single spelling. The guy who sat next to me and I, both of us scored ‘zero’ on the spelling test. But the teacher said at least he attempted to write the spellings, while I submitted a blank sheet! My parents were called to school the next day!)

7. “I couldn’t wear the sports shoes today because my mother gave them to the barber.”

(Self-explanatory!)

8. Teacher to me: “Nice Haircut. Who cut it?”
Me: “Mistry!”

(I was seven, and my father used to take me along with him to the local saloon, where the barber was called ‘Mistry’ by everyone as is the habit in India to call the common workmen so. I hadn’t learned the word ‘barber’ yet!)

9. My friend: “He called me names. He called me a cow.”
Me: (in all seriousness) “Don’t feel bad. At least he didn’t call you a lizard or crow. Cow is a useful animal. You can give milk and dung to everyone!”

(Our friendship wasn’t as strong as earlier after that pep up talk I gave my friend)

10. “Avoidable reasons” on my absent note.

(I missed school one day because I overslept. I vaguely recalled a friend once writing "avoidable" or something on her absent note. She had written‘Unavoidable reasons’. It was a big word for me and I could only recall it entirely. Thankfully, the teacher had a sense of humor and didn’t scold me)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The soaring temperature is indirectly proportional to the longevity of my life!



I love summer. While growing up, it meant my favorite things in the world. Days get longer giving me and my cousins abundant time to play out, those two blissful months of summer vacations, no school or college, going for a swim about ten times a day; ice-creams and mangoes and water-melons, summer specials for kids aired on television; lying on the cool, tiled floor for a long siesta; the sun shining bright on our beautiful garden, resting under the shade of a tree after hours of playing in the sun, summer camps and catching up on my reading.

Cut to adulthood. Summer means the following: prickly heat, sweat, dehydration, sweat, lethargy and exhaustion, sweat, loss of appetite, sweat, insects, sweat, humidity, sweat, and scalp nearly ablaze!

Cut to 28th April, 2009. I woke up early, very early; okay, midnight. Studied, surfed the net. The sun rose at around 4-30am. And by 6am, it was already quite hot. I dreaded thinking about the rest of the day. The temperature hardly rises beyond 40 degree Celsius in this region, but the humidity alone is enough to kill you. Brimming with optimism as I always am (?), I decided to start the day by exercising the old, flabby muscles and sticking to my fitness resolution. BAD idea! I nearly died of exhaustion despite taking all the precautionary measures to avoid dehydration and muscle exhaustion. It wasn’t anything strenuous; just the heat and humidity seemed to have put my heart pump on 5th gear and I was huffing and puffing in just 20 minutes!


And since I was completely drenched in sweat by the end of the exercise routine, I decided to take a shower. I stood under the shower and awaited the cold stream of water, but instead my skin got scalded by boiling water! I frantically turned the 'cold' water dial, only to be showered with a greater gush of boiling water. The water tank on the terrace had heated up!

After that disastrous experience I spent a good one hour lying perfectly immobile in my room, when my mother asked me what I would have for breakfast. That’s another advantage of summer for the wafer-thin people whose diet consists of a slice of fruit for breakfast, a bowl of soup for lunch and a carrot or whatever for dinner. They don’t have to put in any effort to go on such an obnoxious diet. But I don’t want to go on a diet, never been on a diet longer than eight hours! But the heat had killed my appetite and I can’t even tolerate looking at my beloved carbs. I am on a lemonade and salad diet at present. Anything 'heavier' than that and my tummy does a somersault! Forced to diet, another evil of this season.

Then I had to drive my mother for shopping in the sweltering heat of midday sun. I noticed that the other drivers on the road were extremely temperamental and road rage predominated. The heat again, no doubt. After two hours of walking the streets and getting into what seemed like a thousand shops, I was dangerously dehydrated. When I panted all the way down to the last store, I noticed the doorman give me a strange look. I checked my reflection in the store window. I looked hideous; hair plastered to the skull, sweat drenched kurta, and the tan of spending weeks in the Sahara sun without sunscreen. It was a wonder they let me into the store. This is the aspect of summer I hate the most. Sweat is okay if it occurs while playing sports or exercising. But I sweat while walking just about 200m! And how I envy the girls whose sweat glands appear to have become extinct and who look fresh as a daisy even after hours in the sun! I could even hear a few guys tittering at the sight of me. But it was too hot to care.

I decided to buy a super size tub of ice-cream on the way back home but the store was out of my favorite flavor and had only butter-scotch, which I hate. Seriously, Murphy must be having a field day today!

I reached home only to be greeted by the sight of the neighborhood 'aunties', who found this afternoon to try and sell us cosmetics and insurance policies! Just the sight of them in their heavy silk sarees and decked in jewels from head to toe was enough to make me faint. All I wanted was to rest for sometime and sip on some ice cold aampana. But they refused to leave despite the pained expressions on our faces. It was six in the evening by the time I got to my room and decided to take a nap. Only to be attacked by insects who always manage to get in around this time of the year, despite the netted windows.

And it’s only April. Four more months to go!

Photo Courtesy of http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1210/526448338_6257f2452d_o.gif 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

North -East India...Where does it stand compared to the rest of India?



This is the first discussion on this blog. I recently read an article about the neglect that North East India has faced compared to the rest of India. And the questions that plague my mind are "why is it so", and "why for so long"?

Here's the link:

N(orth) E(ast)-glected

I'd like to know your opinion on this issue. From the people of this region to the ones from rest of India on how they view this region, and their awareness and interest in knowing about the eastern most part of their own country. Awaiting your comments.

And here's a link of a travel blog on North-East. Discover the wonderfulness that is this region, people.

Musings from the North-East

Friday, April 24, 2009

Riches to Rags- the shortest trip ever



MONEY! CASH! BUCKS! MOOLAH! PAISA!

I don't crave for billions or a 60 storey residence or even a luxury jet on my birthday. I'm talking about having a fortune enough to lead a life of comfort by my family and myself, and enough savings to overcome any unexpected crisis. In today's world money is the most important requirement for survival. "Roti, Kapda aur Makaan"- is too outdated. If you don't have enough savings to see you and your family through bad times, it's going to be a very difficult life ahead.

I do crave for and are accustomed to a few luxuries- a car at my disposal, frequent travels, indulging in my love for buying books etc. That's it. Nothing fancy. No addiction to extravagant expenses of jewelery and designer apparel shopping. I come from a regular middle class family, and have led a comfortable enough life without having to experience the want of something essential. It's all about how much you crave for, and fortunately my needs are few. But even though I've never faced a financial crisis, growing up in India made me a spectator to poverty right from my childhood. You can't help but see it on the streets, in villages, and it is even rampant in urban India.

I've grown up hearing, "Money can't buy you happiness". But it sure can buy a sense of security and comfort to a family. Education, pursuing your dreams, looking after your loved ones; money is not the only criteria in achieving them, but it is the only basis. Recently I've been a close witness to how even family and friends tend to distance themselves from the one on whom bad times have befallen. No matter how close a person is to his family, once he becomes financially dependent on them, resentments tend to develop in a scale varying from "you better be thankful that I'm providing for you and be happy about whatever you receive without voicing any opinion" mindset to downright alienation.

A distant uncle, my chaachi's brother, who was suffering from cancer expired yesterday. He was a distant relative, but had been an important part of my life while growing up. He lost his job about a decade back, lost all his savings and house to deceitful and conniving siblings, and since then he and his family had been surviving on odd jobs and occasional financial help from relatives. But gradually, even the relatives used to dread his visit because he'd obviously ask for money. My father used to give him money whenever he visited. I used to resent the fact at times about my father offering help to every person in need of money. I felt people took Pa's generosity for granted. He draws a fixed salary every month and is the sole earning member of the family. So, the fact that he spends nearly half of it in helping others and supporting two additional families in our Jorhat home every month, irritates me no end. Because I am scared of lack of savings for my sister's and my education, and having a tough time in case some calamity befell on our family. But my father comes from a very, very poor family and he and his siblings had struggled very hard in life to reach the positions they are in now. Therefore, Pa can't tolerate to see anyone struggling for the basic amenities in life. Moreover, he is a firm believer of the fact that if you help others, God would see to it that you won't be in need of anything ever. Sure enough, despite Pa's habit of financially helping others by giving away more than half of his income, our family had never been in a severe cash crunch. Somehow, we always manage to sail through any crisis. So, I can't even argue that my father's belief is irrational!

My uncle, who expired yesterday, were avoided by relatives because of his compulsive borrowing and to be honest, even I resented his visits at time. He was a good man, had always helped people around him, adopted a girl child, and was liked by all...when he wasn't financially dependent on others. But within two years of unemployment, his very existence became a burden for his brothers and he was out in the streets with his family. He did odd jobs to support his family. But recently when he fell ill, I realized the importance of money and its value not only to sustain life but also it's power to dilute and distance even blood relations. He was diagnosed with cancer and was looked after by his wife and two daughters who stayed in the hospital, as they had no other place to live. My father footed only the medical bills, as it was all he could afford to spare at that time. But for daily expenses, his wife had to take up the job of a sweeper in the hospital! This is a woman who comes from a well-to-do family but had been alienated over the years. I shuddered to think how times change. This is what happens in real life. And until now, I used to think such things happens only in Bollywood formula movies. His own sister, my chaachi, offered to pay only a measly 1000 rupees because that was the only amount her husband could spare! His other siblings refused to even visit him in the hospital, in fear of having to financially help him out. Our family, even though distant relatives, were the only contacts of them at this hour because Pa considered him as his younger brother.

When it was diagnosed that he had terminally ill, the hospital told the family about the futility of any further treatment. So, they shifted to a lodge awaiting his final days. His wife called my mother at 3am yesterday and told that my uncle was on his deathbed. My mother rushed to the place where they were staying, but by the time she reached there he had already expired. She called us from there to inform us about it. None of his relatives visited him, except for his wife's brothers. The cremation was done by his youngest daughter, hardly twelve years old. His siblings inquired about his death only after the cremation was over, because they didn't want to bear the expenses of it!

By the time he was diagnosed with cancer, he was past the stage of getting cured. Money wouldn't have helped to save him. But it would've ensured he died a peaceful death, satisfied of his family being financially secure after his death. But he died a difficult death and has left his family in a very bad financial situation with no job and no home. My father would help them in any way he can, but having a fixed income puts restrictions in his ability to help their family only to a certain extent. Pa and I had a long talk yesterday, about the importance of money. He emphasized on the importance of savings, helping others in need, and also warned me about how lack of cash can reveal the true identities of people around me, an ugly side I may not be prepared for. He told me the most important thing in life is financial independence and the capacity to take care for self and loved ones. Money can buy happiness after all, just like the lack of it can make life a living hell. Sad, but true.

Photo Courtesy: http://www.targetwoman.com/image/money-saving-tips.jpg

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Letters I Forgot To Send



I’d seen this being done in several blogs. Indi’s and Tasha’s at first, I guess. It consists of letters to certain people in my life without revealing their identities. What I’d really like to say to them, but couldn’t do so for whatsoever reasons.

1) I was so proud of you always. Everything you’ve achieved till now. The way you’ve achieved it. The love you showered on me. Then slowly I discovered that even you were flawed. And that you had continually hurt the person who loved you the most. I detested you for that at times, wished you’d change for the better. Sometimes I even wished you’d die in the moments when you hurt her a lot, but the very next moment I prayed hard that nothing bad happens to you ever. I can’t even think of my life without you. I never hated you. Can never hate you. I cherish each and every moment I spend with you nowadays and prefer not to think about the bad times anymore. You’re a good person, but one single flaw of yours made me lose the respect I had for you. I’m regaining it again. And I like that as an adult, I can talk to you about anything that had bothered me in the past, without feeling weird and that has changed the whole equation of our relationship. I like our relationship now. It’s what I’d always wanted. You wonder aloud whether I’ve forgiven you. I can feel it in the way you look at me at times, but had never gathered the courage to ask it yourself. I have forgiven you. And I’m still proud of you.

2) If I’m asked to choose just one person whom I can’t live without, I’d choose you. Always. You know me inside out; you’ve seen me make a fool of myself, you’ve seen me stumble at various phases in my life, you’ve seen me at the worst moments of my life. And you had stood by me, listened to me, offered advice, and never once judged me. You were the one dancing with joy at all my achievements, even the not too significant ones. I can be goofy with you. I can tell you anything. I can be plain stupid. I can watch corny tearjerkers and even the "No. 1" Govinda comedies with you, knowing fully well that you’re not judging my IQ. You have an uncanny sense of knowing when I need you, and when I need my own space, without my even telling you so. You love me a lot, but would rather have your toe nails plucked out before admitting it. You can always make me laugh. We think alike, but it amazes me that still we’re so different. You know all my secrets. And although I’m much elder to you, I look to you for advice on anything bothering me, because I know it’d be genuine and heartfelt. And even though while growing up, there were angry moments when I was ready to sell you off, but then I would have lost the sole witness to every little detail of my life and the one who loves me despite my shortcomings. I feel blessed to have you in my life.

3) I don’t know your name. And I don’t ever wish to know it. I dread seeing you ever again in my life. Not because I’m scared of you. But because I don’t know whether you’ll survive if you cross my path again. You are the lowest form of being on earth, I pity your existence. I wonder how you can look yourself in the mirror without wanting to kill yourself with shame. I presume it’s not difficult for you, because you obviously lack a conscience, and repentance is something one doesn’t expect from your kind. You probably will have a long life, a long marriage to an unsuspecting wife, and maybe you even have kids, and I wonder whether you lust after your own daughter even!

4) Thanks for introducing me to the world of books. That’s the best gift I’ve ever received.

5) I take your presence in my life for granted. And it’s such a comfort. Eleven years of friendship. No matter where life takes us, the bond we share will grow stronger each day. It’s one of the few things I can be sure of in life.

6) If I could go back in time, I’d make sure I never let you in my life. Lies, deception, fraud; your whole life and existence can be summed up in these three words. Now, when I think back on our time together, I realize I was never in love with you. I did care for you. I believed when you professed your love for me, and thought it was my DUTY to reciprocate your feelings! It felt good to be loved by someone with such strong intensity. I reveled in that attention and care you showered on me. And when your deception began to unfold gradually, I couldn’t bear to lose the one who said he loved me so much! It hurt my ego that the love I received was a farce. And since I had begun to be so much emotionally dependent on you, the very thought of being alone scared me. I devoted years to the relationship and everything turned out to be pretense. I was ashamed of facing friends and family because I had let you into my life and didn’t recognize your true nature! I was feeling guilty for your mistakes. You are living proof of all that’s bad in the world, and it's not just because you broke my heart. You have made me too cautious to fall in love again.

7)You were a lot of firsts for me. I loved you. And now I miss being friends with you. And that quirky humor, and that shy smile, and that confused frown you always wore on your face. Hope you’ve a good life, “genius reborn”. If we ever meet, hope we can be friends again. I’d really like that.

8) Distance and time has crept into our relationship lately. Job, new friends, new place. I’m possessive of our friendship, and I’m afraid of losing the one I grew up with.

9) I’d hurt you so many times. I had a bad day; I took out my anger and irritation on you. For no fault of yours, just because you were always there, the available target. And you never mouthed your disapproval. I had been unreasonable, cranky, and plain intolerable. And I’m so sorry for all those times. You’d led a difficult life, devoted your whole life to the happiness of others. And often these people took you for granted. You never complained. And I hated you for being so weak, and was angry with you instead. I was wrong. I realize your strength now. Your enduring power marvels me. Not everything is as simple as I think. Love is a complex emotion, and the extent we tolerate for love is something I’m beginning to fathom gradually. I understand you now. I realize my anger was misdirected. I’d never be able to repay for what you’ve done for me. And even the thought of repaying back, you’d perceive as an insult. But, I want you to know that I’m everything I’m today because of you, and I love you so much. Thanks for giving me my life.

Photo Courtesy http://www.crane.com/content/images/letters-you-keep.jpg

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The dreaded "C" word

Someone’s got fever or stomach ache or his head hurts or loss of appetite or bleeding gums or a weak heart, whatever be the ailment, you hope it’s going to be alright after a course of medications and in worse cases maybe surgery. You tell them, “Sure, everything’s going to be okay. Get the required tests done, take the medicines and you’ll be up on your feet in no time”. That’s what we tend to think when we or our loved ones fall ill. But when the dreaded “C” word looms large on the horizon in some cases, all hope drains out of us even if for a moment. Cancer. It still evokes the same horror in us when we hear about it, as it did when the disease was first discovered.

We all plan our lives assuming we would live at least till the age of seventy or eighty. “In ten years I’d be doing this, and in twenty years after the kids have grown up I’ll be doing that”. At that time the thought doesn’t cross our minds that our lives maybe cut short any moment by some accident or illness. And cancer is the cause for many a life cut short. Recently, Jade Goody’s death has increased the awareness of cervical cancer. A few years ago it was breast cancer awareness that had started on a massive scale.

I lost my grandfather to cancer twenty years ago. He used to complain of irregular stomach cramps, a couple of routine tests didn’t yield any results, so the doctors gave him some antacids and let him go. But the stomach cramps continued, and one day while he was teaching me how to make paper planes (I was three years old then), he collapsed. By that time his gallbladder cancer had reached its terminal stage, and the doctors predicted no more than a month to live. My father worked in Guwahati then, while the entire extended family lived in Jorhat. My youngest uncle wrote a letter to my father telling him of my grandfather’s illness. Telephones weren’t too common back then. My father arrived by night bus, and that was the first time I saw him cry. He didn’t cry when my grandfather died a month later. Two of my younger uncles got married within two weeks of the diagnosis of the disease, because my grandfather wished to see them settle down into family life. I didn’t even realize he was gone forever. I remember I was so irritated I took my drawing book and crayons to sketch, away from all the hue and cry going on in the house! It started to sink in only when I sensed his continued absence that stretched beyond a month.

This year my elder sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s just 39 years old, and a mother of two wonderful girls. She called me up a couple of months back and told me she had felt a tiny painless lump on her breast. She was worried because on my mother’s side there’s a history of breast lumps. Even in our family, my mother, my younger sister and I had battled with fibroadenomas, but we got away with just a minor surgery. She repeatedly kept asking me, “Since it’s painless, it’s nothing serious, right?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it’s the “painless” lumps that were mostly malignant. I was hoping it was a benign lump, and asked her to get a mammogram and a FNAC (Fine needle aspiration cytology) done. The tests came out to be positive of malignant cells. The whole family went into a collective shock. This can’t be happening to her, she’s so young and fit. But my sister was so brave. Her husband and her entire family’s support and her own will power helped her tide over this crisis. She lost a breast, she went through a harrowing period of diagnostic tests to detect the spread of cancer to other parts of her body, and she lost all her hair in the post-operative chemo and radiotherapy that she’s undergoing now. I marvel at the courage with which she has fought the situation. I was shocked and crestfallen when I first heard about it, but she is the one living the ordeal, and each moment of her battle with cancer has been a lesson to me. About the unpredictability of life, about how insignificant and petty our everyday troubles seem compared to these battles with death, about the strength of human spirit, about hope, about tolerance, about perseverance, about the support a family offers, about love that endures such tough tests and grows only stronger by the end of it. She had relapsed again after three cycles of chemotherapy. But I pray that she doesn't suffer much agony.

Then there’s this uncle, my khuri’s (the wife of my father’s younger brother) brother, who had been a constant presence in my life while I was growing up, even though our interaction has lessened in the past few years. He was the one who accompanied me and my father when I went to watch a movie (‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’) on the big screen for the first time, and he had got all the scolding from the audience when I got scared and started howling when the fight scenes were on. He was the one who brought me a square tin box as my first school bag! And I happily carried it through kindergarten. He fell ill a month back, lost his appetite and became reed thin. The doctors in his town ran a lot of tests but nothing was found wrong with him but still his condition worsened every day. I asked him to get transferred into my college hospital last week. The doctors here suspected a colorectal malignancy and the results are due on Saturday. When I talked to him and his wife today, they expectantly asked me if he was going to be alright. They had never ever even heard of the word “biopsy”. I said he would be alright. But with the “C” word again popping up, I am praying each second that what I assured them would be true. Whatever the test results maybe, I hope he gets over this hurdle in perfect health.

There had been an immense development in the field of oncology (study and treatment of tumors) in the past two decades, be it research for causative factors, treatment, surgeries, diagnostic techniques and screening procedure for cancer detection, study of the magnitude of the disease. The survival rate has gone up. But it still kills a millions of people every year across the globe. The lifestyles we lead today, toxic agents in the environment, addictions like smoking and alcohol, familial factors etc contribute to the millions of people affected each year. It has slowly stopped being the disease of the old age. A frightening number of children and young adults are being affected by it every year. And although there’s increased awareness among people nowadays about cancer and they go for tests at any suspicious symptoms, some cancers hardly show any symptoms till terminal stages and remain undetected. That’s the sad part of this disease. It can hit you anytime. But people have started fighting hard against it. Their families too. And the fight for survival leads to successes, miracles. A cancer survivor knows what’s it’s like to be alive. Their bravery astounds me every second. Few of these brave people’s chances of survival become bleak, but they fight on till the end. Every time I visit a terminal cancer ward, I can’t explain the gamut of emotions I go through on seeing these people’s calm courage at the face of death, trying to live as normal a life possible with tubes and pipes restricting their movements and confining them to beds, pain affecting most of their waking moments, living on with the knowledge that death is close by, carrying on normal conversations with friends and family. They’re living wonders of hope, bravery, and perseverance.

Monday, March 30, 2009

In My Perfect World, On My Perfect Date




Brisk Wind not Warm Breeze

Break of Dawn not Darkness of Dusk

Long Walk not Fancy Wheels

Uplifting Melody not Syrupy Love Song

Companionable Silence not Constant Chatter

Finger Food Platter not French Cuisine

Open Sky not Suffocating Spaces

Exploring Places not Candlelit Dinner

Loud Laughter not Forced Humor

Spontaneity not Calculated Moves

Quality of Time not Quantity of Time

Entwined Fingers not Groping Hands

The Kid in Him not The Macho Male

Creating Exhilarating Moments not Anticipating Sensual Moments

Genuine Words not Deceptive Promises

Shy Glances not Incessant Staring

Goofy not Grave

Genial, Never-ending Conversations not Frigid, Formal Talks

Lingering Contentment not Lingering Regrets

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Of Ethics, Morality And Virtues



Ethics, Morality, Virtues, Vices; I never really put much thought into them, and instinctively followed the values I picked while growing up. Some were deliberate conscious decisions and some were ingrained habits of my life. I have always judged what's wrong, and what's right according to my own principles, not biased by other people's views. And have earned scorn for that at times. But ethics, virtues and vices are very subjective terms. What may seem perfectly moral for me, may not seem so to another. And we should accept the fact and not jump into a tirade denouncing the views of others unless it brings about deliberate harm to someone.

My views and opinions regarding these topics have been both pliant and staunch at different times and my current set of beliefs and values have evolved through the years. I learned from various experiences, mostly by trial and error method. My ideals are distinctively mine, my own individual set of values and others can like it or lump it but I'm going to lead my life within the boundaries of those rules. I'm open to change and my ideals may get modified over time, but certain values are so deep-rooted and so influenced by one's upbringing that there's but little change in those specific ideals.

What is ethics or morality? "A code of values to guide man's choices and actions; a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct". But it evokes the question of what's acceptable conduct? And do we need a code of values and if yes what should they be? How does an individual decide the principles of right and wrong and should he/she strive to get them accepted by the society at large? And who should these values primarily benefit? The individual or the society? One needs to thoroughly clarify and answer these questions before deciding their life's ideals.

I faltered many a time at various ideals I believed in and each time the only reason was because I put others' interests over mine. And, the results were far from what I'd predicated and diminished my image in my own eyes. That's why I say I've learnt through trial and error method, I know what works for me and how I should lead my life; not being bothered by the socially acceptable "virtuous qualities" and not being an "sacrificial animal" yet again. The beneficiary of my ideals should primarily be me. I'm not talking of material and monetary benefits, but the joy and satisfaction that arises from achieving my goals without compromising my values.

The present social scenario leads me to question how the society views what's immoral and moral. It's based on few very irrational and archaic principles. Firstly, if an individual's actions benefits himself more than it benefits the others around him or the society, it's evil or selfish. Altruism is the keyword for being the epitome of morality! And being concerned with one's own interest is synonymous to evil! If a person sacrifices his life's ambition for the care of other people, he is considered far superior than the one who struggles all his life to fulfill his ambition. "For the greater good" is the motto. "There's no greatness in working for oneself!" Secondly, the self-custodians of morality are hell-bent on reforming the society of everything that they perceive threatens its existence. The rights of a person to live the way they deem fit is frowned upon. One has to answer to the society at large.

There are obvious flaws in this outlook towards life. Every person on this earth has the full right to pursue their goals and ambitions irrespective of whether it pleases others or not. I'm NOT talking about indulging in irrational whims, or harming others in any way on the pretext of "doing whatever pleases me", but working towards rational goals. But we tend to be bound by the expectations of others, and get motivated to do what's considered virtuous in the eyes of others and thus lose track of what we always aspired to do. Dare a girl who has the responsibility of her parents on her to pursue her dreams single-mindedly without being condemned for her actions. And dare a single girl live life on her own terms without questions being raised on her character after she passes the conventional marriageable age. We live for others! I used to do feel that's the proper thing to do too. But it suffocated me.

After a long rumination based on my previous experiences, I've decided on my code of ethics. I decided never to renounce what I have in life for the sake of another person, anyone at all, at the cost of hampering my own progress. I know by now few of you've conjured up a image of me as the 'evil' one. But I don't want to further arrest my progress in life by self-inflicted pain and sacrifice for the sake of others. I feel that's the best decision of my life so far; something I should have done a long, long time back.

I feel the following values are enough in leading a life of happiness, a life one can be proud of. I will try my best to always uphold the following set of ethics I believe in and not just preach but actually put them into practice in my life:

Responsibility: Of achieving my goals. Of making my parents proud through my actions. Of never letting my self-esteem falter. Of a constant thrive to aim high in life. Of never sacrificing for the sake of another individual, nor asking anyone else to make sacrifice for my sake. I first read this line in the oath taken in one of my favorite novels, Atlas Shrugged. I used to think that's not possible to follow; not any more. I would strive my best to live by it.

Rationality: In exercising my choice on the course of actions to be taken at every step of my life. In originating the goals of my life. In my thinking.

Pride: In leading my life on my own terms. In not being prey to the schemes of other people. In never harming any one for my benefit. In achieving what I've set out to do. In the power to think.

Independence: And knowing it's importance, cherishing it and never misusing it. Freedom doesn't equal to drinking, smoking, using abusive terms in everyday conversations, pub hopping and whatever the youth of today associate it with. It's okay for those who indulge in these for pleasure or out of habit, and I've nothing against them; it's all about the choices we make in life. But that doesn't and shouldn't pressurize me to ape them to assert my freedom.

Justice: And standing up for what I believe in. Of knowing the boundaries I've set for myself and being true to them and not letting the moral guardians of society influence my life. And not tolerate self-interest schemes masked by altruistic approach, like the power seeking politicians "working for public good" or the the 'moral duty' of supporting a leech (of the human kind!).

Selfishness: Being concerned with my own interests. Doing what makes me happy, and once again, I don't mean indulging in irrational whims.

Self-esteem: Never losing it again. For anyone at all. Absolutely no one's worth it. The loss of of self-esteem hurts and stings the deepest and the longest.

Productivity: A focused approach towards my goals. And not doing pseudo work. Of understanding the value of the opportunities I have received and utilizing them fully.

Integrity: A moral soundness that comes from living a life that I'm proud of. Of helping the ones in genuine need without making them leeches, but never at the cost of my own survival.

Knowledge: Of striving to achieve the best of it. Feeding the most precious treasure of man, the mind.

Trust and Honesty: Of valuing human emotions and understanding the hurt that comes from lies and betrayal. Of being honest in my career always, and never settle for minor neglects that I feel won't harm anyone. Of being honest to myself and my priorities in life. Its neglect might not bring any immediate harm, but its cumulative effect can cause major upheavals.

Love: Caring for and nurturing my relationships with my loved ones and standing by them through thick and thin. And being careful in judging who deserves my love. Not let just anyone stray into my heart.

Effort: Relying on hard work alone and never luck to progress in my career. And not shying away from hard work ever.