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.