New Girl in the City

‘Khaman’ was how Gujarat was introduced to me before I knew where it was on the political map of India. This popular Gujarati snack justifies the taste of Gujarat, ‘khatta-meetha’ (tangy and sweet). Needless to mention, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel also played their significant roles in my formative years.

My roots and relatives are from western Uttar Pradesh but I was brought up in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand (yes it was the northern and better part of UP, thankfully only till the year 2000). There are diverse reasons for which I dislike UP as a state, as a culture. The biggest yet non-progressive state boasts of casteism, patriarchy, illiteracy, crime, no infrastructure, corrupt authorities, open sewers and closed minds. My ancestors said and I do believe them that we are Brahmins. Most Brahmins are extremely proud of their caste and used to look down upon others. Whether it has any bearing on their political choices or not, I can’t recall a single government in UP that made sense to me. I loved the Ganges, mountains, winters and the fusion of adventure and spirituality in Rishikesh yet I wanted to move out of North India. In all likelihood for better career prospects and growth, a new perspective, self-reliance or something more in life.

One not-so-fine day in 2007, I was searching for a topic to write about for a college magazine article. While reading and watching the news, I heard a sting audio clip from Gujarat riots. It was a telephonic conversation where the executor was describing to his senior how he cut across the womb of a heavily pregnant woman with his sword. To my utter disgust, there was a monstrous pride and content in his voice. Pride, an emotion that led to the ‘Gaurav Yatra’. I decided to research and write about incidents of communal violence in India and that audio stuck with me forever, so did the Gujarat Riots. At that time, khakhra, dhokla, Narendra Modi, Zahira Sheikh, Hindu-Muslim, Sabarmati, Babri, Sohrabuddin were the new words in my Gujarati dictionary. It was 2012 when I was in a distance relationship with a man from Gujarat and was confused about our future in 2013. These two were also decisive years for the socio-political shape of India. A part of every state, other than Gujarat, was screaming for ‘change’. Gujarat was rather cheerleading its then CM for PM candidacy. There wasn’t just one but millions of proud, swollen chests. I had heard about the good roads, uninterrupted power supply, ‘chaniya’ (traditional long and flowy skirts) clad girls roaming freely at night as definitions of developed Gujarat. Irrespective, I had a picture in mind far better than the realities of my region. The primary elements being a good job and an open-minded society. 2012 was also when the heart-wrenching Nirbhaya case happened and the evil Asharam was exposed. Narendra Modi visited him in jail to get his blessings for Lok Sabha elections. Not many may know that Asharam was close to Modi and had also funded Gujarat riots. In 2013, the intuitive Uttarakhand was left miserable by the fierce rains and Modi ji promised Ma Ganga to nurture it if he became the country’s chief. I was destined to begin my journey in Gujarat in the same year.

I liked the touristy nonchalance I felt on the roads, no one recognised me. Unfamiliarity, just like ignorance, is more comfortable at times. I had presumed language would be an issue but all the sabjiwalas, autowalas and kirana store kakas could communicate in Hindi. Of course, they did! What was I thinking! We are a proud Hindu Rashtra, aren’t we! I found strangers helpful and respectful. A notable consolation was no eve-teasing, cheap comments or bikes following in outdoor life. I also don’t remember seeing incidents of road rage, Gujaratis are not hostile. Perhaps they save their aggression for business and bargaining. My first Ganpati Pujan and I had a chance to mingle with other residents of our society. Food, extramarital, late night visitors with details of cars and clothes were the favourite topics. Some days later I was added to the society WhatsApp group and so started the Pro-Hindu, Anti-Muslim forwards, messages on why girls should dress up in a certain way etc. Summer of 2014 was lucky for Modi just like 2002 was lucky for him and Salman Khan. They both flew kites and discussed potential life partners on Uttarayan, months before Salman Khan’s innocent verdict. While searching for a new apartment in developed parts of Ahmedabad, we faced more questions about our caste, marital status, F&B habits and late night parties than financial status. I had expected Ahmedabad to offer great job opportunities after hearing much ado about development and foreign investments, but I hardly found MNCs here. My second job in the city was with a Real Estate broking firm and my profile required me to meet builders often. The conversations sometimes began with the communities they would not sell their properties to. It’s then I realised that builders are not just greedy but also casteist. 

People dislike Delhi here but love to see their beloved Modi sitting in Delhi; he’s never in Delhi is a different story altogether. Coming back, AAP may be at the receiving side of criticism for air pollution in Delhi, but this problem is not recent in the first place. Delhi air has been polluted since the late 90s, it has just worsened now like every other problem in India. It is not a phenomenon that can happen overnight right? Secondly, Ahmedabad is a highly polluted city itself. What’s more, the water here is much worse than that of Delhi. I faced several health issues during my first year here, thanks to air and water pollution. Two Climate Change Summits have already been attended by our homegrown PM and third is in the sewer-line. Higher GST on diesel cars and a liberal tax on petrol cars would have been more sensible than 12% GST on sanitary napkins. The little water poor Sabarmati has is dangerous to drink and Narmada water is the only saviour. Having said that, 65 per cent incompletion in Narmada Project is a fiasco in itself. The power supply is regular only in Ahmedabad because of privatisation. Many other parts of Gujarat face power cuts on a regular basis, along with the shortage of water. Remember ‘Toilets before Temples’? It has been four years, I still struggle on Ahmedabad roads, let alone other Indian cities and states. Contrary to my pre-wed beliefs, Gujarat has serious education issues, much worse than many other states in India. No wonder half of them take solace in the US. Other than countable exceptions, schools here can be well classified as bad schools, brat schools and international board Schools. The state government has had 22 glorious years to make a difference yet it believes 6 per cent of the total budget is sufficient allocation for education. Out of this only 3 per cent was actually put to use and the remaining 3 was probably donated to paid trolls. Recently I attended an event on macro and microstate of education in Gujarat and what I learnt was disturbing beyond imagination. Forget the poor infrastructure, shortage of teachers, senseless curriculum and exorbitantly high fee in private schools; there’s caste discrimination even in Anganwadis. Yes, in 2017! Dalit kids from many regions of Gujarat do not get glasses to drink water, they have to use hands. The plates for Anganwadis are numbered for kids of socially acceptable communities. The government may bluff many by screaming the number of girl enrolments and teachers recruited, but are they talking about a much higher rate of retiring teachers or girls dropping out at puberty? All the 8 speakers seemed highly frustrated with the current state. One of them made an observation, “People in Gujarat may be enterprising and risk takers, but they never protest. They sit in their living rooms and blabber but they never walk on roads and make their voices heard.”   

When I visit doctors here, my full name, age, marital status etc are taken for a record. I haven’t changed my surname after marriage, given a chance I wouldn’t use it at all. Forget just the surname, the receptionists would ask for a middle name too. When I tell them I don’t have any, they would still ask for my husband’s name and put it as my middle name. Why? I mean what business do doctors, nurses or anyone for that matter should have in adding names to my name? What are existing names for? Speaking of doctors, the lower, middle and upper middle class hardly has options for an affordable healthcare. Despite Ahmedabad being the hub of medical tourism, the masses have to either spend a bomb or suffer because of extortionate health care.

Whenever someone asks how I like Ahmedabad, my first reaction is that I find it balanced. It does look and feel like a tier-2 Indian city yet is not as maddening as Delhi or Mumbai. It may not have nightlife but late nights are safer. People may be communal but not criminal. Education is not good but people are enterprising. Ahmedabad is not cosmopolitan but cultured. What especially interests me is the small yet genuinely concerned, creative, intellectual and open-minded beings I have had the chance to know through work, events, interests or ideologies. These people are the only relief amidst an otherwise rigid and confused urban population. The fearless people who think and protest through art.

Looking at the past and present, I have realised that the rural population has more clarity than its urban counterpart. City dwellers may crib about issues but do nothing to solve it. Stagnation is comfortable. It makes me wonder at the impact of leadership or that of worshipping the wrong leader. 2002 is done and dusted, but Muslims can still not buy or rent properties in any developing/developed part of Ahmedabad. There have been murders of Muslims carrying beef despite having a good chunk of Hindu beef eaters around. No matter how much it is portrayed as a predominantly vegetarian state, at least 60 per cent of Gujarat’s population is non-vegetarian. Why should food, clothes, opinions and beliefs of common man bother the government? Don’t they have other problems to take care of? On one hand, they are silent at mob lynching and on the other, political babas advise people on the number of kids they should have. The violence against Dalits hasn’t moved the urban millennials. When Gujarat government makes double the revenue through prohibition in the name of Mahatma Gandhi or uses it to appease minorities for votes, then why should Jawahar Lal Nehru be blamed alone? Why not discuss the cronyism and protected corporate interests of Adanis? A Sardar statue worth three hundred crores against his own ideologies or a bullet train is the pseudo development that can compensate well for basic and real development. 

Let alone Gujarat, ever since Narendra Modi has come to power in Union government, there has been more of decline than development in India in ways more than one. Disregard for recognition of human rights, controlled mass media, paid trolls, caste politics, disdain for arts and intellectualism, fraudulent elections, suppression of labour, pseudo nationalism and Hindutva have fabricated a delusional democracy. Give me one speech that seemed like a PM’s speech from NaMo. Other than that of Philippines who joked about wanting to be the first to rape a woman who was gang-raped and killed during a campaign. He was after Congress and Rahul Gandhi as Gujarat’s CM and so is he as India’s PM. What went wrong in the past 70 years has been his discussion since 2012 when Rahul Gandhi has never even been the PM. Complete negligence of Parliament in desperation of Gujarat Elections is a grave matter. The whole country cannot be ignored for their home state. Whether it is for Vidhan Sabha or Lok Sabha elections, BJP never gives a mandate till the 11th hour. But visiting temples, talking communalism, crying and bragging about his poverty is always high on his agenda. Don’t people think before voting? The government has nothing to say about what it promises to do on winning yet public should vote for it. We are not badgered with the failures of this term for union or of past 22 years in the home state, are we even thinking about what we want now? Or we have accepted their dictatorship and ceased to want at all?

Just like the political Babas in India, Modi government is trying to become a cult and is sadly succeeding. Indians don’t like him, they worship him. That is his win! The illogical, poisonous devotion; like that for Ram Raheem and Asharam. The difference between Hinduism and Hindutva is the difference between patriotism and nationalism. Forget the country, there is no democracy left in WhatsApp groups with radical Hindus. Venom spitting BJP devotees are welcomed in a family group but there was intolerance towards my factual articles barring personal biases. Not just that, I was also given a call next morning asking why I hate Modi. When I asked my uncle why he worships him instead, he had no logical answer. First, he said what ‘ever’ he is doing is for the good of this country and because Rahul Gandhi is dumb. Then followed the wrongs done by Muslims. There is a big chunk that elects BJP only because it hates Muslims or Dalits, they will just never confess. I am not a Rahul Gandhi fan but I find it injudicious when people say that they vote for Modi because RaGa is stupid. Were these people his classmates? How can they judge him when he has never even been a CM or the PM? More importantly, even if the option is as simple as choosing between a party that’s corrupt & a party that’s both corrupt and murderous, isn’t the answer obvious? The reason UP could never develop despite its size and resources is this casteism. Now that BJP is in-charge of the entire nation and insecure in Modi’s home state, are things going to change in 2019? Will demonetization, miscalculated GST and 2G Scam verdict have any influence? Or are we happy becoming a country where the government is shameless enough to decide which castes should not marry, which movie should not release, which esteemed university should discontinue or which tribes should die? People who re-elect Yogi Adityanath in UP will be silent supporters of the dead children in Gorakhpur. People who re-elect BJP in India in 2019 will be supporters of killing people born to a faith they never chose.

There is no justice, only conquest for this government. They don’t fight to win, they fight not to lose. And here we are, working at OUR cost for the presumptions and privileges of their victory. This madman leading the blind is not obliged to convince but overpower, control and leave us at his mercy. We don’t have to lose to make him win. Absolute power is an end in itself. The urge to prevail, even more destructive! Questions on lips of the haunted have been sealed while the loudest voices have been hunted to graves, their whispers still echo. Resolutions are nothing more than failed decisions. 2018 is important because 2019 will follow. Will we shield it this time or will we become spectators to a monster dancing on the skeletons of our democracy?

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Constructive or Destructive – The Power of Human Mind

Abdul Rehman, Abdul Rehman Chhota, Abu Ali, Fahad Ullah, Ismail Khan, Babar Imran, Abu Umar, Abu Sohrab, Shoaib and Ajmal Kasab; 10 young men in their early twenties who executed the Mumbai mayhem 26/11.

These attackers travelled by sea from Karachi, Pakistan and hijacked an Indian fishing trawler. They killed its crew of four and forced the captain to sail to Mumbai, who was killed on coming ashore at the Arabian Sea in Colaba at 20:00 IST on November 26, 2008.

Their target was Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Leopold Cafe, The Taj Mahal Hotel, Oberoi Trident and the Nariman House. Also, there were shootings near St. Xavier college, Metro Cinema, Mazagaon Docks, Vile Parle and Cama Hotel. An attack began at CST at 21:30 when two gunmen, including Ajmal Kasab, entered the passenger hall and opened fire using AK-47 rifles. The attackers killed 58 people, injured another 104 and ended the assault at about 22:45 followed by the arrival of security forces and emergency services. After CST, Kasab and Khan faced firing by a team of Mumbai Anti Terrorist Squad in which Khan and 5 Police officers were killed, and Kasab was caught alive.

Leopold Cafe, a popular bar on Colaba Causeway, was one of the first sites to be attacked with around 10 killings and many more injuries.

The Taj Hotel had 6 explosions, 1 in the lobby, 2 in the elevators and 3 in the restaurant. On the night of November 26, around 200 hostages were rescued from the windows using ladders by our fire-fighters.

Meanwhile, 2 other attackers took over the Nariman House where 9 hostages were rescued but 6 hostages and a National Security Guard Commando were gunned down. Both the gunmen were shot dead as well.

The operation finally ended at 8:00 am on November 29 after killing 9 terrorists. In total, the NSG rescued 250 people from the Oberoi, 300 from the Taj and 60 people from Nariman House.

These attacks were planned and directed by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in Pakistan, carried out by 10 young armed men trained and sent to Mumbai and directed from Pakistan via mobile phones and VoIP. This massacre was planned several months ahead of time and the attackers knew some areas well enough to vanish and reappear after the security forces had left.

These 10 attackers were out of the group of around 24 students who were trained in marine warfare at a remote camp in mountainous Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir. A part of training was also taken at Mangla Dam reservoir. The stages of training, as reported by the US n Indian media reports were psychological (atrocities suffered by Muslims in India and other parts of the globe), basic combat, advanced weapons and explosives training supervised by retired personnel of the Pakistan Army, survival training and commando training that also included marine navigation. There were also lessons in swimming and sailing and before boarding a small boat for Mumbai, the attackers stayed and were trained by the LeT in a safe house at Azizabad near Karachi.

Blood tests on the attackers indicate that they had taken cocaine and LSD to sustain their energy and stay awake for around 60 hours. Rowing with weight on their shoulders did not tire these young terrorists. Within 90 mins of reaching Mumbai, they had started with their shooting spree, that lasted for around 90 hours. The basic needs of a human being are water, food, sleep and release of urine and stool. Without breaks, these 6 attackers injured and killed so many people. According to some witnesses, there was a smile on their faces while shooting innocent targets.

Our soldiers are trained for years and months, unfortunately, they may or fortunately they may not face a war. Shooters who have done our nation proud by winning medals take their own time to shoot a dot. A little hectic day may want us to rest for the whole weekend. A little weight may wear out our muscles for 2-3 days. It’s not the effort and strength of these 6 boys I admire or selflessness or determination of our soldiers and sportsmen I don’t value, but it’s the functioning of our minds and the intensity of it’s will that amazes me. Men have done great things due to their dedication. A man in a remote village constructed a whole mountain and made a road all by himself. It’s the power of the human mind that’s so intimidating. It can invent things and demolish places of worship, it can start a revolution or plan a war, it can save life amidst danger or kill people in cold blood.

The mind, in the end, is ours! We train it, we exploit it. We argue with it, we convince it. The mind conceives an idea because we want it to. It can either be a saviour or a monster, who gets to decide?

One World

During the infancy of human existence, which was millions of years ago; there would not have been any boundaries. Areas would have diverged according to terrain and climate, but a lot of manmade classification would have been beyond one’s imagination.

Early men must have been more animalistic in a very positive sense of the term. Searching for food and shelter in the forest, exploring new areas like nomads, or protection against wild animals or climatic changes must have consumed most of their time. Relatively different activities must have consisted of inventing things like fire, making new weapons out of wood and stone, or having instinctive wars (for food, tribal issues or reproductive interests). Even more unusual would have been defining territories and categories, ‘dividing’ to be precise.

There was no formal education, career options, technology or modernization; as were there no discriminations on the basis of borders, castes, race, or religion. In the Indian context, before the arrival of the Aryans in 1500 BC, existed communities of other origins like Negrito (resemblance in physical features with Africans), Mongoloids (Chinese features), Austroloid (features similar to the aboriginals of Australia) and the largest community in India, Dravidians (Mediterranean origin). Aryans started disregarding the local culture and started organising among themselves the division of castes as Brahmins, the priests; Rajayanas or Kshatriyas as warriors; Vaishyas, the farmers and craftsmen and the labour force as the Shudras. It’s noteworthy and also mentioned in the Rig Veda that the first-ever classification of caste was neither on the basis of any community, skill nor region but ‘Varna’, meaning ‘skin colour’.

Today’s highly educated generation obviously knows the basic as well scientific reason behind the difference in skin colour of people, i.e., climate! People from hilly region tend to be fairer skinned and people from tropical regions are darker. Those living in plains would be on the moderate side, wheat-ish, and any regional contradictions could be because of genetic assortment. We need the day as much as we need the night. Heat has its own role to play as has a cold in balancing the environmental dynamics. So why should we discriminate those unintentionally affected by the rationally diversified Mother Nature? We are constantly ignoring the message it is trying to convey, ‘that it is the co-existence of the dissimilar that strikes a balance and not the monopoly of the similar.’  Also, the way we need various skills for the efficient functioning of an organization, we also need various calibre people for the survival of a society, city, state, country or the whole wide world. The way a CEO cannot work without ground force, we as a society cannot do without labour, the ‘Shudras’, especially now when we are not at all self-sufficient. Can we grow our own crop or make our own houses? How will even a king survive without farmers? Irrespective of the caste, skin colour, region or status, every living being needs food, the most basic element for survival. Should we suppress farmers merely because we coined a term ‘Vaishyas’ for them or should we look down upon people who clean our trash and label them as ‘untouchables’? Every group needs protection from outside dangers and that’s where the warriors, ‘Kshatriyas’ come into play. Education is an integral part of human evolution so the teachers, ‘Brahmins’ have a significant role too.

This is about ancient India, and caste division like Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian became much later a part of our history. Needless to mention, this was also an outcome of a particular community trying to be more powerful than others, and having smaller groups only makes the task easier. Different tribes always fight. If the tendency to ‘divide and rule’ is so much a part of our communal selves, then why do we Indians despise the British rule? In fact, they were intelligent and futuristic enough to bank upon our weakness and hence could enslave us for so long. Our ancestors harassed the sweepers for too many years, their generations will naturally try to get even with us now and they deserve our support.

There is too much hue and cry about social intolerance amongst Indians these days. We think what our irresponsible media wants us to think instead of it being the other way round. Negative is more attractive as well as popular, hence no Hindu wants to react when a cow that cannot provide milk is sold to a slaughterhouse but they want to kill Muslims who eat beef, irrespective of the fact that a lot of Hindus eat beef as well. Nobody bothered to stand by the Bollywood actor Amir Khan when he had the courage to fight for those being rendered homeless as a result of Sardar Sarovar Dam construction during the Narmada Andolan or when he wanted to highlight the social evils of united India through his TV series Satyamev Jayate. We are always ready to start hating and banning, a sign that our negative self is more powerful than the positive one. If we hate Amir because his wife finds India unsafe, why don’t we also hate Indian women who find Delhi unsafe or Indian youth that feels India lacks career opportunities and settle abroad for the same reason?

Hatred and wars have never resolved issues. If we truly want to clean this mess, we have to understand divisions were merely disguised weapons for power and political interests. Religions were created by some humans for fellow humans and against a much larger number of other humans. It’s harmful to an individual, social as well as national development. Rise beyond these barriers and think openly, construct a better society. The onus is on this generation to undo the injustice practised by our ancestors as well as imbibe a more acceptable and harmonious culture in our successors. Let the human within win over the hidden monster! Jai Hind!

The Last Journey

“It feels like a second life”. Thought me as I watched everyone around, wailing faces, sad faces, numb faces, faces that suggest a task has been completed and baby faces unable to understand what was happening around. But no face was looking back at me; instead, they were looking at my identical twin sleeping peacefully on the ground, facing the South direction.

It felt bizarre; I could witness everything without anyone else’s knowledge. Also, a life, if it was so at all, that no one else could see, know or feel. The famous Bollywood movie “ Mr India” had certainly made me very curious as a kid, but only then I realised how it feels to be “absently present”.

It took me some time to realise what had actually happened. Thanks to my grandmother who I used to call “Amma”. I remember the night I saw her, heard her, following the morning she died. No, it was no illusion at the age of 14 years and I was not under any influence.

Whatever little knowledge or perceptions I have of our culture, traditions, beliefs and mythology, I owe it to her! It says that the spirit does not proceed to the heavenly abode immediately after death but stays on for 13 days. This belief has paved a way to the tradition of bidding a final farewell to the deceased on the 13th day and is called ‘Tervi’.

My twin was made to wear new clothes and was placed on a frame by tying with a rope, the intersecting horizontal and vertical thin wooden logs.  A priest was chanting some shlokas for her peaceful departure while my immediate family was encircling her and offering flowers, followed by all the others gathered there. She was then carried to the banks of the river Ganges on four shoulders and this procession mostly comprised of males, while the females stayed behind the boundary of my home.  When we reached the Ghat, my look-alike body was placed on a much more elaborate pile of logs, which I thought was a waste of wood and I could not decide whether the people around were crying for her or for the trees. A man with a steel vessel full of Ganga-Jal encircled me while sprinkling the holy water around the circumference of the pyre while chanting still continued. Then the same man with a thick wooden stick hit her skull with one single blow, a ritual performed so that the deceased has no memory of the previous birth in his reincarnation. After the blow, the pile was set on fire and the men stood around, staring at the blaze. When flames receded and the body and woods mostly turned to ash, it was collected in a clay pot to be brought back home. On a tree nearby was hung some food in another clay pot and this was to be done twice every day for thirteen days. This was a gesture of feeding the spirit which is believed to be around till the Tervi, i.e., me! The men then started marching back home, and on their way back 1 of them shaved off his skull. By the time they were back, the ladies had washed the entire place as well as taken shower themselves. One of them stood outside with a pot of water which was used by the men for washing their feet before entering the house and then all of them went for a bath. For thirteen days the food was not cooked at home, a tradition of not turning the ‘Chulha’ on. Also, the food sent by others or ordered from a caterer was void of onion and garlic, ingredients considered ‘Tamsic’ by North Indian Brahmins and had very less ghee and spices.

Throughout this period, the man who performed the last rights used to sleep on the floor instead of the bed, have ‘sattvik’ food and have the last meal of the day, not much later than sunset. There was ‘akhand jyot’ where the body was initially kept at home and a diya lit twice every day at the place of the funeral. There were visitors almost every day and everybody sat on the floor with my immediate family. Also, the worshipping ceremony, which used to happen twice every day otherwise, had also taken a backseat for these thirteen days. Since the demised soul is perceived to be around and watchful till Tervi, it is advised by the elderly to not mourn the death as it may hurt the soul to see her near and dear ones cry because of her.

On the 10th day, known as ‘Nahaan’, there was a cleaning spree in the entire house and all the upholstery was changed. It was called the ‘Shuddhi’ day.

And then came my last day. My family had bought an item of everything a normal person uses, from a pair of clothes, towel, socks, shoes, toiletries, umbrella, torch, stationary, some vessels, bedding etc to some food articles; to be given to a female priest who was considered my representative that day. A Pooja was performed and a caterer was hired to cook an authentic Uttar Pradesh meal consisting Poori, Kachori, Pumpkin vegetable, a gravy preparation, curd, milk-based dessert etc in large quantity and everybody knew was invited for it after 13 Brahmins exclusive of my representative were fed with it. This ritual is known as ‘Brahmin Bhoj’. After the Brahmin Bhoj, all the utilities were decorated on a single bed with my representative sitting pretty on it and blessing my family after they took a round of the bed n touched her feet. All those things were offered to her and my family bid her a final goodbye. The ashes were submerged in the Ganges and we parted ways forever!

How is a revolution conceived ?

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” – Martin Luther King

Ever seen a child play? He goes by his whims and imaginations and never by the rules. That is how the human spirit ought to live; free to want, free to speak, free to dream, free to err, free to learn, free to believe. When this is denied, it attempts to gain the freedom to question and challenge. As we grow up, the spirit is chained by the shackles of family, society, governing authorities, nations and boundaries. The list of the appropriate and the inappropriate is something we can get for free, but freedom is never free!

Assuming that early men never had a schedule, a code of conduct, a fixed recipe, a to-do list, a deadline to meet, or a rule to follow, their evolution was a result of their experiences and the learning from the same. This was neither certified by an authority on a certain parameter nor compared with the performance of others. They must have hunted whatever they wanted to eat; using whichever tool they were confident about. And so it starts with survival. It always starts from the basics, and that is what it comes down to after taking the highest leap. End mirrors the beginning.

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of conformity and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more dangerous to the spirit within a man than suffering. It harms the nature and existence of the spirit. Coz when we do something not because we want to do it, but because we are expected to do it, it kills a certain part of the absolute spirit, and once the absolute start dissolving, it becomes more prone to further harm and loses strength. When this pattern becomes repetitive, we believe the spirit gets immune to it. That is where we go wrong. It’s not the regular pressure that makes the sky cloudy, it takes low pressure to make the clouds rain. A ball cannot bounce back until it hits the ground. That is the point, the basic, the ground, where the revolution is born.

The spirit seeks justice, absolute justice. It refuses anything it considers unfair. Freedom to be is its choice, and when that is denied, it revolts. “Coz justice is a judgement that is both fair and forgiving. It is not only the way we punish the wrong but also the way we try to save them…. Sometimes it is necessary to do the wrong thing, for the right reasons. The important thing is to be sure that our reasons are right, and that we admit the wrong”- Shantaram

People who do not raise a voice are the people who always console themselves. Consoling is nothing but a form of acceptance and suffering. A soul that does not console itself is a soul that will fight back. “Tolerating injustice is encouraging injustice”- said my father on his last day, unaware of its influence on my cloudy mind. Some feelings sink so deep into our hearts that only freedom from them can help us find them again.

Also, those who console themselves do not love themselves. If you love your soul, you will not accept what you do not deserve. Suffering is a sign of weakness, bouncing back, a symbol of strength. What and who you love should become your strength, not your weakness; coz love is a passionate search for a truth other than your own. “Let me say at the risk of seeming ridiculous that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”- Che Guevara

But this does not mean that freedom is absolute. Freedom should be mutual, a manifestation of all the individual freedoms thriving to attain justice. In your own quest to get free, you cannot harm others’ freedom. It has to be neither submissive nor autocratic, but progressive. Justice cannot bring ego, it should bring peace. And peace is what nurtures our soul.

“There is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”- Into the Wild

A Rendezvous with Bliss

One evening, while I was sitting alone, sipping coffee and reading about terror-stricken Muslim countries, my mind wished for a break and heart for some peace. I looked outside the adjacent window, facing the street and the park across it. It had turned cloudy and the sky was colourful with shades of blue, grey and pink. Towards the west were hues of orange scattering around the setting sun. Trees were dancing in tandem with the cool wind and in between were the vermillion rays flickering.

The park was bustling with people of all ages. Majority of them being children, playing and swinging around, all clad in colourful clothes and looking like flowers in between the greens from that distance. I was lured enough to walk out and cherish the beautiful evening instead of sitting inside and sinking into the emptiness. I walked out and let my awareness infuse with the freshness and delight of the moment.

Walking towards the park, I saw an aged couple, probably in their late 70s, sharing some joke and laughing. The female was blushing and looking on the other side while her husband was smiling and slowly removing the tresses falling on her face. I could not help but smile at the sweetness of that sight. And my belief in the grace of that grey-haired age grew only stronger. Since, by then, you have lived a major part of your life, experienced changes, seen ups and downs, fulfilled responsibilities, have no desires but love, there comes a content and innocence only children can have. No wonder people often compare childhood with old age.

On moving ahead, I was closer to the euphoric kids who looked curious and frolicsome. A little girl of about 5 was telling her friends about a month old new canine member in her family. The children skirting her were listening to her with a lot of wonder, mouths open in awe and eyebrows pointing like a mountain peak… sheer innocence!

Walking further, I saw a young lady sitting on a bench and watching the kids playing nearby. From her adoring blaze, it was apparent that she was the mother of one of those kids on the swing. That veritable intrinsic smile, which is specially gifted to mothers; mothers who can’t stop admiring their little bundles of pleasure.

As I took a few more steps to reach a bench and sit, I felt a drop on my arm. No sooner did I realize it, it started drizzling and the kids started yelling in joy. They were hopping on the green grass, looking at the sky, eyes gleaming and enjoying the showers from heaven. Mothers who were around came running to take their kids back, some seeking shelter under trees and others running towards their abodes across the street. Oldies also started retreating but at their own pace, holding hands and supporting each other.

I was still walking slowly, getting drenched, not just in the rain, but at the moment; a moment of harmony with nature and its beauty. The music of rain and thunder, feeling the wind and the raindrops on my skin. A moment in which everything seems right and you live in the present, love the present. A moment when you smile alone, to no one and to everyone. Eternal bliss!

Unity in Diversity- The Indian Paradox

  • A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. ~ Albert Einstein

Paradox, as the term generally applies, is an apparently true statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation that seems opposite. It simply means that the two premises cannot be held as true together.

We Indians used to feel extreme pride in portraying an example of ‘Unity in Diversity’. I used ‘past tense’ because we are not united any more. In the current scenario, ‘Diversity’ is the only word to describe India. It is a land of opposites, where rich and poor stand side-by-side; shanty towns built-in front of 5-star resorts; the beauty of The Taj Mahal juxtaposed to the slums of the Taj Gunj; Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and many other religions co-exist. This diversification itself has become a threat to humanity. Over the past few decades, we are fighting in the name of ‘religion’; religion, that is considered to be our moral foundation. Such an irony!!

There are certain teachings common in every religion like love, compassion, sympathy and gratitude. So if we are actually religious, then why can’t we carry out these principles instead of proving other religions or their followers as wrong? The Holy Bible itself claims: “God has written a law on the hearts of all. Everyone has a conscience, and although the outer ring of our conscience may be influenced by religion, the inner core is universal and unchanging.”

For instance, there isn’t a human being alive who doesn’t know the good and right of love, and there isn’t a human being alive who doesn’t know the evil and wrong of murder. In the Biblical view, if we are confused about such things as sex, selfishness, abortion and euthanasia, the problem isn’t so much that we don’t know about right and wrong, but that we “suppress what we do know” about them.

We consider ourselves to be very open and adaptable when it comes to accepting someone from a different land. Then why can’t the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, who was forced to leave her country, is given refugee in India by our politicians? Are they scared of being revolted against by the fundamentalists? Or they want to keep this minority in their favour for getting votes? Even in her worst nightmares she had not thought that she would be persecuted in Bangladesh by the majority and in India by the minority, but persecuted just the same. What good would it bring to kill her? No benefit to Islam at least!!

Why should a barbed wire keep families and friends apart even though they share a common language and culture? What hurts the most is that this wire has been secured by religion. “All religions are ancient monuments to superstition, ignorance and ferocity”, said a French philosopher Baron D’ Holback. Religion has been described as the root of human misery and conflict – that more people have been killed in the name of religion than in any other cause.

Is Politics, a worthy cause to pull out a partition and divide a nation? Is Race, a worthy cause to burn human beings alive? Some may say yes and be proud of it. There is absolutely no way to prove them wrong. But the fact remains, they have become violent and in being so they are violating the natural state of Peace. Gandhi’s non-violence approach may have definitely affected India’s freedom fight, but it has surely saved Humanity.

We talk too much about excellence and we forget to talk about being good. But the word “good” means everything; it means righteousness, morality and perfect alignment. Aren’t these the things we really want to have in our lives? This is an era of globalization and liberalization. So why can’t we liberalize our acceptance and openness to everyone? Why can’t we globalize one common religion, i.e., ‘Humanity’?

We can continue with this madness or we can simply start asking ourselves – is the fight really required? Can’t we let go of our want to fight? The purpose of religion should be love and peace and not hatred and revenge. It depends on us, how we use it and in which direction we take it. Don’t let Humanity become a Monster!

“Tu na hindu banega, na musalman banega, insaan ki aulaad hai insaan banega.”

The Uprising of ‘She’- A Truth or Myth

Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams reaching the space; Kiran Mazumdar Shaw becoming the richest Indian woman through her biotech enterprise, ‘Biocon’; Indira Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Ltd. making her nation proud; Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi reaching heights in their political careers; Mother Teresa, a name everyone reveres; P.T.Usha or Sania Mirza taking Indian sports to a new dimension; Kiran Bedi or Kanchan Chaudhary, women to whom the whole nation salutes ! This is a brief and broad picture of today’s modern and successful, but few fortunate women.

The phenomenon of women empowerment has attracted massive attention in recent years. So much has been said and so much has been heard to uplift women economically, politically and culturally. But, is the woman of today socially empowered? If not in it’s literal sense then at least in the eyes of men?

We, the women of today are entering into diversified fields with great determination and enthusiasm. We try our best not to leave any stone unturned. Whether it be taking care of our families, managing the workplace, or both, we are striking just the right balance everywhere. But what hurts here is to see that a large section of society is still not open enough to welcome this change in favour of women. Its attitude towards women has still not changed; in fact, things have indeed gone from bad to worse after Independence. Despite the law, such reprehensible practices as female feticide, female infanticide and child marriage are still prevalent in many parts of the country. Dowry is a plague that stalks every family having marriageable daughters and like AIDS it has no cure. Incidents of sexual harassment, eve teasing, sexual abuse of female children and rapes are on the rise. Women form a sizeable percentage of the workforce in the unorganized sector, but most of the labour laws do not cover them. Those who have been to the pilgrim centres of Mathura, Vrindavan and Varanasi would have noticed a large number of widows living in hopeless destitution.

Emotional or physical abuse in relationships is not uncommon. And it’s not only the illiterate or the ignorant that are the reasons behind such violence; what surprises is that quite often such abusers are well-read, intelligent and educated men. Convicted IPS officer R.K. Sharma, in the journalist Shivani Bhatnagar murder case, is one example. Another such shocking incident was of Bangalore-based software engineer Amit Budhiraja, asphyxiating his wife with a pillow on suspicion of an extra-marital affair; he later committed suicide on knowing his wife was innocent.

Kidnappings, blackmailings, acid attacks have become a routine in our society. The general rise of aggression in the society has resulted in increased cases of emotional disorders. These often go undetected. Why are men increasingly becoming abusive? The reasons could be suspicion, jealousy, ignorance, dissatisfaction or anything. Increased stress and fast-paced lifestyle have reduced the tolerance level. Increase in infidelity has given rise to insecurity, therefore one finds it difficult to handle rejection and hits back. Decreasing influence of the community and family in one’s life, at times of distress, is also responsible for the plight. There is no emotional outlet and thus, this gets translated into violence or aggressive behaviour.

It also has to do a lot with the upbringing of men in our society. They have been taught not to cry or express their negative feelings in any positive manner leading to such outbursts. It is the urge for proving male supremacy that ends up over-riding all other sensibilities. Thanks to the patriarchal society we live in, man feels a woman is his property. It is true even today, despite having more working women on the scene. Economic empowerment does not necessarily lead to social empowerment.

It’s saddening to see that even after proving herself in every sphere, a woman is not given the respect she deserves in our society. She seems more like a play-thing to the opposite gender, devoid of emotions and feelings. It’s for all to see in which direction is our society moving, and it’s only in our hands where we want to take it. A man’s thinking that women are weak will not actually make them so. We have always been fighters and will fight out this plight as well. Women have got to make the world safe for men since men have made it so damned unsafe for women.

Health, Fitness, Food and Well-being

Did you know that just walking for 30 minutes, 3 or 4 times a

week is enough to combat aging?

 

To reduce the strain on your heart, sleep on your right side, or on

your back. This simple technique will add years to your life.

 

If you smoke, you can greatly reduce the risk of contracting

cancer by drinking carrot juice.

 

A placebo study has shown that asthmatics who consume 1 gram

of vitamin C per day had 4 times fewer attacks.

 

Pakistani women have an amazing trick they use to stay slim: they

keep a string permanently tied around their forearms. According to

Dr. Drupas, a gentle but constant pressure on the nerves in the

forearm stimulates certain glands, particularly those involved in

weight control (thyroid, suprarenals).

 

 

To treat diarrhea, avoid all solid food on the first day. Drink

liquids like water, apple juice, meat or vegetable boullion and tea.

These will compensate for your loss of water – dehydration being one

of the main dangers of diarrhea – and will give your intestines a

period of rest.

 

Did you know that half a teaspoon of ground ginger is more

effective than chemical medication in suppressing motion or sea

sickness?

 

Heat relaxes the muscles and ligaments. When applied locally, for

example, with hot towels, it can ease muscle spasms. It can also

reduce arthritic pain. Heat dilates the blood vessels, which in turn

activates circulation.

 

Drinking 2 glasses of orange juice daily can help lower blood pressure and cut the risk of heart disease.

Toasts and croissants can speed up aging.

 

For over 45s, an aspirin a day can cut cancer risk.

 

Soy milk is naturally low in saturated fat, and because it’s plant-based, it’s cholesterol free. It also offers up some nutrients that cow’s milk does not, including heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

 

Mustard paste can be used for general muscular relief and to help “cure” toothaches. It also became known to stimulate appetite and digestion, help clear sinuses, and increase blood circulation.  Mustard flour can even be sprinkled in your socks to help prevent frostbite.

 

Olive oil has lots of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory activity to fight rheumatoid arthritis.It is the only vegetable oil that can be created simply by pressing the raw material.

 

Eating yoghurt on a regular basis can help you absorb the nutrients in other foods.

 

One cup of pineapple has about 135 calories and 33% of the RDA of Vitamin C.

 

Limit the consumption of white sugar, white bread and oil to avoid cardiac risks.

 

One of the special things about the way oats work unlike any other fiber is that it lowers only bad cholesterol while keeping the good cholesterol (HDL) remain unchanged.

 

Green tea contains significant amounts of folic acid and can reduce clotting of blood, providing protection against cardiovascular diseases.

 

Barley is a good source of ‘beta glucan’, a water soluble form of fibre that retards fat and cholesterol absorption by the intestine.

 

Cabbage juice has ulcer healing capabilities, however, patients with gas trouble should avoid it.

 

Cucumber juice cleanses your kidneys, lowers blood pressure and improves skin problems.

 

Beet juice cleanses the blood and strengthens the gall bladder and liver.

 

Carrot juice is an excellent source of beta carotene, potassium, trace minerals and anti-cancer nutrients.

 

Garlic acts as a natural antibiotic and blood thinner and can reduce cholesterol level.

 

Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and will also protect the stomach from irritation. Migraines and motion sickness can also be relieved by ginger juice.

 

Wheat grass juice is used as an enema, It helps detoxify the walls of the piles. It can be mixed with spinach and lime.

 

Bitter gourd juice is used as an anti-diabetic medicine. It also helps in purifying the blood.

 

Bottle gourd juice is used in the treatment of stomach acidity, indigestion, ulcers, epilepsy and other nervous diseases.

 

Drinking water charged with solar energy everyday can curb the headaches.

 

Flax seeds aid in weight loss.

 

Wheat grass can counter the adverse effects of sunstroke.

 

Finger millet helps in strengthening bones.

 

Sunflower seeds help in the prevention and cure of arthritis. It provides a natural glow to the skin and hair and combats heart related ailments.

 

Drink chilled water/lemon, ginger and honey in cold water or chew roasted fennel seeds to be stress free.

 

Consumption of walnut and cow milk paste can enhance memory.

 

Seeing is Healing

Red hibiscus, yellow goldenrod, red gulmoher, white/pink bougainvillea, light blue/purple morning glory, white roses, lift your mood. Keep them in your vicinity.

 

What keeps you Cool

Keep rock slt at four corners of the house to ward off negativity. Change it everyday.

Paint walls in the colour of yellow sapphire.

A crystal multicolour tree works wonders.

Crystal kailash Yantra is beneficial.

Spend time with pets as it can relieve depression, reduce blood pressure and triglycerides.

 

Express your Emotion

Tai Chi, Yoga, Meditation, and massage are stress busters. Listen to your favorite music/ read your favorite author/ tend to your hobby/ catch up with friends.

A good chuckle works your stomach muscles and takes care of your tension.

Being positive and appreciative of little things in life are great mood uppers.

Laughter anytime will work wonders for you, It is an instant way to unleash the pressure and it makes you feel light.