Monday, January 23, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 19 Experience

This was a tough week.

There is a wedding coming up in my family (my brother's) and I had just enough time during the week to see the strays in my locality and sigh "When will I be able to feed them this week!" And in reality I couldn't do it.

But I did one thing - as an alternate - and I know it may not be as good as feeding a stray animal with my own hands this week, but it is a beginning.

To complete this post I would have to relate the whole story. Of strays, what happens to them, how we can help and of how I got involved.

I have never been an animal lover. But two incidents increased my awareness about the stray dogs in my locality.

First, a few months ago, some notorious residents of a middle income housing complex near my own home poisoned almost 12 -15 dogs one night. Apparently they were fed up of the dog's scavenging and littering in the neighbourhood and since the few animal lovers in the complex used to feed the strays, the other unhappy residents plotted on getting rid of them for good.

Animals rights volunteers from the area spent a whole night in the local police station to get the complaint registered! Eventually despite the lapse of so many months, no one has been caught and the overburdened (with anti-terrorist and VIP duties) haven't done a single thing to nab the culprits of this heinous crime.

I had reported the issue in the newspaper and had also met the Police Commissioner of Pune, upon whose behest the FIR was eventually filed. But nothing happened after that. No investigations, no arrests, nothing (even though the Animal Welfare Act empowers the local police to arrest those found indulging in cruelty towards any animal - including the elephants and camels we often see being used to give rides to children.)

The second incident that changed my mind about these God's creatures was when my daughter brought home a pup from a stray litter inside our housing complex. It was the beginning of winter and the sight of the shivering, hungry pup squeezed my heart.

Eventually I housed three pups for two days, before returning them to their mother. Just as another animal lover in the complex and I were trying to get a feeding routine for the pups organised between us, we found that the pups had disappeared. We were told several stories by the security of the complex - all of them were hard to believe - someone had adopted all 7, a restaurant owner had adopted all 7 pups...etc etc etc.

Subsequently we discovered that the security guards, on the behest of the complex's managing committee had simply relocated the pups to another area. Till today we don't know if they survived.

The problem of stray dogs is not limited to my locality or Pune alone. It is an ever-growing problem plaguing every community settlement, even a slum for example. There are ways of scientifically curbing the population and I got a deep insight into it during my interactions with the animal rights volunteers.

An environment company in my locality, along with the help of animal lovers have taken a census of the dogs in the locality. They spent weekend mornings for about four months, walking each street, photographing the dogs and taking basic information such as height, colour, status of limbs, injuries, etc. The purpose of doing this was to ensure that like the 7 pups from my complex were re-located, no one should be able to re-locate dogs to our locality.

So, for example, if there are 8 dogs in one street, if the regular volunteer feeders find a new one loitering the area, they can go back to census and check whether he has moved n from another street. If not, it does not belong to the locality and the dog van from the municipal corporation can be called to take him away. This practise ensures that the population doesn't grow.

The other most crucial factor in curbing the population is to ensure that the existing 140 dogs in the locality stop littering. This means sterilisation of these dogs, which is meant to be done by the municipal corporation. But like all government bodies, the corporation is inept at handling the stray animal menace to the extent that they are virtually ineffective.

Many animal rights and lovers, volunteers have taken the task of sterilising these dogs upon themselves. They collect funds, get the dog squad to collect a few dogs that are taken to Blue Cross Society where they are neutered and recuperated for a day and brought back to the same locality. Once sterilised, they will not add to the population, and with the passage of time, the existing population will grow old and die, while new strays will not be added ending the menace for good.

It is also imperative that strays remain healthy. Feeding a couple of strays in your own area (or sharing the burden with a friend or neighbour who is equally enthusiastic and dedicated) once a day will ensure they don't scavenge, or die from diseases.

All this requires time, effort, dedication and commitment (and money as well).

Due to the two incidents I've quoted above I came in touch with an animal lover who feeds the dogs in my locality every morning. She spends that money from her own pocket. She also collects money to sterilise these dogs. For this, she goes shop to shop requesting for any contribution, as humble as it may be. She has also tried to collect money through residents of the area but has met with little success.

When I met her again, watching her feed the dogs I came up with an idea that would help me fulfill the conditions of the Joy of Giving card for week 19 as well as give her the helping hand she needs.

I have given her a small contribution to help her buy rice that should last about 2 months, and a little extra to sterilise atleast 5 dogs. I have promised to help her get funds (as soon as I am back from my brother's wedding) and begin an awareness drive to help people get involved.

It is not much, and as I mentioned earlier, not as good as feeding a stray with my own hands, but its a beginning.

Joy of Giving - Week 20 - Card 20

Ever since I started the Joy of Giving, it has never ceased to amaze me to see the reactions of people when you do the simplest thing for them. Like giving away a CFL bulb to people who work for you, or making tea for the night watchmen... The joy on their face is palpable!

This week the card inspires us to another giving activity that is so simple I could do it right tickets online and gift them!

Happy Giving!!!

New to the Joy of Giving? Here's what you can do:

Go to the page titled Joy Of Giving where I have posted all the cards selected so far. Those of you who'd like to start this exercise from the beginning, just follow the cards in the order they are posted!


To join the Joy of Giving right away just follow the cards every week as they are posted on the blog.

Please REMEMBER to post your experiences in a public forum - your own blog, note on FaceBook - or leave your story in the comment section of this blog. Do remember to tag me in your posts...

To know how it started click here.

To track the Joy of Giving through the past twenty weeks, click here

DO spread the message of this unique movement. Encourage your friends to start following the cards and spreading joy...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Freedom at 55 - Palani Amma

She is 55 years old...and she had the guts to run away.

I dedicate this post to Palani Amma, my maid of two short months, PalRaj's wife of 38 years, mother of one, grandmother of two and one hell of a gutsy woman.

It happened almost a week ago... She came to work as scheduled, as she did every morning at 7 am. Looking back it seems that she was a bit anxious that day... And why not...she was a bird about to take flight that morning..breaking the manacles of a forced matrimony; one that she had endured and survived for thirty eight long years.

Going back to that morning...she had seemed tense and in a hurry to finish off the assigned chores. She even asked me for some money. Unfortunately, I was out of change and could not give her the petty Rs 500 she wanted. If only I'd known why she wanted the money I would have readily parted with the Rs 1000 note that I had. Anyway, she left my home at 9 30 am and that was the last I saw of her.

PalRaj, her husband rang the doorbell at 6 30 pm, asking to speak to his wife. When I told him I hadn't seen her since 9 30, he asked me if she'd told me where she was going off to. I realized something was amiss. He told me that she'd left the house unlocked, taken her clothes, her gold, most of the cash, some utensils and all the grocery. He looked worried and I asked him if they'd had a fight that prompted her to go away. He acknowledged that they had been arguing a lot lately. I did not make much of it assuming and telling him that she would probably have taken refuge with his daughter, who lived nearby, for a few days...perhaps for a change, or perhaps because she was genuinely upset with him.

He returned the following morning carrying the news that she was no where, not at their daughter's or friends or relatives... She had disappeared. Now I was worried. Where could she have gone?

A migrant from a remote village in Tamil Nadu, amma (as we fondly called her), had come to Delhi with her husband 35 years ago. Although she had been here so many years, her Hindi was awful and she had very little knowledge of the geography of the city. I requested him to lodge a police complaint. He refused.

He refused! 

He claimed to have been good to her, all his life, fulfilling her desires and demands. He bought her sarees, one recently that cost Rs 7000, all because she insisted. Yet happiness eluded them. She was fond of roaming the colony more than earning a living, he said. He would not waste his time trying to locate her because she'd left him. He insinuated that she had left him because he was an old man and she was younger, much younger.... He had been out of a job, and she had perhaps left him for someone who would provide her better comforts....

I was aghast. How typical! How Simple! How quickly he accused her of infidelity, his wife of 38 years!!!!! 

Later that day, I received a call from his daughter, who apologised on behalf of her mother for leaving me in the lurch. She said, "Madam, please don't curse amma... She went away, back to the village to be with her brother because my father ill treated her. She could not take it anymore and she could not tell anyone either or he would have found out and beaten her. Papa had come here and he knows that she has gone back."

This is the story of womankind...and of man, who would rather slander his wife of 4 decades, in public, than take responsiblity and admit his shortcomings. She marries him and becomes his property. He can beat her and ill treat her at will. If she retaliates, she gets beaten more. If she breaks free, she is labelled a whore on the look out for a better prospect.

I absolve you Palani Amma, acquit you of the baseless charges your spineless husband made against you. I am glad you broke away. I don't know what your compulsions were, why you tolerated him for 38 years...but you have finally escaped. You are on your own now and I have to woder how you will support yourself. Yet, if you have gone away, not once caring to look back, it must mean you are better off now. I hope you find happiness. Your courage and mettle will be an inspiration for many.

Palani Amma made it back to her village in District Erode, safe and sound, three days after her departure.

11 September 2003

A Train Journey I shan't forget

This post was written in February 2004... One month short of my son's first Birthday when I had made a trip to Kerala from Delhi on the (in)famous Trivandrum Rajdhani.

Making a train journey can be tedious. And if you have to make a looooong one, (about 38 hours), with two little kids for company, you've just about had it. AND if the train gets delayed due to "unavoidable circumstances" in the typical Indian Railways style, you can very well imagine the plight.

It takes serious effort to maintain one's cool...coz

1. You may be blessed as I was, and have the worst set of co-passengers ever possible, who can be bickering, uncooperative and unreasonable.

2. There is a four year old hyperactive kid who wants to swing betwen berths like Tarzan, causing a rise in the blood pressure of many. No problem with that except that she happens to be your daughter.

3. There is also one sweet little toddler, who is his calmest best during the day, but howls the night through, making you, his mom, stand ouside the periphery of the compartment, for most part of the night, sweating profusely (totally defeating the very idea of travelling by an Airconditioned coach), singing a baritone lullaby hoping that he shuts his mouth and his eyes (in that order) and knocks off so you can catch a wink or two....

4. The food on the train, the mighty Rajdhani, is atrocious and your daughter howls through the journey demanding Maggi Noodles, Rajma Chawal, Macaroni.....just to make your life a little more miserable.

5. Whatever you have carried, (which makes up for a LARGE part of your luggage), your children refuse to eat....turning you into an expert at 100 m dashes, rushing in and out, getting off at select stations where the train halts for an unbelievable 5 full minutes....while you look for that milk/chocolate/snack vendor (or whatever is the latest demand), get to him, pick up your stuff, pay for it, glance apprehensively at the train, the watch, the signal on the platform while he gets you your change...and make it to the coach.....just in time.

Through all this, you find one particular gentleman looking your way too often, watching... He seems to be waiting for you at every station to board the train...coz he only boards after you do, when the train is already in motion. 

He is there, sitting up while you try in vain to put the baby to sleep.... You see him as you cross his berth to get to yours balancing the sleeping baby on a moving train, trying not to hurt the child (You don't want to make any wrong moves lest he wakes up!!) coz you see his lights switch off after yours, as late as 2 am (It is strange because on trains for some reason - lights switch off as early as 930 pm). 

He begins to feel like a shadow...coz when you take your girl to the loo for the thousandth time, and turn around after she is through, he is right there.

Then he finally approaches you and says, "Ma'am, I just wanted to tell you that you are a very good mother. You are handling your kids so well. You are being so patient and caring. Its great."

And leaves you dumb struck. You mumble a quick "Thank you...." coz actually you don't know what to say....
Should you be rude to him and snap, "Who asked you?"...coz this may very well be the latest pick up line! But you know its not...coz he compliments you and minds his own business thereafter... Nothing further... 

You arrive your destination and scan the crowd for him, but he is not there. He is the angel who disappears after his job has been done - watching over a hapless mother with two children :-)

Yes. The Lord does work in mysterious ways!

Joy of Giving - Card 17 - Abhilash

Young Abhilash has written about his experience with the Joy of Giving Card 17. It is so heartening to read a teenager taking the effort to follow the cards, even as his Board exams are round the corner!

Abhilash, I don't want your folks to give me a lashing. So buddy, please study hard and get back to the cards once you're done with your duty as a student! All the bestest!!!!

An experience i haven't had in a while- Coorg.

Once again, the title says it all. I had been to coorg last week( bunked school!) with my relatives. Needless to say, adventure was on my mind. Misty hills, cool streams, forests teeming with wildlife filled my mind. So, i set out last Sunday with my family to a two-day sojourn across the "Scotland of India". the journey was pretty much as i had expected-without the wildlife, which really left me in the dumps. However,remembering my friend Ritu aunty's post,the joy of giving-card 17, we headed out to the Buddhist temple not very far from coorg while coming back to Bangalore. Once inside the compound, i drew away from my family and went inside the temple on my own.there were awesome paintings all over the place.And once i went inside the temple,the sight of Buddha took me by storm. The peace and silence in the temple really calmed my mind! needless to say, this is one place i have to go to on my own, again!(Finally reading the joy of giving properly.) i will upload the pictures soon....

Monday, January 16, 2012

A lesson in History as you shop? What an Idea!

It was a vacation we were taking with the children. And children being children wanted to explore every possible activity a child could indulge in, in Dubai. So we went hopping - from one end of Dubai to another, covering every possible unique experience the children wanted to enjoy. Most of these activities in Dubai are located inside Malls.

Malls - These huge structures have virtually redefined the way Indians shop or spend time on weekends. Outings with friends, children, shopping, eating out, cinemas and even a smattering of adventure activities are all centered around Malls.

Even in Dubai.

What is different however, is that while we see Malls in India as virtual replicas of eachother - with the same stores, similar food courts and similar modern albeit complicated architecture (ever tried to find a way out of the topmost floor in a Mall? You have a choice between taking the escalator down all two - three flights, virtually going around in circles as you maneuver your way through strolling couples and running children, or walking a couple of kilometres till you get to an elevator), Malls in Dubai, perhaps because they have been enticing retail buyers for much longer now, have re-invented themselves. And how!

Dubai Malls offer myriad architecture and therefore a different shopping-hopping experience - from the Pyramids of Egypt in the WAFI Mall, to the Ibn Battuta that has been constructed with several "courts" (areas, wings) based on the architecture of the countries visited by the Arab traveller Ibn Battuta!

Themed around the travels of Battuta, the mall’s six courts reflect the most influential places he travelled to. So they have a Persian Court, (the new template of my blog is a picture taken in this Mall), a China, Egypt, Tunisia, Andalusia and even an Indian Court with a majestic Maharaja riding his even more majestic Elephant (which is actually a clock) with the opulence Indian kings were famous for.

Not just the architecture, but in the atrium of each of the wings or courts, there exist small museums; glass panels with artifacts of the era when Battuta undertook his travels and the things he brought back to the Arab world. 

Snippets of India's history - the reign of the Sultans, the map of the Sultanate of Delhi, the kind of spices available in India etc - virtual snatches on Indian history are visible for the interested.

Tired as we were walking in the Malls, we hardly had the chance to see the whole Ibn Battuta. But we also decided to leave the rest of it for another time. And perhaps another time. 

A good travel post MUST give you details. Here they are:

If you are planning to visit Dubai, this site is good to get an update on the Malls worth hopping in to. The way the city is planning its upcoming Malls, I am certain its a matter of time before Mall Tourism gains popularity here! Most malls also have their own websites with online bookings options available for the cinemas as well as other mall activities. 

To Mall hoppers, a few words of caution:

1. Wearing comfortable footwear is a very good idea (even though you will find most Arab women in 5 inch high pencil heels strolling as if in a park and will be tempted - after Day 1 - to saunter out of your hotel in your own... BAD idea!) because the walks around the expansive Malls will definitely kill your feet. Malls in Dubai are HUGE, especially the new ones and it is sometimes a good idea to take the paid shuttle service, especially if you'd just like to 'see' the ...errrr....mall... and not shop..

2. Most Taxi pick-up points and drop-off points in a Mall may be at two opposite ends. (Yes, they give some of us tourists a splendid experience of dragging ourselves around the mall with two children screeching 'My legs are killing me' and a lady who just decided to wear her...ahem...heels!!!) 

So before you embark on the long journey across hundreds of meters, do ask the enquiry desk about the pick-up points for a cab and plan your voyage accordingly. 

And if you have your own car? Well, I don't know about that but after seeing the levels of parking and the accesses to most of these malls, I'd say a taxi is a good option. Or even the Metro - that actually opens inside the Mall of the Emirates. How's that for convenience!!!

3. Malls have food courts. Which is good. Sometimes. (Only if you have been starving for Indian food for example and have, somehow, missed ALL the Indian restaurants about town!) Else, the food courts are generally exorbitant and much like their Indian counterparts, are abuzz with a strange din that dissipates the minute you get 2 meters away from the boundary! There is also, in all likelihood a clamour for seats. So grab yours (Its allowed. Its not Europe for Heaven's sake!)

In food courts too you have to walk a lot and if you are an adventurous foodie, you may end up spending a larger part of your Mall experience in one of them (with cuisines from across the world being on offer together with numerous Salad, Soups, Juices, Ice Creams and what have you's thrown in!) and long queues to get your order. (Heartening to know somethings DON'T happen ONLY in India!!!)

4. The best thing about malls? The loos. I don't like to use the word 'restrooms' - it just sounds so haughty! Good, incredibly clean with all requisite needs for the job thrown in - they're a treat. And they use water too :-)

But leave aside all the ifs, buts and the troublesome will-make-you-lose-weight-or-end-up-murdering-your-feet negativities, Dubai Malls are grand and offer a unique experience.

Back to Ibn Battuta though, as we sat in Starbucks and sipped Cappuccino, this was the overhead view:
This is an enormous dome that has "a spectacular display of characteristic arabesque ornamentation based on the design of a Persian carpet."

Gorgeous! Worth visiting, isn't it?

The video is a collection of photos taken in Ibn Battuta... Enjoy!

Joy of Giving - Week 19 - Card 19

To all my Joy of Giving companions, this week the card is an easy one - For Our World.

A few weeks ago, I ended up feeding a litter of stray pups for 2-3 days. But I won't recount that as my Joy of Giving experience.

I would like to follow this card "from the beginning" as it were. I realised that I had been taking a few shortcuts (like recounting the reconnection with a cousin from three years ago instead of saying Sorry to someone I broke a bridge with recently - I am working on that now) and I intend to get back in to the Giving Mode, in the HERE and NOW, right away.

This week I shall attempt to feed a couple of strays on the street (chicken and rice - boiled together without salt or any other seasoning - works for dogs) and post my experience here. This one sounds easy but is going to be tough for me because I am not an animal lover and birds scare me (Why? Read about it here...)

Hopefully with the help of my children who love all animals, even creepy crawlies, I will be able to give a lil Joy.... Please wish me luck!

New to the Joy of Giving? Here's what you can do:

Go to the page titled Joy Of Giving where I have posted all the cards selected so far. Those of you who'd like to start this exercise from the beginning, just follow the cards in the order they are posted!


To join the Joy of Giving right away just follow the cards every week as they are posted on the blog.

Please REMEMBER to  post your experiences in a public forum - your own blog, note on FaceBook - or leave your story in the comment section of this blog. Do remember to tag me in your posts...

To know how it started click here.

To track the Joy of Giving through the past nineteen weeks, click here

DO spread the message of this unique movement. Encourage your friends to start following the cards and spreading joy...

Joy of Giving - Card 16 - Rahmath

Unable to get into a workout regimen? Read Rahmath's post in response to the Joy of Giving Card 16. Walking with her husband every day has helped her in maintaining a workout routine AND given her the added bonus - spending more time with her better half! Now that would be a good reason for many to take up walking... :-)

Isn't walking a kind of Aerobic Exercise? If so hurray for me. I have done this. Actually the sunday just before Ritu uploaded this card ,i and my hubby had stared walking as a beginning exercise. Have you heard of 10000 steps a day Project. Well could you please Google it. I am feeling a bit lazy rt now. Anyhow 10000 steps seemed a bit too much to start. But, I got a pdf from the internet which gave me a "12 week beginner schedule" for walking. And I and hubby have been following the schedule for 13 days now.

Walking has helped me be a bit more active this winter. Not to mention how great i feel after the walk. It's a great time to talk about anything and everything under the sky with hubby. Those 15+ minutes are exclusively for us.No office, No computer, No Newspaper, No house work. Just us...Added Bonus.

Ritu had posted her experience and has inspired me to take a more strenuous routine. Maybe we will do it. Soon... But let's see how effective walking is first. Maybe I can start an additional routine twice thrice a week. That should work rt?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 17 - Rahmath

Rahmath who has been following the Joy of Giving wrote this on her blog for Card 17:

The card that Ritu posted on 2.1.2012 was "Visit a place of worship other than your own".

I think I will pass this one. Why?

I have visited my fair share of churches, temples,mosques and recently I visited a Gurudwara. I would like to visit a Budhdhist temple someday though I don't know of any nearby. I feel I have already completed the purpose of the card. The best prayer which arose in my heart was in the foot hills of the himalayas, where there was no shrine of any religion, at sight. Personally I am on my way of rejecting organised religion of any form. Recently I declared to a perfect stranger who was trying to persuade me to do something religious that I did not beleive in any religion.

She said " Oh that's bad"

I said "Oh no, its good .I am secular."

I cannot tell you how liberated I felt . I have never done that before. Don't get me wrong. I am a theist; maybe, even a die hard one. But I no longer beleive in any kind of man made boundaries. But again, I am not against Atheism.

This Rambling reminded me of a post I wrote for fun when I was thinking about the impact of religion in our lives. If you liked what I wrote in the previous paragraphs maybe you will like to read that post too. Maybe you will enjoy it.

Rahmath, you're not alone. My husband and I desist from filling up the 'Religion' column on all sorts of forms (the only one we couldn't avoid was the Passport application). But in the admission forms of schools, even in my own college application, for the MA I pursued after my marriage, I refused to fill the religion column. When compelled, I write Indian. 

I am proud that after years of conditioning my daughter has also begun responding to the Religion questions with an 'I am Indian' refrain. 

Not because we don't take pride in being Hindus. But our Nation, the Motherland comes before our religion for us. SO I understand your sentiment and believe that each of us, especially Indians, were to adopt the 'I am an Indian First" stance (without compromising our religions or personal equations with the Maker), we'd make the world a better place!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 18 - Laying the Foundation

When I first started writing, this blog was my place to vent. But through this virtual Dear Diary I have met some incredible people. Strangers who have joined me from the unknown.... I have been enriched by their friendships, their experiences and their lives. 

When I read the following post (written in response to Card 18) in my Inbox I was completely tongue tied. I know this person but she chooses to remain anonymous. I respect her wish and with her permission share this post with you.

I also applaud her for her action. Reaching out and renewing a bond broken after a heartbreak is NOT easy. Kudos to her! 

A long time ago I was influenced by a story in Women’s era about a widow who regretted that the last words spoken to her husband were that of anger and I had decided that I would profit from her lesson. So how much ever I and my friends or relatives fought I made sure that when we parted, the bridge was always there. If it was not, I persisted subtlely to build it and then slowly let go, once the way was open. It was not necessary that we always remained in touch but anytime we wanted to talk, there was nothing to stop us …that was the criteria.

But there was this one person who became an exception. Trying to keep the bridges on became very difficult and frankly speaking I had cut this person out of life and thrown her out because it was very difficult being a positive person with her around ( and the funny thing is she was technically not around.The brdidge was broken and burnt. So, You can imagine her hold on me and how important she was to me.After all she was my elder sister). 

Whenever she hurt me directly or indirectly ( because she was against my marriage ) I used to lash out at my hubby. For one whole year my anger would be directed to him like fire and like the snow he would accept it in all it’s rage and calm me down. Bless this man my readers, and bless this man’s parents for moulding him like this. Any other person would have distanced himself from me. One day, when i couldnot take it anymore, I decided , Enough is enough. This person is not worth it. The rage has to be directed to the one who is deserving and not my husband.

That night I ranted and raved like a mad lunatic screaming at that imaginary person with all my senses with my husband holding me close to his heart until I had removed all the poison in my mind.

Once I had closure I could take a deep breath. After that I have never tried to initiate any contact with her. I used to know about her through others. Prayed for her like I normally did but that’s it. No longer was that person a part of my soul. No longer did she have any influence in my feelings. I was content with the situation. I was extremly happy ..I am extremly happy. I have my sister in my memories which are untainted. And for now truly speaking i am content in that.

And then comes this card. "Be the first one to say sorry". My first impression was “Hey , I don’t have anyone like that and then I remembered her.” I went in a turmoil. Should I do this? Even when a small part of me thought of saying sorry for hurting her due to my actions many other parts of me would squish that part of me down saying “ Why the hell should you say sorry????. You marrying someone you like is wrong but she wanting you to live your whole life in misery is right? Have you forgotten how she behaved to you? Have you forgotten how unjust she was??? What are you so sorry for?” and things like this. But this card is giving me strength to give importance to that tiny part of me whcih still wants to be the better me.

I cannot judge for what she did to me just like I cannot ask forgiveness for doing what I believed to be right but I can ask sorry for the pain she underwent for my sake. How much ever I think my decision is justified and her reaction is not, it is not for me to judge her pain. Pain, after all, is Pain. Who are we to judge whose is more? So I wrote to her,

Clean and straight with no ifs,buts , becauses, and no explanations …. All that is not of consequence….But it was very difficult to write it.

In short i told sorry for the hurt i caused her through my actions. I did not explain nor justify. That was the toughest. I was as well doing it. I thought i might as well give her the total satisfaction.

I am not going to wait for reply. the pessimist and the real me does not expect anything good. I wanted to write about this before any second thoughts. Anyhow if not the bridge, atleast the rocks for the foundation has been laid.

Pray for us....

Ithaca - Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

I want to imbibe this. Enjoy the journey. Stop fretting over the failures. The journey itself is the reward.

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your heart does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Joy of Giving - Week 18 - A tale

Once, way back in 2008, I wrote about it on this very blog. About the trepidation I'd felt when I found the profile of a dear brother (cousin) on the recently-hyped FaceBook and didn't have the guts to send him a message. He responded to my post, wrote a long reply in my comment box, much to my surprise because I didn't know he even knew I had a blog or an existence in the virtual world.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we met up - he drove down to Pune with his wife from Bombay - and began the process of building the bridge we'd broken.

More than three years hence, we catch up with each other once in a while (mostly Whatsapp), and after the initial Mr Goody Two Shoes behaviour (which lasted till May 2011), he is back to being the cuz I knew growing up - sarcastic, mocking and weird.

But I am not complaining!

Because see, the thing about attempting to build the bridge again is also that we tend to put on appearances; perhaps to impress the other person (with our maturity - because heck, it IS the maturity that brought to us to the point where we reconnected in the first place!), not rudely shock the person we haven't been in touch with for years (and let them exclaim, "you haven't changed one darn bit"), or may be we are still getting used to the idea of having this person back in our lives and think that being 'nice' or 'not our real selves' can cushion the blow they may feel when they realise that we REALLY haven't changed in all these years!!!!

Either ways, it isn't easy renewing a relationship, especially if it has ended on a not-so-happy note.

But every time I receive a cynical, 'below-the-belt' kinda message from the cuz I smile. Took three years but he is back!!! :-)

Joy of Giving - Card 18 experience

I got this anonymous long note in the comment box yesterday.... A beautiful tale of reconnecting and renewing an estranged friendship...

It was many moons ago that I, walked away from a beautiful friendship, the result of some impulsive and immature reactions.

We were good and thick friends who shared lots of common interests, music being the major one. He was naturally talented and played the guitar like a wiz. In fact he was the one who taught me the basics of playing this instrument, that I, to this day cherish. We also shared a wacky sense of humour, and that too bonded us well because it wasn't easy to find people to laugh at our jokes or understand our so called wit! There was no count to the number of evenings we just spent time together, that often extended to the night and the next day morning, talking, singing, sharing a drink or two.

He was also good friends with this lovely girl, an erstwhile colleague of his. He introduced me to her. I fell in love with this lass and courted her into submission. Blinded by the love, what I failed to notice or understand was that, he too was besotted, in love with the same girl. A classic bollywood 'love triangle'. And when I did come to know, my reactions too were on the same lines. Harsh words, lots of drama and a broken friendship. No, two broken friendships, because I caused the break up of two other good friends. 

As years aged me, and possibly wisened me too a bit, I realised the stupidity of my actions every time I revisited those times in my head. My sense of misplaced outrage was because “he dared to fall in love with my girl!” Arrogance of youth and immature passions can block reasonable thoughts. Little did I give weight to the fact that love sees no season or reason. Nor it is a crime. I did not give credit to the fact that may be I was the one who shattered his dreams. 

Because, they were friends much before I came into the picture. And if I could fall in love with her in such a short duration of knowing her, why couldn’t he have, earlier on itself? I remember vividly, asking him “Why couldn’t you tell me earlier! When I opened up to you first about my feelings for her?” I would have backed off even if he had hinted about it. Unfortunately, events turned out such that my anger and distress at the breach of trust overpowered all other senses and plunged that friendship to doom. 

On many an occasion I have rued my actions, at being immature and destructively impulsive. I have hence, really tried to be mellow, to avoid judgmental actions that create unnecessary wedges between family and friends. It takes a lot to make me angry now. I’m also doing my best to control the odd bursts of temper tantrums, but it’s a work in progress.
Much time had already elapsed, enough to fade out those memories when FB threw up an opportunity to make amends. Recently, an innocuous 'friend suggestion' brought my lost friend fresh into mind. After lots of self introspection and deliberation, I suppressed my ego and I messaged him and we reconnected. That was the first step. My first brick, to build that broken bridge. There is a real sense of lightness in me now. As though, I let go of some burden which I was subconsciously carrying. Happier still, that lovely girl, who is now my wife, has also reconnected with him. This time I introduced him to her.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 17 experience

Just Someone - as I have mentioned time and again - has been a fervent supporter of this blog right from its inception in 2003. He is now a Joy of Giving partner with me! He has no presence any where in the virtual world and when he writes his experiences, I take his permission and reproduce them here...

His Joy of Giving Card 17 experience -
Hi - After a long break from gym, I was finding excuses every evening - not to go back to the gym and fermented the excuses in my mind to make them compelling....

This has been going on for quite a few days... Two days back, I had found another reason to postpone the gym session to 'tomorrow' and then I read your blog... Your blog made me realise what I was running away from... packed my gym bag and went... and then felt very good about it... Thank you for the push...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 18 - Week 18

At some point in our lives, all of us have broken bridges. We have walked away from people, friends, relationships for reasons that need not be matters of debate and most of us have never looked back.

Many of us believe we are invincible and we have an ego that doesn't allow us to forgive and move on. Most often we end up keeping that bridge broken, stubbornly refusing to mend it, by reaching out, and apologising or forgiving or both.

This week, the Joy of Giving card extolls us to say Sorry and mend old relationships.  

I love this card and I shall shortly recount exactly why!

New to the Joy of Giving? Here's what you can do:

Go to the page titled Joy Of Giving where I have posted all the cards selected so far. Those of you who'd like to start this exercise from the beginning, do check it out, choose the card you like, and follow the instructions!


To join the Joy of Giving right away just follow the cards every week.

Post your experiences in a public forum - your own blog, note on FaceBook - or leave your story in the comment section of this blog.

To know how it started click here.

To track the Joy of Giving through the past Eighteen weeks, click here

DO spread the message of this unique movement. Encourage your friends to start following the cards and spreading joy... Do remember to tag me in your posts...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Joy of Giving - Card 16 - Experience

I have always battled weight issues. As a child I was thin. But somewhere along the way as I grew up, weight became a problem. I have written a lot about my weighty problems and my struggles... Have reproduced two of them at the end of this post.

I am still overweight. On the scale. I say "On the scale" because I look like I have only flab on my body, but fact is I have a lot of muscles too. I have excellent stamina and capacity for hard work (physical labour).

All this is thanks to my workout regimen.

I have been an avid gym goer for the past five years and although I haven't lost as much weight (on the scale) as I ought to have, I have lost oodles of inches. It has helped elevate my confidence and made the clothes I love wearing, look a whole lot better :-) Recently I have also added Yoga to my routine, three times a week.

So when I, before I left for the XMas vacation, picked this card for the last week of the year, I was happy. Happy because I would get to share the secret of my fitness regimen with my friends. And perhaps inspire somebody to take up an exercise routine they find comfortable.

If you knew the story of my fat-fit-fat-almost fit life, you'd wonder how someone as lazy as me even gets to the gym almost 5 days a week and works so hard that most people are in awe of the workout routine I follow.

I will cut the long story short and simply say, I decided that I was okay with the fat on my body (a lot of it is genetics, a lot to do with stress and and a lot more to do with unhealthy eating habits), but I was not okay being unhealthy. The prevalence of diabetes and heart disease in my paternal family, the struggles my mom had endured running to hospitals while my dad lay in the ICU recuperating from a heart attack (and eventually a by-pass surgery), the medications, instilled in me a resolve to do something to remain healthy.

So I, the one person who completely loathes routine of any kind, made a lifestyle change. I decided that I would do some sort of physical exercise at least 5 times a week, for as long as I live.

Thus came into picture my gym - world famous in Pune - Talwalkars. I have stuck to the regimen and although I took a short sabbatical a few years ago, I got back to my gym with gusto as soon as I felt my stamina depleting.

I don't need to spell out the benefits of a workout. But I will say to all my friends out there who have a reasonable excuse to skip any sort of workout regimen (be it a gym, daily walks, a treadmill at home, yoga, pilate, dancing, swimming, aerobics or what have you) just like I did for many many years, we need to incorporate exercise as an un-missable part of our lives.

Lifestyle change. Any sort of exercise routine must be made part of our daily lives - not something we do because we want to lose weight before a wedding in the family, a party or some such "special" occasion. It should become like that cup of tea/coffee in the morning that we cannot do without. It should have a space in our lives, much like the time we take out to commute to our workplaces, or the time we spare for TV viewing everyday.

To indulge in some sort of exercise routine simply means to spare some "me" time; time for ourselves. As a woman I know that most of us refuse to take time out to pamper or indulge ourselves in the smallest ways possible. So sparing 1-1.5 hours everyday for a workout may sound impossible. But it won't be impossible if, as I mentioned earlier, we make it 'part' of our lives. Like the 8 hour sleep we need. Or the four course dinner we HAVE to make for the family. Part of us.

And the need to spare some time for exercise also includes the men. Health is definitely wealth regardless of our genders.

To conclude this ramble, I raise a toast to the Card of Week 16 and hail it as a MUST DO for all of us! Hope you follow it too...

Leaving you with two snippets from my old blog on the same subject. The first one is inspiring and the second - is about the "excuses" I believed in before I thought enough is enough!

2 December 2005 

Nearly all of us will accept that we overlook our personal health and its upkeep. Giving into a temptation once in an odd way is acceptable. But most of us eat unhealthy food out of sheer habit than necessity. Incorporating a work out into a full fledged routine is an arduous task too, given our lack of time. So we end up battling the cellulite deluge.

Most of us give up. Fat is not good for our self esteem and confidence. But it is EASY; easy to accept, easy to live with, easier to grow.

Take me, for example. I am a working mother of two who has had to fight the bulge ever since I can remember. As a child, my mother enrolled me in a dance class that helped me keep fit. As the pressure of excelling academically grew, I stopped training in Bharatnatyam and grew in size. My height just refused to beat the mark it is at even today.

In college, I managed to keep a 26 inch waist and a 46 kilogram weight, perfect for my 5 feet one inch petite frame, only because I survived on one meal a day. It took its toll on my complexion which my north Indian relatives blamed on the tropical south Indian sun! 

Then I got married. For many years I tried hard to get into a work out routine. But it never worked out! And hell, how was I to keep away from food when I was cooking it? My battle with the bulge was back with a vengeance. All hell broke loose when I became pregnant with my first child.

Needless to say, I haven’t been able to turn back the hands of time since. Two kids later and numerous efforts at “diet control”, dieting, fad diets and once-a-year dance stints with Shiamak Davar have yielded nothing. I have reached a weight that I hate to comprehend even to myself.

That I belonged to a family with a history of diabetes and heart disease, failed to make me overtly conscious or instill a fear of the inevitable. I took shelter under the advise my gynecologist sister-in-law offered me, that a 10% increase in body weight after child birth was considered normal for women. 20% for two kids. I was a little over the 20% mark but I reckoned it was not something to lose sleep over or avoid the lip smacking strawberry pastry for. I realize now, that by merely taking cover, I was not taking charge.

Cut to the present.

The easy routine at my work place has seen me frequent a gym at least thrice a week. But the results are yet to show. Because I lack the motivation to work out as much as I can; I am willing to skip it on the smallest pretext. I also lack the self control required to say NO to a cheesy pizza or the regular rajma-chawal. It is also slowly dawning on me that as I grow older, not only will this fat become a permanent entity; it will certainly get added onto. It is scaring the hell out of me, but….just not enough.

I am not happy with the way my weight is, but I am willing to compromise. My complexion is not that bad! I guess I have also gotten used to people telling me that I am not that fat; and that I carry my weight well. As my husband always says, (which I think all husbands who love their wives say, even at the cost of sounding like liars and fibbers) “a little fat looks good on you.”

Quite frankly, who in the world wants to question such love?

One year after I wrote this, I turned my life around by sparing one hour at least 5 days a week for MY health and happiness.

Believe me, its do-able!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Joy of Giving - Week 17 - Card 17

Welcome to the Joy of Giving in 2012 - a glorious New Year for us to make new beginnings, leave the baggage of the past behind and get a fresh perspective on life!

There is something about the act of picking a card at random from the deck of 52. Somehow, the cards that spring out are full of surprises and suitable for the week coming ahead.

In this New Year, what better card can we have, than the following one?

In this world of increasing intolerance and religious fanaticism, this should serve as a reminder of how all faiths are ultimately aimed at the same thing - to make us better humans, inspire us to follow the path of humanity, tolerance, love and brotherhood.

Hope we actually follow this card and write our experiences.

New to the Joy of Giving? Here's what you can do:

Go to the page titled Joy Of Giving where I have posted all the cards selected so far. Those of you who'd like to start this exercise from the beginning, do check it out, choose the card you like, and follow the instructions!


To join the Joy of Giving right away just follow the cards every week and post your experiences in a public forum - your own blog, note on FaceBook - or leave your story in the comment section of this blog.

To know how it started click here.

To track the Joy of Giving through the past fifteen weeks, click here

DO spread the message of this unique movement. Encourage your friends to start following the cards and spreading joy... Do remember to tag me in your posts...