I read for my job; I read for my life…..

Last week I was trying to explain to my staff that whenever I was free, why did I keeping reading books back to back. Out of sudden I made an interesting statement. I said, “Deepak, earlier I used to read for my job, now I read for my life.” He did not say anything on this, but I looked back at those lines and found them to be good. The truth for me has been that while I was studying prior to getting a job, I was studying for my professional career, through which, I could earn enough to have a decent living.  I was thinking physically only. Coming from a middle class family, the primitive instinct was to survive and to survive well. There were no high moral grounds back then. I wanted to be successful so that I could afford to feed, cloth and shelter me and my family well and the path to that safety went through the good and strategic quality of reading competitive stuff. I earned my graduate and post graduate dovetailed to the knowledge and exigencies and intricacies of competitive exams which obviously was my ticket to financial independence and subsequent saturation of basic survival needs. My reading list therefore centered around, Political Science, History and General Studies. I had mugged up the capitals and currencies of all countries found on globe-big and small from Burundi to Burkina Faso and from Chili to Chad. I would have mugged up the length, breadth and width of all sport grounds and of all important boundaries. I had mugged up the distance between moon and earth and between earth and mars and many more. I had to excel and beat those who were competing with me memorizing the GDP and inflation rates and distances of stars of even Proxima Centauri!. I had to beat the heat. I did that and by the grace of God, clicked to get selected. I was very proud of the knowledge but was it all one needed to live? Is the distance between earth and moon so important for non-astronauts like me?  Does it really matter that I know the capitals of Latvia or Liechtenstein. I don’t think so, now. I had actually surrendered to the needs of the hour but all that I had amassed as knowledge was really very insipid.

So once I had settled in to job and got some sense of economic safety, I started looking around and tried to ascertain, what I knew about my life and people around me. I soon realised that I did not know much. While I knew about Akbar and Sikander or GDP or BPL, I did not know about how should I behave with my boss or with my ex-college friends or in job colleagues. I did not know about Psychology of a child or a father and this mattered. I did not know that Men were from Mars and women were from Venus. Even when I had become a proud father of two, I did not know how to be a parent to kids. I had learned from life but that was not enough. Suddenly I realised that I was the most ignorant and least educated person, I knew. Realising my limitations was first step.

This feeling of  ‘knowing nothing’ started to sink in me and I was really feeling disgusted if not depressed. This was really interesting that despite being the proud topper of the Provincial Civil Services, I was feeling like a dodo. I was not mentally prepared for this. I was feeling like a deer lost in the wilderness of Amazon jungles. I could have been mauled by anybody. What I had learned till now was inadequate. I therefore needed to go back to my basics once again.

I started to talk with close friends and family members but most of them despite being successful were not able to realise my predicament of having low knowledge quotient despite being a successful individual. I asked my parents and teachers. Hitherto, the key factor of me, getting success in this life had been that I was good in studies and could mug up a lot and even most tasteless knowledge of Africa or Europe. I decided to go back to books. The different books. The topics were different this time. The first noticeable book I laid my hands on and which changed a lot of my behavior, was Dale Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’. I bought this book waiting to catch a train at Aligarh Railways station from a wheeler book stand. I read the book and realised that it had a treasure trove of information regarding human relationships and friendship. I could also use the lessons of the book in conducting day-to-day affairs of my life, like in convincing the principal of Sophia School in Meerut in 2004, why my daughter should get admitted to that prestigious school mid session or why to listen first about people themselves than to speak, if you wanted the attention of busiest and most successful doctor of the city. It was a new tool in my hand and it worked. I smiled again.

There have been many more books since then including the most religious of Gita Press Gorakhpur. I have gone through the Upanishads and Puranas to Kalyan to Ashtavakra Geeta to books on food to those on travel and leisure. I have read books on marriages, sex, friendship, psychology, snakes, photography,  and what not. My book shelf is getting richer and I am feeling more satisfied every day. Every penny spent on these books has been useful and caused serenity and peace inside me. I have found many answers and quest goes on. Now, though I have started forgetting the names of capitals and currencies, I feel I know few things about life. I need to know more…………

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The Reality Bites

In 2009, I was posted as a Sub Divisional Magistrate at Aligarh. I was a happy less than 40 young man and enjoying my life. I was reading lots of book and with luck on my side, was reading and talking a lot about the power of positivity. I had just finished reading the Joseph Murphy’s best seller ‘The Power of Subconscious Mind”. This great book talks about the power of positive thinking through our sub conscious plane of mind which works in a transcendental way to make possible in physical world ,the changes you want to see in real world through your mental energy and thoughts. It is a good read and unless and you are the die hard friend of Einstein only, you will believe a good part of it if not all. This despite what you read and appreciate is not as per known parameters of real sciences. I was enamored by book and since I always believed and still do, there is a science beyond what we know today and that if we can’t demonstrate the metaphysics, it does not mean that its is not there and it is all unreliable occult only. I still believe that there is demonstrable physics and non-demonstrable metaphysics also.

So with these strong beliefs, I once met my senior colleague (whom I would not name for privacy purposes) whose wife was ill for some reason. When I came to know that she was ill, I quoted few examples from Murphy’s book to tell him that apart from the medicines he and his wife should read that book themselves and see the miracles. He was not sure but being one of the most outstanding gentleman I know in entire cadre, he gave proper  hearing and respect to my opinion and said that he would read the book. I was dead sure that book would hit the bull’s eye and all diseases could be helped if not cured by the power of positive thinking. Sometimes, if you are feeling good yourself, you become too positive and that’s not bad but still the world is too huge and complex fall into patterns of sureties. The Gurus flaunting their knowledge are not in short supply in India, they have never been actually. I was of the same state of mind and was not ready to see any alternative aspects of life and without being sensitive to him, prescribed solutions as the most authoritative doctor of meta-physics (this disease is still not exorcised out of me).

I met him again after few days and repeated my unsolicited gyan. He listened to me again patiently and said that he concurred with me but since his wife had been diagnosed of cancer and it was quite late, he was skeptical about the magic of sub conscious mind. But loaded with my recently gained knowledge, I continued to extol the virtue of a positive mind and suggested him to accept what I was saying. After listening to my harangues for some time, he invited me to visit his home and meet his wife personally and then advise him. I was eager to spread my gyan to his house too and the ailing lady.

After a day or two I reached his house and sat in the drawing-room. He invited me to his bed room where his wife was lying on the bed and was recuperating. I was fully ready to prescribe my metaphysical gyan/medicines and was rehearing my lines. But the moment I faced her actually, I was shocked. I was unprepared for what I saw. In front of me was a woman of 40 years but her weight was not more than 40 kg. A side of her face was swollen due to cancerous growth and as she tried to straighten up her body to give her attention to me, she had to struggle. I was petrified. I had not seen a cancer patient in this shape ever in my life. She was not a normal patient in any form, my mind could imagine. She was badly sick. To add to my agony, on one side wall I could see a portrait of a beautiful married lady, which I was told was her’s. She was really beautiful some time ago. I was dumbstruck and could not say a word for few seconds. My throat parched at the sight of a serious cancer patient. My colleague, seeing my state of affairs broke the silence and introduced me to his wife and said to her that I was a good officer and wanted to say something about positive thinking. I was still frozen and was feeling short of words and oxygen. I could hardly say anything except my rudderless greetings. Seeing my discomfort my colleague said few things about my approach and education, but I was speechless. I could not utter a word. Only thing I could say after much effort, was that I hoped everything would be fine. I knew I was lying and felt like a liar in uttering those words. Now I knew nothing about positivity. I felt I had never read anything about that. I soon came out of the room as I could not bear the deafening silence.

Once out, I took a deep breath of fresh air. I had no words to say. My colleague offered me some tea which I had, but I was badly shaken from inside. I was feeling very hollow. I had been prescribing nonsensical positive thinking without fully knowing the back ground and the disease. I was extolling virtues of positive mind as a machine without understanding the real situation. I tried to look back at the events of last few days. I could not guess that my senior colleague would be in so much pain and still doing his official duties that diligently. He was patient enough to listen to my talks and never yelled at me to stop my rubbish. He should have been going through a lot of emotional churn while listening to my dogged defence of power of sub conscious mind. The power of positive thinking is right, but I had to be sensitive about the scenario in which I was to utter and prescribe those tawdry formulas. I was feeling like an idiot at my nearsightedness. I was actually not able to see eye to eye to my colleague.I came back humbled and belittled.

The lady died next year. My colleague did not remarry and is a proud father of a boy and girl and doing his best to ameliorate his pain by taking care of his children. I have not been able to forget that incidence and many times still, her collapsing body reminds me of this ephemeral world and our short sightedness in living in this delusional world. That reality bites me still.

How Little I know…….

As I read more and more in my spare time at Saifai, I am realising that I know so little about this world and outstanding human beings inhabiting it, who are enlightening us everyday through their work and knowledge. Socrates was not only humble but bang right when he confessed that he knew nothing except his own ignorance. I am no Socrates of course, but am gradually realising that I know almost nothing. Exposed of my limitations, I got to learn about following pearls of wisdom this week;

1. About the idea of “Imagined Communities” given by Benedict Anderson through a book published with the same title in 1983 and revised in 2006. He says that nation states are basically imagined communities with real political boundaries but with intangible entity like air or weather. While you can’t see air or weather they are there. Likewise nation states have been created by grouping a people-community within a specific boundary and by selling the idea to people that they have common language or culture or cuisine or religion. People start identifying with nation after they are consistently bombarded with the symbols of nations in form of a common flag, common cuisines, common language, common anthropology etc. These symbols try to gloss over subtle differences in practices of culture from one area or region to another. He says advent of press and media have particularly strengthened the idea of nation-state as they have effective medium (the representative images) to posit before a common clientage as the ubiquitous and pervasive symbols. These symbols in turn handicap their vision of alternative ideas and visions of uncommon things and diversity which otherwise is the hallmark of the human diaspora. He introduces the idea of ‘Print Capitalism’- a marriage of capitalism and mass printing technology and says that the growth of vernacular languages like English and Dutch vis-a-vis classical languages like Latin and French led to gradual depletion of class boundaries and enriched the concept of common identities which in turn help build the idea of nation states.

2. Read an article ‘Pakistan without Tears’ published in ‘Independence Day’ issue of magazine ‘Open’ written by historian Ram Chandra Guha. Enriched by his own 3 personal visits to Pakistan, he eloquently dissects the idea of Pakistan and compares it with the idea of India. About Lahore he writes, “Lahore is the Salonica of the East, a multicultural city in living memory that is now dominated by people of single faith.” Lampooning the lopsided history writing of Pakistan which crudely disassociate itself from the non-islamic past of the country, expresses his doubts whether India would also repeat the mistake if the respect for diversity of opinions and multi-ethnicity continued to decline due to political compulsions. He says unlike India, Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims and thus the  faith of the majority had, in lesser or greater degree, to be reflected in the policies and practices of the state.

3. I read about First  Anglo Afghan War (1839-42), one of the worst defeat of England (East India Company) exemplified by gruesome killing of ex  British origin Indian Civil Servant, William Hay Mcnaughten and his troops while fleeing Afghanistan. Author William Dalrymple says that Afghanistan has always been surrounded by big powers like Russia, China and India and has been a hostile, inhospitable and  least productive territory inhabited by one of the most fiercely independent minded Pashtuns which remains relevant even in 21st century. He says that unlike in Iraq, in Afghanistan you would not find oil to finance your conquests and costs of holding territory in such a scenario. He says whoever tried to occupy and rule Afghanistan has bled away to defeats and death as exemplified by failed Anglo attacks in 19th century and aimless attempt of USA in 21st century during 2001 to 2014. He says, eventually Osama Bin Laden was captured in Pakistan and not Afghanistan and America suffered a huge economic cost and loss of face (not for the first time; remember Vietnam?). It has also led to destruction of any semblance of law and order in the Afghanistan leading to more chaos and export of terrorism in all shapes and sizes. Very interestingly, USA is negotiating with same Taliban in 2016, destruction of which was the raison detre of pounding with bombs every inch of Afghanistan in the name of finishing Taliban in 2001 (post 9/11)! The world would have been a better place, only if America had read about Anglo-Afghan War!!

4. I read about Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and Space X, the only private person except USA, Russia and China with capacities to launch satellites into space and then retrieve them too. He has vision of affordable space mission and though has suffered some failures including destruction of Falcon 9 this week, is planning a mission to Mars. Elon was born in South African, had schooling there before migrating to USA through a stint at Canada. He has a single big campus where he designs and constructs and then assembles all parts into a space rocket. NASA has multiple units to design different parts and later assembles them at Cape Canaveral. Musk has employed ex NASA pilots and recruited other team members to realize his goal of non governmental entrepreneurial mission to Mars and beyond. Musk is also producing most efficient electric cars for daily use and is using his experiences of space technology of building lightest but stable vehicles to run on the road. This man not only dreams well but has the guts to realise them too.

5. I am reading about India’s best known sociologist, Andre Beteille’s ideas on Indian society and liberal democracy and various contradictions plaguing it. Ram Chandra Guha writing about Andre opines, “Beteille has written insightful about all the major questions of the days: India’s encounters with the West, the contest between religion and secularism, relationship between caste and class, the links between poverty and inequality, the nurturing of public institutions, the role and responsibilities of the intellectual.”

About democracy he says that India adopted Westminster model of democracy as it(India) had seen that in practice in colonial times. However our growth and perceptions about that are different from British model and he says that this is normal also. We are bound to follow our own growth model through our intricacies and experiences. He says in India, we have the qualitative arguments but we lack in the sound institutions of democracy and that will be helped by social movements and growth of other democratic institutions. He says social movement like ‘India Against Corruption’ proselytizing into the political party as AAP, is normal and welcome. He says there will be and should be more social movements for our growth. He also says that growth curve can not be a sign wave, it may be tumultuous too. We should not be over worried by the unexpected growth trajectories. A lot more has to happen before we mature as a democracy.

Though I know little, I will continue to strive to know more till I am here….

Do you talk to your children about life?

My week 35th started with an official meeting at Lucknow on Monday, giving me an opportunity to spend the previous weekend with the kids. At the start of the week, I read a beautiful quote in HT Lucknow. It said, “Knowledge comes from learning and Wisdom comes from Living.” I read it again to realize the value of the quote. It’s bang on in distinguishing between ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Wisdom’. The former comes from devouring the books as much and as many as you can and also by reading news, periodicals and online sources etc, but the latter comes out of real life i.e. by actual living. Your day-to-day living over the years gives the most valuable lessons of life and also bestows upon you the intellect and knowledge to navigate through the by-lanes of life. You gain wisdom everyday by using the knowledge you have accrued from multiple sources. So wisdom is more important than the bland knowledge. Over the years, as I have grown (I think so!) and continued to read as much as I can (I sometimes read more in a day presently than I used to while appearing in competitive exams). Now as a father for last 17 years, I have found that one of the best usage of your time and knowledge is to share with young and impressionable children the knowledge acquired by you through learning and the wisdom emanating from real life experiences.

Parents do talk to their kids but it is usually about the school and homework and what they ‘should’ become in life (I am writing from my own experiences). On the other hands the kids and specially teenagers are already burdened by expectations of their parents, siblings and teachers. Everybody is talking to them about their future and how can it be improved from good to better and from better to best and even beyond. But in the race to care by preaching and by pressurizing to perform, the overall upbringing of the kids takes a back seat perhaps. He may get some good scores and that is also important, but it’s not the only important thing in life. The increasing rate of depression and BP even in teenagers baffling but quite noticeable. Kids are facing unbearable pressures from all directions with no milestones to refer to, they are cracking up as seen in some unfortunate suicides at coaching factories of Kota. With increasing  number of such cases and with more and more studies on the topic, it is better we take note sooner than later at our own home. One can ignore it only at his or her own peril.

The overall development of children in my view depends on discussing and sharing with your children about relationships with your relatives, friends, brothers & sisters and parents and teachers. It is important to give them reference points to evaluate their real bread and butter life issues. You can add to their scores and knowledge by discussing about the global and local events as they are unfolding  around the globe. As parents you can create curiosity in them by discussing about diverse issue like about  bio-diversity or about gender discrimination in India and female winners at Rio Olympics. These are real issues and unless you handhold your kids, they may develop their ignorance and resultant biases before attaining even adulthood.

It is also important to discuss with them about their health and the latest studies on nutrition like the harmful impacts of processed and junk foods. You can tell them about recent studies, backed by facts on these issues. Encourage them to check on those issues themselves  and ask them to discuss again. They will scrutinize the facts and once convinced, will trust you more. They will look forward to spending time with you if you talk to them beyond their scorecards and school ranks. After all nobody would be their better well wishers than their own parents. You have to transfer your hard-earned values through talks and by answering their queries. Don’t forget to give them time and liberty to arrive at their own conclusions. It is better to ‘nudge’ them than to ‘coerce’. I know by now that latter is bound to doom.

As I am writing these words online so that my kids or anybody can read them instantly, I am feeling more convinced to read more and live more so that I gain more wisdom and bequeath for my children not only some perishable property but some nonperishable wisdom as well.

No Queue Please!

I was waiting for my Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong last night at Delhi Airport. After clearing immigration and after stuffing few items though the Mecca of consumerism know as Duty Free areas, I was feeling sleepy and was expecting a timely flight departure to get some night hours sleep instead of a lowered window panes night in the aeroplane( when sun is already in full glory on the horizon on the eastern side of the globe) like they do in late night departure flights from India. One of my co passenger, originally a native of India and now settled as a restaurateur at San Francisco USA was telling me that in no part of world where Indians travel, you could find an organized queue. He said all airlines as soon as boarding is allowed or sometimes even before that, surrender to the virtual ambush of Indian passengers to board a plane.
Very soon the boarding was announced. Though I had been witnessing how we board, I had not been that conscious earlier. I saw very soon that irrespective of propriety and advice of back row passengers being asked to board first, everybody queued up so quickly and so nonchalantly in front of boarding gate that after few queries by airline staff on their seat no, the airline staff surrendered soon and allowed every body to board in whatever the sequence they liked to. This vegetarian gentleman, originally from Jodhpurs in Rajasthan was dead right in his observation and smiled at the state of affairs, as was unfolding right in front of me. His wife was though asking him to say fewer words, but he was very clear.

Queue?

Queue?

He said even outside India, including USA, where the majority of travelers are Indians, airline staff surrender to situation, as far as queueing is concerned. I am not sure, this is Indian trait or an Asian trait? But whatever, it’s not a good one to be happy about.

He too joined in the melee in the end and along with me, made  his way to the last of queue and moved forward.

Raise Yourself to Raise Your Child

I used this Sunday for reading a book by Dr Anupam Sibal. Dr Sibal during course of his medical career at Apollo Hospitals, has been closely interacting with kids and their parents and has written the book. The title of book is, ‘Is Your Child Ready to Face the World?’. I started reading the book to satiate my craving for finding ideas to motivate(handle?) my son Tathagat. I had anticipated that that Doctor Sibal would have prescribed some ready-to-eat/digest prescriptions for any parent to handle the kids and adolescent. Very soon I was in for a surprise.

My notion of finding prescriptions for my son was demolished sooner than later and was instead replaced by the prescriptions and knowldege for me! I leaned through the book that a child is like fresh and soft clay and is ready and empowered(by Almighty) intrinsically to face any challenge in the world. It is we, who disrupt their natural propensity to grow and learn. We disappoint them usually with our biases and load them with all the world wise knowledge aimed only to survive and claim more and more of the global resources. We hardly teach them that intrinsically, we all are noble souls and we should strive to find success, but not without clearest priority to happiness. The happiness which comes with being a human who has humility, compassion, emotion, truthfulness, forgiveness, courage, determination, gratitude and  capacity of dreaming and not by amassing wealth or topping grades.

I examined my own handling of Tathagat and soon realised that those qualities were not the focus or foundation of my teaching or preaching. They hardly got meaningful references in my talks with him. Dr Sibal quotes Paulo Coelho to remind the futility of preaching, “World is changed by your example and not by your opinion.” Are we not master of giving opinions?

Gandhi’s most famous principle of life was, “Be the Change”. His famous story of not telling a child to leave eating excess jaggery, till he himself had done that, is a perfect example of living by his beliefs. So as a parent, I have to practice, what I want my children to be or to do. Be it honesty or be it humility, courage or dreaming big, or anything else, I have to show my children that I am telling him or her only what I actually preach and practice. If I am discourteous and rude to my subordinate staff, my son will surely judge his younger or inferior peer with contempt and eventually that will culminate in, him handling even old and unproductive parents badly. So after going through this book I realised that I have to get ready first to face my child, instead of him getting ready to face me or the world.

Is-Your-Child-Ready-to-SDL135692163-1-3c4e0I am now clear that if I am ready, appropriately, to face my child, my child will be ready for sure, to face this world. The title of the book could easily have been, “Whether father of a child Is ready to face his child and the world?” I need to raise myself before I can raise my children.

Guddi: The Gladiator

an-indian-village-womam-usha-mishraShe is real. She is flesh and blood. She lives in Bilaspur- the second largest city of Chattisgarh situated at 133 Km from state capital Raipur. She is a mother of a son and 2 daughters, all married by her now. She is a grandma. She was married at the age of 14 and had her first child by 15. She works for living in a small jewellery shop at Bilaspur as a guard cum attendant. She smiles a lot, though at the age of 40 plus has already undergone the scalpel for removal of a cancerous uterus, followed by a painful chemotherapy. She is not educated but a brave-heart, a gladiator in her own right. She smiles a lot. She is also now a  part of my larger family and is known as Guddi to all of us.

I saw her for the first, sometime in 2005. On a construction site, as a labourer, she was dutifully sprinkling water on brick stacks at the end of the day’s work. Unlike other labourers, she worked extra time to get 20 Rs a day more. She was one of the scores of ubiquitous Bilaspuri labour working for contractors around our cities. This under construction house was for one of my relatives in Lucknow and the contractor had designated her, as the labour-in-chief and entrusted her to take care of the building material over the site. She was therefore at sight, all day and night. There she lived in a 5 feet high tarpaulin covered temporary structure of aligned bricks at the site, like seen perhaps by all of us at various under construction houses around our neighborhood (though we hardly ever pause at these sights and sites). I, too did not notice her presence much at first glance. I nodded only when I was told, her name was Guddi.

With her, lived two girls of 11 and 7 and a son of 10. Though she was married, her husband had abandoned her. She had to work during day time and take care of the building materials left over the site as the material was not protected by a boundary wall or a lock and key, at the site. This was also an area which was under development and till then, there were just a few houses where people actually were living. Though this is also no secret, that in these urban islands, despite the fact that even if, many more were living in their safe and cozy houses around Guddi’s construction site, hardly any would have had looked at her twice. Though the presence of few more humans around, would have had given a false sense of safety to her. This routine continued for long and the house got completed over next year and half. Guddi left the site to found the shelter somewhere else.

As I used to come over to Lucknow once or twice a month, I too forgot her. On a visit, I got to know that Guddi had changed her profession. Instead of a labourer, now she was working as a maid servant in the area. She used to wash dishes and do dusting and cleaning etc in six to seven houses and made around 1500 odd Rs to make her ends meet. Now, she used to come daily to my family too in the same house which she had got built with her labour and which was being used by my father and mother (Amma) as a temporary accommodation, pending construction of our own house. Once on a trip to Lucknow, I did notice that she was the same lady working as a maid. I also learned about again her professional switch (if i can call it that way).

Guddi was so simple and so non complaining in taking up household chores that she became favorite of most, if not all households in the colony. My mother, a tough task master, too started liking her. She liked her presence and so did Guddi, as she had someone to listen to her journeys of life. She was living more than a 1000 Km away from her larger family and that too, in a big city like Lucknow. At the unripe age of 30 then, she was mother of 3 growing children without the social or economic support of her husband. She was struggling, gracefully though. It is a sad fact that most. if not all of us, see them as being economically useful and hardworking labourers only. Their human side more often than not, remains untouched and unexplored. She had access to Amma and therefore this lady while being paid for her work developed an affinity with Amma. She hardly complained on any issue and kept smiling with her beetle dyed teeth.

I too started noticing her now even more frequently as she was part of my family in some ways. The life continued to roll and for few more bucks, Guddi spent some time on our own under construction house in the same colony. She as well as we, had the confidence in her ability to handle a construction site. Her children continued to grow. Gradualy, her son at 17 was more than marriageable as per Guddi’s standards. She was looking for a girl, but choice was not much here. In her last 7-8 years in Lucknow, she had seen the rough and cold side of the urban life and had suffered many harassment from lecherous males.

She was worried about her children too. My father advised her to return to Bilaspur where she could find suitable match for her children. She could expect better social security too, back home. The only problem for her was that she had no house of her own where she could live. Her husband was living with other woman already and her mother did not have space or resources to accommodate her. Her problem was genuine and though she had some savings, that was not enough to get even a 20 sq yard house. My father seeing her predicament and penury, asked me and my brother to help her financially so that she could afford a semi pucca accommodation, back home. We had developed an affinity for the Guddi, due to her attending our mother and the household chores. Some money was pooled in therefore and then she managed to get a semi pucca house at Bilaspur.

She left after sometime. We missed her smiling presence for few days. Amma missed her more as Guddi had developed a bond with her apart from helping her over house errands. She took some time to adjust to vacuum left by Guddi. She gradually settled at Bilaspur and married her son soon. She invited us too. We could not go but father did send some gifts to her by courier. She was in constant touch with Amma and my father, and kept updating about herself. We were happy to learn about her well being.

After almost two years, one day in a fluke accident, Amma fell in the bathroom and broke her knee. At age of 68, this was a bad new for all of us, as Amma was to remain confined to bed over next 2-3 months and she needed some one close and a lady to help her take the call of nature etc. We are a big family but ever one is busy and none of the son was living in Lucknow at that time. Every member of the family was saddened by the news of the mother, but none  was ostensibly free to be besides the mother to take care of her exclusively. In old age husband and wife perhaps care about each other most and my father was worried about mother a lot more. Getting no clues whatsoever, he decided to dial Guddi.

Upon listening about the news of Amma being ridden on bed and her subsequent urgent need for help, Guddi, the brave heart did not pause for a second and landed at Lucknow in next 2 days. She had left her own children at Bilaspur and was happy to attend Amma and help her to live decently. We realized that Guddi was a lady of a golden heart almost like a Florence Nightingale. What she was doing for mother could not be done by any of her own kins, and she did all that smiling with her beetle dyed teeth. Amma, fired by her own will power and egged on by Guddi’s unceasing care and help started recovering. Guddi stood by her and did all, what actually a mother could do for her girl child. There were many emotional moments therefore, and all of us felt immense gratitude for her great humanitarian help. Money, could not have arranged this much of care and trust for an old lady. Guddi now became like a family member for all of us and we now started taling to her more often.

Mother recovered after two months or so and Guddi left for her home once gain. The advent of mobile telephony in remotest corners of the country helped us to remain in touch with her. She married her her other two daughters as well and became a grand mother too. We continued to wish her and she reciprocated always. She was now very close to us, emotionally.

One fine day, we were shocked to know that Guddi had developed cancer in her uterus. This news was traumatic for all of us and we thought how could God be so unkind to his noblest daughter. Luckily, cancer was not at third stage and the doctor assured us that she could be fine if the treatment was followed strictly. We decided to pool in our help financially and medically and helped her to get operated. She underwent surgery and then, chemotherapy and started recovering. We were praying for her. Guddi started smiling again and we thanked God and heaved a sigh of relief.

Guddi faced some more disappointment at the family front as her married son faced her own family troubles and left her to live in a separate accommodation. Her sons in law too did not prove to be too worthy, but Guddi continued to struggle gracefully. She was now working in a jewelry shop as a maid cum guard. Her fearless nature and her honesty always comes handy to make a living for herself. The bonding of our family with Guddi continued to grow.

Guddi was invited last month as a guest in the marriage function of my younger brother. She landed 2 days before marriage and though she was to be a family guest only, she took charge of the all the household activities and once gain took good care of all of us rather than it being other way around. Everything went smoothly and all of us were happy at the end of the reception.

While taking stock of the gifts by guests and family members (a really funny and interesting exercise) we came to know that Guddi had given valuable silver anklets and waistband for the bride. This was too expensive and and heart touching. Here was a lady who was working as a maid and guard in distant Bilaspur and who had come all the way from Chattisgarh to attend the marriage in the family of her ex employer and had taken leaves and put in almost an entire month’s salary of hers to gift, the bride. There were many valuable gifts, but perhaps no other gift could be more valuable as hardly any one not even we, had given the gift equal to an entire month salary of ours. Who was richer therefore ? Guddi or we? There was love and affection clinging to those gifts and our eyes moistened.

When you come across persons like Guddi, you start believing that God is there for sure and manifests himself more through noble souls like Guddi, perhaps. Have you met a ‘Guddi’ ? A Guddi of flesh and blood?

The Grass Stacks in Uttarakhand

 Traveling through Uttarakhand in winters just before the snow fall will showcase to any keen watcher, a unique local practice of storing the fodder for the cattles for the oncoming harsh winters. Since the grass withers away in winters and there is nothing else to offer ( green fodder, unlike plains is not there) for next three months following December, the village folks and especially ladies, take special efforts to feed one of the most valuable asset of village folks, the livestock. They do this by making the stacks of grass and tie them up spirally over a tree. This is done for two reasons. One, they don’t have enough space to store their fodder for three months in their smallish and low height houses and two, the tied up spiraling grass bundles facilitate the draining of rain water and snow without spoiling or rotting the fodder. You will find these tied up near field in whole of Uttarakhand as I did in my recent visit in December. They have different local names also. While it is called as ‘Pureda’ in Garhwals, in Kumaon region it is called as ‘Luta’.

I hope we recognize these local practices and give respect to those who do it in a most environment friendly and organic way…Lots to learn from these local practices for all of us….img_6998

Happiness is…….. in counting calories

One of the most embarrassing question to anybody heavier than his height minus 100 (formula devised in 1871 by Broca and Devine) may be, “What’s your weight?”. This rather innocuous question in present fast-packaged-food times can put off many otherwise noble and stable souls. I have faced this obvious but uncomfortable question many times over last few years and every time I have been asked this one, after a deep pause, I have re-resolved to reduce my weight and enhance my score as per Broca and Devine formula. Albeit I have failed few times and had false starts but the resolve to get better has still not got fatally fatigued inside me.

Pushed by family and friends (except  by my mother, to whom I were not overweight even at 100 kg), I have been trying all tricks and methods to reduce weight. I started with Baba Ramdev’s very popular Pranayaam  and other acrobatic aerobics, and got some head start too, the benefits however did not last for long. More often than not, I was back to square (round!) one. After many hiccups and false starts, I settled finally for old and reliable bicycle and tread mill exercises and I have been trudging on these machines on most of the mornings, now. While earlier I used to enjoy many cups of tea sitting with my wife along with many reams of neatly folded newspapers, presently I have been finishing the morning newspaper in a jiffy to make way for my exercise machines. Gone are the mornings when sitting on the front porch of my first floor residence I used to get continuous supply of ginger laced tea with Parle G and Brittania biscuits in the mornings. Also gone is the leisure to notice the singing birds perched on trees nearby. All these great and ethereal pleasures have been overtaken by the desire to score high on the dashboard of my exercise machines.

When I started in right earnest few weeks ago, it was tough for me to cross even 200 burnt calories, but now I can swing the scores by swiftly pedaling the cycle and by hitting the deck on treadmill. The scores now have reached to a respectable level. The satisfaction derived from these is no less than from a caffeine or even from a contraband narcotics. The result though comes after you have literally pushed yourself to the last bit of muscle flexing and after you have let your sweat flow like a perennial stream of salty water from top to toe. The result that comes out, is in pictures below.image

The pleasure of burning 412 calories in 54 minutes shown in blue shades really overtakes the pain suffered in making it glow that way and it keeps on egging me to set further and higher goals for my calories burning limits. This dashboard is really the one which brings the widest smile on my face these days, perhaps more than from a morning ginger laced tea!!!

Happiness Of Watching A Movie, Late……

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Authors Ralph Lazar and Lisa Swerling, in their book ‘Happiness is……….’ write down the 500 ways to feel happy about. They mention small but significant notes of happiness felt through, when we relish a complementary breakfast or while bumping in your very old school teacher or being the first one to get up in the morning or in having breakfast in bed on a cool frosty morning and many more pleasures derived from otherwise mundane happenings. They believe that the happiness is in recognizing these and other small but sweet pleasures of life. Ever since I read that book in a 24 hours bookstore in Taiwan, I have been exercising my find to recognise many such simple and sweet pleasures of life.

I came across one such sweet pleasure last evening when I watched the movie, Talwar. This movie directed by Meghana Gulzar is based on real and shocking murder of Aarushi Talwar for which her doctor parents were convivted. The movie is quite good but the story is a sad one and watching the movie questions the inept handling of the case and highlights many glaring inconsistencies in the story of prosecution. Movie is quite good to feel and better know the times we are living in. But that is not the reason of writing this piece.432123697

Actually the movie had only few paid preview shows on this Thursday in Lucknow, as it formally got released on Friday as any other movie does in India. However, on insistence of my wife for watching it on very first day, I booked two tickets for the 7:45 evening show. Before that I had to do my office followed by evening walk at Lohia park. I was aware that if i got late in leaving the office, I will be hard pressed to reach cinema hall in time.

I had a bad start. I left the office almost 43 minutes behind the schedule at 5:43 PM and rushed still to Lohia Park-a great spot for walkers and joggers in Lucknow. I did my rounds there and curtailing my walk a bit left the park around 6:25. I now had only one hour and twenty minutes to go back to my house, take a shower and then come back to movie hall before 7:45 pm. The times was short as my residence is more than 12 km away from my office and park and, the movie hall I chose among limited options on Thursday was a good 10 km away from my home. I could still manage if I reached home in good time and could turn around quickly with my wife to the PVR cinema hall in Hazratganj.

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I started to roll from Lohia park, but just then I recalled my morning chat with my sweet daughter as she was leaving for school in the morning. She had requested me to come back with her favorite cake while returning from office in the evening. Her request in the morning was a personal one as she does not make many requests while going dutifully to her school. I had seen her eyes and could sense that as a kid she was yearning for a cake really. That may be perhaps also due to the pressures of the exam she was facing since last week, as owing to the exam, she had slept late and even remain awoke during few previous nights. I was in a dilemma, because if I went to her favorite shop in busy Hazratganj at the evening traffic hour, I could not have made to movie at scheduled time. I had to choose one. Either the movie with the wife or a cake for the daughter. I took few seconds in deciding, but finally the request of the daughter prevailed over  the prospect of watching a thriller on time. It was not as if I was very happy to take that call but my fatherly instinct asked me to give preference to that only.

I rushed therefore to the traffic of Hazratganj and as expected got in the traffic jam of the evening. Waiting in the traffic, I was feeling the pressure of the situation and kept on looking at my mobile phone clock to recalculate the time I would eventually need to reach back to cinema. I managed to reach the shop after some tough traffic negotiations and purchased the best possible cake in  the shortest possible time. I almost jumped back into my vehicle with the cake. The clock was showing 6:55 pm by now. I was still 10 odd km away from my house and had many more things to do. I was anxious for the movie but at the same was happy for dutifully buying the cake for my daughter from her favorite shop.a-daughter-may-outgrow-your-lap-but-she-will-never-outgrow-your-heart-quote-1

I took a deep breath to ease myself and managed to reach my house only by 7:11 pm. With cake and pastries in may hands I just barged into room of my daughter and proudly presented the cake to her. She was really happy to see her wish fulfilled. She thanked me profusely and went to kitchen to get the plates etc for cutting the cake and eating it with all of us. I was happy to see her happy and glancing at the clock, pushed myself into the bath room and took a shower as quickly as possible. Its so relieving and freshening to take a shower after sweating out at this time of the year. Meanwhile my daughter was ready with the knife etc. to cut the cake we enjoyed the cake. The smile on her face alleviated my oncoming agony of watching a thriller movie late. I just hugged her and left for the movie with my wife at 7:30 pm. It was still at least 25 minutes away from the multiplex. I took another deep breath and shared with my wife the pleasure of seeing my daughter happy.

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I reached the multiplex by 7:58 and rushed to the audi showing the movie Talwar. It took another 5 minutes to get into the lift and to make it to the audi. As I rushed inside the hall, I was amazed to see that the movie was starting to roll just then, at 8:03 to be precise! I heaved a sigh of relief and had a real big smile of life at the situation. It was hard to believe my luck as I was not expecting the late start of the movie beyond 5 or maximum of 10 minutes. But here it was late by 18 minutes. It was sheer luck or something else? Did some circumstances ‘conspired'( Rhonda Byrne of ‘Secret’ fame will vouch for that for sure)  for so late start to compensate me for conceding to my daughter’s request? I don’t know actually. But it was such a sweet pleasure to witness the start of movie so late when you have reached late yourself. I had done a great job really. With my wife on my side, I sunk into plush seats of hall to watch the thriller in the right earnest but not before thanking God for bestowing me with a little sweet daughter some 16 years ago.Father’s-Day-Gift-Ideas-for-Kids-4

I can now say that ” Happiness is in watching a movie after sharing a cake with your daughter and getting late but not more than the start of the movie!” Perhaps Ralph and Lisa may include that in their next edition!!!