Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

70. Same More

Everybody around is in the mood of celebration. It actually began last week and the hangover would be carried over the next week.

In what way do people celebrate? Not much variety, I think.

We sing, we dance, we drink, we relax, we watch movies, we drive, we travel, we read, we eat, we gossip, we laugh loudly, we send SMSs, we call people, we chat, we write new blog posts. In short, we try to forget the past and the present and hope for a better future.

We celebrate, because everyone else is celebrating. We celebrate because there is no other alternative. We celebrate because we believe in flowing with the stream. We celebrate because we don’t know what else we could do. We celebrate because we don’t want to be left alone. We celebrate because that is the only way we get respite from the burden we have to carry. We celebrate because we want to be happy. We celebrate because we want to be safe and secure.

No, I am not complaining. In fact, until someone forces me to join such celebrations, I do not share my thoughts. I believe enjoyment is a personal choice. I live and let others live. Mostly I am alone in such matters and I prefer it to hypocritical exhibition of feelings.

But sometimes I wonder what exactly people are doing. I mean what do people exactly get out of such a mechanized way of celebration? For how many years we can keep on singing ‘Dam Dam Diga Diga’ (or any song for that matter) in Antakshari? For how many years we can pretend to enjoy crowds, which would anyway keep on celebrating without missing us? For how many years we could pretend to have fun? For how many years we could hide from ourselves?

No, I do not mean we should not celebrate. Joy is inherent aspect of life, and one needs to learn (again and again) to be happy. Life takes its toll, and nothing is wrong in taking a break and enjoying few moments – even materialistic moments. Nothing is wrong in singing and dancing if one enjoys it. Nothing is wrong in laughing aloud; consuming food - with friends, relatives, well-wishers. Nothing is wrong in to be loved and to love.

I guess it is wrong only if we are not fully enjoying it and pretending to have a ‘great’ fun.

I am not sure where it is outcome of culture or outcome of training. I am not sure whether it is the result of religion or human tendency. I do not know whether I am right or wrong. But I constantly feel that we keep on doing the ‘same’ thing ‘more’ without really analyzing, without experiencing, without wondering, without getting involved, without actually gaining anything and without growing.

For example, the new recruits in the company/organization keep on leaving. What action does the management take? It recruits ‘more’ people, trains them ‘more’ and offers them ‘more’ salary forgetting that if the ‘same’ process is followed, the result would be the ‘same’.

The government is not working properly, inflation rises to sky. What action do we take? In the elections we have ‘more’ candidates, we give ‘more’ seats to a particular political party, but the process is the ‘same’ which brings out the ‘same’ results.

We go to school/college. We do not learn much – except for few harsh realities of life and few things which we never actually use in life. What is our response to it? We ‘learn’ ‘more’, we secure ‘more’ marks, but in fact we learn in the ‘same’ way and continue to struggle in life.

We are inefficient at work. We do not actually love our work. But we keep on doing ‘more’ work in the ‘same’ way, creating a feeling of alienation.

We are tired, bored. We eat ‘more’ food in the ‘same’ aloof way, without experiencing joy of food, and we are bored of eating in the ‘same’ way.

We read. It does not affect our life. We do not draw any lesson from it. Still we keep on reading ‘more’ books/magazines, in the ‘same’ way and carry the burden of incomprehensible words all our life.

We watch movies. We criticize the actors, the director, and the friend who suggested it. We regret that the money has gone waste. And we watch ‘more’ movies to overcome it, but watch it in the ‘same’ way, and come out with ‘more’ disgust.

I can quote many such examples. Why we tend to do ‘more in the same way’ is an enigma to me. Even I do it sometimes without realizing it. Am I not writing ‘more’ posts on this blog in the ‘same’ way?

I wish I would use all my experience and still be novice in doing things anew. I wish there would come a time when I would be fortunate enough to work AGAIN only for the joy of working and not for the sake of being part of the crowd, not for earning money, not for appeasing anybody and not for getting rewards.

I wish I would do fewer things in the coming years but not do it the ‘same’ way I have been doing. I wish I could come out of this illusion of ‘more’ for once!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

69. Fullness in Emptyness

I generally avoid reaching Pune early morning. There are reasons and experiences to arrive at this conclusion.
Once when I reached my residence, which was Staff Quarters of my workplace at 5.30 in the morning, the auto rickshaw driver asked me ‘only Rs. 300/-‘ . I was aghast. Because even with ‘half return’ charges, the amount could not exceed Rs. 120/-. My residential area was lonely then. The security guards were not at the entrance of the complex. There was no one on the road. When I started saying ‘no’ to that amount, the auto driver coolly said, “What if I snatch the laptop you are carrying? Remember that there is nobody to help you at this hour.” I was taken aback by the bluntness of that man. But ultimately I thanked him for clearly indicating the result. I did not want to lose laptop for saving a meager amount of hundred rupees. So, I gave him the money he wanted. He was happy and I was happy.
Long ago, Pune railway station had pre-paid auto booth. During those days this was monitored by a police constable. The customers had to pay only one rupee at the booth and the actual fixed amount once we reached the destination. Once when my train arrived Pune at 5.00 in the morning, I went to Pre-Paid auto booth. The police constable looked at me and enquired whether I was alone. Then he advised me to wait at the station for an hour. He kindly advised me to ‘have a cup of tea and purchase a newspaper; you will not understand how the hour passed’.
I was surprised and asked him what the problem was. During those days lot of passengers were looted by auto rickshaw drivers. So, he did not want to me to take any chances and wanted me to commute safely after 6.00. When the police is not sure about your safety and security, you are obliged to follow his suggestions.. for your own good!
And those who are compelled to sit at any station for hours know how painful the experience is.
With these kinds of experiences, I take care that I do not reach Pune early morning.
But the other day, Ahimsa Express, which reaches Pune at about 5.00 in the morning, was the only available option. I took the train reluctantly, but did not want to go and wait at Pune station. I decided to get down at Shivaji Nagar station for a change. I anticipated that the train would reach there at about 4.45, and there would be lot of commuters – catching the early local trains for Lonavala.
I alighted at Shivaji Nagar, lot many people also got down, so I did not realize what time it was. I do not use wrist watch. By the time I reached platform number 1, I realized that it was completely empty. All the people who had come by the train had gone out, and there was nobody to catch the next train. I looked at the watch on the platform and realized that it was just 3.30 in the morning.
That emptiness of the platform was attractive and peaceful. No, I was not frightened. The empty platform was so beautiful that I forgot that I was alone there. I had couple of deep breaths and the cool air was indeed refreshing. The dog that was nicely sleeping at the side of one bench opened his eyes and looked at me disinterestedly. No barking of dogs. No trains. No human interference. As if I was suddenly put into a mysterious world – where everything is known but looks strange. It was a visible illusion. It was a moment of completeness and calmness. It was amazing to feel that even artificial human made things can be energizing at times. It was the moment which gave me lot of strength. Once again I realized that material progress does not necessarily contradict inner growth.
After about half an hour, crowds started pouring in. The tea stall and the newspaper stall opened. The trains started coming in and going out. The world became normal. It took some minutes for me to adjust with that emerging world.
That emptiness had so much fullness. I will always remember this experience when I struggle with contradictions in life!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

68. Winter Apparel

This week I was traveling. First I went to Patna via Delhi. Then I was to Allahabad. And back to Pune again via Delhi. Anticipating the cold wave, I had packed enough winter apparel in my bag. I do not watch television and I am lazy enough to avoid reading daily newspapers. So, I was not aware of the ‘weather conditions’ of those three cities. However, in the past I had experienced unbearable cold and fog in the northern parts of the country. So, this time I was fully prepared.

Though Pune is cold sometimes, I hardly use sweaters and jerkins when I am here. One of the windows of my house opens to the east, and the moment the Sun rises, my room is filled with warm Sunrays. It is always a pleasure to watch the red glowing Sun turning to saffron and then suddenly to milky white. I always smile at the luxury I have. May be because of this, and may be because of the morning rush, I can face Pune winter without much trouble. Actually I enjoy it.

I have some assumptions about life and about myself. One of them is that when I am in my own territory, I hardly feel discomfort. I guess that has to do not only with ‘knowing the situation well’ but also with ‘having enough resources’ at hand. I mean when it gets cooler, I can always pull out additional shawls or sweaters from cupboard within a minute. But when I am traveling, I have to depend on outside resources, so I am not that comfortable. One cannot carry luggage beyond certain limit when especially one believes in ‘travel light’ principle.

When the plane touched Delhi, I was expectantly watching for a sign of a good winter. But I had none. Then I thought that at least I will have some of it in Patna. We were there for three nights and two days. My local colleagues were feeling the cold wave, but I was not. In fact I was surprised to have such a moderate temperature there. I accepted the situation coolly and looked forward to cooler conditions at Allahabad.

During Patna-Allahabad night train journey, I was the only person in the compartment who did not feel cold. Getting down at three in the morning at Allahabad station too did not make any difference to me. There was no winter in Allahabad. From there to Delhi – again a night train journey – was the same. And Delhi was bit foggy but not at all cold –for me; others were enjoying it.

I was little disappointed. I had lot of ‘cool’ expectations, I had prepared myself for that and actually nothing happened. All my preparation proved out to be a complete waste. I just carried a lot of resource with me, without using it.

During return travel to Pune I was thinking about this episode. So many times in life you anticipate something and nothing happens. So many times you prepare yourself for a certain situation and the situation never occurs. So many times in life, others feel and experience something, which you are not able to experience. So many times in life, you live differently, even without knowing it. So many times your simple wishes are not fulfilled.

It has other side too. So many times one has resources: energy, skills, aptitude, innovative thinking and capacity – which are not used simply because one is either at a wrong place or at a right place but at a wrong time. In such situations, resources turn into burden.

May be I am at a wrong place.

May be I am at a right place but the time is wrong.

In any case, I just carry my resources (capacities) without using them.

What should I do? Change place? Change time? Change resources? Change expectations?

Hmm... I am just laughing and writing this post.

Because Pune is too cold today and I am using my winter apparel – at last!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

67. All in a Day's Work

(I always wanted to write a story, and could never pen down one. Here is my first feeble attempt )
Sharada woke up with a jerk. It took her few seconds to understand that the water tap was flowing with full capacity. She keeps the tap open in the night so that she can collect some water early in the morning.
Sharada is tired. After the forceful last night, her husband is snoring loudly. There is no point in waking him up. Instead of fetching water, he may start again. Neither her mind nor her body is ready to take any more of it. But she fears that if she denies her body to him, he might go to other women. And who knows what he will bring with him! ‘After all I am married to him, so he is my owner’, she thinks bitterly.
She gets up and is able to collect just three buckets of water. Now, she has to wash clothes, cook food, wash utensils, and take bath….all of it in this limited water. She is feeling sleepy. But she has to go to work. Desai madam will get angry if she takes off today. It is Desai’s son’s birthday and lots of guests are coming. Sharada has been asked to work for few extra hours. She will get extra fifty rupees, which is necessary because there is nothing home to cook.
There is no Kerosene. Sharada cannot have even a cup of tea. And anyway, there is no sugar. She takes bath in half a bucket, keeps yesterdays left over roti and sabji for the husband, and sneaks away. She does not wake her husband fearing she would get beaten by him for not offering him tea.
When he is in good mood, he drops Sharada to the first housing complex she works. He has an old two wheeler. But yesterday, he came drunk. He will not wake up till ten. That means, Sharada will have to walk for half an hour today.
Sharada reaches the first home fifteen minutes late. Mrs. Mokashi is angry. She starts shouting at Sharada. Actually whole day, Mrs. Mokashi is at home, but she would not spare a delay of five minutes. Sharada knows that there is no point in explaining anything to her. Mrs. Mokashi just won’t listen.
As always the basin is full of utensils and left over food. Sharada wonders why they waste so much of food. The food is rotten now and has stinking smell. The bathroom is full of clothes to be washed. Mokashi madam follows Sharada at the nook and corner of the house and gives continuous instructions. If Sharada says something, Mrs. Mokashi starts anew. If Sharada doesn’t answer, Mrs. Mokashi repeats. Mrs. Mokashi is a difficult person. But sometimes she gives Sharada used sarees and shirts. In fact, Sharada had only those sarees for the last two years.
Next is Joshis. Sharada rings the doorbell and the man opens, smiling. Her heart sinks. She has forgotten that Joshi madam is not at home. Mrs. Joshi is out of town to see her sick mother and won’t be back for the next four days. This man is useless. He keeps watching Sharada. Couple of times, he tried to touch Sharada. Now looking at his shrewd smile, she realizes that even the daughter and son are not at home, they are in school. “I will come in the afternoon”, Sharada says loudly, so that the neighbors would listen. But Joshi is smart. He says, “Do you think I am free? Finish the work quickly. Children won’t open door for anyone in the afternoon.”
Sharada has to enter. She knows that this man is not good, but the madam is very kind. Mrs. Joshi does not know the true colors of her husband. Sometimes Sharada feels that there is not much difference in her life and Mrs. Joshi’s life. Except that Sharada is poor and Mrs. Joshi is rich; Sharada knows what a beast her man is, Mrs. Joshi does not know. Sharada feels for Mr. Joshi as she is as helpless as Sharada.
Sharada keeps the door fully open and talks with the neighbors from the kitchen window. She decides that from tomorrow, she will come to this house only in the afternoon. The man is trying to follow Sharada. She loudly asks him to sit in one place. Rani Madam opens her door too; it is just opposite to Joshis. Rani Madam talks to Sharada and to Mr. Joshi. That keeps the man quiet. Sharada is thankful to Rani.
Next is Rani Madam. She first gives Sharada tea and biscuits. Rani Madam is always very kind to Sharada.
Rani gives Sharada a paper and asks her to sign it. One of Rani’s friends is building an organization of house-maids. Rani Madam advices Sharada to become member of that organization and fight for rights of housemaid – which means good salary, paid holiday and bonus. Sharada envies Rani’s simple heart. Sharada thinks, ‘Rani Madam does not understand that there are many more women who are ready to work without these facilities. If I insist on terms and conditions, people will look for another maid. In the process I will loose whatever I am earning’. Sharada nods and does not argue. Rani gets frustrated with Sharada as she does not immediately fill the form. Rani thinks being a woman, she understands Sharada. But Sharada knows that Rani cannot imagine what hell Sharada goes through everyday.
On the way to next building, there are the police and their big dog. That means one more theft in the building. When it happens, people like Sharada are the first suspects. The police harass the poor. Clearly, those fifty rupees Sharada would be getting today from Desai Madam would go the pocket of these policemen. If Sharada declines to pay, they will unnecessary harass Sharada by visiting her home, sowing doubts in her husband’s mind, asking her to come to police chowki – that means taking leave. Sharada cannot afford to take off time from work. Mandabai is already searching for work; she would immediately take this opportunity. Now that the thefts in this society are becoming a routine, Sharada thinks that she can probably manage the police with just twenty five rupees.
Three more homes and it is already 12.00 by the time Sharada reaches Desai Madam. Mrs. Desai is fuming with anger because Sharada is an hour late. Sharada does not like to be shouted at but at the moment she is helpless. For Mrs. Desai may be it is a special day. But for Sharada, it is a routine. Birthday, wedding anniversary, naming ceremony, festival…. The occasions are different. They mean only an additional work for Sharada. It is true that she gets some extra bucks, but not without the hard labor she has to put into it.
Sharada cleans. Sharada washes. Sharada sweeps. Sharada helps in cooking. Sharada serves. She washes again. She helps. She works hard like a machine. Her mind rebels. Everybody is sitting, eating, laughing and enjoying. Life for them seems to be good. Just because they have money and Sharada does have not, they are treating Sharada like a dirt. Sharada feels angry towards the whole world. Sharada wanted to go to college and do a job. But she was married at the age of 16. Sharada is just 18, and has not yet forgotten those dreams which she once held near to her heart. Sharada feels like crying. But she knows she can’t.
By the time, it is all over; it is almost 5.00 in the evening. Now the guest will come, Sharada’s presence is not required by Mrs. Desai. Desai Madam repeatedly warns Sharada to come early tomorrow. Mrs. Desai conveniently forgets that has not offered any food to Sharada.
Except for tea and biscuits at Rani Madam, Sharada has consumed nothing during the day. She turns to go. She realizes that there is no kerosene at home and the police will be waiting on the way. Sharada has only a ten rupee note with her. She asks Desai Madam for the fifty rupees she has promised. Mrs. Desai feels hurt and starts shouting. Can’t Sharada trust her? Can Sharada not wait till tomorrow? Doesn’t Sharada understand that Mrs. Desai is busy with more important things?
Everybody in the house looks at Sharada as if she has committed some serious crime. Sharada gets frightened. She understands that if she says one more word, she will loose the job.
Sharada walks back. She is thinking about the empty kerosene bottle, about the empty pots in home. What will she cook today? How will she face her husband? He must be mad at her. After drinking, he always feels very hungry. Sharada knows that she has missed the evening water time. The shopkeeper is already asking for payment of the earlier purchases. He won’t give Sharada anything on credit now. What will Sharada do? Where will she go?
Sharada thinks, ‘after working for all day, if I do not have enough to eat and enough to sleep peacefully, what is the point in working?’ She is agitated.
Sharada thinks this city is a very stupid place. There is no well, no river where she can go and hide herself forever. There is no hill, from where she can jump. There are huge buildings, but Sharada won’t have entry into it. So, jumping from the top is also not possible.
Sharada has to live and carry on until she can.
Sharada feels hunger, homelessness, tiredness, helplessness, humiliation, fear, wretchedness, lifelessness …All in a Day’s Work!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

66. Dil- e- Nadan…..

Body and Mind are woven together. We assume it to be a single unit. Until the twins work smoothly, we don’t notice their separate and sometimes pulling apart existence. Small disagreements within them are managed by habit, samskara, rationality, manners, culture. However the serious disagreements between body and mind cause devastating results.

To a certain extent, Pleasure and Pain on physical, material plane is easy to understand. It has logic, reason which is easy to follow. A tea lover naturally would be happy to get a cup of tea and pained in its absence. Look at our life closely and we will know that on many occasions, the pleasure-pain duo crosses physical realm and enters into subtle and invisible arena. Naturally it is beyond any logic.

Sometimes the mind pops up in its naked form, and the display is not always agreeable. Because we are trained to behave in a certain way, we mostly behave in a socially accepted way. It does not mean that we have really accepted the way. The mind rebels, the body rebels. But from experience we know the limit of rebellion. Beyond that we sing the set tunes. I understand this ‘come back’ lifestyle; because fighting everyday requires energy and commitment. Better to reserve the energy for the right moment and the right cause. This too is a very much taught principle.

I remember an incidence which taught me lessons about my mind, lessons about importance of training mind and lessons about not assuming myself with so much of certainty. I realized that at times I can be something which I never thought of and never want to be.

I was in the midst of Vipassna training. It is 12 day course, which presents various tools and techniques to know ourselves. For 10 full days, you are not supposed to talk a single word. You do not read, you do not write, you do not exercise. You do not follow any religious rules and norms. You just follow the instructions of the teacher and meditate. From 4.30 in the morning to 9.00 in the night, you are expected to meditate. In nutshell, you work on your body and mind, observe their responses and don’t react to it. It is the way Gautama the Buddha meditated.

I was in one such training course. I have found the training very beneficial, so I follow all the rules. There is a huge meditation hall. More than 300 people can sit together in that hall. I was given a seat in the first row. I was sitting there. After a small break, when the session was to restart, other people were coming in. One woman was just walking in front of me. I suddenly thought, “If now I stretch my leg, she will definitely fall down. It will be a fun.”

I do not know why I thought so. I did not know the woman so there was no cause to have any ill-feeling towards her. For so many years, I have assumed that I am incapable of causing unnecessary pain to others. Even my enemies (I don’t have any enemy is my assumption!) would not imagine me doing this. I am supposed to be honest, sincere, helpful, selfless, committed, hard working, peaceful person. I mean that is my general image outside. And here I was: thinking about troubling a person who has not at all troubled me.

Why such a horrible thought? What was I trying to achieve? Form where did it come?
I did not understand then. Nor do I understand it today.

I admit that some people have harassed me without any apparent cause. May be for them if there is a feeling of revenge deep in my mind, I can at least understand the logic. I can deal with the ugliness because there is some cause to be ugly, there is some provocation. Generally I control such ugliness because I overcome it logically, rationally. I decide not to react, not to respond. I control myself and take pride in the act of self-control. I ignore such people and do not allow them to affect my life. It is comparatively easy.

But in this case without any external stimulus, my mind was in its full ugliness. It was without any external provocation, and so it was more serious. It was rooted in me, and not outside. It emerged from within. I guess habit and manners are good enough to deal with external world. But for dealing with inner world, one needs to master instincts – the most illogical idea.

I know that I have to deal with this Dil-e-Nadan in a much more subtle way, in a friendly but firm manner. Others may not understand the loopholes in my mind, but I understand. Working with others for a change is easy; transforming oneself is an act of much deeper conflict.

But as the saying goes, recognition is half the solution. May be my mind has indeed helped me by showing its wickedness.

Dil –e- Nadan has its unique way of working with me for my transformation. I appreciate it and I enjoy it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

65. Re-Charging

Sometimes I feel very tired. I am aware that it is more mental than physical state.

I have just returned after a week long travel to Indore, Bairasiya and Bhopal. I was there to facilitate two workshops on ‘Women Development’ which included Gender sensitization. For last many years I am conducting these workshops, in different states, at different locations, for different persons. When I look back at it, it seems that neither I am growing nor others are learning. It is like ‘teaching’ ‘a, b, c, d….’ to different groups. It is a mechanical, repetitive work without much scope for innovation and creativity. It is not only physically draining but psychologically frustrating because nothing seems to be happening. It does not seem to make any difference to anyone except me.

Whatever I do out of compulsion is mostly boring and lacks vitality. If I stick to an idea without introspection, without adding value to it, it becomes frustrating. This type of workshop is clearly becoming one such situation.

After the first workshop I was completely drained and decided to give up the theme for few months. Sometimes there is more wisdom in giving up ideas, than sticking to it.

Next day, I visit a field area. The field office is very well kept – lot of useful display and demonstration material. The team enthusiastically shows me those and shares lot of experiences of how it is used. It is beautiful. Then we travel 20 kilometers to reach a village, where a meeting is organized. On the way, the vehicle stops at the roadside because a group of 20 people wants to meet us. So, like a political leader I get down. They welcome us – brief us about the work of the village committee. They are enthusiastic, want to work together. They invite us for next visit. I appreciate their work; wish them well for the future work.

We reach village Kala Pipala. The crowd of hundred women and men is eagerly waiting for us. They have arranged for a loudspeaker so that the meeting proceeding should reach to those who are not present in the meeting. The Bhajani Mandali is singing. They invite me to light the lamp and worship the image of Goddess Saraswati. I follow the instructions of a local lady.

Then the women come forward – with their purdah and sing a song. Bhajani Mandal youths sing with the harmonium and dholak. After one song, the chief singer asks me whether I would like to listen to another song. Their first song is so energetic that I say ‘Yes’ without thinking much about the time. Just as they are starting, I ask them to include women in their songs. I mean - the song invites ‘brothers of village to join development work’ – I ask them to also invite ‘sisters of village to join development work’. To my surprise the group understands my feelings. They immediately modify their next song. I am delighted. Ah! Everything is not wasted after all!

Then I am asked to address the meeting. I do not really know what to say. I congratulate the villagers for the good work they are doing. I congratulate women and men for working together for village development. It is a new work – just nine months old. Their enthusiasm may wane when the benefit sharing starts. The conflict generally starts when the initial enthusiasm does not bring in equitable results. I do not want to discourage them, but I do want to share my concern. I tell them the old story of a king and his subjects. The story has many ‘values’ which I do not approve of, but people like stories, they are generally effective.

The kingdom is facing famine. Someone asks the king to bath the village God with milk. This will please the God and rain will arrive. The king asks his subjects to bring a small pot of milk. Everybody brings water instead of milk thinking that others will anyway bring milk. Ultimately there is not a drop of milk, just water.

The villagers all are smiling. Their eyes are shining. Many are nodding. Some are mischievously looking at some other person in the group. They can relate to the story, which means I have hit the right cord. They get the moral of the story right. Everybody should contribute to good work. It takes a lot to create good work, and just a moment of laziness, jealousy, inactiveness can destroy the good work. After the formal function is over, an old lady approaches me. She pats me for telling a good story. She is very happy with me. Her smile is a reward, which I value. An appreciation from someone who is wise is indeed valuable. I know there is no artificiality in that response. It is spontaneous. For a moment, I am happy with myself.

This series of incidences kindles life in my tired mind. I realize that what I am telling to people applies to me too. People here have tougher life; their battle is lot more fierce than mine. They hardly get rewards, theirs is a thankless job. Still they work. A moment of laziness, a wave of inactivity, momentary loss of interest on my part would destroy what I have created. I cannot afford to take a break now. For that matter I can never take a break. I cannot have the luxury of leaving the things unfinished. I have to complete what I have begun. By leaving in between, I won’t betray only myself, but would betray all those who supported me directly or indirectly. I am aware that whatever would be the result, I have to continue working.

I get a new perspective regarding what work is all about. I am re-charged. Thanks to Kala Pipla women and men.

Friday, November 13, 2009

64. Inverter

Please, do not misunderstand me.

But I like darkness. The deep darkness that occasionally envelopes me is a treat not only for eyes but also for permanently rushing mind. I have not installed any power backup instruments at home. When there is power cut in the night, I just relax and enjoy the darkness.

Many of our likings are rooted in our childhood. Though I was born in a town, I was brought up in a very small village. In the first ten to twelve years of my life, I did not know what electricity was. I still vividly remember the magic moment, when I first came across it. It was the ultimate luxury then. I fear with the climate change and power cuts, it will become a luxury again in my old age.

When you are not surrounded by shining lights, you learn to find fun in darkness. No doubt there were ghost stories. The fear of snakes and scorpions made life miserable. One could not read and write after the Sunset. The kerosene was limited and one could not study during night. Actually one never thought of doing anything important after the Sunset – of course dinner and sleep were the exceptions.

In the night the only bus came to our village. All villagers gathered at the bus stand, and waited for the arrival of the bus. Hardly anyone came from outside. But the village gathered as if each one had a guest arriving by that bus. The road passed through small hills. So, the headlights of the bus were visible from miles. They were there, and they were invisible. I still remember that ‘hide and seek’ game of the headlights. I always wondered whether the headlights were seen first or whether I heard the sound of the bus engine first. I still do not know who travels faster – light or sound? The confusion is deep rooted in me.

In the summer, the front-yard was cleaned and watered in the evening. I was always enchanted by the innumerable stars in the sky. The moon in the early morning was so majestic that I did not sleep in the nights – just to watch that moon. And nobody labeled this as ‘insomnia’ then. Early morning also brought the cold wind, and the first ray of the Sun was indeed life giving.

Monsoon nights were special. The lightening added spice to the environment. The rain tunes differed at various stages. The frogs started singing. The rushing water played around.

Evenings generally came slowly and silently. Everything became quiet. As if the whole world around went to sleep. The toils of the life were forgotten. It was like going back to a world where there were no problems, no stress, just joy and dreams.

I liked the surrounding darkness. I actually waited for it. It was the time, I could talk to myself. It was the time; I did not have to face others. It was the time, I could be alone. It was the time I could dream. It was the time I forgot to ask myself purpose of life. To be left alone was a boon. To experience wind, moon and stars was luxury. To face the fear was an important training. I loved it to the core. There was the knowledge that darkness does not last long, after every night there is a Sunrise….. which was influential in shaping my life.

For middle school education, I shifted to a small city. There was electricity, but it was very tender in nature. I mean with a little shower, with a wave of wind, it used to stop functioning. And even in that small town, many nights were spent in full darkness. The kind of darkness: where one cannot see even oneself. I had plenty of it in life. I actually grew with that kind of darkness around me. But it was always comfortable to have the presence of darkness. It created coolness, happiness, it filled the vacuum, and it was always so peaceful.

Recently the cyclone ‘Fiana’ just touched my city. For one night, there was no power. But I could not get that enveloping darkness around me. Couple of my neighbours have ‘inverter’ installed in their house. The cancer center adjacent to my apartment, naturally immediately turns on generator. The headlights of vehicles on the highway bring a piece of light in my house. I do not get darkness around me. I was just feeling aghast about the generators and invertors.

But then I realized generator and inverters too have their value. It is necessary that we store some positive energy when it is available and use it when there is no light, no hope. I understand that for everyone darkness cannot mean peace and opportunity to be introvert – due to some experiences people may have fear about the darkness.

I agree that those who want light have the right to get it. I am aware that unfortunately most of them do not have opportunity to get it. I understand that we need a real inverter to change this situation.

But somehow I miss the deep darkness. I tend to blame inverters.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

63. If I Were a Baby Again…

If I were a Baby Again…
I would not write a blog and crave for hits, comments, and votes. I would seek love and attention from all, though.
I would not work to earn money. I would do things just for the joy and fun I get from it.
I would not have to follow manners just to please people around. I would be my own self, not bothering about others’ opinion about me.
I would not have to pretend that I am good, unselfish, and helpful and so on. I would accept myself as I am because I won’t know the art of comparing and competition.
I would not have to carry on an artificial smile. I will have a natural one.
I would not have to control hunger, emotions, thought processes. I would be the Queen of my world, does not matter if I am the only single person in that world.
I would not have to observe religious rules and regulations. I would be in communion with the God, if IT has no objections to have me.
I would not have to exhibit my knowledge. I can carry on my ignorance happily.
I would not be ashamed of tears, failures. I would fall again and again and learn through those experiences.
I would not be frightened about anyone or anything. I would treat all as my equal.. and may have some fight for fun.
I would not have to be responsible. I would be naturally attached to everything around.
I would not have to worry about sugar and blood pressure. I would consume anything I want, anytime I want.
I would not rush for shelter. I would enjoy sun, moon, rain, sky.. everything around me.
I would not crave to have crowds around me. I would be able to entertain myself alone with the world around.
I would not be frightened of death. I would not know what life is then and would always be experimenting and trying to grasp as if everything is anew.

Well, I realize that though I am supposed to be an adult, I am still a baby.. I would like to remain a baby forever.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

62. Idea Matters

No, it has nothing to do with Idea Cellular!

Some people present more ideas – not because they are more intelligent or smarter than others. In the organized sector, those who have more access to information by virtue of education, authority, designation, and power etc. apparently seem to be more creative. May be, they are more articulate and they have enough platforms. But in most of the cases they do not have original ideas; they pick it up from others, frankly speaking from their subordinates.

The other day, our group was upset because what one person presented as ‘his idea’ was originally discussed by our group with him prior to his presentation. Initially, I too was irritated. It is not a matter of credit, but matter of decency. Such small moments have the power to expose and underline one’s character. We decided, and wisely so, to leave the issue. To us, implementation of that particular idea was more important than the issue of credit.

After the first emotional turbulence was over, I was thinking about how this particular idea came to my mind. Then I remembered to have read a book – from where the idea originated. The book might be based on individual creative idea or some collective exploration; I do not know exactly what the process was. One of my senior colleagues had discussed similar thoughts with me about almost a decade ago. I have been discussing this thought with many people over the years, and they must have directly or indirectly contributed to the evolution of the idea. The idea must have taken clearer shape with each such conversation, each such interaction.

So, what I thought as ‘my idea’ was not purely mine. It belonged to others; only I had become too possessive about it. Why should I get hurt about someone not acknowledging the thought process of my group? Can’t two different people have the same idea at the same time? History presents lot of such incidences. Some are lucky enough to put idea at right time and right place, some never get the opportunity. But in the end they must be happy to realize that their idea after all was ‘workable’.

I use many ideas in day to day life, about which I never think of thanking anybody or giving credit to anyone. For example, at the moment I am using the computer; do I know how many people invested into making of the PC? Do I really thank my English teacher? I used online typing tutorials to increase my typing speed, do I thank them? Do I know the name of the person who produced this computer table? Do I know any name that developed MS office? I am not aware of the efforts of the team who developed ‘blogging’ and do not know which team is maintaining this blog.

My whole life is based on ideas presented and developed by others… why should I be upset if someone is using ‘my’ idea – which I confess is not completely my idea?

It is time we learn to appreciate the idea. If possible, appreciate the person behind the idea, but personal worship, personal credit does not matter. No idea is static, it keeps on changing. The real tribute to idea is to practice it and to contribute to its evolution.

Because we cannot thank all those who brought light to us, we too should not expect any gains, any returns.

The Idea Matters.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

61. What Matters Is…

One of my young friends wanted to celebrate. So, we went to a famous coffee shop.

He ordered me, “Read normally, and don’t practice your Urdu here.”
No, I cannot read Urdu. But the boy knows how we- GenO (meaning generation old) behave. When it comes to reading menu cards in hotels, I read like Urdu, from right to left. Looking at the price, I decide whether a particular food item is ‘worth’ ordering. So does his father and mother. The boy had watched three of us helplessly during his teens. Now he is earning loads of money. Many times when especially the young generation talks about their salary, I get confused. What I think as their annual salary is actually their monthly salary. And also their expenditure patterns and amounts are beyond my grasp.

“What would you have?” the boy asked.
“Isn’t it just a coffee shop?” I asked.
“Common aunty, there are many things which you can consume before, with and after coffee. Name it and you will have it. Please aunty, don’t bother about the costs, and don’t give me any lecture now. I want to spend money for you. Don’t spoil my moment”, he pleaded. Realizing his sentiments, I decided to enjoy the moment. But in such restaurants, I cannot understand the dish by just reading names. Cheese Sandwich was the only item I could understand, so I decided to take it. And I like cheese sandwich. The young man went and brought it for me. He was sorry that I chose such a simple dish.

We ate. We chatted. I am a good listener. Actually his parents are my friends, but he too is my friend. Because I write blog, I chat, I am on orkut and facebook; he feels that I am much better than his parents!! So, he shares many things with me. He trusts me.

Then it was time for coffee. It was a self service kind of coffee shop. I too went to the counter.
“Coffee”, I answered to the man (again a young man) on the counter.
“With sugar or without sugar?” was the next question. I wanted sugar.
“How much sugar?” the third question. I answered that too.
“You would like to have milk? “ I answered.
"Hot or cold, M'am?" the next one was ready.
“Would you like to have cream?”
I lost my patience. Little irritably and little humorously I said, “I just want a good cup of coffee. How many questions you are asking my dear young man!”

He must have been used to irritation of people of my age. But he was a witty boy. “If you want something of your choice in life, madam, you have to ask and answer many questions.” He answered coolly.

I was surprised. I smiled. “That is what a Philosophy professor was saying to his friend the other day.” He honestly explained. Then he smiled at me and turned to the next customer.

Yes, he was right. One has to go through unending questionnaire before finally getting what one wants. I appreciated the idea.

After few months, I went to Kanyakumari and Pondicherry. I like to travel alone. After reaching Kanyakumari, I went to the canteen. And I asked for a cup of coffee.

And I get a hot cup of coffee, with just the right taste and right aroma. I enjoy the cup of coffee not only one or two days but for about ten days. I don’t have to ask and answer questions. I do not have to split my head over issues like quantity and quality. Without any headache I get what I want. I am content with what I get. I am satisfied. I am fully convinced that whatever I am paying is fully justified because of the returns.

I was just comparing the two situations. The first was trying too much to get what you want and the second was getting your wishes fulfilled automatically. Ultimately what mattered in both the situation was ‘a good cup of coffee’.

Sometimes we are caught in the first situation and some other time we are lucky enough to be in the second situation. Life is combination of both. If one is lucky enough, one would get a congenial atmosphere. So, without trouble one would achieve. With hard luck, one will have to find way through the 'not so congenial' surroundings.

What ultimately matters is to achieve what we want to achieve.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

60. Relevance

Thursday is the ‘official’ power cut or load shedding day in my city. From 9.00 in the morning till 5.30 in the evening, there is no electricity. With not so efficient UPS backup at my workplace, I am left with some ‘free time’ on Thursdays. I have a normal human psychology, I mean when the PC is not working; I remember a hell lot of work which could be done only with computers. So, earlier I used to feel a bit irritated with power cuts, lack of backups etc. But once I realized that there was nothing I could do about it, I started looking for alternatives.

One task which always needs my ‘most urgent attention’ is the cleaning of papers lying on the table. (You may also like to read my earlier post ‘Clean Act’. Please, visit http://thistimethattime.blogspot.com/2008/11/clean-act.html ) I have as many as three trays on my table, and whatever I do there are always some papers in those trays. Add some 50+ files, full of papers and you will understand my plight.

I might have many faults, but I have my strengths too. Once I understand the problem, I try to solve it with full determination. So, I religiously take up ‘cleaning’ work, whenever I have such opportunities. And at least once in a month, my dustbin looks like this :)

The other day I was just wondering about my efficiency. Why I am throwing away so many papers? In the first place, it means I am gathering too many unnecessary and unwanted things. Does it mean that my decisions are not right? Does it mean that my preferences are not right? Does it mean that I invest my energy in wrong things? Does this indicate that I am spending much of my time in the things I do not like or I do not want to do? Does this apply to my whole life?

Certainly not. Because most of the things I am throwing away today, were very important at a point of time. What I am keeping today as ‘important’ will have to go to dust bin one day. These papers stay with me until they are important, but their importance is not lifelong. Their power lies in their utility. The moment they cease to be useful, they are out, they are to be thrown away. The secret of their existence is their relevance. The moment they cease to be relevant, they become garbage.

What is true about papers, applies too well to human life. Our importance too is temporary. Whatever power position we might have, it is only temporary. People would value us only until we are ‘useful’ and ‘relevant’. No matter what qualities you have, if you are not relevant, you will be treated as dust.

To be ‘relevant’ is the most important challenge one faces in life.

But we need to ask ourselves: what I am doing today as a compulsion of life, is it relevant to the purpose of my life? After all people’s perceptions regarding relevance keep on changing, but the 'consistency in lifelong relevance' is something which we should strive for – whether we are treated like a king/queen or like a beggar! None of the ‘great’ personalities were treated as ‘relevant’ by their contemporaries.

So, a time comes in our life when ‘relevance’ becomes the most ‘irrelevant’ value!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

59. Building Bridges

I am in the midst of Oriya speaking women and children. They do not speak Hindi and I do not speak Oriya. But we interact. I do not have a translator. There are a couple of Oriya speaking men with me, but they have to cater the needs of three non-Oriya men. I know that if I depend on translators, I will not get anything. So, I move alone.

Women gather around me. I ask them about their homes. I indicate that I want to see their homes. They take me inside. After the visit to first two villages I have picked up few Oriya phrases. Somehow I manage to understand how many children they have, whether they go to school, whether the water source is nearby or not, whether the women are in SHG, how many cows they have, what do they eat everyday, where is the forest from which they bring fuel wood … and so on. Sometimes there is confusion. For example, I ask: how many children are there in Anganwadi. The woman keeps on saying ‘Gutte’ meaning ‘one’. I keep on asking the same question. Another woman runs away and fetches a child –a three year old boy. Then she indicates that this is the only son of the woman I am talking to. So, I am not getting the answers to my questions. But it is alright. We all smile.

For the women and kids, it is time to laugh. For the first time, they are meeting someone who is not able to speak their language. They encourage me when I speak up one or two Oriya words. They are very supportive.

We visit eight different villages and each village has something to offer me. I see tribal fathers taking care of their kids.

I meet a woman who is speech-impaired. She pulls me in her house to show me preparation of chutney. I meet three women, who are ready to take me up into the Niyamgiri hills to the temple of Dharani Mata. The only condition is I have to wear a saree. Dharani Mata does not allow women wearing salwar-kameez. I meet two women who want to show me that they can write their names, and they confidently write their names in my notebook.

One woman wants me to write my name on her palm, I write it in English, one kid reads it loudly and they all laugh merrily.

I meet an old woman, who is running a grocery shop. When I take her photograph, she demands a copy of this photograph for displaying it in her shop. She speaks in Oriya, but I can make it. In one village, girls fetch me to a spot, where women take bath, wash utensils and clothes. It is a 50 feet climb-down, and they want me to go there. Two women hold my hands so that I do not fall down. They are laughing when they see me climbing down with so much of caution.

Outside village temple, there is a small stone. I sit there for a minute and a tribal man rushes to me. He explains that the stone is a goddess, I apologize and he accepts the apology without hesitation. He informs me about the temple in details, indicating that he is not really angry with me for my misconduct- because he knows I had no bad intentions.

I am in the vicinity of Niyamgiri hills. This is my first visit to this area and it is ‘love at first sight’ with Niyamgiri. It is beautiful. There is something very serene about the hill. I am fully aware of the unrest in the hills; so I had a dilemma about this visit. But I choose to come here, and I am happy that I came here.

Just three days in the midst of those communities and so much of enrichment. It is kind of magic for me. How many times I have experienced this? I mean mingling with the crowds, even when we do not understand each others' language? But let me tell you, it is fun. Even without language you can build bridges. May be because you can’t advice them or you can’t make long speeches, you build better bridges.

I return to Pune and observe the festive environment. Everybody is naturally in a celebration mood. I still remember those children and those women. I remember the poverty. I remember their unventilated houses. I remember only dal-chawal in their plates. I remember women climbing down 50 feet to take a bath. My heart is full of such memories.

I need to build bridges between the luxuries I have and the lack of basic amenities people in the remote parts of the country have.

Otherwise, I will walk miles but I will not reach anywhere. Then the bridges would be useless.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

58. Missed Heartbeats

While listening to that statement I missed few heartbeats. How many? One, two, three... I cannot say.

As I am a ‘Monitoring and Evaluation’ practitioner, I have a habit of looking for quantity in processes and qualitative processes hidden behind numbers. But at that moment, I was too shocked to be my usual self.

The taxi driver said to me, “But he has done a good job. Nothing wrong, he has done his duty.”

Ok. Let me begin from the beginning.

Last Thursday, I hired a taxi from Mumbai Central station to Dadar. On the way the taxi driver started talking to me, about rain, about elections etc.

We crossed through Arthur Road Jail, where half of the road was closed. There were many police vehicles parked, (kids were playing around those.) This was instrumental in traffic congestion and the driver cursed. Not having traveled through the road for many years, I just remarked, “Is some sort of VIP coming in or leaving jail today?”

“No, aunty. It is for a single person. For many months it is like this. You remember what happened in Mumbai in November? Ajamal Kasab is in this jail.” The driver informed.

I sighed. Yes, I very much remember those sad days. “Hmm. Now the facts are known, they should really punish him at the earliest. Why it is taking so much of time, I do not understand.” I was thinking aloud.

And then the taxi driver made the statement which shocked me to the core.

I was stunned. Was I facing a terrorist? I was not sure.

Was he trying to provoke me? Was he sarcastic? Was he honestly sharing his ideas with me because my outward appearance does not give any indication about my religious identity? I was not sure.

I kept my calm. I looked at the driver. I tried to understand his response. I had two options. One was to discuss with the unknown driver. Other was to keep quiet. I decided to talk.

“What good is in killing innocent people?” I asked in a natural peaceful tone.

Until then the taxi driver was talking to me coolly. But now he fired up. ‘Why none of you asked this question when thousands were killed during partition? Why none of you ask this question when riots happen and we are targeted? Why people like you keep quiet when we are forced to run away – leaving everything behind? Why?”

Even if this taxi driver was not some sort of a terrorist, he was sure to kill me in a road accident :), because he was looking behind and talking to me all the time.

I listened to him. Then I said, “In the past some people have made mistakes, but repeating it knowingly is not going to solve the problem.” I appealed to his conscience by saying, “Think about those who lost their dear and near ones. Think about those families who still miss them. Try to understand their suffering and pain. What was the fault of those who were killed so brutally? What wrong they had done? Are not there alternate ways to solve problems? If we cannot produce life, why take it?’

I kept on talking. For me the mission of that moment was to bring this man out of illusion of Kasab’s actions, Kasab’s ideology, if he has any. My whole energy was used for thinking about how to appeal his heart, how to make him see things differently, how to change his view about what happened in Mumbai on 26th November.

Initially he argued but then he listened. He opened. His face smoothened. His frown disappeared. He actually smiled. He agreed. He said, “Yes, there is a point in what you say. Kasab should not have killed those who were at CST station. They were innocent people like you and me”.

Then he asked me, “Sister, are you Hindu?”

I did not answer his question. I did not ask his religion. I asked from which state he has come to Mumbai. Fortunately recently I had visited that state, and the very district which he came from. When I spoke about the area and mentioned names of couple of villages, he completely mellowed down. He talked about suffering of people in his area and how things could change. He felt the connection. He kept on talking about his village, about his childhood days.

Within half an hour, the taxi reached Dadar.
“How much to pay?” I asked.
“Nothing”, the driver replied.
I was confused. I repeated the question.
“Sister, this ride is a gift from me. You treated me with respect; you talked to me very kindly and politely. You know my state; you work for my people; so I trust you. I think things will change for better for all of us.” He was honestly speaking to me.

I gave him a hundred rupee note and rushed to the bus stand. I purchased ticket and took my seat. I was completely drained by this conversation. I still miss a heartbeat when I remember that half an hour.

India may or may not have enemies outside, but they are definitely inside. We are in constant danger. We can be finished any time, not by outsiders but by insiders. Even on that fateful day Kasab and his men could act out their ideas, because some of us (Indians) helped them, either knowingly or unknowingly. Without our support, nobody can destroy us.

The flame is burning. That can take any form.
If we are awake, we will use the flame for good.

But if we ignore it, we surely would miss many more heartbeats, many more times.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

57. The Indian Dream

Oh! You are speaking to me. Sorry. You know, you were saying ‘Uncle’, so I thought you were calling someone else. You see, I am old enough to be your great great grandfather.

Do I have time to talk to you? There is ample time. Sometimes I observe silence, but today I choose to talk. Someone has approached me after a long time. Why don’t you sit down?

Dream? I told you I am very old now. I haven’t slept well for last many years. No blood pressure. I am a naturopathy practitioner. And you know, fasting is the best solution for any health trouble. At times, the doctors had given up hope of my life, but I survived. I am a very stubborn old man. I am just under a little stress. Problems are there everywhere. And when you grow old, you cease to daydream. The realities of life are so harsh that one forgets to dream.

Aha! You are very determined. I like such people. Now I see that you are a mature adult, and you still talk about dreams enthusiastically. Good.

Yes, when I was young, and you see you can be young even at 70 or 80… what was I talking? Oh, yes I had many dreams. There might be some people who live with only one dream, but frankly speaking I had many dreams. I have written and talked a lot about those dreams, because I believe in sharing dreams, I believe in dreaming together. Did I write a book? Oh! Don’t bother about the past.

I had a dream that my brothers and sisters would stay peacefully together without fighting. But I was destined to see the separation. How painful were those days! I still feel that I had missed something vital that time. How could it happen in front of my eyes? And even today their children continue to fight. Reason? There is no reason at all. My family allowed the guest to interfere in our family matters, and that was the beginning of the problem. If I get the same life again, I will correct some of my mistakes. But alas, life never gives such opportunities.

I had a dream that my family – it is very big now – would be healthy and happy; each one of them will have enough to live a good life. But I see that some of them are still very poor – in ‘absolute poverty’ in your modern language. Some are wasting money in unnecessary consumerism and luxuries. The disparity is increasing. Yes, I use modern words. One has to change with the times to keep oneself relevant.

I was saying that most poor are still exploited. They are unhappy. How do I know? In my times I was known to understand people around very well. They said I could read the pulse of the people. Can’t I understand my own people? They speak different language nowadays, but in the heart they remain the same – for good and for bad both!

I had a dream that my children would learn good things in life, a kind of education which would make them better human beings, better instruments to serve the society. But they all followed English education, have become babus and are not bothered about their roots. Many of my ancestors and friends had taken trouble to bring the family out of ditch. But alas, all of them are forgotten now. Only on their birth and death anniversaries they get garlands! That is all.

By the way, how many machines do you have in your home? I am old, so do not understand these new machines. Good, I am happy that you use hand washed cotton clothes, and I believe you wash them yourself. You wash utensils yourself, you walk a lot. Good, I don’t mind talking to you.

I like people working more with hands than machines. No, No, I am not against technology. But at what cost your modern technology is used? I believe in appropriate technology. You know, production by masses is important and not mass production. Who has said it? You think that you have read it somewhere? How do I know? What if I say, I said it? Do not laugh. We Indians have this wrong habit of worshiping person and not paying attention to idea.

I can tell you a lot about my dreams. I have time, but you don’t seem to have. Sure, you can leave. It is alright.

Thanks. I do not want to be dropped anywhere, actually I have already been dropped. Yes, it is lonely here but I love this place. My family? They are busy in what you call a rat race. Who has the time to see that the old man is missing from home? Don’t worry. I am used to it. They will find me when they need me. No, I am not angry, I am just worried. No, I do want your jerkin. It is not made in India…I think so.

Name? What is there in name? Give me any name. My children call me “Bapu” – that means father. You can call me Bapu if you wish.

Ok, you insist. I like this spirit. I always insisted in my life, I never gave up easily. When you explore truth, you have to stand and fight, I know it. I can’t deny you the truth.

My name is Gandhi. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

My child! Don’t be so surprised and shocked. I did not tell my name earlier, because you did not ask.

Don’t think that I do not know I was assassinated sixty one years ago! I know I cannot have physical existence. I do not have.

Don’t bother about me. The idea matters, not the person. Don’t worship person, grasp the idea, live it fully, make the idea your life. Each generation has to dream anew, invest energy anew. The passion has to be regenerated to keep the movement on. Nothing but only guidance is given. You have to walk yourself in search of the truth, in search of the reality, in search of happiness, in search of equity, in search of peace.

All the time you are asking me about my dreams. But actually you are talking to me in your dream.

It is time to be awake. It is time to act.

Dream Well, my child. Dream Big. Dream for India. Dream for the Poor. Dream for the Neglected. Dream for the Exploited. Dream for the Humanity. Dream Collectively. Dream with all your Capacity. Dream with full consciousness. I pray God that all your dreams be fulfilled.

You have got it right: No more personal dreams. Only The Indian Dream.

Remembering Gandhiji on his birth anniversary entails following his ideas. The book ‘Hind Swarajya’, Gandhiji’s dream for India, was first published in 1909. To live some of his ideas would be one of the best ‘INDIAN DREAMS’.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

56. At Last...

It is about 9.00 in the morning when I see her. No, I do not know her, and I do not talk to her. I am aware that taking this photograph is an invasion on her privacy. But I take it to remind myself the burden women carry in their life.

I am traveling from Munger (Bihar) to a small tribal hamlet. On the way we have stopped at a dhaba for breakfast. Anticipating non-availability of hygienic food my team has carried bread, butter and jam. So, in the midst of poverty, I am having a luxury breakfast. I am traveling in a car, which has air-conditioning facility. I have packaged water bottle with me. I have instruments like mobile and digicam. I have enough money in pocket and I have enough food. My life stands in full contradiction with the woman who has to carry this burden almost everyday.

We move away. I see men sitting on the top of the bus and tempo all through my journey in the state.

The transport facility is so scarce, that people have to travel like this. Inside the vehicle there is crowd. It is humid and hot. Those sitting on the top of the bus at least get enough air to breathe. I do not know what is happening to those sitting inside the vehicle – and women have to sit inside. Another burden they carry. I see my life in full contradiction with those traveling on the bus-top.

We reach at the end of the road. A tribal (Santhal community) young man is there to receive us and guide us towards the hamlet. He is speaking fluent Hindi and is not at all shy. As we are walking through paddy fields, I have to pay full attention to the marked walking path. One moment here and there, and I would slip in the mud. I can neither enjoy the conversation nor the scenic beauty around.

We reach a small hamlet. A bucketful of water is brought for us. Within five minutes women gather in the community hall. They are surrounded by children. Men too come to listen. The hall is packed. I sit on the chair. Generally I sit on the ground but today I cannot. On the road were many thorny grasses, my salwar is full of those thorns. If I sit cross legged, thorns are sure to trouble me, so I sit in the chair. The local men and women walk through these thorny fields regularly. There is no shop in the hamlet, no dispensary, nothing. For everything people have to walk for at least five kilometers. They live with the thorny grasses happily. I see my life in full contradiction with the life of these tribal people.

One of my responsibilities is to address such meetings. Actually I do not teach them much but I learn a lot from them. The hamlet name is Vannarkola. There are only 36 households in the hamlet. Electricity polls exist, but there is no electricity. Women and children are malnourished. I apologize for not knowing their ‘tribal’ language. They all enjoy my ignorance in a healthy way – ‘it is alright’ kind of expression on their faces. Most families own land – a small land of course. Women have formed couple of Self Help Groups. Some have participated in agriculture development program. I talk about different things.

I pass on the baton to my colleague and come out of the hall. I like this hamlet. The houses are small, with mud walls. I see green paddy fields around and the sky is clear blue. There is deep peace in the environment. I fully enjoy the moment, knowing well that I would never get it in the city.

My team comes out in search of me. They start talking about different aspects of the development program. I leave that peaceful moment behind and jump into the discussion. Well, a lot of things could be done here. We walk through the hamlet, open the doors (in the absence of its owner) and glance at the inner part of some houses. I meet a 10 year girl, whose name is ‘Gungee’. A man is carrying a small child on his shoulders, whose name is ‘Khushabu’. I see utensils, clothes, goats, cows, and birds. I get a feel that ‘this is a fine place’. And again, I see my life in full contradiction with the hamlet. One enjoys such remote hamlets when one’s life is not blocked into it. As I have a comfortable place to stay, I can appreciate mud house. What if I am compelled to stay in it?

The program ends. The SHG is providing tea and biscuits to all those who are gathered. I notice that the kids are given only biscuits. In the eyes of the kids, I see a wish for tea. I invite them to dip their biscuit in my cup of tea. Without hesitation, a child dips a biscuit. Then comes the second child, then the third and so on. I see their smiling faces, the happiness in their eyes.

And I see my life in full contradiction with these kids. For them, just a little tea to dip a biscuit is a source of such a tremendous joy. And for me?

We leave. A group of women and men walk with us about a couple of kilometers, just to see us off. We talk, we smile, we laugh, we plan, we promise to meet again. The feeling of closeness is mutual. The joy in meeting each other is mutual. The wish to meet again is mutual. The connectedness is mutual. The wish to hold hands is mutual. The smile, the happiness is mutual. The bond is mutual.

At last, there is no contradiction.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

55. PWS

It was a cool Saturday in the month of July. I was not feeling well that day, wanted to take some time off. However, I had committed meeting Sachin at 9.30 in the morning. He was coming from Deharadun for some meeting. His friend Jai Prakash had e-mailed the meeting agenda to me, but frankly I had not paid attention. The meeting was in the campus of world known IT company, which was another attraction. So, finally I decided to go.

The moment my auto rickshaw stopped, a young smiling man came forward to receive me. “Are you Savita?” he asked, and when I smiled affirmatively, he pleasantly said “I am Jai”. I was astonished to find such a young man to be friend of Sachin. I could not get the connection at that moment. The other young man M too introduced himself. I started wondering what this meeting was all about.

After all the formalities of security check, photo pass for the day, leaving pen drive at the reception counter etc, I entered the classroom. Sachin was talking to some people. Everything was still hazy.

After a good breakfast (thanks to Jai), we had a round of introduction. There were about 20 people, mostly young, all well educated, enthusiastic and smart. They were meeting for last few months, but it was their first day-long meeting, with some new faces.

We watched a movie ‘UNSPEAKABLE’ – a Canadian documentary based on the interviews of People Who Stammer (PWS). The documentary touched the hearts of all participants. Everybody came forward to share what s/he felt about the documentary and in the process opened up a life canvas which till then was unknown to me.

Who can imagine that someone chooses only that food from the menu card, which s/he can utter easily without stammering? One man shared that he could not eat the famous ‘Baby Medu Vada’ in his canteen just because he feared that he would definitely stammer while uttering that word. Who can imagine that people chose certain career even when they did not like – just because it required almost no talking? Someone talked about the fear of pronouncing his name, so he always shied away from strangers. Many people shared how they could not instantly say ‘Yes Sir/Madam’ when the teacher was taking attendance, and they had to go and meet the teacher after the class to register presence.

I was observing all the speakers and sometimes I felt that the speaker changed the statement in the midst of talking. One participant explained it. He said, “Whenever a difficult word comes, I try to avoid it and say something else (easy) than what I had planned to say”. One man, a father of two kids, shared how he feels when his kids do no want him to place order when they visit a restaurant – fearing that the father would stammer. One woman explained how her friend is getting lonelier because of stammering. Some participants shared that: they speak in a hurry because they fear that they may stammer at any (next) moment.

Listening to all those experiences was touching. Because, I had never known this side of life. I had come across some people who stammered but had not given much thought to it. Sometimes I tried to ‘help’ stammering person by providing the right word – now I understand that this does not help him/her but rather makes him/her more conscious about stammering. Sometimes I had ‘helped’ such persons by taking charge of the situation and did all the talking myself – now I understand that by such action I did not really help the stammering person. I could understand the struggle this group (and many more people like them) goes through life, and I was motivated by their determination to overcome the situation and bring change. It was really an energizing and educative experience for me.

I was also feeling a bit awkward. I was a total stranger to them and they shared their heart’s concern with me, they had shown a great trust in me. I was not expected to be sympathetic and I was not supposed to support – I was to just understand. I was not sure whether my responses hurt them or whether I was unintentionally insensitive to them. I was not like them and still the group accommodated me with ease. Thanks, Pune PWS SHG.

How different God (Nature) has made all of us! How different challenges God (Nature) puts in front of us. We need to support each other so that everyone blooms and everyone has a good life. We need to form a group of ‘People Who Support’ (PWS) – irrespective of the similarities and differences. I am sure the PWS SHG is becoming a People Who Support group through their continuous interaction.

If you know anyone who stammers, motivate him/her to be associated with TISA (The Indian Stammering Association). For more information please visit

Friday, September 11, 2009

54.For Seven Heads?

Request: Please, forgive me if you find this post too full of self admiration.

A hectic week was ahead. On Sunday afternoon I had returned from a week long travel in Andhra Pradesh. On Tuesday evening was a conference call, for which I had to prepare. On Wednesday I was going to Delhi for a workshop, which needed some amount of preparatory reading. Return from Delhi on Saturday night, and travel to Gujarat Monday (next) early morning was the plan. In all, I needed to prepare for five different meetings within two days. Life was too short.

Monday morning I reach office and there is an invitation. The institution has long term relations with my organization, so I cannot reject. I am supposed to facilitate a session on ‘Women’s Empowerment’ on Thursday. I won’t be in town on that day. None of my colleagues are free to do me a favor. I have no option but to request the organizers for change of day – and Tuesday is the only possible day.

Monday night, I come home and prepare for the session.

When I reached the workshop venue, there were only four participants. Swine flu had scared the potential participants, hence the meager attendance. By the time I chatted with the workshop coordinator, two more people joined. Then we had formal inauguration - I spoke informally though – and we had snacks and tea. One hour spent in waiting, introduction and my ‘inaugural speech’.

By the time I started my session, one more participant came – so there were seven heads (– I am not including mine in the total for obvious reasons.) I was given two hours’ time for the session, and I took exactly that much time. I enjoyed the session and the participants’ verbal and non-verbal responses showed joy and satisfaction. They all forced me to lunch with them. After all the ‘give and take’ of cell number and e-mail id etc, I started back for office at 2.30 in the afternoon.

On the way, I suddenly remembered N. I was a full time activist then. N was Vice President. He had arrived in the city to conduct week long training. On the first day, only three participants appeared. I was completely disappointed and thought that canceling the training was the best way. To my utter amazement N had a full two hour session (which was the plan) with them. He was calm, quiet; he did not compromise with the content and with the quality of the delivery. After every five minutes I was looking at the wall clock, wishing to wind up the session and the event.

Immediately after his session was over; (and before the participants left ;) I suggested N that ‘we end the training here’. I was not bothered about putting such a suggestion to the Vice President. N was surprised. He asked, “Why? What is the reason?” I was impatient and said, “Do you mean that only for three people we all should waste so much of time and energy?”

N smiled. “Do you mean that those who did not come are more important than those who came? You should check your premise.”

I was taken aback by his response. However I was adamant. “Is not your time and energy more important? Don’t you think that you should utilize your time more effectively?” I was indeed rude to him. “I will plan some other activity, which will attract more participants”, I added.

N smiled again. He said, “Experience has taught me never to count on numbers, never to play for gallery. All good work needs a farmer like patience. You sow seeds at the smallest opportunity. Who knows, something will grow here too. If nothing grows, don’t feel guilty. Your job is to deliver irrespective of rewards. Do it for the sake of work, joy of work, excellence and duty. Never bring down the quality of work because there is nobody to appreciate. One should always give hundred percent. ”

I was touched by his sincerity and honesty. I gave up. But I was puzzled. I was not fully convinced. I did not understand him then. It has taken 25 years for me to understand what he said that day.

Today if someone challenges me for wasting half a day just for seven heads, my answer would be: I did it because I believed that I had something important to share. I did it because I trust that no good work is wasted. I did it because the cause mattered to me. I did it because I valued and respected those who were present. Less effort from me would have been an injustice. I did it not for any external gains but for the pure joy of working excellently. The work itself was rewarding.

I did not do anything for those seven heads. I did it for myself.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

53. Teachers: Aaj Kal

When I was studying in school, teachers’ day was not of a great relevance to me. No, we did not give flowers to teachers nor did eulogize them. Even during those times, I had a dilemma between Guru Poornima and Teachers’ Day. They generally appeared within a span of few weeks. ‘Why we celebrate two different days for the same event’ – was the question nobody liked me to ask. (Later I read that 5th September is not the real birth date of Dr. Radhakrishnan, it is his registered birth date!) Actually nobody liked me to ask any kind of question. They all wanted only answers and only those answers which they taught me to give. I thought it was profession which one was pushed into. So, I guess, I never wanted to be a teacher. And more than that I wanted the studentship to end as fast as it could.

During the last year in the school, all the students were ‘allowed’ to take a role of a teacher for one day… for one 35 minutes period to be exact. But I remember that I wasn’t interested in teaching anyone, because even then I knew that I could not. Somehow, I was pushed into that role, which I did not like.

But I have good memories of my teachers. The one in my primary school, who could write with both hands, was like a magician. The one in secondary school who became emotional while teaching a poem was exceptional – he taught me to look beyond expressed words. It opened a whole new game of ‘interpretation’ for me. I still deal with facts, interpretations, feelings, thoughts…. with enthusiasm. There was a time when I hated Mathematics. But one good teacher changed my view. He really made Mathematics a fun for me and later during the college days, my Mathematics teacher opened links of Mathematics and Philosophy to me. I can write a lot about my teachers. They have taught me a lot. Though I am not sure I picked up the right aspects of their teachings. So, don’t blame them for my faults and limitations :)

I thought that after completing my education, I will not have to listen to teachers. But I was completely wrong. I realized that learning never ends (good, otherwise what will I do if all learning is over, it would be almost like a death) and I kept on meeting teachers now and then. A traffic police not accepting the bribe (oh! Oh! Not me…) is my teacher. A Train Conductor treating a beggar very sympathetically is my teacher. A tribal woman teasing me “I know your language, but you don’t know mine, then what is the use of schooling?’ is my teacher. A woman who picks garbage from my residential complex teaches me about segregating disposable and non-disposable waste. Thousands of women dealing with domestic violence and alcohol abuse are my teachers. Some artist in the corner of the country engrossed in his art (not for livelihood) is my teacher. A bus driver, working on festival days is my teacher. I am surrounded by teachers; I am given a lot of knowledge and experience free of charge.

That has changed my perspective about teachers, though I do not like people who always preach. I admire practitioners who teach me silently and through their life. These teachers allow me to ask questions and they do not expect me to give ‘taught’ answers. In fact they do not want any answers from me. They are capable enough to ask questions and to find answers for themselves.

Aaj Kal my teachers have improved a lot. Or is it that I have improved as a student?

Does not matter until the learning process is on.