Oct 31, 2007

Good news vs Bad news

1. 'Sensex hits a whopping 20,000'
2. 'Mukhesh Ambani, now the world's richest'
3. 'Lesbian lovers tie the knot in Vishakapatnam'
4. 'Indian wins Nobel Prize along with Gore.'


1. '50 million women missing in India.' (due to female infanticide, foeticide, dowry deaths etc)
2. ' Cracker unit blast fails to stir government.' (a blast in an illegal cracker factory in the city which took the lives of seven children)
3. ' Dalit women raped by local policemen'
4. ' City of joy turns into a war zone' - (violence in Calcutta over the nandigram issue)

Balanced? When they say every place has its positive and negative aspects, I cannot think of a country more apt to that statement....my own Bharat 'mahaan'.....

'The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.'

Frost rings true in my ears, I have made promises to my land. And every Indian should have his/her own promises too. Because 'balance' is not the aim. It's on each one of us to make the difference, to take the high road, to have the passion to act for what is right .... I am quite tired of blaming our government, you should be too...

Oct 27, 2007

My spot on earth

During one of the long bus rides to work that I often complain about, a bit of an epiphany occurred. I had my ipod on in order to keep my mind off the intensive heat mixed with dusty, polluted wind flying at my face through the window. I was also trying to shoo away the nostalgic thoughts of the air-conditioned subway and train rides that I used to take to work in downtown Toronto. Then this song from the movie 'Swades' came on and I found myself really paying attention to the lyrics without being even slightly distracted by my own thoughts or surroundings (which is hard for me as I am most scatter-brained person around; definitely display symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder). The lyrics go like this:

Ye jo des hai tera, swades hai tera, tujhe hai pukaara
Ye woh bandhan hai jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

Mitti ki jo khushboo, tu kaise bhoolaayega
Tu chaahe kahin jaaye, tu laut ke aayega
Nayi nayi raahon mein, dabi dabi aahon mein
Khoye khoye dilse tere, koyi ye kahega
Ye jo des hai tera, swades hai tera, tujhe hai pukaara
Ye woh bandhan hai jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

Tujhse zindagi, hai ye keh rahi
Sab toh paa liya, ab hai kya kami
Yun toh saare sukh hai barse
Par door tu hai apne gharse
Aa laut chal tu ab diwaane
Jahaan koyi toh tujhe apna maane
Awaaz de tujhe bulaane, wahi des
Ye jo des hai tera, swades hai tera, tujhe hai pukaara
Ye woh bandhan hai jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

Ye pal hai wahi, jis mein hai chhupi
Koyi ek sadi, saari zindagi
Tu na poochh raaste mein kaahe
Aaye hain is tarha do raahein
Tu hi toh hai raah jo sujhaaye
Tu hi toh hai ab jo ye bataaye
Chaahe toh kis disha mein jaaye wahi des
Ye jo des hai tera, swades hai tera, tujhe hai pukaara
Ye woh bandhan hai jo kabhi toot nahin sakta

The simplicity of the song increased the complexity of my feelings about 'my' country...Every word rang true in my ears and my heart.

Let me give you a little background about me - I spent most of my years in Delhi. My family and I moved to Hyderabad and I joined a certain ladies' college that was supposedly the best of the lot. Eight months into it and highly disillusioned with the higher education system in India (which is too theoretical and rigid for my taste), I packed my bags and left for the first university that accepted me in Canada after a long-drawn fight with my father about him not letting me leave without being engaged/married (he wanted a security measure against me running off with a man from another race/caste/religion).

After an extremely enjoyable four years in Canada, I am enriched personally, professionally and every other way possible. But there was always one thing missing, the sense of belonging to that land. Walking the busy streets of Toronto, looking at all the people around me in this constantly hustling bustling city... I still somehow felt alone, somehow; out of place. I wanted to figure out how all my university friends from first-year who came in as international students; were now in the process of becoming permanent residents and were planning settle in this foreign country. They were happy being away from home. I wanted to be like them, I had an equal or even better
(as I worked really hard in University to get good grades, great networking and prestigious internships) chance of landing a fantastic job and also settling in this great country, but I just couldn't get myself to do it. A fantastic career in a fantastic country was not enough for me. I wanted more or maybe something entirely different, I wasn’t sure.

I had a million doubts, inhibitions, and fears. I had that gut feeling that I was making a huge mistake...but I came back anyway. My country was calling me and I had to listen. I longed to be around my own people ... those who didn't look at me for those two seconds extra trying to register the difference (of culture, of skin colour, of behaviour ) in their minds. My people, who let me be anonymous when I want to be but will listen when I call out for help.. I listened to bollywood songs, ate chaat on the road and celebrated Id/Christmas and Diwali with equal fervour all my life without realizing the innate Indianness in me, until I left for a foreign land and missed the small yet fantastic pleasures of this country. And I owed something back to India, so I figured I would not contribute further to the brain drain problem. I will work here; pay taxes here, contribute to the GDP here and maybe even find a higher purpose in life.

I came back with hesitation, questions in mind…What was my purpose in India other than the micro-economic existence that was going to be my life i.e my parents, my friends and my work? The minute I walked out the airport, things became clear somehow….I saw the poor kids in their tattered clothes and bare feet, who walked up to me to try to sell me stuff worth Rs 10 to gather money for one square meal a day. But, I also saw the lack of disappointment when I said I didn’t want to buy anything, they would just go off hopefully in search of another customer…It’s not a struggle anymore, It’s a way of life for them. I saw the tired old rickshaw puller who was lugging at his means of livelihood with all his might but I also saw the smile on his face when the customer gave him Rs 15 extra. I know that there are so many things wrong with India but there is also an ingrained hope that we will be able to change all this some day, maybe not in our lifetimes but in time for our children to enjoy the change. I am hopeful…..for myself and the people around me.

I know I constantly complain about the pollution, the traffic, the lack of civic sense in our fellow citizens, the corruption that exists right down to the lowest levels of our political and administration systems. But the one thing that bothers me most about this country is the poverty and hunger around me. Even though our country is supposedly one of the fastest growing economies of the world, the poverty line is standing strong and the underprivileged will always be that because no one is empowering them to better their standards of living. I figured this was one cause that I could somehow make my contribution to, even if the scope of the impact is a classroom of 28 children. Education is a strong tool of empowerment and that’s where I decided to channel my energy.

The first month at my company, I met a few like-minded people who have the same passion that I do and our ‘mentorship’ program came into existence. The plan was to choose a charity school – Vivekananda Public School was enthusiastic; so we got on board with them to mentor and develop 28 (8th and 9th grade) children to have an equal shot at life. The first Saturday that we went into their school was coincidentally Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday (the headmaster called us Gandhi’s disciples who were out to change the country forever – lol …. That was a gross exaggeration for sure) and after a short function we got to interact with them. Standing in front of them and talking to them was a daunting task for me, because they were no ordinary kids. Maybe my stereotypes/prejudices or misconceptions came into play, because I had expected them to be quiet and slightly apprehensive about us strangers coming and teaching them alien concepts like communication skills, personality development, career counselling and computer skills. But to my pleasant surprise, there were extremely enthusiastic and inquisitive. What was even more interesting, was the fact that there were more girls in the class than boys, and considering they come from very low-income households (the parents of most kids are illiterate and working as labourers, servants, drivers etc) I was surprised so many parents thought their girls should also study as opposed to staying at home as home-makers while their brothers went to school. I am glad to see that even the grass-root levels of our society (some of the urban-dwellers atleast) are understanding the importance of education for the future generations. The girls were boisterous and the boys were kind of shy, contradicting the commonly held gender stereotypes and I am happy to see the change taking place in our country too which is still considered backward when it comes to gender equality issues. Indian girls are slowly learning to be confident and never to think of themselves as inferior to their male counterparts in any way.

Most of all, I was touched by the hope in their eyes and the smiles of their innocent faces. It reminded of the day I landed at the airport. They were technically, the underprivileged or the poorest of our society but they never lost the ambition to make it in life. Maybe the virginity of childhood dreams allowed them to desire to be doctors/engineers/ cricket players etc without any cynicism involved, but it was my job to tell them that they could beat the odds if they worked hard enough and I did.

Today I have my first session with them, we are going to talk about what communication skills are and why they are important. I will also find out which kid chose me as his/her mentor. This is the beginning of one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, and I finally justified my spot on earth.

Oct 20, 2007

Does he love me?

Does he love me, I wonder?
Doubts hit me like lightning and thunder.
One day he cries for me,
The next, he says, please leave me be.
I think of him every minute, every day..
And he says that I’m too needy, wants me out of his way.
When I’m sick and need my man around;
To hug me, make me feel safe n sound,
He is missing as usual, alone I lay.
“Ur across the city, can’t bring u medicine, you are ten minutes away”
Every minute of those three hours in my bed,
Made me go over all the promises made and things said.
Are they really true?
Cos they don’t help when I’m blue ...
And then I just wonder, this thing we are in …..Is it real?
Is it just words said for now…..forever it doesn’t feel.
When I want to open up to him, my heart, my hurt,
He says “why u such a drama queen”, makes me feel like dirt.
I decide that there is no want or need for me in his life
Then he looks at me with all this love in his eyes, n says “be my wife” ,
In two minds, does he or does he not??
Will I be happy or will I be not?
Wont fit in my family, will he make an effort to ?
The fact that his people won’t accept me remains true.
Our future is an obstacle-ridden trail,
Jobs, visas, girls with tea-cups waiting under a veil.
Forgiving is easy, forgetting is not,
His words, our fights, come back to me a lot.
I know I gave my heart, mind and soul
“Love me love me tell me that you love me”…But I’m no more a love fool

Note: This piece is a discovery from my computer archives from 3 or 4 years ago. It is amazing how much importance you can give to a boy when you are at that tender age of 18 and think you have made your decision that he is the one. And now, a more mature me hasn't given this same boy even a thought in the past year. Nevertheless, this poem shows the confusion and vulnerability of that time of innocence.

Oct 19, 2007

In his mind


In his mind's cavernous abyss,
Thoughts run rampant, wild and free
Ravaging his soul with a guilt laden memory
Eternal wanderer in a quest for bliss,
And what does he have to show?
Heavy lies the crown of thorns.
But the bearer it adorns,
Has a beatific smile, the sun shining on his brow.

And the wanderer spake,
Pain is incidental,
But suffering is a choice you make.


Take her hand, as she leads you into an open field
Sunshine surrounds you, engulfing your innermost darkness
In her arms, is that elusive bliss
And her touch is a healing balm
Awaiting you is the warmth of her womb
Show them who condemn, the fruit of love
The storm has passed
The skies have cleared
Its time for you to surrender your saddle
Because, my sweet wanderer, you are finally home.

Note: Only the second half is penned by me.