Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A chain of kindness!

Wrote this article for the "Parents' Corner" of the Junior Edition of my daughter's school magazine - 2014-2015.


Sometimes a single incident teaches you so much and strengthens your faith in humanity.  Here is one such episode that I would like to recount – one that has left an indelible mark on my mind.

This is about a family who was holidaying in Mussoorie – a young girl in her twenties, her parents and grandmother. Although they were staying in a hotel at the hill station, they had many day trips planned to the more remote scenic areas, higher up in the mountains. The only way to get to these areas was by foot or by cycle rickshaw – mechanical contraptions manually pulled by rickshaw pullers.
The family also had to use this means of transport since there were two elderly ladies for whom the climb would have been impossible on foot.

So they called for one cycle rickshaw and the two older ladies sat in it, while the young girl and her father decided to walk alongside. The rickshaw puller seemed to be a middle aged man, probably in his late forties or early fifties. They fixed the fare and the puller took to the pedals and began to ferry the ladies towards their destination – a temple at the end of a steep gradient that overlooked a beautiful valley.

All seemed well till they approached the gradient – an uphill slope that would mean quite a rigorous exertion for the rickshaw puller, well past his youth. He began the climb, pushing down on the pedals with all his strength but as it was very steep, he was soon struggling at the task. Seeing this, the girl’s father promptly went to help him by actually pushing the rickshaw from behind, using both his hands. Seeing her father, the young girl too decided to pitch in. The look of surprise and gratitude on the face of the rickshaw puller was priceless – he seemed at a complete loss for words to express his feelings.

 This unique sight attracted many stares and some people actually followed suit with their respective rickshaws, bringing forth a chain of kindness. It proved that good begets good and that kindness and humility are what make us human – qualities that unite us beyond man-made barriers of class, status, language and religion.

This makes me wonder at how simple and uncomplicated our world would be if only we did not allow our humane qualities to be eclipsed by arrogance, and our egos to be flattered by a meaningless sense of superiority. Kindness is all it takes to be a good person and we don’t really need any religion to teach us that.

It is the only thing our world desperately needs today!

Image courtesy: colourlovers.com/sundancer|moore at jakyastikblogs.blogspot.in



P.S  - Dedicating this piece to my father, the protagonist of this incident – the man who walked the talk and from whom I learnt some of life’s most valuable lessons. 

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Ensnared!

Image courtesy: articles.orlandosentinel.com


Dogmas and doctrines, do’s and don’ts
Snuff out the questions, demolish the won’ts.
As mankind battles over an invisible God
Peace is conquered by perpetual discord.

Voices of dissent are smothered, freedom of expression choked
To a set of mindless beliefs our senses hopelessly yoked.
God reduced to an obsession, an idea gone terribly wrong
A thing to possess, a tool to control, with arrogance headstrong!

We’re not even a speck in the mighty cosmos,
Yet with inflated heads and grandiose egos
We stake claim to a divinity we can’t ever fathom.
Faiths fight, Convictions kill and Reason goes numb!

Gone is the simple goodness, there’s more take than give
Lost is the basic kindness, the compassion to live and let live
    While fighting to prove our “own” God right, Humanity we have maimed

Ensnared in devastating inebriation, Divinity we have shamed!



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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Why??

Image Courtesy: framology.org
Image courtesy:www.quickanddirtytips.com

It’s too much of a disturbing coincidence. December 16, 2012 & December 16, 2014 – both among the darkest times for humanity in recent years! Two years ago, shocked and traumatised after the Nirbhaya incident, it seemed that mankind couldn’t descend any lower than this, that this must surely be the nadir of brutality. Sadly, humanity continues to plummet to unbelievable levels.

It’s impossible to escape the irony of it all – the callous manner in which the perpetrators justify these insane acts in the name of “God” – the very idea that stands for love, peace and goodness. It must take a sick mind to take a life and a twisted, cowardly, monster of a mind to murder innocent and defenceless children while they are at school,  in the process of imbibing lessons that will equip them to build a future.

The lucky ones who escaped the chilling attack will be the ones scarred forever, embittered by this cruel twist of fate. The first images pouring in of the tragedy showed a young boy expressing his outrage by vowing to take revenge and destroy those who destroyed his friends. While such a reaction is understandable in his present situation, it is scary too – as it fuels the feeling of vengeance and lets continue the eye for an eye attitude that has dragged humanity down to its lowest.

The unimaginable anguish of the parents who have lost their children to this gruesome tragedy is something that will stay with them forever – no condolences and support are going to be able to console them. Words too fall short of expressing the utter helplessness, devastation, disgust and pain that this incident has sparked in millions of hearts. 

It is a shameful day for humankind. The only prayer that we can collectively make is to hope that no more minds allow themselves to get warped and twisted, that the human race sees reason and stops this madness before it is too late. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Is the freedom to kiss really worth all this brouhaha?


Image courtesy: vinylartsa.com

The debate’s been raging on for a while now and I just have to take a stand – not because I want to make myself heard but because I need to form my own conclusions and decide which side of the fence I am on. Or am I just sitting on it, unable to choose either?

As a country, we are at an interesting crossroads, swinging between the age-old traditions ingrained in our value systems and feeling the sway of modern winds blowing from the outside world that are challenging these conventions and shaking their very foundations. The Kiss of Love campaign sweeping across the country is just another manifestation of this conflict that seeks to discard old taboos and free people from prudery and hypocrisy.

It’s true – we all have the right to freedom of expression – and if two consenting people choose to express their love in public so be it – why should any eyebrows be raised? At the same time, it cannot be denied that as a cultural entity, Indians living in India have not been brought up to display affection in public. So does that one factor make us a suppressed race? Would the elimination of this particular taboo suddenly catapult us into the elite league of “developed” and “intellectually liberated” countries? This would almost imply that having the freedom to kiss in public is the passport to being modern in thought, deed and action.

I think of myself as a modern, forward thinking individual, far removed from the shackles of mindless beliefs and shallow xenophobia. However I wonder if I would ever be able to go against my natural way of life and indulge in an action that is alien to my disposition. But that doesn’t make me backward, orthodox or regressive, does it?

Let’s admit it, as a people, most of us will be extremely uncomfortable to either make or witness a public display of passion between couples. That’s the way we are, and according to me, it’s perfectly fine to be what we are. Why are we trying to ape the western culture believing that what works for them is going to work for us too? This really isn’t about right and wrong – it’s about what we are ready for and what we aren’t. But more than that it’s about priorities.

If we have to ape the west, why don’t we take a leaf from their punctuality, their professionalism and their penchant for cleanliness? Why cant we be more pro-active about gender equality and shed antiquated ideas about caste, communities, communalism, patriarchy (the list is unending) that do much more damage to our society than any restrictions on kissing in public bring about?

Its not about condoning moral policing either – if a couple finds a discreet place to share some intimate moments, I think we all need to grow up and give them their space without gawking and mocking them. But encouraging this behaviour in such an open manner may send out wrong signals to our teens and adolescents who are already caught in this clash of cultures. They could become easy prey for those looking to have some casual fun and this would eventually take a devastating toll on their emotional well-being at a time when they need to be focused about building their future.

On the other hand, what impresses me is the energy and conviction with which young people are clamouring for this right to kiss in public. It is reminiscent of the many revolutions that shook societies in Europe and America and forced them to amend their mind-sets. It is indeed a positive sign that people have realized that they can bring about a social change – that it is up to them to empower themselves – albeit in a civilized and peaceful manner.

Now the next step should be to channelize this tremendous energy into something more meaningful, something which would lead to deeper societal reforms that would bring real benefits to the quality of our lives. It could be a revolution of the intellectual kind which stems from mature thought and sound reasoning rather than a frivolous demand for a meaningless frill that will do little to raise our overall standards – moral, economic and social.

We are still a far cry from being a truly free society and we need to achieve that milestone by progressing in a step by step manner. Instead of trying to force ourselves into ill-fitting garments, why not work on getting into shape ourselves, or better still - design and tailor outfits that suit us best?





Thursday, 11 September 2014

Wealth and Wisdom

Image courtesy: www.taringa.net

“I wish there were no such thing as money in this world – then there wouldn't be any poor people” had mused my then eight year old a couple of years ago. It was meant to be a straightforward statement – an innocent observation from a child’s perspective. But delve into it a bit deeper and it assumes a hugely philosophical tone which is a telling comment on the messy and complicated world we have created for ourselves.

In the eyes of a child – the solution was as simple as this – Do away with money and the social inequality would disappear too.  Although an impossible idea, it had certainly made me pause and think. Would the human race have been that much kinder, wiser and less arrogant if we hadn't invented money? Would we actually have been better off without this divisive commodity? My little one had inadvertently opened a Pandora's box of conflicting thoughts that I have never quite been able to resolve till date.

The same debate ignites itself inside my head every now and then when I can’t but help observe how human beings often treat each other.  Intoxicated by the heady rush that wealth brings on, people actually believe that they are superior to others and possess a natural right to belittle and demean.


This brings me to the incident that I wish to flush out of my system. It had been an interaction of the professional kind – the ones that are quite common place in the corporate world where one often deals with “high profile” business persons who own “big” brands. Most of them are usually quite cordial, and some are even friendly and down to earth which is just how it should be. But there are some interactions that are particularly unpleasant, that smack of conceit and haughtiness, where sharp words are uttered that catch you unawares simply because you never use such a tone on others and therefore expect the same standards from them; where you are forced to tell someone much older than you to stop shouting and to remind them to be civil; where you cannot completely speak your mind because your duty towards your client comes in the way, forcing you to swallow the mindless humiliation as stoically as possible. 

Infuriated as I was, the anger unleashed a barrage of questions in my mind. Why do we forget that we are being provided a service in exchange for a price – why can’t we view all work as a fair business transaction rather than an opportunity to assert one’s authority over another human being? What gives people the right to talk down and humiliate? Why does wealth evoke a sense of power over another?  Why does basic human dignity have to be associated with affluence? And who decides the definition of “affluence”?

From a more objective angle – it was quite a trivial episode – just one of those incidences that we needn't even raise an eyebrow about – as it is something that’s become so commonplace that we should have gotten thick skinned to this arrogance of the uber wealthy by now.  But at a deeper level it does rankle, bringing on a stinging sense of indignation. The memory of it hurts the ego and strikes at the core of one’s self-esteem.

It was while in such a state that I tried to see reason and found it when I recalled the simple innocence of the words of my precocious little girl. Her sensitivity stood out in sharp contrast to the high handedness I had just encountered and it comforted my soul, assuring me that all was not quite as amiss with the world as we are sometimes inclined to believe.

As long as this sensitivity warms a few hearts, our planet will continue to be graced by kind and compassionate minds that will be too classy and cultured to be swayed by the superficial trappings of wealth and glamour.

The thought brought the spring back into my step and the pride back into my heart.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Happy Independence Day!

Patriotism isn’t lofty words and grand songs,
Neither a noble principle nor a pious speech long.
It’s rather an inborn urge, a simple feeling of belonging;
A cherished inspiration, a tug at the heartstrings, a natural daring!





That not many of us can escape being moved at the sight of the tricolour unfurling amidst the chanting of the national anthem is evidence that the above lines are true. Every Independence Day, when (if!!) we witness this familiar scene, we can feel the unmistakable surge of patriotic fervour pulsating through our veins albeit for a few fleeting moments, before reality re-tightens its hold and brings us back to our busy, material world.

            But for the better part of the lives of the general public, patriotism, like everything else has fallen prey to mere ostentation. This is all evident in the “patriotic” fervour that goads people into “liking” nationalistic posts on social media or fervently and dutifully participating in online polls to catapult an Indian to victory in a glamorous contest. Then we sit back satisfied that we have fulfilled our duty, played our role as an Indian citizen, content about having indeed made a difference.

These and many more thoughts cross my mind as we celebrate our 67th Independence Day later this week. How would it have been to have witnessed this event, to have been a part of such a defining moment in history? For those who had given their all to win freedom for the country, it would have felt like a grand culmination of a heroic mass struggle for a glorious cause.

Now, sixty-seven years after that goal has been achieved, is there any noble goal that single-mindedly fires up and motivates the present generation? Do we even ponder about the significance of the Independence Day in today’s context, or is it counted as just another in our unending list of holidays? I think the latter comes closer to the mark as most of us seem completely immersed in the daily grind and hectic schedules, too busy and apathetic to pay heed to other matters that have little relevance in our lives. We aren't entirely to blame either, as we are all in the grip of the modern epidemic called "no time for anything or anyone but myself!" 

We stand today at such a critical juncture that all that we really need to do to make a difference to our society and the nation at large is to simply be conscientious, sensitive and law abiding citizens. Even if every Indian decides to do their duty sincerely and wholeheartedly, it would help rid us of the “chalta hai” attitude that has eroded our efficiency and plagued the entire system. What’s missing are the most basic values and it is these that should be re-instilled in children instead of  emphasizing only on material and academic success. We don’t just need high profile doctors, engineers and management graduates – we also need people who are sensitive, humane, considerate and honest to the core.  

The most fitting tribute that we could pay our great martyrs every Independence Day would be to solemnly rededicate ourselves to our country’s cause by being her worthy citizens for the next 365 days. Our noble cause could simply be a pledge to do our work to the best of our ability, to abstain from the temptation to compromise on our scruples for petty gains and to take a stand against social evils, instead of continuing to be passive onlookers of indecency and injustice.  Over and above this if we can still manage to contribute in our own humble but sincere way, to fuel the wheels of progress of our nation and its people, we will have ensured that the sacrifice of our martyrs and that of the soldier standing guard at our borders has not been in vain.

The only way then is to wear patriotism eternally on our sleeves and in our hearts and feel its perpetual throb in our veins as a constant reminder of our unending duty towards our motherland.
   

Friday, 25 July 2014

Superman and his Super Girl

Image courtesy: cappuccinoqueen.com

Shelling peanuts from their pods and eating them raw, the sight of a sprawling golf course, the poster of superman, fun n frolic in swimming pools, long walks hand in hand, rides in the dhow and the smell of the salty sea breeze. What could these random things possibly have in common?

These images are now symbols of a cherished memory that my mind’s eye conjures up again and again, as if in an attempt to relive a bygone era.  Those sights and sounds can never pass me by without reminding me of my Baba – my father – the man I loved to impress and who in turn always rose to the occasion by never failing to get impressed.

The peanut shells would be all over the house – testimony to the countless sessions of shelling them together as a family – chattering away on everything under the sun, the adults over several mugs of beer and the kids with the ubiquitous limca or fanta. Baba would pull everyone’s leg and our home would ring with laughter and merrymaking.

The sight of a golf course would make his eyes light up with joy – never mind if he had just played a round of 18 holes that very morning. Every game would be followed by a stroke by stroke account of shots that he had hit bang on target and those that he missed completely - with a childlike joy and the innocent belief that everyone around him was listening as passionately as he was recounting.  

It was he who taught me and all the kids in the neighbourhood to swim.  But I wanted to feel special – as he was  my father – so I made up a game- 'Superman and his Supergirl' where we would swim together arm in arm, striking the classic Superman pose in the water , pretending to be flying high up in the sky.

Then there was this ritual that we religiously followed every night after dinner during my childhood years – I must have been 9 or ten years old. He would drive us to the edge of a pier where he would park the car and we would go for a long walk hand in hand on a narrow wall – just wide enough for two people. It was an unwritten rule that I was to tell him a new story every evening. I would take great care in choosing what I thought he would like, so it spurred me on to read voraciously just to be able to make it as interesting as I could. He was a discerning listener and would interrupt me by adding new angles to the story, and by asking me questions that whetted my appetite for debates and discussions.

His love for the sea saw us through innumerable dhow trips on the high seas – when once again I would imagine (thanks to the countless Enid Blyton adventure sagas) that we were on an adventure out to catch pirates and retrieve long lost treasure lying deep down at the bottom of the ocean.

Life goes on I guess, reducing everything to a dreamy memory as the pages of Time turn yellow. What remains are vestiges of conversations, the sight of familiar objects that evoke the same feelings for a fleeting instant.

And there are those precious moments from the past that live on to nourish your present. The joyful and wistful expression at my wedding as the father of the bride, the immense pride on having become a grandfather and then a few years later, some of his last words to me “I know you’ll always do well whatever you do, wherever you go. ”

Priceless last words that I cling on to with my heart and soul, with a promise to myself to never let him down.