Sunday, 15 June 2014

Bridge to the past

Just the other day, I was looking at some childhood photographs, as I do from time to time. And without question, such viewing always brings forth a few chuckles and awakens many fond memories. 

While I was happily cruising down memory lane, my friend asked me if those pictures I was looking at, were my childhood pictures. When I replied in the affirmative, she mentioned rather wistfully that she did not have any pictures of her childhood and of her growing-up years.

Source : Google Images
My cruise braked to a sudden screeching halt. Having been fortunate enough to have always had several childhood clicks (thanks to a very enthusiastic click-happy Uncle and some cousins), hers was a completely unimaginable situation for me.

Took me a while to really appreciate what she was saying. It then hit me right in the gut that, for this person there was absolutely no way of knowing who and how she or her siblings (& cousins) were as kids or in their growing-up years. Not even one single image of those times. She said that all she had were the vague descriptions given by her family and the rest were left to her imagination. For me, it felt as if a big part of her identity had been snatched away, forever. Now, is that a big deal for her?  Maybe. Maybe not. 

Source : Google Images
While it is gladdening to hear stories from our families about us, it is a different ballgame when those stories are reinforced with pictures. 

It gives a certain unadulterated pleasure or satisfaction to actually see how cute (or monkey-like) we used to look when we were kids, how atrociously or cutely we were dressed or had our hair styled or cut (oh yes!), whether we had all our milk teeth intact at that time or those top two or bottom two teeth were missing with gaping-hole shy grins, whether some of us had just started to sprout pimples, whether the little girls had their "moggina jaDe-reshme lehnga" moment and so on. 

For me, such pictures form a bridge connecting our (and sometimes our kids' and/or grandkids') present to our misty past, giving a sense of both continuity & identity. They show how & who we were, long after that moment has passed; They bring back to life our moments already lived, allowing us to savour them over and over again till we die or to pester others with, or maybe both!

Source: Google Images

Having my own such bridge makes me wish that I could somehow help my friend find her bridge.

What do the pictures of your childhood & growing-up years mean to you and why?

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Finishing a 5.6km run - What's the take-away?

Being a participant for several years in one of the corporate challenges, I have always been thankful to the organizers that they did not insist on people running the entire 5.6km. Options have been available for people to walk, run and walk or just run. They encourage people to participate in the event.

Image Source : Google Images
Not being much of a runner all these years, I used to anyhow run the initial kilometer or two, then walk or brisk walk for another 2-2.5 km and then run the final length. And all this with zero prior preparation or training.

This year, however, it was different. I was terribly inspired, you see. Inspired by various people and their sticking to their gruelling regimen. Also, they were encouraging and helpful by giving me plenty of advice and guidance. I finally made up my mind to run.

I came across various running programs which promised that I could easily run 5k in so many weeks or 10k in so many weeks as long as I followed the given regimen. After much deliberation I settled on one which looked achievable to some extent.

The first day I started with the regimen, I could not jog beyond 500meters and then it was panting time for me. I came back home and put a tick mark. Two days later, I decided to add another few meters and it worked. That was the game changer for me and also the biggest motivator. From then on, I started to add just a few meters to my circuit every other day. As the results were almost immediate, the motivation was very strong. I also started to pay more attention to my eating habits and sleep cycles.  Caught in a positive cycle, I started to actually enjoy the early morning dates with my running shoes, cool breeze and dripping sweat. 

Days passed and I found that I no longer went out of breath while climbing staircases, could run like hell in case I am late for a movie without being zapped out and here's the most delicious part of all -I had to get some of my clothes altered to a smaller size! In fact, I observed that I took every opportunity that came by, to get some exercise. A poster of Nick Vujicic asking "Are you going to finish strong?", which I saw every morning without fail, inspired me a great deal. The running clinic also helped in it's own way.

This time too, I enrolled for a walking slot in the challenge, despite having reached the capability to jog for about 4.5 km without break. 
Image Source : Google Images

Finally, the day of the challenge dawned and I was ready to test my limits. As the event was flagged off, I promised myself that I would run to the maximum extent possible.

All I did while running was to keep speaking encouraging words to myself, not be distracted by those who zoomed by me or those I jogged past, and to continue at my pace steadily chewing up meter after meter. 

Every time, I passed the various kilometer milestones, my resolve only became stronger. I had to finish strong. There's no other way.

When at last I reached the finish line, I found that I had neatly shaved off around 10mins from my previous years' attempts and that I had not stopped anywhere, including at the water stations. The satisfaction I got that day by running the entire 5.6k without a break and without being tired, made me feel like a real finisher and worthy of keeping the finisher T-shirt that was given out by the organizers. Earlier, I used to give away those T-shirts.

Do I feel I have achieved something? Yes, I do. My main take-away has been that, I was able to and continue to surmount certain mental & physical blocks. I see some positive changes in myself which weren't there before. I also found that the realization and change has to come from within. Only then will the external inspiration and motivation find their mark.

Am I motivated to continue? Of course, I am! More than ever.

Am I aiming for longer distances? Yes. I am.

Image Source : Google Images

Am I aiming to switch the two creatures in the below picture? Yes, I am. :)

Image source : Google Images

Here's a shout out to all those who have inspired and encouraged me (including Nick Vujicic) - "A big thank you. Couldn't have done it without you"

Wednesday, 30 April 2014


During my commute in public transport, I indulge in my favourite pastime. I observe people.

I try to theorize about their stories, their lives, their day.

One set of people I come across quite frequently are the elderly; A medley of couples, friends, same-gender friends and siblings.

Often times, they have some issues like problematic knees, poor eyesight, poor hearing and so on.

Some with their faded eyes, quiet demeanour have this body language which screams "am-so-tired-of-this-damn-life". There are some who have this look in their eyes which says "am-so-contented-with-this-life". 

Source:Google Images
But the ones who really grab my eyeballs are those with a sparkle in their eyes, a chirpy note in their voice, a lovely smile (sometimes toothless!) on their face.and an infectious laughter, while displaying great energy levels (for their age). Their body language speaks of an independence, of an attitude that they have embraced & want to embrace life in all it's colours. They have this "I have seen it all, done it all. So, just bring it on" air about them. They don't allow their physical conditions to hinder them one bit. As if nothing can faze them! Maybe nothing does. It's downright refreshing and fascinating!
Source : Google Images

I suspect these are the ones who have never been lazy in their lives, always finding something or the other to make themselves useful in someway. Their hands and mind lying idle frustrates them, especially when their energies don't measure up sometimes. They take life head-on with so much enthusiasm. Such people cheer me up and get me pondering. I have found such elderly people within the family and outside of it.

I can't help but smile (a big spontaneous one too!) admiringly whenever I come across them.

I salute their zest for life.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Yards - Going the whole nine

Most of us Indian girls would have experimented with this when they were young, often times with the ladies of the family getting amused at our enthusiastic attempts to get it right.

We would have found it very fascinating. Many of us still do. With the vibrant colours, with the textures, with the materials, with the weave, with the patterns and also the various forms of draping it. The combinations are enough to drive one crazy.

As it takes a while to master the art of draping it the right way, there are many of us who find it difficult to drape it and to retain that drape all day through. The fear of it becoming undone is always at the back of our minds. Some resort to the aid of several 'safety' pins and clips just to hold it together.
Source : Google Images

Of course, you guessed right!

I am talking about our timeless, graceful and elegant saree. One of the significant symbols of Indian culture. Saree is derived from the Sanskrit word "shaatee" meaning 'piece of cloth'. The pallu is named after the Pallavas and choLi is named after the Cholas.

The best part about a saree is that one size fits all. Women of any shape and size can wear it equally gracefully. There are sarees which are typical to a particular place and there are those which are draped for specific occasions.

Different regions and communities wear it differently. It is often easy to identify which region / community a lady is from, just by looking at the way she has draped her saree, provided she is draping it the traditional way of that region. However, a majority of the population wear it in one particular fashion.

Source: Google Images
This is one piece of clothing which I presume, has withstood the onslaught of various cultures that have invaded India. At the same time, it has undergone changes as per the prevailing societal norms. Yes, some designers have incorporated some changes to cater to modern taste, but by and large, it has retained its glorious traditional form.

The way it is draped suits the Indian climatic conditions, providing plenty of cooling in the soaring temperatures as well as warmth during cold months. The accessories that go along with the saree onlly add to the charm of this traditional dress. It can be worn in casual settings as well as extremely formal settings. How much more versatile can a traditional dress be!

Worn well, a saree shows off the curves just enough to make a woman look very feminine, dignified, graceful, elegant, sexy, all at the same time. The same cloth when not worn properly can make her look cheap and slutty.

Sarees come in different lengths too. Usually young girls in certain regions go for the 2 yards measure while the womenfolk usually go for 5.0 yards or 5.5 yards.

Source : Google Images

However, the traditional few go the whole nine yards, both literally and figuratively!

Monday, 28 April 2014

X - The Great Unknown

'X' !

This is the letter we always grab first if we want to depict an unknown in any of our conversations.

'X' has the ability to take on different meanings in different contexts. It is a variable.  

A mystery.

Source : Google Images
We have the reality show on TV called the 'X Factor' where the judges are looking for that one very, very unique talent in that competition. There is no particular talent that is being sought except that it has to be unique. That is why, it is called 'X' Factor.

Then there is the Generation X, which refers to that generation born after Western Post–World War II baby boom. This was called the Unknown Generation. This generation has a unique set of characteristics which are not found in the generation prior to it or in the one after it.

Source : Google Images
Coming to movies, we have the 'X-Men', which collectively refers to that set of people who have some special trait or power thanks to some mutation in their systems. Some can fly, some can generate enough heat in their eyes to direct that heat to things so that they catch fire and so on.

Of course, this write-up would be incomplete if there is no mention of that most dreaded use of 'X'. Who doesn't recall the nightmares associated with this one usage?

Yes, it's Mathematics!

Source : Google Images
In Mathematics 'X' is a variable which needs to be solved to get the equations right. This very quality, amongst others, has mathematicians getting all excited. In fact, though many alphabets are used in Mathematics, there is a special place reserved for 'X'.

But then you see, Romans were never all that excited about Mathematics, because for them, 'X' was never a mystery to be solved. 

It was always 10!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

What a wonderful world!

In every life comes both rain and sunshine.

Despite our trials and tribulations, we laugh when we encounter something that tickles our funny bone, momentarily completely forgetting all our troubles.

We thirst for Nature's gentle nourishing hand while dreading her heaving furious side.

There are beautiful, kind people who make life a lot easier and then there are those who make life difficult to lead.

Hopeless situations haven't even come close to extinguishing that tiny spark of optimism.

With so much darkness, we can still see the light.

So many opposites co-existing! Isn't all this a wonder?

What better describes this wonderful world than this beautiful, beautiful song by Louis Armstrong.

All you need to do is to kick off your shoes, get comfortable, close your eyes and let the song work its magic on you!

* Lyrics can be found here

For A-Z Challenge 2014

Friday, 25 April 2014


He made her comfortable in his little office. 

Trusting him and respecting him, she poured her heart out. 

A few days later, when she saw the contents of the brown envelope, she felt betrayed. Realization hit her right between the eyes that the meeting with him the other day was all staged. Never once had she suspected that a hidden agenda had already been drawn up prior to the meeting. All that she had told him were exploited to the maximum and projected in a bad light. Her trust was broken. She felt completely betrayed. Victimised.

Despite that, she tried to reason with him. But he stuck to his guns and refused to accept any wrongdoing on his part. Due to the circumstance she was in, she could only watch helplessly as her life veered out of control.

A few months passed. She had moved to another city. She had become busy picking up the pieces and struggling to get some semblance of normalcy back in her life.

One day on a chance encounter with someone, by way of conversation she was told that the man was dead. And that he had collapsed suddenly and never recovered, all within days of sealing her fate. 

Divine justice had played its hand.

Her position: Vindicated.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Umbilical Cord

What comes to your mind when you hear 'umbilical cord'?

The bond that lasts a lifetime 
(Source : Google Images)
For me, it paints a picture of a connection. A very strong connection.

A connection through which we had drawn our sustenance & strength from our mothers when we were still in her womb. We had even drawn our very life breath through that connection!

Once we were 'delivered', the umbilical cord no longer served its purpose. It was cut. Physically, that is.

But the emotional connection or attachment to our mothers persists. We still draw our emotional strength from her. Usually, the attachment to one's mother is more than to the father. Am I stating the obvious? Maybe. For some, the attachment with both is very strong. As toddlers we are still dependent on our parents.

And as one grows older, the connection to the parents, in the sense of dependence on them for anything like day-to-day decision making, likes-dislikes, etc, becomes reduced. In some extreme cases, they are cut fully and drastically. And in the other extreme, the dependency goes to irritating levels, often causing pain and discord in relationships.

Source : Google Images
It does seem a bit strange to have such strong levels of dependency on parents when one is an adult, at which point a person is expected to be quite independent. It becomes imperative that the invisible umbilical cord is cut a second time i.e reduce the dependency on the parents or siblings or whoever it is and learn to stand on one's own feet. The cutting can happen from the parents too, if the children become a pain in the butt and refuse to grow up!

On similar lines, one usually has a strong attachment to the place of birth or the place where one grew up. An invisible umbilical cord connects the two. And unless there is a very strong reason for a person to not visit or think of his /her place of birth (motherland) or place of growing up (may be thought of as "roots"), this connection will always be there. Thankfully, this usually is a very peaceful umbilical cord and not an irritating one.

What are your thoughts on this?

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Thank you for the music

For me life is incomplete unimaginable without music.

Before you start thinking that I am a music connoisseur, let me clarify in a hurry that I am not. I just enjoy music, any kind, depending on my mood. 

Talk about the technical aspects of music and you have lost me already, unless you can make it interesting enough for me to understand. I tried my hand at learning Carnatic music (one form of Indian classical) on a stringed instrument, but that exercise was a bit short-lived. The structure and complexity of Carnatic classical music needs a good teacher, along with plenty of practice and dedication from the student. Though I had good teachers, I was lacking in the practice and dedication part.

I also sing. Or at aleast try to. Not sure if the people who listen will call it singing, though.

Source: Google Images
M S Subbulakshmi
(Source : Google Images)
Bombarded with Growing up with music all around me, has instilled in me, a sense of rhythm and an appreciation for music. It has also kind of honed my senses a bit to detect an off-key tune (so beware!).

Initially there were the usual suspects - lullabies, little classical devotional compositions sung by parents and relatives to quiten a noisy or sleepy child or to make the agitated child calm down.

Then came the songs pertaining to light music and folk music. After them classical compositions and film songs of multiple languages streamed in. Then came the "English" music through the tapes of radio recordings from outside India, as well as one 30 mins program on the radio every Sunday afternoon. That opened up another world for me. I slowly moved from pop to soft rock to jazz (a teeny weeny bit) to country (a teeny weeny bit) and then to western classical (slightly more than teeny weeny), all the time never letting go of Indian music in all its variations.

And now, I move between all these genres quite frequently. There are no favourites or rather I have different favourites at different points in time. 

(Source : Google Images)
There is not one single day when I don't hum or sing or listen to some music or pester people who can sing to sing or pester those who play instruments to play them. It has become an integral part of everyday activity. Performing household chores or cooking or jogging or just about anything or to dance with kids or meditating or even just plain relaxation, has to have some suitable musical accompaniment to it, often times with me singing along. Music lifts my spirits and gives me great joy.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(Google Images)
Of course, those sad weepy songs do make one contemplate suicide in a tearing hurry.

Even now, at home during festivals, the ladies of the family (along with some men of the family) sing devotional songs together. That is something I really enjoy and cherish.

I have great admiration and appreciation for the ones who compose music, play instruments, write songs, sing, experiment with various notes, pitches & tones and finally come up with something so very good that people want to sing it, play it, dance to it, listen to it, not once or twice but for years and in the case of classical music, for centuries. 

Innumerable works have withstood the tests of time, experimentation, cultures, wars, battles, fires, floods, earthquakes, migration and languages.

So, to all these people whose musical works has made life more colourful, I have to say this. 

Thank you for the music.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sea beckons

Imagine this.

Source : Google Images
A place where you are cocooned by silence and diffused bluish grey lighting. Once you are in that place of silence, you cannot open your mouth. You cannot breathe through your nose. You can only breathe using your mouth into a little device which is attached to an air tank, which means the air supply is pretty limited. The only loud sound heard is the Darth Vader-ish sound of breathing. Communication is very, very limited and through hand signals. With several feet away from the surface, it's easy to feel the pressure of water on you & the ears get blocked. With visibility restricted to a only a few metres, not knowing what is out there and with the fear of drowning ever present in the forefront of one's mind, it is so so very easy to panic. Thoughts like-what if I have to sneeze, what if I have to cough, what if I have to burp, what if water gets into my mask & makes its way into the nose, run amok in your mind. It's sheer terror. And how! And the worst part is, you cannot even open your mouth to scream!

Source : Google Images
But then, somehow you steel yourself, will yourself to regulate your breathing,  get used to the surroundings, the deep breathing sounds and gradually relax. It certainly helps that you are clutching the hand of the dive master for dear life. That assurance is a game changer for you. You are assured that you are not alone. You are assured that he will take care of you in case anything happens. That's when the panic passes over. The breathing rhythm settles down. You equalise your ear pressure constantly. And you calm down. That's exactly when the magic begins.

David Doubilet (Source :Google Images)
A sense of peace and timelessness slowly pervades your entire being. You begin to look around you. You really look around, taking in your surroundings, of what is happening around you. You start noticing and sensing the slow movement of water around you. You notice the air bubbles flowing upwards from your fellow divers. You become aware of how your flippers are moving, how you yourself are moving. You become aware that you are sort of suspended & floating at the same time. You get the sense of being in a completely different world, a world far removed from the one that you are familiar with.

Christmas Trees
 (Source : Google Images)
You start to notice the play of light and shadows, on the water, on the sea bed and on the creatures that exist in that realm. You see several varieties of corals beneath you - some colourful, some very plain and dull, some giving you bruises when you pass too close to them. You see the christmas trees which pull in & vanish in an instant when something goes very close to them. Suddenly out of the blue, you see some rainbow fish flitting a couple of feet away from you their scales shining with different colours in that diffused light. Then, a baby black-tipped shark puts in an appearance looking very busy. There are big clams with colourful insides which open and shut, strewn here and there. Then there are sea cucumbers in big numbers lying on the sea bed. You also see little clown fish flitting in and out of the corals, then little fish with a myriad of colours including bluish purple make an appearance and so on. There is always something to see, to observe, to be aware of, to marvel at.
Source : Google Images

Time and space take on a different meaning here. The raw beauty of the underwater world as well as it's denizens, is so captivating that the experience remains etched in your mind forever. One learns to appreciate the severe limitations of the human kind in such an environment. More importantly, one learns to admire and respect the elements.

Scuba (Open water) diving, a truly enriching experience, makes it worth the while. Once you do it and enjoy it, you fall for it hook, line and sinker.

The sea casts its spell and keeps beckoning.

For A-Z Challenge 2014

Monday, 21 April 2014

Racing - Formula 1

Imagine this.

Blazing heat, heavy humidity, glaring lights, squealing tires, burning rubber, high speeds, curvy tracks (curvier than Pamela Anderson), fans waiting with bated breath, ear-shattering screaming engines, high adrenalin levels, innumerable laps on the track, all ending with split second photo finishes. That is Formula 1 racing in a nutshell.
Source : Google Images

All those broadcasts on TV does not even begin to capture the magic that is there in being physically present at the race.

The very first F1 race I was lucky enough to get a ticket for, gave me a glimpse of why there is so much hoo-ha about F1. Nothing, absolutely nothing, had prepared me for what I saw and heard. It turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. 

I came away with a new found understanding of those fans who watch each and every single practice session, each and every lap of the complete race, without batting their eyelids. My eyes were riveted to the track. I could not take my eyes of the track even for a second lest I miss the screaming machines zipping past. Pure adrenalin rush. I also found a new respect for the F1 drivers themselves.

A few days prior the race, during my walk, I chanced upon an F1 race car on display. This car belonged to one of the sponsors. I had a chance to view that car up close. I felt like a kid who had been given a new interesting toy. It was an awesome feeling to be so close to that sleek powerful machine. Given that I had never seen one before, it felt incredible.

Source : Google Images
Nearby, there was a contraption about 1.5 metres high and about 1 metre in width made of some aluminium pipes with several joints, several lights and sensor pads at each light, all connected to a computer. A person standing in front of it, at the word 'Go', has to touch the light which lights up and that could happen in any random order. Then the computer calculates how many lights were touched and how quickly, etc. So, basically a person has to be very alert and react quickly. This goes on for a minute or two, after which the score as regards reaction time and other parameters are given.

I got a pretty low score. I was told that the scores of F1 car drivers would all be very close to the highest levels, which means, they have to be very agile, have amazing eyesight & hearing, physically very fit, extremely alert, have very, very short reaction times, make split second decisions, have immense concentration, be aware of safety, perfect coordination of the senses, get used to the temperatures, heat, etc. And all these have to be maintained at peak condition throughout the race, not just for a minute or two, all the while manoeuvring the speeding complex beast. Just imagine THAT!

I wondered at the gruelling training that these F1 drivers must undergo to achieve such peak physical and mental fitness, to keep winning races consistently. And what kind of toll it would take on them and for how many years can they sustain such peak conditions.

Here's to all those Formula 1 drivers! Hats off to you!

And Michael Schumacher, get well soon.

Source : Google Images

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Que sera sera

She took quick steps towards the police station. She had been called there urgently by the officer.

As she walked, she recollected the spate of events that had taken place in her friend's life.

Her friend, in his quest for adventure, had ventured into deep jungles and arid deserts in far away lands, often teeming with hostile tribes, to lay his hands on the various queer objects he had heard so much about. He knew there was a good market for them. Sometimes there had been very bloody fights, but he had quickly managed to quell them. Other times, through his friendliness and helping nature, he had managed to win them over. He had come back home loaded with many rare and priceless collectibles. When she had asked him what would happen if someone steals them, he had said, "Que sera sera" and told her not to worry.

He had held exhibitions and auctions of these objects, to see and buy which, people had stood in long snaking queues in the rain and freezing cold. There had been no doubt in his patrons' minds that he had an eye for rare exquisite objects. He had made a lot of money. It was only a matter of time before his fame had reached far and wide, including the Queen herself. When she had asked him if he was happy with all that fame including the Queen being impressed with him, he had said, "Que sera sera" and told her that it was all momentary.

Where fame and money is there, can jealousy and crime be far behind? Many people including certain merchants had wanted him, their competitor, out of their way.

After a few days, on that particular chilly winter night, he had gone to the tavern to quench his thirst for a hot drink. A bloody fight had ensued between the drunken patrons, during which he had been accused by a woman for killing her husband and stealing their very precious gem collection when the couple were on their holiday in one of the exotic lands in the East. The police had been summoned. He was taken away to be questioned and locked up. He was in a quandary. When she had asked him how he could endure such accusations and whether he was scared what would happen, he had said "Que sera sera" and bade her not to worry.

As the trial progressed, his health had started to deteriorate. Meantime, she had employed good lawyers who would fight his case. Due to some emergency she had to travel overseas for a few months and she was unable to keep in touch with the lawyers. And by the time she could set foot in her house upon her return, she was met by the neighbour and asked to go to the police station in connection with the case.

She feared the worst. Upon reaching the station, she was told by the Inspector that her friend had passed on even before the trail could be concluded. The trial had ended abruptly; Also that his death was a peaceful one and that he had left her an envelope.

With deep anguish that she was not around for her friend in his time of need, she opened the envelope thinking that maybe he might have had something to tell her. Instead she found his final WILL and a very short letter. He had left everything he owned, to her.

The letter said "Thank you for everything, my dear friend. Always remember, que sera sera".

Source : Google Images

Friday, 18 April 2014

99 Problems and Palsy is just one

Let me ask you a question.

A not-very-comfortable question.

Source: Google Images
How comfortable are you, when you are with a physically challenged or mentally challenged adult or child? Do you become flustered or over-protective or patronising, not knowing whether what you are doing or saying is right or wrong? I think twice to offer a helping hand lest they are offended. I get very flustered as I don't want to offend, hurt or my words & actions misconstrued. At the same time, I want them to know that I am around, if required  So, you see I am learning.

Here's what Maysoon Zayid says. You may ask, "who is that?". I will answer your question shortly. But here is what she says. She says, "Most people don’t know whether to feel sorry for the disabled person, ignore the disability like it isn’t there or to treat them like children that are unable to live like fully-functioning adults". Ouch!

Maysoon Zayid, is an Palestinian-American comedienne. She should know what she is talking about. As she talks about her journey from the time she was a child to her present, one thing stands out. She is one tough cookie. A fighter to the core; A fighter with an amazing sense of humour.

Source : Google Images
So, you may ask, what's so special about Maysoon? She is special because, though she was born with cerebral palsy which causes her to shake a lot all the time, she has not allowed it to come in the way of what she wanted to do.

We all hear about the great quality of people laughing at themselves. But to see Maysoon taking potshots at her condition, takes the respect and awe one feels towards her, to a whole new level.

She says that she has 99 problems and cerebral palsy is just one of them. She does not allow people to feel sorry for her. She is living life. As she wanted and as she dreamt. Her parents had a large role to play in ensuring that.

Considered as America's first muslim stand-up comic, she is also an actress, a philanthropist and an advocate for the disabled.

Here's a link to her humorous, but very insightful TED talk. The way she talks about her condition, how she makes the audience feel comfortable with her & her condition, makes this as one of the most useful 14.13minutes you will ever spend. I watch this video repeatedly when I feel a need to be inspired.

Listening to her talk about her life, I am sure, will give a lot of people hope.

This post is dedicated to all those with cerebral palsy and their support systems.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Neighbours all


This post is dedicated to our neighbours who have been with us, through thick and thin.

Here are some of my fellow challengers

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Menstrual Man

Menstrual Man ?!!

Are you rubbing your eyes and re-reading the header?

Menstrual? And Man?!

No, I am not going nuts. You read that right.

Last night on TV, I saw a program about a gentleman hailing from a village in South India, deal with a problem. A very "female" problem. A problem with multiple dimensions to it; Myths, hygiene, superstition, cost and a taboo topic to boot, in most parts of India and maybe in other parts of the world.

Source : Google Images
Source : Google Images
Menstruation, in many parts of India has several unwritten rules & restrictions associated with it. So many Dos and Don'ts during that time of the month, every month from the time the girl starts menstruating till she hits menopause. The movement and freedom of women and kids, during their period is restricted many ways. I understand that many of the girls in rural areas drop out of school once they hit puberty due to these myths & taboo, as well as the unavailability of good & low-cost hygiene products. As anyone who tries to swim against the current knows, it is neither easy nor simple to change a mindset; a centuries old mindset which has the collective weight of religion, culture, superstition and sometimes business, behind it.

Now, this person, being a man did not help matters much. He had his task cut out. He wanted to bring about a change, a revolution in the lives of women, after he saw his wife collecting rags to use during her period as they could not afford the expensive pads. He wanted to come up with low cost good quality pads. However, his intention was misunderstood and he was ostracised by his family, neighbours and his village. His own family left him, during the time he was researching on the solution. He did not lose faith and continued his work. 

Source : Google Images
After years of toil, this simple and unassuming gentleman with no fancy degree and with hardly any money, invented a machine which turns out sanitary pads in a cost effective and simple manner. This patented machine has changed not only his life but all also the lives of many thousands of women (mostly rural) in India. Yes, his family also came back to him, once they were convinced of his belief and intentions. These machines are marketed to women-run self-help groups in rural India, thus providing employment to women as well as helping them to find a new freedom in their lives. He believed strongly in bringing about a social change in the country through his venture. And he has succeeded to a large extent in this.

I understand that he has received offers from several national and international firms to commercialise his venture, but he has steadfastly refused to sell out to them. In a world where businesses focus on profits at any cost, this person has brought in a refreshing outlook. There is so much to learn from this simple and straight forward gentleman.

His efforts have been rightly recognised by several institutions in India and abroad, thus bringing the much required focus on a much needed social change.

Arunachalam Muruganantham - Source : Google Images

Ladies and gentlemen, that person is Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham, also known as the Menstrual Man, the name from the documentary on him by Amit Virmani.

Here's more power to a very thoughtful man, who had the courage and belief to change the lives of hundreds if not thousands of women, for the better. He continues to strive for this cause, even today.

For A-Z Challenge 2014

Here are some of my fellow challengers:

Monday, 14 April 2014

Listening, are you?

Source: Google Images
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!"

"Keep your ears open."

"Listen to me and listen to me carefully"

"Pay attention"

We have all heard these lines (of course, the first one rarely!) or some form of it time and again. Isn't it?

Source : Google Images
Here's a little exercise for you today. When someone talks to you, be consciously aware how much attention you are giving to that person. Did you fully understand what that person was telling you? 

Similarly, observe what the person you are talking to is doing. Is that person paying full attention to what you are saying? Does he/she come across as distracted or listening half-heartedly? Not there fully with you? How do you as the talker, feel?

We usually hear, but not listen so much. How many times have we been asked "Are you listening to me?" or told "You didn't even listen to what I said" and how many times we have used these lines with others. 

Source : Google Images
Sometimes it's a wonder how we humans even manage to have a decent & active conversation going. Or how we manage to learn things. We are always in a tearing hurry to add our two cents.

Source : Google Images
Most often than not, we reply on auto-pilot. We have learnt to make the appropriate sounds to make the person talking believe that we are actually listening.

Someone had asked-Do you listen to understand or to reply? That set me thinking. Many a times, rather than listening we are busy preparing our replies or even reply before the person is done with talking. This leaves the person who is talking rather dissatisfied or render the conversation a not so useful one

Active listening through asking relevant questions, making a sincere attempt to understand and then respond appropriately, is being encouraged in order to have meaningful communication.

We all have our sounding boards, who allow us to talk while all they do is just listen with rapt attention. How light and positive we have felt after talking to them. If both the parties feel like that with each conversation they have, how wonderful and life changing would that be!

Source: Google Images

Listen and be listened to!

Some of my fellow challengers:

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Kryptonite - What is yours?

For those who have read and / or watched Superman, Kryptonite is not a strange word. For those who haven't, here is a little story.

Kal-El was born on a planet called Krypton millions of light years away from Earth. Due to unstable conditions, the planet exploded and all the inhabitants perished. The explosion threw the radioactive shards of Kryptonite everywhere. However, just before the planet was destroyed, baby Kal-El was transported to Earth by his parents to save him, thus making him the sole survivor. It's another matter that as the story progresses many other survivors keep cropping up now and then. Kal-El comes to be known as Superman later on in life as he discovers his super powers and starts using them for the good of the world.

Are you with me so far? Good! This is how he looks like. All very super!

Christopher ReeveTHE Superman. Always. 
Source : Google Images

Now, Superman's powers were boosted by his Kryptonian body cells' ability to process the energy from our yellow Sun. Kryptonite (yes, the Green coloured one) being radioactive & from his planet, has this property of interfering with this ability, thus draining him of his powers, rendering him weak; especially if he cannot be in sunlight. The villains exploited this property of Krptonite, against Superman, to carry out their evil deeds. So, Kryptonite has become one of the accepted terms to describe something specific to a person, which renders him/her weak or helpless; Synonymous with Achilles' heel.

Source : Google Images
Interesting, isn't it, how this word also came to mean what it means today?

The other day someone said to me, "Everyone has their kryptonite" and I really liked the usage, because.... hey, it's associated with my all time favourite Superhero and the usage sounds very hip. So, I wanted to know more about it. Also, as it was ages since I had watched Superman (played by THE Christopher Reeve), I had to refresh my memory about the story, planet Krypton, Kryptonite, the works. So, that warranted a bit of digging up to do and that's how this little story comes to you.

Now, you are equipped with the origin of "Kryptonite" & it's usage. All you need to do now is to go into the world and use it!

Make sure others don't use your 'Kryptonite' against you! Stay safe.

* Miss you lots Christopher Reeve! Guess you are zipping around in your costume somewhere in the Universe saving some world from evil doers and destruction. *

This is for A-Z Challenge 2014

Here are some of my fellow challengers: