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Month: January 2016

St. Petersberg- A Treasure of Russia

St. Petersberg- A Treasure of Russia

So wasn’t I lucky? Thanks to hubby dearie and his job, I got to spend a good ten days in St. Petersburg last year. And I must say the city stole my heart. “Fantastico” and charming, the beauty around was simply indescribable. St. Petersburg is a prospering and thriving tourist hub in northern Russia. Blogging about each and every thing I saw in Petersburg would be a voluminous task. I choose my favourite bit- the Peter and Paul Fortress. Does this sound straight out of the childhood nursery rhyme “Two little dickey birds sitting on a wall. One name Peter the other named Paul?”  Well, it actually has nothing to do with it.

The history of St. Petersburg began on an islet near the right bank of the beautiful river Neva. In the 18th century, Peter the Great laid the foundation of this fortress which later became the capital of the Russian Empire. The city hence got its name “St. Petersburg”. The main entrance to the fort, the ever beautiful Peter Gate is from the Trinity Square, the oldest square in the city. This gate is a fine example of the early Petersburg Baroque, remarkable for its arts.  The Peter and Paul Fortress also house a cathedral where the first Russian monarchs have been buried. In fact many members of the Romanov Dynasty of Russia were buried in this cathedral. In 1991, a monument to Peter the Great was installed in the fortress. It was presented to the city by the artist Mikhail Shemiakin who now lives in the USA.

As a tourist, especially from India, winters could be pretty intolerable. So I was happy to be in the best part of the year, with pleasant weather- in the month of August.  Of course, I am sure, if I had braved the cold and done this trip in December, I would have spent just half on sightseeing and shopping. Being a hardcore vegetarian and Russians being predominantly meat eaters, I initially was apprehensive if I would be able to manage. Luckily I managed to find these little roadside trucks that sold buns stuffed with mashed potatoes, called “Karthoshka”. And I did quite like it. Black coffee and black tea is the order of the day. So every time I needed those frothy Indian milky coffees, I headed to those plush restaurants that served cappuccino.

Luckily, we opted to stay in a service apartment with a little kitchenette attached. It worked out cheaper on my pocket as well as I could cook up a decent breakfast for the kids. Most streets have a super market called “produkti”, where I could pick bread, eggs, milk, some fruits etc…

Petersburg is truly a Fantastico”- where you could go for long walks on the banks of Neva, soak in some Russian Culture, and see some beautiful structures and museums.

*All photographs have been clicked with my personal camera 🙂.. Aint I done a good job?

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Life Across the Sand Dunes

Life Across the Sand Dunes

I wasn’t too happy to do the camel safari on a recent trip to Jaisalmer. It seemed pretty in-human to be mounted on an animal and being dragged around in one of the most difficult terrains- the desert. Before I began my journey to Jaisalmer- the Golden City of India, I was gently advised by a dear friend of mine, who probably knew my eccentricities, that if you are going to the Thar Desert, there is no way you are to miss the camel safari.

The Sam sand dunes, an odd 60 kms inland from the Indo-Pak border, are a major tourist attraction, especially in the winter months where thousands throng to ride and “navigate” across the dunes of the desert. Sam has a vast expanse of dunes and you could practically get lost here if you don’t have a local to guide you around. And I soon realized that, despite me not wanting to burden an already, burdened animal called the ship of the desert, the best way to get around the desert was only on a camel back. The presence of sparse vegetation, extremities in weather and lack of proper civil habitation around meant, you are dependent on that one man and the camel he pulls along with him.

So here they were – Khan and his camel Sultan- my knight in not so shining armor and his dear animal friend. When I first saw Khan standing outside my tent with his partner in crime Sultan, the first thing that caught my eyes where there teeth. I didn’t know camel teeth could be so white, and I didn’t know chewing pan could stain your teeth so much, because Khan’s teeth were a dark red.

Despite Khan being overly-friendly(well everyone in Rajasthan is), I managed to convince him that I won’t mount on to the camel, and would prefer to walk by its side, with Khan serving as my guide. And Khan agreed, just making a casual remark that I should later on blame him for anything.  But here I was all proud of myself. Proud that I would  not be troubling an animal.

My first few steps were comfortable. But soon I realized something wasn’t. What was it? Hmmm my shoes. You don’t walk in the desert with shoes. I noticed Khan and Sultan were bare foot. And anyways it was December and the sand felt cool. So I slipped out of my shoes and walked barefoot. Up and down the dunes took me. I ran gleefully like a little girl. As we navigated through the desert, the dunes just got bigger. And it just got tougher. I huffed and puffed and within twenty minutes, I was exhausted. I suddenly felt parched and dehydrated. I gulped down those precious drops of water, when Khan said, “Madam please listen to me and sit on the camel. Sultan won’t mind it. You aren’t used to the desert sand and it’s getting dark. We have a long way to go”. Panting, I saw no option. I just let my principle of not  troubling an animal fly away in the cold December breeze.

From upon the hump of the camel as I stared into the vastness of the desert, I realized the truth. No one can navigate through this terrain better than the camel. I casually asked Khan at that moment what he made for a living. He replied back, “Around  8,000-10,000 during the season months between November to March. Other months I farm Jowar. The harvest I get is meager and I just manage to make ends meet.”

“What does Sultan do in these months?” I asked. Khan smiled and said, “He just sleeps all day and in the evenings he comes along with me to the market. It is only when you big people grace the desert does Sultan and me get to eat well.

I heard Khan out that day and realized the coarse lives lived by people in such harsh terrains. I didn’t feel like protesting anymore. I just watched the sun set across the desert sand from the humps of the camel and hoped Khan and Sultan would someday see a better life.

*All photographs have been clicked with my personal camera 🙂.. Aint I done a good job?

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

What Did I Carry Back From Rajasthan?

What Did I Carry Back From Rajasthan?

During my recent trip to Rajasthan, I realized how important music is to them and, the integral part it plays in their culture. Whether it is the somber tones that are emanated from the seventeen-string “Kamaicha”(instrument made out of mango wood and a round resonator, covered in goat leather) or the soulful voices of the local tribes, Rajasthan music will fill your heart with a feeling that cannot be described.

As a tourist, I walked on the dusty lanes of Jaisalmer, to be greeted by sounds of music at practically every nook and corner. From the sounds of anklets that the local women wore, to the bells that adorned their “ghagras”, there was a resonance of music everywhere. One particular song that caught my attention is the traditional folk song  “Kesariya Balam Aao Ni”. I had heard this song earlier in the Bollywood movie “DOR”. The music in this movie was amazing and I always thought this particular song was indeed an original composition of its music directors. Little did I know that it was in fact a folk song of Rajasthan that has been passed on from generation to generation.

I stayed in a desert camp hotel on the Sam deserts in Jaisalmer. As I reached there on a pleasant December afternoon, the staff welcomed me by singing this song. Women in the traditional attire danced and the men in “Pagadis and Dhoti”, sang this song. Despite their voices being unusually coarse, there was something in it that tugged at my heart. Was it the landscape around, or the music, I was really not able to tell.

On the dusty road to the forts in Jaisalmer, the next day I sported this really old looking man. He sat crossed legged with his instrument, eyes transfixed on it, singing away as though there was no tomorrow. It was the same song yet again. I had to stop my tracks, and despite a tight sightseeing schedule, I stayed for a good half an hour, soaking in the music that emanated from his instrument.

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On the narrow lane outside the Fort

Forts of Rajasthan are huge and could often take you a day to completely see it. As I explored the yellow sandstone structures, I spotted yet again a duo, seated on a platform. Smiling at every tourist who passed by, they sang in a pretty loud voice,” Kesariya…”. They did take occasional breaks from their singing. But that was only when they didn’t really spot a tourist around. There were no microphones to resonate their voices. The walls of the forts were powerful enough to echo the music across the fort.

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Music without a microphone inside the fort

So intrigued was I by this particular song that I decided to speak to the locals around there to gather more information about it. I was told that the song “Kesariya Balam Aao Ni.. “ is a folk song of the Manganiyar community of Rajasthan. The song is sung in Mand singing style( a style that is not a full- fledged raag, pretty similar to the Indian Thumri or Ghazal). The words of the song are the thoughts of a young girl who is calling out to the love of her life, welcoming him home.

My holiday in Rajasthan came to an end. And despite my suitcase load of souvenirs, my heart was full of the melodies that floated in the air. They would stay with me longer than the physical things I carried back with me from Rajasthan.

*All photographs have been clicked with my personal camera :).. Aint I done a good job?

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Keep Your Face to the Sunshine…

Keep Your Face to the Sunshine…

Ranchi- the capital city of Jharkhand is located in the southern most part of the Chota Nagpur Plateau. From natural water falls, to dams, to temples, the city boasts of many attractions. The Dassam Falls, the Hundru Falls, the Jonha Falls, the Hirni falls and the Panchghagh falls are just a few of them. No wonder the city is known as the “City of Waterfalls”. And not to forget, the city is home to one of India’s greatest cricketers, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

In this beautiful city, is young Shweta Mandal, a 27 year old girl the city is truly proud of. At the age of 25 years, Shweta topped the Ranchi University in her subject. Further to this she went on to clear the National Eligibility Test and is currently pursuing her MPhil in Sociology from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi.

So what is so special about Shweta Mandal’s achievements? Aren’t there many others who top universities and achieve great heights? But Shweta is special, she is different from the rest. Shweta is 100% visually impaired.

Where childhood days for many are filled with laughter, play and fun, at the tender age of six, a tumor was detected in Shweta’s brain. What followed were multiple trips to the hospital, surgeries and radiation procedures. Over the course of a few months, Shweta’s tumor was removed, getting her life back on track. But not for long. By the time she was fifteen occasional pains, headaches and vomiting became a part of her life. And before she realized, during her class 10, she had lost her eyesight, completely.

She was in a critical phase in her life. With dreams big and the impending board exams, life suddenly became difficult. For one, she had no idea about what Braille was. Reading and preparing for her exams now seemed to be an impossible task. But Shweta wasn’t deterred. With the help of her parents, who recorded the entire course material on a tape recorder, Shweta spent hours listening to it. And when it was time to give her exams, she narrated the answers to a school appointed writer, who filled them in the answer paper. Shweta scored a 72% in those board exams. It was no looking back after that.

She went on to go to college, to becoming a University topper. And at the 29th convocation of the Ranchi University at Morhabadi, Shweta was awarderded the gold medal. Truly she deserved it, along with the accolades.

It made me happy to read about Shweta and her achievements in the local newspaper*. Not often do journalists report news that isn’t a revenue generator for them . But for me news such as this are truly “Fantastico” and must be spoken about. They would serve as an inspiration for each one of us and could bring about a positive impact” in our life. I am leaving behind a favourite quote of mine by Helen Keller.

“Keep Your Face to the Sunshine and You Cannot See a Shadow”- Helen Keller

Shweta just did that- Faced the Sunshine, ignored the Shadow.

*Source of news info: Times of India dated Jan 20, 2016

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Book Review- Ramayana The Game of Life- Stolen Hope

Book Review- Ramayana The Game of Life- Stolen Hope

Despite mythology not really being my genre, I braved and read “The Ramayana The Game of Life- Stolen Hope” by Shubha Vilas. And I must say I was pleasantly surprised that by the time I reached the end of the book, I was pretty pleased with myself. I not only enjoyed the experience but was also able to soak in some essential values it brought out.

The Stolen Hope is a part of the Ramayana Series. The earlier parts were Rise of the Sun Prince and Shattered Dreams.

I was initially apprehensive about going head on first with the third in the series. I wasn’t too sure if I would be able to follow the story. However, thanks to the summary of the earlier two parts at the very beginning, my journey with the third became easy. Of course I do already have a fairly decent knowledge of the Ramayana.

So here is a simplified version of the Great Epic. The author has definitely done justice to it. Well researched and suitably adapted for our present day.

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Stolen Hope begins with the trio Ram, Sita and Lakshmana, well into their exile at the Dandakaranya forest. They subsequently move to Panchavati. In this blissful atmosphere as they approach the last year of their exile, they encounter the demon Supanakha. Surpanakha plays a very vital role in the Ramayana. She is the crux and the trigger to the great war and the subsequent destruction of the demon king Ravana. Stolen Hope narrates only upto the point of Sita’s abduction by Ravana.

What scores for the book is the parallel relation drawn between the characters and our present day lives.

Lines that I liked from the book:

“Rama in eliminating all these demons internally represents that only by destroying the false ego and its associated disqualifications can one expect growth and righteousness and progress on one’s spiritual quest. “

“Rama also wanted to teach the wold that when one prefers the cheap attractions of this world over God, He silently walks away from one’s life. Maricha represents the fraud veil of illusion over intelligence that numbs the sense of discrimination. All have their own golden deer in life.”

I loved the profound thought that was brought out from these lines.

My Thumbs up for:

  • The simplicity in explaining an epic as mighty as the Ramayana
  • Well researched and addition of sub-stories that are of relevance in the Ramayana
  • Great Packaging- loved the front cover.

My Thumbs down:

  • Not a light book. You actually need to put your brains to some use.
  • The book took me some time to complete.
  • Nevertheless the book is worth a  read for any mythology book lover, and for those who have more time to read.

Get it on Amazon.in

Shubha Vilas

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Jaico Publishing House (2016)
  • ISBN-10: 8184958242
  • ISBN-13: 978-8184958249

About the Author: Shubha Vilas, an otherworldly seeker and a motivational speaker, holds a degree in Engineering and law with specialization in Patent Law. His leadership classes are well known with top-level administration in corporate houses. He likewise offers people some assistance with applying so as to deal with present day life circumstances the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana and other dharmic customs.

I am reviewing Ramayana: The Game of Life – Book 3 – Stolen Hope by Shubha Vilas as a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books

Yashodhara Lal- There’s Something About You

Yashodhara Lal- There’s Something About You

Ok So I have been doing a whole lot of reading lately. Thanks to my kids who have been exceptionally well-behaved for some time now and the lovely chill weather of Delhi. Just tuck into bed in a warm blanket with a book—it is a great feeling. And this time, I picked up the glossy looking third book of Yashodara Lal – “There’s Something about You”. The title did remind me of the Hollywood flick “There’s Something about Mary”. The book has nothing to do with the movie though.

So here it is. The story of Trishna aka Trish – your average girl next door with all things wrong in her life. She’s lost her job, has an ailing father, an over-bearing mom, and at 28 she isn’t in a relationship either. And to make life feel more miserable is an annoying neighbor who loves to give her some not so useful advice.  In this topsy- turvy world of Trish, magic happens when a pseudo –psycho (or something of that sort- I am yet to understand what to term him), Sahil Agarwal enters. What plays between them, her new avenues to earn some money, her trying times with her bitchy editor and her coming to terms with her life…is what “There’s Something About You” all about.

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A good looking and well-marketed book, I still remember the book launch that was held in cities across the country in July 2015. The cover design surely scores all the brownie points.  Yet, despite this extravagant look, the book fails to appeal. The narration is simple, and characterization of key persons is almost near perfect. But what the book clearly lacks is a concrete story.  There was predictability all across the plot and it doesn’t do much to keep you engrossed. You could easily skip through sections that seem way too stretched. Where subtle humor has been the trademark in Yashodara’s earlier books, she has failed to create a magic in this third writing venture of hers.

What worked:
The glossy look and feel- Yes it felt good holding it.

Easy to read with no fancy jargons or plots

What didn’t work:

Lack of a concrete story

Highly predictable plot and climax

Seemed more like old wine in new bottle

I did somehow manage to complete the book and I actually wondered…. Is there something in the book? Not a great read..

My Rating:

  • Book cover appeal: 4.5/5
  • Story & narration: 1/5
  • Fun Element: 1/5
  • Overall reading experience 1/5

Get the book on Amazon.in

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin (13 July 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9351771997
  • ISBN-13: 978-9351771999

20dmc_2444819eAbout the Author: Yashodhara Lal graduated from IIM-Bangalore in 2002 and has over a decade of experience in the corporate world, across the FMCG and media industries. She lives in Gurgaon with her husband Vijay and the three children who they refer to as Peanut, Pickle and Papad. Yashodhara began her journey in writing with her blog, described as a serious attempt to take life less seriously.

Nitesh Hyde Park – A Nitesh Estates blunder

Nitesh Hyde Park – A Nitesh Estates blunder

As bloggers, we sure do have this unique power and ability to voice out our opinions and grievances about things that bother us. Here is Rahul Narula’s blog that speaks about the unprofessional behaviour of Nitesh Estates- a tier one builder based in Bangalore. I had to post this – as a blogger and as a fellow property holder in the mentioned project.

Originally Posted on http://rahulnarula.blogspot.in/2016/01/nitesh-hyde-park-nitesh-estates-blunder.html

Today January 5, 2016 seems to a different day. After been associated with Nitesh Estates over a period of about 6 years today I feel I am ready to share my experiences with others. Before starting off, the question that’s simmering in my mind is – Why it took so long for me to pen this down?

It was circa 2009 when I had decided to finally take a dip in the ever booming Bangalore’s real estate market. In order to fulfill our dream of buying a home for myself, we started looking for homes in the hot Bangalore real estate market. After about a year of looking for a project where we can realize our future home we zeroed in on Nitesh Hyde Park, by Nitesh Estates on Bannerghatta Road. Nitesh Estates, at the time, was an emerging builder in residential homes having had some success with the commercial space like Ritz-Carlton Bangalore. I felt since they were establishing in the residential market they will do their best with the projects they build to win more and more customers and finally decided to put our trust on them. I had envisioned them to compete with the likes of Brigade, Mantri, Prestige, Purvankara’s of Bangalore which have had good reputation over the years.

Nitesh Hyde Park was advertised as budget homes primarily due to the faltering housing market at that time. We were convinced by the Nitesh Estates sales representatives that they are called budget home primarily because of the low ticket size of the apartments than anything else. There will be no compromise on the quality.  The project was to have 500+ apartments in 1, 2, 3 bedroom configuration and was to be completed in phases with the first phase of blocks A, B, C completed by 2012 that is 3 years from that time. The remaining D, E, F blocks to follow soon.

After a couple of visits by the sales representative and our visits to their sales office in MG Road we finally signed the agreement for our first home. The spirits were high and we were excited having booked the apartment. The project was finally launched on Feb 2010 after all the required approvals were received. Nitesh Estates was overwhelmed with the response and they also decided not to do the model apartment at that time. We later realized this is where the happy part of the story ends.

Since 2010 to now 2016 it has been a totally terrible experience. For starters I am still awaiting the handover of the apartment. The completion dates of the initial A, B, C blocks have been moved innumerable times over the past 3 years and inspite of various assurances from the likes of Nitesh Shetty, Ashwini Kumar – COO the reality is far from rosy.  Though the agreement had all the standard clauses regarding penalty in case of delay but force majeure is something that always comes to the builders rescue. They have not paid a penny towards penalty to anyone though none of us feel the reasons for the delay in this case qualify as force majeure.

There were numerous meetings and escalations at various points during the construction with all management folks but every meeting came with their own set of excuses and new dates. Also the arm twisting tactics of the builders came into play during this period when they threatened to cancel the bookings of most proactive members.

The project finally started handover for Block A around mid of 2015 and having got an opportunity to visit myself personally in July 2015 the block C was no where near completion. I was told that it will be ready in a month’s time but I have been awaiting since then. I was however given the option to register my property since I was personally present there and I wouldn’t be available there after that. I decided to go ahead with the registration and paid up all the outstanding dues including first year maintenance. Here comes another arm twisting tactic by the cunning builder. They came up with the maintenance agreement which was heavily skewed in their favor that I need to sign there and there at the registrar’s office before I can get my apartment registered. At that point I was left with no option but to sign the agreement in order to get the property registered for which I had travelled all the way to Bangalore.

To rub salt on wound over the next couple of months I was made aware that the maintenance (upward of Rs 4.2/psft) of my apartment block is already started. I was like WHATTTT??? I haven’t been handed over the apartment and I am already made to pay the maintenance. Moreover there is no talk about the common areas, club house, swimming pool which generally are the high cost incurring amenities. Questioning the rationale of this again fetched no result as usual.

The most disturbing aspect of the project started coming to light after people started moving in. I am very well averse to the fact that there are some nagging issues in the beginning which gets streamlined over the period of time. But there are some serious issues that needs to be addressed.

Today after almost more than 8-9 months from the initial handover and a lot of perseverance from the residents,  there is no plan for electricity, water and internet. The quality of the project also seemed to be compromised and not upto the mark.

The current owners are trying their level best to get things in order and I feel confident that will persistent fight and pressure on the builder we will be able to make it better.

There is no update on the D, E, F blocks of the project and seems Nitesh Hyde Park is busy selling their premium block O in the project. They are putting a lot more effort in sales and marketing rathar than after sales. I really wish all the prospective buyers good luck for their endeavor.

There are various other ongoing and completed residential projects by Nitesh like Nitesh Caesars Palace, Nitesh Forrest Hill, Nitesh Flushing Meadows and more recently Nitesh Rio, Nitesh British Columbia to name a few. I am not sure what the status of those projects are. Though I don’t know too much about them but I will be highly surprised if those projects were handled any differently.

But for me I was very sure that this is my first and last association with the builder of such shallow  attitude. Also, by this time I am able to come to terms to the reasons of such a long delay in writing this earlier. It seems to be a combination of lack on commitment on my part and  a slight confidence that things will soon start improving.

Written by Rahul Narula http://rahulnarula.blogspot.in/
Is The True Indian a Very Scared Person?- Guest Post By Priyanka

Is The True Indian a Very Scared Person?- Guest Post By Priyanka

Aren’t we the cultured, patient, tolerant, civilized extremely hard working, brainy people, invading the smartest of the workplaces throughout the world? Or are we something else all-together? Read this interesting guest post from Priyanka– a reader, and her take on who we actually are. 

Irrespective of the language or religion of a nation, we Indians have a natural tact to blend in and survive!! Yes, that’s the word that describes us. We know how to survive. And what’s unique in our survival instinct is that we don’t fight!! We never fight!! Look at our own independence!!! No fight at all…..all peace and non violence.

Somewhere this tendency is so deep rooted that irrespective of our states, language or religion, if you happen to belong to this subcontinent you have been brought up by your beloved and doting parents to believe in the fact that heroes don’t fight!! For anything…they walk on the path of morals, truth and honesty and compromise their dreams, sacrifice their happiness for a greater cause, which in our mere mortal world is stability and society (they are great demonic causes).

So let’s get to the point straight!! If you’re from a moderately traditional middle class family in India, you have probably got an overdose of traditions and morals by the time you hit 18 and would actually be lucky enough to get a college far from home!! So that at least you can live on your own terms (albeit on your dad’s /mom’s money). You might think that you have an artist’s flair for the brush, or have an inner calling for writing or literature fascinates you but what happens when you voice this to your folks? “Where is the stability? And what will the society say?”

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Who Decides Them?

The two demons I mentioned above surface and they will keep popping their heads at every crucial juncture of your life!! That is until you decide for yourself and become selfish! The moment you want to do what pleases you and is drastically different from the view point of your conventional family they come screaming at you “Why are you being so unreasonable and selfish?” That’s guidance for you and what they say is the wisdom of ages.

But aren’t they forgetting that ages change and so must wisdom? Transistors have vanished with the advent of televisions, changes have happened with the internet revolution…that’s how the world’s been turning and it’s true that we didn’t start this fire!!  It was always burning since the world’s been turning. So why be afraid???

The sense of obligation towards our parents is so great that we spend a good part of our lives living up to their images of a perfect life. We are made to believe that that’s what is right and good for us.  Most of us try and remain politically correct and agreeable to elders in the family, to save ourselves the onslaught of obligatory moral lectures! What if we know that what we want is going to hurt their feelings and make them mighty upset? How many would dare to go on to find their own path at the cost of their happiness?

So u see the race as a whole is afraid to express its true selves which has hampered our creativity as a nation so badly, that we have allowed ourselves to be ruled upon by nonsensical myths and traditions. We try and justify everything with some pseudo-scientific explanation. From marriage customs, to girl child, to education, to medical issues, societal issues, religious issues, we sure do have a justification. Boys and girls are brought up to believe that religion (whichever) and their grand history is something they should identify themselves with. Things that ;first have no relevance ; second you don’t understand and hence never relate to; and third making you weak and not encouraging to go out and find your true calling. Oh but who wants a true calling? Wouldn’t there be a loss of stability (monetary) and societal prestige??

Well, I don’t wish to be pessimistic but true Indian today is a very scared person!

-Priyanka

Priyanka is a spirited young woman with a take of her own on most things in everyday life. She could laugh on almost everything, including herself. She  calls the shots in her typical Indian home, with two little brats as her aides and her knight in shining armour(read hubby) to counter her.

Image Courtesy: http://www.aspillai.com/lectures/science.php

Do you have an opinion, a view or just a rambling you would like to share? Be a guest at my madhouse and I would be glad to host you. You could reach me on meotherwise(dot)blog(at)gmail(dot)com

Must You Only Empower Yourself?

Must You Only Empower Yourself?

“Why do you want to write about me Didi? I work as a domestic maid and barely make ends meet,” said Poonam. I replied, “It is not often that you meet a person with guts to stand up for themselves and, also for others in a similar predicament.” The creases on her forehead leveled out as she picked up the hot cup of chai.

“I miss my home in Firozabad. The lush green fields, my father’s charpoy, and my school near the Talab. I left everything to marry Rajbir. He was good, until the day we discovered my first pregnancy- when the pressure to give birth to a boy surfaced. I realized the outcome would not be pleasant, if it was otherwise. I delivered a baby girl and overnight Rajbir changed into a beast, coming home drunk and sexually abusing me. In a matter of 3 months I was expecting again. This time around, Rajbir was more cautious. I was told my second girl was a stillborn, however I had my doubts. I lay in the hospital bed weak and exhausted when I saw another woman in the same ward rejoicing the arrival of her new born. It was her fourth child- a boy, after three successive girls. The proud father held his prize as the family hovered around the woman. At that moment I felt a chill run down my spine. For the want of a male heir, I did not know how many more pregnancies I would have to go through. I shut my eyes and walked out, my baby in arms, determined never to let anybody exploit my womb in the name of tradition.”

Poonam paused to sip the chai.

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Happy Times- Poonam With her Daughter

Her story though doesn’t end here. With life having given her a sour taste, Poonam gathered up enough courage to not only walk out of the traditional set up of husband, in-laws and home, but also move a step forward- empowering others in a similar situation. She now spends hours talking to those living in slums and to street dwellers, about gender equality, spacing pregnancies and contraceptive options, all on her own, without any agency, NGO or Family Welfare Centre backing her. “Didi, in our country, the men are the main decision-makers. So instead of speaking and reaching out to women I talk to the man of the house. Automatically women come in line.  Most men hesitate to talk to me. Some even ridicule me for intruding into their personal life. But I don’t give up. A change has to be brought about in our whole thought process. I do it because I believe I can bring about a change. Even if it is a miniscule one. I go on and on… I stand outside hospital wards and counsel the ones with a glum face as I know their wives have delivered a baby girl. Some listen and give it a thought. Some walk away”.

The 2011 census showed the child sex ratio at an all-time-low of 914 females for every 1,000 males. We are a highly patriarchal society where daughters are often looked at as a burden. Hence it doesn’t come as a surprise to hear of pregnant women being forced to undergo illegal sex-determination tests and abort the foetus if it was female.

A favourite quote of mine from a journal on women’s empowerment says, “Women’s empowerment is all about being able to think take action and control one’s life in an autonomous way. One should gain control over one’s destiny and the circumstances of one’s life.” It’s inspiring to see that Poonam didn’t just stop at walking out and leading her own life. But she chooses to work towards empowering many more lives.

Poonam got me thinking that day. It isn’t enough to just empower oneself, it must extend to the larger sections of the society too…

Linking to http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/

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The Awe-Inspiring Story of Major DP Singh

The Awe-Inspiring Story of Major DP Singh

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I heard about Major DP Singh during the OROP (One Rank One Pension) media coverage. The OROP scheme is a long standing demand of the armed forces for a uniform pension to all defence personnel, who retire at the same rank with the same length of service, irrespective of their date of retirement. Major DP Singh is part of the committee that aims to resolve the issues related to OROP.

I spotted Major Singh on 26 July 2015, the day India proudly marks as Kargil Vijay Diwas. Major Singh undertook an 11-km run in Delhi to support the larger cause of OROP, representing many faceless soldiers who live and die fighting for the nation. So what’s so inspiring about Major DP Singh? There definitely are many more individuals who run, walk, paint, sketch or sing for a cause.

But Major DP Singh is different. For one, he is a Kargil war survivor, India’s first amputee marathon runner, a blade runner and a Limca record holder. This is his awe- inspiring story.

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Major DP SIngh

India was at war with Pakistan in Kargil in 1999. A 25 year old Singh was knocked by a mortar that ripped his vital organs and tissues. Lying on the battle ground in a pool of blood he was taken to the field hospital where he was declared dead by the doctors. A fighter in true spirit and soul, Singh defied this and overpowered death. Months in the Artificial Limb Centre of the military hospital, and losing all his body mass, Singh was told by the doctors that his leg would have to be amputed. But this didn’t deter him. He was alive and that was important to him.

Where running could be tough for many of us, it could become excruciating for someone with a prosthetic limb. Major Singh though has come a long way from his first marathon that was marked with pain and bleeding. After falling a million times, he has picked himself up, and as of today has over 20 marathons to his credit. No wonder he has rightfully earned himself the title of the “Indian Blade Runner” apart from earning an entry into the Limca book of records.

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Marathon of August 2015

Major Singh’s story does not end here. From a soldier during the Kargil war, fighting death, and becoming India’s first amputee marathon runner, he also works towards inspiring many more lives. Apart from supporting the OROP cause, he runs an NGO called the Challenging One. The organization guides many other physically challenged individuals. Singh personally meets them, their families and friends and provides them with the hope to go ahead in life.

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OROP and Major Singh

What is awe-inspiring in Major Singh is that he hasnt stopped at just “himself”. He has gotten up to stand for the welfare of many others. Most of us dont really attempt to do it.

Major DP Singh is an inspiration to every one of us. Yes, it has taken him 14 years to start running, but his never die spirit and raring to go attitude has got him back on his feet.

“It is very easy to QUIT… majority does so… I, however would like to TRY till last breath, even if I fail.I know it is hard but then I am chosen by God himself for these challenges so why should I bother. Let HIM only worry about result.
Jai Hind”- Major DP Singh

He now wishes to represent India at the Olympics. Way to go Major!!!

Image Courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/MajorDPSingh/?fref=ts

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Youth Ki Awaz is a media platform for our generation to address some of the world’s most pressing issues – through thoughtful opinions and reportage.