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Ajanta Caves- Art Beyond Imagination

Ajanta Caves- Art Beyond Imagination

It was the summer of 1819. Captain John Smith, a young Cavalry Officer, along with a party of British hunters, was tracking down a tiger. In the thick forest of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the animal’s footprints led them straight past a cavity in a rock face. They soon found themselves in front of a manmade façade, cut into the rock face. As the hunting party slowly made its way inside, a burning torch in hand, they were left spellbound. ’Coz what lay in front, was a long hall with octagonal pillars and a circular dome. All over the walls were murals and paintings –art beyond their belief. It was what we know today as the Ajanta Caves. It had been abandoned for centuries!!

Art beyond imagination

The Ajanta Caves, amidst the lush vegetation of Maharashtra, holds within it an experience unimaginable. These Buddhist rock-cut temples, with its Fresco paintings, speak volumes about India’s ancient culture and heritage. Ever since its discovery, considerable effort has been done in trying to restore and recapture these paintings.

A life dedicated to Ajanta

They say early childhood influences have a substantial impact on a person’s life, especially on his passions and career choices. Dinesh Baurkhandi’s early days were spent observing his father Shambhuprasad Baukhandi and his work on the paintings of Ajanta Caves. His father was a senior artist in Archeological Survey of India and also worked in The National Museum at New Delhi, when he was transferred to Ajanta Caves to reproduce the paintings. This reproduction is in display in The National Museum.

Dinesh Baurkhandi would visit the Ajanta Caves with his father every vacation. Observing his style of work, he would paint out lines and fill colors for his father. He learnt the technique and nuances of painting in water color, water paper and oil on canvas. It was after his father passed away, he picked up the brush and canvas to pursue the wonderful work. There has been no looking back since, and for 35 years, he has dedicated his life to Ajanta Caves paintings. Dinesh Baurkhandi’s paintings have been on display at the Ayatan Art Gallery in Pune.

Rock-cut monuments from a bygone era

The Ajanta Caves are about 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments dating from approximately the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE. The theme of paintings here is mainly Jataka stories. As the caves were dwelling places of Buddhist monks, these paintings are religious in nature mostly depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. The walls paintings comprise of murals and frescoes.

There is an extensive use of tempera style, i.e., use of pigments. The uniqueness of the art lies in blending of wet colors, layer by layer, on water paper. The outlines of female figures, the face effect and mood are distinctly portrayed. That’s what gives out the “fresco effect” in the Ajanta paintings. Emotions are expressed through hand postures. Graceful figures and mythical beings have been freely used to fill space. These paintings are a blend of physical beauty and spiritual strength, which is the hallmark of Indian style of painting.

Finest surviving example

The Ajanta Caves is today a protected monument in the care of the Archaeological Survey of India. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Truly, they are the finest surviving example of Indian art.

Road From Delhi to Wagah-Attari Border

Road From Delhi to Wagah-Attari Border

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The Zero Mile

The Wagah Border gate may seem just like any other gate. Situated on NH1, it is partly built on the Grand Trunk Road which is one of the longest and oldest highways of India. The road extends up to Kabul in Afghanistan and still remains as a major trade route between both the countries. Interestingly, Wagah is a village in Pakistan, which shares the boundary with our border village Attari. The Wagah-Attari Border Gate is strategically the most important point on the Indo-Pak Radcliffe Line

An exodus mix of Patriotism

I took the road from Delhi to Attari( 32 kms from Amritsar), to witness the popular Show of Strength and Beating Retreat ceremony, conducted at the border every day at dusk. 

“This simple 45 minute exercise, along with the lowering of the Flag, may seem entertaining. Yet, it does manage to pull those strings of patriotism deep inside you.” 

The entire exercise is put together by the security forces of India’s Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers. Started in 1959, by both the governments as a gesture of good will, the ceremony took an aggressive turn after a few years.

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Show of Strength amidst the crowds cheering

The soldiers try to outdo the other side by marching and performing drill in an exaggerated fashion, with impressively high leg kicks. Large crowds on either side of the gate clap and cheer, for their respective countries. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again.

Getting the most out of the Wagah-Border ceremony

As the rich hue of the setting sun spreads its wings, I waved back to the people on the other side. I loved the fact that they responded back with a similar gesture. I spotted a young lady with a beautiful baby, trying to click our pictures. For a moment, we stood staring into each other’s eyes, just a few meters away, with the border between us.

Participate in the ceremony. Yes you can, by cheering as loudly as possible. The BSF folks are out there for us. They represent us and need all the encouragement. I did, and it left me with goose bumps.

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The crowd- Do cheer along

Take a moment, and walk around (does require a bit more of permission). I noticed the lush green fields on the other side. There was an eerie calm, as the gentle breeze swayed the crops.  For a moment I just wished I could turn invisible and cross over.

“But well, we live in a mortal world, of bricks and mortar, and it comes with its share of restrictions.”

The Fields Across
The Fields Across

India and Pakistan both share a dark common history. Despite the mounting tensions it’s best to not cheer in a demeaning way. The other side is equally patriotic and I believe we must respect that.

Lastly, it’s best to reach before 4pm (unless you have a VIP pass, which I did).  Otherwise, you wouldn’t find a place to sit and watch the ceremony peacefully. Mobiles don’t work, due to the jammers around. So just sit back and enjoy the entire 45 minute exercise. It is well worth every bit of it!!!

The Other Side
The Other Side

Cashfat Most Trusted Cashback Website in India

Cashfat Most Trusted Cashback Website in India

According to Wikipedia, “A cashback website is a type of reward website that pays its members a percentage of money earned when they purchase goods and services via its affiliate links”. So amidst all the hassles of demonetization, lies a way for shoppers to make that extra buck on their purchase. This is with the use of a cash back site.

The concept of cashback sites in India

Users of cashback site in India can stand to get back rebates, for their purchases at specific retailers. Sites vary on what form of cashback rebates they offer their users. Some programs will provide the users with a percentage of the total purchase price, while others have a flat sum that they pay out for each action. When a customer makes a purchase online, instead of visiting the retailer directly, they may choose to follow a link from a cashback website to generate a monetary reward when buying products or services. The cashback website receives a commission from the retailer that, after the purchase is confirmed, is shared with the customer who made the purchase.

Speaking about Cashfat.com

Our very own Indian coupons and cashback website, https://www.cashfat.com is here to give you a similar benefit. When you make purchase frequently on any of their 1000+ associate retailers such as Paytm, Dominos, Flipkart, Expedia and Amazon you get to earn on your purchase.

How do you go about it?

All you need to do is sign up and then sign in to go through the website to the retailer’s online store. Locate or search for the blue/orange icon or bar on the Cashfat.com site, click, select or choose to navigate. This will take you straight to your preferred retailer’s store. You would need to first open an account with Cashfat.

What you get from it

The benefits from cash fat range from fabulous online shopping offers which include cashback, discount coupons, and promo codes. The service is absolutely free. The range of goods and brands available is large and includes names like Air Asia, Amazon, Big Basket, Burger King, Cleartrip, Decathlon, ebay, Oyo, Pizzahut, Snapdeal among many others.

It’s all hassle free

Once you enter the store of your choice, prominently displayed are the coupons and promo codes available. After the purchase is completed, believe it or not, the cashback is tracked and added on to your CASHFAT wallet thats held in your account, within 48 hours. After that, the cashback is confirmed and you can redeem it conveniently. CashFat.com is definitely a trusted cashback site in India.

#InfertilityNotATaboo- When it is Only About Her Womb

#InfertilityNotATaboo- When it is Only About Her Womb

She bears the brunt of infertility……almost always! A test in every way!

It was a hot afternoon in the month of April when I reached Poonam’s house in Raja Ka Tal- a small farming village in district Firozabad. The warm breeze gently swayed the trees, as their yellow leaves collected by her feet. Her body lay on the ground, a thin sheet covering from head to toe. It had thinned down considerably since I had first met her. Her husband Rajbir sat a distance away, quiet and somber.

A year back, I was part of a Rotary Club health camp that travelled across the state of Uttar Pradesh, to spread awareness about health and hygiene. It was here that I first met Poonam. “Bibiji, bachcha nahi ho raha he. Dawayee dijiye” (I am not conceiving. Give me some medicine). The treatment of Poonam’s primary infertility was beyond the scope of the mobile camp and also the tiny village Raja ka Tal. She was handed over a referral slip for a check-up at Firozabad’s Government Hospital. She faintly nodded when I communicated this to her. I saw a tear drop down her eye when she left the camp. But something in her moved me that day and I decided to follow up on her case with the village and district hospital. However, once I got back to Delhi, so caught up was I with my schedules that I just let it be, hoping that eventually things would fall in place for Poonam. A year later, I got to know about her death.

“Bimar pad gayee, khana hajam nahi ho raha tha, mar gayee”, said her mother. (She fell ill, couldn’t take food anymore and passed away). I couldn’t hold back anymore and had to get the entire story. I chatted up with Poonam’s childhood friend that afternoon, who tumbled it all out.

Poonam was married three years after puberty. A year into matrimony, and she still had not shown any signs of pregnancy. The taunts started, and soon her in-laws and Rajbir took matters into their own hands. He decided to marry again. It was for the want of a baby. The bride was none other than Poonam’s younger sister. For Poonam’s parents it was a win-win situation. Both daughters married at the cost of just one. Within a few months of this marriage, the news of her sisters impending pregnancy reached Poonam.

That was when the first signs of depression were noticeable. She would cry often, have temper tantrums, and develop low degree fever. For those around her, it meant, she had gone mad. No efforts were made to treat her. It wasn’t really a priority. She after all could not produce a baby. Within a span of four months, Poonam lay dead.

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Cut to Bangalore
I was meeting my school friend Anusha in a plush coffee shop after five long years. The first thing that I noticed was the disheveled hair and sullen eyes. “I have started my IVF and it’s taking a toll, physically and mentally”, she said.

A long silence followed. This wasn’t the same energetic woman I had known five years back.

“Ashok works late and travels often. But he still manages to be around for the IVF schedule. His presence is required, medically. Otherwise, life seems to be just going on, where we both lead our own separate lives.”

“Why don’t you adopt?” I asked. She glared back at me.

“My in-laws had been against our love marriage and, Ashok would not go against them a second time. They wouldn’t accept a baby that is not their blood. I hope God blesses me with a baby soon. I feel void and empty. It is killing me”.

Signs of depression yet again?

Whether it is Raja ka Tal or Bangalore, the brunt of infertility is often faced by women. There exists in society, a certain element of stigma when a woman is unable to conceive. At a time when she needs mental support, she gets the taunts and bears the blame.

Much as it is important biologically, for a woman to conceive, not being able to should not be the end of the road. Adoption regulations in India are getting easy, with even single women going in for one. A baby is all that matters for a childless couple. And adoption may well be the answer. It would reduce the mental trauma on the woman and provide a home to a child. It would bring about happiness in more than one life.

*This blog is to #SpreadAwareness about Infertility through Infertility Dost, India’s first website that facilitates couples to brave infertility with support and knowledge. You can find other links on Write Tribe.

To Rent a Womb- The New Surrogacy Bill in India

To Rent a Womb- The New Surrogacy Bill in India

Let me begin by telling you a story- the story of Baby Manji. She was born in the summer of 2008, to a surrogate mother- using the sperm of a Japanese man and an egg from an unknown source (reportedly a Nepali/Indian). But even before she was born, her parents had decided to part ways. The wife who wasn’t genetically linked to the baby didn’t want her, and the husband whose sperm was used to create the embryo, wanted the baby. The actual twist, however, came after her birth.

It was a catch 22 situation where Indian rules required the child to be legally adopted before leaving the country, but barred single men from adopting. And Japanese law didn’t recognize surrogacy. Hence Manji’s Japanese father was denied travel documents for the baby. In the months to follow, Baby Manji kicked up a storm and after a prolonged legal battle, the story ended well. Manji got her Japanese visa to leave India.

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Surrogacy isn’t really a new practice in the country. Don’t we have mythological references where Yashoda played mother to Krishna, though, Devki and Vasudev were the biological parents? In the last decade, India has been a leader and a sought after destination in surrogacy-related fertility tourism, due to the relatively low cost, with costs being roughly a third of the price compared to a procedure in the UK. We have here altruistic surrogacy, in which no charges or monetary incentive of any kind is involved. We also have commercial surrogacy which has been legally permitted since 2002, by way of giving monetary incentive in cash or kind, to the surrogate mother or her dependents or representative.

Years after Baby Manji was born, a new surrogacy regulation bill has been passed in India. But does it really answer all our questions?

The new bill would now not support commercial surrogacy, and a proposed new law would allow surrogacy only for Indian couples and not foreigners. It also bars single parents, homosexuals, live-in couples and, married woman who has at least one child of her own. Henceforth, only infertile couples who have been married for at least five years can seek a surrogate and, the surrogate must be a close relative. This bill has yet again brought the whole issue of surrogacy into limelight, with many being critical of it. Infertility specialists are of the opinion that such a law could lead to an illegal surrogacy industry. And things could just get more difficult for infertile couples for whom assisted reproductive technology provides hope. What if both the partners are single child? Whom would they turn to for a surrogate?

As a general practice and this is across the globe, we consider the woman giving birth to a child as the legal mother. But in surrogacy, the intended parents are to be recognized as the legal parents from birth, by virtue of the fact that the surrogate has signed a contract to hand over the child on birth to the commissioned parents. Not many countries in the world consider/recognize surrogacy. Luckily India is one of those few countries which recognizes surrogacy and considers the Intended/ Commissioning Parent/s as the legal parents.

I have often found the social aspects surrounding surrogacy to be complex. Well, mostly unsettled too. Various questions crop up in my mind- Who is a mother? Who is a father? Are there changes to the core definition of family? If so, is this progress?

If we do consider ourselves progressive, I wonder why many in our society aren’t in favour of adoption over surrogacy. Why is it still important to have some sort of genetic link to the child they are bringing into their lives?

I wonder why!!

*Featured Image Source: www.newsx.com

It Doesn’t Matter if Those Tiny Shoes Are Blue or Pink!

It Doesn’t Matter if Those Tiny Shoes Are Blue or Pink!

“Phir se ladki hui he!”(You have given birth to a girl again). This was the first thing I heard, when my second child was born. The duty nurse walked in and placed her by my side. I was exhausted after the long labor and was bleeding excessively. I glanced at her, all pink and tiny, when a single tear drop slipped down my eye. I was happy. My baby was just fine.

Hubby and I were elated when we realized that our second bundle of joy was on its way. The nine months seemed too long for us three- and my first born just couldn’t wait to include her yet-to-arrive sibling, in her game of Barbie dolls. However, the elders in the family seemed a wee bit stressed. It began with subtle hints and soon moved to more direct ones that this time around, the baby better be a boy!

Hubby and I seldom paid any heed to these words, as the reasons seemed absolutely absurd to us. “You already have a girl,” they would say, “and another one would simply be an additional responsibility.”

Their want of a boy stemmed from the following thoughts.

  • With the number of rape and eve teasing around, there is an additional responsibility of protection of the girl. One always has to be on tenterhooks when they go out.
  • Continuing the family name and the task of doing karma is on the shoulders of the son.

Brushing away this absurdity, in our own privacy, hubby and I would draw up a list of names- both for boys and girls. It didn’t matter to us- whether those tiny shoes were blue or pink!

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On a cold winter night in Delhi, my second one was born in the Base hospital in Delhi Cantt.., when the duty nurse loudly made the announcement that it was a girl again. I gave her a meek grin at that moment, out of exhaustion. The elders in the family hardly had anything to say. The celebration was kept minimal and the air of disappointment was evident.

Back in the gyneac ward, as hubby and I sat admiring the new one, the duty nurse walked in and asked me if I was happy. Of course I was! What more could I ask for. My family, all of four, was complete now. She chuckled as she said,” You would be coming back a third time!! I have seen the world.” We both sat gazing at the door, when the intensity of her statement actually hit us.

This is probably the story in many households in our country, where a boy is preferred over a girl child, more so when it is the second time around. And this thought process is prevalent in every strata of society- doesn’t matter whether they are educated or not, doesn’t matter if they are in their 30s or in their 60s.

I probably consider myself lucky that my husband belongs to a generation where the gender of the child absolutely did not matter. I also consider myself lucky that despite the disappointment; the elders in the family came in terms with it and today are absolutely adorable grandparents to both my girls.

Yet, things are not the same for many other women in our country.  A girl child could actually spell doom for them, especially if the first born is already one.

Social campaigns have played a major role in changing mindsets and reduced the stigma attached to giving birth to a girl. Still the birth of a baby boy is accompanied by celebrations and the arrival of a baby girl elicits mixed reactions. What really needs to happen is a change at the grass root level, where we need to evolve new thought processes and advocate these to our next generation. It is only then, would we actually stop bothering, about those tiny shoes being pink or blue!

I shall leave you with a video that speaks volumes about the existing thought process. Brilliantly made by “Grey India”.

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The Great Indian IIT Dream

The Great Indian IIT Dream

“The mind of a child is fragile. Their emotions touch their future. Your words shape their destiny.”-Anonymous

As I picked up my morning newspaper, a bunch of leaflets slipped out of its pages. Oh boy! The newspaper as it is bombards me with advertisements, and the leaflets just seem to add to the agony. As I got picking the leaflets that were strewn across the room, a little pink one caught my eye. It was an advertisement placed by a coaching institute located in a thriving medieval era colony- Kālu Sarai, in Delhi.

“A Guaranteed Programme”, it said. “Give me a student of class VIII or IX and take back an IIT engineer after 5 years.”

The great Indian IIT dream it was, and institutes, such as this, sell that hope!

Every year over 12 lakh students appear for the IIT-JEE for admission into the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology. With a 3% selection rate, the exam is considered to be one of the toughest competitive exams in the world. A brain child of the first Prime Minister of India Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the IITs were seen as a nation building project. However, over the years, the institutes developed a brand identity of sorts- with its alumni making it big in the corporate world. The Indian-origin CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, is an IITian, so is billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. For middle class India, the IITs promised a secure and bright future. It was a sort of assured career insurance for one’s child. The harder it became to secure an admission, the shinier the alumni’s future.

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Image for Representation Purpose only. Source: The Hindustan Times

 

And feeding fodder to this dream of Indian parents are coaching institutes across the nation. The notorious of it all are the ones in Kota, Rajasthan. In fact, this small barren town in Rajasthan has now become synonymous with IIT coaching institutes. Many parents are of the opinion that a coaching institute in Kota would give their child a sure shot victory at the IIT-JEE.

But the streets of Kota speak another story too-of children succumbing to the pressure and ending their lives. The undue expectations from parents, often leads to lack of motivation, low self-confidence and morale. A point comes when children are unable to cope up and are left traumatized. For these children death seems to be more peaceful, than going through the daily rigmaroles of coaching institutes and parental pressure. Fragile lives snuffed out way too early!

In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, I casually asked her high school son if he had some idea on what he would like to pursue post class twelve. The young boy all of 16, replied that he was preparing for the IIT-JEE. “Ah!” I said, “An engineer in the making”. His mother was quick to retort back. “Well not any engineer, but an IITian. My husband is one and my son will follow the family tradition.”

I was aghast!!!

Don’t we all as parents dream of seeing our children do well in life? Well, there is surely nothing wrong in that. But things aren’t really all right, when we begin to force “our” dream on them. If giving them the right education and setting values straight is a necessity, it is equally important to allow your child to dream on his own- to build his aspirations.

And that’s what as parents we need to be doing. Encourage and nourish! Sow the seeds tenderly and watch the tree of life bear fruits accordingly,’ cause children are fragile lives.

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India’s Third Gender

India’s Third Gender

saw her walk across the road swaying her hips. She was dressed in a black sari that seemed to shimmer in the morning sun. As she approached my car, I pulled down my window and for a brief moment, my eyes met hers. And at that very moment, amidst the constant honking on the roads, her eyes spoke volumes…

On a busy working day, I sat in my vehicle waiting for the signal to turn green. It would be a long wait- the timing system at the signal indicated 90 seconds. I was on one of Delhi’s busiest roads near Tihar Jail, a mere 12 kilometers away from the seat of power-the Indian Parliament house, when I spotted her across the road. There were a group of them in fact. As the traffic came to a halt at the signal, they swarmed around vehicles, tapping on windows, clapping their hands to be heard.

A generous couple in a swanky car pushed a ten Rupee note out of the window and quickly rolled it up, ‘lest they make any contact with their kind. A few others, whose windows were rolled down, pulled it up all too soon, and turned their faces away as though they were lost in deeper thoughts. The ones who seemed to be the most harassed were those on two wheelers and auto rickshaws. It was difficult to brush them away, until you had parted with a currency note or two.

She tapped at my window, and I rolled it down when our eyes met. I found her pleasant to look at, despite the thick coating of face powder and the extra dark red lipstick she had on. A strong whiff of perfume caught my nose, and I briefly felt dizzy. I dug into my bag to pull out a Rupee ten note. As I handed it over to her, she placed her hands on my head, blessing me with happiness in abundance. It was a brief moment of joy- for me as well as for her.

“Why don’t you find yourself a job?” I asked her. “You are young and seem capable”.

Instantly she shot back, “Would you employ me? No one wants to give our kind a job”.

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I stared at her stunned. I had no answer. The signal turned to green and as I drove away, I saw her walk to the other side of the road to those of “her kind”.

The word “Transgender” is a sort of an umbrella term that encompasses anyone whose gender identity does not fully match their assigned birth sex. This broad category includes transsexuals and cross -dressers too. But for centuries in India, all these terms with its subtle distinctions, have been brought under one broad category- called “Hijra”. The community is often treated as criminals, subject to discrimination and sexual abuse. You would often find them in poverty- well, not often do people want to see them or have anything to do with them. This is what we all know of them, right?

But, what you don’t know is that historically the community has had a fairly decent dignity in mainstream society. If you look at the medieval ages, you have references where transgender have been queens. Go back a thousand odd years, and the great epics such as the Mahabharata have references to the community. There are mythological tales of how Gods would change their gender. The Vedas and Puraanas too speak of the third gender characters. They were considered to be a good luck charm. However, things slowly changed and, took its present day distorted form, during the British colonial period.

And almost a hundred years later, on April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court of India handed down a landmark ruling, recognizing them as the third gender of the country. This decision granted India’s transgender the right to self-identity.

Though a big step, there is still a long way to go in restoring the dignity of the “Third Gender”. They are still stigmatized by mainstream society and are often denied the basic fundamental rights- of education and employment. There is even a certain element of hesitance to rent a home out to the Third Gender as the tenant.

Until we begin to accept them as part of us, no law would give them the dignity they need the most. Till then, you would just spot them at your car window, as they clap their hands, demanding your attention. 

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She Was Born For The Blue Skies

She Was Born For The Blue Skies

They say- “Truth is stranger than fiction”. Our life can be amazing, and difficult to believe sometimes. A lot of things happen with or without any meaning, and like the butterfly effect- a chain of events happen!

Take the life of Shital Mahajan.

A chance meeting with her friend’s brother- an Air Force Officer, in the year 2002, led Shital to be introduced to skydiving. She decided to learn the basics from him then. So intrigued was she by the adventure in the sport, that she decided to go in for further training. However, at that time, a civilian could not be trained within the country and had to go abroad, if he desired to pursue his passion of skydiving.

In a society, where the percentage of girls into adventure sports is almost negligible, the biggest challenge Shital had to face was to remove the stereotypical thought about women from people’s minds. Her parents weren’t convinced. In a family where no one had travelled in an aircraft, you surely don’t jump off it! And beside girls can’t do such dares. This is what her family had to say.

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But with a strong determination, she convinced them, that her passion lay in sky diving and if she were to die it would solely be her responsibility. It did take her a considerably long time to get her parents to be on the same bandwagon as her, but eventually she did manage to convince them through.

There was no looking back after that. On 18th April 2004, she became the first woman in the world to execute a sky-dive from the North Pole from a height of 2400 feet, and that too without any prior training. Without any land to set her feet on, she landed on an ice slope in sub- zero temperature of minus 37 degrees. In 2006, Shital performed the sky fall from both South Pole and North Pole, yet again the first woman in the world to do so.

Today, Shital has many feathers on her cap. Five world records, fourteen National records and a Padmshri Award, at the age of 34, she has achieved great accolades.  Shital has to her credit over 650 jumps.

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And here’s something that’s far more interesting. In April 2008, Shital married software engineer Vaibhav Rane in a unique wedding that was conducted in a hot-air balloon near Pune, 600-feet above the ground.

Shital Mahajan is truly born for the blue skies. She has come a long way- from her intial days to being a world record holder now.

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*Featured image: Mid-day.com

 

We Aren’t a Country of Just Snake Charmers

We Aren’t a Country of Just Snake Charmers

My family was excited. The “cousin” in the household was to wed a beautiful French damsel. The youngster had left the country to pursue his masters in the United States, and seek greener pastures in corporate America. It was here that love blossomed between the two and after a whirlwind courtship they decided to get married.

The family in India took it all easy. They were happy that their son had finally decided to “settle” down, and were excited at the prospect of interacting with a family that was not only foreign to them but also spoke a language that was fairly new. For some strange reason, the French side wasn’t too happy with the alliance. To them India was nothing but a land of snake charmers, a poor country where people weren’t all educated. But let’s face it. Isn’t this the common thought that exists among many in the West? India to them is the land of the Taj, where Maharajas ruled and a country from where you pick up elephants as souvenirs. Theres nothing more to it. Or is there?

India is a country of snake charmers
But the practice long left the country

Snake Charming is the practice of pretending to hypnotize a snake, thereby making it dance to the tunes that are emitted from a wind instrument called pungi or bansuri. Commonly a street performance, the practice has been prevalent not only in India, but also in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, the North African countries of Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Today the practice has been prohibited under the Wildlife Act. The few who remain can be found in destinations such as Rajasthan, solely to attract tourists.

Indians aren’t educated
Come on now, how do you explain the increasing number of professional colleges that come out in dozens every year?

The fact is that a large percentage of our population today seeks education. Every year, the country churns out in thousands, doctors, engineers, management professionals etc… Doesn’t this go to show that we do place importance on our population being educated? Of course rural India still may seem way behind. But hey, this doesn’t qualify India as an uneducated country.

India is unsafe
Well, it is as safe (or unsafe) as any other country in Europe, Asia or America

Oh well! The typical stereotype. We sure have had terror attacks, rape cases or sexual assaults in the past. But these are issues that are present on a global level too. Parts of the country, though are far more sensitive, such as Kashmir, but when you look at the broader picture, the country is as safe as most other countries.

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We have other shades too! 

If you have seen the Taj, you have seen India. And aren’t all souvenirs in India elephants?
It surely has the Taj. But, the country has this and much more too

Of course we are proud of the Taj. And we are also proud of its pristine mountains, rivers, plains, beaches, temples and palaces. The art and handicrafts greatly vary from place to place. You need to travel its vastness to pick up souvenirs that are anything but elephants.

All Indians are in customer support
Indians are in customer support and other things too

It would be rather surprising if one didn’t speak to an Indian customer care executive over phone, when living in the US, Canada or even for that matter Europe. For these countries, it is just a job that has been outsourced. For many in India, it is an opportunity. Look at it this way, customer care, technical support, call center or software support, you name it and we have surely left a mark. Indian’s have the skill in technical jobs as well as in various other fields. There is a large number of Indians in the medical field too across the globe.

The country today sure has surpassed the tag of being one of snake charmers and tantric. Of course, like the two sides of a coin, the country has a side of despair, some not so nice social practices and a population that’s on the brink of explosion. But look onto the other side of the coin and you see that the country is well into the road of development.

It depends on which side you place upwards!

The family’s “Indo-French” wedding was a success, with its cross cultural ceremonies. There were exchange of vows between the couple and exchange of gifts between the families. We ensured the French took back with them India’s true picture and a goodie bag that was loaded- well not with elephants this time!

Featured image source: pinterest