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My First Blog Post

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

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A REVIERE

As I reflect on the cumulative experiences of the past decade, I’m thankful that I was blessed with an understanding to accept the lessons that I learnt and not wallow in my mistakes.

For me personally, what changed me most was the loss of my father. He wasn’t even seventy yet. Many people treat death of a parent as a natural order, but believe me, no matter what your age is, you are never prepared for it. It will be my forever torment that I was not by his side when everyone else was.

My father was a simple man and he had his own set of rules. He never trusted technology specially after the ATM machine swallowed his card and he did not know how to regurgitate it.

Right after my daughter’s birth he suffered a major heart attack. He was shook beyond belief. More than his physical health we were worried about his mental well being. He had always been fit, hence it took him months to accept he had a heart attack. If this wasn’t enough, three years later he suddenly lost his appetite and weight. A scan revealed a tumour in his stomach. He needed to be operated immediately.

For reasons beyond my control and as much as I wished, I could not be with him. He promised to meet me once he got home. He never did. For the first time ever he didn’t keep his promise.

Grief when it comes is nothing like we expect it to be.

Joan Didion

I reached Shimla in the wee hours next day. Even though I had been thinking about it throughout the journey, I was not prepared to see what I did.

Him lying on the ground with people sitting around him and my mom sitting in a quiet corner with my sister. I was hit by a tsunami of emotions. I felt guilt, shock, anger, sadness, fear of coping with the loss, fear of powerlessness at seeing him go. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to hug him. I wanted to be near mom, but all these people were embracing me, telling me not to cry, to be strong.

Preparations for funeral began, and the same realtives and people who were supporting me a while ago, began whispering as to why the girls (not daughters) are being “allowed” to do all this.

Between us, my mother and panditji, this had not even been a point to discuss, because it was the most natural thing to do. Who else would perform the last rites? The whispering was now a murmur and then a roar. People suggesting how even a neighbour’s son could do it.

We were not trying to break any norms here nor were we trying to prove anything to anybody. My mother, who had not stayed alone since she met my father almost forty years ago, was too distraught to sit for puja. So naturally the daughters would do it. It never crossed our minds that it could be any other way.

Why did this even come up for discussion? I was amazed. We never thought about it. We were not trying to break stereotypes or regressive taboos, we were not trying to stand against tradition. Performing his last rites, lighting the funeral pyre, was something his children should do, just that his children happened to be girls. He never pined for a son. All this left a jagged hole in my heart. I looked at my mom, whose silent look told me that papa wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I’m not discussing whether what we did was right or wrong. I’m sure there will be a zillion interpretations. We did what we felt was right, what we wanted to do for our father who loved us dearly.

Acceptance was the only way to deal with this loss. After the whirlwind of emotions settled, I found I did not feel malice toward people. I’m sure their intentions were good. What did worry me was the fact that we become inexplicably stubborn when it comes to tradition and customs. Just because something is old doesn’t make it right. I became more open, more accepting and more forgiving. I feel empathy and pity for those who refuse to change for the better, but I’m also sure and hopeful that 2020 will bring freshness to our minds.

Deepika..

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BROKEN MIRROR

I jumped the bandwagon of looking at the past decade only after I became part of this amazing blog hop. Hope you all like my take on the decade, with a short story. Thank you.

Vanessa picked up the Vogue magazine. She smiled. She was on the cover page again, for the eighth time in a row. She was leaning against the bay window of the opulent penthouse in suburban Mumbai. The stunning panoramic view had to compete with her beauty. Her face was perfect, almost ethereal. She was photogenic and drop dead gorgeous. She was tall with beautiful Auburn hair. Most women envied her perfect figure and would gladly give an arm and a foot to look as attractive as her, at 28.

She could not believe it had already been a decade since she first stepped on the ramp. A decade of being a model, a decade of living a dream. She looked at her home. The lavish architecture, the pools, the garden and the stunning interiors were a far cry from where she had begun.

Vanessa Barbusse picked up the script for the interview sent in by Harper magazine. The questions were always the same, nothing different, nothing remarkable, yet she sat herself infront of a small mirror which had cracked in places. The mirror meant more to her than her life. It was like the mirror in Snowwhite. It never lied.

She would read the question and look in the mirror and answer the question. This was her only way to remember her past which she kept well hidden. Also, the mirror was the only souvenir left of her father, mentor, guide, God, Louis Barbusse.

Question 1 (Q): How does it feel to see yourself on the cover of Vogue for the eighth time?

Answer (A): I’m grateful that I’ve been chosen. Vogue is very close to my heart and I’ve been associated with it for long, almost a decade.

Mirror (M): It feels great. I love the attention, the glamour, the glitz. I was greedy for it and still am. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Q: You call Louis Barbusse, the greatest designer our country has seen, your God?

A: Yes, Louis has been the father figure for me. I’m not overtly religious, but if there was God he would be like Louis.

M: Mirror smiled. That was true. Louis Barbusse is my God. He helped me live, when many years ago. I was lying naked on the streets of Mumbai. He picked the thirteen year old me and gave me life.

Q: You lived in Goa before moving to Mumbai. How was life in Goa?

A: Goa is a beautiful place. The beaches, the people, the festivities, naturally would be the happiest time for any kid. It gave me security to be who I am today.

M: Mirror was sad. Growing up was wretched and glum. My parents, sisters, teachers, classmates hated me. I was an outcast, right from the age of three. I was always deviant, an outsider, a rara avis, a black swan.

Q: You don’t talk much about your family?

A: There isn’t much to say really! Louis Barbusse is the only family I have. My birth family was killed in a plane crash, and I’ve been with Louis since then. I don’t really have any memory of them.

M: Tears welled up in Mirror’s eyes. My family ostracized me. At 3, they hated me for playing with my sisters. At 6, they detested me for stealing a skirt from my sister’s wardrobe. At 8, I was loathed and abhorred for wearing lipstick, a string of pearls and high heels for a birthday party. “Are you a whore? A slut, to dress up like this.” I was screaming for them to let me be, to understand what I want, but all I got in return was scorn. I was turned out of my house at 11. My soul was ripped and torn. I was trapped in blackness of despair. I had to survive. I was living in the streets begging for food, but was given drugs, drugs to numb my senses. It felt great to be relieved of all the agony. I felt free. By 13, my body was giving up. I was in a ghetto in Mumbai where I was beaten to a pulp, because I did not conform to the oppressive norms the society laid for me. I was smothered with desperate terror, a soundless agony of being silenced.

Q: Being beautiful is a gift. Do you feel privileged? Isn’t it the reason for your wonderful life?

A: Thank you for appreciating. Yes beauty is a gift and I’m thankful for it. It did help me open doors which would have been difficult otherwise, but I’ve worked for my better life. I’m definitely lucky.

M: Mirror felt choked now. Beauty? Privilege? Louis brought the 13 year old me into his home that ugly night. It was the blackest night. It was pitch dark, the thunder seemed to rip open the heart of heaven. Even the skies were conspiring against me. There was not a shred of cloth on me, only bruises and blood which refused to stop even in the incessant rain. He nurtured me back to health. Asked my name. Victor, I said, feeling ashamed. I was trapped, trapped in the wrong body. I knew it at 3, but boys don’t play house with girls. At 6, boys don’t wear skirts. At 8, boys never wear lipstick and high heels. You are devil incarnate. At 11, stop growing your hair, stop wearing makeup. NO. I’m not a boy. I’m a girl. I’m not Victor. I’m Vanessa. Leave the house now. At 13, Mumbai, dressed as a girl, performing at a bar. Found out by rouges, beaten, molested, raped, left to die. Louis Barbusse hugged Victor. You don’t need to feel trapped anymore. We’ll transform together. Louis took Victor to a room and directed him to pick any dress he liked. You are Vanessa from now. Louis did not have the courage and killed his desires when he accepted his fate, but Vanessa shall live. Not just live, she shall conquer the world.

Mirror says let go, understand, forgive. Vanessa, having risen from Victor’s ashes, only wants to proclaim to the world: I SURVIVED !

“This post is a part of ‘DECADE Blog Hop’ #DecadeHop organized by #RRxMM Rashi Roy and Manas Mukul. The Event is sponsored by Glo and co-sponsored byBeyond The Box, Wedding Clap, The Colaba Store and Sanity Daily in association with authors Piyusha Vir and Richa S Mukherjee”

DEEPIKA..

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ROOTS

NUH

This is a story from a small village called Nuh in Haryana. Given the nature of my husband’s job we frequently change places and are able to visit corners many wouldn’t have heard of. Some places are difficult to locate on the map, not Google map, but a good old Atlas. During one such tenure we found ourselves living in rural Haryana in the village of Nuh. Now I hadn’t heard of Nuh even though I belong to the neighbouring state of Himachal. Nuh was unique in so many ways as I was about to find out slowly. To give you the location, it was about seventy kilometres from Delhi, but still remote, the climate too was extreme, from zero degree in winters to forty-five degrees in summers. People here were predominantly farmers and mostly of Meo ethnicity. The place had a rich history and had seen many rulers.

Being the rural development officer my husband was given, what everyone referred to, as a bungalow. I was eager to move into my bungalow and reached there one hot sweltering June evening. The dust storm had just subsided and it gave the evening sun an uncanny halo of orange and diffused my bungalow in the same to hue. Sand had claimed my bungalow which turned out to be a house with two rooms and a kitchen. Why in God’s name would anyone call it a banglow, giving me false hopes of living like the memsaabs of erstwhile British era,with its bungalows, like you find strewn all over Shimla, my hometown. My husband was quick to admonish me. He said, “You have a pucca house, as opposed to the mud huts in the village, and you even have a lawn to go with it. How is this any less than a bungalow?” Oh nevermind! I thought, let’s turn this into a bungalow, and began unpacking. In an hour I had my kitchen ready to host a party. My husband returned, a little later with the caretaker, who would be assisting me and helping me along. I went out with a glass of water to offer him. He drank and thanked me, in a very pleasant manner. He told me his name was Shankar and would be living in the quarter attached to the house. His family had only an eight year old daughter call Indriyani.

Shankar’s six feet plus frame seemed to dwarf me, not that I am tall to begin with. He seemed to be a warm person, somewhat fatherly even though he must be the same age as me. A sort of person you would want around if you were ever in trouble.

It has been a week since we move in and Shankar had been of greatest help. My home transformed into a bungalow. He even began planting flowers and mowing the lawn. I hadn’t seen Indriyani anywhere. Whenever I asked Shankar he would dismiss it by saying she is around.

INDRIYANI

One fine morning after a sudden shower, much to the relief of everyone, I decided to look around the village. The air was ripe with the pleasant dewy petrichor of the post-rain morning, enticing me to walk around. The village had many monuments across its length and breadth. Many tourists thronged the place. It was here I noticed Indriyani, a bubbly girl,wearing a red suit, selling postcards to the tourists. Well there were many little children like her,all from the village, but what was unique about Indriyani was the many languages she was speaking. She would listen intensely to the tourists to hear what language they work conversing in, and then would go rushing to them and plead them to buy her stuff. Her greetings would in French, Spanish, Hindi, Urdu English and she even managed Russian. Her diction and syntax was amazing. I almost believed that she had formal training in all these languages. The tourist too were attracted by her unique ability and many bought articles because they found her irresistibly cute. I went to her too, and she recognised me immediately and was the first to introduce herself. “Namaste”, she said cheerfully, “You are Iyengar aunty right ! I am Indriyani I’ve seen you in the banglow.” “Pleased to meet you Indriyani,” I said. Oh ! Forgive me. I forgot to introduce myself. I am a Himachali, married to an Iyengar from Karnataka. I have often been asked how we came together, because of a rolling pin I say laughing. Anyone who visits Shimla definitely goes to a ubiquitous little market that sells all things wooden and the rolling pin is the star. Apparently the wood used here is just right to make the rolling pin required to roll out around perfect roties. Here I spotted this confused, chubby, slightly darkish by North Indian standards, looking soul glancing at rolling pins like they were some sort of meteors fallen from the sky. Bemused I helped him buy one and that’s that. Let’s get back to Indriyani.

I was drawn to Indriyani’s cherubic little face, big eyes with a shining bindi in between, and curly slightly blond hair. “Bonjour,” she shouted to a French tourist passing by, and off she scooted to sell her things.

SHANKAR

As I returned home after my slightly long walk, it was almost late afternoon when I returned. I wanted to tell Shankar I finally met his daughter and went exuberantly towards is room. I could hear words akin to a prayer being said and from the slightly ajar window I saw Shankar offering namaj. It was the first time I saw him wearing skull cap. Not wanting to disturb him, I retreated to the house not fully comprehending what I saw. Few minutes later he was with me and had guessed the most obvious question going on in my mind. “Madam, my name is Shankar Khan,” he said. “I am a Muslim Rajput, most of us in this village are.” “Muslim Rajput!” I said, trying to suppress the surprise in my voice. He explain gently without malice, like speaking to a little child. We are Meo. Our ancestors converted to Islam between the twelfth and seventeenth century but we maintain our distinctive cultural identity. We practice Islam, but haven’t left our Hindu roots. Names like Ram Khan and Shankar Khan are common here. Many of us even use Singh, like Fateh Singh. We do not marry in the same gotra like most of Haryana and the marriages are solemnized after nikah and Hindu rites have been completed.” “So your daughter is Indriyani Khan,” I said. He stiffened at the mention of his daughter and left. I processed the new found information. I was smiling, remembering these lines I read long ago:

क्या बनाने आए क्या बना बैठे

कहीं मंदिर बना बैठे

कहीं मस्जिद बना बैठे

हमसे तो जात अच्छी है परिंदों की

कभी मंदिर पर जा बैठे तो
कभी मस्जिद पर जा बैठे

Nuh indeed was unique. Wish I could tell more people in India about it. Next day Shankar came in with a request. He asked if I could tutor the little children of village in English and Maths. The school in the village educated the children well, but these two subjects are lacking. So on Shankar’s suggestion I became a volunteer at a nearby school.

INDRIYANI’S WORLD

The classes were held in the evenings due two basic reasons, first it was too hot during the day to study and second most children were out working and doing different chores. I was introduced to the group of little children whose age groups ranged from six to ten years. I had gone thinking I would find more boys, but was pleasantly surprised to see a homogeneous group. The school register had only the first names and no surnames and this was done, I was told, to keep the secular nature alive. Indriyani was easily the most talkative girl in the class. She was quick on uptake and loved to learn. She warmed up to me quickly. Started visiting home often. She insisted that I come to her home and take a look at her collection. “Collection of what?” I asked. “You’ll never guess,” she said. Curiosity rising high, I went to the room and she showed me her collection of cheese. “Cheese!” “Yes,” she said, jumping up and down. “I love cheese. A Spanish tourist had given me one and I loved it”. “How did you manage such a collection?” I asked. “I ask tourists to lend me if they have and I give them discount on the goods. ” Where is Shankar?” I asked. Her face fell. “Abba doesn’t talk to me. He doesn’t like me.” “Why?” “Ammi died when I was born. He never even picked me up ever. I heard him saying my face reminded him of Ammi and how I was the reason she was not here.” I hugged her instantly. She was still smiling. “It’s alright,” she said. “I know he loves me but is annoyed he couldn’t save Ammi. One day he will be proud of me.” It had only been a month since I had arrived and I already felt that I had been living here for ages. At the end of my class we kept fifteen minutes for stories. They had so many things to say and ask. I introduced Geronimo Stilton books to them and they were thrilled. Indriyani, strangely did not want to read. Only after I told her that Stilton was also a cheese company, did she excitedly pickup the book.

SEPARATION

It was humid August evening and the fan in the school seem to have given up on keeping anyone cool. It’s blades rotated humming a slow lullaby putting all of us in a sort of lethargic slumber. Suddenly there was commotion outside. A huge luxury bus was park outside our little school, a kind of novelty in a village where bullock cart was still the means of transportation. It belonged to a French couple and Indriyani was leading them inside. A little consent from the couple was enough to let the children go scrambling into the bus and examine it’s cushioned seats, TV, air conditioner, curtains. The couple had come to talk to me as they could commute a little in English. They had been meeting Indriyani and saw a lot of potential in her. They wanted to adopt her. We went to meet Shankar and apprised him of the situation. He looked at his daughter and nodded in consent. Indriyani was overjoyed, and so were the French couple. After all the formalities were completed it was the day for Indriyani to leave. No tears, no emotional goodbyes, instead warm wishes and smiling faces. Indriyani stayed in touch with me first through letters, then email and then through various social media. We too moved to the next place after spending an educative two years in Nuh.

ROOTS

Life happened and I got busier. Nuh would cross my mind ever so often, specially after the night of December 6, 1992, when, Babri Masjid fell. I thought how the people of Nuh must be keeping their identity and the close knit cultural structure together. I felt sad thinking how their distinctive cultural identity must be under threat of being torn apart completely.

My phone pinged in a message one early morning and it was from Indriyani. She was in Nuh almost ten years after she had left. She requested me to come there to meet her. Even though I was neck deep in work at the time, I could not help but book a ticket to Nuh. I informed what time I would reach and sure enough she was there to receive me, with a young man next to her, who, I assumed was her boyfriend. She took me to her home, a hut in the village, with all modern amenities inside. “I stay here,” she proudly said, “with Rahul Khoshoo, who studied with me in France.” A Kashmiri pandit, I thought and it seems he read my mind and smiled at me impishly as if saying it doesn’t matter. “I’ve a gift for you,” she said and took out a big jar of Stilton cheese and we both started giggling at the sight of it. Nuh hadn’t changed much and I was happy to see it that way. During dinner Indriyani explained, she had studied world history and that made her realise how distinctive her unique heritage was. Rahul was of the same opinion too, and together they were here to chronicle this extraordinarily remarkable cultural identity. “Abba is helping us collect all the information,” said Rahul with a smile and as if on cue Shankar entered holding old records and photographs in his hands. His pleasant manner was still there and he smiled at Indriyani as he handed everything to her. As Shankar left, Indriyani winked at me, “I told you he will be proud of me.” I spent a week in Nuh and was happy to see that it remained unaffected by the happenings around. It had presented itself as a live example of what our nation was all about and I was proud of the young couple who had taken it upon themselves to show it to the world. The evening before I was to leave we went to to check some Meo monuments. A hot June breeze carried the sweet scent of mangoes and the setting sun resembled a burning diya in the sky. As I looked back I saw the young couple lost in an amorous kiss giving me hope that when the roots are deep there is no reason to fear the wind.

Deepika….

Thanks for reading

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THE MISSING MAN

It has been eighty two days since Arvind went missing, reflected Niti as she drank her morning coffee in peace for one more time.

There was no rush or madness, just peace as her little daughter Ruhani slept. Niti went to check on her mother-in-law who needed help with her daily chores since she suffered a brain stroke. She too was sleeping. Niti was fond of her mother-in-law as she never had parents growing up.

Niti had lived all her life in an orphanage. She never knew of her real parents and never felt the need to go looking for someone who could leave a new born girl at the church door.

She had always been a bright child even in her early years. She loved the little children she lived with. She had violently protested against being adopted, “This is my home, don’t make me go away.”

Being a bright student she was soon tuitoring all the little kids around her. She did good for herself too. She was able to pursue MBBS, to become a doctor. Again, she refused to move out of the orphanage, infact she taught students in her free time and helped her orphanage with the money that she earned.

Life in college was splendid. It opened unknown avenues for her. Nobody asked her about her parents and those who did, did not seem to be bothered by the fact that she was an orphan. She was amongst the top students in her class. She loved the course she was doing and Anatomy or Anat, as they called it, was her favourite subject. Many students flinched in the Dissection Hall or DH, but Niti had the best hand there. Even her teachers complimented her, they saw a future surgeon in her. Everyone admired the way she conducted herself. Amongst her many admirers was her senior Arvind.

Niti noticed Arvind when she was being lauded for her marvellous work in DH. He was neatly dressed and was being breathtakingly handsome, he walked confidently into the hall. She watched intently at this boy whose body seemed as well sculpted as his face. She was acutely conscious that she was staring at him yet she could not take her eyes off. On his part Arvind too was as smitten as she was.

What followed was a whirlwind of romance. Arvind showered her with presents and most of all his love and attention. He even began helping her with the work of the orphanage.

She loved the way he told her to keep her hair tied as she looked more attractive. She liked it when he was jealous and told her to stop talking to her friends. He suggested that she should stop wearing jeans and skirts as he found her irresistible in suits, and her heart just melted. Slowly Arvind had taken over her completely and she loved all the attention. She spoke to his mother over the phone several times in his presence and on her urging him, he took her home once. She appreciated the way he never left the side of his mother who was on a wheelchair.

It was Arvind’s suggestion to get married soon. He had just completed his degree and Niti had one more year to go, but he asserted that he could not stay away anymore. Niti and everyone at the orphanage was very happy. Even in college everyone envied Niti’s luck, though by now she hardly had any friends left as Arvind was always around. They decided to have a small ceremony in the orphanage itself, one winter evening. Niti had never been this happy. She was finally going to have a family and a home of her own.

Niti, Arvind and his mother reached home late night after the wedding. Arvind took his mother to her room and then guided Niti to his. Niti was tired after an entire day of ceremonies. She wanted to quickly change and rest. To her surprise Arvind would not have any of it. He told her rather coldly that it was their first night together and he wouldn’t let her just sleep. She laughed and said they were going to be together every day and night. But, Arvind told her in no uncertain terms that he wanted her here and now. She still thought he was joking till, to her horror, he forced himself on her. Rape, like Death happens to others. Niti was broken beyond measure as she saw him turn into this monster. The pattern repeated itself the next day too. He did not let her out of that room. She was to numb to even react. She lay on her bed like a corpse.

By evening the demon in him seemed satisfied and he let her go out to eat for the first time since she entered the house. She went to the kitchen and he observed her every move. She looked around for her mother-in-law deseperately seeking some relief, but could not find her anywhere. He told her to get ready for he would take her to the movies.

She felt intense hatred rising inside of her but did not know what to do. He had taken her phone, and she realised that he had over the course alienated all her friends. She thought of running back to the orphanage, but he never let her out of her sight. She realised he had married her because he knew she would have nowhere to go and no one would come asking about her well being.

While outside he was the same Prince Charming she had met in college, and now it hit her hard the real meaning of his jealousy and possessiveness. She did not want to enter that house of horror again, but seems she had no choice left.

Once home she looked around and rushed to her mother-in-law’s room and saw her crying and shivering. Arvind came following and pulled Niti out. The night of horror began for her once more.

It was almost after a week that Arvind left home to join back at the hospital. He stopped Niti from joining back. Infact he locked her along with his mother in the house.

Finally she got a chance to speak to his mother. She told her that she could only sympathise with her as she was in no position to help her. Niti asked her about the sudden change in Arvind. Her answer shocked Niti. She told her that Arvind had been like this since he was a teenager. He never had any friends and he never went out of the house either. His father had left them when he was young. Arvind sat in the living room watching lewd movies all day. He even touched himself right in her presence. When she tried to correct his obnoxious behaviour he hit her so hard that she lost her ability to walk.His regressive behaviour took a turn for the worst when he started bringing random women home.

She told Niti that the first time she spoke to her she hoped that love might change him. The very fact that he wanted to get married made her believe that Arvind had changed, but it seems that the barbarian was alive and ticking. He had just changed his ways. She said she felt sorry for her but could not help her.

Niti cried till her tears dried up. She didn’t know how to escape this hell. She was a prisoner in her home, a slave to the demon.

Soon enough she was pregnant but that changed nothing. When she was to give birth to her daughter she left home after months. In the hospital everyone envied her luck at finding such a handsome and considerate husband who never left her alone. He even assissted the birth of their daughter. Only Niti knew the reason why he never left her alone. He feared she would run away or tell someone the truth.

Niti wanted to feel happy at the birth of her daughter, but all she felt was pity for the little child. She wanted to leave her at the orphanage door where she would be safe. For the first time she forgave her mother thinking, maybe she too was saving her from a similar devil.

Coming home was beginning of a nightmare. Arvind had made sure that all means of communication were closed for Niti. Locked up in the room she could hear her daughter crying in the arms of her mother-in-law. She could not let Ruhani grow up in this hell hole. She had to stop Arvind for the sake of her daughter.

Arvind came home one day and announced that he is calling his colleagues from the hospital home as they have been insisting on a party. He said he would give the grandest party so no one bothered him again.

Niti saw this as an opportunity to do something for her daughter who was only eleven days old. She started planning. She had to escape from here come what may.

As the day of the party came near Arvind got busier. Finally the D day was there, guests began arriving bringing gifts. Niti had prepared everything just as Arvind had asked her to.

But Arvind was no where to be seen. Doctors said he had not come to the hospital either. Niti was surprised as well, she said he had left at the usual time. Maybe he got caught up at some place. The guests thanked Niti for her awesome hosptitality and congratulated her on having found the perfect husband and home. Arvind hadn’t arrived.

Niti began clearing and picking up the garbage. She told her mother-in-law that she was going out to the garbage dump to clear everything out. She picked up huge bags of garbage and as she burnt them, she cried and cried. She was finally free of Arvind. She had afterall, been the best student in her class and anatomy had been her favourite. Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.” Yes it was Niti, she had to fight against this evil and she did. It was for her daughter for her mother-in-law but most of all for herself.

Next day she went to the police station and reported Arvind missing.

Deepika…

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RANDOM THOUGHT

Just a random post that got me thinking about the gender bias stemmed deep inside all of us.

Someone went through the people and accounts I follow on Instagram. He wrote to me saying that he’s surprised at some of the accounts I follow. I was equally surprised and asked what did you find so surprising. He says some accounts you follow seem to have adult content….. Adult jokes.. these are ok for boys but for a girl to follow these was surprising.

Oh! I thought am I not an adult? Of course but still girls don’t follow such accounts. Yeah, I thought why not?

Are we judging girls who see adult content?

Are we still naïve to believe that girls don’t see adult content?

And why is it ok for boys to see adult content and not girls?

If adult content is bad it should be for both genders. Why this demarcation for boys and girls?

Gender bias starts early in our lives with little things even at home,most of the time it is done unknowingly.

Girls are considered weaker sex. Is that bad? Looking at the present scenario should all boys not be taught to protect girls?

Or have we made our girls independent and self reliant but forgot to teach our boys how to deal with these progressive girls?

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FREEDOM FOR ALL!!!

Freedom from fear is the freedom
I claim for you my motherland! Expressed Rabindranath Tagore so many years ago.

This is the freedom all of us want in our hearts too. Freedom from anarchy of system, “freedom from dwelling in a puppet’s world/ where movements are started through brainless wires/ repeated through mindless habits.’ Tagore

The meaning of Independence is ever evolving and ever expanding. What it meant in 1947 to what it means today in 2019.

In 1947 at the midnight hour when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave his ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, joyous festivities broke across the nation. The nature and meaning has definitely changed today.

Were we really able to win freedom for all?
The street hawkers and small businessmen and roadside vendors who sell Independence Day accessories await the national holidays with fervor. Here’s their take on Independence Day.

Moving through the traffic a family from Rajasthan, mother and two kids, sell goods, all Independence Day accessories ranging from pens, pins to Indian flags. They seem to be a happy lot. “Nationalism is on a new high,” says the mother, “We are proud to be associated with it, even if it is by selling small little things.”

The present India is celebrating this Independence Day with a new found nationalism and cheer. They celebrate their individual freedom and these hawkers and vendors happily join in.

Vikas Jain a small vendor in the streets of Dharamshala says “there are many new-age artefacts, but trianga continues to be the main attraction. It is the symbol of our nation and fills everyone with pride. The young generation wants to celebrate with flags. They don’t even bargain. A flag gets sold easily for ten rupees.” He has a lot of other stuff too. Trinkets in tricolor, accessories for cars and stickers which he starts selling a fortnight in advance.

As you move through the crowded bazaar of Palampur you come across a small yet popular shop of Samaksh Sood. His father and now he, have been selling Independence Day accessories for a long time now. Independence Day is the flavor of the season. He doesn’t shy away when he admits that patriotism is their livelihood. Tricolour business is profitable he says. You can get a medium sized cloth flag for around forty rupees and a large one for around eighty, but these need to be pre-ordered. I asked him if they made these here. He laughs and shakes his head saying that he gets them from Kolkata. I pester him and he reveals that an investment of around six thousand can bring him a profit of ten thousand.

The hawker mother is happy. She is able to earn enough to feed her two kids. She looks forward to the national festivals more than the religious ones.

Does she care for freedom or independence? Is she and thousands of hawkers, vendors and shopkeepers like her, proud to be associated with the legacy of freedom?

I think they do not dwell much on it. They sure do feel proud and excited by all the fervor created as a by-product of Independence Day. But for them it is a way to make two ends meet.

So I wonder what all these years of freedom mean to our country. Should we feel happy that as nationalism and celebration of freedom increases, it creates an industry around it which has come to provide sustenance to many, or we should feel appalled that this industry has been created due to poverty and exploitation which are in contrast to the freedom that Tagore so fondly talks of?

Deepika

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WE RISE BY LIFTING OTHERS – A SHORT STORY

Ranu sat down tired, looking at her grandson playing in the dirt. Her azure blue eyes and grey hair were remanent of the days when she was the most sought after young girl in her village in Nepal. Her grandson Panku, reminded her of her husband, Chote Lal. Panku had the same broad forehead, curly hair, snub nose and eyes like almonds.

Ranu was married at fifteen and by the time she was eighteen she was already a mother of two bubbly kids. She was married to a man double her age. He had promised to take good care of her and he kept his promise, but Ranu did not feel a connect with him. He was too calm as opposed to her biosterous breezy nature. She felt he was her guardian not husband. It was during this time she saw Chote Lal for the first time.

Ranu had run automatically with the crowd toward the village well pulling her little one. Running along she filled herself with details. A child about six years had fallen into the well. There was commotion all around. The child’s mother was wailing, people were running helter skelter for help. By the time Ranu reached near the well, she saw a young man had tied a rope on his waist and had already jumped into the well. Next day she saw him carrying a load for an old lady even though he was going in the opposite direction. Then she saw him again, helping a farmer pull out the wheel of his cart stuck in slush. Even though he was plain looking she realised she was attracted to him, perhaps because she admired the way he helped others.

Chote Lal was what you call ‘Jack of all trades‘. There was hardly a thing he could not do. He had just moved into their village and nobody knew much about him, and he didn’t speak about his past either. He became the village handyman soon and could be seen doing many odd jobs.

Ranu’s husband had called in Chote Lal when their roof began leaking during the monsoons. Ranu saw this young man of twenty two coming daily and trying to mend the roof even in pouring rain. She would ask him to take a break but he replied, you have little children in the house.

One day Ranu confessed her love to Chote Lal and convinced him to elope to India. She told him to meet her at the bus stop and she brought her little children with her.

A fortnight later they were married and moved into a small village in the foothills of Himalayas. As earlier, it did not take Chote Lal long to establish himself. He began working as a gardener in the farm house of a predominantly rich man who spent most of his days in the town with his family. His patron gave him some land to build home for his family. Chote Lal picked up many jobs from being a gardener, to a scrappicker, to a plumber and an electrician, he was everyone’s favourite handyman. He bought two cows and started selling their milk too. He worked hard as he now had four children to look after. Ranu took care of the home, children and cows. She tried helping Chote Lal whenever she could.

They were leading a happy life except, the benevolent nature of Chote Lal, which had attracted her to him now seemed like a bane. He went rushing out even at odd hours to help anyone in need. Even the slightest discomfort of others evoked the most altruistic response from him. Not that he neglected his family, she worried for him. He was the most selfless person she had met and she often wondered what would happen if he needed help someday.

When their patron’s wife passed away, Chote Lal walked ten miles to reach the cremation ground even though he hadn’t recovered from the broken shin bone he got while repairing someone’s roof. His only explanation was that Sir would be lonely at this hour.

He would deliver milk to their patron’s home everyday without fail, be it rain or storm or snow. It had been his practice since he bought the cows. On that fateful day too he had gone to deliver milk and never came back.

Chote Lal had married his two daughters into good families. They were well educated and worked as nurses in a hospital. His sons were doing good too. His elder son worked as a clerk in a bank and his younger one was still studying. Despite the best efforts of his children he did not stop working. His would quote his favourite saying ” we rise by lifting others”, and get busy with his work.

It was a very cold January morning and Chote Lal had been suffering from high fever, yet early morning he was ready to deliver the bottles of milk. Ranu pleaded with him to skip one day, but he would have none of it. By the time he delivered the bottles and had to come back it had begun snowing accompanied by a blizzard.

Chote Lal was offered hot tea, and prepared to leave bidding farewell to his patron, who begged him to stay put, keeping in view the weather outside. But as always, Chote Lal had a promise to keep. He had promised to repair someone’s gas burner and they will be waiting for him.

On his way back, he tredged slowly as his leg hurt and his fever was back. As he walked along the road he saw a puppy stuck in the snow on a cliff. The poor creature was wailing loudly because of cold and also because of fear. The cliff had a sharp face, but Chote Lal decided to bring the puppy down. How could he leave him stuck up there? He balanced himself precariously and after a lot of struggle managed to put the little puppy out of his plight. He was happy to see him walk across the road. As he was moving down, Chote Lal slipped. His head hit the pavement and he lost consciousness. Lying on the side of the road the snow began to collect on him.

Passers-by saw him, but none stopped to help or check on him. A man who lived all his life helping others, lay helpless till the snow covered him in a white shroud.

By evening Ranu was anxious and in desperation called the patron. He panicked too, as Chote Lal had left long time ago. He went out to check himself and called on Chote Lal’s mobile. To his dismay he heard it ringing under the snow in Chote Lal’s pocket, not even hundred metres from his home.

Deepika..

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When Mountains Beckon

The mountains are calling and I must go… said John Muir.

Even though I’ve lived most of my life in the mountains yet seeing their beauty leaves me mesmerized. I’ve tried to capture their charm and exquisiteness in a pictorial blog, for your appreciation.

It’s always the same with mountains.

Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them,

There is no escape.

RUSKIN BOND

The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains.

JOHN MUIR

Take a walk in the trees and smell the wild air. Nature’s ability to heal is greater than anyone has permitted you to believe.

ANONYMOUS

The tree made it’s first move, the first overture of friendship. It allowed a leaf to fall.

RUSKIN BOND

Behind the cloud the sky is always blue.

Sitting somewhere in the Himalayas the silence that surrounds you is of the Himalayas, not of you. You have to find your own Himalayas within.

OSHO

The future lies before you like of field of fallen snow. Be careful how you tread it for every step will show.

Kindness is like the snow. It beautifies everything it covers.

KHALIL GIBRAN

Spend time with nature it has tendency to settle down all the anxieties inside you.

MUSKAN ANCHLIYE

Each flower is a soul opening out to nature.

GERALD DE NERVAL

Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness.

Where flower blooms so does hope.

Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence.

HERMANN BUHL

How the colours of the fall inspire. Time to rest in the mountains.

Although I deeply love oceans, deserts, and other wild landscapes, it is only the mountains that beckon me with that sort of painful magnetic pull to walk deeper and deeper into their beauty.

VICTORIA ERICKSON

Deepika…

Please do not use images without permission.

Thanks.

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ART OF LETTING GO

As individuals we all tend to cling on to what we love. It could be our pet, our friends, boyfriends,the home where we live, our school, even the circumstances we may be in. But life unfailingly transforms and we have to learn to let go of situations, places and people, many times even before we are actually prepared for it. Letting go becomes important for us to move forward.

Our predisposition and character is to look back and our mind tends to focus on how things used to be. When relationships end or a treasured person leaves us and departs, we have to allow ourselves the time to grieve and then learn to let go. This is what we have heard and have been following for a long long time. We tend to hole up in our home and become disinterested even in the routine chores.

However, the Buddhist way of looking at letting go or detachment is very interesting. They unlike many of us do not look at loving someone as the need to possess. They beautifully explain letting go as:

Loving someone more than you have ever loved them before. Non-attachment only happens when our love for another extends beyond our own personal expectations of gain or our anticipation of specific, desired outcome.

Tich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist Master

It certainly is the most beautiful explanation of detachment I’ve ever read. You don’t need to lock yourself in a room or cut yourself off from the real world to let go.

When you have to say goodbye to your friend or love you feel a lot of pain. Specially when you know that your paths may not intertwine again. That feeling of pain is not true detachment. Your joy should arise from the fact that the person you loved has found happiness even if does not involve you.

Without detachment, explains Master Hanh, love becomes egoistic. It wants to possess. It becomes selfish and wants to cling on to the person or situation, making love more and more destructive.

If you truly want to let go, love the person more and wish them happiness and success. Be happy for them in the place they are now.

For love to be true love, it must have elements of compassion, joy and equanimity – and this is truly letting go. The real secret is that letting go is not an art, it is an allowing. It is completely selfless because your sense of ‘self’ is no longer asserted in every situation.

The Mind Unleashed

What I wrote up till now was emotional element of letting go. The detachment in love. But all of us our attached to even small items collected over the years. We become sentimentally attached to these and they begin to cause clutter in our home and minds . Thus leading to stress and exhaustion. For example you have a box full of cards your little ones made, a doodle they made as 1 year old, souvenirs from our friends or loved ones. We are sentimentally attached to all of these. We fear losing the precious memories if we discard them.

Even though it may be hard, the truth is, keeping all these items leaves us drained as it increases the clutter around or homes. So how do we know what to keep and what to discard?

We need to first understand that losing the items will never make the memory fade away. A truly precious memory is part of us forever. To be able to let go of the stuff you need to recoginse which items bring you absolute joy, only those are worth keeping. Believe me letting go of many articles will bring you more peace than keeping them there.

I’ve talked of very few areas where you may need to let go. I’m sure there must be many other things and spheres where detachment will bring you joy and happiness.

Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.

Herman Hesse

Please feel free to share your experiences of letting go.

Deepika..

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LAUGHTER THE BEST MEDICINE OR IS IT?

A good laugh is sunshine in the house.

William Thackeray

Laughter sure is the best medicine. Laughing is good for you. It improves your mood and your physical and mental health. Why, there are even laughter clubs where people of all ages gather to well, laugh. Laughing also makes you more attractive. I’m sure it does, for no one would like to look at a person whose face reminds you of “I’m sorry emoji”.

Many benefits of laughing are sited. Laughing keeps your heart good, it keeps your digestive system good, makes you less aggressive, endorphines are released making you happier, you actually breathe better and a good laugh cures many a ill. But what happens when you laugh at the most inappropriate place!!!

God knows all of us have felt the urge to laugh, sometimes at the most uncalled for places. You are trying your best not to laugh, your brain, your heart and you absolutely know it’s not the right time or place to laugh. Yet you don’t seem to be in control.

I’ve been told that laughing is your body’s way to overcome a stressful situation, but I’m sure my Math teacher never understood this when she turned me out of the class while I laughed through the trignometery lesson. Now trignometery was very stressful for me and my dearest friend and we laughed, though we knew what the consequences would be. Maybe our Math teacher needed lessons in Psychology.

Sometimes Loki (God of Mischief) has taken so much control over you that you can’t but help going bananas in a situation that’s straight out of Grimm’s fairytale. It can project you as rude, insensitive and arrogant. I think its okay as long as you are not laughing at a person, but only at a situation. Humour is not sin, but maybe not during a heated argument or when you are with your boss who is not very pleased with you. Yet you laugh for no specified reason.

So what triggers us? Maybe we lose the link between the situation and reaction. It leaves us feeling guilty even though we have no intention to act irrelevantly. Is laughter something we have a conscious control over? I don’t think so and I believe that laughter is not a way of expressing happiness either, not always anyways.

A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Maybe we laugh because we are embarrased at the situation, or laugh because we are denying the situation. In either case we laugh to ease the tension in our mind. Laughter is our body’s natural reaction to bond with the other person, it is also the easiest. You cannot control many obstacles at work or life. Barring the serious tragedies, we can navigate through small hurdles by laughing, specially at your messy love choices, which give you quite a shock but a smile too.

However there are times you need to control your laughter and may be a few tips might be helpful.

  • Try to mentally move away from the serious conversation and think of more mundane tasks like your grocery list.
  • Some say sipping water slowly can help you calm down.
  • If you do happen to laugh even after trying your best, be sure to excuse yourself. Your laugh may have reduced your stress but may have added to someone else’s. So be polite and saying sorry never hurt.
  • If nothing else works move away from the place. It will save you the embarrasment and heart pain to the other.

And remember at the end of it, all of us are human. Someone rightly said,

Everytime you find some humour in a difficult situation, you win.

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