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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.

Unknown
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BANNED!!!

Newspapers everyday are filled with the news of something being banned or people asking for a ban on something.

Too much traffic ban vehicles, too much plastic ban plastic, too much noise ban speakers, too much merriment ban parties. Ban books, ban movies, ban people, ban animals, ban this, ban that. Banning seems to be seeping deep into our socio-political culture. All of us are a drop of hat away from pronouncing a ban on something. I ban TV for my children when they do not obey.

Banning is easy. To ban ‘it’ is perceived as the most common solution for many real and imagined problems. Banning is, however, a lazy policy, I believe. How can you make ‘it’ go away by banning ‘it’? ‘It’ will be there, maybe hidden somewhere, or swept under the carpet. Banning something will not stop it from happening. It would of course give the legal system more power to deal with it in a different spectrum.

When a ban is enforced on certain behaviour it may certainly have a deterrence effect on it. But will the behaviour be modified? I highly doubt. I believe that the behaviour may actually worsen because now it will be criminalised. On the surface the ban will please a majority of people, but in the long term effects may be unsatisfactory and even unpredictable.

Banning something, I feel actually increases the interest of people in it. It becomes like the forbidden fruit you want to taste. More than that I think, banning something is not the solution. When you ban something you fail to correct human behaviour. You are not holding the person responsible for the wrong, you are blaming ‘it’, the inanimate thing.

I read of ban on use of loud speakers after eleven at night. Loud music disturbs everyone, but we do not realise that when we are the ones celebrating. A ban is necessary because we are not sensitive to each others needs. A ban on crackers because we still do not understand the ill effects of pollution. When we become more responsible and answerable then the need for ban will not be there.

But then there have been bans of the bizzare kind. I found few on the net. I do not vouch for the truth of these bans, but I found these preposterous.

  • LIP-SYNCHING

Turkmenistan bans lip-synching at large cultural events and on TV programming. In 2005, President Saparmural Niyazou banned lip-synching in order to preserve true culture. He also banned opera and ballet deeming them unnecessary. ( source https://www.quora.com/what-are-some-strange-things-banned-in-countries )

  • SCRABBLE

In the 80’s Romanian leader Nicole Ceausescu banned the game calling it “subversive” and “evil”. Luckily the ban is no longer there.

  • CHEWING GUM

Well, in Singapore there is a ban on the import or sale of gum. So it gets impossible for locals to get any. Except if it is medically prescribed. The ban was imposed in 1992 when someone used chewed gum to bring the public transportation system to a halt! How??

  • ALCOHOL ADVERTISEMENTS

In India you cannot advertise alcohol. The ban came into effect in the 1990’s. Many companies have tried to get around the ban by promoting surrogate products.

  • TIME TRAVEL

Not literally. China bans the movies and shows about time travel. Chinese authorities felt that representattions of time travel resulted in frivolous depictions of “serious history”

  • BLACK JEANS

North Korea bans wearing black jeans (among various other things). You can only wear blue jeans. Black is a colour, apparently associated with United States.

  • GAMBLING AT CASINO IF YOU ARE A CITIZEN OF MONACO

Yes! Despite being a symbol of Monaco, Monte Carlo Casino does not allow citizens of Monaco to enter and gamble there. In 1860’s Prince Charles III was afraid that his citizens would lose all their money there. It was perfectly fine for foreigners to do so.

  • DYING IN THE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT

In United Kingdom one is not allowed to die inside the Houses of Parliament as that would entitle one to a state funeral. Don’t know how they would prosecute you for breaking this law?

  • RUNNING OUT OF GAS ON AUTOBAHN

Autobahn is the federal controlled highway system in Germany and you cannot run out of gas while driving there. And if you do, do not think of walking to the gas station as walking on Autobahn is also banned.

  • PONYTAILS ON MEN

The Iranian government issued a list of appropriate male hair styles in 2010, which prohibits ponytails, mullets and hair that is too spiky.

Was that a long list? I’m sure it can be longer though. The idea behind this was to make us think: Is banning helpful or should we focus on correcting the underlying human behaviour so banning can be banned.

Deepika…

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HOW ABOUT A HOBBY !

I was having my morning cup of coffee and was observing my husband get ready for his daily run. I actually found myself admiring him. Yes! A rare occasion, rarer than the sighting of the Blood Moon. He is passionate about running. You name a sport and he’s a master at it. He started learning body weight exercises and now you can ask him anything there is on the subject. His hobby includes astute knowledge about all things electronic and photography. The portraits clicked by him are the best I’ve seen. Okay! This isn’t about me sounding lovestruck. I am amazed at how many hobbies he has successfully developed.

Hobbies! What are they? Is hobby something one is naturally inclined to do. Some how I don’t believe that can be true, as many like me, will be naturally inclined to sleeping. Is hobby something you enjoy doing? That could be it, but does it also have to be constructive and productive? Because I might enjoy watching television. Watching Netflix seasons back to back. Many admire music and love listening to it. They profess that listening to music is their hobby. How is it different from watching television, unless you are creating or playing music? Again that takes us back to the question, does hobby need to be productive?

A dear friend suggested that it could be an expression of a dominant trait. That could partially define why we like somethings more than others and why we are good at certain things. Like my husband is very athletic and outdoorsy kind of person. Oh, I forgot to mention he plays the guitar too and can sing reasonably well. Everyone is bound to have a trait that dominates all others and turns into passion… Is it?

With this I also see a sea of youngsters without any hobby. I think most of them believe “internetIS the hobby. This reminds me of Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Deathwhere he writes

People will come to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

Neil Postman

Also Aldous Huxley in Brave New Worlddepicted a population “too amused by distraction, entertainment, leisure and laughter to realise they have been made powerless.”

Many do not try to build a hobby because they may have a fear of failing or the fear that they may the worst at it. Something that prevents me from joining Zumba classes, because I know I would make a quite a spectacle. So they give up even before they start.

What, then can be our take away on what qualifies as a hobby or on how we may develop one?

  • Most common interests are dismissed as mundane; like reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Don’t bother, I’m sure it counts even if its not original.
  • Even if you cook and try a new receipe in couple of weeks, I think it’s safe to qualify cooking as your hobby. I don’t think only churning a new dish every other day would qualify as a hobby.
  • You may have an interest that is not popular, don’t dismiss it. Even if it’s playing video games which I think can qualify as a valid, (though not productive in tradition sense) use of time.
  • Everyone cannot be an artist. You don’t need to be great at something to call it a hobby. So you like to paint. Go ahead and paint. If it relaxes and gives you pleasure its work as hobby is done.
  • Lastly I don’t think that a hobby has to be the purpose of your life nor does it have to be your biggest passion. You like to do something and can take out time only couple of weeks for it, then that’s good enough!!

Even if you are doing random activities like reading a book, a blog, listening to podcasts, watching videos, I’m sure you will be able to connect a thread through all of these. A common theme that runs through them. You can work on pursuing those. Having said that, I believe it is perfectly okay to not have a specific hobby. Same repetitive activity to be done every time you are free may be too monotonous for some. If, however, you sense you like something go ahead and try it further. You may enjoy it more, once you get good at it. Each activity can have its own learning curve. Don’t give up if its too hard similarly don’t stay in it if it does not give you pleasure.

Finally a hobby, I think, should give pleasure. Don’t stress if you cannot follow it everyday. Wikipedia defines hobby as “ a regular activity done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time, not professionally and not for pay.”

Cambridge Dictionary says, “hobby is an activity that someone does for pleasure when they are not working.”

Focus on words pleasure, enjoyment, leisure, and list up hobbies you’ve had or would like to have.

Happy Hobby Hunting!!!

Deepika……

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WHEN THE MOUNTAINS SPOKE

A short story where the characters bear no resembles to anyone alive or dead …

Sujata was agitated and seemed a little vexed over the entire trip. She disliked small towns. Sujata was a Delhi girl through and through. She loved dressing up. Even in her office formals she was immaculately dressed. Long well kept hair had a tinge of burgundy. Though not tall her poise expressed both dignity and grace. She loved the fast paced life in Delhi. She as was at ease in local market at Sarojini Nagar as at clubbing. She was bold, confident, open-minded, energetic and independent. So when her office decided to send her to Karu, a small village on the suburbs of Leh she flew off the handle.

“Why does it have to be me? A village!! Oh God!! Small towns are boring. Life seems to be at a standstill,” she rued. She boarded the plane or was actually pushed into it. This is going to be a nightmare for sure, she thought. Delhi-Leh flight was about an hour and a half, the longest one she thought. She was so listless about the entire trip that even when passengers craned to look at the beautiful mountains from the window she remained quiescent, listening to music on her I-Pad. Finally they landed.

She sauntered out of the airport into the cold crisp air. The freshness of the air was what she noticed first. It filled her up, and try as hard as she desired she could not ignore it. She glanced around for the first time and saw gargantuan mountains rising into the sky. Not a blade of grass grew on them . Cold desert! She thought.

But work had to be done and she was keen on finishing it fast. Since her work needed a lot of research, she decided on staying in the village itself, even though the town of Leh had many luxurious hotels.

Driving down she peered at the scenery. It was different from what she had ever perceived. The road on which she was traveling had been cut into the mountain. It was beyond imagination how this feat had been achieved.

Her driver and guide was a cheerful young boy named Sonam Tsering who loved to talk. A lanky fellow with black hair straight as pine needles, was very happy with the progress Leh and surrounding areas were making since the road was made. “Tourists come in all seasons now, that’s why I left studies and bought a taxi,” he grinned broadly at his achievement.

They arrived in Karu, a quaint little village, with mud brick houses. Tiny wooden doors and tinier windows to keep them warm. They were going to be boarding in the home of Daechon Angmo. A beautiful and clean home, a little detached from the village houses. It had the advantage of being at a height that gave an awesome view of Indus river. Sujata was given a separate room at the back of the house so no one would disturb her. She was also informed that she had to stay indoors for acclamatisation, as the altitude was too high. No moving around, specially no walking around as it would not be condusive for her health. “And so it begins,” she thought. “An entire day wasted doing nothing. Why are there even villages in the 21st century!”

With nothing to do she talked to the little children who told her stories of Lamas, and interesting rituals of the monastries near by. They regaled her with tales of frozen Indus river in winters and how they could walk on it. They reminded her to charge her electronics as light will not be available after ten at night, only solar lamp could be used in emergencies. They even told her stories of ghosts and spirits. A loquacious lot she thought, but perhaps it was because very few people visited them. It was only when the lights went out that she realised, she hadn’t touched her phone the entire day nor her I-Pad. She didn’t miss them, or the outdoors.

It had been ages since she slept this early. The next morning she was busy with her work. She went out with Tsering guiding her at every step. He knew his land well and was proud of it. He spoke lovingly about it as if it was a living entity. Her days passed quickly as opposed to what she had thought. She was pleased with how things turned out. She was to leave the next morning.

As usual the lights went out at ten and she lay in her bed thinking of her work and how different Karu and its people were from her supposition. She had clubbed them according to all the clichés. She could feel her eyes getting heavy and soon she dozzed off.

She coud not recall how long she had slept, but she heard a loud knocking at her door. Someone was banging the door hard, it woke her up. First she thought she imagined it as it seemed to have stopped. But a moment later it was louder than before. She reached for the solar lamp which refused to light up, apparently no one had charged it that day. She contemplated whether to open the door or not. She thought it would be wise not to. Even if people here were unpretentious and loving she was a stranger there. Whoever was there, knocked one more time. She hoped someone from the main house would come out, surely this loud knocking would have woken them too.

Early in the morning, after breakfast, she said her good byes. Suddenly she remembered the knocking and asked Angmo as to who came so late at night. Tsering was there too. Angmo and Tsering glanced at each other estorically, but said nothing. The children said no one heard the knock. “You must have been dreaming Sujata didi.” “Really? No,” she thought. There was definitely knocking at her door.

On the way to the airport as they were driving down the same road, Tsering looked at her and began a narrative. He said that building this road was a Herculean task. The ropes were hung from the top of the mountains and the labourers would hang from them and cut the mountain so the road could be built. Many of them fell to their death into the gorge. Their spirits are still believed to be wandering among the hills and want to be let in the homes to escape their fate. Some of them knock at homes at night. Not everyone hears these knocks.

Sujata could only feel goosebumps as she stepped into the plane.

The road ….

Deepika….

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Hi

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