Attitude of gratitude

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As I glided through today’s newspaper, a section caught my attention and urged me to read it completely… And believe me you, it was really distressing.

It was about Madaya, a small mountainous town in Syria where up to 40,000 people are living on leaves and flower petals to stay alive, after having eaten all of town’s stray dogs and cats. It has resulted as an outcome of a six months long siege that the Syrian government has imposed on the town. The city has been cut off from fresh supplies of food and drink and the government could not uglify the situation more by laying landmines in the surrounding countryside preventing the residents to escape anywhere.

Many men, women and children have already died of starvation; some are still fighting the combat. As the Syrian winters are settling in, electricity and food sources have reduced from small to non-existent supply. As per a local resident, there are no more dogs or cats alive in the town and even the tress they have been living on, have become scarce. The situation is so alarming that the starving residents try not to move an inch from their place to conserve as much energy as they can. With dripping temperatures, the locals have been forced to burn plastics to keep warm, exposing themselves to life threatening fumes.

With a total of 40000 inhabitants, people are consuming the remaining animals, plants, flowers, leaves and grass. Although the adults are somehow enduring this calamity; many children and elderly are dying on a daily basis. The price of the staple food rice has risen to as much as $250/kg, far beyond the reach of even the wealthiest residents in Madaya.

How inhuman is this and who deserves a life like that?

This news brought out the attitude of gratitude in me to feel all that I have been blessed with. There is a part of the world where people are living on leaves, a mere thought of which shakes me completely. And there are plenty among us who waste chunks of food without a second thought. Not that the food we save will reach them, but the very thought of respecting the blessings we have been bestowed with makes a difference. And ironically, it’s us, who are still running in a never ending race to achieve what – A bigger flat, a more lavish car or a superior lifestyle? I just realized there is so much more to worry about. If we hadn’t had the basics, who on earth would have compelled us to fight for the luxuries? How often do we feel gratified when we wake up in the morning, next to our loves one with our health and body in sound reunion. Are we not lucky to have choices in our menu for breakfast? Don’t you think spending several thousand in a fancy restaurant on a single meal is sheer superfluity? What we have started defining as necessity is a luxury for many. Take out a moment to envisage that you are in Madaya right now, holding in your hands the same portion of food you left in your plate today, for either it didn’t taste well or you were too full to finish it. Will it be any less than the happiness we derive from buying diamonds or lavish apartments, for the one who has been living on tree leaves and flowers for days?

Having said this, I don’t want to be misunderstood at all. Being ambitious and being grateful are two sides of a coin. Talking about myself, yes, there are days when I do demand materialistic things. In all honesty, there are also days when I only think of belongings I don’t possess. The fact is that in this daily scuffle to maintain a certain standard of living, I tend to overlook the basics that my Lord has consecrated for me. So, in succinct, my prayers will now be more centric towards the simplicities of life like regular supply of meals, good health of the family, a shelter to live in, and a non-violent environment. I am sure these weigh far more than what we keep striving for. It also appalls me to think where is mankind heading to and where will all this end?

Will this ever conclude? If yes, then how?

Am I doing anything about it? No.

Can I do anything about it? Maybe.

How? I am not sure.

There is still so much to be figured out to make this life more meaningful.

And these thoughts are now interrupted by the routine calls as I look outside the window. The setting sun reminds me to get back to my duties and welcome the night with full enthusiasm. Another day is about to end, another morning will soon ascend. There is so much to thank life for, so much to look for. With thoughts this heavy, I finally sign off.

Your challenges.. my challenges!!

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I recently happened to meet a lady in my residential society who clearly seemed to be in her mid-thirties, had two girls and carried very neutral expressions on her face – neither happy nor sad. She displayed a great manifestation of an emotion – acceptance. We shared the same bench of the garden while giving some rest to our fatigued legs. After a few minutes of tote-à-tête, I realized that she worked with a renowned finance firm in Pune and had quit job after her first girl was born. Then she took a short break before she rejoined as a school teacher in a nearby school, just so that she could feel the happiness of being independent. But eventually, after her second girl was a year old, she had to leave again, as she wanted to give her time to the family. She is now a house wife who looks forward to being a working professional again. When? That’s certainly an open ended question mark.

Her circumstances made me ponder more about the challenges faced by a working woman in India on a daily basis. A recent study shows that almost 48% of women in India drop out of the workforce before they reach the middle of their careers. Only 5% of working women make it to senior leadership positions in the corporate sector, compared to the global average of 20 percent. Is it the environment that pulls down the moral of the working women or is it the mindset of the society that is not yet tuned to accept the changing trend? It rather came as a surprise to me when I learned that only about 20% of women in Urban India are working; forget about the percentage of rural India.

To mark her identity, to be independent, to earn a living, to run her family or to support her husband run the family; there are numerous reasons today women step out of their home, to work and to earn. A woman plays so many roles (of daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, mother…) and for ages has been a multi-tasker. Her tasks and challenges have increased and hardened multi fold now when she is super multi-tasking; juggling between career, traveling, kitchen, kids, husband, house, society, personal health, passion and desires. Balancing between so many duties and obligations, a woman faces numerous challenges and problems every day, every time, and may be every second minute.

Discrimination at Work – Sometimes the discrimination starts at the very level of recruitment and interview, where recruiters/interviewers see women incompetent for challenging roles and ask questions like whether you would be able to continue after marriage?

Challenges to Safety, Life and Dignity – Sexual harassment, theft, molestation, eve-teasing, etc. are some of the forms of challenges working women face to their safety, life and dignity.

Non-acceptance of Talent, Offered Disrespect – Though India is progressing but there are still sections of the society where a woman going out to work is seen very lowly and questioned about her moral. Major part of the country still sees women as only home makers.

Family Duties – In today’s modern time, even after working in the corporate world and after taking up challenging roles of executives/directors/marketing professional/IT professionals, etc a woman is expected to cook food, take care of kids and all other household duties.

Juggling Between Work, Home, Relationships and Personal Life – Amid all the dilemma and stretch of balancing the job responsibilities, following her passion, going ahead with her aspirations and looking after her family-kids-husband; a woman handles and balances a big lot of stress, which deprives her of peace, rest, sleep, independent though and luxury to be herself.

Maternity Leave and job pressure – Many organizations are strict about the maternity leave and women have the constant pressure of rejoining their organizations soon after the delivery else they run a risk of losing their jobs. Some recruiters are reluctant to hire a married woman considering the maternity leave she might be required to go on. Sometimes, the appraisal ratings and hikes are the aftermaths women have to face as a price of being a mother.

I know of a female who is incomparably independent, confident, earns more than or equal to her male counterparts but faces acceptance issue when she returns home after spending full day at office. The family enjoys the lifestyle that she contributes to, but also feels that a woman should work only to the limit where it doesn’t affect the family.

I think many women lives in guilt almost each day of their lives. Guilt of either leaving their children at day care to attend work or the guilt of letting their dreams go off. Guilt of ‘not being’ the perfect home maker or the guilt of ‘just being’ a home maker. Guilt of either being alone at home or guilt of hanging out with colleagues and friend. A working woman has to make choices every morning, every single day of her life. Whether to cook for her family or to rush to work. There’s some sort of compromise a working woman has to make with herself daily. Even if a working woman leaves her house to be taken care by the domestic help, either she herself or someone else compares her with others who manage to do certain things on their own, and in the end it leads to guilt of not being an ‘all-rounder’ lady.

The challenges a working woman faces is beyond people can comprehend. She is on her toes from morning to night just trying to balance family, work, relations, obligations and many other duties. It’s true that a few give up on their way but some fight till the end.

Let’s see how long my challenge takes me to 🙂

From Jail to Bail in two days!!

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Oh dear! What a wave. I am not the first and indeed not the last to write about Salman’s debatable bail. It has taken away the nation’s attention for sure. And why not? When half of the nation can’t stop going gaga about celebrating Salman’s bail, others can’t stop criticizing the Indian judiciary system. I am not a Salman fan, but not an ‘anti’ Salman either. I am just a frustrated Indian who is left dumbstruck on how a case that took 13 years to declare its verdict, granted bail in barely two hours and a suspension by the High court in mere two days. I am sure this case will or might already have created history. His lawyer, Harish Salve, who is India’s leading and expensive lawyer and is believed to charge Rs.30 lakhs a day, in itself speaks a lot about his super express service in winning the bail in 120 minutes and then winning it over again at the High court in two days. On the contrary, it takes months for common public like you and me to get only a hearing date and then ages to fight for justice. It’s all about the money power; common man has nothing in his lap. Indian law has lost all respect today.

Who is Salman Khan? A dauntless Bollywood actor or an irresponsible sot? He is that ‘name’ who has the power, fame and money to afford ably buy anything and everything as far as Indian system is concerned. I so want to be a questioner to all those fans who voice Salman to be a nice human being. I am not arguing that he is not. Maybe he is. But a simple question – Does being a good human grant you the rights of committing crime? He probably might be God’s Angel sent to curb many pains of the needy but what he did cannot be justified in the eyes of humanity. He was drunk, killed someone and handicapped lives; what on earth will support this? Is your definition of ‘good human being’ so inexpensive to give that to anyone only on the basis of his physical appearance, acting skills (which I think is only an exaggeration) or some charity that he probably started as an image makeover? He killed a Black buck, was it ‘Garv’ for the nation? He slapped a female; did that make him ‘Dabang’? He recklessly crushed a set of people on the footpath, was it something that gave nation the ‘Kick’? It was indeed disappointing to see the superstar using lame excuses and lies to save himself, when everyone knows what the truth is.

The big names of Bollywood have sent condolences to Salman and his family. Few hare-brained have also expressed their annoyance over the people who sleep on the walkway. According to them, is that the place to sleep? According to me, do they have a choice? Who would want to be on a road anyway? A noteworthy point here is that if all the big names of Bollywood decide to donate Rs.1L to the victims, which I am sure is a tender change for these celebrities, to support their beloved friend; won’t it make a significant difference to the victim’s existence? Or is everything pretentious there? Sadly, Salman’s own charitable trust ‘Being Human’ did nothing for the poor sufferers of the hit and run case.

Salman’s accident took away lives from many lives. The families lost all modes of earning bread and butter; their work place never hired them again. They were and are still poor. Who is thinking to uplift them? It’s true that a few of the victims don’t really care whether Salman gets punished or continues to shine on the big screen. They have so much else to care about. Spending crores on Arpita Khan’s wedding, who is not his blood sister makes him a charitable face. I believe it would have been more ‘humanitarian’ for him to balance his philanthropy towards these sufferers.

Some of the witnesses and wounded have given statements like this to express their views on this story:

1) “We heard lots of good things about Salman in our village and in the city that he helps poor and needy. But he did nothing for us. Sometime, I used to think that he will come to us, try to understand our family problem and provide us help. But it remained fantasy. I belied that all his helping hand stories are imaginary” said Abdulla.

2) Initially Abdulla had feeling of punishing Salman for running bakery workers lives. “But gradually I accepted the reality. He is big man, we cannot harm him.” – Abdulla.

3) Regularly we struggle hard to earn our livelihood and help our families. We have no time to follow up the case verdict” said Abdulla.

4)  “I watch Salman movies, but hate him.” said Nazir.

5) Nazir said Salman came out of the vehicle’s driving seat and within moments re-entered the vehicle. “He was drunk and tried to restart the vehicle, in vain. When he came out the second time, we caught him. He pleaded with us, saying we should first remove the trapped victims.”

I don’t aim at hurting any fan’s sentiments. All I want to put across is that a reel life hero might not necessarily be a real life hero. Loving an artist and supporting every action of his are two different sides of a coin. Appreciate the art, not the sins. Support the good work, don’t encourage the ill deeds.

Delhi Assembly Elections – Fusilli or Penne?

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The most talked about elections of 2015 so far is the Delhi Assembly elections. From a common man’s perspective, isn’t it a tough call to make? To me, it’s like visiting an Italian restaurant where I am offered a choice between Penne or Fusilli when I order Pasta. Though technically these are different forms of Pasta, but for me, it’s more about the experience, taste, ambience and the appearance. I wouldn’t mind being served Penne instead of Fusilli if the sauce tastes good. Both are pastas, akin with regards to the shape and above all I like them both.

Delhi elections are no different than choosing Penne, Fusilli or any different form of Pasta, depending on what your mood will prompt you on that particular day. Both the candidates, Ms. Kiran Bedi and Mr. Arvind Kejriwal are renowned, accomplished and carry a clean chit till date. Whoever wins, I am happy that Delhi will be in safe hands (from the look of it). These strong contenders, one an IRS and another IPS officer, have an edge over other politicians that our system and citizens have seen so far. I personally don’t follow or support a particular party or leader; I support good work, honesty and development. So for me it’s a tough choice as these two contenders seem encouraging and worthy of delivering half of what they promise. In all honesty, I never thought I would follow politics or even write about an election ever. This is an interesting one though.

It’s good to see Indian politics revolutionize to a better game, it’s good to see the known, educated and influential faces join the political dirt as I am sure they will sweep away half the grime. They say there is nothing like a good politics and I agree to it to some extent. My thoughts are that it’s better to be robbed by someone sophisticated than by someone uneducated. I am really astounded to see the emerging interest in politics amongst the youth and country as a whole. This is a positive signal that India is changing. The result of the election will be out tomorrow, though we all know what the exit polls have declared. Let’s wait and watch what tomorrow morning brings.

Hoping to see India change for better, my friends!

Spreading Smiles :)

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It is not uncommon to see the under privileged asking for monetary favors on the road side or traffic signals. It is quite a pity to see a certain section of our society living a life, a mere thought of which scares the hell out of each one of us. Whenever I see one, I thank God for blessing me with all that I have. I personally do not always return those plead with money as it seems quiet impractical. Besides this, I am always skeptical about how and where that money would be used; after having read so much about this type of trafficking. Such a situation leads to a war between my heart and mind where both seem to be right. But then I ask myself, how can I bring a smile to those faces and help every time I see one?

Here are a few things I do when I do not want to give money – Keep a box of chocolate in car and give one, especially if a child approaches. Chocolate might be something rare to their taste buds and will also add to body calories. Moreover, what could be more pleasant than giving a moment of childhood to someone who doesn’t get to see this beautiful side very often? Give away your old clothes; it really makes a difference to them. Feed them with food at least once in a month or two. It doesn’t need to be expensive, reasonable snacks like samosa, wada pav etc. are generally the best buy as they are light on pocket and high on satisfaction. I usually buy around 20 of them and distribute on my way, wherever I see a needy face. The joy these under privileges express will definitely encourage you to do something next time again. It gives an immense pleasure to contribute and spread smiles in some way or the other. I am sure we all have our own ways of touching hearts.