Gender Inequality is Nature’s Plan

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Growing up in the “rape capital of India” can do considerable damage to one’s mindset. After all, at the end of the day, who we are? Just the sum of our life’s experiences. Witnessing extreme brutality against a specific gender can also sow seeds of rebellion, and so was the case with me too, few years back. I agree, that even today I am a feminist but my stance about gender equality has undergone a paradigm shift.

All these years of growing up, gave me an opportunity to view life from different perspectives and also the wisdom to respect nature’s designs. Man and woman are not created equal but they are definitely supposed to complement each other.

Every design of nature points towards creating harmony and simplifying the complexities. Had it not been the case, life would have continued to keep its existence as unicellular form, for ever. What was the need for evolution? Why cells combined to form tissues and so on? Well the answer is – harmony and division of labour. If every cell would have to just make ends meet, then how the consciousness would have evolved to the current level of being a human.

Taking a break from biology and coming back to the topic; nature has created this gender difference for some reasons and these reasons became clearer to me, after I became a mom. It’s true that I have witnessed my share of gender inequality at work-place and at home too, and every time I have used that last ounce of energy left in me to fight it out, yet I say gender inequality is nature’s design. May be inequality is the wrong word here, better would be to call it “gender distinction”. It is ok to question society’s attitude but how can we question nature’s plan?

The chemical make-up of a woman is all different from a man, and science has proved that ultimately, every emotion and thought we experience can have a chemical explanation behind it. The manner in which a woman can handle work and home, I don’t expect any man to come even close to that. Ok, we do have exceptions, then how many such men do we have?

The feminist in me wants to take it even a step further, and would love to talk about female superiority. I am a firm believer of the philosophy of “Sacred Feminism”. History is replete with instances of how the role of female in the society was always downplayed and patriarchy was highlighted. Gender inequality was never part of our culture and on the contrary women were revered in most cultures.

What we believe in, that we become. The rotten aspects of gender inequality are rampant in our society because we have been programmed to believe in this lie of weaker sex. Where does this inequality resides? It resides in the mind of the perpetrator and in the beliefs of the victim. Isn’t it? So I believe, it is more psychological in nature than physical. The women first need to change their beliefs about themselves, then at least half the battle will be won.

The day fifty percent of the population of the Earth will cease to believe in this fake idea of being weak, that day gender inequality will be erased. That day perhaps will be the day, when society will start to respect the essence of gender distinction. That day, woman won’t be inferior but will be an equal partner of man. That is the day of my dreams, when we will cease to fight over inequality and will aim for accommodating this distinction by creating safe work-places, equality in pay, equality in everything, except for equality in our basic roles, which we should never try to swap.

This post is written as part of IndiSpire prompt on #Gender Equality. More posts on the prompt may be found here

 

 

 

 

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Dreams Covered in Wrappers

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Like every child, my five year old is very much fond of gifts wrapped in colourful wrappers. Every day she demands new surprises from us, and it is quite a task to keep her enthused, by giving in to her little desires. The moment she reaches home from school, she wants mommy genie to present her with a surprise. So much is her obsession with the gifts that we hardly leave any birthday party without her having cried her heart out, for not receiving as many gifts as the birthday kid
Down and out, we finally decided to throw a party to ring in her sixth year, so that she doesn’t feel left out. I and my husband are generally against such grand affairs, but this time the parent in us had to bow to her whims. She was happy and excited for being the centre of attraction and her little eyes use to reflect colourful hues, on receiving every single present wrapped with those glittery covers.
So the birthday party ended in a blink and we landed at home, with all her newly acquired possessions. We had hardly stepped into the house and she was jumping with excitement to unwrap all the new acquisitions. We were in no mood to spoil her fun, so once again we gave in to her childish tantrums. One by one, the floor was covered with colourful packaging and the presents were being piled up mercilessly over the bed. She was hardly interested in those covers and was equally disinterested in those gifts. Her happiness was only till the point those gifts were wrapped. So there I sat, surrounded by all the trash, for which I had to scout a place soon, to store it securely for some godforsaken reason. While I was mulling over the fate of those presents, the realisation struck me like a bolt of lightning.
“What have I been collecting all this life? Lumber and only lumber; trash and more trash.” Like my daughter, don’t we all dream for such presents day in and day out? It’s just that as we age, the nature of the present changes and its monetary value goes through the roof. For some it could be a big house, a big car, a diamond necklace or for some it could be something as intangible as love or fame. Come on friends, please answer me honestly-Are we really interested in the present or are just lured by its packing? Do we really get permanent happiness by just converting a 3bhk into a 4bhk? If we do, then why does our mind raise up the bar every time and wants to add another room. Even if, one gets satisfied with the number of rooms, then we want to add a garden, followed by a pool.
Our desire to achieve a dream is nothing different from packaging and it keeps us glued to that dream. The moment that dream is accomplished, the wrapper comes off and like a five year old, we move on to chase yet another “present”. So, the question remains that how we grown-ups are any different from a child? What these years of growing up have done to us, if we are still lured by these dreams covered in wrappers?
How light this journey of life can be, with a little less of wrapper and unwanted presents. It took me 30 plus years to learn this valuable lesson and I have decided to choose my presents wisely, as I want to travel light, on this journey called life!

Handle With Care-Relationships!

build-relationshipsSo finally I dialled the number and the bell rang. While the bell was ringing, I was still unsure about my decision. A voice deep inside was asking me, “Why me always?” Amidst this confusion the phone was picked up from the other side.
“Hello, is it Neelima?” I asked.
“Yes, this is Neelima. Who’s this?” a voice answered from the other side.
“Neelima, Suhaani this side” I exclaimed with excitement. All of a sudden, the line seemed to have gone dead and there was absolute silence from the other side.
“Yes Suhaani. How are you?” Neelima asked hesitatingly, as if lost in some sort of dilemma.
“I am fine dear. It’s your birthday today and I want to make a new start. There will always be a time for clarifications later, but today let’s just talk about all the good things” I said.
“I also missed you all this while” Neelima replied in her old effervescent tone.
Sounds familiar?
Communication indeed is the key to better relationships, but somehow it gets thrown out of the window when time comes to practically implement the theory. People, who used to mean the world to us, are lost into oblivion as life progresses forward. But one can’t deny all the heartache this moving on entails. We do miss them in good times and also when life is passing through a rough patch. Then what stops us from taking the first step, to revisit those by-lanes of past, where once laughter used to echo and joy used to bloom? We know for sure, that place is going to be our safe haven in this otherwise strange world but still we resist the temptation.
The ugly truth of society is, that today everyone is dealing with their own insecurities and we never attempt to delve deeper into people. We are so much stuck with judging people, that all the love is lost in the process. If we Judge, we can’t love; and if we love, then we can’t judge. Imagine if a dear one has to constantly pass the acid test of portraying his/her best behaviour, then where is the scope left for him/her to remain human. Believe me; this pressure to be at one’s best can kill anyone.
Why do we need relationships for?
To settle a score?
To prove a point?
Don’t we need them to cherish the basic camaraderie, which only perhaps a human is capable of?
The reason why relationships go sour is that our expectations kill those relationships. We want a person to behave in a certain manner all the time and the moment the behaviour deviates from the expectation, the feelings also change. First feelings change from our side and then they are just reciprocated. Then we get stuck in the vicious loop of reciprocation of what we had never intended it to be, right from the outset. So more than the behaviour of the person, what we think about that behaviour, determines the fate of that relationship. Our mind creates endless thoughts about a particular person and the thought which appeals us the most, at a particular point of time, becomes our assumed reality. This is the reason that sometimes we regret saying certain things, but a moving arrow and spoken words are known to have caused more damage to the world than anything else.
Ok, accepted that such things may happen, but why do we fail to communicate the reason behind our changed feelings, especially when we value the relationship so much? It just takes a visit or even a call to explain yourself and chances are that the other person will tell you a tale, that will make you curse yourself for severing the ties for a non-existent issue.
Imagine our relationship with our mother; howsoever badly we may have fought, but after some time everything goes back to normalcy. The reason is-our mind is conditioned to believe that mother has our best interests in her heart. We never doubt her intentions, and so we develop the most unbreakable bond with our mothers.
I have made this a rule for myself, that if at all a relationship really matters to me at a deeper level; then I tell my ego to shut up and sit in the corner. I am not ashamed in making that first call or visit, if I sincerely miss a loved one. So far, my experience has been very satisfying, as every time I am embraced with open arms. True feelings never go unnoticed, as they speak through the crinkling of the eyes, through the open laughter of the heart. Often, I have realized, it’s not only me who suffer, but the other person also suffers equally, if not more.
If she didn’t come, then she might have got stuck. If he didn’t call, then it might have really skipped his mind. If she was harsh, then perhaps she must have been hurt. Very often, we are not generous enough to give the benefit of doubt to others, and at the same time, never fail to doubt intentions of others.
It’s ok to lose sometimes, even if you stand a chance to win. Before jumping into an argument, always decide, what matters you the most- the relationship or the argument? Inherently, we all are same and we all are good only in different proportions. We all need to be loved, respected and cared for. We have similar aspirations from life and similar insecurities. Everyone is fighting a battle of his own. If only we can see a loved one more closely and see beyond what meets the eye, then half of the problems will be solved.

True Meaning of Creativity

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Creativity is the buzzword these days. There seems to be only two breeds of people nowadays- the creative and the not so creative ones. Who doesn’t want to be the part of this bandwagon, when creativity manufacturing machines are being installed everywhere.  There used to be a time in my life, when I used to derive immense pride on being called creative. Creativity to me was restricted to art and craft, and at best creating something best out of waste. It’s unfortunate that I spent almost 30 years of my life holding on to hollow beliefs about creativity.

Once I landed a chance to attend a workshop on the given subject. I was beaming with excitement while waiting for an opportunity to share a few tips with the group members. Little I knew that by the completion of that session, my beliefs were to be shaken.

The session began with defining the creativity and I was not amused to observe that almost everyone had stuck to the standard explanation. But we all were in for a big shock when our collective understanding was nullified. We all were asked to mull over the end-result of this type of creativity, which we are so much attuned to. We were told to introspect what in the name of creativity we do and what we should actually be doing. Is it justified to spend millions in decoration in the name of creativity? I was asked to think about the fate of my last created craft and I had to admit that it surely was acquiring dust somewhere or must have been lost.

I agree that today world is going crazy after creativity. Are we going wrong somewhere? Shouldn’t creativity be making our lives simpler and better, rather than making it cluttered?  Is it good to promote excessive consumerist tendencies in the name of creativity? Tons of plastic and raw material get wasted, which can be put to better use. “Does it mean that human being should cease to be creative?” a participant inquired.

The answer was simple and logical. “The world is in never-before need of creativity for collective growth of our civilization, but we need to address the subject with a changed perspective” responded the trainer.

So why do we need creativity for?

  • We need creativity to live our lives creatively. When we are down on luck and can’t figure out a way out, then we can resort to find out creative solutions for our problems. Remember, how Stephen Hawking learnt to live life creatively with limitations of his body and made something beautiful out it.
  • True creativity lies in solving society’s issues and not in increasing them.
  • Creativity lies in finding new ways of approaching the same relationship, which has gone stale.
  • It should help one to become a better version of oneself by reducing traits like anger, greed, jealousy, hatred etc. It should augment the overall quality of life.
  • Creativity doesn’t lie in buying new clothes every month, but perhaps in fitting in old ones by losing an inch or two.
  • It should be a win-win proposition for everyone. My win should not be someone else’s loss.

We all left the session lost deep in thought. Sometimes, there comes a time in life when you have to let go off old beliefs, in order to accommodate for the change.  At the same time, we all were very happy for being given so many avenues wherein we could explore our new found creativity, but with a changed perspective.

The Pencil-Box

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We were barely few days into the wedlock and were invited to a dinner. So, I began the meal by gulping down these two big sized “gulab jamuns” (Indian Sweet). While I was still relishing the last drops of their sweetness lingering in the deep corners of my mouth, I could make out the discomfort from the facial expressions of my husband. Social norms deterred us from discussing the matter further, and so I moved on to the main course. While on our way back home, he casually explored the reason behind my strange behavior and asked why I had eaten my dessert first? I gazed out of the car window reflectively.  I had never thought deeply about this earlier, but his question opened a door in my mind and I landed straight into my childhood.

It was my fifth birthday and I guess that I must have been very excited then. The problem with memories is that they fade and I couldn’t recollect anything beyond, except for what happened after the party. It was a medium sized gift lying on the pile, wrapped in a golden paper. I was in a hurry to tear open the packing, only to find out that it contained a double-decker pencil box of yellow colour. Back then, even a pencil-box was enough to raise the spirits of a little child and I eyed it longingly, until it was taken back by my father, who said that it wasn’t for my age. He kept it securely at the top shelf of the cup-board and said that, I could use it when I would be grown-up.

Years passed by, and it became a frequent exercise for me to climb up the cup-board, in order to check it, every once in a while. I still have vivid memories of the child-like pleasure I used to derive by opening and closing it. I could also remember that how with a heavy heart I used to keep it back every time, with a hope that one day it will be mine.

With the passage of some more years, the rigours of daily life increased, and I completely forgot about my beloved possession. One day, while hurriedly going through the contents of the cup-board, I found it lurking from the corner and I grabbed it, only to find out that it was gone. It had succumbed to years of wear and tear and I had to bid it adieu with a heavy heart. It was no longer of any use.

Though it was gone, but it imparted a valuable life lesson to me. It taught me the lesson early on in life that nothing is permanent in this world and things are bound to change with time. Then why to hoard things for future, when future has no certainty? Life happens only in present. We can learn from the past and a little bit of planning for future is still understandable. So why save the dessert for the last, when you can eat it now 🙂

The cool breeze of outside brought me back to the present and I averted my eyes from the window. I scrolled through my phone and quietly played the song “ Zindagi ek safar hai suhaana, yahaan kal kya ho kisne jaana” (Life is a beautiful journey and nobody knows what will happen tomorrow).

 

 

It Takes More Than A Child, To Complete A Relationship. My Reflections!

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It’s been a little over 10 years, since we first met. How we met? We didn’t actually, as it was a virtual meeting over some mobile app. How that casual chat transformed into a lifelong commitment, is a long story, may be for some other time. Point is, that the cupid struck and we got hitched. I hail from Delhi and he is from Ahmedabad. Perhaps, it was destined that our paths would cross, at the right moment, at the right place. So I became his long distance girlfriend. Me and Sahil are stark opposites of each other. Where on one hand, he is detail oriented, then I am the one who likes to flow with the flow. He believes in execution of things, I believe in first dreaming about them. He is ruled by logic and I am ruled by emotions. But still we chose each other. We were dissuaded by friends, but no logic seemed to work. Probably, that’s why love is called blind.  I think we chose each other for compatibility of our thoughts and basic values. He proposed to me without even meeting; and I accepted. Today, when I think about it, I shudder at the level of his audacity, and at my own gullibility.

It remained a long distance affair for three years, with a brief period of face to face courtship, for about six months. So, I am not sure whether to call myself a girlfriend of three years or of six months. The beauty of a long distance relationship is mesmerizing. There is so much you hold and carry in your heart, that a single phone call in a day can’t suffice. Remember, I am talking about a time, when phone calls were not dirt cheap. I eventually started maintaining a journal, wherein I captured all my feelings, messages and every trivia pertaining to us. People ask us often, how we could love each other, without physical presence. We argue that physical presence is required only when the connection is not deep enough. Most of us, believe in god. Though we haven’t ever seen him, but still we can sense the connection. If you are intuitive enough, then the same thing is true, for the matters of heart as well. I believe if a relationship can stand the test of time, then it is ready to stand any storm, which can come in one’s way. It always came naturally to us, we never had to put any effort to make it going, it was spontaneous, as if, it was being guided by our instincts. I wouldn’t say that we never yearned for proximity, but the separation always sweetened the joy of our brief meetings, something we cherish, even today.

We finally got married after three years. But as luck would have it, we were again separated by our calling. We spent almost two years in different cities, due to professional commitments. The best part about a long distance relationship is that you never feel old. Every random outing seems like a date and you yearn to learn more about your partner, despite knowing the most. Finally, we decided to draw the line somewhere and did whatever it takes, to be together. Though, we are now together, still we are trying to catch up on the lost time, and savor each other’s company even more.

Today, we are proud parents of a three year old. Much has transpired between these intermittent phases of physical and virtual transition. Parenthood doesn’t sway us completely, for we know that it just complements our relationship and doesn’t complete it. The child should only be an extension of one’s personality, and not the limitation. There is still more to life than just being a father and a mother. The couple in us, needs to remain alive always. How we accomplish that? Well, we try to keep the dialogue going on between us, amidst our busy schedules. Even if that means taking out an hour or two from our sleep quota, then be it. We explore our mutual interests together, talk about anything and everything, and still go on dates together. There are occasional flare ups, but who doesn’t have them? We make it a point, to yell and shout at each other, to let the negative emotions flow out of our existence. It ensures that, at the end of it, we are left with nothing against each other, except cleansed feelings.

The thumb rule is, if you still like to talk to your partner, the way it used to be when it all began, then definitely the relationship is on the right track. Trust and communication are the key ingredients for any lasting relationship. So far, these have been the hallmark of our journey. Also, we don’t expect much from one another, except companionship. There are matters, where we decide together, but we try not to influence each other’s individual choices. Companionship is not about “one body, two souls”, but it’s about having separate bodies with separate souls. We accept that we are two different individuals and respect each other’s free-will. The aim of our relationship is not to change each other but to mitigate our differences and live in harmony.

Raising Emotionally Healthy Children

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Life has been kind enough to give me the opportunity, to view it from different perspectives. I had been a corporate-woman once; and now a mother and a teacher. The role of current generation teacher is to teach children, how to score good marks, wade through the cut-throat competition and earn a living. My corporate experience taught me, what this kind of earning a living can entail and what cut-throat competition can do to your body and mind. These seeds of drudgery and frustration are sown quite early and the entire system works in clockwork to propagate this misery and despair. In a world, where degrees and qualification determine your worth, then who cares about knowledge and real education.

I have seen children, really feeling stifled, for not being able to perform well in a specific subject. Howsoever good they may be at other subjects and things, but the stigma remains attached. We shout about uniqueness of every individual, but when it comes to education, then no such provision has been made to accommodate diversity of human mind. Today we are pushing children so much towards the abstract, that their link with the real world is gasping for breath. Kids these days are no longer in sync with their surroundings and are totally unaware about the practical stuff. I will try to substantiate my point with some of my experiences. Once I asked a child of eighth grade, where do we get LPG from at our homes? The child came from an educated family and was totally clueless. Shocked to hear that? Once I asked a child that if you are given a pot and you put it below a tap, but still it’s not filling, then what possibly could be wrong. To my surprise, the child was blank. Who is to blame? The parent, the teacher or the system, that are fostering ascent towards this abstraction, when most of the children are still struggling with practical knowledge. I read a status somewhere that “how common is common-sense” and the fact is, that it indeed is getting uncommon.

What a poor child can do? His entire day is planned and packed, in an attempt to keep him occupied all throughout the day. School and activities consume most part of the day. Now even the weekends are structured. We have planned birthday parties, organised dinners, structured play areas and what not. Where is the time for some randomness to creep in, some boredom to grow and for some thought to bloom? Avenues which can spur the curiosity and can give wings to the imagination, are increasingly becoming rare. In a race to top up the intelligence, emotional health of the child is taking a back-seat. No human is born worthless. It is just a label that we provide to the child, based upon our own pre-determined parameters. A child who grows up with such feelings of worthlessness,  is bound to become an insecure adult. An insecure adult will never say that he is insecure, but he will spread his insecurity, by making others feel insecure. This is how this vicious cycle of misery continues.

Marks and degrees can just give a kick start and provide a job. Something more is required to keep that job and to excel in it. Children, who are raised in an environment, where temperament of the parent is volatile and changes with the scores, are going to imbibe the behavior and will apply it to life. Life, as we all know, is not a bed of roses. It has its share of flowers and thorns. We need to prepare our children in such a way, so that, they not only smile at the flowers, but also laugh at the thorns.

 

Breaking the Shackles of the Past

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In the physical realm, human brain is the most complex tool, which provides an added edge to our species. Its complexity not only baffles a common man, but also astounds even the neuroscientists. It is the house of our consciousness, in which our mind and intellect are submerged. There is a thin line which separates the mind from the intellect. Mind is a repository of experiences and feelings, whereas intellect tirelessly goes through this data, and in an attempt to make sense of the present, creates countless thoughts. Yes, unbelievable it may seem, but our intellect is capable of creating around 50,000 thoughts in a day. Perhaps, death is the stage when this process stops, as it continues even in our sleep. Through our sense organs we receive stimuli from the external environment and every such stimulus is bound to create ripples in the still waters of our mind. These ripples evoke past memories and feelings, and give shape to our thoughts. So, the seeds of our thoughts were mostly sown in the past. Does it mean that our past still controls our present and future? Isn’t there any way out, to break free through these shackles of the past? Was human created so helpless to remain a slave of his destiny?

At first, it may seem difficult to accept, but most of us are still controlled by our past, knowingly or unknowingly. If we are waiting for that elusive transformation to take place on its own then that’s sheer foolhardiness. If I ask you to drive a car without any fuel and you are prohibited from even pushing it, then what you will call me? Certainly, a fool. In physical world, nothing moves or changes its state of motion, unless a force is applied. Then why do we wait for miracles to happen in the thought world? The force in the thought world, is the force of will-power and mindfulness, which can control our mind from straying into the by-lanes of past and cajole it to remain in the reality, that is present. Let’s admit, that we do realise when our mind is about to stray, and more often than not, we don’t want to let go off the pleasure, of basking in the glory of our past or to shed a tear or two on our past misfortunes. Past can only be a good teacher, if we learn from it. It surely is a terrible master, if it controls our present. So, it ought to be handled with utmost care.

Problem arises when we associate ourselves too much with our mind and intellect, and feel a sort of helplessness over them. The fact that we think that we are what our intellect is, that very moment we transfer all of our power to our ego. Intellect is the seat of ego. Ego creates divisive thoughts as it is designed to shield us, even at the expense of causing harm to our near and dear ones. Ego fetches only those memories and feelings, which are sure to make us feel powerful, comfortable and when everything fails, it can even protect by turning us into a victim. To gain control over them, it is important to realise the true nature of our form which is quite distinct, all pervasive and all inclusive. It is this form, which is the true master of our body, the ruler of our senses and the driver of our mind. Sages meditate day and night to search for this form, which is the very basis of our existence. Our worldly pursuits may refrain us from the early encounter, but it is not the destination but the journey that matters the most. This is the journey of self-discovery, which only can lead us to the truth.

 

Stained Footprints of Humanity?

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I can hardly control my surging thoughts, in the wake of recent developments in my beloved city, Delhi. The city of my childhood is witnessing a public health emergency and everyone is busy in passing the buck. Every year control measures are taken only after the fat is in the fire. Let’s accept that Pollution is a grave concern, not only for Delhi but for most of the tier 1 cities in India. Unbelievable? You can check for yourself at aqicn.org

What kind of development are we talking about friends? We are staring at a future where our children will be carrying oxygen cylinders instead of water bottles to schools. A future where pollution masks will be sold like accessories, to be paired up with the colour of your dress. Horrible it sounds. Isn’t it? But the way things are progressing , not only in India but in many parts of the world, this day is not far. Nature selects the fittest of the species for survival and in our case, we are pacing towards self-annihilation. The root cause of everything is our “Greed”. Our spending patterns are no longer governed by our needs but by our greed. Consumerism is the reality of our time and is pushing this planet to its limit. Earlier, there used to be “Summer Sale” and “Winter Sale”, but now “Sale” happens all throughout the year with intermittent periods of breathing time. Things are deliberately made not to last, so that repeat purchase can take place soon. Repair is for misers, Replace is the buzz-word.

Look around your surroundings. Is there a change? Vehicles are piling up. Solid waste lies strewn all over. Plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic pens, plastic furniture and more plastic everywhere. Any clue, where this ever so convenient plastic is coming from? It comes from petrochemicals, produced from petroleum. Gallons of petroleum are processed in order to prepare that comfy chair on which you are sitting now. Plastic packaging is convenient and cheap, but imagine that how much it will add to our carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is historically defined as the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organisation, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent (Source: @Wikipedia).

Everyone is well aware of the health consequences of soaring pollution levels. It is not strange that deadly diseases like cancers, heart troubles and respiratory illnesses are on the rise. Hospitals are mushrooming everywhere to cure our problems, whereas mass production of problems is going on. We are treating the symptoms, instead of working on the root cause. Today being diseased, popping in pills is not a big problem but not being able to drive a swanky car is a big problem. Millions dying due to hunger is not a big problem but not being able to dine out with family is a big problem. Actually, modern lifestyle has reduced some of our problems, by giving us multitude of other problems. Problem lies in the fact that we don’t know, where actually the problem lies.

Knowing this all, can we be a little more conscious while making the next super-market visit? Can we consciously choose products which are preferably not packed in plastic jars? Can we encourage our children to buy refills instead of buying use and throw stationary? Can we economize upon our frequent car trips? Can we convince our heart, to not follow the latest fashion trends blindly? Can we assure our spirit of the fact that god has enough for everyone and we needn’t hoard things mindlessly for bad time? The change needs to start from within. No government has ever solved the problem of any country. It’s the people only, who can be the torch-bearers and harbingers of change. Solution is in our hands. If we consume less, then they will produce less. Agreed, it will impede “Development” but at least we will be alive. Moreover, it will push everyone to look for cleaner and sustainable alternatives.

It’s ridiculous when experts say that Earth will become inhabitable in 600 years and it’s time to explore life beyond. I believe, me and my children have only this planet for many years to come. Let’s preserve it together by bringing in small but significant changes to our day-to-day approach.

Trapped

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There I lay awake, after just being woken up from the most amazing sleep I ever had. Years of working hard was bound to take its toll on a life, a life less-lived. A life, which blossomed like a rainbow in the initial years, under the warmth and affection of my dear mother. It all started from unrestrained laughter, then school, then college and finally I got settled. I soon had a family of my own. Neelima, my wife, was seven years younger to me and was everything I ever wanted in a wife. She was mature, much beyond her years. Perhaps, the years of restrained upbringing had transformed her into a woman of strength and had given her a unique sober demeanour, which is deemed fit to be a part of Indian households. Days went by and soon parenthood knocked on our door. We were blessed with twins, a girl and a boy.

In the excitement of giving them the best names, we passed away four months and finally decided upon Radhika and Arjun, much to the dismay of our relatives, who found them to be quite run-of-the-mill. Our joy knew no bounds, on watching them grow from infancy to toddlerhood. Our life was progressing, very much in a set determined pattern, the way it is for everyone. The initial revelry of marriage and parenthood had started to fade away, and was being gradually replaced by the struggle to thrive and survive. In a race to procure the best of everything, life had been slipping away slowly. Better part of my married life and for a significant part of my children’s teenage years, I was away from them. I was busy making a life for them, realising little about the fragility of life and its transient nature. Love also has a track of its own. Love, ignored for long, transforms into anger. The years of anger and resentment soon give way to indifference. I saw it all happening, right in front of my eyes, for I had become the recipient of this indifference by my own family. Neelima’s initial attempts at cajoling me were soon turned into quick-witted sneers, and finally she was forced to find different pursuits to invest her time and energy. Children also, once they reached their teens, were completely immersed in their own world and I really had no complaints then.

Day after day when I reached home, I was welcomed by its eerie silence. Most of the times, they were either asleep or were away. Neelima had joined a social service club, and had a wide social circle of her own. Charities, fund collections and social functions were now her way of life. I had also happily reconciled with this new life and spent time with my pipe and rounds of liquor.

It was a usual day and an early winter morning for me. Years of practice had instilled in me, a strange knack of doing things mechanically, in the shortest possible time. My routine work used to be immaculate – the hair perfectly combed, the trousers perfectly creased and a clean shave with no cuts. But that day was unusual, for it had a strange smell of gloom. It really took quite a struggle for me, to get out of my cosy quilt. My bed tea was lying morose on the side table, for all its vapours had dissipated into the surroundings. The clock showed 5:30 AM and I had been late by exactly half an hour. The angst and frustration took over me, and I hurried towards the bathroom. My head had been aching severely but little did I care at that moment. The meeting with the client was scheduled at 8 AM and I couldn’t afford to be late. A myriad of images jostled through my mind and made me uneasy. I hurried through the daily chores and got a big cut from my shaving razor. Oddly enough, my dexterity that day was going for a toss. I somehow managed to get done with the shower and changed into a crisp business suit. Something was amiss – and it was an effort to drag myself out – but I couldn’t zero down on it. Neelima was, as usual, busy in the kitchen and yelled “Breakfast is ready”. Her customary morning yelling, laced with frustration, was enough to get me back to my senses. On the breakfast table, I mindlessly plodded through the screaming, yelling and laughing faces of my family and finally drove to work. Some goodbyes are forever, but scarcely ever do we realise when they come…

Sitting inside the conference room, the necktie was feeling like a noose and I was hyperventilating. Gasping for breath, I opened my laptop for the presentation. I started to present, but the words coming out of my mouth were incomprehensible gibberish. My last memory of vision is, going through an array of blurry images, amalgamating into a fusion of colours. I fell to the ground and everything thereafter was complete darkness, like a trance.

I would have been rushed to a hospital, which was to become my abode for months to come. So I was there, at the hospital, lying on a bed, in a vegetative state. I had just woken up from a long sleep. I knew that I had woken up but no one else could hear me. Though I had woken up but I couldn’t open up my eyes, move my limbs or utter a word. I could hear people around me, Neelima, Arjun, Radhika, my relatives and the hospital staff. What I initially mistook to be a sleep paralysis, turned out to be a nightmare. I heard doctors talking in their medical language and realisation struck me like a bolt, for I had suffered a stroke. I had been sleeping for over a month and the fact that I had woken up was not known to anyone. I was trapped within my own body and the same body which used to augment my spirit had become my limitation. The moment I tried hard to break loose, the very next moment I was forced back to dive deep into the darkest recesses of my mind. Having become the prisoner of one’s own mind and body could be a dreadful thing. It is difficult to control the remaining senses, when you have lost control over the others. I could hear, feel and smell but I couldn’t see, touch and respond.

Every morning, the nurse used to bring choicest of sweet smelling flowers, whose hues I longed so much to see. Colours were now a distant memory and I had to strain myself too much, to cling on to their memories. The lunch Neelima brought for Arjun, who had been waiting by my bedside, evoked countless memories. All these were the things that we take so much for granted. Life is so much easier for one who has never smelt or for one who has never seen. Once you have experienced them, and then you are bereft of some gifts, it’s only then that one comes to appreciate their significance. Very often, I felt droplets of tears on my body, which I could later make out to be of my wife’s. What a trauma this has been for her. Once I heard her say, “Wish we had more time together”. Her words filled me with an inescapable sense of remorse and gratitude towards her at the same time. Given the kind of life I had given her, I was hardly expecting such soothing words. I felt a strange longing surging through me, a longing to belong to my family, to my kith and kin. All of them had been the recipients of my neglect, when I was so busy in making a living for ourselves. Making a living, which probably I will never get to witness! Radhika often touched my feet and said, “Papa, please wake up”. If only I had realized the value of their childhood, then things could have been so different. Arjun, who used to be least interested in me, would spend hours waiting by my bedside. I wish we all had spent more time together, but not in the inhospitable environs of a hospital! I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop. A time, where it all started. A time, when I was still a gawky young man, and knew how to live and laugh. I wish I could unlearn the vicious things which made my mind “worldly wise” and turned me into a rat. A rat, who tried to run a race too fast, oblivious to the fact that at the end of the day, a rat is just a rat – even if it wins.

So here I lie awake now, trapped in my body, with my soul shackled, with many a thought which will most probably die with me. Thoughts, which had the potential to become actions. Actions, which could have changed my world – our world – for the better. Probably destiny has other plans for me. Here I lie awake now, to decay and disintegrate – bit by bit, in my own web. The web, I myself had spun bit by bit, ever so deftly. I have no other option now but to wait, perhaps forever.