Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why Women shop?

The Holiday Season is nearing and malls are full of attractive deals. Guess what, this is the time when women go berserk with their shopping sprees! The mannequins are egging them on to come in, take a peek, and if successful, leave with tons of bags.

So, what is with women and shopping? Is it some kind of disorder or just an innate trait? Though you may like to believe so, it is not because they want to splurge and waste your money. There are much deeper reasons to this hobby, addiction, whatever you may like to call it. Whatever the reason, most women have a special bond with shopping and their husbands and children are tired of it. For the benefit of these suffering souls, I have taken it upon myself to make them understand the way women think, so that they can put up with this 'bare necessity' of women! And hopefully, find a better way out of it, rather than sulking.
So, to all the men, here comes my feeble attempt at deciphering what goes on in a woman's head, when she is shopping:

1. Games equals adrenalin rush equals finding awesome deals
Do you remember the time, you were playing Call of Duty, and you were so awesome at it and kept clearing one tough step after another? Think of that great surge of adrenalin rush through your body! Didn't it feel great, like you were on top of the world? That is exactly how women feel, when they find unbelievable deals on the most beautiful stuff. And the deals are not limited to just shoes or clothes or accessories, but everything that can be bought in a shop. Ask a woman how it feels to buy a pair of gorgeous sandals for 99 cents, and she will be so elated, you would have to calm her down to actually hear something discernible from her. It is like achieving new heights. And it is not just the beauty of the sandals, but the fact that she found great value for money, that makes it more special. So, the next time, your wife or girlfriend is jumping up and down with joy, have a rerun of the time you cleared all stages of the toughest video game and you would know exactly how she is feeling at that time.

2. What do you do when everything is going wrong?
Women shop, when everything around them is falling apart, because it is their resort from all things evil. The world of shopping takes you away from reality and puts you in a place where there is glitter, color, shine and pleasure. And you don't actually have to buy anything or spend even a dime for this. The joy from window shopping is equivalent to the joy from actual shopping. I have heard a lot of people say that shopping is therapeutic for women. What it really means is that when everything is gloomy and you see no hope, you need that silver lining. That is where shops and malls step up and translocate women to a place where there all things bright and beautiful. It may not be a permanent solution, but it gives the brain that small time out, that it needs to start thinking clearly.

3. Men have high self-esteems
Men might have a beer-belly, they could be unkempt, but it doesn't seem to affect their high self-esteem. On the other hand, the outward appearance for women is an indicator of their esteem quotient. Put a woman inside a perfectly fitting, pretty dress and look at her confidence. It does wonders for her self-image. And unlike men, women give a lot of importance to what others think too. So, if she hears wonderful compliments for what she is wearing, it makes her ecstatic and boosts her confidence drastically. You could link this to the need of women to be acceptable all the time.

4. Everybody needs change
When women need a change, they change their wardrobe! As to how cost-effective it is, is a different question. Everybody needs some kind of change, and changing clothes is like being a different you for a little while. I keep telling my husband "Please wear something else apart from your same old black T-shirt", because I get tired of looking at the same clothes everyday. Let's face it, we cannot change personalities everyday, so what is the easiest way to get a change, being a different you externally, but sticking to your guns within.

5. Men bond over sports, women over shoes
If women have to survive in a group, they need a considerable knowledge of the retail industry. And by that I don't mean the stats of how well the industry is doing, that unforunately does not interest us. But, just plain and simple, what shop sells what the best. It is not like we do not talk about anything else. But eventually, when the important stuff is out of the way,we come to the really important stuff - where did you find that great purse, where you got your oh-so pretty, yet comfortable shoes? Put a bunch of really powerful CEO type women in a room, and once the business is dealt with, you would still see them bonding over great retail info.

6. Women notice what other women wear
This is the worst af the lot. It is women who enable the shopping by other women. Every woman thinks that every other woman notices what she wears and so, doesn't like to repeat her clothes. And not repeating clothes, in front of your friends or even with you coworkers, who you see so often, is just impossible. But, women shop in hope of not having to wear the same thing with the same group of people.

7. How great it feels to be Santa!
If people think women just shop for themselves, it is not true. Women have the same enthusiasm to shop for anybody else, as they do for themselves. And gifting such wonderful things that people like, makes them feel like Santa. And who doesn't want to be Santa Claus, the person so loved by everyone? Using their good choice and great experience, to make someone happy is their way of doing good deeds and spreading smiles.

Now you can decide for yourself, whether it is womens' vanity or is it just their crazy way of finding pleasure. Whatever it is that you conclude, you still have to be around them! So know them, accept it, and move on :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's your festival?

One of my friends recently posed a question to me as to why Indians celebrate Non-Indian festivals, that are pretty much alien to them. He was bothered by the fact that instead of spreading the message through our festivals, we were trying to adopt practices not innate to us. If you think of it, it is so true that most of the urban festivals celebrated by modern India did not originate in our country, nor do they bear any religious significance. Then why do we make such a big deal about April Fool's Day, Friendship Day, Valentine's Day and numerous other such days? The biggest irony is that even though the Hindu calendar has it's own unique date for a new year, it is not celebrated with as much as zeal as 1st January.

What is it with us? Are we giving up our culture to adopt something new and irrelevant to us? The answer would be 'No', because it is not like we fail to celebrate our festivals with the same energy. Maybe the smaller festivals are not celebrated with as much as hoopla, but the major ones definitely are. So, what are we trying to do? Do as the world does and make a place for ourselves? Again, I don't think so.

The problem with us Indians is that we love festivities and celebrations of all sorts. Face it, our weddings themselves are like 5-day long festivals! No matter what the reason, we find a way to celebrate. India wins the World Cup, we are out on the streets with drums, fireworks and dancing, some other pious followers arrange for ceremonies to thank God for being there with the team and heralding success for it. Even a normal sport becomes a festival for us. For a country that has almost a 100 festivals a year, spanning a variety of religions apart from Hinduism, like Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity and Zorastrianism; it is not a surprise that we love colour, gaiety, and joy. And we find it any which way we can.

Living in America, it is amusing to see how easily Indians have taken to American festivals as well. I guess we believe in doing as the Romans do, or in this case, Americans. We have adopted the exaggerated fun from Halloween and the cheer from Christmas. All we want is one more day to add to our long list of festivals. Indians are that way very easily adaptable. We take up the customs and practices very quickly. As long as it fulfills the purpose of refreshing your mind.

After all, isn't that why festivals were introduced in the first place? Ganesh Chaturthi was popularized so that people could come together to interact and experience the community feeling. Sankarant was introduced so the farming community could celebrate the harvest season. All along, if you notice, the common thread is the reprieve that, being with friends and family brings to you. It is a way to give your mind and body a change from the mundane and be dazzled by the little joys that such gatherings flag on.

If that is the case, what is the harm in spreading the joy and cheer? If the festivities make you happy, why not celebrate life and it's blessings every day? You may address each festival differently, but if you strip it of it's intricacies, it is nothing but a way to get the brain to release more endorphins. What would be wrong is, if you completely abandoned your heritage, and tried to mimic something just to fit in. The old and new should go hand in hand, and that would surely be a celebration, a celebration of life and its different meanings!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cuteness personified!

The sweetest note from a toddler, that made my day....
This makes up for dealing with all the cranky customers and the stressful work

Thanks to the little kid and her mother for gifting us some smiles :)
Thanks to all the little kids who send in candies and chocolates with their books through the AMH...
They really make a difference.... just hope more parents can teach their children to take responsibility for their actions, while acknowledging and appreciating others !

Monday, August 29, 2011

Are you the customer, deserving service?

A year, being associated with the customer service industry and I am already such a better person, or so I think! But, I really have learnt a lot about being the ideal customer who deserves the excellent service at so many places. One of these evenings, I was attending to patrons (some of them like to be called that), when I realized that there was a category of customers I looked forward to, and there were some, just the thought of whom gave me goosebumps. That is when I started pondering as to what characteristics would an ideal customer possess? If everybody took this questionnaire, the customer service world would be so much better for everyone involved. Check how many of the below do you follow:

1. Are you conscientious enough to acknowledge the fact that the customer service agent can't wait all day to help you, while you are chit-chatting on the phone?
It is so annoying when you are helping people check out books, pay fines, and basically make it a better experience for them, while they take that call and have a long chat. And you just wait there, for them to finish the call so that you can ask them for the essential information. Why can't people understand that, we have other work to do too? Customer service does not entail being a personal assistant to people who try to get their work done, by making gestures, while they are on the phone. If they are too busy to get off the phone, they are probably too caught up to be able to enjoy the service anyways!

2. Do you assume that you are the only person being helped?
It is amazing how many people just forget that there are others waiting in line to avail the same benefits as they are from the customer service agent. If they are not chit-chatting on the phone, they are chit-chatting with you, ignoring the fact that there is a beeline behind them. Or there are others, who have a hundred questions about their account, and most of them that can be taken care of by them too. Then there are those who want to get help just from you, even when the self-checkouts have been facilitated. Just the lack of consideration for the other people, who deserve equal attention as them, is surprising. And as the service provider, it feels unfair not to be able to help the others in line.

3. Do you assume that the representative is responsible for everything that is wrong at the organization?
If a book is labelled a certain way, it is not our fault. We do not make all the decisions and most of the times, we are not even part of it. So why the ho-hum over, how the library label is partially hiding the picture on the cover? If you would like to see the picture so bad, I am sure Barnes and Nobles would give you a better view with a good price too. It is like the face of the organization has to take flack for everything, and we are ready to, but sometimes even we don't have answers. For example, we do not know how a book would end up on your overdue and fine items, if you never checked it out. I mean, we do have wizardry books in the library, but to expect us to look into the crystal ball and check how it showed up in your account without you using your card, is asking for too much.

4. Do you behave as though you own the customer service agent just because you are subscribing to the services?
We get paid by our organization, not by you. So there is no reason to make use feel indebted towards you. People who say things like "If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have this job", just enrage us so much. If it wasn't for you, there would still be 100 others who would want to subscribe for our services. There is no need to be rude. We are doing our job as best as we can, but if you have the patience of a 3-year old, it is really not our fault. And that does not give you the right to belittle us.

5. Are you appreciative of the service and help, provided?
A little thank-you note, a small word of appreciation goes a long way. If the customers are satisfied, so are we, and if they just mention how happy they are, it makes us feel that all the effort is worthwhile. People mentioning how the library services helped them find a job, how our speed of getting the request filled, helped them prepare for their exams are statements that have the potential to make our day and motivate us on days when we are bogged down by the extra stress.

6. Do you judge the person helping you based on his/her profession?
Just because someone has a certain job, they cannot be judged as person based on that. Jobs are a funny extension of a person. They can be exactly what suits them, or they can be just something they to do. Irrespective, it just defines what they do, not who they are. A job cannot determine if a person is dumb or intelligent. Remarks like "There is a reason you work here" just berate the person and make them want to do worse at their job. And you know, it is not like fairies run the world and get everything done. There are real people doing all the jobs around, the ones you don't want to.

7. Do you teach your kids to be respectful of the services provided?
When I see kids misbehaving and disrespecting books, and in general exploiting the services, I can only think of how inconsiderate they would be when they grow up. They could turn out to be the customer service monsters nobody wants to attend to. It is so nice to see some parents inculcating courtesy in children. Where there is value, there is appreciation and consideration. When we see parents insisting kids to thank us for helping them, when parents point out to children not to make a mess where we just cleaned up, it is uplifting to know that the kids are being taught important lessons in respect. And if customers are the right example to their kids, they are grooming a better batch of customers for tomorrow. Ah, what a day to look forward to!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Faces of Terror

Last Wednesday, when terror took over Mumbai yet again, the blasts did not just shake Mumbai, it shook and sent its tremors across the world. But, the question is: did it shake the world enough to take notice? Terror attacks, blasts, shootings and many such violent acts have become so common these days, that humanity has become numb to the pain of these terrible blows.

When the powerful earthquake and tsunami hit Japan this March, one thing kept coming to my mind all the time. Is it not enough that we are helpless in front of Nature's wrath? Innocent lives being taken by natural disasters cannot be helped. Why, then do we inflict more hurt and pain brought upon by man-made attacks? Any life is not worth being ended by some meaningless act of terror. And it should hurt us to see fellow human beings being treated like some actors in a play, whose roles have come to an end. Nobody has the right to play God and decide which character leaves the act when.

When we heard about the blasts last week, a friend of mine came up to me and said in a very concerned voice "Did you hear about the blasts, nobody has claimed responsibility for it yet". And my reply was "Does it really matter?". It really doesn't matter if it was an Al-Qaeda or a Jaish-e-Mohamed or a Lashkar-e-Toiba or  some other new branch of these terror groups. The fact of the matter is that they kill innocent people and wield weapons as though they were essential commodities. Ask the relatives of those dead in these blasts whether they really care who carried out this atrocious act. For them, their family member is gone, is never coming back and that pain can never go away. Knowing who did it and why they did it is a futile attempt to bring back happiness to them. No amount of investigations will help them come to terms with reality and it is definitely not going to bring back their loved one. So does this mean, we just look at it like an accident and move on? No, it just means: bring justice to these people by preventing such incidents. I know, it is not easy to keep such a big country secure all the time, but trying is all we can do.

It shouldn't take a 9/11 for the world to sit up and take notice of the dangers of terrorism. Why did the world suddenly become aware of this pre-eminent threat in 2001? Was it because of the scale of the attack or the big numbers? But loss of life is no different whether it was 1 or 1000. A terror victim is a terror victim. There is nothing fair or just about someone's life being put to a stop by gory acts. A victim dies an anonymous, painful, pointless, unnecessary death and nobody deserves that. You know, people can only take so much. Once they are done, they either give up, feeling helpless or rise to the occasion and take back what is theirs: justice. We are feeling helpless now, and are being exploited because of that. We have to find a way to stand up and stop this, we have to make the corridors of power take notice and do something!!!

It has only been 2 years since the last dreadful day in Mumbai, when the whole city was under attack. The wounds are still fresh from then and here they are back again to scrape the scab. It is sad that here in America, people know Mumbai because of that attack. That is not something, I would like my country to be known for. And the ironic part is, half the world does not even know about the supposedly smaller and more frequently occurring terror attacks. It is just a week from the recent blasts and this news has disappeared from the news bulletins. What is happening to our society? Why does a blow against human life become insignificant enough to disappear in the ever-changing news world? Have we made this a part of life?

The truth is "Yes, we have". People talk about the spirit of Mumbai. Mumbai does not stop for anything, it keeps going on. Is it something we should be proud of or should we be looking into the devious reality behind that? Mumbai does not stop because there is no option. No offices are closed because of a blast. Everybody goes to work because their bosses don't give them vacation for some unknown lives lost. The President of India does not declare a National Holiday, the CM does not shut down the state, so what do you expect normal people to do? It is not their choice, but their helplessness that Mumbaiites keep going on. And I am not proud of it for sure. It just shows that we as a society have become so used to these occurrences, that our minds have stopped taking notice. Mumbaikars keep leading their regular day, just hoping and praying that today will not be their unlucky day. And the day is not far, when most of us will live with that very same fear in our minds. Because terror does not see boundaries or religions, it is just pointless and irrational and if it is Mumbai today, it will be something else tomorrow.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Scientist Soap

We have seen the ins and outs of so many professions revealed through numerous soaps that cover the interesting job profiles of a lawyer, nurse, doctor, journalist, IT professional, cop, and even a chef, I think. Not many professions have been left untouched by this need for on-scene drama. That made me think about why certain professions were left out, like that of a scientist or a research student. Now I agree, it wouldn't be as dramatic and interesting as the hospital shows, where the only patients that come in are dying patients with some kind of a medical mystery (refer to House). Never do they have patients with small and uncomplicated sicknesses. So, lets not fool anyone, a scientist's job profile could never beat that.

But, if there was ever to be a show, how would it be like? There would be a lot of drama for sure. But not the kind, the general public likes to see. The sudden temperature rise in the incubator leading to no microbial growth at all, the poor research students whose lives depend on the life of these microbes, their unfailing efforts to resuscitate the microbes, bring them back to life and get some kind of visible results. Deadlines to be met for getting a paper published, one mistake and you could lose that single opportunity of getting a paper publication, it could mean the difference between a wannabe and accomplished scientist (although these cool terms do not go along at all with the job profile :D). With their, pipettes loaded, waiting with bated breath, to load the gel and hope to find that one breakthrough result, suddenly there is a power outage; now what do they do? It is dark and they are not sure which wells have the sample; one of them runs towards the back-up generator, while the other tries to see where the pipette tip was last seen loading the gel. Dramatic background score, and that week's episode stops there. What will happen next week? Will they be able to recover the gel and have genuine, reproducible results? Will their professor spare their lives? Somebody's gonna get hurt real bad!!!

And of course, the all-essential portion of every soap. Who is linked with whom and the multiple love interests! That would be the most exciting part of the scientist's life. He/she started off work with Influenza Virus A  and has got nothing but love and loyalty from this wonderful virus. But, what about the younger, more confident and smarter strains? How long could anybody keep their hands off the H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2 viruses? Anybody would get attracted to these and be lured to betray their original ally. But, this could turn into fatal attraction. Do you think H1N1 can stand H1N2 being given so much importance? What would happen if all of them came to know about each others' existence? How could the scientist do this to them after all their support in getting papers published? Will they accept this betrayal lying down or will they plot against the scientist and teach him/her a lesson?

With all these dramatic issues revolving around, there is the constant drama of lost time. When you are in a research lab, it feels like time has come to a standstill. There is no need for time travel. No matter how many years have passed, the situation remains the same. Years pass by working on the same project and you still might not have substantial results. It is like time is going against them. What will happen to these young scientists? Will they ever get their youth back? What is the mystery of the youth-eating phenomena? Can they ever get off this island (refer Lost)?

Now, come on, don't tell me all this does not excite you. What could be more dramatic than these scenarios? Who would not want to watch so much drama wrapped up in such innocent looking people? Who wouldn't want to know the answers to these tense, mysterious questions? Who wouldn't want to know why all these people opted for such a career?

I for one, would definitely want to know. But, until someone dares to enter this unexplored arena for a potential television drama, I only have the following words for all the scientists "Hats off". Dealing with so much drama and yet relentlessly working on sometimes unforgiving projects is something ordinary people cannot do. You really are the unsung heroes of the society, who work hard, without expecting much from this commercial world. And, you don't need a T.V. show to prove the worth of your profession . You ROCK!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Celebrating Independence

When you live in a certain country, over the years, you start participating in their festivities and celebrations. You also start to realize that there are differences in the way people celebrate occasions and mark the importance of that day. It hasn't been long that the American Independence Day passed by and one more time the glaring differences stared me right in the eye.

Year after year, American people enjoy the fireworks, the barbeques, the music concerts and other little things associated with this holiday. Every store, home and office gets the star-stripe fever and you see red, blue and white colors everywhere. Days before the holiday, every store starts carrying July 4th themed items, ranging from clothes, to mugs, to patio furniture, to kitchen accessories to everything imaginable. Now, some may term this as commercialization, but to me, it is just a reminder of the holiday and the importance of it. It might be commercialization, but what is the harm if it makes you feel happy to be part of this event. 

If you ask an Indian, what their Independence Day means to them, you would hear so much about the sacrifices made by our ancestors to gain freedom. It is an emotional topic and still a sore point with a lot of Indians. As opposed to that, when you witness the American Independence Day, there is a stark difference of emotions. You see pride, happiness and gaiety around. What is it that makes our independence so different from theirs? I realize that our fight for freedom was a much longer and painful one. But, isn't it time we got over the hurt? And by getting over, I do not mean, to forget our special day and move on, but, to look back at it with pride. Look at India today; how far has it come from 15th Aug 1947. That was a time when we had fought for our existence and survival and look at 2011. It is a time when the world takes notice of us and looks at us to solve problems of economic and technological survival. Just that thought makes me proud. That is what we should be thinking about on 15th Aug of 2011. It should be a happy moment for us that we have brought this country so far and yet so close to what out forefathers had dreamed it to be. 

When I was young, I remember schools organizing functions where there would be speeches and songs about what our parents, grandparents went through for us to be able to see this day.There was an attempt to inculcate guilt so that we could value our freedom and act responsibly. There was so much hurt and sorrow on this great day. Why? Why could we not celebrate as if it was the birth of a new and empowered India? And by we, I mean all the citizens of India, not just school children. Once I graduated from school, I realized, that it just becomes a holiday and nothing else for adults. I desperately wanted to go back so that I could be part of the flag hoisting ceremony, because it was unlawful for people to hoist their own  flag in their own country. Isn't it ironic that we stop our own citizens from marking this occasion rather than giving them a reason to celebrate? The biggest problem is that we take offence very easily and carry our hurt. A few years back, it was considered disrespectful to wear scarves or clothes with the Indian tricolor on it. At the same time, we would feel hurt, if Indian youth wore T-shirts with the American flag on it. What else do you expect? You wouldn't let your own people sport their own flag, so they would pick up the most easily available and least controversial flag.

We have to learn to move on and take pride in who we are. Salute the people who contributed to the success of India and commemorate their efforts by celebrating and being happy. It should not just be a government holiday for others and an event for school children. It should be a day where you rejoice and look back at the achievements of this nation with your family. You should celebrate because you have the freedom to enjoy with your loved ones, and to exert the freedom of speech and expression. That is what I like about the fireworks here, everybody comes together, enjoys the moment, cheers the celebration on and sings songs of American Independence not because they have to, but because they feel like. It showed me that you do not have to be a part of an official function to celebrate the occasion; you can just enjoy the small pleasures of life and be grateful for all the privileges that you have because of your ancestors.

When I see little children wearing stars and stripes, enjoying the fireworks and other July 4th traditions like lemonades, barbeques and family time, I wish for the same to happen to children in India. 15th Aug should be a day, children look forward to and where adults make it special by remembering what a great country they are part of. Having a gala time, enjoying with your family and some common celebration that brings the whole nation together would be a perfect way to mark this historic and happy day.  That would be the true celebration of Independence!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


A recent study, on how the brain stores memories, reported the discovery of a drug that could boost memories. This drug evidently would help you hang on to memories longer and be able to picture them more clearly. This would be the most powerful discovery for Alzheimer's patients and their families. There is nothing worse than witnessing a person loose his identity and have no significance of his life whatsoever. If you think of it, what would life really be without memories. We base our future on our past and without any recollection, the future would seem like nothing but a dark alley where you are lost.

People with memory problems are like erasable slates. Every time someone tells them a story from their past, they get the feeling of having had a life. But, as soon as that story ends, the slate is wiped off and their life becomes dull again. A life is always measured by the experiences you have and the memories you make from them. Whether it is making relationships with people or having various experiences, you completely rely on your memory of these events to make your life full. Imagine what it would be like to not remember any of this. It would be like being born anew everyday. You may look 80, but would be like an infant who has had no life before that. It is ironic that you would feel that your life is starting when in actuality, it is coming to an end.

And it is twice as tough for the family. To not be able to laugh thinking about happy times, not be able to recollect the events and look over milestones with satisfaction, is so disheartening. These are the things that hold a family together and give every person a sense of belonging. And to be a family member of someone who has lost his memory, is like loosing parts of your life with that.

To these people, a memory-boosting drug would be nothing short of a miracle drug. But what about people who have had rough childhoods or difficult lives? They already spend their lives in constant fear of the circumstances that terrorized them. Would they want those disturbing memories to be boosted? I don't think so. People go through such different things in life and it is difficult to know if they would want to recollect events and be reminded of their past. There are so many memories, that, for so many people, bring back pain and tears. It would be so much more easier, if these events were completely wiped off the slate of their life. For such people, it would only be cruel to have these memories reinforced with more clarity.

And unfortunately, there is no drug that would enhance the joyful parts of your memory selectively, while eliminating the hurtful ones. The new memory boosting drug, yet to receive its patent, might want to add these desirable features before they launch and commercialize it. That way, it could cater to a larger group of patients and truly give them a cure from their pain and ailment. Until then, we should realize that the world is not perfect and so is not the health care industry. There are going to be some unsolved mysteries at every point of time and that is what will present a challenge for researchers to look for more!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I am happy!!!

When the world around you is falling apart, when everything and everyone moves at such a fast pace when there are so many dangers in this high-speed life, what does one do to stay calm?

I read an article a few days back, where the author said that she was thankful that she could find peace in shopping. A very weird comment, when there are so many more important things in life that need your attention. But, when I got down to thinking about it, I realized that all of us have our own sanctum. There could be various options to choose from and some of the choices could be pretty surprising.

When the Osamas and the Gaddafis are spreading around terror and violence, when you see no value for human life, you are bound to retrospect life as a journey altogether and really think about how enjoyable the journey is. When you have to think about the usual worries an adult life brings, you have to find ways to maintain your sanity. There are so many things that could take a toll on you, sometimes it is health, other times it is money, maybe sometimes safety. No matter what it is, the human brain does find things to think about and they are not always pleasant thoughts. To think of it, that is the precise reason, why children are so happy and childhood is the best time for most of the people. Children don't worry about the ugly face of life, they are so absorbed in finding things that make life interesting and that please them from within.

The world is a strange place, there are so many things that bother me, the economical inequality, broken families, scary diseases, and just sheer bad luck sometimes. If I started thinking about all those things, I don't think I would ever be able to smile. It is so disheartening to see life being unfair on so many people and it makes you think what did you do to deserve better. That is when you find a reason to be happy, because life is not fair, but it sure is beautiful if you have the time and peace to find the beauty.

I am glad that raindrops on the window make me happy, the fragrance of water drops hitting the sun-parched ground for the first time stimulate my senses. I am thankful that when I come home from a not-so-good day at work, I can look at my garden and find pleasure in the dancing flowers. I am very ecstatic that listening to my nephew's squeals and laughter fill my life with joy. It is these little things in life that make the dreaded journey worth the troubles. I think, a lot depends on how you handle your mind when faced with scary situations.

I look at homeless people, terminally ill children and many other troubled souls. It always surprised me to see that look of satisfaction and pleasure in their eyes. Life had not dealt them a fair hand, then what made them grateful for everything? It was from them I learnt that life does not have to be good by itself, you make it beautiful or ugly.

If it was not for these little changes in life, what would it be, but an endeavor where you live to work and earn. I have heard a lot of women say they shop when they are down. It is like therapy for them. Some people say movies take them away from their life and makes them happy. Some find pleasure in pets and revel in the oh-so-warm and fuzzy feeling within them. No matter what it is, it is for you to decide where you find peace and stick to it. Whatever makes you feel good is the one thing worth hanging on to, since that is what will help you through tougher tides. When it is asked of people to pause to smell the roses, I would say find a different flower to smell everyday. There are so many things that can evoke the happy thought process, they are just waiting to be found by you.

I am happy that I am still capable of finding happiness and survive the tough blows. Because it is only in those moments of peace and satisfaction, when I find all the solutions to your worries. It is then that you can help spread the cheer and do your bit to make this world a better and beautiful place. I can't think of what the cynical people must do to make this life worthwhile. And as people say, life really is very short to be able to take in the wonders and blunders of the world. Soak it all in and retain the wonders, the blunders will automatically find a way to fizzle out of memory.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

America's Dilemma

Have you ever been the Class Monitor? Do you remember how much responsibility it entailed to contain the antics and to set an example for others to follow? At the same time, there were some who wouldn't completely agree with your actions and be conflicted by your decisions. Now, multiply that numerous times and think of a global monitor. That is where America has put itself into.

Everybody in this world has the question "Why does the American Government want to interfere with everybody's business?". And not just the rest of the world, American citizens themselves sometimes can't understand why their growth and development are put at risk to help some country out of a crisis. When I was part of the rest of the world, I could only think of one thing as to what made America want to mend everything world over. But now that I am around American people, I understand many things better. First, when the world says 'America' and disapproves of its decisions, it should be remembered that the American people are not always a part of it. Second, if they take a decision, there is a reason behind it; not that everybody would agree to the rationale.

It is so disheartening to know that America has lost so many young soldiers in the various deployments, and which to a certain extent, could have been avoided. Not that the countries that America was at war with, lost any less of their population. With these experiences and the outcry of the citizens against the involvement of America in any other wars kept the Government at bay from risking any more lives. But it didn't last long and now we see America at war again with Libya. Now if we look at how America got involved here, it is interesting that the actions were more out of peer pressure than from self-will.

What has happened is, the 'Allies' long back, were touted to take on disturbed nations and mend their ways. Over the years, as America gained power, it was the one major member of the Allies, that assumed the role of the self-appointed monitor. Now that they have done this for years and received contempt for it from different nations, they are trying to keep their hands clean off any more trouble. But what happens, when nations in crisis still look towards America for help? How are they to deny help to these nations in need, when they took on that responsibility years ago? Now they are in a fix, if they agree to help these nations, onlookers feel the interference unnecessary and if they don't, they get the tag of being 'insensitive' to the needs of the lesser developed countries. So what does a country like America do? Everybody is waiting for you to make a mistake and to lash out with a string of accusations. This is the toughest position to be in. And you have to think about your countrymen too.

And in a time, where America is witnessing one of its worst economic crisis, how would it justify to use the funds for anything else but for its own development? It is very easy to criticize each step of those in authority, but it is equally difficult to be in their shoes and understand why certain decisions are being made. There are numerous considerations and it is humanly impossible to make everyone happy. So you pick the best choice, according to you which honestly, might not be the right choice, according to many others.

Even with the recent situation in Libya, America refrained from getting involved for a long time, but what were they supposed to do, when the Libyan opposition leaders and the common man appealed to them for help? How long can you turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to injustice, more so when you have earned a reputation of being a champion for the needy? I don't support the decision of bombing Libya, but I can see why America was compelled to do so. I can also see why some American people are against it. But what I can't understand is how most of the American citizens approve of these steps, even when they know that this could cost them a lot with respect to their development. I do not understand how and why 60% of the American population* would want to put a strange land and its citizens ahead of their own needs? It could be defined as an act of selflessness, where they are supporting humanitarian causes by overlooking the consequences. People think America doesn't care, but I have seen and heard the people here and I know they are effected by trouble in any country. And they have always shown their solidarity by sending in troops, rescue teams, paramedics and everything else possible. The problem is when the very thin line between concern and interference starts to vanish. That is what bothers the rest of the world. What should be done in this case; whether or not to continue extending help which might be perceived as interference? Maybe that is the 'dilemma' of all American people, to take pride in being the global monitor, or to give up the title, ignore global issues and look into its own development alone!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How much attachment?

A lot of the times, I think about how the human brain works. When we talk about 'mind, body and soul', which part of us are we really referring to as 'mind'? Is it the heart, the brain or something in between? The reason I am thinking about all this is because I want to know which part is responsible for developing emotions and nurturing them. Is it your brain directing you, because science says all your thoughts come from your brain. And the heart really is an organ for pumping blood. So why is it called heartache, when we don't know where these feelings are stemming from?

I still do not know what brings these strong feelings on, but I can say that sometimes they are really overpowering and can control a lot of aspects of your life. Just recently, me and my husband started looking for new apartments to move in and believe me, we must have seen almost every apartment place in the area, which must be at least 50. We even went a little away from our focus and started dreaming of having a bigger home. But, no matter how good the apartment was or how reasonable the rent was, once we came back home to our little 'home', nothing looked good enough for it. We went through this hunt for over a month, yet to no avail. At that point, all we wished for was to have an apartment in the same complex. You see, we have a single bedroom apartment and we were wanting to move into a two-bedroom. And each day, we explored new options for other places, yet in our heart of hearts, we wished hard to get a two-bedroom in the same complex.

What we had not really given a thought then, was the fact that even if we did find a house in the same vicinity, would it erase the uneasiness of moving into a new place? As we would soon realize, it would definitely not. We were lucky enough to get a call from our apartment system a week back and they said there was something we should have a look at. We went over to the office and couldn't believe how lucky we had gotten. The apartment was a perfect match for us; it had the same view, was much bigger, had an extra window and was sun-facing, which I loved. There was nothing in there, not to love. We looked at the apartment and knew without even talking to each other, that both of us would want to move in to this apartment for sure. We could hardly contain our excitement and started thinking about moving into the new place.

But a weird thing happened that night. I could not sleep at all, and images of the house started flashing in my mind. My journey of doubt began, I was not sure if we really should move into the house and I urged to see the house again. As soon as I stepped into the house, I started finding faults and flaws with the house and was not very happy with the house. My husband seemed to be fine. And when I asked him what he thought about moving in, he thought it was the perfect apartment and we shouldn't miss the chance. Then what was wrong with me?

And then it struck me? All these days, there was really nothing wrong with any of the apartments we had seen. It was my attachment with our first house that kept pulling me back. You have to face the fact that no two houses can ever be exactly the same. Yet we kept modelling our search on our present home, which of course was futile. Even when we found the closest match to our home, I thought there was something wrong. And it is not like our home had exceptional features. Had it not been already selected for me by my husband, I might not even have liked it as much. But, right now I loved it. I loved even the weird little oddities which could seem as hindrances to some, like the icicles in our window. And all this would be missing in the new place. No wonder, the house felt alien to me!!!

So how much attachment is acceptable and when does it become unhealthy? Do you ignore other considerations and only think about your emotions? And why isn't the brain stopping you from taking these decisions? Now, every time I look at out home, I think of what we are going to miss in the new house. I want to soak it in as much as possible. And as the moving day nears, I have to make myself tougher. I know I am not the only one having to move, there are so many who have to change houses often. Then how do they do it? Maybe, I have issues with letting go. I had them when I first moved to America, I did not want to let go off India and my home there. And today I don't want to let go off my abode. People say it is a blessing to have emotional strings and it helps to express your real self. But this attachment pains me and gives me restless hours. It is now that I wish I was not so vulnerable, because change is inevitable.

The way I look at it, you have to find ways to channel your attachments in a healthy way to handle change. And you don't always have to make a clean cut, but have to learn to carry a part of it with you and collate it with your new endeavors. I know I will miss this house and the times spent here, but I can look forward to recreating those in the new house and make it a home. All along, we were looking at houses and hoping for them to be homes. But, what I did not realize was,  it is people who make a home, not windows, closets or bigger rooms. My husband said the sweetest thing to me the other day, when I was in tears over having the moving day so close. He kept telling me it was going to be okay and said "I am sure you would make the new house a wonderful home, just the way you did for this." That motivates me to move on and embark on the sweet challenges of setting up a new home and bringing life to it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Driving Mania

Two days back, I stepped out of my break room for lunch, while at work and hoping to have a refreshing lunch with my husband, started walking towards the car.

A loud noise, as if a tire had burst; the sound of metal hitting and being shattered; the screeching sound of brakes and the sound of somebody being asked if they were alright, stopped me in my tracks. I was not prepared for what I saw next. It was a big truck overturned and tipped over, with its driver side hit really bad. There was a smashed car in the wrong lane, which stopped just in time to avoid the oncoming traffic. It was a split second in which all this happened and I could not wrap my mind around it. I thought I should maybe call 911, but I just froze. This was the first time I saw a crash so closely and it shook me.

But, there were others who were faster in their responses. And I saw a lady literally jump out of her car, with a cell phone in her hand, running to the tipped truck, and kept asking the driver if he was alright. I was listening to her intently and I heard "No" twice. I was scared and had goosebumps all over me. What would happen now, how serious were the injuries of the person, was he/she going to be alright? To answer all these questions and to take care of the situation, it was within a span of 5 minutes, that all the emergency vehicles arrived on the spot. The police, ambulance, fire engines, everybody was there. And yet they could not get the person out. To complicate issues, there was gasoline leaking out of the tank and had surrounded the vehicle. The impending task at hand was to take care of that, to prevent any chance of fire.

I could see the medics at work for almost 30 minutes, but the only thing that kept bothering me was the safety of the driver. What was the complication that so many people could not get him out? Lunch was over and I had not been able to eat too much. With a heavy heart, I went in, not knowing what would happen next, but hoping that the driver would be fine.

Noticing my pale face, my colleagues asked what was wrong and I narrated it to them. Although very consoling, they looked surprised that I was so badly affected by it. I kept telling them that it was my first time witnessing a crash. But, was it really true??? It is not like I hadn't seen accidents in India. So, what was it about this that brought tears to my eyes and scared me so much? After digging deep, I realized that all this while, I was under an illusion; as organized and well-kept America is, it could not be untouched by the perils of driving. After driving in the chaos of the Indian traffic, such regulated driving as in America led me to think of it as a perfect world.

But was it really perfect??? It couldn't be; nothing can ever be, which I think everyone will agree to. Something that puts humans in control of such large machines with high speeds, could never be safe and perfect. Because humans are designed to make mistakes, and it could be the tiniest mistake that could make this huge thing turn back on you. And to top it all, everything is like a high-speed chase.

It got me thinking; in India, there could be accidents, but they would not be so major. But, it is also a fact that help sometimes comes in so late, that the little accident becomes fatal. On the other hand, America has some of the fastest cars, some of the highest speed limits, and it would seem as nothing but inviting danger. Yet, the response time is so quick for emergency services, that someone could be saved from the jaws of death in the nick of time. So how do you chose the lesser of the two evils? Is it better to have numerous small accidents in your lifetime, one of which could cost you more? Or is it better to have one scary huge accident, but stand a chance of being saved?

I kept telling my friends, that it was better to be driving in India because it wasn't as scary. But was it true? The Indian driving scene is chaotic, everybody thinks as though they own the road, there is no concept of "right of way", everybody is always in a hurry and everyone wants to win the race, but it is forgotten that the roads are not even that good. There are bumps, potholes, and what not. Just because the speeds are not as high, driving becomes manageable and danger is kept at bay.

So, is driving in America scary, just because of the high speeds? Should the fact that the traffic here is more disciplined and the emergency services much better, be ignored? Weighing out both the options, I could only come to one conclusion. Driving, or for that matter, anything else in life is always going to have dangers. What matters is, if you are ready to take the risk and still be in control of the situation. And it is human to make a blunder, so we always have to be prepared for not just our own mistakes, but also take in account the mistakes others could make.

Driving has to be synergistic, otherwise it could only spell disaster, if everyone was to think only of their needs. And if we cannot be responsible enough to wisely enjoy luxuries, maybe we should go back to the times when the only way to reach destinations was by foot or on horse-back. I don't think there were any crashes back then. It would be a good time-out for irresponsible and reckless drivers. We should be made to realize that luxuries come with a pinch of salt, and only responsible people can make the best use of them. Think about it...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Customer Service Nightmare

I have been working with customer service for sometime now, and this was my first experience in this field. What  I have realized during this stint, is that customers are treated like Gods in this country. And maybe that has spoilt them. The things they expect us to do are just amazing.

Working at a library has brought me face to face with a wide range of people. Starting from toddlers to elderly people, each set comes with different issues. We have to agree though, that most of the people are nice and appreciative of the service extended to them, but then, there is that exclusive category of snobby people who feel they own us.

And things just get worse when there are emergencies like the December blizzard and the recent snowstorm. Just because machines take care of some stuff, people forget that it is humans who man the machines. And staff face the same difficulties as normal people do. You wouldn't believe the kind of calls we get on such days. One person called in when the snowstorm was at it's peak on Sunday, and asked the most ridiculous question "So, you are saying that the library is open for now, but what happens if I am on my way and you decide to close? Can you tell me for sure that you will be open till 5?". For one, you just go back home and drive through the bad weather, just like we did. And two, we are not mind-readers to know what the authorities are going to decide as to when to close.

People just forget that we are human too and it is not like we are an emergency service. And I understand that some customers might have impending things to be taken care of, for which they might require the computers or online services of the library. But it is when people call in for petty issues like returning a book or being late by one day. Do you think a 30 cent fine is more important than the safety of so many staff members??? At such times, it is necessary to humanize the situation and question yourself if you would like to be in that position? If your answer is no, it very well means that the other person must not really be enjoying being there, since, after all everybody is human.

Leave apart emergencies, even on regular days, the things we get inside books, the condition that books are turned in, are nothing short of nasty. We have had bobby pins, credit cards, bills and what not inside the books. And the worst part, is when they come running to you and want you to retrieve a credit card from inside a book that they can't even describe. Once books go through machines, they just land in their respective bins. It is not as if the machine detects credit cards and unwanted material and magically places it in an exclusive bin. This is a real world , not  fairyland. And when you try explaining the poor odds of finding their lost property inside the book, you become the bad guy and you get those looks of contempt and disgrace. But, you move on and smile at the next person, hoping that they are better.

If we were to hold a grudge for every ugly and dirty book that we handle throughout the day, we would be frowning all day. Books come in with coffee stains, sticky lotion, dog hair, bite marks, water and snow damage and everything else imaginable. If the book could speak, I am sure it would narrate us of the adventures it has had. It is almost like people have lost value for public property. Why doesn't anyone think of a simple thing, would you want to check out such a book? If you wouldn't, why would someone else? And why should other people be expected to take care of the results of  your neglect and irresponsibility?

It is like people have lost the respect for public property, and are taking public service for granted. Though unpleasant, I am glad that I got a chance to be on the receiving side, because I can perceive better the ordeals of others in the customer service industry. So that, when I am a customer at other places, I am able to show much more appreciation for what they do for us. Because I know how nice it feels, when people send in chocolates and sweet "thank you" notes; when people appreciate your efforts. Days like those make up for the other horrible endeavors with customers and helps us gear up for the nightmares coming our way!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

How do you know???

So, the Oscar season is almost coming to an end. And going through all the great movies, I still go back to last year's winner 'The Blind Side'. A great performance by Sandra Bullock, you could really feel the power and strength of her character, at the same time relate to her sensitivity. It was only when I saw a feature on the real family who opened their doors and hearts for Michael Oher, that I realized that the real Leigh Anne Tuohy was much more more stronger and tougher than her on-screen portrayal.

I can only imagine how much courage it takes, to open your house to a complete stranger and that too, when you have young kids. And I am not talking about courage, just because of what your friends and neighbors would say. But courage to take that chance and be open to someone who really needs you. How many times have we heard about people just coming from troubled neighborhoods and inflicting the same violence elsewhere? Definitely more than once. That is the reason I say it must have taken a lot of courage for her to be able to trust and bring in somebody she didn't know much about.

You hardly know what is going on in your neighbor's mind, leave alone a lonely, hurt, homeless youngster on the street. You do not know if he is vulnerable or violent. Then how do you make such a big decision. And it's not just you who is involved, you are exposing your whole family to the consequences of your instinctive decision. In this violent, gun-wielding world, how do you know to trust somebody??? When do you know that you are bordering away from charity and moving towards danger. And it is not even about trusting the person in front of you. This person could seem completely trustworthy and deserving of being part of a wonderful family. But, you are inviting his past, his acquaintances and you never know what that could bring to you. In the movie too, we see the gangs sometimes threaten Michael and Leigh Anne. And that there, was a scary thought for me.

Who would not like to be a good samaritan and help others in their hour of need? But for me, the difficult part is to know when you are going over the line. But I guess, the way a good person is defined in our history, is somebody who puts other people ahead of themselves. Does that mean you put your safety behind you too??? I don't mean to be too suspicious, but the stories you hear about the increasing crime rate does take a toll on you. I would love to give somebody a home, give them the love they need, give them a family to call their own. Just that, I don't think I am strong enough. I brought strays home all the time, but those were dogs. And let's face it, humans are much more dangerous than the animals. Because humans have much more devious ways of hurting you.

It saddens me to think what some dangerous persons have done to us. Have we, as social animals become incapable of trusting anyone??? How can we expect to be social if we are too cautious and are scared to let our guard down? I don't know what the answers to these questions are, but what I know is, there are thousands of people out there, who need compassion, shelter and open hearts. The glaring fact is that there are needy people around us all the time, and a wary eye is just going to keep us from reaching out to them. I salute the courageous, like Leigh Anne Tuohy and her family, but I have to admit that I am not amongst those people. As much as everybody would like to see fairy tale endings for troubled kids like Michael, it takes more than a loving heart to take that huge step. That does not mean and it should not keep us away from doing what we can, without hampering our own safety. There are many other things we could do, that do not entail exposing ourselves. Working with charities to help homeless kids, trying to be a caregiver, is a very rewarding act. And that is something I could do, before I gather the courage to take bigger steps.

But, what if there were no such kids??? Wouldn't it be nice if there were no dysfunctional families and nobody in need of foster families. It is a far cry from reality, but that is one thing all of us can definitely do, take care  of our families and make sure they never need to rely on the charity of anyone else.

To be or not be!! (a citizen)

It was a surprise when a few days back, I got a call from the U.S. Navy about some job openings. I was so excited, given the fact that I had been job hunting for a long long time. At this point, I would have been thrilled to get a call from just anywhere, but a call from the U.S. Navy topped it all. And here, I would also like to mention my great fascination for the armed forces, which started with the Kargil war and has, to date, stuck with me. Now, given this background, I was simply ecstatic and had hardly any of my attention towards the content of the call. I had already imagined myself in the uniform, picturing myself on the receiving end for all the awe and respect. I was floating in this imaginary world of mine, when I was brought back to reality with a question about my citizenship. Obviously, someone serving the U.S Navy would be expected to be a U.S. citizen first, a simple fact that I had very foolishly overlooked, before entering my fantasy world!
So, I did not fit the bill, since I had an Indian citizenship, and down the drain went all my dreams. But, there was an alternative, and my spirits uplifted. The option was given to me for applying for an American citizenship. At that point, I somehow didn't feel very exhilarated. I did not understand why I wasn't happy when I still stood a chance. And it had got something to do with the avid trait of patriotism, inherited by me from my father. I don't think I was ready to give up my citizenship. Something held me back from spontaneously agreeing to take up a different citizenship. That is when I thought, did citizenship really matter that much??? What was it, but just a word on your passport???

After much thought, I realized that to some, it really could be just a piece of paper. But to me, it was my identity. How could I wipe off the last 25 years of my life? I was born an Indian, and was supposed to be one. I could not think of myself as anything else but Indian. Though, we are living here in America, we like it a lot here, we know what problems India has; all that doesn't change the fact that we love the traditions, the small joys associated with so many festivals and many other Indian stereotypes. We miss those a lot and we survive here, only because a visit back home revives all those pleasures and the memories from it keep us afloat. You know, there is a reason we call it "back home", because one feels most safe and at peace only in one's home. Whatever the luxuries of living abroad, nothing can replace the native spirit and mindset. Although, in America, you are welcomed with open arms, you still feel like an outsider, you feel that you don't belong here.

I fail to bring myself to imagine what it would be like to be called "American". And the more I think about it, I cannot comprehend why that would bother me so much. Gradually, I am realizing that it is not so much , the American part, but 'not being the Indian' part, that troubled me. I am visibly Indian, and yet how could I call myself American?

Now I know, how it must have been for some of my acquaintances who had to give up the Indian citizenship for the American one. I am not sure if they went through the same dilemma, but I assume it must have been difficult to accept the facts. How can you stop being one thing and then start being something else, just in a day? It is like, you wake up being a rabbit and go off to sleep being an elephant! The thought itself is amusing. But, it is happening everyday to lots of people all over the world. People are adopting all kinds of new citizenships, owing to globalization. And very soon, it might not even be a huge issue.

But, until then, it still makes me think; what would it really mean if I was to adopt a different citizenship? I would still look Indian; it is as if someone called me by a different name, but that wouldn't change who I am. Similarly, if I was to have a different citizenship, printed across my passport, that would not change my innate characters, my Indianess, my love for the weird little things in my country, my wonderful past, enjoying being an Indian. For now, that satisfies me, because I am not faced with such a situation. I do not know if I would still feel the same way, when I would be taking the oath and committing my allegiance to a country different than my motherland. As much as that thought scares me, I do not foresee that happening for sometime, and till then, my heart goes out to all my fellow Indians, who have to make this tough choice almost everyday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What is the real issue?

It is funny how often me and my husband debate on what to watch on television. And after so many arguments, we have still not come to a conclusion. The thing is while we are arguing, the person with the remote control is changing channels, and somewhere along the line, we find something that interests the both of us. During one such, channel hunting spree, I came across the program 'Biggest Loser' and much against my husband's wishes, I hung around for a bit. Which, with past experience, my husband knew, we would end up watching, if I lingered there for some more time. With his protests in the background, I was trying to understand what was happening. It was elimination time and the person with the least weight loss would have to go home. It was at this time, when  one of the contestants spoke about how they would feel if they were going home today, and broke down in tears.

This silenced my husband for a while, and he looked at me, then at the television with utter shock. His next question was "Why are people crying so much, and that too, the ones that are not being eliminated?". I did not try explaining anything or answering his question, but thought over it later. Why really were those people so upset, when they thought of a life away from the exercise terrain??? And more so, why were the ones not being eliminated, so emotional about the ones going home???

Luckily, I have not had major weight issues, but I have known people, struggling with their weight. I know that sometimes being overweight is not just an eating disorder; deep down, it relates to something else. I have looked at so many obese people, and thought that most of them, would need to enter a competition like the Biggest Loser. But, what I have failed to understand is, how someone could not see their increasing weight, how they could not foresee the health hazards they were inviting? It is not as if being so big, would go unnoticed. Then what was it that triggered the over-eating???

It took me an Oprah show feature to realize what it really was and as she says, I had my "Aha" moment. It opened my eyes to the world of obesity. My earlier doubt, that it all related to something else, turned into a stronger thought, when I saw people talking about why they neglected their health. It really had got nothing to do with high or low metabolisms, or eating right or even feeling hungry. Eating became more of a compulsive habit for most, due to some turn of events in their life. Some ate because, they were engaged with eating and wouldn't have to think about the bad things in life; some did because they wanted to be oblivious and just be the fat kid, nobody talks to; some did because they thought they were not appreciated and just wanted to walk on a path of self-destruction. Some did it in rebellion, some did it for attention, but everyone was attached by one common thread and that was their pain over something that had hurt them.

Of course, there are some people who have a tendency to put-on and are not careful enough. But the seriously obese generally had an underlying reason to their senseless damage to self. During the course of the interviews with Oprah, I understood that there were deeper issues and eating was just a cover-up to hide the pain. And these people were not only hiding it from the world, but from themselves too. A lot of them said that they found comfort in eating and felt secure. Now for a common man, that is something imperceivable; how can somebody feel secure with food?? It is just a piece of food item, it is not as if it can talk or say comforting things.

But, what we also cannot imagine is the place they are coming from. In a household where everybody has critical comments, a scared child would want nothing more to be in a place where nobody would say a word. How many of us have had great food and forgotten about the pressures of daily life, during that time??? Nobody can deny the satisfaction derived from a wholesome meal, topped with a luscious dessert. What we feel during one of those special treats, is something that is more of an escape from their troubled lives for most of the obese people.

And what they do not notice is, that this disorder takes them farther away from happiness. They miss onto the simple pleasures of life, because their bodies cannot permit it and this leads them to a darker, deeper place of loneliness. They cannot participate with their families in a lot of events and are forced to lead an aloof life. So the answer to my husband's question would be : these people had emotional outbursts because weight loss was not just the aim, there were more complex issues to be dealt with. And the ones crying for their friends, had tears in their eyes, since they could relate to the pain and the hidden motives behind the weight gain. Inside everybody, lived a hurt person who was using food as a defense and wanted to get rid of the addiction. The triumph of even one person with their inner battles meant that the others could do it too. And the failure of one person, would bring the spirits down for everyone. In the end, they were all in it together and inspired each other to face the demons, hold them by the scruff and hurl them out as hard as they could. If not such strong emotion, what else could evoke tears???

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To carry your hurt or to move on???

The cricket fever is back with the World Cup and whether it is interesting enough, is another debate. But, what bothers me is whether all of the players are really passionate for the game. That sent me back to the image of Saurav Ganguly hurling his shirt in the air when he led the team into winning the Natwest Trophy in 2002. Though a much debated action, it was a moment in cricket history, where for the first time a football-like aggression was witnessed by true fanatics of the game. There was a captain who really valued the victory, but more than that, he was a player, a sportsman who truly put his heart into the sport. And his passion for the game was evident in his uninhibited actions.

It is almost 10 years since that act of passion and now, when I look at him in the commentary box giving out critiques and analyzing the game, I know he doesn't belong there. He has received much flak for his abilities as a commentator, and as hardcore a fan of him as I am, I have to admit that he isn't very good at it. But what impresses me is the fact that he just doesn't give up. One way or another, he tries to keep coming back to the game. What happens when someone is kept away form doing what they really love??? There could be 2 options, there are some that are disheartened, who mope over it, but eventually get over it and move on with life. And then there are others, who claw their way back into achieving their dreams and getting back to their love. And you know what makes the second category different from the first. It is the fact that they really want it so bad, that it hurts more than anything when they are away from that dream. It is their will to turn that hurt into aggression and motivation, to lead them on.

That is what Saurav Ganguly has done. He was bid farewell from captaincy most disgracefully, he was accused publicly of putting himself ahead of the team, he was forced to opt for an early retirement and when he tried coming back with whatever form of cricket possible, he was made to face nothing but humiliation. It takes a lot of courage to face such ordeals. Only someone who desperately loves the sport, would do so much to come back and be accepted. Only someone who looks at it not as a source of earning, will find a way to be associated with it. That is the only reason he is back, trying his hand at something new. He knows he might not do very well at it, but it's his willingness to learn and start from the basics that affirm my belief that there is a fighter in him.

You have to surrender yourself completely, when you love something. You have to keep your fear of being accepted, aside. You have to ignore the humiliation you might face. You have to just concentrate on the goal and think of these blows as the little price you pay for ultimately getting that peace of mind, which you derive from giving it your all.

And I know this, because I have a passion. I know how it feels to be not able to make it, but still wanting to work at it so badly, that nothing else matters. Writing for me, is the ultimate source of happiness. My friend asked me the other day how I came up with things to write about. And to be honest, I really don't know. Writing is a like an extension of my thoughts, it is an ongoing process. I look at something, it strikes to me as interesting and evokes a chain of thoughts. And I know that I have to express it.

For years, I have contributed articles to newspapers and magazines. And only I know how difficult it was to get your piece published in the first go. I faced a lot of disappointments in many different ways. I wanted to be a journalist and write for a living, but there were some deterrents and I decided against it. For a long time now, I have been envious of people who were in this business. I nurtured my hurt and sorrow and completely turned away from writing. But I longed to be back; back to where I was me, and where I was satisfied. I would have that sudden spur of inspiration. And I was still looking to be published, to get success out of it. That is where I went wrong.

I recently realized, that nobody can keep you from doing what you love, but you! I was my obstacle. The minute I decided I am going to write because it gives me pleasure, the fear of being approved of, disappeared. Today I don't regret that writing is not my profession. Because I don't look at it as something that I have to do, because my career depends on it or because of any other serious implications. I look at it as something that refreshes me and rejuvenates my existence, it is my secret place where I can find comfort. And for that, I am thankful to the many fighters like Saurav Ganguly, who proved to me that there is nothing called too much or too late, when you do it to achieve your dream.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Weaker Sex??

Amongst all the jubilations and ecstatic outbursts over the freedom of Egypt from a tyrant, there was a blemish to spoil the celebrations. It was really sad to hear about a female American journalist being sexually assaulted repeatedly, before a group of women could free her. Is this the way men show their happiness and joy? It was ironic that the only way for them to enjoy their newly gained freedom was by having control over someone else's liberty.

What was worse were the reactions and statements made by some. When a woman goes through something like that, she would want nothing more than anonymity and respect of her privacy. Instead of that, she got nothing but disrespectful comments and debates on public websites like Twitter. It was some of her fellow reporters who had some ugly comments for something which she had no control over. People had a problem that her case would be given so much more importance just because she is a 'white' woman, whereas hundreds of women face the same world over and never come to the forefront because they have no voice. It is so unjustified to have a comment like that. Wronged women are just victims, they are not white, black, colored or anything else; they are just women. And it is equally sad when any of them are mistreated.

In India, where it is a taboo to talk about rape or molestation, many women never come out to talk about it, because of the fear of judgement. They fear the public scrutiny, which more often than once goes against them to hold them responsible for their fate. But, what took me by shock was, when the same things happened in a supposedly "developed" country like America. It was appalling to read irrational statements in tabloids, linking her past relationships with this incident. What a woman does in her life is her business. There is no way a horrific act can be justified by what her past has been.

We never hear of men being judged by what they wear or how they behave and then, being adjudged of deserving mistreatment. So, how come the rules are different for men and women??? During the same time, when reporters were covering the Egypt protests, two male reporters were hit and hurt badly. Why were they not judged? I did not read any comments about how they had brought this on themselves, or how their actions were responsible for the mistreatment.

We have supposed to have come a long way from the times when women had no voice, but to think of it, do women really have a voice today? Even if some women have a voice, do they have the liberty of speaking out, without being judged??? Judgement is the worst deterrent of courage and if it were not for that, things would have been a lot more easier. If a woman in a country like America, where women rights are pretty strong, had to face the wrath,  I can only imagine the fear women must go through in places, where there is no such thing as rights for women.

What was worse was when other women reporters, came out to say that all of them had faced ugly experiences. If it wasn't for the love for their job, they would not have gone back to this profession. Isn't is sad that in a time, when we give so much importance to human rights, women do not even have the freedom to chose their profession, without the fear of being aggrieved? What freedom are we talking about, when a person sometimes is kept from doing what they love, apprehending the consequences???

And do not be hasty to think that it is just this field that brings you face to face with such dangers. Women being ill-treated has got nothing to do with their jobs, what they do or what they don't. It is the twisted mindset that comes into play here and for which there have to be stricter rules. A perverted mind has to be nipped in the bud before it targets the "weaker sex". I fail to understand how something can be labelled 'weaker', when it takes nothing but exceptional strength to endure humiliation, disrespect and mockery and still champion the causes for others in need!!!

Education Vs Effort

The other day I was looking outside my window at the pretty white snow, accumulated in the parking lot, on the roads, everywhere. I was busy admiring the beauty of nature and the various forms it takes to awe us with it's fury. That is when this pretty picture was disrupted by cars breaking down and getting stuck in the snow. It is also when my eyes opened and went beyond the beauty.

However beautiful the snow looked, it did cause practical problems for everyone. And somebody had to take care of it. So, out came the snow plows, the snow blowers and all the heavy machinery. It was snowing so hard that one could hardly see across the street, it was so windy that the wind was cutting into the face like needles. Even with that, I could see maintenance workers on their snow mobiles trying to clear up as much snow as possible and getting stuck cars out into safety. Looking at all the effort they had to put in, and that too in such extreme conditions, I would think that they were really well paid. But this is only if pay was proportional to efforts. Unfortunately, today's society works in a way that skill outweighs mechanical labor.

It is sad to see that jobs requiring the highest amount of labor and physical strength, often pay the least. Because, according to some, those jobs don't require skill. Some of the riskiest jobs pay you just enough to sustain a family. No wonder, most of the youth aspire to become an engineer, or an accountant. Nobody aspires to be a fireman, or a maintenance worker or even an armed forces officer. Those who do, are great men with exceptional mental strength and grit. Because all of these jobs are either risky or involve a lot of physical labor and are not as rewarding as one would expect them to be.

So, how is the pay scale come up with, would be my first thought. How much menial work would be equivalent to talent and knowledge??? A lot of people work extra hours to get that extra income, and still do not earn as much as an engineer. How many hours would they have to put in, to deserve a good pay? I understand that education is being given importance and is considered to be an asset for high-paying jobs, and rightly so. But that does not give us the right to ignore the efforts put in for the less-paying jobs.

It is a known fact that college teachers are much well-paid as compared to kindergarten teachers. Now, any person who is sane, can obviously see which of the two requires more work. It becomes difficult for parents to manage their own children and yet a person who is taking care of 20 such kids, has their worth go unnoticed. I can only imagine how much stamina and patience such a job would require. As opposed to which, a college teacher has much more responsibility in terms of assignments and what not. But, she has the privilege of mental peace. And yet she gets paid more.

So are we saying that the only thing valued today is education and skill? If so, why can't we take better measures to make everybody aware of the worth and benefits of education??? In a country like America, there are all grades of people and every job is appreciated, but it is also true that appreciation cannot feed you. In a capitalist society like ours, it takes much more than appreciation to make lives better. It takes a better education, value addition and self-growth to make you survive the rat race for a better paid job. But has anyone thought, that the whole process of acquiring knowledge also requires a lot of money and that is where some are left behind unwillingly. It then becomes a vicious cycle. You will not have a whole bunch of money in your future, because you didn't have it in the beginning. So where does this end??

I think every person should be entitled to a good education and should be made aware of the perks, so that they can make a wise decision. And having said so, there will always be people who take care of the more exerting jobs, because if they didn't, we would have to do those ourselves. So, next time you see someone who makes your life easy by making theirs tougher, be sure to thank them. Appreciation surely cannot feed the stomach, but can feed the heart and bring a smile to faces. And sometimes, it is a happy heart that goes a longer way than anything else.
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