Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010

"2009 is coming to an end, a new year about to begin ...
A new decade is about to be born ...
I cannot help but ponder about the last year , the the last decade ...
There were up's and down's , sunny days and rainy days ...
There were some people who have left an everlasting impression on my mind and
there were some people who have build an everlasting bond with me ...
The Last year was certainly special ,
there were celebrations of success , there were cozy evenings, but
there were also days of remorse , days of defeat ...
The last decade was a decade of transformations ,
Transformation of a boy to man,
Transformation from weakness to strength ...
Transformaton from confusion to decisiveness ...
So I take this moment to wish all of you,
Happy New Year 2010 ...."

I pray that the coming year and decade fulfills all your dreams and blessses you with prosperity ...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Push or Pull

I was right there in the classroom yet lost in my own world, then suddenly a discussion took place which intruded ruthlessly into the dreams I was having.
The professor was talking about what motivates a person to perform better the "PULL" from within to excel OR the "PUSH" from the external world to perform one's best.

If you give it a thought, the obvious thing is that both are important, after all our personalities are a reflection of both the environment in which we are brought up and our own self (soul/mind/ brain etc.). However I feel its the pull which is far more important than the push, not that the push doesn't make a difference, it definitely does , but a sincere pull is far more effective. Its like doing something which we really want to do against something we are forced to do . All of us in our childhood had subjects which we did not like and those which we loved, and our scores were mostly better in those subjects which we really wanted to excel in. Of course some of us would say, "what about the external factor called dad who used to be after us with a cane forcing us to perform better "? Well even in that case we would not have performed better until we ourselves really wanted to do so. isn't t?

Consider students in a college ( say a B school :) ), we here are constantly under pressure to complete assignments and make presentations and I know for sure that even if Professors put tremendous pressure on us to make the best presentation, yet we pour in our efforts only for those presentations which excite us , where we want to excel and the rest are mere formalities which we have to fulfill in order to get the degree.

I did my engineering from a descent engineering college ( one that was not perhaps as famous as IIT or NIT, but was descent enough to get all the 1000 students a job at the end of 4 years ) and now I am Pursuing MBA from a reputed college in Pune.I see a big difference in the attitude of the students , the one's in the small not so reputed college are aware of the fact that they have to put in that extra effort to achieve their dreams and this comes from within ,and their performance increases multi fold, whereas those here in a reputed college tend to take the "brand name" of the college for granted . As a consequence they do not give in their best and perform much lesser than what that could have done despite the external pressure form faculties to perform better.

Let me tell you about a dear friend.

He hails from a small town in Bihar, educated in a school where the vernacular language was the mode of communication yet today he is working in a MNC in Bangalore, a job for which million others in metro cities are still dreaming of.
His oratory skills could challenge any convent educated student.

That said the question is how did he do this ? The answer is simple - sheer will power. It is his PULL that brought him accolades. There was no push involved, no external factor compelling him to do better, but the desire to excel and the passion to succeed which elevated him to a position that many of us envy.

We spend a lot of time pondering over what is that is lacking in our life which prevent us from being successful. Well its alright to think and find the gaps in our life and fill them, but we should not be obsessed with these gaps and keep pondering over them. Instead we should focus on the ample opportunities in front of us and that would make a lot of difference . Not only would it make our life more positive it would also prevent us form wasting time in pondering about what we lack in our life :). The pull from within would come only if we look at the opportunity in front of us that promises us success and not by pondering over the external push factors which we lack.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Being Judgemental !

We the Homo sapiens are judgmental. We have an opinion about everything - living or non living, humans or animals, we opine about everything. I guess that's what makes us human, our thinking ability, but there are times, when it is this very ability which makes us forget that we are humans also because "we can care and love."

We all have this habit of framing opinion about every person we meet- good/bad/ethical/unethical; but are we really equipped to do that? Generally we frame our opinion based on the small duration of time, for which we meet the other person, which generally ranges from one hour to a couple of weeks, but is this frame of time sufficient? I don't think so! A couple of weeks are a very minuscule part of our lifetime. Everyone of us are what we are because of the environment we are brought up in , the kind of people we have met, the situations we have faced, all of these and much more define our persona. Then how can we judge a person in a couple of weeks.

Have you ever wondered why each one of us is so different, some are humble some proud, some caring, some ruthless. Well, the situations which we have been till then are responsible for the label. Not that we should care for everyone and love everyone, but at least we can stop judging people, hating people for one incident, for that one day when things were just not where they were supposed to be. Each one of us is different, each one us have an angel and satin inside. It is this diversity which makes life so colorful. If we attempt to take a peek inside the life of the people whom we don't like for x,y,z reason or people whom we have branded as "bad, selfish", we would understand the exact reason for them being so.

Today, we seldom have the time or opportunity to understand the life of the people around us, because we are "busy people" obsessed with our own life. Since we can’t spare time, why shouldn't we give the people around us the benefit of doubt! Why shouldn't we just accept the people the way they are, and if we dint like them, assume something terrible must have happened that made them that way.

We should not judge anyone based on a particular incident or occasion, because human mind is complex, we all behave absurdly at times. To truly frame an opinion about someone , we need to know him/ her for a really long time, we need to know, how he /she is, as a complete person, only then we are equipped to label them.

None among us is good or bad, it is the situation which is so!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


My soul has been touched,
My spirits lifted high.

With stars in my eyes,
I gaze at that lovely smile.

Smile which is beautiful eternally ,
has created magical moments.

With hope in my eyes and smile on my face
I remember that face ,
the face with the purest smile.

The face
a glimpse of which lights up my day,
The face
a glimpse of which brightens my eyes.
The face
whose chastity is its pride.

In solitude or in companionship,
I see that face in front of me,

That face with the angelic smile.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

That one thing !!!

We all are nothing but seekers,
seeker of the one thing which seduces us all,
seekers of the one thing which drives us all,
seekers of the one thing without which we are zombies .

We all have that one thing in our mind,
all our actions are done so as to achieve that one thing,
all our words are spoken so as to reflect that one thing,
all our definitions are based so as to achieve that one thing.

The definition of that one thing is vague,
Some seek it in their relations,
some seek it in their environment,
some seek it in spirituality,
some seek it in materialism,
but the true definition of it is known to none ...

It is this thing which makes us hypocrite,
We all are but seekers of that one thing ,
that one thing which makes us wear colorful masks,
so as to achieve that one thing.
Some do not wear these masks
yet all they seek is that one thing ,
and with exposed faces they fanatically seek that one thing
sadly all they get is pain
the pain of being exposed
the pain of their skin being peeled in search of masks.

I stand exposed too,
exposed to all the colorful masks, in search of that one thing .
I try to open the masks of those who matter,
but all I get is another color,and pain,
the pain of my skin being peeled in search of a mask .
I am in search of that one thing just like others,
but all I get, is being deprived as I stand exposed.

The colorful masks attract me now,
as they would protect me from pain , they would shield my exposed face.
I am falling in love with the colors that hide our face.
Yes I truly adore them now,
I am but a seeker of that one thing ,
All I need is that one thing just like everyone else.

Here I stand wearing colorful masks ,
trying to attract that one thing to me ,
I am no more in pain, as I am covered now,
covered with masks , masks which protect me.
I am now a part of that hypocrite world,
yet am in peace as no one peels my face anymore.
I am, but a seeker of that one thing,

the thing called "happiness"

Monday, September 21, 2009

The strength of my soul

I look at her with awe,
I look at her with despair ,
I look at her with hope,
I look at her with pain ,
I look at her with anger,
I look at her with divines.

She is the one to hold me tight,
She is the one to pick me when I fall,
She is the one to Pat my back when there is none.

She is the one to give up the world for me,
She is the one to bear it all for me,
She is the one to drop a tear for a glimpse of my smile.

She is there to hug me when I need to believe that I am not alone,
She is the one to leave me alone , when I need to learn living a life,
She is the one to give me the spark, when life seems so meaningless.

She is my "Ma" ...

I would give you hope, when you have none,
I would give you Joy, even If I am in pain,
I would hug you, when you feels lonely.

I would kiss you, to tell that you are the pillar of my life,
I would hold your hand, to tell you are not alone ,
I would gift you the world, to tell that you are, and will always be special.

Ma you are -
the angel of my life,
the strength of my soul,
the joy of my life...

This is dedicated to all the mothers - the greatest gift to mankind.

I would request, that anyone who is reading this, please go and hug you mom, tell her what she means to you, and those like me, who are living in a different city , give her a call and tell her that she means the world to you, it would make the day for her, it really would.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Awards - encourages us to do better

Finally I get a award :) thank you so much , truly it is very inspiring :)

So here are the answers ..

(i) The person who tagged you: Hitaishi
(ii) His/her site's title and url:
(iii)Date when you were tagged: 18 September 2009

I would like to further tagg the following people for the "Beautiful Blogger " Award

1) Indrajit
2) Nameless Fameless
3) Siddharth.K Kaul

and the "I give a good Blog" award to

1) Kartz
2) Jagjit Singh

and The Rules

Link the person who tagged you.
Copy the image above, the rules and the questionnaire in this post.
Post this in one or all of your blogs.
Answer the three questions following these Rules.

Come back to BLoGGiSTa iNFo CoRNer(PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE THIS LINK) at and leave the URL of your Post in order for you/your Blog to be added to the Master List.

(i) The person who tagged you:
(ii) His/her site's title and url:
(iii) Date when you were tagged:

Pass the award to other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Inner Voice

I have a choice between good and bad,
I have a choice between white and black,
I ask myself what if I chose black,
I hear a voice saying go ahead but you would not accomplish what you are born for,
I get dismayed and wonder if I really want black,
then I look at white, I see the purity but I also see the sacrifice.

I look at god for an answer,
I look at him for enlightenment,
but I see nothing but darkness,
I am cold I need someone to hold me, but I have none,
I feel trapped, I feel suffocated but I cant find that gush of air,
but then I do hear a voice echoing, it's your choice it says it has to be your decision.

I am left with a choice of white and black,
I wander why can't it be grey? but that is not one of the options,
Deep down the voice opting for white gets stronger,
I wonder who is asking me to sacrifice the color black,
but soon I trust this voice, I get closer to this voice,
I make my decision to go for white over black,
to go for purity over darkness.

The hazy picture is suddenly clear ,
I see the difference between black and white ,
I see the angel and the demon ,
I see the divine intervention behind the voices
and all this only because I chose white the color of purity
I see nothing but a mirror ,reflecting my face,
it had been me, who wanted to opt for white ,
me but wiser , me but purer ,
me but named "conscience"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I stand a Witness

I stand a Witness to the changing life,
I stand a witness to the changing minds ,
I stand a witness to the changing relations,
here am I a witness, powerful yet helpless
entangled by the social dogmas ,
here am I a witness to the world of pain
here am I a witness to the selfish world ,
I had my beliefs I had my principles,
a witness to love I was , a witness to happiness I was ,
but life has changed and so have beliefs
and here am I now a witness to change
time's changing and would never stop
and I remain a statue , a statue of change..

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Little imperfections

This video is the inspiration of this post

I once read a quote which was something like " Friendships is not about two similar people coming together but its about two different people accepting each others differences" .. So true, when we look around us we would notice that the people we call us our own , out actually different from us, in ways more than one, and these differences make our relationships beautiful, isn't it?

One look at my parents, actually any couple of their generation, and we would see that they are generally completely different , yet they stick together like two sides of a coin, inseparable yet facing opposite sides . That's the beauty of their relationships, and if we think a bit on this than acceptance is actually the key to a successful relationship, be it love or friendship.
I have friends whose habits are not in sync with mine, in fact some habits makes me lose my temper, yet those are the very habits that define them , and the acceptance of which makes us great friends, well they have certainly accepted my intolerable habits :D

Of course some common platform has to be there, like perhaps the same approach to life , but I am talking about a level beyond the "common platform", no two people are the same , and we need to accept this. I have seen couples trying to change their partner so as to have a perfect relationship, but the fact is the perfection of any relationship are the "little imperfections" they have .
When i look at couples around me , i See blessed are those who accept each other no matter what, I know a couple who fight every fortnight due the major differences they have in their approach to life, yet when the next morning they get up and comfort each other, the joy in their face is worth a million fights.
Even when I look around at my best friends , I really like their little imperfections and I would like them to have it no matter what.

I mean imagine a world which would be perfect, it would be so boring. If all my friends were perfect, there would be no fight no pulling legs, and no FUN . Imagine going to college one day and finding everything perfect , it would be so dull.

The uncertainty in our life makes us look at it with challenge everyday, and the same thing with relationships , the small differences brings us the chance to fight and then comfort each other..

Happy Friendships day guys !! :) Cheers and enjoy the little imperfections of life....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mera Bachpan lauta do !!!!

Childhood is suppose to be the most beautiful time of our life . We all cherish those moments , when we had nothing to do but enjoy life, but have we given thought to those millions of children who have lost their childhood to some pedohile, to those who spend their children learning the art of begging , to those who are victims of their own fate !!!

Here is a video do have a look

(Read below only after watching the above video )

I am shocked to see this not that I am unaware of the atrocitites of those "who supposedly protect the helpless", but this is shocking, a girl of 6 years being mercilessly hit .....

A man is a manifest of his environment, and a child who has such a childhood will never be able to live a normal life, either she would be full of hatred or she would succumb to her fate and become a zombie!!

We all speak of having a clean and good society , but how can that be possible if we do not pay attention to the smile of hte children around us . The children around us would become the future "responsible" citizens we need to nurture them .

Our beloved MP's are busy debating the effect of tv serials like " sach ka saamna" on our culture , I wander if even one of them have seen this video, there are so many issues in our country which needs to be addressed and debated upon and instead they are wasting their time on tv serials ,further enhancing the trp of the show ....

Where our the religious guru's who were angry for legalizing same sex , now where are they when a gift of god is being mercilessly tortured, now why can't they come on TV NEWS and ask JUSTICE for the child , why are they busy now ???

NGO's were busy fighting for all kind of rights , why are they silent now ?? why can't they demand justice for the future of India now ??

We the aam junta need to realize the importance of having a healthy childhood , we should at least make sure that children around us are happy , be it the helper's child, the beggar on the streets, the ragpicker or our our child ... At least we can do small things for them so that they have a reason to be happy ..

Children are gifts of god , they are the most purest form of man kind and we should let that be like that , we all have to make a conscious effort to ensure that the children around us are happy and get the happiest period of their life.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Is Duty above everything else ? ?

I have always been told that duty comes first. We look with great admiration at Ramayana where Lord Ram is called “sarvaseshtra purush” as he acted in sync with the duties imparted to him without ever questioning them. He was such a great king that he chose to ask Devi Sita to leave his kingdom when her purity was doubted by the dwellers of Ayodha. Such great was his sense of duty as a King that he completely forgot his responsibility and love towards his Wife. This is an epitome of “Duty”, however have we ever though what would have we done if we were in his place? Would we have chosen the duty of king over the love for wife or would we have done the other way?

A little thought over this would enable us to understand that the question is actually a lot deeper and requires a lot more working on grey cells. They say our life is nothing but what we have deliberately chosen, it is a consequence of our choice and many a times we need to make a choice between duty and happiness. Is it always the case that we need to sacrifice our happiness and the smile on our loved ones for the sake of Duty?? No I do not mean being greedy and ignoring the duty and just working for oneself. But I am simply questioning the belief that we need to choose Duty over anything else.

For a soldier his duty towards his country is more important than anything else. Such great is he and his family that they do not give priority to anything else but their duty. Well if this was not the case and the soldiers only joined the defenceforces for the livelihood than many countries would have lost their independence . Here it is obvious that the sense of duty is very important to be present among the soldiers. If only the same “sense of duty” was there among our politicians and citizens who “elect” them, our present would have been completely different. NGO's are organizations built to help the needy, to provide happiness to those who have been deprived of the same from ages. Imagine if such organizations also start functioning to make money and they lose their sense of duty then what would happen to the millions who are deprived of a lot many things which many of us take for granted, although there are exceptions to the above examples yet in the majority the sense of duty prevails.

Now let us look at personal duties, the duty of a child to his/her parents, the duty towards husband/wife etc. Here too epics teach us that we should not question our duty, but we should do all we can do to fulfil these duties. Let us look from the perspective from those children who are subjected to cruelty by their own parents. How can we expect them to fulfil their sense of duty towards those who instead of bringing a smile on their face ignore the tears that flow from their eyes?
If we keep ourselves in their place, we would know the agony they face, would we be able to fulfil our duties of a child towards parents when they themselves fail miserably to fulfil the responsibilities of a parent. The same thought process can be applied to all relationships, be it that of a husband-wife, siblings or professional.

I think the choice to do ones duty depends on the “cause” . For the soldier the sacrifice made is for the country to protect million others, the entire nation depends on him , every little sacrifice he makes to do his duty ensures that million others have all the reason to smile. However can a child whose childhood was spent fighting life, seeking a reason to live, can we expect them to forget their dark childhood and to fulfil their duty as a child?

But if we say that duty is to be done for one and not to be done by another isn't it like changing the definition of a word as per our choice? And who would judge if the meaning identified with the word is correct and not chosen as per convenience. Or is it all situational, meaning of many words change with respect to situations, the meaning of good and bad itself are not definite but depends on the context used !

The answer to this question, I think is very individual specific, for example, for every soldier it is the duty which is above everything for him, and then again for a person who has had a dark childhood, whose parents did not provide him the care and love he required chooses to ignore his duty and live a life independent of his parents.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A peek into reality

If you haven’t read the earlier post, I suggest you read the post titled “Beginning of an unforgettable experience” as they are related.

It was around 3 p.m when I approached a NGO – SPARC located at Byculla Mumbai, after telling them what I am there for, he took me to cycle chachaji who is the local leader of the slum called "Thandi gali”. His name was so coined because he had a small cycle repair shop. I spoke with him for roughly 25 minutes .The people staying there are migrants from Eastern India. Very few of them had bank accounts, chachaji told me about the difficulties people faced there while opening a bank account.
As per RBI, banks can relax certain norms while opening "no Frills account”, hence any Identification proof should be accepted by the bank while opening bank accounts. However the banks nearby accepted the Ration card as proof only if some one who already has an account in the bank introduces the new member. Sounds simple right? But it's always the case that such guarantees (who have the luxury of a bank account) exploit such people, demand fees for introducing the poor to the bank.
The place which was home to 700 families was nothing but houses made of aluminum sheets or plastic sheets on the pavement. I wandered why the road was named “Thandi Sadak” meaning cold road, perhaps as people are deprived of the various luxuries which we are gifted with ,they became cold with fear, frustration . Chachaji told me that in the past 10 years 3 fake societies had collected money around Rs 500 from people living there – money which means a lot to them. These people earn hardly 3000 a month, and this sum is used to feed a family of four, roughly 750 per person for a month that’s it – That is all they need.
People like me spend 8 thousand for a descent life of course it includes 3500 PG rent, yet that means 4500 I spend on myself and right there in front of me there were 750 families who spend half of what I spend to feed 4 times more people. The value of 1 rs can be felt only at such places.
The fake societies after collecting INR 500 from each of these families simply fled, vanished in thin air and along with them went Rs 375000 (750 * 500), money which could have been used for a child school fees or for the medicine which could have saved a life.
Chachaji asked me one question, " Babuji humara paisa leke who bhage to kisi ne kuch nahi kia, police ne complain likh li , but aaj tak kuch nahi hua, lekin babuji agar hum mein se koi aap jaise logon ka 100 rupaya bhi churay to humeh jail bhi hotih hain aur humeh peeta bhi jaatahain , esa kyun? " ( Sir, they ran with all our money and yet no one did anything , we did lodge a complain with the police , but nothing has been done , but if one of us steal even a mere INR 100 from people like you , We would not only be in jail but we would also be thrashed – why is this so? ) - When I heard this a cold shiver ran through my spine – I was blank , I did not know what to answer to this, very conveniently I changed the topic back to the survey I was suppose to do. I wander if I could have done something more than empathize. I could feel the coldness in his eyes when he spoke.
As I walked further, I saw a scene which flashes in my mind every now and then since I visited the place, there was this lady in her 30’s washing clothes at the roadside, a petty normal scene right? but right in front of this lady there was a small girl- age 4 years , hair all wild, dirt shining on her cheeks , and covered by only a small piece of cloth around her waist , there was a shirt in front of her and a brush in her hand, with the small hands which should be playing with a doll she was struggling to clean a shirt trying to remove the dirt on the shirt, hardly bothered about the dirt on her face , I wonder if any once can ever remove this pain from her childhood. This was a stark contrast to the way we are bought up isn’t it? It was really disheartening to see so many infants losing their childhood. I truly believe in destiny, and this was an perfect example, did these kids chose to be born to pavement dwellers in Mumbai - Where 2 meals a day is a luxury, well all of us am sure would agree that it truly is something much powerful and visionary than our choice that decides this- why? How? I don't know, but surely there has to be some reason for this, one of my friends always says that “just because we do not understand or see the logic behind something, doesn't mean that it is illogical or irrational. It could also be the case that the logic is so complex that it is far beyond our understanding”. The moment I saw those children doing mundane tasks and as I was pondering over there destiny I could only think of these words.
These people were also efficient civil engineers that too without a formal degree, they engineered a two floored hut. The hut which is made of things like aluminum sheets and plastic was divided into two floors – miniature version though.
There was however something strange , people were constantly asking my if I was from income tax department, It really did not make sense to me at first, a man who claims that he earns less than 3000 INR a month , is tensed about having a income tax raid, this really did not make sense . Later on, my guide told me that there are some people living in the pavement who earn much more than what they claim and the people who fear income tax department could be one of such people.
The survey took me 4 hours, I was there asking people questions and the problems they face while opening a bank account. Very few of them had bank accounts , those who had were those who were lucky enough to have both a permanent ration card and a ID proof like voters card , and these proofs were made long time back somewhere in 1995, so invariably men and women aged 40-50 had such proofs and hence bank accounts ,the people aged 31-40 , did not have bank accounts for two reasons , first many of them did not have a photo ID card and secondly since they had no photo card they required a introducer- a person who already has an account in the bank and thus introduces this new member. However such people often charged for introducing, that is just for saying that he knew Mr.X, he was charging a hefty fees thus encouraging financial exclusion.
Very few people had actually tried opening a bank account; rest simply assumed that it was a next to impossible task to open a bank account. There were people who earned very little thus need not feel the need of a savings account., but there were also those who were savings 500-1000 INR monthly but did not open a bank account thinking its a very difficult process. Hence such people saved their money with NBFC's (non banking Financial Companies) or informal co-operations/ NGO’s.
I was happy however to find one thing that the people who did not go to school did send their children to municipal school, and hence at least the path for a literate India has been made. As the poor have understood the importance of education yet at the time when they don't go to school they are mostly doing house hold chores.
The NGO located at this place had done a lot for these people , from providing informal savings deposit to providing them credit in times of need , apart from the financial needs, the NGO also worked to rehabilitate thee people to a proper place, and provided those who remained with the basic facilities like a public Toilet , drinking water .

The next day I went to Chamunda Nagar slum.

I reached the place by 8 am, and found that in many ways it was similar to Thandi sadak but also drastically different in many other ways. People here generally worked as sweepers or house maids.
Speaking to them I came up front with the harsh reality. People there were in abject poverty, there was a temple in the same compound and it had the name of " Chamunda nagar Trust" . When I enquired further with the people there, I was shocked to hear that the trust people who at the face of it should be helping the poor slum dwellers actually add to the problems.
The dwellers told me that, people give a lot of donations to the trust at the temple right in front of these people in the hope that the necessary help is provided to these poor people., but the trust generally do not provide any help from the donations to these people, and if at all they do then the person who has the privilege of getting the monetary support or food is subjected to grave insult .
When I enquired about the office of this trust, they were not in a position to tell me.
This was in striking opposite to the byculla slum, where NGO had done a lot for the people there, but here the very people who should facilitate the donations to such people are depriving them of this facility. Often due to various reasons , they are compelled to take loan, and the only option available to these people are the local money lenders , who charge 150 % interest rates from the dwellers of chamunda Nagar, the people completely ignorant of the high interest rate charged pay this huge interest as the formal institutions failed to provide them access to formal credit.
They fetch drinking water from the nearest railway station, and when there is a sudden need of water at midnight , they cross the railway tracks at the darkest of hours for a bottle of water, many have paid for this right to drinking water by their life.
Ladies had to wait till dark to relief themselves as there were no toilet, the station nearby did have a toilet but it charged 3 INR per usage, and they could not afford this luxury. 3 Rs was all they needed to get relieved, I could never have understood the value of 3 rs , better than here. When I was walking towards this place, I had seen that one side of the road men were taking bath, and right opposite to them , the women tried to cover their modesty while taking bath, its such a shame that while we boast of women empowerment, powerful women CEO's ,these women have only one objective – protect their modesty, they may not be the most powerful CEO but the fight they pursue daily is nothing less.
The people here reflected the spirit to upgrade, they wanted to move up the social and monetary ladder . Out of the 37 families I had spoken to at least 15 families told me that they did try opening an account in bank, but they could not succeed as banks demand a photo ID card like "Voters card or Employee Id " or something of similar kind , but they did not have these documents at most they had a ration card that too a temporary one . Banks often asked for someone who already had a count with the bank and could introduce the new member which is a huge hassle for the poor .
Those who had all these documents, faced another problem , their ration cards had the addresses of other areas, but banks specifically wanted ration card denoting their address where they were staying .When they went to apply for a fresh ration card or change the address then they demanded bank account proof , thus they were caught in this unbreakable loop of bank account and ration card.
There was one more thing common between these slums- the shine in their eyes., it truly is remarkable that these people who are surviving with the minimum are still happy ,and their eyes reflect joy, which they see in their loved ones. in the one plate of rice they eat after a tiring day, cherishing the taste of each grain because it take may take many days or weeks before they have this luxury again .

Children were happy playing in dust, there nose wet, half naked, they were enjoying themselves – satisfied with what they had- quite the opposite of the urban kid who wants the latest car or Barbie.

The next visit was to the Ganesh Nagar slum at borivali. This visit did not materialize due to various reasons and am again slum hunting. I think most probably I would be going to a slum near Bandra . So may be the next post would be about that visit and the banks I visited.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Beginning of an unforgettable experience

As a part of my summer internship I am suppose to do a survey of the slums in Mumbai. The survey is to find out extent of Financial Inclusion in Slums of Mumbai. Financial inclusion is defined as, "The process of ensuring access to financial services and timely and adequate credit where needed by vulnerable groups such as weaker sections and low income groups at an affordable cost."
Much has been done for the rural poor – not that the life of the rural poor is significantly better now, but at least at the level of policy making, there are a host of policies framed keeping the rural poor in mind. Since I am doing my summer at the central bank of India (RBI), I do not have much exposure to the implementation of such policies thus I limit my self here at the policy making stage.
Facilities like-
Business Correspondent (BC) -where bank send officials to provide banking services at the footsteps of the rural poor , such officials are BC's and they provide a host of services to the poor, ranging from Savings ( both deposit and withdrawal) , filling up forms of opening a bank account or applying for a loan . This has helped the rural poor to a great extend as now he need not travel to the bank branch.
Smart card - These are bio metric cards given to the rural poor, these are equivalents of ATM's, the difference being the access is not through a pin code but through finger print and which can be used through BC's.
There are a lot many such options available to the rural poor, however the urban poor has been neglected since a long time, the only privilege he has got is "No frills account" which RBI had asked all the bank branches to compulsorily open. These account have minimum balance in the range of INR 0- 500, also the host of documents required to open savings account( ID proof, Address proof,etc) are relaxed , thus encouraging the urban poor to open a savings account . Yet the urban poor are deprived of the basic access to formal credit and saving account.

My project is with respect to the urban poor, I am suppose to find out why is it that the urban poor are still financial excluded.
Last 2 weeks have been spend on identifying the slums where I would conduct the survey, and framing the questionnaire and finally today am going to begin my survey.

The slums identified are –

Chamunda nagar – Slum consisting of roughly 125 families, in Bhandup. People leaving here work mostly as maids, sweepers and daily workers. .

Ganesh Nagar – a slum located at Borivali, consisting of 175 families , and the most developed slum among the 3 that I have chosen ( By developed I mean, few men in these slums speak correct English and are working in banks, yet there are also house maids and sweepers living as their neighbours )

Pathadwadi – A slum located at Byculla, these are mostly pavement dwellers , and this slum is one among 8 slums located at the same place . These are mostly daily workers.

These 3 slums are chosen as it covers the 3 corners of Mumbai.

Bhandup being at North East Mumbai.
Borivali being at North West Mumbai
Byculla being at South Mumbai.

I have had a few visits to slums last week for identifying the slums for the survey, and the experience was unique in its own kind.It pains to see that 49% of Mumbai lives in the places called slum ( All India Average being 15%- That is 15% of the urban India lives in slums ) .

Yesterday I had gone to a slum named Sudan jhopri, it's in Colaba . For those who are not familiar with Mumbai, colaba is a posh area in south Mumbai .On my way to the jhopri I had to walk though colaba market, it is a place where one can see more foreigners than Indians, who come there to buy Indian jewellery, antique decorative items , Cloths with Gods/Goddesses printed on them and more of these .
There was a at least a dozed Brand outlets there in the same road, and ironically hardly 5 min walk from such a place is Sudam Jhopri where people live in make shift huts, and the few who are lucky to have a House made of Bricks share it with a dozen others making the huts look more spacious. As I walked in , and started speaking to a man in his 40's , the first question he asked me was " Mujhe kya faeda hoga" , he was asking me if he agrees to answer my question how would he be benefited, it took me a good 10 min to explain things to him . But isn't this what all of us think always – " our benefit" .

Inside I was spoke to 7 people in total, and Few myths which were there in my mind were broken few of them being

I always thought that since the urban poor do not have any Identification proof they are unable to open a savings account, but the fact is that they all had Ration cards ( which is accepted by banks as a proof to open "no frills account") , and out of these 7 people only 2 had a bank account .

I was told that the poor were denied access to credit , but I realized that they did not want credit, :) they prefer living with what little they had than taking credit, out of these 7 only 1 man had taken credit that too, to repair his house .

Those who did have a bank account were not aware of basic facilities like ATM, and those who did , were not given ATM's by the bank . Later when I did visit a bank ,I realized that though the bank claims that the "no frill account" holders can avail of ATM's , but it was given to them only if they requested for it. I wander how they expected the urban poor to know the usage and benefits of ATM .

These findings were based only on 1 visit. So PLEASE do not jump to any conclusion.
Once my survey is done I would share my experience and the findings in the blog space.
I am really looking forward the survey today, I am visiting Byculla today. I will share my experience of the survey soon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life @ Mumbai- i am lovint it !

I had to take a long break from the blogger space as I had to shift to Mumbai for my Summer Internship. So now that I am settled here, am back :-) to blogging.

I am here at Mumbai for about 2 weeks now and it feels great. This article is about Mumbai the city where you would find EVERYthing in every sense of the term. ;-)
I stay at a place call Thane and my office is at Fort – for those who do not know Mumbai, these are like the opposite poles of the city. So I travel for 2 hours one way daily. This is about those two hours. I have t o leave at 7.45 am, from my house, and till I reach the station at 8.10 am, everything is normal just like any other city- people trying to be on time to office, kids carrying a Heavy bag, waiting to board the school bus. The moment I step inside Thane station, I realize what is the "real Mumbai" – A completely different world that is!
Let me describe this part as vividly as I can. As I get down the bus and start walking towards the station I see a mob ( at least that’s what it looks like :D ) , walking along with me , it’s the most common thing they show in movie about Mumbai , but experiencing it, is different , all of us walking , no actually running to catch the local train , and not 10 or 20 but hundred of us ,walk in the same direction with the same pace , the first day I felt I was a zombie as I was doing mechanically the exact thing which hundreds around me were doing running towards station. You cannot think to stop in the road, because there are dozens of people behind you and if you do dare to stop, you would not only get nasty looks but a few nasty words too, your crime – pausing in the middle of the pavement. Which made them also reduce their speed thus waste a fraction of their precious time. So here I was running towards platform number 1, to board Thane local. I always take trains starting from thane, because the other trains are so crowded that in order to board the train I would have to fight like a Spartan, and I am not kidding, though by boarding those trains , I could save around 30 minutes , but I think I prefer comfort over time . That does not mean thane local goes empty, but thane being the starting station I thankfully get a seat to occupy. Much before the train actually comes to platform number 1. A large crowd waits in the platform, and the moment the train enters the station, these people pounce on it. The scene is very similar to a jungle (pardon me mumbaikars ) where a hungry tiger pounds over a helpless rabbit , the scene at any station in Mumbai , in office hours looks exactly similar , the difference - instead of one tiger , here there are hundreds of human and instead of one rabbit you have one train . All this fight is for a seat near the window.
I wait patiently till these people win their war and occupy a window seat; Then I get in and am more than happy to find just any seat. The next one hour I had initially planned to listen to music, but things don't always turn out as we expect them to be.
There are around at least 10-12 stations between Thane and CST, and right from the next station I witness extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Sitting on a corner seat I was trying to enjoy the moment by listening to my favorite song. But the moment the train halted rather, I should say the moment the train enters the next station, a huge mob fanatically enters the compartment (this is the scene with all compartments at almost all stations). We all have seen those mosquito advertisements, where a host of mosquitoes enter a house and spread in all the corners of the house – it’s the exact scene here, these people believe in optimization of space, they do not leave any place where a person can place his feet. between two parallel seats there are at least 4 people standing, oh and in each seat there are 4 people sticking to each other (seat was designed for 3 people of average built to sit)!!! I was left questioning myself as to how do these people travel like this , daily throughout the year , I was glad that I could board the train at the source (thane) and at least had a place to sit .
The next 1 hour, I witness extraordinary things. though these things are very normal for any mumbaikar, but to me it was nothing less than watching Ripley's believe it or not. Imagine the following scenes

•The compartment is packed with people to such an extent that even though I was sitting I was not able to move my legs even by a mm, and in this crowd I could see atleast 10 men who were standing amidst the crowd, reading newspaper. It is amazing to see how perfectly they not only balanced themselves, but also the way they turned pages of the paper. The paper was also specially folded in a manner befitting the situation. The crowd around them did not matter to them; all that mattered to them was the news article they were reading. I really salute these people who manage to make best of a crowded train journey.

•The second kind of extra ordinary people are the "tall" people, since the average man comes only to the shoulders of such people, it's amazing to watch such tall people travel. It's like watching a giraffe walk with pride among goats :). All of them not only enjoy the cool breeze of the fan right above their heard but they are happy as atleast they do not have their noses touching bodies of other people , who by the way do not smell pleasant . One particular incident was really hilarious , I once got in a wrong train , and hence did not get a place to sit, I was standing hugging my bag (in such crowded compartments it is very easy to snatch a bag and run ) , and right in front of me there was a TALL man , enjoying the free space he gets as all of us reached only up to his shoulders , He was crunching away a packet of biscuits happily , it was petty annoying then . I mean imagine you are packed in a compartment , and are forced to smell "weird" smells, you cant even move a hand to scratch your back , you are completely wet , not only by your own perspiration but also by others equal contribution and there is this man right in front of you eating away to glory !! Though it was irritating then , now when I think of it , its really funny .LOL

•The third kind of people are the young love birds who travel in the compartment , first of all its not that I am against PDA ( public display of affection) , but c'mon in a crowded compartment PDA looks not only stupid but disgusting . It really amazes me to see atleast two couple's every evening on my way back to thane making complete use of the crowded compartment, and making "no space" as an excuse to stand hugging each other and making full use of their hands of course over each others body. The rest is like watching a movie- a stupid romantic one.

This is what I witness twice daily , although now I have learnt to ignore these and simply enjoy music being played on my phone . Occasionally a good book is an equally good distraction .
Once I get down at CST, it’s the same mob scene again , all walking like zombies towards one direction .Then the day at office and the cycle continues .

However mumbaikars teach a lot of lessons , in these two weeks I have learn the following:

•Mind your own business – people do what they want to do, and no one complains . This is the best thing of the city .

•Respect Time – People reading even in crowded compartments shows the immense value for time which they have , and the passionate desire to utilize this time is what I really respect in them

•The spirit to fight – in a positive sense .it truly is admirable to see everyone fighting daily , and not only are the youth who fight but the women, elderly all fight daily and with the equal spirit as that of a youth . This spirit is amazing .I had listened in TV shows that "Mumbai doesn't Stop". It’s the first time I witnessed the actual depth of this meaning .

This truly is going to be an interesting stay . I am here at Mumbai till June, and will write down more interesting experiences  till then wish me luck for internship.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I love MYself :)

I don't know what is happening , but off late I am meeting people , who somehow I feel are not happy about themselves . So this is to all of them .

I think the one thing which one should incorporate in order to be confident and happy is "Love your self " . A very dear friend once told me , " Be what you are and you will never be ashamed of anything at the dusk of your life " . So true , so very true :) if only we love ourself , we begin to love the world .
The logic behind this is simple ,

we love ourself --> we behave as we are :) --> We Do not put masks --> Things are simple --->Our Relations are less complex ---> people in turn love us --> Those who don't love us at least would respect the fact " that we are transparent -- --> We are confident of what we are ---> Everything is simple and beautiful around : )

More than any logic , loving your self would make you smile and smiling is one of the greatest asset that we have . right?

People have strange excuses to hate themselves .. let me share some of them with you .

" I can't forgive myself , I have committed something terrible " - This is one of the most common reasons to hate one self . We are humans and we do make mistakes , and the guilt of hurting someone is so disturbing that we tend to hurt our self . The thing is that we all make mistakes , and the right approach of taking this is to realize the mistake and to ensure that the mistake is not repeated , yet if one does seek salvation than one should do something that fits the purpose . Instead of punishing one self , one should help someone who desperately needs it . That's a great way to achieve salvation .It truly is !
No one is perfect , but that does not mean we start hating our self . We have to accept this fact . But of course that does not mean that we start hurting people and then help another group of people because that would defeat the very purpose of helping . One should not only "realize the impact of the mistake made - but also regret it and hence ensure that he/she does not hurt anyone intentionally anymore , but this regret should not lead to destruction or depression. Instead we should try to convert this regret into positive energy and help the needy .

Then there are those who simply are not happy with what they are .
We all should really thank almighty for what we have been gifted . We have the privilege to be free, to do anything that we want . I happened to see a video of a person named , " Nick Vujicic" - He is born without Limbs . Imagine a life without limbs - seems impossible right !! But that man is living such a life and that too with Dignity , ironically here are we who have been gifted with a perfectly healthy body and yet we still curse our fate and hate our self instead of thanking God for the gift we have been blessed with .
We should not compare ourselves with people who "we feel" are more beautiful / more happy / more successful and then beginning to hate ourselves because we feel we don't have what others have . Actually We should compare ourselves with people who "we feel" are not happy and are suffering, people who are not as lucky as we are . Only then we would be able to thank god for what he has gifted us with .

There are many people who are so angry with themselves , that they are constantly nagging and as a result are always angry with everyone around . The main reason I think why people are so upset is that they are not happy with themselves . The moment they start loving themselves , everything around them would be beautiful :)

There are however certain "Precautions " to be followed :D
We should not get obsesses with our self in the pretext of loving ourselves . That would really defeat the purpose . I am sure all of us agree that excess of anything is bad , so is the case with loving yourself .Excess of self love would make us arrogant and self centered , which would lead to self destruction , just like hating yourself did .
Thus one should love oneself till the extent one is happy, confident and is able to spread the smile around :) The moment one's happiness is the reason for another's sadness we should realize that we are going wrong .

have a look at the video -

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Epitome of Equality

First of all This is not to demean any religion..
I am a Hindu by birth, but yes I respect all religions .I offer my daily prayers , fast on holy days , but there was something that was disturbing me .
God as per me was a Friend, someone who was by my side always , someone who was a dear friend , but this is not what everyone else thought , for others he was the Judge who gives his verdict always and punishes anyone and everyone .

Walk into any temple and you would see , if you have money , you will be treated in a way as if you are the ONLY disciple of the God . I have had too many experiences where I was treated as a second class citizen in the temple . Why? Well I could not afford giving thousands as donation. This is not how it should be , God looks at each one of us with the same divinity .As I mentioned God for me is a friend, so tell me, do we chose friends based on their bank balances? Do we give our verdict on them ? then how can God do it?
I know many of us would say that Friends do judge us , blah blah.. But You know true friends are those who accept each others differences , they do not try to change each other , they do not judge each other - they just ACCEPT each other . Same is for GOD :)

There are beliefs in Hinduism ( many of them are controversial ) like only men can do puja of Hanuman ji, why such partiality . There are also many other practices in other religion as well , which pinch me , but I refrain from writing about those as my knowledge in those religion is limited.

I happen to visit a Gurudwara , very close to my Institute , and I must say I am not only impressed but mesmerized . Let me describe my first visit a bit meticulously .

It was guru nanak jayanti , at around 12 pm , I and my friends decided to visit the Gurudwara.
As I entered I saw a man helping all the devotees keep their shoes , very generously , looking at his attire , I was confused , as generally in Hindu temples , which I have visited, the one doing this job is paid by the trust, and he just does this mundane job in exchange of salary .
But things were different here , completely different ! .I walked in after washing my hands and legs, and as I entered , the main hall where people offer prayers .As I walked in I saw a lady siting on the Dias and reading the The holy Granth . I was more than sure that she must have been a priest or someone on similar lines ,(My knowledge was based on my experiences in temples - Where only the authorized person "Pandits" are allowed to perform puja . )

As I walked put of the hall, towards the place arranged for the "langar" . My friends enlightened me about the assumptions I had made . :)
The person who was helping with the shoes was not doing his task ( as in not as a job) , but was doing "SEWA" , helping the mankind . I was surprised - little did I knew there was more to come.The Lady reading the Granth was no priest she was just like us - in Gurudwara anyone could read the holy book - so unlike the temples .. How beautiful isn't it ?

As I walked towards the sitting arrangement, I realized that men and women were equal there. Everyone had their head covered , unlike temples which I had visited where only women were suppose to cover their heads...
During the next 15-20 minutes I was served with the most delicious food by the most humble people .The people serving food were also doing sewa :) In fact the food was cooked by people doing sewa . There were also people washing the soiled utensils all for sewa . :)

It's amazing ! people irrespective of their religion, their social standard, their attire , their bank balances were together - and all they were doing was SEWA ! they were ONE as if a Divine force had glued them together .

The entire environment was amazing , people helping each other , serving food to each other ,cleaning others soiled utensils, managing the shoes of others .
There was no special treatment for the rich, everyone ate together under one roof , served together , no partiality.None at all !

After that one visit to Gurudwara , I must say I am addicted to it , I try to visit it every Sunday and do sewa .I look at it now as a epitome of Equality , where all are treated as one .
The best thing was there was no condition like " only Sikhs allowed " - it was open to all .Anyone who wanted to seek blessings of Baba , and do sewa to mankind was welcomed there .

We as a society should learn from this, and help each other , instead of hating each other , instead of judging others on the basis of partial knowledge - we should love everyone , we should look at each other with uniformity . We should help the mankind and that would only give us solace .

Sewa is one of the most difficult yet Simple things to do. But once done it would leave us with a feeling divine enough to wipe away all the negativity , a feeling powerful enough to bring a lasting smile on the face .

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Reason to Smile - A Transition needed

I have always been wandering why people say that they have no reason to be happy . There are people who always sulk about what they don't have, they keep seeking things which they don't have but others have and then they curse their fate as they think that they never get what they want in life. They keep finding the negative in their life instead of focusing on the positive aspect .
I was one among them a couple of months back , but then I met a friend and got closer to another, and in the process, I realized the true meaning of "Living a life". We all have problems in our life , though we feel our problem is the worst of its kind , the fact is that there are people who suffer more than us, people who fight life every second,These are the people who always have a smile to greet others .
They are always two dimension to look at the situations we are facing . One we look at them and say , " Why me??" and the second we look at it and say, " WOW now that's a great opportunity to learn something , thank god its me " . A great chunk of us always say the the first part and I was one among them . We need to understand the importance of the situations we are in , we need to understand that we are all nothing but learners and we should keep learning , that what makes us efficient .
I happened to listen to Kiran Bedi's speech and among the priceless views she shared , she said, " Create the Maximum out of Nothing ". This is one statement that is haunting me, right from the moment I heard it , Such a beautiful sentence ,it oozes with positivity. I am trying to work on it. Friends if we look at each situation in life as a learning lesson we would go far ahead in the race of life . We should understand the meaning of Kiran Bedi's Statement , We need to look at each situation and ask our self ," How can I do something about it? Why am I there ? what steps can I take to revert the situation? "
Trust me , the moment you start implementing this situation in real life, you would notice the change not only in you but also around you .

Lately I heard one of my friends complaining that god was punishing him for his deeds . Now this is something where I differ , I somehow do not accept the idea that God's purpose is to Judge us , I do not believe that God is sitting up there only to give his verdict on us . No I believe God is a beautiful Friend , someone who stays with us no matter what, he is there to Guide us , He is there to support us always . At the same time I also believe that the world is a mirror, whatever you give to the world you get back , and it is this that people confuse with punishment . People think that god is punishing them , but the fact is God actually is giving an opportunity to learn , an opportunity to realize one's mistake and an opportunity to believe .

Life actually is beautiful , but we need to see it that way . My belief on positive energy was reinforced , when recently I was reading the interview of a NGO member , there she mentioned that she was abused as a child . She narrated stories of her horrifying past, but what was unbelievable was her learning form that . She said that , " Today I have compassion for the people around me, because I know how they feel , I can relate with the pain they have. I don't think I would have been the same person if I did not have those scary incidents in my life .Today I , thank God not only for giving me courage to fight odds , but also for my childhood as that is an integral part of my personality " . This is what living a life is !
I could not assure myself of what she had written , I was simply left mesmerized by her words .There was this Lady who had the most horrifying childhood yet she is smiling and thanking god , and there are those million around who are cursing their very existence .

The only mantra for being happy is " seek happiness , seek positivity, look out for where you can create maximum out of nothing " .

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Confession of a victim

Flat number E 43/1 , Dream Homes, Kolkata - The ambiance of the Flat spoke volumes about the owner , the floor of the drawing room was decorated with carefully chosen colorful tiles, those along with the vibrant sofa set oozed warmness , and the same reflected the vibrancy of the owner . The Flat had a huge Balcony which faced North, thus the entire house was always breezy, and this was the reason why Harsh had paid a whooping 75 lakhs for the flat , within 1 year of completing his MBA(Finance) from IIM(A)

The Door bell rang, Harsh looked at himself for a long time, The time had come, or has it not? the next few hours would stand a witness to a untold story or perhaps it would be just another evening with purva.
The bell rang again,Harsh rushed to open the door , Purva hugged him, and kissed him, they stood like one, for quite a while. Their relation dated back to the IIM days, a week back they got engaged to each other, it was a grand ceremony , a day which would be in the minds of all those who attended, and specially in the mind of the couple for time immemorial . There were snapshots of the grand day hung at drawing room. As the couple entered the drawing room, clanged to each other , both of them looked at the pics and kissed each other passionately and proceeded towards the balcony .
"what happened? harsh ! think something is disturbing you .. " Purva looked at Harsh, he looked really worried, his forehead had the lines which she last saw when he had proposed her , but today she could not find any reason for him to be upset .
She went and sat near him and put her head in his shoulder, " what happen , is there something you want to tell me.. ".
Harsh hugged her, " I love you a lot.. Do you think we should know everything about each others past..? " . Purva was not expecting such a question, she could not understand what was going on in his mind," why do you ask that harsh."
Harsh looked into her eyes, " I need to know the answer, please do not think I am doing anything that will hurt you, I am not, but " . "Harsh what's wrong ? I do not care about your past , All I know is that you love me and that is enough .."
Harsh, couldn't help but smile , he kissed her forehead, " I love you too. but I think I really need to tell you something , something .." .
A conglomeration of thoughts raced through his mind, his entire life flashed back in a couple of seconds, he had to tell her everything , he just had too, but he was not sure where to start from . This was one of the most precious moments for him, his love in his arms, he had all the time, he wanted, the weather was perfect, it was dusk, the sky had shades of red,birds were flying home, it was picture perfect. He took out his phone and clicked a photo of both them hugging each other sitting in the balcony . He was not sure of her reaction, and hence wanted to enjoy every moment prior to the second he told her his mistake.
Harsh got up and brought 2 beer cans, he took Purva's hand in his, " Sweetheart , I am going to tell you something, which is not pleasant , things which may make you angry, things which may make you hate me , but I really have to tell you else I would not be honest with you ." Purva was not sure what this meant, All this while she thought she knew him in and out, but what was this ? She was getting uncomfortable now, she picked up the bottle of beer had few sips , and sat sown on a chair in the balcony .
Harsh knew he had to start, he walked some distance away from her , turned his face the other side , "You know when i was a kid, both my parents used to work , and they had to ensure that I was safe alone at house , so they had hired a guy whose primary duty was to "keep me safe " , We used to live in Alipore then . I was the kinda kid who wanted to be pampered, and somehow ,my parents never did have the time to do so. This guy's name was Nikhil." All this while Purva was trying to understand each minutiae detail . "Purva ,He that Bastard abused me - in the pretext of showing affection , he used me as a object to fulfill his hidden desires" . Harsh paused, he was getting agitated, whenever in the past 20 years, he thought about that it infuriated him, he used to lose his peace of the mind , he recollected the countless nights he had spend crying.
Purva was dumbstruck , this was something she did not expect . She walked up to harsh, hugged him , "Sweetie you don't have to continue, You don't have to tell about your past , you just don't have to . It all over ." She could feel him getting restless, his breathing had increased , he had started perspiring .
Harsh stood still , looking at the open sky he said , " I didn't realize what he did to me, till i was in adolescent . I actually enjoyed those ghastly acts, All my childhood I kept thinking what Nikhil did to me was normal, and it happened to everyone else too. I hate myself for being ignorant. He was there in my mind long after we shifted from alipore - I used to crave for him. Now I realize that all I wanted was affection and care and I had only one source to get that- Nikhil. He ruined the innocence of my childhood". Harsh was having trouble continuing what he had started, he was stammering , he was shivering .. He freed himself from Purva's arms, and went towards the open space, He wanted to be free, he wanted to turn back time and erase those ghastly acts. He was cursing himself for allowing him to go through the pain of remembering everything, but he had to, he had to tell her everything, he had to tell her the impact of Nikhil on an innocent mind.
"Purva, Now I realize that when all the other kids were busy with cricket, I was left to crave for a hug, small bit of affection from anyone, and this came only in the form of Nikhil. For a long long time I adored Nikhil , I used to wait for him. When my parents put me in a boarding school 2 years after Nikhil came into my life , I used to actually miss him . ". Purva did not want to hear further, tears were coming out from her eyes , this was not how she had planned the evening. She went to the side where Harsh was there, and just stood by him . and said ," its OK Harsh , everything is over . I am there for you, you don't have to think about it , you really don't " .
Harsh ignored all that he heard, " The impact of Nikhil was such that , my entire childhood and adolescence was spend thinking about sex , I was exposed to it , without my fault a bit too early, and I found it so curious that , it was all that went in my mind. When I was 12, I though men are suppose to have sex with men , this thought occupied my mind long enough to push me into homosexuality." He sighed for what he had just said, He had though he would never tell it to anyone but purva was an exception . Purva had already lost her peace of mind after what he said about his childhood, but this was not what she though her to be husband would be , this was not her Fiance, She was not sure how she should react , she wanted to yell at him and hug him at same time .She drank the bear in one go , and was staring at Harsh, "then why did you propose me? why did you get engaged to me ? why I have nothing in my mind against sexual preferences ,its a personal choice, but why me? why did you have to make me feel special ?" .
Harsh knew this was coming, " Purva I really do love you, and please No I have not broken you trust , I really have not". Purva did not let him complete, the lady who till minutes back , was feeling sorry for him , now was angry at the same person, " Loyal - Do you know the meaning of it ? You had been sleeping around with other men and you call yourself loyal ."
Harsh took her in his arms , she resisted , he looked into her eyes , " whatever I told you , was before I met you, yes I did sleep around with men , but that was before I met you . I sway to god, ever since I met you at IIM, I have not betrayed your trust. I love you purva , I really do ." Purva freed herself , " How do I believe you , I mean , I am sorry about your childhood I really am , but that does not give you a license to sleep with men, for heaven's sake . How am I to know that you would be loyal and not get swayed by another man . ", she could not believe herself what she had just said , she was pacing in and out the balcony. " I am sorry harsh I really did not meant to be so rude. " She went inside the flat to the bedroom, harsh was not sure if he did the right thing . He had asked himself umpteen number of time before finally deciding to tell her everything . The evening had changed colors petty fast , it started with a romantic note, all was red then , soon after the mention of his childhood , it had shades of sympathy and love, and amidst these anger in his eyes , but now he was lost , everything seemed dark to him . The evening had transformed now to a dark night, even the lights were stitched off , he wanted it to be dark. He sat amidst all the dark moments of his life, he wandered what went wrong , was it his fault to seek affection when he was a child , or was it his fault that instead of his parents cuddling him , Nikhil played with his innocence , or perhaps his fault was that he gave in to his desires when in school, it seemed perfectly fine then but ,yes this could be his fault , but then why did he have to meet purva, He was living a great life- being happy and gay before she came. Purva had transformed his entire life, He had fallen in love with her , the moment he met her and from that moment he did not feel the urge to do anything else but love her . He was questioning all his actions , perhaps he shouldn't have told her everything , all was going fine after all, he need not have told her , but he though she loved him, and she should know everything , perhaps he was being too naive or maybe he was totally in love with her .He was not sure of what would happen next, he did not really plan her reaction. Suddenly his phone rang.It was a SMS, from Purva, " Harsh , I am not prepared for this, I still love you, and I know you love me too, but some doubts have been raised in my mind , and I need to seek answers for them before I decide about anything, I am going back to my apartment, please don't call me now .. "

Harsh, certainly did not expect this before, but as he sat there in darkness, he realized she was not wrong , she had every right to complain. A strange fear captured him , he was shivering , he questioned his sanity , his love , his very existence .
Purva was not sure of anything she was still distant from accepting what she had come to know . She was not sure of anything ,life seemed dark in front of her . Harsh realized he was not made for the happy things in life , he assured himself that he had to fight his entire life , just like he fought his sexuality when he fell in love with purva, but he was happy that he discovered his true self . he had realized years back that the divine happiness he experienced with purva was something he did not experience, any time else. He realized the damage Nikhil had done to him, he realized NIkhil was the reason he had been living a life of duality , a life into which he was forced into, a life which sadly he was beginning to enjoy , but when Purva came he realized he had been living a false life , and in no time he had transformed completely .
Harsh picked up his cell and typed , " Purva, I just wanted you to know that I have never betrayed you except for the fact that I did not tell you my past, but today I am telling you my past, and trust me I regret it completely, you are the best thing that happened to me, I know you did not except this in you wildest dreams, but that's how it is .. If you decide to come back I can assure of nothing else but love and in case you decide that you would not be able to live with me because of my past, I totally understand, and I would be happy for whatever you do ..." . He send it to her . He was sure that she was not coming back, after all why would anyone in their right senses want to marry a guy who had a homosexual past . He decided to spend some more time in the balcony looking at the stars, the stars reminded him of his childhood , in hostel, there were days when he used to go to terrace and sleep there, he missed his ma there, and at times he also missed nikhil. This flashback of his hostel days always made him melancholic . He got up and was simply walking to and fro the drawing room, he was not sure of what he should do now . If this was the case before he met purva, he would simply log on to social networking sites , find a local guy and go for a one night stand, but today was different, he did not want to do that anymore, he had decided that was not the real him .He decided to go back to the balcony , and win over his fear - the stars , just like he fought the other horrors .

Purva was lying on her bed unable to sleep for the past 5 hours, last four years flashed back in her mind like a short movie trailer,. She recollected how on more than one occasion he had displayed his love for her, in the most romantic way .He had supported her in all her decisions, she knew that she loved him, and that's what made her sad, she wanted to help him ,but was not sure if she still wanted to marry him . What if he still continues to live his dual life after they got married . The mobile rang ,it was a SMS, She wanted it to be from harsh, she wanted him to help her with the decision just like he helped her for the past many years .The SMS made her smile, but she was till confused, she did know what to do . She just had one thought in mind , Harsh.
It was 3 am, Purva went off to sleep , with a snap of Harsh in her hand, suddenly the phone rang ..
Purva picked up the phone ,
"Hi Purva Di, lipika here .."
"Hi Lipi how are you? What happen its 3 am .. is everything OK .." , Purva could sense something was wrong , Lipika was sobbing , her voice was heavy .
"Di, I am coming back to kolkata, I am catching the first flight out of Mumbai , I really cant take it anymore, not anymore.."
Purva, knew that Lipika was having a troubled marriage , but the exact reasons were not known to her , by the stress in lipika's voice she could sense something must have been terribly wrong.
"Lipi where exactly are you now ? and what happen??" . Lipika,"was having difficulty speaking ,"DI i am on my way to the airport, Amar is not how he used to be.. all has changed, he has changed .."
In the next half hour, Lipika narrated the horrifying things which she was subjected to . Lipika had got married to her sweetheart Amar a year back . The problem started soon after the marriage, He started beating her , and started having a series of extra marital affairs , and at times he used to bring his mistress home, and would disgrace lipika in front of everyone.

Purvi was already distressed with her own life , all she could say to Lipi, is " come back dear, I am there, we would teach him a lesson, you just be safe and come back ." The moment Purva she kept phone , she was left wandering what had gone wrong , lipika knew Amar for 5 years before they got married, the family seemed nice , he had a handsome job , what else could one verify. She soon came to the conclusion that at the end its all destiny . Before Lipika's marriage all seemed perfect, but now everything has turned sour, who is to be blamed, whose mistake was it?
She had no answer , but she soon realize that there are certain thing which humans cannot control ,and simply have to bear them. She wandered what if Harsh did not have the horrifying past, what if he had a normal childhood just like she had. She wandered, what was the probability if he was not what he was, that he would be loyal. was there any assurance then ? that he would not betray her in future ?
She realized in all the best of circumstances she had to go by her instincts and the love she had for him . It was 5 am, and she just realize how stupid it was for her to leave harsh alone in the depressing state he was in . She rushed out her flat with the same pace in which she had left Harsh's place .
She had a duplicate key, once inside she went straight to the bedroom , she did not find him there. She didn't search for him anywhere else , she knew him well enough to know that if at the odd hour of 5 am , he was not sleeping in the bedroom he must be in the balcony.
He had gone asleep there, with his body on the floor and torso resting on the chair. She saw his phone lying next to him, she picked it up, It had their picture . The one harsh took just before he broke the news, was selected as wallpaper , it looked all so beautiful, ironically moments after the beautiful picture was taken things had turned sour .
She looked at harsh, he had that amazing smile on his face which always enchanted her , she sat down on the floor beside him , and was admiring him , for what he had done, it definitely required courage to share the darkest corner of one's past.
Harsh opened his eyes soon , only to find Purva staring at him. He looked at those amazing pair of eyes, eyes which captivated him , eyes whose shine reinforced their love , eyes which he adored.
He realized that she had come back to him, she had not uttered a word, but he knew his love was back to him. A tear dropped from the corner of Purva's eyes, Harsh went close to her , kissed her , and then hugged her and said , " Thanks a lot , purva, I love you ."
All Purva could say was , "I love you too ".

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The courage to continue

ShubbuLakshmi or Amma as she was known in her entire community had just dropped her son Arjun to the airport, he had got placed in a premier IT company and was flying to Delhi for his first Job. This was the day for which she had waited for decades .
The apartment was on the 25th Floor, she walked across the posh apartment, a sense of accomplishment graced her face , the balcony was her favorite place in the entire house, a place where the cool breeze touching her cheeks reminded her of Amar . As soon as she started feeling the breeze she used to close her eyes and felt independent and chained at the same time and the feeling made her feel complete - a feeling which she never had anywhere else .

ShubbuLakshmi was born in Sonargachi a red light area in kolkata . Her childhood was spend amidst sex workers and their children . As a child she always wandered why her amma went to work at night but there was no one to answer her questions . Often she would find amma bruised after a night's job , but she was too scared to ask anyone what happened ? She wanted to go to school and much against the will of the community she started going to the government school . All went well till she turned 14 . One incident prevented her from going back to school and denied her an access to a Future in fact it changed the entire course of her life . The school was mere 2 kms away from her house. One day she was returning from school, as usual, but there was a difference - she was happy- her teacher had said that she could see a doctor in shubbu . She even bought Laddos for her amma. It was around 6 pm , suddenly she saw Ravi and Raju her school friends in the nearby Pan shop . She went towards them , she wanted to share her happiness with them. But the moment she went near them , she realized something was wrong , they were not the guys , she considered as friends , they were staring at her at places where she was not comfortable , their eyes reflected lust. She could not bear the strange look, and decided to walk back, but fate had planned it differently . The guys followed her and started touching her . Shubbu protested and started shouting for help. When the guys saw people coming , they started abusing shubbu started addressing her as a prostitute and started disgracing her amidst the crowd . Shubbu was shocked the people who had initially come to help her , now ridiculed her , they also now started looking at her with lust, she was too young to understand the impact the word "prostitute " had on people's mind . . She could not bear the ridicule anymore, she ran and did not stop till she reached the place which she called her home, the place where her amma used to work, the place where she had seen her amma bruised emotionally and physically, now she lay in the same place hurt.
This incident took everything away from her . Her amma was too scared to let her go to school again , and this marked the end of her happiness.
Shubbu now spent her time in daily chores and learning arts from people whom she called "mashi" (Aunty). She was Happy that she was learning something new , yet somewhere deep down she wanted to study . She had just turned 15 and "MEN" there had started showing interest in paying her for work which her amma did, her amma was not attracting enough clients to sustain the expenses and thus the problem started. One day a client did come to her ammu, and offered a whooping 6ooo INR , but ammu was not OK with the deal, and the other members were forcing her to go ahead, else they threaten that they would give shubbu away , these were the same people whom shubbu called mashi, and now the hunger of money had changed everything even their love for shubbu .All this happen when shubbu was fast asleep . When shubbu woke the next morning she found her ammu bleeding beside her , she had bruises all over her faces , the marks seemed like those of a knife, as if someone had deliberately scratched her face with knife , her arms were red , and her back had marks of belt , and she held a bunch of Indian rupees in her fist . Shubbu cried for help, few women came and started helping shubbu clean the bruises .
This incident continued over the next few months, till one morning amma was found dead .
Shubbu had lost everything , she was shattered and before she could recover from the loss , her maushi had started demanding that she should started working or leave the place. The love in her mashi's eyes had turned into greed for money . They knew that at the age of 17 she would attract a price of not less than 50,000 INR .
Shubbu could not sleep for the next few days , she had to find a way out , this was not what she had thought for herself . Soon the community was offered 50000 INR for Shubbu , now she was not even given the choice to run away, hence now she was kept in custody . Soon she had to succumb to the greed of her mashi's and was sold for a handsome amount She was taken away to a posh area - Ballygunj in kolkata , by her "owner", who used her as a domestic help in the day time and raped her at night, sometimes he brought along friends. who behaved more like animals then humans, She soon found her in the same bruised state as she had seen her amma .
There was still something which subbhu thought was bettar than sonargachi , at least there were no double standards , unlike her mashi's who displayed false affection these men had no affection at all. She had accepted her fate, and was waiting for the day where she too would die. But she soon realized that she was also the centre of attraction for the other male residents of the same colony , who offered her as much as 2000 INR for the job which her owner forced her to do every night .
Then she made a plan , a plan to escape from the torture , a plan to smile, a plan to dignity .
She spent the next 5 years , meeting those "lustful men" and earning at least 2000 INR , per person and at the end of five years she had 1 Lakh INR , and all this without her owner coming to know of it .She was 23 and one day realized that she was pregnant , her owner thrashed her that night on hearing this, and started making plans for abortion , but shubbu had other plans .
During these 5 years she also had made a friend , "neha" , she used to work in one of the resident's flat. Neha was from chennai and she had her family still living there . Though subbu's amma was from the state of tamil nadu , but she never heard anything from ammu as much as she heard from neha. She started understanding the meaning of culture , life, education .
The day after Shubbu got thrashed , she booked a ticket to chennai , and with the help of neha boarded her train to happiness.
The journey was a special one, she was free for the first time since 23 years. She looked around the sleeper class , people of all kinds were there,she was a bit scared as she was traveling for the first time, but it did not matter as she was happy, She kept the money in a bag and kept it close with her always . Life had taught her one thing that she could not trust anyone . She stood at the door of the train , and enjoyed the breeze , the breeze touching her cheeks, titillated her . Though she was alone , she felt the satisfaction of being independent. She knew that now she had to sustain her self , in chennai and had to find a way out .The best part of the journey was that no one knew that she was from Sonargachi, and that she traded lust. She had a great feeling of confidence. In chennai Neha's brother Amar came to receive her. she stayed with neha's family till she gave birth to Arjun .
In those 9 months she made a plan, she knew that the child will not bear hardships as she did , he/she would have a future which she did not have, most importantly he/she would have education . Amar helped her in making a plan , a plan to live. He helped her with the money, she had brought from kolkata. Something in Amar told Shubbu that she could trust him with not only money but with everything else. Neha had told her family that Shubbu was a widow. Hence she attracted a lot of pity and at the same time enough help to seek a road to salvation . She had begin liking amar, he was not like the other men who looked at her as a mean to satisfy their lust ,instead he used to look at her with eyes full of a admiration , the shine in his eyes reminded her of amma .
With help of Amar she had opened a small shop selling bedsheets which were beautifully embroidered by her ,an art which she had learnt when she dropped from school . She bought the materials required and started working on them during her pregnancy with the help of amar.
She had fallen in love with him . Amar saw a strange shine of confidence in her eyes and this is why he was attracted to her . He often used to hold her close and his breath used to make her cheeks red. This was the only moment when their bodies were close enough to feel each other .
Arjun had turned 3 and shubbu had expanded her business , she now had a grocery store in addition to her embroidery store , she rented her own one room row house . Till one day when they both went out to beach , the evening was pleasant, breeze blew shubbu hair in such a way that it touched Amar's Cheeks, who was enjoying the romantic environment . The sky looked heavenly, the environment was warmer than usual, and both of them were blushing, both their eyes had the shine of a newly wed couple. That day , Amar proposed her and said he wanted to marry her . Shubbu was happy ,She was at the zenith of happiness. the evening which was already romantic, made her blush, she realized the sky too was pink in color, there were couples all around them , birds were on their way home . but there was something which took away the romance from the environment , her past was something she had not told anyone, this made her uncomfortable .The romance in the air had started fading as she recalled her past, right from her school to ammu to her "owner", she told him everything but she also knew that he may not marry her after he heard the entire story, and she did not expect him to either. As she knew it is difficult for everyone to fight the society. Amar was deeply shocked and hurt to hear all these, the roses which he had brought for shubbu fell down from his hand . All these while Arjun was building castles from sand on the beach .Suddenly Amar walked towards Arjun picked him kissed his forehead and said "stay well ". He turned towards shubbu , his eyes were misty, he could not stay a word, he just picked up those roses and gave it to her .
Shubbu knew that he will not come back, she knew this was the last time she saw him. A sense of grief enclosed both of them
She enrolled herself into a school for adults, and accomplished her dream to get education, and she also ensured that Arjun got the best of education.
She never felt for anyone like she felt for Amar, She always felt the vacuum created after Amar left , but she made her life so busy that she never felt the need to look for him . She soon created a chain of embroidery stores. As she started getting grey hair, she felt the need to help thouasands of subbulakhsmi in the country. She realized that the best way to create awareness was by making her story public. This was not going to be easy , as she now lived in a posh areas in chennai , the society knew her as a business women and not as a girl from Sonargachi . Most importantly she had to tell Arjun everything .
Arjun had just turned 20 and was in his second year of Computer Science & Engineering . He had come home for new year . It was around 6 pm , the sun was about to set. An apartment at the 25th floor guranteed an amazing veiw of the sunset, both of them sat in the balcony. Subbha had to gather a lot of courage to tell him , she had a debate with herself , since 2 week prior to his arrival, she was scared that like Amar he may also desert her, but she soon realize that she had to tell him, as if he comes to know of it from some one else he would be utterly devasted and their relation could turn out to be worst than she expected .
Arjun did not expect this kind a story of her ma , he was not devasted but angry, his eyes were getting red , as she was telling her story . Shubbu was scared , her eyes were moist, tear drops were coming out from the corner of her eyes . She could not complete, when Arjun stood up and left the flat .
This was something for which she was not prepared , she knew he would take time to accept this piece of hard truth ,but she thought he would also appreciate her courage and her desire to live . She sat their in the balcony for the entire night, looking at the empty dark sky, she had nothing left now , she felt empty. Staring at the dark sky she remembered her amma , She remembered the last few weeks when she was alive, flashes of her bruises came to her mind ,she remembered the 6000 INR her amma earned for all the blood she lost. She wanted to find her amidst the clouds and hug her , she wanted to cry, she wanted to to hold someone , just anyone, but alas there she was on a posh apartment, without anyone to share her pain with ,she felt lost for the first time since she came to chennai .
She had fallen asleep in the chair , suddenly she felt someone hugging her, she opened her eyes to find Arjun sobbing. She kissed his forehead. His eyes were red and it looked he did not sleep the entire night, " Ma , I love you ma , you always have been my guru , but today i not only look at you as a Teacher but i look at you as a god, you have done so much for me ma, If you did not decide to run to Chennai , I would have been living a completely different life , Thank you ma,." . Shubbu could not control her emotions either , " beta I though I lost you , just like I Lost Amar , I felt so lonely , so left out , so deprived ." Arjun," Ma I will never Leave you, never.." . Soon She also took his permission to go public with her story , and his response was more than positive , he helped her with writing her autobiography , and also ensured that the books marketing was done in an effective manner . His efforts bore fruits soon and Subbulakhshmi soon became a nation figure. She was everywhere from business magazines to Femina ,

Today he left Chennai to start his own life , Shubbu was proud of Arjun , she felt her life was complete as not only did she managed to provide education to arjun but she herself evolved from a sex worker to a successful business women to an author. She often thought that whatever happened to her , happened for a reason, she was able to connect all the incidents of her life today. Even if one incident did not happen then today she wouldn't have been what she was, the success which she achieved may have only been a dream . Since she discontinued from school , she knew fine arts and could transform that skill set to a profitable business .She realized the importance of all the incidents in her life sour or sweet, all of those incidents together made her persona as she was and today as usual she was beautiful.

Today she was independent as she had accomplished all her dreams yet she was chained as there were still lakhs of subbu's throughout the country . There she stood at her favorite balcony , and as the breeze touched her cheeks, she remembered Amar, without whom today she would have been incomplete, she looked at the sky , it had shades of blue and orange, it was going to be dark soon, the day was coming to an end but for shubbu life never stood still, the day never came to an end, but today , she looked up at the sky and saw birds making there way back to their nests she realized her day was also coming to an end, but she had no regrets , the journey had been beautiful, she had achieved all she wanted to and she ensured that other subbu's realize that "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts"..