What Ladakh taught me

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One place, two people, many learning(s).

Lt Gen PJS Pannu’s speech

‘We shed our biases at the academy’

From different parts of the country with various backstories but one dream to serve the nation, many army men come to the academy. All of it is left behind when each one of them adorns the same uniform and thinks of only mission to be there for the nation no matter what.

As I noted this, I thought if  our ultimate mission as humans is to live, why live with so many biases? Prejudices based on sexuality, gender, religion, caste etc taken till the graves at times. Why can’t we all adorn the uniform of love and live for mission of humanity?

‘Souls are more powerful, soul’s achievement is the ultimate. Be more soul oriented.’

After intense training, when an army man is finally at work, he doesn’t do it for appreciation or to be rewarded later. He does it solely for his nation, for the satisfaction of his soul. It sounds difficult but one can try to not do things for appreciation or rewards but for that one thing called soul and its satisfaction. I am trying my best and learning to do things for my soul.

‘When you are badly stuck in a situation, what do you do? Quickly adapt to it, accept it and think of moving ahead’

When on the battlefield, an army man has no time to react to things but dealing with them. He has to keep moving forward, do his job. This can get more difficult when he cannot react and has to keep going even when a fellow mate dies.

I have big dreams but I have cribbed about the smallest difficulty faced. From now on, I shall try to adapt to things quicker, accepting and dealing with them than reacting to it. It can be difficult but not impossible.

This is purely an interpretation and learning taken from his speech that was given to Wilson College Nature Club on 24/5/17. Also to be noted that General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Leh, Lt Gen PJS Pannu could have easily cancelled this interaction as he had an operations meet but he didn’t. He instead had the interaction an hour earlier. 

At Abdul Kareem’s home, Turtuk

Turtuk is the last village before the Ind-Pak border. It is shown as ‘restricted area’ in the Ladakh maps available. I had about an hour to explore this village when I came across Abdul ji’s house.

He gave me and my friend a warm welcome into his house when we requested that we would like to have a small talk with him. He and his wife gave answers to whatever we asked with a smile. Abdul Kareem and his wife Hussaina Kareem have three children studying in Delhi, Chandigarh and Manali respectively while both have a living from their farm in Turtuk.

He showed us his house and both of them insisted that we had tea. We had to be on time for lunch so for the longest time we politely refused. Finally, before we left, I asked for water. I could see his wife’s eyes shine as she served us water in two shiny glasses. One could easily make out that these were specially kept for some guests.

When I left their home, I realized what a difficult life they were living but with so much grace. I could sense, they were missing their children especially Abdul ji. When we requested for a photo he insisted that I stand in between him and his wife.

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He kept a hand on my shoulder and said ‘Ab toh beti ho hamari’ while clicking the photo.

This came from a person who belongs to land where he can never go again. A land where his brother still lives to whom he can never meet or greet on phone properly. A land he was born but can never be hopeful of being buried.

Yes, Abdul Kareem and his wife belonged to Pakistan. He and his wife came to Turtuk in 1971 after war. From then, he has made a living here and he is thankful and graceful to Allah for whatever he has today and shall try to give his children the best life.

I am glad I witnessed Lt Gen PJS Pannu’s speech and also that I met Abdul Kareem and his wife. I don’t know if both these stories are linked but definitely have a lot to take back. If these stories triggered a thought, made you learn/unlearn something, do write back. Thank You!
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Let’s Sip & Swap!

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Enter into a beautiful ambiance, have conversations (not chats) over books with book lovers and leave with a new book I would actually read. My kind of party? Hell yeah!

Emotions are Offline is where I dived into this idea first, where I felt there is a need for people to go offline to find meaning in life. My idea was a bit different yet the crux to get people to talk in reality was same. A week ago I witnessed this idea come to life at a Book Swap Party held at Le Cafe in Chembur.

Priyesh Thakkar, the brain behind the idea quit his job to make this event happen. It was the second time the event was taking place and they already had more than half entries expected. This made me happy as it meant there still exist people who would wish to come out, talk and convince someone to take a book, get one for self instead of lazing around on a Sunday afternoon.

My experience was special because I had a beautiful conversation over philosophy with the first person I sat with. Though I didn’t exchange my book with him, I penned down many recommendations from him. I finally got a term for the kind of reading I do thanks to a sarcastic guy I came across who called me an ’emotional reader’ and judged me big time. Yet, the conversation with him made me question and understand all the books on my bookshelf. I felt proud of what I have read back home though I felt like a stupid reader in the entire conversation.

There were many other conversations that I will dive into again and again for inspiration but this one lady I met struck a chord. She was a television writer and very easily convinced me to go back to writing my book. I owe it to her that I went back to my draft that very day.

A thought provoking movie Shut Up screened for us, became the highlight of last Sunday. The idea of the movie should be heard and spread in today’s world. If you are reading this please search for the movie, it would hardly take few minutes of your day to refresh your thought process.

Even after all this I was still a little low that I couldn’t get my book exchanged. But that day some powers wished to not let anything left undone for that one day. After the book swap party when I entered local train I met a girl I couldn’t talk at the event. I liked her book and kind of convinced her for mine.

A conversation on philosophy, bookshelf retrospection, back to my book draft, refreshed idea of freedom because of the movie and also a new book. My kind of party? Hell yeah!

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Pic Credit: Sip & Swap team. Candid shot of my beautiful conversation on philosophy.

If you liked my experience & wish to have a similar or better experience like the Facebook page Sip and Swap and be notified for the next book swap party!

When I met Salma

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Her smile tried to hide the evident pain in her eyes. While adding sugar to her coffee she said ‘I was fighting for his daughter’s education but he tried to kill me twice.’ She talked about her other hardships with the same ease. Did she become numb to her problems or speaking about them with this ease made it less painful?

As I wondered topic changed and we talked about our beautiful college structure and the recent trip to Sikkim we had. Suddenly there was happiness in her eyes as she spoke of her trip to Assam. She showed pictures from her phone and shared her experience. The sorrow redeemed her eyes as she plainly said how she regrets for not being able to study in a proper college with the constant nervous smile on her face.

She further spoke about the education of her sons, what they are pursuing etc. However, sons are not so much into her literature side. In this moment it was difficult to read her eyes, she looked glad and a bit taken back at the same time. She said they are proud of her work but don’t really sit back and read it all. None of these emotions held her smile back.

As I had written about her mother after watching the documentary, with lot of courage I asked Salma about the bond she shares with her mother. She answered with ease that there is lot of love, only that mother is still very innocent. She said her mother doesn’t understand human rights etc, she still lives in a small world. Till date my mother eats only after my father has food. I cannot blame her, it’s the way she is brought up, it’s the way maximum of the girls there think.

I further asked how she is so different. How did her idea of life change? She immediately replied, ‘it’s because of what I read’. I read a lot and understood things about the world, not everyone there in my village got such understanding.

Salma is a strong woman with an amazing emotional intelligence. She managed to be warm to us in spite of the cold fountains within. Her eyes didn’t hide any emotions but her smile always won it at the end.

Read Salma’s poetry at http://www.poetsalma.com

Be empathetic: the last hug

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She was right there in front of me on the hospital bed, about to die, about to bid her final goodbye. I knew for certain that it was time, realizing so I held her in my arms for a while. I didn’t wish for her to suffer anymore. I was numb, head trying its best to process everything around.

The one thing she yearned for is family unity, watching her four kids & their families happy, settled and dining together. Among the grandchildren also, we weren’t united. She yearned to see all her grandchildren together, but only after she left, she saw us all weeping for her. Wonder if it was a sight of relief or pain for her?!

She loved all her grandchildren equally however she said I and my sister were her favorite. It was because only we two among her six grandchildren had managed to be focused on education and a career. Two elder cousins left education, did random jobs and fought among each other. One youngest one left school before tenth standard. Lastly one cousin sister at 18 got married and had a kid. Yet, she loved all her grandchildren equally, with all her heart.

All six, so differently brought up, weird childhood struggles for all. Not one family among her four kids gave a normal childhood to their kids, how on earth were we all supposed to be united?

She understood this childhood complexities because she was an empathetic person. She could actually see through each of her kid’s eyes and churn her thinking through all her grandchildren’s shoes.

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Looking akin at my sister as she shuffled the pack of cards. It was indeed her favorite game. Trick master at her game of cards and at hiding emotions in her game of life.

Something that seared my heart was how she never asked me to go and meet my cousin sister who got married or play with her kid. Grandma understood that my cousin sister was wrong, but she understood her problems & supported her. She was also understanding of the fact that it was traumatic on my end to take the kid in my hand of the cousin sister who is younger to me by months! How on earth one could be so empathetic, I still wonder.

I still cherish that last hug I gave her on the hospital bed. She was my only grandparent, and watching her suffer in her final stage of life was a grave feeling. The feeling sucked more when I knew she had few wishes, which haven’t come true even after she has left. So dear readers please, if you have grandparents, firstly go and hug them. Try to make them happy, do your bit.

What I learned from Salma

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”I am sorry, I couldn’t be there for you when you were in the most need of me. I have failed as a mother”

“We have come out of it and come out strongly. This prooves you have been a great mother.”

My mother has been the bread bearer for our family. My dad had been home to take care of his two daughters. However, dad and his family made sure that me and my sister couldn’t make a single good memory from childhood. My mom never knew exactly what happened when she left. Only recently we told her about the cousin I slapped for molesting me, all of the mental torture that dad did etc. Her guilt for not being there for us then still cringes her heart and has a burst out quite often.

When I saw Salma’s mother in the documentary it immediately reminded me of mom. There was guilt in her eyes when she said yes I smuggled her poems. I could feel that she somewhere tried to make up for the mistake she did when she was 17.

I feel being a parent is the most difficult thing to do. You have to balance between making your child think rationally and socialising him into the religion your in laws would ask for. How is one supposed to bring up a kid with a rational mindset when the religion makes it so narrow? Salma I feel, couldn’t have done more to make her kids understand how the society is. The sight of her kids using Facebook while she read her poems made me cry out loud within. It was worse to see how her sister Najma’s kid explained the illogical religion so strongly.

It trembled my heart into pieces when Najma said, “I am bounded by his love.” She agreed she behaves differently around her son, feels more free when he isn’t around but still doesn’t wish to change how he thinks. My mother always knew my dad was wrong. She knew all the mental torture me and my sister would go through day in and out but never said a word. I guess she was bounded by his love too.

I feel each one of us learn from Salma at least this one thing. Inspite of all she faced she did something, wrote it down with everyone around against it. It can get difficult I know, it did for my mom too. It took several years for her to break the barrier of love she felt for dad and stand for me and my sister but she did.

Journeys do get tough but when you keep moving will you see the silver lining in this case Salma and also my mom saw.

The clouds can never become a barrier for the sun.

(Salma has many layers to her life. The documentary named after her has captured each of it in the most beautiful way possible.The above text was what I learned from it. Try to watch it and do share with me what you felt about it.)

Conformity 2.0

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“Yes, my biceps are wonderful, shall gym hard for triceps. Six packs coming soon” said a friend sarcastically when teased for being fat.

I loved this reply. However, I wondered about the cause of the reply. If you have ever replied to someone in this way who has teased you for being thin, fat etc, great! You have dealt with them the right way. All these biceps photos, at the gym posts don’t let them disturb you. However, I wish to say that please believe in yourself and do things to stay fit and not for conforming to anything.

I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself (Rita Maebrown) and therefore I am going to focus on loving myself the way I am, let conformity take a walk alone!

“Sexy selfies and lipstick pouts are in, you should upload one on soon” advised a friend when I complained of her social media being full of it.

My heart sank at this reply; I wondered what is so ‘in’ about all of this. It’s okay to follow latest trends, but this trend of selfies I seriously have issue with. Almost every girl suddenly owns a red lipstick. Why? If you genuinely have a reason for all those sexy selfies and pouts, okay.

To be yourself in this world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment (Ralph Waldo Emerson) Are these selfies trying to make me something I am not? Answer this before you post something next time.

Be neither a conformist nor a rebel, for they are really the same thing, find your path and stay on it. (Paul A Vixie) Question what you conform and rebel to. Be convinced of what you do, don’t force anything on yourself.

Conformity has glided a level up now. From real world to the virtual world, conformity has taken a big step. Which is why I request everyone reading this to be aware and try to be as close to your real being as possible. Don’t let the virtual world suck you in.

 

Idea of self

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A small attempt to understand the link between mirrors and perception of self


‘It’s been two years I haven’t seen myself in the mirror’ said Aniket Supe, an artist I had an opportunity to meet recently. I had a prolonged conversation on various topics with him but this statement replayed in my mind.

In the following days, I asked few of my friends to not look into a mirror or any kind of reflection of themselves for a day. I asked them to write in their experiences to me. One of the common response was conscious behavior, they felt conscious of every single thing they did. A cluster of them felt totally opposite and loved the experiment, it made them feel confident. One interesting response from few was that it didn’t really matter and make a difference as they hardly care of how they look.

Mirrors being part of daily routine was a common problem as said in experiences. Some people I asked to are still trying the challenge as mirrors are so much part of their daily chores. Applying kajal, phone screens, rear-view mirrors, car windows, glass doors and much more.

‘When we look into a mirror to get ready before we leave, we look at ourselves and try to mould depending on where we are heading to, like on a date, college, interview etc. I don’t want to corrupt the way I look, I wish to be as pure as possible.’ This artist did make sense as the people who got conscious was because they have this perception of themselves to be portrayed, and they wish to look in away and maintain so.

The people who on the other hand felt confident in their minds made that perception and convinced themselves of their amazing looks to feel confident. The bunch of didn’t care and for whom the task was simple have a perception of self stagnant and for them personality doesn’t really relate to what and how they look. Sadly the people unable to do this have  a strong perception of self which they are unable to rethink.

This is a subjective analysis based on the people who did the task for me. This experiment made me believe that the line between inward and outward self perception is thin & so gets more complicated to understand the usage of mirror today. Many people who did this small task for me did say it helped them understand and accept themselves both on the inside and outside. Try it and let me know if it works for you.