MY TRYST WITH SUPERPOWERS

From Marvel to DC comics we have seen it all. We have gaped at Superman spinning Earth anti-clockwise to turn time and we have seen Spiderman saving the world with his webbed hands. We are exposed to all kinda superpowers that leave us amazed and wanting. From Batman to Avengers we have ‘Oohed’ and ‘Aahed’ at our favourite superheroes and Superheroines but in our hearts of hearts, we all secretly want to be one of them. To do those otherworldly things and save the day. I was no different.

My choicest superpowers keep changing with time. Because with time I mature, so do my priorities and my preferences. We get the tag of ‘Major’ at 18, but I don’t think we get matured enough at 18, some of us develop much before that, but in my case, I was still a complete kid at 18. However, considering superpowers, I will tell you my choicest Superpowers and the shift in my choices with age.

As a kid I wanted the Superpower to Teleport. The countries I only saw on silver screen, the places I read about, I wished to see them all. I wanted to disappear from my bedroom and reappear in London, Trafalgar Square or Times Square, New York. I even used to spin around in the same spot at full speed in the hope to see myself disapparate.

Teenage came with the desire to acquire a Superpower that would take me inside the books I read. To fight by the side of Harry like Hermione, to steal diamonds along with Jamie McGregor from Master Of The Game and to be kissed like Maggie from the Mills and Boons novels. I wanted to be the most important female character of every book I read. I guess that was vanity, but It was a lovely phase of my life.

At 18 I wanted to the superpower to be a Computer. Yes! You heard it right.
For a girl who had so much paperwork to read and learn and remember, I wanted my eyes to scan everything I read and store it in my memory. I tried to answer every question thrown at me with lightning speed and precision. There was this urge to be the ace, to be better than Britannica(Wikipedia wasn’t this popular then). To jot down everything faster than a speech recognition typing assistant and make my father proud.

Time passed and with time passed away the most important person in my life, My Father. That time my choicest Superpower would have been to control Time. I wanted to turn it back and stop it right there. I craved to get my father treated in time and save his life if I could travel back in time. What a beautiful place it would be if no one aged. If I never had to live without Papa.

After my fathers’ demise came an extended period of Depression. Back then my choicest Superpower would have been to Mind Control. Yes, so that I can erase my memories and my mothers’ memories as they brought so much pain and hurt with them. I wanted to forget everything good and beautiful about my father so it would stop my heart bleeding.

Then came a time when I yearned for a Superpower to resurrect the dead. What wouldn’t I give to resurrect my Granny who passed away after losing two out of three of her sons? I have read enough books to know that it is a bad idea to summon the dead but the temptation was too strong.

Love knocked at my door in the form of a man, and I was healed with the warmth of his love that melted my frozen heart. The Superpower I sought in that phase of my life was to Siphon all his pain and regrets while loving unconditionally and without judgement. What a beautiful relationship it would be where I could be his anchor, and he could be my launching pad.

Today the Superpowers I seek are to Heal and to have Money in abundance.
You might be thinking that I am asking that out of Greed and Avarice, but that is not the truth. The truth is I have seen so much suffering around me; every soul is in pain, every heart is pining and more often than not the reasons are depravity of money and health. I want to make the lives I touch better for people. No, I don’t want to be a messiah. Nor do I want to be praised or credited for my excellent work; but I know I am a Philanthropist, lover of humankind.

Now I want to tell you one secret. The most coveted secret. Every Superpower I ever desired, I had them all in me. I could Teleport, all I needed was an air ticket and passport. I could Transcend into my books as I read them. While reading them, I lived their lives, and I am happy to have lived that many experiences in one lifetime.I was better than a computer. I could improve my cognizant and comprehensive skills with enough practice and dedication. I could always control time, all I needed was a camera. I could look at the pictures that acted as portals and took me back in that moment where my father was still alive. I could control the mind; I didn’t know it. All I needed was firm resolve and determination to condition my mind to stay happy and confident and exude that aura to my mother and see her smile again, dance again. I did have the power to Siphon pain; I just had to listen with patience and offer words of comfort because it works like magic.

Moreover, last but not the least, I can heal people, and I am the wealthiest person on Earth, and I do it every time I do my bit towards the poor, the hungry and the sick in whatever resources I have at my disposal. I didn’t need a lot; I only needed the inclination which I always had. I couldn’t help all, but I could support that one person to whom it would mean the world.

On a parting note. I am a Superhuman. I am Mythical. I am a Phoenix. I turn to ashes many times, but every time I am at the lowest, I am reborn from my ashes.

MY CONTRADICTING PHOBIAS

Every human action, every deed, every intention, all over the universe, at a very fundamental level, is instigated by one of the two factors. One, is, of course, love. Deeds done out of love.And the second one is fear. Deeds done out of fear. Behind every act, at the most root level, lies the seeds of either love or fear.

Childhood is the most impressionable age for the mind and its perspective of the environment. Most of our Phobia’s or Fear’s germinate in our youth. The very malleable and ductile psyche of a child is prone to get affected by any scary or frightening events for a lifetime. They are our core memories, and they often turn into unfounded fears that haunt us all our coming years.

Kids know many fears – fear of the darkness, fear of the ghosts, fear of the unknown, fear of strangers, fear of dogs, fear of punishment, fear of loss, and many more. Usually, these concern vanish as we grow older and become first teenagers, then adults. But some people never get over their childhood fears.

This is the very reason that we tend to save our children from witnessing violence or unnatural phenomenon. We all go through few such instances, and hence we all have our unique set of fears and phobias, some that are reasonable and logical and some unfounded and illogical.

A phobia is an irrational fear of something. Unreasonable meaning that there’s no reason to be afraid of it. Although a phobia is very similar to fear ‒ but the reaction to the threat is exponentially stronger, enough that it interferes with their daily activities. You see something that reminds you of something that scared you very strongly, the feeling of panic you experience reinforce the visual stimuli, which in turns reinforces the kinesthetic part of it and you are in a vicious circle feeding itself, and the panic is uncontrollable.

Fears are natural, normal and human to experience. They carry, within them, lessons and opportunities for growth. How we respond to our fear is what determines the usefulness of the fear. Fear can be the engine that impels us forward or the brake that keeps us grounded but is the one who decides which one it is.

Now let me tell you a little bit about my phobias and try to fathom from where they generate. The strange thing about my phobias is that they are contradicting, let me tell you how:

1. I have Isolophobia or Monophobia, or Autophobia is the fear of being alone. It turns out I suffer from this to a great extent. I always have nightmares about being left alone or left behind. I hate separation to the limit of keeping everyone at a distance so they won’t get too close or I might have to suffer when they finally leave someday. I feel sad at small instances when my relatives leave after spending a day with me. I just hate Goodbyes. I think its roots are buried somewhere deep in my psyche. Being an only child, I was often told that someday I would have no immediate blood relatives left and that fear on.y strengthened when my father passed away. I get so paranoid with this fear that sometimes I decide to die rather than being left all alone.

And then I have Enochlophobia or Ochlophobia. Enochlophobia is the exact polar opposite of Monophobia. I suffer from this condition, and I am afraid of crowds of people, I want to be left alone. Social gatherings scare the shit out of me, and I’m always shying away from public meetings because of the crowds. Imagine suffering from this disorder if you lived in Delhi, Mumbai or even in London. Sensory overload aplenty!

Just think how terrible it gets for me because at one side I am scared of being left alone and on other, I can’t stand crowd. I am comfortable only in the company of a handful of people.

Iatrophobia is a social phobia of doctors or going to see doctors from which I suffer. This fear extends to surgeons, getting injections, getting medical diagnostics or anyone in the medical field. The effects of this phobia are bad and result in me not receiving medical treatment when suffering from medical problems. It might have stemmed from a traumatic childhood experience with a doctor, being intimidated by some doctor, or a fear of surgeries and procedures It is also from a fear of pain or a fear of catching other diseases from the doctors’ surgery I guess. I resist getting medical help to the point where it gets dangerous for me, and my mother is often left in a fix when she sees me suffer and can’t help me.

And then I have Hypochondria which is a belief that physical symptoms are signs of a severe illness, even when there is no medical evidence to support the presence of a disease. It’s one of the worst things I cope with on a regular basis. I’m sure everyone has those moments where they feel a weird pain, and they google it, and WebMD says that they’re probably dying, a simple cough could be cancer, a simple headache could be a brain tumour, a simple chest pain in heart attach and simple numbness is a stroke. All this leads to depression and anxiety which in turn make the symptoms worse, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

The good thing is I am slowly recovering from these things. I am slowly coming out of my horror. I know I drive my mom crazy because I’m always asking what’s wrong with me. When there isn’t anything wrong. I go to the Dr much more easily now. I let people go much more easily and I try to attend get-togethers and Parties. So, all in all, I am doing good.

The above two given phobias are also contradicting Phobias as they oppose each other. On one end I am dying of fear that I have some terminal disease while on another end I can’t eliminate the fear because I won’t go to a doctor or won’t get any tests done.

When it comes to phobias, one of the most influential methods to get rid of them is to meet your fears face to face. If you are afraid of snakes, go into a room with one(just make sure it’s not poisonous). For everything, there’s a basis, so you’ve got to pinpoint the exact problem, to solve THAT. Growing “tough” is not what you want. Overcoming phobia, stress, and fear is what you want to work on. You’ve got the power to resolve everything. So, the answer always lies within yourself, but it’s a method getting there. Medication and therapy help but it all depends on person to person. You probably heard things like “You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink, “ and despite how annoying it is it’s true. The thirst needs to come from within. The person overcoming a fear has to see it as a problem, except its a challenge, want to change the problem and take steps to overcome it. I would look up that particular fear and see how other people did it. Each concern is different and needs to be treated as such.

Have fun, smile, and live life to the fullest EVERY DAY. ‘Carpe Diem.

HUNT THAT TALENT MINE

Yes, every person has a hidden talent. Hidden talent does not necessarily mean an ability or natural instincts to be the best in the world. Hidden talents could be like: a natural ability to sing melodiously, dance happily or read voraciously. Everyone has some or the other thing that they can cultivate (work on) to develop their quality of life. Yes. Theoretically speaking, humans are a complex species with a storehouse of talents. The skills of a person are shown only on exposure to favourable situations. So, since not everyone gets favourable circumstances to express their talent, there are some abilities that remain “Hidden”. This is true practically too. We have seen reticent people perform well in front of an audience etc.

To make it easier for your talent to find you, you must try doing things that fascinate you. Do those things more often. If you realise that you can do a particular thing effortlessly and efficiently, understand that your talent has found you! If you enjoy doing a particular thing and people around you like you doing it too, you have figured out your talent! If you get into a state of creative flow when you do something, and you start getting public references (appreciation and praise) about you doing it, realise that you have found out your Hidden Talent!

Your hidden talents can surface at any time. All you need to do it catch it at the right place, at the right time or you will live to regret it. Try different things that interest you. Maybe you will be drawn to something that you will know is your true calling. Real life example is yours truly, I initially as a kid loved to draw and do craft work and as per me, I created some masterpieces back then and hung them on my bedroom walls with pride. Would you believe that I know learned embroidery and knitting at that small an age of 9-10? Yes, I did, I made my mother a set of handkerchiefs that were embroidered by me, I made a set of dining table placemats in Shadow work, I knitted a small Baba Suit (a woollen lower, pullover and jacket) for a new born cousin and a Muffler for my father. Then I tried to be the Mozart of my time and tried my luck at Piano, don’t ask me how the poor Piano cried after three classes and I took pity on it by the fourth class and let it go free. It ran away, screaming. Then one bright morning, during Art classes, my then school teacher told me “You have a great voice, you can be a classical singer”, and his comment made me resilient that I would be the Lata Mangeshkar one day until Bronchitis claimed me and I lost that lyrical, melodious voice. But I didn’t give up, I tried my hand at Drama, learning the Nav Ras, performed at few school plays and stage performances. I was booed and told that I sucked at it.

As a teenager, I developed a love for poetry, though however amateur and juvenile they might have been, I was proud of myself, I felt I am Rabindranath Tagore of my very own genre. Years rolled on, and my love for dance bloomed into a passion that made me wanna be the best dancer in India, time for me to be Michael Jackson. Few more yrs passed and I was the Pablo Picasso and Monet of my time as I developed a love for paintings, and trust me, I left no stone unturned. From Glass Paintings to Tanjore’s, from Marble Paintings to Relief’s and from Oil on Canvas to Embossed, I learned and mastered them all. They adorn the walls of my house even today. My mother shows them to every new visitor with pride in her eyes.

Then came the era of the love for flowers, I learned to make flowers from Origami to Quilling and from Stocking to Bread Dough, each one was close to my heart. Today, I do all my fancy packing myself, and decorate everything with my handmade flowers, not just that, my brother got married, and I did the quilling flower work decoration on each invitation card. Would you believe that I learned to Quilling, Packing and Rangoli from YouTube !!! Yes, and this I am telling you because I want you all to know that if we want to learn something, money and resources are no hindrances. Then came book reading, OMG !!! I became such a bookworm, an avid reader who could finish volumes in a couple of days. I realised books are truly a man’s best friend. Portals to another world, another time, another life. 

Next in the line came Blogging and Poetry. Yes, I see what you are thinking, I came a full circle to where I started from. But that is life; it comes a full circle. And while I am all modest about my hidden talents, let me take the privilege to buy you into a secret, not all hidden talents ate useful and noble. Some of them are notorious. Like I developed one for gaming, and Oh Boy! What gaming it was, I smashed all the scoreboards and was on top of each one, from Simulation games to RPG and from Tycoon games to Civilisation, I rocked them all. I had EA and Steam begging me to let go them. My only flaw is, Once I master a game or a talent, I start to lose interest in it. I have sacrificed many passions to my mood swings, but as I told, it wins some lose some. Today I am trying to be a writer, Yes, that is my new found passion or my Hidden Talent you can call it. And I hope that it will turn to something solid, and someday I would see my book sitting on your bookshelves. 

That is one regret I don’t have, that I never tried something that appealed to me. My next target is cooking, I know I suck at it, like big time, but I hope I will be able to manage a day’s meals on my own if I have to. As I said, try different things, and if Plan A doesn’t work you have 25 alphabets left, and if that still doesn’t work use number (in short, stay active), you will find something that triggers your hidden talent. I would be surprised if you are aware of your hidden talent, most people are not even aware whether they have one, much less as to what it is.

I believe most of us have a lot more potential within us than we ever dream we do. The more we play, experiment, and allow our curiosity and playfulness sweep us off our feet often – the more we will reveal to ourselves about our abilities.

How do we know if we don’t apply ourselves? Even if all that happens is you have a perfect time, it is time well spent – you will be releasing all kinds of useful chemicals just from enjoying yourself. You will not know unless you give it a fair shot. I would suggest taking baby steps – wade in a bit at a time and allow yourself to get comfortable there before trying a bigger challenge. If you felt energised and pulled forward, you have likely hit upon a natural ability. If you have to push yourself, stop and play in another way – that instrument, that style, that group might not be the best fit, but another one could be.

If we assume, we can develop the skills to support anything we love to do; we give ourselves permission to try.

“You are unique. You have different talents and abilities. You don’t have to always follow in the footsteps of others. And most important, you should always remind yourself that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing and have a responsibility to develop the talents you have been given.” 
― Roy. T. Bennette, The light in the Heart

Stay Driven !!!

MY SON, WITH LOVE….

He was there, on the raised dais. He looked so handsome, that calm, serene look on his face. A soft smile played on his lips. His favourite perfume was scenting the whole area. The suit was made-to-order, it looked so perfect on him. The black Tuxedo. He had ordered it just last month. Had made special demands to keep the coat a bit short, he hated long coats. His wedding ring glinted on his left hand. She had pinned the red rose in his buttonhole, added the golden pin on the tie, kissing his forehead again and again. She still remembered how proudly she had looked down on him the day he had been chosen to be a Pilot for Air Force. She had saluted him.

His face had radiated with happiness and eyes shone with pride. She could never forget that high five he gave his younger sister, hugging her, punching the air. She was his mother; everybody referred to her as “Alec’s Mum”, she could feel everything he felt in her heart. She brushed the fond memory from her mind and the tear that rolled from her cheek. She gave him a flying kiss from down there. Alec was her firstborn, her perfect son.

People went on the stage one by one, giving him flowers, kissing his forehead. Every mother dreams of this day when her son would get married. His bride stood next to him; they got married this morning in the church. His friend Ravi, who was also his best man stood on the right. Shirley was such a lovely girl. Such love radiated from her as she stood to his left. She was fiddling with her wedding ring, rolling it over and over.

And down in a perfect line were all his friends, from school, from NDA, from Air Force. They were such thick friends. He used to be the life of parties, and his friends counted on Akshay to make the party go on all night long. She scolded him badly when he came back home drunk; he would always apologise the next morning, hugging her and lifting her up till she forgave him.

He was a forgetful one. “Ma, my wallet? Ma, my file? Ma, my shoes?”, He needed her all the time, but not from today. From today he would be no more dependent on her. She heard his best friend make a speech for him; there was pin drop silence. His picture, one taken in the morning after they exchanged rings was sitting on a huge easel. The hall was packed to full. Each one who knew Alec was there. No one missed this chance. His friends would go with him to the very last.

After the speeches were done it was silence. It was time. She walked up on the dais and ran a hand over Alec’s forehead pushing his hair back; they always fell into his eyes, she kissed his cheek softly once before he was gone. Shirley hugged him and kissed his lips, resting her head on his chest. Four of his friends came forward; they were in uniform. They carried the folded flag, they closed his casket and covered it in India’s flag. She felt proud, without shedding a tear, she looked straight up. They lifted his coffin and walked out carrying him. Each one stood, saluted him. She saw her son leave; his last flight was waiting for him, his last journey.

The morning after his wedding, in his reception hall, few terrorists came into the lobby and took all the guests hostage. Police and armed forces surrounded the building, but none could rescue them. The rebels made demands and threatened to kill the hostages if those demands weren’t met with. Alec and his friends couldn’t do much without any weapons, but they fought back valiantly. Alec managed to sneak into the kitchens and got some knives from the kitchen. He and his friends tackled the terrorists brilliantly, wounding them enough to have them under control. Alec was getting the guests out from the back window when he saw one the terrorist take out a hidden gun from his boot and he opened fire on the guests.

Alec got to him, before any of his friends could act and was shot multiple times as he gave cover to the guests. He died on the spot. She saw it with her own eyes. She held him in his lap, soaked in his blood, crying her heart out. This was his funeral. Her son was a hero. He gave his life for his country and saved each one. Each man and woman present felt indebted to her beloved son. She wiped her eyes for the last time and gave her last salute to Lieutenant Alec McGraw.

Salute to the Unknown Soldier…

AN EYE OPENER FOR THE TRULY BLIND

I closed my eyes and walked around my room. The room I am so familiar with. I bumped into the corner of my bed, then I banged my head on the cupboard and finally, I fell down when my feet got tangled in the phone charging wire.

This was me trying to feel what blind people live like all life long. But trust me, they have better instincts than us, with all five senses intact. They can manoeuvre around a room much better.

I always went with my father to an Andh Aashram. He wanted to donate some money and have a meal with those kids who are denied the beauty of the sight. It was an experience to remember. They ate with such cleanliness, I was ashamed to see that I had spilt some Daal, while their area was spick and span. What amazed me was the songs they played for us later, the flute, the drums, the guitar. They were all so witty and had tremendous courage. They even told me what’s the exact time in seconds rendering me speechless. I felt sad to see the quality of the food was bland and highly unacceptable. The Daal was runny and the rice was coarse. I went to the manager and talked to him about the issue. It was a perfect example of how we, the ones blessed with all senses intact, treat the less fortunate ones. He told me that more than enough money came his way to buy better foods, but what was the need, they can’t see it. I gaped at him open mouthed.

Why do we treat the ones with disability below us? They are not disabled by choice. Why do we shun them instead of embracing them? Don’t they deserve some kindness and humility, a certain degree of respect? We literally make it so difficult for them to function in the world that they often confine themselves to the four walls of their homes. Especially we the “Indians” are such hypocrites that we are literally tight-lipped when such things are asked of us.

We even go to the limit of believing that any person with a certain disability does not deserve a life partner who is normal. The exclamation of oohs and aahs of pity and sympathy we give upon hearing a blind man getting married to a normal girl are proof of our narrow-minded thinking.

Recently I was listening to radio, and a man was singing the song “Dil ki awaaz bhi sun mere fasaane pe na jaa”, his voice had a soulful quality to it, I loved it. The RJ told the singer was a visually impaired person and interviewed him. The man was so lively and full of life, I heard the whole interview. He told his love story, that ended into a love marriage. Smiling the whole time I was ecstatic to know that he married a woman who was normal in all ways despite the objection of her family. At the end of the show, he made one request to his in-laws, “Please accept me and my family as your own, my kids are normal, they have been gifted with sight and they often ask about their maternal grandparents, please don’t devoid them of your love, even if you don’t accept me”. Tears welled up in my eyes upon hearing his message, his wife’s family was so angry at her for marrying a blind man, even though she was happy, with a loving husband who earned well and took care of her. Who had two beautiful kids? Is being different such a big crime ???

Can a blind person still become a medical doctor?

To answer this question, President Maurer invited Dr. Tim Cordes, a practicing physician completing his last year of residency, to appear on the agenda immediately preceding the presentation of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin awards. Dr. Cordes was a recipient of a National Federation of the Blind scholarship in 1995, and in the presentation that follows he speaks not only to the pioneering spirit of Dr. Bolotin, but to our current generation of blind pioneers who explore the new frontier in the twenty-first century. 

Seeing the disability and not the person is the worst thing that you can do to a blind person. People feel ashamed to be the friends of the blind. I had a classmate in school, her sister was blind. She shunned her sister and accused her of being born. She often told us that due to her all her family and friends avoid calling her to parties and outings. She was so offended with her sister being blind that she cursed her parents for imposing rules on her that she has to accompany her sister everywhere she goes and try to get her more social. The eye opener for her came on the day when her dress caught fire on Diwali and her blind sister smelled it before anyone, else did and she immediately emptied a water bucket on my friends head, saving her life.

The ones who are already isolated by birth or by accidents are kept in further isolation by us, the society. The max we offer them is our pity and sympathy. People are more than their conditions or the way they look. yes, blind people rely on touch and sound more. Even without sight, people have body awareness. Feeling fit and strong is a great feeling that makes one feel attractive. Getting compliments or enjoying the feel of a cashmere sweater can make anyone feel attractive. A good perfume can make them feel Sensual. They have all the feelings we do. They are just sightless, not heartless. People with disabilities are just people. They may do things differently but they are capable and individual.

Paridhi Verma, a 21-year-old visually impaired girl from Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, has surpassed everyone’s expectations and landed a job. There were many who thought that such a feat would be impossible for this young girl with her severe visual impairment. However, her recent offer from a micro-finance bank as a customer relationship executive has left everyone pleasantly surprised.

There is no need to “feel bad” for these people. Just treat them like you would treat any other person, scold them if they are rude, fight that blind friend just like friends fight and then make up later. Try to deliver them what they lack, a feeling of normalcy. Just because a person has a disability doesn’t mean doesn’t mean their life can’t be beautiful because they can’t see. It’s just a small part of who they are.

They have the same desires for safety, shelter, food, clothing, financial security, health, love, family and friends. They need compassion too, sympathy too, but at the right time and for the right reason.

What I feel proud of are movies like Kaabil, Koshish, Black and Sparsh, that make us see how able and how smart disabled people are at times. At least our Hindi Cinema is trying to make people more aware of the way we need to act with a disabled person.

I hope that no one has to go through the severe ache of such a disability, but if they do, I pray that they get all the support they can from society and its people.

Open your eyes, don’t be blinded by prejudices!

PS: A photographic documentation is of a fashion show by blind people for blind people.

GROOM ON SALE!

“Rakhungi naino huzoor, Laado ko main dur na dungi
Bangla bhi dungi, aji Motor bhi dungi
Sona to dungi zaroor, Laado lo main dur na dungi”

My granny used to sing this song when she was overwhelmed with love for me; I would be sitting in her lap, thinking WOW! Someday I will get married, and granny would give me so many things, but not get me married far off. This is the psychology of most Indian parents. They are ready to shower the groom and his family in all the riches but want to see their daughter’s happiness at any cost. But sadly, more often than not, the exact opposite happens. Instead of buying her the love of her husband and in-laws, they buy her misery, torture, pain, exploitation, not just physically but emotionally and mentally.

Usually, when we hear any case of dowry killing, burning of newlywed brides, etc., we curse the in-laws, call them names, do some tut tut, and then sympathise with the girl’s parents. But has anyone ever thought that they are no less guilty and involved in her death than her in-laws? Yes, Indian parents often start to think daughter as a burden right from her birth (which often leads to infanticide) because they know that at the time of her marriage they will be expected to give a hefty amount as dowry, which means lifelong struggle and even after she is wed they won’t be free from financial pressure.

Parents often come to know that the groom’s party is greedy right before marriage but decide to fulfil their demands in the name of honour and custom. After marriage they again come to know that their daughter is being harassed by in-laws, and yet again they try to satisfy the greed of the son-in-law, telling the daughter to keep quiet as well, as things will get better with time. The final act of her murder is committed when she comes back to them, seeking shelter and refuge, but instead of letting her know that they are there for her and won’t let her suffer more, they send her back to her in-laws in the name of society and humiliation. The result; they lose their daughter forever.

If the same amount of money that was spent in her dowry was spent in her higher education that was denied to her, she might have lived and lived happily. In the form of education, they could have handed her the weapons to fight any exploitation. They could have made her a self-dependent, self-respecting and self-sufficient individual. But sadly no, the ultimate destination for any girl in India is marriage. In other words, if she is married, living in her husband’s house, has kids, she is HAPPY! No one bothers to know if her husband beats her if she in-laws have turned her into maid without pay if she is standing on the precipice of insanity or suicide.

22292A total of 24,771 dowry deaths has been reported in the country in past three years which means 22 deaths per day and nearly one dowry death every hour. And often she is given the most painful and gruesome death; she is burnt alive.

Would you believe me if I tell you that dowry originated to protect the women? Earlier in India the British Raj prohibited women from having any rights over property, it meant that all her inheritance from parents would be given to the husband, this was the way parents gave her, her dues. The girl’s parents would give her enough land, jewellery, etc. to enable her to have an income of her own as well as assets in times of adversity. Soon it took the form of greed from the groom’s side wherein the marriage became a financial deal instead of a relation.

Today the sacred union called marriage has been reduced to the mere financial transaction; it has become just another business deal where grooms are on display, and the bride’s parents are the purchasers. The higher the degree of the boy, the higher the dowry. But the sad part is, even after paying the asked price, the buyers make a lost deal.

Now if you come to hypocrisy, We are the most skilful hypocrites in the world. All of us are experts at practising virtue at a distance. On first encounter every boy’s father invariably remarks – ‘we don’t need anything. Whatever you give is your choice. It will be after all a gift to your daughter. The demand is never openly made. Someone from groom’s family will innocuously ask about items being given to the bride so that they will not purchase the same for the bride’s room in their house. “What will be the point in duplicating the purchase of a Television, fridge, washing machine, play station, double bed, dressing table, safe, decorative items, modular kitchen, car, etc.? It would be better if the monetary value of these items is calculated and cash is given to groom to purchase items of his liking.” It’s like a naming a ceremony, replace the word “Dowry” with ” father’s gift to his daughter”.

For the sake of materialistic possessions, a woman is treated far worse than one would treat his animal. If I begin to tell you that in how many ways a woman is tortured, you will be amazed that god’s most beautiful creation, given the status of a goddess is subjected to such inhumanity. They will do just about anything to vent out their anger on her, break her will, drive her to suicide, and if she is strong enough not to commit that sin, they incinerate her. Starvation p, marital rape, imprisonment within the house, physical violence, denying her access to her children, taunting, demoralising, threatening, abusing them in front of people, suspending all social interaction and not allowing her to meet her parents.

b24f7c083ec4c102a481a8e4e360ebf1.jpgThe Indian penal court has clearly stated that giving and taking of dowry is a punishable crime under section 304B, that anybody found guilty of this crime will be convicted to punishment, whereas the cases of dowry death will be given minimum seven years of jail time to probably life time imprisonment. This custom is covertly but widely practised all over the country. In fact, it’s being consumed that this law might be altered as it is found that in 10% of cases, it’s being misused by women.

Marriage is the celebration of love. GREED has to be removed out of the equation. Let’s all take the Dowry Pledge.

1. If you happen to be a boy, DO NOT demand dowry. If your family happens to be the sorts who would, please make it clear that you do not wish to be part of something as lowly as THIS, in the name of tradition.
2. If you happen to be a girl, DO NOT agree to marry into a family that demands dowry. In fact, there is no such thing as ‘family demanding dowry’. The boy is the part of the family and if he wants he can put his foot down and disagree to any dowry being demanded from the girl’s side. If he isn’t doing that, show him the door. He is not worth it. If he can’t stand up for something right at this moment, he won’t play in the future as well.
3. If you happen to be the girl’s parents, DO NOT marry your daughters into a family that gives or takes dowry in any form. File a complaint against the family who makes a dowry demand – Ok. You have rejected the marriage proposal from the household who demanded dowry. Do not keep quiet. Your complaint may save an innocent from being harassed or burned to death.
4. If you happen to be the innocent onlooker, DO NOT be part of that wedding, boycott it. Say “I will not attend or support weddings where I am aware that dowry and extravagant gifts have been demanded and given.”

A father can give no bigger gift than his daughter, a piece of his heart.

Remember, Dowry Isn’t Gift!

FARM TO FORK: AS HUNGRY MOUTHS WATCH

Yesterday, while coming back from a relative’s house after distribution of Diwali gifts, my car was standing still in the bottleneck traffic jam of Delhi. I was looking here and there to distract myself when I saw a little boy holding the hand of an even smaller girl, begging for food. “We haven’t eaten in two days, please give food. Give anything that’s food”, they repeated this one line constantly making me shiver by their misery. Torn clothes, caked with dirt, empty eyes and hungry faces over a body that was nothing but skeleton wrapped in a thin layer of skin (not flesh). Like all Delhites I tried to give them a pass, and looked the other way, but their innocent faces drew my attention to them (we are bound to ogle at disasters, psychologically proven), and I felt my airway close as I kept some money in their hands saying “buy something to eat”. Just then I saw a restaurant emptying it’s dustbins into a garbage truck. And in there was food, food in huge quantities. I wanted to open my window and shout, tell them to not just throw it all away, instead give some to the little kids, but no use, the traffic moved just then and the food was in the dumpster, and since then I am not able to get those two conflicting sights out of my mind.

Wastage of Food, it’s a very serious issue that we face. How can we tolerate such injustice that’s happening day in and day out in front our eyes, in fact, we are party to it? I won’t lie, I myself have left food on my plate after I felt I was full or sometimes just because I served more on my plate or didn’t like the dish. Lately, I have been trying to get rid of this habit. The problem today is not world population, cause there is enough food being produced to feed each and every mouth, the problem is wastage.

Hunger is the biggest problem humanity is facing right now. All man’s fights begin and end with this one basic need of survival. Imagine how uncomfortable you are if you go hungry for an hour or two. Now think about what it must feel like for a day, two days or more.

According to a recent report by UNEP and the World Resources Institute (WRI), about one-third of all food produced worldwide, worth around US$1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems. When this figure is converted to calories, this means that about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten.

Usually, food is wasted like this : 

  • Leftovers – this is usually because too much food has been prepared or put on the plate.(moms love, I know)
  • Partially used food – this includes food not used but also leftovers which end up at the back of the fridge but never get reused.(bachelors special)
  • Passed its use by date – applies mainly to dairy, meat, and fish which wasn’t used on time.(vegetarians and vegans got an edge here)
  • Food went off – smelt bad, looked bad, tasted bad – this food had a chance but was managed badly.(time to show off my smelling power)
  • Passed its best before date – this usually impacts things like bread and other staples that waste away in the cupboard.(yeah, when you see the fungi)
  • Badly prepared – never easy to say it but sometimes the food prepared just didn’t taste great. (sorry Mom)
  • Change of plans – this happens but if you can manage the food you were going to use quickly then it can still be part of your future !(that’s my thing)

We have even been taught to pray before each meal with closed eyes and joined palms, thanking God for the meal He provided. But INDIANS waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes – a statistic that may not so much indicative of our love of surfeit, as it is of our population. Still, food wastage is an alarming issue in India. Our street and garbage bins, landfills have sufficient proof to prove it.

Weddings, canteens, hotels, social and family functions, households spew out so much food. According to the United Nations Development Programme, up to 40% of the food produced in India is wasted. About 21 million tons of wheat are wasted in India and 50% of all food across the world meets the same fate and never reaches the needy. In fact, according to the agriculture ministry, Rs. 50,000 crore worth of food produced is wasted every year in the country. Just imagine the farmer who plowed that field, his wife who spread the seed, his son who watered them timely, his daughter who was beyond herself to see it harvest. Can you face them as you throw that plateful of rice in the bin?

Few facts you might not know about food waste:

1. 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year (OMG!)
2. Just one-quarter of all wasted food could feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world who suffer from hunger (wow)
3. Food waste in rich countries (222 million tons) is approximately equivalent to all of the food produced in Sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons)
4. Food waste in Europe alone could feed 200 million hungry people (oh boy!)

Reducing wastage of food is challenging. It’s tough but not impossible, the only thing needed is that each one must bring the change. Solving world hunger requires people coming together from all career fields including agriculturists, nutritionists, economists, community builders, journalists and more. It has to be, it must be, a collective effort, a huge step taken in the same direction to end hunger and malnutrition.

The things that can be done to bring down food wastage:

  1. Shop smart and realistically: It sounds simple, but this is one of the most important things you can do. When you go food shopping, make sure you don’t buy too much food. “Plan out your meals, and make a detailed shopping list with the ingredients you’ll need, and when you’re in the store really stick to that list”
  2. When cooking, don’t over-serve food: The idea of massive portions is partly driven by restaurant culture, but it’s started to trickle into our homes. 
  3. Save – and actually eat – leftovers: In the same vein, make sure you save uneaten food when you either cook too much or you get too much food at a restaurant. 


  4. Store food in the right places: “Storing food in the right place is really underrated, It’s often surprising what kinds of fruits and vegetables want to be at room temperature versus in the refrigerator.”
  5. Avoid clutter in your fridge, pantry, and freezer: If we forget something’s there until it’s no longer good to consume, that’s a huge waste. Keep things neat and visible, and use the “first in, first out” principle: After you buy new groceries, move the older products to the front so you consume them first.
  6. Treat expiration and sell-by dates as the guideline: When it comes to expiration and sell-by dates, “Trust your senses instead of the date on the package. Trust your sense of smell and sight and taste,”.

  7. Keep track of what you throw away: Manage a waste log to keep an eye on what you’re throwing out, so you can prevent doing the same in the future.
  8. Donate to food banks and farms: Before you throw away excess food, look into food banks and charities where you can bring items you know you’re not going to consume before they go bad, and give them to people in need.
  9. Try canning and pickling: Canning is a great way to preserve food (especially fruit) and increase its shelf life for months.(I once preserved strawberries, they tasted yummy)
  10. Use helpful apps and gadgets: There are various tools and apps that aim to help people avoid food waste.
  11. Try composting, but don’t focus on it: Rather than discarding scraps, you can compost certain foods and turn it into nutrient-rich compost.

Remember, these small and little things, if kept in mind and brought into the daily habit can feed a hungry mouth, can warm a cold belly.

Easier said than done friends. Easier preached than practiced. Yet, efforts must be made and they will be made. I begin with myself, do you???

Bon Appetite!