A LITTLE EFFORT HAS A BIGGER IMPACT

For me, festivals and birthdays mean a lot of work and preparations. Still, I manage to enjoy it. Like every person, I too look forward to my birthday and I feel extremely happy when the day arrives. When I was a kid, I used to wait desperately for my birthday cake and gifts. I would choose the best dress and would live my “princess moment”. This happened every year until I celebrated it in a different way.

I was in 11th standard. I was heading back home after evening classes. The chilly winter wind was trying its best to penetrate through my jacket. The more it went windy, the faster I walk. I went to confectionery and ordered my favorite Gulab Jamun. I came out of the confectionery and found a girl staring inside the glass door. I could sense hunger and helplessness in those eyes. I asked “Bhookh lagi hai?” (Are you hungry?). She chose to remain silent. I took out a piece of sweet and gestured her to take it. She kept staring at the sweet for 2-3 minutes. And then she hesitatingly took it. I could see bliss in her eyes. I bought her few chocolates. I got immense pleasure and that was incomparable. Since then, I try my best to have a good time with poor kids.

Yesterday was my birthday. And due to some reasons, I couldn’t celebrate it. I and my cousin share the same birth-date. So yesterday he was celebrating his birthday. He bought a cake and went on the street. He called the hard-up kids for celebrating his birthday. Four kids surrounded him and were so happy. My cousin cut the cake and fed one of the kids with his hand. I am sure he must be happy. This made me so glad.

There have been numerous occasions when I have celebrated Diwali and other festivals with such people. The happiness on their face is divine. The crackers and sweets can make you happy for a moment. However, when you do such deeds, you get lifetime happiness. I know you would say one can’t bring contentment to everyone. But when we stretch helping hands to people, gloominess will turn into gladness.

I wish someday I will celebrate an occasion at an orphanage or at an old-age home. By this, I can be a reason for their happiness, at least for an instance. When you put your effort into making someone happy, then you get mental peace and you feel delighted. It is not necessary to spend a huge amount. But a little effort is appreciated all the time. Our society and many organizations are joining their hands for uplifting the underprivileged and malnutrition kids. Therefore, let us be a part of this noble deed. Being a reason for someone’s happiness is a blessing.

Advertisements

WHAT ARE DIFFERENT WAYS TO CELEBRATE?

Last few years, we have been playing a fun game called “Secret Santa” just before Christmas. It is a lot of fun and basically involves exchanging gifts in secrecy. We always used to fix an amount of money that people should not exceed. However almost every time, there will be one or the other person who would exceed the budget to show off the kind of gifts he/she can buy.

In the year 2017, I played a different kind of “Secret Santa”. There was an organization which was collecting Christmas wishes from kids living in the orphanages. They hardly have the luxury to exchange gifts. This organization then placed a huge ball of wishes in the middle of our campus. Each one of us was supposed to take up a wish and fulfill it for the child. We would never get to meet the child nor would we be able to see the expression on their faces when they receive the gift. But still many of us picked up more than one wish. Some of them really cute and few were emotional.

Those kids were asked to write down their wishes to Santa. Some of them wrote that they wanted a doll or a book or a car. Some of them even wrote that they wanted a family. Most of us tried our level best to fulfill their wishes to the best of our ability. And we so wanted to see how kids react to our gifts.

For me – that was the best “Secret Santa” that I ever played. It was really secret and brought joy to somebody who really needed it.

I ended up wondering why can’t we celebrate every festival in a similar way? Why do we need the decorations, sweets, gifts etc to celebrate a festival?

I realized that it is all about passion. If one is passionate about caring for the poor, they will find ways to work on it. Just like this organization did and they did it beautifully. If one is passionate only for his/her own pleasure, they will work on themselves only. They will show-off, buy big stuff for home, expensive clothes for the family, beautiful gifts for friends etc. There is nothing wrong with enjoyment but in my view, it should have a purpose other than satisfying one’s own desires.

Simple things can help take a big step towards this

  1. Why not share home-made Diwali sweets with underprivileged kids?
  2. Why not decorate an old age home just like you would do to your own on Diwali or Christmas?
  3. Least that can be done is to invite the family of your house help on festivals to celebrate together. Maybe visit their homes as well.
  4. Every republic day and independence, take up a project of planting trees or filling potholes or spot-fixing a garbage area.
  5. Make decorations using recycled material
  6. Make sure the all our idols that are immersed in water are environment-friendly.

I only listed down a few examples. There can be a million ways to give back to society during our own festival celebrations. Only if we make it our mission to do so, it is possible otherwise like most of us, we will always end up prioritizing our own desires over anything and everything else.

One of the biggest problem in our “Big Fat Indian Weddings” is the wastage of food. Of course, a lot of other things are wasted too and to top the list is the clothing and jewelry. But food wastage saddens me the most because usually close by the wedding halls are the slums who has kids and adults sleeping with an empty stomach. It could be so easy if we could just give away tons of food that turned out to be extra to these beggars and slums sleeping hungry. The only problem here is to arrange for logistics. There is some organization who have started this work, but in my view, the families of the bride and groom and the wedding point owners should take it up as their duty to ensure that every bite of the food cooked goes to a hungry person.

Do not waste. Every time you know that something is getting wasted, raise your voice and find out ways to get it to the person who can use it. It is so simple, only if this becomes a way of living life.

I am struggling to get there and I believe many more are. A lot of us want to do good but just don’t know how. Here is a simple solution – make it a mission of your life and you will find a way.

Celebrate because you love the festival and spirit behind not because it is supposed to be done in a certain way.

CELEBRATIONS – WHAT HAS CHANGED?

In India, there was a time when almost every day of the year was a festival. Festival celebration was an aid to bring enthusiasm and happiness In the 1950s and prior to that, festivals were never restricted to family and friends, such was the importance of it. Culturally as well, if there is anything good happening in our family, like welcoming a newborn into this world, someone recovering from a serious illness, according to our beliefs we offer a prayer. There is more to prayer than visiting a temple. We celebrate the occasion by serving food to poor people, it’s called ‘anna daanam’ which literally translates to giving food to the needy. Giving what we have, what we can be considered holy.

In earlier days, there was a definitive way in which festivals were celebrated. Not just the festivals, birthdays, anniversaries were celebrated differently. To celebrate a birthday of kid, the kid was encouraged to distribute clothes to the needy. Blessings from poor people are the most important part than other things we do on that day. Sharing and caring for those who are in need were always part of our culture. Over time this has changed. The impact is that we are no more concerned about the poor. 

Take Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations as an example. We never had 70 feet idols, 100 KG laddu’s (sweet treat) to celebrate the festival. Millions of rupees are spent on setting up the idol, maintaining it for a duration of 9 – 11 days. A festival that started as a family affair now is celebrated nationwide at a scale where billions of rupees are exchanged, if I may say so, billions of rupees are wasted. 

The most recent Christmas. Earlier only Christians used to celebrate Christmas. Now almost people from all religions celebrate it, which is a good thing. Kids are all excited to decorate the Christmas tree and happily receive their gifts. I was at my friends’ place a couple of weeks before Christmas. My friend found a letter in her son’s room. “Dear Santa, you know I have been a good boy. I got good grades and haven’t bothered anyone. I would love mummy and daddy. Please give me the Nintendo switch and also new bicycle. Love you Santa”. 

My friend came out of the room with a burst of big laughter and said, “See what he is asking for.. gifts worth more than 500$. Did we ever do that? We never even used to ask if we want something. Such was the discipline we were brought up in and these kids seem to take these gifts for granted. I want to teach him the value and he should earn the gift by doing something significant”. She made him pack all the old toys he was no more using and told him that she is gonna give away the toys to some other kids. He was not ready to share them, my friend convinced him saying he should let other kids play with those toys if he needs a new one. He reluctantly agreed at the end. 

Holidays are about spreading the love. Holidays are about treating others with compassion. Nothing has changed from olden days to know about festivals or celebrations. What has changed is how we look at them. It is not buying new clothes, organizing grand parties, or party hard till late at night and wake up with a hangover. It is not buying costly gifts or toys for kids. Is there anyone who we can help? How about picking up your phone and inviting an old friend over lunch? Pay a visit to the dog shelter and give a shower to them? Buy clothes or food for someone in need. Spend some time with elders in old age home. Please don’t spend all the money and energy in gifting someone who may not be very grateful for it, instead help someone who really is in need of something. The fulfillment we get doing something to others is a greater joy than everything else.

SHARE TO CARE

Eyes protruding
like the bones in the body
perpetually dwindling vision
yet the taste buds on an urge
to taste the essence of food
that quench their hunger.

Thousands of kids are left hungry in the developed countries. Even when there is plenty of production of food happening everywhere, the needy still be the needy of the same. According to recent surveys, the study focus on wastage of food that is occurring everywhere, which is about 30 % of food produced for the consumption which again equates to 1.3 billion tonnes of food per annum. Economically this food wastage causes $940billion a year as quoted by the Foodcloud.

Even though food waste is apparently happening everywhere, the amount of food wastage in developing countries are on the high end. When one end of the city is troubling with hunger and malnutrition, the other end is celebrating the feasts and once the housed levels are filled, the rest of the food is just thrown away.

The food wastage is most commonly seen during the festive season when unusual food wastage happens at an uncontrollable rate. I personally have seen numerous instances, wherein we tend to buy food more than we ever need and it goes wasted.
Food is one thing, that is refused once you are filled, unlike money.

In recent years, overseeing the amount of food wasted in parties and get-togethers, we all family members decided to give away the food, to the needy. We ensured that we never gave away the leftovers.

Food redistribution, which is veering the surplus amount of food that we bring in during celebrations are given to charitable institutions, which is one way to ensure that no one stays hungry and the food is reached in the right stomach.

Many organizations are on the urge to bring up a food reviving system, to ensure that poverty doesn’t cause malnutrition, by sufficient supply of food.

Giving the needy is the soundest charity

India is rich in customs and traditions, we all follow a lot many traditions to upkeep our culture. Most of the occasions like poojas, most of the families, unlike a few who are still remaining orthodox, prefer to feed the needy than call up the neighbouring kids who are well off.

Now society is gearing up a little bit to eradicate malnutrition, with redistribution of food. Let us all pledge not to waste food and channelize the surplus to the needy.

To conclude :
You can only have more for yours when you ought to share a piece of it“.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART X

Kamya and Samar were all smiles as their eyes went over the crowd of kids in all ages and sizes. Two boys were scuffling over a toy truck, a small girl was learning how to play the harmonica from a boy her age a, and a tiny baby girl was crawling between the beds. Kamya picked up the crawling baby girl and held her while the baby touched her cheek with his small hands. Kamya closed her eyes and pressed the baby to her bosom, ‘Oh! What joy it is to hold a baby.’ She thought while Samar beamed at her and nodded.

He ran a hand on the baby’s head, and she cooed, making babbling noises, and the couple couldn’t help but laugh. Mr. and Mrs. Shaw were watching this from the sides; this was not a rare scenario for them. Every couple who comes to take a baby home for adoption was the same, full of love, hope, and faith. How many have left happily with a baby, innumerable! Wasn’t it such injustice that their parents abandoned these kids while someone else comes to take them home. The Shaws had seen both sides of parentage without being a parent themselves.

While Kamya played with the baby girl, Samar gave her some space. A woman needs to be sure she has chosen the right baby to be a mother too. Samar was himself a psychotherapist and knew about feelings and emotions better than other people. Samar let his wife take her time while he strolled between the kids, observing them, smiling at their antics. And his eyes fell on Sia who was busy with her colouring book. He went on his haunches to see what she was drawing.

Sia stopped colouring when she saw the strange man kneel next to her and looked up, then eyed the Kamya and the baby girl with longing in her eyes. Samar didn’t fail to notice that.

“Hello, Princess! May I see what Her Highness is painting?”, Samar asked in a courteous, grown-up manner.

Sia smiled, her mother too called her ‘Princess’. She extended her drawing book towards him, and he took it with a ‘Thank you My Majesty’.

He flipped the pages; each page was a tale in itself. A tale of a family, of death, of estrangement. He looked at Sia with pain in his eyes. The colourful pages had a castle and a family and an even a funeral pyre. Samar gave her back her book.

“You too were playing hide and seek with your baby girl?” Sia asked with her eyes on Kamya. Samar turned her head in his wife’s direction who was busy getting accustomed to the baby.

He nodded, and Sia went on, “Would you keep one secret if I tell you?”, there was wonderment in Sia’s brown eyes.

Samar nodded, “My Mom too will come to take me. We too are playing hide and seek. I have to wait…” She counted the days on her fingers and added, “Eighty more days.” Sia told a stunned Samar.

Samar wanted to know more and probed with utmost care. He whispered to let Sia feel it was confidential. “Yes, she will come back. What’s her name?”

“I am Princess Sia, and my mother is Meera,” Sia told Samar.

Samar ruffled her hair, and she went back to her drawing. He was in the main office with The Shaws and was signing the legal contract for the baby girls adoption. Besides him Kamya sat with tears of happiness in her eyes, she was a mother now, officially. They named the baby ‘Muskaan‘ as she came in their lives like a smile.

When all the formalities were over, he broached Sia’s topic to Mr Arijit Shaw. “Mr Shaw, I have a rare, rather unusual request,” Samar said.

Arijit exchanged a worried look with Renuka, they both had made sure the couple’s background was good, practically and theoretically, and they had the baby, what could they need now.

Arijit cleared his throat and crossed his fingers on the table between the two couple and asked, “I am all ears.”

“That little girl…Sia, it’s about her.” Samar said and had made his wife look at him curiously along with The Shaws.

“She claims her mother will come to take her back in some three months time. And I want to take her with us till her return.” Samar said with confidence in his voice.

Arijit Shaw gulped and sighed, “Mr Verma I understand your concern for Sia, but kids spin all kind of tales to escape from harsh realities of life. Who knows if her mother is real or just her imagination? The child had a vivid imagination and already talks about castles and witches, so it is not unusual for her to spin a tale of Hide and Seek as a coping mechanism to deal with abandonment.”

Samar smiled, “Yes, exactly. I believe that too. You know I am a psychotherapist and know about these tendencies. I can bet my money that no one is coming back to take that kid back, but I have my hope pinned on her story, that her mother will indeed come back. Meanwhile, if you let us take her with us, we would be glad. She is waiting for her mother desperately and…” He paused rubbing his temple, “and I don’t want her to go to pieces when her mother doesn’t return to take her back. Who knows the woman is real or alive like you said.”

Renuka didn’t like the conversation at all. She fancied the opportunity to adopt Sia, and she doesn’t really want to lose that opportunity at any cost provided that her mother doesn’t come back to retake her ever. She quickly interrupted, And what if she does come back? For that reason, we can’t afford to allow Sia for adoption at any cost Mr Verma… I am really sorry.” 

“You can call me anytime in regards to Sia; I would come to take her with myself… but if we can…” Samar could not complete his sentence as Mr Shaw again interrupted as he felt the emotions of his own wife. 

“Alright Mr Verma, we will discuss that later… As for Muskaan, give us one day to think. Tomorrow you can come and take her with you, we need to tie the loose ends of the paperwork.” Arijit Shaw said, and Samar shook his hand.

While driving back to his home, he looked at Kamya who had tears in her eyes. He knew why she was so quiet. She too once was promised that her father would take her back, but he never did. He left her with a friend and never returned. She went mad waiting for him, and when she got a handful to tackle, her caretakers had handed her over to an orphanage. As she grew up, she was repeatedly raped by the men of the orphanage until she ran killed her rapist and was jailed. She was put under psychiatric care by the court, and he was her treating Dr He fell in love with her and cured her with his care and respect. But the men who exploited her innocence had rendered her infertile. And five years after their marriage he had convinced her to adopt a child.

He loved Kamya and didn’t want another girl to end up like Kamya.

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART IX

Meera could not sleep a wink. She was missing Sia and also the thought of carrying another man’s child was bothering her more than she thought. She went to the breakfast area to get some warm milk. She was standing at the counter lost in thoughts while the milk spilled all over the floor. She could not help but just cry. Another lady approached her and introduced herself as Radha. Meera had a startled look on her face.

Radha asked Meera if she was doing ok. Meera didn’t know if she should talk to Radha. Without much hesitation, she let her feelings out. She told Radha how much she disliked the fact that she is going to sleep with another man. Radha is a surrogate mother who is already into her 35th week of gestation. “Please stop crying Meera. You don’t have to sleep with a man to carry the child. They would perform a small procedure in which they are going to implant an embryo into your uterus.“said Radha. “What is embryo?” asked Meera..

Radha felt the need for Meera to understand the whole process before she makes a decision. She requested Meera to accompany her to a room adjacent to the dormitory where they were provided accommodation. Meera followed her without a word. Radha explained the coordinator that Meera is incognizant of the process. She knew they would help Meera with the required details which would make her feel better. The co-ordinator took care of the rest.

Meera felt relieved after she understood the process. She thought to herself, “I would be helping a childless couple to have joy and happiness in their life. Surrogacy is sacred. I should take good care of this baby and give them a healthy one. The only problem is how am I going to manage this alone? I don’t have anyone in this city. Whatever happens, let God handle it. All I want now is Sia’s future to be secured“. She entered the room where she met the doctor yesterday.

After few mins, the doctor arrived with Meera’s reports. “The reports all look fine Meera. Just one question before I proceed, all surrogate mothers should have given birth to atleast one child. You did too. Where is your child?” inquired the doctor. Meera didn’t know whether or not to answer that question. While she was lost in thoughts, there was a knock on the door. The doctor said, “Looks like the prospective parents have arrived”. “Come-in” she said in a loud voice.

A middle aged man and his wife arrived into the room. They greeted the doctor and looked at Meera. Doctor introduced them to each other, “Meera, this is Mr and Mrs. Mehta. Mr and Mrs. Mehta, this is Meera, the surrogate“. Meera could notice happiness in Mrs. Mehta’s eyes. “Mr and Mrs Mehta, Meera is healthy and is in a good condition to take pregnancy. We can start the process if you two are ready“.

Mr Mehta looked straight into Meera’s eyes and said, “Meera, first of all thank you for considering this. We have not had a child for 12 years now. We would be bearing all the hospital expenses and also take good care of you. Please don’t worry about the money. We would be happy to give you more if need be. But, please do not do this if you have been forced. If you have any questions or concerns I would be happy to help out“.

Meera gained courage to put her demand before Mr. Mehta. “Sir, I am ready to surrogate. I understand the rules and responsibilities a little better now. I thought about it and it felt noble to be able to help someone have a child. Though I do not prefer to take money, I need that money for my daughter. I do not need more money but I would be accept to surrogate on one condition. I want my daughter back. I want her back“. She started crying uncontrollably.

Where is your daughter?“, asked Mr. Mehta.

I do not know Sir. I left her at a church. I don’t know where she is“, said Meera.

Meera, don’t worry. We shall try to search for your daughter“, said Mr.Mehta.

Meera could not believe herself. Is she dreaming about all this? The very thought of being able to unite back with her daughter was enthralling her. She felt as if she was on cloud nine. With an enthusiasm she asked, “When can we go Sir?” asked Meera.

When our baby is in your womb, we will bring your daughter back“. Meera was really happy. She inquired the doctor, when would she be able to perform the embryo transplant. The doctor said it make take anywhere between one to three months for medical procedure and she should finish legal agreement before that. Meera looked puzzled and asked, which agreement? “You are delivering their baby at your will. Other financial details regarding expenses would also be mention. Remember, at this centre we won’t allow you to go outside until the baby is handed over to them.

What !!? I have to spend one year in this place“, this made Meera concerned. Meera did not know if this surrogacy is going to do any good to her or Sia. What if, just what if the man does not find Sia? She would be locked here for more than a year. After an year, if at all she has to search for Sia would it be too late. Can she live without Sia for a year?

A SNOWFLAKE’S TALE – PART VIII

Meera was crying inconsolably and cursing her fate. She was thinking that she made a big mistake by leaving Sia at the orphanage. She was shocked to see the turn of things which landed her here in this isolated cold room. Yes, Meera was feeling cold because she had never experienced the luxury of AC ever in her life. Meera closed her eyes shut but that didn’t prevent the tears from rolling down her cheeks. She was repeatedly praying to God to safeguard Sia and to make her able to fight for herself in this big bad world. Meera was loosing her hope to make out alive from this trap.

A loud thud jerked Meera out of her trance and she was surprised to see a lady doctor walk in with a few sheets of papers. Meera closely observed the lady. It was the first time in so many days that she thought she had seen a good human being. Such was the aura of that doctor.

Hi Meera. I am Dr Sudha Nair” said the doctor extending her right hand out for a handshake. Meera was too baffled to understand what is happening. Meera didn’t know how react.

The doctor continued, “First of all, I want to congratulate you Meera for this brave decision of yours. I understand that you have not been given a clarity with respect to what is expected from you and that is exactly why I am here. Meera, there are countless couples in this world who crave for having their own children but for some reason they cannot. There is a couple who wants a surrogate mother and we are considering you for the same. The couple is willing to pay 15 lacs INR in return. All that you will have to do is grow their child in your womb. They will take care of you for all 9 months including your stay, food and nutrition plus health and hygiene. Give it a good thought Meera. A commitment of just 9 months will fetch you a good life and a great future. You can take a day’s time to make up your mind. I will come back tomorrow to know your decision. Take care Meera.” Having said that, Dr Sudha turned and walked out of the room swiftly closing the door behind her with a loud thud.

The room was back to what it was. Cold and isolated. Dr Sudha’s words were echoing in Meera’s years. Meera couldn’t believe her ears. 15 lacs INR?? Meera wasn’t sure if she could even count the whole amount. This amount was more than sufficient to provide good life and education to Sia.

Meera started talking to herself. “With this money I can give a good life to Sia. I will give her education and make her a doctor… Doctor like Mrs Sudha Nair. Then I will get her married to a nice man and then I can rest in peace. God… Thank you God for answering my prayers…” Meera’s happiness heaved a sigh of relief.

And then suddenly something struck her… She mumbled in fear….”How will I grow someone else’s child in my womb? Does it mean… Does it mean that I will have to sleep with a stranger??? No..no I can’t do that.. No.. never… But then how can I get Sia back? How can I give her a good life? How can I make her a doctor? And who will marry her? God… Oh God, you are testing me, aren’t you?”

Meera was feeling giddy because of whirlpool of these thoughts. Poor lady, little did she know that she will not need to do this to rent her womb.