GLASS – HANDLE WITH CARE

I had always felt very sad and incomplete on seeing other children going to school while, I was at home all day, dreaming. I was a 10 year old boy, sitting at home with an imaginary tagline on my forehead – “Glass – Hamdle with Care“. I could only dream at that time, to be a big man one day, sitting on a table and working on a computer. But how would I reach that state of my life was nothing more than just a mirage for me at that point of time.

Finally, when the time came for me to step out of the house and enter into a school campus, my joys were leaps and bounds. I couldn’t contain them. I was admitted to the school directly into the fourth standard. It all happened because of my aunt (my mom’s elder sister). She convinced my all-possessive maternal grandfather to allow me to go to the school where she was working as a teacher. I was a thin timid boy with no courage at all, bearing the same imaginary tagline – “Glass-Handle with Care”. 

Years later, when I passed out of my school and it was time for me to get admitted into a college the tension arose in the minds of my local guardians. But I joined. The day I went for the admission I saw a senior student carrying a sword along with all his friends, protesting against the government during the Mondal Commission issue in 1992. This time, carrying the imaginary tagline “Glass-Handle with Care” by myself, I was trembling in fear looking at the rowdy students out there. This is how my first time at college started with a serious jolt down my spines.

In 1997 after my graduation, I wanted to taste freedom and fortunately, my aunt stood by my side trying to convince my grandfather to allow me to study away from them at Bhubaneswar in Utkal University for my post-graduation. My father’s elder brother was the Secretary to the Vice-Chancellor of Utkal University. I stayed at my cousin’s to complete my PG in Utkal University. But I was strictly instructed to carry my tagline, “Glass-Handle with Care” without fail.

That imaginary tagline was the chain which put me under its bondage at every ‘First Step’ I took at different stages of my life. But I could breathe free with my lungs inhaling the fresh air of freedom for the first time when I came to Kolkata, my first out of state stay. I sensed, the tagline “Glass-Handle with Care” disappearing for the first time after many years in my life. I felt God’s promise of “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go“, real and evident.

Have I become very strong? Am I free from all the sufferings? Don’t I have any weaknesses anymore? No, not at all… I have become more weak and slower. But I definitely am free from that all-encompassing negative tagline, “Glass-Handle with Care”. 

Never enjoy stagnancy but always be ready for the first time adventures relying on His divine strength.

Stay Blessed!

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MY FIRST DAY AS A FREE BIRD

“My First” is an interesting topic. I have had a few interesting encounters but I’ll mention a funny incident.

A college is a new beginning in any students’ life. After the much-disciplined life of schools there comes the college. We suddenly start thinking that we are actually grown up wand that now we can do anything we want. We feel like a free bird. After 12 years of studying in Girls’ Convent school, and 2 years of +2 in a women’s college, I got admission in Ravenshaw University for pursuing higher education. I had so many emotions running through me because for the first time I was about to step into a co-education institution. I had so many things on my mind, from what I was going to wear to how to figure out where the class would be located at. But I was not alone, three friends of +2 had also taken admission in the same university, which was sort of a relief for me. 

Finally, the day arrived when I stepped in Ravenshaw University. One of my friends had accompanied me in a rickshaw. After reaching near the gate, we waited for the other two friends. After they arrived, we exchanged some gleeful glances and entered the campus. It was huge! I call it the “Red Empire”. There is a big lawn, spherical in shape with antic street lamps neatly fitted. The buildings were red in color. And my favorite color is red! The scenic beauty, the neatness, the entire atmosphere inside the campus had won my heart. To the right-hand side of the lawn, was a big digital board which read “Welcome to Ravenshaw University”. But without wasting much time we headed for the inaugural lecture. It was to be held in Gallery No. 2. We asked a few students and made our way through the crowd to the Gallery. After walking for about 5 minutes, we could see the word “Gallery”. We smiled at each other and rushed towards it. But when we reached near the entrance door, the Gallery was nearly full and the class had begun. We exchanged “oh-no-we-are-late” looks and one of us told, “Ma’am may we come in?” The class which was totally hooked to madam’s lecture was startled by our interruption. We could even see backbenchers giggling among themselves. I felt really embarrassed. But then it was mentioned in the time table that the inaugural lecture was supposed to commence at 11 am. We are only 5 minutes late. Madam looked at us, she didn’t question, she glanced at her watch and told “okay class, we will continue tomorrow” and she got up to leave. We four exchanged puzzled looks. “Get inside”, madam said and left. 

We four got inside, but we were greeted by startled looks, “who-are-you-what-are-you-doing-here” looks. We four settled in and looked left and right to see many familiar faces. Finally, I spotted a familiar face and waved my hand. She was my school senior, she too noticed me and waved back. “What are you doing here?” she asked. “Di, actually I,..”, before I could complete, another madam entered the class. “Settle down class, we have to cover two important topics today,” she said in an urgent tone. Without any delay, she started taking attendance (Ravenshaw University is still strict regarding attendance). After finishing with the left block, she signaled the right block for attendance. We four exchanged nervous glances because we didn’t have identity cards or roll numbers!

Meanwhile, it was our turn. “Yes, your roll number”, she asked my friend. “Ma’am I don’t know”, my friend replied in a feeble voice. “What do you mean by I don’t know? Anyways yes, next”, said madam in a hurried tone. “Ma’am I don’t know my roll no”, another friend of mine replied. “What? And you?”  Madam signaled me. “You too don’t know your roll number,” she asked sharply. “No ma’am” I replied. “You all are from which department? Where are your identity cards? Wait a minute, are you all freshers??” She asked us, nearly getting up from her seat. “Yes ma’am”, four of us replied. We could hear indistinct chatter and feeble giggles from behind. “My my”, madam exclaimed. “This is the Second year, English Hons. Class, your lecture is in the Gallery No. 2 and this is Gallery No.3. Common hurry up, you guys are late.” Madam signaled us to leave and showed us the correct place. After we left the room, we could hear laughter and indistinct chatters all through the stairs. Before we could catch our breath, madam had asked an office staff to accompany us to the destination. Had he not accompanied, we would have never reached the Gallery. Because we were new there and the campus was huge and lots of short-cut paths and ways puzzled us. 

Finally, we reached the Gallery No. 2. It was 11:30am. We missed some parts of the inaugural session. But we got our identity cards, roll number, library card, and the syllabus. After nearly 40 minutes, the inaugural session ended. We met with a few familiar people, friends of friends. After that, we headed for the canteen, for a quick refreshment.  We had a hearty laugh, with what just happened. Then two of my friends left. I and my friend took a walk around the campus and then headed home. Thus, the eventful day came to an end. My first day in Ravenshaw University is truly memorable. 

SPECIAL FIRST TIMES!!!

First times are always special because they make you either confident in continuing what we want to do or they make us really scared to go ahead in that venture. There are many things that have gone well for me when I think of my first times. Although there have been goof-ups too, sometimes because of me and other times not. 

The very first memory that I have of a goof-up is when I was going to the school in Dehradun for the first time. I was born in Gujrat and my parents had been staying there for almost 18 years. When I was 6 years old, my father got transferred to Dehradun and we packed our bags to come to this new city which was quite different. My father and one of his colleagues had got the transfer together and hence we were travelling together. I was 6 ready to go in 1st standard and my sister was 13 ready to go in 9th standard. And the other family also had two kids – elder one going to go in 4th standard and younger one was my age. 

We had shifted mid-session so getting admissions in the school was a challenge. Somehow we managed to get admission in a school named Scholar’s Home which had 3 branches. The farthest branch was quite far off where my sister was supposed to go since she was going to High School. The first branch was quite a big school but we did not get admission there, we younger ones got the admission in the second branch which was only the Primary school. The schools were quite far off from our home and there was a school bus that would take us there. 

I don’t remember a lot of it but I remember being dead scared. It was a brand new city, new school and away from home. I don’t know if I cried but I know that the only relief I had was that I was not alone going to that school. So, the goof-up happened when the bus conductor got confused about which branch he is supposed to drop us at. There were no mobile phones or landlines at that time. My sister was on the other bus. We three kids got dropped at the first branch which was not the school we were supposed to be at. I remember kept telling the bus conductor that I don’t think this is where we are supposed to be, but who takes a 6-year-old seriously? 

As soon as we came in, the teachers were surprised to see us as we weren’t even expected. I started crying and so did the other two kids with me. We spent the whole day sitting in the Principal’s office. There was no way they could get the confirmation from anywhere either our parents or the other school. We did not know which bus to take us back home, so we waited for long 6 hours or so for the school to get over. Once the school got over, we were escorted to the school bus. The bus was waiting there and I was so relieved to see my sister on the bus. I remember telling her the whole story and then repeating it for my parents multiple times about what really happened. I don’t know how scared or worried they got. 

Now as a parent, I feel that it was a pretty bad goof-up. We could have been lost and I can imagine the state of my parents once they came to know what really happened. Later on, till the time I was at that school – it was a pretty funny story to tell other kids that how I got dropped at the wrong school.

The first-time event isn’t always goof ups. They are also memories for a lifetime. And there is one more first time that I would like to share which was rather special – it was the first time I travelled abroad. It was an official trip to the US and I was just 22 years of age. That opportunity was rather an unexpected one but I was quite thrilled that I got a chance to stay there for 3 months. During the journey, I kept listening to the song from the movie Chak de – “Badal pe paon hai”. It did feel like I am cloud 9 and everything around was so very exciting. The first experience of explaining a Mc Donald’s cashier that I wanted to have a vegetarian burger was quite funny. After a while, I asked them if they could make a burger without meat and the lady looked at me as if I had asked for all the trash in the restaurant. Just by her look, I left the place after having fries and coke. 

At the Denver airport, I was quite nervous at the security check for a simple reason that I had to take a domestic flight now. I had heard quite a lot about their security checks. I did the regular drill of taking off the shoes, socks, coat, specs, etc. Unfortunately, my mobile was still in my pocket. So when I went through the metal detector, it beeped. And I realized that those guys take the metal detector beeps way seriously than I had ever seen. The security personnel there looked quite scary and he asked me to step back. In all my nervousness, I did not understand him at all. He had to say this thrice for me to get it and my eyes were fixated on the gun that he had taken out because I wasn’t listening to him. Of course, once I stepped back they checked me thoroughly only to find a harmless innocent mobile in my pocket and then they let go of me. I was trembling by the time all this got over, but now I knew how to handle the security there. The more nervous you are, the more trouble you are in.

We were a group of Indians working together on a project while my first stay in the US. Our project manager was an old American lady who was a workaholic. She once came to me and said – “Prabhjot, I have trouble communicating with some of our colleagues”. I was a bit puzzled if my friends were in some trouble. 

She said “Every time I ask a question to Anand, he always nods his head sideways. I cannot make out if he is saying a Yes or a No. What does it really mean?” 

I couldn’t help but laugh at this. She was sincerely quite embarrassed in asking this question and it was her first time working with Indians. I told her it is not just you, we Indians also get confused with each other. And then I had to tell my manager to sensitize the team to not use nods and communicate very clearly in Yes or No. 

Well, first times are special. Not just first time events but also the first time objects are super special – like first salary, first address of your own, first house, first car, first pet and the list goes own. My husband gets quite frustrated every time we cross the ATM where I withdrew my first salary from – because I always remind him that this is the ATM where I saw so much money in my account for the first time and what a thrill it was.

CAN YOU?

For every mother that is greeted today,

There’s someone yearning for a child

 

For every child that greets the mother today,

There’s someone yearning for a mother

 

For every mother who feels proud of her womb today,

There’s someone unable to carry a foetus

 

For every child who feels the comfort of a mother’s bosom,

There’s someone awaiting with outstretched arms

 

For every mother who wipes her child’s tears,

There’s someone whose hands have none to wipe

 

For every child who has a mother to lean on in sickness,

There’s someone longing for those nursing hands

 

For one such mother without a child,

Can you be a child?

For one such child without a mother,

Can you be a mother?

 

THE STORY BEHIND MY NAME

According to my parents and other family members, I was born on Sunday morning. In Hindu Mythology, Sunday is dedicated to Sun, whom we (Hindu) popularly call as ‘Aditya’. But I am a girl and, therefore; I could not be named as Aditya. I was named ‘Aditi’. For my father, this name has a great value and he only gave this name.

Years after when my parents took me for admission in school, Papa wrote ‘Parineeta’ as my name. The story behind ‘Parineeta’ is, I am a Virgo and according to the zodiac sign, my name should have started from letter P or T. And therefore, officially my name was Parineeta.

My friends used to call me ‘Pari’ and they would say you have such a unique name.

I was unaware of what my name means until one of my teachers asked me. That day, I went straight home, called my father and asked, “Papa what does my name means?” My father explained the meaning and then I knew ‘Parineeta’ means ‘a married woman’. Next day, I went proudly to her and said what my name meant. She says, “Dear, you must change your name because it is not nice according to your age.” Eventually, all my classmates came to know my name’s meaning and they started teasing me just because they heard my teacher laughing over my name.

At that time, I was in class 4 and so I didn’t understand these things doesn’t matter. As a result, I continuously asked my parents to change my name. Everyone at home tried their best to convince me for not changing my name but I had made my mind.

Finally, everyone acceded. It was decided when I will pass class 4, I’ll be renamed. Then went a series of discussion on what should be my name according to the zodiac sign. I chose ‘Prerna’ as my name out of all the proposed name. When my father was filling the name in the admission form of class 5th, he wrote ‘Prerna’. It was then I noticed, he was a bit sad as I was changing the name given by him. So, in the column of the last name, I asked him to write ‘Aditi’. He asked why and I said, “I will never lose ‘Aditi’ the way I lost ‘Parineeta’.”

Hence, I was named Prerna Aditi. Most of my friends call me with my last name ‘Aditi’. At home also, I am known as ‘Aditi’. In fact, at my workplace too, people call me Aditi more often. Now, I think I should have never paid heed to what others said about ‘Parineta’. Papa gave this name after he read the famous novel ‘Parineeta’ by ‘Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’. Years after, when I got the chance to read the book, I realized how beautiful the name was. That day, I regretted a lot. But it makes me happy when someone calls me by ‘Aditi’. It feels as if they are respecting my father.

I have seen so many people making fun of other’s name. But they never think of the emotion and love behind the name. Your name is your identity and if you want people to take your name with respect then you will have to ignore what people talk about your name. It is not about if someone’s name is old-fashioned or modern but it is about the love of our elders behind the name they had given and how we retain its meaning. 

Now, it is your duty to decide, which name you are going to choose, to address me… 😛

IF ONLY WE COULD HOLD A CONVERSATION…

Image result for shopkeeper and customer anime

How often do we actually take out time to exchange just a few words with the people who don’t hold much importance in our life? Rarely or maybe sometimes. Recalling one of such acquaintances, I cannot forget my childhood memory associated with the purchase of junkies from a nearby colony provision store. No sooner was I able to collect a few coins than I used to rush to the shop to purchase either a pack of chips or my favorite cola! However, the owner of the shop had such disposition that all my excitement always cooled down on seeing his grumpy face. Since it was the only shop in my area, it seemed more of the kind of a monopoly store. His irritation level would rise to heights if I would ask him to display his collection of candies or if even I just had to add one extra item in the billing list. A smile was the last thing one could expect from this shopkeeper. Whenever I returned home after my purchase, I always complained to my mom about the rude and ignorant behavior of this man. But then again, I had no option than to go again to this merchant for purchases as it was the only store that existed in my colony at that time. Moreover, if anything went wrong or if I ever had to return an expired item, he took it back with so much of sternness as if he was doing a favor on me. His nags and my complaints went on endlessly until a piece of shocking news broke out one day.

I had risen from my morning sleep when I saw my parents leaving home early that day. When I asked my maid about it, she told me that they were going to attend the funeral of Mr. Jaiswal. It was as if the ground below my feet had shaken for how could a man who seemed so fit could pass away. I couldn’t help remembering how often I used to engage in a fight with this man at his shop even for his fuzzy attitude. All of a sudden, I just felt as if I had so many unsettled accounts with this person, left to finish. When my mom returned, she told me that this shop owner was suffering from mouth cancer and he committed suicide.

For a moment, I couldn’t believe if it was really true and when this reality seeped in me, I could somehow relate to the reactions of this shopkeeper in the past. Mr. Jaiswal was not bad, it was his circumstances that had turned him sour and bitter. Now it clicked to me that why he didn’t respond to my anger as uttering a word from the rotten mouth was so difficult for him. Moreover, the pain of those blisters in his mouth was the reason for the constant frown on his face. I really felt sorry for a dead soul that day and more than that I was agitated by my own self that how I could hold so many grudges against a diseased person for petty issues. It really struck me that why I didn’t even try for once to gauge the depth of his situation. I really wondered if I had just even tried getting into his shoes, I would have never held any complaints against him. I cursed myself endlessly for not making any efforts to discover the reason for his sternness. Why for God’s sake, I didn’t even hold a conversation with him? Sympathy filled my heart when I came to know from the neighbours in my colony that how lonely he felt as he had no one to look after him. It was not only the disease but solitude as well that was killing him. He certainly might have felt very low which led him to commit suicide and there might be no one around to even console him. Connecting the dots seemed very easy at that moment for one could then sense that his frustration was definitely the outcome of his sufferings. I couldn’t help questioning myself that how I could frame so strong and wrong perceptions about this person just because his behaviour was bad with me.

Mother Teresa has rightly said:- “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.’’ These words were somewhere resonating in my ears for I had turned so nasty in judging the shopkeeper that I had no time to empathize with his problems that were probably greatest than all of our rants. I felt very sorry for him and at the same time, I really felt that I just could not forgive myself for passing angry comments on him. I learned a lesson that day to not judge a person without knowing his struggle story. Moreover, it does not take much time to know the sorrows of a person only if we understand the real meaning of tolerance and patience. Even if it takes time, isn’t it worth it, if it can save someone’s life and make him feel worthy enough to live on this planet; making someone feel a little less lonely?

This incident really questioned my indifferent conscience that day and struck such chords in me striving me to live a life of awareness and kindness with empathy and compassion filled in the heart.

MURDERERS OF CHILDHOOD – I FEEL SORRY FOR YOU

I feel sorry…

Actually, I feel sorry for everything that happens around me, or even for matters that fall in my ears. If I am to cite an incident on instances I felt sorry, I would have plenty of them to pool in.

Marriage is all about in a relationship with a lot of understanding beyond imagination. Coping with married life needs better understanding at least with respect to age. When families marry off those kids (girls) at such a young age, I wonder how much do they concede. It is true their perception is never recognised, but all they do is flow with the marriage.

When in India, the legal age for marriage is 18, there are still child marriages happening in India. To my knowledge, my maid, who is hardly now 25 years has already four kids, and she was married at a young age of 15. And such young ages they conceive and give birth. They hardly get basic education, health facilities or anything that is requisite for such a young age. And they are all the more burdened with responsibilities of managing the family.

As she narrated me, there are many girls in their village who are getting married at the same age, they are mostly given a minimum education which she claims is just enough to read and write as the schools in those outskirts are not much more advanced to offer enough learning. Imagine, when we are assured the government is offering a good education, there are schools where nothing is done -maybe I can say, there is no school itself.

These girls are married off to some guys, who just ensure they have two three kids, and abandon those kids and the wife to survive on their own. And it is up to them especially the girl’s family or all by herself to endure then.

Is that what responsibility means?

It is not just poverty-stricken families who are on the same page, there are many in the urban areas who ensure to get their girl child to marry at a very early age- as if they are de-burdening themselves.

I felt sorry for such families who do such heinous act. At such tender ages, they are bound to enjoy their teenage, learn the life lessons step by step. For them, Marriage is like pushing them into a well and then lock up there for several years to endure a responsibility that came in soon.

It is not just the issue of younger age, they are also bound to give sufficient dowry to feed the richly-poor grooms family who shamelessly asks the girl’s family to pay for their expenses.

Even the urban areas are infected with such pathetic people, who are shamelessly greedy enough.

I feel sorry for such parents, who marry their girls off to such families, who are just greedy. Nothing could be done other than they being cursed with a Midas touch like a curse.

I being a mother of two girls, would ensure I don’t steal my children’s future and their dreams just to keep my reputation or my societal commitments. Instead of being sorry, for such wretched souls who are doing harm, I would be better to take a step ahead to protect them, at least my own children.