A BOAT OF HOPE

I didn’t have a bad day. In fact, it was a nice day, having fun with my cousins and friends. Why then, I see clouds all around? Is it a dream, I’m seeing?

I saw darkness hovering around me and I screamed in my thoughts, “Ah…where am I? Why can’t I see myself?” The dark clouds all around me made my vision obscure as the bright light that I was seeing a minute ago almost faded away.

Then an intense sorrow pierced through my spines, my flesh, and my bones. The dark despair within me made me walk through the hidden lanes of my life. I felt ashamed of myself. I hated myself. The rotten scent of my sinfulness broke me into pieces. I saw a defiant me, standing and asking questions about my own creation… as I found myself to be a weak, neglected and a rejected piece of morsel thrown on a pile of garbage.

A gripping fear and a distressing agony engulfed me when I saw the raging sea waves approaching me and I just tried to duck down my head to let it pass but I could not do. I tried again and again but all my efforts seem to be in vain.

I realized my inability to rescue my own self. I understood I needed someone else to bring salvation, and restore me from this chaos.

Lo and behold! I soon saw a boat glimmering in the middle of the sea.

I had lost all my hope but a ray of hope sparked within me when I saw the boat. That boat, to me, seemed like a piece of leaf for an ant floating away in the water. That boat reminded me of my God, the Saviour Himself and I remembered His assurances, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for YOU are with me; YOUR rod [to protect] and YOUR staff [to guide], they comfort and console me. For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.”

I could not feel whether I swam through the waves or not but somehow, I reached that boat and found myself on it, cruising through the waves, going beyond the clouds of darkness.

This may not be a dream that I saw in my sleep, but I have seen it many times in my life and still see it even today. I’ve walked in close proximity to death. My life has never been easy but the good thing is, I always found myself being consoled and reassured with the promise of that small boat of hope at every dark situation of my life.

I know, God has been and will be the boat of hope all through my life, even during this pandemic situation… till I enter eternity after my death.

JUSTICE DELAYED IS INJUSTICE

On the night of 2nd December 1984, many lives changed, destinies were re-written or rather written off. People sleeping peacefully were woken up by a sudden cough which refused to stop. Some felt burning eyes due to which they weren’t able to see anything. They started to rush out of their homes into the white cloud of smoke that had engulfed them. “Run for your lives”were all the words that could be heard. Other sounds were of coughing people, wailing babies, people who were vomiting and some who were crying until they fell down unconsciously. They were running to move out of the white cloud that was not refusing to follow them. Many pregnant women had instant miscarriages. On a cold night, everything gave a burning sensation. Everyone was trying to reach the nearest hospital. Trees were shedding leaves as if it were a wildfire. But, it was worse than that. 

I am talking about the world’s worst industrial disaster- the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. The disaster that took the lives of thousands of people, permanently disabling lakhs and pervaded the birth defects in the generations to come. 

The leak of highly toxic Methyl Isocyanate from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal. The reason of the leak is still not clear. However, the reports suggest that it was due to lack of maintenance and a floppy management. Several cases were filed against Union Carbide Corporation  or UCC and Warren Anderson, who was the then CEO. The cases kept on shuffling between the Indian courts and the US courts for 26 long years- from 1986 to 2012. Anderson was refused to be extradited by the US government as they stated that he had no role as the plant was owned and operated by its employees. However, in 2010, eight of the plant’s employees were charged with negligence and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment, with a fine of $2000 each. For all the deaths and the aftermath of the disaster, all they could get was just a moderate fine and 2 years in jail, which they never got as 7 of them were soon out of the prison on bail, shortly after the verdict was out. The 8th convicted employee already had died before the judgement was passed. 

From 1984 to 2010, justice after 26 years! Is that justified? 

And such a meagre punishment to those who played with the lives of many! Is that justified?

Bhopal Gas Tragedy is just one example of the justice that was delayed for more than 2 decades. The punishment given to the convicts was the maximum punishment given by the Indian Law. Change is the law of nature and so the changes should be made to the rules and laws that were made decades ago. It’s high time the cases are heard quickly so that the justice isn’t delayed. But, above all that, we, as humans need to value our ethics and moral principles.

An ethical life is built of integrity, honesty, kindness, decency and belief in truth, justice, honour, love, respect, compassion, and working together to make life better.

(Inspirational quotes)

WE HAVE ENDLESS LAWS, BUT, IS THERE ENOUGH JUSTICE?

India got independence on the midnight of the 15th of August 1947, when the last ship carrying British soldiers left for England. It became a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic with a parliamentary system of government. The constitution of India came into force on the 26th of January, 1950. A week from today, it would be 71 years the laws came into effect, yet, justice being served is sparsely seen.

Swarna, I met her the first time at the session court cafeteria. Her court papers flew for the wind, and I helped her segregate them. Along with her was her 15-year-old son. Unknowingly, my eyes noticed the start date of her case, and it was way back in 2003, a divorce petition. I couldn’t resist asking her if her case was pending for 15 years, for which she nodded with a “yes.” That must be the time her son was born, and it would have been very tough on her. Later, she told me that her husband left her when she was pregnant with her son, three years after their marriage. The only reason was that he didn’t want to live with her anymore. Swarna hasn’t had any support from her parents regarding this and finally had to go through the birthing process on her own self. I can hardly imagine what would have been her thoughts like. She must be a fierce soul to have lived and fought through this for 17 years now and still awaiting justice.

I wonder what the justice system wants to do? Is the purpose to serve justice, but how?

A young girl in her 20’s left alone by her husband has been waiting for justice for 17 years. She lived all those 17 years without support, a leaning shoulder, a person to rely on and share her sorrows with – a companion to be precise. Mentally, this can put anyone under tremendous stress. I dare to ask if the divorce was granted; maybe, she would have found someone who could have taken care of her and, the kid would have had a father. She wouldn’t have had to bear the insults she has endured. It is more respectful to state that one is divorced than separated. Is it the expectation of the honorable court that after 17 years of separation, the couple will lead a happy married life, if the divorce is not granted? It sounds too absurd.

A child (Swarna’s son), who had no mistake in this is suffering because of? One might say his father, but I would say the justice system has its part too. He has to undergo the trauma of doing the rounds of the court, along with his mother, gets to see his father at times who has no interest in accepting him. Apart from this in the mediocre society, he is a fatherless child and is bullied. A teenager who should be looking forward to his future is now very uncertain. Imagine filling up those educational applications where it says father’s name. It would have hurt him to the core. Does the child not have the right to a more secure future? 

This is only one example, don’t be surprised to know that some people spend all the hard-earned money of their lifetime in anticipation of justice for decades and decades, and some leave this world before the verdict is released. Kudos to those who are staying put and have not given up. But, this brings us to a fundamental question. If justice is delayed this much, would people have faith in the justice system? If they lose such trust, the obvious is that they would take justice into their hands, which would lead to horrible consequences. Unfortunately, the loopholes in our justice system are already a significant reason why many resort to hideous crimes. The credibility of our Judiciary system is at stake. The two main reasons I feel are one, the ratio of people to judges, second, our inadequate laws.

The society is changing rapidly adapting to various reforms in many fields. Our laws cannot stay behind with respect to these fields. In fact, it is important that laws also evolve along with the advancements and changes in society. The fundamental right to life and liberty cannot be put to risk. We need justice and that justice should be served on time with a purpose to make someone’s life better and for a better society.

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
― Benjamin Franklin

CONNECTING WITH OTHERS

The famous writer and philanthropist Sudha Murthy in the ‘Introduction’ of her novel ‘Something happened on the way to heaven’ writes:

‘I was filled with awe as I realised that the books I’ve been able to write are really not about me at all  – they are about the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been to and the lives I’ve had the privilege of being part of. I felt blessed – so fortunate to be in a position to help people, even as they found it in their hearts to let me inside their world and share their most private thoughts and problems with me. They’ve given me their stories and I’ve had a chance to be a character in their tales. Sometimes, I’ve been lucky enough to be the lead actor, but at most other times, I’ve been an incidental character or simply unbiased storyteller.’

When I read this I found so much of my thoughts mirrored in what she had to say. Of course, I am not a writer of her calibre or repute. I am a simple blogger but I have come to realise that I too have mostly written about the people I have come across in my life. The problems or triumphs or simple anecdotes from their life really adds colour to my articles. Being connected to people has really enhanced my writings. 

Not just in writing, focusing on people around me has helped me be a better person. I have come to realise there are phases in my life. There have been times I have been so bogged down by my own problems that I have withdrawn into a shell and lost touch with my own extended family and friends. During this phase I feel very miserable and I am not able to come out of my melancholy. Its only when I remove the focus from myself and actually focus on others that I am back to my normal self. Delving into our problems brings only more sadness but helping others with their problems or just interacting with them makes our problems go away too. This works for me, maybe because I am an extrovert. And I love to be around people and hate being alone. I feel connecting with others just enriches me as a person and makes me more interesting. 

Connecting with others is a sense of being open and available to another person, even as you feel they are open and available to you. Try connecting and it makes life much easier and lighter because we also receive the empathy and love that we give.

IF YOU CAN’T FIND TIME FOR YOUR LOVED ONES, THEN MAKE IT

I am too busy with daily chores.

These kids keep me so occupied. 

I am unable to find time. 

There’s so much to do.

These have been some of my reasons which were keeping me from talking to my family members. Talking on phone really has become a great deal for me, especially after kids. Even with my friends, I prefer chatting over phone call. With so many things to do, I seriously couldn’t take out time, which I have been regretting ever since I lost some of my close family members. I kept on thinking to talk to them in free time, but before that could happen, the ‘time’ came and took them away. Its very normal that we often take our loved ones for granted, without realising that life is short and our little gestures can make them happy. 

phone-ringing-seo-kc
(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

“If you love someone, show it”, said one of my aunts once, which made me realise that we need to show our admiration and respect to our elders in some way or the other. When my mom used to ask me to call someone in the family, I used to feel weird, as I didn’t know what to talk to them. However, I gradually realised that one phone call gives immense happiness to the elders. Just a normal question- ‘how are you’ starts the conversation. 

Ever since we moved to a different city from joint family, my mother-in-law makes a video call daily to watch her grandsons. And if she gets late, I ask my kids to video chat with their grandparents. They have now started talking to their little cousin too, by making silly faces and making him laugh over the screen. Because distance shouldn’t keep the feelings apart, this way of communication holds us together. 

I am very fond of capturing cute, sometimes silly, moments of my sons, either by taking a picture or making a video. Rather than just restricting these media files to my phone, I have now started sharing to my family members and trust me, they, especially elders, feel so happy to see them. Even if I don’t get time to call them up often, I keep them updated by sending photos and videos regularly. I even send them pictures whenever I cook something special. It’s a delight for my family members, who have known me since childhood, to know the varied food that I can cook now, as I hardly entered the kitchen before my marriage!

Family is a prized possession and nothing is better than being with your loved ones and spend time with each other. So, even if you don’t stay with them, utilise the technology optimally to be ‘together’.

ARE YOU A GOOD SAMARITAN?

A lone sojourner on his way from one city to the other was brutally attacked by hooligans. They beat him up mercilessly, looted his valuables and left him by the roadside to breathe his last. It was a scarcely treaded stretch of road and not many people passed that way. In a while, a priest came along that way. He saw the injured man. Not wanting to get himself into any mess, he took a detour and went the other way. The maimed man continued to battle for his life. In some more time, there came by another traveller who belonged to a respectable class in the society. He too saw the man and changed tracks. After yet some more time, another man who was not held with much regard in that part of the country, passed by. He saw the injured man and stopped on his tracks. He rushed towards him, bandaged his wounds, administered first aid, took him to the nearest inn and stayed with him the whole day to take care of him. The next day, he gave some money to the innkeeper urging him to take care of the injured man and that he would bear all the extra expenses on his way back from the errand for which he had to leave.

The third man in the above parable who helped the injured man has been nicknamed as the Good Samaritan (‘Good’ because of his good act, and ‘Samaritan’ because he hailed from a place called Samaria). And thus, the expression ‘Good Samaritan’ finds its way into common parlance in the English language.

How we all wish for the helping hand of a Good Samaritan in times of need! How we all yearn during rough patches that somebody would stop on his/her tracks to attend to us! Even if you are a very independent person, there would’ve been hours where you would’ve silently longed for assistance.

Being ‘people-centric’ comes with spontaneity to many, but not to most. Why don’t we focus on people more than what we do for ourselves? What holds us back?

  1. Individual personality traitsAltruism doesn’t come naturally to all. Some are simply less altruistic and so paying attention to the needs of others is not a dish on their menu. However, altruism is an attribute which if cultivated results in a lot of good to society. Then there are some who are timid, shy and docile to intervene in the lives of people around them. There are others who are too self-centered to shift their attention from ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘myself’ to ‘them’ and ‘others’. Certain others are apathetic – they just fail to perceive the needs of others and make any sense of them.
  2. Bystander phenomenon – How many times have you passed by a scene of accident telling yourself that some others would step in to help the victim? This is called the bystander phenomenon in psychological terms and is present in most of us. We stand by and watch events unfold without stepping in to make a constructive difference, by convincing ourselves that there sure would be someone else who would offer assistance to the needy person. Most of us refrain from philanthropy for this very same reason, harbouring the notion that others are contributing towards that end.
  3. To avoid getting into trouble – The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014 aims to provide protection to those who expose wrongdoing in government offices (in India). With such an Act in place, may people would have come forward to help the government machinery to function better. Sadly, this doesn’t happen! Rather, those who open their mouths find themselves embroiled in endless controversies causing them and their families untold miseries. People who help roadside accident victims, or the victims of mob violence or communal riots or eye-witnesses who volunteer to testify in courts of law end up being harassed and surrounded by endless controversies. Moreover, most people do not wish to get entangled with the seemingly unending and cumbersome legal procedures. The first person who offered assistance to the victims in the infamous Nirbhaya case and willingly volunteered to testify in the court of law has lost his private job because he had to make numerous appearances in the court leading to long periods of absence from work. So it is not simply a lack of will or motivation to help that prevents some from being people-centric, but the price that they end coughing up that makes them decide to keep away from the mess.
  4. ‘I am not affected’ – Many people turn away from helping others because they are not affected. ‘As long as I and my family are not affected, I need not bother’ is the latent thought process of many people. There are a few personal life experiences which open our minds to shed age-old notions and dogmas and be more helping towards certain sections of people. Some people whose houses get submerged under flood waters or shattered by earthquake are quicker to empathize towards similar others on later occasions. But till they go through a personal experience, they do not bother to budge.
  5. Mental schemas and societal stereotypes – In the parable mentioned in the beginning of this article, may be the priest who hesitated to help the injured man was afraid of defiling himself with blood or with a dead body in case of death of the man (there were strong rules of purity and defilement among the priestly clan in that culture). Taking an example from the caste system in Indian society (which is still quite vivid in rural India, though it is dissipating in most urban settings), people belonging to upper castes do not give access to water to those belonging to lower castes even in the scorching summer conditions. Though the Constitution makers incorporated Article 17 to abolish the practice of untouchability, it continues to raise its ugly head in various forms. Caste barriers, racial prejudices, religious and ethnic discrimination accompanied by the fear of excommunication stop people from focussing on certain others.

Most of us would find ourselves in one or more of the above mentioned categories (or even in some others) as to why we are less focussed on others. For some, it may even be simply a busy life schedule with hardly any time for self, leave alone for others. No matter what be the causal factors, all of us would definitely agree that we are not always ready to attend to people at all times. Mothers would agree that it causes them immense discomfort when guests pop in just the evening before their children’s exam. With all traits of efficient hospitability, it still becomes a grave dilemma to choose guests over helping the children with their lessons.

While ‘choice’ would continue to be a deciding factor, there are two golden principles that arch over all.

  1. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you – You expect others to attend to you in times of need, do your bit to attend to theirs when they need you. Identify the needs of at least those in your immediate periphery and reach out to them. Remember, needs of people are not always material, physical or external. Also, those in need may not always call out for help (just as you don’t, on many occasions). Just put yourself in each ones position in your immediate circle of loved ones and have a grip over some area in which they would desire you.
  2. Value others above yourselves – The moment you value someone above yourself, that person becomes the focus of your attention. And, you would definitely not shift your focus from those others who fall within the range of your radar. The Bible teaches – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Let’s start small. No matter what be the reasons – personal, societal or systemic that prevent us from focussing on people around us and their interests, it is wise to make a conscious attempt to turn the floodlights outwards and then gradually increase their intensity for greater coverage.

 

ALWAYS GIVE A FRACTION AND YOU RECEIVE WHOLE OF IT

Over the years, things in my life changed, even though I was dwelling in my own problems I always found an escape by dealing with other’s problems and understanding them.

It always came to me that, the more I indulge myself in solving others problems, I could find my own way out. It is a human tendency, that when problems arrive, to the individual, they lose the thought process and they become completely blank on what needs to be done. But when they are the other end of the problem they become expert problem solvers.

In my course of life, I have to be the victim, the problem solver or even the problem creator, which actually led me to a problem-centric person rather than I would say people-centered.

I do not know, whether to call it my speciality or a defect, but yes I always had some or other to deal with.

Even amidst the crisis, I have to deal with, I never stepped away from inspiring others or even be the torchlight in the darkness, even though at times I have shied away from it due to the darkness I was engaged in.

Even if I say, I have missed being the “good soul”, I do ensure that a piece of me does something for the people around me. Being an empath, it was quite easy for me to just swim into the pool of other people’s issues and problems they face, in a much more understandable way. I could say, the things I have been brought up around or things like i keep doing like the ones mentioned below, helped me to be what I am today.

Hence these were my shell-breaking things, which made me much stronger and focused on people around me.

Sharing is Caring

From childhood, we all learn the basics of sharing. We encourage our kids to share when the one near you does not have anything. I recollect as a child, I used to be around people who were financially not so great and the other way round too. Since being a child we do not know where do they come from or what do they do to make a living. all I knew was that, if the person next to me was starving I should be sharing what I have, at least that used to keep me happier.

Ever since then, this was something I never stopped doing. It always came as a positive approach to be friendly with people around me.

A gentle soft gesture doesn’t harm anyone.

Give what you own more, than you need

Since my childhood, my parents taught me to share if I actually had more stuff than I required. Nowadays, if you see, the kids are given or gifted things , that are actually already available in abundance with them, or they do not need them. Even though being a responsible mom (as far as I think), I ensure, they do not waste whatever excessively they receive. I channelize such stuff to the needy. Like if they get lots of color pencils or crayons, which are already available in abundance at home, I ensure, I give to the children, who are not in a position to buy them.

There smile is more than a treasure box for me.

Never treat others as beggars- as they are not begging

Most of the people who come to work in our apartment, earn through hard work. Treating them as individuals and not like beggars are important. Feelings are also important when you consider being people-centered. When you offer something to someone, they should never feel that we are offering them out of their financial state or something else. Make an offer as a gift, a token of love, they feel much more valued for what they are doing.

It is a simple fact, but at times we need to be careful not to hurt their emotions.

We waste a lot, why not be for the good

On numerous occasions we put up parties, there is so much food wastage, and money being wasted unwantedly. What can we do about it?

It was hard to decide upon, as one part of the mind you want the people you love to be happy and pleased, at the same time, the other part wants to do something good for the needy especially when items are wasted. This is when you have to take a serious step.

Big parties, big weddings, etc just please the ones, who already have enough. Why not try giving the ones, who do not have anything, they will value every single piece being offered.

All these were my thought process to keep my focus on other people intact – at least to help them. In spite of all these, I struggle a lot in keeping relations close, or even keep everyone around happy, as my decisions are quite decisive at times. But as I say, the more I tend to be a problem-solver than a problem-centered person, I tend to forget what I am going through.

Being people-centered is always my life goal. Being a mother, I have to be much more selfless and be dedicated to my home. Everyone has a roller coaster ride, fighting their own wars every day, hence it is important that we value each individual be it a small baby or even an elderly person, they all are important like us.

Give a fraction of your second, you get peace for a lifetime.