Sunday, September 19, 2010

Take Me out of this Box!

It is true that I desire for a world with no borders.

I know that in spite of all the physical, political,lingual and legal borders....affection, passion, love, peace and all positive emotions transcend through effortlessly in our world..and that is what I would like to live on.

Few weeks ago, I was standing at the junction near Andheri flyover to cross the road, when suddenly the sky burst open and lashed down with blessings. I stood near the traffic policeman's fort and sprung open my rather measly of an umbrella. No sooner did I open the umbrella than a few of the children selling fruit and flowers huddled around me and held me tightly seeking cover. I was over the moon.
Do I honestly exhibit the vibe of a border less world?

As they stood around me, I tried to give them as much cover as I could, willingly getting soaked myself. I had to catch a was almost 9pm...and I was heading to the Central suburbs...time was key..but I could not leave those waited till the rain-gods rested. And the kids disappeared and waved at me after I said bye.

Warmth and trust wrapped around me for just a few minutes...ensuring me that my class-ridden society is truly man made.

Another thing definitely man made, is this box filled with societal expectations. This box contains stigma attached to certain professions that we tread, clothes that we may wear, values we may believe in, music we may listen to and other choices we make regarding our own lives. And, these are inspired from a larger knowledge base derived through globalisation and its resulting travel, acquaintances, literature, reformed ideologies -- list goes on. In other words this box contains all those systems and beliefs that fails to move ahead as the times are a-changing

The issues amongst many is that my dearest Father has put me in this box to find a suitable match for me as I have reached the 'right' age. And like me there are so many others.

Our plight entails long hours of disturbing unidirectional monologues from guilt-struck and overbearing parents who mainly speak about the social obligation towards the institution of marriage and of course the ever -important biological setbacks of oneself .

I don't believe there is ever a right age to be married. I am a romantic at heart and also a bit I, like many others, am waiting to sense that connection with that individual who will evoke in me the desire to be married to him. I should have the right to choose...why must I be hurried because I am pushing 30. That is a rationale beyond archaic.

I am currently using my sense of humour to ease myself out of this Box.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

All of my Children

As the children showered me with affectionate hugs and kisses during dance-therapy class, all their disabilities were insignificant. A day at The Association of People with Disability (APD) helped me understand the extent to which every child is born unique and so it is their birthright to realise their full potential.

Why was I at APD? Well in July, through SERVE, I found a different India. An India, I have read about in odd articles written by travellers or just saw in documentaries made by ambitious storytellers. I had a meagre glimpse of the lives of young and unfortunate (so subjective a concept) children.

I met over 300 young children between 5 NGOs in Bangalore and in the outskirts of Cochin. These NGOs were SERVE partners who annually look forward to the SERVE volunteers to spend time with them for an average of 2 weeks.

Some of the children I met were strong and some were not but they were all special..they were all heroes. Each of their stories is proof that hardships only surface to teach us that life is what you make it to be.

At, Jyothi Seva School for the Blind, Bangalore, the dreams of all those bright children overwhelmed me. Their lack of sight never allowed them to lose their vision that they had for themselves. One day at class, the petal like fragile children ( fragile only because they are toddlers) from the nursery spent over an hour playing with bubbles in a small basin. Their lack of vision did not stop them from enjoying the wet and frothy sensation of non- toxic soap bubbles.

Joy in such basic aspects of life--- do I know what that feels like?

India is an enormous country...sitting here in my room I don't realise the realities of homelessness, abandonment and loss of loved ones. I never would have, if it were not for my time at Morning Star, Bangalore and Mother and Child, Thodupuzha.

Both these centres are homes to over 150 young boys and girls, in average, who do not enjoy the security of a family. However, these Centres are their homes and I could sense that through their play time, prayer time, study time and dinner time. These children work hard at school and look out for each other at 'home' and have aspirations no different from mine.

I know now that true affection does not discriminate and knows no borders. My heart went out to each of the tiny faces. They took me as their own and I gladly accepted them as mine.

It was difficult to say bye to them, unsure of when I would see them again. But I know this....I will work hard for them; for the likes of them---No no their stories need not be told to you; you know of them.

Sympathy is not the need of the hour. A more proactive approach is devised here at SERVE and at many other hard working organisations around the world. I want to constantly work for them in my potential.

I have no dearth of vision and passion because of the memories of all my children.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Festival of Fools

As you know, communication has various forms.

I believe we live in an extremely visually motivated world today. While I am (sadly) consumed by the all hypnotic colossal 'hep', I am also humbly moved by that which is not blatant.

I am rather curious of all the books I have not read, of the plays I have not watched, of the movies I have not seen, of the paintings I have not known-- am curious for my own selfishness.

I was in my bed that Saturday morning....the brochure of the Festival that was on my stand finally kicked me out of the bed and I left to see street theatre in Belfast. One of those many decisions am tremendously proud of.

The Festival of Fools is exactly what it is...a celebration of all that is creative and absurd at first but meant to make one happy.

The acts were local and international and meant to entertain anybody young or old. Physical strength and grace came together without hesitation. The quirky, the mystical, the sheer cheesy made the streets alive. I felt for one afternoon I was in performing art heaven.

The honesty of each performance and its proximity made it more than special to me.

This Festival is an effort to promote performing arts and sadly does not have funding. This only reminded me of the situation in India where theatre, classical dance and other non 'main stream' art is struggling. Alas.

Friday, May 21, 2010

All this Talk...Will there be change?

I work in the development sector and the small organisation that I currently volunteer with, SERVE, is involved hugely in advocacy of the many issues of the developing world.

No, there is no advertising budget. No there is no external planning, marketing, or PR agency. We do not even own a photocopying machine.

As we constantly are in the know of all that takes place with our partners in Brazil, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, India, Thailand and The Philippines it is difficult to ignore those who are ignorant. The issues are many...need I spell out.. well.. access to education, gender inequality, maternal health, infant mortality, trade laws---indeed can ramble on for at least 10minutes...but you would know of them.

I am not complaining...because I did...I decided to be part of the solution...

Like me there are so many who keep all these issues on the agenda and spend their life lobbying, fighting, protesting, speaking , writing, documenting to make that CHANGE..for all those who are less fortunate.

As part of our work, at SERVE, we work together very hard all the 5 of us to organise various workshops for schools. These workshops are lessons that have to be taught to the next generation who will grow into more wholesome individuals. That is the HOPE! That is the effect we would aim for!

The objective is not only inspire these young adults to sign up on any sort of volunteering project but also to keep in mind the issues and begin conversations. Small conversations lead to revolutions that translate to change.

I delivered my first workshop today---about the barriers to development. I only hope those young girls do get inspired in good time.

Friday, April 2, 2010

To integrate or Not to integrate

Our world is now more accessible than ever before.

Within hours, one can swiftly move from snowy European streets to the warmth and sandy lanes in Chennai. Yes, of course, it requires money and for me that is usually scarce- however the fact of the matter is it is possible.

As the world gets smaller (and exists without borders in my opinion), it is blatant that we are closer to each other now than ever before.

Naturally we have a cultural effect on each other. I find my happiness
in throwing myself into new things....selfish- I know.
But there is nothing more horrid than being an inactive bystander when there is so much I wish to absorb from a new social environment.

Is there a right or a wrong way in which I could approach this and if so should that be imposed on me?
Can I challenge the new things that I see?
Can I be part of a different society just as the individual that I am?
Does integrating into a new culture imply losing your individuality to conform or adding your individuality to it, thus enriching that culture?

Maybe the world has become too accessible too quickly.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Effect of Disasters

How should I feel when I hear and see images of nature's wrath around me?

Mother Nature must calm down-- while some of us work for a second chance.. some of us believe that this is the beginning of an end much awaited because as human beings we have ill treated what we have.

We might be abusive, but the loss of human life is still unbearable- there is a fine line between being realistic about the effect of disaster and being immune to the consequence of disaster.

Post the earthquake in Haiti- every known relief agency stepped into the forefront and did what they had to do- but can we even fathom the amount of time the Haiti government will require to rebuild themselves- do we realise how grave the situation is. It might be ineveitable- but is it that difficult to express solidarity? Is it easier to deal with the loss of hope by saying the end is near?

Closer to home, the Ganga is a huge cause for concern. The stories I have heard and the pictures I have seen of its deterioration is awful.. who is to blame- we are to blame--but if we wrecked it we can fix it and yes there is hope as many environmentalists work hard to rectify it. But of course, to acquire funds for its research or to execute 'green' plans that will save us from man made disasters is extremely politicised.

Yet, we can not stand back- we can not simply shrug our shoulders and leave it to those in power, because as far as I can tell- we are all in power- we are all in a position to do as little as we can- a small community collection to support a relief fund or an environmental agency.

Our world has no borders when we want to extend our hand in support-
--- There are so many ways through which we can help- go on spare a few minutes and research or simply ask around to help groups who are looking for help.

While you hunt for your next mobile phone or flat screen tv in the shops- think about someone who has been lying in a hospital with no proper attention or think about the trees that were cut down to prepare the paper/ card box packaging of your new phone or tv set... At the same time I do not imply that we should all go and live like a sage- I propose balance!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

xmas 2 disater in haiti 2 bombay 2 burma

I was more amused, surprisingly, than emotional when I met my lovely girlfriends in Germany. It felt like a dream to see them in a city other than Bombay, in a winter so strange and in a phase so unreal. We were little girls just a while ago and when we walked in the park with tall, dull yet enlivened trees, with Sven following us, I knew we were still those 3 wild bright individuals. It was a warm Christmas and the New Year came in quietly with a bang.

The world is raising funds for the unfortunate Haitians. It may be politicised and chaotic yet it must be done. And ofcourse, there are causes all over the world that need a voice-- Can you hear them? I do and I am confused.

While I sit here confused, tucked away in a western suburb of Bombay, Shivli was working hard to raise funds for little children who are unprivileged. It wasn't much but there are brand new second hand clothes for them given to her at a small party in their name. They weren't forgotten.

It made me hopeful.

Just as I began to relax, I watched Burma VJ. I cried! Imagine a life where freedom is a distant dream. And for that dream young men risk their lives everyday in a heartbeat. Their struggle is long but fruitful because the Buddha says "to not be greedy, be patient".

Pain is recycled or maybe even is reborn into hope or pain exists because hope exists. Pain always seems limitless but hope is bigger than limitless. As long as I have you , you and you and all of you and your positivity--we will find our solutions

And it is found only because my world is seamless....