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Childhood: A World Of Wonder And Magic

Charles from Mostly Bright Ideas, recently did this post here. He brought so many memories of my childhood back that instead of writing a comment on his post I decided to do an entire post here.

As everyone from my generation would say, almost gloatingly, we spent more time outdoors, playing. The television reached here late (in the 80’s) so we had very little to distract us from our playing.

My most vivid memories are of my summer vacations that I spent at my grandparents’ place where all of us cousins would be together for whole two months of free vacation time on our hands. In my age group, we girls were out-numbered by the boys at 2:4, which got further skewed when their friends joined in, and we(girls)  had no option but to join them in their boys’ games. So we spent our vacations, playing marbles, gilli-danda, sitoliya, hide’n seek, flying kites and going for long bicycle rides.

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Apart from this there were many other activities that we indulged in as that particular year’s ‘flavor of the year’. We spent one vacation mastering our cycling talents, with a lot of funny mishaps thrown in, in good measure. The next was spent in gardening when we surprised ourselves by actually growing some vegetables. It was a proud moment for us.

Another one we spent trying to learn the fine art of cricket bowling. Our oldest cousin brother was struck with the cricket virus and he insisted on taking up the role of our coach. He bought a book on bowling, drew a cricket pitch on the terrace and we spent the entire vacation taking lessons on how to grip the ball for off-spin, leg-spin, googly and bouncer varieties of bowling. Had we persisted the Indian cricket team would have greatly benefited from our skills.

And the year we got toy bows and arrows and maces for gifts, we spent enacting stage plays, mostly the Ramayana or excerpts from the Mahabharata. The elders of the house would suddenly find some of their clothes(mostly sarees) missing as they were pilfered away to dress ourselves up and also to do up a makeshift stage, as a result we would be unceremoniously shooed out of the house.

I was a regular tomboy, till I went to an all girls boarding school, where in the company of other girls, I developed a few girl-like traits.  My dad and mom never stopped me from doing a particular thing just because I was a girl. I was the first girl in my group of friends to learn how to ride a bike. I still remember very clearly, every Sunday morning, my dad would hoist me up the seat of the bike that we borrowed from our neighbours. We didn’t have those cute kid bikes available back then so we used a full sized bike, as a result, my feet couldn’t reach the ground. My dad would then spend the next half hour running behind me (with short breaks) till the day I finally learnt to ride it confidently. Getting off the bike safely was a totally another thing though, that took much longer to learn.

And now when I think about it, we, as kids, played so many games. There was Hop-scotch, Statue, Four-corners, Eggs in the Basket, Kho-kho, Rope skipping, One legged catch, Dodge ball, Chain, Cut-the-cake, Help… . whew!! apart from sports like Badminton or Table-tennis. And I haven’t yet listed the indoor games we played.

Sometimes I wonder if today’s generation is really missing out on some real fun? They do play outdoors, that is, they go for the practices of  various sports and their after school hours are packed into a tight schedule of  one class after another. Does that leave room for some imaginative play? Of  creating new games out of mundane things around them. A bed-sheet, for us, would turn into a tent and we would be soldiers at the front, or a group on a picnic, or hunters in the jungle. Cardboard boxes would send our imaginations in a tizzy. There was nothing we couldn’t play with.

And I’m sure today’s kids would find our games outdated, or even boring. They would be more interested in getting that next high score on their gaming consoles. As I look around me, a kid of average 2 years can manage the basics of a tablet and play games on them. And sometimes I think that too is important because the world is getting more and more digitized even as we speak so they need to be skilled in the use of modern technology.

So I don’t know if I should be claiming, gloatingly, that we had more fun or their’s is also the good way to have a great time. Maybe all the generations have had it good in some way or the other. What do you say???

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Women who Inspire

I have written about a couple of leading ladies from my country here and here. They reached their goals in their respective fields against all odds. There are many more such ‘leading ladies’ who have blown off the glass ceiling and shown that women can achieve anything they put their hearts to. But there are many other women who are doing their bit to make the world a little bit better place. They are not big names, and not many people know about them, but still they carry on their work to bring respite to the daily sufferings of the not so privileged.

Today I would like you all meet a friend of mine. Her name is Kavita Bhargava. She’s very much younger than me but I admire her- for many reasons.

How we met is an interesting story in itself. I first got to know her through my college page on a social networking site, where she regularly posted all the news about the college regarding functions, events, debates, tournaments etc. A few months later during the trip to my college for its Golden Jubilee function I got to meet her and came to know that she was a lecturer there. That surprised me because she looked barely out of college herself. But I was soon to know that looks can be deceptive. She came across as a warm, endearing person and we hit it off during that meeting. Since then we’ve stayed in touch on phone or by e-mails. Soon after, she started an NGO by the name ‘With Care’ at Ajmer, Rajasthan. My admiration for her grew because of the kind of the work she was doing, with total dedication and that too at an age when most youngsters wish for a dream job, neat pay-packages, etc.

Her journey in the field of HIV/AIDS began in 2004, when as a volunteer with the NSS, she participated in the National Students and Youth Parliament-Special Session on HIV/AIDS.In 2011, while teaching psychology at a college in Ajmer, she got an opportunity to join “Saksham, Tata Institute of Social Sciences” as a counseling supervisor and received training on HIV/AIDS counseling supervision. This was immediately after she had registered her NGO- ‘With Care Sanstha’ at Ajmer.  ‘With Care’ was formed with the aim to help people with their emotional problems and other hardships of life. They have teams working in villages and basties of Ajmer, Jaipur and Bhilwara districts of Rajasthan. Their vision is to promote mental health, reaching out to people in need and spreading love for environment.wc1Kavita with a village woman

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Saksham’s trainings on HIV/AIDS counseling supervision, served a landmark in her journey and she began to train her NGO team along the same lines. She started organizing street plays in nearby villages and bastis of Ajmer. The local media propagated the news and they got in to a collaboration project with IHAT(India Health Action Trust) to disseminate information on HIV/AIDS by performing street plays in remote villages.

For the plays, they gather audience by going door-door in the village, using folk music and the local language for better outreach. The story in the play is of a villager who goes to the city for work and falls in bad company, after returning, takes a blood test and gets an HIV positive report.  The doctor counsels him on HIV, telling him about referrals, linkages between HIV-TB, STIs, precautionary measures, etc. The plays are followed by distribution of informative materials and discussions with the audience.

Their NGO team has college students including those from the local Nursing College. Most of them put in time after work. Her work taught her the skills to build rapport, deal with high risk groups, keep aside personal views and respect their way of looking at things.

Besides this, her team also helps the village people by setting up blood donation camps, teaching the village children, organizing vocational courses for women, etc.

The main focus of the NGO now is providing Palliative Care to terminally ill Cancer patients and HIV positive people. Work is on to train her team of counselors and nurses for the same. They plan to have a Day Care Centre where the families of the patients will be taught relaxation therapies, Aura Therapies, Music Therapies along with emotional support.

In her own words :

People are into some kind of a race… knowing not as to where they want to reach and what they want to achieve…

Mine is a bit different perspective… Search your long term goals first and then shape everything accordingly… Life can be customized as well!

We must celebrate life rather than live it like a burden which most of us do…

Just don’t want to regret at age of 60 that I did nothing fruitful with my life… Each one should ask himself/ herself, “What is the purpose for this life?”, “Who am I?”, “What am I doing on this earth?” Once the answer is visible nothing else remains… We can go to any extent to follow our bliss and the Lord helps us in the same…

 So.. nothing great from myself… Its just HIM who’s working through me, helping me in each and every step I take…

Kavita Bhargava
Research Scholar- Psychology @ Banasthali Vidyapith, Banasthali University
Director & Counselor @ With Care Sanstha – “It helps when you help others…’coz anyone can make a difference…
Counselling Supervisor @ Saksham- “Building Capacities…” (A NACO Project)

With Care Sansthan

Saksham

Happy Women’s Day

Greatest charity: a true story

Today I want to share a real life story with you!

A few days back the newspaper carried a story about a family and their child who was kidnapped two years ago at the age of two. The child (name-Jignesh) was found after two years and when the cops handed him over to his mother Shital, she wept with joy, hugging her son tightly.

The story unfolded that Jignesh was abducted two years ago and could not be traced. Then, a few days back the people of the locality spotted the woman suspected of having kidnapped the child. The police was informed and the woman was arrested. During questioning the woman confessed that she had abducted a child from the locality and handed him over to a woman in Mumbai.

The drama then shifted to Mumbai. Police traced the woman (Named-Aarti) to whom the child was given. Aarti is a widow who also lost her only son soon after her husband’s death. The kidnapper gave her the child saying that he was her brother’s son and there was no one to take care of him. Aarti believed her, accepted the child and took him in as her own son.

Jignesh has only one functional kidney since birth and Aarti got his regular treatment done for the last two years. The kidnapper was booked and Aarti detained for questioning. Jignesh and Aarti were brought back to Ahmedabad where Jignesh was handed over to his mother.

When I read this story, though I felt that it was a happy ending for the mother(Shital), my heart went out to the woman who has been Jignesh’s mother for the last two years. She would have to face loss once again. Also, the child, now four years old would be thinking of Aarti as his mother. What about him? Seemed like a big tangled emotional mess.

Then today there was a follow up to that story that has put my faith back firmly to humanity, to empathy and to the belief that there are good Samaritans all around us.

The headlines read- “Mother Gives abducted son in adoption- Mumbai woman gets back boy handed to her by kidnapper” 

Yes, Shital has decided to give her son to Aarti in adoption. She says, “A woman can understand the separation of a mother and son better. Aarti has taken extremely good care of Jignesh, who has also bonded well with her. I don’t want Aarti to undergo the same trauma as mine.”

Seems like a movie story. The sacrifice that Shital has made is no small one. ‘Giving’ is a part of our cultural value but to give up one’s child has to be the greatest charity ever.

Nani (grandmom) Once Again

As the title says, have become a Nani (Hindi for maternal grandma) the second time. My niece brought a beautiful baby Girl into this world a couple of days back. She already has an adorable little girl, aged four (the first one to call me Nani), but that didn’t lessen the excitement of the arrival of this new member of our family.

Babies, no matter how many I see, always arouse a sense of wonder in me. Looking at their tiny hands, feet, sweet little nose, ears, lips, makes me believe that miracles do happen, for each baby that is born is God’s miracle. You only have to ask people who are unable to have children, how they pray for this miracle to happen to them.

So naturally, everyone in the family is rejoicing; be it the ‘Didi’ (older sister), Dada-Dadi (paternal grandparents), Nana-Nani (maternal grandparents), Chacha (dad’s brother), and all the relations that can be named. But there are such people also, who are  biased by the regressive mentality, one that still haunts our society- The want for a male child.

And surprisingly its not the elderly( they may be expected to believe in it), but young, educated and self-dependent women who say things like- “oh! if you had a boy it would have been so much nicer! or “if it was a boy the family would have been complete” etc.

In my country, given its high population and now the high cost of living and education, most people plan for not more than two children in the family. Add to this the desire for a male child and you have the perfect recipe for disaster, for the girl child. These beliefs have give rise to the biggest social malaise of our times- Female foeticide. Yes, that means that parents go for sex determination of the foetus as early in the pregnancy as possible, and if its a female, its aborted. It is all illegal, of course, but still people and so called doctors do not shy away from such practices. Young mothers-to-be are sometimes forced by their in-laws, or even by their husbands to do away with the unborn child.

I sometimes find it unbelievable that anyone can even think of killing their unborn child. A child, whether a boy or a girl, brings so much of joy into the lives of the people. A baby’s sweet laughter can bring a smile on the dourest of faces. Their innocent babblings, their efforts to reach their various milestones and then reaching them, their efforts to mimic the people around them, all can fill any person with joy. It is every parent’s dream to watch their children grow into lovely human beings. And yet, our society discriminates against the girls.

The result is a skewed boy-girl ratio in almost all the regions of our country. Government is taking its own measures, making laws, trying to implement them more effectively, but things will change only when the people will start to think differently. We all have to do our bit to save the girl child. WE, because, only we as women can bring about a change in the thought processes of our largely patriarchal society. Beliefs like these cannot be changed by force or by laws alone. The change will HAVE to come from within the society, from within the minds of the people. Only then our society will have truly moved into the new ages, into the 21st century.

LIFE AT IT’S SURPRISING BEST

Life has always thrown it’s share of surprises at me, some pleasant and some not so. It did not follow my plans but instead decided everything for me.  My dreams were taken away from me only to be replaced by new ones. Responsibilities were thrust upon me that I didn’t think I would be able to handle, but then also found the will and hence the strength and the ability to carry them out. But there were times when I doubted, lost faith, in myself and in what I was doing, especially when the going got really tough or when I thought I was not being appreciated for my efforts, or when I wondered what goals had life set for me. Times like these would be highly depressing, but at such times some serious soul searching would help. One of the things I like to do then is to go out on the balcony of my room late at night when everyone’s asleep and look at the stars in the sky. They always give me a great sense of perspective, a sense that I’m not the centre of the universe. I’m just a little speck in the larger scheme of things and that helps to draw a sense of calm and peace that God has planned everything for me, no matter how small a part of His scheme I may be. Also that everything will happen when the time is right, and no amount of worrying or fretting is going to help.

Over the years, Life has also led me to believe that when it thrusts a particular task at you it is because it thinks you to be capable of handling it. So I like to put my faith in it’s faith in me and just go for it, even if it means going out of my comfort zone. In fact, Life has a habit of throwing me and I would assume, people in general, out of their comfort zone. It is it’s way of showing my strengths and capabilities to me and shake me out of my complacency. So now I try not to say no to any unexpected surprise or challenge that it throws at me, just because I am afraid I won’t be able to handle it, but instead try to find out if I can tackle it head on.

I had a very normal and largely uneventful childhood, in the protective care of my parents. Went to a boarding school for my education. Wanted to be a doctor, but life had it’s own plan for me, and got me married to a doctor instead and I settled down to being a home-maker in a large joint family. Again it was a comfortable and sheltered life. The ups or downs came in the form of health problems (some major ones) for the family members and most of the time the responsibility of taking care of them fell on me. It taught me a lot of things, being a good nurse among others.

The last couple of years I had quite some free time on my hands, what with my daughter now old enough to take care of herself and her academics and almost ready to fly out of the nest. She would often try to persuade me to take up a job and as I liked teaching she often suggested that I should really get going as did my husband. I gave it some thought but was unable to take that first step. As usual, self doubts would raise their heads( I am too old to start something new or I won’t be able to deal with today’s kids and many more).

Then a month back I got a call from my daughter’s old school. They needed teachers and found out from old students’ records that I was qualified for the job. They asked me if I would be interested in joining the school. Realizing that this opportunity was a ‘Godsend’ and once again putting my faith in Life’s faith in me I said ‘yes’.

So now I’m once again out of my comfort zone. I’m back to school, as teacher, and enjoying the everyday challenge of teaching, of interacting with young minds and hopeful of being a successful part in molding their futures. I know the going will be tough but I want to test my fears and see myself come out triumphant so I can throw a surprise right back in the face of my Life.

I am Happy Today!!

Isn’t it amazing and stupendously thrilling to suddenly get back in touch with friends you thought you’d lost forever. And that too after a gap of more than 30 years. That’s a whole lot of time.

We were classmates at the only local English medium school. Our parents (fathers mostly) were either the employees of the same Company or were businessmen. School was a regular affair and we were at that precarious age of adolescence where the boys and the girls could barely stand each other but could talk about nothing else either.

The parting came suddenly. The Company where our fathers worked closed down due to some problems and all the families scattered away to different parts of the country or maybe even the Globe. We were, I think, too young to comprehend this change or the fact that we would never see our friends again. The change came so swiftly that we were unable to exchange future addresses, the few that we DID have got lost in the sands of time. And, as they say, time marches on. We all got busy with our lives. Building careers, families, shouldering responsibilities, but the memories of that golden childhood remained, surfacing from time to time as we would come across old pictures in an old album. And we would wonder where our friends would be and what and how were they doing..

 

    picture of our class in fourth grade (1978)

    our class in sixth grade

And now thanks to the modern advances of technology, of networking sites, we found each other again. One of my old classmates took up this herculean challenge and systematically hunted some of us down. One thing led to another and now suddenly a bunch of old friends are together and we can’t stop talking, chatting, sharing news, pictures and it seems as if the past 30years have simply dissolved away.

The joy of finding old friends can’t be explained in words. It’s like suddenly coming across the treasure chest that you were always looking for. You hoped you would find a few nuggets at most but end up with a chestful of goodies. And friends are a treasure, no matter how long or how far we are apart.

WOMEN WHO INSPIRE INDIA:2

Just to refresh everyone’s memories, this post is inspired by Sudha Menon’s book  “Leading Ladies”.  The first one in this series featured –Meher Pudumjee.

The leading lady I write about this time is –P.T.Usha– the queen of India’s Track and Field for two decades. Usha has been nicknamed ‘Payyoli Express’, ‘Udanpari’ and ‘Golden Girl’ because of her speed.

Her life inspires, because despite her humble beginnings she attained the heights of glory and inspired generations of young girls to take up running. In her words: “I had never possessed a pair of track pants or shoes and had no idea what a crouch start was. I learnt to run on the beaches of Payyoli, barefoot.”

Her medal count at various national and international track and field events is long and impressive. In 1984,L.A. Olympic Games she almost made history but missed the bronze medal in the 400mt hurdles by one hundredth of a second. What is more impressive about her is her fierce dedication to running and determination that proved her detractors wrong again and again despite all odds heaped against her.

“the only constant in my life has been my complete commitment to running. From the earliest years of my life, I knew I was only meant to RUN.”

Some golden words from the Golden Girl of India.

“Talent alone is not enough. It has to be backed by the hunger to win and survive against any odds”

“Learn to lose if you want to win”

“God has given each of us some unique talent, but success comes to only those who exploit the full measure of their talents. Our future generation have to learn this little secret if they want to keep ahead in the race of Life”