Category Archives: Bits of my life

What’s in a ‘last’ name?

“So if you are so much against all kinds of discrimination and claim to be a feminist, how come you have adopted your husband’s last name?” – It’s a question I have been asked numerous times! Those who asked me this didn’t know me before marriage. Hence, they didn’t know that I have always been Sejal ‘Parikh’! It was a co-incidence that my and Pulkit’s last names were the same. Around the time I got married, I was even told by some that I got lucky, as I wouldn’t have to change my last name! The fact is that well before I decided to tie the knot with Pulkit. I had made up my mind not to let marriage alter my name. In fact, I have spent many days wishing that Pulkit’s and my last names were different, because, then, people around me wouldn’t have been led to the misconception about me being a hypocritical feminist who doesn’t walk the talk!

During the time I was in Gurgaon, my eyes opened to the many ways through which men in our society oppress, exploit or discriminate against women. One of those ways is the name changing post marriage. One’s name is an important part of her identity. That’s what everyone around has all along recognized her through. Yet, when she’s married, she is supposed to change her middle name (or last name in some cultures) to her husband’s name, and his surname as her last name, as if she is an object, whose identity is immaterial to the society and her property rights are transferred from the father to the husband.  (I had a friend from Rajasthan, who was asked to change even her first name!).

I think 21st century women have woken up to this issue to some extent, hence we see the flourishing a new trend – hyphenating two surnames (usually only for informal settings like social networks – nothing changes legally though). It is an attempt to save her original identity, but sadly, she is still unwilling/unable to get rid of the hubby-stamp completely. Why can’t she just be what she was before marriage?

It’s unfortunate that due to decades of patriarchal conditioning, many women also have internalized the notion that they are second-class members of their families and the society. So, many think that it’s their duty to assume their husband’s last names, and they would be doing something wrong if they didn’t adhere to the “societal norm”. This attitude needs to change. Women have to start demanding to retain their identity and rights to do anything we wish, not only with our names but also with our lives, just like men do! Of course, the struggle becomes easier if husbands too stand by their wives against the pressure of society. In my case, since changing last name wasn’t needed, I was asked to change my middle name. Needless to say, that never happened. And, strong support from Pulkit made things go smooth.

Hypothetically, if the situation was to reverse, as in if our society was to turn matriarchal, would men be okay with changing their last names (or even first in some cases)?

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Wedding woes

She calls herself a 21st century girl, perhaps rightly. Having been given a good quality education, she has been able to bag a high paying job in a multinational company and attain financial independence. She considers her equal to men in all areas, be it at education or work. She wants her right to go out late at night and wear any cloths of her choosing. However, all this independence and equality goes right out of the window when it comes to the super-hyped mega event – the wedding. No, a big fat Indian wedding. She wants flashy dresses and heavy jewelry, a grand bash, even if it costs her parents a fortune. Many of the rituals/practices during and after the wedding are deeply patriarchal, yet this advocate of gender equality has no trouble embracing them. Yes, she is a 21st century girl, but far from an ideal one.

Pardon me if I came out a bit too harsh in the above paragraph, but this has exactly been observation so far (with few exceptions). Being a girl, I wrote this with a female focal point. But, that doesn’t at all mean that girls are not the only guilty party. Many girls don’t have the support of the would-be-husband, even if they want to keep things simple. I was shocked to find many of my male colleague openly sharing expectations of a hefty dowry plus a working wife! The blame, though, doesn’t fall on the bride and groom completely. The parental pressure too is immense. The parents, in turn, succumb to societal pressure. And come to think of it, who forms this society? You, me, our parents and people around us!

Ever since I gained this perspective, I had decided not to fall into this trap and was determined to a simple wedding for myself. Fortunately my soul-mate too had similar ideas and we clicked immediately. And today, after almost 5 years, I still think of it as one of the most significant decisions made by us. I thank a dear friend for coaxing me to write this post and capture how we got married.

Our initial plan was to have a registered marriage but later we agreed for a simple wedding in Arya Samaj Mandir in presence of immediate family members numbering around 30-35 and a small lunch in a nearby restaurant. We did not want any relatives to make their own assumptions for not inviting them to the wedding. Hence we came up with a concept of a ‘wedding intimation card‘ which explained in detail our reasons for the simple wedding. As for the parents, they took some time to make peace with our beliefs, but they did come around later.

I was recently asked if I have ever regretted this decision. Forget any regret; I am proud of it! I am proud that I was not a financial burden to my parents, that I broke many male chauvinistic stereotypes of conventional marriages. If I hadn’t done it, I would always have felt the guilt of not walking the talk of independence and equality.

Marriages should be thought of as a coming together of two souls. Today, we emphasize more on the coming together of caterers, bands/DJs, decorators, jewelers and dress designers. Is it the right way forward for the society?

Why vegan? – a personal account

[Note: I also wrote an article for The Alternative magazines about my reasons of being vegan: 8 reasons why I choose to be a vegan. ]

Why did I turn Vegan? A question I face every time I refuse a cup of milk-tea. It has been a year now since I turned vegan completely, so I find it is a good time to publish this long pending post.

What is Veganism?

Essentially, a vegan is a set of choices stemming from a simple logic: Any being that feels pain should not be put to pain. Thus, a vegan avoids all animal products: Milk & its products, meat, eggs, honey (substituting them with their plant-based versions for taste, if desired), wool, leather, fur, pearl, silk, etc. In my view veganism is an extension of progressive movements like those against slavery, racism and gender inequity. The enslavement and exploitation of a class of sentient beings – on the morally irrelevant basis that they do not belong to our species – must end.

Milk and Cruelty

It was only during breast-feeding related discussions of community health fellowship I came to know that breast milk is not an endless resource and stops after a few years of pregnancy! (Believe me, I know a lot many techie friends who still don’t know this!). Somehow it din’t occur to me to apply same logic to the cows too. Adithya, a friend (also a medical doctor) introduced me to the concept of veganism and later I started reading and understanding more about it. And that was the starting of a year long step-by-step journey towards compassionate changes.

I never imagined that a cow would be forced into pregnancy repeatedly throughout her lifespan (either through artificial insemination or by a common bull) and injected with strong bovine growth hormones that give her painful stomach cramps. When she yearns to feed her baby, the milk, that’s actually made for the calf, is stolen by us, humans. As if that’s not enough, male calves are directly sent to slaughter house and females are kept alive for milk. How can we justify all this torture just because we humans have acquired an addiction to ‘milk’? We are not satisfied with our share of our mother’s milk and still want more, so we steal from someone else’s mother, which happens to be a cow here, even when we grow up, and can supplement our bodies with all kinds of other foods. (A must watch video). No mammalian specie, in nature, drinks milk of another specie, nor does any animal specie drink milk after the age of weaning!

Environment and Hunger

Non-vegetarians often have this misconception that they are saving food for vegetarians by eating animals! Now, did you know that for getting 1kg of beef it takes almost 10-12 kgs of grains? (3-4 kg for chicken). Almost 50% of maize in india and 80% of soy, maize in US goes to cattle feed. The whole process of feeding grain to cattle and than eating meat, seems too inefficient taking huge amount of land, water, fertilizer and other resources. Even international agencies like UN produced a report in 2010 urging people to move towards meat and dairy free diet.  [Video] In 2006, UN-FAO had also brought out a 400 pages of report detailing the impact of livestock on environment and stated that it’s responsible for a substantial part of total GHG emissions. [Full report here]. Raising cows and buffaloes for milk also takes enormous amounts of grains and water. Milk today is consumed more in the form of cheese, paneer, ghee, butter etc.

Personal transitioning

I have always been enslaved to my sweet tooth, and have enjoyed all kinds of milk based sweets, ice creams, pastries etc.  Hence when I found out the brutality behind milk and recognized the fact that milk itself is so needless for my body, I tried to come up with many possible arguments to refute  these claims. I reckon this initial reaction only came out of my own insecurities about losing those delicacies that had become an integral part of my diet. It took me a while to digest the facts and internalize them. While traveling further in many rural place, I found out that all the cruelty related aspects recorded by others are not some isolated incidents. Meanwhile Pulkit too was exploring the idea of turning vegan. Both of us still believed that cow’s milk is good for us health wise. With regular pain-killer intake, Pulkit felt (factually incorrectly in hind sight) that he should continue 1 glass of milk, but he stopped all things he consumed merely for taste (sweets, paneer, ice creams etc). I never had a habit of drinking raw milk, so I started cutting down other things one by one, beginning with cheese and paneer dishes.  It took us 2-3 months to become complete vegans (Pulkit also stopped raw milk later). The first 2 months seemed difficult, but later on we never realized when it became just a way of life!

It only took me a month to learn a few tricks of vegan living and thereafter it was pretty easy to find vegan alternatives of all my favourite stuff everywhere. There’s no reason to miss sweets, ice-creams, cakes, cookies, curd, cheese etc., as everything today can be made or bought in vegan version. all tips for transitioning to vegan diet. can be found here. I have also written many article containing numerous simple and healthy recipes. Here is a complete list of my such articles.

Please read this neatly compiled common questions in case you are planning to go Vegan. Sharan has a very helpful health booklet for the beginners (free download). For hostel students, Arun, an IISc student has devised some excellent guidelines.

Vitamin B12 and D Vegans or non-vegans, deficiency in Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D is very common today, due to our clean diet and increasing pollution (that’s blocking UV-B rays of the sun). Read all about Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D (the links also have supplement information). People deficient in Vitamin D should start the supplement and vitamin B12 is something that everyone would need to have as supplement. 

Speciesism  (discrimination based on the type of species)

The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.
-Alice Walker

I recently read about human slavery in Rome and other countries in the past. It was disgusting how they treated fellow humans , but I see very little progress in the attitude today. We have simply replaced humans with animals, the rest remains the same! Some argue that it’s natural for humans to feel more for their own species. That’s perfectly fine as long as we don’t derive our happiness at the expense of another innocent species. We may be more powerful than the other species, but then Brahmins are also more powerful than Dalits in most of rural India, yet we don’t believe that Brahmins have a right to dominate Dalits, do we? If a powerful specie is entitled to exploit a weaker species, by that logic a powerful gender should also be justified to dominate a weaker one. But then, why do we, educated and civilized people, stand up proudly for gender equality?

Human civilization has been going through a long process of evolution. We started off with many things right but some wrong. Sexism, racism, human slavery, hunting animals for fun, patriarchy are some of them. In time, we have recognized some of these mistakes and corrected them, yet there are many more to correct. Veganism, in my view, is just one of those pending corrections.

Vegan for good health!

It was during the time of exploration, when we were searching for nutritional replacements for Pulkit, we met Parag, a Plant based Nutritionist in Bangalore who gave me two books ‘The China Study‘ and ‘The Food Revolution‘. These books along with Sharan‘s Peas Vs Pills workshop broke so many nutrition related myths.  I was fully convinced that milk is not only needless for human consumption but can also be harmful for human health!

Ingredients of the cocktail called ‘Milk’!

Milk – by dictionary definition means “A white liquid produced by mammary glands of female mammals for feeding their young”. Right, all mammals produce milk for their babies (not for humans! We humans seem to think everything is made for us!) Hence milk is tailor-made for that particular specie.  For e.g., growth rate of a calf is 4 times higher than that of human baby, hence nutrients such as protein, calcium etc are also 4 times higher. These high-levels of protein and calcium are not suitable for humans. Besides, all the sources of animal protein are coupled with high amount of saturated fat that’s linked to rise in cholesterol level and results in various lifestyle diseases. And in fact doctors like Nandita Shah, Neal Bernard, Caldwell Esselstyn and John Mcdougall have been reversing diebetes, heart diseases etc just by healthy vegan diet! (More resources are in the end of the post). Besides, isn’t the animal protein based food (milk, meat, egg) the only source, that can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels in its raw form?

What about Calcium?

This is the most frequent question I get. It’s actually a myth that milk is the best source of calcium, something that came out of advertisements by dairy industries and white revolution in the country. Almost anyone with basic nutrition training knows that protein inhibits calcium absorption, and milk is nothing but full of protein (casein which is also mucus forming). In fact below snapshot of calcium comparison between plant based foods and milk would tell you how much misled are we by the industry funded research and advt. campaigns. I sustained entire 9 months of my vegan pregnancy on vegan food without any calcium supplements and I never had calcium deficiency related problems!

calcium

Our anatomy and meat-eating

When I talk to some friends about eco-friendly lifestyle they rhetorically ask “so do you want us to live like caveman?” (as if avoiding plastic and cycling etc. resembles to life of a caveman!). Ironically, when I talked to same people about veganism they asked “But humans have always been eating meat since caveman’s time!” – But we are not Caveman anymore! We are far more evolved  and civilized and have discarded loads of things that cavemen were naive enough to adopt.

I have not found a single person who’s able to hunt and kill even a rabbit without tools and then tear it apart, and eat with all the blood without cooking! What would a 2 years old hungry child pick up when offered raw carrot, and live chicken? Our basic human instincts match mostly of that of herbivores.  But we forcefully train ourselves to change those instincts when we grow out of the innocence of a child. (read Comparative Anatomy of Eating by by Milton R. Mills, M.D.)

If slaughter-houses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian – Sir Paul McCartney (detailed video)

It also makes me wonder why we love one some animals as pets and kill others to eat! After all, both have same feelings and desire to live!

Plant and pain

“So you eat plants, don’t they too feel pain?” – A question primarily non-vegetarians ask (more often than not, merely to win the argument). As per dominant scientific opinions while certain plants certainly respond to stimuli, none can feel pain due to a virtually non-existent nervous system. Contrast that to animals who even feel psychological pain (e.g., dairy cows let out cries of anguish for days every time her calf is forcibly taken away and deprived of its righteous milk). Secondly, even if we hypothetically assume plants to be capable of perceiving pain, non-vegans still would kill/hurt more as farm animals don’t drop from heavens, they are bred/farmed using a massive amount of plant based food and natural resources. Besides life of a plant is drastically different than that of humans or animals. For e.g, when you pluck a leave, it grows back (doesn’t happen with any animal body part). Most plant parts are needed to be eaten or used so that they can propagate by means of pollination.

No deprivation what-so-ever!

Becoming vegan has never been easier. From sweets, chocolates, cakes & ice-creams to curd, paneer, cheese, pizza and tea/coffee, almost every taste you are used to can now be enjoyed without animal ingredients. Find all the where-to-find, how-to-make pointers and other practical tips on Dairy alternatives, Vegan products, Eat-out options, Recipes & more.

Vegan-cake, made by me!

Cooking vegan dishes is my new-found hobby! Find many of my recipes in articles here. Here are some of my favorite vegan culinary websites:

Good communities on the web that help with transitioning:

More resources on vegan nutrition:

Back, with a Hyderabadi bang!

Updating this space seems to have become a yearly affair now :-). A lot of changes happened in life personally and otherwise in the last year, so here’s  a  quick look at some of the recent happenings.

Beginning with the last thing first, we (I and Pulkit) just shifted our location (again!) to Hyderabad. Hopefully we will sustain our stay here for next few years :-). Since the time I left my house in Ahmedabad, this is going to be the 6th city I am going to live in and I’m pretty excited about it! We just rented a house in Kondapur and are still in process of settling. Pulkit has joined Microsoft and is undergoing a promising Ayurvedic treatment for Ankylosing Spondylites (a chronic dicease that he has been suffering since teenage). This treatment was one of the key reasons for the shift to Hyderabad, apart from the better lifestyle (compared to Noida) and fun of having Ruchi (Pulkit’s sister) living with us! As for me, I am still considering several options in front of me. But nevertheless, I will always continue volunteering for various causes related to urban environmental conservation, like I have done so far.  For the regular followers of this blog, I am back to the Dailydump home-composter. With the help of  Sahaja Aharam, we are also planning to buy more organic than ever before.

I and Pulkit just entered into the 5th year of our wedlock! In the last 4 wonderful years, we have witnessed each other growing together and have stood by one another through all the ups and downs. I truly relish all the unforgettable moments that we have shared so far, and look forward to many more of them!

Last year has turned many things around, including the way I look at some of the matters concerning social change-making. Embracing Veganism may have played a major role in this. I have always disliked cooking, but after turning vegan, cooking has been added to my list of hobbies. It has become a challenging task, which makes it fascinating for me. I am gonna leave the detailed reasoning behind my Veganism for the next post. Until then, ciao!

After a long hibernation

It’s time to end the year long blogging hibernation! Life has been entirely different and underwent a lot of shifts since I bid farewell to the IT jobs.  Since February last year I spent the bulk of my time traveling and rest in Noida/Delhi. In retrospect, this blog should’ve been buzzing with frequent posts, but the circumstances made me spend more time  in reflecting than  writing.

Traveling through rural and tribal parts of MP, Bihar and Gujarat was quite an eventful time, giving me several firsts in life. The experiences of staying in the huts of people in rural and tribal regions gave me some insights of  rural and tribal lifestyles. It was, of course, strenuous for me, having been a city dweller all my life. Walking long distances and climbing hills to reach one village to another, cycling more than 30 kms on bumpy and flooded road (with an ordinary bicycle), walking barefoot through flooded fields, sleeping in a hut and getting soaked in the middle of the night due to leaking roof, learning to de-weed the fields– each of these episodes took me through an uncharted territory. I traveled to many places in this phase, from Gujarat to Rajasthan to MP to Orissa to Bihar to Karnataka, all of them by  non-AC trains/buses. I’m glad to have been able to avoid buying bottled water (disposables) in all the journeys till date! Looking back, I also find it striking that I ended up using almost all modes of sustainable transportation – trains(non-AC), buses, trucks, tractor, bicycle etc. (avoiding the fuel guzzling flights).

My attempts to understand problems from various viewpoints,  have helped me connect many previously scattered dots.  Quite a lot reasoning with myself and others, made me decide Environmental conservation as my area of focus.  As for concrete plans, there are none for now. Hopefully I shall be able to throw more light on this in sometime.

Btw, we’ve shifted to a new place, and while continuing the other  eco-friendly practices, I’m also experimenting with a new method of composting (suggested by Divya). Friends are most welcome for a good homemade vegan meal.  🙂

A defining career switch

After spending past 6 years in the field of Telecom engineering, I have taken a break to get into into full time engagement with community development. This ‘paradigm shift’ has begun with a fellowship that will run for about a year. After the first 1.5 months in Bangalore (where I have been since March 1), I will travel to various places in (mostly rural) India.

There have been plenty of questions from friends and relatives upon breaking this news, but I wonder if I have been and will be able to satisfy anyone’s curiosity to the fullest! There were also typical patriarchal reactions such as “Oh so you are quitting to become a housewife?” “cool, good thing to pass time, keep yourself busy” … Not that I undermine the role of a home-maker, but it saddens me to see that the value of married woman in the society is (largely) thought to be reduced to a house-wife if she is not doing any income-generating work! Many also had concerns about the finances, when they figured that Pulkit too might take similar plunge soon. But, we have done adequate calculations and pondering on that aspect. Also, this brings me to what Gandhi once rightly said: “There’s everything for one’s need and not for one’s greed”. We had decided to do away with many of our greeds long time back; that has helped us save good amount for our sustenance for next few years :-).

For a long time, even before I came to know of the concept of volunteer work, I knew that I had slightly differing views than many in my surroundings. Be it my atheist and feminist ideas or being a bit  compassionate towards someone’s pain. But all said, I had never imagined myself being where I’m today. Like any other stereotypical Indian student, I too after my schooling had dreamt of getting a good job, having a respectful position both in society and work place.

Going through the past, I now figure that my year on year job-hopping(sometimes without much good reason or pay) was partly also because I was finding my work increasingly futile for the society. Sure, money could also bring about (i.e. fund) a great deal of change, but in my case, I believe my full time involvement would make a bigger impact. As my involvement with AID and other  groups drifted my interests to different issues, the job was becoming an obstacle for contributing to what I felt was more worthy of my time. Can’t say I found my true passion, but I am convinced of this being the best way to go.

I am currently clueless about my final destination after a year, but I will try to keep things posted on this space.

Bangalore, memories galore!

RWUBY4BZ9X5J Leaving the (erstwhile) garden city was a mixed feeling: On the one hand, I was enthused about being reunited with Pulkit after a three-month separation,  and on the other, saddened by the sudden realization of what all I am leaving behind. Here goes a quick rewind to perhaps the most influential 2 years of my life:

I relocated from Pune to Bangalore with Pulkit after tying the knot, one of the best events that have ever happened  to my life. Pulkit has brought a unique flavor to my world, one that I adore (despite our fair share of squabbles)! I wish I could say the same about the truck load of weird nick names he has coined for me :-).

The highlight of the stay was undoubtedly my involvement in activities at AID, which introduced me to several other like-minded groups and individuals across India. Quite a few of them inspired me towards a more eco-friendly lifestyle and are responsible for my improved depth of thought. I must admit my ignorance about some issues pertaining to the injustice that prevails in my surroundings. The more aware I became, the more agitated I grew. Fair amount of debates, discussions and reading have altered my views to such a degree, that I’m now not surprised at seeing many of my closed ones being unable to relate to me at times. But deep down, I still feel the same Sejal,  cheerful around the near and dear, proudly feminist, (increasingly) compassionate and (decreasingly) lazy.

I also had a bunch of ‘firsts’ in Bangalore. I took Pulkit’s suggestion of cycling to work, a decision which I will never regret. I am proud to have paddled 20-25 kms at a stretch! I also had a successful stint at growing a  tiny balcony garden and home-composting! Our first door-to-door relief collection (for Bihar floods) still brings a smile to my face, wherein we had unique experiences of catching people drinking in the middle of the afternoon and seeing the door being shut on us because we were mistaken for sales people :). The visits to villages such as Unnainhalli or Potnal were also the first of their kind. It was also my first time at a course such as the one conducted by PHM on ’Health and Equity’, giving me enhanced  clarity for possible future directions. With the participation of roughly 70 people  from across the globe, I was not only exposed to some enlightening discussions, those 10 days’ stay at NTI campus also gave me a much-needed boost amidst the otherwise boring routine of mine. I took back some fun memories as well, like the non-Indian gurls enthusiastically trying Saris, and seeing them, a guy from Kenya wanting to buy himself a “men’s sari” :-). Besides, it had been long since I enjoyed the company of female roomies!

Another significant development was my hunt for passion, something that stimulates me to go on.  Hopping jobs year on year for work satisfaction doesn’t seem to work for me. I find my interests venturing into many non-IT avenues, most directed to social change. The exploration is ongoing, and I hope to post more concrete plans in this space, in a few months from now.

For now, I have begun trying to find some ways to engage myself in various activities of AID NCR.  Hoping to get through the difficult (as in transition) first few pages of this latest chapter of life as quickly as possible!

PS: After carefully thinking over several factors including concentration of friends, work hours/flexibility, cost of living (esp. rent) & presence of one person (Pulkit) at home for the cook, for now, we have rented a 1 BHK in Noida (over South Delhi).

Exploring the Art of Cooking!!

Does this title make you say “Oh, now it seems she is really into married gals’ gang!” 😉

I have hated this traditional art (read cooking) since my teens, when mom would poke me every now and then for learning it, reminding that I will have to do it some day, and I would go all cranky on such ‘Bhashan’ of hers 🙂

Cooking was not-so-horrible initially, but sooner when I begun to handle other stuff at work and life, self-cooked food didn’t seem to be a good idea. The time I took for cooking was so long that we could only dine by 11pm. So finally we got ourselves a cook! But I have continued on my cooking experiments during Sundays.

Honestly, sometimes I do find this art interesting. It’s indeed a magic, when I find how the taste of any vegetable changes altogether when it’s cooked. How with some permutation/combination of different vegetables and spices, one can come up with a whole new sabji! Sometimes there is a pinch of suspense too; when I don’t know what would be the outcome of the dish I started with, until it’s been tasted by Pulzy! 😀

So all in all, I have begun to like cooking a bit. My mom, if by any chance she gets to read this post, would surely be delighted 😛

My life’s most interesting twist!

It’s true; my marital status has indeed changed! The chosen one is a gentleman named Pulkit. His blog should tell you a great deal of what all he does & thinks. It also hosts an elaborate, photo-filled post on our wedding. Since this is an era of theme weddings, we too couldn’t help but find ourselves one. Our wedding theme was diverting the marriage money to charity – Keep the wedding low-key and support NGOs/social work from the money saved. In keeping with that, ours was a simple wedding wherein only immediate relatives were invited; every one else was intimated. So, I request you not to map my closeness with you to your not getting invited to the wedding! For those interested, the other half of our theme (donations to selected groups striving to empower the poor) is captured here.

Lost in Dark Tunnel

Yes I knew it was tough
But I desired to contend
to make it through to the end

It was all dark
I saw nothing, I saw nobody
A dark endless tunnel
my sides were invisible
was I becoming blind?
Yet I marched ahead
It shaped into a black cloud,
slowly encircling me
I wondered what to do
Panic surged through my veins
I was loosing faith
I wanted to run away
And I turned back,
To find where I forked in from

But, suddenly I saw a faint beam
it was a ray of light
for me, it was a ray of hope
Hope to get through the darkness!
I accelerated towards the light,
Regaining confidence at each step

And then I saw him,
smiling, welcoming with open arms,
As if he knew I would come through!
Soon I was in his embrace
Feeling his warmth
it was a rejoicing victory!

Now, I’ll never run away
Coz I know, if I am lost
He will be there to illuminate my path,
showing me the way out of the tunnel!

A thought-provoking encounter with a street kid

While walking alongside the market of Aundh, I heard a small voice asking for money. Unlike the usual roadside kids, who stick around you until they get some money out of your pockets, this boy decently asked me, “didi, muje padhai karne ke liye paise chahiye”. It must be some new strategy for getting money, I reckoned. But on careful observation, I saw he was dressed in school uniform. The kid interested me. I had all time in the world as I was done with my browsing (can’t call that shopping!) and was waiting for a friend to come. So, I set myself on a roadside parked bike, and started some interrogatory talk.

He was in 6th class, studying in a government school. I pointed out that government schools don’t charge fees and textbooks too are normally given for free. I was given the clarification that the money was required to buy stationeries for him and his younger sister(who’s studying in 1st class) and also to feed the family. Probing further, I demanded info about his family and their whereabouts. He resided in one of the nearby slums, with his mother who’s working as a maid. His father had gone missing 3 years back and the family hadn’t heard anything about him since then. His mother makes 5000/- per month. Now 5000 per a month is, though not too much, but nearly sufficient to buy some nominal stationeries and feed the family. So the kid shouldn’t go begging on the road. He reflected saying his mother hasn’t been working for more than a month due to bad health. When I advised him to work instead of begging, he said he doesn’t usually go for begging, instead earns some money by washing cars. But that day he was too tired due to starvation, so chose the easy way out.

As if it wasn’t enough, I asked him what subjects he is studying in school and to counter check, I also made him write a few things in hindi and English! Having been satisfied about the genuineness of all his explanations, I hired an auto and took him to Aundh sabzi mandi, got some veggies. Also we went to a grossary store to get him some groceries (aata, daal, rice, salt, etc). I somehow couldn’t find the stationary shop around, so unwillingly I had to handover some money to him, trusting that he will buy required stuff with that.

The reason given by this boy for his begging, has evoked this tiny thought. Often you will find people with motto ‘give nothing for free’. We would pass notes saying beggars should stop begging and start working. But who’ll have enough energy and motivation to work with empty stomach? They may just go for easy ways like this boy! The immediate suitable solution I see as of now is, to give enough food to such beggars rather than money and then give them some motivation to work. (Although some of you will say child labor shouldn’t be encouraged, but then is it right to encourage the kids to start begging on the road? I still wonder as to what should be the right option for such cases.)

Mirage

I felt thirsty, wanted water
And there, I saw it…
I ran to grab it,
But, it seemed to go away
away from my existence!

Where am I?
Do I know this place?
It was all the same yesterday
But it sounds unfamiliar today…

Is that really water I am running after?
Mirage – Is that the reality of my life?

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