A Page from the Diary of an NRI Couch Potato


First Surprise Visit to see my mom all alone

It was a chilly rainy evening when my leave application with the forged signature of my mother got accepted by the hostel warden of Jonas Hall. I was preparing for a surprise visit home since a month and hence felt extremely excited to proceed further.

The bus halted to a stop and I had been nervous since it was my first journey alone in a place like India. It was about midnight and the bus was filled with men alone including a father with 2 children. Unfortunately it was a hot monsoon day with high humidity in the air and no air-condition in the bus.

My travel companions were a middle aged man and a youngster, probably a college student engaged in watching pornography. I found myself restless continuously pushing away the middle aged man trying to lean on my shoulder in between his sleep.

For some reason I couldn’t sleep for a minute. I laid down on the small uncomfortable seat watching the people snore and sleep. In between I tried to read a book and listen to my IPod. As my fellow passenger found it disturbing I and my “porn addicted acquaintance” were compelled to switch off our electronics and the lights. Though it was winter, the inside of the bus was hot, stuffed and humid; hence I was compelled to open the window to get some fresh air though it was drizzling. The windowpane was rusted and the street lights illuminated the roads partially. I found clouds of different and could sense the smell of fresh soil where it rained after a very long time. I also could see the other vehicles passing by in high speed taking advantage of the zero traffic night time.

Commuters travel on a bus on a highway near Midnapore town

After a journey of about 5 hours the bus halted again in the midst of a bus station where I got down with my bags to have a cup of coffee. As theft was a common phenomenon in India I was compelled to carry my luggage wherever I went. The toilets were dirty and unhygienic with no water or tissues. I wore an expensive pair of leather stilettoes which my mother gifted me from Dubai for getting good grades in college which got soaked and damaged in the mud and rain water.

With the help of the conductor I managed to load the luggage back into the bus. On the move, I saw the half sleepy and cranky bus driver shouting at the conductor for no specific reason. There were children unattended and crying probably out of thirst or hunger. Their parent was totally drowned in his sleep and was hardly bothered about the noises they made which I considered as sheer insanity. They also played a pirated copy of new Tamil movie on the television fixed above in the front loudly and people still found it peaceful to sleep.

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As I managed to get in, I could see myself in the front rare view mirror and could relate myself to a crow sitting on a telephone wire on a rainy day. I found the seat extensively uncomfortable due to the heat and the humidity inside the bus.

In the midst of all the chaos I felt exhausted and fell asleep. I woke up at about 5 am in the morning hearing the whispers, murmurs and loud laughers of the men. I looked around with my droopy eyes and found that the man with children has already left the bus. I also noticed that I was the only woman in the midst of 10 other men including the wide awake middle aged travel companion and the college student who watched pornography the previous night.

I expect to arrive at my home town at about 7 am in the morning and found myself stuck at Palghat near the paddy fields as a tire of the bus got punchered. I got up quickly, grabbed my bags and stepped outside. As I made the conductor opened the luggage space he found a beggar hiding beneath inside traveling with us to Kerala. The men took charge and started chasing him. I was worried about whether any of my belongings were stolen. The other men started to ogle eve tease and make foul comments. I couldn’t stand them a minute longer and hence I picked my belongings and started walking alone into the pitch darkness not bothering to respond to any of their creative statements.

My only companions were the moon, the stars, the clouds and the fields. I walked for about 20 minutes and got exhausted due to the heavy weight of my luggage and the bags. In the meanwhile my phone ran out of charge and I couldn’t even reach out to anyone for help. One my way, I found a tribal woman with a pot on her waist and a kid behind her back. I tried to use a bit of Tamil that I knew to ask about the nearest bus station I could go to. Palghat is a state that shares its border with two states Tamil Nadu and Kerala. She said that there is a government bus stop approximately 6 miles away.

My heavy luggage and bags made me feel like a helpless 9 months pregnant woman on the road. I could not imagine walking all the way with a shoe bite, stilettos, luggage and droopiness.

2 weeks earlier I had read about a girl who got gang raped at Delhi. Thoughts about that incident made my mind trembled; I stopped on the way, opened my bag and kept my pepper spray and Swiss knife ready. I continued my walk alone thinking about what could be done next.

Suddenly it started to rain heavily and I had nothing to shield myself. I found shelter in a small shed made of hay the time being. The rain gained its strength and the heaven started pouring out. I understood that the situation is only going to worsen. I also saw a few drunken teenagers, probably college students passing by in a group in their cars with loud music, alcohol bottles and cigarettes. I removed my stiletto, put on my sports shoes, covered my head with the hood on my jacket and started to walk again.

Coal Mining In India's Jharia

With blurred vision I could see a small hut far away. As I got closer, I understood that it was an old man’s tea stall where coolie laborers and lorry drivers gathered to have breakfast, tea and read newspapers every morning. Among them were men who were young, middle aged or old. They stared at the helpless drenched woman. Though the men offered help, I did not appreciate the way they gazed at me and hence, quickly had a “1/4th coffee” (half coffee and half froth) and started my walk again.  I started seeing autos, tempos, and vans stuffed with school and nursery children pass by. None bothered to help me and hence I felt hopeless in the midst of nowhere.

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I could feel the small streams of muddy waters touching my shoe bitten area as I walked. I looked up at the orange sky and suddenly felt a kind of peace, probably because the place was getting lit up by the sun. I saw an old man transporting fresh wet hay on the way. I chased him and asked him on whether I could get a lift. The old man agreed and I loaded my luggage on to the bullock cart. The old man could hardly breathe due to excessive smoking of BD (tobacco roles), yet had to work since his children were studying in college. He proudly said “my daughter passed her earlier semester with second class marks ”. I appreciated him for the job he has done in raising his daughters and agreed that it was a tough job to raise a child. He was delighted to hear my words. We reached the bus stop in about an hour and offered him rupees 100 as a token of gratitude and he refused to accept it.

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People gazed at the well-dressed drenched woman who arrived in a bullock cart. I managed to charge my phone from an electrical portal available until the bus arrived. The conductor refused to give me a helping hand since me and my luggage were drenched in muddy rain water. I managed to pull them in myself. It continued to drizzle and I felt a chill through my spine. I saw the window curtains dripping and floating in the air as the bus moved gained its speed. The wind and the warmth of my body combined helped my clothes to dry faster.

India_bus_travel_DharamsalaOn the way I called my mother to check on what she was doing. She told me that she was about to start from our house to go for a retreat. I told her that I was on my way home and I buttered the warden and managed to sneak out. I also told her everything that I had to face on the way. Hearing this I could sense a feeling of fear and happiness in her voice. She said that she was going to speak to the warden in person to ask her on why she let me out without prior permission. She also told that she was going to prepare something special for me when I get back home. She also asked me to let her know about when I would reach the bus station in order to pick me up.

Hearing these, the old lady sitting behind smiled and asked “kutty engotta, ammaye kanan a alle”- meaning “where are you going to? Are you going to see your mother?”  At that moment I knew that I found a good travel companion. We started a good conversation about our families and it went on till I reached my hometown. She waved her hand saying goodbye. I felt as though a big burden just got dropped off my shoulders when I saw my mother. I dropped my entire luggage and hugged her and we went home.

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Keeping Our Minds Supple Questioning Everything


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Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.

A lot of people feel threatened if they feel they are being asked to question their cherished beliefs or their perception of reality. Yet questioning is what keeps our minds supple and strong. Simply settling on one way of seeing things and refusing to be open to other possibilities makes the mind rigid and generally creates a restrictive and uncomfortable atmosphere. We all know someone who refuses to budge on one or more issues, and we may have our own sacred cows that could use a little prodding. Being open-minded means that we are willing to question everything, including those things we take for granted.

A willingness to question everything, even things we are sure we are right about, can shake us out of complacency and reinvigorate our minds, opening us up to understanding people and perspectives that were alien to us before. This alone is good reason to remain inquisitive, no matter how much experience we have or how old we get. In the Zen tradition, this willingness to question is known as beginner’s mind, and it has a way of generating possibilities we couldn’t have seen from the point of view of knowing something with certainty. The willingness to question everything doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t believe in anything at all, and it doesn’t mean we have to question every single thing in the world every minute of the day. It just means that we are humble enough to acknowledge how little we actually know about the mysterious universe we call home.

Nearly every revolutionary change in the history of human progress came about because someone questioned some time-honored belief or tradition and in doing so revealed a new truth, a new way of doing things, or a new standard for ethical and moral behavior. Just so, a commitment to staying open and inquisitive in our own individual lives can lead us to new personal revolutions and truths, truths that we will hopefully, for the sake of our growth, remain open to questioning.

You & your life path


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The only things standing in the way of you and New Life, filled with Love, Joy, Peace, Abundance, Respect, etc. is doubt, the past, unworthiness, non-deserving and other beliefs that are limiting and tell you that you cannot move forward; that life will always be the same.

I tell you that in Truth, you are free. You are free to create if only you will know it and release all else. Don’t believe it; know it; deep within you.

Let go of anything that tells you that life cannot change. This is a lie. Let go of the lie and know the Truth; that you are Love and that all is not only possible; it is so.

What life should Mean to you?


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During my recent visit to Dubai I fortunately happened to attend a two day seminar conducted by the name “How to live your life as a Leader” based on Dale Carnegie’s books and lectures. I wasn’t even 1% interested attending this seminar and happened to attend it just to kill time. But this particular class that I went through made a lot of changes in my life

It mainly dealt with 8 major topics namely honest appreciation, Criticism, Greeting and response with a smile, being interested in other people and being a good listener, self encouragement and encouraging others, talking in terms of the other person’s interest, making the other person happy about the things you suggest and taking up challenges

Let me start off with a question by asking how many of us bother to appreciate our fellow beings when we see them doing something nice? I am sure that not even 40 % of us do that. Appreciation is a form of verbal reward. The best way to initially tame an animal would be by appreciating and rewarding it. We have even studied about this in subjects like Human Resource Management, Business Communication, Entrepreneurship Development, Organizational Behavior and Management Concepts about the theories of animal response and learning skills at a faster rate when it is rewarded. Man is a social animal and this particular theory even applies to any mankind. I remember when I was small my mother use to tell me that she would get me a present if I keep my room clean. From the moment someone tells you that you are going to be given a present your mind would wander around thinking about what the present would be and automatically you would be made to satisfy the condition for which you would be rewarded.

The second topic is criticism. I would like to bring up two quotes. The first one is from the Holy Bible and the other by a wise man. The quote from the Holy Bible says “Judge not, that ye be not judged” and the second one “any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do, but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving, a great man shows his greatness”. While dealing with people let us remember that we are just not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity. Rather than criticizing someone, let us first analyze about how many faults we do have, which can be criticized by others. A few people enjoy criticizing other people in front of a group. They may go for group discussions and seminars just for this purpose; they show the character of a lion ready to pounce. When you criticize someone you automatically hurt the feelings of the other person. Thus let us first think mature and sensible before criticizing someone because you may have things to be criticized 10 times more than the person whom you are criticizing.

The third is to smile. When you come to the college everyday or may be any place and you find someone smiling at you or wishing you would make your day a pleasant one. Just imagine meeting a person who frowns every morning when you come to college. Your entire day would be spoiled just because of that one frowning face. An approach towards any matter with a smile show how positive and confident you are. It takes only 26 muscles on you face to smile and 36 to frown

Being interested in other people and being a good listener. “it is an individual who has the greatest difficulties in life, provides the greatest injury to others. It if from such individuals that all human failures spring – Alfred Adler, a famous Viennese psychologist tells this on his book, what life should mean to you”. Most of the people who we meet on the everyday basis are only interested in themselves and in other words nobody cares about others but themselves. This in a way can be called as selfishness. Since people are selfish to an extent, if you show genuine interest in those people, mostly everyone and be a good listener, they would be your friend automatically and show interest in your matters.

People at times become invalid in order to win sympathy, attention and get a feeling of importance. History itself has proved several examples namely George Washington who wanted himself to be called “His Mightiness”. Catherine the great refused to open those letters which did not address to her as “Her Imperial Majesty”. So in the past present and the future people would be looking just for self importance and we should understand this fact. Everyone likes people who listens understands and puts the other people’s point of view seem like theirs

Self encouragement and encouraging others is another important thing to be done. According to me encouragement increases the willpower of a person, whether it is self encouragement or encouraging others. Self encouragement brings in self confidence and from within he feels that he is capable of doing things at the best of his ability. But by encouraging others they gain confidence in doing a job as well as it develops a bond of trust and friendship from within to the person who is encouraging. When someone tells you that he is not capable of doing something, you could say that it is possible and you have faith in him with a smile, this brings in a big deal of change in the attitude towards the task for the other person from within.

Talking in terms of the other person’s interest and making the other person happy about the things you suggest is the best way to get things done in a group. By justifying, what you have said is the best alternative. It would be the best if you could be a good listener at this point and club the suggestions of every individual and put it across by clubbing everyone’s opinion in a positive manner. By doing this every individual gets satisfied that his/ her point is through in the application and we could come up with a better alternative

Finally taking up challenges, this would be the most important step that an effective leader. A fellow classmate of mine in school was blamed for scoring less mark in exams. His parents were continuously called for meetings. While I observed him, I found that he was studying much harder than any student in his class. He himself and his parents told that he was studying just like every other student. One day his class teacher called his mother and she was so heartless to tell that her son was a waist in every way right in front of everyone. She also told that he would never achieve anything in life. This broke the poor mother’s and child’s heart. Every teacher told that the boy responded well in class but nothing was reflected in the paper. From then onwards he started studying hard, taking those words of the teacher as a challenge. He scored distinction in 10th and 12th grades and got into one of the best colleges in the country. Soon after the 10th boards he was taken for a medical examination and found that he had a neurological disorder that caused his learning disabilities. After his diagnosis, the result was told to the teacher who blamed him. She felt so ashamed about what she told about the poor little child and was so proud of his achievements. The next time when he went with his report card to show the teacher, her eyes watered and told him that he was the best student that she ever had. What the teacher did the next time was a form of understanding and admitting her own mistake which made a great deal of difference in the child’s life.

So let me conclude by saying that, time is slipping away, and people remember you for the good that you have done. Try to be honest, appreciate, try not to criticize, smile, be interested in others, take up challenges and responsibilities. People who think that they would show off their talents at a later stage would remain the same way forever, but God favors the people who are ready to take up challenges and give it a try. God would always favor the needy and hurt ones. You may think that the person sitting next to you is good for nothing. The reason for him being like that may have several issues behind. So never underestimate someone because in a long run he may be a much more successful person in life than you

Mom Me & Our Secret Hide Out


I am sure that not many children were fortunate enough to spend quality time with their parents in their childhood like I did. I believe that childhood mould’s a child’s character and hence parental bonding at childhood is vital.

In the earlier days when I was young, there used to be an area of rugged terrain in Cochin where grass of about a feet or two high. To me it was the ideal concept of heaven. It was in a place called Kalamasherry on the way to a Medical College. There also used to be a huge wet land completely abandoned by the city mob nearby. We called it our secret place. Both I and my mother enjoyed spending time with each other in this very special place not known to many.

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I was brought up in India till I was 7 and both me and my mother ensured that we made a visit to our secret place at least once in a week. I believed that I could see till the end of the world from up there. I would be indulged in picking flowers, chasing birds, butterflies, grasshoppers and pappus while my mom would be totally involved in reading books as always.

med_sunset_kylesavethewetlandsBy sun set we could see a group of tribal women and children carrying water in their clay pots, sticks on their heads and children on their backs. Basically they were rag pickers who lived in a colony in the down hills and hence my mother used to be extra cautious while they were around since they were excellent in kidnapping kids. They were dressed in old tribal clothes, mostly worn and torn ones and also wore different looking cheap metal ornaments on their ankles hands neck and waist. The wetland mentioned earlier was a source of fresh water for drinking and irrigation for these tribal people.

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Though I was just a kid then, I used to have a strong psychological bond towards that particular place and believed that heaven had kept something special hidden for me there.  I could neither see nor touch it and yet I was supposed to find that something special there. Though it created emptiness, this feeling encouraged me to keep going to my little heaven each time I visited India.

In 2000, a few years after my family migrating to the UAE, “The Government of Kerala” established “The Cochin Medical College” and the culmination of which resulted in the relinquishment of the grass land, trees and shrubs for construction. A land once I called my heaven became something totally alien to me.

More than a decade later (since I left to Dubai), I spent a year in India to prepare for my Med School Entrance. I ensured that I made it to the Gym regularly and sometimes then I used to sneak out early and drive all the way to my heaven alone to watch the sun set without a license ;). Though there was nothing left there, I used to stand far away and watch the coulee laborers invading my heaven and constructing a new building. And in 2008 I heard that my heaven is going to be the new IT hub of Kerala just like Infosys in Trivandrum

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                                                              (The Tribal Children Looked Similar to the child above)

I felt like sharing something very special of my own with the rest of the world and there was nothing that I could do about it. I could neither protest nor campaign against it. I always wanted to be a mother like mine to my children and I always imagined taking them to my little heaven like my mother did, but now they are never going to see or know how it really looked and felt from up there.

There is a story behind every small piece of land that we see and stand on and I am sure that none will never see or know in real about how much that place meant to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                       

(The Tribal women wore jewelry similar to the ones that the woman in the picture above wears)

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A Village trip from College that reminded me of my secret heaven -(Me & My  friend Jostin)