R U OK?

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We all have lost touch with somebody or the other.
Reconnect to make more time for the people who matter.
Why?  If you initiate the conversations, it can break the ice.
You never know, it can save someone’s life

Start a conversation. Ask “Are you ok?”
Listen. Pay attention. Do not judge
Encourage action, in the right direction.
Help people around you feel ok.

~~ Alka 2016 ~~

Today, the 8th of September, is R U OK Day. In Australia, it’s a national day of action and a reminder to regularly check in with family, friends and workmates.

So here I am asking my readers: Are you ok? You are free to share your problems with me, either via your comments here, or contact me. You never know, some reader may come up with a solution to your problem.

In Transit…

yllo

 

Early Ephemeral Signs

The weather man declares
Here’s your last day of summer
Be prepared, relish the change

I wonder at their confident claims
And look for subtle signs of change
Nature’s fleeting moods and frames

Yes! Yellowing greens, falling leaves
True! Shorter days, stillness in the air
Not too hot, and not yet cold here

Summer’s silently slipping away
Auburn autumn’s not too far away
Winter will soon be on its way

~~~

Transitory Thoughts

Toddling childhood
Romps away
Youth a guest
Never overstays
Fleeting desires
Melting moments
Nothing remains but
Cobweb of memories of
Tangled mesh of wishes
That refuse to untangle
One day, the last breath
Resolves everything
Good or bad, all
Comes to naught, like
Dispersing dewdrops

© 2016 Alka Girdhar

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These are my two poems written in response to The Daily Post’s today’s writing prompt: Fleeting

 

The Story of a Valorous #War-Widow

 

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The Story of a Valorous War-Widow

It was the Australian country town of Muttaburra where young Barbara first arrived as a bride.

She departed from her ancestral English town in Sussex, with no time for goodbyes. Hers was a sudden nuptial with young Australian digger Richard, who was boarding the next fleet heading back Down-Under.

Richie was based in a colony within a remote Aboriginal village. But the couple couldn’t get to live with each other.

When the World War started, there was a call to join RAAF forces heading towards Gallipoli. Richie volunteered without a second thought.  All by herself, Barbara bade him good-bye as the steam-train puffed into oblivion.

That was the last she saw of Richie.  While she cried tears of self-pity, she didn’t go back to England. She wanted to wait for him in Australia.

Years rolled by. She stayed in Muttaburra, whose Aboriginal language and culture she was completely alien to.

More recently, 90 year old Barbara was awarded an Order-of-Australia medal.  All major national newspapers highlighted her life-long services to the care and education of poor natives.

Looking at the pictures of this prim and serious lady, no one can imagine she once was a very sloppy girl who hated books, served in a tavern and wanted to be a ballet-dancer.

 © 2015 Alka Girdhar

~~~ ~~~

That was my short story for Flash Fiction For Aspiring Writers (FFfAW)  where we write a fiction of around 175 words, based on a photo prompt provided.
This week’s photo prompt was provided by Louise from “The Storyteller’s Abode.

RAAF stands for Royal Australian Air Force

 

I’ll also share this hit song by ‘Men at Work’ about my land Down Under, that is Australia.
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Thanks for reading! Do feel free to share your views via your comments.

Our Fountains of Joy

Have you ever tossed a coin or two into a fountain and made a wish? Did it come true?

I try to recollect but I do not remember putting coins in any fountain to have my wish come true. Sometimes I’ve looked at the sky and wished upon a star or should I say moon.

More than that I’ve prayed at religious places, asked for something and the wishes did come true. Yes, they do come true if we do not make it a habit. Generally speaking, be it a fountain, a star, dandelion or God, we should be careful what we wish for.

But nowadays, I do not ask for anything from anyone or anywhere. I’ve discovered, it doesn’t matter either way.

That said, we’ll look at a fountain. The picture below is not exactly a fountain with waters gushing out upwardly and some musical lights creating a spectacular sight. This is more of a fountain where there are subtle bubbles that slowly spread water all around.

With the architecture of circulating pathways, the Spiral Fountain at Darling Harbour in Sydney is a favorite place for kids (and adults) to wet their feet on steps filled with water, go walking round and round to finally reach the rotund centre and sit there in glory.

My son also used to love doing that when he was a little boy – splashing his feet around this path, laughing and giggling non-stop while descending down. Finally victorious upon reaching his destination, sitting comfortably there, he would wave at us from far as if he was now in some different land.
20070322051155_00011mw(My son’s picture is not too clear. Here’s another one with a wider fountain)

When we see our kids, or see any kid for that matter, enjoying their little things, we heartily wish them to be always happy like that.  They are our fountains of joy.

When they grow older, we continue to wish the same even though we inevitably cannot always be a part of their social activities, their trips and tours. We still want them to reach their destination and achieve great heights.

These are the secret wishes and open desires of every parent in this world. I look at this fountain now and make a wish for my son’s happiness.

~~~

In response to Daily Prompt: Three Coins in the Fountain

Wish you a very safe journey, my GPS thief!

Yesterday, you entered the boundary of my house at midnight. You stealthily opened all the doors of my car that was parked on the driveway and took away so many of my favorite things.

Wow!  How cool the whole process!  You could open my car without a key. What fun it must have been to search the car for valuables!!

It seems to me you did not like any of the goodies that were inside the big bag on the back seat. You had carelessly scanned and scattered them on the seat as well as thrown them outside the car. The sun caps, the shopping bag and trolley, water bottles and some documents – all of these were of no interest to you.

But you sure did find some humble luxuries on the front seat and took them home.  My GPS, my favourite music CDs, along with a few sunglasses. Possibly something else too that I’m not aware of.

I will miss my music collection but it is the loss of the GPS that will directly impact my life. May be it won’t.  Actually I did not value my GPS as much as I should have. Still, how did you come to know that I do not treasure it and you decided to take it away?

I now miss its presence in my car, but as long as it was with me, I hardly ever put it on.  Her voice telling me to  “Turn left”, “Turn right at the third intersection“, “Keep going for another 2 km then turn left” kind of irritated me. She used to put me under tension. During my journey I could either listen to her or use my brain. I always chose the latter.

I happen to have a sharp memory. I easily remember names of the streets. I like to find my own way, by hit and trial.  So I did not use my GPS as often as most people do.

And yet, the fact remains that it was mine.  I paid for this intelligent machine.  And you took it away so unashamedly?

Moreover, I did use it under dire circumstances. In any case I always avoid driving very long and unsafe distances, and now with my GPS gone, I will totally stop doing that, till I get another one, if at all.  Which means, much as I say I didn’t like it, it was my friend during my difficult times when I feared getting lost along the way. Hence I will miss its presence.  We can do without our friends who make merry with us but not without those who help us in our hours of need.

All in all, one thing is clear to me.  Even with my minor or major dependency on it, I did not love having a GPS to this extent, that I would have ever dared to venture out in the dark of the night, that too in this current chilly Sydney winter weather only to get a GPS from somebody’s car. But you did exactly that.

How unsafe it must have been for you to enter someone’s territory at midnight, and use unscrupulous means to open the doors before using either car-light or your own search light to scan around!!  You left the doors open and quietly vanished away with your booty. Were you scared of the noise it would make if you close the doors?

My heart feels bad for you as I realize how desperate you must have been and how needy that you had no other way to get these goodies except break open my car.  Therefore, I conclude you needed my GPS much more than I ever did.

And that’s what the police said, “This is a job of someone too needy.
But the cops also reiterated, “They do that all the time, they sell them away.

Indeed if a person decides to sell his/her conscience, then selling a GPS is not such a big issue, isn’t it?  So go ahead.  Let my loss be your big gain.

As for me, it’s not as much about the loss of the GPS, or that of music CDs and the sunglasses as it is about loss of faith in people living around my area; it’s about the loss of feeling of security.  It’s the scare you have caused in my heart that will linger on.  I may overcome it with time as will I forget my GPS.  Hopefully it may also make my family stronger as we further learn to keep our possessions secure and safe.

But I might still not keep my car in my garage every day, as quite a task it is to take it out of the narrow driveway. P1060189Therefore from now on, I will start using a car-cover that I always had but never used. The cover will keep my car dust free.  Good outcome!  It will be difficult for you to take off the car-cover and run away with it.

Also, the police has now updated me that you (and probably your pals) had raided many cars in our area. Which means there will now be increased police vigilance in our suburb. They said they will also get the street lights working. Some good does come out of all bad things.

Life will move on and so will your journey as you either use my GPS in your own car or sell it.  You needed it badly, so you better use it for your good.  But in general, no good ever comes out of eyeing other people’s possessions. No one can ever become a millionaire by stealing.

If you did not have any agenda of becoming rich via my GPS, and if you genuinely needed money for your ailing family, then it’s a matter of immense shame that we have a society where the poor and needy are too embarrassed to ask others for some humble amount of money, and they prefer, rather they are compelled to steal in the middle of night.

But if it is not poverty and rather it was your own addiction to stealing that compelled you to opt for this burglary, then all I can do is pray for you,  “May this GPS open the doors of your conscience!! May it show you a right direction and a ‘right’ way in life!!!”

I can almost hear my GPS speaking to you:  “Move right to go towards the right (eous) path in life. Keep driving forever…and ever…”

~~~

My car was actually broken into at night, two days ago.  

After reading The Daily Prompt Do Not Disturb  I was not sure I was supposed to share this incident here or not.  Sometimes we just feel like sharing. I can make it ‘private’ if and when I feel uncomfortable with it.
Responding to the prompt now, well in general, one should be careful about sharing. When in doubt have no doubt. If there is something you won’t tell to a random stranger, unknown neighbor or your enemy, then do not put it online.
But as it happens, with offline or online theft – ill-intentioned people will find a way. All you can do is be cautious.

Prancing Nature…Helpless Humans

Early this week, in Shine after Rain I wrote about the three-day super storm that lashed Sydney recently.

Sydney-siders had not even recovered from the previous storm that two days down the track yesterday again a freakish unusual storm battered Sydney, this time with hailstorm.
I captured some of the heavy rain and hail in motion as you can see the white vertical haze.

While this hailstorm was causing chaos in Sydney, minutes after that came along a huge earthquake causing devastation in Nepal.

These are vagaries and forces of mother nature. One moment we sit calm and quiet, the next moment we are badly shaken. Nature makes us run around in awe and fear.

In olden days, it was not possible to capture images of shaking earth during earthquakes or overflowing waters causing tsunami. But nowadays the same cameras that take our beautiful selfies, the same security cameras that we deploy to save us from impending dangers, now they show us our very own devastation in the hands of nature…as it occurs minute by minute.

My poem on the above thought:

these time machines
capture live selfies
now film
the dance of death
seize
poignant moments
devastation alive
acquaint us
with our grim reality
for we are but
puppets and pawns
in the hands
of time and death

The above video (courtesy: you tube) shows yesterday’s earthquake in Nepal shaking the earth. My Haiku poem to sum up nature’s dance:

Dame nature scares us
with its moody moves and shakes
Another victory on humans

Nature’s victory on humans. Yes. But as usual we rise above it all by sharing our resources with those who have been hard hit. The undaunted human spirit survives.

~~~

One Word Photo Challenge: Hail and Storm

Header: self-clicked – hail on the grass.

Lest We Forget…

100 Years of Anzac

“… At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them”

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Unsafe Off-shores or Destined Deaths?

My mood had been sombre the whole of last week, an under-current of depressive sadness prevailed. Now slowly coming back to normal.

It was after the news that a 41-year-old woman by the name of Prabha Arun Kumar, an Indian National who had been working in Australia for the last three years, was stabbed to death, that too brutally with multiple gashes at the neck. This incident happened in Parramatta suburb of Sydney. Close to my home, Parramatta is my near-regular sojourn so I felt awful.

Even if this tragedy had not struck somebody from my close family or friends yet it felt heavy in my heart. And going by the media news and social media interactions, indeed it was so for all others within the Indian-Australian community as well as for many others within general Australian community. A candle light vigil, a community walk was organised and in another event Sydney Symphony Orchestra paid homage to her.

Prabha was originally from Bangalore, the lovely IT city where I too had an opportunity to live for a few years when I was an Indian resident long ago. She was employed by an IT company in Sydney while her husband and nine-year old daughter lived in India.  She came to Sydney for one year thereafter had spent two more years as her contract extended till April 2015. This April she intended to move back to India as her whole family was there.

Smart intelligent women want to work seriously and fulfil their dreams while supportive families provide their full support. Everything great about it.

But last week, that fateful day, she was coming back from work. It was night time around 9 pm. Getting off the train she was walking towards her home and to do this she was crossing Parramatta Park. While walking she was also talking to her husband in India over the phone. She told him there was a big man chasing her, soon after that they heard her screams. Over the phone, her family in India heard her dying. Her nine-year old daughter, who had not seen her mom for a while will now see only her dead body. Prabha lost her life just a few days before she intended to return back to India as her contract was finishing.

Prabha’s story is probably like that of many others. We read such horror stuff almost every day in the media. But when it directly influences our family, our community or neighbourhood, only then we take it personally. Not just for the sake of humanity or empathy but also simultaneously fearing the fact that even our life safety is perpetually under similar threat.

Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs also highlights that after our basic needs are met, safety is our major concern. Thus ridden by fear after such news about killings, we do not want a repeat of what happened so we look for all sorts of answers in such meaningless murders.

People like me, who are a part of the terrified community start deriving conflicting conclusions. That if this murderer guy did not touch the victim’s material possessions, can we then assume the attack was due to her ethnicity, her Indian looks?  On top of that she is a woman. But the police opine that the motivation doesn’t seem to be racial, and since the attacker didn’t harm her in any other way, so obviously he wasn’t out to exploit her modesty.

If the attack was neither racially motivated nor about exploiting the weaker gender then it was a random attack by a random hooligan who was in a random mood to kill anyone or everyone. Doesn’t make sense though. Specially when Sydney is supposed to be very safe. As per a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, Sydney is sixth amongst the world’s top ten safest nations. Melbourne ranks nineth.  But it’s no secret now that Melbourne too has seen attacks and similar life-threats on students.  The Down Under that our Australia is, compared to other nations it’s always been a very peaceful lucky country with such a vibrant multiculturalism. Personally, I too have never experienced any discrimination ever, rather a very high level of acceptance ever since I migrated. But statistics are conflicting.

Also, so much controversy going on about India’s daughter not being safe in India but she is not safe in Australia too. Are Australia’s daughters completely safe in Australia?  I used to be quite fond of going to Parramatta Park but will now be scared to do so, even when I am no more a young girl. But our primary concern is for our children’s safety.

No point over-weighing all possible angles.  Although there is never a murder without a motive, often the real motive of such heinous murders remain unknown. In such cases one can only derive that it was about being at a wrong place at the wrong time.  A fatal combination of many factors. Firstly, she was walking through that lonely park which she normally considered safe enough. On top of that, walking at the night time which again she normally considered safe enough.  Walking alone at night that too being a woman. Now that’s something. Women continue to be an easy target if not protected by father, husband, boy-friend or son. I better stop here or else I will go again to my favorite lecture on feminism.

Till the cops find out, we will look for answers within nature itself. It’s as if Prabha was not meant to go back to her country again. Something called luck or destiny takes a person towards his/her death and as they say, when destiny strikes then there is no escape.

~~ ~~~

I seem to be a House Divided as I present multiple perspectives on this news-story current in Australian media. I attributed the incident to our essentially evil human nature which is driven towards crime, sin, racism or gender bias. No human, including migrants and women, can ever be completely safe anywhere in the world, what with hidden hooligans all around us.

Other than our unpredictable human nature, I stoically reasoned such incidents to all powerful non-human Nature, which is destiny or God that overawes each one of us from time to time. Death and birth seem to be merely a predetermined coincidence, a part of the overall scheme of nature. What will be, will be.

Along with my above views I also mentioned a sad ironic fact that crime often gets provoked by the risks that the unsuspecting people take, esp. women, when they dare to venture out alone during dark hours. Am I blaming the victim? Not really. Taking precautions is what I suggest to my own family. Till the world becomes crime-free, that’s the best we can do, isn’t it?

Oh well, I do not seem to have found a solution here but I had my say. As Martin Luther said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

© All rights reserved by alkagirdhar.wordpress.com 2015

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Lasting Impressions

If somebody asks me, which particular teacher changed your life, I will be confused. That’s because in case of most students, life does not change because of one but many teachers. 404x404xagoodteachercaninspirehopebradhenryquote.jpg.pagespeed.ic.hJ31rYnWZU

In the case of most students, just one teacher, or one human being cannot have such a drastic impact that their life alters completely because of him/her. But this too can happen in cases where a young person is truly deprived, a slow student with no clue about where his or her life is going, and then suddenly there comes a messiah teacher in their life to show them a path towards a wonderful life they are supposed to live.

The above extreme scenario may also occur if some student is from a family where there is no real support or guidance available from the first teachers, that is, parents. Quite often, parents are unable to provide guidance due to their own lack of education, or else they lack overall resources. In such a case, many if not most teachers, and sometimes even one particular teacher has a power to become a savior for the child and heavily influence a student’s life. In any case, any teacher is better than no teacher.

But overall it is collectively the whole school or college system that molds us or changes us to become what we are.  The era in which we are born, our city, the type of school we go to, the importance given by our school or college to values, morals, sports, arts; and then overall syllabus and school board’s curriculum, all these factors together have a slow and gradual impact on us during ten to twelve years of our schooling.

In my beautiful birthplace Chandigarh, the place that had connection to the likes of Sabeer Bhatia and Kalpana Chawla, nowadays there are many wonderful schools but during my school days we had two coveted convents – Sacred Heart High and Carmel Convent High.  As a primary school girl I had a secret desire to attend one of these high schools (yes we are charmed by elitist reputation). But the travelling distance was not convenient, well so said my father, and I obeyed.

The result (thankfully) was that I went to a multi-cultural, multi-religious, low-fee government school that nevertheless had a highly academic atmosphere with focus on moral development (not much of religion but values) as well as complete all-round growth.  As I recollect now, the morning prayers and assembly time were compulsory for the whole school to attend. This Assembly, supported by good amplifiers and microphones, involved regular readings of ‘Thought for the Day’, ‘The Daily News’ , all kinds of debates and declamations, open discussions on serious issues, followed by the National Anthem and some patriotic or moralistic songs from any of India’s various religions. Back in those days, such assembly times seemed tedious and long drawn out to many students including me – a supposedly good student. But now, I realize the role played by all those non-academic activities in my life.

Surprisingly, this government school had a very strict school uniform policy, to the point of being fussy and we were always expected to be spic and span. Proper ironing of uniform, supplemented by polished shoes, was must as there was a penalty for the rule-breakers. The habits once formed stayed with me or else I would have been much clumsier than I am right now.

So, coming back to analyse as to which specific teacher played a major role in my life, I would say all of my teachers in my inspirational school were just fabulous, and honestly speaking, I was most teachers’ pet. But, for hiring such perfect teachers and for such a perfect running of our school, I give complete credit to the Principal of our school, a very methodical and meticulous lady, total disciplinarian and highly knowledgeable not just in academics but also all forms of music and dance forms that multicultural India has. Our Annual functions were really popular in the whole city.

Growing up in such an environment I too became multi-skilled and always lived an all-round life, in my academic degrees as well as various careers and hobbies. At times I felt that being too all-round can be a deterrent in the path of any student’s main career, esp. during our formative years. But overall, looking at it objectively, esp. now as I’ve left my ambitious youth behind and will (have to) inevitably grow older, I feel by the time I reach the end of my days, I’ll fully and thankfully value this fact that I lived a multi-faceted life. Lived many lives in one life. Experienced many different educational and creative fields in a wide variety of workplaces. Good…because we are not going to come this way again, are we?

But, with all this, there is no denying the fact that our teachers do influence us till eternity, at least their influence reaches our coming generations. Because parents like us, who grow up in such inclusive and egalitarian school environments, have a mind that seeks similar open-minded academic institutes for their off-springs too. And so my son also went to a much sought-after (for right reasons) government school here in Australia, the serial highest performer ever in NSW, the famous James Ruse JRAHS.  And for this I give credit to my own school teachers.

The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Teacher’s Pet.”

Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?

Quotable words from “The Thorn Birds”

Quotes from The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullogh, who passed away two days ago.

1).  “..the best is only bought at the cost of great pain…or so says the legend”

2).  “If you love people, they kill you. If you need people, they kill you. They do, I tell you!”

3).  “You still think love can save us.  It’s more killing than hate. Hate is so clean, so                  simple.  Like being in the ring. With hate, you just keep hitting.  You hit until they stop          hitting back.  With love…they never stop.”

4).  “But we, when we put the thorns in our breasts, we know…we understand…and still            we do it. Still we do it.” (destructive love) .

5).  “Twelve thousand miles of it, to the other side of the world. And whether they came             home again or not, they would belong neither here, nor there, for they would have l             lived on two continents and sampled two different ways of life.”

6).  “Each of us has something within us which won’t be denied, even if it makes us                 scream aloud to die. We are what we are, that’s all. Like the old Celtic legend of the             bird with the thorn in its breast, singing its heart out and dying. Because it has to, its           self- knowledge can’t affect or change the outcome, can it? Everyone singing his               own little song, convinced it’s the most wonderful song the world has ever heard. Don’t       you see? We create our own thorns, and never stop to count the cost. All we can do is       suffer the pain, and tell ourselves it was well worth it.”

The Legendary Thorn Bird...by tree bird

The Legendary Thorn Bird by tree bird