Looking Up & Around…

This week, I happened to visit a nearby suburb after almost a year and a half. As we entered its periphery, the roads there seemed busier than ever before and we had to push our way through the erratic traffic.

Later as we walked along the pavement, there was no usual order in things. Actually there were precautionary boards all along the roads, while construction guys stood with their vans all over the place.

Obviously this hub of activity was a bit of a nuisance to pedestrians as well as those looking for a parking place. In the late Continue reading

When She Learnt to Get Her Voice Heard

Aria was visiting her native land after many years, and she visited her high school after what seemed like ages. As she parked her car near her school, she stood looking at a pathway and saw herself once again. Distant. A faint silhouette slowly moving away.

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Young Aria sitting on the back seat of her school teacher’s bicycle while he rode leisurely. This slow-moving bike journey along the short tree-lined path, took them from their school to All India Radio, the local radio-station that had recording studios within. Those days when private channels had not yet mushroomed, the government-run AIR was the only radio-station in her city. Continue reading

Empty Unhappy Youth who Kill Themselves or Kill Others

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For the last two days, my mood has been strangely introspective.  My son’s friend, who was a student with him at the same university, committed suicide.
Thereafter, we also heard news about campus killings in Oregon, America.

Although the real reason can never be known, people deduce all sorts of reasons for a young person’s suicide. One reason given was ‘parental pressure’.  Also, that the day he took his life, he had said to one of the girls in his class, “I feel empty inside.

Parents again. Oh, but isn’t this a question being raised all the time, that ‘parental pressure’, which itself has its roots in ‘societal pressure’, lies heavy on many students’ head when they do not come up to their parents’ expectations?
Most students deal with it, some can’t cope.

My son’s friend is (was) actually the older brother of one of his classmates, with age-gap of only a year, but they all studied together.  Although both brothers are/were academically brilliant, and both got along well, but in a way the younger of the two was doing better. And now that this tragedy happened, people are quick to deduce that the older brother was probably not happy with his academic career, howsoever good it was.

That said, I couldn’t help probing further reasons for this unfortunate incident. Why did he feel ’empty inside’?  He had three loving siblings and had both parents alive. Then where and why was the parental pressure? Is it that the child assumed there is pressure? Is it that the younger sibling was out-performing him and he felt left out?  Probably, day-to-day comments and harmless little nagging within the families is not so harmless after all. A growing child, and a young person being consciously or unconsciously compared to others, loses his self-esteem and self-worth. I feel like hugging his soul. How lonely he must have been during his last hour or so!

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Photo Credit: animalnewyork.com

Essentially, loneliness is a part of growing up. Late teens to early twenties – this is the phase when children are no more considered children, even if, due to their lack of life experience and not much exposure to the world, most of them continue to be a child at heart.

As they leave their teens behind, they are full of anxiety. Anxiety of behaving sensibly like a new adult, that of being a role model for younger siblings, of performing well as per the societal or parental expectations, of getting admission in best possible courses, of out-performing others so as to secure a great job, of issues related to a girl-friend, of not having a girl-friend while others have; all this while out-doing many others who themselves have similar mind-set.  Each young person trying to excel in this rat race because eventually the fittest will survive.

While I was deeply brooding on all this, I shifted my thoughts to the other news, that of mass killing at the community college at Oregon campus. News about campus carnage in America is no more news for the international community.  This time too, the culprit’s age-group is the same as in most other campus killings, and the victims too are mostly young students or else teachers.

Oregon massacre, as the news slowly reveals, was based on hatred for organised religion, and quite like previous campus killings, this is also related to frustrated youth – an acrimonious revenge of some sort, for it is strange that the shooter was at some stage enrolled in the same college.  So it was about rebellion and about getting noticed. This too is about perceived or real societal pressure to conform (to religion), and it’s about retaliating and giving back pressure to the society. It’s about saying: Look you mean society!! I don’t believe in your dictatorial religious dogmas and pseudo-principles. I shun you. I have the power to kill you all.

As I mentally compare a young man’s self-killing to that of another young man’s mass-killing of others; both have similarities as well as differences.

Suicidal youth are the ones who have lost all hopes from life. Their needs are not being met, they’re crying for help but unable to say it, or else they try to convey but no one pays enough attention to their feelings. Eventually, when they feel life is more unbearable than death would be, that’s when they escape life via one impulsive step. Likewise, the youth who finally resorts to a killing spree, he also conveys or protests spitefully via media and other means, till one day he decides to take some rebellious action. As the Oregon killer said ‘He did not like his lot in life”.

Youth on the verge of a suicide assume they haven’t found their rightful place in the society and can never get it, hence they finish their life.  In comparison, aggressive young men who kill others also feel the same, except that killers try to get their place forcibly, by attempting an act that would leave a larger statement behind. Both seek attention, one does it passively and the other aggressively. A suicidal introvert passively punishes the family and society by withdrawing from it; whereas the shooter does so aggressively by taking lives within unsuspecting campuses.  

Taking one’s life via suicide, or that of many others…these are angry, unhappy, lonely, frustrated youth, not born that way but possibly they had been seeking attention since their early age as is clearly visible from the early life of this campus killer. Their mental tension and loneliness took root in their childhood, that is long before they culminated their anger or anguish in this extreme manner.

This amazes me as a parent, and I wonder at what stage do parents mentally lose contact with their child and why does this happen. Is it from early childhood that some odd behavior goes ignored, or else at the age of 10, 12 or 15?  Possibly more so after they turn 16 or 17, as that’s when they start to go out on their own.  In a nuclear family, which is a norm these days, there’s no support from extended families, hence the pressurized parents are either too engrossed in balancing their career with family life; or busy looking after their younger kids while getting more and more detached from the older kids. The older ones thus grow distant from their families and soon their lonely voices go unheard.

Here the problem is, how much parenting is enough? There are parents who would like to be forever involved in their children’s life, but they face another ‘societal pressure’, one that reminds them that parents should let their kids be; should set them free, let kids grow up on their own. Over-caring parents are considered helicopter parents – over-anxious and too fussy about their grown-up child or new adult.

Well of course, good parents need not be helicopter parents but they should not be so unobtrusive or unavailable that if their child is feeling “empty inside” they don’t even know it.

Likewise, parents of a teen, who is soon going to to evolve into a monster with head full of bloody ideas like mass massacre, are either parents who are themselves party to such vile things or else totally ignorant about it.  Either way, they are not playing any positive role in the lives of humans they gave birth to.

Throughout the life of their child, parents need to constantly sow seeds of ethical, moral and righteous living in their children. There’s no age for that. Parents need to be present in their kids’ lives forever. There’s no age for that.  Parents need of watch out for signs of killer instincts in their growing children and youth. There’s no age for that.

There’s no age to fix things that have gone even slightly wrong. It’s better to mend them in time.

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Copyright © 2015 Alka Girdhar

A tribute to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam – a Scientific Statesman, a Spiritualist Visionary

Last week, say around 6 days ago, some Indian online newspaper had published a news story related to India’s former President and esteemed scientist, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. The story made readers feel as if he had passed away.

Such news, though I later discovered it to be untrue, was like a shock. The controversial news story had spread around when somebody had put a garland on Dr Kalam’s picture, and it was assumed by some group as disrespectful. As per Indian customs, putting a garland around his picture became symbolic of his worldly demise. Thus, it was just a rumor that became a silly eye-catching headline.

This story particularly caught my attention because I had met this great man in 2011 during his inspirational lecture at University of Sydney, in Sydney.

After I read the above fake news, the same evening I ended up reading more about Dr Kalam’s life-story and his inspirational quotes. Funnily, thereafter the same night I had a dream that I’m in some lecture hall and we are waiting for his arrival but we’re informed that he won’t be coming as he’s no more. He’s passed away. So we all quietly come out of the hall.  It was a very vivid dream.

Today, on the 28th of August, exactly a week after that gossip news followed by my strange dream, I heard real news about Dr Kalam’s actual death. Again a shock, albeit a true one this time. The news is that he passed away suddenly, during one of his academic visits to Indian Institute of Management at Shillong, India. He was giving a lecture to IIM students on the topic of ‘Creating a Livable Planet Earth‘, when he collapsed due to cardiac arrest.

Is it a coincidence? This fake news followed by my remembering of his lecture in Sydney, then my weird dream of him dying during a lecture; and now he actually passes away – that too when giving an inspiring lecture to university students. Strange and sad at the same time!

So what was special about this truly great man?  When we met him personally in Sydney, we could not take our eyes off him. His intellectual lecture was very thorough and engaging, and left us very inspired as we left the hall.  It was hard to believe that a simple man with such unaffected looks and polite mannerisms has accomplished so much in life, that too in multiple fields.


Dr Abdul Kalam had very humble beginnings. But today BBC reported him as Extraordinary Indian.

Born in year 1931 in Tamil Nadu in India, he hailed from a poor family of fishermen. He distributed newspapers to help his family. Rising above his modest circumstances, he attained degrees in Physics and Aeronautical Engineering from Madras, now called Chennai. Climbing one step after the other, he later had major contributions in India’s scientific and nuclear programs. For a long period, he worked as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) .

In short, he was an accomplished scientist, lovingly called a ‘Missile Man’. When people argued why India needs to be powerful, he said “Strength respects Strength”; so power is required by a country so as to gain respect in the eyes of those who have already attained such strength. I like it because it’s true at personal level also.

In year 2002, this successful scientist went on to become India’s President, connected to administration and politics, where he was equally well-liked and respected.  During that powerful five-year tenure, he was called ‘People’s President’ for he intermingled with ordinary crowd like a commoner.

He was a great visionary and had a proper plan India Vision 2020 for his country’s overall growth, to see it as a developed nation by 2020.  For economic growth, his emphasis was on agro-food processing, health, education for women, IT and self-reliance. These apply to India but are well suitable for all other countries.

Other than being a scientist and a president, Dr Abdul Kalam was primarily a professor with years of experience in teaching, a teacher with great love for children and so his desire to teach them till the end of his days came true. He passed away teaching. His famous quote “Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow” holds great truth. He inspired parents to have home libraries so that children watch less TV.

Dr Kalam himself sought opportunities to address school children, inspired them to dream big so that they became achievers in life.  He used to tell children and youth, that they should ask themselves this question: “What do I want to be remembered for?“.  Very thought inspiring question for youth but we adults can also ask this of ourselves; just to define or redefine our lives before it’s too late.

Dr Abdul Kalam was also into music, particularly Carnatic music and he played musical instrument called Veena.  This simple man was vegetarian all his life.  He was not just religious but a true spiritualist who was well-versed in texts of many religions, actively imbibing and seeking inspiration from all of them at the same time.

What does such a person mean to the whole world?  His concrete scientific, political and academic achievements did change India, and if a populated developing country like India changes positively, it is bound to influence the world constructively. Moreover Dr Abdul Kalam’s life story itself is inspirational for one and all, as were his deeds and legacy he has left behind. We learn from him that a person need not be born to rich and famous parents. One can rise high by sheer grit and determination. There is no excuse. There is no limit.

Besides, a great human being and a determined character that Dr Kalam was, there is a stream of Inspirational Quotes by him that hold great value for young and old alike. A blog outlines 10 Life lessons we can learn from APJ Abdul Kalam.

Another one of his famous quotes is: “You have to dream before your dreams can come true.”  I actually saw his demise in my bad dream. That particular dream should not have come true but it has. The loss is irreparable but we can pay homage. India is paying tribute via a whole week of mourning.  I will search google for his name to know more about his life, read his quotes and his writings.

For writers and book-addicts, these are some inspiring books written by writer Dr Abdul Kalam. Here’s a list by Goodreads: APJ Abdul Kalam.  His autobiographical e-book ‘Wings of Fire’ can be downloaded here.    .

Greece Crisis – My simple thoughts on few things Greek

Greece is so much in news these days, but for wrong reasons.

In fact it has been so for the last many years. But the financial crisis of this ravaged economy with the world’s highest levels of public debt, has now been taking huge toll on the general public, both in the form of extreme joblessness, disrupted financial institutions, general agitation and desperation in the confused public as they save their national pride.

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Outside bank’s closed doors
Picture source: SMH

Few days ago, we saw a sobbing pensioner sitting outside the closed bank doors, as he became a ‘despairing face of Greek financial crisis‘ for he couldn’t withdraw funds what with the banks closed due to low cash reserves.
“I cannot stand to see my country in this distress”, he said. “That’s why I feel so beaten, more than for my own personal problems”

I read in my local newspaper about failing medical facilities in this “society worn threadbare by debt and neglect” , but in the middle of all this there is a huge amount of solidarity among the Greeks, as reported by Sydney Morning Herald

It’s not often we hear such plentiful news about Greece on Australian media, hence it raised my curiosity. While I acquaint myself about the reasons for this economic crisis, I just can’t help remembering little things that I’ve always associated with Greece.

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One of my very early scant recollections about the word ‘Greek’, is one of the characters from the late 70s Indian movie called Dharam Veer. As can be seen in the below song, out of the two friends singing glory to their unbreakable friendship, one is a prince and the other some tribal character wearing a Greek-style dress. After seeing this movie, we school girls used to say, the movie has a stout hero who was wearing skirt-dress with Greek sandals. Such strappy ‘Greek sandals’ had later become quite a vogue in India.

Of course, later on in high school, we read a lot about this great civilization. Personally I didn’t dislike history as a subject but, in general, ancient and medieval history that involves rote-learning of dates and names, was often a butt of jokes among Indian students. Other than lengthy names of Indian Kings, we also read about Megasthenes, Seleucus, Menander and many Indo-Greeks.  For us, Greece too was one of the countries that had a long ancient history like that of India. At that time we didn’t really know that Greece had much to do with the formation of Western civilization, but we could identify with its kings and queens, ancient temples, Gods and Goddesses and perpetual wars that were won by great heroes.

One such super-hero was Alexander the Great, whose war stories have always been popular in India.  Alexander, who got named as ‘Sikander’, invaded India in 326 B.C. and won the Battle of River Hydaspes against Indian King Purushottam (Porus to Greeks). Soon after that Alexander died.  There are many strange moralistic and heroic anecdotes about this war.  Mighty Porus was reputed to be patriotic and heroic but lost because his army used elephants. Alexander, even though from the enemy side, and often thought of as clever strategist and imperialistic, is still well-regarded in India for his invincible heroic qualities.

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Photo courtesy: Greek Myths

Indians generally had positive impression about Greeks, that historically they were full of valor and enthusiasm for knowledge. Most students in India also knew about Trojan War, the story of Helen of Troy, about technique and intellect in the use of a wooden horse to the end goal of victory. Such stories, based on other distant cultures were a source of moral lessons.

Of course, philosophy and moral discourses are never complete without a Greek stamp, what with all scholarly names like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato being read and quoted in Indian text books. We were also familiar with names like Homer, Oedipus, Apollo and Hercules and so many others. People in India have no dearth of ancient Indian scholars and wise men, but they have never failed to appreciate and gain from other civilizations like Greece.

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As long as I lived in India, other than bookish knowledge about Greek culture and history, I didn’t have direct encounter with anyone or anything of Greek origin. There was probably also not much trade between the two countries.

It was only when I came to Australia that we actually met flesh and blood friendly Greek-Australians. One of my early work colleagues who was from Greece, used to look at us Indian-Punjabi women and always express her surprise, “How come you Indians look so much like Greeks?” I didn’t really think so but they saw huge similarities. But our similarities end here. Sounds amusing but other than looks, Indians nowadays are more similar to the English or other Caucasian Australians, if at all. Not that it matters though.

Recently, it is Greek yogurt that is finding my favor. It caught my eye as it’s supposed to have more protein than normal yogurt and it tastes great too. Indian cuisine has its own similar yogurt, that is a sweet dessert called Sri Khand.

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So what am I trying to say? You can argue that no one is refuting the greatness of ancient Greek civilization, and you can say that Greek history, culture and cuisine are not in danger. It’s only the economy. But then, in olden days at least, a ruined or weakened economy had a power to change the rulers, demographics and boundaries of nations. A weak nation-state often used to give way to foreign rulers, as it happened with the advent of Mughals whose long lasting religious influence changed India’s original soul. Also, East India Company that entered India via trade route and soon got the throne, that too for 100 years. Such was the breach of trust, that Indians, particularly Hindu hardliners are still skeptical of any foreign multinationals who want their trading feet in India.

Well, this kind of thing won’t happen in Greece as it’s a modern era. But modern capitalistic times are even more dangerous. They leech out the life-blood of its prey country (or person). We see this in our everyday life.

Say, a person who is initially marginally needy for money, ends up getting a wonderful credit card with a high upper limit, thus facilitating this person with sudden access to more money than needed, but only to be doomed further as slowly his spending habits deteriorate. More loans follow, more expenditure and a seemingly generous but opportunist bank increases the upper limit. This is the time when a wise person (or country) would reign the spending habits but if they don’t, a time comes when collapse is certain, followed by bankruptcy.

Continuing my above example, what if this person who’s heavily indebted by his credit card was originally well-off, both financially and culturally, but now hit by cyclical bad times hard to escape. He is bound to have difficulty accepting degradation and downfall of any kind. There will be self-esteem and ego issues. Ancient civilizations too carry a similar pride, a strong national pride that doesn’t let them bow easily. We will break but will not bow down, is the attitude. Possibly I’m generalizing too much, probably my analogy doesn’t apply to Greek situation as in Greece it is more of a political drama created by the ruling parties.

Moreover, when the world blames Greece for not showing any responsibility in its spending as well as borrowing, they rightfully feel why should the countries that loaned money to Greece also suffer.

Given the complexity, whether Greeks are wrong or right in their approach, whether they are resolving wisely or egotistically, there sure has to be some simplistic way to bring them out if this situation. Will it be feasible for International Monetary Fund to further waive off a major portion of their debt, not merely by imposing austerities but unconditionally? If not that, then countries can pool up and contribute funds to pay off their debt. After all, the world too is indebted to Greece for the cultural richness it gave to the world. Does it sound too far-fetched and cliche?  But we all live by each other, exist because of each other, don’t we?

In Australia, as also in all other countries, if some forlorn dilapidated building is recognized as National Heritage site, everyone tries to protect and save it. Greece and other ancient civilizations are World’s Heritage. It is in the interests of the whole world to save them. Moreover, in any case this crashing economy will influence the whole world via ripple effect.

And once saved, and having learnt harsh lessons from their previous agonizing decade, it will then be duty of Greece to be wise and sensible in future.

I was reading somewhere, that if you wish to help Greece, plan your next holiday to Greece. So what are you thinking. Pack your bags!

 

Copyright © 2015. Written by Alka Girdhar

To Love the Coming and Going of Seasons

If we want, we can be happy in every season.

A heart full of love is the prime reason, that even when all seasons turn, turn, turn they still carry a special beautiful meaning for us. Here, by love I mean love between young or old lovers, between happily married couples or love within your family, friends and general humanity.

Our age and vitality is another reason. By age, I do not mean just physically young age with its plentiful energy and zeal to live, but also the youthfulness of heart in people who are ‘young at heart’.

Which means, to a generally happy and content heart, all seasons seem good.  An unhappy heart will not even notice the change in seasons. Thus, abundant love and youthful feelings at any age can make us look forward to any season.

When love sprouts in our heart early on, everything is romantic and wears a rosy sheen.P1050651 Spring flowers and bird songs carry a special meaning for a heart in love.

Likewise, heavy rain that is at its worst during a full-swing rainy season, may often be abhorred by others around you, but if you are in a desirable company of someone you love, you won’t mind walking in the rain for miles, even without umbrella. Similarly, a group of youthful (young at heart) friends in a mood to enjoy rainy season will love every drop of water falling on their fresh faces. For the same reason, sitting indoors in our home and hearth with our families, even when wild rain thuds and creates noise, is far from scary. Rainy season becomes a family occasion for special food being cooked, a charming fun event.

For a person with heart full of love, dry autumn leaves seem to sway and fall gracefully; and walking on crunchy leaves hand-in-hand with your loved one creates a rustling music like in no other season does.

Likewise, winters too seem unpleasantly cold only if our hearts have gone cold and frozen. Oh for the love that melts ice in our hearts, the chill within relationships!  These clichéd thoughts remind me of the song ‘Frozen’ by Madonna, and the lyrics ‘you’re frozen, when your heart’s not open

Oh well! That was one way of viewing seasons, that is, accepting the reality that it is our personal feelings that make seasons influence us positively or negatively. Too much happiness and too much unhappiness render us oblivious to any good or bad changes around us.

And yet, other than our personal moods, there is also a certain practical and physical side to it. The hard facts. On seeing myriad colorful flowers and after inhaling sudden fragrances of spring, even a very sad unloved person is liable to cheer up for the time being. That is the power of nature and flowers. To a person in a normal mood, most fruit and flower trees anyway give greater joy during spring season.

Some time ago, during late spring, this fig tree in my yard was lush green and full of figs, but now so barren, with every fruit and leaf gone. Few days ago, in early winters, on seeing a few off-season figs, I felt sudden joy and delight, more than on seeing a tree full of figs in their full season.

Which means, other than love in our hearts that makes us sensitive towards seasons, there is some definite impact of seasonal changes via physical beauty of nature, as also through other physical consequences of changing seasons, esp. the extremes of heat and cold.  Ask a homeless and poor person which season he/she likes the best. Can’t be winters. And even a rich person, who is badly susceptible to catching flu in winters, cannot be in love with this season, even though he/she can afford best possible medical help.

Moreover, shorter winter days seem to be generally less productive. Physical mobility is also less if one finds it hard to wake up early and go to work. But that means, winters provide plenty of rest and warm snug sleep. Now that too is a blessing if not carried too far! Other than that if and when sun comes out during winters, which is plentiful in Australia, it is highly welcome.

That way, summers get many things done what with their longer sunny hours. But then again summers produce scorching heat accompanied by physical exhaustion throughout the day. Nature counteracts this by providing treasures of summer fruits, that we can top up with drinks and ice-creams.

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Rain drops today – from my front door

See, I can go on and on and justify that all seasons are good if we have open hearts, and as for our comfort, well nature shows a balancing act in all seasons.

Personally speaking, at all times in life, whether there is abundant love or no love around me, extreme happiness or no happiness, I have no complaint with any season. For I am lucky that I am not homeless during severe heat, cold or rain. I count my blessings, that I still have many reasons to be happy in life, irrespective of seasonal tantrums and turnovers.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: Turn, Turn, Turn
Seasons change so quickly! Which one do you most look forward to? Which is your least favorite?

. Also for WPC photo prompt Seasons

 

Copyright © 2015 Alka Girdhar

We are Paired Forever, Paired Apart or Paired Never

There are all kinds of pairs and partners in this world. Some continue to be pairs for as long as they live. Others drift apart. Then there are also people or things that are better off alone, or they just happen to be so.

Paired Forever are things and people who flourish together as a pair. There is so much dependency on co-existence that if one goes missing the other has no identity, the other becomes nothing.

If we lose one sock from a socks pair, that pair becomes incomplete and useless. We store the remaining sock for some time hoping to rediscover its partner, after which we get rid of this lonesome piece. Same applies to shoes or slippers, even more so.

Likewise, earrings have identity only as a pair. A single piece of earring, howsoever precious, is of no use.

Other than these, there are slightly less dependent type of partners. They too are ‘paired forever‘ created to be together but they merely compliment each other.

P1060139A particular knife looks good with a particular fork, and also they are practically useful together as a pair, but we can use this knife without its matching fork. P1060136Salt and pepper containers are another duo that form a part of the set although they can exist by themselves too.

Similarly there are cosmetic things around our homes, like shampoo and conditioner pair, or a nail polish remover that finds purpose in wiping off nail polish. A toothbrush needs a toothpaste, though it need not be a specific toothpaste. Likewise, we have ‘soap’ and an accompanying ‘soap dish’.

Around my house, I noticed decorative pieces that look better as partnered pairs. This partnership does not provide any usage except for aesthetic appeal. Even this elephant pair with with a broken leg looked good once although possibly now it brings bad Feng Shui, as only complete pairs bring love and luck. It’s a memory from my native land so didn’t have a heart to throw it straightaway.

These were non-living pairs that go together. Among living beings, that is birds, animals and humans, we have permanent pairs that not only look good together but also compliment each other in their utility and essential nature.

There are love-birds, those gorgeously bright parrots known for their monogamous love towards their partner. They cling to each other, feed each other and are depressed if made to live without each other. How many human couples can claim to have that kind of monogamous bond?

In Australia, we have beautiful white Sulphur–crested Cockatoos, very loud parrots that are commonly found in Sydney suburbs where they walk around on our grassy yards. They are often seen around together in very lovey dovey moods.

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A happy pair of cockatoos walking in my front yard, and one lonesome fellow.

One morning, I saw a group of very noisy pink-necked Cockatoos. They sat on the roadside electric wires for half-an-hour. Some were happily paired, while single birds looked lonesome sitting next to the lovey-dovey pair.

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Other than these totally devoted love-struck parrots, most birds do like to move around as partners. How about this rare picture of a gorgeous bird-pair clicked in Cairns, Queensland Australia?

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             This bird pair in Cairns starts its morning together.  Half and Half

All these above living as well as non-living pairs are ‘made or meant for each other’ type of pairs.

Other than the above ‘Paired Forever’ pairs, we also come across pairs meant to be Paired Apart. At one time they were dependent on each other but with time they learn to do without each other.

However, some of these Paired Apart do continue to work as pairs, as and when required. They are together but almost like separate entities, and like two banks of a river, they co-exist from a set distance.

Many husband-wife or lovers’ pairs are happy like that. Two independent souls not suffocating each other but supporting just right. This casual pairing is great for one’s personal growth as long as the bond does not become so lose and casual that they cease to be a pair. Conscious bonding is necessary for such pairs.

Bond between most siblings is also more or less like that – firstly paired close then paired apart. This sweet partnership evolves and they drift apart over time. As they grow older, their life goals take them away and they leave the nest to settle in their own lives. Moreover, they soon form a pair with their married partner or lover. Priorities change altogether.

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Two sisters – click to enlarge

But at least during childhood, siblings play together and there is complete and possessive dependency in every way.

In this picture that we clicked in the poorer areas of a unique Himalayan village called Malana, two sisters can be seen moving around in synchronisation. It seems to be a give and take relation as the older sister looks after the little girl, while the younger one provides company. Likewise, in cities too, when parents are off to work, siblings form a close bond in their studying and playing activities.

Thus, we see most people do form a pairing bond at one time or the other, whether it is life-long pairing or a short term bond after which they move away.

And yet, a very less proportion of people are never paired, quite like most others are. Theirs is a solitary life, either self-chosen or destined.

Like, there are children who have no siblings. They form a strong bond with their available parent till they move out to pursue their own life and find their life-partner.

Then there are also people who waited forever for their true love to come along and found none till their last days. There are others who got love but lost their partner – due to circumstances in life or cruel death.

And rarely, there are some saints and ascetics who chose to stay single, without a desire to have any better half. Theirs is a pursuit towards higher goals and quest for truth

Either way, people who have seen loneliness often become stronger because of this. The whole world is their brother or sister, their bonds are not formed on the basis of demanding all-consuming relations. They get love from most unexpected quarters and give where it is needed the most.

Moreover, to be paired forever does not always mean it is true love or a close bond. Likewise, to be bonded and cared for in life, one does not need to form a pair. It is preferred by most but not always so.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~~

For: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Pairs
Daily Post’s wekly challenge: Partners.

All pictures are self-clicked. Please click on them to view their full-sized version
©Copyright-All rights reserved by alkagirdhar.wordpress.com 2015-2016

Do you need an Excuse for a Snooze? Not Me.

Sleep takes up a very big part of our lives. I have often thought about this ever since my childhood days.

It always seemed funny to me how we close our eyes at night, go limp and get lost in our private world of dreams, that too for hours and hours. After which we wake up by ourselves when we have had optimum dose of this vegetative state called ‘sleep’.

Sleep is life, but how much like death it is. A sleeping person looks lifeless but we all consider him/her to be normal because we know they are going to ‘wake up’, become alive and kicking again. It often becomes sadly humorous when elderly members within our families over-sleep and we fear they are no more alive. Only after we have checked their heaving chest or heard their mild snore that we get relieved. That’s how akin to death this sweet sleep is.

This death-like sleep is a dire need for every living being.  Our bodies are programmed by nature to eat food after specific intervals and also take regular rest. We coined these terms exhaustion and rest, which proves we are like machines that can’t handle too much stress and need a break to recharge our batteries. Many people do not seem to be able to do this recharging. They badly need rest but, owing to their secret worries or ill-health, they can’t fall asleep. Sleep deprivation further leads to irritation and sickness before this sleeplessness becomes cyclical and chronic. Difficulty falling or staying asleep is Insomnia and many people, esp. above the age of 40, begin to get addicted to sleeping pills.

Luckily I have never had any problem falling asleep at night. That’s funny given my sensitive nature I should have been the one to be awake for hours, thinking of this and that. Rather as I hop on to bed, within five minutes I am asleep like a baby. I also love cat naps, a refreshing siesta during the day if I am at home that is. I can do without food but if I am sleepy, I just have to fall down on the bed and snooze off, even if for five minutes.  Sometimes I doze off while sitting.

Nowadays I consider my sleep pattern to be normal but there was a phase in my life when I had felt more and more need for naps. Moreover this sleep had a nature of urgency about it. There were dreams galore in this plentiful sleeping. This got me worrying, enough to consult my doctor.

My General Practitioner related this drowsiness to simple health problems like lowered immunity, seasonal allergy or elevated blood pressure. He said, contrary to our belief, sometimes thinking too much can cause more sleep. He asked me if I get dreams. Yes I do, I said excitedly. Sometimes I get nightmares and often very predictive dreams. A night before Australian Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin was killed by Stingray, I saw his death in my dream. My GP laughed at this and said Dream Analysis is not his territory.  Rather, by asking me about my dreams he was trying to assess the quality of my sleep. As most memorable dreams occur in the last stage of our deep sleep called the REM sleep so if I remember my dreams vividly, it means I’m being woken from my deep sleep. Which also means, if my immunity is low, then it is due to my defective non-REM sleep.

The GP advised some tests via another medical specialist who further gave a very quaint verdict. Other than the prickly RAST test disclosing my extreme sensitivity to cockroaches, the clever specialist accidentally saw my nose shape. He informed me that the left side of my nose bone is slightly risen. How come I never noticed it but a veteran who is deft in operating faulty noses quickly pointed out that I’ll be better off with a small operation? He attributed my need for naps to this nose structure. He said possibly I have Sleep Apnea, because even though I happily think I sleep better and longer than all the insomniacs, my nose does not let me have sound sleep at night. This was funny news for me.

Now, Sleep Apnea occurs when upper airway is blocked, causing breathing to stop for a time during sleep. Truly sometimes I do wake up with a jerk but I always thought it is due to common cold.

After I discovered all this I became kind of paranoid.  As I researched more on this topic, I started imagining I have other sleep-disorders mentioned on various sites. Possibly I have Narcolepsy which is ‘extreme tiredness with intermittent sleepiness during the day, which can include involuntary napping.’ It is indeed true that on feeling sleepy I just fall unconscious abruptly. It also makes me a bit cranky if I do not get this nap. But does it qualify enough for Narcolepsy?  My doctor ruled it out completely. Other than that, I’m sure I don’t have Sleep Walking or Snoring.  What about occasional Restless Legs Syndrome but that could be due to walking around too much, I concluded.

Thus, when my excessive sleep began to give me sleeplessness, I decided to take it easy. Finally now I believe it was deficiency in vitamins that gave me plentiful sleep.  Anemia, genetic Thalassemia, lack of B vitamins – all these came up in further tests. People assume that if we eat more than required, we feel heavy and sleepy. It could be true. But if we are eating less than required and this is causing vitamin deficiencies in our body, then also our body urges us to rest and recuperate so as to cope with daily stresses. Eating nutritious food can make one feel less sleepy. That worked for me.

I also got pest control done to keep away allergy-causing cockroaches but I haven’t got my faulty nose operated yet. The cynic in me didn’t even believe there is anything wrong with my nose. Steam inhalations have been enough to open up the airways. What helped me further? I made changes in my diet and sleeping habits. I used to love creamy and tasty oats for breakfast as they are soothing but I discovered oats too are sleep-inducing. Which means, addition of protein based food, peanut butter, boiled eggs, and sprouts helped me feel less sleepy.

Another effort was to have a regular sleep pattern. We may fall asleep quickly and that is great, but if our sleep gets disrupted again and again, we are bound to feel drowsy during the day. If, in a family, different members have erratic timetables and there is even sporadic or slight noise around, we do not get sound sleep. Of course keeping the computer out of the room, switching off the phone, dabbing drops of lavender oil on my pillow, taking Magnesium/Calcium supplements for restless legs, experimenting with sleeping postures, sleeping on the back and many such little tricks worked. Whether these served as a real panacea or a placebo, I’m not sure. I feel, either I had no problem at all to begin with or else the fact is that simple solutions work better for our seemingly complex problems.

The point of writing all this is to convey the ways in which overall sleep management must be done by one and all, in whatever way you deem appropriate based on your symptoms. The goal should be to get enough sleep as well as quality sleep.

That also means if we can wisely manage our sleep pattern then we can get away with lesser hours of sleep, that are better in quality not quantity. Once we do that we’ll be amazed to see how our day-dreaming goes out of the window, and how we get extra active hours that we can spend in wide awake state, doing proactive productive work.

Of course no harm in taking a siesta off and on as long as it adds to your productivity. This stray cat lives in my backyard, plays with her kittens the whole day, works/hunts hard for her living and yet doesn’t feel guilty enjoying her afternoon nap under the sun.
Enjoy your sleep!

Daily Prompt:  To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Header: Sleeping Child – by Dez Pain  http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/2dyWQ1G/no+title

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© Copyright-All rights reserved by ronovanwrites.wordpress.com 2015

Multiple Sensations of Blogging!!

One cannot be prompted to do anything in life that one does not feel prompted enough to do. I couldn’t be motivated to become a Green Eyed Monster writing letters to someone I was jealous of.

The prompt Singular Sensation also did not give me huge sensation as such, but it got me going. That’s because only yesterday I was thinking along these lines. Not thinking about who that “one specific person would be, whom I would like to read my blog”. Rather, I had lately been wondering about multiple people who show up in my statistics but they don’t interact, they do not comment. There’s been a sensational increase in viewers from ‘specific’ countries. Multiple strangers, I guess.

Actually, till around two weeks ago, I had kept my blog a complete secret. I had not told anyone outside of my immediate family. For these reasons, I do not personally know any one who has ever followed my blog, or ever liked and commented on my blog posts. But how did I keep a blog, that has my own name as blog address, a secret? I cannot say if some known people had discovered my blog accidentally and have been silent spectators for all these months without me being aware.

Actually it went like this. Till five months ago, before I became active on my blog, I had an up and running Facebook ID.  A personal type of congregation that had a funny mix of very old and new friends, as well as odd relatives. Somehow I could never get myself to like FB as much as others do. My conclusion is, that in specific situations where people are not meeting face-to-face as much as they should, then Facebook (as well as phones) end up causing confusions instead of bringing people closer. Moreover I realised that on FB too I am writing and writing rather than putting up pictures.

Therefore, soon after I took to blogging I deactivated my Facebook account. But I would activate this account occasionally, say once every two weeks or so, and have a cursory look for few minutes, after which close the shop till next visit. Soon I forgot to do even that.

At the same time I had gradually opened another FB account meant only for my writing purposes – for liking FB pages and groups that inform about writing and publishing. I felt like a woman with a purpose. Moreover, I needed some Facebook ID to create a Facebook page for Magnanimous Word – a page that is now reached by hundreds of mysterious viewers each day but hardly anyone likes the posts. Till now this page too was a secret from my real friends and relatives.

The reason for such secretiveness?  My blog was an accidental creation and I wasn’t sure how my known people would react to it if I tell them.  Anyway, I’m not sure about anything or anyone anymore. Human behavior in particular can’t be predicted.

***

Given all these facts about my secret blog, something came over me around two weeks ago. I went back to my first (original) Facebook ID and declared my blog. I didn’t declare as such, instead posted some blog posts. But guess what. This coming out in the open made no difference at all – no change in followers.  No known people liked my posts on my blog. Writing, I mean blogging does not interest people much, esp. when I have not been awarded a Booker Prize (yet)  🙂

There was one change though. Nowadays if I check my statistics, there are more and more people from India and Australia who are viewing my posts. We can also see which old posts have been viewed.

For few days I was confused by all this. All creativity vanished as I became self-conscious of my writing. Now I’m coming back to normal. I will write. I do not need anyone’s approval or disapproval. There is a time in our lives when suddenly we stop bothering about little things that once mattered too much. Probably, many genuine factors go against my blogging. I write anything that comes to my mind. I write mediocre stuff. My free style is not maneuvered like that of a scholar. I use my own name, I did not remain anonymous or have a pseudonym. I have my picture up there in the public.  But that’s how it is.

To cut the long story short, blogging that was once merely my cosy corner on the net, is not so anymore. But I am ok with it.  I will spread out my wings.  My long term purpose is to write seriously and openly, then why hide from these unknown ‘multiple sensations’. Let them enjoy my posts!

***

And yet, all this while, there has been one person who has been reading my posts, more or less everyday.  That’s because these days he lives inter-state. Had he still been staying here in Sydney, he would not have read them with such interest even if I had asked him to. My husband is currently posted inter-state. He comes to Sydney off and on. More often than not, I write sub-standard mundane stuff but my blog connects him to home as he enjoys my posts. Moreover, he’s an engineer who is passionate about photography.

Honestly speaking, some of my pictures were actually clicked by him – the monkey, the girls, the mauve sunset.  All others are mine. Now, why would he not be thrilled to see his pictures well liked on the net? I tell him to have his own photography blog. He says, he has no time. Obviously, this also means he will read my posts only till he has time. Life statistics prove – he may give up reading when he gets over it.  So he can’t be my singular audience forever. But even this too should not matter to me.

My son is another person who knows about my blog.  Generally I pour my stuff down his ears as I verbally narrate some of my blogging stuff (after I write). The academic in him says, “If I were to write what you have written I will write it in a different way. But that’s me. And that’s you mom.“.  My baby always has a logic in what he says, but does his argument help me in any way?

***

These were the multiple sensations – open and discrete, known and unknown – who provide no guarantee.
That was in the context of the question asked by the prompt Singular Sensation: “If you could have a guarantee that one specific person was reading your blog, who would you want that person to be? Why? What do you want to say to them?”.

For above reasons, I would either have no one or I would like my dad to read my posts. I wrote this in one of my previous poems also.

But what would I want to say to him? I can’t say anything. He is not in this world.

.

5 Reasons I like Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana

Folks!  During the last few days we all loved watching the pictures of our little princess. Are you amused when I call her our little princess?  Who am I after all?  I am an Australian-Indian. No, I’m an Indian-Australian. See I don’t even know properly who I am. On top of that I am bent upon forming affiliation with the baby girl born in Britain’s royal family. Well, there are many reasons I feel directly connected and indirectly influenced by the baby girl.

1). Firstly, I love babies in all shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds.

Such is this charm, that I am embarrassed to admit that at one stage I used to throng all such places where babies are found in huge numbers. Those days, I had prim office jobs but I hugely admired motherly jobs like that of child care workers. Babies must not be neglected! I never neglected mine. I’ve now got over my regular urge to sneak peek inside every pram that passes me by but little bubs still continue to amaze me. We should bow before them for the world belongs to them. Think of it, they’re going to outlive us and it’s a matter of time before they take over us, the mature aging adults.

And it doesn’t matter to me whether the baby I admire is a royal baby or some random four-month old miraculously found alive during rescue operations after the recent killer earthquake in Nepal. When they are highlighted by the media, all babies make a pleasant sight of a new life, meant to be enjoyed. Moreover a sleeping new-born cradled in her mother’s royal arms doesn’t even know she’s the highest ranking female in line to the British throne or that she is being photographed.  Hence, there is no reason to dislike the cute princess.

2). The second reason for my affinity is that Charlotte’s mother Kate is just a a mother.

In her role of a mother, Kate Middleton is like any other mother. Whenever any woman becomes a mother, I get a warm fuzzy feeling. Not just human female but seeing videos showing cats and dogs giving birth to their kittens and pups, is no less amazing. The way these animal mothers look after their young ones is no different from that of a human mother. Motherhood is a miracle that restores our faith in God. In fact I suspect, God is a woman.
So if Kate became a mother during the Mother’s Day week – she deserves this menial tribute from us, that her baby be well-liked.  Hats off to all mothers on this Mother’s Day!

3). Thirdly, the feminist in me feels good when a baby girl, a daughter, a future woman, is valued so much

Little Charlotte is a girl born when there already exists a boy in her family – brother George. If Kate and William had an existing daughter, the joy felt for this new baby might not have been what it is now for her being the first princess. She gave a general feeling of joy for her being the first female in anyone’s family.

As the first daughter born into the British monarchy in 25 years, she’s a privileged woman in the making, something that most others are not. Let this girl avail her good luck!  Born with power, she might grow up to be a strong woman, a harbinger of great changes in the world. The first change is, her grandmother Diana’s name has been given respect it deserves as it has been included in baby Charlotte’s full name.

4). Fourthly, baby Charlotte is an actual princess for all Australians, including me.

Now that’s something!  Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II continues to be the Australian head of state. That makes baby Charlotte the princess of Australia or is she the future queen – being fourth in the line?

On hearing the news, Australian PM Tony Abbott said gleefully “A great day for all Australians”. The Government also announced the gift of a cot blanket made of Australian merino wool. Obviously, Australians who love Monarchy and those who are neutral, love the birth of royal babies, a feeling of Britain being an extended home.

But the Republicans who believe it’s high time Australia became a republic with its own head of state, play it mute. There are also other social groups who do not like to go over-the-top about royal weddings and royal babies. They argue that there are graver issues like that of children in detention centers, there are Aboriginal Children with no belonging left in their very own native land and here we go crazy for a rich and royal baby.

Personally, I do not disagree with Republicans and other protest groups. I live in Australia, and if I allow my mother (who lives in India) to run my house from where she lives – how feasible and practical would that be? Other than that, although I’m not exactly a Communist, yet I’m not too much in favor of hereditary privilege; inherited name, fame or wealth. Earn it. Go through hard times, bring out your own mettle.That’s what true democracy should be about – unadulterated equal rights to all.

But even with such views, being an Australian I’ve been opportunist enough to fully enjoy watching the playful antics of baby George when he came to Australia last year and now this new girl too gave rise to simple good feelings of liking.

5). Lastly, my Indian identity make me relate to any news about the British Monarchy.

That’s because, there would hardly be any Indian anywhere in the world who can forget that their ancestors were ruled by the British Crown for so long. I felt the wider impact of British Raj, when after migrating to Australia I come across Indians who have never been to India, as their ancestors were transported by the British Rulers to work in Fiji or Kenya but the descendants of these Indians could never find their way back to their roots.

Modern India itself carries all the good and bad gifts of the British Rule. English language, in all its Indian accents and dialects, is officially used all over India. The Indian Constitution, road names, architecture, pretty much everything has English stamp on it. Calling Bombay by the name of Mumbai and calling Bangalore as Bangaluru does not erase the remnants of India’s colonial past. The way we Indians continue to refer to each other as Sir, Madam, Aunty, Uncle, Sahib – holding on to little relics of British legacy. Then there is this gift of ‘tea’. India is the largest consumer and second largest producer of tea in the world, thanks to monarchist rulers who commerialized the production of tea in India.  I too blame as well as thank the Royal Family for my addiction to tea.

Given their historical relation to the British royals, anything British including birth of a royal baby girl, stirs up previous connections within Indians as well as Australians. How did the two countries react to the birth of royal princess?  Australia’s reaction was either over the top or warm to luke warm.  Going by the news coverage in Indian newspapers about this baby’s birht, there is no anger, no ego issues – general warmth and cuteness galore!

Reason could be that India became a republic in 1950 where as Australia still finds it difficult to cut the umbilical cord. India’s fight for freedom from British Raj was not at all easy but they finally acquired what they wanted – complete sovereignty. Australia on the other hand has a dilemma, of being a separate country while having another country’s queen as head of the state. Some self-esteem or ego issues do arise that inhibit some people from overtly cheering a royal baby’s birth.

~~~

If modern generations leave the good or bad of colonial past behind, other general positives give us some reasons to enjoy as well as benefit from news coverage about British Monarchy, its births or weddings.

Australia and India along with other countries are a part of The Commonwealth headed by Queen Elizabeth. It unites nations on the basis of language, history, culture, and shared values. In this world full of factions, anything that brings people together is welcome. And that’s what this baby girl’s appearance did this week as the world went pink with joy.

Moreover, middle-class people the world over come together in their fondness for this well-behaved royal family, as they get to see lives of Kings and Queens. It’s like history come alive when a town crier announces the birth of a princess. There is general sense of equality upon seeing that humans in royal families are like ordinary men and women – normal lives with birth, death and weddings.

The royal family too has more or less been a role model for others. With all the riches and abundance they have, they continue to support family values and relationships, maintain respect for older generations and lineage of many generations bonded closely. A perfect father and a doting husband, Prince William is a good exemplar for common men and women. Simple ettiquettes like carrying the baby capsule to the car, his caring attitude towards his wife and the way this new mother Kate is looked after – let every other mother be treated like that on this Mother’s Day – 10th of May and every other day.

As I sit writing this article, Australian media is chirpily reporting on Prince Harry who is on a visit to Australia. Royalty over-dose. No escape. Better like them as they are likable.

***

Did you like this article? Please feel free to comment. Thanks for reading!

My previous poem on being a mother: Born Again

© Alka Girdhar