a curious glance

(little bit of what I see)

Author: Shradha (page 2 of 3)

Harry Potter And The Muggle Fan

I am a big fan of Harry Potter. I have been a proud participant of Potter mania. I think I was 12 when I read the first book and was a little old to get admission into Hogwarts. However, I always dreamt to receive that admission letter from Hogwarts. Hermoine was a muggle, she received one, so could I!? I used to sleep with this thought each day. I read first four books of the series one after the other, and oh man, I was intrigued by the magical world. Rowling introduced us to a different fantasy world all together. Wizards, Muggles, Brooms, Quidditch, Parsletounge, Apparate/Disapparate, Potions, Patronous and more such words became the vocabulary in vogue.

Did you wait with utmost passion for the next book in the series and then spent an entire night trying to finish the book? Have you haughtily flaunted “I got hold of the book first” or “Yay, I finished it first”? Were you a frequent visitor to mugglenet.com, did you keep an ardent eye on all the stories/news on the site and made sure to crack those quizzes. Well, if you did, then you were as crazy as I was. Did Dobby’s death shatter you as much as Sirius’ and Dumbledore’s? After loathing Severus Snape all these years, did he become one of your favourite characters? Were you in love with Fred and George’s wittiness? Did not the trio’s bond set new standards of friendship? Well, if this sends you in sweet reminiscence, Hi there, fellow Potter enthusiast.

Imagine a life where you swish your wand and utter “Accio” to summon an object, or mumble “Alohomora” to unlock doors. You could even stun your enemies with a “Stupefy” charm, the spell Harry preferred for the obvious reasons over the deadly curses. If you were the owner of Mauraders Map, “mischief managed” would be the most frequently used term then. Moreover, if you could use a Polyjuice potion to transform into someone else, who would that person be? Above all this, you get to inherit an invisibility cloak and wander around concealed from sight of others. If all these magical apparatus were at disposal of a muggle, would not, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good,” be the motto of that person’s life 😉

Here is a dedication from a Potter Fan:

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Where students master the art of incantatory

Would you choose Gryffindor or Slytherin

Or rather, let the Sorting Hat stage its action

Would you seize a “Philosopher’s Stone”

Then outlive others to be left Alone

Only Valiant enters the “The Chambers of Secret”

Pledges his Life and exhibits fearless spirit

The ultimate survivor, “The Prisoner of Azkaban”

Eventually dies safeguarding his Godson

Harry’s name in “The Goblet of Fire”

Evil conspiracy to kill, Voldermort’s desire

The selected lot in “The Order of Phoenix”

Lupin, Weasly, Moody to name a few geniuses

He who loved truly, “The Half Blood Prince”

The boy (who) lived, under his vigilance

 Ultimate possession of “The Deathly Hallows”

The quintessential end of intense sorrows

If there exists a magical parallel universe,

How does one find the path to ingress?

Where does one find the passage to access?

If there exists a magical parallel universe….

 

PS: Have you pre booked your copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? I have and here is a sincere hope that the book does justice to the series. It took me a few years to accept the end of Potter era and I had finally come to terms with it. Now that the release is around the corner, I am not sure if the same mode of excitement will prevail.. Lets wait and watch..

Image from http://www.chestersu.com/


Dear Future Husband

Dear Future Husband,

You may currently be dating a wrong woman; well all I can say is good luck with that break up. Only then, will I come to your life and sweep you off your feet. Or maybe you are meeting up the nasty ones through those matrimonial sites, well no pressure, but when do you plan to cross paths with me? Not that I am desperate to be married, but well I do sometimes succumb to the pressure of my family, facebook posts (Oh, not just the engagement ones, but everyone is in a hurry to make babies too) and married best friends! They want to dance and be drunk like crazy on my wedding. Yup, they want to save the craziest days of their lives for my, oh pardon me, “our” wedding.

These matrimonial sites do not seem to be working for me, so can I get a hint, like a subtle one, whenever you are around somewhere at a friend’s party I attend, oops yet again “we” attend. Alternatively, if there is some other way you think we could meet, could you pitch some signs towards me. Like I am in no hurry to marry, but I really want to get rid of that question mark from the person next to me in pictures.

Before I continue, a disclaimer-If you are the man, who cannot bear a talkative woman, who talks her heart out, well then that salutation in the beginning is not for you. If you want me to quit non-veg food, or quit on any of my friends, well you can quit on this letter at this moment. Moreover, if you are someone, who earns a lot and therefore thinks you deserve the prettiest and perfect female who cannot err, that is not me, apologies. Lastly, if you are someone who does not understand the difference between a Tinder and a Shaadi.com, well yet again, please no.

Now, Mr. Future Husband, do you know what I think would be the best part about us. With age, settles in maturity, one becomes more independent and thus looks for more practical aspects and compatibility rather than superficial things. Well my expectations from a marriage when I was a 25 year old (I was not ready then) were much different from what they are now. So will be yours, and yet we will chose each other, that would be the best part.. Both of us would have had our share of experiences in life as adults, we would have learnt a lot, yet we will choose each other. Now, what can be better than that?!?

I love to travel, I have travelled in India and abroad, and I will continue to do so. However, I have saved a couple of places for us to visit together. I am dying to visit these places, so you see another reason for us to meet soon. So please, like a pretty please, make sure to ask me where do I want to go for “our” honeymoon. Oh and just so you know, I like sports, so you see, if we go to places on my wish list, you will be allowed to be glued to those matches on TV, or maybe we can go together to the stadium to watch those. What say? 😀

Keeping lighter things aside, since you and I would have waited patiently for each other, we will make sure that it works well for us. There would be arguments of course, life is no fun without them, but we will make sure to pamper each other after that. At least I hope so, because there should be some childishness in every relationship, no matter how level headed we become.

Yours truly,

Future Wife

PS: To the society, who thinks, “what is wrong with this generation, these women don’t want to settle down”.

On behalf of the women in their late 20’s or early 30’s who are not married yet, I would like to say, we choose not to succumb to the pressure of society and marry just anyone but would rather wait for “the one”.  Yes, we are independent, want to succeed in our careers but that does not imply we are against the concept of marriage; we just do not want to settle down with the wrong one. If the right one comes our way, we are more than willing to say, “I do”, but if we have not crossed paths yet, give us more time, the world is too big and human lifespan too long.

(Applies for the opposite sex too)


For The Love Of Travel, Food And Wine.. (contd.)

Continued from last week (http://acuriousglance.com/for-the-love-of-travel-food-and-wine/)

Sydney is scenic, it is crowded in the main city, it is serene in the countryside, it is the food hub and Sydney is pretty cold in winters..

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After my last week’s post, you would believe me, when I say Sydney is scenic.. Talking about its winters, well let me sum it up as, I could not stay at Circular Quay for more than 10 minutes. Why? The chilly winds would have blown me over to the ocean. I barely managed a few clicks of the Harbour and the Opera House and rushed back. The city is windier because of the harbours (Sydney and Darling.)

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Let me get back to the countryside, breathtaking is the word that comes to my mind to describe the drive along the ponds, stables, orchards, and farmlands.. Along with blues and greens that are strikingly appealing, browns are also mesmerizing…

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And, now to the part which I thoroughly enjoyed and all you food lovers would get jealous about 😉

I had been following a diet plan for a few months before my trip, so when I was in Australia, I pounced onto the food, anything and everything worth a try was on my plate (in the amounts I could manage, I do not have a ravenous diet).. I relished different cuisines, of course, my brother and sister in-law took me to already tested and tried places, so everything I ate was heavenly..

When I say Sydney is the food hub, I mean it has restaurants and cafes that serve all kinds of food, and a lot of them are inviting… From pasta, to nasi lemak (National dish of Malaysia), dumplings, to Thai noodles, to seafood to desi Indian food and kebabs, Sydney offers all of them in platters to appease your taste buds..

Here, I give you the list of yumilicious food that you must try:

If you want to try to Malaysian food, Papa Rich is the place to be. It serves delicious Nasi lemak (rice with chicken), deserts and drinks (non alcoholic). (The picture here is of biryani with red chicken and prawns, but nasi lemak was far better)

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This mango drink with litchis/lychees on top is to die for!

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Dumplings, many places do dumplings, but the pork and prawn dumplings at Chef’s Gallery are out of the world. Rice and noodles here are worth a try too.

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For Kebabs and Lebanese food, a visit to Auburn is a must.. It is full of restaurants that serve delectable kebabs and Biryani. Jasmin and Sophera would be my favourite picks!

I satisfied my craving for Italian at Lusso. The Risotto was toothsome, and I tried a bit of Spaghetti Bolognese (I hope I won’t be declared an anti-nationalist because of this). I could not go to Jamie’s Italian, but it is on my list, next time maybe…

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Also, I tasted Oysters for the first time as well. They felt different yet nice in my mouth…

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Max Brenner Chocolate Bar is a MUST go place.. You cannot return from Sydney w/o crunching on the waffles and sipping coffee here.. Just cannot. All the adjectives I have used so far are understatements to describe these waffles..

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If you love Burgers, go to Grill’d, you will be spoilt for choice. They also claim to make healthy burgers (Now, is that an oxymoron?)

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For breakfast, try different types of Eggs, from scrambled to omelette to eggs in gravy.. Your taste buds will not be dissapointed.. The last picture here is from cafe called Zest at Blue Mountains. It was pouring heavily, and the vision was so low that I could not see the blue of the mountains but I am glad we visited this cafe…

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While wandering in the foreign land if you crave for Indian food, Haveli and Chatkas are the hot spots..

This post sums up my trip to Australia.. I had a time of my life and it was a perfect mix of solo tripping and vacationing with family (you know what I mean, if you have read/seen all my posts on Australia)…

Some random clicks while strolling in the streets of Sydney-

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Parramatta river

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Tallest Structure in Sydney, Behind the Tree

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Church in Parramatta

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Coogee Beach

And once again,

Travel because it is fun

Travel to chase the sun

Travel for an adventure

Travel solo or with him/her

Travel to unleash your spirits

Travel with family or friends

Travel for calm & serenity

Travel and break that rigidity

Travel to a hamlet or big cities

Travel so as to reveal those stories…..


Rains Then and Rains Now…

That sudden downpour in summer holidays is more than a pleasant memory of mine. I am out playing, it showers without a warning and I raise my arms to embrace the pehli baarish (first rain). Rains bring sweet recollection of childhood days. Jumping in those puddles, being more than enthusiastic to learn how to design a paper boat, floating those boats (my brother’s boat always reached the finishing mark first 🙁 ) and snacking on those bhuttas (corns). If it rained in school hours, it was hard for me to focus on what the teachers said. I used to glance out of the windows and pray that the rain God will continue to bless us even after the last bell. But mostly, rain used to lull by the afternoon. If it rained and my cousins were at my place, we used to beg to our parents to let us go to the terrace and play in rain, baarish mei bheegna (being drenched) was our best time pass. We were sometimes allowed and sometimes not, “No, you will catch cold”. We used to then sit by the window with our hands out to feel the droplets and wait for a plate of pakodas (Indian fried snack).

Now I am a working adult, rains signify traffic jams, snarling traffic jams. Rains mean panic attack w.r.t. to getting late for work. Most of us are busy with our work life, rains come and rains go and we do not even acknowledge the occurrence. Well, who has the time, right? Being drenched is not an option now; I watch those little kids out playing and sometimes think, “Ohh I wish I could join them”. Rains are good only over the weekends, when I can sit by my balcony and savour the pakodas with tea. Let me share a post I wrote on Facebook a couple of years back-

“Surviving Delhi rains!!
So it rained for an hour, all autos decide to go in hibernation, cabs can’t come to your rescue coz of bottlenecks.. You decide to walk n alas, “has Yamuna changed its Course!?!”
You continue to walk where men on bikes gain pleasure by splashing water on passer bys!
Finally a taxi bothers to stop for you,, only to charge 200 bucks for hardly 3 kms..(the taxi driver had the opportunity to earn even more!) Ye Dilli hai mere yaar!!!”

I guess Bhuttas and Pakodas are the only constants between then and now…

Rains then meant shades of delight

Rains now represent glum plight

Rains then, I steer my paper boat’s pace

Rains now, I am stuck in Corporate rat race

Rains then, jumping with joy in puddle

Rains now, how to get rid of life’s muddle

Rains then, a source of contentment

Rains now, maybe I am indifferent to them?

Here is a hope, that one day when I help my kids make their paper boats, I will get to relive those innocent days.. (Ya, I wish they will not just live on iPads and the like)….

(Picture from an article in the dailysignal.com.)


For The Love Of Travel, Food and Wine…

Travel because it is fun

Travel to chase the sun

Travel for an adventure

Travel solo or with him/her

Travel to unleash your spirits

Travel with family or friends

Travel for calm & serenity

Travel and break that rigidity

Travel to a hamlet or big cities

Travel so as to reveal those stories…..

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I am sure, by now, all of you would be aware about my love for travel. Trust me, travel does make you more enlightened….

Now, let me get back to my recent trip to Australia.. As mentioned earlier, Sydney was my major hood, and in this post I will talk about places to visit in and around Sydney, the food to relish and the experience of wine tasting..

Sydney is well known for the Sydney Harbour, Opera House, and Bondi (and the street art at Bondi).. So, I will not dwell much about these renowned places (will share the pictures of course), and rather talk more about the Kiama blowhole and Hunter Valley..

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(Do you people know a bit about Australia’s history? In the 17th century, British government began to send British convicts to the isolated land of Australia. Government considered this land, discovered by James Cook in 1770, ideal for a penal colony and the first fleet of ship arrived at, what we know as “Sydney”. Yup, that is the brief history of roots of Australians.)

A two hour drive from Sydney will take you to Kiama to encounter a natural phenomenon, called “Blowhole”. Now what is a blowhole? A blowhole forms when the sea caves get weak by the waves of the ocean. The rocks of sea caves erode, and huge pressure of water builds up that forces water out of the rock cliff vertically, see pictures to understand better. It was a beautiful sight, not just the blowhole but the entire sight around the blowhole is splendid.

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On your way to Kiama, you can also visit a picturesque monastery uphill. We took a sudden detour for the monastery as the top of the structure from the road below looked magnificent and appealing. What adds to the beauty of monastery are the cute little statues of laughing Buddha all over the grounds..

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Are you a wine lover? If yes, you must take a drive to Hunter Valley wine region from Sydney. It takes around 3 hours to cover the distance. It was winters in Sydney, so there were no flourishing vineyards, the best time to encounter the fullness of the greens will be in spring/summer. Nevertheless, the wine companies are into full business and offer wine tasting sessions. Big wine companies offer free wine tasting, small ones may charge like $5 or so. Go on board to taste wines, hear/read how the wines are made, in the right season walk through the vineyards and bring back home the wine(s) you love. The drive near the Hunter Valley region is beatific, and you will get ample spots to click your picture perfect. I spotted some Kangaroos too, yay, so my trip to the valley was an invaluable one.

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Sydney is scenic, it is crowded in the main city, it is serene in the countryside,  it is the food hub and Sydney is pretty cold in winters.. But more about the food and the countryside next week…

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To be continued….

 


Solo Tripping To Perth, Australia

There is an unknown connection between Australia and me. I am talking about the times when my brother had not yet moved to the Aussie land.. When I was a kid, maybe 7-8 years old, I used to pester my Mumma, “I want to go to Australia…” My mother used to tell everyone, that maybe her child was an Aussie in her last birth. We are not sure whether I read about it somewhere or perhaps someone talked me into it. It is a mystery unsolved. And voila, 10 years later my brother moves to the country of my dreams. And the alliance is fabricated forever..

I have been to Australia before, when my brother used to stay in Melbourne. He moved to Sydney 3 years ago, and my visit to him and my sister-in-law was long due. I got onto the phone with him, planned my trip, with Sydney as my base station while deciding to wander off to a couple of cities on my own. Air Asia offers decent fares from Delhi to Perth, and my Bhai convinced me to extend my stay in Perth and then land in Sydney. I am glad and more that I accepted his suggestion. Perth is calm, has beautiful waterfronts and at the same time is one of the most expensive cities of Australia.

I stayed at Parmelia Hilton as Expedia had a super saver deal for this five-star hotel. I paid INR 8K for a night while prices for all other decent non-five star hotels ranged INR 5.5-6K. Therefore, I guess paying 2.5K more for a five star was not a bad deal. The hotel lies in CBD (Central Business District), which is quite close to the Swan riverside and the King’s Park. After hardly a 5-minute walk, I was walking along the river. Now, Perth shuts down at 6 pm, so I made a mistake the first day, leaving my hotel premises after 5:30 pm. The streets, all deserted by 6 pm along with the chilly winds forced me to head back for an early dinner. I did manage a couple of pictures of the Business District and Bell Tower before calling it night for the day.

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I ate Chicken Parmigiana, commonly known as Chicken Parma for dinner, and I was so proud of my choice. The food turned out to be delicious, and later I got to know that it is a special Australian dish, though it does not originate from here. In my brother’s words later that night, “Like brother like sister, it is my favourite dish, and I am so glad you ordered it”

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I had an entire next day to explore the city, and here is a list of things one cannot afford to miss while traversing through Perth:

  • Walk across the Poised Swan River with CBD in the Backdrop– You need to get that camera out and click the skyscrapers of the buildings with the grounded river across the road.

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  • Bells Chiming in the Bell Tower– The melodious ringing of the bells will certainly grab your attention while you are strolling across the river

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  • Cross the Bridge over Swan– To get the best views of both sides of the city, you must go to the center of bridge and let you camera do the talking. Also, the winds will not let you be on the top of the bridge for long, so be quick with those clicks.

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  • Seagulls– Whether you are in city or along the shore, you will notice these birds everywhere

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  • Fremantle Prison Tour– I would highly recommend this tour. The prison used to be a home to the convicts, but closed due to not so humane conditions. I took a Great Escape Tour, wherein the guide takes you around the prison and details about the popular escape attempts of the prisoners. The stories are funny, insane and shocking. Well, what do you expect out of convicts if you place them in a tailor shop in the jail? To sew those black official uniforms, wear them on and run away… The tour brought back memories of the Prison Break and Orange Is The New Black..

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  • Boat Park and Ship Junction– It was quite a sight to watch boats and cars parked side by side. When you are in Fremantle, ship junction is another sight you just cannot miss..

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  • Street Art– Whichever street you step your foot in, these art forms will definitely be appealing to your eyes

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  • Angelic sunset– Just sit by the park across the beach in Freemantle and let the sun spread it’s colour across the prism, clouds in this case…

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  • Conversation with the Locale– Make sure when you are in a cafe/bus/ taxi, you strike conversation with the locals of the area. You get to share experiences and be culturally involved..

Let me quote parts of my conversation with Catherine:

Me: “Catherine, are you from Perth?

Catherine: “Yeah, always lived here, I now stay with my 7-year-old son. Where in India are you from?”

“Delhi”

“Oh Mumbai right”

“No, Delhi, like New Delhi, capital of India”

“Oh yeah, Mumbai is Bombay”

“Right, have you been to India?”

“Naah, too afraid, friends of mine who have been to India, always get a stomach bug, too scared to visit India”

“Oh no, just do not eat the street food, you anyways have the currency advantage, so buy everything from fruits to snacks from proper stores”

“Where in India should I go?”

“You could go to south of India, maybe Kerala or to Kashmir; it basically depends on what you like”

“Oh I like historically rich places”

“Oh then you should go to Rajasthan”

I convinced Catherine to visit Rajasthan based on my recent trip to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. I hope she does… In return, she suggested me a few eateries in Perth.

Now, that was my short but a self enriching trip to Perth. My next destination is Sydney; I will update you next week of my whereabouts in Sydney…. For at least a month now, my blog would be about my travel to Australia.. Catch up with you all next week….


Farmers’ Distress: The Tragic Indian Story

He, who reaps the harvest, shall not die

Let him out of the agony, we must try

He, who nurtures the land, shall not suicide

Remunerate him fair, we must abide

Supply water, his farm shall not wither

Fulsome, the produce he must garner…..

How is it fair that the one, who harvests the food we eat, dies because of lack of food and sustenance? Farmers in India are resorting to suicides due to indebtedness and crop failure. As per National Crime Records Bureau, 5560 farmers committed suicide in 2014, out of which 2568 were from Maharashtra alone. The state recorded a grim number of 3228 suicides in 2015, reports Hindu. Drought has drastically affected Maharashtra and farmers commit suicides, as they are unable to aid their families.

I raised this question when I wrote about India’s Hunger Story and I would ask again. How does one justify the economic growth when certain groups of society are dying due to deprivation of basic necessities? Is it not disgraceful for the nation? If there can be Special Economic Zones, then there is an urgent need for Special Agricultural Zones as well. Agricultural sector needs to be organised and there is an exigency for elimination of intermediaries. I cannot understand why our government (current or former) lacks in proper management of rainwater harvesting or storage.

There are numerous schemes like Drought-Prone Area Programme, Indira Aawas Yojana, Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana amongst others to assist the rural populations. However, if such worrisome is the agrarian state of our country, revamping of these schemes is the need of the hour. As per the budget of 2015-16, planned outlay for rural development is INR 71,642 crore.  In addition, for agriculture programmes exclusively, the budget allocation is INR 5845.45 crore.  If the troubled plight of farmers continues, we all know the reason could only be non-judicious use of funds!

IndianExpress published an article on Marathwada (Maharashtra) recently, it quotes Marathwada as the suicide capital of farmers. It features an interview with a farmer who mentions, that from 10 years ago, there is only a marginal increase in the price he gets for his produce while the cost of labour and fertilisers have grown manifolds. Even water is not free now, they use paid tankers to water the crops. He unhesitatingly blames the government for importing onions whenever onion price rises in the country. They have lakhs and lakhs of debt to repay with no just price for their yield. Farmers are in distress, they are helpless and they kill themselves, as there is no way out of the webs of polity and financial liabilities.

Farmers are abandoning their farms and migrating to cities with a hope of survival. How does one help them? The veteran actor Nana Patekar actively involved in farmer welfare programs pleads not to consider them as beggars. He suggests that we should adopt a farmer each to provide him with food, water and access to toilets. If you want to help the drought affected farmers and widows of farmers who committed suicide, please make a contribution to NAAM Foundation, started by Nana Patekar in 2015.

I would urge you to not just sympathise, but take actions. If you cannot help them monetarily, make others (who can) aware of the grave situation. Let us compel the government to come up with lasting remedies. Sending gallons of water through trains is okay, but that is just a temporary relief. This would not bring farmers out of the miserable conditions. “Jis Desh ki Dharti sona ugle, ugle heere moti,” that Dharti should not be allowed to lay parched. Drought is here to stay; planned initiatives are required to overcome the disaster. Technological advancements in the field of agriculture is more than necessary. Do not sit comfortably and let that grain go down your throat when the ones who sow those seeds are dying……

References: http://indiabudget.nic.in/

http://gov.bih.nic.in/

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/marathwada-indias-emerging-farmer-suicide-capital/


Vision Beyond Eyesight- My Learning From A Visit To Blind School

“It is better to have a vision without eyesight than to have eyesight without any vision”, the words on the walls of National Association of Blind (NAB) put me into a state of wonder for a few minutes. I along with a group of colleagues visited the blind school at RK Puram (Delhi) to represent the Community Impact Month at our organisation. I underwent a plethora of emotions, from being cheerful to sad to being motivated within a span of 4 hours. We met around 20 blind children who were so full of life, that they made me question my ability to be content in life.

We played a few games with them, sang songs and ate lunch together. A few of them were great actors, a few great singers and almost all of them were super intelligent. I do not think that at the age of twelve, I knew the name of the heaviest flower along with its weight or the name of the smallest bird and its weight. They were not just geniuses with science, but also had knowledge of cricket, movies and history. They took super pride and fun in bombarding us with such questions to which we hardly had any answers. I am mostly a bad loser but I would love to lose to them repeatedly in such quizzes for the sound of their euphonious laughter.

While I was distributing chocolates to them, a couple of girls asked my name and after we introduced ourselves to each other, Usha with a big smile said, “Didi, you have a nice name”. Babita joined and said, “Didi you have a really nice name”. Now, look at the politeness and their efforts to make others smile. There is a lot to learn from these children; primarily, one does not always need a reason to be happy.  Secondly, to be satiated with whatever you have in life. Whenever I crib and cry for things I do not have in my life, my mum always tells me, “Look at those who survive with so much less in life and you will realise you fret unnecessarily”.  This may sound cliché, but when you visit such a place and absorb all the positive vibes, you would believe in it for some time at least.

Let me talk a bit about Anil, he is himself visually impaired and comes to NAB every weekend to help these children in whatever means he can. He has a classic sense of humour. He in a light note mentioned, sometimes people ask us “You must see everything as black and dark”. To which he usually replies, “I don’t know what is black or dark, never seen it.” He also gave us mobility training, wherein with our blindfolds on, we had to use a stick to walk from one building to another. Trust me, as soon as you wear those blindfolds, your mind will be full of fear. Thoughts like, what if I fall, what if I hit a tree, hit someone else with my stick, or even worse collide with another person, passed through my mind. The pavement included special tactile paths so that when their stick touches that path, the sound is different from that of a normal road. (You would notice the same path in all metro stations) Through touch and sound, we had to follow that path to the other building. It was difficult for me to trust my power of hearing and I continuously used my feet to know if I could feel something different underneath. Their sense of touch and sound is much stronger than ours can ever be. As soon, as the drill was over, the first words that Anil said touched my heart, “How did it feel to be like us for five minutes?” and he laughed out loud after this.

Now, do not feel sad about these kids. God has made sure to gift them in one way or the other. Let me put it in simple words- Do not ever make them feel that they are disable, it hurts them the most. A colleague mentioned to me beforehand that we should not try to help them unless they ask for it. I made a mistake and I regret it. I accompanied a boy for lunch, and while we were walking towards the dining hall on first floor, I thought he would hit a pole and instinctively put my hands on his shoulders. He very sternly said, “I know, I can walk.” My intentions were not to make him feel him incapacitate in any manner, but I did offend him unknowingly.

They are an exuberant bunch of children and true warriors who need encouragement. Let us applaud their strength and courage. If you want to participate to keep their ebullience alive, help them with their education. You do not have to donate money; NAB has recording studios at its office in RK Puram, Sector 5. All you have to do is lend your voice and audio record the books. You and I have the eyesight but let us all have the Vision…

He is the true hero, real brave heart

Master from him, the undismayed art

Gifted he is, with superlative geniuses

Make sure you nurture his finesses

He may not see, can definitely intuit

Bring him hues, he was unable to sight…

 


Kuldhara Village: Haunted Or Not?

Ghost, does the word and stories around it cause twitch in your body? Do you fear ghosts or are you the unflinching one? When I was a kid, I was always frightened of paranormal stories. I was never a fan of Zee horror show or Aahat. Sometimes, when I watched an episode because of my brother’s interest, I would then sleep in my parents’ room. I considered them as my heroes who would act as shields against any kind of ghosts. I remember my father used to tease me, “What if it comes through the widow of our room?” I used to say innocently, “You would deal with it first and make it run away.” I never openly admitted to my friends that I am not fond of ghost stories. You see, they would talk about it even more, and try to have fun at my expense. That is what friends are for, right?

Am I still scared of such stories? Yes and No. Well, I do not anymore sleep with my parents if I have had discussions on ghosts or watched any such movie. I now have the courage to watch spine-chilling movies (No, I do not mean the best of horror flicks, no way!) or listen to “Ek Kahani Aisi Bhi” on radio. Well, the latter is most of the times not that scary. It is a part of growing up, I guess. However, I do continuously chant Hanuman Chalisa on such nights before I fall asleep…..

I recently went on a trip to Jaisalmer. While I was booking my safari to the desert, the itinerary mentioned a visit to the abandoned village of Kuldhara, which has paranormal activities linked with it. The word paranormal caught my eye and a simple Google search revealed the history of the cursed village. As per legends, the King of the state had intentions to marry the daughter of the Chief of the village forcefully. He threatened the villagers of dire consequences if they do not agree to the marriage. The villagers did not wish to surrender to the King, and therefore one night abandoned the village and vanished. The belief says that before leaving, they put a curse on the village, that no one would be able to inhabit it ever. Post the incident, anyone trying to stay in the village has hurtled out experiencing strange phenomena.

I would have considered all this hearsay had I not come across an article mentioning that the Delhi Paranormal Society acknowledges the presence of supernatural powers in the village. Umm, this made me nervous about my trip to the village. They say that no one can survive the night. However, this team did see the light of the day. (Ever wondered, why all such stories are related to darkness and night!?) Moreover, I would have my shields, my heroes with me in the trip, and we would go in the daytime, so it was a mixed feeling of nervousness and excitement.

Kuldhara is about 15 kms away from Jaisalmer and falls on the way to the desert dunes. We shared our jeep ride with a couple from Australia and to stimulate the excitement, I narrated the story of the village we were about to visit. The woman was too thrilled to hear the history and was all set to hit the haunted village. As we entered the premises, only after paying the entry fee (for the jeep as well), what we saw was a dilapidated village. The place will definitely give you an eerie feeling, it was all deserted and in complete ruins. Paranormal or not, anyone would be psychologically frightened to spend a night in such a place.

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As we went deep into the village, our driver cum guide told us something that stole my thunder away! Yeah, he said all these stories about supernatural powers are nonsense. The villagers abandoned the place due to scarcity of water. As the river nearby dried up, it affected the trade and cultivation and villagers decided to settle somewhere else. I was like, but I read it, they conducted experiments with scientific techniques and all, to which he replied, “Your wish, what do you want to believe, false stories or reality.” We got out of the car (a bit dejected) to explore the place. As you wander in the village, you would definitely wonder about the sudden end of inhabitancy. The shattered houses and the missing idols from the temple would increase your curiosity even more.

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It is said that the temple stands at its place intact

 Idols missing in the temple but notice the engravings on the wall

There were a few locales of the state sitting around and observing the tourists. My inquisitive mind led to the following conversation with one of them-

“Bhaiya yaha bhooth aate hai?” (Do ghosts exist here?)

“Hamare poorvarj rehte thei yaha, aajatak toh nahi suna ya dekha.” (My ancestors lived here; never heard or seen such a thing).

“Toh sab jhooth bolte hai” (Do people lie then?)

“Aap ghum lo pehle, phir baat karna” (Go roam around the place and then talk to me)DSC02254

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I did not attempt to go down further for obvious reasons

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After I finished the tour of the village, he asked me-

“Dikhe aapko bhooth, aapko lagta hai yaha kuch aisa hoga” (Did you see the ghosts, do you think such incidents occur here?)

I smiled to this and his next words had a powerful meaning

“Asli bhooth toh insaan hi hota hai” (Real ghosts are humans themselves)

What he told me thereafter was another story about the sudden disappearance of the villagers. After the discovery of a lot of gold in the area, the governing body forced the villagers to leave the place. The governors wanted all the treasure for themselves and thus the place now stands in ruins. Are you as a reader, disappointed with the not so haunted outcome of my journey? Think of me, who visited the place with all the anxiousness. Me, who unnecessarily built up all the excitement for the Australians too. It is up to you to believe or not in supernaturalism; it is up to you to believe in any of the above legends about the village. We continued with our journey and the picturesque sunset in the heart of the desert made us forget about all the spookiness.

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India’s Hunger Story

“I finished my tea and threw the mud glass on the railway track, I saw a few children run towards the broken pieces of glass and lick the leftover drops of tea”, says Dr. Hari Om Pawar in his soul stirring recitation of hunger and poverty in India. He through the means of his poetry demands justice for all the deaths due to starvation. His poetry moved me and made me do some research on hunger statistics-

Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 2014 classifies India’s hunger status as “Serious” and ranks it at 55th position (lower number implies better position). There has been an improvement from the rank of 66 (out of 88 countries) from GHI of 2008. India’s hunger status was classified as “alarming” then. India is still home to highest number of chronically malnutrition children under the age of five. According to the UNO report (2014-15), India has an unnerving 194.6 million under nourished people, representing 15% of its population, highest in the world.

As per Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations, India produces ample quantity of food to meet the calorie requirements of its population. Then, where is that we lack? There is uneven distribution of food and the public policies focus more on quantity than quality of nutrition. There is a pressing need to improve quality of diets, sanitation and supply chain management of food. Under the MLA constituency development scheme, INR 2 crores is allocated per constituency per annum. Then why 3000 children die every day due to malnutrition?* Yes, 3000, the number is abominable. Thus, Dr. Pawar’s demand to enforce law to penalise the MLA’s for such deaths in their constituencies seems reasonable.

I am a tax paying citizen and I have every right to question whether the funds are not used judiciously or is it the allocation that is not enough? What is the point of spending crores and crores to improve the infrastructure for the sake of development when crores of people are starving? Food is the basic need and if a nation fails to provide the basic sustenance to its people, it fails in its entirety. How can the economic growth be justified if the food consumption is higher only within certain groups of society?

There is also this contrasting side of the country to which you and I belong.  We, who have sufficient means to satisfy our hunger as per our moods and fancies. We, who are guilty of throwing away the leftover food. How many times have you carried lunch to your work and not eaten it because of sudden plans with your colleagues to order/lunch out. Remember the last time, you could not finish the entire meal in the food court and left that food on the tray over the trash bin. Some throw away the food while others seek to feed on that thrown food. Such is the growing inequality across different economic groups in our country. The biggest irony- some die of malnutrition while others incur large sums of money to lose the extra kilos of weight.

We live our lives ignorant to the harsh realities of the millions of people. Let me narrate to you a story I read about the boy who lived, Subhash. He was a year old, severely dehydrated, unconscious and barely weighed two kgs when brought to the Malnutrition Intensive Care Unit of Darbhanga Medical College in Bihar. Only when fed on glucose, therapeutic milk and antibiotics for 40 continuous days, could he open his eyes and cry heartily. Now, not every under nourished child gets the timely treatment and survives. Children die, they are dying and initiatives are required so that they do not continue to die. We need more community-based programs like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to manage malnutrition in India. MSF- Doctors without Borders are fighting malnutrition in Bihar since 2009. Not all cases are critical so as to require treatment in a medical facility. If sufficient supplies of nourishment reach them until they gain adequate weight, they might smile, cry, play and more importantly live their childhood.

My purpose is not to evoke the feeling of charity in you. It is rather to make you aware that at this particular second some took their last breath because they could not get a mouthful of nourishment. Maybe the next time, when we are not able to finish the food we order, we can get it packed and pass it to a deprived child on a red light. Maybe, just the thought that someone somewhere is dying because of food deprivation would never let us pile up food in our refrigerators and let it stale. If you organise a party or a corporate event and there is food in excess, please call Feeding India, they will redirect the excess food to the destitute. You could also spare your 5 seconds and go to bhookh.com, and click on “feed a child with a click”. How does it work? The money comes through the advertisements on the site. Sponsors pay for the daily click and make it possible for this non-profit organisation to donate to UN Food Program for chronically hungry children. I would like to share a few lines I penned:

Festivities and Revelry keep us alive

While there are others who barely survive

Luscious food as per our mood and flavour

Why not bestow parts to needy who’ll devour

Endless creation of lavish superstructures

And the hungry yearns and disappears

Let there be laws to punish that state leader

He who could not dispense meals to the poorer

But no one should die due to hunger

No one should die due to hunger……

 

*As of 2012, I could not confirm the exact recent number of deaths; one may have to file an RTI for it.


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