Guldasta

A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Yours S-S-S-t-t-utteringly December 11, 2009

Filed under: family,fiction+fact cocktail,life,love,Me — gurdas @ :
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Imagine waking up to find you have lost a limb. Or that you have lost your voice. Or that you can no longer speak a single sentence without someone laughing at you.

It is not easy. It is specially difficult if you are merely 10 years old and eager to reach out to the world around you.

Somewhere around that age I started to stutter. So, because of this stutter thing, I lived a part of my young growing years “fighting” an inconsiderate world. This fight shaped me forever. That I could not care less about societal norms, that I will always fight for what I believe in, that I will be able to forgive anyone, that I will be gifted with empathy, and that I can love unconditionally are all in part born out of and/or nutured by this fight.

You have to go through fire once to know what it means to be burnt. And once you are burnt there are only two things that can happen to you. Either you will shrivel and die or you will come out brighter and purer. For reasons I do not fully understand and surely do not take credit for, I happened to emerge talking nineteen to the dozen from my state of speechlessness. I would open my mouth and incoherence would emanate. People around me would become uncomfortable. They would get embarrased as if I have dropped my pants. Some would hide their emotion and keep a straight face. Some would step away. Some would laugh. Right there. Right in my face. It is to the latter that I partly owe my triumph.

Two incidents remain etched like yesterday in my mind. No matter they happend more than 20 years ago. I was in grade six, and stood up to answer something the teacher asked. I knew the answer. I just did not know how to get it out of my lungs. But I started anyhow. And then Sunita*, a classmate, started laughing. And then another classmate laughed. And then another. It no longer mattered if I knew the answer. It no longer mattered if I did finally get it out. For all you would have heard in that classroom was laughter.

The other memory is of playtime outside my house. Probably a summer evening. My neighbours Madhu* and Nisha* and I were enagaged in small talk. Both a few years elder to me. I had this joke to tell which I thought was very funny. So I said I have a joke to tell. Nisha started laughing and said “well, we will know the end before you have finished”. I do not remember the moment exactly after she said this, but I do remember running home, burying myself in my mother’s lap, and crying my heart out. It seemed the joke was on me. I also remember Nisha running in a few moments later, filled with remorse for her words, and crying.

So, unlike most of you, I did not get my speech without a fight. And fight I did. Tooth and nail. Sweat and blood. I just did not stop talking. My teachers had only this complaint all my school life – “he is talkative”. I was obedient, polite, clean, on time, and sharp. They just did not understand why I would want to talk and sometimes get punished for it. But someone did. This half educated, barely five feet tall, and tough as a nail woman I call mother understood exactly what it was all about. No, she had no idea what was the cause of her son’s infliction. I think she did not give two hoots for the cause. But she did know something no other person knew. She never asked me to shut up. She never laughed at me. She never got embarassed if it took me ages to tell her what I wanted to tell her. She would just wait, like an angel, for me to finish. I am sure she would have waited for an eternity if I had lost my voice completely. Mothers are made entirely of the world’s most precious element. They are made purely of love.

So, riding on her love and some perseverance, I managed to come far enough to talk fluently. I still think faster than I can talk, and I can talk faster than some people can think. But once in a while I would find the disability reappear for an odd second or two and the words would jam up. People still get embarassed when that rare slip happens. And I still get “You are talkative”. But I laugh it off. For I have earned my voice.

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* names changed to protect identities.

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run to you June 19, 2009

Filed under: family,love,Me,nostalgia — gurdas @ :

In a distant land, on a hot, dry day, my thoughts wander to younger years. I would return home from school around 3 pm, preoccupied with thoughts of playing. What would follow is a battle of wits between mother and me. She would like me to stay at home until the afternoon has mellowed and the Sun isn’t scorching hot. I was of the opinion that the Sun is too trivial a reason to stop me from playing. Usually mother had her way.

But sometimes I would cheat. Upon reaching home, I would slip my fingers into the crack between the window shutters, open the window, throw my school bag in, and run. The bag always landed on the bed mother used for sleeping, so she would wake up and shout after me “come back, it is too hot!” That 12 year old Gurdas could not have cared less. In fact, I’d be running as fast as my legs could go and probably be out of earshot by the time mother would wake up.

Today, I can hear her voice playing in my head and notice how much love there is. I wish my mother was around to scold me for that too is laden with love. She is old, her skin has wrinkled, and old age has settled in. But mother, this son of your is a kid who wants to hear your voice, feel your caress, plant a kiss, and get wrapped in a hug. And mother, June is still hot and I still want to run away. Only this time I want to run to you.

 

Butterflies from Dad March 1, 2009

Filed under: family,Inspiration,life,love,Me — gurdas @ :

Dad opened an email account and sent me our first one-to-one electronic communication. I enquired and found out he has been (secretly) attending “Internet classes”.

When I saw that first email, I felt butterflies in my stomach. In that moment, I could feel the love of my father from thousands of miles away. Because only love can make a 70 year old, who has never used a keyboard in his life, to go learn email communication.

I may be more educated than my father, but in matters of Life, he is still my teacher.

 

Echo of Silence April 28, 2008

Filed under: family,love,photography — gurdas @ :

Living Room

I moved into a new house recently and had my family visiting for a week. Their visit has left behind many silent echoes…..

 

Mother Hen! December 4, 2007

Filed under: Ethics and Values,family,life,women — gurdas @ :

Right now, there are women squabbling in the street outside my house.

And I simply cannot distinguish the sounds they are making from what I witnessed once at a hen coup.

So much for evolution.

 

Desperate Housewives October 13, 2007

“54% women back wife-beating” screamed the headline in today’s Times of India.

I read it again to make sure I read it right. Women supporting wife-beating? 54% of them?

Some other findings from the survey conducted in 28 states in India during 2005-2006:

– 51% men say it is OK for husband to beat his wife

– Over 40% of married women experience abuse at home

– 35% women were OK with being brutally assaulted by their husbands if they neglected household chores or their children

– Only 2% of abused women have ever sought police help

– Buddhist women (41%) report highest level of violence, followed by Muslim and Hindu women. Jain women face least violence (13%).

The last finding was another stunner. Buddhist women getting a rough deal from their Buddhist husbands? Not what I expected. How do survey people ensure their respondents are telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Maybe Buddhist women are more honest and so more got revealed. But then that still is 41% of them getting abused.

Compare this with a survey some days back that said “Indians are amongst the most satisfied with their lives”. Yeah, with such low expectations we are no doubt easily satisfied. Yogis, all of us.

 

A day in my daughter’s life October 6, 2007

Surrounded by the din of the marketplace, I began my ritual of reading the newspaper. I had on me merely Rs. 10 for purchasing the two newspapers which carried news of the health camp we conducted yesterday. As I was scanning the pages, my daughter asked me for some money. She must have read the questioning look in my eyes for she promptly said that she wanted to give some money to a poor lady. The poor lady in question was a destitute who had occupied a certain corner of the market for so long that one could not imagine the market without her.

My six year old daughter had a special corner of concern for this lady, for even in the past she has asked me to give that lady some money. I fished out two Rs. 2 coins from my pocket, hesitated for a moment, bemoaning the fact that I did not have a Re. 1 coin and gave one of the 2 rupee coins to my daughter. She instantly disappeared with the coin and I burrowed myself in the newspaper. I had hardly moved a paragraph that my daughter appeared, tugged at me and insisted that I come and take a look at the old lady. I knew the haggard state of the old lady so I tried to avoid the encounter. Yet my daughter persisted and I gave in. The old lady was dozing, possibly due to the effect of liquor. It was a little disappointing for Harshal that the old lady had not seen her doing the act of charity and understandably it deprived Harshal of some satisfaction.

We ran a stall for handmade aromatic soaps made of natural extracts, and as we headed back to this, the following conversation took place.

Harshal: Papa why was the old lady lying like that?

Me: I don’t know baby, most probably she was sleeping.

Harshal (giggling to herself): Is this the place to sleep?

Me: But Harshal , she does not have a home.

Harshal (a bit concerned this time): Does she have food to eat?

Me (haltingly): Most probably no.

Harshal: Papa are you not someone who helps the poor?

Me (at this stage a mixture of emotions – pride, guilt, feeling small and yet concerned): Yes Harshal, but there are too many poor in the world, I cannot help all of them.

Harshal (after some silence): You had ten rupees with you didn’t you?

Me: Yes, I did! Harshi

Harshal (almost seizing my words): So why did you not give it to the old lady. At least she could eat something for today.

I did not reply to her after that. We kept walking silently amidst the humdrum. For a while all the noise faded in my mind as it retraced its steps back to see the prostrate figure of the old lady. Where will she spend her night? What does she look forward to for the next day? What could I have done for her? What can I do for all these poor? I am already trying, but is this enough?

 – by Anurag Jain

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Anurag and I go back a long way. Some 18 odd years. We first met on the playground in his neighbourhood. He was a fierce competitor and the best leg-spin bowler I have faced. After high-school, we moved on with our lives, each pursuing an engineering degree in different universities. Until we got together again last year. He had mellowed and that somehow made his fierce desire to get things done more visible. Both he and Shikha (who he met during his engineering days and later married) left their jobs to take-up the social cause of enabling the urban poor, through the vehicle of NEEV (New Education and Environment Visions).

 Shikha and Anurag Jain (Jamshedpur, India, June-2007)

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