Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lost and found: Confessions of a sweeping soul

Why is it that one always has to lose one thing in order to find another? Is it synonymous of the saying “you win some, you lose some’? Or is it the fact that in order to gain something one must realize the significance of loss and wonder if it turns out to be insignificant after all.

I cannot help but ponder about these thoughts that usually find their entry into my cognitive space as the year begins to gradually bid farewell to its beloved folks. Reminiscence is often a key thing for an individual just like an annual report of an organization.

2008 started out with a bang as January 1st had a breaking dawn on the sandy beaches of Goa. The sight of the glistening sand by the rays of the sun for some reason gave me a ray of hope that ’08 would indeed turn out to be a new year in more than one way. It signified hope, change and enthralling discoveries that would make me gape in wonderment. Nevertheless it did but not without the usual bumpy roller coaster ride that one undergoes, this year being one with several twists and turns.

Joining Xavier’s institute of counseling for the first three months was probably God’s gift to me during the era of spring. Especially when just a couple of months back, I was left with a lot of bitterness for reasons best known to me. I was waiting desperately for a revamp in my attitude and outlook which would enable further growth in my personality which otherwise would have scarily remained a Bonsai.

Those three months embarked an unforgettable journey where my emotional baggage weighed heavily on my shoulders. To my surprise I found other 15 of them sailing on the same boat as we came together for a mission-that to reach our destination no matter how far it was. Under the guidance of our Philosopher , guide and Father, we emerged as enriching souls who had cleansed ourselves with unwarranted dust as we geared up to face the world in a different manner. Not to mention the bond (touchwood) we had developed and the new found friendship that had formed during our tryst with personal counseling.

Change had arrived and to such an extent that I hardly recognized the person I was even a year ago. Well one aspect had to do with the fact that I joined the gym and saw a fitter and more toned me. It certainly got me addicted to workouts to an extent that missing a day would make me feel incomplete unless of course if I was out holidaying. And yes, it’s made me give up sweets to a large extent which wasn’t easy considering that I had a sweet tooth.

There was a lot more confidence, crystal clear thoughts that made my mind feel like the blue sky of April without a speck of cloud. Surety in what I wanted to do and held pride in my career path that I had chosen even if it meant digressing from the clichéd ones that people were normally used to hearing at least in a certain place. A no nonsense approach was adopted even fiercely this time, standing up for what I firmly believed in which necessarily may not be in agreement with the rest. The soul searching exercise certainly had helped to a great extent as I began to traverse into a different plane altogether.

My tryst with several hard hitting realities strengthened my inner self. The insecure, uncertain me had blossomed into someone who knew her way around and could handle just about anything. To an extent that advices from others irrespective of who they were met with a staunch opposition. Tolerance levels have come down drastically especially with those who try and act like they know it all, when they actually don’t know anything. The repeated questions and annoying speeches from elders led me to avoid them like plague much to the surprise of a few others. My ability to retort has considerable gone high not that there’s anything to be proud of. Impatience has what has eventually sunk in with certain aspects at least and all these traits have gone as far as to achieve the status of being arrogant and snooty. Is this the price one has to pay for being a confident young person? Sure everything does come at a cost doesn’t it?

Apart from which a lot of realization has dawned in as well. With respect to who/what matters to me, my priorities, the need for more personal space and time and also giving others the same. The need to explore further and new things has grown to a large extent.
One says that when change occurs, it’s important not to lose touch with what you have been.

Exactly what happened to me last few months? I found myself in even a tighter embrace with the maximum city such that this began to feel like a part of me already in just a span of two years. It was time to shed the past and look forward to a new life. Especially with the city beckoning me with open arms-a gesture which I fully couldn’t accept when I first landed here. It almost feels like the ghosts of the past have been a part of my last life at times.

Well some things haven’t changed is that I haven’t lost my fun loving self which I probably never would even if age continues to surmount me in large numbers. Somber experiences have not managed to kill my zest for life and the fact that “I’m too old for all this”- the usual hypocritical statements one always hears all the time. I guess I never would have to worry about the aging factor in me as no matter what maturity I attain, my soul will manage to remain revitalized always depicting the youth and liveliness.

As I am finishing my tallying between the good and the bad change, I am hoping that 2009 brings me yet another new beginning, experiences and not necessarily mean that I need to stand on sandy shores to realize this. In the meantime I am still celebrating my find and yet thinking back slightly to the lost innocent, not so street smart and slightly more compassionate/tolerant me who was still there in Mumbai when I arrived for the first time. I guess its time to really say goodbye to her and live with the new me. Happy? Hmm yes but still contemplating……..about the irony of lost and found!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The caretaker cats

-By Swetha Amit
It’s not every time that one gets to read a piece in the newspaper that jolts them out of their sleepy Sunday syndrome. Especially for animal lovers and those gestures by the fauna clan that could even put humans to shame. It was the title ‘Cats keep toddler alive’ that made me read the passage intently. It reminds one of the popular Disney productions ‘The Jungle Book’ where the sound of a wailing baby instantly stops a snooty panther on his tracks. Paternal instincts take over as the basket is gently gripped by the big cat as he leaves the lost one to the care of the wolves pack which bring him up as their own cub.

A similar scenario took place in Argentina, where a one year old baby boy was tended to by a gang of wild cats near a canal. It was a surprised police officer who managed to get past the fiercely protective cats and take the infant to the hospital immediately. The doctor’s verdict had confirmed the role of caretakers by these gentle creatures which acted as a security blanket for the child eventually resulting in his survival in the frosty winter nights.

This small piece nevertheless left a huge impact on me as I pondered over several aspects of this rather unusual incident. Cats as species are usually labeled as cold creatures who do not exhibit much warmth. And yet they had when it came to a human baby which was left in the lurch. A gesture which probably would have led to a moment’s hesitation by the human clan. While the cats did so without batting an eyelid in their usual calm fashion. Indeed their maternal instincts were depicted in an unmistakable manner as they groomed the little one as they would do so with their own kittens.

Several such instances have been reported where dogs have rescued toddlers from a well or sewage, all over the world. Sometimes these animals portray that solidarity often failed to be done so by people who walk by like nothing untoward has occurred. Reliability as a companion in spite of their inability to talk the human language has made them popular as pets, often taking the place of a loyal friend. While there are one set of individuals who are considerate towards these four legged species, many choose to torment them in such a brutal way. Sometimes a lack of humanity is displayed as they run over these petite little things and zoom off like a whirlwind in a stormy manner, forgetting instances like the above ones. It pains one to realize that nothing or nobody is cared for in this fast paced world going as far as to cost ones life.

Another thought that haunted me was the fact that the baby was lying out in the cold with murky elements just around the corner. What should have ideally been tucked away to sleep with a warm cozy blanket and hot milk was mercilessly lying near the canal with fleeting winds blowing in a callous manner not caring of their dire consequences on anything/anyone. Parents seem to shed the responsibility factor and choose an escapist route to ward off the burden of their troubles. Be it financial, social or emotional, it is indeed an atrocious act to let their kith and kin bear the sole brunt. There are instances where the upbringing traverses the cross communications, yells and screams of the couple that leave them scarred for life. It seemed that the infant was saved out of all that and left to hear the howling gale of nature’s forces instead and crying in a helpless manner.

It ceases one to think if one deserves to have children if they aren’t ready to render maturity and sensibility. Why let the innocent suffer the consequences of unsorted messes? The word ‘care’ seems to be diminishing like the fading light during dusk which eventually spells nothing but darkness.

As I folded the paper back to its rightful place on the shelf, I couldn’t help but think whether things are really in their rightful place in the world. Meanwhile it was the role of the caretakers assumed by the cats that kept a slight smile on my face throughout.
Written for


Friday, December 19, 2008

The missing slice of the cheese

-By Swetha Amit
It was her first day at work. Nervousness and excitement both surged into her otherwise confident persona seemingly battling for their upmanship within her. Wanting to do well like any other career-oriented woman; she prepared herself for a rather long day ahead. She finally reached the elite building which was soon to become her second home away from home. Many seem to be spend longer hours at work than at their residence anyway. And if she needs to climb up the competitive ladder, competence needs to be on a high alert. Even if it meant leaving your domestic side dormant for a while.

Approaching the top floor, she took a deep breath and entered the plush interiors of her work place. After a brief meeting with her superior, she was given an orientation for a while. Her team consisted of about 7 members whom she had to coordinate and work with. Her mind took note of the fact of the need to build a good rapport with her fellow mates. One thing was being efficient with your profession and the other was to use your soft & social skills to avoid the air of animosity.

Heads turned as she walked in with a confident gait into her cubicle. She could hear murmurs and scrutinizing eyes of her team as they seized up this 'new entrant'. Not missing the opportunity, she walked up to them and introduced herself in the friendliest manner possible. She was glad that the response had been warm enough but not exactly with the right note of exuberance. The positive streak in her didn't deter her determination of adopting a quick ice breaking technique. After all it was only a matter of time when she would be in sync with the corporate drone in more than one way.

Couple of months had gone by with immense amount of perseverance in not just her work. Expectations were failed to be met and the atmosphere of cohesiveness seemed lacking. True she had taken efforts to smooth things out. But no trick in the magic box seemed to work and went up in smoke instead. Was it such an arduous task to achieve minimum level of cordiality? To top it all, her boss didn't exactly seem pleased with her so called 'mediocre' results. Or was she trying too hard? She knew it was no piece of cake, but certainly didn't expect it to be a tough nut to crack. Everything appeared to have an adverse effect on the other. She had miles to go before she slept; numerous rungs to climb and she hadn't even set her foot firmly on the first rung yet.

She couldn't exactly ignore the discomfort surmounting in the air of her office space. Team work looked to be a distant dream along with the rest of her aspirations. She felt like a missing slice of the cheese which irrespective of fulfilling its criteria somehow never managed to fit in with the rest. Drop in her levels of confidence were soon apparent. It almost reached a point of calling it quits if not for a certain intervention that came about unexpectedly. Call it a divine intervention or a certain division program that decided to organize a sensitivity training for a week. Nevertheless the gut feel in her spelt nothing but positivism as she began to look at it as a silver lining amidst the dark clouds.

Indeed, the clouds in the minds of others soon were penetrated with rays of clarity as they began to perceive this 'newcomer' in different light. The misinterpretation of that of a cocky, too sure of herself, arrogant persona was soon replaced with one with immense determination, focused and one with the right attitude eager to go a long way. How wrong they were as they swallowed their guilt of having kept their shutters of their cognitive mode closed tightly. If only had they let their minds open as that of lush green fields, the last two months would have been a different picture altogether. The lesson learnt was more than that inculcated into only ones professional lives. It was that tool that one would used to cleanse the polluted reflections of a faulty mirror.

It was happier times ahead for her as she lapped up the acceptance with immense poise and grace. After starting on the wrong foot, she was more than pleased with her new beginning. Going by the philosophy that at times: all endings are also beginnings only that one doesn't realize it all the time. It was a moment to climb the ladder and hopefully not encounter too many vicious serpents on the way to her goal. A satisfied smile appeared on her face which depicted that of being in sync with the organizational climate after weathering a few storms. She was relieved of no longer being the missing slice of the cheese out in the lurch but now in firm conjoint with the rest of the mould.

Sometimes due to past experiences or distorted ideas, our minds overrule our rationale by forming bizarre impressions which are often baseless. Such results in the failure of giving a chance to others before opinions are under furious construction. It is important to open out minds and hearts before sizing up others which could result in our behaviour baffling the poor individual completely. What may seem as something to our prejudiced eye may turn out to be the missing piece to anything which often fails to reach our raw senses without utilizing our judgment call or instincts. All it takes is a sole misunderstanding in not being able to break the iceberg as in the above case.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sand dunes in the wild

-By Swetha Amit

We had heard a lot about the land of camels and sand dunes and this created an enchanting vision of Jaisalmer.

When we reached Jaisalmer, the view was breathtaking as sand dunes unfolded before us almost like a live encounter with the tales of the Arabian Nights.

Situated in the heart of the Thar Desert, Jaisalmer has its own share of sightseeing spots.
Not to be outdone with its counterpart regions in Rajasthan, the Havelis, fort and Gadi Sagar Lake add charm to this sandstone city. Added to which, the story behind every monument made it even more intriguing. Starting with the first glimpse of the famous lake, o
ur journey began from a learning experience and ended with an adventurous streak.
Lake and boat rides
The glistening waters of Gadi Sagar Lake in the morning gave it a mystic look. A chirpy narration by the locals gave us knowledge of it not only being a popular tourist attraction but also the only source of water during bygone days. A 30-minute boat ride cost us Rs100 and gave us a super view of the archaic monuments surrounding it. Birds flocked all around us for a water. We were also given the choice of feeding the rather healthy looking fresh water fish by purchasing bread for Rs.10 from the vendors in the vicinity.

Haveli of the rich
Located in a narrow lane was the Patwon ki Haveli. We were reminded of th
e saying 'small things come in big packages'. The elegantly designed havelis of Jaisalmer were very alluring, with fine architecture and intricate carvings that contribute to the pride of Jaisalmer. The five mansions were constructed by five traders of those times.

A glimpse into the lifestyle of the elite proved to be fascinating and interesting. Each room though abandoned now, carried tremendous intensity and depth that only made us stare in awe. The drawing rooms, the cloth chess board, the kitchen, the array of turbans displayed the royalty of their times.
The 'Pagdis'were an indication of caste, religion, place and practices. In a way, the haunting element brought about the ghosts of the pasts and as we stepped out, we half expected to see royalty wave good bye from the mysterious windows that adorned these mansions.

A residential forte
We were taken to one of the ancient monuments, the Jaisalmer fort, which surrounds the Trikuta hill. The uniqueness of this monument is that locals still inhabit the fort, hence it is known as the living fort. Built by Rawal Jaisal, its unique golden colour gives it another name - the 'Golden fort'. We were quite surprised by its four gates and the special
ty is that each one is not visible from the other. As we were further taken inside, the inner compound seemed like a small town by itself with bustling activities and small shops that sold souvenirs. Cycles and auto rickshaws whizzed past us in a hurry.
The fort also housed a number of temples. While the main temple was that of the Kali goddess, quite a few Jain temples also prevailed, and each had a significant story behin
d their existence.

Sands of times
Located about 45 kms from Jaisalmer are the Sam sand dunes. This was undoubtedly one of the best experiences as it gave us a taste of the real and raw Rajasthan. An half-an-hour drive by cab gave us a quick glimpse of the areas around Jaisalmer such as the Ama
r Sagar where a Jain temple is situated.

After passing a few villages, the landscape became quite deserted and there was just a sprinkling of a few huts. As we reached the Sam village, numerous camels dressed up with colourful tassels were waiting to take us deep into the dunes.
From there on began an adventurous spree amidst the smooth silken sand. The view was picturesque with heaps of sands adjoined with one another like tiny mountain ranges. As we slowly cruised across the vast area, we managed to catch sight of a few spotted deer that sprinted across.

We were told that the desert national park was nearby. Our two hour ride was nearing its completion with the halt at the sunset view which was beautiful beyond words. The golden sinking sun managed to cast a spell over the fine dunes as the entire area see
med like a golden carpet. As we headed back, the Rs400 shelled out seemed nothing in comparison to the exhilarating time we had. This was later followed by a spectacular dance show and singing and a lavish feast spread for dinner.

Bordering by national spirituality
The adventurous stint continued as we decided to drive down to Tanot which is about 110 kms from Jaisalmer. Being a two hour drive, we started off quite early. We learnt that being close to the border, only Indian nationals were allowed and if one wanted to go beyond this point, the Collector's permission was compulsory.

No accommodation was available for tourists and it was usually planned as a one-day trip. On the way, we managed to see the depth of the barren lands spread in bountiful acres. The severity in the landscapes was depicted as we drove further down. As we reached the temple, we observed the Border Security Force in full form. We were told astounding stories on grit and valour of the Indian Army which made us proud.

The Tanot Mata temple has a beautiful story behind it. During the 1965 war
over 4000 bombs were apparently hurled from Pakistan but miraculously none failed to affect the temple and the area surrounding it. The bombs are preserved even now. It is believed that the divine intervention of Tanot Mata was what shielded this portion and brought us victory. The cab ride costs around Rs 1500 but is value for money.
How to reach Jaisalmer

You can reach Jaisalmer from Delhi, Jaipur or Jodhpur. There are several flights from Delhi, Jaipur and Jodhpur. From Jaipur and Jodhpur, one can choose to either tra
vel by road or rail depending on convenience.
By Road
Jaisalmer is about 5 hours drive from Jodhpur. You can hire a tourist cab. Tourist buses also ply frequently from Jodhpur and Jaipur.

By Rail
From Delhi: The Delhi-Jaisalmer Express leaves Delhi in the evening and reaches Jaisalmer the following afternoon.
From Jaipur: The Delhi-Jaisalmer Express halts at midnight at Jaipur and reaches Jaisalmer in the afternoon and is the most convenient.
From Jodhpur: The Jodhpur -Jaisalmer express leaves Jodhpur at 11:15
pm and reaches Jaisalmer at 5:15 am.

Within Jaisalmer
Being a tourist-friendly place, there is no dearth of cabs, but one needs to bargain. Sometimes the drivers prove to be tourist guides as well who are tech savvy and can b
e contacted via mobile.

Best time to visit:
October -March, the winter season, is deal to see Rajasthan. The pleasant temperature during the day around this time makes it ideal for sightseeing.