Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stirring

Received this from a friend...
A very touching tale...narrates how much can be taken in just a fraction of a second.:(
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I was walking around in a Local Store doing shopping, when I saw a Cashier talking to a boy couldn't have been more than 5 or 6 years old. The Cashier said, 'I'm sorry, but you don't have enough money to buy this doll. Then the little boy turned to me and asked, ''Aunty, are you sure I don't have enough money?''

I counted his cash and replied: ''You know that you don't have enough money to buy the doll, my dear.'' The little boy was still holding the doll in his hand.

Finally, I walked toward him and I asked him who he wished to give this doll to. 'It's the doll that my sister loved most and wanted so much. I wanted to Gift her for her BIRTHDAY.I have to give the doll to my mommy so that she can give it to my sister when she goes there.' His eyes were so sad while saying this. 'My Sister has gone to be with God. Daddy says that Mommy is going to see God very soon too, so I thought that she could take the doll with her to give it to my sister.''

My heart nearly stopped. The little boy looked up at me and said: 'I told daddy to tell mommy not to go yet. I need her to wait until I come back from the mall.' Then he showed me a very nice photo of him where he was laughing. He then told me 'I want mommy to take my picture with her so my sister won't forget me.' 'I love my mommy and I wish she doesn't have to leave me, but daddy says that she has to go to be with my little sister.' Then he looked again at the doll with sad eyes, very quietly.

I quickly reached for my wallet and said to the boy. “Suppose we check again, just in case you do have enough money for the doll?''

‘OK' he said, 'I hope I do have enough.' I added some of my money to his with out him seeing and we started to count it. There was enough for the doll and even some spare money.

The little boy said: 'Thank you God for giving me enough money!' Then he looked at me and added, ‘I asked last night

before I went to sleep for God to make sure I had enough money to buy this doll, so that mommy could give It to my sister. He heard me!''

'I also wanted to have enough money to buy a white rose for my mommy, but I didn't dare to ask God for too much. But He gave me enough to buy the doll and a white rose. My mommy loves white roses.”

I finished my shopping in a totally different state from when I started. I couldn't get the little boy out of my mind. Then I remembered a local news paper article two days ago, which mentioned a drunk man in a truck, who hit a car occupied by a young woman and a little girl. The little girl died right away, and the mother was left in a critical state.

The family had to decide whether to pull the plug on the life-sustaining machine, because the young woman would not be able to recover from the coma. Was this the family of the little boy?
Two days after this encounter with the little boy, I read in the news paper that the young woman had passed away. I couldn't stop myself as I bought a bunch of white roses and I went to the funeral home where the body of the young woman was exposed for people to see and make last wishes before her burial. She was there, in her coffin, holding a beautiful white rose in her hand with the photo of the little boy and the doll placed over her chest. I left the place, teary-eyed, feeling that my life had been changed for ever.

The love that the little boy had for his mother and his sister is still, to this day, hard to imagine. And in a fraction of a second, a drunk driver had taken all this away from him.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A little concern can save many lives...

-By Swetha Amit
It was like any other Friday evening as I cruised along the streets of Mumbai. The traffic needless to ask seemed chaotic depicting the bumper to bumper scenario. It was my usual visit to the abode of the almighty which was is regular weekly routine. Listening to the FM radio and looking out at the twilight streaked zone, everything seemed as normal as ever. However it was that moment’s lapse of head turn that left me with a sinking feeling as it made me ponder and wonder innumerable times like never before.

The appalling sight of a bleeding cat wriggling with immense pain made me freeze in horror in my car seat. Being few yards away in the midst of bustling traffic and crowd, I could see a few faces with solemn expressions staring at the animal battling desperately for its life. It was apparently knocked off by a lorry as it tried to whiz across the lane only to be met with crossroads of life and death. As I tried to look back and urge my driver to see if anything could be done, he said that it would be taken care of by the "concerned authorities". It was an ironical statement considering the two words –concern and authority, neither of which was exhibited.

It was in a restless mode that I approached the divine and yet my mind kept lingering on to that horrifying image. As I craned my heads yards away I could sense that the dead animal lay where it was with vehicles driving past furiously and people walking as though they had seen nothing. It was with helplessness that I drove home with a heavy heart and feelings of guilt. Could I have actually done something or at least ensured that it was moved away from the rampage of recurring automobiles. It certainly didn’t deserve to be run over in a repeated manner even after it had breathed its last.

It made me think back to the similar treatment meted out to our fellow humans. Several sights of people of varied aged groups are found either knocked off from a cycle, on the verge of fainting or helplessly stuttering around in their not so great state or run over by speeding vehicles. Yet we choose to carry on thinking that 'someone' might lend a helping hand or the ‘concerned authorities’ will take care of accommodating them in the right place. Alas! it makes one wonder if it will be at the right time.

It’s a million dollar question which taunts us in the form of our inner conscience. What is it that stops us or stopped us from assuming the role of a ‘concerned’ authority at least on a temporary basis? The rush to get from one place to another? Fear of getting involved in something that is of no significance to us? Or just sheer indifference? It seemed to indicate a wipe out of humanity altogether which certainly isn’t the case. This is especially in instances immediately after the blasts or floods, where even strangers become a source of support. Should such bearing occur only in a catastrophe of a large degree? And not be extended to a day to day scenario?

While feelings of compassion are undoubtedly deep within, its hesitant drive towards the surface is what is lacking considerably.

These pool of thoughts whirled inside my head as I reached home. The cerebration mode continued; having learnt an unforgettable lesson. The stance of doing something when felt strongly about should not be stumbled upon by a block of uncertainty. Even if it appears beyond our control, the smallest of gestures can be exhibited which would emphasize the value to life. With such advanced technology all it requires a slight effort which could work wonders.

Possessing the numbers of the Municipality Corporation, ambulance, blue cross, fire brigade, will enable us to at least notify these organizations on certain occurrences. While numerous ones are stored; its essential to have these as it may cease to surprise how handy it can be. While it may only showcase a minimal indication on our part, it will definitely make a difference and a sense of satisfaction of having done something within our capacity.

While such question-answer sessions were haunting my mind, nothing could erase that disturbing image which continued to prick my conscience repeatedly. Would I have learnt my lesson? Time will tell and hopefully it’ll not turn out to be an accidental indifference.
Written for www.msn.co.in

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Parental Pressure

-By Swetha Amit
This time he was geared to hit a six, no matter what. A shot that would make his ‘hard task master’ father immensely proud. He set his face with a determined expression to face the furious paced bowler. As he raised his bat he suddenly felt the heaviness of the mounting pressure slowly creeping upon him. It led to a final blow in this case leaving him stumped as the wickets were knocked off in a no nonsense manner.

This 15 year old lad looked to and fro between the bat and ball in dismay. Slowly he lugged off the nets to be met with reprimanding remarks from his perfectionist parent. The latter’s dream of making him a fine all rounder squashed the youth from all corners leaving him with a stifled feeling An ace student, an excellent batsman not to mention his music lessons to excel as well. He was finding it tough to manage academics and retain his top position in class. What would have ideally been a welcoming break accompanied with fun in these extracurricular activities seemed like a journey from one grilling section to another.

It seemed to be an eternal task of pleasing his father whose passion for the gentleman’s game seemed to project on him heavily. Not to mention his mother's obsession for ghazals forced him to strain his vocal cords. And the added factor of the constant comparison with his contemporaries in and out of the family which included the society and his marketability later on as a prospective suitor. Dwelling on the futuristic factor became droning lecture from there on. Whatever happened to his space, needs and pursuing his own interests?

This is the typical case of the increasing parental pressure in the present scenario. And the children obviously remain screed and affected due to his phenomenon. Some severity in the cases also results in feelings of resentment and taking on a rebellious stance at a much later stage.

The prime parental anxiety lies in wanting the best for their children which is understandable. Wanting to see their kith and kin shine and well settled becomes a main source of concern to an extent that results in excessive worrying. Such feelings often lead to them pushing their children more than needed. At times their own unfulfilled dreams remain a source of frustration which projects on to their young ones. Blinded by this driven passion for redemption of their purpose in life, they fail to see the distress that occurs in the latter.

Parents usually expect their young ones to comply with the conventional mode of vocation. While opportunities today are growing at a large rate, the concept of opting for an unconventional stream is still accompanied with apprehension. ‘What will others/society think?’ remains fixated in minds of the elders. Comparison with other children leads to pushing them to pursue areas where the pressure to excel tags along like a shadow.

The feelings of the youth take a back seat in such instances. This is especially in cases where they do not possess the same aim/goal as their parents. The lack of understanding of their child’s interest, aptitude and personality often results in conflicts and blame games. It could result in strained relations where at times the unforgiving nature continues to linger.

To avoid this disheartening situation, tact and empathy exhibited by parents can work wonders in enhancing this precious relationship. Communication plays a key role in strengthening their understanding of their child’s comfort zone, inclination and temperament. The amount of space, the difficulties faced by them and also the need to have their relaxing recreational time comes into light. Effort spent in gaining such insight would enable them to identify strengths, weaknesses and also establish confidence into their young ones. The latter plays a vital role as it instills the feeling of unconditional acceptance.
Recognizing their potential, talent and encouraging them in the right direction proves to be the anchor needed to steer their children in the right direction. Staunch support and weathering storms in the form of snide remarks by others’ would teach them the art of being assertive and standing up for what they firmly believe in. Lessons like these imbibed from an early stage are imprinted deep within and can be applied to several spectrums of life.

It is believed that home is a strong foundation that gives rise to a sound persona to emerge valiantly into the ocean of life. The lack of which would result in a shaky approach and the failure to face the numerous sharks while climbing up the ladder to reach the surface of success.
Written for www.msn.co.in

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Of Forts and Royalty











-By Swetha Amit

A blend of tradition and modernity has what made Jaipur stand out. Despite commercialisation, it is a pleasure to note the well preserved history and culture.

Buildings depicting the pink of health, the royal capital of Rajasthan exhibit a blush that would be a painters' delight. Our trip to Jaipur and Jodhpur proved to be a mystic experience as we relived the past.

Resplendence at its peak
A visit to the Chauki dhani gave us a feast of its rich culture with the entry fee being only about Rs300 per person. Embedded in a capsule, it exhibited with pride the several aspects of its tradition. The colourful attire, the linguistic charm, the effervescent folk dance, the touching simplicity, overwhelming hospitality and the perseverance completely mesmerized us.

It was only when the shadows slowly crept in, that we looked at our watches. In spite of the four hours we spent there, we were surprised to note that we weren't fatigued. In fact, we were feeling as energetic as ever and eager to delve deeper into this royal expedition.

A royal fort
After hearing stories about the three major forts in Jaipur, we started off early in order to cover all of them.

The first stopover was at Nahagarh fort. A drive across to this majestic monument amidst the mountains in its twists and turns was an exhilarating experience. We could almost visualize cavalry and troops marching down the same route. It was a panoramic view of the city from the top, interspersed with calls of the peacock.

The next halt was Jaigarh fort and it managed us to entice us with its bewitching past. Its specialty was the canon on wheels which is the largest moving one in Asia.

The Amber fort took us to a different level of exquisite and exotic beauty with the splendors of its appealing architecture. The famous Sheesh Mahal with its array of tiny mirrors provided a scintillating effect throughout and being well-maintained, it is difficult to imagine it is hundreds of years old. On reaching here early, one can get a treat to an Elephant ride to reach the top at the cost of Rs600.

Mahal amidst the lake
Situated in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, the Jal Mahal is a beautiful sight. Though the palace is abandoned at present, earlier one could reach it via a boat. It is well-known for its elaborate architecture and carvings.

Elite Extravaganza
The city palace is truly the centre of attraction of Jaipur. It portrays a bejeweled look as it haughtily stands as the epitome of the pink city. It consists of courtyards, gardens and other buildings. A fine museum is also located inside which gave us interesting inputs on the significance of the Rajasthan culture. It turned out be both a beautiful and learning experience for us. And made us retrospect into the oft quoted saying, 'beauty with brains' which was what this monument clearly stood for.

Archaic astronomy
The Jantar Mantar is the largest open air observatory in the world and situated adjacent to the city palace. We experienced pride in understanding the astronomical prowess of our ancestors while we toured around. We noted that the instruments were made out of stone and marble, each having a specific purpose.
A spiritual quest
Moti Dungri is a hill which has a temple and a palace within the vicinity. We encountered a spiritual moment in this place of worship which was dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The scenic surroundings around it made it a tourist attraction. However we learnt that the palace was not accessible to visitors.

Below the Moti Dungri is situated the Birla Mandir. It was evening as we set foot there and waited for the 'aarti'. It had a calming effect as we sought blessing of the God. Later outside, we observed that this marble constructed shrine was beautifully maintained with its lush green gardens.

Shop till you drop
Our visit to Jaipur wouldn't have been complete without purchasing its stunning souvenirs. Babu Bazar and Jowri Bazar have an array of shops with handicrafts, ravishing jewellery, carpets, handbags which were truly exclusive to the Rajasthani folklore. The prices at certain shops remained fixed while others seemed open to bargaining. The cost of jewellery can range between Rs200 to Rs1000. Bags are priced between Rs100 to Rs 800. Carpets, handlooms and other items cost anywhere from Rs80 to Rs1000.

A six-hour overnight train journey from Jaipur brought us to Jodhpur city. It was once the capital of the Marwar state and is the second largest city in Rajasthan currently. Jodhpur has a very unique culture which is quite different from Jaipur.


Living life King Size
We were first taken to the Umaid Bhawan palace which is situated on the Chittar hill. We were told that it was the residence of the current royal family. Built with yellow sandstone, its impressive exotic charm propelled us to want to explore its plush interiors. And this didn't disappoint us even in the faintest manner. The existence of the museum inside exhibited the generation and history of its rulers. It portrayed pictures of several escapades of the kings' hunting expeditions, passionate polo games, and the grand lifestyles led by the royalty. It was an intriguing experience, considering its captivating story and the posh surroundings.

Yet another royal fort
Situated about 400 feet high, with seven gates of entry and one of the largest forts in Rajasthan is the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Climbing this fort proved to be quite an uphill task for us literally. We noted that lifts were provided for senior age groups.

The fort-palace has inside it the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Sheesh Mahal - The hall of mirrors, Phool Mahal - The palace of flowers, Takhat Vilas - Maharaja Takhat Singh's chamber. As we traversed inside, we found a display of quaint and pretty palanquins, old furniture, well preserved weapons and swords. We were taken to the top to see the majestic canons that once upon a time fired away furiously during battles. We also got a breath-taking view of the old Jodhpur city which has most of the structures painted in a light blue - hence the name 'Blue city'. We were soon guided towards the Chamunda Mata Temple and also noticed a huge shrine of Lord Shiva in the vicinity.

Ruling memorials
The Jaswant Thada is situated about half a kilometre from the fort. We were told that this was an architectural memorial, surrounded by cenotaphs of successful rulers. It was made out of marble and also has a small lake nearby.
Bustling market area
In the evening we toured around the Ghantaghar market area. This is a wholesale market place with an array of shops and enterprising shopkeepers. We saw that language seemed no barrier to them as they had got used to conversing with foreign tourists. Italian and French were two languages that they had mastered. Many handlooms and art crafts were available at reasonable rates of anywhere between Rs100 - Rs500. We learnt that such goods were exported and awareness has expanded through the virtual world. We did not fail to miss the clock tower right at the centre which is what brings this bustling market area its name.
How to get to Jaipur and Jodhpur: Jaipur and Jodhpur are accessible by road, rail and air.
By air:
Jaipur: There are several flights from Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jodhpur, and Udaipur.
Jodhpur:There are several flights from Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and Udaipur.

By Rail:
Jaipur: Well-connected by trains from all parts of India.
Jodhpur:Direct trains from Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc.

By Road:
One can easily drive down from Delhi or Agra which is about a 11- hour drive. From Jaipur/Jodhpur, most places of tourist interest are about six hours away. One can either hire a cab or drive down. The fare of the cab has to be fixed prior to the journey.

Within the cities: Hiring a cab would be an ideal option. The rate is according to an hourly basis or distance. Autos could be a possible option as well.


Best time to visit: October -March is the winter season in whole of Rajasthan. The pleasant temperatures during the day around this time make it ideal for sightseeing and avoid the scorching heat.

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