April 17, 2016

A small note...

...to tell you, my almost non-existent readers (including the ones who run away without commenting), that I am still alive!
Until then, save the love (only for me) and read the book.

March 16, 2016

M for 'Maybe'

We met somewhere
Along a common road
That connected our paths
Although for only a while
Until I moved forward
Befriending the wind
Beckoning the stars
Towards my destination
While you stayed behind
To enjoy the view.

Today, I am far ahead
On a different road
Still running, still in a hurry
To get somewhere
Yet wondering at times
How slowing down would have felt
With you by my side.

M for 'Maybe' is the thirteenth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of scribbles by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

March 11, 2016

#ShareTheLoad: Start now

I recently watched the Ariel's latest TV commercial and was very impressed with the sensitivity and brilliance with which they dealt with gender prejudice, an issue prevailing in all sections of our chauvinistic society. Since time immemorial, we Indians have been brought up on the notion that women are supposed to be the care givers and men the breadwinners. Later down the line, women's liberation fought for the right for education, equality , and emancipation. But how much of this have we really achieved? 
With building awareness and literacy, women are now allowed to study and work out of the house. However, not at the cost of cutting them some slack at the home front. With their capacity challenged, and stress doubled, women are now expected to manage home and work in tandem, and any kind of lackadaisical behavior is taken as proof of incompetence. The typical Indian male, however, is expected to work a nine to five job, after which he comes home and plops on the sofa in front of the TV while his poor wife continues to run odd chores around the house. She carries his briefcase inside, serves him tea, sets out the night clothes, feeds the screaming toddler, cooks dinner, prepares for an office presentation, and even answers the doorbell a couple of times in between all this chaos. All this while, the husband is watching his favorite game, not moving a finger except to change channels during commercials. This is the common scenario in most Indian households. Seems unfair, isn't it?

Well, this gender prejudice is a topic that is casually brushed under the carpet or  nervously laughed upon in most families. While we are often guilty of succumbing to it, what we fail to acknowledge is the face that it is the main reason for the skewed gender bias prevalent in our country. We have seen so much of it happening everywhere, that we have learned to accept it as a way of life.

As a child, I remember playing with Barbie dolls. For most children my age, including me, Barbie then would pose as not just a play thing but as a sort of role model. Besides the beautiful blonde hair, pretty dresses, and glamorous looks that we were so much in awe with, it was mainly the various roles the doll was available in, that really mesmerized our young impressionable minds, setting her apart from all the other dolls. Barbie could be anything she wanted. There was Doctor Barbie, Beauty queen Barbie, Homemaker Barbie, Traditional Barbie, Sports Barbie; the list was endless. Owing to its increasing fascination among young girls the world over, the makers of Barbie eventually introduced her boyfriend Ken and sister Skipper in the market. But they could never beat the popularity Barbie managed to create. 
Thinking back, we, even as little girls, had been fed this idea of a complete woman. Barbie was this multifaceted personality who was not just an independent, enterprising woman but also one who managed to look graceful at all times. Indian doll makers went the whole extra mile by manufacturing Bridal Barbie and Traditional Barbie. 
Knowing my stupid fascination for Barbie and her world, every relative would gift me a Barbie doll or the accompanying accessories as gifts. So by the time I was twelve, I had the entire Barbie collection. I remember conjuring up imaginary situations with my play friends, situations in which Barbie would eventually save the day. She'd either cook a spread, or provide first aid to an injured doll, or do some other remarkably ridiculous thing. In short, she was meant to be Barbie, but she was actually super-woman. Ken, being the typical male doll, was hardly ever brought to the forefront. We were too busy dressing up an overworked Barbie for office, parties, festivals etc. The only time Ken was brought into the picture was during the imaginary dates Barbie used to spend hours dressing up for and eventually end up looking like a diva..

While Barbie played multiple roles, trying to balance both personal and professional life, Ken with his rippling muscles and limited accessories only featured as her significant other on occasions he needed to be seen. (Yea, to think we grew up calling them an ideal couple!). However, what we did not realize then was that with every play scenario we concocted, somewhere we secretly wished and hoped we'd grow up to be like this multi-talented, omnipotent, glam doll.

Cut to present day, we have outgrown Barbie. But the influence she managed to create on our childhood still remains. There are days when we still wish we could have that size zero body image. We still strive to fit perfectly into the multiple boxes society has carved out for us---a doting mother, a caring wife, a dutiful daughter-in-law, an independent professional from 9 to 5, and a loving home maker after that. 
Since when did we go from being our Daddy's little princess to being Invincible Superwoman? 

In a way, maybe we are ourselves responsible for this prejudice. For a very long time, I confess I too mentally labelled all men who helped in household chores as 'wuss'  or 'sissy'. I'd laugh at the thought of my better half helping me cook or do the laundry. The stereotypical image of Indian 'Mard' was so ingrained in my mind, that it refused to acknowledge that division of tasks was not fixed. However, this delusion shattered when I realized how people can take advantage of this submissive mindset, how despite being 'Superwoman' you are never enough, how the expectations from a woman never end---it's like a bottomless bag that demands to be continuously filled. 

I recently read about a survey that AC Nielson conducted for Ariel. Statistics revealed that 78% of Indian girls agree that they should learn laundry as they'd require to do it in later life, 2 out of every 3 children think that washing clothes is a woman's job, 81% of married men agree that their daughters must learn household chores as that would only make their life easier after marriage.
However, what I always find surprising is that, boys or men are hardly expected to help in household activities or learn to carry out household tasks. Even in a modern day generation like ours, the children in the house are brought up relying on their mother alone (and never on their father) for their neatly pressed uniforms, systematically packed tiffins, freshly cooked meals, and clean washed laundry. The husband too, unaware of the strenous responsibilities on his wife continues to pile on his own set of errands on her. This goes on and on as the entire family depends on the woman for all their needs, not once stopping to think whether she could do with a break. 
And hence the need---the need to end this gender prejudice, the need to remind the men to share the load.

Some tips that can be followed in this direction: Let's begin by starting at home.

  1. Share responsibility of at least one meal a day. This means the male of the house should fix at least one meal of the day. Maybe he can fix a simple breakfast of OJ and sandwiches, or a light dinner. Whatever it might be, this will ensure that the children in the house grow up seeing cooking as a joint activity. Your son will know that there is nothing shameful about a man cooking, and your daughter will realize that its not wrong to expect her man to help her in the kitchen.
  2. The man of the house should help with the laundry. This would really help relieve a big load off the woman. Offer to load and unload the clothes into and from the washing machine. Learn how much detergent goes in the washing. Now with Ariel, you can get the laundry done within minutes. It's easy as pie, and the sparkling white clothes will leave her with no reason to complain. Besides, you will be a good role model for not just your children, but also for the other husbands in your wife's extended family, because she is sure to talk about what a darling you are.
  3. Every once in a while, fix your own cup of evening tea. Don't forget to ask your wife how her day has been. Chances are she has not had a moment's rest. Surprise her pleasantly with a gentle neck massage or warm back rub. Treat her like a queen, for she deserves to be treated as one. If not, at least treat her as an equal.
  4. This is for the women of the house. Stop orthodox practices like eating only after Pati Parmeshwar has eaten, keeping fasts every third day as a sign to show your love, pressing your mother-in-law's feet and other forms of seva. Our daily soaps might have inspired these. I don't see men keeping fasts, or staying hungry until their wives return from work. Putting an end to these orthodox practices would keep the expectations realistic and equal. Don't be a door mat. Act sensible. Your daughters are looking.
  5. Do not bring up your girls on false ideals. Instead, teach them how to recognize when they are not treated right. Explain to them the limits of adjustment and compromises, when to stay in and when to walk out.
  6. Alternate doing the dishes. Just like the laundry, you can help with the dishes too.
  7. Do not bring up your sons on false hopes. Do not pamper him or treat him special just because he is a boy. The loser will end up expecting the same from his wife. Instead, teach him to help you with the groceries. Ask him to run a few household errands. Don't raise a boy, raise a man!
  8. Stop that ridiculous game of 'House-house' that most Indian children mostly play. This is where the skewed idea of responsibilities stem from. Instead, insist that your daughter plays student-teacher, shopkeeper-customer, doctor-patient, or even chor-police for that matter. Do not box her in the role of a domesticated pretend-housewife making pretend-tea in pretend-teacups for a chauvinistic pretend-husband reading the newspaper. If being children, they still insist on playing 'House', then make sure you patiently break the stereotype in their mind and ask them to divide the role equally, because that is what responsible married couples do. They share the load.
  9.  If you haven't created a very good example yet, now is the time. Be the man you'd want your daughter to marry. Show her what she deserves to expect from her significant other. Convince her not to settle for anything less. Your princess will only realize her worth when she sees her father treating her mother like a queen.

Ours is a progressive country. We have a long way. But a progressive country needs not just to understand but also to respect the role of women in society. It needs to realize that it is not just liberation that is important, but also a sense of equality that begins at home. Only then, we can call ourselves a truly liberated nation.

Last but not the least, all men should understand one very important thing---Your wife, like you, is only human. There will be days when she will be vulnerable, upset, or even mad. Such times, you might have to bear the brunt of her misdirected anger. It might be something at the work place, or something at home. Times like these, lend her a patient ear. Show her some love. Take her out to dinner. Do not worsen the situation by slamming doors or yelling and screaming. There is huge mental load in every woman's mind. Overburdened by the burden of the expectations from society as well as from herself, there might be instances when she cannot express the way she feels.

Understand the weight that is weighing her down. Share the load.

 I am joining the Ariel #ShareTheLoad campaign at BlogAdda and blogging about the prejudice related to household chores being passed on to the next generation.

March 08, 2016

#SadaSexy: This I ask of you...

Dear Soulmate,

Frankly, I don't even know if you exist out there. In all probability, you might have lost your way, reached Phoenix in Arizona or the wild jungles of Africa, got eaten up by lions, or thinking more rationally, maybe gotten hit by a truck.
But just in case you have escaped all the above possibilities, and are out there somewhere searching for me, then.....then you'd probably have to find your own way here, come forward and introduce yourself in order to get noticed, because honestly, I'm pretty daft when it comes to matters of the heart. You might be right in front of me waving a placard with my name and a heart drawn around it, and I still wouldn't know.

That gets me to the first promise I ask of you. Promise me that you, at no point in life, will ever use placards or signboards of any kind to suggest any such thing. I tend to get quite conscious in public and am not comfortable with  PDA. More importantly, I'm kinda near sighted, or as blind as a bat (whatever you'd prefer to believe). So unless you are standing within a distance of two feet with my name written in huge neon letters, chances are that you'd be noticed by everyone else except me.

With that out of the way, let's proceed to the other promises I ask of you. You can later tell me about your expectations too, but don't forget today is women's day. Maybe you can come back on men's day to get your demands met...............Gotcha!! There's no such day as men's day.

I, like most women, am a big fan of flattery and tend to believe it when coming from the right people. There are days when you'd find me happily bouncing around in a bubble of my delusions. Let me be. If I stay in it for too long, gently remind me. I need you to possess the right balance of maturity and sensitivity. Mature enough to keep me in check with reality and sensitive enough to make sure it doesn't hurt me.

The key to a soulful relationship is meaningful conversation. Love is all about expression. Don't hesitate to talk your mind, tell me what you are feeling. Promise me you will allow me access to that empty space in your mind---that place where guys normally don't allow anyone to enter. Tell me what goes on there. Discuss with me your innermost desires, your fears, your secrets. Ask me about mine. However, we wouldn't want you getting too expressive when I have gained a few extra pounds, am stuffing my face with cake, or am bitching with my girl friends. You will be allowed to stay taciturn then. I do realize that both of us would need space in our relationship, space to breathe, to grow, to love each other more deeply. Promise me you will respect the need for my space just as I'd respect the need for yours.

I have seen and heard about a lot of Prince Charming' who turned into ugly trolls after marriage. Assure me that you will not transform into a beer bellied, balding, ogre who spends Friday night watching football with his friends and farts in bed---not at least during the first six years of holy matrimony, after which there are pretty high chances of me joining you in all of above myself. That simply means you got to promise not to change into an ogre until I change into an ogress. Only fair, innit?

I am not a shopaholic. In fact, I am very comfortable with a limited wardrobe of Tees and casuals. But there are days when I shop like I'm possessed. On days like these, I will demand your company. I need someone to hold my shopping bags and pay my bills. And hence I ask of you, the 'sunshine' promise. That means thou will not sulk or brood when made to wait outside changing rooms. Nor will thou complain when I feel hypoglycemic from excessive shopping and expect a quick snack to magically appear from somewhere, even though we are miles away from a food joint. Instead I need you to keep me distracted by pointing out to 'discount sale' signs in my favorite store window while you scan the area for a Subway or CCD.

Now this is something that I need to make clear right at the start. You need to understand that I have a writer's soul trapped within a doctors body.
This means that I am quite a living contradiction, a paradox. This also means that I am someone who hates sticking to routine. So if you expect me to cook you an elaborate meal every single day, I'd run off like a headless chicken. However, if you are okay with eating a soup and sandwich meal, I might even read you a hand crafted story while you are eating it.
I've always found churning plots more interesting than grinding masalas. I've been taunted and teased about it, hoping I'd leave the laptop aside and take up the ladle instead. But it only ended up increasing my word count. Needless to say, I have grown up constantly fighting the odds in order to keep my dreams at bay. So today, I need you to promise me that you will never criticize my passion for the written word. Never underestimate my addiction of  books, my respect for literature, and my love for writing. Tomorrow, I might decide to make it my full time career, and yet feel torn  between responsibility and decision. Promise me you won't stick to stereotype, that you will agree to find the sandwiches on days when I'm furiously typing away at my desk. Promise me you will believe in me even if the whole world doesn't.
After hours of furious typing at my desk, I will be depending on you for honest feedback after hours of dubious typing at my desk. With fictional characters dancing around in my head, I might end up burning the daal or adding a little extra salt in the vegetable. So promise me you will be patient and offer to fix the sandwiches by yourself, insist on home-delivered food from a nearby eatery, and maybe even help with the dishes.

There will be days when both of us will be busy. But however busy we may get, we need to always find time for conversation. Every relationship has its own arguments, compromises, disagreements. We will have ours too. But let's vow never to allow silence to consume us no matter how misunderstood, angry, or frustrated we feel with each other.
There will be times when you might not want to see my face, when I'd drive you up the wall, act insanely jealous and insecure. Understand that these are the times when I'm probably at my weakest best. I might not always be able to tell you exactly how I'm feeling. But promise me you will know I need you to stay.

I want you to treat my family as your own family, and I'd do the same. This is less of a promise, more of a given in relationships. I can only be close to you when I know you are close to the people who are close to me. Fitting in with each others family and friends would be effortless once we get to understand them. I need you to promise me you'd never forget that it was they who put up with me until you came along, tolerated my eccentricities, helped me get over my idiosyncrasies and made the job a whole lot easier for you.

I am aware these are a lot of promises to ask of you. But trust me, all these expectations can be summed up in just a single line. So today, on International women's day, I ask of you what every woman will want from her man---equal choices. Promise me the freedom to wear what I want to wear as long as I can handle it, to go where I want to go as long as I can ensure my safety, and be who I want to be as long as I believe in it. Trust in me when I say I will never let you down.
I have lived my entire life a particular way. My family and friend circle consists of modern, open minded, free thinking men, who do not treat their women as a piece of meat or a trophy they can show around. Instead, they value their woman as a best friend, a confidante, an equal companion, and a liberated woman. Yes, I'm aware they have set the bar rather high, but I am hoping you will only take it higher.

Honestly, it seems rather preposterous asking a bunch of promises of you who I've probably never met (or have met and missed), and am assuming is designed to be my soul mate. In fact, I don't even know if these promises would make sense if we eventually meet someday. Perhaps I will have other promises to ask of you. Perhaps my priorities will have changed. Maybe I'd still be chasing my dreams, reaching out for butterflies, not wanting to settle just then. Then again maybe these promises will scare you away and we'd never end up crossing paths again.

Tomorrow is never certain, and all that we can be sure of is today. Yet, when I think of love, I know it has to be special, really special for it to top my priority list.

The present is filled with opportunities, the future with myriad possibilities. And somewhere between the two are these unspoken promises waiting for a ridiculously inconvenient, all consuming, can't-live-without-each-other type of love story to happen.

Until then,
please away from lions and trucks.

Yours truly,

P.S: Ahem! If you are thinking of skipping the video, please don't. Ranveer Singh has come up with some awesome tips to celebrate the woman in his life. Inspired yet, Mr Soulmate?

 I’m blogging about the kasams I want from my man this Women’s Day with the #SadaSexy activity at BlogAdda

Here's wishing all the lovely ladies visiting my blog a very happy International Women's day.  Whether you are single or committed, have a man in your life or not, are a career woman or a doting house wife, always remember---you are beautiful. Respect the choices you have made. Believe in the decisions you are going to make. The world might not always pamper you, but never forget to love yourself.
Be proud of being the strongest and yet the gentlest of God's creations. Be proud to be a woman!

EDITED (12th APRIL 2016):
They say expectations never did anyone much good. Hah! This proves them wrong. The above post is declared a winner ;)


January 20, 2016

L for 'Lucid moments'

You and I will meet again
Of this I am so sure
No words on paper or from pen,
Can find for this a cure

I recall not your sweet Hello
Goodbye we dared not say
Drifters we were, you and me
And drift we did away

Yet for certain I can tell,
That you and me will meet
Perhaps in the twinkle of my eyes
Or an over-anxious heart beat

Be it a moment you blink and miss
Or one that makes time stand still,
But I know for sure that in this life
Meet again we will

Silent glances will then reveal,
all we could never say
No whispered words, no signs, no cues
But love will find its way

L for 'Lucid moments' is the twelfth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of write-up's by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

January 12, 2016

All that glitters

I have always been a morning person. I must be having an inbuilt alarm clock within my body that wakes me up at 6.30 sharp, whether or not I need to. Perhaps it is the notion of the early bird catching the proverbial worm that has been ingrained in us since childhood that is responsible for this habit. There is something about early mornings that feels so serene and satisfying that it makes you feel you have woken up from a much longer slumber than the usual eight hours of night's rest.

Have you ever woken up at dawn? Try it out sometime. It's an exhilarating experience to watch the first rays of sunlight hit your window pane and bounce inside the room. I like to think of the rising sun as a harbinger of new hope, a messenger greeting us with a endless possibilities, a new beginning---an opportunity to leave the past behind and start afresh.

Mornings bring with them a lively enthusiasm, a plan of action, a will to kick start your day on a positive note. It is a time when the spirit is abound with fresh vigor, the mind is brimming with new ideas, our soul with new dreams. It is said most creative people prefer to work until the the wee hours of the morning. They prefer the silence of the night to the activity of the morning. Frankly, I have no issues with the night. In fact, it is my loyal companion when it comes to meeting deadlines. Sadly, along with the solitude comes the eerie hallucinations---the strange sounds past midnight, the distant bark of a neighborhood dog, some faint odd tinkle that the mind immediately concludes to be a wraith dancing with silver anklets, the creaking sound of the house gate. It is at night that my mind is most imaginative and my soul is most afraid...sigh!
Now you know why I like mornings better?
What's not to love about mornings? I love the entire vibe of wakefulness, starting from the honk of the dairy van unloading packets of milk at the dairy near my house to the clang of the church bells that can be heard from a distance, to the sharp bickering of our otherwise friendly neighbor with the milk man. As the sky lights up, I settle in one corner of the sofa in the balcony adjoining my room with a cozy cup of chai watching enthusiastic joggers with radiant faces and mismatched clothes go out for an early morning jog. As they wave at me, I realize that these nameless strangers are an inevitable part of my morning, a long distance balcony-road camaraderie.

Later, the family and I have breakfast over casual banter---our way of bonding between hurried gulps of toast and coffee. I never say no to coffee, despite having made myself a cup of tea earlier in the morning. What I enjoy more than the flavor of the coffee beans is the aroma that wafts from brewing coffee. It's amazing how much comfort familiarity holds. Sometimes we don't even need to converse. You are just happy sharing the same space, doing the same thing as your loved ones. But coming from a family that thrives on sarcasm, free wit, and freedom of expression, at least a dozen grins get exchanged during the conversation. (The frowns and glares, we prefer to overlook.)

Just today, I was at the breakfast table reading about #Colgate360GoldMornings, when my sis asked me what I was reading.
"How would you change a good morning to a gold morning?" I asked her.
"I'd go to Tanishq," was her straight-face reply.

I smirked. She laughed.
But as I noticed everyone grinning ear to ear in response to her nutty remark, I realized that this was what was needed to change a good morning into a gold morning.

I'd found my #Colgate360GoldMornings mantra:

Pearly whites that sport cheeky grins at humor new and old.
Transforming each morning from good to genuine gold.

Honestly, isn't that what we most enjoy---light moments in the company of people we love?
Uncomplicated snippets of easy conversation are much like bubbles of happiness. Light and frothy, they manage to pep up our mood and make us feel happy. For that brief temporary moment, we forget the tension weighing us down and laugh. Pure unadulterated laughter,  what better way to start off a gold morning?

I love people with a good sense of humor. It's not that they are happy all the time. But they choose to laugh through their pain. Twinkling eyes filled with mischief,  minds full of bright ideas, and more importantly smiles that reflect the dazzle of their compassionate soul---this is the company I like to be in, angels without wings, friends with a heart of gold.

I am sure Colgate must be having similar views on happiness. A pure heart deserves to laugh uninhibited, smile freely, and spread the joy of their golden spirit. Keeping this in mind, Colgate aims to preserve and improve the dental health of our loved ones. It promises to change their (and in turn our) good mornings into gold mornings.

The Colgate 360 Charcoal Gold is designed for effective cleaning of teeth, but it also cleans tongue, cheek and gums. The effect is doubled when it is used with Colgate Total Charcoal Deep Clean toothpaste. Its unique formula with micro charcoal particles act to provide 100% protection of the mouth.
The 360 Charcoal Gold toothbrush is stunning in appearance. Slimmer and softer than before, the charcoal infused spiral bristles promote superior cleaning of the mouth and provide easier access to problem areas. (Slimmer bristle tips reach deep between the teeth and along the gum line.) It also has an ultra compact head that effectively reaches back teeth and helps remove bacteria. The 360 Charcoal Gold toothbrush by Colgate is regarded as the gold standard of whole mouth cleaning, and the simplest and most effective way of brightening up our smiles. 

So celebrate every morning and turn them into gold. Wake up earlier than usual. Stay in good company. Express yourself freely. Lend a patient ear to your friends. Be kind to someone who really needs it. Do someone a favor without expecting anything in return. Cook a special breakfast for family. ...and smile. Smile a lot, not just from outside but from inside too.
Convert every experience into a gold experience. 
Turn every morning into a gold morning.

January 10, 2016

Happy feet #SpreadTheVibe

2015 was hardly a great year at all. A series of catastrophes affected the world---the Charlie Hebdo attack, the mass earthquake in Nepal, the terrorist attack in Paris, Typhoon Melor in Philippines, the deluge that flooded Chennai. I sometimes wonder what is worse, attack by humanity (or by the lack of it) or by nature?

They say that in order to maintain a balance in the world, there should be enough good to counteract the bad, enough virtue to fight the vice, enough blessings to nullify the curse. Until this balance is maintained, we can be assured all is not lost.
The past year proved to me that every cloud, no matter how dark, has a silver lining. The bleakest hours of despair bring along with them a faint glimmer of kindness that begins to stands out like a beacon of hope in the pitch dark skies of sadness---hope of a new dawn.
In 2015, we had reason to fear the balance had gone awry. There was one disaster occurring after another. People were out to kill people. Nature was out to destroy race. We feared for our safety. The balance between human and inhuman seemed to be tipping....until help started pouring in from all around the globe. For every calamity that took a toll of hundreds of people, there were thousands extending a hand to hold on to. The terror attack in Paris was met with shock and retaliation. People from all corners of the world were showing solidarity. Victims in the flood prone areas in Chennai were being provided with food supplies, medical aid, and shelter. Likewise the devastating effect of the earthquake in Nepal were combated in solidarity from neighboring countries making us feel that when calamity strikes, everyone rushes to help.
But does it really take a sudden apocalypse to light that flicker of compassion in our heart?
A part of our country is in a state of constant crisis being subjected to new lows of drudgery, poverty, illiteracy, and sickness? All it takes is a few baby steps in the right direction. But we are too busy to stop and take notice...too engrossed in our own lives to even attempt to halt this gradual progression to impending doom, too tired to believe we are worthy of creating a significant impact. Thankfully, there are a few good people who haven't given up yet.

A simple act of kindness is capable of bringing about a great change. We don't need to be a politician or a celebrity. We just need to stay firm and resolute in our decision to make a difference, to touch somebody's life, to help someone smile. YouthKiAwaaz strives to spread the vibe of compassion by bringing to light such stories that create impact and drive change towards a better future for our country. Selfless souls are always a source of encouragement, their contribution a constant reminder that the world is not such a bad place after all....that humanity still exists, and it does not necessarily show up only at the eleventh hour. They set an example for the youth of our country, thereby motivating them to join in and widen the circle of compassion. Thus begins the revolution of change.

One such an inspiring name is Anam Zaidi, a woman responsible for creating a positive change in the lives of the underprivileged in Lucknow.  A social psychologist at Seth M.R. Jaipuria School, she works with underprivileged children and have been credited with many honors and awards. Zaidi and her team has worked in over 600 slums in Lucknow to provide literacy to the poorest slum children and adults by creating literary Dream Labs from scratch.

Pic source: Dream Labs page (link at the end of the post)
We are all aware of the unequal distribution of wealth in our country. While on one side, there are children flaunting designer tees and guzzling Gatorade at expensive coaching classes, there is another section of India that struggles to attend night school because they are too busy earning a living during the day. While children clothed in frills and lace are throwing terrible tantrums at their birthday bash in seven star restaurants on one end of the spectrum, there are those at the other far end living in dingy pipes and shanties with barely any clothes to cover their skeletal bodies.

'Shining India' has become a running joke since so long now that we have forgotten to think it funny. There are millions of children in India that are compelled to go barefoot as their families cannot afford to buy them shoes as they grow. Half the times, they cannot even afford a single decent pair of shoes. Helpless and without a choice, these children walk barefoot on dirty and unhygienic ground making them susceptible to dangers of contaminated soil and diseases.

In light of this issue, Anam Zaidi contribution is worthy of note. It all started last year when Anam read an article on 'the shoe that grows' on social media. Mr Kenton Lee (Founder and Executive Director of theshoethatgrows.org) had got the idea when he once saw a child walking to the church, wearing shoes that were too small for her. This caused her immense discomfort, and her discomfort made Mr Lee uncomfortable as well, and so he had come up with the concept of an advancing footwear called the 'growing shoes'. The growing shoes come with adjustable buckles and a strap on the toe that helps it expand to five sizes and lasts for at least five years. 

When Anam Zaidi read about this, a brilliant idea came to her mind. There were thousands of street children in India that could benefit with this idea. Every time she visited the slums for the literary campaigns, she would see half naked children running barefoot hither tither. She'd often worry for their safety. With metal shards, glass pieces and pointed objects lying around loosely, there was a constant threat of cuts and bruises looming high. She knew she wanted to help. But she did not know how to get about it.
Anam would see the kids hop barefoot on roads that were getting baked under the scorching sun. She would often helplessly notice how they would scurry off to school in ill fit slippers that were barely their size. With half their feet sticking out, they would hope to cover the distance from home to school and back without the shoe giving way. This was the future of her country, and she knew it is only by shaping the present of these children that we can steady their tomorrow.

Overcome by emotion and the urge to make a difference, Anam posted a status on Facebook seeking financial support for the cause. She was not sure of the outcome. But when the intention is good, the entire universe carves the path to success. immediately posted a status on Facebook seeking financial support for the cause. The response was overwhelming. The post was liked and shared by people all over, and soon enough the fund raising attracted the attention of a generous donor from the US who got in touch with Kenton Lee and donated money for three hundred pairs of the growing shoes in order to expedite the process. This was an important milestone for Anam Zaidi, to bring joy to the underprivileged children in Lucknow.

The bigger challenge, however, was getting the shoes delivered to India. However, a noble cause always receives a helping hand from somewhere or the other. Some students of Seattle Pacific University, who were travelling to Delhi in December, offered to help. They packed in the shoes in place of some extra clothes in their baggage. It was thanks to their effort that 300 pairs of shoes could be successfully transported to Delhi and from there to Lucknow.
Zaidi's fund raising campaign was a success. Around 150 needy students studying in NavSrijan, a school for underprivileged children run by Seth MR Jaipuria School, received the shoes. The happy faces on finding the perfect fit, could put even Cinderella to shame. They parents were overjoyed too. Anam's noble initiative did receive some media attention, but not as much popularity as it deserved.
However, gathering support for the underprivileged is an ongoing struggle. It is a slow and steady process, just like the cleansing of the soul. Awareness and inspiration are the key elements. Anam Zaidi's efforts have managed to inspire people like me to sit up and take notice.

There are cries of help coming from all corners of our country. If only we'd listen. A small step in the direction of a social cause can make a huge difference to someone's life. Anam has managed to create a keen sense of awareness of issues that need to be tended right at the grass root level. All we need is an active conscience. Each pair of 'growing shoes' will ascertain a child's health and happiness for the next five years, and will provide them more opportunities to succeed.

Anam Zaidi has paved the way for these happy feet. Lets pledge to keep them going...
Spread the vibe by sharing this information on your social networks and email lists, to help a child attain these growing shoes.

To make a donation for this special cause, click here.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"- Lao Tzu

Original source of pic: Facebook page 'The shoe that grows'
"These boots shoes are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do..."
Here's hoping this initiative reaches the right feet, and enables them to walk the roads of happiness, experience, and adventure.

The above post has been written for #SpreadTheVibe contest by #YouthKiAwaaz in collaboration with Indiblogger
You can vote for my post here.

10 myths about Goa

For those of you who don't know where I come from (literally), allow me to make you go green with envy. Hang on! Maybe we can play a small guessing game first.
Imagine vast expanses surrounded by lush greenery, beautiful beaches with warm golden sand and fresh blue water, lots and lots of seafood, and laid back residents flaunting benevolence to everyone visiting the place. Yes, I am talking of Goa, the land of sun, sand and beaches which also happens to be the one place most tourists harbor misconceptions about (special thanks to our very own Bollywood movies).

So without further ado, here are a few things I'd like to clear about my Goa and my fellow Goans.

1) Their life is not a prolonged afternoon siesta, as is depicted in those movies. The average Goan male is just as concerned about his work and wallet as you are. The average Goan female, on the other hand, does not spend her day cleaning fish and making pork vindaloo, nor does she sun bathe on the beach wearing skimpy outfits all day, as is often the typecast in Bollywood potboilers.

2) We got a much better fashion sense than the bright sunflower shirts and gaudy hibiscus dresses that make up the Goan stereotype on the silver screen. The modern Goan's wardrobe will have the same variety of outfits (if not more) than yours. Besides, when it comes to shopping, we can give you a run for your money. Now, you do the math!
Having said that, bikini clad Goan babes are just a figment of your imagination. The only babes in swimwear you'd get to see here are usually tourists. (General fact alert. I'm not judging you.)

3) Not every Goan strums a Guitar and croons over a lost love. I know this is a real downer, and I wish it was a quality we all possessed. Apologies for the disappointment. But we have other ways of getting over heartbreak than bursting into a local song in front of a bunch of overenthusiastic tourists who are all ready to join in the chorus with a heavily accented drunken drawl. Yes, I know Goan men on TV drink wine by the bottle after which they either hurl abuses at their wife or get into a heated argument over the price of fish, or strum an old romantic tune (that sounds like a slower version of 'undir mama aaylo' or 'haav sayba poltodi veta' because Bollywood directors usually do not bother to research and know only these two Goan numbers). However, apologies once again. This post seems to be proving to be much of a disappointment, eh? But Goan men, in reality, do nothing of that sort. At the most, they may reminisce over an old memory, or politely nudge their wife to get the bebinca from the kitchen. That too only if they really like you.

4) Please do not ask us to pass on your regards to some Mr Shirodkar or some Mrs D'souza assuming that we know them all. Goa is not such a small place (even though we might all like to think it is) and unless Mr Shirodkar or Mrs D'souza is the CM or our local pav-wala. Even then, we might feign ignorance and politely turn down your request.

5) Being a Goan does not mean we go for rave parties and do drugs. We do not start our mornings and end our nights with a bottle of beer like you expect us to do.

6) Just because we are friendly, it does not mean we cannot get mean. If you want to check out the wrath of a Goan, try eve-teasing our women. Be prepared for similar reactions on ridiculing any of Mario Miranda's paintings. While we have the right to stereotype Goa, you do not. Why? Well, we are driven by love...love for fellow Goans. We'd like you too, if you respect our women, love our culture, and enjoy life the Goan way. But try taking us for granted, and you'd receive the middle finger salute.

7) What happens in Goa never stays in Goa. So if you are thinking of murder, rape or a one night stand expecting it to stay a secret forever, you might want to think again. Goa has this way of catching up on your deepest darkest secrets at the worst possible points in your life. Bwahahahaha!

8) Those of you who have watched the movie 'Socha na tha', will definitely remember the peppy track shot in Goa that starts with the following lines:
"Ek pyaari Goan main phasau,
Phir usse shaadi banau,
Aur uske hi ghar mein ghar basake,
Jaise bhi ho zindagi yahin bitau...
Abhi abhi mere dil mein khayal aaya hain,
abhi abhi mere dil mein khayal aaya hain..."

To this every Goan girl would have only one thing to say, 

In your dreams!!!

No Sir! We have nothing against the semi clad gang of tourists rollicking on the beach and partying hard. However, what we find a little amusing is how you manage to take the quintessential Goan girl for granted.
OK. Here's a fun fact: No matter how much you molly coddle, serenade and sweet talk her into your beautiful tapestry of emotions, you just cannot get away with the blasphemous living-off-her-money-in-Goa strategy (irrespective of her undying love for the place).  She may be highly emotional when it comes to the relationship, but rest assured, she has her brain in the right place too. So stop dreaming of her as a one-way ticket to a dream destination. 

Abhi abhi tere dil mein jo khayal aaya hai, 
woh dil mein hi rahe toh accha...

Thank you very much!

Last but not the least, our vocabulary is not half as colorful as you think. Yes, the local Goan might know a few native swear words which he might hurl at you when terribly angry, but isn't that true for people from all states? Our conversations do not start and end with phrases like 'What man', 'Bugger like' and 'I will kick your bum' and neither does our voice have that musical lull that you manage to stereotype a Goanese accent with, in your movies. Hell, 'Goanese' is not even a word in the first place.

10) Contrary to popular belief, Christmas is not the only festival celebrated in Goa. Roughly 30% of Goa’s population is Christian, 65% are Hindu and 5% Muslim. However, we are all united as Goans and celebrate all religious festivals with equal pomp and splendor.

Now that we have finally spoken about the pink elephant in the room, allow me to conclude with a bit of free advice. 
Next time you come to Goa for a holiday, don't just be a tourist boozing and fagging out the north end of Goa. Visit the south as well. Save a day to explore the quaint locales. Appreciate the scenic beauty when sober. Watch the setting sun with a loved one. Dance under the canopy of a star studded sky. Sway to the music of waves. Close your eyes and let your feet sink in the soft white sand and breathe in Goa's fresh night air.
Stop branding Goa a wild party place. It is much more than inexpensive alcohol and blaring music at Sunburn. It is a lot more than dancing away at Tito's and getting sloshed at the shacks by the beach.
And by the way, Albert Pinto and Anthony Gonsalves figure nowhere in our family tree. Neither does Rosemary Marlo. So as much as we enjoy a good joke, please know that next time you pass that wise ass remark, we are judging you already.

Instead, for a change, shed all these misconceptions and drive around Goa with a clear mind--a mind that will allow you to soak the beauty of this place without the filter of bias.
Appreciate the blend of traditional Portuguese heritage and modern architecture. Kneel down and offer a humble prayer at the St Francis Xavier Church at Old Goa, the famous Shanta Durga temple at Kavlem. Be it the high domed roofs, balustraded facades and octagonal towers inside temples or the whitewashed interiors embellished with elaborate gilt reredos, paintings and chandeliers inside churches, the splendid design of our places of worship is not just breathtakingly beautiful but also offer a strange calmness to the holy ambiance.
Try talking to the locals without the filter of prejudice. Share your story with them, and watch them open up a treasure trove of experiences. People in Goa love to exchange notes on life.They are extremely hospitable. But one wrong vibe, and they wont hesitate to kick you out as well.
That is the beauty of us small-townies---we are straight forward, no-nonsense people. What you see is what you get. Diplomacy is not our forte. We either like you or hate you. There is no in between.

So next time you plan a trip to Goa, please make sure you travel light; leave behind a bit of baggage---the baggage of your misconceptions.

This post has been selected for BlogAdda's Tangy Tuesday Picks (January 12th 2016)