Revisiting Special Home for Girls

After almost a year of my work with Uplift Humanity, I found myself once again at the local girls’ special home facility in Indore, this time to hand the scholarship money to Babita – last year’s winner. Last year, we had worked with 8 girls on soft skills and other social topics such as depression, confidence, self-defense etc. I had revisited the facility on my birthday in Feb to meet all the girls. Time flies by, I was excited to find out how everyone was doing; are they closer to their goals?

First part of today’s visit was pleasant. I saw the smiling faces of some of my old friends who were still there. The warden proudly asked Jassi and her sisters to show the dresses they have been designing lately. And I was floored! The kurtis were designed and stitched by the girls and looked professional. Jassi informed, with a smile, that she is trying to get into the fashion designing course at a local college. There was a shortage of funds to support her and with God’s grace, we had someone close at hand who agreed to be her donor.

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I am very impressed with how Mrs Sapre (their warden) takes a personal interest in the progress of these girls. What is nice about this special home is that efforts are made to not only support these children but ensure they can be independent. I feel extremely glad that Jassi, like her sisters, would be able to pursue a career of her choice. One of her sisters might land an opportunity to visit Scotland this Sep and she is feeling anxious due to her weak English. I am hoping I will be able to coach her (or other) girls in improving their English. Similarly, efforts are underway to get girls into their choice of careers where they can sustain themselves. Babita is giving PAT, BPT, Vet exams etc and we wish that her scholarship would help her inch closer towards independence.

So far so good but then we received some heart-breaking news. One of the 8 girls we had coached last year was taken back home by her parents and she ended up committing suicide. I vividly remember her, she was the kho-kho star I had mentioned in my last blog post. I cannot believe such a talented and confident girl could take such a step unless something drastic had happened. But no one knows. She told no one why. I could not stop thinking how active and good she was.

This is not about her alone – this is, unfortunately, the story of our male centric society. Girls die everyday – some physically, some emotionally – they are not anyone’s priority. What kind of society are we? It is ironical – in today’s episode of Mahabharata, Draupadi was telling Duryodhana how Dusshashan’s execution was a proof that India will not tolerate disrespect of women. How times have changed – no one fights for women (leave apart their respect, not even their right to breathe peacefully) anymore. And yet, how little has it changed – this society has and will keep wronging Draupadi. What gives us right to deny another human being the desire to live? No coaching on depression or confidence can work if we continue to forgive such crimes. 

There are still more girls who need help to stand on their feet. And if you would like to contribute to this cause, please drop me a message and I will match you to one of the candidates who deserves to be helped. 

  

Tretar 13, Spirit doesn’t Retire

[This post is the thirteenth in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

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When I was gazing through the endless line of trees and kissing the wind blowing against my face, a feeling of immortality swept all over me. Suddenly, everything seemed too insignificant. Why do we worry? What do we stress about? Our ailing bodies make us cry and our worrying mind plays to our fears. Some of the things we fear are worse than anything that can or will ever happen but we spend our lives trying to avoid those worst case scenarios. We need to evolve our awareness – from the ephemeral bodies to a worrying mind to ultimately the enduring spirit. Tap that spirit for the spirit never retires. Worry later about leaving a legacy, first, just live.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.Mary Elizabeth Frye

  

Tretar 12, I came from the Wilderness

[This post is the twelfth in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

This picture is taken from a recent Safari in Bandhavgarh. I can never get tired of entering the jungle and seeing its untouched splendor. I can identify with what Carl Sandburg said. Hope you will like it.

Bandhavgarh spotted deer

There is a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red tongue for raw meat … and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fox in me … a silver-gray fox … I sniff and guess … I pick things out of the wind and air … I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers … I circle and loop and double-cross.

There is a hog in me … a snout and a belly … a machinery for eating and grunting … a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.

There is a fish in me … I know I came from saltblue water-gates … I scurried with shoals of herring … I blew waterspouts with porpoises … before land was … before the water went down … before Noah … before the first chapter of Genesis.

There is a baboon in me … clambering-clawed … dog-faced … yawping a galoot’s hunger … hairy under the armpits … here are the hawk-eyed hankering men … here are the blond and blue-eyed women … here they hide curled asleep waiting … ready to snarl and kill … ready to sing and give milk … waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.

There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird … and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want … and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.

O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.Carl Sandburg

  

Tretar 11, Eternal Sunshine of a Worriless Mind

[This post is the eleventh in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

There I was, sitting in front of a pleasant lake on a sunny winter afternoon with my bare necessities – a book for company, a camera for capturing the calmness that hung in air and a scribble pad to commit any inspiration to the permanence of ink. What more do you need?

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I hate carrying more than I need. I hate packing bulky bags (thanks to living in US where you have to lift your baggage) and over the time I have started wanting less and less stuff around me. I think your salary starts determining how much you need. The same person who was happy with a second hand bike in college wants to upgrade from a Honda to a BMW when he starts earning and getting promoted. Many of my MBA classmates wanted to get into Banking where there was practically no life left – you earned handsomely but had no time. They believe that they will work the hell out till 40 and then they can retire (yeah Hritik Roshan type in ZNMD). But does it work like that? Do we not keep enlarging our houses and filling it with needless crap and ALWAYS end up wanting more? Will it ever be enough for us? I think if you can’t feel a sense of plenitude with a six figure income, how can you guarantee that you would feel it in seven figures?

I remember the careless days of college when we dreamed of being rich. We thought rich means having a certain figure in your bank balance. But we were wrong. Rich means simply a state where you are not worrying about money. And that brings an ingenius point – being rich does not have anything to do with having millions in hand. It is about developing a sense of affluence. This is an important discovery because I don’t have to sacrifice my youth and crucial time chasing a number. Because frankly, it is never about a number, it is about fulfilling your desires and needs and there will always be something that you will desire that is hard to buy. So, why not change the equation? Why not start listing things that can bring us that sense of affluence? Now, we only need that much money that will help us developing this satiety. It is easier than it seems. It is actually possible to live without worrying about money while earning much less than you think you needed.

Begin to make a quick list of the top 10 things you own in terms of how much they cost. With horror, make a second list of the top 10 things that make you happy. Sense the creeping dread as you realize there is no overlap between the two at all. Shudder in terror.Julien Smith

These days I earn far fewer greenbacks, but my decisions are better. Last year, as a 31-year-old indie author, I brought home less money than my 19-year-old commission-check-earning self — way less actually. But I also paid off debt, traveled the country, felt more secure. Most importantly, I didn’t worry about money. Essays on Minimalism

I used to earn a lot more a couple of years ago. But I was constantly busy running in my life, working for others, running a household, stressing about unnecessary things. I just dreamed of writing a book someday but never got any time to do it. I traveled but it was more touristy travels – taking a red eye, checking in a hotel, packed itinerary, clicking shots of lovely places without absorbing the real zen, seeing places you had heard about. I earn considerably less now but own my work, have a sense of giving, smaller achievements make me happier, I finally wrote a book, read a lot more, spend time with people I care about and haven’t found myself wanting more and more money.

I am not saying I have renounced the world. I don’t mind spending on things I care about. I still own couple of expensive gadgets (Macbook Air, SLR with decent lenses, a car) but I buy what I really feel passionate about and things that give me happiness. I will upgrade my camera when I can but thats pretty much it and perhaps a good coffee machine. I am not looking to hoard beautiful exotic furniture or show pieces. I prefer functional things and my sense of decoration also comes from what I connect with. Over the time, I have realized that this connection has nothing to do with how expensive something is. I own a Holstee life poster (and I carried it with me from US) that is more dear to me than a luxurious piece of art. It now adorns the wall of my new office. I have been looking at creative ways to decorate my office (pics soon). I want to feel happy where I live and where I work. An inexpensive easel with a piece of canvas would make me happier than looking at a rare Persian carpet would.

Owning less stuff also means spending less time on frivolous stuff. How many hours have you spent surfing the TV and Internet aimlessly? When there was neither of these, what did people do? Perhaps they got much more done.

So, coming back to my lake and bare necessities, it was a day I truly felt happy looking at nothing and everything. I was worriless. I was liberated.

  

Tretar 10, the Curse of Choice

[This post is the tenth in an ongoing series for Project Tretar. You can read previous posts here]

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Have you ever found yourself in a critical dilemma where the life choices were tearing you apart? Such times define life. What you do in the heat of those moments define you. Strip out the superfluous and what remains is the truth. Trim away the unnecessary complications we weave around ourselves – people’s opinion, wealth, luxury, religion and norms – and your true priority will reveal itself.

Whenever I have wanted something badly, I eliminate all the alternate choices.

Do you care for something so much that you are willing to opt for a difficult, and perhaps impossible, path? But, what is impossible? It is the spot at the other end of the leap of faith. Once, I did choose to make that leap. And, I was not disappointed. This is the picture of that leap. It is the first Bungy spot of the world – Kawarau Bridge, NZ. When you are at that platform and the fear strikes you, you think of what matters to you most. And, if you survive the jump, you tell yourself that you would go for the impossible.

I would like to share these lines from Seven Conversations.

When we are pushed to the edge and left with no choice, we usually find our answers on our own. It’s impossible to find them externally anyway but we often don’t have the courage to look inside. Normally, people are scared to spend time with themselves because they are afraid to scratch the surface. If they start introspecting – who knows what unresolved issues may lie within? It takes more courage to look within than outside. Yes, when we are on the edge, the answers come.Nistha Tripathi, Seven Conversations