Friday, January 29, 2010

Change starts with Me

My schedule for Republic days (after graduation) is waking up late followed by hogging heavy breakfast watching special programs on the TV. Then I would probably do a hair cut, clean house or visit a friend. So my mother had every reason to be surprised when I got all cleaned up to go at 7:00 am on 26th Jan. Her expression got better or rather close to shock when I told her that I am visiting a school. Going by the recent events she might have thought I am up to taking a teacher job, or worse one with no pay.
A flag hoisted by a proud yet very questionable Indian
After assuring my intensions very clearly (that means sitting next to her and talking for a long time) I set to visit the school I have been associated for the last five years ran by my friend cum ex-colleague Sangeetha. She is talented, well educated software professional with fine ideals towards humanity. Under the guidance of her retired father Mr.Rajappa, Sangeetha and 5 other (software professional) friends started the charitable trust called “Sai Sankalp” in 2002.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. - Nelson Mandela"

The main project of this trust is “Sai Sankalp Nursery & Primary School “located at a village named Arasankazhani near Medavakkam, Chennai. The school provides FREE, yet quality English medium education to children from economically weaker section in the nearby villages. When she told me about the project years back, I was so inspired and became a part of it since then.

When purpose is right and heart is pure, growth is inevitable. That’s what happened to this school. It started with a single thatched room with handful of students, but now it has 7 spacious class rooms, 5 teachers and 150 students (most of them are first generation learners) and teaches up to 3rd standard.
The Campus, Mr Rajappa drives his car upteen miles everyday to fetch and drop the teachers
I had a fair idea what to expect when I entered the campus which was all ready to celebrate the Republic day. Right then Mr. Rajappa, who is also the principle of the school shocked me by saying I am the chief guest of the function. It was very odd sitting on the stage in front of all those children, teachers and parents.
The March fast by 3rd standard students.
He spoke about my volunteer works and my association with the school, which made me further more uncomfortable. I was totally flabbergasted when I was asked to hoist the flag! I had no other choice but to raise to the occasion. Later I distributed prizes and also gave an informal speech to the students. It was very heartening to see those kids, eagerly greeting and accepting the prizes with polite “thank you sir”.
All set to go after the chocolate distribution
Although it felt good to be doing this, I had this huge guilty feeling about being the chief guest. The real Heroes were them, for running a free school is no cake walk. Every member of the trust is taken an area to work. Sangeetha is in charge of setting the syllabus, teachers and quality of education of the school. I also had the opportunity to meet the other members and spoke about the challenges involved. While some just complain and speak about growth of India these people work silently to strengthen its back bone – the education. I believe it’s high time for such action.
Sharing, the only way to grow together.
Out of three pre owned computers in the lab, only one is functional now. The library is accepting second hand children books and don’t have enough of them. Construction of 4th and 5th standard is awaiting funds. And I feel it can use a load of publicity. I am part of their “sponsor a teacher” program. I send my contribution equivalent to that of a teacher’s salary, every month. Considering the enormity of the project this is very small. But if every drop thinks small of itself there wouldn’t be ocean. I returned home with a fulfillment. This is my country and these are my people and I am proud to support them.
p.s: If you like to be associated with the school please write to me at or to Sangeetha at

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Don’t cry when I die

That’s some title with a forbidden word isn’t? But I promise by the end of this post you would appreciate it better. Swaram and Anu both awarded and tagged me to write 10 honest things about myself. Considering I write every post straight from heart, Please excuse me for writing only 5 points.

1. I have a strange habit of proof reading after publishing my posts. I somehow feel the urge to publish as soon as I have written down my thoughts. I am also particular about extra spaces between paragraphs. Every new post would undergo at least two to three changes after they are published.

2. I am still in touch with my ex. We were friends for a long time and I don’t want to miss my friend especially during the rough tides. My love is totally cool with it. Sometimes I wonder what I ever did to deserve such unconditional ever understanding love.

3. I firmly believe Julie never had a bath before. I want to give him one and not sure how he would react. I am just waiting to get more comfortable with him before I carry on the historic event.

Oh that look! worth a million biscuits and a lifetime pampering
4. I have literally gone numb in the last few weeks. Whether I am running around getting things done for my brother’s marriage or sitting quietly at home it does not affect me much. I am not sure whether I am in denial of my unsure career or I am accepting it just too well.

5. As much as I am brave and positive enough to leave my well paying job for my dream, I have a teeny tiny fear that I could be wrong about the whole stuff. Never mind, that’s life.

I am choosing not to tag anyone. The following lines reflect my current state of mind. I guess it’s the perfect closing note for this post.

I have taken my chance,
I look back with happy glance,
So, don’t cry when I die.
For I never lived a lie,

I have lived my life
Without regrets
I have let loose controls
Till I reached heavenly gates
A life well used
With lovely mates it’s shared
So don’t cry when I die.
For I never let out a sigh,

I embraced life’s mysterious
One that makes histories
I listened to angels,
Looked for all the signs.
If you miss me and upset
Plant a tree or get a pet
But don’t cry when I die.
Since I did not say good bye

Let the flowers bloom
Let the babies born
Let the trains keep going
Let your life carryon
Let me lay to rest
With a tombstone over my head
If you need one last request
Let it read “A life without regret”

Friday, January 22, 2010

A bungee jump to limitlessness

Last night, I remembered the time I did the reverse bungee in Singapore. I was sitting in this open capsule, all strapped up to be shot to 700 meters up in the air. I looked at the crowed gathered around and many of them cheered me while the count down began. I asked myself why they would cheer me. It’s not like I am helping humanity or giving them a free beer. Then I realized for many it’s something they wish, but never do. They are applauding me for facing the fear, the one they too poses. They can empathise the fight within and cheering me for victory over it.

At the last minute, I heard my heart beating faster and saw a blurred image (partly owing to the fancy smoke beneath the capsule). Then I told myself “I let go”, for there is nothing I can control about it. Within seconds I was in the air, fear reached its maximum threshold and adrenaline rush took over. While the excitement can be explained in many ways, I believe it was because of the internal shift. I crossed the boundary of fear into freedom. And it’s no different than the one I felt after sending my resignation mail.

I woke up today home alone (my family has gone out for a relative wedding) .While I was fumbling to keep the day’s milk cartons into fridge, I accidently tossed a vessel that had yesterday’s milk. My plan was to feed Julie with that, and for a second I stood there starring at the pool of spilled liquid.

An idea sparked and I called for Julie. He stood at the door while I pleaded him to come inside the living room. He advanced few steps, went back, moaned but never came inside (I guess he must have learnt his lessons not to enter the house). It took me for a while (actually a biscuit) to lead him to the scene and then he happily licked his drink. If my parents were home, I would be wiping the floor with a long face (not because of scolding but because I wont be offered coffee for the day).

In a way we are no different than Julie. We were imposed of certain limits while we were young and we believe it all through our lives. Words like “You can never do that, you are too old, too young, you are girl/boy or you lack the talent, skill, money” and negative thoughts of our own stick to us like a cluttered chain around our legs. Let’s break the chain, cross the border and who knows our favorite thing might be lying on the floor, just for us.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A re-signing career

There is a time in life we would be faced with making a choice between doing what is suppose to be done or  what we always wanted to do. Today I chose the latter; I have packed up my 10 years of IT career to chase my dream in advertising. All my IT experience has been shredded out; even from resume to avoid “IT related job interview” calls.

I had a light chest pain as I typed the resignation mail, then I realised it came from right so nothing can be serious about it. Heart is in the left, right? Anyway I dreaded how it would feel to be on the other side of the door. Now that I am out, it does not feel scary, in fact I feel free and I bet I can sleep peaceful tonight.

I don’t have any leads in creative industry and don’t know how long it would take to make a decent earning. But I have two best things to get me through this period - FRIENDS and BELIEF.

If I expect something extraordinary to happen in my life, I had to be extra – ordinary.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A dragon warrior and a thirsty dog

Trying to cut down on food while staying with mother is like the nose itch you get while you are washing  clothes. Sooner or later (actually soonest) the itch takes over and you won’t even regret for it. Even now I have eaten more and feel like pregnant women or python, actually more like a tom (from Tom and Jerry) that gobbled a melon and looks just like that. It’s been a month since I exercised, and I found the best way to stop worrying - I stopped checking my weight.

Have you ever communicated with your pet without a word? (duh!) . The dog we pet was kept by workers while constructing our home. After we moved in, mom started feeding her and she became very loyal guardian of our gate. Its name is Julie and as strange as it sounds, everyone addresses her as he. My mom started it before she read its bar code and we stuck to it. We feed him rice twice a day and crackers/rusk whenever I or dad gets home.

I feed him every time I come back home. It’s hard not to - when he greets me with so much love, jumping around, like I am his long last friend and he is so happy to see me back. Yesterday I was on my phone, wandering in the front yard and he was keeping me company. Every time I looked at him he gave me that innocent look and went about scratching his ears or licking himself. I suddenly had the strong feeling to feed him water, so I did. He was so thirsty that he finished the bowl full of water within seconds. I also get a feeling to feed my fishes, and at that moment I see them eagerly swimming at the corner of the tank, waiting for the treat. Amazing!

The real dragon warrior, taken in singapore about an year back
I happen to catch Kung fu panda in one of the channels and watched it again. I love this scene of oogway under the peach tree about believing. To be a dragon warrior, first we must believe we are one. I find such movies which are actually intended for younger audience has many things to teach us. Remember the “Just keep swimming” mantra of Finding Nemo?

“I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much.” - Mother Teresa

For now I am not worried about waistline or career. For I know I am compensating one by doing more of other. I am learning to be in the feeling of “Now” and totally giving myself to whatever I am doing at the moment. After all, the animal’s ability to get what it wants is also present in me and I should let it do the job.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bench mark

The thing with being on bench (term used to describe officials not assigned to any project, hence not working) is what it does to one's self esteem. It’s like a leaky bucket, the more you are in it, the less self esteem you would be left with. You would even question yourself "why would I need to press my clothes, polish my shoes and be on time, when all I do is nothing". As much as I am hopeful and positive about my situation, living through bench is quite challenging. Its like the relationship phase that makes you wonder whether its going to break up or patch up. I am not sure what's expected out of me and to be honest I rather be jobless than paid for doing nothing.

If you need a free mud face pack, all you need to do is drive without helmet in one of Chennai roads. Of all the transportation problems we face, the worst one is dust. Not only it creates eye irritation and dirty clothes, it also creates breathing issues and numerous allergy related diseases. The next one is honking. You would be honked even if you are driving perfectly fine. It means the driver is in hurry (for what is a million dollar question) and may run over you if you don’t give way. Others honk for different reason, either because they like their horn or it has become their habit to do so.

In the place I live, the ground water is polluted by nearby factory of Ponds. The effect is so much that our water heater broke due to the saline quality of it. The lake near my house has become a garbage dumping ground. I can even spot buffaloes, pigs and scavengers wandering around. The stray dogs are most troublesome though, for they chase me while I drive in the night, when the area has become their "territory". This is why I don’t suggest foreigners to visit India, for I am not convinced by its tourism. We surely have great monumental temples and sites (I am sure every country has their own stuff to show case) but we are not ready for visitors yet. What 5 star hotel tourists see is not the real India. For we live amongst slums, chased by stray dogs, honked to deaf, covered by mud pack and drink polluted water.

It’s almost a month since I landed in Chennai, but I felt nostalgic only recently. When I visited the place where we used to live (before I went to Singapore), the neighbors, store owner and even the milk maid was so happy to see me. These people really know me, to the point they can even say what I am allergic to. One ex-neighbor offered me lunch and I couldn’t say no. For the records we don’t owe each other money or anything. In India people ask you "saptacha" (have you had meals?), for we believe in feeding, even the stranger who turns up during the meal time. These are people of India and I am proud of them. Anyone who is been invited with a smile and offered a meal would feel so.

Image courtsy Google
I would like to accept all these things as part of my life. It’s definitely not perfect, and given the choice I would change 100 things about it. But there are 1000 things to be grateful too. For I still have job and friends who can offer a free meal, a vehicle and helmet to drive through mud and mind that’s capable of handling such challenges. I need to deal with "Now", and that’s what I should use to create a better tomorrow.
"Accept, what you resist persists"

Thursday, January 07, 2010

An Elephant's pride

I happen to see this video of elephant giving birth and it blew me off. The mother elephant (after delivery) checked the calf which neither breathed nor moved. After several kicks and a quick blow the calf took its first breath to everyone’s relief. In next few minutes the calf stood up and looked perfectly fine. The mother seemed so happy and proud and I almost heard her say “see I have made my child and I know how to take care of it”.

Nearly million elephants are killed in africa during last two decades, that left so many orphans, think before buying Ivory stuff , photo courtesy National Geographic
This morning found me in an unusual place, a baby shower function (locally known as “Seemandham”) of my cousin’s wife. Unlike abroad it’s a family function here and I was obliged to attend. Needless to say I was surrounded by truck load of aunties and soon to be, worrying about my future love life and stuff.

On occasions like this, men get busy taking part in the rituals/ doing the transportation and stuff. Women (no gender bias here) find their own time pass well known to man kind – Talking about others (gossiping is under statement here). It would look like a reality show of who does the best parenting or whose offspring is the smartest.

One of my aunties recommended few IT companies to me because their pay scale is good. Another one had several clarifications about abroad life which I was obliged to clear to the entire group. One even managed to sit next to me during breakfast and force fed me, for she felt I am loosing weight and my charisma (!?) by not eating well. Eating well according to the mom’s of our community meant loading every square meter of the stomach with several forms of rice and high calorie/fatty milk products. No wonder my brother opted not to go.

While these are expected, what surprised me was the treatment I received. I felt like a government official inspecting the function. People offered seat, spoke nice and helped to make the formalities faster so I can go to work on time. The uncle, who used to make fun of me, not just listened to what I said but showed outmost respect to me. It’s amazing what money can do. A well earning foreign return is symbol of success, status and admiration here.

We live in one corner of city called Chrompet. And my cousin’s place is further away (a perfect sub urban) surrounded by rice fields and irrigation canals - a sight worth visiting in the morning. I saw many cattle. Few cows starred while I honked for my way.I even saw a beautiful lily pond.

Above all these fringe benefits I am glad I went. I actually did it for my aunt (my mom’s sister who lives with her husband near to our home). She doesn’t have any children and treats me like one. She asked me to take her to the venue, and literally dragged me around introducing to the relatives. At that moment I saw the pride in her eyes, one that is equivalent to that of elephant’s. Bow to the finest feeling of Motherhood!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Honking trains and a tarot fool

Have you ever seen two trains honking and waiting for the traffic to clear up in the level crossing? This is what I witnessed on my way to office today. I am pretty sure it’s weird enough to take a small space in tomorrow’s paper. Unfortunately I too was part of the stamped and had no choice but to go with the mob. Even the most safest and right thing like stopping at the red light, had me bumped last night. For some (most) yellow light means speed up, not slow down. This is what Indian traffic is and I am not proud of it. I think anyone if honked by the train and bumped at signal would feel so. We Indians are fast (crazy to the limit), furious and would even risk our lives to save couple of minutes during the drive.

After such near death ride I am sitting at office on a comfortable chair .. err I am actually on bench. Two days in a row and all I do is check mails for every 10 minutes (that include both personal and official). Due coffee and lunch breaks and serious discussion with the colleagues about all-that-is-not-part-of-work. Being at the wrong job is like being married to someone you don’t love. Imagine our fine batsman Suchin Tendulkar working as data processing analyst. But I am sure this phase has something to teach me, like virtues of patience, hope and humility.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference"

Sometimes life would bring surprise like rainbow amidst storm. Blogadda has chosen my “Take a wish” post as their spicy Saturday picks. This is much needed event for me, especially when I am wondering about my skills and career. Thanks a lot to Blogadda for choosing my post and thanks to you all for supporting my writing. I haven’t replied to each comment separately in the last post as it would increase the “wish count”. My Grandma used to say we should be sure of what we are giving out to the world as it always comes back multifold. Let the wishes we share be manifested and bring us multifold positive change in all our lives.

I bet you would fall in love with Audrey Hepburn after watching this movie
My love made me watch classics like “Roman Holiday” and “Sound of music” during the New Year holiday. I was enchanted by both of them and could easily indentify the scenes that inspired some of the Indian movies. We also saw Avatar and 3 idiots, both very entertaining in their own ways. Avatar’s amazing creative scenes gave me jaw pain, as I watched them mouth wide open like the hippopotamus during it’s feeding time. I loved 3 idiots for the direction, screen play and also its emphasis in a heart felt career. But it’s such a shame that the author Chetan bhagat (from whose book many ideas were inspired from) hasn’t been credited duly.

Lovely songs that would keep you humming all day long
I met a tarot reader by chance on 31st December and his reading was right to the point. I have been asked to be my own light, adapt the innocence and embark on an adventure like a child. He also asked me to accept my career decisions like a fool falling off from the cliff believing his higher powers (I did not say a word about my problems to him). I liked this approach of being foolish, for it meant daring to do whatever heart said, for it meant ignoring what others thought, for it also meant being oneself at all times. I hope tomorrow would be a better day and as long as I have sun over my shoulders and ground below my feet I should be fine.