The world remade.

How would I remake the world?

The question makes me quiver with a strange kind of excitement. The anticipation of a power, handed to me on a platter. Like I am the most supreme, and that I have everything under my control. I can twist, tweak, mould and reshape what I want. Oh, what fun! But yes, also an enormous responsibility.

Is it not easy, I ask myself, with one sweep of a wand, to make everything peaceful and perfect? Then life would have no twists and turns, be one straight long road, and life would be one big party. There would be no need of a God to pray to, no police for want of protection, no religion for a feeling of belonging, no nations to feel patriotic about, no movements to fight against discrimination. Sounds so desirable, but is it practical?

The world was meant to be just the way it is. The imperfections, the injustices, the tyrannies of rule and mishaps. I believe that there is a purpose behind everything. And if there is chaos in this world, it is there to teach us something. To keep people moving forward, to mutate, to fit and to survive as evolution meant us to.

One single person in this world changing things would cause a feeling of dissatisfaction to a lot of others. Like a dictatorship. Because that is how we are made. Everything is relative. For every good, there is an evil; for every misfortune, there is a miracle; for every superstition, there is a rationalization and we all know that every human thinks in two radically different ways in any given situation.

If I try to make things better for one person, then I am bound to make someone else dissatisfied. Even terrorism seems to have another point of view, or it would not have survived this long!

So is everything hopeless? Is there nothing we can change? I believe that the change is something buried deep inside of us. This would be the place to target. For humans to understand that they are always not right, that every one step each one of us take can cause myriad ripples in multiple directions and so we must be careful. And that we should learn to care. About ourselves, our fellow beings, our environment and of things beyond that we do not understand as of now.

Caring, a lot of people believe can make us weak. The biggest decisions in this world were made with our heads rather than our hearts. But look where it put us. World wars, communism, the formation of countries, religion, the caste system, gender stereotyping, traditions – all of which were in the first place decided upon rationally to bring a semblance of normalcy to this world. But did they?

Therefore, I beg to differ. I feel that caring is the one thing which makes us strong, gives us foresight and wisdom to change what we can, fight when the need be and sometimes let go of things which cannot be changed. Every social evil, and environmental catastrophe that I can think of could have been changed if we had cared, rather than made-rules!

This I believe is the change the world deserves. So yes, if I could change one thing in this world, I would choose to inculcate the feeling, the thought and the attitude of ‘caring’ into every single soul living on this earth.

Then I would say, may the fittest survive.  This is my world remade.

This post is a part of a competition that I am participating in.

“I am participating in the #TheWorldRemade activity at BlogAdda in association with India Today #Conclave15 “

Hustling bustling vacations


Post the holiday season and resolution making, life has got back to normal. Just a few days into this year, I am already craving and nostalgic for a holiday.

Travel has always been on my ‘most favorite to do’ lists. I have never been a victim of the horrible nausea that  people experience in the name of travel sickness, no queasiness over different kinds of food, ability to tolerate extended durations of ghaas phoos(raw or boiled veggies and greens- the only option available for vegetarians in a lot of countries abroad),no tiredness post travel and an ability to walk miles(a slight exaggeration) if something appeared interesting enough.  And a lot of my growing up years have been spent poring over magazines like National Geographic,Outlook Traveler etc. The most recent additions to the list have been blogs related to travelling ( the Wanderer, Laxmi Sharat’s blog) and various Instagram accounts. Luckily, my family is equally crazy about travelling, though their concept of the whole thing slightly (and I use the word with care)varied from what is shown in TLC and Nat Geo Life Style channels on TV.

Being a part of a large extended joint family,our travel plans almost always involved about a bus load of people of all ages, sizes, shapes and mindsets. The first hurdle was choosing  the place. It needed to be somewhere close but not too much, have something to interest everyone, include a few Indian meals at least and something which would suit everyone’s time frame.

Therefore, all trips involve a hectic pre trip workup, involving last minute renewal of passports, cancellations and additions in the number of passengers,continuous maddening calls to the travel agent to ask about inane things like how many extra beds would go in whose hotel rooms, to herding people together into the bus at the right time so we reach the airport before the plane flies. Somewhat akin to the first scene in the movie ‘Home Alone’. In all seriousness, I think our travel agent takes a break as soon as we board the flight!

This is followed by an activity filled, rushed “been there, done that” kind of a trip where we see everything at break neck speed (because we have to cater to tastes of everyone ranging from age three to seventy five!).

I have been a part of holidays like this since my childhood, so the concept of lazy,ambiance soaking vacations, where you stroll along the ocean hand in hand with your spouse, watch the sunset, go for a long swim impromptu, drink coffee from quaint little coffee shops over a book, discovering hole in the wall shops selling antiques and basically getting the flavor of the place, as is described in travel magazines, were concepts alien to me.

If at all, our holidays were like work outs- in one word, strenuous! You had to be up by six coz you had to share a bathroom and get ready by seven, so that you could stuff yourself up to your nostrils at the breakfast buffet (you see, most foreign tours would give you bed, breakfast and dinner as part of the tour, and you had to rely on yourself for lunch. Well, stuffing yourself was one way of making sure you stay full longer!) In the late 80s and early 90s, you were only allowed to take a limited number of dollars out of the country, and so these had to be stretched to accommodate our food and loads of shopping for all the people we left back home).

Once into the bus, we had the smaller kids often dozing off on long drives(thanks to waking earlier than during school times), to be woken up umpteen number of times whenever we landed at any given photo point.All the couples, bleary eyed kids and the group had to be photographed religiously in front of every monument, as if to assert to the whole wide world that we had been there(and done that)!

Afternoons were spent in the park or in the van, eating bread with a variety of assorted pickles and jams which would appear like magic from huge handbags of mothers and aunts. The drivers and our tour conductors would be our aunties and uncles for the duration of the trip. After visiting every single tourist point and museum, we would crash into bed late at night only to repeat the same next morning!

When I am writing this, the whole thing sounds so exhausting. Growing up, I used to vow to myself that when I plan, things would be different. We would go on trips where we could explore one small nook at a time, at leisure, taste the local cuisine, get to know every small alley of the place that we decided to visit. Somewhat like in ‘Eat, Pray and Love’.

But when when I did grow up and took over the planning, as though genetically, I migrated towards going with huge groups of people, and planned equally hectic trips, alternately whining about the rush and enjoying myself all at once.

Thinking back, travelling in a group was the most fun thing that has happened to me. There are always shared memories and jokes to remember, weird things that happened that would be included as family legends, and a sense of bonding which is difficult to disentangle. We learned to tolerate shortcomings and quirks with grace and grew up with the idea of sharing and caring. When we would go on trips, we would regularly see other groups like the Chinese, Japanese and Gujratis traveling like we did and feel normal.

Though I would not recommend such vacations for the faint hearted, writing this has made me itch for a busy, bustling, frantic vacation all over again!

Of death and discomfort..

My nephew is undergoing  a small surgery. My logic understands that the surgery is very small with a hundred percent success rate. We know the surgeon and that he is very reliable and we have already planned his homecoming. But there is this strange feeling the whole day. And it bothers me. There’s a  tingling inside of my tummy, alongside a few mandatory butterflies, some strain in my shoulders, a sudden missed heart beat when I am in my OPD, a squeeze in the heart and a strange shiver along my spine when I think of tomorrow. Just the fact that he is undergoing something which is unnatural, increases my level of discomfort. How much ever my logical brain tries to convince itself, my emotions refuse to obey and remain subdued. It irritates me, makes me scared and wants me to delete the whole day and wake up tomorrow morning to find that it is all a dream.

In these terms,December this year, has been a month of such discomforts. Eventful, scary and sad. In the span of one month, I heard of about ten accidents back to back and lost quite a few near and dear ones in the process. Those who survived, are right now still in bad shape. A surgery scheduled in the midst of all this. And just when the dust seemed to have settled, the news of the senseless terrorist attacks in Peshawar!It sort of shook me and dragged the rug from right under my feet!

Here I am, trying to plan my future, our children’s education,my son’s birthday party and what to read this weekend when boom! You are no longer living! It sure is a scary thought. I know I am being morbid, which I should not be, as it is close to Christmas, and new year is just round the corner,blah, blah — but this whole week, thoughts of death and sickness have enveloped me. It was weird writing about this. I had never imagined in the wildest of my dreams that I would one day write about death and the like, but the more I thought, the more there seemed to be things which were queer about how we face death and sickness.

The first thought was: what exactly is it that makes you feel bad when someone suffers or dies?

Well, when you open the newspapers early in the morning, it is quite likely that you hear about at least four to five deaths. Murders, suicides, accidents, sometimes old age and ill health; the reasons are many, but a lot of them attain in death probably what they did not achieve in their lifetime- a mention! But have you ever wondered why it is that we feel bad only for a few people, and not for the rest? The answer, it seems, is a word called empathy. Empathy literally means putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. I recently read an article in “The Week” about empathy which said that we end up feeling some sort of emotion only towards people who are similar to us in race, ethnicity, religion,education or situation! I was denying this fiercely in my mind, when I realized that I was actually doing what the article said! When I read, hear or see something bad happening to Indians, women, children, mothers, doctors etc.. I end up feeling a little more sadness and a state of understanding, than I do for everything and everyone else. I tried telling myself that I had felt really sad about Philip Hughes death, and so I am empathetic towards all! But when I rationalized, the sadness was more for his parents because they had lost a child and that loss was irreplaceable(this I can understand, because I am a mother!). I felt sad about the Malaysian Airlines tragedy a few months ago, but that was more distanced compassion and sympathy than an acute sense of grief! So you see, the article seemed to be right after all. Maybe to preserve our sanity and a sense of calm, our mind processes only what is similar to our lives and leaves the rest to a mild apathy! Try it on yourself. It is strange, but true.

The second is the aptness of reaction.

Quite a lot of times, professionally and personally, I have been in a slightly uncomfortable position of dealing with the aftermath of death. The consoling of the survivors. Sometimes, I have to go with the oft repeated ‘ It was for the best. He was suffering so badly. At least now he rests in peace’ to ‘ This was so unexpected. I can understand how you must be feeling’ and finally, when I feel most inadequate, just ‘I am so sorry’. But what ever it is that I say, I feel a sense of inadequacy, that I have somehow failed to do my job as a consoler well. I immediately end up thinking of the next few days – how dependent the survivor was on the deceased or vice versa, how their home will seem empty from now on, how photographs or familiar places will bring forth a barrage of memories and emotions –so on until I make myself miserable, and the discomfort becomes mine!

The worst was when I read about the terrorist attacks in Peshawar. I have never blanked out so badly. I really did not know how to react. Any of the dialogues I’m so used to made any sense in that situation. I crossed out emotions in my mind. Anger- no use; shame- I don’t know; sadness-woefully inadequate; fear- but for how long and where?. Basically, empathy failed me. But this horrible discomfort stayed. I could not be myself for the next three days. Then, time slowly eased me back into normalcy. Day by day, the weight on my shoulders and the tightness in my chest when I woke up in the morning eased. I started laughing more normally and became calmer about my children going to school. I used to feel that by consoling the relatives, I was helping them ease their suffering a little bit. But I realized that grieving often is a very lonely process. Kind words help, but do not lessen the grief. As time passes, and life goes on, we learn to live with it and start taking it for granted. That is when it stops hurting, but yet, it does not go away! So, a tight hug and holding on to a bad feeling inside of me,is probably the best way to react! It makes me feel that I am partly bearing the burden of their grief. It is not necessarily an overt, over the top reaction, but one that makes me feel that I have actually done my best.

I have finally made peace with the butterflies in my stomach and my nephew’s surgery. I accept the  discomfort and will hopefully understand it better.