I have always struggled in one respect for as long as I can remember. How can I help someone else in need? We were raised on a steady diet of compassion and giving back. Even as a child I remember my mother dipping into her hiding places (often the strangest ones from grain canisters to under the mattress to a big wad in a worn silver box in her cupboard.) All saved for a rainy day but when there are four children milling around the house, rainy days are often around the corner. Even amidst the steady depletion of these treasures and day to day expenses, there was always enough food for whoever came to the house, delivery boys, maids, needy neighbors, visits from my fathers colleagues with their gigantic families in towe, kids coming to collect their errant balls. My father always had enough kind words for whoever he bumped into and it continues to this day. From sweepers on the streets, to shopkeepers, to attendants at clinics, to liftmen and security guards who everyone passes by as they blend into the world, invisible. He is a great listener as well and he always told me that at times the greatest service you can render to humanity is just to be a good listener. We are surrounded by people, daily, who are going through so much, who feel lost, who are miserable. They have no one to turn to. The joy you will give to someone by just lending a few minutes of your time will be visible on their faces. That should be the reward. Compassion was also ingrained within us in the way we were taught to treat each other within the family. Of-course four girls will always find a reason to be uncouth, fight, pull hair and beat each other up, but we saw with the passage of time that all that we had seen while growing up, without ever being preached into it, was naturally imbibed and became an integral part of us.
Of-course I have always tried to be kind whenever an opportunity presents itself but in this busy, insular world, even these opportunities have to be dug out I feel sometimes. Isn’t it then easy to just keep donating online, or give money to beggars or find some such way to appease your need to be kind and good. Each to his own. I don’t judge as this is a very personal action but I certainly was not happy as I was unable to make a visible difference in anyone’s lives, to add value to someone’s existence even in a small way. It rankled inside. Till one day I decided to take my father’s advice and listen. I was on a call with a temporary maid in our society who had finished her tenure with me and was seeking another job. I was trying to guide her towards a prospective employer in the other building and she was so uneducated that she wasn’t able to remember a name, a building number, any of the details. So she asked her son to call me later to note them down. A small incident but it got me thinking about the scores of women I had met within this compound itself who were struggling to either sign their names, fill a form, open a bank account, struggling with a bill as they couldn’t do basic math and were lacking basic language proficiency. It just struck me then and there that i could help them and it made my heart dance! Finally I had found a need gap that I could try and fill.
I had to start with a name. Even if for no one else but myself. To excite and instill a sense of ownership, I came up with a name. My ‘Bai-lingual’ classes! (I stuck with it despite a lot of jokes from my husband) Now I am no teacher. And what was on offer was very basic math and language proficiency. But I had to learn how to teach! So I started reading about teaching aids, pulled out my daughters stock of slates and alphabets and books as she looked at me strangely and started preparing myself. Then came the price of benevolence, time! Where was I to find time for this noble activity between work, home, a young daughter and my writing schedule? I decided to take an hour out each week to begin with and then let that slot evolve as per their requirements and their work. the biggest hurdle though was the recruitment. My proposal was met with suspicious looks (where they possibly thought I was mad or a drug dealer) and ‘How much will you charge?’, ‘ I am too old for this’, ‘I have things to do at home’, ‘My family will laugh at me,’ , ‘I don’t have time.’ All of this made me realize that it was a bigger stigma for them to opt for education at this stage of their lives rather than being coined illiterate. It was a sort of battle for their rights vs their mental and societal attitudes.
I can’t say it’s been easy. I’ve managed to finally recruit two helpers. 4 more have been on-boarded. And I am hoping this army will grow as I learn with them. It’s strange but I feel like a jilted lover when someone promises and doesn’t show up! But what thrilled me the most the other evening was when I passed by my daughter playing downstairs, while walking to my kickboxing class. She was busy recruiting two maids who had come down to the playground with their respective wards, telling them eagerly to come home. ‘My momma is very nice. She doesn’t get angry. She will teach you with my class things!’ As tears pricked my eyes, I smiled wide! At 4 years of age, compassion and caring for others was making a home in her little heart. This is the additional reward. To let my child see the importance and happiness of giving back. In however small a way. For there is no greater joy.
Every change begins with a small step, whether it’s a change within your family, or the whole country! India’s hero, Padman, had its digital premiere on ZEE5, on 11th May. Don’t miss this inspiring true-life story, only on ZEE5. Download the app and subscribe now. For every subscription, ZEE5 will donate Rs. 5 towards the personal hygiene needs of underprivileged women.
When was the last time you took a drive?
Just sat in the car, unclutched all your thoughts and accelerated far away from whatever is holding you back or towards whatever you want
The headlights come on, clearing your mind and the path ahead, showing you where you’re heading
The seat belt clicks you back into reality but as you pull out of the garage, you feel unfettered, free
Is it necessary to know where you’re going? Sometimes
Will you always know where you’ll end up? No
But does it matter?
The blinking street lights zip past like orderly, well behaved fireflies
Suddenly there is no traffic and you are left soldiering alone, against the inky black sky
Enjoying the solitude, enjoying the nothingness, enveloped in nothing but a nippy breeze
As you stick your hand out to tame the wind and try to grab fistfuls of it, your hand keeps flailing around, almost merry
And it’s a loss of control that feels amazing
Your hair, pulled away from your face is the only thing looking back, taking notes
While you blaze ahead, liberated, anxieties annihilated
Feeling like you’re infinite
I owe you so much little one
I’ve tried to repay this debt in tears, patience, lessons, hugs and kisses
But there is so much more I want to show you before this world implodes and consumes itself
A million crimson sunsets, where you can just hear that slight thud when the horizon gets greedy and gobbles up the fiery spheres
Beautiful rivers that carry hopes and goods and people, up and down, like the tides of life
Mute verdure mountains awash with the beauty of simplicity
Kind people who help everyone in their paths like gentle streams rearranging pebbles along their way
Gestures that are laden with hope and happiness, not reciprocity
Long drives taking us to new places, new people, new experiences and sometimes to nowhere
This basket that I’m weaving for you is full of small, simple, happy things
I’ll cover them all with a blanket of hope as I pass them on to you
I know you will look back and wonder what there is left to love in a world packed to the brim with hate, violence, blood and sorrow
But that is when I want you to sit with this little basket and see the wondrous world that was, and still could be, through my eyes
Riders of a dark world, to being messengers of the divine.
One little flicker can raise a lifetime of hope.
When snuffed out, you feel a paralysis of fear, like you’re hurtling helplessly down an endless slope.
Rows upon rows of illuminated bulbs can welcome a bridegroom atop his royal steed.
While under a flickering street lamp, sits a shrivelled mother telling her shrivelled son a fantastical tale from a tattered book, when that’s all that she can feed.
Many have spoken of seeing a bright speck of light at the end of a tunnel they see.
And some see these sparks even when their eyes are shut, their eyeballs darting around, trapped in a vivid dream.
The morning glint can hurt the eyes, or make them dazzle with delight.
The moonlit sky can light a melancholy in the heart, or build the runway for your imagination to fly.
You can embrace it, feel it, or then simply draw the blinds.
But a tiny tenacious ray will pierce through a crack, and fill your heart with a bright light.
Isin’t it scary?
That when every layer is peeled away, like an onion, what you might be left with, could be something pungent and not pleasant.
That when the veneers are gone, you might not even recognise yourself.
They say truth is liberating.
But sometimes it shackles you to the ground. You want to hope, you want to gallop but no matter how hard you pull away, you are what you are.
What will he think? Will I be slotted a fool? Or worse, will I be ostracised?
The truth is they will never know.
Because we do a fantastic job of cloaking ourselves.
Because the world outside the cloak is unknown and too scary.
Manners, social lies, sarcasm,excuses, take a pick and call them what you may
I am certainly no one to preach , but in some eyes, I have seen the serenity of a deveined and de shelled world, that doesn’t have to keep up appearances.
Certainly looks like a peaceful, tranquil place to be.
Is there some such tranquility in store for me?
Only time will tell.
So very light.
But not in a good way,for it’s my heart that’s wasting away each time.
I shed some of it on endless walks along the waterfront.
Some shards fell away as the shimmering city lights enveloped the darkened skies.
Some bits withered away over endless conversations, tinkling glasses and wine bottles that flowed through the night.
A big chunk of it dropped as I sat in silence for days, watching a strange new world pulse around me, unfold around me, like a movie.
It almost stopped beating, when the leaves and the birds smattered against the blue sky, filled the canvas with bright vivid colours
A language stood between us, but my heart understood every word.
Every place was unfamiliar but my heart felt the warmth of each wonderful discovery.
I’ve lost my heart but it feels full.
Of invisible memories, laughter and joy.
All I need now is a new destination, a new river, a new journey , a new road.
My feet will start moving and my heart will be whole again, only to waste away once more.
One foot in front of the other.
And the race begins.
They are racing each other, time, the phone calls, the appointments and the chaos that I’m leaving behind.
There is no finish line, and I don’t care if I come back.
All they know is that they are the wind that will lift me and take me far away.
The adrenaline pulses,keeping time with my throbbing temples.
The tributaries of sweat, charting a new course every few minutes.
My heart beats drum into my ears, drowning out the rest of the world.
My hair billowing in the breeze, trailing behind me like my very own superhero cape.
I really do feel like a hero right now.
I’ve conquered hunger, pebbles, potholes, rain, grime, sweat and pain.
I’ll feel like giving up a million times, but I know in a heartbeat I could do it all again.
My legs will find me a new world everyday.
I don’t need a map,
A compass to steer me,
Today, every obstacle will stay out of my way.
It really should make me jealous but when I see you two together I just can’t stop smiling.
I see how those tiny hands find their way to you in the darkness, when my unyielding and fatigued body has tuned out her plaintive cries.
Those big brown eyes darting nervously to the door every few minutes, when the sun starts to set.
She will follow your footprints in the sand for miles till the tide finally consumes them.
She never tires of stroking your head when you surrender it to that almost invisible and tiny lap.
I’ve seen her hugging your t-shirts to fill her nostrils with you when you’re away.
That desperate moaning wail that stumbles and follows you to the door when you can’t stay.
Drifting in and out of sleep, so often she calls for you, a determined , demanding voice that I cannot tame.
That happy dance she’s choreographed just for you, the first man in her heart’s hall of fame.
I made her heart inside me, and I know for eternity I can stake my claim.
But that same heart has a beautiful, colourful, throbbing piece, with only her daddy’s name.