Mahima was your typical teenager. You know, the giggly, non-stop chattering one that you meet everywhere nowadays. She lived with her parents in a small 3 room house on the outskirts of Nithali. Nithali was your typical bustling town with its markets and trade, small time theater and smaller playgrounds. Mahima’s father worked as a supervisor in the chemical factory and her mother was the typist in an accounting firm.

Mahima studied in Class 8 in the only private school. Her parents had discussed and decided that the only inheritance that they could pass on to her was education and they would scrimp and scrounge to ensure that Mahima got the best of education. Although they took pains to ensure that they didn’t let Mahima see their struggle, she was aware of their sacrifice. The only way to repay that she knew was to ensure that she did very well at school. She was always among the top 5 in her class and made her parents extremely proud.

It was during the middle of the school year that a new girl joined her class. Her name was Stuti. Stuti was an extremely shy girl and would speak only when spoken to. All the students misunderstood her and labelled her as a snob. The teachers knew that Stuti had a lot to catch up on since she joined so late and they asked Mahima to help her out. At first, Mahima was resentful that she had to spend the free periods and snack time, explaining lessons to Stuti. However, as she got to know Stuti, she realized that she had found her best friend and could not thank her teachers enough for having forced Stuti on her. She couldn’t have been happier.

Unfortunately, life suddenly decided to change the smooth road into a gigantic cliff. The chemical factory was locked down due to environmental issues. Mahima’s father was jobless and after 20 years with the same firm, had no idea on what to do next. They were subsisting entirely on her mother’s earnings. It looked as if Mahima would need to stop her education if the situation continued.

The final exams were around the corner. This was the time when Mahima needed to focus her entire attention on her studies but with the turmoil at home, it was proving difficult. Stuti was her rock during this time they revised and attended mock tests together. There was an essay on “Why education is important to me” and Mahima poured her heart out in the response. Stuti sent this response to the Edumust NGO who were conducting an essay competition. The exams were over and the long summer holidays began. Mahima was exploring ideas on what she would do when the next school year started and she would not be able to go to school.

She was surprised to get an official letter from Edumust. She didn’t remember having given her address anywhere. She opened the cover with trepidation which changed to great joy when she read that she had won the first prize for the essay “Why education is important to me”. The letter went on to state that the prize included scholarships for her to complete her school, undergraduate and postgraduate education.

The essay being published on the Edumust website garnered lots of publicity and there were many people who reached out to Mahima’s father offering him suitable jobs. Very soon, he accepted a good position and life swung back to normal. Mahima could not thank Stuti enough but received just the simple sentence – “Friends help each other – I don’t want any thanks.” It is no wonder that Mahima and Stuti would continue to be friends for ever and ever.

The world of today!

Heraclitus, the Ancient Greek philosopher, got it right all those centuries ago – when he said “The only constant is change.” Everything changes – the physical, the chemical, the metaphysical and even the intangible. Weather changes and so does climate. Physical features change – of the landscape – hiking up a plateau and depressing a mountain, adding or receding of the shoreline, etc – of the body – going out of shape, coming in shape and everything in between, balding, wrinkling and crinkling as we age and so on. Chemical makeup changes – we have a bit of acid in the rain now. 🙂 Most important, our thoughts change, our ideas change and our perceptions change.

All this preamble is for those who have read my previous article on the past and would wonder when they read the current one. Thinking about the past always made me nostalgic until I really started thinking – was it really so great as I projected it in my thoughts or was I giving it too many pink overtones? I wonder and thought of looking at it objectively.

Isn’t life definitely more convenient now that we have the electronic conveniences of mobile phones? Anybody is just a phone call or text away – imagine the waiting period in the earlier days to receive a letter. The evolution of the mobile phone from a clunky, expensive contraption to a sleek affordable handy device is a boon to millions. Hasn’t it singlehandedly brought the world closer just by its sheer convenience and ability of having multiple devices rolled into it? It has the camera, the search engines, social media and much more.

The bigger siblings of the mobile phone, the tablets and the laptops, have literally opened up the world for us. they have brought the theaters and the libraries, the bulky accounting books and the whiteboard and so much more onto our laps. No coding, no rocket science to power it on and get engrossed in – it totally captivates anyone whether it is a toddler or a senior citizen.

The television screens and the plethora of viewer options – there is just no way that we can even remotely compare the fare available to the Doordarshan channels that we watched as kids. From being larger than life to being available as a mobile subscription, the options are just mind boggling.

Where do I even start when I touch upon transport? I remember the train journeys of my childhood in steam engine pulled trains. We would have a fine layer of soot when we disembarked a day or two later. Flights were a distant dream and only for the privileged. Which is definitely not the case now. Two-wheelers and four-wheelers choices were limited – here a Bajaj Chetak and there a Yezdi, an Ambassador here or a Fiat there. Now, we don’t even need to own a vehicle with the options of cab hiring, ride sharing or self driving.

Progress has literally stepped into every domain of life – from the kitchen to the laundry, the work to the commute, from communication to space and so on. It reminds me of an essay  during my school days titled “Science is a good servant but a bad master.” If only we could use our thinking capacity and make this progress actually work for us, how much more blessed would we be? If we realized that too much of a good thing is definitely not good and restrained ourself from bingeing? It is also not being a slave to our conveniences and the devices that makes us free. The times when we don’t have the compulsion to constantly check our phones, the times when we don’t tumble into full-panic mode when the washing machine breaks down or the times when we can find alternate activities like board games and a hardback when the power conks off taking the television with it are the times when we are the masters. It is at times like this that I can safely say that this is definitely the best time to live in. 🙂

Success at it’s very best….

How do you define success? I am sure every individual has a different understanding and visual of their own. Surprising, isn’t it – that one word can conjure up such varied pictures in different peoples’ minds.

When I was younger, I always had this image in my head of a successful woman – a crisply ironed smart dress, wonderful heels, smart bag and cool aviators on a fit, beautiful person. You all know the ladies I am talking about – right? The decision makers, the go-getters, the world-changers & of course the ones who get their names in newspapers, magazines and the like…..

The only formula that I knew to attain this figure of perfection was hard work. So, I got down to it – nose on the grind, ignoring the various small victories and forgetting to ‘smell the roses’ as they say. I had eyes only for the big picture. The sacrifices that friends and family made somehow didn’t come into the equation at all.

The first distraction was the sons’ entry – he diluted the goal a little bit. Somehow the focus was shifted a bit to him rather than the visual. Surprising really that what a tiny human being can achieve without trying at all. 🙂

The second distraction was middle age – as I lost the shine and veneer of youth, there was introspection and questioning. Do I need to have the same goals as I had before? Or was I brave enough to accept that I needed to set new goals? Was I brave enough to allow myself to be defined without a career? Could I accept that not bringing in money would not make me a lesser person?

And of course the final ingredient to the mix was that I got a bit of religion – it changed the perspective on its head. It made me define need and want, identify excess and requirement and generally made me more contented.

So what does success mean for me now? Any day when I am happy that I have met my targets of housework, exercise, clean eating and not snapping at anybody. So much different from earlier – right? Not that I don’t feel a pang of regret sometimes but sanity and sense prevails.

Not to say that I regret the single-minded pursuit of my goal in my earlier days. Neither do I regret giving it up now. Life really gives us strange twists and turns. Never would have guessed that what was so important to me some years ago would become so insignificant now.

How has it been for you? What does success mean? Has it changed? Would love to know…..

Brooch tale

via Daily Prompt: Polish

De-cluttering. She loved the term and was forever looking forward to live the word. There were this day when the clearing goblin sat on her shoulder and literally impelled her to act. That particular drawer caught her attention. The cleaning gods were smiling and helping the goblin that day not only because she had no other duties to distract her or divide her time or attention, but also because her hoarder husband was not around. 🙂

This particular drawer had been the source of many an argument between them. It had stuff that he has been keeping (hoarding?) for a long long time – all piled on in a really haphazard way. It hurt her organizational sensitivities in a big way – all the more because he would not allow her to contribute to its streamlining.

She set about the task enthusiastically – her method was just dumping the whole stuff onto a surface and then separating the wheat from the chaff. She got caught up in the contents and it was a pleasure to put them in order. It was quite surprising for her that there was really nothing that she could throw away. Did I say nothing? Well, there was this huge, blackened costume brooch – it looked as if it was something he may have gifted his mother as a child and which she had preserved and passed back to him when he moved out of the parental home. Since he was now gifting her with much better options, there really didn’t seem any reason why he had kept this.

She kept it aside – to ask him once before trashing it. She got due credits from the cleaning goblin that day. When he came in later, she showed him both the organized drawer and the costume jewel and asked him for the story. He said it was something an old neighbor had given him because he used to spend time with her and that is why he preserved it. She however knew that it had not landed up again in the drawer and so assumed that he had disposed of it.

It was a week later that he came up and gave her an un-birthday present. A beautiful shining beaten silver brooch – awesomely designed and intricately made. A vague memory stirred – had she seen this design somewhere before? Yes – he said – it was the same brooch that she had taken for costume jewelry. All that it had needed to come back to its former glory was polish.

PS: This write-up was against the daily word prompt – polish

Small things

via Daily Prompt: Catapult

It is due to the small things that miracles happen,

Small words of appreciation boost up the confidence.

Small acts of kindness may prop up a life of suffering.

Small thoughts of compassion do great things.

 

Small steps lead us on cover hundreds of miles,

We literally change lives with a small smile.

It is not the size that matters, it is the effect and the result,

Aren’t mighty boulders launched by the small catapult?

P.S – this attempt is for the daily word prompt ‘catapult’.

Adrift, anchored or on course

via Daily Prompt: Adrift

She was conceived in a dream and born in a bustling boatyard. It was amazing that she looked exactly as she was dreamt about. Oh ! She was a real darling – with colors of deep violet and pure white. She took her baby steps in the backwaters of the deep blue sea. She was guided and monitored and honed to perfection and soon enough, was considered seaworthy enough to step out into the vast ocean.

On her maiden journey, she was handled very carefully and there was a huge sigh of relief when she came through with flying colors. Thereafter, there were many many journeys that she undertook and soon, her captain knew her so well that she was almost an extension of himself. Some days, when the storm raged or the ocean boiled, he would anchor her safely to the shore, protecting her from calamities. There were times when he allowed her to drift in the ocean, to sail where the winds and the currents took her. However, she would always feel secure under the gentle loose grip of his hands. At other times, he would firm his grip on her wheel and direct her to a safer course so that she reached her destination.

Doesn’t this journey sound familiar to our lives? We have our journey scripted out perfectly, We are kept safe, anchored by our beliefs and faith, when the storm of uncertainty and sea of doubt attacks us. The journey of life is long and difficult but we have been created and perfected to ensure that we travel the whole distance without collapsing. There are times when we feel we are cut loose and we drift aimlessly, without any known purpose. Times when we question our existence and the purpose of life. It is at times like this that the higher power gently directs us back on course if we stray by more than the preferred margin. The same power would ensure that we reach journey’s end safely.

PS: This was an essay attempt in response to a daily word prompt “Adrift”.

 

The pink dinosaur

via Daily Prompt: Pink

A really long time ago, and it really was millions and gazillions of years ago, a baby dinosaur was born in the Stegosaurus family. Before I tell you about the baby, let me give you a background about the parents. Now, as you all know, the Stegosaurus family are these really huge dinosaurs with huge plate like stuff on their backs. They looked really fierce and scared off anyone with their sheer size and shape. However they were actually gentle vegetarian creatures and were capable of eating through forests of vegetation in no time.

Now, Mrs & Mr Steggy named their son Pink. Pink was different from all the other green and mud colored babies because of his color. His parents loved him to pieces and I am afraid, they spoilt him just a little. He got whatever he wanted, never had to do any chores and basically lived a charmed life. His friends also treated him with awe because he was so cute and pink. He made them do his tasks like getting his food, cleaning his plates and so on. He became to put on airs and consider that he was the best because he was pink.

Soon, it was time for him to attend the dino school. Dino school was similar to our boarding school. The baby dinosaurs went in as toddlers and spent the time learning all the dinosaur skills and came back to their parents as teenage dinosaurs. There were no vacations or parent visits in between.

There was only one dino school for all the dinosaurs across the world. When Pink entered the school, he found all types of dinos there, ranging from T Rex to velociraptors. Pink was separated from all his childhood buddies and shared a forest with other dinosaur species. There was Sippo (a T Rex), Mait (an Allosaurus) and Crixo (a brachiosaurus) among others. He hated school from the first day on. He had to find his own food, clean his own plates (Oh ! I hope you realize that by plates, I mean the plates on his back and not dinner plates) and do his own homework. He made no friends because of his behavior and superior attitude.

Now, his teacher, old Madam Spinosaurus, had been observing Pink for the first month. She had seen how he was always acting superior and aloof. So, one day, she had a special assignment for her class. She told them to go down to the swamp the next day and spend the full morning there. They were to come back to class in the afternoon and demonstrate what they did best. There was to be a special prize for the best dino. Now, our Pink was so sure that he would win this prize, he didn’t bother to prepare at all.

The next day dawned. All the dinos rushed to the swamp as it was the first time they were seeing it. They loved the mud and the water and spent hours wallowing in it. When it was afternoon, Madam Spinosaurus called them to class for the second part of the assignment. Sippo, the T Rex was first – he showed the class how he could balance his body on his two hind feet alone. Mait, the allosaurus, showed how his beautiful teeth and spiked tail helped him find his dinner. One by one, all the dinos showed something or the other. Finally, it was Pink’s turn. He came on up and said – I am pink in color and so I should get the prize. Everyone howled in laughter because with the morning’s romp in the swamp, all the dinos, including Pink, were a nice shade of mud. Madam Spinosaurus handed over the award to Mait with special treats to everybody who tried. Basically, the entire class except Pink. She then called Pink aside and told him that it is what we do and what is inside us that matters and not how we look. She told him that he had to prove that he was special by what he did rather than his color. Pink understood.

I am not saying that Pink changed overnight but he became a little better everyday and soon he was a happy little dino with a new set of friends and a very proud teacher. He didn’t think about his color any more.

PS: – This is a first attempt at a children’s story based on the daily word prompt – Pink.