NUGGETS of LIFE : To women who made a difference

No one is greater or lesser, all do the best to their abilities

Women have always been the equals. Only, their form is different. Yes, their style is different. And certainly their language is different. It is a fact and that is that. Therefore, I often wonder the need of highlighting the Women’s Day. Every year, United Nations declares a theme for the year’s campaign. There is lot of activism as well as commercialized activities around this date. Sometimes I feel that the more they point out that women are underdog and need to be treated equally, the more they are likely to remain an underdog in the collective minds of people.

Am I being mean? Have I out rightly dismissed the heavy history of the struggle for women civil and political rights and the need to celebrate it? Should I look back? I conjure up events in my head – the horror that so many women had to endure and the social milieu of yester years. I get shaken. I open my eyes.

Now I sit straight, and thank that supreme light for being born in freedom, born in good times. We have come a long way from the absolute torturous times, yet we know there are still many suffering helplessly. Albeit, we should thank all the women who walked the line of fire to bring this change and to bring us to this point in time. It must not have been easy for them. When you read autobiographies and memoirs of women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg or even young famous Indian women like Priyanka Chopra, you realize how much grit and effort it has taken for these women to bring about social changes or make their own way. These are women who dared and razed the less travelled pathways for the younger generations of women.

My reverie takes me closer home now. I think about the two women in my family, whose stories I had heard and whose actions I had seen closely – my paternal and maternal grandmothers. These women were special in their own way. The former got married to an officer, yet chose to work and become an officer herself, breaking the glass ceiling. The latter was orphaned at a young age, in the violent Partition, but in spite of such loss in early childhood, she grew up to be a wonderful woman. She set an example of resilience and grace for one and all. They are both long gone but this Women’s Day, I thank them for their unique contribution in my life.

Finally, my eyes browse through Google as I look for this year’s theme chosen by United Nations. It is ‘Women in Leadership’. There is an instant reflection – I think of Queen Elizabeth II; the Forbes list doesn’t miss my eye too. I think of all the women I know or have known and conclude – no one is greater or lesser; all did their best to their abilities and circumstances; all are great leaders who have made a difference as career women or homemakers.

Published in The Tribune 8.03.2021

SUNDAY FEATURE: Power Purple

The sedimented meaning of purple can be destabilised but it power and profoundness still stays.

When Kamala Devi Harris walked inside the Capitol, chin up, shoulders square with utmost grace alongside her husband Doug Emhoff for the US Presidential inauguration ceremony – the historic moment was made even more striking by her choice of Tyrian purple outfit that swayed the masses rekindling the rhetoric of purple.

The fashion diplomacy of purple interestingly has a mythological story to begin with when nymph named Tyrus subsequently asked the mighty God Heracles to make a garment of the colour that Heracles’s dog had smeared his face with on biting into a mollusk. It was the colour purple that the sea snail secreted. The colour was novel in its origin and exclusive in its access. Around two and a half lakh mollusks could hardly yield an ounce of usable dye. This gave it a regal reputation becoming the colour of high priests and royalty from Roman and Persian empires to the Japanese in the east who extracted purple from shigusa, a purple gromwell plant which is equally difficult to grow. 

In spite, of purple’s association with royalty, the meaning and perception of purple is a cultural construct and is very contextual. In Thailand and South America (particularly Brazil), purple is the colour of mourning and grief. Purple is also considered a jinxed colour to date in many regions across the world, associating it with mystery and magic. No wonder why in antiquity oracle of Delphi had a purple veil as mentioned by authors like Aristotle and Ovid. While, in United States Purple Heart is given to the soldiers wounded or killed in war as a military decoration but more to show love and compassion and when Alice Paul started and unionized the Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington D.C. in 1913, purple came to symbolize the “color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause,” and “the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity”. While Alice Walker, winner of Pulitzer Prize for her outstanding book ‘The Color Purple’ bestowed saturated purple (the one Kamala Harris chose to wear) a more intense and classic meaning that represented the mature and wiser ‘womanism’ which is in contrast to the delicate feminism represented by colour lavender. Thus the royal purple began to symbolize freedom, resilience and transformation of marginalized women (black women in particular) who have been obliterated from history.

Therefore, purple has no fixed signified meaning but endlessly differs and defers with ‘supplementarity’ and ‘traces’. It is indeed a sign of a sign of yet another sign quite literally too. In Old English purpre described the royal purple clothing of an emperor. It has been derived from the Latin purpura which in turn was derived from the Greek porphura denoting the mollusks that yielded the crimson dye. According to the dictionary meaning, purple can be defined in two ways, i.e, as a group of colours with a hue between that of violet and red and as a cloth of colour between violet and red which is worn as a symbol of royalty or high office. This leads to various concepts leading from one signified to the other. For instance, ‘purple prose’ is used for exaggerated and elaborate writings; ‘purple cow’ for something remarkable and unique; ‘purple speech’ for profane and bad language and ‘purple haze’ for confusion induced by drugs.

Indeed, this colour creates confusion enough by leading to the knowledge of unthought-of-thoughts just like when we realize in the end that PURPLE is not a colour at all. Scientifically, purple is not a colour since there is no beam of pure light that looks purple. Our eyes see purple because they are tricked to believe it so. It is a secondary colour that is obtained by mixing the blue and red. However, it is precisely this reason that also makes purple special in spiritual realms, thereby, associating it with creativity, imagination and high minded spirituality. It is believed that purple is the only colour that is profound enough to engulf and balance the calm stability of blue and fierce energy of red.

Although the sedimented meaning and symbolism of purple can be destabilized further and further but its power and profoundness stays even when deconstructed to smithereens. No wonder, Kamala chose this colour whose power cannot be pinned down, that refuses to fit in a typecast and that which broke the glass ceiling.

On a lighter note, looks like Kamala and all the other powerful ladies also knew how best to tell their nation that it is high time for the red of republicans and blue of democrats to work together, to genuinely make America great again after the veritable cyclone of Trumpism has been over now. 

Published in The Post India on 4.03.2021

NUGGETS of LIFE: Balance, another name of life

The art of balance

Things come and go! There is day and there is night! Change is inevitable. In life you go through many phases and there is nothing static. There are moments that you want to hold on to and then there are others which you want to let go. One has to learn walking the thin line of balance with élan and ease. For this you need to know the act of balancing and then there you are – ready to go those miles with a sunshine attitude!

Every culture – be it Indian, American, Balinese, Arabian or any other, strikes a chord at one common but fundamental element called balance, because without this it wouldn’t have thrived. The theory of karma is also based on this. To describe it in a very short way, it can be said that when a person is born, his life cycle is based around the famous proverb – ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’! His ultimate effort should be to achieve balance in his life, only then can he attain salvation. For this you need to learn about certain factors which have a profound role in achieving this state of bliss. These are as follow:

• Flexibility – Without flexibility or adjustment in other words, neither are you successful in your personal life nor in professional. All the fingers of our hand are not equal and without either of them, you loose your strength to perform any function. You should be content with yourself and your surroundings. If you do not like something, accept the fact that you do not like it but then move on. Do not expect everything to be perfect! One should not crib or think much about the past that is gone, neither think of the future that he certainly knows not. Life is about living the present (the very moment that you live!)

• Faith – Things do not always work out the way you want. There are many hardships and obstacles in life. Face them with a brave heart and you will survive! Never loose faith in yourself. Similarly, never loose hope. It is only then that the whole universe binds itself to achieve what you want. The law of attraction that Rhonde Bryne has pointed out in her book ‘The Secret’ actually works!

• Respect – All of us have two eyes, two hands, two legs and a heart but we may differ in our genes, habits, emotional bonding. What I want to point out here is that although we might not be able to love everyone but we can surely respect everyone because at some point we all are same. This not only brings balance in your life but also peace and harmony in the world.

• Yoga – This 5ooo years old form of meditation is truly a wonder. It balances mind, body and soul. Yoga inculcates positive energy in life. Not only does it make you physically fit but also a more calm and happy person. Serenity gets reflected on your face. It is a proven fact that an hour spent practicing yoga can teach you the deeper intricacies of life.

If you understand these key factors, then you understand the act of balancing life. Excess of everything is bad. Therefore, learn to balance! We have one life so make it worth living.

Published on EzineArticles.com on 30.7.2012

SUNDAY FEATURE: 2020 – It’s time to wrap up!

2020 : ‘Tis the year of learning

2020 has left a scary impression on the collective conscious of humankind. As New Year is around the corner, it’s time to step up with hope, optimism and lessons learnt from 2020 to glide in next year like a pro. Here is what the mind and body health professionals have to say about the lessons learnt during this unprecedented year and their expert advice to make your 2021 better.

Heidi E. Spear

Author, Meditation teacher and Energy wellness instructor based in California

Her books ‘Ayurveda Made Easy’ and ‘My Pocket Chakra Healing’  are published by Simon & Schuster.

As a meditation teacher, what do you think is the main challenge in recalibrating people after the damage of 2020?

As a meditation teacher, my focus is to help people meet the moment where it is and from where they are, with compassionate awareness. 2020 has been hard on mostly everyone not only for how they and their loved ones have been impacted, but also (due to human empathy and our energetic connection) for how they feel about the toll it has taken on everyone: their neighbors, the healthcare workers, and even people they don’t know throughout the world. What we need to do, even as we are still in the midst of what began in 2020, is to learn and consistently practice meditation so that we can move through our feelings in healthy ways. The challenge comes when we look outside for others to fix things; we have to realize we each have a unique role to play in life as part of the collective whole. Self compassion and compassion for others is the key.

What are the lessons or reflections you have gained from your profession and as an individual during this pandemic?

There have been countless lessons I have gained from my profession and as an individual during this pandemic. The one that is on my mind most often is that – crises heighten both the positive and the negative in ourselves and in our society which allows us to give it all a closer look and make better choices. Remember that choices don’t only refer to our actions. They refer to what we think, say, and do. Every thought, word, and deed effects our lives and contributes to the energetic and evolution of our world. This pandemic has shown how powerful human connection truly is. Just as important is noticing where we can improve; we also must have and share gratitude for the positive aspects we see in ourselves, in others, and in our world. Then, we move forward with compassion in our choices. It just has to happen step-by-step.

What advice would you give to make 2021 a better year?

My advice to make 2021 a better year would be first to notice all the good that came out of 2020 for you. 2020 has been extremely challenging. Finding gratitude can help you cultivate hope and resilience. Meditation is important because it takes us to a place where we can find gratitude and where we can assess and refuel our energy. From there, we know what we need, we can learn to show up well for ourselves and others and we will be able to see all the good that is happening alongside suffering. Seeing the good in ourselves and others and being grateful helps stay afloat. We can do this! I believe in wisdom, in love, and in the warmth of human heart: and this is the space where we need to continue to reside.

Dr. Amanjot Sandhu

Medical doctor based in London

(MBBS, MRCGP)

How do you think 2020 has affected the mindset of medical health professionals?

2020 has been a challenging year from medical perspective. We have been practicing telephone triage in England for a long time now but it is now accepted as the main form of patient care. Hot hubs were quickly set up in areas where suspected covid patients were triaged and accordingly further care was decided. Hospitals did have coping issues as well and as a result special units were set up here. However, there were issues of staffing and equipment. We have lost a lot of doctors, friends and family members due to this virus. It has certainly affected mental health globally. Overall this has been a very challenging year for medical professionals and is continuing to be. But I would say this has made us stronger, resilient and taught us a lot of things on how to be prepared for future.

What are the lessons you have gained as a doctor during this pandemic?

Viruses are highly infective organisms and have a capacity to mutate fast. For instance the influenza pandemic of 1918 lasted more than 2 years until a vaccine was formed and we still get a wave every year. Vulnerable patients need to be vaccinated each year against the active strain even now. We can have more viruses like this and covid could be one as well. The medical community has realized the need to have a proper strategy to fight any such future pandemic. Quick and effective measure will be required as compared to this time. Public health needs to be more proactive and plan on this from now onwards.

What advice would you give to make 2021 a better year?

Personal hygiene (hand washing, mouth covering) social distancing, self isolation and good ventilation are key to tackle any infections. I believe these should be followed in future and forever.

Anjashi Sarkar

Motivation and Manifestation Coach, Counselor based in Delhi

Miranda House alumni, PhD from Jamia Millia Islamia University

 Author of ‘Voicing Contentious Silences: Other Narratives on History and Society’,

                    ‘Sectarian Politics in North Bengal and North East India’

                    ‘Transformation Targets: Your Pocket Fitbook’

Which prime psychological and behavioral issue you observed in 2020?

Almost 90 percent of people who I have mentored have abandonment issues. That being said, it is not uncommon to find individuals resorting to immoral practices, having frivolous relationships, etc. just to seek validation or to be accepted in a group. There is also a constant indecisiveness when it comes to personal relationships. Again there is lack of consistency (in work) in most people; out of the 53 cases I came across, I found 37-38 people complaining that they have no idea if they’d be able to continue the momentum. They ‘think so’ and that is the problem.

What are the lessons you have gained from your field of work during this pandemic?

I was able to begin sessions immediately after the lockdown was announced. There was a time I had been in the same position as the people I have been helping. My biggest takeaway of 2020 is- -if you are able to inspire people enough, if you’re able to make them realize their true potential, that is undoubtedly a big win. And if you can make them eradicate their fears and allow them to become more compassionate, help them re-evaluate definitions of love and humanity, everyone can motivate themselves enough and help others heal too. For me, I don’t see people as good or bad anymore; I view them as healed or unhealed.

What advice would you give for a smooth glide in 2021?

While 2020 showed us the mirror – taught us the value of food, money, shelter and made us connect with our family more, 2021 could bring a lot of abundance if one takes a lesson from the past and begins working on their mindset. Instead of being reactive, one may choose to be responsive. That should serve most of our purposes since presumptions have mainly been the reasons behind conflict. Everyone counts, every mind counts, every opinion counts, all things matter but little patience, mindfulness, lot more love and compassion, and a bit of empathy have the power to change the world.

Dr. Parvati Halbe

Pediatrician based in Pune, Maharashtra

 (MBBS, MD)

What was the main concern of parents you encountered in 2020? Was there any child development issue because of the pandemic and social isolation?

In the initial phase of pandemic, in the year 2020, as everyone was shocked and scared, parents were more cautious about the health of their young ones. The vaccine issue has been in the discussion since last couple of months. For all age groups in my clients (children brought to me), I have come across problems due to lack of exposure and schools being shut for a very long time. Kids were found lagging in speech development. Some developed wrong habit of watching videos on mobile after the online classes. Their food habits got deranged. Sleep patterns changed and even led to insomnia in some school going children. Adolescent group showed lack of energy in studying and extracurricular activities remained out of reach which also contributed to excessive weight gain in some.

What are the lessons or reflections you have gained from your profession and as an individual during this pandemic?

 Fearful it was last year, 2020, no doubt. But one has to start thinking in broader aspect of humankind – inclusive of other lives on the planet Earth. Implementing our simple guidelines to protect our environment can reduce the further scary situation in future. 2020 has made me reflect on our deteriorating natural resources. We need to look at them in a more responsible manner and use them wisely to spare them for future generations.

What advice would you give to parents and others alike for making 2021 a better year?

Though younger population is spared much from the disease, it is facing side effects of the measures taken to control the disease. I would advise parents should take this opportunity to bond well with children and work on building a healthy lifestyle. Involve children in other healthy exercises at home. Sharing daily chores with them can be an interactive activity. There should be more thought sharing as well as passing experience based knowledge to them.

Amreen Sekhon

Former Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Apollo

Special Educator Counsellor at Strawberry Fields High School, Chandigarh

Ph.D in Psychology

Which mental health issue has been predominant according to you in 2020?

According to a survey done by the University of Exeter in the year 2020, a fifth of people reported having experienced mental health issues and a third people having felt isolated due to the pandemic. The current outbreak has revealed the psychological makeup of the society. Major depressive disorder has been predominant in this year.

What are the lessons or reflections you have gained from your profession and as an individual during this pandemic?

Some of the lessons learnt during this year have been that do not personalize an experience (rather) have self compassion. The current situation is being faced by entire humankind. Hence, do not stop your life and wait for things to fall back in place. Instead, make the best of the time in hand. Secondly, mental illness is not a sign of one’s weaknesses and one should not have to deal it alone. Talk about your mental health and seek help if necessary.

What advice would you give to make 2021 a better year for mental health?

Exercise regularly and practice habits that you thoroughly enjoy and find relaxing. Keep up with your daily routine as much as possible. Have a schedule. Shift your current narrative, focus on the positive. Seek credible information and help when necessary. It is also important to stay connected with your family and friends always.

Published in The Post India on 29.12.2020

OPINION: Are the new Farm Laws solely Punjab’s Problem?

Covid-19 hinterland digest: Lockdown gives Punjab respite from drug menace  | Business Standard News
New farm laws are not solely Punjab’s problem,
only the wind began from Punjab.

The new farm laws have created a major stir and have escalated the farmer protest to a historic pan India People’s Movement. The government claims that the three farm laws are an attempt to invite private players to generate healthy competition along with the mandi system (APMC), and is not a takeover by any corporate house. The centre government’s think tank has been opining vociferously in media that the socio-economic backdrop for MSP has changed with better times in the country and so the policies need a change. Punjab and Haryana has been pin pointed for being complacent to the comfort of MSP and for not reinventing its agriculture in spite of its depleting water table. A new narrative is being fabricated that it is solely Punjab’s problem.

What is Punjab’s problem?

Punjab is certainly aware of water table depletion for a long time now. When India was deficit in grain and foreign exchange to buy from foreign markets Punjab and Haryana were used for the Green Revolution and guaranteed a minimum support price for staples like wheat and rice to usher the country into an era of food abundance. It is because of this that higher fertilizers and pesticides manufactured by private companies made inroads. No alternative agrarian model was provided. The constant rise in input costs have now led Punjab into an economic cul de sac. For a long time the farming community was looking for a bail out of this predicament with the help of centre, by way of MSP on other high value crops ‘in a meaningful manner’ or by subsidies that could help them diversify to food processing. But that never happened. Punjab was already trying to sustain itself and deal with the repercussions of the economic policies of Green Revolution when Modi government chose to bring in these Farm laws. Reinventing agriculture at this point in time is out of question. This raises yet another crucial question: Why did Modi government choose to bring about such drastic changes exactly now? With no new solid alternative model and no transitional phase, the Farm Laws have been bulldozed on the states and certainly Punjab is worst affected since it is a state that primarily depends on agriculture for its revenue.

But then how did one state’s agricultural issue gain pan India momentum? Clearly because the new laws are not solely Punjab’s problem. Here is a deeper analysis:

Liberty vs. Security

Indian farmers clearly understand that individual liberty that the centre government is promising them with the enforcement of farm laws comes by jeopardizing security of farming community. In fact, do the farmers really have the liberty of choosing which private company they want to sell their crop to? Or will the private player choose which farmers crop it wants? The fact is there is no choice but only a façade of choice. It is for this reason the farmers have been asking for the safety net of MSP as a legal provision and not because they are addicted to the ‘allure of MSP’. According to an analysis by ‘The Wire’, farmers across 11 major agricultural states have been denied Rs. 1,900 Crore due to sales below MSP in last two months alone. Moreover, if Indian agriculture is not subsidized it will never be able to compete in the international market.

Powerful tool of Crony Capitalism

The three laws serve as a dangerous tool of crony capitalism which can give rise to heavy hand and monopolistic behavior. Section 13 of The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act (2020) clearly states: “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Central Government, or any officer of the Central Government or the State Government or any other person in respect of anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or of any rules or orders made thereunder.” This is simply outrageous. There is no legal recourse for Indian farmers. In fact, these farm laws together snatch away the basic constitutional rights of Indian citizens empowering the clout of government and big business houses to flourish. Certainly, the Indian farmers have understood the intentions of the current regime. Therefore, these new laws are not solely Punjab’s problem.

Crisis of Confidence

There has been a crisis of confidence in the government and its intentions. Never before did India view autonomous and independent agencies like CBI with skepticism. There was already a simmering distrust in all segments of society because of Modi government’s disastrous decision of demonetization, past rhetoric in Kashmir, CAA protests, frenzy of changing city and institution names, love jihad laws, mob lynching, extreme dip in economy – all of which has now been brought to a boil with these three Farm Laws being framed in a rush, behind the façade of a pandemic. Hence, a pan India movement where the farmers have been joined by various labour, trade and transport unions as well because the sense of fairness has been lost.

To encapsulate, these farm laws are not solely Punjab’s problem. Only the wind began from Punjab.

NUGGETS of LIFE: Fleeting moments turn lessons for a lifetime

Some moments turn into lessons for a lifetime

I fell down, got up and dusted my knees for the third time, and smiled back at my father. That was precisely when he took the photo. Holding it in my hand after all these years now brings that smile back again. I was trying to learn to ride the bicycle. In fact, I was learning the biggest lesson of my life:  Learning to balance and getting back after a fall.

It’s wonderful how photos capture emotions and feelings, freezing them for life.

As I flipped through the album, my fingers lingered along another picture that has made me stop every single time. A little girl, that’s me, is sitting on a chair with a big pink turban on the head. It was my grandfather’s turban and I was posing like a queen. It makes me laugh hard when I see it as a grown up. But did that little girl understand that symbolism? I bet not. There was a powerful lesson that I was taught gradually as a kid. My grandfather was indeed a progressive man and he would often say: “It doesn’t matter what your gender is, what matters is how you honour your turban.”

Years rolled by, and there came my wedding album. I’m smiling through all the pictures. Even during my ‘madhania’ moment. How is it you didn’t cry during your ‘vidaai‘? Some friends and family were pleasantly surprised. I would answer, “Why? Nobody was dead”!

It depends how you look at it. I was embarking on a new phase in life, and starting it with tears wouldn’t be the last thing that I would’ve done. Those moments captured in photos have left a happy impression on my mind and a lesson reassured. Whenever you begin a journey, career or life, begin it with all your heart; let the fate take care of the rest.

Yet, years later when I became a mother and now when my daughter scrolls my phone gallery, full of her pictures, she hugs and cuddles me seeing them. There are pictures of her dancing, posing, celebrating, and playing pranks. I find the whole joy of the world captured in the photos. They too remind me of a lesson, that pure love transcends you to your happy place – to your best version.

Before I close the album, there are many more blank pages to be filled with love, laughter and happiness. As I look ahead, I’m amazed at how these pictures turn a fleeting moment into a memory for a lifetime that not only provides an immediate connect but also serve as pearls of wisdom gathered as life rolls on.

Published in Hindustan Times on 15.10.2020