Drain Bamaged!!

Inspired from Life, Love & Laughter

Pondering Grief

Death is inevitable for every living being. The cycle is known, established, completely predictable, yet it leaves a gaping hole with varying levels of grief. The effect it has on people varies. Grief may be fleeting or intermittent or could last for months and years. It has the effects of stress on the body altering sleep and food routines and inducing sadness. No other inevitable things does what death does and I fail to understand why. The mind thinks of all the happy memories, overlooks any sad ones, criticises oneself for being harsh or unfair at any moment throughout the dead person’s life – the mind in fact exaggerates our wrongs and reactions once the person is gone forever. It , more often than not, finds all the occasions where one could have been kinder to the soul- again diminishing the persons flaws and ballooning up our reaction. This could be because death is a point of no return. Death is the one permanent thing in the ever-changing life. Nothing else is same or permanent for everyone. One might die young or old but the permanency is absolutely impartial. The more time you have known the person and the more time you have shared or the more impact they have had on you, the mourning and grief is more. I’m just repeating an obvious fact. But my quest is to answer why so much grief when the inevitable happens. One cannot go back in time and relive even if the person were to be alive. One might not be able to visit the person for many years, or ever at all, even if the person were to be alive. Yet it affects you. Yes, there might be unfinished business, there might be unsolved quarrels, it might be a sudden accident, it might be the result of a prolonged illness- but life on earth comes with this disclaimer. Absolutely anything can happen any moment. Universal truth. Every being understands this. Yet every being isn’t capable of processing death. It is extremely hard on some, easy on others but rarely does it not leave at least a tiny effect.

Sympathy is much easily explained in most cases – the family lost a resource : be it as form of support, companionship, income, happiness or even for boredom or loneliness. Sympathy exists even in cases where the person was a burden or had been suffering. Which again my mind doesn’t consume easily. If people , even if they die young , have gone through extreme suffering and trauma and in many cases with no chance of recovery, is not better for themselves and all around them that their suffering ends? In those situations shouldn’t sympathy be replaced by relief? Why do we go to any extent possible to keep such people alive? I’m not talking about people who have even a slightest chance of recovery, I am only speaking of those who, for the lack of a better phrase, would remain in a vegetative state. Why does a majority of humankind strive to keep that heart beating?


Which brings me back to the initial question of why is it so hard to let go and accept the basic rule of life? Life and death work similar to Newton’s law of every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Yes , advancement in medicines, safety protocols, tools, and equipment, do keep prolonging lives but nothing achieves immortality. I fear for the earth if and when humanity achieves immortality. In fact that could very well be the end of humanity as immortal beings might not have enough planets to thrive on, so destroying a planet is destroying the life on it. But until then, the law works, every birth eventually needs a death. People who wrote mythology did not assign temples for Brahma, the Creator, the Hindu god who creates life. But they assigned numerous temples for Shiva, the Destroyer, the Hindu god of death. They asked us to celebrate death, feed kith and kin, donate goods and money (in its simplistic essence, without delving into how it has evolved and morphed or gotten worse). They ask us to let go by cremating and dispersing the ashes or burying and letting the earth consume. Each group of humankind has some sort of ritual to not just dispose of the body physically but to bring peace to all those who continue to live. They gave us a process. But human mind transcends the template. Some follow rules without knowing or caring why, some are half baked (either they know portions or they think that they know it all or the process has evolved into being more outwardly than soul-searching) , some abide by it diligently. Does it help in overcoming grief? Probably not. Does it help to mourn properly and bring a symbolic closure to the mourning? To an extent but rarely to the level the elaborate procedures aim to.


Which yet again takes me back to why do we grieve? You grieve when you miss the person, when you think you will miss the person, when you recollect memories. You grieve because you loved. This isn’t based on the predictability of death but based on the quality , or the lack of, of life.

Grief becomes understandable when associated with Life & Love, and not Death. And grief diminishes when life is filled with no regrets.

Does such a basic emotion warrant so many obvious questions? Maybe not.

Did it help me associate grief the right way during a solemn and solitude period of losing a parent? Yes.

Was my dad the best one could ask for? High chances.

Was his family the centre and meaning of his life? Absolutely.

Did he have any family at all other than the 3 women- wife and 2 daughters? Nope.

Still could he annoy the sh*t out of his family? Easy.

Was he well-liked by every single individual who has ever met him? No doubt.

Was he reckless and careless? Always, other than at work.

Was he a major Sivaji Ganesan fan? MGR all the way to the level of a demigod.

Was he someone who never thought ill of anyone and accepted life’s challenges as if it was how it was meant to be? Totally.

Was he someone who always had a ‘Why me?’ when problems arose? Never ever.

Did he ever quit working even when life became easy? No.

Did he know things like greed, envy, hatred? His brain wasn’t wired in that way.

Did he educate his daughters and run his family on a meagre income of waiting tables? Unbelievable.

Did he ever take a sick day off from work? Never.

Was there one place he totally detested and never stepped into? Hospital.

Did he think he was invincible? 100 percent.

Did he die thinking he was invincible? To a large extent.

What was his favourite nut? ‘Pista’chio.

Did he have unfinished business? He lived by the day; with no desires and expectations come no unfinished business.

Did he crave for fancy food or comfort or materialism? Not once – always was simple in thoughts and simple in living.

Did he have an empty mind? Mostly.

Did he have any possessions? None, other than 1 bank account. True Karma Yogi.

Did he live a sustainable life? Most eco-friendly life I have known.

Did he suffer through ill health? For 3 weeks. The only time he was in a hospital.

Did he die peacefully? Enviably peaceful.

Do I wish it was any different? Not at all.

Do I miss him? …

Vishuddhi 2019 & 2020

The past 2 years have been difficult for people but that did not stop the spirit of giving. With contributions from the Patnekars, my all time support system for Vishuddhi, and all of the friends who chose to give money instead of a birthday gift for the children, Vishuddhi could support 31 students in 2019 and 25 students in 2020. As always each student received Rs.2000 for the academic year in an effort to help them pay the fee. With no India trips possible, there are no pictures to share but the joy of the students who received the scholarships does fill up our hearts.

Try a Tri

Just what was I thinking when I signed up for an ocean swim? I have new found respect for surfers and lifeguards now. Let me explain.

So, I learnt to swim as an adult but I moved out of the country soon after I started lessons that I did not get around to become a confident swimmer. Fast forward to the summer of 2019 and I joined a pool to build on it (in reality it is way too hot to run in summers and this was my excuse to cool off during lunch!). I went from taking 3 breaks for 1 lap (50m) to swimming 22 laps without a break by the end of 3 months – swimming once or twice a week. When I went to the Great Barrier Reef (read about it here) in mid 2019, I was one confident woman. When I was learning to swim, the part of the pool where the depth was greater than my height terrified me. When I scuba dived over 40 feet underwater that fright was no where to be seen. I was happy to have overcome it. But there was another fear that still lingered. That fear doesn’t kick in when you scuba. You in-fact don’t even have to be a swimmer to scuba – all you need to learn is to breathe through your mouth instead of your nose. You will learn it right away because the mask blocks your nose. By instinct you will breathe through your mouth and that’s all it takes. (Why haven’t you read that piece yet?? Go now!)

Fast forward to the end of 2019. I see a Triathlon (Swim,Bike,Run) event with a Try a Tri option. It is a super mini triathlon for people to try their hand (or should I say leg?) at it. For people where the full Tri of 1.5 kilometer (0.93 mile) swim + 40km (25 mi) bike (bicycle) + 10 km (6.2 mi) run seems / is hard. This mini one comprises of a mere 200 m swim + 7 km bike (bicycle) + 2 km run (all you non metric folks please convert to miles). Hmm, seems easy I thought. Run and bike- I was sure I’d be ok – haven’t we all biked extensively at some point in our lives? School, tuition, group study? Maybe it is a scooter now, I don’t know, but my friends and I used bicycles in school. Run of 2km is easy too – running is the only thing I do to keep fit, I cant fail in that. Swim? Hmm. I should be ok – I don’t take breaks in the pool for over 1 km. Sea is choppy and not calm like the pool but how worse can it be? I sign up.

Its summer again; its pool time again. After a month I go to the ocean. Was a slightly windy day. Slightly. There’s a buoy about 100 m from the shore. I think 100m but could have been less or more. I grab a friend to come along with me as I am not confident in the open waters. A pool me and an ocean me are 2 different people altogether. Remo and Ambi literally (Tamil movie Anniyan reference) – split personality disorder.

My friend sees I am stressed and brings along a boogie board / body board. I start, I look into the water as I go in and out of my stroke, I see the ocean floor through the clear blue water – guess what, I am not scared. But I am tired and out of breath halfway – my fear of the open waters is not creatures lurking around; not the depth; not anything external – my fear is my (in)capability to swim. My death will not be due to a shark but due to my inability to breathe long enough to survive. My lungs and my panic were inversely proportional – as my lungs grew weaker, my panic grew stronger. I pleaded to my friend that I wanted to go back, that I cant hold up any longer. She pushed the boogie board to me and asked me to take a break. The pool has walls, the ocean just has death! I held on tight and filled up my lungs. We swam ahead with the board under my left arm to the buoy. A break again. Swam horizontally to the next buoy, break again. Swam back vertically to the shore – all with the board under one arm. All in all it would have been about 250 m I think. But, boy it showed me were I stood as a swimmer – where I sank as a swimmer! 2 hours later, we attempt the feat again. Same path, same friend, same boogie board. This time I learn to relax. The waves still gave me too much water to drink but I manage to get to the buoy in 1 go then take a break by holding onto the board. Next buoy and a break again. Back to the shore. This time all the swimming without the board. This time as the lungs grew tired and as the salt water increased the panic, I drew a deep breath, slowed down my kicks and breathed out. Calm down and repeat. Not in my wildest dreams have I thought of such a use case for mindfulness. (My new year resolution should have been Yoga.) But what in the world was I thinking? How and why did I sign up for the tri even before trying out an ocean swim? Total insanity; pure absurdity. Mid ocean while taking a break my friend asks me if I will still participate in the event. My mind is shooting these why questions at me but I respond with a Yes. Why just why?

And then I knew why. Old age and then death is boring. Disease and then death is worse. Disease followed by suffering and then death: the worst – I’ll migrate to a pro euthanasia country if I fall terribly sick. Adventurous death is fun. When I booked a Malaysian airlines flight after the disappearance of MH370, people were shell shocked. But if I were to die, this was way better. (No offence to the families affected – I am in no way trying to belittle the trauma but merely stating an opinion that concerns just me.) When the Jungle surfing zip line that I did just 2 months before (you’d know from, you guessed it right, the same Great Barrier Reef story) snapped and a man fell to his death from 23 feet in a rain forest, people asked me if I would do it again. I said yes. The fun outweighs the risk according to me. The idea might change as I grow older (read maturer) but for now lets say that I like thrills. But the only difference is that in other cases like extreme rides or jumps, death is a possibility with low probability as it depends on the equipment being faulty or of poor quality, but here in the ocean it has an extremely high probability because it is dependent just on me – not my equipment nor my thrill seek, just me. I don’t think I have faced such a situation before where I could see my dead body lying on the bottom of the sea floor each time I go into the water for a stroke (and yes, for some reason, mysteriously moving along the floor as I swim on 😛 )! But I said ‘Yes, I will participate’. And then I knew why, loud and clear, – because I am stupid. STUPID.

A month later we attempt the feat again to see if I have improved at all. Deep inhale and exhale was definitely the way to go and this time I finish the entire distance without a break! (about 200-250 m I reckon- not much you see!). And it is fascinating how a calm mind can keep you afloat and also put in good things into your head – I was thinking just the opposite of last time. Last time I was questioning my insanity for this participation, this time I was thanking my participation. If not for this event, I would have never ventured out into the sea for a swim. I would have never crossed the place and depth where my head is not out of the water when standing. It is such an essential skill to be able to swim in the open water in places where there is an abundance of lakes and rivers and beaches and if not for the Try a Tri, I would have just been a haughty pool swimmer. Not a good or fast one but still full of hubris!

The rest of the summer rolled over with rainy weekends . But the first day of autumn was scorching hot – extended summer due to global warming did not spare even Antarctica from heat waves. I went to the beach again, for a swim before the event. Even before I reached the beach, I could hear the waves crashing. Turns out a hot day is not enough, the wind god needs to be on your side too! Not one person was swimming – correction, not even one wise person was swimming but we have already, in detail, established that I am not one of them. More than I swam, I drank the salt water and came back with a full bladder that day.

Two weeks in, COVID-19 cases reach 100 and the fate of all events were hanging on the pandemic. 2 more weeks in, when it was 4000 cases in this country, the Triathlon committee reluctantly announced that they will postpone the event because the Government announced that 2 is a company, 3 is a crowd . Note how the tone of the postponement was not for public safety but due to regulations. They were trying to find ways to conduct the event with participants in groups less than 500 just a week earlier when the Government announced a ban of outdoor gathering of greater than 500. 500 to 2 did not take long, did it? (Funny how we can react so quickly to the virus because it has a direct and immediate wrath unlike climate crisis although it causes much more deaths every year is not treated with the same mentality. Just this year, unprecedented scale of Australian bush fires caused 400 deaths; at the time of writing COVID-19 had caused 23 in this country. I understand that it is the sudden and expedited burden on health care systems, more than deaths, that make us react in jet speed but will we learn to apply these lessons later? Or will we go back to old ways? A great short video on it here. ) Anyway the point is, I started writing this piece as a suicide note to be posted the night before the event but my drown date got postponed and this can’t sit in my drafts indefinitely!

Left: My state 😛 ; Right: Farewell Gift from my Work Team Rockstars

Also, this post would be incomplete if I don’t mention my friend, colleague, and self-appointed coach, Bas. He was more excited than I was when he heard about my registration! He charted out a training plan immediately after. I wasn’t even sure if I needed to train!! Swim yes – I thought I needed open water practice but bike and run – for mere 7 km and 2 km – pffffftt, I was chilled out. I knew that I’d come through them easy. He knew too. But that is precisely what he dint want me to do – do it comfortably. He wanted me to be close to collapsing when I finish – that is when you know you have given it your best shot and expect a PB (Personal Best). He had seen me complete a 10k the year before, below my race pace, and how close to puking I was as I crossed the finish line. That’s what he wanted; the best I can. He set out interval training in the water and on the road and I was shocked to see 6 days per week of training. Knowing my laziness and non-motivation to exercise, he showed me some empathy and changed the program to be 3 days per week of training – 1 activity per week (pool swim one day; bike one day; run one day; 4 days rest 😀 ). He said that was the bare minimum. I was happy that only signed up for this mini triathlon and not a longer distance. If he charts out plans for such a mini event, imagine how much more enthusiastic he would have been for longer events!! He derives pleasure in training people (or should I say torturing people?)! He trained his mate for the Austrian Iron man with a gruelling program that helped him in a sub 12 hour finish – that is 3.8 km swim + 180.2 km bike + 42.2 km run (a whole marathon after swim and bike) in under 12 hours! He himself is a retired triathlete and knows all about the sport(s). His energy and enthusiasm is so contagious that more than giving it my best shot, I want to make him proud! I want to see him beam with joy. Many a day when I feel bored to go for a run or bike, I do it solely not to see his disappointed face. For the beautiful earthling that he is, he needs to be bright and smiling always!

Anyway, would non-essential mass gathering events happen end of the year without a vaccine in place? Now, that is no motivation to keep training 😉 So, I’ll wait, on the couch, and watch.

The Great Barrier Reef

The best holiday yet! In love with Cairns (pronounced cans, plural for can), a city from where you can go to the reef and also drive to the Daintree Rainforest. This place was the on the top of my Oz list since many years and it certainly lived up to my yearning! The reef can be reached easily from Cairns or Port Douglas (1 hour drive north of Cairns). We obviously picked Cairns because of its contorted pronunciation!

Reef Magic Cruise – A ferry that takes you to a pontoon built in the middle of the reef where you disembark and tour the reef. Many operators offer this cruise. It is popular as it had something for everyone : Scuba Dive, Snuba Dive (Hybrid between Scuba and Snorkel where a oxygen cylinder floats on the surface of the water and is connected to your mask via a pipe. Pipe is 3 metres long – so that’s the maximum depth one can go), Snorkeling, Helmet Dive (if you don’t want to get your hair wet but yet be under water!), Under water Observatory (for people who don’t want to leave the pontoon), Glass Bottom Boat, and Semi Submersible taking you on 30 minute rides around the reef (was a hit with the kids).
I went on the Snuba dive first. Wore the mask (the MASK, of course the mAsK, brilliance, they had prescription masks on board! In all different powers. Yes, I checked that before booking the cruise. Duh! What is a dive if you can’t see anything? Bath!) and got into the water for instructions. After learning how to breathe through it, I popped my head under water to try. I did not get it right and drank a bit of water instead of exhaling! I panicked and popped out. The instructor straight away said what was wrong and I tried again. I was ok. I took my head out and told him that I wanna try once more before we went in. I felt confident the third time around and there was no looking back.
You see, panic is a natural feeling when you have learnt to swim only as an adult and haven’t swum in the ocean before. I don’t consider Snorkeling in the ocean as an experience for not being scared as I was wearing a life jacket and was only floating on the surface when I did that a couple of years ago. It was natural that I wanted to be perfectly sure of the breathing technique because it was the oxygen cylinder that would keep me going for 40 minutes. What was unnatural was that this fear did not kick in when I signed up for the dive. Two dives, in fact. When on board the ferry I heard about the different dive options. The depth of the ocean did not scare me – I have always feared water because of the duration of the swim- because I would get tired and breathing would become hard. But with constant oxygen supply, there was no end to my excitement! And when they said 1 dive for $130 and 2 dives for $200 I grabbed the ‘offer’. (moonu pathu ruba pazhakkam!) Whats more, when the divers told me that I did not need to know to swim to dive, I ensured that my husband, who isn’t a swimmer, signed up for 2 dives too! Fear, what is fear?

Regulated breathing, easy flutter kicks, soaking in the beauty of the place – oh boy, I did not want this to end. Looking at the clown fish swimming in and out of their anemones was like watching Finding Nemo live! Reef tourism is strict on safeguarding the unique biodiversity and has numerous sustainable and eco guidelines. Starting with the sun-cream which they advice to use marine friendly ones, not over feeding the fish (operators are allowed to feed upto 1 kg of food to the fish per day, just dead fish and not pet food which would mimic their usual feeding habit and would not make them dependent on the tour operators during off season as the quantity of feed is less), not touching any of the corals or the fish lest our body chemicals harm them, and so forth. While all the visitors diligently followed the rules, what irked me was when the instructor petted a giant Humphead Maori Wrasse, Wally, that came to swim along with us. Apparently this fish loves people and was swimming all around the divers the whole time; so close that I was scared that I’d touch it accidentally but it seemed to know the safe distance and we mutually respected each other’s personal space. I was also petrified that my flippers might touch the corals and kept trying to swim further away from the ocean floor. Swimming up was easy with Snuba, all you had to do was hold onto the oxygen pipe and hoist yourself up a little.
I jumped aboard the semi submersible next to see sea cucumbers and crown of thorns starfish (the coral eaters) and more varieties of corals. It was time for my 2nd dive – Scuba. Woohoo!

Clockwise from top left: Branching corals (3); Snuba with Wally; Barramundi cod; Aerial shot of the Reef

The instructor said that during peak season he would take up to 4 people in one dive and he usually does four dives a day. It was just the beginning of the season and only three people had opted for Scuba that day so he decided that he’d take us all separately. All of us were pretty stoked about getting a private diving session! As soon as the instructor and I went in there came Wally. He let go of my hand when reached the bottom, about 40 feet, 12 metres, and asked me to follow him to see the marvellous beauty on the ocean floor, the multicoloured clams, vibrant corals, vivid parrot fish and all that you see on Nat Geo!

Clockwise from top left: School of parrot fish; Sea cucumber; Seafan coral; Brain coral
Wally, the massive Humphead Maori Wrasse, sharing the meloncholy of the bleaching / bleached corals

He took me through the nooks and crevices. By this time I was sure of the distance between the floor and my flippers and I wasn’t that scared of hitting the corals with them. He let me explore and as I swam further, we came to a place of melancholy from magnificence. The bleached corals. The coral graveyard. I felt a deep sense of apology in me towards those animals, yes, corals are animals and not plants, and my mind began a mutter – I’m really sorry; sorry that we are speeding up our mother Earth’s age; sorry that we are in turn speeding up your demise; sorry that we are destroying your habitat at an unprecedented rate; sorry that we are not letting you regenerate and reproduce at your pace; I know the planet goes through evolution every thousands and millions of years but sorry that we are dramatically altering the climate and exponentially advancing the doom; sorry that we think that we are superior to all other Earthlings; sorry for being parasites, and more than anything sorry for not feeling sorry, blaming it on others and nature , and denying our actions. Months later even when Australia would see catastrophic wild fires, Africa will see dreadful floods, America will see stronger hurricanes, we and the governments will still turn a blind eye.

Lost in thought, looking at the faint glimmer of hopeful corals regrowing, I saw a Whitetip Reef Shark swim past, meters away from me. In no time, my diving instructor was next to me tugging my elbow to swim in the opposite direction. He’d later tell me that though harmless it is always safe to stay away from a shark.

Clockwise from Left: Clam; Clown Fish; Whitetip Reef Shark

After a Glass Bottomed boat ride, an exclusive ocean kiddie pool swim, lunch with sumptuous vegan options, fish feeding (remember the 1kg fish from above?) with a marine biologist and an insight into Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS), we were back at the Cairns jetty at 6 pm for the happening Cairns night market (so unheard of in Australia!).

Daintree River

Cape Tribulation (it is closer from Port Douglas than Cairns) was the following day. We went on a peaceful Daintree river cruise to see crocodiles basking in the sun, dozing owls, snakes dangling in the mangroves and river turtles playing about. Next up was Jungle Surfing. Why walk through the oldest, continually surviving rainforest when you can zip line through it, 23 feet above the ground? As a bonus we got to see the rare combination of a rainforest merging into the white sandy beach and flowing through to the fringing reefs. We did not get to see a Cassowary, fair enough though- it is an endangered species!

Daintree Rainforest, beach, and reef; Jungle Surfing

Can’t recommend this place enough! Just remember, you don’t need to know to swim to di(v)e!

 

Built to be Broken

Ever heard of a piñata? A cardboard toy stuffed with chocolates and other tiny wasteful single use plastic stuff ? I saw it for the first time only a couple of years ago in a birthday party. Kids hit it with a stick until it breaks open to get the goodies. Sounds like fun in a convoluted way! This beautiful piece is built only to be broken. How very wasteful.

 

 

 

 

 

Party favours and return gifts and Christmas Bon Bons (a.k.a Xmas Cracker) – those miniature, so called toys, similar to what a piñata has.

I have been looking for a piggy bank for my child in many stores now. I don’t find any that can be opened and closed. I only find those which have to be broken to take the money out. Break the bank in literal terms. What do I do if I want only a part of my savings? What do I do if I want to start saving again after spending this? Why is that I need to buy a new one each time I want some money out of it?

 

 

Single use plastic cutlery with elaborate designs and colours – ends up in landfill after just 1 meal. And we all jolly well know that they last forever. Worse still, they disintegrate and become so tiny that marine animals mistake them for food.

 

 

 

 

Packs of bite sized snacks individually wrapped encased in a big plastic pack- more plastic packaging than the actual snack in it. The concentric circles of the convenient consumerist (well… not exactly concentric but you get the idea). And we not only use them while out and about but even at home. When did taking out a portion of a snack in a bowl become hard?

 

 

 

 

 

 

We grow animals to kill (for food). They live to die.

 

 

 

 

 

Fast fashion – do I even need to explain? We all fall prey to the cheap prices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift wrapping paper and the numerous embellishments and ribbons – all torn apart in a minute. Why does the gift have to look good and hidden for those few minutes where it exchanges hands? This again was something new to me. When my sis and I were young we used to carefully open up the wrapper so that we could reuse that for another gift that we would give. Never have we torn a wrapper – why spend on a wrapper when you can put that extra wrapper money into the gift was our logic. But it’s different now and for good reason- it’s super cheap and no one thinks twice about the waste it creates (read chopped trees too). And the (sticky / cello) tape on it renders even the plain paper ones non-recyclable.
Glitter – I just can’t wrap my head around this. How is this even a thing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to get going with alternatives or not wrap them up at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Riddle family mansion’s caretaker, Frank, who goes to check on the sounds in the abandoned Riddle household gets killed in the first scene. His character was built to be killed-his screen time was shorter in the movie than the book. His character was a single use plastic. (I don’t agree to the term disposable plastic. It isn’t – you dispose it out of your hands, but it remains on the earth forever.) Voldemort on the other hand lived for so long, horcux was a smart reusability idea, and died only when the last of his life (fragmented soul) and use on the planet died!

Now don’t fire at me saying that to create a horcrux he needed to do terrible things and be wasteful of other lives. This is just an analogy without a backstory set in a utopian world 😉. Ok, take our t-shirts becoming hand me downs, quilts/braided rugs, kai thuni (tea towel?), and a rag until it begs for mercy as an alternative to the horcruxes!

At the cost of sounder like a boomer, I feel sad about the things whose sole purpose is to be destroyed. And the fact that we derive happiness from the destruction. Fun and Convenience is phasing out things built to last. And the consumer in us only tosses out things that break instead of trying to fix them. Manufacturers too don’t make it repairable. We get into the infinite loop of buy-break-buy for most things we own.
So, do we renounce life and live like a monk?? (People generally go the extremes and ask such questions when you talk sense, don’t they?) Nope, but we could be more mindful of what we buy and how we use them. We could think if it has spent more time on the manufacturing floor and the store shelves than in our hands. We could see if there are alternatives. We could learn about the 7 Rs (3 Rs are of the past!) –  Do we really need it? Can we say no? Can we reduce the consumption? Can we horcrux it? Can we cast it as another (Warwick Davis was the Charms Professor and also Goblin Griphook in the Harry Potter movie series)? Can we safely give it another life? Can it become manure to our soil? Can we be kinder to our home, our earth?

Not affiliated with the company, Aeromatico, but leaving the name on for credits.

Disclaimer: This post is not to say that ‘Hey, look at me, am zero waste, am the best’. I am just being a mindful observer and am inspired by zero waste / less wasteful living.
But I should add that I get super proud when people ask my child what he wants for his birthday and he responds – could you please donate to a charity?

First World Syndrome

The world’s plagued with poverty, war, terrorism, humanitarian crisis and what not but my colleagues and friends bicker about their everyday problems with so much intensity that led me to write this. This list is in no way referring to all the developed nations of the world or even the majority of the population of any country. I only seek to poke fun at and question some of the thoughts and ways of privileged people of the first world and the first world problems! If this post offends you, am afraid, you are one of the snobs described below, my friend 😉

Untoasted Unbuttered Banana Bread
First of all, yeah, Banana Bread – it’s a rage which is essentially bread with banana pulp as one of its ingredients. I was caught munching on one and people who saw this debacle were alarmed that I hadn’t buttered and toasted it. That’s when I coined this title, obviously borrowing from the term ‘3rd world Countries / problems’, after their passionate speech of how best to eat it. Why would you want to lather fat on top of this rich sugary bread and then crib about the amount of calories?

Multiple Cars
Yeah, you’d think that multiple cars would be a solution to a problem of multiple people getting around to multiple places. But no, let’s carve a problem out of it. My workplace implemented a parking policy due to limited car parking spaces for the growing workforce. One had to register their car plate number and nominate 4 out of 5 weekdays they wanted a spot – people were either expected to take the public transport on the last day or work from home. So the company tried solving the issue by offering the employees a work from home day – solution! But it was registering ‘a’ car plate number that was the problem. How to just pick ‘a’ car when people have kids’ child care / school drop offs and pick ups and how only 1 car has the car seat (It is mandatory for a child to be in a car seat until a stipulated age or physical growth) and how they don’t want to put in a car seat in their premium car which they drive on the days of no drop-offs / pick-ups (if you haven’t figured out why – to keep the car clean of course. No food crumbs and pukes in an expensive car!). Seriously??

Change Rooms
‘The change room’s disgusting; I found a couple of strands of hair in the wash basin – God knows when they cleaned it last.’
Just amazing to look at what the first world can take for granted which is a luxury elsewhere. No proper toilets at home / village is a violation of human rights but here we complain about a slightly dirty sink. People would have obviously dried their hair with the hair dryer next to sink after taking a shower in the change room using soaps and shampoos provided for free in the showers and after hanging their towel to dry in the drying area that has a fan running the whole day.
Wowie, could you please ask the girls on overnight bus trips dreading to go to the filthy toilets when the bus stops for loo breaks and ask them how they avoid liquid intake to avoid peeing and ask them about how, in the extreme situations of having to go, especially in a western style toilet, they hover just above the commode in an angular squat position somehow aiming it into the bowl, holding the clothes but no part of the exposed body ever touching the bowl? And now imagine the filth if it drives us this insane.
I think the best bit of having seen a tough life is the gratitude that comes with it when you get a better life. And which makes many more issues seem real petty and teaches not to take things for granted. Because once we start taking things for granted, we start complaining – some times silently with a sigh and a nod and sometimes verbally and thinking that we being just us is a favour to this world.

Entitlement
This is in line with taking things for granted and feeling totally entitled. The feeling of everything on the Earth is just to serve us; the constant urge to have the latest gadgets and updated decor (thereby increasing the amount of things thrown out whilst in perfect usable condition); the impatience while waiting to be served if not given the priority – “my coffee took forever. I was behind a 100 people, so annoying”. This is what would have given a few counties the title of ‘First World’ and many others the ‘3rd World’. Downright audacious!

Plastics
Specially the Easy-Go Pouches. Tiny packs of biscuits, yogurt, munchies, dips, tetra packs of 100-200 ml of milk/ pouches of flavoured ones are common on the supermarket shelves and in turn the shopping trolleys. The marketing of ease-of-use of these increases the plastic usage per person and no wonder 1st world’s usage (of anything in general!) is way higher than developing nations’ though these privileged countries only have a fraction of the population in comparison. How much easier is it, comparatively, to buy smaller packs than to buy regular / big sized ones and apportioning them into boxes? A few minutes a day is what the difference would be, I think, but I guess it is worth all the extra trash that we won’t generate. As long as it is available, people would buy. There has to be restrictions from the industries and governments. Restrictions without loopholes – like how now in many cities in India there is a total plastic ban and if you forget your bags while shopping you pay for ‘cloth’ bags but if you were in the same situation in Oz, you can still buy a ‘plastic’ bag. What sort of ban is this? Obviously plastic being cheaper than cloth, people now are used to buying them over the more expensive cloth ones. Because the stores claim that they are made of recycled plastic and are recyclable they get away. But how many get to the recycling plant? Isn’t cloth longer lasting? Isn’t it cheaper in the longer run to stick to cloth bags production than produce, process, and recycle plastic?

A ban without loopholes is what 1st world needs and it looks to me on the outset that it is harder to get the politicians and citizens of the developed world on board in comparison to the developing world, which could partly be due to the earlier topic of feeling of being entitled to an easy, great quality life. I have lived in Europe and though they too are in the 1st world league, they don’t come across as resistant to change; they are willing to embrace the change the earth demands. Most of the countries in the EU are far ahead in this game of sustainability, renewable energy and the like. Again as stated in the beginning I only want to highlight the sections of the society that suffer from the 1st world syndrome!

Honking

People follow road rules to the T that honking is considered rude. I can only imagine their plight if they were to visit a country like India or Pakistan! No honk would be a disrespect. You don’t exist if you don’t honk! But it makes total sense if you think about it – people here honk only if the person in front of them makes a mistake on the road. So the honking is justified when no road rules are followed 😉

Fitness

This part of the world is generally a place where people pay for their gym memberships and USE the god-damn gym! So unheard of from where I hail!
And not just 1 gym membership – multiple memberships for gyms near home and near work place or go a level up with Fitness Passports that allow you to use any gym in the city. Crazy, eh? I have only known people who sign up on new year every year, as part of the new year’s resolution, buy great gym clothes but never see that place ever after day 1. Same story year on year  but with new clothes every year as the previous year’s one don’t fit anymore – yeah must have gone to the gym!

I will have to agree that this is a good problem to have though! People want to be fit and age isn’t a deterrent – they workout, run / bike into work, enrol in group classes etc. It is good to be bitten by this bug!

 

Though I write about problems, the most common phrase, at least in Oz, is ‘No Worries’. Absoloodly! Except for trivial things. Global warming? No worries – more beach days. Climate Change – USA’s President says that they don’t believe in it – so No worries. (In fact the new physicist leading Trump’s Environmental Board says CO2 emissions are good. What the!!!) Ozone depletion? No worries – SPF50+ sun cream. Not segregating waste properly? No worries – the council will sort it out.

But veggies are slightly out of shape? Chuck them out. Some one honks? Let out an audible shock. Rain slows the traffic down? Crib the whole day. Public transport interruption? Make that the breaking news and blame how badly it has been handled. Something’s on sale? Buy it even if you don’t need it.

It is a funny world, this one, where different demographics, different geographies have different priorities and different levels of tolerance / offensive subjects. I wonder at some, laugh at some and crib about some. In fact problems are like Newton’s 1st law of thermodynamics (yeah 1st law not the 3rd!) – Problems can neither be created nor destroyed; problems can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.

These are just a few, mind you, do let me know if I can add to this list!

Vishuddhi 2018

Yet another gratifying day of the year when I get the opportunity to meet and provide some help to a handful of students. 37 Students from The Children’s Garden Higher Secondary School, between classes 6 and 12, received educational scholarships of Rs.2000 each through Vishuddhi on the 20th of November 2018 due to the contributions of, the ever supportive Rohit Patnekar and Family, and my friends (Prasanth, Divya, N Crew, E Crew, Akhila, Sonam). Thank you, people!

Vishuddhi 2016 & 2017

With immense support from the Patnekars, Sonal Matai and family, and a friend Rajkumar Chandru, Vishuddhi helped 35 students in 2017 by awarding them scholarships of Rs.2000 each.

MRC Nagar Corporation School also received a sum of Rs.10000 as part of Teach for India initiative to help improve extra-curricular activities.

In 2016, again with their support, the below beneficiaries received monetary support.

Building fund for The Cuckoo Forest School – Rs. 10,000

Exam Kits for rural children – Rs. 10,000

Science Laboratory Renovation of the Children’s Garden Higher Secondary School – Rs. 25,000

No pictures but thank you, people 🙂

 

Conquer Plastic

This is a ‘Plastic Ocean’ documentary inspired post. Highly recommend watching it to realise the magnitude of our Plastic Problem.

Plastics are choking up our planet at an alarming pace. We have, almost involuntarily, fallen into this vicious plastic Chakravyuh without a way out. I say involuntarily because manufactures have gone the plastic way to make business cost-effective and we are, in most cases, left with little or no choice. But we still have time to mend our ways; we still can ask industries to be earth-friendly; we still can spread the word.

We could start tackling the ‘disposables’ first. A total con of a word!  Dispose it after one use but where? Earth is our home and backyard; there is no place called ‘away’ to chuck these. They all end up in a landfill and most of them find their way to the ocean. The enormity of this issue is perfectly captured in the Plastic Ocean. (Links to the Film trailer)
Tuvalu, once an island paradise, is dying a plastic death. The pristine blue waters of the oceans around the world are layered with tiny microplasctics, called nurdles, micro-beads, and disintegrated plastics. These look like food for the fish. These fish pass on the harmful effects of plastics up the food chain – so much so that it is even affecting the dolphins’ reproductive system. And on top of the food chain is us, humans.

Countless water bottles, straws, non-recyclable plastic bags, take-away containers, food tubs of butter and yogurt, that we throw end up in the ocean. It rests on us to make the alternative choice. I do agree that just our choices are insufficient to address this without a large-scale movement and involvement of governments but we could do our bit. And the perk for us is, though convenient, plastics – even the BPA free ones are anyway not good for our health.

Facts on how it affects us here: https://www.plasticoceans.org/the-facts/ and https://www.plasticoceans.org/infographic-ocean-pollution-affects-humans/

It’s seems tough at first to not buy any more of the tupperwares, to carry own coffee mugs but eventually that would become a habit. Say No to anything that’s single use to begin with. Say No to plastic cutlery, straws and water bottles. Carry your own. Buy bigger servings of food tubs. Opt for wooden toys over plastic and once the child outgrows donate (plastic specially) and do not trash them. Don’t cling wrap food – use containers with lid instead. While shopping, choose products with the least packaging. If you get grocery in plastic bags, use them to line your bin and don’t buy separate bin bags. Switch to glass and steel boxes. Don’t buy cosmetics with micro-beads (face washes and toothpastes are the most prominent offenders). Carry your own mug for coffee; if that isn’t possible, please say no to the lid. New parents, give reusable cloth nappies a try. Ladies, give menstrual cup a go. Segregate trash. Find if your community has a recycling program that you can participate in– for example : Colgate has the Oral Care Recyling Program is many countries to recycle anything related to toothpastes and brushes as they are not recyclable in the usual government operated program. Check out various other recycling programs at https://www.terracycle.com and see if it is available in your country.

Ask companies not to wrap couriers in enormous packages. Sign the petition here – https://www.change.org/p/amazonnews-in-flipkart-commit-to-ecofriendly-delivery-50-less-plastics-plasticfreedelivery

Think of all the aspects of your daily life where you can substitute plastic with earth friendly choices and encourage your family and community to follow them. Please do share your ideas that can help others. Every aspect of plastic in our lives might not change overnight or not even in totality over time but we could begin somewhere. The animals and the earth deserve better.

PO_tips_infographic_v5

Picture Source: https://www.plasticoceans.org/the-facts/

Giving Common Cold its due credit

We talk about finding cure to so many dreadful diseases out there and fear their onslaught but the humble ‘Common Cold’ is too a disease without a medicine or cure. Think about it, all your chest rubs, Vitamin Cs and Ds, decongestants, throat lozenges, off-the-counter drugs, home remedies etc. can help relieve a blocked nose or control the symptoms but they actually don’t cure. Scientists have left it to the body to fight it and destroy it and build immunity against it because, one – each cold is caused by a different strain of virus (unless Bacterial infection) and two – majorly because it is not deadly. But it can get very annoying and strain you out. People would laugh at you if you take a day off work / study ‘just’ due to a cold! But let me tell you it is not as simple as it sounds –

I was heavily pregnant, looking like a ‘Deathly Hallow’ with legs. The resurrection stone (uterus) had squished all the lungs, stomach, chest, pancreas, and there was just a small part of elder wand (oesophagus) left. An entire course of antibiotic did not cure it and was fearing that one of those from-the-bottom-of –stomach coughs would just pull my lungs off of me. Had my child not come out the downward passage in time, am pretty damn sure he would have come out of my throat and mouth with one of the coughs. He was anyways closer to this passage than the other one! We have heard stories of delivering while peeing, imagine delivering with a cough or a puke! How simple!

And know what annoys me further – apparently blowing your nose in public is not a decent thing to do. Whoever came up with this brilliant rule! If that’s the case I would have to move my desk to the loo permanently during a bout of cold. My theory is simple right – I blow out as much as mucus I can from my nose into the tissue every time the nose fills up rather than letting it go down the throat and cause phlegm. It is already as crowded as Silk Road Junction and why to put in more and more into that narrow strip? And since the wind pipe is so full you have heart burn when you eat a good meal – they just honk their way down the strip – burp, burrrrrp, burrppp, buuurp, screech and when they have travelled the entire distance they park at the destination again by honking – farfarfarfarttt. But the brilliant rule again – we can’t fart in public right? You suppress it to let out a pssssss (nishabhdham prana sankatam!) and offer others around you your tissue – I mean a clean one! Yeah gross to read and grosser to hear the nose motor run throughout the day but who cares? Not me; I guess my French neighbour at work does cause he was complaining that he too caught cold now – courtesy ‘You Know Who’. But guess who is blowing the nose now? Heeheehaa!

There’s another thing with cold – your body destroys the virus on its own and usually at the end of the war it raises the temperature to burn it alive inside you. So fever after a cold is a good thing, yes? Not in my case. My body is so laid back that I don’t get fever! While at school I used to so proud that I never took days off due to fever because I never got one but now I yearn for it. My body just fights the Mahabharat war for 18 long days instead of going the nuke way and blowing them up. Two of the greatest world leaders, the greatest this world has ever seen, (well probably a close second to the best world Führer) are Pro-nuke and that’s something to learn from. Or the body at least could do some missile testing just to keep the other viruses on their toes – but no, it chooses non-violence. So boring and old school. And after about a 12-day relief, which is the remaining days in a month, my son passes on a new virus from day care onto me and the vicious cycle begins. During winter, it just signs a peace treaty and co-exists with all the virus colonies. Open immigrant policy you see; just that these are illegal ones!

 

P.S: The last sentence is a light-hearted one and I am no way drawing parallels being an immigrant myself.

The Repercussions

Part 2 of the previous post The Hand.

Fast forward a few years; another large family get-together; another time for fun and frolic. Enter The Hand and The Mouth. She immediately gets up from the circle in the pretext of a phone call. At that exact moment she sees her cousin get up too. They catch a fleeting glance. There is an unspoken mutual feeling of their reflex action. Why did they get up at the exact same time? They both didn’t know each other that well, they hardly get to meet one another but that momentary eye contact creates a bridge. They walk out quietly to the cool night breeze.

There was a sense of calm, peace in their silence. She broke the silence and asked “Have you had a terrible experience too?” Totally out of context for a spectator but it made perfect sense to her cousin.

“One experience?” spat her cousin, “Couple of times by each of them”.

“Arrgh, that’s dreadful”, she gasped. “I am sorry to hear that”

“My self-esteem was shattered even before it formed. I was barely 6. Too young to know what was happening but never too old to forget or overcome it. But do you look at the irony? They inflicted so much scare, and fear of men, and fear of relationships, and fear of sex in me but they are ‘happily’ married and ‘settled’ in life. They are the epitomes of ideal men in this society whereas me – people say I am a failure. My parents say I am a shame as I am unmarried, though I am doing well at work, – because marriage, even if turbulent, is the only gauge with which the society measures your accomplishments. I am not in a relationship even though I know the ‘Not All Men’ theory. Do you see how deeply ingrained the experiences were to form such a social phobia in me? And the best part, they don’t feel even the slightest of repercussions while I am intimidated for life and buried deep underground. And to top it off, people are so unfair to the victims if we speak out. If weak even once, keep suffering forever, get branded. Blame, name and shame the victims and the accused is never in the limelight.”

“Victim shaming is probably the main reason of people trying to cover up or not speak about their agony”

As an after-thought, I wonder how they would ever speak to their children about abuse without any guilt. Yes, they would have first-hand information of how to identify an abuser but at least when they have this conversation, will they realise?”

“They might get their spouses do the job perhaps.

“Hmmm”.

”Did you ever consider confronting them?”

“Yeah, it is ridiculous, isn’t it? We can happily go complain to our parents about strangers but when it is someone we know we somehow don’t bring it to the light. I don’t know if it is because of the self-doubt at that age or the trust on these known faces. I feel stupid when I think about it now.

But yes, I did consider confronting their parents, a few years later, when it all made sense to me but they being so protective and being the kind who turn a deaf ear to their children’s antics, I stopped myself. You know them too, what do you think they’d have done?”

“They would have asked you not to tarnish their beloved children’s names by spreading fake stories..”

“Exactly! And let’s say even if they had a slight sense that wasn’t blinded by the unbound love for their children, they would have just called me impertinent and broken me beyond repair right in front of the villains and later in private would have warned them of not repeating this. The accused would have just walked away with a warning but with an assurance that their parents will get their back, no matter what, and I would have had my belief in this system go to the dogs.”

She put her hand around her shoulder and they stared into the empty night.

The Hand

“You have grown up so much”, said The Hand with a pat. The moment The Hand touched her shoulder, it gave her chills and revived forgotten memories from more than a decade ago. The Hand she shunned, the Hand she detested. The Hand that was skilled at finding an opportunistic moment or even creating one. The cruel Hand, the cunning Hand. The Hand that traversed and caressed her body slowly, when she was mere 10 years old, searching for her non-existent breasts. The Hand that wasn’t that old too, probably just exploring its own body when she had become an experimental piece. The undecided Hand that felt scared to reach inside her underwear and that had then proceeded towards her thighs momentarily, only to muster courage to go back in a few seconds later. The Hand’s finger hurt her and she experienced her first cramps. The Hand stroked, what looked like a bone with skin between its groin with its Other Hand. What had been a few minutes had felt like eternity for her, wanting to run away from this uncomfortable and suffocating moment. She wasn’t taught about such things at home or at school and hadn’t read any such story in her book collection. She did not know that saying ‘No’ might stop it or screaming for ‘Help’ might work. She did not know that confiding to a trusted elder would bring this to an end. She did even understand her own barrage of thoughts to put it into words to an elder. She only learnt that adults don’t understand hints – when the 2nd time they wanted to leave her alone with The Hand, she pleaded to The Hand’s mother to take her along but her grown up child was to teach the little girl how to wash clothes and do the dishes – which were important for a girl to learn during vacation. She spent the whole chilly evening outside, on the lawn, refusing to budge in only to be reprimanded by The Hand’s mother, later that night, for not helping out her dutiful child with any of the chores.

She couldn’t care less for the next morning she was leaving that house and that city. Luckily. She slept in peace, a little too soon.

Next morning, she had to go to everyone’s room and bid goodbye. She did not enter The Hand’s room; she just walked into the adjacent room.

“You never thanked me for taking you to the movies the other day”. The moment she opened her mouth to utter a word of thanks, The Mouth latched onto hers. It squished and squashed her tiny lips and tried pulling it off her face. She again could not comprehend to the happenings. Why was The Mouth trying to rip her face off? She had never seen her conservative parents kiss in front of her nor had seen any movies to understand that this horrible gesture was a kiss. For her a peck on the cheek was a kiss. All she knew was her lips hurt. The ordeal was over in a few seconds and she ran out of The Mouth’s room and the house and the lawn to the road. She would never set foot inside this horrid place ever again she swore. And she never did, ever.

She never met The Hand and The Mouth, ever too, until this day. All she could muster up to the The Hand’s question was a mere “Yes”, shrug The Hand off her back and walk away. How dare they speak to her? Do they even remember, in vivid details, the episodes she had encountered with them? Or was she one of their many adventures for them to remember? Thankfully, they weren’t interested in her anymore; she wasn’t a child anymore; she just hoped their children don’t turn out to be Paedophiles or even get abused as Karma works in a vicious circle.

Post Script:

This story doesn’t have any names for the characters as it could be any one of us. ‘She’ too is a generic usage – could easily be a ‘He’. If you were ever in the giving end, be ashamed and learn. If you were ever in the receiving end, speak up and stop it. We get to read terrible stories of rape and molestation and always fear about our children; but even small things like in this story could affect a child psychologically. ‘Mild’ abuses (if we could call them that) such as these are more prevalent around a child’s life and their scars could be deep.

Talk to your kids about Child Abuse; empower them to fight back and do the world some good by not just protecting them from abuse but by also raising them not be abusers. The second part could be the toughest; I haven’t crossed that bridge yet, so I don’t know how. Do tell me if you know.

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