Seeing the World as a Parent


“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.” 

― Debra Ginsberg


It’s been over a year since I’ve paid any attention to my blog. It’s been a momentous year and a half. If I thought my pregnancy was eventful with the Graves’ Disease diagnosis, the last stretch was even more so.

The past year has been the tough. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, filled with love and tears, good times, great times, bad times, miserable times. If child birth and breastfeeding was painful, the post-partum depression broke me. As I fought to keep my grasp on who I am in my changing life, I have watched the world around me crumble and tear itself apart. Bomb blasts, killings, war, violence, I have had to stop watching the news for a while. My already fragile self found it hard to handle all that hatred. I could not bear to see more people suffer. But watching children die has been the worst. Little sparks snuffed out even before they could blaze. And every time, I find myself asking, “Why God, why does it always have to be the children? Why bring those pure souls into this world just to make them suffer the most?” I’m not a religious person. My idea of God is simple: Love for fellow beings. But prayer has been my refuge in times of despair. And how can I not? I have become acutely aware of every parent’s worst nightmare, losing their child.

Image of a parent holding the hand of a child
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The Last Stretch


“I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.”

Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year


Just as Week 35 of my pregnancy began, I woke up that weekend to an attack of  horrible itchy rash on my pregnant body. The angry rash spread all over without mercy. I went to my doctor during the week, who put me on antihistamine and ordered some blood tests. When I asked her about relief from the itching, she said perhaps I could try cold water or ice? She sent me home with an appointment to see her the next week.

Those two weeks were the worst thing I have experienced. I couldn’t sleep, because I would wake up in the middle of the night to terrible itching, and sit for hours with ice packs over my raw skin, because nothing else helped. The antihistamine did not work, even though it came to a point where I was taking three tablets a day. I tried aloe vera gel, oatmeal baths, oatmeal paste, none of which worked for beyond a couple of hours. I’ve never missed calamine lotion more in my life. In the summer, I was cold and shivering most of the time, from ice packs and cold showers. This went on for about ten days till I found myself sitting on my couch one morning, applying another ice pack and crying. If I couldn’t deal with this, how was I going to deal with labour and motherhood?

The finishing line
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5 Stressful Things To Avoid While Pregnant


“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” 

― David Mamet


A stressed woman holding a cup with red frown
Photo Credit: Old Shoe Woman via Compfight cc


1. House hunting in Oslo

It all started with an innocuous little idea of wanting more space when the baby comes. Much as I did not enjoy the idea of having to, once again, in little over a year, shove all my belongings into boxes and move them one by one to another place, which will be my baby’s first home, this should’ve been easy and simple, right? Turns out not so much, not when you live in Oslo.

The rental market in Oslo is awful, and I’m sure I’m putting it mildly. C’mon Oslo, I was willing to put you on the top of my list of favourite places. I was willing to dethrone North Wales for you. Okay, we both know the probability of that happening is rather slim. But still,  you can’t give me a home without putting me through the wringer? You are beautiful and lovely, but when it comes to renting flats, you have a lot to learn from London.

And for god’s sake, when you have so much space, trust me you do, put a second bathroom in your flats and houses already. Don’t look at me as though I’m fussy. I’m not. Oh yes, everything is expensive here. But I want value for my money, and good quality doesn’t have to cost a limb and a leg. And give me a break, will you? I’m trying to have a baby here.

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13th Week of Pregnancy – Graves to Hello


“You are the closest I will ever come to magic.” 

― Suzanne Finnamore


image of a baby's hand on its parents' hands
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Tuesday

When I went to the GP for the first time after I found out I’m pregnant, she did some blood tests. The results showed that I might have a problem with my thyroid. So she referred me to an Endocrinologist, who ordered another round of complete blood work. They took so many blood samples, when they were done and they placed all the tubes with my blood on a holder, it looked like a Ferris wheel! I went to see the Endocrinologist on Tuesday to get the results.

She walked me through it and she was clear about the diagnosis: I have Graves’ Disease.

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How Do You Tell People You Are Pregnant?


“The world was full of dangers now that she was pregnant: mercury in tuna, hot tubs, beer, secondhand smoke, over-the-counter medicine. Not to mention crazy baby-abducting fairy kings.” 

– Jennifer McMahon


Little toys in a crib
Photo Credit: Christian Arballo via Compfight cc

Thirteen has always been a lucky number for me. It feels strange to say that because I don’t believe in lucky things or numbers. On 13th December 2014, I was far away from Oslo at my parents’ house. That morning, I decided to pee on a stick. It came out positive. I peed on one more stick, you know, just to be sure. That turned positive as well. I calmly walked up to my mum in the kitchen and told her I might be pregnant and I need to do a blood test to be sure. My mum told my dad who wanted to call the whole world that very moment. Fortunately, she talked him out of it.

I had travelled thousands of miles to my parents’ house so I could see my one-year old niece for the first time since she came into this world. My brother asked what was going on. I told him that the sticks I peed on say that I’m pregnant. He told my sister-in-law. We had a hug fest.

The person I wanted to tell first, the person I wanted to share the joyous news with the most, was the one person who wasn’t around. My husband. K was traveling that very day from Oslo to join me. Now you don’t tell a man over the phone that he’s about to become a father, do you? No, seriously, I asked that question. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was. Do I call him? Do I wait till I see him? It seems wrong to tell him over the phone doesn’t it? But how can he be the person who doesn’t know? After a lot of back and forth, and with a little encouragement from my sister-in-law, I called him. He was just about to board the plane from Oslo airport. He sounded excited to hear it. He said he was happy about it. I asked him later what he thought about during the almost 12-hour journey. Did he ponder over impending fatherhood? He is yet to give me a proper answer!

Continue reading “How Do You Tell People You Are Pregnant?”

Why are We Afraid to Fail


“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 

― Maya Angelou


When I was in my early 20s, I made a list of things I wanted to do in life, sort of a bucket list. Right at the top of that list were two things I wanted to try at least once in my life – bungee jumping and sky diving. I wrote the list, put it away and didn’t really think too much about it, until recently.

This summer, my cousins visited me in Oslo. One of things we thought might be fun to try was the Oslo Summer Park. It’s a climbing park where you walk on ropes between tree tops at varying heights, following set routes. Some of the routes also include zip wires. You get some basic training before you get to try out the actual courses in the Park. So at the training level, I climbed up a short rope ladder to a wooden platform. I had a harness that secured me to the safety line above. I was a little over five feet above the ground. I stepped onto the rope. The rope shook violently and I froze. I couldn’t take one more step.

 

Image that says Do not fear failure
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Why Bother Writing


“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”

– Anaïs Nin


Four weeks back, I  realised something bothered me about my blog. I didn’t quite know what it was. So when I came across Jeff Goins’ free Intentional Blogging Challenge for 21 days on Facebook, I jumped at it. Each day he posted a blogging exercise that I needed to do. I’ll admit it was a struggle. It made me re-think my blog and I had to stop blogging to figure things out. During this Challenge, I learned about many things I hadn’t even considered before I started blogging. It helped me be more honest with myself. I’ll also admit that there are a few things I still need to work on. But I’m back and so are my posts.

The challenge started with rewriting my About page. So do have a look and feel free to leave your comments.

One of the challenges was to post a blog that shares the story behind my blog, why I started writing, why I feel I have to write and what I hope to achieve through it. That’s what this post is about.

Image of a girl holding a notebook
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How it started

It all started with a story. I make my own animations, but I was too impatient to get the story out of my head and writing seemed like the shortest way to get it out. Just goes to prove how little I knew back then. Now, if that was the only reason why I started writing, I would have written the story and moved on, and never thought about writing again. However, once I opened the flood gates, it was too late to stop the flow. Thank God, because I’m rather sure if not for that, if I didn’t write, two things would have happened: 1) I would have gone mental with the thoughts swirling in my head, 2) I would have never found my true calling in life.

The Journey

It feels strange to write those words. No, not the going crazy part, I always had an inkling that I was wee bit crazy, which I think adds to the charm :). I’m referring to the finding-my-true-calling part. Those are not words I would usually use. For a long time, I was the kind of person who knew exactly how my life was supposed to turn out, who had to stay in control of things – life, career, emotions, people. Somehow I had concluded that being in control would remove all uncertainties from my life. After years of struggle and some hard lessons learnt, I can tell you that there’s one thing I’m certain of: Uncertainty, though scary, is a good thing. Taking a leap of faith in life teaches you things that’s both exhilarating and enlightening. It not only opens your mind, but also your heart.

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Cure For A Cloudy Day

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.”

 ― Rabindranath Tagore

Ever felt like your day was beginning to look like an overcast autumn day? You know, the kind of day that makes you remember the time someone told you that humans eat eight spiders on an average every year and you wonder if you have had your year’s share that morning because your head is so full of cobwebs that every time you move your head it feels as if your brain is bouncing off stringy webs like an excited kid on a trampoline? Well, yesterday turned out to be one of those days. I was beginning to imagine the taste of that last spider in my mouth and trust me, you don’t want to try it.

I sat down to write and I could feel my brain struggling against the cobwebs. I wrote a few lines. I stopped. I read what I wrote and stopped. So essentially, I was stuck in a write-stop-read-stop-repeat cycle. Why is my tone all whiny? Well, the number of hours spent writing a few lines is inversely proportional to the irritating pitch that can only come from griping. As the day went by, I realised I had to find a cure. And I’m happy to report that I did.

So if you are in a similar rut, here’s what I did. Mind you, if this doesn’t work for you,  you should probably never come to Oslo. It wouldn’t do you any good, really.

I picked up my camera, a Nikon D3000, and walked through the streets of Oslo to capture the autumn colours. The chilly air nipped at my fingers. I walked along the coast, the water a murky grey with the wind sending ripples through it. I had no set route to follow, my head was too cloudy to undertake such planning. I just started taking pictures.

I could recite all the shades of green, yellow, red, and brown, but I’m not sure that would cover the colour riot I witnessed. Dry leaves littered every surface. The golden yellows, ochres, maroons, fading greens, they danced on the remaining rich green grass and the concrete pavements with equal joy, unfettered by where they were, untouched by the bleakness in the sky. A distant hill covered with trees, stood in stoic silence amid the grey water. It threw every shade of colour it could at me. As the slope rose towards the sky, its expanse seemed to heave with the vibrancy that only an autumn day can produce. That distant hill seemed keen to cheer-up the sky, as if goading the sun to steer clear of the clouds and show its bright face.  Another hill, much closer, loomed behind the white Opera House. The brilliance of the orange, yellow and apple green rendered even the the old houses with red roofs dull in comparison.

Image of autumn colours at Ekeberg
Looking up at Ekeberg
© 2014 Srividya K
Image of a hill with autumn colours
Look at those colours!
© 2014 Srividya K

I caught the last of the summer colours in scarlet flowers drooping from green leaves, purple flowers sticking out of nondescript flower pots, baby pink flowers blooming from dark vases high up on building walls, proof of summer’s defiance of making way for autumn. I looked up, and under the canopy of bright greens and yellows, I could barely see the grey sky beyond. Streets with mundane traffic looked as if someone had scrubbed it clean because all my eyes could see were the trees, sticking out their radiant branches as if they want to give everyone on the road a big, warm hug.

Image of a road lined with trees in autumn colours
What a cheerful road 🙂
© 2014 Srividya K

As I walked, I ended up in the grounds around Akershus Fortress. The last time I visited it, not too long ago, it was the poster child for summer. But now, it had switched its allegiance. Rows of towering trees rolled on as I walked through the grounds. One of the high walls in the Fortress was covered with crimson leaves. Between the lush grass peaking out of dry brown and yellow leaves, and the ancient grey stone walls behind, the wall of red seemed like autumn was flaunting.

Bright autumn colours at the Akershus Fortress
Autumn flaunts!
© 2014 Srividya K

As I headed back home, I came across these berry plants tucked away from the road.

Image of pink berries among purple and white flowers
Wish I knew something about these berries …
© 2014 Srividya K

I have no idea what they are, or if they are edible. But their medley of purple, white and green made me smile. And I realised, with each photo, a string of that maze of cobwebs in my head had come undone. The webs became wisps and melted away among the colours around me.

So the next time you have a cloudy day, take a walk among nature and irrespective of how the weather is outside, you will find the sun shining within you. It is that little ball of fire within each of us that makes us feel like a glowing star and that’s the sun that really matters. Because that sun can keep us going even in the harshest of winters. And everyone I meet these days keeps telling me “Winter’s coming”. So go out and stock up on your inner sun and kick those cloudy days goodbye.

What’s your cure for a cloudy day? Share in the comments.

To Sognefjord and back – Part 3

Story so far: We travelled from Oslo to Myrdal through Finse, the highest station on the Norwegian rail network. From Myrdal, we boarded the Flåmsbana. Read Part 1 – 1222m Above Sea Level. The Flåmsbana took us through the most idyllic scenery that resembled Tolkien’s Rivendell – they even had gelato! And I had to resist the urge to move to Flåm 🙂 Read Part 2 – Finding my Rivendell on the Flåmsbana.

Part 3 – Through the Waters of Sognefjord and Back

“Bad, or good, as it happens to be, that is what it is to exist! . . . It is as though I have been silent and fuddled with sleep all my life. In spite of all, I know now that at least it is better to go always towards the summer, towards those burning seas of light; to sit at night in the forecastle lost in an unfamiliar dream, when the spirit becomes filled with stars, instead of wounds, and good and compassionate and tender. To sail into an unknown spring, or receive one’s baptism on storm’s promontory, where the solitary albatross heels over in the gale, and at last come to land. To know the earth under one’s foot and go, in wild delight, ways where there is water.” 
― Malcolm Lowry, Ultramarine

At Flåm, we queued up for the Express Boat to Bergen. It was supposed to leave at 15.30 but we were still on land. Soon people boarded the boat and within minutes we were off on our five-hour boat ride through the magnificent waters of Sognefjord.

Our Express Boat, called Vingtor, was divided into two levels. The lower level had two sections of seats in the front and the back and a little café with snacks and drinks. The upper level had lesser number of seats. But it more than made up for it with a large open deck at the back, which quickly filled up with photo hungry travellers.

The boat spewed tonnes of foamy water in it’s wake as we left behind the emerald slopes and distant ice-covered peaks in Flåm. The Norwegian flag on the deck danced in the wind, proud of the beauty it represented. The sun reflected in the waters with such brilliance, we had to run in and fetch our sunglasses. After a photo frenzy, we settled in for the long ride ahead.

We realised that Flåm is close to a number of other scenic locations. Right next to it, is Aurland. The Aurland Shoe Factory there has been producing their distinct kind of loafers since the 1930s. It’s about a one and a half hour bus journey from Flåm. If you would rather bask in the glory of nature, then not too far from there is the Stegastein Viewpoint, a viewing platform about 650 m above sea level. The platform is 4 m wide and 30 m long and it’s made of laminated wood and steel. It extends 30m out from the mountains with spectacular views of the Aurlandfjord. You can reach it through Aurlandsvegen, a scenic mountain road that runs between Lærdal and Aurland. It’s also known as the snow road – it has snow along the road most of summer. Along with bus trips and various tours, there are plenty of hiking, cycling and adventure sports options available in this area to explore the Aurlandsdalen valley. We even saw some paragliders swooping over the mountains near Aurlandsvangen.

Image of view from the express boat on Sognefjord
Through the waters of Sognefjord
© Srividya K 2014

 

View along the Sognefjord
Those white roofs match the snow-covered peaks so well
© Srividya K 2014

As the turquoise water and forest green mountains rolled beside us, the boat took us through a number of stops along the way. Cabins and houses were little specks on the mountain slopes. The deeper we ventured into the fjord, the terrain changed with the sun. The places where sunlight were hard to come by, the rugged mountain surface jutted out looking all craggy. But when the greenery reappeared, it was the brightest shade of green, nature’s very own golf course. Faraway ice peaks returned to keep us company. Wind howled on the boat deck. Waterfalls peeked out from jagged rocks often. It was amazing to look at the broad views as the boat travelled through the fjord. There were layers and layers of mountains, each a different shade of green and brown, all bound by the shimmering water. We made stops at places such as Lærdal, Balestrand and Gudvangen. The Magical White Caves near Gudvangen sounded magical. The Jostedalsbreen National Park, which is close to Balestrand, has tours to walk on a glacier!  But alas, we had to leave them to another trip.

Image of Balestrand
At Balestrand
© Srividya K 2014

After some time, as the boat stopped and introduced me to little villages tucked away from anything remotely frantic, the photo monster in me calmed down. I still took many pictures, but it became more about spending time with the fjord in silence. I saw hills on islands that reminded me of the Shire that Tolkien described. The undulating greens were just the right size and shape for hobbits to live on. I almost expected to see Bilbo and Frodo’s round little door peeking out from behind a lush green hill. That’s when I realised that throughout the trip, I’ve been making references to Lord of the Rings. Other than being a proof of my geekiness, it sums up how fantastical the trip was. Luckily, every time I mentioned something Lord Of The Rings related, my husband understood exactly what I meant 🙂

Image of green hills along the Sognefjord
The Shire on the Sognefjord!
© Srividya K 2014

Though the sun was far from setting – it’s not in vain that Norway is called the Land of the Midnight Sun – the wind became chilly and we soon had to wear our thick jackets. We decided to venture into the front of the boat. Well, it was so windy that standing in a single spot was impossible and I was worried I might fly away with the wind along with the hood on my jacket, which refused to stay on. Oh, and did I mention that when your hair is as curly as mine and gale-force winds hit you on your face, the sensible thing to do is run back through that door that you thought might be fun to open and explore just because it leads to the front of the boat!

I must confess when I started writing this post, there was a moment when I thought my words would never be able to do justice to the beauty I witnessed on that boat. I could use adjective after adjective to describe them and run out of them. To truly understand it, you have to experience it. The boat roared through the waters, it was full of people. But all I could hear was the calm of nature. Philosophers advice that inner peace is only the peace that truly lasts. But for most of us, it takes a lifetime to achieve. But the journey through Sognefjord is one of the best ways to experience the peace nature provides.

After five hours on that boat, we reached Bergen, also known as the Gateway to the Fjords of Norway. We spent the night in Bergen and caught the train back to Oslo the next afternoon. Bergen deserves to have an entire blog post of its own and that’ll be my next endeavour 🙂 By the time we reached Oslo late at night around 22.45, I knew I would have to find a way to go back to see the fjords again soon.

But next time, we’d prefer to walk/hike/ cycle through the mountains and perhaps drive down to the nature trails. Though we enjoyed the trains and boats, what I saw made me want to get a closer look, to walk through those ancient mountains, touch the icy waters, and experience the breath-taking views from some rock high up above the fjords. I would like to say I want to ski through the snow there, which, considering I’m yet to learn to ski, is highly ambitious. Hmm, I think I’ll go work on a plan to do that right now!

To Sognefjord and back – Part 2

Story so far: We travelled from Oslo to Myrdal through Finse, the highest station on the Norwegian rail network. From Myrdal, we boarded the Flåmsbana. Read Part 1 – 1222m Above Sea Level

Part 2 – Finding my Rivendell on the Flåmsbana

 

“He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'” 

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

 

The moment the Flåmsbana pulled into the platform at Myrdal, I was transported to another world. The train and all its interiors had an old world feel to it. The roof was curved with wooden panels. The lighting was soft. The only thing that made the vermillion seats modern were their ability to fold up when no one was sitting on them. There was a video screen near the exit on each end of the carriage. It showed the route the train takes and gave us updates on where we were on the route. It also gave details of every village or stop we passed by.

The train left Myrdal station at 13.27. As it picked up speed and began its downhill descent, so did our cameras. Snow covered mountain-tops stretched into the clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds and they followed us throughout our journey. The large windows in the train could be lowered from the top, which really helped when we wanted to take pictures. I had my face near the window and as wind brushed my face, I began to understand why dogs feel so happy sticking their face out of the car window 🙂

Flåmsbana is one of the steepest train lines in the world. The maximum gradient on the journey is 5.5%. It takes you from Myrdal, at 863m above sea level, to Flåm, which is at sea level. It’s a branch of the Bergen train line that connects Sognefjord with the mainline and goes through the picturesque valley of Flåmsdalen. The train runs along the Flåmselvi river down to the Flåm valley. As the train tracks turned and twisted over the mountains, we got a glimpse of the old carriages rattling along the rugged terrain. Though we went through 20 tunnels along the route, the greenery and the mountains never stopped. Bright red cabins stood out among the fresh green trees. We saw rivulets and waterfalls flowing down the mountains at every turn, the melting glaciers still at work, sculpting every surface they touch. Deep valleys and sheer cliffs surrounded us.

We made a stop at Kjosfossen, a waterfall with a free fall of 305 ft. The thundering waterfall from green moss-covered mountainsides frothed and created turquoise hues as it flowed beneath the bridge we stood on. While we took pictures there, a haunting melody echoed through the area. As mist from the water covered our eyes and lenses, a woman in red appeared among the ruins of a stone structure beside the waterfall, dancing to the music . When she disappeared, another woman emerged from the wet rocks further below, dancing close to the water. The music gave us a feel of the bygone times and people who might have lived there.

As the river winded around the floor of the valley, so did the train. We kept close to it. The water was so clear, we could see the bottom of the river from the train. The colour of water changed by the minute in the warm sun. Only nature could mix those shades of green and blue to such perfection. Water, like thin threads of confetti, poured from the peaks at every turn. Water seemed to live in every nook and corner of that valley. A few red cabins were scattered around the valley. We even found a group of campers with their tents set up by the river bank and they waved to us as the train passed them.

I felt lulled by the serenity around. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the train came around a bend and there it was, the Flåm village, with the river flowing through it with little white ripples. The village was a collection of colourful houses and a little bridge across the river. The video pointed out the village church which has been around since 1670. In fact, it was built there to replace an older church that existed on the same sight before it was destroyed in 1670. There were roads and farms. Grassy river bank, with clusters of trees and bushes. The sun shined so bright on the valley, the only darkness and shadows were high up on the mountains. It was so picture perfect, I wished I could jump out and walk through that idyllic village. If I ever thought that the world of Elves that Tolkien wrote about could exist on Earth, then that valley and the village would be my Rivendell. But we were on a train and it had to keep moving. We followed the river to the railway station at Flåm and to the end of our train journey for the day.

 

Image of view of the Flåm village from the Flåmsbana
Flåm village – my Rivendell!
© Srividya K 2014
Image of view of Flåm village from the Flåmsbana
One last look at the Flåm village as the train left it behind
© Srividya K 2014

If you want to hike or bike around those mountains, or explore the area more, Flåm has some amazing activities and experiences to offer.

The station was right next to the harbour. We had some time before we took the boat through the waters of Sognefjord to Bergen. So we walked around the area. No words could do justice to the views there. When I saw cabins line the mountains around the harbour, the writer in me wanted to move there. I imagined a beautiful cabin, waking up to those views everyday, and writing among such natural beauty – what more could I possibly want? What more could anyone possibly want? I started pointing out cabins that I could see myself living in. My practical husband – thank god one of us is – quickly reminded me about the lack of jobs and grocery stores. Where is that portable food replicator when you need one?

Image of scenery from the harbour at Flåm
View from the harbour at Flåm
© Srividya K 2014

I think my husband was prepared for it. The last time we were around water and mountains, we were in North Wales among the tall peaks of Snowdonia. We had travelled to Wales by car. On our way back, just as we crossed into England and the plains became flatter and less green and I couldn’t see anymore woolly little sheep, I told him we should move to Wales. Even now, everything and anything from Wales makes me go all dreamy-eyed and I sigh wistfully. I’ll soon have to write a separate post about that trip and revel in all things Welsh.

You might think it’s crazy to compare Tolkien’s Elf world with a real little village and its surrounding valley. But to me, a Tolkien fan, Rivendell is the best possible description I can give of the beauty I saw before me. The imaginary world became real. And the fact that they had gelato there only made it more appealing.

Next week: Part 3 – Through the waters of Sognefjord and back

To Sognefjord and back – Part 1

A first-timer’s tale in 3 parts

Part 1 – 1222m Above Sea Level

 

‘I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy”.’

― Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar

 

I feel like a hobbit sometimes. Just to be clear, this has nothing to do with my short stature, much as people like to remind me about it. I could easily see myself living the simple quiet life in the countryside. Perhaps it has to do with adapting to the easy pace of life in Oslo. But come summer in Norway, even hobbits would want to go on adventures … em … if we had any hobbits in Norway, of course.

My call to adventure started when my family made plans to visit us in Oslo. We all agreed, ‘It’s summer. Let’s go see the Fjords.’

There are more fjords in Norway than you can count, each breathtakingly beautiful. We researched many of them. The result: I now have a list of fjords to visit and the very thought of visiting each of them makes me skip around my house in joy. Some useful links if you want to get yourself some fjord: Norway In A Nutshell; Visit NorwayFjord Tours

We discussed how long a trip we wanted to make, what mode of transport to take, which hotel to book, where to book the hotel … As the questions piled up, we were running out of time. Over many Skype calls, emails and exchange of links, we finally decided on our adventure. We were going to Sognefjord for two days!

Sognefjord is Norway’s longest and deepest fjord. It’s 1308 m deep and 204 km long. It’s the second longest fjord in the world and is considered one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world.

Trivia: The largest fjord system in the world is Scoresby Sund in East Greenland, which is more than 350 km (217 miles) long.

We went back and forth between taking a train and renting a car. Renting a car is a much cheaper option. But we are yet to try driving on the “wrong side” of the road in Norway – driving on the right side of the road here will take some getting used to – and we had to wave goodbye to the idea of a long road trip for now. So we chose the train. We found the Norway in a Nutshell tours helpful. This was going to be our introduction to the fjords and we could not have picked a better way to get introduced, despite the expensive tickets.

A note to those new to Norway: Everything is expensive here. Constant griping about how expensive everything is in Norway is not just expected, it’s rather appreciated. All the locals do that. So just join in. It could earn you some friends.

On a Thursday morning, we boarded the Bergen train from Oslo. We were travelling on it till Myrdal. The train left Oslo S at 08:00 in the morning. The journey from Oslo to Myrdal was a precursor of natural bliss we were to experience on this trip. The weather gods were kind to us. As the train rolled on, so did the lush emerald green hills and shimmering lakes and gurgling streams. Dots of yellow stood out in those green farms, as though they were showing off a pretty polka dress. I took photos after photos, unwilling to miss a single scenery, each a painting waiting to be captured on some artist’s canvas. Soon we saw snow covered mountains at a distance. Tall trees on gentle slopes were replaced by rugged mountains. Yet, we saw a scattering of bright coloured wooden cabins all along the route, houses oblivious to the solitude around them. The water turned aqua green, a lovely contrast to the rocky terrain. Mountain sides garnished with ice against the blue sky with puffy white clouds reminded me of scoops of chocolate sundae in a deep blue bowl.

View of snow covered mountains and partly frozen lake at Finse
The view from Finse Railway Station
© Srividya K 2014

The train made a few stops during the journey. But the most memorable was the stop at Finse, which gave travellers an opportunity to take in the picturesque sights around the station. Finse is a mountain village that sits at a height of 1222m above sea level, which makes it the highest station on the Norwegian railway network. The mirror-like clear waters of lake Finsevatnet seemed to reflect the soul of those ancient ice-covered mountains. A handful of tiny cabins and lush green grass littered its shores near the station. Despite the ice, the sun warmed me to the core. The train blew its whistle and I had to drag myself away from the lonely village which seemed to bask in its own silence, disrupted only by photo-mad tourists like me.

After Finse, Myrdal wasn’t too far. As the train went downhill, the spectacular sights went past too quickly. Myrdal station, at a height of 863m above sea level, is a junction on the Bergen Line. We got off the train at the station around 12.40 in the afternoon and went into another photo frenzy. We had over an hour to catch our next train, The Flåmsbana. In sixty minutes, the Flåmsbana transported us from Myrdal to Flåm, along with haunting music and mystic dancers, through such panoramic views that certainly made me feel like a hobbit on a quest.

Next week: Part 2 – Finding my Rivendell on the Flåmsbana

18 Reasons #YesAllWomen Must Keep Going

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” 
― Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Someone online wrote that #YesAllWomen is dying out because “people are running out of creative stories to tell in support of it”. Well, here are 18 reasons why #YesAllWomen must keep going.

Image that says thinks women as people
Photo Credit: sajbrfem via Compfight cc

1. Because when I was in college, two men on a motorbike thought it would be fun to race past me really close when I was riding a scooter. They hit my scooter, and it and I went skidding across a busy bridge. I had a broken ankle, several bloody wounds, and was just lucky not to be run over by another vehicle approaching behind me. When people found out, this is what they had to say:

‘You came back late to the hostel the previous night. Those men must have followed you. That’s why the accident happened.’

‘Where were you going? To a play rehearsal? Girls from good families don’t act in plays.’

‘Why were you out in the first place? You should have just stayed in your hostel and studied like a “good girl”.’

It took me six months to walk normally again. The scars from the wounds are still visible on my arms and legs. If not for the helmet I always wore, my jaw and head would have been smashed  – my helmet got several dents from my fall. There was no police report and they were never caught, because no one noticed them. No, it was no accident. They tried to run me off the road because it was fun for them to intimidate a woman. And no, none of it was my fault.

2. Because no woman deserves to live in fear or die because she uses her right to say no.

3. Because the other day I was watching Sherlock Holmes on BBC and a woman was the “fetcher”. She fetches files, stands by looking pretty in a business suit and fetches the coat for the man. Why are women always the “fetcher” in most media representations? She fetches food, she fetches clothes, she fetches papers, her only role to serve others. What’s worse is that it’s so common, we hardly notice it or take offence to it. I’m sick of it. Aren’t you?

4. Because it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, whether you are a celebrity or an ordinary person, what race you belong to, what’s the colour of your skin, whether or not you are “pretty”, what clothes you wear or which country you live in, if you are a woman, you have experienced harassment or abuse in some form. What does that say about the world we live in?

Proof: When Kate Middleton’s skirt flies up because of the wind, the paparazzi, waiting like vultures, snap a photo of her bare bottom, and sell the picture. Magazines print it “because people want to see it and it sells”.  So how is this different from porn?  It’s just as exploitative. Selling parts of a woman’s body as if that’s all she is – a sum of parts with nothing more to her. And some woman actually wrote an article online, suggesting Kate Middleton should change her wardrobe choices so this doesn’t happen again! Blaming the woman’s clothes for opportunistic, soulless people taking advantage of her vulnerable situation – sounds oddly familiar doesn’t it? And she is the wife of the future King of a not so insignificant country.  #YesAllWomen.

5. Because every woman is constantly compared to other women in magazines, in video games, in films, on TV, in ads, and every form of media, as though the only way we can prove our worth is if we are better than someone else. We are enough as we are and we don’t need anybody’s permission to be so. We are in no way obliged to meet the standards set by a male-centric society.

6. Because advertisers spend billions every year to tell us what to think and how, and more often than not, they tell us to think of women as sexual objects.

7. Because people keep saying in a matter-of-fact way that it’s difficult to be a woman in this world, because women have to live in fear of being abused, harassed, raped or killed. How can you be calm when you say that, instead of fighting it? That’s just not acceptable.

8. Because when people know a woman suffering in an abusive relationship, they ask her why she’s still in the relationship. But when they know a man who abuses a woman, why don’t they tell the man to stop abusing?

9. Because when a woman says no, it’s not a negotiation or “playing hard to get”.

10. Because misogyny is so well hidden in our society that even men, who normally consider themselves liberal and would not just watch a woman being ill-treated, don’t always understand how and why some of their actions are a result of misogyny.

11. Because even women themselves don’t realise that when they are bringing up a son, they need to teach him to respect women, treat women as equals, and not look at them as the “inferior or weaker” sex.

12. Because even today when parents have a boy and a girl, they tell the boy not to play with dolls or take interest in “girly” things, like dance, arts or cooking, while they tell the girl to “stop climbing trees and behave like a girl”.

13. Because women are expected to learn to cook, take care of the house and take their husband’s name when they get married. How many men learn to cook because they are about to get married? Because it’s the woman’s job to make sure her family eats healthy food? Because men aren’t smart enough to learn or care about health? Men are never even asked about taking their wife’s name after marriage. Women aren’t sheep to be owned or herded.

14. Because the arguments against abortion are invariably made by men who want to control women’s bodies and paint women as a “child killer”. I read a news story where a 10-year old girl in Senegal was raped and forced to give birth to a set of twins as a result of the rape. When asked what she wanted, she said she wanted the man who raped her to be killed; because  of him, she can’t go to school anymore. Her innocence was killed and nothing was done to help her because of Senegal’s anti-abortion laws.

15. Because when the female half of the world population has to live in fear of the male half, even though they came wailing from the female half, it’s just sad.

16. Because it’s true #NotAllMen are abusers or rapists. We need men to openly declare that they truly believe that all women deserve respect. We need men to become more aware and speak up for all the women. This is not an issue we can afford to be divided on. A woman does not have to be related to you for you to care whether or not she is treated with respect. In fact, when men stand up to their fellow men and tell them to stop abusing women, that sets a powerful example. #YesAllWomen is a call to action to all those men who do care and respect women.

17. Because the point of #YesAllWomen is that we want a world where women are not abused anymore and don’t have to be afraid when they walk down the road alone, a world where women can live without fear. Too many people are dying waiting for that day and we are tired of it. We can’t wait any longer.

18. Because equal respect, equal rights, equal worth and equal share of this world is not a privilege. It’s a right. It’s a right every woman deserves. It’s a right every person deserves.

So to all those people who don’t take this seriously, who make jokes about this, who feel threatened by this, who want this “to stop already” – go on, fix these issues, then we’ll stop.  #YesAllWomen

The Purpose Of Education

“Education should be the process of helping everyone discover his uniqueness, to teach him how to develop that uniqueness, and then to show him how to share it because that’s the only reason for having anything.”

– Leo Buscaglia

(Read more about Leo Buscaglia on Education, Industrialized Conformity, and How Stereotypes and Labels Limit Love )

Ask people who have had the opportunity to go to college and get a degree what that means to them. Their answer would range from “It’s just a piece of paper” to “It changed my life.” That’s because with the current education system, who we are seems to matter less and less.

 

Image of child holding alphabet blocks
Photo Credit: sciencesque via Compfight cc

 

When I was starting high school in India, the school I studied in had four “packages” (it certainly seemed like that) and I needed to choose one to decide my career: 1) science, where you studied subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Maths and languages; 2) science, that added Biology to the rest of the Science subjects; 3) arts, where you learnt History, Literature and languages. Few other schools also offered a fourth package, commerce, where you learnt accounting, economics, business management and languages. I decided on studying commerce (seemed the best of the lot at that time). But my school didn’t have that option and my family was going to move soon. That, plus various other reasons, and I ended up taking science. I might have been rather good at it, but the problem was, I hated it. I had some horrible teachers and that didn’t help either. So when we moved, I went to a new school that offered commerce. I told the Principal at this new school that I would like to join the commerce classes and since it was just the beginning of the school year, I wouldn’t have missed much and I was very confident that I can make up for the missed lessons. The Principal looked at my grades from previous years and said, ‘You’ve done very well in science. That’s what you should do. I can’t let you change your subject. You’ll have to stay with science.” And that would have been the end of my dreams and my future life. She labelled me as a science student because, according to her, “I was intelligent enough to study science. So why would I think of studying any lesser subjects?” What I wanted to study did not matter. What I wanted to do with my life was not for me to decide. So for the first time in my life, I did terribly in school. I failed in every class, except for Maths and English, and that made me miserable. I saw my entire life crumbling before my eyes. Luckily for me, I had an amazing English teacher who pulled me out of the ground and encouraged me not to give up. With her help, I moved to another school. I studied commerce and did extremely well in it. I learnt a lot about myself from that experience. I know for a fact that who I am today would have been completely different if I had followed the path forced upon me and I would have lived the rest of my life regretting that path and hating the person I would have become.

 

“Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.” 

― Heath L. Buckmaster, Box of Hair: A Fairy Tale

Instead of identifying and nurturing a person’s natural abilities, education has become all about putting people in an existing box and neatly labelling them. It is wiping all traces of individuality from people and conformity is considered the norm. Our innate ability to be good at certain things is ignored for the sake of education that teaches everyone the same things and expects everyone to excel at all of those things. We go through life earning a degree, pursuing a career that earns us money, fame and success, because that’s what we are expected to do, and we never find time to understand who we are or what we really want from life. Our thoughts are myopic and never go past what we think we need, to be “successful in life”. When life is going smoothly, that’s not so bad. But when we face difficult choices, when we have to make life changing decisions, how we think, what choices we make and what lessons we choose to learn from our life experiences are the true measures of how educated we are.

 

“To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul.” 

― Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

 

Education has come to rely solely on intellectual analysis and arguments. We are so focused on creating our “perfect world” outside that we don’t take time to think about what’s inside. Instead of directing our thoughts and our mind, we end up being directed by it. The difference is the same as living life consciously and deriving meaning from it, as opposed to going through life in a trance, without any sense of purpose, being tossed between highs and lows, feeling lost and alone.

Education is not just about morals. It’s about the ability to create a sustainable belief system. By sustainable, I don’t mean throwaway beliefs, ideas that you can easily replace in order to maintain. I’m talking about strong beliefs that can stand the tests of all that life flings at us. Why is it important? Imagine you have to make a difficult decision about doing something unethical, or illegal even. Other than the fear of the law, what will give you the courage to do the right thing and be really happy in life? Your top-notch college degree that feeds your ambition to succeed by whatever means necessary, or the strength of your own beliefs that tells you what’s right and what’s wrong at every turn of your life consistently and the self-confidence that comes with it?

A word of warning though, it’s easy to confuse educated confidence with arrogance. Dogmatic religious ideologies are a living proof of it. Keeping an open mind is just as important a part of education as the spirit of conviction. Blind beliefs are dangerous. They make us so arrogant that we lock ourselves away from anything that could make us see the chinks in our belief-armour. Faith in the broadest sense is not meant to keep the world out and make us prisoners of our own beliefs. It’s meant to keep us free and unaffected amongst the chaos in the world. Yes, it might be simpler to remove ourselves from the world. But how will we ever learn anything by doing that? How will that possibly ever allow us to really LIVE?

Writer David Foster Wallace, in his 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address, talked about the real value of education and how it teaches us to think. He started his speech with this simple, yet profound story:

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?”

And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

(Read the complete transcript of his speech)

That’s the purpose of education, to be acutely aware of realities that are hidden in plain sight. That’s why true education is a lifelong pursuit. It teaches us the ability to stay awake everyday of our lives and to choose the things that are really worth pursuing, to choose the thoughts that go beyond the knowledge that the obvious world presents before us, and as Wallace said at the end of his speech, to remind ourselves to be like the older fish in the story and constantly tell ourselves that “This is water”.

Where Do We Belong?

“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”

― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

When someone asks me where I am from, I hesitate. My answer varies depending on what I think they really want to know about me. Sometimes I say I’m from London. Sometimes I add that I grew up in India. When I meet someone who is familiar with India, the next question they ask is where am I from in India. I pause. I hum and haw. With an embarrassed smile, I tell them it’s difficult for me to answer as I’ve lived all over the country and I couldn’t really call one place or city home. Now I’ve moved to Oslo and it’s not getting any easier to answer. And just yesterday my husband asked me if I’d ever want to live in New York!

Though I grew up in India, I’ve moved so much there, I’ve never felt a sense of belonging anywhere. I’ve studied in over five different schools and lived the longest in a city I got used to but never really loved. I’ve nursed a secret envy for people who have childhood friends, the ones they’ve known since kindergarten. As a child, it was easier to think of our move as a game. I got to see a new place, meet new people, learn new languages and experience new cultures. What’s not to like? I got to learn so much everywhere I lived and I’m eternally grateful for that. And somehow, never once did I question where I belonged. “Nowhere” seemed like a perfectly good answer.

When I moved to London, for the first time in my life, I felt at home. I missed my parents but I was surprised at how quickly I adapted to my new life. It’s not meant to be that easy, is it? Perhaps because I was in love and I got to enjoy life as a real adult (you know, living in your own house, cooking, working, paying bills) and I got to share my life with someone great, everything felt right. I guess I had fine-tuned myself to jump from place to place. I was right to question the ease I felt. It didn’t last long. The crash came soon enough when I struggled with my career and was drowning without a sense of belonging. The flood gates I had held tight shut were thrown open when I least expected it. The waves kept hitting me and I shattered under it’s force. I could not avoid the question anymore. I had to brave finding an answer or face the risk of losing myself completely. Slowly and painfully, I sifted through my life and I realised that the sense of belonging I was looking for does not come from a place or from certain people. It had to come from within. Rather than belonging to a place, I found that when I was happy with myself, I belonged – with my life, with the people I love and who love me, with everything around me. That feeling of love and contentment within made me feel secure. That is home after all, a place where you can be yourself and feel safe.

So when we thought about moving to Oslo from London, the decision to move was a leap of faith that my husband and I decided to take. We wanted to experience living in another city and Norway is great for work-life balance. We knew Oslo would be a big change from London. But, Oslo surprised me.

Book cover of All the Ways Home

There is a notion that Norwegians are not friendly and they are reserved and not open to new people. I don’t know how true that is but since I’ve moved to Oslo, I’ve met some amazing people. I’ve lived in London for years and hardly seen my neighbours. The day we moved into our flat in Oslo, every single person who passed by were friendly and welcoming. I joined the Oslo Writers’ League – a writers’ group predominantly made up of expat writers from all over the world. Some of them have lived in Norway for many years. I met fellow writers who are warm, encouraging and generous. As luck would have it, they were in the process of publishing their second anthology. And the themes for the anthology: Crossroads and Identity! So I submitted my poem, “Vulnerable”, and it was included in the anthology. On May 20th, we had the book launch for the anthology, All the Ways Home ( available on Amazon US, Amazon UK and The Book Depository). I heard some of the writers speak about their writing process and their story or poem in the anthology. I was surprised how much all us have in common. Each straddling different cultures and homes, all bound together by our passion for writing. Some called two different cities home, while some, like me, realised that living in different places has changed them in so much that they don’t feel like they really belong in any one of those worlds perfectly. Fitting into a single world is not meant for us. As our editor very wisely put it, we are figuratively homeless and we search for identities and homes that extend beyond a place. For some, home is where the heart is. But if your heart lies spread across countries, a firm sense of “This is where I belong” becomes a journey of exploration.

I read the book and every tale took me on such a journey. A woman who had a miscarriage and felt relief that she could finally have a career, a poet who paid tribute to a friend who had committed suicide, a writer who saw her life as chapters split between Lebanon and Norway, a writer who never felt at home anywhere – the stories kept coming and I was drenched in their emotions. And when I finished reading it, I knew I wasn’t alone in my search and that I had others to share it with. In life, it doesn’t matter where we start or where our destination lies. The journey is what matters. Our identities are not bound to a single place. It’s decided by our experiences and how we see ourselves through them. It helps us learn more about ourselves and who we really are. And with every lesson, we find our sense of belonging within ourselves.

All the proceeds from the sale of this book is going to Utdanningshjelpen, a charity in Norway that sponsors education for children in countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Mozambique and Ethiopia. Everyone who was involved in the making of this book, volunteered their time and talents to make it happen.

So go ahead and buy it, because the stories and poems in this book will change the way you look at where you belong.

6 reasons we need a time out in UK

I have lived in London, one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, for many years and I have seen warmth and kindness in the streets of London to the peaks of Snowdon. The colour of my skin or where I come from never mattered. I’m beginning to wonder if that was the exception and not the norm that I believed it to be. I’m one of the most optimistic people in the world, but the dark side of political cynicism is dragging me down. So it pains me to say this about my country, but we need a time out to think things through.

 

Image of a boy standing in a corner for time out
Photo Credit: Ken Wilcox. via Compfight cc

Here’s why:

1. These are the political parties we have to choose from:

  • The Conservatives, who seem to constantly suffer from a disconnect with what kind of struggles ordinary families go through everyday
  • The Labour. Does any one know what they stand for anymore?
  • The UKIP, who don’t want to be called a racist party even though their “ethnic minority future face of UKIP”  called them racist and quit the party
  • The LibDem. We might as well replace them with mannequins

Choosing between them is like trying to choose between a rock and a hard place, the devil and the deep sea and jumping from the frying pan into the fire. I’m a writer and they have made me run out of metaphors.

2. MPs and bankers steal thousands of pounds from public money and they don’t spend a day in prison, while a young boy is sentenced to spend a year in jail for stealing a pair of shoes. I never understood why they are paid so much. Is it an incentive to not steal or an exit strategy when they do get caught stealing?

3. It’s embarrassing to watch the leader of our country go around taking selfies. He should fire his PR team if they led him to believe that will make him popular. None of them had the guts to sit him down and tell him that he is no Obama, he has neither his charm nor his charisma. I would respect him more if he weren’t trying so hard. I’d rather he would be himself. Unless he is worried that he would look like a posh boy. Hmmmm, now there’s a pickle.

4. Why do people report what Katie Hopkins says? Her views on parenting to celebrities to immigration can never be taken seriously. Her only expertise is putting down everything and everyone. And she actually has a column in a newspaper? Whoever writes, blogs, reports, puts Katie Hopkins on a TV screen with her next comment should be banned from reporting FOREVER. Spare us her crazy talk. You want something interesting to report, go speak a college kid or his/her nanna.

While we are on the subject of Katie, why do we live in a world where Katie Price’s third divorce is news?

5. Getting a decent education has become extremely expensive and difficult in UK. We even discourage foreign students from coming to the country to study. They wonder why the young don’t respect the system. The system has left them adrift without an opportunity to make something of their lives. Why would they respect it?

6. Theresa May can strip naturalised British citizens of their citizenship even if it leaves them without a country. I suppose she thinks that someone born in the country is more valuable than someone who lives there legally, contributes to the welfare of the society and has made a conscious choice to be a British citizen? Sorry to sound like Chandler Bing, but, could she be more unwelcoming? The anti-immigrant rhetoric is getting out of hand with vans telling people to “go home”. Why not just close all the doors to UK and sit by ourselves? What’s next, sending back all the immigrants and see how we survive that economic suicide?

She also wanted to make visitors from “high risk” countries pay a £3000 bond to let them into the country. The money was supposed to be returned if they left before their visa expired. Thank god, that didn’t happen. If that’s how bad the immigration system is, find better ways to fix it. Deterring tourists, who boost our economy, makes as much sense as Katie Hopkins!

We are better than all of this. So please, let’s take a time out.

Words Can Become Weapons

“Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.”

― Jodi Picoult, Salem Falls

Ogilvy & Mather (O&M), Beijing and The Center for Psychological Research, Shenyang have spearheaded a campaign to make the Chinese public aware of the destructive effects of verbal abuse. They told the stories of six juvenile offenders in Shenyang Detention Center, who committed serious crimes like assault and murder. Here’s the video of how they found that words can become weapons:

Words are not just a jumble of letters. They carry meaning and intent. That’s why books are so powerful, they are full of words after all.

Words can describe the impossible and the unimaginable. They can build worlds and introduce us to places and people we never knew could exist. And yet, we throw them around without thought and caution, without regard for the consequences. Every time someone uses words to support discrimination, injustice, hatred and violence, the divide between people widens. The only way to face hateful words is to speak up with words of kindness and compassion, to say loud and clear that words are not meant to divide, they are meant to unite; that words are never meant to be used as weapons; that words are not meant to hurt, they are meant to heal.

How have words influenced you in your life? Share in comments.

Why We Need Books To Be Better Than News Stories

Traditional reporting involved presenting a set of facts clearly, without prejudice, so the reader could form their own opinions and deductions. Your writing skills were solely meant to put forth the findings without compromising the truth.

However, today we live in a world where content is everything. Content creation has been turned on its head and you have millions of people pushing their content in your face every minute. So who decides what’s the “truth” and what facts should be presented?

 

Continue reading “Why We Need Books To Be Better Than News Stories”

This Bank Manager Changed People’s Lives

“I feel it doesn’t matter what you are or what your work is. It is your approach. It is the conviction behind the approach. You can talk about global economic or financial crisis. Or the need to bring about drastic change in the system. But the importance is cultivating people. If you do that, everything falls in to the right place. If you help them change their attitude towards life. What they are doing, why they are doing, how they can be, if you can help them to find an answer to all these things, I think we have found an answer to all the big headlines in the newspapers.”

 – J S Parthiban

This is the story of a simple man helping people in an amazing way. J S Parthiban, a bank manager in South India, has made it his mission to help villagers in his state get loans so they can work together and change their community for better.

Continue reading “This Bank Manager Changed People’s Lives”

How Do Memory-Triggers Help Us?

Ever walked down a road in a hurry and felt your heart race in panic when you saw someone pass by, because they reminded you of a person who broke your heart? Ever seen a flower and felt sad because someone you lost gave you the same kind of flower years ago and you preserved it within the pages of your favourite book and never looked at it again? Was there ever a time when you picked up a stranger’s pen and felt overwhelmed by emotion, because it revealed a never-remembered image of seeing your dead father use a similar pen when you were a child? Human mind has a curious way of associating things and memory-triggers remind us of those emotions and memories that are buried deep within us.

So why bother with something long forgotten? Why care about something that reminds us of things that perhaps we would rather not remember or talk about? Because accepting who we are and what our life means to us, starts with facing all that we would rather forget. It’s about accepting our flaws and forgiving ourselves. It’s about realising that just because we put ourselves out there once and it did not work out the way we thought it would, it doesn’t mean that we should fear being vulnerable again.

Continue reading “How Do Memory-Triggers Help Us?”

Be Vulnerable, Be Free

It is not the critic who counts. It is not the man who sits and points out how the doer of deeds could have done things better and how he falls and stumbles. The credit goes to the man in the arena whose face is marred with dust and blood and sweat. But when he is in the arena, at best he wins, and at worst he loses, but when he fails, when he loses, he does so daring greatly.

-Theodore Roosevelt

Have you ever stopped yourself from writing that book that you always wanted to, because you were too scared of what others might think or that perhaps nobody would like it? Have you ever told yourself you’re waiting for the right moment to apply for your dream job because you need more time to prepare, when actually, you were afraid of being rejected? Pursuing a dream takes courage. But we all deny ourselves what we really want because we are terrified of rejection. The fear of failure is so strong that it stops us from even trying. I should know, I’ve done that many times. Being vulnerable is never easy. But  But I watched a TED Talk by Brené Brown on The Power of Vulnerability, which changed my perspective on failure and vulnerability.

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Noticing, the prerequisite for kindness

Kindness doesn’t require us to be a saint or to make huge sacrifices. All it takes is a little bit of time and the inclination to really look at the people around us. 

I was on the Tube in London on my way back home. Whenever I make this journey from Earl’s Court to Wimbledon on the District Line, it feels as if it lasts forever. It was filled up with the usual rush hour crowd. All the seats were taken, of course. Some were reading, some had earphones on, and some were watching something on their mobile, while the rest just sat there with a vacant stare that most us adopt at the end of a busy work day. As the Tube trundled on, I held on to a pole and was lost in my book. I caught sight of someone getting up from a seat, and as most us tend to do, I jumped at it and sat down immediately. I smiled to myself when I heard someone near sigh that they were too slow to grab the seat.

Soon after I sat down, something made me look around me. I noticed this lady standing, holding onto the pole near the door. She was heavily pregnant, had a “Baby on Board” badge pinned to her coat, and looked completely wrung out. I wondered how long had the poor woman been standing there. I caught her eye and asked if she would like to sit down. She hesitantly said, ‘Would that be ok?’ She sat down and thanked me. When I got back home, this incident got me thinking. I know, this happens every day and most people don’t give it a second thought. Perhaps it’s the notion that we don’t think about such things that really bothered me. So many people on that Tube and it was a while before one of us even noticed that pregnant woman standing among us.

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Should parents smoke?

Soon, MPs in Britain will decide on a proposal to ban smoking in vehicles carrying children. Someone who is against the ban, wrote online that this is a new ploy by the government to tell us how we should live our lives and how we should raise our children. He said that proposing a ban on smoking in cars with children is just one step away from saying what pregnant women should eat and soon they will be dictating terms about our life, our food and our body. This had me worried. I talked to my husband about it and this is how our conversation went:

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Why we must save the Taiji Dolphins

Few years back, my brother suggested that I watch a movie called “The Cove”. He told me it’s about how, in a small town not too far from Tokyo, dolphins are herded and slaughtered every year. He warned me it won’t be easy watching it. That was an understatement. Nothing could have prepared me for the horrific killing I saw in the movie. The water in Taiji’s cove literally ran red with dolphin blood.The movie even won an Oscar.

Yet this year, once again, as the whole world witnesses it, hundreds of dolphins are being held captive and slaughtered in Taiji.

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