Many Houses, Many Stories

Many Houses, Many Stories

Photo by Charu Chaturvedi on Unsplash
Photo by Charu Chaturvedi on Unsplash

Recently I read a book titled The Dutch House. I loved it! It reminded me of how important a house’s role and memories play in one’s life. Whenever I shifted, it felt like leaving behind a piece of me or a box of my memories. It is a strange feeling, maybe because the happier the memories, the stronger the nostalgia!

The Dutch House just made me realize how a house is always in the background in some of our most cherished or worst memories. And then it got me thinking of all the fond memories that I have in different houses I have lived in and how they have made my life happier bit by bit. 🙂

The novel revolves around this house that once belonged to a Dutch family, but reading through it reminded me of my childhood home and brought back the vivid memories of this beautiful one-bedroom house in which we used to live. It had a big verandah in the front and a big backyard. I have fond memories of that house from my growing up years there. Times changed, and we demolished the house to make a new one in its place. In my heart, I guess I metaphorically hugged the old house a few times before bidding it goodbye!

I also remember the good moments in the new house, but I do not remember ever feeling like hugging the new one. That’s the difference!

I currently love where I live, but I often think of the old rented house I moved in when I shifted to Bangalore and the beautiful memories I have from the time. However, if my current abode were a person, it and I would have been best friends! 🙂

Are your memories also associated with the houses where you have lived? Do share your thoughts.

In Darkness We See That Hides In Light

In Darkness We See That Hides In Light

Photo by Marcus Dall Col on Unsplash

Recently, this potent expression, “In darkness we see that hides in light”, by Mr. Mukesh Kwatra in the recent Times of India Coronasutra entertainment section got me thinking hard. The last line of Mr. Kwatra’s poem on the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak was brought to my attention by my mother, a poetess herself, so she can help me understand the depth of it. And when I did, the essence of it remained with me through the day.

This year has been so different. I, and I am sure many of us, have never witnessed anything like this before where the world, with all its faiths, technology, and might is brought to a halt and is unable to cope with the challenge that nature has presented it. While it has been a relief to slow down a bit and consume less in many ways, it has also been tough in recognizing what we are going through in terms of our existence vis-a-vis our relationships, career, health, contribution to society, etc.

My generation has learnt how to get from being busy to becoming busier with all the technology that has evolved in our lifetime. Now when we are forced to use all of it by staying indoors, one realizes that technology cannot fill the emptiness that is caused by lack of access to nature and people one loves. However, one can hope to get some relief by looking inward and by counting our blessings, by appreciating what nature has given us and that which we haven’t had the time to appreciate thus far. And in these times of aloofness, darkness, see that we never really see – search soul, acknowledge the treasures we own in terms of relationships, friends, health, and the treasures we must seek such as peace, trust, goodwill, knowledge, compassion.

Today is 107th day of being at home and I have been thinking of all these things over the last few months. While life has been extremely hectic, I have utilized this phase to thank the cosmos for the innumerable good that exists around and that has kept me going. Here are a few things I am grateful for:

  • Having means to earn a living, and sustain
  • Having a family that’s always there for me (spouse, parents, inlaws, cousins)
  • A secure, peaceful, ventilated abode
  • Being fit enough to carry on
  • Friends that are there, yet are absent : )
  • Being able to provide sustenance to the house help
  • Having access to walkways I can use daily to connect with nature
  • Plants I can care for
  • The ‘giving’ sentiment God has blessed me with
  • Opportunity to read books that I have been wanting to read
  • The revival of nature, reduction of pollution
  • Learning to be empathetic
  • Being blessed with decent will power
  • Experiences that taught me patience
  • A fulfilling life thus far.

I will add to this as I focus more on counting my blessings. If you want, share your list in the comment and we can together realize how much we have to thank for!

Are We Living in 1984?

Are We Living in 1984?

Are we beginning to live in 1984? This fear has been present in my mind ever since there has been an increased disturbance all across India, my home. Those of you who have read 1984, the classic novel by George Orwell (published in 1949), will be able to relate why it is a ‘fear’ in my mind and not just a simple thought. It is not only about the government’s new policies and the way they have been articulated, and misarticulated, that is disappointing, it is also the general state of affairs (rapes, riots, apathy) and the violent public response to everything around us that seems to be breaking the system, the harmony, and to be preventing any kind of slow healing that may have been possible in the same scenario.

More and more we see an increasing retaliation to everything, without even seeing the complete picture or without waiting for the results of the first few steps that have been taken/introduced in the name of development. While I do not understand why the Government of India failed to articulate its new policies well for clear understanding in a nation that is as diverse and large as ours, I detest the violent retaliation countrywide without giving a benefit of the doubt or inviting a debate on the matter. Violence can never be the path to peace and no dialogue can be achieved with a sword in hand.

With all the disturbance going on, my mind has been constantly drawing parallel to 1984. Seeing the way things are in the country today, at times I feel we are living in 1984 … I wish it never happens in real for it is a fearful thought. For those of you who haven’t read the book, here’s a spoiler alert: It is an unpleasant read but it is also a classic for many reasons, as you can sense from this article.

Here are some quotes from the book 1984 that, I feel, hint at the state of affairs that have been existing in the country for years, something only imagined by George Orwell in the 1940s.

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood.”

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

“Big Brother is Watching You.”

“Winston Smith: Does Big Brother exist?
O’Brien: Of course he exists.
Winston Smith: Does he exist like you or me?
O’Brien: You do not exist.”

“The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison, they never even become aware that they are oppressed.”

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

“Inequality was the price of civilization.”

“A loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”

“Life, if you looked about you, bore no resemblance not only to the lies that streamed out of the telescreens, but even to the ideals that the Party was trying to achieve.”

“nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws.”

“The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism.”

“I understand HOW: I do not understand WHY”

“Stupidity was as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.”

“The consequences of every act are included in the act itself.”

The quotes above are very contextual today in the way we and our thinking are being ‘managed’ by all sorts of politicians, in and out of power. There is a strong need for every Indian to rise above individual, and community, mindset and see ourself as a citizen of a great nation first. We must realize our national interest, our potential as a great nation, our unity in diversity, and our deep-rooted culture of acceptance of all faiths. Irrespective of who represents us in the Parliament, citizens need to unite to be able to manage who represents us than allow it to happen vice versa.

I hope that Orwell’s fiction remains a fiction, forever.

NGO, Designers Create Desk-cum-Backpack for Students in Rural India

NGO, Designers Create Desk-cum-Backpack for Students in Rural India

Most schools in rural India can’t afford basic supplies like desks, and most of the students attending them can’t afford backpacks. To address this, Bombay-based nonprofit Aarambh worked with designers to come up with an ingenious solution that can transform old cardboard boxes into a convertible desk and school bag.

The result, Help Desk, folds quickly from one thing to the other; at the end of the day, a few simple moves turn the desk back into a bag to carry books home. The design ended up costing only about 20 cents to make since it’s made from used cardboard. The designers prototyped a few different variations to test with the students, looking for a solution that would be ergonomically correct as a desk and is also easy to build. So far, the final design has been given to 10,000 students at 600 schools.

The desk-bags don’t last forever, especially since cardboard doesn’t stand up well to the rain. But the team is working on developing a low-cost material that can be coated on the surface to help it repel water. Right now, they only last about six months to a year. But anytime they need to be replaced, it’s simple to make again. Read more

The Afghan

The Afghan

The AfghanThe Afghan by international bestselling author Frederick Forsyth is definitely a superb one-time read. This was the first time I read Forsyth.

The fiction (published in 2006) is based on an Al-Qaeda attack on an unspecified location in the US and how the hero helps the intertwined US-UK government security agencies in preventing the country from being destroyed.

The plot

The novel begins in Pakistan where a joint US-UK-Pakistan security agencies’ raid against Al-Qaeda operatives uncovers documents concerning a planned, large terrorist attack in the US.

Mike Martin, a retired American secret agent, is chosen to impersonate an Afghan prisoner Izmat Khan (held at Guantanamo Bay) and enter the Al-Qaeda camp to find out the time and location of the planned attack. Martin is picked for the job as he was born and brought up in Iraq and therefore has a command of Arabic and Pashto languages.

Izmat Khan, popularly known as the Afghan at G. Bay and in Al-Qaeda, is portrayed as a heroic Afghan freedom fighter determined to have vengeance against America following the bombing of his village in the Tora Bora mountains which killed his family.

Martin impersonates “the Afghan” and from there on he travels alone into the unknown world of Al-Qaeda. He goes through various interrogations and checks by different Al-Qaeda members, including “the Sheikh”, Osama bin Laden.

As the story unfolds, Forsyth subtly unveils the general nature of the Al-Qaeda’s planned attack and leaves Martin to realize it and act.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Few things that I found interesting:

  • The descriptions—of the Afghan, Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda operations, US and UK security agencies and their operations, the Guantanamo Bay—are very detailed and interestingly put. You almost believe what the author has described.
  • The plot.
  • The in-depth research of the matter, cultures, languages, operations, and psychology depicted throughout.
  • The characters have been created with great detail and background information, making them almost come alive.
  • Different languages and cultures have been described very neatly, giving lot of exposure to the reader to adjust to different characters and their traits.
  • The momentum of the storyline, climax and the end is nicely maintained.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Few descriptions of the ship movements, security guards, and agents go on and on and that do not hold so much value as far as plot is concerned. I found them boring and had to skip a lot to read the crux.
  • The writing style goes back and forth and the shift is quite sudden at times, giving a sense of incompleteness.

In totality, The Afghan was interesting because of its subject and well researched writing, so much so that I would want to read Forsyth again.