A Girl’s Life Ends At 20

Print

I look at her, lanky but with such lovely facial features. High cheekbones, thick endless lashes draping doe-like soulful eyes.  She is only 14 but already wearing out from the cares of world. Now that she’s older her family’s poverty are more pronounced. On her tattered clothing, on her dejected bearing. As a child she was more carefree, oblivious to the state of her life. She used to burst with energy and aspirations but as she grew into awareness, the limits of her ambitions is slowly dawning on her. I often used to wonder what will become of her. What will happen to her in the future. It devastates me to think of the inevitability of what the rest of her life would be like.

I kept asking her what are her plans for college every time I meet her. I can always feel the hesitation. The sigh around the room.”She wants to be a doctor.” Her sister would say, her voice laced with regret.

Her sister once tried defying  tradition but now has acquiescence to the endless nagging of convention. She will get married. She will give a dowry. Her sister had gone to college. She’s got a job. She is doing her masters. But those will hardly  make any difference.

“Life ends once you get married.” I’ve heard this phrase too often from girls of marriageable age in this country.

This is unimaginable for me. For a girl, 20 years is such a short time to live.

Advertisements

Help With A Humane Face

20131017-195441.jpg

My article was featured on an Indian women’s magazine called Woman’s Era in this month’s edition.

 

That Sunday Afternoon When I Was Speechless In front of Arundhati Roy

The ray of the midday sun was blistering as my husband and I went out of the restaurant but we were not minding it at all. We were having an enjoyable Sunday . Also, we just had a delicious Italian lunch and a delectable cheesecake platter for dessert amidst jokes and banter. Hand in hand we strolled along the shops of a popular South Delhi shopping complex. We were about to enter a bookshop when I felt my husband tugging my hand urgently.

” Honey!” He exclaimed. Half of his body was still outside the glass door of the shop.

I turned to look back and saw him greet a woman who was walking past the shop with a tall man.

I was about to greet them also, thinking they were some artist friends of his but when the woman turned her head towards me, I felt a jolt of recognition.

” Oh, it’s Arundhati Roy! ” I exclaimed excitedly. I felt so embarrassed afterwards but still could not believe that I saw one of my favorite authors. You know what a book nut I am. I feel like a groupie of a rockstar band. Arundhati Roy wrote The God of Small Things and Listening To The Grasshoppers. She won Booker Man Prize for the God of Small Things but she gave away the prize money and royalties from the book to a group, protesting about the construction of a dam that will destroy their village. She was also a staunch defender of the Maoist rebels’ human rights which almost placed her life and liberty in danger. As my husband said, ” That woman has balls.” Continue reading “That Sunday Afternoon When I Was Speechless In front of Arundhati Roy”

We Will Manage

20130906-115444.jpg

The future used to worry me. I used to lay awake at night concocting in my mind all possible evil scenarios that can befall me and my family. Things like losing our jobs, our home or even our lives. What if one of us have an accident that will prevent us from living our lives fully? What if Babar, our dog, falls ill and die? I try to imagine how I would deal and cope in these situations. My heart would race and I would become very agitated. I would feel  helpless and desperate as if those things were already happening to me right there and then.

Martin Heidegger, a German philosopher, had said that we human beings, true to the definition of our nature as ‘ beings’, constantly project ourselves in the future; wanting things, expecting things. Ahead is where we truly live not in the present. We exist in our imagination of things we desired to do, and what we desired to be. The same can be said of our fear of misfortune falling on us. It hold our emotions captive, wasting our time and energy. A happy day can turn sour in a snap of a finger just by worrying about the future. Continue reading “We Will Manage”

A Heavenly GetAway

20130906-115444.jpg

What was I thinking? Where did I get the nerve to plan a hillside trip in the monsoon season? I did check the weather forecast for the next four days and like an ominous sign, the illustration above the forecast showed sinister looking dark clouds and bolts of lightning. There will be thunderstorms for the entire week. Should I trust the forecast? I checked the weather situation on all the states we have to pass by and it was the same all through out, up to the hills and to our final destination. It was going to be a 12 hour drive, half of it on the hillsides.

On the morning of our departure I awoke with uncertainty about our trip. I told my husband we don’t have to go but he assured me it was going to be alright. I looked at Babar and thought how he must be missing the hills and the spacious space where he can run so I thought, what the hell, this trip would be an adventure. It did became a nail biting adventure, for me at least. Hubby did not even break a sweat.

DSCF6375

20130816-110344.jpg

We were already out of the city when the heavens opened up and poured out all its watery contents over our heads. The wiper of the car worked over time, but still it was not fast enough to clear the tons of water cascading on the windshield of the car. We could not see anything in front of us but a thick wall of rain. We stopped when it was getting dangerous. The same narrative recurred during the entire trip until we reached the hillside. Over there another element added to this thrilling experience. Fog. We snaked up slowly and drove gingerly in zero visibility. Once in a while the fog cleared up to give us a view of what lies for us up ahead. It showed us the tip of the mountain shrouded in thick clouds. After a few hours we were literally driving through a thick blanket of clouds. I held my breath each time we turn on a curve which we could barely see if not for the light coming from the trucks driving toward us.

DSCF6918.JPG

DSCF6427.JPGIt was six in the evening when we reached Narkanda, as instructed by the manager of Agyaat Vaas resort, where we would be staying, we drove to Baghi road. Darkness was fast approaching when we saw the fork in the road. We had to take the middle one leading to Hatu peak. It was just a cycle track really. Only wide enough for one car to pass. And we had to climb 5 kilometers of it to reach 3400 meters where our destination lies. 15 minutes had never seemed longer. My heart stopped beating for a few seconds when a huge white SUV came nose to nose with our car on a curve. What to do. We had to go back down with one of the rear wheel hanging for dear life until we found a space wide enough for the other car to pass by. The driver of the other car told us they had to turn back for it was much too dangerous to climb any further. My heartbeat went into over drive.
20130816-120613.jpg

20130816-120702.jpg

When I alighted from the car, upon reaching our hotel, my legs were shaking. Babar jumped from the car in wild excitement and dipped his nose in the first puddle he saw. He ran and ran. Ahead of us and then towards us,wagging his tail gratefully. I laughed. We made it in one piece. Thanks to the steely nerves of my husband.

20130816-121214.jpg

20130816-121241.jpgAs we walked down towards our cottage nestled in the misty woods, I felt like I was walking inside a fairy tale. The place was romantic and mysterious.

Different seasons in the hills have different challenges but different rewards too. The jungle has never been more beautiful. Everything was so lush, fresh and green. The weather was incredible. It was very pleasant with just a little bit of chill.

20130816-120805.jpg

20130816-121414.jpg

DSCF6657.JPG

DSCF6629.JPG

As the forecast predicted it did rain for the whole week. So we sipped chai as we watched the rain and, munched on tasty pakoras. I read an entire novel in 5 hours straight. A slim volume by Haruki Murukami, The West Of The Border East of The Sun. Hubby got all the rest he needed. Babar ran as much as he wanted, rain, mud and all.

20130816-121510.jpg

1525513_10153599933960034_2023977874_n.jpg

DSCF6796.JPG

20130816-121946.jpg

20130816-121405.jpg

DSCF6597.JPG
On the few hours it stopped raining we were able to trek towards a wide lovely meadow called Jau Bagh where numerous wild horses were grazing peacefully undisturbed even by our presence, even by Babar’s excitement.

20130816-122559.jpg

20130813-233547.jpg

20130816-132705.jpg

20130816-122547.jpg

20130816-122743.jpg

20130816-122804.jpg

DSCF6789.JPG

20130816-122014.jpg

The most unforgettable thing about the trip was how awesome it was to walk in the clouds. To see a wisp of it rising up from the ground like a thick smoke from a fire. How it touches my shoulder. I almost wondered I had died and gone to heaven.

DSCF6668.JPG

DSCF6477.JPG

 

 

-JMKhapra copyright 2013

Babar, The Road Nut And The Search For The Perfect Pet Friendly Holiday Destination In India Part 1

 

The August calendar, I noticed, was looking especially colorful with three dates standing out in color red. My husband glanced at what I was looking at.

“We should plan a short vacation around these dates.”

Babar who was sitting calmly in the corner raised his head, ears perked up. I grinned at him. We both knew what it means. Road trip!

Three holidays are coming up, Eid, Raksha Bandhan and the independence day of India. So once again I went on the internet searching for holiday ideas. We can only take four day leaves from work, meaning the place I have to choose this time should be a one day drive away only which limits my choices very narrowly. To reach the most beautiful places in the hills of India you need at least 7 to 10 days. Otherwise most of the holiday will be spent on the road, which is also fun if we are not taking the dog with us. Babar loves running and hiking with us and I would hate for him to be cooped up in the car for the entire trip.

Babar loves riding in the car. As young as three months old, after his vaccines were completed,we have been taking him in the car everywhere around Delhi. We made sure the destination would always be fun for him and, never to the vet clinic for a traumatic painful injection. I read somewhere that, if his first trip on the car is going to the vet, he will associate that experience with the car so we avoided that. We took him to all the big parks in Delhi instead. Now he is addicted to riding in the car. He has to be at center seat where he can walk back and forth to peak at both windows. On these trips he likes poking his head out the windows,  the wind on his face.

20130729-144143.jpg
Choices for pet friendly hotels in India are very limited, almost nil. I have to be very resourceful and search mostly for adventure camps where I think the owners will likely allow our dog to stay with us even if it does not say so in their website.

Finally, after hours of searching, I found a pretty cluster of quaint looking cottages on top of a hill in Narkanda. A place we passed by when we went to Sangla last year. It is only two hours ahead of Shimla so we can reach there in one day if we start early from Delhi.

On the internet, I searched for images of the camp and its surroundings. It is in the middle of a lush green forest with a good view of the snowy Himalayan peak. I became excited. It is exactly the kind of place I was looking for. Crossing my fingers, I called the number printed on the website. The owner answered my call. He sounded nice and accommodating. After inquiring about the availability of the cottages and tariff, I asked the bomb-laden question.

” Sir, we are planning to take our labrador with us, will you allow that? ” I held my breath waiting for his answer which came quickly without the slightest hint of hesitation.

” Yes, you can take your dog here. Our place is spacious so he can run around freely.”

The adventure camp is called, Aagyat Vaas which means, I think, hideaway. And to hide away means you have to go deep into the forest and to reach the secluded peak means to climb dangerously steep narrow roads. Again. Roads in the hills are always the thrilling part of our adventure.

20130816-120748.jpg

I realized that after two years of living with Babar I have now come up with a decent list of pet friendly holiday destinations in India. Well, mostly in the hills of North India.

The owners of the places who allowed Babar to come with us are usually dog lovers too. All of them were also very nice, well mannered and treated their guests well. We have enjoyed ourselves, Babar most of all, in all of these places.

Number one on my list is Kinner camps, nestled in the gorgeous valley of Sangla in Himachal Pradesh. Owner Mr. Negi and associates were very nice to us. They were very accommodating and made sure our visit was comfortable and enjoyable. They became very fond of Babar. The tent we stayed at for four days was spacious and clean. Each tent has its own bathroom with a western style toilet.

Babar had plenty of spaces to run in the meadow near Baspa river, slightly below the camp area. Babar made a lot friends over there. The kids adored him.

There are also plenty of scenic places nearby, like Chitkul, Kalpa and the charming Batseri village.

20130729-150605.jpg

20130729-150837.jpg

550615_10151829898620034_2041718975_n

382454_10151829853440034_1008615395_n

484347_10151829847625034_70773071_n

Sangla

Chitkul

On the other side of the Himalayas in Uttrakhand lies the mystical mountain of Chopta. And somewhere hidden in the midst of its endless sage green meadows surrounded by a dense forest, lies Magpie camp.

534

392

315

590

597

For 3500 rupees a night (including meals) we had an amazing time, for we were the sole guest of the camp during our stay. Babar roamed around freely everywhere without any screaming, complaining auntie anywhere. Although I got spooked by their talks of leopards stalking the camp at night but the only cat Babar came across  was this one!

669

20130703-102417.jpg

20130729-151530.jpg

In order to initiate Babar on our vagabond lifestyle we took him on a nine hour ride to the nearest hill station in the Himalayas. He was not even one year old then. We had a slight difficulty with his toilet habits during the trip. For the entire nine hours on the road he did not pee, even when we stopped at  many places. We were just fearing his bladder would blast. I read somewhere it is difficult for dogs to relieve themselves if they cannot smell their urine anywhere. But as he grew older this problem got corrected.

His first long journey was the trip to Sola , Shogi. There we found a pet friendly adventure camp with small charming cottages. The Hotel Oakwood Hamlet. The room was nice, the staff was helpful and the food was decent. Although the front yard was not spacious enough for Babar to run around. For guest with pets it is good for a stop over if your destination requires more than one day of travel.

20130729-152516.jpg

20130729-152423.jpg

20130729-152453.jpg

20130605-234246.jpg

In Kufri there is another good stop over if you are traveling with your pet. Hidden in the middle of the forest are these charming cottages of Eco Village resort. Although the room is very basic, it is comfortable. The place is actually an apple orchard where guest are free to pick as much as they want. A few horses also gave us a surprised visit in the morning.

20130729-153550.jpg

20130729-153246.jpg

20130729-153121.jpg
For our stop over on our way to Chopta, we stayed at a camp in Rishikesh near the river. Babar enjoyed his sprint along the sandy shores and the sunset reflecting on water was gorgeous. If you like roughing it up I will recommend it but it is not for the finicky. The tent is not comfortable, toilets are communal and the food was awful. But it was nice to spend the evening near the water.

20121206-123258.jpg

20130729-153944.jpg

20130729-153932.jpg

20130729-153955.jpg

I am sure the list will grow longer in the years to come. I will also try our luck in the deserts of Rajasthan. That would be a completely different experience for Babar.

The quest for the perfect pet friendly holiday destination in India can be very frustrating as you will not only get negative reply from most hotel owners but also disapproving frowns from fellow guests. But if you are patient enough when finally you do discover a perfect oasis for you and your pets it would be the most awesome vacation you can ever have.

-JMKhapra copyright 2013

Restoring My Faith in Today’s Youth

20130701-142432.jpg

I will not forget those who suffer. Those who grieve. You will be in my heart as I pull myself out of this sadness. I will continue to watch and read news, documentaries, articles and blogs even though it affects my well being. I will not stop my heart from bleeding for you. I do not want to ignore and forget that you exist. But I will strengthen my mind against hopelessness. I will not think of your situation as hopeless.

I will believe that this and the future generation will bring about change. That they will see that the pursuit of wealth and materialism that consumed the previous generations will not bring fulfillment in their lives. I have read the profile of the Millennium generation ( check below) and it makes my heart sing to think that maybe the world will not be stuck in a perpetual rut.

These new batch of human beings will truly believe that greed is the root of all evil.

They will aspire for a different kind life. For a more meaningful and rewarding existence.

They will not be lazy or petty.

They will explore the beauty of world without skipping over its ugly parts. And they will be affected. They would feel. They will grieve for the victims of injustice. They would reach out.

They will not be hypocrites.

They will not develop cynicism.

They will be knowledgable and wise.

They will shun commercialism. They will not be affected by marketing campaigns.

They will have a mind of their own.

They will be influential. They will influence the whole world to live wide awake. With eyes wide open.

Copyright 2013 JMKhaprs

(It is my opinion that these kinds of studies are conducted to learn how the next generations of buyers will consume products. And what are the kinds of Campaigns that will appeal to them, in politics or in commercialism. But the conclusion of this particular study is encouraging.)

Characteristics of the Millennial Generation

Born between the years 1981 and 2000, their current age (2006) is 6 to 25 years old

Special
Have always been treated as special and important. This generation of children has been the most wanted. Every milestone was marked with celebrations and praise. They may carry a sense of entitlement about them and have an expectation of frequent positive feedback. It’s been instilled in them that they are vital to the nation and to their parents’ sense of purpose. They feel they are here to solve world problems that older generations have failed to solve. They may claim they want privacy, but they crave attention.

Sheltered
Highly protected as children. Grew up in a time of increasing safety measures (car seats, baby on board signs, school lockdowns). They were rarely left unsupervised. They were sheltered from having to take care of their own conflicts as parents advocated on their behalf, and “spared” them from unpleasant experiences. As college students, they may expect faculty and staff to shelter, protect, and nurture them – and resolve their conflicts for them. Millennials are the focus of the most sweeping youth safety movement in American history.

Confident
They are motivated, goal-oriented, and confident in themselves and the future. They expect college to help launch them to greatness. They may brag about their generation’s power and potential. They have high levels of optimism and they feel connected to their parents. They are assertive and believe they are “right”. In Canada the Millennial generation is called the “Sunshine” generation.

Team-Oriented
They are group oriented rather than being individualists. They may sacrifice their own identity to be part of the team. They prefer egalitarian leadership, not hierarchies. They are forming a tight-knit generation. While they are group-oriented within their own cohort, they may “politely” exclude other generations. They do not want to stand out among their peers, they want to be seen as part of the group. They dislike selfishness and are oriented toward service learning and volunteerism.

Achieving
Grade points are rising with this generation and crime is falling. The focus on getting good grades, hard work, involvement in extracurricular activities, etc. is resulting in higher achievement levels. They see college as the key to a high paying job and success, and may miss the bigger picture of what a college education is all about. They are pressured to decide early on a career – and have been put on a career track orientation since grade school. Their focus is more on the world of achievement rather than personal development. The Boomer generation made their mark in the humanities and arts, whereas the Millennials prefer math and science fields.

Pressured
Tightly scheduled as children and used to having every hour of their day filled with structured activity.
This generation may have lost a sense of pure spontaneous play. They may struggle with handling free time and time management in general. In elementary, middle, and high school, have had more hours of homework and less free time than any of the previous generations. They feel pressured to succeed. They’ve been pushed hard to achieve, to avoid risks, and to take advantage of opportunities. They may take on too much, and then think others should be flexible with them when they want to negotiate scheduling conflicts. They think multi-tasking saves time and is a smart thing to do, but aren’t usually aware of the poorer quality of results.

Conventional
Respectful to the point of not questioning authority. They are civic-minded and believe the government knows what’s best and will take care of them. They fear being considered non-conformist. Their clothing, music, and cultural markings will be very mainstream. They value their parents’ opinions very highly. They support and believe in social rules, and are more in line with their parents’ values than most other generations have been. They are trying to invite rules and norms back into the culture.

Resource: Millennials Go To College (2003) by Neil Howe and William Strauss. Website: http://www.lifecourse.com