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Friday, June 21, 2013

Break the Silence… Ring Warning Bells!

Ring The Bell, Presented by IndiBlogger and Breakthrough

Indichange was back in Bangalore once again, this time at Fortune Park JP Celestial, close on the heels of the ‘Bangalore for Women’ with TOI. They invited all of us Bangalore bloggers to take their pledges to end violence against women. Indiblogger has been joined by Breakthrough to “Ring the Bell” in India which is an award winning global campaign calling on men and boys to take action and stop violence against women. Learn more about it on
Bell Bajao
 

I am glad someone has taken initiative to stop domestic violence against women which is rampant all over the world and among every class. At the same time, I wonder why the women wait for someone to come and ring the bell. Why don’t they take the initiative and seek help? I encourage people to respect themselves and also stand up for themselves, because finally it is your suffering and it is your body that is being battered. No one will understand it better than you. 
The videos show the people stopping violence by just ringing the bell. What happens the next day?  Does the man stop beating his wife because someone rung the bell to check about power, to make phone call etc?  I have my doubts about it. It may stop the man for a week at most according to me.  What I would love to see is a group of women barge in the home, trash the man black and blue to show him how it feels to be her shoes. That ad would be more powerful. People may argue that we cannot stop violence with violence, but I feel we can stop violent people with fear of consequences. More than the men standing for men, we need women standing up for women. Women may be weak physically, but they are emotionally very strong, and they have very high level of tolerance too. Therefore we can never assume women to be the weaker sex. Take off that tag, and give them the power to fight violence against them. Let there be not just a million men taking the pledge, let there be equal number of women taking the pledge too.
I have rung the bell at times when I have seen men beating their wives or parents hitting their children. My approach has been more direct, where I have asked openly, “Why are you doing this?” Once a man had answered me, “You don’t know how rudely that woman answers me back”. I said, “Would you hit your parents, boss or a priest who would talk to you rudely? No, isn't it? Why you hit your wife is just because you think her to be subordinate to you and also it is your lack of respect for her... not just her rudeness”.  People often tell me off, asking me to mind my own business, but they know I will not.
I cannot ignore the violence against a helpless person and continue with my life. Be it a mother beating her son, husband beating his wife, teacher punishing a student or children beating elderly parents, I cannot tolerate it silently. Don’t ask me “Why have you not mentioned wife beating husband?” I haven’t because I have not come across it yet, other than some rare cases where the woman has done so in self defense.  Honestly, I am against beating of any kind, no matter who the victim is, and I feel very strongly about it. Also, I have nothing against men in particular. I have father, brother, husband and moreover a very loving son,  who are all important men in my life. 
The meet had more than what I expected. I stand to applaud Indiblogger for working towards a much needed change. The bloggers were treated to wonderful music when some beautiful small girls let themselves go and danced there freely. Suddenly, I thought of the girl who was raped in Delhi. Wasn't she dancing just like that when some stupid men decided to pacify their lust and libido at the cost of her innocence and life? Reading the reports of rapes of young girls below the age of 7 in newspaper recently, has terribly troubled my psychological balance. I have more anger seething in me at present than I have ever felt in my life.
When the question was asked by Anoop as to why should we ring the bell, Nabanita aptly answered him, “It is because those girls who were dancing there can continue to dance”. May be even she had the thoughts of the rape victim on her mind. 
The bloggers had many issues to talk about from upbringing, men staring at women, rapes, child abuse and domestic violence. I am not sure how right I am when I say, women do not have to wait for the bell to ring and suffer in silence. They have to become the warning bells themselves, who will not tolerate violence of any kind, but retaliate. There are situations and instances in which a victim (men or women) may be overpowered, but most of the domestic violence takes place because the victim suffers in silence. If they try to find a solution for it, maybe they will find it. First there has to be a will to stop the violence against women.
Domestic violence is like an addiction. If you do not say ‘NO’ the first time, you may never get out of the whirlpool that will suck you inside strongly. Men who beat their wives become habituated to beating them for some sadistic pleasure, whereas the wives get adjusted to situation and beating, they continue to be battered and heal from the wounds and suffer in silence. As it continues to be a part of their life they may find some kind of pleasure in the sympathy, glorification or whatever they get out from the situation. This may not be true in all cases but it does happen. In my childhood I had once heard a woman telling my mom, “My husband has not lifted his hand on me in the past week. You know how he beats me every day? Do you think he is sick or something?”
Unfortunately or fortunately, I can’t relate to the pain of those women who suffer domestic violence day in, day out throughout their life. I am not a victim of violence of any kind. I have only witnessed the pain and suffering of women who have been through it. My dad had punished me when I was small girl for some religious arguments, petty fights at home with my grandmother and things like that until he decided it was not worth the noise I generated. That was lesson number ‘1’ I learnt in my life. Do not suffer in silence. It only encourages the person who is hurting you. I have defended my rights strongly, and often people do not mess with me.  
I know my weaknesses too. I know that if I was the woman who was attacked by 5 men in a lonely spot, I cannot defend myself, if I was the girl who was showered with acid when walking home from work I cannot do anything, I know if a strong man decides to hit me, I may not be able to overpower him. Physically, women are weaker than men. But then, no man will hit me and then peacefully fall asleep in the same house where I am living, because he knows I will not forget or forgive him easily. People are always afraid of consequences of their actions. It is only when they can get away with a social crime, do they keep repeating it. Domestic violence is not a spur of the moment madness either. It happens again and again because there are no consequences for their action.

After some discussions, we had a show presented by the ‘Breakthrough’ and ‘Ring the Bell’ team. The bloggers were treated to the play ‘Durga’ about the woman who suffers domestic violence for 18 years for no fault of hers. Her husband insults, hits and abuses her. When she tries to defend herself once, the society makes her suffer more insult by making her ask forgiveness from her husband. It was a wonderful performance from a solo artist.
The question posed for the bloggers was, “What Durga must have done in the situation?” Everyone had their own opinions from the woman walking out of marriage, fixing her husband to my own version of retaliating. I know none of them is a proper solution. The problem is not so easy to handle. We all have our own versions of solutions, which may work for one person but fail for other. Someone asked me to show compassion to the person who is abusing his wife. That is not my cup of tea. Again it is easier said than done. I am sure those people who promote compassion would not show it when they are the victims. Ahimsa is a theory, not a practical solution to all problems. It is good for a saint who is meditating on Himalayas, not for the woman who has drunkard husband.
What I loved the most among the discussion was the question posed by country lead of initiative Ring The Bell, “Why women are asked to find solutions for the problem that lies with men, why should they fix men, hold the marriage or bear the brunt of everything?” We need to find answer for that question. We need to tell the women that they alone are not responsible for holding up the relationship and it is not their fault that they were abused by psychotic men. 
We need to make men more sensitive to the problems of women. Let the men show that not all of them are brutes who do not have love and respect for women. Let them stand up and fight for the rights of the women. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Once Upon a Time in India…..



When I think hosting a party for friends and family, the first thought that comes to my mind is what is going to be the theme. For me a party is not complete unless we a have theme and the rest goes around that particular theme for the whole evening. And yeah! The party usually is fun in the evening.
I remember how I and Rayyan had planned on a crazy party. It had loads of fun with crazy competitions and games for children and adults. The point is, no matter what the theme, if you have something in your mind than the party is going to be a hit with everything.

What is the toughest part in arranging a party? For me it is the cooking. I do enjoy cooking normally, but when I plan a party I usually wish I did not have to do all that cooking and cleaning up later. Often the cleaning up is managed by my son who needs just a little help from me, and now I see I have a solution to my other problem also. The gourmet products from Kitchens of India give me a wide variety of choice to suit my party and taste so that I can concentrate on other aspects of an entertaining evening.
Now it is time to go back in time when the Maharajas ruled India. Yeah! That is going to be my theme for the party. Enough of the modern day music, karaoke and discos; for now let us relive the glory of past India. Why not when the kitchens of India will provide us with the cuisine of those old days? With the secret recipes which have been handed down through the generations which are readily available for me, I am sure I can create a super hit party in my home itself.
The invitations will not be sent, but I would personally go and invite the important people to this party and explain the theme to them.  It is time to pull out and iron all those silks which have been stacked at the back of cupboards for a handful of my friends and family members now.
To create the right ambience, I would find the best of Indian historical documentaries and movies to run on my TV. The music would be classical too. The guests to the party will be welcomed cordially and made to sit comfortably. For a change, this is not going to be a serve yourself party. The guests would be taken care of and served food like in old times.
The menu would include recipes have been crafted by the Master chefs of ITC hotels, from royal recipes guarded closely over the ages which I could easily pick up from Kitchens of India. Does that not make me proud? Why not try out some chutneys and conserves to go with the snacks and starters when they are readily available?
The menu would include starters with Chicken Tikka, Fried Prawns and Paneer 65. They will be dipped in delicious dates, in a tart and tangy tamarind base comprise the tongue tingling Tamarind Date Chutney and the Tomato Chilli Chutney instead of regular sauce. The slices of tomato with garlic and green chilli, is sure to lend its fiery nature to the starters and party itself.


The main course would include Naan, Rumali Roti and Ghee Rice which could go well with the gourmet meals of Mughlai Paneer, Dal Bukhara and Chicken Darbari. It would also include Hyderabadi Biryani – A culinary specialty with a royal combination of saffron, spices and condiments to re-create the masterpiece from the Nizam’s kitchens where most of the hard work has already been done by Kitchens of India. All I have to do is add Basmati Rice, chicken, water and cook.
Mango Lassi, Sherbets, and Badam milk will be served in elegant glasses to quench the thirst.
As for desserts, the first thing to crop up in my mind is ice-creams, but according to the theme I am going to stick with the Jodhpuri Moong Dal Halwa -A Rajasthani dessert made from moong dal simmered in milk and garnished with almonds & saffron, Awadhi Badam Halwa- A delectable delight made from the choicest almonds, grated and simmered in milk, ghee and khoya and Hazoori Petha Halwa -A North Indian delicacy made from grated petha, cooked in ghee, milk and khoya, garnished with raisins. The distinctive flavours of this halwa make it the perfect dessert for any occasion. They will be right desserts to follow the gourmet meal.





Finally the guests will be lavished with Gourmet Gifts of Halwas 4 Pack to remember the party by as this is not going to happen very often. Now I am going to check my bank balance and see if I can really afford this party for my closest friends and family.

This post is written for the 'My Gourmet Party' contest at Indiblogger in association with Kitchens of India

Monday, June 17, 2013

Being On Cloud Nine

On June 2nd, we joined Microsoft & IndiBlogger at The Tower Kitchen where they promised to unlock the power of the cloud! With the Office 365 for students they can stay connected to the learning community – anytime, anywhere. Being a student myself, though not the full time college going one, I was curious to know what they had in store for us.
I am extremely sorry to say this, but unlike the other meets of Indiblogger, this was not well planned or organized. The letter received by Inditeam confirmed it too. This is what they had to say. “Thank you for all the awesomeness, and for making it a fun afternoon! We hope that you enjoyed it despite the shortage of food and the lack of chairs. The venue was confirmed at the last moment, and getting things organized was rushed, to say the least. We're sorry for any inconvenience caused to you!”
Actually despite everything, it was an informative and entertaining Sunday with good time spent with Microsoft team, inditeam, indibloggers and friends. We had many different games and fun activities too. Bloggers who had questions regarding Office 365 were answered with patience by the Microsoft team.
Personally for me, the highlight of the event for me came from the Mircosoft team including Ramkumar Pichai (GM, Microsoft) who assured me of help regarding my dream of starting a virtual counseling center for cancer survivors about which I had written earlier as a part of reviewing Mircosoft office 365. If this ever works out, I am going to be forever grateful to Indiblogger and Mircrosoft team.Click on the picture to read more about my dream project. 

Now to answer the question what we wish we had in our school or college, and how it would have helped us. As I said earlier at the meet itself, I missed the convenience of search engines in my school days. It was difficult to find perfect information or answers to the questions as simple as why the sky appears blue when viewed from earth, or why do stars twinkle where as planets do not.
I was a perfectionist as a student and would search the libraries to find answers for the questions that cropped in my mind. I could not accept what was presented to me without proper explanations. Our teachers were at loss as to where to find answers for all the questions I asked. I wanted to know the answers for the questions not only that appeared in my text books or exam papers, but also that came in my mind while learning. There was so much of curiosity to know about the oceans, human psyche, wars, animals and moreover the space and world beyond our solar system.
Finally, after crossing my 30’s I did find the perfect way to quench my thirst for facts, trivia and knowledge. The day I found search engine, I was on cloud nine. In fact I even searched for the information on how the phrase ‘Being on cloud nine’ originate. Then I found the Encarta Encyclopedia which was a special learning experience for me.  As a student of M.S. in psychotherapy and counseling now, I find the search engine and internet to be my best guides and teachers. Unfortunately with family and various responsibilities, I do not have much time to spend on learning. If I had search engines back in my school days, I would have enjoyed my learning immensely.
Now with the advent of Cloud for Education, the life of students will be more simplified. Sharing information, answers and notes taken will be so much easier as will be discussion regarding a subject.
The hunt is on at the moment for the 50 brightest minds is on across 10,000 colleges throughout the country. Those students who have it in them will be mentored by the world’s leading software company. Students can use you’re their Office 365 institute email id and blog their way to win an opportunity of a lifetime – a 4 week Virtual Mentorship with some of the best brains in the country.

Overall it was a memorable experience which ended on a happy note for me and my family. 


Cloud Blogathon
https://www.cloudblogathon.co.in/Default.aspx

Saturday, June 8, 2013

55 Fiction - Gift



Furious, she stared at the clock.
11:55 p.m. In five minutes her birthday would be over.
 No signs of him.  
She waited, with painful memories of how he forgot her first birthday after their wedding.
The clock struck midnight.
 Angrily she stomped to bed.

 And saw him. Dressed in nothing but a big red ribbon.

The Weeping Orphans

The heart rending sobs of two children weeping over their mother who was no more pounded on her ears.  Everything was blurry and hazy. 
She saw them holding on their mother’s body, not allowing them to take her.
 She wiped tears to clear vision. 
It was then that she saw that they were her children!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ignoring Warning Signs Can Be a Matter of Life and Death!





I am not exaggerating when I say that ignoring warning signs can be a matter of life and death because that is what the greatest teacher called LIFE has taught me. If I had ignored the warning signs 17 years ago , I would not be here to blog this story today. 
There was a killer monster dwelling in my breast when I was breast feeding my 11 month old baby girl. The monster unlike the ones from fairy tales or movies was not huge, did not spout fire nor made any noise. It was a silent killer, in the size of a green pea hiding under the flesh of my own body.
When breast feeding my baby girl I felt something hard knot like thing in my breast very close to my armpit. I ignored it for two days thinking it to be hardened milk duct or something related to breast feeding. Something inside my heart told me not to ignore it as it could be breast cancer too. I was 28, had breast fed my first child for more than a year and I was at present breast feeding my second child. I did not wear tight clothes nor did I have any unhealthy habits. I did Yoga and exercised regularly. What were the odds of me getting Breast Cancer? The statistics would say very low, but something kept ringing the warning bell in heart which would not allow the mind to listen to the facts. May be my heart was looking at my sister who was going through cancer at the age of 31. When having my shower, I applied soap and checked out the pea sized lump once again, and then I knew that something was wrong. This was a different kind of lump unlike anything I have felt in my body. It was hard, uneven and kind of scary of feel.
I heeded to the sign the body was giving and went to a doctor. He felt the lump and ordered a biopsy to rule out breast cancer. Everybody kept telling me that this is unnecessary and I was getting worried just because my sister had got breast cancer. I wanted to be sure for my children’s sake. Unfortunately the results told me that I had breast cancer (Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma) stage III. If I had ignored the lump and early signs, choosing to live in the world of denial thinking this cannot happen to me as -- I am breast feeding my baby, I am too young or anything other reason than I would be at higher risk and my chances of surviving breast cancer would lessen. The pea sized lump proved bad enough to have spread to 10 lymph nodes.
Heeding to the subtle signs that indicated breast cancer has saved my life. I have seen my children grow from small scary kids who worried about losing their Maa, into youngsters who are more confident that their Maa can handle anything thrown her way smartly. I have learned to live life fully –making a bucket list and ticking things off it. Swimming, going to Disney Land in USA, becoming a graduate and many other dreams has come true. Some are still in the making.
Unfortunately this was not the case of my sister or my mother. For one, they both ignored the lump in their breasts as something not significant without listening to the warning signs their body was trying to convey and even when they discovered it was breast cancer, they choose a different path to walk on. It is sad that they both are not with me anymore.
With the lesson life has taught me, I have decided to spread the message of breast cancer awareness among women so that they would heed to the warning signs and go for timely check-ups. With right intervention, so son or daughter will have to lose their mother neither will siblings miss their sister like it happened with my family. Even though there is nothing known as 100% success rate; at least the guilt of not having the done the right thing for your loved one will not eat you up.
17 years walking down the path of cancer survival, at present I work as a counselor trying to be there and guide newly diagnosed patients along with trying to support emotionally traumatized people. Days do not go by wasted in my life anymore. I have a purpose to live and that includes enjoying life and having fun too. The moral of the story is that there is no going back on the road called life. Take every step with caution and heed the signs. A life once lost is lost forever!
The Old Pack :)

When Indiblogger announced the contest from Colgate all I could think of was the enticing taste of the Colgate tooth powder from my childhood. I would sneak into the bathroom and eat it so often, that my mother finally decided to get the paste. 

I think besides Cancer one of the worst kinds of problems is faced by people who ignore the signs of budding gum and teeth problems, especially in India. The fear of the dentist keeps them away from regular check-ups leading to tooth-ache, gum disease and at worse loss of teeth too.  Regular checkups can detect oral cancer too. When I visited the My Healthy Speak Blog I learned some new things about oral health and care which I had missed earlier. It is time for me to wind up the blog and visit my dentist for a checkup now.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Letter To My Mommy.....

Whoever would have thought that a weird, almost evil like woman who goes around with the nick name of Blogwati G could ever make a huge difference to my life unintentionally? But that is what happens to a weird person like me most of the time. The most crazy and greatest weirdos do leave behind a lasting impact on my life. There is a secret group called the IndiBlogeshwaris. The group is nothing special but just a bunch of crazy women who hang out together and chat chat and chat. We do have a header and to enter we need to touch the right picture of our face before making a comment. Otherwise the comment is not accepted there. Some lady called  Garima Obrah has come up with this special software. 
Cover Photo
There is also some birdie tweeting with the hashtag  #BlogeshwariONE @Indiblogeshwari. You may wonder what is a wise woman like me doing there. It was Purba who lured me to join the group telling me they are giving away free Victoria’s secrets.

So,  this woman Vinita came up with idea of the ElusiveONE as the group of crazies she found (with co-conspirers Janaki and Corinne) on facebook was turning 1. She ordered all of us to do something we have been putting off forever and then write about it. She also threatened to unfriend me on facebook if I failed… … NO wait. That threat was for watching Hissssss movie.

 This was tough. There are few things that have eluded me, because I am kind of a free soul who does whatever I want ---to the desperation of people surrounding me. But somehow it got me thinking and I thought and thought for nearly 6 days. On the 7th day I realized that there is actually something I have never done before and it is high time I did it. As my Mom was an illiterate person, I never got to write a letter for her. I always had to write letter to my dad or sister and give instructions to tell Mommy this or that. Now that she is in heaven I think she can read or some angel will read it to her if she is stubborn and says, ‘I can’t read’. So finally I am writing my first personal letter to my Mom.  The letter is going to be in English because my Mom always admired the way I handled the language and felt proud of it. I used to feel so embarrassed when she would prod me “Fari, show them how well you can speak. Go ahead talk in English with them”. LOL. Though she could not speak the language she could very well understand it. So here it goes..
“Hey Mommy,
                            How is heaven? I miss you over here a lot. Don’t worry and start grumbling, “Why has Fari all of a sudden decided to write a letter to me? Is she going to ask me some weird questions even now?” Honestly I am not having any more questions for you to answer for me, because the answers do not matter anymore. Why did you do that? How could you love my younger sister more than me? Why do you have to spend so much? All those questions have lost their significance. Even if you had answers for all them, that would not change anything. You were a great Mommy to all of us, and whatever you did was for our own good. If things went wrong, it was only because you did not know what was good for us.
When bringing up my own children, on those rarest days when I got angry with them, I would stop myself before going ahead and say “what would I do if my parents were in that situation? I would not hit them or scold them. Let me treat my children with same respect and handle this sensibly”. That way I have been able to stop myself from hurting my children emotionally. Also when they would not see things  as I did, or would act differently from what I expect, I would console myself saying, though they are my own kids, they are not ‘ME’. They are different individuals with their own characteristics and personality. Today I am going to reverse that rule. I will think of you as my own child and let things go, as only a Mom can forgive and forget everything a child has done.  I know you have done that with us a thousand times in our lives. Though this sounds funny, I have tears rolling down my cheeks as I type. Also I will accept you for whatever you are because though you are my MOM, you are not ME. We are both different individuals with our own thoughts, characteristics and personality. Your extravagances, your fears of simple things and all other characteristics are accepted without finding fault in them. Even the high fat content of your tasty food is all good with me now.   
I remember how badly you wanted me to get married to your ‘chosen one’ and how many weird tricks you played on me. You exaggerated your heart problems and told me you were dying. I still have no clue how I lost the bet to you. That is how you got the nick name ‘crow’ from me.  Remember how I would say “you are the cheeranjeevi crow Mommy. I am sure you will not die” whenever you tried to emotionally black mail me ever again with your death threats? You said someday I will regret it. Though you are no more with me, I don’t regret it. It is so funny even today to think over and laugh at. I am so sure you would have survived my refusal of marriage. Studying and becoming an astrophysicist meant a lot to me. You never understood how important this was to me. All you could think was about getting me married to the person who you thought was best suited for your daughter. You even went ahead and said ‘I will cut off my right arm if I am ever proved wrong and he hurts you in anyway’. You had some dramatic ways Mommy!
When your chosen one made a great fuss about me sending Farheena to school, for once I saw that regret in your eyes and when you said, “I made a mistake” it was like a final victory for me.  You asked me to forgive you for the wrong you have done. You also said, may be I would have become a great scientist if not for your silliness. Back then I said, “No. I will not forgive you”, in my own hilarious style. Somehow it was difficult to forgive also back on that day.
Today I can say for sure that I don’t even feel a need to forgive you because I don’t feel you did anything wrong. In the words of Eric Segal, "Love means never having to say you're sorry". Your actions were based on your concern for my well being. You were scared that I would get sucked into the black hole or go crazy by reading all the time. For us your fears were silly, but for you they were true. Today, as a mother when I worry about my children’s safety, I can understand you much better than I did back then.
Due to your choice I have two wonderful children who have made life so much interesting and better for me since past 21 years. Nothing in the world would have made me happier than being a mom to them. The feeling is mutual. They would never exchange their crazy Maa for anything.  I take great pride in my parenting skills and the way I have brought up my children. I cherish every moment I spend with them. And to think all this has been possible only due to the silly choice you made. This has been lingering in my mind for a long time. Today I just officially announce it openly to you. I am very happy with the way you brought me up, instilled confidence in me by trusting me, gave me freedom to explore all religions, got me married to the person of your choice and for the amazing tasty food which made me fat finally.  Thank you for the amazing patience you showed when I threw around tantrums after tantrums in my childhood. Thank you for being my mom.
Though you made a decision back then for me, I realized lately that I always had a choice to continue or not with the situation I was in. Today I am moving ahead with my life in the way I want it. The past cannot be corrected but the future can be changed. No more blaming you or anyone for what I am today, but taking responsibility for what I am and sculpting my future the way I want it to be. I know you and dad would be proud to see the work I am doing now. You both were always proud of me. The expression on your face when you said you regretted your decision to get me married was very painful. I am motivated now to make you feel at ease by continuing with my studies and being independent.
I miss seeing you laugh uncontrollably shaking all over and going red at the jokes I would crack. Just the other day your daughter in law was remembering how you would laugh and go red in face when I said something funny. I miss you when Rayyan or Farheena achieve something because no one would praise them like you did. I miss you when I achieve something or when our family gets together and have fun. Most of all I miss your shrewdness which had people dancing to your tunes. Your words of wisdom make so much sense to me when I am going through a tough phase in life.
Now that Dad has left for the same place you went to, I hope you are both together there with your lovely daughter. Or are you hiding from dad and making fool of him. I hope someday we all will be together again like we were earlier. That was one of the happiest times of our lives.. Sigh! See you once I am done with my work here. Bye for now.
Regards
Farida

The people who have become a treasure in my memories .. I miss them every moment of my life. 

                                 









Sunday, June 2, 2013

The First Love Of My Life - Books!

Can books and stories about characters and events that are not real teach us anything useful? YES. There is no doubt about it for me. Being a handicapped girl, I was a loner in my childhood. I spent a lot of my time reading books which included real life stories, comics and science books. I would not have made it to my teen years without either going crazy or driving people around me crazy if not for books. My addiction to books started when I was very young. I had a fracture on my leg and was bedridden for more than 3 months. The cast ran from my toes up to my waist, which made walking impossible. I was a mischievous and naughty child who could not sit around for long, therefore tired of trying to entertain me; my family bought me picture books. To their amazement they discovered I loved reading. By the end of three months I was reading news paper. I would add some spice and narrate the events to my mother and her family. So the fracture, which had caused me a lot of trauma, had not been a very bad event after all. It honed my reading skills. Also after the incident I was more into reading and less into physical activities. I became silent because I could not read and talk at the same time. Having found a way to shut me up people found lots of interesting books for me to read.




The first story that touched my heart and changed me into a different person was Mark Twain’s “A Dog's Tale”. It was the day I felt ashamed of being a human and not a dog. I cried for three days and could not eat properly because I felt deeply touched by the dog in the story. 35 years later, I still can’t think of the story without shedding tears. I feel Mark Twain was the person who taught me more about myself and human nature than anyone else. He made me think unbiased towards all living creatures of the world. I have never felt superior just because I am human since that day. Many people wonder why my thoughts are so different, and they can’t believe the change was due to an author.
Another change came over me when I read Scott Peck’s ‘The Road Less Travelled’. Though there are no fictional characters in the book, some of the things he said in the book had deep impact on my mind. One of the best things I learned from Scot Peck was about disciplining children. According to him, we cannot teach discipline through indiscipline. When a mother shouts at a child not to shout, she is giving two different messages to the child. One through her action and one through what she is saying. This is a very important lesson I have learned in my life. Also his views about love, marriage, relationships and death gave me a different introspective view into my own life too.
Another person who had a huge impact on my life is Somerset Maugham. Though his most famous book had been ‘Of Human Bondage’, my inspiration came from his short stories in which he made excellent description of human relationships. The characters in his book have permanently changed the way I look at people. They made me more broad minded than I was before.
Reading about the Jews during the regime of Hitler has been the single most changing event of my life. It has contributed a lot to my disbelief in religions and allowing distinguishing among people based on their caste, ethnicity or color. Though an unrelated event to my own life, it kind of connected me with the people of that time. I had spent a lot of my teen years reading about the concentration camps and suffering of Jews and slowly the event seeped into my psyche and became a part of me.
Books, characters and events narrated in them have a huge impact on my life. Without books, I would not be the person I am today!
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

For those who wish to read 
A DOG'S TALE

by Mark Twain
  
CHAPTER I

My father was a St. Bernard, my mother was a collie, but I am a
Presbyterian.  This is what my mother told me, I do not know these nice
distinctions myself.  To me they are only fine large words meaning
nothing.  My mother had a fondness for such; she liked to say them, and
see other dogs look surprised and envious, as wondering how she got so
much education.  But, indeed, it was not real education; it was only
show: she got the words by listening in the dining-room and drawing-room
when there was company, and by going with the children to Sunday-school
and listening there; and whenever she heard a large word she said it over
to herself many times, and so was able to keep it until there was a
dogmatic gathering in the neighborhood, then she would get it off, and
surprise and distress them all, from pocket-pup to mastiff, which
rewarded her for all her trouble.  If there was a stranger he was nearly
sure to be suspicious, and when he got his breath again he would ask her
what it meant.  And she always told him.  He was never expecting this but
thought he would catch her; so when she told him, he was the one that
looked ashamed, whereas he had thought it was going to be she.  The
others were always waiting for this, and glad of it and proud of her, for
they knew what was going to happen, because they had had experience.
When she told the meaning of a big word they were all so taken up with
admiration that it never occurred to any dog to doubt if it was the right
one; and that was natural, because, for one thing, she answered up so
promptly that it seemed like a dictionary speaking, and for another
thing, where could they find out whether it was right or not? for she was
the only cultivated dog there was.  By and by, when I was older, she
brought home the word Unintellectual, one time, and worked it pretty hard
all the week at different gatherings, making much unhappiness and
despondency; and it was at this time that I noticed that during that week
she was asked for the meaning at eight different assemblages, and flashed
out a fresh definition every time, which showed me that she had more
presence of mind than culture, though I said nothing, of course.  She had
one word which she always kept on hand, and ready, like a life-preserver,
a kind of emergency word to strap on when she was likely to get washed
overboard in a sudden way--that was the word Synonymous.  When she
happened to fetch out a long word which had had its day weeks before and
its prepared meanings gone to her dump-pile, if there was a stranger
there of course it knocked him groggy for a couple of minutes, then he
would come to, and by that time she would be away down wind on another
tack, and not expecting anything; so when he'd hail and ask her to cash
in, I (the only dog on the inside of her game) could see her canvas
flicker a moment--but only just a moment--then it would belly out taut
and full, and she would say, as calm as a summer's day, "It's synonymous
with supererogation," or some godless long reptile of a word like that,
and go placidly about and skim away on the next tack, perfectly
comfortable, you know, and leave that stranger looking profane and
embarrassed, and the initiated slatting the floor with their tails in
unison and their faces transfigured with a holy joy.

And it was the same with phrases.  She would drag home a whole phrase, if
it had a grand sound, and play it six nights and two matinees, and
explain it a new way every time--which she had to, for all she cared for
was the phrase; she wasn't interested in what it meant, and knew those
dogs hadn't wit enough to catch her, anyway.  Yes, she was a daisy!  She
got so she wasn't afraid of anything, she had such confidence in the
ignorance of those creatures.  She even brought anecdotes that she had
heard the family and the dinner-guests laugh and shout over; and as a
rule she got the nub of one chestnut hitched onto another chestnut,
where, of course, it didn't fit and hadn't any point; and when she
delivered the nub she fell over and rolled on the floor and laughed and
barked in the most insane way, while I could see that she was wondering
to herself why it didn't seem as funny as it did when she first heard it.
But no harm was done; the others rolled and barked too, privately ashamed
of themselves for not seeing the point, and never suspecting that the
fault was not with them and there wasn't any to see.

You can see by these things that she was of a rather vain and frivolous
character; still, she had virtues, and enough to make up, I think.  She
had a kind heart and gentle ways, and never harbored resentments for
injuries done her, but put them easily out of her mind and forgot them;
and she taught her children her kindly way, and from her we learned also
to be brave and prompt in time of danger, and not to run away, but face
the peril that threatened friend or stranger, and help him the best we
could without stopping to think what the cost might be to us.  And she
taught us not by words only, but by example, and that is the best way and
the surest and the most lasting.  Why, the brave things she did, the
splendid things! she was just a soldier; and so modest about it--well,
you couldn't help admiring her, and you couldn't help imitating her; not
even a King Charles spaniel could remain entirely despicable in her
society.  So, as you see, there was more to her than her education.




CHAPTER II

When I was well grown, at last, I was sold and taken away, and I never
saw her again.  She was broken-hearted, and so was I, and we cried; but
she comforted me as well as she could, and said we were sent into this
world for a wise and good purpose, and must do our duties without
repining, take our life as we might find it, live it for the best good of
others, and never mind about the results; they were not our affair.  She
said men who did like this would have a noble and beautiful reward by and
by in another world, and although we animals would not go there, to do
well and right without reward would give to our brief lives a worthiness
and dignity which in itself would be a reward.  She had gathered these
things from time to time when she had gone to the Sunday-school with the
children, and had laid them up in her memory more carefully than she had
done with those other words and phrases; and she had studied them deeply,
for her good and ours.  One may see by this that she had a wise and
thoughtful head, for all there was so much lightness and vanity in it.

So we said our farewells, and looked our last upon each other through our
tears; and the last thing she said--keeping it for the last to make me
remember it the better, I think--was, "In memory of me, when there is a
time of danger to another do not think of yourself, think of your mother,
and do as she would do."

Do you think I could forget that?  No.




CHAPTER III

It was such a charming home!--my new one; a fine great house, with
pictures, and delicate decorations, and rich furniture, and no gloom
anywhere, but all the wilderness of dainty colors lit up with flooding
sunshine; and the spacious grounds around it, and the great garden--oh,
greensward, and noble trees, and flowers, no end!  And I was the same as
a member of the family; and they loved me, and petted me, and did not
give me a new name, but called me by my old one that was dear to me
because my mother had given it me--Aileen Mavourneen.  She got it out of
a song; and the Grays knew that song, and said it was a beautiful name.

Mrs. Gray was thirty, and so sweet and so lovely, you cannot imagine it;
and Sadie was ten, and just like her mother, just a darling slender
little copy of her, with auburn tails down her back, and short frocks;
and the baby was a year old, and plump and dimpled, and fond of me, and
never could get enough of hauling on my tail, and hugging me, and
laughing out its innocent happiness; and Mr. Gray was thirty-eight, and
tall and slender and handsome, a little bald in front, alert, quick in
his movements, business-like, prompt, decided, unsentimental, and with
that kind of trim-chiseled face that just seems to glint and sparkle with
frosty intellectuality!  He was a renowned scientist.  I do not know what
the word means, but my mother would know how to use it and get effects.
She would know how to depress a rat-terrier with it and make a lap-dog
look sorry he came.  But that is not the best one; the best one was
Laboratory.  My mother could organize a Trust on that one that would skin
the tax-collars off the whole herd.  The laboratory was not a book, or a
picture, or a place to wash your hands in, as the college president's dog
said--no, that is the lavatory; the laboratory is quite different, and is
filled with jars, and bottles, and electrics, and wires, and strange
machines; and every week other scientists came there and sat in the
place, and used the machines, and discussed, and made what they called
experiments and discoveries; and often I came, too, and stood around and
listened, and tried to learn, for the sake of my mother, and in loving
memory of her, although it was a pain to me, as realizing what she was
losing out of her life and I gaining nothing at all; for try as I might,
I was never able to make anything out of it at all.

Other times I lay on the floor in the mistress's work-room and slept, she
gently using me for a footstool, knowing it pleased me, for it was a
caress; other times I spent an hour in the nursery, and got well tousled
and made happy; other times I watched by the crib there, when the baby
was asleep and the nurse out for a few minutes on the baby's affairs;
other times I romped and raced through the grounds and the garden with
Sadie till we were tired out, then slumbered on the grass in the shade of
a tree while she read her book; other times I went visiting among the
neighbor dogs--for there were some most pleasant ones not far away, and
one very handsome and courteous and graceful one, a curly-haired Irish
setter by the name of Robin Adair, who was a Presbyterian like me, and
belonged to the Scotch minister.

The servants in our house were all kind to me and were fond of me, and
so, as you see, mine was a pleasant life.  There could not be a happier
dog that I was, nor a gratefuller one.  I will say this for myself, for
it is only the truth:  I tried in all ways to do well and right, and
honor my mother's memory and her teachings, and earn the happiness that
had come to me, as best I could.

By and by came my little puppy, and then my cup was full, my happiness
was perfect.  It was the dearest little waddling thing, and so smooth and
soft and velvety, and had such cunning little awkward paws, and such
affectionate eyes, and such a sweet and innocent face; and it made me so
proud to see how the children and their mother adored it, and fondled it,
and exclaimed over every little wonderful thing it did.  It did seem to
me that life was just too lovely to--

Then came the winter.  One day I was standing a watch in the nursery.
That is to say, I was asleep on the bed.  The baby was asleep in the
crib, which was alongside the bed, on the side next the fireplace.  It
was the kind of crib that has a lofty tent over it made of gauzy stuff
that you can see through.  The nurse was out, and we two sleepers were
alone.  A spark from the wood-fire was shot out, and it lit on the slope
of the tent.  I suppose a quiet interval followed, then a scream from the
baby awoke me, and there was that tent flaming up toward the ceiling!
Before I could think, I sprang to the floor in my fright, and in a second
was half-way to the door; but in the next half-second my mother's
farewell was sounding in my ears, and I was back on the bed again.
I reached my head through the flames and dragged the baby out by the
waist-band, and tugged it along, and we fell to the floor together in a
cloud of smoke; I snatched a new hold, and dragged the screaming little
creature along and out at the door and around the bend of the hall, and
was still tugging away, all excited and happy and proud, when the
master's voice shouted:

"Begone you cursed beast!" and I jumped to save myself; but he was
furiously quick, and chased me up, striking furiously at me with his
cane, I dodging this way and that, in terror, and at last a strong blow
fell upon my left foreleg, which made me shriek and fall, for the moment,
helpless; the cane went up for another blow, but never descended, for the
nurse's voice rang wildly out, "The nursery's on fire!" and the master
rushed away in that direction, and my other bones were saved.

The pain was cruel, but, no matter, I must not lose any time; he might
come back at any moment; so I limped on three legs to the other end of
the hall, where there was a dark little stairway leading up into a garret
where old boxes and such things were kept, as I had heard say, and where
people seldom went.  I managed to climb up there, then I searched my way
through the dark among the piles of things, and hid in the secretest
place I could find.  It was foolish to be afraid there, yet still I was;
so afraid that I held in and hardly even whimpered, though it would have
been such a comfort to whimper, because that eases the pain, you know.
But I could lick my leg, and that did some good.

For half an hour there was a commotion downstairs, and shoutings, and
rushing footsteps, and then there was quiet again.  Quiet for some
minutes, and that was grateful to my spirit, for then my fears began to
go down; and fears are worse than pains--oh, much worse.  Then came a
sound that froze me.  They were calling me--calling me by name--hunting
for me!

It was muffled by distance, but that could not take the terror out of it,
and it was the most dreadful sound to me that I had ever heard.  It went
all about, everywhere, down there:  along the halls, through all the
rooms, in both stories, and in the basement and the cellar; then outside,
and farther and farther away--then back, and all about the house again,
and I thought it would never, never stop.  But at last it did, hours and
hours after the vague twilight of the garret had long ago been blotted
out by black darkness.

Then in that blessed stillness my terrors fell little by little away, and
I was at peace and slept.  It was a good rest I had, but I woke before
the twilight had come again.  I was feeling fairly comfortable, and I
could think out a plan now.  I made a very good one; which was, to creep
down, all the way down the back stairs, and hide behind the cellar door,
and slip out and escape when the iceman came at dawn, while he was inside
filling the refrigerator; then I would hide all day, and start on my
journey when night came; my journey to--well, anywhere where they would
not know me and betray me to the master.  I was feeling almost cheerful
now; then suddenly I thought:  Why, what would life be without my puppy!

That was despair.  There was no plan for me; I saw that; I must stay where
I was; stay, and wait, and take what might come--it was not my affair;
that was what life is--my mother had said it.  Then--well, then the
calling began again!  All my sorrows came back.  I said to myself, the
master will never forgive.  I did not know what I had done to make him so
bitter and so unforgiving, yet I judged it was something a dog could not
understand, but which was clear to a man and dreadful.

They called and called--days and nights, it seemed to me.  So long that
the hunger and thirst near drove me mad, and I recognized that I was
getting very weak.  When you are this way you sleep a great deal, and I
did.  Once I woke in an awful fright--it seemed to me that the calling
was right there in the garret!  And so it was:  it was Sadie's voice, and
she was crying; my name was falling from her lips all broken, poor thing,
and I could not believe my ears for the joy of it when I heard her say:

"Come back to us--oh, come back to us, and forgive--it is all so sad
without our--"

I broke in with SUCH a grateful little yelp, and the next moment Sadie
was plunging and stumbling through the darkness and the lumber and
shouting for the family to hear, "She's found, she's found!"

 The days that followed--well, they were wonderful.  The mother and Sadie
and the servants--why, they just seemed to worship me.  They couldn't
seem to make me a bed that was fine enough; and as for food, they
couldn't be satisfied with anything but game and delicacies that were out
of season; and every day the friends and neighbors flocked in to hear
about my heroism--that was the name they called it by, and it means
agriculture.  I remember my mother pulling it on a kennel once, and
explaining it in that way, but didn't say what agriculture was, except
that it was synonymous with intramural incandescence; and a dozen times a
day Mrs. Gray and Sadie would tell the tale to new-comers, and say I
risked my life to say the baby's, and both of us had burns to prove it,
and then the company would pass me around and pet me and exclaim about
me, and you could see the pride in the eyes of Sadie and her mother; and
when the people wanted to know what made me limp, they looked ashamed and
changed the subject, and sometimes when people hunted them this way and
that way with questions about it, it looked to me as if they were going
to cry.

And this was not all the glory; no, the master's friends came, a whole
twenty of the most distinguished people, and had me in the laboratory,
and discussed me as if I was a kind of discovery; and some of them said
it was wonderful in a dumb beast, the finest exhibition of instinct they
could call to mind; but the master said, with vehemence, "It's far above
instinct; it's REASON, and many a man, privileged to be saved and go with
you and me to a better world by right of its possession, has less of it
that this poor silly quadruped that's foreordained to perish"; and then
he laughed, and said:  "Why, look at me--I'm a sarcasm! bless you, with
all my grand intelligence, the only thing I inferred was that the dog had
gone mad and was destroying the child, whereas but for the beast's
intelligence--it's REASON, I tell you!--the child would have perished!"

They disputed and disputed, and I was the very center of subject of it
all, and I wished my mother could know that this grand honor had come to
me; it would have made her proud.

Then they discussed optics, as they called it, and whether a certain
injury to the brain would produce blindness or not, but they could not
agree about it, and said they must test it by experiment by and by; and
next they discussed plants, and that interested me, because in the summer
Sadie and I had planted seeds--I helped her dig the holes, you know--and
after days and days a little shrub or a flower came up there, and it was
a wonder how that could happen; but it did, and I wished I could talk--I
would have told those people about it and shown then how much I knew, and
been all alive with the subject; but I didn't care for the optics; it was
dull, and when they came back to it again it bored me, and I went to
sleep.

Pretty soon it was spring, and sunny and pleasant and lovely, and the
sweet mother and the children patted me and the puppy good-by, and went
away on a journey and a visit to their kin, and the master wasn't any
company for us, but we played together and had good times, and the
servants were kind and friendly, so we got along quite happily and
counted the days and waited for the family.

And one day those men came again, and said, now for the test, and they
took the puppy to the laboratory, and I limped three-leggedly along, too,
feeling proud, for any attention shown to the puppy was a pleasure to me,
of course.  They discussed and experimented, and then suddenly the puppy
shrieked, and they set him on the floor, and he went staggering around,
with his head all bloody, and the master clapped his hands and shouted:

"There, I've won--confess it!  He's as blind as a bat!"

And they all said:

"It's so--you've proved your theory, and suffering humanity owes you a
great debt from henceforth," and they crowded around him, and wrung his
hand cordially and thankfully, and praised him.

But I hardly saw or heard these things, for I ran at once to my little
darling, and snuggled close to it where it lay, and licked the blood, and
it put its head against mine, whimpering softly, and I knew in my heart
it was a comfort to it in its pain and trouble to feel its mother's
touch, though it could not see me.  Then it dropped down, presently, and
its little velvet nose rested upon the floor, and it was still, and did
not move any more.

Soon the master stopped discussing a moment, and rang in the footman, and
said, "Bury it in the far corner of the garden," and then went on with
the discussion, and I trotted after the footman, very happy and grateful,
for I knew the puppy was out of its pain now, because it was asleep.  We
went far down the garden to the farthest end, where the children and the
nurse and the puppy and I used to play in the summer in the shade of a
great elm, and there the footman dug a hole, and I saw he was going to
plant the puppy, and I was glad, because it would grow and come up a fine
handsome dog, like Robin Adair, and be a beautiful surprise for the
family when they came home; so I tried to help him dig, but my lame leg
was no good, being stiff, you know, and you have to have two, or it is no
use.  When the footman had finished and covered little Robin up, he
patted my head, and there were tears in his eyes, and he said:  "Poor
little doggie, you saved HIS child!"

I have watched two whole weeks, and he doesn't come up!  This last week a
fright has been stealing upon me.  I think there is something terrible
about this.  I do not know what it is, but the fear makes me sick, and I
cannot eat, though the servants bring me the best of food; and they pet
me so, and even come in the night, and cry, and say, "Poor doggie--do
give it up and come home; don't break our hearts!" and all this terrifies
me the more, and makes me sure something has happened.  And I am so weak;
since yesterday I cannot stand on my feet anymore.  And within this hour
the servants, looking toward the sun where it was sinking out of sight
and the night chill coming on, said things I could not understand, but
they carried something cold to my heart.

"Those poor creatures!  They do not suspect.  They will come home in the
morning, and eagerly ask for the little doggie that did the brave deed,
and who of us will be strong enough to say the truth to them:  'The
humble little friend is gone where go the beasts that perish.'"




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