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I am a photographer/writer, but above all I am a learner, always looking for ideas to improve my life and betterment of my family. Family comes first for me. Meditation is my favorite topic to talk about. I believe everyone should develop in mathematical discussions because without knowing math, you can not have a very good life. Math is every where.
This was the year 1988 when I was in 8th grade. I have a vivid memory of that day. All the girls in our class were asked to take permission from their parents for an extra hour, after school, for the health counselor's visit. I, along with all my friends, was very puzzled at the reason for the health counselor's visit. We thought we were perfectly fine and in good health. Moreover, why would the health counselor come to school? Why not our parents can take care if something is wrong? This did not sound normal to me. Lots of questions like this were floating around in the classroom with all kinds of ridiculous answers. Those days communication was not so clear and open. The next day was not a normal school day; it was more like going to school, to the most inquisitive group of class with the hope that someone must have figured out the answer by now. Sadly no one did! So we waited till the school was over. Once the last class was over, and the teacher left, we took a sigh of relief with a palpitating heart, arms locked behind. We were ready to get the answer to our question. And we did! The Health Counselor came and talked about the phase of our life which was almost there, knocking at the door; the menstrual cycle. She told us about the phenomenon of monthly blood discharge, also known as “PERIOD”. She went on explaining to us the know-hows of the bodily changes that we would go through around that time, and how to prepare ourselves for that. The most dreadful information was, when she told us that it was going to happen to all girls, every single month. She also explained to us that it was not a sin or a bad thing, but it was the way our body notifies us of the next level of our growth and prepares us for other challenges. She explained to us that all this information was not supposed to overwhelm us, instead to get us prepared for the coming situation. Then finally there was the big revelation that we were going to bleed for 4 days every month. And with that, she handed each one of us a packet of sanitary napkins. Now my jaw dropped. The only thought that came to my mind was, how was I going to stay alive after bleeding for four days in a row. Conjectures about menstrual cycles were many and varied. Back then in India, this was a topic no one would talk about in public. It used to be such an unfathomable conversation to have, even with your own mother. There was no internet either so you couldn't google it either. Girls would learn about menstrual cycles when it really happened to them, or from their elder sisters, if luckily they happen to have one. Unfortunately I didn't have one. Talking about periods was such a taboo in our society, that while watching Television, if there was an advertisement for sanitary napkins, my father would immediately get up, go to the kitchen to drink water or do some mundane task. Only later, after the health counselor's visit did I figure out that it was all the pretend task and water needs. The thought makes me giggle now. So many years passed after that. I survived the bleeding of my menstrual cycle; safe and sound. Got married; had two beautiful daughters; life was all nice and pleasant. Going through those four days of cycle became like a second nature. It would come and go just like hair falls and grows back. Instead, if the period was ever late, worrying about it became second nature too. Fast forward a few more years, and a day came when I had to go through an emergency Hysterectomy, and all of a sudden, now no more periods! The most dreadful memory of my life. I couldn't figure out if I should be happy or sad for losing those years' long ritual of bleeding every month. I felt empty. It has been several years that I didn't have my periods. Do I worry now? Do I wonder why my period did not start yet? Yes! That thought comes to my mind with the speed of light, but does not vanish that fast. I feel a kind of stab in my heart, a pain which keeps reminding me what I have lost. “I have lost my womanhood.” The organ of my body which made me what I am, a woman, my companion, is no more in my body now. The routine of bleeding, for four days every month, doesn't happen anymore. Still out of habit, 14th of every month, I wait for my period to start. My despair becomes deeper than the sea. Sometimes I wonder, if I should be happy for the good riddance of every month's trouble and inconvenience, or mourn for the loss of my integral body organ, my “WOMB”, my womanhood. My Body has changed, but my mind still works like a woman. I wish there was a machine that could accurately measure my sadness and display it in numbers and I can record it .
Daniella was a serial killer and was standing right in front of Angie, a seventy-three-year- old woman. In the darkness of her mind, Daniella had a conflict on her shoulders. Why should I kill this poor old lady, after all? Do I want to kill her for protection or food?Or do I lack empathy? Maybe my emotions have gone cold and dark. Is this a true depiction of a human being within me? Daniella was having difficulty with keeping what she was feeling in her mind. She could not contain the agitating insanity of her brian. She was having a hard time keeping images of insanity out of her thoughts as she stared at Angie, tied uncomfortably in her bed. “If you are just one, then why are there TWO shadows reflected on the wall directly in front of me?” Angie asked, trembling in fear. “The one closest to you is probably the instigator, I guess. It's responding to the pain I'm going through because I don't really want to kill you.” “And...the other one?” “It's probably the shadow of reason,” Daniella clarified with a frown. Both shadows were unique and served a purpose. Daniella wanted to murder very quickly, but she didn't. The shadows were battling to gain predominance. Each shadow had a distinctive response to Daniella's serial killer actions. They were causing needless mayhem. Daniella had put the murder on pause. “If both shadows are coming from you then why is one shadow darker than the other?” Angie's lips quivered and her legs fidgetted. The pattern of darkness made both shadows different even though they came from the same person. Each shadow had a different personality and emotion. Angie tried to scream. Daniella stood there quietly, unflinched, listening and watching Angie squirm. Angie wasn't even attempting to free herself. Daniella had a sharp, serrated knife, angled in such a way as if ready to stab Angie. Suddenly Daniella started to scurry towards Angie as the darker shadow started shouting profanities which only Daniella could hear. The lighter shadow tried to block the commotion. Angie stopped moving and fidgeting as she witnessed the difficulty Daniella was experiencing. “What is stopping me? Why do I feel so odd inflicting the killer blow?” Daniella muttered. Daniella was listening to the shadows, but still watching Angie, with the knife set for destruction. The serrated knife was ready to rip apart the flesh in Angie's body. Daniella was exercising herculean patience. The darker shadow looked more determined, with the intent to kill. It grew larger and darker than before and covered the entire room—the whole perimeter engulfing the lighter shadow. The shades of darkness kept propping in and out. Daniella started to visualize an arching fountain of blood beginning to fill the room. The lighter shadow seemed to have given a glimmer of hope, before disappearing into the darkness of insanity that was the killer's mind. The lighter shadow was carrying a little light of the killer's consciousness. Though infinitely small and fragile in comparison with the powers of darkness, it is still a light, killer's only light. But eventually got completely discharged, and rendered useless. _________________________________________________________ Author's note: This story is my interpretation from my inner belief of India's three terms describing sainthood: Sat, Chit, Ananda. Sat is the existential stuff of life(mostly the left side of the balance); Chit is the ideal capacity(mostly the right side of balance); Ananda is the bliss, joy, ecstasy of enlightenment—the fulcrum of the seesaw.
It was September 15th midnight when I started having a severe toothache. I couldn't sleep a wink that night and waited for morning to get an appointment with my dentist. I took an appointment for the next day. After all the formalities of COVID-19 tests the receptionist let me inside the clinic. “Looks like you need a root canal.” My dentist said with real concern and asked me to come the next day for the procedure. I was left with no choice other than going for the procedure because my tooth ache was unbearable. Unfortunately, in all this back and forth to the dentist's office somewhere I contracted COVID-19. Even though I didn't have any underlying health issues, my health condition became very critical because of COVID-19. I was admitted to the hospital. My breathing was very difficult and I was put on a ventilator. At home I had my husband and two young children who were too small to take care of themselves. But I was in such a critical condition that my kids well being was of little concern to me. All I could think about was to get a sniff of air in my lungs. My chest was burning and the roof of my mouth was on fire from struggling to inhale air. After the doctors intubated me, breathing became a little easier but I still had too much pain in my chest and stomach. My legs were sore and I had severe pain in my neck and shoulder. I was bedridden with a feeding and breathing tube inserted down my throat all the time. My husband was not allowed to visit and so were my children. Right next to my bed were two other beds occupied with mother and daughter suffering from COVID-19. My own pain was unbearable, but when I saw the trauma and pain that the mother and daughter were going through, I couldn't complain. Mother was around eighty-five years old and her daughter was twenty-five. No other family member was allowed but I was a bit happy that the old mother had someone by her bedside. Just the thought that your loved one is by your side when you are going through a miserable health problem is a big relief in itself. I, on the other hand, was lying on my bed and struggling for my life and the air felt so desperate to have a family member by my side. This trauma had made me believe in the strong will power of our survival and existence and above all the faith in health care workers. The nurse in our ward was a god-sent angel. It's because of her that I came back home to my husband and children after recovery. When I had lost all hope and was struggling for life and air, nurse Jenna held my hand, giving me strength to awaken my inner desire for survival. My sugar level went so low to a point that my whole body was convulsing, I was trying to take a mouthful gulp of air but it wouldn't make it to my lungs. I wanted to get all the tubes out from my body and scream for help, but sometimes desperation just vanishes in the cry of others' misery. Within a week the elderly mom couldn't take it anymore. She passed away leaving her daughter alone. I could see the pain of loss in her daughter's eyes. The numbness in the eyes of the daughter was palpable. At that moment she won't let go off her dead mother's hand. I felt so sorry; at the same time life looked so meaningless to me. Why do we have children; why do we raise them; why do we love our parents with all our hearts? I couldn't get answers to any of these questions. I was lost in the pain, agony, and misery of that daughter. Only one thing I was sure of was that I will have to live. At that time, the only thought that crossed my mind was the faces of my both daughters. What if I will die? My daughters can't take this shock; they are too small to understand any of this. For A few hours, when I was struggling for a whiff of air, I just wanted to die. I did not want to end my life struggling for air, with my lungs burning and my heart sinking. Momentarily I had already lost my life, but the sight of that grieving daughter brought me to my senses. I had the greatest desire to fight off COVID and survive. If not for myself then for my daughters. Nothing is more important to a child than her mother by her side in good and bad, low and high. For the next couple of days, I tried to fight all my negativity with every ounce of energy I had left in my body. I made a promise to myself to return to my daughters who are constantly waiting and praying for me. The nurses and health care workers were constantly working and wearing themselves out— the selfless act of humanity was right there in front of my eyes. All the sick patients who had not one family member by their bedside were loved equally by these angels in the form of nurses and doctors. I recovered enough and tested negative to go back home to unite with my family. My spirit is high and I am full of gratitude towards every single person who is serving in the health care sector. We can't thank them enough.
“Rohit, Rohit…, where are you? Where are you Rohit, come quickly, wear your clothes”. His father, Mohan called out several times, but Rohit did not show up. Rohit was just 2 years old. It was 6:30pm, the sun had just set. People were getting ready with candles and kerosine oil lanterns. It is a backward Indian village and people still don't have electricity running. This summer the village just got the electricity poles erected, however villagers were still waiting for the electricity to come to their houses. One day Rohit‘s mother decided to pull the electricity wire from the Newly-erected power lines pole to connect to a bulb in her house. Unfortunately the electricity was flowing through at that very moment. Electric shock caused the immediate death of Kamla. Another big disaster happened when Rohit followed his mother, who was lying dead on the ground, holding the naked wire in her hand. Rohit touched her and died immediately too. It was a small, close knit village. Everyone knew everyone.The whole village was weeping at the sight. Sadly no one could go through greater agony than the three daughters, Kamla left behind her. The whole family was mourning the death of Kamla and Rohit. The youngest daughter was just 3 years old. She did not even understand what had happened to her mother. People tried to console her, but everything went in vain. Life still has to keep going on. Slowly the other daughters learnt to live without their mother except the little daughter Chandi. Finally Mohan decided to re-marry a woman named Hira, so that kids can grow up with a female figure, who will at least try to love them as her daughters. Hira was a kind and beautiful woman. Hira loved all the kids with her whole heart as her own kids. So far so good, until one day the reality unfurled and she found out that her husband already had a vasectomy. She was in disbelief as to what cruel game god has played with her. She felt cheated and angry for the terrible injustice.The frustration started coming out at kids in the beginning, and eventually it became obvious that step mothers can never love as your own mother. This was just the thin end of the wedge. Bigger problem was somewhere else. Perhaps it was the agony of not bearing her own kids. Hira felt her life was ruined, she wanted to see her own flesh and blood. Nonetheless her motherly instinct was very strong. She wanted to have her own kids, but she wanted to love her step kids too, just the way she loved them before. Very soon it became a domestic gossip in the village as to how unfair Mohan is to Hira. People started accusing him of committing a crime for not being honest before he married Hira. In the meantime kids were oblivious to the emotional roller coaster Hira was going through. Kids took Hira's anger as a temporary adjustment to her new life. Mohan felt guilty for causing this pain to Hira. He soon realized that Hira will never forgive him, and his kids will live without a mother's love again. Sadly, what is done cant be changed. In villages divorce is not an option. Well, Hira was very bitter, and if one believes in restorative justice, this is it. She was entitled to “Her Female Body” and have her own kids. She felt deprived and Mohan was guilty in her eyes. Ironically in-spite of everything, Hira loved Mohan a lot. At the same time she did not want to be a mean mother to her step kids. With all these emotions, Hira became the perfect picture of what it says “repression breeds sublimation”. A moment of tranquility set in. Hira started to look at the bright side of her life. On one hand her step kids may not be her own, on the other hand she got such beautiful daughters; all grown up, without any pain.The daughters, who love her so much that they even forgot their own mother now. She thought that with everything that has happened to her, she can either feel sorry for herself or treat what has happened as a gift. She accepted her step kids with all her heart and never wanted to separate from them. Hira realized that the word “Maa” has no boundaries, no discrimination, it is the purest of all, the word which her daughters call her. Hira found a new dimension of her life and felt, “the wheel turns and turns and turns: it never stops and stands still.” She will always love these kids as her own flesh and blood from now. This incident happened long back in 1988 in a village in India where I lived as a child. But the memories still haunt me even now. Whenever I see a charging cable or a wire hanging from the electric outlet, I get scared. So many years have passed but the memory is etched so deeply in my heart and brain, that I never let my daughters go near the electric outlets. On one hand science and technology can be so useful to humankind, on the other hand a small mistake can ruin everything. This is the evidence right here and I always keep this in my mind.
I did not speak a word of english until I turned 10 years old.That too, I started with basic english sentences such as: "This is a boy, This is an apple, I love apples, This is a cat, This is a dog, A dog has a tail.” These were very basic english sentences. English was not my primary language but when I came to America, I was an adult. By this time I had learnt to communicate in basic english language, but any time I had to express something complicated, I would fumble or become silent. People are very forgiving in the U.S. They always helped, tried their best to not let me feel embarrassed. I concluded that there is no short-cut to solve this problem. I learnt that writing will help me improve my english language learning. I started writing more . Very soon I started to love writing. I was able to express myself and my thoughts in my writing. Writing turned out to pay off a lot. When I wrote, I had enough time to process my thoughts and express them on the paper. I still had a very thick accent. Accents tell you which country you are born in. Beyond country and region, accent also tells us a lot about which social class a person grew up in, their level of education.This can represent a strong bond. I consciously started working on improving my accent.It was my conscious choice to shift my accent towards American english. I wanted to be in the position, where I travel from one end of America to another end, and pass the accent test with as little sniffs as possible. Along the journey of correcting my American accent, I used to listen to the radio a lot. When I am cooking, cleaning, exercising, the radio is always on. Over a few months, I realized that I have improved a lot. I was passively grasping a lot of understanding in dialogue delivery. I can now communicate in a more colloquial way. The more I listened to the podcast, the more I would find flaws in my english speaking skills. I figured, what I was doing was not enough. In the meantime, every now and then I would get that disapproving look because of my accent. I still did not have the neutral American accent, and it caused unhappiness inside my heart. I wanted to sound obvious, so people could recognize me without an effort. I was lagging, but I was still not disheartened. My next strategy was to repeat after the radio hosts. Word by word; sentence by sentence. It was very tiring. I wanted to be the same way as I was. I wanted to just chill and relax without worrying , “what will people think?” Every night in the dark it felt so gloomy and depressing, but thankfully every morning, I would have my confidence back. After 10 months of continuous repetition and practice, it started to show the result. I felt more confident speaking to people.The fear and thought that someone is judging me became less everyday. Now I don't have trouble ordering food in restaurants. I can order exactly what I want. Every now and then I would have the classic set-backs. Accents are a point of connection, and connecting to people was very important to me. Not only me, but all of us are constantly influenced by the people we are surrounded with and that extends to accents too -- any Indian who has moved to America will hear from their own people that they have gone very stylish in their accent, even though they would themselves do the same thing. Even though it happens subconsciously when you intend to change your accent, I have not found anything this difficult to change on purpose. Some Days I have good learning experiences and some days are very bad. I still remember a story where I went to order a salad plate, and I wanted to add Ranch dressing, but I was not clear enough because of my accent. The waiter was too hesitant to ask me again and I realized that I am not saying it right.I finally got the dressing which I did not want, because the waiter had to guess and add something else. When I was in public talking to my friends, I would not hesitate accepting my thick accent flaw, and I would humbly ask them to correct me with the right pronunciation. Most of the time, someone would take super interest in correcting me, but at times I would also get that “look”. However I never mind constructive criticism but for sure these set-backs take you 2 steps backward, I had to remind myself, “I am learning, Mistake is a part of learning.” Now I am at the point, where people rarely guess what I just said. I never gave up. The fact that I was able to master something this hard, makes me proud of myself. I always remind myself, “if I can conquer this challenge, I can win any challenge in life.” I know, mentally it is more taxing to listen to someone with a foreign accent. People had to listen to me more closely to catch the underlying change in tones and stress. I still listen to podcasts and radio channels to constantly improve myself. Un-learning the accent or language you grew up with, is plain "hard", but now I believe you can do it.