Archive for January, 2013

Michael’s Story

This is a very old write, I am posting here because I remembered it after reading my friend, Marilyn’s blog post today.

It rained today, well not that rain is unusual during the monsoon, but today’s rain was different. It was very unlike the usual benign drizzles we receive, when both water and breeze play with hair and face and leave a person feeling refreshed and then the sun comes out beaming with golden laughter. No this was rain from dark gloomy, gray clouds, like the sky was hiding its face in a dull blanket and sobbing its heart out. Its grief was contagious, entering the soul and infecting it with depression and gloom. Who could feel happy on a grey day like this one? Even the sun had given up trying to squeeze any light or brightness into it. One hoped it would get over whatever was troubling it because the day was only half done and errands were pending. These required getting out of the house and facing the tearful onslaught.

After a while there was no option but to brave the rain and the gusty wind and to go out to do the chores that could not be put off. Reluctant to get wetter than was necessary; I called Michael, a rickshaw driver I had recently come across. A rickshaw is open on two sides and only shelters a person from the top. A person riding in it is not only susceptible to the rain arriving in gusts, but also to the splashes of dirty water from roadside puddles as careless drivers rushed through them. In a short while parts of me were drenched through, though I took care to sit in the centre of the rickshaw.

The traffic and exhaust fumes added to the already dull feeling and I began a desultory conversation with Michael. Michael is different from the rude, callous men who usually ply this trade and have given it a bad name. He is soft spoken, gentle and educated. It was not a good time for him; his wife was suffering from malaria he said. Having been through that particular ordeal myself, I enquired after her health. He then told me about his son. Michael’s son is paralyzed from the waist downward, since birth. I listened intently asking questions now and then to encourage him to speak, as he began telling me about his son.

When his son was born the doctors had given him a few hours to live, at the most. They told Michael not to get his hopes high. Michael is a very religious man, with a deep faith in God and he was willing to accept whatever God willed for him and his family. The boy survived more than a few hours, then a few days. The doctors then told him that even if he lived he would be a vegetable. Michael and his wife should never expect him to even recognize them. Michael had by this time made a very firm commitment to his helpless little boy. He had decided to devote his life to him and do whatever was necessary for his welfare. For this, he and his wife had to make sure that they would not have other children, for it would be impossible for them to give their first born the care he needed and also take care of other children. This decision has been very difficult for Michael’s wife, for she would like more children and sometimes she sobs into the night but with almost no help and very little money they have no other option open.

Michael lived up to the promise he had made and showered his little one with all the love and care his overflowing heart could give. As the boy grew, he taught him to read and write and once again proved the doctors wrong. He took him out in his rickshaw and showed him the world.

When foreigners began coming to Pune, Michael was in great demand for he not only spoke English but was also well mannered. He became popular with them and folks learnt about his boy and his story. A few befriended him and asked him to bring his son along when he came to pick them up.

After their son was born, Michael’s wife had given up her job and had become a stay at home mom. When he grew older though, she found it hard to lift him and take care of him. Michael now began staying at home in the mornings to wash and dress his boy and only left in the after noon for work. He drove his auto rickshaw all day, returning home at night to put his son to bed.

A year or so ago, Michaels’s son hurt his foot while playing and had to take bed rest. The poor boy developed bed sores. The bed sores spread and grew till Michael’s heart would come into his mouth each time he dressed the wounds. He was unable to talk to people and withdrew into himself. Michael has had a lot of help and support from the priests and nuns of the convents around, where he lives, though almost none from his siblings. A sister and a father used to come from a nearly school and pray over the boy. They read out from the Bible to Michael and that strengthened his faith. He thought to himself “I am giving this boy up to God to do with what he will”. He began to feel better and was able to help his son fight the bed sores that were almost taking him over. Some of the sores have healed though the biggest ones are slow to heal. He has his hope and his faith though.

Listening to Michael’s story I felt a great desire to go and visit his boy. I wanted to spend more time and learn more of his story and to befriend the little boy. There was so much pain in this world and once in a while one met a person who with true courage and forbearance, patience and love, combated the pain and misfortune. To me such a person was one who inspired and commanded respect; he was a true hero. To me this man though poor in fortune, was a true hero. 

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Freaky Friday

The week-end begins on Friday here in Kuwait. Invariably we sleep late on Thursday nights and so Fridays are the days when we lie in a little longer. They are lazy days without pressure, except for the Friday prayers at noon. 

This particular Friday though was different. The first born, Daughter ‘Z’ courageously breaking with a quarter century (her entire life) of tradition, made plans with some friends to go running on the beach, around half past eight on Friday morning. Now 8 am on a Friday morning, would not be considered as an early morning by those who wake up early and exercise with religious zeal, but for us lotus eaters it was a revolutionary, in fact a most radical decision. 

Her enthusiasm was infectious and motivated me to shake off the layers of laziness that had collected upon me since October, like cobwebs and dust that covers places which have been neglected for a long time. 

We left home without pulling back the curtains to see what kind of day it was and were surprised to come out of the building and be greeted by a thick fog. Now fogs in Kuwait are just about as rare as early mornings on Fridays are for us, and so we could tell that it was going to be one of those days, with a surprise at every turn. Well we were up, we were awake, we were out and we were game for surprises and adventures. So off we went. I did expect the fog to dissipate in an hour or so but it seemed to be clinging to the atmosphere with a very determined grip and so we set off for a new experience, walking with the fog now clinging to us and droplets of water condensing on our hair. 

Daughter Z found her friends where they had planned to meet, near the fountain at Marina Crescent, which is exactly what its name conveys, a crescent shaped building besides a marina.
The Crescent is linked to the main Marina Mall, which lies across the Gulf Road (Kuwait’s Corniche), by a covered pedestrian bridge. The Crescent itself has only restaurants, most of them with with outside seating and is a pleasant place to sit by the sea and eat. 

Food though was far away from our thoughts at this moment. As daughter Z joined her friends, I thought I would have a brisk walk along the promenade towards Scientific Centre and get some much needed exercise, which would dust away the cobwebs and my diabetes. We both were exuding zest and vigour and raring to go.

I did find it strange that the sea-side, despite its ghostly appearance, was vibrantly full of people. Perhaps they were following set routine, or then they had come out to experience the novelty of walking in a fog. I would not know, those who tend to hibernate know little of the habits of wakeful creatures. 

I began walking briskly along the promenade, avoiding cutting across the grass to take shortcuts and for a few minutes all went well, then I spied a group of date palms rising eerily out of the fog. I had left my camera behind but the trusty iphone faithfully recorded the sight. IMG_5787
So I continued walking picking up pace and then slacking each time a new sight attracted me. The curve of the promenade,
fishing rods waiting patiently,
a fisherman
The ghostly pyramid of Hard Rock Cafe looming up,
Which normally looked liked this
hard rock cafe
Some trees in their Halloween best

bare trees which were sprouting new life,
A pretty gazebo
All seemed to attract and had to be documented.

I suddenly passed the group of my daughter’s friends, who were returning from their run. She was nowhere to be seen, not even panting in the distance as I had expected. The youngsters passed by quickly before I could decide to question them and I panicked for a moment wondering how I would find her. Turning back just a few paces away from my goal, I decided to go look for her. My battery was entering its death throes, I called my daughter but she did not answer.

I am a paranoid mom and within minutes get deluged by the scariest thoughts. As it turned out that there was no need to panic, the running group did not leave anyone alone once they had got together, till they all went their separate ways. She called back and said one of the group had stayed behind to train her and now she was living my mental image of panting but only by running in circles.

I reached a grove of date palms and was pleasantly surprised by a sweet but vociferous sparrow choir. The air was filled with their chirping. A solitary bulbul determined not to be left out, added her sweet tones to the music. Her tantalizing song seemed to come from a tree but she was well hidden and I could not spy her. I just drank in the glorious moment with all its beauty. Soon I continued walking and met up with my daughter and we walked back to the Crescent.

I decided enough was enough, we had broken with tradition we held dear for most of our life and it was now time to revert back to type and open our arms to re-embrace our hedonistic lifestyle. The restaurants with their inviting breakfasts were waiting in a row for us. Without a thought of undoing all the good done that day, we decided upon one and sat outside, enjoying both the people and the sea-side.
In the middle of our breakfast we noticed a number of men and a couple of women wearing Harley jackets.
By the time we had finished our breakfast, we heard a number of bikes revving up on the road close by. We hurried with the crowd that had now collected and saw the Kuwait Harley club all riding out in a row.
It was quite a sight to see these magnificent machines in all their glory.
Later they were exhibited by their owners. We walked around taking pictures.
I took a picture of a Harley with roses, which was owned by a Kuwaiti lady.

The world here is so small, I posted the picture on Facebook and one of my friends commented that she knew the lady very well and she had been riding for a very long time.

We were loathe to end the day and crossed the bridge to the mall to indulge ourselves further, with a spot of shopping. The first smell that greets a person who enters the malls from the bridge, is of cinnamon rolls, tempting hapless visitors to give in to their gooey sweetness. Fortunately I know the word ‘enough’ and resisting temptation, I let the sleeping dog called diabetes slumber on.

After more than an hour of shopping, we returned home, exhausted but happy and proceeded to fall into bed and sleep for hours.

The apt title ‘Freaky Friday’ was suggested by daughter Z.

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I had been feeling hurt and let down for the past few days. I think we all feel that for the most part of our lives people let us down, lie to us, do not give us what we feel is our due, of love or respect, or attention or fidelity or whatever it may be we feel we have been deprived of. After nursing the hurt in my heart for a few days, I woke up this morning with the thought that if life had a purpose and certainly it has a purpose, than that purpose was not to wallow in unhappiness but to rise above it. 

Choices lie in our hands, there is the choice to do something right or something wrong. Then there are the choices of a number of paths open to us but there is just one we can walk on. 

When there is a choice of right and wrong and one chooses the wrong, the result at some point is unhappiness, misery, grief, either to that person, their family, someone else, or even society. The actions are considered wrong because their end result is harm, to someone in some way. The person who brings pain due to their wrong choice, may shoulder the responsibility, feel guilty and remorseful, blame themselves or then they may not and they may make little of it. This however is not the case when their pain is the result of someone else’s actions or omissions. Then they are ready to blame the responsible person for a long time, holding grudges, hating, not forgiving. Most times even if the person who has wronged has done many good things, everything is forgotten in that hard “I hate you, I will never forgive you” stance.

When the choice of a number of paths opens up before us and we have the choice to take one path or another, all paths being right, then I believe that life is designed in such a way that each path will yield a similar degree of both rewards and difficulties. They may be totally dissimilar in how they appear but their degree will be the same. 


Therefore there is no point in regretting the results of one’s choice and thinking that “I should have chosen that instead”. For example if a person chooses marriage and kids over a higher education or a career, both will bring them rewards and heartache and pain. One may think that the pain a career can bring would not be as intense as say that a marriage might bring, but if the person has concentrated all his emotions and faculties on that career, then any pain resulting through that career choice would be intense. I know that people of pure logic would argue with me on this point, but I do believe in destiny and that whatever path we follow, destiny gives us our share of rewards and pain.

The choice then is on handling it. One can drown in it or one can rise above it. One can show patience or fortitude or even pigheadedness and refuse to allow it to get to them. The second choice is extremely hard, for eg if someone is being constantly abused or belittled then how do they rise above it? That is where the realization that ‘one created for a purpose and that purpose was not to wallow in misery’ comes in.

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I had written once about change and promised to continue, I have been pondering on change since the past few days. what brings change and how much control do we have over it.
Change comes into our lives due to many things but there are two main categories of change, change brought about by God, nature, or what you will call it and change brought about by man.

Change that is brought about by God is for the most predictable, not because we can predict what God is going to do but because most of it is ruled by certain laws of nature that pre-date humanity. God’s laws are neither fickle nor capricious and they hold everything in balance. Most things are held in cycles, the cycle of birth growth and death, the cycle of erosion, weathering and subduction, the cycles of rotations and revolutions of the Earth giving us days and seasons, the same of the moon which gives us the phases of the moon. Most of the Natural Phenomena can be studied because it has set laws and patterns which are governed by knowledge and wisdom and which hold true over eons of time. If it had all come accidentally together like many like to think, would it not have all ended in chaos. Why would the seasons follow one another for example, or why would would all the planets revolve in their own orbits without crashing into each other. Why would trees flower in spring after they had withered in winter?

The cycle of birth, growth and death holds true for all species including plants. What is unfortunate is that we do not reflect upon the amazing powers of the governing body which controls not just the ever expanding universe, but the smallest thing like providing sustenance to even the minute unicellular organisms. The changes that the natural world around goes through are so set and regular that we take them for granted and do not spend a single moment in reflecting how miraculous they are. If water would have been evaporated by the heat of the sun just once and formed a cloud and then come down as rain or if on feeling that rain a single seed buried deep within the ground would have germinated and a single tiny stem would have forced its way through the hard earth and had stood small but straight and tall, the whole world would have come to a standstill to witness this miracle but the miracles take place around us day in and day out and we, so used to them fail to look at them with the open mouthed amazement they deserve, fail even to reflect upon the one who has made such perfect laws and subjected everything in creation to obey those laws so perfectly. The very fact that order and not chaos reigns in Nature is the proof of a unique and mighty authority that creates and rules everything.
The thing that amazes me most is the change from living to non living and back to living as gases like carbon dioxide, oxygen, water vapour and nitrogen go from the atmosphere to being part of living things and then escaping back into the atmosphere. How living things break down and mix back into the earth and atmosphere from which they came as non living materials and then once more become part of another life cycle.

There are of course those changes, terrible changes, which are brought about by the forces of Nature, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, typhoons. These too for the most can be predicted, followed, and people know the seasons when the disastrous winds will blow or the what areas of earth are prone to earthquakes or what mountains are dormant or existing volcanoes. It has taken man a long time and centuries of observation to be able to comprehend the effects of the Natural forces, that is true, but he has been able to do it only because nature follows its laws and patterns. There are those changes which might come with a warning, or which might catch one unawares. Like illness or death, or loss due to unexpected events one is not prepared for.

On the other hand, man follows no such laws and set patterns. Therefore they are subject to the nature of the man who brings them about. A man can be ruled by foresight, wisdom, intelligence, knowledge, and bring about changes which will last for centuries. He can build buildings or bridges or places of worship or homes that will stand the test of time. He can respect the land and use it to grow food so that no one will starve. Man can bring about changes like discovering new places and settling down there in a way that respects both the land and any other people who have been previously occupying it. With respect for each other, the people old and new can teach each other what they know and become enriched in the process and enrich the land and protect it and its environment.

There are other changes too that man brings, these are unfortunately more common and as time goes on many parts of the Earth are paying huge prices for these. These are changes that directly affect people who are unknown strangers to the person responsible for bringing about the change. These are changes that destroy lives and land, pollute and destroy the environment, bankrupt people, bring civilizations to the edge of death and destruction. Changes which are brought about by greed and power seeking, by short sighted selfish goals, by fickleness and caprice. Changes that bring all kinds of pollution and diseases that result from that pollution. That destroy the environment by indiscriminate development for short term personal gain. That start wars and ethnic cleansing and make the world unsafe for people. There are people who, for their own power seeking, instigate and incite weak minded individuals, by using tools like nationalism, religion, casteism, tribal loyalties, etc, to spread war and terror. People blame religion for the spread of terror, but it is not religion that spreads hatred, but people who use it among other tools, to spread hatred to minds which cannot think for themselves, minds which may already be discontent with their lot and therefore are fertile soils for seeds of discord and destruction.

There are other harmful and destructive changes too that man brings about, changes which may affect smaller groups of people, changes which may send shock waves through a family, or a community, or even the world.
These changes can be a heartbreak that can shatter one life, or divorce that shatters a family, or something even more grievous like a person randomly shooting a group of strangers, or murder, kidnapping, rape, death or maiming as a result of accidents. Whether these things affect one person or a family or a community, the people who have been affected by it will never be the same again. Those who have read about it or watched it on television too, will be touched by its evil and will have its imprint on their consciousness forever.

There are those changes man brings though, which can also leave a permanent imprint on both the receiver and those who learn about it. These are the small and big kindnesses which people do for each other, either for those who they know or strangers. I never fail to be touched by the kindness of strangers and I try to be one of those strangers who spreads kindness and good will. This is one of the things that makes it possible for each one of us to wake up each day and go about our day with hope and a smile. it is in each of our hands to change someone’s life or just their day or even a few minutes with an act of caring and kindness, lets not stint from doing it

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