Take a deep breath

Nothing much to write today. Just wanted to share a Yoga technique with everyone. The technique is called ‘Pranayam’ and involves an activity we all do every single minute – breathing. Pranayam is nothing but the art of breathing right.

My mother studies Naturopathy and Yoga and she truly believes Pranayam can cure (or at least prevent) any illness. Even though I have my doubts about that, I have practiced Pranayam from time to time (although not as frequently as I should), and feel the benefits instantly. I cannot say anything about the physical benefits since I have never tried it consistently enough. But it sure helps me focus my thoughts, brings much-needed peace to a mind full of thoughts and working overtime all the time and makes me feel better generally. The beauty of it is that although a certain posture and environment is preferable, it can be done while sitting on your work chair, in the car (if you’re in the passenger seat) or anywhere else if you can spare just a few minutes. So I thought – why not share it with everyone and help people reap the benefits if they want to give it a try!

There is already so much information on the internet that I can be lazy and just provide links. If you already know about and/or practice Pranayam, please ignore this post :)

For a detailed definition of Pranayam, you can visit its wikipedia page. For a list of the benefits, go here (highly recommended). Finally, to learn about the various Pranayam techniques and how to practice them, you can start by watching the introductory video below which will lead you to more videos by the same lady. I think she does a really good job of explaining this stuff. If you can get past the initial disclaimer stuff, I promise you will like it. Enjoy breathing!



India is the best? Not really

Falak is a two-year old baby girl. In her short lifespan, she has already gone through what no one should ever have to go through, let alone a helpless child. She has undergone four brain surgeries at AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), is on ventilator support and is fighting infections in her brain. Even if she recovers, she will probably never live a normal life because of the damage to her brain. Exactly a month ago, she was brought to AIIMS, battered, with a broken skull and bite marks all over her body. Just the thought of what she went through, what she must have felt when these horrific injuries were inflicted on her, is enough to get anyone trembling with anger and sadness and the hopelessness of her situation.

I have been following her story ever since I first heard about it. What seemed like a case of severe child abuse at first, has morphed into something much bigger as the story has unravelled. It is a story about human trafficking, poverty and crimes against women. Falak’s mother was sold to get married and have 3 kids at a young age. When her “husband” passed away, she was made to abandon her children and marry someone else. Someone she knew was supposed to take care of the children and send them back to her once she got settled in her new life. Instead, the kids got separated and moved from one place to another to stay with different people.

Falak eventually landed with a 15-year-old girl who was the victim of abuse herself and was not mentally stable. This is the girl who allegedly beat Falak up and then brought her to the hospital claiming she was her daughter and had fallen from the bed. Ever since then, Falak has the attention of the media, NGOs and government authorities. She is getting the best treatment at government’s expense. Thousands of people are probably praying for her and thousands would be ready to adopt her to give her the life she deserves. Unfortunately, it is a little too late for her.

One cannot help but wonder how such huge gaps can exist in the same society. On one hand there is the India that is growing by leaps and bounds and finding its niche in the world. There are women who are educated, confident and empowered enough to live life the way they want to. India currently has a woman president and countless women in high power positions. We even had a much-loved (and equally hated by some) woman Prime Minister almost 50 years ago, who I believe was one of the most powerful  women of the world in 20th century. On the other hand, there are heinous crimes like female infanticide, honor killings and human trafficking. On one hand, there are the Kiran Bedis and the Barkha Dutts, and on the other, there are the Falaks of India.

The day when the Kiran Bedis will outnumber the Falaks will be the day I will proudly say that India is the best.. and mean it too.

Note: To find out more about baby Falak and the case, go here.

PS (2/28/2012): Just wanted to clarify the title of this post because I didn’t do a good job at that the first time. The Falak incident occurred shortly before India’s Republic Day when everyone starts posting patriotic stuff (rightfully so) on their social networking sites, especially if they live outside of India. We claim that India is the best (and in a way, it is, for us). We prefer to shut our eyes to the dark side of India pretending it doesn’t exist, let alone trying to do anything to change it. It was the irony of that simple statement that many of us have used many times – “India is the best” that struck me, and hence the title of this post.

Why I started this blog

It’s a bleak, dreary Thursday afternoon. The reasons why I started this blog is exactly what you want to know today while you look at that little clock in the lower right corner of your computer screen yet another time, waiting to be free again. If you are however, that stay-at-home-mom/dad or that lucky gal/guy who has her/his dream job , feel free to get back to your perfect life now. You’re probably too busy to be reading this anyway. Just for the record, I hate you!

So.. <regains composure>, since the rest of you are dying to know, here are the reasons why I started this blog, without any further delay:

1. I lead a very quiet life. Can’t exactly pinpoint when it happened, but there was a period in my life when I went from being relatively talkative to being very quiet. Somehow, it seems to coincide with the move to the United States. I was a new mother with separation anxiety (from the family as well as from the baby who started going to daycare when we moved). Too much was going on within me that I thought others would not understand, and started keeping to myself. It did not help that I was part of a very small team with little to no interaction with anyone all day at work. There were times when the husband was out-of-town for work, when I would go without talking to any adult for days. It drove me crazy.

The separation anxiety has ended now (almost), but the introversion stayed. I have turned into a loner. Depending on who you are, you may or may not agree with that. For example, if you are my brother, you are probably shouting “Liar liar!!” by now. (By the way, if you are my brother reading this, call me right now and tell me what you think about this blog. And it better be good!).

So, since I could not talk to anyone about what I really wanted to talk about, I started writing. And it felt good. Like having an imaginary friend who would just listen to what I have to say, because sometimes I get so tired of listening and just want to talk!

2. The second reason behind this blog is, I am awkward as far as conversations go. Sometimes I say stuff I don’t really mean. A few times I have said something to an American friend/coworker and realized a year later that they may have found it rude or offensive. If you pass a witty comment, I will likely never know what to say and will just grin foolishly, until 38 minutes later when a witty reply flashes in my mind and I think ‘Oh! I should have said that!’. So you see, I’m not very smart as far as having a good conversation is concerned, especially with people I don’t know very well. That’s why this blog comes really handy. It allows me to think, edit, delete as much as I want before putting it out there. Problem solved!

3. I love languages. Hindi and English were my favorite subjects in school. One time in school, our English teacher gave us an assignment. It was a sentence. Something about how a train came to a halt. We all were supposed to write a story that started with that sentence. Everyone in the class wrote an essay to describe a scene at the railway station. I wrote about a train robbery. I still remember the proud look on the teacher’s face when I read it aloud. Somewhere along the line, I had forgotten how much I had loved reading and making stories up. This blog is an effort to remind me to not forget that again.

4. The last reason why I started this blog is that I simply enjoy observing the differences in cultures, how same things mean different things to different people. How there are not really any rights or wrongs. How at the very basic level, we are all just the same and sometimes despite all the differences, you find a way to connect to others that you never thought was possible.

Makes sense? To me neither. But I do feel better even though I spent my sick-and-came-home-early time in writing this instead of sleeping.

Five things I don’t understand

My resolution for February is to write short posts (relatively), stay on the topic and show my readers some mercy by not making them read long tirades about nothing. Seriously, I myself cannot make any sense of some of the old posts when I go through them now. I think I have a real talent for going on and on about stuff. Notice how I wrote a whole paragraph about using less words?

Anyway, without prolonging it any further, here are the five things I do not understand, in the order of my decreasing tolerance for them.

1. Vitamin water: How about drinking regular water and eating some fruit for vitamins? The best things in life don’t necessarily come in a bottle with an ingredient list.

2. Kindergarten graduations: I kind of understand this, because I am a parent myself and know how much even a small accomplishment of our children means to us parents. On the other hand, I don’t understand it because it is kindergarten for goodness sake! No one made even half as big a deal when I got my post-grad degree. No parties, no presents, no pictures; although my folks were really happy and proud that I actually finished it in the stipulated number of years. Not that I am begrudging these kindergarteners all the praise and acclaims they get that I did not get for slogging (insert sarcasm)through student life!

3. Indians and queues: Okay, what is it about these two things that they don’t mix? When abroad, we behave just fine (I hope) in day to day life, at work, in public places. As soon as we are surrounded by other fellow Indians, the rebellious streak comes out. You can see that even at an airport when you are boarding a flight to India. People start jumping lines, ignoring others ahead of them completely, head held high like it is their birth right to jump lines. Go to a buffet style wedding dinner in India and you will know what I mean. Worst still, go to a public place during rush hour and any delusions you had about right to your personal space will vanish in thin air.

4. The ‘Cry it Out’ method: For my Indian friends who don’t know what this is about – it’s a parenting technique (sarcasm intended) that basically involves parents letting a child (even a baby) “cry it out” and learn to soothe themselves, instead of running like it’s the end of the world to pick them up and soothe them.  I’m not even going to say anything about what I think of this method. Like a friend rightfully said – “when you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. (But then, if I truly followed those words, I wouldn’t be writing any of this, would I?)

5. Religion: Actually I do understand religion, and believe in it. What I don’t understand is how it can be so important to somebody that they can fight and even harm others over it. For me, religion is just something humans ‘invented’ to try to understand the bigger power that created us. To find something to rely on in trying times. Because we are not as strong as we think we are and are always looking for something or somebody we can follow. Even if it is just a book, someone we don’t even know, wrote thousands of years ago. Why is that book more important than the living people around us – that is what I don’t understand. Sorry if any of you find this offensive. These are just my thoughts and I am not talking about any one religion in particular here, just all of them in general.

Once again, thanks for reading this very short post. Feel free to comment and let me know if you loved it or hated it.