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Minakhee is a brand ambassador of TOI (Times of India) and is a freelance content writer with about 9 yrs of experience. Her articles have been published in many leading publications. She loves to indulge in her twin passion writing (poetry , fiction, non-fiction) and painting. She is mostly a self taught artist and explores the world with her pen and brush with equal vigor. She is a MA in Sociology and a post graduate in Advertising and Marketing.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

CALLING UPON THE ANGELS OF GOD


CALLING UPON THE ANGELS OF GOD




A dozen thoughts raced across my mind even as my daughter kept up her barrage of questions. I knew her inquisitive mind and box full of curiosity won’t give her any peace of mind, even as I told her “You will find out when you get there.” She always marched me though this drill. I tried to answer her queries as best as I could and some I passed over to my mother. My son too young to comprehend or contemplate about the affairs of life, was deeply engrossed in clicking pictures of food stalls, a wandering cow, or a man riding a rickshaw on the road. His experiments in photography may not qualify him for any contest but they sure kept me relaxed and the photographer occupied.  
I wondered how they would react to all of us. I am guilty of housing a little fear in some corner of my mind. Fear about how my children would react on seeing them; about the safety of my children least they turn aggressive. My mother’s presence and the fact that she had visited them earlier, reassured me. I began to think how close relationships, and love for our dear ones makes a human weak or susceptible to weakness. I was unaware that on the retrospect after the visit I would be left wondering about my ignorance and complacent attitude about the issue.
The car approached the “Open Learning School”, which was hidden from the main road by the high wall and rows of trees. As the car entered the gates of the school I couldn’t help revealing my amazement to mother “It’s so big, with an impressive lay out! I didn’t expect this!”There were a few yellow buses lined outside the school building. The school was a learning center for autistic and differently abled children in Bhubaneswar. The buses brought in children residing with their parents and teachers from various parts of the city. As we were visiting on a weekend we were certain that the school schedule won’t be disrupted. Our destination was the hostel ,(the haven )housing the 25 orphaned/deserted,  autistic / mentally challenged children, which  was at a little distance from the school, but within the compounded walls. As soon as the car stopped and we alighted from it we were greeted by the abandoned joy, laughter, dance and shout of a few kids. These were children who were relatively less challenged. There were about 25 children in the approximate age range of 5-20 years and about 5 -6 care takers. 




 Open Learning School is a organization for disadvantaged children and is registered under Indian Societies Registration Act.
Bakul (In Orissa, Bhubaneswar) an organization based on voluntarism carries out wonderful activities regularly in such NGO's. To participate in such activities or help out at OLS(Open Learning School) visit :


When I first encountered the children I was too unprepared and stunned to react. The warmth with which the children welcomed us, completely overpowered me. As my mother (better acquainted with the school and its inmates) introduced me to the caretakers I began to get over the overwhelming feeling brimming up inside me. Adults with their rigid rational minds falter and fumble; finding it difficult to transcend the distances between hearts.  Children blessed with their innocence travel past the awkwardness even when dealing with strangers. Yes, it was the children (whom I thought were challenged, less fortunate) who helped me get acquainted and break the ice. A few of them uninhibitedly touched, clasped my hand, chunni and smiled at me. My daughter had meanwhile made friends with a seventeen year old girl (Lalitha) and was playing with her bouncing one of the few balloons we had handed out to the children. I saw Papa bouncing a balloon on to another girls head as she giggled and laughed. The table was brought out even as the children introduced themselves to us. Some of them were restricted to their wheel chairs, their limbs and mind totally uncooperative with their spirit. One boy kept kissing the floor and smiling in joy. We put out the cakes on the table and cut it out for the children. Mummy had advised me to get something soft for the children least some of them swallow it without chewing and choke on it.  I watched some of the children whose body and mind allowed them to, help out those who were more helpless. The warmth, empathy and understanding between them was touching. I should also give credit to the caretakers who must have trained them in these tasks. The caretakers told us heart wrenching stories about how the children had come to be adopted by the home. Some had been found wandering in the streets, a few obviously deserted by parents at the doorsteps of the home, who were either too poor or ill-equipped to handle such children. They told us how the children who could, help out with the gardening, cooking and caring for the more challenged kids. At this point a boy of seven, Priyaranjan, tugged my hand asking for more cake. “I want it for my friend Gaurav.” He said. This child appeared quiet intelligent and when I asked him what he liked to do he replied “I like to read and write. I learn about vegetables, animals, counting etc.” He even recited a poem, sang a bhajan and an Oriya film song “ Aajeee Akasay ki Ranga Sajila” (What colors the sky is adorned with today?). Priyaranjan asked me to get a toy bus for him and a toy van for his friend Gaurav. This little impish child had made a special place for himself in my heart within just a few minutes of interaction. A beautiful girl of 15 with hazel eyes, was introduced to us as the class topper. We went upstairs to see the children who were unable to move out of their beds or were too unwell to be brought downstairs. There sat a little girl, frail beyond imagination, blind and expressionless, awaiting an operation, till the time her body was strong enough to bear the surgery.Lalitha liked my daughter's clips and asked her to get one for her next time. She took off her clip and gave it to Lalitha. She latter remarked to me "Mom you know how well mannered Lalitha was? She was reluctant to take it. Only when the caretaker encouraged her did she accept it. Mom I feel very good inside." There she had summarized it so crisply. I was thinking exactly that. By such visits and a few gifts we are of very little help to the children we only help ourselves,  feel a little healed, a little less guilty. I was filled with a lot of admiration for the care givers. Yes, they may be trained in the task, and yes, they do get remuneration- but it is when one actually handles such children, their tantrums, cleans them up and yet maintains self sanity and treats the kids with dignity even in their most vulnerable state that one can hope o be truly redeemed. Perhaps that is why no matter how many charitable organizations the rich and famous build, we respect and admire those who actually work on the ground.

It was time to leave and say good bye. The children asked us to come back again. I do not know what prompted me to visit them but I left with a heavy heart. I had done nothing for the children in a day of visit, except perhaps for myself. I had reinforced that guilt that I contribute absolutely nothing as I live my complacent life in my world. I began to think how little these children ask from the world and how much joy they derive out of the simplest things. When I revealed my thoughts to mother she consoled me saying, " Think that you have contributed some of your time, thought about them and brought smiles to their faces today." Till the time the way opens out this consolation is something to hold on to.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Time is all that Love asks for

     

GOT A MOMENT FOR LOVE? 
It is important for certain individuals to spend quality time with their loved one's. Mere physical proximity does not translate into quality time. Listening to each other with focused attention, reading a book together with a child, or doing something together like playing tennis, sharing each others inner most feelings, just sitting together and holding hands without any other interruptions and listening to one's partner  are all examples of spending quality time with each other.  A mother who stays at home may spend less quality time with her child then one who works although she may spend a greater quantity of time along with the child. Spending quality time with each other is extremely important for the sustenance of a relationship. It enables individuals to stay in tune with each other, to replenish the mind with memories about the love and happiness they share with each other. This will help them strengthen their relationship.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Seeing through a child's eyes

We become better parents when we see through our child's eyes

 

EVERYBODY WANTS TO LEAVE A BETTER PLANET FOR THE KID'S
HOW ABOUT LEAVING A BETTER KID'S TO THE PLANET




Many years ago I read a book " All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum. It was a book on parenting and as a young parent I was ready to soak in all the tips I needed from every possible source. Though I have long forgotten all the tips the book had to offer ( Like most seasoned parents I too have formulated my own fluid rules), the title has left a lasting impression on me. It keeps ringing in my mind unannounced, at the slightest provocation from the antics of my growing kids. For one I have learnt that a child is the father of man. Yes, children present their views lucidly and the lessons they deliver are sometimes hard hitting.  With all their inherent innocence and simplicity their views speaks volumes about us, and our world. There is so much to learn from them. When I say this I'm not talking about the lessons which seem to make more sense now, when I teach my elder one than when I studied them at school. I'm talking about the times when say perhaps, you take your child to a zoo and he/she remarks on seeing two squabbling monkey's - "Hey! this couple also fights like Mom and Pop." Wooh! such statements hurts! Right? The truth however is that we too are animals though we consider ourselves superior.


There will be times when the moral lessons you gave to your child about being honest and truthful leaves you in cold sweat. Like say you are at a party trying desperately to garner some brownie points from your boss and praise him by saying " Sir you look so smart in that suit." Your kid bats his/her eyes innocently saying "But Daddy yesterday you said, no matter what that bugger wears he looks like a crazy Ass!" Well what do we tell our children? -That one should not be too honest or that an adult world cannot operate without lies- white and black. Children force us to look inward and put our demeanor, our behavior and the functioning of our entire world under the scanner. What we have come to accept as usual, begins to shock us , disturb us. It is important to see the adult world through a child's eyes, in order to understand the underlying flaws. Perhaps such shockers from our children may provoke us to become better human beings or more adept manipulators.See the through your child's eye to leave a better world behind!

Monday, April 7, 2014

UNDERSTANDING OF LIFE THROUGH EMPATHY





 UNDERSTANDING OF LIFE THROUGH EMPATHY





I was pretty taken in by Devadutta Pattnaiks interpretations of mythology and his endeavor to apply them to resolve the problems of the modern world. The clash between the East and West or even the North and South is age old and exists at various levels. It percolates even to the ethos of business practices carried out by various nations. Quite understandably the clash is not because a certain culture, region or nation or its practice is better or worse than the other – but rather because they believe in the superiority of their world views. The most regrettable and shameful remnant of this clash that comes to my mind is the treatment meted out to the north-eastern citizens of India by their counter parts in other regions -Delhi being one of the places in eye of controversy for these kind of attacks.

In his lecture Mr. Pattnaik speaks of the encounter between Alexander and the Gymnosophist (probably a yogi) at the banks of Indus. Alexander the great conqueror crosses path with the Gymnosophist who is gazing at the sky, moon and stars. Alexander is quiet perplexed and cannot decipher why a person would waste his life in this futile manner. On being asked by Alexander about the purpose of his act, the Gymnosophist confides that he is trying to experience “Nothingness”. On being asked Alexander too revels his purpose in life, namely to conquer the world. Each of the men smiles at the others foolishness. They each believe that the other is in pursuit of a wasteful goal


The truth however is that both Alexander and Gymnosophist are not just two different persons but also people from 2 different cultures. Each has been shaped by disparate belief systems, world views, upbringing etc. This lack of understanding of the “others” world is the root of all clashes. When we fail to empathize and consider our world or our understanding of the world as the best, we tend to look down upon the other person and his/her world. We utterly disregard the belief system, the values, life experiences and perception of the other person and are happy in our complacent views of the world. We forget that there no one reality or one truth but rather different truths.

Yes! Truth too can have different faces. Facts may remain unchanged but each person’s truth is shaped by his/her experiences and beliefs. For one individual when it rains the truth is that it resurfaces memories of the accident that happened one rainy day and bereft him/her of loved ones. So for that person the truth is rainy days are bad days. For someone else a rainy day brings memories of playing in puddles with friends and keeping paper boats afloat. Hence a rainy day is a happy day for such a person. The truths of these 2 different persons are shaped by their experiences and not just by the fact that it rains.


  So what is it that can save us from chaos stemming out of lack understanding? Well as a sociologist I feel that the answer is quiet simple. We just have to be more patient and empathetic human beings. There is no magic syrup we drink to inject this thing called empathy, it comes with expanding our minds, and remaining in touch with our human side.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

My Guide

My  Guide

At Al Ain

As I squandered in self-doubt
heart aching for some route
You came primed with all your clout

When hope ran its course
came a silver lining from a divine source 
tugging me from the whirl pool of sand
urging me to trudge along for that blissful land



“It lies there hidden, don’t lose way
Though darkness leads you astray
Unflagging you must stay”

These glorious words nudged me along
No matter the thousand  falls
The pricks from the thorns, the hurt from that hurled stone
Uncertainty can build no cage
No rage, insecurity, panic or dread
It may take ages but the path is laid
Decked in glee, drenched with bliss
Till you are my guide urging me along










Sunday, March 30, 2014

JUST BECAUSE I AM A GIRL!

Every time I feel things are improving the ugly demon rears its head  again--------

MY ARTICLE IN TIMES OF INDIA

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/nri/contributors/contributions/minakhee-mishra/Happy-Mothers-Day/articleshow/12067298.cms

A few days back, Savvy, a 5th grader studying in an Indian school in Dubai, came home visibly distraught. Her mother, who was used to seeing her sunny girl come home with a smile on her lips and a spring in her steps, immediately asked her what the matter was. There was a wringing and unexplained ache in the mother's chest even before Savvy opened her mouth. "Please God!" She thought, "let her spell out some childish trouble like Ritika teasing her or Ankita declaring Savvy's specs didn't suit her." Savvy knew how to tackle these trouble-makers and never let her confidence shrink in the face of these hurdles in her childhood journey. Savvy's mother had prepared her well to face these battles of life. So what was it that put the creases of worry and trouble in her innocent face?


"Mom, today the teacher got a newspaper and showed us the news and picture of child marriage. She told us that in India small girls like me are married off. Don't their parents love them? Mom, when I told Lita (a 6th grader in her bus) about this, she told me that this is a small thing in comparison to what she reads in the newspapers. In many parts in India, small girls and women are raped, girl babies are killed even before they are born or left on the road, and sometimes, when girls marry without their parents consent, they are killed. Lita said Delhi is called the "rape capital" (489 rapes were reported in 2010 alone). I asked her what a rape is. She told me even she does not understand properly. However, when it happens, a girl's body is scratched, her clothes are torn and everybody blames her for something and she cries all the time. Sometimes, such girls die or kill themselves. Mom, why do they do all these things in India? Do parents in India not love their daughters? You told me we call India "Bharat Mata" and respect it like our mother. Then, why do women get such treatment in India? I love it when I go home to India. I wanted to go back and live there after Papa had completed his project here, but now I don't want to go back ever. Susila and Mehek Didi (her cousins) are in India, tell them to come here. I am scared for them; I do not want them to get hurt." 




Savvy's mother was dumbstruck and tears unwittingly drenched her cheeks. Yes, earlier in the morning, she had read news about rape and child marriage in the Indian section of the newspaper. She and Rahul (Savvy's father) had discussed how unsafe India had become and they were terrified of the day when they have to go back. Rahul said he can't imagine how perverts (rapists) can be set off so lightly. Even a sentence of 7 years was not any retribution for a crime that tatters the very soul of a woman/child. She had told Rahul about the shame she felt when her non-Indian friends discussed news of such incidents. But when she listened to her 10 years old's anxiety, her heart burned. She pulled Savvy and hugged her tight, as if trying to secure her from the troublesome thoughts within the safe haven of her clutch. She knew that even the distance (from India) can't protect or shield her daughter from the pain that atrocities and crime against women causes. She had tried to erect a beautiful image of her motherland, so that Savvy will look forward to going back there. She knew that while the beauty of her motherland will never cease, there was another dark reality that shadowed its charm. In reality, India was also a place where a 12-year-old rape victim faces the looming dangers of pregnancy; a woman chief minister of a state, where Durga and Kali are revered, issues an official statement that the rape story was fabricated without ascertaining facts; a battered two years old is brought to hospital on Republic Day, revealing a horror story of human trafficking; a woman is gang-raped when she opposes the evil of child-marriage; so called honorable ministers derive pleasure from watching pornographic and rape videos while the House is in progress; women are raped even in police custody; the right to life is snatched away from a female child even in the confines of a mother's womb and where women are dishonored, tortured, killed, oppressed and marginalized at every step of life. Adding to the list of various dubious distinctions India has gained is the abnormally skewed sex ratio. Widely prevalent female infanticide and early marriage of women resulting in high mortality of mother and child are blamed for this. The degrading status of women cannot be blamed on illiteracy alone. Research has revealed that while tribal communities have low literacy level, the sex ratio is fairly normal. Clearly a civilized society with humanity as its reigning principle doesn't come with education alone. It comes when we use knowledge to learn and rectify our mistakes, apply it for progress and adopt a progressive attitude. 




Issues as vital and generic as safety, right to a life of dignity are still a bleak reality in a democratic setup like India. What and where is the sheen that our country has achieved in the aftermath of freedom? No matter how much one loves their motherland and wishes to return to it, there will always be comparisons and second thoughts when the question of moving back crops up. Savvy's mother loved her motherland and she loved her daughter dearly, but when will every individual in her country learn to give the respect all mothers, daughters and woman in general deserved? Till that day dawns, "India shining" will only remain a mere rhetoric. 










Monday, March 24, 2014

BEAUTEOUS KHOR FAKKAN








How does a simple holiday transform into a process of self discovery? Halt! Halt! Before you race your mind down the  path Elizabeth Gilbert (writer of Eat Pray , Love) took, let me clarify the protagonist of this holiday constituted of 2 squabbling kids and a couple who have almost completed 2 decades of married life . Now have I managed to tone down your romantic, naughty, or even adventurous spirit a bit?  Well, I guess I have! :-0 But there is no other way I would want my vacation to be - Rather there are no other people I would like to spend my completely languid, slow and dreamy holiday with.  I would happily trade the roller coaster ride holidays to exotic locations for this dreamy journey.
 A mundane 2 day vacation to Khor Fakkan was just a well deserved break for the kids after their annual exams and for us pacing around kids and life in general.  Khor Fakkan is beautiful with both mountain and sea generously decorating its landscape. There is plenty of greenery too due to the rich soil. We checked in at Oceanic Spa and Resorts over- looking the sea as well as a mountain range. The untainted blue of the Gulf of Oman and lovely weather made the enchanting bay of Khor Fakkan ( Creek of two Jaws) even more enticing.





 We listened to the symphony of the sea and smiled at the kids splashing water on each other. We relished the cool calm waters gently soothing our stress telling us to slow down; shoving us   tenderly to notice the smaller minute wonders of this world. We built castles of sand, and decorated them with shells scattered on the shores and marveled at how much joy this small task brought us. The kids returned in a few hours to find no sign of the castle or the shells.  They were troubled but we made them understand that everything is transitory, and that is the true nature of universe. They forgot after a while- enjoying the breeze, the smooth wet sand beneath their feet, the blue expanses. We all fooled around with the frisbee, and even tried our hands at table tennis.




 Divers long to relish the rich coral reefs hidden in the deep blue waters but we raided the park just a stone throw away from the Oceanic resort. Swing, sea-saw, slides, the grass, you name it we left our mark on each and every one of them. We returned back from our leisurely adventure with a truck load of memories and renewed vigor to attend to life in general.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

SANCTUARY FOR ALL- POSH N” PAWS





SANCTUARY FOR ALL- POSH N” PAWS


  
What would you expect a 13 year old stepping on the helm of her teens to wish for her birthday? Well perhaps a big birthday bash or a pool party full of screeching teenagers, dressed in ways that incite nightmares for every parent. Well I was pleasantly surprised (that’s an understatement) when my teenager disclosed her wish for her birthday bash. It was a humble visit to an animal sanctuary. We  (along with a group of  teenagers) visited Posh and Paws- an animal sanctuary and petting farm- in Sharjah  near Dubai on a bright sunny morning equipped with cut pieces of carrots, lettuce, cabbage, grains, and other food stuff which the animals housed in the farm eat.
 



 




 What a wonderful experience it was to pet and play with the animals who have boarded in the farm- abandoned or donated by their previous owners. We were all thrilled for the opportunity to appreciate nature and its joys. It was fun interactive way to learn from animals and fall in love with them. At Posh and Paws there are no restriction on interaction, except when in concerns the safety of animals and the visiting individuals. I was particularly happy to see the partying dogs. Didn't get it?







 Well the Dogs visit parties and schools to entertain and enthrall children and can be adopted too. All the animals in the sanctuary are up for adoption. There is a kennel and cattery for boarding the  pet cats and dogs when the owners are traveling, very close to the sanctuary.



I literally fell in love with this macaw and the admiration was mutual. The bird perched on my hand and kept dancing and whistling. I was reminded of my pet parrot, a real sweet heart, during my childhood days in India. We would all love to go back to this beautiful place again and again. Three cheers to the staff for working so hard to keep the animals healthy and happy.








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