Category: Hope

Needle and Thread

I met Mrs.Prakash when I was in fourth grade. Mrs.Prakash was a diminutive woman, barely five feet tall, with a stern wrinkled face and a tongue that could make your ears burn after a lashing from her. She taught us needlework, an art which was fast losing its relevance in a rapidly changing world. She not only managed to teach the girls basic embroidery stitches but by the thwacks of her wooden ruler, she made sure that they stuck to their projects and had finished pieces by the end of the academic year. My project was a fish-shaped pouch with chain-stitch embroidery and I think, my mom still has it somewhere.

It has now been more than thirty years since I first started that pouch, and since that time, never have I ever not had an embroidery project in the works. I have made cushion covers, table covers, napkins, bedsheets etc. I would use any scrap of cloth and start embroidering. It might be that I was genetically pre-disposed (my mother and both my grandmothers were amazing embroiderers ) or it may be the fact that I finally found something artistic at which I was more than passably good. Whatever be the reason, I had fallen in love with embroidery from the first time I pulled the needle through the cloth in Mrs.Prakash’s class.

I always remember Mrs.Prakash when I start a new project. Despite her palm thwacking personality, she not only taught me the basics of embroidery, but she also instilled in me a respect for the project, (she used to make us wash hands before we touched our cloths to protect it from grubby hands). She taught me to create something beautiful with my hands, something which had my efforts and my thoughts in it. She taught me the value of hard work when someone complimented me on the finished product.

I have been told I have too much free time on my hands if I can spend time embroidering bedsheets. Since I am professionally qualified, I was expected to be gainfully employed and earn money, not just sit and do embroidery (which in most opinions was a waste of time).  I was told with less time and effort I could purchase machine-made embroidery available in the market. It has also been pointed out that hand embroidery is a dying art and me doing embroidery is an anachronism. All the criticism though fades when someone compliments me on my work. My heart swells with pride when I create a piece cherished by someone. And thus, I refuse to give up embroidery.

Needlework satisfies the creative corner of my heart. There is something therapeutic about doing needlework. The needle pulling the thread making intricate patterns and designs on the cloth mesmerises you. Once a pattern is picked and threads organised, you settle in for the long haul. You know you will spend hours bent over your work, pulling the needle, you might get pinpricks on your index finger, the threads might get entangled making you start all over again. But you won’t give up, you know at the end of all the time and effort there will a product that you will cherish for a long time. A piece of hand-embroidered cloth becomes the visual representations of your feelings and thoughts.

Bravehearts

“Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.”

These words from the poem “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” are often quoted to show the dedication of the armed force. The CRPF personnel massacred in Pulwama were also following orders. The nation was still coming to grips with it when there was another encounter and four more Bravehearts lost their lives. This one hit harder home as one of the Bravehearts Major Dhoundiyal, was from my hometown of Dehradun. The news channels and Indian twitter was awash with the scenes of brave send off by the wife of Major Dhoundiyal. Shock, horror, anger, sadness, these myriad emotions chased one another in my mind when I first read about the carnage in Pulwama. My eyes couldn’t help but water up at visuals, first the tricolour-draped coffins, scenes of the carnage and then the young lady’s courage.

My father sent me a picture of the newspaper, there were two stories side by side. The first was about Major Dhoundiyal, his martyrdom and his brave wife. The second story was about the rent owed by the former chief ministers to the state of Uttarakhand for overstaying the in official accommodations. My father asked us for our views/reactions to the two stories. At first, the two stories had me dumbfound, a little later I was filled with a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. The two news reports showed the dichotomy of Indian society. The first news report showed the courage of a simple yet extraordinary family, of how even their lives don’t matter if for the greater good of the country. The second news report showed the dishonest politicians, the ones who have made a career out of siphoning money and are not even the teeniest bit apologetic about it.

I fail to see a future for a country where the politicians, like parasites, keep sucking the money and resources meant for the nation. A country where soldiers and policemen are treated as cannon fodder to pander to the delusions of grandeur by the politicians. A country which uses the Republic Day parade to massage the ego of a nation who, in truth, doesn’t really seem to be much interested in the welfare of people who protect our country. While we all watch, hearts swelling with pride, the columns marching by; While we listen to the politicians mouthing empty platitudes; The same governments sign their death warrants when they sign defence deals for sub-standard products and pocket millions of dollars; When they make wrong policy decisions and send these brave men to the point of the no return.

The point to ponder is if only the politicians are to be blamed and not the citizens of India? It would be a fallacy to put the entire blame only on the corrupt politician and absolve ourselves of the moral duty as citizens of this country. We have been given the power of the vote, unfortunately, most of us vote according to our caste, region or religion. We let the politicians get away with pocketing the change as we do not hold them responsible for their work and policies. We, in fact, accept the corruption of the politicians( irrespective of party lines) and therein lies the biggest problem of our democracy “Accountability”. We do not hold our politicians accountable and thus they behave with impunity. If you hear any politician’s speech, the blunder is always made by the other party, they themselves will never, ever own up to their failures and their ineptitudes. Apart from harming the nation, this has affected our armed services the most. For us the scams of defence deals like Bofors, MIG parts and Rafale are only newspaper news, it is our armed forces who have to bear the full brunt of these. The citizens of our country rather than asking our netas questions fall in the trap of endless shouting matches which masquerade as TV debates. Our patriotism is somehow limited to shouting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” or in forwarding Whatsapp messages and sharing videos on Facebook. We get agitated and influenced by the people spewing venom instead of words and start baying for blood, without any thought of consequences.

Maybe its time we made our politicians accountable. The next time your neta comes asking for the vote, ask them. Ask them what they did with their MPLADS fund, ask them about what they did about development in your area, ask them to show you the proof, ask them about their foreign junkets and farmhouses, ask them about the cases pending against them, ask them about the cases against them which vanished the moment they came in power. Make them accountable rather than accepting it and saying “Yeh India hai, Yahan sab chalta hai”.

The time is ripe in India for the mandatory draft for all the citizens of India. I am quite sure that the Armed forces will not be happy with all the riff-raff coming in but I do think that this is the only way that our armchair patriots and defence experts will learn what truly loving the country means. It will teach them the courage to actually work for their country and not just wave the tricolour on 15th August and 26th January. The so-called activists of all the parties, the ones who stand up for our culture, our religion, our cow, our downtrodden, our secularism, should be the first ones to be drafted under this scheme. Maybe then they will realise what facing the enemy truly means(and no it doesn’t mean beating up someone just because they disagreed with you).

In this age of instant news and social media, the martyrdom of these soldiers will be buried under other news very soon( it is already happening, barely a week after the first attack). There is an old song sung by Lata Mangeshkar, “Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon” which implores people to remember the sacrifices made by our soldiers It is a song we all should listen to, over and over again, lest we forget that martyrdom of even a single soldier doesn’t only affect his family, his village, his town, but it affects the nation as a whole.

I am not a trained analyst who can objectively look at issues and find a solution. I am a simple person who is affected by the senseless loss of lives. Ideally, I would like to live in a world which has no conflict, but I am a realist enough to know that it is not possible. I can, however, hope and pray that such horror doesn’t happen again.

Lost…..

Ask any friend of ours and they will agree that we, as a family, love to travel and even land up having a few adventures while doing so. This year was no different and on our recent trip to India, we again had an adventure. Yearly we travel to India to meet our family during the summer break and this year the last stop was my parent’s house in Dehradun. On the way from the railway station to my father’s house, we decided to hire an auto due to loads of luggage. On reaching the house, however, we forgot to take out an important piece of baggage from the back; it was our laptop bag containing our laptop, iPad, Kindle and hubby’s beloved camera. The absence of the bag was noticed after a considerable delay of about four hours. Hubby and Father rushed to the railway station to find the auto which had been hired in the morning, but the search was futile and they returned empty handed. Would-have-been and what-can-be-done conversations were held. Everyone, mentally or verbally, assumed the bag was lost for good. The technologically savvy gave the advice to try and find the iPad through “Find my iPhone App” (which let me tell you will work only if the device is connected to the internet), the lost mode was also switched on. However, these were just activities for giving us mental satisfaction and no real result. Early next day morning the duo again went to the station to try and find the auto driver, and by a quirk of faith, they did find him! The driver, however, proved recalcitrant and denied any knowledge of the bag. We were back to square one.  After much deliberations and advice from various quarters, it was decided to formally lodge a complaint with police regarding lost articles. By now, we had given up all hope of recovering the bag, though whenever an auto passed the house, I used to hope against hope that it was the auto driver coming to give the bag he had just found.

Slowly we accepted the loss and moved on. Hubby went back to work after his holiday got over and the boys also learned to entertain themselves without their iPad.

About ten days after the incident my best friend from school called and had a startling piece of information to give. A lady had called her claiming to have found the bag and asking for our whereabouts. I was shell-shocked! I called the lady in question and it did seem as if she was in the possession of our bag. She asked us to come to pick up the bag and off we all rushed post haste! The bag was indeed ours and we just could not believe that all the things were found and in the same places where we had packed. Apparently, a group of painters had found the bag while taking out their possessions from the back of an auto while they were going out of Dehradun for some work. They thought it more prudent to take the bag along with them and then try and trace the owners, instead of leaving it in the auto. First, as they were out of the station and then later, as they were not very technologically savvy they were unable to trace the owners (us). They then met the lady who helped them, found the contacts on the iPad and randomly called my friend. To cut a very long story short all of us were surprised, baffled and over the moon at having recovered our things.

It was series of random events, we leaving the bag in the auto, the good samaritans finding it, the Samaritans asking the lady to help, the lady randomly picking my best friend’s name out of contact list as it had “Delhi” suffixed to her name, my friend on an off chance picking up a call from an unknown number (which none of us usually do) and my friend having the patience to talk to a random stranger. Thankfully all the random events connected, leading us to our bag.

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After the euphoria and the elation subdued a bit, I was left pondering a few questions.

I realized how negative we have all become regarding our fellow human. When the bag was lost, our first reaction was “Ab to Gaya’, meaning it won’t be found ever. We automatically assumed the items will be stripped of parts and sold. The continuous bombardment of negative news on television and newspapers have somehow succeeded in making our thought process negative. We have forgotten how to trust and believe the good in society as we are unable to see/find anything worthy. The boys by tracing us and returning the bag to us not only gave back our material things but also made us realize that good and honest people are still there in the world. The poor painters, earning paltry sums, having the moral fortitude to return items worth a lot of money showed us, educated folks, the power of honesty. Even the lady who called my friend did it due to the goodness of her heart. There was no incentive for her to spend her time looking through our contact list and calling up people other than receiving a Thank you from us. I saw happiness and satisfaction on their faces while handing over the bag to me, proving that a person with a clear conscience is the most satisfied.

Another thing which stood out was how much we Indians distrust our police force. We waited for three days before registering a police complaint as we didn’t want any “trouble”. Rather than going to the police station and registering the complaint immediately, delibrations were held whether we would get involved in unsavory dealings if we filed the FIR. Even after filing the complaint we did not have any hope for a positive outcome. The good samaritans on the other hand also did not go and deposit the bag with the police. Their reason was also the same, they didn’t want any “trouble” and being poor they would have been on the receiving end of the police’s suspicions. Even after we withdrew the complaint we were careful not to mention their names. My father-in-law, in fact, suggested that such honest citizens should be felicitated by the police/MLA, to which my response was “I don’t want trouble for them”. Isn’t it, however, a sad state of affairs that we, tax paying citizens of India, should distrust the force whose primary responsibility is to protect us. Rather than turning to police for help or succor, we mistrust their motives and actions.

This is the reason why I decided to title the post as “Lost”. This post is not about losing or finding material possessions. It is about how we have lost our ability to trust other people, we have lost our ability to believe that there are still honest people and we have lost our faith in our police system and public officers. As India completes 70 years as an Independent country maybe it is time we relook at certain things, only then there will be hope for this “Great” Nation.