Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Archive for May, 2011

What’s Hell, if not this ?

I know what’s hell, I live right there,
It’s darkness, despair, depression everywhere.
In heat of hatred and flames of bigotry I burn
Where injustice and intolerance are all I discern

Tall, dark, ugly shadows walk all over my mind,
Looking around, graves, just fresh graves are all I find.
Graves filled with quiet remains, of voices who cared,
Ruthlessly were they silenced, because they dared.

Is there anything to live for? Any hope? Any light?
Where chirpy birds are preyed, to vampire bats’ delight.
Air gets scant, scantier with each following breath,
As if getting close and closer to a smothered death.

What’s there to live for, with throats all gagged?
Better to pass myself, before to my grave I’m dragged.
They say dawn shall break, and the long night shall pass,
Have you ever seen a morning, where souls sleep enmasse?

Dedicated to the sad sad kidnapping and murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad.


On Being Master of Emotions

In the emotional universe we inhabit.
Each of us make our own weather,
Paint our own rainbows of imagination
Determine the color of our dreams
Create our own seasons in the heart
Control the temperatures of our mind
Divert the direction of our life’s storms

If I feel depressed I will sing.
If I feel sad I will laugh.
If I feel ill I will double my labor.
If I feel fear I will plunge ahead.
If I feel inferior I will wear new garments.
If I feel uncertain I will raise my voice.
If I feel poverty I will think of wealth to come.
If I feel incompetent I will think of past success.
If I feel insignificant I will remember my goals.
Today I will be the master of my emotions.
~Og Mandino

Emotions are like waves.We cannot do much to control their flow. But we can choose which ones to surf..

If I was a Concorde…

If I was a concorde, I would:

Fly with the turbojet of myriad aspirations,
And takeoff to the skies of fathomless imagination.
With supersonic pace, soaring in blissful thoughts,
Reaching to heights where no one could ever get caught,
Into  the tornadoes of bigotry, hate and intolerance,
To an altitude beyond darkness of misery, chaos, ignorance.
Supercruising over the clouds of dreams, desires and hope,
Beaming to have left behind the slow walk on life’s tight rope.
True to my name that spells nothing but ‘unity’ and ‘harmony’,
Vowing to not crashland on a strip metalled with woe and agony.
Hovering over the hills where kindness and love are nourished
Yearning to touchdown where everlasting PEACE is cherished.

PS: Concorde jet’s name, it’s meaning ( means harmony, unity), appearance, speed, and numerous other details have fascinated me since very young. Clearly remembering the first commercial flight in 1976 from Paris to Rio (in my preteens), the crash in 2000 at De Galle Airport, and finally it’s grounding, the fascination fails to wane.

Kaun tha Woh…

Koi pooche kaun tha main,
Tum keh dena koi khas nahin,
Ek sach tha jhoota moota sa,
Ek jhoot khatta meetha sa,
Buss ek dost kacha pakka sa.

Muhsay koi pooche kaun tha woh,
Main keh doonga baat wohi,
Ek gul tha taro taaza sa,
Ek jhonka, thandi hawa ka,
Buss ek mazaaq halka phulka sa.

Meaning of Life…

Life ain’t a mere living,
To wake, to sleep morning evening.
Laden with struggle, sweat and strife.
Tis’ not just to live, but to get a life.

Life to a newborn…
Is a warm embrace on mother’s chest.
Life to a teenager…
Is ‘fit in’ entree into a gang of friends.
Life to an old parent..
Is care and attention from a loving child.
Life to an orphan..
Is a tight hug from a caring arms.
Life to a disabled..
Is self reliant life with honour and dignity.
Life to a labourer..
Is a just wage before the sweat dries.
Life to a beggar ..
Is two square meals each day.
Life to a homeless..
Is a warm sleep in a chilly winter night
Life to a druggie..
Is a syringe load of ‘dose’ gushing through the veins.

Differing in spirit from soul to soul
Unique is the meaning of life in each role.

As pointed by my blogger friend Waltersmith, indeed the:
Life to a druggie…
Is freedom from the compulsive craving for the ‘dose’.

Today I Visited my Home

Today I visited
My true home
A real place that is
My permanent address
The house that I shall
Reside sooner or later

A home that needs
No furniture, no crockery
A home where I shall crave
No wardrobe, no accessories
A home large enough
To give rest and comfort
Never felt in any castle.

A home ventilated
With peace and tranquility
A home proofed against
Greed and vanity.
A home where my companions
Shall be my deeds.

A home with it’s simplicity
That gets me humbled
A home whose modesty
Makes me see the truth
Of what’s life about.

A home that knows me
Neither rich nor poor
Neither young nor old
Neither healthy nor sick
But eagerly awaits me
Whoever I am

A home that is ever ready
To hold me within its lap
Today , tomorrow, any day.
Today I visited
My true abode,
Of my mortal remains
My grave -to-be.

Peace Not War, We Crave

Moms weep, “My son, my son.”
Hearts pierced with daggers of pain,
Embracing sons, blood soaked uniforms adorn

Dads moan,”My boy, my boy.”
Tears dried up within their eyes,
As they lay in graves their bundles of joy.

Wives wail, “My man, my man.”
Receiving hubbies in the caskets asleep,
To a final journey, departing forever from their women.

Friends sob, “My buddy, my buddy.”
With brains stunned in utter disbelief,
Knowing they embraced martyrdom standing sturdy.

We all cry, ” Our brave, our brave.”
Horrified how our land with its innocent, burns in terror
It’s for everlasting PEACE, and PEACE NOT WAR we crave.

PS: Penned down in memory of the brave men who laid their lives fighting against the terrorists in PAF Base Faisal, Karachi, and all others who have lost their lives while being front line in the fight against terrorism.

Fire of Love

Long time ago
Man discovered fire
The fire of vanity
With heat of conceit
Invented the wheel of avarice
Cultivated seeds of tyranny
Raising crops of injustice
Built house of apathy
Erected on pillars of prejudice
Mosques of bigotry
Raised by bricks of hatred.

The DAY man shall
Turn the wheel of generosity
Cultivate seedlings of compassion
Reap the crops of honesty
Make a home of empathy
Raised on pillars of justice
Temples of tolerance
On foundation of peace
That day,
He shall discover fire again,

Ghalib’s Mangoes

It is Summers and mango time. Mango is synonimous with Mirza Ghalib. And I am here after ages in the mango season in Delhi, the city of Ghalib. And then Amir Khusrau’s praise for mangoes is not secret either. His soul resides in Delhi too.

How could one enjoy Ratols, Chausa, Dussehris in Delhi, consumed in their aromas and flavours, and not pay tribute to Ghalib’s love for mangoes. Perhaps ‘his first love’ was neither poetry nor liqour. But mangoes. Why do I say that ?

Here is a fascinating piece on Ghalib and his love for mangoes, to prove my claim, by Firoze Bakht Ahmed:

Ghalib was a great mango connoisseur

Altalf Hussain Hali, an ardent admirer of Mirza Ghalib and himself a poet of no mean achievement once had a very hot debate with the latter’s friend Nawab Mustafa Khan Shefta on the topic that Ghalib was the sole Indian poet who had tasted the maximum varieties of mangoes.

Shefta maintained that it wasn’t so but with his stunning memory and deep study of Ghalib’s life, Hali was the winner in proving that Ghalib had in fact tasted most of the 4,000 varieties of mangoes
grown in India. This might be a funny incident but the truth is that Ghalib was the one who loved eating mangoes in sweltering summers more than composing his couplets.

The varieties of mangoes that Ghalib mentioned in 63 letters written to his friends are – Malda, Fasli,Chausa, Zard Aaloo, Jahangir, Dasehri, Rehmat-e-Khas, Sarauli, Malghoba, Aziz Pasand,
Mahmood Samar, Sultan-us-Samar, Ram Kela, Bombay Green, Ratol, Safeda Mallihabadi, Dil Pasand, Husan Aara, Nazuk Pasand, Kishan Bhog, Neelam, Khudadad, Hamlet, Tota Pari, Nishati, Zafrani, Sinduri, Khatta Meetha, Barah Masi, Langra, Alfonso, Fajri Samar Bahisht, Gulabakhsh, Bishop, Xavier, Rumani and Badami. Ghalib had tasted all these.

His love for mangoes was in fact more than that of wine or even poetry when the season of the heavenly, juicy fruit came in the months of June and July.

Quoting Ghalib regarding mangoes, Hali mentions in his Yadgar-e-Ghalib that the poet was also very well versed with the history of mangoes.

Ghalib wrote to a friend, Maulvi Sadruddin Azurda about the history of mangoes: ‘The mango has been cultivated in India for over 4,000 years and is so much a part of the Indian heritage and culture that it is almost an object of veneration in Hindu households. Down through the centuries, emperors have pledged their devotion to the mango!

‘The records of Hieun Tsang, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim who visited India during Harshavardhan’s reign in the 6th century B.C., contains references to the attentive cultivation of the mango in the country. The Mughal emperors also evinced keen interest in the mango’s systematic cultivation and emperor Akbar is credited with having planted genetically superior mangoes in an orchard known as
Lakh Bakhsh, north of Agra.

‘Small wonder that our best varieties of mangoes bear names such as Jahangir and Himayun-ud-Din. Even Bahadur Shah Zafar, had a mango garden known as Hayat Bakhsh in the gardens of the Red Fort in which some of the most delicious and juicy varieties were grown.’

Mango is such a fruit that the accounts of it qualities are there since Vedic times. In fact there is a very interesting incident quoted in Persian by Ghalib’s friend Yusuf Mirza that traces the history of mango to the Vedic times.

It says that god once witnessed a contest between the two celestial brothers – Ganesh and Subramaniya popularly known as Kartikeya. Their parents Shiva and Parvati announced that the
one to race round the world and emerge the first would receive a wonderful gift.

While Subramaniya set off on this arduous race, Ganesh, the shrewd and calculating one, did some clever thinking. He circled around his parents, suggesting that they were world to him, and won the fabulous prize – a luscious mango!

Even Sufi poet Amir Khusro had praised the mango in his Persian poetry and called it Fakhr-e-Gulshan.

According to Ghalib it is a remarkable fruit in the sense that it can be cut with a knife, sucked like ice cream or crushed for its juice. It gives more joy in comparison with other fruits if it is cut and eaten.
He called such a mango as Qalmi Aam.

Even great poets like Nazir Akbarabadi and Iqbal too have written gloriously about mangoes.

Ghalib wrote to his friends as far as Calcutta, Bombay and Madras for sending him the mangoes and he was really fortunate enough that they obliged him by sending the tokris (baskets) of the fruit.

To a friend living in Calcutta, Mir Sarfaraz Hussain, he wrote as many as 15 letters requesting him to send him Bengal’s famous Gulbakhsh mangoes. Finally Sarfaraz Hussain sent him two baskets.
During May, 1857, when the Sepoy Mutiny was at its peak, Ghalib went to a friend of his in Meerut, who was a Subedar by family tradition and owned many mango orchards in Meerut and Saharnpur.

Once during the afternoon, Ghalib felt the urge to eat mangoes. That was not the time for the fruit to get ripened as most of the varieties in northern India ripe in the sweltering heat of June. While
Ghalib was just gazing at the kachcha aam (unripe mangoes), a British soldier saw Ghalib and without ado arrested him.

In fact that area was densely populated by Muslims who revolted against the British. The poet was taken to the Meerut Kotwali after arrest. In those days Hindus and Muslims used to wear almost
similar clothes.

When he reached the police station, the military governor Colonel Burn asked Ghalib: ‘Are you a Muslim?’

Ghalib was witty and his friend confirmed his presence of mind was par excellence. He replied: ‘ I am only a half-Muslim.’

‘What exactly do you mean by that? Be clear,’ said Col. Burn.

‘By that I mean Sir, that I take liquor but I do not touch pork!’

Hearing this, Col. Burn burst out laughing and let him off advising him not to mix up with the rioters.

Shefta narrated that in one gathering there were Maulana Fazl-e-Haq, Ghalib and other friends and they discussed about mangoes.
When everyone had had one’s say, Haq asked for Ghalib’s comments.

And he said:
‘In my opinion, there are only two necessary requirements concerning mangoes. Firstly, they should be sweet and secondly, they should be plentiful!’

(Firoz Bakht Ahmed, chairman of Friends For Education which works among Urdu schools to improve their standards, filed a public interest suit for restoration of Ghalib’s house in old Delhi. He
can be reached at
( © IANS / India eNews)Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved.

Treetops vs Grass roots

While reading through the wonderful, insightful Pullitzer Prize winner book Half The Sky, which highlights countless issues related to women all over the globe, one is enlightened of the dynamics of factors which can bring a real change in the lives of women in the world.

Whether it is reduction in maternal mortality, girl trafficking, change in social customs like female genital mutilation or women abuse the change can come only from within. And the secret to that change is ‘girl child education’.

Girl education is the key to women empowerment. Women empowerment in turn is the key to eradicate poverty.

Educating girls is the most effective way to fight poverty. Until women are numerate and literate it is difficult to bring meaningful change and contribute in the country’s economy”, say the authors.

Despite multiple factors playing their roles, studies have shown that, the solution to reduction in population growth, trafficking of women, gender based violence or female genital mutilation is SINGLE and it is girl education.

The local customs, culture, and family dynamics and the various factors which hinder the change need to be well understood . Bringing about a difference entails persistence and perseverance to bring slow and steady change and creating receptive audience at the grassroots level. Innovative ways may be needed to cause that change in thinking before one expects a change in practice.

The roadblocks may not necessarily be just the ‘big’ factors –but even trivial issues which we do not even give a second thought.

And motivation of girls is never an issue. They are always willing. It is the circumstances and the people around them who need to be convinced.

The authors recount, based on research, four cost effective ways to increase school attendance in either genders—
• ‘deworming’ the children( as worm infestation affects physical and intellectual growth),
managing menstruation related issues( providing san napkins and toilets—as many girls don’t attend school during mens due to inconvenience),
• providing Iodised salt( as many communities suffer from Iodine deficiency which leads to brain damage) and
• ‘bribing’ ( providing financial incentives to the girl students for attending school.

The donors often assume that providing the infrastructure, like building schools, or giving books is the ‘way to increase’ educaton. But one may have to go extra mile(s) to ensure that the real purpose behind the building of schools is realised.

The World Bank ,too, points that excessive spending on education bureaucracy and school infrastructure, rather than on teaching staff and supplies, undermines the quality and quantity of schooling.

How to boost up the woman empowerment through education ?

For many of us first thing that occurs is ‘funding’–specifically foreign funding.

It remains a myth that in places with poor resources and conditions the foreign assistance or Aid through big agencies like UN, USAID, US govt.etc.(Treetop solution) is the key to any kind of development.

Rightly did the authors point out that Foreign Aid follows ‘Murphy’s Law’ ( the law states that anything that can go wrong shall go wrong).

The foreign aid may be well intentioned but it does not always work the way it is intended. Some prove to do the exact opposite of what is intended.

Many skeptics like, Peter Bauer and Milton Friedman argued point blank in the 1960s that aid is ineffective.
William Easterly with experience in WB says, aid is often wasted and sometimes does more harm than good.
Rajan and Raghuram published a study in The Review of Eco and Stats that : there is no positive or negative correlation between aid inflows and economic development of a country.

The literature on foreign aid and development strongly suggests that the usefulness of development assistance varies with the quality of a country’s governance and the economic policies it pursues. In countries whose policy environment is highly unfavorable to growth, aid is less likely to be productive and contribute to long-term development.

According to one group of scholars, “in terms of growth prospects and performance, no amount of foreign assistance can substitute for a developing country’s internal policies and incentives for increasing output and improving the efficiency of resource allocation.”

A wonderful example that the book gives of a failed purpose of the Aid is as follows:

A UN Project in Nigeria meant to empower women.
Fact: the women in Nigeria cultivate cassava ( a root like potato) and use it for the household. If in excess they sell it off and save the money and spend it on home and their children.
The Project: It introduced a variety of Cassava which would give three tons per hectare yield instead of the usual 800 kilos per hectare. They had a terrific harvest. But they had problems;
They could not harvest that bulk of the yeild and could not even have the capacity to process them.
The agency introduced processing equipment. But the fruit was bitter and did not taste as well. But with processing of the fruit the problem was dealt.
As a result the project looked a ‘great success’. The women started to earn good money.
But then the men came in and kicked women out of Cassava farming. Why?
Because as per the tradition the women raised staple crops and the men grew cash crops. And when men had extra earnings, they used it for beer. As a result, women had even less income that when they started.

Moral of the story:
The above case proves the futility of a well intentioned Aid, if it is not linked to the local cultural practices. And another point it highlights is that any sort of empowerment of woman can boomrang unless it is accompanied by women education.

Sometimes good intentioned ‘treetop’ efforts can be counterproductive if the ‘grass root’ realities and resources are not taken into consideration.

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