Saturday, July 9, 2016

MY MIRACULOUS SURVIVAL OF A CAR ACCIDENT

‘Miracle’
It would actually constitute more than a miracle. It would take divine intervention plus luck, plus some unknown element of cosmic wizardry.


14:33 – the time displayed under the music system as we made return journey to Nairobi. I was travelling with a friend who drove his Toyota SURF – a new safari-suited vehicle he was so proud to have been the owner of. I was settled into the seat next to him where I lay content with the seatbelt tucked in well. I was content that our journey to Aberdare’s steep forested ravines and open moorland had been exceptionally fun with 23 elephants, numerous Cape Buffaloes and over 40 giant forest hogs sighted.
Along Limuru Highway, just about 45 minutes to Nairobi, traffic moved slowly. “It’s not usual for traffic to build up around this time” – no longer was I talking this to myself that our car came to halt behind a white hatchback. Within no time cars stacked up in the two-lane Highway and all drivers’ eyes set in their front wondering if or when cars will move forward.

Right the next moment everything and every bit of my beautiful thoughts changed. I suddenly felt myself swayed forward like I was on a swing and somebody from behind gave me a violent push. My hands did not find a proper grip but I was being pulled back by the seatbelt and for that one moment everything turned pitch dark around me. Fear snaked around my heart and I almost tended to faint as I adjusted to that moment of darkness. When I got rid of the darkness, to my right side I saw a big “Matatu” (a local bus) hit on the back of the white hatchback that was in front of our car a few moments ago. The Matatu slammered the back of that car like a lion charges on its prey while the small white car groaned like a wounded beast, shuddered and its bonnet plunged into the underneath of the lorry like another hungry lion wanted to eat the prey down from its head. The lorry did not budge though. The car’s windscreen imploded, showering the slivers of glass all over. Both its dashboard and boot compacted into one mangled mess in no time.

Our car had been knocked out to another lane and hit another black Toyota Noah, smashing its taillights; from it fell down some shiny pieces of red glasses. The Toyota Noah – an eight seater - then went to hit another white Corolla with four people inside it. The rear-end shunt created a sort of ripple on the road that travelled a distance and fell silent when exhausted of all energy. Inside our car, the music system that played beautiful Sting songs just a while ago, had come off, dust from it sprayed all over me and some settled on my black trouser. I heard only a symphony of grinding and a chorus of popping. I tried to recover some mind, strength and stepped out to see the state of our car.

The back of the 4th generation Toyota SURF had become nothing more than a sort of crumpled cloth piece pulled out of a washing machine. The Matatu had hit our car first – forcing it to absorb almost 90% of the impact – a gruesome stroke of a four-ton Matatu! Luckily enough, it had only managed to hit the rear side where the spare wheel rested; that caused to knock off the car outward to another lane. But the impact was so powerful that it ripped off the tyre, pierced central disc and its metal rim was left fractured. The rear window glass frames appeared nothing stronger than a spider web and black shards of the glass littered all over the road as if black bean had spilled from a bottle. The impact forced the boot to go to reach almost the rear seats, which exposed bags and every other items inside the car. In the front of the car, half of its bonnet had torn off – its wound open and displayed a fresh but sad deep monotonous scratch painted on it; fenders and headlight hanged from the side.

Wedged between the Matatu and another Toyota car, the aftereffects of our car wreck looked serious. At that scene, my both hands trembled over my mouth; my eyes became glossy and watered slightly for a moment but I swallowed it back. Just the time I thought how difficult it is to swallow back your own tears, more so when it has already reached the rims of eyes.

I experienced the scariest moment in my life. I could never fancy how ten seconds of life could change a person's view on the whole existence. I was only thankful to the Divine, to the God – and for that moment onwards I started to believe there is God or a cosmic wizard that showers blessings on you.
 
I sustained not a single bruise and nobody in those seven cars involved were hurt badly in the accident but the experience of that moment has left an indelible imprint in my mind. All those events come running to me every night and every time I drive out on roads. The scene, feeling and memory will probably never fade away!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

FROM INNOCENCE TO EXPERIENCE


Innocence
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
                                    William Blake
Innocence of a child goes deeper than ignorance. The mysterious imagination and expression of a child is difficult to capture – more so, if you are an adult. It is rather easier to say what innocence is not than what it is. I have my own particular “collection of innocence” when my two years old nephew, Arjun, visited and stayed with me in the last two months of 2015.

I recount fond memories in a style that he probably would have expressed by himself:

Understand what I say....
My vocabulary is limited, but I can juggle them well to make myself heard and understood. When I say, Kakakaa – it means a car! I have noted you and mom literally flying round supermarket aisles so that I don’t see toys compartment. But, would you appreciate that I am crying out for Kakakaa – it’s just that I wanted to add a few more to my collection of hundreds. If I do manage to escape your cleverness and reach a toy section, I can see your displeasure when I select expensive Kakakaa or when I ask loudly for Pepepee or Buwabuwa. Don’t get me wrong, I cannot twist my tongue to say Plane or Motorbike– Pepepee and Buwabuwa are easier! To call Judy as Judy is complicated. I call her Jutoo. When I say “tee”, I am asking you to open things for me, ok? And, what’s there to laugh? Cannot you see, I am simplifying things. Sometimes I simplify things to the extent that people should realize some things are just better categorised and known by one name. For me, be it a giraffe or a zebra or an elephant, they are all “Bhau bhau”. I have another wonder vocabulary that people fancy so much – “goong”. “Ka goong” means car is lost, “Maami goong” means Maami is lost, “buff goong” means brush is lost – that’s all so simple. There are times when I get annoyed, especially when you understand but pretend ignoring me completely. You don’t let me stir food while you are cooking. I plead to you with my “phis, phis, phis” but you behave so arrogant and ignore my please, please! The other day I learnt a new vocabulary - “tirty, tirty” and I got so amused when it took a while for you to understand that I was actually saying “dirty, dirty”.

Baby baby…
Baby baby is equivalent to my “thego”. For anyone who is under the age of 15 is a baby for me. If our neighbour’s 5 months kid is crying in the middle of night, I scratch my mom’s elbow and ask her “baby baby?” My mom just refuses to bear it for me and she shouts at me that I better sleep. She cannot appreciate the fact that “I am concerned about all the babies in this world and all the time”. The other day I met a beautiful 14 year old girl in a party. The moment I called her baby, all the heads around me turned and they all burst into a laughter. I gave a mild grin to myself but ignored them completely and continued talking to her by making the best use of my vocabularies. I have not been able to convince others in general that they better enjoy the fact that I fancy babies, girl babies in particular. Since I have explained it now, I leave it upto your judgement to consider it in future communication! I recall it vaguely that once our 3 year old neighbour came to see me and just as I had said “baby baby”, my mom sneaked me through her eyes and took me in for a bath. So vulnerable I am to “bata bata” that I completely forgot about the baby and started bathing Kakakaa and Pepepee. That’s my mom’s rather cunning strategy of diverting me off things when my “Nag factor” sets in! Don’t get me wrong here – these are my mom’s tried and tested approaches. She is double the smart than I am.

My intonation….
In a bid to simplifying things and sometimes to butter up my demands, I vary the tones of my voice. I normally call my aunt Sabi. But, when I want her to feed me “Ayise”, I call her Sab..i…ya.. She gets flattered by the tone of my voice and will give me Ayise even when my mom gives a nasty stare. I remain excited of things all the time, especially in the nights. I often imagine that my mom and aunt are upto some fun that they don’t want me to be part of. So, I try to keep my eyes wide open even when my mind tells me to go sleep. I don’t want to miss all that excitement if anything happens at all. It’s during those times that I show my greatest love to mom. From “maami”, she becomes ma..mi…ya. Sometimes all that sweet intonation goes in vain – my mom refuses to believe my love for her at that time. Her big eyes even get bigger and poor me I try asking for Sabi, Jutoo kind of excuses, but at the end, I have to go to sleep anyway! 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I MISS THE FIRE IN MY BELLY

“I am not a woman prime minister. I am a prime minister”. Indira Gandhi

There is a saying that “if you cannot find it on google, it does not exist”. Now you check your search engine for “Asian women leaders quotes” and if you get one headline result, get back to me please! With this pretext, I researched on women’s leadership in Asia and I must say I am so disappointed at the moment, more so when I look at the situation in my own country!
More women have reached the pinnacle of power in Asia in recent years than in any other part of the world. If you look at the record, Sirimao Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the world’s first female elected head of state in 1960, has been followed by female leaders in India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines. The other side of this record is that almost every one of them has actually risen to power through a family connection. They are all the daughters, wives, or widows of former government heads or leading oppositionists. But, what’s wrong with this?

Female leaders and family connections
The rise of female leaders does not seem to reflect any change in the patriarchal nature of Asian societies. It has only helped to demonstrate the power of a name and the persistence of political dynasties. Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of the founder of Indonesia, Sukarno, during a mass campaign once asked, “So what’s wrong with being a housewife?” The number of women leaders who have attained top political positions in their own merit is so low. It also reflects on the rarity of policies in Asian countries that favour the equality of women and that liberate women from traditional roles in households.
Not to blame the system but we also need to see the character of our politics, which has come to political maturity following the examples of dynasties. Where is the figure who will change the way we do politics? Will we get more Modi in our politics who paved in way for seven prominent women leaders in India’s high cabinet ranks? Twenty five percent women in Indian Cabinet is perhaps the first in the history of Indian Government. Notably except for one minister, all six women made to top political power on their own caliber, without having to depend on family connections!
The other day I was so proud see Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs minister in Nepal, who stood out amongst male politicians, wearing a smile and emanating the woman power alongside the state power she was entrusted with. I did not see a single woman leader on Nepal side at any occasion!

Token women leaders
I know that most of us are in business to help and empower other women and to make a difference. But I believe that now it’s time for us to step into our power and make the changes we want to see in the political arena. We should stop pledging our refuge in the cosy and secured space of party politics - the space which is controlled by male politicians who love to maintain women’s “tokenism”! 

It also looks as if we will need to skip a generation before someone arrives with the guts to carry out the necessary revolution. We may not yet have even heard the name of the next great women leaders in this political arena of Nepal. But I am hopeful, some women will surely emerge from the large untapped reservoir of empowered women. And, to state the least, I feel some fire in my belly! Shall we challenge our heroes and go out looking for our she-roes now?
Follow me on twitter @sobst

Sunday, March 30, 2014

WEARING AN ATTITUDE OF GLAMOUR

Glamour is an attitude; it’s the expression of a certain kind of confidence
It’s about possessing an air of mystery and excitement

For me glamour is a sense of understanding, a freedom to emanate your charm and elegance; I consider it beyond the notion of luxury and high fashion of Bollywood or Hollywood – it is not merely an aesthetic signal! It is a form of communication to incite respect for and around your aura and to challenge the boundary that our culture and society often dictates on freedom of expression. It is therefore a form of non-verbal rhetoric that persuades others to notice you not through words but through images, concepts and totems.
Most times you deliberately craft glamour by ignoring your discordant elements while heightening appealing characteristics. In that sense, glamour is just about the right coupling of your performance and the perception of others. By binding such performance and perception, glamour gives us pleasure, even may heighten one’s yearning. However, there’s a fine line to it – the moment you de-couple performance and perception, you either create ‘vulgarity’ or ‘luxury fashion’.  
Glamour is a SPELL and a GRAMMAR

Glamour could be in your lipstick; a sari or gown draped around your body; a thin strand of hair that a gust of air moves in & out of your face; an artful pause when you speak; or, a romance and distance between you and your audience! You do have to get it right in order to be seen as glamorous as opposed to pretty, polished, vulgar or chic. You don’t stumble into glamour; you create it, even if you don’t realize that’s what you are doing! That’s why it’s important to learn and understand the art of glamour.
- drinking champaign in the night is glamorous but the hangover next day is not;
- high heels are glamorous but the bleeding and blistering feet are not;
- walking on red carpet is glamorous but displaying nudity is not;
- speaking your mind is glamorous but uttering stupidity is not;
 
But, if you indulge too much on consciously creating a glamourous you, you might just end up working on your illusions better and instead deceit yourself with false glitters of glamour. And, that is what will become the ‘dark side of glamour’. You will increasingly try to communicate to others who you are not – in a bid to grab people’s attention towards you. It is then when you tend to move away from your own reality, your own freedom; and, that is dangerous for your persona and for your confidence!

Monday, December 30, 2013

MY JOURNEY TO ‘MAMAGHAR’ IN KATHMANDU

My admiration for a sweet new blossom of humanity….

This autobiography of my nephew, Arjun, who is just two and half months today.  

25 November 2013
I was very excited when I heard my mom and dad plan for the trip to my mamaghar in Kathmandu. Now to term it as mere ‘excitement’ is a little understatement because I didn’t sleep that whole night. I slept around 4 in the morning but after a couple of hours my mom woke me up – it was probably an early morning flight to Kathmandu and we had to leave home by 6am. On our way to the airport, I could see my mom’s sleep-deprived sore eyes. But, my sweet mom as ever cuddled and adored me and her eyes were beaming from certain unrestrained joy – giving me the feeling that she forgot she had not slept that night.

Then, started my first and long ride in an aeroplane. The moment I entered the plane, my eyeballs grew wider in anticipation of what the inside of an aircraft looked like. For the first half an hour, I indulged in my excitement of seeing altogether a different space with so many people in it but then I could not keep it at the same level any longer. The next moment, my mom and dad cramped themselves into their seats and I was confined to my mom’s lap. All through the flight duration, she tired best to deal with my changing moods and whims and with frequent trips to baby’s room to feed me.  
 
Finally, we landed in Kathmandu airport but I was still not sure that we had flown over nearly 1062 miles. I wondered how my mom and dad melted that vast distance with their bonding and in doing so they cemented two different families and cultures. At the airport, we were received by my grandparents and Thulo Buwa. A strange emotion covered my mom’s face and when she looked at me to introduce to my grandparents, I told her in silence that  “each brush of breeze that touched my skin at that moment were telling me I belonged to Kathmandu as much as it belonged to you mom”. I looked at my dad at that very moment to see a big smile shine on his face and a prideful gesture of coming back to a place which he had begun to love so much!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

SIX YARDS SAREE– AN ENCHILADA OF WONDER, APPEAL AND GLAMOUR

             'Saree'
              the poise and grace of a woman,
              a six yards wonder to add to elegance, feminity and sensuality 
              the most beautiful attire, a timeless fashion!
For me saree is an exquisite piece of magic that flatters a woman’s look and makes her feel glamorous. Time and again you may flirt with other eastern and western garments but a saree’s ability to play off feminity with mystery and elegance cannot be compared to any other garments. Drape any woman in a saree and you change her persona. One may not have a body for a gown or a trouser, but I think every woman looks most elegant in a saree. It completely adapts to your body form and reflects your individuality. A saree exudes distinct elegance and charm complimenting every woman that adorns it. It is stylish and sexy and in fact could become the best tease for your body – covering just the right amount of flesh and leaving rest to one’s imagination.
Saree has always been my all-time fashionista favourite – I regularly wear it to workplace, parties and festive occasions. The more comfortably I drape saree around me, the more I get enticed by the grace, elegance and feminity it casts on me. Often times I feel I could have been born in a saree – I am most comfortable in this one-piece unzipped and unstitched garment and I can carry it off calmly all through the day. The reflection of grace and poise apart, I feel saree also subliminally announces my calmness and self-control.
Lucknowi Chicken, Batik prints and Kerala Kausuvo

South India raw silks and Nepali Dhaka prints
 
Kanjeevaram and printed Tussar silks
Sarees adorn my wardrobes like no other apparels. My wardrobe is a showcase of weaves and textile heritage collected from across India (see pictures above). I have also treasured a few handloom Nepali Dhaka sarees from Palpa and Terhathum but I am yet to collect a piece of Haku Patasi. I feel like I am on a personal fashion mission to collect sarees simply for the love of varied textures, fine weaves, striking hues and intricate motifs. I have only begun and it has already been a fascinating exercise! My favourite picks mostly consist of cotton and Pattu (silk) sarees. I am often times intrigued and fascinated by the versatility of textures and colour combination a saree offers – this reason why my wardrobe boasts of varieties of sarees you could imagine! My collection comprises of crisp cotton sarees, flowing chiffons and georgettes, zari synthetics and silk sarees.
I am also a conscious style purist and like collecting traditional heritage textiles and fabrics that represent different regions of India. My major selections come from West Bengal, South India (Tamil Nadu and Karnataka), Rajasthan and Kerala. When talking about patterns, my all-time favourite cotton sarees are Jamdani and Dhaka geometric thread-work pattern from Bengal and on silks, I guess nothing can ever beat gold-bordered Kanjeevaram, vibrant-colored Mysore printed silk and see-through Chanderi silk sarees. Lucknowi chicken and jagged temple patterns from Orrissa are lovely too!
If this post has aroused much of your interest in sarees, I now leave it to you to explore more – about fabrics, textures, weaves and patterns, colors and draping styles!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

“KUNDALINI” - THE SNAKE INSIDE YOU

"Without the inner world the outer loses its meaning, and without the outer the inner loses its substance."   R.D. Laing
 
Today – the day of Nag Panchami, we worship snakes. Serpents and snakes are expressions of good and evil that we find in our history, religion and culture. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. Their venom, on contrary, is connected with poison vengefulness and vindictiveness. These expressions and the galore of Nag or male serpents apart, have you heard of the power of female serpents – the Kundalini?
 
Mythology explains Kundalini as a serpent goddess who lies asleep and dormant at the base of the spine. Her name is Kundalini Shakti, and she represents the unfolding of the divine energy, the energising potential of life itself, a living goddess who enlivens all things.
 
“Awakening Kundalini” is often described in Yoga and Meditation as an energy releasing process that triggers the natural power to free oneself from personal conditioning. It is a clearing process that is designed to enable an open, clear and compassionate perspective of life and death, and to feel the essential bliss and connectedness of all things. It helps one to release self-judgment, which is an important prerequisite to know who or what you really are. It is not about becoming saintly but about becoming present, relaxed and in tune with the earth and the natural potential of living in harmony with ourselves and others.
 
What is the purpose of Kundalini?
The capacity for "choice" is what life is all about. Depending on how one navigates the awakening, this determines whether the ultimate outcome is more creative or destructive. Usually it's a mixture of both for the birth of the new requires the death of the old. It’s just like you are clearing out your stuffed house, cleaning it all creating a new inside of it!
 
Our true nature has no judgment and no resistance to life. Waking up is not an abandonment of life as it is, but an expansion, so that consciousness sees the inner-connectedness, the oneness, underneath all the diversity of expression in the world. Without judgment there is still a responsiveness, a deep feeling can move through related to compassion for the suffering in the human condition, and action can emerge spontaneously, the form having great variations among different people. Great laughter and joy can arise in seeing clearing how we have missed the truth for so many years, and ignored the clear evidence of our own eternal consciousness. Even in the joy we can still feel strong compassion for the confusion that all humanity shares.