भले पधारो अतिथि, भले पधारो
This man was shouting in the spirit of welcoming us to his little home. He was so excited as if he had seen humans from the city for the first time in life. And, actually was almost like I said.
The back-story is something like this. I had been on an experimental no-money walking pilgrimage and I walked—along with a dear friend and mentor—more than 300 kilometers. We received lots of love on the way. We ate food and took shelter at various places like spiritual sanctuaries, schools, tribal villages but one place was very special and it has ripped my heart. We’re invited by a family that is treated as the lowest caste and sometimes coined as The untouchable.
Yes, this is a bitter truth of my Incredible India that there is this disparity in caste systems. One such man from this neglected and suppressed community came forward to invite us for lunch and rest. This man is the hero of our story, the hero who’s not allowed to become a hero by our fellow countrymen—Punjabhai Chamar.
चमार means a cobbler and is one of the many untouchables clan of India. The fun was that when we’re asking the address of the area where they live, we got looks from people; like they’re not very comfortable even to tell us the address—area of cobblers.
आपको वहाँ जाना क्यों है?
One was so surprised and shocked upon learning this fact that someone really wants to meet them. Anyway, we reached the venue somehow after an hour of asking and getting lost in the village. Upon reaching the location where he told us to, he came running to meet us. It seemed that he was coming to rescue us or something as we’re the focus of all the shops around and for the first time, after many years, I felt like an alien from X999 galaxy; some 3.3 x 10 raise to 9 trillion light years away from our planet.
But, we met after sharing few calls of Where are you, I am here types. He took us to his little home in a nearby place. The place was filled with beautiful little homes and colorful people. There was a beautiful woman washing utensils, a—too much—healthy stray dog barking at us, lots of fine dust kissing our feet, little children running here and there, mud walls displaying their tribal art, fragrance of some pungent food and finally the grey-orphan water flowing here and there.
A perfect picture of a neglected Indian village.
I was continuously trying out the formula to be termed as untouchable but was totally unsuccessful. Just then, we reached the hut of our host and were welcomed by his bed-ridden mother, wife and his elder son. We entered his home and sat on the floor. As I was checking out his drawing room—cum bedroom cum guest room cum kitchen— someone brought us cold water. I knew there was no refrigerator in the area but somehow, they managed to get the cold water for us. We talked for a while and then he took us to a floor that was being constructed on top the room. We went up and started talking for a while, while the lunch was being prepared.
बेटा, ज़िन्दगी में बहुत मज़दूरी की है
This sentence was all I needed to know his story of struggle—from childhood to the present moment. He told how a shopkeeper helped him in his childhood. The shopkeeper was his Godfather. He had faced various problems due to the low-caste tag given to his family and feels that such things are not necessary in the society. He is now retired and promotes unity in diversity in the area. He sings religious songs that talk about equality of beings.
He was very happy because they seldom have guest in their home and we’re the first from a city; especially Mumbai. He has never been to any big city in his life and I invited him to come as a guest in my city. I have promised to host his family and take him around. Soon, lunch was ready and we went down.
They first served us a sweet dish Halva with dry fruits and later we’re served lentil and rice in the same utensil. It was so tasty that I kept licking my finger. We’re served chilled butter milk and the women of the home was doing the fan for us; like the women used to do to the king in olden times. It was an AWESOME lunch and after that we exchanged telephone numbers and offered our goodbyes. Our hero came to escort us to the outskirts of the village. He also told us the way forward.
On the way forward, we had only one topic—the hospitality of this untouchable. We the people have coined them a name, keep them neglected and suppressed but there is so much love in their heart. There was no feeling of inequality in their heart. Maybe, it’s us, the over educated and uncivilized lots who create differences because they are simple folks with only love in their heart and glint their eyes.
While, we in the cities have forgotten the hospitality toward guests, these forbidden heroes are keeping the head of our culture high!
Holy shit! This is Veerappan Part II.
Immediately my mind shouted. For those who don’t know who this gentleman is, here is a brief. Veerappan commonly known as sandalwood smuggler, was an Indian bandit who was active for years in scrub and forest lands covering about 6,000 km² in south India.
I met him while we were hosted by this tribal village in Gujarat. This is a remote hamlet in India that is not even on the map. There are around 3,000-4,000 tribal people staying in this village and one of them is Ramjibhai Dungargarasia.
He is one the men of the hamlet who goes to work and is the bread winner of the family. I couldn’t understand a word of his language and he also didn’t understand a word of my language and plus he didn’t care a shit. But, we had a small conversation with the help of our friend who is their taking care the hamlet.
First, I thought that he might be a fiery man with lots of anger and hell fire inside but to my surprise, he turned out to be totally opposite. He was a clam and soft-spoken man. He was on his way to work when we met him. He has hurt his leg while cutting a tree for fire. I became sad and asked him whether he wishes to be in the city and lead a different life. His answer shocked me.
I would rather kill a tiger than stay in the city.
His answer made me speechless. I very well understood where he was coming from; although, we the city folks are not that bad for sure. He loved his forest too much and wants to lead a simple life with basic facilities like light and a hospital. That’s all he wants! I couldn’t so much but I, along with few friends have now adopted this hamlet for solar electrification.
Life is all about contrasts!
One who has never drank one drop of alcohol writes the most beautiful poem praising alcohol. One who has seen major communal riots all his childhood, makes the most beautiful romantic films. One who has been living in fluent riches, leaves the material fruits and becomes the lord of renouncement and enlightenment.
And Veerappan look alike turns out to be his inverse of him, the most beloved and compassionate.
On the second year of the world menstrual hygiene day on May 28th, I write this blog. I write it as I read articles, posters and materials dismissing cultural practices around menstruation, calling them Menstrual Taboos. I write it as I read about organizations deciding for Indian women based on what they think is superstitious beliefs which need to be uprooted. I write, for all the women across India, who follow menstrual rituals and have asked me what these practices signify. I write for the men who have never known what to make of menstrual practices – to support them or to dismiss it. I write because I feel responsible for reviving what has been lost. I write with the learning and the realization that none of these practices were originally meant to suppress women.
Over the last one year, my team has traveled to 8 States across India to…
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Here is the story of my mentor Yogesh Mathuria, from Mumbai, with whom I walked 300 plus km for peace. I walked with him for 20 days; without any money. Isn’t this awesome?
He’s not an ordinary man! He’s an angel in disguise, a messiah of peace who has completed walking more than 10,000+ km during 2013 and 2017. He is on a mission to promote peace—inner and outer, and intends to walk around the globe to share his message of love, friendship and world peace.
His inspiration injected him when he was child and met Satish Kumar who walked from India to America, without money. The message was the same—peace. He has a strong impression of this journey on his heart and wanted to experience this himself. But, who knew that the dream would come so true, one day.
After graduation, he served the Information Industry for many years, working on strategic positions in giant software companies. This was the time of IT boom of India. He was a frequent traveler between India and the US for projects. No time, lots of money on. All work no play made Jack a dull boy, and this was our young Indian man. He has to pay a price. The price was that he lost his wife to the scariest devil of all times—cancer.
There has to be a problem with medical science if it can’t treat.
And with this in mind, he quit form his vibrant career to research on alternative healing techniques. He had traveled more than 25 countries and had collected information of alternative healing techniques from each land. He compiled all of them and crafted a holistic treatment center in Mumbai. In Wellness Lounge there is treatment for diabetes and cancer without any medicine. There are lots of amazing never-heard healing techniques like Ho’oponopono from Hawaii.
He is a strong believer of border-less world and promoter of world peace. He has decided to walk across Indian borders to spread the message of love and peace, year after year. He is staunch believer of Lord Shiva so much that he has named his home—Shiva’s Adobe. And guess what? He is supported by his daughters who are similarly wonderful like him and not forgetting his father, who’s a Osho saint. I have met him; he’s a man of wisdom and silence.
The path he is walking on, is the path of fire. It requires strong determination and a physically fit body; apart from a patriotic mindset. I wish him all the success in life, wherever he goes and have promised myself to be a part of his peace pilgrimage, as and when possible. I strongly believe that only love can conquer hatred.
Few years ago, I was on a no-money walking pilgrimage. We had to hunt for host families for night stay during our walk. And, this man came like an oasis in the desert because that day we couldn’t find one.
I don’t know the divine messenger who told him about our peace pilgrimage but he invited us to rest in his tribal village. The word tribal made me super excited because I had never been hosted by one. Anyway, we marched towards the address he gave and after a long walk; we reached the base of his tribal village; Khatisitra.
The village is in the north of Gujarat, India. It’s a pristine tribal village inside Balaram-Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary and not even on the map of India. We heard all good things on the way but the village was not on the base, it was a two hours trek from the base. It was an extremely difficult trek to the village but we somehow made it; of course, with the help of our guide who was a young child with no footwear on him.
Finally, we reached there and met Mustukhan Sukh who welcomed us in the tribal way. There were songs, flower garland and rituals as per Hindu tribal customs. We were overwhelmed by this warm welcome. By this time, he had already won our hearts. Anyway, the day was all about food and sleep but as the stars showed up, he gifted us a nice bonfire. This is the time we came to know the real him.
He has done his graduation in rural studies and post-graduation in social service. He always wanted to serve the rural community and in the young age of around 25, when most of the youth are busy thinking to either go abroad or earn lots of money and fame, he left his home to work for the rural population of his state—Gujarat. He came to this area and adopted this village and started his journey to serve these tribal.
In the start, he was not welcomed because people thought that he is one of those people that comes there to do nothing or destroy their peace. They condemned his stay. But, he was very clear. He wanted to open a school there and work for medical assistance. Even the forest department threatened him several times because of his home school he started in inside he forest. But, he was all determined to serve selflessly.
There were many instances of quarrels but one day there was a medical urgency where he was of big help to the villagers and this marked his victory in their hearts. He put his life in trouble to support a delivery case and saved both the mother and child. This made him a hero overnight plus almost two years of hard work.
Now, he is the official village mentor and has been given a land by the tribal head to run his home and a school. There was no education in the area and now, 60 students attend school to learn primary education. He, along his wife Mumtaz, serves the tribal village and has written their life to the service of this village. The forest department is now supporting him and encouraging more such work in the area. Not only this, he has also started Ecotourism in his tribal village to make community self reliable and lift them economically and socially.
What a wonderful contrast! In a world where our country is seeing terrible hatred between two communities, especially Hindu and Muslim, we see a Muslim man serving 100 Hindu families. In a world where there is growing hatred for Muslim community and they are being targeted as terrorists, there is this man who has given up all his luxuries of life and sitting deep in the forest and doing the work that Indian Government and all of us should have done.
One community cannot be terrorist, maybe a few from them but definitely not all. We need to change our mindset and understand the real meaning of terrorism and people associated with it. Muslims—the real ones—round the globe are doing awesome work and Mustukhan is the best example I have come across in India.
Salute to this unsung hero and please visit this beautiful pristine tribal village once in your life!
Thousands of youth dream to become a cabin crew and make their dream come true with one of the major airlines. It’s a dynamic profession that offers countless opportunities for personal and professional growth. Their office is the clouds, high up in the sky.
The role of a cabin crew derives from that of similar positions on passenger trains, but it has more direct involvement with passengers because of the confined space on aircraft. From a distance, it seems that they don’t do much other than looking beautiful, being elegant and traveling the world. But there’s another side. A closer look into their lives can provide a flip perspective of what is visible.
I haven’t traveled much in airplanes or have many friends who work for an airline. I just have one college friend who is working for British Airways since many years. And don’t ask me this; obviously, she beautiful. So much that all the college must have been after her in those days. I have a deep regard for her because she worked really hard for it and made it; as per her dream. I think her sister and brother-in-law also works for some airlines.
I like to meet her, again and again, but she’s always on the ninth cloud—always traveling the world.
There are quite many advantages of becoming a cabin crew—traveling to lot of new places, getting good travel discounts, meeting new people, it’s a glamours job; after all ,and in my personal opinion, the cabin crew gets the best looks; like a film/sport celebrity. I have even observed people perpetually checking—women cabin crew—them from top to bottom.
On the flip side, there might some downside to all the glamour and hard work. It might be quite hectic with all this traveling to different places with different climatic conditions. They might be missing friends or family as they’re always working and away from home. They might be having difficult times with partners because it’s almost like having many lives. One sure thing I have noticed is the way some, or most, people treat them on the flight.
I don’t travel much but whenever I travel I observe people and how they treat the cabin crew. Some are really rude and think that the cabin crew is a servant from the colonial period. The best example is of the mobile phone. The cabin crew keeps requesting to switch off the phone but almost no one does it before being personally told twice-thrice.
Once, I was returning from Thailand, and this group was constantly asking for liquor and misbehaving with one of the cabin crew. She was so polite and compassionate but the group wouldn’t listen to her at all. They littered all around in the airplane and called her again and again.
I know that I can’t do much to change the way people treat the cabin crew but all I know is that I can BE THE CHANGE. I have made some kindness rules for myself. As I enter the airplane and greet all the cabin crew members on the way to my seat. I put on the seat belt as I sit. I switch off my mobile phone. I listen to all the instruction they give before taking-off. While we’re flying, I silently wait for my turn to ask for food. And I always check their names and call them by their name with a smile. I have seen people, in 21st century, snapping fingers to call one of the cabin crew. After landing, I wait for my turn to get out and quietly hand a small Thank You card to the person standing near the exit. I usually get down last so that I have a minute to share my gratitude to the cabin crew. And believe me, that smile on their face is priceless!
The cabin crew is like our mother when we’re on the skies, flying.
They live a tough life, like we do, this is why it takes a special, understanding kind of person to be close to a cabin crew. And just dig deep. What does it actually take? A little set of manners, politeness and a pinch of gratitude. Is it too much?