Sunday, July 27, 2014

#Profile 1- Arpan: An NGO Defining Change

When it comes to profiles and interviews, I enjoy it to the core. So, without dilly-dallying much, I present to you through this blog post, an NGO named Arpan founded by two very close friends of mine- Sneha Thakur and Zeba Rizvi (hereafter, referred to as ST and ZR). You can read more about the NGO and these two lovely ladies on Arpan's website - link to which I couldn't manage to post in the blog, as the blogger was just not accepting it :-( )

I came up with this blog post mainly to present to you all the next event being organised by Arpan on August 2nd, at Kunzum Cafe, Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi. For details about what the event is about, here goes the poster-

I spoke to these two ladies about their journey till now with their own venture. In this first profile/interview post of Indelible Musings, Zeba and Sneha open up about the birth of this idea, the obstacles they encountered, those very special moments that they witnessed everyday and their points to ponder about before getting into an NGO world. For more, Read on :-)

Thus was born- Arpan…

(ZR and ST): The idea of Arpan came about on 7th January 2011, when we were onboard Duronto Express from Chennai to Delhi. We had just finished our winter internship as M A Previous year students and the train was running 11 hours late; which gave us good enough time to brainstorm. During our internship, we had conducted a series of workshops with children of Government Shelter homes in Chennai, on the issues of Child Abuse. It was then that we came across children from disadvantaged backgrounds who had effectively made use of innovative communication tools. We were amazed seeing the extent of mobilization, empowerment and awareness that they had achieved.

Until now, we had been involved in traditional models of social work practices. We had started a community-based project already where we were providing free of cost tuitions to children of urban slum community. Simultaneously we were also involved, in our respective fields of AIDS protection and care and old age rehabilitation.

On that train, the morning we woke up, we decided that we needed to expand our work, experiment with different tools of rehabilitation, innovate new models, and dive into alternate method of learning. We put together all the expectations that we had from the new model of learning and came to a conclusion that present model of Arpan, where we use performing and visual arts as a medium of rehabilitation is what we were looking for and should get on with it as soon as we deboard in Delhi.

More than own Venture, Arpan was a Dream

(ZR): I like to call it my own ‘Adventure’ rather than venture and more than being ‘work’ it is my dream. I started my own project to realize the dream of providing Life skills, positive role models and innovative play activities to each child, irrespective of his/her family’s socio-economic standing. I could get this by being involved with any other organization as well but the freedom to design and execute the project as I had visualized it in my dream would have been possible only if I initiated my own project. For this reason, I decided to go ahead with my own adventure. Of course, there is risk involved but I did not mind to take it and work on my passion.

How To Start- A big Question Mark

(ZR and ST): The biggest issue that we have encountered would be bureaucracy in getting an organization started- it isn’t as easy as it seems when handling the legal and financial aspects of an organization. It doesn’t always work in your favor if you don’t know the right people at the right places or are not ready to shell out some money to get your work done faster. Sadly that is the case everywhere- If you operate by a strict code of conduct then things do work out slower, but then slow and steady wins the race. Then it is tough to get support from the government as a new organization. To establish credibility as a new team is also one of the challenges that we face every day.

Networking and building a partnership: Most Challenging Task

(ZR): In the social sector, government is undeniably the most stable source of support but it is tough to get into the network and form a sustainable partnership with different government houses. The information about different projects is available online but the criteria require a certain level of standing on part of the organizations. It surely isn’t a child’s play so I would advise other social entrepreneurs to keep all book records and documentation in place if they plan to carry on an initiative in the long run.

Another challenge for us is streamlining the financial happenings of an organization. That is not something one is taught as a social science student and on top of that your dyscalculia isn’t of much help here.

Journey Till Now…

(ZR and ST): The journey has been the most memorable one for all of us. We have grown as individuals, learnt valuable lessons on the way and have had the fulfillment of pursuing our passion. At the same time, it hasn’t been a smooth sail through-out.

We are operating in three different fields as of now and covering more than 500 children. Our beneficiaries include children with special needs, children in the slums and also the upper middle class children where we implement ‘greening’ initiatives. Work has been going fairly excellent with little bit hiccups here and there; which are a part of any work. Our peer organizations have extended tremendous support to us and we have been successful in tapping a stable source of volunteers. I would say, where we lack, is the business aspect of our work. As a new organization with not that many big names associated with us- we do have trouble gathering support from the government, CSR and individual donors.

But on any given day there is more of good than things to complain about.

Each Day a Special Moment

(ZR and ST): Not any one moment but there are many. The simple moments of our everyday sessions when children ask us to stay back longer, when they prepare a skit or puppet show on their own, when they interpret a story in their own unique way, when they speak up loud while performing. Everything is special at work.

The Work is Intoxicating

(ZR and ST): The energy at work is actually intoxicating. When we are at work there is so much happening- with children running around and performing that we need to keep our energies extra high to match up with the children. Then being around the children and gradually watch them bloom into more patient, responsible, confident individuals is the biggest motivation.


Distraught, I feel
When I see a violent world around,
Where love, happiness seem to be
A thing of the past,
Where present stands for
Battles, Bloodshed
Where innocent lives
are not cared for,
But are slaughtered
like they are animals.

Every corner of the worls
fights for freedom,
If not by peaceful means
then by means of trigger,
Nothing happens
Just talks and exchanges,
While political leaders
live inside a peaceful environ
The common man stays out
losing his abode to the battle.

What else can a common man do?
If not just be a mute spectator,
Will his voice be heard?
Nowhere can it be heard
for everywhere the higher-ups
are busy arguing
for whom is best.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What's My Aim?

What's my aim? Do I know or not?
Staring aimlessly at the horizons,
That look back at me
Seeking answers That I have not.

I try to confide in the unknown surroundings,
What's gone shall never return,
But what lies in the present and the future,
Shall be self governed.

Yes, I shall be the writer of my destiny But how?
For an aimless vision stares at me
I am blinded, god knows with what
I am burdened, or is it my mind
That's crippled by thoughts.

My heart yearns to make peace with my mind, But..
Here I am, hardened like stone
Still like a potrait,
Closed like a shell,
Aloof like that barren tree
Standing tall on the road that I see, Don't I know? What indeed is my aim?
Or is it my oblivion
Forcing me to ignore the same.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Zesty Things of My Life- A Post For BlogAdda

1. Am Book (ed)
Call me a voracious reader, or just a passerby, who loves to glance at books every now and then. My favorite pastime or my soul-mates, books define me in some way or the other. With books, I travel to a different world. A world filled with characters, a world filled with creativity, a world filled with imagination, a world which is hypothetical yet feels so real, a world which sometimes transforms you from within or is a moral lesson in itself. Books are man's best friend, so are they mine. They Zest Up My Life in ways that cannot be defined.

2. Food-aholic
From Mediterranean delights to grilled Indian Tadka, food from across the world Zest Up my taste buds and thus my life. Culinary expert- I may be not; but food lover- I am. Trying out new cuisines to experimenting at new restaurants, am a few steps away from blogging about my culinary experiences in the restaurants of different cities that I have visited or lived in.

3. Travel Across The Shores
Beautiful mountains, blue skies, lush green forests, mouth-watering food, historical sites, befriending new people- Wanting a little of everything Zests Up My Life. With friends or families, given a chance would explore the unexplored locations of the world all by myself. Driving through the alleys, or walking down the hills, gazing at the star-studded sky on a sea-shore, dreaming all the way, or living up the dreams, one day the shores shall meet and I shall be the bridge on those shores.

4. Musical Soul
Music defines me. That friend in whom I confide, in my grief or elation, music brings peace to my life and thus my life is Zest Up! Tapping my foot to the best of the numbers or singing my way to glory, music in any form is enough to break my monotony. Often being asked to shut up!, I could be a good music jockey, if only.. I pursued my dream further.. Yet, I do not let it draw me back rather I let it inspire me.

5. Photographs
Photographs are reminiscences of the past, present and future. Life is Zest Up because of the people who make up those colorful photos. Sit back by the window, look through the photos, laugh or cry..photographs shall remain those joyous treasures that can never run dry.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

If Only..I Had Taken The First Step

Okay. This post took me quite a while to write. Not just the regular editing, re-writing, re-phrasing, beautifying (not much), etc etc but also feeding, playing, chatting with my baby kept me away from writing this blog. My previous post had mentioned how keen I was to pen down my thoughts. This post too is somewhat going flashback.

No, I am not revisiting all the nine months of my pregnancy rather sharing an observation that I made during those nine months. This is one observation that I had long back but it just got better in the past few months. It’s about the people around me- Family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, “Facebook” friends etc.

January 4th, 2014 was when I came to Delhi with my mother. Yes, I had quit my job. Not many knew of this except a few close friends, who met me in Delhi and of course, my colleagues and family. In fact, many would get to know through this blog post that I have been jobless since January :-D But like I have always been, I kept myself occupied with some freelance work besides watching TV, surfing the net, reading and studying a bit as well.

I had wanted to break the expected clich├ęs of “going to your maternal home when you are pregnant.” However, situation demanded that I should come down to Delhi. I was quite upset about leaving my husband in Chennai. But he made sure he was besides me all the time by calling me every day, his physical absence was creeping through me. Our conversations everyday reminded me of our courtship days. Long distance relationship is painful.

Here in Delhi, my friends were all thrilled to see their friend now turning into a mommy. Though we met just once, they kept the never ending conversations flowing with regular Whatsapp messages and sometimes calls. Amidst all this, I missed working. For, I had made some valuable friends, with whom I had a great time. Not everyone gets to make friends in their workplace. In Chennai, it was different for me. We were a group, who talked about anything and everything, but mostly our conversations delved around food. We were always ready to go on food trails in any and every restaurant of Chennai. (Though, our food trails hardly became reality, plans were made but mostly got shelved due to lack of time)

I have always had this habit of making friends wherever I went. In Chennai too, despite my life revolving around my husband and home, I didn’t skip to make new friends. There were a few whom I met through a Facebook group. Though we hardly met, we had developed a good bond over chatting and messages. It was only once or twice that I happened to meet a few of them.

Coming to Delhi had changed the entire scenario. We were hardly in touch. Even if we were, it was I who made an effort to keep the contact going by either sending a text or Whatsapp once in a while. I stopped doing that once I stopped receiving the replies. It was strange how a person is valued till the time you are in the same city but forgotten the moment you move out.

I have learnt it the hard way. I lost a friend (or at least that’s what I presumed she was to me but I sadly didn’t fulfill the role of a good friend) because of this disconnect. We became friends through a Facebook group. We met just once for lunch with two other girls from the same group. We were in constant touch through whatsapp for a couple of months. Then, gradually the touch was lost. Neither do I remember why we didn’t keep in touch nor was there any ill feeling between us. May be, it was time that was just running out everyday. We saw each other’s posts on Facebook and sometimes commented or chatted once in a while. The disconnect, became quite too long I suppose.

The next thing I remember seeing was a post in the group, through which we met, about her death. Yes, she died while giving birth to twin daughters, who too unfortunately passed away. I remember that day really well. I messaged the lady who had posted the news of my friend’s death. I spoke to her on phone to know what exactly had happened. She told me that my friend’s body will be brought home the next day and I could come if I wished to.

But there I was, standing at a juncture, where I didn’t know which path to take. Guilt and remorse took me from within. Feeling sorry wouldn’t have really solved the matter. That moment, I just felt, I wish.. I had called/messaged her at least once sometime. I would have known (may be) about her pregnancy..I could have been (may be) a part of the most important phase of her life..I could have (may be) even met her and dined together..I could have (may be)..

What’s gone shall never come. Her profile is still active on Facebook. Her husband often posts on her wall about his daily office trips. Her friends still wish her on her birthday and anniversary. But I merely look on as a spectator, seeing the wishes, seeing her smiling profile picture. We were not the best or closest of friends however, we had struck a chord in one meeting. If only, I had texted her “Hey, How are you? Been Long.” If only, I had just dialed her number. If only..

In life, we often get busy each passing day. There are moments when we do not even have the time to look at each other, despite living under the same roof. But those busy schedules and fast-paced life should not deter us from keeping in touch with the loved ones around us. So what, if they are not the first to take the step?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Madam, Aap bohot Kismat Waali hain...Pehla Bachcha..Aur Wo Bhi Ladka..."

I have been itching to write this blog. Not just because I love to write but because the last two months have been quite tiring for me physically, mentally as well as emotionally. Somehow I felt, writing might give my mind a break from all the disturbances. Things had been wandering in my mind since long but I was unable to find the time to put them down into words.

While I do not wish to delve much into detail about the overall emotional balance of my mind, I do wish to share something that I underwent while my stint at the hospital, where I delivered my baby. Like they say, “in the history of so and so..” for me too, the birth of my child coincided with a historical change that our country witnessed on the day. I gave birth to a baby boy on May 26th, on the very day, when India swore in its 15th Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Everyone was excited about the fact that the birth of my child will coincide with NaMo’s new birth.

But this blog post is not about this coincidence either. You must be wondering then what is it about? I am sure you would have got a certain hint from the title of this post. If you haven’t yet then let me take you through it. On May 26th, I was admitted into the hospital at 9:00 am. I was supposed to be operated upon at 2.30 pm. Prior to my admission, two days ago, my grandfather had called my mother and asked her, “When is the expected date of arrival of my great grandson?”; To this, my mother had very candidly asked my grandfather, how he was so sure that the coming baby will be a grandson. Whether it will be a boy or girl, I had not known till the very day I gave birth. However, everyone around me, from my mother to my relatives to people seeing me and even my iron lady, maid-servant, had forecasted that I will have a baby boy.

Each ritual associated with pregnancy that happened at my home had everyone saying, “ah! She looks like she is going to have a baby boy.” I was even fed sweets by kids (read: boy). This whole idea about boy or girl made me jittery from within. I always wanted a baby girl, so did my husband. The keenness to have a baby girl was so intense in me that I had to make up mind towards the end of my pregnancy- “what if, I had a boy.” I almost started planning the “Things I would do, if I had a boy.” I know I sound crazy, but I was scared. I was scared of the fact that I may not be able to react in the way I should be when I see my first child. Thus, it became extremely important for me to stay happy and content imagining different baby boy names. My husband, on one occasion, even asked as to how am I so sure that it’s going to be a boy; I just had one reply to his question, “it’s my conscience that’s telling me.”

This isn’t the first time that I had desired a baby girl and it turned out to be a baby boy. When I was in Class IV, my mother gave birth to my brother. Then too, I had wanted a baby sister but god had different plans. Now my mother tells me that my father and the doctor had known earlier that it was a baby boy in the womb. Though, they never told my mother about it.

Till the time, I was being taken into the Operation Theatre, I had been asked umpteen times by the different hospital staffs that came to check on me at the hospital room; “Is this your first baby?”…. “What do you want? Boy or girl?”… Finally, when I was being taken to the OT, my anxiety had reached a level that I couldn’t hold myself anymore. I just wanted to have the baby at the earliest. Seeing my anxiousness, my cousin sister, who is a doctor, very spiritedly told me, “don’t worry, it is going to be a girl.” Soon she jokingly added, “But, if it’s a boy please don’t come running after me.”

I was too nervous to imagine anything at the moment I was being made to wait inside an area, before being taken to the OT. At 2.30 pm, I was shifted to the stretcher that would take me inside the OT. The two male nurses, who were dragging my stretcher, were too kind to boost my spirits. One of them asked whether it was my first child, when I replied in the affirmative; he was too considerate to make me feel comfortable and said, “Don’t worry, all will be okay.” (He might have realized how anxious I was, considering my whole body had become cold)

At 2.45 pm, I was inside the OT. The local anesthesist asked me to sit straight and loosen my back so that she could give me anesthesia. Once the anesthesia was given, I was made to lie down and the rest of the procedures followed afterwards. The only thing that I can recollect of the time I was inside the OT is the “cry” that I heard when my baby was taken out. Though it wasn’t as loud as they show in all those films and TV serials, it was loud enough for me to notice. And, soon I heard my doc say, “boy.” That isn’t all. I was shown the baby after he was cleaned by the nurses. (It is mandatory to show the baby to the mother and take the thumb impression and the foot impression of the mother and the baby.) My baby was born at 3.22 pm.

Lets fast forward a bit. I was shifted to the post-operative care to bring me out of anesthesia. My husband came to meet me, 10-15 minutes later; I could see the happiness on his face. Hours later, my mother came to meet me. The happiness on her face cannot be described in words. It was like she had given birth to another child. Her happiness was akin to a child being given a toffee or being let to play. It was close to two hours, I was kept inside the post-operative care. I was getting too excited then because I wanted to see the people, my family, which had gathered in my room to welcome the new member of their family.

At 7.45 pm, two ward boys came to shift me to my room. One of them asked, “Aapko bachcha hua hai?”, I said, “haanji, bhaiya,”; He then asked, “ladka ya ladki,” I said, “ladka.” Then came the most expected response, “Madam, aap bohot kismat waali ho, aapko pehla bachcha hua aur wo bhi ladka.” I did not know whether to get angry or happy at his point. I was too weak to say much. I just managed to say, “Kyu Bhaiya? Ladki hoti to bhi kismat wali hoti.” The ward boy, very sheepishly said, “haan, wo to hai.”

The happiness on each member of my family was expected. They were on cloud nine. So was I. I was happy that all was finally well. My child and I, both were safe and sound. But there was just one thing in my mind, and which still lingers on in my mind however, I don’t know whether any one would ever be able to give a fitting reply to it.

"But..isn’t it a ‘girl’ who gives birth to a ‘boy’?"