Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Starting on a fresh note

I deleted the first line of this post seventeen times (I think!) before I finally decided to use this as the first line of my post. And then I stared at the screen for another ten minutes. The mind is still “__________” and words refuse to come to mind. Fill in the blanks; it’s a mix of emotions. The past few days have seen a slew of politicians and imbecile self proclaimed god-men make some really awe-inspiring comments that have made me wonder if I should laugh or cry. I have had well meaning inquiries from other blogger friends who have been wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. A very dear friend wanted me to do an informative post around how we could help improve the situation or how women should empower themselves. It got me thinking about the post that I had put together after the Guwahati incident (Link). And it made me want to print it out, crunch it up, stomp on it and throw it into the trash can. Because even if Jyoti Singh Pandey had done everything she could have done; not a single of those techniques would have worked in the face of six monsters aided and abetted by god-men and every single moron who blames her. So instead, I’m just going to shut up and start the year with a post completely unrelated.

A few days back, searching for my old resume in my Gmail, I came across a set of mails from 2010 that I had completely forgotten about. They were from an innocent ten year old somewhere in the USA, part of a volunteering program called In2Books. As a volunteer; you are put in touch with a ten year old from a different part of the nation. Over a semester, you and your pen pal read the same set of six books in a specific sequence across subjects ranging from geography, history, science and such. You then exchange letters with your student discussing the book, answering questions related to it and helping him talk about his views. The school teacher helps answer any questions you might have. You are expected to write a minimum of one letter per book, many write more but then kids need to able to write back too. If you write them too many, they get overwhelmed! These kids are usually from households where they either do not get the required attention and help with their education or they do not get the required personalized attention from their teachers. As a volunteer, I also have to pay a nominal fee towards the program.

Much as this program was intended to help Leland (among others), I believe it was an uplifting journey for me too! It’s very refreshing to read and experience the innocence of young children with their endless curiosities and their untainted views. I2B had creative mail templates that Leland (and I) loved to experiment with. The classroom had a big large map of the United States hung up on a wall and markers for everyone’s pen pals. Leland wrote to me saying he loved to show off that his pen pal stayed in a state where winters were so cold!

He would talk about his family, about his vacations, about the way a certain incident that week affected him and he would want to know what I thought about it. He would ask me about my family and would be awestruck by some of the things I told him about differing cultures. The teachers wanted us to be honest with them, not mould ourselves into their expectations of an American pen pal. Certain books would incite him to talk about his dreams. Little kid dreams of superheroes or fire fighters, but nonetheless dreams. Today, I think of Leland and I wonder how he’s doing. He must be getting into his teens soon, a whole different phase of life, different things to be proud of and a whole bunch of other worries. I wonder if he remembers me, his Indian pen pal friend from across the nation. And I thank the day I signed up as a volunteer, because today, even with everything breaking apart around me, reading those emails can still cheer me up and make me think of signing up again for a whole new semester.

Don’t these lines just make you smile?
  • “What would you do if a hurricane was coming ashore where you lived? I would scream and run like a girl.”
  • “I can’t wait until Christmas. I might get a Blackberry. If you don’t know what that is, it is a phone.”
  • “I like to swim. I like to do Kayate. I am almost a black belt.”
  • “Can any of your family and friends do flips and land them?”
So here’s to starting on a fresh note. As for the New Year, all I want in 2013 is to be able to walk down a road without any fear. It’s as simple as that. Regardless of what I wear or don’t, regardless of whether someone’s my brother or not, regardless of which side of the Bharat Vs India border I am on, regardless of whether my stars are perfectly aligned or not. Or is that too much to ask?  

A collage of letters sent to me by my in2books pen pal
A collage of letters sent to me by my in2books pal.

I would love to hear your views!

25 comments:

  1. There are these demons and there are the innocent and the good, Deepa! And, quite true, that it is our interaction with the latter that keeps us sane in a world also inhabited by the former! May the day come soon when you wish is granted.

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    1. I completely agree Suresh. Negativity and depression spreads so easy. We need to take efforts to spread cheer and happiness! Knowing that both demons and the good exist in the real world, we really should look to the good to help us fight the demons!

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  2. Offering to read six books on varying subjects to be able to interact with a kid was a very generous act Deepa,even though it was rewarding for you too.Talking of some stupid,depraved commenters,i think they are the hidden rapists themselves.

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    1. You're giving me too much credit Indu :) They were small books - maybe about 50 pages or so. I think interactions with children have a way of uplifting us - their innocence is infectious! :) As for depraved commenters, yeah there are all kinds of people in the world! :(

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  3. It is indeed sad , I have been forcing myself not to publish my post on delhi episode because I have been blunt and harsh .. As I was on the Guwahati episode which did not go well with a lot of people then.. This does not mean that I am not angry .. But I do feel that a lot of people have written and moved on as they did during the guwahati episode.. the leaders promised then also and did nothing , now also they are doing the same and when it happen again they will still do it again..

    but then I also feel its not their fault.. we have made them like that , promise us a few things and we will smile readily forgive you and vote for you again , SO they are doing the right thing .. IT is US the people who will need changing...

    The religious leader was being shown on tv last night and he was surrounded with so many devotees, so why shud it matter ot him what he says , he still has his fan following..

    I have read so many posts on leaders etc but no one seems to be talking of the PEOPLE who were there who did nothing , to help the girl and the boy.. its these people who are worst then rapists. at least we know who the rapist is but the ones who are quiet and waiting for oppurtunity we will never know them ..

    one news says there were about 50 auto rickshaw people at the place where the girl was thrown , dont know if right or wrong but if they were there NONE of them helped , police came 40 minutes late ..

    we blame the leaders and all but who makes them WE..



    you are not asking for too much GOd willing one day , when WE all get together and make an effort we will be able to change our nation for sure ..

    Bikram's

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    1. That's exactly what's going on with me too. When my friend suggested that I write logical stuff about empowerment and such, I couldn't. Because the mind is still too emotional about all of it. I couldn't do logical yet on anything related to that topic - not when imbecile leaders continue to make statement after statement that refuses to let me lose my emotional stance on it. But the one thing I do think Bikram is, I think people are waking up to what a farce politics really is. The middle class, for whatever their votes are worth, are so much better informed and unwilling to accept anything the so called leaders throw at us. And believe it or not, people are waking up to be more sensitive. I know of events where people have stood up. I see the change in myself too - for everyday things. Against racism, against people rattling off their mouths along the side of the road, I see the fear ebbing away. I just hope that the movement is sustained. More than anything else, we need it not to die down. For a lot of us now, moving on is happening but not in the loose sense of the word, the way it has been tossed about. People now know that they have to look out for themselves, at the same time they're trying to infuse positivity around too. I don't know why, but I still hopelessly optimistic! Oxymoron isn't it!

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  4. Hmm...That was very sweet of you Deepa....It should have been fun interacting with that little one....Wish I had a similar opportunity :) As for the state of women's safety, God Help us!

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    1. It was a fun time for me too Jaish! :) Click on the image to read some of them, they're cute! You can check out In2Books.com - its all online. PS: God helps those who helps themselves, time to defend yourself Jaish :) The current state of affairs with respect to law and order is so pathetic, no one's coming!

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  5. This incident of Delhi has shaken us no doubt and shockingly these incidents are continuing to happen. Good you wrote about it.

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    1. Still haven't been able to Indrani. Not in a logical manner. And Delhi is just a part of it. It's everything before and after that continues to happen that upsets me more. The way trends are changing from solo rapes to gang rapes, the way trends are changing to kill the woman, the way they're setting girls on fire for resisting rapes.

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  6. The answer to your last question is - Yes. At least for the next couple of decades. We were making progress after the incident happened and we are still making progress as far as changing the mindset goes. Believe me, all these statements are adding fuel to that resolve.
    It was heart warming to read about your experiences with Leland. Sometimes we have to lose ourself in other worlds to maintain sanity.

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    1. I know :( I do believe that for a lot of people, the change is happening Yes. And the middle class, for whatever its votes are worth, now truly has started to realize what a farce politics is. We're learning to separate the grain from the chaff - turning out to be more chaff than grain though! Yes, I remember telling a lot of folks that depression and negativity spreads easy. We need to maintain sanity and hence it's important to spread strength too. I'm glad that even in the quest to now be happy, people aren't moving on in the loose sense of the word - they're still very much involved!

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  7. That is an interesting program to do..I think I can pursue too..right now plate is too full to handle...but would love to do it....abt walking on the roads..I think we need weapons now...even I was wondering why there was no post from you.. :(

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    1. You should try it someday FIF! It's a cute period of interaction. As for the no post wondering, am honored :)

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  8. Wow. You literally made a difference to one little boy out there. How many people bother to respond to mails like those? Hats off to you. The initiative sounds really good. And as for being able to walk safe, God help us, but before God helps us he should probably keep a strict watch on the so called godmen who utter nonsense in public.

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    1. LOL, thank you, but that's too much credit (blushing!). I had time on my hands and so I signed up. Plus I enjoyed my interaction with Leland too. You should click on the image to view some lines. They make you smile! I wouldn't expect anything from these so-called God men anyway. My relationship with a Supreme Power, however volatile it may be, is directly with the Power - I don't need these God men to go through! We got to help ourselves Ashwini, fat chance of the law and order being around to help us!

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  9. I had a good experience with an honest cabbie recently. It is incidents like these that make you still trust others. Your experience with Leland was beautiful. I am happy that you are finding constructive outlets to channelize your angst. I do hope that 2013 turns out a safer year for all of us -- women and children. God knows, I won't take misbehavior lying down!

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    1. I read about your experience with Swami. That was so the right thing to do, am glad there are people like him around! We need more! :) This was from 2010, but I am planning to sign up again for the next semester. Yes, it's important to be able to find strength to deal with the negatives. Truth is, both do exist in real life. Yes, wish you a safe and peaceful year too! I am starting to see a change in myself too and I do know that many others are feeling the same for themselves. Where I used to be afraid and apprehensive before in certain situations, I can now feel the fear ebbing away. I'm glad Rachna, stay strong!

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  10. Such an exhilarating work you are doing. I am really happy that you doing your bit and I am even more happy that such a program exists.

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    1. It was only one semester Jas but it was fun and I hope to do it again! :) Happy hugs!

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  11. I love this post, Deepa. I know how difficult it has been for us to stay positive and not to fill our blogs with rants that seem not to make sense in the circumstances.
    Thank you for sharing about this fantastic project. Making a difference is what's really important and you did that. ♥

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    1. It's difficult, even as I try to write happy stuff about trips or experiences that we have been a part of, it just doesn't seem fair, so I refrain! But we need to start somewhere and I think doing our bit is as good a place to start as any! Thank you for sharing my post on the group! I am hopeful that we can do something at our end to help our kids too! Thanks much Corinne!

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  12. In2books is such a wonderful Idea .. I wonder if we can start something like that in India ! And like you my only wish for 2013 is a safer and more humane society .. I wonder if it will come true ! I think time spent with young kids is always enriching because its amazing the things they come up with !

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    1. You're spot on Ruchira! We do need a humane society - I am guessing a couple generations down the line hopefully we'll see the results of everything that happens now - hopefully more and more mindsets can begin to change! As far as reading and writing letters, discussing these books go, yes, we definitely need something like that in India too! I know parents always stress on kids to study, but reading for the pleasure of reading is also extremely important! I have commented on Corinne's post in IB - my thoughts related to implementing this in India - based on my experiences. Would love to hear your thoughts so we can get a discussion going and probably get some ideas on how to start this in our neighbourhoods.

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  13. What an interesting program.. Innocent comments made me smile. As you say , it's not too much to ask but sadly we live in a word that is increasingly becoming intolerant and insensitive.

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