According to me one of the most spectacular scenes of nature is the play of the sun across the horizon. I’ve been lucky to watch the sunset often–over the Rockies and the ocean (whenever I visit the California coast) but not as often as the sunrise. The reason is quite obvious. I’m not an early riser, unfortunately.
Today, however I had to get up quite early to drive to the bus stop to pick up my husband (better than the 40 min haul to and from the airport). On the way back, I witnessed the most ordinary yet extraordinary phenomenon–the advent of dawn. First, the burgundy tint to the clouds in the east, followed by the gradual lightening of the skies and then the most spectacular of all– orange flames consuming the horizon. I was mesmerized. Who wouldn’t be? If you think about it there’s no other message more powerful than of a new day. It’s the message of hope, of change, of renewal, of revival. No wonder native people around the world worship the Sun and have done so for millenia including those from my country.
Surya namaskar (Salutations to the Sun)
In the Vedas (ancient Hindu scriptures) Surya also known as Aditya is the Sun God. He first appears in literature in the Rig Veda (the oldest among the Hindu texts composed between 1500 and 1000 BC). He travels across the sky in a massive chariot pulled by seven horses representing the seven colors of the rainbow. He is also the creator of the material universe or prakriti. Those familiar with the practice of Yoga are familiar with Surya Namaskar or Sun salutation; a sequence of twelve poses, performed in the early morning on an empty stomach facing the east. They provide an excellent whole body stretching routine and cardiovascular workout. The purpose of this most famous yoga sequence which is in practice for thousands of years is to express gratitude to the Sun, the giver of life and the source of energy. According to Hindu tradition, different parts of the body are governed by divine impulses. One of these, the solar plexus (also called the second brain) is located in the center of the body and is connected to the Sun. The regular practice of Surya Namaskar enhances it thereby increasing our creativity and intuition. The notion is very tempting. Enough (I hope) to nudge me awake every morning 🙂
Rough translation: (Doors, windows, details, so beautiful, are these buildings, look at them, listen, understand, think, learn, they are speaking to you)
What can I say, but I’m fascinated and inspired by buildings, and people around buildings. That’s why I’m a musafir. Kindly excuse me for my very poor Urdu and Hindi poetry skills.
Darwaza: Urdu for door; Khidki: Hindi for window; Jharokha: An overhanging enclosed balcony used in Rajasthani architecture; Khoobsurat: Urdu for beautiful; Imaarat: Urdu for building; Dekho: Hindi for look; Suno: Hindi for listen; Socho: Hindi for think; Jano: Hindi for learn
Indian women pioneered many things not just in India but also in the west becoming a source of inspiration for women and women’s movement across the world. Early in my residency and sometimes even now, I’m made to perceive that I’m not good enough to be a doctor just because I’m a woman. Once an elderly lady told me to my face that she’d prefer a male doctor to do her gynecological exam. I was stunned to comprehend the degree of prejudice women have to face particularly those in the fields of science. So when I read about Anandibai Joshi and women like her, I’m dumbfounded by their bravery and the degree of resistance they had to overcome.
Anandibai Joshi was among the first Indian women qualified to practice western medicine.
Dr. Joshi belonged to an orthodox Brahmin family of rich landlords in Kalyan. At the tender age of nine she was pressured to marry a widower, a man twenty years her senior Gopalrao Joshi. The beginning of a typical Indian story? No. Anandibai was just thirteen when she had her first child.Unfortunately the child died when he was just ten days old. She was heartbroken and angered to realize that her son would have survived if he had received proper medical care. This sparked in her the desire to study medicine and her liberal husband stood fully behind her.
Why would an Indian woman go so far away for medical school?
Because it was the best way to serve her country was the gist of Anandibai’s answer. The reason Anandibai had to look to the west is because in India, Hindu women, particularly those belonging to higher castes were not welcome in the profession.They were pushed to become midwives instead. If they insisted they could enroll in Chennai, to be taught by reluctant male instructors, and receive an incomplete training. It was easier if they converted to Christianity as they could wear a dress and that wouldn’t cause a scandal. Since Anandibai and her husband had no desire to convert, she decided to turn to the America. She applied with the assistance of Presbyterian missionaries. She enrolled and subsequently received her degree in 1886, from the Women’s Medical College in Pennsylvania. Her achievement was lauded, to the extent the dean of her school wrote about it to Queen Victoria, Empress of India. Anandibai was invited to become the physician-in-charge of the women’s department at the Albert Edward Hospital in the princely state of Kolhapur, where she also had the opportunity to instruct women medical students. Unfortunately, before she could embark triumphantly in her career, it was destroyed by the diagnosis of tuberculosis and she breathed her last in the arms of her mother, a month before her 22nd birthday.
Dr. Anandibai Joshi lived a very short life but she achieved a lot. She broke barriers not just for women but also for the Hindu community. Even now we can look to her life and gain strength and inspiration.This is a fight which will go on until we get what we want–what we deserve–equality.
On the very auspicious occasion of Holi- the ‘festival of colors’ where we welcome Spring and smear each other with color while saying “Bura na mano, holi hai” (Don’t mind, its holi) I’d like to share the story behind the festival.
There are some wonderful stories in the Puranas and one of them is about Holika.
Hiranyakashipu,was the king of the daityas, a clan of the asuras (danavas or divine beings with an evil quality who are always at war with the suras or benevolent devas). His brother Hiranyaksha, had been killed by Lord Vishnu, in his Varaha (boar) avatar. Thus angered, he wanted to with gain immortality. He performed years of penance and obtained a boon from Lord Brahma that he couldn’t be killed by human or animal; indoors or outdoors; during day or night; and no weapon could bring him harm. Hence he became arrogant and believed himself to be the mightiest, more than all the devas and even Vishnu, the Supreme Being himself. He commanded everyone to pray to him and regard him as their supreme lord. But his son Prahlad, did not. Right from when he was born, Prahlad remained a devout follower of Vishnu and wouldn’t be convinced otherwise. This irked Hiranyakashipu so much that he decided to kill his own son. But all his attempts were thwarted by the mystical powers of Vishnu. One of these is the story behind Holi.
Holika was Hiranyakashipu’s sister, who had been given the boon that fire couldn’t harm her. Thus, she sat in a burning pyre with Prahlad on her lap but Vishnu intervened. A strong breeze removed her protective cloth and draped Prahlad instead; protecting him while Holika was charred. A few other theories exist– one states that Holika was actually good and sacrificed herself to save Prahlad while another says that the boon was granted on condition Holika wouldn’t use it to harm anyone. Regardless, the story symbolizes the victory of good over evil as does the festival. On the first day, Holika dahan (Choti (small) Holi) is performed and people gather and burn bonfires at crossroads. The ash from the pyre is then smeared on the forehead.
The following day is the more well known colorful or Rangwali Holi, when everyone forgetting all differences smear each other with colored powder. ENJOY! HAPPY HOLI!
Yes, let’s make America great again not by ensuring health care to all, food for the hungry and homes for the homeless, but by giving weapons of mass destruction to our kids so they can murder their friends in order to deal with their frustrations because no one is willing to listen to them.
It’s a perversity and nothing less than a disgrace that citizens of the most advanced country in the world have to lead their lives in fear. We are so worried about government tyranny that we don’t trust law enforcement to protect us instead we have to carry guns to defend ourselves. We have become a nation of gun toting vigilantes, who shoot first and pretend to ask questions later. And if some of us happen to die in the crossfire; well a great wall of greed and impotence is the perfect consolation besides of course ‘thoughts and prayers’.
This is exactly what we envisioned- a classic case of hypocrisy. On one hand we talk about advancements in technology, AI (artificial intelligence) etc making our lives easier; on the other we train our kids to prepare for the eventuality of being killed. We send them to school not to get a sound education but to participate in active shooter drills. But don’t you see it’s a ‘mental health’ problem. Isn’t it always?
Okay let’s talk about mental health. Yes undeniably it’s a huge problem in this country. I know first hand as a physician because I deal with it everyday. In fact the system is overburdened. But most people with mental health issues aren’t violent. Even those who are don’t go around shooting down innocents with AR-15s. They do so because we put the idea in their heads and provide them access. And tell them it’s okay to do so because thoughts and prayers will solve everything.
According to me and I dare to say “ there’s no place for guns in civilized society,” in the least AR-15s. According to a radiologist who treated victims in the Florida shooting said the high velocity bullets from an AR 15 cause significantly more damage than a typical handgun and should be banned. I agree. But are we ready for a conversation? No. Not even the educated and rational want to discuss it. They love their guns. Some of my colleagues own AR-15s and say they use them for hunting and target practice. It’s a hobby.
The right to a hobby vs that of a child to go to school and be safe. What is more important? You be the judge.
I wish A Very Happy 70th Independence Dayto all my fellow Indian brothers and sisters 🙂 On this momentous occasion I’d like to briefly discuss about what ails India and Indians in general. It is not meant as a criticism but as an opportunity to reflect.
Yes that’s what it is. We are so used to a life of drudgery that we have no desire to get out of it. Its become a way of life for us. We are so used to corruption and handing out bribes for every little thing that we can’t envision a life without it. Like my father (rest his soul) used to say whenever he happened to visit a government office armed with a few thousand rupees and then proceed to dole them out incrementally starting from the peon to the officer in charge: “You have to or the job won’t get done.”
People are lackadaisical. They will stand around and stare at a dying man on the street and observe a helpless girl as she gets harassed by a bunch of goons but they won’t step in to help. Why? Because its a tamasha. A spectacle like that which unfolds in a movie theater. Why buy trouble?
And we have lost our voice that independence provided us. We feel empathy, shake our heads with regret but we don’t speak when we need to.
But all is not lost. Right now I feel a new India in my veins. We are waking up and perhaps realizing that the bonds that held us down for so long are old and rusty. They can be broken. Freedom is not a fairytale. It is a reality. Jai Hind!