Saturday, January 26, 2013

A walk, poetry and some perspective!

The following article was published in the September 2012 issue of the magazine, Green Hope!

The world thinks that the greatness of America lies in the urban architectural structures and the modern skyscrapers. But, what people fail to perceive is that the steel and concrete just make a quarter of America’s beauty. The true beauty lies in the pockets of this huge country, where you feel most close to nature. Right in the arms of nature, surrounded by lakes, springs and critters, is how the true American likes to live. And not that, this was before urbanization. The suburb I moved to, is one that was recently developed, and yet there are no signs of excessive urbanization. You wake up to the merry chirp of birds, you see squirrels run on your deck (balcony), and rabbits nibbling on to nuts that fell in your backyard. The feeling of being so close to nature, without making an effort is unimaginable. Living with nature enclosing your daily routine is a marvelous sensation and unequaled by any other.

Walking around the lake, through a wooded trail, makes you feel this is where authors got their inspiration from. And the beauty of it lies in the fact that every season ushers in something new. It is the saplings and signs of new life that catch your eye in spring, whereas it is the lively activity of birds that fills summer. Autumn brings with it the iridescent colors and the preparation of birds ready to migrate. And the reason I am being able to describe all this is because nature is conserved the way it was supposed to be cherished. The advantages of being so close to natural wonders are manifold, one being, the appreciation for other lifer forms and the recognition that we all actually share resources. One of the thing that amazes me is the fact that the ducks, the loons, the turtles, rather than being scared of human activity, roam around unthreatened at all times. And that is only possible because there are no humans actually shooing or scaring the birds away, but rather minding their own business and going about their respective activities.

It is so common to see a raccoon, an otter, or a stork during your walk, that the need or the desire to visit a zoo is eliminated. It is so comforting to know that both the animals and humans here are so comfortable with each other, that neither side feels the need to interrupt with each other’s routines. Being around other species is not only a lesson in science for kids, but also teaches them profound lessons in sensitivity and respect for god’s creations. And once that realization has set in, it is easier to mold responsible citizens who are cognizant of the perils human ignorance could cause to the survival of other species. With so many ill-effects like global warming, depletion of resources, etc., it is vital to create a generation that is more aware of the needs of today for a harmonious tomorrow.

Witnessing the native bird and animal population in India dwindle because of ingesting plastic or incorrectly disposed medicines is heart-breaking. And it is small efforts like those made here, in terms of recycling, that help the native fauna sustain. The beauty of simply walking across a paddling of ducks is one of life’s taciturn moments. In such moments, the ease with which one can reflect upon the basic commonalities across different life forms is amazing. It is so heartening to witness the culmination of so many fellow human beings on just one bridge over the lake. The lake, the prairie grass that serves as an abode for the rich fauna, is just the perfect sanctum for a piebald community. You see photographers, artists, poets, nature-lovers and athletes enjoying the same view in varied ways. And then there are others who are just there for the sanctity, to soak in the view with a loved one. No matter, the agenda, all of them there have found a source to unwind. Only someone who has experienced the peace and the vivacity of nature together can perceive the importance of treasuring such spots.

What is striking is the fact that it is so easy to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, with small steps from us. The first step would be for appropriate garbage disposal and recycling. Throwing unwanted materials in the woods or the water will only result in an imbalance in the ecosystem caused due to either increased or decreased levels of a certain animal or bird population. That, of course, depending on the toxicity of the waste to the species in consideration. Another conscious effort from us could be to leave the flora and fauna as untouched as possible. That doesn’t mean not being outdoors in fear of trampling the grass, but just the realization that when you try to tamper a bird’s nest or a turtle cove, it is like someone shaking the walls of your house. It is very important for all members in an ecological niche to feel secure, for them to want to reside there. Some other measures that could be taken are to plant as many trees, grow lawns and have greenery to encourage a healthy food chain. If it were not for the grassy patches outside our apartment, I would never have had the privilege of watching a herd of deer wander into the apartment system, that too in the beautiful white snow.  It is spectacles like these that make you realize the importance of preserving the globe and it’s inhabitants in the purest form.

Imagine the beauty of a sunset with birds taking flight in the horizon, rather than just a plain sunset. Sometimes, all we need is a close conversation with nature to gain some perspective and it is but, what was meant to happen, before men came along and rearranged God’s scheme. It is said that one who loves nature, is never alone; and nothing else could be truer than that. I can only imagine what an effect a lack of landscape would have had on literature. Without the presence of awe-striking meadows, and mysterious woods, a William Wordsworth or Robert Frost could not have given the world, the mellifluous gems of their poetry.  And there would be no inspiration to remind the world of “the miles to go before I sleep”. Indeed, we are surrounded by miles and miles of natural beauty, it is for us to open our minds and preserve the milieu to enjoy a mutual existence.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rejected without Prejudice - my entry to the Get Published Contest

Premise of the story - Shailendra and Pooja are the poster couple of modern India. They worked in IT companies, lived in metropolitan cities, and dated a few people, before choosing each other for the long haul. Like most of India's youth, they too have major aspirations and Shailendra travels to the 'Land of Opportunities' for an MBA. But, not before making some tough choices. Pooja is apprehensive of how this relationship will change, both being separated by multiple boundaries. Shailendra is confident things will work out and they decide to give it a shot. The first few months sail by, with hopes for future togetherness. As months turn into years, the courtship bliss is taken over by the tensions of leading a dual life.  Sweet memories of their companionship make way for bitter arguments, like any other couple. But, unlike other couples, they have not met for almost 3 years, not out of choice, but out of a global paranoia of minimizing immigration. They are not even sure if they qualify to be addressed as a couple; every day is a struggle, a fight against authorities, nations, policies and norms.

This story is the heart-wrenching tale of two people in love, partitioned not by caste, religion or family norms, but by seemingly important pieces of paper. A story that pans the fate of love under tumultuous conditions; a love that is made up of human issues and not fairy tale stuff.

The reality quotient of the story – With aspirations soaring high in modern India, and numerous regulatory issues, more and more people feel the pressures of long-distance relationships. Why does it have to be a choice between aspirations and relations?  The word NRI comes with a lot of complexities, as opposed to the glamour still associated with it in our society. In urban India, it has become increasingly common for people to work and reside in a different country, with their loved ones back home. Such a story, then, mirrors the exhausting trials of simply being able to see those important people in life.

 “Shail, I do believe things would be different, if I was there, right next to you. Please understand, we have been patient all along, don’t give up now!”, muttered Pooja in a desperate attempt to reclaim what she soon seemed to be losing.
But, Shailendra was so bogged down by the numerous failed attempts to put a stop to these fights they would have. Arguments over not making enough time for each other, the frustration of physically not being there for each other. It was never going to be a bed of roses, but it had now become almost impossible to pick out the thorns without pricking each other’s hearts.
Yet, Pooja exclaimed, “Please, I have to see you once!”. “What do you expect me to do, hitchhike on a ship? I cannot, I simply cannot come back right now, and I don’t have the strength to wait for the day I can”, screamed Shailendra.

If you like the snippet, and are excited to know the rest of the story, please click on the link below to vote for this story. On the link, clicking on the heart will register your vote and give me a chance to pen down the story for my protagonists.

Endnote: This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal andHarperCollins India.

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