Tuesday, July 31, 2007


"We human beings are only a part of something very much larger. When we walk along, we may crush a beetle or simply cause a change in the air so that a fly ends up where it might never have gone otherwise. And if we think of the same example but with ourselves in the role of an insect, and the larger universe in the role we’ve just played, it’s perfectly clear that we’re affected every day by forces over which we have no more control than the poor beetle has over our gigantic foot as it descends upon it."

- "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden

In this book, the protagonist geisha describes herself as having a personality with a great deal of water. It’s an interesting concept because water is a clear liquid without which we cannot survive. It can put out fires, yet at the same time it destroys silk. It can take the form of any vessel that contains it, yet at the same time if the pressure is enough, it can break that vessel.

Adaptation is essential for survival. And a certain degree of water in one’s personality is essential for adaptation. I think everyone has a bit of water in them. We must learn to flow along with and not against those external forces we have no control over. However, we do have the ability choose which seeds we stumble across to nurture into flora. This has nothing to do with religion. Each of us has our own concept of what can crush the beetle. It may be destiny, or a god, or even one’s self, depending on what each person believes.

Sometimes you’ll find that as much as you may try to fight it or prevent it, certain things happen that are unexpected and far from your original plan. But you must quickly adjust, or your foothold will be lost, and you’d be swept away by a merciless river like a rigid, lifeless log into the ocean, despite the amount of water you have within.  

It's something that I have to learn to stop fighting against.  It's hard not to be in control of everything at all times, isn't it?

I bet I'm made of bricks.

Picture: Water Colours by kriterijus

The Influence of a Single Person

"One person can make a big difference." Sounds cliché, doesn’t it? If you’re like me or any other ordinary person, you’re probably rolling your eyes and letting out a frustrated sigh. Many people have told me this, and each time my reaction was, "Yeah, yeah whatever. You can’t expect me to plant a whole forest!" But do you know what the irony of it is? One person actually can make a big difference! I’ve realized that it’s the little things that add up to make a big difference. It’s like one hundred is equal to adding one and one and one a hundred times!

They say that a single grain of rice can tip the scale, right? Well maybe that one little piece of candy wrapper that I saved to throw into a trashcan was what prevented that little stream miles away from me from being clogged. Or maybe that one day I decided to walk instead of drive my car prevented that ozone hole miles above me from being widened by one angstrom. The problem with us is that we tend to turn blind eyes and make excuses.

We should learn from ants. I don’t think the word "excuse" is in the ant’s dictionary. Why, just the other day I watched a tiny ant struggling to carry a not so tiny crumb. A fellow ant was passing by, and stopped to help the first one and the two of them worked together and moved faster than I’d ever seen any ant move. And ants move fast. So I asked myself, how many times have I passed by a cycle stand where someone was struggling to set straight the cycles he/she knocked over like dominoes? Or how many times have I ignored a pile of fallen papers thinking, "Oh the next person will pick them up. Plus, I have nothing to do with them!" ? People rush at the opportunity to "show" that they are "pro-charity" but when it really comes down to it, it’s, well, pathetic.

Even a smile, which takes up less energy than a frown, can make a difference. And trust me, this isn’t psychobabble. Haven’t any of your blue days been rectified by the genuine smile of a stranger? Or any of your rotten moods thrown away by the mere statement that you’re appreciated and loved? I know mine have.

You know, if, when you die, you can say "I planted a tree once," or "I made an unhappy person laugh so hard they cried once," your life would have been worth living. Although I truly hope that each of us would have a lot more to say, nevertheless, those little things would have added meaning to your life. And who wants to live a useless life? I want to be happy; I want to get good grades; I want to excel in my career…it’s all about me. But in the end, I will actually not be worth anything.

We must go beyond being selfish and look at this earth as our temporary home and our fellow living creatures as our brothers. We must make the most out of our time here, and do the best we can to make it a better place to live. Why waste a heck of a lot of money for one hour at a nightclub when a whole village in rural India could be fed for that same amount?

When I hear about suffering, I feel like shaking everybody and asking, "Why is the common man passive??" The terrorists are doing their work, while the rest of us are sitting at home waiting for others to do ours. We need to wake up; become better people. We need to realize that one person can make a big difference.

Image from: http://delany-making-a-difference.wikispaces.com/

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


We know about the rapidly expanding India, the cosmopolitan-with-multiplexes-and-big-malls India, the Bollywood India, the proliferating IT industrial India…but what of the other India?

Along the same lines, starts Mallika Sarabhai’s play UNSUNI – Unheard Voices. Monologues, songs and dances on social issues like manual scavenging, life on the streets, and exploitation, strive to give voice to those true, recent stories many have turned a blind eye to.

One of the monologues was on leprosy: a leper who wanted his son to get a good education. Though all the stories invoked a shocking reality, this one really got me thinking...

Now, what do people think when they hear the word “leper”?

Ironically, in this “modern” and “advanced” day and age, the reaction is not so different to that of biblical times: “stay as far away as possible!” Lepers today are still shunned though leprosy is curable and not as contagious as people think it is! They are sent to leper homes which are usually filthy and not maintained well, especially here in India, where a large percentage of the 1 million infected people worldwide reside. Leprosy cannot be contracted by simply touching someone with the disease, as is commonly believed. Close and long-term contact with an infected person usually do the trick.

Leprosy is also known as Hansen's disease. It’s a chronic infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae that results in damage primarily to the peripheral nerves (the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord), skin, testes, eyes, and mucous membrane of the nose. There are two common forms of leprosy, tuberculoid and lepromatous, whose symptoms actually take a few years to surface. Tuberculoid leprosy symptoms are a few well-defined skin lesions that are numb. Lepromatous leprosy symptoms are a chronically stuffy nose and many skin lesions and nodules on the body. Early detection is important but it can still be treated if it’s detected late.

Due to the ignorance of the common man on this issue, lepers have become social outcasts. In order to overcome this ignorance on leprosy and other social taboos like avoiding HIV positive people (though more and more people are learning that touching, hugging or even kissing an infected person won’t spread it!), educational measures must be taken. Only through awareness can we overcome these baseless prejudices which cause us to turn away fellow human beings…

Image from: http://www.hbci.com/~wenonah/hydro/jewelwed.htm