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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Testing the limits of human endurance-Mikael Strandberg

Last evening we had an opportunity to see and hear Mikael Strandberg – Sweden’s internationally celebrated explorer– and came back with a new awareness of what the possible limits of human endurance are.

Or then again, are there really any boundaries that can be drawn?

Mikael started his professional career as an explorer 19 years ago. A multi-talented man, he is currently working as an explorer, a lecturer and a writer. He has also produced three internationally-renowned documentaries for television, i.e. ‘Patagonia – 3,000 kms by horse’ and a couple of others.

Mikael’s lecture was a mixture of adventure, wild animals and human beings, building bridges between cultures, philosophy of life and was not only inspirational, but also hilarious and funny. The lectures was accompanied by some stunningly beautiful photographs. (shown here)

Among the most significant take-away for me personally was this-

We are all seeking a meaning and purpose to our lives.Sometimes we are almost, almost there, but then we lose it.

Mikaeal explained that it is sometimes in the midst of sheer open spaces when we are really alone..

Tthat we sometimes come close to meeting our 'Maker'.

And he strongly recommended that we all try it.

As I propose to. Seriously, some day...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Things that matter

1.Spending just half an hour in 24, with a good friend- best over a hot cup of coffee, or then on the phone.

2. A brisk walk in the fresh air... (with the the wind blowing away from one)

3. Listening to someone who just needs to talk.

4.Enjoying that decadent brownie, even better, if topped with a dash of vanilla ice cream. And refusing to feel guilty.At all.

5.Writing, exactly the way one wants to. Hoping the dreaded 'writers block' never strikes.

6.Smiling at someone who looks unhappy.And watching them smile back, for it probably did make a difference to their day.
7.Teaching one's children the difference of the 'right' from the 'wrong'.Hoping that they absorb and then follow it through...

8.Laughing out Loud-(LOL)After watching a zany comedy, hearing a silly joke, or then just.... Feeling the day's stress just fade away.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Womens Guild in Oman-Contributing to the development and progress of the Sultanate

When one has lived in another country as long as I have, ( over 18 years)that's the place that almost feels like home. Or then something very close to it.

So what one then wants to do is 'Give back' ...
As we at the Womens Guild in Oman are doing.

With a membership of almost 10,000 members and a dedicated Executive Committee which works day in and day out, we are proud to say that this 'giving back' is actually happening.

In real financial terms.

Such as at the Board Meeting at the end of our last financial year in March 2009he WG presented Monies raised at the Crystal Ball held in Dec 2008 –A total of Rial Omani 30,000.
Of which Rial Omani 15,000 each went to Representatives of the Oman Diabetes Society and the Down’s Children Parents Support Group.

In addition to another Rial Omani 10,000 that we raised and presented to various other local charities through the year.

At the end of the day, there's a feeling of tremendous satisfaction,
Because all this has been achieved step, by step.....
By little step.

And we all know that tommorrow is still another day..

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lourdes- France, a place for healing, prayer and peace

Faith is something that can move mountains.
Even more than that, it is something that can actually make miracles happen.

Something that I've always believed in and will continue to do so.

And even though I haven't seen a real miracle a friend of mine did.Which was at Lourdes in Franve.

When she saw a man in a wheel chair, come into Lourdes, be taken to the pool of water, 'dipped in' three times, and then get up and slowly start walking.When all the dictiors had said that he never would again

Yet he did.After a period of seven years!!rong>

Which is only one of the many thousands of reported miracles at that place.

I quote from Father Dennis Touw of the Roman Catholic Church in France,

"Lourdes is ‘a place apart. Without doubt a place of prayer but also of peace and consolation, where the pilgrim can pour out their troubles, worries, anxieties in wordless conversation with Our Lady. A place where the pilgrim may hear God speak to them in their hearts. A place, in the first instance of Our Lady, quietly showing the way to her Son."

"Lourdes is situated in the foothills of the Pyrenees in S W France. The story begins with a young girl, Bernadette Soubirous, the eldest of nine children. In 1858, Our Lady first appeared to Bernadette in the cave of Massabielle on February 11th of that year. She was to appear a further 17 times. Every fifty years since then has been a Jubilee year and this year in Lourdes we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of those apparitions. It is a wonderful opportunity for the Diocese to gather as a family in Lourdes to answer Our Lady’s call."

We all hope and pray for miracles.
Lourdes is the place where they truly do take place

Monday, April 20, 2009

Random thoughts-Preventive testing and screening

The mind wanders and random thoughts pop up.Some of which need to be shared.

Such as the one I had on Preventive testing and screening for Cancer.Particularly for all men and women above the age of 40. For sometimes that is really the crucial difference between life and death.

So I've looked up the most relevant information that I could find and put it down for you to read.Hoping that it helps in some way.....

Screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. This can help find cancer at an early stage. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have begun to spread.

Early detection means applying a strategy that results in an earlier diagnosis of cancer than otherwise might have occurred. Screening tests offer the best opportunity to detect most cancers at an early stage when successful treatment is likely.

The change from pre-cancer to cancer usually takes several years - but it can happen in less than a year. For most women, pre-cancerous cells will remain unchanged and go away without any treatment. Still, in some cases pre-cancers turn into true (invasive) cancers.

Scientists are trying to better understand which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They also study the things we do and the things around us to see if they cause cancer. This information helps doctors recommend who should be screened for cancer, which screening tests should be used, and how often the tests should be done.

It is important to remember that your doctor does not necessarily think you have cancer if he or she suggests a screening test. Screening tests are given when you have no cancer symptoms. If a screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have the disease.

According to the National Cancer Institute in the US stastics are as follows :

In 2004, cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon/rectum accounted for more than half of all cancer deaths in the United States. Lung cancer alone claimed more than one-fourth of the lives lost to cancer. It was projected that in 2007 there would be 559,650 cancer deaths overall, including 160,390 deaths from lung cancer; 52,180 from cancers of the colon/rectum; 40,460 from female breast cancer; 33,370 deaths from cancer of the pancreas (replacing prostate cancer as the fourth leading cause) and 27,050 from prostate cancer.

Cancer mortality usually is measured as the annual number of deaths from cancer for every 100,000 people, adjusted to a standard population.

The number of cancer deaths per 100,000 people per year, age-adjusted to a U.S. 2000 standard population.

Period – 1975–2004
All sites combined: Death rates increased through 1990, then stabilized until 1993 and fell from 1993 through 2004

Colorectal cancer: Death rates have been falling since 1975

Female breast cancer: Death rates have been falling since 1990

Lung cancer: Death rates have been falling since 1995 due to declines in lung cancer in men

Prostate cancer: Death rates have been falling since 1994

Most Recent Estimates
In 2004, the death rate for all cancers was 185.7 cancer deaths per 100,000 people per year.

Healthy People 2010 TargetReduce the overall cancer death rate to 158.6 cancer deaths per 100,000 people per year by 2010.

Key Issues

Although overall death rates are on the decline, deaths from some cancers, such as esophageal, liver, and thyroid cancers, are increasing.

An ongoing challenge for the United States is to find new and better ways to reduce and eliminate disparities in cancer death rates among different populations of Americans.
And the same applies for all countries and their health sevices.

But what we must do on a personal front, is to take up the gauntlet as well.Simply by getting ourselves screened in time. For something as vital as the possible numbers of years that we may have left...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sampling ...News in the world around us...

Like most people, I watch and listen to the news on a daily basis.

Depending of course on the time available at my disposal there are days when I've focused on and caught up on a whole lot of stuff or then just managed to gloss over the headlines on the various news site on the 'net.

This is what I've particularly noted in the last couple of days.And wondered if things are still all right or then will they remain all right in the world as we know it.

Or then, is it now in the world as we knew it?....

1.Taleban shoots dead a middle aged woman for what they claimed was an illicit relationship.And this to me, signifies the beginning of many, many such scenarios.
For this is now the time for much greater Talebanization .....than we could possibly even have thought.

2. School teacher in Haryana hits a smll girl child, Shanno..then makes her stand in the sun. Child eventually collapses and dies.
The teacher is now missing and it is already over 72 hours since the incident...

3.TEHRAN,Iran -Roxana Saberi A 31 year-old Iranian-American journalist from North Dakota was sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage, her father, lawyer and news reports said Saturday, -- a sentence that prompted denunciation from the United States.U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "deeply disappointed" by the news. "

So now what...???

And tommorow is yet another day.

Lets wait, watch and see what the new news will be all about....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Indian Elections-Phase 1

So now we have moved into Phase 1 of the Indian General elections.

A time when it will slowly but surely, become apparent what the Indian voter wants this time around.At least for the next five years in an ideal scenario.

What has stood out during the Pre poll campaigning is the bitter, almost virulent, personal attacks that the leaders of various parties have made on each other.
Coming right into our homes if we choose to watch any one of the numerous 24 hour channels..

And this more than most things should be a matter of grave concern to all Indians.

For it is when the focus shifts away from issues to personalities that there lies the danger of getting sidetracked.

Which is something that none of us can afford at this point in time.
More than any other before this.

For the world as we knew it has changed.
The Global meltdown is a cruel reality, and it is to these same leaders that we will look towards to set our house in order.

Despite the fact that there is a clear emerging trend where Independents are contesting the Polls, I believe that it will be a clearly a coalition of some parties that will emerge as the Ruling party.

So let us do all that we can.Be resposible and vote responsibly.
And to bend a cliche, may the best Party win....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring, Sea and Jazz......

There are evenings and then there are some others..
Like the one we experienced yesterday.

Watching a performance by the Chris Bayers Jazz Quarttet, brought into Muscat under the auspices of the US Embassy here, was a delightful as well an enlightening experience.

For one, it was held on the lawns ovelooking the Arabian sea, on a perfect Spring evening.

With the wind blowing gently, or then sometimes...not so gently...

For another, the Quartet played magnificiently.
Most notably, focusing on the works of GG Grace- Bashir Qasim, a Jazz legend, and we had the privilege of listening to some of his unpublished work as well.

And finally, the sheer ambience of it all.
A full two and a half hours of pure , undiluted wonderfully played Jazz by performers who absolutely love what they do. ..............

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mukhtaran Mai- Coming full circle

This is a story that needs to be told. From my perspective.

It really looks like the other day, but its actually seven years since I and the world heard this nam.

And reeled with the shock and horror of it all. For here was a woman who had been gang raped in Meerwala, in the Southwest of Multan, Punjab, Pakistan .

The reason- Her brother who was then 13 years old was accused of having illicit relations with an older woman from a rival clan.

So the village council ordered that it was Payback time.

On her...

She lived to survive those minutes, and then went on to be the voice for many, many abused Pakistani women.

Till her rapists were brought to book on the orders of General Musharraf and got their just desserts...

Time passed, she went to the UN and spoke..

And continued living a solitary but meaningful life.Having opened three schools, two for girls and one for boys, where about 1000 children from the poorest families get an education.

Something which she herself was denied.

Then came a new phase.One where a policeman fell in love with her and proposed.
Gabol Khan who was nine years her junior, and already married, so she could only refuse.

Yet his persistence and real love for her finally convinced her.
But strange as it may sound, it was his first wife's Shahla's persuasion which helped her arrive at a decision,...
To marry the man who swore that he couldn't live without her.

So today, Mukhtaran Mai's life has come full circle.

Where she is now a newly married, having found some level of peace and tranquility.
In addition to continuing the crusade that she started, and vows to continue, till she lives.

Makes me truly happy .To see a happy ending..
At least for one gang rape victim

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter and a glorious Spring....


This is one Blog post just to wish everyone a Very Happy Easter along with a glorious Spring.

Enjoy the days just before summer comes in, for these will pass even before one realizes it , and then before one knows, half the year will be over...

For you know what they say... "Time and tide wait for no-one."

P.S -All the Easter goodies shown here- Made by our daughter Neha

Monday, April 6, 2009

Praying and coming together -as a Community.

I've always ducked invitations to 'Satsangs'.

Or anything that sounded remotely like one. Not knowing what it entailed, and not wanting to make my way of life and living any different.

But this morning it was an occasion that I couldn't possibly...avoid.
So I went, wondering what exactly lay ahead...

Only to be pleasantly and delightfully surprised.
For I truly realized what the 'power of togetherness' entailed.

When many people scome together for a purpose, in this case to celebrate Ram Navami combined with a few basic tenets of the 'Art of Living.'

Chanting and reciting the same words/Mantras,breathing in and out simultaneously, singing.

Or then even, just sitting together in silence.

Successfully instilling a deep, profound and long lasting feeling of peace within me...

It really is true, you know, the power of a 'Community' is greater than the power of 'one'..........

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Moments to cherish....

Last night we had dinner with a difference.

For it was completely cooked and served by our daughter Neha.The child who has now grown up enough to be able to do this...

Chilli Corn Carne, topped with sour cream and served on a bed of rice.
Followed by a dessert which we loved... Baileys with Ice cream, served in chocolate shot glasses. Which she herself had hand crafted.

My thoughts... a mix of happiness, amazement, topped with a dash of admiration.

For this was the child who had everything served on a platter, until not so long ago.

But there was also the realization that college life, particularly in the West, really does work wonders.

In more ways than one. Where one has to study and manage one' own life almost entirely on one's own.Cooking, cleaning, washing up, et all....
Way to go Neha!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Footprints in the sand

Footprints in the sand.Ever thought about what they really signify?

Temporary, ephemeral, fleeting and easily wiped out....

But while they are still there, they serve as a path for those who might choose to follow close behind.

Such as a small child, following in her father's path, or then..... her mother's.

Until the next wave comes up from behind and wipes them away.

So if we really, really want to leave a mark on this earth.

One of any kind at all. ...

Let us make sure that it really is worth a little bit more....
Than mere footprints in the sand.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Class of '84- A meaningful play

Say you go to see a play one evening. ...

Knowing well enough that it's had a number of good reviews and that it would be time well spent.

Then it begins, and sweeps you along with it....

For it reminds you starkly of "Having been there, done that"

Written and directed by Rahul Da Cunha, this was one such.

Complete with a multi-talented cast, incl. Shernaz Patel , Rajat Kapoor, Rituraj, Deepika Roy among others.

For all of us who graduated in the 80's this play, truly is a poignant reminder.

Of things gone by..Dreams fulfilled, and even more..... of dreams never realized...

Foscusing equally on the eight main characters, it gives us an insight of their lives as they have evolved, over the years.

Leaving one with the thought..."Ah, to be young again...and recreate the magic of those moments"

Yet knowing that real life, is what it is...

Often very different ..