“A constrictive feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome” or “a strong desire that something should or should not happen leading to mental malady”– are the words the dictionary tries to describe anxiety.
It is a part of the different emotions, i.e. loves, anger, hatred, etcetera, built-in human nature. When this particular emotion becomes predominant over other emotions, we feel stressed. Continuous stress leads to anxiety disorder.
Falling prey to anxiety disorder is pretty common these days of fierce competition in all spheres of life. It is a matter of concern that this tendency is increasing.
A report titled ‘Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2019’, released some time back by The National Crime Records Bureau, stated that out of the total 1.39 lakh 2019 suicides, 93,061 were young adults. Compared to 2018 numbers (89,407), youth suicides in India had risen by 4 per cent. The overall suicide figures increased by 3.4 per cent in the same time. It is a grave concern that anxiety disorder is almost becoming an epidemic among young and ambitious people aged 16 to 40.
According to data shared by Education Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan in the Indian Parliament, 121 young people committed suicide between 2014 and 2021. They were the bright students of prestigious institutions, such as Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), central universities etc. In addition, as many as 19 students have committed suicide in India’s coaching capital, Kota, during the same period.
More than 12500 students died by suicide in India in the pandemic hit 2020, at more than 34 a day.
A team of investigators from the Times of India brought out these frightening statistics. Students in six states appeared to be more prone to suicide than others. These states were – Maharashtra, Karnataka, Jharkhand Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Tamilnadu.
Anxiety is a natural emotion. One cannot be totally devoid of anxiety. But it is possible to prevent this emotion from going up to the level of a disorder. If one becomes aware of the condition in the initial stage, using the mental power, one can come out of it.
Some of the suggested ways to combat anxiety disorder are:
1. Keep physically active by participating in sports. Make sports be a part of life.
2. Develop calming hobbies like music, painting etc.
3. Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs.
4. Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking caffeinated beverages.
5. Use stress management and relaxation techniques. Meditation is a time-tested remedy for anxiety disorder.
6. Make sleep a priority.
7. Eat healthy food.
8. Work hard, but leave the result in God’s hand.
Developing a philosophical outlook on life goes a long way toward strengthening the mind. But, first, one needs to understand that nothing in life, including troubles, is permanent, Failures are stepping stones to success, and one failure never means the end of life.
Sometimes excessive attachment to the property, wealth, relationships, and position of power may lead to anxiety disorder since one tends to hold on to those things. Developing a mental detachment to these things to a certain extent may bring back a balance in attitude.
The mental balance between logic and emotion is essential to keep anxiety disorder out.
If nothing works, one needs to seek medical help. Psychotherapy and anti-anxiety medications may bring quick relief to a patient. But the patient has to have the desire to come out of anxiety. It is a must. Else, these treatments may not give a permanent cure.
In conclusion, I may add that a positive attitude is an armour that one can have to ward off anxiety disorder. But undoubtedly, no one but the patient himself can help him get out of this awful disorder.
Have you ever thought about how an infantryman on a battlefield, facing almost certain death, still functions calmly to accomplish his mission?
He conditions himself with his faith in God, confidence in his weapon, trust in his leader and team and the total commitment to his task. He may be an ordinary man in his real life. But his training turns him into a superman.
Human Beasts of Burden – the middle class Are the Indian middle-class parents compulsive load-bearing animals? It seems so they are. I am addressing people of our age group who are now anywhere between 60 to 80 years of age. I am one of them. We have the unique capacity to discover burdens out ofContinue reading “Human Beast of Burden”
A Tribute to the Creator of Fridenstal ,a place with a Special Heart A Summer Family Holiday made special at Fridensatal, a swift get away plan from the Hot Summer of Delhi. With my extended family, I visited Friedenstal, the Peace Valley, from 11th to 12th Jun. During my short stay, I truly appreciated the resort.Continue reading “A Tribute to the Creator of Fridenstal “
Sustainable Construction to save our Earth The word ‘sustainable’ denotes judicious usage of the earth’s resources to make the earth a better place to live for ourselves and our coming generations. However, unfortunately, the construction industry and its ancillary industries are instrumental in creating a giant carbon footprint in India through the rampant usage ofContinue reading “Sustainable Construction”
Sticker pasted on fruits is a usual sight in the market. We usually believe that fruits pasted with stickers are really of high quality.
We seldom care to read what is actually written on the stickers. But if we do, we will find that such stickers convey words like ‘Premium’, ‘Tested OK’. ‘Best Quality ‘ or some such words.
We pay a higher price to buy such fruits. But actually, pasting a sticker on the skin of fruits is a clever ploy of traders to hoodwink the unsuspecting buyers and make an undue profit.
Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSI) regulates all edible products sold in India. However, many of us may not be aware that FSSI has asked the fruit traders in India to stop pasting the stickers on fruits.
Let us find the reason behind it. The suspect is the unseen glue at the back of a sticker.
What is the supply chain of fruit with a sticker on it?
The glue maker supplies adhesive to the sticker manufacturer.
He, in turn, uses the adhesive to manufacture stickers and sell them to the fruit trader.
The fruit trader sticks those stickers on fruits and sells the fruits to the retailer.
Then customer buys those fruits.
The adhesive is not a food product. Therefore FSSI has no control over the glue maker. He is free to use the cheapest chemicals to make the adhesive profitably.
The fruit trader buys the stickers at a dirt low price and firmly pastes those on each piece of fruit.
It is difficult to remove the glue even after vigorous wash when stuck on the fruit body. Eventually, the adhesive penetrates the porous fruit skin and contaminates the fruit’s pulp. When consumed, this may cause a health hazard.
Sometimes we buy imported fruits. Even those too have stickers.
I do not know what quality control US Food and Drug Administration exercises on the adhesive manufacturers. But one has to learn to read those stickers. This knowledge will help the buyer to exactly understand what he is buying.
The following are the numbers printed on their stickers and what they convey:
If the sticker has a 4 digit number and the first digit is 3 or 4 (i.e. 4285), it conveys that the fruit has been sprayed with pesticides. It must be washed properly before consuming. (In the Indian market, we notice that grapes are covered with white powder. That powder is nothing but dried pesticides like DDT. But nobody warns us about it.)
If the total number of the digit is 5 (i.e. 93421) and the first digit is 9, it signifies that the fruit is organic. It is supposed to be the best for human consumption.
If that number has 5 digits and starts with 8 (i.e. 87396), it says that this fruit is genetically modified. It is the most dangerous of all fruits.
So far, we have talked about the significance of the first digit of the fruit sticker. It could be an eye-opener to know that each fruit has a specific code number, as per the international standard. For example:
On 25 Feb 2019 evening, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanwa PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VM, ADC had hosted a farewell dinner for the retiring Air Marshal Chandrashekharan Hari Kumar, PVSM, AVSM, VM, VSM, ADC, AOC-in-C in the sprawling Akash Air Force Officers’ Mess, New Delhi.
The party was attended by eighty senior officers of the Indian Air Force. During the party, the Air Chief took Air Marshal Hari Kumar, aside to the lawn and told him, “The word is Bandar”. Air Marshal Hari Kumar said, “OK”. Then, they went back to the party.
The party ended a little after 10.30 pm. All the officers, including the Chief of the Air Staff, came out to the Portico to wave farewell to Mrs and Air Marshal Hari Kumar.
Two Senior Officers held the car doors open for the guests of honour to be seated in their gleaming black Ambassador car. In a few moments, the staff car glided out of the main gate of Akash Mess and headed to the AOC-in-C’s official residence.
As the car was negotiating the “Dhaula Kuan” round-about, Mrs Devika Kumar asked the Air Marshal, ‘what is the take-off time to go to Chandigarh tomorrow?’.
Air Marshal said that ‘I have an urgent meeting tomorrow. So you may have to go to Chandigarh alone. Do not worry. A staff officer will be there with you to take care of everything you may need for the trip’.
She was shocked hearing her husband’s response. She dreamt of establishing a School for Special Children of the IAF personnel for a long time.
That school was completed just before the time of AOC-in-C’s retirement. Therefore, she was invited to go to Chandigarh with her husband to inaugurate the school on 26 Feb 2019. It was a firm commitment made weeks back.
She failed to comprehend how her husband had the heart to refuse to honour that commitment. She grumbled within. She mentally admitted that she could not understand these Air Force guys even after spending more than three decades in the IAF with her husband. Mrs Devilka Kumar did not talk to her husband for the rest of the journey home. She was pretty upset with him.
However, that night Mrs Devika Kumar was totally unaware of what was going on in her husband’s mind.
Here we need to take a flashback to understand the situation. On 29 Sep 2016, Operation Surgical Strike was conducted by the Indian Army very successfully.
Yet, Pakistan would not learn a lesson and continued troubling India with sporadic terror strikes every now and then. But they crossed their limit with impunity on 14 Feb2019. 44 Indian Central Reserve Police (CRPF) personnel were brutally killed by a Kashmiri separatist youth named Adil Ahmed Dar.
He rammed his explosive-laden SUV into a large convoy of vehicles carrying CRPF personnel and blew himself up in the bargain. With that horrible blast, dismembered dead bodies were seen strewn all around.
Pakistan based Islamic terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for this cowardly act.
To add insult to injury, Fawad Chaudhry, a Pakistani Minister in Imran Khan’s Government, made a statement in Pakistani Parliament. He said with great bravado that they had entered India and killed their armed police personnel without resistance.
He hailed the heinous act as a ‘Major Achievement’ of Imran Khan’. That was the last straw for the Indian public. They were seething with anger and hankering for retaliatory action.
On 15 Feb 2019, the Prime Minister called for the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) emergency meeting.
This was to correctly assess the security situation in J & K in the light of the grave terrorist attack of the event and decide upon the future course of action for India. The then Defence Minister attended the meeting among other members of the CCS.
On the same day, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanwa was briefed about India’s choices for retaliatory action.
No one wanted India to take a step that could trigger a full-scale war. Yet there was no denying that India had to make it amply clear to Pakistan that it would not tolerate terrorist activities on her soil anymore.
So it was a challenging task to ascertain the right balanced course of action.
Here, it is pertinent to mention that the Pakistani Military Commanders call the shots and decide upon when and how to take military action.
Later, they keep the Pakistani Government in the loop. In India, the job of the Armed Forces is to maintain defence preparedness for any eventuality. But the final trigger for action has to be pulled by the Government of India to order the Armed Forces to go ahead. Going for Military Action is subject to a political decision in this country.
In the present case, the Government order to take Military Action came on 15 Feb 2019. As they say in the military parlance, “the flag went up”.
…….(To be Continued)
This blog is being written to commemorate the third anniversary of Operation Balakot which took place in the early hours of 26 Feb 2019.
Arduous planning went into the execution of the operation which culminated into a spectacular success. General public may not be aware of what all went on behind the scene. Preparation for Operation Balakot is a long story.
Therefore, it is being published in parts. All information stated here have been collected form open media through painstaking research. No military secret has been divulged in this blog. A complete bibliography will be given at the end of the last part of this story.
Some people spend their life doing nothing but dreaming. However, those people can not save themselves from the torrent that life brings. Either they drown or land up at places where nobody wants to go. Therefore one must have his feet firmly rooted on mother earth and be practical. But dreams, too, have their importance in life. Even animals dream. I have seen sleeping dogs and cats moving their paws. But their dreams must be related to food, fight or flight for survival and nothing more.
Human dreams are more complicated. We usually dream while falling asleep or before waking up. This is so because that is the time when we can access our subconscious mind. Mostly such dreams reflect whatever is going on in our subconscious mind. Therefore, dreamless sleep is said to be abnormal.
There are conscious dreams or wakeful dreams too. Before an architect builds a mansion, he creates the building in his mind like visualisation or wakeful dream. And then, he tries to give his visualisation a shape. Wright Brothers dreamt of flying like birds. With dogged efforts, they ultimately built the first aeroplane. It was their dream come true. Similarly, we all have dreams called ambition, and we try to realise them
.Rohnda Byrne, the author of a best seller book, “The Secret”, has taken dreams to even a higher level. She claims with adequate proof that dreams, particularly wakeful dreams, have the power to attract. For example, suppose one can dream intensely to visualise their object of desire; it automatically gets attracted and comes to him miraculously.
Therefore, I conclude that one must be practical but not devoid of dreams. Actually, if one knows how to dream, he can make use of dreams positively.
Amit Kumar Goswami is a quiet person who likes to steer clear of controversies and arguments. He is a sensitive observer and his pen does the story telling about what he observes while never being judgemental. His infective emotional intensity makes the reader involved enough to be mentally participate in the story he tells. Perhaps he carries the genes of literature in his blood.
Born in 1947 in the family of a very middle class family of educationists, he grew up in a literary environment. His father was a scholar and a writer who taught Bengali literature in an eminent university as the Head of Department. His maternal grandfather and an uncle were also renowned professors and authors. He himself did his master’s degree in English literature. But some other things he has in his genes that he did not inherit. It is his spirit of adventure and undying wanderlust. This prompted him to join the Indian Air Force as a commissioned officer in 1970.
In the IAF he did his duties well, but he never allowed the sensitivity of mind die off in the rough and tough military environment. The frequent postings all over India allowed him to know people of different states as they are right in their homes. He realised that joys and sorrows of all are the same despite their cultural and language differences. In the secular environment of the Armed Forces, he participated in Durga Puja, Gurupurav, Christmas and Eid with equal fervour endearing himself to all. On the other hand his sensitive heart absorbed all the pain and fears while looking after young family of his friend when the friend never returned home after an air crash. Once he had to do a so called puja and pose as a Guru to convince a young mother, when no one was able to take away the body of her dead child from her lap.
He is a die-hard learner and he learnt varied subject and excelled wherever his colourful career took him. During the last leg of service he was deeply into indigenous substitution of expensive airborne spares and other imported military wares. After retirement he manufactured bulletproof jackets, sold life insurance and mutual funds, gave consultancy on establishing and running a tourist resort, advised on health through the practice of reiki, molecular Ayurveda and much more. All these immensely enriched his mind.
He communicates well and makes friends easily. He can set frequency with old and young with equal ease. Perhaps that is why he avoids mentioning his rank of Wing Commander to appear as close to the next door neighbour as possible. Now right at the ripe old age of 73 he drives around different places of the Himalayas to communicate with nature and God. He also likes to share his rich experience through his writings. “Rear View Mirror” is the first book which he has recently published and many more will follow.
Are the Indian middle-class parents compulsive load-bearing animals? It seems so they are.
I am addressing people of our age group who are now anywhere between 60 to 80 years of age. I am one of them. We have the unique capacity to discover burdens out of nowhere, lift them on our heads, and carry them. Without a load on our heads, we feel uncomfortable.
We never enjoyed our young days – living a carefree life. We worked hard to secure a good job. Once we found employment, we saved most of our income to help our dad finance our
Sister’s marriage. After the sister was given away in marriage, we found the opportunity to get married. But we could not go on a honeymoon because no money was left after getting the sister married.
We slogged and slogged to impart the best possible education to our sons and daughters impartially. After they picked up qualifications, we also had to finance our daughters’ “Big
Fat Indian Marriage.” Finally, we left no stone unturned to send our sons abroad for higher education. Foreign education is expensive. Obviously, we never had that kind of money. Recklessly, we take out a “Study Loan.” from our bank at a very high-interest rate. When the time comes to pay back the instalments for the education loan, most affectionately, we accept that burden too.
Our wives have a penchant for collecting gold. We live a frugal life to build a decent stock of gold ornaments over many years for our daughters and daughters-in-law. But alas! They do not like to wear those old-fashioned heavy ornaments anymore. Instead, they want light-weight artificial jewellery, which is in vogue. Our efforts go unrecognised.
Our sons stay back abroad after completing their studies and settling down. Back in India, we endured untold hardship to build houses catering to our son’s separate room/floor. We hope, someday, he will come back to live with us. But the sons who settle abroad show no interest in staying in India. In our old age, we struggle to maintain property till we die. Even to ispose of our property after our demise, the sons from abroad find it very hard to get time to come to India for some time.
The children who cannot migrate overseas grudgingly give us shelter in the corner of the home we built. But who has time and patience to hear the old stories of our past life? TV
Channels give us company.
When everything in life is done and settled unnecessarily, we locate another point to worry about. It is usually our grandchildren’s future. But we hardly understand them; on the other hand, they think we are too out-dated. We try to please them by giving expensive gifts. They accept the goodies but do not reciprocate with a hug or kiss. In our hearts of hearts, we die to enjoy their affection.
We are the parents of successful, upwardly-mobile sons. The final days of our lives would probably be spent in Old Age Homes or under the care of irresponsible and cruel nurses who
Care only for their salary. The children would clear their conscience by paying for the Old Age Homes or Nurses. We would silently fade out unheard and unsung. Life will go on.
We are the only the generation that obeyed the previous generation unquestioningly. But blinded by the love, we follow the orders of the next generation, too. In another 20 to 25 years, our species will be extinct from the face of the earth, never to resurrect again.
Let someone erect an epitaph that will read, “Middle Class (1940 – 2040). Here lies the soul of the gentle and affectionate middle-class. It is finally resting in peace. But, unfortunately, the stupid but selfless middle class chose to live a miserable life to make the next generation happy and prosperous.”
With my extended family, I visited Friedenstal, the Peace Valley, from 11th to 12th Jun. During my short stay, I truly appreciated the resort. Let me tell you why?
This enchanting place has been scooped out of a dense forest and curated by professionals, directed by the creative mind of the owner, who is sensitive to a visitor’s every need, like a gracious hostess.
Her personal touch is omnipresent everywhere in the resort.
Her eye for details needs a special mention. Scrupulous cleanliness and fresh paints make the place genuinely inviting.
It is indeed a peaceful valley in the nurturing arms of mother-nature. I find it difficult to describe the place justifiably. I would instead encourage everyone to experience it.
People say that home is where the heart is. The owner knows the way to the heart of a guest. A guest cannot help falling in love with this place.
The rooms are not lavish in size. But the optimum space usage and the log house look with defused lights makes the rooms attractive.
One finds everything that he may need at his elbow. There has been an excellent combination of aesthetics and technology in the
For the more adventurous a tree house has been built. A specious living space has been created around the trunk of a living tree. The tree fills the tree-house with natural fragrance at all times.
Friedenstal caters for all ages. For the senior citizens, there are cobbled pathways to walk around, relax on manicured lawns on garden chairs, or sit with a tray of hot tea on the balcony attached to every room.
For lovey-dovey young couples, there is a swing and a few strategically placed sit-out areas under tall trees. Many indoor and outdoor games are available to keep children occupied. There is an isolated place from where bird lovers may watch and photograph their winged friends discreetly.
If someone is fond of butterflies, he can trek about a few hundred feet up the hill and meet Mr Peter, who has maintained a reference Museum of hundreds of butter fly specimen. He would be delighted to share his deep knowledge of butterflies with anyone who is keen to know.
Security is everyone’s concern. One feels protected and safe in this resort.
The place is covered with solid wire netting all around the property to ward off wild animals. Powerful flood lights lit up the entire area after sun-down.
Alert security guards petrol the property 24 X 7.
The staff is the backbone of any organisation. The best infrastructure will fail if the team is not dedicated, hardworking and well-behaved. Manager Ravindra Biisht has a small handpicked group of workers in this resort.
Under Ravi’s leadership, the team members are ready to go out of their way to satisfy every customer’s need. They do it with total dedication. On the evening of my arrival, I noticed with concern that the commode in the toilet got choked. It was unusable.
I discovered the issue when the sweeper and the plumber were away for the night. Under the guidance of Manager Ravi, the two waiters worked for long at night and finally cleared this blockage. I will never forget their dedication because it was not the duty of any of these people. Yet they did it without fuss.
Another day I saw the waiter Hem, was assisting a small boy in riding a bicycle. It was not his duty either. But his work attracted admiration from the kid’s parents.
The sinewy old gardener comes from five miles every day to maintain the garden and the lawn areas. The property is quite sprawling for a single hand to maintain. But with a permanent orange cap on his head, the gardener works sincerely through the day.
I have never seen him sit and talk to anyone as he goes from plant to plant throughout the day. Instead, it seems he holds affectionate private conversations with leaves and buds with unspoken tender words.
As I mentioned before, Friedenstal caters for everyone’s needs. I found three leaves on a small plant hidden in the common grass – an ageing leaf, a mature young leaf and a budding leaf – all attached to the same stem. It appeared to be a symbolic representation of what I was trying to say.
In the end, I would also like to mention three minor points which could add to the comfort of the guests:
Between the living area from the dining area are some concrete steps to climb that are pretty high for older people with knee problems. A handrail fixed there to hold could make the senior citizens’ step-climbing more comfortable.
A tiny patch between the entrance gate and the road has remained uncovered with concrete. It could make the first entry of a guest more welcoming.
The resort works with a bare minimum of working hands. They always chip in to help each other at times of high-pressure work. Despite their sincere efforts, preparing and serving warm and fresh food gets a wee bit delayed. The Management may temporarily consider hiring one or two additional helping hands to tide over the high influx of diners. The diners expect a quick service as in a restaurant.
We used to order for the next meal clearly, after finishing one meal and also tell when we would come to the dining hall. This system helped the staff to remain ready for us.
Fridenstal is a hidden beauty which awaits to be discovered. I found a symbolic representation of the same when I noticed a couple of tiny grass flowers.
The word ‘sustainable’ denotes judicious usage of the earth’s resources to make the earth a better place to live for ourselves and our coming generations. However, unfortunately, the construction industry and its ancillary industries are instrumental in creating a giant carbon footprint in India through the rampant usage of resources.
Sun rays heat the earth during the daytime, and the earth emits the heat back to space during the night time to cool down. Some harmful gases that freely float in the atmosphere prevent the earth from cooling down during dark hours.
Earth’s accumulated heat, in turn, triggers climate change. The changed climate behaves erratically, causing tragic effects on all living creatures, plants, and other elements.
Global warming is increasingly becoming a grave concern during the last couple of decades. All manufacturing and transport industries routinely generate and add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Nevertheless, we can hardly do anything to remove those gases due to their long life.
Among all gases, the most challenging proposition is to tackle Carbon dioxide. Its quantity already available is among the highest, and it will continue to remain active for 300 to 1000 years in the air.
Construction Industry itself consumes a massive amount of power. Thermal Power plants generate 85% of electricity.
To produce this much power, the plants use 70% of the total coal used in India. Coal, while getting burnt, releases gases. As a result, the power sector in India alone emits 47% of all CO2 emissions in India.
The Construction Industry primarily uses power-intensive building materials such as cement, steel, bricks, timber, glass, paint and lime. These ancillary industries routinely release massive CO2 gas while manufacturing respective products.
Thus construction Industry, directly and indirectly, is responsible for the release of a mammoth amount of CO2 gas into the atmosphere. Eleven tonnes of CO2 gas get released to construct a single 1BHK unit!
Mitigation. With the population galloping relentlessly, Construction Industry is here to stay and will grow in future. However, we cannot wish away the carbon dioxide already available in the air.
We can only mitigate the generation of CO2 gas by using more ingenious technology. The following steps may effectively help fight the presence of more CO2 gas in the atmosphere:
Begin intensive afforestation and protect forestland.
Encourage 306 million-plus households (ref. Census 2011) to use green energy generated by windmills and solar power panels. Mini power generators using the flow of a local river may generate power to light up a cluster of village houses. Make use of LED bulbs compulsory. Use coolers to replace power guzzling air conditioners.
Use traditional Indian building plans and locally available materials. Those can be best suited to varying regional conditions of India. Make more use of natural light and insulated walls to minimise electricity consumption.
Make more use of the software to replace the use of paper.
Minimise wastage of building materials.
Make use of fly ash.
Use heat deflecting window panes.
Innovate and use unconventional materials like bamboo in place of steel or traditional materials to replace cement concrete.
Minimise the usage of diesel-powered material-handling machinery like Generators, Cranes, Forklifts, cargo trucks and hoists by better planning.
Enforce green norms on all building materials manufacturers.
Create mass awareness of the banes of greenhouse effect at the grass-root level.
Conclusion. The environmental situation of our planet is already grim. Acting seriously against the greenhouse effect is the need of the hour.
The construction industry needs to adjust to the new-normal situation and do everything possible to mitigate CO2 generation.
Reason for Full Body Scanners in Airports across the globe
For several decades now, Airlines have been grappling with the problem of hijackers. These criminals or fanatics use the threat to blow up an aeroplane with passengers and crew on board to make the authorities give in to their demands.
Transport Security Administration
The job of the Transport Security Administration (TSA) is try to detect beforehand those passengers who carry explosives, dangerous chemicals, knives and guns by hiding those under their garments. But such checks may offend innocent passengers. Therefore, TSA has to walk on a tight rope.
Traditionally, full-body patting and metal detectors are used to detect dangerous hidden goods on a passenger’s body. But currently, full-body x-ray scanners are being increasingly used in Airports.
X-Ray Machines at Airport
Two types of full-body x-ray machines are used in Airports.
(a) The Millimetre Wave Scanner, and
(b) The Backscatter X-ray Machine.
172 airports have full-body x-ray scanners at airports across the US.
In India, one Full-body x-ray scanner was scheduled to be installed in the IGIA, New Delhi. But due to disruption of work during the Covid 19 pandemic, the installation has been delayed for over two years.
A fierce debate continues regarding the usage of Full-body X-Ray Scanners between TSA and Passengers. While TSA wants these machines installed everywhere for more effective detection of prohibited / dangerous goods. But the passengers see it as a serious intrusion into their privacy.
When the entire body is being checked by a man on duty, a woman’s modesty may be compromised. Some opine that the machines are not fool-proof.
It is possible to fool the x-ray machines. Then why use them on all and sundry?
Some others express doubt that frequent exposure to the harmful x-ray may cause a person exposed to the risk of cancer.
In view of the above, the TSA has relented some grounds and allowed to offer the option to passengers to decide if they would like to go the full-body scanner or decline. But in this case, the passengers have to accept body-patting as an alternative.
In any case, TSA still reserves the right to de-board passengers who refuse to undergo a full-body scan.
To take care of passengers’ privacy, TSA has put in place several preventive measures. First, it has been made impossible for anyone to save full-body images. This would prevent the illicit circulation of pictures of bare bodies by unscrupulous employees. Secondly, the person scanning the screen has been shifted to sit in a different room.
As a result, he cannot physically see the persons whose bodies he is observing. Also, the images have been focused more on detecting hidden items than showing the clear images of passengers’ faces.
Israel has always been the pioneer to find technological solutions to problems concerning security. They have invented a scanning machine which does not take x-ray images but detects explosives hidden in a passenger’s body.
All passengers are made to take a walk through an armour-plated room. If the machine detects anyone carrying any explosive, the machine automatically detonates the explosive on the spot. It goes without saying that the carrier also gets blown up in the process.
The action is swift and accurate. No one needs to fight a long-drawn legal battle to punish a terrorist. But is it a fool-proof machine? We doubt.
The points against the usage of these machines are:.
If an explosive carrier is killed, the police lose the opportunity to find out his links leading to arrest of the mastermind.
Suppose the explosive is stealthily planted in the baggage of an innocent passenger. In that case, he loses his life for no fault of his.
The device may not be able to detect the entire range of explosives.
A terrorist may carry the harmless components in his baggage. But after the security clearance, he can still assemble an explosive sitting in an airport terminal.
If the explosive is powerful enough, it may also kill the airport employees and innocent passengers standing nearby.
Security is a continuous cat and mouse game. Whatever devices are invented to screen out hidden destructive devices, the terrorists would always be working overtime to invent methods to hoodwink such devices. Nothing can ever be hundred per cent fool-proof for all times.
Therefore, we should never let down our guards and remain alert. Security is everyone’s business because it affect everyone.
Introducton. We all know that Manali is one of the most beautiful places of India and it is currently one of the most popular tourist destinations too.
The naturally radiant weather, lofty mountain peaks and lovely greenery of the place is something that probably every traveller in India is familiar with.
Manali is visited by tourists round the year, except for the rainy season.
Tourists generally visit Manali for the following reasons:
To enjoy the natural beauty.
To escape the oppressive summer heat.
For adventure Sports.
But there are a few lesser known facts which may be interested for some people. I hope some of you would care to know about it.
The Origin of the Modern Manali.
Manali started off just as a collection of three proud hills with 3 different associated villages and their sub cultures.
All the three villages of (a) Old Manali,(b) Vashistha and (c) Dhungri combined about 150 years back to become the beautiful Manila as it is known today. But with huge traffic of tourists and intense commercial activities, the original flavour of Manali is lost.
You may feel the original flavour of this hill resort, only if you cross Manalsu River (a tributary of Beas) and go to Old Manali
The Story behind the name.
Most of us know that, when Earth was inundated under the great deluge, Noha took a pair of each species of creatures in a boat (Arc) , saved them and re-populated the earth. In India the same act was done by Sage Manu.
Manu was the creator of Indian mankind. The laws of Manu are what Hindus are supposed to follow and they are well described in Manusmriti. When Manu’s boat was floating around, Lord Vishnu guided Manu to come to Manali, which remained above the flood water.
At the altitude of 6,730 ASL it is one of the highest places in this region. It is a natural divide between Kullu Valley and the mountains of Lahul and Spiti.
Thus Manu landed in Manali and started living here. Therefore, the place was called Manu Alay. Later it got distorted to Manali. Under his patronage all the species started flourishing and repopulating in India.
Rakshashas were human beings who thrived on meat including human flesh. Probably agriculture had not yet evolved in those prehistoric times. So those could be human being who practiced cannibalism.
Rakshashas have been described as, “shape-shifting, fierce-looking, enormous monstrous-looking creatures, with two fangs protruding from the top of the mouth and having sharp, claw-like fingernails. They were shown as being mean, growling beasts, and as insatiable man-eaters that could smell the scent of human flesh.
During the exile, the Pandavas had arrived in the forest of Manali. They needed rest. Therefore, four brother, mother Kunti and wife Draupadi fell asleep. Bheem, the tough brother, remained awake to guard them.
At that time two Rakshas siblings, Hidimb and Hidimba, were very powerful in that area. Having smelt the juicy flesh of the Pandavas, Hidimb asked his sister to fetch one of them for dinner.
Hidimba was a fierce but a good hearted Rakshasi. When she came to pick up one of the Pandavas, she encountered Bheem who was on guard. But looking at the handsome Bheem, she went weak in the knees; she fell in love with him at the first sight.
She proposed to marry him. But Bheem refused to marry her. Not one to give up, she went to Mother Kunti and pleaded her case. Kunti agreed and ordered Bheem to marry her.
Bheem was obliged to comply with his mother’s order. He married Hidimba with a pre-condition that on the birth of her first child, he would go away. Hidimba agreed.
Eventually when her son was born, Bhim deserted her. She called her son Ghatotkach meaning a baled child with a head as big as a Pitcher.
She brought her son single-handedly, till he became an exceptionally skilled warrior and mastered the art of magic powers. He was very loyal to Bheem and sacrificed his life helping Pandavas in the epic battle of Kurukshetra.
At a later life, Hidimba devoted herself to spirituality and indulged into deep meditation. She gave up all attributes of a Rakshashi and became a saint.
Till date, people of Manali worship her as the guiding spirit. She is offered regular puja in Hidimba Devi temple in Manali. The rituals of her puja are strikingly different from the pujas performed in other Hindu temples.
Hidimba Devi Temple is one of the most important places of tourists interest in Manali. Near Dhungiri village this temple was constructed in Pagoda style in the year 1533. It is located in a pine forest and it is maintained very well.
Some tourists have reportedly felt a kind of presence in and around the temple.
This ancient castle is located at a height of 5900 feet ASL. This castle was constructed by Raja Sidh Singh some 500 years ago. It was constructed only with stones and wood. No cement was used. The interlocked stones are a bit flexible.
Therefore, no earthquake could destroy the structure. Beautiful wood carving can be seen on all over its walls. It has been declared a National Heritage Property.
Now HPTDC has taken it over and turned it into a heritage hotel. To visit this place an entry fee of Rs.30 is charged.
This is one of the most picturesque spots near Manali. At an altitude of 8694 feet, it is a popular ski resort in winters.
It is located between Solang village and Beas Kund.
In April we may not find snow here. But we may have a breath-taking view of majestic snow-capped peaks and glaciers from here.
Manali offers some sports facilities here like paragliding, horse riding etc. Due to its popularity, parking vehicles may pose a problem here.
The tunnel reduces the travel time and overall distance between Manali and Keylong on the way to Leh.
This name means jewel of the ear. While roaming around, Shiva and Parvati loved the beauty of this place and stayed here for 1100 years.
During the stay Parvati accidentally lost the jewel set in her ear ring. It was stolen by the King of Serpents Sheshnag. When Parvati asked Shiva to retrieve her jewel, he ordered his companions to find the jewel. They failed to find the jewel and it made Shiva very angry.
He opened his third eye and started Tandava dance. It disturbed the entire universe. All Gods made an appeal to Sheshnag to pacify Shiva. Sheshnag hissed thereby giving rise to a flow of boiling water.
The water spread over the entire area resulting in the emergence of precious stones of the type Goddess Parvati had lost. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were happy at the outcome.
The Sikh legend says that when Guru Nanak Dev reached this place, his companion felt hungry. On Guru’s order he went to the village an collected some atta.
Guru Nanak Dev told him to knead the atta, make the chapaties and roast them on the hot water. But all the chapaties sunk.
Guru Nanak then told him to pray to God saying that if his chapatis float back then he would donate one chapati in His name. When he prayed all the chapatis started floating duly baked. Guru Nanak said that anyone who donates in the name of God, his drowned items float back.
Manikaran has a famous Gurudwara as well as the temples of Rama. Krishna and Vishnu. They are located next to a hot spring. It is at an altitude of 1760 m.
Museum of Himachal Culture & Folk Art.
The Museum is a unique and extraordinary collection of unknown and rare antiques of the state.
It demonstrates the almost extinct articles that clearly display the forgotten culture, art and handicraft of Himachal Pradesh.
The Museum displays models of temples, old houses and forts, traditional dresses, utensils, musical and ritual instruments, wood carvings and various other articles
Shopping Places in Manali
The Mall Road, Old Manali Market (Comparatively much cheaper), Tibetan Market (For Carpets) ,Bhuttico (Co-operative Shop , Reliable Place), Manu Market (Well stocked), Himachal Emporium (A State Government enterprise).
What to buy:
Tibetan and Himalayan Handicraft, Woolen Apparels, Kashmiri, Kinnauri and Kullu Shawls, Scroll paintings of Buddhist dieties on silk called Thankas and Dorjes. Prayer Wheels, Kesar, Jam. And Dry fruits. Take care to avoid buying fake kesar sold cheap in the streets. Green Apple and Lingad (Wild Asparagas) pickles may give a change of taste from our usual mango or lemon pickles. Bargaining goes on. If you win, you may get good things to buy for reasonable prices.
European Cafes in Manali for lunch.
We will get Indian dishes for breakfast and dinner in the hotel. For lunch, it could be a good idea to try out the hidden European Cafes of Manali, for a change.
Walk into the streets of Manali and you will get a distinct feeling of being in the Au De Riveria of France.
Manali was the darling of the Europeans and their favourite place to stay in as they flocked here during the summers to revel in its brilliant air and glorious greens.
Some Europeans fell so much in love with the place and apple cheeked Manali women that they married and settled down here and opened their own cafes, yoga centres, pubs and book stores. The names of the cafes are so pretty like River Music, Moon dance and Manali Rose and they are shaped like relaxed lounges, casual cafes and pretty bistros.
An amazing range of soups, pastas, pancakes, steaming momos and stews are on offer in these cafes.
In North India or probably the hole of India (apart from fancy five star restaurants) these cafes are the best place to visit if you are a fan of European style food and dessert.
Sip on exotic rosemary and thyme tea or lemongrass tea and watch life pass you by.
If you want to carry home the flavors of Manali then a stop at the exotic German Bakery should be a priority on your agenda.
Delicious tangy yet creamy Yak cheese is something that you will only find here. There is a distinct flavor and special quality of this cheese that makes it perfect as a cocktail snack or salad topping.
Manali shops sell dry fruit at unbelievably low prices so stock up on roasted cashew, almonds, raisins, walnuts and acorns. Buy some jars of dried apples while choosing from the 11 different grades on offer.
Dried figs, prunes and apricots are sold in huge decorative containers. You can also stock up on exotic varieties of Churan like green acacia nut churan and basil and thyme churan.
Lastly, if you have a sweet tooth then tuck in to the raspberry and ginger and the sensational strawberry and apricot jam that are the specialty of Manali.
It’s a little known fact that the best restaurants in Northern India source their packaged nuts and dessert fillings from Manali.
Local Snacks typical of Manali.
Khatta: Most common street food made of pumpkin, dry mango and boondi.
Sidu. Local roasted Chicken, fish or local Chha Gost goes very well with Sidu is pan-cooked bread made of fermented refined flour dough.
Babru. This issimilar to Kachories. It is filled with soaked black gram.
Patandey. It is a Himachali sweet made of milk, sugar and wheat flour.
Bhey. This delectable dish is prepared by thinly slicing lotus stems, steaming it and then sauntering it with herbs, spices and gram flour. It is a nutricious food.
Aktori. It is a cake made of buckwheat. It is a festive snack here.
Tudkiey Bhat. It is made of rice, vegetables, lentil and spice. This is one of the best local foods Manali has in offer.
Mittha. It is rice preparation lavishly sprinkled with raisins and other dry fruits. Mitha should be tried for its rich flavours.
Place Distance Time to Reach from the Mall area
Hidimba Temple 4.7 km 15 minutes
Art & Cul Museum 180 metres 1 minute (from Hidimba Temple)
Naggar Castle 20,2 km 34 minutes
Solang Valley 13.1 km 26 minutes
Manikaran 78.2 km 2.15 minutes (35 km from Bhunter)
Atal Tunnel 30.5 km 55 minutes
Mall Market 2,7 km 7 minutes
Old Manali Market 4.4 km 13 minutes
Tibetan Market 2.6 km 9 minutes
Bhuttico Showroom 3.1 km 8 minutes
Manu Market 2.6 km 6 minutes
Himachal Emporium 3 km 8 minutes
I hope this write up will help the formidables to make plans for the three days we spend in Manali.
The second day of April is celebrated as Indian New Year. Navratri (Nine Auspicious Nights) also starts on this date. Let us appreciate the significance of this sacred date:
As per Brahma Puran, this is the day when Lord Brahma had started creating the Earth and its inhabitants. This was the day when Sun God rose in the East for the first time. Navaratri starts on the Full Moon Pratipada (one day after the full Moon).
This is the day when the worship of Mother Goddess riding a tiger starts. It ends after nine days on the day of Ram Navami when Lord Ram was born.
Why we worship Mother Godess for nine days in Navratri? Hindus believe the digit Nine is a sacred number. We encounter Nine in many important junctures of life.
The examples are:
The number signifies longevity and eternity.
As per Sanatan Dharma there are nine planets (nav graha), nine jewels (nav ratna to appease the planets), Nine forms of Durga (Nav Durga), nine emotions (nav ras) and nine main organs in our body .
In mathematics 9 is the biggest number.
When we add up 360 degrees, it adds up to nine.
If we add the trems of Satya, Dwapar, Treta Yugs, it works out to nine.
The gestation period of a human child is nine months.
Nine means completion, because after nine the count starts with one, symbolizing a new beginning.
As per the Hindu calendar (Vikrami Sambat), the year 2079 starts today. It is 57 years ahead of English calendar, i.e. 2022 + 57 = 2079.
A Hindu calendar year consists of 354 days; whereas the English Calendar consists of 365 days. Hindu months are divided into two parts following the phases of the Moon. Iit counts the waxing and waning cycle of the Moon for a month.
A month starts on the first day of the waxing Moon. It ends with the fortnight of waning Moon. The advantage of this system is that one can get the month’s date by looking at the Moon.
On the first day of the year, Hindus worship a Kalash (a brass or earthen pot) full of water and decorated with mango leaves and a coconut. The pot is marked with the sacred symbol of Swastika using the red vermillion. It symbolises the presence of all Gods, Goddesses, oceans and lands, holy rivers, and everything else that brings peace and prosperity.
Mango leaves are chosen for decoration because only Mango leaves have the unique quality emitting oxygen till those dry up.
May God bless everyone who reads the above text and understands its significance.
DID QUEEN GANDHARI REALLY LOVE HER HUSBAND AND ACTUALLY DELIVER 101 CHILDREN?
Shakuni was the only surviving brother of Gandhari. Earlier, I wrote a blog on Shakuni, explaining why he was an admirable man, not a crafty conspirator. Now let us talk about Gandhari, the so-called mother of 101 Kaurav siblings.
After losing his chance to ascend the throne due to his Bachelor status, Bhishma became a maniac about getting the blind King Dhritarashtra to marry as many women as possible and beget the maximum number of children.
The moment he came to know that Lord Shiva had given a boon to Gandhari that she would become the mother of 100 sons, he attacked the tiny kingdom of Gandhar. He killed all the Princes except Shakuni and abducted all the Princesses, including Gandhari.
He brought them to Hastinapur and got all of them married to Dhritarashtra. Gandhari being the eldest and the most accomplished woman, became the principal queen.
Folklore says that, due to her love for her blind husband, Gandhari voluntarily blindfolded herself for life. I find it hard to believe. Gandhari was an accomplished princess. But, most unfortunately for her, Bhishma had subjugated her father, murdered her brothers by painful starvation, abducted all her sisters like a herd of animals and were forcibly married to a blind man.
Could any woman in her place fall so much in love with that blind man that she would voluntarily subject herself to the life-long misery of remaining blindfolded?
I guess it was her protest and not love. As a woman in an alien kingdom, she was helpless to protest against the severe injustice meted out to her.
The only silent protest she could lodge was to refuse to ever cast her eyes on her tormentors, including her husband, by blindfolding herself.
Firstly, she was scared of darkness from her childhood. The blindfold had thrown her into the dungeon of perpetual darkness.
As a result, she must have lost her eyesight too in the long run.
It is of topical interest to know that some ophthalmologists experimented by keeping 14 healthy persons blindfolded for only 24 hours in modern times.
When doctors removed their blindfolds, they were in a miserable state. They kept experiencing various kinds of hallucinations. They lost their sense of taste and smell; because the blindfold restricted the airflow through their nostrils.
Blindfolded for life long, Gandhari could have gone blind. The optical nerves connected to her eyes, tissues and muscles around it would have withered, remaining un-used over a long time.
Probably she was aware that she could not use her eyes anymore.
As a person, Gandhari was a super-intelligent and highly educated lady. She used to help her husband solve tricky problems whenever needed. When Duryodhana and Shakuni tricked the Pandavas to lose everything they had, they were asked to go into exile for 12 years.
Dhritarashtra remained mute. At that point, Gandhari went to Dhritarashtra as the ruling King and appealed to him to banish Duryodhana from his kingdom for his evil deeds. She urged that he must deliver justice to a wrongdoer as the ruling King, even though the culprit was his son.
She argued her case brilliantly and forwarded such razor-sharp logic. Ultimately Dhritarashtra had to admit that he had done a grave injustice by not containing and punishing Duryodhana. He had to accept that he had failed as a King. He forwarded a cowardly excuse to Gandhari, saying that he could not punish his son due to his blind fatherly affection.
He added that God would not spare Duryodhana for his misdeeds, and he was ready to perish with his son. As a woman, Gandhari could not do anything more. Those days a woman did not have the right to go against her husband’s decision.
The epic says that Gandhari was the mother of 101 children. I have my doubts. The first wife of Feodor Vassilyev (1707 – 1782) held an unbeaten world record for bearing the maximum number of children.
They lived in Shuya, Russia. She delivered 69 children and probably died in the process.
She had 27 confinement between 1725 and 1765 and produced sixteen pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets.
Today scientists are even challenging this record.
Duryodhana had many wives, thanks to Bhishma. He bred like a rabbit. I guess that whosoever out of the queens delivered a child, Gandhari got the credit for them.
Another lesser-known theory propagated was that ancient Indian doctors used to know how to grow babies artificially in earthen pots.
We never will know the truth. But it is medically proven that no single woman can survive the trauma of 101 deliveries.
I conclude that Gandhari was a highly talented, educated and spirited lady. But for her status as a woman those days, she would have been a brilliant ruler. So she deserved much more recognition than she got.
Dispensing Death for Pleasure– Prequel of Dispensing Death for Pleasure
Siraj was the single name he had. He was a child of destiny. At the age of two or three, most probably he had come with his parents to visit Kutab Minar in New Delhi, and got lost. His parents could not be traced, and no one really tried to find them.
The Head Teacher of ‘Madrasa Jamia Arabia’ of Mehrauli, New Delhi, had brought him up as a caring foster father. The kindly teacher, who was a single man, brought him up like a Muslim child. Siraj did not care to know if he was a Hindu, a Christian, or a Muslim by birth. His foster father was everything to him.
At the age of sixteen, he worked as the assistant of Mohammad Rashid, a truck driver. At the age of 22, he became a licensed truck driver. He got employed with Perfect Logistics Solutions, Mahipalpur, New Delhi.
The transport company hired him for a monthly salary of Rs.15000 a month plus incentives. Siraj lived all by himself in a single room at Kishangarh Village near Mehrauli.
At the age of 25, the desire to get married and settle down crossed his mind several times. His foster father had expired by then. In the absence of parents, there was no one to take care of this matter. Moreover, he knew that in the marriage market, he had almost no value.
A truck driver was not sought after by parents for their daughters. Everybody knew that a truck driver’s life was uncertain besides being risky. The drivers picked up addictions to cope with the loneliness and boredom of long drives on the highways.
In fact, they were married to their trucks rather than with their wives. His foster father’s strict and traditional upbringing did not allow Siraj to try and propose to a girl himself.
Siraj was very familiar with the roads from Delhi to the Southern States of India. As a reliable driver, he used to be sent to long-distance destinations in Chennai, Bangalore, Mysore or Kochin. He did not mind these long routes since there was no one at home to wait for him.
After a long trip, the company used to offer him two off days. He used to spend these free days assisting Karim Miyan in his butchery and earn some extra bucks. There was another attraction too.
Deep inside his mind, Siraj used to feel pleasure in slowly killing sheep, goats and chicken for Halal meat. He was perfect in skinning those cases and cut them into pieces, as that too gave him a lot of pleasure.
Butchering animals gave him a sense of power over the lives of the livestock he killed.
Mr. Suren Mehta, the owner of Perfect Logistics Solutions, was fond of him. The reason was that Siraj would consistently deliver his load in the correct address and return to his office in record time. Siraj made minimum halts en-route and had an accident free record.
Mr. Mehta never pondered over the question as to how Siraj managed to drive the truck without rest. For him, faster turn-around time meant more business and more income. Therefore, he always rewarded Siraj with some incentive after every successful trip.
The secret behind this superhuman endurance was that Siraj used to take Marijuana and Opium on long hauls to ward off fatigue and retain total concentration.
He was aware that these narcotic drugs added to tobacco were ruining his health in the long run. But the lure of attractive incentive was irresistible.
With this, he could afford small luxuries in life, like a bottle of ‘English’ wine once in a while.
Life was going on an even keel, and then suddenly, his destiny intervened. His life literally took a sharp turn. It happened like this. Once he had delivered Maruti Suzuki Car Spares from Gurgaon to a big dealer of Maruti cars in Chennai.
On the way back, he had to bring back a truckload of industrial tools like Electric Welding Machines, Electrodes, Power Saw, Chain Saw, Power Drill and what not. This trip had been special for him in another way. His company had just purchased a New Leyland Ecomet 1214 truck which could carry 10 tonnes payload.
Mr. Mehta personally chose Siraj to drive the truck on its maiden journey.
Driving a brand new truck was a special treat for him. The vehicle had the latest soft-touch controls, power steering and a large air-conditioned cabin. The ultimate luxury was a 7′ X 3′ bunk at the back of the driver’s cabin for sleeping comfortably.
In short, the comfort factor for the driver was superb in this truck. At Chennai, cargo delivery and loading went off smoothly. By the time he was crossing the city limits of Chennai, the darkness of evening had descended. The bright city lights faded out when he drove onto NH 44. However, the highway was still busy in the early evening. So he parked his truck near a Punjabi Dhaba for his meal.
He took a good bath in the Dhaba’s bathroom, and leisurely, he ate his supper of tandoori roti, rajma and freshly peeled onions in silence. After finishing the meal, he ordered a cup of tea. Then he told the serving boy to bring some ‘Gum’. It was a code word for Opium Drug.
Siraj was a regular customer of that dhaba; he knew the coded name of the stuff. Therefore, it was brought to him without any fuss. He had a dose of opium and allowed the intoxication to take a grip over his senses. By this time, the traffic on the highway was thinning out. He started the truck.
Opium had narrowed down his concentration only on that part of the highway, which got lighted up by the truck’s powerful pair of headlamps. There was nothing else in his mind, not even the usual post supper drowsiness.
As he crossed into Andhra, a light drizzle started. But it intensified as he crossed into Telangana. By the time he reached the outskirts of Hyderabad, the rain turned torrential. It was around 1.30 a.m.
The combination of the monotonous drone of the engine, the fast swish of the hyperactive windshield wipers and howling wind carrying raindrops colliding against the truck’s body created an unearthly atmosphere in the truck’s cabin. Yet, Siraj was oblivious to all these things. He had kept his eyes peeled to ensure the safety of the galloping track.
Fortunately, at this hour, there was not a single soul on the highway.
At the far end, where the twin beams of headlights melted into darkness, Siraj noticed some unusual movements on the left edge of the road.
As the truck closed up, he could recognize it to be a dark human figure running along the road. Siraj rubbed his eyes. Did he have some overdose of opium, or was it a ghost? He started chanting Bismilla.
As the truck caught up with the running figure on the road, he saw a thoroughly drenched young girl was running breathlessly. He applied the brake, and the truck stopped a little ahead of the girl. He opened the door of the truck and inquired what the matter was with her.
Between heavy breaths, the girl said in broken Hindi that people were chasing her in a jeep and will catch her any time. Siraj looked at the rearview mirror and saw, indeed, a pair of headlights was closing in fast.
Instinctively he extended his powerful arm, which the girl caught, and he heaved her up on board. There was no time to waste. He stepped up on the gas pedal, and the girl sat behind on the driver’s bunk behind. Water was dripping from her tattered dress, and she was sobbing silently.
The jeep at the back broke the chase after about five kilometres.
Siraj drove on for another 10 KMs and stopped the truck in front of a Dhaba. By now, the rain had stopped.
Siraj went down to the Dhaba and brought a plate of rice and dal for the girl. The girl lapped up the food like a hungry wolf.
Siraj apologetically told her that he had no women’s dress in the truck. But he had a spare lungi and a shirt. If needed, she could change over to those dry clothes. Silently she agreed. He waited in the dhaba, allowing her enough time to change. When he returned, the girl gave a grateful smile.
He asked her if he could drop her at the nearest Police station. Instead of answering him directly, she asked him where he was headed to. When he said that he was going to Delhi, she said she would want to go to Delhi. Siraj’s mind was tense.
On the one hand, he could not leave the girl on the road in the dead of night. But, on the other hand, he was also afraid that she could also blackmail him with the threat of entangling him in a false kidnapping case.
He knew that no one would listen to him in that case, even if he told the truth. So, most reluctantly, he told her to sleep on the driver’s bunk and let him drive on.
In the morning, over a cup of tea with breakfast, the girl came out with her story. She was Fardeen Abbas – one of the six daughters of her father, Zulfikar Abbas. Zulfikar was a well to do businessman and a fanatic Muslim. His oppressive dos and don’ts as per code of conduct of Muslim girls were oppressive, that Fardeen felt suffocated.
About a week ago, she found an opportunity and eloped with a good looking guy who promised to marry her. But he took her to a vacant flat and confined her there. Merciless beating and rape became a regular affair. Last night she had overheard the guy negotiating a price for selling her to an Arab man.
Tonight taking advantage of the rain and storm, somehow she could escape through a window. But while running to the gate, unfortunately she toppled the wooden stool meant for a guard. That sound alerted her captor, and he started chasing her to recapture.
She got into a jungle on a hillock. But he caught her up on the other side with his jeep. He would have recaptured her had Siraj not helped her.
She did not want to return to her father’s home. She was sure that he would definitely kill her for her misdeed, which was against the dictates of Islam.
Siraj found her to be a cultured but innocent and hapless girl. He agreed to take her to Delhi. Once in Delhi, she had nowhere to go. He took her to his home and, after deep soul searching, married her in the local Mosque with consent from Fardeen.
Siraj and Fardeen became man and wife. Being saddled with this new responsibility, Siraj worked harder than ever before – driving trucks and helping the butcher Karim Miyan. But driving up and down to the distant Southern States, Siraj could spend hardly one week in a month at home. His off days were in parts of one or two days at a time, totalling up to one week.
Neither Fardeen nor Siraj could complain. Siraj could never hope to get married if he did not find Fardeen. And she shuddered to think what would have happened to her had Siraj not rescued her on that dark night. It was their destiny that had brought them together, and they were happy with whatever they got.
Instead of sitting alone at home through the month, Fardeen picked up a small job in a local beauty parlour for women. This supplemented the family income too. But their story was not like a fairy tale for living happily ever after. She lost her health after delivering three boys in three consecutive years.
They named them after famous Muslim rulers of India – Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir. While the boys grew up, Siraj’s health also started declining. The drugs gradually got better of him. No longer he could drive on long-distance hauls. He was employed on local assignments as a favour from Mr Mehta. When he could not even drive locally, he would be in Karim Miyan’s butchery. It reduced his income considerably.
At forty, he worried endlessly for the future of his sons. He knew that he would not survive long. So he taught driving to his sons, the only skill he had. When they got their license, he managed to get jobs for them too.
Humayun was lucky to get a job as a helper in the Haryana State Transport Corporation. Mr. Mehta accepted Jahangir as his personal chauffeur. Their jobs brought financial relief to the humble family.
The middle son Akbar was different from his siblings. He was like an ugly duckling among swans. He was short and delicately built unlike his tall and robust siblings.
As a child, he communicated less and mostly kept to himself. But when he spoke his language would be very rude. He would be constantly bullied by his brothers and friends. But even if beaten, Siraj would never cry. The only quality that went in his favour was, he was a bright student. While his brothers took to their father, Akbar was very close to his mother. It seemed that he inherited more of his intelligent mother’s genes than his brawny father’s.
Unlike his brothers, he showed no aptitude for driving automobiles. But whenever Siraj took him to Karim Miyan’s butchery, Akbar felt happiest. The glee showed in his young face when he would slit the throats of animals and birds.
He would enjoy watching goats flailing their legs till death mercifully made them motionless. His one other favourite game was to make the chicken run around with half-cut head hanging from the neck till they fell lifeless.
He would skin them with such perfection that no hair or feather would remain on their meat. When he would curve out pieces of meat by removing internal organs, he would make it look like a work of art, done with the precision of a surgeon.
He gradually became inquisitive about looking into the organs, intestines and muscles of a human body. He realised that only a doctor was permitted to do that. Therefore he wanted to be a doctor.