Friday, December 19, 2008

An Escape

When the skies are murky and I can’t see stars, or when the thundering city traffic unsettles me, I feel lost. On such occasions, I have often complained I should have lived differently. A rustic environment, somewhere up in the mountains, where I could hike everyday and find wildflowers behind every boulder seemed to me a perfect existence. An attic, a fireplace in front of which I could relax, and snow in the winter. What could beat that? This had long since been a childhood dream. Thoughts of such a life used to fuel my imagination when I was bored. “I’ll grow up and live my life on the easy chair, staring out to the skies….,” I used to think. This seems to have been inspired by the life of a fictitious girl by the name of Heidi, from Joanna Spyri’s classic Swiss novel by the same name. It was one of those stories which was very close to my heart, and the more I thought about it, the more I felt like associating myself with the character of Heidi. I had dreamed over and over again, of a villa nestled in the heart of a lesser mountain range where I could be homeschooled and a quaint little cottage by a riverside….those were the kind of places which were ideal for living, I thought, and such a life was easy.

Well, this time, I came very close to experiencing what a solitary living feels like, and I must say I was considerably surprised by my reaction to it. Initially, of course, I was thrilled to know that we were going to be spending some time in a distant cabin somewhere in the middle of Yosemite National Park for the holidays. It inspired the same childish delight in me that I associate with prolonged family outings, bringing to the forefront countless memories of yearly visits to granny’s house, warm reunions with cousins and the laid back days which were my summer holidays. This was going to be an experience to savor. This trip was going to be unique for many reasons. For the first time, we were to reside in a cabin instead of one of those standard American hotels with 2 beds, framed watercolours in the background and an old TV with pay-per-view. Oh no, this was going to be a very real experience and I was ready to enjoy it!

When we arrived, it was late evening. I had expected to feel happy at the sight of the cabin, but strangely enough, I felt a brooding fear of visiting an unfamiliar place instead. The sight of the cabin, forever hiding in the shade of tall Californian redwoods looked more spooky than welcoming. Further, the person who had tastefully decorated it seems to have enjoyed a certain savage pleasure of hanging dead deer heads all around the place, and they stood like ghostly remainders of some deadly event. The nights were absolute in their quiet, and suddenly, I did not feel so grown up anymore. For one thing, I knew I would start screaming if they locked me up in the attic for too long! I knew the forests were absolutely spendid, but I haden't taken off time to think that they might be scary too. Surprisingly, I longed for familiar sounds, like ticking of a clock, the whizzing of an overhead fan, and laughter. This felt unreal, lonely, and very much unlike home.

The second day, we decided to hike up Vernal Falls. It had rained previously, leaving the forest floor moist and the air stinging cold. I scrambled across rocks and uneven surfaces. I saw boulders, with pretty wildflowers growing behind them. They looked beautiful, but I also realized I was panting. I had hiked up an inclination to see this, and I was tired. I realized that finding wildflowers behind boulders was not easy, nor was living in the middle of the forest, as I had assumed. But it was different, and very meaningful. Life in the forests is definitely unique, but by no means easy. There is plenty to explore, unearth and uncover if I am in the mood for an adventure. Although I felt an emptiness staying away from Cupertino for so long, mesmerizing waterfalls, winding forest trails, and leisurely evenings more than made up for it. I returned home after catching a glimpse of a solitary life that was Heidi’s and I returned with a satisfaction of a lesson well learnt. I came back rejuvenated, with plenty of photos to remind of the experience which was an eye opener.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Arise India

Recently, I was shaken by the Mumbai terror attacks. A few days later, I watched the movie, A Wednesday, and this had my head spinning. The news of death, destruction and a movie concerning terrorists made me feel quite ill. I grew a bit pessimistic about the fate of my country. Then, a friend was kind enough to remind me that all was not as bad at it seems. When I ventured to find out what this person was talking about, I stumbled across the Arise India organization. I was awed by the work they were doing, and was so inspired that I practically begged to write a guest post on their blog. I thought it would be apt to discuss the work they are doing here. (

I was genuinely surprised with their story. Arise India was formed by a bunch of teenagers who have recognized that there are some problems in our country that need fixing, and that youth participation is vital to bring about change of any kind. They conceived a vision, and Arise India project was born. I was delighted to know that some of my former classmates had become active participants, along with many other faceless friends I am yet to meet. I salute their efforts, and am truly fascinated with the way they have managed to achieve all that they have within a time span of less than a year. They have been involved in a massive effort to change the way our teenagers think. They have been talking in schools, trying earnestly to revive patriotism in the hearts of children who have a very constricted view of this country. Today, they have broadened the horizons of thinking for many, and they earnestly hope that their movement will assume national proportions. What has interested me is that a majority of Arise India are teenagers, no younger than nineteen years of age, and they have already managed some media attention, and have established their cause. They are rapidly progressing towards success, fundraising, speaking in public forums and discussing issues of importance on the internet. Talk about achievement!

I learnt that it just started as a group of friends---teenagers who were fed up with extended holidays and thought they needed to do active work of some kind. They were lucky enough to receive guidance and encouragement just when they required it. A common passion can changed these people into truly committed individuals, and I have witnessed this. Passion stirs them, catalyzing action. Today, I am really proud of my classmates, and many other teenagers who have shown (and are still showing) the world that change can come only if there is participation.

They have taught me that the youth of today hold the promises of the future. They have shown me our future middle-aged citizens are not going to be careless fools like most fear and they have revived my hopes and interests in my country’s future. I thank them for that. They have received only a limited attention from the public, and a lukewarm response to their wonderful efforts. So, I felt it was befitting to inform you of their existence, and am respectfully completing this duty. I wish them all the best for all their future endeavors.Please do go through their website if you do have time to learn about how they plan to bring about change. ( I encourage everyone who lives in Bangalore to become part of Arise India. For those who are part of it, I think it will be an experience of a lifetime.