From Nowhere to Everywhere!

I hear the siren from a distance.

I pat off the sand from my hands and run hurriedly towards the sound. The siren of the ship is getting closer. And I feel my nerves beginning to beat faster.

Should I go, or stay back?

We had struggled and we had persisted; and we had hoped to hold our feet to our land. There were fires; there was hunger; there were insults – yet, we had hoped to hold our feet to our land. The filial bonding between our people and the ground below our feet did not seem to perish. Days, weeks, months and years had passed; yet, we had hoped to hold our feet to our land. But, it wasn’t long before we saw our people losing their lives – the ones who had once laughed and struggled with us.

As all good and bad things come to a close, our hope came too. Our people began to move apart one by one. One day, it was my turn. After days’ of gathering strength from within, I could at last board that ship, that day.

I didn’t know where I was being taken to. I didn’t have people to call as my own. After all, I had given up almost everything that I thought I had owned since my first day here in this world. There wasn’t anything more to lose. I had abandoned the last hope from the weakest of my bones the day the ship had started from our place. The past – from the sound of my giggles as a child to the smell of the toast we had had in the refugee camps – would fill my thoughts throughout the day, and the night. Time was frozen in the sound of the waves, touch of the sun and brush of the winds. I didn’t know how long or how far I had traveled when I had begun to feel the excitement around.

Sicily!

It was like a magical word, buzzing around us.

I stepped out, on to a land which isn’t our’s, for the first time. That first step on the pink sands, I didn’t know then, was actually a giant leap to my life. As I dipped my feet into the cool waters of Sicily, I felt holy-washed – of the confinement that had docked me to my past wharf of shame and suffocation. Our land, our land, our land – how many times have I choked under the custody of attachment?!

I looked above. The Sicilian skies hoarding a hue of colours at dusk, I thought, would make the rainbows go jealous. Perhaps, the sky is so vast and meaningful as it appears here. I didn’t know where I would go from here the next minute. But, I had set my heart now, at this juncture of my life, to hold tightly in my arms, the liberty this world is willing to offer me. It is so colossal – this world – that it is foolish to believe any one place as our land.

In the months that followed, I had a bunch of people with me. None I would call as my own, because I had realized none really had to be called my own. It didn’t matter along which latitude or longitude we were born, we all could still become brothers and sisters as we crossed paths along another line on the globe. We were Muslims and Christians, but it didn’t matter which God we prayed to when one of us would fall sick.

I soon had a job at the fish market. I would secretly whisper to the bucket of live eels everyday to rise above the rim of the bucket and ebb down to the bottom of it, for that is what their world – the bucket of water – has to offer them. We would spend hours at the Cathedral Square, listening to the stories of the tourists – the stories of people and culture about far-off places. That is how one day, I was asked if I would like to move to the North.

What seemed far-off once, wasn’t anymore. In fact, we aren’t truly far off from anywhere on this earth. To an openminded soul, even the farthest of the poles is just a stone’s throw away.

“Merry Christmas!”

I heard someone whisper into my ears as the first snow flakes of my life touched my palm. The lights, the buzz and the smiles all around the new city I was at, reflected for the nth time that this world is colossal. I had never dreamed before that I would spend a Christmas at a place where it belonged to. See, something I had thought which belongs to one place now belongs to everywhere in this world.

That is how you and I too are. We belong to everywhere!

I soon found my love, had twin boys and we later moved to the East. The East gave me an enriching experience of life and philosophy. I shall continue this story of exploration to every next day of my life, until I wouldn’t have one,  for I believe there isn’t a destination at all in the journey of a traveler.

The above narrative is a fiction about how a refugee begins to embrace the world from nowhere to everywhere.

Aren’t we all in a way refugees in this world?

When life at our place is confining, we need to move. We need to travel to explore what the rest of the world has to offer us. We can be surprised by the sky at an unknown place. We can be loved by unknown people at far-off lands. And we can learn to embrace unknown philosophies of the unknown ancients.

That is how we #SayYesToTheWorld to begin creating #TheBlindList of our lives!

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#DefinitelyPTE

Though I remained a woman with no further aspiration after my graduation, I’ve witnessed the zeal in my children to take their education levels higher in a foreign university. As a mother, I wished their paths went smooth during their preparatory phases. However, I’ve realized that it is inevitable to face some common hurdles when for the first time one has to move to another country for higher studies. To begin with, the doubts that put my daughters under constant pressure were,  ‘How expensive is the study going to be?’, ‘How would it be to adapt to a new place and culture all alone?’ and ‘How easy is it going to be to crack the competitive exams?’

While preparation for the subject tests took much of their time, the English Language Test could not be overlooked. Though they were quite proficient in English as a language, scoring well in a test did need some effort. Said that the English language tests are timed and that the test content are of higher standard than a common man’s language, the required preparation had to be given its due weightage.

Pearson offers PTE – Pearson’s Test of English – Academic, one of the world’s leading computer-based English tests.  One of the grand benefits of PTE Academic test is the fast delivery of test results, usually within five business days. The flexibility of test dates and centres availability is yet another additional, notable feature. Also, PTE is approved by New Zealand and Australian governments for visa applications and by thousands of universities in the UK, US and Canada.

Benefits of PTE scoring system

All sections of the PTE Academic are machine scored. The score report includes, in addition to the overall score, individual scores for each of the communicative skills and enabling skills. This may provide a helpful factor to universities in the admission decision making process.

The enabling skills score help the test taker to identify specific strengths and weaknesses in his/her spoken and written English. This can be helpful in deciding what further courses the test taker must pursue.

PTE Academic scores are aligned with CEF, a recognized English language evaluation standard in Europe and other countries. Due to the alignment, it is easier for universities which follow CEF to interpret PTE Academic scores to its equivalent CEF levels.

 PTE Academic Preparation Course

#DefinitelyPTE offers a comprehensive preparatory course to test takers. Free online sample questions area available in the PTE official website. On purchasing a PTE preparatory package, test takers get access to several benefits such as full tests, score reports that imitate real time reports, in addition to hints and tips for the test.

PTE Academic Test Centres

There are over 200 PTE Academic test centres across 50 countries with several centres within US, Canada, UK, India and Turkey each. New centres are added periodically and one may want to check the updated list of centres before deciding on the test centre.

#DefinitelyPTE is one of the wise options for a English language test for students aiming for a study abroad. It is especially helpful for students who want a faster test results for tighter deadlines.

My Post-menopausal Friend – Vitamin E!

I am 63 years now. Around 20 years ago, when I was 40, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I had to undergo a surgery for the removal of my uterus and ovaries. If you may be aware, removal of the ovaries induces immediate menopause symptoms in the body. Unlike how the body gradually undergoes changes during a natural menopause process, in my case, it was brought in a few hours post the surgery. Soon after the surgery, the level of estrogen, which the ovaries produce, went down below the optimum levels. As a result, my body began to starve for all the nice things that this hormone does to a healthy physiology. There was severe dryness of skin and unusual hair fall. Leg cramps pinned me down often, and not to mention, the constant tiredness.

Watch below, my video about the role of Vitamin E in menopause.

That’s when my gynecologist prescribed #Evion! Evion is a capsule that contains Vitamin E. In general, most of us are aware about carrots and Vitamin A, lemon and oranges and Vitamin C, Calcium and Vitamin D and Vitamin B complex. However, if asked about Vitamin E, we may pause and think and keep thinking because not many of us are aware of what this mighty Vitamin does to our health. Perhaps, we know to an extent of the role of Vitamin E for our skin and hair, but we may hardly know anything beyond. Until my doctor suggested Evion, I wasn’t aware of the importance of Vitamin E either.

By a general study from a book, (I am talking about a pre-Google time 😛 ), I learnt why I must regularly take Vitamin E in my diet. Strangely, I still have the copy of the book 🙄

book on vitamins

I would like to share here a few essential facts about Vitamin E, from this book, and specifically about how it has helped my post menopause phase.

  • Our body cells are subjected to destruction by free radicals. And Vitamin E has the potential to fight against free radicals. Thus it helps in the healthy functioning of the body.

Yes, any general Google search can give this information. However, do we all really understand what a free radical is, what an antioxidant is and how Vitamin E can be a good antioxidant? 

If you have a basic background in science, you will know that an atom with an unpaired electron is what we call a free radical. What happens at the molecular level is that, these atoms with the unpaired electron on the outer shell, in no time will begin to attack its neighbouring atoms which are stable. That means, the stable atom is robbed off of one of its electrons and consequently, the robbed atom becomes a free radical. Now, the newly formed free radical begins to attack another neighbouring stable atom. This process, like a chain reaction, disrupts the healthy structure of the molecule these atoms would form together. So, if this molecule was a part of an important element for our health, say a cell, a tissue or a protein, it is going to be ultimately destroyed.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are molecules which can generously donate an electron. And most importantly, they themselves will not become free radicals in the process. They have the unique property to remain stable with or without that single electron. Now that makes sense, doesn’t it? Antioxidants react with the existing free radicals in our system and stops the disruptive chain reaction, thus protects our cells, tissues and proteins from damages.

The fact here to understand is that Vitamin E is the highest source of naturally found antioxidants! If you can visualize what Vitamin E does, you can connect the dots; for instance, free radicals – cell damage – dry skin/uncontrolled hair fall – Vitamin E – antioxidants – neutralize free radicals – revert the cell damage. 

  • Vitamin E dilates our blood capillaries and allows blood to flow freely through the blood stream. An unclogged blood circulation takes care of half the health by itself.

vitamin e benefits

Coming back to my premature menopause phase, taking “Evion Supplements” greatly helped me to get back to my healthy self. I assume there must have been several more benefits that happened silently; I am listing here the apparent, marked changes that I could witness pre and post taking Evion:

#1 Vitamin E reverted my skin back to its healthy state. It is like a natural moisturizer which keeps the skin moist in the most natural way.

#2 Vitamin E helped me to control the thinning of my hair. It restored my strong, thick, healthy hair I had nurtured for ages.

#3 The leg cramps I used to suffer from got completely healed. Infact, inspite of sitting for long hours in the Padmasana posture, I no more experience leg cramps.

#4 Most importantly, I started to feel energetic inspite of the loads of home chores I did everyday.

#5 Though I am 60+, I look a little under 60 😛 Atleast that is what some people say. No wonder Vitamin E is called the anti-ageing factor!

vitamin e benefits

What is to be noted is that, we need to incorporate regular intake of Vitamin E in our everyday diet. Over the years, I have switched from Evion to nuts, spinach and avocado  for Vitamin E source in my weekly food intake. Though there are a few other fruits and food which are rich in Vitamin E, these three are the ones I rely on because I personally like them and also it is readily available in my place. Supplements are essential when the body undergoes a sharp drop in the vitamin levels. However, after a period of good health with the supplements, it is recommended to include them in the regular diet.

Thanks to Evion, it is making the lives of several women like me healthy and energetic!

The Walled City, Over the Decades

The black and white photographs of a city can speak a lot of how it has grown over the years. This picture of India Gate, taken a few decades ago, amazes me to see the barren lands around the then Delhi while the same place now is buzzing with lakhs of people gathered for the IIFA.

Note: This is a post of fiction. 2 Dehliites narrate one of their personal tales of something significant, from their lives in Delhi.

I am Manas. I come from a village and my forefathers have been into pottery. The image below is an old photograph of a potter selling pipes and pots on one of the then Delhi roads.

Perhaps, one or more of my forefathers spent their lives on the roads like this seller in the picture. With the business line in my blood, I ventured into a new start-up a few months ago. During the initial days, I lacked technological and financial support. In spite of an inspiring idea I had had in mind, I could hardly get anywhere near to manifesting it into reality. That’s when Vodafone’s Ready Start-Up Kit gave me a timely lift. From business development to customer support, my start-up was given a tap at every stage. Start-ups in Delhi-NCR today are privileged is what I would say. There is an intuitive understanding of what people need in this city and that’s what brings about radical developments here.

I am Anupam. I’ve lived in Delhi all my life. Born before independence, I have witnessed every little change that this city has seen over the decades. From my memoirs about the city, what stands out is the trams that I used to travel for half an anna to Sadar Bazaar. The most exciting adventures of my childhood days used to be jumping off the moving tram and getting back to it 🙂 With increasing city traffic, however, trams were stopped in the early 60’s. And today, we have the Delhi Metro! Of course, it is air-conditioned, sophisticated and soon shall be automated; however, what impressed me about the Delhi Metro is its ‘World’s First Green Metro’ recognition. It is built on eco-friendly principles, helping the city to conserve energy. While trams were discontinued on the account of urban transport, here’s Delhi Metro which has reversed the situation after four decades. It’s initiative to tap the solar power for its operations, will reduce electricity consumption by one-third.

The Interesting Tale of Selling My Nokia 1600 For $100

With new luxuries coming into our lives, what do we do with the old utilities? For some, selling off an old item may not be a necessity because the little money it can fetch may not be significant to them. And to some, old things may carry significant memories and irrespective of their working condition, they would prefer to preserve it with them. And I have enough of such preserved memories around the home!

One was my old Nokia 1600. Once upon a time, it was my prized possession. It was the time when mobile phones were just getting introduced in India and owning one gave such a prestigious status. Until how many ever years I had used it, I maintained it carefully.

Times change and somehow for some reason, new things come to you and thus came a new phone to me. Yet, I had kept my old phone safe. Sometimes, when someone in the house undergoes the frustrated period of getting their smart phones repaired, my Nokia 1600 would serve as their temporary back up.

After serving a while as back up and after lying inside my handbag for a few years, I finally decided to give it away. It was in perfect working condition; so I wasn’t willing to give it for free to anyone. I tried asking a few neighbours, relatives, known people; but I couldn’t make a fair deal. I had posted ads over selling websites. However, nothing turned out favourable.

But, you will be surprised to hear how I finally sold my Nokia 1600 – not for Rs. 500 or Rs. 1000, but for $100.

I had always kept my old phone within a zipper inside my hand bag and without my knowledge it continued it remain there during my trip to the US. I was at the Frankfurt International Airport, just in time for the security check for my connecting flight to Dallas. Security check always gets me nervous. I get tensed when it is my turn to leave the gadgets and liquid bottles in the checking tray. I hold my breathe until I see my things on the other side of the black box. With little time left, I quickly grabbed my things to rush to my gate.

And there we were flying – my Nokia 1600 and I, across the Atlantic Ocean. In sometime, an American co-passenger sitting next to me started a formal conversation with me. During the conversation, he specifically asked me if I was carrying an old-modeled mobile phone with me. It kind of shocked me at first. However, without letting me despair, he explained that he had noticed on old phone on my security check tray at the Frankfurt Airport.

Well, he seemed straight forward and put his request to me in no time. He wanted to buy my Nokia 1600! Period!

What? I was scared, scared to death! As an Indian woman, my gut wouldn’t trust strangers. Especially, making deals with strangers – no way! My old phone was already restored to factory settings; so there wasn’t anything in it that I should be afraid of revealing my personal information through my phone. Yet, I couldn’t accept an unexpected deal, several miles above the sea level 😆

But why would someone want to buy an old phone from India?

I was curious to know but I refrained my conversing any further to him lest I will again be put into the difficult situation of saying yes to the deal. However, as though a mind reader, he continued to explain politely that he owns an antique phone shop and in fact he is returning back from New Zealand after a visit to the antique telephone shops in there.

Hailing from a country which hardly values antiques and looks down upon anything that’s old, I was not convinced by his antique shop stories and continued to pose a rigid face. He pulled out his phone to show me the pictures of his shop in Dallas and his online buying site. However, all that went through my mind was that he must be a terrorist trying to collect old phones to use it for illegal purposes.

My fear heightened when he offered to pay me $100.

100 dollars? I quickly tried to convert to Indian Rupee in my mind. But in my confused state, my brain couldn’t work and it took more than three minutes to figure out the amount – Rs. 6700! Why would somebody pay me six times the amount of the original price for an used, old-modeled, outdated gadget?! Uff! I wanted the airplane to land immediately and save me from this tension.

Understanding my grim reaction, he said he would wait until I meet a family member of mine at the Dallas airport, so that I can have a discussion with them and come to a decision. For some reason, this particular point calmed my nerves because the responsibility seemed to shift to my daughter now.

In spite of the long queue at the immigration counter, he waited patiently after we reached the Dallas airport. Finally, I could breathe in peace after I spotted my daughter and family. The antique man got into a conversation with my son-in-law who was excited about the offer. To my surprise, I was congratulated to have successfully sold my old phone for $100. I was told that antique shopping is common in the US and it was indeed my lucky day.

Ha! When I look back, it seems an interesting incident; in fact an interesting coincidence that I had to carry my Nokia 1600 with no necessity to the US, the man whose seat number was next to mine was an antique collector and that by a strange chance, he had noticed my phone on the tray in those few minutes!

If you are looking to sell your old gadget, do check Cashify and use coupon code CLEANCASH to get an additional discount of Rs. 250.

My Gadget Re-sale Adventure!

The present generation do not value money as much as we did in the 1980’s. While Re. 1 was a valuable amount to us in those days, my daughters easily spend a few hundred Rupees today without any second thoughts. That is how they got me a new tablet, for what purpose, I really couldn’t understand. Well, it is their expression of love and the wanting to give their best to mom. Of course, I cannot deny the secret excitement I had in my heart when the tab arrived. It was definitely interesting in the first few days to explore the new one’s features. However, one thing that hasn’t settled at all in my mind is, “What do I do with my old Nokia mobile which had introduced me to the basics of telecom technology? Did I forget to tell you, it was my possession for 8 years; a time period which none of these youngsters’ smart phones can last for!

My daughters gave the least thought about my old phone. “Amma, keep it safe or give it away to someone for free.”

Free? 😯

I still bargain with roadside vendors; so you know how much of stringency is rooted in my blood. I began thinking of the ways to sell it. Initially, I wasn’t aware of the sell/buy websites. I would sometimes inform a provision walla, or the flower vendor that a basic Nokia phone, in good working condition, is available for sale. All that they expected of me was, “Memsahib, will you give it for free?” To their eyes, I was an upper class woman who can afford giving away a phone worth of Rs. 500 (too much?) for free. However, as a person who has lived a hard life to reach an upper class living, I know how valuable is every Rupee that comes to my purse.

My daughters, tired of hearing me whine about the resale of the old phone, prompted me to try in a couple of websites. For the computer savvy in me, identifying icons from the top right and bottom left corners are quite difficult a tasks. Sign-up is another complicated task for which I will have to open a new tab to check my email for the sign-up confirmation. You might think what simple a process this is. But to an old lady who heard about computers at the age of 55, it is no fun. I often get confused where to click while shuffling between the tabs. So, I always refrain from having more than one tab open at a time.

Well, coming to the sell/buy website, I did manage to create a login. Now came the never-heard-of step – Post a picture of your product! I do know how to click a photo with my tab and am quite good is sending it through Whatsapp. But from Whatsapp, how do I transfer to the website? If you read this question twice, you can understand my technical understanding. So, I unofficially hired a school boy who lives near my home to help me transfer the photos from my tab to my computer. I know it went through a cable, but what he clicked to open what – I was clueless. The good news was that I had the photo of my dear old phone now in the PC.

With much reading and re-reading, I managed to post an ad – it felt like a celebration! And there I was, awaiting greedily for someone to buy my phone. I assumed hardly anyone would be interested in the old phone. However, to my much shock, I received message after message, multiple times of the same messages and back to back phone calls. Becoming nervous, all of a sudden, I avoided attending calls. Most messages had an offer price of Rs. 1000 to 2500. At first, the greedy woman was swelling in joy that what I thought can fetch me Rs. 500 is on demand for up to Rs. 2500 🙂 But, in time, after reading a few messages, I realized something wasn’t right. I was terribly afraid, of what, I don’t know.

I immediately dialed the emergency number – my daughter’s! After hearing a piece of her mind for having goofed up over the internet for the nth time, I begged to her to have a look at my ad and identify what went wrong.

In a few minutes, she called me. “Amma, you have posted an ad for buying a used Nokia phone!” 🙄

So, there ended my attempts in the gadget reselling adventure! 😦

I remembered this particular incident today while reading an article about Cashify, an online gadget re-selling platform. Unlike other sell/buy sites, Cashify does not demand you to post an ad and wait for a deal. Instead, on the basis of the details you give about your used mobile/laptop/TV, Cashify informs you of a reasonable estimate of the item. If you decide to go with the quoted amount, a Cashify employee shall pick your item on sale at your door step and hand over the accepted upon cash amount to you immediately.

I went through the Cashify website. It was super easy to navigate through the site, even to somebody like me; that means any Tom, Dick and Harry can now sell their used gadgets online in a few seconds. Check the video below:

 

The Delhi Dreams!

Times change, people change and cities change, as well. I miss the old Mumbai and the old Bangalore! These cities have tremendously changed that I cannot dream of getting back to their oldselves. However, in Delhi, in spite of the cultural changes of the then years, I am witnessing a remarkable socio-techno-economic changes that gradually (may be secretly), I am falling in love with my city, at last 🙂

4 Years ago…

Post the Nirbhaya rape case, I condemned Delhi to the point that all men living in Delhi seemed like criminals and all women living in Delhi seemed risking their lives in a deadly city. As a mother of two daughters, the increasing rape cases in Delhi left me with worried existence. I would often get visions of girls subjected to sexual violence while cooking or watering the plants and even during sleep. It was a fearful time of life!

It did no good in blaming the Government or the laws because the root lies in some men, either psychological or physiological. And how can one identify and reform such men? There were no good hopes, for the dark side of this city had already engulfed me with fear.

3 Years ago…

It took one incident of what a brave girl did to her molester during a crowded metro travel, for me to un-tie my fears and look positively towards a better Delhi. Let me quickly narrate the incident, if you haven’t heard about it before.

crowded metro station

A girl travelling in a crowded metro in Delhi felt the penis of a man, standing behind her, touching her back. While no one gave attention to her shouting, she braved to run behind this man and filed a FIR against him who was later taken to the Tihar jail. To a large extent, this inspiring write-up of the incident by the girl herself, changed my perspective of looking at all Delhi women as potential victims.

3 Months ago…

A group of young guys who had been having food at a dhaba, heard a cry for help from a woman from inside a car which sped past them. The responsible youngsters called the Delhi police, chased the car and rescued the woman in time. This recent incident, further changed my perspective that not all Delhi men are rapists.

Positive efforts by someone unknown has the power to change the perspective of life of a person, sitting at home at some corner of the city. That is what I felt with the two incidents narrated above.

Today…

Today, I am more positive about the safety of woman in the city, than how I was 4 years ago. I feel glad when I read about meaningful initiatives and awareness campaigns that bring change and confidence in several Delhi girls. Here are a few, to spread some good vibes across the readers:

Because I am a Girl (BIAAG) by Plan India

parivartan delhi police biaag program
Self defense training by Parivartan, Delhi Police

The Safer Cities initiative, (under BIAAG) creates awareness and imparts safety education to young girls in and around Delhi. Take a look at how well the program has fared so far:

plan india safer cities biaag

Himmat, Cab tracking App, developed by Delhi Police

It feels unsafe for women to travel alone in cabs back from work to home, especially during nights. In order to make their rides safer, Delhi police has come up with Himmat App. A card with the driver’s details and a QR code gets placed behind the driver’s seat. A women who begins the ride, can open the Himmat app in her mobile and scan the QR code.

himmat app qr codes in cabs for safety
Source: https://fusion.werindia.com

The details of the driver are sent to the Delhi police control room where the ride can be monitored in real time. A passenger without internet or smart phone can still share the ride details by sending a SMS to 8130099100 with the QR code. A trial run was done in 10 Delhi taxis, earlier this month. Soon, it will be brought into practice in 2000 airport taxis.

Free Vodafone Wi-Fi Hotspots & Bus Shelters in Delhi

There are times when internet becomes essential for a girl’s safety. May be, a timely Whatsapp message or a app download (like in the case of the Himmat app, discussed above) or an urgent cab booking. Sometimes, our mobile data may not work too well or we may run out of data charge. I have heard my neighbour girls recounting how a Vodafone Wi-Fi hotspot has helped them timely when they were in a difficult situation.

Vodafone-Wi-Fi-Bus-Shelter-gurugram
Source: http://www.dqchannels.com

The recent installation of Wi-Fi bus shelter at Gurugram is a commendable effort by Vodafone. The support and benefit the hotspots offer people living in Delhi is sure to bring a new level change to women and to the city, as a whole.

Witnessing the new positive developments in Delhi, I feel secured about everything around me. Please share the support movements for woman you know about, in the country. It may help a reader at some point of time in their life.