The invention of wings.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

She said “Once upon a time, Africans could fly. They would circle around the sun- like blackbirds. We lost that magic when we became slaves.”

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“The invention of wings” is the best novel I have read this year and one that I will read again and again.

The book is based on the true story of the Grimke sisters- Sarah and Angelina, who bravely fought against racial inequality and slavery and for women’s rights middle of the 18th century in America. The story describes how Sarah – brought up in a wealthy aristocratic family, who owned lands and slaves, with strict roles that governed what women were to do and behave-  metamorphosed to a bold activist who fought for the rights of slaves and women against a lot of opposition.

The story centers around Sarah Grimke and Hetty Handful. Hetty was gifted to Sarah on her 11th birthday as a maid. Sarah had witnessed a maid being whipped in her childhood, which had traumatized her to an extent that it left a permanent stammer. She resists her birthday present and tries to write a letter to free her, which is promptly torn into two. Sarah and Handful develop a relationship, which may be called friendship, but also filled with anger, spite, and distrust on Handful’s part. Sarah teaches Handful how to read and they share secret moments together, going against the rules.

Handful is intelligent after her mother, Charlotte, who is also a slave and talented seamstress in the Grimke’s household. She has learned to get her way through cunning and manipulation and believed that her spirit could not be tied down. It may be ironic that while Charlotte and Handful rebelled against their slavery, Charlotte’s spirit is broken in the end, while Handful was willing to die for her freedom.

The story describes their transition to adult life and how both Sarah and Handful find their calling. It describes their disappointments, shattered dreams, and failed romances, but also on how they were able to overcome in spite of it all.

What I liked about the story was the raw honesty of the characters. Emotions are rarely easy or black and white in real life and that was well portrayed. It was great to see Sarah’s transformation from an insecure child to a confident adult. Finding your calling, making sacrifices for what you believe in are other themes of the book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a good read.

You can get the book from Amazon here.

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Did you pass by the beggar lady yesterday?

I’m not a bad person, but definitely not a particularly brave one.

I work an 8- 5 job and go home to work some more.

My salary is enough for food, shelter, clothing-

Not much more, not much less.

Occasionally an event breaks the monotony,

But generally, life passes by.

But this is not about me.

This is about the lady, lying just outside the hospital wall,

That reeks of urine.

There are many like her, haggard, filthy, ill.

They told me, not to encourage begging,

The beggars were all rich, just disguised.

The lepers with deformed hands and bandaged feet-

they were getting government aid, so we need not worry!

There were regulars- you recognize them when you’ve been around a while.

There is the lady faking seizures,

The aggressive both arm amputee,

The young woman with a child, so unlike her in appearance,

The leper couple who begged together,

The old man, who almost looked holy with his long shaggy hair.

But this lady stood out- cos she was new.

I passed her every second day.

The first time I thought she was gone- she lay in her vomit and urine.

There were flies around her.

But she stirred.

I wished someone would take care of her.

There were so many charitable organizations.

Well, the next day, she was sitting up.

Someone had brought food and water.

The half empty packet was lying next to her.

The next time she was asleep again. There was a huge ulcer on her arm, the flies surrounded their target in swarms.

Today, she wasn’t there at her place, there was only a bundle.

There was no one else on the pathway either.

Then I realized, the bundle was her.

Curled up in fetal position, someone had covered her face in a sari.

They were pieces of a broken vessel near her and flowers stewed over the place, as per the custom.

I wondered who the ‘they’ were.

I wondered if someone was with her when she breathed her last.

Then I realized that in another life, another circumstance, she could have been me.

She may have been a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend; She certainly was someones child.

I was ashamed- Ashamed that I had seen her and not acted.

That I let my fears overcome my sense of humanity.

That I was so selfish in my pursuit of punctuality and order,  that I couldn’t stop for a moment to hold a hand and ask for the need.

I had failed as a human.

I wondered how different life would be,

 If we saw needs, instead of tear-provoking forwards on facebook.

If we would reach out for a hand, instead of the like button.

If we stopped following political news and celebrity thrash,

 instead looked out for a neighbor.

I am guilty of it too!

Can we challenge ourselves to reach out to at least one person a week?

Do you think it is too late to try?

 

 

 

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I Hunger, I Thirst.

Want to know the secret of contentment?

I Hunger, I ThirstIMG_5827

Ich habe Hunger. Ich habe Durst

Gudrun Pausewang

Mama Soto lives on a small goat hill in South America with her 7 children. Her ancestors settled on this land when conditions on the mountains became difficult. Her husband passed away soon after the birth of the last child. Mama Soto nevertheless lives a simple and contented life. The grass on the hill is enough for the goats. They provide milk for her children and cheese, which is sold. The money is used to buy things that can’t be grown. Occasionally they cut a chicken. The children spend their day playing on the hill and helping the mother run the house. Relatives, who stay nearby, help when a strong hand is needed. They look out for each other.

All is well, till a rich fabric owner takes fancy to the hill. She is forced to sell her land. As compensation, he offers her a sum which seems large to her. She later realizes that she has been cheated. She is unable to get a land of the same value. Her relatives advise her to move into the city. There she explores a new lifestyle: The children go to school, learn how to read and write; they wear uniforms and carry school bags; they learn the expectations of the rich and try to conform; they learn to sit on sofas and walk wearing shoes. She also takes in an old man who is homeless and a young woman with two children, whose husband is jailed.

All goes well till the money runs out. They shift to poorer quarters and Mama Soto has to find work. She is still not able to make ends meet working 3 jobs. Her oldest daughter drops out from school and runs away with a dancing troupe. One of the boys becomes the leader of a gang who steals things from warehouses. One day morning, they find the woman she has taken in missing, along with the rest of the money that Mama Soto had.

They are reduced to abject poverty and start living in a garage. Conditions of living are so poor that she loses her job, all the children have dropped out of school except one and the baby falls sick and dies. Mama Soto swallows her pride and returns to her village to stay with her relatives who would look out for her.

The story is written in a beautiful way. It portrays poverty and contentment very realistically. The poor are often blamed for their conditions and their lack of proper financial planning. We fail to realize their ignorance, lack of proper guidance and their simplicity of mind. Another theme in the story is community living- as cities increase in size, the interpersonal relationships deteriorate and looking out for others becomes scarce. We see how pride is lost with a loss of role in society and the means it takes to regain what is lost.

A book really worth reading.

I, unfortunately, couldn’t find an English translation.

The German version of the book can be found here.

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When yet another paper gets rejected…

They didn’t ask me how I dealt with all my rejections.

But when 3 research papers were finally published, they asked:

“How did you go about it?”

 or

“Could you teach me how to write a paper?”

The only answer I have is:

START SOMEWHERE AND DONT GIVE UP!

I don’t have a Ph.D. or even a commendable MSc.

But I had research projects that I had helped complete. There was the data, and no one had time to write it into a paper. I remembered the efforts of the students who had done the research and the value of the results itself and decided: The world needs to know about this. I asked for permission to write a paper and it was granted. No one probably trusted me to do it. But I loved writing and wanted to try scientific writing.

Not knowing exactly where to start, and not having anyone to guide me, I joined a course on Coursera on “How to write and publish a scientific paper”. Then I picked up a second hand APA Publication Manual- and read it twice through.

Then I started to write paper 1. Once it was done, I was pleased with myself and sent it to my guide (A). I never got a reply. I sent it again, estimating the time that was polite to resend the mail. I still didn’t get a reply. I sent it to an Indian journal, which rejected it straight.

Then I gave up.

With a spark of enthusiasm, I started on paper 2. Once completed, I sent it to another set of guides (B and C). It sat in one of their inboxes for 8 months- despite monthly reminders. The other one never saw it. I took the courage to ask if I could send it to a journal anyway- they agreed.

The first time it got rejected after 4 months. The reviewers left a few friendly comments though, which were encouraging. After picking up my reigns and making corrections, I sent it again. This time it came back with questions and queries 10 pages long; my answers to them were 15 pages long. I did it anyway. But it took a lot of courage.

And then it got rejected.

In the meanwhile, I was working on paper 3. I had little hopes that it would get published since it was guide A again. But I wrote it because I was learning so much through writing papers. Besides, I felt that I was getting better at this. It did not meet the scientific requirements of the first journal I sent it to and was rejected.

While browsing the internet, I came across a journal which looked compatible with paper 2. There was nothing to lose and I decided to give it one last shot. It came back (after a few months) with a new set of queries and corrections. I had done it before and been disappointed, I really did not want the process repeated. But I did, I’m not sure what made me- maybe it was all the effort and time spent on the paper already. I pushed myself, gathered all my self-will and replied.

It got accepted, with minor revisions and then published- 2 years after I had written it.

That gave me enough momentum to send paper 3 to a pretty good journal. I didn’t wait for the guide or the student who said she couldn’t find time for 3 months to sign and scan the author agreement. They send it after 3 months with pages and pages of corrections. Once I made the corrections I sent it back. This went back and forth 4 times before it was accepted.

By now 3 years had passed since I started writing my first paper.

The fourth paper I wrote got accepted immediately with minor revisions, to one of the best journals in my field.

What did I learn from my experience?

  1. I learned to trust my skills and abilities. I always felt before that my work wasn’t good enough and depended on others for validation. I wasted a lot of time in that, and realize now that I did not need it.
  2. I learned that no one has to teach you– you just need the motivation to learn. There are so many resources available which are free and so helpful.
  3. I learned to be patient. I learned not to check the journal updates every day. I learned to get on with life while waiting.
  4. I learned that hard work pays off– This is to all my colleagues who frowned when I didn’t join in the midday gossip sessions and typed away.
  5. I learned not to back down and give up. Your efforts are worth the results, it is just a matter of time.
  6. If you feel discouraged- Treat yourself with chocolate ( or pizza or whatever you like), pick yourself back up and give it just one last try.
  7. It’s never too late to learn. I thought I was well past my time of learning, but that is never true.
  8. Learning never ends. I thought once I had written 3 papers, I would be the master of writing. Nothing could be further from the truth! I am still learning with every sentence I write. I am currently doing this amazing course called “Writing in the Sciences.” I have so much left to learn!

And guess what- currently I’m writing paper 5 and 6, and I’m not going to stop!

 

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Can angels harm us?

The Guardian- Jane Hamilton

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Tabris, a guardian angel has committed an unforgivable crime. A crime that deserved banishment from God’s presence forever. But God has chosen to give him one more chance to make things right.

The other angels are angry and amazed. Angry that he would do something so unforgivable to the child he was responsible for; amazed at God’s grace. They do not want to accept Tabris back in their midst and they do not trust him. In the meanwhile Tabris is plaqued by guilt and is tempted by Satan to forsake God. Will he be able to resist the temptation in the absence of friends?

He makes a friend however, someone who bears pain for his sake. Who doesn’t back down even when Tabris rejects him. With his friendship and God’s love, Tabris is able to forgive himself and accept God’s forgiveness.

The book makes angels come alive. My children loved having the book read to them. It provides reassurance of the protection God offers them. The theme of friendship and selflessness is emphasized. It can be recommended for young teens, but also for old people like me, who just want an easy nice read.

I also found a nice website on the emotions of angels which can be accessed here.

You can get the book from amazon here.

 

 

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Should I take antidepressants?

To have a curable illness and to leave it untreated except for prayer is like sticking your hand in a fire and asking God to remove the flame. – Sandra L. Douglas

 

My intention in this article is not to advise, but to share my experience of taking antidepressants.

Over the past 3 years, I had depressive phases which lasted for months, before I had short periods of clarity and some joy in living. Then the cycle repeated itself.

I debated long before agreeing to medications for depression.

When you have a treatable clinical condition, why would you not avail of it?

For me, it was a moral dilemma. A lot of Christian views are against taking antidepressants.

My husband and the psychiatrist tried had to persuade me to get some relief, and thought I was unreasonable to refuse medication.

His argument was that “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Matthew 9:9-12

The truth was that I was afraid. I felt like I held my ‘condition’ so tightly in control, that if I took medication, I would lose control. I even thought that maybe I would not be able to have a close relationship with God.

I also saw other people who suffered from depression and were on medication, who just did not have it all put together. Besides, all I had to do was google the side effects, to firmly resolve not to take medications.

So I suffered long, but also grew closer to God.

They say God shouts in your pain. Nothing could have been truer.

But I do not believe looking back, that he wanted me to suffer the way I did.

There was not just hopelessness all the time, there were times that I had fun in life, I was creative, painted, wrote articles- I was not dysfunctional. This lasted for short periods, before cloudiness and haziness set in.

Some say that this is what life is about, not about being happy, but about suffering. Didn’t all the saints suffer? Happiness, they said, is an illusion. Or they said that the only happiness you find is in God, not in your circumstances. That we have to bear our crosses, no matter how hard, because that is what God expects from us.

All of them meant well. Maybe they had bad experiences with medications or had seen other people suffer from the side effects of it. There are also probably people who misuse the medication or take it without a proper diagnosis of depression. I don’t know.

This year I thought had been better than others, when I had yet another episode of fear- depression- anxiety.

Taking medication was an impulsive decision, like plastering a wound at a time of intense pain.

I was surprised at its effect on me. I had not expected it to start working so soon. 3 days after starting medication I woke up clear headed. The dark clouds were gone and my thinking was clear. The first few days felt funny. The extreme emotions that resulted from stressful situations just did not arise. As a result my anxiety decreased, and I could face situations better.

I did have side effects. I have never yawned as much as I have in the past 3 weeks. But the drowsiness is getting better. I was a bit constipated, which also resolved with more fruits and veggies. I have dry mouth, as a result of which I am drinking more water- which isn’t a bad thing.

I’m sleeping so much better. I am able to plan my day better. My thinking is much clearer. I am a better mother and a better wife. I once again have goals in life and ambitions. It’s not about the daily struggle anymore, though they still exist at times, I get less overwhelmed.

At times I wonder- This is what normal people feel like all the time?

Jea Drevecky in a daily devotional called “Hope for today” writes:

“But the human brain is a physical organ. Why can’t we accept that the brain can get sick, just like the heart or the liver can?

So don’t just sit there and let someone tell you to pull yourself together; you may be physically incapable of pulling yourself together. Even if you’re afraid of what you might find out, face that fear and get professional help to find out what is causing your problems and what can be done to help you.”

“For the sadness that is used by God brings a change of heart that leads to salvation- and there is no regret in that! But sadness that is merely human causes death.”

2 Corinthians 7:10

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Spoilt rich kids – watch out.

I wish you would

Look.  Beyond.  Yourself.

And see the world for what it is.

For it does not exist-

To serve YOU.

I’ve heard enough of your petty sufferings,

And imagined illnesses.

May be you can’t help your tinted glasses?

But do you really think you are less lucky than:

Your maid who cleans up the mess,

Your driver at your beg and call,

Your hairdresser who can never get it right,

Your tailor who doesn’t keep the dates,

Your cook who makes too oily food.

Have some compassion, before you criticize:

The poor mother who can’t afford healthy food.

The co worker who is badly dressed.

The fat woman who won’t sign up for a gym.

The woman who doesn’t have it all put together.

It takes more than discipline and willingness.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Take off those glasses, if only for a while.

The world is so tall, so large, so wide….

You miss so much

With your selective eyesight,

With your hearing of only pleasantness,

With your touch of only that’s clean,

With your taste of exquisite food.

You didn’t deserve to be where you are.

Neither did anyone else.

 

 

 

 

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