Monday, January 30, 2017

सपने

आँखों में नींद है ,
हौसलों में बुलंदियां ,
कुछ काम अभी हैं बाकी ,
रुक जाओ निंदियाँ ।

यह काम गर मैं कर लूँ पूरा ,
सो पाऊंगा कुछ चैन से ,
फिर उठना है मुझको ,
उजालों की ओर , दूर अंधेरों से ।

लगन हो गर किसी काम में ,
फिर क्या रात और क्या दिन ,
लगन हो किसी  सपने की  चाह में ,
तू सिर्फ अपने दिन गिन ,
लग जा समंदर की खोज में ,
जाना है गर तुझे उस पार  ,
डरना नहीं है ,
सिर्फ चलना है , आगे हर बार ।

न भूलना पर यह कभी ,
तेरे दोस्त भी हैं इस पार ,
उनके सपने में भी कुछ तू ,
अपना सहयोग डाल ।






Friday, January 20, 2017

Slippers and a Will

Whenever I visit a place the first thing I pack are my running shoes, but this time I reasoned (quite foolishly now I realize) that I would be able to use my informal casual shoes for the purpose of running while being away. I reached Uttan, the venue for the conference at 1pm on Sunday. Excited for the gym that the venue was housing, at 4pm I put on my gym gear and headed off to the gym. I spent 90 minutes in the gym, pushing myself asseverating that, "You got a gym here Yeshoda, it is a blessing, use it. Acknowledge it. How would you have felt if it were not there?". Workout always makes me happy, more confident, happier than anything ever can!

Next day, I woke up before dawn and set out for a run. It was dark, I was alone with myself, what a divine opportunity it was! I told myself that such ethereal surroundings I seldom witness in the city and that I must spend as much time I can in nature at all hours while at Uttan. I wore my casual sneakers, put on a pullover, my warm red skull cap, mobile and ear phones - I was ready, excited, grateful that I was alive to witness the divinity of the early morning hours. Whenever I go to a place, I usually run multiple times in a loop for there is often a lack of proper running track and the number of laps increase everyday by one. So, on the first day I ran 10 complete loops, completing 5km non-stop. I was very happy after the end of my run, the morning sun was still not visible and I had completed my run -  I felt victorious. The sensation of sweat dripping on your side face, on your forehead, on your upper-lips is a prize, it means we have pushed our bodies. And moreover, I always have felt that if we can sweat in cold weather, there is nothing that we cannot do. But during my last lap of the run, I could feel my feet hurting, I clearly understood it was some abrasion. After removing my shoes I saw two big boils on both my feet, it made me upset and invariably I was worried about how will I run during the coming days in these shoes then.I felt sad  on realizing my own lapse of an inept packing.

The doubt somehow took a backseat in the series of events related to conference. I went to sleep. 

It was morning again, I was lying on my bed, with my eyes open, wishing I could run, thinking how could I run, now that shoes were out of picture. And then a thought came to my mind, in times pristine, there were no proper shoes, no branded shoes, yet people ran. How did they run? They ran barefoot, sometimes in slippers! Slippers, yes I had them. I had my favorite leather Gandhi slippers which I wear all the time. I got up excited from bed, put on my running gear and set out in my slippers. I was to run 11 rounds and I did complete them. After the end of the run I felt very happy. Looking back I realized, may be there was a reason that somehow running shoes were not my companion on this trip. May be I was supposed to learn a very important lesson of my life, a lesson which would not have happened had I brought my shoes. What was the lesson? The lesson was quite a powerful one. I learnt that to be able to run I do not need proper shoes, all I need is will! That run filled me with happiness which even surpassed the happiness that I had felt when I had completed my first 10k . It was an achievement for me, my mind which was hardwired according to few concepts was dismantled, and a much better belief was planted there. I did not need shoes to run, I needed feet, I needed an obsessive will. 

And so for the next all days I diligently ran in slippers. Of course, since those slippers were tough I used to feel impact while normally walking throughout the day (never while running), but the joy that I was able to run was above all pain, more so because I was running after close to forty days after a minor yet debilitating injury in knee tendons. Recoveries after injuries are precious, to be able to stand up again after falling down is precious, to be able to run after struggling to walk is precious. I am still running regularly, because frankly speaking injuries are better than inability to try something new. 

This was a new lesson to me, and now I make out time to care for my cardio-respiratory fitness in addition to muscle strength and endurance. My friends, our health is our biggest asset. We often overlook at the importance of investing few minutes everyday to acknowledge this gift of able-body. Research has proved that fitness and not weight management is a bigger determinant of morbidity and mortality. 

Exercise is a magic, to be able to run and ensure a mental and physical well-being is a gift beyond explanation. So, decimate everything that is stopping you to experience this miracle, get out and get moving, wherever you are.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lessons from Mumbai : Public Spaces for Health

Today I returned from my week long trip to the Financial Capital of India, Mumbai. I was in Mumbai on pretext of a conference on Dis/Ability Communications where I presented my paper whose broad theme was fitness for people with disability. First four days I was at the beautiful venue of the conference, the Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini ( http://rmponweb.org/ ) and the next three days I stayed with one of my college seniors and explored Mumbai. I cannot single out that one thing that has touched me during my explorations of Mumbai, infact,  there are a dozen which have left a deep mark on my psyche, a print on my heart and planted lessons of lifetime in my mind. In this blog I will talk about something that not only forms the message of my life but is also what gives purpose to my life and is a lifelong meditation for me. 

As Indians, when we sit around a round table to discuss the health consciousness among Indians, we often come across phrases such as, "Indians? We are not much conscious of health", or "Unless something wrong goes with one's body metrics, one does not bother to strive to be healthy",  or even this that "Indians like flaunting health wearables more and pay less attention to being healthy in right sense", and my favorite, "You are talking about health of people with disabilities in a country, where not even the able-bodied exercise regularly". In short, a unanimous consensus is that Indians are not much health conscious to the extent of being called regular and consistent according to the recommended levels of activity levels by Department of Health and Human Services (150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). You might be wondering what has all this got to do with my Mumbai Visit. Well there is a connection and quite a strong connection. Ever heard of Worli Sea Face or Marine Drive Sea Face? Yes? Well then, there lies the answer! 

For the three days that I was in South of Mumbai, I visited Worli Sea face religiously, sometimes at night, sometimes early in morning to devote close to 90-120 minutes of walking in addition to the regular walk that accompanies when you are exploring a city. One day I also went to Marine Drive in the evening. And both these places gave me answers to all the questions raised in the second paragraph. I felt relieved to say the least. Of course, the answers did not come the first time but only at one particular night or evening (I clearly do not remember) when I was recalling how my day went by.  I saw people, hundreds of them, two hundreds of them, of all ages- young, middle-age, old, very old,  of all physique types: fit, thin, overweight, obese, healthy, girls and boys, men and women, grandfathers and grandmothers, retired servicemen and their friends and wives, couch potato who decided to workout, yoga practitioners and Ramdev baba followers. What were all these people doing there, you might be wondering? Well among this diverse spectrum of people were walkers, brisk walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists and those who do strength training using body-weights. And now you can imagine what a balm such a sight it was to my soul, an ardent advocate of healthy lifestyle!! It gave me immense peace to see that the track called as Worli Sea Face and Marine Drive Sea Face were crowded  both during morning and evening times! It gave me a kind of feeling that a student gets when he finally manages to pass the exam in that one subject in which he has been lagging for quite a long time. Right at 6am, if you go to any of these two tracks you can see people there, people or should I say Indians who are conscious of health, Indians who know that a gentle walk, or jog or run for at least 30 minutes does wonders for their mental and physical health. Those who can not make in the morning, ensure they come in evening, but come they do! What a Heaven it was, Heaven on Earth! Happy people, people exercising, people talking while walking, young children with their parents trying to match their parent's steps, people like me just staring at waters of a large sea and talking to waves and dreaming, a plethora of people, a gamut number of aspirations all brought together by this track or should I now refer to it as, "Public Space for Health". 

A morning scene at Worli Sea Face
I learnt that public health works when public health officials realize that to be able to express the needs for health, public has access to places where they can exercise, have a stroll in morning or evening, or run! Yes, I can see the counter argument coming  - walking on roads, taking a gym membership, doing Yoga at home etc. But I have a political opinion on this and that is, "Not sufficient, not inclusive, not serving the purpose of a healthy community". I have never ever seen even one-tenth of people I saw at these tracks on roads on my morning walks (and this is not because of time, I can assure), then what explains a deluge of people every morning, every evening and late night at such places I have referred to as "Public Space for Health"? I can say for sure now, that people in general are health conscious and when we focus so much about public health in India both in Urban and Rural in relation to Chronic and Infectious Diseases, we ought to focus on creating accessible infrastructure which provides people expression of their desires to live a healthier life. Just imagine, let's say, how many people would you find otherwise being physically active had such "Public Space for Health" at Worli or Marine been non-existent? Very less! I was in love with faces of people who were there, there was a sense of pride on their faces regardless of their current physical shape, a confidence oozing out and infecting everyone around, and most of all me.

A wonderful sight to see, a heart-warming sight and an experience which gave me answers to the questions in second paragraphs, to which earlier I had only silence to offer. It is not a Fitbit band that will make our public enjoy being active, it is not a Health app, it is definitely not a Jawbone, Apple Smart Watch or a MI-Band, on the contrary and much to the dislike of those busy developing expensive health solutions for a privileged few, it is these "Public Spaces for Health" that will ensure that our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our elderly are able to manifest their desire to be active in whatever form they can, to be able to manifest their desire to be happy, to be engaged in a real model of community health. How wonderful! I know, it sounds ironic to readers that I being a software developer myself in the health services division talks like this, but according to me and my ken this is a discovery! We do not need a band to tell us  how active we are, may be sometimes, but imagine what would happen if within every 3 km we have such places as "Public Space for Health" ? It might not be feasible everywhere or within 3km, but even in 5 km, it would greatly help in reduction of risk of morbidity and mortality in a population and also lower DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years) [http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/metrics_daly/en/] . 

Our world is poorly guided when it comes to being healthy. Big Pharmaceutical industries are taking advantages of poor knowledge of people and their lack of trust in the resilience of body by purveying a drug for every second change in body. Medical health is required, I do not deny it, but what kind of model are we propagating we must ask ourselves. Preventive or Curative? Not to digress, let us come back to our original thought current. 

I have got an answer and now I can answer anyone who says Indians are not conscious about health. Well, they are. I have seen it with my naked eyes and I am proud, extremely proud but more grateful at witnessing such "Public Spaces for Health". This is something I would call a sustainable change, an initiative truly in the direction of public service, a legacy, an Elysium! Never in my life have I seen so many people regularly exercising day after day, except in events like marathons. This is one of the most watershed moments of my life for I have seldom seen anything of this sort before, it has answered my  many questions, provided me with concrete directions but most of all, warmed my heart that my fellowmen are not languishing, they are ready to wake up and come for a walk, they are ready to finish off work early at office and come for a walk, they are ready if our infrastructure is ready. 

Healthy population is the biggest asset to a nation and its health economy. It is time we as future policy makers realize that public will co-operate if we provide them avenues, the tangible, inexpensive and more friendly ones which make their life REALLY easier.

Meanwhile, if you do not have any such "Public Space for Health" around you, find out one and then you will realize that life will never ever remain the same. 

God Bless you All. 
Stay Active.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

अनोखी अनकही कहानी

जो हमसफ़र न बन सके ,
वो हर सफर की गुज़ारिश बन गए ,
जो हमदर्द न बन सके ,
वो हर दर्द का सुकून बन गए |

जो यूँ मेरे न बन  सके ,
वो यूहीं किसी और के बन गए ।
जो यूँ मेरी हकीकत न बन सके ,
मेरे ख्वाबों की हकीकत बन गए ।
जो मुझसे इश्क़ बयान न कर सके ,
मेरे इश्क़ को बेज़ुबान कर गए ।

वो मेरी सुबह की रौशनी न बन सके ,
और मेरी रातों के सितारे बन गए ।
मेरी बातों की वजह बन गए ,
और मेरी खामोशी का राज़ बन गए ,
वो मेरी एक अनोखी अनकही कहानी बन गए ।

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

ICDC-2017 Reflections

It would be injustice if I do not share how much I have learnt about the import of research from ICDC (International Conference of Disability Communication -2017), a conference I attended in January, in Mumbai. It was altogether a different experience; I met people whom I normally would never meet. I met someone who can speak excellent English but cannot hear (this still baffles me), I met someone who is deaf (cannot speak & cannot hear) and I did talk to these people, sometimes using my mobile chat and sometimes through actions.

The energy and the momentum in the conference was infectious to say the least. The volunteers who were students were extremely cordial, kind and understanding. The best part was the relationship they shared with their professors, talking to them, laughing with them and having a gala time as if he was their classmate. I mean, I never had such kind of relationship with my professors. What a heart-warming sight it was!!


Scientifically curious that my mind is, invariably my attention went to the unique, unconventional and different fabric of research topics I was privileged to see here. This observation led me to learn that there is really no restriction where research comes, one can just research on anything. Research is afterall trying to formulate your own understanding of the concept and analysing that concept in a creative way through a particular perspective. I mean, I was baffled when I saw research papers analysing the movies in respect to disability communication and portrayal of people with disabilities in the movies. Who among us would have thought that  “Golmaal” would assume a stance from research point of view? I have not watched that movie completely, but until this conference that character (played by Tusshar Kapoor) was equivalent to a funny figure in the movie, a non-protagonist that he was, it never really came to me that he was actually speech impaired. Somehow the disability was veiled behind the pretense of gimmickry. Who among us actually saw his struggles?

With a complete session on Media and Disability, talks on the movies like Black, Forrest Gump, Koshish etc. were norm of the day. I was literally flummoxed on witnessing that content analysis through movies also provided an avenue for a research work. This was something very new to me. I learnt that as children we have been brought up through our serials and movies that people with functional deformities are crooked characters and have to bear the brunt of their previous births and that they are symbol of a bad omen! Objectification and stereotypes, I learnt was a bad practice and had been in the mainstream cinema for quite a long period of time.

In the entire conference, this genre of research on movies quite fascinated me. Another aspect that caught my eye was the research revolving around content analysis. A study comparing media coverage of olympics and paralympics informed me about how easily we never really question, think or bother about asking and deliberating about events that form big events on the world stage. Clearly, research that we generally as students perceive in our colleges or institutions is not some esoteric or complex amalgamation of concepts whose idea is to confound people and carry the vanity of accomplishing something unthinkable or undoable. Anything that intrigues can be a potential research. The mere falling of an apple down the tree, a simple event was irresistible to Newton and thus was born the concept of gravity. A thing like newspaper, which we read everyday (I hope), is a big source of data itself and that too data in the time it is relevant. Coverage of certain topics of national and social importance in newspapers is a solid research study which tells us which issues really bother us as a nation and what journalists are writing about and how is the society being informed. There is no dearth of knowledge and information around us, we need to think, question and critically analyse.

Another interesting and a very useful lesson I learnt was that as a researcher myself, I have to be my biggest critic .At every step, I must always ask, “Why am I doing, what I am doing”. This was an answer given to my question by a Swedish professor when I asked her what she really meant by creativity in the domain of research. I must admit she made me slightly better by suggesting that, “Be your own biggest critic, not self-effacing”.

In short, the conference led me to waters unexplored, it taught me how to strive to always refine my approach when it comes to putting things in perspective, it was a scientific Prozac for my anxiety to understand real, relevant and challenging research, another watershed in my bucket of scientific experiences. A thing, invariably always I observe when professors, the dedicated ones, address a gathering from the podium and that is their humility, their acceptance to suggestions and deference towards the questions of others. I believe knowledge really makes one realize of how much there is to know and how much is not known.

Apart from all this, it was a great experience. I definitely am more informed in the last three days that I have spent here, I have met different people and by people I do not mean their physical structures or their working senses, by people I mean minds and brains. I am very happy about one fact though that I have learnt to look at people beyond their physical structures and perceived anomalies, and that has been a beautiful lesson.
One must participate in events, symposiums. Planning might seem tough and convenience might scream to get take over, but pushing is worth it. A straight road never made, they say, a skilled driver.
Keep learning & keep sharing & be humble.

My trip to Swasthya Swaraj : Computer Lessons

This is a post in continuation of my attempt to share lessons from my visit to Swasthya Swaraj Society. Swasthya Swaraj is a secular, not-...