Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Squeeze In Time Keeps The Cancer Away!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
And, it being a cause close to my heart, how could I not devote a post to it?

Cancer, particularly that of the breast, hits a raw nerve.

Maybe it is that I am reminded of my loved ones who have fought losing battles with the dreaded disease.

Two years ago, I lost a favourite aunt.
A lump in the breast ignored for too long, eventually permeated her lungs and claimed her life.
In contrast another aunt whom I love deeply, acted promptly when she discovered a lump in her breast and today, leads a happy, fulfilling life.
Yes, the shadow of uncertainty does hang over her like the Sword of Damocles.
But, she is alive, and, most of us who know her are grateful for that.

There isn't a woman on this planet whose heart goes cold with dread at the prospect of being a victim of Breast Cancer.

For many, the fear of loosing a breast, and therefore being less feminine, is as terrifying as losing one's life.

However, despite the fear, despite the statistics that report on breast cancer being the most common cancer in women (aside from skin cancer), a sizable portion of the female population continue to remain apathetic in caring for themselves.

We women have a plethora of reasons and excuses to hide behind.
And, they come in all forms and tones.....

The self-assured, cocky.......Me & Breast Cancer? No way!'

The defiant challenge.......' If it was all that serious, surely my doctor would have suggested checks'

The weary, I-have-the-weight-of-the-world-on-my-shoulders.....' Where do I have the time? '
The patient, why-am-I-talking-to-a-retard....'I don't have a family history of breast cancer.'

The paranoid ' Because it will hurt...and besides, I hate hospitals and doctors and anything remotely associated with the medical sciences'
Which, I confess, is my preferred response to illness or any such threat to my physical self.

The terrified, ' What if I do have cancer? What if I die? I would rather live my last days in peace and not knowing...'
Not to mention the even more terrifying worries about the financial burden a positive test can lead to

The excuses are dime a dozen...And, so unreal.

It is amazing that a woman who would brush aside all such excuses when the health of a loved one is at risk, would resort to them when it comes to caring for herself.

And, depressing.

Breast cancer has claimed enough victims.

It is time for us to step out of denial and value ourselves better.
To accept our prime responsibilty to ourselves.
And, realise that no one else will fulfill our responsibilities to ourselves.

It is time for us to stand up and take charge of our health and well being.
Because good health is critical for our functioning in all spheres of life.
And, the key lies well within our grasp.

But above all, it is time for us women to free our minds from fear and understand that breast cancer does not necessarily mean the loss of a breast.

Even if it does, it is important to understand that a breast does not a woman make.

Femininity is a state of mind.
And for that to endure, it is important that a woman be alive and healthy.

So ladies, don't be shy.
Go ahead and cop a feel
Remember, a squeeze in time, will not only save that boob, but your life as well.

The Pink Ribbon Graphic used in this post has been designed by Kim West & downloaded from Pink For October

The Pink Ribbon that the Mad Moggies blog proudly sports has been designed by Denis Ryan & downloaded from Carol Sutton's website.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Message On The Auto !

All my life, I have heard people talk about the wickedness of the world we live in today.

This is Kaliyug...trust no one
Pray that God keeps you...
Today's world has no conscience

Parents vs children, siblings at war, friends betrayed for a song, greed, theft, anger, violence...all the signs of a world gone wrong. Not to mention the incidents of catastrophe, natural & man-made, that strike at the foundations of our society at regular intervals.

Yet, there are moments in life, when the strength & generosity of the human spirit overwhelms me.
And, fills me with hope.

Like this morning.
I was in desperate need of fruit, and other such mundane essentials of survival that one only finds in a large supermarket. I confess, I love supermarkets and meandering about a large, well stocked supe is one of my favourite Sunday past-times.

As I stood on the lonely road, scanning the horizon for an obliging auto rickshaw, I was rather surprised to see a vehicle dressed in white heading my way.

It was a rickshaw, seemingly draped in a white dhoti!
Well, a white dhoti with red and blue words and squiggles all over it.
Pretty much like one of those privileged permed and coiffed pets on TV, which is forced into designer clothes by its doting owner.

As I squinted disbelievingly, the auto in white cruised to a slow stop next to me.

And, a young cheerful face popped out of the side, oblivious to my expression of shock and curiosity.

I was not entirely sure if I wanted to ride into town in a shrouded rickshaw, covered in squiggles that I did not understand.
What if it was propaganda of sorts?

And yet, I did not seem to have very many choices by way of transport....

Which is why when he enquired nonchalantly, I could only stammer out my destination..distractedly.

His accepting nod suddenly resolved the conflict raging within.
I had to know before I hopped on.
And so, hesitantly, in pidgin Kannada, I asked him what the message on his auto was.

" Oh, I am collecting funds for the flood victimsin Karnataka & Andra Pradesh. I do not like to ask people for money, which is why I have a banner on my auto and a collection box inside. Anyone who wants to contribute is welcome to do so."

This, he said, in a matter of fact tone which asked neither for applause nor appreciation.
It was merely an answer to a question.
And one, which piqued my curiosity.

As we sped along, I could not resist asking Ramakrishna as to how he planned to ensure that his money reached the intended recipients.

" Madam, I hand this over to the TV 9 office where they are collecting funds for relief activities. It is explained on the banner so people will know I am not a cheat."

And did people contribute? I asked
" Yes they do...In tens and twenties. I collect about 600-700 Rs. each day "

The numbers he cited jolted me.
And, my skepticism about the generosity of the society we lived in.
Are people more giving that I had imagined them to be?
Are they capable of more compassion and caring?

As I mulled over these questions, my eyes fixed unseeingly on the crude collection jar in front of me, Ramakrishna added
" Actually madam, the fares I have received this past week have also gone into that jar. I must set an example, no? So I ask the passengers to put the fares into the jar and a lot of them add a few rupees extra."

The man flummoxed me.
Why would he deprive himself of a week's earnings for people he did not know?
Had never met and probably never would in his whole life.

Maybe he was a mind reader.
Or perhaps, it was the incredulous expression on my face that prompted him to explain his motives.

" I feel bad when I see the plight of the people in these flooded villages. Imagine that, madam. Imagine loosing every single thing you posses and not have anyone to turn to because everyone you know is in the same desperate situation? And still they refuse to give up. When I see the hope on their faces, I feel I should help them..even if it is a small effort, at least I know I have done something"

His words struck a chord deep within me.
I could not, for the life of me, imagine being in such a plight.
Or, having the courage to cope with a catastrophe of this magnitude.

I don't know how many of us can.

Every single day, the world wakes up to news of such disasters.
Yet, many of us go about our daily lives without a second thought about the people afflicted by these disasters.

We tell ourselves that there isn't much that we can do.
Little realising that every little effort counts.
And that we can make a difference.

We do not need to make extravagant gestures.
Nor, do we need to deprive ourselves vastly.

Sometimes, a little goes a long way.
And this, I learnt from a humble auto driver today.

As I alighted at my destination, I gingerly pushed the fare into the box and then, some more.
Ramakrishna's delighted thank-yous sent waves of shame rippling through my being.

Here was a man who was donating a whole week's earnings, incurring costs to go about his daily work and uninhibitedly urging the rest of us to do our bit for people in need.
And, the grandness of his gesture did not prevent him from appreciating me for having donated just the cost of a decent meal.

What could I tell him?......Other than Salut.

Monday, October 5, 2009

An Affair Not To Remember?

The times....they are a changing!

Gone are the days, when men like Romeo and Devdas either died, or drank themselves to destruction to forget the pangs of a love lost.

At the movies this afternoon, a friend and I watched with aching hearts as the hero's friend broke his pensive contemplation of his drink, to hold aloft a diamond ring before mournfully informing his friend that his girlfriend had not only rejected his proposal, but had also dumped him.

As we blinked back the early prickles of salty tears at the back of our eyes, we were surprised to hear scattered laughter in the theatre. Despite the darkness, we could not help exchanging bewildered glances.

" People are laughing???" Every syllable of mine, resonated with consternation and indignation.

"New age wisdom, I suppose?" She hissed back at me, sarcasm writ all over her words .

And, we turned our attention back to the silver screen, expecting the hero to console his friend in the time honoured manner of Hindi movies. With sympathy, liquor and maybe, even a song and a dance.

Well, we were in for a disappointment.

For, on the large screen, the hero gleefully gurgled " I told you so..", amidst paroxysms of laughter.
And, the heart broken lover concurred " You told me so", with equal gay abandon.

" You are such a fool..."
They were, by now, rolling around, clutching their sides, barely able to contain their tears of mirth.
" I am such a fool...."

As the duo chortled away the last wisps of tragic romance out of the theatre, the two disillusioned romantics slumped into their seats, grateful for the anonymity of the darkness, as they manfully tried to join in the laughter that now echoed around them.

New Age Wisdom?
The Age of Cynicism?
Or, The End of Tragic Romance as we knew it?