May 18, 2013 By
May 11, 2013 By
Today, the second Sunday of May, has been set aside as Mothers’ Day. Kids all over the world will try to do whatever they can to make their mothers feel special. Some will give their mother flowers or cards. Some might even prepare a home-cooked meal, or take their mom out for dinner.
When Mothers’ Day became a recognized holiday in the U.S. in 1914, it quickly spread to the rest of the world. And just as quickly, by the 1920’s it had become as commercialized as any other holiday.
But why should you only honour your mother on the second Sunday of May? It’s just a date chosen arbitrarily. It could’ve been any other date or better yet, it doesn’t just have to be one date. Why can’t people show their love for their mother every day? Or rather, why don’t they? Your mother should be important enough to you that you would have no problem with showing her that you love her everyday- whether you want to show your love by just saying ‘
“I love you” or by showering her with gifts, it’s your prerogative. Be spontaneous; show your love everyday in all of the little ways that count much, much more.
You wouldn’t even exist if not for your mother. With it becoming more accepted for females to have abortions or to be on birth control, your mother could have decided that she didn’t want to have to deal with a noisy kid. She could have decided that she wanted to be some high-powered executive, completely focused on her career, caring about nothing but her job. But she didn’t. She decided to have you.
So let’s hear it for those wonderful women who had to put up with our wailing in the middle of the night as babies, our whining about going to school, our teenage angst, and everything else. The women who all too often are our shoulders to cry on, the persons we share our hopes and fears with, the persons who worry about us more than we ever worry about ourselves.
And when we become mothers, we often pattern our behaviour after our own mothers. And my mom has certainly set the bar pretty high–ten years from now I’ll have some big shoes to fill. But the good thing is that your mom would be there to help you get through your own journey through motherhood. She’ll teach you how to hold your newborn child and of course she’ll spoil your kids rotten so they’re always more excited to see their grandmother than you.
And this Mothers’ Day isn’t just limited to celebrating your biological mother. It’s a time to honour all of those great women who were mothers to you, who at some point treated you like you were their own child.
And even though you should be showing your love every day, it IS a nice gesture to go that extra mile on Mothers’ Day.
HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY!
May 4, 2013 By
“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid? That is the only time a man can be brave”, – George R R Martin
Today is the 175th anniversary of Indians arriving in Guyana. 175 years since the first batches of Indians arrived on the shores of Guyana aboard the Whitby and the Hesperus.
And in Grade Two, around this time, our project was to make a model of either the Whitby or the Hesperus. I remember those days (not so very long ago) when my dad and I would painstakingly glue on sails to the masts and paint on tiny portholes onto the sides of the ships.
For me, building that ship was one of the things I like the most about Indian Arrival Day. We put a lot of effort into building that ship. We didn’t just build some generic ship – we built the Whitby. We did research to try to build the ship as accurately as possible. It made me reflect that this ship was something important. So as far as school projects go, that one was pretty thorough.
And for the other grades when we didn’t have to build ships, there was always a special effort by the teacher to teach something specifically concerning the arrival of Indians in Guyana.
But somehow, in secondary school, interest in the arrival of Indians to Guyana for some reason waned. The holiday came and went relatively unremarked. There were no more assignments to build the Whitby or the Hesperus. Or even to reflect on why their “arrival” was necessary. We should think about those reasons for the neglect.
We had to build Columbus’s ships though. And learn about his voyages, and his heritage and his birth and his parents and his death. We did spend an entire year learning about our indigenous people but not too much about how they were exterminated.
In history textbooks, there was probably only a single chapter dedicated to Indian arrival and heritage. You could blink and literally miss the entire topic of Indian Indentureship to the Caribbean. And yet about half-a-million souls arrived and the vast majority remained.
Today, there are activities to commemorate Indian Arrival Day – but we have to call it “Arrival Day”. There’s the Alka Yagnik and Udit Narayan Show and there’ve been other stage shows. And these are of course a welcome way to relieve stress before our exams begin this week.
And Indians have contributed so much to our society and culture. There is so much diversity present in our dances and songs and music and food. They deserve to be celebrated even more widely
I’m Guyanese, I’m a Caribbean person – I’ve never even stepped foot in India. I’ll always support the West Indian cricket team over the Indian team without question. But the cultural practices, philosophy and beliefs that my ancestors brought and preserved from India, have shaped me, my ideas and my ideals.
So for me, May 5th is an important day. It’s a momentous occasion. It’s the day that the first set of Indians crossed the Kala Pani (Black Waters) and arrived on our shores.
It’s the day when they disembarked on an entirely different continent. It’s the day that everything changed for them – and for us in Guyana.
It’s the day that their old life ended and a new life began. For better or for worse, they were here, in Guyana, a whole ocean away from their old lives. And most of them left behind family members, and most of them, like my great-great-grandfather, never saw those family members again.
It must have been so traumatic to be transplanted from everything that was familiar to this completely alien land. But they pushed on, they survived and they prevailed.
They made a home away from home.
They forged a new identity to cope with everything that they had to deal with. They showed courage and fortitude in the face of hardship. They pushed aside their fears to bravely make a better life for themselves and their descendants.
Happy Indian Arrival Day!
April 27, 2013 By
“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” – Oscar Wilde
Last week, the 23rd of April, was the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and also the day chosen by the UN to celebrate books and their influence on our lives.
But books, in the traditional sense are fast going out of ‘style’ and are quickly being replaced by the much more versatile eBooks. Novels and even textbooks are being sold as digital reproductions rather than in actual print.
eBooks have certainly revolutionised the world of reading. Instead of waiting for weeks for your book to be shipped in, or for your local bookstore to receive their orders, you can receive your eBook within a matter of seconds.
Of course eBooks lack the feel and smell of an actual book. They lack the feeling of turning a page. We’re sure that when we moved from handwritten manuscripts to printed books many people were bent out of shape. But eBooks make up for that with their own useful features. Useful features like being able to define a word within that very book, instead of having to track down a dictionary which would most likely be shoved way back in one of the far corners of your bookshelf.
And then of course there are audio books. Persons can make otherwise mundane tasks like vacuuming or doing laundry more tolerable by just downloading some of their favourite books as audio books and listen to the books being narrated to them. Of course, the danger of that being that there are some narrators who simply do not do justice to the books with their dull, monotonous reading.
Technology has touched all aspects of our lives. It has affected the way we prepare our food, the way we travel, the way we communicate with each other. And it has certainly affected the way we read, and what we read.
There are sites like Goodreads where the users can discuss the books they’ve read, review the books and speculate over what might be the fate of their favourite characters in upcoming books.
Too often, there are books that our friends have never read, have no interest in reading, or are simply not as rabidly interested in the book as we are. So while you have a burning desire to dissect every sentence of the book to try to discern the character’s motives, or you want to theorise about motives and whatever, there mightn’t be people around you with that same compulsion.
And that accompanying realisation and disappointment can be crushing. For those of us who are so emotionally invested in what happens to our favourite characters, we need to discuss them to get closure.
So now, thanks to the millions of book forums on the Internet, we can do that. People, millions of miles away from each other can go over plot points, go over nuances that other persons might have missed. We can rage about characters we hate in a space where everyone is there, just appreciating the same book or series. Share theories about what might happen next. Write our own fanfiction. Happy reading!!!
Technology has changed the way we read in so many, many ways.
Reading and books will always be a part of our world. It’s just that we’re changing, and adapting the way we read. And the best things always adapt to survive, to remain with us through the ages.
April 20, 2013 By
This Monday marks the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day, It’s always struck me how differently different cultures personify the Earth. As Hindus, we view the Earth as Dharti Mata…Mother Earth – nurturing, caring, like a mother. Every morning before getting out of bed, we are exhorted to ask forgiveness for stepping on her. The Greeks used to view the Earth as Gaia, personifying the Earth as a giant connected ecosystem working to maintain balance and harmony within the environment.
But how do we view the Earth today? We certainly don’t treat the Earth as reverently as we once did, that’s for sure. This arises out of the western view that sees the Earth and all its creatures as being there for our exploitation.
We cut down trees, burn fossil fuels, and spray insecticides like there’s no tomorrow. We clear massive swathes of trees to build factories, to plant specific crops or just to do landscaping to make the place ‘prettier’.
Basically, we’re doing our best the make sure there’s no tomorrow.
Humans have impacted the Earth in a big way, and going by all of the climate change and global warming dangers, we haven’t exactly been a positive influence.
But we can’t just decide to shut down our factories, stop driving our cars, stop constructing buildings. As a species, we’re continuously trying to move forward, trying to make discoveries, it’s not realistic to think that we could just shut down and go back to the Stone Age. But this drive does not have to translate itself as destroying the Earth,
At the individual level, we could try to do the little things, which in my estimation will result in a ‘big thing’ – a shift in the paradigm of how we view the earth.
One of our biggest problems, for instance, is that many of us seem to have absolutely no problem with littering. Without compunction, most throw wrappers out of car windows like confetti to celebrate their don’t-give-a-damn attitude and utter disregard for the appearance of their surroundings.
Respect the Earth, respect your surroundings. Hold onto that soda can for just a few minutes until you find a bin.
And when you’re choosing a car to buy, do you really need that giant gas-guzzler? By buying more fuel-efficient vehicles, you would be able to do your part in slowing the depletion of our fossil fuel reserves and also you would be reducing the amount of Carbon Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide produced by the combustion of fuel in your engine, since you would be burning less fuel overall.
These are both supposedly little things, but little things can add up – that’s probably the first thing we learnt in math (whoop! Finally, Math…has a purpose in my life.). Little things can also subtract out from our destructive impulse.
The world around us is changing, and some of these changes aren’t for the better.
And these aren’t abstract, existential changes. These are real, physical changes we can track and measure and see with our own eyes.
Sea levels are rising. Countries like Guyana which are below sea-level will be greatly affected especially since most of our population is concentrated on our coast.
So this Earth Day, think about the Earth. Think about what small part you can play in helping to preserve the Earth.
The Earth won’t be ‘saved’ by some superhero swooping in to fix all of our problems. It’ll be saved by normal people like me and you getting our act together and being more conscious about the way our actions can affect the world around us.
And we do need the Earth to be habitable for quite a while seeing as we can’t just pack up shop and move to the Moon.
April 14, 2013 By
“Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Life is full of ups and downs. Everyone has those times where they feel completely and absolutely miserable. But for some people, those downs last much longer. For people suffering from depression, those downs, those feelings interfere with their everyday life. Interfere with their relationships, interfere with the way they treat the people around them, prevent them from enjoying things they normally would have.
Everyone can suffer from depression – even children. But somehow in Guyana, even though there have been several campaigns to alert people to its insidious and pernicious effects, we just dismiss its prevalence here.
And there are different types of depression. There’s major depression. Where the symptoms are so severe that the persons’ ability to sleep, study and eat is affected. And there’s minor depression, with symptoms lasting up to two weeks but could develop into a major depressive disorder if left untreated.
And then there’re people suffering from Bipolar disorder (aka manic-depressive illness), which is characterised by cycling mood changes – extreme high (manic) and extreme lows (depressive). Bipolar disorder often develops in a person’s late teens or early adult years.
Persons suffering from depression may feel persistently sad, worthless, anxious, hopeless or empty. They may be irritable, fatigued and listless. They might have trouble sleeping or they may be sleeping too much. They might have trouble concentrating or making decisions. They may overeat or lose their appetite.
And one of the more serious aspects of a person being depressed, is that they think of committing suicide, they plan out their suicide, and might even attempt to commit suicide.
Not everyone will experience all of the symptoms or experience the symptoms to the same degree of severity.
Before puberty, boys and girls are equally likely to develop depression. By age 15, however, girls are twice as likely as boys to have had a major depressive episode. Children who develop depression often continue to have episodes as they enter adulthood.
If someone you care about is suffering from depression, you should offer them emotional support, talk to them and listen to them. Actually listen to what they’re saying. Try to remove your preconceived notions and judgement and actually listen to what the person in front of you is trying to say.
And of course one of the most important things to do is to help your friend or relative to get diagnosed and treated.
Depression is serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly or passed off as being unimportant. Persons suffering from depression might hit rock bottom and decide to take their own lives. And by that time, it’ll be too late to help them.
So be supportive. Help your friends and relatives suffering from depression. Help them to get the treatment they need before it’s too late. We need to create a bigger awareness for this illness that’s not taken seriously enough.
April 6, 2013 By
“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha
Today is World Health Day! Every year World Health Day is celebrated to mark the anniversary of the World Health Organisation in 1948. And every year, a specific area of public health is highlighted as the theme for World Health Day.
This year, the theme is high blood pressure. And high blood pressure is a massive problem, including here in Guyana – even more so because high blood pressure rarely causes symptoms in the early stages and many people remain undiagnosed. It’s known as “The Silent Killer” with good reason.
Having consistently high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. This is why it’s important to test your blood pressure regularly to be aware of your blood pressure. It is important to know what steps you need to take to get your blood pressure under control before other complications arise as a result of your high blood pressure.
My great grandmother passed away this past week – and she lived to be 102! Yes, 102 – and she observed most of what I tell you below.
Some of the ways people can reduce their blood pressure are relatively simple and straightforward. Reducing your salt intake is one way to reduce your blood pressure. By just monitoring the amount of salt you use in your meals, avoiding certain high-salt snacks, you can take a positive step forward in controlling your blood pressure.
Other risk-factors contributing to high blood pressure are the harmful use of alcohol and tobacco smoking. Those habits are hard to kick for those already addicted to the nicotine, or for alcoholics, but hopefully the thought of dying prematurely due to a heart attack will be sobering enough for them to seek the medical help they need.
Another risk factor that could lead to high blood pressure is one which is probably one of the easiest to control – physical inactivity and lack of exercise. My great grandmother was always in the garden into her late nineties. There wasn’t a day she didn’t exercise.
With the advances in technology, it’s so easy to just sit around at home, not having to leave home that much.
Need to research something? Just Google it – no need to walk to a library. Want to look at a movie? Just stream it online – no need to go to the video store to buy a DVD.
Need to find out about someone’s health? Just ask them on Facebook, or call them – no need to actually visit them. Oh they’re in the hospital? Don’t worry; someone must have already posted a picture of them somewhere online – #hospitalbeds, #salinebags.
We live in a world where everything is literally at our fingertips and we’ve gotten lazy. So lazy in fact, that our ‘physical inactivity’ is now one of the main risk factors for high blood pressure.
Our laziness is literally KILLING us.
So get up. Get out there. Shake a leg. Break a leg. No not really. Or go ahead and break your leg. One of your friends will manage to get a couple of Facebook likes off of a picture of your cast. Just kidding.
On a serious note, don’t wait until it’s too late to get active. Jog a little. Do yoga. Do gardening. Do something. Don’t let “The Silent Killer” creep up on you. And you might make it to 102!
March 30, 2013 By
Usually, like any schoolchild, I love the holidays. Two weeks to stay home just lazing around? Can we get another two week’s extension on that? But this holiday, there’s still school on at QC for the entire upper school. And so, I have new-found enthusiasm for this four-day weekend. I guess I never realised what a big deal this four-day weekend could be since, I’m usually at home anyway. Usually, I wish the four-day weekend could be moved to some part of the year more convenient- like in the middle of the school term (what? We all need a break). But, seeing as school hasn’t really closed, I’m singing praises at the top of my lungs for the four days off. Also, I feel suitably remorseful about scoffing at workers who don’t get the entire two week Easter holiday that schoolchildren get. Needless to say, I’m full of sympathy (and self-pity!) now that we’re in the same boat.
And while I know that I’m not some ancient fossil (yet), I can’t help but sigh (a little jealously, if the truth be told) at the primary school still running around carefree, their biggest worry being whether their kites will stay up flying high or get drowned in the salt water of the ocean.
It’s the beginning of the end of my high-school life and I can’t help but feel that the last few seconds I have at school are slipping away, running ahead too fast for me to ever catch up. Pushing me towards the inevitable- that I’ll have to leave school and grow up. That I’ll have to be an adult and talk about the weather and have to know how the washing machine works! Maybe my CAPE physics will be of some use! It’s probably in that spirit that my friends and I took to the field to fly kites on the last day of school. Might as well be children while we still can, right?
There’s something to be said for just laying in the grass staring up at the clouds lazily drifting across the blue sky. Almost everyone has memories of flying kites, and most of those memories are childhood memories. Childhood memories, already bathed in that golden nostalgic glow. So it’s no wonder we enjoyed flying kites so much. It’s nice to hold onto something so familiar when we’re about to be pushed into a world with so many unknowns.
Tomorrow seawalls, community centres, parks and basically any other open space will be filled with families and friends celebrating Easter. For many, Easter has become a secular holiday, with persons of all religions using the day for a fun day of relaxation with the relatives and friends. For Guyanese, this means kite flying.
I guess even though loads of people use the “bird kites” now, the skill of kite-making won’t be lost since grandparents and parents keep passing down the secrets and tricks to eager children. And let’s face it; we only really use the bird-kites because we might be pressed for time because given a choice between a bird-kite and a fully-assembled traditional kite most of us would choose the traditional kite.
I remember when I was younger and I would just lie on the ground, the wooden catch for string clutched firmly in my hand, and watch my wooden multi-coloured kite (made by my father) flutter as if it were reaching for the clouds. Kites not only make you look upwards: they also make your imagination soar.
Have a Happy Easter everyone!
March 23, 2013 By
“Arey Hori Khele Raghuveeraa Avadh Mein Hori Khele Raghuveeraa…”
This Wednesday, the entire country will be splashed with colours as Hindus and also non-Hindus celebrate Phagwah – the festival of colours. In the morning, females of the home will be busy cooking all types of traditional Holi sweets like Gujiya, Gulgula, Ras Milai, and Gulab Jamoon so that everyone will be free to go out and play Phagwah.
Last Wednesday, the Queen’s College Hindu Society held its annual Phagwah show. And it was a special show in so many ways. It’s my last show as a student of Queen’s College, my last year as president of the society. Events like these, where you’re under pressure to organise and pull off the biggest show of the school year, can either push a group further apart, or can create closer bonds. Fortunately for us, our society got closer. Persons who may not be regulars at the weekly “satsanghs’ – meetings – stepped up to help, giving me hope that when called upon, young Hindus will rise to the challenge.
But of course our show was not limited to only Hindus or Indians, we had participants from all of the diverse groups of our “Queens’ family” who sang chowtals and bhajans with us, danced to Indian music and sashayed down the aisle to display Indian-wear during our fashion show.
Phagwah commemorates the beginning of spring, the triumph of good over evil and a time for new beginnings for everyone. It’s a story set many eons ago among a people called “Asuras” – traditionally opposed to the gods but incorrectly called ‘demons’. Our Queen’s performance told the story in narration, song, dance and drama with a cast of fifty.
A young Asura prince named Prahalad had the courage to stand up to his own father, King Hiranyakashipu who had started to challenge the Gods. Because of a boon he received form Lord Brahma, he was nearly invincible and so filled with arrogance and pride, he demanded he be worshipped by his subjects.
To paraphrase Albus Dumbledore, “It takes great courage to stand up to our enemies but it takes even greater courage to stand up to our family (friends)”. And Prahalad had that courage. No matter how many times his father and teachers tried to convince him otherwise, Prahalad always kept his belief in Lord Vishnu. And his prayers didn’t go in vain. The king had his minions try every which way to kill his obstinate son but to no avail: the boy was protected by Lord Vishnu. This was even when his Aunt Holika, immune to fire, tried to burn him in a pyre.
Finally, Hiranyakashipu scornfully challenged Prahalad to prove that Lord Vishnu was indeed in everything and everyone. Lord Vishnu appeared out of a pillar as Narsimha – half man- half lion. Hiranyakashipu’s boon was that he couldn’t be killed by man nor animal; not by hand nor by any weapon; not in the day nor in the night; not in a house outside nor on the ground nor in the air. Lord Narsimha killed Hiranyakashipu with his claws, on his knee, on the doorstep of the Palace at exactly dusk. Prahalad was crowned King.
The lesson, of course, is that anyone can be a Prahalad – even or especially the young – by standing up to the Hiranyakashipus in their life. Life isn’t about always being a passive person who doesn’t have opinions or who doesn’t stand up for their beliefs. That’s not to say you should always pick up cudgels whenever someone steps on your toes. But you should always let them know firmly, that you’re not just someone they can take advantage of.
The message of Phagwah is a very strong one. Stand up for what you believe in; don’t be a carpet that everyone walks over. Always remember Prahalad, a young boy who has the strength, the courage to stand up for his beliefs. Don’t just go along to get along.
So everyone, go out this Wednesday and have a wonderful, colourful Phagwah! Holi Re!
March 17, 2013 By