Maggots in the Cab


This was two years ago. It was like any other day, I was running as always to reach before time for the Conference. It is really satisfying for me to reach the venue before time and make good observations.

At times, finding a cab in a city like Mumbai can really test your patience so much so that one starts hating all cabbies. That said, on a sunny Saturday under the scorching sun, I approached a cabbie who had parked at a nearby cab-stand, asked if he could drop me to a place which was 3 kms away.  He was is no mood to speak so just shook his head ‘no’.  How arrogant, I judged him. He was dark skinned, wrinkled, a head wrap tied on his forehead, looked quite older than his age, maybe he was in his early 50s but looked very weak.

After waiting for about 15 minutes, the same arrogant cabbie called me and asked me to take a seat. I couldn’t believe my luck and happily hopped in the cab.  Now that happiness was really short lived.

As he started driving, he started coughing non-stop, the speed of the car never crossed 30 kmph (something like 18 miles per hour) and I was a bit frustrated with the speed as I did not want to be late for the Conference.

Then I noticed something weird, while he drove at a low speed, at times he would just halt, remove a cloth, soak it in kerosene (I could smell it) and then he would pat the cloth on this foot (I assumed that as he would bend). Now that’s something I have never experienced and it did freak me out.  I wanted to run but then there were too many thoughts before I spoke to him.

Me: You seem to be unwell. You may stop here. I will find another cab.  Don’t worry, I will pay entire fare to you.

Cabbie: Dead silence.

Me: Excuse me. <<Repeating the same sentences again>>

This time a bit scared as he was neither responding nor stopping the cab.

Cabbie: (Started crying) Will you help me? I am in pain.

Still scared as at that moment I needed help to get out of the cab and that situation too.

Cabbie: Please, don’t refuse.

I was trying to convince myself that there is no point in getting scared. Very softly, I asked, how can I help you?

Finally, he stopped the car and started sobbing. And what he spoke thereafter, shocked me and left me with a creepy feeling.

Cabbie: Beta, mere pair mein se keede nikalte hai (Child, maggots erupt out of the infections in my feet)

Unwillingly though, I looked at his feet and that sight cannot be described in words. I was frightened, clueless and caught in that cab.  I tried to calm myself.  I needed someone to handle that situation so I called my friend.  We helped him financially and moved on.

When I was walking on the street, the entire episode was running in my mind. I would re-play, stop, think and re-play what had just happened. I realized, that it is so easy to judge people. I thought he was arrogant when he refused for the ride.  I was frustrated when he drove at the speed of 20, without realizing that he was in pain.  I was too engrossed in my phone and thinking about the Conference, oblivious to people around me.

Every person fights a battle we may not know about. And little kindness towards people, or may be just kind words may make a difference to someone’s life.

And as Ralph Waldo Emerson, who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, says, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Cheers, Lubna

Sunrise at Raj Bhavan


“Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.” Nestled on top of Malabar Hill and surrounded by sea, Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the Governor of Maharashtra, is a silent retreat.

The heritage walk at Raj Bhavan started at 6:15 am and a guide from Governor’s PR Office accompanied us. On entering Raj Bhavan, the guide welcomed us while the moonlight fell on Arabian Sea which made the Moon look like a pearl shining on the sea.  The guide introduced us to the colonial-era Bungalows in this 46 acre property. Three-fourth of this beautiful property is covered by 6,000 varied species of trees.  The journey started from the Durbar Hall where ceremonies and meetings with Diplomats take place.  Durbar Hall was lit with Chandelier lighting and so was the Dining Room.

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Durbar Hall

 

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Dining Room

We then headed towards the Governor’s private beach which was under construction to be his vacation spot. The property claims to host 25 peacocks and if you are fortunate then you may spot few.

Finally, we walked towards the sunrise point and waited for the sunrise. Just before the sunrise, the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) point was lit – The straightened hands pouring water towards Sun signifies the importance of Surya Namaskar.

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Sun Salutation

The sun rose in its full glory like an orange ball, making the sky look like an artist’s palette of colours. There are yoga mats at the sunrise deck for those who wish to stretch or meditate.  The stairs from the sunrise deck leads to Devi Mandir (temple) which is dedicated to a nameless Goddess, commonly referred as ‘Sagar Mata’ (Mother Sea).

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View from Sunrise deck

After the sunrise, we walked towards the flag pole which hoists our National Flag at 150 feet above the ground. We were offered tea and biscuits while the PRO briefed us about the history of Mumbai pre-independence and its importance from socio-economic perspective.  He also shared that Raj Bhavan has a post office and a separate PIN code of its own.

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National Emblem on tea cups

 

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Governor’s official residence

 

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Overall, it was an amazing experience which made me feel like I was seeing Mumbai for the first time.

Timings: Tuesday to Sunday, 6:15 am to 8:00 am

Registration: Prior registration to be done online and Aadhar Number to be provided (subject to confirmation) http://rajbhavan-maharashtra.gov.in/rbmumbai/rbvisit.aspx

Cost: INR 25 per person

Cheers, Lubna

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Aerial view of Raj Bhavan

Saudi Arabia: A Story Untold


Last minute plans end up being one of the best memories. And my last minute plan to visit Saudi Arabia is no exception.  Saudi Arabia is the birth place of Islam and hosts holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

The holy place of Muslims in Mecca, Kaaba, a cube-shaped building is a place of worship that many Muslims all over the world flock to fulfill their Islamic faith. Muslims circumambulate the Kaaba seven times in a counter-clockwise direction which is one of the rituals of pilgrimage during Hajj and Umrah. The golden door of Kaaba is opened once in a year when the King unlocks the door and cleans the walls with rose water followed by the guests he brings with him.  The magnificent structure is covered with Kiswah, an embroidered black colour cloth made of 670 kg of silk and 150 kg of gold threads.

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Kaaba and Maqam-e-Ibrahim (foot prints of Prophet Ibrahim), Mecca

 

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Kaaba (door), Mecca

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Circumambulating the Kaaba, Mecca

On the other hand, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, mosque of Prophet Mohammed in Medina is mesmerizing. The most notable feature of the mosque is the Green Dome, followed by twenty seven sliding domes at the roof and 250 world’s largest folding umbrella converting the open plazas into fully covered outdoor rooms.

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Prophet Mohammed’s mosque, Medina (Day)

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Prophet Mohammed’s mosque, Medina (Night)

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Prophet Mohammed’s mosque (closed umbrellas)

 

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Open umbrellas

 

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Sliding dome, Medina

 

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Mosque (interiors), Medina

Every person has 2 stories, a story they tell and a story they hide. And here is a tale of an amazing woman I met in Nabawi mosque in Medina.  Many people distribute chocolates, dates, sweets, etc. in the mosque and there are Hadiya (gift) counters too. It was just before dawn, when I was sitting in the plaza outside the mosque and a 10 year old girl gave me 2 pieces of brown dates. She also gave 2 brown dates to the woman sitting next to me.  The woman’s face was covered with a veil so I could not guess her age.  Our conversation began with an eye contact when I saw “smile lines”, wrinkles around her eyes.  I asked her if she was a local to which she said, “I am a Bedouin”.  This conversation was just normal as one would have with a stranger but as dawn broke, the conversation unfolded like never before.  To my great surprise, that woman started reading my mind, she answered before I asked.  At first I thought, maybe I asked but she read that doubt too in my mind and said, “No, you didn’t ask”.  That made me a bit uncomfortable and I started thinking if I should stop talking to her. My discomfort was palpable as I started fidgeting with my ring.  She held my hand, I could feel her soft satin gloves, and then she said, “Stop thinking and start living”.  She continued, “We often think so much that we imagine situations which do not exist and get trapped in those imaginary situations.”  Then she narrated few things about me which nobody knows.  The sun had risen while she spoke like a rising wave, grabbing my attention and making me oblivious to the surrounding.

I was carefully listening to her and then she stood, bent, looked at me and said “While we reminisce those memories, they never come back to us. And if they ever come back, we no longer need them.” These were her parting words.  This experience was something unexpected rather strange which I could not recite to anyone but thought of expressing it in words.

While there are no rivers in Saudi Arabia, the country fulfils its water needs through aquifers. The ZamZam Well is the most famous well leading to one of the underground aquifers.

While my initial impression about the country was of a dessert land but the clock tower in Mecca and the lively city of Jeddah astonished me. Every year millions of Muslims from all over the world visit these magnificent holy structures in Mecca and Medina.  The heritage tours in these cities give a flavour of Islamic history.  How wonderful it would be if people understood and followed the meaning of the word Islam, derived from the Arabic root “Salema”: peace, purity, submission and obedience.

Cheers, Lubna

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Clock Tower, Mecca

Letters of Love


Imagine life on halt which holds risk of becoming a ‘Lost Generation’. The “Lost Generation” was the generation that came of age during World War I. Lost means not vanished but disoriented, wandering, directionless—a recognition that there was great confusion and aimlessness among the war’s survivors in the early post-war years.

Based on the United Nation’s findings, Turkey has been the host to most number of Syrian refugees. More than 2 million Syrian and Iraqi citizens have taken shelter in Turkey where they are trying to start a new life.

According to official figures from UNICEF, children currently account for over half of the total number of refugees. These children have been through immense trauma at a tender age and many of them have lost their families. Social media frenzy was created for Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian toddler whose dead body was washed up on the beach in Turkey which then become a symbol of the ongoing refugee tragedy.

One may not be able to change the entire situation but one has to do his or her bit to make a difference to someone’s life.

Letters of Love is a global initiative guided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that delivers personalized New Year postcards for Syrian, Iraqi and Yazidi refugee children in Turkey. If you’d like to send a refugee child a personalized New Year greeting then all you have to do is email your happy photograph and a warm wish to Pooja Pradeep (pooja.pradeep23@gmail.com). Letters of Love is Pooja’s initiative which hopes to make a difference to lives of refugee children and make them know that they do not belong to the Lost Generation.

To know more about this initiative, follow – https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/Lettersoflove and watch their video on YouTube – https://youtu.be/X7gE8rrMI74

I have sent my Letter of Love. Have you sent yours?

Cheers, Lubna

Playing mind games at Creeda


In today’s world of Internet of Things, I will not be surprised if humans are able to connect their brains to a device which will then make them think logically. But before this evolution takes place, we can try secure ways to train our brains.  And this mental exercise is so much fun if one has to play mind-blowing Board Games with friends and family.

Creeda is the only Café in Mumbai which is dedicated to Board Games and I really appreciate the owner’s idea of ‘Bonding over Board Games’. Creeda offers world’s best Board Games which gives a unique experience. The collection of more than 250 Board Games at Creeda is amazeballs. While Creeda welcomes all age groups, I think it is a great place for children and teenagers.  And the best thing is that it is creating a community of gamers where people connect and bond over Board Games.

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If you are a beginner, then you could try ‘Cluedo’, a murder mystery game which also helps sharpen direction and memory skills. Party games like ‘Anomia’ which leaves one with a face-off with the other player and one has to rub his brain cells to blurt out the correct answer first.  Strategy games like ‘Ticket to Ride’ wherein one has to make rail routes to reach the destination. As other players don’t know your destination, they may just block your route while trying to reach theirs.  That’s so much like real life.  Other games like ‘Black Friday’, a stock market themed game and luck based games are worth a try.  The staff at Creeda is just too good at suggesting games and explaining rules.

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Ticket to Ride

These Board Games teach a lot and exposes one to intellect, competition, interaction, time and resource management skills and a lot more.

When I asked Riddhi (owner of Café), what does Creeda mean to her? She says that playing games is her passion which she has converted to business. And I wonder, shouldn’t each one of us do that?  It sounds fascinating to be paid for something one loves to do.  At times one has to pause, think and take ‘that’ plunge which makes life more meaningful.

Timings: 12 noon to 10 p.m.

Cost per person: Rs. 180 per hour and Rs. 500 all day on weekdays; Rs. 250 per hour and Rs. 750 all day on weekends and Tuesday is a steal day where you pay for one person if you enter the Café as two

Must try: Dice-shaped pop cakes

Other information: Follow www.creeda.in and you can also place an order for your own Board Game

Cheers, Lubna

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Every dark cloud has a silver lining (Post-surgery) – Part 2/2


Two learning by way of two short stories (real ones) from this incident.

Story#1 – Sour experience at one of the most reputed Hospitals

We always believe our Doctors and don’t see the need to question them. At times, we agree to whatever Doctors say without even applying our mind, thinking that our life is at mercy of Doctors. I am not trying to be critical as this situation is surely an exception.

Old Doctor – I understand you haven’t signed the consent Form and have few questions. Tell me?

Me – I would like to know how you would go about the surgery to fix my bones and what about after-effects?

Old Doctor – Well your facial fractures are real bad. I am going to make four cuts, one inside your mouth, one under the eye, one on the skull after shaving-off your hair and use the existing cut near the temple to fix your bones.  And if you think any other Doctor can fix it in a better way, go ahead.  (Rudely) And if you delay the surgery then your face will become flat as if someone has stepped on it.

Me – And what about scars after the surgery?

Old Doctor – They will stay forever and you will have a lot of swelling on face.

Me – (Well that hurts) If that is my fate, I will accept it but for now I don’t want to go ahead with the surgery.

So, this Doctor’s intention was pure business and he lacked professionalism. That said, there are genuine Doctors too and the one whom I approached for second opinion was really kind.  The New Doctor assured that he would fix all bones through the existing cut and seal it such that the scar will be hardly visible.  He kept his word and did an excellent job.

The lesson here is to believe that there is always a solution and one should not rely on someone’s opinion unless fully convinced.

Story#2 – Three Ps – Patience, Positivity and Prayers

My surgery went on for 7 hours as it involved fixing of facial bones and eyeball. When I saw my face after the surgery, I was really scared.  My eyeball was protruding, swollen and blood red.  I was lying on the hospital bed without any movement for three days.  During those days, I only thought about the good times spent and great times which lie ahead.  I firmly believed that I will be perfectly fine and this is just a difficult phase which will pass soon.  And it really did!

And every day I saw a change in me, a better me. The power to eschew negative thoughts lies within us and the best solution for every challenge is to deal with it patiently, be positive and keep praying silently.

We often fail to be thankful for the blessings we have. I had not realized before that being able to chew food is also a blessing.

The lesson here is to be always grateful for all that we have and if required, compare ourselves to the not so fortunate ones.

And, a BIG Thank-You to each one of you for your prayers and wishes. My surgeries were successful and I am recovering well.  And the best thing is that my slight warrior scar makes me proud and humble every day.

Cheers, Lubna

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Dal Lake, Srinagar

A Fight with Self (Before Surgery) – Part 1 / 2


“While dawn gives hope of rays of sunlight, I move towards new memories leaving the old ones behind.” ‪#‎LehDiaries – I penned these lines in my diary looking at the first appearance of daylight in the morning while my bus moved towards the beautiful hill station of Manali. As I had not slept the previous night, I thought of catching up on sleep and rested my head on glass window screen of bus and dozed off.  Little did I know that I would wake up with a shock of my life!  The next thing I remember is that I opened my eyes to see my hands full of blood, there was blood on my shirt, jeans, face, hair and in my eyes and I had no clue which part of my body was bleeding.  I was drenched in blood and there were pieces of glass all over me but I was in my senses enough to alight from the bus. The news article says that landslides happened at around 7:30 am and only one person was injured (me) in a bus of 40 passengers – http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-himachal-pradesh-one-injured-after-rain-triggered-landslide-in-mandi-chandigarh-manali-national-highway-21-blocked-2244911

I fail to understand human mentality and it makes me wonder why fellow passengers in bus were interested in clicking my pictures rather than helping me. Anyway, I was fortunate to be accompanied by two friends who rushed me in a Tempo (none of travellers in cars were willing to help) and my savior Sahil was screaming for medical help.  My co-traveller Dr. Zarrin had tied a stole on right side of my face as I was bleeding profusely.  I took the stole off to check my wound in rear view mirror of the Tempo and saw a big wide hole on my forehead.  As there was blood in my eyes, I couldn’t see out of my right eye.  I only prayed to God for my eyes.  I didn’t know what more to ask for.

It was Sunday, 14 August and this incident happened near Mandi where one cannot expect much of medical aid. We were extremely lucky to find a pharmacist within 8 kms who immediately gave 5 stitches on the wound and advised me to get a CT-Scan done.  We started from Mandi and on reaching Kullu (2 hrs) we got CT done.  The CT reports gave me the second shock of my life that I had facial fractures (my cheek bone and bones near temple were broken). God! I said in that feeble state of mind.  Again, the journey started from Kullu to Manali (3 hrs) and there were these army of thoughts in my mind while my right eye never stopped watering due to the injury.

On reaching Manali home stay, I was offered food (liquid diet) as I could not chew food or even open my mouth. Speech was also not clear and I had difficulty in walking.  And my clothes and shoes were full of glass pieces (thankfully did not cause wounds).

Despite being in trauma, my brain was active and I decided to go back to Mumbai as soon as possible while people advised me to rest in Manali for 10 days. Sadly, there is no airport in Manali nor were there any flights from Kullu to Mumbai. So the nearest airport was Chandigarh (11 hrs drive from Manali).  I decided to go back to Mumbai next day and my friend Sahil cancelled his trip and decided to accompany me back.  I can’t thank him enough for his kind gesture. This 11-hour drive was the most difficult one as I vomited twice during the journey and the roads were very bad.  With every bump on the road, there was pain and tears just did not stop rolling my fractured cheek.  But I kept telling myself – Endure!

The next hurdle was at Chandigarh airport as the airport authorities did not allow me to board a flight because I had fresh stitches (less than 48 hours) and there was risk of those breaking in flight due to low pressure and controlled oxygen which may cause bleeding. But I was ready to take that risk and after my friend signed few indemnity bonds, we were allowed to board the flight.

Till this point of time, my parents had no clue about this incident and after we landed safely in Mumbai, we informed them and later I was admitted in Breach Candy Hospital. It was very difficult to see myself on a wheel chair (wanted to run Mumbai Marathon in January 2017), swollen face covered with bandages, right eye which was barely open and continuously watering.

At times it is just a fight with self and a true test of character, being positive and having faith. I believe that anything that doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.  Such incidents definitely change your character and make you a different or rather a better person.  And then there are these friends for life who made me realize how fortunate I am.  Lovely handmade greeting card (thanks Kedar), postcard, sweet messages, prayers and my injury related jokes made me forget my pain (can’t smile as muscles are trapped due to the injury).

I am going to the hospital today and my four-hour Surgery is scheduled tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed! Signing-off till I am back!

Please keep me in your prayers 🙂

…To be continued…

Cheers, Lubna