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Monday, February 24, 2014

Winning! #Conclave14

This post is for the Indiblogger contest on "Winning" for India Today #Conclave14

What does winning mean to me is the question asked, and I ponder about #Winning. I am a research student pursuing PhD in infectious disease and I also am an avid reader and blog about books &writing on this blog. What winning means to me, someone who everyday encounters patients, terminally ill with the most dangerous diseases of the planet? When you see life wither away like that leaf in autumn, winning means every second you put a fight to live. Every minute your will power fights to live one more day, and in one day do something that may be with someone even when I am not. So the #Winning for me is each day lived working for something you believe in, standing upto each challenge and rising against all odds.

Reading being my personal interest and I being true Indian to the core it hurts me to see so many languages and dialects disappearing. The main reason being that we are educated in English and therefore more comfortable in reading and expressing in the same. However reports such as these Tribal Languages face Extinction ( and Thomson Reuters Reports saying "India Speaks 780 languages, 220 lost in last 50 years - Survey"  really disturbed me. In my opinion every person who will contribute to saving these languages would be a winner. My steps in the direction is supporting this with an initiative of promoting writings in Hindi and other regional languages on social media called #TRCReadManyLanguages. 

However #winning in general can be defined in many ways and there are many category of winners. Mahatma Gandhi said "Being the change you wish to see in this world" which is the most difficult task to achieve. However more difficult than that is understanding the need of tomorrow and beginning the process of creation today, the term we call "Visionary" and every visionary is a winner in my opinion, for he solves the problems of tomorrow, today! Winners are also those who changed the world with thoughts and philosophy like Rabindranath Tagore. Winners also were men who changed the way the world, the society thought and functioned, example being Emperor Akbar, Abraham Lincoln, Swami Vivekananda. Winning can be altruistic, e.g a soldier sacrificing his life for the nation. Winning is teaching a child who cannot afford education. Winning is that each scientist that slogged for Chandrayan 1 whose name in the end will be lost in the pages of history. Winning in short is doing something for a the smallest cause or living being or ones nation. For what is ocean? if not a collection of small water droplets.

However, most of us are able to do just one of these things in one life time, but the term #winner brings to mind one name above all, the man whom I looked up to while growing up, my first idol and whose foot steps I try to walk on each day - my grandfather, Dr. Balubhai Vashi. He educated himself and all his brothers being the eldest son of a poor farmer, for whom paying a school fee of 5 rupees was difficult and two meals a day meant treat. He himself became a doctor in 1920's , though poor even then he chose to start practising in Umbergaon (then a village and mostly forest area as the taluka had not a single doctor). India then was under the British rule and his Indian blood demanded freedom of land, for he was a son of farmer, who better will understand ones motherland being ruled by foreign blood? He joined the freedom movement with Mahatma Gandhi, took part in rallies and continued serving even the tribals, going on visits t jungle areas and never taking a penny from the poor for his services. He also went to jail along with Gandhi and I am sure felt like a winner the efforts of many like him were fruitful and when at the stroke of midnight on 15th August 1947 our nation was free. Though he like many other remain the unsung hero's in our history, but its not their fame they were looking for and the combined dream was achieved. The world #selfie, the very emotion couldn't find a corner in their hearts. He got married to a simple village girl (my grandmother) by an arranged match between the families. In those days music was a taboo. Nobody knows how he discovered she had learnt to play the harmonium and gifted her one on their fourth wedding anniversary. This to me is true love, the understanding without words. However, life wouldn't let him live, she was diagnosed with cancer and they had four children, one in medical school and three in school. She had a rare type of cancer chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and was admitted to The Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, where she fought the battle for ten years with repetitive blood transfusions, chemotherapy, etc. until finally the disease consumed her. In those years, he had six mouths to feed, pay heavy hospital bills, pay for all the children's fees and boarding and yet he didn't breakdown. He served with the same zeal, may be more, but never charging a penny extra and never charging the poor, something that he practised till the end of his life. Those times were different, many in his family advised him to abandon a diseased wife but he looked after her and ensure the best possible treatment for her. I feel his achievements greater than anyone I know having watched him so closely.

Living the right life, being in discipline, caring about people around even in the most difficult times and serving the poor. He wore only khadi, ate only boiled food, never said "no" to a patient at anytime day or night, went for visits in the most interior jungles to save a life, fought for the nation and was a man one aspires to be.

I wish I could aid this post with a picture of him, but he never posed for one. The #Winner for me , an ordinary man with an extra ordinary life, my grandfather Late Dr. Balubhai Vashi and his life to me is the definition of winning.

I Am Malala: The Girl who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

Title: I Am Malala: The Girl who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban
Author:  Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
Category: Autobiography
Publisher: Hachette
Date: 2013
Price: Rs.399
Snapshot: The book is an account of life in Pakistan, essentially the Swat valley, where Malala Yousafzai lived, pre, during and post Taliban times, until she was shot by them.

The Review:   Courage is all that takes sometimes between needing and achieving.  A great man once said "A great deal of talent is lost in this world for a little need of courage".  The Taliban has been the biggest source of terror in the recent times. They shook the world by their heinous act on 9/11 and many more. Imagine living right in the heart of such times, scares every bit of me. But then from the shouts of gunfire and bomb-blasts, comes a child's voice that doesnt ask for toys or sweets, but simply a right to education and learning, and the child is a girl in an ultra conservative Muslim world. One would simply be in awe of this girl right from her first words, wont one?
This book begins with the history of Swat Valley, where Malala was born and brought up. It is the very place where the giant Buddhist stupas were found and were blasted during the Taliban rule. Malala however is whatever she is because of her father Ziauddin Yousafzai who was a revolutionary himself. He began by building schools and was one of the few men who encouraged and worked for Womesn education, built schools for them, despite of protests and problems from the local priests etc. He also did all of this when he didnt have much money. He taught children for free, some poor children he even kept in his home. I was so inspired by him and to be born as his daughter Malala surely has inherited his genes of courage and speaking ones heart. So when finally Taliban enters Swat and bans girls education, she begins speaking about it. The times were bad and people were scared even to give their interviews to journalists. Malala's father then was a fearless speaker. The times were such that someone they knew were hunted down by the Taliban and killed one day or the other. Around this time BBC wanted to create a blog (a project similar to the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank) so as to give a glimpse of the Taliban world to the rest of the world. She started writing under a pseudoname about her want to go to school, study more and just have the freedom a child needs.  

As an Indian I loved her honesty about her country's politics and the fact that she has mentioned that India infact was considered as the biggest enemy in Pakistan (which most of their leaders deny when asked), until the time Osama Bin Laden was killed by the Americans in their own country, under their nose, without any information to anyone in Pakistan, then USA became the number one enemy, which too they deny. A great deal has also been spoken about the precise tactic Taliban used to gain dominance and win people, Pakistan's denial in supporting Taliban one one side and denial on the other, etc. Read the book, you surely will not get a better perspective than this. Most people discouraged me from reading the book saying its mostly Christins Lamb's voice but I feel there is 90% Malala in it and one can easily filter and perceive.

A must read if you are interested in Life in Taliban times.

Positives:  Its well written, crisp and well edited.

Negatives: I wish it hadn't been edited. I am sure she had more to say.

The Verdict:  A story to be inspired from.  I hope and wish Malala gets to go home as she wishes to and she does get an opportunity to do great things for her nation that she plans to. 

About The Authors:
Malala Yousafzai, the educational campaigner from Swat Valley, Pakistan, came to public attention by writing for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban. Using the pen name Gul Makai, she often spoke about her family's fight for girls education in her community. In October 2012 Malala was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus. She miraculously survived and continues her campaign for education. In recognition of her courage and advocacy, Malala was honoured with the National Peace Prize in Pakistan in 2011 and nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize in the same year. She is the youngest ever person nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She was shortlisted for Time Magazine Person of the Year and has received numerous other awards. Malala continues to champion universal access to education through The Malala Fund, a non-profit organization investing in community led education programs and supporting education advocates around the world. 
Christina Lamb is one of the world's leading foreign correspondents. She has reported on Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1987. Educated at Oxford and Harvard, she is the author of five books and has won a string of awards, including Britain's Foreign Correspondent of the Year five times as well as the Prix Bayeux, Europe's most prestigious award for war correspondents. She currently works for the Sunday Times and lives between London and Portugal with her husband and son.