DIY Diaries

Few days back, I was browsing online to buy a beautiful diary for birthday present to my sister. I found some designs that I liked. But nothing called out for ‘That’s it’. Then suddenly a thought struck, ‘Why not make a diary myself’. (Another way out could have been to get a customized diary but naah!) So I began with left out white sheets of old half used notebooks. I used water colors, doodle art, ribbons, woolen thread and basic stationery. In next 2-3 days, I made 3 diaries – everything from scratch.

Here are the diaries I made in the order of making.

Diary 1:

 

Diary 2:

 

Diary 3:

 

Cutting sheets to make pages of diary was a task. But I loved the outcome, more so for the novice I am with water colors and doodle art. I hope these would make a nice birthday present. Which one do you like the most? 🙂

Flowers – beauty of North East India

During my time in Darjeeling and Sikkim, I was mesmerized by the beautiful flowers growing almost everywhere.

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I visited Darjeeling, Ghoom – a hill station 8 km from Darjeeling, places in Sikkim including Jorethang, Yaksum and Gangtok. During my stay and travel which was mostly in shared taxi rides, flowers were as common a sight as the mountains.

These flowers blossomed everywhere – from huts and houses of common people to hotels and public spaces.

The plants were teeny-tiny in size, often kept in small painted tin cans. Colors of flowers covered a wide spectrum. It is not often that one finds such variety of natural colors at one place.

I was wondering if this beauty was restricted to the places I visited or if the whole North East was a witness to this charm. Talking to my friend from Kohima, I found out that it’s a similar case in Kohima. One of my aunt who has spent some time in Kalimpong, also talked fondly of the flowers there. My childhood years spent in Hasimara in West Bengal, reminded me of the Sadabahar and Marigold which bloomed in the whole Air Force campus. Undoubtedly, the North East is home to vibrant natural flowers in many of its places.

It’s indeed a nature’s gift to the natives of North East India. Beautiful! 🙂

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Basic Mountaineering Course experience

As I’m writing this piece, I’m trying to figure out the beginning of this. Getting a seat in Basic Mountaineering Course in any of the Institutes in India is itself a daunting task. They get full; well not just months but an year in advance. I applied in HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute), Darjeeling in November 2016. I got a seat in women only batch of May 2017.

We were more than 60 women in the batch. We belonged to different parts of India and came from different walks of life. We also had one Japanese and one German lady among us. We had three women from Indian army and one from Indian Air Force too. The age group varied from teenagers to 40 years old.

The first morning in HMI, I woke up at 5 by the hustle outside our room. I came out to find girls staring in awe at the mountains far off. From HMI hostel, we could see the mighty Kanchanjunga range .

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Kanchanjunga range seen from HMI, Darjeeling.

After the P.T. on first day, we were divided into 9 different teams/ropes. After all, mountaineering is a team sport. Each team had 6-8 members. Each member led the team for 3 days in the course.

The course was divided into two phases: training in HMI, Darjeeling and training in HMI Base Camp, Sikkim.

During the time in Darjeeling, we had 5 km run every morning followed by P.T. exercises or yoga. Rest of the day was a mix of theory classes and practicals. We learnt knots. We learnt natural rock climbing and rappelling on Tenzing rock. We also had artificial rock climbing practice on indoor and outdoor walls. We received all the mountaineering equipments. After a week, we had our practice trek to Tiger Hill. It was 12 km one way. If clear weather, one can see Sikkim Himalayas, Nepal Himalayas and Bhutan Himalayas all together from Tiger Hill.

One day after Tiger Hill trek, we left for HMI Base camp. We moved to Yaksum, Sikkim by cars. From Yaksum, we began our trek to base camp. First day we entered Kanchanjunga National Park and trekked 14 km to Tshoka. We stayed one day in Tshoka for acclimatisation. From Tshoka we moved to Zongri. That day it rained like cats and dogs. We trekked the 11 km distance completely drenched in rain. Next day it continued raining. We trekked 13 km from Zongri to reach the base camp.

Base camp was a beautiful place. But the idea of spending 10 days in complete isolation with 50 people living in a single hut was something for each one of us. We acclimatised for one day. Then our glacier training began on alternate days. We used to trek two hours one way to reach Rathong glacier. We had ice climbing, rappelling, jumaring, crevasse rescue and anchor base training on glacier. Last day, we had our ice climbing test. Meanwhile, we had our theory lessons in base camp. After glacier training, we had one day of height gain. B C Roy peak of height 17,000 ft was chosen for us. It was a clear day. We started around 6 in the morning from base camp. But as it happens with mountain weather, it turned really bad during the climb. Five of us reached closest to the top. But 150 m away from the summit, we had to turn back due to worsening weather. It was overwhelming to experience what an expedition feels like. One day post the height gain, we left base camp. While returning, we covered the distance from Base camp to Yaksum in 2 days only.

On reaching Darjeeling, we had our graduation on the auspicious date of 29th may, the day Tenzing Norgay conquered Mt Everest and also the birth anniversary of Tenzing Norgay.

Twenty-eight days were amazing learning experience. I got more than I expected, be it the technical knowledge of mountaineering or experience of mountains. But the most amazing part of the journey were the people I met.

Love got a new meaning when I met the young lady who is working hard to save money to get married in Everest Base Camp to the love of her life, a mountaineer.

The army officer, 3 months into her marriage, taught me about leadership and giving your 100% in everything you do.

I have heard people complaining about how they are too old for things. Well, a 29 year old lady, quitting her government job of 7 years, just proved it’s never too late for anything.

I met someone who in spite of being selected for Masters program from London School of Economics, is crazy for Young India Fellowship. 😀

It’s said that mountaineering is like the mother of all sports because in mountains there is no second chance. You make one small mistake and it costs you something. But we are humans and we all make mistakes. I met someone who learned the lesson hard way. He climbed Everest but lost his two fingers due to frost bite because of not being able to see little snow inside his gloves.

I met Sirs who reminded us not to consider ourselves girls but humans first.

I learned there is so much scope to be better than who I was yesterday.

I hope mountains call me again, may be for advanced course. It’s time​ for home now. 😀

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Mountains of Darjeeling covered by clouds 🙂

Things to carry for mountains

If you have trekked in mountains with rucksack on your back, you know the struggle of keeping the weight to minimum, yet having all the necessary stuff. Having done a 7 days trek in Kashmir and basic mountaineering course, here are few things that I learned to keep in mind while packing for mountains.

Bag cover A must to have if you are traveling in rainy season. It’s better to pack all your stuff in a big polythene sheet before putting it inside rucksack.

Poncho/umbrella Again can’t do without in rainy/snowy season. If you go for poncho, make sure it’s of good quality. Umbrella may appear uncomfortable  at first glance but it helps better than poncho if you can walk with it. Choose as per your convenience.

Water Bottle Keep a 650 ml or 1 l bottle as per your need. Alhough water is available in mountains from rivers and streams, it’s better to know your route beforehand and decide accordingly. Some people prefer water bag with sipping pipe since unlike water bottle you don’t need to take it out of rucksack for use.

Sunglasses If you’re going to glacier or high altitude ice areas, keep one or more sunglasses unless you want to suffer from snow blindness for few days.

Sunscreen/buff Personally I rely on buff far more than sunscreen to protect my face from sun. It also saves my face from cold. Some people find it difficult to breathe through buff. You can use masks with openings around nose. Use sunscreen on any exposed area.

Gloves A good pair of gloves to keep your hands warm. Make sure the size fits you well. It’s better to have water proof gloves if you’re expecting rain or ice.

Long socks Help protect against snow, leeches etc.

Foot powder Smelly and sweaty feet is a common condition when traveling long in mountains.

Blister tape No matter how good one’s shoes are, one should always be prepared for blisters.

Wet wipes To save your ass, literally. Keep enough.

Vaseline Good to use on any chaffed area or otherwise too.

Torch Electricity is a luxury in mountains. I prefer head torch since it keeps my hands free. Remember to keep extra batteries as per your need.

Polythene zippers Good to keep things like mobile, money and daily dose of dry fruits.

Toiletries in small sizes.

P.S. I’d keep adding more to the list.

Hope

A soldier fighting on the border
With meager supplies and weight on his shoulders
But he keeps battling the enemies
It’s the hope to see his loved ones post the adversary

A mountaineer crawling on the edge of the cliff
Stuck in the unforeseen blizzard, her oxygen subtracting drip by drip
But she keeps pushing through the odds on her way
It’s the hope to stand at the top that makes her stay

A sportsman beating at his craft in the field
Gasping for breath with pain in his knees
But he keeps trying amidst the uproar from the critics
It’s the hope to bag a medal for his people by the blue Pacific

A parent trying to make the ends meet
Hiding his fears and ignoring his own dreams
But he keeps doing the small things day after day
It’s the hope to see smile on his children’s face

A shy girl standing in front of the mic
Filled with inhibitions and musings about what is right
But she keeps trying her best to perform
It’s the hope to touch few hearts that keeps her strong

Young India Fellowship selection experience

I applied for Young India Fellowship 2017-18 batch in the 1st round of admissions. First step was online application. It had questions regarding personal details, academics, work experience, extra curricular and family. It had three essays. Essays were about one thing that matters most to me, my biggest accomplishment so far and things that I want to accomplish from the fellowship. It asked for details of one referee who could either be my Professor or Manager with whom I worked earlier. I submitted my application on 19th Dec, the last date of submission for 1st round of admissions.
Six weeks later, I got an email informing my selection for the next stage which was telephonic interview. I received the call on the aforementioned date. The interviewer asked me questions related to the books I mentioned in my application. He gazed my knowledge about the fellowship program. It was followed by few general knowledge questions about my hometown. The call ended within 15 minutes. It felt more of a stress interview. I confirmed with my interviewer if my application was being considered in the 1st round of admissions or the 2nd round since I received the email from them past the deadline of 1st round. It turned out that this year they had received multitude of applications which caused the delay.
Three weeks from my telephonic interview, I received an email confirming my selection for the personal interview. I had my interview in Bangalore. I reached the venue, an Oyo flat, around 11 A.M. I was given a writing assignment. It had an argument on creativity. I had to analyze and write my opinion on the same in 30 minutes. Almost 1 hour post the writing task, I was called in for the interview. I had two interviewers. Professor Anunaya Chaubey who dons multiple hats – an artist, a teacher and Deputy Dean of Young India Fellowship. He was accompanied by a previous batch Young India Fellow. She was working as a curriculum designer for an organization. 🙂 My interview began with a long discussion over my writing assignment. It led to Professor Chaubey asking me to define creativity. Then we shifted to my work in Morgan Stanley. We also discussed topics around the books I had read. They wanted to know about things I was doing during my sabbatical from work. Few questions were asked related to the fellowship and my plans. My interview got over in less than 20 minutes. I felt comfortable about the interview except for its duration.
Anyway, 6 weeks from the interview, I received an email congratulating me for my selection for the 2017 batch of Young India Fellowship. Happiness 🙂

P.S.: I accepted the fellowship 🙂

Child Sexual Abuse – Myths vs Facts

Generally anything involving the word ‘sex’ is considered taboo in our society. So why this post on such a topic? Well, recently I interacted with someone who has done her Masters in Psychology during which she worked on studying child sexual abuse in India. She is not from India. This came as a boon since her observations were devoid of the prejudices and stereotypes of our society. The insights that I gained from her study challenged many of my perceptions I had on this subject. So here is a highlight of them.

Defining what constitutes child sexual abuse is not as easy as it may appear at first glance. But in the context of this post, it’s not crucial to define child sexual abuse formally. Still if you want to know, child sexual abuse as defined by 1999 W.H.O. (World Health Organizations) Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention states it as mentioned below.

Child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person.

In our society, we face child sexual abuse in two forms. One is the case of child trafficking carried with the intent of sexual exploitation. In such a scenario, we can’t play a major role unless we choose to become a part of the system/organizations fighting this problem since it’s a highly organized activity involving many socioeconomically powerful people. The other scenario involves the sexual abuse that happens in places as common as households with the children we may know. This is where we (yes! you and I) can play a crucial role in being part of the solution.

Here are few things that I found out which busted some myths and highlighted some reasons.

In India, among sexually abused children, nearly half of them are boys. It’s not something that happens to girls only. So we need to watch out for our boys as well. Bottom line is any child can be a target.

In our culture, we have this unsaid rule that elders are always right. We emphasize this even more to the kids. This adds fuel to the problem of child sexual abuse. Even a young kid has an intuition of safe and unsafe touch. But when an elder, who is not a stranger, does something to children that they don’t understand but which doesn’t feel good, they are left puzzled with the experience. The emphasis that we give to people’s righteousness based on their age often becomes one of the reasons why children don’t talk about the abuse to anyone.

One of the myths is that pedophiles are always child sexual abusers. This may sound too advanced to talk about in our society but I’ll take a shot. Pedophilia is a psychological disorder where an adult feels attracted towards children sexually. But this doesn’t make them an abuser. In fact some of the people suffering from pedophilia know that it’s wrong and try not to feel that way. Though there is hardly any support available for such people. The literature shows that more than half of the child sexual abusers are not pedophiles and many of the pedophiles never molest any kid.

Lastly, we don’t need to make the child feel like a victim by giving all the pitiful attention. That’s unwanted and unnecessary. Just let them know that it wasn’t their fault and help them move on from it.

Also don’t overhype this. Just inform the kids basic things like they have a right to their body and they can say NO to elders if things don’t feel good. Keep a keen eye towards kids. Create an atmosphere where kids are able to talk about if anything bad happens to them.

A little awareness can save an individual from a lot of troubles in future.

Hope this helps 🙂

P.S.: If you have anything to share on this topic, then comment or reach out to me at himshi.bachchas@gmail.com.