My prose writings

Becoming Free; chapter- 5 ; Instincts of mind (Dream and Spark)

Read all chapters here



     Lacking gives rise to dreams. Dreaming for a new possibility is quite distinct from normal thought process. We may even say that ‘A man who has no dreams is not human.’ Dreams arise out of thoughts or may be in a totally different direction. A man rolling in poverty dreams of living in a palace. A palatial house dweller dreams of becoming an emperor. A devotee dreams of being one with the divine while in meditation. It definitely is a product of desires, expectations, ambitions; but it includes vistas beyond them too.

     It is a yearning to achieve something unseen or not thought of, inexperienced, unattained. Many dreams have no base at all. They make one roam in totally different lands or situations. They make him envision totally strange matters.

  A scientist yearns to find an unexplained secret of nature OR attaining a new level of consciousness and meditation in the internal journey of a devotee. It is the yearning of ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ to fly higher and faster.


      When thoughts have stopped; when the sense of lacking has encompassed the psyche; when all dreams and infatuation for all desires are shattered; at such a moment of abyss, one experiences opening of an unknown gate in a secret corner of the dark tunnels, by the grace of some superamental power. I have given it a name of ‘Spark’. Mohandas Gandhi was thrown out of the train compartment in South Africa and a spark of awakening made him a Mahatma out of a barrister. This is like an electrical spark or a small speck of fire; that initiates a conflagration.It happensd on its own without any effort or prior indication. It can occur in the life of a great man like Gandhi or in a very very ordinary person.

 Such an awakaening does not take shape from any thought. It comes out the sphere of lacking and dream. It sprouts without any seed. It is like opening of a door in a blank wall. Many have experienced such a sudden, unthouht, undreamt opening like a flower blossoming in their lives.

    Everything remaining same, and no new possibility or opportunity showing to open up; everything appears to have changed at such a moment. Far away from imaginations and dreams, in the depths of uncertainties, in the dark abyss – a new ray of light springs forth. A new highway opens up. For such a spark no parameter or the fundamental animal instincts or other three instincts of human mind are responsible. Such a awakening pops up on its own. But a dormant seed does exist, on its own; deep inside all layers of human consciousness. It can pop up anytime. It is as if human mind is programmed for such a possibility!

   Such a spark unveils the hidden truth to a scientist; who might have been unsuccessful in all his efforts and experiments, and could not hope for any ray of hope of finding the solution. A man bried deep in suffering and depression sits up and strats running- rejuvenated by a new fervor of hope and zeal. We may call such a spark descent of Divine grace. It can never arise out of efforts or thoughts or dreams. It generates on its own. Whether there was any apparent seed or not; such a spark totally transforms a person from a weakling, semi developed infant into a ‘Sir Issac Newton’

  Thinking that ‘Jesus or Mohommed or  Buddha was enlightened by such a spark.’; all start craving and struggling for opening of a door in their lives. They start doing yogic and religious practices. They start searching and serving Gurus. But such a spark can not arise out of any apparent effort. Such a possibility may not be having any trace in one’s being; but it does pop uplike an uninvited guest! We may not call it a normal instinct or tendency of human mind; but it does incarnate.

  Of course possibilities of such a spark occurring is definitely more in a scientist or a spiritual devotee. But lives very common people like Rabia, Mira or Joan of Ark have also demonstrated such awakenings.


  Such a spark may spread like a conflagration in the life of an individual and spread like wild fire in the community. It may give rise to a paradigm shift in the social psyche. Such a spark may also extinguish in a few moments too. But such sparks are surely a dimension in human lives.

  Perhaps such a chain reaction of thought, lacking, dream and spark of awakening may have given rise to evolution of  a human mind from  a savage ape.

  And… it may also happen that an unknown enlightenment may protrude in the psyche of human race snoring in the slumber of ignorance and darkness of carnal thought processes. It may happen that a new, super human race may evolve. If at all such an evolution takes place, the human existence may witness a new, unthought off, unimagined, undreamt dimension to human consciousness. Human consciousness may enter a new paradigm.

     ‘Becoming Free’ is an effort to dream of such an occurance of awakening and enlightenment in an individual, in local communities as also in the entire human race.

    Perhaps a spark may occur somewhere and the door to highest peaks of consciousness may open up all of sudden.


Becoming Free; chapter-4 ; Instincts of mind (Thought and lacking)

Read all chapters here


    In animal kingdom, four instincts are considered as rudimentary.

  1. Hunger
  2. Sleep
  3. Fear
  4. Intercourse( Reproduction)

     All activities of all animals are based on these four basic instincts; in varying degrees. These decide the way of life for any animal – for either a tiger or a mouse or a small insect or a gigantic whale.

     Of course over and above these, love too abounds in them to some extent; e.g. love between a ring master and a ferocious lion in a circus or a dog and his master; a horse and his rider. Many a place enemies like a dog and cat are also seen living amicably in the same house. These examples imply that love too is present in animal lives.

    In human beings, over and above these five; there are many more faculties- the base of which is human mind. In some animals there is also some extent of thought and reasoning. But it is on a very limited scale.

  The human mind has myriad of characteristics; but in the opinion of this writer – there are four basic characteristics of human mind; which are at its root and give rise to all its unfathomable depths –

  1. Thought
  2. Lacking
  3. Dream
  4. Spark

     We will look into the first two here, in short.


     The word ‘human’ probably is connected with ‘man’; which means mind in Sanskrit – a base language of most of Indian languages. Mind means capacity to think. This is basic force in all human beings aboriginals, laborers, highly intellectual scientists, a great conqueror, or a business tycoon. In all of them, the capacity to think is always present in large or small degree. A man observes about things and situations; compares them with his accumulated knowledge/ memories and evaluates/ analyzes them. He adds hues of imagination and logical conclusions as also sentiments; and takes actions and reactions. He develops likes and dislikes for them. These give birth to his six enemies too -Desire,  Anger, Conceit, Greed, Infatuation and  Jealousy.

     Even in the foundation of human civilizations, in their conflicts and desires to be supreme – thought process is the basic element; in all its good or bad features. Most of human endeavor is the outcome of ‘Thoughts’


   Over and above the thought process; an element of lacking is present and works independently. He always suffers from a desire/ anxiety to achieve something that he has never seen, known or experienced. He may have everything that he wanted and yet he always feels about something that is lacking. This is the experience of each one of us- even of a person at the pinnacle of social pyramid. A person rolling in wealth and power as also a poor man dwelling in a ramshackle hut or even a street dweller is always feels that something is lacking. Poets call it a mirage. This is his instinct over and above thought. This lacking drives his thoughts too. He craves to achieve something, which he has not even thought of; which does not exist at the moment. He does many useful or non useful activities, He feels disturbed due to that unknown. He feels depressed or frustrated on account of it. Ambitions, new inventions, new creations are the outcome of this instinct of lacking. If there is no lacking; nothing new could be created. Such lacking gives rise to fresh thoughts; and thoughts give rise to new lackings. It becomes a closed circle. But fact remains that these two are distinctly separate entities. They have their own existence.

   This lacking gives rise to new instruments for human needs, comforts and luxuries on the outside. Lacking is at the base of science and knowledge – inventions of stone and bow and arrow to fell fruits or for hunting, stock breeding and agriculture, wheel, pottery, baskets, barter and commerce. Myriad of such inventions have given rise to science, crafts, technology, business and industry.

    But such a lacking could be and is – internal too. It may generate out of his animal instinct of fear; generated from outside forces or by his own thought process. ‘Who am I?’; “Who has made all these things in nature?”; “What will happen to me after I die?”- Such questions bother him and give rise to an internal quest. This is at the base of philosophy and religion. It is on account of such a lacking that man has imagined/ thought of a superior / divine existence – of God.

   Religions, sects, beliefs, faiths,  religious traditions are generated out of some lacking. Perhaps they are not based on logical observations or deductions. But at their root is some sort of a lacking or emptiness. These may arise out of unknown fear or excess of satisfaction too!

    A person, who is passing through a dark, endless tunnel of unhappiness and is not able to see any ray of hope in his miserable life; who is standing on the heaps of shattered dreams, lost belongings or broken relationships does experience an acute lacking. But it is also present in the psyche of a person at the pinnacle of his life time achievements. He feels loneliness at the top and creates a new longing to search for further heights – new, nonexistent visions, new insatiable desires.

    These lackings go on drilling holes in the psyche. They are there, as thoughts are. These are at the roots of science and philosophy.


Becoming Free; chapter-3 ;Trends of mind

Read all chapters here


    We may accept that, expectations and desires are the root cause of all our woes. But we have to go to the roots of these expectations and desires; if we want to look into the ways of how to circumvent their shackles. In that light, let us think how life originates and develops.

    The fetus in mother’s womb is totally dependent on her systems and is in a dormant state. Its nutrition and growth are dependent on mother’s blood. It does not need any food, water or air of its own. Its bodily discharges also depend on the mother. Everything happens through the medium of her blood. In that dark chamber, the only senses it has are touch and faint sounds. Its only functioning organ is its heart that keeps its blood circulating in the tiny limbs. Mostly it has no thoughts too. This is the state of total surrender in the first phase of life.

    If we look into the role of mother, she too nurtures the fetus in a totally passive and unconscious way; except being mentally aware that a new life is taking shape in her womb. Her total being – her body, mind and her spirit- take over the responsibility of the nurturing the new being that has surrendered to her system in an automatic way. Her tastes change. Food unsuitable to the growth of fetus does not get digested. Her breasts start developing systems that would be needed for nutrition of the infant that is going to be borne. Some unknown power has aroused her body, mind and spirit for this noble cause of creation of a new being.

Hence, if God at all exists,
He would be like the mother!

      As soon as the child is borne; it stops getting this support. On cutting off of the umbilical cord; this mechanism comes to an end. It comes from total darkness to light and starts getting informations. His / her instinct of survival immediately takes over control of all his/ her reflexes. The new being  has to breathe the first breath itself. When his/her lips are brought to the nipple of mother’s breast; they start chewing. These are the first sensations of existence and struggles/ attempts for continuation of that existence – new sounds, new touch sensations, new tastes, new smells,new actions. As soon as the eyes open, new visions. Every new sensation and experience infuses new information in his/her developing mind. In the most primary state too, the mind starts interpreting each and every new information and understanding it; and starts creating likes and dislikes. The process of formation of nature and attitude starts building.

    This process is going to continue for the whole life. Sensations, interpretations, reactions, likes, dislikes, smiles and tears, attitudes, imitations of sounds and sights, thoughts,information and knowledge -the joys and woes generated  by all of these. New identities get created- new —. Every occurrence and its interpretation generates new expectations.

Expectations are an indivisible part of our existence.

    This is our destiny, originating out of the  creation of our self and our contunuiing existence. So, if someone gives us a wise counsel to shun expectations- it is simply not possible.It is an instinct that is wound in every strand of our being; every cell of our body; each and every attitude of our mind.

      This is the normal trend of our psyche.

     Then, how do we have access to the truth of eternal Joy; if at all it exists? How can we make ourselves free of the chains of our instinct to survive and the expectations arising out of it? How we take out our basic being out of the clutches of a closed circle of our destiny?

    How can we be free? How can we have access to eternal joy, supreme consciousness and the eternal truth or power to acquire them?

    Before we look into the tools that have been discovered by the wise over the ages; we will study the trend of our psyche in a bit greater details.


Becoming Free; chapter-2 ;Expectations

Read all chapters here


‘Time becomes a helper,
if we change our attitude’ –

    This is not an empty musing or a vagary of mind. We have many examples in history of people who started their lives in a very ordinary way; as also had no special resources or high intellect at their disposal. Mahatma Gandhi is such a glaring example of an emancipated soul. Each one of us has the same potential to reach such heights.

     Isn’t it a very big possibility- one that is available to each one of us? But why are we not able to do so? It looks as if we have the tools and yet are not able to use them. What a great joke? What an incapacitating situation?

    If we have made up our mind to take this state of affairs seriously; we need to understand the reasons for our inabilities and the factors that are responsible for it.

Indian scriptures tell us about six fundamental enemies of human life.

  1. Desire
  2. Anger
  3. Conceit
  4. Greed
  5. Infatuation
  6. Jealousy

    But in the opinion of this writer, there is only one cause of all these turbulences in our mind. They generate out of just one rudimentary weakness; that engulfs us in its poisonous torrents. We are drifting just like a dead piece of log or a blade of grass in this torrent all through our lives. These six are just various trends of this torrent; these are natural facets of life forces. But the root cause for generation of these torrents is only one.

   What is that basic cause? Which is that powerful force that causes these torrents; that creates uncontrollable rapids in the flow of our lives? What is that basic weakness in us that gives abundant freedom to those six enemies; who mock at us; who ground us down though we have built in capability to fly free and high in open skies?

    It is the instinct of survival – the rudimentary desire to live – the desire that accompanies us from the first breath. The only expectation we have from our lives.

“I want to live. I do not want to die.”

    This is the first start of all desires – the first scream at birth of a child. It is at the root of all our incapabilities to combat those enemies; simply because that itself gives birth to all of them.

Desire- effort to meet the desire- success – conceit – greed to get more success – further desires.


Desire – effort to meet the desire- failure – despair – anger – desire for revenge-

   And we are caught in this maze or that one – the uncontrollable torrents. We are destined to flow helplessly among these powerful forces; getting tossed this way or that way. Sometimes up on them, feeling the joy of being able to swim and getting ahead of others OR loss of breath and the despair on getting drowned.

   Same helplessness of that birth scream in a new form-

“I want to live. I do not want to die.”

   This is our life.

   Expectations…. Expectations….Expectations…. Insatiable hunger and thirst… rows and rows of mirages. Same slavery, same bondage, same prison. Same shackles all through the life.

I see the sky; but cannot fly.
My wings are clipped,
breaking the bars of my cage.

(A few lines of a Gujarati poem)

  Want to be free of this bondage?

  Want to fly like ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ freely in the endless sky?

  Want to breathe the fresh breath of Joy, Life energy and Truth?

  Want to be one with the primary element of life force?

We have to get rid of these shackles of desires and expectations.

Becoming FREE, Chapter-1

A new effort is started today on this blog; on 15th August -2013; the auspicious day of freedom for India.

Translation of my eBook
‘Bani Azad ( Becoming FREE)
from Gujarati to English.

It is an endeavor to share my views and findings to my relatives and friends , who are not able to understand Gujarati.


When one becomes free by changing one’s attitude

The TIME becomes ones helper.

(A Gujarati poem stanza)

      These are the first lines of my favorite Gujarati poem. We have been told from our childhood that Time is very powerful; and we are totally helpless against it. There are many proverbs too to that effect; and our mind is conditioned, to accept them as gospel truth. We are prisoners in a cage of that conditioning; as if our wings to fly have been clipped.

       But if we can change our thoughts, our attitudes, our reactions to situations; we have the capabilities, built in our being to breathe air of a new freedom. Human mind and its capability to think are the greatest human assets.

     If we can attain such a freedom, time can become dependent on us. When we start listening to ‘the inner voice’; this freedom too can be accessible to us.

    But this is not as feasible to implement, as is so in writing or speaking. This is our greatest mental woe. Those who have attained such freedom; have attracted large followings and those followers have devised so many ways to attain such freedom by writing myriads of scriptures and guides. And these have made such efforts much more complex to understand and implement. We are bogged down in those cobwebs of opinions and dogmas.

  These dogmas, depicted in scriptures in various sections of human society have given rise to extensive disputes, conflicts, wars and bloodshed; creating new bondages, new worries and new prisons.

   Here, an attempt is made to raise that voice within us. The effort for that is to be made by us only; none can help for it. At the most; such dialogs/ readings can inspire and motivate us to start moving in that direction. And that first step has to be taken by us on our own only. We have to walk on ourselves only in the path of that freedom.

   If we intend to become free like a bird, flying in endless sky; we have to flap our wings ourselves.

   We may presume that ‘such a freedom will make us very happy; our relationships with all will ameliorate at once; or we will become prosperous overnight.’ In case any of these happens; it would be a bye product of the immense plateau of joy to which we start getting an access. Right now, happiness as well as unhappiness is the sources of bondage for us. The freedom under reference promises us the joy of flinging off that bondage. It has the potential of joy like the joy of a bird, flying free; the joy of an innocent child; playing without any motives. It is a joy devoid of Victories and defeats; gains and loss- Sheer, unadulterated Joy.

    If and when we can change our attitudes; everything can change, though remaining same: we start seeing them from a totally different perspective. When that happens, we are able to see many aspects of the same things or situations. We are able to devise alternative options. When we stop reacting in a blind way; we can devise new actions; we can see new paths opening up. Time appears helping us instead of obstructing.

    We no longer remain dependent on times; the times depend on us.

A Father, a Daughter and a Dog- Catherine Moore

Courtesy – Shri B.G.Jhaveri, Avigail Azouri, KAUSHIK PARIKH

A true story

“Watch out! You nearly broad sided that car!” My father yelled at me. “Can’t you do anything right?”

Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn’t prepared for another battle.
I saw the car, Dad . Please don’t yell at me when I’m driving..”My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt.

Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts….. dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon . He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered gruelling lumberjack competitions, and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn’t lift a heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day I saw him outside alone, straining to lift it.. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his advancing age, or when he couldn’t do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. An ambulance sped him to the hospital while a paramedic administered CPR to keep blood and oxygen flowing.

At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived. But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctor’s orders. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned, then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone..

My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and the rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue.

Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counselling appointments for us. At the close of each session he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad’s troubled mind.

But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done and it was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered in vain.

Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, “I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article..”

I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had proved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog..

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon.. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels The odour of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens Each contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world’s aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed.

Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hip bones jutted out in lopsided triangles But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. “Can you tell me about him?” The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement. “He’s a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him. That was two weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow.” He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror.. “You mean you’re going to kill him?”

“Ma’am,” he said gently, “that’s our policy. We don’t have room for every unclaimed dog.”

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision. “I’ll take him,” I said. I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me.. When I reached the house I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch… “Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad !” I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. “If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don’t want it” Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me.. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples. “You’d better get used to him, Dad. He’s staying!”

Dad ignored me.. “Did you hear me, Dad ?” I screamed. At those words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate. We stood glaring at each other likeduelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him. Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw..

Dad’s lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw confusion replaced the anger in his eyes The pointer waited patiently. Then Dad was on his knees hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne . Together he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout They even started to attendSunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad’s bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then late one night I was startled to feel Cheyenne ‘s cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night.. I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my father’s room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad’s bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favourite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad’s peace of mind.

The morning of Dad’s funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made filling the church.. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life.

And then the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

“I’ve often thanked God for sending that angel,” he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice that had just read the right article… Cheyenne ‘s unexpected appearance at the animal shelter ….his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father. . and the proximity of their deaths. And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all.

Life is too short for drama or petty things, so laugh hard, love truly and forgive quickly. Live While You Are Alive. Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time.

God answers our prayers in His time……..not ours..

Blind Indian rejected by IITs will now study at Stanford

By – Divya Nair
Courtesy -Shri Kanak Raval
Visually impaired Delhi student Kartik Sawhney has repeatedly been denied permission to appear for the IIT-JEE in the past three years because of his disability. However, in March 2013, he was awarded a fully funded scholarship to pursue engineering at Stanford University in the US. This is his story.
On May 27, 2013, when 18-year-old Kartik Sawhney scored 96 per cent in his Class 12 CBSE examination, he became the country’s first ever visually impaired student to have achieved the feat in the science stream.
Appearing from Delhi Public School, RK Puram, he scored 99 in computer science (his favourite subject) and 95 each in English, mathematics, physics and chemistry; his total is 479 out of 500.
Recalling some of the challenges, he says, “Studying with normal students wasn’t easy, and neither was choosing a stream of my choice.”
Determination and perseverance are the key factors to his success — he simply would not take no for an answer.
“A lot of people think that disabilities limits you from doing certain things. But I think success comes to those who believe in their strengths,” he states.
Sawhney, who comes from a middle class family — his father Ravinder Sawhney is a businessman and mother Indu Sawhney a homemaker — confesses that aiming high and making tough decisions at every stage was still easier than executing them.
For three years in a row, he has been denied permission to appear for the IIT-JEE; he was told that there is noprovision for blind students to take the competitive exam. But he did not lose hope and applied to universities abroad.
And in March 2013, Sawhney received a fully funded scholarship to pursue a five-year engineering programme at Stanford University. Once armed with this degree, he intends to “improve the condition of visually impaired back in India”.
In this interview, the inspiring young man discusses the many challenges he’s faced to come this far, what miffs him about the Indian administration and tells us what keeps him going.
What were the challenges you faced when appearing for the CBSE exam?
Since no other blind student had pursued science in Class 11, I had to write several letters to the Controller of Examinations, CBSE, to make an exception.
There were a lot of issues to be considered if I had to pursue science. For example, e-books for Class 11 and 12 science subjects were not available for blind students.
Along with my school principal Dr D R Saini, I must have written about 20 letters to the CBSE, after which they eventually considered my request.
Moreover, since science is not a theory-based stream alone, I tried to convince the CBSE authorities to allow me to perform experiments assisted by someone from a science background; they refused, providing me instead with an individual from a non-science background.
If there were no e-books, how did you study?
I generally use a screen-reading software called JAWS, which converts text into audio; it basically reads out digital content. Till Class 10, I did not face so much difficulty because the textbooks were available in digital format. Only the classroom notes had to be keyed in separately.
In Class 11, however, I had to seek help from my peers and family members, who would dictate the chapters from the textbook while I typed them into the computer.
The syllabus for Class 11 and 12 was extensive, so I had to type about 100 to 200 pages every day before I could study them.
This whole process ensured that I took longer than other students to prepare, but now when I look back, I can say that it was well worth the effort and hard work.
How did you manage laboratory experiments?
When it comes to empowering visually impaired students, unfortunately India is not as advanced as the West is.
In the US and UK, there is specialised audio-enabled laboratory equipment that reads out both the instructions and inference for you. However, in India, we are yet to subscribe to such technology because it is very expensive. I’m told that a single piece of equipment costs Rs 60,000 and above.
So in my case, as I mentioned earlier, I was provided with an assistant from a non-science background who performed the experiments on my behalf.
During the laboratory sessions, I could easily read out the instructions from the handbook and report inferences that could be experienced by touch or smell, but I needed help to complete most other experiments.
For example, I could identify a particular chemical by its peculiar smell, but I could not identify the colour of the gas or the chemicals involved in the process. For such experiments I had to depend on someone else.
How did you cope studying with other students at Delhi Public School?
Prior to joining DPS, for two years I’d undergone training at the National Association for the Blind. And I was given special permission to use either a computer or a laptop to maintain notes, for which I’m indebted to my school.
But the transition from NAB to DPS wasn’t smooth. I continued to be dependent on digital material and since each session would not last beyond 45 minutes, I had to further sharpen my concentration so that I could take maximum notes.
Both my teachers and friends at school were helpful. The teachers were kind enough to repeat themselves and also encouraged me to meet them after class if I had any doubts, but they could only do so much. I had to do the learning on my own, which was frustrating at times, especially because I would not understand simpledescriptions.
What about examinations? How was your performance rated?
For theory subjects, I was provided with a soft copy of the question paper, which would be read out to me by a reader or a teacher.
While others attempted them on paper, I had to type the responses on a computer. I was given the same time as the others and when I was done attempting the paper, I had to take a printout and give it to the concerned faculty member for evaluation.
For practical examinations, I was allowed to take a multiple-choice computer-based test, which was sometimes combined with a viva (oral test).
Have you ever faced instances when a reader was not able to communicate to you effectively?
Yes, there have been several! Sometimes I would not understand what the reader was trying to say, particularly when a question involved symbols.
Since the CBSE provided me with a reader who was from a non-science background, during one of my papers I simply failed to understand the description of the symbol this reader was trying to give me.
Without identifying the symbol, I could not proceed further. There I ended up losing precious time. I could not even complain, because they were already doing me a great favour by making such a facility available.
Fearing precisely such situations, I had requested the board to provide me with someone from a science background, but they did not oblige.
What made you give up on your dream of studying engineering at an IIT?
I had always thought highly of the IITs. I dreamed that if I were to study engineering in India, it had to be from one of the IITs.
However, since I was visually impaired I realised that there was no provision for people like me to appear for the JEE, which is a highly competitive test.
So between 2010 and 2012, I wrote several letters to the IITs in Madras, Kanpur and Delhi, respectively. Each time, they not only turned down my request, but were also rude to me.
Although the IITs have a three per cent reservation for the physically handicapped, it is restricted to students with poor or low vision. Since I am 100 per cent blind, they told me that I am not qualified to take the JEE.
When some NGOs tried to take up my case, a faculty member from one of the IITs told one particular organisation that since the JEE is a highly competitive test, they could not arrange for a reader or a separate form of testing for me. Moreover, they were apprehensive of cheating — they feared that any reader assisting me may try and help me with the answers too. How absurd is that?
At first I was very disappointed. I thought that if leading Indian institutes like the IITs are not willing to consider my abilities and accommodate me as a student, I will not be able to pursue a higher education.
And after being turned down for three years successively, I realised that there was no point in waiting. Even if they were to allow me to study there eventually, I would have to face even more serious challenges and I wasn’t even sure how long I’d have to wait to see that day. It was the lack of options in India that forced me to look abroad.
How do you intend to make use of your international education?
Internationally, Stanford is the best place to pursue engineering. Ever since I understood computers, I have been passionate about computer science engineering.
I have already designed this software called ‘STEM made easy’, which has two different applications and aims to help blind students like me study subjects like math and science easily.
With the benefit of a Stanford education, I think it’s not only possible to shape up my computing skills, but also try and develop applications that will improve the condition of the visually impaired back in India.
What are your interests?
I love music, particularly Indian classical music and have been professionally trained in singing for 10 years now. In fact, when I was in Class IX, I was one of 10 talented students selected from across India, who received the rare opportunity to receive training from the late Pandit Ravi Shankar.
I also enjoy learning computer languages and designing new applications.
Who inspires you?
I have always admired Dr A P J Abdul Kalam. In 2005, I had the opportunity to interact with him and I must say, he had inspiring words for me about how to perceive life and its challenges.
When Dr Kalam learned of my disability and what I had achieved, he told me: “Son, it is better to have a vision (foresight), than merely have vision (eye sight).” I will always value his words.
What are your greatest learnings?
When I was young and somebody told me that I could not attempt something because I was blind, I’d feel bad.
But over the years, I have realised that nobody is perfect. All of us have weaknesses.
I feel that it is unfair to compare one set of abilities to another, or set restrictions merely on the basis of any deformities. I hope people in power realise that everyone is differently abled and instead of pointing out our flaws, see what can be done to improve the current regulations in a way that can benefit several boys and girls like me.
Do you have a message you’d like to share with our readers?
Do not judge people based on what they lack; instead, focus on what they are capable of and if possible, help them get closer to their goals.
It is okay to get frustrated when things don’t work your way. If success came so easy, we would not value it so much. Whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation, try and look at the better and brighter side of things. There is no excuse for not working hard. And if you do, you are destined to taste success sooner or later

Van T. Barfoot

Courtesy – Eric Hohn, Arlington


Van T. Barfoot died at the age of 92 on 2 March 2012.

Remember the guy who wouldn’t take the flag pole down on his Virginia property a while back?

You might remember the news story several months ago  about a crotchety old man in Virginia who defied his local Homeowners Association, and refused to take down the flagpole on his property along with the large American flag he flew on it.

Now we learn who that old man was.

On June 15, 1919, Van T. Barfoot was born in Edinburg , Texas . That probably didn’t make news back then.

But twenty-five years later, on May 23, 1944, near Carano, Italy , that same Van T. Barfoot, who had in 1940 enlisted in the U.S. Army, set out alone to flank German machine gun positions from which gunfire was raining down on his fellow soldiers.

He advance took him through a minefield but having done so, he proceeded to single-handedly take out three enemy machine gun positions, returning with 17 prisoners of war.

And if that weren’t enough for a day’s work, he later took on and destroyed three German tanks sent to retake the machine gun positions.

That probably didn’t make much news either, given the scope of the war, but it did earn Van T. Barfoot, who retired as a Colonel after also serving in Korea and Vietnam , a well deserved Congressional Medal of Honor.

 What did make news…

was his Neighborhood Association’s quibble with how the 90-year-old veteran chose to fly the American flag outside his suburban Virginia home.

Seems the HOA rules said it was OK to fly a flag on a house-mounted bracket, but, for decorum, items such as Barfoot’s 21-foot flagpole were “unsuitable”.

Van Barfoot had been denied a permit for the pole, but erected it anyway and was facing court action unless he agreed to take it down.

Then the HOA story made national TV, and the Neighborhood Association rethought its position and agreed to indulge this aging hero who dwelt among them.

“In the time I have left”, he said to the Associated Press, “I plan to continue to fly the American flag without interference.” As well he should.

And if any of his neighbors had taken a notion to contest him further, they might have done well to read his Medal of Honor citation first. Seems it indicates Mr. Van Barfoot wasn’t particularly good at backing down.

Van T. Barfoot’s Medal of Honor citation:

This 1944 Medal of Honor citation, listed with the National Medal of Honor Society, is for Second Lieutenant Van T. Barfoot, 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.



When will India feel proud for her soldiers like

Sushant and Vikram Battra ?

Read this story in Gujarati

Part-1 : Part -2 

The Tea Shop

Courtesy – Shri B.G.Jhaveri

A group of fifteen soldiers led by their Major Sahib were on their way to the post in Himalayas where they would be deployed for next three months. Another batch, which will be relieved, would be waiting anxiously for their arrival so that they could fall back to safer confines of their parent unit.

Some would proceed on leave and meet their families.

They were happy that they were to relieve a set of comrades who had done their job.

It was a treacherous climb and the journey was to last till the next evening. Cold winter with intermittent snowfall added to the torture.

If only someone could offer a cup of tea, the Major thought, knowing completely well that it was a futile wish.

They continued for another hour before they came across a dilapidated structure which looked like a small shop.

It was locked.

It was 2 o’clock in the night and there was no house close to the shop where the owner could be located.

In any case it was not advisable to knock any doors in the night for security reasons.

It was a stalemate. “No tea boys, bad luck” said the Major.

The Major told the men to take some rest since they had been walking for more than three hours now.

Sir, this is a tea shop indeed and we can make tea. We will have to break the lock though.

The officer was in doubt about the proposed action but a steaming cup of tea was not a bad idea.

He thought for a while and permitted for the lock to be broken. The lock was broken.

They were in for luck.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The place was a shop indeed and had everything required to prepare tea, and also a few packets of biscuits.

The tea was prepared and it brought great relief to all in the cold night.

They were now ready for the long and treacherous walk ahead of them and started to get ready to move.

The officer was in thought.

They had broken open the lock and prepared tea and consumed biscuits without the permission of the owner. The payment was due but there was no one in sight. But they are not a band of thieves.

They are disciplined soldiers.

The Major didn’t move out without doing what needed to be done. He took out a Rs. 1000/- note from his wallet and kept it on the counter, pressed under the sugar container, so that the owner sees it first thing when he arrives in the morning.

He was now relieved of the guilt and ordered the move.

Days, weeks and months passed. They continued to do gallantly what they were required to do and were lucky not to lose any one from the group in the intense insurgency situation.

And then one day, it was time to be replaced by another brave lot. Soon they were on their way back and stopped at the same shop, which was today open with the owner in place. He was an old man with very meager resources and was happy to see fifteen of them with the prospect of selling at least fifteen cups of tea that day.

All of them had their tea and spoke to the old man about his life and experiences in general, selling tea at such remote a location. The poor, old man had many stories to tell all of them, replete with his faith in God.

If there was a God will he leave you in this Pitiable / Poor condition, asked a Soldier!!

“No Sir, Don’t say like that, God actually Exists. I got the Proof a few months ago.I was going through very tough times because my only  son had been severely beaten by the terrorists who wanted some information from him which he did not have. I had closed the shop early that day and had taken my son to the hospital. There were medicines to be purchased and I had no money. No one would give me a loan from fear of the terrorists. There was no hope, Sahib. “And that day Sahib, I had prayed to Allah for help. And Sahib, Allah walked into my shop that day. When I returned to my shop that day and saw the lock broken, I thought someone had broken in and had taken away whatever little I had. But then I saw that ‘Allah’ had left Rs. 1000/- under the Sugar Pot. Sahib, I can’t tell you what that Money was Worth that day. Allah exists Sahib, He does. I know people are dying every day here but all of you will soon meet your near and dear ones, your children, and you must thank your God Sahib, he is watching all of us. He does exist. He walked in to my shop that day and broke open the lock to give me the money I desperately needed. I know He did it.”

The faith in his eyes was unflinching. It was unnerving. Fifteen sets of eyes looked at their officer and read the order in his eyes clear and unambiguous,’Keep quiet.’

The officer got up and paid the bill and hugged the old man.

“Yes Baba, I know, God does exist -and yes the tea was wonderful.”

Fifteen pairs of eyes did not miss the moisture building in the eyes of the Major, a rare sight.

And the Real Truth is that Any One  of us can be a God to Somebody.

The Four Habits that Form Habits

Courtesy – Kishor Barhate

By Leo Babauta

My daughter wants to work out more, but she has a hard time forming the habit (many of you might be familiar with this problem). From having to get dressed to go to the gym, to actually going to the gym, to the thought of a hard workout … our minds tend to put off the habit.

The solution is exceedingly simple: just do 3 pushups. Or tell yourself you have to walk/jog for just one minute.

Make it so easy you can’t say no.

Of course, most people will think that’s too easy, and tell themselves they have to do more than that. Leo’s advice is for other people! Unfortunately, it’s this mindset that causes people to fail at habits — we think we can do more, despite past evidence to the contrary, and so we aspire to greatness. We try to climb Everest before we’ve learned to walk.

Learn the fundamentals of habits before you try to do the advanced skills. If I could convince people of that, I could get millions to change their habits, be healthier, simplify, procrastinate less, start creating amazing things.

Today we’re going to go over the fundamentals of habit — four key habits to form habits. If you can learn these four habits, you’ll have the foundation to form pretty much any habit.

Habit 1: Start Exceedingly Small

Another common habit that too few people actually do is flossing daily. So my advice is just floss one tooth the first night.

Of course, that seems so ridiculous most people laugh. But I’m totally serious: if you start out exceedingly small, you won’t say no. You’ll feel crazy if you don’t do it. And so you’ll actually do it!

That’s the point. Actually doing the habit is much more important than how much you do.

If you want to exercise, it’s more important that you actually do the exercise on a regular basis, rather than doing enough to get a benefit right away. Sure, maybe you need 30 minutes of exercise to see some fitness improvements, but try doing 30 minutes a day for two weeks. See how far you get, if you haven’t been exercising regularly. Then, if you don’t succeed, try 1-2 minutes a day. See how far you get there.

If you can do two weeks of 1-2 minutes of exercise, you have a strong foundation for a habit. Add another week or two, and the habit is almost ingrained. Once the habit is strong, you can add a few minutes here and there. Soon you’ll be doing 30 minutes on a regular basis — but you started out really small.

Try the flossing habit — try to floss every tooth every night, and see how far you get. You might succeed … but if you fail, try just one tooth per night and see how far you get. Your mileage will vary, but on average most people get farther with a habit when they start small.

One glass of water a day. One extra vegetable. Three pushups. One sentence of writing a day. Two minutes of meditation. This is how you start a habit that lasts.

Habit 2: Be Mindful of Negative Thoughts

Most people will skip this habit, because they don’t think it’s necessary. Then they wonder why the habit failed.

When I quit smoking in 2005, I finally learned to watch my thoughts. I saw that I had a lot of self-talk I wasn’t aware of. My mind would start rationalizing the idea of smoking just one cigarette. “One won’t hurt!” “Why are you torturing yourself?” “Is this really worth it?” “Just give in, it’s much easier.” “You can’t do this, it’s too hard.”

Think about those thoughts for a second. How many did I have that I wasn’t aware of? How powerful were they, when I didn’t realize they were there? How many times did they cause me to smoke when I had previously tried to quit? And how often do these kinds of thoughts act on you?

The same thoughts happened when I tried to start running the next month — my mind would say, “You should stop now. It’s too hard. You’ll feel much better when you stop.” And of course, thoughts like these are very tempting, very powerful.

Then I started to learn to eat healthier, and repeatedly failed because I would give in to chips and pizza and ice cream. My mind would say, “You’ve been doing good, and this food is your reward!” Or, “Why are you denying yourself pleasure — life isn’t supposed to be hard!”

I learned to let these thoughts go. They are just thoughts — they don’t control me. They are just things that happen, like a leaf falling from a tree as I run by. Interesting phenomena, but not a determination of my life.

Watch the thoughts. Learn to let them go. Get good at discomfort. Triumph over the childish selfish scared mind.

Habit 3: Savor the Habit

This is the converse of Habit 2, but just as important. Your new habit isn’t some sort of sacrifice, some sort of chore you need to get through to get to your better life.

Your new habit is your better life.

The new habit, whatever it is, should be something you enjoy. Otherwise, don’t do it.

If you want to eat healthier, learn to enjoy the taste of this delicious, fresh, healthy food. An apple can be just as delicious as any junk food snack, if you pay attention and savor it.

If you are exercising, pay close attention to and enjoy the moving of the body, the feeling of exertion, the flow of blood through your brain, the focus.

If you are writing, sit with the words and enjoy the quiet concentration, the exhilaration of creation.

Learn to enjoy the habit, and the habit will become its own reward. The goal isn’t some distant achievement, but the process itself.

Habit 4: Have a Plan for When You Falter

This is really key — I can’t count how many people I know who have done really well with their habit for 6-7 days, and then when some disruption happened (it’s incredibly common), and then never re-started.

Get in the habit of re-starting when you falter.

How do you do that? Get some accountability — promise a friend or your spouse that you’ll pay $25 if you miss your new habit two days in a row … and then double that the next day ($50), and double that if you miss four days in a row ($100), and double every day you miss in a row after that. Or promise to mow someone’s lawn or wash their car if you miss three days in a row. Tell everyone on Facebook that you’ll personally clean their bathrooms if you miss three days in a row.

Missing one day in a row is not the end of the habit. Missing two days isn’t great, but you can recover. Miss three days, and the habit is shot. So don’t allow yourself to miss three days, and try your damndest not to even miss two days.

Forming the Four Habits

So how do you form the habits that form all other habits?

As simply as possible.

Choose one incredibly easy habit to do in the next two weeks. Floss one tooth. Drink one glass of water. Eat one fruit. Exercise or meditate or write or do yoga for 2 minutes a day. Just two minutes.

Then apply all four habits to those two minutes, every day. You’ll start to learn how to form a new habit, and that’s a skill that will pay off for a lifetime.