Against the Odds: Abraham Lincoln

 

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other

                                   Abraham Lincoln

With President’s Day just around the corner, I couldn’t think of a better image for this week’s photo challenge.

This great man is a clear embodiment of the phrase ‘Against the Odds’. His life story depicts the strength and perseverance one needs at the time of despair. He showed the world that encountering failure after failure is never the end. From being the most celebrated president of the United States to being the source of inspiration for centuries, he had accomplished the unattainable against all odds.

This tribute to the 16th president of the United States was captured at the National Mall of Washington D.C.

 

Weekly Photo ChallengeAgainst the Odds

Serenity in Solitude

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Personally, I love solitude. Solitude to me does not signify loneliness or emptiness. It is a state of mind devoid of clutter that helps rediscover yourself. Living amidst the hustle bustle of city life only makes us seek moments of solitude more often. It doesn’t require taking a vacation far off. Solitude can be achieved anywhere, as long as you cut off the virtual connections on your phone for a moment!

This picture is my personal favorite from my visit to South Dakota. It was captured at Castle Trail in Badlands National Park. It depicts the pleasure of enjoying solitude.

 

Weekly Photo ChallengeSolitude

overwhelming

Overwhelming Chaos

There comes a phase in everybody’s life where you find the outside world more concerned about you, than you are for yourself. While your mind may already be filled with the ifs and buts of life, the unwanted advises and suggestions from every so- called ‘well wisher’ and acquaintance, only adds to the clutter inside your head. The result? No prizes for guessing, an overwhelming chaos in your mind!

Once you get beyond the 25′ age limit of settlement, concerns from nowhere start pouring onto you. Specially in India, where there is a preset deadline for every life event to occur, the moment you miss your pre- designated ‘age’, you become the center of interest!

According to the Indian norms of having a successful life, there are three main areas to be accomplished to be labelled as settled:

  • Education – Get a valid degree! Preferably in Engineering or Medicine. Any other field is an area of concern for ‘settlement’.
  • Employment – Get a job! Of course you need one for your bread and butter.
  • Marriage – Get married at the ‘right’ age. Otherwise there is something wrong!

Now let’s look at some of the key points to be checked off your life checklist to be considered ‘well settled’. Mind you, there is much more to accomplish here:

  • Exceptional Income– Having a job doesn’t guarantee great income. Make sure you end up in a job with a fat paycheck!
  • Property– Having a good house and a car. Well, having the same in a foreign country can mean exceptionally well settled.
  • Children– Nobody is ever well settled without having children. ‘Married with kids’ is the most common notion to be considered well settled.

Now that you’re familiar with the basic norms of leading a happy and successful life according to an average Indian, you are expected to ‘plan’ your life accordingly. If one of the above criteria for settlement is left incomplete, trust me, you’re screwed!

First and foremost, you unintentionally start becoming the biggest worry of your parents. Not because they can’t wait for you to succeed/settle, but because they can’t answer every Tom, Dick and Harry who raises concerns about you. A clear example of societal pressure.

Second, you start feeling ashamed of yourself for being questionable. As people who were nowhere to be seen till this point, suddenly start inquiring about your attitude towards life.

Look at your friends! They are racing ahead with their careers. What are you up to?”, questions one of your dad’s friends, who claims himself as your well wisher.

Once you’re sure of what you want to do and work towards it, you start feeling a sense of relief for being on the right path. Then comes your aunt! A distant aunt, who hasn’t seen you for over a decade, nor has inquired about your well being all these years. She is suddenly very much interested in your wedding. She advises your parents from her ‘experience’ that missing the age-limit might diminish your chances of finding the bride/groom you deserve!

It’s high time you get married!”, she suggests. She is clearly unaware of what you’re going through, nor is bothered about your intentions.

When the right time comes, you get married. You are happy to have found your partner for life and start basking in the glory of being newly wed. It doesn’t take long for your neighbors who come over for a cup of coffee, to start rubbing in their recommendations!

Now start planning for kids, before your biological clock starts ticking!”, they warn.

The chaos gets worse if you fall into the female species, as there are stricter deadlines and age limits for everything. Before you realize, your life is being planned and judged by a third person, who will never appear at the time of need in the future.

Life events aren’t always meant to happen as planned. There are many unexpected events and turns life offers you, that can never be planned. Easy said than done. Neither the well wisher uncle nor the distant aunt realize your effort being put into getting your dreams accomplished. They are neither a part of your journey, nor will they ever be!

Life happens at it’s own pace and it differs for each one of us. The right things happen to you at ‘your’ right time. May be following the herd just for the sake of getting a job at the right time isn’t your motive. You may be dreaming and working for something greater and better! Getting married just because all your friends around are getting married or because your aunt is suggesting, might turn out to be the biggest mistake of your life! Not having children when the society expects, will not fail you to become a mother!

You will be offered with everything that is right for you when the moment is right, when you have the need to accomplish, when you have the strength to sustain and when you have the capacity to maintain.

Until then, enjoy this time of being the subject of gossip for jobless uncles and aunties around you. πŸ˜‰

 

Daily PromptOverwhelming

American Filter Coffee- #Short Story

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Image Source: Women’s Web
Originally published on Women’s Web as a winning entry for January 2017 Muse of the Month

Ladies and gentlemen, we request your full attention as the flight attendants demonstrate the safety features of this aircraft”, announced a member of the flight crew. Though Mrs. Kumar couldn’t stop staring at the attendant giving the safety demonstration, her mind was elsewhere. She felt void, helpless and lonely. After all, it had hardly been four months since Mr. Kumar passed away in an accident. The sudden demise of her beloved husband had come as a disastrous shock. The thought of living without him for the rest of her life never ceased to tear up her eyes. The compulsion of her son made her board the plane to Chicago, a city and a country she had never been to. Her life revolved around the school she worked at and her husband who loved her like no other. But the sudden turn of events had left her shattered. Due to the trauma she was going through following her husband’s death, her son felt she shouldn’t be living alone anymore.

She spent the next 17 hours of the flight recalling the memories her husband had left behind. After enduring her first international travel filled with heartache, she reached the destination, which she never wished to visit alone. Mrs. Kumar’s son was elated to have her in his land of dreams, which he now called home.

How was the flight, Ma?” asked Niroop curiously, while driving home from the airport. “It was okay”, she replied.

β€œThe kids are eagerly waiting to meet their Ajji”, uttered Niroop, sounding excited. “I’m sure, you’ll have a good time here, unlike feeling lonely back home”, he reiterated. Mrs. Kumar sighed and looked outside the window, but little did she bother to admire the architecture and the skyscrapers adorned with white glowing snow. Nothing really caught her attention, despite the wonders a new place and a foreign land can do.

She smiled after months when her grandkids pounced upon her, but the smile faded away slowly.

Days passed by, and then months. The spindly branches of winter started regaining their glory, hinting the signs of spring. The family was unsuccessful in making Mrs. Kumar step out of the house, despite their best efforts.

Maa, it’s been close to three months since you moved here! It’s high time you go out and take a stroll. You’ll have your mind off all this for a while and may feel good. Please trust me!” pleaded Niroop.

A silence followed as usual. “I know what you are going through. It’s hard on us too, but is this the way you’re going to live for the rest of your life? Let’s just go for a cup of coffee, please Ma!” he requested.

She noticed the pain in his voice and the twinkle in his eyes, which reminded her of his need for his mother. After all, parents survive for their children, if not for themselves! She agreed to accompany him for a cup of coffee.

The moment she stepped out, she felt the chilly breeze sweeping through her hair. Mrs. Kumar started gazing around while peeping out of the car window. She noticed sheets of muddy snow scattered that no longer looked beautiful. She took a look at the tall buildings and the sculptures.

As they entered the coffee house, Mrs. Kumar seemed uncomfortable in her own self, walking around in a Saree amidst foreigners. β€œI better stay indoors”, she thought. “Hello, Nirup! How are you doing today?” greeted a lady in an apron, standing at the counter. Niroop being a regular customer, was a known face at the coffee house. “I’m doing good Dona! How’s it going?” he said. “Not too bad! Looks like we have a guest here”, she asked with a warm smile while taking the order. While Niroop was busy introducing Dona to his mother, Mrs. Kumar couldn’t help but notice the spark in the lady’s eyes and her genuine smile.

Here, try this White Mocha. I figured you like your coffee to be sweeter, so you might enjoy this one”, Niroop said, while placing a 12oz. coffee cup on the table. As Mrs. Kumar sipped in the coffee, “Is it any good or close to your filter kaapii?” he joked.

It’s different”, she said.

So, how’re you liking Chicago Ma’am?” Interrupted Dona, yet again with her warm smile.

β€œAre you done with your shift?” asked Niroop. “Yup! Mrs. Kumar, I loved your attire! Indian women look beautiful in a Saree!” she exclaimed.

Mrs. Kumar was surprised on what she just heard. “Thank you!” she smiled. “Please feel free to visit any time, I’ll be there, if not your son! You guys have a good night”, Dona said with a hearty laugh. They walked out of the coffee house, but this time Mrs. Kumar could no longer sense her discomfort. She may not have felt very good, but she definitely did feel different. She realized her inhibitions of living in a new country. She slowly started pondering about her present, rather than her past and the future.

Within a few weeks, Mrs. Kumar was no longer a guest at the coffee house. She has kept accompanying Niroop every now and then and developed a good rapport with Dona. They greeted each other with a smile and indulged in light talks. There was something unique about Dona’s demeanor that did not make Mrs. Kumar feel lost and lonely- a feeling that had been haunting her for months now. She was amazed on how someone in an alien land could give her this feeling of comfort. Not only did she enjoy sipping in American mochas, but she also enjoyed her enlightening conversations with Dona, that diverted her mind from the agony she was going through.  Soon, she got acquainted enough to visit the coffee house all alone, not just to savor chocolaty coffee, but also to cherish her growing friendship with Dona.

Mrs. Kumar! Just getting off my shift, will be with you shortly!” Dona said, while taking off her apron. “Take your time”, Mrs. Kumar smiled, while making herself comfortable in a cozy corner table.

Thank you for taking time to see me. Glad you are here!” Dona sounded excited. “Oh, please don’t be, the feeling is mutual”, Mrs. Kumar smirked. “I wanted to invite you over to my place, for a cup of Indian coffee”, she added. Dona was so pleased with the invitation that she couldn’t refuse. “I’d love to! Never been to an Indian place, nor had their coffee!” she claimed. They left the coffee house and drove to Niroop’s house.

As Dona made herself comfortable and admired the Indian ambience, Mrs. Kumar headed to the kitchen to make coffee. She then offered her special filter coffee to Dona in a cup and saucer. “Oh, is this the Indian way? Smells amazing!” Dona expressed. While relishing their South Indian filter coffee, they indulged in an aromatic coffee conversation filled with comparisons of coffees from their respective lands. “I’m so glad you invited me over. It is a pleasure knowing you and your culture”, Dona proclaimed. “Thank you! To be honest, I enjoy spending time with you”, Mrs. Kumar smiled.

I know! The very first time I saw you, there was this strange connection that I sensed, and wondered, Wow! She is so beautiful!” professed Dona. “I was nervous, wasn’t comfortable walking around in a Saree”, Mrs. Kumar confessed. “Also, I came out of the house only after three months”, she added.

Hmm, I understand. It’s hard. Looks like he loved you very much, the way you miss him”, Dona sighed.

He did. I was married when I was 18. All I knew was I wanted to study, but I was forced into wedlock. My husband was a very caring and an understanding man. As years passed, I felt blessed to be his partner. He made me complete my degree and eventually helped me become a teacher. I loved my job and my family. But now…the accident has left me nowhere. I miss him so much, I quit my job. I did not want to live anymore”, cried Mrs. Kumar, unable to stop her tears.

Oh dear, please don’t cry! You have a great family that your husband left behind. You have a wonderful son and adorable grandkids”, Dona said, while trying to pacify Mrs. Kumar. “Do you even know how fortunate you are?” she asked. 

I lost my only love in an accident all of a sudden. The blow is horrifying, something that doesn’t make me wake up every morning. How am I fortunate?” Mrs. Kumar cried out loud.

Honey! Life moves on! If not now, this may have happened at some point. Life is not about being prepared. Of course, you are fortunate compared to many in this world. Well, look at me! I had an early pregnancy and my son was born out of wedlock. His father left us when he was 8 months old and never returned. I was young and broke, with a son. I never went to school, but wanted my son to get his education. So, I worked hard to save, but all in vain. He dropped out, surrounded himself with bad influences and ended up in prison. I don’t even get to meet him very often”, Dona said in a sobbing tone.

I’m so sorry Dona! Never realized you had so much pain behind that smiling face”, Mrs. Kumar felt bad.

Now, I’m in my 50s, with no family, living all by myself, working in a coffee shop to pay my bills. I have to do it, to support myself. I’ve struggled all my life, with no better hope for the future. The coffee house and my work keeps me going”, Dona continued.

You are very brave Dona! I’m really proud and honored to have known you”, Mrs. Kumar said with pride.

You’ve had a great life with a loving husband and family. Your son is doing well here and cares for his mother. You have wonderful memories and a promising hope. Memories of your loving husband will motivate you to get going with your life. Acknowledge your gifts in disguise, before you emphasize your loss. Don’t overlook your blessings, you will only make things worse!“, Dona explained.

Mrs. Kumar was feeling a sense of enlightenment and could not thank Dona enough for her offering. She realized how fortunate she was and that she couldn’t make it worse by reminding herself about the tragedy.

After the enriching conversation with Dona and many days of failed attempts to make up her mind, she finally decided on what would make her live in peace.

One fine day, when Niroop was home from work, Mrs. Kumar said, “I’m planning to go back next month.” An astounded Niroop, wasn’t sure if his mother was unhappy to live with them or if she had been having trouble adjusting in the new country. β€œBut why Maa? You’re not happy here?” he asked. 

β€œI want to reapply for my job back home. That job was a result of your father’s motivation. I can’t disrespect him by quitting!” she replied. 

Niroop was glad to know his mother was getting back on the right path. β€œAs you wish Maa”, he smiled.

Mrs. Kumar met Dona at the coffee house and thanked her again for making her feel lighter ever since they had their uplifting conversation. β€œI’m happy you took the right decision. But I’ll miss you!” said Dona. β€œYou’ve no idea how much your words meant to me! I’ll cherish your friendship forever!” stated Mrs. Kumar. β€œThere is no dearth of staying connected these days. Are you on Facebook?” inquired Dona. β€œI heard about it a couple of times from my students but never really used it. I’ll create an account, for you”, Mrs. Kumar declared.

β€œAwesome! But hey! I don’t know your name yet”, Dona giggled.

β€œIt’s Meena”, Mrs. Kumar smiled.

Opposites DON’T Attract

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We grow up hearing so many conventions, sayings and cliches, that they end up secured in our sub conscious memory. Result- every choice, decision and judgement revolves around these adages unknowingly. One such cliched statement that disguises to hold true in relationships is – Opposites Attract!

This was, or may be still is not only a popular interpretation of relationships, but also one of the most conveniently used pick up lines, ever! When we are young with not much conscience about ourselves or the awareness for the need of knowing ourselves, we end up making choices that may not necessarily do any good. One such instance is ending up in relationships due to an immaturity to realize what we actually want or mere lack of judgement.

A shy boy meets this outgoing girl and he is instantly mesmerized by her charming personality. He falls for her ability to express herself and her gregarious nature. Well, just like any romantic novel or a movie, they are attracted to each other, end up in a relationship and enjoy a sunset together, relying on the masked fact of- Opposites attract!! They enjoy each others company and keep spending more time together. It’s all wonderful and beautiful during their initial lovey-dovey stages of love life. But the real problem sprouts in the long run, when they reveal much more about each other, only to realize how different they are! Well ya! That’s how they got together in the first place, duh!

They no longer find their partners attractive. The extroverted quality that he admired, seems to slowly turn noisy and annoying. The shy guy that she loved and respected, turned out to be a hindrance to her outgoing personality. The attraction fades away as they realize their differences. This is a mere example of one of the scenarios. Well, the differences might be extensive. It could be due to opposite personality traits, career choices, goals, ambitions or values.

Opposites attract- and then can’t stand each other

Kenneth Kaye

As the phrase suggests in itself, it is merely an attraction. An attraction that has no promise to last forever. But there are cases where this phrase actually worked, when partners are poles apart, but lived happily ever after. It could be an outcome of complementing each other consistently or a constant struggle to make their relationship work, rather than mere attraction. The bottom line is- relationships will or will not work due to various reasons, but there is no truth in “Opposites always attracting!”  Well yes, may be in science, for magnetic poles, but not in relationships!

The choice of your partner depends on your perception of yourself.

Yes. It’s all you again and your mind! We always want to end up with the right ones, don’t we? But why do we screw up? What makes things go wrong? It’s because we never knew what we are! Nor did we know what we want. Self analysis helps us prevent mistakes we regret. It’s all in the perception of ourselves!

People who love themselves at a greater level, often end up falling for people similar to them. Why? – Because they are sure of what gives them comfort and what repels them. A reserved person, who loves himself/ herself for being reserved, may actually only enjoy the company of a person with similar personality and interests. Because in the long run, that’s how they will be!

An introverted person who is not really comfortable in his/ her own self, looks for or gets attracted to an extroverted personality. But it’s important to be sure if that will last forever. It will, if they really are unhappy about their introverted nature, wanting to get out of their shell and crave for someone to complement them.

It is essential to recognize the principles that matter the most to us. Choosing a partner with similar or opposite values, depends entirely on our perception of what is important to us.

Recent studies have shown that opposite similar values and views are needed for a healthy and lasting relationship. Many people with similar backgrounds/ professions actually end up longer together. This works, if you believe different career choices might actually cause disturbances.

No two people are alike. No matter how hard we strive to find someone like us, there will be things that are opposing and different.  It is necessary to not only enjoy the similarities, but also to appreciate the differences, thus complementing each other. Knowing what similarities or differences to admire, is up to us and our belief of ourselves. This paves way to make the right decision, rather than any pre- existing notions or adages. In the end, any relationship needs effort and commitment to keep it going.

So, understand yourself before you get ‘attracted’ to someone, because circumspection is always better than repentance.

 

Weekly Discover ChallengeConventional Wisdom

Graceful Beauty

Custer State Park, South Dakota

I couldn’t think of a better epitome for graceful! Found this graceful horse in one of the ranches at Custer State Park in South Dakota. I was lucky to have this beauty pose for me with grace on a cloudy afternoon. This palomino colored horse is in sync with the backdrop and the dark mane only adds to its elegance!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge-Β  Graceful

Glossy Ambience

Las Vegas is famous not only for its casinos, entertainment and vibrant nightlife, but also for its distinct, sophisticated, European inspired architectures.

These photographs are an outcome of my recent visit to this most happening city during the holiday season. The glossy ambience of every place was unique and enthralling. No matter how cold or how low you feel, these ambiences are sure to lift up your spirits and make you feel alive!

Fremont Street Experience happens to be one of the famous attractions in Las Vegas with sparkling and stimulating light shows!

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Fremont Street, Las Vegas

The architecture and ambience at St. Marks’s Square, The Venetian makes every effort to make you feel like you are in Venice!

St.Marks Square- The Venetian, Las Vegas

Fiori Di Como are the floral glass sculptures in the lobby of Bellagio. These beautifully hand crafted carvings are sure to win your attention and admiration!

Fiori Di Como-Β  Bellagio, Las Vegas

For every MGM Studios movie/ cartoon fan, this gleaming lion at MGM Grand is sure to bring back a lot of memories!

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MGM Grand- Las Vegas

 

Weekly Photo ChallengeAmbience