February 2017 By Jamuna Rangachari
Dreams are inspirations issued by God, which we have an obligation to realise. They are powered by love and ignited further by faith. Only when we fulfil our dreams will our lives achieve the full trajectory they are capable of, says Jamuna Rangachari “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” – Eleanor Roosevelt And yet, how few there are in this world who chase and realise their dreams.Everything in this world arose first as a dream in someone’s mind. Indeed, the Universe itself emerged as a dream in God’s mind. Which is why it is imperative that when we give birth to a dream, we bring it to life too.
Abortion of a dream is every bit as much a murder as that of a foetus. I see even successful people deeply unhappy because they are not connected to their inner selves. We hear of people in IIT and medical colleges committing suicide, professionals on the brink of depression, every second person gulping down sleeping pills, and parents concerned about the grades of a pre-nursery child. In this artificial world that we ourselves have created, dreams are believed to be fiction and never reality. Personally, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I thought it was the end of my life as I knew it then. Soon however, I began dreaming of a complete life, with or without the ailment.
I knew the Universe would look after me as it had always done. I made a plan for myself and lived according to it. Dreams tiptoe into every imagination, but we often ignore them thinking they are impossible to achieve. Often too, we are discouraged by everyone around us, leading us to lose our confidence and follow the tried and tested path that everyone else follows. In the process, we compress our spirit, dampen our life force and enfeeble our soul.
Perhaps somewhere, the Creator who gave us life and sent us on this planet to unveil our magnificence weeps to see us so stunted. And yet there is one power that we can harness to bring back our natural buoyancy, verve and daring. A power that can unfold the superhuman in us all. And that power is love. If love awakens within us, it gives us the foundation upon which to dare impossible things. This love can either be the love with which we are cared for as children, or our own passionate love for a cause, a person, a community or a profession. It can also be a realisation of the constant love of the Creator towards us.
The power of love Love can make us believe in ourselves and then, in our dreams. Preeti Monga, now in her 50s, was six years old when her visual disability was first diagnosed. Stationed in the remote township of Agartala, the capital of the northeast state of Tripura, and with little access to specialised support, counselling or guidance, her parents had absolutely no idea how to bring up a blind child. For a while, they toyed with the idea of sending her to a school for the blind, but since none of the schools they visited satisfied them, they brought her up in the best way they could, showering her with love and support. This love made her believe in herself and the power of her dreams and she kept on dreaming, dreaming and dreaming.
When Helen Keller had achieved so much, why not she? Determined not to let her disability come in the way, Preeti learnt to play the sitar and even completed a diploma from the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. However, that was as far as she could go with that dream, for her understanding of music was insufficient for further exploration. She then thought it would be best if she settled down in matrimony and became a good homemaker. At that stage, all she wanted was a good marriage, kids and a reasonably comfortable home.
She had a host of men who were friends but no one wanted to marry her. An arranged marriage seemed out of the question as no one was willing to accept a visually challenged woman as a life partner. After a period of pain and humiliation, in 1982 she met and married her first husband. Here again, she met with difficulty. It was a marriage that headed straight for the rocks from the very beginning. He was an alcoholic who kept leaving one job after another, rendering their lives unstable. In 1986, when she was a mother of two, she decided to become economically independent so that she could leave him and take care of herself and her children. As we can see, Preeti never stopped dreaming, because she knew she could achieve them. She just redefined her dreams. After all, in the journey of life, our original dream often changes to newer ones, sometimes even making us explore new territories. Observing a rising trend in fitness, Preeti got the idea of becoming an aerobics instructor.
In 1988, she became the first blind aerobics instructor in the world. In 1993, she finally separated from her first husband. In 1994, she took up a full-time job at the National Association for the Blind in New Delhi as a resource teacher. From there she moved on to getting the job of a marketing and sales manager with a food marketing company. There, she met her second husband who, though much younger than her, completely shared her values and helped her craft a happily-ever-after denouement to her life. The love of strangers Sometimes, there are people who get no love at all from one’s own family but still get ignited into dreaming by the love they draw in their later lives. This was the case with Amin Sheikh in Mumbai. Amin’s stepfather used to beat him savagely, and so did his mother. During the day he used to work eight to 10 hours a day in a tea shop, and would be paid two rupees for it. At night he would come home and bear the abuse. He ran away at the age of five, begging, eating discarded eatables, and sleeping in fear under park benches or in hidden corners of railway stations. Fortunately, he was lucky and taken to an orphanage, Sneh Sadan, at the age of eight. There he learnt what it meant to have a place one can call ‘home’ and people one can call ‘family’. After several odd jobs, he worked with the late Eustace Fernandes, a renowned advertising artist, most famous for creating the ‘Amul Girl’. Amin became not just his Man Friday but almost a son. Fernandes even took him to Barcelona on a visit.
There, Amin noticed how people use a café as a space to bond and interact. In 2003, Eustace bought him a second-hand car, and he started running his own cab company with it. One day, a British woman told him that she had been in a lot of cabs but none showed her around the way he did. She went back to London and wrote a fantastic piece on him on the Internet which went viral. Many foreigners who came later specifically asked for Amin to drive them around. His business prospered and he bought another car. In his personal life too, he evolved. He knew he had to forgive his mother in order to rise above the blame game.
Understanding that she too was a victim of circumstances he nobly bought her a house in 2006, and bridged their bond. From experience, he knew that apart from issues of food and clothing, living on the streets could be lonely. He yearned to open a space where people could meet and bond, as he had seen them do in the cafe in Barcelona; he dreamt of opening a similar one in Mumbai. Friend of the Earth Love for Planet Earth is something most of us have, but rarely does it spark a fire that electrifies us into action as it did Shubhendu Sharma.
Bangalore-based Shubhendu always wished to do something of abiding value. In a city full of software engineers, he decided to join Toyota because of their high quality work. But slowly, he began to question if auto manufacture was in the interest of the planet in the long run, because of the pollution it generated. In 2009, he met and volunteered to assist a naturalist, Akira Miyawaki, to cultivate a forest at the Toyota plant where he worked. This experience became a turning point in his life. He saw present-day India as a concrete jungle surrounded by barren land all around. He was obsessed with creating forests.
Love for community Love for our community and nation is deeply embedded in all of us. However, in the scuffle of daily life, we often forget this basic love of ours. When we forget this love, a part of us remains incomplete, as Babar Afzal found. Babar had left Kashmir as he did not want to be part of a land that was full of uncertainty and conflict. He studied and was extremely ‘successful’ by society’s standards. He worked with organisations like McKinsey in India, USA, UK, and Middle East as a technology analyst, business consultant, and a hacker who broke the codes of many. He had a great salary, great accommodation, good food, good friends and was travelling all over the world, but there was always something pulling him back home. His soul gnawed at him all the time. “I could see people back home, friends and family, who were struggling, who were dying. It was devastating,” he says. He had to revive the place that he loved.
“The world does show its magic to those who pursue dreams,” said Babar when I met him recently at a conference. He felt he must do something to make Kashmir return to the original state that had inspired the famed Amir Khusro to rhapsodise, “If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.” We often hear about many things from and about Kashmir but most of us are not aware of the power of its creativity. Kashmir is a wonderful blend of beauty and creativity in various forms, which includes its wondrous pashmina shawls. Babar had always understood and resonated with the power of pashmina. The word ‘pashmina’ comes from the Persian term ‘pashm’ meaning wool. The real pashmina wool comes from the Changthangi goats of the Himalayas. The goa
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