Arbat Street-Moscow-Russia

Arbat Street is a one kilometer pedestrian street in the historical center of Moscow. It is assumed to built around the 15th century, but was destroyed in a fire in 1812, which is associated with Napoleons invasion of Moscow. The street was then rebuilt after that.  Arbat Street was Moscow’s first pedestrian street.  Originally the street formed part of an important trade-route and was home to a large number of craftsmen. DSC_4528

In the 19th and early 20th centuries it became known as the place where petty nobility, artists, and academics lived. In the Soviet period, it housed many high-ranking government officials.

Arbat Street is one of the most beautiful streets I have seen. With its picturesque street lamps, with subtle yellow light illuminating the brick-covered ground, it felt as though it had been picked out of a fairy-tale. Arbat Street is lined with shops selling trinkets, Matroyshkas (the traditional Russian doll) and other handicrafts indigenous to Russia. With a variety of cafes serving mouth-water Russian cuisine, it in a foodies delight. Arbat Street also has a collection of talented artists to entertain and humor you.


Happiness :)

‘You are never completely dressed without a smile.’

Humanity unanimously believes that happiness is associated with a winsome smile that brightens your face. Smiling is the physical aspect of happiness. Humans are peculiar being, when we smile our eyes become moist with tears.

But what is happiness?? People far and wide have pondered over this simple word, this simple emotion.

‘Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to be and celebrate it for what it is.’

Is this what happiness is- living for today and having no regrets? Or is it something more? According to science it is the release of endorphins, but is it just that?

Happiness for me is seeing a waging tail and an excited face greeting me as I come home. Happiness for someone else may be shopping at your favourite store, or eating a scrumptious meal. Happiness for everyone is different.   

I extrapolate from the world I see around and live in, that happiness cannot be defined. It is the same emotion, yet different in every way for every individual.

“Be happy not because everything is good, but because you choose to see the good in everything.”

© Asavari Singh

Castes Do Not Define Us…..Or Do They??

The unanimous opinion of todays ‘modern’ world is that inter-caste marriages should not be considered a taboo. This, I believe is a positive step for the betterment of society. However, what I do not comprehend is why there is a widespread hatred for the individuals who began this custom.

In the Vedic age castes were on the basis of your profession. How we consider designations and different categories of jobs, the people in the Vedic age created castes. The concept of untouchability and degradation of the supposed ‘lower’ castes was wrong. However the actual concept of caste was not wrong. The way the progeny moulded the idea to suit and satisfy their hungry egos was wrong.

The reason, I believe inter-caste marriages were not allowed was, because it would be very difficult for the girl and boy to adjust to each other’s worlds. It would be like trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

As the wise men of the past would say, ‘Love makes you blind’. I speculate that the parents of the child were only trying to ease the process of adjustment to the new home and life the girl and boy would lead.

If a king marries his daughter, who lives in the lap of luxury, surrounded by maid-servants to do even the most nominal job for her, to a farmer, it would be quite difficult for her to modify herself to her new environment. She may even end of hating her husband as he cannot provide the luxury she demands for.

Sometimes, girls and boys can be a little foolish, blinded by the romantic idea, that you only require love for a long lasting relationship. A little advice to them, you live in the real world, not fairy-tale land!

I some way, originally the idea of ‘banning’ inter-caste marriages was right. This was a preventive measure parents put on their children. However now, this has become an immense problem and one of the main causes for quarrels between parents and their children.

Today, a marriage has become more of an alliance with another family of the same caste. Nobody looks at qualifications, temperament, outlook about life of the person their child is to marry; the only important criterion is the caste. An individual’s significant other could be of a supposed ‘lower’ or ‘higher’ caste but a better match. I do not comprehend why this is not understood by some people today.

But, if you look at ‘marriage’ from a distance, as an outsider, the ‘caste system’ still prevails, the original one. We would still not want our daughters or sons to marry someone who is of lower social strata. This is because the two worlds simply do not fit.

If you came from an affluent educated background, would you marry your daughter to an undedicated, less affluent, small business man- who owns a small shop at the street corner?


When Death Comes Alive…..

I am the cause of people’s woes and occasionally I am their saviour too. I am feared unanimously by the impotent humans. I presume that now you must have ‘labelled’ me as the psychopathic killer. However, I am your escape. I am Death.

I live alone in my abode. I am lonely there. All those days and nights, I spend in solitude, in my dim room only illuminated by a candle. I had books that would take me on mysterious journeys on earth and beyond, books that have made me love; however it’s only an illusion. It is not real. My solitary life, with no contact with any other being, is driving me insane!

I have never been ‘Alive’ before. Life, as it is for humans, has always been a mystery for me. Whenever I come to earth to take custody of the soul that enters into the world of the dead; I see the humans’ eyes leaking.  I see them shaking the body of the soul vigorously.  I see misery, anguish and sorrow. As far as I understand this complex subject of life and death, with my scanty and insufficient knowledge about it, I conclude that dying in one life is rebirth in another. However, these stubborn, slow-witted souls don’t seem to grasp the concept until it’s too late for them and their slow-wit turns to no-wit!

My thirst for knowledge about Life-the human was like a desert thirsty for water. My inquisitiveness for this mystery was too compelling to be left unveiled. I decided to quench my thirst. I decided to take a sojourn to earth.

The sun’s birth in the dusky sky was a little delayed today. The humans below would have been wondering why suddenly their natural alarm clock-the sun, chose to rise at twelve in the noon. It caused a great uproar worldwide! People were perplexed by the unnatural, inexplicable, alien activity.  It’s because I was visiting the earthlings that day, not just for my regular visit to pick up a soul but for a purpose so strong, I shone like black diamonds across the sky.

I set foot on earth as a dull, dreary, dismal shadow, of a joyous, jovial, jolly little boy of six. The little boy had a broad smile on his face, like that of the Cheshire Cat. His eyes sparkled with a blend of mischief and exuberance. His face had a tinge of pink childhood glow. But my face was black.

The sun stared at the earth without pause from the sapphire-like clear sky. The heat of the sun radiated back from the tar road my little friend was walking on, radiated back the heat of the sun creating an atmosphere of an oven. He felt the intense heat, I felt nothing.

The little boy ran to a group of boys huddled around a small, wooden table near the side of the playground. The same grin spread across his face, his thirty-two teeth peering out of his mouth intently. My face was blank. I did not feel the anything.

One of the boys materialized a ball. The boys screamed in delight! They were all exceedingly ecstatic seeing the ball.  The goals were set. The teams were decided. An air of excitement had taken over the children. The children ran after the ball with enthusiasm. I ran too, with the little boy. The children played under the burning ball of fire until its anger was subdued and it turned a soft pink. The children were tired, yet their happiness had not been washed away by their exhaustion. I felt nothing- I did not feel their joy, I did not feel their exhaustion.

After the boys had had one evening’s share of strenuous activity, they walked back to their homes where their families awaited them.

As my new little friend walked home, his perpetual smile still remained. I did not understand the reason for his smile. I did not understand emotion.

The little boy was home. The pink sky had turned an inky blue. I couldn’t stay any longer for today. I had to go. As a shadow I cannot stay on this wonderful planet at night. Seven o’ clock was the limit. I had to go. I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”

I was gone.

I was back at the ‘Death Den’. It had been a day on earth, among humans. I did not understand them. I believe that is why I do not understand the feeling to be alive. I know humans are more content living amongst the alive rather than the dead.  However I still did not understand why. I had seen him feel tired, joyous and exhausted, though I had not felt it with him.

Suddenly I heard my door creek open. Nobody ever visits me. Occasionally, my Master does, however it is never for any good! My heart was pounding in my throat! All of a sudden my palms became moist due to excessive perspiration. I thought I knew the reason for his visit….

“Death!” boomed the grating voice of my master “What folly is this?”

I kept quiet. My head bowed in submission.

“Why do I hear that you have been traversing through Earth I the disguise of shadow and not doing your duties of transporting souls to hell, when I had firmly told you not to?”

I did not answer.

“Am I inaudible Death?”

“No Master…”

“Then answer me u fool!”

“It won’t happen again Master,” I said in a meek voice.

It better not…” My master said sternly “You are to stay here for three years not to show your face to the world outside! Your duties shall temporarily be taken over by another soul.”

“Am I clear?”

“Yes Master.”

My master piercing grey eyes did not leave my face, as if deciphering if my face showed any signs of me falling back on my promise. He thought I would stay and not go to Earth. He was wrong…

Today is the dawn of a new day. A day not significant to most, but to me It is the day of my escape. My Master had placed two robust security guards at the door of my room. He had placed such a device that would allow me teleport. My Master in authority is superior that me, yet I supersede him in shrewd wit.

You must be thinking I would have devised a complicated strategy for my heroic escape. I unfortunately have to crush your hopes as with my Master, you don’t have to formulate any strategy.

There was a window in my room big enough for me to squirm through it. I did so. Now out of the reach of the device that hindered by teleportation, I did teleport back to earth.

This time around I was the shadow of a young girl.

I was in her room. It was an array of all the shades of purple. The satin curtains tinted the harsh sunlight. The pillows were placed on the soft bed. The room had an air of and artist.

This petite girl with freckled cheeks and frazzled auburn hair that complemented her pale skin, was standing in front of the mirror, the streaks of summer sun falling gently on her face from the unlatched window. I, her shadow was behind her.

I was a Saturday afternoon. From my meagre gathering of human life a girl her age is not home on a summer weekend, that too in her night suit! I knew something was not right.  While I was trying to balance this imbalanced equation of this mystery, the girl collapsed crying. I thought humans only cried when I took a soul with me. I had not taken her soul, why was she crying?

“I cannot do this anymore!” she sobbed, “It’s too difficult!”

“I am a misfit!”

“Nobody wants to be around me”

“What have I done God?”

“Is it my fault that you gave me the love for learning and left the others without it?’

She did not say a word more but her soft sobs said it all. She was a misfit in the eyes of the world. She had a love for learning, while the other girls her age were more interested in “Teens’ Weekly”.

Life in my eyes had been a rosy walk through a park. Yet I forgot that every rose has its thorns. Life too has its thorns. I feel it too.

I had never known till today that I am alive in my very own way. My Alive is just different.

I felt remorse just as the girl did. I felt a sense of victory when I escaped my entrapment. I had felt it, but not understood it. I felt lonely as well. I just did not think of that to be a part of feeling alive. I do feel emotions. I just never believed it. The girl and boy I met taught me that life is not only ecstasy it is also remorse. I am alive, in the most ‘human’ way I ever could be.

My revelation was ended when I began fading away into the earth. I was not aware of what was happening! It was a complete blur! I was being sucked into the earth’s core!

In a matter of minutes I was in a dim, candle-lit chamber. My master sat there in front of me, his face red with anger! I gulped down my heart back to its place from my throat. I felt like a mouse in front of a ravenous lion!

“You have gone back on your promise as I thought you would.” My master raged.

“It is time you shall be punished for your sin!”

“I sentence you to imprisonment in the fields of Apostle! Where you shall perish for your sins!”  My Master’s words fumed with wrath, “I do not want to set eyes on your wretched face!”

Before I could plead for forgiveness, his final order was delivered, “Be gone!”

I vanished into thin air and reappeared in hell. I write to the world from there. I am still lonely and still ‘alive’.

© Asavari Singh

Fantasy Has Not Changed….

Fantasy has not changed. Nor will it in the years ahead. Fantasy will always have the same ingredients, only with slight variations.

Let us go back in time to the sixteenth century and venture into the fascinating world of Shakespeare, through his play – ‘The Tempest’. Now coming back to the present world, we shall take a dip into the waters of animation through the movie – ‘Spirited Away’.

I will not be unfolding the story line of the two, however, I will be telling you how though the ages the core of fantasy has remained constant, and only the surface has changed.

‘Spirited Away’ is set in an abandoned amusement park, while ‘The Tempest’ is set on a deserted island. I believe you would be thinking of me as a clone of the mad-hatter; though if you read on you will discover how much a sixteenth centaury play has in common with a 21st century animated movie.

As in all fantasy stories, in these stories too, the concept of good and evil is prevalent. An important aspect of these stories is that they show how one person can have both good and evil in them, just like two side of a coin. In ‘Spirited Away’ Yubaba, the bath house witch is shown as evil and unhearted. In fact, she is quite the contrary. She is fair when dealing with money, to add to that she never cheats. As callous as people might call her, she has a soft corner for her baby, Boh. In ‘The Tempest’, Prospero is shown a wicked man seeking vengeance from his brother along with the duke of Millan. He captures his enemies and makes them pay for their sins. However, his motivation to do so was quite genuine and common to all good fathers. He wanted his daughter to have a secure future. To add to his motive, he was seeking revenge; though he is kind at heart. Most of the times circumstances drive people to be the evil they have become. So you see how one can be gentle and callous at the same time.

Hunger for power is predominant in both the delightful exhibits of fantasy. For instance in ‘Spirited Away’ Haiku wants to take over Yobaba’s bath house. In the same way in ‘The Tempest’, Antonio wanted to usurp the throne of Millan from his brother-Prospero. Antonio proved successful in his quest and banished Prospero and his daughter. In the same way, Prospero conquered a strange and lonely island; which was in fact in the possession of Caliban. Caliban became Prospero’s slave. This shows how greed for power is a prominent characteristic in the characters. It also shows the reality of human nature. What we create is a reflection of who we are.

The concept of transformation has been gracing us with its presence in almost everything associated with fantasy. In ‘The Tempest’, Ariel- a spirit as delicate as the early morning sun can be a vicious, terrifying beast if needed to. As for ‘Spirited Away’, Haiku – the spirit of the Kaiaki River can transform into a dragon. Yobaba adorns the form of an enormous bird, which resembles a hawk.

The element of magic has been an ever present visitor in the mystifying world of fantasy. Prospero practices magic on the secluded island to protect and destroy. Yobaba practices magic in the bathhouse as well.

Had you ever thought that a 16th century play and a 21st century animated movies, who seem to be poles apart, could be so similar?

© Asavari SIngh

A Tribute to a Legend

Millions shed many a tear when you departed,

And yet you live in each one of us to whom lessons of Life you imparted.

I know you as the Missile Man who could make India compete with others in any contention,

And yet   spreading the message of peace and love was always   your sole intention.

I know you as the son of the boat  man who walked miles to go to school,

And yet when you addressed students everything appeared attainable, accessible and very cool.

I know you as the  President , Scientist , Visionary, Speaker and a Teacher,

And yet “The  Humanity” in you surpasses all these distinctive features.

On this India’s Independence day,

Let’s take pledge  today,

Work hard, harder and Hardest,

Give him a glowing tribute by becoming in every field the world’s  ablest.

Strict Parenting is the Root Cause for All of Society’s Problems

We look with wonder and happiness when a child first learns to walk by falling many times and learns to talk without any fear or shyness of making mistakes.  The child only learns because he is not afraid of being reprimanded for the mistake he makes.  As we grow older we forget that we only learn from our mistakes and experiences, don’t we? We forget that unlearning and making mistakes is so fundamental to our learning process.

But, a strict parent typically makes unempathetic rules. Rules made by a strict parent simply have to be followed. No objections. No explanation. No reason. And if the child disobeys the rules…unfair punishment. Interestingly, when children have a lot of strict rules placed upon them, they find a quick alternative to avoid punishment – lying. According to The Youth Centre in Canada, children raised in strict households become secretive to avoid consequences. Children, at the end of the day, are not always able to solve their own problems and need parental advice. However, in this case, the child stops confiding in his parent as he thinks he will be punished for his actions. Over a period of time the child develops the habit of lying and may often do it subconsciously. The bond between parent and child becomes weak due to lack of communication. And the strict parent is totally unaware of it all!

If you look closely you will see that a strict-parent and child relationship is similar to that of bully and victim.  A parent is the child’s role model. If the parent yells the child yells, if a parent uses force the child uses force. And the child begins to learn that fear means power. The child will use what he has learnt and use this with his friends and end up being a bully. This will again become a problem for his parents. You see the vicious cycle here?

Self-discipline and responsibility form the base of a well-rounded individual. There is no internal tool more valuable than self-disciplining. However, the child has to internalize the love of limits and understand why they are important.

But, Strict parents deprive children the opportunity to internalize self-discipline and responsibility.  Strict parents  set too many rules to  follow…the child begins to detest control.  None of us like to be controlled do we? And this causes the child to reject limits that are not empathetic.

Strict parents do not allow their child to make decisions on their own.  This can be rather dangerous…The child will not be able to think on his own and thus he may be easily led by others. The child begins to think the person in authority in a relationship should be obeyed without question. Hasn’t the strict parent crippled the child mentally, physiologically and emotionally? He will need crutches stand for the rest of his life.

2011 PEW Research survey  found that “40% of 18- to 24-year-olds currently live with their parents, and the vast majority of them say they did not move back home because of economic conditions. Young adults, who move out then back in with their parents, have led people to refer to them as the Boomerang Generation.  I believe this is due to the lack of responsibility given to children by their parents. The children do not know how to live on their own because they have never been taught.

Strict parenting undermines the relation between the parent and child. Most importantly it creates individuals who do not understand the importance of self-discipline, who do not question authority and stand up for themselves, and it creates individuals who believe force is the only route to get one’s way.

If we look at the animal kingdom, a lioness lets her cubs explore the surrounding and themselves. However, she sets certain empathetic boundaries and restrictions. She decides the age appropriate freedom. In the same way Children thrive on Limits and Age-appropriate expectations, but only if they’re set with empathy.

As Kahlil Gibran says in his poem “On Children”…

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable

This is the debate I spoke in Wisdom World School on 30th July, 2015 in the ‘Inter-House Debate Competition’.

© Asavari Singh