You Can’t Pull Me Down

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By pointing at my grey-hair,
And telling me that,
My skin stopped glowing.
By showing me my pimple scars,
And pointing at my thinning hair.

And then telling me that it’s out of concern
It’s not a concern, my friend.
It tells me who you really are!
You’re like those thousands
of people who think women
must be beautiful.

Oh! According to your standards of beauty.

Shiny voluminous hair
that’s always picture perfect.
That sits in place how you’ve left it.
A face that glows,
doesn’t matter if the glow is fake.
Eyes lined and lashes curled.

No, they don’t care if it’s fake.
If it’s carcinogenic,
If it’s harmful,
If it’s objectifying you.
No, they just don’t care.

How you look today is what matters,
If you’re pleasing to my eyes,
Long hair, fair skin and oh! that glow.
Scars, marks and tan is not beauty for them
And if you’ve got greys, your life is ruined.
Not married yet? Oh no, what a shame!

It’s not the end.

I have more to say,
More to write,
More to do,
More to beautify.

I work on my mind,
I read more and polish my brain with words.
I practice how to answer your questions,
So that you cannot break me
by your micro-mini standards.
So that you cannot pull me down!

I am a woman of substance,
I beg to differ!
I like my greys,
They are a sign of my intelligence.
They tell you how many books,
I have read.

My ageing skin of wrinkles,
And lines.
And those slowly developing crow’s feet,
They scream mindfulness,
They show compassion.

My brain explodes with mixed feelings.

And about your concern towards me,
Let me tell you, you’re least concerned.
If you really were, you’d ask me about my,
Work. About my pain,
about my challenges.

You’d give me tips to overcome them.
You’d not be commenting on my beauty.
Because if you knew me the least bit
You’d know what my life is,
What I work towards,
What my values are!

My life is about my values
It’s about the forests,
It’s about words and flying long distances,
Using my paraglider.
My life is of discipline,
Disciple of my mind.

Still, my heart is weak.
It allows me to break rules,
To not follow my own discipline.
My heart breaks from time to time
As a response,
Tears flow down my eyes.

I cry inside when another woman,
Points a finger at me – A woman!
When another woman asks another woman of her beauty,
Asks her to dress up,
Wear a saree, line eyes and apply lipstick
Are we objectifying ourselves?

We should be talking about important matters –
Sports, Politics, Feminism, Work, Life.
There’s a lot to speak.
There’s a lot to do,
There’s a lot to focus on.

I gather all my courage every single day,
To explore a new unheard place.
To seek the voices of animals,
That don’t speak our language,
To understand complexities like climate change.

That’s too much for a brain like yours,
(I am sorry!)
A brain that is still focusing on how
women should look…  Err!
Thick, shiny hair. Glowing skin and some natural makeup?

You come to me and tell me that a woman’s life,
Is complete with a child,
That happiness is marriage,
That greatest joy is being with your family,
I must tell you, you’re lucky my friend,
To have it all.

I beg your pardon, I am not like you.

I am not that woman.
I differ!
I don’t think my greatest happiness
is marriage or a child.
A family? Yes, my family!

What’s my other greatest happiness?
It’s for sure exploring the forests,
Hearing the chirps and the croaks
Yes, I am different.
I am free. Liberated!

If by chance, you see my variation from the norms
The norms that you’re aware of,
Thick hair and makeup!
You’ll see where I am coming from,
It’s shocking at first, I understand.
But the day you start appreciating my difference
I promise I will start accepting your standards. Your views!

Right now, am angry and I just think,
By your standards of beauty,
And pointing fingers at me,
You’re trying to pull me down.
You’re diverting from things that matter to me.

I’d like to tell you that I am such a bitch,
That when you point at my grey hair,
I will answer you back and
Tell you that my grey hair is,
More beautiful than your coloured hair.
That my facial wrinkles are nicer,
And that dark circles are just another
Sign of intelligence!

And healthy skin is disease free. It’s not the glow!

My friend, I want to appeal to you,
To start accepting absurd standards of beauty,
like that of mine.
Because difference is what creates this world,
And difference is what makes our lives valuable!

What you say is true.
That maybe you’re truly concerned about me.
And other women…
I am sorry, I don’t believe you!
And you cannot pull me down by your standards.

I will live with my messy hair,
With hair in my armpits #noshave
I will not line my eyes.
I’d want to call myself – a silver vixen.
The society must learn,
Must get comfortable.

Around women who divert from the norms.

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Have you discovered your ‘Rebel Genes’ yet?

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I realised something in the silence of the forest. I cannot change as fast as society wants me to. In this fast-moving world, there is no place for sluggish people like me. Evolution would probably not take my lazy traits forward and a ‘slow life’ like mine would see the same fate as that of a giant ground sloth.

I’m one of the 7 billion homo sapiens living off this planet. I speak a particular language, belong to some caste, some race and that reminds me that I must be married. Else, I will be destroyed by my own creators. When I was growing up in a tiny home surrounded by the forests of central India – spending time with ants, moths and butterflies gave me immense pleasure. Two owlets frequented my backyard. I refused to have dinner without having watched them ‘hoot’. Twenty-four years later, I still absolutely love watching owls and totally love tripping on ants and moths. I have always dreamt of a simple life around animals and trees. I never wanted to attend school but I landed up there every day. Like everyone else I knew, I then proceeded to get my degrees. And now I am doing my PhD; thankfully, after enough battles, I am finally learning and working on something that I love and am passionate about! The wildlife of India, frogs and forests is what keeps me ticking. It’s been a long and a tiring journey and I feel compelled to share some of it with you.

When I went to school, I diligently followed my teachers’ advice. They asked me to sit in a particular way, play certain games and behave in a socially acceptable way. I tried hard to become that ‘good girl’. After school, father said that I must attend college. I put a cover on my camera and kept it away. I picked up books that didn’t interest me. After I finished college, I remember someone telling me – you’re a big girl now – let’s find you a life-partner! A male member of homo sapiens, belonging to the same caste and creed who will work hard and provide bread and shelter to the vulnerable other sex. I didn’t say no to this. Why should I? The only thing I was taught since I was a child was to say ‘yes’ to whatever the elders of my society said. They’re more experienced after all, aren’t they? They began meeting prospective candidates and discussing my future – children, a decent job and family. That’s all there is to life.

That night, I woke up with tears in my eyes. The air-conditioner had frozen my room with artificial, choking cold. I had a lump in my throat and I wanted to shout out loud. I wanted to tell everyone around me that they were wrong and that they were all being foolish. Life is not about children, family and husband. It’s a lot more than that. All this that they were focussing on is just a tiny part of life. But it’s not life in its entirety. No!

I knew what I was longing for. My heart had figured out exactly what was missing. I went up to my terrace and stared at the stars. That night, there was a lunar eclipse. I saw the moon change its colour. In a span of three hours the bright white sphere slowly turned ruby red and then white again. I lay on the cold floor. This cold wasn’t choking me. It was beautiful. Cool, mellow breeze tickled my hair. My tears had now vanished.

Soon, I’d packed my bag and vowed to roam the forests, to find frogs and owls. Mother-nature cradled me. I had decided not to live by the societal standards that had kept me tied up for years. I found myself hitch-hiking across the barren mountains of the Himalayas. I was finally smiling 🙂

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Three years have since passed. I have seen most wild corners of the country. Tried to study frogs, birds and what not. Sometimes I’ve found great company – some people have written me poems and someone once composed a song. Sometimes I’ve felt lonely. But I have always worshipped forests and I continue to do so even today. The people I have met have given me the strength to live the way I like. I have found myself sleeping on clean beaches on the west coast and sometimes running into bushes to hide from elephants in the Anamalai. This uncertainty always sends a shiver down my spine as I contemplate exploring a new forest.

I have found shelter within villages that surround protected forests. I have gossiped with people living in these forests. I have lived and experienced the tales of Kenneth Anderson, something that I had only read about as a child – and am now living them myself! Shouldn’t I be proud to have explored so much and that I decided to go against the tide? I probably should! Well, the reality is something else. Every time I see these false expectations imposed by the society upon each and every one of us – I am unwittingly pushed into a miserable state of existence. I know that I should ignore these societal expectations, ignore the need for external validation and instead live life solely by deriving validation from myself internally (and maybe a few more people I trust deeply). But it is tough to do that every single day, to remind myself that validation stems from within and that society can be wrong!

Fast-forward to today – I have often questioned the path that I’ve chosen. At 28, I don’t plan to have babies. I don’t want to live a successful married (read, patriarchal?) life. I don’t want to be that sweetheart girl who’s loved by everybody. There are over 3 billion women on this planet and each one has a unique story to tell, a different set of emotions and opinions. Just a simple Homo sapiens, an animal living off the woods, wasn’t enough. We called ourselves ‘the wise man’? Rational beings, aren’t we all? 

PS: An edited version of this article appeared in WomenForOne, a global community of women truth tellers. 

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Wait?

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Will you wait? Asked my heart. Waiting is great indeed
Wait for another dog to walk in your home.
When things fall into place on their own,
Till then, let me wait and moan.

Wait for that perfect opportunity
Wait for that perfect day.
When things fall into place just like you’d expected,
Till then, let me wait and pray!

Wait? What are you doing, said my brain
With the only life, you’ve got to make.
Things will never fall into place on their own,
You gotta get up and start to take that ache.

Life is difficult and unlucky, my girl
Success comes to those who never wait.
I know you will get there, but not just by pray,
Get up and find that opportunity to make your life great!

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Set Yourself Free…

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When you truly sing, you sing yourself free.
When you truly dance, you dance yourself free.
And when you travel to places and discover a river, you swim to set yourself free!

PS: Read these lines somewhere in a book and modified them a little

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My 6 Insane Reasons To Love The Monsoons

Rain is possibly the best season by far that occurs throughout the year. I don’t remember waiting for any festival or event as eagerly as I wait for the first refreshing showers. The grey clouds and moist breeze never fail to fill me with enthusiasm. How I wish it rained all year! I believe rain has the power to not only dissolve all my worries but also fill in my body and mind with new joy and vigor. It is indeed the perfect time to get lost in the world of warm coffee, lush green surroundings and books! 

You might also like to read- How I Spent 10 Rainy Days in a Rainforest

I am penning this as I watch numerous raindrops fall from a large cloud on a gloomy rainy day. The leaves, branches and my hair waving happily in the strong, cold wind. So I decided to share my 6 reasons to love the rains-

Rain Love 1- No matter where you live, rain comes like a blessing. It cleans up all the surroundings and makes it look green and refreshing all over again. It is indeed a time for the earth to take a bath! 

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Love this subtle contrast of grey and green when it rains in the Western Ghats!

Rain Love 2- Water facilitates life. It comes with no surprise that cuckoos and hornbills sing loudly in the rains to find a mate to start the process of avian coitus. Most birders are out with their rain-gear chasing these birds. 

A pair of Malabar Pied Hornbill on a very rainy day!
A pair of Malabar Pied Hornbill enjoy each other’s company on a rainy day in Manipal.

Rain Love 3- Nature awakes from its slumber to add seven colors to the green backdrop. It is the time to enjoy the glimpses of a Rainbow straight out of your window! 

VIBGYOR- My favorite spectrum of colors right outside my window in Kausani!
VIBGYOR- My favorite spectrum of colors right outside my window in Kausani.

Rain Love 4- The colors are not only restricted to the sky. They take to the ground as well. A variety of flowers bloom in their glory to compete with the rainbow above 

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I absolutely love this yellow blanket of smiling flowers on the outskirts of Dharwad.

Rain Love 5- Tiny frogs now erupt out of their coves. Amphibians are one among my favorite living creatures on earth. They claim their right on almost all freshwater streams, trees, bushes and farm houses.

Tiny Raorchestus tuberohumerus made my night when I spotted it in coffee plantations of Coorg!
This tiny made my night in Coorg!

Also read- Frogs of Hampi 

Rain Love 6- My warm coffee just smells and tastes better in the cold breeze, moist air and grey surroundings! Especially with a piece of chocolate on the side 😉 

Coffee, mountains and clouds, what more shall I ask for?
Coffee, mountains and clouds, what more shall I ask for?

In a country like India, monsoons bring a new ray of hope and happiness. Water, as we all will know, is more than just a fluid for life. Sir Ralf Kaiser of the University of Hawaii said ‘Water is the protective cradle that carries the building blocks of life’. Right from the beginning of monsoon to the last shower, there is new life everywhere. Smaller creatures like Alates now show up, the birds rejoice more and share happy songs, the trees grow faster and I just take a rejuvenating walk in the rain. Most other animalia just like me are celebrating these smaller joys of life all over again!

Enjoying the overcast on a lonely beach!
Enjoying the overcast on a lonely beach!

I am more of a dark rainy day person. How about you? Tell me all about which seasons you prefer, in the comments below 🙂 

PS: Show love by helping me fund my travel.

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A Window In The Life Of A Physiotherapist Lost In The Woods

The best window ever!
The best window ever!

“Open the window of your mind. Allow the fresh air, new lights and new truths to enter.” -Amit Ray

The above quote popped into my mind as I opened this beautiful window in one of the best rooms I had ever lived in. I thought about my journey, a very difficult one, from being a professional physiotherapist to being in the wild, always! From rejections to depression, from working under a really terrible boss to standing up for it and quitting on my own terms, with only the last 500 bucks in my account to calling a friend and asking for some money to have a meal. At 26, it is rather difficult to call a friend or parents to ask for money. Lucky are those who haven’t faced this situation in their lives and those for whom this task is easy!

When I re-think of what life (which I once thought was a bitch) has done to me over years- my eyes hold tears and nothing else. The subtle difference being, now these tears aren’t just the tears of sadness. There’s a whole lot of happiness and sometimes a lot more emotions! Why in the first place had I, a doctor from a reputed university working at a renowned hospital ever quit her well paying job? I now know the answer!

Because life is all about the little joys, smiles and real happiness. 

The happiness that you discover within yourself. When I spent time at an Ashram of a renowned Saint Maharshi, I learnt that each human being has a whole big universe within. This encompasses our emotions, feelings, wants and needs. Within all this lies a piece of happiness and that genuine happiness, I have discovered envelopes me when I am lost in the woods. That enlightened mind full of thoughts, with the feelings that I need no-one when I am in the forests watching infinite little croaking frogs and colourful flying birds! They are indeed my best friends. Maybe they couldn’t give me money when I needed it the most. That’s when I realized “I love man no less, but nature more.”

When I get up in the morning, I feel extremely mesmerized by the forests with fresh, happy and peaceful thoughts every single day. How beautiful life gets with these thoughts, I thought, looking out of that window. A woodpecker comes and knocks at the panel by the side of this huge window. I talk to him, he tells me he’s confused. But I still continue talking. I smile at him and he’s still confused as to why he can’t make a hole in this bloody thing? He checks along the panel to make his nest, a place safe for his family. I tell him, we are human beings, the smartest species on earth, and no matter how hard he tries, he wouldn’t be able to make a hole there! Probably after some time he understood and left my window, leaving me again to lose myself in my own joyous thoughts of the forests and rains.

Many people ask me- do I ever feel lonely in the woods? The answer is an empathetic NO! And it will always be NO. I am merry within, my thoughts are pure and I have made friends with nature and creatures. How many of us today can think of making friends with and getting close to nature? For now I have known how to make money for myself or at least live a life with just the basics! The forests taught me something very important- it taught me to be less greedy, less needy and still be happy!

How many of us today are fighting for a job, a girlfriend or a companion, a lot of money, a house, a vacation, exotic food and some more luxury like new trendy clothes, smokey makeup and latest skincare? But I am just standing at my window and looking at the forest, lost within myself, being joyous!  🙂

Do I need more from life, no!

And you? What is that one thing that gives you happiness. Share in the comments below, I will be more than happy to read!  🙂 

PS: Any help to my travel fund will be highly appreciated.

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What’s Your Reason To Watch Birds? If You Don’t Have a Reason Find One Here

Bird-watching needs no introduction. Bird-watching (or Birding as we like to call it) is a wonderful way to step outdoors. Not only does it give you a chance to experience some of Earth’s greatest flying wonders but also to show compassion for nature. Just like any other happy drug, birding is super addictive! I have also observed that it is equally enjoyed by children, youth as well as the old. Did you know it is listed among the most pleasurable and well liked hobbies in the world?

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I have come up with a list of reasons why people get addicted to watching these bright, astonishing winged creatures:

Because You Are An Adventurer: You are among those crazy people who find excitement in danger. You love putting yourself in trouble and mostly use the ‘try it out’ way of learning. Yes, bird-watching involves a lot of adventure. It definitely isn’t for the fainthearted. Many times it involves trekking up and down through rocky terrains, climbing trees, walking miles through dark evergreen forests and open lands, experiencing ticks and leech bites and sometimes even walking through slush teeming with snakes and crabs!

But you enjoy it all, and that’s what makes you a successful bird-watcher.

Walk through the misty rainforest to watch some incredibly colorful birds!
Walk through the misty forest to watch some incredibly colorful birds!

To Show Your Love for Mother Earth: You get to go closer to mother nature and enjoy every season. Your love for nature can only be expressed through bird-watching. You often feel like hugging a tree or living in a tree house.  You love the mixed fragrance of poisonous herbs, jungle berries, various other trees and plantations found in the forests. And all of this complements your love to watch these colourful beauties take to the air.

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I often hug a tree and thank her for being so good to birds!

Because You Love Your Camera: Photography is a fancy hobby. When clubbed with exciting adventure, amusing nature and unmanned beautiful green surroundings, many jump in the field with their cameras and choose birds as their subjects. Although they are super difficult subjects, the satisfaction of capturing a great “bird photograph” is boundless. Tagging along with an experienced bird photographer is a great option for starters. Else just read about birding ethics and you are good to get out to explore the avian world with your lens!

Photo Credits: Reshma Bhat

To Make New Friends: Bird-watching is a social activity and is best enjoyed with people of similar interests. By means of different online bird-watching groups and forums you tend to meet several exciting people who possess vast knowledge about birds and nature. Each new person you meet, might amaze you. Considering similar interests and likes, the bond of friendship grows forever.

Photo Credits: Reshma Bhat

To Get a Little Famous: Bird watching makes you famous among your friends, extended families, work-groups etc. Mostly birding is combined with great photographs. These days when social media is all pervasive, the photographs go straight on your Facebook timeline. Birds, natural habitats, your travel joys and places fetch you too many LIKES (Y). Whichever platform you choose, your bird photographs help you stand out from the boring study crowd.

Oh yes!
Oh yes!

To Fight Boredom: On a Sunday Morning you are dragged by a bird-watcher friend into a new world.  You always wanted to know the “twee twee” in your garden so you’re out on a birding excursion. Once you experience the birds up close, it wouldn’t take you long to get addicted.

And when you are addicted, you’ve taken care of your boredom!  😉

To Get Into Serious Research: You are the next bird-man/woman of India. You’re not only familiar with names of different birds but also with climate change, different habitats, behavior, songs, various species, etc. You know it all! Mostly associated with some wildlife NGO or other organisation, you are this generation’s Dr Salim Ali in making!

Did you know- we can all get a little scientific by helping this brilliant Citizen Science Project called Bird Count India!

Just upload all your records on EBird and participate in their monthly contests! This is also a great way to keep all your bird sightings organised and in one place.  🙂

More research, anyone?
More research, anyone?

For The Unbeatable Surprise Element: With birding you start exploring more and more forests. The forest in itself is the greatest unsolved mystery. It becomes routine to come across unrecognized birds but sometimes there’s more than just that. Leopards, scorpions, deadly snakes and other small creatures share their territory with birds. WOW!

I clicked the following photo of Soldier Crabs (Dotilla mycteroids) when I went out to an undisturbed beach on the coasts of Karnataka in search of waders. Aren’t they gorgeous?

My favorite army of soldier crabs!

And how about something more interesting and creepy?

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This Green Vine Snake swallows down a whole Calotes; while the birds chirped behind!

To Travel on Budget: Bird-watching involves a lot of traveling. It becomes an obsession for you to want to spend more and more time with birds. You might also like to travel to different destinations to watch different birds. In your unique bird watcher gang, there is always a little space for you in someone’s SUV!

Take the road less traveled in your best birding friend's SUV
Take the road less traveled in your best birding friend’s SUV

Because Birding Is Healthy: Believe it or not, being close to nature has several health benefits. Walking on natural non-cemented paths is great for your joints and muscles. It reduces the ground reaction force exerted on your joints (the physiotherapist me is talking here). Also trekking/walking in itself can help you fight several diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and depression. Talking more about depression and stress – Birding is a great stress buster. Not only does it allow you to go to faraway places but also helps you spent some time with yourself. For me it is equivalent to meditation. We all are aware about the benefits of meditation, if not, read more here!

Photo Credits: Rishi Gupta
Start walking while you’re birding!

Just for Fun Folks: You smile ear to ear when you see a bird. You feel relaxed in the lap of nature and in the company of chirping creatures. You follow many Facebook groups about birds and wildlife. You go out for bird-watching trips and travel to different bird sanctuaries. You just enjoy this outdoor activity and believe me, there is no greater reason than this one!

No matter whatever be the reason for you to be close to nature or watch birds. It is the duty of every individual to prioritize the environment and its well being. Developing a feeling of compassion and love for species other than man is beautiful and enlightening. It isn’t late to protect the only habitable planet. Start today and appreciate the wonders of Mother Nature, she is the biggest and the strongest. You do your bit and she will protect you!

Dr Jane Goodall rightly said- “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference”

Take a step! Start appreciating nature today.

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Travel lessons- Find your soul, what are you?

The beautiful blue sea at Kodi Bengre- A small town on the coasts of Karnataka, India
The beautiful blue sea at Kodi Bengre- A small town on the coasts of Karnataka, India

The sea is so gorgeous. When you stand in front of it, it shows you what space you occupy in this huge world. You’re a tiny speck lost in yourself, difficult to find and constantly fighting with the numerous external and internal factors. Who knows what you are, who you are? No one, but you yourself will find the answer one day.

Some say you must meditate, maintain relationships, listen to your parents, follow your elders/mentors, explore and travel to get there, to lead a happy life. But I doubt! I don’t think anyone can answer it for you.

No one but you will know whether you need meditation, exploration or a relationship! It just takes one moment, one thought, to realize and find your soul. Although when will that thought trigger, no one knows. It isn’t age dependent or time dependent. It just happens, like you fall in love but it is still a mystery.

And whether you have the guts to let that thought run your life defines whether you sail successfully like what a ship is suppose to do or are tied to the shore, which is also what some ships do.

The choice is yours of course!

PS: Show love in the comments, by sharing this with your friends and by helping me fund my travel.

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