Love your nation, Adopt Universal Masking

By Jyotshna Hazarika

“A small virus that got its birth in Wuhan, China in the year 2019 had swept our lives so hard and so incessantly in the year 2020 is again making rounds in 2021”.Despite the worldwide vaccination programmes in full swing, the above statement sounds very tiring and worrisome. After sailing our already staggering lives through the year 2020 with so much disruption and pain due to the pandemic, it is an irony that humans had not fully woken up until now, had not understood the truth and I believe would even fail to understand where we are heading towards. Already we had lost so many lives including so many Covid warriors in their race to fight the ugly disease. Economic loss to the nation and the poor economies, in general, were substantial. After the independence of the country, the first time our country had recorded negative GDP post-2020 lockdown. Of course, as sensible citizens, we do not want another nationwide lockdown. We do not want a repetition of the bygone year as we had somehow managed to engrave our tragic times of 2020 for good. However, the deepest irony lies in human psychology. We tend to forget things so fast without realizing the consequences in the near or distant future. We talk about children missing their childhood by losing the fun of visiting schools during the lockdown. But as parents and guardians of an educated society, what changes have we brought about to bring happiness to our children? Have we taught them how to fight a pandemic and why to wear a mask? The world had witnessed pandemics in almost every century. One single Pandemic is enough in a lifetime to teach us many things in life and carry forward our learnings and takeaways to the generation next.  

It is very much noticeable that a slight relaxation of any stringent action spoils us in the long run. This is time tested. It was observed that both our central and state governments had relatively diverted the focus from Health to Politics due to the elections. We hardly got news on the infected figures and masking norms during the recent election campaigns and polling days as the attention was more on the bygone elections.

 With every passing day in the last few days until now, India is on its way to touching higher and higher peaks of Covid 19 and the new Covid strain infections. It has already surpassed the benchmark peak figures of October 2020. Figures are alarming and an eye-opener for every level of the government administration, schools, colleges and universities, private and government organizations and also at the individual level. Every day new SOPs are in place given the pandemic situation. In our state, the much-awaited Bihu celebrations in a public place, which remained restricted last year due to the Covid situation, are in the pipeline this year for the annual celebrations. Sufficient guidelines concerning Covid management have been incorporated for the smooth conduct of the public functions without hurting public sentiments. Now it is up to us how we perceive and how we go about without misusing our” Freedom” in a pandemic situation. I believe it would not be wrong to use the term “Freedom” concerning the timings allotted, people capacity and masking norms in public places and so on.

Do you remember those Lockdown 2020 days? Do you also remember the Unlockdown 2020 days? What change did you see in both phases? Have we learnt something during the transition or after? The answer is a clear NO. I simply do not understand why do we need special announcements to wear Masks in our big fat weddings and the other non-essential parties in Pandemic Times? Last year around the winter season, I was stupefied by the scale of the grand wedding ceremonies, adopting no short cuts despite Covid situation, every ritual being conducted in grand style and that to weddings of the educated doctors and engineers. Forget the rest. In few weddings, the bride wore the mask as a small piece of fashion statement whereas in some masks were a thing of the past so as not to waste the display of heavy makeup by some renowned makeup artist in town. Attending such weddings with a mask on the face, sometimes made me feel odd one out. Such stories, I believe exist everywhere and is common to many.

Now, given current the situation, if any government announces any stringent rules for our safety, I think we have no right to complain against because we had misused our “Freedom”, we had shown “Overconfidence” in roaming about as if Covid has been wiped out for good. The situation can be well explained by an example. Imagine that you are a grown-up kid and your parents or teachers had always forbidden you from certain bad habits. But you thought that you are grown up and you do not need to pay heed to their advice as you think it somehow interrupts your level of personal space or personal freedom. But one day, for disrespecting that piece of advice, it came as a big blow on your face. No doubt, we all human beings need some respite, mental peace but not at the cost of the society around us. Change in attitude and love for society is the need of the hour. Governments will come, governments will go. It is us who have to battle every storm from floods to pandemics. I feel very sad and angry at the same time watching the sorry picture of Covid next big wave again in our country. The least I could do was to come out with a write-up. If it can at least reach a handful of conscious citizens and sensitize the masses about universal masking, my purpose is successfully met. As individuals, let us join hands once again and propagate and adopt Universal Masking to stop the spread of Covid Wildfire in the Nation, in the Planet. Governments and organizations can also come up with various incentives to promote the Universal Masking Theme and religiously continue the penalization for disobeying Masking Norms in public space. The money collected from such penalties can hence forth be used for rewarding poor people with masks for practicing other Covid norms as laid down in different guidelines.

Therefore, an earnest request to every reader.

Wake up.

Change your attitude 

Love your state, love your nation

Just as you love yourself and your family

Masks no more a choice, no more a piece of fashion. 

Let us understand: It is an inseparable part of our lives forever.

Let us propagate and adopt Universal Masking. A small step towards Covid Management.

Embracing the New Normal

Ninety days in lockdown have already passed by in India. Most countries have successfully flattened the corona curve in their respective countries by strictly following lockdown guidelines and strict guidelines of social distancing and public hygiene.In countries like U.S and India , governments are again on the way to impose lockdowns after a short period of unlocking to let ease the public for meeting their day to day requirements and mainly with an eye on saving the falling economies. Except those going for work now , most people might already be feeling imprisoned in their own homes, staring at the same walls, missing social life and so on. All are just waiting with one hope, the exit of the small virus which is creating panic everywhere. Waiting eagerly for the final announcement by W.H.O. that the coronavirus pandemic is over and the end of lockdowns and shutdowns. Imagine that moment when we all can jump out of our homes to catch a sight of the streets that lay stranded for the past few months, the unattended many issues outside our homes, that are seeking our attention to be addressed and the list is endless. Going by the current statistics of the COVID 19 infection rates across the world, a picture comes to my mind. It might be very tough on the part of any government to completely do away with the series of lockdowns until a proper vaccine comes out officially. Perhaps an easing of lockdown rules over the next couple of months as it is being currently done in our country to save the country’s economy and to feed its people might be a way out to balance our day to day lives.

At the start of the pandemic, it was like a war between Humanity and the Economy. Lockdown was the only answer to such a threatening situation befalling upon humanity. It may be regarded as the last line of defence. Humanity was given the priority in almost all the countries. There was no other option but to save the human race from getting affected in huge numbers by this disease, thereby reducing pressure on the already overcrowded hospitals by announcing lockdowns. The economy can be revived if the human race survives the pandemic.

Imagine the day, you’ll be moving out of your homes after the lockdown to venture into the same world which you had left it outside for that small virus. Would you remain the same when you move out for any work, to socialize or to travel domestic or international? What about sending your children to the schools and colleges, when authorities would notify for the restart of the academic sessions that got lapsed in between? One fine day, if our governments announce that pandemic is all over now, no more curfews or lockdowns, would you dare to visit your favourite eateries or restaurants for some good food or a drink? If large religious congregations are permitted again, will you be a part of it? When borders are reopened and flights are resumed and you can travel again, whether for work or a trip – will you be excited to fly again? The answer to the above questions is a clear ‘NO’.

Everyone must be anxious about when this lockdown would end. But what if this lockdown ends, would you be the same person while outside your home? I am sure. You won’t. This situation may better be explained as somewhat like this. When any patient comes out of a coma, the doctors won’t allow him to go for work or party immediately. He will be asked for bed rest at home after being discharged from the hospital. He has to undergo a long period of gradual rehabilitation, of dietary and locomotive restrictions, of physiotherapy.

Also, there will always be a constant fear of a second surge in COVID-19 cases until the proper vaccine comes out. Witnessing the wrath of the coronavirus across the world since the recent few months, we all will be extremely guarded about how much we venture back into the world, how much we socialise and how much we travel and interact with people physically. Activities will shrink for sure.

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At this stage, the human race might already be imagining a  world of ‘Low-Touch and  High-Friction’ to survive tomorrow. Such a world would have two key characteristics. The first (the touch part) would be that people would be reluctant to gather in public as freely and easily like before. The second (the friction) would see a world where countries have shrunk back within their national boundaries with increased self-sufficiency and strong monitoring and surveillance. If we want to be part of the post-COVID-19 world, let us be ready for low-touch and high-friction. COVID-19 will bring in many changes in all spheres of life. Habits will change and there will be a shift in demand patterns. There will be an enormous increase in virtual gatherings, in remote working(work from home companies), in healthcare capacity and telemedicine, wide acceptance of online education worldwide and the mushrooming of e-commerce companies. Functioning through the cloud, online shopping, online streaming, change in eating habits, pre-emptive healthcare measures, emphasis on insurance, etc will gain prominence. New outsourcing opportunities could also come to Indian companies. There will be another set of opportunities that arise as nations retreat into greater self-sufficiency and local solutions. The recent topic “Vocal about Local” has already been discussed by our Honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi a few days ago. His speech indicates about going local as the only current solution to save the economy and society.   According to him, “Every crisis brings with it an opportunity. Covid-19 is no different. Let us evaluate what might be the new opportunities or growth areas that would emerge now”.

If we want to sustain tomorrow, let us positively take COVID 19. Let us prepare ourselves for the new normal. Let us not wait for the dust to settle and for governments and medics to give the go-ahead. People are already imagining and adopting creative ways to get going, in any field, big or small. They are learning new skills in readiness. They are preparing themselves for different ways of working. Many small business owners are gradually making shifts by adopting the digital platform to reach customers. Some are seen shifting their existing line of businesses to the most essential goods and services sectors. In a nutshell, the new normal might be digitalization across sectors, focus on public health and hygiene(like adopting mask culture religiously or avoid spitting in public places etc), maintaining social distancing in public places or if possible avoiding unnecessary social gatherings.

 

 

Celebrating Eid in Lockdown days

In India, we have just entered the fourth version of the lockdown series. The number of positive COVID 19 cases have been rising incessantly, with the significant increase in the growth rate in recent times. If we look at Assam specifically, the situation is now moving towards tougher days with containment zones increasing  every day ,as more and more suspected cases are feared. Major business hubs of the country stand sealed now. In Assam too ,Fancy Bazar and many surrounding areas have witnessed such containment activities  in recent times to stop the spread. Government of India has given relaxations significantly in the current version of the lockdown with an eye on saving the economy, saving the society concerning our day to day life and living. However, these relaxations should not be mistaken by the public as going back to the earlier normal lives in the Pre COVID times.

In Assam, the festival season had already begun in April. Bihu, the biggest spring festival could not be celebrated with grandeur, unlike in previous years. In the Pre COVID times, Assamese people from various states of the country would gather at their home locations to celebrate Bihu along with their family and loved ones. Shopping spree, get-togethers, good food, stage performances have now become things of the past in recent times. As if the year 2020 has wiped off such grand moments from people’s lives. A cruel year for all humans on this earth. We are now made to believe by this small virus that festivals are now a matter of the heart. If we understand the underlying logic and meaning of every religious preaching, then celebrating the festival at homes would not have become this weird which we all might have been currently feeling. Festivals are an extension of what we were made to believe in various religions since time immemorial. It is high time to understand the actual spirit, the underlying meaning of every festival that we have been otherwise celebrating in grand scale until 2019.

Now, that Eid is just around the corner and the situation being critical, people must abide by all the rules of social distancing. Governments have highlighted the guidelines for strict adherence to social distancing and maintaining public hygiene. No mass gatherings or congregations in religious places will be allowed. The Muslim folk have already been abiding by the lockdown rules very well since the very start. It is evident on every Fridays when they are supposed to offer Jummah Prayer and also special Taravi Prayers at night during the holy month of Ramadan. These prayers have been peacefully offered at their respective homes in the lockdown era. However, at the very start of the lockdown, it was a bit tough to accept this new normal by a few Muslim followers in a few parts of the country. The same is true in the case of other religions too. There were a handful of cases in various places of the country flouting the rules due to ignorance, blind faith or lack of education.

Until 2019, whenever a festival was around the corner, people were seen thronging the markets and the malls to pick up the best dresses in town. Buying the best clothes in the festive season and getting decked up has now become a thing of the past. Let us now adopt the new normal overlooking these small things which were a matter of joy then. Let us now learn how to live our day to day lives around this virus. The virus will surely stay on this planet until a vaccine comes up. We must stop regretting of the good old days of shopping and dressing up, eating out the best dishes at home or the favourite eateries in town. Rather let us learn to be thankful to God that we are still alive till date to celebrate every festival that is on its way. The scale of celebration may be a minuscule now. But the happiest part is being at home, worshipping God at homes along with family and celebrating festivals at homes. Had we learned the essence and science behind every religion, I am sure we would not complain about celebrating festivals within the four walls of our  homes and without wearing new clothes. Thanks to the internet, at least we are connected virtually with almost everyone during tough times. The same situation needs to be thoroughly explained or educated to the young generation staying with us at our home confinements.Let us enrich our hearts with spirituality rather than blind faith in any religion. The vaccine is a matter of time but we humans have to live our lives  normally until the good news comes. As Eid is just knocking at the door, let us welcome it with a positive smile. Just like Bihu, we are ready to celebrate this festival too without new clothes, without visiting mosques and idgahs. Let this festival be a special and a memorable one  this year ,with an increase in spending on financial support to the needy and downtrodden  during pandemic times. Already, for all Muslim followers, during this festival it is mandatory to offer fitr and zakat(financial support to the needy and poor) during this holy month of Ramadan.

In a nutshell, I would like to conclude-Let this Eid be everyone’s Eid. A moment of sharing and caring for all the needy and poor people irrespective of any religion. If we feed our brain the true essence of the science behind every religion, we can overcome any situation, the toughest of tough situations too. We can learn to be truly happy without new clothes and good food too. To conclude, Eid is not only about wearing new clothes and savouring mouth watering dishes, rather it has a far deeper meaning. It is about feeling other’s pain and hunger. It is about brotherhood, caring and sharing. Even if someone is unable to do fasting due to some illness or medical conditions, but if one is generous enough to support the needy people around him or her during these tough times, nothing can be more rewarding than this. Let us emphasize more on the spirituality part of every religion. Let spirituality win over blind faiths of any religion. If this achieved, humanity wins automatically.  Eid Mubarak in advance!

Train your brain and stay protected.

TRAIN YOUR BRAIN

In these times of catastrophe, we human beings have to remain very vigilant about what is happening around our city ,in our nation and in the entire globe. With every passing hour, we have become so anxious about the latest updates, be it any new addition to the already growing list of positive COVID 19 cases. A war like situation indeed. Our fingers remain crossed .Eyes constantly glued to the television or the mobile phone or the laptop for any  good news about possible cure of this deadly disease. Its good to be optimistic no doubt. But times have really changed now .We just cannot afford to sit idle and blindly hope that the virus will soon go away. We  have to do away with this kind of attitude that  the novel Corona virus will not affect me, my family or my locality .We all remember the saying , “Prevention is better than cure”. Now is the time to follow the same in letter and spirit. Its time to become little more suspicious , little more careful in our daily transactions or interactions with the human world . Every single sneeze , spit and cough must be looked with an eye of suspicion if we are really committed to  fight the virus and achieve victory in the end . Its time we looked every object from outside that is entering our homes , as a possible carrier of the virus. The clothes and shoes we wore to the market, the shopping bags ,the groceries , the mobile phone, the wallet ,the handkerchief , the loose cash that came back from the shopkeeper or vendor outside our home , and the list is endless.  For ladies , there are few extra items that needs care-the scarves, the rings, the bangles, the purse and every accessory that is being carried by her while going out of doors needs sanitization.

It’s a war like situation outside our homes. The doctors and the paramedics are the frontine warriors and we public are soldiers in this war against Corona. Researches about the virus ,the symptoms and the vaccine are going on day and night across the globe.Nothing is concrete till date. With every single piece of information that is flowing across the internet, the television ,the newspaper and the online research journals , we are making best use of it to understand the complexity of the virus. More complex is the current situation in handling the state of affairs by the various governments of the world , regarding health as the priority sector .It’s an unprecedented situation. No one ever knew about the virus. No one ever handled such a situation in their lifetime. Even for the general public, maintaining daily lives with extra protection and hygiene is also no cakewalk, given our carefree attitude since ages.

The ignorance or unawareness amongst the uneducated masses  in understanding the complexity of the virus and the consequences of their ignorance may pose a threat to the greater society. The recent acts of insanity against the doctors and the police bear testimony to the above fact. A few law breakers across the country ,who consider themselves as brave hearts at such testing times are actually bringing harm to themselves and the society. What is more painful at this juncture is when educated people  start behaving insensibly and carelessly. This is clearly proved in the markets while disobeying social distancing and not maintaining public hygiene . Thanks to the government, finally masks have been made mandatory in the public places. This too could have been practised  well in advance by our educated or uneducated masses had they understood the complexity of the virus and its contagious nature. I also fail to understand the logic behind the long morning walks still practiced religiously by our so called health freaks. Are they really health conscious? Also , I am equally shocked to see the religiousness of most  people of our country. In the name of religion, most people were seen entering the temples and mosques to offer their prayers . Are they blind followers ? When ancient religious scriptures themselves themselves teach us how to tackle such a pandemic situation , it clearly speaks we haven’t read them well and doing just the opposite of what we should not do in these times. No religion teaches hatred .It only teaches love and care for humanity. When such a pandemic occurs , we are only taught that there should not be any movement of people across other places. Confinement  and containment are the only prevention tools until a cure comes out officially . This is another example of how prevention can be better than cure.

Therefore, now when we are still in  lockdown ,when we go out next time for any outdoor work, let’s take a deep breath and think twice. Let’s  train our brain in a different way. Although, its tough  to forget our past carefree behavior in the public scene ,with respect to daily transactions and social interactions.  Our approaches must change while dealing with the outside world. Gradually, we must feed our brain to be a little more suspicious for a good cause. Its good to think negative sometimes for the greater sake of the humanity. Being positive that nothing will happen to me and my family, might turn out into more Corona positive cases and cost many ignorant lives. We must consider everybody around us an asymptomatic carrier (a person showing no symptoms of Coronavirus) of COVID 19 and has every possibility of infecting us. Also let us consider too, that we ourselves could be an asymptomatic  carrier of COVID 19,capable of infecting all around ourselves. So it is high time now, let us train ourselves , by using all our knowledge about the virus, common sense and intelligence to tackle the unseen small but mighty virus. A small trick might save many lives in the coming future, “Do not get infected nor infect others”. Stay safe, stay sane and protected.

 

The world in a lockdown

global lockdown

Until a few months ago, probably the world had not heard about the word called ‘Lockdown’ . Life was going on the way it had always been. Suddenly , somewhere during the festive season in the month of December, some terrible news appeared in the various newspapers of the world. The origin of a virus called the novel Corona virus made special headlines in the leading newspapers. Initially it didn’t bother so much as it is now.The virus made its first appearance in Wuhan, a city in China. However ,all eyes remained on China as how the country was affected ,  how it had started and how it was being tackled over a short period of time amidst many deaths .In fact ,everyone was praising China looking at their quick assessment and quick tackling of the contagious disease. For the first time, China declared lockdown to contain the spread of the disease. They finally were successful in putting an end to the growth story of the virus with zero cases at one point of time. Recently it is heard that a second wave of the virus is sweeping the country again from the recovered patients.

Today, the story has taken a very different twist and is far more painful than one could ever imagine in history. Who knew 2020 is going to be the last year for most  people on this globe? The disease has been  exploding  at a massive  scale  globally . Until towards the end of mid March, the world had not known that it would one day be declared a Pandemic by W.H.O .It was already too late for most advanced nations in Europe and North America. People kept travelling from one part of the globe to another,there was no restrictions on their movement. Even after lockdown was announced by most nations , many countries were still not sure about the seriousness of the disease. Life kept moving as before .This had really taken a huge toll in countries like Italy, Spain, France and recently it is very very sad to see U.S. suffering so badly with the highest number of deaths recorded in the entire world.

As if its wartime now, or is this World War III.The entire world is under house arrest. The doctors and paramedics, the army ,the police are the warriors fighting for us day and night to wipe out the only enemy a small but actually big virus. Lockdown ,the only powerful weapon in our hands to check the spread . Already millions fighting for their lives in various hospitals .Doctors and nurses working 24×7 to save humanity .So many doctors had already sacrificed their lives while saving their patients.

For the first time in history, the most significant places of worship have been shut down to save humanity. At such a crucial juncture of our lives, we have seen our lives are also fast changing .The way we work, the way we buy our essentials, the way we seek medical help, the way we learn have suddenly shifted to the online mode in a big way. As if, if we don’t bound ourself to such a change, we shall never survive or win this big war against the virus. Although , we can go out to get our essential tings from the outside shops, we have to maintain social distancing and ensure wearing a mask and maintain all necessary hygiene to fight the small virus. 

I know , the world is already tired or bored of this lockdown .Its natural because suddenly we have forced ourselves to such a paradigm shift. But we must not forget, whatever happens ,happens for a reason. The world around us is repairing itself,cleansing its wounds inflicted on her by humans.  Pollution levels going down which is good for us. I believe ,with the passage of time, the world will have a medical cure against the virus and things will be normal .But my greatest fear right now is  if the lockdown is over, will humans forget these days? Will we take a lesson ? I just pray ,we must not forget this chapter of our lives .It should definitely be narrated to the coming generations for their knowledge and precautions of an ever changing world.

A spring of hibernation

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sat reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.”

(Quoted from the famous poem “Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth)

The above are a few lines which I have highlighted from the mentioned poem. Today’s times can be better related to such a moment as already experienced by the poet in the past.

What is the first thought that comes to one’s mind when we pronounce the word ‘Spring’? Broadly speaking, rejuvenation, rejoice, resurrection, regrowth and many other such words can definitely be associated with the word ‘Spring’ if we consider from the global perspective. A feel of freshness, sweet fragrance, brightness, colourfulness, hopefulness and the spirit of optimism rules everywhere across the globe.

Spring seasons have been best described and eulogized by the renowned poets starting from Shakespeare to Wordsworth in the bygone past. Poets across the world have always been inspired to write beautiful poems, during this beautiful season of hope and new beginnings. In Assam, Spring has a far bigger connotation than simply a season of colourfulness and freshness. Yes, we associate Spring with Bihu(Bohag Bihu), the most awaited festival of the year in this region. A festival of happiness, colours, good food, love and respect, prosperity and unity across diversity in the region.

 

However, this Spring had a totally different story to narrate to mankind. A lifetime experience of staying indoors, hibernating ourselves due to the global lockdown. A pandemic has been casting its ugly shadow on all of us since a few months ago, and now depriving us to celebrate our Spring festival too. The entire world is under lockdown or house arrest for the first time in history. Lockdown, the only short term weapon we have at our disposal to fight against the virus, to mitigate the spread across people or else the virus will spread like a wildfire through community transmission. A small but deadly virus is ruling outside our houses, in the streets, in the markets and everywhere. People are dying, getting affected in huge numbers everywhere. The fight for a vaccine is running across the globe to save mankind. Researches are going on unabated to find origins, nature and cure against the deadly virus. Schools, colleges, offices, places of worship and all other public places, recreation centres, offices all shut down to break the chain of the Coronavirus. The state borders and international borders are all sealed and under tight control. All domestic and international modes of transport remain suspended as there is no other way to stop the passenger traffic, to contain the virus.

 

The sudden declaration of the lockdown came as a bolt from the blue as it was a first time experience for all living souls of the human race. It took time for people to understand and adapt and today it has become a part of our life and it is like just another day. Of course, it took a little time for people living in remote areas or villages to understand the mighty virus and its repercussions on the human race. But today, people are readily adopting this new way of survival in crisis times like these. Governments across the world are working unitedly, sharing data, knowledge and information, medical know-how, quick support in terms of medicine, finance or any other medical kits or equipment. Thanks to the Cuban doctors when Italy was witnessing its worst days of lifetime. Thanks to the Government of India for your quick delivery of hydroxychloroquine medicines to the worst-hit U.S. At this war-like situation, one thing that keeps me positive is that we may be divided by national boundaries, but at the end, we all are connected by one common thread called “Humanity”. I just pray that such noble virtues should not go to oblivion once this virus gets eradicated forever. It’s only during bad times, realisations happen and if we humans can keep a note of these crisis times for brighter tomorrows, we definitely will have a sustainable and healthy future for coming generations too.

 

 A spring of hibernation

 

A comeback this International Women’s Day

Every woman on this earth needs a comeback!

Where did I stop last ? Does any one remember? Ha! Ha! I too forgot. A big big break indeed. Every now and then , my followers kept pinging on in my social media accounts or kept asking my hubby ‘Hey, where is she(me)? Why is she not writing any more ? We have been waiting so long’ ! And there my fellow lecturers and my seniors kept asking me and my hubby will I be joining the next semester. I wish I could give a direct reply. I still appreciate everyone’s love , support and longings’ for me. Already I had to skip two semesters in a row. One was planned due to my research work in India. The other was unplanned. This time I was enroute to Uganda along with my hubby . But it was not in my destiny to reach Uganda as scheduled. I had to return in between as my health broke down seriously in my first flight itself. During my last visit to India , I was actually loaded with multiple tasks or responsibilities ,family as well as career related. Everything was going fine . But health wise , most of us in the family had suffered a lot starting from my brother, my father and finally myself who is still undergoing diagnosis and various treatments .

Today , I am feeling somewhat positive and better . Also I feel some good vibes surrounded by the Indian Spring setting combined with the International Women’s Day feel in the air that is already blowing across in most parts of India. I suddenly got a whisper from my soul :”Why am I not writing” ? I am not doing right by feeling sick all time . Let me come back atleast on  this Women’s Day, when  the world will be busy celebrating International Women’s Day. I believe some organisations have already begun to show their love and respect for women by celebrating the International Women’s Week.  In my country, India , Hima Das ,a world famous athlete ,better known as the Dhing Express in Assam(India) has been offered the prestigious post of DSP , a high ranking official in the Indian Police.

At this moment , if things had gone according to my earlier plans, I would have found myself attending one of the most important conferences in Egypt conducted by Women Economic Forum, a renowned international organization of repute for women across different walks of life. Also this location was special to me because it is in Africa , one of my neighboring countries just a flight away.  Now is the situation when I can only imagine my presence attending the various sessions or going for tour trips after the discussions . Alas I missed it !  But its ok. I have learnt to be happy missing many things in life. But I realize now, that I cant stop writing . What I need is a comeback .So all women , let us all join hands together , whatever problem we are facing in any phase of our life , let us learn to accept it  but never lie down because it is only a matter of time. Brushing all hassles of life  aside , let us all pledge to build some space for ourselves and dare for that comeback!  

 

The forests calling …..Part 1


It’s almost a very big break since my last blog, almost two months from now. I got somewhat bit busy with other work, travelling and so on. If you remember, in my last blog we were at a beautiful tea estate. After that it was time for the forests and here we go…..


Our destination was the Queen Elizabeth National Park, a UNESCO site, located at a distance of sixty-six kilometres from our current location(we were at Ankole Tea Estate, Bushenyi in the previous blog ). We took the Mbarara Kasese Road to reach the national park. Happy to know when we were told by our driver that we would be reaching there in the next one and a half hour from that moment. Our joys knew no bounds as we felt confirmed that we would make our entry to the forest lodge on time. The last cut off time for check-in at the forest lodge was 3 p.m. The road experience was really worth sharing. Just after crossing the tea estate in my previous blog, I could suddenly figure out the changes in the climate, the flora and fauna on the way. It was getting hotter and hotter, the skies looked so near from us, the shapes and patterns of trees looked marvellous on both sides of the road. A few miles ahead, we could see only tall cactuses both sides of the road. It wouldn’t be wrong to call them trees because of the tall heights and voluminous growths like branches of trees. As we progressed further, the number of vehicles grew lesser and lesser. Remember, we were proceeding towards the forests and the time factor for entry for safety purposes. Silence and serenity were the two things that had already started to occupy our minds as we started inching every moment towards our destination. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to describe its look and feel as that of the Great Sahara desert of Africa. Actually, the heat, the dry air and the cactuses made us feel like that.

The unparalleled peace and loneliness in a road trip to the forests


In a few minutes, we reached the premises of Queen Elizabeth National Park. We were so elated with joy and surprise to have discovered a few forest lodges so beautifully built in the midst of the forest. For us, we had already booked in advance one of such forest lodges, its name was Engiri Lodge and Campsite.
Engiri Game Lodge and Campsite is a budget game lodge at the heart of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, 300 metres off the Mbarara-Kasese road, on the shores of the Kazinga Chanel. The beautiful ambience consists of volcanic huts, a campsite and the main building housing the reception, lounge, restaurant and bar. Located amidst pristine, quiet savanna bushes, this is a perfect budget hotel to stay for a holistic wildlife experience. It is also situated closest to the infamous Kasenyi Plains known for lions and leopard tracking and where most game drives are carried out. Luckily this place is near to the Community Boat Tour on Kazinga Channel where one can see around 550 different species of birds and also watch the hippos as well as a large number of elephant herds. One can find the largest number of hippos in the world in this place.

The reception cum restaurant @ Engiri Lodge cum campsite


We had reached the destination at around 2.50 p.m East African Time. We got down from our vehicle, baggage still lying in the vehicle. We proceeded towards the reception of the forest lodge. It was a two-storeyed building with the look of a hut, the roof of the top floor was made of straw. The staircase leading to the top floor was wooden. As we soon we reached the reception, we were greeted with warm smiles by the staff and we were offered a complimentary welcome drink. It was a fruit juice naturally made from the locally available tropical fruits like watermelon and pineapple mixed well. What a taste it was? The very thought makes me feel so refreshing and nostalgic about that forest stay there. We did the required check-in formalities after the drink. Our luggage being carried by the hotel staff, towards our assigned hut. There were a few camps and stand-alone huts strewn across at regular distances of few yards. The only difference between staying in a hotel and a hut (forest lodge )like this one is one’s privacy and freedom to enjoy the forest, to watch the wild animals move from one’s assigned hut any time at night. In a hotel, we lose such opportunities as we have nothing else to do inside the room, just eat and rest. Although the reception was at a different building, we could stay connected with the telephone lines or the wifi, for any urgency or requirement. We took the keys and walked towards our hut, which was at a stone’s throw from the main reception hut. In half an hour, we got fresh and took some snacks we had carried all the way from our home location for our trip. After charging our bellies with a morsel of food, until our early forest dinner, we also had to charge our mobile phones as they were almost dead or switched off by the time we made entry into the forest. All this was fine, even the hot weather was ok for us. The only thing that disturbed me on reaching the hut was we were told by the reception manager that dinner would be served in the restaurant above the reception. There was no provision for dinner inside as the huts were too tiny, which somehow housed two small beds and an attached toilet with bathtub fittings on a wooden floor. It was a forest. Obviously, if they allow food inside the room, it would mean inviting the tiny creatures like ants and other insects for our dinner. Dinner time was after 8 p.m. and there was no room service. Imagine, what could be my thought or how I felt in the midst of the forest. During check-in time, we were clearly told about the lions, hippos and other wild animals which usually comes out and keep moving around the area of huts and campsites. Its nature, so obviously unpredictable about time and events. So just before dusk by 6 to 6.30 pm, every visitor who stayed in their lodge had to confirm their return from their game drives in the presence of the forest guards or tour guides. For a while, I regretted why didn’t we put up in some nearby hotels where food, reception and rest were offered in one closed building and thereby enjoy our game drive the next morning. My husband was a bit bold. For him, it was not a big deal to go and have his dinner in the dark in the assigned restaurant (the restaurant was on top of the reception floor in a different building). After a few minutes, one of the reception staff promised to offer us food inside our hut. I was more than thankful to them at this kind gesture of theirs. My greatest fear was now eliminated and now I felt I could get some peaceful sleep up to dawn prior to our game drive.

Every cottage of the forest lodge had its own unique name .Ours was known as Emboco


Just before sunset, I and my hubby strolled around our hut and other nearby huts to enjoy the scenic beauty of the ambience with sunset at the backdrop and the different varieties of tropical trees and bushes. The sun had finally set, the crickets and other insects did their daily rituals of making their formal announcements to other creatures of mother nature by their typical sounds that it was time for rest and sleep. Slowly and slowly, we too got absorbed in the serenity and peacefulness of mother nature. The air around us got cooler and more peaceful. One by one, the stars gradually started to make their appearance with their brightest ever twinkle upon us. The sky never looked so near us and it was a fully lit starry night. Blessed to witness this sight. The silence and darkness below the skies hovered about and we finally headed our cottage room. No sooner had we entered, someone knocked at our door. I opened the door. What a surprise! Two smart Ugandan waitresses of the restaurant were accompanied by two male waiters and a forest guard, everyone with lamps in their hands had already come with our dinner. The quantity of the food was too much for two of us. We were offered a full big fish per person, almost a kilo by weight, French fries, a tomato soup naturally made, a bun, some butter and a dessert. Even one such fish for two Indians like us was much more for our bellies, especially for dinner time. We readily decided to return one fish to the restaurant staff and offered them to eat on behalf of us as a gesture of gratitude or you may call avoiding food wastage. They left the food trays with us and they dispersed to the restaurant. We arranged the trays on the wooden floor itself as there was not enough room space for a side or centre table, unlike other hotels. The fish and the other items were wholesome and tasty too. Dinner was finished and then we had nothing else to do like taking a stroll outside. It was simply impossible in the midst of the forest. We switched on our alarms of our mobile phones as we had to wake up early in the dawn to catch up the game drive on time which was scheduled at 6 a.m. in the morning when it is still dark and one could actually catch a glimpse of the wild animals prior to sunrise(sunrise at 7 p.m in East Africa) . We were so tired that day that no sooner had we laid down on the bed than we felt sleepy. Now only a door, the four walls and the straw roof stood between us and the forest and the wild animals must have been moving around us with or without sounds. Luckily we were fast asleep. What happened the next dawn, I will surely narrate. Till then, enjoy reading. Stay blessed and happy!

How can I forget that big fat fish for dinner at the forest??
Sunset at the forest

Images on the way! Around Uganda

Hi readers, while I am getting ready with my upcoming post, I just wanted to share few sights which really captivated me in and around me while on the move.Just have a look.More pictures to be shared henceforth……

Also I am still awaiting your comments and feedback about what else needs improvement and what is your experience reading or visiting my blog everytime. Go to COMMENTS section for your messages for me. If you want to be my regular reader , click FOLLOW option on the home page http://www.jyotshnasafricandiaries.com

Awaiting for your comments and follows . Keep loving .Keep sharing!

The journey ahead… Crossing the Equator.

Hi readers, it’s been two long weeks since my last write up. I somehow got trapped in life’s other priorities or activities for survival that I almost made a no show in the blogging space. Anyways let’s again begin – what happened after crossing the Equator, the imaginary line on the earth?

In my last blog, I was taking a stroll along the equator checking for the flora, the climatic variations and so on. It was an amazing place honestly. We then boarded our vehicle and in no time set for the journey ahead that was waiting for us in the hills and forests. After a few minutes, I was dumbfounded with something very contrasting that I got to see. What diversity! What a contrast! To my right side, I could see only tall cactuses and to my left were the Pine trees. As I took pleasure in such rare sights, I also kept thinking about how it was possible. How can God create such varied creatures at the same place? Is it because of the Equator?? Many questions kept haunting my mind as we were all travelling.

Next few hours, we had reached a beautiful town called Mbarara, which is essential called the land of milk or the milk capital of this beautiful country. Mbarara is rich in cattle milk and also good vegetables and fruits as it is blessed by a good climate and fertile soil. By looks, this place has some resemblance with the capital city, Kampala from where we had started our journey that morning. But it would not be wrong if we call it next biggest town after the capital city. It was time for lunch at this place. We were checking for some Indian food in our Google maps because we knew the journey ahead was a bit adventurous one or something uncertain with respect to our Indian bellies that always crave for some rice or roti even on African soil. We knew the next two days, we would be in a state of deprivation from Indian food. We have to eat as per the soil and the African cooking styles. Not bad! We must explore to taste everything in life. In few seconds time, Google suggested an Indian restaurant.We got off our vehicle and headed for our lunch. To our surprise, we found another big group of Indian people in that restaurant who were already seated there. My husband knew a few of those people and so he began chatting with them until the food was ordered and delivered to us at our table. Another surprise! We had ordered chicken biryani in a place where Asian people were so meagre in number but the taste was unbelievably awesome. I really appreciate those African cooks inside those Indian restaurants who have been doing such good jobs, catering us such good Indian food according to our taste buds in their own lands. No way, they will let you down as they are so adept in cooking everything from rice, pulao, biryani, roti, naan, veg and non-veg all Indian delicacies. They have really learnt so well that we being Indians feel ashamed at times.

The price and quantity of our lunch were worth in fact more than worth, honestly speaking. It was a wow experience for all Indians who had dropped in at the restaurant that day. With smiles in our faces and a contented heart and stomachs, we then left the place and headed for the next part of the journey. With anticipation in our minds, what would come next, we again boarded our vehicle and again set forth. Just after an hour probably, we found ourselves in the midst of a lush green tea estate- the Ankole Tea Estate. At first sight, most Indians would get confused.That tea estate resembled some tea gardens of Darjeeling or those of South India. But careful observation of the entire tea estate would actually make you feel more happy and surprising because, in the distance, one could also spot the array of multiple pine trees. What nature’s backdrop. We couldn’t help to get off our vehicle to strike some poses with the lovely setting. A rare sight indeed to be treasured for one’s lifetime. We almost spent fifteen to twenty minutes. We were almost lost in nature’s lap and abundance of greenery and fresh oxygen that enveloped us. After some time, we got ready for the subsequent part the trip. Our final part of our journey was now heading towards the forest. We had to be on time at our forest lodge. Forests calling finally!

Check out the pine trees and tea gardens in one frame. Isn’t it contrasting??
Our small team of the two day trip to the equator and beyond
Reaching Ankole Tea Estate, a Williamson Magor Enterprise in Africa

Breakfast at the Equator


It was morning 6 a.m of the Easter weekend on 20th April,2019.The skies were still dark outside. It is normal to have dark skies until 6 to 6.30 a.m.here in Uganda. The sun actually starts giving its first look by 7 a.m. The alarm clock failed to ring on time that day. We were supposed to start our trip to the Elizabeth National Park (final destination)exactly at 6 in the morning.Actually, we had to cover many other sites on the way in those two days of weekend cum Easter holidays. Also, our target to reach the final destination was 3 p.m as this was the last cut off time for check-in into a forest lodge inside the forest. It was unlike a typical hotel timing where you have the liberty to check in at any time of the day or night. Initially, we thought we would not be able to make it on time. The situation was like-We either drop the plan or have to take some risk to be on time. But we actually did.Here we go…

I and my better half jumped off the bed to get ready in the quickest possible way so as not to miss the long wished trip during the Easter break this 2019. Luckily we had a sound sleep the preceding night with no worries of last minute packing our mini luggage. Luggage mainly comprised of one pair of clothes, some fruits, cold drinks and some snacks just in case we needed during our forest stay in an untraveled unfamiliar location for us.
We actually started our journey by 6.45 a.m from our residence. We were four including we two, one of my husband’s colleagues and our driver. The city roads looked very clean and clear early morning except for those big trucks and the wholesalers doing their rounds in offloading and purchasing the vegetables and fruits for the day, at the major market hubs.In just half an hour we found ourselves on the newly built expressways. The sun protruded out from the clouds galore as if a UFO was preparing for its landing on this hilly terrain. It was an awesome sight at first glance.In no time, I got busy capturing whatever best sight came on my way until we reached our final destination.

Two hours had passed in the moving vehicle. Already getting hungry as we had left home empty stomach except for a glass of warm water which had almost become one of my morning rituals. We initially felt we must start our breakfast. But later realized that we were about to reach the Equator or the zero degrees latitude, which passes through this part of the globe. Breakfast at the Equator seemed to be a cool idea. It was a kind of Picnic breakfast to be had at the equator.The breakfast consisted of bread, jam, juice tetra packs,hard boiled eggs, pancakes, some sliced fruits and few packets of chips which actually lasted throughout the trip. In a few minutes, we were there- at the equator. It is located in Kayabwe, Mpigi district, about 72 kilometres from the capital city.

Geographically, the equator is the imaginary line on the earth, equidistant from its poles, dividing it into northern and southern hemispheres, or to be more precise, the zero degrees latitude on the earth. Our joy knew no bounds to reach at this long sought after historical landmark of Uganda since the last two years of my stay here. It was altogether a different feeling – as if it was the feeling of an accomplishment long due.Several other tourists both local and foreigners had also dropped in at the place just to have a feel at this significant location of the globe. Serenity cum beauty in the diversity of nature were the major elements to be highlighted. On both sides of the road, there were two concrete structures erected to signify the passing of the imaginary line through them. As if those were two concurrent points of a straight line if I go by the definitions of Geometry. The temperature was warm as expected as it was the middle of the world.

There was a small scientific experiment that was demonstrated to us about our presence at the equator, northern and southern hemisphere. Some enthusiasts even got their names printed in certificates displaying their physical presence or crossing the equator. These certificates were provided to the tourists with some price. Also, few stalls dealing in local art crafts sold t-shirts with expressions like ”I have crossed the equator”.

In no time, like most other visitors, we got busy in capturing the significant spot by our mobile phone cameras. There was a small queue before we got the chance to click our pictures. As we were busy making videos or photo shoots, we were somewhat disturbed by our hungry stomachs. The fire in the belly aggravated to such a level that very soon we had to take a quick break from our photo sessions only to get into our vehicle to gorge ourselves on the picnic- like breakfast that was awaiting us.

After breakfast, we took a small walk along to discover the place with our own senses. The flora of the place was breathtakingly awesome with a wide of variety, starting from the small flowering plants to the towering cactuses that sprung up from the earth’s surface at such regular distances. Then time to say bye bye to this beautiful location just to discover what was there in store for us after crossing equator.
Will see you soon my readers after crossing the equator.
Have a blessed and a joyful weekend!

An untold tale and some unsung Indian heroes in Uganda

Featuring NICA, The North Indian Cultural Association (Uganda)

 

Hi readers, it has been a very long time since the last blog post on 21st March. I hope the week was good to all of you. The financial year has just ended and  now we are in a different  bent of mind, ready to welcome Spring season  in different forms and colours  in different parts of the globe.For my country India , it is a combination of the spring festival celebrations  and the election climate.

Today through my blog, I would like to introduce a unique  social organization in Uganda  NICA by name. Its full form being North Indian Cultural Association. NICA in Punjabi language(an Indian language) means infant or a toddler and the members of this special organization consider themselves as learners amongst all other sister associations in Uganda. My  words will  fall short to praise them or even this entire blog post is not enough to cover their entire yeoman’s service that they have been rendering  to the needy and  poor  sections of  Uganda ,since  inception in 2011. NICA is an association with a difference ,genuinely wishing to contribute towards the common goals of promoting strong cultural values among the new generation and rendering all possible support for the betterment of the local society.

NICA is  an initiative of  a few like-minded and noble-hearted  Indians hailing from northern India but  residing in Uganda on account of their jobs or businesses in Africa.They are willing to give back to the  society by reaching out to  its under privileged and needy. Particularly ,they are taking care of the poor people suffering from eye ailments  and impaired vision but cannot afford medical assistance or even buy a pair of spectacles or medicines.NICA has embarked on a CSR activity named “Your Vision – Our Mission” and organizes free eye medical camps every month in various slum areas around and outside Kampala ,the capital city of Uganda.  The motto or the slogan Your vision-Our Mission really touches my soul .It is really a meaningful one  and a noble cause for their existence .  These eye camps are held in conjunction with Ministry of Health,Uganda, Mulago referral Hospital, SAMTA Natural Resources Uganda Ltd and Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital(a reknowned Indian eye hospital in Uganda), which make use of state-of-the-art equipment and an extremely competent pool of Doctors/Specialists.

NICA is guided by certain objectives.

  • To identify the major cause of severe visual impairment and blindness among children and adults and offer treatment accordingly.
  • To create awareness about preventive measures in order to reduce the risk of eye diseases.

The most notable features of the camps they conduct include free testing/scanning and distribution of optical medicines and spectacles to the unprivileged local community members. In addition, they also provide optical surgeries to those who are on the verge of blindness and also curing the reversible blindness.

 The first eye camp was held on New Year’s Day 2016 and forty-seven (47) camps have subsequently been organized with the following vital stats about beneficiaries.

1. No of Free Eye camp held : 48

2. No of camps for Free Cataract Surgeries : 15

3. No of Patients Scanned : 19,142

4. Free Spectacles distributed : 7,060

5. Free Treatment (Medicines) : 7,524

6. Free Cataract Surgeries : 1,093

 7. Free Cornea Transplant : 03

 8. Cataract Diagnosed : 74 (Treatment Pending)

Modus Operandi: They have a team of three to four members who  are entrusted with the task of identifying and selecting  slum areas suitable for organizing the camps by communicating with the administration of the locality. Usually, the preferred location is that with a church or school situated in close proximity.

So far, out of total 48 camps the seventeen (17) camps have been held outside Kampala,the capital city of Uganda

 • Kikandwas sub country. Mityana; • Sekanyonyo Health Centre –Mityana District; • Rushere Community Hospital –Rushere –Kiruhura District; • Kawolo Hospital ,Lugazi–Mukono; Regional Referral Hospital Fortpotal (twice), • Kasana Helath Centre -Luwero district (thrice). • Rugyeyo Community Hospital-Kanungu (twice) • Benedictine Eye Hospital -Tororo District. • Kalangala Islands Health Centre IV-Kalangala • Kakindu Stadium –Jinja; Health Centre IV,Busia • Maska Regional Referral Hospital-Masaka • Bikurungu Health Centre, Rukingiri

The Honorary Consul of Uganda in Bombay – His Excellency Madhusudhan Agrawal, through his organization SAMTA Natural Resources Uganda has offered free cataract surgeries for unprivileged people in Uganda on continual basis. The Madhvani family (Kakira Sugar) and other donors from different countries along with Indian community in Uganda are continuously supporting these camps. Currently, the association has membership of about 120 Indian expatriates who contribute to the association’s CSR activities as well.

The 1st “Eye Surgery Camp” was held in conjunction with Ministry of Health,Uganda and Mulago Hospital(a hospital in Uganda) on 25th to 27th August 2017, in which 83 Free Cataract surgeries were successfully performed.

Future Course of Action: NICA would like to continue these camps on a periodic basis and raise them onto a National level beyond Kampala. All praises for NICA for the good work you have done .You have made all Indians in this globe feel very proud by spreading the good name across continents. Long live NICA!

Some posters of the recently conducted eye camps in rural Uganda

An newspaper clipping featuring NICA in a local newspaper in Uganda

 

Website address: ww.nica.org

Facebook Page: North Indian Cultural Association of Uganda

CONTACT DETAILS

Chairperson : Mr Dharmendra Agarwal

Address: Plot No. 35, Coffee House (Beautiful Living),

P.O.Box 31082, Jinja Road, Kampala, Uganda
Tele/Fax: +256 41 434 9679