Dreams of Gulsat Akhinoma

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Ms. Gulsat Akhinoma was one among the fourteen members of our group that set out from Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, to explore the Caucasus Mountains recently. Gulsat was born in the city of Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan. She is a university graduate working in Bishkek. Since she was born in the erstwhile Soviet Union, grew up there and seen its downfall, I had a lot of questions for her and she had answers for all of them. For me, whatever she had shared seemed to be thought-provoking not only for those who support the ideology that the Soviet Union had practiced but for its haters also. This is an attempt to share it here in her own words.

“I was fourteen years old when the Soviet Union was dissolved. I still remember the day. There was a collective-farm building in our village. On its roof, there was the red Soviet flag, with the hammer and sickle imprinted on it, fluttering in the air. There was also a portrait of Vladimir Lenin on its wall. A few youngsters arrived there on horseback shouting loudly – God blessed us, the Russian army left our land, we are a free nation now. They pulled down the Soviet flag and tried to wipe off the image of Lenin from the wall…

There was a students’ organization in the name of Lenin at our school. I was its leader. We were committed to keep our society a classless one that depended on science for human progress. As you see, now there are limited opportunities for education and once you complete your studies, there is hardly any job opportunity. Under the Soviet regime, there were universities in every city with highly qualified teachers. There was nothing that limited our scope in terms of finding better avenues for education. Those excelled in the local universities were sent to Moscow for higher studies. The government provided for free boarding and lodging for such students. Once you complete your studies, it was the responsibility of the university to find a suitable job for you which could be anywhere in the Union.

During those times, our people used to work for everyone, for the state. Now everyone works for themselves. Still our needs are unmet. There are anxieties and uncertainties about tomorrow. You can find cut-throat competition everywhere. The youngsters were more energetic during the Soviet times. The farmers sowed and reaped together. The nation respected them. As the agricultural production increased, living standards of the people improved. Though there was a crisis in the agricultural sector during the Second World War, the Soviet Union managed to send food grains to countries that were reeling under acute food shortage, including India.

Individual freedom did not mean a situation where the citizens were free to do anything s/he wanted. But, they were free to do what was essential and in the best interest of his/her fellow beings. For us, getting equal treatment and opportunities in the society was freedom. In all such aspects, the Soviet Union was far ahead of any other country in the world ever. But, of course, there were certain controls which were absolutely necessary to keep the Union together.

What one needs to understand is that the collapse of the Union is not something that happened due to the policies of Joseph Stalin. It was largely due to the ‘De-Stalinisation’ process adopted by Nikita Khrushchev and his successors. They brought capitalism, religion and class differences back to the Society which ultimately resulted in conflicts in every realm of life and eventually led to the downfall of the Union. No country which was part of the Soviet Union progressed after its dissolution. There is extreme poverty everywhere. Women from these countries are being sold in the flesh markets in cities like Hong Kong, Bangkok and Dubai. All those youngsters who criticize the Union never lived there. You talk to our elders, they will tell you about a political party and their government that respected humanity, knowledge, science and agriculture. Our country is under Neo-slavery today. Our lives, nature and resources are being exploited. We can’t think about tomorrow without fear.

Religions have made a strong come back into our society. The Soviet Union had kept them at bay. There were just a few churches. Religious education was banned. Religious leaders had nothing to do with politics and governance. Today churches have mushroomed in almost every village with foreign aid. Religious leaders exert so much of pressure in governance.

The silver lining is that gradually people are realizing that everything is not going in the right direction. Despite all the sense of loss, we are hopeful that the Soviet Union will emerge again. Eventually, there will be a realisation that nothing other than a Communist establishment can treat everyone equally and provide for food, health, opportunities and peace. They will take up the red flag they had thrown away once. There may not be another country or political establishment that was loved and admired by people like the Soviet Union. My dream is to be able to live in the Soviet Union again.”

(This is a translation of the original post in Malayalam done by my friend Nissar Adoor. He is getting it translated into Russian)

It is not so scary!

On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York for Charlotte, North Carolina. In less than 20 minutes, the plane had a crash-landing on the Hudson river due to engine failure.  Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survived the ordeal. Ric Elias, CEO of a Sales & Marketing firm who was on board later shared three things he learned from the experience at Ted Talks. What attracted me most in this 5-minute talk is his thoughts during those moments when death was so near and almost certain. He says, ‘as we were coming down I had a sense of, wow dying is not so scary! We have been preparing for it all though our life. But I was very sad, I did not want to go, I loved my life.’ This is something that i haven’t heard before, that dying is not so scary. After that, I listened to a few others who were on the same flight that day and I heard another one sharing similar thoughts. He says, ‘the possibility of not surviving was not a thought in my mind but neither was the thought of living, it was just a peace that was over me and i was ready to accept whatever was going to happen…….’ Listen to Ric Elias, he also talks about a few more things other than death.
“Birth is okay and death is okay, if we know that they are only concepts in our mind. Reality transcends both birth and death.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Stressful lives of tech workers as they advance in age

Hello Guys,

I am doing some desk review about the issues of aging techies, their challenges in keeping themselves up-to-date, staying relevant in the organization etc. By and large, it deals with midlife crisis. Since I am totally naïve to this sector, I would be happy if any of you having experience in IT can come forward and help me to have a better understanding about life in an IT firm. Those who come forward will be troubled in between for the next three months over emails, not many, of course . I have no remuneration to offer 🙂

Please see the below link for more clarity on what I am trying to say.

http://www.businessinsider.in/An-inside-look-at-the-stressful-lives-of-tech-workers-over-age-50/articleshow/49785666.cms

Those who are willing can comment below. You can still maintain your anonymity and support me.

 

Thanks in advance!

A skeptic who is yet to make peace with marriage

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Sometime during last year I happened to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ which talks about her soul-searching journey through Italy, India and Indonesia over a year after a devastating divorce. She spent time in Italy to eat and in India to seek before finding love again in a Brazilian businessman named Felipe in Bali, Indonesia. After a not-so-long period of courtship, Felipe and Liz swore their love for each other but decided never to get married as both of them had bitter divorces.
Since, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ was not really a bad read, I picked up its sequel, ‘Committed: A skeptic makes peace with marriage‘ which focused mainly on her ordeals with the US government that ended up in her marriage with Felipe as it was legally required for him to live with her in the US. She also talks, in the books, about the history and evolution of the institution called marriage while attempting to tackle her fears of the same. The bond of true compatibility that she found between herself and Felipe made her quite confident that they would make a wonderful couple.
After finishing the book this morning, I visited her Facebook page where I found a post about her commitment ceremony with her writer-girlfriend, Rayya Elias. She separated from Felipe, her husband for nine years, in July last year after she discovered her feelings for Elias, her best friend for more than a decade. She also informs her readers that the reason she’s going public with her and Elias’s relationship now is because Elias has been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer, which is incurable. She goes on, “I’m walking through this cancer journey with her, not only as her friend, but as her partner. I am exactly where I need to be — the only place I can be.”
While I wish all the best to Elizabeth Gilbert and Rayya Elias, I also realise that everything around love is beyond our comprehension and a bit complicated.
Here are some quotes from Eat, Pray and Love:
“It’s still two human beings trying to get along, so it’s going to be complicated. And love is always complicated. But humans must try to love each other. We must get our hearts broken sometimes. This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something.” 
“A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave.”

The Good Earth

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It was sometime during my high school days I read a Malayalam translation of the classic novel The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck. And, this could probably be my first world literature read followed by Brothers Karamazov of Dostoevsky. I got The Good Earth delivered again by Amazon during the year 2011 to read the English version for the first time while I was down with Malaria. This book, talking about the village life in China during the first few decades of the twentieth century, is still one among my personal favorites. Since my parents are also from an agrarian background, I could relate a lot to this novel and its characters. I saw my father in Wang Lung and my mother in O-Lan. Though we don’t own much land, my father’s love for the little stretch of land he owns is incomparable. He even got some more land leased from a rich landowner in our village out of his interest in farming. However, unlike Wang Lung, he has not succeeded in becoming a rich landlord 🙂

During a recent visit to China, I got a friend who is equally interested in books. When my fellow travelers were busy shopping in Wall Mart, we spent hours over some coffee at a local café talking about books, politics, and cinema and so on. Even after returning from China, we continued to talk over WhatsApp about our latest reads. I suggested him to read The Good Earth since it is about China of the pre-first world war period. To my surprise, he told me that it was not as popular in China as it was with the rest of the world.

A few days back, my friend happened to be in the city where I live. We decided to catch up over dinner. I really wanted him to carry something back to China but there was not much time get anything delivered online nor was I free to go out and look for something due to some busy schedule at work. So, I dug into my book collection and traced the 2011 copy of The Good Earth. Normally, I don’t prefer giving away books from my collection. Still, I thought there is nothing better I can give to a friend from China. And, his smile upon seeing the book proved the same 🙂

Of late, I have come to know that The Good Earth is the first book in a trilogy that includes Sons and A House Divided. While my fried will be busy reading The Good Earth, I have decided to go behind the remaining titles in the trilogy.

Your Feet

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When I cannot look at your face
I look at your feet.
Your feet of arched bone,
your hard little feet.
I know that they support you,
and that your sweet weight
rises upon them.
Your waist and your breasts,
the doubled purple
of your nipples,
the sockets of your eyes
that have just flown away,
your wide fruit mouth,
your red tresses,
my little tower.
But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.

– Pablo Neruda