|HER WORLD||Sunday, April 4, 2004, Chandigarh, India|
turn a step into a leap
FLYING high with the birds is Satinder Bath, the first Indian woman to venture out for free fall skydiving. As she says, "I was a happy and contented housewife, married to a paratrooper. When we were posted in Agra in 1988, a French woman, Shantel Shamsher asked for volunteers for a course in sky diving. I volunteered. It was as if I had ventured out of home, from making chapattis and paranthas and into the field. The course was to be organised by the Sky Diving Institute, Agra. This institute is the only one of its kind in the country. To get a sky diving certificate, to be recognised internationally one had to complete 10 basic jumps. It is an extremely dangerous and challenging form of sport."
Under her instructor’s guidance, Satinder learnt a lot about sky diving. From packing their own parachutes, which normally takes five people to actually put it together, to straightening the rigging lines i.e. the threads that bind the parachute, they did it all. In packing if the threads entangle themselves then the parachute does not open in time.
She narrates her first experience as, "Elation! Our instructor gave us the basic information on sky diving and one fine day announced ‘let’s go.’I sat in the five-seat Beaver plane, with two other women and the paratrooper’s gear which included everything, jump suit, helmet, heavy boots, parachute at the back and reserve in front. I chickened out, on the, ‘go’, command and could not imagine myself jumping down the 5,000 ft in mid-air. My instructor sensed my hesitation and pushed me off the plane. Our parachutes open on a five-second delay and that is a lot of time when one is falling at speed of 32 feet per second. Luckily, I remembered all the rules of the sport and spread out my arms and legs in, ‘the eagle position,’ i.e. the horizontal position to the land, my right hand automatically went to my left shoulder to open the parachute with a handle. That was a total feeling of floating in the calm sky, where I was alone and the birds kept me company, I run short of words to explain that wonderful experience."
Satinder is always looking for adventure and challenges in life and since her husband was a paratrooper this opportunity came knocking by. In order to undertake this certificate they had to pay Rs 100 per sortie and about Rs 1000 for the entire course. The amount worked out to be quite a lot in those days. The safety of the sky divers is well planned as they fall in dropping zones which are sans trees and electric wires.
A multifaceted personality, Satinder is a B.Sc., a Masters in public administration and history and a B.Ed. with an additional degree in journalism. Her passion lies in travelling, trekking, horse riding, swimming, reading and writing satires on her observations of life. She has travelled widely in India and abroad, to Bangkok, Singapore, Dubai, and to places like Chushul and Pongong Stul lake which is 3 km in India and 10 km in China. She worked religiously for four days in a week with YMCA to conduct teaching workshops for young village girls.
While in Guwahati, she chiselled and designed tea bushes into lovely pieces of art. She has a truck load of collections of her art creations and drift-wood pieces. She has also collected an International interior decorators certificate from London and a Maxmueller course in German language certificate from Pune. Her indulgence in gardening has won her great acclaim. Satinder and her husband organised swimming and trekking camps at Rainbow Country Park, near Kharar for four years. At present, they are making an NRI enclave at the same place. She has also participated in the all-women Maruti rally. She has played tennis at the district level while in Govt College in Sec 11. She has a certificate of anchoring for TV and radio and learnt dances from Shaimak Davar. She has a personal micro light, a small form of glider with propellers, and a modified motorcycle engine with fixed wings used as a paraglide.
At present, she teaches science at
Vivek High School and says that working with the children is a
fulfilling experience. She is a homemaker and a hard core adventure
enthusiast on the other hand who keeps trying her hand at some new
adventure all the time.
WOMEN, one feels, are making a mark in all the fields but for the majority of women equality, justice, peace and development are still years away. Changing the mindset is the first step towards real empowerment of women.
Even as India has the world’s largest number of professionally qualified women, more female doctors, surgeons, scientists and professors than the USA, on an average our women are socially, politically and economically weaker than men. The conflict between productive and reproductive roles of women is glaring even in Kerala, renowned for its 100 percent literacy. A recent WHO study found that working women who carried dual responsibility of attending office and caring for the family were battered by stress, strain and conflict which shattered them emotionally.
Shantamma (all names changed) past 85 might be illiterate but is very categorical that women should stand up and fight for their rights, come what. Married at 13, apparently her never-say-die spirit helped her face several challenges. Braving all odds, including her husband’s frequent transfers, her decision to stay alone for the cause of educating her four daughters seems to have paid rich dividends. Six of the ten grand children have been married and well settled, while the rest are studying abroad.
Shunned by her parents and relatives for having married someone against their wishes, Ritu’s life is a daily battle. To help her husband travel abroad in search of better prospects, she quit her government job and parted with all her savings only to find that the man she trusted had left her forever. Having managed to secure a job at a call centre, Ritu balanced her odd duty hours of work along with taking care of her two young daughters. She finds it rather taxing but the thought of their future brings a smile on her face.
Sixty five-year-old Thulasi is grateful to the Almighty for having provided her a place in the old age home. No sooner than her husband had passed away two years ago, life had become a living hell for her. Discarded by her only son (and his wife) who threw her out after getting the ancestral house transferred in his name. She declined an offer made by a family friend to stay with them and chose the old age home instead.
Apoorva was in high spirits on completing her presentation in the residential complex of a corporate client as she found considerable number of people evincing keen interest in the products being offered by the insurance company she represented. But none of the 12 proposals she received was for a woman or a girl child!"It’s rather appalling, she says, "doesn’t this depict that when it comes to insurance, women seem to be completely left out?"
* Various studies have shown those investments in health, education and gender equality can actually empower women because poor health, illiteracy, inadequate schooling etc. only contribute to poverty. While poor health is both a cause and consequence of poverty, in many poor countries where life expectancy is just 49 years and one in 10 children do not reach their first birthday, it adversely affects economic performance. Appreciable progress has been reportedly achieved with much more ease and swiftly in countries that have provided reproductive health services, increased education, advanced gender equality etc.
* Investments in education, especially improvements in women’s education, not only reduce the rate of child malnutrition besides a high prevalence of disease, the benefits of such education, apart from empowering the woman, pass on to her children. Notably in countries where girls are only half as likely to go to school as boys, there are on average 21.2 more infant deaths per 1,000 live births than in countries with no gender gap.
* Gender disparities persist because
social and legal institutions still do not guarantee women equality in
basic legal and human rights in the true sense. Research in 31
countries, both industrial and developing, on the amount of time women
and men spend on market and non-market activities shows that women
work longer hours than men in nearly every country. At least one half
of women’s total work time is spent on unpaid work. Of the total
burden of work, women account for 53 per cent in developing countries
and 51 per cent in industrial countries. Low-income women have longer
working days than higher-income women, to the detriment of their
health and nutritional status.
HAVE you felt lonely at times? Have you ever felt deprived and isolated? If yes, nothing to worry for it is a disease, which afflicts everybody at some stage or another. But if this phase occupies the major part of your life then there is a need to tackle the problem head-on. Why? Because if loneliness grips you, it can hurt you and your heart which will only make you more miserable. The result, you will disturb the people around you, interfere with their lives and make them miserable too.
What does loneliness mean? It means when we are feeling shunned, when our need for love and identity is not being adequately met. Parents can feel lonely, when their children leave home for their careers, a successful man can feel lonely at the top for he has lots of followers but few friends to confide in, a young man can feel lonely because though he is working hard, the results are not showing, a housewife can be lonely because her family members are engrossed in their routine and she doesn’t get the required attention. Each person is on a different plateau of loneliness.
Why are we scared of being left alone? Because it gives rise to negative feelings, those feelings which sap up our inner reserve of energy unlike positive feelings which add to our enthusiasm of hoping and working for a better tomorrow. So, how do we escape this phase of loneliness? First, let us be clear that everyone passes through this phase at some time or the other. No one can be an exception to this. The trick is to change this phase into one of enjoyment. Look at a small child. For him every moment is new, every moment brings with it a new adventure. We have to generate enthusiasm like the little child. There are many times when I have felt lonely but after moping around the house and making my family miserable, I decided to change the environment. I would force myself to talk loudly, summon them all and ask them what they would like to do to change the mood. Once I would set the ball rolling, I would be flooded with ideas and the whole family, including myself, would enjoy and live the moment together.
We have to believe in zest to have the faith to break the monotony of our day to day lives. Only when there are certain goals to be achieved wisely and prudently that we can feel stability in our lives. When we plan our day, our activities, we feel victorious at the end of the day for we have achieved what we set out to do. And for this it is essential that we should learn to be ourselves. Set only those standards which you can meet for only when you act what you are can you really be happy and thus, not lonely. While being accommodating, live, life as you want to for if you don’t you will keep fuming for not doing so and ultimately feel a lack of self fulfillment. You will feel sorry for yourself, forget to smile and learn to frown more. Won’t this eat away at your determination and courage. It will make life a bondage. You will not be able to focus and never be in harmony with yourself. This is one of the first steps towards loneliness and we have to avoid it.
If you are lonely, go for a walk and ponder over your dreams, your aspirations or make plans for yourself or your family. Think about the pending letters you have to pen or just observe the grass, the flowers around you. If you are alone at home, don’t indulge in self pity. Pick up a book or a magazine and read it in solitude. Enjoy the quietness. Treat yourself to a nice bath, pamper yourself. We have to try to make that phase creative. Haven’t the world’s greatest works been the result of solitude? Be it Anne Frank, Mahatma Gandhi or Pt. Nehru. Learn to discover the innumerable secrets which God wants you to discover. Give way to reflection. We read in the Bhagavadgita that the well-resolved mind is single and one-pointed (II, 41). Meditate, look into your inner-self and you will find the answer.
Many a parent feels lonely when the children leave home. Such parents will be valued by their children who let them leave the nest and encourage them to touch unlimited horizons. Such parents need to go into the past and recollect all what they could not do when they were busy bringing up kids. Remember the many times when you wanted to join a hiking group or indulge in photography. Do it now. You have the time and the resources to fulfill your wishes. The following inscription hung over General Mac. Aurthur’s desk is valuable, "Nobody grows old merely living a certain number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideas. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul."
One has to be involved in one’s life, in one’s work, in one’s existence. As Dorothy Donelly says, "Loneliness, a sense of pointlessness, often comes from not having anything to do, or not knowing what to do or feeling that nothing is worth doing."
When we are aware of our goals of our needs we tend to feel less alone. One should learn not to expect much for when we do not achieve, we tend to feel lonely. Work towards the goal, use your capabilities to the maximum but at the same time beware of fatigue for that will create an inner void which none can fill except you and because you have frittered away your energy you are not apt enough to work towards banishing those feelings away.
W. E. Channing offers these lines to throw loneliness from your life :
"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable ;
to think quietly, talk gently, act frankly ;
to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart ;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never."
Let loneliness be a path to a new search, a search for inspiration, reflection, self-introspection self-improvement.