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Coming out tops in lifeís cycle
Lance Armstrong, winner of the Tour de France for the seventh year, displayed amazing grit in his battle against cancer, writes Ervell E. Menezes

W
HEN American cyclist Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France for the seventh year in succession he made cycling history. Even last year, he won it six years in succession and beat the then standing record of five-times winners Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.


Lance Armstrong: ďI would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour...Ē

Lance Armstrong: I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour

Love of words
Vibhor Mohan
Visitors from all over pin up sweet nothings in different languages of the world on the wall of a caf`E9 in McLeodganj.

I
T is one place where one can never fall short of expressions to say ĎI love youí because the same feeling has been written down and pinned on the wall in over 80 languages. Besides some exquisite Tibetan dishes, this restaurant in McLeodganj, called JJI, also offers ample food for thought to its customers.

Javed ko gussa kyon aata hai
J
AVED Akhtar says his voice as a secular, credible Indian Muslim cannot be muzzled by the lies of people who claim he made anti-women statements on a TV show.

Mountain hope
Vishal Gulati
A group of women from Spangmik village in Leh have set up camps for tourists
I
T is difficult for women to succeed in remote rural areas. When they are fired with enthusiasm and have the right attitude, they can easily storm any male bastion.

Tourist camps on the banks of the Pangong lake in Leh district. ó Photo by Pankaj Sharma
Tourist camps on the banks of the Pangong lake in Leh district.
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Coming out tops in lifeís cycle

Lance Armstrong, winner of the Tour de France for the seventh year, displayed amazing grit in his battle against cancer, writes Ervell E. Menezes

WHEN American cyclist Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France for the seventh year in succession he made cycling history. Even last year, he won it six years in succession and beat the then standing record of five-times winners Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. In the seventh year, Armstrong had decided to retire after his last attempt, win or lose.

Itís time for him to play with his three kids and rock singer-girlfriend Sheryl Crow (who were prominent near the dais on victory day) and toast his success as the undisputed champion of cyclingís most demanding event. With him was Ivan Basso (second) and Jan Ulrich (third) his long time rivals, either of whom could well wear his crown next year when Armstrong will be adviser to the Discovery team in the Tour de France.

The 23-day race takes one through the Alps and the Pyrennes and on the picturesque plains of France and even Germany. The winner must be an all-rounder, adept as a climber as well as a sprinter. This year, Armstrong won the race comfortably, with a lead of four minutes and 40 seconds over Basso and 6.21 minutes over Ulrich.

It is his fight for life against cancer that comes first for Lance. As he says in his book Itís not About the BikeóMy Journey Back to Life with Sally Jenkins:`A0 "The truth is, if you asked`A0 me to choose between winning the Tour de France and cancer, I would choose cancer. Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done to me as a human being, a husband, a son and a father."

How could he prefer a devastating disease to winning the Tour de France? He explains: "What I mean is that I wouldnít have learned all I did if I hadnít to contend with cancer." One has to see the ruggedness of that 23-day tour up the mountains and across the plains to see what a gruelling contest it is.

The race has much to do with team spirit and camaraderie and that could be seen by the way his Discovery team supported him. As he says in his book "Often a race is won by a mere fraction of acceleration that was generated in a performance lab or a wind tunnel or a velodrome, long before the race even started." The first tour was very special: "It was as if I was with my friends, we were all 13 years old and we had new bikes. It was for me, a simple pleasure."

When asked what pleasure he took in riding so long, he had quipped "Pleasure`85I didnít do it for pleasure, I did it for pain." For months before the race, he rode about six hours a day in the hills of Nice, in Italy and the United States, with only one purpose in lifeówinning.
Apart from his mother Linda, whom he virtually dotes on, he never really knew his biological father. His stepfather wasnít much better either. Riding his bike was an escape for him. "May be if I ride my bike on this road long enough it will take me out of here," he said referring to Plano, Texas. And it did. Adversity makes champions because it nurtures that fire in the belly, that never-say-die spirit essential for a winner.
Armstrong learned determination from his mother, who spoke of being frustrated at work. "Why donít you quit," he would ask her and she replied "Son, you never quit. Iíll get through it." He remembers quite vividly the day she bought him his first cycle, thus began his early foray into the sport.

In his teens Armstrong competed with grown men in the US and soon graduated to triathlons. He was essentially a sprinter, a strong guy. It was only later in the longer races, especially the Tour de France, that he learned to conserve that strength, to use it judiciously. "You can teach someone how to control their strength, but you canít teach them to be strong," he said. He also learned that "being patient was different from being weak."

Then on October 2, 1997, he was struck by testicular cancer. The trauma was tremendous, the chemotherapy devastating. "It doesnít just kill cancer, it kills healthy cells too. It attacked my bone marrow, my muscle, my teeth, and the linings of my throat and stomach," he says. He wondered "Which would chemo kill first, the cancer or me." Anderson goes on, "If I wasnít in pain I was vomiting, if`A0 I wasnít vomiting I was thinking of what I had, and if I wasnít thinking of what I had, I was wondering when it was going to be over. Thatís chemo for you." He said chemo made the worst climb in the Alps seem flat.

After his recovery, he was filled with self-doubt and wanted to give up cycling. It was his doctor Craig Nicholas who advised him "Its time to go on with your life." When he had lived a whole year terrified of dying, he felt he had to spend the rest of his life on a permanent vacation. Eventually, he did it with the help of the two women in his life Ė his mother and his ex-wife Kristen, better known as Kick. He now has a foundation devoted to the fight against cancer.

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Love of words
Vibhor Mohan
Visitors from all over pin up sweet nothings in different languages of the world on the wall of a cafe in McLeodganj.

IT is one place where one can never fall short of expressions to say ĎI love youí because the same feeling has been written down and pinned on the wall in over 80 languages. Besides some exquisite Tibetan dishes, this restaurant in McLeodganj, called JJI, also offers ample food for thought to its customers.

So it could be Mi Lovem Yu in South Pacific, Ana Bhibak in Arabic, Se Agapao in Greek or Aami Tomakay Bhalobashee in Bengali, one can expect to see the translations of ĎI love youí scribbled in most languages of the world, including Spanish, Dutch, French and various local dialects.

It all started with a young German tourist falling for a Tibetan girl and wanting to propose to her in Tibetan. "So I gave him a brief lesson by writing it down in Tibetan on the restaurant wall. When the couple eventually started going around, they added the German translation to it and asked us to preserve it as a memorabilia of their affair," recalls Neema, who runs JJI with husband Tashi Tsering.

Soon, inquisitive customers, most of them foreigners and tourists from other states, started adding their bit," she says. "Love is universal and thatís the message we have propagated in our own small way," chips in Tsering.

Yet another Greek tourist met the love of his life here itself and thought it an innovative way to propose by writing it down and pinning it on the wall. Since both were regulars to this place, the girl responded with a nod the very next morning. "They wrote to us recently to say they were marrying soon," says Neema.

A tourist puts her message on the wall
A tourist puts her message on the wall

The first thing the foreigners ask is whether the message is there in their language or not. Most of them donít mind duplicating it, she adds.

Interestingly, says Neema, among Tibetans, these golden words are not uttered at the drop of a hat because they mean lasting commitment.

There are also messages that are not addressed to anyone. "Some of our regular customers say they have written the message to appreciate the hospitality that McLeodganj offers. Many of them go back and even send us postcards with messages to be pinned up along with their messages. The whole thing has, in a way, become the highlight of the restaurant," she says.

A Tibetan youth has also written a poem expressing his love for the Dalai Lama, which ends with the words, ĎI am Buddha, we are all Buddha.í

Recently, the Channel V crew also visited McLeodganj and Anushka, VJ and member of the Viva band, added a message in her native language. "It is fun to see the list of languages growing at such a fast pace. Some customers have suggested to us that we should try to make a world record with it," says Tsering.

Didi, an Israeli tourist, who is a regular at the restaurant, feels the idea celebrates the global village concept. "It gives one the chance to connect with a while world outside, which seems to share the same feeling."

The next thing, we want to get all the messages framed up and make customers write ĎThank Youí in their language on the facing wall.

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Javed ko gussa kyon aata hai

JAVED Akhtar says his voice as a secular, credible Indian Muslim cannot be muzzled by the lies of people who claim he made anti-women statements on a TV show. "To impute such an outrageous anti-women statement to me is nothing but a clever, cunning, diabolical plan to malign me. But it wonít work," Akhtar said. "I wonít be intimidated by such farcical forces. Every Indian has to pay a price for standing up for calling a spade a spade. And Iím willing to pay the price." He was reacting to accusations by womenorganisations in Assam apparently owing allegiance to a political party.

According to the allegations, Akhtar is supposed have said on the Muqabla programme on NDTV: "Assamese women are known for frequently changing husbands and can be purchased in any city of the country." Akhtar laughs loudly at the outrageous comment: "Can you imagine me saying something like this? This is nothing but an election gambit to malign me. They want to taint any credible Muslim voice. "It suits their purpose. You see, itís easy for them to deal with radical Muslim elements who can be challenged quite easily for saying the rabid things that they unfortunately do. "But what does the BJP do with a person like me who represents the sensible right-thinking Indianís voice?"And please donít make the mistake of equating me with the Muslim elements.

Because conservative radical Muslim elements are as disgruntled by my outspoken support for a reasonable, secular, if you will India. They canít handle me. They canít bear to have me around." The debate in question was NDTVís Muqabla on the uniform civil code. As usual, Akhtar spoke his mind. "I openly condemned the Hindu and Muslim elements on the show. This wasnít taken well by them. I knew there was going to be a backlash. What I didnít know was that there would be outright lies told about my words that evening in the debate.

Unfortunately for these troublemakers, this was a televised debate. Facts are easily verifiable." Akhtar says heís constantly attacked by maulvis and other representatives of radical Islam in a section of the Urdu press.
While Iím looked on with suspicion and hostility by Hindu fundamentalists, Iím branded a kafir by the Islamic radical elements. So Iím under fire from both ends. But thatís okay. They canít muzzle my voice." Does he have any plans of joining active politics?

"No, I donít think so. Active politics means joining a political party and adopting and voicing its ideology. This would automatically limit my reach as an independent voice. And youíve to admit. We desperately need liberal independent voices in this country.
"Itís no longer true to say politics would provide me with a platform. Today, with such an active and participative media, my thoughts and voice could reach anywhere I want. Iím happy being who I am from where I am. If itís making some elements unhappy then I can only feel sorry for them." Veering to his latest lyrics in Mangal Pandey: The Rising the music for which has been composed by A.R. Rahman, he said: "Youíve to understand the context within which the music has been composed.

"Rahman was given situations that required tunes. Given the restriction there was only so much he could do... As for my lyrics Iím glad theyíve been liked.
"I agree thereís an all-round deterioration in film music - isnít that true of society at large? I hope to continue doing quality work."

ó IANS

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Mountain hope
Vishal Gulati

A group of women from Spangmik village in Leh have set up camps for tourists

IT is difficult for women to succeed in remote rural areas. When they are fired with enthusiasm and have the right attitude, they can easily storm any male bastion.

A group of women of Spangmik village in Leh district has proved this. They joined hands and formed a six-member group, the Eco Tourism Womenís Group, in 2004.

Located 160 km from Leh on the Leh-Chushul road, this tiny hamlet has a population of 40. It is surrounded by lofty snow-clad mountains and is located on the banks of ever-changing translucent blue and green waters of Pangong Lake. The famous brackish lake is over 144 km long. Tourists can visit this village but beyond this the permission of the Army is required.

A Leh-based NGO, the Ladakh Ecological Development Group, has played an important role, both technically and financially, in the success of the womenís group. Seeing the potential of tourism in the area, it motivated the womenfolk to stand on their feet and earn a suitable livelihood by setting up tourist camps.

It provided a loan of Rs 25,000 to the group for the purchase of tents, beds, tables, chairs, utensils and solar lights. It also trained the women in setting up camps.

Today three camps in the village are attracting a good number of tourists, especially foreigners. For every bed, an amount of Rs 100 is charged. Food and beverages are also provided in the camps.

Padma, secretary of the womenís group, says the project has made them self-reliant. Last year, they earned Rs 20,000. She says the arrival of tourists, which started in June, will continue till the area receives snowfall.

The womenís group has opened an account in a branch of J&K Bank at Tangste. The income is deposited in the account. From this year, the group has to repay the low-interest loan. The annual instalment of the loan is Rs 6,000.

The Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department has constructed a 10-room rest house in the village, but it is not yet operational. This further fuels the demand for such camps.

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