Come on in!

Hi! I’m Justin Raj, a stock broker by profession, is also a freelance Journalist, an amateur Filmmaker and an enthusiastic Marathoner who possesses the ‘bad habit’ of writing too much. And as long as that ‘bad habit’ stays with me, I keep on posting to my blog.

A blogger is basically a tech-savvy writer. He is a keen observer with a sharing mind, not a silent spectator to all events which happen around him. If a reader is a person who loves to gain knowledge, a blogger or writer is one who loves to share his knowledge and dare to speak out his opinions and ideas. Like a singer expresses by singing, dancer by dancing, actor through acting, a blogger blogs his feelings and ideas out. Literally, Freedom of Expression is his shield and the blog is his Sword.

Here in my blog, write-ups are archived in 9 labels. In ‘Sweet and Bitter’ you can read about my diverse life experiences and valuable lessons I learnt from it. ‘Published Articles’ offers you my articles which have been published in Daily Newspapers. In ‘Random Brain Waves’ you can meet up with my random (or at times, weird) ideas. Poetry writing has eventually become a new hobby as well as a part of my blog. You can read my poems in ‘Verses’. In ‘Marathon’ label, you can read about my marathon experiences, challenges and how running a marathon can shape a man’s life.

‘Vlog’ is a recent addition to my blog as I realize the potential future of visual media. Sometimes, a 3-minute video can do the magic of expression than a 3000 word article. In this label you can watch the short films, documentaries, advertisements et al I have made. ‘Favorite Articles’ consists of articles which have influenced my outlook and attitude on life. Being a tireless traveler, ‘Travel’ label takes you to various travel experiences of mine. Conducting researches is a part of Journalism. In ‘Research Articles’ label you can get articles which throw light on various researches I have conducted.

Every life meets with various challenges, diverse experiences and at the end, all those teach us valuable lessons for our future. Wise men learn by other men's mistakes, fools by their own said H. G. Bohn. I learn more by my own mistakes than others. It doesn’t mean that I’m a fool! I learn from other’s lives too. My blog is a platform for sharing not only my life experiences but also the valuable lessons, ideas and poetry triggered by them.

To my mind, blog is a thinking man's tool. Blogging is more a passion than a hobby for me. It is as if talking something to someone somewhere in world. My words keep on talking to the visitors of my blog. I can feel the magic of words! And that’s the power of blogging!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Let’s Go Vegan!

In reality, they are a minority but they are the part of a global community which envisages a great objective and dreams a great dream alike. These like minded people love nature and raise voice against cruelty towards animals. They walk their talk and show the world how to live like a human being and displays a constructive paradigm for human life- a life that shuns cruelty, violence and exploitation-and world calls them Vegans.

Mr. Donald Watson was the person who created the term Vegan or non diary vegetarian. He also founded Vegan Society in UK on November 1st 1944. Today, vegans constitute 0.2% to 1.3% of US population and between 0.25% and 0.4% of UK population. Observing November 1st annually as the World Vegan day reveals its popularity and significance in the contemporary world.

Although Veganism has originated in West, most of the Indians who are traditionally vegetarians or lacto vegetarians are turning themselves to Vegans. Vegan population in India is approximately 300-400 and the figures are ascending owing to the recent surge in fitness and health awareness among Indian population.

The Indian Vegan Society started by Madhya Pradesh based chartered accountant Manish Jain is one of the popular vegan communities in India. He became a vegan in the year 2003 owing to his deep feeling for all living organisms. He is running and maintaining a website-www.indianvegan.com-for propagating Veganism through the web world. “Web world has a wider reach and it is an apt medium for spreading Vegan philosophy as number of people accessing it is increasing day by day” he said. “Apart from online activities, our society conduct poster exhibition, distribution of CDs and leaflets for getting more people into it” he added.

When asked whether it is expensive to become a Vegan, 22 year old Niranjan.S.Amarnath, a Madras University student and also a strict Vegan says that, “Not at all! Vegan food is cheaper and of course healthier. Similarly all sorts of Vegan accessories like non leather shoes, bags and wallets are very cheaper which are made from denim, canvas and rexin. An avid animal rights campaigner and an active member of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals), he declares that: “The best part is that I contribute less towards world hunger, pollution and animal suffering and it make me really happy and proud”.

“At places where you don’t get coffee or tea without milk then people around you might raise their eye brows since it looks baffling to some” says 38 year old Mohan Santhanam when asked to point out any difficulties in being a Vegan. “Vegans need to be an ‘ingredient reader’; as the products we use need to be free from milk solids like butter and other substances like gelatin. So, we must read the ‘ingredients’ carefully” Niranjan says.

“Poorly planned diet invites health problems” warns Manish Jain. “One has to be very careful about the intake of proper diet and especially vitamin B12 as a supplement because usually Vegans are deprived of vitamin B12” he also opined.

Next time when you walk into a restaurant and hear someone asking for tea without milk or in a foot wear shop anyone prefers rexin shoes to leather ones, remember he or she may be leading a life free from cruelty and above all, merging their lives with transcendental universal soul. “we have no right or need to use animal products” Manish Jain firmly puts in. This passionate Vegan strongly believes that if we take care of nature, nature in turn protect us”.

In this era of global warming and atmospheric pollution, this life style is worth considering for those who aspire to create a difference to the world we live in and set an inspiring example to billions of other world citizens.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

One day @ Chennai Egmore Railway Police Station.

“Ticket please”, a railway police constable in civilian attire asked me.

I showed my railway season ticket and thought he just wanted to check out whether I was a ticket less commuter. But, the issue was not over with that.

“Don’t you know that you shall not walk over the railway track during commuting hours?” he questioned.

Oh, I was trapped! I just walk over the railway track by evading the nearby over bridge. Yea, it’s a worthwhile reason to book anyone. But, after some time, I came to know that, I wasn’t alone. Around twenty souls were there for my company.

Gradually, I understood that Railway Protection Force (RPF) had beefed up the security and checking owing to the regular deaths of commuters who recklessly crossing the railway lines.

Though, I had bitter experiences with Traffic Police, it was my first encounter with RPF. They took us to the police station and filed charge sheets against all of us. Senior citizens were there, laborers were there and young students were also there. First of all, they told the penalty would be Rs.500. Oh gosh! What a heavy fine for a petty offence like this? What they will do if I would have committed a bigger crime? Will they send me to gallows? I pondered.

The police man who was preparing my charge sheet was a mallu (Keralite). He took most of my personal details while talking to me in Malayalam. He kept on talking to me in my mother tongue while I replied in English. I smelled a bribe deal.

“Sir, it’s getting time for me to go to college and I eagerly wanted to attend the class”, I requested. “I’m ready to pay the penalty but please don’t take away my precious time”, I added.

“O.K”, he said. “Do you have money with you now?” he enquired gently. “If you allow, I can take the money from ATM and pay” I answered. “O.K give your mobile phone to me and go to the near by ATM and come back as early as possible”, he told.

I gave him my mobile as security and went to the ATM and brought the money. He asked me to come and meet him at the backyard of the police station. Yea, as I had guessed, it was going to be a bribe deal.

“O.K Justin, you can pay Rs.300 to me now and leave the station”, he said with a mischievous smile.

It wasn’t for the first time I’m confronting these sorts of money thirsty vultures like him. They do anything for anyone who can stuff their mouth fully with currency notes. Real M*t*h*r Fu*k*rs!

“What about the charge sheet?” I asked. “If I pay the money, I need it to avoid future problems”, my request was genuine.

He smiled and said, “I can’t give it but I promise that I will throw it away to waste bin soon and don’t worry about future problems”.

“No, sir”, I grinned. “Give it to me or destroy it in front of me” I put the deal forward.

“O.K you can wait for the magistrate then and pay the fine in the court” he replied.
“Surely, you are going to miss your classes” he also reminded me.

A dead deal in itself. It was 1130 hrs and as per the information got from police officials the magistrate comes only at 1600 hrs. Anyway, I decided firmly in mind that I won’t pay a single penny as bribe. In fact, I was fed up with that. On the road, on the railway platform and even everywhere this bloody word-bribe-comes above all.

It made me recollect an incident that happened last year. When two of my friends and I had some drinks and was walking back home, suddenly a police man jumped on us like a frog and asked, “where you buddies are going after lavishly having drinks?”. What a stupid question? Yes. We had drinks with our own money, gulped it down into our own stomachs and walking by our own legs without even making any nuisance to fellow human beings. Then what was his problem? He took us to the police van parked nearby and handed us over to his senior officer. The senior officer, a decent at least a no-nonsense man, scolded his idiotic subordinate and let us goes.

I waited for the arrival of magistrate by engaging myself with my favourite past time activity- newspaper reading. Most of them in our group were gifted with charge sheets in spite of their pleas. While few of them escaped ‘brilliantly’ by bribing.

At 1530 hrs, they had taken us to the Railway Special Metropolitan Magistrate Court like prisoners-excluding jail uniform and handcuffs. One of the elder men in our group even puts it, “why they are taking us like this, are we murder convicts or what?” I didn’t have a proper reply. I just smiled.

Magistrate arrived at 1630 hrs and after waiting outside for 30 minutes, we had taken into the court. After making a serious look on everyone of the ‘innocent’ offenders (including me) standing helplessly in front of her, she gave out the final verdict: a petty fine of Rs.150! Just half the amounts of the scrapped forenoon bribe deal.

What the heck! Had we been waiting for more than 6 hours for this absurd event? What a foul drama it is. I can’t understand why these people are so silly.
Laws are laws. Rules are rules. Any attempt to break it should be penalized whoever or whatever it might be. I agree with it. But, what about citizens’ valuable time? Leave my case aside. Today, I hadn’t much work to do. Since I’m a late admission to course, I just needed to make up with my poor attendance rate. That’s all. But, what about the working class, especially laborers? Rs.150 may be their single day wage. Today, unfortunately, they might have lost a bread winning day together with the hard earned wage for a simple mistake they had committed. I really feel sympathetic for them.

In true sense, I enjoyed the day which bestowed on me my first ever court room experience! I don’t have any regrets or holding any shameful feeling. But I just wanted to make my stand clear: implementation of laws shall not be in the cost of citizens’ valuable time; laws are not made to harass or bring trouble to citizens; ultimately, laws are made for the smooth functioning of the society.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Marg-Chennai Marathon: I Ran For a Cause…

Quit the rat race, join the human race! The time has come to put our best foot forward. Get your sneakers out. Join the MARG-Chennai Marathon for Give Life. Let’s run for something good. Lets run for the under privileged children. Let’s run for hope. Let’s run for life. Let’s run for something. Let’s just run!

That was the newspaper advertisement which took my attention couple of weeks ago. Chennai is going to host the third richest marathon in the world and in addition, the richest half marathon in India because prize money 6 million INR is involved. But what aroused my interest was that it is being organized for a great cause- the profits from the marathon will go towards Give Life, a charitable organization that supports around 13,600 under privileged students across Tamil Nadu-. No second thought. I decided to join.

While registering for the marathon I was trapped in a dilemma: whether to opt for 7Km Great Chennai run or 21.09 km professional run. 7 Km is okay but what about 21 Km? I haven’t ever run this much distance ever in my life. Anyway, I didn’t want to settle for something doable. So, I made up my mind to take part in 21Km professional run.

On august 31, 2008, at 6:45 AM Union Minister for sports M.S.Gill flagged off the run. Thunderous applauses, hooting, screaming mixed with vibrant band music were sufficient enough to propel a runner’s mind and body. Enthusiasm filled all over among runners and also among the cheerful crowd gathered there to witness this magnificent event. I was really thrilled as it was my first marathon run in my life.

I only had a single aim in my mind: to finish successfully the 21Km mark at any cost. I didn’t tried (nor dared) to speed up or over take anyone. I kept on hydrating my body and just sustained the momentum all through the run until I reached the half way point- 13 Km mark at Besant Nagar beach- for registering the chest number. I took to walking for a few meters by drinking enough water and also washed my body with water sponges to resist the merciless sun. All these were fresh experiences for me, and it was real fun.

But, the fun side of the marathon began vanishing when I reached the 18 Km mark just 3 Km away from the finish line. My legs started showing the signs of severe fatigue and I even felt really hard to breath. After witnessing the scene of other runners lying on the foot path out of breath or might be owing to muscle strain, I even diverted my mind to quit the marathon. 3 Km still lying ahead and a little energy left in my body, I again resorted to walking for a few meters, meanwhile, took a ‘mini bath’ on road!

What have started as fun ending up being a torture itself? Weak thoughts started pulling me back. It made me think that even our life is akin to a marathon, isn’t it? Plenty of pull backs and set backs. It is nothing other than a test of patience, perseverance and endurance. Finishing with those philosophical thoughts, I took myself back to running slowly and consistently just enough to reach the finish point. Finally, after a long struggle with my tightened muscles, I successfully reached my destination at 9:25 AM. After taking stretching exercises I proudly took the hard earned rest. Phew! I hadn’t thought of successfully finishing my first marathon in life. Accomplishment of the task brought me a great feeling. A great feeling of achievement and runner’s high as bonus!

Did I run for an accolade? Absolutely, no because while registering I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to reach the 21 Km mark or end up in one of the 15 ambulances parked along the marathon route. Then why I did that? Was it for fun? Partially, yes because for me, running is freedom. Actually why I ran? Was it for a good cause? Absolutely, yes! Different from my regular morning runs, to boost up confidence, health and well being, running and sweating out for a good cause make ourselves feel special, isn’t it? So, I ran for it. I stand for it!

Last but not least, I’m expressing my heartfelt condolence to the grieving family of M.Santhosh, 2nd year student of Msc Applied Geology, Anna University who collapsed and died close to the finish line of the 21.09 Km professional run.

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