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!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Let Left Hand Know What Right Hand is Doing.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand knows what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:3)

At times I feel that even Bible should get updated. If left hand doesn’t know what is going on with right hand, how can former improve itself? The latter’s deeds will also go unnoticed, won’t it? If we are helping needy, or doing a great deed, why are we ashamed or hesitate to inform the world?

In today’s world, sole thing people lacks is a certain level of motivation not money or other resources. Both young and old need role models to look upon. There is number of people who still need a pinch of inspiration to embark on such kind deeds or take up a challenge.

Few months ago, I had attended a celebration at a local school in Chennai. During that function, the head mistress, a diligent soft spoken lady, distributed school bags, cycles and number of other goodies to her students who are coming from very poor families. I had to interview her after the program. Till that date, I hated people publically doing all these deeds. But when I talked to her, all my misconceptions vanished. “Justin, our world severely needs a bit of motivation and inspiration. Everybody has money now, but don’t have a good heart to do all these things” she said with a smile. I really appreciate her idea.

There is a great need of marketing oneself in today’s world. Each person is a brand and every achievement or a good, kind deed is a feather to his or her cap. If a person sponsor a child’s education or adopt a child or feed hungry or even an adventurous expedition, let the world know what he or she had done or doing.

Personally, there was some point of my life that I lacked inspiration or motivation. Life stories of Richard Branson, Bruce Lee, Mother Theresa and Rupert Murdoch had inspired me a lot to live a fulfilled life. I wonder if great deeds of those great people have gone unnoticed, how will this world be? The whole world would have gone blind without knowledge, hope and inspiration.

New media has given birth to lot of wonderful opportunities to let your friends and other people informed about your activities or achievements in real time. Some people consider it as blowing their own trumpet. But that point of view is entirely false. They may not be aware of the fact that whether they are giving out a ‘Wake-Up’ call to someone who can be their colleague or to someone on other part of the globe whom they don’t even know.

To those people who still confused with my idea, let me give a quote to ponder on: If you are blessed with a golden trumpet, then, there is nothing wrong in blowing it! Try to blow it only if it is a golden trumpet, otherwise it will only help to give out a bumpy melody.                                                           
                                                                                      Photo Source: Internet

Monday, March 15, 2010

Survivor of Suicide…

A heartless suicide,
Is the sole way he finds,
To evade ruthless world that,
Made him a loner and a loser…

A potent poison,
Grabs him from life,
Towards darkest nightmares,
On lap of looming death…

A deep slumber,
Draws a fine line,
Between life and death,
Between heaven and hell…

A dusky dance floor,
Emerges on his death bed,
Ghosts of past, performing,
A furious farewell dance…

A mysterious voice,
Whispers in his sealed ears,
“You don’t deserve cowardly death,
You have a long way to go!”

A black hole of death,
Refuses to suck him in,
Because he is worth living,
Because he is worth blooming…

A lovely box of life,
Pops up on his lifeless head,
Showering all goodies,
A good life can offer…

A tear of hope,
Rolls down from his closed eye,
Erases fine line of death,
Draws him back to life…

A bright red carpet,
Of life rolls down,
Under the pale feet of,
Survivor of suicide…

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One Night with Snake-Snatchers!

(I’m really content that this write up of mine got published in The Hindu’s, youth supplement, NXg today.)

Irulars are a tribal community ethnically belonging to Negroid race of Africa dwelling mainly in the southern part of India. They habitations are mainly located at Kanchipuram, Nilgiris and Villupuram districts of Tamil Nadu. Their language, Irula, is an amalgam of both Tamil and Kannada. The name Irular means the people of darkness in Tamil. It could mainly because of their dark complexion and also could be their important events are traditionally happens in the darkness of night. Their main occupations were snake and rat catching besides trading of snake skin and forest products such as honey, beeswax and forest wood. The Irula economy had received a death blow since the government started enacting laws to prevent snake skin trade and to preserve the forest regions. But things seem bright nowadays as number of communal enterprises has come up along with the spread of education among Irulars. Their story is a motivating one filled with struggles against the invasion of modern civilization and reinventing their own way of life.

On the moonlit night of 27th February 2010, around 20,000 Irulars have gathered on the shores of Mahabalipuram beach to celebrate the 24th Maasi Magam Peruvizha, an annual cultural and religious event which starts in the evening and ends at early morning of next day. It was organized by Irular Tribal Women Welfare Society (ITWWS) to bring communal harmony and to showcase their distinctive heritage and culture to the public.

“Half of our six and a half lakh strong community has not been provided with voter identity cards, community certificates and land records. This festival addresses these issues in public while increasing our self dignity and enhancing a feeling of belonging among us. Here everyone is gathered with great hope for a better tomorrow” says K.Selvi, coordinator of ITWWS.

Basically Irulars are Hindus, but the elements of their traditional ethnical religion are still visible in their lives. This festival has a myth behind it too. It is celebrated to welcome back Kanniyaman, Irulars’ God of Nature into their lives as She abandoned them because of their sinful and reckless way of living. After the attainment of Poojas or rituals, they strongly believe that the blessings of the deity will start showering again in their lives.

The event was colourful with folk songs, dance, skits and drama which propagated Irular community’s grievances besides spreading anti-tobacco and alcohol messages; motivating speeches by community leaders and even community marriages and religious rituals. An herbal medicine stall was set up to give out their unique herbal medicines which cures diseases ranging from skin disorders to diabetes.

In the early morning of next day, on the shore Irulars started erecting small shacks made up of neem stems and leaves for rituals and also built up with sand several Seven Steps to invite Kanniyaman back into their lives. “It is our fiesta” says Mani, an Irular. “This kind of events brings togetherness among our community and strengthens our bonds. On top of all, the money saved by conducting community marriages can be diverted to the education of future generation” adds this snake catcher turned mason.

Some of the Irulars who gathered there commented that today their community is taken seriously by government because of the rise in their educational and economic status. “With the help of voluntary organizations and government we are getting educated and learning new skills to make money to survive. We have produced highly qualified professionals to scholars. Mobilization of human resource, spreading awareness of laws and orders related to us and more political involvement among us is few of the solutions for problems surrounding us.” comments Suder Olie Sundaram, president of Scheduled Tribe Irular Federation (STIF)

The celebrations and rituals came to a gentle end when the morning sunshine started slowly sweeping over the shore. They exchanged pleasantries while the elders and priests passed on the blessings they received from their main deity, Kanniyaman. The sea of masses started dispersing as the roaring sea started licking on most of the Pooja items they left on the shore which is considered auspicious among Irulars.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A Dirty Jungle Run!

Ram’s car was heading towards Pondicherry in lightning speed-the odometer didn’t go down from 90 Km/hr mostly through the journey. The dying sun was showering down light red rays onto the dashboard brightening both of our faces like ripe oranges. Nobi plugged the headphone of the mobile phone into his ears and napping comfortably in the back seat while Ram and I went back to our good old days.

Ricky Martin’s ‘taking back my love’ started pouring out of the car stereo which made us sing together but I sang with a different lyrics: I’m taking back my life, my life, my life! “Justin, why? You lost your life?” Ram enquired. “Yes, I almost lost it once. But now I’m taking it back” I said recalling my nicotine addicted college days during which running even a mile got me breathless. All through the journey when I fall into my private thoughts, I was visualizing the joyful ordeal I would undergo next day with my legs pounding the trail during my second full marathon in life.

The sun had already spitted orange juice all over the white clouds when we entered the Auroville. The reception was cordial. We got ample space including Ram who hadn’t booked a room and not even participating in the marathon. We all went to sleep as soon as we got beds, pillows and blankets.

0330 hours. I woke up even before my alarm gave out its annoying cry. At 0415 the pickup bus took us to the starting point which is known as Certitude. Full marathon runners shouted and hooted in full swing as the commentator started the countdown. “Go!” the commentator shouted through the speakers at sharp 0500 hours and all the runners pounced with full energy and pep into the pitch black darkness that filled the woods.

The first as well as the last mistake I made was that I forgot to take the LED torch which was supplied there. So I had only one option: tail one of the runners who had a torch. In that darkness prior to the ‘lovers’ day’ dawn those torch lights appeared like fire flies. Till 0630 hours, we all run through the darkness and I kept my pace steady. I passed through the narrow trail besides a beautiful lake and at times jumped over the cow gates too. At some points peacocks and peahens appeared gently in the bushes and bowed their heads as if wishing me a good morning and a great run.
Slowly after 0630 hours, morning sunshine penetrated through the leaves of tall trees making them look like lovely silhouettes and our warm, sweating bodies melted the mist, evaporating it to the air. I touched the 21 km mark without much effort and darted from there without wasting much time.

Since my daily run is through the Selaiyur scrub jungle of Madras Christian College, the scenic Auroville scrub jungle didn’t seem new to me. But the latter was bit denser. The motivational gestures and cheering by the people who stood near to the trail were priceless. Old people mostly foreigners greeted me with a bright, smiling ‘good morning’ while youngsters chanted, ‘you-can- do- it!’ At a point, there was crowd of jovial drummers, to boost runners’ enthusiasm and ‘rhythm’. I smiled at them and thanked them for lifting my heart beats as well as spirits.

At 36km mark, sensing the gradual drain in my energy level, I took to trekking for few meters and stood idle for some time to relax my weary calf muscles. Suddenly a middle aged man stopped by. “Hey, each step you take is towards the end. Don’t stop!” he said gasping. I looked at him helplessly, with fatigue banging on my head. But, those words were inspirational enough to take me back to running. “Hey, strong guy! Go ahead! Crack it…crack it!” I could hear that man shouting despite of his weariness.

Some say, real marathon starts after the 35 km mark. But for me it started just after I touched 39th km mark with just 3 more kilometers left to hit the finish line. During that time of low spirits, I got the glimpse of the mammoth Golden Globe, the popular mascot of Auroville. I took on to trekking losing my ‘rhythm’ but enjoying the beauty of that architectural splendor.

Suddenly another middle aged man appeared near to me. I overtook him long time ago during my prime time running. “Bhaai…tum yahaan tak pahunch chuke ho, ab ruko math, aage bado! (Brother, till this far you have reached. Don’t stop now. Go ahead!)”, told that man with beads of sweat rolling down from his forehead soaking his big, bizarre moustache. This time I could just smile at him. Firstly I don’t know how to reply in Hindi and secondly, I had only a bit of energy left in me. That man ran ahead and I continue with my slow trek looking at the smiling sun. Sunny breeze patted my wet hair and droplets of my sweat transformed into fine salt power on my fore head, legs and hands.

Just after few minutes I started running again overtaking three persons including the Hindi speaking man who inspired me some moment ago. We exchanged smiles and I entered the final lap of my first full marathon in 2010. Nearing the finish line I could hear the hooting and screaming of the onlookers giving out the final bit of inspiration to me. In spite of my breathlessness and weariness, I increased my pace with a cheerful, smiling face and touched the finish line clocking 4 hours and 52 minutes.

As soon as I finished up the run, Ram came out of the crowd and hugged me. “Big deal, dude!” Ram exclaimed smilingly. We waited for Nobi while I had my massage which really relaxed my muscles and my mind to some extent. Nobi took one more hour to reach the finish line. After refreshing ourselves, we got into the car. In two aspects I really cherish the Auroville Marathon. Firstly, I didn’t felt much fatigue after the marathon and then, on top of all, I improved my timing by more than one hour!

“Macha, where is your next marathon?” Ram asked me funnily while wiping the windscreen of the car. “In June at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia” I said with a smile. Ram made a funny face and the car started heading back to Chennai. But this time the odometer never crossed over 60 km/hr.


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