Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Humming a song, I was beaming as I drove: this morning was special!

I normally am a genial, affable person. This morning was special. I actually hummed a song without worrying about being late, stuck in the peak morning Mumbai traffic. Keeping someone waiting beyond the agreed upon time normally frustrates me. I was looking forward to meeting my friend from New Delhi, Sreekumar Rajgopalan at the Airport as he happened to have some time to spare between two flights. The bumper to bumper crawl had ground to a standstill, my upbeat mood did not.

So why was my feeling so good today? As as has happened so often in the past, this time too it was this morning's meditation session that primed me for a brilliant day. Here's what I experienced under it's spell..

He was seated before me. In previous such sessions I'd have felt myself automatically drawn toward Him, walking barefoot on the wet morning grass, to lie prostrate at His feet.

Today, I was rooted to my seat. Then the magical conversation happened without a word being uttered. He read my thoughts while His Divine presence conveyed His golden words of wisdom to me.

'There's something bothering you, what is it?'

I can't put my finger on it but although I know I have found the path I've been searching for and it has given me fulfilment too, one thought holds me back. Is my path aligned with my family goals, am I doing justice to my commitment to them or am I being selfish? This has been gnawing at me and prevents me from feeling blissful. 

'You have been a true devotee. As a present for your unfailing devotion, I extend you My friendship- a privilege very few can enjoy. As a friend I ask to look within, look back and think: Are you healthier, wealthier, wiser and happier than you were at the age of twenty five?
Are you better off now than you were back then?'

When I was a nobody, a no hoper, You held my hand, gave me the courage and showed me the path to walk on. Undoubtedly, I am much better off today than I was but that I owe entirely to Your Divine grace and blessing. How could I claim credit for any of that? After all, I am just a trustee of my possessions. I do not even own my body, you are the Supreme owner and enjoyer. 

'It is strange. On one hand you give me credit for all your progress in life and on the other, you are unsure about your future. If I have helped you, my friend, all these years, what makes you think I'll stop now?'

At this moment, He got up and walked toward where I was seated. I was just a spectator, not moving an inch! He placed His hand on my right shoulder and said,
'You have been carrying this burden for far too long' as He flicked a speck of dirt off my shoulder. It felt like a sackful of bricks had been lifted off!

'You have been a good human being and the path you have chosen is exemplary'

He then took my right hand in His and my eyes brimmed with tears of joy. The moment I had been seeking all my life was unfolding now and here! 

My hand still in His, He led me down the beautiful, scenic path, lit up by His brilliance.

'Continue walking on the path you have chosen,
leave the rest to Me'

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Fulfilment of a mission- the first baby steps

I recall the
 time when I read about the tragic, unexpected passing away of Mumbai based Dr.Pramod Niphadkar, one of the foremost experts for treating Asthma and Bronchitis. This came as a rude shock as it would not be an exaggeration to say I was indebted to him for giving me a new lease of life. A chronic, acute asthmatic, hospitalised several times, rehabilitated to good health under his care: as were so many others.

I felt more than a tinge of regret, though. The very humble Doctor, who always attributed his healing powers to God almighty, had requested a few things of me. Knowing that the illness and the dread of it had to be treated in the patient's minds too, he used to publish a magazine. He asked me to subscribe to it and possibly contribute to it by sharing my experience. Hailing my remarkable recovery as a case study for other patients he suggested one thing more. He regularly conducted seminars and conferences to address his patients (because paucity of time at his over crowded clinic did not allow enough time to resolve all their queries and fears). All he wanted me to do is be a guest speaker at one such seminar where, because then the audience would hear it from the 'horse's mouth'. His reasoning was simple: the patients would find me talking about my recovery more credible and would strongly relate to it.

Sadly, I failed him on both counts. Being an extremely shy person in these matters, I did not have the courage to appear before a crowd, leave alone speak there. I baulked at even writing about my illness. Opportunities like these to pay back someone you owe should be grabbed with both hands. If there are some hindrances, God will show the way.

The first thought that came to my mind when I heard about this great Doctor's passing away was this. Why? Why didn't I say YES at that time!!

Inspired by this incident, have decided to be of help in such matters whenever I can.

Well, God has tested me a bit more than many others. On the other hand he has gifted with me with a rare combination of qualities of creativity, communication skills, motivational abilities and a vision to think beyond myself.

Have decided to put it all to good use for a cause that begs attention: mental illnesses in India, to be specific, Bipolar Disorder. Have written in the past about my tryst with bipolar already.

Suffice to say, am driven by an urge to lighten the suffering of those who have yet to come out of the darkness. Thus was born, There are many people who have inspired me in this cause. It is dear friend, Mentor, Puneet Bhatnagar  who literally pushed me into the deep end of the pool!

The launch coincides with the tenth anniversary of my first being diagnosed and hospitalised for Bipolar.

It has been a long journey but have never experienced such fulfilment before!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Yes, David did vanquish Goliath in this long fought war!

A momentous, epic victory for the defiant residents of our apartment complex.

'It is incredible what can be achieved by collective effort when no one wants to seek the credit'

April 16, 2013. The BOMBAY HIGH COURT dismisses appeal filed by Developers against our Registered Cooperative Society of residential apartments.

The landmark ruling pertains to dispute regarding:

1) The boundaries and size of our plot of land (on part of which our Apartment complex stands)
2) Encroachment in form of existing buildings by Builders on said Plot
3) Further encroachment in the form of a new building, work for which had commenced
4) Access road which was exclusively part of our Plan layout and become a public road
5) Ultimately, clarity on rightful, legal owner of entire disputed plot

The honourable Court's ruling has vindicated our stand on all above points:
Most significantly the entire 16,886 square metres plot now legally belongs to us. The builder has been debarred from any further construction on said plot.
'If the appellant (builders) has constructed any other structure without the consent of plaintiffs or the members, he will have to suffer the consequences thereof" cited from the order.
Significantly, constructions have already been done in violation of law by the builders on our premises.

When all the residents became aware of the Court's order, the jubilation was special!! A long winded, tortuous struggle had ended. Why was it so important and significant for all of us?

Ours is a saga of perseverance, solidarity, courage and self-belief against all odds. A saga spawning a whole fourteen years. Incidentally, in the Indian Epic Ramayana, the righteous Pandavas, too, were exiled from the kingdom they rightfully ruled, for fourteen years (to regain it later).

When a home hunter is searching for his dream abode little does he know what he's in for.
As was the case with 196 apartment purchasers of our Housing Complex comprising seven wings. 

I fell in love with the place at first sight: one look and we knew this was it!
Well located, ample open spaces, green areas and cross-ventilation, well designed flats and common areas, great view- couldn't believe Mumbai still had such places available. Straight away, we roped in bank finance and purchased a flat. That is when the joy fast faded away. Our troubles had just begun..

While we were fortunate that we moved in when the complex was in final stages of completion, others weren't so lucky. It might sound beyond the realms of belief for this Blog's global readers but the horrors were for real.
Some purchasers who had waited long enough to take possession of their homes, were forced to occupy them at a time when:
There was no municipal water connection, the lifts began working years after people moved in (as also the flushing systems) and technically we were staying in a complex without the mandatory Occupation Certificate (issued by the Municipal authorities after finding all compliances have been met with by the developers and it is fit for occupancy). In absence of Municipal water supply, ground water which is not potable, was being supplied to all residents. Actually it wasn't even fit for bathing use. Unbelievably, the first few residents did not have access to electric connections either!

'The consumer is king' - if only this adage would apply to hapless apartment/ property purchasers of Mumbai or for that matter anywhere in India. One has to deal with lack of transparency, fudged land records, greedy developers, greedier Municipal officials who turn a blind eye to illegalities. Huge stockpile of pending cases with our courts closes a route to swift justice for the short changed purchaser. The builder-politician-underworld nexus perpetuates this legacy that is snow-balling out of control.

All our protests and complaints to the Builders about the serious issues went unattended. 

The Builders erred hugely by underestimating our resolve and ability to fight for our rights.
'Beware of the fury of  the honest man who has been wronged'

Having realised that the Builders had no intention of addressing our grievances, we realised that the first step was to form the society. Here, too, we met with obstruction from the Builders who created hurdles at every level. Although the law requires a developer to form a cooperative society, comprising members of the complex (a federation) within a prescribed time frame, this scarcely happens because builders do not want to cede power. 

The judicial fight escalated from Deputy Registrar level to High Court, back to City Civil Court- until deliverance by this High Court order.

En route, there were other victories, too:
  • The Builder finally agreeing to and procuring the Occupation Certificate
  • Registration of our Housing Society
  • Demolition of two additional floors being built illegally
  • The Health Club and Swimming Pool completed and handed over to us (despite our refusal to fork out Rs.25,0000/- per apartment, as they were part of amenities as per the agreement)
Considering that we were we dealing with people of very powerful means, the whole struggle could hardly have fructified without solid support of the resident members. The able Managing Committee who represents us deserve all the accolades.

The ultimate kudos, however, goes to a man of incredible resourcefulness, selflessness, courage and vision: our Chairman, Mr.Vinod Shukla. His being a lawyer was a blessing!

Initially, when he had a handful of supporters and many doubters, he believed we would win. For us it was so advantageous that he had belief in his belief! His courage is that of a very brave man. Once his progress became a hindrance to vested interests, he was publicly threatened on several occasions. If he'd have been dissuaded at those times, we would have made no headway at all.
I'm proud to have been of help, Shuklaji, in whatever way I could and prouder to have a friend like you: a born leader, source of inspiration. You proved to be the David that felled the mighty Goliath.

Of course, as the stakes are high, this verdict too can be challenged by the Builders in the Supreme Court and we are prepared for the next stage too. 
What began as a skirmish has to be concluded with a fight to the finish.

Satyamev Jayadev (Truth prevails). Better late than never.
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