Sunday, September 27, 2009

The real Miss India World 2009

Meera Chopra, mother of Pooja Chopra, lived through abuse, poverty and some tough choices to make her once-unwanted girl child, Pooja Chopra, the Pantaloons Femina Miss Pooja Chopra. And when I read her narration, I couldn't afford to miss showcasing here this magnificant example of strength, determination and character of a woman. You'll not be left untouched I promise. Here's her dramatic story:
I don't know where to begin... they were terrible times. My husband was well-placed, but the marriage had begun to sink almost as soon as it began. Like most women do, I tried to work against all the odds.

My in-laws insisted everything would be alright if I had a son. My first child was a daughter, and that didn't do me any good... but I couldn't walk out. I had lost my father, my brother was in a not-so-senior position in Bata. I didn't want to be a burden on my family and continued to live in my marital home in Kolkata.

I looked after my mother-inlaw, who was suffering from cancer, and while bathing her, I would tell myself she would bless me and put things right.

I don't know how I tolerated it all. The least a man can do, if he must philander, is to not flaunt his women in his wife's face. Then began the manhandling. I still wanted my marriage to survive. I was a pure vegetarian and learnt to cook non-vegetarian delicacies thinking it would please him.

Then, I was pregnant again. When Pooja was eight months in my womb, my husband brought a girl to the house and announced he would marry her. I thought of killing myself. I hung on the slight hope that if the baby was a boy, my marriage could be saved.

When Pooja was born a girl, for three days, nobody came to the hospital. There was a squadron leader's wife on the opposite bed, who was kind enough to give me baby clothes for Pooja to wear. When she was 20 days old, I had to make a choice. I left the house with my girls ' Pooja and Shubra, who was seven then. I haven't seen my husband since. I promised myself, even if we had just one roti, we would share it, but together.

I began life in Mumbai with the support of my mother, brother, who was by then married. It wasn't th e ideal situation, especially when he had children ' space, money, everything was short. I began work at the Taj Colaba and got my own place. How did I manage' Truth be told, I would put a chatai on the floor, leave two glasses of milk and some food, and bolt the door from outside before going to work. I would leave the key with the neighbours and tell the kids to shout out to them when it was time to leave for school.

Their tiny hands would do homework on their own, feed themselves on days that I worked late. My elder daughter Shubhra would make Pooja do her corrections... This is how they grew up. At a birthday party, Pooja would not eat her piece of cake, but pack it and bring it home to share with her sister. When Shubhra started working, she would skip lunch and pack a chicken sandwich that she would slip in her sister's lunchbox the next day.

I used to pray, 'God, punish me for my karma, but not my innocent little kids. Please let me provide them the basi cs.' I used to struggle for shoes, socks, uniforms. I was living in Bangur Nagar, Goregaon. Pooja would walk four bus stops down to the St Thomas Academy. Then, too little to cross the road, she would ask a passerby to help her. I had to save the bus money to be able to put some milk in their bodies.

Life began to change when I got a job for Rs 6,000 at the then Goa Penta. Mr Chhabra, the owner, and his wife, were kind enough to provide a loan for me. I sent my daughters to my sister's house in Pune, with my mother as support. I spent four years working in Goa while I saved to buy a small one-bedroom house in Pune (where the family still lives). I would work 16-18 hours a day, not even taking weekly offs to accumulate leave and visit my daughters three or four times a year.

Once I bought my house and found a j ob in Pune, life began to settle. I worked in Hotel Blue Diamond for a year and then finally joined Mainland China ' which changed my life. The consideration of the team and management brought me the stability to bring them up, despite late hours and the travelling a hotelier must do.

Shubhra got a job in Hotel Blue Diamond, being the youngest employee there while still in college, and managed to finish her Masters in commerce and her BBM. Today, she is married to a sweet Catholic boy who is in the Merchant Navy and has a sweet daughter. I continue to finish my day job and come home and take tuitions, as I have done for all these years. I also do all my household chores myself.

Through the years, Shubhra has been my anchor and Pooja, the rock.. Pooja's tiny hands have wiped away my tears when I broke down. She has stood up for me, when I couldn't speak for myself. Academically brilliant, she participated in all extra-curricular activities.. When she needed high heels to model in, she did odd shows and bought them for herself.

When I saw Pooja give her speech on TV, I knew it came from her heart. I could see the twinkle in her eye. And I thought to myself as she won 'My God, this is my little girl.' God was trying to tell me something.

Today, I've no regrets. I believe every cloud has a silver lining. As a mother, I've done nothing great.

Pantaloons Femina Miss India Pooja Chopra's mother promised 'One day, this girl will make me proud'. Pooja speaks on fulfilling that promise:

'I won due to my mother's karma. When I was 20 days old, my mother was asked to make a choice. It was either me 'a girl child, or her husband. She chose me. As she walked out she turned around and told her husband, 'One day, this girl will make me proud'. That day has come. Her husband went on to marry a woman who gave him two sons. Today, as I stand here a Miss India, I don't even know if my father knows that it is me, his daughter, who has set out to conquer the world, a crown on my head. Our lives have not been easy, least so for my mother. Financially, emotionally, she struggled to stay afloat, to keep her job and yet allow us to be the best that we could be. I was given only one condition when I started modelling ' my grades wouldn't drop.

All the girls in the pageant worked hard, but my edge was my mother's sacrifice, her karma. Today, when people call to congratulate me, it's not me they pay tribute to, but to her life and her struggle. She's the true Woman of Substance. She is my light, my mentor, my driving force. My win was merely God's way of compensating her.'

Simply amazing.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

The cleaning lady

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one:

"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"

Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired and in her 40s, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely, " said the professor. "In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say "Hello."

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

What about you? Do you know the name of that security guard or that housekeeper who doesn't fail to wish you 'Goodmorning Sir' every single day?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

4 puppies and the little boy

A farmer had four puppies he needed to sell, so he painted a sign and started nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail in to the post, he felt a tug on his trouser, and saw a cute little boy standing next to him with a question in his eyes.

'Mister,' he said, 'I want to buy one of your puppies.'

'Well,' said the farmer,as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, 'These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.'

The boy dropped his head for a moment.Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer.

'I've got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?'

'Sure,' said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle. 'Here, Dolly!' he called. Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur.

The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring in side the doghouse.

Slowly another dog appeared, this one noticeably smaller, it slid in a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began struggling toward the others doing its best to catch up.

'I want that one,' the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy's side and said, 'Son, you don't want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would. He is handicapped.'

With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and rolled up one leg of his trousers. He had a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said,

'You see sir, I don't run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands...'

With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup. Holding it carefully he handed it to the little boy.

'How much?'

'No charge,' the farmer choked while saying this, 'there's no charge for love!'

The world is full of people who need a special someone who understands. May you be that special someone to them.


Divorce after 35 years

An elderly man in Mumbai calls his son in New York and says, 'I hate to ruin your day son, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce; 35 years of marriage... and that much misery is enough!'

'Dad, what are you talking about?!' the son almost jumps on his feet.

'We can't stand the sight of each other any longer,' the old man says. 'We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Hong Kong and tell her.'

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. 'Like heck they're getting divorced,' she shouts, 'I'll take care of this.'

She calls Mumbai immediately, and screams at her Dad, 'You are not getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then , don't do a thing, do you HEAR?' and she hangs up frantically.

The old man puts his phone down and turns to his wife 'Okay, it's all set. They're both coming for our anniversary and paying their own airfare!'

You are not busy in this world all 365 days.. the sky is not going to fall down if you take time out to meet your dear ones... 'coz money making is certainly not EVERYthing in life.


Nothing left to live

A depressed man once told a holy man that he had nothing left to live for.

"Everything is gone, life is hopeless," the man went on saying, "I'm living in the depths of darkness. In fact, I've lost heart in life altogether." The holy man said sympathetically, "I understand son, but let's take a look at your situation, shall we.." On a sheet of paper he drew a vertical line down the middle, and instructed "list on the left side the things you have lost, and on the right, the things you still have left with you".
Have you?