Saturday, June 06, 2009

Unposted Letter

Mr. Prasad Purandare
Executive Chairman, Enduro3

Subject: Refusal to accept the Certificate of Merit

Dear Sir,

I am Urmishtha Jagtap, participant of the Enduro3 adventure race 2009. I was a participant in the Amateur Mix category, team Nucleus. Firstly, I would like to congratulate and appreciate the National Education Foundation for having started such a race that includes non conventional sports for adventure lovers. It was a pleasure to have participated in the race and more so, having successfully completed it.

Throughout the race, it tested a great deal of our physical and mental stamina. The day we started practicing for the race until it ended, we kept discovering and redefining our strength – both physical and mental - and performance. Our goal was to complete the race by going on till the end. And, we were happy to have completed the race that was a self accepted challenge to test our endurance and team spirit.

However, there was one thing that let me down in the end. We were given the ‘Certificate of Merit’ on the 9h of February 2009. Our enthusiasm was still at the peak even after toiling hard for almost 40 hours in the mighty Sahyadri Mountains, when we were present for the prize distribution ceremony. It was a moment of pride for us to receive appreciation, which unfortunately turned out to be an embarrassment for our efforts.

After having distributed the first 3 awards for each category on stage, rest of the participants were asked to queue at the right hand side corner next to the stage to collect their certificates. That itself felt like being ridiculed! The team leader of every team was in the queue and was handed over 3 certificates each, which neither had a mention of the participating member’s name nor the team name and the category on it! It was in its real sense, a Prize ‘Distribution’ Ceremony. It had to be accepted with a pinch of salt, which gave way to involuntary tears in our eyes – the same guys who I witnessed as tough as a rock during the entire race.

I personally feel, it was not fair on NEF’s part to give away blank certificates to us. We certainly did not deserve such a sour end to one of the most special chapters’ in our adventurous life. It felt as if we were being given some hand-outs for being present there. Simultaneously, there was a queue at the opposite side of the stage for snacks and tea/coffee. There seemed no difference between those who were in line for the snacks or the ‘certificates’. A little bit of efforts in penning down our names on the certificate is what was expected, which would have been gladly accepted like a pat on our back by the organizers.

Also, we had called the volunteers to confirm the timing of the award ceremony and we got different answers from different volunteers. Someone said it was at 18:30, someone asked us to come at 19:00. Following the discipline of time is an essential part of any adventures, races, sports, competitions – from the very beginning till the very end! And, especially when the ceremony was to be held on NDA’s land!

We had reached the venue sharp at 18:30, anticipating the strict discipline that would be followed. But, the repeated assurances of ‘please be seated, the show will begin in a short while’, made us wait for an hour an a half until the show commenced at 20:00 hours. I wonder if the participants were deliberately asked to come early whereas, the chief guest was told some other time. This cloud of doubt shadows the mind because the chief guest was from the army, and at least they are strict followers of time.

I do not know what have others felt about the whole thing, or if they felt anything at all. But I hope that my feelings are taken in the right and true sporting spirit. This letter is not meant in disregard of anyone in person. This issue could be a trivial one for NEF, but it was quite disturbing for me as a participant, and which can be a matter of different perceptions for either one. I should have written immediately after the event, but let it down every time I started to write. However, I had to write to you some day to express what I strongly felt.

Rest, it was a pleasure to have participated in and completed the race despite being opposed from home. Wishing NEF lot more adventurous years ahead for our quest for more adrenaline.

Cheers and Regards!
Urmishtha Jagtap

P.S. : Attached herewith is the Certificate of Merit that was handed over to us.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Breaking the Glass Ceiling - Gradually, but Definitely!

Indian politics witnessed history on 3rd June 2009 when Meira Kumar took charge as the first woman Lok Sabha Speaker! The country has had a golden period when women dared to come out of the clutches that binded them just for homely chores. It beholds an even better future to embrace many women firsts in varied fields! It gives a sense of pride to see the top 3 positions of our country are headed by women! Pratibhatai Patil, our President; Meira Kumar, Lok Sabha Chaieperson and Sonia Gandhi, President of the ruling party at the centre. Not only that, we have women heading other parties too, and also women who chair some of the important positions in active politics.

Our country also boasts of many ordinary women have gone out and outshone their male counterparts with their extraordinary talent and determination. Traditional beliefs of society that many fields of works are male dominated, are now changing as women are seen penetrating there too. There are many examples of such leading ladies who have left the other sex in awe. Indira Gandhi, Dr. Kiran Bedi, Lata Mangeshkar, P.T.Usha, Bachindri Pal, Barkha Dutt, are just few names that came across my mind randomly as I am typing. There are many many more...

Besides, women whom I have come across in my life have made lasting impressions and kept me wondering about the might of woman power! Right from my mother to women who have attained the peak of their carrer to selfless social workers and even those who work as domestic help! Be it any field. Politics, sports, entrepreneurship, activists or academics. Women have broken the glass ceiling and are still moving ahead.

However, the other side of the life that is imposed on women, is equally darker. Some sections of society still deny an equal living status for women. And that is not restricted to the rural areas, but has sadly also spread among the urban sections. The ugly dowry system still prevails in our society and many innocent women are victims of selfish desires of many. Ordinary, yet deserving women still have to face shut doors to many achievable opportunities, which are a result of either social or family bindings.

But, there still seems to be some hope for such women as the nation is progressing toward a bright future.