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 HP Non-Fiction Contests

HP Fiction Contests



  We are happy to announce our winners of the 2009 Human Potential Non-Fiction Contest.  

CHITRA IYER for MY INDIAN AWAKENING has been awarded the First Prize.  
  As SARAH MILLER's FRAGILE POTENTIAL is of high standard, we decided to extend the publication to Second Place also.  
  Honourable Mention goes to Stephen Thomas for his essay The Most Interesting Man In Cambodia.  




by Chitra Iyer

It is so easy to feel small. We spend most of our adult life measuring up to a benchmark set by people we never truly, instinctively respect or admire. And of course, we never quite measure up! Our social environment trains us to feel small because someone has a better car, a fancier designation, a better body. These artificial benchmarks that work to keep us small, drive us deeper in pursuit of 'more of the same'..it's a vicious cycle that fosters mediocrity, sameness, fear. It is the biggest enemy of human potential.

I spent my time wanting for things that belong to others. Chasing dreams that were someone else's reality. Accepting rewards bestowed by a select few who gain far more from my work than I do. Living a life dictated and judged by all but me! And yet, others admire me for how 'in control' I am! How successfully I have shaped my destiny, secured my future. But really, have I chosen this destiny? Truth is, this destiny chose me, and I never questioned it, inspite of a nagging feeling that I was missing something. An inner voice that urged me to push the boundaries was often ignored. I took the path of least resistance and I never fought back. I never made a case for dreaming my own dreams, defining my own rewards, or measuring myself against my own benchmarks. It is so easy to feel small. Requires so little effort! Human potential doesn't stand a chance of blooming when one isn't even looking for it. But a road trip across India last summer changed that forever.

Epiphanies find it hard to squeeze into minds dulled by years of conditioning. But it turned out that on my Indian road trip epiphanies jostled for space and demanded more 'paradigm shifts' than a 3-day marketing seminar at the Taj! On this trip - a rare indulgence in a life dictated by worry and blackberry - I saw an India that didn't make me feel small. It made me feel humbled.

This trip was a kaleidoscope of surreal miracles. At first, I didn't see anything I hadn't seen before - poverty, corruption. Wretched people making peace with their pathetic destinies. Things that make me feel superior, not blessed. One of the objectives of the trip was to identify areas of potential positive change. But as I opened my mind and heart to this Other India, it was me who changed forever. I became aware of the poverty of my own soul. Of the easy tradeoff I had made with my true destiny. Of the real possibility that I may die feeling like I had cheated myself out of my true destiny, no matter how many cars or homes I owned. And so, it's imperative that I share some of those miracles of human potential; and perhaps explain my paradigm shift through their stories. To these human miracles, I raise my hat.

To each of the marginalized tribals from Orissa who fight to protect their beloved forests; or the farmers of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) in Gujarat ­ for relentlessly protecting their grazing land from powerful industries. For not succumbing to somebody else's idea of 'development'. For making me think before I am tempted to helplessly say the 'system sucks'.

To every one of the 100 IIT Entrance exam toppers in Patwa Toli ­ a tiny village in Bihar with neither good schools nor electricity ­ for besting the toughest engineering exam in the country. For showing the real meaning of will power. How strong must be their will to change their destiny!

To each woman in the obscure villages of Andhra Pradesh who fought to make the government relocate or ban the sale of liquor ­ for showing me the true worth of a 'peaceful evening' and the extent some have to fight for it.

To people like Sunitha Krishnan of Prajwala in Hyderabad, who fight human trafficking at huge personal risk. For demonstrating that power comes from your deeds and not your designation.

To true leaders like the team running 'radio station Paothang' ­ four loudspeakers hooked up to a primitive PA system- providing the only trusted source of local news for the people of Takhel - just 15km from Imphal, the state capital of Manipur. And the team at Radio Bundelkhand who empower so many villagers to demand change everyday. How hard it must be for not giving up, for not feeling victimised, to pull an entire community out of ignorance and into dialog.

To the disabled across India, who brave inadequate facilities to come out to vote because they believe in being participants and not observers. For shaming me into admitting that I did not vote this year because I believed my vote was worthless. And back home in Mumbai city, to all the immigrants who leave their villages, families, fields - to come to cities so they can give their children a hope of a better future. For struggling against the odds to fulfill their responsibilities without fear. For giving a new meaning to family values, strength and sacrifice.

My social conditioning was designed to create a fear of losing my familiar, secure, small and selfish life. In trying to hold on to these superficial consolation prizes, I lost my perspective. I become delusional about the definitions of achievement, happiness and true worth.

These human miracles push the boundaries of endurance and grit every day of their life. They redefine the meaning of perseverance, hope and grace under fire. They prove that one can indeed create one's own destiny. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi; they find purpose, and the means follow.

And so this is the lesson that my Indian awakening taught me: While feeling 'small' led to depression, fear and mediocrity; being 'humbled' inspired me, opened my heart, gave me strength to look within and realize that I too can do it my way. It's time to give my inner voice a chance.





 by Sarah Miller

In my minds eye I see the potential of humanity as a pale blue robin's egg, sitting alone and fragile amongst a haphazard chaos of twigs, high above a ground that neither cares nor understands, embraced by a tree that shelters and protects by its sheer essence. Sometimes human potential dies before life begins, the egg never hatches and we must wait until next spring to try again. Sometimes the egg hatches, but the young spirit is weak and undeveloped, or the weather is not right, or the parents too young, and then again all is lost until the next spring. Then there are those that do survive and grow and endure, and these are the true promises of what might be, but this stage is not without its dangers either. Some fly too soon, and others too late. Some are full of blatant disregard of the dangers that await and others are overcome with fear, and these too die or fade in time. Year after year this cycle of cleansing and culling takes place and yet the sky's are full of the red breast of success, in spite of the multitude of odds stacked against those fragile blue eggs.

They say the human spirit, the aura, looks like a glowing blue egg of light that encompasses the human being. I look at my children and it is clear that while my body no longer nourishes them, I must still stay vigilant and mindful of the growth that is far from complete. I will pour the next twenty or more years of my life into this task. I will be the tree that shelters them, the branch that sustains them, the mother that feeds, and warms and comforts, but in the end it is they that must fly, wisely and skillfully. The future belongs to them and the sky truly is without limit. Human beings are the result of a long line of attempts, failures and successes, and I believe that while we are often great, we can be so much better. I believe that the more energy we pour into each other, the greater our flight will be when we at last we risk it all and leap towards the heavens.

I believe that the world stands on the brink of destruction, that mankind stands before a black wall that has become our uncertain future. The earth weeps with the pain we have inflicted, our bodies bear out the ills we have brought upon ourselves, we stand on the edge of a fragile nest of dying twigs and we consider our jump to the future. Will we land upon the hard uncompromising ground, leaving behind only a legacy of harm and hate, as mankind fades into a past that will neither mourn nor pity us? Or will we perhaps instead, continue to clutch the branches in fear, refusing to right the wrongs of a desperate planet because our fear has become the god we worship? Or perhaps we will choose to abandon fear and hate, selfish ambition and violence towards our brothers and we will fly as we were meant to fly into an era of hope and change and peace as we were designed to by God, and billions of years of evolution to fly. Fly, as no creature before us has ever dared to, as no fragile beast, nor herb of the field has ever dreamed, fly with all the painful beauty that only human beings can.

I look into the eyes of my deaf son, and I have no doubt that human potential is without limit...