Friday, 25 November 2016

Verses From My Old Diary




So yesterday, I stumbled upon my old diary among other relics buried deep inside my bookshelf! Gazing through the pages brought back so many memories, a peek inside the mind of younger me. 

I used to scribble verses, and write about mundane things in life. Even though I am the one who wrote it, somehow it felt as if I was reading very private thoughts of someone else. I felt excited, nervous, ecstatic and even sad for the girl who poured her heart into those pages.

The diary covers the timespan from April 2004 to Jan 2010, so it's going to take me a long time to finish reading it! Obviously I won't be sharing any of the entries but I think I have grown enough to share some of the poems I wrote..

I had named the below poem as "Let the curtain Rise", I guess I was quite dramatic ;)

Why do we live a life
So made up and strife,
That when we look in the mirror
We find a stranger staring back.

Why do we always wear a mask
Afraid to show our true self
Ashamed of our imperfections and weaknesses
The very things which makes us...us.

But with each passing day, 
All we ever achieve is
Improve our acting skills
Crave for applause and acceptance.

Why can't we be just ourselves?
Why can't we be one among the audience
Who is free to do as he please
While the play goes on...


I don't know why I stopped writing in diary, may be I got too busy with life or grew out of that dreamy phase in life. I would never know for sure. Although, I would like to believe it's because I found people with whom I could share those intimate thoughts..




Monday, 31 October 2016

Why You Should Visit Arunachal Pradesh



Till now I have visited 17 states and 4 Union Territories of India, and Arunachal Pradesh definitely comes in top 3. If you are into mountains or exploring the untouched wild nature,  then I would highly recommend you visit this place.

Even after keeping aside one week for Arunachal, all we could cover was a tiny (but stunning) corner of this huge state -Tawang. Guwahati to Tawang takes 2 days by road, you could halt either in Bomdila or Dirang. We covered both of these places in to and fro journey and trust me you won't regret taking a halt there.

Monastery in Bomdila
The entire route is so scenic that after a while, a waterfall or sparkling mountains are too common to even photograph. Here's a sample.

Enroute to Tawang

Very close to Sela Pass

Now to enter Tawang we need to cross Sela Pass which at 13700 ft makes for a spectacular entrance. The place is just stunning and usually snow clad in winters. Very close to the Pass, is the beautiful Sela Lake (sometimes called Paradise Lake because of its beauty) with yaks grazing around it!

Sela lake

A Yak moment!

Tawang is especially famous for its monastery, which is largest in India and second largest in the world after Potala Palace in Lhasa.

View of Monastery from hotel room


Our next destination was Bumla-Pass, which is at 15200 ft (highest I have ever gone) and is at Indo-China border. The route to Bumla Pass is so unique that I often felt I was in another planet! Mountains covered with the most colorful trees you could ever lay eyes on (at least with Indian standard). Fiery red shrubs spread till your eyes can see, so sublime and mesmerizing..





Unfortunately I am unable to upload pics from border because we were asked by Army guys to refrain from uploading them in social media (lot of people ignore it, I choose not to). But it really does makes you extra-patriotic to visit such places and in the company of soldiers.



I could upload tons of pictures, and still somehow not show you what I saw in those silent mountains. But like other northeast states, what left a deeper impression on me is the humble people living a simple and content life.

People from these parts of country are not rich financially but unlike their fellow countrymen, they don't look poor. For a long time I wondered why. Soon I realize that answer was glaring at me, it's because they don't see themselves as poor and pathetic. They have a very optimistic outlook towards life, which no one can take away. Even their one room houses with no bathroom is adorned with beautiful garden and home grown vegetables drying on rooftops. They don't complain that they don't have public transport and often walk up and down the mountain just to run some errand. They don't have electricity or materialistic comforts. But I felt so small standing next to them.

This entire trip was a visual treat but it also opened my eyes to subtle things of life. Just looking at those calm mountains which has survived endless time and watched civilizations grow and wither, made me feel part of something big, bigger than you and me. I think all that wisdom seeping from these mountains has rubbed off on these native people because their resilience is beyond me.

Arunachal is not just a place, it's an experience which will move you so deeply that when you leave the place, a part of you will stay back forever.









Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Meghalaya - A walk through the Abode of Clouds


Wakaba Falls

Pleasant climate, mountains, lakes, lots of waterfall, good-looking people who also happen to be extremely well dressed and chic. These are first few things you will notice after entering Meghalaya, some 100 km away from humid Guwahati.

We chose to stay in Shillong and move around to neighbouring places in taxi. And that's how we met "Ricky" - our driver/tour guide who was so effortlessly charming that we soon realized we weren't the only one spellbound. Everywhere we went he was greated with love and affection. Often when we entered a shop we were quoted "tourist" price, but then Ricky would come, mumble something in Khasi (local language) and Voila! Just like that price comes down to half!

So three of us, in Alto 800 (which is surprisingly comfortable) started our endeavour to cover Mawlynnong, Dawki and Cherrapunji.

I could describe the beauty of Meghalaya in words but am afraid my talent as a writer would not do justice, so I am instead relying on the pictures and hope you get a glimpse of what we saw.

 Umiam Lake

View of Umiam Lake from top

Our next stop was Mawlynnong  which holds the record for one of the cleanest villages in Asia. The village itself is quite small and simple. One of the attraction is Living Root Bridge, which I swear will remind you of movie Avatar. In fact, a lot of places in north-east has "Avatar" feel to it.

Mawlynnong Village

Living Root Bridge

Our visit to Dawki was not as successful unfortunately. You see Dawki is famous for it's boating in Umngot river, which is supposed to be clear water and looks stunning. But problem with mountain region is, if it rains anywhere nearby the entire water gets muddy. And that's what happened on the day we visited.

Dawki Bridge

Dawki is also the border between India and Bangladesh.  Although, honestly speaking this is one of the most uneventful borders you will see.

Cherrapunji was quite a surprise, to begin with it was not raining (it's one of the wettest place on the Earth), and what I absolutely loved is Caves! When we bought tickets for Mawsmai Cave, we didn't have anything in mind. I mean we didn't google about the place, and that was for the best. Because it was such a unique experience.

Some retrospection in Mawsmai Caves!

And if you have only one night in Shillong, do visit 'Shillong Cafe'. They have live music and you never know who you run into! We had the honor of meeting Lou Majaw (renowned for his Bob Dylan tributes) and enjoy a beautiful evening with his soulful voice seeping through our hearts.

I love Shillong. Not for it's scenic beauty (and the place is stunning!), but because it very laid back like Bangalore. I could totally see myself living there.

Our return journey was through helicopter and take my word for it that is was "AWESOME"! (Except for a short while when we went through thick clouds and I thought we were going to crash).

But I couldn't help but smile at the time we spent at this beautiful place, a place where people valued food, music, clothing and such simple pleasures of life. And suddenly life seemed a lot simple. I returned to Guwahati a happy woman!









Friday, 21 October 2016

The NorthEast Diaries


I love attending outstation weddings, especially if it opens up a chance to turn it into a vacation. So when a friend of ours decided to get married in Assam, we were ecstatic. We started planning our "North-East" vacation way before bride and groom their wedding!

After weeks of research, we realized that unlike other parts of India, travelling through the states of northeast is not an easy affair. Because of the rough terrain there is no railroads and the only option is by road. Sometimes covering a distance of 100 km can take as long as 6-7 hrs. We concluded that in 2 weeks we should be able to cover -Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.

I have so many awesome experiences to share that I think I will dwell on the details of each state in upcoming entries. But overall it was an overwhelming adventure, filled with so many "firsts" that I decided to jot it down

1. My First Domestic Flight

It's embarrassing, but true. As kids we travelled a whole lot in train, after which I kinda stuck to Bangalore. When in Chennai it was mostly bus and  later I married a car maniac who even took me to Noida by road! Not that I'm complaining because as convenient and time saving flight maybe, it doesn't come close to road trips.

2. My First Cruise

At Least on this I won't be the only one. I had often travelled in ferry and boats (all kind), even houseboat for that matter, but never on a ship. And I loved it.

3. My First Helicopter Ride

Since my dad was in Air Force, I grew up watching planes and helicopters. Growing up, our park always had a worn-down helicopter and we used to play hide and seek in it! But I didn't exactly get an actual ride on it before this trip.

4. My First Pork (with bamboo shoots!)

I am not a great fan of red meat, am more like a chicken-person. But when in Rome do as Romans do, or atleast I decided to taste how they do and what a revelation! Meat so tender that it melts in your mouth - literally! Apparently they smoke the meat in bamboo shoots and put simple ingredients which is very low on spice but filled with flavours. It was a gastronomic delight.

5. My First Cave Exploration

Again it's something I wouldn't have thought I would enjoy but was proved. Caves are supercool.

6. My First Meet With A Rockstar

Now I may not have met any international star per se. But he is a well known in Shillong - "Rock Capital" of India. And we had the luxury to indulge in some mouth watering dinner with his soulful voice in the background.

7. My First visit to Border

Infact two borders, India-Bangladesh AND India-China (must visit!)

I could go on and on about tons of other adventures but I guess that has to wait till next blog.

Northeast is visually stunning and a treat to your palate but what I loved the most is people. They are genuinely nice and welcoming with such a soothing aura that you just feel relaxed and comforted.

Before going on this trip I assumed  like most people that northeast is one entity. I categorized them all into one group and now I realize how stupid I was. It's like saying entire south India is same. Each of these 3 states had a distinct culture. They were like siblings, sometimes they have some things in common but mostly each has a different personality which makes it unique.









Thursday, 22 September 2016

How Being Selfish Changed My Life !



I remember as a kid, when I was asked what do you want to be I always said "Happy!". And now, even after all these years, that's exactly what I want. It may sound a bit silly and unambitious but I want you to think about it for a while. Everything we do and work for is basically to be in a state of "happiness". But usually this happy phase is very elusive and doesn't last long. I was told that being a good person and doing selfless act gives immense satisfaction to oneself. So I tried it and it did make me happy (initially) but it was really tiresome to be nice! And all that selfless act didn't really work out because no matter how hard I tried, I was always disappointed by people. And that's when it struck me - being selfish is our true nature! Once you become aware of this tiny fact, everything changes!

You see, when I say selfish I don't mean being rude or mean person. It's just that we love ourself the most and our actions are driven by our own interest in mind. Let me give you an example, when I do anything for my husband it is because "I" love him. You would have noticed that when you love someone, you care about their interests and you do anything to keep them happy. So by keeping your loved ones happy you are just keeping yourself happy! In fact, the whole term "listen to your heart" is a way to tell "keep yourself happy" which if you really think about it is pretty selfish in nature.

Once you realize that, at the end of the day whatever you did is for yourself, you don't get disappointed. Selflessness and selfishness are just two sides of a coin. Classic example is unrequited love, where you continue to love someone knowing you won't be loved, why? Because your heart won't have it any other way, you do what you want regardless of anyone else.

Often the cause of our sadness is chores we have to do against our wish, or so it may look to you. For example, all you want to do is sleep but there is a family gathering and you are "forced" to attend. Truth is no one has forced you to do anything, yes if you don't go your family will be upset and THAT bothers YOU! So you are going because you don't want to be upset over the issue. Most of us are brought up with some moral values and social norms, breaking which causes us discomfort and often when we complain about being forced to do things, it is this discomfort we cause ourselves which we are worried about.

Now let me warn you, my next point may offend some and truth be told, i'm not very comfortable talking about it too. But alas! sometimes harsh things needs to be discussed. Why do you think we mourn when someone close to us die? For the deceased? of course, we regret the life they are going to miss out. But I think we mourn for ourselves more than anything else. We feel sad because we miss the gone, and the life WE have to live without them.

I think what we should desire is not selflessness, on the contrary if we love and care more, unconsciously we would make sure it is in safe state. Half the problems in the world are unresolved because no one cares about it.

So next time, when you have to wait for someone an hour, don't get angry but remember that it was YOU who choose to wait for whatever reason (maybe you love them too much or you genuinely believed they had a reason). But at the end, it was your will and no one else. Happiness doesn't always come from fancy things, sometimes it comes from subtle moments. Like knowing that you are not forgotten, that you are loved and cared for, if not by others but by yourself.










Thursday, 1 September 2016

Why I want to be an Artist ?




It's my dream to become an artist. I am not sure when this love affair with art started but from past one year it's been pretty serious! So yesterday when I was asked by someone "Why do you want to become an artist?" I thought that's going to be easy right? Wrong.

I actually had a really tough time framing my answer. I had all these reasons coming in my mind but nothing which could exactly express my true feelings. You see asking someone why do you want to do it, is like asking why do you love? You could give countless reasons about what you like about a person, but that's just an excuse you come up with after you are in love with something/someone. Truth is you don't pick with whom you fall in love, you are pulled to it like a tide to an ocean! Even if you try hopelessly to ignore, there is no escape.

Although I can try to explain what I love about it. Imagine you are walking across a road and you see something beautiful, you are so happy and moved by it that you feel a need to share it with your loved ones or friends. So you take a picture of it and share. Now in this case the medium is photography - which is a kind of visual art. But sometimes, you see things which other can't (not in a spooky way). I mean an artist can find beauty in things which are often overlooked by common people. For example when you look at a painting of a flower, you are not looking at the real flower but an artists interpretation.

Like a writer, an artist is telling you a story. Sharing his/her most personal and intimate emotions with you, only difference is that in the art world there is no rule. I think an artist gets more freedom than anyone else in the world! In the real world, sky is blue and fishes swim in water but for an artist it can fly high in a green sky! I know for most none of this makes any sense, but sometimes it need not.

You see in this practical world, where we live to survive and make life more and more efficient, arts may not fit in. Of course an artwork is not going to feed you or provide shelter (for most). In fact, you can live an absolutely comfortable life without ever laying an eye on an artwork or listening to music. But is that what we should aim for? As human beings we are gifted with this unique ability to appreciate subtle things in life which are beyond "surviving". Unlike most of the other animals, we have needs beyond physical, we need to feed our mind and soul. We shouldn't be satisfied by just surviving life like a rat on the street! We should explore our potential and have pride in those differences which makes us different than any other species on this planet.

So why do I want to be an artist? I don't know. I don't know why I love art or why it pulls me towards it even though  I when tried to stay away. I honestly tried loving engineering/software or anything "practical" which would help me earn some decent money! But I failed, quite miserably (just like I failed to love coffee!).

 That's when I realized, that when you love something wholeheartedly all you can do is embrace it and let it take you wherever it wants. Be an artist at heart and let your life be your spectacular masterpiece.





Sunday, 14 August 2016

10 Things Only People Living Alone Would Understand

Photo: Source

I have stayed alone for most of my early 20's and enjoyed every bit of it! Not that it's not fun to stay with a roommate but that would be like comparing tomato with potato. You can't really compare them (although I would pick potato any-day!). It could be exciting, thrilling, challenging and depressing. But at the end of it, you will cherish those memories. Some of the things you’ll find yourself doing...

1. EAT REALLY ODDLY

Of course you can eat out, but eating outside every single meal could be little expensive. So you decide to cook! You end up buying a vegetable in an attempt to be healthy. Stare at the vegetable every time you open the fridge. Throw it away after 2 weeks with extreme guilt.  Soon you start creating your own recipes with leftover food!

2. LAUNDRY ISSUES

At some point you run out of clean clothes. So you end up buying more clothes because you are too lazy to wash them! The entire process of washing-drying-folding is just too cumbersome thing to be doing on a weekend.

Photo: Dave

3. YOU LOVE COUCH

It's your favorite place in the house. I literally slept on my couch for first few years. I mean you eat on it and watch TV/ internet till late hours. So why bother going to bedroom?


4.GO ON CLEANSING SPREE BEFORE PARENTS VISIT

Living alone means you can keep your home as clean or as messy as you like, without ever feeling guilty. For most that means, freedom from cleaning on regular basis until of course you get a last moment call saying someone is dropping in.

5. SKIP MORNING

If you don't have a plan for the day, don't bother getting up in the morning. Plus you avoid making breakfast!

6. CAREFREE CLOTHING

You are free to walk around in whatever you want. In a way it helps you get comfortable with your body!

7. YOU END UP HOSTING HOUSE PARTIES BY DEFAULT

No matter how small the house is, it looks alluring for a party and you end up doing all the after-party cleaning.

Photo: Xavi

8. YOU BECOME RJ/DJ

You can listen to same playlist again and again at whatever volume you want, at whatever time you want. It's totally OK to shower with your favorite song ON.

9. SOMETIMES,  YOU FEEL LONELY

There will be times when you crave for some company. And falling sick when alone is quite miserable.

10. ABSOLUTE FREEDOM

Living alone gives you ultimate freedom. You can do whatever you want whenever you want!

Photo: Kessy












Wednesday, 27 July 2016

S.O.S - God Help Us!


Photo:jose pereira

I am a moderately religious person. Which means that I do believe in God, deity worship, occasional visits to temple etc etc. But I think I lack a sense of blind faith. I don't agree with many aspects of religious practices and although I don't mock them, I am mildly curious and open to discussions. Haven't you ever wished that someone could give a sensible explanation to hundreds of rituals we are supposed to follow?

I know there are answers in holy books and so-called "holy gurus", but somehow they often give very indirect and twisted replies which sounds too high-level to us common folks. Maybe one day google could answer, " Is God for real?? " or " Does he/she is actually he/she? Alas! If only things were that simple...

Last week I saw a documentary where an entire hour was spent tracking the path taken by Lord Ram in Ramayana! That's when I realized that a whole lot of people literally believe everything written in holy books unlike me who saw them more in metaphoric sense.

But what is the truth? Someone wise once said that "truth is just a matter of perception". Very wise indeed, I spent quite a few years happily believing those words. Until the day I happen to watch "Cloud Atlas". For those who are not aware of this movie - Forget about it. I spent 3 hours and was as clueless as a lost duck! Anyway in the movie someone said "Truth is singular. Its versions are mistruth". Hmm..interesting.Well, the more I thought about it, more confused I ended up (at this point you can ask -who cares?).

What really bothers me is the double standards set up by the same society who cling to each and every word written in these scripts. I mean how is it okay for Krishna to have a girlfriend (all the while flirting with other girls- including hiding their clothes when they were taking bath!) whereas even casual dating is looked down upon for us mere humans. I know there is a story behind that too, but somehow not convincing enough for me.

Religion and religious practices are supposed to bring us closer to God (or our true self if you are an atheist) but somehow something is going terribly wrong in its execution. Maybe that's why more and more people are drifting away from "religion". I wish there were more people who helped us decipher this complex subject and made it more people-friendly!

So although I don't understand or completely believe these countless stories and legends, I find them very intriguing and hope that one day I can demystify it.

When I imagine God I see him as a very happy, wise and peaceful (yes, powerful too) persona who doesn't get angry even if we forget him on a normal day-to-day basis. I don't think he is possessive, demanding or the kind who gets angry and takes revenge when displeased. But then again, I could be wrong (and God could be very offended right now!).

Meanwhile could someone explain me how Lakshman Rekha works? I mean you could always come from back right? Wouldn't it be more sensible to have Lakshman Circle?







Tuesday, 3 May 2016

To Be A Man

Photo: mirehoracio

By the time a boy is 5 yr old he's pretty much taught that it's not okay to cry in public. He may still do it, but expectation is by the time he's 10 that he's perfected it. And if he's 12 and still crying in public, there is a problem.

When I first heard it I was shocked, not because I was unaware of it but because it is one of those unsaid rules which everyone follows but when you actually hear it aloud, something feels wrong. We complain that men are insensitive and lack empathy but that's how our society has build them up to be.

Boys are not encouraged to talk about any kind of pain with anyone else. They can talk about being pissed off and angry but not about being sad. And when they do talk about pain, parents tend to focus more on how to solve that or what they are going to do or their actions. They are expected to downplay emotions which are traditionally associated with girls. How many times have you heard someone say,"Don't be a such a girl"," Man up!"," Boys don't cry".

As per the standard norm reflected by our society, men are supposed to be physically strong and powerful. They should keep a brave face and not discuss their problems and emotions with others no matter how upset or depressed they feel inside. On other times, it is misinterpreted to be valued with money and materialistic possessions. Not to forget men are expected to show their masculinity with their sexual conquest. Guy who has the hottest chick around is considered cool!

In current era, it is okay if a girl is not too "girly", in fact it is considered cool if she is tomboyish. But their is no such flexibility for boys. Boys have to be tough, into sports or video games and those who don't are bullied till they are left broken from inside.

It's unfortunate that we have made relationship, emotions, empathy such a feminine concept that being "man" means rejecting them.

So what do guys do when they are in pain or stressed out? Mostly indulge in alcohol or other substance abuse. Under the influence of alcohol it's OK to loose your guard and show your real self just a little bit.

It pains me to see a kid holding back his tears, trying to put a brave face, when asked whats wrong says, "Nothing". How lonely it must be to "be a man" ?

We are living in a very promising era, when more and more emphasis is being given on equal rights and freedom. When we can look beyond war and focus on betterment of our civilization. So I hope that, our young boys get an equal chance as our girls to figure out what they want to be in life. A chance to figure out what it really means to be a man instead of enforcing existing stereotypical notions.

The world is not going to change in one day, maybe not even in your lifetime but each one of us can do our part in expanding what it means to be a man for ourselves and the boys in our lives. Because at the end, regardless of gender we are all human beings.







Monday, 25 April 2016

Bring Back Hats

Photo: Veronica

Hats are highly undervalued in current era and often misinterpreted to be used only by rich people for fancy occasions. Even worst, the only other place it has found an audience is in tourist place where you often laugh at people for being too "touristy". But let me tell you why hats are nothing but fabulous and common man should start wearing them -

Protection against Sun

This is the most sensible and practical way of protecting ourselves against direct sunlight. Especially a wide-brimmed hat covering the face, back of the neck, and sides of the neck, eyes and not to mention hair!

Photo: Jaguar

It's Cheap

You can get some really beautiful hats in less than 100 rupees! And they are long lasting and easily washable.

Safe and chemical-free

In present times even when our fruits and vegetables are filled with chemicals, one can only imagine what our cosmetics must have. But we are warned against walking out without sunscreen with words like "UV rays", "skin cancer" etc etc. Now, a hat may not be enough to protect against such rays and you may still need a sunscreen but it increases the protection factor by at least 10. Which is a very good number for something completely safe and no side effects.

Keeps your hands free while working

It's quite impossible to work in hot sun while holding an umbrella. Whether it is manual laborers or farmers or someone trying to do gardening! In fact most of the farmers and workers in south-east Asia use "conical hats" made from straw which not only gives them protection against sun but also rain.

Photo: source

They look good!

You can't deny that a good hat can completely transform your outfit. So, yeah, they can be a little "costume-y", but that's what makes them so awesome! Besides they are perfect solution to bad-hair days. In fact, you can buy a simple hat and prop it up as per your outfit with a simple ribbon!

Photo: Colin

So this summer, dare yourself to grab a hat and make your own style statement!






Thursday, 14 April 2016

Chutzpah Of Paanwalla

Photo: carola
Yesterday I had one of the most embarrassing moment of my life or at least the one in recent times. Today(Apr 14th) being Vishu - our new year (Kerala), I had gone to do some last moment shopping for "Vishu Kani". It's basically an assortment of auspicious things that is viewed when one opens one’s eyes on the day of Vishu festival. ‘Kani’ means ‘that which is seen first’ and this ritual is an indispensable part of the festival.

Everything went smoothly (maybe little sweaty) till the final item on the list had to be bought - betel leaves and betel nuts. I thought it should be a perfectly doable task, all I have to do is walk upto Paan stall and point at things I want (since I had no idea what is betel nuts called in Hindi!).

So I felt pretty confident walking up to the nearest Paan shop and asking, "Bhaiya, woh chaar pan ke patte, aur woh wali cheez dena" ( Could you give me four betel leaves and that thing over there?). The guy looked at me and asked what for? Now I was a little uneasy explaining our mallu rituals to this Bihari guy whilst all the other men (needless to say it was paan/cigarette shop) were staring at the girl who had come to a cigarette shop in a respectable residential area in the broad daylight!

Still, refusing to give up I tried explaining to him that it was for a "puja purpose". I mean that is valid explanation right? So I kept waiting for him to rush up and pack the damn thing. But the guy had the audacity to pretend as if he didn't hear me at all. By now I was loosing my cool, so asked him to hurry up and took out my purse because I couldn't wait to get rid of the place and be done with this whole awful business!

Finally guy turns to me and says, "No I can't sell it you. We don't sell it for such purposes". And in my mind I was like "????" preceded and succeeded by some decent amount of profanity! I mean just the shock of being refused to sell paan leaves by "paanwalla" made me melt faster than an ice cream on a stove!

Soon the shock subsided and now all I am filled with is embarrassment and often grumble about it. I have absolutely no clue what happened back there or why he refused to sell it to me. Unlike me, my husband thought it was pretty funny and although am little sour to laugh along with him right now, I hope in days to come I can.

After all, these awkward moments are what adds a slice of humor to our lives and sometimes all we can do is laugh at ourselves. Of course, that doesn't mean I have forgiven that madman! Will keep you guys posted if I get my revenge!









Monday, 4 April 2016

Eugenics

Photo: yumikrum

I am a bit of dogmatic in nature, that is I tend to be opinionated. In fact I have an opinion about everything! or at least I thought so till I stumbled upon few subjects which left me confused and unsure..to say the least. And that makes me uncomfortable. I hate not knowing how I feel.

All thanks to "Eugenics". Now before going forward I would like to forewarn that this is a very abstract concept which you would never affect your life or of little importance to any of our lives. So if you are looking for something light and cheery, you should just stop reading right now (no offense taken, I don't blame you)!

Eugenics is a philosophy which believes in improvement of human genetic traits through the promotion of higher rates of sexual reproduction for people with desired traits, or reduced rates of sexual reproduction and sterilization of people with less-desired or undesired traits, or both. It's basically manipulating the gene pool by selective breeding for better evolution of humankind.

The term "eugenics" was developed by Francis Galton in 1883, who was heavily influenced by his half-cousin Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which sought to explain the development of plant and animal species, and desired to apply it to humans. What exactly eugenics includes has been often debatable but broadly speaking they can be classified into below categories

Negative Eugenics 

It involves discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits. Including reduction of unplanned pregnancies by sex education, promoting the use of contraceptives and encouraging abortion. But that's just the milder version, they have some harsh concepts like forced sterilization of "mentally retarded" or criminals.

Positive Eugenics 

It means encouraging reproduction by people with "desired" traits by giving financial incentives to have children, selective incentives for childbearing to immigration!

Now all this may sound insane and ridiculous theory but it was popular among lot of well known people including Winston Churchill, H.G Wells, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, Hitler. Although some supporters of eugenics later reversed their positions on it. Because from the time it was conceived, it has remained controversial and for a good reason. To begin with, how do you determine "desirable" traits? It is often a cultural choice and highly subjective. And there is no surety over inheriting these qualities, a child could very well be different from parents. More importantly, it tainted the ethical nature of humankind.

So does that mean eugenics is dead in our modern times?

What does an average matrimony ad reads like? What do we look for while looking for a partner? No..eugenics is not dead. It has evolved into genetic engineering, egg donation, gene therapy, cloning and prenatal diagnosis of genetic disorders.

Some of these ideas of eugenics are so bold that they are outrageous and yet.. dangerously alluring in these testing times. It makes us question the very basis of life..is it inhuman to kill something before it's born ? and what if after coming to this world it only faces suffering and causes suffering to others? who is to decide? And aren't we already choosing in our own way "desired" qualities? Or is it our fate to alter the evolution to survive as a species?

I am glad that whatever be the case, the fate of mankind doesn't lie in my hands because it's a very preposterous predicament. But I really hope in future we evolve into better beings.. with or without eugenics.




Sunday, 27 March 2016

With Love

Photo: Michael Stern

Dear Food,

We have known each other for quite sometime now and you may be wondering what this letter is all about. To be honest, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

You have always remained by my side- both happy and sad. No matter how upset I was, you never failed to bring a smile to my face. On those gloomy days when nothing seems to go right, you were there to give me comfort. You understood my need for constant company and entertained my intrusion every few hours.

Yes, there were times when we had our problems. Remember when you made me fat and I had to throw away my new jeans? I was so mad at you that I started avoiding you..atleast for a couple of days. I hated those days..I missed you too much. Am happy we made up and now have reached an understanding. And like any healthy relationship I have started putting an effort- I go for walks once in a week!

I have always admired you. Your sense of justice and humility. You are beyond age, religion, caste, money or any other crazy politics! Even a beggar can feel the same happiness in you, which a rich may find.

By the way, I think you are sexy! Just the sight of you makes my heart flutter..I know it sounds crazy but it's true.

In fact, to show my commitment I have started cooking! Can you believe it? Just so I can see more of you...it doesn't sound too obsessive right? I mean just because I hate sharing you (even with my best friend), doesn't make me a selfish person right? I hope so...But I don't feel guilty.

Because love means not feeling guilty (even if you pretend otherwise), and wanting to scream from the rooftop and smiling just to think about it. It means being there for someone even if you are totally mad at them. I could give a long (very long) list of signs which can confirm love but the truth is you just know it!

So here I am..I may not say it every day but I want you to know that..I Love You..

With Love,
Rekha




Monday, 14 March 2016

Cooking: A Family Affair !

Photo: Or Hiltch

My mom loves cooking. But cooking at our home was never a lonely affair. I remember growing up seeing my father constantly hovering over the kitchen, sometimes giving a lending hand but mostly just sitting there with a bowl of freshly cooked (rather half-cooked) food from the stove!

Even we were dragged into some of her elaborate dishes such as making home made potato chips or tiresome pickle making ritual! Those days I found it quite cumbersome and would often grumble about buying from market instead of spending so much time on such things. Nevertheless, we always pitched in at the prospect of eating the final product.

It would take me years, to finally understand what cooking really means. I spent most of my adulthood living alone and that meant endless chain of making-maggi and dosas (for brunch and dinner - no one living alone makes breakfast!). The only exception was when I used to have friends come over. On those occasions, we would take our time and make a meal together...and it tasted better than any take-away food.

When people say, "Am too lazy to cook for myself", they aren't lying completely. You see, cooking is not just about making good food. It's also about having a good time making that food. If you are to cook mechanically every single day without any emotion, it would show in your food as well.

And like any other good work, cooking needs inspiration! It may seem a little too much when I say that to this day my mom expects us to compliment if we liked something she cooked, no matter how ordinary every-day-food it is! Initially I used to find it little amusing but over the years I have seen how such a small gesture can create huge impact on the person cooking. Since we are used to complimenting at home, I follow it everywhere - even if am eating at a strangers place and have had the privilege of receiving the most genuine smile in return . And I don't mean fake it, but there must be something you liked and we Indians are often quite shy about complimenting!

Today when I am in the kitchen all those memories come flooding back to me and I feel overwhelmed to realize how lucky I am to learn from my mother true art of cooking. Watching her cook is like watching an artist paint, such enthusiasm and passion and instead of isolating herself in that world, she chose to involve us and share that passion with her. To remind me that we should never take anything or anyone for granted and appreciate every small moment. Because at the end, these smaller pictures glued together makes the bigger picture -life.

Even now when I call her, I hear her talking eagerly about some new recipe she is trying and I know that somewhere in that background dad would be sitting patiently with a bowl of half-cooked food...and suddenly world becomes a happier place!




Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Women's Day and Me!



Today is Women's day. At least that's what every radio station, newspaper and television channels seems to be discussing whole day. Now, I don't have a problem with it but it mildly amuses me.

What purpose does Women's day serve? To celebrate womanhood, perhaps? Yes, true..so thoughtful. But then why don't we "celebrate" Men's day (Yes, it exists-Nov 19th)?

At least, it means people acknowledge that something is wrong with the society. That somehow women are not given the status they deserve and hence a need to highlight. Which again is quite confusing because I don't think anything substantial is being done on such a day. Of course, you get lot of discount on shopping and free entry to few places but that's hardly an event to rejoice!

I have met a lot of women who are considered strong "feminists". Who work very hard to prove that they are equal to men in every aspect. I do admire them and to the sheer audacity of the energy they put on to it. But unfortunately I don't agree with everything that is going on at the name of "proving you are equal".

Yes, I agree that there should be gender equality whether it's political, work, intellectual or  in any legal form. You cannot just assume that being a woman means you can't run a train or being a guy means you can't knit! By now, we have seen enough examples to realize that people who are passionate about something would excel in it regardless of gender.

Everyone is different in their own way. We are all good at somethings and not so good at others and it has got nothing to do with gender. Men and women are different(thank god for that!) but that doesn't make either one stronger or smarter than other. And this is a fact. We need each other and would always remain a team. And sooner you accept that, sooner you realize that a huge burden has been lifted from your shoulders. You see, you don't have to prove anyone anything!

It doesn't matter whether you are a man or woman, don't feel ashamed to do "stereotypical things". Like crying when you are upset or giggling when you are on date! So what? The problem lies in the notion that being strong means being "manly". Which is untrue to say the least.

I think a day like this would serve it's purpose if you just realize how amazing you are. That you have every right to be happy and live life to the fullest regardless of circumstances. You should do what you want to do, not because you have to prove "you can do" but because you deserve it. And never forget that you are not a superhero but a human who is bound to stumble once in a while but has the right to stand up and walk ahead.

Yes, I am a woman and I am as special as a man or as a flower or for that matter any other organism on this planet. That's what equality means and it is as omnipresent as air. Even if you don't believe it doesn't matter, it still exists.

So this Women's day raise your glass in toast to being yourself and being proud of that.





Thursday, 3 March 2016

Wish I Was Young (-er) !

Photo:Martina
I am in my late twenties and would most probably get whacked by someone for saying," Wish I was young"! So let me clarify that by young I mean school days or even college for that matter.

Now I don't deny that I miss younger-skin-effortless-stayfit days (sigh..) day dreaming about your future life or listening to music whole night (even in class for that matter) or when shopping was about street shopping and lot of window shopping. I still remember when at the peak of Harry Potter fever (just after the release of 5th book), someone in class managed to get a copy through friends-friends-friend and each of us would get one night to read. I am sure nowadays parents would buy an expensive book without a second thought but those days we wouldn't even dare raise such a request. And it was fun in its own way because that day I realized I could finish 766 pages in one night!

There are countless such memories, and I relive them time to time. But the thing which I miss the most is spending time with my friends. Yes of course I still have friends, and we meet up occasionally and talk to each other once in a while but I am sure you know what I am talking about. Those were the days when your day started with friends and ended with them. A time when your life revolved around them (much to the annoyance of your family).

As we grow up, we loose something and gain something. We gain experience, which is very important because it brings us closer to reality, makes us more aware of the workings of the world. But we loose innocence and to a great extent- optimism. Let me give you an example, when I was a kid I wanted to be an astronomer (Yes, I am serious). But back then I didn't see why I couldn't? All I understood was that I have to study well and keep pursuing science! Even today I could technically pursue that dream, but my mind instantly lists out all the cons (Ain't I too old to pursue it? Which college to study? Would I even clear the entrance? How feasible is to even try something like this? etc etc..)

I miss being super optimistic. I miss being ignorant of the worldly affairs. You see, to a kid everything is possible. But somehow as we grow up we fool ourselves into believing otherwise.

So I often feel nostalgic and miss old me. But I can't reverse time and to be honest I don't even want to. Instead, I am going to take the liberty of picking up few things from the past and carrying it with me as a souvenir.

So next time you hear yourself say,"Wish I was young" , remember that all that is stopping you is "You!". That younger version of you is still inside you, making sure that you see the endless opportunities you have in life. Don't let yourself be overshadowed by "reality".




Monday, 22 February 2016

Don't Be An Educated Illiterate!

Photo: fraeulein girot
A friend of mine forwarded a joke on Whatsapp today. It goes like this -

An English lawyer went duck hunting near Truro Cornwall. He shot and dropped a bird, but it fell into a farmer's field on the other side of a fence.

As the lawyer climbed over the fence, an elderly farmer drove up on his tractor and asked him what he was doing. The litigator responded,"I shot a duck and it fell in this field, and now I'm going to retrieve it." The old farmer Peter replied, "This is my property, and you are not coming over here."

The indignant lawyer said, "I am one of the best trial lawyers in England and, if you don't let me get that duck, I'll sue you and take everything you own."

The old farmer smiled and said, "Apparently, you don't know how we settle disputes in Cornwall . We settle small disagreements like this with the 'Three Kick Rule.'

The lawyer asked, "What is the 'Three Kick Rule'?"

The Farmer replied, "Well, because the dispute occurs on my land, I get to go first. I kick you three times and then you kick me three times and so on back and forth until someone gives up." The lawyer quickly thought about the proposed contest and decided that he could easily take the old codger. He agreed to abide by the local custom.

The old farmer slowly climbed down from the tractor and walked up to the attorney. His first kick planted the toe of his heavy steel-toed work boot into the lawyer's groin and dropped him to his knees!

His second kick to the midriff sent the lawyer's last meal gushing from his mouth. The lawyer was on all fours when the farmer's third kick to his rear end, sent him face-first into a fresh cow pie.

Summoning every bit of his will and remaining strength the lawyer very slowly managed to get to his feet. Wiping his face with the arm of his jacket, he said, "Okay, you old fart. Now it's my turn."

The old farmer smiled and said, "Nah, I give up. You can have the duck." 

When you are educated, you'll believe only half of what you hear. When you're intelligent, you know which half.

Although I found it hilarious, it made me think how people typecast education with intelligence and those who lack it are dull witted. I agree that education is the most powerful tool for learning and hence improving one's intelligence and wisdom. But, it is still a tool and what's important is how we use it. I know more highly-educated-ignorant-arrogant people than I would have liked to believe and am sure you could count a lot many too. Similarly I have also met extremely wise, sensible and intelligent people who happen to be illiterate!

Another such hypocrisy seen in India is being able to talk in English. Now English is one of the universal language and it's splendid if you know it, but you shouldn't feel ashamed if you can't. I mean French, Chinese, Japanese, Spaniard or any one from non-English speaking country doesn't feel the way we Indians feel about lacking the knowledge of English. Things have reached a point where grandparents nowadays are under extreme stress because kids look down upon them if they can't converse in fluent English. Which is quite pathetic considering, English is just a language after all, would you feel the same way if you were ignorant about any other local Indian language?

We should feel ourselves lucky that we got the opportunity to read and write which in turn opened up endless opportunities for us, but that doesn't entitle us into some kind of elite beings and we should never look down upon people who are uneducated. Everyone has something they are good at, so just because they lack formal education doesn't mean they are incompetent as a person. Give people a chance to prove their worth and you will be amazed how they surprise you.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."
                                                           - Albert Einstein





Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Poetry- An Eternal Graffiti

Photo: Lorezo

Sometimes I feel positively medieval. Like how I miss the times when a man had to write in great details how he felt about the woman to win her heart or write elaborate letters. So quite understandably I find it very disheartening that nowadays people don't enjoy reading poetry as much as in olden times. I have wondered many a times why that is so..may be times have changed..time when love, pain, suffering, longing and anger needs to be conveyed through poetry have diminished greatly.

But even in this fast paced world there remain a few who yearn for the assurance of written words. Because even in these peaceful times, we are constantly fighting our own battles. Even now, when we want to be better than what we think we could be, we look for inspiration. We still look for stories, which conveys, "It's OK, you can do it".

Words have immense powers, and if someone said they are magical then it's not an exaggeration. In current times you wouldn't find a lot of people who would say that their life is changed because of a poem. But that was the power poetry held over humankind for a long time. Of course, across the world from sonnet to Ghazal the form varied but the essence remained same.

As a kid I used to read all the poems from school book even before the term began (although I didn't necessarily understand all of it). The most amazing thing about poetry is that some of them touches you so deeply that even after years, you still remember it word to word. To this day below lines haunt me..it's from a poem called "Lohe ka Swad" by Sudama Pandey

"lohe ka swad lohar se mat pucho…
uss ghore se pucho jiske muh mein lagam ha"

(Translation- Don’t ask a blacksmith about the taste of iron, but ask the horse who has it in his mouth…)

Unfortunately I have a terrible memory and could never remember all the poems. But every now and then I search for it and find a great solace in reading them. Someone once asked me which is my favorite poem and I spent a whole week trying to decide (to no avail). Although, there is something about "Invictus" which casts a spell on me every time I read it. And I am not the only one, throughout the history men of great deeds have drawn inspiration from this extraordinary poem written by William Ernest Henley. It is said that this was written as a demonstration of his resilience following the amputation of his foot due to tubercular infection.

"Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

Do you know what makes a literature immortal? It is a reader. Even after thousands of years, even if one person reads it, it brings the words back to life. Works like Ramayana and Mahabharata (which by the way is the longest poem in the world!) have survived these many centuries and passed on to next generation. I hope other works of literature survives too, just in case there comes a time when we rediscover it's potential.

You cannot force love on anyone, so if you don't like poetry well and good. But if you have never given it a try, I insist that you do that today. For as someone once said, poetry makes new things familiar and familiar things new...








Wednesday, 10 February 2016

These Plants Can Kill You!

Photo: Jon Bunting
Recently I undertook the renovation of our barren balcony into a garden balcony and being a novice I thought it's wise to do some research. Among other information I was shocked to find that many of the plants we keep are extremely dangerous if consumed accidentally (if you have kids and pets wandering around!). So keep an eye for the below plants-

1. Oleander

It is one of the most commonly grown garden plants in the world (we have one too!). But is poisonous especially to animals such as dogs (when consumed in large quantity of course). Oleander sap can cause skin irritations, severe eye inflammation and irritation.

Photo: karen
2. Castor Bean

It is the most poisonous plant in the world (literally). Although not as common as oleander, castor bean plant is abundantly found in India. Yes, it is the source of castor oil but they are also the source of a water soluble toxin called ricin. Lethal dose in adults is considered to be four to eight seeds! But generally it is considered toxic only if seed is broken and chewed otherwise seed may pass intact through the digestive tract without releasing the toxin.

Photo: budak
3. Angel's trumpet

They have beautiful flowers that hang like bells and like oleander adorns our garden. Unfortunately the plant is not as angelic as it sounds...it's seeds and leaves are especially dangerous causing hallucinogenic effects if consumed (not the good kind, more like terrifying).

Photo: Denish
4. Rosary Pea

Not technically a plant, but the seeds from this tree are so common in Kerala that as kids we used to play with it in temples (some of us still do). These seeds are used to make beads and have a bright red color with a single black spot. The poison contained in the plant (abrin) is very similar to the poison ricin, found in some other poisonous plants. There is one main difference between these poisons, and that is that abrin is about 32 times stronger than ricin!

Photo: Kristian Golding
5. Daffodils

Prized for their beauty, daffodils grow from bulbs that could be mistaken for an edible food, like an onion. The bulbs can also be toxic to other nearby plants, including roses, rice, and cabbages, inhibiting growth. For instance placing cut flowers in a vase alongside other flowers shortens the life of the latter. If bulb extracts come in contact with wounds, both central nervous and cardiac system may get effected.

Photo: John Flannery
6. Dumb Cane

It's a common shade-loving tropical household plant. With both children and pets, contact with dumb cane (typically from chewing) can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms, including intense numbing, oral irritation, excessive drooling, and localized swelling.

Photo: Forest and kim starr
7. Hydrangea

These popular blossoms contain small traces of cyanide. But don't uproot your plant just yet. It has to be ingested in huge quantities for effects to be fatal.

Photo: Peter Miller
8. Deadly Nightshade

Well it does have a better name- Belladonna (Italian for beautiful lady). Apparently drops prepared from the belladonna plant were used to dilate women's pupils, an effect considered to be attractive and seductive! The consumption of two to five berries by a human adult is probably lethal. It was used for making poison arrows in ancient times.

Photo: Peganum
House plants are very beneficial in our homes and lives. They not only purify our stale indoor air but also trap many pollutants. But like any other living beings plants have defense mechanisms against predators which could harm us or pets if not monitored properly. It doesn't mean we should not keep the above plants but do watch out. After all, we never know when an information like this may come handy...