Sunday, December 26, 2010

Things I love to see

  1. A couple in love dancing together
  2. People offering to let old people go first in the queue
  3. A baby flashing an instant smile at me
  4. Decorated Christmas trees
  5. People carrying shopping bags, talking to each other, and laughing
  6. Emails from friends that are more like letters
  7. Facebook updates
  8. British people gathering in large numbers to enjoy Community Diwali fireworks
  9. Dark,winding passages in old forts
  10. Wild streams flowing in dense forests

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kissing a Frog

Based on the fairy tale "Princess and the Frog" in which a princess kisses a frog that turns into a handsome prince upon being kissed. As always, they live happily ever after. Click here if you want to read the whole story. "Kissing a Frog" is my take on the fairy tale.

Kissing a Frog

It was the most beautiful night possible. High up in the sky, a full moon shone brightly and around it twinkled countless little stars. Fireflies fluttered from shrub to shrub and the moonlight reflected off delicate drops of dew. The whole landscape was bathed in a silver light. There was hardly any noise except harmonious sounds of little creatures of the night.

Things were as serene as they could be and the air was cool. Tired birds had just started to fall asleep in their little nests when they were cruelly shaken out of their stupour by the sudden, crashing noise of Princess Greta emerging out of the shrubs.

“I will catch him tonight,” she exclaimed loudly to the wilderness thereby eliminating any chances of taking her intended victim by surprise. Elegance wasn’t her cup of tea. She believed in action. The clumsier the better. Fortunately for her, her victim was rather deaf. With her vision limited by the darkness, she depended upon her keen sense of hearing to move ahead towards the lake, where, upon a dry lotus leaf, sat the shiniest and the smoothest green frog one could ever have imagined.

Freddy the Frog reflected upon his life as he sat on his favorite leaf near the lake. Having had a good dinner, he let out a satisfied croak every few seconds. To Greta, this was the most attractive sound. She had been fascinated by this frog for a really long time now.

Her father, the powerful King of Dimsland, had been apalled by his daughter’s choice when he had first heard about it from the queen.
 “Have you gone crazy, Greta?” he had asked.

“Papa, I love Freddy,” Greta had insisted.

“For God’s sake girl, he is a stupid frog,” the King had replied gesturing wildly at his daughter.

Turning a deaf ear, Greta had argued, “Frog or no frog, Papa. Love is blind.”

“I wouldn’t have worried so much if it was only blind, but in your case it seems to be crazy as well. I will not have a frog for my son-in-law ever.”

“Oh, you will have this frog for your son-in-law, papa. I will see to it,” Greta had replied, stubbornly.

“Princess, think about it. What would you talk to him about? And when time comes for both of the you to ascend the throne, what will he say to my subjects? CROAK? No I will not have it at any cost.”

“Papa, my love will change him. Don’t worry. Only if you could see him through my eyes, you would realize what I am talking about,” Greta had replied poetically.

“Why? What do you see in him?”

“His skin is so smooth that it shines in the moonlight and when he speaks, its like music.”

“Greta, he doesn’t speak for God’s sake. He croaks! And he eats flies!”

“Papa, I know I can change him. You will see that my love will transform him.”

The King had let the craziness be for a while. Greta was a passionate girl but he hoped that the frog would be more sensible. He was sure Greta would also get over this crush pretty soon. Girls her age were known to be driven by their hearts. Little did he know that she planned to go and get that frog the very next day.

So here was Greta, bravely fighting the darkness and pushing aside shrub after shrub to get to the lake where Freddy sat oblivious of the fate that awaited him. The noises that Greta made drove rabbits out of the bushes and birds out of the trees. But they failed to stir the deaf frog. So he sat there lost in his own world until Greta was almost upon him.

When he saw a great shadow loom upon him, he turned to face whatever it was that was blocking the moonlight. But it was too late. With one swooping motion of her arm, Greta grabbed Freddy in her hand and lifted him up in the air. She brought him close to her face. He looked at her and she looked at him. Both looked into each others’ eyes for what seemed like eternity. Then Greta leaned and kissed the frog and again looked at him carefully.

 “Ah, I think I can see little ears sprouting from your head,” she said.

She put Freddy inside her handbag where he sat wide-eyed, shocked, and perplexed but still very much a frog and with no intentions of ever being anything but a frog.

PS: Please forgive the bad drawings...I was so scared of accidently using copyright images that I decided to draw a few myself.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Shopper Stop Woes

I had planned a nice surprize for my sister and brother-in-law for their anniversary that is on the 23rd of November. It was a big mistake using Shopper's Stop for it though. I had placed an order for Shopper's Stop gift vouchers to be couriered to them and because Shopper's Stop's stupid website does not allow me to specify a date when the gift should be delivered, I left a standing instruction for them to ship it a couple of days before the 23rd. They responded graciously that they would do the needful.

However, they went ahead and did excatly the opposite. They shipped the order right away and, as a result, my sister and jeeju have received the vouchers full 10 days before their anniversary with a personalized message from me that sounds pretty foolish because of the fact that it was delivered earlier than it was supposed to be delivered.

I have just sent a scathing email to Shopper's Stop and have vowed never to use their service ever again.

Spoil Sports!!

Friday, November 12, 2010


The bag full of stones
gets heavier by the minute.
Should I keep it down?
I wonder. Is there time?

For A little rest? A little nap?
Or for even a short wink?
No, I wave these lazy thoughts,
away. Far Away!

Treading the rugged path,
I must keep going, I must move on.
This is the way it works,
The force that pushes the earth.

"But my feet hurt!",
a small voice, petulant, weary,
makes itself heard
from deep inside my tired heart.

"Let them hurt, let them bleed",
And I Pull out the thorn
that has broken the skin
"Does it hurt now?" The blood dries.

Won't a little bit of sun,
shine down upon my brow,
and break the shiny little beads,
strung by dancing drops of rain?

No matter if it does not,
It will always be this way.
Just like yesterday, just like today,
just like tomorrow.

I can never stop,
and neither can you!
for we are together in this.
Eternal travellers!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Life before Death - A Review of Jenny Downham’s “Before I Die” by Vibha Malhotra

We always assume that we are going to be around for years. And as every step takes us closer to our own respective deaths, we philosophically ponder about what awaits us after death. In the process, we often forget about the present. Jenny Downham’s first novel, Before I Die, successfully shocks us out of this pointless reflection and brings the focus back to life before death rather than after it.

Though the book is targeted at young adults, it lingers on in the readers’ thoughts once they have read it, irrespective of their age. The book does not advocate stoicism, it does not set rules, instead through the eyes of terminally-ill, 16-year old Tessa Scott, it sets out to reflect on Tessa’s and her family’s constant struggle to hold on to the time that is slipping away.

Tessa Scott, the novel’s central character is perceptive and analytical, wise beyond her years. This is most evident when she reflects upon her father’s unique position and surmises that “his shambling protectiveness towards me might be attractive to women. It makes them want to save him. From me. From all this suffering.” Elsewhere, when she wonders how she can feel older than her own mother.

She knows she is destined to die in a few months and has a list of things that she wants to do before it is too late. While some of the things on her list are fairly straightforward like wanting to have sex and take drugs, some of them are more difficult to come by, such as her parents getting back together. In her own words: “I don’t want to die like this, not before I’ve even lived properly.” And live she does. Her list keeps her going. The reader shares her elation over her small achievements as she crosses out things on her list one-by-one. Miracles happen in her life. Things she could not have dared to wish for come true. She falls in love with a boy who reciprocates her feelings. But her fate does not change and, in spite of the reader’s constant hopes that she will somehow get better, she does not.

Despite her unquestioning acceptance of her fate, Tessa obviously lusts for life with her constant pondering about the ways through which she could indefinitely postpone death.

“I know I won’t die with a Strawberry Mivvi in my hand.”

‘You never know, maybe I won’t die if I’m at home.’

And even in her last moments, ‘I won’t die if I’m thinking of Adam’s hot breath between my legs.’

The novel’s true strength lies in its empathetic handling of emotions that Tessa, her family, her friends, and, later, her boyfriend go through during the course of her long drawn illness. Her father’s constant devotion, his denial of Tessa’s imminent death, and the role reversal between Tessa and him towards the end of the novel touches the reader as much as her mother’s fear of responsibility. And only through the non-judgemental voice of Tessa and possibly the author herself, the reader is able to look beyond the conflicting emotions of Tessa’s younger brother and recognize his constant suffering when he, at one time, tells Tessa that he is going to miss her and, at another time, asks his parents “When Tessa dies, can we go on holiday?”.

Also remarkable is the way the narrative successfully avoids defeatism to which a topic such as this is very susceptible and, at the same time, steers clear of unrealistic forbearance as well. Walking on such a narrow line is a difficult task that the author accomplishes albeit a little self-consciously.

Tessa’s short life constantly reminds us of our own mortality and subtly urges us to prepare a list of our own because even though we may have many more years to live than Tessa, there is simply no time waste.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


It was a game they used to play often. They would sit across on a table and stare into each other's eyes. The one to blink first would lose. For Anand, it was an opportunity.

Anand sat with elbows resting on the table and both his hands under his chin. Mamta sat straight back right across. And they tried hard not to blink.

"Deep blue just like Pacific ocean!" he thought as he considered the unusual hue of her eyes. "How lovely would it be if I could just look at her like this every second of my waking hours!" The tables, the chairs, the walls, and rest of their friends disappeared gradually to be replaced by angels playing harps on cotton clouds. A deep fragrance, possibly her new perfume, filled the room. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes for while.

"Caught!" she cried. "I win again."

(This was done as an exercise on the flow of time in fiction during one of my classes today. The first sentence of this short piece of fiction is iterative time and the rest of it is slow motion.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Little Green Man

Today was one of those rare days when I was headed to the library to actually pick up a course book. (Usually, I only go there to chat for hours and post insignificant updates on facebook.) I was waiting to cross the road when an elderly couple holding hands of a 4-5 year old boy who was walking between them joined me in my wait. The elderly couple were taking this opportunity to educate the boy about the art of crossing the road.

To give you some context, this crossing was one of those where, before you cross the road, you need to press a button and then wait for the light signal to turn green. The light signal is in the form of a little red man. When the little red man turns green, you can cross the road, else you (should) wait.

The elderly woman gently explained to the little boy that we are only supposed to cross the road when the little green man appears. And now the little boy was eagerly waiting for the man to turn green. This being a busy intersection, it was taking forever. While we waited, a lot of people crossed the road without waiting for the signal as soon as they had the opportunity. The little boy kept asking "Why is that man crossing now? The Little Green Man isn't here yet." The elderly man went (mostly for the benefit of the little boy) "tut tut, no you shouldn't. You could get hurt doing this." So the elderly couple, the little boy, me, and a couple of more people stayed. I would have crossed the road, if it had not been for the little boy. I somehow did not want to set a wrong example for him.

I was also reminded of what Kazuo Ishiguro had to say yesterday at Newcastle City Hall about how the world conspires to make a child believe that everything is perfect and that the world is a nice place to live in. He gave beautiful examples of how sometimes people pause their fights and hide their cigarettes and put on beautiful smiles when a child is passing by. Of course that doesn't happen everywhere, but I am sure all of us do this to some extent in some form or the other.

Anyways, this was turning out to be a rather long wait and I was silently praying for the little green man to appear soon or for the elderly couple to cross the road without waiting for him. When no one could bear it any longer, the elderly couple finally started crossing. The little boy protested that the green man isn't here yet. The elderly woman vindicated their little infraction by stating that the little green man had probably called in sick today. But anyways, as soon as they started crossing the road, all of us who had been waiting patiently soon followed, relieved that we were still in the little boy's good books as law-abiding human beings. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Our Waste Bin Woes!!

The first day we put our garbage out, our garbage bin was taken away...perhaps by the council or probably some neighbour who liked the way it looked. Here is a short poem dedicated to the bin:


Oh! Our dear bin,
where hast thou gone?
Your green splendour!
Oh yes, we miss you
a lot!

We remember well
the last time we set
our eyes on you!
We took out our garbage,
all our dirty secrets,
and stowed them deep
into you!

Then we dragged you out
through the slippery floor
of our backyard.
We remember the sound
your wheels made
as they squelched through
the moist moss.

But now, as we step out!
Outside the yard! We search
for you dear friend.
But you are all but gone.
Did someone steal you?
or did the council take you away?
For us, they are both the same,
as we cannot see you anywhere!

Oh our dear green bin,
How much we miss your charm!
Now that your green spelndour
no longer dots our backyard!

We promise to take more care,
and to watch out for you
as we would our best friend
or our soulmate too!
We fold our hands and pray
to the lord. Oh Lord!
please show us a miracle and
make our dear friend appear
back into our back yard!

Just to be sure!

The second day after I got a University Bus Pass, I boarded a stagecoach to the University. After occupying the most convenient seat available, I relaxed and started reading a book. At the next bus stop, a middle-aged white man dressed in a formal trouser but an informal jacket got into the bus and came towards me. He asked where I was going.

"King's Gate", I said.

"Can I see your ticket please?" he muttered (or something that sounded like it).

Unsure of what I had heard, I showed him my bus pass reluctantly. He scanned it with a fancy scanner and then scanned a bar code on a paper that he was carrying. After almost two minutes, he looked satisfied and moved on.

He did the same routine with a few other passengers and then came back to where I was sitting. I looked at him and our eyes met. Just to be sure, I asked him, "Were you checking the tickets?"

"Yes!" he chuckled. He went to the front of the bus, smiling to himself. And just before he got down, he looked back at me and waved a good bye.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Technical Humour

Apart from releasing a high quality software product, our team has various other talents. Amongst those, there is one that just cannot be overlooked. If some of my team mates are reading this, they would probably know what I am talking about. Yes, it is the ability to crack pathetic jokes about anything and everything on the surface of this earth.  Over the last 7 years, I remember two "technical jokes" that deserve a special mention. If you know more, please feel free to add.

Technical Joke #1 (Joke Creator: Saurabh Gupta, Audience: Me, Comic Creator: Me)

Technical Joke/Puzzle #2 (Joke Creator: VJ, Audience: Whoever he could catch)

There was a group of 30 people and a tray of 30 sweets. The first member of the group said "Lo or aage pass kar do." So the tray went around the room and when it reached the last member, it still had 30 sweets in it. Why?
Try harder!!
because the instruction was "Lo OR aage pass kar do" and not "Lo AND aage pass kar do."

Now this is what I call talent.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Tiny Voice

(Wrote this about four years back. But has remained my favorite till now.)

Vinay was a sound sleeper. He usually slept late in the night and, as a result, woke up late. Very few things could disturb his sleep. He barely stirred when there was an earthquake. He would not budge if clouds thundered themselves away. He would not even wake up if his cell phone shrieked right next to his ears.

Things looked the same that night too, when after a wild evening at the local pub, Vinay came back home and slumped down on his bed. He fell asleep right away and started dreaming almost immediately. He dreamt that he was back in the pub surrounded by beautiful girls and having the time of his life drinking and flirting. This was his favorite type of dream and he was thoroughly enjoying himself when something very unusual happened. He woke up!

Surprised, Vinay looked around for the source of this nearly impossible interruption in his sleep. A very low but continuous static could be heard. He tried to locate the source and traced it to a very small ball of milky-white light at the foot of his bed. “What in the devil’s name is this?” He mumbled to himself. Slowly, the white light spread and took an indiscernible form that loomed above his bed. This freaked him out. “What the hell!” He said loudly.

“Don’t be afraid, child. I am not here to harm you. “, said a soft but clear voice from somewhere within the huge white blob. Strangely enough, the white blob glowed but its light did not reflect off the surrounding objects. And the voice! It was amazing. Very sweet! Vinay could not make out whether it was male or female. It sounded like thoughts. Thoughts that are clear, audible, and human but neither male, nor female.

“I am here to help you.” The voice spoke again. “What are you?” Vinay asked nervously, trying to sound stern. “I am God.” The voice replied.

“God! Now I understand. Nishant, come out from wherever you are hiding. I know it is you. And how did you make this white creep?”

“Child, there is no one here but you and me. Just think, would Nishant or anyone else have been able to wake you up?”

This made Vinay ponder. It was true. Nishant or any other friend of his would never have been able to wake him up. After a short silence and a bit of looking around the room, Vinay admitted, “Okay, so you are God. Now what? Do I die?”

“Die? Of course not! I just thought of visiting you because I thought you needed help.”

“Me? Need help? Someone has definitely played a trick on you. Go Home, God. Or to heaven, or wherever it is where you stay. Whoever told you that I need your help, needs to see a psychiatrist.”

“Child, do not talk about your poor cat like this. He has been living in heaven for the past three years, but still cannot stop talking about you.”

“Babba told you about me?”

“Yes, he was very concerned. He was sure that I could help you. I told him that it will be of no use as Vinay has never listened to me. But the stubborn cat just would not listen. Like master, like cat.", sighed God. "He kept pestering me until I promised him that I would visit you.”

“When have I not listened to you? This is the first time I am seeing you. If I have never met you, how can you claim that I never listened to you?” Vinay was getting impatient now. He just wanted to go back to sleep.

“Calm down, child. Do you think I have so much time that I can visit every single human in person? Do you think I have more than twenty four hours in a day? If I do not visit you, it does not mean that I am not there. I have tried to get across my point to you many times, but you have always ignored me.” God answered peacefully.

“And when was that? May I know if it is not too much trouble to you?”

“No, not at all. Nothing is too much trouble for me. I have advised you a lot of times in your life. But you always turned your face the other way and chose not to listen.”

“Go on, give me an example. I am all ears.” Vinay mocked.

“You remember the time you broke the beautiful vase your grandma had gifted to your mother? You did not listen to me and blamed Babba for it.”

“Well, call me stupid, but I do not remember you popping in at that time.”

“Of course, I was there. Do you not remember that voice in your head that kept nagging you to own up for the incident and not blame the cat? You just ignored the voice.”

A little ashamed, Vinay argued, “But God, Babba was not punished for this. I would have been.”

“That is true. Babba was saved then. But that was because your mom listened to me when I whispered to her to let go of her anger. If she was as unreasonable as you, Babba would have been homeless after that incident. Do you agree?”

“I didn’t know you talk to mom as well.”

“Of course I do. I talk to everyone. My voice can be heard by anyone who wants to listen to it.”

“Ok. But that was just one such incident. How does this one incident mean that I need help?”

“Child, I agree with Babba. You do need help. I have tried to tell you the right way a lot of times, but you have always gone in the opposite direction and done the wrong thing. You may not be aware, but your actions have hurt a lot of innocent people.”

“God, I may have hurt Babba, but I don’t think that I hurt anyone else. I just live my life according to my own rules. If someone does not agree doesn’t mean that I hurt them.” Vinay persisted.

“There is nothing wrong in living life in your own way. It is wrong only when you do not own up to your mistakes and try to blame others. Like when you broke up with Mohini.”

“I broke up with Mohini because she flirted with Nishant in front of me.”

“She was just trying to make you feel jealous as you were continuously eyeing the bar girl and ignoring her. I tried to tell you at that time to show Mohini that you cared for her and not for the bar girl. But your ego made you deaf and you, as usual, did not listen to me. You flared up and shouted at the poor girl.”

Then Vinay understood. “So you mean that you are the voice that keeps on telling me stuff that I think will ruin me.”

“Yes, that is yours truly.”

“But God, I think your advice will, in most situations, make me appear stupid and mean to others.”
“Yes, I know. It may. But it will help you be a better person as well. It will make you feel proud of yourself. And, above all, it will prevent future visits from me.” God smiled.
“Yes, that kind of convinces me.”
“Ok then, my work is done here. I have to be off to help someone else like you.”
“Don’t go yet, God. I am just starting to enjoy my conversation with you.”
“Child, I have to go. I think you have understood enough already.”
The voice and the white light faded away. The room suddenly became very warm, and Vinay sat up in his bed.
“Is this a dream?” he wondered to himself. “No, it isn’t.” replied a tiny voice in his head. And, this time, Vinay heard it, loud and clear.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anxiety, thy name is Tiger/Lion

(Photo clicked by my friend, Sachin Jain)

I am not afraid of Tigers and Lions. I love watching them hunt on National Geographic or Discovery and am not repulsed by the way they devour their hapless victims. I do not jump out of my skin when I see their pictures. They are the animals that I find most interesting when I visit the zoo. And while on a Safari, I keep my fingers crossed for a sighting. I am not intimidated by them provided they maintain their distance. 

People claim to have recurring dreams or nightmares. I do too. I dream a lot about Lions and Tigers. They do not attack. That could be quick and clean. Instead they stalk. The general pattern of these dreams is that there is a village or a town where these tigers or lions or sometimes both, are roaming around. I am trying to get somewhere while avoiding these predators who, by the way, seem to sense that I am trying to do just that. On my way, I take shelter in various houses and many times narrowly escape being spotted by the animals. Even though I have had these dreams a zillion times, I am yet to see one with a conclusion, either ways. But I always wake up feeling relieved that it was just a dream. 

When I recently had one of these dreams, I tried to make out the pattern behind this and discovered that whenever I am anxious about something, there are chances that I will dream of Lions and Tigers stalking me. Why would I dream of Lions and Tigers of all the things? There can be hundreds of other symbols that I am in touch with in real life that could symbolize 'anxiety'. For example, it could be my boss (Sorry Boss, if you are reading, I am just kidding ;-) ) or traffic police or anything else. Why my subconscious mind has chosen Lions and Tigers is beyond my comprehension. Probably even my subconscious wants to be politically correct all the time. :-)

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Post Office with a Difference!

On Saturday, I had to deal with India's Snail Mail System after ages. I do not remember when I last received a speed post. Yet I received one on the 27th and that too at my Indirapuram flat which is currently unoccupied. So it was only by chance that my friend went up to the house to show it to some potential buyers and he discovered a note stuck on the bolt.

The note stated that the Ghaziabad Post Office had received a Speed Post in my name and I would need to collect it from the Shipra Sun City Post Office the next day from 9:00 AM to 10:00AM. My friend went to the post office to collect the letter but the post office did not hand it over to him. They insisted that someone from the Malhotra family would need to collect it.

Everything about a Speed Post suggests that it is important. They are mostly used by government agencies as they are considered safer. And the term Speed Post also carries with itself the connotations of urgency.  And an urgent letter from the Government is not something to be taken lightly.

So I found myself on my way to Indirapuram on a Saturday Morning amidst heavy rains and a looming threat of traffic jams. I had braced myself for the infamous bureaucracy of Indian Government Offices and approached the person at the desk humbly. The time was 1:45 PM, which is dangerously within the limits of the famous lunch hour and much after the time mentioned on the note. I was surprised to find the entire staff at their desks busy with their work.

I enquired about my speed post. The person sitting there told me that the speed post can only be collected from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM everyday since that is the time when the post man from Ghaziabad post office is available at Shipra Sun City post office. He carries all speed posts with him.

I asked whether the speedpost can be collected on following Monday. At this, he seemed to consider the situation for a while and then gave me a mobile number of the postman "Mr. Kaushal". He also advised me to call Mr. Kaushal immediately.

I made the call. The voice at the other end was a typical U.P. voice with a typical U.P. accent. When I asked him about the speed post, Mr. Kaushal asked me the date on which the notification for the speedpost had been placed on my door. I told him that it was the 27th. He enlightened me with the information that undelivered speed posts are sent back within 4 days. I said that this was the 4th day as it was the 31st. He corrected me and told me that it is the 5th day since the counting begins from the day that the post is received in the post office.

I was crestfallen and lost all hopes of ever knowing what the post was all about. After all, I had driven for over a couple of hours in an unfriendly weather to get here. Hopelessly, I asked him what were the options for me now. He took pity on me and asked me to wait while he checked whether the post had been sent back yet. So I held on to the phone with my fingers crossed while he looked for the in-demand post.

After half-a-minute, which seemed more like half-an-hour, he confirmed my name and address and, to my utter disbelief, informed me that he still had the speed post. And, miraculously, he was distributing letters just a couple of blocks away and I could collect the post from him. Within the next five minutes, I had the elusive, almost-missed, speedpost in my hands. And all of this happened with a lot of smiles and pleasantaries.

Though good luck had a huge part to play in this chain of events, I was not expecting things to be so hassle-free. I had never heard of helpful government employees. And it was such a pleasant surprize to find them so willing to go out of their ways to help me. They did not have to do it. As per their process, I had already missed the chance to collect my speedpost. Probably, this was one of the encounters with the new India. Looking forward to more...

Friday, July 23, 2010


Imagine a world where you cannot scold your children. Or a world where your other half hurts you but you dare not retaliate. Forget about having an argument, imagine a place where you cannot even 'not talk' to your friend because she or he did something to hurt you. Imagine a world where we are too scared to express our anger, disappointment, or hurt to people we love. World will be a strange place if all of us need to be so petrified.

Will we like to live in such a place? Or do we want to be in such relations? 

It will get terribly lonely place if this happens. And this is where we are headed. Children today are so fragile that if their girlfriend's father scolds them, they will go consume poison. If their teacher slaps them, they will hang themselves. Also consider grownups, if their boyfriend/girlfriend decides to separate ways, they will go and jump outside the window. 

Have we lost the power to think? If not, then before doing the ultimate, why can't we spare one moment for those who love us? Those, who may be angry with us or temporarily not understand us, will still be devastated when we are gone. Those, who will never be able to recover.

"They deserved it!!" You may tell yourself. 

But isn't that the most selfish stand to take? Will it really give you pleasure to see them suffer? And if it will, then please take a moment and consider what kind of a person likes to inflict irrevocable damage on his/her loved ones. Definitely not a good one.

Do we really want to snatch away our parents' right to scold us? Or do we really want to make our beloved boyfriend so scared that he cannot even be annoyed when we are insensitive? Put yourself in their shoes and imagine. Do you want to be so scared of your relationships?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blood Relations

Nishu (my nephew) and me

What is it with blood relations?

I was never too fond of children before Nishu came into my life. A few minutes with a child were ok, but anything beyond that got on my nerves. But I absolutely adore Nishu and my relationships with other children have also improved. Before Nishu, I wasn't able to talk to children much. Now some of them are actually fond of me.

When Nishu was about to be born, I used to fret that I wouldn't get on well with him. But now, I laugh at those worries as Nishu and me are best of friends. My mom used to tell me that it is always different with children of your own family. I was always incredulous. But I think there is some truth to it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Debates and Group Discussions at Inlingua, Delhi

inlingua is one of the world's leading language training organizations with over 350 Language Centers in 44 countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, North and South America. In India, Inlingua has centres in Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, and Pune. If you want to know more about Inlingua, you can visit their Website

For their English Language students, all centres in Delhi organize Debates and Group Discussion competitions. And once in a quarter, students who have won in these competitions, participate in the Finals.
I was invited to be the guest judge for the 6th Activity Finals on June 19th and was looking forward to meeting the talented young students.

The Finals were held at the NCUI Auditorium near Sirifort ( and were attended by Inlingua Students and faculty members. The event started at about 2:00 PM and concluded by 5:45 PM. And the entire duration was full of fun.


There were 4 main activities:  
  • Lower Level Group Discussion
  • Higher Level Group Discussion
  • Lower Level Debate
  • Higher Level Debate
The event was judged by Mr. Vikram Bajaj, Director, Inlingua, New Delhi and myself.

The Topic for the Lower Level Group Discussion was "Will computers replace teachers in the next ten years?" Participants were given 3 minutes for peparation. It was really good to hear the unique opinions. For example, there was one argument that computers cannot replace teachers because even though computers can provide data but they cannot guide you about morality. Another student talked about how facial expressions and body language are important aspects of teaching and as of now robots seem to be very far from doing this. Very thoughtful!!
The Higher Levels were assigned the topic "Is life imprisonment a good alternative to capital punishment?". Preparation time was again 3 minutes. This is one hot topic but I was very impressed by how the participants were able to think about this logically while retaining their passions about their opinions. The arguments were empathetic as well as pragmatic. On one hand, participants were talking about retaining capital punishment to set examples and, on the other hand, some argued that Life Imprisonment is pain elongated and, therefore, more severe. Again, it was evident that these were reasonable people who are well aware of the issues of the society and actively think about them.

  Group Discussion - Lower Levels

The best aspect of both the group discussions was that they did not end up in shouting matches. People were interrupting one another but mostly to give chance to someone who had not spoken till then. And even these interruptions were polite, for example, "I am sorry but I would like to interrupt. Mr. X here hasn't got a chance to speak yet. Let us listen to what he has to say about this." All of us could learn from this. Our regular discussions often end up in an attempt to out-shout one-another. And here was a group of young students who had an award at stake but still behaved politely.
The next session was the debates. Students had to stand up in front of the audience and make speeches in a language that they are still learning. One has to be very brave to be able to do it. And these students succesfully conquered their fears and performed.
The debate topic for the lower level was "This house believes that the national craze for cricket harms all other sports." A very sensitive topic considering that every other Indian is a die hard cricket fan. :-). The pattern was that each student got 7-8 minutes to speak. After that, audience asked questions and the students answered. Students were judged on clarity of thoughts, command over language, presentation style, manner of answering the questions etc. Speakers raised some good issues about lack of sponsorship to other sports, Deitification of Cricketers, and how performance brings rewards like in case of Sania Mirza, Abhinav Bhindra etc. There was one student, Baljit, who himself was once a national-level gold medalist in 800m race but had to quit the sport because of lack of sponsorship. All arguments were coming straight from heart.

  Debates - Lower Levels

The higher levels dealt with a more global "This house believes that social networking sites do more harm than good." Arguments circled around security issues, addiction, reduction of personal interactions, wastage of time on the -ve side and knowledge sharing, maintaining contacts, and sharing of thoughts and feelings on the +ve side. Obviously this was an issue that most of  the speakers were dealing with in their personal lives thanks to the ever-increasing craze of facebook and parents fretting about the good old days. Someone even mentioned that people waste a lot of time playing Farmville. I myself am a Farmville buff :-). But ofcourse I did not take that personally.

  Debates - Higher Level

Prize distribution was a happy affair and Mr. Bajaj made a very thoughtful speech where he highlighted how the quality of debates and the group discussions have constantly been going up. He applauded the fact that the participants all maintained decorum through it and gave each other a fair chance to speak.He concluded that what you have to say is more important than how you say it and appreciated the courage that each of the participant had showcased.

Winner of Lower Level Group Discussion, Ramandeep, Accepting her Prize

Winner of Higher Level Group Discussion, Deepak, Accepting his Prize

Winner of Lower Level Debate, Baljit, Accepting his Prize

  Winner of Higher Level Debate, Mohd. Kamil, Collecting his Prize

These types of activities are good initiatives. I would like to compliment Inlingua Delhi for thinking about it, organizing it, and persisting in the efforts. It is definitely a good way to help students gain better command over language and actually face the world with this skill. The enthusiasm in the students was very contagious and charged up everyone who was involved in this activity.
 Participants Enjoying Tea and Snacks

 Judges Indulging in a Little Post-Event Discussion

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Through the mirror, she reaches out,
her arm outstretched.
I blink, she blinks, I smile, she smiles
She is real. I am real.

The beautiful vase, a gift, a memory,
the shining woman in gold,
Mystical! Beautiful!
It is real. She is real.

Lovingly, I lift the vase,
And hurl it at the mirror.
Anger, love, hate, peace
All exist, all are real.

Broken mirror, shattered ceramic,
chipped paint, threads, warmth.
melt down, leave nothing, but a void.
Was it real? Was she real? Was I real?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sunset at San Francisco

I love sunsets and find them beautiful.

Here is a picture from San Francisco shot with my Nikon D90.The hill in the background is home to Alcatraz.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Curious Curie

Once upon a time, in a city full of traffic, houses, and people in Northern India, there lived a curious cat. For the sake of this story, lets call her Curie. Though she had a perfectly acceptable name in Cat language.

She was a very likeable, furry, black and white, one year old kitty, just on the brink of her youth. She had just one annoying habit, Curiosity. Curiosity, in itself, is not bad. But in Curie's case, curiosity often got better of her and she nosed around in people's houses, kitchens and even refrigerators, if she could get her paws into one. If a door was open just a crack, she would open it and enter, prowling around in people's living rooms, hiding beneath the couches, beds and trying to figure out what all was happening in their homes. If she was fortunate enough to get into a kitchen, she licked the utensils and tasted all uncovered dishes. Milk was her all time favorite.

People in the neighbourhood were kind and put up with Curie most of the times. Only twice in her life had she been thown out of households. Once when she had upset a pot full of hot curry that Mr. Kumar had painstakingly cooked as a surprise for his wife. And another time when she had walked on baby Neha's mat with muddy paws.

One evening, Mr. Thomas was cleaning his car. He had to go out of station with his family and just wanted to make sure that he would not have a smelly car when he got back. This was a whole new opportunity for Curie. She had never seen a car from inside. She sneaked around the car and jumped inside when Mr. Thomas was not looking.

"Amazing!", she thought to herself in cat language when she saw the numerous levers and buttons on the dashboard. Sitting on the drivers seat, she tried to reach out to the big red button but her legs were too short. She shifted slightly towards the edge of the seat and tried again. She couldn't. She shifted a little more and leaned out towards the button. And down she fell to her utmost dismay. But as you know, a cat always lands on her feet, Curie was back up in no time and jumped on the seat once again.

She gave up on the red button and decided to explore other things. The big round wheel in front of the driver's seat was most interesting and, what more, Curie could also touch it. She ran her paws along the leathery surface and mused upon the smoothness of the cover. "Wow, just look at it shine." She said to herself (in cat language, ofcourse). The feel of the leather made her aware of the hunger pangs that she had been ignoring for quite some time now. She decided to conclude her explorations and go out in search of food.

Horror struck her when she looked around. She could not see any way through which she could go out. Mr. Thomas was no where to be seen. In her preocupation, she hadn't noticed when he had locked the car and had gone back into the house. Alarmed, she looked around for any small crack that she could pry open. There was one small hole in the floor of the car. She put her paw through it and tried to feel around if there was any way to open it further. But, unfortunately, there was none. She jumped up on the driver's seat again and looked out of the window. When the night came, she saw Mr. Thomas put his luggage in the boot of a taxi. She called out to him with all her might, but he did not hear. Curie saw him and his family board the taxi and drive away. And now she truly panicked.

With no way to get out of the car, Curie tried to put her paw through the hole again, but was unsuccessful. She tried jumping out of the windows again and again, but struck the glass and fell down each time. Exhausted, she fell off to sleep.

Thankfully, the night was cool. Curie woke up early wondering whether what happened earlier was just a nightmare. But, unfortunately, she found herself locked up inside the car. So she renewed her attempts to get out of the car. The day got brighter and hotter and the car started heating up. Curie now started fearing for her life and simply sat on the drivers seat saying "Help!", "Help!". Ofcourse, no one heard, because she was speaking in Cat language. Her voice grew feebler as the day wore on.

Mr. Thomas's neighbour, Dr. Sharma, thought she must be seeing things. She was walking down the stairs when she happened to look into Mr. Thomas's car.

"What is that?" she exclaimed. "There cannot be a cat sitting on the drivers seat in Mr. Thomas's car! How did the poor thing get in?"

Dr. Sharma knocked on Mr. Thomas's door. There was no response. She knocked harder and even called out "Mr. Thomas." "Mr. Thomas". But Mr. Thomas was in train travelling towards Chennai at that moment. Dr. Sharma knocked on Mrs. Banerjee's door. Thankfully she answered.

"Hello Mrs. Banerjee. Do you know where is Mr. Thomas? He isn't home."

"Oh! don't you know? Mr. Thomas's sister has had a baby and he is off to Chennai to see her", Mrs. Banerjee replied.

"Oh no! There is a cat trapped inside Mr. Thomas's car. She will die if we don't get her out now. It is getting hotter." Dr. Sharma said, alarmed.

"What?!! How can that be possible? Let me see."

Mrs. Banerjee went out and peered inside the car. And sure enough!. There was a cat sitting on the driver's seat.

"Don't worry Dr. Sharma. I have Mr. Thomas's house keys. Let me call him up and ask where he has kept the car keys. Lets hope he has left the keys home." said Mrs. Banerjee.

So Mrs. Banerjee called up Mr. Thomas and, thankfully, he had not taken the car keys along. Mrs. Banerjee and Dr. Sharma unlocked Mr. Thomas's house and got out the car keys. As soon as they opened the car door, Curie jumped out and ran away with her tail between her legs. Who says only Dogs do that!!

Curie learnt her lesson that day.

"I will never sneak into people's homes, kitchens, refrigerators, and cars ever. I will only go if invited. Thank God I was saved today. What a way to learn a lesson!!" she said to herself (In Cat language ;-) )

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Long Haul Flights

3 Reasons why I hate them
  1. You can't do anything but watch movies, read books, listen to music throughout the day
  2. There is no fixed schedule for sleep.
  3. Your mobile does not work.
3 Reasons why I love them
  1. You can't do anything but watch movies, read books, listen to music throughout the day
  2. There is no fixed schedule for sleep.
  3. Your mobile does not work.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Displaying your Picture along with your Comments at

If you are an author or a reader at and are wondering why your picture does not appear along with your comments, you have reached the right place.
While going through posts and reading comments at, you will notice that for some comments, the picture of the author appears with there comments. For example:

While for others, a generic graphic appears, like this:

If you want to make your picture appear with your comments, follow these steps:

  1. Go to . In the email field, specify the email address that you have registered at and click Signup. This email address will most probably be the one on which you receive the regular updates from
  2. You will receive a Welcome Email from Gravatar at the email address that you have specified above. The email will contain a link to activate your account at gravatar. Click the link.
  3. The link will take you to the gravatar page where you can create your account.
  4. After creating your account, the Gravatar home page will be displayed, where you need to click the "Add one by clicking here!"
  5. A list of options to select your gravatar image from will be displayed. Select "My computer's hard drive".
  6. Upload the picture that you want to use as the profile picture for and other blogs on Wordpress.
  7. You will be prompted to crop the image as per your requirement. Crop the image and click Crop and Finish
  8. You will be prompted to select the appropriate rating for your gravatar. Select the applicable rating based on the definitions given on the page.
  9. Next, the home page appears again. Just click on the image that you want to confirm as the primary gravatar profile pic (1) and click on the confirm button in the pop-up (2) as illustrated in the image below. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I haven't done anything selfless. Ever! Have you?

"I have done so much for her and see what I get in return."
Sometime or the other, all of us are prone to feeling this way. It becomes worse when this feeling creeps in between two people everytime they have the slightest of the arguments. The next stage is more often than not 'regret'.

Feeling cheated in this way does not make you a bad person. It only makes you human. But if you hold these thoughts somewhere within you, they are sure to surface some time in form of words or actions. And this can deeply hurt your friend/spouse/parents/children/siblings...

I started thinking about this when someone told me that it is difficult to avoid this frame of mind. I agree to a certain extent. In extreme cases, it is often important for you to know for yourself that you have done the best for something. For example, in case of a cheating spouse, if you know that you haven't left any stones unturned to make the marriage work, you are more confident of your choices and you get the courage to face the world, including the errant spouse.

The next question that automatically comes to mind is what is the difference between "I have done everything I could to keep this going so what has gone wrong." and "I have done so much for him so why is he doing this to me." If you haven't realized already, let me explain. The difference lies in the fact that in the first case, you are not doing anything for somebody else. If you have tried to make the marriage work, it is not for someone else. At the end, it is always for yourself. You can argue that you did it for your children so that they don't have to suffer a broken home, or for your parents so that they don't have to face the society. But at the end it is only because of the fact that you will not be able to face yourself if you harm your children or parents in some way through your actionsor the lack of it.

If you wish to refute, give me an example of a single action performed by anyone you know that wasn't for self gratification. Biggest charities are done so that the one feels satisfied that one is giving back to the society in some way. Or simply for the fact that it makes one feel like a better human being. One even takes care of one's parents to prevent a feeling of guilt.

So, coming back to the first point, the best way to stop feeling that you have done a lot for someone is to realize that every single action that you perform is for your better self image and, therefore, for yourself. Once you imbibe this truth, you will slowly stop feeling like a martyr in all tussles with your loved ones and you won't accidently hurt those whom you hold dear.

The best way to be selfless is to realize that all of us are selfish to the core and that being selfish is not so bad. Selfishness helps your conscience keep you on track.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

One Question

For those who read Harry Potter:

The ownership of the Elder Wand could only be attained by defeating the previous owner. Gellert Grindelwald stole the wand from Gregorovitch. So even if Grindelwald now had the wand, Gregorovitch was still the owner as he had not been defeated by Grindelwald. Albus Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald and took the wand. But Gregorovitch was still the owner as he had not been defeated. Voldemort killed Gregorovitch. So shouldn't the ownership of the wand have transferred to Voldemort and not Dumbledore?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Just Like That

There could be three reasons why what you said didn't make sense:

-you had nothing to say
-you had too much to say
-you chose the wrong audience

Friday, March 26, 2010

My First Rendezvous with Snow

A month ago, I used to lament the fact that I have never seen snow in my life. Then, just like that, my wish was granted. I visited Dalhousie in March when there is almost no possibility of snow. But what are a few rules to bend if a wish needs to be granted. Thank you God.

Dalhousie, Himachal, Snow

Friday, February 26, 2010

City of Lakes - Udaipur

Udaipur is also known as the city of lakes. The biggest lake is the Pichola Lake which is located at the center of the old Udaipur. This picture, however, is of Fateh Sagar Lake which is set amidst the hills.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sunset Point @ Monsoon Palace

The Monsoon Palace is placed right on the top of the Highest hills around Fateh Sagar Lake at Udaipur. It is also famous for the beautiful view of the sunset.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ajmer to Chittaurgarh

We bid farewell to Jackie and left Ajmer at 8:30 am today. The highway is excellent. 50 kms more to go.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Companion of Our Evening Reflections @ Pushkar

This great dane, Jackie, owned by the owner of The Pushkar Heritage, choses to spend its evenings brooding by our side. The droopy, sad eyes are a deception. Jackie is still a puppy at heart!!

Dhai Din ka Jhonpra @ Ajmer

This monument is a couple of hundred metres away from Ajmer Sharif. Local autowallahs, if you have hired one, may try their best to deter you from going there. They go to the extent of telling you that it is just one building. But that is only to convince you to hire the auto for the complete to and fro trip. The jhonpra is worth seeing. So don't be deterred. Go for it.

The Pushkar Heritage Resort

Lawns of the Resort and the Hills in the Background
Our Rooms

Monday, February 22, 2010

One with Nature

It has been raining on and off since the evening. The owner of the Pushkar Heritage Resort has attributed the rains and a brief spell of hail to the presence of Delhi-Wallahs in Pushkar.

It is a lovely weather. Cool and calm. I am sitting on the porch outside while my family is watching TV inside.

The resort owner has a huge doggy who has chosen to come and sit beside me. The restort itself is located on the foot of a hill

This is sheer bliss!

Royal Rajasthan on Wheels

royal rajasthan on wheelsRoyal Rajasthan on Wheels Parked at Jaipur Junction.
Tariff: about $590 per night per person
Total Trip Duration: 7 nights/8 Days

Thursday, January 28, 2010

One Dark Stormy Night...

It was a dark, stormy night. One little Maruti 800 was battling the fierce winds and the lashing rains and was going down slowly on the deserted road. The trees swayed to and fro and threatened to fall down any time. The driver Vishwanathan (a.k.a Vish), a young Floor Manager at a call center, was suitably frightened. "I wish I had stayed in the office", he said to himself. But now it was too late to go back.

So he drove on.

All this while, the fierce wind kept blowing as if it would never stop and would tear the entire surface of the earth. Suddenly, though it did not seem possible, the downpour became heavier. The windshield wipers were rendered useless and absolutely nothing was visible. Vish had no choice but to park the card at the side of the road and wait for the storm to pass. He sat inside and prayed hard. The storm had turned Vish from an agnostic to a believer.

The wind howled like a trapped wild animal and the lightning threatened to reveal something dreadful. Vish put his head on his windshield and tried to block scary thoughts from capturing his imagination. He stayed like this for a few minutes when all of a sudden there was a knock on the driver's window. Vish was startled out of his escapist reverie and he turned to face whoever it was who was knocking on the window at this ungodly hour.

The face on the window was looking at him eagerly and gestered him to roll down the window. Guided by an unheard voice in his soul, Vish obediently did so. The stange man on the window asked in a comforting voice, "Sahabji, what are you doing here? This is not a very safe place to park yourself, especially in this weather. Last week, a man was looted of his car and other valuable possessions. Worse still, they left him to wander in the jungle that looms on both the sides of the road. By the time he was found, he had gone half mad."

Scared, Vish asked, "Where did you come from?".

"I was driving by when I saw your car parked here.", the man replied pointing towards the road right ahead of Vish's car.

That is when Vish noticed the huge cargo truck parked right ahead. "How did this huge truck get here without being heard?" Vish thought. "May be the storm drowned the noise."

"I am unable to drive. It's raining too heavily.", he replied.

"Where are you going? May be my truck can help tow your car." inquired the truck driver.

Even though Vish was still skeptical, he decided to take a chance. The truck driver looked pleasant enough. "I stay at Nehru Colony around 15 kms straight down this road."

"That's perfect. Let me tie your car to my truck and we will soon be on our way." The truck driver replied and went to fetch the rope from his truck.

This seemed too good to be true. Soon Vish's car was tied to the truck with a sturdy rope and they were on their way. In the meanwhile, the storm still refused to abate. The wind howled, the trees swayed, and the rain still lashed across the windshield.

And they drove on.

It is said that staying idle is the best way to go crazy. And that is what happened with Vish. As soon as his car started moving, with his mind off the worry of reaching home, the very obvious question occured to him, "Why is the truck driver still driving at this hour?". Nervously, Vish squinted out of the window to confirm that they were headed in the right direction. That is when he saw it.

They had just crossed huge Mall that indiacted the entry to his colony. Vish Panicked. He blew the horn madly to stop the truck driver. However, the truck didn't stop. It went on. Vish blew the horn again. But to no avail. Just when he thought of opening the doors and jumping out of the car, the truck stopped at a crossroad. The truck driver got out and walked towards the car. Vish froze in his seat. The truck driver knocked at his window. Vish rolled down the window and shouted, "Are you deaf? I have been blowing the horn for the past 10 minutes and you just wouldn't listen. Where were you trying to take me. We left my colony behind."

The truck driver looked hurt and said, "Sahabji, I am deaf. I could only understand what you said till now by reading your lips. I did not hear the horn. Even now I stopped only because I thought I will tell you that I will be taking a left turn from here. You should have used the dipper."

Moral of the story: "USE DIPPER AT NIGHT".

[The story was created in our car pool between Garima, Vaishali, and Me with all of us adding one line in turn :)]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ramblings at midnight

A wild creature shrieks close by, and it startles me out of my sleep. When did I doze off? I shouldn't have. With danger at every step, falling asleep is unforgivable. But I am tired and my feet hurt. I know I need to keep walking. What do I seek? What am I so restless about? The warmth of the cradle that I so often dream of fills my heart and I suddenly have no more doubts. I must keep walking till I arrive. Till that mysterious voice whispers calmly in my ears, "My child, you don't need to run anymore. You don't need to seek. You will be well taken care of. Just close your eyes and relax. Sleep, if you must. When you wake up, you will still be safe." But that voice, that cradle is not yet near. Why do I feel that it is going farther away? It's getting cold around here.

I must keep walking.

Huge black trees surround me. The forest is so dense that I cannot see the sky. I fight my way through the tall grass. I cannot see what lies ahead or, for that matter, what was left behind. But those eyes seem to guide me. They are gigantic and full of love. They look down upon me from the tall trees. Sometimes i see them amongst the grass ahead, sometimes i step on them. But they never seem to blink, nor do they let me out of their sight. Now I see them on the bark of the broadest tree. I stand on tip-toes and try to touch the dark lashes. They wink at me and flicker out. Scared that I have lost them, I frantically look around and there they are, quite far, on another tree. I run to reach them, but these phantom eyes play hide and seek. I run around, stumble, and fall. I can not hold it back anymore. These words come rushing out, drop out of my eyes, and wet the earth below. "Why do you keep making me walk to you? Why do you keep going away? Why do you test me every time?"

I wipe my eyes and stand up again. I look around. The phantom eyes, the warm cradle and the calm voice, all seem distant. I run after them, but they get away faster. The kind eyes furrow, the voice is no longer calm, and the cradle turns colder. Slowly they fade out and the jungle is devoid of its serenity. For a while I keep running with a sacred hope that i will see them again. But gradually I slow down until I stop altogether. For a while, I look out to see if they are coming back. Eventually, I turn around and walk away.