Saturday, May 28, 2011

My God!

I was raised by a very flexible Hindu family. We didn't go to temples as often. We didn't fast every now and then. We never organized bhajans and kirtans at our place as is customary in many Punjabi families. I took off from there. My visits to temples are now restricted to the times when I really feel like going. I haven't fasted for the past 4 years.

So do I believe in any of the many Hindu Gods? To say that I believe that there is a Ganesh with the head of an elephant and the body of a human being who looks after all our new businesses will be a lie. I don't believe that when angered, Shiv performs a tandav to inflict a pralay on earth. And I don't believe that Vishnu sits on that huge lotus while his wife, Lakshmi massages his feet. But they are interesting characters, never-the-less.

Having said that, I do feel like a Hindu because Hinduism gives me freedom to believe in any power I can bring myself to accept. That makes it easier for me because while I can't acknowledge a human God, I can respect a supreme power. And one reason why I want to believe in a supreme power is because I like to think that there is some order in the universe and there is a reason behind everything. I want to trust that there is some meaning to this life and we are here for a purpose.

There is another reason why I want to believe in God. Because that gives me a right to believe in the spiritual cycle of life. It is very important for me to think that spirits exist  and afterlife and rebirth do happen. It is comforting to know that the loved ones we have lost in this life are out there somewhere, living another life, perhaps happier now than they were earlier. It is a beautiful feeling and something that makes going on with one's life much easier. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Magnifying Glass

Put down that magnifying glass because it will reveal a lot of flaws in her. That one white hair, the scars on her body, the limp in her walk, the stutter when she talks, the smudged make-up, the crow's feet around her eyes, the laugh lines around her mouth,  and the patch on her dress.  

But if you look at her without the magnifying glass, you will see that she may not be perfect but is no worse than everyone else around you. You may notice that her eye light up when she sees you and you may find out how proud she is of you. You will understand why she is the way she is. And once you have done that then you may realize how much she loves you and how much joy she brings to your life.

So put down your magnifying glass and look at her without it.

Because she kept her magnifying glass down a long time back...

Friday, May 20, 2011


I doodle during classes. So if you happen to be my professor and have noticed me scribbling incessantly on my notebook while you talk, I am not taking notes. I am doodling. But please don't be offended as doodling helps me concentrate on what you are saying.

Anyways, here are some of my doodles. Dancing ants!

More to come - Scottish ants and a horse with a bow.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

From the Editor – See What a Comma Does to a Species!

When you are an Editor of a website that has passionate authors contributing to it, your life is quite easy. But not everyone is as lucky as me and that is why there is a need to stress upon the need to run a spell-check and an grammar check on whatever you post online so that you don't end up becoming a Chatur or turning a harmless panda into a killer.

To find out why the old-school concepts of spelling checks and grammar checks still hold good today, read the Ghumakkar Editorial for May 2011.

From the Editor – See What a Comma Does to a Species!

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Never before have I seen such an assortment of talent in such an informal setting. Yes the Ink Festival in May 2011 was my first experience of this kind. I have performed poetry before but Ink Festival was unlike anything I had ever expected. It took place across four nights. Following was the schedule:

May 5th - Comedy Night
May 6th - Scratch Night
May 7th - Scratch Night
May 8th - Music Night

Of these, I had the priviledge of attending the first 3 nights. Couldn't go for the fourth because I was too exhausted. I cannot even imagine the amount of stress the organisers would have gone through to organise this festival. I met two of them, Becci and Rachel, and I am sure there are many others behind the scene who made this excellent show possible.

I was all excited to attend the comedy night for two main reasons:

1) This was the first one that I would be attending
2) I was getting a 50% discount owing to the fact that I was to perform on the scratch nights

So even though the venue was far-off at The Corner House in Heaton, I hired a taxi right after my evening class and headed there. In my enthusiasm to get the most from the night, I chose the front-most seat, a decision I was to considerably regret and enjoy later because I was picked on by every single performer that night. I was propositioned, pretend-licked, scared out of my wits by the ugliest doll I have ever seen, all in one single night. All performers were amazing though there was a prevalance of toilet humour in some performances which I didn't really enjoy as much. The host was the brilliant Graham Oakes who was the star of the night along with the guy who was asked to extend his act at the last moment from 5 minutes to half-an-hour and did it brilliantly.

The Scratch Nights were held in a Cafe, known as The Blake's Cafe right in the middle of the town which wasn't such a good idea considering that it was a weekend and there was a game on at St. James Park and Newcastle United was playing in it! The compere for the first scratch night was Liam Frost and all performers were brilliant. My personal favorites were Shakirah Bourne's Rock-a-bye (the actor who performed this was brilliant) and Jonny Bussell's Nod of War (Absolutely Hilarious). I also liked the actor who played the Redundant God and the Intrusive fellow traveller in another play. The first night was unexpectedly quiet outside the Cafe. The only noise being that of the performers, compere, and generous applauses. I performed my poem "Drifting with the Tyne" and I think I did alright. Moreover, I had my friends in the audience and that mattered a lot. Here is a video that one of them recorded of me performing.

The second scratch night was so much more inappropriate and hence a lot more fun. All performances from the first scratch night were to be repeated and the event was to be hosted by Graham Oakes, the guy who hosted the comedy night. The town was unexpectedly loud that day because Newcastle United had won a game. We had a lot of window thumping, shouts of "You suck!", and naked-ass-rubbing on the glass doors of the Cafe that night, all from drunk people outside. Some of the actors even reacted to these insults by incorporating the responses into their acts much to the delight of the audience. It was much more fun because the actors could barely stop laughing during their own acts. We could see them trying to suppress the grins and even full-fledged laughters while they were performing. But it was awesome and added to the fun. My own performance was better than the first scratch night. Unfortunately, I did not have any friends in the audience that night to record my performance. But I was delighted that I got an opportunity to perform in front of such a supportive audience.

Overall, the festival has encouraged me to send my creative writing to other festivals and publications. If my poem could get selected amongst such brilliant writing, I feel that my skills as a poet have been validated. On to other goals now.

Thanks Ink Festival Organisers. I wish I am here to perform again the next time you organize the festival.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Meet the Author - Aditya Khandelwal

On my visit to India during the Easter break, we thought that it would be good to meet some of the authors at Ghumakkar. One of the authors I met was Aditya Khandelwal. Aditya published his first post on December 25, 2010 and since then has gone on to publish a total of 14 posts, each unique and inspiring.

Nandan arranged a meeting at 1:00 PM at Costa Coffee and Aditya generously agreed to take time out of his lunch hour for the meeting. Though I have interacted with many authors at Ghumakkar, this was the first time I was going to meet one in person and I was really looking forward to it. However, my outdated estimates did not work too well especially because I missed a key turn and, therefore, When I arrived, Aditya was already waiting. I had no trouble recognizing him from his profile picture. After apologising for my lack of punctuality we started our discussion over coffee.

The purpose of the meeting was not only to talk to Aditya but also to get first hand feedback about the Ghumakkar experience and Aditya had quite a few valuable inputs to give on this front. I asked him questions about his backgroud, his experience at ghumakkar, his travel interests and his inputs about various activities we do regularly at Ghumakkar and he answered all of them very patiently. During the course of our discussion I learnt that he hails from Patiala, Punjab and completed his Engineering in 2009. Since then he has been working in Noida and has started travelling extensively. And just like his straight-forward, right-from-the-heart posts, Aditya is soft-spoken and unpretentious.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Me: How did you chance upon Ghumakkar?

Aditya: While planning one of my trips I was searching google and chanced upon Ghumakkar. The information was very helpful and I thought that I could also document my travel experiences at Ghumakkar and help some traveller in need like I was. And that is how I started writing at Ghumakkar.
 Me: Apart from Ghumakkar, are there any other sites that you refer?

Aditya: I haven't found any other site like Ghumakkar. It is really unique because all of the experiences documented here are personal travel experiences. Otherwise, I do read the stories at Outlook Traveller too at times.

Me: You must be receiving the monthly newsletters. Do you find them useful? And what else would you like to see there?

Aditya: Yes, I do receive the newsletters periodically and I find them useful. Apart from what you already cover in the newsletters, it will be great if you can provide information about some offbeat places or some interesting facts about tourist destinations.

From discussing travel we went on to discussing the traffic and electricity problems in Noida and soon realized that our scheduled half-an-hour was long over and the meeting had almost consumed his entire lunch hour.

So after an information-packed, fruitful discussion, I bade farewell to Aditya and walked back to my car thinking about this interview. It is interesting how much we can learn in less than an hour. The discussion with Aditya not only gave me a glimpse into his personality but also a tiny peep into the Ghumakkar community. However different we may be as persons, there is one thing that holds us together and that is obviously our passions to travel. And that was perhaps what prompted Aditya to miss his lunch hour and me to drive across Delhi to get to Noida for the meeting. Deep inside, after all, we are both Ghumakkars.