Saturday, 10 November 2012

Diwali is here!! Along with the inseparable childhood memoirs ..

As the festival of lights prepares to set in, I cannot but reminisce the lovely time I have had during this occasion as a child. Diwali to me brings an image of my eldest uncle’s home teeming with people. I can almost smell the aromatic ghee that used to tingle my nostrils as my aunts and mom laboriously prepared sweets and savouries. I can hear the chaos and cacophony that my cousins and I created as we ran about the house, sometimes playing, sometimes fighting and sometimes crying if the elder brothers bullied us. We’d get up as early as 4.30 AM on d day, bathe and excitedly receive our new dresses from thatha(my grandfather) who would give it to us after applying a small pinch of turmeric on it.  Once ready, we would go out of the house onto the road to burn away the sparklers and watch them in awe and glee and then hide inside the house with hands tightly clapped to our ears as the relatively elder ones amongst us started bursting the noisy crackers. Rest of the day would go by in visiting neighbours to distribute sweets and receiving them at home in turn.  
Today, the magic that Diwali held for us while we were kids has faded away.  Crackers don’t interest us anymore. A new dress does not mean excitement, what with all of us earning and buying at whim. But I am very glad that we enjoyed those thrills together while it still held its charm and now have those memorable Diwalis to reminisce and laugh about, each time we get together. The things that we enjoy may change with age, but the memories that get created as we outgrow each stage are gifts to cherish forever. They have the power to retain the bonds between people and the ability to bring about that irrepressible smile as we watch similar scenes later on J  

So this time, Diwali for me is an occasion to thank God for blessing me with such wonderful people to spend my life with and for the lovely memories that growing up with them has created. As I pray to God for their welfare and for our sense of oneness to continue, I also ask him to grant me and my cousins the resolve to give the same kind of environment that our parents gave us, to the generation that comes after us. I can already see the kids of my cousins and my sister bonding very well with each other and am very thankful for it.  I strongly wish that it continues and they get to grow in the same ocean of love and oneness that we all grew up in. They must also get a treasure trove of memories to cherish just like we have. That will be the best gift that we can give them during each Diwali.

Let us all thank God for the light in our lives and may we always spread joy by illuminating the lives of people around us. Wish you all a very very happy Diwali !!!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The only thing that is permanent

Change – What does this word bring to your mind? Does it feel like a breath of fresh air? Or does it indicate discomfort and fear of the unknown? And how do you react to it? Simply close your eyes and mind in fear or slowly hold hands with it in trepidation or embrace it welcomingly?  Irrespective of perceptions and reactions, change is something interesting and adventurous that is in the offing.

It intrigues us to slowly push that mysterious door and take a first peek through the small crack and then gradually push it open as it unveils a whole new arena. We cautiously take that first step in. And more often than not, the steps thereafter are not in our control. We just get sucked in and start whirling in the whirlpool. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!! Its funJ.

Sometimes the stomach churns and lurches at unexpected turns. We bump ourselves here and there, get shocks and surprises (both pleasant and unpleasant) and even go about in circles. Sometimes it’s a whopping high jump or a free fall that makes you feel like your belly is giving way and then you land in a place that has more beautiful sights to see than you ever imagined. Other times, you land up in a not so nice place but take yourself through it nevertheless. And at the end of these not so nice explorations too, we always stand to gain more than we ever thought we would. While the comfortable journeys through tree lined roads on well laid paths are memorable and happy, the rough patches are the ones that bring out our true potential. We seem to gain, no matter which path the change puts us into.

And what is life without a bit of everything after all? I doubt if we would enjoy any journey if it was thoroughly pleasant and completely predictable. I don’t want to come to work knowing the exact plans for the day all the time. I do want those days when my boss throws a googly at me and says ‘deliver by noon’. What fun it is to see the speed at which the brain works and the way the body completely co-operates heedless to hunger and thirst to reach the finish line! That late lunch laced with the flavour of a task accomplished, pushed into the tired body after running a mad race tastes sweeter than anything else. We do need these roller coaster rides to spice up life after all.

My own reactions to change have gone through a lot of transformation over the years and the journey is still on. Years back, change in any form used to make me shudder and feel extremely uncomfortable. I would want to visit the same restaurants, order the same dishes and wear the same kind of clothes .I have never lived outside my hometown or away from my parents. I used to be teased as a ‘frog in a pot’ and that I really was (Yeah I ‘was’. I’ve now graduated into a frog in a well and am soon planning to shift into a pond. That’s a broader area you know?J) Thankfully my workplace came to my rescue and transformed me completely. A series of upside down changes at one shot gave me lessons worth for all the years I had lived till then. It showed me that my potential was far higher than what I thought. I came out stronger, robust and most importantly, wiser. I realised how important changes are in our evolution as human beings. Uncomfortable and difficult they might be, but sans changes, we would get completely stunted as a person and also miss out on a lot of wonderful experiences which it always brings along.

Today, the thought of change is not unwelcome or uncomfortable to me anymore. I have my head tilted upwards as the rays of the early morning sun slowly caress my face. I feel a strange sense of excitement mixed with fear surge through my being as I get a sneak peek at what is in store. It will feel pleasant to bask in the warmth of those rays. I also know that the intensity may increase as the day moves forward. There will be moments when I feel the sweltering heat and maybe even find the powerful rays blinding my eyes, but only to leave it clearer and sharper than before. And the sun would keep hiding behind the clouds to give me my share of pleasant weather too.
So bring it on, oh beautiful light from the timeless source!! I stand ready and waiting to play the game with you. For, I already know that we both win. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A trip to the Temple town of Tamil Nadu

The weekend before last, we made sudden travel plans and Saturday evening saw us drive down to Kanchipuram, famous for the numerous temples that it houses and a dear neighbour of my hometown Chennai. The 2 hour drive on good well lit roads was made all the more enjoyable by the blessings that the Rain God showered. We reached by around 8:00 PM, found a nice place to stay and post check in and dinner, we comfortably sunk into the soft beds and slipped into the slumber world.

Early morning on Sunday, we started out in the beautiful weather to the temple destinations. We first visted a little known temple whose main deity is Lord Chitragupta. Being the god who keeps tab of our good and bad karma, it is said that it does good to pay our respects to him. So, that we did. The next destination was the Varadharaja Perumal kovil. Situated a little away from the main town, this sprawling temple is a sight to see. As we walked down the road that leads to the temple, I felt like I had travelled back on time. Lined with some typical agraharam style houses, road side stalls selling lovely flowers and colourful glass bangles, men and women wearing the traditional soman and madisar repectively and a horse drawn tonga to complete the picture, the street perfectly resembled a scene from the past.
A traditional house that adorned the road leading to the temple

The air was resonating with a blissful silence as we stepped into the sprawling temple. The only welcome disturbance was the sounds of the rustling leaves, blowing breeze and chirping birds. The temple had a lot of parrots flying around. The bright green birds were a nice change from the crows that usually crowd most places. Each and every sanctum in this temple was breathtaking. The temple architecture was beautiful and ancient. And that set me thinking. India has indeed been a storehouse of every art form and sphere of knowledge. The breathtakingly beautiful and sturdy temples that stand testimony to architectural genius, the amount of knowledge in fine arts like music and dance that have been passed on to us, the ancient works in the fields of medicine, science and mathematics that outdo all the ‘discoveries’ and inventions being made now are simply mind blowing. Yet, we sadly have not made use of it and don’t realise its value either. Anyway, I digress. After paying our respects and offering prayers to all the deities, we sat in one of the mandapams(hallway) and basked in the silence and peace as my enthralled nephew stood observing a squirrel and some parrots that were frisking about on the age worn yet sturdy walls. Coming out of the main temple, we sat down in the stone floors within the compound to feast on the yummy puliyodharai and thayir sadam that we got from the friendly mamas in the extremely traditional looking prasdam stall.

The imposing temple entrance gopuram

The scene once you enter

We all wondered at these linked rings .. This entire block
must have been carved out of a single stone!! 

The intricate work on stone was truly amazing

The Prasadam stall manned by a very friendly lot

We then proceeded to the famous Kamakshi temple. Since it was extremely crowded, only my determined mom went for dharshan while the rest of us cooled off in a raised stone platform by the temple pond and enjoyed the nice weather. Then, post lunch and some much needed rest, we proceeded to the Kanchi mutt. I had a wonderful experience here. As soon as you enter the main hall of the mutt, you are welcomed by an age old sanctum whose presiding deity has been worshipped for many years by the great saints of the lineage. Once you enter this place, you can really feel those positive vibrations. It was so strong that I found it impossible to make a worldly prayer there!! As soon as I began my prayers, the pettiness hit me and without my knowing, I found myself praying for peace and the knowledge that nothing else matters. Though the feeling was momentary, I was simply awestruck by the power of the vibes in that place that could evoke such thoughts in me.

It was then time to say goodbye to this quiet and holy town. There are a lot of other places to visit in Kanchipuram but we could cover only these in the limited time that we had. We set out on the return journey and were back home by around 7 in the night to prepare for the forthcoming week’s mad rush.

The trip was a very nice and short break from our routine lives. All of us need these breaks from the run of the mill, don’t we? And it feels really good to escape into places like these whose very atmosphere evokes peace and contentment and gives us that much needed time with ourselves. Many times, these short and unplanned escapades turn out to be a lot more enjoyable than the planned holidays. I always enjoy leisurely and self paced trips. Change of atmosphere is all that matters for me. If we get sucked into travel itinerary and time constraints, I feel we lose out on the all the pleasure and peace that a quiet holiday with family can give. Even if the place I visit has a hundred famous sites, I would be content visiting a few of them to get a feel of the place and otherwise bask in the leisure which is the most enjoyable feature of a holiday.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Striking the perfect chord

I have always been overwhelmed and touched by music (Most people are, for that matterJ). It leaves a very deep impression on me and touches my heart in a way that nothing else can. When I listen to an exceptional musical performance, I feel a wave of inexplicable bliss surge through my being and it stays with me for long after.

I still remember a superb rendition of A.R Rahman’s version of Vande Matharam at a cultural fest while I was in school. That team had won the first prize while ours won the second.   We had a reputation and track record of bagging the first prize wherever we went but yet, this time we slipped to second, the reason being the sheer power in the other team’s performance. I remember being moved to tears and my hair standing on end as I listened to their perfect and powerful presentation. I have a lot of memories related to these kind of awe inspiring performances – Krisnamurthy’s rendition of the ‘Sahara’ song from the Shivaji movie (This was in an episode of Airtel super singer junior. He won the title that year), the school  senior music team’s mind blowing and ever winning performances , every single concert of the Ranjani -Gayathri duo and  Sikkil Gurucharan (they are renowned carnatic musicians) ..

The euphoria is at its best when you watch it live. I have several recorded pieces of all my favourite stalwarts in carnatic music and I enjoy listening to them too. But the experience of sitting in an auditorium that has perfect acoustics and witnessing the spontaneity of both the performers and audience is unparalleled. 

And when it comes to classical music, creativity and spontaneity reign supreme. Many times, the main singer and the accompanying artists would be meeting each other for the first time! Yet, when they begin to perform, they so seamlessly blend into one single unit to give such a soulful and power packed extempore performance.(Of course, it takes years and years of rigorous training, listening and practice to be able to pull a stupendous stunt like that!). The way the violinist predicts an impending sangathi, the skillful hands of the mridangam artist giving those perfectly placed touches and each one in the troupe enjoying and appreciating the other person’s knowledge and skill is a sight to see and a very elevating experience.The best part of the year for me is the later half of December, when the music festival is on at Chennai. I tirelessly go on a concert spree to listen to all my favourite artists. Each concert is such a huge learning and it leaves me with so much of joy and satisfaction.

The experience of giving a performance is no lesser. My sis and I give carnatic music concerts and we really enjoy the hours of planning and practice, the countdown to d-day, the final touches and the performance itself. Not to mention changes in plans mid air!! Sis has this uncanny ability to judge the mood of the audience. So, abrupt changes in the song list are a regular feature. In our initial days, this used to infuriate me so much that I sometimes flatly refused, much to her dismay. Imagine people sitting eagerly waiting for the next song to begin and we playing a silent tug of war. My grandfather who was also our guru used to play the violin for us and how irritated he would get by those hushed up discussions!! Post the concert, we used to get hounded with ‘What on earth do you both discuss so much on stage!!’ Little would people know that a mini war between a desperate sis and a stubborn me was onJ. Later on, I realised that this is part of the game and an essential one at that and sis has less trouble nowadays. But then I cover up at times too. When those inevitable bloopers like forgetting lyrics for a newly learnt song or clashes (when I start the next line while she repeats the previous) happen, she just throws her hands up!! I am the one who always covers up and evens out the slip as un-noticeably as possible. All this thamasha apart, the pleasure that we derive out of singing, the wonderful feeling of watching the audience enjoy and ask for their favourite numbers and that look of pride that used to shine on thatha’s face is simply unsurpassable. Every concert continues to be a very fulfilling and a great learning experience.

While I was in school and college too, I used to thoroughly enjoy the team work that went into each of the performances and competitions. We used to feel above the world every time we won and made the school proud. We all mutually acknowledged each other’s talents and played to our strengths so well. The solo performances that I did and prizes that I won for them had their own thrill too, but the joy was always multi fold when we won as a team. And this is another special trait of this art. It unites people by its magical touch. It strikes a beautiful chord of oneness. 

Music is an expression of divinity itself. It could be in any form or genre. But if you are able to sync seamlessly into it while you listen, sing or play an instrument, then you have found a precious gift in life. To experience that oneness with the notes that resound out of the voice or instrument makes you reach the state of perfect unity with all of creation for those few moments. To be able to enjoy and appreciate this art is verily a blessing from above that has been bestowed on humanity. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Independence Day

It has been 65 years since we broke free from foreign rule. We certainly have managed to uphold the democratic system that was established then, impressively. Yes we have a hundred shortcomings. But still, I remain proud of this ancient and great nation of ours that has always been a storehouse of wisdom and knowledge, both worldly and spiritual.  And considering the fact that we have no dearth in terms of ability, it is my heartfelt wish that we put all that we have to proper use and shine forth as a beacon light among nations.

Looking at all the poisonous weeds that infest our country, I feel change is required at the level of the individual as much as it is required at the level of society, governing bodies and support systems.

First of all, as a country, we have unwanted norms for every possible sphere in life – ‘best’ fields of education, ‘respectable’ occupations, ‘right time’ for each stage in life. We are hopeless conformists. We have a big group of people who criticize the cream of our students going abroad to toil in foreign lands. But tell me, do we as a nation foster and encourage innovation like they do in other countries? Forget the nation, will the family of that brilliant student encourage him/her to do research in a field that he/she is passionate about in spite of the fact that returns may be delayed?
We are so scared of taking risks. We will walk only those paths that have been cleared up, swept and mopped clean with sign posts put up every meter. We want to be safe even if it means doing something we totally detest or find unbearably boring. God created every human being as a unique sculpture of his. Each one has certain inherent abilities. In the overall plan that he drew for the world, he ensured he sowed the seeds for a nice wholesome picture by creating people with different abilities so that every avenue of life on earth is taken care of. And here we are, working right against it, making clones of that ‘acceptable’ shape thus destroying the unique pieces. And this is precisely the reason why most of us work for foreign firms, for, we do not allow our own people to take a risk of starting one. We want to be safe all the time.

The other major problem that we have is the largely self centred lives that we live. That, according to me is a major reason for the disparity in living conditions of the people. We can see slums lurking around every posh area in the city. The posh area remains posh or gets posher. But the slum remains down in the dumps. The majority of our country lives in the villages. We, in the cities are busy populating the roads with the best international brands of cars and flooding our markets with the latest gadgets from around the world while the majority in the villages do not even have clean drinking water. Only the metro cities getting better and better can in no way compensate for the impoverished millions. India will still remain backward as long as the people in the villages suffer for basic necessities. Maybe we can think beyond enriching our lives and think about doing our bit to make life better for these people who are the very heart and soul of this country. We could educate their children, spread awareness about basic health and hygiene or help train them vocationally.  

Next comes the media. That great power house which has such a wide reach but is hell bent on spreading negativity as much as it can. The media has a huge responsibility for it bombards the people with ideas. They condition our thinking and suggest opinions for us to hold in life. That being the case, imagine the damage they are doing to this nation by thoughtlessly spreading negativity!! How much of interest they take in digging into a celebrity’s personal life!! If they could show just half of that in highlighting the good things that still do happen in our country, they will be taking a major step in bringing this country forward. How many of us know about the mammoth village projects done by the Sri Sathya Sai Seva organisation? Or about the two super speciality hospitals where world class medical care is given completely free of cost to everyone in need who enters its portals. (There are many other such instances in our country. I am talking about the one I know. You can read more about it here) It is very sad that the powerhouse which provides our people with information and plays such a huge role in shaping their thought process gives absolutely no thought to the damage they are doing. I am amazed by this open show of social irresponsibility.

There is a big endless list in wait if we want to pursue the problems that plague our country. But what I want to bring to light is that first step that we as individuals have to take. We need to come out of our conditioned thinking and re-evaluate it. We have to start living not just for ourselves, but for the people around us too. We must shun the negativity that is thrown at us in the form of news and seek and take to heart only the ones that are worthy of our attention.

To me, India will become truly independent, the day the question of ‘engineer or doctor’ ceases to be put to a child that has barely learnt to talk, the day we take conscious efforts to bring up the people around us as well, the day we start shunning negativity that abounds around us thereby forcing the ‘systems’ that spread it to change their ways. For my country to change, I have to change first. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Book Reviews

I had written about Two Books that I picked up to read along with promises of reviews ‘very soon’ :) Here they are, at last .. So read on and pick them to pursue if they interest you.

 Krishna Krishna -By Indira Parthasarathy

There is this inexplicable feeling of elevation along with a strange sense of peace that comes over you when you realise that all that happens in life is a very well planned work of art done by an unseen prodigious hand and you just need to flow along. Have you ever felt it? Reading this book gives you that feeling from the beginning to the end. For, that realisation is an invisible thread that runs through the book connecting the various events.

'Krishna Krishna', as the name suggests tells the story of Lord Krishna. The celestial sage Naradha assumes the role of the narrator. The author has not strictly followed chronology while narrating the pranks of the charming blue child, the awe inspiring miraculous deeds that the adolescent boy so casually performs and events that unfold the adult Krishna’s political genius. Of course, the divinity of Krishna is either latent or expressed throughout the story. 

The author has given a lot of contemporary connotations to the historic events and ideas. He puts forth the idea that the dictates of ‘Dharma’ are not written in stone but are relative based on time and circumstances. The fact that everything that surrounds us is a reflection of all that lies within us is also very beautifully brought out.

However, one must have read the complete story of the Mahabharatha to be able to understand and enjoy this book. Introductions to events and characters are not given in all instances. I would recommend this book to everyone who has a liking for this crown jewel among epics. And if you have not yet read the Mahabharatha, I exhort you to take it up. I assure you that it will outshine any saga that you have ever read or going to read. It will also enable you to read its bountiful related literature that would open up your mind to so many dimensions and ideas about human life. I would suggest the book written by C.Rajagopalachari for the first timers. This epic is timeless in the real sense of it. It is verily a gem of our country. Do not miss it!

How I braved Anu Aunty & co-founded a million dollar company – By Varun Agarwal

This is one of the best books I have ever read!!  ‘How I braved Anu Aunty & co-founded a million dollar company’ is the real life story of a young and successful entrepreneur, Varun Agarwal. The book traces the fast paced and interesting journey of Varun and his friend as they transform a business idea that was born during one of their get togethers at a pub into a million dollar company! It also chronicles how Varun fights against the tide of family expectations, societal pressure personified as the pesky Anu aunty (who takes it upon herself to ‘set him right’ and get him to take up a job) and all those inevitable problems that you face when you want to pursue your dreams and do the unconventional. The book will prove to be a very good guidance for people who want to start their own business venture. The author pauses his narration every now and then to give very useful pointers to people who are on their entrepreneurial journey or about to embark on one.

The story is pretty slow in the beginning and builds momentum as Varun’s dreams gradually start seeing the light of the day to become absolutely racy towards the later half making the book unputdownable. The narration keeps you so engrossed that you can actually feel all the ups and downs along with the author. Varun’s description of those ‘wah moments’ in the evolution of his business makes us feel the same exhilaration. The story is well rounded with all the typical ingredients of a youngster’s life – dreams, friendship, love, disagreements, parents and ... Anu aunties!!! Though Anu aunty is a character that features in the book, she is represented as a symbol of all the roadblocks in the form of societal pressure and discouragement that one faces while chasing his/her dreams. The book highlights how much of a conformist we are as a country and how shamelessly we are up against allowing people to follow their heart if it is not in sync with the set down norms.

The author has very good language. But the dialogues of the aunties that feature in the book are unbearably dashed with colloquial slang of ‘What ya’,’Come ya’ and ill placed usages of ‘only’ and ‘like’. The book also abounds with usage of swear words. But considering the good aspects that clearly out do these pain points(for me), I will still say it was one superb read!!  Well done Varun!!

Do grab a copy and enjoy the heartening journey of a youngster who fights every odd to realise his dream. Believe me, at the end, you will be left feeling the exhilaration of having achieved your own.

Friday, 3 August 2012

‘The Event’ versus ‘The Aftermath’

This is a question that needs to be pondered in every human mind. Which is more important? The event or its aftermath? Sometimes we are so obsessed with certain events that we do not sit back and think of the consequences. History abounds with wars. But at the end of each, when the devastating consequences come to light, every one including the initiator is left wondering why it was fought in the first place. As a race, we seem to be obsessed with ‘events’. We want certain things to simply happen. Higher Studies, getting a job, marriage, children, moving to a foreign land.. Do we really take the time to think if we are taking a wise decision in each case?

More often than not, these decisions are a result of either herd mentality or societal pressures. Everyone is doing an MBA, so I have to do it too. Everyone is into IT. So let me jump in too. Marriage is a razor that hangs above the head of every youngster along with a sand clock timer. Tell me, if I make a wrong choice and end up having a miserable or unhappy or discontent life, will the fact that the ‘event’ has happened still make everyone happy? If I land up in a job that kills me with pressure or where I have to do something I completely detest, the fact that I do hold a job is no consolation.

So why are we so obsessed with only the events with little or no thought to the aftermath. Why do we rave for them to happen? We take an entire day to walk into so many shops to buy a dress that we like. We do endless research when we want to buy an expensive gadget. We wait for months if a product we want is out of stock. When so much of patience and thought can go into these trivial things in life, then how much of forethought should go into our life deciding moves!!   

There are certain aspects of life which literally hold the key to our happiness. These are steps which once taken cannot be retracted. They can make or mar your life. These are often those decisions that have to be taken while we are at those proverbial crossroads.Which stream of education to choose, which career path to take, the job that pays more or the job that makes you happy, choice of life partner, entry into parenthood .. When we do encounter them, let us think and take decisions that will truly make us happy. We must not hurry into one of the roads because the audience to our lives are watching like a hawk or because someone standing behind is prodding us to move forward. The aftermath is much more important than the event. Your designation with XYZ company is in no way a return for an intolerable boss who makes life miserable. A marital status will in no way compensate for an incompatible partner.   

Your mind and heart will tell you when to move ahead and most importantly which road to take. Now that should be the only reason for you to take that step forward. That is the only trigger that justifies the event. And I can vouch that the aftermath in these cases will turn out to be in your favour. Only you know what can truly make you happy. Do not allow anyone to dictate that to you in life. No one can tell you what ‘should’ make you happy, for no one can feel from inside you!! That is something only you can do. Nothing in the world is worth making these decisions if they are not heartfelt - neither society nor people around nor socially acceptable norms.   

Friday, 27 July 2012

The dawn of ‘contemporary’ English

Good language in a book is a basic hygiene factor. At least for me, it sure is.When I say good language, I mean a polished one with impeccable grammar, without slang being thrown in. Yes, there can be a little bit of slang to add authenticity to cultures and people being talked about or for the sake of bringing in a conversational tone. But if the narration itself is liberally peppered with them, it irks me.  Books by contemporary authors are beginning to have this trait.

The funniest thing about slang is that it features in places where no filling is required! Take this sentence for example - ‘I was like totally blown away!’ Was the ‘like’ required here? No, it wasn’t. And this is what irritates me. I also feel that extensive usage of slang comes in when you are unable to use the language that you have been taught, properly. The person who speaks/writes does not want to take the trouble to form sentences. So thoughts that form in their head just tumble out with scanty or no regard for structure and coherence.

Consider these - 
‘Yesterday, I saw this news item and man! Like it totally knocked me out of my wits. I was like ‘What the hell is this’ and then my friend was like ‘Chill yaar’ and then I …’
Conversationally, this may be fine. But in a book? I feel it is not.
‘That damn thing cost me a freakin 1000 bucks.’
Okay, so you did think that it cost you a lot and you may say so too. Probably while talking to a friend or when you pass a note. But in a book? Well, I disagree.

Anything practiced professionally definitely deserves the respect due to it. When I scribble on bits of paper, I can do what I like. But when I have an audience, I have a responsibility. Maybe authors do it for the sake of giving a feel of the book being ‘current’ in every sense by depicting life, as it is today and language, as it is widely spoken today. But it steps down from the status of a book then. This is totally my take of course. For me, the joy of reading is lost when the writing doesn't preserve the beauty of the language. And a topper in the list of ‘killers of good language’ is unnecessary usage of slang.

My opinions are no different when it comes to talking. If I find somebody repeatedly using irritating slang in every sentence, I just feel like walking away from there.

I am sometimes concerned that books will increasingly start turning out this way. We already have a bandwagon of people who extensively speak this language. Maybe we will soon have an entire generation talking and writing in this ‘contemporary’ style, resulting in the English language that we know now being wiped out of the face of earth. It is a highly paranoiac thought but I do feel it may come to happen sometime. 

But then, even Shakespearean English went out of trend to be replaced by what we currently speak and write. And maybe some insufferable prissy like me would have worried about it during those times too :)

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Two Books

It’s been quite a while since I read and the withdrawal symptoms started showing J. So based on some quick research and recommendations, I zeroed in on these two:

‘Krishna Krishna’ by Indira Parthasarathy is the story of Lord Krishna narrated by sage Naradha, as told to him by Jara, the slayer of the lord. I am a great fan of the Mahabaratha and related stories. It has so much scope for retelling and interpretations and has an everlasting freshness that can never fade with time. I started reading this book yesterday and it is proving to be as enchanting a read as the divine blue cowherd boy himself J . I shall get back with a review once I read and internalize it.

‘How I braved Anu Aunty and co-founded a million dollar company’ is by debutant author Varun Agarwal. It is the story of how Varun, a twenty something engineering graduate, overcame all the social taboos and expectations imposed by family and society to start his dream company. The formidable Anu aunty is a neighbour who plays along with Varun’s mom to try and ‘drag him back to his senses’ and make him take up a job J We all have these Anu aunties in our own lives in various forms, don’t we? J And stories of people who fight the tide and achieve their dreams are always heartening and inspiring. That’s what drew me to this book. I think it would be a reinforcement for everyone to listen to their heart and follow it. Am yet to get this book in hand. More on it once I read. 

And living in the internet age with a boon called Flipkart, the purchase was just a few clicks away. Now, I have to tell you how pleasurable it is to shop at Flipkart. They have all kinds of products but I usually purchase books with them. Abundant choice, ready to read reviews and fabulous discounts! And they always exceed expectations, promising to deliver within 2-3 working days but doing it the next day itself most of the time!

Words cannot describe the joy that sweeps through me when I get them delivered at my workplace. The day after I place the order, I would keep checking my mobile, waiting for that call from an unknown number to listen to ‘Madam, calling from flipkart, am at the entrance, can you please come out to collect your books’?
Anyone who sees me immediately after this much awaited call would wonder what’s gone wrong, looking at my facial expression and demeanor .For, how would you look if you wanted to skip and jump with joy past the bay and security guard at the reception to reach the door but can’t do it for propriety demanded by place and time? With all these emotions kept in restraint, I would calmly walk to the door and receive my consignment. Once back at my desk, my peer group and I would open the carefully wrapped books. After spending the next 5 or 10 minutes browsing through them and enjoying the feel that only a newly purchased book can give, it’s a huge effort to turn back to the monitorL. And once back home, it would probably take a natural disaster to tear me away from it when I settle down to read. 

What with the rainy weather, a nice book, a weekend and the welcoming balcony at sis’s place, can I ask for anything better? J

Sunday, 8 July 2012

My First!

I am so overwhelmed to receive these awards from Uma in spite of being a very recent entrant in the blogsphere.

There is a tag I need to do, but before that, a slight detour to tell you how I landed here. About 4 years back, I started a writing a blog titled ‘My Musings’ J. I wrote only one post and stopped there. Then a few months back, while ruminating in my mind over starting a new blog, I simply googled the title to see if the old one was still alive. The first result Google threw was a post from Uma’s blog titled ‘Not made for each other’ and it really caught my eye. And once I got to her blog, it kept me engrossed for quite some time. I wrote some comments and she wrote back during the course of which she kindled the spark and gave finality to my ruminations and I started writing again.  So my first award comes from the same person who gave the final clinch to my landing in here! Thanks Uma J

Now for the tag. 7 random things about myself.

1.     Am a voracious reader and when I pick up something to read, I read line by line, in detail, unless it’s badly written. I very rarely skim through anything.

2.     I take great care while writing – be it a comment on a blog, an email at work or even a simple reminder for myself in my outlook calendar. I read, edit, re-read until am satisfied.
(But mistakes happen in spite of that L I feel very bad when errors like misspelt words or missing letters still manage to come in)

3.     I squirm in my seat when people speak or write atrociously wrong English. It has the same effect on me as a chalk piece squeaking while writing on the black board.

4.     I love eating out at restaurants. My favourite cuisine is Chinese (only the vegetarian food though). But I can’t live without curd rice J

5.     I am a hopeless day dreamer and am often caught smiling to myself.

6.     Mountains and water bodies get me transfixed. I feel that strange sense of peace descend upon myself when I watch them. 

7.     I looooooooooooveeee the rain!!! I can watch it for hours on end while it pours down.But loud thunders scare me L

As for passing on the award and tag, all my favourite bloggers have already been taken. And being quite new to this space, I don’t know many. So I should be excused here and I hope to widen my circle with time. Cheers J

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Exhilarated? How do you react?

In a recent episode of a game show, when one of the participants won the initial round to get to the next level, she shrieked with delight and came jumping in big hops to the centre stage as the calm and unruffled anchor watched on. Being the host of the show, he did his job remarkably well. But being a viewer sitting at home in front of the TV, I had the complete freedom to show subsequent expressions of shock and surprise followed by disapproval mixed with wonder.

Call me a spoilsport or party pooper if you will, but I immediately lose respect for a person when I see him/her react in an uncontrolled manner when circumstances require them to be otherwise and when their own personality disagrees with it. Yes there are moments when we feel simply above the world and we are mentally floating in the skies, but doesn't the environment and people around us deserve some thought? A small kid can jump with delight looking at a toy bear beating drums. But can even a 13 year old do the same?

I feel so embarrassed when I see respectable elders dancing in the sidelines in Airtel Super Singer Junior (a reality show for kids to showcase their talent in vocal music), as the little super performers sing a peppy number.Ok, if you are a gifted dancer and still have the body build required for your performance to be aired on television, go on. I really enjoy it when Usha Utup sings in her usual flamboyant style dancing away. It totally suits her charismatic personality and unique voice. But a granny in her sixties dancing like a comedian to a kuthu paatu(Tamil peppy number) really makes me hang my head down in shame. And those ruthless cameramen continuously focus just on that. (I feel even more bad when I see kids sing item numbers with expressions and body language totally unsuited to their age, completely spoiling their innocence but that is besides the point for this post)

What exactly is the reason for this kind of behaviour? Herd mentality and craving for attention if you ask me. Everyone is going overboard, so why not me too? Fifty odd people are sitting in the audience. How do I get noticed and get the camera to zoom towards me?

Well, there are other ways to achieve that than doing stunts that just don’t suit the person that you are. The sixty something granny can talk about how proud she is to see her grandchild perform. They would air that on television too. The twenty something girl has already proven her worth by winning over to the next level. She doesn’t have to shriek and jump as if a man with a dagger is chasing her to finish her off. Am not trying to stereotype people, age groups and permissible behaviour here. I have no right to.

Am only wondering why people make a clown out of them themselves by doing things that just don’t go with their personality ‘IN PUBLIC VIEW’. Will the same granny dance in front of her TV at home when a foot tapping number is played even if she is all alone at that moment? If yes, maybe she is totally right in following her heart without worrying about who’s watching.Maybe. (For opinions differ widely, atleast mine does J)
Am also wondering why happiness has to be expressed like a thunderstorm whenever you have an audience. Would you be doing the same in the absence of the audience too? Then maybe you are justified. Again, maybe.

Yes even I have jumped in joy and hugged my team mates when we won a national level music competition for our school some years back. But we were a bunch of 17 year olds who had won a much coveted award among schools. The proud teacher who had trained us watched with a big smile and tear filled eyes as we went on stage to collect our accolade.  Now how would it have been if she had joined the rest of us in the jumping and shouting?

As one of my friends rightly remarked, for some people, there is nothing called negative publicity. Attention in any form seems to be welcome. We would all like to make heads turn around to see us perform. But what about the expressions on their faces when they do finally turn around and watch? Wouldn't one want an appreciative smile, complete attention or awe inscribed on their faces rather than a sarcastic smirk, jeering laughter, aghast look or outright condemn?

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Present

We all have a choice to make in life - to be happy or to be unhappy. And this is irrespective of the circumstances that we are placed in at any point of time. 

If I choose to be unhappy, I can definitely manage to complain and be discontent even in the best of circumstances. I may have a very comfortable, well paying job that I enjoy doing, but I can certainly find something to complain about - that non cooperative colleague, the lack of interesting assignments, discontent over not being recognized well enough, company policies ..
But on the other hand, I can feel blessed and happy that I have a workplace that gives me a chance to prove my potential and that income which has made me independent. And as for those small pain points, I could stop complaining and analyze it, work through/work around it, solve it or simply learn to live with it. That way I ensure peace for myself and everyone around.

I may have everything that I ever need in my life but I can still complain about that one thing that is eluding my grasp at the moment - that impending pay hike, that dream home, that T- Shirt and Jeans that fit me ‘perfectly’, that tailor who can stitch my clothes the way I imagine them to be.. It’s a long endless list and hence a moving target.
But as a simple alternative, all I need to do is to remember that there is a God above who knows the big picture. He alone can see the entire jigsaw puzzle and knows what fits where. And most importantly, the pieces are in his hands and not in mine! So there is really no point in worrying. Sounds logical eh?
When we sit down in prayer to ask him for those things that ‘ought’ to be ours, am sure he is sitting up there and laughing at our ignorance. We must be appearing very similar to that small child who wants to jump out of the running train to retrieve his toy that slipped out of the window. The innocent little one has no clue that he may probably not live to retrieve the toy. We grown up children are very much the same.

In vying for something that we do not have at the moment, we totally miss out on what we have in hand. We do not enjoy the ‘present’. Yes, pun intended. We throw away the gifts being given to us looking at that which is impending. And when the much awaited impending gift arrives, we sigh over what we threw away previously because the new gift is certainly different from the previous one and has its own challenges.
A mother waits for her toddler to grow up so that he becomes less dependent and when he actually does, it tugs her heart that he isn’t her little baby and doesn’t need her anymore for bathing, dressing and feeding.

So ultimately, we end up unhappy then, unhappy now and unhappy forever.

Instead, if we count our blessings and enjoy the present, how wonderful life would be! That way we would have enjoyed all that went by, all that we have at the moment and look forward to all that is yet to come with positivity. And also, we would be ensuring that when we do look back at all that was ours, it is with fondness and not with regret.
Enjoy those hectic days with your completely dependent toddler. And when he grows up, look back with happiness at those days and look at the present with pride as he rides his own bicycle.

Wake up each day to thank God for all that is yours. For those little irritants that always persist in life, resolve to vanquish them – either by finding a solution or by simply refusing to allow them to affect your spirits.
For what has gone by, be happy for having walked those roads and for all that it has contributed towards the person that you are today. And for all that is going to come, brace up and welcome it with open arms.

Be thankful for the past, enjoy the present and be sure that a wonderful future awaits you! 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Can you ‘help’ please?

It’s an art in itself – helping someone as well as delegating to that exact degree where what you ask for is still help with the task that you are doing and not 95% of it completed. Wondering what exactly am trying to say? Let me explain..

You sit down to cut vegetables  – just you and the bag of veggies beside you. And then call out to someone else – ‘Can you bring the cutting board and knife?’ Obliged.
Just as the other person is about to settle back with that book he/she was blissfully reading, -‘Could you wash the veggies too please?’ Obliged again, but this time with a sigh.
‘And one last favour – just get vessels of the appropriate size, one for the spinach, one for the drumstick, maybe a plate for the tomatoes and onions. And wash them all, will you? The maid doesn’t do it that well. There will be traces of soap on it.’
And once the cutting is done – ‘Please clear the peels off the floor and just give it a light mop. And place these cut veggies in the fridge’. Open the fridge and it’s full to the brim. You need to employ all the skills you ever had in space management to place the stuff in.

So who actually did work here? The one who cut the vegetables or the one who ran the errands? My point is not that no one should help out another person in doing things, be it at home or at work. But do that task completely and relieve people around you of having to do anything related to it. That’s where you add value.
If I want to give my sis a break, I should take care of my nephew completely. Give him food, entertain him and put him to sleep. All this while she reads a book, takes a nap or does something that interests her. Instead, if am going to call out every few minutes saying ‘He is not eating properly.. Can you serve some curd please .. Can you refill water .. He is throwing a tantrum .. Please come and tell him off .. ‘ , she might as well do it all herself. If I truly want to give her a break, she must forget that her little one and me are sitting in another room. She should be allowed to get engrossed by the book that she’s reading or the art work that she’s doing.

My dad is sometimes really good at this. He loves to feed people and he does it in perfect style. If he makes juice, it would reach us in our hands at the sofa where we would be sitting and blissfully vegetating. Shortly though, my mom would shriek with horror at the sight of the kitchen but that is besides the point J Cleaning the kitchen is a separate sub task isn’t it? After washing our throats down with the yummy fresh juice, one of us can do the kitchen cleaning. But while making the juice, if he had called out a dozen times for fruits, peeler, cutter, sugar, water ... We might as well go without the juice. You get the picture now?

We all do the mistake of pestering another person to ‘assist’ us while we actually ‘do’ the big job. But more often than not, the assisting part is more demanding and painful. The other kind of scenario also happens where we help for namesake and the work needs to be re-done after we leave the scene.

You must help each other, but the help that you do or ask for should be meaningful. One person is enough to make a bed. You don’t need someone to hold and spread the sheet on the other side unless you are in a tearing hurry to finish it. Let the others have their time while you finish this small odd job. One person is enough to steer a meeting at work. You don’t need to constantly chip in with your ‘inputs’ unless the person who is speaking needs help or is missing out something important. Allow that person to do the show while he/she is able to manage on their own. 

Do I have a fair point? What's your take?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Family matters .. Yes it does!

Amongst all that God has given me in life, I have always felt that my wonderful family is the highest blessing. Growing up with a bandwagon of uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents is an experience unparalleled to anything else and has gone a long way in shaping all of us young people in the family into wholesome individuals.

Almost all of us are settled in Chennai now but about 15 years back, each of my dad’s brothers were settled in different places. But still, it was always made sure that we kids spent our summer holidays together and the entire family would get together for Diwali at my eldest uncle’s place every year. Seventeen people tucked away in one house. Kids bursting crackers, mothers busy in the kitchen (shooing away some naughty ones as they tried to whisk away some eats), people all over the house – the scene would be noisy and chaotic. But what fun it was!!

Years later now, even with all of us busy pursuing our chosen professions, nothing has changed. The bond that we cousins share with each other, the interest each uncle and aunt takes in every one of our lives, the way we all get together to perform important events in the family, the yearly trips we take to pay our respects to the family deity – all this gives a feeling of such warmth and happiness and weaves a web of togetherness and security around each one of us. The wonderful people who have come in by marriage are no exceptions. They have blended so well, extended the family circle and proved to strengthen the bonds even further.

Today if each one of us are emotionally well balanced individuals who have made it to reasonable positions and situations in life, it is primarily because of this strong foundation that being a united family has built. It has taught us so much. Sharing, adjusting with each other, giving in for the sake of another person, genuinely feeling for each other’s successes and setbacks, being there to support each other during difficult times, respecting elders .. I could go on ..

Now, aren't these qualities essential for any human being to be able to live peacefully in society? How a child turns out to be is hugely dependent on the parents who bring up the child and the environment that the child grows up in. A happy and secure environment filled with warm relationships that involve sharing and coexisting will give the world a wholesome individual who can face the challenges that it inevitably poses and come out successful. As a corollary, a child brought up in a lonely environment where relatives are seen as unwanted disturbances and cousins, uncles and aunts are considered as separate entities who have to be competed with in terms of wealth, positions held etc would in all probability end up a being a self centered person with no space for anyone else in life.

But sadly, many people today have become too busy and self engrossed to pay attention to relatives or to take efforts to get together. We may be in touch with everyone through phone calls and social networking sites. But nothing in the world can compensate spending time together. The bonds formed via the internet are only virtual and as rightly put by dictionary definition, they only ‘appear’ real.
And to top it all, the media is acting irresponsible too. I was aghast seeing a commercial recently where an old man comes as a guest to a house and the mother immediately frowns with disapproval at the unexpected ‘disturbance’. The child catches the hint and the ad goes on to show how the child ‘intelligently’ drives out the ‘unwanted guest’(as the ad quotes).
What has the world come to? And where are we heading? At this rate, the world would be filled with selfish individuals who cannot even tolerate one another, leave alone contributing to each other’s life. Is that what we really want?

You can be a nuclear family, no harm. But take the effort to live as a whole with your extended family. Celebrate festivals together, perform family events like marriages, housewarming, thread ceremony together. Do not say you don’t have the time to attend a family function. You should be there in the forefront ensuring that it happens well. The joy that comes out of this would be worth all that you gave up to be a part of it. Being a united family would ensure each one of us turn out to be complete human beings and also bring up children fit to live in society. It would in fact, ensure we groom a healthy and wholesome future generation itself. 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Ink on Paper - For the Love of Writing ..

Finally .. A long cherished dream has come true .. The desire to express the gazillion thoughts that whirl in my mind, the reflections within my inner self, my take on so many things that happen around me,  awe and wonder over the beauty of God's creation and most importantly, for the sheer love of writing . Having been an avid reader right from childhood, I have always loved to write as well . After ages of writing poetry and hiding them at home,I published my first article for a college journal. I then went on to write more and to my delight, each one of them got published :) 
But the story ended with college as I put writing at the backseat once into a career .Not that I did not have the time . I would in fact keep thinking about writing and publishing and talk about it like a distant dream.

Now you would wonder what on earth held me back ,what with the love for writing, a few past successes certainly enough to encourage and the freely accessible and powerful medium called the internet. Sheer Laziness, the ‘Who would read it’, ‘What if I run out of stuff to write about’ and ’What if people don’t like my writing’ fears, total lack of enthusiasm .. The list is a long one .
So what sparked me on? 
A very powerful one liner that I came across in a training program - ‘Think Big, Start Small, Start now.’
Those power packed words coupled with encouragement from one of my favorite bloggers did the magic (She told me she would love to read my blog if I had one and readily signed up as a reader when I said was thinking about it! Thanks Uma !! It’s because of you that I got over that long list of fears )
So here I am, all fired up and enthusiastic to do something I really love ..Writing :)

This blog is going to be a potpourri with no specific lines of discussion. Eye opening experiences in life, reviews on Movies, books, concerts and restaurants, philosophies that I believe/don’t believe in, travelogues, cooking experiments (My sis has promised to do some guest posts too ).. That’s all am able to think of at the moment .. Will add on as I explore and discover more about this wonderful and thrilling experience that life is. 

And as much as I love to write, I would also like to know each and every one of your views on the various ideas that I hold.So do leave a line or two telling me what you think. Your valuable comments would be a reassurance and encouragement for me to keep writing in this space. 

Lets enjoy this journey discussing ideas, views and opinions. After all sharing multiplies happiness, reduces sorrow and makes life worth living. So lets hit the floor !!!