Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rock On!!!

When you come to the edge of all things that you know, you must believe one of two things: There will be earth on which to stand, or you will be given wings to fly.

I was browsing lazily one summer afternoon, when I read this line. And it stuck on! What appealed to me was that it glowed with positivism and strength. As a recent advertisement puts it : the edge is just the beginning... a place to fly from...

Now a bit about myself. I’ve been generally having a very 'exciting' life from the time that I can remember. As someone had put it - my life's like the roller-coaster ride - full of ups and downs; thrills and adventures!

And in all of this, I've learnt a few lessens as well :

  • There are only a few things that truly count for a happy life. I believe, everyone should make this the main purpose of their lives. To be content and happy. And pleasantly, happiness and peace of mind can be achieved by giving them to others. It is the simplest and easiest way to a good life. I believe one should do essentially whatever it takes, within ethics and limits of one's personal beliefs, to be happy.
  • Know when to try harder and when to walk away. Having lived through my life (and living, as I speak), I’ve realised that, in retrospect, most of the things don’t matter. So much of what I got excited about, anxious about, or wasted my time and energy on, turned out not to matter. I am a perfectionist and there have been tonnes of times, I've been reluctant to let go of a project or a situation because I was not happy with the outcome. But I've grown to realise that there are very few things in life that you really have a control over and those are the ones that really count.
  • Life hurts at times. Endure. Grieve. Move on. This has been, till date, my biggest learning and I'm still grasping it. I understand the first. I do the second and third. But I invariably get stuck at step 4. The moving on bit is still something I need to come fully to terms with. It takes enormous amount of will-power for me to let go of situations where I feel life has been unfair to me. And all this despite the fact that it is crystal clear to me that the only person who suffers in this is me! The mind, inspite of all its intelligence and rationality, can be very incredibly stupid at times! So, know where to go... be it to your best friend... or a charming inn in the woods... when your soul needs soothing.
  • Be a free spirit. I think laughter, the sparkle in one's eyes, the radiance and glow on one's face when one is happy, is the best panacea for all ailments - physical and mental. I would always want to be a kiddo in my heart.
  • Keep up the excitement and the enthusiasm. Climb the tallest mountain, swim the longest water body you can find. Picnic at midnight. Take up a new hobby. See new places. Or simply take a midnight drive to the beach and stick around for dawn. My point is to take advantage of what you have: energy, idealism, enthusiasm, a willingness to experiment, a lack of encumbrances, a desire to learn and grow.
  • ...and finally, friendships are the best relationships one can have in this lifetime. They heal the heart, soothe the soul and provide laughter and support when you need them the most. I believe a loyal friend stays loyal under enormous amounts of thoughtless abuse and I am blessed to have such great friends in my life. They help me remain sane in the craziest of moments and double the happiness in my craziest of moments as well. :)
The choice is yours...

I’ve hit rock bottom so many times that at a point, I’ve just reconciled with the fact that I’m destined to have an exciting life and present the world with a very charming autobiography at the end of it! And I'm glad that all of the above, my life experiences, will find space and meaning in it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fundamental Attribution Error

There are always some memories, good or bad, that stay with us and we don't know why we cannot forget them. For example, there are certain words or situations that are just stuck in my mind and although I know in which context they were used, the situation was so insignificant that, rationally, they do not warrant a permanent etch in one's memory. But there they are...

One such term is 'Fundamental Attribution Error'. I remember it, not for the concept but the situation in which it came up. I was caught up in neck-deep work, running against deadlines when I received a call from a senior colleague in my function. He was going to give a talk on Organizational Behavior and wanted me to take up this topic. Being caught up in a lot of work, I politely declined but the term stuck on. And at repeated, random intervals, this term keeps popping up like an affinity diagram - say the news reports on Mumbai terror attacks brought up religious fundamentalism and this term jumped up from the depth of my cranium; or my hubby was speaking to his friend and said 'Don't put fundaes' and POP! There it was, dancing in front of my eyes... I can go on and on about the various affinities which bring up this term. So today, I decided to finally read on it in-depth in the hope that finally, it will cease to haunt me!

I read it up online here. Interesting concept! What this theory talks about is simply that we have a tendency to judge people basis what 'kind' of personality he / she has rather than the external forces which are at play in the situation. Here, external forces could range from social, political or environmental. Which translates to this : say, there is a student who by nature, is not disciplined in school and has not done his homework for the day. While judging this student, we may tend to say 'What better can you expect out of him - he is anyway an in-disciplined child', rather than considering external conditions influencing his behavior viz., illness or not understanding the class work or genuine personal problems. The reverse theory to this is actor-observer theory which over-emphasizes the situation rather than the nature of the person. So, while judging this case, applying the latter theory, we may tend to say 'Poor child, he must have had a bad headache OR the teacher must have not explained well in class' while the genuine reason could have been that the child is lazy and not disciplined.

Goosey Gander! Too much Gnyaan! But, I started applying this to my life and my experiences and I came up with the following insight :

Just the other evening, I felt like having one of those marathon conversations with my hubby. So, I pulled out of my fervent blogging and asked him if he was free. "Sure", he said. So I picked up two steaming-cups-of-coffee and sat across him and was just about to launch into one of my never-ending bakbak sessions when he said, "I have to call chechi". He picked up his phone and started speaking to her. And there I was, listening to a conversation I could not understand a word of (since it was in Malayalam). I waited for a few minutes then got up and walked off, bugged and hurt about his 'insensitivity'.

Later, when he asked me what had happened, I, being me, launched in this story of how he should have told me he wanted to speak to his sis and so should not have called me for the conversation... then should have told me how long the conversation would take... and how could he do this to me / treat me like this... and these had hurt me deeply.

With every word and every crib and every way in which I described how fatally he had hurt me, my hubby was more and more surprised.

"But you never told me you wanted to talk so much... I thought you just wanted to have coffee..." (Since I had asked, in so-many-words 'Are you free?' not indicating that I wanted to speak to him - hence he was free to assume anything!)

"I didn't think you would get so worked up; I would have told you how long my call would take..."

"Of course I love you... what were you thinking..."

:) Now I know FAE was at play. I attributed his behavior to a deliberate choice, but he might have made another choice if he had been aware of what I was assuming. In other words, I was attributing it to his personality than the situation or context. However, when it came to analyzing my own behavior, I gave greater importance to the situation I was in than my own personality traits. Classic FAE!

And coming to think of it, most of us do it all the time and some of us do / have done this most of the times in their lives.

Phew! Now that I have read up on the term as well as applied it in real life, I hope this concept stops haunting me! But, as I said earlier, the concept may stop chasing me but will I ever be able to rid myself of this error? Let's leave that for another cup of coffee!!! :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Dream Came True... !!!

Do you day-dream? Of being the richest, fastest, most beautiful, powerful... Of having the perfect features, a sculpted body, a personality that combines exuberance with style?

And what would you feel when you are showered recognition, adulation and admiration in the press, the media and the Internet? When a thousand flashlights follow your every move, when a thousandfold people know you compared to who you know, when mothers across the world put you as a role-model for their children, when you are a person respected for your intelligence and envied for your beauty? When your career and personality blaze a trail others would dream of following but your elfin charm and natural flair will find no successful inheritor...

Well, I had a chance to feel all of the above when I was given the honour of the World's Greatest Business Mind at a glittering ceremony at The Hilton. I was chosen out of thousands of nominees from five continents by the International Collective Council of Excellence. It was a night of much fanfare and glamour. I was in the glare of media spotlight and mobbed by crowds. It was instant adulation and dizzying fame. I stood tall, reveling in my success, celebrating my inner happiness and hopefully inspiring others through my example.

The media reports were published here.

It was my dream come true... well, almost!!! :)




Saturday, December 20, 2008

Live it up!!!

When you were a child, think what were your biggest problems... Chances are it will hover around homework, trying to score the highest in class, excelling in extra-curricular activities and if all this were not enough to complete your 24-hour day, you would have been expected to be a model son / daughter and an ideal student. The children of today may also add by telling you that his parents push him too hard and too fast to become a winner and it is far better to be a grown-up than a kid who is forced to listen and abide by his elders.

What were your biggest issues, as a teenager? Chances are you'll talk about interference from parents, too many rules and restrictions, overworked hormones and confusion galore. You may talk about peer-group pressure, love life (or the lack of it), career choices, talking with friends about the same topics over and over because you could not seem to make a decision. You may have felt that you couldn't wait to cross the magic age of eighteen when finally people will look at you like an adult and take you seriously.

Ask yourself what your biggest worries are and chances are they'll be about loans, money, the future and making a life for yourself. Maybe you are not married and you keep wondering why you can't meet anyone decent enough that you want to get to know better... or you get dumped and wonder how someone you loved so much could do this to you... or maybe you are married to the completely wrong person and you lie in bed wondering why did it have to happen to you...You worry about looking after your family, raising children and building a career. A closer look at your career path may make you realise that it is not even close to what you thought you would be doing, or maybe you are looking for a job and realizing that you are going to have to start at the bottom scares you.

As you grow older, your worries compound - losing your youth, your head and finally your life.

One of my friends forwarded this to me on mail and it set me thinking...


Antares is the fifteenth brightest star in the sky and more than 1000 light years away. ... so, how big are we and hence how big are the things that upset us today?

Wow!!! Some perspective!

Who is free from all worries? I don't believe anyone is. Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. We are in our best of times and our worst of times, trying as hard as we can to figure this whole thing out. If we all are to leave this world someday, why should we spend precious seconds, thinking of what can go wrong and why things never happen the way we want. Nothing lasts forever so...

Live it up, drink it down, do stupid stuff, love, laugh it off, avoid the BS, take chances... and never have regrets!!!

It's a song by Natural called Paradise and the lyrics aptly sum it all up :

I live the long life
To get to where I am right here
I walk the long road
With just the wind in my hair
All I have is my smile
I began to lose track
I walked on for miles
And I never looked back
I’m not the kind of guy To get left out in the cold

Walked on forever And I’ll never grow old
Don’t wanna live the real life
Working nine to five
Find a piece of paradise
Finally feel alive
I live my life to the fullest
I have no regrets
I’d have to stack the deck
To win all my best

I feel a fire burning
Deep inside my soul
(deep inside my soul)
I hold onto my destiny
And I’ll never let it go
Cuz I live my own life
Found what I set out to
And I’ll never look back Because I found paradise
Devote my whole life to
Never giving up again
Follow your heart, your mind, your soul
Hold onto your dreams
And never let them go.

... so, Explore! Dream! Discover! Now...


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Sound of Music

Im nothing special, in fact Im a bit of a bore
If I tell a joke, you've probably heard it before
But I have a talent, a wonderful thing
cause everyone listens when I start to sing
Im so grateful and proud
All I want is to sing it out loud

So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs Im singing
Thanks for all the joy theyre bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me

Mother says I was a dancer before I could walk
She says I began to sing long before I could talk
And I've often wondered, how did it all start?
Who found out that nothing can capture a heart
Like a melody can?
Well, whoever it was, Im a fan

I was listening to Abba's 'Thank you for the Music' and the lyrics -
And I've often wondered, how did it all start?
Who found out that nothing can capture a heart
Like a melody can?

kept repeating in my head. Truely, who would have conceived of this heavenly thing called music? And how would life be without the 'Nothing's-Gonna-Change-My-Love-For-You's?', the husky voice of Bryan Adams crooning 'Please Forgive Me' and the hard rock of Metallica? Music truely makes my world go a complete round!

Music is an integral part of my life... if I am down and out, a little bit of 'Sajnaji vaari vaari' from Honeymoon Travels or 'Hakuna Matata' from Lion King cheers me up. When I am on a high and completely enthu about something, 'Chak De' or 'We Will Rock You' completely packs the punch! In fact there is music for every mood and every shade of life. Music deadens the hustle-bustle of a long bus journey by allowing you to escape in your world. There is nothing I love more than putting on my radio / music system on a high volume, rolling up the windows and driving, while singing out LOUD!!! From 'Summer of '69' to bring out the nostalgia to 'Nothing's-Gonna-Change-My-Love-For-You' for the die-hard romantic, music brings joy, romance, longing and a whole plethora of emotions for the soul.

Why does music stir the soul so much? I believe it is because it reminds us of people...

Everytime I listen to 'Summer of '69', my college days come back to me. I can see myself sitting on the stairs with my bunch of friends, laughing away without a care in the world... I can see myself running to catch the last train home, drenched to the core, after sudden showers, while coming back from the college cultural fest... I can see those tears on our farewell when we bid adeiu to our Alma Mater.

When I listen to Evanescence's 'My Immortal', the lyrics haunt me, reminding me of pain, sadness and longing for people who have touched my heart but have walked out never to turn back.

Oasis' Wonderwall brings memories of all the people in my life who have given me such beautiful memories... it takes me to my oasis!

A rainbow over a waterfall amid lush greenery...tall trees flanking the riverbank...rocks, smoothened over years of water gushing over them, glistening in the sun - this is what comes to mu mind when I listen to Chinna Chinna Aasai. I don't understand Tamil but I love the sound of the words, the beats, the music. Truely, music is universal!!!

I can go on and on... about all the songs I love... there are tonnes of them and each holds a very special corner, a very cherished memory. And the beauty is the same song and mean many different things to each one of us.

Music can enrapture and it can hurt; music can make you happy and it can stir longing and sadness... To me, there is nothing more versatile than music - it can touch your heart and heal your soul.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

31 Reasons Why I Love You

1. Trust and Unconditional love
2. The way I can discuss anything and everything with you without any inhibition
3. The way you listen to every little thing that has happened to me in my day with utmost interest - Incessant bakbak and patient listener and the way in which we can talk and talk, never once getting bored of each other… the way we never run out of topics…
4. The way you get more kicked about anything I'm doing – the way you seem more passionate about it than me!
5. The way in which you manage to surprise me every time – the anniversary audio, the call where you said you have something very important to discuss and then said 'I love U'…
6. Your choice of song for the proposal!
7. The way our thoughts match and we think sooo similar…
8. Your Hindi! (or the lack of it!)… but most of all, I love it when you address me 'aap'
9. The way in which you manage to take my case everytime!
10. You're THE only person who has my password for over 24 hours… I know it's no big deal for you but for me, I love the fact that I can give it to you without thinking twice!
11. Your getting psyched on my road crossing skills in The City…
12. Your arms around me… your embrace is the warmest and coziest and safest and most comfy thing in the universe!
13. The way in which we have long discussions over something which clashes with our ideologies and in the end it really doesn't matter who compromises so long as the 'discussions' have taken place!
14. Your optimism – its infectious!
15. Laughter – it comes straight from the heart and goes up to your eyes… I love that!
16. Love the fact that you give back as good as you get – in equal or more measure!
17. No ego hassles.
18. Naughty ideas and mad wayzzzz!
19. Being straight-forward and right down honest to the point of being blunt! I'd much rather hear my traits and weaknesses from you than anyone else.
20. For letting me be the way I am – free and fun-loving.
21. For believing that marriage and commitment need not mean a curb on fun and freedom – on the contrary, it means double the freedom and quadruple the fun!
22. Your depth of knowledge and breadth of exposure to various subjects.
23. For all the times you've stood by me and made me realize that things go wrong, endure, grieve, move on!
24. Deadly combo of pragmatism, intelligence and hopeless romanticism.
25. For investing so much into the relationship and looking forward to such an awesome future.
26. For being a dreamer, a maverick, a devil and my panacea!
27. The way everything about our relationship is reverse… it's this quirkiness that intrigues!
28. Non-conformity to things we don't believe in and acceptance of each other's beliefs without compromising our own!
29. The way you accept my relationships with my guys without even a shred of jealousy, possessiveness or insecurity.
30. For giving meaning to my life and bringing infinite joy, love and laughter to my existence.
31. For converting 'nyan ennai snehikunnu' to 'nyan ninnei othiri othiri snehikunnu!!!'

Monday, December 08, 2008

Seven Deadly Sins

Whoever said desserts were sinful could not have been closer to the truth. It invokes all the seven deadly sins - lust (the beauty of the desserts, the drizzle of choco chips, the chilling coldness of ice-creams and cold coffees, the warm, gooey cakes and truffles), gluttony and greed (No-one can eat just one... I know people who have only starters and desserts for dinner), sloth, (a good meal of desserts invites the softest pillows and coziest beds for a good sleep), wrath, envy (All those who are told to stay away from them) and pride (for the bakers, shakers and all the chefs who create Heaven on Earth!).

My Seven Deadly Sins are as follows :

  • Chocolate Brownie with Hot Chocolate Sauce

This is one of my favourite desserts. I choose my restaurants depending on how well they make and present it.

This is how I make it at home :

Ingredients :
Ready Made Chocolate Brownie Mix
Water
Oil

Preparation:
Mix all the three according to the proportions suggested.
Bake
Refrigerate
Cut out a piece, pour a (BIGGGG!!!) scoop of your favourite ice-cream (Vanilla in my case), drizzle with the warm, gooey chocolate sauce. DIGGGGGGGGG IN!!!

:) Ok, now for all those serious cooks who look down upon ready-made mixes.

CHOCOLATE BROWNIE - It is a Tarla Dalal recipe.
Preparation Time : 15 mins. Cooking Time : 5 mins. Makes 1 brownie (8 pieces).

Ingredients
1 cup plain flour (maida)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon soda bi-carbonate
2 cups (250 grams) dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup Castor sugar
¼ cup curds, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ cup walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon butter for greasing & grease proof paper for lining

Preparation:
Grease and line a 6" diameter shallow, microwave safe bowl and keep aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and soda bi-carb and keep aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate pieces and microwave on HIGH for 1 minute. Remove and stir lightly to get a smooth mixture. Keep aside.
In another bowl, add the butter and Castor sugar and stir with a wooden spoon till the mixture is soft and creamy.
Add the melted chocolate to the butter mixture and mix lightly.
Add the curds, vanilla essence, flour mixture and walnuts and mix lightly.
Pour batter into the greased and lined dish and microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes.
Reduce temperature to 70% power and microwave for 1 minute. Remove and keep aside.

Tips
To grease and line is to first grease the bowl with butter or vanaspati and then line with a piece of greaseproof paper.

  • Gulab Jamun
One of the most popular and evergreen desserts, this one can be served at room temperature or piping hot. Be sure to add loads of sugar syrup and garnish with shavings of almond / pistachio.

Ingredients :
3 cups sugar
1 cups milk powder
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 tsp melted butter
Whole milk
Oil


Preparation:

Boil sugar in water (2 cups water for every cup of sugar) till all the sugar is dissolved. Add crushed cardamoms (optional).
Mix the powdered milk, flour and baking powder and add a little of the whole milk to make a dough that is soft but not sticky.
Divide the dough into small round balls and fry on medium flame till they brown. Transfer into the sugar syrup and allow them to soak for a few hours.
Serve!


  • Gajar Ka Halwa

Ingredients:
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder


Preparation:

Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed pan, stirring frequently to prevent the base from scorching. Reduce it to half its quantity.
Stir-fry shredded carrots in the butter
Add the milk, sugar and cook until the milk dries.
Garnish with roasted cashew nuts (optional).
Serve hot.


  • Kulfi
It comes in various flavours, my favourite being the kesar kulfi. It is similar in preparation to ice-cream.
Ingredients:
4 cups milk
Half cup sugar
1 tsp cornflour blended with 0.5 cups milk

Preparation :
Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed pan, stirring frequently to prevent the base from scorching. Reduce it to half its quantity.
Add the cornflour-milk mixture
Now add the sugar, dry fruits (of your choice, thinly sliced / finely ground) and cardamom seeds, stir well.
Pour the mixture into Kulfi molds, cover and freeze until set.
Serve chilled.



  • Rôshogolla (Rasgulla)


It looks colourless, de-glamorized and has simple ingredients but bite into one and you'll be sure to pop in a few more. I am still not that great in making it so I pick it up from my nearest confectioners. Reproduced below is the way my mom makes it.

Ingredients:
For Paneer
6 cups milk
1-2 table spoon lemon juice
For syrup:
1.5 cup sugar

Preparation:
Boil milk and add lemon juice. Mix till the milk separates.
Sieve it through a clean cloth.
Tie the towel in a pouch and squeeze it to remove any extra water. Hang the pouch to drain off extra water. Paneer is ready.
Knead it to remove any chunks.
Now make small, smooth balls out of the paneer dough.
Boil sugar in water (2 cups water for every cup of sugar) till all the sugar is dissolved. Once it boils, add the balls.
Cover and cook in medium to low flame for about half hour till they are cooked and have swelled in size.
Serve chilled.

  • Mishti Doi

Find me one Bengali who does not like this traditional dessert. Served in small earthen pots, this sweetened yogurt is one of the easiest desserts to make and tastes just as good.

Ingredients
1 litre: Full cream milk
300 gm: Jaggery / sugar
2 tsp: Curd




Preparation:

Heat milk in a heavy-bottomed pan, stirring frequently to prevent the base from scorching. Reduce it to half its quantity. Cool it till it is lukewarm.
Heat the jaggery / sugar in a heavy saucepan (with little water) till the sugar caramelizes. Add the milk to it and blend well. Stir in the curd.
Pour mixture in the desired container and keep in a warm, dark place to set. For best results, use an earthen pot.
Serve chilled.


  • Kaapi Nirvana - The Ultimate CCD Experience!

This cold coffee from Café Coffee Day is the ultimate in dessert experience. The tempting look of it says it all... This is one drink I don't finish in a hurry!!!

After all, an evening at a dessert restaurant could just require a few more miles on the treadmill the next morning - small price for a delightful experience!

Back To The Future

I had come across the website www.futureme.org which allows you to write a letter today to be delivered to you at you e-mail address at a designated future date.

I had written a similar letter, addressed to self, about three years ago. Reproduced below are some of its contents.

PASTME is what I had written three years ago.

PRESENTME is what the situation is today, three years hence

FUTUREME is where I wish I’ll see myself, five years hence.


Dear Dewdrop

PASTME : Let me confess I have never done anything like this before and I am a little freaked by the idea! We all want a sneak peek in our future, don't we - the charm of the unknown, the thrill of the mysterious always beckons us.

PRESENTME : Reading something which I wrote to myself three years in the past - it is almost like the moment was frozen in time and I have unlocked it to re-live three years in a flash...

FUTUREME : I hope to write another post, similar to the one I’ve written, and read five years hence, to see how close I have moved towards my aspirations and how much life has changed.


PASTME : Well, you're like 25+ years old by now, and, well, there may be lots to talk about.

PRESENTME : Yes, I am! Phew, seems like those young, carefree days are a thing of the past, doesnt it

FUTUREME : Yikes!!! Five more years and I’ll be pushing 30!!!


PASTME : I have just got into the groove of blogging. I hope I can sustain it. But it’s a little difficult, given the kind of time I am spending on my studies, travelling to college and coordinating for various events on campus. It just completely drains me out. But I enjoy it nevertheless. It gives me an immense sense of freedom and responsibility makes me feel all grown-up and ready for the Big Bad World! But, I wish I can blog longer its just got reduced to writing snippets in my diary no time to put it up online as well.

PRESENTME : I used to tease my hubby on the hours he would spend online, blogging and reading the blogs of other avid bloggers. It would amuse me how he would get submerged in the words and thoughts of complete strangers who he has not seen, not heard, not spoken to but who's worlds were so similar, experiences so alike. But, Im glad, Ive been able to revive the blog (after a big lull). Now, the addiction has set in. I spend almost all my free time researching on some subject or reading some blogs or writing my own. And in the process, I have started reading up on various topics, things, which, in the normal scheme of things, I'd have never been interested in.

FUTUREME : Five years hence, I hope, I'll be still blogging as passionately and as fervently as I am doing at this moment.


PASTME : I think I am falling in love I am not sure of it but it seems so. I cant help but gush about it. Never have I felt so warm and fuzzy within yes, I most certainly think I’m in love. I hope I have a future with someone who loves and respects me for who I am. I know I can get difficult at times and what with my impulsive nature and crazy ways, it can take a lot out of someone to get me back to terra firma. By nature, I am a very enthusiastic person. It takes very less to bring up my energy levels. And I hit my lows as fast as my highs. My efforts to balance it out have proved futile, although I think I've managed to get a hold on my lows a little. I hope, three years hence, I am married (or have atleast stabilized this relationship / found someone equally good or better to be my life-partner).

PRESENTME : I have got married a few months back to someone I'd grown to love much much before we decided to get married - when we were just the best of friends. Initially, we had adjustment issues, as most couples do, but we ironed them out and in the process, made the foundation of the relationship much stronger. The best thing about being married to him is the fact that he makes me laugh so much. He is very genuine, warm, loving, caring and understanding. I can be frank and honest about anything without the fear of getting reprimanded. We trust each other unconditionally. I still jump around for little things, I still laugh suddenly and it doesnt take much to make me happy.

FUTUREME : Five years hence, I hope, our relationship is stronger, we are happier, more giving, more loving I hope we are healthier and more prosperous and we have been able to fill our world and those which we touched, with lots of laughter, life and passion. I hope I get as enthusiastic over little things as I do today I hope I can still appreciate the finer, the smaller things in life, can still laugh over myself. I hope I have enough life left in me to live life queensize.


PASTME : I have always wanted to do something which makes a difference to society and brings happiness and peace to people Ill have to hide behind my excuse of less time to park it for a future date but I hope I am able to do something about it.

PRESENTME : I have worked with NGOs, been a listener to a lot of people with multitude of issues - some would call it being a healer. However, I've never mustered enough guts to give up my steady income job and follow my dreams.

FUTUREME : Five years hence, I hope, I'd have moved a few bold steps towards this dream of mine.


PASTME : I seem to be doing pretty well in my graduation. But what next I want to fly high in my career I want to do a post-graduation and if possible, just after my graduation I have heard stories of how difficult it is to get back to studies once you start working.

PRESENTME : I have thankfully completed my post-graduation from one of the most reputed institutes for the specialization. I will be now working steadily towards my career - I would want to keep working till my retirement.

FUTUREME : Five years hence, I hope I continue to have as much zeal towards my career as I do today.


PASTME : And most importantly, three years hence, I hope I will see more peace and happiness and prosperity for all those who are close to me and those who I am close to.

PRESENTME : And most importantly, five years hence, I hope I will see more peace and happiness and prosperity for all those who are close to me and those who I am close to.


Hope this finds you... relaxing somewhere

Take care of yourself, gal

Luv

Sunshine

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blueprint for Transformation

It's been over a week since terror struck the heart of the nation, hitting the financial capital of the country. Much has been said and written on this but concrete actions are yet to see the light of the day.

I have been giving this issue a lot of thought in the last few days and a little soul-searching leads me to conclude that most of us (including self) have woken up to this mainly since we have never seen urban warfare this close to our hearths and homes. Living under constant threat and increased vigil has become the norm of the day for all those in Jammu & Kashmir but never once has media and the press come together to discuss and debate this issue which has existed up north for over 15 years.

So what is the solution to this problem? Are we to live under constant high-alert and dread stepping out to popular hang-outs, hotels, hospitals, airports, railway-stations, markets, schools, offices? Is this sustainable? Is this feasible?

Let us take a look at Israel and its counter-terror activities. Emanuel Gross, a former Chief Judge with Israel Defence Force’s District Military Court outlines the following :
  1. Israel is a democratic country and thus they sought answers within the law, and created laws that would enable the military and the other security agencies to fight terrorism effectively;
  2. Terrorism necessitates the declaration of a state of emergency, and special laws for empowerment the security agencies could result in a clash between security needs and human rights; and a balance has to be struck between the two;
  3. Even in extraordinary times, the courts are left open for judicial review, which means that the executive brunch provides reasons for its acts, in real time.
  4. Security and intelligence agencies that specialised in anti-terrorist warfare.
Good intelligence, special anti-terror forces, and working within the law — this was their formula for combating terrorism.

As far as India is concerned, my blueprint for transformation is three-fold as follows :

  • ADMINISTRATIVE - Back to Basics :
Corruption today has seeped into our very roots of the way we work. Greasing of palms is the way we run our businesses, our political and social institutions and the defence forces. Almost every position in the government is up for auction. There is a price associated with every power center and the higher the post, the more the price. Now, we need to understand why are people gullible to bribe. Let's focus on the police - the upholders of law in our society - people who are supposed to be ready to defend and if necessary, give up their lives for complete strangers. And what are they paid for this sacrifice? - a pittance! They are at the mercy of politicians who treat them as if they own them. Poorly trained, under-paid, over-worked, demotivated, armed with just a 'lathi', he is supposed to face the various anti-social elements who are far advanced in their training, their equipment and their motivation to destroy. Police is a non-developmental state subject, and is, therefore, perennially short of funds. A large number of police stations are without buildings, vehicles, telephones, the Internet, etc, and short of stationery and vehicle fuel.

Reports of various committees highlighting police reforms have already been submitted - the Supreme Court Ruling, the Julio F Rebiro report, the Prakash Singh PIL , the Padhmanabiah Committee report and many more. What has happened to these recommendations? Are they still gathering dust while our police forces die everyday?

The need of the hour is urgent police reforms. They need to be equipped with proper training, given basic equipments like wireless, arms and ammunition and empowerment to be able to police the streets without being subject to any kinds of pressure from the politicians. Pride in their work will enable them to deliver and be the biggest motivator. Police force should no longer remain the lowest common denominator of what people aspire to be. They need to be made a professional force, well-paid, empowered and formidable to recon with.

  • INFRASTRUCTURE - Building Blocks :
After every blast, every act of terror, we read about how the central and state governments had prior information on these activities but they all decided to look the other way while innocent civilians suffered. There is an urgent need to act on every piece of intelligence, to have specialized and trained forces who will be able to separate the intelligence from the noise and then act on it ruthlessly to track and crack down.

Security and intelligence agencies that specialise in anti-terrorist warfare are needed to be deployed in every state, or atleast in the more sensitive and susceptible states, for a start. The speed of response must be immediate. The layouts of sensitive buildings like hospitals, hotels, large places of worship, those depicting our cultural heritage must be included in the course of the training of these specialized forces. The best of equipment, infrastructure , training and intelligence must be given to them. CCTV on busy intersections, scanners, body-searches must become mandatory and as people, we must realise we are living in uncertain times and co-operate.

And most importantly, the law and order machinery and the Intelligence Bureaus must work hand-in-hand to keep a constant exchange of information and partnership.

  • SENSITIZATION - Civilian Policing :
The police cannot be everywhere and in their absence, the civilians need to become the eyes and ears of the law. This includes Mohalla Committees, Neighbourhood Watches, Vigilante Patrols which ensure that peace, harmony and law and order are maintained in and around their areas.

In today's context, civilian policing must also include the media keeping pressure on implementation of all the reforms and corrective and preventive steps that hopefully the central and state governments will bring into force, soon.

If we still continue with our shameful silence, we will be giving out the message loud and clear to ourselves and the global community that a billion strong population is inept, incompetent and incapable of defending its people and everything it holds so close.

... Radha Kaise Na Jale...

One of the most delicate relationships is when two people decide to spend their entire lives, every moment, with each other. Let's take a moment's pause and ponder... two human beings who have spent close to 20-25 years of their lives being the masters of their own universes, doing what they thought was right, prioritizing themselves and their families over everything else, suddenly have to 'adjust' to a completely different person, his/her whims, fancies and idiosyncrasies. One may feel this to be more true in case of arranged marriages vis-a-vis love marriages but, experience tells me that both kinds face adjustment issues - it is one thing to spend time with each other and a completely different thing to live with each other.

In India, particularly, the institution of marriage is completely over-rated and hyped. Ideally, it should stand for mutual trust, understanding, respect, companionship and love. But, Indian society adds in a large dose of honour of family, the quintessential 'ghar ki izzat', 'maan-mariyada' - the basic dos and don'ts that bind the couple in holy matrimony. These were perhaps easy to adhere to when it came to traditional marriages of yester years where the set-up was of a joint family which comprised of generations of people of the same household living under the same roof, eating the food cooked at one hearth, sharing a common income, common property and supporting the old, the widowed, the differently abled and the disabled. This gave a high sense of togetherness. But the pitfall of this set-up was that the responsibility of safe-guarding the honour of the family fell squarely on the shoulders of all the family members and so, even if there were cases of domestic violence or abuse, the women had to continue to bear it behind closed doors. Women were conditioned to compromise. Even if infidelity existed among the men in the family, their wives took it in their stride, some even with a sense of pride, according it to a sense of status and affluence.

Today though, the situation is quite different. We have moved away from joint families to nuclear families. In the urban set-up, with both the husband and wife working and being financially independent as well as spending long hours away from each other, one tends to start finding emotional support in the arms of colleagues and strangers. The city-life gives one the space and exposure to multitude of people, the openness and modern ideas as well as a sense of anonymity. One-night stands, affairs, flings, corporate companions are very common today and they are more in the open than they have ever been. Staying within the close boundaries of the relationship and its bindings is perceived as being stifled and controlled which is considered an attack on one's freedom and space.

While reasons for infidelity can be many, there are instances where people resort to infidelity just for the sake of fun. The excitement of being involved in something which is covert, the thrill of breaking the societal and commitment laws are very enticing to many. However, many times, people get into it for the sake of experimentation. Exploring men / women of diverse backgrounds, cultures and mind-sets give a high to many. Another reason often quoted by psychiatrist is the exposure to information in the media about what an ideal relationship should be and the more the information, the more is the desire to get the missing aspects in the relationship which one feels one truly deserves.

But what does it ultimately do to the relationship? Distrust, low self-esteem and self-confidence, (I am not as slim / smart / savvy as her), self-doubt (It is not my husband's fault that he strayed - I was unable to fulfil his needs...). Divorce, single-parenthood, emotional trauma and scars on the spouse. Children grow up not trusting anyone. A son may have no respect for women since he has seen his father treat his mother with disrespect. A daughter may never trust another man again since she has seen her mother cheated by her father. Is the excuse of prolonged distances due to business, the obsession towards experimentation a reason valid enough to shake the foundation of the relationship, right from the roots?

Madhuban mein jo Kanhaiya kisi gopi se mile
Kabhi muskaaye, kabhi chhede, kabhi baat kare
Radha kaise na jale, Radha kaise na jale
Aag tan mann mein lage
Radha kaise na jale, Radha kaise na jale

Kaanhaji ka jo sadaa idhar udhar dhyaan rahe
Radha bechaari ko phir apne pe kya maan rahe
Baahon ke haar jo daale koi Kaanha ke gale
Radha kaise na jale, Radha kaise na jale

It is a kind of addiction where the 'trishna' of finding the thrill, of doing the forbidden rises with each passing affair till you realise that it is a never-ending cycle which feeds on itself, finally completely consuming you.

Friday, December 05, 2008

... on the concept of conception

Hi. I am a zygote just a few hours old. Oh! Don't be surprised that I can speak (and blog as well!)... in fact, I could always speak but till now, no one wanted to hear me till I completed term and came out kicking and screaming in this world of yours. But from the day, my mother, in who's womb I'm speaking from, has started seeing this advertisement on the television on morning-after pill which has the punchline - '...after all, prevention is better than abortion, isn't it...?', I've started getting the shivers. Well, you may wonder why, since motherhood, in your Indian society, is considered a blessing and if it happens to be a boy (psssst, I know it is illegal to reveal the gender of the foetus, but, between you and me, I am a boy), it should call for jubilation... well, hold on to your thoughts and queries, my friend, since, if you really want to know the reason, you have to listen to my entire story.

Allow me to put in words the procedure of my existence - hey, you naughty minds, not from the biological perspective but the humane one. Imagine the tiniest speck of dust, one that is barely visible to the naked eye - then imagine the tiniest speck of dust under the microscope - I am smaller than that! That's how the beginning of my life is, in its frailest, tiniest, most delicate form, in my mother's womb. You may wonder, how can something THAT small, even exist, much less blog, but hey, you can't see God but you believe in Him, don't you?. And as time passes, I will become an embryo and grow limbs, lungs, a tiny heart, ears, nose, lips - all so perfect, so serene, so eternally beautiful. Have you ever floated in a swimming pool lazily, without a care in the world? Well, that's how I will soon exist in my own tiny world. Think about it - if you are the foetus, all you need to do is float about in a warm, cozy place for 9 months - your food, shelter and even your breathing is done by someone else. Envious life isn't it?

Well, apparently not so, if you are an illegitimate foetus (or zygote in my case). And there are multitude of ways in which I am labeled illegitimate. An indicative but definitely not an exhaustive list of reasons could range from rape to pre-marital sex to prostitution. It can happen in the heat of the moment or in cold, calculative ways. The man or woman or both could be at fault. And the result is talking to you. Just a few hours old; I haven't even grasped my surroundings well, haven't even started feeling the joy of taking birth when I have been threatened with death and that too not in the heat of the moment but in cold blood. In all of this, I just have a simple question... what fault am I guilty of? If your society does not accept babies outside of marriage, then is death the only way out and that too the murder of the innocent party who cannot even defend itself?

Have you ever wondered what my dreams are? About what I think so deeply for 9 months, before I enter your world? About what I sense and feel when I hear the sounds and noises of the world I have not seen? When people talk of a red apple, I try and visualize what the colour red looks like, what an apple smells like, its shape, texture and the experience of touching it, eating it. Things that you take for granted – the sights, smells, touch, sounds and taste - are so enchanting, so alien, so mysterious to me. I am alive but just because you cannot see me, feel me, touch me, hear me, you think you can kill me without feeling even a shred of guilt?

Oh no... I can hear the sloshing of water and that advertisement again... I think she has taken the pill... my hours are numbered but I am glad I could write what I think, before I cease to exist and melt away in her bloodstream - but will it really matter to you? I guess, the death of what you can't see, hear, touch; what is smaller than the smallest speck of dust will be a non-issue for you humans. In a way, I am glad I am not going to enter your world... I would not want to become as heartless and cold as you all are... **

** I am a woman and I understand the blessing that emergency contraceptive pills are, particularly if there are high chances of an unplanned pregnancy. I always was under the impression that ECPs prevent fertilization and hence formation of the zygote. But while reading up on this, I came across various articles where ECPs were known to work even post-fertilization, technically when the life has formed. This made me ponder whether ECPs are a form of abortion as well. How do ECPs work - Depending on the time during the menstrual cycle that they are taken, this drug may inhibit or delay ovulation, inhibit tubal transport of the ovum or sperm cell, interfere with fertilization, or, in cases where it fails to prevent fertilization, prevent implantation. There are issues for pro-life activists of whether fertilization or implantation constitute the start of pregnancy, and while U.S. & UK law considers the pregnancy to begin with implantation (ca. 1 week after fertilization), the pro-life viewpoint claims fertilization should be regarded as the beginning of life, and that ECPs cause a chemical abortion, particularly if taken after the 72 hour period.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

An Ode to Mothers

A Jewish proverb states that “God could not be everywhere, therefore, he made mothers”. The importance of a mother in a child’s life cannot be over emphasized for the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. What a mother sings to the cradle goes all the way down to the coffin. A mother is a person who, if she is not there when you get home from school, you wouldn’t know how to get your lunch and even if you did, you wouldn’t feel like eating it.

Mother…the mere word brings to our mind’s eye, a picture of a woman - so perfect, so serene, so calm that she seems incomparable to anyone else in our little universe. A mother is a source of strength, a powerful source of confidence and an ideal to all of us. She is a multifaceted jewel in our world. She radiate confidence and beauty in all that she does…

We refer to her with different names depending on the language we speak at home. Some call her ‘ma’, some ‘aaee’ while others call her ‘mummy’ or simply ‘mother’. But no matter by what name we address her, she still remains the woman who carries her unborn child from the egg to the foetus and brings the child into the world. She bears and rears the child from the cradle to perhaps the grave. This may be an overstatement but it is an overstatement of truth! Do we ever stop learning from our mother? I think not. She is always there – a child’s best friend and harshest critic – who guides her son / daughter all through life. She praises our achievements and reprimands our faults. Sometimes she allows us to commit mistakes so that we may learn from them.

She is there all through our growing stages – from infancy through our adolescence till adulthood – watching over us. No comparison can be made to the love and affection that a mother showers on her children. Her smile lights up the face and warms the heart. Take away the beauty, the talent, the personality of the child and the mother will still love her child as much as she loved him / her with the qualities because the child is a part of her being. She is the one who brings out the latent faculties in the child, who gives him / her the will and confidence to stand up for what is right, to give it the best shot and be ready to face the consequences, to take each day as it comes but to be ready for the future, to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.

But a mother performs a number of roles in her life. She is a daughter to her parents, a wife to her husband and a daughter-in-law to her in-laws. She is an epitome of virtue, an example of the various roles that an individual plays in the family and society at large. She retains her inherent femininity and asserts herself when the need arises. She is responsible for the physical, mental, spiritual, psychological and emotional growth of her child. Her maternal instincts are always alert and she is always ever ready to sacrifice her comforts and her desires for the well being and welfare of her child.

But as is the case with all creations and gifts of God, we fail to appreciate the goodness, the beauty and the loveliness of His gifts. We, more often than not, tend to take them for granted and either ignore them or misuse them. The beautiful gift of a Mother is no exception. Ask yourself and be honest, how often have you been grateful for this gift of God? How often have you done things on your own, without being asked and hankered for? How often have you told your mother who, so selflessly slogs for you the entire day, that you love her and appreciate the things she does for you? How often have you held your mother’s hands in yours and kissed her? How often……….?? If you are true to yourselves, you will find that you can count these times on your fingertips. Isn’t it shameful that we cannot give a mother, who does so much for us without even a murmur of protest or a hint of irritation, even a little bit of our time, even a bit of our love or even the smallest of sacrifices? Recall the times that you have said that you love her and care for her and you will invariably remember the sudden, endearing smile, the twinkling of her eyes and the tenderness on her face. Are we so busy with our schedule, which we call ‘hectic’, that we don’t have time for the small gestures and little things in life that makes a world of a difference to someone else? Think about it….and if you feel the same way that I do, get up this very minute and hug and kiss your mother. The smile that you will see on her face is worth all the treasures and all the money in this world. It’s a mother’s smile and believe me, it’s PRICELESS!!!!!!