Tuesday, December 24, 2013


I don’t know if I am experiencing this state of mind in anticipation of year-end festivities or for some other reason, but today somehow I have been reminiscing the happy moments of 2013. The general mood around me is happy and my mind seems to be constantly replaying the cherished memories of this year, like a recap.

It’s no surprise that the good memories almost always are a result of the people in our lives or the people we welcome into our lives. New places, exciting events, good music, books, great food etc. remain – but more than often they are memorable because of the people with whom we enjoyed the moments or the people we remembered while experiencing them.

I cannot say that I had a perfect 2013. I had my share of ups and downs but the few moments that made the year special will always be with me and be the reason for more smiles to follow even several years down the line. February had been a very happy month – the Sula Fest, Valentine’s Day, and simple chit-o-chats with new found old friends made the month special. The trip to Thailand in October again resulted in beautiful memories as did my week-long stay in Pune when my mother visited Mumbai. This year I spent a lot of quality time with friends and family, which resulted in a myriad of happy memories to last a lifetime.

I thank god for the people in my life and for the memories they help me create. We don’t realize when moments become memories and smile back at us through pictures, letters, mails, videos or flashbacks in the mind. Some people become permanent in those memories and can never be part of our lives again. Nevertheless, the love we have for them just refuses to fade away. On the contrary, it grows deeper and the memories become invaluable with time. We cannot hug them no matter how much we want to. Perhaps they know. Perhaps silence speaks.

The most painful happy memories however are those where there isn’t even an iota of possibility that the person in your memory can talk to you again. That’s when God chooses to call them to reside in heaven happily ever after. Yet we feel those souls around us, blessing us like guardian angels.

But in the end, all is well. I have learned that people who stay in your life will stay regardless of everything – even if that means coming back after years of silence. In the true spirit of Christmas, there is always hope. The good always prevails over the evil. Just have faith and love life.

Merry Christmas everyone!

"The only reason people hold on to memories is because
memories don't change when everything else does."
- Anonymous

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Do writers write all day?

It is easier said than done. So many things go on at the back of my mind that I get confused and tensed – what to do and what not. Later, when am in a more peaceful frame of mind, I understand that no action was needed at that time. But when I get into that mode of ‘everything needs to be done now’, I don’t achieve much. It’s just wasting a lot of time in the end.

For instance, I sit to write and then think – let me warm up with a round of Solitaire. Then it continues till I win a game. If I win easily, I go for a complex one. If I lose a complex one, I want to play till I win. Suddenly, I realize I haven’t written for half a day. I stop the game and open the word document. But there goes a beep on my mobile. I find a promotional message from some retail store. I delete the message. But before going back to my word document, I find my fingers still glued to the phone. I click whatsapp even though my mind says NO. I find hoards of group messages. I manage to ignore them but the moment I am about to exit, I find some personal messages. I have no option but to reply. So, at least twenty more minutes gone wishing Happy Dhanteras and Happy Diwali to folks I haven’t met for years nor would meet for the next few decades.

When I feel my virtual social life is almost in my control, the phone rings and I end up talking to my mother or my best friend for another fifteen minutes. ‘That’s it!’ I try to discipline myself. But then my hand is still gripping the phone. I give in to the ‘one last time’ desire to open Facebook. Ah – there are two likes on my profile photo. But I uploaded it a month back. Let me see who liked it now. Ah XYZ aunty – so sweet. This leads to scrolling down news feed and going through hundreds of updates from friends. Then there are some friends whose profile pictures or status updates you are duty-bound to like. I mechanically go and like those. Finally, am able to get over the trap of social networking. Mobile battery says ‘critically low’. I plug the cell on to the charger.

Am almost back to my word document when I realize I didn’t check my email. I go back to the mobile- too lazy to connect Internet through my laptop. Nothing spectacular happens on email. So I move to Linked In and then Twitter. I thank god silently that I am not on Pinterest or Instagram. I sign out of the last three social sites when I have a strong urge to take a quick look at my blog- like a hunger pang. I go there and don’t find anything new. Obviously because I haven’t written anything new yet!

I scroll here and there and then visit the other blogs I am following. Nothing new there also – because this may be the nineteenth time I am looking at those today! Oh-I am getting a headache. I leave them all, lock the phone and put it on the charger. I feel so tired. Let me close my eyes for two minutes. Or better let me get myself a cup of tea. I get up and make some coffee instead. I come back to my seat. Err… so where was I? Since I have taken a break, let me play a quick round of Solitaire before I move to my word document. It will be a good warm up before I start writing.

And you know what happens next :p

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Just write

When you want to write, you should just write. Sometimes the best of ideas invade your brain when you are not thinking – just writing. It is essential to give vent to those feelings which are nameless and have stayed bottled up in your heart for months. You don’t know what to do with them and yet cannot dispose them off. Why? Is it because they or the people whose entry in your life accumulated those feelings still refuse to leave your heart even though they are no longer in your life? That’s tricky. I came across a wonderful quote this morning. It said- ‘One morning I woke up and decided that I don’t want to feel like this anymore, ever again. So I changed it.’ Simple, candid and deep. 

Writing is great to get rid of those 'don't want to feel like this anymore' kind of thoughts. It is so easy and comforting to write to myself because I don’t have to worry about people reading and commenting about how good or bad the write-up it is. Nobody is judging you then nor discussing if the flow of events in the article is correct or the content structure is consistent. That freedom means the world to a writer! In fact, these moments of madness or carefree writing help the structured or more serious writing to develop in your mind - the kind that can be refined and shared with a larger audience. When uploading content to a blog also- edits become important even though I think – this one should be posted as is.

So, writing to myself is the best part of writing! It just lets me be me and stay happy, smiling at the notepad at my desk or the empty word document on my laptop screen. Total bliss. 
Write more, think less while random writing. Give in to your writing urges. Just write – not for others, not to make money, not to be famous, nor for any other reason. Write so that you feel like writing more. Every written word does not need to be published. Write so that you fall in love with the writer in you all over again. Write because you love writing more than anything in this world. Write because you need to spoil that wicked little brain of yours every now and then. Love yourself. Write uninhibited. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

God and godliness

Just the moment I was about to give up hope, God appeared from nowhere. Yes, the same God we know, worship, love and immortalize. I was taken aback. “Is this really God?” I wondered, “or just a figment of my imagination?”

God didn’t address me as 'my child' nor looked very godly. But intuitively, I knew that God was standing right in front of me.  It is difficult to describe what God looked like. God did not wear traditional god-like clothes or come with a halo hovering over the head. But God was wearing this unending smile that was infectious. It touched me instantly and stuck to my face ever since. People I meet may think I am funny and smiling for no reason. But that’s what god wants I gathered – for us to keep smiling in life; you don’t always need a reason to smile.

If you smile every now and then, it will create enough reasons for more smiles. When you greet people with that contagious smile, you will be amazed to witness how quickly it multiplies and surpasses all mathematical calculations. One beaming smile can lead to ten, twenty, hundreds, or thousands more smiley faces. That is miraculous! Miracles are always hiding behind simple gestures and simple deeds. That’s what God told me today. I needn’t wait for any miracle to happen. A simple a gesture as a smile can create miracles right here, right now.

I suddenly try to visualize God’s face as I have seen in photographs, statues, pictures, and in my dreams. I try my best to compare that image to the God standing in front of me today. Though the face looks familiar and like someone I have met before, there is a unique appeal that is refreshing. I wondered if the smile did the trick or is it the magnanimous energy emanating from God that is making this meeting so beautiful. Perhaps the bright radiance of a new dawn, assurance in abundance and a bundle of hope make us go back to God time and again. When children pray, they see a reflection of their own souls in God, which makes their conversations with God interesting and candid, almost like a chit-o-chat with a friend.

Reverence is like loving your child or your dog – it is unconditional. It results in peace, happiness and a sense of security. Selfless love for someone for want of nothing in return is also a way of appreciating God’s creation of the human emotion we call love. Praying to God can also mean embracing your dream and following it with single-minded devotion.

As we get closer to God, we know that religion has got nothing to do with God. God is all about love, peace, strength, resolve, and happiness. If we focus on the positive in life and greet every adversity with courage, we have an opportunity to meet God every day. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Loving Your City

A city says a lot about its people.  To a great extent, the environment we inhabit shapes our personality.  A city can make a person a hero, a romantic, an artist, a martyr, a rebel etc.  Just like our upbringing defines us, the city we reside in contributes in multiple ways to nurture and nourish our individuality. When we move to a new city, we embrace the culture, the society and a new set of people. Settling in a new place has its own teething problems. But some places attract you instantly and before you realize you are in love with the place. It may be due to the people you meet, the weather, a new college, job or house, or simply the character of the city. The chemistry we share with a city we love can only be felt.

Of the few places I have been fortunate enough to explore and spend some time in, there are some places I can never get enough of.  Every visit seems incomplete and there is always a reason or an excuse to go back.

My top five in random order are as follows:

Kolkata (Calcutta), India
This is my city and I belong here. Though I prefer the name Calcutta to Kolkata, that doesn’t make the city any less lovable.  The city gave me more than I ever expected –A loving liberal family, friends for life, education to cherish, a beautiful childhood, adorable pets, a treasured adolescence, and more.  My love for books, music, and cricket started from Kolkata. Whether as a student of history, an animal lover, a foodie, or an employee – Kolkata has encouraged me to grow, learn, appreciate, and endure. Despite the bad traffic, poor roads, dismal government and other shortcomings, Calcutta will always be home.  There is much more to the city than I can ever attempt to summarize in a paragraph. Someday, I will write at length on Calcutta.

Mumbai (Bombay), India
The effervescence and energy of Mumbai attract me more than anything else. Bombay exudes this get-up-and-go spirit that makes you want to love life all over again no matter how tough your challenges are. The best part of this cosmopolitan city is the sea. The sea and I share a great rapport, which keeps both of us happy! I enjoy the vastness of the sea the most during the rains. On the flip side, Mumbai has bad traffic, bad traffic, and bad traffic. But I am lucky to have my workplace near home J. I have good friends here and I started actively contributing to my blog after moving to this city. Mumbai has given me a new taste of independence coupled with an increased sense of responsibility. This is the city that makes me believe in dreams and miracles.

Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India
I don’t know of anyone who has visited Manali and not fallen in love with the city! This picturesque hill station in Himachal Pradesh, India is among the most sought-after tourist destinations in India. I have been to Manali twice and each experience was novel. Perhaps that is the magic of the city – you find newness each time you meet the city. The breathtaking landscape – the pristine beauty of snow-capped mountains, lush-green dense forests and crystal clear water of the Beas River –Manali can make a writer or photographer out of any ordinary mortal. If you are artistically inclined, this is the place to be. Unfortunately, only residents of the hill states can buy property here. This hill station always welcomes me with open arms.

Sydney, Australia
I have been to Sydney, Australia just once – three years back, thanks to the organization I work with. The experience was fabulous. It is a city that gives you more than you can imagine. The weather is amazing and the dynamic nature of the city mesmerizes you. For me, it was as if the city was daring me to perform better, to pursue my dreams, to stay positive and to stay fit. The happiness among the people there is infectious. A clean, green city with the bountiful sea – Sydney gives an out-of-the-world feeling to any first timer. For a lover of cricket, Sydney had an added attraction – the Sydney Cricket Ground. I have to go back to the city and explore it in its totality again.

Pune, Maharashtra, India
Pune is second home.  The weather here is romantic and comforting. I have been staying in Pune for a few days now and I feel that in several ways, Pune is like Calcutta- the simplicity in people, their love for arts and culture, the zest for education et al. I can sense an inexplicable spiritual power in this city. I feel at home every time I visit Pune.  It is a busy city and almost everyone here owns a two-wheeler, just like Chandigarh. But Pune has a character of its own. Even amid the hustle-bustle of city life, you will manage to find your quaint corner here. I like spending time reading or writing in this beautiful city. The adjoining areas in the outskirts of the city add to the beauty of Pune (Lonavla, Khandala, Sinhgad, Khadakvasla, Lavassa and more).

Finally, I have to mention Goa for all its charm and spontaneity. Though it doesn’t qualify as a city, the Indian state of Goa is like a mega-city. This is one place where I feel totally at peace with the surroundings. You can relax, play, work, chat, write, click pictures – or do nothing and still enjoy Goa. I have been to Goa several times and I wish to keep it that way- at least once a year. Again, the sea in Goa is the main attraction. Sometimes the sea is ruthless and wild; in some beaches it comes forth as calm and peaceful. In few others, the sea is playful. It is very difficult to leave the seashore and go back to your home or hotel while staying in Goa. The scenic beauty captivates you and there is a sense of fulfillment. The spirit and character of Goa has not changed over the years. Perhaps that’s what makes the state so special.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Dump them when they are old?

'Worried about your retired parents? Contact XX Active Senior Living'. I was quite taken aback when I read this message on multiple hoardings on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. It took me some time to absorb the message and understand its intent.

I have heard about old-age homes. As a child, I visited a beautiful old age home in Kolkata way back in 1991. I remember it being part of an NGO initiative. We organized a cultural program for the residents there and they were delighted to have us over.

But this concept of marketing 'old age homes' as a parent-dumping ground was new to me. I made a note of the ad copy. The first line asked me if I was worried about my retired parents. All okay there - It is natural to worry about aging parents. We worry about how to guard them better against health ailments, plan their insurance and also discipline their food habits. But the idea of handing them over to an organization because they are 'physically old'? I didn't get that. Logic: Parents bring up their children. Children become adults and take care of their parents. It's that simple.

Let's walk down memory lane- quick flashback of life in early childhood. Even if we don't remember- there would be photos or videos that show how cutely terrible we were as toddlers. Each time, we looked up innocently at a helping hand for support. A loving mother or a doting father was always there - pampering us to no end. 

Think of the growing years next. Am sure you can visualize a gawky teenager who wanted the world at her/his feet. At that point in time, our friends meant the world to us and parents? They came from a different planet altogether. Every little demand was a fight and finally when parents gave in to that demand, it became an expectation. Rather - it became our right. Against all odds, the parent would go the extra mile to see a smile on the angry young teenager's face! They didn't send us to child correction juvenile homes or dump us so that specialist strangers would 'bring us up'. We always talk about how important upbringing is. I wonder if people who send their parents to old-age homes know what it means.

A couple once told me that their parents have willingly opted for these homes for a taste of  freedom! I found that quite insulting - do my parents have to go elsewhere because they feel jailed in their own home? Teenagers have innovative excuses to keep their mothers awake all night during exams as they get bored of studying alone! As an adult - is it so difficult to stop the parent from leaving home? Interestingly, a loving senior citizen at an old-age home states - 'I left home as I realized I was a burden to my son's family.' Of course, he did not tell that to his son. But it is appalling that the son didn't understand what was going on in his father's mind. 

However, I must admit that Senior Citizen homes are doing a great service to society. At least senior people now know that if their children are uncomfortable taking care of them - there are options outside home.

Today - are we so busy with our work, our priorities and our 'web-based social life' that we don't get five minutes to sit down with our parents and share a cup of tea or laugh over a simple joke? If you are worried about your parent, why do you think someone else can take better care of them? If a parent is the best thing that happened to a child- isn't it the child who can be the best caretaker for the parent?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A spontaneous evening date with the sea

Off late, I feel closer to nature – especially to the sea. I don’t know if this is because of the decisions I made recently or due to the rains. Spending time with nature is always refreshing, rejuvenating and comforting. There's some magic in the embracing openness of mother nature that helps me shed all inhibitions and savor the peaceful, silent moments.

Yesterday after work – I found myself planning an impromptu visit to the seaside. It was raining and the sea beach is at least an hour-long journey from my office. But then my heart said ‘let’s go’ and I didn't want to kill the impulsive wish :).

I walked by the sea for sometime and then entered a coffee shop adjacent to the sea-shore. It is among my favorite tranquil corners in this busy city. I got myself a cup of tea while rejoicing the beauty of silence. The only sounds that my ears would register were that of the roaring sea waves and the soft 'whoooosh' of the gentle sea breeze. My tea was cold in seconds but that did not matter. My date with the sea was far more intriguing.

I kept gazing at the sea waves and the rocks that they crushed against, time and again. It was as if I was witnessing a love story. I set my imagination free. Silence can speak volumes! 

Each time the sea wave approached the rock she said, "Here I come again. Don’t let me just go past you- hold me and let me stay with you. Or better – why don’t you break into pieces and we can flow together?"

The rock did not move an inch. But he became shiny and lively each time the sea wave kissed and embraced him. 

"I want to come with you’ – the rock said. "But I cannot. Don’t you see that’s how I am? If today, I ask you to stand still beside me as a rock, would you be able to? Oh would you?" 

The sea wave replied – "I wish I could. But just like you, I am also bound by nature. I will come back to you every day – but will never be able to stay with you. Isn't it beautiful that we cannot do without each other and yet we cannot stick to each other? Our differences make our relationship so beautiful."

"I love you" said the rock. 

"You are my lifeline" replied the sea wave. "Our love for each other ensures we bump into each other’s arms a hundred times, every day".

The rock smiled and took his time to respond. "It is these moments that make us love each other so passionately, perfectly. No matter how far we are from each other, we will always co-exist. Again, no matter how close we are, we can never be tied to each other." 

‘I’ll always come back to you – even if you don’t move or come along with me", the sea wave promptly added.

"I will wait for you forever" replied the rock, "No matter how much you hurt me with your violent mood swings".

In response, the sea wave suddenly hugged the rock tightly and said, "I cannot say - don’t leave me and go. But I look forward to hugging you once more – oh just that one more time". 

Life’s choices are like that. We can choose to be the free-flowing sea wave or the solid resolute rock depending on situations that life challenges us with

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The stubborn eccentricities of true love!

Film Review - Lootera
Starring - Sonakshi Sinha, Ranveer Singh
Music - Amit Trivedi
Director - Vikramaditya Motwane
Producers - Anurag Kashyap, Ekta Kapoor
Based on- O'Henry's 'The Last Leaf' (partly)
Backdrop - Bengal in 1950s

A romantic to the core - I was bound to enjoy Lootera –an emotional saga of true love beyond possibilities. What I didn’t expect was the maturity with which the lead actors portrayed the depth of a simple emotion like love. 

The story is fresh, sensitive, and romantic. Perhaps I instantly liked the movie because Pakhi (Sonakshi)- the main female lead, aspires to be an author. Despite the hardships, her passion for writing keeps her going.

I don’t know if many people believe in true love these days. In the age of social networking (which is a great thing by the way!) and the ease of having multiple choices for everything—sometimes we miss the ‘real’ thing. But when the feeling is pure – even if ties get severed, the truth gets established sooner or later. When the conscience awakens, lost love comes back – even if only to apologize. 

I am a firm believer in true love. Just like adversities don’t deter true lovers, misunderstandings don’t destroy everlasting friendships. After all, there is still more ‘good’ in this world than ‘bad’ – that’s why ‘life goes on’.

Lootera delicately explores a plethora of these emotions in the backdrop of post-independent India—mid 20th century rural Bengal to be precise. This was the time when the newly elected Indian government decided to abolish the zamindari system. The history angle has been fitted into the movie very intelligently. 

While we focus on the love-story between the Zamindar’s daughter Pakhi Roy Chowdhury (Sonakshi Sinha) and an archaeologist Varun Srivastava (Ranveer Singh) - there is a strong narrative in the background highlighting the social situation and the plight of the Zamindars in the 1950s.

The first half of the movie keeps one captivated with the magic of new-found love. Simple moments made extraordinary just by spending time with each other - no exotic locales, no out-of-the-world conversations - just two people enjoying ordinary days together and gazing at each other as if there is no tomorrow. Some of my friends found the movie boring. On the contrary, I thought it was poetic, romantic and very classy. It successfully created a 'wow' factor which has been lacking in the recent few flicks I have watched.

In the second half, Lootera becomes even better. There is a sudden twist in the story and the female protagonist’s life falls apart. Strong storytelling and diligent direction have contributed to excellence in each scene.

Possibly only in an idealistic world can one love someone so unconditionally - despite betrayals, shortcomings and a world of ruthlessness. One may fail to see logic in loving someone who has been an estranged lover and a disloyal friend. But love and hatred are emotions beyond our control. Like me, many others will relate to the emotional dilemmas that Pakhi goes through. 

Pakhi realizes that it is impossible to think of harming someone you have loved - even if they have humiliated you in the worst way possible. Perhaps that’s why true love is immortal. There is so much depth in the emotion that words are unnecessary, explanations are meaningless. 

Hat's off to Sonakshi Sinha - a powerhouse of expressions and acting. She looks beautiful and exudes an innocent appeal onscreen. Ranveer Singh is brilliant and charming in the underplayed low profile character he portrays. The music is melodious - especially 'Sawaar Loon' by Monali Thakur.

The supporting cast - Pakhi's dad Zamindar Roy Chowdhury, Varun's friend Dev – excel in acting. But Divya Dutta is wasted in the short cameo.

The metaphors used in the movie - the Raja's story - about life of the King being locked in his favorite parrot's heart- drawing a parallel to the father-daughter relationship - and the emotions they evoke is fabulous. The inspiration from O' Henry's 'The Last Leaf' works very well in this flick and makes the emotional viewer leave the theatre with moist eyes.

Lootera is a must-watch. We don't get to watch too many movies in this genre these days - don't miss it.