THANKS FOR ALL THE LOVE :)

THANKS FOR ALL THE LOVE :)
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December 31, 2015

Here's to a lovely 2016

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."

― Edith Lovejoy Pierce

December 29, 2015

K for 'Kris Kringle & the miracle of Christmas'




I remember that childhood so long ago
When Christmas meant to me
More than just a public holiday,
When red stockings hung over the fireplace,
And couples kissed under mistletoes,
When trees were decked with handmade ornaments,
And faces gleamed with sublime smiles,
When the fragrance of baked cookies wafted in cozy kitchens,
And melting moments congealed into flavored memories;
Rose, cinnamon and caramel chocolate...

Yuletide bakes and a glass of milk
We'd keep aside for Santa Claus
Hoping to tempt him into staying longer
And score brownie points with him.
He needed the energy, we coveted the gifts,
'Twas going to be a long night
As sleepy children all over awaited him
The big fat guy with the snowy beard;
The one who laughed 'Ho Ho Ho'
And traveled all the way from the North Pole
On his reindeer sleigh
To celebrate the spirit of Christmas,
Just like us excited souls
Nibbling off the choco-chip cookies
Bit by bit
With a guilt free conscience;
'Santa could do with a diet'

I remember that childhood so long ago,
We'd meet the gingerbread man in books and dreams,
And greet Frosty and Rudolph in carols sung tone deaf.
When Mum would tuck us warm in bed,
But instead we'd stay awake and write letters
Praying for a surprise of our choice
We'd write to Father Christmas.

A sleepless night spent counting stars,
We'd hardly realize when we'd drop off to sleep.
Morning come and we'd rush to search
For presents from Father Christmas.
One in the stocking near the fireplace,
Another under the decked up tree,
The best one we'd always find last,
Besides the pillow on our ruffled beds.
Just like life,
Where surprises lie unnoticed,
Often in the most obvious places.
Wrapped in bright pink paper and satin ribbons,
We'd indulge the present and save the wrap
In the museum of our innocence
Like the glass of milk that Santa had forgotten to empty,
In fear that we might wake up,
Sowing a temporary doubt in our silly heads.
Perhaps Santa was lactose intolerant too,
Just like Daddy.

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K for 'Kris Kringle & the miracle of Christmas' is the eleventh post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of write-up's by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

December 22, 2015

Film review: BajiRao Mastani

"Cheeteh Ki Chaal, Baaz Ki Nazar Aur Baaji Rao Ki Talvar Par Sandeh Nahi Karte , Kabhi Bhi Maat De Sakti Hai."

Hats off to Sanjay Leela Bhansali for recreating this magical journey through the stormy and passionate lives of Bajirao Peshwa, his wife, Kashi bai and his love, Mastani.

Ranveer Singh has truly outdone himself as an actor, taking care of all the nitty gritty (right upto the Marathi accent with which he speaks Hindi). His dedication to the role shines right through. Priyanka Chopra is equally stunning in her role of the wronged wife. With an excellent portrayal of the emotional turmoil that Kashi must have suffered, she has succeeded in earning great empathy and respect towards the character.
However, Mastani, aka Deepika, with her childlike innocence and unadulterated love for Bajirao, only adds to the moral dilemma the audience is facing. With her taciturn yet expressive performance, she slowly manages to make her way into your heart, thus blurring the line between what is fair and unfair.


The music is mellifluous, accompanied with meaningful lyrics (that is a rarity these days). A couple of songs that might seem a little out of sync with the time and place. But then again, some creative liberty is definitely allowed.

All in all, ‪#‎BajiRaoMastani‬ is a spectacular story with an amazing star cast (including the supporting actors).
Wonderful cinematography and dialogue. Emotion packed and gripping, the end is bound to break your heart.
Rest assured, you'd be talking about this story even after leaving the cinema hall.

I rate it 4 stars out of 5 

December 08, 2015

Finding hope 2015

Let me start by telling you a story, a story that happened not too long ago.

Once upon a time, Mother Nature decided to pay India a visit. India, her favorite place on planet Earth, India with its lush green fields, serene mountain ranges, well maintained lowlands , properly managed cities, a solid infrastructure capable of great progress, and most importantly, communal harmony and undisputed unity; this country had always prompted her to bless it in abundance.

However, times now were changing. She had been a silent witness to enough of atrocities occurring there. Farmers were committing suicide, grasslands were getting neglected, cement jungles were replacing wild forests, animals were getting stripped off their natural habitat, and as if this was not enough, there was dirty politics.
Mass lynching, unnecessary bans, religious divides, had been recently creating a political fervor throughout the country. India was getting polarized.  TV channels were being flooded with debates on intolerance. Social networks were getting choc-blocked with opinions both, for and against Award Wapasi. Ink was being used to stain faces instead of to write books. Abuses were being hurled abashedly. The past was being brought up to defend the present. There was mud slinging, blame games that involved celebrities, politicians, the general public, every one. No one was spared. Times had changed to being unsafe and sorry.
Mother Nature could not stand it anymore. She had been a silent witness for too long. It was time to take matters in her hand, she thought.
"How dare these mere mortals interfere with my laws," she fumed, her face burning with rage.

Frustrated by the petty outcry and bigoted mentality she saw hither thither, she now decided to put its citizens to test, she wanted to show them who is boss. The plan was simple. She'd pick up a city at random and express her wrath. That would show them what it meant to anger her. She'd rage and thunder at the injustice she had been made to suffer. She'd weep for the deplorable state they had pushed her favorite place into.
Pleased with her plan, she wasted no further time to bring it to fruition.
Now, she could have chosen any city. But on a whim, she started down south.

Sounds familiar, yes?
I am talking about the terrible deluge that has been flooding more than half of Chennai for over a fortnight now. I got  to first hear the news from a friend who lives there. My first reaction was to stifle a yawn. I, like the rest of the country was totally unaware of the situation, and had assumed that she was talking about winter showers. Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined then, that this news was to soon take the nation by storm (no pun intended).
It was only when the media covered the news that I realized the severity of the situation, and immediately messaged to check if she was alright.

Having been in Chennai for my post graduation studies, I share a close connection with the place. Ironically, I have experienced a huge spectrum of varied emotions--awkwardness, indifference, dislike, exasperation, frustration, attachment, before finally settling to love the city. I always say Chennai is an acquired taste.
In the short time I was there, I got acquainted to almost all the lanes and bylanes, learned to heckle with the Auto walas, grown to like Idli-Sambar and Kapi (extra strong), and found myself appreciating the authenticity of the people and their devotion towards their language. So, it was quite natural for me to feel sad when I read about Ashoknagar, Saidapet, Ekatuthangal, Kotturpuram being totally water logged. My heart literally sank.

December 2015 was a terrible time for Tamil Nadu. It was the first time in over a hundred years that Chennai was experiencing such a heavy rainfall (exceeding 300mm in a couple of days as compared to an usual monthly average of 390mm.).


Hospitals were getting water logged, homes were getting flooded, phone and other transmission networks had stopped working, animals and people were falling prey to water borne diseases, the list of atrocities was endless. The airport was closed. Railway services were brought to a halt. Power and telecom lines were snapped. While we were sitting blissfully unaware in our living room, watching our favorite sitcom over dinner, there was an entire city trying their best not to succumb to a natural disaster. People in safer areas were opening up their homes and hearts to strangers in need. Adults were carrying children on their shoulders to prevent them from drowning on streets. With neither network coverage nor way of communication, they had decided to face the storm together until help came in. Wedding halls, cinema theaters, restaurants and other public spaces were opened up to provide shelter, food, and whatever help they could offer.


Come December and news of #ChennaiFloods started leaking in. News coverage was finally being executed. Videos were being uploaded. Photos were being shared. People in the city were trying to reach us, and they had finally met with some success. As information started seeping in on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and other social media, prompt action was taken. While the rest of the country panicked and came up with ways to provide help, the Indian Army Rescue and Relief Fund distributed relief material. Indian Coast Guard dropped food packets and safe drinking water for stranded locals in the city. Medical teams were rendering essential medicine supplies. Banks were kept open on Sunday. Mobile ATM was allowed. The rescue efforts by NDRF was also accompanied with crowd funding by the general public. Help was being offered by celebrities. Stars like Dhanush, Siddharth, Rajnikanth, and Suriya who had families in Chennai tried to reach out and help in every possible way.

National measures were carried out in full swing. An aerial study was conducted by the Prime Minister to take stock of solution, and ex-gratia was offered to families who lost members to the deluge. Each one of us helped in our own way too. Every Facebook message, tweet, blog post counted. Every prayer made a difference. It seemed the fire of our intolerance was finally getting doused by the heavy incessant rains in Chennai. The water gushing into apartments was cleansing our souls of resentment. Nature had put us to test. We wouldn't back down. We were in this together.

Telephone companies did not charge phone calls for a week in the city. Power banks were being donated. Even 'The Hindu', a national newspaper, was not printed did not come in print for the first time in 127 years as an expression of support and solidarity for the flood victims.

We forgot our differences. Humanity became the only religion. People from various parts of the country were sending food packets and supplies to Chennai. Twitter was crowded with tweets from people offering help. Telephone numbers,contact addresses were being exchanged among random strangers without the fear of misuse. We were all fighting for a common cause, a bigger cause---flood relief. We were no longer South and North Indians. Previous complaints of alienation faced in Chennai were forgotten. What we remembered was the serenity of Marina Beach, the taste of Saravana Bhavan, the sanctity of the Kapaleeswarar Temple, and all the beautiful memories that Chennai helped us create.

Cut to present day: the freak rainfall is finally showing some sign of normalcy. After a tough ordeal that lasted for roughly a fortnight and took a toll of nearly 300 lives, Chennai is finally showing some signs of recovery. People are able to establish contact with their loved ones. Electricity and telecom lines have been restored. My friend tells me that the situation is improving, though some areas are still inaccessible. Airport and railway services have been resumed. Planners and city authorities are trying to analyze the problem areas and improve on the weak infrastructure. Things are slowly getting back to normal.

However, the #ChennaiFloods did teach us a thing or two about life. It taught us that no matter how bleak the situation, there is one thing we should never let go of until the end, hope.

The humanity shown by our society is proof that all is not as bad as it sometimes seems, that behind the facade of indifference and incorrigible apathy is a beating heart that still cares for our brethren, irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
I am aware that there can never be a bright side to a crisis like this. However, these tough times helped us realize the potential of technology (that helped prompt action at so many different levels), the fortitude of our fighting spirit, and the strength of our unity especially during adversity.

It's true, we are nothing in front of the forces of nature. But we can always stand for each other. At the end of the day, it is never our material possessions that count. What really matters is the support we can offer, the help we can provide and the lives we can improve.

Chennai floods 2015 proved no matter how dark the tunnel, there is always light...

We will survive!
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The post has been selected  for BlogAdda's Spicy Saturday Picks (December 12th 2015)


December 06, 2015

J for 'Jabberwocky 2015'

It was a humtry afterning.
She sat alone in solicrowd
thinking about him in virtuace,
feeling facelorn yet so proud...

Gurgleboosh and babblewhoosh,
the modern Jabberwocky spoke,
Prumping and crumping on its way,
all towards a craventurous stroke...

Waited online for long had she,
to pinssage and chalk if he was free,
Mayhaps jing and ding and ting a ling,
to call that charpper beast to tea.

Bulas! They stayed just colleagends,
Jabberwocky and Juglug craze,
qweet and froll, and zinger crawl,
they stunned each other pretzel praise...

Sweecory words and jollible sighs
brought in pikes and complises galore.
Jabberwocky and Juglug craze
started sexting more and more...

It was a humtry afterning.
They sat together in solicrowd,
the virtuace a shattered scream,
facelorn no more, just feeling proud...

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J for 'Jabberwocky 2015' is the tenth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of write-up's by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject. 

Writer's note: The original Jabberwocky is the greatest nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll in his novel 'Through the looking glass' whose playful whimsical language has given several neologisms and nonsensical words.  
The above poem is just a humble attempt by yours truly inspired by the original masterpiece. 

Interpretation code: (Please do not search for too much sense, and treat it as exactly what it was intended to be, a modern day Jabberwocky! *wink*)

humptry= humid+sultry
afterning= afternoon+evening 
solicrowd= solitary+crowd
virtuace= virtual+space
facelorn= faceless+forlorn
craventurous= crazy+adventurous
pinssage= ping+message
chalk= chat+talk
mayhaps= maybe+perhaps
charpper= charming+dapper
Bulas= but+alas
colleagends= colleagues+friends
sweecory= sweet+chicory
complises= compliments+praises
scream= screen+dream (Kinda ironical, this one)

That's all for now, folks.
I hope you had as much fun reading as I had writing.  

Cheers! :)

December 03, 2015

Towards the light with Collegedunia...

I had just returned home from a hectic day at work. A hot water shower and a quick-fix dinner later, I was all ready to hit the bed when my cell phone started ringing.

"I need your help," said a desperate voice from the other side. "It's urgent."

It took me a moment to recognize the voice. It was my seventeen year old neighbor.
"Oh, Hi Shweta. Is everything alright?"

"No Di. It's not," she said. After a brief pause, she continued, "Can  I come over right now? I need to discuss something with you." The tension in her voice was so thick, I could cut it with a knife.

What did Shweta want to discuss with me, I wondered. I was aware that she had just answered her board exams. Shweta would often come to my house to chat. She had once told me I was the bigger sister she always wished she had. She'd often discuss things with me without any inhibition. We connected real well, and even I enjoyed talking with her. Being the only child, she would miss the unwanted advice an older sibling generally doles out for free. I, being the younger of two siblings could not possibly miss out on the opportunity to play 'Gyaan Guru'. She'd often start off sulking about her problems and end up laughing at her immaturity. It was just not in her nature to take anything too seriously.
However, this was the first time she was actually sounding so troubled. I knew couldn't refuse her request, and complied. Within minutes, she was standing at my door.

"Come on in, dear. What is the matter?"

Shweta was now pacing up and down the living room.
"I need your advice, Di. I don't know what I want in life," she cried, the panic in her voice rising.

"Just relax, will you?" I sighed. "And now tell me what's going on. Maybe we can find a solution," I prodded

"I am totally confused. I don't know where to go from here."

"Err...home?" I offered.

"This is no time for jokes," she frowned. "This is about my future, my career."

"Hmm...what about it?" I asked, a mixture of intrigue and relief wash over me..

Pat came the reply, "I don't have any. I have nothing planned, and I don't know where to start."

She flopped on the nearby sofa. Holding her head in her hands, she continued, "I never really gave it so much thought before. And now with my board exams done, I need to make a call soon."

"But you must be having something in mind," I asked. However, I was aware that Shweta was always a last-minute person.

"Does it matter, Di? How can I dream of the final destination when I have no road map? I always dreamt of joining a good Engineering college, studying hard and getting a good placement. You know, the good life. But now that it's time to choose, I am spoilt for choice. There are just too many options, and they all seem equally intimidating at the moment. I have spent the past week talking and exchanging notes with my colleagues and seniors. But they have only added to my dilemma. Besides, each one recommends a different college. Besides, I am totally clueless about the course, the fees, the colleges," she rattled off making me guess she had actually discussed all this several times before. Catching her breath, she continued, "To top it all, I am running out of time. Admissions are going to start next week. I need to come to a decision, and fast. But I just cannot make up my mind. I am feeling so totally lost right now"

Shweta was on the verge of crying. I wanted to help her, but it was not my place to make one of her life's most important choices for her. I wanted her to decide for herself. Of course, I would help her see her options, but the final decision would have to be hers.
As John Dewey rightly said, "Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself."
A formal college education is of utmost importance in the life of every individual. It not just helps to hone their talent but also shapes their personality and determines their future.

Having crossed that road a long time back, I knew very little about the present day education scenario. Yes, there was a time when I was in Shweta's shoes, running around hither tither trying to gather information from all reliable sources possible. However, students back then did not have too much of a choice. With no easy access to the internet then, we had to depend mainly on recommendations made by seniors and gut instinct. Shweta, on the other hand, had a choice. Today's generation had the added advantage of internet power, which allowed all sort of required information to be available with a single click.

I'd heard quite a bit about collegedunia.com, an extensive listing portal that provides information of more than 10,000 colleges in India. It was a well-known platform that was created in order to help students like Shweta to come up and select their preferred institution after being acquainted with all aspects of it. Not just that, it also provided a broader perspective to applicants by offering information about various entrance exams, college festivals, events etc.

I opened up my laptop and showed Shweta the homepage of collegedunia. She easily found her way and navigated through the available options there. I could see her forehead wrinkle up as she concentrated on the list of btech entrance exams in India.
I could see her choice leaning towards Engineering, as she further hovered the cursor over 'preparation for exams'. As she browsed through the details of study materials for upcoming engineering exams like JEE, BITSAT, COMEDK, IPUCET, I noticed the initial sense of foreboding on her face gradually disappear. It was gradually being replaced by a sense of awe towards B.tech Engineering.
B.tech Engineering would be a wise choice, I thought. With extensive scope, there were a variety of avenues open to one after graduating in it.

Shweta looked up from the screen. "Wow, Di. This is so systematically charted. I wish I knew of this site earlier, I wouldn't have wasted so much time worrying myself sick," said Shweta.

"Well, it's not late yet," I reassured her. "I'd advice you to have a good look at the site. Get acquainted with the entrance exams, admissions, courses and everything else. It always helps to do your homework."
She nodded admiringly.

"There is a listing of all the university and colleges too," she squealed. "No more running around hunting for information. Thanks so much, Di. You are the best!"

She started typing furiously on her cell phone. I knew she was texting her friends telling them about this priceless discovery. As my eyes fell upon the open web page, I was convinced too. Collegedunia.com was the perfect guide for students seeking admission in colleges and universities, a reliable one-stop solution for all information regarding graduation and post-graduation courses.

I found a lot of helpful features on this site:
  1. Simple user friendly layout.
  2. Accessibility to complete and detailed information about institute, rating, fees, contact details and placement, from one place.
  3. Regular updates about entrance exams.
  4. Provision of a search bar to get filter and obtain streamlined results pertaining to courses in Engineering, Management, Arts, Science, Fashion Designing, Agriculture, Hotel Management, Law, Medical, Commerce etc.
  5. Courses are categorized into type, stream and location for reason of convenience.
  6. Login facility to get in touch with collegedunia.com. This would enable information to reach you directly in your mail. 
Shweta left soon after. It was heartening to see the relief on her face. It seemed like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Collegedunia had provided her with assurance that she so badly needed, assurance that she could rely on. She wouldn't feel lost anymore.
This incident made me think about a rather basic flaw in our education system. We just get one chance to make a career, and yet our entire life depends mainly on that one choice we make.  However, just like Shweta, a lot of students might not be in the perfect position to make the perfect choice. Impressionable minds might often get influenced by the decision of their parents or pressure from peers. Choosing the right institute, studying the apt course, and preparing well for the desired exam are imperative steps towards shaping a dream future. We cannot afford to allow inadequate or compromised self-evaluation get in the way.

In the wise words of Oprah Winfrey, "For every one who succeeds, it's because there's somebody to show you the way out. The light doesn't always necessarily have to be in your family, for me it was teachers and school."
Designed to cater to the educational and informational requirement of young minds, collegedunia.com allows you to focus on what is most important...
your dreams!

December 01, 2015

I for 'Issued in public interest'

Around a fortnight ago, the famous Charlie 'Harper' Sheen (of 'Two and a half men' fame) shocked the world with a confession. He said he is a diagnosed HIV positive patient since the last four years.
 (See video below)



Now, there are a lot of things in the above video that Charlie Sheen has admitted to. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just terribly honest.
To sum up, the good part is his decision to confess his medical status. After all, honesty is always the best policy. However, the fact that this man has come out with a confession like that after four whole years of being detected, is a little worrisome. Charlie admitted to have been subjected to a lot of stress, blackmail and turmoil due to his medical condition, which apparently caused him to be drained not just emotionally but also financially.

When I first heard this bit of news on CNN, I was shell hocked. I had been quite a big fan of 'Two and a half men' in the past, and like so many others belonging to my generation, my loyalty towards the show remained only until it had Charlie Sheen starring in it. Not even Ashton Kutcher could recreate the magic of a deceased Charlie Harper (the lovable character played by Sheen). Charlie had left us with an irresistibly smart and charmingly sexy jingle composer who despite being flawed in his own ways, was loved by men and women the world over. So much was his fan following, that he was one of the highest paid actors on TV at the time, at $1.25 million per episode. This was until the actor had a public meltdown after a spat with the show's creator, after which 'Two and a half men' gradually lost its viewership. The show was getting just too painful with Charlie gone from it.

Come 2015, and Charlie made a comeback, but sadly not in the way we wanted him to. This cool guy was back with a startling confession. The grapevine spoke. Had the actor been taking his role a little too seriously? However, while we pointed fingers at the ironical resemblance between the reel and real 'Casanova' image he must have played, we were forgetting one important thing. We were forgetting to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that Charlie Sheen had shown great courage to come out in the open about something no body wants to talk about...HIV, the skeleton in his cupboard.

Every year, on December 1st, we as a world come together for a common cause. We spread awareness, we empathize, we support, we promise not to discriminate. However, as the calender moves forward, our resolve gets stuck in reverse gear. We humans are known for our short term memory. Add to that, procrastination and indifference unless something really shakes us up, unless something is really happening to us or our loved ones. Don't you think that needs to change?

Today, on World Aids Day, lets start by pledging to maintain our resolution to fight against HIV. This can be done by our conscious decision to target the virus not the victim.What is imperative is a constant sense of awareness about this dreaded condition. It is said that the road to safety has a lot of bill boards along the way. However, if we keep ignoring them, there are chances that we might lose direction. Isn't it better to pay attention and stay safe?

Some lesser known facts that we usually ignore:
  • People living with HIV on effective treatment can expect a normal life expectancy.
  • In the UK, only 0.3% people with HIV develop AIDS and even then they can recover and go back to their previous HIV positive status.
  • Patients on effective HIV treatment are non-infectious.
  • Kissing does not spread HIV. Ignorance does.
  • A HIV positive patient on treatment with antiretroviral drugs should still practice safe sex. Even though the drugs may lower the level of the virus in blood tests, research shows that the virus may be hidden in other parts of the body. Hence unprotected sex can cause the partner from contracting HIV too. 
  • Sometimes HIV positive patients can be asymptomatic for years. The only way to find out is by getting tested.
  • Unprotected oral sex or sex between two HIV positive individuals can cause them to be exposed to other potentially resistant HIV strains. 
  • AntiRetroviral Therapy (ART) is recommended for everyone infected with HIV. It is a life long treatment and can help HIV infected individuals lead a longer and healthier life.
However, the availability of AntiRetroViral drugs should not be the reason for flippancy from our side. These drugs are expensive and can produce serious side effects. Besides, drug resistant strains of HIV make treatment very difficult. Hence prevention is the only way to stay safe.

Having said that, if you slap yourself for every time you showed a biased attitude towards an HIV positive patient, you will be left with flushed cheeks. But that is the kind of discrimination HIV patients have to deal with in our society. We can put an end to this unjust treatment only by educating ourselves and our friends, and spreading more and more awareness. Lets begin with ourselves first.

We need to be aware that HIV affected individuals need our care and support. Be kind. Be mindful. Be considerate towards those affected, they are fighting a tough battle already, a battle filled with regret, guilt and shame. We may not be able to end their misery. We may not succeed to wipe off that one horrible memory they have been living with each day since they were diagnosed, that guilt they have been experiencing for perhaps having trusted the wrong people a little too much, or having taken life and health for granted. We may not make it any easier for them to face their own conscience. But we can always be understanding of their condition. Lets embrace and support them as fellow humans who weren't aware of the consequences a tiny act could hold. Lets join hands with them and fight this battle against AIDS by making safe choices, by getting ourselves tested, by learning from their mistakes.
A lot of people never come out in the open because of the stigma attached to the disease. It is disheartening when someone is reckless and irresponsible enough to hide their medical status from their partners, thus putting them at risk of contracting the virus too. But thinking about it, had society by and large not been so biased about HIV, had it not ostracized those affected, had it not condemned their mistake, secluded their families and brought them shame, fear and embarrassment, we would be having a lot more HIV affected people coming clean to their partners, and conversely, a lot less unsuspecting victims.

I end here with a takeaway message, one that we all are aware and yet needs to be reiterated. Please feel no shame to talk about HIV with your doctor. If you are unsure of your past WRT any mode of transmission, do get yourself tested. You'd be doing yourself and your future partner a favor. We are in this fight together. With adequate awareness, detection and treatment, we can make our generation an AIDS free generation.
Do not push HIV away in medicine cabinets and clandestine diaries. Talk about it like any other illness that needs to be eradicated.

STAY SAFE...STAY AWARE


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I for 'Issued in public interest' is the ninth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of write-up's by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

November 29, 2015

The 'Natura' way...

According to a recent WHO report, the incidence of Diabetes in our country is predicted to reach a whopping fifty seven million by 2025. With the upward trend in prevalence, our country has become the Diabetic capital of the world. This threat to health is mainly due to urbanization, ethnicity, genetic predisposition, central obesity and Insulin resistance.

It is common knowledge that uncontrolled Diabetes can be our biggest enemy as it brings along with it the risk of complications. As a Diabetologist, I often encounter long standing Diabetic patients who find it impossible to maintain compliance when it comes to a diet plan devoid of sugar. As in the case of the forbidden fruit, most feel an irresistible urge to consume something sweet, especially on festive occasions and celebrations. We cannot really blame them. How long can your resist the temptation of sinking your tooth into a fat little gulab jamun soaked in delicious sugary syrup or that yummy looking custard that seems to beckon you every time you look its way? You finally give up and let yourself go. The happiness however does not stay for long, as you are overwhelmed with guilt soon after. This is not true only for diabetics. Those trying to watch their weight face similar emotional turmoil, and often end up losing their mind and not their weight.

If you are already feeling depressed reading this, then chances are you have been in similar situations. However, the good news is that you can now enjoy your favorite dessert without the guilt of indulgence. Thanks to Sugarfree Natura, the safe sugar substitute.

I have personally tried out a number of recipes in my kitchen by substituting sugar with Natura, and can vouch that one can hardly tell the difference. I hereby share with you one of my favorite sugarfree recipes; easy to make and totally guilt free, Gajar Ka Halwa.


Ingredients:
1/4th kg carrots
1/2 litre milk
Sugar substitute (Sugar free Natura powder)
2 tbsps ghee
A handful of chopped dried fruits (limited quantity of rasins)
Nutmeg powder
1/4th tsp Cardamom powder

Instructions: 
  1. Grate the carrots.
  2. Heat three tbsps of ghee or butter in a frying pan. 
  3. Add the grated carrots. Cook on low flame for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add the milk to the above mixture until it thickens.
  5. Add 1/4th tsp cardamom powder and a pinch of nutmeg powder to the above mixture.
  6. Keep stirring on low flame until the ghee separates from the preparation.
  7. Now mix in 4-5 tbsps, that is roughly around 20 measures (with spoon that comes in the bottle) of Sugarfree Natura. Stir evenly.
  8. Sprinkle the chopped dried fruits over it.
  9. Serve hot or cold according to preference. 
That's it. You are sorted. Finger licking dessert ready in nine easy steps. Can it get any easier?
The next time you want to pamper your sweet tooth the healthy way, do it the Natura way.


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The above post is an entry to the 'Sugarfree dessert challenge' contest by Indiblogger.
If you like what you read, please vote for it.

November 28, 2015

5 things I didn't like about 'Tamasha'

When I first saw the promos of 'Tamasha', I was thrilled. Movies like 'Jab We Met', 'Love Aaj Kal' and 'Rockstar' have raised my expectations from film maker Imtiaz Ali a notch higher. To top it all, this one had my favorite actors starring in it. Under these circumstances, it was quite natural that I was one of the many eager viewers in the crowded cinema hall.

While I cannot deny the effortless chemistry between the protagonists, I have to say that 'Tamasha' is otherwise a pretty average story. It is about love and self discovery, the key elements of almost every Imtiaz Ali film. What was disappointing though was the fact that the trailers kept implying it would be different from the run-of-the-mill movie that we have seen before. With nothing unique to offer, this story failed to impress.

The puns and the script fall flat at times, with Tara being the only one giggling at most of Ved's joke. There are parts of the movie that are laced with humor, that Ranbeer's comic timing has played to perfection. (I loved his imitation of the legendary Dev Saab.). But the moments that need to have lasted are too fleeting and far-in-between as opposed to the boring frames that are unnecessarily prolonged.
Deepika and Ranbeer are fine actors and have done full justice to their roles. However, the film could have done with some more fresh and interesting dialogues (or explanations), the lack of which made the story seem limp. I could not help comparing this to the duo's previous film. Perhaps I was searching for the 'Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani' chemistry again.

Here is a list of five things that I found rather irksome about 'Tamasha' in no particular order.
1) Two strangers (Ved and Tara) meeting in Corsica, and having one helluva fun time without revealing anything about each other was a rather common but interesting concept. They promising to lay their hands off each other during the entire course of the holiday was even more intriguing. What was a bit irritating was that they kept reminding us of this sacrifice, only to end up making out at the end of the week long holiday.

2) Honestly, I think it is super rude to insult someone in a language they do not understand. It just proves that you do not have the balls to confront them in a way that they understand. One of the opening scenes has Tara doing just that. There is an instance when she politely doles out a number of Hindi expletives to a couple of French men in Corsica. Also, there are a number of instances where in both, she and Ranbeer talk in mock accents (apparently something sounding like Mexican and Japanese) and expect the audience to laugh at their immaturity.
Imagine some foreign language film insulting Indians who don't have a clue about what is being said. How would that make us feel?

3) I was hoping for a logical explanation behind Ved's outbursts. While the audience is left to guess and even shudder a little in response to his uncalled for aggressiveness, we  are also left wondering how he manages to get all perfectly normal again without psychological help. No fair!
There are so many people battling with mental problems and depression that ought to be coped with professional help. Ved refusing any kind of help and instead dealing it all by himself by visiting some crazy man in the hills could send across a wrong message.

4) Tara's love for Ved seems like fickle attraction when she admits that she is in love with a completely different facet of his personality that is somehow lost in the race of life. This is all fine. People make mistakes, get infatuated, realize and move on. But trying to reach out to him just because she is guilty of pushing the wrong switch in his head is clearly 'Pity Party' (this kind of guilt should not be encouraged, for the betterment of both the people involved). Totally wrong move, I say. But Imtiaz Ali believes in sudden realizations and recoils...sigh!

5) I found the stage performance (especially at the end) a bit turgid and unduly prolonged. But this could also be because I was distracted and busy texting my friends by then.

Perhaps you need an artist's eye to love this movie. Perhaps you need a philosopher's mind to realize the nuances in each frame. On the flip side, maybe you need a juvenile audience to titter at the silly jokes, or perhaps young impressionable minds who are happy with whatever little of foreign locales you give them.
However, somewhere between the two are people like me, those weary souls who constitute the major part of the Mango Junta, who have had too much of old wine to not recognize it in new packing, who step into a cinema hall to watch a good movie and are only satisfied when they actually see one.

As I stepped outside, a rather indifferent expression on my face, I just had one question on my mind, the same one that the poster screamed out, "Why always the same story?!"  

Film Rating: 3 out of 5

November 25, 2015

The last illusion

I have witnessed this scene unfolding, maybe in a dream. 

I am seated in the front row of a crowded auditorium, wearing a warm pink pinafore, a ruddy tote slung over my right shoulder. I couldn't be more than fourteen or fifteen, my face has that flushed look most anxious teenagers have. I have fuchsia ribbons in my hair, and am wearing shoes to match. Even the spectacles that I keep adjusting over my nose time and again are tinted rose. I must be having a really bizarre fashion sense to dress up like that (but maybe that can be forgiven because I am dreaming.) The crowd is buzzing with the excitement one would normally see at a circus. But there are no animals around. The tent is illuminated with fairy lights, and clouds of glitter rise from the ground adding to the charm of the place.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. The show is about to commence," a woman on the stage announces. She is beautiful with flawless skin and an hour glass figure.
The show she is referring to is the magic show by renowned conjurer and illusionist, Efil Llasuskcuf. I know because I am a huge fan of his, just like all the other enthusiastic spectators in the audience.

I stare in awe at the shimmering tent, the glittering lights, the busy back stage, it all looks surreal---a scene from those picture books I loved as a child. It only makes me more eager to know what is in store. I take off my glasses for a while, the pressure has caused the skin on the bridge of my nose to pit. As I rub the depressed area with my fingers, I notice that the tent doesn't seem as attractive any more. It now seems to be made of dirty tarpaulin. The enthusiastic announcer is now retreating back stage with a scowl on his face. All of a sudden, she is looking rather overweight, not that beautiful at all. Perhaps her scowl put things in perspective, I think to myself. I adjust the ribbons in my hair. There are sullen adults all around me complaining of the dust. I see what they are saying. It is rather dusty, this place. Perhaps the dim lights did not allow me to notice the grime settled on the seats. I try to distract myself from worrying about my lovely dress getting dirty. Trying to catch the attention of the people around always helps. I check out the faces in the crowd. They too have come to watch the show, I guess. None of them look too pleased though. I try smiling at the plump woman sitting besides me.

"Nice day, isn't it?" I say, trying to start a conversation.

She nods but says nothing. I become a little conscious. I fidget with the glasses in my hands. She now looks at me, rather wistfully.

"I used to wear those," she says, a ghost of a smile emerging on her face. Then regaining her sombre expression, she continues, "a long time ago."

Clutching my glasses a little more tight, I decide not to talk to her any more. She seems disinterested. No one except me seems to be willing to share a smile. I am the only one eager to strike a conversation. The reluctance in her attitude disappoints me a little. I put on my glasses, and wait for the show to start. A little later, when I glance in her direction, I see her give me a big broad smile. I wave back.

Efil Llasuskcuf is greeted with a loud round of applause. He takes his position on the podium, and gets ready for his performance. I wonder if he requires any rehearsals at all. After all he must have performed a million times. People say his magic never gets rusty and that he never goes wrong. Each of his shows has a surprise element---he never announces his tricks before hand, I've heard. The anticipation of this much awaited feat makes adrenaline rush through my veins. I wonder what wondrous trick he is going to perform.

"Today, Mr Efil is going to treat you all to a special act. He has been bored of performing the usual rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick, and has decided to retire from the world of magic. Before leaving, he wants you to witness his last feat, a special magic before his final bow,"

There were mixed reactions from the audience. People were both happy and sad, happy because they were going to witness a never-before event in the history of magic, and sad because this was the last time they would be seeing Mr Efil perform. I adjust the spectacles on my nose. They help me see only the bright side---I feel lucky to be a part of this magnificent event.
Strangely, I cannot seem to ignore the gleam in his eyes. It seems a little diabolical, but I wave it off as my imagination.

E.L speaks, "What is about to unfurl is something much much bigger than my usual card tricks and vanishing illusions. It is going to affect one of you in a colossal way. It will expose your weakness, yet magnify your strength. It is going to bring about a permanent change. It will reveal ugly truths, but will also uncover beautiful lives."

Then looking around in the audience, he asks, "Volunteers anyone?"
I feel his gaze fall on me.

Before I can even respond, I feel my feet comply. They trot towards the podium. Something in my heart tells me that I am to be a part of this final act.

Hocus-pocus, Abracadabra, and POOF!!! 
A cloud of dust springs up from nowhere. There is something in my eye. I have to take off those rose tinted glasses to see clearly. 
CRUNCH! I hear a sound. I open my eyes only to see Efil Llasuskcuf crushing my glasses under his feet. He stomps on them until they turn to tiny sparkling pieces of pink dust. I see the dust and grime settling everywhere. He smiles at me. I know I am supposed to feel angry. How am I supposed to view the world without my rose tinted glasses? 

But to my surprise, I no longer care... 
I am not just a part of the final act. I am the final act.

Yes, I have witnessed this scene unfolding, maybe in a dream. 

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Writer's note: Take a special moment, and read the name of the illusionist backwards. It would help splash a little more light on the post.

November 24, 2015

H for 'Hall of Fame v/s Hall of Shame'

I am sure every one of us can recall incidents that leave a strong impact on our lives. Sometimes, the smallest of things bring about a permanent change in our outlook, our personality. We might not realize it then, but years later when the haze of the past clears and that one incident comes shining through, you realize that it is responsible for making you the person you are today.

I remember one such incident from my primary school days. Yes, I know it is not really possible to have lucid memories from so far back then. But somehow this has managed to create a stamp ink memory which just refuses to go away. Our class teacher Ms Suzy was a pretty young thing; a heart shaped face, deep set eyes and a soft spoken personality that not just made her our favorite but also allowed us to take her for granted. She treated all the children with a warm maternal disposition, never once losing her temper on any child. Yet, there were these dare devils who loved trying her patience. They would get their uniforms dirty during sports class, splash ink all over their hands, color outside the lines in their drawing book, leave their class work incomplete, tear up pages from notebooks because they liked the sound of paper tearing, and create a ruckus in the class room (you get the drift, don't you?).

Now, it is with great embarrassment that I have to tell you that yours truly led this pack of hooligans.
Me and my cronies were always up to no good, troubling her with our shenanigans. Nothing she would say or do would cause us to behave. Hitherto, she had tried to distract us off our mischief with all the tricks in the book. But all in vain. We'd take pride in being the cause of her headache. We'd enjoy the surprise in her bewildered eyes every time she saw what we were up to. Troubling her had become a part of routine.

Until one day, Ms Suzy explained the concept of the two halls. We looked at her open mouthed as she divided one corner of the black board in two equal parts. On one side, she wrote the words, 'Hall of Fame', and the other was labelled 'Hall of Shame'. She explained that every time we did a good deed, our names would be included in the former list, and when we committed a shameful act, it would be mentioned in the latter group. She further elaborated that God too maintained similar lists for people. We stared at her in awe. We, kids at that impressionable age, were gullible enough to believe that Mr God was watching us trouble Ms Suzy and keeping tab. We instantly felt guilty over our actions.

On reaching home, I narrated this incident to my mother. I wanted to counter check if this was actually possible. Was there really such halls of fame and shame? My mother smiled. She was only too happy to play along. If sticking with Ms Suzy's story meant taming the brat I was, she would do it.

"Every time you refuse to eating your veggies, your name goes in the Hall of Shame," she said with a serious face.

I looked disdainfully at the salad in my plate.
"And if I eat it, will God add my name in the Hall of Fame?" I asked, slowly raising the fork to my mouth.

"Hmmm...only if you do all your home work on time and stop troubling Ms Suzy," my mother said, suppressing a giggle.

The next day, at school, I behaved like a prize student. I got mentioned only once in the Hall of Shame (for pulling Geeta's pigtails). But I was listed in the Hall of Fame during Arts class. I had drawn within the lines and not chewed off any crayon. I was happy. Ms Suzy looked pleased too.
Soon enough, the enthusiasm spread among all the kids. Each one of us strived to get our name listed in the Hall of Fame. Our uniforms no longer got dirty, our books were neat, and our class work was done on time. The mischief mongers would get into the Hall of Shame and become the laughing stock of the class. At the end of every month, Ms Suzy would award the student with the most mentions in the Hall of Fame with a bar of chocolate. Soon enough, the whole class became an example of exemplary behavior. Ms Suzy had managed to get the whole class in good conduct, without raising her voice. As usual, she had figured the best way out.

I recently met up with a couple of school friends over coffee. We spoke about old times, and Ms Suzy. The concept of the two halls had stayed with us all through our growing up years. We agreed that somewhere at a deeper sub conscious level, we still believe in it. We are no longer as gullible as we used to be. But it does help us stay in check. There is no Ms Suzy to chart out lists and mention names anymore. There are no class mates to tease and laugh at our embarrassed faces. There is no prize chocolate waiting for those of us on our best behavior. All we have now is a conscience that Ms Suzy helped to shape.

And as long as we know where we are going, we will find a road to take us there...

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H for 'Hall of Fame v/s Hall of Shame' is the eighth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of write-up's by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

October 19, 2015

G for 'Gypsy'



Two tired hearts; yours and mine,
in wandering caravans traveling fine,
will leave for yet another town,
when the winds will change and the chips are down...

Two tired hearts; yours and mine,
in solitude will often pine,
a moment stolen from the past,
that will be cherished and made to last...

Two tired hearts; yours and mine,
will party hard over song and wine.
No cause for any feud or strife,
nor hope of meeting in another life...


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Apologies for the long wait. I promise to be more regular in my postings from now on. This time, I decided to write in verse. Let's just say the situation demanded it ;)
G for 'Gypsy' is the seventh post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of write-up's by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

September 21, 2015

F for 'Flawed Fairy tales'

Honestly, narrowing down to one sole topic for the letter 'F' was one hell of a struggle. My mind was choc-blocked with ideas, and the creative needle swung from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other. To add to the horror, the family was also coming up with ridiculous suggestions and getting all hostile when I refused them. (I now know why Ch for 'Chunni Babu' had a drinking problem...sigh!).

A friend suggested I write about fairy tales.

"What's to write about them?" I snorted.

"Oh c'mon, don't be such a prude. Who doesn't love a good fairy tale?" she cooed.

"Err...ME!!" I wanted to say, but decided against it.
After all, it was just a matter of choice. The dreamer in her preferred to see the beauty. The skeptic in me was bound to spot the flaws.

Yes, you read it. I don't like fairy tales. I find them creepy.
Well, don't get me wrong. I grew up on my fair share of stories that started with Once-upon-a-time's and ended with happily-ever-after's, and like every other gullible brat believed in the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and all the glitter that wishing wells and magic far-away trees are made of.
I was in love with that ethereal world, the world of glass slippers, and fairy godmothers, of beautiful princesses and their charming princes. But then something changed. It's almost magical how life transforms you into a skeptic. There is no one moment or incident that you can point at and say 'Yeah, that's it. That was the point of no return. That's where I got disillusioned." It just happens slowly and gradually, and before you know it, Bam! You are there! Somewhat like a bar of Snickers a day and the end-of-the-month surprise on the weight scale. (You get the drift? Good! Let us not digress, please.)
 

So like I was saying, fairy tales are creepy. I can assure you almost every freaking fairy tale we have heard during our childhood has a twisted element to it, something that we failed to notice and which is subtly responsible for our distorted perceptions (on an individual and societal psyche basis.) Allow me to explain with examples.

Case 1---Imagine you are comfortably seated, hair tied neatly in a top knot pony tail, flipping through a magazine when some stranger comes behind you and tugs at your hair. What would you do? If you are a modern day woman and say anything short of  'turn around and smack him hard in his face' then, you either have a serious mental problem or are wearing a wig. I mean, do you know how much it hurts to have your hair tugged at; leave aside the effort to braid it, the fear of hair fall, the bad-hair days etc. Now imagine you standing on the terrace of a tower, and a stranger asking you to let down your tresses so that he can tug at them while you pull him up. So what if he is a Goddamn prince? He didn't care about Rapunzel (who might have died of a cervical fracture in the process--unless of course he was as light as a wisp) when he tugged at her golden braid. The poor princess (with the super strong neck) was meant to endure in silence. I an literally imagine her going 'Ow, Ow, Ow' as he convenienty used her hair as a rope-ladder to climb his way up.

Case 2---Who doesn't know Cinderella? How I hate this fairy tale. We seriously need to consider banning this one from story-hour time slots all over the world, kick it out of syllabus, thrash it, fling it out of the window, and make sure no child reads the traditional version ever. Every girl needs to know the meaning of self worth, and the sooner she realizes this the better, so that when she grows up to be a woman, she, like her favorite 'Disney' princess, can walk away with the guy who loves and respects her for who she is.
Every girl should hope for a love that does not need her to be decked up in a shimmering gown, diamond tiara and glass slippers, to fall in love. 
Sooner or later, we are bound to grow old and fat anyway--age, however, is a number that can change only appearances but not the heart. So if someone manages to fall for us in just a few hours of silent ballroom dancing---then we have something to worry about, don't we? Every kid reading 'Cinderella' should be told that compatibility is not judged on the basis of a few hours nor on good looks or financial status. So ideally, we ought to go out there in our rags, our dusty slippers...our simple yet clean pair of jeans and a tee thrown on top---sans makeup and jewellery and see who we can relate to in mental wavelength, kind spirit and honest attitude, instead of letting a rich dude (who has the audacity to call for a beauty pagent to select a partner for life) choose us like a piece of china in an antique showroom.
As for the original tale, it's unbelievable how the twit of a prince needs a glass slipper to recognize the love of his life. Yea, like no one else could have the same shoe size. Oh, and in case you going to fight me saying she produced the other slipper as evidence, then all I can say is that she's lucky there were no Christian Louboutin's around to emulate those custom made beauties (I'm talking of the glass slippers here, you perverts) back then. See, I told you. Flawed at so many levels.

One more creepy point worthy of mention is how almost every fairy tale has the female protagonist playing damsel in distress. She is either tortured, humiliated, put to sleep for a hundred years, abandoned into the forests, made to kiss a frog, or sent with a basket of fruit to her grandmother's house. Nobody asks her whether she is okay with being kissed (Remember, that was totally non consensual. What if sleeping beauty wanted to sleep longer? What if the prince suffered from halitosis and forgot to carry mints? What if she just didn't feel like it? But hey, wait a minute...we'd never know because she was never asked. We as kids were supposed to believe she woke up to the power of love from that kiss, and all was well once again. Happys endings, right? Wrong!!

That is not how it works in real life. A strange man you don't even know kissing you in your sleep is plain creepy. They just never told us.

On a somewhat related note, a girl kissing a frog and expecting him to be a prince is equally creepy. But let's stick to the point.
Notice how the female is always chosen to be portrayed as the hapless victim in most fairy tales. The prince got to kiss a sleeping princess who would be forever indebted him for saving her life. On the flip side, if the princess wanted to be the hero and restore a handsome prince to his original state, she was made to kiss a (*hold your breath---pun unintentional* ) FROG!
I am sure a lot of frogs got lucky thanks to this one.

That brings me smoothly to Case 3---Poor little Snow white, for instance, is another example. The seven little dwarfs she lived with had cute names but selfish hearts. (But see how cleverly their names proved to be a distraction.) Snow White didn't pay them any rent, but how can we overlook the fact that the dwarfs welcomed her in their house only after they learned that she could cook and clean beautifully? Apparently, the rule, 'In life, there are no free lunches' applies even in fairy tales.
Snow White stayed at home looking after the house, cooking meals, making beds, while the dwarfs mined for jewels all day. So what do you find wrong in this picture?
No? Can't you see it? Unfair distribution of work. Not once did the dwarves exchange responsibilities. Not once did anyone mention or ask Snow if she wanted to go mining while they cooked, cleaned and made the beds. She was given no choice, No! It must have been a 'cook or leave' scenario. She didn't have any option. She had to scrub the dishes till they shone.
Thinking back, perhaps it was a male chauvinistic attitude that people in the West possessed back then (Heck! The story was written somewhere in the 1930's, long before women's liberation.).
But if you are an Indian kid, you'd be still listening to the version of 'Snow White and the seven dwarfs' which has Snow White cooking 'Butter chicken & Round rotis' or 'Thayeer Sadham' (depending on whether she is North or South Indian) for those tired little gold diggers. Why? Because we in India like to keep our 'fairy tales' as close to reality as possible (not the other way around, mind ya).

But that aside, do not call this a feminist rant (or call it one, what-ever!) I feel for the poor dwarfs too. You all know how the story goes. Just when they begin to think they have found themselves a friend, the wicked step mother intervenes again. This is followed by the same old drill; apple, poison, slumber, prince and finally, the non-consensual (not again!) kiss. This is where I feel bad for the dwarves. Snow White, upon finding the prince, conveniently forgets these little friends, never as much to look at them again. Oh well, I know the animation shows a teary farewell with polite nods and friendly waves. But seriously, I think the reason people (especially women) in relationships hardly stay in touch with friends stems loosely from these fairy tales. I think I should cut Snow White some slack. They didn't have Facebook back then. Or else you would have seen her liking status messages Grumpy, Bashful, or Sleepy posted.


Case 4---Goldilocks. What about 'Goldilocks and the three bears'. This story takes 'creepy' to a whole new level. In times where we keep warning our kids against strangers, here is a pretty little girl entering an unknown house, eating porridge and sleeping in their bed. I mean how misleading would that be to a kid? Entering unfamiliar territory is no adventure, in fact far from it. What if the house belonged to Ted Bundy or Jack the Ripper? What if that steaming hot porridge was bait? What if there was a serial killer waiting to saw Goldilocks in half as she dozed off comfortably in that bed after having consumed the spiked porridge? No, nobody tells your kid all this. As she listens attentively to how Goldilocks sneaked in and had an adventure of her life, there is a part of her that wants to have such an adventure too. I know because I have been there. Luckily, mine was a boring neighborhood. Nobody ate porridge.

Maybe I am over reacting. Perhaps you will call me a kill joy. Kids should grow up on a fair dose of magic and fairy dust. But times are unsafe, my friend. Besides, what good did these fairy tales do us anyway?
You keep chiding your kids from receiving gifts and sweets from strangers.  I read somewhere that a child was kidnapped from a department store. Cc tv footage showed a big bearded man in a Santa suit handing him candy which the child readily accepted. The weeping mother confessed that she had never suspected 'Santa'. Honestly, I find Easter egg hunts creepy for exactly the same reason. We keep instructing our children to stay away from objects lying around carelessly, and then we go ahead and organize treasure hunts in random parks where they are expected to look over, under, across and through all sorts of things to discover the carefully concealed goodies. I mean how strange is that, really. I was okay with the idea of a tooth fairy until 'Sharp objects' by Gillian Flynn happened. Now I think she (the tooth fairy) is creepy too.

Too much of a skeptic, you say?
Well, what to do, we are like that only...


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F for 'Flawed Fairy tales' is the sixth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

September 17, 2015

Dear Vignaharta



What does one say to someone who already knows everything one wants to tell him?
Today, I will just bow my head before you and say 'Ganpati Bappa Moryaaaa!!!!':)

Your ever-demanding devotee,
Me

September 11, 2015

E for 'Exercise and Excuses'

I met up with a friend the other day and noticed that she was looking positively happy and radiant. When I complimented her, she laughed and said that a lot of people were telling her that these days. She winked and said she had discovered a secret formula to stay fit. Before I could run off to the nearby chemist store to inquire whether such a wonder-drug had hit the market, she gushed that the formula involves *brace yourself for the surprise of all surprises* an early morning exercise session that spreads over 90 minutes after which she gulps down an odd orangish-green vegetable juice that helps her kick start her day. Such a let-down it was, I tell you. Why can't these pharmaceutical companies come up with something to replace exercise, I grumbled.

A little insight about the person you think you already know so much about, yours truly aka moi, I, like most people in the right frame of mind, hate early morning workouts. Truth be told, I just cannot relate to those creatures who disrupt their beauty sleep for a grilling session at the gym returning all stinky-sweaty and yet supposedly feeling 'as fresh as a daisy'. I mean c'mon, how can something as rigorous as that in the wee hours of the morning make you feel any better or happy(er)?
So when you tell me that you wake up at 5.00 am for an whole hour doing cardio, sit-ups and weights followed by a pilates class or some other calorie-burning, muscle-spraining torture that I find it inhuman to even mention, it's obvious that I will stare at you like you have bitten  by a rabid dog.

Yes, I know. I must practice what I preach. Like every good doctor, I too advice my patients to walk for half an hour at least five times a week. But hey, there is a difference. I never and I mean NEVER tell them to hit the gym at dawn. It's a free world though. So don't you dare go blaming me, no.
Besides I think every person is allowed to be a schmuck sometimes, and I have to admit I quite fit the bill when it comes to this. Nobody's perfect, eh?

So without further ado, let me make a list of all the excuses I have come up with to avoid exercising (be it early morning jogs, cardio, cycling, even yoga) in the past. Read at your own discretion.
  1. Psychosomatic: Pretend it is killing you softly but surely. Arms hurting, legs aching, eyes burning, muscle spraining, torticollis, vertigo. I once complained I felt a radiating pain in my right arm and managed to create quite a stir, especially when I said it had reached the jaw within seconds. Nobody spoke about gymming for a whole week after that. 
  2. This is more of a fooling-your-conscience trick. Become an illusionist and create an illusion of being perfectly healthy and don't need any exercise. Pro of the situation: Like a successful illusionist, you are able to bamboozle your audience. Con of the situation: You are your own audience. However, this trick only works if you can manage to drive away visions of pastries, butter chicken, aloo parathas and caramel custard that you consumed for dinner last night. It has worked wonders with me. I make a good audience who falls for this 'trick' every time. However, like every magic show, the magic is only temporary....until you realize that you got to 'die with a T' as an alternative to burning those calories off. I still can't decide which is worse. 
  3. Show everyone the unintelligent forward you just received from one of your talli friend, that says "Vodka is made from potatoes. Potatoes are vegetables. Vegetables are good for you." So join the dots and have another shot.
  4. Keep saying you feel lethargic all throughout the day. Combine it with psychosomatic complaints. But never mention you think it could be because of exercise. You don't want people to suspect you trying to ward it off. Been there done that, and it rolls out so beautifully you could cry (tears of pride at the discovery of a full proof plan).
  5. Walk around like a wraith all day. Maybe you can do a little zombie act. If someone asks you (which someone is bound to), smile wistfully and tell them it's probably because you not been sleeping well. Again, do not even  mention the torture they have foisted on you. Let them guess. It adds to their guilt.
  6. Google information about people who died of cardiac arrests from over-exertion. Then sigh and say 'Different people...different thresholds.' Proceed to act all weary and lie down for a while.
  7. If you are a woman, you can always pose to be a non-liberated doormat complaining how men just have it easy. Make up something to avoid the tread mill. Say it's 'that' time of the month. I know it sounds a bit old school. But so does menstrual exclusion. However, it still goes on doesn't it?
  8. If you are a man, you can take advantage of old-school logic as well (just to keep par with us women) and preen that you being the essential bread-winner of the family can't afford to waste time over your fitness. Let the woman of the house take care of that for you. (Psst! Make sure you don't mention the 'Happy hours' you indulge in while spouting this excuse.)  P.S: this one works best if you have always been a chauvinistic pig. 
  9. Complain that you cannot work out in a social set up like a gym because there are just too many people around. Say it makes you anxious. Joggers parks and walking tracks have the same effect. Isolated areas, however, pose an entirely different threat. This excuse manages to create a win-win situation for you either way. Yenjaay!!!
  10. This one is bound to guarantee 100% success. Form a 'no-exercise' club. Allow entry to only those gym-haters who are fatter and unhealthier than you. Then become the chairperson. Distribute pamphlets, lead rallies, call meetings. Scheme, plot, plan. Do not associate with those who exercise. Gossip (feel-good therapy) about how they manage to keep fit. Bitch that they just have too much time to engage in self care. Whatever you do, never encourage. Never get inspired by them. If you detect the faintest sign of motivation amongst any of the club members, throw them out. Clearly demarcate the fitness freaks from the lazy lumps. Make sure neither team crosses enemy lines. The fitness freaks are a minority anyway. Exclusion will coerce them into joining the other side...your side. If you can't join them, change them. That should be the mantra of your war strategy.
Needless to mention, one of these above excuses are bound to work for you. If however, they don't, then worry not. Contact me for other ideas. There is more where those gems are coming from.

Until then, amigos,
sleep and let sleep! *yawn*

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 Writers note:  (Disclaimer: The above piece is written in jest and should be taken with a pinch of salt. The writer should not be held responsible for any human, animal, or feelings that might have been hurt in the process.)
E for 'Exercise and Excuses' is the fifth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

September 03, 2015

D for 'Dilemma'

Who do we listen to, the head or the heart?
is the colossal confusion that has been confounding mankind from even before 'What came first, the hen or the egg?'

The heart and the mind being constantly at war is a topic that has been exploited by all and sundry, so much that it does feel a tad bit juvenile (at the risk of it seeming common knowledge and overrated) to elaborate any further. Besides, it is a predicament that has no permanent solutions, at least none without the possibility of a regret some time in the future. However, what is surprising is that every time we are made to stand at similar crossroads, we are washed away by a pain anew. No amount of experience can ever ease the wretchedness of the damned Hobson's choice.
It can be assumed that it is our helplessness that makes us lament over this classical dilemma between the head and the heart. If we choose our mind, we fear it might lose our love to practicality. If we listen to our heart, we fear the risk of being a sentimental fool. Either way, we are constantly harrowed by the dread of making a wrong decision. We worry about consequences instead of celebrating our preferences. It's a constantly changing world, we sulk. How then can we trust our choice to remain constant?
Ohh, the dilemma! My head is hurting, my heart is aching...
Perhaps it's only human nature to keep complaining.
Perhaps it's only human nature to run away from confronting things we cannot change.

But how long really does one need to keep running when there is nowhere to hide?

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 Writers note:  D for 'Dilemma' is the fourth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of articles written by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject :)

August 30, 2015

Hunger in the times of TinyOwl


If thre is one trouble maker member in my whole extended family, it has to be my aunt Kanchan who we fondly call 'K Maasi'. I would not be exaggerating if I had to say she possessed the ‘Bambiligan’ gene .For those who haven’t got the gist of that concocted gene, it is a term that I have coined for K Maasi who possesses the innocence of doe-eyed Bambi and the notoriety of a bunch of hooligans, put together.
It is tough to say whether the havoc K Maasi wreaks is intentional or not. But trouble does follow her like a domesticated animal follows its master, rarely causing any distress to him/her but always managing to unnerve a poor unsuspecting victim in the process….in this case, mostly ME!

I can enumerate a million incidents (ranging from her bringing up unexpected matrimonial alliances to her talking nineteen-to-a-dozen which always leads her into saying what is not needed) when good old ‘Bambiligan’ K Maasi has pulled the carpet below my feet springing up the weirdest of surprises that I can never be prepared for. It is this trait of hers that has earned her the status of ‘Aunt Agatha’ (of Wooster fame) in the family thereby invariably making me head for the hills on announcement of her arrival. But like K Maasi light-heartedly says, “You can run but you cannot hide.” As for me, I can hardly ever run far enough.

The most recent incident that left a stamp ink memory happened around three months ago when  K Maasi decided to pay us a visit. My dad’s colleague along with his family had been invited over for a formal dinner at my home that evening. My mother and me were busy putting together a small spread when Maasi waltzed in and insisted on helping with it.
Knowing K Maasi's kitchen prowess, I stifled a tiny scream of protest. However, not wanting to offend her in any way, my mother reluctantly agreed.

“You go ahead and freshen up. I will take care of everything,” she instructed my mom with a gentle dismissal. Somehow the latter half of that statement caused more dread than relief in my heart which had suddenly turned tachycardic.

“Err...Are you sure, Ma?” I asked.
“Don’t worry beta. Kanchan will manage fine.”
My mother was showing a lot of faith in her sister’s culinary abilities today.  Later she told me the secret behind the sudden confidence---Almost everything was ready. The table just had to be laid. There was no scope for any kind of confusion. K Maasi was only too pleased to help and my mom had allowed her to feel important.

I was alone with Maasi in the kitchen now. She began to draw the lids from the various preparations and inhale the aroma wafting in the air above them with an air of urgency I couldn't really fathom.. I was all ready to accept a few compliments for the wonderful culinary extravaganza I had contributed to help making, when POOF! My bubble burst. K Maasi was wiggling her nose in distaste, her forehead showing vertical creases of disappointment.

“Err…is anything wrong, Maasi?” I asked.

“Shhh…” she silenced me. “Let me concentrate." 
Then biting the right corner of her lower lip, she exclaimed with a toss of her head, ”Salt! A little more salt in this!”

“But Maasi, shouldn’t we be tasting it first?” I suggested.

“I have been cooking for 25 years, darling. I’d know these dishes to perfection by their very aroma from miles away.” Then as if to appease me, she dipped in a spoon and tasted the ever so delectable Palak Paneer that my mom had cooked to perfection.
“There!! Didn’t I tell you? Go get the salt now,” she announced. I suspected the hot gravy had not even reached her taste buds yet.

Reluctantly I handed her the salt dispenser. I knew there was no hope now. K Maasi  was on an ego trip. She wanted to contribute and contribute she would. She proceeded to alter each and every dish with what she thought just a dash of pepper, a tinge of extra salt, a spoonful of sugar, a squeeze of a lemon and so on. I watched in horror but her confidence and enthusiasm could make a sous chef doubt his abilities. 

“Lets flambĂ© the caramel custard,” she rubbed her hands with scary enthusiasm..

“Noooooo,” I almost screamed.

It was just then that the door bell rang. K Maasi gave me a dejected look and went to answer it.

When mom entered the kitchen, there was hardly any time to tell her what had happened and explaining would have unsettled her. Besides I knew the trouble maker had only meant well. She always did. The guests would arrive any minute now.

I prayed to God for some miraculous intervention…something that would prove K Maasi to be a far better cook than we thought she was. Perhaps she had finally improved after all those culinary misfortunes we had been privy to in her past. Perhaps her husband was only joking when he had once narrated how even their neighbor’s hungry dog had refused to eat the food K Maasi cooked. Perhaps the guests would not notice the extra salt, pepper, sugar and whatever else she had kept adding.
Just then my dad entered the kitchen. He was looking rather glum. K Maasi scurried in right behind him.

“I’m sorry dear,” he said to my mom. “The Kumar’s had to cancel. Something unexpected came up and they had to leave for their hometown.”

I could not believe my ears. I almost jumped with joy. God had answered my prayers after all. That had been a narrow escape.

“Ohh. I was so looking forward to their visit,” said my mom dejectedly. Then glancing towards the kitchen, she continued with a crest fallen face, "Now all this food will go waste.”

I was still grinning ear to ear. The trouble maker was observing me beam with joy.

“What’s making you so happy?” she frowned. “We put in so much effort.”
Bambi's innocent face flashed before my eyes again. I went up to K Maasi and gave her a huge hug.
“Nobody’s effort has gone wasted. I am going to eat….eat it all,” I said with a mix of relief and regret in my voice...the former because we were saved from the humiliation in front of the Kumar's and the latter because I had impulsively promised to eat K Maasi's kitchen disaster.

“Too bad that the Kumars won't get to eat such scrumptious food,” chimed in Maasi only too happy to receive the hug from me. It was easy to tell that she had mistaken my relief for appreciation..

The trouble maker was clueless this time, clueless of what a mess she had whipped up…………..well, at least until dinner was served, and even though none of us could swallow even a bite of the food she had improvised, the memory of this incident leaves us in splits even today. We call it the 'luck by chance' event much to K Maasi's red face. The guests hadn't turned up and we had been saved the embarrassment. However, it was rather late and we were too tired to step out for dinner. As we scourged through the menu's of various restaurants for home delivery, we realized how frustrating it can get to get a simple meal delivered to your doorstep. After an endless call waiting and a couple of disconnections we finally managed to get our call through only to be told that the delivery could take some time due to lack of staff. The dinner finally landed up on our table an hour late by which time we were starving, half asleep, and ready to eat anything...all except K Aunty who on sniffing the food placed before her insisted that it required a dash of salt, a tinge of pepper, and a little modification that her 25 years of experience could take care of.

As I now recall the food fix that day, I wonder what a humiliating scene it would have created had the Kumars landed up for dinner. I did not have any plan B then, what was I thinking? But I believe in working on my flaws. I have now worked out a plan B for such 'kitchen crisis' management and sticky situations in the future---a pantry stocked with snacks and #TinyOwlApp on my phone.
From dosas to donuts, from pastas to parathas, from biryani to baingan bharta, Installing the TinyOwl App on your phone will make sure your choice of meal arrives at your door step. It makes the entire process of ordering food time conserving,  convenient and fun. All you need to do is tap (the App) and choose (from the options it provides). It is as easy as ordering a butler around, and guess what? This butler comes for free.
So the next time K Maasi experiments in the kitchen, I am going to sit back and just tap on an expert app with a minimal interface and order in from the city's best restaurants in and around the city.


In addition, TinyOwl allows both cash and card payments and also saves all your previous orders and addresses so that you don't have to type it every single time. It takes the entire responsibility of confirming your order with the restaurant and notifying you of the estimated delivery time. To sum up, this handy app reduces a lot of stress from your shoulders, especially in times of emergencies like K Maasi's cooking escapades or an unexpected visit from your friends on days you are just too bored to enter the kitchen or just too tired to step out. No more panic attacks. No more having to wait until you get connected to the restaurant, no more address mix-up's because the manager on the other end of the call is stone deaf, no more dialing numbers in the hope of getting through a busy line---now who wouldn't want a simple, easy to use, and most importantly, free-of-charge food ordering app that does all the irritating work for you?

So download now. Here are the Android and IOS links.You are now just a tap away from a scrumptious feast from your favorite restaurant.

Bring it on, K Maasi. I am fully armed for your next visit!

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This post has been written for the 'Food tales with TinyOwl' contest conducted by TinyOwl and Indiblogger
If you are an Indivine user and like what you read, you can vote for me here