June 21, 2018

#OpenNTalk: That's the way the cookie crumbles

Imagine this enticingly gorgeous Black-Forest cake (complete with dark chocolate glaze dripping et al) sitting coyly in your fridge, waiting to be devoured. You have recently discovered and confessed your love for Black-Forest, and your possessiveness is at its zenith, forbidding everyone else from enjoying it, because, well, you’re a crazy cookie who tends to go bat-shit-obsessive in love.
Anyway, moving on...

Days turn into weeks. Everyday, you have a slice of that sinfully delicious cake. Every night you remind yourself how lucky you are to have such a decadent treat all to yourself. Every time you see your friends in confusion on which pastry to pick, you convince yourself how lucky you are to love something without a doubt. Then you go home and have that customary bite of your Black-Forest (BF) cake in the fridge. The cake that is always there...

Weeks turn into months.  By now, everyone is convinced of your sheer love and loyalty towards BF. Your friends and family never miss on getting it along whenever you join them. It’s amusing (and mildly irritating too), you think, how wherever you go, BF tends to follow...

And then, one fine morning you wake up. Brush your teeth as usual. Perform your daily ablutions as usual. Check your email, read the news, get dressed,  as usual. And just before leaving for work, you open the fridge, expecting your black forest cake to be there, waiting for you like always.
And bammm!! It’s gone! Vanished without a trace.

However, instead of feeling shock and remorse, you are actually happy. You feel liberated of the pressure of having to keep up with your alleged passion for BF. So glad are you, that you don't even bother finding out what happened. Maybe someone got tempted and ate it without your knowledge, or maybe it sprung feet and walked out of the fridge all by itself.
"It was time for a detox anyway," you say to yourself, experiencing a strange sort of relief.

And that, my friends, is exactly how falling out of love feels like...


This post is published for #OpenNTalk Blogger's League hosted by Dipika Singh of Gleefulblogger
Ruchie Verma - Wigglingpen in association with SummerBarnVedantika HerbalsNyassaExplore Kids World.

#OpenNTalk is a bloggers league wherein forty selected bloggers are divided into eight teams. Each team has five members, who will blog on varied topics during the month of June. Each blogger will post a series of four posts, one post every week. 

My team for the Bloggers League is #CrossBorderSisters, and blogging with me are four other wonderful bloggers. 
1: Aditi:  BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
2: Manisha: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
3. Anagha: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
4: Bhawna: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram

June 12, 2018

#OpenNTalk of handshakes and first impressions

Over the last couple of days, the Twitterverse has been constantly abuzz with comments on the recent handshake exchanged between French president Emmanuel Macron and POTUS.
As a matter of fact, it wasn’t so long ago that our beloved Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, had extended a similar kind of torture on poor Mr Kumarswamy, who appeared so harrowed that it seemed he would never again shake hands with Modi ji. I recall Twitterati having a good laugh at the picture, gloating, this time, not only about his alleged 56 inch chest measurements, but also about the iron grip that could give Sunny Deol’s 'dhai-kilo-ka-haath' a run for his money.

All this hullabaloo about the congenial hand shake got me wondering. Could there be more to this seemingly harmless gesture than what meets the eye?
Personally speaking, this is not the first time I’ve been thinking about handshakes and the intention that lie behind them. Human psychology and its manifestations has always piqued my interest, and it is for this very reason that I often pay extra attention to the body language of those I come in contact with.

It cannot be denied that a handshake can very often make a lasting impression. Within 3-6 seconds, this gesture can send you a vibe, pass on a signal, and tell you a little about the kind of person you’re interacting with.
In my life, I have encountered people I’ve never met a second time just because I wasn’t comfortable with their body language. On the other hand (no pun intended), some of my closest friends had once been strangers who put me totally at ease with a gesture as simple as a genuine handshake the first time I met them.

Accordingly, below is a list I have made of the types of hand shakes we encounter in our daily interactions. So here goes...

1) The three-fingers touchshake - This is the most reluctant type of hand shake. Here the hands don’t touch. Instead, two fingers are extended to meet your hand. Normally extended by women when their creep-sensors are activated or by someone who just doesn’t like you all that much. This particular handshake suggests superiority and ‘stay away from me because I’m just not interested’ signal.

2) The feather-touch handshake - Although this one goes really well with the ladies, especially when you are meeting them for the first time, it can also be misconstrued as being preternaturally unobtrusive and even a tad too indifferent. Sends out a pretty decent vibe when extended between members of the opposite sex, especially for first meetings when you don't want to appear over enthusiastic or pushy in any sort of way.

3) The 'yikes' handshake - As the name suggests, this one grosses me out  the most. With its moist and sweaty touch, this variant of a handshake suggests nervousness or anxiety or something much worse. A cold damp hand always makes me wonder where it’s coming from. Chances are I’ll never shake hands with said person again or resort to the Indian Namaste or the three-fingers touchshake approach instead.

4) The paralyzing death-grip - If the devil were to shake hands with you before dragging you to hell, this would be it. This bone-crushing variety of handshake is the kind that will definitely find its way to your list of regrets by squeezing the life out of you and leaves you feeling pale from the  exsanguination. Works like a charm, especially if you are trying to convey feelings of animosity or vendetta. 

5) The ek-duje-ke-liye handshake - Particularly seen between new lovers or  couples besotted with each other. It’s usually a sign of deep seated attraction where the two people lock hands and refuse to let go, resulting in a prolonged handshake that is less realiszd by them and more by the world around. Can lead to embarrassing consequences in case of unrequited emotions.

6) The disoriented handshake - Ever encountered a handshake you didn’t see coming? You’re having a good conversation when all of a sudden, a flailing hand is thrust in front of you. And just when you extend your hand to meet it, you realize that hand was an awkward movement the person was making to drive home a point in the conversation. Bummer, eh? Exactly!

7) The blanket handshake - This is my favorite kind, but only when extended by my favorite people. It involves the usual handshake with the added support of the left hand covering the person’s right hand as well. I see this as a sign of warmth, security and all inclusive handshake that coveys positive feelings and makes one feel instantly comfortable and safe. 

8) The patronizing handshake - This is more of a grip and a pat rolled in one. The right hand stays at a higher position with the palm facing downwards to meet yours, while the other hand fixes your palm in a grip from below, giving out a very controlling vibe, and is evident of a dominating personality.

9) The fist bump - A very mature way of greeting...until you turn fifteen!

And last but not the least
10) The perfect handshake - This one follows the ‘equal and opposite’ law, and is reciprocal in intensity and nature. Fingers and web spaces interlocked, and equal palm pressure exerted by both individuals, thus making it a balanced and assertive handshake. Accompanied by a friendly smile and adequate eye contact, this is best initiation to pleasant interaction. 

Of course, this post ought to come with a small disclaimer.
Be it business associate, lover, friend, or boss, an impressive greet-and-meet may be enough to create an impression but is hardly enough to sustain it. So take the above list with a pinch of salt and don’t go about judging (yourself and others) too harshly.

On a somewhat unrelated (err...just kidding, this is way too much fun to digress now) note, have you encountered any other variant of the classic handshake. that I may have forgotten to mention?
Do let me know in your comments.



This post is published for #OpenNTalk Blogger's League hosted by Dipika Singh of Gleefulblogger
Ruchie Verma - Wigglingpen in association with SummerBarnVedantika HerbalsNyassaExplore Kids World.

#OpenNTalk is a bloggers league wherein forty selected bloggers are divided into eight teams. Each team has five members, who will blog on varied topics during the month of June. Each blogger will post a series of four posts, one post every week. 

My team for the Bloggers League is #CrossBorderSisters, and blogging with me are four other wonderful bloggers. 
1: Aditi:  BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
2: Manisha: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
3. Anagha: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
4: Bhawna: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram

June 05, 2018

#OpenNTalk of a plastic-free world

Every year, the United Nations celebrates 5th June to commemorate our relationship with the environment and make us aware of where we are heading with it.
As a child, I remember planting a sapling on this day each year. It was a kind of school tradition, an extra curricular activity to help us understand that the planet was our friend, and that it was alright to get our hands dirty if it meant saving a friend. 
But what we didn't know then was that we were actually saving ourselves. Then growing up happened, and friendships got neglected. And the one relationship that suffered most was the silent one, the one that we had started to ignore slowly but surely. But the planet watched quietly, hoping we'd change, praying we'd realise on our own someday how we have been treating it, suffering, hurting, but still hoping...

Days change into years, and we don't change. We have turned from passive aggressive to abusive. It, however, hasn't changed (much) either. It is still waiting for us to reform. By now, we have started enjoying the power play. Of course, there are guilty days when we feel sad for letting down a friend, but most days we just manage to convince our conscience that we are way too swamped with life and work and that it will understand. Mud slinging, blame games, and finally an interlude of indifference. 

Relate much? Does the above sound familiar? Well, if so, then you are in trouble, because these are the signs of a toxic relationship. And that is precisely the road we are on with our planet, the friend we used to know...

From the soul-cleansing friendship we started in school to this toxic relationship (which can only lead to eventual disaster for both), we and the planet have come a long way. 

Cut to present day, knowingly or unknowingly, we end up doing things that are hazardous to our natural ecosystem, that are toxic to our environment, and that are eventually harmful to us. Little do we realize the magnitude of the problem until it is too late. 

However, I strongly believe it isn't over until it's over (and fortunately for us--the earth and us, it isn't too late yet). All is not lost. We can still proceed to take baby steps towards saving our relationship. (Or am I being too hopeful?)

So without further ado, lets put this relationship in perspective...
Besides, India being the host country this year, it becomes our added responsibility to lead by example and save this relationship while we are still ahead. 
So for the uninitiated, here's a little about World Environment Day 2018...

Theme of World Environment Day 2018: 'Beat Plastic Pollution.'

The role of plastic in our lives:
Today, time being our major constraint, most of us opt for more convenient, on-the-go options. These include containers and tiffins made of plastics, plastic wraps, use and throw cups, plastic cutlery, plastic bottles, plastic bags etc.
Since plastic is inexpensive, it is used widely and sometimes negligently.We all have that one friend who uses everything 'disposable' right from his coffee cup to packaged water bottles, which he later on dumps without thought or concern in the nearest waste basket or thrash can. Sometimes, we 'are' that one friend in the group. What we do not understand is that this seemingly harmless 'single use' plastic can pose a major threat to our environment. It can pollute our lands as well as our oceans. 

Why so harmful?
Plastics contain major pollutants and toxins that are capable of causing major harm to our environment; namely air, land and water. 
Also plastic decomposes very slowly owing to the strong chemical bonds it is made up of. Simple plastic products take around 80 to 100 years to disintegrate, while complex plastics can take as many as 800 to 1000 years to decompose, thus allowing ample time for accumulation and pollution in the process. This exposes humans and their environment to many hazards, including exposure to dangerous carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals).

Consequences of plastic pollution:
  • Every year, at least 13 million tonnes of plastics end up in our oceans, thus destroying marine life.
    Around 100,000 marine animals (esp sea turtles) are killed by plastics every year. 
  • The plastics that end up in our oceans and other water bodies are consumed by planktons, which are in turn consumed by acquatic life and fish, which are eventually eaten by humans (thereby disrupting the food chain). In this way, we create a toxic cycle, and the poison (read 'plastic') that we dump is dumped back into us. 
  • Every year, the world uses up five trillion plastic bags. These bags when dumped eventually end up polluting land, water, and air. They can also choke and suffocate tiny helpless animals that may come in contact with them. Apart from that, plastics bags disposed off carelessly litter the area. They may float around in water bodies, degrading the quality of water and life. When burned they emit toxic fumes and chemicals, leading to human sickness, breathing problems, and illnesses. 
  • Plastic makes up ten percent of all the waste we generate, a shameful statistic that needs to be controlled. 
  • Excessive accumulation of plastic can block sewer lines, drainage pipes and other water ways, leading to hazardous consequences to health and eco-system.
  • A rough estimate of seventeen million barrels of oil are used in plastic production each year.
  • The amount of plastic bottles we buy is staggering. Research shows that we buy around one million plastic bottles every minute.
  • Polystyrene, a plastic used in food packaging, is based on styrene which is a neurotoxin and a carcinogen. 
So having said that, what can be done in order to beat plastic pollution
The Government of India has already started taking steps in this direction. 
  • India is cleaning up hundred of its historical monuments, including the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal, a symbol of love and beauty which was being degraded by careless tourists showing no reverence by littering the place, is finally going to receive the respect it deserves. Efforts to clean up the Yamuna behind the monument are also underway.
  •  Maharashtra Government has been trying to emulate France in imposing a ban on plastic, from milk packets, single-use plates, cutlery etc, and has asked consumers to pay extra, a step to reduce unnecessary employment of single-use plastics. Also waste plastic is being crushed and considered for use as raw material in the construction of roads (these can bear around 2500 kgs weight).
  • Gujrat has been conducting plastic-free drives are being conducted for devotees heading to religious places. These 'Yaatra' routes are frequently polluted by plastic bottles, bags, cups, and eatables that come in plastic packets. Last year, the Gujrat Pollution Central Board implemented cleanliness drives, in collaboration with civil society, to see that there was responsible disposal of litter by devotees.
However, no Government effort can be successful if its citizens do not participate. It is our combined responsibility to rid our country of plastics, one step at a time. Only then can we have a pollution-free world.

But how can we help at an individual level? Here's how...


  • Use of Eco-friendly cloth bags for shopping:
    These multipurpose cloth bags can be custom made or bought, and play an integral role in regulating the amount of non-recyclable and non-biodegradable plastics that we use on a daily basis. Be it for grocery shopping or shopping at the local store, one can carry these every time they leave home. Every town will have at least one man selling these bags. But we don't see them because we aren't looking. 
  • Avoid packaged drinking water and drinks: This will be useful not just in keeping our environment healthy, but in keeping us fit too. The amount of sugar and preservatives that goes in aerated drinks is much more harmful to our health, than the packaging is to the environment. So do yourself a double-favour and say no to those attractive colas in plastic cans and bottles. 
  • Make use of glass or metal or stainless-steel bottles instead of plastic ones. This will save both you and the environment.
  • Try as much as possible to avoid as much as possible, the use of plastic cups, plastic cutlery, and ask your family to do the same. Use non plastic packaging instead.
  • Last but most importantly, when you cannot refuse or reuse, learn to recycle. While shopping, try and select products that are available in non-plastic, recycled packaging. Also segregate your waste into recyclable and non-recyclable products. Recycling plastics rather than disposing them ineffectively is an effective method of controlling pollution. So if you cannot refuse, then reuse, and if you cannot reuse, recycle!
With that, I come to the end of this post, and the start of a decision; a decision to evoke my long lost love for the planet, a decision to reform and renew our relationship, and never again to take it for granted. 
This Environment Day, I promise to contribute my bit towards making the planet a cleaner, greener, and less toxic place.

Do you promise as well?


This post is published for #OpenNTalk Blogger's League hosted by Dipika Singh of Gleefulblogger
Ruchie Verma - Wigglingpen in association with SummerBarnVedantika HerbalsNyassaExplore Kids World.

#OpenNTalk is a bloggers league wherein forty selected bloggers are divided into eight teams. Each team has five members, who will blog on varied topics during the month of June. Each blogger will post a series of four posts, one post every week. 

My team for the Bloggers League is #CrossBorderSisters, and blogging with me are my four other team mates namely
1: Aditi:  BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
2: Manisha: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
3. Anagha: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
4: Bhawna: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram

So do hop on this bandwagon, and cheer us during our journey. Your views on the posts are most welcome.
Cheers and love!

May 21, 2018


If they stop and ask you who you are
Give them no reply
Let them search you for your identity, you have none
Free souls do not belong to any religion
Caste, creed, gender- nothing matters
You fly beyond these boundaries
Demarcating triage and high-risk zones
If they stop and ask you who you are
Give them no reply
Show them the colour of your blood instead
Ask them if it's any different from theirs
Or from that shed at the battleground
Ask if they don't smile on seeing a loved one
Or hope to see their family safe every single day
Just like you do
Ask if they wouldn't light the world on fire
To avenge the rape of their daughter, the murder of their wife
Just like you would
If they stop and ask you who you are
Give them no reply
Not until they tame the demon in their eyes
Not until they destroy the bias in their soul

May 20, 2018

The dirty truth

There comes a time when the only way to start living is to tell a story. Some may call it redemption, some call it the truth. Whether fact or fiction, who is to say? Life, after all, is a complex amalgamation of what is and what we want it to be.

As children, we are taught to always speak the truth, that lying is a sin. Honesty is the best policy. He who lies has to face the burden of guilt and the wrath of goodness.
But today, when I think back, I wonder how much of that is actually true. What about the lies we tell ourselves, the fibs that our heart coerces our mind to believe? Defense mechanisms, coping methods; we all device those as we grow up, sometimes to save ourselves and sometimes to save the situation we are in.
God (again, a highly debatable belief system) save us, it seems like we are all heading straight to purgatory. Purgatory??! There goes another half-truth we keep trying to convince ourselves of in order to live according to the so called moral standards set by society, which in turn again are a farce.

Where does the buck stop really?

April 18, 2018

#DefinitelyPTE: A beginner's guide to moving abroad

It is common knowledge and a source of pride that we Indians possess within us, a deep sense of history and a healthy dose of nationalism towards our motherland. Even today, if we look beyond the corruption, rapes, lynchings, murders, and overall unfairness of the legal and political system, there is still a part of us that is extremely proud of our country's potential.

However, one cannot ignore the fact that ours is a (slowly) developing nation, which despite our good intention and endeavor is lagging behind in important areas, thus marring the progress and success of its citizens. It is this blooming desire for progress, therefore, that has become the driving force behind the great Indian brain drain.
It has been observed that many Indian students have shifted from domestic education to International degrees. Some use education as a means to settle abroad, some to earn better, while some don't have much of a choice due to unavailability of certain study courses in India. It is times like these that one needs to sit down with a clear mind, and decide wisely, carefully weighing all the pros and cons of the move. It is at this point that making what-to, when-to, and how-to listicles would come in handy.

Personally, I believe that every journey, however lucrative it may seem, has its own road blocks. And being aware of them places one in a better position to tackle (if not circumvent) them completely. 
Hence, I have prepared the following list of concerns that one must consider while moving abroad in order to ensure a hassle free experience.
  • Passport validity, visa applications: This issue is faced mostly by migrants who are often cheated by recruitment agencies of sending and receiving countries by providing incomplete information of the contract period, salary etc. Students applying for visas should make sure their financial documents and bank statements are complete and in proper condition in order for their visas to be approved in the first attempt.
  • Accepted English tests to be answered: You must have heard of tests like TOEFL, or IELTS etc that are a requisite before seeking admission in any university. This is one of the most crucial steps in the admission process, and can cause repeated disappointments if not conducted or executed diligently. Hence it is important to choose a test that will guarantee fair judgement and easy execution. The best English test option would be #DefinitelyPTE. It is widely accepted by a number of universities and countries for students, immigration, and/or work purposes. A step wise approach to PTE is explained later in the post.
  • Home sickness: This plagues anyone and everyone moving to foreign lands. The place seems alien, the people different, the food unfamiliar. It is quite natural, in such surroundings, to miss one's own country and people. But this biting feeling is felt most only at the beginning, and gradually fades out as one befriends the new and adjusts to his/her surroundings.
  • Culture shock: Coming from India, we are bound to be brought up with a different set of values. Hence it is obvious that it will take us a little time to adapt to the lifestyle in a foreign place. One should be prepared to accept without judging, learn without forsaking, and embrace without abandoning what we have grown up believing. 
  • Country regulation details
  • Food: Vegans and vegetarians may take a slightly longer time to adjust to the diet. 
  • Different time zones: May be difficult to adjust to in the beginning. But one gets gradually habituated to the change.
  • Language and dialect: With English, not being the first language for most people in India, shifting to countries that have a powerful foothold in spoken English may be a little inconvenient. Feelings of low self-esteem and inferiority may set in. That aside, countries that speak a completely different language may be even more difficult to adjust to. Students, therefore, should make sure that the medium of instruction in the university they have selected is primarily English. Also brushing up communication skills and vocabulary may help make things easier.
  • Medical care and first aid: One must remember to carry a medical kit including emergency medicines, antibiotics etc from India. Medical treatment in a foreign place does not come easy, even under the security cover of a medical insurance policy. Besides, delays in appointments and a prolonged wait period is something you ought to consider when you are not a local of that area.
As mentioned above, we will now discuss in detail one of the most important steps of the process. The Pearson PTE Academic is the English language test that you need to clear in order to get accepted in any university outside India.

#DefinitelyPTE ...Why?

PTE has many benefits as compared to other English language tests, making it more convenient and advantageous than the others.
  • The Pearson PTE Academic is widely accepted by thousands of organizations all over the world. These include prestigious universities like Harvard University, Stanford University, Imperial College London, Bradford College UK and many others. This test is accepted in 96% in the UK, and 100% of Australia, New Zealand, and Irish universities. It also covers a growing number of universities in USA and Canada. (You can check the entire list here )
  • There are PTE preparation packages available (with sample questions to familiarize you with the format of PTE Academic), in order to help you acquire your desired score and gain easy admission into the university of your choice.
  • PTE is quicker and more flexible as compared to IELTS etc, and can be scheduled up to 24 hours in advance.
  • Test duration : single session of 3 hours as opposed to other tests that have different sections of the exam scheduled on separate days.
  • Faster results: Within 1 to 5 business days. So no long wait periods. 
  • The candidates can send their PTE score online to any number of universities without additional fees.
  • Wider reach, easy availability: Tests are available in as many as 200 test centres around the world, over 360 days of the year.
  • PTE is a computer typed exam. Hence it is free from all bias of handwriting, dialect, mood etc. The results are also computer assessed, making it an impartial and accurate judgement. 
  • Also, since PTE is a computer typed exam, it  would prove advantageous over other written and spoken exams, as it allays the anxiety the candidate could otherwise face with a foreign examiner (which in turn could adversely affect his speaking and consequently his test score.)
  • The test is scored on a granular scale of 10 to 90 that shows a detailed breakdown of skills. This means it helps you discern your weaknesses (vocabulary, grammar, writing disclosure) so that you can work on them. 

Here is how the exam is carried out-

In India, there are centres located in cities like Pune, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Punjab, Chennai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Nagpur, and Mumbai.

On the day of the PTE:
  • The candidate must reach the test centre on assigned time and check in with the test administrator by showing his/her ID proof.
  • The test administrator will provide the exam candidate with rules to read. Read them carefully.
  • Submit copies of ID to the test administrator
  • Palm vein scanning 
  • The candidate will be assigned a locker to keep their belongings.
  • The candidate is then directed to a personalized computer with personal headphones and partitions to separate him/her from other students.
  • There are security cameras watching over each candidate that ensure the test is conducted in all fairness.
  • The test comprises of three parts namely; Speaking and writing, Reading, and Listening. 
With that, I come to the end of this tutorial. For more information, aspirants can check out the PTE Youtube Channel here.

Remember, with freedom comes responsibility. Life in a foreign country comes with its own set of rules and regulations, which we need to adhere to. The key is to accept and be accepted. Be accountable for all your choices and actions.
Behave responsibly and make India proud. So that when you eventually return, you hold in possession not just your university degree but also a bag full of adventure, travel and memories to cherish and love for life...

April 14, 2018

Movie review: 'October'

Movie Title: October

Genre: Romance/drama

Director: Shoojit Sircar

Story: Juhi Chaturvedi

Producer: Ronnie Lahiri, Sheel Kumar

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Banita Sandhu, Ajay Sharma, Gitanjali Rao and others

The film starts on a casual note, showing us a typical day in the life of Dan, a hotel management student interning at a five star hotel, who manages to get everything wrong at work owing to his clumsiness and cocky behavior. However, all is forgiven because this twenty-one year old has a good heart and the emotional maturity of a child, making it impossible for his colleagues, friends, and even his boss to hate him.
On the other hand, Shiuli is a well-balanced, mature and intelligent co-worker, who seems to have her life and priorities sorted, something that irks Dan because it reminds him of his own inadequacies.
Barely friends, these two know very little of each other...until the fateful accident that nearly kills Shiuli, changing the dynamics of their relationship forever.

Even half-way through the film, I knew that this movie would garner mixed reactions from its audience. And the after-comments from the people in the movie hall only proved me right.
However, I am of the opinion that good art should evoke and provoke. If a good piece of art (be it poetry, literature, or film) doesn't trigger you to think hard and change something in you, then it hardly qualifies as impactful. What different would it be than the run of the mill, leave-your-brain-behind potboilers we love to hate?

I am glad 'October' proved to be different. And although it did not manage to break the frozen sea of disappointment and bias that mainstream Bollywood (with its frivolous song-and-dance routine and slapstick comedy) has created within me, I do think it managed to cause a few cracks in it.

The movie leaves you with a heavy heart and a mind full of questions...questions that you may have asked yourself before, questions you may have dodged answering, and topics you may have avoided because, well, they are too damn difficult and painful to think about. But 'October' brings those same questions to the fore, carefully wrapped in a story of young love and compassion that keeps you engaged emotionally until the end, when you leave the hall in sombre silence and it suddenly hits you. The nuances of the film, the underlying message, the tone, the subtlety.
The theme revolves around the eternal dilemma faced by the caretaker or family of someone who has slipped into an almost irrecoverable coma----hang on to the delicate thread of hope or pull the plug and let go?  The former means the possibility of watching the person suffer through perceivable and imperceptible trauma, but also holds a chance (however bleak it may seem) of recovery. The latter means losing the person forever, with the only consolation that you have at least ended the suffering. Personally, I think both options are equally harrowing for the caregiver or family member to choose from. Hell! It isn't even a choice in the first place.

Yet, 'October' portrays how strong optimism can bring about a positive outcome in even the bleakest of conditions. Dan fights against medical reason and logic. When the resolve of even family is shaken, he proves to be the pillar of strength, helping Shiuli, gradually make her way to as much of a recovery as possible, showing us how even a few extra moments with a dying person can help the ones left behind in getting the much needed strength to live on. Perhaps that was the real underlying message behind the movie...cherish every moment, even the fleeting ones.

Thinking about it, I think 'October' was all about searching for closure, until you eventually realize it is within your own self. Dan's entire journey, starting with him being persistently curious about why Shiuli asked about him just before the accident, to him presuming she has feelings for him, to the point wherein looking after her becomes the sole aim of his life, despite knowing that she may never be able enough to return his love, only proves to us that the answers you are seeking are inside you.

'October' brought to mind Aruna Shanbaug who remained in a vegetative state for nearly 42 years before she passed away in 2015.
A senior nurse at the hospital (where Aruna lay admitted) was quoted saying, "We have to tend to her just like a small child at home. She only keeps aging like any of us, does not create any problems for us. We take turns looking after her and we love to care for her. How can anybody think of taking her life?"
This movie helped me see the Aruna Shanbaug case in a different light. I no longer saw it as a pitiful condition of a helpless woman being unable to express her will. Instead I saw it as a victory of the love and care that helped her fight a forty-two year long battle.

There are a few scenes that are so heart touching, that you can't help but marvel at Banita Sandhu, who, despite being a debutante, has managed to win hearts with her acting prowess. The supporting characters have also done full justice to their roles.
Dan with his simplicity and never-say-die (literally) optimism manages to grow on you, and you cannot help but applaud his persistence and sensitivity. Dhawan's terse dialogue delivery and innocent performance manages to evoke just the right amount of empathy towards his character, while Sandhu's lifeless stare and sluggish responses as a comatose patient, proves her prowess as an actor.

To sum up, 'October' is a movie of substance, a slice-of-life story that tells us that connections of the heart do not need reason or logic. Sometimes all it takes is a tiny germ of a thought that urges you to make a difference. Perhaps the real way to love is to love unconditionally.
Perhaps the only way to love is to love unconditionally!

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5

April 12, 2018

Of why I am against the Big Fat Indian Wedding

There are two types of people in this world - those who love Indian weddings, and those who do not. I have to proudly say that I belong to the latter category.

Now don't get me wrong. I have nothing against the celebration of the sanctimonious union of two souls in holy matrimony. However, what I fail to understand is the need for unnecessary extravagance in what ought, in my opinion, ought to be a private and intimate affair.

A friend from Delhi was recently telling me how a typical Punjabi family would be alright with not being to be able to pay off their debts but would never compromise on their children's wedding. I laughed, thinking how all Indians could bond on this one common trait. Be it a North Indian family or a farmer in remote Maharashtra or a typical Mallu household in the South, a quintessential Hindu wedding includes festivities that spread over days on end (Roka, sangeet, mehendi and all sorts of other functions that keep not just the couple but the entire extended family involved and busy), money splurged on catering, flower arrangement, gifts for family...and inadvertently, lots of stress from unpaid loans and untoward expenditure.
Which brings me smoothly to the main point of this post--ending this senseless social practice of ornate and pompous religious customs in weddings.

Personally, when it comes to weddings, I'm more in favour of a simple private affair in the company of family or friends. Better still would be a hassle-free court marriage in testimony of your inner circle.
In fact, I'm quite (un)popular in my circle for skipping weddings and other ornate occasions of irrational behaviour. Many may label me a Scrooge for this.
But I would rather be called a Scrooge than an eejit who despite living in a third world country like ours, wants to partake in a wedding in classic first-world style.
It is at this point that many would jump at me defending the whole SRK logic of 'Hum ek baar jeete hai, ek baar marte hai, shaadi bhi ek baar karte hai...'. But as much as I believe in the whole YOLO philosophy, my ruse with the top-lofty nature of the 'Band-baaja-baraat' is based on a logic much overlooked. Somehow when it comes to wedding festivities, all good sense goes for a toss and people turn into horses with blinkers, walking on the path paved for them by their contemporaries irrespective of individual situations and circumstances (the typical herd mentality).

My point is this. Our country is known for its jarring in-your-face economic discrepancy.

While there are people hungry for a morsel of rice on one hand, the food that gets wasted at a big fat Indian weddings on the other hand could feed a small nation.
But no! What do we care? We will continue to act like retarded chimps, grabbing grains (of raw rice) by the fistful to hurl on the bride and groom and the bevy of relatives crammed up in between.
And don't get me started on the wastage at the wedding banquet. The most irritating kind of people you'd see at a wedding are the ones who will pile up their plate to the hilt, and end up leaving half of it untouched because they suddenly remember they are supposed to be on a diet.
Nearly nine tonnes of food is wasted every year in each wedding hall in the city. This includes spoilage of food due to improper storage, eatables left over in plates etc.

To add to that, you will witness wastage in every form possible.
  • Nobody cares about the electricity consumed during an Indian wedding. Fairy lights to decorate the entire house (because 'shaadi ka ghar' and all that jazz), extra coolers and air conditioners in the wedding hall, if God forbid, it is scheduled during the summer, blaring music with loud speakers plugged in are just some of the ways in which energy expenditure occurs.
  • Of course, one cannot forget the waste of physical energy that is invested in small jobs and errands to magnanimous tasks that need running about all day
  • From the designer diamond jewellery and the wedding trousseau to unbelievably pricey flower arrangement and ice sculptures to destination weddings and inviting superstars to put up a show, the big fat Indian wedding nowadays has been reduced to an ostentatious display of wealth, rather than a reason for happiness.

We keep complaining how India can never be the India of our dreams, how poverty and inequality can never be eradicated. When foreign directors make movies or music albums our country in poor light, we spit fire claiming that they only show the darker, uglier side of our country. But little do we realize that we are the culprits responsible for this darker uglier side to actually exist.
It is only when we, as a society, translate our ideals into action, our thoughts into deeds that we can bring about a change. And for this to happen, we should begin start with ourselves. Every individual ought to make a conscious decision to cut off unnecessary expenditure.
Only then can we eliminate the monster called wastage, and subsequently lessen the social inequality that plagues our country.

I recently read about an initiative in South India where the left over food from wedding halls was packed off and distributed among the poor. Also we have inspiring  initiatives like the Roti bank which works on pretty much the same principle. I think sharing your happiness with those less fortunate is the best way to immortalize the memory of an occasion.
After all, what better way to start a beautiful journey of togetherness than this.

So gleam your conscience instead of your shoes and jewellery. Spread joy among the deserving. It's more likely to get you glowing than the ridiculously expensive bridal facials you have booked for  before your big day. Go for minimalistic decor. Spend that money to decorate someone's life instead. Those starving slum children need that food a lot more than the tantrum-throwing, food-spitting brats at your wedding hall. The homeless will appreciate those gifts and shawls more than the aunties swishing about in designer saris turning their noses at everything because they'd expected better.
Because no matter how perfect you plan your wedding, you are never going to end up pleasing everyone. People will gossip. They will grumble behind your back. Some will complain about the food. Others about the lighting, decor, plates, crowd and everything they set their eyes on.
So I say, if they going to criticize you anyway, you might as well give them a reason to.

Because in the land of the wise and sensible, where less is more, a small thin Indian wedding is the way to go...

So keep it simple. Keep it sweet!

This post is written as a part of Indispire Edition 216, the topic being:
Share a thought about a social practice that is/was followed in your generation but you feel will not hold good for the next/current generation? #Gen2GenChange
I have chosen the highly prevalent and increasingly popular social practice of ornate wedding ceremonies, because frankly, the tradition of senseless extravagance is an unhealthy practice and does not deserve to be passed on. Let the buck stop here...