Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I am a coward

I am a coward. I am unable to speak out. I am unable to express myself.

Everyone has come forward and condemned the heinous criminals of Peshawar.
Everyone has expressed their grief to the bereaved parents.
I am a coward. I have nothing to say.

What do you say to more than two hundred parents who sent their children to school like it was another day, only to realize it was their last? Can I look that parent in the eye and say I am sorry? Can I say time heals all wounds?  Can I even say time wounds all heels – that’s really not going to get their children back, is it?

Somewhere I had read, a child as being a piece of your heart that you allow to roam freely outside. That piece of your heart is gone. Now what do you say to someone who has lost a limb – a hand or leg, or in this case a piece of the heart? That life will go on? You’ll manage? What?!

These are parents with shattered hearts, desperately picking up the fragments, holding, clinging on to the shards, even if they bleed them dry. No tears can express their grief as they walk in a daze trying to come to terms with a bleak future where no night ends, and mornings don’t herald a new beginning.  Where there’s no hope of seeing the sunshine of their child’s smile every morning. Where life stretches eons ahead like a barren landscape: endless, colourless, hopeless.

Can I talk to these parents? I am a coward. I can’t.

Instead, I’ve shrunk into a dark corner in the recesses of my mind, crumpled up into a heap. I cringe at the very thought. I can’t bear to imagine the grief. I cannot empathise with them. I cannot sympathise. There are no words. These are no tears. There are no sobs that wrack the body with grief. There is just a wounding of a heart, tears of blood and a painful realization. I can only imagine the terror, the screams, the horror that hundreds of little souls went through. Nothing, nothing will ever be the same again for so many people. I can’t light a candle even in my mind; right now I don’t see it dispelling the pall of dark despair that this heinous act has cast.

And as I make myself smaller and smaller crouching in the dark, damp corner of hopelessness, all I can say is may the rest be a little more hopeful, a little more courageous than I am.

I for one am a coward. And I have no words to say for humanity. Or the sheer lack of it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I’ve been thinking...

I’m late for my physiotherapy appointment.

It’s for my knee which is aging physically as I mentally regress. (Unfortunate but true)
The traffic is not on my side. Correction: all the traffic seems to be on my side of the road and I inch forward with the ticking of the digital clock in the car. The last patient in is at 7. It’s nearly 6:45 pm.

I reach just in time to park the car, dash across the road and make it to the physiotherapy department few hairs before 7.

I am in!

It’s only when I get in that I realize that I have left my phone in my car!

Oh no!

What’s one going to do for one hour (almost) without the phone? WITHOUT the phone. 
WITHOUT THE PHONE! Do you even get me?

My immediate mental response is to call someone to get my phone from the car.
I have forgotten my phone in the car… did you get how mechanical we are in our responses?!

Using the phone to get your phone… not happening.


Second (and thankfully wiser) approach, run to the car and get the phone.

(Did I tell you something about a knee needing physiotherapy? How DOES one run?!)
Second #FAIL

Third solution: do without the phone.


Yes. Do without the phone. It’s barely one hour.

And then an inner battle ensues.

My Inner Phone Buddy (she’s not really a friend, you’ll see) rises up to the challenge, takes on the power pose (substantially helped by Amy Cuddy) and argues: What if you miss out on an urgent phone call?

It’s Saturday evening. And most of the (superb) lot I know are probably planning to step out. None of them are going to call me.

In the event one fine person (bless his dear heart) decides to call me, if he is part of the knowledgeable crowd I am in contact with, he should know my penchant for having put my phone somewhere other than where I’ve put myself.

The wiser ones will guess I am driving. The true Yodas (thank God for understanding friends) know I am doing something else and will answer at a later date (probably sometime in this year).

So technically, I tell my Inner Phone Diva, I can survive an hour without the phone.

As for the likes of Narendra Modi, Brad Pitt, Sr. Bachchan and of course those young men out there wanting to call me, they will just have to wait another hour, won’t they?

My Inner Phone (now) Goddess pouts, albeit too melodramatically for my liking, and talks about other emergencies. This time making my heart sink.

The social media disconnectness! Oh! Woe is me.

Away from the blue bird of social happiness, how will I know what the #Twitterverse is saying about 10 top celeb bikini fails or for that matter, will I miss out on someone who is promising me 5000 followers in 2 days? And the hashtags! Oh! I'll miss the hashtags. 

And how can I turn my face away from Facebook for an hour! What if someone does not “like” my latest post! And how can my latest post be latest if I miss out on an hour. No shares!!! How will I ever face the world!

And being delinked from LinkedIn? How will I keep up with all the management knowledge I could have gathered in that one hour that I would have flitted in and out of the pages! No pulse on the market? Terrible.

Then once again I steel myself. (So much for my impeccable self discipline). Surely a social media fast for an hour is good for the … well… good for the social media! And probably this is good for all those ‘out there’. Good for me too… cos my absence will make their heart grow fonder.

I lose myself in a megalomanic reverie and I am rudely brought back by the physiotherapist doing something painful to my knee. I came here to get rid of the pain I want to tell her, but she is not in a ‘listening’ mood, so I continue arguing with my Inner Phone Wench.

Hummph! I say, I am not going to miss the social media time spent too! Boo yaa!

This time she does a jig that I am incapable of doing. (She is really being badly behaved now!) What about all the games you play! She salsas on all my mental buttons now and makes me think of Ruzzle, Two Dots and Letterpress. (Thank God I don’t play Candy Crush or Clash of Clans – that Inner Phone Woman would have won then!)

Ha! I tell her. Have weaned myself off all the games. (I don’t admit it is because of the poor battery life of the phone) but she pooh-poohs me anyway. And then comes the final-really-really-lethal weapon from her armoury. (Wicked wicked Inner Phone Witch of the Worst!)

So… she says, in honeyed tones, as she sashays in front of me with an imaginary phone in her hand (and it’s a better phone than I have) with a smirk,
Then my darling, what ARE you going to do?!


What am I going to do!  I wonder. I flounder. I flail. I can’t imagine. I can’t think.

And then I calm down (once again to get the better of her). I think.

Yes… I think. It’s a strange unfamiliar world. Where your brain cells wake up, stretch themselves, look around and decide they need to brush their teeth and get ready to go to work.

So I hand out little tubes of toothpaste to those grey cells to get their teeth white and their breath mint fresh and… hurrah! I am thinking.

How about that?

I think about the various contraptions used to manage the pain in my knee. I engage with the physio as to what she is doing. I wonder about the other patients. (This feeling of not being alone in your suffering is very elevating, I tell you! Some may call it Schadenfreude, but I don’t want to be too honest right now!)

I think about the day ahead and the day tomorrow. I think about what I need to do. I think about the 20 pending items in my 20 to-do lists and how best I can avoid or procrastinate. I think about the best way to get home beating the traffic. I think about my next 15 blogposts (okay not 15!).And I think about various makeovers for the home and how buying a bigger home is the solution. And yes, while I am on bigger I think of buying a bigger car and (automatically) widen the roads in Mumbai! And then I am thinking of my next holiday... ah! Bliss. If thinking is so good, next time I'll probably meditate!

And then I am done! With one hour of physiotherapy. One hour of thinking. Of being in a wonderful world of thought, of traversing the woods of imagination, floating on the clouds of what ifs and why nots. It’s great. My knees feel great. And if I am skipping out of the physiotherapy department tripping the light fantastic, while dragging the Inner Phone Wreck by the charger unit to her phone, it’s definitely not the physiotherapy alone!

I’ve been thinking!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

This Diwali, light up your life!

It’s the biggest, most celebrated Indian festival of the year. Diwali comes knocking once a year, bursting with the sounds of crackers, illuminated by a thousand lights and spreading the joys of unlimited festivities that begin by humbly cleaning the home and moving into a crescendo of meeting and greeting friends and family and the myriad exchange of gifts and sweets!

As the wild excesses come to an end, a new year is heralded with heartfelt wishes of peace and prosperity and the world goes back to its humdrum life once more.

But Diwali is more than that.

There’s mythology there. The legend of Ram. The legend of Narakasura. The legend…

And then there is light.

It’s time we step back from the noise of crackers and the opulent show of glittering lights.

Sit in silence and think about the light within.

Time we illuminate the dark recesses of our ignorant minds with knowledge and hopefully, wisdom.

Time we light up the dark side of our hearts with love and lightness.

Time we brighten our attitudes to look at the sunny side of every event and make the most of turning challenges into opportunities.

Time we illumine another soul with the light that shines in ours.

It’s time the world became a lighter, brighter place.

Diwali, I believe, is here to remind us of that.

Light up your life this year, no matter where in the world you are.

Happy Diwali. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hallelujah! Do you do this too?

Displaying photo.JPGI can’t believe I’m doing this while travelling.

Two days back in Berlin, outdoors at Alexanderplatz, I heard a street musician sing. Hallelujah. The song.

It was a bright sunny day in Berlin. The square was full of people and under one of the many freeways this guy was singing. Strangely even in the open the sound of his voice reverberated in the atmosphere and sent chills down the spine.

The song has been playing in my head ever since and all I want to do is listen to it.

So here’s the thing - and don’t tell me you don’t do it - if I like a song, a popular one at that, I like to listen to all the possible versions and covers of it. Each singer brings to the same song his or her own personality and story to it. Listen and the same song will be different every time. And that’s exactly what I did.

Here’s what I found with Hallelujah.

(And yes, skip the ads. And come back here after a bit of the song!)

Here’s the original version of the song. By the man himself. Leonard Cohen.  A humble start.

Then my research found me this.

Apparently… (And I quote from a comment on YouTube. Thank you @powderspirit3) 
“It is often called one of the greatest songs of all time! It is the subject of the book The Holy or the Broken: Many cover versions have been performed by many and various singers, both in recordings and in concert, with over 300 versions known. "Hallelujah" is a song written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, but did not achieve much success until the song found greater popular acclaim through a cover by Jeff Buckley  The song has been used in film and television soundtracks, and televised talent contests.”

Here’s Jeff Buckley’s version.

Bon Jovi brings his unique energy to the song.

Then I wondered what Il Divo would have made of this. Have you heard of Il Divo? No? Wiki them! The genre is operatic pop, the group created and managed by none other than Simon Cowell! Listen... just listen to them taking the song to a notch above!

Countless versions later I stumbled on a link which had even a Swedish version. Sounds great too. Something to do with the melody is it? You decide.

Stay with me. There was also Susan Boyle doing her version. And Alexandra Burke’s showmanship takes the crowds to another level.

And then there was this young girl for whom the song was really deliverance. A nervous, anxiety-ridden young girl singing this song. Watch it to believe it.
The line, ‘a cold and broken hallelujah’ takes on a new meaning here!

Enough already? Sure. I can listen to this in different versions. And yet… 
And yet, the sound in my head does not diminish. The Berlin street singer still haunts the memory. 

P.S. Some more work and I've found this! Today is surely my lucky day!

Thanks also to the refreshing blog that led me to this.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Getting a baker's dozen at EIGHTH!

I love to read. I attempt to write. I gym –erratically. Like to watch movies. See plays. Time and again get addicted to television. But cooking? Baking? Ummm…. No… er... not exactly me. I bake: occasionally. The 'occasion' being those rare moments when I feel like it, have the time, have the inclination, have the ingredients AND want to do it.

So why did I find myself in a baking class one warm Saturday morning with several other (might I say, dedicated, interested and accomplished) eager learners? They were accomplished bakers, enthusiastic homemakers, young aspirants. Me? I went with my camera! And was wielding a pen instead of a spatula. Oops!

Why was I there?

It was the Eighth. Not the date. The name. Eighth. Set up by someone I know. Anurita Ghoshal. An unlikely candidate. An established (and might I say highly successful) HR consultant. Who just thought she wanted to learn baking one fine morning (or so I think – it could have been evening!) And off she upped and went. To a celebrated school of baking in Paris.

She stayed the course – (to a part, she confesses, thanks to a French chef – known for his looks as much as his skills, a la Two Broke Girls?!!!) and came back to partly live out her passion. I say partly because she still continues to don her consulting hat with the chef's.

I admired the spirit. The passion. The will. The determination to go follow one's dreams. To make them come true in whatever fashion possible without running away from a day job, or from the reality and the responsibility of life. 

And so let's come back to this baking class at Eighth … as excited as my more accomplished co-learners.

The venue of the class – the Eighth baking studio – invites you in with the warmth and the smells of a bakery. If the aroma has not tickled your tastebuds already, the décor entices you in. Clever statements on the board make the tasting and sampling of freshly baked goods completely above guilt! And of course there are those tempting jars of biscotti placed high above on the shelf which brings out your inner child unable to reach the cookie jar! 

Eighth - the name - has a reason. After the Seven Deadly Sins - Eighth, Anu proclaims is the sin of indulgence. And what better to do than to feed your soul with some wholesome nuts, fruit and a bit of sugar-laden energy! 

It sure turned out to be couple of hours of sheer delight (and of great calorific value!) We baked 5 items – in about 3 hours - Strawberry and Roasted Almond Cake, Rosemary Orange Rind Madeleines, Chewy Chunky Blondies, Date Nut Loaf and Chocolate Sables. 

What we learnt was more than 5 times over. Techniques, textures, tastes. Shortcuts, alternatives, choices of ingredients. And where to get the stuff! And Anu’s demos brought with them a constant commentary of learning and her unbridled passion for baking and for the stuff she bakes. A surefire baker's dozen!

Also, in terms of timing and order of the items and the neatly measured out ingredients for each of the recipes, it was obvious that a lot of prep had gone in to what seemed to be a simple class.

Anu is most forthcoming with the questions asked (I didn’t ask the questions but learnt a lot from the answers) forthcoming with
information on getting the ingredients and forthcoming with all the little tips and techniques that make that big difference between attending a class and looking into a recipe book.

And finally when all was done and we were a highly accomplished bunch (I thought so!) we walked out with 5 recipes, loads of calories and a smug and satisfied feeling that you get when you spend a Saturday morning officially ingesting Date Nut Loaf and a Strawberry and Roasted Almond Cake. We were learning after all!

Want more deets? Like the page on Facebook - 
Don't want to bake? Simply order. Check the menu below!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Be the fool

It’s  Fools’ Day today.
Be the fool.

Sometimes  it helps to leave doubt and cynicism aside and be blind.
Be the fool.

Trust your parents to do right by you. To have done what they thought was right for you. Trust blindly. Even foolishly. Be the fool there.

If you’re a parent, teach your children to trust. Not be cynical. Warn against dangers. But let them test their own waters. Learn their own lessons. And trust that the apple will not fall far from the tree. Be the fool there and teach them to be the fool.

Be foolish in your friendships. Take your time to make friends. But trust your friends implicitly. Chances are some may let you down. But chances are also most won’t. Trust because most won’t. Be the fool in friendships.

Be the fool in relationships. There are no terms and conditions attached. Accept that people come in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Accept that they don’t come with the correct label and time attached. Be the fool there. Trust that every mistake you make is a lesson learnt. Every wrong thing you did is an eye-opener.

Be the fool in life. Trust that the bend in the road is not the end in the road. Trust that everything is a passing phase. Everything must change. Everything must end. The good. As well as the bad. Life’s a circle. Trust time and tide to turn. Trust that the sun will rise every day no matter how dark the night. Trust that winter will give way to spring. Trust that Be the fool.

Be the fool. Simply because it is a better, happier, sunnier way to be. 

Today is April. Be the fool the rest of the year too. 

Not convinced? Read this:

Monday, March 31, 2014

And then God created the Universe

It's a wonderful day. Gudi Padwa.

It's the day Brahma created the Universe...

Happy New World to all of you

Happy Gudi Padwa

Happy Cheti Chand

Happy Ugadi!

A new year begins. A new universe. A new start. 

An opportunity to look at things in a new light.

Happy happy to all of you.

Here's what I have curated from the Wiki page on Gudi Padwa... celebrate!

 According to the Brahma Purana, this is the day on which Brahma created the world after the deluge and time began to tick from this day forth.
Gudhi Padva (Marathi: गुढी पाडवा Guḍhī Pāḍavā), is the Marathi name for Chaitra Shukla Pratipada.[2] It is celebrated on the first day of the Chaitramonth to mark the beginning of the New year according to the lunisolar Hindu calendar. This day is also the first day of Chaitra Navratri and Ghatasthapana also known as Kalash Sthapana is done on this day.
The word पाडवा(pāḍavā) or पाडवो(pāḍavo) comes from the sanskrit word पड्ड्वा/पाड्ड्वो(pāḍḍavā/pāḍḍavo), which stands for the first day of the bright phase of the moon called प्रतिपदा (pratipadā) in Sanskrit.
In the south of India, first day of the bright phase of the moon is called pāḍya(Tamil: பாட்ய or பாட்டமி , Kannada: ಪಾಡ್ಯ, Telugu: పాడ్యమి, paadyami,Konkani: पाड्यॆ,ಪಾಡ್ಯ). Konkani Hindus variously refer to the day as संसर पाडवो or संसर पाड्यॆ (saṁsāra 'pāḍavo/ saṁsāra pāḍye),संसार (saṁsāra) being a corruption of the word संवत्सर (saṁvatsara). Konkani Hindus in Karnataka also refer to it as उगादि, ಯುಗಾದಿ(ugādi).
·         Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh
·         Yugadi in Karnataka

·         Cheti Chand among the Sindhi people[4][5]

On Guḍhī Pāḍavā, a gudhi is found sticking out of a window or otherwise prominently displayed in traditional Maharashtrian households. Bright green or yellow cloth adorned with brocade (zari) tied to the tip of a long bamboo over which gaathi (sugar crystals), neem leaves[citation needed], a twig of mango leaves and a garland of red flowers is tied. A silver or copper pot is placed in the inverted position over it. Altogether, it is called as Gudhi. It is hoisted outside the house, in a window, terrace or a high place so that everybody can see it.
Some of the significances attributed to raising a Gudhi are as follows:
·         Maharashtrians also see the Gudhi as a symbol of victory associated with the conquests of the Maratha forces led by Chhatrapati Shivaji. It also symbolizes the victory of King Shalivahana over Sakas and was hoisted by his people when he returned to Paithan.[6]
·         Gudhi symbolizes the Brahmadhvaj (translation: Brahma’s flag) mentioned in the Brahma Purana, because Lord Brahma created the universe on this day. It may also represent Indradhvaj (translation: the flag of Indra).[6]
·         Mythologically, the Gudhi symbolizes Lord Rama’s victory and happiness on returning to Ayodhya after slaying Ravana. Since a symbol of victory is always held high, so is the gudhi (flag). It is believed that this festival is celebrated to commemorate the coronation of Rama post his return to Ayodhya after completing 14 years of exile.[6]
·         Gudhi is believed to ward off evil, invite prosperity and good luck into the house.[6]

Happy Gudi Padwa to all! Happy New Universe!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This beauty bit

Three hours after I stepped into a beauty salon last weekend, I walked out and looked at myself. I looked the same!


In all fairness, I am not one of those who spend long hours at the salon. I dread my trips to the salon. I equate them to prison, exile, whatever you may call it.  And most of them happen because they must. I treat my sojourns to the parlour there with great trepidation. There is prep involved too. I pack for it! I wisely arm myself with an iPod or an iPad, or a book. Sometimes all three. You never know!

At the salon I ask for stuff to be done while other stuff is being done. (If I can multi-task, why can’t multiple tasks be done simultaneously on me?) Right?

Much rearranging of salon furniture happens and I usually get my way! Not that I was ever great at numbers but I calculate the time taken for a manicure with the time taken for a haircut with the time taken for a pedicure! Voila! 3-in-one didn’t ever have a better meaning. And it’s time well utilized (while of course I am on my iPod or tweeting to the world about important advances in analytics and retail!)

So those three (long) hours last weekend were not exactly agonizing.  I multitasked with mails, calls, much tweeting, and much reading up on what the www had to say about various things like coffee to missing aircrafts and of course social media on social media.
While diligent and enthusiastic attendants slaved away at my nails and cuticles, split hairs over my split ends, and fussed over the temperature of the water for my shampoo, I slowly unwound and relaxed. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the warm water as my hair was shampooed. I stared long and hard at myself in the mirror as my hair was being effortlessly blow dried. I felt my stress waning away with a gentle foot massage. When finished my feet were feeling squeaky clean, my hands feeling unfamiliarly soft and my hair looking like… well… like I’d been to a salon!

And when I finally stepped out it was different!

And this whole beauty bit fell into place. It’s not about looking beautiful. It’s not about beauty pageants. Not about a size zero. Not about the choice of your wardrobe or your accessories. It’s how good you feel inside. And I realized I felt different because I felt pampered, cleansed and squeaky clean. And when I looked at it that way, I felt beautiful.

And with a broad smile on my face, I drove home!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A pocketful of…

When I was a young girl, most of my clothes were tailored at home by my mother and an enthusiastic set of aunts. If one aunt got me fancy fabric, the other aunt offered to embroider it, the third one offered to paint it and my mother presided over all, to finally decide what it would look like.

Almost plotting and planning over it like it was the project of the year, I’d be kept at arm’s length and called in only for some measurements off and on. It was exciting. But I was never part of it, till a loosely stitched garment was gingerly slipped over my head for a trial.

However once in a way, I was consulted. And asked what I would like in my next new dress. I have no idea why I was not vain like other little girls (Ok, ok... go ahead and say it, I was always ‘different’). But all I wanted in my next new dress was pockets!!! Not lace, not frills, not flowers. Nothing fancy, just pockets. One or two or more.

Pockets held for me a lovely charm. You could carry virtually anything in your pocket. Two of my all-time favourite toys – a white kitten and a teddy bear were pocket-sized. (Okay, you needed large pockets but so what.) You could carry loose change in pockets. Pencils. Erasers. Sometimes a crumpled piece of paper. Movie tickets. Train tickets. Bus tickets. Sometimes, someone else’s bus ticket with the lucky number 9 at the end. Pockets were your friends. The kind of friends that kept and almost treasured your secrets.

Coming back to my dress. One with pockets. Since this was the nth time I’d told my mother this, she relented. But with a wicked sense of humour (remember, she was MY mother), she made me a dress with a lot of pockets! Not one. Not two. But sixteen!

What joy! I was ecstatic. Over the moon. It was almost magical. All possible colours. Checked and floral and dotted patches on my one dress.  Front and back. Sides. I went on counting my pockets and discovered unadulterated joy.

With 16 pockets you could discover a whole new world! You put your hand in one pocket and out came a used eraser with your initial on it. The one you were saving lest your letter get erased away! That little red pencil. The piece of green chalk. Sometimes a forgotten sweet. Sticky but still a sweet. Sometimes simply a sweet wrapper that you had painstakingly fashioned into a doll. (Remember those?!) All those pockets. All that little tidbits of joy. A small little sunshiny part of my childhood.

Cut back to reality. Cut back to the present.

Of late with the ups and downs of circumstances, I’ve been thinking of my dress with those pockets. And while there has been one challenge after another, I’ve found time to spend wonderful moments with friends and family. Found time for sunshine and laughter. Jokes and the lighter side. Found time to dig into a  pocketful of smiles.

A friend’s surprise birthday getaway. An evening that reunited me with ‘my boys’ in the agency. An enthralling musical interlude in an amphitheatre. A quiet dinner with a visiting friend. An afternoon shopping and chatting with another. An evening out with my daughter. Another old buddies’ reunion.

Little pockets of joy. Little pockets of sunshine. Little smiles that light up my life. And then I think, this is what life’s about, isn’t it? A dress with sixteen pockets.

So where’s your pocket of sunshine? Have you found it today?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Book Review - I am Life by Shraddha Soni

Shraddha Soni has done it.

In her very first book, she's taken the metaphor of life and spun it around into a preeminently readable novel.

Although deceptively slim, the book takes you through a rather long journey - that of the protagonist - Sid's misdirected search for God.

What makes it credible in this day and age is that he is really not searching for that piece of soul - its largely how to win his company and his fortune back.

Some drunken outings, a visit to a voodoo queen and suddenly Sid is on a long haul flight to Delhi. - a place that once was home to him.

The narrative weaves through the highs and lows of Hrishikesh and Haridwar as Sid stumbles along rejecting all supposedly spiritual avenues and finally serendipitously meets with Myrah.

Post that it's one thing leading to another as Sid comes to his final realization. And the fact that he is not even looking for a God is something that becomes a painful reality.

I ended up reading the major part of the book in one continuous stretch. Not a very good idea but I do know I'll go back for a second more leisurely read. For some. reading bits and savoring the life wisdom may be more palatable.

While there are very few characters, that of Sid is very credibly crafted. The others that drift in and out are equally flesh and blood. 

Sometimes the narrative flags or gets a bit too casual especially with Sid's ranting. Sometimes the entire metaphorical proceedings feel a bit forced. But one reads through all this because of the fluidity and the pace of the storytelling. 

A must read. I'm off to read parts of it again.

Want to buy the book now?

Friday, January 24, 2014

GUEST POST: Musings on completing 12 months in India

A guest post by an esteemed colleague: Sunil Munsif
We completed our first year back in India on 4-Jan-14.
For the past 14-15 years, every trip to India was for a short duration. Now this is where we belong. There is no return flight to Heathrow that we have to track. In those early days, Saloni found it difficult to accept that the apartment we rent in Powai was not a short-let holiday home that we were occupying before we went home to Woking.
I flew into and out of Heathrow a few times in 2013 and it felt strange to think of it as just another airport. In the past, our trips would end at Heathrow. Aurangzeb "Zeb-bhai" Qureshi the Pakistani taxi driver I had befriended would greet us with a warm smile and hug, help us load bag-loads of khakhras and theplas (various Indian breads) and athanu (pickle) into the boot of his car and drive us home. On the recent 2-3 journeys into and out of Heathrow, nothing had quite changed but everything was so different.
On one of those trips, I stayed with some friends in Hounslow and headed to Woking early on a Saturday morning to work out with Fil Artusa and the group with whom I had done Circuit Training for many years. I then drove "home" and sat outside our house and called Saloni in India to ask her to add milk to the cereal that she would have kept ready in anticipation. We had a good laugh but it felt so strange that all those memories that we had of that place were now in our hearts and in some random photographs and videos. A young family was now creating their own stories inside and in our stead.
I have been asked by a lot of people how it feels to be back in India. It has been wonderful.
A few have thought of us as crazy. “Why did you have to leave the civilised world and come back to the chaos that is India?” The honest answer is, because it was time.
For the 14-15 years that we lived away, we had always talked about returning to India. It was always a question of when not if. We could not visualise ourselves growing old anywhere outside India.
So it has been great to be spoilt by the riches of India. We’ve loved having sunshine for ten months in the year. Our nice green neighbourhood and leafy boulevards make an after-dinner walk mandatory and not another attempt to fight the elements. We have loved not having to tune into the weather forecast before we decided what to wear. We’ve stepped into restaurants knowing that they will have great food that we will love. At home our cook has spoilt us by getting us to sample cuisine from across our vast nation. Our maid has always come in with a wide smile to regale us with stories of our neighbourhood. The laundry man gives me choice in what I should wear because I have all the shirts I need properly washed and ironed. The chowkidar (security guard) makes me feel important by snapping to attention as I step out of the house before helping me reverse out of the parking lot. A single phone call and the green grocer delivers vegetables and fruits. Another phone call and the plumber or electrician comes around to repair something that my DIY skills have ruined.
We’ve celebrated Holi and Diwali, Pateti and Eid with family and friends. We’ve been able to be there for family and friends in good times and some not so good times. We were there to hospitalise my 92 year-old aunt when she fell and broke her hip. Saloni was able to see her Dad a dozen times this year and talk to him every single evening before he died suddenly leaving a huge void in our lives. Being an hour away meant that she was able to rush across and be at the cremation, something she could not do last year when her mother died. She broke tradition by escorting him on his last journey and lighting his pyre. That morning I was proud to be a Hindu as the religion rose above petty beliefs and allowed a daughter to grieve and bid a teary final good bye as her father’s body was reduced to ash and reunited with the Five Basic Elements.
The India we have come back to is a young, vibrant India. The youth of the country has ambition and drive. They are living lives that are materially better than their parents. And they want to enjoy the good things in life at an early age. That has put a lot of strain on the infrastructure. Roads are already congested with cars before they are properly built and inaugurated. Sometimes we despair at the “me-first” attitude that they wear on their sleeve. After so many years away living amongst the most courteous people in the world, it has been trying.

But I remain happy and hopeful. About India, about its people and my future. It is nice to come home.

(A guest post by an esteemed colleague: Sunil Munsif)
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