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Friday, 30 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 30: A Humble Thank You

One day in November 2000, I sat inside a small temple near my house, with a mike in front of me, ready to deliver a discourse on the topic, “Spiritual practice for a blissful life”. 

The only problem – there was no audience! Not one person was sitting down, waiting to listen to me. When I turned questioningly to the temple personnel, I was told to just start, and that people who were interested would come and listen. 

An uncanny situation, one I had never encountered before in the 24 years of my life.

In that nerve-wracking moment, when every instinct made me want to run away, I found the strength to mentally surrender to the Guru. Praying that He take me through this weird test He had devised, I started.

I noticed some people turn to look at me and I hung on to their eyes. Slowly, a few of them came forward and stood around me. Some people sat down for a while. Even as I relaxed and got into the flow, some of them got up and walked away abruptly. The audience kept floating throughout the 40 –odd minutes.

Even as one part of my mind directed the tongue to keep talking, another part was trying to make sense of it all. Why was I being given this experience? Had I grown too egoistic from the praise I had got on previous occasions? Was this being done to teach me to be humble and realize that I’m a mere instrument and God is the actual Doer?

Overall, it was a situation that made me truly experience the meaning of the Bhagavad Geeta quote

Which means:

“You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. 
Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.”

In simple words – do what has to be done without having any expectations about the outcome.


Every night of November 2018, I sat in front of my laptop, keying in words, talking to yet another floating audience, this time in the blogosphere. 

Some readers responded regularly and some intermittently either on the blog, or through WhatsApp or in person or by a phone call – to them, I’m very grateful, for taking the time and making the effort to communicate. 

Because I learned my lesson of November 2000 very well; there is nothing more to say.

Every time I sit down to write, I send up a prayer, asking God to guide my words to be of some help to someone in some way. 

Whether I come to know what it means to someone or not; whether it even means something to someone or not, is, therefore, totally irrelevant.

Day after day, I’m realizing that all I can aim for, is to become an instrument worthy enough to be held in the hands of the Doer.

I thank all of you, dear readers, for coming along on this journey. 

NaBloPoMo 2018 is officially over.

I will, of course, continue to blog ...........  as regularly or irregularly as possible.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 29: God protects his bhakta

January 2017. It’s 6.30 am on the day before Vaikuntha Ekadashi. My husband is going to visit the temple at Tiruvahindrapuram near Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu. 

He’s running late - as usual - and still has to pick up relatives who're going along. As I see him off, I watch him hurriedly reverse the SUV out the gate. He miscalculates, and lightly bumps into the neighbour’s car parked behind. I shriek and tell him he’s dented it, even as I quickly sweep my gaze over the neighbour’s house wondering what will happen next.

No one comes out to fight. But I’m not comfortable and suggest we should tell them it happened and apologize, and offer to pay damages. He’s already late and has no time, he says. If they ask, act as if you know nothing about it, he warns me, and zooms off.

A little later, Aunty (elderly mother of the dented car’s owner) interrupts my rangoli routine. No usual chitchat of “Coffee aaytaa?” Cutting straight to the point, she accuses my husband of hitting their car. She saw, but couldn’t come out because she was going to the washroom.

Catch 22. Caught between my mantra of being truthful versus hubby’s instructions, I start to mumble something, then end up agreeing that it does look a little dented. I rush into a promise that he’ll come and talk to them once he gets back.

For the nth time in 17 years, I mentally berate my husband for getting into such entirely avoidable situations. For the nth time in 17 years, I pray that God bless him with punctuality and discipline.

Later in the day, he calls and the first question is about what the neighbours said. Good, I think, at least it’s pricking his conscience, so he’ll be more careful next time. But I don’t want to alarm him in that far-off place, and also don’t relish the thought of being scolded over the phone, so I give some vague answers and don’t breathe a word of my promise to them.

He gets back home late on the night of Vaikuntha Ekadashi. He’s been fasting the whole day, and driven non-stop for almost 8 hours, so I say nothing. Next evening, I narrate what happened and he goes over to the neighbour’s house.

To my utter shock, he comes back full of smiles. It seems Aunty had brought the whole thing to her son’s notice. Instead of agreeing with her, he told her not to bother, for the dent was a tiny one, and could easily be repaired. According to my husband, the icing on the cake was that he also chided her for wanting to trouble someone who was such a devout, pious, godly person!!

I couldn’t help asking God, “Whose side are You really on?”

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 28: When things don't smell right...

In the pharmacy college where I studied, the Girls Hostel did not have a canteen. We managed breakfast and lunch in the college canteen, but dinner was the problem because there was no eatery close to the hostel, which was far from the college. We had the option of going over to the Boys Hostel canteen but somehow, we weren’t comfortable doing that every day. So, four of us friends decided to start cooking together.

I don’t remember the specifics but from my hazy memory, I think I provided the stove, and another friend would bring the kerosene from home about once a month or so. Every Monday, after classes got over, we used to go shopping, buy vegetables and provisions we needed for the week, and hurry back in time to catch the college bus that would drop us to the hostel.

On our first shopping trip, armed with the typical austere mindset of middle-class families of the late 1990s, and a shopping list (in that order), we trooped into the supermarket. Price was the sole criterion that governed the buying decision.

Reaching the oil section, we plunged into a collective dismay. All the cooking oils were so costly! 

But one of us with a sharper eye spied an oil bottle that was almost half the price of the others; immediately we scooped it up, congratulating ourselves on our smartness and good luck.

Back in the hostel, we poured that oil into a vessel and started frying onions for the rudimentary pulav (which was our staple dish). A peculiar smell spread around us – unlike anything we had smelt before. Eternal optimists, or perhaps too hungry and tired to care, we enthusiastically took the first mouthfuls of our first-cooked-by-ourselves-in-the-hostel meal and instantly recoiled at the flavour that assailed us.

But the austere mindset of middle-class families in the 1990s was too deeply ingrained. So, gamely, we persisted in finishing the meal and not wasting the food.

Stomachs filled, all of us started brainstorming as to what caused that yucky taste. Studying the label a little more closely, it hit us that we had bought MUSTARD oil instead of the recommended groundnut oil. We had been so lost in looking at the price of the oil, and grabbing the least expensive one, that we didn’t bother to see which oil we had bought!

Night after night, for almost a month, we ignored our screaming taste buds, until finally, the dratted mustard oil bottle was empty. What a testimony to our austerity!

But I still remember this episode because it gave me a sense of perspective – when something sounds too good to be true, it’s best to check again.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 27: How do you talk to yourself?

I sit down to write today’s post and within a minute, hear a familiar horn. The master of the house is back. As I rush to open the gate, I feel a frisson of irritation. “There’s always some interruption just when I sit down to write,” I fume inwardly. Ironic, considering the topic on which I wanted to write.

With effort, I halt the mental diarrhoea that’s threatening to strike. “Check what you said just now. Always some interruption, you grumbled – is that really true? Today is day 27 of the blogathon – and except for two or three days, you’ve been left undisturbed to do your thing. 3 out of 27 is not ‘always’ – don’t exaggerate,” my mind says to me.

It turns out hubby wants dinner at once, so I make the chapattis and serve him. Then I realize it’s almost my dinner time, so I decide to finish my meal before sitting down to write. During this process of making, serving and eating dinner, I get a few more thoughts about what to write. Blood glucose levels rise, and I’m altogether feeling more cheerful as I get back to writing the blog.

Today’s post was going to be about negative self-talk. Thanks to this incident, I got an actual example to demonstrate it.

Whether you realize it or not, you do talk to yourself – that is called self-talk. And our internal monologue has a huge impact on how we feel. When we’re feeling bad, we get upset; this affects our focus and communication, too, and often paves the way for more unpleasant stuff to happen.

So what you need to do is stop the cycle from going ahead. How?

Go back to my example.

First, I realized where my thoughts were going.

Next, I challenged a thought I had slipped into.

Then I said, “So what if there’s a small interruption?” and adapted to the new situation

I looked for what positive came out of the disturbance.

So, here’s my SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) to stop negative self-talk.

1. Identify the negative thought

2. Ask if the thought is true/false

3. Question the possibilities with “So what?”

4. Change over to a positive viewpoint

5. Act accordingly

6. Look for the lesson

7. Repeat next time

There you have it – the secret to being more relaxed, less uptight, and feeling better about your life.

All said and done, some things will happen the way they will. Accept them you must. Whether you do so gracefully or are brought there kicking and screaming is entirely up to you.

Monday, 26 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 26: What your food plate says about you!

Did you know that it is possible to get an inkling about the nature of an individual based on their eating habits? Over the years, from my observations, I’ve developed a hypothesis based on two components – the order in which people eat the food in their plate, and the state of the plate at the end of the meal.

Hypothesis 1: People who eat what they like first, and then move on to the lesser liked ones are more likely to be impulsive. Those who eat the lesser-liked foods first, and then move on to their favourite food are the ones who’re more likely to be successful.

When you think a little more about this hypothesis, it makes sense, especially when you view it the context of the ability to delay gratification.

Of course, there mustn’t be any outside force that influences the order of eating foods – like, for example, in the famous story of the new son-in-law who went to his mother-in-law’s house and ended up eating only ………….. (fill in the blank with the yucky dish depending on which part of the country you come from) in his entire meal because he wasn’t articulate or assertive enough to put his foot down and say, “Enough of this nonsense.” Which is quite surprising given that in the times when this story was popular, the groom’s side didn’t hesitate to throw their weight around.

Sorry for the digression – let’s get back to part two of my theory.

Which plate is yours? 

Hypothesis 2: People who leave their plate clean, with no remnants of food, are more likely to be clear in their thinking, and decisive in their actions. Those whose plates are cluttered with left-over food at the end of the meal are more likely to be just as cluttered in their mind, and probably find it difficult to make up their mind when it is decision time.

The logic here too is simple – when you know what exactly you want, and what you don’t want, and apportion the dishes correctly, there’s no chance of anything being left over. When you’re not sure of what you want/don’t want, you end up trying to sample a little of everything, and in the end, there’s so much left over that you just can’t finish it all.

I’d like to know if you’ve noticed these things too. Even if you haven’t so far, you’re welcome to try it retrospectively and see if my hypotheses are proved or disproved by your experience. Either way, it would be nice to hear your views 😊

Sunday, 25 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 25: A Hairy Lie!

A young girl was brought to her mother’s native village for a prospective groom’s family to “see”. After a brief interaction, the girl’s family returned home to wait for the verdict.

A few days later, the girl’s parents got a cryptic message from their relative in the village. She told them, “If the boy’s relatives ask if your daughter has got some worm infestation in the hair, please say yes, and reassure them that it has already started getting cured.” Before the parents could understand what the issue was, this relative continued, “And yes, tell your daughter to grow her hair out fully, and not cut it ever again.”

Till today, we have great fun telling my fourth sister that if not for this elderly relative’s lie, she may not have been married into this particular family. That old woman belonged to the category of people who believe in the Kannada proverb “Saavira sullu heli ondu madhuve maadu” which implies that it’s okay to tell even a thousand lies to fix one wedding.

So, what was the lie told?

We were living in Goa, and this sister of mine, influenced by her college friends, had got herself a front flick cut. 

Sometime later, someone suggested this prospective groom from a conservative family in a small village called Hulikal in Karnataka.

After the girl-seeing, they were okay to go ahead, but they wondered about what looked like a haircut. Their concern – would a modern girl (one who was ‘forward’ enough to cut her hair) fit and adjust into their family?

Our elderly relative who knew this family well, understood the suspicion behind the innocent-seeming query about the girl’s hair. She did the best thing she could – she lied and said the hair was looking like that because the girl had some worms in her hair. Because having worms was a temporary phenomenon, not in one’s control, and seemingly harmless as compared to the loaded possibilities that a girl with a haircut implied!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Time has proved how adaptable the girl with the haircut has been, playing a vital role in steering that family towards greater stability. Today, she heads the quality assurance department of a global pharma company and is recognized as a dynamic leader, with several achievements to her credit. To give them their due, the family that was worried about her haircut has also been very supportive of her.

All said and done, I guess we must thank that elderly relative for the lie she told! 

Saturday, 24 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 24: What's your Hug-o-meter reading?

Trying to formulate a theory about why people behave the way they do, I’ve stumbled upon a small observation. I think people who are quarrelsome, always complaining, on edge, irritable, easily offended or in a general state of anger, are often those who do not have anyone being nice to them; not much affection comes their way.

At first glance, it sounds like the chicken-and-egg story. Are they irritable because no one is nice to them, or is nobody nice to them because they are irritable? A vicious cycle indeed, so, perhaps the only way to find out is to break the cycle somewhere?

As I looked for information about any research that will support my theory, I found something about hugs. Someone I met recently also had told me that hugging makes one feel good, so I read on.

It seems the famous psychotherapist Virginia Satir, who was an expert in family therapy, said, “We need four hugs a day to survive, eight hugs a day for maintenance and twelve hugs a day for growth.”

I also chanced on this article about “Hug Therapy” – it explains how something as simple as hugging can work wonders – for the one receiving the hug, as well as the one giving it.

Of course, in these loaded times of #MeToo, I suppose a warning is mandatory – before you lunge to hug people, please ask them if they are okay with it and if someone says “no” please keep away.

I’m sure all of you reading this know at least one person who falls into the personality profile I described at the beginning. 

So, here’s the homework I’m prescribing – for the next one month,  start being nice to them, no matter how difficult it is? There are different ways of being nice, and I leave it to you to figure out which way you want to use – all of the following qualify:

- Giving a hug

- Smiling

- Not stopping communication

- Going out of the way to do nice things

- Talking pleasantly even when provoked

- Ignoring irritating things being done or said

I chanced on this picture today, and it triggered the writing of this post.

 As I looked at the picture, I thought – it sounds so easy in this pic, but reality may not always be so rosy? Then, I looked again at the picture, and I realized something – the one saying, “It’s ok” doesn’t have the blindfold saying “Ego” across his eyes. Are we ready to take off that blindfold? Are we ready to be the one who goes the extra mile without whining about, “Why should it always be me?”

Being both the receiver and giver of kindness, I know the methods I've outlined, work. I’ll be waiting to hear about the results of your experiment!

Friday, 23 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 23: It's later than you think!

Like most of my peers, I’m a busy woman.

I’m saying this despite being in what is considered a “comfortable” teaching job that involves no unmanageable work pressure.

And I live right next to my college, so I can’t even complain about time wasted in traffic.

Yet, between the umpteen things on my “To do” list, it seems like 24 hours in a day is not enough. Now, some people will say that I’m the one that creates some of the busy-ness with my writing or volunteering or reading. That’s ok – I’m too nice to call them out on how they create their busy-ness with their shopping trips, or watching Big Boss, or catching up on the latest gossip 😜

Often, I daydream of a life where there are no “must do’s” and “can’t afford to not do’s”. Have patience, I tell myself, your time will come too.

About a month ago, a conversation suddenly changed my perspective on these “boring” jobs that seem to be eating up my time.

My eldest sister’s husband is a National award winning writer. He’s very active in poetry-writing, drama and theatre too, and has performed on All India Radio in the past. He retired about a year ago from his work as a Manager in Canara Bank, and since then, has greater time to pursue his interests.

A few days ago, another of my sisters remarked to our brother-in-law that it must be nice to be retired, with so much time to devote to things one has not had time to do while busy with a career. It seems he agreed with her, but then, also made another point. He told her how it sometimes gets boring too – how much reading and writing can someone do throughout the day, day after day?

As I tried to imagine the scenario he described, I realized that indeed, having a lot of time on one’s hands may be quite a difficult situation. Besides, it’s the things I do every day at work and at home and outside that provide inspiration for the things I write, and also bring readers to my blog. If I didn’t have those, what would I write about? For whom?

And there’s a kind of thrill when you try to beat the clock and get a lot done in 24 hours. So, it’s worth enjoying this process, too!

Even as I’m writing this post, I remember this old English song I heard and memorized in my childhood….makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Thursday, 22 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 22: You know best

A few days ago, I offered one of my colleagues an old Agatha Christie novel called, “Murder is Easy.” Although I hadn’t yet read it, I thought it would be interesting.

A day later, she gave the book back to me, saying she didn't like it, and didn’t want to read further. I understood because everyone has different tastes.

Today, I read the novel myself. And found it a highly absorbing read.

In the process, I realized something.

Imagine a similar incident but substitute “advice-seeking” for “book-reading”. Most often, people who give us advice about something are only telling us how ‘they’ would deal with it. It may not actually be the best thing for me unless the advisor is talking after paying due attention to things from my point of view.

Normal people are not trained to do this. Why, I’ve seen even trained counselors – who are repeatedly cautioned to avoid handing out ready-made solutions – often do this. 

Pic courtesy:

It’s quite understandable considering that there can only be so many possible problems and as long as we’re talking to someone in our peer circle, we would have experienced many of those problems ourselves. The minute we hear someone complain about something similar, off we go, shooting our mouth, telling them how they should be dealing with it.

I’ve seen this happen quite often and always waited to see the reaction of the one who’s at the receiving end of the advice. Surprisingly, a lot of people take such advice at face value, without stopping to consider if it’s actually right for them. Perhaps it has to do with the insecurity that comes when you think you don’t know what to do – and if someone tells you emphatically that xyz is what you must be doing, it gives you some level of certainty which is definitely comforting.

I have no objection to taking advice on minor things that don’t really matter much – which restaurant offers great food, where to buy your clothes, which photographer to hire for a wedding etc.

But when it comes to really important decisions in life, I think it is worth asking people for their opinions, but you must be willing to deal with the temporary insecurity of ‘not knowing’ and work your way through various options suggested, before coming up with the answer. You must do what's best for you!

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 21: How's YOUR life?

Today morning, I noticed a status update saying “I hate my life.” I was alarmed and without batting an eyelid, immediately sent a message asking, “What happened?” I followed it by offering, “If you want to talk about it, please call me.”

It set me thinking, once again, about how little one knows about the difficulties other people face.

I say once again because just yesterday, my maid had shared her sorrowful experience with a husband who has escaped to their native village after running up huge debts here. Not only does she have to struggle to put food in the mouths of three children and run the household single-handedly, but she also has to answer the uncouth chap who comes demanding the debt be repaid. She was crying yesterday because, when she refused to go to see her husband in the village, he quarreled with her on the phone, casting aspersions on her character.

Today evening, another person was telling me about a friend whose daughter met with an accident while driving on the highway and now, 6 months later, is still in a coma, and there’s nothing the doctors can promise or predict about the outcome.

When we hear or read about such sad experiences, we feel bad for some time. Then, caught up in the rush of our own lives, we forget all about it, and get on with our routines, made up of few moments of joy and many more hours of complaining and whining about our own troubles – real and imaginary, small and big.

Of course, there may not be much we can do to help others in trouble, beyond empathizing with them. It’s not required to keep brooding over the troubles of others either. But I have found that really paying attention to the sadness that others share often has lessons for me to learn. At the very least, I can analyze my own circumstances, and see that I’m so much in a better situation as compared to them. It teaches me to be more grateful for all that I’m blessed with.

The person to whom I sent the message today morning replied after some time with a terse, “Sure.” After that – silence. I don’t want to ask again because it may be seen as an intrusion. I can only hope the storm has passed and that good sense will soon prevail.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 20: Easy snack recipe

Did the title of this post make you pause for a while because I don't generally write about food? Let me explain.

When I sent the message about my blogathon, one of the replies I received was from Aparna Parinam, who was my senior in Pharmacy college, and continues to be a good friend. She requested me to write a piece on my favourite breakfast/or comfort food or snack. I agreed. 

Later, when I got to thinking on the topic, I realized it’s a little difficult for me – because I couldn’t settle on what dish to choose.

Now, judging from my dimensions, I won’t be surprised if this statement is misunderstood πŸ˜‰πŸ˜

So, I’ll clarify. There’s no dish I can claim to be a favourite. Nor any one I claim to hate. Except for two items that I’d avoid if possible (and consume without getting disturbed if there’s no alternative), when it comes to food, I have achieved equanimity.

But because I’ve said “Yes” to Aparna, I must write about something. So, here’s a snack I like for the simple reason that it’s very easy to prepare, and I don’t have to spend more than 300 seconds to put it together. That it’s reasonably filling and nutritious too is a bonus.

I don’t know what to call it. As you can see from the picture, all I’ve done is mix puffed rice, tomatoes, grated carrot, coriander leaves, moong (green gram) sprouts, and something that we in Bangalore call mixture (a mix of spicy sev, boondi and roasted groundnuts).

People who are very conscientious about the nutritive value of their food are welcome to consider the sprouts an essential part of the recipe πŸ˜€
As for me, I don’t always have the sprouts ready to add.

On the day I took this pic, they were available because I had soaked the moong two days before, then forgotten all about it, then realized I couldn’t do anything with it on a festival day, and so, tied it up in a cotton cloth to sprout.

Like my husband teases, perhaps I’m better at creative modification of existing food than at actual cooking from scratch 😎

So, that’s the end of my recipe. But before I finish this post, I must tell you that my friend Aparna Parinam is a great cook, and a food blogger. You can check her blog Tangy Tales here. What’s more, she’s recently published a book on chutneys that I’m sure all people interested in food will love. You can check it out here.
Aparna's book

Today is Aparna’s special day, so I’d like to wish her health, happiness, lots of good food, and more book writing in the years to come!

Monday, 19 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 19: Weird logic from a cabbie

Last week, my aged parents, who had come over for a short visit, were returning home with my sister. A little after they had left, my sister told the cabbie to drive carefully and slowly because both parents have low back pain and sudden jerks must be avoided. There was no response from him.

Noticing that he had plugged in his earphones, and assuming he may not have heard her, she tapped him on the shoulder, indicated he should remove the earplugs, and repeated her request. He got irritated and grumbled something. A little while later, he again inserted his earphones.
Don't talk - fine; what about listening to music?
My sister again politely asked him to remove them, saying that she wanted him to be alert to any instruction that she may want to give.

At this, the cabbie rudely told her, “What, Madam, you people are so educated, and doing so much pooja-paath, you should not be afraid of dying” !!!

He’d probably assumed the pooja-paath bit from seeing the Thiruman Srichurnam (tilak) on my father’s forehead. That’s beside the point. What a shocking statement to make! We all know we’re going to die someday – but that doesn’t mean we walk in the middle of the road, does it?

To this, my sister told him, “Us doing pooja-paath or being afraid of dying or not isn't the matter here. Hasn’t Krishna also told in the Bhagavad Geeta that everyone should do their duty in the best way possible?”

As they went further, my sister suggested that he avoid a particular road because it was uneven and would be uncomfortable for my parents. Rudely, he said he couldn’t do that – that he must follow the GPRS route only, and drove on roughly.

When they finally reached home, he kept showing his irritation and impatience at the fact that it took a few minutes to get my parents out of the cab, and ready to walk using their walker and walking stick.

While traveling with our parents before, we have often experienced that cab drivers themselves volunteer to help them get in and out of the vehicle, suggesting the seat be eased back or front, and doing what they can to make their drive comfortable. When it’s only one of us daughters traveling with both parents, we’ve even had some drivers offer to help with the luggage. That’s very nice of them, and although we don’t expect/order them to help, it feels good when they do. Even if they don’t help with all this, the very least someone can do is wait patiently.

My sister did raise a complaint with the cab aggregator, but she hasn’t had the time to pursue it further. You see, being a physician, she’s too busy saving lives and assuaging the anxiety of those who’re scared of their loving ones dying.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 18: The girl who wouldn't talk

Once upon a time, there lived a family in a small village. The father had to go to work at a far-off place for a while. Not wanting to disrupt the kids’ school routines, he decided to take a small room at that place, and stay there, and return home to be with the family once a month or so, as the job permitted.

The youngest kid of that family was around 2 years old, and because the father was not continually present, found him an unfamiliar person. On the occasions when he came home, this kid would run and hide under the dining table. Laughing at this behaviour that resembled a kid brought up away from civilization, the family had a nickname for her – they called her “Kaad-Paapa” which meant “Forest-Child.”

As that kid grew older, she continued to be shy, and an introvert, not engaging much in conversation with the world around her. The parents never made a big issue of it, they didn’t chide her for being the way she was, or try to compare her with other kids who were more outgoing. In other words, they let her be.

Today, that “Kaad-Paapa” is a lecturer, a speaker, and a writer. She can strike up conversations with unknown persons, and strangers often open up to her on the very first meeting, asking for advice.

Occasionally, when I find someone worrying about their kid who is shy, I give them this example of my own journey. Just to show them that positive changes can happen to everyone. All that the shy kids need is the support, understanding, and security that loving parents and siblings can give, along with opportunities to grow independent.

Today was a busy day, and yet, there were at least 3 different themes I made a note to write a blog on. But the busy-ness of the day pushed this blog-writing to the very last minute, and there wasn’t time to devote to any of those 3 themes.

As I browsed through the pictures from today’s bhajan program at my parents’ house where all 6 of their daughters attended with their families, this blog post kind of wrote itself.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 17: Lost to time...

A few months ago, when I was finishing my purchase at a shoe shop, a man came there with his kids. Speaking in Kannada, he asked the shopkeeper for “Kaalcheela” (ಕಾΰ²²್ಚೀΰ²², ΰ€•ाΰ€²्ΰ€šीΰ€²ा). 

For a minute, I was at a loss to understand what he meant; the word seemed vaguely familiar, and I knew I knew what it meant – just that the meaning didn’t come to mind immediately. Then, I got it! 

From the literal meaning, by splitting the word into two – in Kannada, kaal means leg and cheela means bag. So – literally, a bag for the legs (or the feet, rather) – that is, socks!

I wondered at how my mind had almost forgotten the word because it had been a really long, long while since I had heard someone say “Kaalcheela” and not “socks.”

A few days later, I heard my father ask my sister to give him some “Mulaam” for his leg. I had never heard this word before. (For those readers who don’t know my multicultural/hybrid background, my parents are Karnataka Iyengars, so we grew up with a patois made up of part-Tamil, part-Kannada that some people say sounds a little like Tulu; besides, I was born and brought up in Goa, so I learned Kannada itself much later in life after coming to Bangalore.)

But from the context of the rest of the conversation, and the fact that the Hindi word “Malham” means an ointment, I knew my father was asking for a pain balm.

When I asked my sister, she confirmed my interpretation, and we spoke of how it’s not very commonly used today – people mostly say either balm or ointment or cream.

This train of thoughts led me to realize that there are so many words/concepts in our native tongues that are getting eclipsed nowadays because people have begun using their English equivalents more often.

Pondering this, I remembered how amazed I had been about a year ago when I saw this in a supermarket.

Frankly, I won’t be surprised if, in10 years time, some kid comes to my house, he/she won’t know what this is!

Friday, 16 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 16: Sowing the right seed

Last year, I had invited my readers to share their stories of some positive quality they have cultivated that has made a difference in their lives. I had put up many of those stories, but one reached me on the last day and stayed unused. Today, suddenly, I remembered about it, and am presenting it here, because it's very relevant for us to know how we can do our bit to help our less fortunate fellow-beings.

This has been written by Shri. Suresh Venkatarao, who is married to Vidya, my husband's cousin living in Chennai.

We know the saying, “What we Sow is what we Reap”. This is very important from the perspective of young ones today. Gone are the days when we as kids obeyed our parents in silence. The modern-day kids want to know why a particular thing needs to be followed and practiced. Believe me, if we can make them understand, they are such wonderful kids, who would practice what we teach. This is where we as parents need to sow the right seed in our child’s mind.

I am narrating from my personal experience. I am going to talk about one good practice which I have inculcated in my son’s life.

Helping the needy

To help the needy, what you need is the intention rather than how much money you have. I want my son to be compassionate towards others, understand the difficulty faced by many and how blessed he is. 

A couple of years ago, he would buy chappals, but use only some and not the others. Sometimes he used to say that I don’t want this food after giving it to him. To change this and make him understand how others are not getting food, we showed the Somalia poverty to him. He was shocked to see people who looked like skeletons, kids of his age so weak and wearing water bottles as chappals etc. This really impacted him, and I still remember the day vividly as he started crying seeing the plight of people. His habits changed, and he wanted to know how this could be changed.

We told him that we could do our little bit by donating whatever possible to the needy people. He wanted to understand how so I explained to him about the Trust concept, UN Organizations etc. I took him to couple of charities which I support on my mother’s death anniversary every year. In their school, they started Karuna Club two years ago where they collect money, food items, reading materials and clothes two times every year. He would actively ask my support for that Karuna Club.

We wanted him to go one step further.

Every year we celebrate his birthday by inviting his friends and neighbours followed by cake cutting etc. He enjoys this very much and he gets very much excited and takes part in decoration arrangements etc. Last year we told him that we will do away with this and instead we would use the money and give sweets and cakes to an orphanage. We explained to him that all his friends and neighbours coming for birthday party can afford cakes/sweets / return gifts etc. whereas the boys and girls in homes will get them only when someone like us gives them. He did agree to our idea and was ready to give away the usual celebrations. I am very proud of my son, as, after all, he was just ten years old when we asked him to forego this practice.

His aunt presented him with a money safe (Piggy bank) with a condition that whatever amount he saved in it, 25% of it, he should use it for charity and the rest can be used for himself.

The first opening is done, and the amount counted and contribution to charity is done. Hope with God’s Grace he keeps up this habit forever and helps the needy.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 15: Why two posts today?!?

I’ve put up one blog post for today already – my short story that won the runners-up prize.

Maybe you’re wondering, ‘Okay, so why another post today?’

Because technically, that story was written some other day. Not today. And my commitment is to WRITE one post every day, and not just PUT UP one post every day.

I’d like to say a heartfelt “Thank you” to everyone who reads and encourages me.

Even as I’m typing this post, I wonder if this is what I’ve done to my readers
Spot the reader!

I really hope not. But I suspect it may turn out true unless I do something fast. That is, stop writing right now because I’ve written enough for the day, to keep the vow.

So, you can go back to whatever other stuff you were doing.

Unless you were smart enough (or irritated enough) to not even click the link to this post.

The class is over. Let off time.

I know – it’s three (or is it four or five) sentences after saying I’ll stop writing. You just can’t take the lecturer out of this writer😁

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 14: Do you listen to the little ones?

The other day, I chanced on this picture somewhere online. 

The caption read “Someone give this kid an award already!” I couldn’t help laughing out.

But in real life, one can be pretty sure that this kid’s teacher wouldn’t have laughed. In fact, she would only have imposed some other punishment for this work of art. No wonder then that our workplaces are filled with too few creative-thinking people, and we need to have ideation workshops and innovation training to inspire them.

First, you terrorize children to conform to the norm; then you want them to suddenly show up with bright new ideas and impeccable problem-solving skills.

Ok, I agree I’m generalizing here, but the fact remains that our ways of interaction with the young – as parents, and as teachers – leaves much to be desired.

I remember an incident about 7 years ago when my son was in Class 4. He’d come back home quite upset. One of his friends – let’s call him K – had brought 100 rupees to school on his birthday. It was a gift from his parents, and the kid took a few of his friends to the bakery near the school, to give them a small birthday treat.

The next day, the Principal summoned these kids (my son was part of that group) and gave them a dressing down. The bakery and the school had an agreement that the Principal would be informed if kids from the primary section came there. So, the bakery guy had duly informed the Principal.

K and his friends were grilled for 2 reasons – first because they’d disobeyed the rule. Second – and this rankled the adults more – K had spent 40 rupees on the snacks and then, dropped the remaining 60 rupees into a box the bakery had, seeking donations for the blind. How could he do such a thing! How ungrateful he was to waste his parents’ hard-earned money!

My son said the friends had all tried to dissuade him from donating. He had silenced them by saying that when he saw blind people on the road, he felt very bad, and wanted to help them in some way.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that the kid be applauded unconditionally. Of course, K needed to learn his lessons about not breaking rules, not spending money without telling his parents, and not chucking it away on a whim.

But not one adult had bothered to ask K about why he had done such a thing. No one had said, “Yes, I understand you,” before proceeding to make sure he learned his lesson.

On this Children’s Day, can we decide to really LISTEN to the little ones before sticking labels on them?

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 13: Lessons from a saree pallu

During the blogathon, I find my mind constantly hovering around the thought of what to write. Some days, there are few thoughts; other days, there are many. And on some days like today, all the thoughts that had occupied my mind throughout the day, sounding like promising leads for the post, suddenly fly out the window because I’ve been struck by an epiphany (which is a complicated word to describe a striking or sudden realization).

As I clear up the room, I look with fresh eyes at a saree spread on the clothes stand.

I’m struck by the simplicity of the design. Just tiny flowers and yet, so beautiful.

As I begin folding the saree, I glance at the reverse of the same part of the pallu.

And I realize that what appears so obviously simple, has been achieved only after some pretty complex work on the other side.

This reminds me of how we see only the success of famous people and not their hard work that went into it. That singer or dancer on the show who pulled off a flawless performance didn’t do so by chance – it was the result of hours of deliberate practice.

We want to be successful like X, Y or Z; but are we prepared to take on challenges the way they did?

As I continue staring at the saree, there’s another fact that strikes me.


On the side that’s on display, the flowers stand apart; but on the reverse where the stitches have been formed, everything is interconnected. Often, when things happen to us, we see the incidents in isolation, but it is quite possible that there may be some common thread linking them together.

For example, I know a person A who gets blamed at his office for shoddy work. He is left out of group activities and not given much importance. His relation with his family is not too good either. Three different things, happening to this person, all arise out of his nature of not taking his responsibilities seriously.

Being able to connect our actions to the results that follow is not as simple as it sounds. As long as you continue to look superficially at the display side, you won’t notice anything. You have to make the effort to shift your gaze and view things from a different angle to be able to understand the reality of how one thing leads to another.

Monday, 12 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 12: Are you being an ostrich?

When I checked messages this morning, a group was agog with news of the sad demise of Shri. Ananth Kumar, the MP who represented Bangalore South constituency in the Lok Sabha. I said a silent prayer, asking that his soul attain Sadgati, and continued my routine, getting ready for work.

A few minutes later, I got news of it being declared a holiday. My son also stayed home, and we had a relaxed time.

Somewhere in the afternoon, he remarked longingly, “I wish every day could be like this – eat, sleep, play football, no having to go to college.” I agreed with him first, and then doled out some homily that comes naturally to a lecturer.

But a little later, I saw this wish of my son in the light of some feedback I received from a reader on my Guddi story. Here’s what she had to say –

Pay attention to the last paragraph. What a wonderful insight this reader has shared!

Let’s do a small activity. I want you to stop reading right now, and take a minute or two to recall some major life lesson you learned in the last few months or years. Got something? Ok, now, remember the incident that triggered that learning. Done? Ok – now tell me (as in, think about it, or send me feedback after you finish reading this post) – did that learning happen in a pleasant situation or an unpleasant one?

I’m guessing – out of my own experience, and from answers I’ve got from a few people whom I’ve asked this question – that you’ll find that difficult situations have taught you deeper lessons than pleasant ones. When I’m happy, I’m engrossed in the feeling and don’t generally feel the need to dig around for what’s making me happy. When I’m unhappy, if I’m smart, I’ll start looking for the cause of my angst and see if there’s something I can change to make it go away.

Coming back to that insightful comment, I don’t mean to advocate that we go looking for negativity. But let’s not be like the proverbial ostrich burying its head in the sand – negativity does not go away by ignoring it. Let’s stand up to what causes us pain, “Face the brutes” as Swami Vivekananda exhorted, and come out winners, having learned whatever lessons that unpleasant situation was meant to teach us.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 11: Epilogue to Guddi's story

I hate dark stories that have no scope for hope. Which is why I never write them. Even in stories that have sadness, I try to leave the reader with something positive. But then, if I must grow as a writer, it is equally important to not shy away from writing in some genre out of dislike or fear of the unknown.

When I wrote “No leftovers for Guddi,” I deliberately set out to write a dark story. One that was meant to jolt the reader. The setting at the beginning with the Diwali and the lights and joy, comes to a very harsh, almost crashing halt at the end scene.

Judging from the feedback I received, people were shocked either by the content of the story itself or at the fact that I had written such a story. Either way, my objective was achieved.

There have been readers asking me for a sort of clarification, so here goes.

I created this character of the father who was so fond of Guddi that her death became a tipping point, and he just went crazy, refusing to accept her death, and continued acting as if she was still alive. Why Guddi dies isn't important here; how it affects her father is.

There is a technique that writers use, called foreshadowing. It means small clues are given in the beginning stages of the story to hint at how it’s going to end. One can choose to give very clear signs, but I went for subtle in this story with the mention of “icy clasp on his heart” and the boss’s “blank stare”.

Some readers said they didn’t see the end coming. I understand. That’s because of the expectation that a character should seem logical. But I’ve heard of people who, when they reach some tipping point, flip, and behave in a way that normal people would find incomprehensible.

In my mind, Guddi’s father was pushed into this abnormal behaviour by her death that his mind wouldn’t accept. It is quite possible for such people to continue with normal behaviour in social situations, and they may not appear crazy to outsiders.

I included a mention of the prompt – Leftovers – in the story. But the prompt was part of the subtext too – Guddi herself has become “leftovers” for the maggots, and in another sense, the father is also essentially dead, and whatever is there of him is only the “leftovers”.

If you felt the story was an emotional roller-coaster, I’d say “Mission Accomplished” πŸ˜„

Many readers told me they felt very sad, had a heavy heart and were almost on the point of tears. Although I’m sorry for making them sad, I’d like to take that as a compliment, too πŸ˜‡

A big thank you to all those who took time to read and share their thoughts!

Saturday, 10 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 10: Short Story: No leftovers for Guddi

I'm part of a South Africa based group of writers. We get topics (called prompts) and a word count to write a short story every month, which has to be submitted on the specified deadline. Here's the story I wrote this month. I'd request you to please let me know how you felt reading it. The reason why I'm asking, I'll explain in tomorrow's post.

Prompt: Leftovers 

“Good evening, sir. Here’s your pizza. Happy Diwali!” he said, pasting a broad smile on his face, injecting a note of enthusiasm into his tired voice, as he held out the cardboard box.

“Oooh, the pizza is here,” squealed a sweet voice, and he saw a girl, not much older than his Guddi, doing a little jig.

He felt icy hands clasp his heart once more. Diwali evening should have been spent with his Guddi, lighting lamps and bursting crackers, instead of delivering food to customers who couldn’t be bothered to cook dinner.

Glancing at his watch, he realized he had a few minutes before he was called up to ferry the next food package. Rushing through traffic, he made his way to the playground where crackers were being sold. Everything was so damn expensive these days. But no compromise when it came to Guddi’s joy.

He picked a few boxes of her favourite varieties of crackers – the mild sparklers, and the colourful flower-pots. He smiled, thinking of how, at first, Guddi would hide behind her mother, refusing to light the crackers but then, summon up the courage to join him. Next would come the demand for more crackers for tomorrow.

Pushing his purchases to the bottom of the carrier box on his bike, he rushed back to the fast food outlet to pick up the next order.

“Can I leave after delivering this order? My Guddi will be waiting for me,” he begged his boss, who paused barking orders for just enough time to give him a blank stare and a quick nod.

‘Only one more customer left,’ he rejoiced, as he hurried to the next delivery location. Just his luck. No one was home and when he called the mobile number of the customer, she apologized for being caught in traffic. She wouldn’t be able to reach in time to pick up the pizza.

‘Oh no, now she’ll cancel, and demand a refund, and my boss will chew me out over the issue,’ he rued.

The customer’s voice cut into his reverie. “I’m so sorry for bothering you on a festival day. Do you have kids at home? Please take the pizza for them – with my compliments,” she said.

Guddi didn’t like leftovers. But then, this was a fresh pizza, so perhaps she wouldn’t mind.

He drove like a maniac, weaving in and out of traffic, rushing against time to get home before Guddi had dinner and fell asleep.

All of his neighbours were having fun, joking and laughing, as the kids burst crackers that lighted up the night sky. He rushed into his silent house and saw Guddi sprawled on the bed.

“Hey, Guddi, I’ve brought pizza and crackers! Let’s enjoy the festival! Come on, now, get up, Papa is home early today!”

As he shook her limp form, his eyes refused to look at the line of maggots that wove their way out of Guddi’s open mouth.

Friday, 9 November 2018

NaBloPoMo 2018: Day 9: Judging an essay competition

Two days ago, at work, I was told to judge an essay competition conducted in another state. The Principal handed over the package of scripts to me, saying I must do the needful as per instructions in the attached letter.

I opened the package to find 70 scripts, each one had an average of 3 pages; some had even 4 or 5 pages each. Even as I was coming to terms with the volume of work involved, my eyes fell on these words in bold in the covering letter – “Send the evaluation results by email on or before 12th November.” 5 days only to get the job done!

Impossible, I thought and tried to get my boss to communicate with the organizers to negotiate more time to complete the work. This attempt didn’t work to my satisfaction – I got an extension of merely one day.

Deciding to get on to the job at once, I began reading the competition guidelines which were very specific in terms of font size, line spacing, and page formatting. Each entry had to be just 3 pages long – so I disqualified those that were greater in length. 6 down.

Entries which contained material plagiarized from the Internet were to be disqualified. How much time would it take me to check for plagiarism because I had hard copies? Where was the time to key in the material into an online plagiarism checker?

But there was a ray of hope, so I started reading. My hunch paid off – by the time I read the first 4 entries, I found that same material had been presented word-to-word in two of them. Clear evidence of plagiarism. 30 down.

That left me with about a mere 34 entries to evaluate.

As I read through them, it was easy to separate the grain from the chaff. About 15 were totally irrelevant in terms of specific content the essay demanded. Out they went.

Within 48 hours of starting, I had finished my evaluation. I wondered at the prophetic ability of the organizer who had decided 5 days were enough to get 70 scripts evaluated.

This entire episode left me with a bad feeling, though. To think that students who are going to graduate in a few months time do not have the skills necessary to write a simple essay with their own thoughts. Or perhaps it is that they do not have their own thoughts. Or maybe their life is so full of other things to do that they cannot put in the hard work of thinking, of having a vision of their own.

As a teacher with so many years in the profession, my ability to detect nonsense is pretty high. Like I tell my students sometimes, even cheating or manipulation of results requires brains. Which the youngsters in this example obviously didn’t use.