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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

A-Z Survivor!



I did it! Somehow I managed, through a holiday in a resort with iffy wifi, through hectic preparations for my volunteer work, and towards the end of April,  the ill health of a parent. 

I learnt to prioritise a little, to let go a little, and if I seemed a little preoccupied to others, what of it?
It was a challenge and a stimulating experience. Ideas sometimes are reluctant to manifest themselves under pressure, but I clutched at them before they could get away. Some posts are dearer to me than others and I know I would like to expand some of them into more detailed, deeper articles.

I'm glad I took the challenge!

Sunday, 30 April 2017



#AtoZChallenge 4-30-2017 - Letter Z



Z for Zodiac


Firebrand, the Ram; Honest and frank
Stubborn, the Bull: Stoic and practical
The Twins mercurial; Chatty and versatile
Sensitive crab laughing well; crazy, nutty in its shell
Commanding, the Lion so stately; leading others proudly
Graceful, the Virgin restless and vain; All charm and perfection
The Scales going up and down; creative, pleasant, honest, wholesome
Composed, the Scorpion, totally fearless; The sting so brutally honest
Goofy, the Archer with bright eyes; warm and generous
Serious, the Goat but surefooted; Intelligent yet camouflaged
Tranquil, the Water bearer so kind; unexpected and non-conformist
Artistic, the Fish and so timid; Satirical and intuitive.

Light years away, hot balls of gas; Nuclear powerhouses
Can they dictate, are they sure; Of Man’s destiny and nature?


Saturday, 29 April 2017






Yodelling is an intriguing element of music, where the singer changes his pitch, going from low to high and back very fast. My first exposure to this fun sound was in the song, “The lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music. The yodel did originate in the Alps, as a means for shepherds and farmers calling to identify themselves and each other.

Closer home, the consummate singer Kishore Kumar was well known for his musical antics, and the skilful way he melded the yodel into many songs. These songs went on to become iconic numbers not only in their own time but also today, well into the twenty-first century.

Songs like “Main hoon Jhumroo” (Jhumroo), “Panch rupaiya barah anna” (Chalti ka naam gaadi), “Zindagi ek safar hai suhana” (Andaz), “Good Morning good morning”(Bawarchi) and “Tum bin Jaaoon kahaan” (Pyar ka mausam) spring to mind immediately. The talent of Kishore Kumar’s yodelling lies in the way it blended in so seamlessly with characteristically Indian sounds. The eccentric genius made this intrinsically foreign sound his own.

Yodel-ay-EEE-ooo!



#AtoZChallenge - 4-28-2017 - Letter X



X for Xanadu

Xanadu:  a magical mystical land. The name conjures up visions of never-seen -before colours, dreaming spires, misty mountains and sparkling streams. A land where everything is possible. There is no chaos.
I first came to know the word from the comic Mandrake the Magician by Lee Falk ( who is also the author of Phantom comics). This was in the early 1970's. Xanadu is the home of the powerful magician, Mandrake. It is built like a fortress, impregnable to all but a chosen few.
Those who are allowed access enter through magically opening doors and perilous cliff roads. It is home to magic as well as technology. The comics are well worth a revisit, if only to check if the gadgetry imagined all those years ago, has actually come into being!
I seem to remember a song too, called Xanadu. This too has a wistful feel to it, a sense of longing conveyed in the singer's throaty voice.
The letter X has always stood for mystery, and Xanadu seems to be an apt manifestation of it.
Xanadu! Xanadu!

Friday, 28 April 2017






#AtoZChallenge - 4-27-2016 - Letter W



W for Wodehouse

Warning: This is going to be a gushy article!

As a child, growing up on a generous dose of Enid Blyton, I used to wish I lived in that world. A world filled with children who had the most wonderful adventures, went to the most exciting schools and had the most “scrumplicious” food (I have since learnt that steak and kidney pie tastes horrible!)

Then I discovered P.G. Wodehouse and I was smitten, and I am to this day. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world populated by the affable but bumbling Bertie Wooster and the omnipotent and omnipresent Jeeves? Or the complete madhouse that is Blandings Castle (which has “Imposters like other houses have mice”!) Don’t even get me started on the eccentric characters. There is no single definition of eccentricity, if the characters who people Wodehouse’s world are anything to go by. Those who come to mind, off the top of the head are:

Gussie Finknottle: Keeps newts, is a teetotaller and is very shy around girls.  So if his orange juice is laced with alcohol, the results are bound to be mindboggling.

Lord Emsworth: Wants to be left alone, draped over the rails of his pigsty, which houses the three- time winner of the Fat Pigs contest, Empress of Blandings. The absentminded peer is known to swallow his collar stud and replace it with a paper clip.

Anatole: Temperamental French chef who speaks in American slang with a French accent.

Roberta Wickham: Her idea of fun is to egg her suitors on to take up perilous and downright idiotic missions.

Constance: Emsworth’s sister, who rules the house with an iron hand and can freeze anybody with a glance.

Aunt Agatha: Wooster’s Aunt, whom Bertie Wooster freely suspects of chewing on glass bottles and turning into a Vampire at any given time.

Aunt Dahlia: She is a good sort; employer of Anatole, who doesn’t mind any sort of goings on as long as she gets a good laugh. Always setting Bertie hair-raising tasks to do.


A plethora of eccentrics!

Then there are characters like Mr. Mulliner who tells stories about his numerous nephews and nieces at the local pub. All the other patrons of the pub are only known by the drinks they order. There is Ukridge who never tires of coming up with money making schemes but is always getting into scrapes.
There are so many stand-alone novels, the heroines of which are pretty and plucky. The heroes are strong yet vulnerable. The villains appear to win for a while, but there is nothing that a good biff with a painting (so that the canvas tears over the head) can’t cure. Another effective method to render anyone helpless is to simply steal all his clothes!
Wodehouse runs through the entire gamut of situational comedy with practiced ease.
The Americans and the British manage to tolerate each other with a mixture of amusement and disdain. All is always well in this best of all possible worlds.
If I ever do a PH.D, it will be on Wodehouse.


Wednesday, 26 April 2017




#AtoZChallenge - 4-26-2017 - Letter V



V for Vaporub
The change of season and the hasty switching on of air-conditioners has had its effect. Noses are either running or blocked, sneezes are heard everywhere and the head feels heavy, but it is not an ache, so no painkillers are called for.

This is when I whip out my trusty Vicks Vaporub bottle, and apply liberal amounts to the temples, around the nose and a little bit on the throat. Just the sharp smell, familiar since childhood, is so comforting. It may do me good, or it may not, but it is still the first line of defence against the oncoming sniffles.

However, this is not a promotional post on the benefits of this ointment. Rather, it set me thinking about how things become so much a part of our lives; more so if they have been part of our childhood. This particular bottle serves another purpose. I remember an aunt of mine was once talking about a saree and she was struggling to describe its colour. 

Then her face cleared, and she said, “It is the colour of Vicks!”
Literal-minded me: You mean a translucent white?
Aunt: No no, you know, that particular blue-green shade----
Me: Oh ,you mean the colour of the cap of a bottle of Vicks!
(That does sound like a French exercise, doesn’t it!)

In those days, we did not know teal from aqua or cyan from turquoise, so the next best thing was to compare the colour to a familiar one! One can extend the pondering over colour to that of the bottle itself----navy, indigo, cerulean, ultramarine?

 What rich words to describe this humble bottle of comfort and soothing!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017





#AtoZChallenge - 4-25-2017 - Letter U



                                                          U for Ugly


Just as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, so too does ugliness. However, the larger issue is: our tendency in general, to associate one kind of beauty with another. Or refusing to believe that Ugly is one facet of Beauty too. That tendency is only human-----and it is a direct result of the imaginative chip in our brain circuits.  

Literature and cinema are full of this kind of lively imagination. There was a V.Shantaram movie in which Sandhya is secretly a radio singer going by the name of Kokila (nightingale/ koel). Her everyday avatar is that of an ugly servant in a big household. (The ugliness is symbolized by a liberal coating of boot polish on her face! That topic is another subject by itself—why is melanin equated with ugliness?) The younger son of the house listens to her songs on the radio, and paints a wonderful picture of her and falls in love with her. She sees the painting and is loath to reveal herself, because she doesn’t want to rudely awaken him from his dreams. Another Shantaram movie, “Navrang” had a similar theme----the poet’s muse is a beautiful woman---it is actually his wife but neither of them realizes it and the wife is tormented by the thought of the poet being totally enslaved by the muse.  The husband is disgusted by the ordinary, normal persona of the wife and has no time for her. And of course the much-celebrated-and-ridiculed Satyam Shivam Sundaram, where the hero assumes the heroine is beautiful because her voice is.

In the legend of Udayana and Vasavadatta (read your Amar Chitra Kathas!), Princess Vasavadatta’s father arranges for her to learn a special musical mantra from King Udayana, to charm elephants. Since Udayana is his enemy and he doesn’t want his daughter falling for the enemy, he arranges for a curtain between them, telling Udayana that his student is an old hunchback woman, and telling Vasavadatta that her teacher is a leper. However during the course of a lesson, the princess keeps making mistakes, which provokes the wrath of the royal guru. He reprimands her, and calls her a hunchback. She retaliates by calling him a leper, they part the curtains in anger, and of course the expected happens.


While such a premise is interesting material for literary purposes, all of us would do well to steer clear of such filmi speculations in real life!

Monday, 24 April 2017






#AtoZChallenge - 4-24-2017 - Letter T


T for Twist in the Tail

Short stories make enjoyable reading. Those with a surprise ending are more delightful. Sometimes, the ending sneaks up on the reader and sometimes it springs out at the reader in a sudden move.

H.H. Munro, who wrote under the pen name of Saki, was adept at satire. However, some of his stories were also great examples of the twist in the tail. “The Open Window” is one such. All along, the story builds up in one direction, and suddenly with an adroit sleight of hand, the author makes it double back on itself, as it were.

For a long time, the surprise ending also went by the name of “the O’Henry Twist”. This was certainly apt, because the short stories of O’Henry were bound to have an ending absolutely different from the obvious one. My favourite stories are The Gift of the Magi and The Last Leaf. Both are touching and moving. The fine skein of wry humour running through these tales is an added treat. The unexpected turn of events is what makes the story stay with you even years after you read it.

In modern times, Jeffrey Archer is the master craftsman who deftly weaves a tale with a practised hand. So much so, that one collection of short stories is actually called A Twist in the Tale! So the reader knows what is coming, but is still surprised. What makes Archer an ace at his craft is his masterly handling of full-length novels in the same vein. The older novels are replete with the famous twist. Kane and Abel is a case in point. First Among Equals is exemplary because the twist comes literally in the very last sentence.


Any story is an interaction between the writer and the reader. In stories with a twist, it becomes something like the former leading on the latter, in a way. I personally indulge in this exercise because I want to engage with the reader not only as a storyteller, but on another level also. If I can make the reader turn back the pages to check for clues and hints about the coming twist at the end----my job is done! That is why this is my favourite writing technique.

Saturday, 22 April 2017




#AtoZChallenge - 4-22-2017 - Letter S



S for Secrets
One of the few things that separate man from animals is the ability to keep secrets. Maybe some animals have secret hoards of food, but that is probably how far they go. Even that can be put down to their survival instincts.
What a sense of power it gives the secret keeper! To know that he knows something that nobody else does is a heady feeling. Then the issue becomes one of whether or not to give away the secret. For some, it is enough just to have a secret. If one gives in to a baser nature, secrets become ammunition for blackmail.
Traditionally, women have been said to be unable to keep a secret, with jokes going so far as to assign a tummy ache until the beans have been spilled! In Indian mythology, there is an interesting story about why women cannot keep a secret (allegedly, of course!). In the epic, Mahabharata, Queen Kunti was the mother of five heroic sons, the Pandavas (named after their father, King Pandu). The Pandavas, were semi-celestial, each of them having been born by the blessings of a different God.
Upon growing up, the Pandavas are locked in a bitter battle with their cousins, the Kauravas, for the kingdom. Every king from the surrounding areas takes sides and a terrible war ensues. Another great hero, Karna, sides with the Kauravas even though he knows they are in the wrong. This is because of his loyalty and gratitude towards the Kauravas. They had helped him when the Pandavas had insulted him about his low birth.
This was ironic because Karna was actually the first born of Kunti, and thus the eldest brother of the Pandavas. But Kunti had had to give him up because she had not been married at the time. Given a boon by a sage, she had invoked the Sun God, and had been blessed with Karna as a result.
In the war, Karna is killed and Kunti mourns in private. But when the vicorious Pandavas, are offering prayers for the dead, she asks her eldest son to also offer prayers for Karna. Then she reveals that Karna had been her son too. Moved by sorrow and anger at not having known such a momentous secret, the eldest Pandava, Yudhishthira utters a curse, “Henceforth, no woman will be able to keep a secret to herself, however big or small it may be!”

That is why women can never keep any secret to themselves, they say!





#AtoZChallenge - 4-21-2017 - Letter R



R for Roots

It starts out as a radicle, anchoring the baby seed. Slowly but surely, it finds its way into the ground. It senses gravity and is bound to growing downwards, in search of water and nutrients for the seedling. They call it geotropism, or gravitropism.

As the plant grows, the root does too, or perhaps it is the other way around. It puts out more roots, or finer ones, almost hair-like, spreading over the area to pick up the minutest bits of minerals that the plant can make use of.  Its job is to stay below ground (in most cases!) and provide a strong foundation for the plant. It has to protect the plant against high winds and torrential rains.

We start out as radicals, asking, “Why?” and “Why not?” We find our way in the world, putting out feelers. Sensing what is good for us, or sometimes, finding out the hard way.  Our responsibilities grow, and we find our value system. These make us rooted. Then we can weather storms with equanimity.

Roots may or may not tell us where we come from, but they definitely point towards how we stand in this world. 

Thursday, 20 April 2017




#AtoZChallenge - 4-20-2017 - Letter Q


Q for Queues
(Or the lack of them!)

Why, oh why can we not stand in queues? Is it because a queue is associated with the foreign yoke, which we threw off not-so-long ago? The other great democracy that freed itself from the British chose to repudiate the spelling and pronunciation of the language that they had in common.
We seem to have rejected this simple element of order, maybe out of ego, or an inherent dislike of regulation! Even in posh high-rises there will be that one person who walks into a lift when there are people trying to get out.
At any shop, the counter is engulfed by customers eager to get served first. If one stands in line, one will never reach the counter. Sometimes, I protest when someone barges ahead of me, when it is clearly my turn. At such times, the offender simply says, “OK, you can go first,” with a condescending shrug, as if I am a tantrum-throwing child and he (or she) the bigger person letting me have my way!
Let a bus trundle to a halt at the bus stop, and one can see Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest” theory demonstrated. I am sure the scene would have been equally chaotic at airports as well, were it not for the grim and unbending security staff. The same is true for trains too, but the Metro Rail has contributed a lot to inculcate in us some boarding and alighting etiquette.
Well, we may have a long way to go, but we are getting there---sometimes swarming and sometimes falling in line!
Random thought: What is the purpose of that additional "u-e" in the spelling? Maybe the word itself indicates an orderly lining up of people or letters, for anything to make sense!





#AtoZChallenge - 4-19-2017 - Letter P




P for Perfume

Getting into the lift in the morning, I am assailed by a whiff of perfume, left behind by an unseen previous occupant. For someone with a sharp nose, literally and figuratively, a condominium at any time of the day is a host of scents and smells---sometimes pleasant, and sometimes, not so much! In the morning rush hour, there is a bouquet of perfume, aftershave and deodorant. I am almost certain the regulars can name the floor by the scent!

There are also appetising smells of breakfasts and packed lunches. Invariably, there is the unmistakable aroma of parathas griddled in ghee ---it takes me back to my childhood when we would not know calories if they were served up to us in tiffin boxes---which they were! Potato curry with tweaks here and there seems to be a regular on our floor. Around lunch time, if I leave home on an errand, I can follow the trail of fluffy phulkas ballooning up over a flame in the houses around mine.

Funnily, when I am cooking, I am hardly aware of the tang and flavour of my dishes, but people coming in from outside invariably ask, “What’s cooking?” I guess the outside is more redolent with appetising odours, than the inside of the house. Maybe the chimneys and exhaust fans are doing their job too well!

Sensitive nostrils are not a boon when the smells are unpleasant---like the time when garbage is being collected. I swear, I could do without unwillingly identifying coffee grounds and iffy milk packets! At such times, I find my nose too sharp for comfort!

I recently came across a long forgotten fragrance: sambraani. It is a tree resin, which comes in dried lumps. In the days before hair sprays and conditioners, sambraani was used to perfume freshly washed hair with a spicy essence. The resin lumps were placed on smoking coal embers and a reed or straw basket would be upturned over them. Then, one could lie down with one’s long hair spread over the basket and the smoke would waft into the hair, infusing it with that tantalising scent.


Fragrance plays a very large part in nostalgia!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017





#AtoZChallenge - 4-18-2017 - Letter O



O for Oil
For something that is so well known for easing things along, as in oiling wheels, oil itself is a much- maligned component as far as food is concerned. For decades it has been the bad guy in our diet. It has been charged with giving us cholesterol and heart attacks. Its rich cousin, ghee, or clarified butter was seen to be even more villainous. But now, redemption has come in the form of a declaration by the FDA. Oil and the like have been taken off the baddies list. Not least for the role cholesterol plays in the absorption of the Sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is so necessary for the health of our bones. So, diet-wise, oil literally has been poured on troubled waters.

However, this particular phrase brings to mind another type of oil: spilling on the seas and slickly spelling trouble for marine fauna. The images of whales, dolphins and turtles covered in petroleum are very chilling. As for gulls and other sea birds, they seem to be actually tarred and feathered by this aspect of human negligence. Still, it is termed black gold, influencing world economics and politics ever since man struck oil.

Economics and politics may not always mix well; we could say they are like oil and water! I would need to burn the midnight oil a lot, in order to understand the intricacies of these games. Even then, it might sound like pure banana oil. As it is, politicians are no oil paintings themselves!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

N for Nature







#AtoZChallenge - 4-17-2017 - Letter N




N for Nature

All around us,
Pulsating with life
Nature surrounds us.
Sensing her unseen rhythms,
We march to her beat
But we don’t know it.
Puny humans, drunk with power:
Power that she herself gave.
Bent upon cutting
Our umbilical cord,
Sitting in her lap,
We kick out at her
Like a fractious child
At its mother.

The forces of Nature
Take some reckoning
Slowly and steadily,
The forest takes over civilizations.
Suddenly and violently,
The volcano turns cities to fossils.
The ocean engulfs the land
Washing away monstrosities.
The earth turns upon itself, quaking
All in its wake breaking.

The abundance and the fury
Both are faces of Nature
Respect one,
So we may not face the other.

Sunday, 16 April 2017





M for Mirage

Isn't it fascinating that a phenomenon with a perfectly reasonable and scientific explanation can seem so magical?
A mirage is simply an optical illusion caused by light rays getting reflected by heated up layers of air. Hence their preponderance in the desert. On overly warm days, mirages can even be seen on city roads, in the heat haze reflecting the sky to seem like pools of water.
The mystique of a mirage has always been such as to drive men mad, even. Human nature being what it is, we just cannot accept the idea of something being there and then find that it is not, after all.
No wonder fighter jets have been named Mirage----- for them it is imperative to be on "now -you -see- me -now -you -don't" mode.
Much like myths. Interestingly, "mithya" is the Sanskrit word for falsehood. The Sanskrit for mirage is "mrigatrishna". The greats have always said that our hopes, aspirations and desires are like running after a mirage. If we pin our happiness on dreams and desires, we are chasing a shadow.
A mirage serves to remind us that life itself is ethereal, fleeting. It is not always what it seems.

Friday, 14 April 2017



#AtoZChallenge - 4-14-2017 - Letter L:


L for Lakshmi

Lakshmi  is the much revered Goddess of prosperity. Commonly identified as the goddess of wealth, she is fervently propitiated so as to get material gains.
But she is so much more than that. Prosperity is a many splendoured  thing. It does not begin and end with mere wealth. It is said that where there is cleanliness and generosity, there resides Lakshmi. What it means is that for overall well-being, it is important to  cultivate qualities that are conducive to success.
Lakshmi is also the embodiment  of grace and dignity. These intangible characteristics are actually  the foundations of a successful person's life.
The charm and mystique of this Goddess  lends itself to paeans in her praise. Arising from the ocean of milk during the great churning, chosen by Vishnu the Preserver  as his consort,  she is worshipped in eight forms: the AshtaLakshmi.
AadiLakshmi, the primeval Goddess, also called Mahalakshmi, the Great Goddess.
 Dhana  Lakshmi or Aishwarya Lakshmi the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Dhaanya Lakshmi, the Goddess of food grains is worshipped as the goddess of plenty.
Gaja Lakshmi  is the elephant  goddess. Elephants are associated with  great wisdom.
Santaana  Lakshmi, the goddess of progeny.
Veera Lakshmi or Dhairya  Lakshmi,  the goddess of valour and courage.
Vidya Lakshmi the goddess  of learning.
Jaya Lakshmi or Vijaya Lakshmi, the goddess of victory.

She is depicted in images as seated on a lotus, showering gold upon her devotees. Yet she is also said to  be flighty and fickle --- chanchal Lakshmi. That is to remind us that material wealth can come and go. What we should worship and emulate are her other facets. Then her grace and blessings will be always upon us.

Thursday, 13 April 2017



#AtoZChallenge - 4-13-2017 - Letter K:

K is for Kite

A flimsy piece of paper
A backbone of straw
An optional tail
Ready to set sail

Bright colours for cheer
Light, so light, like air
Waiting for a zephyr
To lift off on a wing and a prayer

Soaring in the sky
Like hopes so high
Trusting in the wind
To help and to be kind.

Dallying  with the clouds
Tethered to the ground
Vying with the crowds
To stay aloft and around.

Glass powder-sheathed twine
An unlikely lifeline
An innocuous looking sword
To cut or be cut is the word.

Once cut, it is destiny
To soar higher, unfettered,  free
Or to earth float down
Tattered, shredded into oblivion.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017





#AtoZChallenge - 4-12-2017 - Letter J:

J for Journey

I board a Jet, intent on my journey, leaving behind a concrete jungle for a green one. I am hoping the destination is a verdant jewel tucked away from the madding crowd, an emerald set in the glittering diamond  necklace that is the river.
 It does  not  take a philosopher to  tell us  that life itself is a journey.  We set sail as soon as we are born,and then get on a voyage with a predetermined  destination.  We chart a course for ourselves and are helped along by favourable  winds, but sometimes find ourselves becalmed, or tossed about on turbulent waters. That part of the journey  is something we cannot control; it is destiny.
Yet, there is the inexorability of a Juggernaut. Quick aside : the word itself is an Anglicised version of  Jagannath,  the resident deity at Puri, Orissa. It is synonymous with the chariot festival wherein the deities are ceremonially drawn around the temple town in huge chariots. Devotees take turns in pulling these lumbering, massive vehicles with the help of stout ropes. The frenzy of the pilgrims is tangible. In earlier  times there would occasionally  be a tragedy.  People could get crushed under the wheels of the  Juggernaut,  not having jumped out of  the  way in time.
Life can look like a jamboree at times, but when things go wrong as they sometimes  must, it may seem like a joke the creator has played upon us.
It takes a lifetime  to realize that the journey  is also the destination.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017







#AtoZChallenge - 4-11-2017 - Letter I


I for Indian


What it means to be Indian:

If you raise your eyes to the Tricolour and get a lump in your throat at the first strains of Jana Gana Mana, you are Indian.

If you curse the potholed roads, the slums, the dirt everywhere, yet would not live anywhere else in the world, you are Indian.

If your home is Open House most of the time and you are willing to share your meal with anybody who drops in, you are Indian.

If you are tech savvy, whether literate or not in the three R’s, you are Indian.

If you like your food spicy but also have a sweet tooth, you are Indian.

If you are amidst a riot of colours, you are Indian.

If you close your eyes in a quick prayer while whizzing past a wayside shrine on your state-of-the-art wheels, you are Indian.

If you are patient, quick-tempered, kind, self-centred, hospitable, rude: all at the same time, you are Indian.
If you love your millennia-old civilization and just-decades-old nation and also exasperated by it, you are Indian.

(Disclaimer; This article is not meant to be political in nature in any way. It is just a voicing of everyday sentiments.)


Monday, 10 April 2017



#AtoZChallenge - 4-11-2017 - Letter H




H for Help

I have just finished reading “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett”. The book is set in Mississippi, USA in the early 1960’s. It gives the reader a look into the lives of well-to-do white women as well as those of the black women who are employed as their house help. It is moving, funny and inspiring.
.
Throughout the book, as the characters live out their lives in the boundaries set for them, there is an undercurrent of menace. The story moves at a steady pace, yet the reader gets the feeling that something is about to happen
.
The black women are shown as spirited, and some of them are full of disdain for their employers. Yet, they love the babies they are in charge of. Needless to say, the babies love them back manifold.
The indomitable spirit of the black help shines out throughout the book. The pride they take in their work, the stoicism with which they face their hardships, the faith they have in a higher power despite terrible personal tragedies----all these are written with a deep, empathetic, compassionate understanding. It places a remarkable amount of value on human dignity, even a child’s.


Many of us in India still have the luxury of house-help. The book compels us to take a long hard look at ourselves and to check how we treat the women who enable our day-to-day lives to run smoothly.

Saturday, 8 April 2017








G for Gossamer

The very word seems made of the same material it describes ---ethereal, gauzy, wispy! 
It conjures up images of early morning stalks of grass, bejewelled with dew glinting in the sun. 
It reminds one of all the fairy tales read in childhood, which spoke of clothes spun from cobwebs, of invisible cloaks shimmering into and out of nothingness.
One thinks of the diaphanous wings of dragonflies, poised a breath over the water surface.
It brings to mind the silken fetters of love. Delicate as chiffon, strong as steel.
A Mulmul saree, the pride of a master weaver, the vanity of a beautiful woman.

An insubstantial touch, dreamlike in nature. A filmy curtain screening elusive thoughts.
Gossamer is grace, underlining the transient nature of life.

Friday, 7 April 2017





#AtoZChallenge - 4-6-2017 - Letter F





F for First


            Why this thirst
            To be the first?
            Because mankind is the human RACE.

           There is this strange allure of being the first ever to do anything, get anywhere, find something, or to even just come into this world! Notice the special place the Firstborn has, in any culture or community?

            Is competition hardwired into human nature? Is it a survival instinct too? Maybe that is where it all began. Maybe primitive man had to rush away from spewing volcanoes and marauding animals, and it was but natural to crow a bit, “I got out FIRST!”


           Yet the civilized world has only encouraged this instinct --- to come first in a race, to stand first in class. No doubt, the ambition, the drive and the enthusiasm have led man to progress, evolve, invent and discover. Now, if only humans also wanted to be the first to volunteer, to help, or even to shoulder the blame, the world would be a much better place.

Thursday, 6 April 2017









#AtoZChallenge - 4-6-2017 - Letter E



E for Etiquette

I first heard this word uttered by someone who wanted to say, “Don’t you have any manners?” Instead he said what sounded like, “Don’t you have any atticates?”

Since then, I have noticed that many people interchange these words. And it never fails to bother me.

Manners are basic behaviours that human beings follow, to show that they are not animals. Hence, the practice of offering food to others before having it ourselves. Or letting someone enter or exit a place ahead of us. Or not interrupting someone who is speaking.

But etiquette is a system of manners put in place by different cultures, according to their own customs. Thus, the order one eats food in, or the implements one uses to have that food, are all part of etiquette. Notice how a lot of etiquette revolves around food! A die-hard etiquette-follower might be shocked if the fish fork were to be used to eat something else!

Within our own country, the code changes from region to region. For example, in the North, women may cover their heads with a dupatta or the pallu of their saree, when entering a temple or in the presence of elders, as a mark of respect. However, in the South, covering of the head is more of a no-no.

Etiquette is for easing social interaction, not for building walls of disdain between human beings.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017





#AtoZChallenge - 4-5-2017 - Letter D



D for Dusky


 The D-word is still an iffy term for us in India. It conjures up centuries of slavery in the recent past, and if we go back a couple of millennia, dark skin is again associated with the indigenous  people who were conquered by a fair, and allegedly more civilized race.

Our gods Shiva and Vishnu (and his incarnations Rama and Krishna) were supposedly dark of skin. They are depicted as blue skinned in popular art. Maybe the artists could not bring themselves to actually dip their brushes in black paint!

Be that as it may, the concept of beauty is still skin deep, literally. Obsessed as we are with light skin, fair still equals lovely. Matrimonial ads still want a “wheatish complexion”. The whole world might beat a path to India to get a genuine tan, but we Indians will guard ourselves with sunscreen and parasols. Someone with a few more melanin cells is automatically looked at askance. Pregnant women still have coconut milk, saffron and almonds, not so much for their nutritional value, as for their claim to bringing forth a fair baby.

On the ramp and in print ads, a few dark-skinned models have established themselves. However, if our very own former Miss World suggests that her picture in an international fashion magazine was airbrushed to look a couple of shades lighter---well nothing could be less fair!


Unless Dusky is genuinely accepted, how can we hope for a new Dawn?

Tuesday, 4 April 2017







#AtoZChallenge - 4-4-2017 - Letter C


C is for CHOCOLATE

Cacao beans used from time immemorial, with
Heavenly taste and unmatched flavour
Oodles of health benefits, in spite of
Calories: worth every last one!
Odes to it are never ending
Lovingly Crafted
Anandamide is  a component—I kid you not!
Thaws the coldest heart as it melts in the mouth; yet,

Enigmatic, even today!

Monday, 3 April 2017






#AtoZChallenge - 4-3-2017 - Letter B



B- for BACKUP

Not so long ago, when computers came into our lives, there was a lot of confusion. Did they make our lives simpler or did they complicate things further? That was when some wag came up with this gem: “To err is human, but to really mess things up, there is nothing to beat a computer!”

Slowly the bugs got ironed out and our dependence on artificial intelligence began to grow. So much so that if our little e-buddy crashed, we were in danger of running around like headless chickens. That is when humans came up with the concept of Back-up: the e-equivalent of not putting all your eggs in one basket. Or rather, having duplicate eggs in various baskets ----hard drives, floppies, pen drives, hard copies, cloud, net---- the list of back-ups grows at a bracing pace!

This brings me to back-ups of another kind.

Have you noticed how some people can always be relied upon? Whether it is having a spare pen to lend you or a can of petrol, you know you can count on them to help you out.

She is the neighbour you run to for her extra gas cylinder, because you forgot to book yours. She is the mother who has chocolate, tissues and band-aid for your child as well as hers, on a play-date, because you didn’t think of it.

He is the colleague who has the contact numbers of everybody you could possibly need, from an A/C technician to a cardiac surgeon. He is the passerby who tells you that the shop you were hunting for has shifted to the first floor.

Each time we encounter such people--- call them angels or backups---we think, “Luckily, so-and-so helped me.”

The point to ponder is: Do you consider yourself blessed to have a back-up or are you a back-up for someone else?