Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Fresh Start

For once, I am lost for words.

For the past few weeks, I would often sit with Mr Laptop and stare blankly at the screen, willing the words to come to me... like they did just a hundred days ago. They were always there... just outside my grasp. But now that they've come, I am overwhelmed. The sheer happiness coursing through my veins right now is incredible. The joy at finally being able to find the right words is almost making me dance.

The past few months have been nothing short of life- changing for me, both, personally and professionally, which is probably why I just couldn't put it down in words. They made me realize my worth, my potential and above all, the importance of all those around me.

Every time I would see my blog in its inactive state, I would become gloomy. It was as if a very important part of my life had simply vanished. That is when I realized how much I love talking to all of you. It makes me feel alive. Trust me, it is at the top of my "I-Love-To-Do-This" list. 

All those of you reading this... Thank you for staying with the fish for so long! I definitely owe you an apology. I promise to make up for all the lost time... there is so much to tell! 

Folks... I'm back!!! 

P.S. I'll need your help and support to really start afresh. Easiest way? Talk back... what is the comment option for? :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Newton's Laws-Part 3

It has almost been a month now that we have been talking about Newton and his three laws… and we’re almost through. Understanding the Third Law took me a little longer than expected… not because it was difficult but because of the mundane simplicity of this law.

Newton’s Third law states: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

In school your teacher must have given you the typical example of how you experience a kick when you shoot a rifle. It is nothing but the sheer force of propelling the bullet forward that pushes you backward. See Newton’s law working here? The action (sending the bullet whizzing through the barrel) had an equal and opposite reaction (pushing back the shooter with a not-so-negligible force).

How do we apply it to real life?

Let us do some simple Math. If you and me, both of us have 10 apples and I give you one from my stock… how much is the difference between the apples we have now? Two… right? What happened? How did the transfer of one apple magnify the difference two times? The logic is fairly easy to understand. When I gave you one apple, not only was it equivalent to an increment in your stock but also a decrement in my stock. Hence, one action on your stock had an equal and opposite reaction on my stock of apples.

We can apply the same analogy to our habits. Forming one good habit is also equivalent to kicking one bad habit. Say, you used to smoke 2 cigarettes per day. Reducing it by one has a dual effect. You harm yourself a little less by smoking only one and further benefit your health by not smoking the other one (though this doesn’t mean I support smoking… it is a strict No-No).

Take another example… most young people my age find fighting with their parents a rather amusing activity. Let us say that for one day we took a vow not to argue with them. What happens? Not only do we escape a day filled with sarcastic taunts and angry outbursts, we also experience peace and a certain sense of joy. You see the dual benefit here?

How does it help us?

Newton’s third law gives us this simple formula:
One bad thing less, two good things more

(This seems to be a less elegant version of the maxim adopted by the animal of Animal Farm by George Orwell… Anyone read it?)

#1 Identify the good and the bad that you do. Contrary to our expectations and wishes, life rarely has grey areas. Classify your actions in black and white.

#2 Identify the black habit which can be turned white with the least effort.

#3 What are you waiting for? Turn it white!!!

These three simple steps will guarantee your success in life. And why not… don’t we know that good things come in small packages?

With this we come to the end of the Newton series. I know not if you enjoyed it as much as I did… but even if you didn’t, give these laws a try… they just might help.

Based on the awesome inspirational posts at

Monday, May 13, 2013

Newton's Laws- Part 2

Hard job= More Effort

This week we’ll be talking about Newton’s Second Law of Motion:

The acceleration of a body is directly proportional to, and in the same direction as, the net force acting on the body, and inversely proportional to its mass. Thus,
F = ma, where F is the net force acting on the object, m is the mass of the object and a - the acceleration of the object.

How does this law apply to our life? Ever wondered why, despite your best efforts, you don’t get any closer to your goal? Or why sometimes, you barely feel like you’ve moved a finger, and the work gets done? These little absurdities of life are explained through Newton’s Second Law.

It determines how fast/slow we can achieve our goal or how much effort we need to put in, to reach our destination. The equation is very simple:

F is the effort required of us to taste success.
m is the size of our goal.
a is the speed at which we attain that goal.

For those of you familiar with basic proportion and variations, it is clearly seen that the effort required is directly proportional to the size of the goal.

Now that was easy? Wasn't it?

Take an example, say you have an exam tomorrow and you’re left with only one chapter to study… easy right? You can do it with a blink of the eye. Here, the size of goal (one chapter) is pretty small and so is the effort. On the other hand, say, you hadn’t even started preparing. Big mess!!! You’ll be fretting, sweating, getting anxious and tensed over it. If you want to have even the slightest hope of getting through the exam, you’ll need to burn the midnight oil (well… at least that night). Hence, if the task is big, so is the effort.

Big success needs great efforts… it demands diligence, hard work and never-ending patience. You miss out on any of them, you lose it all. Maybe this is why our parents always want us to imbibe these values… for they know their worth.

The problem arises when we put in inappropriate effort for our targets. Working extremely hard for trivial tasks or barely working for a life-defining opportunity… both amounts to waste. It leads to frustration, low self- confidence and ultimately a loss of capability. 

What can we do about it?

#1 Define your vision: You can work right only if you know exactly what you want. There is a phenomenal difference between saying “I’ll study today” and “I’ll finish the first two chapters of Mathematics today.” Being specific and clear about your goals can be the difference between success and failure..

#2 Keep your expectations low: Heard the saying “Rome was not built in a day”? Remember it. Do not expect miracles right at the commencement of any project/activity. Success is the most elusive of all things, which brings me to the next point…

#3 Be patient: Let things progress naturally… give your best but don’t get disheartened if the results are not as expected. Stay positive about failures- they’re just ways of how not to do a particular thing. Learn from them and keep your cool.

#4 Evaluate your current position: Where are you with respect to your goal… within an arm’s reach or miles off? Calculate the work you still need to do. Find out the effort needed and ask yourself… are you willing to do it?

Life, in short, is nothing but this equation between efforts and success. The more time you spend working for your goal, the closer you get to it. Your vision becomes a reality only when you forget sleep, food and other luxuries life has to offer. It is especially difficult in today’s distraction-friendly world… but then we do hear miracle stories… don’t we?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Newton's Laws- Part 1

New day, New start!

Newton’s Laws of Motion- Ring any bells? Well…obviously, they do. Irrespective of the line of work you chose or the place you studied, you would not have been able to escape Sir Isaac Newton! But how many of you have thought about the relevance of these laws to general life? How do they work outside the constricted domains of physics?

Just to remind you:

Newton’s Laws of Motion

First Law: If there is no net force on an object, then its velocity is constant. The object is either at rest (if its velocity is equal to zero), or it moves with constant speed in a single direction.

Second law: The acceleration a of a body is parallel and directly proportional to the net force F acting on the body, is in the direction of the net force, and is inversely proportional to the mass m of the body, i.e., F = ma.

Third law: When a first body exerts a force F1 on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force F2 = −F1 on the first body. This means that F1 and F2 are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.

In this post, I’ll be talking about the first law. It basically states that an object in motion continues moving in a single direction unless it is acted upon by a force. Now think of a day when you wake up and have an argument with your parents/spouse/sibling. What happens?

After the exchange of angry colorful words you might:
1) Not be able to get ready on time.
2) Not be able to eat a proper breakfast.
3) Forget essential items, like keys to your cabin/ lab files, at home.
4) Mess up any important exam/viva/meeting you had.
5) Feel as if it is taking longer than usual on the road. Read Road Rage.
6) Be irritated with anyone and everyone around you.

The list is endless. But what is common to all these possibilities? You are having a bad day.

One thing leads to the other… spoiling the whole day. Coming back home provides no solace. Hence, a bad day turns into a bad week… a week into a month. Slowly, you transform into a grumpy man/woman. See the result of just one fight?

You must be wondering where does Newton step-in? Well, that fight, it was like rolling a marble on a friction-less floor, in the wrong direction. It will keep on moving in that negative direction till you, the force, intervenes. You have to stop that one bad moment from ruining your day. How can we do it?

Think...look ahead...find the right direction!

Suggestion 1:

Talk to yourself.

Everything we say or think has a huge impact on our subconscious. Our words are both a reflection and a formative factor for our own self. What we say reflects our values and the way we appear to others further goes on to reinforce our identity to our own self.

Talk positive to yourself. Tell yourself that you are the best… that you can do things if you set your heart to them… that accepting and apologizing for your mistakes does not make you smaller… that forgiveness is the best gift.

If these high-flying ideals do not work for you, start small. Just a simple “I am looking good today” will see you through the day with a smile. When you talk so much to others, why not talk to yourself?

Suggestion 2:

Know your goals.

To be able to roll the marble in the right direction, you need to know one quintessential thing: the right direction. Think over what you want to do. Do you want to complete all that pending work… or enjoy a day out with your family… or make the day special for a friend… what do you want to do?

Being clear about your targets, whatever their nature may be helps a lot. You do not end up getting lost in the maze that is your mind.

Tell your mind your goals, it will find the right direction. Once found, don’t lose it.

Suggestion 3:

Part from the usual routine

If you feel like you’re always working behind schedule, always waking up a few hours after the alarm goes off… or in general, you’re unhappy with the way your life is progressing…STOP!!!

Try to do things differently. You will realize what you were doing wrong. It might be something as simple as eating your dinner early which might fix the problem (eating late does not give our tiny stomach and long intestines the time to digest it… sleepless night… waking up late and so on). At the end, it is all connected. That is why when we see successful people we find them good at everything… from entertaining people to finding complex business solutions.

Break free from the rut. And enjoy a happy and fulfilling life.

Remember... every new day is a new start! 

One last word:

I know this was a lengthy post… but those of you who are reading these words… I hope you will make the most of them. It was only my explorations on the internet which gave me the idea for this series. If you like it, share it J

Till next week, keep the marble rolling (in the right direction)!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Compliments... Phew!

Compliment: A polite expression of praise or admiration. This is how the dictionary defines it. In my opinion, a compliment is infinitely more meaningful than what this string of words suggests.

Compliments, if sincere, leave you with the fuzzy warmth of feeling good about yourself. Not only do they boost your self-esteem, they build your confidence. And no matter how many times I say that our happiness should be independent of others… the fact remains that compliments are directly proportional to our happiness quotient; the more we get, the merrier we are.

But if everyone just loves receiving them… who gives them? I see no volunteers. This reluctance to compliment others stems from a plethora of reasons. Some people feel that expressing their true feelings leaves them vulnerable. To some extent, I agree. After all, if I am complimenting you, I am letting you peek inside my tiny little heart. Mind you, that involves great risk. It might backfire (as has been happening with me lately). Trust me it isn’t nice when you spend time choosing your words (they have to be perfect… neither too flowery, nor too simple) and the other person interprets them wrong. Instead of the smile you’d hoped to spread across their face, they scrunch it up in a frown. You end up trying to prove the credibility of your compliment which is next to impossible (feelings don’t have documentation).

So here I am trying to understand How to Give a Good Compliment.


1) Mean what you say: I cannot stress the importance of this. Compliments aren’t bought at the road-side stand. They’re precious gifts meant to be given to the right people for the right reasons. If I have compliments on the tip of my tongue, they’ll lose their worth. Contrary to strengthening my relationships with people, they might strain them.

2) Be Specific: Specificity is of utmost importance. For example, “I love the way you look in this dress” is often better than “You’re looking good.” It shows that I noticed the other person enough to realize that he/she has dressed up differently today. It might be a simple change in the way they do up their hair… or the way they wear their scarf. But if you have noticed something good about them… don’t lose it in a stream of non-specific words.

3) Back up the compliment: This is almost equivalent to attaching your identity proof with your college application form. Give weight to your compliment. Prove your honesty. For example, “I love the way you look in this dress. It suits your personality.” This definitely validates your compliment. Personally I think I am lacking in this area.

4) Ask a question: This is a trick question while complimenting girls. In the context of the current example, some girls might be flattered when asked about their wardrobe destinations, while others may make a face. I can just provide an example use it at your own risk! “I love the way you look in this dress. It suits your personality. Where did you get it?”

Though the path to complimenting others is fraught with danger, it is still worth the risk. It triggers a cycle of making others feel good and feeling good about myself. Somehow, people who compliment others attract compliments to themselves. The more you give, the more you get. And once you train your heart to honestly say good things about people, you learn to realize and appreciate the goodness in your own self too. This is where the mind connects with the soul. This is true bliss.

Merry Complimenting!   

P.S. Do not be put down by a few negative reactions to your compliments. You might have to put up with a few fights too. Persevere in your efforts… everything is bound to turn out well!!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Girls love to talk. Talks give expression to experiences. And experiences ought to be shared. What follows is a candid confession of a foodie in their own words (I did not even edit it!). Trust me, there is nothing like listening to a food lover talk about food. They describe it as a writer would describe his characters, like an artist paints his imagination, like a performer expresses himself through his dance. They surround you with the aroma, let your taste buds tingle and make your mouth water… with praises of what they ate and you could not. This one should rather be termed as the one-stop guide for food in the Golden city of Amritsar.

Warning: Do not be stumped by the number of delicacies sampled or the amount of food eaten. After all they say, when in Punjab, do as Punjabis do!

At the impossibly narrow Katra Ahluwalia, adjacent Jalianwalla Bagh, a Jalebi shop of no name sells the best in town. Faint-hearted tourists often get pointed towards Novelty at Lawrence Road for the best Chaat (Aloo Tikkis are made with onions and black gram and with the potatoes shallow fried even before they are made into tikkis and fried again – no don’t watch calories here) and Jalebis. But this is the ‘it’ place.

Outside the temple, there are shops selling Badiyan (made from dried Urad dal seasoned with a variety of things, including guava) and Aloo Papad, another traditional treat. I stop to pick up a bundle, and upon inspection, find the papads to be exactly what you’d buy in Benares. The shopkeeper, one Mr. Aggarwal ji, whose family has been in the city for 200 years, offers a plausible explanation: women from UP traditionally settled in this town have been running this thriving home-business.

The rickshaw puller keeps up a constant chat: The best Milk Barfi is to be found at the Longewala Mata Mandir near the Golden Temple, he tells me, and then takes me to Gyan Halwai, opposite DAV College, for Lassi. When it arrives, the frothy concoction topped with cream, in big steel tumblers, is intimidating. I can barely manage a quarter of a glass.

The walled city around the Golden Temple, the oldest part of Amritsar (look here for flights to Amritsar), is vegetarian. So, are some of the oldest dhabas here. Bharawan Dhaba (thus called because it was set up by two brothers) was established in 1912 by Jagannath Vij, well before the Partition exodus made eating out acceptable. According to Vij’s grandson, who now mans this destination, in the earlier days, people would get their atta (wheat) and ghee and other ingredients and merely have these cooked here. Today, of course, this is a bustling enterprise. House special- Dal Makhani is cooked in a copper vessel for an entire night. This place gives you a whiff of nostalgia even if the setting has pastic-y table tops.

The other such haven for food-freaks is Kesar ka Dhaba but I am still in a stupor before the rick takes me to Hindu College, next to which stands another Amritsari favourite: Ahuja Lassi. In the mornings, you can sample their famous Kesar ki Lassi—flavoured with saffron (saffron “threads” are ground and mixed with milk before the yoghurt is set) but even the usual non-flavored glass is creamy and lip-smacking.

Having finally junked the rick, I head out to Lawrence Road for some non-vegetarian treats. The Tawa Meatwallah near Adarsh Talkies has shut down, Beera’s chicken (for tandori style treats) at Manjithia Road is still the best place for fowl, but Surjeet, mentioned in Lonely Planet and a favourite with Bollywood stars, is clearly thriving. Instead of the small fish shop that he started out with near the railway station, there is now a new “restaurant”, air-conditioned, where you can sample Surjeet Singh’s delicacies. We try the Amritsari fish (the Ista version is better), the totally fabulous mutton tikka (instead of the plain tandoori version, this one comes coated in a secret masala having been fried on a hot iron griddle as well after being over-roasted), first-rate tandoori chicken and soft, fluffy aloo kulchas. We are full and not just with Amritsari pride.

Back at Ista, next day is a relatively simple affair: Simple? Well, that’s not possible in this city. A lunch of Chole Kulche gets transformed to a gourmet meal thanks to what arrives at our table: Chickpeas in a curry that can only be attributed to another world — or to Amritsar’s partiality towards delicacies.

 I hope you loved this food blog. Like I said... experiences should be shared! Happy Eating!

Monday, April 1, 2013


Happiness- that mysterious state of being, which forever eludes most of us. We might think of it day in and day out, without results. We might attend wellness camps, laughter sessions and undergo therapy… all to no avail... because happiness is found at that one place where we never bother looking- in our own self.

We always seek happiness in the company of others, in the approval of others. We are over-joyed if someone praises us…ecstatic if someone appreciates us. But is this happiness eternal? No. It is blown to pieces the next time they don’t take notice. Honestly, since when did we become so dependent on others for our daily dose of happiness? If I am all alone in this world… can’t I be happy?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to think over what keeps me happy. Forgive my twenty year young mind for any mistakes, but this is what I found out:

1)   The first and foremost tenet of a happy life is being content with what I have. No way does it mean that I do not want more. Imagine saying no to buying more clothes when your mum is ready to loosen her purse strings! Stupid, I tell you! But yes, if she does say no, I’ll be happy with the things I did buy. Rather I show them off to everyone at home (that includes a mini fashion show for all my spoils).

2)   The second: Not comparing myself to others. Comparisons never brought anyone joy. Never ever. Trust me… I checked it in all the encyclopedias. It might make me smirk, but it never makes me smile. And smirking isn’t a really good gesture. When I can isolate my performance, my grades, my fortune from that of others and compare them only with my previous state…only then can I experience true joy.

3)   The third: Not carrying grudges. I know everyone loves to remember the compliments they receive. But somehow, we’re wired in a way to remember the rebukes and insults for a longer time. Maybe God did make a mistake in this particular neural circuit. Or maybe we made an error in understanding it.  Harboring negative feelings of revenge does more harm than good. We might be able to get back at the other person but in the process, we lose our calm. All the planning and plotting feeds on our energy, our happiness.

4)   The fourth: Doing things my way. No, this isn’t called being headstrong. It is called being… well… just being me. No doubt it is of immense importance to listen to all sides before taking a decision… but it is equally important to do what you love. When you do what you really want to, you work extra hard, this hard work gives better results… better results mean more satisfaction. Someone told me, satisfaction and happiness go hand in hand. There you are. Doing your own thing gives you happiness.

5)   The fifth (perhaps the most important): Establish control over your life by accepting that certain things cannot be changed. Contradictory as it might seem, to gain control of your own self you need to understand that certain things are beyond your control. Identify these things, make peace with them… then be they issues with family or friends, economic problems… whatever makes you pull your hair in frustration. Once you accept these bitter truths of life, you gain control over the things you can and should influence. I never feel nice doing something because someone else told me to. It makes me restless. It makes me irritable. But when I know the rationale behind something and do it of my own free will…there is precisely nothing I love more. If I control what I do, if I am my own master… I am happy.

All these points just indicate the importance of loving yourself. Mind you, it is not the same as being self-centered. You can be kind to others, speak well of others and have strong and healthy relationships only if you are happy inside.

 If you love the person you see in the mirror every morning… you’ll be happy. If you love the shape, size, color you have been endowed with… you’ll be happy. If you’re nodding your head in agreement… you’ll be happy. Voila! If you have a smile on your face… you are happy!!!  

P.S. Did anyone understand the meaning of the picture? If yes, I would love to hear your interpretation before I let you know mine :)

Sunday, March 10, 2013


For the past twenty years I’ve been trying to unravel a mystery. Why, just why, does my mother love to see me dance on virtually every occasion? Be it a wedding, an engagement or a simple kirtan, somehow, it isn’t complete until I put in a thumka or two. Yesterday, while attending my younger brother’s first annual day function, I think I got my answer.

My brother is due to complete his third revolution round the sun next month. Yesterday was his first stage performance. Seeing him in his dance costume, I couldn’t resist but pull his cheeks. It was such an ‘Aww’ moment.

When we reached the venue, I could see tiny tots all around... dressed in the rainbow of colorful costumes. The school was celebrating the spirit of Unity in Diversity.  I could see the traditional dresses of Kashmir, Kerala, Uttar Pradhesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. Walking around in their assumed State- identities… these kids exuded confidence and joy.

When these young performers took to the stage, imitating their teacher’s dance steps, I couldn’t help but smile from ear-to-ear. And this smile didn’t fade for the next two hours. One after the other, groups of confident younglings came and delighted me. While some cried from stage-fright, the others danced with a carefree attitude known only to children.

Seeing my little brother dance on stage, I felt proud at being his sister. Waving his hands, and tapping his feet, he looked like an adorable dumpling of joy. Mind you, the girl next to him danced with way more energy and enthusiasm. When the performances ended, there were excited calls from all around.

The kids, drunk on their success, went berserk. Dancing off the stage or just play fighting with their friends, they really made my day. Somewhere, I understood the reason for my mother’s strongest wish. Just like I was happy to see my brother do well, my mother is ecstatic when I do something similar. It isn’t about dance. She just wants me to do well in life. And if somehow, my dance makes people praise me, then she wants it that way.

Parents, I believe, feel the best when someone praises their child. They keep their personal ambitions aside when it comes to their kid. My mother, she sacrificed her career so that my brother and I could get a good upbringing. She has worked hard with us, to make us who we are. If I were a stone, she’d be my sculptor… carving me out into a beautiful person.

Our mothers, they do so much for us, without ever letting us know. They want us to excel at what we do well and get better at what we don’t. No matter the problems they are going through... they are always there for us, willing to listen to every story, every complaint, every nightmare. They soothe us when we're scared, cheer us on when we need support, encourage us when we are unsure and love us when we feel alone. Yet I won’t be wrong if I say that all of us have belittled her efforts some time or the other. We have been impatient with her, been rude to her. We have taken her for granted.

I know it is not Mother’s Day yet. But I just want to thank my mum (mummy as I call her). I know she doesn’t read my blog. She is far too busy dealing with the mess that we create. So this silent wish goes out to all the mothers… thank you for being who you are and nurturing us the way you do.
Love you Mum

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Thank you!!!

The very word drips joy, happiness and merry- making. But on my birthday yesterday, I didn’t get just a few drops of this elixir. I got a bone-drenching shower…

The moment the clock chimed midnight, birthday wishes started flowing in… I wasn’t technically twenty yet (I breathed my first with the rising sun), but nonetheless… my day had begun! I’d been waiting for so long…

After smiling on the phone like a fool (yes, I was grinning all the time) for close to an hour, I finally slept… I was dancing even in my dreams… the next morning, as always on birthday mornings, my parents woke me up wearing their ‘We have a surprise for you’ smile.  Remember my visit to the phool mandi? My parents had made a similar trip… just that they seemed to have brought home the entire market… I was overjoyed.

Later during the day, I went out for what was to be the most memorable lunch of the two decades I’ve spent on Earth. I’ll skip on the details…it’ll take forever. But looking at all the happy faces around, I realized how lucky I am to have people who love me with all their heart. Selfless love at that… only thing they expect in return is my smile… a silent acknowledgement of their efforts, the pains they took to make the day so special for me.

When you realize the fragility of your being, it hits you hard…like death…there is a certain finality to it… but you take an infinitely longer time to realize your strength. It doesn’t hit you like a cyclone… you soak it up slowly like the winter sunshine. It isn’t abrupt… it is in harmony with everything around you… and true friendship is one of your biggest strengths. I stumbled on this truth yesterday. Sitting there with my gang, digging into the pizzas, I loved life more than ever.  

Simply put, I was overwhelmed. And more than anything, this post is to celebrate the bond we share… to celebrate my friends… So here is a toast to you… my dearest dearies… Thank you for making me feel so loved… like I am a princess…
Thank you for the Choco -cake facial… it really made my skin glow…
Thank you for your thoughtful gifts… I’m still looking at each one of them…
And above all…Thank you for being the people you are… without you, my smiles wouldn’t have been happy enough…

And yes… Happy Birthday to me!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Date with Beauty

If thou of fortune be bereft
and of thine earthly store have left
two loaves, sell one and with the dole
feed hyacinths to the soul.

These beautiful lines were written by Sir Alexander Clegg…
Ever since these words crossed my eyes, I have been marveling at their depth. These lines hold a profound truth: Man cannot sustain life just with bread.

This morning, when I visited the Ghazipur Pushp Mandi (Ghazipur Flower Market, East Delhi, India), I just could not contain my excitement on finally understanding his words… After carefully navigating my way through little pools of water filled with squishy mud, I found myself in the most delightful of places.  Spread all around me were flowers of virtually all imaginable (and unimaginable) colors, varieties, shapes…

As the early morning breeze caressed my cheeks, the flowers lured me, teased me with their vibrant colors and sensuous fragrances. As I walked by, they seemed to call out to me and I often ended up touching them, looking at them, much to the curiosity of the vendors. From one corner, the carnations looked at me sleepily, from their huddled masses… from the other the orchids, in all their sophistication; lay in neat piles, talking in soft voices. The shy lilies hid their beauty behind closed buds…

As if these were not enough to make me high on flowers… there were gerberas, nodding their acknowledgement to me, tulips sending me cute kisses, the roses dressed up in their best, the genda reminding me of that time around New Year when they’d adorned my home… a host of exotic flowers, which spoke to me in languages unknown… I don’t even know their names… I was just wandering through this wonderland with the dazed eyes of an awestruck admirer.

It was then that I realized the importance of beauty in our life. Imagine a dreary life… where you eat, work and sleep… where there is no joy, no surprises… a world without flowers… it will essentially be a world without smiles. Will we be able to live for long? For one like me… who goes berserk when she sees a flower in full bloom… such a life is hard to imagine. Beauty gives us happiness. And what is life if you’re not happy?

In this back-breaking competition, a thing of beauty is really rare. It is precious. As Wordsworth said, they remain with us long after we have seen them. They come back to us at  times we expect them the least…at times when we’re alone, lonely or sad… they cheer us up and dance with us to the tune of life… So what if they didn’t have hyacinths today. If I have two pennies, I’ll spend one on bread, the other on a lily (my favourite).

P.S. This Mandi, which is my private ‘soothe-my-soul land’, was established in 2011 in place of the existing Mandis at Connaught Place, Mehrauli and Fatehpuri. The government aimed to give the licensed flower vendors a proper place, with a roof over their head, a cold storage and better facilities, where they could trade for a longer time. If you were to google this particular market, you’ll only find articles expressing discontent. There were protests against the increased costs incurred owing to the shift. There was a lot of talk of cultural heritage being lost, talk of inconvenience to both, the buyers and the sellers.

But the situation isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. Not only is the space big, luxurious as compared to the other markets, it is relatively clean as well (never mind the mud pools… blame it on the torrent last night). If the legal vendors, numbering close to 400, do brisk business inside, their illegal counterparts, selling everything from flowers to sponges make money outside. True, this area is on the periphery of the city, but I found ample auto-rickshaws willing to take me to my destination. Do visit the Mandi… it is definitely worth your time.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Best Gift

This morning, we woke up to my mother’s cry of anguish… what she had long suspected had finally come true- she had been taken ill… she was down with fever. That mortal enemy, influenza-viral, had finally caught on. While she fretted about her health and destiny forced me to do all the household chores single-handedly, I thought about our good fortune- good health.

I can bet… any and every one of us, calls down the fury of God on our foes at least five times a day. If we’re not doing that, then we’re busy cribbing about our not-so-happening life, complaining about our teachers, bitching about people or just cursing life in general. But how many of us really treasure the good moments? Particularly those times when we’re not sneezing our heads off, when we’re not lying in bed battling with a soaring body temperature, when we’re not frequenting the washroom every ten seconds… I can see very few hands raised…

Health is Wealth… these three words have always stuck out in my little head like neon lights… irritating, un- ignorable lights. And yet, I doubt I’m really following all the tenets of this philosophy. And so it is for most of us. Of the thousands of people I know, only a handful of them can claim to be the blessed souls who give their mind and body some time every day.

For the rest of us, the world is just a blur of food, work and sleep. But just as we realize the importance of things and people after we lose them, we realize the importance of good health only when we fall ill. As a wiry pre-teen, I would always tell my mother “Mama, every day seems so special when I’m fine” (I would have to be put on antibiotics almost every alternate week. Alas! Such was my immune system back then). Somehow, those early bouts of illness made me value my healthy days way more… I would squeeze in everything that I could… from school to dance classes, hours of cycling, playing in the mud, going over to my friend’s place, running after pigeons, getting beaten up in street fights (sometimes I would beat people too), troubling my mother in the kitchen or just following my dad everywhere like a lost puppy… so much in a day!

Falling ill made me realize the importance of each day, every single minute. It also made me acutely aware of all the people around me who are not as fortunate. Any form of illness, then be it a minor cold or a life-threatening cancer… it takes away the spring from your step, it makes the blue sky look grey… I thank God every day when I wake up fine… think of all those who woke up to a sore throat, an eye infection, news of a deadly disease or worse… don’t wake up at all.

If there is something that can make you love life with all your heart, it is good health. Give him a body free from illness and a man can do wonders. What worries me the most is the general health of children in India.

 To quote from Wikipedia:

“The World Bank estimates that India is ranked 2nd in the world of the number of children suffering from malnutrition, where 47% of the children exhibit a degree of malnutrition. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth. The UN estimates that 2.1 million Indian children die before reaching the age of 5 every year – four every minute – mostly from preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, measles and pneumonia. Every day, 1,000 Indian children die because of diarrhoea alone. According to the 1991 census of India, it has around 150 million children, constituting 17.5% of India's population, who are below the age of 6 years.”

India is also ranked 15th in the 2011 Global Hunger Index Report.

It is one thing to willingly neglect our health like most people from the well-off sections of the society do. But to be not given a shot at it… it is inhuman.

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you get three meals every day. So go out, exercise, keep fit and love life so that you can spread a little of that love among others… others who live on crumbs…

Stay healthy. It is the Best Gift that you can gift yourself.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


I came here, unmoulded clay
Washed up on your shores
You took me in, soft hands
Moulded me into who I am…

As I helped my brother gel up his hair for the school farewell…I couldn’t help but remember that time, a few hundred days ago, when I was getting ready for my own. I wasn’t suffering from the ‘I- don’t- want-to-leave-school’ syndrome. In fact, all I cared about was wearing a Saree, meeting friends and having a nice time. Little did I realize that farewells change lives… that this single day of dressing up like a young ladies and gentlemen would mark an important transition in our life…
It was not just the end of our school days… it was the end of a way of living… one where expectations were low, rules were flexible and the laughs came easy.

From the moment I stepped inside the school gates everything was different… the teachers who would glare at us if we talked in class, would reprimand us for low attendance (which was almost every other day)…met us with warm welcoming hugs… compliments flowed (champagne was not allowed) and all around me, I had friends, smiling their familiar smiles. I’d known them for just two years and yet somehow, I belonged. I felt safe.

Conveniently ignoring the ticking of the clock, we made memories… lots and lots of happy memories. I distinctly remember the ruckus we made while taking our class photograph. The whole school probably thought we’d lost our minds. None of us cared. But when the time to part came, the merry-making stopped. The spring in our steps disappeared… the smiles began to fade. I knew, I’ll probably never meet them again…save a few… and almost definitely not attend the same lectures again. The feeling was heart breaking… like I was losing something valuable.

The word ‘farewell’ and ‘good bye’ tasted bitter on my tongue. At last… I didn’t want to leave school. We promised we’ll meet up later but everyone knew better. True friendships endure the barriers of time and distance. But to put them to test is the toughest part of it. Each friend you lose leaves a void, where only memories remain.

But somewhere down the line I did  understand that farewells are not all about endings…they are about beginnings too… beginning a new life, with new dreams, new aspirations. To don the shoes of a young adult, you have to let go a kid’s shoes…and this is exactly what farewells do. They help you step into the bigger world with a confident stride. They help you prepare for the eventful journey your life is going to be. They are the sentries guarding the gates of your new life. All along, close to your heart, you have memories of that day you bid farewell to your loved ones.

After our last day at school, life became a roller coaster ride…a whirlwind of new people, new ideas, new expectations… we never got time to look back and think of all that was left behind…but I do think that all of us kept our old friends and memories safe in our strong rooms. Two years down the line, I realize that this is the way it is meant to be. We were neither the first batch of students nor the last to be given a farewell… what is important is holding on to the memories and the friends who were your life once…

Don't be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.
Richard Bach

Dedicated to you… J

P.S. That picture you see... it symbolizes the end of one path, our life at school, but it also gives us a peek at the whole wide world waiting to embrace us... 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Delhi - 6

Endless lanes,
With twisting curves,
Holding secrets,
A mysterious world,
The smell of spices,
Myriad of colours,
A historian’s treasure,
A woman’s delight,
Numerous names,
For this heaven on Earth…

Try as I might… I just cannot encapsulate the soul, the essence and the spirit of Chandni Chowk in a few words. This area, also known as Delhi-6, is the real heart of Delhi… or rather ‘Dilli’ as the people here like to call it. It is almost like a city within a city… a parallel world.

Built by the Mughal emperor Shan Jehan in the 17th century and designed by his daughter Jahan Ara, Chandni Chowk continues to be the trade hub of India. Merchants from all over the country flock to this busy center of trade.

Yet, in spite of the influx of such a heterogeneous group of buyers, sellers and tourists, Chandni Chowk is untouched by the luxuries offered by the shopping malls, the sophistication of modern stores. Remove the traffic and you will find a Delhi still unaffected by our new ways of living. The real dilliwalla still sweats it out from morning till evening to earn two square meals. The shops still have hand-painted banners and touts to attract customers. The owners still sit on gaddis. The goods they sell may have changed to suit our needs, but the work culture remains the same.

A man’s worth is measured by his work, not by religion. We have the Gauri Shankar temple, the Jama masjid, the famous Gurudwara and a Church here… all in close proximity to each other. This just goes on to show why people of every faith claim Dilli to be their own. It presents a cultural mix witnessed nowhere else. True, this mix might turn explosive if mishandled… but it generally presents a picture of communal harmony where a Hindu and a Muslim can be best friends.

On the surface, it appears to be just another market with exceptionally old shops but once you wander deeper into the kuchas and katras, you find yourself in a whole new world. Every kucha invariably has a chaatwala who dishes out some of the most exquisite delights. Long queues with people squabbling to get their kachoris and gol gappas first is a common sight.

 The shops are smaller, their warehouses larger. Khari Baoli specializes in spices. You can smell the cardamom, the cloves, turmeric and chillies long before you see them. The waist high stacks of spices look beautiful, like colours of Holi. The cashew nuts look so appealing. But I often end up sneezing my brains out.

The sadar market has huge shops dedicated to cosmetics and personal care items of all kinds. Nai Sarak with its endless piles of books is every student’s haven. We have shops exclusively selling rangoli colors, calendars, surgical equipment, medicines, spectacle frames, shoes, candles… the list is endless. Every lane you turn into will open up its secrets for you, just like a blooming flower. You just need to know where to look. I have been roaming the streets of this City of Poets for a decade, initially with my mother and now on my own, but I cannot claim to know everything about it. Every time I do manage to find a lane with a pleasant surprise waiting for me at the end.

 The people are friendly, often greeting you with a warm Namaste. They work with a silent efficiency. The whole atmosphere suggests two contrary states of being. One that is relaxed… the other bursting with energy. On my trips to Chandni Chowk I am often left confused by these conflicting emotions.

There is a strange contentment in the hearts of people here. True, they have open sewers. The roads are crammed. They often work in dingy and squalid quarters. The workers might not earn enough. But there is an under-current of satisfaction, something bordering on joy, not only for the lalas doing brisk business but also for his workers. I might be terribly wrong here but that is what I felt when I interacted with them. They made me understand that Old Delhi is not just made up of heritage buildings. It thrives and pulsates with life because of the people here.

There is so much to Old Delhi that it cannot be squeezed into one article. I simply cannot decide about what to include and what to leave out. Each area has a different story to tell… it has been witness to a different history, good or bad. It has seen it all… from the princesses coming down to shop in curtained palanquins to the people today, driving down in their expensive cars. It has weathered many tides of time… stood unshaken when everything around it crumbled… yet the spirit of Chandni Chowk remains unchanged.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Loveless World

We love to love...
Better still, we love being loved...
But what if,
We live in a loveless world?

A withered flower
Few shattered dreams
A broken heart
And unheard screams
Is the famed legacy
Love left me...

Long hours contemplating
What went wrong
Took you away
Snapped our bond
A dream felt
by my fluttering heart
Blown to smithereens
Before my eyes
Life's beautiful song
Silenced by this void...

Crying into the pillow
Night after dark night
Smudged tear tracks
Tell  all their plight
I yearn to hear your voice
Crave for your touch
Lose myself in those eyes
I once loved so much...

Caught in a storm
Within, about
This loveless world
No space for doubt
A broken heart
And unheard screams
Are all, left to me
By this cruel play of destiny...

Sunday, January 13, 2013


After days of staying under the covers till 9 am, today I opened my eyes a little earlier (pretty unwillingly!). But I’m glad I did. Pulling on a jacket, I went out for a drive with my daddy dearest (He let me drive)!

The streets, in the early hours of the day, when the sun has just begun its ascent across the sky, look no less beautiful than a flower about to bloom. The seemingly ordinary scene left me awestruck. The semi- deserted roads made me feel strange. I'm used to seeing so much activity, so many people on that stretch of the road. The empty road took me by surprise. It looked pristine... pure.

As I saw the florist arrange his flowers, I couldn’t help but think of all the people who’ll smile today when they receive them. It was business as usual for him, but for all the people, unaware of the flowers about to reach them, it will be a very special day. They looked like gifts from heaven, against the pale concrete of the sidewalk.

As the newspaper man spread out his newspapers, I wondered what they have to say today. Will it be another edition screaming of scams, murders, rapes and protests? Or will it contain positive news bolstering my confidence in my city and the government? Will it make my mood plunge into the depths of despair or give me a reason to be proud of who I am?

Moving further, the sight of fresh chhole bhature being made, left my mouth watering. Our breakfast table floated before my eyes. It was piled high with the most delicious dishes my mum prepared. My super sensitive note could even pick up their aroma. I suddenly grew aware of my empty tummy. Bad timing!!!

Looking across the road, I saw a tent being dismantled. Somehow my attention was drawn to the rags the workers wore for clothes. They were in sharp contrast to the plush interiors of the structure. I found myself thinking of all the people who spent the previous night on the cold pavement, braving the winter chill, while I slept on a comfortable bed. It made me feel uneasy in my warm clothes.

All this while, I spotted uncles and aunties out for their morning walk. Clad in a dizzying array of coloured caps and shawls, they looked like cute little toys braving the wind. Pardon me the comparison, but that is exactly what they looked like. It was really heartening seeing them though. It encouraged me to take my exercise routine more seriously.

On this single drive, I experienced a plethora of emotions. But one feeling over-shadowed them all… Happiness! Though I was moving around in a metal box with the windows rolled down, I felt so close to nature. And in those intimate moments, I understood why I love mornings. Up until now, mornings were good only because I could study undisturbed…or because my parents said they were nice... but there is much more to a morning than that.

The restless energy… so evident in everything around us… is infectious. The enthusiasm for a new day, the zeal to live is so strong in those morning hours. It infuses you with a sense of well-being, a feeling of satisfaction so intense, that it keeps you smiling through the day. Why? It is evening… I have raunchy music playing outside my window… but still this morning scene has made me smile. I just closed my eyes and the world seemed to rewind its clock. Trust me… mornings are awesome!

Try them out yourself… give the early morning wind a chance to ruffle your hair!