Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy New Year Resolutions!

Bye bye 2013. Welcome 2014! The countdown has begun. People are finally waking up out of their dull, boring lives to gear up for making some New Year resolutions. I have already joined the queue.

It was the year ending of 2008 when for the first time in my life I seriously started making a resolution. I had looked at myself in the mirror and finally accepted the fact that I was getting fat. Those extra kilos were clearly visible. All those years of eating cheese, butter, ghee, sweets and chocolates was being clearly getting reflected. At that very moment, I decided to apply brakes on my unhealthy diet. I started working on my fitness. I started walking in a park every morning. I cut down on fast food and high calories. All my favourite food-items had previously consisted of ghee and cheese. Something that was very mouth-watering but too dangerous for health. I started eating those in a very less quantity. Quite negligible amount. It was very heart-breaking but I had no choice. I made faces but started relying on cucumber and carrots. I ate rotis without ghee. Vegetables cooked in less oil. Fruits and salads 2 times a day. Yuk! Something I detest to this date. But the most untastiest things on Earth are nearly always healthy. The effects started showing on my body in the next year. My friends in second year of B. Tech would stare at me and exclaim, “What are you doing? Are you taking any dietary pills?”   

After the successful implementation of my first resolution, I got more confident while making the next one in my third year of engineering- switching on the television at 5am, browsing through channels, stopping at Aastha and coming face to face with Baba Ramdev. I wowed to do yoga every day. I started obediently like a good student. When he said inhale deeply, I did it. I would hold all oxygen inside my body till my stomach got pulled inside.  Then I would wait for his next command. When he said exhale out, I would do, fearing sometimes that my lungs might come out by accident. I couldn’t recover fully from this sensation when he would command the next yoga posture. I could do nearly every yoga steps which he ordered, except the one where his legs would be up in the air and head down on the ground. Sometimes I would cheat and sleep on my yoga mat. Baba Ramdev would thunder, “Subah jaldi ootho. Besharmo ki tarah sona mat. (Get up early in the morning. Don’t sleep like a shameless.)” I would get up immediately. I wanted to prove that I am not a besharam. But after 2 months of firm determination, my laziness took over and I discontinued doing yoga further. From that day onwards, I am afraid of the thought of meeting Baba Ramdev.  

When 2012 was about to end, I was at Mysore DC in Infosys as a trainee. Reading novels was very unheard of in the campus. Where is the time? People would ask. There wasn’t enough time to even prepare for tests that used to happen nearly every week. Forget about novels and television. Even on weekends, I was in front of computers. But I made a resolution. I will not let go of my reading habit even during the tough training days. When I had successfully completed nearly 7 months long training period and got posted to Chandigarh, by then I had finished reading ‘The Last song’ and ‘Nights at Rodanthe’ by Nicholas Sparks, ‘The Immortals of Meluha’, ’The Secret of the Nagas’ and ‘The Oath of the Vayuputras’ by Amish Tripathi, ‘Human Bondage’ by W. Somerset Maugham, ‘Shobhaa At Sixty: Secrets of Getting it Right at any Age’ by Shobhaa De, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown and ‘The Guide’ by R.K. Narayan. I re-read Harry Potter books that I had carried with myself from home. I also read technical slides and sometimes fictional e-books in GEC. :)

This year I have made a new resolution. Something in which if I succeed, my mother would be very proud of me. And I would be proud of myself. My goal is very clear. Planning has been done. I have started to tread on it slowly and carefully with as much concentration and hard work that I can muster. Just the final implementation is remaining which would be some time in the middle of next year. Fingers crossed! Hope this time too I would be successful. If not, then I’ll keep trying further nevertheless.

Promises are meant to be broken but resolutions? Isn’t it something that one promises with oneself about one’s own improvement? If a person makes a resolution, he/she atleast tries to fulfil it. Any other ordinary day, this resolution would not mean much. It would be easily forgotten. But on a New Year’s Eve, this can be taken up earnestly by those who wish to improve themselves in their personal or professional careers during the upcoming months. Just give it a shot! Make a resolution for 2014 and try to fulfil it. Feel for yourself the satisfaction and confidence that you will gain by accomplishing it. Till then, have a happy new year! And happy New Year Resolutions!

Saturday, December 07, 2013

It was Chetan Bhagat!

I came to office very late on a Monday. My train arrived at the scheduled time but still I ended up very late. Because my thoughts were still reflecting back to what happened on the train journey. I couldn’t concentrate much later, got pushed by passengers at the station and walked late into office. Blame it on Chetan Bhagat.

I was sitting on a window seat and my co-passenger was a middle-aged man. We were having biscuits and tea. I demanded an extra packet of Marie Gold from a railway crew member/attender. He looked up towards the roof of the compartment, inhaled a bit longer, then exhaled and shook his head in an ‘I-don’t-have-extra-biscuits-sorry’ manner. 

It was then that I saw him. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I blinked and again narrowed my eyes to look at the passenger sitting three rows ahead of me to my right. Only the left side of his face was visible but that was more than enough. Incredible it may sound, but it was Chetan Bhagat! 

Oh. My. God.

I couldn’t believe my luck. I have never seen any celebrities up that close in my life. Once I had seen Brett Lee inside a mall in Mumbai. I along with some other Cricket fans were not allowed to say even a simple hi, you look great to him. So much was the security. Next was watching Govinda dance in a posh area of Hiranandani in Mumbai. The whole perimeter of the shoot was being closely guarded by security guards. Mad crowd on roads and onlookers from terraces of buildings were kept at bay. 

Meeting my favourite authors is a dream come true. Interviewing them and asking for their advice is always on top of my to-do list. 

When I saw Chetan Bhagat, I couldn’t control my feelings. The author of Five Point Someone has managed to grip my attention with his simple style of writing. He has many critics and readers who never appreciate what he writes. Some say his books are a piece of trash. Some say they are works that can be used and thrown away like tissue papers in toilets. He has often many harsh criticisms for his views and columns. 

Does he give a damn about all this? Nope. He rolls up his sleeves, adjusts his specs and just writes! Maybe it’s because of his simple English that everyone can understand, or maybe because he writes direct from his heart that attracts the youth of this generation, or maybe because he doesn’t think twice before putting his thoughts on paper or because he uses the ‘F’ word so often. Chetan Bhagat is a successful author today. His views get published in newspapers. Bollywood is running out of original scripts and adopting Bhagat’s novel into major motion pictures.

He was sitting with a lady. I thought it could be his wife. He was doing something on his smart phone but I couldn’t see what. Unintentionally, I leaned across too quickly and startled my co-passenger. He must have thought that I was about to give him an unexpected hug. Actually, all I wanted was a clear view of the author and I had stretched myself and already left my seat in excitement. I was wondering whether to approach him with a copy of his own novel for an autograph. Then I remembered with a pang in my heart. My personal copies of all his novels were back at home. So I thought to approach him with a pen to sign an autograph on my right hand. The thought itself made me feel silly. I was left with no choice but to ask for his photograph. I started immediately searching for my dabba phone. Meanwhile, Chetan Bhagat had started reading from Hindustan Times. 

I got up from my seat and made my way towards him. My co-passenger showed his frustration by delaying my exit. He just didn’t want to get up from his seat but seeing the look on my face, he didn’t argue. He got up too and allowed me to pass. As I started walking hesitatingly towards one of my favourite authors, an unbelievable thought came in my mind. What’s happening to all of us these days? Not one of those passengers had recognized him. That was obvious. And wait! Do such famous people don’t need security? How come Chetan Bhagat just strolls into a Shatabdi and lazily sits around with normal people? And there are no stunning gasps and no claps for this famous author? This is so not done.

He got up. I came out of my reverie and became a statue. His back was all I can see. He looked so tall and well built. He didn’t look like that in one of the desktop wallpapers I had used. Wow, I was amazed. Google needs to update its images indeed.

He turned and faced me. The full impact of his personality hit me. I couldn’t move an inch. He came forward and uttered ‘Excuse me?”

I blinked. I moved and allowed him to pass in peace. I went back to my seat. He wasn’t Chetan Bhagat. Just someone who looked like him.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Life in a new city!!

I got a call from one of my long distance friends yesterday. She was my most trusted friend during engineering days in Hyderabad. We started our friendship by conversing in English. I couldn't speak her mother tongue and she couldn't speak mine. Whenever I couldn't finish my assignment, she used to help me by giving her own assignment for coping at the last minute. She was my translator during lectures when professors said something in the local language that I couldn't understand.  During exams, I sat on a bench in front of her. I was roll no. 54. She was roll no. 55. She was my bench-mate for 4 years as well and every time, we scored almost the same in viva-voice. In our final year farewell given by management of our college, we plucked up our courage, practiced and danced for the first time on Dhink Chika, Dhinka Chaika on stage in front of everybody. Just the two of us because our third dance partner had backed out due to fever. It was another matter that we forgot many steps in between. Once we had done initial bit of anchoring in one of the cultural events and invited chief guests on to the dais in front of whole college.

There are so many cheerful moments that I have spent in my college. Thanks to her. So a call from her made me very happy and nostalgic.

As time passed and we talked for nearly 40 minutes, I realized she is not satisfied with the way things have turned out in her life in a new place.

Currently, she is working in an IT company. She left Hyderabad, her hometown, and was sent to Mangalore for training. It was just last month that she got posted to Chennai. A city that she isn’t familiar with. Leaving home wasn’t easy for her. She had never gone outside Andhra Pradesh till last year. But this year, she has visited two different cities. Her major problem starts with feeling lonely. She has only 2 or 3 friends back from our college working in the same company. She doesn’t know what to do on weekends and gets bored. Being in a new city, she has not visited any places and is yet to come to terms with food. She lives in a PG accommodation. She misses home food and doesn’t like eating sambhar in breakfast and then again one more sambhar in lunch.  When she feels hungry, she misses her mother even more.

I have gone through similar situations. Dealing with life and workplace in a new city with limited number of friends isn’t easy. It takes time to settle in a new place. But most importantly, it depends upon an individual, how he/she handles it.

When I was in Mysore, away from home, I made a couple of close friends. Being an introvert, it wasn’t easy for me. But I made some good friends nonetheless. Most of the time I was in GEC and so never got time to get bored. Weekends were spent in watching same movies twice in multiplex and trying out new items in food courts. Since I got posted to Chandigarh, I remain with my close-knitted friends and follow these following rules mandatorily on weekends:-

1. Read Novels.
2. Watch new movies in theatres.
3. Watch old movies on television.
4. Visit new places that have book shops.
5. Try out something new in kitchen.
6. Wash utensils and clothes.

Above last two things take a lot of time and so being bored on weekends is out of question. On a different note, when my novels are there with me 24/7, I don’t need even Mr. Bean to come in front of me for entertainment. Novels are my best company. When these are there with me, I don’t need anything else. On weekdays, time flows by quickly enough. It centers on projects, blogs and colleagues. Time passes quickly every day.

Based on my own incidences, I advised my friend to quit feeling lonely and depressed. No solution ever comes out of quitting or giving up. I told her to follow her passions. Do things that you like to do most and you won’t feel lonely. She is a reader herself. She has a keen interest in photography. She is also an avid music listener.

Hanging out with friends is another option. It doesn’t matter whether you have one best friend or 50 good friends. As long as you have few human beings around you who make you smile, go outside with them and visit new places. When you have time, try to explore more about the city you are residing in. Maybe you will never get a second chance to visit the city ever again in future.

Having an aim in life and working towards it can do wonders. For example, she wants to start preparing for her higher studies. When would be the right time, if not now?

Talking to parents or friends whenever you feel low is another idea to come out of your sad mood. Instead of keeping your feelings bottled up, let it all out and share with somebody. The benefits of this talking therapy I found out yesterday. You will cheer up for sure. :)

So next time you feel lonely, don’t keep quiet and sulk. First check if your mobile has sufficient balance in it. Then talk to someone who would have given you company had you both been together. Yell your problems if you have to. And who knows? You might get some solutions on dealing with life in a new place. :)

Anger Management..!!!

When I am angry, I don’t let others around me live in peace. My anger shows up on my face and my friends ask me point blank- “what happened?” To which my face swells up in frustration, blood seems to boil under an invisible gas stove, head aches badly and I snap. People run away in fear of getting injuries and come back only when I have calmed down. When I tell such incidences to my mother, she mourns about how I am shattering her dreams. How she would get a future son-in-law if I do not let go of my anger and become a soft, kind hearted and down-to-earth lady? 

All I can say for myself in my defense is that anger is in my blood. Thanks to my papa and my grandpa. If there is one thing which they regret about what I have inherited from the male line in my family, it’s their anger. Uncontrollable and highly infectious. 

My grandpa and his brothers make Bengal tigers look very tame. When they shout, nobody dares to answer them back. They don’t forget those who make them angry. It’s hard to get into their good books once you have hurt their feelings. They simply do not believe in the theory of forgive and forget. A stranger can sit beside them for few minutes and deduce that they are not someone to take lightly and make fun of. If anyone draws them into a debate, be it about politics or cricket, they will not let you go till you have got convinced at their points and nodded in approval. They remain firm on their decisions and bring the place down if anyone dares to meddle with their opinions. They are regarded as reincarnations of an angry old Sunny Deol in the neighbourhood.

The day my father gets angry, rest of my family gets scared. Nobody wants to approach him for fear of being a victim of his backlash and angry outburst. Nobody is interested to even cook in the kitchen or study because the next day is an exam. Everyone talks in whisper and make assumptions about what is that thing that made dad this murderously angry. He demands tea and tea is made in next 5 minutes. He orders to sit and people sit. He demands the remote control which is handed to him in next 1 second. He changes the channel on TV and nobody complains. Those who didn’t like rice or potatoes eat any type of food kept in front of them. Nobody wants to create any further source of trouble for themselves by making my father angrier.  The only people left on Earth who can calm him down are my mother and myself. 

The only rival who can compete against my father’s anger and win the race is me. Things like counting backwards inside head or ignoring the person who is the source of anger doesn’t work for me. It is impossible for me to forget those who hurt me/ make me angry. I don’t like those who spoil my mood unnecessarily. I hate those who hurt the sentiments of my family and close friends. I never forget people who misbehave with my mom and dad. I wish them all to pack their bags, go and live on Mars. 

My mother always talks with me and tries to divert my mind if I am angry about something. My roommate tells me to ignore recollecting those moments that boils my blood. I do try. But I find that it is easy for me to show my anger instead of keeping it inside myself forever. I don’t like to pass a fake smile when I am angry with someone. I don’t believe in pretending to be cheerful with somebody who had humiliated my mother the previous day. Even if that someone is my relative. When I am angry, I tell it to others around me. When asked, I unabashedly tell them the reason too. That makes me relax a bit. Instead of bottling it all up inside, it’s better to take it all out and get relieved! I find it comfortable to talk about the source of my anger with people who understand me like my mother and my good friends. They have known me throughout my life and are well acquainted about dealing with my angry moods! 

The only solace for my mother is that I quickly calm down. Angry for 10 minutes and happy for the rest 23 hours and 50 minutes. This improvement is happening as I am growing up and learning that there is a word called ‘mature’ in English dictionary. With each passing day, I am learning to let go and ignore those human beings who make me angry. But it’s proving to be tough. Not impossible. But just so tough.

My grandma tells me to behave myself at such times even when all I have done is openly declare why I am angry. Interestingly, she will never tell the same to my brother, who has a weird way of showing his anger. He is allowed to say no to food, no to talks and no to common sense when he is angry. If he utters something rude, he is never scolded for that by my grandma. In her opinion, men can show their anger but women have to be sweet all the time. Men can utter any number of curses but women have to only memorize all the nine forms of Goddess Durga and visit temples. I tell her very sweetly that I do remember all the nine forms of the Goddess and that the one I worship a lot is one of her forms only- Goddess Kali, the fiercest of all, the one who carries a sword, a trident (trishul), a severed head and a bowl catching blood of the severed head and wears garland of human skulls. My grandma loses her patience and becomes angry herself. I don’t know why! :)

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

A Mother's Love

On 20th November 2013, Times of India published a report titled Behind every champ is a supermom on the front page of Delhi edition. It highlights the role played by moms in the lives of sports personalities. For example, Mary Kom claims that she wouldn’t have become India’s Olympic champion boxer had it not been for the sacrifices made by her mother. Every Indian heard Sachin Tendulkar giving a loving acknowledgement to his mother in an unforgettable farewell speech in his last test match. When I was listening to his speech on TV, my mother was sitting beside me and having tears in her eyes. She was sad for Sachin’s retirement but at the same time proud of his achievements.  And I was proud of my mother.

My mother’s life was quite different when she wasn’t married. She was an only child and quite close to her father. When she got married, her priorities changed. My father being constantly on the move with different civil engineering projects in India, my mother took up the responsibilities of managing home and looking after her children singlehandedly. There were times when dad used to be away for weeks. My mother was left to deal with life of a housewife on her own. She dropped us at schools and tuitions everyday till we entered secondary school. When she went to markets for buying vegetables, she gave us strict instructions to behave ourselves and left a caring neighbour to look after us. But she used to return quickly and bring our favourite chocolates along with her. Even when she wasn’t well, our lunch and dinner was always cooked on time. My mother never missed any of the parent-teacher meets throughout our school career. She taught us the importance of studies and good manners. When my brother and I got into a physical fight, my mother made sure we didn’t land up in bad bruises. 

She didn’t sleep at night if my brother had high fever or I suffered from stomach cramps. The very next morning, she took us to our family doctor and bought medicines. Every weekend, she took us to long walks on the sea-shores of Arabian Sea. When it came to food habits, she never drank cow’s milk but made sure we drank it every day and took a spoonful of chyawanprashalong with it. I liked cheese a lot. Others warned her about the alarming rate at which I was fattening up. But she always bought my favourite cheese from a milk shop. During my board exams, I had the habit of waking up at 2 am and revising for a subject. My mother too woke up, made coffee for me and slept on a sofa in the living room because I feared to study alone in the middle of night.

When we grew up and started to live on our own in hostels and rented flats away from her, her heart was split in two. One was with her son, 783 kms away from her. The other went away with me, to Mysore and later to Chandigarh. So far she was but yet always seemed near. She called and we talked on mobiles and never felt that we were away from her. The only time when we genuinely felt the loss was when we started missing her home-cooked food. I especially missed my mother’s dosas and idlis.  

Currently, my mother is my best friend. Throughout my life, I have seen my ups and downs. My mother has always stood by my side, seen and felt my feelings. We have fought and had our own arguments. Sometimes we differ in our opinions. There have been times when I have not talked with my mother after having fresh round of angry arguments. But she knows how to handle me next! She continues to be my best companion and most faithful guide. If there is one person on Earth for whose well-being I pray to God always and for whom I can fight with the whole world, it’s my mother. I don’t allow anyone to disrespect my mother. Not even my dad and my brother. Hurt her in anyway in front of me and God itself won’t be able to save you from my wrath. She knows me best and knows how to handle my unpredictable moods. We discuss openly about anything we want. Last weekend she asked me if I ‘like’ anybody in my office from the opposite gender. We were discussing on this interesting topic and stopped only when my father entered in the kitchen. :)

My mother did so much for me. And continues to do so. She made so many sacrifices in life just for us. But she never demanded anything in return. She just wants me and my brother to succeed in our careers and become independent. I am thankful to God for blessing me with such a wonderful mother. My supermom. My angel.   

Love you Maa. :)

Monday, December 02, 2013

India's Comedy at its best!!

If there is one person on Earth who can make a person standing in a funeral to laugh out loud suddenly, it is Raju Srivastav. He is an Indian comedian who shot to fame after featuring as one of the stand-up comedians in The Great Indian Laughter Challenge. It was a talent show for which families hurriedly ate their dinners and then switched on their televisions to laugh uncontrollably. Raju hails from a rural area in Uttar Pradesh and his jokes mainly centered on issues surrounding middle class people. Viewers laughed because they could relate to it. Audience enjoyed because finally someone was talking and making sense of problems faced by them every day. Gajodhar Bhaiya didn’t leave any favourite topic of the common man untouched. From Titanic to Amitabh Bachchan, slum-dwellers-converting-railway-tracks-into-toilets to cricketers, marriage hues to Bollywood, he touched every subject. He poked fun and cracked jokes on differences between socialites and middle class. He did convincing mimicry of famous personalities that left viewers shaking their heads in disbelief. Listening to his comedy made one forget about their worries for some time. After all, laughter is the best medicine. He provided this medicine daily to every Indian who watched him on stage. 

Time passed and the show came to an end. He appeared on other shows like news channels for some time. He featured in few episodes but not on a regular basis.  It was hard to keep track of when and where he would appear next. The only thing left to do was downloading his videos from YouTube. I have 5 hours non-stop comedy by Raju save on my desktop back at home. If I feel low or bored, I start watching his comedy and forget everything else. Currently, he is participating with his wife as one of the dancing couples in Nach Baliye. Some time in between, he gets into his old shoes and cracks jokes while demanding votes from viewers. Once upon a time, I thought that no one will be able to take his place. We are hungry for some humour and laughter daily in our lives. And I thought there is no second person in India to provide that kind of entertainment. How wrong I was!

On weekends since last few weeks, I eagerly look forward to Comedy Nights with Kapil.  There is something about Kapil Sharma that makes me expect more and more from him in every episode. I like the way he delivers, his spot-on comedy, his readiness to poke relevant fun at anybody any time. He does theatrical skits and invites Bollywood for promoting their upcoming movies. Another talent is his art of delivering comedy without any scripting. Doing somebody’s mockery and making the targeted person laugh in return isn’t easy. But when he pokes fun at audience or celebrities, nobody minds. He makes fun of even himself. He doesn't leave out anyone. When he invites audience to ask questions, he waits patiently, hears them out and then crack jokes that will make the person who asked questions to laugh unexpectedly at their own asked questions! Now, how many possess that kind of talent? His show is spiced up with witty one-liners by Navjot Singh Sidhu, who seems to have had enough with politics and wants to enter into Limca Book of Records for highest number of laughs by an Indian. 

He speaks honestly and his comedy centers around recent events in the country that have been in news. His show is something that can be seen with family members. There are no embarrassing scenes or  non-veg jokes uttered. In an interview conducted by The Indian Express, he mentioned about his time spent in Hindu college, Amritsar. According to him, “Only two celebrities have come out of that college — our dear Prime Minister and I. One, who talks a lot and the other who doesn’t say a word.”