"If you do not like your life, change it."

"If you do not like your life, change it." If you are not doing anything to change your life, then you probably do not hate your life as much as you say you do.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Get, set, stop.

After months of doing the rounds of various offices, Joe had finally been able to secure a job interview. His interview was scheduled for the next day, but Joe's head was exploding with a combination of a migraine and anxiety. Joe had never been good at tolerating pain, and to make matters worse, he was not able to find any aspirin anywhere in the house. Never the one to relish exercise, he reluctantly stepped out of his apartment into the clammy night and made his way to the neighborhood pharmacy, while trying to avoid the puddles of filthy water that the evening rain had left.

Luckily, the pharmacy was almost empty and Joe got his aspirin fairly quickly. By this time, Joe’s migraine had reached a level of pain that was intolerable to him. He decided to take the aspirins in the pharmacy itself and started looking around for the water cooler frantically. However, noticing the suspicious look on the cashier’s face, Joe pretended to be as casual as possible.

There it is. Finally, he located the water cooler in the extreme back corner of the pharmacy and started walking towards it with a sigh of relief.

You got to be kidding me! When he reached there, to his utter dismay, he found no glass or cup. For some reason, this took him to that Halloween night in his hometown of Rolla, Missouri when as a 6-year old he had gone to a grand-looking house anticipating delicious treats, only to be chased off by a huge hound. Joe brushed off that memory with a shiver and concentrated on the job at hand – that of finding something to drink the water from.

Suddenly, he saw a stack of paper cups right in front him. Was it there all this while or is the migraine starting to play tricks with my eyes? As he gulped down a few aspirins, he reminded himself to go to a doctor for his migraine and his eyes.

Yes, the doctor – that is one more item I need money for, not to mention the microwave, the fan and all other appliances in the apartment that need either repair or replacement! And, let’s not even think of the student loan. Joe thought with a wry smile.

By the time he left the pharmacy, a chilly wind had started. The combined effect of the cold wind and the aspirins reduced his headache, and it was almost gone when he reentered his apartment.

What’s for dinner? Joe opened the fridge, knowing full well that there was nothing there.

I have to stop doing this every night! Joe scolded himself as he pulled out a cheap cup-o-noodle from a carton that he had purchased in the local China town and popped it in the microwave. The malfunctioning microwave would need ten minutes to cook the cup, instead of the regular three minutes.

Joe picked up the remote and started flipping channels as he waited for his “dinner” to be ready.

Nothing’s ever on TV. He switched off the TV after some time in exasperation, and picked up the book that he had been using to prepare for the interview tomorrow.

Joe Hess, the small town boy from mid-west, who did his MBA from Wharton and had been earning a six figure salary at Lehmann Brothers. He was the pride of his family and his community. But that was a year ago. Joe, like many others, lost his job when Lehmann Brothers closed down. The job market was suddenly flooded with MBAs. After a few months of desperation, Joe found a job, but his six figure salary became a five figure one. Matters became worse when that company too shut down within a couple of months. Living in New York is expensive, and soon, Joe was starting to spend his savings – not to speak of the student loan instalments that went unpaid.

Joe shook his head as he ate his dinner of cup-o-noodles, wishing the headache away.

Headache, headache, go away, come again another day. Little Joey has a job interview; headache, headache, go away, ran the jingle in Joe’s head.

Well, on the brighter side, Joe had not let his sense of humor take a beating inspite of his circumstances. Not yet, anyway.
______________________________________________

Joe woke up with a start and instinctively stretched out his hand to shut off the alarm. It took him a few moments to realize that the sound that woke him hadn’t stopped even after shutting off his alarm.

Oh! The phone, Joe rubbed his eyes and answered, “Joe Hess”.

“Mr. Hess, this is Sarah from Dr. Winget’s office. Dr. Winget wants to see you.”

“Sure. I will come by tomorrow. 11 am okay?” said Joe as he tried groggily to remember who Dr. Winget was.

“He wants to see you as soon as possible. The results of your blood work are here and Dr. Winget wants to discuss them.”

Joe remembered. The job that he had applied for the previous week required all applicants to submit some routine medical reports, since the job involved some international travel. He had randomly walked into the nearest doctor’s office – Dr. Winget’s office – to get those tests done.

“Shall I confirm your appointment for 9:30 am this morning?”, Sarah persisted.

Joe craned his neck to look at the clock on his wall.

It’s 9:10. My interview is at 11; but Dr. Winget’s clinic is at the other end of the town. I have to be out of the clinic latest by 10.

“Ok”, he said aloud and rushed for a shower.

Joe took a quick glance at his wrist watch as he dashed out of his front door. Good.

Let’s be positive. Maybe my test results came out so awesome that they want me to be a sperm donor for some secret genetics experiment, Joe thought with an involuntary laugh, but stopped abruptly when he noticed the quizzical looks on the faces of the people in the street.
---------------------------------------------

“Please go right in,” Sarah pointed towards Dr. Winget’s office as soon as Joe entered the clinic.

Was it his imagination or was she being extra polite to him? Joe nodded and entered.

“Sit down, Mr. Hess.” There were two other doctors with Dr. Winget.

“It’s Joe," said Joe more out of habit than anything else, and sat on the uncomfortable leather chair across the doctor. Oh boy, this does not look good.

“Joe, I am afraid there is some bad news. Your test results indicate advanced leukemia. We need to hospitalize you and start your treatment today. You might want to get your family here,” Dr. Winget spoke without pausing.

“Are you sure?” that’s the only thing Joe thought of saying.

Dr. Winget nodded, “We will start you off with some more tests to assess the extent.”

“Can we do this tomorrow? I have a job interview at..,” Joe stopped mid-sentence, realizing the absurdity of those words. And the looks on the three faces in front of him validated it.

“Well, I have been unemployed for four months now,” Joe said defensively, almost to himself.

Dr. Winget came to his side and put a hand on his shoulder, “Joe, if we don’t start today, there might not be a tomorrow”.

Joe opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, but no words came out. He nodded and allowed himself to be led out of the room by Dr. Winget.

So, that’s how it feels to have the wind knocked out of you.
------------------------------------------------------------
“Dr. Winget, there is someone waiting for you. It’s very urgent,” said a visibly panicking Sarah as soon as she saw them.

Dr. Winget gave her a disapproving look, but said, “Joe, give me a minute”, and signed an attendant towards Joe, who took him to an adjacent room.

Joe sat down on one of the sofas. The already melancholy white-walled room was being made more melancholy by two people who were there. Both of them were talking on their phones.

“The delegation from Brazil will be reaching at 5. Ask Tim to meet them,” said the man in the black suit on his phone. He seemed to be in his mid thirties.

Those are Italian leather shoes. Dude’s loaded, Joe  noted.

“No, mom, it’s not something I ate,” the girl with the pink hair was bawling on the phone. Her hair was dishevelled and her glasses were skewed. She is pretty though. I bet she is some college nerd, Joe smiled.

What the hell am I doing? Joe checked his train of thoughts and wondered if he should call his mother.

“And Nina, cancel all my appointments”, Black Suit said and added after a pause, “indefinitely. Bye”.

“Mommy, please come soon, okay? Bye”, he heard Pink Hair say.

Joe became very aware of the sudden silence around him. He decided not to call his mother. Not yet.

Black Suit got up and said to no one in particular, “You won’t believe the day I am having.”

“Really? I am having a great day, leaving aside the news of my terminal cancer, of course,” Joe said. Atleast my sense of humor’s intact. Apparently, Pink Hair thought so too because he heard a laugh.

“Me too!’, he heard Black Suit and Pink Hair say almost in a chorus. They looked at one another, their gazes difficult to interpret.

Just then, the door opened and Dr. Winget walked in.

“Hello again! Any more good news?”, Joe greeted cheerily.

Dr. Winget did not seem to get offended by Joe's sarcasm and gave him an indulgent smiled and spoke, “I am here to apologise to you. The lab mixed up your test results with the results of some patients who are participating in a new cancer drug trial.”

“What?” yelled Black Suit and Pink Hair.

“Once again, we apologise for putting you through this. The concerned lab technician has been fired and...” Joe didn’t hear the rest of what Dr. Winget had to say.

I am not dying. I am not dying. Joe felt a rock lift off his chest and he could feel himself breathe. Black Suit and Pink Hair, on the other hand, had a lot to say. “I am suing your ass.” Joe heard Black Suit over the din.

“I need a drink,” Joe got up, “You guys joining me?” Black Suit and Pink Hair stopped their arguments and looked at Joe for a moment. A certain understanding, a realization set in. They nodded and followed him as Joe made way to the nearest bar.
------------------------------
Joe’s mother hugged him as she sobbed, “My Joey! You look so handsome.”

“Of course, he does,” he heard his best man, Dave, say cheerfully. He waved dismissively at his best friend, Dave. Today, he was wearing a custom-made tuxedo, not a black suit. Joe remembered how that day, ten years ago, after a heart to heart talk with Dave at the bar, he decided to move back to Rolla and open a financial consulting firm in partnership with him. At that time, his friends had wondered if Joe was taking an emotional decision brought about by the cancer scare.

No regrets there, Joe smiled as he saw his mother beaming with joy. He kissed her and left the room for the altar, where the priest was waiting for him.

Joe’s bride, Sharon – Professor Sharon, lit up the room with her smile as she walked down the aisle towards him. Her hair was no longer pink; it had been a natural red for quite some time now. It seemed like just yesterday when Joe saw her smile for the first time on that fateful day at the bar near 
Dr. Winget’s clinic.

Joe paused for a moment and counted his blessings. The two people he had met on the darkest day of his life were now by his side. His life changed just when he thought he had hit rock bottom.

I guess my life needed to stop for me to restart it.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nightmare at the doc's

My mother was enjoying her morning coffee at the porch when I went to her with my stomach ache. I could barely maintain balance as I walked to her clutching the right side of my aching stomach. She was visibly alarmed and picked me up. "What a good actress I am," I thought. 

I was very proud of myself for thinking up of this plan of stomach ache.This was the only way to get out of school that day. My mother would have forced me to go to school if I told her that I did not complete Miss Sarah's math homework. I hated math and I am sure Miss Sarah hated me. Last month when I submitted an incomplete homework, she scolded me in front of the whole class and wrote a note to my mother. And, I had to face my father's anger at home. I was miserable for days. So, this time, I was not going to let that happen. My "stomach ache" will give me a fool-proof excuse for not doing the homework.  I had to admit I was a little surprised that my mother believed me so easily, because nothing ever slipped past my mother. But, lucky for me, everything is going according to plan by now. My acting was probably getting better.

My mother was on the phone with Dr. Sheth, the neighborhood doctor. 
She came rushing to the porch and told my father, "I was able to get hold of Dr. Sheth as he was heading out to the hospital. If we reach his home in the next 10 minutes, he will be able to take a look at Maya." 
I liked the grandfatherly Dr. Sheth. He gave me colorful lollipops every time we visited him. The thought of the lollipops made it very difficult for me to maintain my pained look as my mother drove to Dr. Sheth's. 
"Hello, little Maya," Dr. Sheth greeted me friendly, "what's the matter with your little tummy?" 
"She woke up with this terrible pain in the right side of her stomach", replied my mother as I clutched my stomach and even added a few moans and groans. 
Dr. Sheth looked at me and said seriously as he got up from his chair, "That sounds very bad. I will have to give you something immediately or it will get worse." 
"What, a lollipop already!", I thought congratulating myself on my acting prowess. 
Dr. Sheth returned with a black bottle and gave me a spoonful of the worst tasting liquid ever.  
"Pooh! What is this?", I exclaimed, forgetting all the manners that my mother had been trying to teach me.
"This is stomach ache medicine. You will need to take one spoonful every 5 minutes."
"For how long?." I yelled.
"Till your stomach ache goes away," said the Dr. Sheth and fed me another spoonful of that disgusting medicine. I started to like the doctor less and less with every spoonful of hell that he was feeding me. As he poured out the third spoonful, I could not be brave anymore. Miss Sarah's bitter scolding and my father's anger suddenly seemed like loving memories. 
"My stomach ache's gone," I said hastily.
"Oh good, and that too with enough time to get ready for school," smiled Dr. Sheth and gave me a couple of lollipops.

As my mother drove us home, I vented my anger while sucking a violet colored lollipop, " I hate Dr. Sheth. He is the worst doctor ever."
My mother smiled, " Oh no. He is a very good doctor. He is great with kids, especially 8 year old little girls who lie about their stomach aches."
"How did you know?", I blurted out without thinking.
"You were clutching the left side of your stomach. So, I winked at Dr. Sheth and he took it from there," my mother laughed. And, there goes my Oscar! 

But I smiled inspite of myself. Truly, nothing ever slipped past my mother.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Despair - 2

How can you feel so desperately lonely amidst a crowd?
Why doesn't all the laughter in the world cheer you?
Where did all the sunshine and light go?
What do you do when you can't find hope anywhere?
Nothing to look forward to,
nowhere to escape to,
with the walls closing in,
what do you do?
Is this a sign?
If this is the end,
then it has to be on your terms.
Gossip-loving coworker, X: Hi Mam!! I saw your profile on FB.
Me:: Ok.....
X:: You have a lot of pics of your nephews and nieces.
Me:: Yes...(????)
X:: You seem to love kids. Why don't you have any?
Me:: I also love cats, horses and Brad Pitt. Don't have them either.


Note to self:: Get a DO NOT DISTURB sign for my door.
Irritating acquaintance (X), with obviously fake enthusiasm: Hey! How's my favorite person?
Me, in a flat tone: Why don't you try asking that person directly?
X, after giving a 10 second fake laugh (I am seriously thinking of nominating him for the next year's Razzies): Good one! So, I guess you have been busy.
Me: Not really.
X: Oh! I have been trying to reach you. Did you see my calls and SMSes? 
Me: Yes, I did.
X: Oh! I guess you were travelling and couldn't call back.
Me, at my dead-pan best: Not really. I was just avoiding you.
X: Ha Ha. Qatil sense of humor, yaar! Seriously, were you out of town?

**sigh** Some people just can't accept the truth 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The following transpired in one of my meetings today.
X: I was hoping to meet someone senior..
Me (smiling): That would be me.
X: I mean someone who can take a decision..
Me (still smiling): Again, that would be me.
X: Well, is there no one older and more mature that I can meet?
Me (pretending to smile): I assure you that the Board of Directors considers me to be mature and senior enough to meet with you and has given me the authority to make the necessary decisions.
X: Oh okay.. it's just that I am not comfortable talking business with ladies.. I would like to meet your Director.
Me (stopped pretending to smile): 2 of the 4 directors are "ladies". And, the other 2 are currently out of the country.
X: That's okay. I will wait.
Me: But you regularly do business with "ladies". In your proposal, you had mentioned that your company's corporate account is with ICICI Bank.
X stares at me - blank.
Me (trying to keep the sarcasm to the minimum): I hope you know that the ICICI Bank is run by Chanda Kochhar... who is a lady..you know...
X (after thinking for a few seconds and what seemed like quite an exertion for him): But our ICICI RM is not a lady..
Me (giving up all pretenses and standing up to leave): Never mind. The deal is off. You and I, anyway, can't do business together.
X: Why??
Me (suddenly remembering this line from some random movie): Because I can't think as slow as you do even if I tried.
X: That's unacceptable. Who are you to do this?
Me (back to smiling naturally): You seem to have forgotten. As I said before, I am someone who the Board of Directors considers to be mature and senior enough to meet with you and who has been given the authority to make the NECESSARY decisions. Uncle, badam khaiyiyee. Memory badhegi. (Uncle, eat almonds to improve your memory.)
The other day, as I was coming out of my office, the following happened.
X: Mam, there is something I need to discuss.
Me: X, can it wait till tomorrow? I am already late. Have to make dinner as well.
X: Oh, you know how to cook?
Me: Of course. Why do you sound so surprised?
X: That's because you don't seem to be the domestic type.
Domestic??? I smiled and left him as soon as possible. You see, I am allergic to idiots.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Why do we want the things we want?

Why do we want things that we know we can't get? Or is it because we know that we can't get those things that we want them so desperately? And if, by some miracle, we get those things, will we still want them with the same passion? Maybe not, especially if the "ungettability" of the object was what had made us want it. Imagine a kid who creates a ruckus in the supermarket when he wants a toy that his parents are refusing to buy. Now, two things can happen when his parents agree to buy it. Situation 1: The kid will love the toy and cherish it forever. Situation 2: The kid will lose interest in the toy soon and start hankering after another one. One can never guess how much he will want a thing after he gets it. And, this is not limited to inanimate things alone. Think of love marriages. Why do so many of them fall apart in less than 5 years of marriage?


Anyway, I wish there were an instruction booklet that would help us decide whether we are desiring something because of its obvious unattainability or whether we genuinely want it for the rest of our lives. But, unfortunately, life does not come with an instruction booklet. So, I guess we will just have to continue desiring things believing that we want them for the rest of our lives. And, let's hope that if we do manage to get them, we will continue liking them with the same passion. However, after getting them, in case we realise that it was just a passing fancy, we will have to learn to move on to other things without trying to force ourselves to like those things. Because - let's face it - you cannot fake passion for long without being terribly unhappy. On the other hand, if we do not get the things that we desire, then how long should we wait before accepting that it's "never gonna happen" so that we can move on or do we foolishly continue to tell ourselves "never say never"? I guess we will have to cross that bridge when we come to it. And, isn't this very unpredictability that makes life so interesting? Either way, we will have to believe that what we did not get was probably not worth our time and effort. Life is way too short to be spent on regrets and what-ifs. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Knowing one's limit

Every person on this earth has 24 hours in his day. (God has been fair that way!) What differentiates a Bill Gates from a John Doe is the quantity and quality of work that Bill does in his 24 hours. This is what I have believed in for as long as I can remember. 

I would like to think of myself as an efficient smart worker. I have observed that I am usually able to get many more things done as compared to the next person. And, maybe, that's why I have done well in life till now. However, in the last few months, for the first time in my career, I am feeling that my plate is starting to get full. Earlier, I used to finish everything before my deadlines and I used to find time to do many extra things. But, lately, my schedule has become so tight that it's almost squeaking. I am barely able to get things done on time, and am usually playing catch-up instead of being on top of things. I am afraid that very soon I will start falling behind. 

My boss often says that every person has an upper limit, and that if a person can recognise and accept that, he will never have undue expectations from himself. Have I reached my upper limit? Does this mean that I have reached my full potential? Maybe I have reached my upper limit. But, I also believe that we, human beings, have this unique ability to improve ourselves and raise our upper limits. This is what separates us from the rest of the animal and plant world.  I cannot let this become my upper limit. So, I guess I have my task cut out. Instead of constantly handling the "urgent" things, I will have to take time out to reinvent myself and the way I do things. Am I being over-confident in refusing to recognise and accept my upper limit? Only time will tell. I don't know if I have undue expectations from myself. What I do know is that I cannot and will not stop trying to raise my upper limit. I owe it to God - as a Thank You for creating me as a human being, and not any other living thing.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

ASSAMESE FOLKLORE:: Moina's present

Once upon a time, there was a small village on the banks of Dikhou river. In this village lived Moina, a happy-go-lucky 5-yr old. He lived with his parents and grandfather. Moina's parents were hard-working farmers who worked from sunrise to sundown, while Moina stayed home with his old grandfather (koka). His grandfather would tell him stories, sing to him and play with him all day. And, when his parents returned from the fields, they would sit around a fire and eat dinner together. Such was their small happy family.

Moina was looking forward to going to school next year, and his grandfather regaled him with stories that made school seem like the most fun place in the world for a young boy like him. But, Moina's happy life soon came under a gloomy cloud - literally. That summer, the skies poured down water as never before. The incessant rains made the benevolent Dikhou swell up. Moina's family spent many a night worrying about the impending floods. The whole village prayed together - but to no avail. One night when finally the Dikhou broke out, Moina's family fled to high grounds, Mojna sleeping peacefully in his father's arms. The lashing rains and the flooding Dikhou ravaged the village for two days. After two days, the sky cleared, the sun shone through the dark clouds and the Dikhou receded to within the confines of its banks. But, the villagers returned only to find everything destroyed - their crops, their homes, their cattle. That night, the whole village was silent - as if they were reserving all their energy and emotions to fight the hardships ahead....

Life started crawling towards normalcy. In a few days, Moina's parents repaired their hut. Moina's father lost his bullock. So, now he had to plough the land himself, working twice as hard. The family dinner by the fireside became more and more paltry, and conversation non-existent. With each passing night, the portion of rice for dinner for each of them decreased. The only thing that still somewhat kept the spring in Moina's footsteps was the glass of milk from their scrawny cow that his mother gave him every morning. Moina's father wanted to sell the cow to buy food for the family, but Moina's mother would say, "Moina is a growing boy. He needs this milk." Soon, Moina's mother had to sell her jewelry to buy food for the family since the crops weren't ready yet. For the first time in his life, Moina had to drink water to quieten his growling stomach, and his mother watched helplessly and wept. The Dikhou seemed to have taken away the laughter of Moina's family with its receding waters.

One night, as they sat by the fireside for dinner, Moina saw his mother silently poke his father with her elbow. When his father did not respond, she poked him again. She served the rice into three plates and poked him again. Moina's father looked up at her and then looked down. Then, in a very quiet voice he spoke to Moina's grandfather, "Pitai (father), you go to your room. Moina will bring your food there." Moina's grandfather looked at the three plates of rice and said, "As you say, son." He then walked slowly into his room, his shoulders drooping and his head bent with nameless emotions..
"Ma, why will koka eat in his room?", Moina asked innocently.
Moina's mother said, "Moina, your koka is ill. From now, he will have his food in his room."
She poured some watery daiyl (lentil soup) into a wooden bowl and said, "Go give this to your koka."
"Is koka too ill to eat rice?", asked Moina.
Moina's parents looked at each other wordlessly. Moina's father said, after some time, "Maybe tomorrow. Go and give that to koka before it gets cold."
As Moina gave the bowl of daiyl to his grandfather, he said, "Koka, please get well soon. I miss you."
His grandfather smiled at him and said, "Moina, I will be fine. Don't worry. Come to me after dinner. I will tell you a story. Okay?"
Moina's face lit up. He planted a quick kiss on his grandfather's withered cheek and ran off to sit by the fire with his parents. Moina was pleasantly surprised to see that he had much more rice to eat than the previous night. After dinner, his grandfather told him a nice story, and Moina went off to sleep with a smile on his face, his stomach quiet.

As the summer slowly melted into winter, Moina's grandfather started becoming more and more reticent. He no longer played with Moina. His cough became worse and sometimes, deep in the night, Moina would wake up to the noise of his grandfather coughing. Every night, Moina would give a bowl of daiyl to his grandfather in the wooden bowl, and then come back to him after dinner for his story. Soon, a little peace started settling in the hearts of the villagers as their crops grew well. Moina's parents started to smile again once in a while, though the food was still scarce. From the conversation of the adults of the village, Moina understood that they will have enough food once the crop was harvested in a couple of months.The little boy's world of Moina was a happy place once more. He started looking forward to going to school again. He started planning about the fun he would have in school. The only thing that bothered him was that his grandfather still hadn't started to join them for dinner by the fireside.
"Won't koka be hungry? That bowl is so tiny. And, he hasn't eaten any rice for days", Moina would ask his mother.
"Old people do not work much and so, they do not need much food. If koka is hungry, he will tell us", Moina's mother would reply without looking up from her work.

One day, at dinner time, Moina's mother could not find him anywhere. She looked for him in every corner of the hut. Finally, she went out to the stable and found Moina concentratedly carving a small piece of wood. She grew very angry, "Moina, you worried me to death. Didn't you hear me calling you for dinner?"
Moina looked up surprised, "Sorry, Ma. I didn't hear you. I was making a nice present for you."
Moina's mother replied irritatedly, "Wash up and come quickly. Your father is hungry."
Soon, Moina joined his parents by the fireside.
His father asked him good-humoredly, "So, Moina, your Ma tells me that you are making a present for her. What is it? And, what did I do to not get a present from you?"
Moina, who was a little scared of his mother's anger, now lightened up and said excitedly, "Pitai, I am making a wooden bowl for Ma. I will give her daiyl in that when she grows old. I didn't make one for you because you can use koka's bowl. But, if you want, I can make a nice one for you too."
Moina's father sat as if he'd been struck by lightning. Moina's mother, who was in the middle of pouring out daiyl into the wooden bowl for Moina's grandfather, stopped midway. Slowly, very very slowly, she poured the daiyl from the bowl back into the pot and threw the wooden bowl into the fire, as Moina looked at her confused.

In almost an inaudible voice, Moina's father spoke, addressing no one in particular, "Tomorrow I will go to haat (village market) and sell the cow." He, then, stood up, as if in a trance, and walked towards the room of Moina's grandfather. From the half-opened door, Moina could see his father kneeling by his grandfather's bedside. After sometime, he saw his koka hold his father in a tight embrace. Moina saw that his grandfather was smiling. Even though his grandfather's eyes were filled with tears, Moina felt that his koka's smile reached his eyes - maybe for the first time since the floods. Moina saw his mother looking at the scene with tears in her eyes.
Moina said, "Ma, are you sad that Pitai is selling the cow?"
Moina's mother sobbed hard and drew Moina towards her and holding him tightly, said, "No, xontu (sweetheart)."
Moina persisted, "But if Pitai sells the cow, we will have no milk."
Moina's mother held his face, kissed his forehead and said, "A growing boy like you needs some things more than he needs milk."
She drew Moina close to her again, and muttered to herself, "Khyoma koribo, prabhu." (God, forgive me.)




Saturday, October 5, 2013

Your opinion of me doesn't make me a better or worse person. I stay as good or bad as I already am, irrespective of what you think about me. But, I am so very flattered that you waste so much of your time thinking about me and forming an opinion about me. 
A few weeks ago, there was this piece of news about Sonia Gandhi returning from the US after some medical check up. Why - aren't the Indian hospitals good enough for her? Why do our politicians feel the need to go abroad for medical treatment? If our medical care is not good, then they are the ones who can actually do something to improve it! It's demotivating when these politicians decide to seek medical help abroad instead of improving things in India. They can afford to go abroad on our tax money - but, where will we go?

What happened to "Unity is strength"?

I opened the newspaper this morning, and saw 2-3 news pieces about people demanding atleast 5 new states in India right from Gorkhaland to Bodoland to Saurashtra. With citizens like these, India doesn't need enemies to bring it down! In school, we were taught "United we stand, divided we fall." Now, in the face of a falling rupee, a sluggish economy and rising corruption levels, shouldn't we stand united for the country instead of ripping it apart from the inside?

How do I feel safe in Delhi?

While I was waiting for an auto, 3 boys, who appeared to be half my age, started calling out things such as "oye chilli chicken", "hindi chini bhai bhai", etc. When they did not stop even after my glaring at them, I walked to a police van standing a few meters away. 
Me: bhaisaab, yeh ladke badtamizi kar rahe hain. (Officer, these guys are bothering me.)
Policeman (looking up from his mobile and sounding irritated): do minute ka chain nahi milta. Aap ladies log raat ko akele kyon ghumte ho? (Why do you ladies roam around alone in the night?)
Me: raat? abhi to sirf 8 baj rahe hain. (Night? It's just 8pm!)
He reluctantly got out of the van and chased the boys away uttering some innovative expletives. He then looked at me and said , "ab khush?" (Happy now??)
Khush (happy)?? Well.. not really!
I don't need you to like me. I don't need you to love me. I only need you to respect me enough to tell me that you don't like me.
Do not take my bad days as a sign of my weakness. Those are the days when I am fighting the hardest to keep smiling.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Death is my one true love, our union inevitable.
Life is my fling - its embrace passionate, but only till it lasts.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Moving God-ward

God is love, He's the care,
Tending each everywhere.
God is love, all is there,
Jesus came to show him -
That mankind might know Him.

Sing aloud-loud-loud
Sing aloud-loud-loud
God is good.
God is truth.
God is beauty.
Praise Him.

None can see God above,
All men here have to love,
Thus may we God-ward move,
Finding Him in others,
Holding all men brothers.

Sing aloud-loud-loud
Sing aloud-loud-loud
God is good.
God is truth.
God is beauty.
Praise Him.

- a hymn that we were taught in school.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ibaadat

Ibaadat nahi haj-tirath ka naam,
Ibaadat nahi kalma-mantra ka naam,
Ibaadat nahi roza-upvaas ka naam,
Ibaadat nahi namaz-puja ka naam.
Agar karna hai tujhe ibaadat apne khuda ka -
ek bhookhe ko khana khila,
ek nange ko kapde pehna,
ek unpadh ko taalim dila,
ek dukhiyaare ko gale laga,
ek pidhit ko insaaf dila,
aur har insaan se pyar badha.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Do people change?

A few years ago, I met a person who I used to work with. He had come for a job interview in my current organization. When I used to work with him, I knew him as a very competitive worker who wouldn't think twice before presenting someone else's work as his own. I brought this up in his job interview, asking him to explain how this personality trait will not hamper his team-working skills. I was expecting him to vehemently defend himself. Instead, much to my surprise, he said, "I was immature and insecure at that time. I am no longer the same person I used to be. I have changed." I was taken aback with his apparent honesty. I decided to take a chance and hired him. And, today, I am happy to see him work as a great overall team player. Has he actually been able to overcome his mean streak? Or is he a ticking time bomb waiting to cause big scale damage? In the heart of the issue was the million dollar question - Do people change?

Very often, I hear wise and elderly people say - "Once a thief, always a thief." Is that true? I have heard and read about numerous cases where criminals keep committing crimes even after imprisonment or where paroled murderers commit murders again. Every day, the newspapers are filled with accounts of misdeeds committed by history sheeters, career criminals, hardened criminals, etc. On the other hand, stories of people turning over a new leaf are quite rare. In fact, that seems to happen only in Bollywood family-drama style movies where the scheming mother-in-law/sister-in-law undergoes complete change of heart in the climatic moments of the film - all well within 3 hours!

Jokes apart, I think the question is not "Do people change?"; the question should probably be "Can people change?" We have read about Emperor Ashoka giving up violence and embracing Buddhism after the battle of Kalinga. Mythology is filled with inspirational stories of evil people turning good. So, maybe people can change - if they want to. With genuine remorse and absolute resolve, maybe people can change for better. In fact, for this world to make sense, we will need to believe that people can change. For my own sanity, I need this faith that even modern-day Ratnakars are capable of transforming to Valmikis.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Unconvinceable

I take pride in the fact that I rarely lose my temper at work. However, there are occasions when my patience is tested and I reach the brink of losing my temper. Today was one such day.

I was doing the Q1 analysis with one of my managers. Let's call him X.

X:: It's difficult to do well with such an inexperienced team.

Me (at my motivational best):: Experience is not always good. Your team does not have the baggage of experience and expectation. They are starting with a clean slate.

X:: They are learning everything from scratch.

Me:: Exactly! Look at it this way. They will learn whatever you teach them. You can mould them the way you want to.

X:: I don't think so. I am not confident that they will be able to handle the pressure.

Me:: Well, you were a fresher once. I was a fresher once. Imagine what would have happened if no one had given us a job because we did not have experience! How will people gain experience if no one hires freshers?

X:: So, on what basis did we hire these freshers?

Me:: We hired them because they have high IQ and good communication skills. I believe they can be trained to become excellent employees.

X:: What guarantee is there that they will have commitment and ownership?

Me:: What guarantee is there that an experienced person will have commitment and ownership?

X:: We can do reference check and find out.

Me:: When a person names someone as the point of contact for reference check, he obviously makes sure that that person will speak only good things about him! So, reference checks need not be 100% accurate.

X:: I don't want to waste my time and energy training a fresher.

Me (thinking, not saying aloud):: And yet, you have wasted 30 min in this discussion! 

Me (aloud in a cheerful voice):: It's an investment, not a waste. Invest time and energy in training your team. And, when you see them grow as individuals and professionals, it's very fulfilling.

X:: I don't think so. I don't bet on losing horses.

Me:: You will be surprised to see what faith can do. Show some faith in them. They might move mountains for you.

X (with a blank look):: What?

Me (trying to sound nostalgically inspirational):: Remember the first T20 World Cup that India won? All the seniors pulled out of the tournament. A brand new captain led a team of young and inexperienced players in the World Cup where the format itself was new. And, we will know the result.

X:: What was the result?

Me (I couldn't keep the incredulity out from my tone.):: India won the world cup! MS Dhoni, the brand new captain with no captaincy experience whatsoever - not even in domestic cricket - led a team of absolute underdogs to win the T20 World Cup!

X:: Oh. I did not know.

Me:: How could you have missed that? It was all over the news!

X:: When?

Me:: When India won the World Cup! In 2007!

X:: I don't read old newspapers.

Now, it was my turn to go blank.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Emotional Atyachar!

If you are called "emotional", what do you make of it? When someone calls us emotional, our first reaction is to either defend it or to get offended. In fact, in professional life, someone being called "emotional" is definitely not taken as a compliment. Why is there such a stigma attached to the word "emotional"? Why is it automatically viewed as a weakness?

Can there be a positive connotation when someone is called emotional? I guess not. For instance, when I perceive someone as "an emotional person" in the workplace, I tend to handle him with kid-gloves. If I ever have to give him negative feedback, I rehearse a couple of times, use politically correct adjectives and  sugar-coat the feedback. After all, I don't want him to make a scene, you see! Why do we assume that an emotional person will not be objective? On the other hand, if we perceive someone as "passionate" about his work, he quickly becomes our blue-eyed boy! How can someone be passionate about something if he is not emotionally attached to it? I mean, I am extremely attached to my work; so, I am passionate about my work and that's why I am so damn good at it. However, in our corporate world, we seem to want "passionate" people but not "emotional" ones! How can you take out emotions from a person and still expect him to be passionate? We are certainly a difficult lot to please!

Maybe through years of handling people and seeing others handle people, most managers like me start associating emotions with sensitivity and lack of objectivity. We wrongly associate a calm and composed personality with objectivity and efficiency. And, very often, we are proved wrong. However, these perceptions and assumptions are so deeply ingrained in our psyche that we are not able to alter them.

Maybe our conditioning since childhood is responsible for this. As children, we see our calm and somewhat distant fathers handling the finances of the family and taking the major decisions of the household. On the other hand, we see our mothers deeply involved with us, often crying when they see us in pain, but we don't see them making the important decisions. These early memories probably shape our future perceptions of personalities. Are these perceptions accurate? Definitely not. When we grow up and come into our own, we start realizing the emotional fragility of our fathers and the inner strength of our mothers. But, it's usually too late - by then, we grow too rigid in our beliefs and assumptions. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My dear "adversaries", I cannot control how you perceive me or how you feel about me. But, fortunately, I can decide what to feel about you.

I refuse to hit you. I refuse to hate you. I refuse to call you anything but "my friend with whom I disagree".

I cannot hate you because I don't even know you. Because if I knew you and you me, we would be friends. 

But I am not here to win a popularity contest. I am here to live my life in peace with a clean conscience. I want to be happy; so, I am happy. I promise myself peace of mind. I deserve it. And, so do you. 

Let not thoughts of vengeance and violence rob you of your peace and happiness.  When you wish me ill-luck and despair, I don't feel it. When you wish me ruin and destruction, I don't feel it. When you wish me pain and unhappiness, I don't feel it. You do not touch me with your bitter and hateful thoughts; you scar your own soul. Why would you do that to yourself?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My bucket list

1. Travel to Egypt, and see the pyramids and the sphinx. I would love to go on a cruise in the Nile.

2. Go on a Euro-tour to Paris, Rome, Milan, Florence, Nice, Greece, Canary Islands, Venice, Sicilly and Swiss Alps. That's quite a list! I wonder if I will ever have enough money to go on this tour...

3. Have an ethnic Ethiopian meal.

4. Learn to prepare classic Italian cuisine.

5. Learn to wear a sari properly without anyone's assistance!

6. Be an organ donor.

7. Retire by the age of 45 :)

8. Live in a nice little wooden cottage on a hill, after retirement. And, lie on a hammock all day reading books.

9. Buy a car for my parents.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Dessert Ideas:: Fruit Phirni

I always get stuck when it comes to preparing desserts. Most desserts take ages to prepare! One option is to buy any traditional Indian sweet such as gulab jamun, rasgulla, etc. from any sweet shop. But, that's not fun. So, I have been in the hunt for a dessert that can be prepared in less than an hour. Phirni fits the bill!
Here it goes - my recipe for the dessert - Phirni.


Ingredients::
500 ml milk
200 g white sugar (finely ground)
 half spoon cardamom powder
200 g fragrant Basmati rice
50 g Strawberries or kiwis or peaches or mangoes (or any other fleshy and juicy fruit)

Preparation::
1. Wash the Basmati rice and soak it in lukewarm water for about 10 minutes.

2. While the rice is soaking, put the milk in a deep-bottomed pan, and heat it.
3. Add the sugar and cardamom powder to the milk. Stir the contents, and continue heating on a low flame.
4. Once the 10 minutes are over, drain the water from the Basmati rice. Grind the Basmati rice in a hand blender or mixer-grinder. Do not grind too much - the rice should not be like a paste, it should be grainy.
5. Add the rice to the milk which has been heating on a low flame till now. Stir the contents to mix well. Cover the pan and let the rice cook. It takes about 10-12 minutes for the rice to cook. Do not overcook.
6. Take the pan off the stove.
7. Cut the fruit into 1 inch pieces. You can use any fleshy and juicy fruit such as Strawberries or kiwis or peaches or mangoes. But use only one fruit. Mixed-fruit phirni tastes very bad :(
8. Mix the cut fruit with the contents of the pan.
9. Refrigerate and serve cold. Your Phirni is ready! For a restaurant-y look, garnish with shaved bits of almonds and cashew, and 2-3 strands of saffron. 

It takes about 35-45 min to prepare this Phirni. It's simple and tasty. The flavors are clean and the fruit in the Phirni gives a blast of freshness to the whole dish.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My experience with the 7-day GM Diet:: 2


After my first successful cycle of the GM Diet, I went back to my regular diet. Of course, I made some permanent changes in my diet - I cut down on my daily intake of sugar and fried stuff. The first time I did the GM Diet in Nov 2012, I lost 4.5 kg. In the next 2 months, with normal diet and no exercise, I regained 1 kg.

So, in January, I did the GM Diet for the second time. This time, I did the non-veg version.

I followed the schedule below strictly. I had no tea/coffee/alcohol while on the diet. And, on all days,
I had 3-4 litres of lukewarm water.

Day 1::
Breakfast: Guava and Apple
Lunch: Guava, Orange
Dinner: Apple, Orange, Guava
Snacks:Apple, Orange
This was a very difficult day. I lack of energy was palpable. However, I made it through.

Day 2::
Breakfast: One boiled potato with butter
Lunch: Cucumber, Tomato, Carrot
Dinner: Brocolli, Cauliflower, onions, green peas and carrots sauteed with one spoonfull of
Extra Lite Olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Snacks: Cucumber, tomato, carrot.
This day was much better. Munching on carrots always make me feel better.

Day 3::
Breakfast: Guava
Lunch: Apple, Orange, Guava
Dinner: Broccoli, Cauliflower, onions, green peas and carrots sauteed with one spoonfull of
Extra Lite Olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Snacks: Cucumber, tomato, carrot.
This day was much easier.

Day 4::
Breakfast: Banana Shake (1 glass skimmed milk+2 bananas)
Lunch: Banana Shake (1 glass skimmed milk+2 bananas)
Dinner: Soup (celery, cabbage, tomato, onion, green chilli +salt)+ 1 glass milk
Snacks: 2 bananas
This day was quite uneventful.

Day 5::
Breakfast: Smoked chicken breast and 1 raw tomato (I had bought the ready-to-eat smoked
chicken breast from a Deli. I just microwaved it the morning for a few minutes.)
Lunch: Smoked chicken breast and 2 raw tomato
Dinner: Smoked chicken breast and 2 raw tomato
Snacks: 1 tomato
The food was quite heavy and I didn't feel that I was on a diet :)

Day 6::
Breakfast: Smoked chicken breast and 1 raw tomato
Lunch: Roasted Chicken salad from Subway (no jalapenos, no olives, no pickle, no dressings)
Dinner: 2 pieces of fish and sateed broccoli.
Snacks: Cucumber, Carrots
It didn't even feel like I was on a diet!

Day 7::
Breakfast: Guava, Apple
Lunch: One cup brown rice with green peas and carrots.
Dinner: Broccoli, Cauliflower, onions, green peas and carrots sauteed with one spoonfull of
Extra Lite Olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Snacks: Coconut water

This time, I lost 4 kgs on this diet. But, this time, the diet was more fun to do since I had included my favorite
fruits and vegetables. Also, since I did the non-veg version, I was much more energetic.

In the last 2 months, I did the GM Diet twice, and have lost almost 8 kgs in 2 months. I think this diet really
works for me. Also, even without any physical exercise, I have been able to prevent the weight regaining process.

Only down side is that, now, all my clothes are oversized :(

I plan to do the GM Diet again in the near future. My target is to lose 10 kgs in the next 4 months -
and keep it off!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year:: Welcome 2013

May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
but by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
but by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships away from you,
but by taking away fear from your heart;
Not by granting you undying love of your dear ones,
but by enabling you to appreciate the love in all your relationships;
Not by making all your endeavors successful,
but by giving you the wisdom to learn from your failures;
Not by giving you perfect health devoid of pain,
but by enabling you to smile through it all;
Not by lavishing you with immeasurable wealth,
but by equipping you with the will and skill to earn what you need;
Not by granting your every wish and whim,
but by filling your heart with kindness and generosity for all;
Not by satisfying all your needs,
but by helping you discover the joys of sharing;
Not by blessing you with unlimited knowledge;
but by giving you the insight to know yourself and your purpose for existence.

A New Year means new possibilities, new relationships and new opportunities.
May your New Year be truly new.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Garhwali Recipe:: Dhapdi (Kafuli)

After aloo gutka, this is the second traditional Garhwali dish that I have managed to master. Like aloo gutka, this is also a simple dish to make. In fact, what I have observed is that most traditional Garhwali dishes are easy to make and do not involve a lengthy list of ingredients. Indeed Garhwali food, like the Garhwali people, is simple and unpretentious.

Anyway, here it goes - my recipe for the traditional Garhwali spinach dish, Dhapdi. Based on my research, I believe that Dhapdi is also called Kafuli in some parts of Garhwal. The following recipe easily prepares for 4 people.


Ingredients::
500 g fresh spinach
100 g besan (chickpea flour) [This can be substituted with 100 g rice flour.]
 half spoon turmeric powder
1 spoon cumin powder
1 spoon coriander powder
2 green chilies cut length-wise
1 large onion - finely chopped
1 large tomato - finely chopped
3 spoonfull oil (preferably mustard oil)
2 spoonfull ginger-garlic paste
2 spoonfull ghee (clarified butter)
1 spoon cumin seeds
Salt to taste

Preparation::
1. Wash the spinach, cut it roughly and boil in a pressure cooker (2 whistles should be enough). If you are not using a pressure cooker, then boil till the spinach is al dente.
2. Drain the water and keep it. 
3. Take the boiled spinach, add the besan and blend this into a fine paste. I use an electric hand blender. You can use the traditional stone mortar-pestle (sheelbatta) also.
4. In an iron kadhai (pan), add the mustard oil.
5. When the oil boils, add the chopped onions and tomatoes, and the ginger-garlic paste.
6. When the onions become brown, add the cumin powder, coriander powder, salt and turmeric powder. Stir for 2-3 minutes under a low flame.
7. Add the spinach and besan paste. Mix well with the contents of the kadhai. Stir for 2-3 minutes under low flame.
8. Now, add the drained water from boiled spinach. Don't add all the water at one go. Add cup by cup till the mixture is of uniform consistency. This process will take about 10-12 minutes.
9. Cover and cook at low flame for about 5 minutes.
10. In a separate ladle (karchee) heat the ghee. When the ghee boils, add the cumin seeds and the chopped green chilles.
11. When the cumin seeds start to darken, add the contents of the ladle into the kadhai.
12. Stir for 10-15 seconds.
13. Take the kadhai off the flame. Your Dhapdi / Kafuli is now ready.

Feel free to garnish with fresh coriander leaves and tomatoes. 

Dhapdi can be eaten with either rice or roti. If you want to eat it with rice, then make it a little runny. I, personally, prefer to have dhapdi with rice. 

If you plan to have it with roti or bread, then make it thick and garnish with raw onions.

So, that's it. All done! Enjoy your dhapdi!