Monday, 5 November 2012

Dream a lil Dream

For the past couple of days I was volunteering at the Indo German Urban Mela at the Indraprastha Park in New Delhi, and let me tell you it was the experience of a Lifetime! The pavilions by Markus Heinsdoff beautifully lit in the evening, the romantic setting under the Novel Tree, the light installation, the photo exhibition, the various performances on the centre stage and of course the people… Pranav, Akanksha, Joel, Swati, Divya, Prachi, Charles, Faraz, Barnali, Nabeel , Nitin, Chandraveer, Shonakshi and all the rest of you I can’t seem to remember right now. There is a lot I’m going to miss about the Mela.

However, this post in particular is not about the Mela itself, it’s about one of the events. The Poetry Slam event was organized on the second day of the Mela. This particular blogpost is about the poem that won the judge’s choice award on the sunny afternoon. The poem was by one Mr. Taqi Imaam, and the reason I’m writing a whole blogpost around the poem is, because I truly believe it needs to be heard. For this purpose, I have also tried (albeit rather sadly) to translate the poem, originally written in Hindi, into English, and put both the versions on the blog so that it reaches more people.

See I've only been working a couple of months, but somehow, without me even realizing it, I started letting go of my dreams as I immersed my self more and more in my work, and although I'm no longer working, the immensity of what I had done didn't quite hit me until I heard this poem. So read it and in case you believe the same thing has ever happened to you, please do share or comment. So here goes..

Photo Credit: Faizan Patel

Ek ataichi thi,
aur kwabon ka jhola tha ek,
Jo leke utra tha sheher mein.
Jhole mein,
Teh karke rahe the
Saare Khwaab....
Aur ataichi ke
Ek kone mein,
Main Chhupa laya tha,
Taalaab kinaare ki aakhri shaam.
Kisi ajnabi musafir sa,
Lagta raha barson,
Jo lubhata bhi hai
Daraata bhi,
Khwaboon ka jhola
Darwaze ke theek samne,
Taanga tha maine,
Roz sham ko
Sab khwaab nikaal leta,
Baaten, gappen chalteen,
Chai vaai hoti,
Aur ek doosre ke kandhe pe sar rakhke
Hum so jaate.

Phir ek roz
Dhoop kehne lagi
Tumhe chhata chahiye,
Khwaab nahi,
Maine chupke se ek kwaab nikaala
Aur girvi rakh aaya
Tapti dhoop ke paas..
Shaher khareedta raha main,
Khabhi khwaab chhod ke,
Khabhi khwaab bech ke….
Aaj sheher se achchi dosti hai meri,
Ye sarai nahi lagta ab,
Ghar lagta hai,

Khwaabon ka wo jhola,
Jaane Kahan hai aajkal,
Kisi almaari ke peeche...
Ya duchhatti par shayaad,
Kabhi koi khwaab,
Neend mein hilata bhi hai kabhi,
‚aao baten karen,
Chai-vai ho jaaye thodi‘
Karwat badal kar so jata hun main,
‚sone do yaar,
Daftar jaana hai kal subah‘

A suitcase full of stuff,
And a handbag full of dreams,
That I brought with me to this city.
In the bag,
I had neatly arranged
All my dreams.
And in a corner of the suitcase
I had smuggled with me,
That last evening by the lake.
This city
which embraces all and yet remains alien,
the city that offers a sense of belonging even as it disorients,
and the city that becomes part of our identity, 
even as it makes us more anonymous.
The bag full of dreams,
Hung proudly across the main door.
Every evening,
I carefully laid out all the dreams,
Gossips, reminiscences over cups of tea inevitably ensued.
And exhausted we would fall asleep in each other’s comforting embraces.

Then one day,
The Sunlight whispered,
What good are these dreams of yours?
What you need is an umbrella.
I stole away one of the dreams,
And mortgaged it
With the sunshine.
Piece by piece,
I bought the city,
At times by leaving my dreams behind,
Sometimes by selling them….
The city and I are on good terms now.
It doesn’t seem so strange anymore,
It feels like home,
One bedazzled with lights and glamour.

My bag full of dreams,
Is lost somewhere in this big house.
Behind an almirah somewhere,
Or perhaps in a corner somewhere in the attic. 
Sometimes a dream escapes from its permanent refuge,
Shakes me from sleep and ventures,
‘come on let’s talk, maybe even share a cup of tea?’
I turn my head the other way and throw over my shoulder,
‘That is a luxury I can ill afford, I have work in the morning.’


Friday, 19 October 2012

Short Change

If you have ever met my mother, one of the first things that is likely to pop up in ANY conversation is.. "Oh ya I get heart surgeries done for underprivileged children free of cost" somehow it always seems to slip into any conversation edge-wise.

See my mother has been a social worker for as long as I can remember, which is like half my life. Since I'm 23 she's been galavanting around 'Saving Lives' - in some cases literally for about 12 years now. She is associated to more organizations than I can remember at any given moment, but the story in question pertains to one in particular. My crazy, strong, ill tempered, hell-of-a-women mother has been associated with Rotary International for almost the entirety of the 12 years that she has been a social worker. The experience in question stems from a rather great project that her Rotary Club has been running for the past couple of years - 'Gift Of Life'. The project essentially funds valve replacement surgeries (as far as I understand, I'm sure they probably do some other nifty thing as well, like maybe reverse the effects of Global Warming.. Just Saying) for underprivileged children below the age of 18 from third world countries.

As a result I have probably met, laughed with and shed tears with/over more children with heart diseases that most people do in a lifetime. So pardon me if after a while I can't tell one apart form the other. However, in all my time one of the most striking stories I remember is the story of one Ms. Evelyn Lisseth Argueta Rodrigues. Evelyn or Evi as I used to call her was from El Salvador a small nation somewhere in South America and the then 6 year old undertook a 14 hour journey with her mother, to come down to India to get her heart fixed.

Evi is the youngest of 4 siblings and was born into a family poor enough, that at times there wasn't enough food to go around for everyone. The daughter of a Sugar Mill Worker and a Housewife who had never been  out of her small hometown back home, let alone halfway across the world, Evi had been born with the congenital heart condition. To add insult to injury, Irma (Evi's mum) only spoke Spanish, and even simple questions like is she allergic to any pain meds? turned into whole sessions what felt like excruciatingly long dumb charades.

Putting all that aside, the next part is super important so read closely. The round trip for both of them had been sponsored by a Rotary Club in El Salvador and they were expected to return home in about a weeks time. After the operation my mum dragged me to another one of her painfully long rounds to make sure everything was well and that both the mother and daughter were cared for.

While at the hospital, I discovered to my horror that Irma had not eaten anything for the past 2 days. This because she could not speak English and between the operation and post operative care no one thought thought to ask her if she had gotten the food that was meant for attendants. What followed was something I wont forget as long as I live. My mum asked her how much money she had on her in hopes of explaining that in emergencies she could buy food at the canteen.  She pulled out the sum total of money she had on her and carefully handed it over to my mother to count, as if it were a treasure befitting a king. My mother passed on the crumpled notes to me and I could not believe what was happening as I counted and re-counted 7 US DOLLARS.

This amazing woman had traveled halfway across the world in hopes of a better and longer life for her daughter armed with 7 Dollars. I could not believe being stranded in a country with only a return ticket and 7 Dollars at my disposal. I could cry, blame my circumstances or be bitter to everyone around, but all I saw, all I would ever see, on Irma's face was gratitude. Gratitude for giving her daughter the life she deserved.

I saw my mother shed tears of anger and hopelessness that day. What kind of people travel halfway across the world without enough money to even survive a couple of days in a foreign country should the need arise?  This poor housewife form a improvised family in El Salvador taught me more about courage than any book, any story, any course anywhere.

Life has a funny way of working out. Eventually Irma and Evi stayed in India for three weeks before Evi was cleared for air travel. For the entirety of that time they stayed in our house and when they when back, my mother ensured that they went back with clothes and toys for all four of Irma's children and more importantly with more-much-more than 7 US Dollars.

Today Evi is a healthy 10 year old, who for the first time in her life has a life to look forward too. This photo was taken on Evi's 7th birthday and sent to us by one of her cousins on Irma's insistence  who still remembers us very fondly and thanks us for all our help I'm told. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Right Story Wrong End

2 years ago while ideally flipping through books at the Delhi Book Fair, feeling like the proverbial Alice in Wonderland (Yup my two greatest passions in life reading and writing, apart from sleeping and eating afcourse, but that goes without saying if you know me at me all) I entered Rupa publishers group of stalls. I walked in a little wearily, considering I'm not too fond of Indian writers. Don't get me wrong I've read my fair share of Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai and even Chetan Bhagat but see when it comes to relatively lesser known Indian authors I feel the books reflect who we really our as Indians, the uncomfortable feeling that we are not really English but the fact the English happens to be first language for a whole lot of us.What this essentially means is that, the book doesn't read comfortably, it often seems stiff and entirely too formal.

So on that fateful day when I picked up Right Fit Wrong Shoe by a relatively unknown author, Varsha Dixit, Indian at that, she already had a lot of strikes against her. Eventually I ended up buying the book. Why you may ask? well first up coming from the Rupa stable, the book cost a very economical 95 bucks (yes I'm Indian, and I scrimp every penny I can, so sue me!) next I'm ashamed to admit this, as would any seasoned reader, but I was drawn to the name and the name alone of the book. So since I didn't have very much to do that weekend, I ended up taking the book home. 

What followed was probably one of the most enjoyable Saturday afternoons I remember spending in a long time. Nandini and Sneha reminded me of me and my best friend, as I'm sure they will remind you of yourself and your BFF. They were instantly likable and  Dixit's wicked sense of humour had me in fits of laughter, making my domestic help look at me rather ominously while shaking her head disgustingly on a number of occasions. What I particularly enjoyed was the interesting names of Chapters, that were named after Bollywood movies. As if this wasn't enough in walked Aditya Sarin, the ultimate M&B kind of leading man, the kind who you are sure is amazing in bed, just by reading the introduction. The book turned out to be a great read, and I didn't raise any eyebrows when it became a bestseller. An Indian author, who wrote decent love stories, can you hear the hallelujah chorus? How did I personally know that the book was destined for success? The end came regretfully soon and put a smile on my face that lasted almost a whole week. In my eyes that the mark of a really good love story.

So when a couple of months ago I heard that Ms. Dixit was coming up with a sequel to Right Fit, I was overjoyed. Restlessly awaiting the launch, I pre-ordered my copy almost 15 days in advance. I remember getting the call, from the Flipkart delivery guy asking me to come to the reception of my office and sign for the delivery. Hearing the same old Hallelujah chorus I happily skipped to the reception of my office, and looked at the package with so much love, you would think it were my first born!

That evening I tore open the packaging and set about reading Sneha and Nikhil's story. See Sneha reminded me of myself in her sense of humor and kick ass attitude, and well in my mind, it was about time she got her happy ending. 

The book was definitely a good read, but I guess having read the two I still prefer the former more. The sequel came laden with typos, and sadly less interestingly named chapters. What I did not like was how the book was very obviously divided into two parts- Nadini and Aditya's story guest starring Gayatri, Aditya's ex-finance from Right Fit, and the second featuring Sneha and Nikhil. The fact that the stories stood divided instead of flowing hand in hand, was something that jumped out at me.

But having counted the negatives, here's how the score stands. the book is amazing, funny, witty and definitely worth a read, definitely for those who enjoyed Right Fit as much as me. I was amazed by Sneha's strength, and I actually liked how Nikhil's personality didn't really change all that much in the book (I hate it in M&Bs when the hero goes all soft and mushy towards the end). The story has the making of another bestseller, but for me it will always come in second, considering that Ms. Dixit set the bar pretty high with Right fit. There were parts that were definitely too filmy for my taste, and I did not really think that this book was more mature or complex than Right Fit.

Having said that however, in the end, it only matters that, the book inspired me enough to write this particular blogpost and yes I did walk around with a smile on my face for two whole days. So all in all, in my eyes the book is a success. Good Job Ms. Dixit! 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Faith = Daily Life

I have been practicing Buddhism for the past 6 years and well one of the first things you hear if you have the good fortune of being a member of SGI (an international cultural and educational organization spread over the world that teaches and practices Nicheren Daishonin's Buddhism) is Faith = Daily life.

The equation seems quite simple. Deceptively so. You see at first I thought the math was simple, you do your prayers twice daily and you chant as much as you personally can, and viola your life is set! Then yesterday it hit me.

You see I work as a PR professional, and yes if you are a journalist, I'm one of THOSE people. Just like everyone else, we work hard, I get into office at 8:30 (which is an ungodly hour to be working if you ask me) and generally don't leave before 7 or 8. That makes an average of 10 to 12 hours that I work daily (yes wise ass I don't just suck up to journalists all day I actually do a lot of value creation as well, not just content creation).

See what was different about yesterday was, I happened to chance upon a blogpost by one witty journalist with a leading Indian publication. The post spoke about how there are more and more rookies in the PR industry by the day, and how it seems they have been put there just to make life difficult for journalists owing to their vast not to mention various in-competencies. Sigh!

Buddhism teaches us that there exists at any single moment in life the ten worlds. These worlds range from Hell to Buddhism. One can exist in any of these worlds at any given moment and your life state can vary from moment to moment. At that moment well needless to say, I was pretty much in Hell. Imagine going to work for 10 to 12 hours everyday, pouring your heart and soul into what you do, only for someone to say, you know that the work that you do is utterly inconsequential, and by association well it would seem so are you.

This gets me thinking is PR not a justified profession? I start to think that we as PR professionals probably do not do work that makes lives of many or even a few better, like say my mum who is a full time social worker and working alongside whom I've had the good fortune of doing some really satisfying work over the past decade. However, just tell me this: who made you the judge of whether my work is important or not? Who made you the judge of whether or not I'm bright enough to grace your metaphorical presence on the phone? Who are you to point out that I may not know the "names of ABC Audited Newspapers" or "editors of those newspapers." You made you responsible for labeling people, -how does the Oxford Dictionary puts it- oh ya a "Dipstick"?

And while I'm reading this I get progressively angry, defeated and plain hurt. I mean ain't I human too? don't I work just as hard? What gives you the right to look down your nose at me? Just because you are "good" with words, who gives you the right to insult me??

After the kaleidoscope of these rants, there is only one thing left to do, think up some choice profanities and mentally butcher you, because unlike SOMEONE I don't believe in belittling, just because I CAN.

And it is while I'm doing just this that it strikes me.

Faith= Daily Life

and I have a real aha! moment. You see the quote doesn't just talk about following the mechanics of praying day in and day out. The quote talks about the struggle in each day, in each moment. Buddhism teaches me that there is a buddha inside each and everyone of us, and while I certainly cannot allow someone to disrespect the buddha inside me, I also cannot slander by disrespecting the Buddha inside anyone else. In life it is a constant struggle to be happy, just as it is a constant struggle to change from within to manifest your Buddha nature.

It is an uphill battle, there are times when each and every one of us, is in the position of hurting somebody, or more importantly giving someone the power to hurt us. The ten worlds indeed do exist in every single moment of life, that is the nature of this mystic practice! It is upon us to CHOOSE which world we exist in.

Someone very wise said to me, there always exists a broken mirror and a whole mirror. If you keep looking at the broken mirror there is no way in hell you can ever see the whole picture.The beauty of the two mirrors is, that they give you a choice, they empower you. You may choose to look at either of the two mirrors.

So at this moment I CHOOSE to look at the whole mirror. I CHOOSE to believe that MY work is important too. I CHOOSE to recognize that, if it weren't for PR so much information of relevance to people would go unheard, unnoticed. And I CHOOSE to accept the Buddha inside the journalist who brought out the worst and consequently the best in me. Thank you Mr. Journalist for giving me the opportunity to rise above this. I pray that you too see the Buddha inside every PR rookie that calls you in the future too, because although what we do for a living is important, the true test of a human being is HOW we do it. Respecting or Disrespecting others.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

My Yellow Chappals

So this is an all time low. I'm sitting here thinking, I want to write a blogpost but I have absolutely no idea what I should write about.

In walks Ms. Ishani Banerjee to help me pick a topic. Her suggestions go something like this: Shoes, Colourful Socks, Smelly Feet, Pedicure, Why I hate a Pedicure! and well like any sane person I have her my best you-are-crazy-do-you-know-that-look and swung around my chair.

However after another hour of racking around my brain, I look down and suddenly notice my Yellow Puma Chappals! You see these particular pair is symbolic of a number of things:

1. These were the first pair of footwear I bought with my own hard-earned money.

2. The pair represents the time I stood up to mom since the chappals cost me 700 bucks and mum just could not understand how I (read anyone) could spend SEVEN HUNDRED BUCKS on a pair of CHAPPALS! no matter how many times I repeated they were Puma Chapplals!

3. They were a very pretty Yellow colour with purple straps that remind me of sunshine. Yes I'm a girl and stuff like that's important to me, deal with it!

4. Ok I'm out of reasons why they are so damn special, so just take my word for it ok - they just are!

And well having said all that I still can't believe I wrote close to a 250 word blogpost about My Yellow Chappals! wow I really must be good at this! :P

And that my friends is what a blogpost looks like when you're at a lack of a suitable topic to write about.

So I thought anyone who had the patience to read that deserved to see my famed Yellow Chappals! :P

Friday, 15 June 2012


Asolare: A useful Italian verb meaning to spend your time in a delightful but useless way.

Perhaps by far the most useful thing I learnt in office. I mean yes I learnt a lot of more useful, non-meaningless stuff too, but the most interesting thing I learnt was: 


Think about it, what is the first thing you do when you have an exam - oh! wait i'm working now! I can finally say random things like or a really IMPORTANT presentation due the next morning, and you haven't begun working, what do you do? Me? I have stages:

Stage 1: existential crisis. What am I doing with my life?? Note to self: turn over all decision making power over your life to mom/bestfriend/random-guy-on-the-street, because you don't deserve any power-abuser!

Stage 2: 
Step 1: make myself a cup of coffee, the kind that you beat and that takes forever to make. 
Step 2: drink said coffee.
Step 3: feel like I can take on the world,ah the wonders of caffeine! 
Step 4: open laptop.
Step5: open a new word doc/ppt/exel sheet and stare at it for 5 minutes straight.
Step 6: feel the smile slowly slip off my lips.
Step7: browse through the contents of my laptop deleting super old files I have absolutely no use for.
Step 8: *accidentally* stumble on my vast collection of TV series/movies and put one on.. just until I can find the inspiration to work.

Stage 3: Look at the clock. Freak out, I just wasted 3 HOURS watching Criminal Minds! PANIC! and suddenly.. Inspiration strikes!

Stage 4: open a fresh word doc/ppt/excel sheet and put together the bloody best presentation if I may say so myself.

Stage 5: feel pretty smug. 

After all as Calvin says to Hobbes: Inspiration is not a faucet you can turn on at will. It requires a mood!
Hobbes: and what mood is that?
Calvin: Last Minute Panic!

And in my experience the more time I waste asolare-ing, the more panic will set in, and well my motto is why panic now, when you can hyperventilate later? 

Those were the best days of my Life

You see I did my Post Graduation in Advertising and PR from IIMC recently... i mean like im-still-waiting-on-the-final-results recently... and while there I lived in the hostel. So this was something I wrote for all my girls in the hostel and since I miss them so much and writing it again today here....
The hostel life at IIMC is fraught with midnight rants over presentations half done and 3 am hugs over jobs well done, a common TV room, curfew at 10 and individual or double occupancy rooms. At first glance the girl’s hostel seems like an idyllic place to call home for 9 short months. However the girl’s hostel at IIMC can be a tricky place to survive.
Hence we decided to bring to you the essential survival kit to make your stay here easier, better, happier. The first thing you need to remember is that the mess food is great! Swear by it. I mean it; where else can you find non vegetarian food several times a week? Admittedly cockroaches might not be your preferred source of meat but hey you can’t fault the folks for trying! However if there are those of you who are strictly vegetarian remember dominos, McDonalds, secular house and 24/7 are all great and will deliver to IIMC perpetually anytime.
Secondly the next time you are taking a hot shower and stressing over the amount your skull is flaking, look up and relax it’s probably just the ceiling falling because of the excessive amounts of seepage. However the important thing to remember, at times like these, is that you are under a HOT shower in the bitter winter of JNU, so just use some extra shampoo and be sure to rinse well.
Finally remember that the dogs outside the hostel will probably go away if you just throw any food you are carrying at them, but if that doesn’t help, just remember that they DO NOT bite, and you can probably anyways outrun most of them. Lastly remember the first floor of hostel block one is definitely not haunted, bells or nobels (pun intended).
However having said all that, the services the hostel has to offer are truly top notch and one of a kind, from 24/7 power back up and completely wi-fied hostels to best friends on call for a good cry and a tight hug in the middle of the night. This is also the place where we forge friendships for life, the ladies we meet here are truly exceptional in their own right and they enrich our lives by just being in them.
For all the services the hostel has to offer this would not have been home without each and everyone of you. So ladies take a bow, this one goes out to all of you!