Monday, May 11, 2015

Post Disaster Thoughts

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It is a human virtue to help those in need. And when you see that some people are in dire need, many of us go about either directly volunteering to go the place where the disaster struck or collecting blankets, clothes and toys to donate. Their intentions are noble but what we need to understand is that the execution may not always be.

When amateur volunteers just get on the plane in a quest to help, they instead end up interfering with the plans of professionals who are already there. I read about how the Kathmandu airport got super congested due to incoming goods and people that the actual movement of victims and help for them got affected. Such untrained people swarming there would only add up on those who have to be housed and fed, and this could disorient the efforts of the actual humanitarian societies for those who are in an actual need.

I also read about how certain packages with clothes were rejected and I think it makes sense. Someone who is bleeding would not do much out of a blanket or a cloth, he needs medical attention. And he needs such attention to reach unobstructed to him without being diverted due to another airplane carrying unwanted stuff.

So donate money as much as you can and do it right. Refrain from sending blankets, clothes and other physical goods, or the urge to go there by yourself.

Some useful links and references:

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Looking at the mirror

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When the question of sexual harassment and violence against women comes up, many of us believe that such acts happen due to some estranged and perverted extremists out there. We shirk it off by saying 'They are a bunch of psychopathic weirdos.' But are 'they' different? Do 'they' differ in terms of ideologies towards women?

The point that many of us miss is that such people only represent a surface of a much larger issue which looms, or should I say engrained deep into our societal fabric which we all happen to subconsciously endorse. That such people share mindsets like us.

Losing Honor
Take for instance our colloquial language, the act of rape is manyatimes referred to as 'izzat lootna' (In English this translates to losing ones honor). The victim did not commit any crime; she did not venture forcedly into someone else's personal space. How, then, could she be desecrated because some feral man decided to impose himself on her? What does this mean? We should probably change our Hindi? No! This is an indication to what our innate attitude is like, that somewhere deep down under there exists a problem. And a big one at that.

The Problem 
The interview of the Nirbhaya case's victim is in the news these days. What the interview pictured was not surprising, no-one expected the rapist to spit out adulation for women. But it was chilling and painful to watch. 
What the interview showcased was not merely the ramblings of a man convicted in a rape case. This was a mirror showcasing the beliefs of thousands of people in our society who share a similar ideology. What do you think of the literate defence lawyer who brazenly says that he would burn off his daughter if he finds her going out. Is there any difference between him and his client?

Mukesh represents just the surface of a balloon; the air in the balloon which gives shape and foundation to the surface is actually attributed to the mindset of the society. It is this mindset which subliminally sanctions such acts that even today Mukesh believes that he did no wrong by committing a seemingly disciplinarian action on a wayward girl. The balloon can only exist as long as the air in it does.

 Let us understand that we do not need to commit the act in order to be a rapist.
- I act like a rapist if I celebrate the birth of my son but not my daughter.
- I act like a rapist if I get totally outraged to find my daughter smoking when its okay if my son does it.
- I act like a rapist if I think I need to save for my daughter's wedding not her higher education.
- I act like a rapist if I think I am superior and deserve to get dowry from the girl I am marrying.
- I act like a rapist if I think my son deserves to get dowry or endorse the system.
- I act like a rapist if I think women are suited for only certain roles within the four walls.
- I act like a rapist if I think that a woman is profane/promiscous if she comes out of her shell or speaks her mind.
- I act like a rapist if I think that a girl lost her honour if she got raped.
- I act like a rapist if I believe that the victim of the crime deserved it some way.

Sometimes it is important to bring yourself under the magnifying glass to see if we are inside or outside the balloon.

What can be done? 

  1. Understand the attitude: We need to understand that we have all the makings of a rapist if we believe in any of the above points. Awareness is the key and it is for this reason that documentaries like Indias Daughter should be shown so that people know how much of their own ideology matches to that of a rapist. You just cannot brush things away under the carpet in the hope that your home gets cleaned. Acknowledging that a mindset like that exists and is very much prevalent in the society is the first step.
  2. Understand the psychology behind this: We need to understand how do people learn such ideas? Thats when we can do something about it. Right from childhood to adolescence there could be several factors that could affect someone's mind:
    - the neighbourhood man battering his wife everyday and the woman silently bottling her emotions,
    parents being more obsessed to the son than his sister, the incessant objectification of women in movies and TV shows,  the list is endless, sigh. Even little observations  taken during the course of a long time can condition a child's brain and plant the thought that women  are objects to be used and meant to be kept under your toes.
  3. Address the mindset: Just like the factors above which interplay in our society cater to the somewhat misogynistic thoughts in a growing mind; it is definitely not impossible to condition the mind in an opposite way. Note that this conditioning is much harder to bring about in adults compared to the growing minds of youngsters and kids. So we know we need our kids to be more tolerant and understand the meaning of equality. But who is going to do teach them this? An erudite family may do this to its younger generation but what about a kid who is born into that section of the society where women are looked upon in a lower light. His mindset is predisposed to pick up the grime he sees around it in its formative years. It is here that education needs to step in.
  4. Role of education: We know our current education miserably fails at it today (especially after listening to the comments by the convict's lawyer in the Nirbhaya case), but it doesnt mean that education cant help. It is possible to bring about a positive conditioning to a kid by exposing him to the importance of gender equality, and sensitising about concepts like consensual sex (Indian education system does not even talk about the three letter word). This is a daunting task though. Because you are trying to plant ideas which are very different from what the society showcases. It may not have the desired results always too. But we atleast have a way of tackling problems, albeit not foolproof. The education system is not just about reading and writing, it can become much more than that.

    Children should know about women achievers from different walks of life; this is to make them realize that women are not weak and subjugated; they are as much capable and strong as a man, they just need the right avenues.
  5. Welcoming a victim into the society: Most hospitals and medical staff are not trained to handle a rape victim properly. Since this is also a matter of a criminal case, care should be taken to both ensure the well-being of the victim and documenting/collecting evidence.
    Its just not about treating some wounds but there should also be options available for psychiatric counselling and addressing Post Traumatic stress disorder. It should be mandatory for the medical staff to understand the implications and the process involved in handling a sensitive case like this.

On a end note, if the sanctity of the image is at stake, we should remember that we cannot improve that image of ours by hiding non-pretty things, we do it by accepting the truth about ourselves in a mature way. Its time we understand what we represent and deflate the balloon.

Another important thing that we all should remember is that in the course of our fight for equality, its good to be feminists but don't turn into mis-andrists. The society may have many men with a skewed vision but there are many many others who support the fight against discrimination.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Those dimples

I love her. She is the only one I have in the whole wide world.

I can do anything for her. Anything. Even the agony of the long days when I sit at the window waiting for her to return, melts away in seconds at the sight of her getting down the car and a precious dimpled smile appearing on her face as she looks up and spots me.

She would run towards me, calling out my name loud and hug me tight. I love the feeling when she tightens her grip around me, her fingers tickling my back.

No matter how hectic a day she had in office, she ensures we go out for a stroll outside every night. Those 30 minutes constitute the best time of the day for me. Sometimes we run, or walk or play. Manyatimes we would just sit beneath the shade of the large mahogany tree as she relates the proceedings of her day to me. Sometimes she would be sullen, probably pissed off at her work but her way of narration in a chirpy tone and with full gestures always takes my heart.

It was another such day. The sun was going down in a resplendent vermillion hue on the other end of the horizon as I sat perched at the edge of the window, my eyes fixated on the walkaway beneath. She would be home anytime. I sat and waited. And waited. The orange shades of the sky first turned into grey and soon into a pitch black, but there weren't any signs of her.

I took a deep breath and went inside to drink some water. I noticed that she had prepared dinner for me before she left in the morning, a darling that she always was. But food was the last thought I had in my mind. I heard a sound outside and raced back to the window only to find deserted dark roads beneath, not a soul lingering anywhere as light showers begin to pour down. The distant street lights flickered and the pitty patter of rain drops echoed in the otherwise silent neighbourhood. I nestled at the edge staring blankly at the small puddle of water that was taking shape in the lawn. As more time elapsed, I noticed nearby lights being switched off, the whole community was embracing sleep one after another. But what about Samantha? She was never this late from office. My anxiety peaked.

I got up and kept pacing inside the home in circles from one room to the other unsure of what to do. Occasionally I would go to the window with a slight hope and come back in more dismay.

It was almost daybreak and I was still sitting at the window when I heard a car screeching to a halt beneath the house. I frantically peered outside to find Samantha coming out of the car. She didnt look at me in her usual smiling demeanor, instead her eyes were fixed on the man in the car who got out and hugged her. She returned a kiss in return and they stood there bathing in the dawn's white rays for a while in each other's tight embrace. I stood there, still at my window, totally dumbfounded as I saw someone else share Samantha's warm hug, my eyes wailing for her to atleast look at me.

After a few minutes, I heard a click of the latch and saw her entering the room. She dropped her purse on the couch on seeing me and called out as her eyes flickered, 'Oh honey, you aren't asleep yet! Were you waiting for me all this while? I am so sorry, I had a meeting that got extended and I went to Ethan's place after it.'

She paused for a second to check the clock. 'Did you miss me?" She cried out as she raced towards me with her arms outstretched. 'I love you so much. Come and give me a nice hug', she said, the dimples deepening as the familiar smile appeared across her immaculate face. And once again, yet again, I lose myself. My agony melts again as she takes me in her arms, lifting me off the ground and her fingers move through my golden fur. I let out a small woof in return and cuddle my head between her arms.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Discovering oil pastels

I recently visited an art store for buying some supplies for oil painting. While skimming through the shelves which were pretty overloaded with a vast range of art goodies, I came across some sets of oil pastels. I was curious to try them out for it has been ages since I did so. The last memory dates back to my primary school days when pastels and crayons were the only mediums I had explored.

Quite unsure of my ability, I picked up the student quality pastels(junior level) instead of the myriad professional ones available. It took me a few days to finally overcome the inertia and get started with the new medium I bought.

Very surprisingly, oil pastels have proven to exceed my expectations drastically. Simply put, oil pastels can weave magic even for someone who is just starting with this medium. Everyday I unravel something exciting.

Well, there is a lot to explore in this domain and I very earnestly look forward to whats in store. Posting some experiments here.

1. Start with some basic elements to understand the texture of the medium

2. Then try out something a little more complex with a composition of lighting and texture.

Friday, May 9, 2014

To the stars

He tries relentlessly, reaching out to the stars
For they are too high
And he doesn’t care for scars

The ambition is strong, the will undeterred
Night and day he works,
Everything else was just blurred

Sometimes he would delude, but then remember his goal again
He would resume on his stride,
Picking up his pace main

He was joined by others but he has his vision on the stars set
No matter what happened,
He would not settle for anything less

People came and left but he went on, for he believed his belief
That the stars he was headed towards,
Held an end to all his grief

He looked down and reveled as he had come a long long way
The mighty world was down under,
The heights he attained was way too great

He stepped ahead with bated breath, as he finally found himself standing in stars amidst
Stretched out his hand to feel them
but they dissolved as if made of mist

Startled he looked around, to question what just happened if in a myth
He was standing at the peak he always dreamt of,
Without a soul to share his success with.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Hasee toh phasee

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“What is this! Just a few lines strewn on a canvas and they cost you thousands. Sheer daytime robbery!“, Sahil mumbled as he came across a large painting. He had already been to several other rooms in the exhibition and everytime just came out with more exasperation.

The girl standing next to him who was also looking at the same painting overheard his remark and turned to face him.

Her eyes caught his as she spoke,  “Well I think there is always more to something than what meets the eyes, whether it’s the case of a person or a thing. Same goes for the paintings.”. She spoke with an endearing smile on her face and walked ahead to see the next painting.

He was in a daze for a moment as he quickly assembled himself and caught another glimpse at her. She was a dawning beauty, wearing a white linen tucked in shirt and stone washed jeans, her hair flowing as she glided to the next sculpture.

“What can really be there behind those random lines that could mean anything more, honestly I cant understand what the artist tried doing here”. He couldn’t resist himself from walking down to her.

She turned to him, as her eyes sparkled. “I think abstract paintings like these give you a chance to let your imagination free, think broad speculating the artist's intention.” She paused for a second flicking her lashes, “You aren’t much into art, are you?”.

“Yeah I am not. But I always love to know more about any pretty thing I come across, just like I would love to know more about you. Would you mind enlightening me?”

“You find me pretty, eh?”,

“Yes you are. Very. If you don’t mind being complimented.”

“Ha! Who wouldn’t!” She blushed, with a beaming smile.

“Hansi toh phansi Sahil, this is your chance”, Sahil wondered. He spoke ahead “So does this mean I get a chance to know more about you over coffee?".  He briefly stopped to ensure he had her attention and continued, "I am Sahil, by the way.” He extended his hand to shake hers.

Before he could get any response, a man shoved him back and stood facing the girl. He wielded a pen and a notebook in his hands as he spoke, “So Mrs. Tara, you won the best artist award today for your painting 'The Twisted Lines'. I am  sure your family and husband will be very proud. What do you think has been the reason behind your success?”

She smiled as she saw Sahil’s jaw drop in the background, “Well I follow the same principle in my paintings as I do in my real life. I prefer to give others a chance to think wild. To let imaginations loose." She beamed, "By not directly revealing the best essence.”

Sunday, November 24, 2013

From the other side of the glass

Let me start off with some little incidents:
Scene 1: Hyderabad Airport
I am waiting for a bus back to home with a friend after seeing off my mum at the airport. Lost into conversation and in my eagerness to board the bus, I leave my wallet on a bench at the stop. I get into the bus, racing to grab a window seat completely oblivious of the non existence of my wallet. After a substantial 20 mins in the bus and my blissful ignorance, the conductor comes in to announce that he received a call from the stop that somebody left a wallet there. This freaked me out as I realized that the somebody was me and the wallet had all my bank cards and IDs. Since the bus had already travelled half the distance, I was told to wait at the destination stop for the next bus to arrive. After another half an hour of anxious wait, the next bus came and didn't fail to disappoint: the driver was carrying my wallet wrapped and taped carefully in newspaper.
Scene 2: Madhapur Hyderabad
My friend comes to visit Hyderabad and I am all charged up and happy on seeing her. After picking her up from the railway station we take back an auto to drop us home. On the way we get down to have some breakfast at a local eatery and merrily spend 2 hours talking over dosas and chai. It was when we stepped out of the shop that it struck us that we didn't pick up our luggage from the auto. Flabbergasted we stand there completely clueless of the auto we left the stuff in. Neither did we recognise the auto nor its driver, thus setting the stage for a typical needle in the haystack problem to now locate an unknown auto rickshaw wala in a metro city. The only option left was to enquire about him from the station where we originally got into his vehicle. To our surprise, every auto driver at the station was already aware that a bag was left in an auto at the slightest mention of the word suitcase, thankfully our driver had spread the word to all his fellow auto guys and asked them to direct the claimants to the auto union building where the bag was kept. The poor guy had even done rounds in the market where we left to locate us while we were busy gulping down tea.
So why did I write these scenes? To brandish on a public blog my great knack of leaving around things? Ha.

This is for that unknown person who picked up an orphaned wallet at a bus stop and took the trouble to make sure it reaches its owner, to the auto guy who didn't just run away with luggage which he could easily have had he wanted to, to the cab driver who brought back my cell phone. There are people like these who reinstate my faith, in hopfulness, in trust. We might be living in an era of 'ghor kalyug' but there are always people who rise up to the occasion and make you look at things from a different angle. Thank You!

Here is an advertisement from IDEA that kindles the same feeling:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An Unforgettable day

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It was an unforgettable day for me. I handed off 50 bucks to the auto-wala and hesitatingly entered the college gates for the first time only to be welcomed by an amazingly never seen before spectacle. “Is this supposed to be a place to study!” were the first thoughts to cross my mind as I saw a bunch of guys sitting in a pool of smoke in a corner, gaudy graffiti written on the cafeteria walls and girls promenading in the smallest of clothes.

I was myself in a total chaos at that moment, wearing an old pair of jeans and a loosely fitted kurti iced with unkempt hair, a combo which left absolutely no stones unturned in making me out of place. I silently gruntled at my parents for having me admitted in a place where apparently only the creamy class studied; or seemingly caroused for that matter. “Why did dad get me admitted in this madhouse; how am I going survive a single day here, let alone 3 years”.

As I walked past looking from one side to the other; I was taken aback by the enormity of the sprawling campus around me. I wanted to go to the college registration desk and had unwittingly boarded off the auto at the gates itself, not realizing that this ai'nt my old school where everything was at a stone's throw. Going near one of these jerks around and asking them the route was the last thing I wanted to do at that moment. However considering that there was no-one else on the road and the office might close anytime soon, I let out a sigh and stepped into the walkway that led into the cafeteria.

"Ha, look at that walking hideous creature", a girl cried out from the front. My eyes widened out but I attempted hard to not look vexed and kept on moving. There were a few more snide remarks from others but I was already tired from the long journey and had neither the mood nor the courage to face any of them.

To add to my woes, the walkway was paved with cobble; and my suitcase continued to revolt against my attempt to tug it along. I had broken a part of its wheels while taking it off the train; and it was now taking its share of the payback time. I knew I must have been looking like an idiot pulling a rollicking bag so I heaved a big breath and flashing my most brazen look pulled the handle with all strength. But to my horror, the handle came off and hurled the suitcase away. The idiot crashed a feet from me and sprung open from the impact, sending its contents on a ride.

For a moment I was frozen. Motionless and dazed, I was trying to digest the disaster that was taking shape in front of me as I saw my books and clothes strewn around. My silly suitcase had just added enough to the list of me being a laughing stock in college. Fumbling through my undies and papers, I hastily picked up everything and stuffed them back, and got up to leave fighting hard the tears which were on the verge to effuse.

"Hey!" Somebody called out from behind me. I hardly had the courage to look back now and continued ahead. "Hey!!" he called out again; this time more persistent. I turned back to find one of the guys from the cafeteria standing behind me.
"What on earth does this goon want from me; have I not given him a laughter dose already".

He was squinting his eyes tangentially, took a pause to check out my face for some time and spoke "I dont know who you are, but I find your eyes sorta cute!" 

I wasnt quite sure if I should interpret it as a mockery or a compliment. For the record, I was not used to compliments at all. I had always been like a good for nothing girl, quite average in studies and quite average looks. Somehow my parents felt that I could do well in commerce in this college and had me registered here.

"Is this something you say to every girl you meet?"
I asked.

"No this was my first, and I did not expect that kind of response though; anyway do you need some help in carrying those bags. I presume you are a fresher and looking for the dean office. Well its down the lane but far enough to drain you out if you carry those heavy things all by yourself." He spoke with a reassuring confident smile.

So there is some gentlemanship inside this rugged rough looks, I wondered. Saying "Thank you", I looked at him, a brief smile appearing across my face. He was tall and appeared more like a sportsperson with quite a chiselled body and broad shoulders, his face was a combination of darkness and shimmer in the aura of the setting sun.

"So you are a commerce enthusiast, eh?" he asked as he took my half broken suitcase.

"Not really, I am not much into studies; just doing this to get a decent degree from a good college because my parents wanted me to."

He chuckled "Hmm.. so you are another one of those who follow others and not their hearts."

"I beg your pardon?". My eyebrows rose.

"Just leave it, by the way as your suitcase fell and popped open and gave off quite an amazing scene, I couldn't help but notice you had many photography books in there; do you like shooting?"

I wasnt someone who was used to talking so much to a stranger and this guy was sticking more than fevicol. But he had touched my weak chord, photography, my love. "Yeah photography is a hobby, I absolutely love it". I said and heaved a sigh of relief as I saw the pale ash color building round the corner with "Dean Of Academics" brandished at the gates.

"So we reached your destination, you can grab the registration forms from the desk here and the office has arranged drops to the hostel, so the suitcase shouldn't cause more problems to you. And here are your baggages, all in one piece".

"Thank you so much!"

"Just stay happy gurl, do what you want. Remember, the people around you, including your parents, will be happy if you are content and confident in what you are doing. If you get time, just compare what you just told me about your interest in commerce and photography and you will have all the answers. Anyhow, welcome to the college. See ya".

8 years down the line…
It was an unforgettable day for me. I was setting up my photography exhibition at the city centre; it was my 5th national exhibition so far. It was around 2:0p.m. when I got a call telling me that Mihir had suffered a terrible accident and was admitted in Apollo hospitals. I dropped dead and rushed out without a moment to spare. Driving madly on Mumbai roads, I reached the hospital and when I frantically barged inside having almost lost my mind; I was met with a spectacle of a heavily bandaged Mihir lying unconscious in the ICU. The doctor came and told me he had suffered serious head injuries and also memory loss.

"Your husband has lost his memory, Mrs. Khanna. It may take months even years for him to come back to his original state of mind."

After a long wait of 4 hours in hospital hallways and numerous cups of lattes and rounds of prayers, the nurse came to inform me that Mihir had regained consciousness. I went inside, taking small steps and vision fixated at the centre where Mihir was lying down. He slowly opened his eyes and looked up.
As I went near him, the world just stopped to turn. I gave him a small smile to make him feel that everything is just okay; he was staring at me for a while; then squinting his eyes tangentially for some more he spoke “Hey; I dont know who you are, but you know your eyes are kinda cute”.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What did you write today?

Everyone is a writer.. Yes everyone!..You, me, Shakespeare, Rowling, Beatles, even the illiterate house maid who comes every morning and has practically no knowledge of the three 'R's.

Don't be surprised, because even as your eyes are scanning this piece of text, the nerve signals flexing inside, the brain attempting to interpret what you just read, your hands probably scrolling the mouse; there is a untiring part in you that is writing, and mind you, it just writes all the time; etching on to a book every moment...

Everyone is an author of a book of their own lives; albeit few write better than the rest. When a baby is born God gifts him a blank book and a reed to cover it with. The number of pages and the length of the book may be governed by the Almighty but the contents are the baby's. Though he hasnt been to school yet, but the child keeps on updating the pages everyday as the world unfolds in front of his eyes. It has been observed that generally the books tend to become more boring and monotonous as the child advances from juvenile ages to adulthood.

The genre of these books vary a lot, some people write new interesting matter everyday while others will just have invariably the same old content penned down on each page. Imagine reading tons of continuous pages only describing daily chores leading nowhere. How you would like your book to be as you flip its pages 10 years down the line is a choice of your own..

So go ahead.. Do something new, bring smiles on sullen faces, learn, laugh, love, give, travel, make friends, and most importantly be merry and follow your heart... Make your book colorful, exciting and an absolute pleasure to read.. If not, dont be surprised if some day the house maid walks away with the Booker laurels!

Thursday, July 18, 2013


1 comment:
Adding one of my sketches here; I used an image from the internet for reference while working on this one .. It took me around 3 hours to complete; but its always refreshing in itself to be involved in seeing things take shape on paper :)