Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

19. Working Sunday

This is becoming a Sunday posting blog. But I have missed that too on this Sunday. It was one more working Sunday. I am happy that this was the last one in 2008. When most of the world is getting ready for New Year, we were working. I was not alone, of course. There were 50 colleagues working with me, and I am sure, there were many more working at other places. We were in a tiny town, for a workshop on ‘Strengthening People’s Organizations’.

I do not belong to this particular project team; I was there just in case I was needed. That is my usual role…not to belong, but be there. Be at the background, help others when required and disappear when people don’t need. This is bit stressful, because I love to belong, and unfortunately I never could belong to this workplace. In the process I have learnt the art of giving 100% without getting involved…. sounds like Zen…..sounds too much of self-eulogizing …. I understand. What I am trying to say is one can mould oneself without compromising with the inner core, without loosing dignity. I need to say this with more humility…. I will try next time.

I think each one of us has this sense of – ‘when we are wanted and when we are not’. Each such ‘disappearance’ act motivates me to carve out a new world for me. I am not frightened about lost opportunities, because I know I can always create new avenues for myself. That has brought out a great variety and diversity in my work. I was at that particular place for the particular task(s), because in a way I have created this opportunity.

I facilitated number of sessions in the three day workshop. We had a four hour session on ‘Gender sensitization’. Such sessions are provocative for participants and tiring for me. Such sessions drain me, because in spite of lot of efforts, every time I have to start from zero. People resist changing, and I resist stagnating. So, the battle is on ….a lost battle. It is not lonely only at the top; it can be lonely if one’s ideas, dreams and actions are not conventional.

Why do I spend Sundays in lost battle is a question I need to deal with. And there are many more sub-questions. But at the moment, I am tired. I have just returned from journey and need to check my messages and need to prepare for the next workshop.

With all this, it is good to be working for a cause, for a dream, for a change. What if this Sunday was spent in working? I am free to turn any other day into a Sunday. The older I grow, better I understand that LIFE is less about FACTS and more about PERCEPTIONS….

Sunday, December 21, 2008

18. Book A Week

At the moment I am very happy. I have achieved something that I had decided 24 years ago.

In 1984, I met ‘A’. He was a great scholar, a good orator and a calm person. Even then he was an Encyclopedia on Indian Culture and Religion. I did not like only one aspect of his behavior. If he had to speak to me, he always looked at some other thing and talked to me – totally avoiding eye contact. I used to get angry with him feeling that he was treating me as dirt (he did it to all women!). Even listening to his humorous comments (I am sure he still has a very good sense of humor) was always painful because he never shared it directly with me. I respected him but I never liked him. I never went to him for any discussions, I kept a conscious distance.

One day, while taking breakfast, he suddenly said, ‘How many books do you read in a year?” I was enjoying my dosa, and anyway, I thought the question must have been to someone else. Then ‘A’ raised his voice and said, ‘Sister, I am asking you, please, answer” and he repeated his question. As always he was not looking at me. There was no one else in the dining hall, so he was definitely talking to me. I was surprised with his pro-activeness. But I felt humiliated. I angrily asked, “Why should I tell you?” Such an answer was indeed courageous on my part, because if he wanted, he could throw me out of the organization.

More surprise. Instead of getting angry, ‘A’ smiled. He looked at me. He said, “I see that you like reading. But have some definite goal for reading. You should read at least one book per week. Books are the friends who always help and don’t expect anything from you. Books are always a good company; you will never feel lonely in life. Don’t forget, a book per week.” I was stunned. He smiled again – little at me, little at himself. He poured coffee in a glass, handed over to me, looked at me, smiled and walked away.

I did not understand him that day, nor do I understand him today. But I was touched by his advice, by his act of serving coffee to me. I decided to follow the path he had suggested. I knew that it was for my good.

Every year I kept records of the books I read. I have read as less as 9 books in a year, and the highest so far was 44 books in a year. At the end of every year I felt sorry that I have not followed the path ‘A’ had suggested. Every New Year started with the determination, and ended with disappointment, for 24 long years.

But today, I have finished with 52nd book of 2008. I have read Fiction, Religion, Philosophy, Biography, Humor, Economics, Drama, Technology, Ecology, History, Poetry, Ideology, Short stories, Development, Mathematics, Sociology……. I do not have any discipline in reading, but I have cherished every book that I have read. I hear some of you saying ‘quality matters, not quantity…’ Yes, I know. That is why it took me so many years to achieve it.

All these books made my days wonderful …. I don’t know whether it has added wisdom, but I certainly have smiled and learnt to face painful moments with courage. As a human being I have definitely grown with these books.

I know the senses are going to loose their power if I live long – slowly but definitely. A time may come, when I will not be able to read…… I am sure even then the books will be with me….. Some things in life go away but some grow within you … unless the time is ripe they are not visible. I know, these books have come to me crossing all the barriers of time, culture, language…. they are to stay with me.

Why don’t you too ‘book a week’?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

17. Invitation

The place I work is comparatively big. We are about 3000 people spread over 12 states. Some are here for about more than 30 years and some have just recently joined. We come from different states, different academic backgrounds, different interests and different views. So, naturally I do not know all the people here. Some I work closely with, some I have met occasionally, with some I do not have anything to share (and vice versa) some I know but they do not know me, and some know me and I do not know them. But even without knowing my colleagues well, life moves on smoothly.

Last week, I was working on a document in the office, so was engrossed in my PC. Then I heard couple of loud voices saying “There, there only. Yes, that is the desk. ” The voice was very near to my desk and a man was standing little confused at a short distance from my desk. He was wearing Gandhi topee, so at the instant I did not recognize him. But I know him by his name and may be we have interacted just a couple of times (mind you it is almost nine years I am here … that will give you glimpse of the environment in which I work…). I stood up and asked him, ‘Sir, whom are you searching for?’

He was happy that I had stopped working with PC and addressed him. He said, “I am looking for ……..’. It was my name. He did not know that it was me, he was searching for. But that is the usual happening here and I was least offended by it. I very politely told him, “Yes, I am here. What can I do for your sir?”

Now he was embarrassed. He was bit nervous. He said, “Oh, sorry, I mixed you up with XYZ. I know you very well, but somehow I get confused when I come here’’. I thought it was ok to get confused when you don’t know the person very well, and have not bothered to converse with in a decade. For me, this still was very natural. So, I again asked him what he wanted me to do.

Then he produced a marriage card from his bag. His daughter is getting married next week and he had come to invite me for his daughters’ marriage. I congratulated him, wished happiness to his daughter… generally the formality ends here. He again said, “Please, do come.” I smiled, said all right things and he left.

Afterward I stopped working. The person, who does not know my name, does not know anything about me, has hardly talked to me or smiled at me when we met across. … Why is he inviting me to share his ‘private’ happiness? Why he thought that without knowing him well, I would feel happy to get such an invitation? I have nothing against marriages and I wish well to his daughter… but .....

I know this is all about formality. We are more bothered about customs, traditions, log kya kahenge …… type of things. We hardly listen to ourselves and hardly do what we want to do. To keep society together, we need to follow certain norms, but we can choose to be anarchist in our private lives – without hurting anyone’s interest. The cost of such a behavior is high….. But I think anyway you have to pay the price - either by doing things you don’t want to do or by being isolated, alienated. Why not pay price and still be happy?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

16. Taldev

Have you ever heard of village ‘Taldev’?

Don’t bother. I heard about the village just last Sunday. One of my friends has started social mobilization activities in the area. He wanted me to interact with office bearers of Self Help Groups (SHGs). So, I was in Taldev.

Taldev is about 10 kilometers from Mahabaleshwar – the famous tourist spot. The village is small – about 180 households and 1000 population. It has a common Grampanchayat with one more village whose population is just 300 – that means 50 more families.

Taldev literally means ‘God of Deep/God of Lower Land’. The village has an old Mahadeva temple. The tradition credits Pandavas for building the temple. The construction is really cool and elegant. Though I had just left the crowd of 250 people outside – I felt so much away from the world when I visited the inner sanctum. The Nandi is well built; facing linga as always and the linga is not of much height.

The lamp was feebly burning and I felt that everything is alright in this universe. Funny, I should feel it in the presence of ‘God of Destruction’. I realized the meaning of ‘death’, the meaning of ‘dead end’, the meaning of ‘being in the womb’….during those few moments in the inner sanctum.

When I was interacting with Vanitajee, the Sarpanch, I learnt that she has been elected unopposed. Later, the Deputy Sarpanch invited all of us to his home for a cup of tea. I asked him about the ‘unopposed’ election. What he told surprised me.

This village never had ‘Grampanchayat elections’ as such. When elections are notified, Grampanchayat calls a meeting of villagers. They all decide together about who should work as members. The required 7 members are selected with consensus in the meeting. When couple of years ago it was clear that the Sarpanch seat is ‘reserved’ for women, the village nominated Vanitajee without much ado. All the 7 members go together to block office to fill up nomination forms. The senior, experienced members help new members to fill up the forms – so no forms are rejected.

When there is cut throat competition around, how come things are different in this particular village? Ramchandrajee, the Deputy Sarpanch had some answers. He tells: 1) At least one person from each family is working in Mumbai. The villagers have enough money coming from Mumbai. In Mumbai the villagers are bound together, they do not want any conflicts back home. 2) The village so far has all the required facilities – roads, electricity, water, post office, telephone, school, good Grampanchayat office, and specious temple… Name it and it is there. There is no infrastructure to be developed. This leaves no space for dissatisfaction of villagers. Everything seems to be going smoothly. 3) Nationalist Congress is the only party of the area. It is in power in Block and District – and even in the state. So, no other political parties have reach to divide people. 4) Out of 100 people, some are ambitious and try to divide villagers. But most of the villagers deal with the issues raised by them with maturity and wisdom, if anything needs to be done, villagers do it.

All this certainly sounds very interesting. We have equated democracy with elections but if democracy could be achieved by consensus nothing better than it. At least at village level it saves money and makes life peaceful.

Are there any other such examples? Can they be replicated on a large scale?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

15. Not About Udaipur......

Couple of weeks ago, I had been to Udaipur. This was my fifth visit, but I had never been close to this city. Earlier I was always in a company. Cities, towns, villages, places don’t talk to you unless you pay special attention to them. This time as I was alone, I thought I will get to know Udaipur.

But this is not about Udaipur.

I can write about the Auto driver who drove me to Bandra terminus. From Shegav, he came to Mumbai in 1979. He told me that he was involved in some dirty business but lost peace over it and so gave it up. Now he is poor but satisfied soul. …. But this is not about Udaipur.

I can write about ‘youngistan’ in my compartment – constantly involved in vulgar jokes, rubbish talk. They were genuinely concerned that how people in Udaipur can live without Dominos and CCH (Café Coffee Day). …… But this is not about Udaipur.

I can share how I had to spend 24 hours without food, in spite of pocket full of money. But this is not about Udaipur. I can elaborate how during my return journey I was compelled to occupy upper berth for almost 16 hours …. sorry, this too is not about Udaipur. I am tempted to narrate a story of Marathi taxiwalah (what a surprise!!) who is in the business of driving taxi since 1962. He had a grand analysis of status of Mumbai and his comments on Raj Thakare, Congress, and people coming from other states to Mumbai were indeed thought provoking and humane. But alas, this too is not about Udaipur.

I can tell you how during Gujarat serial bomb blasts in July a ‘bomb squad member’ German Shepherd licked my feet on Udaipur station; how in the next round of vigilance the dog started wagging its tail. …. I can tell you about the driver who said that ‘nobody now belongs to Udaipur, and Udaipur belongs to no one, it is a lonely city’. May be, it is bit about Udaipur. I can tell you about food, roads, traffic, surrounding Aravali, big traffic circles and number of ‘gates’ in the midst of city. I can tell you how beautiful Udaipur railway station is. I can elaborate tourist economy and influence of Gujarat on Udaipur. It is something about Udaipur but then this can be about any city in the country

I went to Udaipur but I did not ‘meet’ Udaipur. Each place has a heartbeat, with which one needs to get attuned to. Each place has a story to tell, and one needs patience and time to get it first hand. Each place has its own voice….. one needs to be lucky enough to get close to it….

Unfortunately, Udaipur did not open up to me. It treated me as a stranger, because I carried too much of my world with me. I need to create space for Udaipur and wait for the grace to fall upon me. Then may be I will write about Udaipur.

But till then, it is not about Udaipur…..

Monday, December 1, 2008

14. Living With MFJ......

To tell you one more truth, I never like MFJ …
Oh! Oh! Sorry for this acronym. By MFJ I mean Mixed Fruit Jam.

I have been a hosteller during college days, then passed through a long phase of being ‘paying guest’ and even some time as a 'non-paying guest' (my friends always welcomed my stay with them) …… but it was always someone else’s home. So whenever I had to go on treks, picnics, and travels the easiest thing to carry with was bread and jam. Butter was not available easily (because I like only Amul butter!!) and it melts so packing was always a problem.

Luckily in every group, there are always people who like MFJ with Bread. I gladly exchanged my food with them – it was a two fold benefit. I was able to get away with my MFJ and in exchange I always could get good, testy food. In addition, sometimes I earned goodwill of MFJ fans.

I never have purchased a bottle or a sachet of any kind of jam. The canteen people at my workplace have the habit of preparing jam-butter-bread pieces. On one piece of bread they spread jam and on the other piece butter and they serve the two pieces together. Whenever I have a breakfast at the canteen, I remove all jam pieces and eat only bread with butter. I avoid jam in all food items, at all places and at all times.

Life was going on well without this ‘jam’ until very recently. In October, I received a gift of MFJ bottle from one of my colleagues who facilitates ‘Food Processing’ activities in tribal area. I just did not know what do with bottle full of MFJ. One of my friends suggested that I give away this bottle to someone who has MFJ fixation.

But I have a very typical psychology regarding gifts. Whatever is given to me, whether I like it or not, I use it as I appreciate the feelings of the persons who have given it to me. Any Tom, Dick and Harry does not throw gifts at you, there is an ‘invisible’ value to the gift one receives. The gift is meant for me, and so whether I like it or not, I use it till it lasts. In this way I have worn clothes of certain colors that I do not like, I have read books which were boring, I have used luxury items which I never needed and so on.

I spent lot of time on planning strategies for dealing with the MFJ bottle. Then I put it away and forgot it.

But alas, the disaster has not ended. Today, one of my friends presented me one more (and bigger too!) MFJ bottle. I was trying to tell him that I do not like MFJ and I already have one unopened bottle hidden somewhere in the kitchen. But it did not work. Now I have two brand new MFJ bottles, which is scary.


Any ideas on jam recipes? Do anyone make jam paratha or jam chutney? Any wild idea would help me. Why don’t you just drop in to my place? Entry restricted to MFJ fans only. You can stay with me as long as MFJ lasts. If you are not MFJ eater, don’t come at this time. I might be tempted to put all MFJ in your plate. If you can help a bit, do come. I am looking forward to rescue.

Friday, November 28, 2008

13. Are You With Me?

I am extremely angry and like a volcano can erupt at any moment.
I am in grief – the intensity of which cannot be articulated.
I am experiencing Himalayan helplessness and I am devastated.
At the moment, I am a bundle of all sorts of complex and contradictory emotions.

As a community we have lost count of such events. We have lost count of lives that are affected. We conveniently forget the pain and suffering. We watch the bloody scenes with hell lot of interest. We discuss and keep on discussing. We never act.

How many bomb blasts have rocked India in last decade? How many people have died and how may live through it with a shock? How many dreams shatter and how much fundamentalism is seeded through such events? How it teaches us to distrust every stranger? How?

Earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones ….. the destruction is not new to us. For generations humanity has experienced it with awe, anger and surrender. The fear of unexpected attack is part of life. But human beings are crueler than nature. Nature makes and takes it back. Human beings can only take it back, they can never make it.

Fundamentalism is labeled with religion – media calls it Islamic Fundamentalism, Hindu Fundamentalism and so on. Let us come clean on this. Any act of fanaticism, fundamentalism is absolutely wrong. Bomb is a bomb and it takes away lives. One bomb, one Fundamentalism cannot be better than the other – both are equally worst. It is not only the quantity of destruction but also the intention of the action. Any violence aimed at innocents because they belong to certain religion, country, class, caste; gender, ethnicity … is unwarranted. Any kind of Fundamentalism should be done away with immediately and decisively. People should be given chance to correct mistakes, but not at the cost of others’ lives. The question ‘If they killed hundreds with bombs, why can’t we kill a dozen?’ – is wrong ideologically, philosophically, practically, legally, rationally, emotionally, spiritually … wrong from all sides. Never support such a destructive idea.

In a way we deserve it. The society who laughs, claps, appreciates and quotes Munnabhai (as if he is Gandhi of the present) forgetting that he is convicted by judiciary - has no right to complain. A person who has killed people by his rash driving, hunted protected animal gets welcome as a hero by mad crowds…. they do not have right to complain. A known drug addict who was celebrating ‘success’ within a month of his father’s death is listened to (about his girlfriends probably!) with attention. The nation is interested in who he is going to marry next … has no right to complain. A police commissioner of the city, whose appointment is questioned in the court, he still is the commissioner of the city and we all accept it .. . We do not have any right to complain. A person jailed for corruption becomes a minister and gets all the luxuries one can dream of …. those who accept it do not have right to complain. A nation where political parties have difference of opinion on whether to ‘forgive’ a terrorist for the attack on the parliament …. No, we do not have right to complain.

It is countless because it is all of us …. It is definitely most of us. We choose to be just spectators, and when it affects us we are dead, so we cannot protest, we cannot complain. We choose to feel safe, because ‘it is happening somewhere out there’. We choose to blame someone else, because that is the easiest thing to do. We are intelligent enough to say ‘what should have or have not happened’ but never active enough to make it happen or stop it happening.

Our earlier generations had a dream to make this society better. They dreamt of a strong India with justice, peace, freedom, food security, equity. They gave up their comforts and some gave up their life to make India strong. The flag had to be carried on by next generations. But with freedom, we became selfish and reckless. Looking at the present scenario I realize that I have not contributed to the positive change with my utmost capacity. I am guilty of not actively participating in the movement of change. I am guilty of not resisting the wrong at the right moment. I am guilty of allowing the helplessness to influence me. I am guilty of trying to fight with the system by becoming integral part of the system.

Let us commit ourselves to a cause. Let us create a better world not only for future generations but even for ourselves. Individuals too can make a great change with their determination and commitment. Let us act – now and here. Are you with me?

Friday, November 14, 2008

12. Tukaram

I started reading Tukaram Gatha on 1st of May; finished it on 31st of October. For exactly six months, I was with Tukaram. It was my choice.

I confess that I am bit disappointed with this association.

Nope. I am not arguing about Tukaram’s greatness or his unique contribution in shaping Marathi mind and culture. Whether I accept it or not, he is great.

What I am saying is just this: I did not enjoy reading Gatha as much as I had expected or as much as I would have liked. I am in a way (as always!) talking about ME (or is it I? I am always confused about this grammar) and not about Tukaram. So, please, don’t treat this as an attack on Tukaram. I generally do not attack anyone.

Why this happened? Process evaluation brought out these, you may please add:

1. Gatha consists of more than 4000 abhangas. This poetry style is sweet and effective when you have one or two. But on large scale, it becomes monotonous. It does not leave any space for you to explore and interpret – a good poetry always has this space.

2. Actually, it was an overdose of Bhakti for me. I appreciate Bhakti as a mood, as an emotion – but frankly speaking too much of it irritates and spoils me. Beyond certain limits, it shows weakness of human nature. Bhaktas always are asking something to God – either material or spiritual – but asking they are! My rational mind cannot value stories like Ajamila – by calling his son, he makes God feel that Ajamila remembered God. My God is not so foolish and is not craving for stupid calls from human beings. I believe God has better things to attend to.

3. There is nothing proud to be of being a woman or a man – it is a fact one has to live with. But the language Tukaram uses about women, did hurt me. Here is a guy, who with all his experience of Godhood is all the time using derogatory language about women. Tukaram’s portrayal, generalization of women is not at all acceptable. I know every person is product of her/his time and culture. But is not greatness all about ‘reaching beyond the boundaries’? Tukaram unfortunately has all the myths, misconceptions, stereotypes about women – which his society had. For example, if the son is not good enough the mother is called ‘rand’ i.e. prostitute – which is a derogatory term during his time. Why should the mother be guilty if her grown up son does not behave properly? Why the father is not similarly guilty of not bringing his son well?

4. Tukaram’s views on caste and hierarchy of the castes are also below par.

Hmm….. Better I stop writing this. I need to overcome this feeling of despondency. May be I should take a fresh guard, and without any bias read Tukaram again. I am sure he has a lot to teach me. Hope one day I will enjoy his poetry and get the feeling of oneness with the universe he calls Vitthala

Saturday, November 8, 2008

11. Wake Up Call

Getting up early has been a chronic problem for me. When I was at Kanyakumari, getting up at 4.30 in the morning was a BIG challenge – as generally that was the time I went to bed. Everyday I had to struggle to wake up early and sleep early. My biological clock works just the opposite – I am fresh at 2.00 in the morning and would love to be in the bed until 12.00 noon. Outwardly I was like a Sthitpradnya - when the world sleeps the Sthitpradnya is awake and when the world is awake, Sthitpradnya sleeps. … ‘’ya nisha sarva bhutanam, tasyam jagarti samyami, yasyam jagrati bhutani, sa nisha pashyato munehe’’…. ……. My Kanyakumari days took away that highly attained state from my life!!

On special days – I used to call it ‘Rock’ days – Oh! Nothing to do with Rock music and dance. On special days - they were called auspicious days and this word was used quite often at Kanyakumari – we used to visit Vivekananda Rock Memorial (Rock) very early in the morning. Ah! I still can feel the cool breeze, the beautiful smiling statue of Goddess Kanyakumari, the all encompassing blue sea-sky oneness, the music of rising waves, the calmness surrounding the world, the meditation hall ‘in’ the Rock … and of course the rousing statue of Vivekananda. On these occasions, I always thought that I was a special child of God …. I am sure each one of us thought so, and the next generation still feels so….. I was always excited to visit Rock early in the morning. It was different, it was very very special. I won’t mind another life as a human being to have those blissful moments!

Even today, if I have to do something ‘different’ – for example visiting a field area, climbing a mountain, watching birds, traveling, conducting a training, reading a book, searching a site on internet, writing a document, calling friends …. I wake up early without any ‘alarms’. I have only twice missed a train – once because I was enjoying dance of a peacock in Peshawe Park and second time because I was reading a book…. I do not need any alarms if I have to wake up early on such exciting days. But if there is nothing specific for the day, I feel sleepy and hungry and tired.

To wake up on time on any normal routine day, I need a wake up call. Since my mobile days, I am using mobile for wake up calls. Funnily enough, I have three different wake up calls set up in the mobile. My first wake up call is at 6.30. Except in winters, I open up all windows and doors at this time, and sleep again. The next wake up call is at 7.00. Generally I come out of bed and start doing routine work. If I have slept before 2.00 in the morning, I am fully ‘awakened’, otherwise I go to bed again at 8.00 – then wake up at 8.45, exercise for half an hour and then rush to office….

You see, here is a problem. For things extra-ordinary, I have enough enthusiasm and energy. However, for ordinary life, for routine work, I need wake up calls.

Unfortunately, most of the life is spent in ordinary tasks…. thus needing a constant ‘wake up call’….. The whole life is a wake up call…. if I listen to it properly.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Every time I clean my office cabin or home, I am amazed at the volume of papers I tear away. I do not know where all these papers come from. We are supposed to be in the era of ‘paperless office’. I watched with open eyes to understand the cause of the problem.

We store everything on office hard disk. We are worried about the hard disk crash; we save everything on the pen drive. As pen drive is prone to virus, naturally we copy everything on the CD. We also send these files to ourselves (a couple of ‘id’s as the servers go down sometimes), in case the pen drive does not open, we can at least download it online. And who knows when the power cut would be there; - just to be on the safer side – we almost print everything that we type. Then we come home and copy day’s work in home PC or laptop.

Ridiculous, isn’t it? Mind you, most of it is very temporary stuff – nothing notable to be of so much obsession of copying. I too am a victim of this disease of SCP – Saving, Copying and Printing. No wonder, I spend lot of time in cleaning papers.

I am not the sole culprit in this creation of waste papers. There are colleagues and bosses who keep on sending papers to me – most of the stuff is what they don’t want for themselves! They will elegantly write ‘let us discuss’ or ‘you will find this interesting’ on it, but forget it conveniently unless I open the topic. Earlier I used to ‘discuss’ all these topics (and for that I had to read all the papers coming to my desk) proactively. Now I keep it – No, No, I never pass it on to others. In a way they delegate ‘paper cleaning’ task to me. The speed of incoming papers and my reading does not match. Whenever I have time to relax, I see the papers and start browsing them. It is wonder that I survive through pile of papers.

With the increased means of communication, the communication has not increased. We say the same thing through different media. People send an e-mail, SMS you that the message has been sent, call you to confirm that your received the SMS and then may be – again to be on the safer side – fax you the same matter. So, you end up getting the same message four times! And with multiple e-mail addresses, even God would be confused enough to save us.

Interestingly, I do not throw all the papers in the waste basket in the first round. Some, I feel are still important and I keep it in the corner – until the corner becomes too big to neglect. Shifting a problem is a strategy which fails over a time though it provides you temporary relief. In the next cleaning act, these lucky papers certainly go, but they get a lease of life for some time. Some papers I keep with the intention of using the ‘back side’ for printing. It hardly happens as we have a common printer in the office. By the time I reach the printer, my pages are already printed on a brand new A4 paper! You see, I have a problem of plenty though the plenty is nothing but ‘one side used papers’. A4 only.

And the chain of ‘saving and copying’ leads to another time consuming action – cleaning your PC. Either I am cleaning my office PC or home PC or papers from my trey. I also clean my mobile by deleting SMS. I am involved in cleaning my inbox – as many as three ids. Oops, and there is the ‘sent’ folder which needs cleaning too.

I can happily claim that I am regularly involved in Clean Act. In the process, I clean my brain too. I don’t remember anything at the end of the day. It is in a way, blessing …….

Saturday, November 1, 2008

9. Salute!

Every morning it happens and every morning it gives me a cause to smile.

I am at the present workplace for more than 8 years now. Till then I was always a wanderer, so this is a kind of change time has brought into my life. In the early days, I was reaching office by bus. Then for couple of years I stayed in the campus itself. Then five years ago, I shifted to my new home. It is just a 15 minutes walking distance. I love to walk and I do walk a lot.

For various reasons, I did not purchase a too wheeler for many years. First of all, my workplace is at a walk-able distance. Secondly I travel a lot – I am a kind of NRP – Non Resident Punekar – so did not need two wheeler. Third, I do not have the courage to travel in the interior of the city – the roads and the traffic confuses me.

There are couple of security persons at the office entrance. When I used to walk, sometimes I exchanged words with them. Nothing of much consequence, just a curtsey conversation.

Because I thought I was forgetting driving skill, I decided to have a two wheeler. One fine evening I purchased a two wheeler. First day I did not notice it. For a week I overlooked it. But it kept on happening.

Those security persons, who did not pay much attention to me, unless I spoke to them, started saluting when I entered the office gate. It was a salute indicating hierarchy. I was puzzled. Then I thought it must have been a ‘mistaken identity’ – they must be thinking me to be someone else. But no, I had shared pedhas of my two wheeler with cleaning persons and security persons too. So, they knew me. Funny, they never saluted me earlier, why are they doing it now? I do not like people saluting me – because I do not deserve to be saluted.

Then I realized. It is not what you are people are concerned about; it is always what you have. Every day they do not salute me, but they do salute the two wheeler –as if it adds value to my status, my existence.

Anyway, the security persons (and the world at large) do not take notice of me – they take notice of my possessions (i.e. achievements). It is very droll. I am not valued for what I am – but what I have and whether it is useful. When my qualities are needed, I am treated like a queen; when my qualities are not needed I am treated with indifference. This is the reality in the world and we have to live with this utilitarian world.

Then I remembered the story from ‘Chaturmas’ story book. A poor sister was never invited by her brother, always treated with contempt. Suddenly by worshiping some goddess she becomes rich. The brother now invites her to lunch – she exhibits and puts all her jewelry in front of the food, and tells her brother that she is aware that ‘he is feeding the gold and not her’. If anyone of you have this original story, do give me a copy. Now I can appreciate the depth of the story,

Yes, the world remains the same though times change!! That brings a smile to me. Every day.

I salute the world for what it is!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

8. Wednesday

I am not much of a movie watcher. I prefer reading books to watching movies, not because I am more intellectual – it is more convenient. One can open the book at convenience, and stop reading whenever one wants. It is an activity which you can completely control. On the other hand, for movie watching you need to depend on so many external factors that you get irritated most of the times.

If I ever get opportunity to watch films, I prefer Hollywood films for various reasons. They are for just one and half hours, they have variety of subjects, the treatment of the films is more realistic and funny. Most of the Bollywood movies are just re-makes – though I enjoy filmy music. I cannot continuously watch a movie for three hours. On television with added masala of advertisements, it takes four hours! Of course, if you spend time here and there in-between, you hardly miss anything. Most of the famous Bollywood films like Lagan, Tare Jameen Par…. (I do not even know the names!) I have either watched in installments or not at all watched. Watching movie in installments is a good trick. For example Lagan I watched in four different installments – each time, watch it for half an hour and then next part you watch when you have time and will.

My friend 'G' is trying to teach me film appreciation for the last few years. Whenever she comes across a good film, she insists that I watch it. Yesterday she visited my home just to lend me a copy of film ‘Wednesday’. When I learnt it was a Hindi film, I wasn’t much interested. But G knows my choices and preferences; I have always enjoyed her recommendations. So, I inserted the CD in my PC.

‘Wednesday’ is a film directed by Neeraj Pandey. Anumpam Kher and Nasiruddin Shah have the lead roles. If I share the story here, it will spoil your experience. A very good film indeed. It sort of awakens you and motivates you for soul searching. If you have not yet watched it, please, make it a point to watch it with family and friends.

While watching Anupam Kher in some such films (‘Maine Gandhi ko nahi mara’ was the other one I have seen recently), I wonder why he plays stupid roles in many films. He is such a talented actor, then why he does injustice to himself? I suppose we all do it. We have the potential to excel; we are satisfied with the mediocre life. We all have the qualities to surpass the normal expectations, but we take pride in being an ‘also ran’ kind of candidate.

To me, Wednesday denotes midpoint of journey. Half the week is over, and there is limited time to complete the promised tasks. It is time to enjoy the unexpected. It is time to decide what to run for and what to leave. It is time to be thankful for everything in life.

Well, if I can treat each day as Wednesday, good for me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I met O’Henry long back – if you consider reading someone’s writing as meeting. I kept on meeting him time and again, but never read him enough to fall in love with – if you kindly allow me to use the expression. But I had definitely marked him for further exploration.

The other day I was at Crosswords. I picked up ‘Hound of Baskerville’ and ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ – my favorite books. Then I saw ‘Best of O’Henry’, paid the bill and came home.

No, I could not read O’Henry in one sitting. His writing is not of that kind. O’ Henry makes you smile and weep, he shocks you and surprises you, he makes you anticipate and when you turn the corner you reach an unknown, never thought of destination. O’Henry at times is humorous and he indeed is subtle and philosophical. O’Henry should be labeled as courageous and straightforward writer – he writes for himself. He is passionate and also dispassionate. O’Henry entertains you and he provokes you. He brings out the best and the worst in you – he acts like a mirror!

Is O’Henry predictable? The moment you feel so, like a magician he presents a new trick and overwhelms you. O’Henry makes you chuckle and makes you think. Mind you, he makes you nervous and builds up stress. He takes you ‘inside’ the characters and gives you freedom to feel and interpret differently. O’Henry’s sarcasm is real and his language is elegant. He creates passages for introspection and he makes you uncomfortable. You cannot read his stories just one after another. You get so much involved in the stories that you pause, think and then (sometimes willingly and sometimes reluctantly) travel with the author. Sometimes you get angry with him for ending the story in a particular way. I warn you that all his stories are not about happiness, the canvas is real enough to entail pain and suffering.

O’Henry was born and brought up in U.S of A. He passed away in 1910 leaving behind 600 short stories as his legacy. O’Henry represents a different period and hence a different world. But like all great artists, his appeal is universal. I am tempted to quote various examples from his book, but I won’t do it here. I want to you to search and find beauty of O‘Henry yourself. I assure you that he is superb.

What are you waiting for? Take out your wallet, visit a bookshop, embrace O’Henry and enjoy your Deepavalee vacation.

Happy Deepavalee to all.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

6. Weakness Helps!

Sometimes our weaknesses help us.

For example, I do not have very strong memory. It was always difficult for me to write essays of the type ‘Your most memorable day’ during my school days. One reason is I get engrossed in present. Second is my habit of writing. For about last thirty years I am writing my personal diary – sometimes regularly and many times not so regularly. Once I note down feeling on paper – may be of joy or of sorrow – I conveniently forget it. It is like once I have expressed it, shared it, it has no business to appear in my life again.

Of course, there is a risk of reading the diary again and re-living the whole episode, never forgetting pain and suffering. But it does not happen with me.

I was a full time activist for more than 12 years. I had no private space during all those years. I was always in the midst of people, never was alone. That was the nature of my work – it was a public life where there was no place for things ‘private’. I was accountable to the organization for 24X365. Before that I was staying in a hostel for about six years – you know how peers get irritated if someone tries to act differently!

I had this habit of maintaining personal diary – there was always a possibility that someone else might read it. So, I started writing diary in a sort of code language. I assigned different names to persons, places, events ….. The idea was that if anyone else reads it, s/he will not be able to identify the persons, places and events. It worked well for more than two decades. It became such a habit that even after having my home and nobody without my invitation entering into it (thieves are the exception), I still maintain my diary without naming people, places and events.

Funny part is if I read the same piece couple of years afterwards, I hardly remember anything. I have to think ‘Who might be this?’ ‘What must have happened that time?’ ‘What was there to be so sad about it?’ and so on. I have to take efforts to recall things and many times I fail to recall the event. Just an hour ago, I browsed my 2006 diary and was amused at not being able to relate to anything. It was as if I was reading someone else’s diary – which I am not supposed to read.

When this realization dawned upon me, a great thing happened. I am rather a sensitive person – (I know, many of you would like to label me ‘hypersensitive’ – but that is your way of interpreting my behavior!) - so there are more chances of my getting hurt. Earlier I used to think about such people and events for a long time. But ten years ago, in the midst of a great turmoil, I asked myself, ‘Will you really remember it after say five years?’ My honest answer was ‘no’ and that was the turning point.

This has become a litmus test. I get disturbed only by things, which I think will affect me even after five years. My experience tells me that there are no such things in the past, which affect me today. Yes, some impacts are always there, but they get internalized and so do not remain external to me. My response to situation around has changed due to this and I have become a different person – I won’t say ‘good’ person, because sometime I doubt I have become complacent and insensitive. I don’t like my indifference which makes me inactive and passive. At times I wish I had more passion.

But anyway, my weak memory has helped me to achieve lot of peace and quietness

(Note: Sorry friends, I realize that this blog is going to be ‘I’ SPECIALIST… I am talking mostly about “I” ….. Any ideas about how to bring in change in this? Please, share.) *

Thursday, October 16, 2008

5. I Will Never Know

The squirrel ‘sound’ (don’t know what is it called) was audible enough to reach my office cabin at 10 in the morning. Hmmm… the squirrel gang is again in a playful mood, I thought. Wanted to have a look at them, but suddenly the phone on my desk rang and then I was engrossed in number of things. As usual my action is not much productive, but I keep on acting – by habit?

When I was going to canteen for lunch, the squirrel sound was very near to me. Now I had little time to look at them. I searched and went near the tree and saw a young one on a branch alone. The moment I approached the tree, it got frightened and its vocal cords were suddenly strained. Yes, this was a lost kid and was asking for help. My goodness, it was crying for last two hours. It was a small branch, and the kid was at the end of the branch. There was no way forward and it could not move backward (oops, many of us are in these situations, I think that is the reason I could empathize).

My heart naturally melted. But as it generally happens in such situations, I did not know what to do. I too was helpless. The young one turned on the branch and as if looked into my eyes – was it asking me for help or was it irritated enough with my inaction? ‘Come on baby, slowly move forward and come to the main branch. Don’t worry, if you fall down, I will catch you and you will be safe’ …. I was trying to tell that charming one – (with these emotions and not with these words). But the baby squirrel started shivering and became louder. May be its parents were nearby and were frightened because of my presence.

Animals, birds, trees have a way to approve or disapprove presence of human beings. (Human beings too have, but we have been trained to overlook it – that is called smartness in the human world!) . I stepped back, slowly. The baby squirrel’s shivering stopped. Was it a problem situation or not? I was confused. I stood there quietly for about 10 minutes. I and the baby squirrel looking at each other. I closed my eyes and searched for some instinct. Nothing. I was blank, the squirrel still distressed.

Thoughtfully I moved to the canteen, had a quick bite and within six minutes I was back to the tree. There was silence. No baby squirrel, no shouting, nobody was there. The tree alone was standing there. Till the evening there was no squirrel sound today. What happened to that baby squirrel? Was it playing or was it in pain? Did the mother fetch it up? Or was it unfortunate enough to visit the sky with the kite? Was it a dream? Am I guilty of not taking timely action?

I will never know.*

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

4. Dreams

I dream well.

Simply because I sleep very well.

Most nights I dream, when I sleep in the afternoon on some of the rare Sundays, I dream. It is another matter that I ‘daydream’ too – but that I will reserve for another blog. I am not going into psychological aspects of why people dream. But I think I love dreams and so I have lot of dreams.

I hardly have scary dreams. Most of my dreams are very funny, hilarious and while dreaming also I know that it is a dream – very philosophical!! Shankaracharya would definitely be happy and bless me.

No, but in really it is not the understanding about Maya and Brahman. I call it a dream because it is not somehow related to my ‘open eye’ experience. For example, in my dream I am climbing a mountain with some of my friends – and in real life I know that these two friends have never met (because they are from different ‘era’ of my life). So even in dream, while chatting with those two friends I wonder ‘how come these two know each other?’ Or in my dreams I have conversations in Tamil or Malyalam – the languages I hardly know. In some dreams I fly over clouds and so many such things…..

I also can have a serial of dreams. Meaning, if my dream is broken by a phone call or doorbell – after the work is taken care of, when I sleep again, I can ask my mind ‘to continue with the dream’. Mostly my mind obeys my command. And the dream continues as if there was no break!

At times I get confused by my dreams. Many mornings the first thing I do right after waking up is to check the facts with these dreams and smile at myself. I did a good exercise of noting down my dreams. I have about 200 dreams written down – that is the most illogical, inconsistent, irrational piece of my writing so far. This blog is running into the competition.

In 1990, when I left Kanyakumari (forever), I dreamt about too many unknown faces over months. I told my friends that ‘I am going to meet so many new people, so moving on is inevitable’ Looking back, I see this is true. Many of you are those people, to whom I first met in my dreams! Sounds a bit psychic, isn’t it? No, I don’t mean I ‘saw’ you there! Beware, Dreams can be Defective.

One can not plan to dream, but one can always take the dreams in right stride. Then it is fun and joy and smile. Sometimes it turns into reality too.

The line between reality and dream is indeed very blurred.*

3. A Miser

Story of a colleague. We were working together for couple of years. Then he retired -due to age and did not continue as an advisor (as is the custom where I work!). But he has joined a well know corporate as a consultant. He is getting much higher salary than I normally get.

Last week I met him during one of my tours. He is a known miser, so nobody expectes anything from him. There are poeple who know him for more than 30 years and never have been offered even a cup of tea.

So, one evening, when I found him across the table dining in the same resturant, we chatted. At the end of the dinner, I went to the counter to pay for both of us. He rushed to me immediately, saying, "No madam, you should not pay, I will take a treat from you in a better hotel, if I knew you were paying, I would have consumed some costly dishes......". I was surprised. I thought he has changed. But no, people don't really change!!

He offered fifty rupee note to the man on the counter. The man said, ''Give me twenty more rupees sir'' on which my colleague said, ''no madam will pay her bill''...... I was completely bowled!!

Why do people earn money if they can't spend a small some of thirty five rupees for others? Why he did not allow me to pay and saved his thirty five bucks? I don't understand..... *

Saturday, October 11, 2008

2. Old Age

Problem of old age is affecting the families to a great extent. Not only old people are problematic sometimes but the so called young (and sometimes not so young) generations don't know how to face the situation. They forget that one day they are going to get old (if they don't die before) and will be posing the same problems to their kith and kin.

I believe that you need to live well (peacefully, mature.....) to become a good old person.
Any tips?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

1. First time

Actually, this is not my first blog. I created a blog few years ago, used it for about 10-15 times and then forgot about it. Now I don't remember the blog name and the password - so this new blog.

I am not sure why I am creating this and whether I am going to share this with others.

Funny, isn't it? If something I want to keep very private, why to use this public space?

Well, one answer is to learn about this technolgoy. What I am going to achieve by this learning, I don't know.

Let me see, how it takes shape.