Friday, August 20, 2010

Beauty Enchants, Fury Hurts

Speak of Leh and there is a slideshow flashing through my mind, of the beautiful scenery, the chocolate brown mountains, the alluring crystal clear lakes and streams, the shy monks and the peace of the monasteries. Not that I have ever been to Leh, but thanks to my best friend and her mail with 1500 (plus) pictures of one of India’s most beautiful, pure and serene lands, untouched by the devils of commercialization; it soon became an entrant into my list of ‘must-visit’ places on Earth. I would scroll through the album over and over again just to behold the bewitching calm and the resplendent divinity of the sight afore, though in the form of mere pictures. The next instant, the adventure-enthusiast in me was already making plans, and I found myself checking out all about the place - the summer months, the average temperature, winter season, rainy season, the best time to trek around and the likes. Apparently, June to September is considered the best visiting time, when the Sun God is affable; albeit the winters are harsh and cold.

I still find it difficult to believe what has happened; it is as if I am having a nightmare! If the news of the calamity that disturbed the aura of one of the few remaining abodes of Buddhism in South Asia is paralyzing, I wonder what the people who witnessed the catastrophe would be going through at this point. August 6 would be forever etched in the memory of each and every countryman who feels for those who are suffering the brutal attack of nature. The thought of a whole city crumbling down into a pile of rubble under the force of nature gives me the chills. It is difficult to believe that a city that usually receives very little rainfall is now flooded, with many places buried ten feet deep under muddy water. The calm and colorful natural beauty of the locale is now replaced by the noise of the brown gushing muddy water. The cloudburst came as a surprise and within a matter of minutes it left behind a scarred future. The damaged schools, hospitals, bus terminals, radio station transmitters, telephone exchange and mobile phone towers, the lost lives and livelihoods, all are calling out to us - the lucky ones. With the winters round the corner, the renovation of the city, of homes, of every necessary construction will have to wait till the next summer comes. A year without shelter, doesn’t it give us goose bumps to even think about it? It does, because it is beyond our imagination.

Sympathizing is easy but can we empathize with the ones who have lost their near and dear ones, who have lost almost everything to the natural disaster? Sitting in the comforts and warmth of our homes, we possibly do not realize the enormity of the situation. The death toll has crossed 150, thousands of people are injured, and more than 200 are missing. We cannot fight nature but we can share our comforts with our fellow human beings. Don’t you think that we should do all that is within our reach to help the victims of this tragedy and help nourish their lives? I believe we should!

By Deepti Nair

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The apocalyptic predictions are looming in the horizon, with more and more skeptics trying to unlock the mystery of the dooms day predictions, which has become more of a business of blind faith and fear. In fact, we find that more and more books, films, and other commercialization of the same are being done without any basis of understanding the real truth. Many prophets and seers of yore have given varied prognosis on the same using divination and epiphany as the tool. But for a contemporary human being, these cannot be validated without scientific rationale and thus it is imperative to dispel myths and ignorance revolving around this concept.

Mythology by itself cannot be considered as a concrete documentation of reality, but just a reference of cryptic symbolism which can be decoded in a number of ways, with varied extractions of illusionary truths by different individuals. Thus the authenticity of the predictions cannot be clarified.

When we look around, we do realize that we are living in a dangerous world and it seems death is lurking in every corner. In fact, when we look at the complete world picture and events surrounding it, we are finding fear all around. Thus the apocalyptic concept cannot be eliminated as a mere imagination also. As it could be the harsh reality that major portions of the human race could be eliminated in one cataclysmic event of enormous proportions. So there lies the intrigue surrounding this concept.

The world has all the raw materials for a fiery end, which is true. We find nuclear arsenal, carbon emissions, global warming, tsunami, earthquakes, asteroids, solar flares all coming into picture as the means for the end of this world drama. Also, when we look at all the world religions the concept of dooms day is clearly mentioned. Many civilizations have predicted this, the most famous prediction being the Mayan prediction. According to the Mayan calendar the world as we know of today is going to completely change come Dec 21, 2012. This is the day of closure as some would put it. So looking at the proximity to that date, we should all ask ourselves whether this is reality or an illusionary logic.

The concept of a world wide change might be true, but ascribing a date to the same might not be so, without evidence backing it. So rather than blindly believing random dates let us look at the larger picture.

We observe that human beings have violated nature and moral laws more and more with the passage of time, so we can infer that ultimately the gross violation of nature laws by mankind might call for a divine justice which some may term self destruction of sorts.

We need to look around, and contemplate hard on our mundane existence, how can we contribute to a positive world change is the relevant question. Now, here comes the role of spirituality and reasoning which gives us ample room for reflection. The essential contribution which each one of us can make is the spirit of harmony and peace among each other.

But, unfortunately this feeling of universal love is lacking, which is evident. Then the question arises as to why we complain about world peace when we ourselves are not in peace, as the world reflects nothing but the collective consciousness of all of us.

So let us all solemnly take a vow that we shall harbor positive and love full thoughts for one another and contribute to world peace in our own way. Having said that, let us also prepare for hard and stormy days ahead which might well come to pass…

By Rakesh S

Friday, January 29, 2010

Language of Music

I write this while listening to a song, a peppy Bollywood number that belongs to a movie, which fizzled out before anyone even knew about it. The song has an impression on my mind - and trust me, it can endure time and memory.

I have a lot of similar stories on songs and the music composition surrounding it. I can say that lyrics, tune, instruments used, and singer - all are factors that are attributable to a song's success. Still, irrespective of who sung it, wrote it, composed it, I can like it just by listening to it. This contradicts my previous statement, but that is what I call - "Language of Music".

Experts say that same brain structures are involved in processing music and language. Does this suggest that music can play a key role in developing one's linguistic capabilities? Well, I partly agree with this, because I know people, who in spite of stammering, can sing mellifluously. Whoa, another speech therapy – “Music!!”

There is a striking characteristic of a good song or a song which I, you or any other human being cherishes - The "feel good" factor. A song, or any part of it like a beat, a word, a stanza, a note or the time when one heard the song initiates a cascade of emotions somewhere, which you realize each time you listen to it. This is probably the most common feeling that most of us have and we express often. Just remember a song which gets you going - getting goose flesh…eh?

So...go ahead enjoy music, relish what kicks you best and hard. "Su Che Su Che" - this is what I am listening to ;o))

By Debanjan

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Should social media be regulated?

Transparency, authenticity and credibility are the three mantras to the success of any media platform, and this is true even in the case of social media, to make business sense. This is even more important as company representatives, knowingly or unknowingly, are now engaging themselves in social media communication. In these circumstances, the thin line between what is ethical and unethical for the consumer, and also from the business perspective, becomes very difficult to demarcate.

Today, social media is an outlet not just for sharing information with the world, either from customer to customer, or from consumer to business or the other way round, but is also an important platform for product and theme promotions.

When there are commercial interests involved, it becomes imperative that the platform is regulated. Restrictions here would mean a centralized body that legislates, and helps the industry and the end-users interact with each other responsibly. Self-regulation is not an option, as there need to be standards and benchmarks to maintain constancy.

Gears have been fast shifting towards holding search engines responsible for sponsored links. Also, trade journals have been creating customized limitations that make it mandatory to list the researchers’ affiliations and the funding received, when they submit studies on company drugs or express their opinion on industry issues.

The drug industry and the FDA have been actively involved in formulating how prescription-drug advertisements are posted on electronic media. In many cases, the industry has been accused of deliberately or intentionally hiding side effects and limitations of usage of a particular drug. Even off-label uses are carefully worded to expand the patient database. Hence, it is essential that federal bodies such as the FDA and the FTC play a prominent role in regularizing the content posted.

Extending the same logic to the automobile industry, it is learnt that better car designs are produced, based on the feedback provided by consumers of previous models. So, billions are at stake if the feedback provided is not authentic and credible.

In case of FMCG goods, the huge chunk of information that a prospective consumer has to digest, before he makes an informed decision, may most of the times leave the end user more confused than he initially was.

Social media is undeniably a very important platform for marketing and branding in businesses. At the same time, it also helps consumers make informed decisions. Centralized regulation of this mode of communication will definitely go a long way in preventing the chaos that currently exists. Without curbing the right of free expression of opinion, the world of social media can be effectively regulated in a similar manner that currently governs the rest of the advertising industry.

By Shilpashri

Friday, January 15, 2010

Voices from afar.......

When the door bell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news. That was the only thought running in my mind as I climbed down the stairs to open the door. I was trying to figure out who could it be at such an unearthly hour. Finally as I opened the door, I saw a woman with a sad look on her face standing in front of me holding a newspaper. She seemed to be in the autumn of her life, maybe early fifties. I was puzzled and could not really understand anything. As I opened my mouth to talk she dropped a newspaper at my doorstep and turned to go. I tried talking to her, but she hastily walked away and then disappeared into darkness. I had a look at the paper and it was a week old paper. A small column on the right side corner of the paper caught my attention. It was about an accident that had occurred in which a woman named Sophie who was driving a car with her two children in the back seat knocked off a young girl Linda who died on the spot and Sophie was left unconscious. There was no information on the two kids except that they had a miraculous escape. I was trying to understand what was happening. Thinking about the incident I returned to bed and after some more pondering dozed off to sleep.

I woke up the next morning to chirping of birds and a cool morning breeze. As I was getting ready to leave, my eyes fell on the newspaper lying at the doorstep and the previous night’s incident flashed in front of me. I tried searching for the old paper and it was nowhere to be seen. Convincing myself that it must have been a dream, I left to work with a sigh of relief. My day started off with great fervour. Architecture had been my love since I was a kid. I have always been interested in architecture and medieval architecture in particular. After years of hard work and with constant dreams of making it big, here I was being counted among the successful and recognized architects of my time. I had been invited to be part of the second annual conference of the Revivalist Group which was actively working on preserving and restoring the historical monuments, which was happening the day after. Apart from passion for my work, there was another reason I was looking forward to being a part of this event. I was looking forward to meet Evelyn, a student of history whom I had met in the last year’s convention and there was some noticeable instant liking we shared. Our common interest in all things ancient and quaint was another factor which kept us engaged in lengthy conversations. We however could not share our numbers and left it at that. I was however hoping at cementing our bond this time around. With excitement and lots to look forward to I spent my day at work and finally I was home by seven. After a light dinner and a bit of packing I hit the bed only to wake up later to the sound of the door bell. With eyes half open I looked at the clock, it showed 3 AM. I was startled and sat up in bed. Not knowing what to do, I just ignored the constant ringing of the door bell and tried sleeping again. But when the door bell did not stop ringing, I got up to go. While at the door I was surprised to see the lady again. This time she handed out a small sheet of paper with something scribbled on it. Hurriedly she vanished again into the darkness. A closer look at the paper and it said HELP ME! I could not really understand and after a lot of restlessness tried going back to sleep. I woke up late the next day and searched for the paper, again it was not there. I was shocked to say the least. My mind was filled with questions and the rest of the day went by, my mind seeking answers to all those questions. I returned home with confusion still prevailing and some thoughts also spared for Evelyn. I tried to forget everything and finished the rest of my packing. I had an early morning flight to catch and could not sleep the entire night. I was waiting for the clock to strike three. It was the curiosity and not fear, because I wanted to know what the woman wanted to convey. Finally, when I was lost in my thoughts I did not notice the time pass by and the door bell rang again. I looked around with shock and finally when I opened the door the woman was standing in front of me. This time I saw her trying to say something, but she could not bring herself to do it. It was as if some strong force was stopping her. With tears in her eyes she held out a photo frame. While I was engrossed looking at it, a big shock was awaiting me. The woman at my door along with Evelyn and a small boy roughly around eight years old was what I saw in the picture. I looked up and she again was rushing back. I tried running behind her, but she vanished into the darkness. It made me even more eager to reach the conference and meet Evelyn. I hurriedly got ready and left for the airport. After reaching the event I started vigorously searching for Evelyn. I could not find her and was left heart broken when I could not see her till the end of the day. I started worrying about her and the next two days were extremely difficult, with all kind of thoughts torturing me. At the end of the three day conference, I did not wait for a second to get back home.

I was finally home at 5 AM and as I opened the door I saw some things strewn at the floor. I went near and could see the same old newspaper, the small slip of paper, the picture and also some flowers. I could see there were a bunch of purple wild flowers along with two more varieties lying on the floor. I assumed these flowers must have come in the past three days. Like a lightning I realised the purple flowers are the same which I would see and admire daily in my neighbour Mr. Pattison’s garden. He was a botanist and an ardent gardener. He was mostly reserved and seemed to be interested only in the plants and flowers in his garden. His garden with beautiful flowers behind those high walls of the compound was a treat to the eyes of everybody who walked past it. There was never a single person who did not give an admiring look at it. Such was the beauty of his neatly manicured lawn and well maintained garden with beautiful flowers. However the other two bunches of flowers were beautiful too, but I could not recall seeing them in Mr. Pattison’s garden. With curiosity, confusion and worry overpowering my mind, I could not hold myself back anymore. I ran hurriedly to Mr. Pattison’s house hoping to get a clue. As I reached the gates of his house, I stealthily walked in only to be stopped by a hoarse voice – Who are you and what do you want gentleman? I turned around to see Mr. Pattison actually standing in his garden watering the plants. I fidgeted a bit before introducing myself as his neighbour. He did not seem to be very impressed and said – That doesn’t mean you can just walk in to my house, leave before I chuck you out of here. I was taken aback by his behaviour and as I turned back to leave I saw two small bushes just about a feet high with beautiful flowers, the same flowers which I found at my house. Now I was convinced that the solution to my problem could be found only here. I decided to come back and seek answers to all the questions.

As it was getting darker, I started keeping an eye on Mr. Pattison’s house and after two hours he stepped out of his house. I waited till he went a little far and rushed to his house. The main door was locked and I entered after breaking the huge window on the left side of his house. After scouting the entire house I saw some movements in one of the rooms on the first floor. I ran towards it and to my utter disbelief I saw Evelyn and the small boy who was in the picture, tied to the pillar at one corner of the house. I freed them and took them to my place and called the police. I was relieved and happy to see Evelyn safe, but my thoughts were still with the woman who came to me seeking my help. Evelyn was not in a state to talk anything. She just wanted to go somewhere and we drove down in my car. It was a hospital and she enquired about somebody at the reception and headed towards the special ward. I followed her with the small boy tagging along with me. As I reached the ward and looked at the patient in the bed I was shocked and stood still for few minutes. It was the same lady who was at my door everyday seeking help. I was not able to fathom anything and the recent spate of events were not less than a mystery. I finally gathered my composure and spoke to the doctor. What followed was a tale of shock, grief and disbelief. The lady was Evelyn’s mother Sophie and she was in coma for the last two weeks after she met with an accident while shifting to this city.

On further probing I got to know that after the accident Linda’s father Mr. Pattison had come to hospital to avenge the death of his daughter. But on seeing Sophie unconscious and with very little chances of her recovery, he left hastily. After his visit both Evelyn and her brother Rueben stopped visiting their mother. Nobody had a clue about their whereabouts till then. Finally he was able to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. Meanwhile Evelyn was surprised to see their family picture missing and later got to know about it when I narrated the entire incident. The doctors also affirmed that everyday Sophie would get critical around three in the morning and later stabilize after sometime. It was also the same time when her kids had gone missing. There was a calm demeanour and serenity on Sophie’s face and the entire room lit up as the morning rays pierced through the curtains bringing a new hope for life.

Mr. Pattison was sent to an intensive trauma care centre and was offered post trauma recovery sessions. A week later Sophie passed away, probably with a satisfaction that her kids were now safe. The safety of her kids was the only thing that was stopping her from leaving this world. Our lives went on and after eight months of courtship, today as I am standing in the church looking at Evelyn walking down the aisle I realise this is the happiest moment of my life. I thought to myself – After all when the door bell rings at three in the morning it doesn’t always have to be bad news. As I kept smiling the priest called out - George, the bride is here. Can we proceed with the wedding vows? I grinned and gave my consent.

By Krishnaveni K.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In Pursuit of A Dream

When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news - especially when you look out the peep hole and find a big curious eye staring back at you. Enough to divest you of whatever traces of sleep was left in your system. I knew only one person who stares back through peep holes – my aunt. I opened the door with growing trepidation, and was assaulted by a chorus of sing-song voices saying “Surprise!” – I found myself blinking at an assortment of relatives of all sizes ranging in age from 5 to 80. Just seven of them.

My aunt, her husband, their son and daughter-in-law and their three kids – I couldn’t help but notice the enormous amount of luggage either – I counted 15 bags. Typical – each person carries at least two, and the strongest gets to carry three – the logic being that one has to carry at least one more bag than they can. Guess it depends not on what you need, but on what you think you need.

My relatives straightaway proceeded to consider my 1-bedroom flat their own. As they treated themselves to cold drinks and chocolates from the refrigerator, I gathered that they were here to see the ‘sights of the city.’ My aunt, who had discovered ice cream in the refrigerator and was treating herself to generous dollops of it, said between mouthfuls, “We were just talking about you the other day. How we have not seen you for 10 years and all that… So, we just decided to pack up and come along to see you. And in the process, we can see Bangalore too. We didn’t want to disturb you, you know! So, we just came from the station ourselves. Horrid, these autowallahs are! They charged 200 rupees for just 3 kilometers, saying it was “odd time!”

“But,” she added, “It’s nice to have relatives in strategic places you know!” Sure, I know!

I took a deep breath as my gaze wandered around the pitifully tiny flat that had been my pride until then. I couldn’t help but wonder at the storm that seemed to be rocking it right at the foundations. I wondered how kids can have the energy to play Dracula at 3 am in the morning. They were all over the place – hiding and laughing and screaming their lungs out when discovered by their fellow Draculas. Even as I tried to understand the mystery of their high energy levels, a piercing shriek designed to leave me permanently deaf popped my heart out of its rhythm and set my ears ringing for 2 scary minutes. Some lung power!

I managed to drag out an old mattress and quickly made make-shift beds for the kids and their parents. The “master bed” of course went to my uncle and aunt. And that was about all the furniture I had. I found a bed sheet and spread it out in the 3 x 5 ft dining “space.” No pillows left. I pulled out some clothes from the wardrobe and tried to make myself comfortable enough to get some sleep. But I was not destined to sleep. Draculas and one-eyed monsters kept invading my dreams.

I woke up sore and tired at 5 a.m., only to find my aunt chanting away to glory. I first cursed at having my restless sleep destroyed so completely by her mumbo jumbo. And then I found myself listening more closely. I hadn’t heard those verses since I was a kid. Fascinated in spite of myself, I listened for a while…

Office! I have to get to office. No time to listen to all that chanting stuff – even though it reminded me of cold mornings of long ago when I used to sit at the kitchen door steps in the patch of sun light that filtered through the dense trees growing in our back yard, drinking Bournvita my mother used to prepare for me just the way I liked it.

I quickly went into the kitchen – only to find that tea was already prepared. Not quite the way I like it these days, but still reminiscent of a time when I wasn’t so picky about adding generous amounts of milk and sugar. I decided that if I had to get to office on time, I needed to capture the bathroom ASAP. But of course, someone else was already ensconced in there, a second ahead of me. My uncle has this habit of singing out aloud his devotion for the creator as he performs his daily ablutions and bath. Unfortunately, uncle also does not come out of a bathroom before the proverbial hour is up – He takes his time. I knew I would get in trouble again in office for coming late. This time the fault wouldn’t be mine. As if that matters.

My cousin and his wife, thankfully, were still asleep with their kids. I finally got to capture the bathroom, but couldn’t manage a reasonable length of stay inside. The mini-Draculas were up and in great form. One of them wanted immediate occupancy of the bathroom. I had to relent.

When I next entered the kitchen, I found that the breakfast was already prepared and a lunch box had mysteriously appeared – all packed and ready. My aunt wrinkled her nose as she placed the lunch box in front of me, “Don’t eat things from hotels outside. Verrrrrry dirty! You never know what diseases they breed out there. I’ve cooked some rice and dal. Have that.” I stared at the steel box and wondered how I would fit it in the laptop bag. Home made rice and dal – not bad I guess.

And as I was stepping out of the house, she said, “Oh! By the way, don’t forget to get some fruit. Your uncle is fond of apples. You know – the Washington ones. Get two kgs of those. And get some more ice cream for the kids. Your fridge is practically empty. And there seems to be some problem with the geyser. Send some electrician to get it fixed. And here is the list of groceries you need to get today evening. I am going to prepare your favorite aloo paranthas today for dinner.” Aloo paranthas – my favorite? Still, it was something to look forward to at dinner.

I realized I didn’t have my cell phone with me. So, I went back in. It was not in its usual place on the TV stand. I hunted around a bit. My aunt told me that one of the mini-Draculas had been playing with it. I found it in the tiny hands of the youngest Dracula. Predictably, the screen saver, ringtone and everything else that could be changed had been changed.

I managed to reach office on time. I marveled at the mysterious ways of the universe!

This was pretty much my routine for the next week. My relatives knew more of Bangalore than I did by the end of the week. I was surprised there was so much to this city that I had been working in for the past five years. Neighbors started dropping by to visit. I had never known that the family living next door had a kid who was mentally retarded.

But, I was tired of the constant screaming of the little Draculas. I wanted to eat something I had cooked myself in my own style. I wanted to watch TV without having three pairs of eager hands grabbing at the remote. I wanted to have nothing to do with neighbors who kept popping in and out asking for sugar or a tomato or a potato and sometimes my laptop. I didn’t want to have to hunt for my own phone every time I needed to make a call. I wanted to enjoy peace in my own house. I struggled to come to grips with the change that had suddenly taken over my life.

But just as quickly as they had come, they were gone. I heaved a sigh of relief as the train bore them away on a fine Sunday afternoon. I was eager to get back home and sleep on my own bed.

But when I opened the door, the quiet was a bit scary. The house looked like a cyclone had just passed through it, so I started cleaning it up. I restocked my refrigerator. I flipped through channels on TV for a few hours. I tried to sleep, but sleep eluded me. I picked up the phone and called my mother. I spoke with her for fifteen minutes and told her all about “aunt’s trip to Bangalore.” Then I went up to the terrace and watched the sunset. I wondered why I was not relaxed – now that the storm was past.

“Maybe I should finish some work instead of wasting my time,” I thought. I switched on my laptop and stared at the screen for an hour before realizing that I wasn’t getting any work done. The house was too quiet.

“No matter,” I told myself, “Time flies… Tomorrow will be another day. I will probably thank my stars that the house is quiet after I come from office tomorrow.” This time, I couldn’t stop that nagging question from popping back into my head – again. Is this the dream-life that I have struggled so hard to achieve?

What have I given up to achieve this?

A. Geeta

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More than just a run machine….

Last week the media was busy collecting the details of a rather long career of India’s iconic cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar. November 15th 2009 marked the completion of 20 glorious years of Sachin Tendulkar in international cricket. People across the world have been talking of one milestone after another, all through this long journey. Records have been broken every now and then, and the shrewd cricketer is nearing another milestone of 30000 runs at the international arena.

However, there is much more to this guy than the extraordinary pile of runs that he has accumulated. Apart from his “off the field qualities”, it is the finer aspects of the game in general and his batting in particular that has been the focus of discussion all these years. One need not be an expert to identify that each and every stroke from this genius (perhaps I can exclude the paddle sweep) is straight out of the text book. Speaking a bit technically, the straight face of the bat, the still head, the upright elbow and the flawless footwork is more than a delight to watch. How many times have we wondered and appreciated the timing, placement and execution of the shots, as though he has memorized the fielding positions for the entire duration of his innings. “Effortless” is the word commentators often use to describe his stroke play. Most of us watch him, not just for the runs, but to see a straight bat dispatching the ball somewhere down mid-off or through the covers. It has come to be known as his trademark shot which we will all cherish for years to come.

There are few batsmen in the cricketing world who have been able to combine traditional textbook cricket with the modern day aggression. This is what sets him apart and keeps viewers glued to their television sets.

Critics have, time and again, insisted on his departure (some called him a “spent force”) and he had consistently proved them wrong. However, the question is what happens after his exit. The satisfaction and delight of watching him bat will suddenly vanish. For us, Indians, the game of cricket may never be the same again. People who appreciate quality would never want to see him go. Given a choice with Aladdin’s lamp, I would ask for at least twenty more years, just to hear the sweet sound of leather on the master blaster’s willow.

Pankaj Kulkarni