30 December 2012

The year that was...

2012 is definitely a landmark year of my life. A good stint at work, some very good vacations, bonding with friends and family. All in all a very satisfactory year on the personal front. A year of accomplishments.

Some spiritual initiations too - joined Usha tai's Geeta group on email to discuss the heavy concepts of Bhagvad Gita. Also, started watching Devon ke Dev - Mahadev with my daughter which exposed me to our rich repertoire of mythology.

But the last 3 months of 2012 were tragic. Death of two elders of the family and watching them suffer has been sad. Even if one is not in touch with someone regularly, death brings a kind of finality to the relationship. It is a bitter-sweet feeling; one feels good that the dead does not have to suffer anymore but sad at the same time at never being able to feel their presence amongst us mortals.

And then came the two great tragedies of December - the Newtown school massacre and the Delhi gang-rape. People were just recovering from the shock of the first, when the second tragedy struck. The 2 incidents make one lose one's faith in humanity. It is humbling that all the achievements and goodwill of the entire year seem meaningless in face of such heart-wrenching news. It made me question if I have any right to be happy when innocent kids and women are being slaughtered so brutally. It is hard to reconcile deaths of young lives.

For the Delhi gang rape case, I've been following the uproar over Facebook and media. I've so far restrained from forming any judgements or giving opinion on this topic as it was too disturbing  to dwell on it. Nirbhaya's death jerked me into action finally. I felt aghast at the unnecessary waste of her life. There are many theories put forward to explain the psychology of the miscreants. Primary ones are social upbringing and stereotyping based on age-old beliefs that good girls do not venture out late in the evening, or with men they are not related to etc. But no matter what the upbringing, nothing can condone the sheer inhuman violation of her body.

My opinion is that every family / community / social circle knows of people who are not 'all there'. They should keep a close watch on such folks and get appropriate help for them at the right time. This is an age when mental illnesses, depression and various complexes abound. These are social ailments and need treatment at the social level. People need to understand the value of kindness and compassion even toward those who do not deserve it. By stifling cases of violence, mental torture, aberrant behavior due to fear of ridicule, people put our society at risk. Therapy & medical help should be sought for such diseased individuals in the initial stages itself and care should be taken not to let them loose in society without policing.

Infact, in addition to strict policing of the streets, there should be policing of social behavior too. And the latter can only come from families, school, communities. We should be vigilant to be able discriminate between one-off behavior of our near and dear ones as compared to really absurd behavior. We live in enlightened times where there is enough material available on what constitutes normal or weird behavior. Only when we start taking responsibility for small misdemeanors of our people will we stop feeling so helpless in face of such appalling events. If every person did his/her watchful bit, surely together we can reduce such cases in future. A mentally healthy family is the key to a mentally healthy and crime-free nation.

Kuch kariye, kuch kariye, nas nas meri khaule.....

21 December 2012

Book Review: The Krishna Key

Read a book - that too a thriller, after a long time.  The experience in itself was novel :)

Buy The Krishna Key: Book

Ashwin Sanghi's 'The Krishna Key' is a thriller based on the backdrop of mythology. Its key selling point is that it is extremely well-researched. Kudos to the writer for taking so many pains to get the facts straight. The book is along the lines of 'The Da Vinci Code' but with a much more solid punch. It has combined facts from history, nuclear physics, chemistry, geography, geometry, architechture, astronomy and religion to come up with an almost plausible explanation of the Divine energy!

The book starts with the murder of a scientist that sets in motion a chain of events at breakneck speed. The killer seems to be the tenth avatar of Vishnu - Kalki. The book is also a refresher course on the Mahabharata and the Bhagvad Gita. There is also a lot of detail about Shiv lingams, Somnath and Mount Kailash; so much so that the title seems misleading at times. The way the chronology of historical events is explained is indeed eye-opening and very convincing regarding the theory put forward. Personally, I learnt a lot about history and mythology from this book. The facts presented about Somnath and Mahmud Ghazni were astounding. The entire book is like reading a lot of research papers back to back.

The downside is that the writer crams too much detail into this book which may not be digested by the uninitiated reader. Also, he disappoints by succumbing to the temptation of introducing typical twists in the plot with addition of newer and newer characters. Those who are intolerant of questioning long-established facts of religion should definitely keep away.

16 September 2012

Journey that is Life

It is amazing how one can spend an entire lifetime under an illusion. I recently realized this about myself. All of us have an image about ourselves which we forget to validate with those around us from time to time. The end result is that the world perceives one totally differently from what one perceives oneself as !

A few days ago, I enjoyed a leisurely chat with a friend from my college days after 15 long years! My whole perspective about myself changed in those few hours. My eyes were opened to the fact that I had been blissfully unaware of the havoc / upheaval I had caused during those exciting days. I also understood finally why I had had to undergo some later experiences in life that had always been an enigma. Basically, I learned that even though one's intentions are the best, and actions faultless, the responses of others are not governed by them. Others are unconsciously reacting to the vibes / aura surrounding you which you yourself are unaware of. This conversation made me cognizant of this aura surrounding me.

College life is probably the most memorable period of one's life. I had always thought that mine was pretty unremarkable until this chance conversation that I shared with a friend on a rainy evening. Almost felt like a scene from a film :) I always felt that I had lived in a bubble throughout my college days. This was more because I was a sincere and studious student who believed that college is all about getting a degree to jump start one's career. Even though I pined to enjoy like my classmates, my conscience and my upbringing would simply not allow it. The result was that I often regretted not having made any lasting memories of this golden period. There were some - but there could have been so many more I always felt. My friend enlightened me that I definitely had touched a lot of lives in my class at that time. The surprising part was that I had been totally ignorant of this. Even now it is quite difficult to digest.

They say that life is a journey about finding yourself. Perhaps, I've reached the first milestone to discovering the real me. I no longer feel inadequate or lacking in any way. My self esteem got a mighty boost that day and I thank my God that He kept me humble and innocent throughout this turbulent period.

09 March 2012

Happy Women's day !

This year I really understood why we women need to celebrate a day in the year as our own. My organization celebrated an event in the day's honor and we had a speech by an external speaker. To say that the speech was inspiring is an understatement. It changed me totally. Gave me a new lease on life, a whole new perspective. Perhaps not everyone among the audience was as moved as I was. But due to some recent events in my life I could not but feel touched and invigorated by her speech.

The speaker began by outlining that the very decision for a woman who is married, especially within India, and/or is a mother, is ridden with guilt. She is faced with questions like "So who looks after your daughter when you are at work?" "Oh, she goes to DAY care!" "Oh, your child did not get good marks in the exam? Didn't you do her lessons with her?" "Tomorrow is Holi, so have you made pooran-poli?" ...and the list goes on. A woman like me who does leave her child in day care, can easily identify with this guilt.

"Hold on" said the speaker. "There is another side to the coin." "Imagine that you decided to quit work to look after your child." Then you are accosted with "So what do you do?" at a party by a sophisticated lady. "Oh, I'm a housewife." The resulting "Oh" literally drips with pity and contempt. The underlying question is "What do you do all day once the cooking is done and the kids are packed off to school?" See? There is no escaping the guilt in this case too. Was it wise to give up one's financial freedom, fritter away the hard-earned education to do what your grandmother did after all?

The moral - No matter what choice you make, there will be people who will make you feel guilty. But, there should be no regrets, no judgments. There is a third category of women who have chosen to work but at a slower pace. They do not wish to join in the rat race. Their position is even more delicate as they get to watch their peers (male or female) climb up the corporate ladder. It is important to remember here that the female peer, especially, has made her choice to be in the rat race and should not be judged negatively.

The trick is to accept one's decision and stick by it. To not let the guilt feelings rain on your parade. There is no right or wrong decision. For a working woman, it is best to accept that the pickle on the table will be store-bought and not home-made. Nothing criminal in that. If mother-in-law wants to perceive it negatively, that's her prerogative. Kids adjust to any situation. They are equally happy with a working mother as with a stay-at-home mom. All they need is love, support and some quality time from you. Same applies to husbands. And quality time cannot come if you are not happy.

Being part of the corporate world myself, I get to rub shoulders with men mostly as all my peers are male. This sometimes makes me feel that I'm losing touch with my femininity. Wearing a sari on the Women's day, playing silly games with my female colleagues, and generally being spoiled with compliments and gifts, I felt totally feminine :) No wonder they celebrate this day as the Women's day. It is important to feel the beauty of being a woman, to be surrounded by all things feminine - colors, gifts, fragrances, food, children.

And lastly, its essential to keep some time to rejuvenate yourselves whether you are working or not. Any time spent in getting to know oneself physically, emotionally or spiritually not only helps women deal with life's pressures with aplomb, but brings out their inner strength with renewed vigor. Hobbies such as cooking, gardening, reading, socializing etc. give women the ME-time that they most often try to do without in their nurture for their kids, spouse, elders and society.

So Ladies, enjoy the choices you have made in life. If you don't; makes ones that you WILL enjoy! Your happiness lies in your hands. Happy women's day!

28 January 2012

Giant's Bread - book review

Agatha Christie, one of my favorite authors, wrote 6 novels under the pen name of Mary Westmacott at the beginning of her writing career. 'Giant's Bread' is one of these six novels.

Its hard to describe how I feel after reading it. It is a curious blend of a children's book, a love story, a tragedy, the story of the rise of a musical genius. It is narrated in the backdrop of the World war yet is primarily about a young man who has the streak of musical genius but doesn't know it. The analogy of his discovering his genius and a man discovering religious epiphany is interesting. The author seemed very influenced by the contemporary music and used it well to involve the three characters of Sebastian, Vernon and Jane.

All the characters are well-etched and original. The novel may have been a success in its time but in my view it was stretched too thin by the various twists and turns. While the twists pack an element of surprise and help take the story further, they also interrupt the unraveling of the characters.

Nell's character is by far the most understandable though not necessarily likeable. I felt that the character of Joe had a lot of promise, but she somehow lost steam and almost disappeared toward the end. The male protagonist is the least fathomable character by far. I never did understand how or why he fell for Nell. It is hard to conclude if any of his four dreams reach fruition or not. The character of Jane is the most lucid yet tragic. Sebastian stands firm and stolid through the ups and downs of his friends' lives. If only everyone were as certain and prosaic as him, life wouldn't be so difficult!

All in all, a very decent attempt at a tragic love story by Mary Westmacott. However, I feel it was written at the very beginning of her career as it lacks her usual finesse in plot construction and treatment. Despite packing a lot of ingredients, the dish ended up a trifle bland.

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