10 November 2021

Rajasthan diaries

 

Khamma ghani !!

Diwali 2021 saw our family of eight travel to Rajasthan. A lot of planning and preparation went into the trip, especially working around six different calendars (4 adults working hectic IT jobs and 2 busy preteen kids). A lot of thought went into the itinerary, whether to go it solo or via a (tourism) partner. Eventually we settled on Strawberi tour of Kesari Travels. We even had to plan for kids' RTPCR tests.

After much deliberation and taking people's health and age limitations into consideration; we finally converged on a plan. There were some hiccups with the flight and tempo traveler booking, but thanks to the perseverance of a couple of members, they were soon ironed out.

The trip covered Mount Abu, Udaipur, Pushkar, Ajmer & Jaipur cities, with a stopover of 1 night at Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

Our guides, throughout the journey, were founts of information. The name 'Rajasthan' literally means "Land of kings" as it was formed in the year 1949 by merging 22 royal kingdoms. It is the largest state in India, in terms of area. The glory of the state is retained by its majestic palaces, forts and monuments. The vibrant culture and rich heritage of this princely state draws innumerable tourists from across the globe every year.

Its major attractions include the ruins of Indus Valley Civilization, the oldest mountain range - Aravalli, a Jain pilgrimage site known as Dilwara Temples, Karni Mata Mandir, Ajmer Sharif dargah, the largest fort in Asia - Chittorgarh, the only hill station of Rajasthan - Mount Abu, Keoladeo National Park (formerly Bharatpur National Park), the Ranthambhore National Park and the Sariska Tiger Reserve. 

This princely state hosts various colorful fairs and festivals which are known for their uniqueness; one of which is the Pushkar fair. Pushkar claims (debatable) to have the only Brahma temple in the world. Another legend associated with this place is that Lord Rama did the “Pind daan” of his ancestors here during his exile. Since then, people come here to do the same for their ancestors so that they attain ‘Mukti’ or freedom from the cycle of birth and death. This is why this place is also called Tirthraj Pushkar. We also offered puja for our ancestors on Diwali (amavasya) day at Pushkar - a truly moving experience!

Some of the things I loved about the places we visited-

  • Dilwara temples of Mount Abu (they are older than the Taj Mahal and certainly much more of an architectural wonder) 
  • Peaceful ambience of Brahmakumari ashram at Mount Abu
  • The city palace and lakes of Udaipur
  • Chittorgarh fort and its historical significance
  • Brahma temple and the holy Pushkar lake (the main deity is the holy water of the lake and not any of the idols)
  • Ajmer Sharif dargah (though it was super crowded due to Diwali holidays)
  • Amber Fort (Diwan-e-Khaas), Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar at Jaipur
  • Malpua & ghevar sweets, pyaaz kachori, Rajasthani thali
  • Aesthetically appealing buildings, shopping experience and Diwali lighting in Jaipur

Rehashed school-time history and connected some of the dots between Lord Rama's lineage, Suryavanshis, Mughal rulers, Krishna's devotee Meerabai and some of the Rajput royalty viz. Maharana Pratap, Padmavati, Prithviraj Chauhan, Jodhabai etc.

The desert safari jeep experience, especially the guides' expertise with clicking innovative pictures, was absolutely memorable. The drive through the rose fields, and 'stealing' gooseberries (amlas) from the trees, was exhilarating :) Another experience was that after unsuccessfully hunting for rickshaws post sunset, the eight of us were crammed into a single rickshaw at Fatehsagar lake. As we collectively oohed and aahed at the bumps in the road, it ran out of gas in middle of traffic! We had to split up into two rickshaws eventually.

Historically, the state is divided between kingdoms that were aligned with the Mughals and those that were not. The constant reference to sati and Johar customs was disturbing - told of the plight of women in those times. There is clearly a lot of pain and tragedy suffered by the people and the scars persist even today. Despite being a traditionally patriarchical society, some of the queens left a lasting impression viz. Rani Padmavati, Meerabai and Maharani Gayatri devi. The title 'Sawai' was first given to king Jai Singh by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb as the former displayed 1/4th more intelligence than others. Later on, he proved his wit even in warfare. The Sawais applied their knowledge of astronomy and astrology to warfare. Jantar Mantar is an excellent observatory for astronomy and physics enthusiasts.

Though one typically tends to relate dal-baati-churma, Rajput pride, ghunghat clad women, arid desert climate, camels and colorful, ornamental attire with Rajasthan; there is so much more to this place! Spotted ladies wearing interesting fusion of ethnic & western garments and men sporting attractive Jodhpuri jackets & ear jewelry. The architectural splendor of buildings, paintings and art galleries bear proof to the emphasis on aesthetics in a predominantly warrior populated state. Its also home to many water bodies, verdant, sprawling gardens and a luxurious lifestyle. Loved the rickshaws, double decker buses and multi-laned roads of the various cities. Jaipur airport is quietly impressive. 

Our tempo traveler witnessed many games, friendly banter, competitive photography and even some melodrama during the week. We enjoyed home made Diwali snacks, sumptuous Gujarati snacks provided by a friend in Ahmedabad and old hindi songs via the tempo's USB drive. Even managed to steal snippets of quiet contemplation and ME time amidst the constant company. 

Only peeves were a decided lack of variety in food / cuisines. Kids were hankering for pizzas and fast food by the end of it. All in all, an extremely satisfactory getaway after the harrowing months of WFH & lockdown. Even the repeated packing and unpacking at various hotels did not faze us :) 

25 August 2021

Boys will be boys, however fast their toys!

 

Ford Vs Ferrari - movie review  

Director - James Mangold
Cast - Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Jon Bernthal, Josh Lucas, Cationa Balfe, Tracy Letts

A couple of years ago, back when we used to go to office, one of our leaders had mentioned about this movie and how it had left an impression. I have been meaning to watch this movie since then but never got an opportunity until recently. Too bad I couldn't watch it on the big screen.

Directed by James Mangold, and given spectacular horsepower by dual male leads Christian Bale and Matt Damon, “Ford v Ferrari” is a period sports drama, that not only appeals to the "need for speed" population, but also lends a sensitive human touch to this true story. 

The story unfolds with Damon's (Shelby's) voice over about what it feels like to hit 7,000 RPM with a car, that gives an insight into why some people race - its not just a passion but a calling. Shelby is an ex-racing star turned car engineer & designer owing to health issues. He finds his soulmate in Bale (Miles), who is a feisty and formidable car mechanic as well as an expert behind the wheel.

My take on the story is that its about the MALE ego and revenge :) It recounts a business deal gone wrong and the reaction of a stubborn, egotistical automotive titan who is determined to get his pound of flesh. Henry Ford II (Hank the Deuce) is worried about the sales of Ford in 1963. To boost the sales, Lee Iacocca proposes a bold marketing strategy– to win one of the most prestigious car races in the world – 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ford needed a sports car in his portfolio and since there was no plan to build one, he decided to acquire Ferrari that was a legend in that space. 

However, Enzo Ferrari took objection to one of the clauses in the contract and withdrew at the last moment. He insulted Ford to his representatives and added fuel to the fire by selling a majority stake in Ferrari to fellow Italian automaker Fiat. This enraged Ford to an extent where he decided to build a sports car that would humiliate Ferrari where it mattered the most - the Le Mans race. The seeds for the legendary GT40 car were sowed.

That's where Carroll Shelby, one of the only American drivers to ever win at Le Mans, is entrusted with the design of the winning car. Together with a second world war veteran, British talented but volatile driver, Ken Miles, he reinvents the GT40 and works through all the bugs. These are two stubborn, headstrong individuals who inadvertently become strong allies and forge a lasting friendship. But they are ultimately only cogs in the vicious wheel of corporate rivalry. 

Ford didn’t just defeat Ferrari at Le Mans in 1966, it humiliated the Italian stallions. While Ferrari didn’t even have a car that completed the race, GT40 Mk. II’s captured first, second and third places.The finish wasn’t without controversy. Late in the race, Miles was well ahead of the competition, on his way to ending Ferrari’s dominance at Le Mans and becoming the only driver to win the world’s three biggest endurance race—the 24 hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans—in the same year.

Ford’s PR guru Leo Beebe wanted to celebrate the win with a picture of the trio crossing the finish line together. So, he had Shelby order Miles to slow down and let the other GT40 teams catch up. After crossing the line, Miles was informed that he did not win the race. His teammate Bruce McLaren did. McLaren started several cars behind Miles. Anyway, the mutinous Miles did turn into a team player and learned that it comes with a cost.

Some of the better scenes of the movie go to Miles' wife - Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and their son. Despite his unpredictable temperament, he is a family man and devoted to them. Though she doesn’t have a heap of screen time, Balfe is forceful in all she does. Annoyed with Miles, Mollie guns their station wagon at such a furious clip that even he, seated beside her, begs her to slow down. And Balfe is there again, in the movie’s best scene—no cars, no crowds, simply a sunny day in suburbia. Shelby and Miles are slugging it out on a patch of grass across the street. Mollie emerges, takes one look, and, instead of rushing over to stop them, fetches herself a garden chair and calmly settles down with a copy of Better Living to watch the bout unfold. Auto racing in the mid-sixties was a male dominated world but Balfe manages to leave a mark nevertheless.  

The more dangerous fight is reserved for the track—for many tracks, from Willow Springs, an hour or so north of Los Angeles, to Daytona, and thus, climactically, to the course at Le Mans. The racing sequences are so authentically mounted that you can almost smell the burning rubber as the squealing tyres pierce your soul. The movie is 2.5 hours long, could have been shorter, but its a great watch!

My husband's take was its a movie about answering your calling, whereas mine was, boys will be boys :)

16 August 2021

Samrat & Co. - movie review


I watched this movie without reading the reviews beforehand - which was good because its not as bad as they make it sound :)

Samrat Tilakdhari (STD) is a brilliant detective (heavily inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes) who is a bit jaded on not receiving any meaty cases off late. Like Holmes, he takes to heavy caffeine intake, smoking and street fighting, when not meaningfully occupied. His 'company' consists of his bumbling right-hand Chakradhar (CD) and his housekeeper/cook. Both are again inspired by Dr. Watson and Mrs. Hudson in the original work. 

Rajeev Khandelwal has taken up the challenge of creating a parallel of Robert Downey Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch in Bollywood quite sportingly. He has copied some of their mannerisms, even pulled off the combination of intelligence and agility well. The camerawork, direction and cinematography borrows heavily from their films too. Its truly a "Holmage" to the legendary detective! If only they had not succumbed to the inevitable hindi film romantic angle and needless songs. Rajshri productions too has dared to branch out into the thriller genre (from syrupy family dramas) in an attempt to create a lucrative series - but judging from the boxoffice failure of this film, it may not be on the cards anymore.

A lovely and loaded heiress from Shimla arrives at Rajeev's doorstep and enrolls his services to investigate her family mansion's dying garden, her father's suddenly deteriorating health and some mysterious happenings. All of them are being attributed to a dead person's spirit hovering over the mansion but Samrat obviously does not buy into that and agrees to take on the case. The action begins when bodies start dropping with the old man dying first. There is even an attempt on Samrat's life but the heiress gets embroiled unwittingly which gives rise to an action-packed rescue scene. The characters are drawn well and contribute to the plot's complexity - three threads running independently have tangled it and Rajeev has to unravel it to get to the bottom of the mystery. 

All in all, its a good watch if one does not try to compare Rajeev with Cumberbatch or Downey Jr. Bollywood is not well known for delving into whodunits as a genre as its tough to serve with the usual masala for our audience - there is bound to be some dilution. Also, except for Rajeev, the other characters do not hold up their own in the movie though they are quite good at what they are supposed to be doing - most of them are not known to public. Rajeev has certainly done his homework well but somehow fails to leave a personal stamp on the character.


09 August 2021

Achanak - hindi movie review

Achanak (1973)

Genre: Thriller 

Director: Gulzar

Cast: Vinod Khanna, Om Shivpuri, Lily Chakraborty, Farida Jalal, Asrani, Iftekar

Story: Khwaja Ahmed Abbas

Written by: Gulzar

Music: Vasant Desai

Box office status: Hit

I've acted out this movie name in dumbcharades mutliple times over the years but never actually got around to watching it. Finally got the opportunity yesterday. It was chosen due to its genre being "Thriller" and we were expecting a juicy murder mystery - also the fact that it was directed by Gulzar, intrigued us.

It, however, turned out to be a totally different ballgame altogether, yet entertaining. Both the director (Gulzar), and main lead (Vinod Khanna), were a pleasant surprise. Its definitely the best performance by Khanna and he looks great too! Inspired by the true life story of Kawas Nanavati, a naval commander, who killed his wife’s lover Prem Ahuja, Gulzar pegged the narrative on a story by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas where the protagonist kills his philandering wife too. Gulzar delved into the layers of the human psyche and came up with a riveting moral battle between judiciary and medical science. Mounted like a thriller, the 90-minute song-less narrative goes back and forth in time as the director keeps you hungry for more.

Though the identity of the killer is no secret, the plot has a couple of moral dilemmas that have been handled sensitively (Gulzar's forte). Vinod Khanna goes against his popular image and makes an entry on a stretcher. Shot through the chest, the doctor(Om Shivpuri) has given up on him but Khanna survives multiple operations. The flashback tells us about his army background and how he used his training to kill the two most important people in his life. Instead of showing the act of killing, Gulzar smartly cuts to training sessions where Khanna learnt the tricks to neutralise the enemy.The soldier has won medals for his stint in the army and is even shown telling his wife in a flashback that his medal reminds him of the people he has killed. Yet, he does what he has been trained to do when he eliminates his enemies in personal life by killing them. That's the first moral dilemma - is war justified? Khanna is expected to underplay and he does it without turning into a cardboard.

Om Shivpuri as the cigarette smoking doctor Chaudhary takes the quandary to another level. He and his team (Farida Jalal and Asrani) save Khanna only to be sent back to the gallows. It says something about the criminal justice system which waits for the guilty to be healthy to be punished. Gulzar doesn’t come up with any clear cut answers. But the ambiguity is not boring as he opens a debate that continues to rankle. And the moral impasse does come in the way of the pace of the thriller best exemplified by the sequence where dogs chase a bare-foot, and bare-chested, Khanna.

Gulzar has a knack for finding humor in the mundane and his wordplay is legendary. When the colonel father-in-law (Iftekhar) tells Khanna he is not only his sir but also sasur, it comes as a relief amidst tense moments. Letters recorded on tape create an interesting romantic tapestry giving us a sense of the times. The repeated use of “Sun Mere Bandhu Re” (Sujata) as a refrain giving this battle of heart and mind a lyrical expression. That heart is not just a pumping station. Though, Gulzar steered clear of songs, towards the end during in an emotional parting, Khanna and his father-in-law, who, by the way, also wants to save him, salute each other, one could sense the tune of “Koi Hota Jisko Apna Hum Apna Keh Lete”.

“Achanak” as a fairly well made film apart from the disappointing climax. The way the director kept shuttling back and forth between past and present, the boldness of some of the dialogues, the dog chase scene, and the light syrupy scenes between Khanna and Farida Jalal in latter part of the movie, are well ahead of its times. Its definitely a classic and surprisingly was well received by the audience too.

08 August 2021

Free rein

With the schools having gone digital since Mar 2020, its been a challenge to ensure that the kids do not go out and mingle with others. Keeping them occupied meaningfully at home has been a challenge for parents. While balancing the household chores, increased work hours, kids' studies, everyone's health, keeping an eye on what the kids are watching / reading is a HUGE task. Many parents have been turning a blind eye leading to gadget addiction, exposure to foul language and titillating stuff.

My 11 year old (she was 10 last year) took to the MS Teams platform of her school pretty well and is quite independent in navigating her way through it. She even downloads the question paper, scans the answer sheets and uploads them by herself now! While school is one way to occupy them, gadgets and digital entertainment has taken their world by storm. Its daunting to monitor what they view on the internet and also on platforms like Netflix etc. They are smart enough to exchange notes and tips with their peer group and I am always focused on not exposing her to content beyond her preteen age. 

With the help of MY peer group, and my own research, I've introduced her to some series (books as well as Netflix) that not only kept HER entertained but piqued our interest too :) I'm also thankful that they have helped her learn certain life skills and made her ponder some dilemmas too. These avenues are a good way to give our kids wings or giving free rein to their sponge-like learning abilities. 

Here are some -

How to train your dragon

Hiccup is a slight, scrawny Viking who lives in Berk, a mountainside village, where his fierce, machismo father - Stoick, is tribal leader. The village has been dealing with a "dragon problem" for a long time. The village teens go to a special training camp to learn how to kill dragons. 

During one dragon attack, Hiccup sneaks out and uses his own specially built weapon against a dragon. He thinks he might have hit it but isn't sure until he comes upon a young black dragon with green eyes in the forest the next day. The dragon is injured, cannot fly away and as scared as him. Hiccup brings some food and much to his surprise, the boy and the beast bond. Now his challenge is to convince the other kids in his dragon-fighting class, especially Astrid, and his father, that everything they thought about the dragons is wrong. 

 

Free rein

This is a horse-centric teen drama which follows 15 year-old Zoe as she ventures with her overprotective mother Maggie, and fashion-obsessed younger sister Rosie, from L.A. to her grandfather’s home in the English countryside. Zoe makes some new friends there, even manages to tame a dangerous horse named Raven (a tad incredible).

Over the course of 10 episodes Zoe and her new friends investigate the mystery of the horse thieves thought to be responsible for Raven’s disappearance. The typical life lessons about hard work, friendship and loyalty abound. One aspect that stands out is that Zoe, the main character, is black. The equestrian world has a diversity problem, and a big part of that problem is fueled by the public perception of what the equestrian world is. 

This show has anything your aching heart could desire: the vibrant British country side, horsey fantasy, bucket load of drama, and attractive British lads! Yes, Free Rein has it all. And it has my kiddo's heart :)


The InBESTigators

The InBESTigators is an Australian series featuring four unlikely friends who form a detective agency to solve mysteries brought to them by town locals. Ezra, a precocious, tech-savvy kid, Maudie, the wickedly smart and socially awkward new girl, Kyle, an immensely likable goof, and dramatic Ava are as different as could be, but each bring unique talents to the team. 

Though not officially an educational show, the pint-sized detectives use the critical thinking skills of observation, analysis, evaluation, and explanation in the course of their investigations. Themes of kindness, teamwork, and responsibility make this a solid pick, which also has a racially diverse cast that often defies gender roles. 

All of the characters are endearing and there is always an explanation at the end as to why certain choices were made. It’s also great to see the children apologize for their mistakes. Yes, there are stereotypes but nothing that a discussion with the children can’t resolve.

22 July 2021

My pandemic story

  


Everyone has a story to tell in this pandemic. It could be about themselves or about someone close. In the last 16 months, there is scarcely anyone who has not undergone a (mini or major) crisis in their lives.

 

While I managed to sail through the domestic help challenges, lockdown hassles, hectic work-life & school-life integration, health issues of close family members, multiple Corona cases in my society and workplace; my time eventually arrived after I had taken 2 doses of vaccination. No, it was not covid. It started with a mild swelling in my lower left leg which became painful quickly so much so that I was only able to walk by limping.

 

After clearing all the orthopedic tests (they ruled out joint inflammation, varicose veins), I was advised to do the venous Doppler test. I could not clear that one :-( I was diagnosed with DVT (deep vein thrombosis). For the laymen, I had a clot in my left leg just below the backside of the knee. Apparently, it had been a guest for a while, and my body had been trying to circulate blood around it for a couple of months already! Basically, I had been living with a time bomb in my body. The thought of what could have happened rocked my world off its axis. I vowed then and there NOT to google about it. I haven’t till date, but others have, and have been telling me how lucky I have been.

 

When I met the vascular surgeon that same day at Joshi hospital, he asked me to get admitted immediately. That was not even an option as I had to meet and prepare my 11-year-old who was completely oblivious. Doc suggested I go meet her, pack a bag and get myself under his care that same night for 5 days. He promised that there need not be any surgery, but immobilization of leg and observation of my body under anti-coagulants would be the mode of treatment.

 

I called up my brother, who in turn gave a heads up to our mom. We all left for my home together. I got a few mins head start, time enough to have a conversation with my daughter, which was punctuated with a lot of crying. Then the cavalry arrived, and there was a flurry of packing & planning. By 11 pm that night, I was ensconced in my hospital bed that was to be my home for the next few days.

 

The time at the hospital gave me a break from my immediate responsibilities at home, work, and daughter – and most importantly, it brought my health into sudden, sharp focus. Rest was the need of the hour. I underwent multiple tests during this time as doctors could not pinpoint the root cause. The doctors and staff were extremely cordial, empathetic, and tried to keep things as stress free as possible. There wasn’t a problem with my blood vessels, but blood itself needs to be replenished by eating frequent and nutritious meals, healthy hemoglobin levels need to be maintained moving forward and stress-taking nature needs to change. It was good to understand how my body was doing and which course corrections to make.

 

It wasn’t all hunky-dory. The leg elevation on Bohlar frame, not being allowed to put any weight on my leg, was quite uncomfortable. Some of the nights were sleepless. There were many painful pricks from the various tests they had done, injections administered and the IV they had connected to the back of my right palm. I was rendered left-handed for a few days. There were constant checks on my temperature, blood pressure and oxygen saturation. What I ate, how much I ate, and all my bodily functions were scrutinized. Even my gynaec health was under scrutiny. My progress was good, however, and my body responded well to all medication. I was finally discharged after 7 days. I had completely forgotten Covid during that time (though I used to don my face mask religiously). Quite a lot of my extended family called or visited me in the hospital, and we had many insightful conversations. When people see your vulnerability, they feel emboldened to unburden themselves. Even hubby and I got to spend many quality hours together which we never did during the lockdown. It felt good to be the recipient of so much concern, care and goodwill – the pandemic really starved us of human connect. It felt special to receive homemade food from relatives, being fed fruit by my brother, given feet rub by my bhabhi and total pampering by hubby. I was not bothered about work or by colleagues, thankfully. Even after returning home, it feels good to enjoy the consideration shown by maids, daughter, and my colleagues.

 

Complete recovery is still some time away, but my daily progress continues to fill me with hope. Life has slowed down literally as all walking & movements have to be slow. I hate that my near and dear ones had to be so worried, even now I see them watching me covertly to see if I am in any sort of discomfort and hiding it from them. My daughter too has become fiery in her consideration of me – orders me to sit down after I stand for too long (I am not to stand or sit for too long). Luckily there are no stringent diet or any other restrictions to be followed – just to take it easy, take timely medication and not take stress. Easier said than done but I can sure get used to all the pampering :-)

 

What amazed me in all of this, is how it all came together so smoothly – it was as if a divine force guided everything to fall into place with minimum ripples, despite these being difficult times. The place where I got tested for DVT is close by and was open at the time I needed the test to be done; other centers are quite far apparently. We did not have any choice with the hospital, but it turned out to be decent. The rains held up until I was in the hospital, so no one was inconvenienced. My daughter studied and gave her periodic exam by herself. My mom underwent her cataract procedure and after care without any fuss. My FIL too is cooperating with my SIL, undergoing tests for his ailment diligently.

 

My faith in the divine has certainly been strengthened. Also, my priorities in life have undergone a sea change – yes, practicalities need to be taken care of (such as making a will) but we also need to cherish every relationship, relish every moment, get rid of the drama & conflict. Declutter, simplify and detox is the way forward. Life is so fragile and precious.

22 May 2021

Socializing during lockdown

My school friend asked me to share a video with my wishes for the 50th wedding anniversary of her parents. I actually sat down and wrote about marriage and what it means to be married for 50 yrs! And then shot a video on my phone speaking about it. 

Birthday parties and family get togethers on zoom or google hangouts, service anniversaries and release parties on webex, writing blogs, articles, poems on pandemic and the various ripples caused by it - these are some positive side effects of covid-19. 

Everything is getting the due scrutiny and recognition that was previously denied in the hustle and bustle of life. Life has come to a standstill, freedom of movement is literally curtailed, sometimes even the breath is labored - but this extended pause has led to so much introspection, appreciation, gratitude and expression of the same in creative ways e.g. Sankranti haldi-kumkum this year had women sporting matching silk face masks alongwith their finery :)



Children's summer camps are so much more interesting - Anu attended a creative writing and logical thinking class so far. They actually taught how to write a story, and also how to think, via playing live, online games, solving puzzles etc! The fact that it is virtual is hardly a barrier to learning - infact minute nuances are being registered and applied by the students. Anu amazes with surprisingly insightful opinions sometimes. I may not have aged much in last 15 months but my daughter sure has matured by leaps and bounds! My colleagues, family, friends, neighbors, maids, and even acquaintances, have a much better understanding of who I am and vice versa. Socializing may have been halted but social life goes on virtually via social media, conference calls and online forums. 

Man has once again proved that he will not be defeated by nature :)

14 May 2021

Whatsapp status - the pandemic culture


 Ever since WFH got enforced since last year, I've gotten into the habit of updating my Whatsapp status daily. It is either an old or current click or its some thought / learning that resonated with me. 

Though I started this as a passtime it turned out to have many side effects! 

  • Apparently, it gave hope and inspiration to folks who could not handle the lockdown and pandemic.
  • It gave a chance for well wishers to reassure themselves about my well being.
  • A colleague commented that I was his social media icon! He checked my status daily though he never commented - it was his way of keeping in touch!
  • Someone challenged me by saying I am a showoff that's why I share pics everyday :)
  • Many others commented on some status or other and I realized that we thought similarly or felt strongly about certain common things!
  • For some it gave a semblance of normalcy in their routine to check my daily whatsapp status and if I stopped sharing they became anxious.
  • For some it was a source of entertainment and curiosity.
  • I managed to connect with so many disparate groups through that one medium - it was interesting to see who all checked my status :)

I had stopped this habit consciously as a new year resolution. But off late I have resumed it. 

13 May 2021

Mental health – the silent pandemic

2020 was an unprecedented year. We experienced a drastic change in our daily routine, and an overnight upheaval in our freedom, luxuries, social fabric, even livelihoods.

2021 is level 2 of this calamity wherein we are witnessing a closer impact to human life and humanity. India has been hit harder this year and we have seen personal impact in almost every family due to the deadly second wave of corona. The virus is mutating rapidly and our readiness to handle this pandemic has fallen short despite having had a year’s head start, even with burden of our dense population.

 

As a people manager in an IT company, I’ve been privy to challenges faced by many team members in 2020 as well as 2021, across multiple cities. The horror of this year is unspeakable. I had given up following news in newspapers and TV long ago. I am now scared to check the same on social media. Whatsapp has become the bane of my existence – I hear of so many +ve cases of known people, deaths of those I knew, as well as suffering of people due to scarcity of life-saving resources. And then there has always been the impact to several industries, decline of entire businesses, loss of jobs, insecurity in work and life.

 

No amount of yoga, breathing exercises and meditation is able to contain the anxiety and anger anymore. Tempers are flaring at the drop of a hat; people are either walking on tiptoe with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, or they are getting into verbal or physical spats. Suppressed emotion, intolerable grief, constant anxiety is giving rise to depression and mental health issues. Children too are caught up in it now. Everyone is so busy trying to cope and survive that it’s difficult to be there for others anymore. I read an article where even the mental health experts and counselors were experiencing fatigue due to the sheer number of cases they were handling daily.

 

The enormity of this historic disaster in the intellectual 21st century cannot be denied anymore. The collective human ego has been crushed into oblivion; our so-called progress and limitless knowledge have failed us when we need it the most. The facade of sophistication has been removed and the ugly faces of many have come to the fore (nothing to do with lack of salons).

 

There are still those that find fulfillment in helping the less fortunate, praying and following the social distancing rules. But am wondering if their numbers are enough to sustain this species or we are on the brink of witnessing the extinction of the homo sapiens. If the disease does not take us, will our mental health issues destroy us through suicides and general anarchy brought on by this calamity? Will the disruption in formal education of the young ones cause them to rebel and self-sabotage? 

 

Survival is the name of the game currently, but what comes next? Surely, it’s a long road ahead to recovery. Or maybe the human species itself is mutating due to this pandemic and we will never get back to whatever felt normal before. The outside world may get restored to normalcy eventually, but our internal landscape will be transformed for eternity.

 

This situation reminds me of this difference between Hell and Heaven-

 

There is a kitchen where soup is prepared in huge cauldrons and the only tool available to drink the soup are long-handled spoons. People who had landed in Hell were standing around the steaming pots, starving but unable to serve themselves the soup due to spoons being too long to reach their mouths.

 

The people who were in Heaven did not give up. Someone thought of an idea. If I take soup in the spoon and point it to my neighbor’s mouth, he can eat it at least. Soon, everyone stood in a circle, fed their neighbor and survived the ordeal.


Let us try to hang on to our sanity for as long as we can. Each of us will have to find his/her own way of coping but know that we are all in it together. Let us control the judgements, the expectations and the angst. Let us try to find catharsis through non-destructive ways and support each other along the way.

 

God bless.

08 April 2021

The Pandemic - a kid's perspective

       This pandemic, and subsequent lockdown, has given some unforgettable memories to our children. They have had to attend digital classrooms and give online exams. They have had to entertain themselves while their working parents are in endless meetings or phone calls. They have been separated from their teachers, friends and extended families for months. They have had to find solace in activities like cooking, helping with household chores etc. Some have had to undergo online classes viz. origami, programming, pottery etc. Some good memories include being creative, watching interesting movies, reading lots of books, online games viz. Minecraft, Roblox, solving endless puzzles, playing cards or board games and enjoying loads of family time! They even took to wearing masks and sanitizing like fish to water. They gave up their favorite restaurants, mall and travel experiences. 

The only outside experiences allowed to them were nature retreats but most of them did not mind. Even the hair cutting experience was wrought with a lot of anxiety as self grooming became a chore. 

       Some have had to counsel their friends when their families were impacted by Covid, whereas others have had to deal with actual quarantine of one or more family members. But the fact is that these kids are what has kept us adults sane throughout. Praying that this experience will not scar them for life. God bless them.

 



Rajasthan diaries

  Khamma ghani !! Diwali 2021 saw our family of eight travel to Rajasthan. A lot of planning and preparation went into the trip, especially...