Monday, 13 April 2015

Kindred souls

Nisha and Asha sat at a table in the restaurant. Both had so much to share with each other as their meetings did not take place often. Even phone calls were not that frequent. However, they shared a close bond. Nisha looked at Asha’s cheerful and laughter filled face and felt happy.

She went back to the days when things were very different.

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It all began when Asha had called Nisha one afternoon and sobbed her heart out. A major turbulence had Asha’s life in its vice like grip and Asha was struggling to keep afloat. Nisha though shaken thoroughly, decided to do whatever she could to help her dear friend. There were frequent phone calls and regular chat sessions, to provide Asha with strength and courage to face her fears & the situation. Though it was Asha who more or less used to initiate these talk sessions, often times Nisha initiated them, in order to keep tabs on her friend’s well-being.

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It was during one such call from Nisha that Asha had blurted out without preamble. 
“You are a lifeline Nisha. I was thinking of you and was just about to call you. I don’t know how you come to know that I need to talk to you. You always call exactly at those moments without fail. How do you know Nisha? Tell me, tell me please. And thank you so much.”
Nisha just said “Whenever I get a strong feeling that I have to call you, I do. That’s it.”
Neither could explain this phenomenon. Could they be that they were connected at some higher levels undecipherable to man?

After several months, the Sun began to shine once again in Asha’s life with plenty of support from Nisha as usual. 

She had held Asha’s hand all through because Nisha understood the pain and the support required. Nisha understood all that because she herself had undergone similar turbulence in her life, several years before Asha did.

Kindred souls after all.
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A-Z Challenge 2015


He was shocked beyond belief. 

"How could this ever happen?!"

That morning had dawned just like others had. Bright and sunny, full of promise and energy. He had quickly dressed and left for office looking forward to hand over the completed project he had so painstakingly nurtured for years. 

He had been looking forward to celebrations that would take place for his long and loyal service. The completion of his pet project and his completion of 15 years in the company, all dovetailed nicely. He had felt on top of the world. The company had been through several ups and downs during those years. But he had stuck through. 

He had shared all this with his wife of 15 years. He fleetingly noticed that she wasn't her usual chirpy self. From the past few days he had noticed that she had been a bit quiet. He had had decided to have a chat with her that evening about it. Their marriage too had gone through many ups and downs, mimicking the company's fortunes. But he had stuck through.

Their relationship had begun when they both joined the same company. She had progressed faster than he had and was now his boss. However, there was no ego issues between them and he had actually enjoyed working in her team.

At his desk in office, there had been a note to meet the boss.

She had smiled a bit nervously while handing him a sealed envelope.

He had picked it up with a smile and opened it slowly. The smile had been immediately wiped off and his face had gone white. He certainly had not seen this coming.

He had been jilted. Big time.

It was a letter terminating his services in the company, with immediate effect. He had believed in loyalty. Obviously,  the company didn't.

For A-Z Challenge 2015

Idiosyncrasies - A few of them here

Am sure you have come across something typical of a particular country or people or race or have it pointed out by someone. Here are some that I have come across. 

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We are known outside of India for the typical way in which we nod our head to questions asked of us. This nod is termed the Indian nod by non-Indians. This nod has spawned several communications related debates, whether it means "yes" or "no". People asking the question gets confused. So far, I am yet to come across anyone other than Indians indulging in this nod.

We also don't belong to the tissue culture much, preferring handkerchiefs instead. Then comes the IST, also known as not being or starting things on time. Our clothing is full of colours and cheerful prints, unlike in some of the countries I have seen. Most of their clothing are in only so many colours and that too without any prints. Maybe this is the reason why so many non-Indians say that India is so full of colours and vibrant too.

Malaysia has its own version of IST and it is called elastic time. 

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In Singapore, one of the typical sights would be people sipping through a straw, a brownish liquid in little transparent plastic bags with a plastic thread. On closer observation, one can see that it is hot coffee. Another typical sight would be people (mostly women) pushing or dragging personal shopping carts to do their grocery shopping. It is also heartening to see men and women dressed in complete business formals but wearing hawaii slippers or flip flops for convenient commuting and then change into formal shoes just before they enter the office building. No qualms there about wearing chappals though dressed in full formals.

In Australia, women are referred to as Sheela. The ladies' rest rooms mention "Sheela" instead of "Ladies". 

In Europe, and maybe in other countries too, I could never understand why winter coats are predominantly black in colour. One does spot a red coat or a white coat but it's a very rare sight.

Care to share the idiosyncrasies you have observed?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Hinduism, History and Holiday in an Islamic country

A very short holiday in Jogjakarta in Indonesia gave me an experience I was a bit unprepared for. Jogja as it is known locally, is renowned for Jawanese fine art, Batik, silver filigree work, etc. This city is also famous for two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Candi Prambanan and Candi Borobudur, both dating between 8th  & 10th Centuries. 

The main structures of Candi Prambanan complex
Candi Prambanan is a Hindu Temple complex of 240 temples of varying sizes, built by King Sanjaya for the holy trinity of Hinduism and their vehicles or vaahana. The entire complex is located close to the still active Mount Merapi. The temple complex has been damaged due to neglect in the past as well as shaken, stirred, ash spewed upon. Restored significantly in 19th century, it stands tall and magnificent. This follows the Hindu temple architecture (including vaastu). Not all the sculptures are intact.

Candi Borobudur is a majestic Mahayana Buddhist temple built around & over a hillock, with the hillock  forming the core. The open temple has 9 levels symbolizing the spiritual evolution of human from the lowest levels towards Moksha depicted by the empty big sealed stupa at the summit. This temple apart from plenty of relief panels has 504 Buddha statues. Each group of these statues facing a particular direction have a specific hand mudra. Structurally and architecturally it is indeed a wonderful case study allowing for perfect water drainage during rains, prevention of the structure crumbling due to erosion of the underlying hillock and so on..

A few details caught my attention at these two historical sites.

Candi Borobudur
Every single person belonging to any race, be it child or adult, entering the temple complex premises has to comply with the clothing requirement of having a sarong tied around the waist. No excuses accepted. The extent of cleanliness that is maintained within the entire temple complex is commendable. The guides, who showed me around the temple complexes with so much pride and respect for the places, were Indonesians and Muslims. The relief panels are based on Ramayana, Bhaagavatha and the life of Siddhartha. So, the guides narrated stories from our scriptures perfectly by way of explaining these relief panels. It was fascinating to observe the extent of knowledge about our scriptures these people who were non-Indian and non-Hindus had. There are some variations in the way some names are pronounced and written in Indonesia, like Sita for instance is called Cinta. The degree of influence of Ramayana in an Islamic country was evident in the popularity of a ballet based on this epic, by the way the tickets sold out quickly.

This experience brought me up close and personal to the strong reach of Hinduism & Buddhism in a predominantly Islamic state thousands of miles away from India, more so during an era when technology, communication and transportation were not as advanced as it is today. Also, it was heartwarming how these two temples are respected and held sacred by the people of this city, named after Ayodhya, irrespective of their race and religious leanings.

A truly enriching experience. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015


What is the image that comes to your mind when you hear the word “Guru”?

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For foreigners, it could be an Indian spiritual leader clad in saffron or an expert on something. For Indians, it could be a teacher (spiritual or otherwise) or an expert or someone named “Guru” or a slang especially for Kannadigas who use it to address anyone and everyone as in “yen guru?” means “What guru?”

Here I refer to the teacher. There is a saying which translates as “A person who teaches even a single letter is a guru”. I agree with this.

On the flip side, it has often made for very interesting & entertaining observations at some spiritual meets in which the Guru also participates. The disciples get worked up into such a blind frenzy about the Guru! Whatever the guru does is praised irrespective of whether it is praiseworthy or not. I guess many people religiously follow our scriptures which say that teacher is God and accord the status of God to these very human spiritual gurus. 

The best part is that those Gurus seem to relish and thrive on this status accorded to them. They also build up their own tight little circle of very obedient disciples or sevaks around them into which only a privileged few are allowed. There is also plenty of gimmickry and buildup of hype. To top it all, if they happen to teach any techniques for spiritual development, they will charge exorbitant fees citing commitment of students as a reason to charge such high fees.

Does a true guru really care for such adulation, flashy lifestyle and vulgar opulence? Wouldn't he or she be more concerned about the students learning, assimilating and putting to good use the knowledge imparted?

And when will people learn to use their discerning powers to separate the grain from the chaff?

What’s your take on this?

For A-Z Challenge 2015

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


The past few days she has been weeping without rhyme or reason.
“That can mean only one thing. Oh God!! Who will it be this time?”
A couple of days passed. The weeping reduced. 

She was very sure that those bouts of bawling her eyes out were telling her something. Every little thing was setting her off.

The first couple of times of such weeping bouts did not attract much attention from her. But when a pattern started to emerge, she took serious note of it. It was as if her very soul was mourning some impending profound loss.

And from then on, every such instance filled her with deep dread and immense frustration.

Last night was very restive; waking up in cold sweat in the wee hours of the morning. She had had nightmares of people being chased and bombed. She could sense that things were coming to a head.
“Oh Sweet Lord! Who would it be this time? If only I could know who. If only I could warn them somehow. But then, who do I warn and about what?"

The frustration and foreboding only mounted.

Dread lasted for a few hours more.

She got the news.

The pattern had repeated without fail.

For A-Z Challenge 2015

Monday, 6 April 2015

Elephants in the room - For Mosha

During a recent trip, the hotel I had stayed in had figurines and sculptures of elephants everywhere. That was not very surprising since the hotel is situated in the land known for elephants. Each of the sculptures and figurines was interesting in its own way.

However, several of them were unusual. They piqued my interest big time. Each piece is unique, vibrant and eye catching. Here, have a look at some of the unusual ones.

When I dug further into these unusual & vibrant depictions of elephants, I came to know that they were part of a world wide initiative called Elephant Parade. This initiative through its open air exhibitions and other activities, brings the attention of the world on the conservation of Asian elephants.

Mosha image courtesy : Internet 
These colorful elephants are created by artists and celebrities world over. There are workshops held for general public too.

A father and son duo, Marc Spits and Mike, founded this movement after they came across a 7 month old baby elephant named Mosha in Thailand, at an elephant hospital which constructs prosthetic limbs for elephants.

Mosha had lost one of her legs after stepping on a land mine during logging in Myanmar. Being the first elephant to receive such a limb, she now walks with a prosthetic leg which needs to be replaced every year and she needs to learn afresh to walk with the prosthetic limb, every single time.

Close to home, in India, we have an elephant who has received a prosthetic tusk.

Gladdens the heart to know that the animals are getting medical care on a equal footing as humans, though the problems they are/ were facing are created by humans in the first place..

Do you have any such story to share?

For A-Z Challenge 2015

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Date with destiny. Can anyone stop it?

We talk about fate, providence, destiny. Does something like that actually exist? Maybe.

Do we kind of drift along in our lives or does everything happen for a reason? Are we fated to meet the people we meet, do the work we do, read the stuff we read? Is everything predestined? I wonder. All the time.

Here's an interesting little story I came across on the net a while ago, while searching for something. It enthrals me every time I read it. Wanted to share it with you. I do not know who wrote it or what the title is. The story seems to say that if something is bound to happen at a given time & place, it surely will. 

This is how the story goes....

A mighty Persian king went walking in his pleasure gardens one day and heard a great cry, and he was immediately set upon by a panicked servant.

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"Mighty king," said the servant, "I have need of your aid! I was working in the garden and came upon Death here, who threatened me. I managed to escape from him, but I fear now for my life. Give me your fastest horse and I know I can make it to the city of Tehran by nightfall, and there I will get away from him."

The king considered for a moment, weighing the good servant's years of loyal help, and assented, providing him with the horse and silver. The king continued to walk in his gardens, and amid the sound of the horse and servant riding off together, the king himself came upon Death.

"Why have you threatened my servant?" the king asked.

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Death shook his head. "A thousand apologies, sir, but I did not threaten the man. I merely expressed my surprise at finding him here in your gardens today."

"And why should my servant's presence here be a surprise to you?" the king asked.

And Death replied with a smile, "I was surprised to find him here, good king, because I know that we have an appointment to meet tonight in Tehran." 

This story has certainly left its impression on me. 

Do you think our lives are "ruled" by fate or destiny? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Cab driver wisdom

During several of my cab trips in several cities, I have come across many kinds of cab drivers - talkative, silent, grumpy, cheerful, helpful, rude and some truly inspirational.

The cheerful talkative ones are the best. They give rare insights about the city one is visiting, about the government there, the current affairs, schools, people, places to visit, food to eat and so on. They have an opinion on everything under the Sun and are very willing to share it with anyone who is listening. Just like anyone else. It makes the commute interesting though.

Here are some interesting interactions I have had over the years.

Image Courtesy : Google Images
One cab driver extolled the merits of using a sincere & open "Really?" to keep a conversation going and encouraged me to use it and see the results for myself. I have actually tried it several times and it works!

Another shared his wisdom on how to keep a marriage happy and working well. He said that whatever wisdom he shared was from his own experience.

Another time in a foreign land, on the way to the airport to catch a flight, an Algerian lady cab driver and I had exchanged only a few words due to the language barrier. All we had talked about the Algerian song that was playing on her radio, the singer,  our countries of origin and my flight details. With minutes to spare for my flight, I discovered to my utter dismay that my wallet was missing. When I was frantically searching for it and had almost given up, who should show up but this lady. She had driven all the way back to the airport for over an hour, after dropping off her fare just to hand over my wallet which I had dropped in her cab. She did not accept anything from me except a grateful tearful hug. Wished me a safe flight and left. Yes! Such people do exist. I was really fortunate to meet her.

In another instance, an elderly gentleman of 61yrs who has been doing only night shifts for over 5 years shared his exercise regimen. About how he goes for jogging for not less than 3km under 30mins, at 12noonish everyday without fail, under the blazing hot Sun of a country very close to the equator; How he has to exercise given the nature of his job and how he has no other choice about the timing of his exercise regimen due to his work schedule. For me, it was truly inspirational and I told him so. He was happy and said that most of his friends thought he was mad to jog at 12noon.

Some cab drivers also have shared how commuters cheat & trouble them - commuters quickly getting out at a traffic light close to their destination without paying the cab for the ride,  drunk commuters throwing up all over in the cab and passing out, commuters talking about the cab driver in a derogatory manner in another language thinking that they would not understand.

Yes, it takes all kinds to make up this world!

Care to share some of your experiences?

For A-Z Challenge 2015

Friday, 3 April 2015

Bridge to the Past

Resurrecting an old post for today!

Sort of creating a bridge to the past.. Read on Bridge to the Past ..

For A-Z Challenge 2015

Thursday, 2 April 2015

April it is! And it begins all over again.

Just two evenings back, I was recollecting how hectic it was in April last year.

My dear friend Janu, at that time had urged, cajoled, encouraged and almost bullied me into registering for a blogging challenge.  The A-Z Challenge 2014. She had waxed eloquent about it; saying that it would provide the perfect platform for me to explore this new world of blogging.

I deep dived into the challenge with no regrets and with a few take aways including some new good friends. A few posts after the challenge, blogging took a back seat, though Janu used to urge me to write posts on some of my experiences.

And without fail, this year too exactly around the same time Janu reminded me about the A-Z Challenge 2015.  However this year, it did not take any cajoling or bullying on her part. I very much wanted to be part of it and immediately registered.

And so here I am to see what this year's challenge will bring in its wake.

So let the fun and anxious times begin...

Image courtesy : Google Images

Yes.. How can we be calm when we are expected to write & read posts after posts !

Here's wishing all the very best to those taking part in this year's challenge.


For A-Z Challenge 2015