Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Festival of giving

Every year, Diwali is the time to bring in joy, smiles and love, which can be shared. There is a sense of great excitement in receiving and sometimes in giving too. And then we have recycled gifts, lets admit it, we all do it. It is such an accomplishment to get rid of it. I was reading some tips somewhere telling us how we can clean up after Diwali. It said we should tag all the unwanted gifts received with the name of the person who gave it to us, so that it does not end up with the same person next year! The uninteresting pudding sets, coffee mugs, cheap Chinese kitchenware, bed sheets, candle stands, white metal tableware and hundreds of other boring stuff all get piled up year after year. An entire industry comes alive in this season and encourages and seduces you to buy things you don't want. I have thus decided to hold a garage sale of all the things we have which keep accumulating over the years and sometimes we even forget who gave it to us.
The other day my husband got a call from his client's staff in charge to ask him when he was coming to distribute gifts for Diwali. It was funny, as we were always taught by our convent nuns and parents that to ask for gifts was not a sign of good upbringing. Diwali and birthdays were gifting seasons in our family, we would get new clothes, and one special gift. Something we would have been waiting for all year or something we needed. We were content. We were encouraged to gift the needy during Diwali with clothes or money. Our family friends would come and wish us, bringing something special which they has cooked for Diwali. I remember a friend of my mother would always make home made chocolates for me on my birthday every year. Filled with coconut, almonds, jam or walnuts. She would spend the whole day to make a dozen of them for me. Packed in colorful foil in a box with colorful ribbons! Today the spirit of gifting has completely changed, unfortunately it's more burdensome. Somewhere the essence is lost. And so is the excitement. I don't remember the tea sets, pudding sets or cheap Chinese kitchenware I received as gifts which was never meant for me in the first place and I knew they were passed on many times over, but I do remember the chocolates I got every year for my birthday, the watch I got from my father, a book I was waiting for from my friends, a compiled music collection of my favorite songs from my children and a warm smile from my husband every morning. Priceless!!
This year I decided to make sweets at home. I gifted them to my mother and mother in law and gave it to whoever came to wish us. They were surprised and I was happy. 
A wise man said, always put your hand forward to give but never to demand. 


Friday, February 14, 2014


Last night my uncle called from London and was very curious about this Khalbaliwal who was supposedly creating havoc in Delhi! It took me a second but could well figure out whom he meant. Of course our own self-proclaimed anarchist – Kejriwal. Unfortunately my septuagenarian uncle is not very aware of the political churning going on in our country, unlike many net savvy overseas Indians who have supported him with a lot of contributions in terms of money and backing on the social media.

Being a South Indian, raised in Dehradun and finally settled in Delhi for more than 25 years, I can call myself a Delhite. In my views, Kejriwal came as a breath of fresh air in the muddied waters of politics. He had lofty dreams and the one thing that touched the cords was he was one of us – trying to make an honest living in this great democracy and fighting the corrupt mechanism. It sure is frustrating that even trying to get a legitimate gas connection or a driving license renewed one has to go through the torture of utter harassment of the officials on duty. Who is responsible for this pathetic state of affairs? Is it the politicians, bureaucrats or us? The irony is that we are both, the perpetrators and the victim. We have allowed such state of affairs to prevail  – be it for time or priority. This is just the tip of the iceberg, the larger issue is not service to the nation but blatantly looting the nation which is the true face of politics today. Huge projects, contracts, liaisons are profitable enough for seven generations to thrive and exploit the very system which was created to serve the people of the nation. Politics is a dirty word.
Kejriwal started with a promise of sweeping this system with his proverbial broom, making the nation squeaky clean of corruption, dynastism, and giving the people of this country – Swaraj or self-rule. This pipe dream sounded too good to be true - millions backed him, Indians from all over the world, the youth of the nation, the cynics, giving up their cynicism- all joined him. Then he came to power. Power is like opium. The addiction blinds you. He gave a free hand to all his ministers to run their departments the way they wanted. The law minister summoned the judge, became a self styled commando and charged to arrest the “lawbreakers” in the middle of the night. He was the judge, jury and executioner.  Then comes our Chief Minister, sitting on a protest, Just whom were they protesting to? He forgot he was the government and behaved like an activist. This was very close to the Republic Day of our country. He said he did not care, and this was like a freedom movement. Was he looking at himself as a reincarnation of Mahatama Gandhi? Somewhere he had lost his vision.

People who defaulted on their electricity bills are being rewarded with a waiver. People who paid their bills on time to avoid disconnection are the losers. Doing the honest and the right thing is not being rewarded here. Kejriwal gives a warped explanation that people who defaulted were the people who risked everything to support him when he was not the Chief Minister. So this is their little reward. Here I see a very thin line between reward and bribe. Corruption is indeed a serious matter in our country, but we can only find solutions from within. Encouraging citizens to carry out sting operations will create chaos. Urging people to entrap officials would lead to vindictive desperation to create an anarchic society. The rule of the law must prevail and people should be encouraged to take recourse within the system. Good governance can only be strengthened by the 4 pillars of democracy, which are, Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and Press. Another important pillar can be the Civil Society, which will act as a moral conscience of society. Transparency, Lok Pal and RTI are very powerful and if Kejriwal can get to use these tools to empower society rather than making  the citizens into a lynch mob, this nation has great hope in him.
Instead of hurrying a change, Kejriwal should have first concentrated on building a credible team to assist him. His bijli-paani politics will only take him far enough to reach a deadlock, if he wants to enter the broader arena of national politics he has to empower people to become mature participants in helping creating polity rather than on referendum politics which is a false assurance of a democracy gone all wrong. Democratization and participative politics is the key to good governance. A collaborative role of civil society and the citizens of the state is the cornerstone of a progressive nation. This cannot be achieved in a few days or a few months, but starting the process is important in this churning of the political system. Good will definitely prevail.
A true leader is one who instills confidence and trust in his people. Not just by using populist measures to appease the auto wallahs, the migrants in Delhi and the illegal occupants on government land, who are his captive vote bank. I am truly disappointed to see the myopic vision of Kejriwal who came in with a lot of promise and converted us into cynics. Today he lost the vote on the lok pal bill. He has resigned playing to the gallery and waiting to be declared a martyr.  A man in a hurry will always be trampled.
I am reminded of a board outside a shop declaring
“No bargaining, we do not support Corruption.” 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Daenerys, Mother of Dragons

Daenerys, who is my oldest friend, she was just unhappy with life. But she had everything - beauty, lot of attention because she is the only child, great career, great friends but never satisfied with what life has offered you, almost on a platter. She is a fighter with a cause!

Daenerys, mother of dragons. True to her name, she loves being a mother to all beings, even to friends and also to her mother! She had anchored all her past baggage and had stood still refusing to move on. Living in the past with all her memories in her pocket like dried flowers which has lost its perfume. It was scary, living in that world which is so distant from reality. I tried to bring her back and she made me promise her that I would never stop advising her even if she was very stubborn. She stopped being stubborn and I outgrew my utility as a counselor. She had always yearned to escape from her past and step into a life with new challenges cutting loose of her anchors which weighed her down. I was happy that she had moved on to pursue her passion of helping anyone who needed her. 

Relationships are very fragile and it is time we cut loose and start all over again. I remember a beautiful song by Sahir Ludhiyanvi from the Hindi movie, gumraah.


"Tarruf rog ho jae, to usko bhulna behtar talluk bojh ban jae,
to usko todna achchha woh afsana jise anjam tak,
lana na ho mumkin woh afsana jise anjam tak,
lana na ho mumkin use ek khubsurat mod dekar,
chhodna achchha chalo ek bar phir se,
ajnabi ban jaye ham dono chalo ek bar phir se,
ajnabi ban jaye ham dono"


When familiarity becomes an affliction it is better to forget it
When relationship becomes a burden it is better to break it
The story which can not be brought to a happy ending
It is better to give it a beautiful turn and leave it
Come, let us be strangers once again

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Five Angels & Bacchus

It's good to be back after a hiatus of  more than a year. When I bought my iPhone last year I promised myself that i would blog from my mobile, but as my family says my phone never stops ringing and my circle of friends has been growing. In school I don't remember being an extrovert. I wonder when this change happened!
You see I have two sets of friends. The first one is from my school and college days, we have great memories together as we grew up. We still laugh and scream when we meet and pick up where we left - no baggage or obligations. One of my friend's spouses said he wanted all of us, old friends, to go for a holiday together, because being together would be like a spa treatment and we come back refreshed! I agree,  it is therapy. The second set of friends are ones who I have met after I passed out of college, some were friends of friends, some were long forgotten acquaintances who re appeared and found a special place in my life and the other few are friends who have taught me a lot of things in life. They are very special to me. They have shared with me their deepest and sometimes very darkest thoughts and asked me to help them fix it for them. Sometimes it's like a lost piece of puzzle which they want me to find. I am humbled at the confidence they place on me and from this I have understood the importance of human relationships, the twists and turns you have to take in your path called life and how to be happy. In my blog now I will be writing about each of these special friends in my series now. (all names changed to angels and mythical characters below)

Daenerys, who is my oldest friend, she was just unhappy with life. But she had everything - beauty, lot of attention because she is the only child, great career, great friends but never satisfied with what life has offered you, almost on a platter. She is a fighter with a cause!

Bacchus had THE life, as he said once told me. Great business, happy family, memorable holidays but everything comes with a rider!

Pari is also has the same issues, only child, married to a good man who dotes over her, beautiful children, enviable life but again wants more -like Dil Mange More.

Celeste, who was related to a friend by marriage. She always wanted to live a life of fairies and princesses. Got married, and expected her husband to play the role of Adonis but alas it was not meant to be.

Athena, Goddess of war, literally speaking, she fought for everything in life - happiness, success and last of all Love. She is a survivor.

Cersei, always wants to be in control and to control but most of the times out of control. She is one person who has taught me a lot.

 I may add more to my friends list here. Please note that Daenerys & Cersei have little or no resemblance to the Game of Thrones characters with the same names!

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little 
things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
                                                                                                                                        Khalil Gibran

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Divided we Stand

Now that the wedding season is over, it is time to pack up my cupboard and air it next year at the same time. Frankly my wardrobe has been growing and I have never enjoyed shopping more than this time of the year, year after year. I have shopped in unexplored territory with lot of patience and expectations to get the best deal. From South Extension to Santushti Complex and from Lajpat Nagar to Connaught Place. It was a great time I had with a close friend who is a die hard shopaholic. The sprawling malls of Delhi with Stya Paul stores were all explored and we finally settled on one affordable designer label called Meena Baazar. Like all big happy families and their share of feuds, unhappily separated -many Meena Baazars opened up in the city. Veterans like us could recognize the genuine Meena baazar store. But many times I have seen that this family feud has created many similar situations where the shop/store is divided into two or three or four making it narrower and narrower, depending on the number of siblings. In Greater Kailash we have identical twin store called The Morning Store with ushers rushing you in the 'original store'. My husband, Vivek, being the only son has everything his parents have and never really had to share his toys or books with another sibling much to the jealousy of his cousins who completely believed in community living, well that's another story!!. His cousin who has an elder brother once told him how different it is when you have somebody to share  and grab your things all your life. Vivek, then decided that he would never visit or patronize a store which has been divided in such a manner. In our home town, our family jeweler had a huge store founded by the father and his three sons, after the death of the father the three sons have partitioned the shop three ways and  have called it the 'Original shop', the 'middle shop' and the 'new shop'. Nothing can be so ridiculous.  We gradually shifted our mindsets from family jewelers to branded Tanishq jewelry. Another very sensible store, called 'The Button Shop' parted ways and spawned with clones of the same name called 'The new Button Shop; and 'The Original Button Shop'. It was a quaint little store which repaired zips, had many colorful buttons and had beautiful laces. Now the stores to make their presence more novel have diversified into selling cosmetics and trinkets. Strangely, both the brothers' wives rule the store now. I am not suggesting anything here!! The shops were such narrow corridors that it was hard to queeze in and squeeze out!!  Two other stores, one a stationery shop called Jugal Kishore, was partitioned in three ways, now it has finally been sold off to a multi national brand of clothing. The three brothers and their sour faced wives sat there competing with the other two and not talking to each other. Their father Lala Jugal Kishore was a leading philanthropist in the city and very well respected. The famous Elloras Bakery also faced the same fate. Vivek is quite disturbed with such development took our two boys on an excursion to these many shops in Dehradun to show them what happens when children fight. Sometimes he would shame these shop keepers, by pointing to the boys never to fight like this, loudly in front of them. This excursion was a long trip to bakery stores, saree shops, stationery shops and even traditional Mithai stores.

Is it the family values are depleting fast or just plain simple greed? The disintegration of the joint families to nuclear families and the 'only me' culture is all leading to a fast growth of urban nightmare with malls and franchises and huge departmental stores. You do not have the friendly neighborhood grocer or the family jeweler who knew if you had guests in the house or a wedding coming up. Now the impersonal, non intrusive multi-national jeweler or the young woman who ushers you in at the unbelievable hyper mall will smile leading you to the best deals. The only loyalty programs they have is the discount cards and special offer alerts on your mobile which is much unsolicited. The history of such acrimonious family feuds and partitions is not just related to middle class families but business houses like the Ambani brothers just after their father died.

Just a thought - my grandfather, D Ramanna, a leading businessman in Mumbai, an entrepreneur, was a far sighted person.  He had three sons who were brought up with very strong family values. Nevertheless, my grandfather made sure that each of them had their own enterprises in different domains, with the same family name banner - manufacturing, exports and special interest machinery. I guess it all depends on how the parents sort these issues, before equations change, perceptions and priorities change over time and it is best to foresee issues such as these rather than feel happy and think that your children will never fight, a fools paradise when hell comes crashing down and one does not even have space to turn in their graves!! I wish all parents and patriarchs have such foresight as my grandfather D Ramanna.

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.
Lao Tzu