Monday, September 29, 2014

My Thoughts on Hunger

Part I: Confessions of a well fed middle class individual

You would be thinking what this post is all about. Without creating much hoopla around it, let me tell you that it is about HUNGER. Now you would have understood by the title that I want to be sarcastic here. But trust me, I am dead honest. Being a middle class person almost clears you of all the responsibilities you have towards your society (at least in India). You don’t believe me. Do you? Well, following are few extracts from across the table conversations in a typical middle class household:

“We can’t afford to pay a kuda wala. So we will throw all the garbage on the street which can be taken care of by the Municipal Corporation.”

“We can’t complain about those guys. They might be very powerful. We are middle class people not any minister.  No need to go to college from tomorrow.”

“You want to do social service. Do you realize how a middle class family makes ends meet? Complete your studies and join a Government job.”

I remember when I was a little girl; I used to be really scared of street dwelling people. Those shabby people, who unlike me never took a bath, did not wear neatly pressed clothes and never combed their hair frightened me. I compared them with the rakshas (monsters) from Amar Chitra Katha comics. But one night, it all changed. It was November and the air had hints of winter. I was fully clothed and sitting by the window of a Maruti 800. We were returning from a marriage, of course fully loaded. The hosts made sure we ate all items on the buffet and leave equal amount on the plates. The only sounds killing the nocturnal silence were- the engine running, the tyres screeching, people burping and pigs grunting. There were dust bins on the road side which also acted as the mining area for the pigs. But that day, there was a human like figure too digging for something. I tried to focus more and was horrified to find out that it was an old man in rags trying to find a bread or roti. Suddenly, I was ashamed of my sumptuous dinner. My hatred towards them was replaced by sympathy.

For next few days I could only picture two hands full of dirt frantically looking for a dry bread among the rotting garbage. I felt like young Siddhartha who must have been heartbroken to see the sick, old and dying people and decided to renounce the world to become the enlightened Gautam Buddha later. I thought I would become a social worker instead of a painter when I grow up. I updated this decision in all the school essays I wrote that week. Next week, I became fascinated with classical dance and thus I denied a wonderful opportunity to earn Nobel Peace Prize perhaps.

After changing my life goals umpteen number of times, I finally decided not to pursue engineering and rather take up a course in Fashion Technology which actually encourages you to stay hungry- sometimes to model for a fashion show and sometimes to chase deadlines. College, classes, friends, a lot of vella time – eating to remain alive took backseat while eating to indulge was the new mantra. Trying to explore the king of street food Delhi, I met hunger many times- in the form of small kids loitering around the food stalls, nudging me or pulling the corners of my dress, demanding a small piece of the burger I was eating. But I never acknowledged it for it was very irritating. Reason- I guess because it’s not a good habit to disturb while people are eating or may be because it made me feel ashamed again.

I tried to understand this hunger closely. I introspected every time I was hungry. I observed fast on certain days but there were fruits, sweets and lime juice for rescue. I tried to check my weight through dieting but failed due to lack of self control. Assignments kept me too busy to have meals but never allowed me to feel the hunger. Some days I was too lazy to get up to cook but home delivery options spoiled me with choices. So, in the end I failed to understand hunger.

When the new age management gurus taught us the importance of empathy over sympathy, I realized it’s not enough to not eat food to understand hunger. One has to feel the helplessness associated with it too. I decided to make a trip to the busiest corner of the city with empty stomach and money enough to buy the bus tickets. I felt helpless no doubt when I saw hundreds of people gathered at the food stalls and ordering plates of pav bhaji, chole bhatoore etc. The only comforting thought was that of the birthday treat of a friend scheduled for the evening. Thus, my well planned experiment too failed.

So, did I ever understand what hunger is? I guess yes. I tried to understand hunger by not acknowledging it. The first time I tried to acknowledge it, I came closer to it. One evening I saw an old woman. Unable to walk, she was glued to the fence of a posh apartment complex, with her hands open and stretched, waiting for passers-by to throw some useless coins at her. I bought a plate of roti-sabzi for her. While I was handing over her the plate, our eyes met for a moment and what a moment it was- it conveyed a story longer and deeper than the last 900 + words I wrote. In her eyes, I could see relief, happiness, excitement, longing, gratitude and expectation. And for the first time I could feel her hunger inside me.   

Part II: My Feel Good Model

I am suffering through what is called “the side effects of being well fed”. No prizes for guessing, it is obesity. I tried a number of dieting plans and gyms but could never get over the urge to eat chocolates. So I devised a plan. It’s not fool proofed (not yet at least) but I thought it’s worth sharing. 
We all must be aware of the concept of mental budgeting and accounting. In our mind, we tend to create compartments or accounts according to purpose of spending. For example, if I decide that per day I would spend no more than 200 rupees on food, then I am putting aside 200 rupees per day for food. I would not be happy to spend more than 200 even if it is justified. Similarly, I would be happy if I spend less than 200 even if it was unnecessary. Thus, we see mental budgeting is not a very rational process but this is how it works. So how does it work for me?

I am simply obsessed with chocolates. I have sensitive teeth that ache whenever they are in contact with chocolate. My weight is never under check but an obsession is an obsession. So I have found a way to counter my urge to eat unnecessary and harmful things. I use the concept of mental accounting for the same. For example, I have an urge of eating a chocolate mousse from a particular shop that costs around 50 bucks. I would decide to buy it based on the mental budget I have assigned to eating chocolate and the consumer surplus I would derive. Since it’s harmful for me, I keep this money aside and try to distract myself away from all the junk and sweet food items. At the end of the day, I calculate the total amount that I have saved in my mental account and use it to get food from street vendors etc and distribute among old and poor homeless people. This gives me a satisfaction equivalent to having sweets and in return I get a lot of good wishes.

I know encouraging begging by providing them with money is not a good idea but this way I avoid giving money to children etc who might be a part of begging rackets etc. I may not be rich enough to do charity, I may be too busy to volunteer for a cause but this way I make sure that I look after my health and others’ needs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bards of the Blogosphere: Week 2 Chapter 3- The Good Morning

N.B. - This is the third chapter of the second week in the 'Game of Blogs' by the team 'Bards of the Blogosphere'. #CelebrateBlogging

Read the previous chapter (2) here

Jennifer was sitting on the pile of blankets, still sleepy, trying to look fresh. Cyrus was the one to answer the door. “Bread toast with sunny side up eggs plus cappuccino”- Jennifer would always shout the moment she used to enter the college canteen. “He still remembers.” She blushed but tried to flush it out. However, it was too late. Cyrus looked at her slyly and started folding his laptop and other files he was working on to make space for the breakfast.

“Wait! What’s that? Is it that blog TMJ? It’s trending on social media nowadays and I absolutely love it. This author has earned a reputation of being daring, radical, good at research and fiery. Only if I could know who he is.”, Jennifer made a sad face.

Cyrus was excited, “At your service ma’am”. He bowed before Jennifer and smiled. “TMJ stands for Tamso Ma Jyotirgamaya. You know Jenny what it means. It means lead me from darkness to light. I have been working very hard on it for last two years- a lot of primary research, investigations and interviews have gone into it. It’s like my field diary. And why I chose to stay anonymous?” laughed Cyrus. “Not that I hate publicity or I am afraid of someone but then I don’t want these things to disturb me. Now the whole world can make a lot of fuss over it while I carry on with my work.”

“I am quite impressed, Cy”, she giggled. “Let me see what you were working on last night. A romantic poem I guess. What is this?” her expressions changed from excitement to disgust.

“This is my latest project. It’s not yet published. I am trying to bust a human trafficking organization. These are some photos and videos of interviews from brothels, police remand home etc.”

“Who’s this man? I think I would never be able to forget the sadness in his eyes.” she was watching a video. “His daughter is a victim of human trafficking. He had been fighting for a long time now but in vain. He’s one of the thousand parents who have lost their kids to the greed and lust of society. I am sure of one thing Jenny- someone very powerful is backing this wretched business. I have proofs and I won’t be surprised if he’s someone close to the minister.”

“Our minister!” Jenny was shocked.

“Yes, poor guy. He doesn’t know He has spent his entire life fighting against flesh trade and trafficking and someone from his close ranks is funding and supporting it. This paper presentation is my only chance to meet the minister and let him know about the misdeeds.”

Cyrus looked at Jennifer. The moment he started talking, she could not take her eyes off him. He meant so much to her and to so many people he did not even know. She was so lucky to come across such a good human being. She was head over heels in love. This realization almost made her cry.

“Did I hurt you again?” Cyrus looked concerned.

“No silly.” Jennifer laughed and hugged him tightly. Cyrus hugged her back, kissed her forehead and got back to work with jenny sleeping by his side.

Read the next part Here

The team Bards of the Blogosphere comprises of Divyakshi, Priyanka Roy, Priyanka Victor, Arpita, Datta, Neeraj, Nupur, Sulekha, Maria and Roshan.

“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: Private India


First of all… An Introduction of Private India (Straightaway copied from

Private India is a thrilling suspense novel from two masters of the art: Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson.

Summary of the Book

When a series of seemingly unconnected murders rock the city of Mumbai with the macabre rituals and artefacts found around the corpses, Private India, a leading investigation agency takes the case. Santosh Wagh, the head of the organization, has only one mission. He needs to stop the killers before they strike again. However, in a city of over 13 million people, he finds that the clock is ticking too fast. He finds himself pitted against underworld dons and a Godman who isn't what he seems. However, the worst is yet to come and Private India itself may be threatened with a revelation that could destroy the entire organization.

About the Authors

Ashwin Sanghi is an Indian writer and entrepreneur. He has also written: Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key. He is also known by his pseudonym: Shawn Haigins.

A graduate of the Yale School of Management and St. Xavier’s College, he has since been awarded several acclaims for his work. His second book has been optioned for a movie by UTV and is expected to begin production soon. He currently lives in Mumbai with his loving family.

James Patterson is a bestselling American writer. He is best known for Along Came a Spider, Jack & Jill, When the Wind Blows and Step on a Crack among over 100 others.

Now… My Original Thoughts

Anyone who knows me must be thinking what am I doing reading a murder mystery. To be honest, while signing up for the review, I was skeptical too. And when the courier person placed this book on my hands, thought of completing 400+ pages within a week (considering that I spend 9 hours in office and 2 hours in travelling per day) was kind of out of question for me. But the moment I started reading, I could not put it down. So here I am with an honest review but my disclaimer would be – This review is not meant for an avid reader of detective/thriller genre. This is for a reader like me who has never read a murder mystery before.

What I really liked?

Well, I am a person who believes in ‘What to expect when you are expecting a book’. I was anticipating a lot of falling bodies, detailed notes about the brutality with which murders were carried out, the killer instinct in the murdered etc. But to my surprise, there is an absence of gory which makes it likeable for a person like me.

I had a preconceived notion that detective stories do not talk of emotions and relationships but I was wrong. The inner turmoil of Santosh Wagh is portrayed very beautifully-how the worst memories of his life haunt his loneliness and how he fights his guilt and urge to drown himself in drinks. For that matter, every character’s life is sketched very interestingly. However, I was left wanting to know more about Hari.

I have not read other PRIVATE books so I am unable to pass a judgment on how good Private India is as an addition to the series but it is very Indian in every aspect whether it is intricate detailing of Mumbai city with all its buzz and famous and infamous characteristics, traditional rituals of Navratra or mention of real life events that have taken place in our country. In every way, the story is 100% Indian.

The story is fast paced and at no point would you like to stop reading. It’s like watching a movie.

What I didn’t like

At many points I was reminded of the Indian series CID specifically when Jack and Santosh reach to save Nisha just as the killer was about to kill her. These kind of coincidence takes it closer to Bollywood masala movies which I honestly don’t look for in a murder mystery fiction.

So my verdict…

Would be if you really want to expand your horizon of genres, do give it a try. The language is really simple, it’s an easy read and the story will keep you engrossed as it unfolds. If you like it you’re most welcome If you don’t you would get to know that within reading 1-2 chapters. In that case, please don’t curse me, look around and you would find many friends who would like to refund your money. Jokes apart, I already have 4 friends who have asked me for the book. Ashwin Sanghi… I did not know you are so much in demand.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bards of the Blogosphere: Week 1 Chapter 9- The Confrontation


N.B. - This is the ninth chapter in the 'Game of Blogs' by the team 'Bards of the Blogosphere'. #CelebrateBlogging

Read the previous chapter (8) Here

“Not bad Jenny, you’re doing wonderful!” Jennifer patted her own back. “Now you have actually crossed the guest zone and entered into the family zone. They have started asking you for petty household errands. Good for you for you are so close to your destination." She chuckled in her mind. “Tonight…”

“All this means she’s a kidnapper. She wants to take our princess away from us. How dare she even think of this? I would kill her”, said an agitated Tara. “Tara, calm down. Since morning, we are stuck at the same discussion. You did not go to office today and neither did Roohi go to school. This is not going anywhere. We should call the police.”

On facing a crisis, Shekhar and Tara switched positions. Sweet and gullible stay-home-dad turned into ‘My Daddy Strongest’ and street-smart media person mom became an emotionally vulnerable mother. “Police! Shekhar, you remember how much they frightened my girl last time they came home.”

“Yes Tara, our decision to keep the police away from Roohi was correct indeed. Moreover, we do not have any substantial proof and they would not arrest Jennifer straightaway. But, I can think of a friend who can help us. Remember Subroto, my friend who is in police. I came to know through Facebook that he’s here in Mumbai. We can take his help offline. Meanwhile, we need to think of a temporary and immediate solution in order to keep Roohi safe.”

“Yes, let’s go to some other city for some days, Shekhar.”

“But Tara, what about your office?” Shekhar was confused.

“My job can wait but it’s our daughter who needs to be protected from a woman who is living with us in the very same house. It’s all my fault. I mistook devil for an angel.” Tara broke down.

“It’s ok darling, I am equally responsible. We would do as you say. Let’s get ready. We would leave tonight only. Let me talk to my travel agent.” Shekhar tried to comfort Tara by pulling her into his arms. Tara, who was in a state of anxiety and bewilderment since morning, found some solace. As she drew close to Shekhar’s heart and felt relaxed, both of them thought of the same name, “Roohi?”

Jennifer had a spare key to the flat. She could hardly manage to take it out of the bag. Her hands were full. In one, she had a Barbie from the latest collection, a very pretty pink frock with beautiful frills and in the other hand she had Ferrero Rocher chocolates and chocolate pastries. Pink was her favorite color. Almost every Sunday she asked her mom to dress her in pink frock. Even her Barbie wore prink frock. She loved her Barbie so much. She used to take it everywhere she went except school. It was her best friend. Her mom would get so irritated to see her playing with her Barbie entire weekend. She would try to hide it but Jenny would find it and tease her mom holding it to her face. She suppressed her smile, “Focus on business, Jenny.” When she came inside, it was dark. No one had turned the lights on that day. Jenny found Tara and Shekhar’s room locked from inside. “Poor couple, they don’t get time for each other. They are lucky to find me and I am lucky to find Roohi.” She saw Roohi’s room was open. She was in deep slumber.

Jennifer went inside and inspected Roohi from head to toe. She felt something was strange since morning. Roohi was not the usual chirpy girl she had known. “She ran away from me in the morning and was not even talking to me. Was it some nightmare, mood swings or is there any possibility that….. No…it’s not possible. I did everything right. I met the Duttas pretending to be some Caroline’s mother attending the function, met them again for lunch, met Roohi at school after her kidnapping attempt, entered her house, and spent quality time with her trying to befriend her. I don't think I gave them any clue of my hidden intentions. But Roohi had an expression as if she was afraid, as afraid as I was when..... No jenny, you must focus. Just a last step and you would be closer to your goal.”

She placed her hand on Roohi's forehead. For a moment Roohi thought it's Tara. She held Jennifer's hands and kissed them. When she opened her eyes and found out it's Jennifer instead, she jumped to the far edge of the bed.

Jennifer was startled. "What's troubling her?" she thought. "Roohi sweetheart, you are a good girl. Look what are you doing to the pillows. Come here. Aunty has brought a lot of gifts for you." Roohi wanted to scream out loudly but was too shocked. Instead, she let a tear drop trickle down her cheek. Jennifer climbed up the bed and cupped her hands around Roohi's cheeks. "Princess, what happened?” Roohi was shivering as if under some fit - first that fateful day at Kochi, then an attempt to kidnap her and today, her assaulter sitting with her on the same bed. It was too much for a kid to intake.

Suddenly, someone snatched Roohi from Jennifer's hands. Jennifer turned and found Roohi resting her head on Shekhar's shoulder. Her hands were clutching his polo's collars and her legs were twined around his waist. Tara panicked and in an adrenaline rush, she slapped Jennifer. "How dare you hurt my Roohi? What do you want? Money? How do you call yourself a woman?"

But Jennifer was not listening. Her success, pride and anxiety turned into defeat, desperation and fear - fear of a dark future. One day, she slapped a boy who tried to snatch her self-confidence. Today, a mother slapped her because she was trying to steal away her daughter. It was her karma following her. "What did you say? Power of evil? Suits you!" her conscience cried out. In reply, she just mumbled, "I am not a kidnapper. I don't want to hurt her. You have to understand. She's the only one who can save Cyrus."

Read the next part Here

The team Bards of the Blogosphere comprises of Divyakshi, Priyanka Roy, Priyanka Victor, Arpita, Datta, Neeraj, Nupur, Sulekha, Maria and Roshan.

“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

Monday, September 15, 2014

Big happiness in small packets


The best thing about life is that it is unpredictable. Sometimes it brings sorrow when you expect happiness and sometimes when you are all teared up, you find a reason to smile just around the corner. Three years back when I was about to shift from Delhi after spending six golden years of my life, I was more than sad. Love for the city where one is born or where one spends his growing years is a special one. I got my freedom in this city- lived independently away from home, graduated, started my career and fell in love for the first time. And now I was leaving everything behind to pursue higher studies.

It was 9th Feb, a day young couples and retailers call “Chocolate Day” when people gift their partners chocolate. I was roaming around the local market looking for a courier company to send my books home. The market was crowded with love birds buying goodies. I could not help but feel envious of people spending quality time with loved ones. Every moment, I was asking the same question, “When will I visit these places next?” My trance-like state was interrupted by a shop keeper who promised a heavy discount on a box of assorted chocolate. I made an excuse and left the place.

As my auto left the market place, my sadness sedimented to the bottom of my eyes. The autowala who was driving very slowly tried to compensate his slow speed with some amount of chatting. He asked me about family and hometown and soon we realize that we belonged to the same hometown. He was an old man-about 50 years old. He told me how he was working for 15 hours a day just to finance his son’s education. He wanted me to guide his son in making his career decisions. Although we were strangers, we shared a kinship- the solace one obtains from narrating a story to a stranger.

The autowala gave me his number I could call in case I got stuck anywhere in the city. He also gave me a lot of ashirwaad to be successful in my future endeavors. The moment I got down from the auto, I saw a gang of children came running down the street. These kids were children of servants, maids, masons and laundry people who lived in makeshift chambers made up of tin behind the gaudy bungalows of rich people. Every day they saw me going to office, doing grocery shopping and reading a novel sitting on the bench in the park but never did they acknowledge my presence in this way.

They came from two sides and surrounded me like a swarm of bee around a honey comb. The two who were smallest held my fingers and asked for chocolates. I had met many strangers in my life but this was perhaps the cutest one. One hour back, I was feeling sad because of loneliness and suddenly I saw so many new friends. I took them to the nearest grocery and asked the shop-keeper to allow the kids to have whatever they wanted. The shop-keeper gave a despised and obligated look. Everyday hundreds of beggars came to him and he would just shoo them away. That day I realized what it means to spread happiness and thus make oneself happy. The children enjoyed the chocolates and snacks to the last bite and the expressions on their face were serene.

That was my moment of unexpected celebration.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.