24 December, 2008

Things To Do Before I Die....

I opened my eyes this morning and realized that I had no set goals in life (well it was all that dramatic). Of course I have short-term goals like finish the editing work on an academic book, get a new pair of jeans, meet deadlines, feed my tortoises, water the plants etc. But come to think of it, where do I see myself say, 50 years from now (not in heaven I hope!). There is so much to be done and life is so short- time is slipping away with every passing second. I gotta make a list before Alzheimer takes over me (I include a lot of curcumin in my diet by the way, but why take chances!). Here goes nothing....(in no particular order)

1. Color my hair purple (check)
2. Get dreadlocks...keep them for a while and then shave off my head
3. Get a tattoo on a bald head

Before you pass judgmental comments about me being obsessed with my hair, let me tell you that I'm just moving in an up-to-down order.And no...There's a lot more to me than haircolor and hairstyles, as you shall soon realize.

4. Get a Phd degree in Linguistics (see, I told you)
5. NOT have kids (fail)
6. Get a galloping horse tattooed on my ankle (there I go again)
7. Get an award - for anything (check).
8. Keep a pet hamster, a pig, a chimpanzee and an army of dogs
9. Spend my senile days in a tranquil treehouse and not in a boring flat/colony.
10. Backpack through South America
11. Drive down through South East Asia from India.
12. Learn Kathak.....professionally
13. Set up an animal shelter
14. Work as a wildlife conservationist for a while
15. Get my book published before I turn 30 (*panics*)
16. Learn to solve simple math problems (check)
17. Backpack through Australia and New Zealand
18. Travel to every corner of India
19. Dance in a Bollywood movie...you know, one of those "extras"
20. Buy a house (an eco-friendly cottage by a lake or some water body, preferably with a green belt around it) Tall order?
21. Loose 10 kgs from my bum (sigh!)
22. Bungee jump, para glide, snorkel and the works
23. Learn to handle poisonous snakes (A know of a guy in Rajasthan who can help me with this)
24. Learn some form of martial arts
25. Never work in a 9-5 job and NEVER work "under" somebody (check)
26. Write a memoir based on the life of an army wife (i need to give this a lot more time....and thought)
27. Spend a few days alone, disconnected from the world. Preferably forever.
28. Live like a hippie (that's actually the broader aim)
29. Do a PG in Journalism (drop)
30.Publish a volume of poetry (not keen anymore).
31. Swim with sharks and/or dolphins (preferably dolphins...for obvious reasons) - check. Sharks it was!
32. Bathe with buffaloes in a dirty, mucky pond...i feel so jealous when I see them going at it alone.
33. Grow my nails atleast once and use nail paint (its tougher than you think)
34. Get myself a digital SLR camera (check)
35. Spend all my earning (and Rishabh's too) in traveling.
36. Fuck all conventions, stereotypes, protocols, rules and everything that takes the life out of LIFE.
37. Never let go of family and friends who matter.
38. Plant atleast 1000 trees in my lifetime (I'm not counting...)(check)
39. Donate all my organs (check..)
40. Take workshops for writers
41. Bully a kid when it's mom is not looking....till it bawls for help (check....many times over ;))
42. See my name in a byline (check)
43. Do something really, really controversial.
44. Make my own wine (check)
45. Learn a bit of HTML...just enough to be able to manage my website independently.
46. Spend a few months living with tribals in Africa and soak in their culture.
47. Become a wandering spirit after I'm dead and haunt a beach (castles are passe)
48. Achieve nirvana (after the haunting of course)
49. Find out who I was in my past life.
50. Have an encounter with a ghost/supernatural something. (check. sorry I asked for it...wasn't pleasant at all)
That's all I can think of for now...I'll add more later. (Sorry for going overboard with parenthetical remark - can't help it coz I totally love them. The bracket closes here..)

Until Next Time...

02 December, 2008

Suicidal Comments by Indian Politicians

"True colors always shine out in moments of acute crisis" and our politicians have just proved the credibility of the statement in more ways that one. Their suicidal statements ( which can or rather, SHOULD put an end to their career) have only served to fuel the fire within every Indian. A few examples:

R.R.Patil: "Itna Bada Shehar Hai...ek-aad haadsa to ho hi jaata hai. They planned to kill 5000 people. We have minimized the damage to a large extent". he then goes on to resign on "moral grounds" (read: the resignation was shuved up his @$$)

Vilas Rao Deshmukh: Tags along son Ritesh Deshmukh and film maker Ram Gopal Verma for a guided tour to the Taj Mahal Hotel and then claims: "I offered to resign" (Sure darling, we believe you).

V.S. Achutanandan (sorry for being crass, but the first four alphabets of his surname pretty much sum up what he's all about): "Not even a dog would have entered his (Maj.Unnikrishnan's) house" on being turned back by the martyr's father.( He owes an apology to Indian canines and Indians in general).

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi: "Just because a few people with lipstick and powder on their faces or suits and ties come out on the road to protest against politicians, doesn't mean that they are the voice of India." (is he jealous of people who are better dressed than him?)

Thats sadly the face of Indian politics- sloppy, callous, stinking and shameful. Judging by their attitude, it is pretty evident that their concerns are exclusively channeled towards the public outrage against politicians. The country and the people still don't feature on their list of priorities. And these are the guys who India chose to elect.

Can we have young, dynamic, educated and hot-blooded leaders instead of these invalid, impotent bastards? These guys can't speak for nuts even if their lives depended on it. The Pak Foreign Minister carried himself with great dignity and spontaneity (whether he meant all of that is another debatable issue) while our chaps fumbled, stumbled and stammered on national television. Where are we heading?

30 November, 2008

The Power of Voting and Un-Voting

A few minutes ago, I received a forwarded mail about the public's power to "un-vote" a political party. I am not sure how far this idea will go in bringing about the much needed political and social revolution, I would still like to quote the mail here so that people other than those on my immediate contact list get to read it too. Here goes:

"Kindly re-think before you vote this time, do our politicians really give us good and secured life, if you feel not then kindly forward
this mail to all you feel can join the campaign not to vote corrupt
politicians. ITS THE TIME NOW....


Read about the Section 49-O over to that link. Thats a government link.

as far as that link says, here is the theme of it.
Did you know that there is a system in our constitution, as per the
1969 act, in section "49-O" that a person can go to the polling booth,
confirm his identity, get his finger marked and convey the presiding
election officer that he doesn't want to vote anyone!

Yes such a feature is available, but obviously these seemingly
notorious leaders have never disclosed it. This is called "49-O".

Why should you go and say "I VOTE NOBODY"... because, in a ward, if a
candidate wins, say by 123 votes, and that particular ward has
received "49-O" votes more than 123, then that polling will be
canceled and will have to be re-polled. Not only that, but the
candidature of the contestants will be removed and they cannot contest
the re-polling, since people had already expressed their decision on
them. This would bring fear into parties and hence look for genuine
candidates for their parties for election. This would change the way,
of our whole political system... it is seemingly surprising why the
election commission has not revealed such a feature to the public....

Please spread this news to as many as you know... Seems to be a
wonderful weapon against corrupt parties in India... show your power,
expressing your desire not to vote for anybody, is even more powerful
than voting... so don't miss your chance. So either vote, or vote not
to vote (vote 49-O) and pass this info on...

The people of India , can really use this power to save our nation.
Use your voting right for a better INDIA."

29 November, 2008

Mumbai Terror Attacks: Media and The People

The Mumbai carnage is nearing a catharsis but I'm still feeling sick in the stomach. The security forces have done the country proud but it would probably not be accurate to say that we have "won" in the true sense. The immense loss of life and property has left every Indian citizen emotionally scarred, skeptic and enraged- that pretty much serves the purpose of a terrorist attack. I can visualize terror honchos munching popcorn in front of their television sets and laughing their asses off at our helplessness and panic. Our "breaking news" thirsty attitude only serves to entertain them further.

The Indian media may have done a great job at covering and reporting the incidents but like many other media critics, I too feel that that should have exercised more restraint. I mean, what's with the footage of commandos landing from helicopters on rooftops on national television and the step-by-step operational and strategic details of the security forces being leaked out at the most sensitive hour? Might as well call up the wrong-doers and tell them "Ok guys, here's how we are going to attack you. Plan accordingly". These are not your typical filmy militant in pathan-suit who is unshaven, illiterate and supposedly misguided- these are educated young men in Versace tees and blackberries who very well know what they are up to!These are guys who shop with us in malls, spend their weekends in pubs like we do and are as tech savvy (if not more) as we are. If they can plan their attacks months in advance, is'nt it a given that they would have established a fool-proof communication network as well? With the kind of options that technology offers today, it hardly helps to cut out the cable networks. However, the media realized this but not before complicating the situation by a few degrees.

I really admire journos like Barkha Dutt but her insensitive questions to rescued victims like "What do you feel about the whole situation" really put me off and then she went yak-yak about nothing in a voice that compelled me to switch channels. The guy was held hostage for over 48 hours for heaven's sake. Give him a break! Further. when they run out of fresh "breaking news", they rope in stupid celebs with their inconsequential opinions to fill up the airtime. If men in uniform can sacrifice all they have, channels can surely afford to sacrifice their TRP's.

Indian journos are one of the most powerful forces in the country- they got to act more responsibly and maturely. After all, in times like these, they are the only ones who can keep the country held together. They are the ones who can spark up a revolution and bring about change. They are the ones who can effectively deliver a message and make India more aware. Get over the sensational and scandalous stuff guys, and get down to business! Isn't that what real journalism is all about? Don't just entertain, inspire! I quite liked the Arnav/Arnab Goswami abstained from dramatizing the incidents and got some relavent perspectives from international authorities but one wishes he would do away with his habit of butting in and allow the guests to speak. He was right in saying that gory details of the carnage only add to the panic and negative emotions among citizens.

Moreover, I fail to understand what people mean when they "condemn" the act of terrorism. Dude, do you have a choice? Politicians and authorities using weak words like "action will be taken", "condemnation", "investigations are still on" etc do nothing to assure the average citizen. Terrorists are not ordinary thieves or murderers- they are global pests and they should be treated like one would treat a plague epidemic. There's absolutely no room for mercy or prolonged trials!

The nightmare might be over but it should not be left behind. India should not "move on" but fight back with a vengeance. We have moved on for too long now- its time to kick some serious ass and strike before our blood cools down and we return back to a mundane existence. This is not the first time that our economy, democracy, heritage and people have been threatened. I sincerely hope that the people join hands to take "India Burning" to "India Shining" once again. Kudos to the NSG jawan who said "Nothing is too difficult for us"- the rest of the country should take it from here.

27 November, 2008

Terrorists Can Be Put to Good Use.....I'm Serious!

Terror strikes Mumbai and my blood is boiling again. Why do we let these bastards do this to our country? They say every human being is born with a purpose and has a role in the universe. What purpose are these terrorists born for? Well, I'm sure they can be put to good use and contribute positively to the global society.

Here's how the government can work towards rehabilitating and integrating anti-national elements into the society:

They can be painted in bright colors and made into dartboards- this will save trees and kids can have more fun targeting a live, moving object.

They can be put up in fairs in place of balloons and people can shoot them(with real guns of course to win soaps/combs/teddy bears. A bonus prize for anyone who manages to aim between the eyes.

They could be a good source of fresh, healthy and functional organs for the millions of suffering patients.

Post organ-extraction, their bodies could be shoved into a grinder and made into mulch for the manufacture of organic manure and fed to the plants.

They can be employed by the military to train soldiers in shooting and combat operations - it is no fun shooting and kicking an inanimate sandbag.

During bird flu and anthrax epidemics, they could be used to feed zoo animals (or even as a treat for behaving nicely).

They could be tranquilized and used as a temporary pavement when Mumbai roads are flooded and pedestrians have no place to walk.

See, the bastards are not a waste of space after all!

29 October, 2008

The Difference Between Art and Science

At a painful party the other day ( it was vaguely 2 am, I guess), someone popped a random question at the dinner table- "What is the difference between Art and Science"? The "asker" was an honorable senior officer of the Indian Army and the "askees" were a group of chattering young ladies. He did get some pretty interesting replies like "Arts is more like History, Political Science, Literature etc. while Science has Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Maths" (duh!). My supposedly "intellectual" take on the subject did not go all waste (despite my punch drunk state and slurred speech)- I can safely vouch for that because the answer sparked off an animated discussion which ultimately turned out to be the highlight of the painful party (at least for me).

Contrary to popular belief, a couple of drinks can really jump-start dormant gray cells ( that doze off all over again once the hangover wears out).Here goes my alcohol-induced philosophy:

"Science is an acknowledgment of the known and expansion of physicality while Art is an interpretation of existence and expansion of the soul- beyond the apparent and the obvious". ( Ok, now don't you stare at me like that and DON'T even ask me where on earth did that come from). And yes, its original- in case you are wondering.

03 October, 2008

Significance of The Phoenix Tattoo

Ever since I got a Phoenix tattooed on my back, people have been asking me- Why a Phoenix? I mean, its not a common, fashionable motif - like say, a butterfly, stars or Chinese and tribal symbols. Not surprisingly, I had a tough time finding one that effectively represented my being. After two long years of wait ( I just couldn't find an artist who understood my requirement), I finally got it done from Al's Tattoo and Body Piercing Studio in Bandra, Mumbai.

For those who may be unaware, the Phoenix is a mythological bird that burns itself and emerges all over again from its own ashes.
The Phoenix has varied references in Arabian, Greek, Roman, and Oriental mythology. Some believe it to represent the sun- bursting into flames at sunset and being reborn at the crack of dawn. It also symbolizes rebirth and re-incarnation ( or life's victory over death- whichever way you prefer to put it). The Phoenix is also believed self-cremate itself in a nest of exotic and aromatic herbs when it is injured, tired or weak. In Oriental mythology, this bird with a dazzling plumage represents balance (yin and yang) and harmony.

To me however, the Phoenix means a lot more than a mythological creature. I identify with many aspects of the Phoenix and use the motif as a representation of my soul.

- The "emerging" Phoenix (as opposed to the burning one) symbolizes strength and invincibility in the face of adversity. It will constantly remind me to battle all odds and emerge victorious.

- The burning and resurrection of the Phoenix teaches me to erase everything that is unpleasant from my memory and begin each day as a fresh, new life with all its sparkle and splendor.

- The Phoenix is an unconventional creature- it does not adhere to the laws of life and death. In a way, it mirrors the overpowering rebellious streak in me and gives me the strength to go "against the flow" and live life on my terms.

- Of course, anything that symbolizes me has to have wings that stand for freedom, adventure, independence and a footloose character.

- The bright colors of the feathers represent positivity, optimism and a love for natural beauty.

I will add more to this as I connect other threads of my existence to the Phoenix.

Crows in The City That Never Sleeps...

The Mumbai fever seems to have caught on with the city's crows as well. Nowhere else in India have I seen crows cawing away through the night and even scourging for food when they should be ideally tucked away in their tacky nests. Sure enough, competition is fierce and only the fittest will survive- which is probably why these Mumbai birds are up and about at night while their small-town counterparts hit the bed in rest of the country. I wonder if they work in shifts...

The other day during a late-night drive through the city, I was rather taken to find these irksome birds having a noisy party by the garbage can at two in the morning- a ridiculous hour for most city-dwelling birdies. They reminded me of crows in Udhampur who returned religiously to their arboreal abodes as soon as the sun descended down the horizon. Have birds in bustling metros adopted the same fast-paced lifestyle and evolved themselves accordingly or is it just my imagination? For all I know, crows are not nocturnal by nature.

12 September, 2008

Beach Holiday- Sunburn-Now What?

Just in case you couldn’t resist the desire to prance along the beaches “one beautiful summer afternoon”, here’s what to do when you come back looking (and feeling) like a fried peanut. Do not panic, we all forget to slather sunscreen and wear a hat sometimes! Look no further than your kitchen cabinet for immediate relief from the nastiest of sunburns.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

The importance of this cannot be emphasized enough and has to be given top priority. Skip your favorite fancy lotions (they are loaded with fragrances and synthetic ingredients) that can irritate sun-burnt skin further. Choose from natural, organic stuff like raw milk or Aloe Vera extract. They work like a magic wand and this, I speak from personal experience. Alternatively, use a basic moisturizer and pop open a Vitamin E capsule to fortify it.

Black Tea

No ladies, we are not talking about a tea party here! Make a diluted version and pour it into an ice-tray. Now that you have a respectable stock of iced-tea cubes, you can rub one over your face and body every few hours. Anything cool would obviously feel blissful over sun- burnt skin. The anti-oxidants in the tea would give a push to the healing process. You could also pour a chilled concoction all over as the final rinse after a shower.

Fruits and Veggies

Soothe parched, sensitive and leathery skin with papayas, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers and any other “cool” vegetable or fruit that you may have. No citrus stuff please! Either rub a slice over affected areas or just leave them on as a pureed face pack. These darlings are packed with nutrients and minerals that revitalize the skin and speed up the regeneration process. Chuck the science behind it and wallow in the mess. As long as it does the job, who cares!

Do Not’s

As much as you would like to choose the fast track to recovery, lay your hands off scrubs, bleaches and make-up for a while. If you ignore this piece of advice, your skin will scream back at you for a reminder!

04 September, 2008

How Do You Like Your Leftovers?

‘Some like it hot
Some like it cold.
Some like it in the pot,
Nine days old!’

It’s not surprising that the silly sounding nursery rhyme from yesterday bears the universal truth about food and foodies. Are you the type who likes their meals freshly cooked, piping hot and neatly laid out on the table or are you amongst those who would just grab a bite from the refrigerator and have it for lunch on the couch.

Different people have different food preferences. While some people would squirm and turn up their noses on yesterday’s dinner, others would think it rather wise to cook up the entire week’s meals on a Sunday! However, even the latter type has two subcategories. There are people who ‘brighten’ up leftovers by reheating, adding spices or extra ingredients or just eating them in a different form, for example, having last day’s veggies in a toasted sandwich or making them into a roll and shredding leftover chicken to be used as a pizza topping. Many others are not willing to take the trouble and prefer to raid the fridge and gobble up bits and pieced straight off the racks! They do not seem to mind a leathery tortilla or a near frozen sizzler.

Like they say- it takes all kinds to make the world! Even members of the same family and siblings may have contrasting food habits, which means it has nothing to do with upbringing or training. Rather, it is purely a matter of individual tastes. So, which category do you belong to?

The Truth About Health Foods

Next time you sift the supermarket for ‘100% natural’ or ‘preservative free’ foods, be on a high alert. A recent study conducted by Sense About Science, a charitable trust dedicated to public awareness has unraveled that most claims laid by ‘health food’ brands are a hoax and that they use these strategies only to boost up their sales.

Also, the common notion that naturally derived substances are less harmful than the synthetically produced ones has no truth in it. Many chemicals that are used in processed food are also found in fresh, organic food so the intake pretty much remains the same. Many food products bear flashy labels like ‘enriched with vitamin so-and-so’ and ‘fortified’. Although the label may be true, there is no evidence that an extra dose of nutrients would do us any more good. The human body is programmed to derive all the nutrition it needs from the food we ingest. Anything extra is just going to be disposed off by our kidneys because unlike carbohydrates, fats and proteins, vitamins cannot be stored in the body. Rather, the body needs a measured and constant supply of these nutrients.

Consumers today are growing increasingly health conscious owing to the epidemic of life-style diseases and do not hesitate to spend an extra buck or two for a ‘healthier version’ of food. Most companies make use of the consumer’s vulnerability and lure the layman by laying a ’scientific trap’. An unknowing customer is easily drawn to a food packet which has elaborate nutritional details and data printed on it. The fact however is, that these food products are as good or as bad as any other.

26 August, 2008

Why Do People Watch Porn?

Guys watch it for cheap thrills and to let out the ‘extra stuff’. Girls watch it out of curiosity and wonder what the porn star got that she hasn’t got. Kids watch it because it is a forbidden fruit and it’s very human to rebel! Couples watch it to learn some new tricks and get some zing back into their lives (which I think is by far the most sensible use of it!)

Most people justify themselves by saying that it is the sole form of sex education available to them. Where else, apart from boring biology textbooks, would they get to learn about the male and female anatomy in so much detail and know how babies are born! Kids wonder as to why are two grown up, naked people trying to strike funny poses and deriving fun out of it? Now, this is the first step into trouble-land. Curiosity leads kids into getting their questions answered from all the wrong sources and means possible because to them pornography seems to be the best or rather the only answer!

Experimenting with new things is not bad and pornography is not an exception. But since it can distort value systems in young minds and give unrealistic impressions about the act of sex and human bodies with all those silicon implants and testosteron pumped bodies, it certainly helps to give them a strong background knowledge at an age when their brains haven’t lost their elasticity so that they don’t have trouble telling right from wrong.

Watching or reading porn is not sinful but a person should know what he/she is in for and what it means. The purpose of it should not extend beyond occasional entertainment. It should not become a means to satiate curiosity about sex.

There is one missing element on the road between a person and pornography and that is COMPREHENSIVE SEX EDUCATION (by anyone who can deliver it...that means us as well!)

Depression: A Biochemical Process

With depression making rounds in the society in a grand manner, scientists may be on the verge of discovering a bio-chemical indicator for the assessment of depression. A condition which hitherto was diagnosed solely on the subjective opinion of a practitioner may now have a ‘lab test’ to determine the severity of the condition as well as the effect of different treatments and therapies on a particular patient.

Scientists at the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at the University of Illinois suggest that depression involves a bio-chemical process wherein the brain releases specific substances which can be detected by laboratory tests. The researchers conducted a post–mortem study of depressed people who committed suicide and compared their findings to that of normal people. They established that a certain protein called Gs alpha which relays information between the brain cells and the neuro-transmitters seemed to have been less effective in depressive people.

One of the main concerns faced by psychiatrists while treating a patient with anti-depressants is the unpredictability of the drug’s effect. Rasenick and his team are hopeful that this proposed technique would significantly step up the efficacy and quality of management of depressive disorders.

Bridging The Generation Gap

The very existence of a “generation” is dependant on its comparison with the one before and after it – which makes difference between generations inevitable and rather necessary for the sake of definition. Arranged in chronological order, today’s society is an amalgam of four generations- baby boomers, Gen X, the MTV Generation and Gen Y. Clashes in viewpoints (social, political, religious and moral), differences in musical and sartorial tastes, norms of acceptable behavior and priorities therefore is not surprising. This phenomenon is what we commonly refer to as a “generation gap”. This “gap” stems from the inability of the young and the old to understand and identify with each other. Although some people may rubbish the whole concept and label it passé, the impact of generational differences are evident is practically every sphere of life; including family, education, career, marriage and retirement plans. Each generation works in its own distinct pattern and strives to be as different as possible from the one preceding them.

A typical conversation between a parent and teenager is bound to be interspersed with phrases like “In our days….”; “are you actually going to wear that outfit”; “things are different now”; “give me a break ma” and “I need my space”. While the older generation always sees the younger one as inexperienced and irrational, the younger lot thinks they are old-fashioned and not at all “moving with the times”. Neither of them is wrong in their assumptions- it is just that the older generation refuses to accept that their children have moved out of the cradle and need to make their own decisions. The younger generation on the other hand, fails to realize that their parents mean well and expect them to learn from experience and mistakes rather than committing them on their own. For most teenagers, parents are always the dictator who cannot bear to see them happy. Many parents often find themselves entirely phased out as they make futile attempts to communicate and understand their children- only to end up wishing they had never grown up! The conflict is brought out beautifully in Joyce Carol’s “Where are you going, Where have you been? When Connie’s mother nags her: “Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister? How’ve you got your hair fixed—what the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don’t see your sister using that junk.” Connie “wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over”. “She makes me want to throw up sometimes,” she complains. The first glimpse of generation gap usually surfaces during the teenage years and this is often only the beginning.

Conflicts between parents and children often arise out of parent’s irrational expectations out of their child as they expect the latter to achieve what they desired to but could not. Young adults are constantly subjected to pressure from parents urging them to follow a conventional career path without acknowledging their aptitude and potentials. A teenagers desire to establish his own worth in a chosen field is overlooked and often clouded by parental aspirations for them. As Bruno Bettelheim aptly puts it: “Youths come to grief nowadays because of their parent’s insistence that the former justify themselves as parents rather than because of any revived oedipal desires for their mothers or fathers”. A child may succumb to pressure and achieve what a parent desires of him but that does not necessarily amount to internal happiness and emotional well-being of the child. In “The Setting Sun and the Rolling World” by Charles Mungoshi , Nhamo thinks that his father has “given him nothing and all”- something which reflects many a teenager’s opinions as they pine for freedom of decision along with the basic facilities provided to them. The older generation sometimes fail to realize that even though there children are dependant on them for survival, they are also old enough to have opinions and aspirations of there own. It is only when the old generation refuses to step back in order to make for new ideas and culture; does generation conflicts arise.

Pattern of education has also undergone a sea change with a shift in focuses and priorities. “Whilst today’s education system encourages individuality, and expression of opinion, the education system of the 40s and 50s put a firm emphasis on discipline and uniformity” (BBC). Education now had transcended beyond bookish knowledge and lays more emphasis on over-all character development. Mediums like internet and tele-education were practically unheard of in the 50’s and 60’s and hence the Boomers had only their books and a few audio-visual sources to rely upon. The newer generation was encouraged to analyze and interpret books based on their own sensibilities as opposed to memorizing and reproducing text which was a common mode of learning until a few years ago. This change is now reflected in the difference in approach of the two generations in problem-solving and teaching methods. Boomers also find it difficult to see sense in recent trends like blogging and networking for friends and dating. They would rather spend money on an international call than try to endlessly chat over the internet for free just because they were not exposed to such concepts in their formative years.

Even in the professional arena, Boomers are known as the more “subtle” generation and X-ers and Y-ers are subjected to continuous scrutiny regarding the clothes they wear, the language they use and the time they put into their work. Often, the young employee’s expression of self though tattoos, radical fashion and body piercing is met with resentment from the Boomer leading to workplace conflicts. The latter views such fashion as “offensive”, “un-professional” and even “vulgar”. They tend to emphasize more upon the young worker’s personal attributes that his/her professional credibility. According to Dan Kadlec- co-author of The Power Years, a guide for boomers- “Tensions typically stem from perceptions of loyalty and respect - as in, we think the kids don’t have any”. Along years the work pattern has also undergone a drastic transformation. The generation of Boomers has seen extreme struggle and job scarcity which is not the case with the younger lot. As a result, the latter are more willing to take risks in their careers, change jobs and switch professions – all of which was unthinkable of in the 70’s and 80’s. While a Boomer would not think much of working past office hours and even on weekends, an X-er has stringent rules about personal and professional time and does not allow one to infringe upon the other .nevertheless; they do not compromise on quality and efficiency by being more focused. Also, thirty-something’s are accustomed to following their job blindly without raising an eye-brow to the instructions. They feel irked and offended when a twenty-something questions their authority and demands explanations and view this as a mark of disrespect- even when it may simply stem from curiosity and a need to establish a logic in implementing instructions. The older generation still prefers to communicate via the old fashioned and formal means like meetings and letters and the new generation considers it perfectly acceptable to convey a professional message via a short e-mail or text message. According to the Boomers the X-ers and Y-ers lack serious work ethic whereas the latter feel that the former refuse to embrace chance which is essential for progression.

The generation of Boomers witnessed the trend of young adults moving out of their parental homes around the age of eighteen in pursuit of education or jobs and to establish an identity and family of their own. According to Marcia Mogelonsky “When a college education became the norm for a large share of American women and men, the deferral of adulthood began. People got married later, had children later, bought homes later, and started careers later”. Most people now prefer to live with their parents in order to save money for other luxuries without feeling ashamed. By doing this they also enjoy the freedom of making choices and exploring options without being burdened with the responsibility of home and family. In her article titled “The Rocky Road to Adulthood”, Marcia Mogelonsky quotes psychologist Ross E. Goldstein: “It may be time to redefine the meaning of being `grown-up.’ If we continue to apply the same standards used to identify the transition from childhood to adulthood among baby boomers, we may discover that Generation X will never grow up”. The boundary between adolescence and adulthood is fast fading as people as meeting the requirements for adulthood like education, job and family relatively late in life.

According to Carole Bonnet women are increasingly making their presence felt in all professional fields and the incidence of career breaks among women are gradually decreasing. In the coming generations, the gap between the retirement ages for men and women is expected to close in. in many countries the new generation is striving hard to eradicate gender bias, racism and class discrimination.

David Plotz examines the difference between Generation X and Y and feels that Generation Y is a more “cheerful” generation as it marks a significant decrease in social mal-functions like teenage pregnancy, racism, drug abuse, teenage crime and school drop-outs- all of which were rampant in the 80’s and 90’s. After the tumultuous years it comes as a pleasant surprise when teenagers take active interest in spirituality and social causes. In his article titled “The American Teenager”, he says: “the slump of the 90’s has been replaced by eternal boom; the cynical pessimists of Gen X have been replaced by cheery Y’s”. this is probably a consequence of increasing awareness and incorporation of sex- education and psychological counseling as part of the educational curriculum. Plotz also observes that the new generation does not resort to rebellion- rather they believe in “New Earnestness” and “New Familism”. The Y-ers are keener on attending church as opposed to the X-ers who believed in rebelling against any and every thing that they were expected and asked to do.

Even after noting the vast generation gap, it would be incorrect to say that two generations have little in common. Although there might be a vast difference between opinions, views and tastes, generations seldom fail to find common ground in order to co-exist in harmony. Minor adjustments and willingness to be open-minded go a long way in bridging the eternal “generation gap”.

The Kiss of Lead

Most women would not admit it but it is true. We do find our favorite lipstick irresistible and I’m not talking about the shade or the gloss here. Many women cannot stop themselves from flicking their tongues across their lips for the ‘fruity flavor’ which is the USP of most leading cosmetic brands. Little do they know that with every ‘helping’, they are taking in a dangerous amount of lead which can play havoc on their bodies in the long run owing to its well-known toxic effects. This becomes a bigger cause of concern when little girls try on their mama’s make-up and preen in front of the mirror and more so with pregnant and lactating mothers.

A recent study by a consumer group revealed that 61% of lipsticks contained significant amount of lead in spite of FDA specifying the ’safe limit’ to less than 0.02 ppm (parts per million ). This category includes reputed and ‘high-end’ brands like L’Oreal, Cover Girl and Christian Dior which contained 0.03-0.65 ppm of lead. The study was part of The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

On the outset, these numbers may seem harmless but one should bear it in mind that lead is not as easily expelled from the body as other toxins has the potential of accumulating in the tissues thus affecting health in the long run. Since women apply lip-sick several times a day and everyday, the amount of lead ingested consciously and sub-consciously can be quite alarming. Exposure to lead and its compounds can cause severe mental and physical disability and it is also known to cause infertility and miscarriage.

A few brands however, like Estee Lauder, Avon, Revlon and Wet and Wild and Body Shop have got the clean chit and were found to fall within the ’safe bracket’. So next time you go shopping for a lippie, make sure you do your homework beforehand for the sake of your and your children’s health.

Weight Loss (Sigh!)

So you have been dieting like crazy but the scales refuse to budge? Or you think you have exercised enough to afford a sinful chocolate pastry? Most of us substitute olive oil for butter, nut for candies and honey for sugar thinking that the healthy alteration will save us the extra calories. Though olive oil and nuts contain ‘good fats’ but there is one thing we fail to remember- these are still fats! Any kind of fat delivers the same amount of calories though there may be some that do not block arteries. Similarly, sweetening agents like honey and jaggery may be a preferred option over white processed sugar, the amount of calories remains the same. It is important to reduce the quantity of fats and sugars if desired weight loss effects are to be seen.

Apart from our diet, many other factors like our physical activity, sleep patterns, behaviors and biological characteristics go a long way in determining the efficacy of our weight loss and fitness programs. Vigorous physical work, depression, fatigue, stress and lack of consistency may cause us to eat more than our body’s requirement and more than makes up for all the “dieting”. Problems like thyroid misbalance, mood disorders, medications and insulin intake may also interfere with the body’s metabolic process and effect weight loss.

Therefore a balanced exercise program coupled with a careful and measured calorie intake is the mantra for effective weight loss.

20 August, 2008

Art Appreciation: Writing About Art

The first step in writing about art is the most important and also the most challenging- the choice of subject. The subject chosen should be accessible, within one’s scope of comprehension and make for interesting and inspirational writing at the same time. Further, while approaching a work, it is essential to analyze the context.

When you enter a museum, are you gripped by its aura and sanctity or do the hallways remind you of other places? Usually, museums are designed in such a manner so as to portray a work of art as “free” or sans any external influence and distractions. The walls are white, the environment bears pin-drop silence and the floors are carpeted so as to smother the sound of footsteps. Even after so much precaution, a work of art remains far from “free” because our analysis and appreciation of a piece (positive or negative) is based on individual perception which is governed by the world and our experiences outside the museum walls. Therefore, the purity and sanctity of art is bound to be adulterated. Therefore, the ideal gallery is one that removes all sources of interference and displays art in its actual context. Furthermore, once a subject is chosen, it should be looked at with a “blank” mind; i.e., you should curb your desire to relate it to personal memories and experiences because personalizing it would snatch away the intellectual facet and mystique and most likely, make readers lose interest in the essay. An effective way of creating an interesting an thoughtful essay is to chose a piece you like and try to create a “dialogue” between yourself and the painting. Try to express “what the painting wants to say”. Imbibe a sense of exploration while writing about art as it adds more dimensions and sustains the reader’s interest.

19 August, 2008

So You Want To Be A Writer? Here's How To Get Started...

So, you have followed your true calling and embraced the written word as a means for earning your livelihood. Here’s what to expect- total disorientation, rejection slips coming in as regular as your newspaper, un-replied mails in your mail-box, desperation to see your name in print as soon as possible…you get the picture. Nothing gives more pleasure than being published and being appreciated for your work but lets face it going on to become a earning professional writer from a published-a-couple-of-times-writer, is a long way. Don’t let the reality check dishearten you- setbacks are only an initial phenomenon and once you are out there rocking the writing market, there is no stopping you. Meanwhile, here are a few things to do that will help you sail through to your big-breakthrough.

• Read “Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul”: sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? Believe me, it really perks up the mood when you read about the failures and rejections so many booker-prize type authors went through before they went to take on the world. It is bound to inspire, re-assure and motivate you to keep going. After all, that is what the Chicken Soup Series is for!

• Writer’s Block can plague you even before you become a “real” writer. There will be times when you just wouldn’t know what to write about. Use that time to read and surf the net. Go through features and articles in magazines and see if you can re-write the same topic with a different and individual perspective. Websites like Helium and eHow have a host of subjects that could be used as a prompt. Take your pick from the many and get started.

• Start small: it is not a wise idea to make your first submission to a leading international publication. Big magazines usually have their own panel of in-house writers and tend to entertain only widely published and established freelancers. Start off with a local or lesser known publication that pays a decent amount and use that publishing success as a stepping stone to building your place in the market. At times, it is all right to offer your work for free if the publication is well-known and has a wide readership. Magazines that do not pay for contribution, would usually agree to include your photograph with a by-line and contact information which can get you writing offers from other publications in the future. Remember- public exposure is as important as the quality of your writing.

• Splash yourself over the internet: Blog, self-publish and display a few versatile writing samples on community websites like EditRed. Apart from an honest critique of your work by fellow-writers, you get a platform to show-case your work to prospective publishers who may want to sign you up for a long-term writing contract. Once you have a considerable amount of credentials as a writer, you can consider building your own web-site for heightening your publicity quotient.

• Though print-magazines always stand as a more preferable option, it can take several months before your work actually appears even after acceptance. Payment can take even longer. For a writer who just started out, this can be rather disheartening and depressing. E-zines, on the other hand, are prompt with replies and since they are exclusively web-based, it does not take too long for your article to be published and you get paid sooner too. What’s more, it is easier to send across links to your family, friends and prospective publishers to flaunt your successes!

• Start easy: consider beginning with easy-to-write topics like “how-to’s” and general interest articles. Detailed features for niche publications may require a strong back-ground knowledge and extensive research on the topic. You could also write for publications that deal with your area of expertise or educational back-ground. Specialty magazines are usually higher paying than the rest but the general-interest ones have a larger audience.

• Set up a work-station: Have your own personal corner at home if a proper office is not feasible. Arrange your works into files and document all incoming and outgoing mail. Even on your laptop or PC, it helps to sort out articles based on their theme in separate folders so that you know where to look if you consider re-submitting an article to a new magazine.

• Be consistent: Once you submit and article, don’t waste your time waiting for a reply- simply forget about it and get started on a new one. Make it a point to make at least 2-5 submission everyday to different publications. This way you will considerably increase your chances of being published and ensure a steady influx of cheques.

• The importance of doing an advance market research cannot be emphasized enough. Know your publication well before making a query or a submission. Aimlessly mailing queries and articles to random addresses will lead you nowhere. Similarly, familiarize yourself with the publication BEFORE you write an article rather than writing first and then shopping for a market. It seldom works the other way around.

• Make a few investments- get yourself a copy of Writer’s market or a similar publications directory. We are usually familiar with popular publications that we subscribe to or the ones we often come across at news-stands. There is a whole vast market waiting to be explored – literary magazines, newsletters, niche magazines- publications which are not highly publicized but have a decent distribution.

• If you are working on short-stories or novels and find yourself running short of creative ideas and plots, try reminiscing about an incident from your own life or from someone you know and weave a story around it. If you wake up one morning and still remember a dream vaguely- pen it down immediately! Dreams can provide you with the most unusual and highly creative ideas for romantic and science fiction. Just so that you know- the best stories were born out of random dreams. So take them as a message from God!

• Last but not the least, originality and individuality are the two aspects that will help you build a reputation among publishers. Strike a balance between what you want to write and what the publishers want you to submit. Avoid churning out run-of-the-mill articles that have been done to death before. Novelty and innovation always earn their due. Happy writing!

Writing for Business

• Although freelance writing has not yet gained popularity at par with mainstream journalism, it has definitely grown from writing a couple of hand written articles every now and then to a booming online business which is providing opportunities to many people around the world who find it an extremely rewarding and satisfying field to be in.

• Good writers treat writing as serious business and not just an extended hobby. The competition is as fierce and the professionalism is as intense as in any other job. Various kinds writing courses are now mushrooming all over which help writers to polish their skills and learn the nuances of writing as a serious profession.

• For the sake of convenience, professional writing can be divided into various sub-types like creative writing, literary writing, academic writing and technical writing. A freelance writer may choose to explore all of these in the course of his/her career or may chose to stick to one particular area of writing and specialize in it.

• Business writing is one such sub-category which differs from all others in many aspects. As opposed to the lofty expressions in literary writing and the explanatory tone in academic writing; Writing for business demands precision, concision and economy of words. This involves writing letters, reports, official documents, resumes, memos, proposals, covering letters etc. Since the scope of such writing is strictly professional, the style should be ultra-formal, neat and follow certain rules. For example; “u r 2 gud” may be fine if you are chatting with a friend but if it is a part of a business letter, it could cost you your professional reputation and even your job. Business writing cannot afford leisurely use of words and a beating-around-the-bush style. After a brief formal pleasantry, the opening line should quickly introduce the subject and narrow it down to the point that is to be conveyed. The use of words and sentence structure should be carefully calculated to achieve the desired effect. If the message it too long, it would be preferable to arrange it in bulleted points instead of paragraphs.

• In a way, business writing is actually the kind of writing we learn in school- remember how our teachers insisted that a letter should begin with a “Dear/Respected So-and-So” rather than a “Hey” or without a acknowledgement at all and be signed off with a “yours sincerely/faithfully” instead of “Hugs” and “Cheers”? Well, high school education does come in handy at some point in life!

• Since business writing is earning its importance with the fast growth of the corporate sector, so is the trend of business writing courses. In today’s competitive scenario, a self-written resume (however good it may be) is simply not enough to attract a prospective employer’s attention until it is peppered with a professional touch. Writers are making full use (and money) out of this new opportunity by specializing in this particular field.

• Many regular and online courses are available for writers who want to branch into the field of professional writing. Syracuse University and University of North Carolina offer undergraduate distance learning programs on composition and work-place writing which can be studied online. In addition to that, details of many more specialized business writing courses can be obtained from the PrimeLearning.com website. Gotham Writer’s Workshop, CBT Direct and Corpedia are other acclaimed schools that offer a range of online courses related to business writing.

• The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue is the Bible for professional business writers. The lab offers classes and courses on correct grammar and vocabulary usage, guidelines for writing a good thesis, and tips on avoiding plagiarism. Students and writers, especially academic writers can find resources on different academic formats like MLA, APA, Chicago and Harvard for formatting and referencing academic papers. Most academic assistance websites ask writers to refer to OWL guidelines to improve upon the quality of their work. There is also a tutorial on “Writing the Basic Business Letter” and “Developing an Outline” on the website.

• Apart from an endless number and variety of online courses, the internet is an untapped resource tool for writers. A smart online search will provide thousands of job opportunities (full time/part time/freelance) from all over the world. Owing to the growing needs of clients and professionals from all fields, there is enough opportunity for all business writers to keep their kitty full of assignments. Therefore, the internet is a great “earning and learning” source for writers.

16 August, 2008

On Fashion and the Unthinking Herd

What is fashion anyway? Who decides what is "in" and what is "out"? Just because a few fashion gurus (an ill-deserved title) announce that skinny jeans and balloon dresses are in, does that mean all and sundry have to squeeze their humongous butts into the former and accentuate the uncomfortable bulge with the latter? .You browse through random stuff in a clothes store and an over enthusiastic salesman thrusts an ugly outfit in your face saying "Maydum, ye bahot chala hua hai". For goodness sake, I am precisely not looking for "chala hua" stuff!

The Delhites (by and large) deserve a prize for the most bizarre dressing sense.It is not uncommon to spot PYT's dodging one puddle after another in stilettos (psst..I even saw a couple of them walking the streets in knee-high suede boots...gasp!). Another blood curdling trends would be black and gold combos when the sun is shining bright after a short drizzle (we all know the feeling). I felt seriously out of place and "without it" in my man-shorts, flip flops and a ganji.

Do skinny jeans and boots make any sense at all when most regions in India are sultry and freakin' hot? The same goes for synthetic tights. Does fashion (I still fail to understand the term) have to take undisputed precedence over comfort and practicality all the time? Most of know deep down inside that balloon tops and dresses do absolutely nothing for an average Indian woman's posterior Nevertheless, these sell like hot cakes. The trendy ones often ask "How can you wear Crocs? They look downright hideous!". Well, they work for me- just like I love all hideous things like iguanas, frogs, pythons and ogres, I love Crocs too. Moreover, they spare me a lot of trouble in the rainy season- they're clean, dry easily, don't leave uneven tan marks behind and they kinda look funky! In case you are already wondering- the company has NOT paid me to promote or blog about their product. This one comes straight from the heart.

More on this later...I'm just trying to compile a few fashion faux pas pics to make this post more chromatic.

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na: Movie Review

Amir Khan seems to be spinning more gold than Rumpelskiltskin. He has been dishing out one delightful movie after another- Lagaan, Taare Zameen Par and now Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Let us call it JTYJN for the sake of convenience.
One would expect JTYJN to be “just another mushy college romance” – it is that and much more. It is the original treatment of the beaten-to-death plot that makes this movie so refreshingly different. Along with a great feel-good movie, Amir gives Bollywood a new chocolate boy - his nephew, Imran Khan.
What is the movie about?
Well, obviously it’s about friendship and love! Though JTYJN does not have a “plot” or “story” to talk about, it manages to delight purely through near-flawless direction and marvelously etched characters.
The story is about Jai (Imran Khan) and Aditi (Genalia) who are “best friends” in college. The narrative takes us through their journey from friendship to love and the grand realization of the same (which in this case, takes a tad longer than usual). Even the supporting cast deserves a pat on the back for laudable performances and comic timing. Ratna Pathak Shah, Paresh Rawal, Arbaaz and Sohail Khan appear sporadically but do not seem wasted in respect to the larger picture. Each cameo has something valuable to contribute to the narrative. Nassiruddin Shah hangs around in a photo-frame hung on the wall but steals the show with his powerful screen presence and performance (as usual!)
The Verdict:
Abbas Tyrewala has executed the script with sheer brilliance and simplicity. He steers away from the mould of a typical commercial bollywood flick without losing out on the mass appeal. Imran does exceptionally well as a debutant and shows lot of promise. Genelia glides through her complex character effortlessly and makes you wonder why an actress like her is so under-rated. Both look convincing in their “average college goer” look with no over-the-top styling, designer labels and snazzy cars. A.R. Rehman’s music in the film is fresh and youthful- the first half seems to have too many songs but they really don’t irk you. “Pappu can’t dance” and “Kabhi Kabhi” are catchy and linger on long after you have walked out of the theatres.
In all, the movie comes across as a light, enjoyable, clean romantic comedy. JTYJN is packed with wit, humor (not the loud, slapstick kind) and excellent performances. It makes you smile, laugh and want to fall in love. Though it has nothing new on board, you simply must watch it because it is fun and it is different!
I would give it a ****1/2

Bachna Ae Haseeno: Movie Review

After a long string of damp squibs, Yash Raj Films seems to have arrived yet again with “Bachna Ae Haseeno”- a much needed break for the Kapoor Kid after Saawariya left him black and blue (quite literally)!

What is it about?

Raj (Ranbir Kapoor) is the quintessential “wrong kind of guy”- the one who charms the wits out of girls, sweeps them of their feet and leaves them heartbroken and weeping. The story traces his journey through youth and his growth as a human being. From a girl-thirsty high school pass out, he graduates to a mature software engineer. His relationships with three girls at different stages in life teach him what love, life and emotions are all about.

The Story (no spoilers):

The first few scenes of the movies are reminiscent of the DDLJ era- boy and girl meeting on a train with the pretty Swiss Alps fleeting in the backdrop, the girl missing the train and being left alone with the “hero”- who is incidentally called “Raj”. Mahi (Minisha Lamba) is a dreamy, romantic girl from Amritsar who thrives on a Mills and Boons kind of idealistic romance. A hardcore DDLJ fan, she is on a lookout for her “Raj” who would serenade her with a mandolin (remember “that tune”?) and mouth sweet- nothings into her ears. She gets a “Raj” of course, but does he actually fit the bill?

Raadhika (Bipasha Basu) is a wannabe actress who is ambitious, independent and “modern”- like some people would like to put it. Like most girls however, she gives top priority to love, marriage, home and companionship. She and Raj share a beautiful live-in relationship in a Mumbai apartment. All goes well till Raj gets a transfer to Sydney and Raadhika comes up with a brilliant idea of having a court marriage before “they” move to Sydney as Mr. and Mrs.

Raj meets Gayatri (Deepika Padukone) in Sydney- a sassy, intelligent and fiercely independent girl who attends a B-school during the day and drives a taxi by night in order to fund her education. Raj falls head-over-heels with her but a sudden turn of events changes his life forever. How he goes about cleaning up the mess he left behind and setting things right is what the movie is about.

The Movie

Shot at exotic locales from all over the world, the movie has some really brilliant performances by the lead actors though Ranbir Kapoor and Minisha Lamba are exceptional. The characters are easily identifiable- atleast for the urban youth. Most of us would agree to have passed through similar stages in life. The song and dance routines though a wee bit in excess are engaging and take the narrative forward- the choreography is amazing too. The chic clothes, styling and background score make the scenes vibrant, youthful, fresh and aesthetically appealing. Despite its feel-good appeal, the movie leaves you with a thought to ruminate on. The humor does not look forced or slapstick though it has a few “toilet-jokes” cracked in between. Like a typical Yash Raj movie, this one is high on candy floss and cheesy dialogues. If these are not for you, you may give it a skip. Overall, Bachna Ae Haseeno is likely to be appreciated by the classes and the masses alike.

Viewer’s Rating: ****1/2

09 August, 2008

When Affection Assumes Gastronomical Proportions

Affection is often synonymous with calorie laden food in Indian culture. In a country where a sizable portion of the population is undernourished, the chubby kids of seemingly opulent households are forcibly over-fed to bear testimony to the "khaata-peeta" nature of the family. Obesity and health-issues are of course secondary issues and mostly dont even feature on the list of priorities.

There have been multiple instances when well-meaning relatives have forced me to stuff myself with fried and sugary fare till my seams stretched to the limit. And I don't even bear a distant resemblance to someone who needs any more food!

Some hosts find it difficult (or rather impossible) to sit and chat with a guest without asking "What will you have now?" every couple of minutes. Little do they realize that there is only so much that an average homo sapien can ingest without upsetting the digestive system. Even if you politely decline (at the risk of offending the host), you are bombarded with irksome questions like "Are you on a diet?", "You don't look like you need to lose weight?", "Why is your diet so scanty?", "Did you not like it?", "Should I get you something else?" and so forth.

Although I fight hard to resist the temptation of blatantly telling them that this is by no means the first and the last time I'm having a meal and that if I eat any more, I'm going to throw up on their Italian sofa; I usually have to make do with a "No, thank you very much"- a phrase that apparently holds no meaning with kitchen-happy aunties.

Why does love have to clog arteries, induce heartburn, make you fart like there is no tomorrow and leave you feeling sick for the next one week? Why can people not hand out a customary glass of beverage with some cookies and chill? Does "spending quality time" and "catching up" have to translate into "binging" and "over-feeding"?

If you have a smart way of dealing with this particular brand of agony, I would be glad to hear from you.

08 August, 2008

The Thing About Indian Railway Crossings

I have yet to meet an Indian who does not mind waiting at railway crossings till the train passes. While the four-wheeler drivers have little choice but to pass time with music or a long pending phone call, the two-wheel drivers (read cyclists and scooterists)almost always try to slink from beneath the barriers to cross over to the other side.

Moreover, if something is big in India, it is only bigger in Punjab. Of all the times when I have cringed at people risking their safety to save a few minutes (even when they have nothing substantial waiting for them at the other side), this one surely takes the cake!

20 July, 2008

Six Super Stress Busters

One would say, the best way to stay stress free is to relax! Well, is it actually so easy to relax when you have deadlines to meet, a family to cater for, expectations to live up to, loans to clear, goals to achieve, children to raise, relationships to fulfill and blah, blah, blah. Where is the time to relax when one is smothered with the burdens of life? Few of us enjoy the luxury of spending quality time with family and friends, pursue our interests and go for that long over-due beach holiday.
Stress often creeps into our lives unnoticed and our mind and body realize it's impact only when it is too late. There are a number of things we can do everyday to fight off the hazards of stress and let relaxation embrace us. You do not need a lot of days or a lot of money to "relax" because relaxation is not a materialistic pleasure but a state of mind and a way of life. I hope you get the hint- staying relaxed is actually something that is entirely in our control.

1. Get adequate sleep and rest: this may not be easy for many of us but one has to squeeze out time for the minimum hours of sleep which our body needs to replenish itself and stay alert. Sleep deprivation can cause chronic fatigue and malaise which eventually effects our efficiency and out-come in the long run. Catching up on lost sleep does not mean taking cat-naps while driving or during boring board meetings! As much as our mind needs rest, our body needs rejuvenation too. Sleep in a cool, darkened room with some incense burning- these will sooth your senses. Think positive thoughts (read daydream) before you actually drift into slumber to ensure pleasant dreams.

2. Do not Skip Meals: eat proper balanced meals at the right intervals and do not skip a meal no matter how busy you are. Relish your food bit by bit and don't just stuff it in and wash it down with a cola. Eating slowly and patiently helps in better food absorption and nourishes your body so that it is better equipped to handle stress.

3. Use your break-time effectively: use your free-time to connect with your near and dear ones. Call up a friend or if possible, meet up for a quick cup of coffee. Socializing and human touch often help alleviating stress as you get to talk about and share your problems. Mail a relative or try social networking websites to find people who share your lifestyle or interests.

4. Work on your inner-self: develop a positive outlook and do not treat an incident or a goal as the be-all and end-all of life. As long as you don't stretch to the other extreme, being a little care-free can actually be good for you. Reserve your energy and concern for important issues in your life and avoid fretting about petty things like what people think of you etc.

5. Exercise: this may sound cliche but is not a cliche for no reason. As much as food and sleep, our body needs a steady supply of blood flow which sets all other organs in motion. Plan your schedule so that you get a few hours of physical movement every week. It may be anything from yoga to swimming. If taking time out seems difficult, consider cycling to work.

6. Pamper yourself: reserve one day a week exclusively for yourself. Spend the day as you like. Watch a movie, eat out, take a spa treatment, go shopping, read your favorite book and just push all your worries aside for a day. Under no circumstances should you carry your work home. Save that time for yourself and your family.

There are no separate ways to lead a stress-free life. The process is infact an amalgam of healthy living, positive thinking and time management. If these three aspects are worked upon as a whole, you can successfully kick the monster called "stress" out of your lives.

Living Each Day With Passion

How many of us can actually claim our everyday lives as being “full of passion”. Surely, most of us have our high moments every now and then but if we look back in retrospect, these moments are just a meager fraction in our mundane existence. Some fortunate ones can derive passion out of work but that’s not something an average person would swear by. Sprinkling a few passionate moments in our lives each day would certainly make it easier and happier, wouldn’t it?
Adding that extra spark in your day is not such an uphill task after all. You just need a little bit of “me” time to do what you “want to”, rather than what you are “supposed to”. It may be writing an occasional poem, playing a sport, watching a tree grow, spending quality time with your dog, having sex, campaigning for a cause you feel strongly about, meeting up with old friends after a long time, drawing inspiration from your surroundings…you get the drift? Different things stimulate different people. While one person may derive pleasure from an intellectual pursuit like reading a good book, another might feel a rush simply by watching a football rerun. Few people need a constant dose of human contact and emotions to get their “feel-good hormones” flowing. With so much responsibilities and a million chores ahead, our “me-time” gets lost somewhere in the rut we live in. you need no grass or alcohol to get you “high”. Just one hour a day of your choice is enough to carry you smiling through the day.
Apart from that, is also imperative that you carry a positive outlook throughout because a crib here and a frown there can severely mar the moment. Once you condition yourself accordingly, it is not difficult to derive immense joy out of small pleasures in life because small pleasures are a luxury not everyone can afford (and I’m not talking about the money here!). Once you learn the art of enjoyment, you will find yourself a happier and content person. Believe it or not, at times a ride on a roller-coaster is far more enjoyable than being gifted a Prada bag! Similarly, digging into candy-floss when you are forty gives you a rush that a glass of champagne may not. See? The best things in life come for free (well, almost!). You don’t need money to be passionate in life. All you need is a positive state of mind and bit of time for yourself.

The Drive to Srinagar...

Kashmir in her late monsoon garb casts her spell with her bewitching beauty right from the journey’s onset. With its regular dose of temples and markets, Jammu gives out no hint about what lies in store ahead. The uphill climb from the foot-hills of Jammu, through the serpentine roads, are a heaven with lush greenery with monkeys prancing and hanging about from trees. It comes as no surprise that this is only the beginning!

Each turn gives way to a whole new scenery and the picturesque surroundings accompany a traveller till he has his fill of pictures. There were beautiful birds, live landslides, quaint little hamlets sitting precariously on a hillside with there thatched mud roves lending an earthy contrast to the leafy green slopes. Slowly and gradually, the forests became sparse and naked rocky cliffs loomed up dangerously as if to challenge anyone who wished to conquer them. On reaching a bridge called “Khooni Nala”, one is filled with awe to find huge metal meshes hanging from the mountainsides to prevent land slides from reaching the bridge. Yet, nature chooses her moments to remind humanity of its haplessness and there had been a huge mishap on the bridge only a couple of hours ago. Relieved that nobody was injured, it was a treat to cool off on coconut slices and a cola from local vendors. The traffic soon cleared off and fresh mountain air embraced us once again. The drive through the Banihal Tunnel is an experience in itself. 2.5 kilometers of pitch darkness and cold winds cutting through the magnificent Pir Panjal range, reminds one of those “Horror Bungalow” experiences from childhood. The light at the end of the tunnel had new surprises to offer- gone were the mountains, the trees and the monkeys. Faced with a landscape as flat as a Greek God’s tummy, you can’t help but wonder if you had left Kashmir behind! There were villages and vast endless paddy fields on either side of the road that ran as straight as a ruler.
A deviation from the highway is marked with a milestone marked “Gulmarg”, “the land of Flowers”. Soon enough, true to its name, the soft slopes of Gulmarg emerged, clothed in tender grass, wild flowers and towering pine trees. The pine-scented air and the mist worked like aromatherapy and rejuvenating to the mind, body and soul.
After three days in Gulmarg, we decided to head for Srinagar- the summer capital of Kashmir. After the serene surroundings of Gulmarg, this bustling city with crowded marketplaces and traffic was a bit of a mood-spoiler. However, the lake, the markets and food more than made up for that. But that’s another story…

Freelancing as a Career : What it Has to Offer

Freelancing, in plain and simple English means –“work whenever you want and however you want!” Imagine the luxury of not having a boss whose sole ambition is to make your life as difficult as possible, not having to wake up to go to office at inhumanly early hours, not having to beg for a leave to go on that long awaited vacation with your family and at the same time being able to handle family, domestic responsibilities and the likes without loosing out on financial independence! Sounds like a dream come true, does’t it? Well, thousands of people around the world live this dream and also make a living out of it and a large fraction of them are freelance writers.

Although freelance writing has not yet gained popularity at par with mainstream journalism, it has definitely grown from writing a couple of hand written articles every now and then to a booming Internet business which is providing opportunities to many people around the world who find it an extremely rewarding and satisfying field to be in.

Today, a plethora of "work from home" opportunities are available for individuals who are talented and dedicated. This profession is extremely beneficial to women in particular who are educated, ambitious but smothered with domestic responsibilities. Expressing their talent through this medium gives them a sense of pride and independence along with expanding their horizons on different topics and subjects. Any individual with an aptitude for language and original thinking can make a living from home and this applies to a lot of physically challenged people who are denied job opportunities in a conventional work environment and even if they are not, they are discriminated and may find it difficult to work efficiently in inhospitable social surroundings.

A freelance writer can adopt any genre of choice- he/she can explore areas in academic writing, creative writing, write lifestyle articles for magazines and newspapers or even specialize in writing for children! Most freelance writers associate themselves with Internet bases companies and organizations who provide them with orders on subjects and topics they are well versed with. The writer then works on the article and submits it before a pre-specified deadline. The customers and administrations response regarding the quality of work is the key element in determining the popularity and success of the writer. Although the rate of professional growth can be sky- rocketing, it can work the other way around too. Any work that lacks originality and structure can send the career graph plummeting to ground level. Therefore, consistency and sincerity are very crucial components in determining success.

Financial returns in this field are totally dependant on individual capabilities, quality of work and the time and dedication put into the same. It can be taken up as a means to earn extra pocket money or as a full time income to support a family. All kinds of professionals can take up freelance writing- students, doctors, businessmen, engineers and anybody you name under the sun.

The flexibility and control a person is entitled to, as a freelancer is unparalleled. It does not require fancy degrees from acclaimed universities or a mentor; all it takes is a flair and passion for writing, command over the language, dedication to meet deadlines and last but not the least- an Internet connection!

In summary, not every one is gifted with creativity and not everyone can befriend a pen (the keyboard in this case!). Creativity is an asset that cannot be taught or acquired; it is inherently bestowed on very few people. Therefore, anyone who believes they can do justice to a literary piece of work assigned to them within a given frame of time should definitely give it a try. Who knows, you might come out with a best seller some day!