Thursday, December 8, 2016

The guardian

View from outside the door

 As I step out of the house after running all over the place to gather things, breakfast in one hand, a bag in another, and fretting about the morning status call that I am getting late to, I see it. Calm and composed. Steady and firm. It instantly eases me down. I feel the warmth of its embrace and almost hear its encouraging whispers. Its there, watching us live our lives. Silently. Unconditionally.

There is something about the unwavering presence of a large bounteous tree that re-instills faith in me, in the people and in this world. When I pass under its shade when coming back home, or when I am lazily strolling nearby, watching the geese family quacking merrily under its cover, I am reminded of my blessings and of the people who make it happen. Maybe because its just like those people. Not much ado. No bold promises. No loud declarations. Just silent assurances. They exist around you, like the air, like this tree, helping you breathe. Helping you live. For some it is God. For me its the two men in my life. I think this tree is a reminder of them. And an inspiration to be that tree for someone.

To be a Guardian.

Talking of guardians reminds me of Ajji and the culture of elderly presence in Indian households. Grandmas and Grandpas. Their wisdom, knowledge and old-fashioned charisma is in a way essential to keep the family values from dying. My family was once brimming with septuagenarians. Any wedding, and the first row was dotted with silver-haired heads. My cousin often joked that that was a danger zone. That if you happened to walk past them, there was always somebody who needed water, some-busy-body with an unapologetic curiosity asking penetrating questions, and if you hadn't already done, you would be obliged to touch their feet out of respect and melt in a volley of rough, awkward hugs. These were just the harmless side effects of having a generation amongst us that are a living reminder of our roots. They are the last straw that binds us as one huge family. Thanks to them, we know who our dad's uncles are, what kind of relationship they shared and what it took to keep them all together.

The number of silver-haired heads are getting fewer and fewer with passing years. And it scares me that one day, the remainder of us will just disintegrate and fade without our kids ever knowing who we grew up with and what our families looked like.

Monday, November 21, 2016


PHOTO PROMPT © Bj√∂rn Rudberg
The crowd was rooting for him. Women were throwing kisses in the air and one was even begging him to marry her. He is so lucky.
As he scanned the sea of faces earnestly, his eyes gleamed as they locked on hers. I live for you woman.
She smiled at him awkwardly, mouthing the words “I Love you, too’”.  He saw it again. The distance. The guilt. Guilt of not loving him back the way he did.
Eyes. How they give it all away.
His heart shattered into a million pieces. And nobody heard a thing.
Here is another version of the same scene:
The crowd was rooting for him. Women were throwing kisses in the air and one was even begging him to marry her. He is so lucky.
As he scanned the sea of faces earnestly, his eyes gleamed as they locked on hers. I live for you woman.
She smiled at him awkwardly, mouthing the words “I Love you, too’”.  He saw it again. The distance. The guilt. Guilt of not loving him back the way he did.
Eyes. How they give it all away.
He brushed it aside. Just like last time. I would rather live a lie.
PS : I am already way past the due date for Friday Fictioneers. But I wanted to take my time and do justice to this scene. Did you feel the pain of the character? I would appreciate any feed back that you can provide. 
Which version did you like better?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

For Azgar - A good human being

In September this year, I lost two people I cared for. One was my grand mother (Ajji). She was 81 and she left this world in a split second, without as much giving us a chance to reach her in time.

Second was Azgar. I wish to dwell  upon him a little more with a purpose in my heart. 

He was 30-something, I guess, and was our go-to driver. More than a driver, he was family. He was family because he was a part of our every family celebration,  because he would have his food with us, after all the guests were taken care of, because he looked after Ajji and mom like how we would do,  because I could hand over my purse to him and go into the visa office without thinking for a second, because we could count on him. Because he was always there for us. 

He was good man, because he never complained.  He was a very humble man because he was happy with what he received. He was a great man because he liked to help.

He was so great that he died helping two people from drowning in a well. 

He died because the people standing around were so busy trying to see if the teenager he just saved was dead or not, that they forgot the saviour was still inside.

He died, leaving his 8-month old daughter and a young wife with no one to take care of them.

The last time I met him was when he picked me up from the airport, when I travelled to Hyderabad when gradma passed away. September 21. It was comforting to see that he is still the same person we knew. That he made our life a little easy.

I came back to US after two weeks, only to hear the news that he is no more.

 His life was short. Very short. But in the time he was here, he left an indelible impact on us.  Two thousand people attended his funeral and around 1000 were strangers that he had touched in some way. 

Please help me help his family the way he would have wanted to. Our idea is to raise enough money, so his little daughter can get decent education, like how he would have planned. The money collected would be released to them, at appropriate times, for the sole purpose of her education. 

His family needs to believe that there is still humanity left in the world and that he didnt give up his life for nothing.

Please donate how much ever you can. Thank you very much.

For any donations from India, please use the following bank account.

Sampada Raje
Acct No : 05451610272017
IFSC CODE : HDFC0000545 
MICR Code : 500240002

Appreciate your support. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

30 things before 30 -Part II

The reason it took me so much time to write about the next 15 is, no prizes for guessing, I haven't accomplished much here. The ones I really would have liked to. The ones that would have given me some satisfaction in an otherwise soulless life I lead.

To read the goal list, please go here
And to read Part I, click here

16. Yes. I got this one done. I am PMP certified now. Like every said, it was one monkey off my back. I was preparing for this one from pre-historic ages. And the only thing that kept me motivated and driven was this 30-before-30 goals I proclaimed to the world. There is nothing that could beat the feeling of striking off an item from a list.

I remember a particular lunch-table conversation where this question was asked - "If you had a chance to change something about your childhood, what would it be?" And I remember answering "The way I learnt things. The way I learnt the subjects in school". Saying things is so easy, no? I studied for this PMP in exactly the same way I used to before. More for passing the exam and less for understanding and real life implementation. Sigh.

17. Don't even get me started on this. Technology is accelerating at break neck speed and I am like the snail lost in a hurricane. I have a hundred options to choose from and there is a high chance that by the time I learn it, there would be another in the market that surpasses it. In today's world, anything, anything is possible and I don't like it. This is not the world I thought I knew.

18. I haven't figured this one out yet. A lot of introspection, retrospection went in. I kind of know what drives me, what makes me better. But in all this process, what I found out is I miss being in touch with my heart. I lost how it feels to be really touched. To feel something move inside me. To be humane once again.

I would really like to have this back. More on this in a different post.

19.  Nah. Didn't happen. No complaints. I had the opportunity to visit other beautiful places. I got to see the fall colors in full bloom. The bright red and the burning orange and the stunning yellow colors took the breath out of me and transported me to a mesmerizing world..

20. Not once, but twice!  The second time was when the temperatures were 42-45 F ( or 1-2 deg C). We had pulled over jeans over jeans, sweaters over sweaters, and sat by the camp fire until the last twig burnt out. That was quite an experience.

21. I started doing it, and for a good period of time. And then I realized I was doing it for the smell of incense sticks and the sight of the tiny deepam. I was doing it to have an answer when dad asks about it. And then I stopped doing it.

22. Yes I got one back. I think. That day, when we talked for almost two hours on phone, it made me happy that we have so much in common. That even if we didn't talk everyday or even every month, we can light a conversation on fire. That how we share the same opinion on a lot of things and how the same topics interest us. I haven't found anybody like you in so many years and I would never want to lose you.

And the other one, I am working on building it. I know we could be great friends and like everything that grows, this needs some watering. I hope I do whatever it takes.

23. Last time I was in LA, I went into a Mac store on impulse, got a compact power, a face sponge and an eye liner. I even got a hair straightener from a local store. Now I look more like an IT professional than like the cleaning lady on the premises.

I almost hear Sush yelling "Everything you do needs a heavy investment first." *wink* *wink*

24. That I do. Just that I don't remember much of what I read :( Any tips on how you do it? If it is just memory power, then keep it to yourself!

25. That I do.  Just that I don't remember much of what I read :( If it is just memory power, then keep it to yourself!

26. I guess I have to take a course of data mining and data analytics to understand the data about ME and figure out what that actually means! Why is it so tough?

Atleast I have data.

As for the society, there are so many things we can do. Doing good and spreading goodness is one. Remember the ad where a person does good to a dog, somebody sees it and does his part somewhere else, and how the good comes back to the first person? We 'think' a lot of things. We seldom act. We care about so many things and so many people, but we rarely do anything besides caring in our hearts.

One thing I learnt from Sush is, if you care about something or somebody so much, then DO something about it.

So you might see a lot of ACTION from me in the future ;)

27. I couldn't say I did. Not even one perhaps.

28. Well, if talking about it or writing a blogpost about it counts, then yeah *Sheepish look*. I will keep trying and even if I can change one person, I would consider it done.

29. I still judge people! I just cant help it. But I don't let that affect my relationship with them. Every person is different, everyone has their own learning curve, everyone has different exposure and different backgrounds. So its unfair to shoot them down for who they are.

And I think everyone judges. You observe. And derive conclusions. Its basic human nature. Its almost like breathing. And there is no harm in it unless you put a label on a person with a glue that sticks so hard that you cannot pull it off without tearing some of it.

30. I don't have anything to show for it. But I see myself thinking less about failure and more about trying it out.

There, I said it all. This was a great journey. The most productive of all of my existence :D

Monday, October 31, 2016

I turned 30 ... and I was serious about 30 things before 30 - Part I

I turned 30 this month....aaAAAAND I M BACK with an extremely long post.


I am internally freaking out that my prime youth is virtually over. Don't give me that age is just a number, its all about how you feel, yada yada yada. Because while it is true, it is NOT entirely true.

What is true is, every birthday after this will be a reminder that I am growing old. That very soon, I will be inching closer to forties (time flies, if you didn't notice). That 30 years appeared to be such a loong loong time but it IS now over. That I am done living the bestest part of life.

Sigh. Before I pass on the melancholic mood and send you reeling back your happy world, lets move on to what I actually intended to write about.

Remember the 30 before 30 post I wrote last year ? Turned out I was serious about it after all . Lets see where I stand, shall we?

Please read that post before you continue. Its important you understand what I am talking about.

1. I did join swimming classes! After being able to float on my back on a lucky day, I was gloating with pride, felt swimming was 'my' thing and got myself enrolled into one.

2. Paintings - duh! Not even one. One - if you call a charcoal sketch of a woman who looked like a man with hair that resembled the scanty burnt hair of the hound in Game of thrones, a qualified sketch, then well yeah, one.

3. The Jimbledon Tennis tournament! Luckily for me, I got two chances in a year. I lost the first one very badly. But I won the doubles junior championship the second time! This was my first biggest achievement if I can call it that. The third set was 6-0. Can you believe it? I couldn't!
The trophy

There is a small story I would want to remember. Phoung, my tennis partner was holding the racket for the first time in preparation for the tournament, but he looked very promising. He was very agile, and a quick learner. As for me, I had played tennis before and thought of myself to be a decent player from a juniors standpoint. So I was kind of okay with the partnership thinking that if Phoung was able to support me just enough, we will stand a chance. By the end of the tournament, it turned out that I was playing the supporting role and Phoung was all out, leading and charging and smashing the opponents!

I was never so much embarrassed with my vanity.

This being one of my big achievements this year, there is one guy who stood by my side, cheering, coaching, and supporting all the time. There were times when I didnt cook for many days in a row, and times when we came home late, tired after a game and cooked together because we missed a good warm home cooked meal. He never complained, never expected me to stay home and cook, but actually dragged me to the tennis court with him. And when I won that night, he didn't lose a moment to order Biryanis for everyone who came to cheer, and have a mini celebration.

Thank you Sush.

Now since this is turning out to be a pain-painstakingly elaborate post (not for me), I have just now decided to break it into two parts, 15 goals in each. So please tie yourself to that chair a little while longer.

4. Books. By blogger standards, I wouldn't even qualify as a 'reader', but I was able to catch up on reading this year. I read The Ice twins, 15 Invaluable laws of growth, The Palace of illusions,The creation of Eve, To Kill a MockingBird and Lean In. Barely met my target.

5. Organize a cultural event - Nah.

6. Writing - Yes, I am pretty satisfied with my effort. I didnt think I could, but I managed to successfully complete the A-Z challenge the first time, and have been writing fairly regularly. Pat on my back! Yay. No. Don't roll your eyes.

7. Trying to gyrate to Nagada sang dhol made me realize I am no Deepika Padukone. I have immense respect for her now. I was just lucky I didnt break my back trying to mimic her.

8. Butterfly wall decor DIY ! Yay! How does it look?

9. Ahem. This one I thought I nailed it. But then I had to keep explaining to people that no, its not my eye liner that got smudged but its called the smokey eye makeup. People can be so ignorant sometimes.

10. Curling hair at home. This needs extreme talent. All you genius people out there, take a bow. I gave this one up after attempting to curl my hair one evening, entangling them so much so that the curl brush refused to budge even one bit. I had to take Sush's help to detangle my hair and after one painful hour, ended up cutting the bristles of the brush one by one. I never dared to try it again.

11. Ish bin hungrish. Guten Tag. Gute Nacht. Guten Morgan. This is all I knew one year ago. And this is all I know now.

12. 10 new items ! What was I thinking? :O Mmmm, let me see. Vegetable bean

soup, Sweet corn soup, Roasted garlic brussel sprouts, multi grain dosa, instant oats dosa, sweet pongal, kesari, Mexican Quesadilla, Telangana pachi pulusu,  Beetroot rice. What were you thinking? I didn't know even these before, okay? I was a pathetic cook. I still am.

13. This one, I was fairly committed. I either biked or played tennis or went for a walk. I even went to Zumba twice a week with a gang of friends.

14. 10:30. 11:00. Sometimes 12:00. Earlier, it was always 12:00. Progress right?

15. Well, this was like a Sine curve. Few days I put Ram Dev Baba to shame. Some days I put a sloth to shame. But its still on. Haven't given up on it yet. People, take your body seriously. It feels so good when you can bend it the way you want to.

To Be Continued....

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Be the hero of your story

You may not control all the events that happen to you. But you may choose to NOT be reduced by them. Above all, be the HERO of your life, not a victim. 

After all, its your story. Your movie.

Answers come in unexpected ways. Two years ago, sometime around this time, when I was struggling to come to terms with my life and what was happening and why it was happening, I chanced upon this quote on facebook.

Until then, I was playing the dual role of a villain and a victim. Villain because I was screwing more things up. And victim because "I" was getting affected. I let the events take control of my life. Of how I felt, of how I woke up each day, of how the day unfolded for me. 

It changed my whole perspective. My attitude towards the situation took a dramatic shift. I suddenly felt more in control of myself. 

This week, take charge of your life. If things are going south, go that extra mile, get that shift in perspective, push yourself harder, and be a hero.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Learning life's lessons the 'Ouch' way!

There might be 100 things you like about that person. But there will still be a zillion things you wish you could change. 

Its not easy, I tell ya. To live with a person all your life. 

"Acceptance my dear", the hubby pitches in from the bed side. "Its all about accepting the person the way they are. Like how I did."

How do you deal with this? How well have you learnt to love the person, be it your spouse, you dad, your pest of a brother or that silly roommate, for who they are? Do you celebrate the differences or try to burn them?

PS : Totally swamped with work. And it is going to be like this throughout the rest of the year. Sundays and Wednesdays are a way for me to keep in touch with my blog. I am doing a lousy job, I know, but please bear with me.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Know your biggest enemy

They say, "You learn a lot more things when you fail than when you succeed." So why are we so much afraid of trying? Of giving it a shot? 

This week, try that 'something' that you always wanted to do.

Apply for that MBA. Submit your article to a magazine. Post your resume in Naukri. Start that business you have been talking about since ages. Take a sabbatical. Express your love. Whatever it is that was buried in your heart amid doubts and fear.

Do not give up before trying.


Who knows, you may realize it wasn't that hard after all!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Decoding the Vatican city!

This post was selected for Blog Adda's Spicy Sat Picks

The Vatican is the smallest country in the world, spread across just 0.2 square miles and surrounded by Rome. Having read a couple of Dan Brown novels, I was exposed to every marvel the smallest country had to offer. Home of the Pope, the most powerful Bishop in the world, home to St. Peter's Basilica, the largest church in the world, owner of renowned iconic art and architecture and the spiritual center of the world had me interested and before I knew it, it rose to the top of my 'wishlist destinations'.

So how in the world a city-state within a city called Rome happen to become a Country!!?

Long long ago, the Popes used to rule a set of states called Papal states which constituted most of the current modern Italy. It was during this time that the Popes constructed the St.Peter's Basilica and built a wall around and called it the Vatican. 

The kingdom of the then-Italy thought Rome would make an awesome capital for their country and set out to occupy the Papal States.

The Pope hid inside the Basilica, refusing to come out and refusing to acknowledge the presence of Italy leading to self-imprisonment. The king of Italy, not wanting to give rise to religious war, decided to wait him out. Popes kept changing but they never moved out of the Vatican for almost 60 years.

Now comes in Mussolini. Ring any bell? Social studies in school? Nothing ? Never mind.

So Benito Mussolini was the prime minister and he was fed up of the religious turmoil caused by the Popes complaining about the self-imprisonment caused due to Italy. So he decided to make a deal, with the Pope, to score some brownie political points.

1. Italy gave the land of Vatican to the Pope
2. And Italy also gave them a bunch of apology money

In return, the Pope

1.Acknowledges that Italy existed (I don't know why his acknowledgement was such a big deal!)
2. And Pope remains neutral politically and in times of war (All this was after World War 1.)

That's how a deal was signed and a new country, the Vatican city was born.

Hold on! Its about to get more weird.

There are two powerful people in the Vatican. The king and the Pope. Confused ? Never heard about the king? That's true because the Pope is the king himself!

The throne of the Pope is called the 'Holy See' and is treated as a 'company' or a legal corporate person in the International Law. For example, the United Nations has the Holy See as the member and not the Vatican City, the actual country itself !

The presence of the king makes Vatican City the last of absolute monarchies in the world, including the Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Swaziland.

And because the Pope is elected, and the King and the Pope are different roles but same persons, it makes Vatican City the world's only Elected, Non-hereditary and absolute Monarchy!

"The strangest consequence of the way Vatican is, is the citizens. While other countries are minting new citizens by the natural way of human reproduction, Vatican City does not."

No one in the Vatican City is a born citizen. Because there are no female Vaticans! The only way you can become a citizen is if the King appoints you as one. And the King will only appoint you as the citizen if you work for the Pope who is also the King!

So if you quit your job, you will lose the citizenship!

It is for this reason that Vatican City doesn't have a permanent population. There are roughly around 500 odd citizens at any point of time. And all of them would be working for the Pope as either Cardinals, or bodyguards  or other church related jobs.

There, that's the story of the Vatican. The next time you see Pope John Paul 15 waving at you, you know what to say!

PS : Please help me get better. Was this informative? Interesting? Something that you would like to read and know? Boring? Why-would-I-read-this-when-I-have-Wiki? Flawed?

Say it out I say!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

It is easy to be average. Don't be!

Extract from '15 Invaluable laws of Growth' by John Maxwell

Which of these are you?

We tend to get complacent. We are always taught to be happy with what we have and what we are, but that doesn't mean we cannot try to be the best.

This week, lets try to be a little more than what we already are.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Why do we hear a sound when paper tears?

Ever wondered why we hear what we hear when we tear a paper? Why did it have to make a sound?

Dumbstruck right? Me too. I had never given it a thought until I read in a friend's blog how a little child asked her that question. And it left me thinking why I never questioned it. We take so many things for granted in this world. We are in such a never ending race that we hardly stop to ponder.

Anyways, back to the question..

We think of sound as something we "hear". Something that makes noise. School taught me that Sound is produced when there are vibrations in the air. Remember the 'U' shaped tuning fork experiment?

So, to answer the question, based on the research I did, it so happens that when you tear a paper, you are breaking the bonds between the atoms that comprise the paper. Now I would expect that if you are able to read this, then you would know what an atom is. So lets continue. When the bonds are broken, it releases some amount of energy into the surroundings in the form of vibrations. The molecules in the surrounding medium, which in this case is the air, are disturbed by the vibrations and they begin to move in a wave like pattern creating low pressure and high pressure areas. Aaaaaand then they hit your ear drums. Which in turn creates more vibrations that are converted into electrical signals and your brain interprets them as Sound. Ta da!

Miraculous, isn't it?

So why doesn't movement of hands in the air produce any sound, you ask? Wait until next Wednesday :P Just kidding. No physics next time.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Hello folks!

I have a small announcement to make. *Drum roll*

I have decided to add a little value to this blog of mine. All I had been doing here is wasting myself, other's time, rant about as silly as bathroom woes and dish out tastelessly done stories. So to feel a teeny weeny bit useful to the world, I am going to start two initiatives.

First one is to help a large portion of the world get through a widespread problem, namely, Monday Blues. It could be a famous quote to inspire you, a joke to crack you up or a thought provoking statement to let you take lead and charge ahead!
(This is a pure marketing gimmick. For all we know, what you read may have no relation at all with what I said. Inspired by current marketing trends).

And because we are tackling Mondays here, this post will be scheduled on Sunday nights EST( to benefit Indian readers :))

The second one, is largely to help myself. Being thoroughly poor at general knowledge that leaps out at lunch table conversations, I started reading a lot a bit. About history, presidents, current affairs, books, what-not. But being blessed with an outdated RAM (or is it ROM?), nothing stores. So all the information I gathered, is almost as if I never did. And what's the best way to tackle this? Discuss it! Share it! Write it somewhere! And not just such boring stuff, but there will be more on the lines of 'Did you know?' of Tinkle. Remember? Little interesting facts here and there.

This will be scheduled on Wednesdays.

I am known for inconsistency, so I really hope I am able to stick to the schedule for atleast 2 months. Yes, that's the timeframe I am looking for. I will start being a little forgiving of myself after this.

I really hope you find it interesting and useful!

Watch out for "Monday WarmUp"  and "Wiser Wednesdays" ! Lame names? I know!

Starting from this Sunday - 08/14/2016.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Waking up with the Sun

Note: This post was submitted for round 2 of YeahWrite Super challenge. The challenge was to write a persuasive essay answering the question 'What is the best time of day?'

And it did not make it to the next round.

Copied from Google images

How many sunrises have you missed in your lifetime? Okay, let me be easy on you, when was the last time you watched the sun rise? And when you did, how did that leave you feeling?

There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope ~Bernard Williams

It is precisely for this reason, I like this time of the day best. It is inspiring; the way sun rises and commands a section of the planet to begin their day’s work. Witnessing the morning take shape provides a kind of misanthropic thrill, of a world not yet choked by zooming cars and hurried conference calls. While sunsets are humbling, sunrises always illuminate hope, optimism and inspiration.

Get outside. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel big or tiny? Because there's something good about feeling both ~Amy Grant

I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I’m a regular visitor to this particular time-slot, but the very few times I did, it has left me wanting to become a morning person. I must have seen a total of five in my 29 years of existence. I had a total of 10,585 chances, which makes it 0.05% utilization. Sad, isn’t it?

It was as recent as the beginning of this month, while camping on the sides of a beach in Delaware that reminded me of what I was missing every day. We woke up at 5 am, as the Sun was set to make an appearance at 5:25. We saw it on the horizon, a small piece of glowing fire, emerging without much ado, darkness surrendering meekly to the steadily growing sun. Within moments, it was morning. It was amazing, how everything came alive. As we turned, it was not just us, but hundreds of fellow campers who were up before their usual time to take part in this wonderful phenomenon.

It’s ironical that an everyday occurrence is so rarely absorbed. While I can’t speak for the older generation, it’s the younger generation that seems to believe strongly in having the freedom to wake up whenever they want.

“You don’t know what it is like to sleep late into the morning, daddy!”

“Ahh. Sleep is precious. It is important for me to function wholly. The more you get, the better.”

“I am a night owl. I am most productive in the stillness of the night.”

How many times have we heard these statements? I am guilty of it myself. While it is true that our lifestyles have changed a lot, and we are fighting demanding needs that require us to stay up late at nights, it all comes down to managing your time and planning well, to combat the side effects of such a living. Morning rituals play an important role in improvisation because, sunrise and early mornings are not just for getting mesmerized but also for tapping fresh energy reserves to get you going for the day.

One more reason the time of sun rise is special for me is it is so HARD to be a part of it. Resisting the urge the snuggle back into the warm covers, not hitting the snooze button and crawling our way out of bed needs a lot of will power and commitment. Atleast until it becomes a habit. This is one major reason why we tend to become night owls. It simply is so much easier to not sleep than sleep and wake up early! It’s not a bad thing at all, all I am saying is we have conveniently traded discipline with instant gratification.
And also, as a lot of surveys and blogposts indicate, the most common thing among successful people in this world is, they all are early risers. When you are up around the time of sun rise, that makes you ahead of 99.9% of the population that is still sleeping. That means you get a lot more things done. And in time. That is a lot of head start, according to me.

Early mornings are also synonymous with quiet and solitude. Like one of my colleagues and friends said, as you watch the day unfold, the world at a standstill and the mind not wandering a lot, it’s the best gift you could give yourself before being dragged into the rat race. Letting the radiating sun fall on your face, gathering your head and doing what you like to do sets the right mood for the rest of the day.

The importance of the Sun and morning rituals have long been established in the Hindu literature. We worship the Sun god, so we have rituals consisting of prayers, mantras and offerings to the Sun. The now world famous Yoga has a technique called Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation comprising a sequence of 12 asanas.  It is recommended to be practiced early in the morning, before breakfast. Vastu Shastra (Science of architecture) also recommends east facing homes to let sunshine into the rooms early in the day. All the documentation in the world, be it the modern internet or ancient scriptures, promote a healthy lifestyle that involves waking up with the sun.

How much ever we hate early mornings, it wins against any time of the day because nothing is more glorifying than watching the day break; nothing is more rewarding than a quiet time for yourself; nothing is more important than a step towards a healthier lifestyle in this race called life.

And the best in the world is often reserved for those who rise above themselves.
PS : This is the feedback I received from the judges.

What the judges really liked about “Waking Up With The Sun”:
•The tension between acknowledging a favorite time of day and the fact that you rarely experience it and don't actively seek it out is well handled.

•Your essay gives an array of support for "waking up with the sun," and the tone is welcoming and warm.

•Good use of imagery and descriptive language.

Where the judges found room for improvement:

•The significant punctuation errors in this essay make it a bit of a rough ride. In addition, the quotations don't add anything to the reader's understanding: it's better to have a well-phrased original thought or just silence than to put in a quote that doesn't really strengthen or augment your argument.

•The essay's organization would benefit from a strict outline; focusing on the recent camping trip reminder of the sunrise and moving forward from there would be an effective star.

• This essay would benefit from a more direct introductory paragraph. It takes the reader a little too long to figure out the specific time of day being discussed.

In case you missed it, this did NOT make it to the next round :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

No pets Land

Note: This post was written for Yeah Write Super Challenge. When I first read the prompt Pets, my heart sank because that was the last thing on my mind. I never had a pet nor any deep connection with them. So what should the personal essay be about?

But I am glad to announce that I qualified for the next round! I hope you like it.

Coming from a typical Indian middle class family, each day was a struggle for decent survival. Our everyday battles included fighting the snail-paced traffic on roads, praying for a seat to empty in a crowded bus and long power cuts that brought everything to a standstill, to name a few. You would be drained out of energy by the time you came back home from your day’s work.
Maybe that’s why, we never had any pets. Or so I always thought. Not just us, but none of our relatives or close friends had any, barring a rare few. There was just no energy or love left to show on another creature. I am not speaking for all the Indian families, but a majority of them. Pets never crossed our minds, and even if it did on rare occasions, it was immediately shooed away by throwing a list of all-the-better-things-you-could-help-with-instead on our faces. It’s not that we did not love animals. We were just not ready to having one more thing to look after.
My first experience with pets, or rather a dog, was fictional. Having grown up reading Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven, Famous Five and the Five Find-Outers, Timmy, Scamper and Buster endearingly made their way into my life. I laughed with the Secret seven on Scamper’s antics and cried with Anne when Timmy broke his ear. I felt their wet kisses on my face and imagined the warmth in their welcomes. I longed for somebody or something to adore me like the way they did.
So when a stray puppy lost its way and ended up in our apartment building, its brown watery eyes half-scared and half-mischievous, it took us bunch of kids (my friends in the same building)  little time to call it our own. It jumped and yelped, and we played along. It licked our feet and we let it. We were thrilled to have this new company and overjoyed to have someone who loved us so unconditionally. But all of this didn’t change the fact that he was still not allowed in our homes. I vaguely remember a night, I was sitting alone in the corridor, cuddling Pandu (that’s what we named him), picking fleas from his soft fur with my bare hands, caressing him amidst soft purring sounds until the summons from home became persistent and unavoidable.
And then we lost him. Just like that. In two days, a few grown-up boys turned up at our door to claim Pandu. Word had spread that some people were looking for him (thinking of it now, it amazes me how news spread back then), and I had immediately picked him up in my arms and rushed home hoping to save him from the goons. Yeah, we thought of them as goons, silly us. We fought and pleaded and protested. Pandu was ours. He loved it here and nobody could take him away from us. We couldn’t give him a home, but does it matter? We loved him. As it was being snatched away from me, the watery brown eyes looked at me the same way it did when I first saw him.
Almost 15-16 years have passed since then. Though the mindset hasn’t changed a great deal, an allowance was made to bring tiny new beings into our lives. Ten little fish. Three Guppies, Three Tetra Serpae and Four Zebra Daniels to be precise. There is a little story behind it. For some reason, the husband developed a soft corner for fish. In his little mind, all our home needed was a beautiful little aquarium to make it more beautiful. One fine day, armed with researched information and strengthened resolve, we made a trip to the Pet Mart to buy our first pet. After skimping through the many many aisles, we finally brought home a 10-gallon aquarium and all the decorative shells, sea-bed, and floral pieces. Yes, you read right. No fish yet. A certain Nitrogen cycle has to be established first in the water, so the fish could survive.

In the following days, our dining table became a make-shift laboratory every morning, as the husband’s first attention as soon as he opens his eyes, went towards testing the levels of ammonia-nitrite-nitrate. A series of test tubes, a color chart, some chemicals, a simple chemical test, pouring over the results and never coming to a common conclusion as to which shade of color it was closest to became a daily routine. The cycle of waking up each morning-testing the pH levels-feeling dejected–doing more research–more pacifying words formed a cycle of its own.
It amused me, how diligently and patiently he pursued it. After two months, I stopped believing in his we-are-almost-there followed by just-a couple-of-weeks statements. And then one day, after another month, I came from office to find him excitedly watching the Zebras race each other in their new home. He had finally done it and the happiness showed in his eyes.

Every morning and evening, he checks on them industriously. He pulls a chair by its side, resting his chin on the headrest and earnestly watches them skirt around in full frenzied movements. He drops them food and watches them race each other, nibbling at the tiny dried shrimp. And from a corner, I watch him. Amazed at how these little beings have his full attention. And amazed at how much love there is always left inside us.

Our little aquarium

The main reason I participated in this paid challenge was that I would receive feedback from the judges. I had been yearning for some critique for sometime now and this provided exactly what I wanted. Here is what the judges had to say. I would be glad to hear from you too!
What the judges really liked about “No Pets Land”:

You've chosen a complex and compelling organizational structure flashing back to your childhood and drawing parallels to your husband's aquarium hobby. You did a great job drawing enough parallels between the two stories you were telling to make them seem like a coherent whole.

Where the judges found room for improvement:

Your essay would benefit from editing to tighten up your syntax, avoiding wordy phrases like "thinking of it now," "one fine day," etc. There are a few times when you are too cautious and overexplain things that you have adequately set up, like Pandu's name.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Expensive humor

Its time again for some Friday fiction. Following is a 100-word fictional story written for Rochelle's Friday Fictioneers . To read other entries, please click here.

Copyright-Sandra Crook

“This is why I hate coming back home. I am never moving back here!”

“Relax! You are over reacting. Try to enjoy it. I am sure you will miss it when our trip ends”, he grinned.

“Over reacting?! We haven’t moved an inch in the last 10 minutes!”
Wiping her sweat, she looked in the mirror. “Eeesh! I am going to look like a scarecrow in the wedding!” she wailed.

“You look like your face caught fire and I put it out with a track shoe.”

She glared at him.

“What!? I just thought this makes for a better simile!”  
PS : So what do you think of the story? Would love to know your thoughts.



Friday, July 8, 2016

Lost love

Note : This post is a 100 word flash fiction written for the following photo prompt by Friday Fictioneers

Copyright of Friday Fictioneers

She clutched her notebook nervously, tucking the imaginary stray strands behind her ear. How helpless she felt, in his mere presence.

He passed her in a blink, the thundering noise from his Royal Enfield ripping through the shy air, sending warm currents down her spine.

 “Did he look at me?” she asked her friend earnestly.

“No. When will you get over him? He is not interested in you.”

“How are you so sure? Why does he take this route every single day, at the same time that we leave college? There must be something”.

“Mm..well....because he..Sorry. He loves me”.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

What happens behind the closed doors of an office restroom

It started as a drizzle, faint trickles slowly ballooning into torrential downpour. The only sound in an otherwise pin drop silence. I shifted in my seat uncomfortably as the sound decided not to recede. Please forgive me for being so blatantly gross, but what's with this woman? Pouring gallons and gallons of it. She must have had the largest urinary bladder in the world, I bet. She must have been busy too, otherwise who would wait until the bladder burst? Wait, isn't this too much personal information to deduce? Is the woman analyzing the same thing about me?! The design is so invasive that anybody can guess the pressure/urgency/size of my bladder and I am not sure I like it :\

I don't know why, but I have this irresistible urge to bend down and see who is next to me. I mean, I do not see the whole person, but I do get a glimpse of the shoes, thanks to the 2-foot gap and there is a 1% chance that I might know that person. Once I even blurted out a 'Howdy X! What's up?' evoking complete silence for a full 30 sec.

Besides those that come in thundering, do their job and leave, there are people who are there for a long time. Absolutely no sound. They are just there. Either thinking, or relieving themselves of bigger things due to lack of time in the mornings. These kind of people are embarrassed about letting others know that they are there. So they pretend to not exist. But little do they know that the smell of the Apple scented air freshener hastily sprayed gives them away. I then know its time to hold my breath a little longer.

And then, there are people who are more vocal about their presence. They decide that is the best place to resolve issues. They have arguments over phone, completely oblivious to the fact that others might be listening. It is either the bitchy mother-in-law or a stupid customer care guy. If you happen to be lucky and its all in English, you get your share of meat. You can either stick around longer to see how it ends or walk away in a sprint to spit it out on the first person you meet.

Hold on, there is more nastiness to deal with. Making it more disgusting is the fact that it is a CORPORATE office restroom. Well dressed professionals work here. So my head went for a spin when I saw people using the toilets royally and then promptly forgetting to flush. Many a times I found myself reeling back in disbelief, shock and repugnance at the sheer lack of basic etiquette. The mental trauma I underwent was so deep rooted that I refused to go to that south side restroom for a good one month. It is for this reason, if I ever have the power to do something about it, I would install cameras in all the restrooms, catch such persons red handed and let them do a walk of shame. Oh, how I would love that! The mere thought is giving me goosebumps.

Bathrooms surprise you like no other. Like those set of people who take things in their literary sense. For example, the boss might have said, 'Go, Judy, make a mark.' And lo, Judy decides to leave her foot prints everywhere, on the toilet seat cover, on the flush, wherever her feet can reach instead of her hands. She literally did what she was asked to do. And what would I want to do to such people? I leave it to your imagination.

There, I said it all. All of my bathroom woes. What is your story?

PS : This post is just supposed to be funny and not offensive. I really hope people take it in the right spirit!
While looking for a picture to go with my post, I stumbled upon some hilarious toilet quotes. I literally ROFL-ed.  Hope you enjoy them too!


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