February 13th, 2011
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I never really believed in this Valentine Day business. I never had anything against it either, but I could never understand why one needed a special day to tell someone you love them. I have been driving around a lot these past few days, and therefore listening to a lot of radio. And I have to admit I don’t really mind the ads and anecdotes that fill the radio waves these days about preparing for the Valentine’s Day, for it means that much less airtime for the ghastly real estate ads!
There was one that particularly caught my attention yesterday. The ad was for a skin clinic and raved about how beautiful your skin could become, well in time for the Valentine’s Day!!! Painfully commercial I know, but for some reason, it reminded me of my mum. She had the most amazing porcelain skin that was translucent even when she was in her last days battling a relapse of cancer. The most gorgeous hair that she started losing when she started taking her chemotherapy. And a smile that went up all the way to her brown eyes! She was radiantly beautiful while she lived and radiantly beautiful now in our memories. When she hugged me, I felt like the last of my worries would just melt away, and I am glad I never waited for a Valentine’s Day to tell her how much I loved her.
It’s not so bad that this Valentine’s Day blitzkrieg urges one to express the love one has for another person. For if you don’t do that in time, you may realize it’s too late.
Here’s to my gorgeous Valentine, my beautiful mum!
October 5th, 2010
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Elizabeth Gilbert is a fine storyteller.
I can quite understand the frenzy the book “Eat Pray Love” has evoked. It makes for easy reading and makes all the right noises about emptiness and the need to find a balance in life- all buzzwords for women who lead stressful lives trying to be superhuman in wanting the best career, the best lover, the best shoes and still be normal! A kind of book one could take on a holiday to the beach or the hills and finish off in one or two sittings. Like I did. And forget about it.
However, to look for an inspiration to find a new meaning in life by reading the book seems a little too far-fetched, despite the superfluous reviews by the likes of Oprah! The captains in Vatican needn’t have wound themselves up in the belief that the book will encourage people to look towards the East for peace and ignore Western religious beliefs, as the book in my opinion was little more than a common Western fetish towards Eastern mysticism and spiritual sensibilities. I did like some of the author’s explanations of how spiritualism really means that one needs to practice flexibility in one’s religion and that really is the only way to finding peace, and to her credit, some of her experiences of struggling with finding that balance did make one relate to her. I also liked her long-drawn descriptions of a simple mozzarella cheese pizza that all but made me drool!
But the issue with the book is the author’s obsession with herself and her ability to find perfection even in her explanations about her apparent imperfections. The four months she spends in each location almost always seem to have the perfect prescribed ending, and for someone who seems to be on a pursuit to find a balance and accept imperfections, it seemed a little too contrived and fake. I am happy for her if she managed to sample the best seafood ravioli and the thinnest chewiest pizza in the world and the best wines, learn to communicate in a foreign language, experience divinity, learn to dodge and ignore mosquitoes, and have a fairy-tale ending to her love life all in the course of one year, each part compartmentalized in neatly divided boxes of four months! Do I smell of smoking hot envy? You bet I am! I wish most of us had at least some of that fortune. Especially to have an all-expenses paid year long vacation that is destined to get you the finest food, a brush with the divine, and a too-good-to-be-true lover!
I am now looking forward to reading her sequel to this book…….but before that I need to plan my next beach holiday!!!
September 24th, 2010
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So what is goodness? And who is good? Is Robin Hood good? I guess it depends on whether you are a friend of the Sheriff or not!
In the last few weeks, I have been in a space where I had some tough choices to make about people and issues. Should I necessarily trash someone because he has had a murky past even if he has a side to them that fuels a kind of development in society that one hasnt seen before? Or should I learn to ignore his follies and violent past and appreciate him for the side that is positive? Not easy, especially when emotions run high and you are dealing with someone who has been impacted by the gory past.
But I have also realised then the importance of being non-judgemental and taking a stand, sometimes even if is against popular sentiment is important if one has to look at solutions and move on. Because life is always grey. And it cannot always be judged in black or white.
Is Arundhati Roy to be admired for giving a voice to the Maoists who questionably haven’t had any other means but violence to protest against the state’s apathy or be rapped for misusing the freedom the state has given her by cloaking half-truths and presenting only one side of the picture? Should the Mahatma’s murder be condoned just because one group of society felt that he compromised India’s position with the British on the issue of Partition?
The thing is I like Arundhati Roy for her writing. I admire her ability to weave words into sheer poetry and her clarity of thought when she pens an essay. But I can’t stand the fact that she is OK with the brutal murder of human beings just because they have a CRPF uniform on them, in the name of justice. So is she good or bad?
I adore the Mahatma. He was a man like no other. And even after reading his autobiography for the third time in ten years, I never cease to be amazed at his foresight and courage, and get mesmerised by his thinking all over again. But did he delay India’s independence when he agreed with the Brits to postpone the talks until after the Second World War was over in 1939? Perhaps. Would that have had an impact on what India could have been. Surely. Is he a bad leader then?
The thing I have come to realise is that there is good and bad in everyone, even in the best of men. It’s unfair to be judgemental about people because there will always be another side of the coin that tells a different story. A man like Nobel who gave the worst kind of destructive tools to the world also made it possible for champions of peace to be recognised.
I have come to realise that the beauty of life is in the appreciation of the greys. For every black there is a measure of white. And its ok to have an opinion that is not extreme all the time. That it is fine to hate and like the same person for different aspects that they bring to fore.
Unless of course, it is a Suresh Kalmadi!
September 6th, 2010
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It’s a beautiful feeling when dreams begin to look real. This week, I spent many “two-hours” smiling to myself just thinking about and experiencing everything that was unfolding around me.
The first round of recruitment of visually impaired guides at the first Dialogue in the Dark centre in India got off to a flying start. The quality of candidates and the enthusiasm that I could feel from the team even though I was many hundred miles away from the scene of action has made me all excited and looking forward to the grand opening in November, 2010. I have often been asked about what’s so special about this exhibition that has made it survive the test of time and impact the millions that it has. I guess it has got to do with the fact that it’s not just about giving the disabled just another job or telling the sighted what it is to be blind. It has got to do with empowerment and respect for the other through a role reversal in a setting that is not preachy and contrived. I have seen the impact this programme has had in many countries where the blind are relatively well taken care of by the state, and I am filled with nervous optimism on what it can do in a country like India. Watch out this space for more updates!
I wrote sometime back about the status of palliative care in the world and how community-driven initiatives like the one run by the Pain and Palliative Care Society in Kerala can be a role model. The EIU report on this subject seems to have generated quite a bit of buzz and spurred an enthusiastic cartoonist to let pictures do the talking. Sometimes, pictures really do the talking, don’t they? http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=13338&id=109063229135563.
Inspired by some of the work that organisations like The Blue Yonder, Ecosphere, Help Tourism, etc. have done for the revival of economy through supporting local community initiatives, I really have come to believe that tourism in many ways can be a change maker in bringing about a paradigm shift in the average citizen of the world by making them more aware on how one can really contribute real time to making the world a better place to live. And it was a blissful day long crash course I had this weekend when the members of Green Circuit, an alliance of a few committed responsible tourism leaders across the Indian sub-continent shared their stories and experiences of how one can bring about sustainable change in remote areas while preserving the local culture and heritage through tourism. A real case study in measuring social impact that has been possible through commercial ventures, and involvement of local communities.
August 5th, 2010
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Words are beautiful. They can evoke such an array of emotions, have life-altering effects, kill people or elicit crazy laughter. The first word that I fell in love with, was the word “enhance“!! I must have been in middle school and had always been a voracious reader. But my love affair with words started then. I had never used the word „enhance“ all that much in the past….and when I heard a classmate use it in a debate, it struck me how apt that word was in that context. And since then there have been numerous such flings I have had…some short-lived, and others that have stayed with me.
I look out for words that convey the meaning they do in ways more than one. In the way they sound, and the reaction they evoke…. Diffuse for eg….you can almost sense a blue ink seeping through a glass bowl of water! Or Nebulous ..a word that brings to mind visions of a bulbous amoeba like structure…or Tingling!!!
By the same yarstick, there are words I hate…..everyday words like Which…and not-so-everyday words like Hackeney. No apparent reason, maybe they were used in a context that brings up unpleasant memories! The best part is that a word can have this ability and the power to affect one in any way they want. Just that we dont realise it most of the time!! This is one of the reasons I love words.
Like my fellow lover of words, author Bill Bryson puts it…“Any language where the unassuming word fly signifies an annoying insect, a means of travel, and a critical part of a gentleman’s apparel is clearly asking to be mangled.“
And then there are words that have kept changing meanings over a period of time, which is why perhaps they dont evoke such a passionate response in one as do the others. Brave, for example, once implied cowardice — as indeed Bravado still does.
A word that perhaps describes this best is Nice, which is first recorded in 1290 with the meaning of stupid and foolish. A century later, it was being used to mean lascivious and wanton. Then at various times over the next centuries, it came to mean anything from extravagant, elegant, strange, slothful, unmanly, luxurious, modest, slight, precise, thin, shy, discriminating, dainty, and eventually in the last few centuries — pleasant and agreeable. Perhaps, that is why when someone says „you are nice“, one doesnt really know what exactly they mean!!!
That was a nice long blog post…………