Archive for the ‘A Vibrant Life!’ Category


Commandments MosesI am the Lord

I am the heaviest vehicle on the road. I am the Lord and Master of what I survey. Others are mere mortals and slaves, born merely to be swatted like flies and crushed like ants.

Right of Way

Roads are meant only for vehicles to ply. All others are a distraction. Pedestrians, cyclists, manual and animal-driven vehicles do not have the right of way.

See the Light

Once headlights are switched on, even if in broad daylight, all misdemeanors, sins, omissions and commissions of the vehicle concerned shall stand condoned.

Not to remember the Order in vain

• The slowest moving vehicle shall stick to the median. Faster moving ones, specifically two-wheelers, have the right to overtake from the left hand side.

• While overtaking, a gap of more than six inches shows a deficiency in one’s driving skills.

• Treat driving like living life. Thread…

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Languages flourish depending on the need of people to fulfil their communication needs. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. I tend not to deviate from this proverb by looking at the kind of imaginative uses of the ‘Anglo Saxon Language’ that I have experienced in my lifetime so far. In the world today, especially in social media, we experience a few words in English that are at times funny but would torment the soul of a linguistic purist.

Consider Shakespeare, the literary genius who not only captured myriad human emotions impeccably but also went on to enrich the language alluded to as the Queen’s Language in a unique manner, much more than those who have either preceded or succeeded him. If he were to be told of the various versions of English in vogue these days, he might be found squirming in his grave. Other than the UK-brand of the language, we have the one which is used across the Atlantic Ocean. The grammatic and punctuation approaches of these versions are as different as chalk and cheese, so are the spelling norms. Even within India, other than the British standard, we find ‘Hindish’ being used with much elan in areas where Hindi happens to be the dominant force. Then there are regional variants, adopted and held sacrosanct by those whose mother tongue is not Hindi. Consider ‘Bengish’ which is popular in Bengal and ‘Tamish’ which is prevalent in Tamil Nadu. Luckily, the regional variants are confined merely to the spoken version of the language.

Much Ado About Nothing

There are a few situations that at times make one wonder as to whether what is being articulated matches the intent of articulation. There are people who use words to try and stress the intent with extraneous words which tend to destroy the intent completely. For example, I have heard many people facing a chaotic situation, shouting to their heart’s content, ‘Let me rest in peace’; or sometime, there is an unnecessary usage of ‘s’ in a word – as in ‘everybody’s.’ In Julius Caesar, Shakespeare used the phrase, ‘most unkindest cut of all’ to, perhaps, make the intensity of the gore clear thereby prompting the audience to react appropriately to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. Taking a cue from the Bard, in the place I belong to, often, I have heard people using the words ‘most best’ to convey how good or pleasurable a situation is! I tend to forgive such a mistake often thinking that it is ‘Shakesperean English.’

One of my friends tends to coin words with the bare minimum understanding of the knowledge, thus ‘law’ becomes ‘low’ (a debatable topic indeed – if we put the discussion in front of a relevant audience, you know what I mean), ‘maid’ becomes ‘made’ (well, if we focus on the activity performed by the person being referred to, I see a connection), ‘cough’ becomes ‘calf’ (God save the animal!), and even ‘laundry’ becomes ‘loundi’ (not sure if London District Stores have one of such things as a part of their services, or maybe, those who know Hindi, might find this as a bit of a sexist and derogatory comment, implying as it does that washing clothes is the job of those who belong to the tribe of the delicately nurtured!). God knows what more I am to hear from my friend in the future!

Sex and Its Side Effects

One of the many things that India gave to the world is Kamasutra, the famous treatise on the art and science of sex. However, the subject of sex is still a taboo for a vast majority of Indians. It continues to be the proverbial forbidden fruit. Some of you may recall the analogy that was drawn long back by the famous philosopher Bertrand Russel – the result that will be achieved if we wish to curtail a child’s interest in train by forbidding him/her from looking at it whenever he/she wishes to do so. The result of practicing a feigned ignorance of this kind is that we inadvertently tend to often drag sex into our conversations in an indirect manner, often leading to hilarious results.

Often, I have found pronunciations from my fellow Indians which are not only wrong but also funny. Many of us, including many celebrities, pronounce Shakespeare as ‘Sex-pyar’ or ‘Sex-pair’ while being clueless that though the words involved do not pronounce ‘The Bard of Avon’s’ name properly, but makes some sense since the latter pronunciation conforms to the fact that the act of intercourse is possible only when a ‘pair’ is involved. As to the former pronunciation, if I may use the Hindi language here, ‘pyar’ means love, hence the word fails to identify the great playwright; instead, it signifies that the act of having a physical union is a result of love. A fact which cannot be denied.

In Kolkata, the famed City of Joy, there is a place which is known as ‘Sector 5,’ which is pronounced by many as ‘Sexter 5.’ I can only assure you that the place alluded to here is not the red-light area of the city. Likewise, the poor musical instrument which goes by the name of a Saxophone always gives the jitters to many of those who are striving hard to learn it to pronounce it in public. Even expert players of the instrument feel shy and diffident to speak about their profession.

I may add a few more here. Like, people mixing up a ‘condom’ with ‘condemn’, thereby making light of the government’s ardent push to control the population of a country like India; or ‘beach’ with ‘bitch’, thereby adding a bit of spice to an otherwise serious conversation. A friend of mine has developed a habit of wishing couples ‘a happy conjugal life’ (irrespective of their ages) on their marriage anniversary! A harmless wish, of course, but perhaps my ‘puritan mind’ puts some reservations on the use of such statements.  

A Fault in Our Stars?

Lest others feel I am trying to criticize the community by thinking of myself being beyond criticism, I would like to draw the attention of the reader to my own world of ‘creativity’ as far as the English language is concerned.

As a kid, I do remember spelling Calcutta (now known as Kolkata) as ‘Callcutta’. I am not sure whether the extra ‘l’ signified my love for the city I hail from. On the contrary, there used to be a lack of ‘l’ in words like ‘hell’ (not sure whether I tried to make the place a bit weak), and hill (surely, it would have fallen on me due to its weakness for an ‘l’).

Pronunciation-wise, I had a great knack of dropping ‘r’s while uttering some common words. Thus ‘electric’ used to become ‘elecktic’ and ‘clerk’ used to sound like the word ‘clique’ (which would make eminent sense to all those who have had exposure to administrative matters in organizations!). To add to the miseries of English classic, I used to pronounce ‘Dracula’ as ‘The Cooler’ and contrary to my habit of dropping ‘r’s, I used to add an extra ‘r’ to the name of the author, thereby, making him sound like ‘Bram Stroker.’ I am sure, had he been alive, this extra ‘r’ would have given him a pain on the left side of his chest.

Coming to sentences, I was put in a school where the medium of communication was English. Unfortunately, I had no choice but to align with the principles of my institution – to speak in English in the school. In the 3rd standard, one of my batchmates (can’t remember his name) accidentally dropped one of his eyelids while looking at me. Now, at the time I am speaking of, winking was considered to be a crime! I tried hard to wrestle with my feelings. I was surely clueless as to how to complain as I did not know the English word for the one-eyelid-dropping-forbidden-stuff. Moreover, to risk demonstrating the act physically to the teacher would have been fraught with a peril of the highest order, inviting some juicy canes on the soft spots! However, a part of my mind which believed in doing the right thing wished that somehow, I should address the situation soon. My next act, I trust, will readily explain what eventually ensued. ‘Madam’ I stood up and bleated, ‘that guy is dropping his right eyelid keeping his left eyelid open!’ I will not go for the quality of the sentence dished out to me, though, but today, when I reflect, I realize, I was technically wrong, for the complaint I had made was from my perspective – when the offender was facing me!

Social Media and English

With the progress of science and technology, now we have evolved into ‘Social Media’ beings. We tend to socialize more on popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter etc. rather than attending parties and social gatherings. So now we have the social media version of English, loved by all netizens who believe that the whole world is confined to their smart gizmos.

We use ‘IMHO’ instead of ‘in my humble opinion’, ‘gud mrng’ for ‘good morning’, ‘lingo’ for ‘language’, ‘bro’, ‘sis’ for ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ respectively, ‘lol’, ‘rofl’ signifying various modes of laughing (as in laughing out louder or rolling on the floor laughing), AFAIK for ‘as far as I know’, ICYMI for ‘in case you missed it’, and many such terms which have expanded our vocabularies. I suspect that publishers of dictionaries would soon be unleashing upon us tomes demystifying this latest version of the Queen’s language.

Recently, I encountered a unique way of detestation articulated by one of my friends on social media wherein the person concerned goes ahead to inform the profile viewers that she hates ‘peoples’ with fake emotions and attitude! The thought that pops up in my mind is whether she really feels that the whole community belonging to the world is at large with fake emotions and attitudes.

Perhaps, the poor soul is yet to stumble across genuine love in her life? Or did she believe that she will certainly find true love on social media platforms?! I wonder what Vatsyayana, the author of Kamasutra, or St. Valentine, would have to say to this.   

Our Dream Merchants and Linguistic Puritanism

Very few of our dream merchants have found languages to be of some attraction when planning to dish out some movies.

Some of you may recall ‘My Fair Lady’ (1964; Dir: George Cukor), an American musical drama film adapted from the 1956 Lerner and Loewe stage musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 stage play Pygmalion. The movie depicted a poor Cockney flower-seller named Eliza Doolittle who overhears an arrogant phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, as he casually wagers that he could teach her to speak “proper” English, thereby making her presentable in the high society of Edwardian London.

In India, our yesteryear comedians often spoke in a funny accent and believed that slapstick comedy was best performed with a loud voice accompanied by wild gesticulation of arms and hands. But there is at least one Hindi movie which used subtle humour to cock a snook at linguistic puritanism.

I refer to ‘Chupke Chupke’ (1975, Dir: Hrishikesh Mukherjee) which was a remake of the Bengali film ‘Chhadmabeshi’. One of the characters, a brother-in-law of the heroine, is a linguistic purist who does not like the use of English words while conversing in Hindi. The heroine holds him in a very high regard and keeps praising him incessantly in the presence of her just-married hero. This gives the latter an inferiority complex, prompting him to prove to his wife that he is in no way a lesser mortal. When he speaks to the brother-in-law, he confuses him by using a highly pure version of Hindi, leaving the former baffled. The plot takes many hilarious turns before the hero succeeds in his mission and the brother-in-law learns a precious lesson in life.

Linguistic Hilarity

As long as Homo sapiens use the medium of a language to communicate with each other, there shall never be a dearth of instances of linguistic hilarity. Especially in a country like India, where some may still find an inner satisfaction in making fun of the British, their erstwhile rulers, it is quite likely that the unique and innovative use of the Queen’s Language, as brought about above, would continue unabated.

But to give credit where it is due, this does not happen consciously. I believe the phenomenon is better explained by the branch of science known as Chemistry. Two elements – English in its purer form and the local lingua franca – bond with each other and go on to form a compound which has its own unique properties. It is more like the amalgamation of two different civilizations, trying to live, love and respect each other in a very mundane way.

Purists may not be amused by the emergence of such ‘polluted’ versions of English, but perhaps the blessing in disguise is that the language continues to expand its reach, embracing diverse words, phrases and peoples originating from different parts of the world. The kind of additions being made every passing year by the producers of the Oxford Dictionary pundits would attest to this fact of life.

(Illustration courtesy Soumyojit Sinha.) 

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In the Yaksha Prashna episode of Mahabharata, Yudhishtira is asked many questions. One of these is: 

“What do you find as the most surprising on earth?”

To which Yudhishtira replies:

“Numerous people are encountering death daily. Even though people are aware that they will have to die one day, they crave for worldly desires as if they are permanent on earth. There is nothing more surprising than this fact.”

Death and Taxes are both inevitable in life. But the sting of death is far deadlier than that of taxes. There is an irrevocability associated with it. When a loved one passes away, the physical form with which we associated ourselves for a long time simply vanishes. What is left behind is a void which is near impossible to fill.

The sting hurts us even more when the death is untimely. The passing away of a young person who was yet to drink deep from the joyful rivulet of life leaves us with a regretful feeling of deprivation. Shock, trauma, and depression follows. Our senses get numb. Nothing makes any sense anymore. A sense of disbelief envelopes us. Words of sympathy and condolences pour in, but these do not register. For some time, we act like zombies, moving about and doing things as we are advised by others to do. Lessons from Bhagavad Gita which tell us that the soul is immortal do not make any sense.

Feelings of guilt plague us. We regret not having done something more to save the person. We find it difficult to handle the anger we feel towards ourselves. Forgiving ourselves becomes an impossible task. We look up to the heavens and blame our favourite God for having been so cruel to us.

Losing a spouse is especially traumatic. I realized this myself when I lost my wife during 2018. Gradually, the reality of having lost a trusted companion, a bitter critic, and a true friend dawned upon me.  

Two Persons Who Made Me Cry during 2022

Richa (1970-2022) was Principal Scientist at National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD). Besides being an eminent scientist, she was a loving daughter, a devoted wife, and a caring and affectionate mother. She was not only a member of the selection committee of International Federation of Biosafety Associations for their much-coveted Biosafety Hero Awards; she had also won many awards herself at national as well as international level. She was the Secretary of Society for Biosafety, India, and a member of The Executive Council of the Asia Pacific Biosafety Association. She had published many research papers. A recognized badminton player, she was passionate about gardening, dancing, and singing. We lost her within a few months of 2022 to an aggressive form of cancer which was detected very late.

Pavan (1963-2022) was a self-made person. A first-generation entrepreneur par excellence. Someone who expanded his business by sheer dint of a lofty vision, hard work, perseverance, and a knack of identifying, nurturing, and deploying human talent. He played all the roles in his life to perfection, whether as a son, an elder brother, a husband, a father, and a grandfather. Above all, a fine and helping human being who would go out of his way to help the needy. With his passing away, we lost someone with excellent management skills. Premier management institutes would greatly benefit by publishing a case study on the business strategy which shaped his business and took it to dizzying heights. We lost him to a sudden cardiac arrest within a span of a few hours on a fateful day during December 2022.

The Five Aspects of Grief

In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness, but many people have generalized them to other types of negative life changes and losses, such as the death of a loved one or a break-up.

The five stages of grief, which I would prefer to refer to as aspects:

Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”

Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”

Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”

Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”

Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

The reason I prefer to call these as aspects of grief rather than its stages is that these stages are not linear in nature, each following the preceding one over time. In my opinion, grief is cyclical or spiral in nature. Something happens, memories come flooding back, and we feel we are back to square one. But yes, the spiral does propel us forward, taking us gradually away from its epicentre.

Often, grief is like a sinusoidal curve of which the amplitude keeps decreasing over time, as the mundane concerns of life come back plaguing us soon enough. However, it is a curve which goes down in an exponential manner, never quite reaching a zero baseline. The emptiness within may never go away; we learn to accept it and move on in life. The time span of recovery is as individually unique as each one of us is. 

Handling Grief

Remaining Surrounded by Loved Ones

In the initial phase, we tend to withdraw ourselves into a shell. Despite being surrounded by our loved ones, the feeling of loneliness and a vacuum inside persists.

Turn to friends and family members. Now is the time to lean on the people who care about us, even if we take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Rather than avoiding them, draw friends and loved ones close and spend time together face to face. Physical hugs go a long way in the process of recovery.

Accepting the Assistance Offered

Often, people want to help but do not know how. We may have to be open and tell them what we need—whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or just someone to hang out with. If we feel we do not have anyone you can regularly connect with in person, it’s never too late to build new friendships.

The Challenge of Comforting Others

We would do well to accept that many people feel awkward when trying to comfort us when we are grieving.

Grief can be a confusing, sometimes a frightening emotion for many people, especially if they have not experienced a similar loss themselves. They may feel unsure about how to comfort us and could be wary of saying or doing the wrong things.

Sharing Sorrow and Getting Busy

Sharing our sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. What works best, however, is to get doubly busy with our occupation and start devoting more time to what we love doing.

Faith Can Help

As luck would have it, our physical body carries no guarantee. Perhaps, we can draw some comfort from our faith. If we follow a religious tradition, we may find that its mourning rituals may provide some comfort. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to us —such as praying, meditating, or going to religious places — can offer solace.

Lord Krishna speaks of reincarnation in the Bhagavad Gita, likening death to the way we change into a new set of clothes, discarding the old ones. 

Fulfilling Pious Intentions

Most of us have a bucket list of things we always wished to do in our life. It helps to start fulfilling such pious intentions sooner than later.

It could be trips to places that we always wished to visit, a book that we always thought we could read, or write one of our own, few songs we could croon, close friends we wanted to visit, or movies that we wished to see, etc.            

Imparting a Meaning to Our Suffering

Grief can beget meaning. It provides us an opportunity to reflect on what matters most to us. We could end up taking a social initiative which may, in some way, end up doing good to others. Suffering is virtually a steppingstone to spiritual upliftment. 

On to Pleasant Memories

The good news is that the feeling of inner loneliness does get diminished over time. Our souls are forever seeking happiness within. Over time, memories which would have made us cry closer to the event, turn into pleasant ones. We remember the departed person with fondness. We keep in mind the values followed by the departed soul. We adapt to the new reality.

Making the Departed Soul Happier

The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India, has said that to make the soul happy, so that it reincarnates in good conditions, one should have no sorrow and remain very peaceful and quiet, while keeping an affectionate remembrance of the one who has departed. (Complete Works of the Mother; Words of the Mother – III; Death and Rebirth). 

Some Myths and Misconceptions

Myth: The pain will go away faster if we ignore it.

Fact: Trying to ignore our pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing, it is necessary to face our grief and actively deal with it.

Myth: It’s important to “be strong” in the face of loss.

Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying does not mean we are weak. We do not need to put on a brave front. Showing our true feelings can help us and those around us.

Myth: Not crying implies we are not sorry about the loss.

Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it is not the only one. Those who do not cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.

Myth: Grieving should last about a year.

Fact: There is no specific time frame for grieving. How long it takes differs from person to person.

Myth: Moving on with our life means forgetting about our loss.

Fact: Moving on means we have accepted our loss. This is not the same as forgetting. We can move on with our life and try to be happy. The memory of someone we lost shall always be an important part of us. In fact, as we move through life, these memories can become more and more integral to defining the people we are.

What To Avoid While Comforting Those Who Are Grieving

  1. Aggressively seeking details as to how it happened. Allowing the grieving person to open up on his/her own makes better sense.
  2. Right after the death, asking the affected person details about their immediate or future plans. Or, commenting on how things may shape up in the family in the times to come.  
  3. Discussing financial details of any kind.
  4. Loose talk while being a part of any of the rituals or at any social gathering to mourn a death.
  5. Talking about health-related precautions being taken by one, thereby implying that the responsibility of the sudden demise somehow lies on the deceased person or his/her family.

A Transformative Event

In his epic poem Savitri, Sri Aurobindo, the renowned Indian seer, presents the end of a person’s life as a transformative event, a passage or a door through which one passes towards a greater life. Essentially, the poem recounts the saga of human victory over ignorance and conquest of death.

Thus, on the racing tracks of Life, Death is but a pit stop. One gives up one’s creaking old jalopy. In exchange, one gets a shimmering new vehicle. One then zooms off to a newer horizon, the engine firing on all six cylinders. With each pit stop, one evolves further.

Conveying Positive Vibes to Those Who Are Still Around  

If I ever run into Yaksha and he asks me as to what the next most surprising thing in life is, I would surely respond as follows.

“All of us realize that those we love are not going to be around all the time. Yet, we consciously end up praising a person only when he/she is no longer alive. During their lifetime, most of the times, we take them for granted and spend quite some time censuring, condemning, criticizing, and ridiculing them.”

Think of those around us. When was the last time we conveyed our genuine appreciation, praise, and gratitude to them for their importance in our life? Is it not better to do so when the person we love is still around and can appreciate it?!

(The illustration depicting Krishna and Arjuna in the battlefield has been reproduced with permission from the illustrator, Arati Shedde, and Heartfulness Magazine – www.heartfulnessmagazine.com. All other illustrations are courtesy www).

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This young lad, aged about 20 years, was one of those who Mother Nature appeared to have wholly overlooked, while distributing her largesse, to each human.

What he lacked in looks, he also lacked in intelligence. It took more than a decade of his going to school for the family to finally accept that this lad was never going to acquire an education, of even a rudimentary level. One has to look for positives in everyone, but in this case, the only positives discernible were that he had an excellent appetite/digestion, and could fall asleep with utmost ease, at any time of the day. Also, his near genius at picking quarrels with anyone and everyone coming his way. The positive here was that he’d lose out every time, at every fight.

As the years rolled by, his unsavoury looks only worsened, while his intelligence continued to be low. The family were frankly worried, about his future; attempts to inculcate some money earning skills always failed.

Asked to graze a herd of cattle, a simple enough task, he led them into a patch of land under cultivation, which the hungry cattle decimated in a matter of minutes. Asked to distribute milk to different households, almost immediately the milk cans were overturned, and the entire supply spilled. Asked to collect and dispose garbage, he just rearranged them, along the route, adding to it some more of his own. Asked to help out at the village grocery stall, somehow, he managed to set off a fire within two hours, burning it to the ground. In short, in whatever he handled, Murphy’s Law prevailed. He excelled at speedily discovering and promptly implementing ways in which any task assigned to him could be messed up, without fail.

The family elders held a council, to discuss the available options, and the future course for this lad. The discussions were long and heated, as every suggestion bore within itself the seeds of failure. The lad himself just dozed during these discussions, waking up from time to time to only to replenish his stock of peanuts which he loved chewing even while half asleep.

Suddenly, a cousin, of his age, hit upon a brainwave. Since this fellow is thoroughly useless, and will never change for the better, he said, why not launch him into the world as a spiritual leader, as a Baba? The earnings could be good, he argued, and, with reasonable luck, sustain him practically for the rest of his life. This cousin also volunteered to help with the launch of the career of the lad as a Baba. He offered himself to deputise, at least in the initial stages, as a co-worker, as a deputy Baba. In fact, this cousin was eager to help with this family problem.

The suggestion was eagerly seconded by a distant female relative, of the same age. She was a female in a purely medical sense. Her emaciated appearance, her hollowed out cheeks and her general demeanour generally caused doubts about her gender itself. Whereas females had convex curves, hers were all of the concave kind. It was only her high shrill voice that convinced people that she was indeed a female. She even agreed, in fact, volunteered, to marry him, to help his image as a Baba.

The default option, of turning him into a Baba, was agreed to, and the initiation process began. In the confusion, his marriage, to that almost-female also went through. The location where the Baba would hold his sessions was no problem. One such site was available quite nearby, under a tree. This was, earlier, in fact, a place from which another Baba was operating, with a fair degree of success.

However, that Baba was manhandled severely, and chased away, when he made some improper suggestions, to the village headman’s wife, during one of his sermon sessions. At the close of that chase, he was last seen splashing across an irrigation canal and limping away at a high speed. He was assured of an   instant assassination if he ever showed his face again within a fifty-kilometre radius. Thus, this vacated space, with some scope for an existing client base, was now available.

But, a Baba has to speak, to deliver sermons, and he has to speak convincingly, even if the audience comprises mainly of half-witted women. The deputy Baba came up with a solution here. This Baba would interact only with his Deputy, and the audience also could interact only with the Deputy Baba. The Baba himself would maintain a total silence, and therein lay the secret of his greatness – that would be the message spread across the land; everything he said would be a secret, to be divulged only through his Deputy. For a good measure, he was also conferred the title of Rahasya Baba (The Mystery Baba).

Rahasya Baba became an instant hit. The dull glazed expression on his face suggested a deep contemplation of the infinite, of a world and wisdom concealed from the rest of humanity. Armed with an ash covered body, with liberal daubs of saffron and the various large beaded rudraksha chains effectively hiding his scrawny neck, he made a distinct impression on the beholder. The women disciples, especially the half-witted ones, swayed and swooned in ecstasy. The few men disciples came to feast their eyes on the Baba’s consort, that emaciated female seated next to him, about two paces behind him; the men were not sure of what exactly that figure was and were intrigued at that apparition.

The Deputy Baba also was a busy man. He was constantly on the move, conveying messages back and forth, to and from the Baba. Tiring work, this, as well as thinking up clever responses to silly questions. This called for inventive/imagination skills of a high order. But, the pickings, the recompense was good, and kept growing. His earlier job, as a bicycle repair mechanic in a distant town, was good, but nowhere near as good as this.

But, all too often, the offerings were in kind, and, some of these  were outright painful. An offering of pictures of deities, clearly cut from some calendar, and pasted on to a piece of cardboard, was so annoying that the Deputy Baba was sorely tempted to fling it back on to the face of the offering female. However, he contended himself by merely folding his hands in prayer and handing it back. He was reluctant to initiate anything suggestive of violence, considering that he was always the closest to the audience. But, at times, there was a bonanza as well. On occasions, some devotee would hand over a bottle of country arrack, and a pack of beedis. The Deputy Baba had problems only when sharing the same, later, with the Rahasya Baba and his wife, who insisted on even shares.

Talking of shares, the Deputy Baba wanted a review of the arrangements, whereby the offerings were shared on a basis of a mere 25% to him, and the rest to Rahasya Baba, and his wife. After a rather acrimonious session, with most of the shouting done by the wife, his share was hiked to 33%. He could not quietly pocket any of the offerings, as the wife kept her hawk-like vision firmly on him, throughout the collections process.

During this phase, Rahasya Baba and his wife also were now enjoying life much more. Their humble household had undergone a drastic improvement. In the pre-Baba days, a balanced meal was one in which the meagre revenues were balanced with the meagre fare on the table. But, now, the balanced meal took on a more conventional definition – that of three square meals a day, with regular non-veg items, pure desi ghee, sweets etc.

The wife was now blooming, flourishing as never before. The emaciated appearance was a thing of the past. The cheeks were now chubby, and the concavity of her curves had got replaced with convexity, reminding males with their lecherous looks of the scenic and curvaceous track of a mountain train. Now she walked with an almost seductive swing of the hips. Her gait no longer reminded one of a mud-crab scuttling for cover. Her vastly improved appearances did attract the attention of the Deputy Baba, but she kept him at a distance. She was smart enough to know that a dumb husband is always preferable to a smart lover.

Rahasya Baba’s fame spread far and wide. His client base now included devotees from far away towns, and even some international visitors. The fair-skinned goras/goris couldn’t quite pronounce Rahasya, so, it got anglicized to Rex. It was Rex baba who they came to offer obeisance and homage to. So, the name Rex Raba became the official name.

Rex Baba (under the guidance of his Deputy, of course) now held court at different venues. Franchise arrangements were set up in different areas, and his wife also acquired an audience. She was now known, as Rex Babette. Everything went on like clockwork.

Until, one sad day, the police arrived, to ensure crowd control. One of them recognized the Deputy Baba as the very same bicycle mechanic who had stolen a bicycle from the police station when it was given for some repair work. His immediate arrest, and subsequent incarceration meant that no more guidance, no more profound secret sharing between the Baba and his devotees.

This is how the story of Rex baba ended. Incredibly sad, indeed. However, soon enough, there is bound to come along some other Baba, to provide mental solace and comfort, so the devotees could cope with the sadness, deprivation, and such other mundane challenges of life.

Be patient, friends.

(The author is a retired banker. Decades of handling of the fragile egos of his bosses, studying and acting upon the psychology of his colleagues, and mentoring irate juniors, has failed to kill his creative grey cells. His thoughts are based on contemporary reality and are duly seasoned with ready wit, wisdom, humour, and satire. He unleashes these upon his unsuspecting public through his Facebook wall. He happens to be an ardent fan of P G Wodehouse.

His permission to post this piece here is gratefully acknowledged.)

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Caring Michelangelo's_Pieta

If we look a little deeper, we are apt to find that lifestyle diseases not only represent a crisis in our lives. These also provide us an opportunity for a spiritual upliftment of sorts.

Take the case of a patient suffering from diabetes. The manner in which this affliction leads one to progress on the path of spirituality can be readily appreciated by considering what a hapless patient has to go through.

Surely, no one aspires to have a silent killer like diabetes as a part of the package of challenges life offers. But once known to be afflicted by it, it takes courage to accept the fact – internally as well as socially. One’s propensity to accept things in a courageous manner goes up.

Willingly having to forsake the pleasures of the palate, the patient learns the art of humility. Delectable sweets get banned from one’s dining table…

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About the Book

What would happen if you got stuck at a place with dreaded Bollywood villains like Gulshan Grover and Ranjeet, and they actually rescue you from being harassed?

What would your reaction be if Madhuri Dixit said I Am Sorry to you?

Which Ambani could have possibly reported the Author to the moral, if not the actual police?

How did Hrithik Roshan fool a city editor?

To find out answers to these questions and more, pick up a copy of the Bestselling Memoir – Hotel Adventures with the Stars, penned by the International Hospitality Writer, L. Aruna Dhir, who calls Dehradun her forever Home.

The book is a delightful compendium of delicious stories based on L. Aruna Dhir’s encounters with celebrities from different walks of life, spanning the world of cinema, arts, music, sports, politics and literature. It is truly one of a kind book that chronicles several of Aruna’s engrossing encounters with a gamut of celebrities.

Funny, thrilling and heart-warming in equal measure, Aruna vividly recounts cherished memories of when Ustad Shujaat Husain Khan gave her a personal concert, Kapil Dev bowled her over and what it is to actually shake Sunny Deol’s Dhai Kilo Ka Haath (a hand weighing two and a half kilograms!) amongst many other equally endearing incidents involving Jackie Shroff, Dimple Kapadia, Ruskin Bond, Sharmila Tagore, Maneka Gandhi, Kiran Bedi, Khushwant Singh and several others, in this collector’s edition.

The Foreword for this enchanting Memoir has been written by the famous Master Storyteller, Ruskin Bond, who calls this unique recollection “Immensely readable.”

About the Author

As a four year old, growing up in the verdant Doon Valley, Aruna would prance about the garden while the great sitar maestro Vilayat Khan held his music soirees. Who knew that would set the shape of things to follow. At 19, Aruna had Bollywood’s sexiest hero of the time, Sanjay Dutt, say I Love You to her. By the time she began working with international Five Star hotels Aruna had stars from Bollywood and Hollywood orbiting her galaxy.

L. Aruna Dhir is today a recognized International Hospitality Writer with her insights presented in the #1 ranked global hospitality publication. She is on the Board of the Association of Commonwealth Leaders’ Conferences (ACLC) – a Commonwealth Body and a Member of the World Tourism Network (WTN).  A national-poll winning Communications Specialist, she has launched hospitality brands. As a Hotel PR Strategist, Aruna has worked with some of the world’s finest hotels such as the Hyatt, the Oberoi Group and The Imperial.

She has represented India to a select group of opinion-makers in the United States, as a Cultural Ambassador under the GSE Program of Rotary International. She has also participated in the IXth Commonwealth Study Conference held in Australia and chaired by Princess Anne.

During the course of her checkered and exciting career, Aruna has brushed her shoulders with a scintillating set of well-known personalities, including royalty. A clutch of them feature in highly entertaining anecdotal stories in Hotel Adventures with the Stars.

The quintessential Girl from Clement Town, Aruna grew up in Dehradun and spent her formative, school-going and collegiate years in the Valley Town. Quite naturally so, the Memoir is sprinkled with reminiscences of life in Doon in the 70s, 80s and the 90s.

As a young girl, Aruna would attend many a Kavi Sammelan held at the Town Hall or the Doon Club to participate in poetry recitals in the company of notable poets of the region. Unsurprisingly then, she graduated to become a poet par excellence, and has to her credit two published poetry anthologies. Aruna has the distinction of being India’s first-ever Creative Writer with Archies Greetings, with several series of cards sold under her by-line – an unprecedented feat that has not been repeated since. The milestone puts her in the league of Helen Steiner Rice, Susan Polis Schutz and Amanda Bradley.

Journey of the Book so far

Hotel Adventures with the Stars is the author’s third Book, but her Debut Non-fiction.

In less than 24 hours of its pre-order link being put up, the book debuted at the #2 spot on the Hot New Releases and at #25 spot on the Bestseller List of Biographies, Autobiographies and True Accounts, in a list that had President APJ Abdul Kalam’s Autobiography at #1!! 

Since its launch, the book has continuously popped up on the Bestseller list, to sit as a neighbour with the Man of the Hour, Elon Musk’s Biography and to be ahead of other popular biographies such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ Unfinished and Dr. NR Narayana Murthy’s Biography.

It is of little wonder then that the book has received exceptionally noteworthy endorsements from a string of superstars.

Some Endorsements from Celebrities

“Lucid, Witty & Engrossing…Aruna’s sharp writing makes this book a captivating read!” is how the Superstar Jackie Shroff describes the Memoir.

“L. Aruna Dhir is an extremely engaging writer. She involves you in her stories and entrances you with her beautiful writing. What a fine time travel the Memoir allows into nostalgia!” affirms the Super Cop woman, Dr. Kiran Bedi.

“Aruna is a Master-weaver. She has woven a colourful tapestry with gossamer threads to create a design of sensitive beauty,” says Sonal Mansingh, Padma Vibhushan Odissi classical dancer and Cultural Icon of India.

Sanjeev Kapoor, Internationally acclaimed Indian Masterchef, Restaurateur and the Khana Khazana TV Star has this to say about Hotel Adventures with the Stars, “A fun, honest, memorable portrayal of personalities interwoven with anecdotal slices of nostalgia! Readers will find themselves in the stories and come away with a pleasing sense of warmth and realism.”


Here’s the link for you to peruse and use: https://amzn.to/3wG1m9l

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William Faulkner is reported to have said that “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”

Partition, or rather the tearing apart of India into three parts circa 1947, has always been a theme of enduring interest. To those who lived to tell the diabolical tales of their survival, it brings back a flood of memories, awash with deep-seated regrets and a sense of deep loss of one’s original home and hearth. Hence the title Hiraeth, meaning a longing based on a feeling of helplessness of not being able to revisit a place.

To their succeeding generations, it is a valuable record of the trauma of the planet’s biggest mass migration on record. It also captures the endurance and resilience of the human spirit, of an innate will to live and prosper, and of keeping the descendants isolated from the traumatic pain and suffering of their preceding generations.

Just like the graphic works of Saadat Hasan Manto, Khuswant Singh and many others, Hiraeth captures the agony, the suspicion, the cruelty and the madness that pervaded the air in those turbulent times. A commendable endeavour, indeed.  

The stories, based on the experiences of the author’s grandparents and other seniors in her family circles, capture not only the courage and sacrifice but also the generosity of the human spirit. These are written with a piercing beauty, alive with moral passion and sorrowful insight.

However, a word of caution may be in order. Picking up and going through the book needs nerves of chilled steel. It took me close to three years to build up the courage to get a copy. I could then devour the stories only one at a time. Each one of them, so very poignantly written, made me either sob uncontrollably or cry. Identifying with the main characters was apparently my undoing. Suffering the pain and deprivation they underwent.

Somewhere, a father was killing his own daughter so as to protect the family honour. Elsewhere, a recently widowed lady was able to release her inner grief only when she came across the turban cloth of her late husband.

Some offered solace as well. A just-orphaned kid getting breast-fed and adopted by a lady who has undergone the trauma of giving birth to a stillborn child of her own, their different religions notwithstanding.

The last story touches upon the ripple effect of a parent’s decision on the next generation. It goes on to demonstrate that partition, though the term in itself is a highly sanitized version of what really transpired then, is not so much an event in the past, but one that continues to influence the descendants of those who survived it. Those displaced and uprooted have stood up, shaken off the dust of negativity from their feet, taken control of things and ensured that the coming generations did well in their life and career. But the scars remain.  

Thanks to the efforts put in by the publishers, the book is well presented. Urdu titles of stories have been beautifully calligraphed, adding a unique charm to the text. The use of common terms to address parents, grandparents and other relatives in Hindi/Punjabi language bring the stories closer home. The cover itself says a lot, though, at first glance, one does not appreciate it.

At the end of it all, the book does lead one to feel more anger and even more anguish. Is there a way to avoid such tragedies in future? Can our leaders not be more prescient and take better control of things? As human beings, we pride ourselves on our technological achievements. But do we care to dismantle the invisible walls that exist between us? Could we widen our consciousness in such a way as to avoid conflicts and wars? Could we not instead channelize our collective energies towards addressing environmental challenges that we, as a race, face?

One may well ask if there is any point in remembering yet again what one cannot forget in a lifetime. Perhaps, a closure lies in moving towards mutual acceptance of culpability, a joint mourning for the lives we took, the attendant horrors we inflicted upon each other and then go in for mutual forgiveness. However, it is easier said than done. Wounds of the flesh heal; not so with the mental scars. Thus, the cycle of violence continues unabated. It suits our politicians to keep stoking these dormant embers.  Often, we end up being mere puppets in their hands.

In fact, this is the larger purpose the book serves. It reminds us of our past follies. It makes us sit up yet again and start wondering as to how to take better care of ourselves and our brethren. It prompts us to build bridges wherever needed and break down the walls of our biases and prejudices. It shows us the futility of treating those different from us as ‘others.’ It exhorts us to use our individual intellect to judge if what we are doing is right, not to be led astray by jingoism, chest thumping and wars.

I am reminded of a song which Talat Mehmood had rendered in his velvet-like soothing voice long time back:

Hein sabse madhur woh geet jinhen hum dard ke swar mein gaate hain…

Roughly translated, this says that the songs which are the sweetest are the ones which are set to the melody of sorrow!

It is in this spirit that this book deserves to be picked up, devoured and brooded upon. 

About the Author:

Dr. Shivani Salil, MD, calls herself a voracious reader, in love with words – both written and spoken. She used to work at KEM Hospital, Mumbai, until some time back when a geographical move pushed her into a sabbatical. She currently resides in Hong Kong with her husband and daughter.

As a child, she harboured two dreams: one, to become a doctor and the other, to pursue literature so that she could become a writer. Having lived and loved her first dream, this book is a step forward towards the second.

Get to know more about her on her website http://www.shivaniwrites.in and her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/shivaniwrites18.

Availability of the Book:

In India: https://www.amazon.in/Hiraeth-Partition-Stories-from-1947/dp/8194132622

In US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WRLTGLC

In UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07WRLTGLC

In Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07WRLTGLC

In Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07WRLTGLC

In Germany:

The book is available on Kindle as well and is free on Kindle unlimited.

(The book has been published by Room9 Publications (www.artoonsinn.com).


Hiraeth: Partition stories from 1947 by Shivani Salil

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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Ranveer Singhania, the tall debonair steel-grey eyed heir to Delhi-based Singhania Empire, had thought that her cheerful vibrant personality, her uninhibited laughter and easy going nature would balance out his serious and colorless life. That she would be the best life partner for him. He had felt it in his heart that making this chirpy and full of life girl his wife will be the best decision of his life. She had caught his attention from the day she had stepped into his life like an innocent cute deer, prancing through life without any worries. She was the only one who made him smile with her non-stop chattering, and make him laugh at her antics. Her huge doe shaped eyes were filled with warmth. And her beautiful smile could warm up any one’s heart. She was one of a kind and she was the one for him. Or so he thought.

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Along Came Love

Recently, I came across this wonderful site which has many delectable stories to narrate. Permit me to share this one with all of you.




She was just an average young girl. Like 20 million others in India. Born in a loving middle class family, with normal pretty looks, average intelligence, a genuine heart and big dreams. Lofty aspirations fueled by movies and novels. Specially that of her future husband or boyfriend. All she wanted was a tall, dark, brooding, rich yet loving, possessive guy for herself. Nothing that can be termed as asking for much, if you ask her. But blame it on her deeply ingrained middle class values or lack of opportunities, the boyfriend phase never came in her life. She directly graduated to the matrimonial phase. And true to their word and ambitions, her parents swiftly found her a ‘suitable and nice boy’ as soon as she was of age.

And he was something she never thought she would ever end up with. Too sweet. Too understanding. Too accommodating…

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As a neighbour, an impartial observer and a well-wisher of Auroville for close to twenty five years, let me share a few impressions I have of this ‘City of Dawn.’

In 1997, I had just joined a company in Pondicherry and the need arose of a couple of computers. Orders were duly placed. A friend of the owner of the business, based in Auroville and a technocrat by profession, not only organized the hardware and the software but also brought in intranet, helping us to exchange notes via emails sent and received over our monitors. At the time, the term ‘internet’ was not known to me!

That was my first realization that Auroville was indeed a Centre of Excellence in various fields – IT, solar power, wind power etc.

Visitors to Auroville, especially those who live in matchbox kind of flats in our urban concrete jungles, get bowled over by its greenery and its open spaces.


The visionary concept of Auroville is that of a universal township“where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.”

“Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.” 

“Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress, a youth that never ages.” (Auroville Charter, 1968)

The Birth of Auroville

The township is a tangible manifestation of the spiritual collaboration between the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. After he passed away in 1950, it was the Mother who took on the task of bringing his idea of a “universal town” to fruition. Her guiding principles were Sri Aurobindo’s ideal of human unity, his emphasis on cultural collaboration and his vision of India as a spiritual leader of the world.

It is supposed to be a place which is like a crucible in a laboratory from where Homo sapiens of a higher consciousness would eventually emerge.

Born in 1878, Mother was over 90 when, on February 28, 1968, Auroville was inaugurated. She worked with architect Roger Anger to chalk out a blueprint for a city of 50,000 people. On the day of the inauguration, over 5,000 people from 124 countries, including India, had gathered.

To signify that the township belonged to none in particular but to humanity as a whole, these delegates also deposited a handful of their native soil into a marble-clad urn at the amphitheatre.

Government of India Steps In

The baby was born. But its growing challenges had just begun.

An enterprise like this one can almost only be built in difficult conditions. Without a maturity that arises from problems, on the level of those people who live the experience, it seems hard to conceive that the goal of Auroville and its message can be arrived at in a comprehensive manner…..What is important is not to build a city, it is to build a new humanity.

(Roger Anger, 1973)

In 1973, after the Mother’s death, a bitter conflict developed between the residents and the township’s ‘parent’ organisation, the Sri Aurobindo Society. The Society laid a claim to the land acquired by Auroville.

The matter went right up to the Supreme Court, which eventually decided in favour of Auroville.

Sensing a situation of continued tension between the sister organisations and to legally permit Auroville to own land, Government of India stepped in. In 1988, the Indian Parliament unanimously passed the Auroville Foundation Act to make the township a legal entity and safeguard its autonomy. Eventually, the Society transferred the land to Auroville.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Mr. Kireet Joshi, a senior IAS officer, the township earned global recognition by UNESCO. In the Cold War era, it was considered a manifestation of India’s commitment to the cause of the Non Aligned Movement. Prominent persons like Mr. J R D Tata, Mr. Nani Palkhivala and HH the Dalai Lama have supported Auroville.

The Organisation

Auroville is managed by a three-tier structure.

  1. International Advisory Board
  2. Working Committee (comprising 9 members: 1 Secretary, 4 nominees of the Government of India, 4 nominees of Auroville)
  3. Resident Assembly (comprising all the residents of Auroville, the decisions of which need unanimous approval)

Interestingly, nothing in Auroville is owned by any person there. Every single asset in the township is owned by the Auroville Foundation, which, in turn, is under the Government of India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development.


Today, Auroville is home to over 3,200 people — architects, writers, artists, doctors, engineers, chefs, teachers, farmers, students etc — from over 60 countries, not to mention all regions of India. Thanks to its multi-faceted talent pool, the township has been a trail blazer in sustainable practices, environment-friendly operations, futuristic technologies, water resource management, alternate farming, to name a few. From ecology to economy and from education to entertainment, it offers a fulfilling life to its residents. Its expertise in different domains is sought by governments and other bodies from time to time.

Over the years, a massive forestation drive by residents and villagers has ensured a lush green campus, buildings which draw their energy needs primarily from the sun and houses which are not connected to power grid of Tamil Nadu but are solely dependent on wind/solar power.

Take the case of Buddha Garden which is a farm that experiments with sensor-based precision irrigation system — the first crop cycle saw an almost 80% drop in water consumption!

The Universe and its Centre

The layout of the township resembles that of a galaxy, with the magnificent Matri Mandir at its centre, considered the “soul of Auroville”. Over time, separate zones have evolved: for residences, for industrial units, for cultural events and for visitors.   

Matri Mandir is an elaborate gold-plated sphere that took 37 years to see the light of day. The structure comprises 1,415 large gold discs and is suspended above 12 “petals” or themed mini concentration rooms, each of which is flanked by a themed garden. The main hall for concentration, known as the Inner Chamber, is a pristine white in colour, whereas each of the “petals” has a distinct colour to it.

The approach to the Inner Chamber has three levels through which one ascends, much like a spiritual aspirant would evolve through the three states of Aspiration, Rejection and Surrender, eventually reaching a state of realisation.

The global structure rests on four directional pillars: Mahakali (North), Maheshwari (South), Mahalakshmi (East) and Mahasaraswati (West).  

Woods are Lovely….

Auroville presents to us an exemplary blend of India’s age old spiritual tenets on the one hand and futuristic thought in terms of sustainability and technology on the other.

The journey of evolution is surely not an easy one. Coordinating between various opinions and views is a mighty task. Recently, in respect of the implementation of the Master Plan, some differences have arisen between two groups of residents. There is no doubt that with compassion and a spirit of give and take, the same will get resolved amicably and Auroville will emerge stronger.

It is hoped that future developments would retain the township’s Unique Selling Proposition – greenery, low rise structures and open spaces.  

Mother has never said this journey is going to be easy. She would typically discourage enthusiastic newcomers to join in. Her recommendation was that once we have made up our mind to join, we should go to the very end.  

The journey of Auroville reminds me of the famous poem by Robert Frost where he says:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

(Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan are gratefully acknowledged)

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