The Frailty That Death Brings


To say we are moving at a whirlwind pace in everyday life is a cliche. It is sad that we don’t spend enough time with ourselves. Use that sacrosanct space to think. And brood over life’s mystery. Ask questions about life and death and love. Try to make sense of our inner world when we have interior designers to take care of our house and our furniture.

This morning I saw a school bus right infront of ours’ on the road. The boys on the front seat and turned around and sat on their knees to talk to those behind. Animated. Chirpy. Sprighty. Sunlight streaming in and gaiety spread everywhere. In contrast to the one I was in, with tainted (shut) windows and earphone laden IT professionals.

I wasn’t jealous or sad. Because hadn’t I already lived that life? 🙂 Nostalgic? Not really. If anything, it made me remember the eyes through which I saw the world. Where every corner turned had a marvel awaiting. Wide-eyed and inexhaustibly curious. Gaping with wonder at life and what lay infront.

For some reason, my thoughts centered on death. I can’t remember what I used to think about it when I was very little. Similar to sex, I guess. I don’t remember having a birds and bees conversation with my parents. I just happened to transition into the knowledge. Pretty early too. How? Well, that’s a story for another day.

But I do remember my first encounter with death, albeit indirect. When my grandpa (Maa’s father) died, I was five years old. My mother was inconsolable and both my parents left for Varanasi the next morning leaving me and my sister under the eye of my grandma. I knew the rituals and so the vision that formed in my head said that the next time I go to Varanasi, I won’t find him in the house. That was all. I never wondered, ‘Where he went?’ and ‘Why?’. And if there was a point. But I wasn’t sad.

I was probably shielded from death’s harsh truth because I never saw death of a loved one up close. And I can only half-imagine the turmoil that children go through if they loose someone (especially a parent) at that young an age. Even when a dog is laid to rest, elders (let, children) are inconsolable and sad. And it is then, they ask two very important questions: “Why?” “And what now?”

And the pain and the grief are diminished with time and love and life. But now and again death does come to haunt us. And shake us with its unsaid words: “Everything in life is fleeting. It takes one blink of an eye and it is over” If anything, you try to live your life with more compassion and respect. But the conscious feeling lossens its grips over you and you again get embroiled in the pettiness, in the criticism and the fighting. Ofcourse, there is a fair share of happiness, achievement and love tas well. But one never gets answers to the questions asked when young: “Why?” “And what now?”

The first and only corpse I have seen was my grandmothers’. I was in twelfth grade and she died after a long painful illness. But the body that I saw had no warmth. It didn’t ooze life. And as the jaw lay open, I could distinguish between how life should be. Not cold. Anything but harsh.

When someone dies, people feel the frailty of existence. They sit together and talk about the goodness of the person that left. The memories that were created and shared and bonded over. And in their own way try to make peace with Nature’s upper hand and then dig into dinner and dessert.

It is important that time and again we are reminded of what death feels like. How there is nothing romantic after that. And inspite of the person’s departure, s/he continues to dwell in our hearts and thus live on. The only type of fame I would prefer would be the one which infuses a feeling of warmth and kindness.

Be a little less critical. A little more heart-ical. A little less practical. A little more lovable. And more importantly keep questioning “Why?” and “What now?” to allow life to lead them through a better journey. Whether the will be answered in the end (or should we say the beginning) is a separate story.

The Day You Turn 18!


I wrote this for a friend (pen name ‘Hermione’) I’ve known since middle school on her birthday last year. But, I guess, this could be for everyone stepping out of adolescence into adulthood. It didn’t seem right that it was sitting in my Sent Items.

The Day You Turn 18!

I wonder if this is yet another set of verses
Written that will later gather dust in the mailbox.
But I guess it’ll have done its bit
If a li’l of stardust dazzles on your face as you read what follows
And on your 18th birthday, you are ready for the waters beyond the docks!

They are not piece of cake – the times ahead
Maybe you already have a plan in place for the future.
But the times ahead will be of myriad flavours – unexplored, not yet relished
Candies, Truffles, maybe an occasional Wax-flavoured Bertie Botts’,
And more, but always ready to surprise and occasionally send you into rapture!

‘You are an Adult now’
Well, at least the Constitution says so.
So, do you have the To-Dos on your Agenda?
A Career, Love and a Future shaped from your own hands
I sure do hope along the ride you have a lot times to shout out ‘Woh-hoooo!!’

Happy Effulgent Eighteenth!

The Fallacies of ‘The Good Life’


They say that Information Technology careers holds tremendous potential. Skyrocketing salaries, abundant opportunities to fly abroad, higher stature and maybe even being the ‘preferred’ bridegroom with ample suitors. Yet something seems amiss. With thousands being recruited in herds and your Bachelors’ education deemed redundant and unnecessary for getting into a reputed firm, a new flux of teeming engineers seems to be directed towards the IT universe.

For starters, the services sector contributes about 57% of India’s GDP in revenues and IT is a huge chunk of that number. Undoubtedly, India – the world’s outsourcing backyard – is generating new jobs at a rapid pace and a large number of college campuses play host to IT firms and hence the alluring placement figures of 90% and above of every second engineering college.

Companies pick up hundreds, sometime thousands, from the same college and take them along on their “brandwagon”. Those who are not from Computers/IT no longer worry about landing a job. A few worried lot (parents) do exercise caution and advise their wards not to enter the IT territory as they feel that a non-IT background might prove to be a hindrance but such cases are fewer than perceived. And students are allured by the pay packages, the brand image, the big cities and the almost-foreign infrastructure.

As I sit here writing this, I know a lot of people are going to disagree with the point of view I am putting forward. And I appreciate that. Sure, every one of us likes watching reruns of ‘The Social Network’ or talking about the work life at Google. Or how IT is transforming rural governance and financial transactions. Or how the internet is the ultimate Oracle to all questions of humanity. At least, the working class. All this and not to mention the cutting age advances in technology, programming and Artificial Intelligence. Undoubtedly, our future rides on IT. No exceptions.

Except. Except maybe the lifestyle.

It’s not about R&D. Or building something new. It’s about what a significant part of the sector is working on in India. Providing/enhancing/sustaining software services where they stretch long hours. Often, humongous long hours! For years.

Fat pay cheques (sometimes). Flashy iPhones and laptops. And in three-four years, even getting one’s own four wheeler in addition to a stint in the US, UK or Australia. And moving up the ladder, maybe with or without an MS/MBA. Then a home. And then.

But that’s life flashing by. That is not every day. While Narayan Murthy advises people not to stay late in offices, how many adhere to it? Less than those who should. Because if your biological clock gets badly shaken, your health goes for a toss and even weekends seem drab and worth only completing your sleep, you’ve got to question if you are going right.

Don’t get me wrong. I strongly adhere to the fact that those in love with computers and technology should work hard at it and enjoy its fruits. But prioritizing is important. The work culture can be ruthless sometimes. I am not painting a sad picture because there are huge upsides too. Yet you’ve got to question how much of your time you are willing to put in. And at what cost?

Because in your quest for a life, you might be squandering it. Every day putting in 10-12 hours. Coming home exhausted both physically and mentally. I mean, Come on! Sure you might have got a pack of friends, as thick as thieves, at your workplace but coming home regularly when it is past dinner time is a sheer waste. Once in a while wouldn’t hurt but making it a routine is definitely a problem. And if the only hobbies you have are watching movies in the theatre or on your laptop and earphones ‘adorn’ your ears 24×7, you might have to question if you are living life in 1-D. Long commuting hours, strenuous work and little time for oneself, let alone family – make sure you are not one of them.

At the end of the day, it is a personal choice. For those wanting to be/already are computer professionals, growth prospects are huge. But if you want to live the life, make sure you choose how you live it – when to stay and when not to. As someone said, ‘When you are on your death bed, nobody would reminisce the codes he wrote or the presentations he made’.

Stuck on the same ol’ tape recorder!


Kids learn and, boy, they learn fast! The world around is a whirlwind for them and there is a lot to take in. But on our ride up the staircase, we develop a sense of style. Characteristics. Commendable virtues and mannerisms. And (most often), boring words and phrases!

Have you met someone who says ‘Obviously’ too often? What? You haven’t met me! Alright. How about someone who keeps shaking his/her head a hundred times while you haven’t begun speaking? No! That’s not me. But it’s downright irritating. How about someone who says ‘Sounds good’ a hundred times in a phone call?

When it comes to incorporating a new language (read: English) or culture, sometimes a few (of our favorite) phrases just get glued to the tongue and never seem to disengage. And you unconsciously repeat those words again and again. And again! Whether, its ‘Moreover’ or ‘Oh yeah’ or ‘Definitely’ or, one of my (least) favorite ones, ‘Basically’!!

We are so caught up in our rigid body language, mannerisms and nonsense verbiage (overabundant word usage) that we aren’t even aware of our limiting postures, stupid gestures and (yes) annoying word usage. It comes with a lifestyle that maybe too stressful, boasts of limited growth (personally) and gifts even lesser time to think.

More importantly, (most) people around us are too busy (or inept :P) to tell you the truth. An effective body language coupled with sharp wordage works wonders. Not getting stuck in the rut is monumental – both for your professional and personal life – expressing yourself lively; not being on autopilot mode with some ol’ monotonous tape being played a zillion times!

Think about it! An effective personality is defined, amongst other things, by enthusiasm, emphasis and freshness. Not just (to borrow Intel’s tagline) ‘intelligence inside’, but originality in expressing that intelligence. Hence, lookout! Be on your own watch! See if you get caught up and are reiterating the same phrases and exclamations.

Keep an eye on your body language. If it’s confident? Powerful? Timid? Or scared? And also on your tongue. If its having fun moving around mouthing words.

Use words to entice, excite and impress. Use them to motivate, stimulate and work. Overuse ruins them of their potential. Let your stereo play a new tune everyday. Then, a rare ‘Obviously’ will be emphatic, a rightly placed ‘Oh yeah’ would be funny and a ‘Fuck!’ wouldn’t be just another expletive used two hundred times a day.

Revel in the novelty of wordsmithy and your own capacity is utilizing it!

Sharpening the Culinary Knife


WARNING: This post is tongue-in-cheek.

The electricity just went off as I was licking my fingers while wrapping up dinner. And so post everything, I am out in the balcony with my laptop to write what you are reading. There is a slight movement of air in and around making up for a pleasant and fragrant night. God! I should stop using rain and wind and all forces of nature in between for a while. Sometimes I think that is all I write about. But considering these elements of nature are an enticing slice of life, I think I can’t often digress.

Back to dinner. yes, you guessed it right. I was the host and the chef for the night! Like most nights almost for a month now. Was on my own today. But along with my enthusiastic flatmate, we have gone from being the ‘I-can-boil-water’ experts to ‘biryani and curry’ connoisseurs. Warriors whose culinary expertise doesn’t reach full stop at Maggi noodles and cold coffee. Or like the most of us these days who can be divided into two categories (if not in the ‘gourmet league’, my mother, my roommate and I are a part of): Those who eat/order from outside every single day AND those who savor what the ‘gourmet league’ people cook.

I belonged to the latter class for most of my life (and will continue to throughout my life obviously). The last few years, however, I have been a flag bearer of the former club as well. You know the lot: Bunch (actually, herd) of ‘budding’ (laughable) engineers in the making living away from homes studying/just starting out on their careers. Those morons who share apartments, run around half-naked, dirty and unshaven most of the time. The ones whose daily schedules reeks of Facebook, assignments, porn and, probably, even booze. (Jesus! I am talking in general. Don’t you form an opinion already). What the heck? Wasn’t I talking about food? Oh yes! Anyway, I was referring to those (including the adorable engineering students) who, in a nutshell, eat outside every single day at dhabas/roadside eateries and sometimes in posh hotels.

Everyone is a part of both the clubs. Eat outside or eat off someone’s magic hands at home. But joining the likes of those who possess those ‘magic hands’ is quite a journey. It’s a road that is full of surprises, experimentation and, sometimes, a satisfaction that hangs loosely halfway somewhere on the orgasmic scale. Okay, that was weird!

So, back to the cooking. About a month ago, after I returned from home subjected to some of the most delectable delicacies on Planet Earth, we (my flatmate and I, if you aren’t keeping up) decided to give cooking at home a shot. This was partly triggered by the snatching away of a two-wheeler on which we scaled the town up and down in search of two morsels. And, living on a part of a highway where the nearest eateries are so close that walking back home after eating would make you wonder if you did have dinner, the departure of the bike put us in a blind spot.

Way back as a kid, I had mastered the art of whipping up first-class slurpy noodles. This was followed by a keen interest to replicate the peanut-jaggery sweet, more popularly called ‘chikki’ in India. It met with considerable success, as I do remember those wintry evenings spent in melting the jaggery and pouring in roasted peanuts. As I allowed the concoction to turn golden-yellow, I’d follow my mother’s instructions of pouring it on a ghee-smeared platform and flattening it with a rolling-pin. And putting in irregular cuts while still hot. And, man, when they would cool down! The tasty crunchy evening snack I put up was a victory that beats many desserts ordered a la carte.

I remember eating dough when I was young. As the water-laden flour was being kneaded, I’d pull off a clump and start rolling it in my mouth. It was discouraged, obviously! But it also points towards my inclination towards rotis/Indian bread which is in contrast to the Bengali that I should have turned into. Bongs often refer to themselves with a ‘Maachhe Bhaate Baangaali’ (Fish and rice makes us Bengalis). And here I was relishing every morsel of roti dipped into dal or rolled over a vegetable dish (or occasionally mutton) and developing odd ways of having rice in the most unlikely combinations: with the yellow of a boiled egg or with sweet mango pickle or, sometimes normally like with the curry of fish or paneer.

To contrast that with today, where every dinner is a rice dish is sure to make my parents feel that I am not that bad a crossover resulting from the ‘Probaashi Baangaali’ phenomenon (Bengalis moving away from their natives). Yeah! As someone worried about developing a tummy and not having a gym nearby, I’d not be that acquiescent in agreeing but would nevertheless be proud of the dishes I dish out: Most of them finger-licking delicacies!

These include primarily, biryanis and pulaaos (which have as their ingredients everything from soya bean and paneer to large cauliflowers, okras and green peas), where a single whistle from the pressure cooker is followed by a tantalizing aroma fanning out in the kitchen implies “Something yummy’s ready to be attacked on to!”. ‘Coz its all about the spices. The right amount spices everything – including the dish – up!

Lately, we have experimented with preparing the subzee/veggie and the rice separately. This gives an even better epicurean delight as you get to savour the flavours distinctly and widen your range of experimentation. The thick creamy curry of veggies (whether using fresh tomatoes or, as I discovered today, just ketchup) is simply irresistible!

Not all experiments are successful! Chicken bombed! I am very selective about non-vegetarian food, even more so because I rarely eat any, and to actually bring in and cook chicken meat isn’t exactly cakewalk. Maybe I was just imagining but I thought there was still some strange odour coming out from the chicken so I didn’t eat any. Surprisingly, my roommate finished the pound of it!

The last couple of weeks have been a little stupidly busy making me reach home after the sun has set. And, hence, the pressure-cooker and the knife work like a charm. Sometimes, when I am very late, my flatmate does most of the work. Just like a loving dutiful wife. (Now, before you feminists come out to hit me with a dildo over my supposedly male chauvinistic comment of equating homely cooking to women/housewives, hear me out: I am on your side. That was a dig at conservatives!)

However, the waistline is still a concern. And as I expand my ‘foodie’ vision, I think its time I began experimenting with rotis. Initially, they will be anything but a circle! But, guess what! The accidental discovery of my cooking prowess beckons me to try that out! Not as something cumbersome and time-consuming. But an adventure (sorry, Jack Sparrow! My stranger tides differ a li’l bit)!

The Walk Together


I will keep this brief. Because no amount of ‘wordsmithy’ will encompass the fact that: Tomorrow completes 30 years of my Maa and Baba being together. At least when it comes to a sacrosanct-cum-official bond. You must have heard about it, I guess. It’s called ‘marriage’!

I see a world submitting to the wonders of technology and liberation. Where social intercourse is not exactly ‘social’. It’s a violent outburst where everyone is reaching for the stars but very few have company all the way. Where relationships are replaceable. And so are people. Divorce rates at an all time high. Where research suggests that humans are meant to be polygamous. And where broken hearts are dime a dozen. Where everyone seems to be on the lookout of a soulmate. But settle for something surprisingly less.

I see people breaking apart too soon. I see married couples who are so less than the individuals they used to be. I see hollow relationships and crackpots abound. I see children being brought up in dysfunctional families. The children themselves being worse off than their parents. I see couples who no longer strive to be better either individually or together.

And I do not wish to paint a grim picture of the world. Because that is not the case.

I see two individuals who decided to take on the world together. Live a life of dignity and grow as individuals and as a couple. Because two is always better than one. Bring up two kids and give them all that they could ask for. Fill love within themselves and around.

I don’t really know the story of my Baba and Maa. Except that they have known each other since they were little. And I still think their chemistry is unbeatable. That there is so much that can be learnt from them. Primarily: The power of love and it’s capacity to revolutionize, invigorate and build oneself (and the other along the way) for the better.

Happy 30th both of you!!

Is your conscience just happenstance?


Human beings are certainly the most complicated and yet the most intriguing species on Earth. They are queer, irritating, enticing, exciting and sometimes downright blasphemous. And it is a thrilling pleasure to explore them. What do they think? What do they do? Why do they do what they do? Sometimes we are horrified by what we migh find within ourselves or others. On the other hand, it might also be heart warming. The bottomline is: ‘Being human’ is not another support for humanity tagline.

I find humans far far more interesting than gadgets or science and technology. I enjoy trying to make sense of them and, though a tad scared sometimes, don’t stop in trying to uncover the workings of the conscience underneath. Maybe that’s why I revel in watching ‘Lie To Me’. For those who don’t know, ‘Lie To Me’ is a television series (that has completed three very successful seasons) based on Dr. Paul Ekman (who appears in TIME’s 100 Most Eminent Psychologists in the 20th Century) and his research on study of emotions related to facial expressions. The background of Dr. Ekman’s research analyzes the development of human traits and states over time.

People grapple with issues, betray other people, commit crimes, hurt others and themselves – it is all in there. But it is not that they do what they do. It is the motive that still eludes many. Coz you may be able to catch lies, you’d still have to use your brains to try and make sense of the ‘Why?’

Moving away from the show, I’d like to deal with the concept of our conscience. Volumes have been written – from evolutionary psychology to hardwired biology – telling us how over millions of years, our brains have been shaped and trained to comprehend and respond. Chromosomes from parents contain almost all genetic material required to shape the progeny. But, even more crucial, is the story of our life. Our growing up years. Our trudging through adulthood and its trials and tribulations.

Frankly, there is NO one particular moral code. Our morals vary. They might have been initially influenced by our parents and siblings/friends in childhood. What is right. What is not. But all parents are different alongwith their morals. And so also what they give to their child. But as we start to understand and also come under the influence of the ‘big bad world’ (as it is called), we alter our opinions, our views, our unwritten covenant of RIGHT and WRONG.

And so, when we do set out to judge something, it is based on our unique set of principles. I may think your principles are nonsense. And you may surely hold such an opinion to my opinions.

My point is: Based on this unique moral code, our conscience gets coded. Granted, some of our perceptions are biologically coded, but how do we define the conflicting views of, say an Indian and an Indian who’s in America for 30 years? Surely, there views on sexual promiscuity, to take an example, differ. Or, how children should be brought up. Or, the punishment for breaking laws.

Humanity is at an interesing crossroad. With cultures clashing and intermingling on such a large scale and conflicting influences fueling both growth and confusion, our conscience is surely NOT a part of some Universal equivalent Conscience. But, rather, a strange fusion. Our experiences. Our relationships. Our traumas. Our compromises. Our moments of valour. All play a role in this concoction.

So, is your conscience just a coincidence of influences? How much of it have you personally chalked out (through your own thought processes – whether correct or flawed)?

Is your conscience (your Guide) just happenstance?