Poonam Pandey for Lok Pal

Thought I would attempt something different from my usual style - satire in news report style like faking news. If this is well received maybe I would do more in this style.

Latest to enter the fight for Lok Pal bill is none other than model Poonam Pandey. She has promised to go naked for the members of the parliament if Lok Pal Bill is passed. When asked what she would do if the government does not agree to the demands, she answered philosophically that the journey was more important than the destination. No matter what the government did, she would strip anyways. It is to be noted that she has in the past proven to be the good luck icon bringing success to the Indian cricket team and the Kolkata Knight Riders team. It is to be seen if she is able to repeat her success in the field of sports in the field of politics as well. If she succeeds, it will be set a precedent for an entirely new policy making paradigm. Not to be undone, another model Gehna Vashisht has lent similar support for the women’s reservation bill.

The law ministry is still evaluating the suitable response to this offer. One minister under anonymity has said many of the cabinet members are of view that the offer should be viewed as an educational experience that will help them understand first hand whether skimpy clothing can lead to sexual violence against women. This has been a burning issue with many women’s organization protesting against senior ministers and police officials’ observations in this regards. He has also quoted as precedent a study of similar nature carried out my certain members of the Karnataka legislative assembly on their mobile phones.

Television channels meantime have petitioned the prime minister for a free and fair auction of the television rights for the strip act. They have warned that if the rights are allocated arbitrarily, that could be the first case going before the newly constituted Lok Pal. A spokesperson of leading television channel said showing a young woman sacrificing clothes for the nation would make much better sense in terms of TRP than an old man sacrificing food. Mean time Mahesh Bhat and Ram Gopal Varma are rumored to be competing for the rights to make a film on the life and times of Poonam Pandey. Poonam Pandey is said to have demanded the lead role in the film. But both directors felt Sunny Leone would be a better choice to play the role of Poonam Pandey. They felt she was more in character for the role.

Inspired by Poonam, Veena Malik is said to be contemplating a similar movement in Pakistan. Scared by the developments in the neighboring nations, the ruling communist party in China is said to be considering introduction of mandatory Burqa for its women to pre-empt any similar movement that can potentially upset the country’s political stability. US defense analysts are closely watching this move. They suspect a Chinese conspiracy to rally all the oil rich Islamic nations on its side.

Picture Credit : realbollywood.com

Few Miles

The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact,” says Shakespeare in his play Midsummer Night’s Dream. And what if a person is all three combined – a lunatic mad about writing, a passionate lover who goes by the pseudonym ‘Someone is Special’ and a poet who idolizes William Wordsworth, who he calls the king of romance? Do you need to ask about his imagination? That is Saravana Kumar Murugan for you. His blog ‘Few Miles’ is a dedication to romance.

Saravana is one of the most passionate bloggers I have encountered in blog-o-sphere. He pours his heart out into every piece. His blog is indeed a delight for those who love romance. His poetry reaches straight to the heart of the reader. A purist might fault him for strong mother tongue influence in his language. But definition of poetry as per Wordsworth is “Poetry is the spontaneous outflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origins from emotion recollected in tranquility” When the powerful feelings and emotions are there, the rest is only secondary, isn’t it? Equally good are his sweet romantic stories with a sprinkling of eros. As mentioned earlier he is a very imaginative person and his imagination is on display in full flow in his fiction. He comes up with different innovative story plots centered on romance. Another area where one can see his imagination at work is the innovative use of various visual media: screenshots, videos, pictures and social networks like twitter and Facebook in his stories. He in fact has written an entire story as seen through a series of tweets by the principal characters. Of course like his poems, his stories might not find high literary standing in a traditional sense. But I would say it works well for a modern communication media like a blog and the focus audience being Indians whose native language is not English. In addition to the core theme of his blog, he also occasionally relates a few personal experiences, which are mostly quite inspirational and feelings on some issues that he feels passionate about. In these works also one can feel his strong passion.

Having discussed content at depth, let us look at the other aspects. The name of the blog ‘Few Miles’ is short, catchy and easy to remember but does not relate to the theme of the blog: romance. He has tried to maintain a romantic feel to the blog by adding soft music and having hearts all over the place. But otherwise I feel the blog overall looks too cluttered with too many widgets scattered all over the place. In my opinion, it has a too geeky feel for a romantic blog and giving it a slightly simpler look with a bit more romantic looking background will help. Navigation is good but a new reader can easily get lost on his blog due to the sheer number of widgets and options available. Interaction is one area where he wins hands down. He tries to develop a personal connect with every reader and tries to involve them closely in his blog activities.

In terms of writing style, he is good in his areas of key strength: romance. He is also good at conveying his personal passion and ambitions to the readers. But if he harbors dreams of becoming a novelist, he needs to learn to handle more complex emotions and different types of characters. The characters in most of his stories are seen through two planes: romance and career ambitions. But humans are much more complex than that. Another area that needs attention is logical consistency of plot. Blog readers with low attention spans usually are not too concerned with this aspect. But this is an area that is essential to hold a reader’s attention for extended periods of time. Descriptions are managed reasonably well but needs further strengthening in order to stand alone without the help of visual media.

Overall I would say it is a good blog to visit for those who are romantic at heart and those who like to develop a personal association with a person of great creativity and ambitions. I normally put up a selection of 5 posts from the blog I review. He has given 12 rather than 5 and I put up all 12.

Satyamev Jayate Review

Most men are like children. They need a father figure to look up to, someone who can lead them, someone who can guide them and protect them through the trials and tribulations of life. Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill etc. were some such leaders. People pine for such leaders and when they do not find such leaders, they like to pretend they have such a leader. And if one wants to live in a world of fantasy, who better to place in the high pedestal than the heroes of the silver screen. No wonder we have actors donning the mantle of social and political leaders. M G Ramachandran and N T Rama Rao are examples of actors who enjoyed runaway success in politics, reigning as chief ministers in their respective states. Similarly we have actors in north such as Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan emerging as role models for society.

As they say ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ Not every actor is able to live up to the people’s expectations. It is a rare actor who actually really emerges as the messiah people are expecting. Though it is still too early to say how much impact Aamir Khan will have, to a great extent he has lived up to his promise. He has been careful in choosing films and organizations he associates with. And Satyameva Jayate was an ideal platform for him. It was a symbiotic relationship. Whereas his peers chose to make their appearance on frivolous shows making clowns of themselves based just on monetary considerations, Aamir Khan chose the right program to lend his star value. And the show on its part further enhanced his stature as a social icon.

Talking of the program, the program chose all the right issues to speak about – honor killings, female foeticide, domestic violence issue, senior citizens issues, malpractices by doctors, use of pesticide in food etc. They covered a gamut of most relevant issues that everyone would have found at least one issue in the show they could closely relate to. The show was pretty good in terms of format and content. The research was good and at the same time they did not let it become a dull documentary. Things were presented in a dramatized way, there were people sharing experiences, eminent people were interviewed etc. So there was fair amount of variety to keep audience eye balls riveted. Also the program was linked to charity organizations and NGOs working on issues covered in the episode giving opportunity for people to immediately act on the emotions generated by the show. Another thing I liked about the show is they did not try to float on the TRP and carry on and on like a mega serial till they ran out of gas. Then it would have become just another media stunt and lost its impact. As they say a true artist knows when to stop.

Talking of impact, I feel definitely it will act as a catalyst in giving momentum to the middle class revolution that is building up. But middle class generally is a very thoughtful class and is slow to mobilize. So nothing dramatic is expected of them in the near future. Anything drastic will fizzle out like the Anna Hazare movement. Programs like this show to the middle class that they cannot ignore the society around them and remain safe in their ivory towers. Once the wolf has eaten up the poor, it will come knocking at the door of the middle classes and then it will be too late. However middle class cannot do much on their own. It is critical for the middle class to  reach out to the poor and enlist their trust and support. But trust cannot be built in a day. So the hope is that programs like this keep up the spirit of the middle class to strive tirelessly with muscles of iron and nerves of steel till they win the trust of the poor. Then the true revolution will come taking the nation by storm.

This post has been published by me as a part of IBL; the Battle of Blogs, sponsored by WriteupCafe.com. Join us at our official website and facebook page.

A Blogger looks back: August 2012

Recently I started this practice of posting a blogger’s reflection post at regular intervals. The main purpose was twofold – to acknowledge awards from other blogger and to mention any blogging milestones. Recently I have received a couple of tags. While earlier I was just accepting awards without answering the tags, I have finally decided to answer tags as well. As they say, do in blog-o-sphere what bloggers do. No way I can turn up my nose when so many blogger more illustrious than me are taking these tags, eh? Talking of turned up noses, anyone seeing my marriage photos will think us an arrogant family. But the reason for me and my mom’s turned up noses was a bad cold. So we had to hold our nose high to keep it from running away.

As many of you might have noticed, I have put up a static fa├žade for my blog instead of showing the latest post in the front page. Thought that will direct readers to the old posts under various categories instead of reading just the latest posts because my posts are generally a creative expression and not opinions on current issues. But so far it looks as if that is not working out. So I guess I need to reconsider that strategy. I am also thinking of buying a domain. I have been considering multiple approaches. I am thinking if instead of migrating en masse, I should start from scratch and move quality posts one at a time. Hopefully I will decide something in the next month or so.

Next thing is IBL, an interesting concept of a team competition for bloggers on the lines of IPL. It started off well and energy levels of bloggers were high. But off late it has been plagued by controversies with two teams walking out and other teams raising concerns about lack of transparency in the judging process. But still overall it is a commendable effort and I must appreciate Deepak Karthik, Akshay and Binoy for pioneering this concept. As far as the topics go, I personally have liked all the topics and feel they are well thought out and give good opportunity for creative expression. I have been part of the team Bangalore Bloggers Bistro and so far have been enjoying the contest. We are now second in the points table and look well set to enter the semi-finals. But more than winning and losing, it is the camaraderie that is the wonderful part. I got to make friends with so many wonderful bloggers through this event. We also had a meeting where 6 of us met – Harsha, Leo, Gyanban, Tina, Santosh and Sibi. We are hoping we will extend this beyond just IBL and develop a vibrant Bangalore blogger community.

Within a month of our IBL meet, we had the grand bloggers meet organized by IndiBlogger sponsored by Surf. This was my first open bloggers meet. It was good to meet the rest of the IBL team in Bangalore – Princess Poo, Thousif and Nabanitha. It was good meeting some of my other blogger friends as well – Farida, C.Suresh, Keerthi, Tavish and Asha. I also made friends with a few new bloggers – Ghanchakkar, Mahesh and Anthony. I thought I will make a full post on the meet. But I am not good at all these factual descriptive stuff. So thought I will just mention in the reflections post. Overall the event was well organized, people got lot of goodies, there was lot of fun activities and sponsors also did not try to hog the limelight. I was a bit overwhelmed meeting all the friends I did not participate too much in the rest of the activities nor interact with the meet organizers. I kind of botched up my introduction also. Hopefully I can remedy that in the next meet.

Having dealt with all that, now it is finally tag time. Two bloggers tagged me – Kirti and Umashankar Pandey. Kirti’s tag I answered on facebook as she passed on the tag to me on FB. So there remains only Umashankar’s tag to answer here. So here goes.

1. Which is your own favourite post(s)?

My favorite one was the singer series. But I have again taken it down disappointed with poor readership. Planning to re-work it, make it an e-book and sell it on kindle for 99 cents. Other than that I don’t have any special favorites. You can find a few that people have liked a lot in the past on my side bar.

2. Which are your favourite posts by others?

This is a tough one. I am unable to remember all the posts by so many bloggers that I have read. Maybe in future whenever I read if I really like a post, I will re-tweet, share on Facebook or have the link on a static page on my blog to indicate it is my favorite.

3. What would you do if you were barred from blogging?

I have spent 28 years of my life without blogging. So it does not sound very difficult. But the 28 years I always believed in a future where I will live the fantasies I read about in story books. At 28 only I reconciled with the realities of life which coincided with the creation of my blog. So I live all my fantasies in my writing. So if writing is stopped I am not sure how my fantasies will find outlet.

4. If you were to be limited to just 5 music albums for the rest of your life, which ones would they be?

This is the easy question. I don’t listen to music as such except some random stuff here and there. So I can easily live the rest of my life with no music albums.

5. If you were to be limited to just 5 authors for the rest of your life, which ones would they be?

This is a tough one. I think I would go by emotions rather than the quality of writing and chose 5 authors whose works made me the happiest – Enid Blyton, J K Rowling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert.

6. (Didn’t I say five?) Correct. You may frame one question of your own choice and answer that

‘Is there anything else you want to say’ is the question. And the answer is the first part of this post. Now I guess I am supposed to pass on the tag to people. Guess I will reserve it for the next time. I have evolved from ignoring tags to just acknowledging, to answering on Facebook to answering on my blog. Next time maybe I will also tag someone.

A Brief History of Washing

Rahul quickly put all his dirty clothes into the washing machine, put in some of the new vibrating molecules soap powder, closed the lid and went out for dinner. After a momentous evening with his girlfriend, he came home in a rather good mood. But the mood was spoilt when he opened the washing machine. The clothes were in exactly the same state he had left them. The soap powder lay on top of the clothes, insipid and lifeless. It seemed like this whole vibrating molecules thingy was just a con job.

He pulled out his lamp and rubbed it angrily. Copious amounts of smoke began to emerge out of the lamp. Soon the smoke coalesced into the figure of a heavy man in ancient Chinese costumes. “At your service, master,” he said bowing politely to Rahul. As many of you might have guessed it was a Genie.

Now Genies come in various types. The one many of us might have read of was indeed a very powerful one. But not all Genies are that powerful. Most Genies have their limitations and have specific areas of expertise within which they can grant wishes. The Genie in question here was a Chinese variety known as Dong Ki. Its specialty was domestic chores and transport. Which in effect meant it was a house maid, gardener, cook and chauffeur all rolled into one. But no way would this Genie be able to raise a magnificent palace, bring its master all the riches of the world or defeat his enemies. For that one would require the services of the architect Genie, the thief genie and the warrior genie respectively. The warrior genie was incidentally called the Dong Xi. Chinese names for genie are also apparently as confusing as the human names. But here there is no scope for confusion as there is only one Dong Ki in this story.

Look here!. The clothes are still as I had left them. The powder you gave me was totally useless,” Rahul shouted at the Genie.

The Genie tried to calm him. ”Did you open the water tap and switch on the washing machine, master?

But you said the molecules of the powder vibrate by themselves and I need to soak no more. So I thought I will save power and water.

You seem to have missed the whole point. In order to appreciate the concept of vibrating molecule, you need to know the whole history of washing. It goes way back to the time of your ancestor, the minister at the court of king Raja Raja Chola.” As much as Genie hated work he loved to tell stories. Rahul was also very fond of listening to stories. So the idea of story calmed him down and he settled down on his chair to listen.

Those days there were no cars, buses and bikes. So it was I who managed most of the transportation for your ancestor. One day I was transporting a consignment of special ashes for him. It was very heavy and it was a hard task for me. I was crossing a bridge when my feet slipped and I fell into the water. I was fully soaked. But when I emerged out of the water, the burden had reduced drastically. I was so delighted. From them on the motto was soak more, work less. Every time I crossed the bridge, I would jump in for a soak.

Rahul burst out into peals of laughter, “You are one wicked demon! You have been dissolving all my ancestor’s magic ashes in the water?

Oh. Is that why master seemed unhappy every time I did that? Anyway continuing with my story, one day we were returning after a long stay at a neighboring kingdom. We were passing a bridge and I did what I usually did. But the minute I got soaked instead of the burden reducing it had increased. What the hell was happening, I wondered. Had my master found out my trick and cast a ‘soak no more’ spell on the bundle?

Rahul could not suppress his laughter, “You deserved it, you old rascal. Obviously wet clothes will become heavier.

But, I must say,” the Genie continued, “It was not without its positive side for I found it had become easier to wash the clothes. So soaking was not entirely bad after all. Either it reduced your burden or made washing easier.

In a few more years, it was time for yet another discovery. This was during the time of another of your illustrious ancestors: one of the nine jewels in the court of King Akbar. This time the consignment had both magic ash and clothes to be washed. As usual when we passed the bridge, I jumped in to get soaked. This time there was only a slight increase in weight. Guess the ash and clothes balanced each other. But later I discovered that this new event had further improved the effectiveness of washing process. I assumed it had something to do with the magic ash mixing with the water in which the clothes got soaked.

Rahul gave a whoop of delight, “Don’t tell me you were the one who discovered soap powder!

I made my next breakthrough when I was serving your great grandfather who worked as a civil servant under the British rule. I had just emerged out of the water after soaking the clothes and the ashes when suddenly an earth quake started. It was minor one. So though I was badly shaken by the vibrating ground, I was able to reach home unhurt. But I discovered to my delight that washing had become still easier. So it was ash, soaking and vibration that did the trick.

Rahul was now looking at the Genie with genuine admiration “So it was again you who discovered the idea behind the washing machine as well! I wonder what the world would have done without you. Next I guess you discovered you can manage without soaking and have the vibration on the soap powder molecules itself instead of on an outside machine, eh? But unfortunately this innovation has come out a total cropper!

The Genie grinned sheepishly. “Technical challenges, you know. The molecules cannot be stored in vibrating state as they will escape away. So we need to trigger the vibration just before washing only. For that the washing machine needs to be run. And we need water to bring the molecule in contact with the clothes. So we can’t avoid the water either. But I am working on a better solution to both these issues. Soon a day will come when we need to soak no more

This post is an entry for the soak no more contest on IndiBlogger sponsored by Surf Excel and the credit for the picture above has been taken from this site.

Mind's True Marriage IV

The sun was setting. She was standing alone in the middle of a jungle. She did not remember how she got there though. But that was however not her main concern. The distant cries of wild beasts were no longer sounding so distant. It was only a matter of time before it would turn pitch dark. Once it turned dark, she would be fair game for any hungry predator. She had no clue how she was going to get out of here before that.

Then suddenly she heard the rustle of dry leaves. Some creature was coming towards her. Fear just froze her to the spot. As she looked on a beautiful deer emerged from the copse of trees. She let out a sigh of relief. The deer was followed by a girl of around fifteen years of age. Strangely Shruti did not feel surprised to see this young girl in the middle of the jungle. She somehow seemed an integral part of the jungle the same way the trees, the animals and insects were.

Since the girl had made her appearance Shruti could not take her eyes off her. Her eyes were riveted to the girl like a magnet to the North Pole. The face had a quality of innocence and purity to it, but no vulnerability. Instead there was a calm self-assurance. She beckoned to Shruti with a gesture of a hand. Shruti went up to her instinctively. The thought of questioning just did not occur to her.

She handed over a bow and a quiver of arrows to Shruti. She was not sure why she was giving it to her. But she took them and followed her as she walked into the jungle, Then the girl paused and pointed to some tracks on the ground. The prints were large and one could make out sharp claw marks on the wet sand. Clearly they were the tracks of a predator, possibly a tiger. But all this was making absolutely no sense to her. Why was she going with this girl on a tiger hunt? That too with such primitive weapons! But it seemed as if she were under some spell and she just went along. As the time passed, she could feel her eye sight and hearing improving. She was becoming better at following the tiger tracks and listening to animal movements at a distance. Soon they could see the silhouette of the tiger at a distance. Now they had to quite stalk the tiger till they came to a strategic spot from which an arrow could be fired. In an little while, tiger paused to drink at a water hole and they found a strategic spot behind the bushes. The girl pointed in the direction of the tiger. Shruti took aim and shot. Just as the arrow was about to leave the quiver, the girl made a sound and tiger leapt aside just in time to miss the arrow.

By now, Shruti had got fully into the hunt and had begun to enjoy the hunt. She was disappointed at missing the tiger. “Why?” she asked the girl. She could see the answer in the girl’s eyes. She suddenly realized who the girl was. She was Artemis, the Greek Goddess of the hunt. All creatures of the forest were her children and she would not let any harm befall them.

But then what was the purpose of the hunt?” she asked. The girl just gave her a smile. What was there to smile about, Shruti wondered. But she found herself smiling too thinking of the hunt. She had really enjoyed herself the past one hour. She had never enjoyed herself so much since her days in childhood when she was fully engrossed in her games. She realized that was the answer the Goddess was giving her. The thrill of the hunt was the purpose and nothing else.

Shruti waited expectantly for Artemis to start preaching like the other Goddesses. But to her surprise Artemis started walking away into the forest. She called out after the Goddess. “Artemis! Wait! Don’t you have some advice for me on marriage?

Artemis stopped, turned back and gave her a quizzical expression. Then she shook her head, gave Shruti a disappointed look and began to walk on. Shruti remembered. Artemis was a virgin Goddess, all of whose forswore marriage. She was probably telling Shruti what was the big fuss about marriage. In a way she was right. It wasn’t necessary that everyone should get married. After all whether love or arranged or planned marriage what did marriage mean to a woman in the end? Submitting herself to the authority of a man, bearing his kids and taking care of his family! Surely there were better things in life than that! So not marrying at all was another interesting option. Why hadn't she considered that before? But then that was not helping her. She was already struggling with the available options and more options were the last thing she needed.

All the earlier dreams had ended as the Goddesses were reaching the fag end of their sermons. But Artemis had totally disappeared in this dream. But still the dream seemed to show no sign of ending. She tried to slap herself and force herself to wake up. But nothing seemed to be happening. It seemed as if the world had come to a standstill. She just stood there in the middle of the jungle. As she stood, she pondered over what each Goddess had told her.

Aphrodite had stirred up her emotions and shown her the importance of being in tune with one’s inner feelings. Hera had appealed to her filial loyalty and social conditioning and made her realize the importance of preserving social norms. Athena had used reason and logic and stressed upon the importance of not letting go off one’s ambitions. Now how was she to decide which was more important.

By her silence, Artemis had given her the answer she was seeking: that there was no right or wrong answer. One had to balance between these multiple priorities and think and take one’s own decision. But that did not mean one needed to think too far ahead and get all worked up. The fun was in the hunt and not in killing the tiger. So she just had to take whatever decision felt right, stick by it, take things as they come, focus on the present and have fun.

The insight calmed her mind and she felt an inner peace and harmony. She felt an oneness with the jungle around her and she was really fully present in the present for the first time in her life. It was indeed a delightful feeling. She felt no fear. Even though it had become dark, the cries of wild animals had increased and now and then she could see pairs of red eyes moving in front of her, she felt no fear. She calmly lay down and went into deep slumber. She had finally woken up from her sleep.

Related Post                     : Love and Indian Society
First Part of the Story       : Mind's True Marriage I
Previous Part of the Story : Mind's True Marriage III

Picture credit : Deer Picture

Mind's True Marriage III

She sat at her laboratory with a computer in front of her running some simulations. She had an intense expression on her face and seemed completely oblivious to her surroundings. She was happiest when she was at work. She was startled by the sound of hooting. A snow white owl flew towards her. She wondered how it had got inside her laboratory. The owl flew towards her, alighted on the ground in front of her and transformed into a most beautiful woman.

Oh, no! Not another Goddess!” Two Goddesses had already put her mind into enough turmoil without a third Goddess adding to the confusion. But she was curious who this Goddess was and what she would have to say.

Shruti had often heard the term ‘thinking man’s sex symbol’. She had never seen any difference between the sex symbols of the thinking man and the dumb man though. They all looked the same to her - sluts showing skin on television for money. But now with the appearance of this Goddess, the term took on a new meaning all together. She was dressed in Greek battle armor and had a fierce aspect to her as well. No one could mess with her. Her grey eyes had a deep soulful expression and spoke of great wisdom.

I am Athena, the Goddess of wisdom. I generally keep away from the squabbles of my step mother and her rival. But your intellectual abilities have impressed me and I want you to realize your potential without falling prey to either of them. So I thought I would come and have a word with you.

Damn! Every Goddess made sense in her own way. Athena was now making absolute sense. Shruti was passionate about her work. Ever since she had seen ‘Giant Robot’ on television in her school days, she had been fascinated with robots. It was her dream to build an intelligent robot. She had not let it remain an idle dream and had worked towards its realization. She had applied herself to her studies and topped her board exam. She had rejected admission offers from country’s premier institutions and instead opted for a private engineering college that had a dedicated robotics program. She had again aced the course and managed to secure admission to one of the top universities in the US for her post-graduation. After her studies she had managed to secure a job at the robotics division of Sony. She had been one of the key members of the team that designed the robotic dog Aibo. The next step was to design a human robot. She was leading the project at the company’s India research hub.

So what does Shabir think of your work on positronic thought networks?

Now what was that? Shabir’s opinion on positronic thought networks? Well, come to think of it he would not make head or tail of all that. And she doubted if he would at all be interested either. Shabir was not into all these techie stuff. He was the marketing guy. Suits, restaurants and wine tasting were his forte.

So you want to spend the rest of your life wining and dining, discussing about football and world politics?

She realized with a start that she and Shabir had no common interests. He would never understand her passions for research. What had she been thinking? She felt so relieved Hera had convinced her not to get carried away by her hormonal surge. What a disaster it would have been! Surely her parents would make a much more sensible choice for her.

So you want to become a good daughter, eh? Marry into a traditional family, cook for your husband, take care of your kids, be a custodian of family values? Very nice! So what about the robotics research? When will you find time for that?” Athena’s grey eyes were flaring.

But I love my parents. I can’t let them down,” Shruti protested.

Athena’s expression softened a bit. “Who asked you to let them down, dear? Tell me. What is your dad’s greatest ambition?

He wants to see me in Stockholm, receiving the Nobel Prize,” Shruti replied hesitantly.

So isn’t that where your focus should be? Don’t you want to make your father’s dreams come true? Not everyone is gifted with brains like yours. I cannot bear to see you wasting it away on plain trifles.” Athena’s passion was just infectious.

So you are suggesting I not marry at all?” Shruti blurted out.

Though I am a virgin Goddess, I have nothing against marriage. It is just that you need to find an intellectual companion. You need someone who can think at your level. It should be someone with who you can discuss your work, someone who understands your aspirations and supports you. Have you heard of the scientists Marie and Pierre Curie? That is what I call an ideal couple.

That made sense to Shruti. All these Goddesses made perfect sense when they spoke. No wonder they were Goddesses. But Athena made the most sense. She wondered if Hera or Aphrodite made an appearance again, would they again be able to sway her.

Athena continued after a pause. “But do you think you can leave it completely to your parents? Though well intentioned, do you think they are competent to fully assess the intellectual capabilities of your prospective spouse? If you want to get married, it is you who has to wrest initiative, my dear. But you need to guard against being swayed by impulses and make a rational choice. If your choice is strongly grounded in reason, you would be able to convince your parents as well. After all they wish only your welfare.”

Been working too hard these days, Shruti?” She could feel a man’s hands shaking her gingerly.

If you sit late into the night, working on the research, this is what happens,” he added.

She had dozed off at work. She opened her eyes and looked into the face of her colleague Benjamin. Benjamin was seven years her senior. He had been her mentor from the day she joined the company. He was one person whose passion for the work exceeded hers. He had been so involved in his work he had not even found time to marry and settle down. Suddenly a strange though occurred to her. “How would it be if she were to marry him?

She had never looked at him in that angle before. But every day she spent hours conversing with him and she loved every moment of it. He did not make her go weak in her legs like Shabir but she was sure she could spend eternity with him without getting bored. Interesting idea! But she did not know his thoughts and then there was the matter of her parents. There might be some resistance due to his being from a different community, but they would eventually come to love him as a person, she was sure.

Next Part of the Story      :  Mind's True Marriage IV
First Part of the Story       :  Mind's True Marriage I
Previous Part of the Story :  Mind's True Marriage II

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Mind's True Marriage II

The sun was shining brightly over the green meadows. The meadows were lush with greenery and flowers of every color had bloomed. She sat on a swing made of fresh flowers. It was drizzling lightly and a peacock unfurled its feathers and danced in all its finery. The peacock then slowly began to walk towards her. Birds always seemed to like her.

She was not too surprised when the peacock turned into a beautiful woman. She had high cheek bones and held her chin high. She wore a white gown and a floral crown. The word queen was written in every aspect of her. She walked up to Shruti in majestic grace. Shruti involuntarily jumped up from the swing in respect.

You have had a visit from my kinswoman lately I believe. She never misses any opportunity to corrupt gullible mortals. It is always left to me to clean up after her and stop the world from going to the dogs

She wondered what this Goddess’ game was. The moment the thought arose in her mind the Goddess spoke up.

Sorry I did not introduce myself. I am Hera, the queen of the Gods. I am the Goddess of family and marriage. It falls on me to preserve order in this world.

In spite of her experience with Aphrodite, the Goddesses’ abilities to read stuff right of her mind unnerved her. Hera’s preaching strangely reminded Shruti of her mother. She was very fond of her mother though. She had been her best friend over the last thirty years. She could not imagine what she would have done without her mother. When she was in kindergarten, every day her mother would carry her to school. When she was older, her mother would sit with her every evening and listen to the happenings in school and then help her with her studies later on. When she became older and was preparing for competitive exams, her mother would make tea and wake her up early every morning. The list was endless.

Hera gave a knowing smile. ”Fine lady your mother, eh? And what of your father?” Shruti’s thoughts moved on to her father. As a child she had found her father to be distant and inaccessible. But as she grew older, she had grown closer to him. He had jeopardized his career for her sake. He had got lot of foreign assignments. But he had rejected them for the sake of continuity of her education. When she had hesitated about going abroad for higher studies, he had stood by her like a rock. He had spent all the savings of his lifetime to fund her education without a second thought?

I am sure they will be excited when you tell them you are planning to marry a Muslim boy.” The hint of sarcasm in Hera’s voice was unmistakable.

But Hera had made a point. Her parents would be heart broken if they came to know she was marrying someone from a different community.

Anyways I guess they have outlived their utility. Who needs them anymore, eh? Independence to indulge in hormonal adventures is more important, isn’t it?” Hera now had a stern expression like her high school maths teacher.

Shruti mumbled something, “But Aphrodite……

Indeed! That is always her game. You must have heard of the story of Troy. Following her advice lead a whole city into ruin. "

After a pause Hera continued, "If everyone acts independently, what is the difference between humans and animals? A dog has the freedom to hump any bitch he fancies! Is that what you seek? So much for your claim of being social animals! The most fundamental unit of human society is the family. If you undermine the family, whole civilization will come crashing like a tower of dominoes.

Shruti’s euphoria from her previous night with Shabir was wearing off under the onslaught of Hera’s incisive words. Her mind was filled with guilt now. She was having second thoughts now. Was he worth all the pain she would cause to her parents?

Hera was still not done yet. “Marriage is not a bond between two individuals but between two families that acts as the cement of human society. So isn't it fair that the decision is taken between families rather than between individuals? Your parents have always wished only well for you and sacrificed so many things for your welfare. Yet you want to keep them out of the most important decision of your life? You don't trust them any more? Marriage is a lifelong commitment. Do you want to decide on that by yourself impulsively? Don’t you think it makes more sense to sit across the table, discuss with your parents and decide together?

Shruti was now totally confused. She could still sense a yearning for Shabir deep down in her heart. The last evening had been wonderful. They had had a wonderful time together reminiscing the college days. She had been in raptures listening to his smooth voice as he cracked jokes and made her laugh. When she was with him, she totally forgot herself. But now looking back with a clear mind, she felt all that was superficial. She felt she really did not know him as a person beneath his physical appearance and his wit and humor. Luckily the charm had given way for a moment of sanity. He had invited her home for a drink. But she knew what that implied and had not been ready for that. She had excused herself with some lame reason of office work pending. Now she was feeling happy she had done that.

The meadow around her was calm and silent. A gentle breeze was blowing. Her mind was settling down to a calm state. The surge was settling. She was first and foremost her parent’s daughter. She once again felt like a child. She would never let down her parents.

The silence was disturbed by someone gently shaking her. “Shruti, get up. I have made some tea for you. Have it and get ready for office.” Shruti’s mother was surprised when Shruti suddenly jumped out of her bed and gave her a violent bear hug.

The Beginning of the Story : Mind's True Marriage I
Next Part of the Story       :  Mind's True Marriage III

Mind's true Marriage I

She stood gazing at the blue sea. It was still early in the morning and the beach was quite deserted. As she watched foam emerged from the sea and was coming towards her. As it came nearer she could make out the shape of an oyster shell. From inside the oyster shell, a pure white dove emerged out. Seeing the dove, unconsciously a song began to play inside her mind – ‘Ja Ja, Ja Ja, Ja Ja, Ja Ja Kabootar Ja Ja’. She smiled to herself. She wondered if the dove was going to bring her a message of love. She then laughed at her own silliness. She was too old for all that now. More likely it was a promotional gimmick from the manufacturers of dove skin care products, she thought. Age had made her cynical. How she wished though, she was still young, silly and could believe in love.

The dove by now had come near her and alighted on her hands. It did not carry any message. “Just a stray pigeon, eh?” she mused. But she liked birds. As she put out her other hand to gently caress the bird’s smooth feathers, the bird struck the ground. And where the bird hit the ground, a seductively beautiful woman stood before her. She seemed to have just appeared from thin air. The woman’s beauty was such that Shruti could feel nonexistent lesbian tendencies stirring within her. If this was the effect she had on her, she wondered how a man would fare in her presence.

I am an ancient Goddess. You have called me to you and here I come to you, daughter.

Who the hell was this? She had called no Goddess. And she knew no Goddess who looked like this. Most of the Goddesses she knew were more modest. Then she realized with a start that the woman had spoken in Greek. And strangely Shruti had been able understand. How was that possible? She did not know a word of any language other than Hindi, Kannada and English. From when did she start understanding Greek?
I am Aphrodite, the Goddess of love. Your heart’s yearning for love drew me to you.”
My heart’s earning for love! Indeed! You must be joking!” she laughed nervously.

My dear, you forget that I am a Goddess, a Goddess of love. You can hide your feelings from anyone. But not from me! You still have not forgotten Shabir, have you?

Shruti felt as if a group of goons had stopped her on the road and stripped her of all her clothes. She did not like her innermost desires to be so transparent for people to see. Shabir had been with her at college. The day she had stepped into college she hat set eyes on this dude, six feet tall, athletic figure with well sculpted muscles and the most captivating eyes. It had been love at first sight. But she was a shy girl and had never managed to express her feelings for him. Her best friend Salma had seized initiative where she had failed and had reaped rich dividends. Shruti was heartbroken but she was not the kind to steal her friend’s boyfriends. So she just buried her love deep inside her heart and got on with life. Ten years had passed since. But the love still remained untouched by time like non-bio-degradable plastic. And the previous day, she had met him again!

I know how you are feeling, dear. But there is no shame in love. Learn to embrace your feelings. Love is the most primitive feeling. Don’t deny it. You can’t stop the tide of love. Go with it. Confess your feelings to him.

She was by now getting used to the fact the Goddess could read her thoughts right off her head. What she said did make sense. Shabir was now working at her office. He had broken up with Salma, still unmarried. Her heart still fluttered when he spoke to her like it did when she was in college. And what more he had taken the initiative this time. “It has been such a long time. We have so much to catch up. Why don’t we catch up over dinner tomorrow,” he had said in his usual flamboyant style.

But as her friends always said the problem with her was that she thought too much. If it had been someone else, she would have just gone with the flow. But Shruti was given to too much analysis. She wondered what his intentions were. She tried to peer into the future to see where this would take her. She tried to balance the pros and cons. She wished her creator had paid less attention to her brains and instead focused on her other assets. Ignorance is bliss they say. Why couldn’t she have been a dumb blonde? It would have saved her so much trouble. It was always the bimbos who did well in life. Brains always brought only trouble.

The Goddess smiled sweetly at her as if encouraging the current line of thought. The Goddess walked close to her and put her arms around her. The tide was rising and she could see a great wave coming towards them. She felt a greater surge inside her. Then she felt the sensation of something breaking within her heart. The beast had finally broken its shackles. Her passion was now in full flow.

The sound of the sea waves was broken by the mobile phone ring tone. Some chap wanted to sell her a credit card. It was half past six in the evening. She had come home early from office and dozed off. For the first time she was grateful for a call from a credit card company. She now had enough time to dress up for her first date with Shabir.

Next Part of Story:  Mind's True Marriage II

In the Hot Unconscious

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 30; the thirtieth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

It was close to sun set. The waves came and went maintaining a regular rhythm like the melodies of a musical instrument. The orange hues of the setting sun blended with the bright blue of the water and golden yellow of the sand to produce a whole palette of different colors. Children played blissfully on the sand. Lovers walked hand in hand enjoying the comfort of each other’s touch and that of the gentle sea breeze. As I stood there gazing I felt one with the sea, the breeze, the sands and the sun.

Darkness was slowly consuming the sun savoring it bit by bit. The sea kept reaching out with its tendrils in search of an unsuspecting victim to draw into its depth. The children running around aimlessly reminded me of the purposeless rat races in the world. From a distance a foul stench wafted by. Probably the carcass of a dead gull lay rotting somewhere. The meaningless to and fro motion of the sea reminded of the purposelessness of human existence.

Both the above paragraphs describe the same scene. But the glasses through which they are seen are totally different. Most nature poets and writers of travelogue tend to take the first approach. Normal scenery is romanticized and raised to a high pedestal. A person who might have found the scene pretty mundane when experienced by himself may find it much more elevating when reading the accounts of such writers. But then there are also cynics who take the opposite approach and can make even a beautiful experience dark and gloomy for the reader. Charles Foster takes the second approach in his book ’In the hot unconscious

This book is an account of the author’s journey through India and his spiritual journey accompanying the physical journey. The example of the sea is relevant in the context of this book as well.  The book begins and ends by sea shores in Southern India. The author tries to find a fusion between the practical Western religion and the mystical Eastern religion though this account. So he starts off by talking about the journey of Saint Thomas to India through the southern seas , the first meeting of the two religions. He reflects how paradoxical it was that the most rational of Jesus’ followers was sent to mystical India rather than the more mystic ones. That is the thread that runs throughout the book – the need for the dry Western religion to find relief in a few drops of Eastern mysticism on one hand and the need for the free flowing Eastern religion to find some solid ground in the practicality of Western religion.

This book is not a typical travelogue. The focus in more on Foster’s reflection and his conversations with the people he meets, often on philosophical topics. The general tone of the narrative is entirely cynical and he does not express a high regard for the people he encounters. Even the vivid description of the places focuses on aspects such a blood, sweat, death, feces, urine, vermin and the like. Most of his metaphors are also quite dark in nature. His portrayal of India reminds one of the movie ‘Slum Dog Millionaire’ in most aspects. But it should be said to his credit that his sarcasm is not limited to India and Hinduism alone. It extends liberally to Christianity and Western world as well. The two Gurus he meets in his travels are both new age Western Gurus who have come to India to create cults based on their own versions of Hinduism.

From a philosophical perspective darkness and cynicism has its own merits. In a round world there can be no wrong direction. Whichever way you take if you travel long enough you will get eventually get to your destination. Same is true of spiritual journey as well I guess. You can take a positive approach or a negative approach. Stories speak of Ravana attaining salvation through hatred of Rama the same way Rama's devotees attained it through love of Rama. There is a similar story of an enemy of Buddha as well.

 There is an element of humor also in the dark narrative and some people may like to ignore the metaphysical aspects and just enjoy it as a dark comedy. But it is nowhere near the laughter riot of a ‘Catcher in the rye’ or a ‘Catch 22’ in this respect.

If one finds my review confusing, I have served my purpose well for that is what the book seeks to achieve as well. So I have succeeded in giving a flavor of the book. The book meanders all around the place without any definitive direction and Foster concludes that Eastern religion is all about being confused. This is also reflected in the Zen Kaons and other quotations of a similar nature at the start of every chapter. Readers who like absurdism, dark humor and to get confused in general can give the book a try. 
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. I’m thankful to Vipul Grover, who introduced Blog-a-Ton to me, and I debuted in 8th edition.
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Credits Image - Shades of Orange by Harsha Chittar Courtesy - Curious Dino Photography via www.blogaton.in

Lessons for life from a game of poker

Sometimes certain mundane experiences offer us profound insights into the essence of life. Such was one of my experiences with an auto driver which incidentally was the first post that launched me as a blogger. In reminiscence of that, I thought I will write one more experience which triggered a similar thought process. Last time the experience was in the physical world. This experience is in the virtual world – on Facebook.

Facebook has lot of games, many of which can get addictive. One such interesting game is poker. It is not too different from the poker of real world. But you can play online whenever you want and you don’t have to go to a club and the best of all – you can play without spending real money. After losing lot of games and winning quite a few, I have managed to chalk out a few winning strategies. I have tried them and they work. Not that I am now winning all the time though. But whenever I lose, it is not because of the failure of the strategy as such but rather my failure to stick to the strategy. Execution is after all as critical as strategy if not more. Thinking about it, I felt in some ways the poker game reflects life in general and the lessons could possibly be applied to life in general as well.

There are three things I have learnt. Don’t be a monkey. Be a donkey. Put all your eggs in one damn good basket.

I have often seen people betting real high with cards as low as a Q and a 4, that too of different suits. And what more! They even manage to win. And the win is often humongous. But whenever I try to imitate them and bid high with average cards, I invariably end up losing big. So I concluded that there is no point imitating someone else. If my brain and heart tell me the cards in my hand are not winners, most probably they are not. Even in life, I have realized, it is better to use one’s own judgment rather than go with the herd or blindly imitate the successful person. Monkey see, monkey do. But we are no monkeys. So we see, but analyze and do only what our brain tells us to do.

One way I often end up losing money is through sheer rashness. When I continuously lose hands, I have often begun to lose patience and either end up playing rashly or quit before that elusive winning hand comes. Some hands are such that no matter what you do, you just can’t win. The trick is in identifying those hands and cutting your losses on those. Donkeys are legendary for patience of this kind. In life also I feel this holds good. Sometime things start going bad at home and office and there is nothing we can do. Best thing is to accept the situation and see how one can keep the losses to minimum and bide one's time till the return of good times.

Finally, after all the waiting I get that dream hand. But I am fearful and play conservatively and end up winning much less than what I could have or still worse chicken out and fold early! That way I never make it big in the game. The only way to make it big is to go for the kill when the time is ripe. When I bet big on that lucky hand, I win big. Though common wisdom says not to put all eggs in one basket, one who does not want to commit oneself unless one is 100% sure of success can never rise beyond mediocrity.

In order to avoid giving an impression that I am drawing arbitrary analogies where there are none, I would like to give examples of instances from my life where each one of these worked. When I was preparing for my MBA entrance exams, the most popular strategy was to register for classes. But I chose not to waste my precious time on classes. Instead I focused on taking mock tests, identifying my weaknesses and specifically focusing on that. Not being a monkey paid of rich dividends and I managed admission to one of the top business schools in the country.

When I was working in the IT sector, I could see everyone going onsite and making big money. The ones who did not get opportunity migrated to greener pastures and made it big. But I just held on, without either quitting or spoiling relationship with my superiors by doing something rash. After 3 years, my time came. I got a long onsite assignment, my ESOP prices went up and eventually I got promoted as well. When I looked back I found myself better off than my colleagues who did not have the patience of a donkey and quit midway or nagged their superiors too much.

During my school days, we had quite a few options – board exams, state engineering entrance, IIT entrance. Most students generally tried to keep all the options open. But to me it was clear, I had the same amount of time as all the other students and my intelligence level was at best average. So I had to be successful, I had to do something different. So I decided to put all my eggs in one basket and focus on IIT JEE alone. Many of my much more intelligent classmates lost out on IIT, and their performance on board exams and state entrance also was also impacted by the time spent on IIT JEE preparation. I on the other hand had performed dismally in state entrance and board exam, but was one of the two students from my school, one of the five from my entire town to make it to IIT.

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces