Friday, November 13, 2015

Ravi Gulati’s Manzil

I first heard Ravi Gulati, founder of Manzil (an NGO for educating underprivileged children), speak at Delhi School of Economics. His piercing eyes captured me. Although other speakers had Powerpoints, he simply spoke.

And his words hit home. He talked about how he explained to the villagers of Ghad, at the foothills of Dehradun, who had studied only to Class IV, that after Class XII he had studied further, Class XII etc for college years and then for IIM A.

They were amazed. What did you study for such a long time? He had no answer.
Perhaps that’s why Ravi founded Manzil in 1997. At that time, in 2005, over 80 children would come to his house in Khan Market, to learn. I want to help too, I told him. Come over, he said.

When I went over one weekend to Manzil, the first thing that struck me after I climbed the stairs was a beautiful mural of a tree. There was peace in the air. It was very organized. They put up a notice that I would teach English on weekends. About ten children signed up for my class.

I taught them grammar. They were bright and hungry to learn. They were overjoyed when they got good marks on a test I gave. We want help with spoken English, they said. We would practice shopping expeditions on the terrace.

I looked out for them, and helped them later too. One boy, Manoj, began making candles. I got him a stall at a b-school Diwali mela. Another child was painfully shy, because he had studied in a Hindi medium and now had shifted to an English medium school. Break up the letters, I told him. Then you’ll be able to pronounce them easier. His reading improved, and so did the volume at which he read.

Ravi would come and go. I think he had a family member who was differently abled, perhaps that’s why he set up Manzil, to help children like her.

Although I gave tuitions later on to other children, they were never as satisfying as the ones I gave at Manzil. I felt as if I was making a bigger difference there. The children would laugh at my Hindi, and correct me. So I learnt while teaching too.

I even ended up teaching Economics in Hindi! Whatever the children needed. Some, like Anish, even came back and helped run Manzil and teach other children. They danced, acted, made films, learnt their way around a computer too.

It is a happy place.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Next is Us- The LG Nexus 5

Our phones are our lives now. They’re what we reach for in the morning, spend the most time with, and sleep next to at night. Spouses feel left out when we pay more attention to our phones than to them.

But a phone has to be worthy of such attention, right? Who’s going to waste time on a non smartphone? Here’s one with killer looks- the LG Nexus 5! So you can feel good just by looking at it and watching others look at it.

But what good are looks without performance, right? Does your nosy family like to snoop on your phone? Keep them out delicately with the super efficient Fingerprint Sensor.

Selfie time! The great megapixels in the camera will make you look gorgeous for Facebook. It’s a good way to capture moments and store them in your phone, to show to relatives later, with explanations.

What’s the number one bugbear when it comes to smartphones? Battery. You can do these amazing things, but only for a while. The reversible USB Type C charger works scarily fast, so that you don’t have to twiddle your thumbes for long, and can get back to playing Plants vs Zombies 2!

Android rocks- there are more apps on it and it is more open than that fruit. What’s better then than a Google phone? Nothing. With updates as soon as they are out, you’re sure to be the first to enjoy the benefit of a phone that just keeps getting smarter.

A smartphone is a bit like a marriage- choose carefully, else you could be facing the three year itch a lot sooner than you thought you would. So, check this phone out for yourself and I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed. Have fun establishing a nexus with this one against the world. 

“I am participating in the#ChampIsBack activity at BlogAdda.“

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Pune International Literary Fest 2015- Haiku workshop

The Haiku workshop by Kala Ramesh at the Pune lit fest was the best part of it. 

She spoke about the 5 elements and how progressively they involve our senses, just like haiku involves our 5 senses. Space- eyes, Wind- touch, ears, Fire- eyes, touch, ears, Water- eyes, touch, ears, taste, Earth- eyes, ears, touch, smell, taste.

Zoka, or the creative force of nature, comes through clearly in haiku.
A haiku is open ended like a semi circle, so that a reader can complete it by remembering her experience.

It begins with a static backdrop,a fragment- the first line.
The second and third lines, or phrase- the movement, are joined to the first by a moment. So  the scene cuts (kirae) from the first line to the second. There is usually a seasonal reference, or kigo.

There is a sense of oneness with nature and life- satori. In seryu, there is no nature.

We pretended to burst a balloon- never realised how many of our senses are used in doing so! From touch, taste, smell, ear to eye- it covers it all. That little exercise taught us to be more aware of our senses.

Here's a haiku by Basho-
The sea darkens; 
the voices of the wild ducks 
are faintly white. 

See how he mixes two senses and contrasts colour? He's one of the four masters of Haiku, as you can see, with good reason. 

Here's another one by him-

In the twilight of dawn
A whitefish, with an inch
Of whiteness

Ryokan, a Buddhist monk, wrote this-
The thief,
left behind,
the moon in my window

We also read a haiku by Sandi Pray. Here’s an innovative one by John Stevenson-

And one by David Steele-
stuck to the slab  
the                  I 
of the frozen f sh

Here’s one closer home by Sunil Uniyal-
Red Fort Delhi -
the guide twirls his moustache
talking Shah Jahan 

Then one by Michael McClintock-
A poppy…
A field of poppies!
The hills blowing with poppies!

Here’s one by Alan Summers-
train whistle
a blackbird hops
along its notes

So the first line of a haiku is short, then there’s a long line, and then again a short one. In total, there are about 9-14 syllables.

Drawing a haiku is a good way of staying on track.

A haiku strives to bring the extraordinary out of the ordinary. No capitals or full stops are to be used, although articles can be used. This helps reaffirm the cycle of life.

Finally, here’s a seryu by Anita Virgil-
Really alone:
An itch on my back
I can’t reach

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

To a fitter us, heart to heart

Metabolism slows down as we get older. I want my husband and I to start good habits now, when we are in our 30s. That way, we won’t blimp up and have health problems later. The problem is, eating healthy is boring. So is exercising.

When is it fun? When we compete with each other. We rival each other in seeing who will lose more weight first. If one of us gains weight, he or she forces the other one to stand on the weighing scale too!

If I refuse a sweet, my husband reduces the portion of the sweet that he has taken. I try to make healthy stuff, so that we are full and not tempted to have junk food too often. Weekends we usually take a break and eat what we like.

I like having oats for breakfast, which my husband likes too. Both of us are fond of fruits and shop for them on weekends so that we have them within easy reach during the week. Lunch and dinner are normal meals usually- roti, sabzi, dal, so that’s healthy. He takes a fruit to office to snack on, and has dry fruits too if he feels more peckish. I like having muri in the evenings.

We try to walk together on weekends, which is way more fun than me taking rounds while listening to the radio. He educates me about car models, pointing out the good ones as we walk by. I am able to maintain a good pace too if I walk with him, as he walks fast.

When we go out dancing, that’s definitely a fun way to burn calories! We also walk fast in the mall and while shopping at the hypermarket. Every little counts. We have an exercycle, so we pedal while watching TV. I also burn calories giving him massages!

I need to lose a couple of kilos according to the Saffola Weight-Heart Test and so does he, so we should go trekking! That;s a great way to trim the waistline and get refreshed too. I liked the diet and weight plans they suggested too- very sensible and doable.

“I am joining the Saffolalife #ProtectHerHeart initiative and pledging my support to better heart health in Association with BlogAdda.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Transfer happy

My sister-in-law has a tablet and wants to use it to watch her serials, so I suggested that she use Tata Sky Plus Transfer. Otherwise, we lose out in the war between Apple and Mac. She had trouble transferring her serials from the PC to her ipad.

You watch your serial, I mine
This way, we can keep the peace with our husbands. Otherwise, they get bored when we watch our chick flicks, and our eyes glaze when they watch their superhero serials. We can plonk ourselves on our beds, and watch our serials comfortably.

Always connected
When I went on holiday last week, I used Remote Record to record serials I thought would be interesting. I had been watching reruns for a while, so I didn’t want to miss out on new programs. It worked like magic!
I tested it out at home, and was overjoyed when Rosewood showed up on my Booked programs, when I had clicked Record from my phone. Someone from Tata Sky called the next day, to interest us in Live TV.

Live TV
Watching TV on my phone is definitely an idea I would consider, if my serial was at a particularly interesting point. It’s better than getting reviews on Twitter, which now seem to crop up almost before the serial is aired!

TV, but not on TV
Who watches TV on TV anyway? I see kids on their tablets and I think that’s the way to go. This way, you can watch your favourite show when you want to, as you want to. I hardly watch TV with ads these days.
TV before DVR is a distant memory. The time I save by fast forwarding ads, I can spend in watching another serial! If you haven’t seen Fargo, check it out. If you’re a movie buff, there are many oldie goldies being shown on TV, some of which you are sure to have missed. I had been wanting to watch Moulin Rouge for a long time, and finally managed to catch it on TV.

What to watch
A good comedy can really raise your spirits. I enjoyed watching Seinfeld, which I fortunately didn’t remember very well from the first time I had watched it, many years ago. I also loved watching Desperate Housewives, even though my husband claimed that he hated it. He would giggle along as I watched it, though.

In new serials, Fargo, as I said, was a corker. We can’t wait for the next season! Hope it’s as good as the first one. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Government Inspector by NCPA & Akvarious- Review: Awful

I had fond memories of the movie The Inspector General, which I watched as a kid on TV. Since some people I know had seen the performance of this Gogol play at NCPA, I stupidly did not research it and bought tickets. (They had said it was good).

The performance took the bare bones of Gogol's play. It used the play within a play device, which I found jarring. The jokes were hackneyed. We couldn't hear most of the dialogues. The acting was amateurish.

Came back home and researched it. Surprisingly, it mostly had glowing reviews online. Hope others don't get scammed like we did. On Book my show, the first two rows of the balcony were full when I booked, but at the performance they were mostly empty. Strange.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

One on One 2- Stand up comedy play review

The first act, I'm every woman, was funny but scarily true- about a woman struggling with kids.

The second was performed very well, with a desi American drawl- a Gujju bhai who wants to take over the US with theplas.

The third, surprisingly, was a bit of a let down. Written by Anuvab Pal, this act about a real estate guy moaning about didn't quite click.

The fourth, also we had great expectations, but Rajit Kapur didn't quite deliver. a tirade against the system, about a funeral, this act was black comedy but hackneyed.

The ticket collector act was the best. Acted superbly and with a heart rending yet rib tickling story, it made me want to take a train ride immediately. Being in Hindi, it packed an extra punch.

After the interval, the acts were not so good. There was an Urdu act about soldiers at the border, but it was not very funny. The poetry saved it, though.

DJ Elvis was so so.

The marriage one hit home, but again, was not novel enough.

The Bollywood one was not bad. Seems like more hapless the performer, the more fun we have :)
The acts could have been woven better together. Some swear words were common, so they seemed repetitive. It was a bit Bombaiya and juvenile too in parts. Still, an entertaining evening. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

4G, for me

The mobile is an integral part of my life now. When I take a walk, I have to adjust my eyes, that are used to looking at a screen. Walking in the greenery feels strange- I keep feeling like I’m walking in a screen!

I promptly plonk myself down on a bench after my walk to surf online or sometimes during my walk if I am bored. Then if my network lets me down I get furious. My needs are few- all I want is Runkeeper to work properly, so that I know how many kilometres I walked at what speed. Facebook should open, so should Twitter.

I can read so much more if these apps open faster! There’s Digg and Flipboard too. When I watch the latest trailer on YouTube, I forget the storyline if it takes too long to load.

I could download and watch the latest hottest serial, wherever I am. When I go home, I don’t need to depend on the slow wi-fi. I can even quickly order an Uber or Ola and get moving. If the connection is slow, sometimes the location is inaccurate and I end up waiting, calling the poor cabbie who is rushing around from the wrong GPS location to pick me up from where I am actually waiting.

I can download the latest app or game. My patience has reduced ever since Internet instant gratification came along. I’m sure it will disappear with 4G. Instead of counting One thousand and one for a second, I will have to figure out a way to count the milliseconds taken to download an app. Maybe I just have to think One th...rather than say it in my head, and by that time the download will be done.

I can Skype with my mom with ease too then. That way, I can give her classes so that she can use her phone better. Now, she gets stuck sometimes if she’s even trying to buy a Groupon or book a cab. Or I can gossip with my friend in Australia. Right now her network is so good and mine so poor, the line hangs after a while. Her voice comes as hoarse and with a lag, so after a while we give up and get back to chatting, which isn’t so much fun.

Sometimes, when the network is slow, I have trouble making payments. I then start having nightmares about late fees. With 4G, I won’t have to worry about all that.

It’s a brave new world out there as far as apps are concerned. Now that 4G is here to give us wings, there’s nothing to hold us back. We can boldly go forth, where no person has gone before, and explore new games and movies!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review- The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair

This was a thrilling book. Since it dealt with writers, I found it all the more interesting. It did tend to get a bit melodramatic though. That's when the author would insert Malcolm's deranged mother, for comic relief.

I also found the resolution extremely improbable. SPOILER ALERT- It seemed like everyone conceivable could have committed the crime. Sure, surprise the reader, but then you risk an unwilling collapse of disbelief.

That's my two bits.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Go set a watchman- Review

Reading Harper Lee's sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird only led me to compare it the one I had first read. Go Set a Watchman came off unfavourably. Yet, it has its moments.
The ones that shine are still the childhood snippets. Harper Lee's unique, deft style, still kept me reading. The story was too thin for my taste.
It is sure to take you on a nostalgia trip. Why can't we ever resist sequels? We just can't bear to let go of old friends, even if means settling for crumbs of their former selves.
I had first read To Kill a Mockingbird as a child, and perhaps as the protagonist was a child, I loved the book.

As an adult now, reading about the adult Scout, I processed the novel differently. The philosophical parts, the autobiographical parts jumped out at me.
The book is a little too Southern. To Kill a Mockingbird dealt with more universal issues. Think this book would have benefited from better editing. The rambling parts could have been cut out. The plot could have been made stronger.
Guess the publisher didn't want to rock the boat. Lee would have been quite capable of telling them to stuff it. And then they would've had to kiss millions goodbye...which they were obviously never going to do.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Deadly dieting

I didn't diet till 2011. I relied on gymming. Once I got engaged, my coach put me on a diet. He asked me to start having honey in warm water in the morning.  That's a practice I still follow- the honey diet. Then I would do aerobics.
I would have unbuttered brown bread for breakfast. Then an apple at 11 am. Lunch would be normal phulka, dal, sabzi with salad and buttermilk. Muri at 4:30 pm and sprouts at 6:30 pm and normal dinner- phulka, dal, sabzi. The idea was to keep my metabolism active the whole day.
I felt light, lost weight and my body started rejecting junk food like lasagna.
After marriage,  I was only able to stick to the honey diet. I still have toast for breakfast and normal lunch and dinner,  but snack time is troublesome.
Growing sprouts is a chore. So I have switched to bhuna chana. I tried having salad for lunch a couple of days in the week, but I would feel hungry in an hour. My workouts have become erratic so I try to focus on eating right.
It is said that 80 percent of weight loss happens through dieting and just 20 percent through workouts.
It takes willpower to say no to that ice cream. Already in the day our willpower gets quite a workout,  even if we don't.
We all do things we don't like. Errands, house work,  assignments,  drain our willpower so we treat ourselves to that chocolate.
Fitness coach Taylor Simon said that a treat should be monthly.  For most of us it is daily.  We need to say no to the junk food drug.
Even if we can't hit the gym, we can work out at home.  I enjoy trying out different workout videos on Pop Sugar. I often feel lighter than the days I go to the gym.
With age, our metabolism slows down. So it is important we defy social conventions and try to stick to our diets even while dining out.
Only then will that jiggling arm pipe down. Only then will we pass a stranger's Manhattan once over. Sticking to my diet burnishes my halo. There is seriously nothing that tastes as good as thin feels.
Even if your family does not follow a diet, you can make modifications like fill up on salad as a starter so that you eat less of a fatty main course.
I would search for calorie counts of the food I ate and keep an Excel, so that I was more aware of what I was eating.
It's easy to do this now, thanks to apps. I weigh myself regularly too, so that I know if I am putting on weight and can cut back.
Good luck to us all in this W.A.R- Women and Reduction ;-)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

When you’re happy and you know it...

I used to sing this when I was little. Clap along with gusto too, when the line called for it. When I was a little older, I read that happiness is when you get what you need.

Need. Not want. As economics tells us, they are two different things. But two people can have different degrees of desire for the same thing. I might need to watch a play to slake my soul, while another may merely want to watch one.

Too often, happiness becomes a shifting goalpost. I’ll be happy when I land that job. Or get married. And so on…we rush to a goal, only to find that there’s another that we have just thought of, that we think will make us happier.

Desire is premised on lack. Still, we need to remind ourselves to live in the moment. I love watching the sunset while I’m going back home.  Or writing a poem on it.

Humour is a great source of happiness. People too. Since I work from home a lot, I look forward to going to office and interacting with my colleagues.

Working out is another pleasure. The adrenalin rush I get after running, albeit brief, keeps me going back for more. I get a sense of achievement after pushing myself, and seeing that I’ve lost a hundred grams on my scale. 

A phone-a-thon with my BFF is another way to perk up my day. It feels such a relief to dump my mind rubbish on her broad shoulder’s. Likewise, listening to someone else’s life helps me escape mine for a while.

I’m learning driving, for the nth time, but finally getting the hang of it, so that’s another thrill. Checking Facebook and Twitter out, being part of a global conversation, also makes me feel connected with humanity.

Cooking a fancy meal can also creatively satisfy me sometimes, although definitely not in summer! An impromptu trip, seeing new places and people is a sure mood lifter.

Raindrops on roses…raindrops period- that’s great to soak in sometimes and otherwise watch from my dry balcony. Looking at the leaves get washed, smelling the air then, aah…I’m already feeling nostalgic.

Some people are banks of positivity, so even talking to them over the phone makes me happy. The occasional Starbucks coffee is another reward. How do they get those subtle flavours? Sweet, but not too much?

Unwinding after a long day, watching my favourite TV show with my husband- that’s another must on my To Chill list. Somehow it doesn’t feel so good on the weekend. We need the valleys to give meaning to our hills.

Happiness is in the simple things of life, definitely. No harm in taking the complex ones for a whirl too, once in a while. The trick, as the Gita says, is in non attachment.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

My last day in London

We had gone to London for an extended honeymoon, as my husband had to be there for work for a few months. I had to come back earlier than him for a ritual. Naturally, I was sad to be going back home without him.

Still, we decided to make my last day in London, memorable. Although there wasn’t much left to do in the city, since everyday I would venture out exploring, we still found some things to do.

We’d wanted to go to the aquarium, so we ticked that off. The marine animals, specially the shark, were scary. It was fun to relive one’s childhood. I remembered visiting the Alipore aquarium when I was a child.

Felt like we were in Finding Nemo. The large rays, incandescent jellyfish and mean looking piranhas stared back at us through the glass. The penguins looked cute in their suits, the clownfish looked funny.

The seahorses were magical. Couldn’t take decent photos, as the light would shine off the glass. Made up for it outside, with the river Thames nearby.

We thought we’d go on the London Eye, but we heard that it was underwhelming, so we skipped it. London being small, it’s possible to walk around a great deal, and that’s what we would do.

I clutched my husband’s hand tightly as I remembered all the fun we’d had in this new city. I tried to imprint the memories in my mind, so that I would get fresh whenever I needed to, by remembering that day.

We went to Fortnum and Mason, a yummy food shop in Piccadilly (doesn't that remind you of Monopoly!), that dated back to 1707. The displays there were stunning. We just feasted with our eyes at first. The two restaurants looked scrumptious too.

No city can do the old world charm as well as London. Although they say Calcutta is similar, there is a world of difference. The quaintness with modernity is a tightrope that London walks particularly well.

Although the items in the shop were expensive, we used purchasing power parity to convince ourselves that they were affordable. Besides, this was our honeymoon. Bought biscuits to take back home and more. Vanilla flavoured, those biscuits were subtle and unique.

Once we were back home, we ordered in and enjoyed simply being with each other. Next day, was my flight back. Sigh. Oh well. Those memories are going to last me a lifetime for sure.

It was a perfect day #together. Even the weather didn’t play spoilsport, as it is wont to do in London. It was a sunny day with a blue sky, just like my sunny memories of those hours.

Many days are memorable, often because of the time we spend with our loved ones. This one, though, was charged with the intensity of my having carte blanche to plan the day, so that felt good. Although naturally, the husband had veto power J

Started a new life

I’ve done that multiple number of times. When I moved from home to College, I stayed in a PG. And of course, now that I’m married, that was a big life change too.

One of my most precious memories though, is setting up my own flat. I shared a room with two others, who were night owls while I was a lark. After sleeping with the light on, muffled giggles etc I finally threw in the towel. After all, I’d signed up for the gym and needed to get up early to get my money’s worth there.

Plus, my company had shifted to Gurgaon, but I didn’t want to go to that backward place. Since Saket was the furthest point in Delhi that was closest to Gurgaon, it was the obvious choice.

I had a couple of friends there, so it was a good potential support system. A colleague lived there too, so he could be my ride to work. I scouted for flats. Some were dingy, on the ground floor or mezzanine ones- sevant’s quarters.

I finally found the flat of my dreams. Airy- did I mention my PG room was windowless? It was a 1 BHK which had an additional room with a built in cupboard!

It was on the third floor, so I would get in some exercise too. I paid up, scared that it would vanish, urged by the broker. I bought utensils, curtains and sundries from a friend who had been in India for a year and was now going back to Australia, so I got them for a song.

It was fun playing house house for real. The peace, the sun, dragging my mattress to follow the sunlight so that I could bask in it during winter- good times. When I finally got lonely, a colleauge offered a TV.

When that didn’t suffice, I got a flatmate. The parties were fun. Stayed up all night talking. Even had an acronym for my bachelorette pad- OMO- On My Own. Even learnt to cook and shop for vegetables.

Had a cook, but had to Google when she wanted heeng to see what it looked like so that I could buy it. The freedom of having a room, sheesh, more than that, a flat- of one’s own was indescribable.

Finally understood what Virginia Woolf was talking about in her essay of the same name. My writing output improved too. Sure, there were cons. My gym was jinxed- had to hurry back to meet the maid when I lived alone.

Still, those were minor blips. It was a peaceful neighborhood, with a small balcony where I could stand and look at the world go by. I had a sofa in my living room, which came with the house.

I would flop there and get a change of scene. Miss you, my first flat. #StartANewLife