Monday, May 30, 2016

Words to Live By


“Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.
Don’t allow the phone to interrupt important moments. It’s there for your convenience, not the callers. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.
Don’t burn bridges. You’ll be surprised how many times you have to cross the same river.
Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.
Don’t major in minor things.
Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. 
Don’t spread yourself too thin. Learn to say no politely and quickly. 
Don’t use time or words carelessly. Neither can be retrieved. 
Don’t waste time grieving over past mistakes Learn from them and move on. 
Every person needs to have their moment in the sun, when they raise their arms in victory, knowing that on this day, at his hour, they were at their very best. 
Get your priorities straight. No one ever said on his death bed, ‘Gee, if I’d only spent more time at the office’. 
Give people a second chance, but not a third. 
Judge your success by the degree that you’re enjoying peace, health and love. 
Learn to listen. Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly. 
Leave everything a little better than you found it. 
Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation. 
Loosen up. Relax. Except for rare life and death matters, nothing is as important as it first seems. 
Never cut what can be untied. 
Never overestimate your power to change others. 
Never underestimate your power to change yourself. 
Remember that overnight success usually takes about fifteen years. 
Remember that winners do what losers don’t want to do. 
Seek opportunity, not security. A boat in harbor is safe, but in time its bottom will rot out. 
Spend less time worrying who’s right, more time deciding what’s right. 
Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life. 
Success is getting what you want. Happiness is liking what you get. 
The importance of winning is not what we get from it, but what we become because of it. 
When facing a difficult task, act as though it’s impossible to fail.”
— Jackson Brown Jr.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Selfie Fame Craze: Are We Risking Too Much For "Likes"



“I got a thousand likes for my DP!” Squealed my 25 year old friend. She showed me a picture of her with a tiger who was yawning.

I almost fell off my chair, “Wasn’t that dangerous?”

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Nah. He was an old tiger. They said nothing could happen.”

I was still appalled. Something could have happened to her. A tiger is still ferocious and it only takes a moment for it to react and harm a person. Why was it was so important to her to take that picture and put it up on a social media site?

Recently an MLA visited a drought stricken area and took a selfie. The picture was widely criticised but the MLA wanted to get noticed, recognised and tell her seniors that she was actually there. In her moment of self-obsession, she didn’t recognise the gravity of the situation. She is not alone. There are many people who would say, “What’s the harm? It’s just a photo!”

But the need for the perfect selfie and the desire to be liked and appreciated can go to dangerous lengths.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the most number of selfie deaths in the world occurred in India. Of at least 27 “selfie related” deaths around the world last year, about half occurred in India.

In recent news, two youths were run over by a train while taking selfies on the railway tracks at Purushottampur railway crossing in Chunar area in Mirzapur district in UP state of India. 
In February 2016 a college student drowned after falling off of the Waldevi Dam in Nashik, India, while taking a selfie. In March 2015 seven Indian youths drowned while taking selfies on Mangrul Lake near Kuhi, about 20 km from Nagpur, India. Their boat had tipped over as they were standing up to pose. (Wikipedia)

Our lives are now recorded in selfies. Who we met, what we did, where we are, how we look needs to be documented and appreciated.

What is this need for fame that everyone is seeking?

There are more people who will go online to Facebook to like a new DP than look for a blog to read. In a world which is becoming more visual, the perfect photograph has gained importance. But it’s not just a pretty picture. It’s you in it. It’s how shocking, dangerous, thrilling and exciting it can be and how you look in that moment. It’s the moment of envy of others. Can you make someone else jealous? If you can, that moment is the perfect picture and hence the most amount of likes on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and every social media that you put it up on. If you can even “trend” because of it, or have people comment, share and discuss it, you’re a hit. And if you aren’t noticed, you’re nobody.

In this entire scenario no one really cares if it’s hazardous to your life or if it’s actually ethical!

Our lives are now documented online. Even if we take photos for ourselves, we have a desire to showcase it. To prove we did it. We can’t just go somewhere and enjoy the place, live in the moment or soak in the wonder. Why?

It’s our need to be famous.

Famous people make more money, live better lives, and have all the luxuries in the world. To be famous one need not be moral. One needs to always be in the public eye.

Recently during a TV actress’ funeral, there was much fainting, drama and sound bytes given to the media of how close they were to her. The media played out their stories with their photos and instantly these actors got noticed. In an industry where you need to be spotted, remembered, praised, you don’t think of the right or decent thing to do. It’s about fame after all. And fame that you can ride on someone else without actually paying for your stories, images, and photos to appear in the papers .

According to a renowned Mumbai psychologist Gitali Banerji of MindfulSpring.com and Inner Space Therapy says, “We have become a generation, an era of people who are so self-obsessed that we don’t look at the harm it can cause us later. There will come a time when not as many people will like your picture, or really care about what you do, where you are or how you look. If you’ve built your life on that appreciation, it will become difficult to adjust to normal living. That’s when you get depressed, paranoid, and obsessive.”

In a market that is making better cameras and people taking more photos of themselves and trying desperately to get famous, are we just losing focus?

Hollywood actor Jim Carrey put it succinctly when he said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer.” 

The only way we can find that answer is if we ask different questions. And none of them have to do with being liked or getting fame. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Write India Winners for my passage Love Jihad.



The Rise and Rise of Priyanka Chopra


The year is 2000. It’s the final round of Miss World. The emcee calls a young girl from India, and asks her, "Who do you think is the most successful woman living today and why?"
Since all the Miss Indias’ are prepared with one answer –dead or alive, a nervous Priyanka Chopra answers, "There are a lot of people I admire, but one of the most admirable people is Mother Teresa, who has been so compassionate, considerate and kind." And she goes on to win the title. Lady Luck has been shining on her ever since.

Today, she is the most popular heroine not only in India but spreading all across the world. As she became the first South Asian to win the People’s Choice Awards earlier in USA this year she claimed, “I feel like Miss World again.” And this time she has all her answers well prepared. From being on the Jimmy Fallon show for her American TV debut Quantico to commenting on Trump and the Miss Universe fiasco, PC has a voice and people want to hear it.

Priyanka has come a long way in the last sixteen years. Her life has been coated with controversies of affairs with leading actors to plastic surgeries that she hides well to surrogate babies. Other Bollywood actresses never took a liking to Priyanka, an outsider in an industry that was ruled by camps and contacts.

Priyanka however was always a focussed woman who knew fame and fortune only lay in front of the camera. Coming from an army background Priyanka shone in her first year in Bollywood in the film Andaaz that won her a Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut in 2003. Instead of sticking to the traditional roles and typecasting herself PC went on to do a gutsy, negative role in Aitraaz that won her a Filmfare for Best Performance in a Negative Role.

While the industry was still gossiping about how she was so unconventional looking and breaking rules Priyanka’s life was a roller coaster of covers of magazines and winning hearts. Bollywood wives became insecure when she was working with their husbands on a film, often coming to the set to strengthen their presence in the hero’s life.

One director says, “PC is the perfect actress. She becomes who you want her to be. She can be desi eating rajma chawal and chatting in a Bihari accent with an extremely `Indian’ kind of director and she can have an American accent on how she loves Central Park when she’s talking to a director who loves shooting in New York.”

But Priyanka has been unfazed by gossip around her. Even when she was linked to Bollywood’s top married hero as his second wife, she continued to work hard and prove she was more than a WAG. (Wife and Girlfriend) She stretched her talents to spread into as many fields as possible. Unlike other actresses who stuck to simply acting, Priyanka was a host on Indian television in Khatron ka Khiladi and she made an international music video called In My City and Exotic. Quickly learning that her music and hosting career was not going to get her too far, she came back to choose films that would boost her acting ability further. Fashion, Barfi, Mary Kom, Dil Dhadakne Do, Bajirao Mastani, Priyanka has always selected films with great scripts, intelligent directors and meaty roles that would be promoted well. 

She understood how the marketing system works. It’s not just about the craft or the talent if no one sees it. Promotions were important and PC hired enthusiastic PR representatives to push her image and quotes wherever possible so people would see and hear from her continuously. She hash tagged herself into the hearts of people and several ad agencies who would start remembering only her when it came to endorsements – Bollywood, fashion, music, etc.

PC became the girl everyone wanted to work with and her filmography expanded to over 50 films and over 25 awards.

In 2015 Priyanka started working on Quantico, an American TV show. Rumours surrounded even this. Her rise in the last one year has been phenomenal. From being recognised on a global TV platform to presenting at the Oscars, winning a People’s Choice Award, being on the cover of Time magazine, having dinner with the President of the United States Barack Obama to winning the Padma Shri, Priyanka has left the controversies, and love stories behind. Her active PR agency makes sure that she is continuously in the news in India while still filming for Quantico and Baywatch abroad as she knows that out of sight is out of mind for most viewers.

Priyanka balances all her work with extreme poise and grace. While most actors are afraid of social media, she is the first actress to have crossed the 11 million follower mark on Twitter (currently at 13.9 mil) and 3 million followers on Instagram. This makes her imminently likeable and relatable to the ordinary person who feels they can connect with her at any time. 

She paves the way for showing how to respond to trolls and having a thick skin which makes her even more popular on social media. Recently, talking about Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigrants in US, Priyanka Chopra had said, “I just think you can’t put a ban on anyone. Generalizing a type of people is really primitive.” This did not go down well with one of her followers, Adesh Gundecha, who Tweeted to her: “Priyanka, politics is not your arena yet. Better just be actress for now. WAIT!!” And Priyanka has been winning the Internet with her reply: “You’re right @adesh_1 why should an actress stand for humanity... It’s not our place right?” (http://www.deccanchronicle.com/entertainment/bollywood/300416/taking-on-the-trolls.html)

From saying the wrong answer to being the most quoted celebrity in India, Priyanka is motivational to many youngsters who are trying to find themselves and become famous as well. “I think it’s great to be flawed. I am hugely flawed, and I like it that way. That’s the fun of life. You fall, get up, make mistakes, learn from them, be human and be you.(2012)” (http://www.hindustantimes.com/bollywood/it-s-great-to-be-flawed-32-quotes-by-32-year-old-priyanka-chopra/story-0HK7j9BcPHDhWk3K6YoZRP.html)

While there might be rumours about how she has used the popular black magician of Bollywood who seems to be helping many a star and producer, Priyanka has proved that her hard work and dedication to her craft and talent has made her globally admired and respected. “She is unstoppable,” says one of her directors.


But her every moment from the time she was crowned Miss World has been used to better her life. She now has a quote for everyone – magazines, newspapers, press, movie premiers, talk shows, red carpets. She’s left her contemporaries far behind and is ready to compete on the global scale. As she rightfully said she’s on her way to “world domination.” 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Review: Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


Before We Visit The Goddess
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Before We Visit The Goddess is a beautiful tale of three generations of women who have loved, lost, and misunderstood each other over a span of a lifetime. It’s a bittersweet tale of motherhood of three women Sabitri, Bela and Tara woven through a tapestry of different perspectives in first person and the people who were important in their lives. 

Before We Visit the Goddess is a story of immense alienation felt in myriad ways and the deep need to connect to the ones you love. Each mother has ambitions for her only child, only to be scorned and rejected until the final twist when redemption suddenly comes but it might be too late.

The novel may seem linear in format but through the narrations we flicker back in time to go more in depth with the characters’ thoughts and reasons. It’s a story of how small incidents can alter relationships and how time can manipulate your ego to hold on to grudges long after the memory has faded.

Sabitri’s mother is a master at making sweets, a talent that leads to her daughter getting favours from a rich household that allows Sabitri to go to school. Sabitri’s story is a heart warming tale of a young girl who is tenacious enough to learn everything her mother wanted, but falls into a trap, disappoints her surrogate mother Leelamoyi and must start over again; a theme that is repeated in different ways through Sabitri’s daughter Bela and her daughter Tara. Sabitri’s encounter with a stranger and her choices set off a series of events that are intricately related to the lives of her future generations.

Bela, Sabitri’s daughter is passionate and fiery, exactly like her mother but makes choices that break her mother’s heart. She lives a life full of love and loss until she finds small happiness in the unlikeliest of places through a stranger.

Tara’s story is one of a typical American Born Confused Desi with a fantastic new angle. Her desire to fit in, stand out and be accepted is told in a new way until again like her mother, it’s an encounter with a stranger and not someone she loves that sets her on a new path.

Each woman grows through the years and changes to understand herself better and as readers we see how similar they all are. Regrettably only we readers can understand how deeply connected their choices are and the depth of their immeasurable need for their mother who they reject until maybe it’s too late.

This book could have also been called Fortunate Lamps from the letter Sabitri starts writing to Tara: “Good daughters are fortunate lamps, brightening the family’s name. Wicked daughters are firebrands, blackening the family’s fame.”

Whether they are Fortunate Lamps or not, is left to the reader to decide.


Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a master story teller and she has outdone herself in this novel, weaving in narratives from a male and female viewpoint, leaping through decades and pausing for the moments that we over look in life but the ones that actually matter. This book is tender, sublime, beautiful and evocative. You are sucked into the worlds that seem familiar but are always out of reach. One is moved by the stories of each of the characters, not just the three main women. 

I truly loved Palace of Illusions and it was my favourite novel for a long time until BEFORE WE VISIT THE GODDESS came along and has toppled it. Kudos Chitra. Didn’t want this book to end though it has remained with me long after I finished it. 

http://www.flipkart.com/before-visit-goddess-english/p/itmefsp6dsspdvg7?pid=9781471146930

Friday, May 6, 2016

Why Women Judge Other Women


Recently an ex boyfriend of a successful actress declared in an interview that she used black magic and was violent. The post was put on social media. Surprisingly many men supported her while women commentated that she was a “psycho.”

Working mom and a close friend of mine Soumya Shankar went to her school reunion and met her old girl students there. Most of them were housewives and only one was working but didn’t have any children. While the mothers judged the working woman, my friend judged them all saying, “How can these women just sit at home and look after their husbands and cater to their families all day? Don’t they want to do something more with their life?” And when asked about the woman who was truly successful at her work she said, “Haan but then she’s sacrificed having children. She’ll never know the pleasure of being a mom.”

We are constantly bombarded with images of perfect women in magazines, the film industry, and various different sectors. These women have successfully managed their careers and their home life perfectly while looking like a million bucks. The media has planted the image of what a perfect woman should be in most of our minds. This remains in our subconscious so that when we meet women, our immediate reaction is to judge them according to that image.

How do we judge women?

Even while we don’t compare normal, ordinary women to the glamour industry, women most often gossip about each other. Some of the things they might say could be: She’s become so fat. She does nothing with her life even after studying so much. She’s so aggressive. Her hair cut is terrible. She’s got such negative energy. She doesn’t even know how to cook. What an awful attire she’s wearing. She looks tired, she should do something about those dark circles. She keeps blowing up her husband’s money. Obviously she slept her way to that position. Of course her husband would leave her; who would stay with someone who doesn’t want to give time to her husband? She works so hard that her children will suffer and become these brats. Look at how she dresses, it’s shocking.

Housewife Jyotsna Kirloskar says, “Sometimes I participate in judging women to fit in to a group. If I don’t, I’ll be a loner because everyone talks about each other.” We women have all known to say something about another woman deliberately and sometimes involuntarily. It could also be that there is truly nothing else to talk about. Sometimes it’s just a reaction to someone saying something about us as well.  

Where did it come from?

We have seen our mothers, grandmothers, aunts sit around and gossip about family members and other women. Sometimes we do it to build our own self esteem that we’re good enough. Most times we compare ourselves to other women to judge where we stand in life. And we tick mark the things in our invisible list of how to be successful that we have been able to achieve. Loving family, respect, appreciation, healthy body, good children, loyal husband, fat bank balance, powerful designations, etc. If in our head we’ve achieved the things we believe should define a woman or are at least trying to, then we judge other women for not following in those footsteps.

What is the harm anyway?

Gitali Chatterji, Senior Psychologist at Inner Space Counselling believes that when you’re judging somebody you get a temporary sense of happiness by comparing yourself. “It’s actually survival of the fittest. Everyone else is competition, everyone wants to be number one. Hence they judge to put the other person down and themselves higher in this evolutionary perspective. Self-reflection is rare. If you self-reflect and are absolutely honest you can take a step back and analyse is there a personal need that is unmet? And then you can develop that rather than judge.”
Most judgements of others are ego strategies to avoid uncomfortable feelings. (www.tinybuddha.com

Constant judging could lead to a personality disorder that could lead to emotional distress, anti-social behaviour or anxiety amongst other serious problems. Judging other women will lead to unhappiness, comparison and self-deprecation. Your behaviour, attitude and words will teach younger adults and children to perpetuate stereotypes and continue with the judgements and negativity.

It could also lead to a false sense of pride, arrogance and inflated ego that could crumble later in life leaving you with extreme depression. When we judge, we also compare and subconsciously compete. This fills us with expectations about ourselves and our lives, which when not actualised could lead to great disappointment.

Bestselling Author Chuck Palahniuk says, “We’ve spent so much time judging what other people created that we’ve created very, very little on our own.”

What Can we Do About it?

1.     Stop feeling envious or resentful – Understand where it is coming from – loneliness, being scared, anger, and insecurity. If you’re a shy person you might look at a woman and say “She’s so loud!” Or if you see a person with a happy marriage and you’re suffering you might say, “I’m sure he’s cheating on her.” Acknowledge what they have and what you don’t and abstain from judging either. Say to yourself, I refuse to comment. I let go of this thought.

2.     Keep yourself occupied – Most times an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. When you are busy trying to learn something new, reading, or have a goal in mind you will stop spending so much energy in judging people and focus on yourself.

3.     Consciously Stay Away from Commenting – Many women friends meet to gossip and comment on others. Try to stay away from these connections since you get sucked in to fitting in or speaking ill as well. Or you can try to change the topic to something everyone enjoys and discuss new ideas. Find friends who will inspire you, motivate you, teach you, listen, discuss and move you. Not just those who may gossip when you have free time.

4.     Realise it may not be your own thoughts – Access Consciousness states that 99% of the time our thoughts are not ours and they belong to something in the Universe that we can neutralise and send back. Like energy around us, we remove these thoughts, feelings and send them back to where they came from without it settling into our subconscious and become free of judgements. “Consciousness and Oneness includes everything and judges nothing. It’s the ability to be present in your life in every moment without judgement of you or anyone else.” (www.accessconsciousness.com )

Gitali concludes that “Every person’s path of self-discovery is different. There is a need that is not fulfilled within. So even when you do compare and judge, find the thing that’s lacking in you and be inspired rather than put down that person.”

Letter from a Hogwarts Teacher to Hermione

My daughter Ariaana is a big Harry Potter fan. For her summer holidays she's gone to spend time with her grandparents. So I thought I...