Category Archives: Articles

Not a mote, not a speck
Dares stand before her 
A whoosh and a sweep
And the dust bunnies run for cover

Let me introduce you to the neatness nazi, the cleanliness freak, the stain-hater of the family…she is the one who has given a whole new meaning to the term ‘spotless’. In her school classroom, she wields the duster on the blackboard. At home, she wields it on the filth. She will scrub and re-scrub even when the cleaning lady has done her job and left.
My mother has a thing against untidy things. It irks her real bad, so much so that I think she is probably on the verge of being an ablutomaniac. But Providence has sent me to Earth to countervail her tendencies.

Mom sometimes calls me a tramp in her rage. Like when she finds my bed sheet stretched up far back to reveal the mattress beneath. Or when my laptop and I canoodle in bed right before I shut down for the night (while the laptop stays on till it loses all its charge and shuts down in its own time). Or when I decorate my bed with foodstuffs of all kinds and refuse to remove the packet of unfinished biscuits and the bottle of water from it. These and many more such instances justify her sobriquet for me ’cause according to her, I behave like a hobo in my own home, stacking everything on the bed and treating my room and the rest of the house like a street. And so right before my cousins were to visit us after a really long time, mom charged into my room and warned me to clear up my space and get things in order.
“I am sick of doing your room.” she began in her don’t-you-dare-mess-with-me voice. “They are coming tomorrow. You better get this hole of yours to look decent. Like a part of the rest of the house.”
I know when it’s a harmless warning and I know when it’s an order. It was the latter this time. I could tell by her tone. So I did the only thing people of my generation are capable of. And swift came Dr. Google to the rescue. I came across these 10 pointers on how to do a quick job of making one’s place look clean. I said ‘look’ because I only meant for it to ‘look’ presentable. I wasn’t about to actually clean! Duh!

I know it’s nothing to brag about but I did clean out each shelf myself. Phew!
As I looked at the pretty picture on the webpage and scrolled down the article, things began to seem quite simple and not so arduous a task as I might have been led to believe by my fears.
Gave my Aristotle and Plato (my dear goldfishes) some food for thought!

And so I began. I decided to clear the bed and dust out my bed sheet. But looking at the food stains and the crumpled state of the poor sheet, I decided to just chuck it in the laundry basket and get a new one instead. When I got my bed a nice new red-white-black sheet, my eyes fell on the crumbs and bits lying about on the floor. They looked out of place with the immaculate bed now. And so I got a broom to just sweep them into a corner. Just a superficial sweep, you see. Then as I started keeping the articles back into their respective places, I found some of the places caked with dust. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to clear the area a bit. A little wipe here and a little sponge there. By and by, I went from nook to cranny and ended up covering the entire room, cleaning out corners and unearthing clumps of hair, tissue papers, half broken pencils, old rubber bands and suchlike.

So, you see what the article was all about? Instead of a few quick cleaning tips, it was a recipe for spring cleaning. Suave !

I so felt like jumping right onto the bed 
and messing it all up again 

Mom came home from the market, carrying a huge bag of vegetables and fruits. She entered my room and doubled back. 
“Did elves visit the tramp?” she deadpanned. I rolled my eyes.

Frankly, though, I was surprised at my own efforts. I had done a pretty good job of tidying up. My den looked like other rooms now, even better perhaps!

I am participating in the Ready For Rewards’ activity for Rewardme in association with BlogAdda.

Poor Moby Dick!

/* What would you do if a whale was to suddenly wash up on your sea shore? That is what happened to the inhabitants of Raigad district of Maharashtra when a blue whale landed up on the coast of Revas. They tried to put it back into the water but the poor Leviathanic creature died and had to be buried at the coast itself. There was a time when we rejoiced in Captain Ahab’s sperm whale exploits and his pursuance of Moby Dick. But times have definitely changed. With the white whale or the Beluga whale in the list of critically endangered species, we have the largest mammal on earth-the blue whale washing up on our shores instead of our naval forces going out to sea to catch some of those giant powerful sperm whales.  */

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Been sexually assaulted? Go for an out-of-court settlement

/* We have heard of mediation and out-of-court settlements in matters of family and property disputes. It is an effective way to offload some of the enormous pile of cases from the courts. But to extend this to criminal acts is not just a travesty of justice but an admission that rape is as mundane as a property dispute these days, if not more prevalent. By taking away the minor’s say in the verdict, the Madras High Court has accorded no value to the trauma that she must have undergone. Consider the fact that a person who is raped has to go through the rigorous and ruthless cross-examination (like the humiliating two-finger tests) to make her/his voice heard and file a report. Not just these cases drag on for years, but now are being dismissed out of court in a cavalier manner. An overhaul of the legal system today is more necessary than ever before.  */

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You talk and we will burn you

/* That is what the UP govt is saying apparently. As the freelance journalist Jagendra Singh is burnt for publishing reports of corruption and land grabbing against some hotshot names including MP RM Verma, one is even surer of the sobriquet attached to UP-the land of the goons. Where might is still right and pelf is power, the concepts of human rights and freedom of expression crumble. Despite the video with the immolated man himself saying ‘why burn me, they could have beaten me’, the UP govt. is making efforts to prove that it was a case of suicide by grossly misinterpreting the autopsy. Offering 30 lakh INR to the family and jobs to the deceased journo’s two sons, they are trying to burnish their image and come off clean. The message? You talk. You burn. Period. */
Hello Earth!
Remember Star Trek with its famous USS Enterprise moving at warp speed with Capt Kirk in command? Or consider the recent confounding sci-fi thrillers like ‘Gravity’ and ‘Interstellar’ talking of ‘n’ dimensions and wormholes and space travel. I would seem a relic if I say that our favourite sci-fis just came true because let’s face it, today’s space flicks more or less reflect the actual nature and scope of the space research of the times. A case in point being Philae probe ‘waking up’ on Sunday on a far flung comet in the Milky Way called 67P. Last November it landed on the icy comet and like a full-blown movie script, bumped into a ditch and switched off after 60 hours. It’s mothership Rosetta which launched the probe into the comet is still in the orbit which is somewhere in the Kuiper belt. It could not transmit any information till a miracle happened a few days ago and the probe tweeted 

Hello Earth! Can you hear me?” 

Aah!! How musical does this particular tweet sound, so replete with the happiness of having found a long lost friend, a friend who had been lost in the wide wide—not world mind you! The world is too tiny to be of any significance in this context; I am talking of the universe-and space, vast amounts of space, where distance and time are interchangeable, where the unfathomable distance defies the speed of light, where we measure the time in years. In that vast space, we have our own messengers and one such i.e  the probe Philae is sending messages to us from an address from where it takes 16 minutes for a radio signal to reach us. Poor Philae! How lonely you must be! In those vast swathes of nothingness, among the stars and the unknown gases and the blackness and the lack of light and sometimes, the abundance of it! We are so glad to hear from you! The space guys must be celebrating Christmas early. The space aficionados must be waiting anxiously to devour all the data that the faithful bot collected for us. It is supposed that the probe fell into a ditch on the comet’s surface and so the batteries ran out and couldn’t be recharged by the sun. Now when the comet is at a perihelion distance, the sun has infused life into the comatose probe and once again it is transmitting. 

And what do we expect to find? It is surmised that the remnants of the solar system are carried by the comets which transfer these gases and matter to the planets where they sojourn while on their space odyssey. Some such comets might have landed on the earth sometime, produced the craters and gifted it with life-producing gases of the likes of O2 and N2. 
Is it even possible? 
Well, anything is possible. You have seen how pollen is carried by wind, leaves and various other agents and transferred to the flowers for new seeds and the birth of new plants? Couldn’t it be possible that these comets are the universal pollen agents helping to bring about life? What with Pluto back in the league of planets, one must admit anything is possible. Those skeptics  who still scoff at the plausibility of life outside earth will do better to listen to Elon Musk, who has invested billions on his Project Space X. He is affirmative that Mars has life or at least some other planet surely does. He has already planned inter planetary trips and even booked the candidates for the excursions, even if they are one-way trips for the time being. I was wondering if the criminals could be given such a ticket to outer space and made to feel actual sequestration? Not much chance for relapse, is there? Food for thought!

This weekend, we decided to go on a road trip. So, after hiring an SUV, eight of us set off on a road adventure. The first few hours passed blissfully with everyone chatting merrily. But soon one could hear only one’s own voice and didn’t know whom to address because everyone was talking to everyone else. As the bout of talking ceased, we started withdrawing to our own worlds; some retired to their phones, some stared out the window while others started snacking.
There are some things which happen almost all at once. People sometimes have a tendency to think alike, and we are often influenced by what others are doing and start doing the same thing. I got my earphones out and started browsing through my playlists. Almost simultaneously, three of my companions took out their headphones. One of us had one of those tiny speakers shaped like a soda can. Music wafted through it, a lot like a fizzy drink would have, had the can been what it represented. Immediately, everyone hounded the guy with the speakers.
“Play this one. I have such an awesome collection!”
“This is that famous Beyonce track. The one from the Grey movie!”
“Forget all that. Play Kailasa’s songs.”
And the one who had got the speakers started regretting it instantly. A few of the songs were played while others couldn’t see the light of day. Finally, the owner of the speakers decided to play his own songs and started playing them loud. Everyone else lost interest and went back to their headphones. Suddenly, B in the front began to bleat and cry. On closer inspection, we realized that he was singing. So immersed was he in the song that he couldn’t hear Y sitting beside him, asking him to shut up.
“I can’t listen to my songs. Will you please stop singing?”
He took one plug out of his ear and yelled, “What?!”
Y reiterated her problem. He put his earplugs back on and started raving louder than ever. Someone at the back had taken cue as well. C was trying miserably to imitate the song she was listening to and ended up spoiling the experience for everyone. Y turned around with a dangerous expression on her face.
“You too?!”
But that was to no avail. Soon, two more joined in the braying and the cacophony threatened to impair the hearing abilities of the rest of the company. When asked to stop or ordered to ‘put an end to this drama’, they replied that their freedom of speech was getting curbed. Y fumed. I advised her to use some earplugs herself. But she was not an easy person to assuage.
“If that is their right to sing, their ‘freedom of speech’, this is my right to not be sung to, my right to silence! I can’t stand this!” musical road trip had weirdly turned into a battleground for rights. No one knew how to solve this conundrum. How can the right to sing and the right to not listen to songs coexist? Who was impinging on whose rights? Even though B’s right to sing appeared more valid, Y’s right to NOT listen to B sing could not be undermined either. Being a minority, Y’s voice could not be heard. And the right to remain silent or the right to avoid songs was an ambiguous right no one had heard of. Those of us who were neutral just didn’t know how to go about it.
A vehement debate ensued. We argued and fought while the serene hills and fields flashed past the window. Before I knew it, nearly everyone had hit the sack within an hour. I too was snoozing, my hand over the seat cushion. An eerie quiet pervaded the car now, like that of a battlefield with slain soldiers after a battle. Suddenly, I heard a tune followed by some words. It was a very old song, of the time of my parents’. The driver had made the best of the situation while everyone was exhausted and asleep. He was playing his favorite song, exercising his right to music while everyone else was utilizing his/her right to repose.

( This post has been tagged as a WOW post as a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. )

The day was young and fresh as he sprayed the plants in the verandah with water. He went leisurely from one plant to the other, bathing the leaves and enjoying the morning breeze. As the little boy’s eyes roved over the surroundings, he suddenly went rigid, his gaze fixated on a point many floors below their flat. He dashed inside the house calling, “Grandpa! Grandpa! Please come out!” Within a few minutes, the two generations were standing together; the younger one pointing down at a narrow gulley.

“Look at the pigeon! It’s so badly hurt; it will die! Can’t we save it?” the little kid bleated pitifully. The old man followed his grandson’s gaze and descried a puny bald creature with a few feathers sticking out of its body, most of its left eye gone, replaced with a yellowish gooey bulge and the rest of the body sprayed with a deep crimson shade, something that might act as an emetic for the faint-hearted.
“Poor guy…I’m afraid he is too far gone to be saved…he is almost at the finishing line…”
“What do you mean it can’t be saved? I want to save it! And what is the finishing line?”
“It has bled way too much. Some cat must have got it.”
The poor boy looked horrified.
The grandfather continued in a kinder voice, “As for the finish line, well…some reach this line in a dash. You know, how, in a race, when it looks so close, you just double your speed and cross that line? It’s like that with some. While others take their own sweet time to reach it. The pace does not really matter. However, there are some unfortunate ones who are tantalizingly close to the line and yet, take ages to cross it, through no fault of their own. That poor pigeon is just such a creature. The best thing would be for it to be put out of its misery the soonest possible.”
“Why? Why can’t it be saved? Why can’t it live?”
“It can live. In fact, it will and that is what is so miserable about it. It is at a stage worse than death. A vegetative stage out of which it cannot extricate itself. It’s like you are stuck in a limbo; you cannot take that one step that will take you to the finishing line. Neither can you keep walking, meandering or charting new courses. It is a stalemate; a period, which seems to extend forever. The only thing one can do is pray that such a state never befalls anyone. You don’t want to be stuck indefinitely, waiting ponderously for the line to reach you.”
This discourse had chilled him to the core all those years ago. He had still wanted the bird to survive, to live as long as it could manage. 
But now, when he saw his dear grandpa enervated by a debilitating illness lying in a hospital bed in a comatose state himself, he finally realized the import of what the old man had said at that point of time. While everyone shed tears and lamented his state, he knew what his grandpa would have wanted- a dash to the finish line, not an insect-like crawl but a heroic dash. He could only envisage how his grandfather must abhor his current condition, but all he could do was pray- pray for him to reach the end line as soon as possible, just like they had prayed a long time ago for the poor pigeon.

No man is exempted

No woman either

From the laws of change

That spare neither

A ravishing red rose bobbed along at the level of my waist as I chatted animatedly with my brother while strolling lazily in the market. I had barely looked down to see its source when a coarse voice called, “May God bless the thriving couple!”

It was a disheveled urchin carrying a bunch of roses, some still buds and others past bloom. His feet were bare and his brown hair fell all over his face. I walked resolutely ahead, wondering that the new-age tramps no longer played on the human sense of sympathy at disabilities but had now reverted to well wishes aimed at vulnerable people.

“Bhaiyya looks like Salman Khan and Didi looks like Katrina Kaif. What a couple!” said the kid, who was determined to dog us. I don’t know what came to me but I blurted out, “He is my brother!” and went away laughing before the ragamuffin could cook up some new comment about the eternal fraternal bond and the undying devotion of a brother towards a sister or any such crap.

I have come across many brands of beggars. There are those at the traffic signal who live off the red traffic light, which gives them the opportunity to hound vehicles by rapping on their windows or thrusting some unwanted article like penny dreadfuls, mobile covers or shades, inside them via some carelessly unclosed window. If there is a kid with you, then you will attract extra attention from the balloon guys or the toy sellers. There are obviously those typical women in tattered sarees with a kid on one arm and a kid on the side, who ask for ‘something in the name of God’ while pointing to the baby who has snot flowing copiously from his dirty little nose. But the ones who take the cake are definitely the eunuchs who will start with a compliment that panders to one’s vanity and move on to threats of a malediction in case one doesn’t shell out some bucks.

My mother immediately took out a twenty-rupee note when once, such a person reached us and looking at me, said to her, “You have such a beautiful daughter. May God bless her with a wonderful husband!” That had touched a nerve. So while I rolled my eyes, my mother promptly gave the person some amount that was certainly more than what she would have given a ‘general’ mendicant. “These people can curse you and it often comes true. They have a certain faith and power.” She explained to me, trying to assuage my anger and skepticism.

I used to be sort of proud of the fact that I never fell for such tricks. I never stopped to hear any insistent plea or see any attractive gimmick. Actually, I have never understood how to respond to beggars. Should I help them or should I be wary of them? The situation of the country and the disillusionment that has prevented us from believing the stranger on the street makes me wonder if I am not sinning by not helping those who might benefit by a few coins? My doubts continue to assail me however it was the following incident that turned the tables on me. I was standing at a bus stop, checking my watch when a thin woman came up to me and said “Hello”. I turned to look at her. “Good Morning” she continued. Out of sheer habit, I responded with a hello, although the rational senses of my mind had started smelling something wrong.

“Please…” she said and extended a white sheet of paper towards me. 
“Charity”, she said and took out a pen. As I looked at the odd sheet, I realized that the winds of change had transformed the uncouth beggars into proper professional destitutes. Globalization has brought many things to India, not least the culture of the west. But this evidence of the westernization of the community of the indigents had taken me by surprise. A few words in well-accented English and a pen and paper can give an overhaul to the image of a panhandler. It can make incredulous people like me listen and put skeptics in a dilemma whether to contribute to ‘charity’ or not. Thankfully, the bus arrived before I could be tricked any further. Next time when I encountered a girl roaming about with a piece of paper, I quickly steered clear before she could accost me further. Change, thou has swept the world!     
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( As part of a blogging initiative by 27Coupons )

“I didn’t get it.” 
Samir spoke into the phone and sighed, preparing himself to face a barrage of questions and a spate of “I told you so!”s. Throughout the phone call, he mostly kept silent, while the volume of the voices at the other end kept growing. He wished fervently that his parents would stop talking. Finally, he cut the call and heaved a sigh of relief. Now, he was dreading the trip back home. Everything about his life sucked. Actually, it wasn’t everything. It was just his job. That didn’t exist yet. He had tried every possible trick in the book, sent his resumes to multifarious organizations, attended countless interviews but Lady Luck had continued to evade him. On top of it, the expectations of his parents from him,since he was their only child and a son at that, had created a pressure that he could not sustain. It had got him worked up and highly strung. He simply wanted out. He wished he could defer returning home.
His dad had paid for the travel fare and the accommodation when he came here to appear in the interview for this job that he eventually didn’t manage to get. He could only imagine what a reception he would get the next day when he got home. The thought of humiliation and rejection haunted him the entire night as well as the next day when he boarded the train. When he finally alighted at the station, he started searching for a low-cost vehicle that would take him home, although all he wanted was to somehow stay out by any means. He just could not face his father, who would surely be furious with him or his mother, who would be, at best, disappointed. He was thinking of ways to evade the probing questions that would be put up by his dad when-
“This side son…” 
A familiar voice hailed him, and he turned around. He saw his dad waving to him, standing beside a sedan, which had a huge sticker of OlaCabs plastered all over its door. Samir could hardly believe his eyes. Reaching the car, he looked at his father incredulously.
“Come, let’s go.” His father beckoned him to sit, and the driver took off.
Samir felt that now he would be sounded out really bad.
“How was the city?” his dad asked him. He thought he would go mad with all the suspense. Why on earth would his dad come to receive him, especially at a time when he had let him down so badly? And now he was asking him about the trip and the city as if it was some holiday he had been on.
“It was nice, pretty good.” Samir replied. He didn’t what else to say so he continued, “I could have come home myself, Dad. You didn’t need to-” 
“Cut it. It’s okay. You need all the support we can give you, son. Don’t you worry about jobs and all. You are brilliant. You will get one sooner or later. For now, let’s go home and rest.” 
Samir was sort of dumbfounded at his father’s reaction. He didn’t know what to say but he tried anyway. 
“Why did you take the trouble to book cabs and all…I could have travelled by bus…”
His father waived it all away saying, “Oh it was nothing! Just a click on the app and lo! The carriage appears! And anyway, I managed to get a few discounts from 27Coupons!” His father added with a twinkle in his eyes while pointing towards the OlaCabs app he had recently downloaded in his phone. Suddenly, Samir’s mood lifted. He felt that he could do anything, be anything… A single gesture had worked wonders for his confidence. He would go out again tomorrow.
“Can I book a cab for tomorrow, dad?” he asked his father. “I am going for a walk-in.”  
His dad smiled and patted his head.
‘I will make sure I get a job this time’, he said to himself.  

Sundays are for reposing, relaxing, reveling, rejuvenation and for many other such –ings and -tions (that may not start with R). This Sunday of mine was spent in a pigeon ouster expedition. Do you know the pigeonhole principle?  It goes like this…
If n pigeons are put into m holes, with n > m, then at least one hole must contain more than one pigeon. I think the pigeons knew it too. Because we had started experiencing a hellish time with these birds of pray-tell-me-why-are-you-so-numerous. Some wily ones had managed to find such a hole in our verandah, where not one but more than one had cosied themselves. But we didn’t realize it at first. Every day, when the residents of No.XX including I returned from work and went out into the balcony to take in a breath of fresh air or hang up some clothes, a cacophony would be raised and a flock of feathers would try and fly to escape detection, strewing pebbles, little sticks and cement detritus all over the verandah in the process. My mom would shoo them away and set down to clean away the mess, only for the wretched pigeons to come and upset her efforts all over again. It would have gone on ad infinitum if not for this Sunday when my mom decided to amass an army of her own and give them a tough fight. She presented to the pigeon family her commander-in-chief, her best warrior alias my dad to defeat them in the battle of the pigeonhole. My brother stood next in command, handing dad the ammo, as he reached up to the hole on the ladder and swept away the nest that had been carefully put together by the parent pigeons. Dad ordered for a plastic polybag to be brought and the pigeon eggs were placed carefully in it, which was then handed over to my bro, who took it up to the roof (we do not take prisoners-of-war, so the eggs were kept aside; we are peace-loving denizens who however, do not brook invasion). My brother is young and not so well-versed in the military strategies, so one of the eggs broke on the way to the roof. Whether this fact was espied by the enemy force or not, I can’t say but they put up an admirable fight, what with all the flapping and fluttering. The canopy of fallen feathers befuddled the army of flat no. XX who retaliated with equal vigor as dad vigorously swiped away the wrecks of their nests and bro kept the flapping at bay with occasional shouts while my mother, the mastermind behind the battle stood with her hands on her hips, her fiery furry weapon (the broom) by her side. After some wrangling and hard work, the battle was finally over, the army bathed in feathers and debris.  Mom and dad exchanged sighs of relief and glances of victory. I sighed. What was my role in all this? I stayed inside, peering through the window, pleading and asking them if we couldn’t leave the cute birds alone?
“I will let the nest be if you promise to clean this mess every day. Will you?” asked my mom, while brandishing her favourite weapon, the oft-advertised jhadoo. Of course, I couldn’t. Cleaning gave me the cramps, mostly as an excuse and sometimes, literally as well. So, the nest had to go and the pigeonhole battle was won by the army of flat no. XX. After the battlefield had been cleared of the rubble, I tiptoed out, avoiding the remains of the nest packed in a polybag kept by the side of the wall, and looked at the line of pigeons perched on the electricity wires. I was sure they were planning a counter attack; some of them would probably strike back immediately, perhaps with another guerrilla strategy or some rudimentary approach (for instance the beaks) and some might start rehabilitation right away. I looked at them with a glance that tried to say I wasn’t in on this; I am neutral. I am Switzerland, leave me out. Just then a pigeon swarmed over my head, fluttering its wings and I ran inside, to claim my shelter with the residents of flat no. XX.