Letter to The Governor of Alabama

Dear Madame Governor of Alabama, would you fancy me with an imaginary ride? I ask this as you happen to be a very creative person who seems to have pushed her imagination to believe that life is ideal and world is utopian.
Imagine that you are 15. Your exams are approaching and because logic and Science have never been your strong suit, you decide to go to your friend’s place for group studies and to brush up some concepts. It’s 7:30 in the evening and you decide to walk back home which is just two blocks from where you live. The winters are here and the roads are deserted. The air is thick with cold. You have almost crossed the first block that a screeching car halts next to you and before you can make heads and tails of what’s of happening, you are nabbed by three masked men. These masked men drive you to some deserted place where you are held captive in a dark room. It is in this room you are raped by these men for days, months and years- no one could say for sure. These men assaulted you both physically and sexually. You were their ash tray and their punching bag. You were also their bed. When the police discovered you a few weeks later, you were in a catatonic state. The medical examinations later revealed that you were pregnant and you didn’t know who the father was. Honestly, you don’t even want to find out because it doesn’t matter who it was, as they were all goons.

Don’t you think you should have had the right to choose the father of your child Madame Governor?

Do you think it is appropriate to force a pregnancy?

Maybe you think it is alright but it turns out to be so devastating for a lot of rape victims who would rather kill themselves than bear their culprit’s child.

Imagine that you are now 20 years old, Madame Governor. The trauma of gang rape that haunted you has somewhat faded. At least you no longer wake up screaming in the middle of the night anymore. You no longer jump with fear when someone gives you a friendly pat on the back. You are less jaded. It’s getting better. You are now studying law at one of the best colleges in the country. After college hours you have signed up for a part time job at a local food joint in order to meet your student loans. Somewhere amongst this topsy-turviness of life, you were fortunate enough to find love. He cares for you. It’s as if “God” is compensating you for all the suffering he bestowed upon you when you were a child. When you are with him, it’s so poetic that all the suffering appears to make sense. After all, you earn this kind of joy.
This morning you are going through your planner to see the class line up and suddenly it hits you that you have missed your period. A few tests later you know that you have been impregnated by the love of your life.
A brief but bitter confrontation later, you realized that your love however is not interested in raising this baby because he has somewhere/anywhere else to be and he’s definitely not interested in marrying you (not that it matters).

As a child, you always knew that when you grow up, you want to be a lawmaker by joining mainstream politics in the greatest country on the face of earth and your parents believed in you because you always passed top of your class. They silently thought that you can even go on to become The President of United States. They exhausted all their money and their savings on your college fees.
But, when you told your parents about this latest “accident”, they seemed devastated. Your parents are outraged by your recklessness. As religious as they are living in the conservative state of Alabama, they are so not interested in this gift of God. You were not such a good investment after all and a child out of wedlock means that your prospective political career is doomed even before it’s begun.
You don’t have time or money or whole hearted support from your family or partner. What you do have is your student loan, part time jobs and a vague sense of ambition to be someone when you grow up.
Worst part is that you don’t even love this baby because you didn’t plan for it and everyday the baby reminds you of your treacherous boyfriend. While your parents question their lack of judgment, you question yours.

But do you think it is fair to keep the baby because some Governor passed a bill banning not to keep it? Do you think you are ready for parenting or are you looking at foster care or God forbid, garbage bins? After all, there are also mothers who abandon their children.

Dear Madame Governor of Alabama, you are 34 now and happily married. Life as is, ran it’s course and you were able to get over your college heart break. In fact, you are over 12 weeks pregnant now. Happily living with the man of your dreams. You and your husband cannot be more excited to welcome your third child. However, over last couple of days you haven’t been feeling so great. You wonder if it’s the morning sickness gone bad. You anyway decide to see your obstetrician tomorrow. Now you are at the doctor’s office, and the doctor doesn’t look very happy navigating the ultrasound screen. Even you can see that your baby is not moving. The doctor is quiet.
An hour later, you learn that your fetus has a neural tube disorder. It is the rarest of the rare disease called Anencephaly, that cannot be cured. There are chances that the baby will be a still born or will not make it more than few days of mortality. By now, you are hysterically sobbing and your husband leaves everything at office to join you at the clinic. The doctor explains to you that although the baby has a disease and his survival chances are less than 0.5 percent, your case doesn’t qualify for termination of pregnancy by law. He explains to you your options, which aren’t that many. You decide to wait for your ultrasound reports for one more week before you make up your mind. The whole week you spend praying and thinking what went wrong. You did everything by the books then WHAT WENT WRONG. The following week at the doctor’s office your biggest fears are confirmed. The baby will not live whatsoever.

You remember that the doctor hinted that one of the options is going to those shady, underground, overpriced clinics that sometimes don’t even sterilize their equipment. You know you are putting your health at a bigger risk but you just cannot go through this pregnancy knowing that there is no other way this will end. There are no surprises here. A fetus with Anencephaly does not survive. Now, are you supposed to carry a baby just so that you can donate his tiny organs 6 months later? You and your husband agree that you don’t want your baby to only know suffering.
After much contemplation, you did make that doctor’s visit in the squalid clinic, the beds of which are bloodstained from other women’s bodies and the ceiling is dampened, on the verge of leaking. Just because a governor decided to think she’s a messenger of God didn’t alter you from making your life decisions and you have never been guilty about it. You have been sad, oh so sad. You still say a little prayer for your baby every night before you go to bed. You pray for it to be happy in heaven. But have you been guilty? Never.

Dear Governor of Alabama, all this is getting too serious. You know the gang rape scenario, not being ready to be a single mother scenario and the terminally-ill fetus scenario is a bit too much maybe. But I wonder if you would accept the gift of God if your husband knocks up one of your house maids while you are caught up rallying your life out and it falls upon you, for whatever turn of events- to raise the love child? I am pretty sure Madame that you’d pray really hard that the baby, it’s mother and even your husband would collectively drop dead. Wouldn’t you now?

Dear Governor of Alabama, when you signed this abhorrent bill banning abortions, you stated that “every life is precious and a gift of God”. This is exactly the kind of statement one doesn’t expect from the lawmakers of first world countries as they are expected to be more in sync with the changing times.
Having made a statement as conservative as “protecting a gift of God”, you have out rightly disrespected the fact that some people may choose to be agnostic. Disrespected democracy. Disrespected the fact that first and foremost, you are supposed to protect your citizens and right now not only your citizens but the whole world is appalled by this imperceptive move. Also how different are you from other radical extremists?
If you think that you could masquerade a political move as a human life protection law then I am sorry for your delusions because nobody is buying this, for you have not even spared the rape victims. It hurts to explain to a woman, who is more than twice my age, that a seed cannot be separated from the fruit.
A fetus doesn’t start breathing till it is 24 weeks old. And although life is so much more than the act of breathing, it should only be a mother’s decision if she is ready to bring in a life to this planet- without any stigma, without any questions being asked at least during the first trimester.
As a citizen of a developing country, I can tell you that people in my country, India, look up to the United States of America as dreamland, floating in the clouds. Grass is green. Sky is blue. Air is clean and liberal. It is a matter of immense pride when someone in a family even travels to the United States, let alone securing an admission at a university or getting a job. It is seen not only as a land of opportunities but also a place where you can just be you. Where it is okay to choose whatever profession you like, where you could wear whatever you like, where you can be out till late because it’s safe to be out, you can marry whoever you like or not marry at all. A dream country which is a lot less conservative than the East. A rescue from the conservativeness that shackles the spirit. But today, it is as if the United States is going 200 years back in time. And today, I can vouch many women share my sentiment, when I say I am relieved to have not been born in the state of Alabama, USA.
I hope the Supreme court of the United States of America ends this madness that Madame Governor, Kay Ivey has started.

Proofreading Credits – My good friend Sri (@Sri_sallan) .

Does God Exist? – Speculating the relevance of Religion and God in present times. [7 minutes]

Image Source

It wasn’t long ago that ‘Happy Navaratri’ messages started flooding my phone and pictures of Hindu Goddesses started flashing over my social media. The auspicious 9 days were here and suddenly people around me had begun fasting and some of them had gone to the lengths of not drinking water, while for others not consuming alcohol and non-vegetarian food is their equivalent of fasting for next 9 days. I wonder if the latter category of people think that God too is a hypocrite? It probably is okay for them they think that as per God, it is okay to butcher animals for 356 days a year but these 9 days should make up for the bloodshed. A counterintuitive argument could be God created food chain and put us on the pyramid to probably not abstain from eating only what is natural. But, nevermind. Coming from a Hindu family, none of this comes as a surprise to me however the question remains: why is there so much suffering in this world if the God is as loving, kind and powerful as the scriptures say He is.The feminist in me cringes while reading the last part of this sentence, but as a matter of fact, God is imagined to be a male across most religions. All the more questioning the authenticity of the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. There has to be some logical justification for the holocaust, wars, famines, floods, rapes – some rationalization except for Drake’s two words: ‘God’s plan’.

Interestingly, almost 1.2 billion people on Earth are non-believers, agnostics or atheists. This numbers is almost equal to Islam followers which is world’s second most followed religion. According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, ‘agnosticism’ is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist’. Until something earth shattering occurs and we decide to base all our beliefs on facts, eventually becoming an atheist. Despite this, 75 percent of world’s population continues to practice some form of religion or another. Believe in God or not, religion is so deeply ingrained in our society that sometimes it’s presence is overlooked.

After all, what drives faith? Also, how relevant is the concept of religion in modern times?

The most accurate description of religion that I came across on the internet is, ‘a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.’

The origins of Homo Sapiens dates back to 200,000 years ago but inconclusive evidence suggests that origin of religion goes back to Homo neanderthalensis, approximately 300,000 years ago, who used to bury their dead- an evidence of the use of ritual. Suffice to say, even the primates couldn’t go on for long without connecting to some kind of spiritual energy.

Even the law relies on the religion to derive its moral compass hence, making murder a legally punishable act. Imagine living in a world where killing people is morally acceptable. Most of us wouldn’t be reading this article. Another example of this would be abolition of Capital punishment in most countries that is primarily based on the fact that only God can create and take life. Even our major festivals, that deeply affect our social calendars are all for religious purposes. Diwali marks the return of Hindu Lord Ram to Ayodhya from a fourteen-year exile (vanvaas) and symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance”. Christmas is to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. For Muslims, Ramadan is a holy month dedicated to prayer, Quran recitation, introspection and fasting during the sunlight hours. Similarly, for Easter, Hanukah that have their own religious foundations.

I think a more important question is to ask oneself is can we exist without religion? Maybe not all parts of what was written thousand of years ago is relevant in today’s day and time but I believe some parts of it can be used even as guiding principles. For example: for starters, I think life indeed would be simpler if people stopped indulging in the seven(7) sins as per the Bible: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath and pride. These sins, as per Hinduism, have nothing to do with God, but everything to do with our own self, our Karma. It’s more like ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’. These sins are not a rebel against God/deity/centralized superpower, contrary to some modern religions.

It’s beautiful how Buddhism preaches to strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life and do not worship gods/deities. Another life changing take away lesson comes from Buddhist philosophy are the Four Noble Truths, that state the Truth of Suffering, The Truth of the Cause of Suffering, The Truth of the End of Suffering, and The Truth of the Path that Leads to the End of Suffering. The First Truth is that suffering, pain, and misery exist in life. The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. The Third Truth is that this selfish craving can be overcome. The Fourth Truth is that the way to overcome this misery is through the Eightfold Path. As per Buddhism, the eight-fold path is the way to reach Nirvana- rightness of belief, resolve, speech, action, livelihood, effort, thought, and meditation.

But it’s no surprise that this is a hard path that Gautam Buddha laid down for his fellow followers, and most of the disciples (in the modern sense) eventually ended up praying to demigods (Asuras and Devas) for the earthly desires and wishes. If only escaping suffering was so easy. But the first 3 Noble truths are definitely riveting — because during difficult times, it’s the thought that matters. These wise words have the power to cure depression and impart stability and strength in face of difficult situations — a lesson that could be life-altering if a person truly believed that any suffering could be overcome.

However, contrary to a misguided belief — Nirvana does not mean to sit under a tree/live a life of a monk/chant mantras eyes shut-day in, day out. Those who think this are actually out of their depth here. It actually is a state of mind which can be practiced by anyone and everyone. Hinduism tactfully guides us towards “object of human pursuit”, or Puruṣārtha. The four proper goals of human life as per Puruṣārtha are:

· Dharma — includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and right way of living. These enables social order, right conduct, and virtuous behavior. Dharma, in another connotation, is that which all existing beings must accept and respect to sustain harmony and order in the world. It is the pursuit and execution of one’s nature and true calling, thus playing one’s role in cosmic concert.

· Artha — signifies the “means of life”, activities and resources that enables one to be in a state one wants to be in. Artha incorporates wealth, career, activity to make a living, financial security and economic prosperity. The proper pursuit of Arthais considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism.

· Kama — signifies desire, wish, passion, emotions, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations. Kāma is “love” without violating dharma (moral responsibility), Artha(material prosperity) and one’s journey towards moksha (spiritual liberation). Work, indeed, is worship.

· Moksha — signifies emancipation, liberation or release. In some schools of Hinduism, Mokshaconnotes freedom from saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth, in other schools Moksha connotes freedom, self-knowledge, self-realization and liberation in this life.

Hindu literature emphasizes that dharma comes first and without dharma, Artha and Kama can lead to personal and social chaos. Dharma is then preceded by Artha and last but not the least, comes Kama. That is quite pragmatically spot on. It is almost utopian to imagine a life with just right amount of Dharma(moral values) blend into right inclination toward Artha(economic resources), be nourished with right amount of Kama(love) and know exactly when to stop and reflect for Moksha. But with balance, it probably is possible to devour into depths of depth of each in order to explore and savor life to the fullest. It must be at this point, that the inherent tension between Moksha on one hand, and the active pursuit of Kama and Artha on the other comes to a resolution. A meditation in itself if one state seamlessly transcends into another. An example of the opposite end of the spectrum can be read in ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma.

This right state of balance where Dharma, Artha and Kama meet to blossom into Moksha is termed as Nishkam Karmain Bhagavad Gita. It means: ‘act and enjoy with renunciation, do not covet’ or ‘Detached Involvement’, further laying the foundation for ‘Business ethics’ in the modern workplace. The Karma theory provides an operational basis for constructive achievement and is perhaps more relevant today than in the Mahabharata times. The doctrine of Karma Yoga emphasizes detachment and equanimous attitude towards success and failure and inculcating virtues like sacrifice, dedication, belief and greater good of the people as the motive for action. Nishkamta doesn’t obstruct any comparisons nor does it mean that one shouldn’t have any targets.

All said and done, if there’s one thing I realized being a grown up then that is — adults are as confused as children and we spend most of our lives making sense out of this confusion. It’s some part guesswork, some research and some just a matter of chance events, mostly attributed as luck, or fate. We remain fragile as a baby despite our fierce accomplishments and the depth of our own emotions blow us away. We find ourselves on our knees more often than we imagine and comes a day we find ourselves crippled to the extent of helplessness that reaches out only to faith, at times blind.

Faith is simply much more than an option for those of us who have experienced sheer joy or immense pain, because in our hearts we know that none of this makes sense. We did nothing to deserve either this happiness or the pain. But who do we thank or blame for this haphazardness? A supernatural power sounds like a good idea to hold on to our sanity.


Love Does Not Make The World Go Round

They say that love makes the world go round but I would strongly beg to differ. In my humble opinion, it is kindness and the small acts of it which keeps this otherwise man-eat-man world going as it may not be possible to love every second person coming your way. Let alone the first.

What compelled me to write this article is a heart warming incident that occurred just a few days back:

As it happens during every monsoon, all the potholes in New Delhi turned into tiny ponds, creating an illusion of uniformity on otherwise broken roads, only that this uniformity is brought about by rain water and not the more often used mortar in the civil industry. Suffice to say, it’s impossible to distinguish a rut from a road and one usually figures out their way trailing a car in front of them.

As brave as I am, I decided that nothing must stand between me and my daily humdrum activities and so I turned on the ignition of my old-as-time Honda City and set out to fetch groceries. Yes, groceries. Everything was rainbows and unicorns, with the former actually gracing the storm struck sky until I reached the supermarket and decided to park my car in an isolated spot. That should have been the first warning sign! One never just finds an isolated parking spot in the capital of second most populated country of the world. As the reader might have guessed already, it was actually a rut full of water and I drove straight into it. I realized I am in hot and muddy waters for real and a humdrum activity had turned into an adventure. A while later, a few people who seemed to be enjoying their perfect afternoon tea at a cigratte stall noticed my struggle and decided to help me, God bless their soul. I may have heard some remarks in reference to being a ‘lady driver’, but nothing that I hadn’t heard of earlier. That day, those gentlemen got their hands and clothes dirty in order to help me out.

In retrospect, I think even my car protested a little that day to not go for a ride, but it’s old and I anyway ignore most of it’s warnings unless it drops dead in middle of the highway. And then we call the crane services and show some love in terms of oiling and greasing and replacing this and replacing that until it feels pampered enough and finally decides to play along just like a puffed up boyfriend who needs some ego massage every now and then. Moving on.

I can also count numerous such encounters where I have been helped by cab drivers, by-standers, strangers and so many other kind people who spent as many as 40-minutes from their life trying to explain me a direction, or fixing my car for free, being my local translator or in general getting me out of trouble. I cannot even begin to imagine how the situation might have turned out be, had it not been for these kind hearted people. In numerous tough times, the people that ‘love’ me such as my family and friends were not around to help me .

As Yuval Noah Harari, stated in his bestseller book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, ‘…Homo Sapiens is primarily a social animal. Social Cooperation is our key for survival and reproduction. It is not enough for individual men and women to know the whereabouts of lions and bisons.’ By lions and bisons here, he indicates our surroundings. We have needed each-other’s help since the start and even our ancestors went out in groups to hunt for they knew that alone, we cannot by-any-means hunt a giant animal. Mr. Harari further goes on to explain how a human singularly is of almost null significance but together goes on to create civilisations, governments and nations.   And yet we tend to forget how much we need each other at the end of the day. We forget to be kind. We forget to smile at others and sometimes, we even go on to think we can make it on our own.  

In a different part of the country; called Kerala, the wrath of monsoons has been anything but deadly and hundreds of people lost their life to nature’s fury, which as much as the state would not like to take responsibility for, could have been avoided. Yes, I agree it occurred after a hundred years but wouldn’t really be much of a disaster if it occurred bi-weekly.

But even in these arduous times, the country came together and the Chief Minister Distress relief fund has received a donation of Rs 210 cr so far and it goes without saying that all of this money has come from generous and altruistic people including children and students who are not necessarily rich.

As I scroll through social media day after day, below is a picture that especially caught my attention. The young man in this picture is National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rescue officer Kanhaiya Kumar who dared to save a child amidst a submerging bridge.

The reason I think the picture above went so viral is because not only it represents but inspires all the emotions at once: bravery, kindness, hope and even love. It sends out a loud and clear message: even though everything is down to ashes or more appropriately, drowned in water, only humanity will suffice to save humanity.

An act of kindness is not just a harbinger of hope but is also a mark of bravery which is best tested in times of adversity. And in adverse times, the kinder you are to those who brought you pain, the liberated you would feel. It is a kind of power that overcomes all cynicism. And just because it is so powerful and liberating, it comes with lots and lots of practice. In different words, kindness is a close kin of bravery which is often confused with the popular opinion of it just being a mere act of taking or giving life for honor. I, for one cannot imagine an unkind brave-heart. The arrogant ones confuse this power with weakness until they have a weak moment themselves post which they lean on the kindest shoulder they can find around. Quite a game changer, isn’t it now?

So — did you do your bit of kindness today? Did you donate for our friends in Kerala who lost not just their homes but also families? Did you release your insecurities and personal issues towards someone such as a subordinate or a loved one who had no choice but to bear the brunt out of position or love?

Well, whatever you did or did not. It’s never too late to take corrective measures. Especially in the 20th century.


Although I spent about six months living in London, now that I look back a few months later, the one thing I remember most vividly is the Red couch in my apartment. My couch was flanked by two table lamps on either side against a back drop of a cream colored wall. It was on this couch I’d sit for hours holding my laptop hoping to squeeze some words out of my brain. I’d wake up and lazily drag myself to this couch after which I would eventually open the curtains to allow the sunlight to flood my apartment. It was sitting here, I’d look outside the window at the houses, as still as a painting against the clear blue sky, wondering if anyone lived in those houses as no where ever seemed to come out. At times, I would try to analyze the sky for tens of minutes just to determine if it would rain that day. I would go through all this trouble just so that I did not have to carry an umbrella. I eventually learned that on days it shined the brightest, it rained the hardest and as always, I learned my lesson the hard way. The lesson in itself being that ‘always carry an umbrella’.

But the illusion of a quiet neighborhood broke as soon as one began to walk towards the Underground. An interesting fact about the London Underground is that around 55% of  it is actually above the ground. Ironic, right? But what I loved the most about the Underground is that there would always be some artist playing a guitar, a piano or even a violin, calm as a sea in midst of a hasty crowd of people. A reminder to smell the roses, as the Americans say. The nearest Underground station from my apartment was the Stratford station adjacent to the Westfield mall. They say that the Westfield mall is one of the largest malls in Europe. I am sure I never covered it entirely for like most humans, I am inclined towards familiarity. I’d often visit the same places and eat at the same resturants. The waiters in the resturants and the sales persons at the shops apart from the general public usually comprised of what are known as ‘immigrants’. I later learned that London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world that gives you a fair glimpse of people from across the globe. I could hear hundreds of dialects as I would ideally window-shop for hours. However, my ears shot up only when I heard someone talk in Hindi. The beauty of this diversity is that you never feel like an outsider. You just blend in. Why? Because almost everyone else is an outsider too. In retrospect, I think that the Westfield mall is a correct representation of London in itself.

On some weekends, me and some friends of mine would go to central London and wait in never ending queues in cold and rain just so that we could tick off a known eating joint and kickstart our weekend. I have to admit that London is a food paradise even for a vegetarian like me and I always looked forward to eating at Punjab, Spaghetti house, Pret a Manger, Where the Pancakes Are,  Roti King and Wahaca to name a few.

We would later stroll on queen’s walk along the south bank of the River  Thames.  We would start somewhere near the London eye and go on till the Westminster bridge. It’s remarkable how almost everything has a piece of monarchy in it. The monarchy in itself contributes to ninety percent cultural heritage of the country which includes all the museums, palaces and other landmarks such as the big ben itself. In ways, the monarchy will always live through it’s subtle reminders.

sky sunset people tree
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

On evenings, when my friends felt particularly adventurous, we’d go to Piccadaly circus and SOHO which is extra lit-up with the onset of the Christmas month. I’d look at the LGBT clubs in SOHO and wish for the same to happen in my country where the LGBT community is not only unrecognized but also ostracized. How wonderful it would be if people could just work anywhere without having to justify their genital status. I know one day this day too would come for it is only natural, I just wish it would happen sooner.

On weekdays, I would go to the same tube station to take the Jubilee line for my office in Canary Wharf. It used to be a short ride but it doesn’t take long to recognize that the Londoners don’t like it if you stand to the left of an escalator, cut the queue or try to get on a packed tube before everyone’s gotten off. The Canary Wharf comprises of endless high-rise glass buildings. At night, the buildings glitter as if studded with millions of yellow diamonds and the dainty Thames glitters along with these buildings. The ladies and gentlemen around here are often seen trotting in black coats and polished boots with an aura that states no-nonsense, strictly business. But no kidding, these buildings have very important roles to play in the practical matters of the world.

lights night water photographer
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

On some evenings, I would come back home to an overheated apartment, often with a bag full of groceries from TESCO or Sainsbury and realize that I had forgotten to turn the  heater off. I would draw open the curtains and open the window to allow the fresh air to come in. Sometimes, I would see a couple making love in the apartment right across from mine. I would wonder if they left the window open on purpose for they put up quite a show. I wondered if the other residents of my building were hanging by their balcony too. It has always fascinated me how men let go of their ego behind closed doors. On some of these evenings, I would draw the curtains close and go back too doing my work but on other days, I would grab a glass of wine and enjoy the show once I slouched on my Red couch.

The Old Man and the Sea – Book Review




This is a story of an aging and a poor Cuban fisherman named Santiago, who hasn’t caught a fish in 84 days – a symbol of ultimate bad luck in the Cuban fishing community known as “salao“.

The book revolves around three characters: Santiago – the old fisherman, Manolin – Santiago’s apprentice and a marlin. Manolin is a young boy who deeply cares and loves the old man however, due to salao, the young boy is forbidden by his parents to go fishing with the old man for the bad luck is seldom contagious. Determined to catch a fish and break his salao, Santiago sails far deep into the Gulf Stream where he finally hooks a magnificent marlin. The reader might be momentarily relieved here only to find out that the marlin is so giant and powerful, that the old man fails to haul him in and instead, it is the marlin that tows the skiff for next two days, pushing Santiago into deeper waters.

Still not willing to give up, the old man hopes that the marlin will ultimately get tired of towing around and will die of either fatigue or starvation. As experienced as he was, he decided to put up a fight. While he battles the fish with sweat and blood for the next two days, he develops compassion and respect for the magnificent marlin because just as the old man himself, the marlin refuses to give in. The old man wonders: “There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity.”

On day three, the marlin finally becomes sluggish in its movement and the old man seizes this opportunity to kill it with his harpoon.  The marlin is now dead and in old man’s control. The old man and the reader is yet momentarily relieved here. The old man tastes the marlin’s flesh and decides that it is one of finest he has ever had and it will earn him a fortune. Could there be a better way to end a what seemed like a never ending salao? However, the marlin’s blood begins to lure ravenous sharks. Santiago kills and drives away as many sharks as he could but the sharks keep coming and there comes a time, he loses his harpoon, his only weapon. It’s almost sunrise by the time the old man reaches the shoreline and not much remained of the magnificent fish. He is so exhausted that he goes back home and slumps into his bed and falls into deep slumber.

Next day, the fishermen gather around Santiago’s boat and measure that the fish is 18 feet long. They feel sorry about Santiago and tell Manolin to let Santiago know. Manolin cries and feels guilty for not being there for the old man when he needed him the most. He vows to accompany Santiago on his next fishing trip.


A certain kind of wisdom, one which might be comparable to the depth of an ocean is attained only by virtue of age and adversity, for adversity introduces a man to himself.  This book captures the epiphanies and wisdom which only a man as old and experienced as Santiago can posses. The message of the book is quite precise: ‘Man can be destroyed, but not defeated’ or in simple words, it’s all in the head. Experiencing this book definitely  requires some patience. Imagine sitting on a boat in the middle of an ocean and waiting to catch a fish. It could be an hour, a day or days. Life is about being patient and it is only human to hope and romanticize the impending victory. And just as in this book, in life too, sometimes there is no there when we reach there but we have to keep trying. We have to overcome our enemies, our demons – as much powerful as they appear, as much as we appreciate their strength and hold them above us, on a pedestal. Most of the times, they are only as strong as our weakness. The simple plot of this book captures the essence of most complex struggles in life.  Therefore, just as Ernest Miller Hemingway says through Santiago, Man can be destroyed, but not defeated. Righteously marked as one of the finest classics, this novella is definitely a must-read.


Some of my favorite quotes from this book are:

  • “It is silly not to hope, he thought.”


  • “He [Santiago] was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride.”


  • “No one should be alone in their old age, he thought. But it is unavoidable.”


  • “You were born to be a fisherman as the fish was born to be a fish.”


  • “Why do old men wake so early? Is it to have one longer day?”


  • “I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars. Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. . . . Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. . . . There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity. I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.”


  • “He did not say that because he knew that if you said a good thing it might not happen.”
    But, thank God, [the fish] are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able.”


  • “He looked across the sea and knew how alone he was now. But he could see the prisms in the deep dark water and the line stretching ahead and the strange undulation of the calm. The clouds were building up now for the trade wind and he looked ahead and saw a flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over the water, then blurring, then etching again and he knew no man was ever alone on the sea.”


  • “She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly”
    “the fish’s eye looked as detached as the mirrors in a periscope or as a saint in a procession.”


  • “They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert. Everything”


  • “Fish,” he said, “I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.”

Sexual Harassment: A Chronic Problem

As mortal beings, we humans put in a lot of efforts into saving memories. We click pictures, collect souvenirs and sometimes people like me even write it all down.  But when the pictures are gone and the souvenirs are lying someplace we can’t remember, then, there is only one thing that comes back to us when the sun goes down and the door in the back of our head cracks open and that is: how we felt. Precisely, how we felt in that moment. Was it ecstasy or fear? Was it exciting or dull? Was it forced or faked or undesired? Did it feel victorious or quite the opposite?

A memory reminds us how we felt at a point in time and sometimes, for good reasons, memories shouldn’t be created.

In the summer break of 2005, my mother decided that it would be a good use of me and my best friend’s time to learn swimming and so, she enrolled us for classes at a local school that sublet its pool to freelance swimming instructors. I still remember the first time we went to see the pool along with my mother. We were introduced to two young instructors who promised my mother that they would extend all the necessary support and ‘watch out’ for us. The pool was crowded with all the kins, especially the mothers sitting by the pool guarding dry towels and clothes, cheering and motivating their kids, making friends with fellow mothers. It seemed like a picture perfect moment full of fun and frolic with at least 20 pairs of eyes constantly watching the pool making sure that a part of them doesn’t drown out there. Vedika and I giggled as we exchanged enthusiastic looks with each other just as any thirteen year olds would do. We had already decided the color of our swimming costume, the goggles and the cap. We were finally going to learn the butterfly stroke! Or so we hoped.

The first few days were easy. We were taught to hold our breath, float and scissor kick our legs. Being a hydrophobic, I always stood by the shallow end of the pool while Vedika explored the water until it reached her shoulder level. She would swim almost 10 feet away from me and then signal me to come but I always shook my head in a firm no. If there is one thing I learned then it was that nothing sucked more than chlorinated water up your nose.

A week later, one of my instructors approached me and said something along the lines that I need to try harder in order to overcome my fear of water if I really were to learn swimming. He suggested I should try to go towards slightly deeper side of the pool and in order to help me, he promised to be there by my side at all times. ‘I won’t let you drown’, he said and I agreed, mostly because my friends in the park, including my crush said the same, i.e. one needs to go into deeper waters in order to actually learn swimming. So we both are somewhere in the middle of 8 feet and I am doing just fine trying to paddle away the water until it struck me that there is no ground under my feet and I panicked. I could feel my heart hammering against my ribs as I gasped for air as the water sucked me in. I fanatically reached out for my instructor who was at an arms distance. He helped me resurface and tried to calm me down, ‘It’s okay’, he repeated again and again and the next thing I realized amidst all the confusion is that one of his hands is touching my inner thighs while he looked me straight in the eye waiting for a reaction. I wonder if I looked more confused or terrified or both knowing that I couldn’t even push him away from myself or else I may drown. ‘I want to go back to the shallow side’, I finally said not knowing how else to react.  ‘Sure’, he smiled like touching a person’s bare thigh is the most natural thing in the world.

That was definitely the end of swimming lessons for me and never did I say a word about this to anyone simply because I wasn’t even sure about what happened back then. Vedika never complained about anything so I thought maybe something was wrong with me or maybe I misread the whole situation. But this definitely wasn’t the end of sexual harassment I faced as a naïve teen ager. Once my ass was pinched at a crowded Diwali fair, even though my parents were just a few feet away from me and at another instance when I was hospitalized for a few days, the doctor thought the right way to listen to my heartbeat is by pressing the stethoscope right at the center of the breasts, which I observed wasn’t the case when my parents were in the room. And mind you, all of this is apart from the day to day eve teasing and name calling of body parts which involved no physical contact thankfully. At all instances I wondered if my behavior was provocative in any way? Was I wearing inappropriate clothes? What did I do to invite such depravity? After every single instance, I came back home with a little bit of innocence being replaced by a little bit of cynicism but importantly, I came back with the fear of being out alone.

I wondered what it must be like for women and little girls who are taken against their will. Every day the newspaper had a new story to tell which suddenly had all my attention and I realized that all this is for real. I couldn’t help but wonder if something worse happened to me.

The recent Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo spark is yet another reminder that even today, women at top of their fields face such sexual innuendoes by men at top of theirs, even in first world supposedly advanced nations and maybe in all those years, it wasn’t my fault for inviting such behavior and honestly, that’s bit of a relieve. It is a reminder that successful and even learned men treat women like objects and suddenly I can clearly see that face with the creepy smile in the middle of the swimming pool that said ‘Sure’.  Scandals such as these take me down the memory lane and even after more than a decade of first such incidence in my life, the first thing I remember is how I felt at that very moment and I precisely felt terrified.

But why am I writing about this after all these year when the discomfort of talking through this can be easily swept under the carpet? Well, I am sharing some of the darkest moments of my life because I know there are other young and naïve girls out there who don’t know how to react. To them I want to say, speak up. They are targeting you because they think you are young and vulnerable which is why they can probably get away with this behavior. We have to make sure that this screwed up mindset changes and for that we need to speak up.

Today, I wonder how many girls must that instructor have tried to molest before and after me? I wonder how things would have been different if I had shared this incident with my parents and then they would have probably taken appropriate actions to escalate the issue. Maybe, I should have slapped each one of those guys, I do imagine doing that sometimes and it feels good because then people like him would at least think twice before pulling such stunts. I wonder how many innocent girls I could have saved from being scarred because back then when I said nothing, they won. I gave each one of them the power by staying silent and till date, it bothers me.

To all the parents, I want to say, talk to you children both girls and boys because in the recent light of events, little boys are exploited too in ways we don’t want to imagine and all of this happens in plain sight of a pool or in social gatherings by people who look completely normal. It happens when you don’t even see it coming and it is of utmost importance that you educate your kids about the ‘bad’ touch. You tell them, that you as a parent are open to such conversations because the world isn’t a fairyland after all. Such conversations are very difficult yet very important.

To some extent, I want to blame the society and the social media for my silence back then because of the victim blaming games they play. They somehow twist the whole situation to show that it was the girls fault. They mask the woman’s identity when instead as a society we should say, ‘Look, here’s a hero who survived disgrace’ but in reality, the questions that are raised are: Why was she out so late? Why was she dressed like that? Why was she breathing?

The conservative remarks such as ‘’Boys will be boys, they commit mistakes” that come from ministers holding political offices in India show how doomed we are as a society and how our leadership is screwed beyond repairs. Such weak men cannot handle strong women and more importantly they cannot handle being let down, being said ‘NO’ to by a woman and so they make up a world in their heads in which women are supposed to behave in a certain way while men can grab and grope anyone they please. It’s no surprise that 70 percent of work place sexual harassment in India goes unreported.

It goes without saying that there are good men too, the ones I see in my father, brothers and friends who treat women as humans not above or below them but equally, and they are far more in number than the bad men which is why this world isn’t such a bad place to live in after all.  To such men, I want to say thank you, for your thoughtfulness and compassion is moving.

I know there is a long way to go but I also know that we have come a long way from a world where once there was practiced Sati to a world where women can be themselves more freely. It is bit of a paradox that we are born free but still we have to fight majority of our life fighting for some kind of freedom or a basic right. This is probably because we ourselves are our biggest enemy and the hunger for power overcomes us in various ways. History stands tall as an evidence that men in the past have oppressed and waged wars on other men for no rational reason at all but just to feel powerful and it shouldn’t be a surprise if such men and women with vile motives keep surfacing from time to time. Together as a society we can fight them all but as a starting point, we need to speak up.

Photo Courtesy: verilymag.com

Paradox of Choice

Westernized societies that we live in today firmly believe that the best way to satiate their audience is to provide them with a plethora of choices. This would enable a person to conveniently find a best fit and would make life easier.

However, a recent study that was conducted to understand consumer behavior indicates otherwise:

In this study, Twenty Four flavors of jams were placed in one supermarket and six flavors of jams were placed in another super market. Almost the same number of people were invited to these stores to buy these jams.

It was observed that 30 percent of people bought jams from the supermarket where they had 6 jams to choose from against 3 percent of those who had to choose from 24 different flavors of jams. Evidently, the people who tasted close of two dozen different flavors got so confused that they chose to buy nothing at all. This is the first short coming of having too many choices – Paralysis to make one.

Choices that are supposed to make our decision-making easy, in a twisted way render us choice less. This brings us to a million dollar question: ‘Is having so many choices always such a good news’? Continue reading “Paradox of Choice”

Beyond the Obvious


Navya, who took immense pride in her fashion sense, had gone borderline hysterical trying to decide upon a dress that she wanted to wear at a family wedding. In order to keep up with her reputation, the pressure to look her best in the big fat Indian wedding was overwhelming. After a great deal of contemplation and deliberation, she picked a saree, the color of which was mainly Red and Golden which meant that all her accessories such as earrings, bangles and other jewelry had to be coordinated accordingly in the same colors.

An intricate planner that she was, she made a list of things that were to be bought in order to prepare for the big day, bangles being on top of that list. Just as any craftsman who knows his art, she knew for a fact that her bangles had to be Red.She knew there was just one shop in her vicinity that sold the classic Indian glass bangles.  “Of course they must have plain Red bangles,” she thought to herself, there couldn’t be a color more common after all.

The next day, like a woman on mission, she announced to three bored faces as she stomped inside an otherwise empty shop, “I want Red bangles”. The bored faces sprang to attention, did a quick analysis of her wrist size, looked around and returned wearing an expression suggestive of an impending bad news and a few seconds later, there it was – “Sorry ma’am, we do not have red bangles in your size at the moment, we may have something in Maroon though.” Continue reading “Beyond the Obvious”

Top 5 Books for non-readers

Are you a biblio-phobe? Are you just so sick of people telling you to culminate the habit of reading?  Do you start reading a book but end up sleeping? Could you never get past those 50 pages? Well, if the answers to all those questions is a ‘yes’, then you have come to the right place. Ting!

Reading is to the brain what exercise is to your body but unfortunately, it comes of as a nightmare to a lot of people (so does exercise if you think of it). Why read when you can listen to audio books and watch almost everything in form of documentaries and movies. The biggest dilemma in the life of a non-reader is to begin reading and in order to get through reading a book, it is important that we read something that not just grasps one’s attention but also sustains it. Continue reading “Top 5 Books for non-readers”

The Brownian Motion

Our Physics book back in school described ‘Brownian motion‘ as ‘the erratic random movement of microscopic particles in a fluid, as a result of continuous bombardment from molecules of the surrounding medium’.

Now imagine this – You are the ‘microscopic particle’; the world is the ‘fluid’ and ‘molecules of the surrounding medium’ are the life events that weave you/push you/dare you/compel you/create you and temporarily make you into who you are. But why temporary? Because the process is continuous and stops only when one ceases to exist and hence, presenting before you – The Brownian Motion.  Continue reading “The Brownian Motion”