Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Chance Encounter with a Knowledgeable Soul


It was an unusually busy day. There was a long queue to the registration desk and the form to be filled was pretty long. I was already very upset over how the day went for me and now this mismanaged system was further pissing me off. There were scribes at the registration desk and candidates had to dictate everything. How inappropriate and old fashioned it was. First, in this 21st century when we are so used to give feedback on touch screen tablets, who use such laggard method and secondly, what about the privacy? I had to divulge my details in front of dozens of people. For the umpteenth time, I asked a volunteer about the delay. Uninterested, he replied to me that the manager was on lunch break and so there was a delay in allocation of seats. I asked him if this allocation was based on first come first serve basis or reservations? He got annoyed and said, “This place is beyond all politics, the allocations are made purely on the basis of merit. Even if you are a rainmaker, you can’t make a deal with His Highness Shri Shri Shri Chitragupt ji”.


“I am sorry sir. I was just inquisitive. This is my first day after death.”


I looked at the young apprentice Yamdoot (Messengers of the God of Death) who brought me here. This was his first assignment and he was quite nervous about it but being a professional with an experience of surviving eleven appraisal cycles, I was able to give him a small pep talk mostly inspired by Shahrukh’s Chak De India. Anyway, I guess it worked and I could see him cracking some nice adult jokes with his seniors. Honestly, I was getting so bored, was already missing my mobile. At least I could have played few rounds of Candy Crush or swiped right some Tinder requests but what’s the use of all these things? I was told that this place runs on a different technology which is not compatible with the one on earth. I guess that is why all these spiritual Babas ask us not to get addicted to these worldly pleasures and leave our wealth with them to enjoy. While I was whining and murmuring, I felt a tickle on my shoulder.

“Hi”, the voice said.

I turned around but I could not see anyone.

“Hi there”

I saw a tiny mosquito sitting on my shoulder.


“How are you able to speak? Am I really dead or is this one of those crazy dreams?”

“Ahhh... welcome to the other world. You have lost your privilege of being a human. Here, we all are just souls. No superiority. It’s a socialist state. By the way, do you recognize me? I was there with you when you took your last breath. In fact we left together. I reached an hour ago. You must have taken a detour.”

“Well, I am not sure what are you talking about. I died of an asthma attack.”

“Yeah, your post mortem reports would tell so but let me tell you bro you and I got killed by the same weapon.”


“What?”

“Yeah, I was an ace flyer but I got distracted by a handsome hunk on the tree just outside your window. You pointed your mosquito spray nozzle directly at me and next moment I was dead.”

“But how the hell did I get killed?”

“You stupid human, it’s there in our religious texts that the repellent spray that human use on us gets us killed but most of them don’t even know that there is a very poisonous ingredient called DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) that can cause a plethora of ailments like breathing difficulty, respiratory problems, dizziness, stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, skin infections, etc. This is your karma that bites you back and gives us solace for our short life.”

“What rubbish? Such small doses of repellents cannot kill me. Ok?”

“They can kill you son and there might have been other similar factors too.”

 To make this weird conversation even spicier, entered an old gentleman. 


“Hello peeps; my name is Doctor Mansukh. I hail from Surat. The last moments I could remember were when I was celebrating my victory over my grandson in Mortal Kombat XL. I guess I was over excited and got heart-attack and died. What’s your story?”

“We died together. He sprayed the mosquito repellent on me and we both died.”

“Yes I heard that”, said Mansukh Bhai.

“Sir, but it is not possible.”

“Let’s find out.”

“Are you a doctor”, I just could not believe my luck that when I needed treatment, every doctor was booked on the appointment app but now I am getting unsolicited advice on how could I have saved myself from dying.”


“Yes, I am but just because I am a doctor endorsing this, would you accept the facts that are public. Kids of your age are 24X7 online but they know absolutely nothing about being healthy and keeping ourselves safe from diseases. So my best friend, what was your profession?”

“Sir, I was a software engineer- a coder basically”

“If you are a coder, I bet you have spent most of your life confined in your home.”

“Yes sir, that’s true. I have always lived a confined life, away from traffic and factory pollution. I never smoked, not even passive smoking. Don’t know how I contracted asthma. I guess it was in my genes.”

“No dear, it was in your home. Let me enlighten you. The air inside your home can be up to 5 times more polluted than the air outside. There are toxic pollutants being emitted by your housing construction materials, your equipment and the chemical sprays you use in household especially formaldehyde which is a known carcinogenic. So you should actually thank god that you were spared the pain, efforts and money for cancer treatment.”

“Yes uncle, you are right and not only that, a single mosquito coil, so prevalent in households, releases the same amount of particulate mass as burning 75 to 137 cigarettes and emits the equivalent amount of formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) as 51 cigarettes.”, this mosquito girl definitely knew a lot.


“And I thought I could keep myself safe by staying inside. 90% of time I was working for home. I used to order food and groceries too through apps. The only time I used to go out was for project appraisals and Tinder dates.”

“Don’t mind son but what about your deodorant usage? I am just interested in knowing how these are better than body oils that we used?”

“Sir, bachelors live on deodorants. Whenever I felt too lazy to take a bath, I would spray half a bottle of sprays. They are confidence boosters especially on days when you want to impress a boss or a prospective girlfriend.”


“Son, you were indeed doing a great service to the nation by saving water but these aerosol sprays are so dangerous especially when used in closed bathrooms and bedrooms. Even your air fresheners are not safe. We never even realize how these miniscule doses of the harmful chemicals amount to huge health hazards. That is why we should always rely on natural, organic and least invasive products. I remember how we burned eucalyptus oil as mosquito repellent, deodorants I hardly remember I ever used but I guess roll on deodorants are much better and most importantly, a proper ventilation at home is the most important.”

“I never knew there are so many harmful pollutants inside my home and I thought staying at home could save me from another asthma attack. Now no one would even find my body until it rots and neighbours get the foul smell if they are not using a room freshener.”  I was more upset after the conversation because this lack of awareness cost me a life, my own life.

“Don’t kill yourself again fretting over your death son. Enjoy this after life till you are born again. I will take your leave now. They have made final announcements for senior citizens, I have to go. Meet you inside.”

“But I thought there are no reservations.”

“Yeah, but elders and well informed are respected everywhere.”



“By the way, for the people still slogging it out on earth, here’s a chance to improve your indoor air quality- Asian Paints have come up with an innovative product. Royale Atmos is a first of its kind paint that not only looks beautiful, but also cleans the air making it purer than before. Its Activated Carbon technology reduces harmful pollutants from the air. Additionally, Royale Atmos also absorbs select household foul smells to make the air fresher. In fact, Royale Atmos is the first Asian Paints product to have a fragrance, instead of the normal chemical smell of paints.”

Yes guys, if you also don’t want to die a weird and lonely death, please acquaint yourself with the risks carried by everyday products and our immediate environment. So make a good start today- Visit this link and boast about your awareness like Mansukh uncle:  https://www.asianpaints.com/atmos


PS:
Few links that I referred for info:
All the horrible cartoons above are created by me.
My personal preference to keep air clean: Getting a lot of Peace Lily plants for my desk.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Am I intolerant?

So this might be the first time I am writing about a burning topic because you know I am too lazy to voice my opinion. It’s a long process- You voice your opinion very loosely without checking on the facts. N number of people would support you while N+1 number of people would give you thumbs down. Your ego would be hurt and even if you have realized that you were wrong in your assumption, you can’t go back because now you are representing a certain belief and you have to stand by your words else you are not a man enough.

Not deviating more from the topic, here I am with my two cents on this national favourite trending topic. First of all I don’t understand why we use the word ‘tolerance’ which itself is a very negative term? Why don’t we use the term ‘celebration?’ Why do we tolerate other beliefs, why don’t we celebrate? I am a Hindu by religion and I am quite proud of it but more than that I am proud of the fact that I am Indian. It’s not because of the 80+% of Hindu population but it’s because of the other part that represents a number of belief systems. This is what makes our country different from others. Just imagine how many years of ‘tolerance’ would have shaped this unique set of mixed ideologies. Sometimes I wonder what is this classification of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Tamil, Rajput, Brahmin? Is it not just a demographic bucket? I am a Hindu but I also relish the iftaar meals of Chandni Chowk. I visit churches for their Sunday Mass. I have this habit of placing my hand on my heart whenever I am near a religious site- temple, mosque or church. Who is a 100% here? I know many of my friends who belong to a particular belief but have adapted habits of another. I know a friend who is Hindu but loves beef. I know a Malayali who loves Hindi movies, a muslim who places her ghungroo before goddess Saraswati. In the end, after all we all are human beings who are there on earth to live a peaceful and happy life. I have spent the first half of my life enjoying the best of everything that my country offers and given a choice I would like to do the same in future.

Let’s leave religion for a while because it is certainly beyond my scope but language is something that interests me the most. I was born in an Oriya family migrated to Bihar in search of better career. Like all the enthusiastic parents, my parents too taught me Oriya as my first language when I was 3. I was a bright student but I flunked in Hindi. When my parents enquired, my teacher told them that I was always speaking in Oriya and was facing difficulty in picking up Hindi. Now this was nothing less than a dharm sankat for my parents but they had to give in and Hindi became my first language. As I grew up I recognized myself as a Bihari rather than an Oriya and I was cordially accepted in both the states.

To be honest, I never realized the existence of language barrier until years later when I was posted in Chennai. Although I was excited to explore a new place, my family and neighbours were not amused as if I am been sent to some foreign land. However, the moment I reached Chennai I realized that fear was not invalid after all. I was on a fast track leadership programme and had to lead a team. To my shock, even the team meetings in an MNC were taking place in Tamil. I knew I had the rights to force them to speak in English but somewhere I admired them for the respect they had for their culture. Next few days I tried socializing with them and even found some enthusiastic teachers to help me with some basic Tamil but my inability to learn a language again stopped me from learning anything new. I was upset with myself thinking that I would never be able to make a place for myself but I had never been more wrong. Though I failed in learning Tamil, I made my intentions and respect clear. Suddenly meetings started happening in English, I always had a translator at service even to movie theatres. At times, I was given notes in Tamil written in English script and I would lovingly recite it while the whole team would burst into laughing at my accent but I enjoyed every moment of it and made some good friends. On the other hand my Malayali roommate made a weird demand. She asked me to speak in Hindi with her so that I can feel at home. I knew she is a Bollywood fan and thus knows Hindi but I also realized how difficult it is for anyone to communicate in a third language but I really appreciated her gesture.

Long story cut short, I believe it doesn’t matter which bucket you belong to; love, empathy and acceptance should be your language and habit. Rest all would be taken care of.  In this era of black and white probably grey is the shade of the season, after all mix and match is a classic choice

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Depression- An insider’s account

A tale of a bossy brain, out of control hormones, a confused heart and a bruised soul

Who would you listen to?

Imagine the best day of your life. What is it like? You wake up at 6 am, hit the gym at 8, workout till you get exhausted, have a healthy breakfast, grab a coffee and show on time to office. You are greeted by cheerful colleagues; you have another round of coffee with them and a gossip session too. Suddenly, there is a crisis in office and you come up with a brilliant idea. Your boss appreciates you, your team loves you. After work, you hang out with your friends. Your parents/partner calls you up and you spend hours chit chatting. Before going to bed, you write a blog post which instantly gets 50 likes. You sleep peacefully like a child.

Now imagine, you wake up in a hospital bed, bandaged and unable to move your legs. You have bunches of flowers around you. All your loved ones are showering you with love, blessings, wishes and sympathy. You try to get up but no one would let you do that. You realize it would take a long time for you to recover. You worry about your commitments, finances, and responsibilities and so on. People come together and support you, calm you and encourage you to hope for the best. They look forward to see you again leading a normal life. There’s a doubt-“What if I never recover?”.“Are you mad?” they would reprimand. There is always a chance of never recovering but no one is so stupid to believe so.

Now again, lets change this scenario a bit. You are in your bedroom, in your warm and cosy bed, trying to get up but you can’t. You have inexplicable body ache but no symptom of cold or flu. You feel exhausted and restless at the same time. You feel you have lost everything, even the will to live. The perfect day you had yesterday seems like a distant past. The ticking clock, the ringing cell phone, the mail alerts- mean nothing to you. You lie down again and think- what’s wrong with you? You message your boss- “Just a little under the weather. Taking an off. See you tomorrow.” He/she would reply with the usual monosyllable- TC. You feel relieved for a moment but start sulking again- all the moments of failure flash before your eyes. Suddenly you are envious of your friends, colleagues, Sharma ji’s son etc. A chemical locha happens and your one body one mind policy is breached. You hear four voices coming from four corners of your body:

A.      The Bossy Brain- The superstar of your so called successful life- a fighter, a hero, always giving inspirational talk, pushing you, criticising you, trying to make through every situation- oblivious to your emotions. It screams at you- There’s nothing wrong with you. You are just lazy. It’s your fault. You can do everything but you are laid back. You are a failure.

B.      The Hyperactive Hormones- These are the little toddlers who run around the house and break all the delicate objects. You don’t know what’s on their mind. You try to control them and they would start crying louder. The only way to work around them is to let them do what they want and don’t hurt them by being harsh on them- These little sensitive devils.

C.      The Haywire Heart- Well….. living your life to the fullest means following your heart but what if your heart is on a zig zag path that ends up in a circle? It wants to obey the bossy brain, calm down the hyperactive hormones and soothe the sorrowful soul at the same time but can’t prioritize. It starts pulling one string, leaves it midway, starts another and ends up getting tangled in them.

D.      The Sorrowful Soul- Poor soul- bruised and broken- believes nothing can make it feel better. All hopes given up, it just wants to put an end to the misery. It is tired of everything- like a broken record- playing the same line over and again- I hate my life.

The worst part about this- the whole body is on revolt mode but all you can see outside is a person with blank face and puffy eyes. That’s what depression looks like.


Did you say take it easy?



























Friday, February 3, 2017

Tulsi

(image sourced from Corbis)


It was 8 am only but I was late- the same old story of a poor soul trapped in a corporate world. While I was climbing the stairs to the metro station with a dazed face, something sparkled in my eyes. It was a mix of vibrant colours against the plain pastel wall of the station. An octogenarian lady wearing a bright silk saree and a lot of trinkets was trying to do something with her trembling hands. I could see a long steel needle sparkling in the morning sun. She was making a garland using red, yellow and pink flowers. They looked beautiful, only if I could buy them and decorate my puja place I was wondering.

It was 8 pm and I was climbing down the stairs of metro station while still on concall with clients. I found my old friend again with her basket still full of flowers. While there was chaos going on the other side of the phone, there was a complete calm on the lady’s face. Only her eyes were speaking- they were curiously looking at every passer by trying to judge whether it would be her next customer. With each person totally ignoring her existence, her face drooped a little but she was supporting it with her petite hands. By the time I hung up I did not realize I was almost home. For some reason I felt guilty that those curious eyes followed me too and like everyone else I also could not appreciate her perseverance.

I was compelled to walk back but when I reached there I noticed the crowd- policemen and local vendor chit chatting over politics, corporate slaves walking back with their heavy laptop bags, pretty ladies ready to go to parties. Suddenly the feeling of disturbing this equilibrium scared me. The old lady sitting in the middle of all the hustles seemed to be so lonely that by going near to her I would draw everyone’s attention. I loitered around her place pretending to be on phone and casually looking at all the stuff on sale.

She probably sensed that there is another gleam of hope. She sprayed some more water on the flowers. I bent a little and took a closer look at the flowers. The flowers that appeared heavenly in the morning were turning into a shrivelling and stinking mass. My old woman could see the twitch in my body and her happy smile was converted into an apologetic one. She picked up a garland of pink flowers that were relatively fresh and held it to me pointing at my neatly tied hair bun. I could see through her nervous intentions but she was no cunning sales person. She gave and started winding up. I desperately wanted to help and so I pointed towards a garland made up of tulsi leaves. She happily wrapped it and gave it to me. Purposefully I handed her a 100 rupees note instead of a tenner and rushed away signalling that I am in too much hurry to wait. She probably understood. Her triumph of selling stale flowers was belittled by the charity done by me and I was already regretting it.


I looked at the tulsi leaves and remembered home. Though dried up the leaves were still smelling sweet unlike the stinking flowers. Suddenly the old tulsi of night appeared to be more valuable than the young flowers of morning. I placed them in my puja space satisfied that they have served the purpose. That evening, I smiled after many days.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Metamorphosis





(Image Source: http://www.slideshare.net/Joy1618/the-metamorphosis-15879135)

One rainy morning, Gregor gets up in the morning and finds out that he has turned into an insect! Instead of panicking over how he turned into a bug and how he can get back into his original form, he was worried how to get to the work as soon as possible. Metamorphosis is a masterpiece by Franz Kafka which is inspired by his own life. The novel revolves around an event which seems to be absurd and unrealistic in real world but has been dealt with utmost practicality. Metamorphosis is a story that has forced me to think about a lot of issues that’s going around in the contemporary world even though the story was written almost a century ago. This post is not a book review but my retrospection over few relevant issues.

The hackneyed term “WLB”- Work Life Balance

Let’s accept this fact that most of the good intentioned organizations also do not understand this term. Even though companies are serious about the work timings, annual block leaves, Do Not Disturb policy after office hours, people who are rewarded at work are often those who are able to put their personal needs at the backburner and work their ass off to achieve their goal. Sadly, this is the definition of dedication and perseverance that’s thrown towards you during induction and orientation programs. The balance of work and life shouldn’t signify only your time-table but also the share of your mind and unfortunately, for most of us it is tilted towards work because we are in a race and we have to keep planning, strategizing and prioritizing even while we are sleeping. What choice did Gregor had other than mulling over his job when he was constantly under pressure to do better no matter how much he did.

The hidden metamorphosis

Gregor suddenly turned into an insect. A new body, new emotions, changed circumstances- there were so many things Gregor had to go through. The only people he could bank on were his family. But how did the family react? Instead of supporting Gregor in getting through this rough phase, they judged him, hid him, felt ashamed of him and finally shunned him. Recently there have been a lot of hues and cries over mental illness or depression. Celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Deepika Padukone came forward and spoke about depression as a common phenomenon. Movies like Dear Zindagi have tried to establish the fact that it can happen to the strongest people but the society is still rife with stories of people misunderstood and let down by their own family.

The societal definition of duties

I have been a bright student all through my academic life. However, so many times during my graduation and post graduation, I have been subjected to comments like “its ok for you girls to not have a job. You already have a fallback plan of getting married but we boys are always under pressure to prove ourselves.” Countless times I have been offended by such derogatory thoughts carried by my near and dear ones. After all I had to put the same amount of efforts to crack the entrance exams, my parents too had to sell off their property to afford my education and I too feel the pressure of repaying my education loan. But pondering over it a little more, I can see their point too. All through our childhood, my sister and I felt that it’s our dad’s job to earn money and our mom’s duty to stay at home and look after us. We hardly found our dad at home and we were so used to it that we sometimes felt uncomfortable when he stayed at home for longer never realizing how much he misses to be with his family. That’s the felony of societal definitions. Gregor worked so hard to fend off his family’s misfortune but in its course diminishes his importance to merely a money earner. When the tragedy strikes him and he becomes incapable of earning any more, he becomes worthless because he no more fits into the definition of a good son.

 The best thing about the novel is that even though it has a sad ending, no one is left sad. The abrupt end to Gregor’s life brings out the hero hidden inside Gregor’s seventeen year old sister Grete and she steps up to assume her brother’s responsibility. It definitely doesn’t do justice with Gregor but leaves the reader hanging with a lot of challenging questions about the society and complexity of human life. It might not have changed my life but it indeed made me stop for a while and question myself about my choices.