March 26, 2015

The change we needed...

As a child, I hated waking up early in the morning. It was lucky that my school was just a two minute distance from my home. That meant I could even wake up as late as 7:30am, brush my teeth, have a shower, eat my breakfast, pack my school bag, and yet be able to make it on time for the morning eight o'clock assembly. This was a boon during exam days. Being a last-minute person, I would be cramming up until the second I left the house. Higher secondary was not much different. Tutions and extra classes too were within a close radar, all of which made me quite used to this convenient and comfortable routine.
So when I had to travel a 65 mins journey from home to Medical school every single day, it was quite a brutal reality shock. For the first few days, I thought it was great fun. Spending a minimum two hours a day in commuting to Goa Medical College was quite a thrill. I would happily traverse the distance chatting non stop with a few colleagues. All this lasted until I experienced my first bout of motion sickness. I recall stopping to puke on the way. I had reached college looking like something the cat dragged in. From that day onwards, the 65 minutes to GMC would be spent with eyes closed, imagining all my favorite things, out of fear that I  might puke if I stopped.
As the days went by, this phobia made me miserable. The 'last minute' studying habit had followed me to Medical school. But the motion sickness (or rather the fear of it) did not allow me to read while traveling. I was too afraid to open my eyes. Mr Vertigo could strike anytime.  As the increasing syllabus and impending vivas threatened to cause a nervous breakdown, I realized the seriousness of the situation.

Wasting so much time in traveling could turn things ugly (for me). Besides, I would be exhausted by the time I reached home. The continuous lectures at college plus the daily traveling had started taking a toll. My back hurt. My neck strained. My legs cramped. Studying under so much physical and mental fatigue had almost started becoming impossible, and this had started affecting my grades as well.
The ultimate eyeopener, however, was when I flunked in Anatomy viva. That was when I decided I'd  had enough. As I stood nervously stuttering in front of my professor, hoping for some divine intervention to whisper the 'nerve supply to all muscles of the upper and lower limbs' that I had not read a word of my ear, I had not read a word of, I had an epiphany. If this went on, I would royally flunk my exams. The syllabus had suddenly started to seem like an endless ocean of knowledge. I had not even finished reading half of it. There was hardly any time.
Clearly, I was doing something wrong here. All the problems narrowed down to one major issue. It was the journey that was killing me. I had to cut down my commute time and put in more study time. That also meant I had to make sure I wouldn't fall asleep as soon as I hit the bed (like would happen those days). That was when I had another epiphany---I decided to shift to the hostel.

Our hostel warden was a stubborn old woman who liked to play 'God'. She enjoyed designating rooms to students as per her whims and fancy. The girls who would get assigned rooms were usually the ones who threw a pity party (sobbed and wailed about their problems to her) or the ones who kissed her ass, neither of which I was. Hence, I was rudely brushed off, and my name was included in a super long waiting list of other candidates who had applied for a room but had no hope of getting one. That was when one of my best friends came to the rescue.

Apparently Tina had a relative who could help us search for a small studio apartment within close distance of GMC. Tina informed me that another of my colleagues, Jaya,  was caught in a similar situation (No, not the motion sickness...the weak grades) and pooling in the rent seemed like a good idea to all three of us. Exams were just around the corner, and I did not have much time to waste on deciding. I plunged at the offer. Thus started our search for an apartment.

The ordeal continued for the whole of the next week. Tina's uncle put in a lot of effort to search around. We met a few brokers and tried to explain to them what we exactly wanted. Some managed to confuse us, some we managed to confuse.
A lot of disappointments (that involved high rent, space issues etc) and embarrassments later, we finally found a reasonable deal. Thinking back, had an online platform like Housing existed back then, it would have made our home search so much easier. With an amazing clarity in careful planning and execution, 'Housing' is said to be the new face of real estate today.

However, life was different back then. After a tiring search with a few frustrating encounters, we finally decided to make do with what was available. Due to constraints on time and patience, we had to compromise on the quality. But we reminded ourselves of the hot scorching heat outside and that beggars couldn't be choosers. The flat was a 1BHK, our best bet in that hour of need. Without wasting much time, Jaya, Tina, and me moved in. At least, we could hope to clear our semesters now.

The next one week was spent in adjusting to the flat and each other's company. Neither of us had lived away from home before. Gradually, we started getting acquainted to one another. Study patterns, eating habits, sleep timings got discussed and adjusted with. The chaos was slowly coming under control. Life was falling in place. The convenient location made sure we got ample time to study and make up for lost time.

Thinking back, the apartment was in no way perfect. But it did set many things right. I topped in Anatomy that semester. Jaya and Tina got excellent grades too. We became best buddies, discussing everything from past crushes to future responsibilities. Since the place was within close distance, we could go and observe deliveries being conducted in the labour room and cases being managed in Trauma & Casualty unit (something which is normally done only in year 3). The senior residents were only too amused (and maybe a little impressed too) to teach a bunch of enthusiastic freshers how to suture gaping wounds and take histories. We even assisted in a couple of normal deliveries.

That year we learned a lot of things. We learned the importance of time management. The unavailability of hostel rooms taught us not to give up on seeing a closed door but to instead look around for open windows. The time we spent together made us realize that friends are the family we are allowed to choose, and that compromises, adjustments and communication are most essential in any relationship. We realized that intrigue and enthusiasm together with sincere determination and hard work are a must for one to keep learning.

It was only in the next year that our application for hostel rooms were accepted. We bid farewell to that apartment and shifted to the privacy of our single rooms. By then we were strong enough to handle the pressures of medicine on our own. We got busy studying.

Days changed into weeks, and weeks to years. Time just flew by. We graduated from medical college, got our respective post graduation degrees, and are in different places. However, even today, every once in a while, we get gossip, group study, or just remember those wonderful days as house-mates in that rented apartment that changed us for the best, the one that started our new life!

March 24, 2015

Thanks Wala Nashta

If we were asked to choose just one meal a day, which one would it be?
I am pretty sure most of us would opt for dinner. That is the one meal we think we can thoroughly enjoy. Having wrapped up for the day, we think we can sit back and relax with family and friends over a soulful dinner conversation and enjoy the flavor of the food we are eating until we are satiated and content enough for a good night's sleep. A good dinner and a undisturbed night's rest before we wake up and head for work tomorrow...what more do we 'want', right? Wrong! Have you ever wondered what more we actually need?

Breakfast, the most hurried meal of the day. Most of us would not even be able to recollect what we last had for breakfast. Bites of toast and gulps of coffee consumed between getting ready for work and stepping out of the house? No? Not even that?

Research says 'Breakfast' is the most important meal of the day. It not just  kick starts your day on a happy note, but also provides energy for the brain and keeps you alert. Breakfast helps to improve our metabolism and reduces the body's glucose levels. An ideal breakfast should be packed with energy and vitamins in addition to proteins, fiber, iron that is essential for a healthy growth and development. Milk, fruit and cereal are the three essential components of a nutritious breakfast. It helps to keep the mind fresh and alert, and also assists in problem solving. It is said that breakfast-eaters can think faster and concentrate better than those who skip their morning nashta. Despite all these advantages, breakfast is still the least popular meal of the day. Why, you ask? Well, life, the rat race, the size zero craze, and everything. Different reasons for different people.

I am not exactly a morning person.  By this I mean, I just cannot wake up in the morning and get all geared to prepare an elaborate breakfast, packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins and fiber. Already, I have a tough time getting my eyes open enough to hit the snooze button on my clanging alarm clock. (Yes, mine is the big fat steel alarm that goes on forever and shuts up only when it is flung on the floor by a grumpy me. Modern day cell phone alarms are too decent to wake me up..). So, proceeding into the kitchen to fix a nutritious meal after this early morning rush of madness is out of the question. Hence, when I first came across (Kellogg's wale) Gupta Ji (of the 'sunny disposition' fame) looking all fresh and cheerful early in the morning, I was intrigued beyond doubt. Who in this world could be caught smiling like a sunflower on a grumpy Monday morning?

It was known that everyone in the society kept asking Gupta Ji for a breakfast invite. Much to his children's (Ritu and Rohan) irritation, everybody had just a question to ask them "Nashte pe kab bula rahe ho?"
The reason was Mrs Shalu Gupta's amazing breakfast options. A quick neighborhood research told me that she had a recipe for almost every mood under the sun. The woman was a freaking superwoman, I thought. How could someone be so enthusiastic over making elaborate meals first thing in the morning? That was when curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to check out some recipes she had posted online here .

Voila! As I scrolled down one interesting recipe after another, I noticed a pattern. Most of them had one common ingredient---cereal. Being aware of the health benefits and nutrition quotient of Kellogg's, and enticed by pics of the delicious end product, I was tempted to read further. Kelloggs oats are rich in fibre that help reduce cholesterol. They help one feel fuller longer, and thus help control your weight.  The soluble fibres in oats can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 Diabetes. Corn is rich in antioxidants that help maintain eye health and keeps vision problems at bay. Barley can help reduce blood pressure. Kelloggs Muesli (Nuts delight) makes up for an nutrition  packed breakfast that is needed to set your day in enthusiastic motion by generating the required energy boost. Corn is a star when it comes to overall goodness of whole grain and fibre. Sometimes oats, sometimes cornflakes, sometimes sweet, at other times spicy, Mrs Gupta and her original recipes make every healthy breakfast a treat to eat.

Shalu had posted some family videos on Youtube as well, where she and Chef Ajay Chopra whipped up breathtaking recipes, that were not just quick to fix but also yummy to eat.  Besides as the age old saying goes, always trust the restaurant where the owner dines. Mr Gattu Gupta, one of the leading distributors of Kellogg's cornflakes, unwavering loyalty towards the product stands testimony to its quality and standard, and it being his family's favorite breakfast option is proof of its merit.
Mr Gattu Gupta and his family are aware of the health benefits that come with a nutritious breakfast, and Chef Ajay and Shalu make sure they embark on a magic carpet ride of gastronomic delights every single morning. Be it Kellogg's Tomato-Salsa oats or Power-Up poha, together, the family  savors every flavor.

I thoroughly enjoyed all the recipes (especially the 'Fruity Yogurt Cup' and 'Cheesy Cornflakes', which I am sure is an instant hit with kids, and also the simple yet refreshing  'Peach Cornflakes' and 'Cornflakes Date Shake'). Hats off to Mrs Shalu Gupta for coming up with such spectacularly innovative ideas. I would love to meet her and her family someday, and tell her what a great example they are setting. Besides, it would be an honor to meet Chef Ajay and thank him for converting a healthy choice like Kelogg's into an irresistible one.

Being a general physician and diabetologist, I have a lot of patients coming in with issues like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, most of whom find it impossible to shift to healthy eating. They often come up with excuses not to stick to their diet plan. Most prefer to start their morning with just a cup of coffee, not realizing that they do themselves more harm than good by skipping breakfast. Having very limited choices to choose from, they prefer going hungry. But what they do not realize is skipping a meal causes them to lose essential nutrients as well.  With Mrs Gupta's tasty recipes, I expect them to feel more motivated into eating healthy, eating regular and eating right.
I think I can take a little liberty and modify the age old dictum into 

"A Kellogg's meal a day keeps the doctor away."

Coming back to the Guptas, there is much talk about Shalu's hospitality. I am hoping that meeting with her will manage to make me catch some of her infectious enthusiasm for cooking. (I so desperately need that...sigh!).
They say 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach'. Who better than good old Kellogg's Wale Gupta Ji can testify this? The chemistry between Shalu and him is really cute. Meeting the prankster Rohan and the rebellious Ritu would be a fun experience. Watching all their videos has made me feel like a part of their family already.

So lets take this seriously. Let us pledge that we are going to wake up and fix ourselves a power packed breakfast every day. It's simple really---milk, fruit and Kellogg's, that is all it takes.

So make the right choice. Believe in the goodness of grain. Have a positive attitude.
Stay healthy. Stay happy!

Toh bataiye Guptaji, nashte  pe kab bula rahe ho?  
Arre bhai, 'Thank you' bolna hai...
:) :) :)

March 23, 2015

The 10x housing mantra (of the home & the heart)

The world is changing every single second....and so are our dreams and aspirations. In this race of life, nobody wants to be left behind. Everyone is constantly on the run, seeking a better lifestyle, striving for a better quality of living. However, what we fail to notice is that this constant struggle for improvement is slowly but surely taking over what is most important...our relationships.

I have seen a lot of people changing. 'No time to care' seems like the new age mantra. Everyone is busy caught up in their own lives, trying to better their tomorrow. The fact that they are neglecting their today goes unnoticed. However, there are a few people who still appreciate the simple life.
In this world of rapidly changing priorities, they have still not let go of their values. It is in stheir small acts of genuine simplicity that I realize that all is not lost. The world still has hope for a better tomorrow, a tomorrow where man will respect relations more than wealth, where honest, God-fearing people will bring up their children the right way, where love and kindness will be most supreme.

Meet Savitri.
Despite of residing in crowded shanties, Savitri  is a neat and tidy woman with oiled kempt hair and a cheerful disposition. Her clothes are old but washed. She is the sole earning member of her family, the others being a drunk husband and a grand-daughter, Sayli, whom she adores.
Till date, Savitri has not once mentioned about her daughter and son-in-law, and I have never asked. I respect her privacy, but the occasional bruises on her arm are an indicator of domestic abuse. Despite all these hardships, Savitri always has a smile on her face...a smile that tells the world she is not giving up, at least not as yet.

During Savitri's eight years of working as 'help' in my house, there were many instances when her integrity had been unintentionally tested---times when I left my hand bag open on the table, tired evenings when I carelessly placed my wrist watch by the bed side, forgot a fifty rupee note in my jeans pocket. But it was Savitri who unfailingly pointed out and corrected my recklessness. ..every single time!

Recently, a close friend had stopped by my house. Like is the norm in my case, friendly gup-shup often steers in every single direction under the sun, and we ended up discussing real estate. Savitri happened to around then, mopping the floor.
Nikita was explaining to me about Look Up's 10x housing mantra, and the revolutionary initiative that got all the elements together and make housing easier. Her dream seemed just a step away now. Housing was no longer a cause of panic attacks. As I checked the website, I had to agree it was an impressive approach.

Soon after Niki left, Savitri asked me what we were talking about.
I had realized Savitri was eavesdropping, and it amused me.

"That is her dream, Savitri. She wants to lead a comfortable life. Owning a plush house has always been top most on her priority list."

She was silent. I wanted to continue the conversation. It was not every day that Savitri initiated a conversation.

"Do you have a dream?" I asked her.

 "Yes, Memsaheb," she said, almost instantly.

That is when she amazed me yet again with her clarity and simplicity of thoughts. Savitri had a dream...a dream to educate her grand-daughter and make her a responsible citizen.

"Memsaheb, education is most important, isn't it? I am illiterate. But I will never let that happen with my Sayli," she said.  "My grand-daughter stands amongst the first three in her class. She wants to be a doctor like you," she smiled.

I couldn't help but smile back. I was proud of the determination I saw in her. She told me that her grand-daughter studied well in advance for her exams. As  electricity was scarce, she sometimes studied under the street light. I saw a strange kind of passion in Savitri's eyes....the grit to overcome the odds, the hunger for knowledge, an ambition, a goal, a dream.
I felt a strong urge to help this woman fulfil her dream. If only I could help her in some way, I thought. I knew Sayli was a bright child. I decided to offer to pay her school fees. But Savitri refused.

"Thank you, Memsaheb. But I cannot accept it," she said, declining the money proffered to her.

"But why, Savitri? You  don't need to pay me. I am aware of the hardships you have to go through. Sayli is doing very well. Things would be easier if..."

"Nahi Memsaheb," she interjected. "My Sayli should know the importance of her education. She should know how much her mother has sacrificed so that she can study. Only then will she learn. Only then will she remember."

I nodded. I knew what she meant.

"She respects me, Memsaheb. She knows I do all I can...only for her."

I was proud of Savitri. Some other person, in her situation, would have gladly accepted the money. But Savitri, although poor, was a self-respecting woman. She had not once asked for more than what she deserved. That day, I realized why. Savitri's self-respect, honesty and dignity of labor were the driving force behind Sayli's perseverance. She wanted to teach her grand-child to dream on her own fly with her own wings. She was hopeful. She was optimistic. This woman, standing in front of me, had not let go of her dreams, but she had not forsaken her values for it. With an upbringing like this, I was very sure that her grand-daughter would live up to her expectations.

"I have saved some money for Sayli's college," she told me. "People tell me to rent out a small kholi with that money. But I am saving it for her education. I can live in a hut all my life. But if I stop dreaming, I will be miserable. She is my only reason for happiness. You think I am wrong, Memsaheb?"

"No Savitri. You are absolutely right," I smiled. "What is more important than the four walls of a house, is the happiness of the people living in it. You are absolutely right. Don't ever give up on that dream. "

Savitri might not have good housing facilities today. But she had earned respect in the eyes of her grand-daughter. They both shared a silent promise of love and selfless devotion to each other. She safe-guarded a dream in her eyes....a dream that would nurture their relationship.

That day, I realized that love worked on a 10x housing mantra too, just like Look Up. If allowed to house in the heart, it makes one push their limits to move towards a better future.

Together from the start...

They say we can repress certain memories if we want to. I sometimes wonder if that is really possible at all. How does one forget to remember?
Perhaps we can jumble up our fix them in order of preference, pretty much like a jigsaw. Change the sequence, shuffle the deck, do what you want--some memories just fail to leave you. They become a part of you.

One of the most memorable moments in my life revolves around my best friend, Rashmi. It's rather bizarre, the way we became friends. I was the shy intern, she was a senior resident.
It was during one of my postings. I was doing my internship then. Dr A.K, a senior consultant in the department, had just returned after six long years in the United States. Suave, smart and American accented, he was the talk of the whole department. He was in his early fifties, a perfectionist in his work, and a seemingly mild mannered person. We interns did not have to interact much with him, except for the rare occasions when he decided to hold group discussions.
I had a very good impression of Dr A.K until he started calling me to his cabin a little more frequently. Initially I would ignore this, but as days went by, I started finding his behavior a little odd. Amidst sniggering co-interns and embarrassed patients, he would compliment me on my attire. He would ask me to leave aside my case history and assist him in another case. I was aware that his behavior was getting really weird. Besides he was a senior consultant, and a person of his caliber did not usually take interest in teaching interns. But those were the days when I was naive enough to believe that decency has something to do with age, and that all men your father's age must see you as a daughter (now I know better). Hence I would go to his office when called and listen to what he had to tell me (usually an elaborate textbook concept that did not need any explanation but would consume a lot of time) This happened for a couple of weeks.
They say every girl/woman possesses this innate gut instinct that alerts her of anything fishy. My intuition warned me to stay away from Dr A.K. I started bunking clinics on days when his unit would take ward rounds. I exchanged duties with interns from other departments. I feigned headaches. I avoided him like the plague.

This went on for several days until all hell broke loose the day Dr A.K asked the peon to examine a new admission and present the case to him. The memory still manages to get my blood boiling. I remember me stepping into his cabin with the patient. He asked the patient to leave and told me that he wanted me to present the case without the patient. (This was when the warning bell in my brain went on) As soon as I started reading from the file, he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and called out to the peon outside, asking him to shut the door on the pretext of the OPD being too noisy and not allowing him to concentrate on the case. With the door closed, Dr A.K got up from his seat and walked towards me. There was something about his smile and the look in his eyes that made me shudder.  Alarm bells were clanging in my head by then. My palms had turned sweaty, my pulse was racing. Without thinking any further, I made a dash towards the door.
"Sir, I have forgotten one of the case sheets in the OPD," I said, pretending to shuffle the papers in hand.
Before the a**ehole could even respond, I pushed the door open and scurried away.

That was when Dr Rashmi Kamath stopped me. Dr Rashmi was the senior resident in the department, the only female resident amongst a group of six doctors. Looking at my face, she had sensed something was wrong.
"Is everything alright?" she asked me.

It was then that I couldn't bottle it anymore. Fear, panic and anger were bubbling within me. I burst out into angry sobs.

"Shh...Let's go to the canteen. We can talk there," she comforted me.

While at the canteen, I narrated the whole incident. I also confided in her about my decision to leave internship midway. I had three more months in that department, and Dr A.K would make my life hell. He would see to it that I get an extension....especially when I insulted him by dashing out like that. I panicked. It was better to quit voluntarily...that way I still had a chance to complete my internship elsewhere.

That was when Dr Rashmi told me about her experiences in medical school, of the pressures she had to undergo during her internship year, of the discrimination she had to face being the only female in the PG batch.
"You can't run away like that. You will meet a Dr A.K in every college. You got to stand up and fight. Every step from here on will be a new battle. You will meet people like these at every step. Don't give in, and more importantly don't give up," she said.

The next three hours saw both of us talking like sisters...old friends. Dr Rashmi was no longer just a senior resident. She had become my guide, my confidante, my buddy. She told me she had faced a similar situation due to which she had lost a year. She said she had been a coward, she did not want me to be one. She told me she had realized her mistake a little too late. One year was spent reflecting on decisions, sorting priorities and organizing life.

"Quitting is always the wrong decision. Winners never quit," she told me, as we were just about to leave.

I was feeling better after having spoken to her. I had finally opened up to someone who seemed to understand what I was going through...who had once been there herself.  Dr Rashmi's encouraging words lit a spark of positivity in me. Dr A.K was in the wrong, I did not have anything to be afraid of. I would not give up, I decided.

As we re-entered the hospital corridors, Dr A.K crossed our paths. A wave of nervousness hit me. Perhaps I still needed time. He still managed to unnerve me. Dr Rashmi noticed that. Holding my hand, she went up to Dr A.K.

"Hello Sir. I have been noticing you are taking special interest in our intern batch. I would want to relieve you of that burden. From tomorrow, they will present their cases to me. I hope that is okay with you."

"Er..uh..Y..Yes...why not?" Dr A.K fumbled. His gaze shifted from me to Dr Rashmi. It was his turn to be nervous now. Her choice of words had made him realize that she knew more than he wanted her to know. He knew she was capable of complaining the matter to the dean.
I, on the other hand, had regained my confidence on seeing his displeasure. Dr Rashmi had convinced me that I was not alone. We were in this journey together.

Years passed, but that day's memory is still fresh in my heart.
Today, I am far more bold and self-assured than I once used to be. I have come a long way. Life has taught me to stand up for what I believe in, because nobody else will. I have learned to face my fears, fight my own battles. I have learned to never allow my faith in myself waver.
Dr Rashmi and I are still the best of friends. We lean on each other for professional and personal advice and suggestions, just like best friends should. We are still together in this journey.

Thinking back, it is never the advice that we depend on people for. It is their company that provides that small little nudge that is required to push our life back on track.

And just like that, a life long friendship is born...

March 22, 2015

A pocketful of sunshine

 "Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

What is happiness really? Can we define it at all? Some might try to define it as an emotional state of well-being. Some might say 'Happiness' is being pretty, rich, famous or popular. However, the concept of 'Happiness' continues to be confounding, just like its pursuit.
Different people experience emotions at varied levels. So how can 'Happiness' mean the same thing to all of them?

Personally, I am someone who believes that happiness is more of a personal choice. One can only be happy if one chooses to be happy. However, if you constantly hound life for happiness, its very likely that you might miss it by searching too hard. A watched kettle never boils. Likewise, if one keeps looking for opportunities, he will never find them.
I have often thought about this. Everyone in this world wants to be happy. This pursuit does not have an end. As we get nearer to our goals, our expectations tend to increase. More expectations lead to disappointment. We strive harder to meet new demands. In this chase, our satisfaction and peace of mind takes a back seat. We are constantly running after ephemeral milestones...success, money, fame. But in this rat race, aren't we all forgetting what really matters?
Meanwhile, Happiness, arrives like an unexpected visitor and taps softly on our door and waits for you to let it in. But we are too caught in our lives to notice the tapping. The visitor silently leaves thinking that it is not welcome. We, however, continue to crib in oblivion, losing sleep over something we miss, yet cannot identify. Sleep eludes. Happiness evades. Tomorrow is going to be yet another tiring day, we complain, exhausted and unhappy.

I am only human. I have made mistakes in life. I have lost out on chances only to learn that they will never come my way again. Like everyone else, I too have learned from my experiences.
Somewhere down the line, when winning or losing ceased to make a difference, I realized that what is most important is time well spent. What matters is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. Life is not about the destination. It is more about the journey, about the scenery you enjoy along the way, the people you befriend, about the lives you make a difference to.
I have realized that happiness is just not a experience of contentment or well-being. It is the very force that drives the world into motion...that brightens up hearts and faces. It is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, just like God.
However, for it to make its presence felt, it needs our acknowledgement. It needs us to let go of our fears and embrace it. It wants us to open up our hearts and welcome it...whole-heartedly.

Happiness is a limitless concept...blurred around the edges.. The more you try to encase it the more fleeting it becomes. Hence, I have learned to let it free. We can hardly know when it will arrive, but when it does, I have learned to embrace it with all my heart and soul, breathing in the magic, basking in the pristine simplicity of the emotion..

Below is a list of some things that have the 'Happy Effect' on me: (in no particular order)
  1.  Petrichor: This has been one of my very old favorites. They used to call me 'The rain child' back when I was a kid. The fact that I am a 'June baby' might have something to do with why I love the rains so much. The pleasant scent that frequently accompanies the first rain adds that magical quality not just to the surroundings, but also to my mood.
  2.  Birds flying freely over vast expanses of blue sky: These, to me, signify freedom, freedom that I wish humans bound in the shackles of society will be able to attain someday. Someday, I want to live in a world like theirs, where we are free to choose our own sky.
  3. Reading old diary entries: because they remind me of how far I have come.
  4. Dinner conversations with loved ones: Good food and good company is the perfect recipe for a happy evening.
  5.  Seeing the joy on a child's face when he is given his favorite chocolate: Reminds me of  the simple pleasures of my childhood. 'Nostalgia' is my happy drug.
  6.  Writing/blogging: makes me happy. That way, my heart and mind can be best friends at least for a while.
  7.  Red roses: because they remind me that beauty, love and passion still exist in this world.
  8.  Chocolate: An instant stress-buster I know I can always count on.
  9.  Shooting stars: Wishing on them always fills me with hope. Isn't 'hope' another name for happiness?
  10.   Libraries and book stores: My favorite place in the world. I can never realize when minutes at a library/bookstore change into hours.
  11.  Cuddly fat gurgling babies: With not a care in the world, their enthusiasm is contagious. That's the only time you will catch me talking in baby language *blush*
  12.  This one is a recent one...When my novel 'Twists Of Fate' does well in the sales chart, and readers tell me they loved my book This 'Happy' effect lasts the whole morning, afternoon and night. It's indeed rewarding when your efforts are appreciated.
  13. Leaving footprints on wet sand on the beach: There is a special kind of happiness in watching the waves crash away the shore, observing floatsam getting swept away in the clear water, listening to the sound of the sea, collecting sea shells, or even a simple introspective walk alone by the sea side. 
  14. The 'Eat all you want but don't gain an ounce' happiness: This one is every woman's dream, and I am sure all the girls out there will be able to relate to me when I say this. No matter how short-lived this joy might be, nothing can beat the exhilaration when you tip toe nervously to the weighing scale and discover (much to your surprise and excitement) that you have lost a couple of pounds despite eating out thrice in the previous week. This might last only until your smart-ass spouse/sibling or some other smug family member points out the error in the scale. (At least it makes us happy for a while. Sigh!)
  15. The feel of holding a paper-back in hand and reading it as opposed to a kindle or Ipad: Call me old school, but I still adore turning pages by hand, using fancy book-marks to mark pauses, going shopping for book-ends, and making room for new books on shelves in the library. 
  16. The smell of coffee brewing early in the morning: This always manages to kickstart my day on a happy note.
  17. Phone calls or text messages from my favorite people: Distance can never be an issue when friends want to be together, isn't it? We choose to be happy despite the odds.
Having mentioned all these, I have also come to realize that happiness is an emotion very fickle. Something that makes us happy today might have the same effect on us tomorrow...especially if we depend on someone else for it. Broken relationships would stand in testimony of how something that made us so happy in the past has changed into a bitter memory of the present. So how can we make sure that our reason for happiness stays the same forever? Sorry boss! There is no such a guarantee. All we can do is choose to stay happy because it once made us happy. Then step away and move on. Easier said, eh? I know...
Happiness is a lock to which the key keeps changing. Disappointing isn't it? Such a traitor, this happiness!
However, all is not lost. The keys are all with(in) us. It's just that often times we hang on to an old key way too tight. We keep forcing it into the lock hoping that it will open. (It must. After all, it did so in the past, right?). Sadly, in the process of trying, we forget to try out the other keys on the key chain. We keep feeling dejected, lost., unhappy,..when the truth is, all the while, the solution is in our lap, waiting patiently to be picked.
The basic rule is this: When the old key doesn't fit, try another one. Happiness is a choice. We got to keep motivating ourselves to make necessary changes. Life offers us many privileges...friendship, love from our dear ones, self respect, potential. All we got to do is keep our eyes open and recognize each one of these. Acknowledge them. Embrace them. At the end of the day, our happiness depends on the happiness of those we love. Laugh a little more for them. Make them laugh a little more. 
Find a little more time for your friends. 
Cook that surprise dinner for your wife. 
Sacrifice that daily 'Saas-Bahu' soap for your husband. 
Tell your mother how much you love her.
Spend an evening with your dad. 
Take your kids out to an amusement park. 
Spread some light in an otherwise monotonous life. 
Buy a meal for a beggar boy. 
The next time, the locality kids break your window with their cricket ball, smile and tell them to be careful next time. 
Go surprise that grumpy old Aunty next door with a friendly hug, or simply offer to share a Coke with her.
Carry a pocketful of sunshine wherever you go, and hand it to someone who could really do with it.
Spread some smiles around. Happiness is always just a step away.

March 20, 2015

A year long affair

I remember you in pulls and tugs,
in random kisses, in waves and hugs,
in coffee mugs and cutting chai,
in every hello and each goodbye...
To my lips, a smile these bring,
But my heart refuses to heed and sing...

With January carrying a chilly breeze,
and the month of love being such a tease,
March-April saw both as proud and vain,
May & June as soaked in strawberry rain,
July-August went by so quick,
Came September-October with Cupid's trick,
November heard what we couldn't tell,
December brought in that sweet farewell...

'Our year' we called it, you and me,
But perhaps it just wasn't meant to be...
A bit of us still lives today,
a memory to be cherished and made to stay,
Friendship or love,  we couldn't decide,
But in our lives, it will reside...
Miles away yet close at heart,
forever together yet always apart...

Author's note:
I allowed my heart zip and zoom on paper, and it ended up creating this above piece. I couldn't help but smile on reading it, and so decided to post the unedited draft up here. Pretty immature it might seem, but some memories are best kept that way...

Titles, however, might not always be as short lived as they sound! :)

March 17, 2015

My bit of sky--the experience so far...

The journey of a book never ends. It only gets more interesting as time goes by...

I have always been an avid reader. I still am one. However 2014 brought along with it an opportunity to view the world from the other side of the book, to peep at the reader and talk to him through printed words on bound pages that would turn yellow with time and yet stand testimony to something I once spilled my soul debut novel 'Twists Of Fate'.

I started writing 'Twists Of Fate'  as a dedication to the beautiful bond of friendship. Ironically, I had kept this a secret from my friends until the very end. I wanted it to be a surprise. It was on 3rd August (Yes, Friendship Day) last year that I created this page on Facebook. I was nervous, anxious and excited all at the same time. Nervous because I was doubtful they wouldn't take it too well (me keeping such a big secret from them), anxious because I was eager to know their reaction, and excited because I knew that the ones who mattered would be too happy celebrating the news rather than dwell on the fact that they were not privy to it. Thus started the journey of 'Twists Of Fate'...

As expected, it was just a small bunch of people who 'liked' the page. The social exile I had been on would be taking its toll. Acquaintances I hadn't stayed in touch with were going to act pricey...ignore me...pretend I was dead. But who could blame them? I hadn't been Ms Congeniality myself. I was guilty of not having commented on my favorite blogs, not 'like'ing updates on facebook walls, and hardly even calling up friends, leave alone hanging out with them in the preceding months. So it was get-back time. Besides I was promoting something that wasn't even out then, to a bunch of people who had stopped liking me. Figure the odds!
Yet, some out of general curiosity and some for old times sake decided to tag along. With regular updates on the page, there begun a tiny trickle of followers. A few old friends got over the initial surprise  and showed extra enthusiasm, thus making up for the meager number of likes.

The days that followed were filled with trepidation. I kept worrying my publishers, like it was the first book they were going to publish. I kept checking on the progress of the process. I had promised people it would be out soon. How soon did 'soon' mean? Close friends and family (who were apparently the only ones I could see by my side) wanted to know from me. I wanted to know from my publishers. Besides I kept waking up in cold sweat with nightmares of me being the laughing stock amidst jealous ex-batchmates (C'mon, who are we kidding? We all have those!) for not having lived up to my word and having created much ado about nothing. Thankfully, Mahaveer Publishers did not let me down. The book was out was promised to me and as I had promised to no one in particular and yet everyone in general.

'Twists Of Fate' finally saw the light of day on the bright and auspicious occasion of Diwali (23rd September 2014). As boxes of copies were dispatched to be delivered to those who pre-ordered, I was hoping that my efforts would be appreciated. That is when I realized how much a book actually means to an author. I felt like I was putting my baby out there, from the safe confines of a protected and pampered environment into one where it would be subjected to the sharp and critical eye of the non-biased bibliophile.
As the book made its way to the readers, I waited...for some sort of reaction, review, feedback. Luckily , I did not have to wait long. While my best friends were competing with each other to finish reading the book, they were blissfully unaware that a complete stranger who was gobbling it up at break neck speed would race them to it. For me, however, it was an exhilarating feeling when my first review came as an email from the stranger who had found her way to my page and pre-ordered the book on a whim. It was one of the happiest moments of my life when she emailed to tell me she loved the book. She wrote that 'Twists Of Fate' had tugged at her heart strings, more because of a personal situation she was herself going through..
The journey there onwards continued in baby steps, with reviews, ratings, and feedback coming in from readers all over.
Book reviews are like precious gems that an author holds very dear. An author can speak to his reader through his book.But it's rather unfortunate that there is no way to know what is going on in the readers mind, unless the reader lays his thoughts before you. Be it bouquets or brickbats, any kind of feedback is welcome. Of course, the bouquets make you happy and the brickbats hurt as hell. But we can always remember the bouquets and learn from the brickbats, can't we? Until now, the readers have been kind. (Knock on wood). Most have appreciated and acknowledged my humble effort, for which I  am grateful.
Honestly, no one wants negative criticism. Positive words have a soothing effect, especially on the panic stricken nerves of a debutante . However, I know I must keep improving, because that's what an author is meant to do. An author is supposed to keep getting better...he owes the reader that much.

Realizations are a part of every journey. One essential thing I learned during my journey is patience. Good news comes to those who wait. I learned that people are going to read your book not when you ask them to but when (and if) they want to.  I have also learned that overnight success is hardly ever possible. I have realized that a lot of people whom I had considered readers DO NOT read at all. I have learned that people are often ready to spend three hundred bucks for a coffee, but think twice before spending less than half that amount on a book. I have even met people who think buying books is the obligation you have towards the author only if he/she throws a big launch party and invites you. (No! There was no party to launch my book. Consider it a way to sort out the actual 'readers', who will be invited to the mega launch of my next book, from the 'pretenders' who will obviously be not.). I have been approached by a fellow blogger who made me answer an ultra lengthy and boring list of interview questions, send photographs and other details, and was then irresponsible enough to indefinitely postpone posting it on his blog. (It's been months now, and I have a very good mind to disclose all about it in a separate post...Hah!)

But like every scenario, this journey has a beautiful bright side too. A few wonderful friendships have been discovered along the way. I have received amazing feedback, thanks to which I now know whom to choose as my beta readers the next time around. I am now socially more active on Twitter and Facebook,which tell me that for every two utterly ridiculous and foolishly stubborn bigots, there are twenty-five extremely creative and highly progressive minds tweeting away their opinions in the hope that it will bring about a change some day.
I had a lovely time answering questions for interviews at Godyears, Readomania, Sruti's Book Corner etc.
With all these refreshing experiences, I soon learned to enjoy the positives and ignore the negative aspects of the journey. I decided to focus less on the cloud, and concentrate more on the silver lining. It wasn't long before I decided to throw out the road map. I was going to dive in hook, line and sinker.

I am not sure if life really works out best when unplanned. But what I know for sure is that when you plan out things and they don't work like the way you want them to, you are disappointed. Taking one day at a time always helps. I learned to keep my expectations at bay. Good news was starting to slowly pour in. 'Twists Of Fate' got ranked in the first 100 Amazon bestseller list for a while. I was stopped by a stranger on the airport and asked to autograph his copy of the book. These are probably small things to a lot of authors. But to me, they made my day. I'd be grinning like a Cheshire cat every time someone complimented 'Twists Of Fate', when someone told me they were ordering extra copies to gift their friends. My baby was being acknowledged.
Cut to present day. The icing on the cake..yours truly is nominated in the category of 'Literary Diva' for the Author's Ink Literary Awards 2015.  Check out my interview here.
The results depend on 50% judges decision and 50% voting. 
Voting ends 18th March (tomorrow) midnight. So please hurry and cast your votes now. All you have to do is click on the link here and vote for one nominee in each listing until you reach mine...i.e 'Literary Diva (best writer female)'. Once you are there, find my name (Priyanka Naik) and vote. Err...Simple, isn't it? *blush*

On a more serious note,
If you believe in friendship and have friends you cannot imagine life without...
If life has ever made you wonder about fate and its conspiracies...
AND if you think you can trust my word and give my debut attempt a chance to prove itself, then please do pick up this book :)

Twists Of Fate' is available at Amazon and Flipkart.

Yes, the journey of a book never ends, and I hope to meet you somewhere along the way...

March 03, 2015

The 'Soylent' wish

I don't quite like the name. But I have to admit, I love the concept!
I'm talking about 'Soylent', the new age supplement for the laborious task of not just planning and cooking a meal but also eating and clearing the dishes thereafter.

As a child, I loved watching 'The Jetsons'---the animated series that revolved around an utopian world where everything was uber technologically advanced (as against its extreme counterpart,  'The Flintstones' that was yet another favorite). I dreamt about robotic contraptions and alien discoveries that would make life as interesting and convenient as in the futuristic 'Orbit City'.
But childhood fantasies can be nurtured only for so long. I grew up, and this fascination was grudgingly pushed aside by life's monotonous practicality.
However, years later, I can now see a part of my dream coming to life. Those of you who watched the Jetsons or are a huge fan of Willy Wonka might recall the small pill (consumed by the Jetsons) or the piece of gum by Willy Wonka that constituted a five course meal. Well, did you ever wonder what would happen if dreams met reality?  
Rob Rhinehart did...
Say hello to the 'Meal Pill' or a touching discovery to the same effect.

For those who haven't heard about Soylent  yet, it is a nutritional drink that is supposed to be the perfect meal substitute. For those of you concerned about the taste, it is said to have a rather bland and slightly sweetish taste. So rest assured, you won't gag on it...unless of course you recall the movie 'Soylent Green' while consuming it.
People who have tried it claim that they felt no hunger absolutely for the next five hours after the drink...even while they passed by their favorite patisserie or had a whiff of their favorite food.,
For those who are very excited about using it as a weight loss meal, hold your horses. While the use of Soylent might be accompanied with some weight loss (obviously), this drink is mainly designed for those who are constantly gorging on superfluous food stuffs to match their nutritional requirement. The only reason I have an issue with this fantastic product (other than it costing the moon) is its nomenclature. It reminds me of this freaky movie.  Weird sense of humor these Americans have, no? First they drive you to think in a particular direction, and then keep telling you not to think that way. Sigh!
Anyhoo, controversy-free as it is so far, I am now looking forward to more updates on this Meal-drink that will herald the end of food.

However, have you ever considered what will happen if 'Soylent' becomes the next big thing. Imagine a world where this convenient meal substitute is freely available to all at a very nominal cost. Imagine us hanging out with a bunch of friends, chatting merrily over glasses of Solvent. Coffee-table books would be addressed as 'Soylent table' books. Candle light dinners would be easy to arrange with two tumblers of Soylent (and the candle on the table of course) being the only required preparation.  Her face would glow in the candle light as she slowly sips the colloidal solution until....OMG! The ring! (She'd never see it coming esp with the viscosity of that liquid.). We could all start our day with a glass of 'Soylent' and happily go on without thinking of food until the next meal (which would be...any guesses? TADAA!! 'Soylent' again!)
Besides, no woman in the world would have to hear she is a bad cook, and there would never be any culinary failures. *jumps with joy*

Of course, here we are busy being selfish and ignoring farmers who toil all day with the sweat of their brow to yield a produce, on the sale of which their lifestyle depends. If everybody opted for 'Soylent', then this would not just mark the end of food, but also herald frustration and desperation amongst our feeders who annually plough, till, sow and reap a rich produce for our consumption. If everybody fed on 'Soylent', what use would this produce be? Fertile land would go waste. Market rates would dip. But then again, if 'Soylent' was made economical and available to everyone, maybe these earnest and hardworking farmers could sell their land and buy packets of Soylent to feed on, no?
What did you say? I am talking like Babbar Saheb? "Complete meal for Rs 12 (maybe?)...Noooo..Not Vada Paav...THE COMPLETE MEAL-PILL"

In a futuristic world (not so far away), we would only have to worry about three things Soylent, Kapda aur Makaan (kyunki 'Roti' toh hone wali hi nahi)., Tanmay Bhat, are you listening?

Oh, and how could we forget our very favorite Masterchefs, what would they do if the world decided to guzzle down entire 5-course meals in a single drink? What would Gordan Ramsay have to say to that? Would he be happy binning preparations of 'Soylent' instead of the little-less-than-exemplary dishes made by the contestants? Would our very own Desi 'Sanjeev Kapoor' be alright with sniffing the concoction before tasting and judging the best mix? Would the snobbish 'Ranveer Brar' (Yes, the one who makes cooking seem like rocket science) be happy to comment on the slight differences in the way the powder has been mixed to create variations of the same peculiar preparation? Would 'Vikas Khanna' still grin in the same cute way after he is made to down a glass prepared by each contestant?
Well, well, well...
Now you see why 'Soylent' will never make it...why it will never reach the common man in India...the one who perhaps needs it most.

But at the end of the day, this whole 'Soylent' episode has taught me to realize that the futuristic world she dreamt about as a kid, is just a stone's throws away. So let me get back to dreaming about a bubble-top spaceship in which I will travel to work some day.

After all, nothing happens unless first a