September 11, 2021

Little things

Pic credit: Google Images 

Little things remind me now of who we used to be 

A quiet walk, an Autumn road, bare branches on a tree 

That spread wild across the sky, searching foolishly 

For a lover, friend, partner, who somehow lost the way 

For those perfect for each other, yet who could not stay 

Little things like these make me miss you every day 

The tree stands proud and tall, the season’s yet to change 

It refuses to share its misery, I think of that as strange 

How it hasn’t crumbled still for a love so out of range 

It makes me think of you and me and a little more of you 

How we gave up a bit too soon, a regret I’d come to rue 

Wondering if you think of ‘us’, as often as I do 

Little things like these make me miss you even today 

Long since we burned bridges, a heavy price to pay 

For constantly changing seasons and words we did not say

Maybe the tree in summer was once laden with flowers

Maybe it thrives on memories too, like we now do on ours

For love, at times, can be both, our weakness and our power 

The tree may be in bloom again in summer and in spring 

Decked with fragile blossoms and all the joy they bring 

Vibrant hope to butterflies fluttering gossamer wings 

Little things remind me now of who we used to be 

They offer strength to stand alone, show me possibility 

And now I think of me and you, but a little more of  me

©️ Priyanka Naik (aka 'Pri')

P.S: “This post is a part of ‘UMeU’ Poetry Blog Hop #UMeUBlogHop organized by Manas Mukul . The hop is brought to you by Soul Craft and You, Me & The Universe.”

June 23, 2021

#AmrishPuri: Bollywood remembers

I was talking to a friend the other day about how kids nowadays are more acquainted with the greys of life, right from an early age. 

“Even in Bollywood cinema, there is no clear cut demarcation between the good guy and the bad guy,” she said. 

And that got me thinking on how naive we were as children. Having personalities spelt out to us. The villain was the one who didn’t possess a modicum of goodness in him, and the hero was always the handsome, righteous, victim who had the bravado and courage to undo any evil the villain vested on the world (and of course the hapless heroine). But now the lines have blurred. Most films nowadays don’t even have a villain. Even the bad guys gracefully back out and let the hero get his way, often being the martyr and happy playing a special appearance in the film. 

But back in the day, things were very different.

I remember watching Mr India, and rooting for Anil Kapoor all the way. I shuddered every time Amrish Puri mouthed the words ‘Mogambo khush hua’. I cringed at his cow lick, his dictatorial clothes, his expressions, all of which rendered him the look of pure evil. 

An actor who played his characters to perfection, immortalising his every role in our memory forever. 

Be it the the dastardly Durjan Singh aka Ranaji in Karan Arjun or the deplorable Raja Saab in Kayla, the audience loved to hate him...and that just proved his finesse on the big screen. 

Amrish Puri’s career, although started a little late, took off very soon. And within 30 years of his acting career, he proved to be one of the very best in his field. 

He made his debut in 1971 in a film titled, ‘Reshma aur shera’. Since then he acted in several Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Malaylam , punjabi, Kannada, and English films. He also worked with notable playwrights like Girish Karnad, and Satyajit Dubey. 

In 1981, he played a supporting role in the Oscar winning movie, ‘Gandhi’.

Steven Spielberg was once quoted saying Amrish Puri was his fav villain and that he was the best the world had ever produced and will ever produce.

Such was the magic of this Amrish Puri, an actor par excellence, who managed to mesmerise the audience with his versatility, dedication, and passion for acting. 

Here are ten of his unforgettable roles (in no particular order): 

1) Master in Salakhein - with his classic retro giggles and wig, Amrish Puri played this iconic character. 

2) Chaudhary Baldev in DDLJ

3) The treacherous Indrajit Chaddha, in ‘Damini’ 

4) Thakral in Meri Jung - as a massively corrupt lawyer who pretends to be a law abiding person.  

5) General Dong in Dong- His famous dialogue ‘Dong kabhie wrong nani hota’ is still spouted by his fans even today. 

6) Snake charming occultist in Nagina - Bhairon Nath 

7) Kishorilal in Pardes

8) Mola Ram in Spielberg’s Indiana jones and the temple of doom. 

9) SK Vardhan in ‘Mashaal’ - starring against the great Dilip Kumar and talented young Anil Kapoor, Amrish Puri made an indelible mark with his powerful performance in this film.

10) And last but the most iconic and my very favourite role, Mogambo, in Mr India. 

In commemoration of his 89th birth anniversary, let us celebrate the legend that he was by recalling his extraordinary performances on the big screen. 

So tell me, which ‘Amrish Puri’ character is your absolute favourite? 

March 05, 2021

The disappearing artist

The power of social networks is that while it exposes you to the risk of scams and trolls, it also widens your perspective and humbles you in the strangest of ways. 

Some months ago, I came across this profile of an interesting artist who revealed almost nothing of his identity but almost everything of his art.  And that is where my fascination started. 

Everyday, this man (assuming it was a man from his hands, since his profile had no other indication of his gender or personality) would go live on Instagram and post impromptu videos of his art, his camera recording his every move on a simple A4 sized paper.

However, what was fascinating was that all his art was created on the spur of the moment with a sharpie (permanent marker). No rough draft. No pencilling in. No erasing. Not even once. The prompts would be submitted by those who joining in the live session, and he would get to work almost instantaneously. It did not take him even a second to formulate his thoughts and transport the pattern onto paper. 

Picking up his sharpie, he’d sketch away like he could see a pattern on the canvas, as if he was joining the dots that were visible only to him. 

The first time I saw him doing this, I was gobsmacked. I told myself it must be a one off thing that he had probably rehearsed before. It was unbelievable how his hand could work so fast to create something so beautiful. 

Nevertheless, I started following him, out of sheer curiosity. 

But senough, the frequency of his live sessions and the confidence with which he created art in each one of them convinced me that this could not be a fluke. This was undeniably a man of extraordinary talent. 

His art was simple, yet eyecatching. It wasn’t the fancy shaman you stuff some artists come up with after weeks of brainstorming, erasing, photo editing and the works. This man’s work was simple and genuine. It was the kind that would urge even the art illiterate to pick up a paintbrush or pencil and try his hand.

As he dragged smooth, well defined lines and curves on the paper with his sharpie, one could not help but see at the confidence and clarity in his ideation and design. 

A senior writer I met at an art and literature festival had once told me this. “It doesn’t matter if your art isn’t perfect,” he had said. “It almost never is. But if it’s relatable and inspires people to read, write, create, then you are already on your way to be an artist par excellence.” 

Just watching this person’s hands move so confidently on paper made me want to sketch like him. There was absolutely no doubt or hesitancy. No second guesses. As his sharpie drew out connecting lines and shapes one after the other, a pattern appeared, slowly filling the entire paper. He only stopped once he was finished. That’s when the sharpie would be put down and the camera turned off, leaving a sense of mystery hanging in the air. I attributed that to artistic eccentricity. 

But soon enough, I was in for another surprise. A few months of following this mystery artist, I woke up one morning and logged onto Instagram only to realise that the mystery artist had now disappeared, gone off the grid. His account had been deleted and there was no sign of him anywhere in the virtual space. I am sure, like me, a lot of his followers felt a sense of loss and disappointment that day but told themselves they should have seen it coming. I know I did.

This little extension of his idiosyncrasy (if I may even call it that), however, makes me wonder how this person must be for real, outside this small little art world he had created and which we had happily chosen to be a part of. 

Would he be as adept at taking life decisions as he was with taking decisions on his canvas, would his thoughts be allowing him the same confidence and lucidity...the same spontaneity? 

Would he never have felt the need for second chances? No rewind, no pause, no edits. Would his life, like his art, be running as smoothly as his art, sans afterthought, sans regret? 

I reprimand myself, “Separate the art from the artist.”

I have always believed that art, in any form, is a liberating experience mainly because it gives you the leeway of second chances, and maybe even third chances and fourth chances (depending upon which medium you use). 

In fact, that is why most people (including me) would vouch for art therapy as being the best kind. Art is like this getaway from your anxieties, an escape route from reality into a realm you can tailor-make at your own whim and fancy. 

And yet, there are people like this mystery artist, seducing the arts with an admirable sense of discipline, a distinctive clarity of thought, who know exactly what they are aiming for and do not believe in looking back part journey. 

I pick up a sharpie and try to doodle something small. But mine is not a still mind. It keeps flowing like a river, enumerating different trajectories a line can take until I can bear it no more. Keeping the sharpie aside,  I choose the familiarity of the more forgiving pencil...

The eraser lies nearby, assuring me it won’t let me slip up. 

In life too, perhaps, we are constantly searching for this kind of security. The security that will allow us the leeway of committing a mistake and yet not messing the final picture. 

We look for it everywhere, this security net—-in our relationships, finances, work. We pick the pencil and shine our erasers when we should instead be sharpening our minds and steadying our hand. 

Sometimes what is more important than fixing our mistakes is how we can work around them. 

February 28, 2021

Cat-a-clysmically yours

They say a cat has nine lives to experience all the things she hasn’t before. But I did not want to wait that long.

I had had enough of this feline existence. Now I wanted to know what it felt like to be human. 

They say realization when happens comes gushing in like a river. I realized how true that is the day she entered into my home. My human did not even grace me with a formal introduction. They went straight to the bedroom and slammed the door on my pretty face. 

How I hated him then. I had never been subjected to such petulance before. To add insult to injury, he forgot to serve me my kitty treats that day. 

I felt my authority shifting. It had taken years to train my human to suit my needs. We had finally zeroed in a routine and established the ground rules. Alright, fine! I had established the rules. 

No interference in my me-time, no invasion of my private space, belly rubs three to four times a day,  a bowl of sweetened milk in the morning and evening in addition to cooked meals and a kitty treat at midnight every once in two days. 

Wait, hang on, before you start getting the wrong idea and think I was at the better end of the agreement, let me tell you about the great sacrifice I made as per the cat-human contract that I had signed on my humans face the first time I set paw in the house. 

In exchange for the minor above mentioned adjustments my human agreed upon, I was forced to give up, due to his silly dietary preferences, the entire range of fish and mice (basically all things non vegetarian) that cats of my royal pedigree feast upon. It wasn’t anything religious per se, but my human was vegetarian by choice. And the right of passage demanded that I was one too. 

Frankly, I did not agree with his views. But I tried to understand them (I don’t know why the world thinks of cats as selfish. We are pretty selfless if you ask me.) Coming back to the point, my human was a strong PETA activist and believed in animal rights. It was all fine with me until here, but the dimwit was compassionate towards, can you believe it, mice, because he believed that mice too had lives and families and yada yada. He wouldn’t even allow me to watch my favourite toon show on TV, because he feared watching Tom harass Jerry could harbour vile feelings in me towards those pesky nimble footed rascals. (Did I mention he was a self-proclaimed cat psychologist?)

That was when I decided to bring up the contract. The feline-human contract every cat needs to introduce to its human. One smack on their cute little mutt faces when things go off limits shakes them off the feeling and shows them who is boss. 

But you know how emotionally weird some humans can get. Even after I had scratched my human, he stood there holding me in his arms, rubbing my back, hugging me like he was never letting go. 

And that’s when I saw it...out of all the humans in all the world, I had to land up with the clingiest one. Although somehow oddly, it felt comforting sitting like that, curled up in his lap, his hands running over my back. And right then , I knew I’d be eating to his tunes some day. But I didn’t realize it then that’s what love makes you do. 

It’s strange though how cats can expand even on a vegetarian diet. Sometimes I think it is my metabolism. But that stupid vet insisted that I was being over fed and pampered. Hitherto, my human who wasn’t much a foodie himself, was happy that I had turned out to be otherwise...and so took it upon himself to feed me every chance he got. I had overheard him telling his sister once that there was something oddly satisfying about the way i lapped the food off my plate, that made him feel strongly towards the ‘unconditional’ love I felt for him.

I think it was one of his emotional moments, and so I let him bask in the feeling. But I knew in my heart, what he was saying was balderdash. 

“Unconditional, my left paw,” I smirked. We cats are not programmed to love that way. It is imprinted in indelible ink on the very core of our feline personalities, the three defining words that maketh a cat...”Me before you.”

But my human had misread the signs. And I did not bother to clarify. Besides I was getting accustomed to the vegetables on my plate. Carrots, potatoes, turnips, tomatoes, he had opened up a whole new world for me. 

I’d always been an adventurous cat. And my palate and mind had adapted itself to the taste of human food. It served a double purpose—I did not have to hunt for my own food anymore. It was far safer and more effortless eating what was being fed to me. Besides, my human knew to cook and how. Wafting from our kitchen, aromas of deliciousness would find their way to the neighbouring alleys and street corners, making me the envy of other felines. 

They had started ignoring me now. They could not deal with the fact that while they were turning scraggly out of sheer desperation and hunger, my skin and mane turned lush and healthy. 

I, however, was battling my own weight issues. Luxury comes with its own set of problems that the hoi pillow has no clue of.

All this time, my human was a constant companion. He had taken it upon himself to change me from fat to fit, feeding me all kinds of diet. Atkins, south beach, all those  damn diets that his regular jogging buddies had resorted to, I tried too. I didn’t mind it actually. My palette had evolved, and I was quite enjoying myself. Except it was all vegetarian. 

It wasn’t always like this tough. Initially, I’d kick up a fuss, think that I’d straight out refuse and put an end to this nonsense. But my human would lovingly fill my kitty bowl with kibble and sit with his own dinner plate by my side. 

I’d often glance at his plate and realize how frugally he ate. Comparing his plate to mine was almost instinctual and prompted me to put my tail between my legs and eat up whatever is there in my bowlss fast as possible. I did not trust my human back then and was afraid that had I played stubborn for too long, the kibble would either be withdrawn or him. I am not kidding. I recently watched on TV a documentary episode on a man who tried eating dog food just for a lark and eventually decided he loved it. 

My human had watched the documentary with me, and I somewhat recognized the mad gleam in his eyes. Besides some of that stuff was really tasty. I couldn’t believe it could taste so good, so I kept licking the bowl until my human poured me some more and then some more and more again. 

All was well until my next visit to the vet. One look at the scale and she almost had a shit fit. 

“Omigosh,” she exclaimed in her shrill accent. “What the fuck have you been feeding him? His weight has only increased.” 

I wanted to smack her good, show her who was boss. Who on earth made her a doctor? Whatever happened to body positivity et al? Besides did she just use the F word...were people even allowed to speak like that around cats?

 My tail prickled with irritation. My human laughed nervously.

“Oh, the same diet you prescribed, doc,” he said. “Except maybe I slipped up a bit. I may have given in to his adorable face and replenished his bowl a few times.”

I stared at him. Why was he even explaining? I wanted out. I did not want to do anything with this shaman (I refused to call her a doctor after that) woman who couldn’t help my weight issues because of her own  inefficiency in treating my problem and was now trying to shift the blame on my human and me. 

But my human, to save me from embarrassment, had taken full responsibility. “I slipped up a bit,” he had said and my ears had turned warm with guilt. My healthy (slightly over-healthy...fiineee!) appetite wasn’t his fault and yet here he was taking the entire blame upon himself. 

We never went back to that shaman woman after that. My human realised my discomfort and decided we would manage my weight issues on our own. And I felt myself liking him a little more than I liked all humans...and maybe most cats as well. 

Those were days when he’d understand my feelings without me having to even purr. The  ‘Me before you’ aspect of my personality was slowly taking a back seat. And I found myself waiting for him to get back from work, worrying if he got delayed, restless if he left his meal unfinished, rejected if he didn’t hold me close. 

But good things seldom last and I should have seen this coming.

Cut to three years later, there I was, standing outside the bedroom, that had until now been my territory, with the door to my face. 

I knew the woman was inside, I could hear them talking. Soon enough the talking stops and was replaced by sighs and moans. I could hear her giggle and my ears started doing that ‘burning up’ thing again. Who was this shameless woman anyway and why was she here sharing my human? 

I scratched the door a couple of times, expressing my displeasure. I mewed at a higher pitch. But my effort only went ignored. The moaning had gotten louder and I heard her call out my humans name. I made a mental note to scratch her a couple of times when the door opened. 

She needed to be shown her place, and by that I mean the way out. She needed to know she wasn’t welcome in my house.

But when the door opened, it was my human who stepped out. 

“Two hot chocolate coming right up,” he said as I stared after his half naked image jogging to the kitchen. 

I had seen the glazed expression in his eyes and instantly realised this woman was a force to reckon with.

Carefully, I trudged towards the bedroom, dragging my fat body with me. 

The state of the room suggested that it was witness to a recent romp. I tried to put that betrayal behind me and softly moved towards the bed where she was sitting. She hadn’t noticed me still. 

My attack strategy was wicked but needed. I would encroach on her unaware and even before she realised it, pounce on her with all the vengeance I had saved up for the rats I wanted but could never have. I had channeled my ‘jungli billi’ and this woman was small fry. 

The thought of small fry made my mouth water. All semblance of guilt had been ousted by this betrayal from the human. 

I could unabashedly dream about devouring all the mice, all the fish in the whole wide world now and it would still not measure up to the sin he had committed. He had left me hungry. He had forgotten about the Queen in his life for some temporary fling. This couldn’t be forgiven. 

She lay within the sheets and I instantly ‘de she was naked. She too had the silly expression my human had. Perhaps she was waiting for the chocolate. 

The thought of my human serving her chocolate and ignoring my demand for my kitty treat churned my stomach with disgust and hunger. This woman would starve me to death if I didn’t do anything about it. I had to act fast, before my human returned. 

With all the power vested in me by the feline community, I curbed every instinct to let out a tribal meow and leapt.. 

It had been a while since I had jumped on the bed. Ever since my weight issues, my human would lovingly pick me up and place me there. I had forgotten I was royalty and was not cut out for this savage behaviour. 

With a flat thud, my attempt failed and I fell flat on the ground I was trying to jump from. 

I had accepted defeat. I could never make it to the bed to startle her. 

A disappointed meow escaped my throat and I immediately cursed myself for it. The least I could do is carry myself out the way I had come in, silently, preserving whatever little dignity I had left. 

The meow, however, must have fallen on her ears though. Because I heard a rustle of the blankets followed by a high pitched ‘awwww’ behind me. 

I turned back, the look of hatred in my eyes. 

“No need to taunt me,” I wanted to say. “Every cat has its day.”

But before I could even react, she had come over to me, her most vulnerable self wrapped within those sheets. 

“Oh my, aren’t you such a darling, so so adorable,” she said, petting me with her open palm, her fingers running back and forth through my fur. “Come here, baby. Yeah. Good girl. Come here, my darling.”

What was happening to me? Why was I gazing into her honey coloured eyes, purring at her soft touch? I hated myself for this betrayal. Was this how humans felt? Was this how my human felt in her arms? All the feelings I had experienced ever since I had entered into the house rushed into my mind. Indifference, selfishness, belonging, possessiveness, jealousy, anger, disappointment and now this new feeling. 

Had my love for my human just turned unconditional? 

What had happened to the ‘Me before you’ philosophy I swore by? I was opening up to a new range of emotions. Probably this was what humans felt when they were in love. A moment of confusion, a moment of realization. Giving up. Giving in. For now I was glad my human's human was an ailurophile too. 

“Oh, seems like you two have met already,” said the voice that had won my heart over the last three years. I opened my eyes and saw my human standing in the room with two mugs of hot chocolate in one hand. “Isn’t she a sweetheart?” 

He made his way on the bed and sat with his legs crossed. No sooner had he done that, I found myself alighting from my position and settling comfortably in his embrace. 

“Awww...she loves you doesn’t she?” she asked, nuzzling my humans neck. Her question reflecting my thoughts exactly. 

“Yes,” said my human. “And she will grow to love you too.”

I purred comfortably in the security of his response. I had got my answer.


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

January 20, 2021

#Tribhanga - a film review

Renuka Shahane’s directorial film ‘Tribhanga’ is a film that spans across three generations, with a conflicted mother-daughter relationship at its core and an insight into people and their coping mechanisms. 

The story line: 

Nayan Joshi is a talented writer trapped between domestic responsibilities and her true calling. And somewhere down the line has to choose between the two. Being the free spirit that she is, she chooses to go with her dreams, uprooting the lives of her two children, Anu and Ravi, who she takes along with her. 

Anu and Ravi, however, can never forgive her for the consequences of her decisions, for which they believe they had to pay the price.

Until there is a confrontation in the most unfortunate circumstances...

The cast/performance: 

In the movie, there is a dialogue where Anuradha Apte talks about her relationship with the two women in her life, where she describes her mother, daughter, and herself with the help of three poses in traditional dance form —-Abhanga, Samabhanga, and Tribhanga respectively. 

‘Abhang’ (slightly off-centre) — Tanvi Azmi plays the role of a genius writer who, like most geniuses, is not spared of idiosyncrasies. She is cerebral but sometimes fails to see what is in front of her. She hates monotony. Azmi has played her part to perfection with her ageing face revealing just the right amount of regret and pride. 

‘Samabhang’ (well balanced) - played by Mithila Palkar who is Anuradha’s seemingly balanced daughter ‘Masha’. I felt her performance was forced in parts. But that could also be because she hardly had any lines to spout. She could have done better. 

However, the entire responsibility of the film lies on, you guessed it, ‘Tribhanga’ (a standing body position,in which the body is bent at three points, namely the knees, the hips, and the shoulders-neck, each part pointing in different directions) Kajol’s shoulders and she handles it like a boss! She plays a loud, swearing, cussing, perennially annoyed, extremely forthright, and super snarky character, a performance that seems to come to her so easily that we cannot help but love her for it. She is clearly the star of this show. 

The other motley of characters include a loyalist brother who has embraced spirituality, an estranged father with a failing memory, and an accepting lover whose patience is tested at every step.

It is a pleasure to watch Kanwaljeet on screen after all this time. I recall watching his TV series ‘Saans ’ as a child and instantly warming up to his puppy dog eyes and kind expression (that too when he was portraying a philandering spouse). 

This film shows him in a different light though. The brief snatches of onscreen chemistry between him and Azmi are reminiscent of their ‘Family no 1’ days, and I couldn’t help wishing he’d appear in more frames. 

Kunaal Roy Kapur has an onscreen presence that grows on you, and although he has very few lines as well, his expressions and body language say it all. The man definitely has potential. 

The takeaway:

With a touching story line and cast in tow, Tribhanga dives into the nuances of human relationship that until now had barely been explored. We have all witnessed the constrained father-son chemistry of a KKKG (‘Kabhie khushi  kabhie gham’) or YJHD (‘Ye jawaani hai  deewani’) but this is the first when it comes to depicting the convoluted silence of a mother-daughter underrated bond that is so easily take for granted. 

‘Tribhanga’ also passes on alert intent message on forgiveness. On forgiving ourselves, on forgiving our parents. On accepting that they are just as human as we are. And so just as flawed. 

The mistakes made by Nayan and then by Anu reveal that ‘perfect’ parenting can never exist. No matter how you raise your child, there is always space for complaint. 

Anu’s character, although slightly askew, brings to the fore a shade of feminism that is much needed in India. It displays unabashedly a vibe that is a contradiction, a bold contrast to the dutiful daughter, the subservient wife, the doting mother cutouts that society expects us to fit in all the time. 

It tells us it is okay to speak up, to speak loud, and speak for ourselves, because nobody else is going to do that for us. Giving this so-called ‘idealistic’ society the middle finger salute, this movie challenges us to accept the ‘tedhi, medhi, crazy’ in every woman, in every mother, in every daughter. And the ‘Tribhanga’ that comes along with them.

I rate this movie a 4 out of 5.

January 05, 2021

#WorldBrailleDay: a collective insight

"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” - Hellen Keller. 

A sighted person may not always understand the perils of those who are not as lucky and may often tend to take his gift for granted. The sightless, on the other hand, have to fight their own hurdles and face their own challenges. To add insult to injury the society is not always supportive, making it rather difficult for a differently abled person to live a productive life. 

In 1809, Louis Braille, a French educator, who had himself lost his eyesight in a childhood accident, devised a tactile reading and writing system. This system consisted of raised dots and was sadly accepted and taught in schools in the U.S only by 1916 by which time Louis was dead. Decades later, in November 2018, the UN chose the fourth of January  to be commemorated as #WorldBrailleDay in his memory in order to increase awareness and sensitivity among people world over.

Over time, advances in science and technology has led to constant improvisations of techniques and ideas of innovation. We now have audio books, Google assistants, and technologically driven lifestyle aids that are voice sensitive. However, one cannot undermine the role that Braille played in lighting the flame of hope and passing on the baton for an equal world. 

So here is a list of Braille friendly endeavours that are touching hearts and paving ways towards an inclusive society. 

In India

  • ITC Savlon along with NAB (National Association for the Blind) initiated a design change for its antiseptic liquid pack and made it available to several NAB centres, select blind schools and educative workshops. 

  • Taco Bell Mumbai, in two of its outlets, one at Rcity, Ghatkopar and the other at Viviana Mall, Thane, set an example by introducing the first Braille Menu for blind consumers. The menu was/is in print as well as in Braille-and audio-enabled in order to be accessible to all. A very sensitive and all-inclusive gesture.

  • Nawabs Wajid Ali Shah Zoological gardens in Lucknow has Braille educational boards for the convenience of visually impaired visitors. This is done in order to promote inclusivity, spread awareness, education, and conservation of the wild life and ecosystem among all alike, abled and differently abled individuals. 

Inspiration from the rest of the world: 

  • Argentina has Tiflolibros and digital libraries started by the WIPPO (world intellectual properties protection organisation). These help in making a vast collection of books and reading material accessible to the visually impaired. 

  • L’Occitane, a French beauty company, has done a fantastic job in successfully incorporating Braille into its packaging of almost 70% of its products. 
  • There are several other more economical and simpler ways to improve packaging and make it all inclusive. Square packaging instead of round bottles when it comes to bath products will ensure the product won't roll off and will be in easy reach even if it slips. A tactile code system like a raised strip on a shampoo bottle and dot on conditioner will make it easy for the visually impaired to identify. These have been employed in other countries and should be considered in India as well. 
  • Medical prescriptions can get real tedious to follow if one is visually impaired, especially when it comes to following the instructions written in tiny print on the cover of medicine bottles. So the U.S has come up with a perfect solution to the problem. CVS pharmacy, in the United States, has collaborated with the American Council for the Blind and created a new and particularly helpful feature on the CVS Pharmacy phone app, known as the SpokenRx. SpokenRx is an in-app prescription reader and is specially designed to read out all the information on prescription bottles, thus making it a lot more convenient for those unable to read the tiny font themselves. CVS pharmacy plans to equip all pharmacies in the U.S with this feature by 2021 end.
We can only hope India will work towards taking similar steps. Living with dignity is a basic human right and it is our duty as people living in the society to promote an all-inclusive behavior to each and every one of its members. To ensure equal rights to education, freedom of expression and financial safety to all its members. Compared to the West, India still has a long way to go. But hope springs eternal. And if a general sense of humanity persists, we will get there...

Speaking of which, one voluntary organisation that deserves to be mentioned for its commendable efforts to spreading hope and positivity is We4You. I came across their page on Facebook a couple of years ago and volunteered to donate my voice for their audio books...a feature that promises to help visually impaired children to visualize the world in a better way. To spark their power of imagination. To impart education through academic textbooks. To engage and inspire with story telling. I hope my recordings were able to do justice. 
We4You helps visually impaired children to find their footing in the world, through audio books, vocational training, and education. They encourage, empower, hone skills, provide accessible information, and employment assistance. 
Do check out their page and become a volunteer if you wish. We need to support such efforts in whichever way we can.

Ending here on a pensive note, with a poignant quote for you to reflect upon...

"There is no better way to thank God for your sight than by giving a helping hand to someone in the dark."  ~ Helen Keller

January 01, 2021

#GlobalFamilyDay: it's all in the family!

Today, I was reminded of an ad that I had come across a long time ago, on the power of eating together... which all the residents of a building who are otherwise barely acquainted set table and dine together and get to know each other act of bonding in a disconnected world. 

And that brings me smoothly to #Global FamilyDay, a day that is observed mainly in the U.S on the first of January of every year.  A feeling of unity that needs to be celebrated by everyone around the world. 

Now imagine the residents of the building to be inhabitants of the world instead; people of different religions, different nationalities. Now what if we all decided to sit down and eat together, share a meal, and get to know each other along the way. 

It would probably take us this kind of interaction to realise a much neglected truth...we as people around the world,  with all our differences in colour, age, sex, upbringing, culture, customs, traditions, habit, political affiliations, are not that different after all.

Speaking of which, 2020, in its own super-sadistic way, taught us exactly that. It made us realise how similar we all are, mainly in our responses to an unseen threat or danger that we have little role in causing. 

When a crisis of such global proportion, like Covid ;han strikes, everybody from the richest man in the most powerful country to the poorest man in the country of least power becomes vulnerable. 

The past year taught us how alike we are in our reactions, to our fears, and how in times like these, the entire human race should forget all their differences and stand up for each other. Have each other’s back. 

Global family day was traditionally celebrated by rising a bell or beating a drum on the first day of the year...a loud resounding promise to be there for each other. 

However, down the ages, this has been customised. This year especially, maintaining safety precautions is imperative in the midst of this pandemic. 

But given the situation, here are three ways we can all observe WorldFamilyDay in 2021 and feel like a part of this colossal unit of trust and togetherness. Let’s all try and make that positive dent in the world.

Because no matter how much the circumstances limit us, humanity should always come first! 

Here are five ways to celebrate the vibe of #GlobalFamilyDay in 2021: 

  • Start small. Call that neighbour to ask him how he is doing. Connect with one friend you haven’t been in touch with. 
  • Start at home. Cook a special meal for your own family.
  • Make a small donation to trusted funds or contribute to your favorite NGO. 
  • Change your attitude - promise to practice tolerance and mutual respect. Try not to judge people even if you don’t know them...especially if you don’t know them. 
  • Last but not least, spread social positivity - Social networks are increasingly being abused for all the wrong reasons. Stop making the hate go viral. All arguments need not be fueled. It’s best to know when to argue and whom to ignore. It just helps keep the peace maintained. Don’t hold on to the resentment though. Every family has a few cracked eggs anyway. It takes all kinds to make this world. 

The world is at its vulnerable best right now and literally nobody wants to feel alone. So take that step. Extend that hand. Call up one friend everyday. Celebrate connections. Small gestures like these make a positive impact, no matter how tiny or far fetched they may seem.

And although we are still engaging virtually at the moment, know that the bonds we are forming are real. 

So if you are reading this, take this as a sign from the universe. Not just for today but for all the coming days. Lets pledge to encourage love and peace the best way we can. 

Because in times of crisis, it is our family we turn to. 

Because the world is one big family and someone somewhere is always there for you. So you be there for someone too. 

Because it’s true we don’t need one particular day to start making this difference. But ‘now’ is always a good time. 

So here’s wishing my extended global family a very happy, safe, and fulfilling 2021. 

May our ‘now’ be forever blessed!