Dec 27, 2011

The Indian Christmas



The Indian Christmas
Indians don’t like being left out of festivities.  And with so many different religions and cultures in our country, there are an indefinite number of festivals to celebrate. We manage to find stuff to do on the Indian festivals. On bigger festivals like Holi and Diwali, we freak out with sweets and parties and crackers and colours. But then come the festivals which one would call miscellaneous or etc, etc (in other words most of us have no clue what their relevance is, but are more than happy about their existence because of the random 1 day holidays that come our way due to them.) 
You may think that a day off wouldn’t be much to cherish, but you’d be surprised at how quickly these add up and take away days from our summer break and paid vacation. Normally, on those days, you’ll find people in the malls or at PVR.

But then comes Christmas. And it fits into neither category.  And that confuses us Indians. 
To the non christian Indians, it has no practical relevance whatsoever. 

But still, we don't want to be left out. So how do we celebrate? We can’t decorate a Christmas tree. Our houses aren’t big enough to fit 2 feet tall plants inside them. We can’t go around giving presents, because we spent all our money on Diwali gifts, and we definitely can’t hang stockings in our living room, mainly because we’d find them empty the next morning baffled by the fact that Santa didn’t turn up.

So here’s what happens. Everyone ends up in the malls. Now the malls know what is going to happen. So they start commercializing, They put up huge Christmas trees, find a santa, decorate the entire area, etc. Last year one of the malls put up a castle right out out of a fairytale in their park.

I happen to live a km away from one of the big malls of New Delhi. And the 5 days preceding Christmas  saw the roads leading to the mall so jammed, that everytime I look outside I felt like I’m having a déjà vu, seeing the same set of cars outside my window, until I realized that I am looking at the same thing I saw 20 minutes ago.

So basically everyone is in the malls. It’s too cold to do anything outdoors, so there are anyways few other options. Now the malls are pretty big, but not big enough to accommodate the entire city. So as a result, there is pushing and shoving and no space to walk (or air to breathe) and suddenly, it is so hot, that you feel it isn’t winter anymore! The eating joints are in full fledged business with long waiting lines.

You would think that we'd eventually learn not to end up in the malls like we did last year, but we just CANNOT bear to be left out. We will be shoved and pushed and stuck in a traffic jam for hours at a go. 
But there is no way in hell we'll be excluded from any sort of festivity! 

Because if the whole world celebrates, so shall we!  

Dec 22, 2011

You know winter's catching on when...


1. You try to fit your entire body into the area in front of the heater, so that it can keep all of it warm.

2. You wear your tennis shoes everywhere you go (they keep your feet toasty warm), including the bath room.

3. You wake up at 11 a.m. and decide to fall back asleep just because it is too cold to get out of bed.

4. The fridge seems useless and you start keeping things inside it in order to keep at normal room temperature.

5. You try to hold the book you are reading in bed with your blanket, because you don't want your hands out of the blanket.

6. You are unable to move your arms, or any other part of your body, because you are wearing too many layers of clothes.

7.  The Delhi Govt, which almost never does things on time (they still haven't taken off the Common Wealth Games bus boards) , closes all schools for 20 days even before the 20 days begin.


Dec 20, 2011

Benefits of turning 18

Yesterday, I turned 18. I was very  surprised to find how awesome it is. Ofcourse I have only spent 2 days as an adult, but I like to be optimistic.
I have been told more than once that childhood is the best time of your life, which is why I wasnt exactly *happy* to be turning into an adult.
But when I did, and as I slowly discovered all the benefits of being an adult I realised that for now, its all good!!
Here are a few *awesome* things about being 18.

1. You are no more referred to as a "minor". Gosh I hate that word. Bloody discriminating.

2. You are taken a little more seriously by your parents (and everyone else) who until now, have been treating you as a "minor". With the legal benefits you are suddenly in possession of, they begin to take you a little more seriously.

Silence! I'll sue you!
3. You are officially on your own. No one can adopt you or take responsibility of you or claim to be your 'guardian'.

4. You can become someone's guardian. Although I really don't care to adopt or whatever, being a godmother would be cool.

5. You can drive. Although for most people this might have been on the top of the list, I don't think being 18 is a matter of concern for the Indian police. With the number of cars on the road, you could be a 9 year old in a driver's seat and get away with it.

6. You can have your own bank account. No more carrying cash or using mommy's or daddy's credit or debit card to book movie tickets. You can flash around your own. Agreed that once in a while the cashier may tell you that you do not have enough money in your account and he/she wonders if you're carrying some cash. But it is still worth it!

7. If you were very docile and gullibe (and stupid) as a child and entered your real date of birth while making online accounts on youtube, gmail, etc, you will no more be bothered by annoying warnings and restrictions saying that you need to be a certain age to have access to such content. You can finally make a google+ account just to see how good or bad it is.

Wanna see my ID?
8. You can go to adult movies without having to fear rejection at the ticket counter. Infact you can flash them your ID even if they didn't ask for it!

For all the adults out there reading this and thinking "wait till she gets a job", suck it up! Being a child might have been fun, but being an adult has its own moments.

Nov 14, 2011

Why I hate haircuts

Most females get the shock of their lives at the age of 40 when one fine morning their hair brushes produce a grey hair. I, a mere 17 year old, suffer the trauma every 3 months, when I notice the split ends of my hair.
It means it's time to get a haircut.

I despise haircuts. I hate those quarterly trips to the beauty salon.



That can be surprising for most of you out there, considering that I am a teenage girl, who should ideally wait for those times. But funnily enough I don't. Here's why!

* Layers or Steps?
Deciding which hair style to get this time is a pain. Getting the same one you got last time just adds an element of banality to your life. But getting a new one comes with the risk of 3 months of hair trouble.
I usually let the hair cutter do what he wants. But every once in a while it does not turn out very well.

*Ouch!
Getting a hair cut can be awfully painful when your hair cutter is in a hurry to go flirt with the waxing lady. Although I religiously brush my hair a hundred times before leaving the house for a haircut, the dude always finds a knot or two which he yanks so hard that I fear leaving the salon with a bald spot.
And since he's busy watching the television or talking to the hair cutter next to him, he does not notice the furious expression on my face that wants to pick each and every hair of that streaked head of his.

*No, I DO NOT want to use your shampoo.
There are some hair cutters who are extremely chatty, while they snip and snap the scissor around your head. While I'd prefer the chatty ones to the ignorant ones, they chatty ones can often get pretty annoying.
In the middle of the conversation, just when you are beginning to alter your opinions on haircuts, the hair cutter starts talking about how you should buy the amazing shampoo cum conditioner that the salon has come up with. It makes your hair smooth and silky and shiny. And guess what! NO chemicals!
When the guy is marketing and cutting your hair at the same time, you do not want to offend him too much. Not at the cost of a bad hair cut!


Sometimes I wish my hair would cut itself. No salon, no hair cutter.
But THAT is something I will just have to leave to the future.




Any other complaints against hair cutters people? Let me know, in the comments below ;)


Nov 4, 2011

Show Boys and Girls





As soon as you open the door to my room, a poster taped to the wall on the other side greets you. It says 'Welcome to my reality'. It's pink in color which is one of the reasons I bought it as a 14 year old. I remember the day very clearly. I went to an Archies and bought 5 or 6 posters to put up in my room.
It was a trend to have posters in your room with sarcastic comments on them. I bought a garfield poster which said 'I'm not always right, but I'm never wrong'. I bought another one saying 'Those who think they know it all, really annoy those of us who do'.


My dad helped me stick them to the wall with double sided tape.
A few minutes ago as I thought about how I had outgrown them and debated about whether I should take them off or spare the risk of making my room look plain with empty walls, I remembered the thoughts that ran through my head as I looked at my new posters after my dad and I had put them up.


I thought of how I would be the person my posters made me. I could keep my room messy so that people would believe that to be my reality. The funny quotes on my posters would make those lines seem like my own. Garfield's relaxed and egoist attitude would make mine seem the same.
This was the point where the mask started coming into existence. I am not refering to the green coloured mask of Jim Carrey's from the Hollywood movie, but if you can relat le to that you'll probably get what I'm trying to say.
Every adult human has a mask.  They use it make their friends like them, to seek approval from their bosses, to make the opposite sex want them.


And before they can even breathe in what's happening, the mask that they try to use to be accepted is not a mask anymore. That's right, it's as if you wore a mud pack for so long that now either it won't come off or either you'll be so used to it that you won't notice it's there!
Until off course death do you part!

The posters in my room suggested that I was a mischievous, messy and a socially outgoing teenager. I was actually the opposite. I was quiet,  very organized and super responsible. I was a 9th grader trying to fit in. But I so succesfully convinced myself that I now find I am actually the person I always tried to be. 

And that is exactly what happens to more than half of our world population. (the other half lives in poverty)
They make themselves what the world wants them to be, who they want to see in their mirrors every morning. The glamour gets to them.

In other words they are show boys and girls, tuning themselves to please the world. To make everyone who passes by in the streets give them a venerable smile.
But that can't end well be because even if you manage to please every person on the planet (which is practically impossible considering the kind of bipolar diversity our earth holds ), you will fail to please yourself, which is ultimately the only thing that actually matters. 


So much for being a show boy/girl. 


Might as well sit in your room of empty walls with a bowl of popcorn and a remote control in your hand and enjoy the world that you create for yourself.

Oct 31, 2011

Guards..Guardians? Are you sure?

Every night at 10 I go for a jog in my colony. I know, it's a funny time to be out trying to lose calories, but thats the only time during my wake hours that there aren't any vociferous and nimble kids running around or the sunlight trying to reduce my already reduced stamina or cars returning from their long day at their owner's office's parking lot henceforth giving me an excuse to stop as I wait for them to pass.
I do however encounter some human presence when I'm out jogging. There are the dog walkers, there are the elders taking their after dinner stroll, AND there are the GUARDS.


This is the critical time for a guard's job. It's the time during which the criminals are most likely to strike, with ambitions that the guards hope to crush. But when I pass the guard who sits at the back gate as he merely talks to another nocturnal friend on his phone, I can't help but wonder, if a potential robber or some other criminal upto no good crosses his path, what are the chances that the guard will be able to do something about it?
First of all, no criminal in the history of crime, ever crosses any human being who is likely to cost them their night of glory with a knife and gun in their hand and with a naughty look on his face. My point is that no thief can ever be caught unless he is found picking the lock of the door he's trying to open. And chances are that he'll put all his hope and energy into making sure that doesn't happen.
The god damnned thief could be someone casually walking in through the gates of the colony, just like the people who live there.
Second of all, even if a thief is caught trying to climb over the protective walls, the skinny guards are not equipped sufficiently to be able to fight them. I'm not trying to be cynical, but chances are that the sticks that they carry around with them won't do much. Those sticks look more like something they carry around to have a psychological affect on any sinister who tries their luck. My guess is that those sticks are capable of being snapped into pieces if they were ever mistaken for sugarcane.
Alerting the other guards by blowing the whistles which uncertainly hang from their necks seem to be their only hope. But even then, for thieves who are well equipped ( and by that I mean anything from a knife to a rifle ), another two or three bamboo sticks wouldn't really matter.

Oct 27, 2011

My Miserable Tutors

Every class 12 student in India has tutors for atleast 2 subjects. ( not counting the ones who flunk and the ones who are so smart that they might as well drop out of school instead of wasting their precious time )
As I sat on the sofa of my home's family room, I had an epiphany. The kinds that make you want to become atheists (well, i already am one, but we'll save that story for later).
I realised that for the past 4 hours I had been finding excuses to not do any work that involves pleasing my tutors.

And it's not out of sheer hatred, it's because I hate to disturb their miserable lives.
My Maths tutor for instance, has a habit of getting mad about the smallest of things. Even when I find new methods of doing things, he digests it once he has grumbled over how his way is better.
Taking my accounts tutor into account (that sounds like something he would say), he reminds me of those old women who sit in the sun washing clothes slandering their neighbours and whoever else may be on their facebook friends list (hypothetically assuming that they know how to operate anything that was invented after the light bulb) . Half of my hour long class goes into listening to his complaints and trivial problems that are apparently problems as astronomical as a black hole that I always think about falling into when I'm pretending to listen.
Don't get me wrong. Both of them are really smart when it comes to teaching their subjects, but it seems to me like they are constantly trying to find things to be unhappy about.
Well, then I guess not doing the home work that my tutors gave me would be an altruistic act on my part and will just give them something new to wine about.

Oct 15, 2011

I'd rather climb the stairs

We often see signs and posters and occasionally read health tips on the net, which say "Use the stairs instead of taking the escalator". But the colourful posters or the very scientific and professional sounding health advice is never really enough to make us follow that simple yet exhausting rule.
When confronted with the options of the self moving stairs and the stationary ones, which require our dog tired legs to do the work, we always end up choosing the escalator, despite that small voice inside that consequently makes you feel all guilty for making the wrong choice. 

I didn't think there was anyway ANYone could make people use the stairs with a beeming escalator in the arena..UNTIL I saw THIS:
The cleverest way of making people opt for the healthier option.
Known by the name of the piano stairs, these stairs are literally what their name suggests them to be. With every step you take on the steps of this staircase, you play a key of the piano. 
See for yourself!


Source: thefuntheory.com

Sep 30, 2011

My Experience as a Dietician


December 2007: 55 kgs
April 2008: 48 kgs. 
May 2008: 46 kgs. 
June 2008: 45 kgs. 
July 2008: 44 kgs

You must have read an endless number of articles about how to loose weight, and you must have seen those eye-catching advertisements in the newspapers of a fitness centre with a picture of woman before and after she lost weight due to their invaluable and unredeemable guidance(which btw, they provide for only Rs 1200 a month!).

Well I didn't need any of that. Losing weight wasn’t my problem. I was good at dieting. No, I was GREAT at dieting. My biggest achievement was when my dadi, who happens to be among those Indians who can feed anyone who comes our way gave up on me.

I changed 3 school uniforms in 2 months. Stores which earlier I couldn’t go to because I was too fat, I still couldn't go to because I was too thin.

My problem began when I started giving advice on dieting.
Now when people saw that I lost 10 kgs in 6 months, they came up to ask me how I did it? It felt so good to be the one answering the questions and not asking them.
I felt like a dietician, and I thought to myself. Maybe, I can just become a dietician without having to study about it. I can be the first empirical dietician in the world!
So the customers came pouring in and I got down to work!

My first customers were my parents. The first thing I did was throw out all the chocolates and sweets from our refrigerator. Then I replaced butter with low calorie butter, cheese with slimz cheese, and coke with diet coke. No chips were allowed in the house except special diet ones. I even threw out all the Bourbons and chocolate cookies and replaced them with Tiger and Parle-G instead! We checked their weight every week. I assured them that they would lose weight soon. But their weight started going up instead.


For a few weeks I wondered, how this could be happening. My dieting methods were fool proof, parent proof, adult proof, everything. But the day I smelt a McDonalds burger on my mom, I realized it was I who wasn’t fool proof! My mom and dad had been eating in office. My sources revealed that they had everything from rasgullas to ice creams to pizzas while they were in office and had decided to act all saintly at home. And their excuse,  “We thought we could eat in office. You didn’t say anything about eating there!”
Mom, Dad, really? Isn’t that just like me bunking all my classes at school and saying “What!! You do push me to study when I’m home. But you never said anything about school”
Needless to say, I had disowned my parents as my customers. They had greatly hurt my inner soul, by making me doubt myself and my dieting principles. It was time to move on.

My next customer was my friend. Now my friend was one of those huge people who you use as a pillow on road trips, those people who seem to be exercising and dieting all the time but never seem to lose an ounce, and if they do, you start doubting the weighing machine.  Lets just say that I wouldn’t be surprised if she told me that she was a long lost relative of the Dursley’s. (The Harry Potter fans know what I’m talking about)
I personally got very excited at the idea of instructing this friend of mine. I trusted those dear dieting principles of mine so much that I knew she would lose weight. I was so confident about them that I was convinced that I could turn an elephant into a flamingo.  
So I told her, don’t eat carbohydrate, or fat. That meant no butter, no biscuits and definitely no cheese.
She was a very obedient pupil, unlike my parents I must say. And a very enthusiastic one too, which unfortunately did not let things end as I would have wanted them to.
Not only did she start following my diet, but she also started exercising on top of that. Now if there is one thing you should know about my diet, it is that it involves absolutely NO exercise.
My friend started going to the gym. The gym makes you hungry enough to eat more than shrek if not shrek himself. And if you decide to follow my diet on top of it, you’re a goner.
After 2 weeks of following my diet and her exercise regime, my friend ended up bed ridden, with instructions from the doctor telling her not to get any form of exercise for at least 10 months.
What’s more, the medication she was on made her gain even more weight. So by the time she was out of bed and able to walk and talk, she was even fatter than before.


Now, I was really distressed. First my parents, then my friend. Could there be anything wrong with my dieting ways? NOO! How dare I think of that!

 My fears turned into reality when I myself started feeling weak and faint all the time.
This was when I realized that I was wrong. I realized that my dieting had not done me much good. Apart from reducing the flesh between my skin and bones, it had also reduced my bones to twigs. I was weak and tired and lazy and unhealthy. Sure I had lost weight, but maybe it was something not worth compromising with my health. It took me a while to realize this, and even more time to admit that I had been wrong all along.  But when I did, it came out to be a truly wonderful learning experience. From that day on, any friend who came up to me for dieting advice got a long sermon on the catastrophic effect of dieting.

So remember, the next time that creamy cake appears in front of you while you’re busy running away from it, think of whether you’re doing the right thing before you’re long gone and away! 

Sep 15, 2011

Generation Y

"PAYAL LAL, get up! GET UP, NOW! Do you have any idea how much I studied when I was your age? I woke up at 5 a.m. every morning. And look at you. Still sleeping."

This is the story of every one of my Saturday mornings. Every one of them. On the Saturdays my parents have to work, I hear them in my dreams. My parents, live in another world altogether. They get up at 5 a.m. every morning, even if they have nothing specific to do. I don’t even do that if my facebook account gets hacked.  

Welcome to India-a country where the parents are too Indian and the children are too American
Being part of generation Y, I can tell you based on experience, it is a combination that doesn’t go well at all. It’s like having Punjabi food with South Indian food.
Allow me to tell you why.

Every now and then my mom barges into my room, see me sitting around and says
“Sitting around on your bed, talking on the phone and whiling away time on your laptop. I knew we shouldn’t have given it to you. Stupid useless distractions. I had none at all when I was your age “

Okay, MOM, first of all, a laptop or a cell phone did not even exist when you were my age. There is no way you could have had it. You learnt how to use it about the same time I did.
Secondly, I could be doing something productive. Don’t just walk into my room and assume stuff. I could be discussing the terrible conditions of the Greek economy on my phone and researching about the Middle Eastern uprisings. I’m not. I actually just talking to my friend on the phone and chatting with a few others on facebook. But whatever. Don’t assume stuff.

Not only do they not like the idea of a laptop or cell phone with their child, but also, they donot know how to use it.

It’s understandable considering the circumstances that existed when they were kids. Terrible circumstances! Worse than poverty!

The other day, I was trying to figure out the deal with these middle eastern countries. I was researching on google.
I asked my dad who was sitting besides me, “Papa, was Iran earlier called Persia?”
But before my dad answered, I had already looked up the answer on the web.
When my dad was my age, he would probably not have bothered to make an effort to find an answer to such a question. Not because, it was a stupid question, but because the effort would not have been worth it. He would have to get up, go to the bookshelf, open the bookshelf, find an atlas, open it, look through the index, find the right page number, then browse through all the text and then he’d have his answer. By then Iran would have changed it’s name again! All I had to do was type two words into google.

And it isn’t just the computer which had changed things, it’s the cell phone as well. Commonly known to be a maniac among parents, it’s dearer to us than our own lives. While they take hours to send a two word text, it takes us seconds to do the same. If they were to send the same number of tects that we do in one day, that’s probably all they would do that day. Baby’s today are probably born with their fingers moving that way. Part of evolution you see.

Facebook is another hilarious example of the generation gap. My parents joined facebook much later than I did. And they didn’t seem to like the idea that everyone could see their profile picture and all their friends could see what they wrote on people’s wall. When my mom realized this she said “What? What if Vanita sees what I wrote about her on Renu’s wall? Wont she feel bad?”

They have been accustomed to emailing.  One of my uncles whose on my facebook friends list has a habit of writing comments in the form of letters. I once wrote on his wall “Happy Birthday”. The next day when I logged in I had a bunch of notifications. So I clicked on them and I found that he had commented on that wall post. He had written

“Dear Payal,
Thank you for your wishes.
Hope you are doing well.
Love. 
Mama"

Anyone else would just write thanks. At most a thank you and a smiley.

So it isn’t only the age gap that creates such differences. It’s also the change of trend. What our parents did at our age, we wouldn’t even dream of doing. That would make us a different species altogether. I would call them Boro sapiens.

Gen Y thinks their parents are impractical, overly conservative, boring. On the other hand, the oldies complain all the time, about how the younger generation is lazy and spoilt. We have all been grown up in different environments and different mindsets. In India, the kind of change that occurred over the last 20 years, makes 1 generation gap equal to 5.  The generation gap does not allow us to see eye to eye on much, unless we try to think from their point of view once in a while.

Everyone is the way they are because of a reason. It’s their background or their upbringing that makes them that way. Therefore they have a different point of view. That’s why we are so different from our parents. We have grown up in such diverse environments.

Next time you are talking to people who you don’t see eye to eye with, be it people from the older or younger generation or anyone else, wait for a second before you pick up an argument with them and put yourself in their shoes. Maybe you’ll realize that they are right in their own old ways. 




(also published in the Hindu : http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/article2442489.ece)

Sep 9, 2011

The Free World Charter

I came across something called the The Free World Charter. It is the simplest idea with an incredulous impact. The idea is to do away with the idea of money and just watch with awe the transformation it brings in the world!
I know that at this moment you are trying to figure out how this would work? How would we survive if no one works? No one produces food! No one takes care of the criminals! Think a little more. With all the machines we have today, we don't need humans to produce all the food. With no money around, there is nothing for criminals to rob! Whatever we do, we don't do because we HAVE to, we do it because we WANT to. If you like to teach, you teach. If you like to do social work, that is what you do. You want to be doctor? Then be it!
This video explains it all!


Sign the Free World Charter here: http://freeworldcharter.org/?a=charter
I did!

Sep 1, 2011

D-Day



One afternoon my mother walked into my room and said “Your aunt is here from America, she wants to meet you, can you come and say hello”
Me? oh NO, I am ok playing SIMS on the computer. 
But that's not what I say aloud. To my mom I say, "Coming in  5 minutes."

15 minutes later, “Are you coming? You must come and SAY HELLO”
“Okay Mom! Why this big deal?.”

Grudgingly I get there- say hello and the little kitten that I am, in 15 seconds I give some stares to my aunt, to the wall, to the fan and before my aunt can blink, I am out of there.

Believe it or not, this was the scene at my home every weekend 5 years ago. If it was not my aunt, it was my granny’s sister, or my grandfathers friend. Once I was asked to say hello to our neighbour's brother who was visiting from Australia. Imagine? 

My parents were fed up. They hated dragging me up to greet guests. It was not only humiliating for them, but after I turned 12, my shyness became an issue of worry. They kept persevering to come up with solutions to my little problem! I hated what they were doing. I was in my comfort zone, happy where I was. I did not really care for any change. But I knew that my parents did. And they would do something about it-very soon.

As expected the D-Day arrived. The dreadful one – and I got the BITTER PILL.

Do you know what is the 2nd biggest fear most people have? (the 1st being death) Do you know what the biggest punishment my dad gave me was?
When my uncle was once visiting and I refused to come up and say hello, my dad punished me by pushing me into a public speaking club, namely the NEW DELHI GAVELS CLUB.

Corporal punishment was banned. But the 2nd biggest fear. You fear, I fear..PUBLIC SPEAKING! And can you believe it, my own father was the one who pushed me into facing this fear.

I had heard of Toastmasters. My dad went there on Sundays, when he had nothing better to do (although he still claims that he tries his best to go there). It was a place where he went to improve his speaking skills.
One fine day, I was in my happy place (in front of the TV) when my dad walked in and announced "My toastmaster friends just told me that there's a junior version of toastmaster being opened. It's called the New Delhi Gavel's Club. It's for kids of ages 12-18. And guess what, Payal's joining it!" 


The fireworks began!! I am actually scared of swimming, but I was willing to jump into a 12 feet deep pool. Maybe get some water in my lungs, NO BIGGIE RIGHT? 
But gavels? Woah!  BIG BIGGIE!
From that day onwards, 90% of my time was spent thinking of ways to get out of this big mess. But my dad was adamant. He would take me there. 

1 week later I was at the first meeting of the NEW DELHI GAVELS CLUB. I had already decided that I would hate it. I wouldn’t open my mouth. I would behave just like I did at the dentists.
There was no way in hell they’re going to make ME speak! I went and sat inside. As people kept coming up and speaking, I thought, what geeks, don’t they have anything better to do!

While these thoughts flew in and out of mind, the others in the room spoke. I was so preoccupied with my thoughts that it took me a while to realize it when I was called upon to speak. There were some chits on the table and I had to pick one at random and speak on the topic that was written inside the chit. As I opened the chit to read my topic, my knees trembled! I was sweating and suddenly, there were double the number of people in the room. Why didn’t the ground just open up and swallow me.  Gosh dad! I hate you! If it wasn’t for you I could have been in my happy place.  
Now, I had a new happy place, the time the meetings would finish!


This cycle continued for a while-my dad would force me to go and I would unhappily and half-heartedly oblige. 

Strangely, after a couple of meetings, I began to feel better about being there.I actually felt confident. My voice no more shook, my knees started to stabilize! I started actively taking part in the meetings. 
I guess the end of the meeting was no more my happy place! The people around me were not geeks any more. And I was in no mood to kill my parents.

Not only had the D-Day lead to me feeling better about my speech, but over the years, being part of the club made me more confident as a person. I became more open about coming out of my comfort zone and doing things that initially sound very scary and undoable. Sometimes you need someone to force the BITTER PILL down your throat!
Now, when my parents insist on me joining a class or a club or a program, I willingly accept. After all, who knows what it might have in store for me? 

Aug 28, 2011

My 60 seconds on TV

Here is a clip of my TV interview that was aired about a month away. It was at the TYE feliciation ceremony. TiE Young Entrepreneurs (TYE) is a program that gives us about 8-10 lessons on various aspects of starting a business, and then divides us into groups, as a part of which we come up with business plans. We present our business plans in a competition, first at the local level, after which the winning team presents it at the global level.
My group came second in the local competition. Although we didn't get anything in particular as a prize, we learnt an incredible lot. TYE actually teaches one how to be a leader, which is what makes it so amazing and inspiring.

video

Link to TiE group on facebook http://www.facebook.com/TiEDelhi?sk=wall

Aug 26, 2011

Being Happy

Being happy is something that everyone looks for consciously or unconsciously. But happiness is nothing to found in the outside world, it is something that only you can really deal with. Here are a few traits of a human being that influence his/her happiness.




Happiness=Satisfaction 
I believe that happy people are always happy. They find a way to be happy. Actually, they have to find a way to be sad. That’s just their nature. No matter how much their life plays around with them, in an effort to make them upset or go through tough times, the optimistic are always happy. They believe that life has something in store for them.
On the other hand, sad people always find a way to be sad. Even if life gives them roses they sit with them and cry over the fact that they didn’t get lilies. They tend to expect more than what they get.  
That’s probably why kids who have been spoilt by their parents in their initial years have such a problem being happy. They are so used to being pleased and pampered by their parents that their demands become unexpectedly high, making it tough for them to be satisfied with what they get.
Research proves that being happy=satisfaction with what you have. It refers to how people who are happy do not obsess themselves with what they COULD HAVE. Rather it’s the unhappy people who do.
A study found that the Scandinavians are the happiest people in the world. Why? They spend a majority of their time in darkness, and freezing temperature. They can sit around thinking about how they could have been living in better weather conditions and end up convincing themselves that all that goes wrong is due to the terrible weather conditions. But yet they are happy. Isn’t that amazing? The reason behind their happiness is that they are satisfied with what they have.



Money=UNhappiness
While writing this I figured that if satisfaction leads to happiness, then money must be one of the keys to UNhappiness, for the reason that money makes most people greedy. As they get more, they want even more. No wonder they say “Money cannot buy happiness”!


Happiness is Contagious
When you smile, the world smiles with you. Happiness is contagious.When you are in an atmosphere where people are always laughing and enjoying life to the fullest, you automatically start to live life there way. The same happens when you are surrounded by unhappy people. As Oscar Wilde said "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."That is why it is believed that smiling at a stranger can make not only his day, but also a lot of other people's because chances are that he too will smile at another stranger the very same day!



Being Happy, and not knowing it!
Most people who are happy do not know it. They fail to acknowledge the small instances of happiness that are experienced in day to day life, like smiling at a stranger, making a new friend, going for a movie with your best friends, etc. They expect happiness to come with success or money or what not.
I came across this website called www.1000awesomethings.com which talks about small pleasures of life such as those which I just mentioned.

Of course there a bunch of other things that influence happiness such as success and relationships, but they really can't mess with you if you are one of an optimistic nature. 
Abraham Lincoln once said "A person will be just about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
So keep the smiles coming all day long!

Aug 23, 2011

Keeping your neurons busy!


Today I tried the most interesting thing. I tried using my left hand in everything I do, instead of my right.  My parent’s yoga teacher told me a few years back that using the right or the left hand doesn’t come from birth. It’s about the practice and the balance of the mind i.e. if you use your left hand more, you automatically become left handed, and if you use your right hand more you become right handed.
But wanting to be a left hander is not the reason I tried this. It turns out that doing things differently ends up sharpening your brain.
During our vacation in Orlando, I learnt that brain power is one source of energy that in inexhaustible. (unlike fuel, etc) The other day my uncle told me about how one uses only 5% of the brain. And the person who used 10% is the one we call a genius. But that turned out to be a myth. (according to sources of the internet.) They claim that going by the myth, injury of certain parts of the brain (i.e. the unused ones) should not affect you in any way since they are not used.
Then a few days later, I came across this website which talked about how to increase your brain power and how to use your brain to the full capacity. It had a couple of ways to do that, like brushing with your left hand, or taking another route to work , or doing a lot of brain puzzles, and using different kind of keypads to type.
Today, I tried brushing with y left hand, and it was harder than I thought it would be. I was telling my aunt who visited today that she should try doing the same. Nodding her head she said “Neurobics”. I had no idea what that was, but she told me. She said it was Neuron’s Aerobics. Exercising the brain.
My theory is that by using your left hand to do certain things, you aren’t actually using the same part of your brain more, but you are using another part of the brain.  You may know that the left part of the brain which is more analytical controls the right part of your body (arms lgs, etc) and the right part of your brain which enhances creativity,  controls the left part of your body. So by using your left hand to do things that you would otherwise use your right hand for, you are sharpening the right side of the brain, which happens to be the creative one.
But then that implies that left handed beings are more creative and less analytical than the right handed ones. That actually may be true. But then what is not true is that all right handed people are analytical. I happen to know barely any left handed people and yet I know people who are extremely creative.
My aunt said that by doing things differently (taking different routes, using your left hand) you are challenging the brain. The brain catches the smallest of change. Even if you start using a ball point pen after having used a pencil for quite some time, you are exercising the brain.
Well in that case by using different kinds of writing material everyday , the brain can get a hell lot of exercise. Another way to exercise the brain is to supposedly take a shower with your eyes closed. I’m guessing this helps exercise the brain since you have to force your brain to remember where things are. Having a shower is such a regular part of everyone’s routine, that people do it mechanically without thinking. So by closing your eyes your eliminating the unconsciousness in the actions of reaching out for the soap or turning the shower knob, and forcing your brain to think and remember where those things are.
Another great way to increase brain power is to continuously write one page on a word document (or any other software for that matter) without stopping to think or correct spelling and grammar errors. This enables you to think fast. I tried this, but it takes a lot of practice to be able to do that. To not stop at all, I mean. It is easy to go half a page without having to put extreme pressure on your brain. But when you get half way through the page, you run out of sane things to write about. So the first time you try that, your second half of the page is just a recurrence of the first half in different words .
I once read a book called “The curious incident of the dog in the night-time”. Randomest book ever.  It was about a troubled boy who decides to investigate the murder of a dog in the neighborhood. While on his little mission, he discovers a bunch of secrets about his own life that was well kept with his divorced mom and dad. Now this book is written from the point of view of the boy. So he writes whatever he is thinking about with a good amount of details. In random parts of the book when he’s bored or he wants to avoid thinking about something that is worrying him, he starts squaring number in his heads. (2X2=4X2=8X2=16 and so on.) Way to keep your brain busy!
Working on your vocabulary is another way. So is picking up a random object and thinking of multiple things it could be used as. For eg, pick up a pencil, and then think of a 100 things that the pencil can be used as.
Your brain is the controller of your body. Spending time on keeping it sharp is one of the most productive things you’ll ever do.
Not using it actually ends up making it blunter and less intelligent than before!
So keep the neurons busy!

Aug 19, 2011

Irony:The Arab Spring

The other day I sat at home, thinking about the Arab Spring. And I realized the kind of irony (and also courage) involved.

I say courage because the Arabs seem to have overcome the fear of bullets. We see a pattern each time. The people revolt. The ruler freaks out. Orders the army to save the day. Army comes and shoots a few. Crowds Disperse. But after one week, they're back. Back and fully alive! Growing bigger and bigger in number.
It seems to me, that they don't care to live if living means being oppressed and having to feel threatened by arms and ammunition everyday

What is surprising is, is that the army doesn't realize what it's doing. It (the army) just doesn't realize that they are among those being oppressed by the rulers and if they decide to side with the people, they become responsible for a free and happier nation! That is one feeling that is hard to bear. Isn't it?

Another thing is, is that the rulers have a huge advantage i.e.. of being rulers of conservative countries where a large part of the country may not want modernization to take place, not that it surely will if a government is formed, it's just that their mindset makes them think so. Guarding their culture is important to them. But yet, we see all kinds of people on our TV screens protesting on the streets.

The rulers on the other hand fail to see the kind of consequences that they will suffer whether they are thrown off or not. If they are thrown off, then their fate rests with the will of the country. If not, then they live a life disturbed by regular uprisings and unstability in the country, which in turn leads to fall of the economy and pressure (which subsequently leads to isolation) from the outside world.
The longer they try to stay in power, the more they are messing with any luck they may have in the future. 

These Arab people have all the moral support of the world, and also the empathy of countries who have gone through struggles against oppression.
Here's hoping to seeing them join emerge from their bad times soon!

Aug 15, 2011

Ellis Island

Two months ago I visited Ellis Island, an Island next to that of the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Island). It was basically an island which welcomed immigrants (and by welcomed, i mean the only way in for them) and was kinda like a gate into America for people from all over the world.
I didn't think it was worth writing about, since I didn't see more to it to be anything more than a port.

But going through some of the pictures I took there, I realized what a big deal it was. I thought of all the people-Europeans, Asians, South Americans, setting assail from there homeland, for the land of opportunity, hoping for a better life. They all had their own reasons for doing the same. The also had their own stories.

A picture among the exhibits at Ellis Island of some newly arrived immigrants of the country.
In 1920, Johann karl Sceinder told his family that he was going to seek "golden opportunities" in America. He packed his belongings in a canvas satchel and journeyed from his village in Switzerland to France, where he set sail for New York. After a stormy two week voyage in steerage, he arrived at Ellis Island, and then went to upstate New York where he worked on a dairy farm. A year later he was able to send for his wife and three children. They eventually settled in Connecticut.
His daughter who was ten years old when she made the journey, saved some of the many things her mother brought with them to their new home.

Another such family, is that of Diab Catoni Thomas, who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1892. After working for 9 years peddling dry good in Virginia, Diab returned to Lebanon where he married Ramah and had two children. Mary and the children, Salene and Alene, immigrated to the United States in 1907. The family settle in Virgina where Diab opened a succesful general store. Diab and Mary had 9 more children in America, bringing there family to a total of 5 daughters and 6 sons. By the 1930s the family had moved to Mullens, West Virgina where they operated a grocery store. Diab died in Mullens in 1971 at the age of 103.

A statue of Annie Moore, the first immigrant processed at Ellis Island.

One of the counters where the immigrants were  processed into the country

All these people brought with them their cultures and their traditions, which makes the United States as diverse as it is today.
For us, travelling to the other side of the world is nothing but taking a 24 hour long flight. For them, it meant taking a 2 month long journey. (Remember? No airplanes!) They did not know whether they would have enough money to return, or when they would talk to their family ( Remember? Not many communication services.)

Ellis Island marked the beginning of a new world, one where people lived together, worked together, learned to accept each other. I hope to see many more Ellis Islands in the world soon!

Aug 10, 2011

This too shall pass!



Once a king called upon all of his wise men and asked them, ” Is there a mantra or suggestion which works in every situation, in every circumstances, in every place and in every time. In every joy, every sorrow, every defeat and every victo...ry? One answer for all questions? Something which can help me when none of you is available to advise me?
Tell me is there any mantra?”
 All the wise men were puzzled by the King’s question. They thought and thought. After a lengthy discussion, an old man suggested something which appealed to all of them. They went to the king and gave him something written on paper, with a condition that the king was not to see it out of curiosity.
 Only in extreme danger, when the King finds himself alone and there seems to be no way, only then he can see it. The King put the papers under his Diamond ring.
 Some time later, the neighbors attacked the Kingdom. King and his army fought bravely but lost the battle. The King had to flee on his horse. The enemies were following him. getting closer and closer. Suddenly the King found himself standing at the end of the road - that road was not going anywhere. Underneath there was a rocky valley thousand feet deep. If he jumped into it, he would be finished…and he could not return because it was a small road…the sound of enemy’s horses was approaching fast. The King became restless. There seemed to be no way.
 Then suddenly he saw the Diamond in his ring shining in the sun, and he remembered the
message hidden in the ring. He opened the diamond and read the message. The message was -
     ” THIS TOO SHALL PASS”
 The King read it . Again read it. Suddenly something struck him- Yes ! This too will pass. Only a few days ago, I was enjoying my kingdom. I was the mightiest of all the Kings. Yet today, the Kingdom and all his pleasure have gone. I am here trying to escape from enemies. Like those days of luxuries have gone, this day of danger too will pass. A calm came on his face. He kept standing there. The place where he was standing was full of natural beauty. He had never known that such a beautiful place was also a part of his Kingdom.
 The revelation of the message had a great effect on him. He relaxed and forgot about those following him. After a few minutes he realized that the noise of the horses and the enemy coming was receding. They moved into some other part of the mountains and were near him.
 The King was very brave. He reorganized his army and fought again. He defeated the enemy and regained his empire. When he returned to his empire after victory, he was received with much fanfare. The whole capital was rejoicing in the victory.
 Everyone was in a festive mood. Flowers were being showered on King from every house, from every corner. People were dancing and singing. For a moment King said to himself,” I am one of the bravest and greatest King. It is not easy to defeat me. With all the reception and celebration he saw an ego emerging in him.
Suddenly the Diamond of his ring flashed in the sunlight and reminded him of the message. He open it and read it again: “THIS TOO SHALL PASS”.
He became silent. His face went through a total change - from the egoist he moved to a state of utter humbleness. If this too is going to pass, it is not yours. The defeat was not yours, the victory is not yours. You are just a watcher. Everything passes by. We are witnesses of all this. We are the perceivers. Life comes and goes. Happiness comes and goes. Sorrow comes and goes.
 Now as you have read this story, just sit silently and evaluate your own life. This too will pass. Think of the moments of joy and victory in your life. Think of the moment of Sorrow and defeat. Are they permanent ? They all come and pass away.
Life just passes away. There is nothing permanent in this world. Every thing changes except the law of change. Think over it from your own perspective. You have seen all the changes. You have survived all setbacks, all defeats and all sorrows. All have passed away. The problems in the present, they too will pass away. Because nothing remains forever. Joy and sorrow are the two faces of the same coin. They both will pass away. You are just a witness of change. Experience it, understand it, and enjoy the present moment.
   
 THIS TOO SHALL PASS!




Source: helpothers.org (Posted by Aditya)

Jul 24, 2011

50 cents


A 10-years-old boy visited a soda shop, climbed on to a stool and asked the Waitress, "What does an ice cream sundae cost?"

"50 cents," answered the Waitress.

The youngster reached deep in his pockets and pulled out an assortment of change, counting it carefully as the waitress grew impatient. She had 'bigger' customers to wait on.

"Well, how much would just plain ice cream be?" the boy asked.

The waitress responded with noticeable irritation in her voice, "35 cents."

Again, the boy slowly counted his money. "May I have some plain ice cream, please?" He gave the waitress the correct amount, and she brought him the ice cream.

Later, the waitress returned to clear the boy's dish and when she picked it up, she felt a lump in her throat. 

There on the counter the boy had 15 cents


She realized that the boy had enough money for the sundae, but sacrificed it so that he could leave her a tip.

The boy had learnt how to be selfless and caring. Most people today barely understand what it takes to be those things.



Little acts of Selflessness and Kindness make our world Bigger and Brighter, and more importantly, HAPPIER.
In a world that tell us "go get it all", it's also nice to GIVE ALL WE CAN.



Jul 14, 2011

The Old Lady and the Cab Driver


For those of you who haven't read the story of the old lady and the cab driver, here it is. It is one of the most touching ones I have ever come across. Enjoy!


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Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.
I pulled up at 2:30 a.m. in front of the building from where I was supposed to pick up a passenger. It was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.



But, I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute", answered a frail, elderly voice.
I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.


The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. "Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said.


I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It's nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated". "Oh, you're such a good boy", she said.
When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?" "It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly. "Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospital". I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."


I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
"What route would you like me to take?" I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city.
She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighbourhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.


As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now." We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door.
The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. "How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse. 



"Nothing," I said. "You have to make a living," she answered. "There are other passengers," I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you." I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light.
Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.


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We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

PEOPLE MAY NOT REMEMBER EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID, OR WHAT YOU SAID, BUT THEY WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER HOW YOU MADE THEM FEEL.


You won't get any big surprise in 10 days if you share this with ten people. But, you might help make the world a little kinder and more compassionate place.