Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Promise of Tomorrow

Adieu 2013

And yet another year comes to an end. Till last year, most of the year ends were more or less the same for me. Spending good time with friends, hating to go to office the next day and making resolutions which didn’t last even for a week. This year end however is different. Its making me think about the year gone by. 2013 was a strict teacher telling you not to take things for granted. It was also brought some beautiful gifts and lovely people into my life. 2013 also took me to places I didn’t even know existed and taught me to value dearly what I have. Every day came with a new surprise and it seemed like I was a participant in one of the reality shows on TV.

            2013 was a memorable year. It was a spicy treat of memories…some I would like to hold on to forever, some I wish never happened. But that’s life…which goes on. Because there is always a promise. The promise of tomorrow. 2014….I wish you bring more of good memories in everybody’s life and spray prosperity generously.

Adieu…2013. No hard feelings there.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Monday, 23 September 2013

phir se udd chala !!!!

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases;
it will never pass into nothingness: -
John Keats

I get reminded of this timeless poem every time I experience something beautiful.
And here I am referring to the movie Rockstar and more specifically its music.I loved the movie and its music even more.For me and millions others....music of this movie is one such beautiful gift....and probably what the great poet is referring too. The more I listen to it, its loveliness certainly increases for me.
Everything about this album is brilliant. It's a quintessential example of a masterpiece created by a collaboration of five creative people performing with their heart and soul and creating the best with their art in the process.
Great direction by Imtiaz Ali, outstanding melodies by AR Rehman, very soulful lyrics by Irshaad kamil, beautiful voice of Mohit Chauhan and phenomenal portrayal of the character by Ranbir Kapoor.
Every time I hear the songs from this movie, I am totally captivated,mesmerized and struck by the soulful music with lyrics that are simple and yet so deeply philosophical and spiritual. One of my favorite songs from the album is 'phir se udd chala'. The timing of this song in the movie and its picturization could not have been better. And I absolutely love the music and lyrics of this song. There has been a strong urge in me to share how I feel about the entire album.But today, as I was listening and watching this song, I was pleasantly surprised by how equally beautiful the translation of this song is ( and for that matter every song of the album). Often times the meaning is lost in the translation but in this case I believe it's as beautiful and as truthful as its in original conception language Hindi/Urdu .
I feel the translation in this case has been able to stand tall against a quote by the legendary lyricist/ poet Gulzar :
"A translation is like a mistress; if its beautiful, its not faithful; if its faithful, its not beautiful."

Here is the translation of the song- phir se udd chala. Decide for yourself ......

I have taken flight again
I have let go off the world below
And I submit myself to you, o wind!
Now people are far away
Miles away are these valleys
Slowly each cloud comes to touch my body
But no cloud is able to drench me
Never stopped at any place
Never even met myself
I may complain but upset I am not
Cities and villages appear the same
People and their names all seem the same

I have taken flight again
Dreams like dust reappear in my eyes
No matter how much I brush them away
So many dreams I have broken and left behind
Yet why do they return and take me away on their wings
Over branches and leaves
By my side they travel door to door
Sometimes desert, sometimes rain
Like a demon, I die a thousand times

Over branches and leaves
Sometimes day is night, sometimes day is day
What is reality, what is illusion
O Almighty- O Almighty
Here and there and scattered who knows
May be breeze will take me in your direction
Your thoughts pull me towards you
I keep flying in these colorful illusions
Keep flying
I keep flying in these colorful illusion
Keep flying.......

That's beauty of words and I LOVE it :-)

Post by Guest Author- Shaista Shireen

Friday, 20 September 2013

And the Mountains Echoed-Book Review by Shaista Shireen

“They tell me I must wade into waters, where I will soon drown. Before I march in, I leave this on the shore for you. I pray you find it, sister, so you will know what was in my heart as I went under.”

Every so often a book comes around that rocks you to your core. It makes you cry, laugh, think, feel , hope and dream so intensely that when it is over you feel adrift.'And the Mountains Echoed' is one of those books and the powerful messages of hope and connection the concluding scenes evoke, had me reduced to uncontrollable stream of tears. How can I find another like this, a book as good, a book as well written, a book that has expressed a gamut of human emotions so effortlessly. Sometimes its months or years before I find one.Like always Khaled Hossein had me emotionally drenched with his moving story.He is such an incredibly talented writer one who creates memorable and real characters and the story is impeccably woven together with extreme ingenuity. I wonder how he is able to do it so brillianlty every time .....where the story is always set in pre war Afganistan and yet he takes you for a journey and charmingly sweeps you off your feet with his poignant characters and their life stories moulded by war or destiney. His last book ' A thousand splendid suns', is phenomenal and powerful and I loved it and I remember myself in the same delirious state as I am now. But I sense for most people And the mountains...could not achieve the standard that Hosseini has set for himself. But for me personally, its like choosing b/w two close friends as to who I like better,which is so not fair.I guess on some level, I have come to love and appreciate the broader range of characters with different backgrounds that he has chosen and also what they bring to the story.IMHO, he is able to portray quite eloquently all shades of human character....brimming with unique traits,hopes,dreams,weaknesses,pain, anguish,trials and tribulations. Can't wait for his next book!

Blog Post by Guest Author

Saturday, 14 September 2013

And Justice Prevails……

It was something different about Friday, the 13th this month. The country was expecting not one but two very important decisions which would change the future of the country over the coming few years. As the day began, I was tuned to the news channels giving redundant information to kill the time till the decision was made either in room 304 of the Saket court or at 11, Ashok Road, New Delhi. While both the announcements, death penalty to 16 December gang rape accused and declaring Narendra Modi as PM candidate for 2014 elections seem to exuberate a message of a promising future; I believe the decision made in court had a deeper meaning for me as a woman.

            I am sure every woman of this country was waiting eagerly to know the court’s decision on this “rarest of the rare” case. It seems like the wish I made in my last blog post has come true. The judicial system of my country has proved that perverts who dare to touch me or my loved ones will not be spared. Whether this decision will be a deterrent for crimes in future is not something which can be guaranteed but believe me, any pervert thinking about any heinous deed will think about this decision at least once. To totally discourage them is a monumental task and it begins will reporting of such incidents. Other than the news of rapes and assaults, what hurts me most is the reaction of police and sometimes even families towards the victim. Some incidents of police harassing the victims gone to report a case is so disturbing. And a change in the mindset of our families is the need of the hour.   Just imagine if Nirbhaya’s parents’ had avoided making a complaint and sat at home grieving, the six monsters would be roaming free in the society and another clueless girl would have become a victim of a more heinous crime than this one.

            This decision will not make the society safer all of a sudden but I optimistically consider it a good beginning. Mumbai police has done a commendable job of grabbing all those accused in 48 hours in the gang rape of the photojournalist. Now it will be another case where the judiciary has to act fast and ensure that justice prevails……

Friday, 13 September 2013

Lady, You're Not a Man! : The Adventures of a Woman at Work

Book Title: Lady, You're Not a Man! : The Adventures of a Woman at Work
Authored By: Apurva Purohit
Publisher: Rupa Publications India (2013) 

Usually, the preaching or the “how to” genre is not something I pick up to read. I don’t like people giving readymade solutions for challenges and problemsat work, home, love, parenting or anything else. But I somehow thought it would be interesting to hear what a seasoned professional like Apurva Purohit has to say about women at work. And I am glad it was not a mistake. Every working woman will relate herself to this book at some point in her life. And every man around the working women will be glad to know that the author has given them credit wherever due. In spite of the subtly preaching tone, the author keeps the reader interested by narrating relevant real life and fictitious situations/characters. The book has a nice flow where the author gives a matter of fact account of what can’t be changed and hence proves her point that adapting rather than sulking would be a smarter choice. I also liked the author’s attempt to emphasize that raising a child is a joint responsibility of the family, especially the husband. It is also commendable that author has the author has considered social issues like unavailability of toilets for women at work places and more personal challenges like conventional expectations of parents and in laws from young working women.


            However, as you move towards the end of the book, you get a feeling that the author has been exceptionally lucky in terms of having a supporting husband/family, an extremely fair treatment at work, a supportive bosses and colleagues to work with and no major hiccups towards her 20 year long career. I personally believe that when it comes to a career/home balance, things are much more complicated for women not only in India but everywhere. But nevertheless, ‘Lady, You’re not a man!’ makes a good read and you will find yourself actually laughing out loud at certain instances.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Laughter of a Murderer

There is an eerie sound echoing in my ears since yesterday. I just realized what it is. It is an arrogant, brazen laughter of a murderer, a rapist who has been sentenced to ONLY 3 years in a correction home for raping and brutally murdering a 23- year old.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high……

Independence Day is just round the corner. For some, it’s just another holiday. Another day to watch movies and party. TV channels will air the same set of “patriotic movies”. Some channels will also have the annual ritual of holding debates and discussion with eminent panelists. And the most favorite topic would be youth. Some sincere citizens find it really amusing to blame the younger generation for anything and everything. Well, this generation may not be exactly what you wanted but face it…do you have a choice. Then there will be another set of young and energetic people who would go on about the sorry state of the nation due to inefficiencies of the older generation. Without realizing that one cannot always have everything served on a platter…not even a perfect country. Well, this could go on forever. However, as a part of the younger generation, this Independence Day does call for some introspection.
Ok…so there’s corruption, crime, socio-economic disparity to deal with. But to counter that, we have a strong international repute, knowledge base and a well-equipped, educated work force.  So what is missing? Will? Efforts? Focus? I would say a little bit of all of these. And priority. I believe corruption and crime are the worst evils of our society which need to be dealt with on priority. Why? Simple.
            Corruption, at any and every level, robs an individual of his basic rights ( to food, security, employment, justice and social well-being) and places them into the hands of those who do not deserve it. So get corruption out of the system and we have a cleaner and a fairer society. Crime is directly proportional to crime. Corruption aids the wrong-doers. As simple as that. Absence of corruption would ensure that criminals are brought to justice and more importantly, in justified amount of time.
I am extremely proud of being a part of a generation which has equal passion while marching towards India Gate for a protest or while enjoying a Chennai Express. Both are important characters of a truly democratic society. What I strongly wish on this Independence Day is to this this passion with a pinch of focus, a dash of will and a spoonful of efforts. And we have just the right recipe for “India Shining”.

Monday, 12 August 2013

I dedicate this friendship day to you.............

I don’t need a friendship day to think about you . But I do miss you today. And I miss you on Diwali and Christmas. And I miss every time I travel on the roads on which we had fun while going to school. And when I see mauve lipstick and red dress which made you look so pretty. And when I see your reflection in your daughter. And I miss you when I think about something which only you and I know. And so I miss you today because only you know that you were my first friend, my first “best friend”.

I dedicate this friendship day to you my friend…my best friend Susan.

Is your Husband good at cooking? Beware !!!

"Grass always looks greener on the other side" I tell all my friends when they crib about their husbands not being able to make even a cup of tea. Most of them rubbish my claim. But believe me, having a "sanjeev-kapoor" type of husband  is not always fun. And let me tell you why.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Beloved Bollywood

In one of the shows during the first season of “Koffee with Karan”, Karan Johar asked an actress (??) about her favorite actors/actresses. The lady started blurting out names of Hollywood actors. When KJo asked her why she didn’t have any Indian actors in her list of favorites, she blatantly said that though she liked Indian actors, there was nobody worth admiring. Considering that KJo is a patriotic bollywood citizen, I am sure he had to use even his last bit of patience not to throw her out of the studio.

I really pity people who still consider Indian Cinema secondary to Hollywood. Well, the technology might need some upgrade, it certainly does not lack talent and entertainment quotient. What if there are only a few Oscars in its kitty, there is no dearth of world class cinema. While I genuinely enjoy the James Bond series and Julia Robert movies, I also cannot change the channel when there is a Madhuri Dixit or Amitabh Bachchan movie airing on it.

Along with all other perquisites that this generation has, I consider that being able to witness the celebration of centenary of Indian Cinema is a great opportunity which we will brag about for years to come. This section of my blog, where I will pen down anything and everything I like or dislike about Indian movies, is a tribute to the Indian cinema which has entertained us year after year.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Solar Energy-Powering the Future

The effects of global warming due to excessive carbon dioxide being emitted in the ecosystem have become the topic of much deliberation all around the world. It has been clearly understood that the planet may not be able to sustain itself if drastic corrective measures are not adopted immediately. Increased consumption of fossil fuels is a major factor leading to emission of harmful gases in the atmosphere. Some of the visible effects of emitting hazardous gases in the environment are as follows-
• Extreme weather changes and natural calamities owing to global warming.
• Threat to coastal areas due to rise in oceanic temperatures and fast melting glaciers.
• Many exotic species on the verge of extinction due in increase in average temperature of the planet.
• Severe health hazards due to increased levels of pollutants in the atmosphere.
While these impacts on man and the planet are worth a serious concern, the use of fossil fuels at an alarming rate is also resulting in depletion of this important energy resource. However, the need for a drastic change has been realized and there are efforts to discover an alternate source of energy to power the future.

Solar Energy- For a better tomorrow

Alternate sources of energy such as solar, wind, water, biomass and geothermal are abundantly available in the environment and have very low levels of harmful emissions as compared to conventional energy sources. Solar energy can be an answer to the need of a reliable source of renewable energy in future. Solar energy refers to sources of energy that can be directly attributed to the light of the sun or the heat that sunlight generates . Civilizations have been harnessing the power of solar before the advent of scientific methods of producing energy. Solar energy has had been in use in the modern world since 1800s but a significant increase has been seen in the last couple of decades due to increase awareness about the harmful effects of conventional sources of energy and availability of affordable technology to harness the resource in domestic and commercial applications. Some of the most common applications of solar power are listed below  –
• Using solar cookers for cooking, drying and pasteurization.
• Using solar thermal power and Solar Disinfection (SODIS) to heat and disinfect water.
• Converting sunlight to electricity using solar cells or photovoltaic cells.
• Concentrating sun’s heat using lenses is used to run turbines to generate electricity.
Innovation in technology has enabled wide use of solar power in all aspects of society. However, there are some inherent disadvantages associated with the use of this resource. Solar energy is intermittent or irregular. It is unavailable during nights or due to clouds and in some parts of the planet such as Siberia. Also, the infrastructure needed to use solar energy is costlier and needs technical expertise for installation. Also, to convert and store solar energy on a large scale, huge infrastructure is needed which takes up a lot of space. Though the technological advancements are making it affordable to a larger section, its installation cost still remains the biggest hurdle in making it a preferred choice by the masses. Increase in awareness about the long term benefits of alternate sources of energy has increased the acceptance and demand of the resources in spite of the challenges involved. Governments in many leading countries such as US, Australia and UK are encouraging the commercial usage of renewable resources by way of feed in tariffs (FIT), tax credits, subsidies, grants, renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) with specified standards for solar energy , public investments and other financial incentives. Organizations and communities are working in unison to encourage the domestic use of solar appliances. Kyoto protocol commenced in 2005 by the UN commits 37 developed countries to act drastically to curb the harmful gas emissions causing global warming. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under kyoto protocol stimulates sustainable development by the use of solar power in rural electrification and electricity generation (UN 2012). The infrastructure or solar architecture is being incorporated in new constructions to support the use of solar power.

Planet has reached its break even in sustaining itself and repairing the damage done of human beings. Unless the situation is not rectified immediately, the next generations may not be able to survive in the deteriorated conditions on earth. The nature has provided mankind with abundant resources and its time the power of these resources is harnessed for a better and a cleaner tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Air Pollution and Children's health

Much is said and discussed about air pollution and its effects on climate of the planet. While there are many activities of mankind that are creating havoc on the climate, air pollution is by far the worst because of its unlimited and long-lasting effect. And the crisis has become life-threatening in the last couple of centuries because of industrialization and increased consumption of fuel world over. The causes may be manmade but the effects are surfacing as acute health complications in all species on earth. Nations all over the world have realized the graveness of the situation and are taking desperate corrective measures and it has been understood that this issue needs synchronization of efforts from all the communities. Some of the most common visible effects of air pollution are listed below:-

• Global Warming – Significant increase in the average temperature of earth leading to extreme weather changes on earth.
• Acute health problems- Respiratory and skin diseases due to harmful gases.
• Negative effect on flora and fauna due to imbalance of air constituents.
• Effects on cultural heritage- Harmful gases react with stone and metals and cause damage to the structure.

             The list of negative effects is endless but the underlying statement is that there is an irreversible damage happening to the ecosystem. One of the most threatening effects of air pollution is the impact on children’s health and development. Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in number of children suffering from severe health disorders owing to increased levels of pollution in the atmosphere.

Air Pollution- Causes and Components

Air is combination of complex combination of many chemical components, the most prominent ones being Nitrogen, Oxygen and water vapor. There are certain pollutants which enter the atmosphere due to natural phenomena such as eruption of volcanoes and decomposition of plants and animals. However, the pollutants created as a result of human activities called the anthropogenic pollutants, are harmful and beyond natures sustainable limits. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, methane, ozone, tobacco smoke, lead and suspended particulate matter i.e. dust, smoke, sand, mist, pollen and fly ash are emitted as a result of industrial and household activities .Burning fossil fuels such as coal and using or emitting toxic gases as by-product are categorized as industrial activities. Vehicle exhausts, chemical pollutants released from household cleaners, adhesives, paints, disinfectants, pesticides, AC exhausts, burning fossil fuels, CFCs found in aerosol cans and refrigerator units and tobacco smoke are some of the very common household pollutants. Prima facie these industrial or domestic activities may not seem harmful but the cumulative effect on the environment is now causing havoc. Some of the deadliest evidences of effect of air pollution on humanity are listed below :-

• Ozone hole due to excessive use of CFCs spotted over Antarctica in 1980.
• London smog of 1952 which was smoke due to excessive burning of coal trapped in fog lasted for four days and claimed almost 12,000 lives .
• Los Angeles, California ranks highest in ozone and particulate pollution and has had 69 unhealthy smog days in 2010. Smog is a created when smoke is trapped in fog due to tall buildings or high mountains. All human beings suffer directly or indirectly due to pollutants in the atmosphere but extent of effect on children is much more than on adults.

Air Pollution-Effects on children’s health and development

Air pollution has ill effects on both adults and children but children are more susceptible to the harmful effects because of many reasons such as their anatomy, metabolic rate and tolerance levels. According to report by WHO (2005), the ongoing process of lung growth and development, incomplete metabolic systems, immature host defenses, high rates of infection by respiratory pathogens and activity patterns specific to children can lead to higher exposure to air pollution and higher doses of pollutants reaching the lungs. For example, children have higher activity levels than an adult and spend more time playing outside and hence are more exposed to the pollutants in the atmosphere. At any exertion level, children inhale more air per unit body weight than adults. Also, children are not able to recognize the early signs of impact and hence are unable to take preventive measures or are treated at a much later stage. The effects can be a minor irritation to severe lung diseases and cancers. In some cases, presence of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals in the air has evidenced direct effect on development of nervous system and behavioral pattern. Studies have also proven the effect of air pollutants on prenatal period and infants. Examples and evidences of direct relationship of certain pollutants on children’s heath are stated below:-

• Ozone is known to cause nose, throat and eye irritation, headaches, chest pains and difficulty in breathing. It exacerbates asthma and repeated exposure to ozone can lead to chronic lungs malfunction.
• Carbon monoxide- main component of automotive exhaust- increases the risk of low weight of babies at birth. It can cause permanent damage to vital organs such as heart.
• Exposure to lead can impair the body’s ability to make hemoglobin and cause anemia. It is also known to trigger kidney damage and harm the central nervous system.

     The ill effects of air pollutants have been acknowledged significantly and desperate measures are being taken not only to cure the damage but also prevent the situation from worsening further.

Sociological Aspects

Most of the components of air pollution are the results of human activities. Urbanization and industrialization are the major factors leading to increased levels of air pollution. Population growth and density i.e. people per sq km is another contributor. A steady increase in the levels of pollutants in the air has been observed after the industrial revolution. There is an ongoing debate about the contribution of developed and developing countries. While India, China and Iran top in the list of most polluted cities of the developing countries; London, New York and California feature in list of smog covered cities in the developed countries. Lack of knowledge about the potential effects of air pollution, lack of infrastructure, use of outdated automotives and excessive use of fossil fuels for cooking and heating are the prominent reasons of high pollution levels in developing countries. On the other hand, high densities of population, use of hazardous chemicals in households and mega factories have done irreversible damage to the atmosphere. In spite of the ongoing argument about the culprit for this damage, the countries have realized that the ill-effects of air pollution are not delimited to the place of origin but will have a global effect and there are synchronized efforts globally to prevent any further damage.

• Kyoto protocol- Kyoto protocol brought into force in February 2005 by the UN commits 37 industrialized countries and European community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and has strict reporting and compliance system to ensure that the commitments are met. However, Kyoto protocol assumed that developed countries had major contribution in air pollution and did not include the role of developing countries
• Greenpeace International- Greenpeace, a global environmental organization with its head office as Amsterdam, actively works in 40 countries to spread knowledge about harmful effects of pollution due to various activities and helps provide solutions such as renewable sources of energy with an aim to a cleaner climate
• Laws and regulations – Governments are taking stringent measures to curb air pollution by industries and vehicle emissions. The Clean Air Act, 1973 of USA and the Environment Act, 1995 in UK enforce limits of pollutants entering the atmosphere. Similar laws are being enforced by countries all over the world to control air pollution at local levels. Steps for a Cleaner tomorrow Successes of all efforts for a cleaner atmosphere in future are driven by two factors – act now and act together. It is to be clearly understood that the efforts cannot be delayed at any cost and that people have to think and act together beyond geographical, cultural and economic boundaries.
• Use of alternate sources of energy- Innovative ways of using renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind and water need to be adopted religiously at domestic and commercial level instead of fossil fuels such as coal which are the major culprits of air pollution.
• Industries should invest in primarily in setting up processing units to clean up toxic pollutants before they enter the atmosphere.
• Population should be educated exhaustively about the ill effects of air pollution on the next generation.

    Nature has been magnanimous enough to sustain the human population in spite of the damage done to it. However, it has reached its break-even. Man has disturbed the nature’s self-cleaning mechanism and the effects are now visible as extreme weather conditions, unseasonal storms and other natural calamities. Until and unless the situation is arrested immediately, the next generations may not be able to survive in the deteriorated conditions.

Friday, 24 May 2013

How much is too much???

This era of information overflow magnanimously provides all the necessary parenting tips required to raise the next-gen kids today. And I am sure I have read a good deal of it (and practiced most of it I believe). But none of the “holy” parenting books gave a precise answer to the haunting question ” how much is too much?”. Pampering, liberty and trust that is. How much of pampering is justified for a four year old? Or how much of liberty or trust can keep a teenager within agreed limits. All my attempts to limit the number of toys for my son are met with same argument “why not if we can afford it”. In a few other households, the basis for overflow of goodies was the parents’ melodramatic deprived childhood where expensive toys and clothes were limited to birthdays and festivals.

Dont get me wrong. I am a doting mother and sometimes indulge crazily in spoiling my kid. But I am worried about the future? Not my child’s though. ( I bet the social scenario would undergo a revolution by then. That is another chapter altogether). I am worried about myself. I am worried about the times when I will have to say no to some of my child’s demands on financial, social or purely pragmatic grounds. How will I tell him that “this” demand is beyond limits? After all, It was me who was not able to decide “how much is too much”?