Thursday, 28 February 2013

Home Sweet .......( Fill in the blank with the name of your hometown)

Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                     - Sarah Ban Breathnach

In today‘s world , one can’t think of any country or region that isn’t torn apart by war, bombings, uprisings, terrorist attacks. We keep on reading so much of these that I’m ashamed to say that most of us have become in sensitised. I’m not saying that feelings of pity and sympathy have gone away totally but these feelings come second. When I read of such atrocities, the  first thing I do  is a  mental scan of locations of my family and friends. If it’s not related to the place where they currently are, then I selfishly breathe a sigh of relief, because we all are lucky to be alive one more day .

Next to the loss of loved ones, the most painful feeling would have to be the loss of a home. The home that one grew up in  and built happy memories , where one would retreat to cry in peace or  just dream . How does anyone deal with a loss like that. One second your house is there  and next  in a flash , it’s reduced to a pile of rubble during a bomb attack.

To students out there studying in places far away from home, to people out there working in different cities. countries, away from home , perhaps you all can relate to this. How many times have we thought' Let me just go home and everything will be fine '. When loneliness, anxiety hits, no matter how bad things get , the only place we can ever think of going is “home” . There is a beautiful word in Hindi ( or Sanskrit, I don’t know, my knowledge on both these languages is atrocious)  called “Panha” which means shelter.   It means shelter not only in the literal sense but in the all encompassing sense.

The book “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell , has to be one of my all time favourites among classics. It’s a Pulitzer prize winning novel , set in Atlanta, Georgia during the American Civil war . I haven’t watched the movie till now, not sure why .Perhaps it’s because I’ve created such a fabulous mental picture of Scarlet O’ Hara and Rhett Butler , that I don’t want to see that image shatter when I watch the movie.

Scarlet O’ Hara is unlike any other heroine in the novels that I’ve read. For starters, she definitely is not the role – model and  virtuous types. She is brash , impulsive, manipulative, torn by vices such as envy and  selfishness .But despite all that , one can’t help but feel a strange kind of sympathy  with her and her turbulent love affair with Rhett Butler. Rhett is another astounding character made timeless by Margaret Mitchell.

The reason I wrote about this book was among all the timeless and popular quotes in the book ,  one really stands out for me. When  she is  tired and frustrated and so far away from  her home called Tara, she says  “Tara! Home, I’ll go home. After all ,tomorrow is another  day!"

So let’s remember that no matter how bad things get , let’s not forget that the  very fact  that I’m able to write this and you’ re able to read this means we are lucky than most people in the world at this moment.

Here’s something I came across a while back and I  leave this  as the parting thoughts with you.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness... you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week. 
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation... you are ahead of 500 million people in the world
If you can attend a religious meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death... you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep... you are richer than 75% of this world
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace... you are among the top 8% of the world's wealth

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read at all.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Be My Valentine

Valentine’s day became big and commercial in India a few years back , precisely during our high school and college days  Before that, most of  us didn’t even know that a  St.Valentine existed.

Valentine’s Day is not kind to high school kids and college kids , especially for plain – looking kids. Most of the plain looking kids ( the ugly ducklings) grow up into beautiful swans.  But while growing up ,  being a Plain Jane can be  difficult . For readers out there who know you were/are  drop dead gorgeous and always used to having a fleet of admirers at your feet( or just the dedicated 'one')  , you might find it difficult to relate to this story but for the others, you can perhaps go back in time and relate to this.

I remember dreading Valentine’s day during college and used to think of excuses to bunk classes. The agony of watching people in love and so – called love and  watching the hearts and flowers and balloons , was horrible.  I used to be  happy for my friends who were the recipients of such gestures and used to pretend that I don’t care a toss about this day , but deep down ,  couldn’t shake off this feeling of abject misery  during this day . And this went on for years until I fell in love and got married. 

There’s one particular story which I remember reading many years back  in a book called ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ . The Chicken Soup series are a heart warming collection of true life short stories and they never fail to inspire me. This is one story which has stayed with me, all these years and I invariably think of this, every year during Valentine’s day .

Here below is a condensed version of that story , in my own words.

Laura was one such  plain looking girl in her high school . Not ugly , not beautiful – just plain looking.  This is the age when a girl desires admiration from boys , the most. And during these crucial years, not one card arrived. The feeling of hurt and rejection went on for years until she grew up.

Now she was no longer an ugly duckling nor a plain jane. She had turned into a beautiful swan and turned many heads. She had many admirers and Valentine’s Day was definitely not bad like it used to be . But she never forgot the feeling of hurt and rejection that she underwent in high school.

Today Laura is the mother of 2 grown up  boys . Every year during Valentine’s Day , she hands out some money to her sons so that they can buy cards and gifts for the girls they fancy . But she also hands out some extra money so that they can buy an anonymous card for the plainest looking girl in their class- the  kind of girl that does not  expect to be remembered by anyone. Imagine their happiness and surprise when they find an anonymous card on their desk ,the joy of having a secret admirer at that age is beyond anything. 

Laura has changed many lives during Valentines Day and has made many girls happy and  feel cared for. 

Isn’t thata  wonderful story?  We must remember that Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers, it’s a day to make someone, anyone, feel special and cared and remembered for. It could be our friends, parents, the lonely widow down the street, the plain girl in the office that nobody talks to , the friend whose marriage just broke up – anyone .

After all , love in any shape and form – is what makes the world go round!

Happy Valentines’ Day everyone

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Being Human

(Disclaimer: This post is not an advertisement on  Salman Khan’s latest venture).

Mostly I never use  strong bad language in my day to day communication.  But the ‘bad’ word that usually features in my dictionary almost every day , is the word ‘shit’ ( or as the Irish would say ‘ shite’ ). I remember getting walloped by my dad when I was  10 for  saying ‘shit’ to something. Since I’m so far away from my dad now , I’m continuing to use this word with joyous abandon as there is no fear of getting spanked  now:)

Other than the obvious literary meaning of shit , Oxford dictionary defines  shit [count noun] ~ a contemptible or worthless person .
(The inclusion of this definition was necessary to my post as this single 4 letter word captures the exact emotion that is needed here. I tried long and hard to come up with other alternate non –offensive words to convey my message, but pardon me , couldn’t find any other word so apt.)

I’ve here a  theory on the way  the attitudes, stereotypes, prejudices roll- it not only rolls downhill( from our perceived social standing and class) ,  it rolls laterally across geographies and cultures as well.

Take for example any IT company.  The business team think that all  developers are shit, the developers think Quality control guys  are shit and quality team thinks that testers are shit . HR thinks that all employees are shit and the technical employees  think that support functions like HR, admin, transport, finance – all are shit.  The same  Developer working at an onsite location treats his offshore counterpart developer like shit.

End of day , the same employees board a bus – where they look down at the driver with disdain , the driver feels this contempt and treats his ticket conductor( collector) like shit and conductor treats the cleaner like shit – This continues , building up in ferocity and velocity – until our entire society burns with contempt and disdain for each other

Or take another example of a hospital. Doctors have the feeling that they are better than nurses, and nurses think they are better than the medical assistants and helpers . Even among doctors, some specialties are considered superior to others.Sorry this is a Neurology conference , what are you chiropractor doing here? :)

 Why? Just because of the perception that the  role that we do is of a high – standing nature and some roles or tasks do not require as much skill/effort ; therefore we consider them beneath ourselves .

In Ireland, the thing that amazes me the most here is the simple dignity of labour. One  could be a cleaner, bus driver , nurse ,construction worker,  specialist doctor, support staff in a hospital ,shop assistant , IT whiz –  all are treated the same and with the same respect. Every job is just a job and every day, people are  working just so that  they can feed their families and spend the rest on a good time. Don’t expect anyone to be impressed or amazed   here if you spout out your fancy designation or  job title.

Pre- conceived notions prejudice’ and stereotypes of people and countries are rampant across cultures and quite deeply ingrained into the mentality of the societies everywhere. In India, we have the class or caste system, where some castes are ranked higher than others. In Ireland , there is an ongoing rift between the Republic and Northern Ireland /UK .  In Europe- Western and Central European countries consider Eastern European countries as shit . Eastern European Countries consider  Middle East and Asia as shit  . USA treats the rest of the world like shit !. Shit shit shitty shatty shit :)

At the end of the day , what we need to remember is that all are humans and every job is just a job and every place is just a place.Just  because one is based in a particular place and does a particular job, does not make them superior . Nothing or no one is superior or inferior to anyone else. When we treat everyone equally and treat everyone with the same respect that we would  expect from others- the world will be a much happier place.

We have heard phrases like ‘  Do not wear your religion on your sleeve’ or ‘ Do not wear your heart on your sleeve’  but do  ‘Wear Humanity on  your sleeve’

Being Human is all that matters!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Tale of a Lunch box

 Lunch time and lunch boxes brings back fond memories of my childhood . From a middle -class family , growing up in India , we ( and so many others I  know) were fortunate to be automatically entitled to healthy , wholesome meals, every single day , for every single meal, freshly and painstakingly cooked by our moms. There was no calorie counting, no distinction between full- fat and low- fat , no distinction between ' white' and 'brown ' products. Everything was consumed with great zest and enthusiasm.

Fast forward a few years later and here I am in Ireland and  packing lunch boxes for hubby and me . It's only now I truly appreciate what my mom has gone through. Adding to my woes, the health magazines and our lifestyle choices haven't been easy on us , has it ? One day ,something is good for you , the next day new research shows that it isn't good for you . One day we read that something causes cancer and the next day , we read that the same thing is a proven cancer -fighter. What are we harassed  lunch -box packing wives( and moms) to do or believe ? :)

Anyway decided that if I stick 90% of the time to what I've been used to eating back home, it cannot go totally wrong as opposed to trying out new recipes every single day across cuisines - Italian , Mexican , Spanish , Tex- Mex, you name it .

So here I am with my South Indian /Indian style lunch box ( dabba :) in an all-Irish office. I am the  first non- Irish National they  hired , so they were totally not prepared for the assault on their senses during lunch time . I mean the kind of food they eat- mashed potatoes, soups, sandwiches, salads  are all quite mild , in terms of taste and aroma. Compare that to the Indian dishes- every single one of them are cooked and smothered in onion, tomatoes, ginger garlic,chilli powder, coriander , cumin , garam masala..blah blah.

I got my first clue when all my colleagues started sneezing simultaneously when I was heating my lunch box one day . There I was standing in the kitchen thinking- wonder why is everyone sneezing , hope its not a flu going around.It's only when this repeatedly happened every day during lunch break that I  copped on that the outbreak of sneezes and sniffles was due to my lunch - box.  :) They all were too polite to say anything.

So now I've devised a step - by -step master plan for getting my lunch heated .
1)  Pray that the whole office clears out during lunch break .
2)  Rush in to the kitchen and heat food ASAP. Time is of the utmost importance . 
3) Quickly open a window and ventilate the room
4) Cram all the rice, sambhar, and veggies in a deep bowl so that if anyone comes in , they wont be able to see what I'm eating
5) Keep an air- freshener / perfume handy to spray away any stubborn odours.

Must say  this routine is exhausting every single day but hey I'm eating what's most suited to my genetic makeup right :)

Gotta rush to heat my dabba  now , my colleagues are out  on their lunch break :))

Monday, 4 February 2013

Faux - (Few thoughts on Social Media)

Here it is finally. A piece on the title. All the French and French lovers who would have been scandalized by my casual use of one of their words, should now hopefully breathe a sigh of relief J

Faux .  False. How easy it is for us these days to fall into this pitfall  of  false feelings.   Faux sense of accomplishment.  False sense of pride.  Of  Ego . Of self- importance.

Now more than ever , our generation has been assaulted by new ways of communication , new ways of keeping in touch . Distance and time are no longer limiting factors in relationships and friendships.
My dad told me how they used to wait for their Alumni meets and reunions. Classmates  meeting each other after years, oh the joy of that. The catch up was genuine and if someone was at a better place, better job then someone else , so what . One would just brush it off as ‘life’ and move on and wait eagerly for the next reunion.

But now , oh my , how things are changing/ have changed . With the massive popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and so many more , the whole dynamics of relationships  have changed  . The whole focus on these sites has shifted to ‘ Me’ . ‘I’ .’Mine’ .  If you have got it , flaunt it is the new mantra.

We assume that the world constantly needs to know what we’ve been doing , what we've been thinking,  where we’ve been , what we ate, what is our latest fancy  designation /job title  and so on . What’s the point of going to an exotic place for our holidays , if the world doesn’t  know that we were there , we ask ourselves? What’s the point in having a profile up on Linkedin if no one endorses our skills  , we think ?

Oh don’t get me wrong.  I’m no saint nor a hypocrite and am guilty of these from time to time . And  I’m not slagging off social media here, I’m a regular user of these and find it a great way to stay in touch with people. The point I’ll be making here is how some people misuse these ( intentionally or unintentionally ) and how some people react to all the plethora of information available out there.  

Have we all reached a point in our lives where we   no longer are confident about ourselves and constantly look at other people for their approval about ourselves, for their endorsement on our skills  , for their ‘ likes’ on fb?   A research  conducted by Harvard has shown that people derive intrinsic pleasure by communicating about themselves to other people , especially if they have an audience and approval from them  . That explains why ‘ likes’ fire up the pleasure center of the brain , activating a hormone called dopamine and why we feel so good after a session of social media.

Conversely this also explains why people feel depressed and insecure sometimes looking at other people’s activities, the perception that other people are more happier  than you, the perception that other people are more skilled/ more popular than you , the perception that other peoples's lives are just amazzing while yours is just about average.

Social media has great benefits in marketing, networking, maintaining contacts  but we must remember to keep our heads on our shoulders all the time and our feet planted firmly on the ground. Otherwise one  can easily develop  a  Faux sense of accomplishment.  False sense of pride.  Of  Ego . Of self- importance.

Everything in this universe is fleeting and what can be more fleeting than a  news feed on these sites. Top of the news feed today , bottom in a few milli seconds!

P.S : I’ll be using Facebook to share this article . Ironic right after all that I’ve written  above J

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Mrs. Doubtfire

In  my first post , my dear readers , I had recounted how this blog came about and more importantly how the blog name came about :) .My dear friend Sangeeta warned me a couple of times to think over the names and choose one wisely .  I pondered on the  shortlisted names on the note pad( a measly number of 2 shortlists)   for all about 10 whole minutes and being the flighty , impulsive girl that I am , picked on Faux Sense. Thought to myself, hey it’s not like naming a baby , I can certainly change this down the line if I’m not happy.

Now 24 hours later,as the feeling is sinking in that I’m actually the owner of a blog , I’m petrified if I’ve made the right choice. Will I be able to sustain, nourish and grow old with this blog ( and the blog name) . I’m as terrified as a new born parent and boy do I know now what parenting feels like J ( alright, this is bit of an exaggeration but I’ve been breaking out in cold sweats ,pondering over the future of this tiny space in cyber universe , where  there are millions of great blogs floating around.

What’s the big deal , you might ask  in creating  a blog ? Anyone can do it and so what if no one reads it and it dies a certain death ,big deal right? Well I would say , it’s kinda big deal for me cause it took me a certain amount of courage to create one ( admittedly  this is free, so I don’t have to worry on ROI because I’ve haven’t invested any money into this . What I’ve and will be investing is my time and emotions and that my dear friend is a much  more scarier thought. Would I have been better just watching another episode of Big Bang Theory instead of writing posts – only time will tell  .

Anyway , I tell myself sternly . Tiny baby steps . Crawl before you walk and walk before you run , I admonish myself.

So my next post is going to be dedicated to the subject of Faux . I’ve do the title of the  blog some justice ,so will be racking my brains for content on my next post.

Note to self : Don’t be impulsive, flighty and heady when it comes to naming our kids in future. Could spend the rest of the life  second guessing if the choice of name was right :)

Friday, 1 February 2013

Mumbai ( Mum) To Dublin( Dub) Dep :05.00 Arr :20.00

Here's a piece which I wrote for one of the local 'Creative writing' Competitions in Ireland. The theme was "Journey " 

This is my story. A story which sounds so improbable that this may seem stranger than fiction. I'm sure there are a lot of you from my country who would have experienced something like this but for the rest , you would be thinking REALLY  ??

Oh, I’m an Indian by the way. Yes, one of those many brown skinned people who steadily have  been pouring in trying  to make this wonderful country their home for the next few years.

My Journey started 2 years ago when I was back in India. Young (still am :) , fiercely independent( hmm when I get my driver's license , I'll be wholly independent),  and in a good job. The world was at my feet or so I thought, with everything I love -family, friends , job  all in the same state (roughly the size of the whole of Ireland). Travelling 12 hours by bus to visit my family was a normal bi-monthly activity.

On one of those routine visits home, dad says ‘You are 25 years old, getting on in your years. It’s high time we get you married. My 2nd cousin's friends' son will be perfect for you.’

25  in India is considered old in the ' marriage market'. God help you if you are  a girl  over 30 and still unattached, you’d be passed off as a confirmed spinster.

To readers out there familiar with the Indian culture , you know what I'm talking about right? Let me explain in a bit more detail to the people not so familiar with Indian culture. In  India, parents get involved take over the wedding of their kids right from arranging meetings( dating is a forbidden word) between the prospects, choosing the perfect partner to the preparations of the actual day itself.  The prospects could be anyone - ranging from friend's children of marriageable age, to cousins ( twice, even thrice removed) of friends, parish members , recommendations from well meaning neighbors,relatives and  local shop waala - the hunting ground is enormous BUT this is all done strictly keeping in mind the religion, caste, social standing, educational qualifications, language spoken at home, the region of the country to which the other party belongs etc.

India has more than 6 major religions, hundreds of sub-castes within these . The population is approx 1 billion+ and fast counting and Indians speak several hundred languages as their native tongue. So you can imagine what a gregarious task it is for parents to look at this complicated matrix and find the ideal groom/bride who not only matches the above criteria but also has to match social standing and educational qualifications. 

So the groom is perfect but is from a different religion did you say? NO WAY .

So the groom fits in with all the criteria above  but he is  an IT whiz and  my daughter is a M.D in Neurology , sorry but don't think so!  

So everything fits in perfectly, the groom has met all the criteria  but the stars are not aligned( horoscopes don't match ) . HEAVENS  NO :) 

You can see why marriage is a dreaded phase in India for both the parents and the kids involved in this life changing phase. Any wrong move on your part would set the society tongues wagging . Cluck Cluck  :) 

Things are  changing now in modern India definitely and  gone are the days as shown in the Bollywood movies where the parents drag the bride or groom to the altar and force them to tie the knot. Today’s parents in India are more relaxed and decision making is a two way process.  There are still a lot of youngsters today who rebel at the thought of arranged marriages and prefer to choose their life partners themselves. So which category did I want to be in? 

You guessed right, I thought I fit into the latter, the new generation of Indians who are quite capable of finding their own life partners, thank you very much.

What changed then? With a hectic job which left me little or no time to socialize and constant nagging from the family, I bowed under pressure and agreed to casually speak to my dad's  2nd cousin's friends' son  who was based in Ireland, whom I had never seen before in my life. And it was love at first sight/sound as it was an overseas call .We spoke everyday for the next 6 months and he kept shuttling between Ireland and India to meet me. 

From the parent's perspective all the boxes ticked - religion , caste, language bar the state. He is from another part of India whereas I'm from down South , but hey you can’t have it all right ? :P

And for both of us , well what can we say ? Everything just clicked. 

So just like that we got married and I bid goodbye to all, to the life I knew  and hopped on a plane to Ireland to join him here with nothing in my pocket except  blind trust :) He could easily have been a psycho , or a killer or already married with a wife and  2 kids ( Sorry Hubby, just need to get my point across , you understand , dont you : ) 

Whenever I recount this story to my Irish friends here, I always get 'Oooh and Aaah's and imagine if he was this or that ....:) 

It's destiny I say , and  needless to say the  wonderful journey continues :) 

"What's in a name?

I've heard of a few phrases time and time again ..'What’s in a name? ' or as Shakespeare's Juliet said
 ' A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet ‘ .

It’s right now when I was racking my brains to think of an interesting, witty , catchy name for my new blog that I realized how aptly befitting these above phrases are.

See, I have always wanted to write...for a long time .  Period. I was reared on books from a young age and used to always dream of writing something and seeing that in print. I’ve written  a few articles  but most of them are forgotten /lost for eternity in crashed hard drives and the few ones that did make it to print in school/college magazines must be collecting dust in some attic.

Which brings me back to the present. This was a morning  as usual . Did not think for one moment that something as life- changing as CREATING  MY OWN BLOG could take place. I was randomly surfing through face book and reading the news online with my morning cuppa , when I chanced  upon an extremely well written post on a blog.

Which of course set me thinking. Why can’t I write too ? I must admit here that I’ve tried to write thrillers/ novels so many times in the past  and never got past the title and the first page ( hanging my head in shame) .

So back to the topic , why cant I try again ? Even if I’ve zero  readers why shouldn’t I write and get the satisfaction of seeing something published online? So thus began the rapid quest to find free blogging sites, that do not require fee for domain registration blah blah.

Created own account and then guess what ! It was asking me for a blog name . You would guess this was the easiest part but no , I was  sadly mistaken . I wanted my blog to be something on the lines of lightly philosophical, witty , fun and you get the picture right. So wanted to name it something on the lines of love life, fun etc etc.  I decided to give the blog some random name and then make up the theme/ change the name as I go along. Then   thought let me quickly check what the blogging pundits have to say about choosing blog  names and oh gosh !

I mean there was plenty of good advice and very well written posts but something’s I found it quite funny given my current circumstance. Tips like ‘ Choose your  blog name and domain name wisely as it’s your brand’ . The best one would have to be ‘not to change blog names too often as the readers would get confused  and traffic to your site would get disrupted ‘. This bought a smile to my face as I cannot ever  imagine me having a troop of  loyal readers following my every post and then getting miffed because I keep changing the blog name. Hilarious right!

So anyway , a tiny bit of that  advice must have seeped through my thick skull , because then I started thinking of more creative names and finally came up with ‘ Faux Sense’ . Let me clarify , I’m no expert on the French language, so don’t be fooled by the ‘Faux’ . Infact the ONLY French word I can confidently say is  bon jour .  Also the title is not very positive, I mean if  the blog starts off with faux , it cannot be very positive right. But I’m  hoping to write very positive , insightful , airy , witty  posts on this space .:)

If my themes change down the line, so will the blog name and you my dear (non – existent) reader, will be the first to know !:)