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Month: April 2016

Zillion Challenges- #AtoZChallenge

Zillion Challenges- #AtoZChallenge

zZillion Challenges in our daily lives! We all face them. But how many of them do we give our complete best?

When I decided to take up the A to Z Challenge, little did I know that it wasn’t just about blogging every single day of the month. My initial thoughts were..OK… here is a challenge that wants me to blog everyday for a letter of the alphabet. Now that isn’t all that difficult! As I got on with the challenge, I slowly began to realize how wrong I was. Writing everyday for an alphabet was just a small portion of it. There was much more to the challenge.

I have always believed blogging is a community activity. The A to Z Challenge is no exception to this. Apart from just writing everyday, it is important to read, exchange notes and interact with other bloggers. Soak in a bit of them, ’cause it is the best way to grow and learn as a blogger.

The first week of the challenge went by pretty smooth. Of course I had my blogs scheduled. But then began the issues. With a toddler, a school going kid, two elderly parents and a husband constantly travelling, juggling my home chores, my other editing work and the posts for the challenge became quite a herculean task. I was tired by the end of the day without even having an idea of what I was going to post the next day. There were many a times I thought I should quit the challenge ’cause I felt I wasn’t really doing much justice to it. But I trudged on.

By the third week I once again became a little comfortable with my posts and schedules. But here was a new problem. I was way behind in reading some of the wonderful posts floating around. Nor was I able to respond to the comments on my posts.The only way I could handle this was read a few blogs in the time I got, bookmarking the others for a later read.

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.”- Paulo Coelho

I am glad I pushed myself to do the challenge. There were a zillion things to tackle. The challenge ends today. But for me it is just a little pause, a sort of breather space. For the next month, I have the second bit of the challenge-to read as many of the lovely posts as possible, ones that were part of this brilliant challenge.

 

Yippee for the Yatra!! #AtoZChallenge

Yippee for the Yatra!! #AtoZChallenge

yYippee!! I just won a “ticket”- not a lottery or a lucky dip, but a rail ticket!

The best way to get to places in India is through our very own Indian Railways. Train journeys well become the reason to travel many a times, especially when you have small children, who enjoy climbing up and down the narrow blue berth. The Indian railways is the third largest passenger rail network in the world, comprising 115,000 km of track over a route of 65,808 km  and a whopping 7,112 stations.  

YET, WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO DIFFICULT TO GET A RESERVED TICKET ON ANY TRAIN IN THE COUNTRY?

..Unless you plan your journey four months in advance.

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With an approaching long weekend, I decided to travel to Amritsar with family and friends.  Amritsar located around 450 odd kilometers from Delhi is a perfect weekend getaway with the Golden Temple and the close by Wagah Border being the main attractions. And the quickest and most comfortable way is to take the overnight train that would cover the distance in 6 odd hours.

There are around 10 trains from Delhi to Amritsar, yet on none of the trains I could get a confirmed ticket. Booking of railway tickets open 120 days before the departure date. Seats fill up pretty quickly, leaving last minute journey planners, such as me, with waitlisted tickets.

Sometimes these waitlist numbers could well run into hundreds. Which means the chances of getting a confirmed ticket is possible only if all hundred people before you cancel their tickets!!The frustration is real and your whole journey depends on these waitlisted numbers.

And then comes the savior, the knight in shining armor – Tatkal reservation. If you thought this was an easier option to get a ticket, you sure are making a mistake. Tatkal (or instant reservation) opens 24 hours before the day the train leaves its origin destination. The bookings for these tickets open at 10.00 AM on the previous day. You would need a fast internet connection and enter the entire set of passenger details to get a confirmed ticket. Hold on… all to be done in less than 5 minutes!

The situation at railway counters is far worse. Commuters are forced to sleep at railway stations overnight to have a chance to buy a ticket. There are frequent altercations between commuters and touts and a lot of pushing and shoving in the queues.
It’s like a lottery. Tickets are sold out in minutes.

Travelling by train always holds this element of uncertainty- of whether one is going to travel or not. And if you do have a confirmed ticket in hand, u better undertake your journey, because you never know when you would get your next confirmed ticket!

And yes I did manage to get a confirmed ticket to Amritsar. After nail biting seconds in front of my laptop, I successfully booked my tickets through the Tatkal reservation.

(E)Xpress Delivery Online! #AtoZChallenge

(E)Xpress Delivery Online! #AtoZChallenge

x(E)xpress delivery of practically anything online is possible these days. Seriously, what was almost unthinkable a few years back seems to have become a norm these days. We could get goods and services from the world of the web, with a click or swipe on our handheld gadgets.

Mrs Dixit, our Customer Support in charge in office, recently invited us for her husband’s 50th b’day celebrations. She wanted it to be a surprise party for him. Hence all her planning, from the guest list, the food, the present et all… were done in secrecy during office hours. At 40 something years, Mrs. Dixit has never really been the gadget kinds. Nor did she really use the internet, except for the compulsory browsing and checking of emails that work required her to do. She often commented on how we youngsters spend the whole day on the internet, wasting away precious hours. And shopping on the internet? OMG! It meant compromising on quality.

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Anyways coming back to the surprise party she was throwing for her husband. It all had to be kept hush-hush. And it wasn’t possible to do it after office hours, as her husband would be around. So Mrs. Dixit, on our stenographer Sarah’s advice, took to the online mode of planning. The gift, an iPad for her husband was brought from Flipkart, delivered to the office address. The cake for the party, was ordered from a popular baker in Vasant Kunj. The dinner was booked using another popular caterer’s website, from Nehru Place.

Mrs. Dixit was surprised at the ease with which she actually planned the whole event. All online and her husband hardly had any idea about it. Anyways the party was a big success. Her husband loved the surprise. The person beaming more was Mrs. Dixit, who proudly announced that anything could be done online.

At that moment another gentleman at the gathering announced that he had been taking piano lessons online. He had a piano at home, he signed up online, learnt at his pace and convenience and ended up saving a lot of money. Wondering if this was thinkable even 3-4 year back.

 Ah!!! The way the world has changed…. Is there anything else that’s going to be online? I am thinking…

 

Wedding Bells in India #AtoZChallenge

Wedding Bells in India #AtoZChallenge

wWeddings in India are a multi-day affair, loaded with rituals and celebrations. No matter which part of the country you belong to, or the religion you follow, you just cannot escape the grandeur it holds. Indian weddings are typically divided into pre-wedding, the main ceremony and post-wedding. So if you do get to attend one, be prepared to soak in a lot of excitement, fun and good food.

But what’s most surprising is the fact that, even though there may be a whole lot of similarities in rituals across the country, when you look deep within, every region has certain unique wedding practices that are distinct in their own way.

I recently attended a Bengali wedding and was intrigued by it all. By Indian standards, it sure was a simpler affair. But a few things stood out in the wedding. For example the wearing of the “TOPOR” by the groom.  A Topor is a type of conical headgear worn at the time of the wedding. The bride is carried on a “PIRI” which is a wooden seat, while covering her face with betel leaves. Oh, another most unique thing – the mother of the groom is not allowed to see the wedding!!!!

In Tamil Brahmin weddings, the bride is seated on the lap of her father, when the groom ties the “Mangalsutra” around her neck. This is done to the sound of the “Nadaswaram (a long wind instrument typically played in south India).

Here’s something I liked in Marathi weddings. They use a silk shawl called Antrapat separate the bride and the groom. It is removed when the sacred mantras are recited after which the bride and groom can see each other.

With each region having its own set of unique practices, all I can say is Indian weddings are a one of a kind affair.

Have you been intrigued by any Indian wedding practice? Do share it here.

Valuable Insights to Succeed in Life #AtoZChallenge

Valuable Insights to Succeed in Life #AtoZChallenge

vVery important lessons could be learnt from the successful. Five lessons are all that I shall talk about.

In my blogging journey I have come across many inspiring stories- of the disabled overcoming their handicap, of sportsmen fighting their way to the winning spot and of simple human beings etching their mark in careers of their choice. I try to pick out positive qualities from these success stories, which I feel are the prime forces in guiding them to the top. Read on below Ruveda Salam’s story that gave me five valuable insights into making life more meaningful and successful.

Who is Ruveda Salam?

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She is a doctor, who first created history by becoming the first Muslim woman from the remote Farkin village in the border district of Kupwara, to have cracked the Civil Services examination back in 2013. Today, she is the first woman IPS officer from the Kashmir Valley.

Lessons to learn from Ruveda

Lesson 1: Set goals for yourself- short term or long term. It gives you a direction in life.

Ruveda’s Story: “When I was growing up in Kashmir, my father often used to say that I should become an IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer. That’s when I first thought of becoming one. It inspired me and I decided to go ahead and aim for it”, says Ruveda.

Lesson 2: Take risks and chase success.

Ruveda’s Story: Before becoming the first woman to have qualified for the Union Public Service Commission examination in 2013, Ruveda got her MBBS degree from the Government Medical College in Srinagar. She wasn’t content with her success here. She cleared the UPSC and was then allotted the police services.  After the completion of her training, she was the lone Muslim woman police officer to be put in the Tamil Nadu cadre.

Lesson 3: Surround yourself with positive people who would guide and encourage you. Surrounding yourself with people who inspire you at every step helps you make your way towards success.

Ruveda’s Story: It was Ruveda’s father who encouraged and pushed her to succeed, giving her all the confidence she needed.

Lesson 4: Strive to be successful for the right reasons.

Ruveda’s Story: Having served in Tamil Nadu cadre for the past few months, Dr. Ruveda has realized that there is nothing more satisfying than serving humanity, whether it’s in Kashmir or Tamil Nadu. She now wishes to see more girls from Kashmir scale new heights of success.

Lesson 5: Be focused on your goals and make your life goal oriented.

Ruveda’s Story: And she doesn’t stop here. Ruveda has passed the UPSC exam again this year for a second time. Needless to say with an improved rank and much bravado. She now dreams of making becoming an IAS officer, utilizing her acquired skills from being in the police services.

So have a goal, get focused, be around with those who care and, strive to achieve. The sky would be the limit for you!!

Under His Umbrella, Life Goes On #AtoZChallenge

Under His Umbrella, Life Goes On #AtoZChallenge

uUnder his umbrella we all live. Seasons and our lives are so similar.

It’s blazing hot in Delhi. The temperatures are soaring and the sun shines down on us fiercely. As I walked down the street, the hot afternoon wind blows across my face. I am parched and I crave for those few precious drops of water. I am drained and tired. How I miss the seasons gone by- of spring and winter.

Aren’t our lives so similar to the seasons? Sometimes I wonder if the seasons are out there to tell us something.

Life has phases just like seasons. Spring reflects the days in life when we can afford to be carefree, relaxed and not bogged down with issues. Those precious childhood days when it seemed the whole world was ours.

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Summer is similar to days when we have that long list of responsibilities on our shoulders. We may be tired, yet we trudge along, because we need to keep going. The days seem long until we finally hit the bed in the night.

Autumn is like the years when we start to slowly shed some of our responsibilities, beginning to look inward- philosophic and calm. Probably expecting those chill days ahead.

And of course the cold winters. The icy chill near the end of our life. All gloomy and alone.

Life sure has its set of seasons.

To Do…To Do… #AtoZChallenge

To Do…To Do… #AtoZChallenge

tTo Do.. To Do.. To Do…

These are two words that often show up in our daily lives. “Visit to the Himalayas” or, “Take my daughter to her favourite holiday destination”. These are just two simple examples of how the two words “TO DO” have easily crept into our lives. Why don’t we just remove them and make them “I will”. I sat unraveling my bucket list today, and realized what a large one I had accumulated. I picked up three “someday desires” that are most dear to my heart.  

Get Backpacking: Kids,work, home and daily chores, often bog me down. By the end of the day when my kids hit the bed, I am sloshed too. Weekends are spent shopping groceries or doing other odd errands. And vacations are for spending time with grandparents. Though I love every bit of my role as a mother, an editor and my role in the family, the desire deep down my heart is to do a one month backpacking trip on my own, exploring India. The freedom of being alone, doing things my way, carrying a single bag sans baby food, clothes, diapers and toys would be a thoroughly enriching experience of life

Get Teaching India: Every year when “Times of India” announces the Teach India program, I express a desire to join the program as an instructor. However with my two small kids, work commitments and other responsibilities, prevent me from allocating time towards it.

Get Musical: Musically inclined from a young age, I have always fancied notes played on a piano. Slender and elegant notes emerging from it have held my interest. I used to listen to almost all famous composers and pianists. As I grew older, I earned and saved up money to purchase a grand keyboard, hoping to learn it. I have still not been able to do so. The someday factor hangs over it. 

George Claude Loremier, a revered pastor of America from the previous century had something very interesting to say.” Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible.”

So, while I try to remove the cloud of someday over my to do list,why don’t you share with me your deepest down “TO DOs”…

 

Survival- Get Your Mix of Positivity & Hope #AtoZChallenge

Survival- Get Your Mix of Positivity & Hope #AtoZChallenge

sSurviving cancer should have a mix of optimism and positivity. It is found all around us; however we often fail to notice them. Just like my friend “S”. I had done an earlier blog post of her battle with cancer. So filled with optimism is her story that I had to blog about her once again.

S was 34 when she noticed that first lump in her breast. A series of tests and a biopsy later, her doctor declared it to be cancerous. S was devastated. She had a beautiful family comprising of two young girls and a loving husband. She felt there was no hope of her surviving and was worried how her family would manage if anything were to happen to her. S was scheduled to be operated in a week’s time. The day before the surgery she sat in the hospital bed with a glum face. By her side was another young patient, admitted with lymphoblastic leukemia. He was all of 8 years old.

In S’s words, “That kid literally shook me up. He was playing a game of chess with his mother. Despite the dry skin and loss of hair resulting out of his treatment, you should have seen the glow on his face. He had all his moves right. Not that his mother was making the game easy for him. She challenged him in every possible way. But I could see that he was enjoying his game, and every move made. I chatted up with the duo. He was scheduled for a surgery in two days time. Despite the anxiety strewn across the mothers face, the child had none. He loved games he said- Monopoly, and Pictionary being his favorite. He plays to win and that made him happy. At that moment it hit me hard.”

S added, “Now that’s what you call being positive and being optimistic, with no fear of the future.  Giving every move in life your best without really looking far ahead. Life is sure full of uncertainties. Whether it is for a cancer patient or for that matter any one of us. Why not enjoy the moment and just be optimistic about the future? Why worry about things which really aren’t in your control? I prepared myself mentally for the surgery as the docs prepared me physically.”

Before I was to be sedated, I called my husband and said, “I don’t know what’s the outcome of the surgery or my treatment, but I am going in smiling. And I will come out smiling, so go get me the best wig in town!!!” He had a hearty laugh.

“I did come out of the surgery smiling. The months to follow were scheduled with radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. They kept me in bed for days. I puked like hell. But somewhere deep down I stopped worrying about the outcome of my ailment. Instead I played Pictionary and Scotland Yard with my daughters. Their smiles during the games made me feel better. It is nine months since my last treatment. Mentally I am prepared to face anything now. I have come a long way, since my diagnosis. That little boy taught me to enjoy every move of mine. I call this survival without having a fear of the future.”

Really Educated? #AtoZChallenge

Really Educated? #AtoZChallenge

rReally… Are we actually “educating” individuals, or merely “qualifying them”, piling on degrees after degrees? 

I bumped into Mrs. S at a birthday party yesterday. We aren’t really friends but have had a long association, professionally. A lady with a motor mouth, who seldom knew what diplomacy, was. And anyways in kiddo birthday parties, amidst all the screams and squeaks of children, her loud voice may really not bother you much.

It all started with someone complimenting my prettily dressed girls. “How cute little girls look in party frocks, shoes and shimmers,” he said. Mrs. S took no time to respond to this statement. “Girls would be cute and a pleasure now when they are young. It is only as they grow older would you realize the issues. You would have to keep a watch on where they go and whom they meet. And then the expenses you have to incur on them- spend on their education, later get them married, another expenditure on “Godh Barayee” (Baby shower equivalent in India) and later on her child. It is never-ending. I am glad I have a son.”

The group present just disapprovingly said, “Come on, things have changed”. And the conversation ended there. I of course was not really surprised. There are many such people in our society who think in a similar fashion. But here is what struck me odd. 

Mrs. S holds a Masters in English Literature and an MBA in Marketing from Patna University. With a double degree she worked as a high school teacher. So if this was the thought process of the “qualified” individuals of our society, is our education system actually in place? Are we actually “educating” individuals, or merely “qualifying them”, piling on degrees after degrees?

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Shouldn’t our education system be focussing on bringing out better thought processes, so that something more positive could be done for the society at large? We need to make our whole education system effective to tackle mindset issues that are prevalent. 

That’s real education!!!

Quite a Lot of Technology #AtoZChallenge

Quite a Lot of Technology #AtoZChallenge

qQuite a lot of technology all around us… It has crept into our lives in millions and millions of modes. And even if we want to, we cant shrug it off us, now. My dear friend, philosopher, guide and colleague who shares a cubicle in office with me, “Richard”, was in a big dilemma some days back. Hear his story out.

With the financial year end round the corner, the entire office had been on tenterhooks. Boss “A“ had been hyper-ventilating since Jan, pushing us to perform and achieve targets well before the deadline of 31st March. So practically everyone, (including Benjamin our office chai-wala and, Poovanna our security guard) had been staying back in office well past working hours for over a month now. Where this was becoming stressful to almost all of us, Richard was having other issues. His wife Sara was getting tired of his long working hours.

Of course Sara is a smart, understanding and efficient wife. But managing a naughty boy like Danny, coupled with husband’s continuous absence, could psych any person. The unscheduled weekend projects, was taking a toll on Richard and somewhere on their relationship too. Sara felt Richard was neglecting them. And Richard was just caught between his family and “Boss A’s” eccentricities.

With our once a week meetings having become once a day, we all were hard pressed for time. It was during one such meetings, Sara called to have a word with her husband regarding some plumbing work in their home. The call went unanswered, as Boss A would seldom approve it in a meeting. Richard felt another vibration from his mobile. This time Sara had texted on WhatsApp. Richard clicked on the message to read, the phone concealed under the table. Just as he was about to read it, Boss “A” raised a couple of client issues for Richard to look into on an urgent basis. And that was it. Richard could’nt complete reading the message,until lunch time. By then it was too late. Sara was fuming. She was upset that Richard read the message, and didn’t bother to respond to it. Richard tried to explain what happned, but in vain.

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WhatsApp users get a single tick when messages have been sent. A message delivered would give a double grey tick, and once it’s read, those tick marks turn blue. Richard had technically not read the message he received. But by virtue of the fact that he clicked on it, Sara got a double blue click, communicating the message had been read. Sara didn’t believe Richard’s story and Richard could not justify his stand more. Technology had won.

He did make up for it that evening by going home early. But here is a question that he posed to all of us the next morning? “Did his wife Sara trust technology more than him?”

What do you think? Do you also have a similar story to share where you lost to technology?