Tuesday, December 29, 2015

सोचा ना था इतने आंसुओं के बाद भी कुछ बाकी रहेगा 

मगर ये कोने कोने में बसी यादे , जबरन उभर आती हैं , रोज की दौड  धूप में 
हाथ पकड के थाम लेती हैं 

कुछ यादे , कुछ पुराने ख्वाब… या बुरे सपने थे  
कुछ आंसू , कुछ भीनी सी मुस्कान … और कुछ अचम्भा … 

धीरे धीरे इन्हे भी सब सामान समेत , पिटारे में भर के , किसी छज्जे में रख छोडेंगे …. 
क्या पता कब निकालनी पडे 

struggled for many days to write this in english.. before realizing.. no matter how dusty and stumbling and incoherent, it will need hindi..

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Being Mortal - Atul Gawande

Good read.

The book talks about the uncomfortable topic of old age, healthcare and the inevitable mortality. memento mori ? The increasing reliance on our healthcare to 'fix' problems, and how at some stage its at variance with what we want from life anyway. Covers the more relevant topics about how exactly do we deal with our mortality. What are the tradeoffs to make, after all longevity at tremendous pain and medical cost is hardly the way to go, but we end up going there, because its a difficult topic to talk about.

Definitely worth reading and mulling over.

as a little kid, with no tv, radio access, about the only source of 'whats happening in the world' used to be the newspaper. initially toi, and later ht. as they both raced towards the bottom of the cesspit, i stopped them, and for a while it was tv which was avidly followed. gradually that also went to the gutter, and i stopped following any news. the internet helped to avoid becoming a complete hermit, often with long read articles which i came across, one way or the other, although i avoided 'following' news articles. now things have reached a stage where opening facebook, is like following the newspapers and tv to the gutter. its not about which direction of the political spectrum you follow, but just the level of information and debate. soo soo abysmal. i guess its time to log off from there too. as if daily life wasn't depressing enough. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A spool of blue thread - Ann Tyler

hmm strictly ok.. 

A richly observed tapestry of people in 3 generations of a family. The prodigal son, the do-gooder mother, then flashback , and the same mother , as the daughter.. 

It engrosses you, but I don't like these books which begin abruptly and end abruptly, and I am just left wondering, did I miss some pages. Yes I like neater beginnings and endings and a point to the story that is more obviously, and not literature-prize-winningly abstract. 

If you are into the prize winning literature, it will probably be rewarding. If you are more plebian.. give it a miss!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

tired.. tired.. sooooo tired. i know i have been spending so much of life thinking 'when this happens then i will do this.. ' but somewhere deep down i know, 'that' tomorrow never comes. its just a different tomorrow. quite unplanned, quite disconcerting. sometimes the shock makes you weep, sometimes there's no shock, the tomorrow just sneaks up on you, inch by inch, and one fine morning you find you are stuck in the quicksand. sinking.. Tired tired tired.. Just soooo tired.

Monday, October 05, 2015

My child won't eat - Carlos Gonzalez

Good read overall!

A doctor from spain talks about our obsession with our toddlers eating ( or lack thereof! ). The central point, repeated from various angles, is actually quite a simple and obvious one - she will (eat)! Stop fretting! Of course he goes with a fine tooth comb over a lot of data. Which immediately caused this book to go up in my estimate, because just by virtue of even trying to get to the data, I think you end up with a more active engagement with the topic, than you can ever get with the wishy washy emotional piece.

He covers various points about how much food do infants and toddlers really need. Much importance is also given to a decent reading of percentiles, which a lot of us read like they are the marks you have got out of 100. ( hint - they are not, you pass even at the 1 percentile) The baby led weaning approach is also emphasized, no bribes, airplane spoons, cajoling etc. The absurdity of various diet charts is shown, with emphasis being on using common sense and offering ( not feeding!) the usual food you eat.

The basic point is that most babies know when to eat, what to eat, and how much to eat, if you will just leave them alone, and give them access to a good set of healthy options, they will self feed.  I would have never believed it, but I have seen first hand, that given choices and exposure to different foods, the baby is quite capable to picking plain carbs over fat and sugar if thats what they need. They can get their proteins from plain boiled kidney beans if they really need it, you won't need to cajole, spice, distract or do anything else. Of course, these ideal conditions won't stay long, soon they will see what others are doing, tasting other stuff, watching their parents with phones while eating, and their own internal compass will start wavering. But it is all the more reason, that you spend the first few years laying down a good solid foundation for them with regard to food.

Sometimes I think this generation is in the middle of a perfect storm. We still have parents and grandparents who grew up in a world where access to food was very different from what it is today, at least in the urban middle class households. Some of us have stood in long serpentine queues for milk, visited ration shops waiting for the monthly quota of sugar. Older relatives have heard first hand tales of what happened in famines and wars. Access to feasts and rich food wasn't unheard of, but it certainly wasn't something you had multiple times a week. All of that has contributed to our relationship with food. It has also contributed perhaps to the universal feeling, that a plump baby is necessarily better than a skinny one. Which is probably true in a scenario with deprivations. I mean a baby who can build up baby fat, on a wartime food ration, probably has a distinct advantage over his or her skinny friends.

But times have changed. People in my peer group are 99% more likely to be worrying about losing weight than gaining it. Food is easily available, unhealthy options more easily than healthy ones. Rather than giving your baby a few extra kgs using all the tricks in the trade, it might be more worthwhile to let them learn to listen to their bodies. Its probably a bigger gift than all that breastfeeding and airplane spoons, in these troubled times of 3 year olds being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

If you have a little kid, its a must read book.

Friday, October 02, 2015

The fault in our stars - John Green

okish read. Or as we used to say 'strictly ok"

A teen with cancer.. meets another teen with cancer. They fall in love. But remember the title? Of course the stars have a fault.

What makes books of these kind so wildly popular? Not sure. Its just one of those books, now a fortnight later, to be honest I barely remember it, so can't even think of what to write about it.

Only worth a read if you have nothing better to do!

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Liked it overall.

A 10 year old girl goes to a foster home in a German town around the beginning of the second world war. She is indeed the 'book-thief' that the title announces. How does the story unfold for her? The events are not earth shattering if you have a passing knowledge of germany in WW2. School, food, jews, hitler, love, hate and words. 

What made the book really interesting was the way its told, a first person account written by - death. tender and harsh at the same time, peppered with colors, with events foretold, or not. I had seen the first half of the movie on tv some time back, and it didn't do justice to the book at all. The tone of the book, slightly soft, dreamy and poetic, and peppered with little stones and thorns, accusations like 'thief' and 'pig', which aren't really accusations.. thats the tone that the movie didn't capture at all. 

I found the ending a little dragged out, too many words.. but thats a small complaint. A good read overall. 

One of the lines which captures the feel of the book for me.
"I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. 
Sandcastles, houses of cards, 
that’s where they begin. 
Their great skill is their capacity to escalate."

Monday, July 20, 2015

Inside Out - Pixar

quite liked this one.

The emotions in a little girls mind have been anthropomorphised. We have joy running the show, while sadness is always gently nudged away. Anger, fear and disgust try their hand at keeping our little girl happy too. And memories are those little shiny spheres that play such a big role in what keeps us ticking.

I would say the idea is brilliant and execution is pretty neat too. And in this day of chasing the elusive joy and happiness at any cost, it good to see the importance of balance. The fact that the fb pics only show half the story. And the fact that memories can often get colored much later as well. And most importantly, all of those emotions are just trying to keep us going. Sadness, anger, fear aren't villains to be beaten down, just emotions trying to keep us safe and functioning, but they can't always drive that well!

As an aside whats with the first 15 mins of some fellow talking away and then a really boring lava song ? Could have really done without those two.

But a must watch, specially if you are a fan of animation movies like me!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Autobiography of a yogi - Paramhansa Yoganand

interesting read.

Not my usual fare, considering my staunch atheist outlook and general skeptical views about 'god' so to speak. But one of the fallouts of the yoga course, was some eclectic additions to my reading list. So this book has apparently been a bestseller in western markets for years, and after reading it, one can see the appeal. The style of writing isn't much to write home about.  But the book boasts a long list of miracles, and conscious efforts to keep in mind readers of religions other than hinduism, specially christianity.

How much of these miracles do I believe? Not sure really. I have long been interested in stuff beyond the reaches of current science, but whenever someone hard sells a miracle, I balk. I guess one of the things I loved about my yoga course, was the constant urge to be conscious, to experience, rather than a ramming down of ' these are the chakras , and you'd better mug it up right, cause they have been handed down through the millennia, and no questions asked' . Coming back to the book, I'd say I disbelieve it more than I believe it, but interesting reading non-the-less.

But enough about miracles for now, shall stick to more believable fare for a while!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A second chance at eden - Peter F. Hamilton

I liked it overall.

Its a collection of some short stories and a novella. Sci-fi stuff set in the next couple of centuries, mostly centering around a basic idea of an 'affinity bond' between two life forms.

The general sci fi stuff is there, colonizing new places, lot of bio tech, space travel etc, but what I really enjoyed was the way the stories were written. Loved the twist at the end of most of them, and liked the way the story would develop. What I didn't care for much was the very artificial way the stories had to be stitched together with timelines in between stories.. perhaps these are part of a whole series about affinity bonds and eden.

Worth a read!

The Martian - Andy Weir

mixed feelings on this one..

An astronomer gets left behind on mars. There are no evil aliens. Just an atmosphere he can't breath in  . Can't step out without his suit. Limited food and water. No communication with earth. Limited chance of a rescue, specially since he has been given up as dead. What is he to do ?

On one hand I loved the science heavy approach, irrespective of whether it was accurate or not. That a best selling novel could have long descriptions of things chemical, biological, mathematical, physical and everything in between, was awesome. 'Fuck yeah! science! "

But that was just the part that appealed to the maths/science lover in me. However I am also a big fan of psychology, of character development, plot development, of sheer well written prose. Have to say those things were rather simplistic and not much to write home about.

So overall, perhaps worth a read if you enjoy a bit of the scientific approach, but as a sci-fi thriller, pretty average. That its a best seller, and getting made into a movie with Matt Damon , no less, is just one of those things I guess.. hey we know Chetan Bhagat is a best seller ! < yes , tongue quite firmly in cheek>.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


So these past few years have seen many fits and starts and stops on my journey towards mindfulness. 

At various times, different sources have all pointed in that direction, articles and blogs on zen, on counseling and psychology, and the latest one from the recent yoga classes. They all emphasize your being in the moment, being aware. being mindful. just observing. feeling. experiencing. not resisting, not reacting.  not judging. just being conscious. 

Its been a lot of hard work, and a lot of setbacks. and a lot of soul - searching. And huge long breaks for months, even an year, where i regressed back to complete reactive , non-mindful behavior. But lately, I have tried hard once again. People jumping red lights and trying to run me down on the road. Immediate reaction used to be to try and hit back their car. Quite laughable, and quite rage filled. Tiny puny pedestrian flailing in the middle of the road, hitting car bonnets with handbags. Of course, it didn't do any good, either for the people jumping lights, or for my own state of mind. But once I step back now, and just think, yes these people are trying to save some 5 seconds from their commute, by fair means of foul. They don't have a thing against you personally, just that in their mind its a fight. Maybe thats all they know, zero sum games. Thats them. Perhaps. Or perhaps thats them, in my mind. What about me? What makes me mad? Why does a broken rule and minor discomfort in crossing for 5 seconds make me so furious? What do I fear? What do I hope to achieve? All those questions over the last few weeks, while observing my own reaction. Not trying to change it. And of course gradually it does change. The more root cause analysis I do of the reaction, the more it reveals. Mostly about me. 

Some days it feels nice. More calmness, less reaction. Some days it feels not so nice. When you have unearthed some reasons for your reactions, but you see no change in them anyway. Thats when it actually feels worse. At least angry and self - righteous, you didn't have to confront uncomfortable truths. As they say that 'everything is about you, your reaction, your problem'.  

Its when I feel in the dumps like that, that I wonder, how does a tibetan monk actually maintain that calm? How did gandhi keep up that smile? What do you do when you know that something wrong has been done to you, that you have been taken advantage of, and your struggle notwithstanding, nothing is likely to change. You can't really stop struggling, you can't give up your tibet.. but somewhere perhaps you also know, nothing is going to get it back. 

What then? 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

108 suryanamaskars!

Attended an event by yogamatters at cubbon park.. great fun!

They had a group of teachers/ volunteers to pace the group through sets of 12. The awareness and connection with body mind and breath which I had initially, was lost after the first 30-40.  Somewhere midway I lost track of how many we had done, and felt like I was too zoned out to even think. But I think the group energy and the memory of all those 5, 10, 20 km runs kept me going. It helped that I was there with friends and they hadn't given up either.

Slowly my attention drifted towards the constant mess and mistakes of the left leg right leg, and trying to keep track of whether the teacher was also mixing them up. After a particularly sweet instructor mixed them up one too many times, but also made us smile with her cute instructions, all my thoughts were centered about getting the sequence right. The next teacher was a lot more focused and as she progressed with her 12, I felt less confused, and more centered, and as she asked us to lie down in shavasan, i wondered why.. and then I realized.. the 108 were done!!!! Couldn't believe it. Instead of focussing on my breath body or mind, I was busy trying to count how many sets we had done.. so much for the centering!

On the plus side, at least the breath and movements were still mostly synchronized till the end.. thats progress from 4-5 years back when I could barely do one set with synchronized breathing.

Hope I do many more of these!

Monday, March 09, 2015

That day again.

That day of the year again.. much controversy about a documentary.. the daily outrage, the daily ban, the daily saga.

So, what was i thinking of ? just some disjointed sentences , floating around my mind space .. these many decades.

The kanpur sisters triple suicide. DD documentary sound bites, from relatives/neighbours of girls - the girls in the locality would always walk with eyes lowered. wouldn't walk alone. I am 10 years old, and I am told ' yes, and thats correct. you know why? because the men are in a better position to defend themselves, the girls aren't' . Defend against what? why?

Engineering entrance exam.  general chat at friends place.  friend has a highly qualified working mother. friend is told by mother 'its critical for your younger brother to clear this exam, for you, as a girl, it was still ok.  Clearing the exam was different for the boy and the girl? why ?

Random relatives house,  a cousin brother has been married a few weeks back. This cousins mother is found to have a grocery list in her purse. listing items like broom. rice. These women are parliamentarians, nurses, press women. Another aunt chips in, 'aap yeh sab kyon dekhti hain ab? Woh aa gayi hai, ab uska kaam hai. / Why are you taking care of all this now, she has come, its her job now.  ' As a son, it was never his job to help run the house? suddenly now from his moms it becomes his wives job?

College fest, someone is groped during the drunken frenzied dancing. ( no, this is my blog, not a news report, i will not say 'allegedly groped'). boys close ranks to defend the boy in question. I am told 'taking this further would unnecessarily ruin the boys record. You don't know the background, keep quiet.' Like any of that was relevant to the incident.

Close friend has a girl friend in another country. She is working, and lives a normal life. ( read - works, goes out, meets people). friend is writhing to me about this - its not that I don't trust her, its that she doesn't understand, the men aren't good. She shouldn't do this. What should she do instead? Why? 

Another close friend, in a moment of candidness - yes, if I helped out in child care, I would feel like i was doing my wife a favor. can't help it, its just the way we think.

Best friends mother, talking about a girl in 'trouble'  ' Whats the point of complaining, a woman's life is a tightrope walk, one small fall, and your life is over. Why create a fuss? Why? for justice? for deterrence? 

So, to recap, there is a very clear script in what my life as a woman should look like. I stay at home mostly. I am very careful when I step out of the house. If I study and find a job, its not a priority, what matters are my roles as a daughter, sister, wife, daughter in law, mother. If someone assaults me in any way, its in some way at least, my fault, and then I should hush it up, for my own sake. And perhaps for the sake of family, society and even the assaulter. It doesn't sound very horrific or unreasonable does it? This is the script in a milieu of middle class, upper middle class, with every one of these people graduates from urban centers, surrounded by educated working women.

Lets stop throwing about words like uneducated men. This is not about education. And its not about men. Its about us, our culture, our mindset. The degrees of discrimination might vary, the curfew times might vary, the punishments for violation may vary,  where you draw the line might vary, but a lot of us think like this. Not just men. Not just indians.

Fringes will always exist in any society, you can only minimize their impact, can't always eliminate them. And the fringes will always find some excuse, ( in religion, in culture, in family feuds, in retaliation for provocation) to explain their depravity. So lets stop focussing exclusively on them.

But larger questions remain. Yes some soul searching might help, even if its being triggered by a foreign christian media house, hell bent on portraying india and our glorious culture in the wrong light. Some basic questions, like why do you feel that your way of thinking is the only correct way? That you are entitled to co-opt someone unwilling, into that way of thinking, even if they don't want to ? That the thought that human beings are human beings, and whats good for the goose should be good for the gander, doesn't resonate with you?

Maybe we should have a men's day, where we celebrate how the man's role as a son, brother, husband, son-in-law, father is his main identity.  Anything else is not really that important. his job, his earning, his hobbies, his identity as a human being.. all secondary, all unimportant.  

Monday, March 02, 2015

House of cards

This was one addictive show that nn and and I had binge watched last year. We loved the edgy style, the pace, the settings, and of course Kevin Spacey!

Have to say, the couple of episodes we've seen of the third season so far hasn't matched up by a long shot. For one not much is happening! I don't want murders in every episode ( had't liked 24 much , after a while it seemed like they just wanted to stuff too much 'happening' into every bit of it) , but on the other hand, house of cards just seems to be meandering now.

Hope it gets better..

Yoga !

So finally the yoga course classes are over!

Still a lot of assignments to complete, and a number of personal practice hours. But I have to say I totally enjoyed this course. For one thing, its been a very long time since I studied something in class because I wanted to.  For another, the main teacher was pretty good.

I hope I don't give in to laziness and drop the practice, because the asan practice has been very helpful physically for sure. The other parts I am not sure yet, will have to spend much more time, before I can claim any magical benefits.

It was also the first day of waking up early to do the practice on my own, good beginning.. hope to continue!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Teaching Yoga - Mark Stephens

Liked it overall.

Helps that it covers similar stuff as my course. But I liked its overall tone, has all the chakras, pranas, and stuff, but doesn't stuff it down your throat, the way a lot of other books/talks/gurus do.

The details on the asana are pretty good. That is going to be one of the most referred to topics.

The bibliography is also pretty extensive, just in case I ever get more curious about the other vaguer stuff.

Minority Report 2.

So how is parenthood for the infant? Its a roller-coaster yes, intensely exhausting and punishing, also rewarding with the coos and gurgles and wonderful smiles.

But the age old wisdom - wouldn't change it for anything, nothing matches, regret nothing, would do anything for child? Sorry none of the above. Find it quite changeable, many things in life were quite matchable, certainly find myself regretting sometimes, and my selfishness remains unchanged, would pick my own comfort before the child's.

He is a darling, but I did have a good life before, and I continue to have a life separate from him. Luckily!

Gone girl - David Fincher.

Enjoyed it .

Good tight pace. And one of my favorite bits in movies - the flip and turn. 

American Sniper - Clint Eastwood

Quite avoidable.

Easily one of the most cardboard movies I have seen in a long time, specially the first half. I mean I could almost compare it point for point with enemy at the gate, and if enemy at the gate scores a near flawless 9, then this one flounders at some 3. As a biopic, it looks almost like he is ticking boxes, scene with parents, check. Scene with pregnant wife, check. Scene with tough call, check. Scene showing PTSD, check. Scene with bible, check. Scene with worthy adversary, check. I mean really ??? Was there one single unexpected thing there? One new perspective?

My growing disillusionment with the oscars has come to its zenith with a complete and utter disdain and contempt now. Looks like they will just pick any jingoistic war movie set in iraq and put in a ton of nominations. I had thought that the colossally boring hurt locker was overrated. Now I realize it has competition.

And no, I have no issues at all with portraying one sided stories. I don't need a history lesson, or the iraqi viewpoint in a movie that is meant to be a biopic.

Anyway, cut yourself some slack, watch enemy at the gates instead.