September 14, 2016

The most difficult words to say

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Have you wondered about the relationship between an artist and the audience? And, I'm not referring to the successful celebrities and their fan following frenzy. I'm talking about those unassuming people we see in our everyday walk of life. The ones who seem ordinary at the outset but carry a special skill  within that outshines when pitted against the rest.

Don't we all know of, in our immediate circles, a master chef, a pitch-perfect singer, a skillful painter, an imaginative craftsperson, a graceful dancer or even someone who's a bit of all of these? These are artists in their own right, some perhaps bidding their time to make it big and some just content being a devotee of art. At different points of time, we could well be that artist or one among the audience.

As an audience, how many of us walk up to the unsung hero and applaud his/her efforts? How many of us generously spend from our tightly-held purse of appreciation without a grudge or an expectation of a return compliment?

It's easier to be a mere spectator of the artist's mastery over respective genres, pausing only briefly to register his/her excellence. And then, move on. Without a word. To either wallow in self-pity or to sharpen our own set of strengths to feel worthy enough.

I often wonder why we don't praise easily; or generously and genuinely enough?

I assume it's because we are entwined in low self-worth and insecurities. It's very likely that we are ourselves a struggling chef, singer, painter or dancer and lack the confidence to showcase whatever talent we have. We begrudge the other person who has risked criticism and is brave enough to expose the raw self. The feelings of 'if only', 'what ifs' and 'why me' throng the egoistic mind, building up an invisible, impregnable shield between the self and the artist or even rest of the world.

Perhaps, this is also a reason why we're able to freely congratulate and applaud someone whose skills are disparate from ours. Here, there's no basis for comparison and therefore no green monster raising its ugly head. Again, it's easier to be in awe of a celebrity figure because somewhere in your mind you have accepted the fact that the artist and you are on different planes and there is no scope for the juxtaposition.

However, when the tables are turned and we do not see our talent being recognized and appreciated, do we smile knowingly? Ah, the complexities of a human mind! As slaves of an art form, we are constantly seeking a discerning audience, some constructive feedback, a bit of admiration or adulation.

Appreciation from external quarters is a validation of all the hard work the artist has put in to create a beautiful artwork for the world to see, touch or experience. The words that speak highly of a job well done serves as a throttle for him/her to do better each time.

A creative person's world is often lonely. Even among a company of those similarly endowed, he/she embarks on a long-winding path that is traversed alone. Thick boughs of a criticizing audience dotting the sidelines form an intimidating canopy. The path itself is strewn with thorns of self-doubt and fear. At such times, when a kind face waves out encouragingly and cheers him/her, all the obstacles seem to fade out into the oblivion and the journey becomes enjoyable.

The perspective changes dramatically by simply reversing the side you're on! Yes, it's tough to make that switch but not completely impossible. So, the next time our ego stops us from patting someone's back, we must try to put the self for a while in the artist's shoes. It might then be easier to smile easily and say those simple but difficult words, "You did a great job!"

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What are your thoughts? Would love to know what you think.


September 1, 2016

Parenting fears: Is there a right way?

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Of late, we are seeing an increase in the number of students taking rash steps on account of studies, unable to cope with pressure and the fear of facing the society, including one's own parents. As is wont with the online space we are quick to take sides and debate the incidents, the merits, and demerits of various parenting styles. A classic case of 'have an opinion, express it'. Yet, for all its faults, the social media also rises in humanity to calls of distress and shows care and empathy as seen in many a case of missing loved ones being found by the virtual human chains.

So, when this delicate layer of goodness within the virtual world is ripped apart by callous attitudes, I feel disappointed and wonder about the future of compassion. The case, in this instance, is a young student who decided to walk out of her home because of low scores. It was not a step taken in a moment of weakness, we learnt later, but of thoughtful, careful planning. The trauma and trouble she put not just her family into but the entire community of strangers that helped to trace her to safety got trivialised as she spoke confidently in front of the camera accounting in detail how she travelled and survived on a shoestring budget, barely seeming repentant of her deed. The parents too seemed to be taken in by their child's ingenuity.

If ever there's a job that does not require a prior experience, provides no roadmap, is extremely demanding and confusing, it's got to be parenting.  The dividends, though delayed, are richer than the salary any job would provide, but oh boy, the journey is arduous, to say the least. Fraught with worries, self-doubt, and questions at every step and phase of the child, the parent truly grows up with the kid.

Parenting today, in a nuclear setting, means a chance to be a hands-on parent, to challenge and change archaic, rigid methods of disciplining and conscientiously nurture the generation next. Also, today, there's the internet and social media. A place teeming with articles on how to be a better parent, how to raise better kids, why the parents err, and why the children err. So, that should be make up for the lack of hands-on support, right?

That's the tricky part. While I cannot deny the advantages of having a wealth of information at hand, most of it well-researched and well-meaning, it does not necessarily make the task at hand any simpler. If anything, today, we parents face the challenges in a two-fold manner. We not only have to walk the tight-rope alone, we also do that under the limelight of the ever critical and watchful society.

We new-age parents truly want to create a better world for our children and do not hesitate to question our methods. And, while our newsfeed is filled with all the supposed model methods of parenting, we do not have the model child for whom these methods were devised or tried upon. Our child is always different. Every child is different. And, no one method can apply or fit like a glove magically.

If we critiqued the old methods of parenting, we are faltering no less than our own parents. We do not want to reprimand the child too harshly because we want to bring up empathetic people. We are careful not to question a low academic performance because we fear the child might take extreme steps and we only want to encourage progressive learning and not cut-throat competition. While these are well-intentioned goals, somewhere we are failing to factor in an important aspect.

Trusting our instincts 
We are so entangled in the external feed of what ought to be done that we have lost the connect with our internal voice. The voice that may not conform to the teachings and findings of better parenting yet might be right; right for us, for our child. We tread on eggshells fearing to make mistakes because we believe that our mistakes will cost our child's future. One moment we give in to rage at our child's mistakes and the other moment, when the inner critic seasoned with external knowledge rebukes us, we placate using rash promises. We border on extreme reactions confusing the child further.

I wonder if the girl's parents are similarly confused. If they realise the negative impact of showcasing the brighter side of their child's errant behaviour. It was such a lucky chance that she did not get into a bigger trouble, the horrifying ones that dominate the headlines these days. I wonder if the girl realised this. I wonder if we, as a parenting generation, are raising a more confused lot who want to succeed but do not wish to undergo the exacting tests in life, who want to take the easy way out and look to blame the parents and society for their stumbling blocks.

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What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear.


August 26, 2016

Of customs and celebrations


August marks the beginning of the festival euphoria in India. As a child, I loved the second half of the year. School days would be generously sprinkled with holidays, the break for Diwali being the longest. The festivities at home were the most-awaited ones. The days leading up to an important festival like Ganesh Chaturthi or Janmashtami would throw the household into a frenzy mode of procuring the best ingredients for a 5-course meal, flowers, and other sundry pooja material.

We kids, of course only eyed the goodies prepared by the grandma and mom, waiting to dig into them. We could not eat them without offering them first to the Lord, of course. Tempted, furtive glances would be thrown at the spread of dishes; a great mix of sweet and savouries. Every now and then I'd loiter into the kitchen and pooja room to see how far the pooja had progressed only so I could appease my growling tummy and impatient sweet tooth.

Wisps of memories cloud my mind filling it with a bright tapestry; of the colourful decoration of the idol with flowers, the scent of incense stick mixed with the heady camphor-filled aarti, the hurried pace in the household; of Amma effortlessly ramping up energy, dishing out a scrumptious elaborate meal with the extra set of dishes for the naivedyam (customary offering to the deity) before aarti time; of her, in between all this, shooing us away from the sacred space of the deities gently admonishing us to first have a shower and then step inside.

Today, the tables are turned. As an adult and a parent, I realize being on this side of the scene is not as much fun. Festivals now bring in a dull feeling of dread, of impending duties towards the Lord above and mortals below and a self-imposed pressure to conform to the customs and rituals of yore. The responsibilities of the usual household chores, working in tandem with the child's school and spouse's work schedules, my own work deadlines, putting food on the table, all have a cascading effect and there's not much energy or enthusiasm left to walk that extra mile on special days.

I can picture my granny chiding me for all the drama and fuss I'm creating. She'd say at your age we did so much more and never felt the need to crib. True that. The next generation, though, pertaining to my mother and mother-in-law, seem to understand my predicament and empathise. They ask me to take it easy and do just the bare minimum for a festive occasion although they themselves did all of what the grandma generation did along with holding a full-time job.

I'm tempted to give up easily and do just a superficial show of celebration. I did that when I was pregnant with the child and couldn't run around much. I did that when the child was an infant and toddler citing reasons of not having enough hands to run the circus. Now that all the stages of acceptable excuses have been crossed, I'm forced to sit down and contemplate about my role as a torch-bearer of customs and traditions.

I think of all the times when I've placed a frantic call to the mother to ask for recipe proportions or to confirm about the rituals before a festival. I still do not hold the key to traditional recipes or niche preparations and look for simpler alternatives; the checklists before a traditional ceremony or occasion are always a blur and mixed-up. I wonder whom the next generation will approach when they hit similar roadblocks. Will I be able to answer satisfactorily about the why's and how's of a custom and rattle off the list of items to be ticked off the preparatory charts? I suspect I know the answer already. Perhaps the next generation will have an even more watered down approach and might not even bother to keep up. Time will only tell.

All that I realise and want for now is to create similar memories for R as he grows up. For him to associate the festivities with the folklore and tales of mythology, to fall back upon those during the times of being alone, away from family and friends; to stumble upon rare nostalgic memories if and when he chooses to follow old customs. The memories I create for him today may not be as rich or flavourful as they were for me. Nevertheless, they would be spun from similar fabrics of fun, bonding, laughter, family, and companionship.

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What memories do festivals invoke for you? Do you follow the accompanying rituals and customs?

August 21, 2016

Taking the next step

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I've been blogging for more than five years now but only for the last couple of years, ever since the blogging community witnessed changes in the way bloggers projected and promoted their blogs, I've been wondering about my position and future.

While I loved to write, I was unnerved by the commitment, dedication, and aggression shown by the new-age, serious bloggers who are brand ambassadors of their blogs in a true sense. It was a new dimension for someone like me who had considered blogging akin to casually journaling random thoughts; solely as a form of catharsis and not really worrying about the impact of the written word on the reader/writer community.

As with any change, I found myself self-doubting, fraught with insecurities and consequently slipping into bouts of non-writing phases or half-hearted posts. I hesitated to go all out there and place myself under the harsh lights of scrutiny and competition. It meant I had to take stock and re-evaluate my present skills and future goals rather than meandering mindlessly. This took time.

My non-blogging phases, if anything, taught me one vital thing. That, I was unhappy when not writing. Secondly, I found my strongest supporter in my spouse. He has been a constant source of encouragement and has always given me sage advice. He's my soundboard and every time I voiced out a feeling of inadequacy, he knocked it off gently. He would constantly remind me about the need to shun self-criticism and work on building what I already have. While I'm scared of dreaming big, he urges me to believe more in myself and keep nurturing the skill without hoping for things to fall in place in the immediate future. For this, I'm ever so grateful to him.

Taking my writing and blogging to the next step largely means letting more and more people know that I blog. I need people to take notice and for that, I need to venture out into the open. The smallish network of bloggers I had initially built had disintegrated since many of them don't blog anymore or do so sporadically. I need to create a bigger and stronger network in the blog world if I want to sustain. That I'd also need to allow a dedicated time for regular blogging is implicit.

At this point, I need to thank another person who entered my life unobtrusively as a quiet guiding force. Shailaja (she doesn't need any introduction, does she?) has been instrumental in helping me shrug off the hesitancy. Whether it was directing me to sites on writing prompts, or sharing her own expertise in matters of social media and organized writing, or introducing me to a wonderful workplace, she has been generous in giving. She was the one who planted the seed of purchasing a custom domain for the blog in my head. It is, I learnt, one of the ways to give myself the visibility I desire and build a brand image for my blog.

Thank you, Shailaja, for all that you've done and continue to do for me.

So that, my friends, is how I came to purchase a custom domain for my blog. While I do not have any grand goals for my writing as yet, I have come to realize that, for my own satisfaction, I need to blog/write; better and consistently. And, to that effect, there's no harm in being a more disciplined blogger, serious about sharpening the knives. If nothing, I'll always benefit from the knowledge.

If you find me slacking off again, feel free to whack err. remind me about this post.

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I'd love to hear your story/thoughts about how you came to self-host or purchase a custom domain for your blog.

Would you consider purchasing if you haven't already?


August 18, 2016

When we met Bahubali!

Shravanabelagola lies prettily within a relaxing drive of approx. 180 km from Bangalore. That, it was just a short detour on our way back from Sakleshpur, sealed the deal for us. I had no clue about the history of the place apart from the fact there was a temple dedicated to king Bahubali. I was intrigued to know more especially having seen the eye-catching visuals from the movie.

We broke off from the clean, wide highway somewhere after Hassan to meander along the narrow but well-laid roads through a small village. Green fields alternated between flashes of multi-hued dwellings on either sides of the road. Soon our destination, the temple, lay within our view.



The husband claimed that he had been to the shrine when he was very young. Apparently, he didn't remember the details quite well. Especially, the fact that we had to set upon an arduous climb to reach the said shrine that was perched on the top of a steep hill! 



As you can see, the climb was a test of our stamina and strength. The first 200 odd steps were covered with the end in sight, so the strain got ignored. A periodical glance below after short spells of ascent left me awed with the beautiful sight and also a ticklish feeling at the pit of the stomach.

That's the Chandragiri hills (opposite the Gomateshwara temple on Indragiri hills) you're seeing. This is where Chandragupta Maurya breathed his last.


Our first landing was here. This structure, seen from below, was what we thought marked the end of our efforts. I remember telling myself, "Ok, now just a few more steps" But, alas, where was the huge idol hankering after which we had laboured this far up?! Turned out, it wasn't going to be an easy task being face to face with the mighty power. 

This structure was the Odegal Basti that enclosed three smaller shrines devoted to the main (Adi) tirthankara and two others. Upwards from here, the steps got larger and more cumbersome to lumber on. Two landings later, we finally entered the Gomateshwara temple or the sanctum where the massive idol of Lord Bahubali was housed. 

The history we learnt here:

Gomateshwara or king Bahubali was younger son of the the first tirthankara, Vrishaba Deva. He won the war of the throne against his elder brother, Bharata, but later renounced all power and wealth to become a Jain ascetic. (Also, the premise on which the famous movie, Bahubali, is based).

And, yes, it was about 650 steps up until here!



The Gomateshwara or Bahubali statue stands at an imposing height of 58 feet and 8 inches and is carved out of a single granite stone. It is considered the world's largest monolithic statue. A maha-ashtabhishekam is held once in 12 years that attracts large crowds from all over. You can read more about the history here.

Isn't that awe-inspiring? Such magnificent pieces of history and handiwork have a way of putting us mortals in place. Look at the chiselled features on the mighty sculpture. And, how well it has stood against the vagaries of nature!


Our temples, architecture, and history always leave me wonder-struck; I marvel at the wisdom of the powerful kings, the skill and talent of the local artisans, the stories of their lives underlined with deep morals; how they have left us with a precious legacy of philosophy and spiritualism! 

Why don't we learn more of these in our history lessons? Field trips like these will help to cultivate much pride in our heritage and culture; something that is starkly and sadly missing!

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Have you been here? What are your memories from the trip? Do share. I'd love to hear.



August 15, 2016

Of journeys, digressions and connections





This long weekend break was something that we, as a family, were looking forward to. It came after a long while for the husband who had had a particularly gruelling period at work. Yet, for all the pre-vacation excitement, I was a bit down on the preparation part. The last minute packing rush and a slight overstep of the time schedules as the day made me feel snappy. To add to this, I was supposed to keep one eye on the Google map and another on the road till we made the last exit from the city. (We prefer using the maps without the navigator to save us data and phone battery on long trips )

I generally have trouble correlating the screen map with the actual roadway in the city that never seem to match what with the burgeoning over bridges and one-ways. I'd rather look out of the window and try to freeze the landmarks in my head than pore over a small screen. The husband and I have had many an argument over my role as the secondary navigator but to no avail. And, to set the record straight, we have had our share of wrong turns and subsequent corrective U-turns on our road trips that are NOT always my fault. However, this time, we surpassed ourselves. By the time we took the last exit, the atmosphere in the car was so thick that it could be cut with a knife.

Bangalore is more unforgiving than life itself. One wrong turn and you’re forever regretting and praying for deliverance because the next U-turn is miles away and the ensuing trap of traffic snares doubles up as a punitive measure. Not having enough sign boards at crucial points, unexpected roadblocks and badly planned exits play the devil's part perfectly.

Finally, we were out of city bounds. It was simpler to stick to the right path now and we cruised along the near-vacant highways. Travelling during a festival had its advantages, after all. The lovely crisp air and scenic beauty all around brought down the mood and temper within a respectable range and the rest of the journey was fairly quick and pleasant.

I was told that if I was to ever plan for a “do nothing” holiday, I should choose any of the Linger properties. Golden Woods, Harley Estates at Sakleshpur fit our holiday plans like a glove. Tucked away into the thick coffee plantation groves, our room was in a middle of nowhere with no TV, wifi and a near non-existent mobile network.

The next three days were a sheer bliss as we simply lapped up nature’s abundant blessings. In between spells of heavy showers, the sun’s rays would cast a silvery glow all over. Large, tiny, beautiful butterflies flitted among the thick green foliage. The air, shorn of the jarring city noises, echoed during the day with myriad sounds of insects and birds but fell dead silent after dusk with just some stray nocturnal critters making their presence felt.



Barring an invigorating trek to a nearby waterfall, we were cooped up in the simple but tastefully done up interiors playing endless rounds of UNO and reading the books we had come armed with. We needn’t have bothered for the homestay itself was stocked with some mystery thrillers, a handful of board games, badminton rackets, and cycling bikes to suit our tastes. We also spent a good deal of the time lounging at the sit out in our verandah that overlooked a lush green lawn dotted with trees and shrubs. Birds in exquisite colours and various sizes flew in and out of the tree boughs and we shared R's excitement in spotting them. A peacock cried out in a distance and we hoped in vain to get a glimpse of the royal bird. 


It was refreshing to shed our adult images and let ourselves drown in abandon joy and childishness. R looked on amused as the husband and I locked horns in mock tiffs, calling out bluffs and poking jibes at the other's misery at the card games. My muscles ached in protest as I held the badminton racket after ages and displayed some beginner's enthusiasm and rusty skills. My heart felt tender love to see the father and son bond over rounds of cricket and football. I chuffed with pride to see the kid picking up some tricks of the trade; chuckled as one of them kept signalling foul and then laughed silly over their own antics.

In the daily rush of work, school, and household responsibilities we had forgotten how to enjoy the small pleasures in life and bond as a family. Technology plays spoilsport even on weekends as we sneak in social media activities in the limited time we get as a family. I'm grateful for this break in many ways than one. It brought in the much-needed pause to reflect, take stock, rejuvenate and energise.


August 7, 2016

Life drama


Seeds we sow of verdant promises
some do bloom, many wither
Among uncertainties and skirmishes
We falter and dither

In quest of grasping eternal essence
We find our Selves shrinking
Into shoes larger than our tiny presence
Some lament, it's wishful thinking

Enacting roles in worldly show,
we get caught red-handed for
Fallacies we don’t care to amend
Alas, it's also what we don't know

Our part on the stage is awhile
Lives we play, all fragile
A greater truth awaits, as we leave
Stranger than the fiction we now believe

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A round up of all the 7 BarAThon theme prompts into a bite-size philosophy. 

Day 7 theme prompt: Promise