Monday, October 29, 2007

I choose ... to smile :)

"Make a choice- and make it fast- do you want strawberry or butterscotch?..."

I looked at my sister as she stood there impatiently- her feet tapping- waiting for me to tell her which flavor of ice cream I would like to have. It was almost 3 in the afternoon and I was feeling sleepy- but I had to make this choice since it would then define the next course of action to be taken.

As I picked butterscotch- I wished making all choices were as simple.

"... Make a choice..."

Three words which, when arranged together as above, have the capability to get a person up in knots. The ice-cream example was trivial, but today, these three words stood up in front of me, when a loved one made a choice in someone else's favor- against me- "i know it hurts you, but ..." The word but, when strategically placed, can hurt a thousand times more.. And as that person chose to hurt me- I made a choice myself- I chose to honor that person's choice.

Because I believe in what J. K. Rowling once said:
It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.

I know I made the right choice.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Believe in Yourself - Follow your Dreams...

I saw Jab We Met on Friday. Loved it. Because it is about all these things which I believe in..

... that dreams come true- you just need courage to believe in them enough to follow them...
... that when you truly wish for something dil se- you do get it...
... that when you are passionate about something- you do things which seem stupid and outrageous to others...
... that no one knows what might happen next- which is why one should live each moment to the fullest...

We have a photo frame in office. It has four lines inscribed on it:
Believe in miracles..
Believe in yourself..
Follow your heart..
Follow your dreams..

When I saw that movie- I remembered these lines and I remembered that frame. We don't see this frame all the time in front of us. In fact- most of the times- it needs to be kept face down because it does not have anything at the back which can help us put it up on a wall.

But we don't need to see it everyday to remember what it says. Because we have the essence of it in us now. And there have been numerous times when these lines have inspired us to keep going. These lines have encouraged us to stand by our beliefs. We recently won some recognition awards for our work- and I would like to believe that it is this same spirit of faith and belief in us which made us winners.

Ok-time out! So what's happening here? I started talking about a movie, then went on about a picture frame and some team awards.

Well.. I guess that's the irony of it :) The team went to see Jab We Met as a celebration for the awards- and the fact that the movie was all about those four inspiring lines in motion- made it all seem like a wonderful conspiracy...

I'll repeat my favorite thought from The Alchemist:
"When you really want something as you walk on the path that destiny has laid down for you- the whole world conspires so that you get it.."

You just need to experience it once to become a believer. I know I am.. :)

Are you? :)

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tyohaaron kee kaun jaat?

I read the following article in The Times of India in its edition dated 19th Oct 2007:

Durga For All - Abantika Ghosh
It was that terrible time in every teenager’s life — the period before the Class XII pre-board examinations. Puja had just ended and some of us friends were waiting for our English tutor to arrive, contemplating the horrible things that were going to happen to us when we sat for our papers a month later after the five days of mindless revelry. There was just one composed person in the room — my classmate Emmanuel. He made a smug statement: “Nothing can happen to me. I will pass with flying colors’’. What audacity, we thought. “What makes you think so?’’ was the almost instant and disgusted chorus. “Aami thakur tulechi (i lifted God)’’ was the answer. It took a while to register. And then we realized. His supreme confidence stemmed from the simple fact that he had helped organizers of his neighborhood Durga Puja lift the 12-odd-foot idol onto the podium and he hoped to clear the examinations by the grace of Devi Durga. He was dead serious about it. He had managed to silence us. He was the only Muslim in the room, and also the only one who had been so actively involved in the religious aspects of the Puja.

After 31 heady Durga Pujas, this has come to be my everlasting Puja memory, even though the incident did not happen during those precious five days filled with the intoxicating fragrance of new clothes, bamboo pandal, dhuno and everything else all true-blue Bongs associate with the festival. It is special because it drove home the real essence of the festival — the fact that it is not about religiosity at all. In fact, it was fairly late in life that i grasped the religious connotations of the festival. As a child it had been all about this superwoman who looked pretty and meant five days of no studies. Puja is a celebration of culture, a celebration of everything beautiful, including falling in love with your sari-clad classmate at 16 and exchanging furtive glances in the midst of drumbeats during the aarati. One does not have to be a Hindu or Bengali to enjoy the delights of the Puja. All one needs is the willingness to join the festivities with gusto. Because the Puja is a celebration of life.

It was just a week back that we had gone and had enjoyed lip-smacking, authentic Hyderabadi Biryani and an equally delicious preparation of Sheer-Kurma in Amma's small, freshly painted room, on the occasion of Ramzan Eid. Amma is the house maid who works at our place.

It is Dussera today- and my mom offered some sweets as prasad to Amma when the latter came to our place in the morning. Amma did not hesitate at all- she removed her footwear and took the pallu of her saaree over her head as my mom put the prasad in her hands.

As I watched it all, I realized that the place has changed- the occasion has changed- the delicacy has changed- but the essence of celebration and the festive spirit has remained the same. And that it has nothing to do with where one was born- which language one speaks or which form of God one worships.

Because the joyous spirit of a celebration has no caste- no creed- no religion. As the title for this post asks- "Tyohaaron kee kaun jaat" - meaning- "What is the caste of a festival?".. Amen!

Here's wishing everyone a very Happy Dusseraa :)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A trip of a kind - the SM India kind.. :)

Finally the day arrived...
Saturday- 13th Oct 2007- the day when the SM India Team was to go to Kundalika river for rafting, followed by an overnight stay at the Durshet Nature Trails Forest Lodge. I tell you- we all were waiting for the trip since the day we decided it.

Come fast people!!!
Most people reached the pick up point well within time. By the way- I think it is worth mentioning that we were to reach office (the bus pick-up point) at 5:30am, which by no means, was an easy task. But I am glad to say- that most people made it... However- somethings got delayed- and it was almost 6:45-7 am by the time we started off. The driver looked morose- he said we won't be able to make it till 8am- which was the time at which the rafting was supposed to begin. Everyone was a little concerned....

But well- we're incorrigible optimists :)
And so- hoping for the best- we started our journey. :) People sitting towards the back of the bus were in full form- wanting to sing songs and have fun. I was a little sleepy initially- wasn't really in a mood to sing and all. But it was not much time before the excitement caught up with me- and others. And soon- we were belting out old and new Hindi movie hits one after the other. Everything from "Roop teraa mastanaa" to "Beedi jalaile"... The journey ended before we knew it.

And then the tense concern returned....
It was already 8:30am by the time we reached the site. We missed the correct turn the first time around and ended up coming around a bit, which added to the delay. As we approached the rafting site- everyone was silent- "Has the rafting started...? Are we too late".

But you see- the optimism worked!!! :)
The water in the river where we were going to raft is controlled by a dam. The dam authorities had not released water from the dam that day till the time we reached. So the rafting had not begun!! All of us shouted in joy "We have not missed it!!!"

After having some (meager) breakfast and some tea- we all waited for the dam gates to open. Time passed by- 9am - 9:30am - 10am. No sign of the water gushing in. As we whiled away our time sitting in the stationary rafts wearing the rafting gear just to pose for the camera- we all knew that it wasn't happening. I guess optimism != miracles...

Disappointment can't catch up- we're too fast for it.. :)

Nothing can kill a joyous team spirit :) Well- we can't raft- but we can go into the river and have fun splashing around there!

And that's exactly what we did- we just splashed into the river dragging everyone in the team into it playing all sorts of weird games. We kept on scaring each other saying "What if the dam gates open right now and water comes flooding in...?" We clicked dozens of pictures in all funny poses... :D

Time for another trip...
Finally we reluctantly came out of the river- it was almost 12:30pm and we had to reach the Durshet forest lodge till lunch time. We quickly changed into dry clothes and started off from their. All that splashing around had left us exhausted- and really really hungry. No one sang or even talked during the one hour to Durshet- everyone caught a few winks and woke up when the bus screeched to a halt at the Forest Lodge.

"Durshet Forest Lodge welcomes you!"
Everyone yawned, rubbed their eyes open, picked up their luggage and walked upto the lodge. We were given the keys to our rooms. Earlier we had planned that we would go for lunch following a bath. But everyone was so hungry- that all we did was- dumped the luggage in our rooms and rushed to the dining hall. The food was absolutely delicious- and our hunger made it taste totally exotic!

After a filling lunch, we all retreated to our rooms. Some people just fell on the beds and fell asleep. But the others just took to an open ground over there and thus began the sport which rules every Indian's heart- cricket! :D The game started with a stripped down version of the actual rules, with only 5-6 people playing. In about an hour or so- everyone else joined in too and soon almost the whole team was shrieking and shouting- "Howzzat... "... "Hey that was NOT out!!" It was sheer fun... :) Every time the cricket ball used to go out of bounds- Shriram used to go hunt for it- he was unanimously named the cricket-ball-debugger :P

After a hot and sweaty game of cricket- the swimming pool suddenly looked inviting... Almost everyone jumped into the cool blue pool... The ace swimmers were trying to teach novices like myself and others how to hold your breath under water and all the other tricks... We played some pool volleyball and brought the whole place down with our shrieks...

Food- bring us more food!
And of course- then we were hungry again! We quickly changed into dry clothes and went to the cafeteria for some evening snacks, wherein a wonderful layout of mouth-watering pani-puri was awaiting us. I ate more than I could ever imagine- and I guess it was the same for everyone else.

It was around 5:30-6pm or so already... The sunset was beautiful and romantic... And the breeze was slow and silken... The butterflies were flitting around as if they were completely unaware of our presence there... Away from the glaring lights and the inhuman sounds of the city- it all felt soothing... A perfect getaway....

And then they ATTACKED
As we returned to our rooms- we felt their presence- and increasingly they would not let us walk straight. I am talking about none other than the monstrous mosquitoes which hovered around us making us dance while shooing them away. Thankfully, the lodge caretakers got some smoky solution to the problem and the mosquitoes left us in peace.

Two fat majors.. 8 and 8 is 88.. And a shake..!!
Yeah- then it was time for a game of Tambola or Housie!!! Prasanna got this wonderful portable tambola kit and I became the number announcer... Nehal took away three of the main prizes- I guess it was really her lucky day :)

"Jungle hain aadhee raat hain...." (It's midnight in a jungle..)

Then it was time to go for a nature trail- it was a perfect time to do that. It was pitch dark and a guide from the lodge was going to lead us to the Amba river shore- which was hardly some distance from the lodge. And thus we began with our flickering torches- walking down those shaky steps in the middle of the jungle... And a series of suspense movie songs made the situation just perfect for the weak hearted :))

And that moment, my dear friends, was Magic...
As we reached the river shore- there was not a light in sight. We all switched off our torches- and that is when we could see it in all its glory- the clear night sky with trillions of stars glittering like diamonds. Everyone was silent- we were so taken by the beauty of it all- words seemed like intruders in those moments. The sky was so clear- we saw at least 5 shooting stars. And the fireflies glowing in the dark made it even more magical- as if we had come into some kind of a fairy tale land... We were a bit sad when we turned back to go- but hunger got better of us... :D

More more more... Food... :)
I tell you- that place served amazing food. We had an awesome dinner and if it was not for the limited size of the human stomach- we could have kept eating forever. I think the cafeteria people must've heaved a sigh of relief when they finally saw us leaving ;)

Old wood- new flames... :)
Then we all gathered for a beautiful bonfire. All of us exchanged random stories and thoughts as we marveled the flames which slowly consumed the wood- and in turn passed their luminescence to the dry wood as it glowed ferociously. We let the warmth of the bonfire massage our hands and feet long after the flames died out..

Finally, as both the hands of the clock met each other- just to separate again- all of us retired to our rooms.

"knock knock... Knock Knock... KNOCK KNOCK.. WAKE UP!!!"
I stirred lazily in my bed and as I strained to see the time- I saw that it was almost 9am. I jumped out of bed and opened the door. Breakfast was going to be served till 10am someone told me.

Wait for us... We're coming right now!
Well- the cafeteria people did wait for us and served us the most sumptuous breakfast consisting of Idli-MeduWada with chutney and sambhar, Shira-pohe, Bread with butter and jam and bananas. Given that I had eaten so much the previous day- I was surprised at how hungry I was as I gobbled up all the food.

Photo session
Following the breakfast- every one got ready, got their luggage together and came together for the one last grand group photo. Well- so much for that. Before that one grand photo- we took all sorts of funny pictures with people climbing over trees and in the bushes. All the wild animals over there must've nodded their heads thinking what fools we were. But well- we were totally absorbed in having fun. We were like kids playing in the park- oblivious to all adults around.. :)

And there we were....
All of us- feeling happy and light and relaxed... As we started off to come back to Pune- I was thinking to myself- the main reason we planned this trip was for the adventure sport- the river-rafting. And we did not even get to do that. But there was absolutely no sense of disappointment as we made our way back in the bus. Because we did what we had really planned to do- be together- get to know each other a bit more- lets some walls of inhibition come down- and most important of all- HAVE FUN! And boy-o-boy did we do that or what!

Here's to the SM India Team- the best team that I've ever been in!


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Equals and Opposites

What you term as ego can well be self-respect for another.

:) And vice versa...


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Smile away the miles...

I was just talking to someone who was feeling very sad and lonely, being far from her loved ones. As I was trying to cheer her up a bit- I was thinking to myself- anything that I say will be easier said than done. I know I have felt lonely at times. And in all those times- I learnt that memories are powerful. So I cannot let them make me weak- I have to make them my strength instead.

We associate love with people, places, things. Which is why distance troubles us. The heart never sees distance- it is the mind which puts in the miles between two hearts... :)

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Ride the wave...

Ghoomte Phirte Milte Hai.. Milte Hai
Milke Saath Wo Chalte Hai.. Chalte Hai...
Dostana Naya Naya Naya
Rahein Wahi Puraani
Anjaanaa anjaani.. Beganaa begaanaa begaani..
Hai khudaa hafiz..

- Mehboob/
A. R. Rehman (Yuva)

:)... It is so amazingly refreshing to re-discover a song which you have not listened to in a long time...

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