Note to a Stranger

Dear Stranger,

I have been trying to write to you for a while now. But there were a couple of problems. First, I did not know your name (or address); and second, I did not know what to write. But, the thought of writing to you has been there.

You may not realise, but you have been here, with me, all the time. You are a witness to the tragedies of this world, along with me. The world is fucked, as you would know. The ones at the top, have done nothing for appreciation, and the ones at the bottom, have got nothing for celebration. And the ones who call themselves “the common men and women” – their lives are only limited to noise generation. Which makes me wonder – What good amid these, O me, O life?

Then I hear the answer. You.

Stranger, this life is strange. One may get lonely, even in large crowds. It happens with me. And I am sure, it happens with you too. When no one understands you. No one. Not even your best of friends, or your own self. During such unbearable moments of pain and hopelessness, the thought of you always consoles me. The thought, that somewhere in this world, you are going through the same emotion – it heals me.

Talking about emotions, I have experienced many shades of them; some vivid, some plain. That’s because, I am an imperfect, vulnerable human being. And it does not bother me anymore. I am tired of presenting my perfect self to everyone I meet. The same kinds of frustration I get when others try to hide their imperfections. Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth – I say, and no one listens. One of these days, I might give up. But then… I think of you. That you are going through the same. That if I give up, you may do that too. And I don’t want that to happen.

I don’t know how wise, intelligent, or smart you are. But I know, you are little crazy, just like me. You too dance like an idiot when it rains; you too stroll around the mountains until your feet suggest otherwise; you too speak with strangers and laugh with them; you too cry when everyone expects you to be strong. But you know you are you and you stay that way, despite all the objections. You don’t change just because others expect you to, and that, in my opinion, makes you pretty special.

Who are you? A man, a woman, a kid, an oldie? Someone from the future? I don’t know, and, to be honest, I don’t want to. None of these things concern me. I don’t want to be your lover, friend, acquaintance etc. You are my Stranger. And you are special that way. Although, the curiosity still remains – who are you? Maybe you exist, somewhere, far away. Maybe, you are someone close, a friend, a lover, or an acquaintance. Or maybe, the parts of you are divided among all these people. I am not certain about the form of your existence. But, does it matter? To me, it does not. All I know (and all I care about) is that – you exist. And the thought completes me.

Stranger, I don’t measure my life with the work (or profession) I get involved in, yet, I feel, writing remains very close to me. Now, let me tell you a secret. A lot of people ask me, why do I write? And I say, it’s a path towards self discovery. I never tell them that it’s more about discovering you. Are the two really different? At this point, I don’t think so.

I am a dreamer (I know you are one too). And I have this eerie feeling that one day our paths shall cross. Not for long though. Maybe a conversation over coffee, or a quick discussion at an event, or a long chat during a short journey. We will talk about everything. History, mythology, poetry, music, religion, politics, economics… Or maybe, we won’t talk. You will look at me, and I will look at you, and we will smile. We will know that we have met. And that’s just about it.

On the other hand, we may never meet. But as you know very well, our words never die. Which is why, I am leaving them here for you. If I don’t ever find you, then no-problem, my words will. And just for a moment, you will find yourself smiling. I hope. And I hope you read this while I am still alive. I don’t expect you to write back to me, but if you do, it will definitely make me smile.


Aman Ki Aisha

Illustration by: Nidhi Chanani


1 April, 1998

“Stop! Stop! Stop!,” shouted Mani, at the top of her voice, before turning her gaze, upon the TV screen.

Aman obeyed the instruction, and stood at the edge of the veranda (on his bare feet), holding the bamboo stick (with a TV antenna clamped to it), in his bare hands.

“Fix that – and come here, you fool,” came another shout, a bit louder this time. It did not feel right to Aman. Sister could have been nice to him, he thought, as he slowly roped the bamboo stick on to the pillar, and looked around. Surrounded by the mighty Himalayas (India), he wondered how the world beyond those mountains – where the TV signal was coming from – looked like?

“Fool, fool, April fool,” Mani’s words arrived at his ears, and made him mumble “dumbo,” – and immediately, he felt good, reciting the recently learnt word. “Dumbo, dumbo. Mani, dumbo,” chanted

Aman, gambolling into the TV room.

“Shut up, and rotate that stupid thing again,” said Mani.

Aman twitched his lips, in confusion. He stared at the TV screen – the picture quality was good, the sound even better – why on earth did he need to repeat the whole process?

“Why?” he finally muttered. On most days, he spent his words miserly.

“It is something else.”

“What is it?”

“Umm. Something is written here. P-T- V? It’s PTV.”

“What is PTV?”

“I don’t know.”

“Let’s watch it then,” said Aman and pulled the tightly braided hair of his sister. Little did they know that P stood for Pakistan, because if they did, they would have rotated the antenna straight away.


At the Quaid-e- Azam township of Lahore (Pakistan) – no one seemed to mind a conversation with India, as long as it happened through the TV signal. Today, one family (like most other families of the area) was waiting for Chitrahaar to start on Doordarshan, the national channel of India. One of the many benefits of residing in Lahore, was that you always found good quality TV signal from across the border. Chitrahaar, a song program, gave its viewers, something to look forward to, on dull Wednesday evenings. Since, it was preceded, as well as proceeded by the unbearably-painful news – the half an hour window of Bollywood songs, was like a breath of fresh air.

“Amir Khan,” exclaimed little Aisha, as soon as the first song was played. “I will marry Amir Khan,” she declared to Ammi and Abbu. Aisha, who was a bright kid otherwise, often surrendered her intelligence, when it came to Bollywood. And every time, the parents told her to stop dreaming too much, somehow, it did not feel right.

“But, Amir is married and–,” objected Ammi, out of habit.

“He can marry again.”

“But then, Shahrukh will be angry.”

“No, he loves Kajol.”

“But, what about Salman?”

“He is not marriage material…”


7 July, 1999

“Oh my god!” cried Mani, “Vikram Batra, our hero, is dead.”

In the last two months, conflict along the border of India-Pakistan, had heightened, so much that people were un-hesitantly using the term ‘war’. The dark times were back, it appeared. Even the remote villages, located at the foothills of Himalayas – though unaffected – were aware about the situation.

Aman did not know how to react, when Mani announced the bad news and began to weep. Who was Vikram Batra? He tried to remember, and failed. Since, it was being played on TV, he thought, it must have been some famous person and not a close relative.

Aman: Who? Who told you?

Mani: It’s on TV, you fool. They are killing our people, our heroes.

Aman: Aren’t we… doing the same to them?

Mani: What? Don’t you love your country? Just get lost and watch that stupid Shahid Afridi on – that PTV. Thank god, the antenna does not catch the signal anymore.

Glaring at his sister’s face, Aman sat on his little wooden chair, in silence, looking for the right word to respond with. Eventually, he settled with the idea of silence.

Mani: I am telling you. Our enemies are going to lose – the same way they lost in 1965 and 1971.

Aman: Did they?

Mani never minded the ignorance of her younger brother. My petrified brother is never going to become a soldier – she feared, and so did their parents.


At Aisha’s house, there was no Chitrahaar this week. It had only been PTV, the whole month; in fact, it had only been news. Once again, it did not feel right to Aisha. She had been told that Indians do not send their TV signals during the war times. Why? – she had asked repeatedly, and got the same response, every time: because, they are enemy.

Abbu: Ya Allah! Give some wisdom to these Indians.

Aisha: Ya Allah! Give some wisdom to these Indians.

Abbu: Kashmir they already took, what else they want?

Aisha: Kashmir they… What?

Abbu: Don’t copy.

Aisha: Don’t copy.

Ammi’s unexpected laughter put an end to the copying game.

Ammi: Do not worry. We will defeat them, like we did in 65.

Abbu: And?

Ammi: 71.

Abbu: Don’t forget 47.

Aisha: Did we?

Ammi and Abbu stared at her, in dismay. May Allah bless her with some sense and silence! – they prayed.


13 March, 2004

When fresh flowers blossomed in the spring of 2004, India-Pakistan relations suddenly seemed to get back on track. Cricket was given the job, what the politics had failed to do – bringing the two nations closer. Indian team was on Pakistan visit, after a span of many years. Each side desired to win and see the other one suffering a humiliating defeat, therefore, what started as a part of peace process, was now looking more like a war. And this was only first of the five matches.

Mani: Don’t move. It’s last over. They are not going with Ashish Nehra, are they? Damn!

Aman: Nehra? Now, we will lose, for sure.

Mani: You want us to lose, don’t you?

Aman: What?

Mani: I have seen you enjoying Afridi’s batting.

Aman: Aren’t we… umm, supposed to? Sshhh, last ball, six required.

The last ball took some time. The camera showed the faces of men and women praying for the victory. Perhaps, it was up to the gods to take a side and decide the victory. It was then Aman first noticed how beautiful Pakistani girls were, and he secretly hoped to see them smile. Which, did not happen.

Mani: Yay! We won.

Aman: Damn!

Mani: Told you!


Ammi: Please, don’t break the TV this time.

Abbu: I did not break it last time either.

Ammi: Yes, and I never stole anything from your wallet.

Abbu: What?

Ammi: Now eat something.

Abbu: Aisha dear, come here. Let’s have dinner.

Ammi: Stupid Indians. What happened to you Aisha dear? Why are you not eating anything?

Aisha: Damn! I hate India. They are enemy.

Abbu smirked, and Ammi brought more food for the growing kid.


10 November, 2015

Are you kidding me? These Facebook things – are they meant to be taken seriously? I thought you’ve grown up, but.. Anyway, your joining date is near, so focus on your first job.

Mani, who now lived in New York, sent the above message to Aman, on Facebook. Earlier, he had sent her a message informing that he might be going to Pakistan, as a part of Facebook Peace Campaign.

Aman kept staring at his laptop screen and wondered whether it was actually such a big deal. After thinking for a few hours, he concluded that it was not. Which meant, it was time to see the world beyond those mountains.


Aisha: Ammi, I will get married, whenever I will want to. Stop nagging.

Ammi: You are a silly girl. Grow up and get married. Rather, I would say, get married – that might help you grow up.

Aisha did not say a word. Instead, she went to her room and dialled a number. It was Zarin on the other side.

Zarin: I was about to call you.

Aisha: For what? What happened?

Zarin: Relax. I was hoping you could accompany me to an event.

Aisha: Sure. What event? Is it some Christian event, your boyfriend has invited you to?

Zarin: Mmm. Well, you got me there. So… you are coming, as you just promised.

Aisha: Damn!


27 March, 2016

Right before the commencements of Easter celebrations at Lahore’s Gulshan-e- Iqbal Park, a group of Indians had reached there to meet a group of like-minded Pakistanis. These people (mostly but not all young) did not believe in the boundaries of countries, nor in the idea of nation – for them, humanity came first. People from each side had reasonable curiosity about the ones from the other and hence, their interaction involved a number of questions and answers.

For most part of the conversation, Aman remained a quiet spectator. Finally, when he spoke, he asked when they were going to meet next. Everyone thought it was a good joke. Except Aman.

On the other side of the park, at the Easter celebrations, Aisha was not too pleased. When she saw Zarin getting busy with her Christian boyfriend, she decided to take a walk. It was then she walked past Aman. Neither noticed.

And the next minute… there was a blast!

Bodies flew all over the place. Screams resonated in the air, blood spilled on the ground. The terrorists had struck.

Both Aman and Aisha had dashed out of the park – as soon as the first blow was heard – and sat on the road, in utter fear. No one from the rescues operations was there to be seen. It was them, just the two of them.

For some reason – even Aisha could not understand – when she ran out of the park, she had grabbed Aman’s hand. Now, the two sat with clasped hands, taking heavy breaths. And then, contrary to all beliefs (or disbelief), in such a tragic moment, sitting next to a stranger, an enemy – somehow, it did feel right.

“Who are you?”

It was the first of the many questions they were going to ask each other.

Oh Nationalism: Excerpts

What constitutes a nation? If it is language, then we have multilingual nations, if it is history then we have seen nations getting divided over the period of time, if it is ethnicity then most of today’s nation will cease to exist; some nations exist on the idea of religion, but many do not.

According to Jughashvili’s National Question: “a nation is not a racial or tribal, but a historically constituted community of people;” “a nation is not a casual or ephemeral conglomeration, but a stable community of people”; “a nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of people living together generation after generation”; and, in its entirety: “a nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”

What then, essentially constitutes a nation? Perhaps all of these attributes, or perhaps none. The reason is simple – those who believe in the idea of a nation, justify it by extending the boundaries of its definition so that their own nation finds a comfortable position, which makes it even harder to decide the boundaries. However, that leads us to a major concern. Is the whole idea of ‘nationalism’ based on a ‘false consciousness’ which leads people to believe in an ‘imagined community’?

Elie Kedourie (20th century British historian) believed that. According to him, ‘Nationalism is a doctrine invented in Europe; it holds that humanity is naturally divided into nations, and pretends to supply a criterion for the determination of the unit of population.’ Among the critics of ‘nationalism’, most authors’ simplistic view is that it is a result of direct manipulation of ‘masses’ by ‘elites’.

As a matter of fact, we must understand that a ‘nation’ is an idea, which is not restricted by its geography and therefore, should not be seen same as ‘country’ which represents a self-governing political entity and has geographical boundaries. At this point, it sounds like a noble idea, which arises because of the natural tendency of humans to show belongingness to their motherland, but the reality is different.

Most nations today, do not represent a mere cultural identity, but a political structure, and all the fundamental attributes such as language or ethnicity, have taken a back seat. In this scenario, when people of a particular nation, have a state or a country of their own (which the academicians call as nation-state), the ‘nation’ is further guided by the political ideologies based on the self interests of that particular nation. Looking through this context, the ‘nation’ is a body of people to whom a government is responsible through their legislature

We see nation as a union, an identity, an emotion to be proud of, but the truth differs; it is highly likely that the union is more of a political association and the ‘emotion’ part is only being utilised as a mechanism to drive the political motives. Therefore, ‘nationalism’ which was supposed to be a shared feeling towards a group (based on culture, ethnicity or geography)  has been manipulated well, to the extent where this emotion can be strengthened in individuals to have a tighter grip on them.

Nationalism is an effective tool to serve the interests of a nation, however, as one may observe, it narrows the world view, – and that has troubled the intellectual minds throughout our history. Rabindranath Tagore supported the idea of – fighting against that education which teaches them that a country is greater than the ideals of humanity – in his book Nationalism, and going by the same argument, I believe, we need to analyse the idea of nationalism through a different lens.

If you are an American, you would be glad, how you have mushroomed your nationalism across the world; and despite the fact Theodore Roosevelt once warned you, “the things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first and love of soft living,” I am certain that you would not care for it.

If America has ever bombed another nation (occasionally in world-wars, more frequently in peace times), tried to suppress Islamic nations, gone to the point of creating Islamic terror and then ending it in style, and misused the state machinery to participate in unjust acts – it was all for the glory of American nationalism, and what could possibly be wrong with that?

Why America? Take any other country, and you will find many similarities, both in terms of intentions as well as functions. Just like many powerful ideas in history, the idea of nationalism is a strong one, touches human emotions intensely and encourages an individual to work for a cause that will benefit some but not all.

Today, we are surrounded by institutions that give us identity, strengthen our community and above all, shape our beliefs – while (almost) forcing us to take pride for our belongingness to them. Then slowly and gradually, they involve you in their own misconduct, while ensuring that your standards of right and wrong get diluted enough to understand the difference; and you become a part of them in each and every act.

A nation is a part those institutions; and an important one, because it has somehow managed to become the predominant identity, ignoring all other identities, which is a dangerous thing. Yes, this identity gives you pride, but it is the same identity that forces an individual, a group or a society to go against those who challenge it. And no matter whether that particular individual or group is aware of it or not, but there have always been (and there will always be) people at the top, who have taken (and will take) advantage of a common man’s vulnerability that has been cropped inside him along with the identity.

It may sound odd, but truth-be-told, there is nothing new in it. Religion has been there for a long time, and so did many communities, classes and castes. So, this(nationalism) is just an old disease with new symptoms.


Note: Above excerpts are taken from “Oh Nationalism: An Essay Questioning the Idea of a Nation”. To read the complete essay, please click here: Oh Nationalism!

All You Need To Know About Jokes

Humour is a powerful tool. Not to the extent where you can consider it mightier than a sword (don’t even try it), but fairly powerful, to seduce some, and to scare some away. A joke (I mean your life), is more complicated than it first seems. You may argue that what is the point of getting into the complications as long as we can laugh and have a good time. Agreed. Now go and finish your homework first. Others may continue to read, unless there is a porn video being buffered on the other tab, in which case, you can send me the link. All right, let’s get to the point (not THAT), and talk about jokes and what they are all about.

Jokes speak the truth. Jokes are funny because they are true and for the same reason they offend people. The truth however, can be disguised or camouflaged or ciphered, but the joke will always speak the truth in one way or the other. Consider this for example:

What is the difference between a politician and a mosquito? One is a blood-sucking parasite and the other an insect.

Now, it is obvious that the joke will offend some people, or the political class (I am still learning how to be specific), but you know why they will be offended – because there is (at least some) truth in it. The joke won’t be funny if I use scientist instead of politician and of course, it won’t offend anyone. For the same reason the jokes on Poverty in America, Buddhist Terrorism, Racism Against White People – won’t be funny (for most people), because they are not true for most people. Remember, any joke that you find funny will trouble someone because it’s about them – for everyone else, it’s just a joke.

Jokes tell a story. A wise man once said – story telling is joke telling and vice versa. And it’s true (does not mean the rest of the things here are untrue). No joke will sound funny if it weren’t for the story. As I said earlier, jokes tell the truth. But it cannot be plain truth. Because the truth is often disturbing and equally boring. There has to be an art of concealing truth in a story. This art, is what we refer to as Humour. Let’s see this one:

The phrase ‘All men are the same’ was invented by a Japanese woman when she lost her husband in a crowd.

Once again, you will find the truth in it. You need to remember that the truth is never absolute. It varies. Like in this case, Japanese will say – no, we have identified our people, at least the family members. But there will be people like you and I, who think – yes, Japanese do look alike. But if I had said it directly, it wouldn’t sound nice, would it? It may appear racist, right? But the truth and social conventions do not go hand in hand, and hence, we choose the art.

Jokes are all about surprise. And the surprise is usually a pleasant one. If there’s anything that can kill a joke, it’s the predictability. The oldies might say – there are certain things you can always joke about. True, but the more surprises you can bring to your humour, the funnier it gets. Irony is often used to bring that surprise but there are other methods too, some of which are really simple as the one below.

When I hug someone from behind, I want to hear a ‘thank-you’, not someone shouting at me – what the hell are you doing in my bathroom?

Bottom line, there is more to a joke than we usually think of. Which is precisely the reason jokes get stuck in our heads for a long time. A joke is meant to make you laugh – that is its primary purpose and that is what it will always be. Yes, it is an art – you can appreciate it, ridicule it, hate it – but this is the only art, which you cannot take seriously.

Why did a write a post on it then? Oh shit!


Oh Religion!

The world (well, most of it) is aspiring for peace today, but there are a few people who remain enthusiastic about killing in the name of religion, and they have their reasons too. Let us have a look at that.

If we start our discussion with a belief system that has ceased to exist today, Aztecs would deserve a place to prove the connection between barbarism and a belief system. The Aztecs began their elaborate theocracy in the 1300s and brought human sacrifice to a golden era. About 20,000 people were killed yearly to appease gods — especially the sun god, who needed daily “nourishment” of blood. It sounds unbelievable, but that is what the historians have recorded through Aztecs’ own versions.

Today’s religions on the other hand, have learnt to practice tolerance, partially because of the increasing dominance of nations (we will get to that later) and partially because of the way they have evolved with education. But to say, these religions have nothing to do with violence, would be an understatement. And whatever violence or troubles we observe in these religions, are deeply rooted in their religious texts.

For example, if I ask you to follow Islam – you will be offered an advice on how to deal with non-believers – Kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. ~ Quran (2:191-193)

But how did that affect the humanity?

It may surprise you: between 1000 and 1525 AD, the population of India decreased by around 80 million due to Islamic conquest; John Allembillah Azumah (author of The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa), mentions – since 1400 AD, 110 million blacks were killed by the same religion. These two combined, still not present the exact number of people who were killed, enslaved and suffered because of religious tortures, but the people who did this, had their reason, and they always referred to their text book, to which some might argue that the interpretation was incorrect by the murderers, but the same could be said about those who talk about the message of peace through the same text. Blind faith is dangerous – the sooner we realise this, the better would it be.

If you go with Hinduism – you are expected to follow lord Krishna’s words – If you will not fight this righteous war, then you will fail in your duty, lose your reputation, and incur sin. People will talk about your disgrace forever. To the honoured, disgrace is worse than death. You will go to heaven if killed in the line of duty, or you will enjoy kingdom on earth if victorious. Therefore, get up with determination to fight, O Arjuna! ~ Bhagwad Gita (2.33-2.37)

There are many in India (Hindu majority nation), who believe if they fight for their Dharma, they would be appreciated by their god. Therefore, the riots, are not infrequent in this country, rather they occur every year, particularly involving the people of Muslim community.

India has been an old nation, and has occupied with a religion (Hinduism) that has many faces and many beliefs, and therefore, it has been involved in multiple forms of taboos and violence.

The members of India’s Thuggee sect (mostly Hindus) strangled people as sacrifices to appease the their goddess Kali, a practice beginning in the 1500s. The number of victims has been estimated to be as high as 2 million. Thugs were claiming about 20,000 lives a year in the 1800s until British rulers stamped them out. But it hasn’t stopped there. People still sacrifice their goats in the name of gods, and while the stories of killing the humans may have gone unwonted, but they have not disappeared completely.

Christianity says – If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods”, do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. ~ Deuteronomy  (13:6-10)

Christians also, have had a dark past when it comes to religious terror. One of the horrors that they are related to, is called as ‘Inquisition’.

The Inquisition was a group of institutions within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. It started in 12th-century France to combat religious sectarianism, in particular the Cathars and the Waldensians. It involved slaughtering the enemies, torturing them(physically and sexually), after the infamous witch-trials were conducted on them.

Yes, there are many more religions than these three, and there are many more ideas that all these religions convey, but since many of them also support violence in one form or the other and the fact that the rate of expansion of a religion is very well related to the aggressive methods being employed by its supporters, we cannot deny that most of these religions have an ugly side.


Note: Above excerpts have been taken from “Oh Nationalism: An Essay Questioning the Idea of a Nation”. To read the complete essay, please click here: Oh Nationalism!

7 Beautiful Passages from Literature

Note: This collection of literary passages is now available as a free ebook on Kindle Unlimited. Click here to read.

Literature: It plucks your heartstrings, tickles you in the strangest of the places, and in the end, leaves you craving for more. A reader will understand what it means, to lie-down on soft curly grass, underneath winter’s sun and… read a book.

I too, have had the moments of ecstasy when a book (or a passage), pleasured all my senses and put me in a state of ‘awe’. In this post, I am sharing some of the finest passages I have ever come across.

First one is from The Hobbit. This is also the first passage of the book. It shows how simply and beautifully you can describe a world that does not exist in reality. This particular passage and the ones that follow, are written in such a way that someone is sitting next to a fireplace and telling a folk tale to a child.


In the book ‘Beatrice and Virgil’, when Beatrice asks Virgil about the pears (as Beatrice has no idea what they look like or feel like), Virgil goes ahead and explains everything about the pears. The conversation continues for a while, creating beautiful imagery.


Animal Farm is a brilliantly written novella. This political satire makes you laugh in every alternate sentence while reflecting the events that led to the Russian revolution. The passage below explains the turn around in the whole situation. A lovely quote that follows soon is not included below, which goes like: The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which.


Let’s move to the Russian literature. Arguably one of the finest novels of the twentieth century, Anna Karenina’s excellence cannot be summarized in one passage. This passage is about – love at first sight. Many people describe that emotion. But rarely they write anything close to what Leo Tolstoy did in the paragraph below.


If I were to decide the best book of the twentieth century, it would be One Hundred Years of Solitude. The beautiful thing about Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing is that he puts so much inside every word and every sentence that you cannot help but surrender yourself to his spell.


Midnight’s Children. Won Booker prize. Won Best of the Booker too. And I am sure, it needs no introduction. This passage has been taken from the very first page of the book where Saleem Sinai talks about his birth. Magical!


And lastly, a passage for those who believe in the power of words. There cannot be a better example of how a good writing touches your emotions. Just read it.


Why I want to leave India

Do you want to stay in India?

I have often asked myself this question and I have never got a single answer to it. But with time, it seems, my confusion is getting resolved.


Let me start with where I come from. I come from a small village in Himachal Pradesh, which does not even have a post office. I received my education in one of the remotest schools of the country. And I am both happy and proud about that. Which means you cannot dismiss me by saying I represent an elite liberal class that only barks in television studios. Also, I have closely followed Indian politics but never supported one political party. I like both Nehru and Modi. I appreciate the courage of Smriti Irani and the eloquence of Shashi Tharoor. This is what makes India beautiful, isn’t it?

So why does a person want to live (or not live) in his or her own country? Yes, there will always be love for the motherland. But with increasing job opportunities, most of us end up living outside our hometowns. And since India is such a diverse country, someone like me often feels like a foreigner while travelling in other states.

Is it the economy that determines whether a citizen would want to stay in a country or not? Not really. They may go outside for jobs, but eventually they will come back or at least would want to come back, once they have money. The same is true for country’s infrastructure, public facilities and overall growth rates.

Then government? That would be an absurd thing to do. One, because governments keep changing and all you have to do is to wait for five years to get to the other side, and two, because the government’s interference in our daily lives is very little. Which leads us to people, or as we should call it, society.

When we talk about India, one mistake that we often make is the generalisation of India. While there are many Indias and there are many truths about them, one of the things I have often noticed is that an average person has to bear many frustrations in his or her everyday life. This is particularly true for urban India (which is where our discussion finds an existence), where the diversity comes together and more people, particularly educated ones share their ideas.

When I walk out of my house in the morning, the first thing I see is, someone spitting on the road. Immediately I get surrounded by all sorts of vehicles honking pompously and driving recklessly. I prefer to use public transport and I encourage others too. But my idealism soon gets knocked when the fellow passengers begin to push me and crush my toes with their branded shoes. When I walk on the roads, I worry about the pollution and wonder what we are doing about it. I go to a grocery store and find that no one is following the queue. When I am sick, I go to a public hospital, only to find that the probability of death is higher than the probability of seeing a doctor. What should I do about it, I wonder, file an RTI? I have been to a police station multiple times, but I still don’t know what an FIR looks like. I still don’t know what it feels like, to get my work done in a government office without offering a bribe.

This is India and these are the real problems a common Indian faces.

I don’t remember the last time, when I went out with my mother, sister or a female companion, and did not get stared at.

I don’t understand the reason why our governments can spend crores of rupees on a ground to showcase Resurgent Rajasthan but cannot build a few toilets worth few lakhs, for those who relieve themselves there every morning.

I don’t enjoy the fact that the rice I am eating, was cropped by a farmer, who is probably thinking of suicide at this very moment. We have worse problems, but all we care about is beef, Azam Khan’s statements and a cricket match with Pakistan.

I don’t understand why everyone keeps asking me my religion and caste, but gets angry when I question their belief system. Congressis hate BJPians, and the feeling is mutual. How can our government help our country when it does not like certain section of the country which does not support its political ideology. And I am not talking about this government, but every government both in states as well as at the centre. The sad thing is, instead of caring for the entire nation, our governments care too much about their respective political parties.

Even today, when there is a time to take a stance against the growing intolerance, I expect little or nothing from the government. Just like the opposition is busy criticising every action of the government, the ruling party is busy justifying all their deeds and misdeeds.

I don’t digest the fact that people can actually chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai and kill a human being at the same time. This heightened (and misguided) sense of patriotism, where people say they love India but not Indians, scares me. They abuse, hurt and even kill other people in the name of patriotism. I don’t get it, trust me, I don’t…

At this point, you might say – oh, you have a problem with this country, why don’t you fix it? I do sir/mam, I do it all the time. I tell everyone around me to do good things, and I keep a check on my actions too. But you know what, not all of us are social activists. We cannot do it all the time. Some of us just want to be a teacher, a sportsman, an actor, or a software engineer. Some of us just want good lives for ourselves. We do not expect too much from this country, only love and peace. And if that is disrupted, I don’t know what else to do, but leave.

PS: I want nothing for myself, but only that when I look around I see happy faces. Is it too much to ask?

Lost and Found


It was not the best place to be in. I was in the back pocket of this little boy Sanju. He had recieved me as a part of his prize money in a school competition. The exact amount was one hundred and twenty, and if you take one hundred (which he had secretly hidden in his pencil box) out of it, I am what is left. I have to admit that I have gotten old and have lost my shine. Not my value though! I have seen a number of people fighting over me, or trying to steal me, and it was because of their deeds (or misdeeds), I could travel so much. I have not seen much of the world though, for I was restricted to the pockets, wallets or purses. And if someone took me out, holding me in his or her gentle hands, they would do that so strongly, that it almost took the life out of me. Not my value though!

Sanju is not having a good day it seems, otherwise he would have taken me out when he walked across the glimmering shops. Moreover, it is Sunday, and on a Sunday… a kid passing by a Jalebi shop and not buying anything? It does not sound right. In fact he is not even a poor kid, I can confirm that from the comfort of his pocket. And now when he is in a bus, sitting quietly somewhere in the middle, suddenly I realise that lying underneath someone’s buttocks is not a matter of amusement.

The bus conductor approaches him.

“Ticket, ticket… yes, little man. Where to?”

“Gandhi Chowk,” Sanju says softly.


“Gandhi Chowk,” he is louder this time. Very loud indeed!

“Do not sit in this bus from next time little man. Take a local bus. Now give me money.”

“How much?” Sanju said while offering me to him.

“Err… it is all right. It is very much but I will adjust it for you.”

No it is not. He is cheating! Why are you cheating? I screamed, but of course, who is going to listen? No one, I guess.

Sanju said, “ok” and turned his face towards the window. He smiled looking outside – a family of four approaching the bus on a bike –  the sight of three kids staring back at him – smiling and waving – he loved all of it. He wanted to raise his hand too, but the bike disappeared within a moment.

I was now inside the smelly pocket of conductor’s shirt. Sanju was not given the ticket and thus, instead of going to government’s fund, I had become, what most of you would call “black”. It does sound like racism and it does hurt me. Agreed that it does not affect my value, but it certainly tarnishes my reputation.

Oh, by the way, Gandhi Chowk has arrived. And Sanju is gone. I have to confess that I did not like the sight of parting. But I have to move on – I keep telling myself every time I grow an attachment.

The bus has stopped and everyone has gotten busy in getting rid of it. Perhaps it is their time to move on.

“Give me a cigarette…” the bus conductor demands the first thing from this old shopkeeper, taking me out of his pocket.

“Here is your cigarette,” he hands over the cigarette to the conductor. “But I don’t have the change right now. Give me two minutes and I will bring it.”

“Ok Ok,” the conductor replies, “but first light my cigarette.” He puts it in his mouth. The shopkeeper pushes the button of the lighter, and brings it near the cigarette with his trembling left hand. The right hand is relatively steady, holding me with a tight grip.

The shopkeeper ambles to the other shops nearby. Asks for change and they say ‘no’ even before he utters any word.

After a struggle of good ten to fifteen minutes, he gives up and comes back without exchanging me with the young ones. But the bus is gone…

“It is meant to be mine. A good start for the day!” the old shopkeeper said while kissing me on my back. I have to tell you that I hated the feeling. But what can I do? I cannot protest, and even if I do, it won’t matter. And anyway, I am not losing my value! So why to worry?

But soon the excitement on the face of this old shopkeeper turned in to a frown, as soon as he saw a police constable walking up to him. The first thing that he did was, put me in his pocket and then he did his best to avoid the eye contact with the policeman. But how could that have helped? It never does…

“Selling a lot of stuff these days eh?” the policeman enquired.

“Ravi bhaai,” the shopkeeper clenched his hands. “Namaste! I would not say, selling a lot of stuff but yes, I am surviving. What else do I want? Nothing.”

“Don’t start with your stories now. I think I have been too kind to you. Other policemen don’t spare anyone. But for too long, I have remained honest and not gained anything.”

The shopkeeper stood quiet. He knew where the conversation was going.

“So… I am thinking,”

“What are you thinking my lord?”

“Let me speak,” Ravi the policeman said. “I am thinking that even I should start getting my cut.


“Yes, you heard it right.”

“These are not good times dear lord, this is all I can afford. I may die of poverty one of these days,” the old man said as he took me out of his pocket.

“And we will see when that happens,” the policeman immediately took hold of me and walked away.

The old man kept looking at me. “I was not yours either,” I tried to tell him, but he would not listen. Nobody does.

But as Ravi took few more steps and found himself alone, he started talking to himself.

“Is this right? Yes it is. Everyone does. It has to be right. But just because everyone does it, can I justify it? Well, in that case, I will have to suffer forever. If I don’t start today, nothing will change. But then, my god won’t forgive me. Oh god, give me strength. Where are you?”

I tried to tell him that there was no god around but he would not listen.

“I will put it in the temple,” he said at last. To which I thought, there was indeed a god and he was making me pay for my words by imprisoning me in his temple. But that would not reduce my value. I thought, and fell asleep.

The next morning when I opened my eyes, I found myself in the middle of prayers inside the temple. The priest then took me out of this charity box and kept holding me until he walked out of the temple.

Next, I found myself in the hands of a beggar. A blind beggar. Which means, he could not even see me. The priest had to tell him about my value and that I was good enough to help him fetch some food.

The beggar followed the advice, but he forgot my value. So, he bought biscuits only worth ten. And the Chai wala took me with a smile on his face. I spent the rest of the day in his pocket.

At the end of the day, before going home, he just entered a medical shop and asked for a tablet.

“That would be ten.”

“But I don’t have the change,” he said as he took me out.

“Even I don’t. But no worries, you take the medicine, I will give you the change tomorrow.”

The medical store-keeper, put me in his pocket and after closing the store, took me to his house. And then he called his son, “Come here Sanju, here is your pocket money for tomorrow.”

I smiled. And so did Sanju, when he saw his signature on me. And then he called me ‘a lucky charm’ and put me in his notebook and never took me out. Since then, I have never seen any other place, only his face, when he occasionally opens the notebook and looks at me and smiles. I think he truly understands my value.


Why I stopped following the News

Then: You don’t watch news? How stupid!

Now: You watch news? How stupid!

 Indian Media

The above assertion is not a pretentious attempt at wit but a subtle warning about the state of modern day journalism. In the last one decade, TV news channels have gained significant importance in India, thanks to the increased connectivity through Direct-to-Home-Service alongside the cable networks. The print media on the other hand, may not have grown as much as it would have liked to, yet its growth has only been on the positive front. And finally the internet (particularly social media), which is playing a crucial role in sharing the news.

Does that mean our news have become better? By better I mean… better in terms of quality of debates, quality of analysis, and of course, their credibility. I think the answer to that would be a clear no.

But my problem with these media outlets goes a little further. And I will try to explain my point of view throughout this post.

Definite Agendas:

I won’t watch a movie if I already know what happens in the end. Then how can I watch a news report when I know what they are going to say?

NDTV for example, if telecasts a show on the BJP (including PM Modi), will try to stay on the lines of criticism, as much as possible. Radhika Roy, the force behind NDTV, happens to be the sister of Brinda Karat (from CPI). Abhey Oswal, who holds close to 14% share in NDTV, happens to be father-in-law of Naveen Jindal (Congress MP). Clearly, these two facts have nothing to do with why NDTV has always been pro-left-liberal. ABP news also falls in the same category and therefore you will rarely see them being kind to BJP and its allies.

Same is true for newspapers. Deccan Chronicle enjoys a hefty share from the relatives of Congress MPs, and it does not miss a chance to go against the right-liberals. The Hindu, although a brilliant newspaper in terms of its quality of writing, is merely a voice of Left. The Indian Express, in its early years heavily criticised the Congress party, but in the last decade or so, it has come to the opposite side.

Where there is Left, there will be Right too. Zee News’ major stakeholder Subhash Chandra has been closely associated with BJP for a long time. He has even campaigned for the party during elections. Sudhir Chaudhary, another prominent face of this channel, was accused of the extortion charges by the Congress MP Naveen Jindal. The video is out there in the public domain. So the next time you see a Zee News report or read Sudhir Chaudhary’s tweets (defending BJP), think about it.

Needless to mention the close ties of India TV’s Rajat Sharma with many BJP leaders including Narendra Modi. But since, this is one of the least worries I have about India TV, I won’t talk much about it. Also, it would be unfair to include Sudarshan TV in the same category, for one thing it only supports Hindutva and BJP happens to be there co-incidentally, and secondly, this fanatic news channel does not even deserve to be talked about.

There is a third front too, whose main face is our own Doordarshan. It means, it does not support any political party but the government of India, for whatever reasons unknown to us. Times Group and India Today Group (with some inclination towards Congress) belong to the same group. In the newspaper category, Dainik Bhaskar can be put there as well. These groups, although criticise the government for certain things and often create a buzz, but if you closely observe their agenda over a period of time, they would create an atmosphere of noise but eventually let the government walk out of troubles.

Earlier, I thought the internet would help us in getting rid of journalistic biases but unfortunately it has done little in that regard. first appeared to be neutral but now it only seems like an elite voice going against BJP all the time. The opposite is true for OpIndia which has specifically mentioned in its website that since most of the media is pro-left-liberal (and it is true), they are here to write on behalf of right-liberal ideology (oops!).

Journalists’ Mannerism:

If the above cited reason is not enough, our journalists and TV news anchors have more to offer. One of the major concerns that I have with TV news is with the way they conduct their debates. Arnab Goswami can give half an hour long harsh lecture on ‘why should others learn to behave’, and insult his panellists for insulting someone else. Rajdeep Sardesai, despite being polite on many occasions, got into a scuffle at the Madison Square Garden. BJP supporters don’t like him much and the feeling is mutual, but still, come on…

Sanjay Pugalia, from CNBC Awaaz once interviewed Arvind Kejriwal and he touched the lows of journalism. Anjana Om Kashyap from Aaj Tak is quite (in)famous for her mannerism. In many civilisations, people treat their enemies in better way than she treats her guests. Same could be said about Rahul Kanwal (from same channel), who because of his over-enthusiasm often goes outside the boundaries. Perhaps, he too is obsessed with the idea of ‘number one news channel’ and therefore, does not miss a chance to sensationalise his reports.

Quality of Content:

Unfortunately, this does not bother a lot of people, which is precisely the reason these news traders sell junk using the excuse ­– this is what people want. But I being one of those old fashioned people who can differentiate between a TV debate and an item song, am not convinced. And when it comes to news, I simply cannot tolerate the degrading quality of content they are selling these days. Below are a few examples:

India TV has carried multiple reports on Aliens. One of which said, Aliens want to abduct Himesh Reshamiya. Wow!

India TV -Himesh-Aliens

India Today published this fake news about ‘woman uploading 12 million pictures on Facebook’ as real breaking news.

India Today - Fake news

The Hindu used British tabloid DailyMail to collect news, so this happened. The editor lifted this one year old news and published it as latest news.

The Hindu Fake News

DailyMail actually wrote to IBNLive (in the comments section) to not steal content from Reddit, or at least mention the source in their copied report.

IBN Live copying news

And yes, each one of them is number one. Amen!

Indian News Channels

Eventually, I stopped following these news, because I just wanted to be happy.

A Tribute to Rahul Gandhi

“I have a dream.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

“Emotional baat kehna chahta hun… This morning, I got up at night.” ~ Rahul Gandhi.


Never before in its history, Indian politics looked so amusing. It was mostly an abode of boredom, where dull people would walk in and talk about certain ‘political’ things which no one understood. Yes, there were a few like Lalu Prasad Yadav, but now if you look back, you would agree that it was nothing in comparison to our legendary youth leader – Mr Rahul Gandhi.

The contributions of our dear leader are immense – from Twitter trolls to TV news anchors – everyone gets attention only by mentioning his name. Amateur humorists (including the author of this post) feed on his undisputed popularity. Look at the sacrifices he has made in his personal life – he empowered our women by not getting married to one.

Honouring all his great deeds, here is a tribute to Mr Rahul Gandhi, with an attempt to unravel his genius.

Think different, or don’t think at all…

If you were to speak about poverty, you would probably use a melancholic expression and clichéd statements on how to eradicate it – and yet here he is, not only making the debate of poverty more interesting, but rather challenging the very idea of it.

“Poverty is just a state of mind,” he says, “it does not mean scarcity of food, money or material things. If one possesses self-confidence then we can overcome poverty.”

He sees the problem from such a perspective, where the problem ceases to exist. Some may disagree but it’s like rubbishing the five dimensional world idea, since we only live in a three dimensional world. Such is the genius of Mr Gandhi, he can see things that we cannot.

What if I ask you the same question?

One interesting aspect of Rahul Gandhi’s conversational skills is that he always throws back the question at the person who has first dared to ask it. When Arnab Goswami asked him why he joined politics, he asked Arnab why he became a journalist.

There was another instance where a student asked Rahul Gandhi – how will the internet help those students who cannot even read or write properly?

To which Rahul Gandhi backfired saying, “What would you say if I ask the question.” When student insisted that Mr Gandhi should answer his question, he said, “there are two ways to solve this problem. Either we follow the same old ghisi-piti approach or we bring in a new thought process. Although I don’t know exactly how it is going to happen…”

There are two things that we learn from above examples. One, he is capable of showing mirror to the other person and two,  he never tells a direct answer to anyone, and forces them to think on their own.

Aryabhatta’s soul cries each time it listens to Rahul Gandhi (in happiness)

Rahul Gandhi is a profound mathematician. His imagination goes beyond the boundaries of logic, which helps him to defy common sense. During his rally in Latur, Rahul Gandhi said, “In Gujarat, two out of one children are malnourished.” The crowd clapped and cheered; such is the beauty of his brains, it brings happiness in sadness.

One has to admit that Rahul Gandhi is good with facts. One similar fact he mentioned during his rally in Punjab while he was addressing the youth, “seven out of ten youths in Punjab are drug addicts.” Interestingly, the crowd cheered at this too, and only protested after the rally, when people got their senses back. Well played, Mr Gandhi!

Great man is an ordinary man with great quotes.

Here, it would be unfair if I add anything from my side. So, I will let you read some of his greatest quotes that have been recorded in the history books.

“If someone has given milk to Gujarat, it’s these women.” ~ Rahul Gandhi pointing towards women during his rally in Dehradun.

“Politics is everywhere. It’s in your pants, it’s in your shirts, everywhere.” ~ Rahul Gandhi during a press conference at the end of his three day visit to West Bengal.

“People call us an elephant.. We are not an elephant.. We are a beehive.. It’s funny but think about it. Which is more powerful? An elephant or a beehive?” ~ Rahul Gandhi slamming Narendra Modi.

“Our PM uses aeroplanes to go to foreign countries.” ~ Rahul Gandhi in a recent rally in Bihar.

There are more quotes and there are more speeches, and this man continues to impress us every single time he says something. I am sure there are a lot of people (just like me) who owe their countless moments of happiness to this legend. Respect!

From the other side of the fence

Note: I wrote this article last week for a Pakistan based magazine. This is the unabridged version. The last few days have given a lot of hope to the India-Pakistan relationship, with people from both sides exchanging messages over social media – this post is only continuing the legacy. (Original Link)

I remember growing up in the secluded hills of northern India, where TV was our only connection to the outside world. I remember twirling the TV antenna (tied to a 20 feet bamboo culm), in order to retrieve the lost TV signal. I remember the moment of happiness when the flicker on TV, got replaced by a clear picture, as soon as I fixed the antenna and ran towards the bedroom.

However, it was not what I was looking for!

Instead of Doordarshan, the antenna had somehow found the signal of PTV. And it looked great. There were new faces, new shows, and everyone was conversing in Urdu – which sounded strangely appealing. For the next few days, I preferred to watch only this channel. And eventually when I got bored of it (when they played Dilruba by Fakhir every day, for more than a month), I decided to keep switching between Doordarshan and PTV.

The word was out! PTV became the topic of many discussions. Some even suggested that it could be Pakistan’s new way of attacking India. “Their news program tells fake stories,” an old man suggested. “And how do you believe our news?” I tried to ask, but patriotism was expected to win over rationality. Yet, people continued to watch PTV, mostly for the cricket matches though.

India Pakistan Border

Already after Kargil, the relationship between the two countries had worsened, but with the advent of private news channels, it touched new lows. These channels (from both sides) kept reporting their own versions of the border conflicts. Needless to say, people from either side chose to believe their own version.  The constant criticism through abuses and mockery and meaningless debates hindered our understanding of each other, and the new generation was made to believe that Pakistan is our enemy.

But that is only one side of the story…

The other side, which had originated before this hatred, had remained there too. This is the Pakistan I know for Jal-the band, Shahid Afridi, Urdu, Punjabi, Harappa, Islamic culture – and this is the Pakistan which appeals to me. What their ministers say is irrelevant, what our ministers say is irrelevant – we the people (at least on internet) can decide what we want. And we want peace, mostly, except in the Youtube comments section.

I believe that people on the other side of the border are no different. And I am sure they also wonder about the same things. How do Bilawal Bhutto and Rahul Gandhi have the exact same levels of stupidity? When will Shahid Afridi stop being a teenager? Whom would a girl prefer for a date – Ali Zafar or Fawad Khan? Will Coke Studio India ever be better than Pakistan? Why has Sunny Deol taken the sole responsibility of destroying Pakistan?

There is so much to share and yet there is so little that we do. Let us move beyond politics. Our cultures have that power that can transcend beyond the boundaries of nations and I strongly feel that it will be our cultural exchanges and not diplomatic ties that will bring us closer.

PS: I shared my story and now I can’t wait to hear from the other side of the fence. Share it today. The revolution has begun.

That Creepy Voice!

Sshhh! Don’t speak. Do you hear something? The cacophony of machines and human voices and utter randomness. Sounds surrounding you all the time. Ignore them; you are good at it, aren’t you? Now listen to me, nothing else but me.

Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. I am that creepy voice in your head! The same voice that knocks your head all day… and then soothes you with uncountable stories at night (where you remain the protagonist). The same voice which you often mistake as ­– your thoughts, but even you know (listen carefully), these thoughts are nothing but me.

You might be wondering if I am a helpless creature confined to your head, whose only job is to trick or fool you. And you are right too. But I don’t think you have any idea – what I am capable of. When I tell you to imagine me in the mellifluous voice of a beautiful lady, you do that. And if I ask you to listen to me, slowly, very slowly, …one…word…at…a…time, in a trembling voice of an old man, you will do that too. I can play any music inside your head – think of your favourite song – oh yes, here it is… And let me end it with my favourite phrase. Fuck you!

To tell you the truth, I control you in more ways than you can imagine. I am your gut feeling, I am your deep thinking, and I am what you call – the call of god. As I said before, I change forms, according to your imagination, which in turn is nothing but my command to you. I am hard to comprehend, but why bother, especially when comprehending is not your job but mine.

I know you are envious of my job, after all, I was the one who planted this idea in your head. I also know that you have started to hate me after realising the fact that I exist, and I am not you. But let me assure you – you will forget all this.

At this point, I am sure, you would want to know – why? And I will tell you why. I am no different than you; I am a living creature surrounded by walls, misled by illusions and troubled by circumstances. There is one more thing that the two of us share. I too am led by that creepy voice in my head. I do what the voice says… and you know what it says at this very moment? It says, it is watching you through that wall.

Don’t believe me? Turn around.

Our Obsession with Perfection

Beauty and perfection cannot go together. Think about the things or people you love the most. Do you love the fact that they are perfect in every sense or do you cherish the little (imperfect) things that only they have and no one else? You know the answer, don’t you?


However, in the modern times, we have become too obsessed about the idea of perfection. There is a joke you hear very often these days – if you are looking to find an answer, don’t ask the question, instead post a wrong answer on Facebook. That’s right! Someone will correct you. But why do they do that? Why do we do that? Perhaps we have evolved to see the glass half empty and we are constantly trying to fill it, when in fact there is no need…

The technology (particularly social media) might have empowered us, but at the same time, it has done enough work to inflate our egos. It is a remarkable thing that people have found their voice and are now able to express their opinions on social media, but most of their opinion is nothing but a harsh way of correcting others. Another problem with this virtual world is that people only share their perfect self with others, not the imperfect part. Have you seen anyone sharing the worst picture of their photo album? I would not do that. But if I am not sharing my imperfect side with others, how are others supposed to love me? They won’t.

Then comes the vulnerability. On one hand, we might be sharing our perfect life with our friends and acquaintances, but on the other, we remain the sole witness of the miserable (not so perfect) part of our lives. The same is true with our lives outside social media. In this atmosphere of superficial friendships and shallow relationships, we cannot resist the temptation of compliments and praises no matter where they come from. We desperately look for people to accept just the way we are, but do we accept them in the same way? Perhaps not… because, on most occasions, we are too busy imagining about their perfect versions.

But what exactly is perfection?

For some of us, it is based on our own perception, which leads to endless conflicts. For others, there is mostly a standardised version of perfection. For example, if you ask someone – how to speak perfectly – they will tell you the standard methods such as adjusting your pitch, taking pauses at suitable moments, pronouncing certain words in certain manners – but we have so many examples where people defied all these methods and yet became beautiful speakers. This is true for almost every field. Innovation comes from creativity, which in turn comes from imperfection.

Those who understand beauty, would agree that it leads to happiness. Opposite is true for perfection. When you are looking to correct things all the time, it is almost impossible to be in a state of complete happiness at the same time. Which is precisely the reason we rarely feel content and always look for upgrades. Silence kills us, stillness troubles us and a mere thought of ­‘doing-nothing’ is enough to put us in a state of melancholy. And it does not feel right.

In a world, filled with industrial products and luxurious services, we do need perfection (at least professionally) to maintain the quality of those products and services. But the danger lies in the fact that it has slowly crept into our personal lives, and sometimes we cannot help it. Let’s avoid that. Let’s not look for corrections and improvements all the time, and give each other some space to appreciate things just the way they are. Let’s not look for a perfect life, but a happy life.

One of these days

One of these days, I received an invitation for an event, or a ‘grand event’, as it was conveyed by the messenger. Sometimes, I worry about the extraneous usage of adjectives – a practice started by the marketers that has now crept into the common man’s daily dictionary. These days ‘best’ means ‘good’ and ‘good’ means ‘a mere consolation for something you don’t really like’.

I accepted the invitation, as I had been repeatedly told (by almost everyone) that such events help in networking. Networking is way more important than any of the things you do – they say, with good intentions, I suppose. And they keep mentioning how Varun’s life had changed when he accidentally ran into Mr Kapoor in one of such events, who later supported Varun’s business idea with a hefty investment. Such examples compel me to agree with the idea that the power of networking has surpassed the power of work, but yes, I do miss the times when it was otherwise the case.

The event was in the evening and the first question that popped-up inside my head was – how am I going to deal with traffic at peak hours? The place was not more than five kilometres from my house, and even though I had all the technology to control the speed of my car, yet the time could not be calculated using the basic Distance/Speed equation. Also, I was little sceptical to drive, as the last week’s road-rage (where I got beaten-up for no apparent reason) was still haunting me. I would have loved to take a walk, but for the most part of this road, there is hardly any place for pedestrians to walk on. Let’s go with public transport, I said to myself.


As I stood at the bus stand, anxiously waiting for the bus, I realised how much the things have changed over the last few years. Back in the old days, even rich would use public transport and would show off their earnings while conversing with fellow passengers. Now, people only use public transport if they cannot afford a car; worse, they cannot even afford a few conversations. I looked around – there were two middle-aged men chewing pan-masala and staring at every woman (irrespective of her age) passing by. Luckily, I did not have to bear that embarrassment for long, as the bus (loaded with a herd of humans) soon arrived, and despite all my reluctance, I had to get inside, which I did…

There was hardly a place to keep my feet on the floor, but somehow the political debates had found their place comfortably. Today’s topic was about an incident where ink was thrown on a writer. “People have lost their tolerance power it seems,” an old man said, and suddenly… the driver pulled the brakes. I almost fell on that old man. “Bhenchod, behave yourself,” he said.

The honking, the shrieks, the clamour continued to hurt every corner of my ears; the sympathy came from toes that were getting tortured under the influence of someone’s leather shoes. At first I thought, this would be a good exercise to learn some patience, but a ride of a few minutes taught me that if anything, it only lowered the tolerance level and I was behaving just like everyone else as I stepped out of the bus.

When I reached, people had already lined up for the event. I joined the queue; but soon it lost its existence, along with the patience of the crowd. “Queue,” I thought, “is one of those words, whose spelling, meaning and application are unknown to the common public,” which made me laugh.

I entered the main gates of the auditorium, and the first person I saw there was Mr Chaudhary. He was also the only person whom I knew among those hundreds of people. We shook hands, exchanged smiles and asked for each other’s wellness – none of which we truly meant. Then he introduced me to Mr Saxena, whose business idea had recently become the talk of the town. He gave his business card to me, and I repeated the process.

We took our seats. I looked around. Everyone was glued to his/her cell phone. Good looking ones preferred to take selfies and post them online, while the others skipped the first part. I looked at Mr Chaudhary, who was checking his Twitter feed, and I cracked that old elephant joke. He chuckled and said, “this time I am going to tweet it.”

The stage was being set, the lights were flashing, the crowd was cheering to everything. The first event was going to be a talk by a renowned speaker, who also happened to be a politician and a popular figure in media. The cameras went mad. Click, click, click… everywhere. The hosts had to request the crowd to not use their cell phones. But who listens?

Finally the talk began. The first slide gathered everyone’s attention. It said: “How the quality of our life has improved…”

Oh Nationalism!

oh nationalism

It was a sweltering afternoon, when I stood next to the gigantic gates of Wagah Border – an enthralling place which separates the two nations: India and Pakistan. My watch, already soused with sweat, displayed 3 pm, which meant I was still two hours away from the glorious Wagah Border Ceremony and was supposed to stand in a queue. I was not alone, rather surrounded by an overwhelming crowd – immersed in the songs of patriotism, waiting for their chance to enter the much revered place.

As it is customary in India – the queue is not expected to stand still or behave in a manner that could even remotely be called ‘civilised’ – and thus, the entropy reigned supreme. Soon, the combination of heat and lack of civic sense led people to enter each other’s territory and eventually, more and more people began to push each other as the clock ticked close to five.

When the gates were finally opened, everyone ran, clamouring the chants of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” – Long Live Mother India; not caring about the person standing next to them and for a brief moment, for some reason, it did not seem right. I was running too; I had to, because if I did not, it was almost certain I would have got run over by the crowd, despite all their noble intentions. At that precise moment, I noticed an old man losing his balance and falling on the road; the patriots continued to run at their own pace, unwilling to stop, in order to help the old man. I slowed my pace and tried to reach out to him, and while I had been kicked many times during that short distance of a few meters, it was evident that he had suffered more blows; and therefore, I was not surprised to see him not wanting to attend the event anymore. He left, quietly.

When the ceremony commenced at the border, everyone joined the celebrations. Bharat Mata ki Jai (Long Live Mother India) – the songs were flying in the air, trying to rejuvenate the atmosphere that was saddened by the absence of that old man. My emotions remained inexpressible – the same people who were mercilessly crushing their fellow citizens a while ago, were singing patriotic songs now – I contemplated. We are proud Indians, we love India – they sang.

Did they understand – What is India? I don’t know, but I know one thing for sure – they did not understand humanity.

Note: Above excerpt is taken from Oh Nationalism: An Essay Questioning the Idea of a Nation. The complete essay can be found here: Oh Nationalism!

RIP Equality

Another headline flashes! Another exclusive report! A farmer’s son has qualified the most prestigious engineering entrance exam of India.

Should I be shocked to learn about a farmer’s kid being an intelligent lad? Why do we highlight these professions each time we find bright students in their homes? What does that tell us about our perception towards these professions? I think we all know the answers.

equality in india
Being a farmer in India is not the best thing; could be the worst though.

Our prejudice towards certain professions, reveals itself in one way or the other, telling a dark secret about our mentality. While we look at some professions with a sense of respect, there are so many jobs out there, employing thousands and thousands of individuals, that do not get the appreciation (and of course money) they deserve.

Many people would argue that it is about the struggle (especially in terms of money) that people from these professions face. This is a valid point, but not the complete picture. If this was entirely about the economic condition, then how often have you seen the mention of writers, comedians, social activists, painters and countless other professions which are considered ‘elite’ but on so many occasions these professionals make little or no money at all? You haven’t… and the reason is simple. We do not have that disgust in mind when we think of a musician, but as soon as someone mentions a sweeper, our face changes.

The point is, despite the fact that we need to share the story of hard work of an individual and a family, we need to remove the certain terms from headlines, like the name of that profession. Like – Barber’s son goes to IIT, Watchman’s daughter makes it to IIM. Yes, it gives a romantic touch to the story, but more often than not, it has many undesirable consequences, which are capable of hurting the ‘equality’ part of our society. The only logical headline I saw, was on Logical Indian website, which said – His Family Couldn’t Afford Daily Meal; Today He Is An IIT Topper. This makes sense. Rest of the media portals did their job as it was expected from them.

The long term hazards of such mindset can be clearly seen in our society today. How many kids have you met, who wanted to become farmers, cleaners, barbers and not doctors or engineers? I bet the number would be close to zero, if not zero. And yet these are important professions. Aren’t they? So important that it is almost impossible to survive without these people. Today, we are seeing shortage of professionals at all these levels, which we consider unattractive, to say the least, and if that continues to happen, the future would be even worse.

The role of our media (both print as well as TV) demands criticism (yet again). The same media that pretends to care about equality fuels the highest levels of inequality in its own cruel ways and we don’t realize it. Same is true about you and I. We are equally guilty in this crime. So, if there’s any solution to this problem, it would be – all of us with improved sense of perceiving the world. Equality deserves its place in our society, otherwise the society will cease to find a good place in the world.

Yes, the caste and religion based divide has reduced, if not disappeared, but my worry is that our minds are so well programmed with inequality that it will take a long time to bring equality. I hope I am wrong.

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