Sunday, December 30, 2012



Before I share my New Year resolves, I feel the death of the fearless 'daughter of India', gang raped and gruesomely battered in a moving bus in Delhi is too bone chilling an episode to be sidetracked or forgotten  easily. It is an awakening call to the framers of law and the general public who look the other way and feel totally indifferent to the happenings around. The powers that be appear to be hardly bothered cloistered as they are in a cocooned safety. This apathy has gone too far to be forgiven any longer. The cause concerns every single one of us.

The patriarchal, chauvinistic mindset which belittles and downplays women emancipation needs a vociferous burial. Let’s see how the concerned authorities act upon the statements which they make in their public appearances. Now the surcharged public outrage won’t be appeased with mere words sans concrete action.

We barely survived in 2012. The leitmotif of this BLACK SATURDAY will surely stalk us in the New Year.

Irrespective of encircling dark clouds of evil tidings, I recall Alfred Tennyson’s wonderful lines:

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
            Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
           Ring out the false, ring in the true

The countdown to 2013 has already begun. I for my part have decided to turn a new leaf from the auspicious dawn of the New Year. Of course my wish list for the New Year will never be complete because my demands are crazy and keep multiplying by the hour. For example in my dreamy moments, I wish the mess around us be thrust deep down under some mythological abyss, guarded by giants with flaming torches at its entrance, thereby making escape Na mumkin. smirk at such a silly pipe dream! But our imagination is free and mercifully not under the control of any thought police (ref. George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty Four”). If the above is sheer nonsense then, let there be the genie, the kind we find in Arabian Adventures of“Aladdin’s lamp” which may sweep into nothingness all the grimness and cynicism with the sleight of his hand. Ridiculously droll in this world of rapid scientific advancements to think of such funny solutions.
I confess sheepishly that to offer solutions to overcome the surrounding muddle is not my cup of tea after all. I let it go. But my internal critic has to be pacified. Its threatening growls are getting louder every day for some action on my part. So I decided to make some New Year resolves to bail myself out of the pricking interiority. I hope, my friends; you’ll give me thumbs up for my daring.
To be frank all my promises are linked to the social narrative of our lives. A political narrative is beyond me. Though I’m impacted intensely by the prevailing scenario.

                                      On this day I make a resolve that………

Please excuse some role reversal here and there. Being a weak kneed person I’m mortally scared of fracas on the road. Therefore, I promise to be very discreet on the roads because I wish to remain alive for some time more. Hence I will respond smilingly to pressure horns of private bus operators, drunken truckers, police vehicles with some big gun inside, macho cash rich young men driving swanky cars bought with dad’s overflowing pockets from hefty compensation amounts from the govt. for land acquisition deals. I’ll oblige immediately and slow down to let them pass victoriously.

When some half witted behind the wheel passes me from the left I simply thank God that my car and my limbs are intact. And I simply exclaim to console my helplessness," Oh my God”! When some hoodlum jumps a line and drives to the jam packed front at a manned railway crossing, I’ll flaunt a fake amused look because of my saintly tolerance. .
Little role reversal. As a biker I feel ashamed to drive in the two wheeler lane. I’ll be in between the cars in the fast moving lane, negotiating angles like a stunt man, making the drivers of other vehicles drive with their hearts in their laps. Oh no, I’ll also indulge in instant gratification of talking on my mobile by tilting my neck to reach the mobile deftly placed on the shoulder, as my friend’ll not wait. I’m the king of the road. My motto is: speed thrills and other commuters better behave.
As a road user on the inner roads, I’ll follow iconic mannerisms. I’ll prefer walking in the middle of the road. Will not look right or left while crossing the road and if some one honked his horn, I will collect some like minded people and question the daring of the particular human. He’ll be lucky if he is allowed to leave simply with a verbal lashing.

And then while walking my dog I’ll release the leash and let him scare some passerby or defecate on well maintained grassy area outside the main gate of any house. It should not be my house. Others be  damned. I will not hesitate after some he hawing to spit on the sidewalk. Ostensibly to clear my throat of some irritant.
As house holder I’m going to act as a role model. When no body is watching I’ll throw left over food on the side of the road because I don’t want to waste food. Stray dogs, flies, and mosquitoes will have a field day and subsequently, stink as a bonus. I won’t mind stealthily littering the area near my house with pea shells carrot peel, radish leaves and other pickings.
My capacity to ruffle peace is legendary. My children’ll brazenly play cricket on the community roads and smash a few window panes of neighboring houses, trespass them to retrieve the ball and leave the gate ajar. The brats will cause full throated commotion around, preventing peace loving gentle folks to enjoy some undisturbed moments in their lawns for fear of being hit by the ball. No request or persuasion from the aggrieved parties will penetrate my skin.
Of course I’m raising the future generation of our country. The promising brats’ll sure make me feel proud.
In social gatherings I’ll aggressively indulge in a monologue, preventing others from intervening even edgeways. I’ll out shout everyone to silence and usurp all the space for me, mine and myself.
At parties I’ll overload my plate with food as if there is no tomorrow and later unable to consume the whole, unabashedly leave the plate under the table for all to see.
At recently opened Bharti Wal-Mart stores my children and I’ll touch and feel every item and ignore if my child picks up a small chocolate and eats in the safety of the isle. I’m in fact preparing him for striking profitable deals in life ahead.
My megalomania doesn’t stop here but I’ll ,for fear of creating a déjà vu in your minds. So I'm tearing the oppressive wish list to pieces. Enough is enough. Don’t you think my hubris need reigning in?

Image coutesy: Internet
Pl. share your new year promises for all to ponder over.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Here I'm going to share with you a fascinating narrative style of two great novelists of 20th century whose novels I happened to read when I was a university student. This literary technique is called “Stream of Consciousness.” Virginia Woolf and James Joyce were the pioneers and both applied it to great advantage in their novels. These two novelists were actually a part of the syllabus of ‘Modern Fiction’, one of the papers for Masters in English literature which I was pursuing at that time.

In this narrative style the story is told through a type of interior monologue, which takes place in the characters’ minds, minus unity of time and place. The writer bares the internal soliloquy of the characters through disjointed, incoherent pieces of information which the reader has to put together by joining the incidents and events into a logical whole in one’s head. To be honest that bland diet was tough for a young girl of twenty. Those were the days with entirely untamed perceptions and impatience of the callow and restless, but there was no way out. The upside was that even the heavy content didn’t block the realization that you ‘ere grounded in a world similar to your own.
Much later when my perusal was purely for reading pleasure, the books proved to be a window to the existential complexities of our pilgrimage on earth. Like a real rainbow which appears on some rare day after rains, real life rainbows most often than not are rare too. But gnawing hot spots in life keep us subdued and these colors don't get noticed. This reflection is brought out most vividly in the books I’m referring to.

Now let me introduce the books. On my very first reading of Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway (pub.1925), as expected, I was led to a lonely road where I had to grope my way out. Later on, I became more familiar with it, and could read half way James Joyce’s "The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (pub.1916). At that time I found Mrs. Dalloway interesting and Joyce’s portrait somewhat cerebral. I attempted to read it through later, as its novel approach to story telling could not be ignored. However “Mrs. Dalloway”, I always enjoyed and experienced new insights unfolded in every fresh reading. Though I must confess that on the first reading of this experimental approach to fiction writing, one has to forage for narrative links to make sense of the intricacies of the plot structure. It challenges your intellect and you love this poking. A writer has to plunge into unknown territories to keep the grey cells motivated.

Undoubtedly the technique does give the writer enough scope for a in depth characterization. Joyce in his “The Portrait…” weaves the complicated journey of Stephan’s ( the hero) life from a submissive childhood to mature adulthood, through threading his thought processes, his sensory impressions, and his remembrances. His upbringing vis-à-vis his parents and his relatives; his homesickness, his sensitivities and his school life are revealed via his internal musings as a boarder.
“Mrs. Dalloway” is an account of a single day in the life of Clarissa the wife of a suave, high ranking government official Richard Dalloway; as she goes to buy flowers for the evening party which she is hosting that night. When she moves around London shopping centers, her mind rushes back and forth in time, dwelling on her young days at Burton, her present position, her doubts, her finer points, her desires, her regrets, her one time suitor Peter Walsh and why she did not marry him and chose Richard Dalloway instead. Her uncensored mental journey reveals brilliant sparks of complex human emotions. The reader relates to her turmoil as she takes you along, while traversing the secret furrows of her mind. You never lose sympathy for her and admire her childlike misgivings. You love her because her concerns are our concerns and like us she is not perfect. Her psychological musings during her walk open up the corridors to what she thinks her life is all about, as she indulges in harsh self analysis.
Only a great writer can create a master piece through a style which is born out of randomness. To keep under control various strings of story line, while sustaining the curiosity of the reader is a feat of writing artistry.
This unique method of story telling gives an edge to the writer in as much as it gifts a license to do away with most of punctuation necessities. It certainly lubricates and exercises the gray cells.
Dear friends, just imagine if one of us (provided we can communicate) manage to figure out our mental gallop of a few hours in readable prose! It can be an amusing frame if painted diligently.Or someone with a penchant for story telling can knit a psychological thriller using this approach.
For example while chopping vegetables I was in fact thinking of Chetan Bhagat’s novel “Revolution 2020” and praising the dramatic turn he gives to the story through a sudden transformation of the protagonist at the end. Interspersed with this, thoughts of going to the bank; visit to the tailor and how to write this piece which I had been postponing and scores of jumbled thoughts intruded simultaneously.
The originality of this style of narration however keeps our curiosity intact as the reader is all the time on his mental toes to comprehend the enigmatic hums and haws, subtle pauses and shifts of the internal commentary of the characters.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


God has blessed us with best means of communication through languages evolved by man over centuries. Words empower us to effectively communicate with others in everyday life situations.
 Words are pulsating power brokers in creating wealth of ideas in the minds of thinking beings.They give form and cohesion to thoughts which are communicated through grammatically structured and semantically sound sentences. Words weave magic in the experienced hands of a master craftsman: the literary artist.
 For instance poetry is interplay of melody in words. It is not the meaning but apt choices of words which make us go over and over again to stanzas which are sheer music to the ears.  Wordsworth’s DAFFODILS conjure up in the mind’s eye the bliss of dancing daffodils in the breeze. What can surpass the sleepy tenor of words when a mother puts her baby to sleep singing a lullaby bringing Chanda Mama in the child's lap? Welcoming words from parents’, siblings, and one’s spouse have the ability to calm many a ruffled feather. Such is the charm and honeyed appeal of words.
It is the words which write beautiful stories for us. They chronicle the events of past ages. They enable us to peek into the saga of families .They glide us through romance and love. They express our grief and sorrows. They inspire us. They guide us in life’s rough patches. They stand by us in all situations and are our loyal friends.
However, words are like a double edged sword. They become an arsenal in the hands of leaders who sway public opinion in their favour for nefarious purposes. World History is replete with examples of the vicious use of words to manipulate the sentiments of the people. Hitler’s propaganda machinery is a case in point. His megalomania led to near destruction of the world and changed the course of world history.
There are umpteen instances also, where the oratorical skills of the well-meaning leaders turned the tables on the unscrupulous elements and brought forth tremendous changes.
Battles are won or lost depending on the oratorical dexterity of a General to revive the sagging confidence of his forces or of a teacher to lift the students out of examination fever or of a parent to calm a restive child or of a lover to reassure his beloved
I had forged an amorous relationship with words a long time back when I was in college. The first two books which I got issued from my college library were Pearl S. Buck’s, “The Good Earth” and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, “The Hound of The Baskervilles Both books introduced me to an entirely new but fascinating world of fiction where ingenious use of word formations articulated a mesmerizing world of gripping stories.   
How the dexterous use of words brought to life Sherlock Holmes the legendary fictional detective, with whose personality readers were smitten.  His persona: enigmatic, mysteriously romantic, wearing a long coat, smoking  pipe and his alter ego Dr.Watson held sway over my curious and impressionable mind for long. It was the magical words which crafted those unputdownable mysteries. It was during these years my interest for reading and learning new words developed and became a lifelong passion
More recently the supernatural narrative of Harry Potter books spiced with enchanting word power crazed the youngsters all over the globe. Our grandson not yet thirteen told me that he had read some of them fifty times over.   
Words are powerful entities and extend their semantic boundaries regularly, defining new concepts, and conferring nomenclature to changes which are taking place in the universe all the time. Languages keep pace with the needs of the expanding world by assimilating words from other languages and cultures or by coining new words.
 In his book “Literature and Science” Aldous Huxley says that ‘words empower us not only to communicate scientific quantified regularities but also to weave oceans of human experiences and emotions in a purified, highly sensitized and nuanced language.’
Word games are proliferating in print media and being lapped by young and old. All-time favorite ‘Scrabble’ has its loyal fan base. Testing the vocabulary and comprehension of the students are an integral part of school curriculum, language proficiency tests and competitive examinations.
The contribution of the popular ‘Reader’s Digest’ with its attractive page, “Word Power” has readers (including myself) addicted to the page and the first thing which they check out is this interestingly conceived page.
Words will always remain inadequate to express the infinite world in which we dwell. Language says Saussure (father of modern Linguistics) is a living organism and flexibility in its connotative sphere is inbuilt. Words denote particularities but connote concepts as they combine two aspects of the language phenomenon i.e. concept vs. acoustic image.

For a writer an enriched vocabulary opens up possibilities of penning down deeply felt experiences evocatively.

Images: courtesy Internet
 Your  comments are awaited eagerly.

Friday, December 7, 2012


My morning walk constitutes a panorama of unique delights and also some reflective moments. I feel blessed to be able to enjoy the wonderful environs of a park which is close to my house and is largely instrumental in goading me, to dwell on certain uncomfortable realities of human existence.  Here every day, brings new landscape of surprises, possibilities and rich food for thought.
Once there, far removed from the mundane every day hassles and breathing balmy and refreshing breeze make my spirits soar. The company of ‘innocence’ personified in the persona of joyful larks under a pure azure sky, illumined by precious, warm and golden December sunshine lends a brilliant charm to the surroundings. It is quintessentially a world which is known only to a fortunate few amongst us.
That the larks will acquire the potency of a metaphor with an original linkage baffle me. My heart melts with pure appreciation for the happy go lucky larks that gift me boundless joy with their childlike gaiety and self absorption, as they concentrate on their task of finding insects, seeds etc.They symbolize unadulterated mirth.Their body language oozes easiness and unusual confidence, though they look somewhat unglamorous. They have nothing to hide. No money in Swiss banks, no tax evasion and no hypocrisy.
Sometimes I feel a twinge of disdain, in their-don’t care a damn- attitude as they don’t even register my presence.   However, I often sense some trepidation in their flight as if my being there resurrected some long suppressed anger out in the open. Suddenly converging under a silver oak tree, they twitter agitatedly which rises to a crescendo. Perhaps that is how they articulate their grievances, “You’ve usurped all the vacant land for your skyscrapers and big, small houses.You axe  trees mercilessly and pollute everything with your callous ways. And now how  dare you to trespass this small space too! Why don’t you leave us alone? God’s bountiful earth gives us sufficient food and a small puddle here and there to quench our thirst. Don’t interrupt our few moments of relaxation.”
“Do you ever realize how you harm us by throwing trash everywhere which remains unlifted and decays? We unknowingly peck at  it, fall sick and die. Our young ones’ get infected too. Have you ever done surveys why our population is decreasing because there is no space for us to raise our families? You are predators around us. Have you ever paused to notice that the sprightly house sparrows around whom such sweet children’s stories were woven are almost extinct?"
" Then imagine the ear splitting noise pollution of your possessions. You celebrate your Diwali while we fly from one place to the other in terror, as if our bodies will burst with the deafening sounds."
" There was a time, we used to have refreshing ablutions on the banks of water bodies and now when we step there, our tiny feet get entangled in the refuse and our nostrils are invaded with foul smell, forcing us to beat a hasty retreat. We’ve even been robbed of this modest pleasure."

Continuing their harangue while looking at me accusingly they blurted out, “Look over there, those mangy mongrels keep chasing us, when we descend on the side walk, to fluff our feathers to soak in the warmness of the sun. They scare us away. What have you done to check their numbers, when you know that they spread disease and feed on filth and defecate and urinate on the grass where your children play games, sit and chat? You remain engrossed in hoarding money by whatever means to push your good for nothing sons and buy them positions with your filthy lucre and arrange grand wedding extravaganzas for your silly daughters." 
This barrage of invectives and snubs at the hands of ever charming larks, set me thinking about the stark truth of their assertions. I realized how genuine their protestations are and how insensitive our approaches! It is not the larks alone but it is the cry of all birds, to listen to which our ears are not attuned.
Other two:  courtesy Google

Friday, November 23, 2012


Our country's open belly is no less pernicious than its sordid underbelly which has a proven record of being dangerous and sinister. I am not talking about some mysterious bogey, but something which has been clearly recognized as a single most important cause of various epidemics and overall unhygienic surroundings, which has marred the beauty of our hills, towns, cities and villages, and yet it has been sidelined as if it does not exist. Yes, I am referring to the long standing, unheeded, serious issue of ever rising mounds of garbage seen everywhere in India without exception.
We have copied successfully so much from the west, yet incorporating even elementary garbage disposal techniques, on which depends the health of multitudes of Indians, have not been attempted committedly. The scourge, however, has stared us in the face all along. It won’t be gainsaying to say in the prevailing circumstances, that the whole country has turned more or less into a mammoth garbage dump.
The other day a TV channel covered the deplorable state of affairs in Bangalore, our IT hub, where heaps of stinking litter in residential areas has made the life of citizens unbearable. Even in other cities, the accumulation of garbage has reached alarming proportions. The pity is that there are no systematic plans put in place to tackle the curse.
A few days back I traveled by train from Patiala to Amritsar and back. It was appalling to see tons of garbage strewn along the tracks by the public residing in nearby colonies. The filth on the tracks has remained an unresolved issue for ever. Apart from govt. inaction,, there is gross lack of responsibility and discipline on the part of the milling population of our country.
The hospitals are reported to dispose off their waste outside their premises where rag pickers retrieve used syringes etc. which can go into wrong hands with fatal consequences. Need I mention, the swarms of flies and mosquitoes which thrive on these dumps and spread infections among people who pass by them? Imagine the burden of treating avoidable sicknesses on our already inadequate health services. When’ll there be some sort of accountability for these unethical practices, which are rampant in our country?
The industry effluents and shanty towns which have mushroomed on the banks of rivers have polluted our major rivers and left them unfit for human use and for the survival of under water organisms. Our sacred river Ganga is unrecognizable. Our recklessness and thoughtlessness has slighted its pious status.
While going from Patiala to Solan,  the one thing which greets the visitors on the way, is hordes of stray cattle, stray dogs and armies of monkeys, feeding on the littered waste on the roadsides. The scenario apart from being disgusting poses a grave danger to moving vehicles. Another eyesore on hills is mountain flanks being targeted as refuse disposal sites by all and sundry. One can imagine the loss to the tourism industry by this malady which tarnishes the image of a country.
Domestic refuse thrown haphazardly by people living in areas in close proximity to airports is a cause for concern. It was reported the other day in the newspaper that a stray dog was sighted on the tarmac of an airport in Punjab. Obviously he must have strayed there after feeding at a nearby waste dump.
Public awareness is a must. Educating the general public about their duties towards society and creating awareness about the ill effects of littering of the household trash are steps in the right direction.
There are far reaching consequences of this so far neglected crisis.The question arises, why is there this deep rooted apathy towards the deplorable state of affairs? Waste management requires serious mulling over.
The ambiguity- why the administrators at the highest level are shy of adopting measures which governments in the west and some European countries have adopted to solve this menace permanently? Why can’t we implement technically sound systems for perfect disposal of the waste materials, which are generated in tons with the changing mores of our society?
It is a solvable problem. But, what is required is the commitment and will on the part of authorities. The half hearted approaches so far have yielded no practicable solutions.

Your comments are welcome.

Images: courtesy Internet

Saturday, November 17, 2012


For the last about one month, I am witnessing a conspicuous change in the weather and can’t help marveling at nature’s timed commitments. Just by the middle of September we were freed from the tentacles of belated monsoon rains and withstood suffocating humidity and dampness all around. Then we had hardly had our fill of the pleasures of the improved weather conditions, when another natural phenomenon of falling leaves caught our attention.
Already deciduous trees in the park and beyond my boundary wall are busy shedding leaves. On a slightly windy day, sometimes when I look out of the window, the spectacle of melodic breeze dislodging droves of dry leaves down onto the ground, confirms the arrival of autumn in a big way. Fallen foliage and leaves are already spreading themselves in a thick sheet of rustling presence on the ground. The look of autumn here is dull and unruly with insipid looking brown and green leaves strewn around. The poor gardeners are having tough time in raking the sea of fallen leaves into piles before proper disposal.

It is said that in Kashmir the fallen leaves of chinar trees look delightful and saffron fields are a feast for the eyes during autumn.
In the US this season is aptly called the fall and I recall the breath taking beauty of autumn on both sides of the road, while driving from New York to Philadelphia with our daughter. The resplendent golden yellow, red and orange hued foliage shimmered in the sun giving an impression of a scene out of this world.
In Punjabi the nomenclature for this season is ‘Pat jharh’; Pat means leaves and jharh means shedding. In our part of the country, the season drags itself and continues to hold sway up to severe winter in January. In fact autumn and winter don’t have clear-cut boundaries and tend to over lap.
Autumn ushers in some nip in the air. Sweaters are out and mornings and evenings are pleasantly chilly. Fresh vegetables are available in abundance. Carrots, radishes, spinach, turnips and mustard greens are winter boons and are in great demand. The cooking buffs have a gala time fixing innovative dishes
Poets have eulogized this season in their muse. John Keats calls it the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ and has elevated it to great heights (Ode to Autumn) and compares its beauty with that of spring.

‘ Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,---'….

Some poets strike a melancholic mood and juxtapose the advent of wintry autumn with that of the aging human body which gets deprived of sharpness of vision, hearing, taste buds, reflexes and muscle power just like the bared trees.
Autumn has its own distinct personality in the cycle of seasons and its mild sunny days are meant to be enjoyed and appreciated.

What do you think of autumn, friends?  
Google images.

Monday, November 12, 2012



Wishing my blog friends a safe and joyous Diwali or Deepawali. It is one festival which signifies fun, fervour and no holds barred festivities.  Diwali is called the king of festivals and is celebrated throughout India as a festival of lights. With the beginning of Navratras Festive spirit takes hold of people, which reaches its crowning glory on Diwali.
Preparations for celebrating this auspicious occasion have been going on for a long time. People get their houses painted and scrupulously cleaned before Diwali and decorate them with bright and shimmering coloured artifacts, eye catching rangoli designs and by hanging new age paper lanterns. Commercial establishments are decked up to receive customers. Special discounts and gifts are announced by automobile companies and electronic goods stores to attract more buyers. In the real estate business also freebies are advertised to raise sales. Even banks exhort the investors to purchase specially minted gold coins as it is considered auspicious to buy gold.
People cook fancy dishes and prepare traditional cuisine in honour of the festival. Men women and children IN THEIR FESTIVE best make a beeline for visiting bazaars and sweet shops. One can’t imagine Diwali without kuch meetha ho jae clamour. Various varieties of designer chocolates have become a craze with youngsters this Diwali.
Though warm bonding and spirit of camaraderie is missing in relationships these days, but people still visit their friends and relatives and exchange gifts.
There is palpable dampness in the buying spree because of inflation, but the mood still is upbeat. Forgetting all worries people join in the fun and frolic unreservedly. Pomp, glitter and lot of fanfare mark the celebrations.
Householders hang multi coloured electric bulb strings on their parapets, around trees and bushes. Earthen lamps filled with mustard oil and cotton wicks represent the traditional way of lighting. In the evenings people go to gurudwaras and temples with offerings of sweets and dry fruits. They pay their obeisance and light candles in their precincts.
Special prayers are conducted at homes to propitiate the goddess of wealth to visit the family and bless them with prosperity
At night crackers are burst and rockets with special shimmers are propelled upwards to the amusement of young and old.
Let us take a pledge this Diwali to desist from bursting bombs, loud crackers which pollute the atmosphere with dangerous chemicals and raise noise levels which can cause hearing loss. Let us act responsibly for the welfare of all.

Golden temple image: courtesy National Geographic
2nd image: courtesy Google