Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Best thing in life is

Edited to add: This post was featured as one of the really really good entries on BlogAdda;

I am so thrilled; this is the perfect start to the weekend :-)

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda


The Best thing in life is the power of gratitude. They say that life works on the principle of the Law of Attraction. You attract into your life what you are constantly thinking of or what you send out into the universe. Given that, would it not be wonderful if we were to practise gratitude each and every single day of our life? Just imagine how enriched and happy our life would be.

As Marcel Proust, the French novelist said, “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” While on the face of it, to be grateful appears quite simple and easy it is not so. Burdened as we are with the travails of day-to-day living, we seldom make it a point to express gratitude, that too, explicitly and precisely.

It might be easy to say, I am grateful for my life. But to put it into exact words and explain what exactly I am grateful for could be a difficult task. Also, as we cultivate the habit of gratitude consciously, we will find that life becomes a lot simpler and its burdens a lot easier to bear.

Some might feel that expressing gratitude is a formality; a mere societal convention. However, think of the times when someone has expressed gratitude to you. Did you not feel happy about it? Did you not go through that day absolutely elated and jumping with joy? Then, why not give someone else a chance to experience those same feelings. Expressing gratitude for a thing or to a person does not take away anything from you; au contraire, it enables you to make someone happy about something they did for you. Is that not a win-win situation?

Recently, organizations have also started realizing the power of gratitude. This is the genesis of the Appreciation Day or Applaud Cards at work where you appreciate someone for the good work they are doing or applaud your colleague for the traits they are displaying at work. Not only does it encourage them to continue doing what they are doing, it also leaves you with a positive feeling at the end of the day. And, any action that does that is highly recommended for one and all.

Beginning today, I would urge each one of you to keep a gratitude journal. You need to note down the five things that have happened in your day today that you are grateful for. While initially you might need to think and re-think about the five things, later, it would come almost naturally to you. You would also be surprised at how peaceful and calm you would have become in your dealings with people and how you would suddenly start attracting all the goodness in your life that you have always wanted.

Finally, it would do all of us a lot of good to heed the Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer’s words, "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

‘If I had the power to change something, I would change….’

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda


If I had the power to change something, I would change men’s attitudes towards women’s education and careers. In India, when Jyotirao Phule, along with his wife Savitribai Phule, began educating girls sometime around the 1840s, they had no idea that 150 years down the line, women would come to believe that the same was a bane instead of a boon. Sure, they were successful in educating women, but they didn't realize that they would have to change men's attitudes and thinking as well.

The reasons are not hard to find. Earlier, when women were not educated, they had no means of livelihood, as is the case today. They were forced to stay at home and take care of the household chores. For them, their life began and ended with their family.

Once the women were educated, they began going out into the world and seeking gainful employment in one form or the other. The ability to earn their own money gave them immense confidence. Slowly and steadily, they began rising the career graph almost on par with or, in some cases, even better than men.

While initially, the men accepted this change openly, it was later realized that this was only going to boomerang on them. They realized that not only were women smarter and more hard-working than them, but they were in it for the long haul. This led to a lot of insecurities among men. Till today, it is believed (maybe rightly so) that men have a problem in reporting to a woman boss.

From the female viewpoint, while she was happily climbing the career graph, at home, she was not spared the household chores. If at all, they became more difficult considering she was supposed to do them either before or after work notwithstanding how tired she would be at the end of the day. Also, while a man’s identity came to be associated with his grade or designation, a woman was still known as somebody’s wife, daughter or mother.

A single thing that irks me most is men’s attitudes towards successful women. It’s easy to assume that a woman would have reached a position of success only because she would have portrayed herself as easy. Her hardworking attitude, her skills and her knowledge would have played absolutely no part in it. Also, while a man who speaks his mind is appreciated and applauded, a woman who speaks her mind is actually looked down upon and branded arrogant and brash.

After having proven themselves for so many years, some organizations or bosses are still hesitant to award the top jobs or the juiciest projects to women. Since they are not capable of handling a women workforce, they take the easy route and pass on the work to men.

In some organizations, women taking leave for marriage or even for delivering a child is looked down upon completely ignoring the fact that if it weren’t for this, none of us would be alive, including the men. Instead of supporting and giving them a few concessions, the same is treated as a liability.

Another bone of contention is the fact that men think they can get away with flirting with a woman, though she may be a professional and want to discuss only work with you. How many of us have had our male colleagues or clients say to us, “Your face seems very familiar. Have I seen you somewhere?” Though on par with them and working with them side-by-side, men still treat women as objects.

The media doesn’t help either. Products selling insurance or asking us to save for the future always sell them as “for your son’s education” and “for your daughter’s marriage”. The following advertisement is so retrograde that the makers should be publicly thrashed for the same; parents discussing marriage and how expensive gold is for their 5-year old daughter:

If I had the power to change, I would change all this. I would request men to treat women as their equal and ensure that they support and encourage them in all spheres of life; be it at work or in the house. I would exhort them to recruit as many women as possible in their team or their company and see the benefits for themselves. I would request human resources to have special workshops on handling gender biases and gender-related issues. I would change people’s thinking towards a boy and a girl’s education, career & marriage preferences and the choice of having children. I would change men’s attitudes towards women from merely an object to an inspiration; someone who can positively influence and bring about a radical change in their lives.

Joseph Conrad, the Polish novelist, said it best when he commented, “Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review: The Pregnant King by Devdutt Pattanaik

The Pregnant KingThe Pregnant King by Devdutt Pattanaik


I picked up The Pregnant King primarily because the title sparked a curiosity in me. And also because I have been reading Devdutt Pattanaik on and off in Corporate Dossier. I became a fan of his work after reading Jaya: A Retelling of the Mahabharata.

The Pregnant King tells the tale of a king - Yuvanashva - who becomes pregnant when he accidentally drinks a magic potion which was supposed to make his queens pregnant. The novel effortlessly seams through a lot of references to the Mahabharata which interested me immensely.

The best part about the novel is Pattanaik's free-flowing writing style which completely engrosses the reader. The novel starts off by giving an introduction to the king's parents, his father's untimely demise and how his mother - the queen - takes charge of the kingdom, though she cannot be crowned as the ruler because she is a woman. Yuvunashva's birth and his gradual training to eventually become king follow. In the interim, there's a detailed description about his wedding to his first queen. When they realize after sometime that the queen is unable to bear him children, he marries a second time and then a third. By then, rumours abound that maybe the king is unable to make his queens pregnant but these are quashed by the queen.

In a discipline related matter when the king reacts quite angrily and is pacing up and down, he manages to drink the potion and becomes pregnant. Though shocked at the turn of events, he eventually manages to make peace with it and is actually quite thrilled at being able to deliver a child. However, since the truth makes all of us uncomfortable, the fact is hidden from everybody, including his son.

There are several themes running through the book. The importance of women as only being able to bear and rear children and ensure the comforts of the king is one. Pattanaik also brings out the importance of truth when it affects others and when it affects us. This is reflected in the following line: "Don't forsake a truth because it is convenient." The interplay between gender roles and the conflict of dharma are also rampant through the book.

The fact that a king, i.e. a man can become pregnant is implausible and not easily digestible. However, Pattanaik refutes it by saying that, "You are assuming you know the boundaries of nature. You don't. There is more to life than your eyes can see."

The irresistible lure of power and the inability to deal with the loss of it is also another idea found in the book. The king's mother, who enjoys running the kingdom, is unable to shed power to her own son and keeps postponing the same day after day. The book has a lot of such examples where one person's selfishness reigns supreme over all other interests.

The only negative for me was the host of characters. I had to go back and forth to tie-up the links to understand the finer nuances. But this can be easily forgiven; I enjoyed reading the overall book and couldn't wait to turn the pages to read about another incident in the king's life.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

‘Keeping my fingers crossed’

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda

As cliches go, "keeping my fingers crossed" has to be right at the top of the list. Almost all of us use it daily in our life. When we want something to happen, we are bound to say, I am keeping my fingers crossed. An addition to this, these days, is to add, cross your toes as well!

It is also believed that lying while keeping your fingers crossed is not a bad thing, i.e. such a lie is a white lie (one which will not harm anyone; on the contrary, it might benefit somebody). An instance of this was shown in the movie Kal Ho Naa Ho when Shah Rukh Khan crosses his fingers when he is lying in front of Preity Zinta or his doctor Sonali Bendre.

The origin of the phrase can be traced back to Christianity which believes that crossing your fingers will bring you good luck. The fingers in a cross like shape are believed to ward off evil.

However, some people believe that this is nothing but superstition. How can one explain that you would get what you want simply by crossing your fingers? Wouldn’t everybody then just sit and do nothing except cross their fingers?

The on-going struggle between the believers and the non-believers will continue for time immemorial. Believers argue that when one has done all the work and is awaiting the outcome, why would a little crossing of the fingers be bad?

In these days of Internet and online chatting, the phrase has been reduced to a four-letter acronym – KMFC :-)

I, personally, often indulge in the same. It doesn’t hurt to do the same, does it?

Review: JFK by Jhangir Kerawala

“JFK … A dying man’s last word … A plea, an accusation or a clue? That’s what the police couldn’t figure out. What they did know was that they had serial murders in broad daylight, and just one suspect with little motive … Jatin F. Karunamoi, the dead man’s best friend. Jatin is no hero, he’s an unemployed 50-year-old, desperate to find a job. But his only hope for a life of dignity lies in him finding the real killer.  As he jumps headlong into the investigation he has little idea what he’s getting into … a hunt for the faceless murderer. Each step Jatin takes to unravel the mystery brings him closer to insanity as he encounters unimaginable situations, devious characters, intrigue and … death. In this fast-paced thriller set in Kolkata, debutant novelist Jhangir Kerawala brings the reader face-to-face with the ugly underbelly that looms large beneath the bright lights of urban India.”

I won this book as part of a contest organized by Westland Books on Twitter. Since I hadn’t heard of it, I had no preconceived notions when I sat down to read it.

JFK is a thriller and keeps the reader engrossed from the first page. Though it is not as fast and pacy as I would have liked it to be, it is a page-turner nevertheless.

***Spoilers might feature in the review***
Jatin Karunamoi, based out of Kolkata, learns that his best friend Manish has suddenly been murdered. Shocked and angry at the same time, Jatin sets out to find out who the killer is. He is ably assisted by a common friend Montu. Just before he dies, Manish had called up Jatin and uttered the three letters – JFK. This is the only clue Jatin has to proceed. When the usual rounds of investigations with Manish’s colleagues yield no results, Jatin and Montu are at a loss.

One day, Jatin gets a call from an unknown woman Preeti who claims she and Manish were having an affair. Since Jatin considers Manish his best friend, he is flabbergasted that he never knew about this. Preeti tells Jatin that they were being blackmailed and Manish had to keep paying loads of money to silence the blackmailer. She also suspects her husband to be behind the murder.

Around the same time, Kolkata is hit by a series of murders and the police have no leads, except that the weapon used is the same in all the murders.

In the course of their search and investigation, Jatin and Montu learn that Manish was part of a secret club. While going through Manish’s belongings one day, Jatin cracks the clue of “JFK” and pursues the same accordingly. From there he travels to Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh and realizes that a bigger scandal is behind his friend’s murder; something unimaginable and which could affect some powerful people. How he unravels the mystery while enlisting the help of some people along the way forms the highlight of the novel.

The novel is pretty engaging and Jehangir’s writing style is lucid. His descriptions of Kolkata at night and the train journeys Jatin undertakes are picturesque. There are also some twists and turns befitting a thriller. All in all, an enjoyable read.

Review: Oh My God!!!

I really didn't want to see Oh My God; the trailers didn't look particularly appealing and I am not a big fan of Akshay Kumar. However, it got some great reviews and some good word-of-mouth publicity which made me go and see the movie. And I am glad I did.

***Spoilers might feature in the review ***

At the start of the movie, we are introduced to Kanji Patel (Paresh Raval) who is an atheist and tries and makes money by capitalizing on the religious fervour in the country. His shop at Chor Bazaar (brilliant location!) sells various types of idols of different varieties of Gods. Kanji cannot understand why people believe so blindly in God but, at the same time, is happy that he is able to make money out of it.

An incident leads to a earthquake in Mumbai and, surprisingly, only Kanji's shop is destroyed. When he goes to the insurance company, they dismiss the claim saying it's an act of God. Angry and frustrated, Kanji decides to sue God and demand money from him. Thus, begins a hilarious and thought-provoking journey featuring god-men (Mithun in a superb cameo).

The movie makes us think about a lot of things through various instances. For example, why do we waste so much milk over an idol instead of donating it? Similar is the case with oil which is poured over the Hanuman idol each Saturday. Why are so many mantras a part of our religious ceremonies when none of us, including the priests, know the meaning of any of them? Why do we not believe in service to mankind and only spend our time worshiping the idols?

Akshay Kumar, as Lord Krishna, has a relatively smaller but powerful role. I hate to admit but he was looking very handsome as well :)

All in all, the movie exhorts us to question our religious beliefs and the mindless rituals we follow. It is a must watch for everyone, specially for people in India where religion plays such an important part in our life and virtually defines our identity.