Friday, October 24, 2014

New Friends

One Earth: New Friends: An earthworm struggled on the gravelly road near my children's school. Once upon a time, I couldn't put enough distance between us....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What Will Be, Will Be

Your right arm cannot become your left; your head cannot become the feet or vice versa, thus says Vasishta's Yoga.

No rocket science, that, we may well think. And yet, to remember it at just the moment when we need it the most - when something we desire does not bear fruition; when something we expect as inevitable proves evasive; when something we aspire for goes beyond our reach - that is the real test.

When the hand that must pull you up tells you to stop instead, when the person who is to open the door blocks the way, when the wind beneath your wings clips it instead... Will anger, ranting and raving be of any use? Will we overcome hurdles, pass through closed doors, fly on the strength of our emotions? 

If the hand stops, the door closes, the wing is clipped, is that the end, or do you find new ways, new strength, new purpose?

Maybe the roadblock is meant to divert you to a different purpose. Maybe your purpose was only to go thus far and no more. Maybe the hand pushes you down so that you may jump higher.

Some lines from 'Murder in the Cathedral' that I am trying to locate but have not: Your destiny turns so that the ultimate destiny be achieved. If we knew that, maybe we would remember the words from Yoga Vasishta always. But it is the obscurity, the mystery, the uncertainty that is like a rite of passage, a test by fire that can consume us like wood or strengthen us like steel.

When I think thus, I understand these verses from Bhagavad Geeta better - Do your duty, do not worry about the results. With no expectations, you are not affected by the consequences. And so, you take the next path that opens up, that will open up... 

And you will see it because anger did not blind you, disappointment did not make you dejected. Because you will know that it is part of the journey, a stopover to your final destination.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Moment of Glory

When my friend, my guide to sites that encouraged writing, mailed to me about a competition on a site where one of my novels was already serialised and another is currently running, I thought and almost dismissed the thought of sending in anything. But 'The Circle of Zero', written from a the point of view of a man, contrary to my usual obsession with women and their complicated lives, was lying idle, having been written in 2009/10. So why not, I thought and sent that, not really sure what to expect.

When the mail inviting me for the event came, I had to excuse myself as I was traveling that evening. Then I got a mail telling me I was a winner.

Now that changed everything and after much agonising, I decided to risk going there. Oh what a sweet surprise was in store for me!!! The first prize in Romance!!!!

Of course we were getting late as the event stretched beyond expectations, but when my name was called out and I walked up to receive the prize, it was as if my efforts had finally borne some fruit. Getting published by Pageturn was the first step, but this one was a recognition of a different sort and just gave hope in a new direction.

With hope comes a sense of responsibility - that I continue to write different things and that too, stuff worthy of note or at least consideration.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Unconditional Respect

Yesterday while driving on a busy street, I noticed an old man trying to cross. Just as he thought he got a clearing, a two-wheeler came rushing down to cut his path and the man stepped back.

Not an unusual sight. I have heard my father complain about the impossibility of crossing certain roads. I recently took my mother out and was surprised at how, in the last one year of restricted movement and commuting only by car if needed, she found the roads that she had traversed with as much alacrity as her age permitted, unsafe. I don't even send my children to the road outside my gate for fear of speeding vehicles though at their age, I remember being sent to the local shops several times in a day.

This syndrome of treating the road as personal domain is a result not just of the high one gets from the powerful engines and the speed associated with it but our own attitude to the world. I think it is a consequence of the attitude - 'only 'I' matter(s?). If you want respect and consideration, earn it. Till then, I shall act just as I please.'

The suave may have cultured ways of expressing it. But when practiced by the uncultured or the pretentious, it borders on to aggression and insensitivity. It transgresses boundaries and interferes with others' rights and lives, disturbing them in ways that do not make us any respectable.

Have we forgotten the question, "What do I do to deserve respect and consideration?"

I will not hark back to ancient times, for the brash and the bashful existed at all times. In fact, aware of the human tendency to become selfish and self-centered, the stress was on respecting lives, be it other humans, animals or plants. The question asked was not whether they deserve respect but whether we have it in us to be respectful.

I can understand well why. When I pause to give someone way, when I try to put my needs behind, the heart expands and the feeling of well-being spreads through my body. When for some reason, even genuine, I dig my heels in, I feel closed and tense like a taut string. Certain situations cannot be avoided. But that moment need not define the respect I give the other. I can and must learn not to colour my attitude of respect with a moment of disagreement. If disagreements continue, I can maintain my respectful distance.

Giving respect is an act not for the benefit of the other person, but ourselves. It makes us better humans and let's strive for that.

Friday, September 12, 2014


The seasons change slowly, gradually. The flower blooms at leisure. The waves crash or relax, determined solely by the will of the wind. The clouds drift at their pace, relishing the view of the earth, going where the breeze takes them. The seed sprouts if the conditions are right and grows into a tree enjoying the process. A dog runs either for food or to sleep. A cat forages furiously and spends the rest of the time languidly, its belly full.

"It's 11.33!" exclaimed my husband.

"Oh ok..." should have been my response. It is information that hands are touching specific numbers in the clock. But I reply with equal urgency, "What! Oh my god!"

Why? I ask myself. Why do we live with an eye always on the clock. And force our children to too.

"It is 7.45, and you are still not in the bath!"

"It is 8, eat fast!!!"

"Oh my god! It is 8.22 and you are still eating?"

Is this how life was always, or have we fallen victims to some disease, disease called deadlines that then slowly percolates all aspects of our lives. What are these deadlines anyway? Who decides when something should happen and what will happen if it did not happen that day, that moment? Will the world come to an end?

What does happen when something happens as planned? Does the world become a better place?

 Am I in my dotage, or a slave protesting the iron grip time has on my life?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One Earth: Water, Water Nowhere

One Earth: Water, Water NowhereThe Rime of the Ancient Mariner lines come to me often (the only two lines I know):

Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

From the time I shifted to Chennai a couple of decades ago, my refrain has been: 
Water, water, nowhere, 
Nor any drop to drink.

Though it has been raining almost every year, since Chennai receives rains only during northeastern monsoon, the summers are dry and water lorries rule the roads - water pouring generously from all directions though similar oil lorries seem to be able to seal the precious liquid more tightly. And I wonder for how long this can sustain. How long can water sources from nearby villages sustain the water needs of the growing city of Chennai?

Then I heard that despite the heavy rains that Mumbai experiences, there is still a water shortage in the city and water lorries feed the city. Cherrapunji, the place with heaviest rainfall, is facing water shortage because of deforestation and water running off the hills! 

Can this be a sustainable solution? Isn't there an alternative? We may have money for the water lorries, but soon, will we have enough water to buy? RO plants are criminal in the water that gets thrown out as waste. How then can we access safe water and improve our resources?

When the discussion for budget for water came up in my apartment complex, I remembered speaking to one Dr. Ragade a few years ago. I met him sometime in 2005 for an article in a magazine and knew he had done something for water management in his building. His logic was simple and his solution elegant. He reminded me of how water was recycled in each home and he had replicated that model in his apartment complex of roughly 32 flats. Could it work for us? 

Opportunity presented itself when I did another article on his solution for another magazine and realised how basic and yet sensible his solution was. 

Dig shallow wells, connect them to the rainwater system on the one hand and the borewell on the other. The shallow well can be kept closed, so it can even be in the parking area in small apartment complexes. All one needs to check is the quality of the soil - is it conducive to retain water without stagnating.

We also thought the quality of our ground water was bad since the bath water, which is what the groundwater was used for, was yellow and dirty. We got water tested in a lab but could find nothing wrong. It was embarrassing how he went straight to the root - the source of water - with just a long nylon rope knotted to indicate the feet and a lota. Worse was to know that the water was excellent and the yellow colour was due to the water from the latest borewell that had been dug which was yielding yellow water. Since it was being mixed with rest of the water in the tanks, even good water was turning yellow. I was thinking that in our dependence for modern technology, we do leave common sense behind!

Under his guidance, we just finished constructing a shallow well 6 feet wide and 23 feet deep in our complex. Apparently, we struck water at 10 feet from ground level, going up to 12-13 feet below. 

It is early days, but according to Dr. Ragade, who also works with the Rain Centre in Chennai,  and has authored the book 'Self Reliance in Water - A practical manual for city and Town dwellers', the rain that Chennai receives is enough to cater to the needs of the city-dwellers. In a couple of years, the well will be enough for us. If entire neighbourhoods dig shallow wells and divert rainwater to these wells, the water situation can improve.

Even if we do not completely eradicate the need to buy water in the short term, I am hoping that this system will at least reduce our dependence on water lorries. It is not just the direct cost incurred that will be saved, but we will be contributing less to the water loss that happens in transportation, and also decrease the demand for such water.

I am taking the liberty to post some links not just about Dr. Ragade but others who have tried various techniques to increase water sustainability and sufficiency. May we take a leaf out of their lives and do our bit. Even small apartment residents and independent house owners can implement these simple measures and motivate others to do so too. Surprisingly, it does not involve anything complex.

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