Sunday, December 30, 2012

We Need a Hero

One Earth: We Need a Hero: "At least a lakh," I heard a voice behind me as I stood staring in wonder at the African elephant in front of me in the zoo we were visiti...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Light and free

Stone by stone, weighs me down
Heavy limbs, heart heavier still

Darkness, sorrow, fear and anger
A long tunnel, which ends never

And then suddenly, I shake it all
With new hope, that only heart can call

Throwing the burdens away in one stroke
Lifting up in air, wings flapping in the wind

No, wait, there is no effort, as I float in air
Weightless, formless and light as feather

In the vast wilderness, wild and free
I drift with the wind, aimlessly.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Beast Roams Free

He lurked in dark corners
In shady bus shelters
Anonymous in crowds
Furtive in glance and movements

He groped, pinched, rubbed
When no one could catch him
For he feared persecution
Humiliation and exposure

Today he roams the city free
In broadlight, head held high
With his herd, confident
He could get away with murder

In the midst of crowds
Sure of his success
He corners the single,
The helpless and the unaware

He pounces, ravages, walks away
Leaving others wondering
What the crumpled victim did
To incur his wrath

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Virtual Address

It was the year 1996/97. The Internet was still in its nascent stages, but an entrepreneur saw into the future and started domain registrations and creating websites. I went to interview him - a rarity back then, as I preferred the anonymity of editing the articles rather than write. During the interview, he told me, "In a few years, you will have a website in your name."

I smiled sceptically, but he continued confidently, "You don't believe me? But you will see... It will happen..." or words to that effect.

When I started this blog, I couldn't help remembering that man. Between then and now, I have changed as any individual does, and not changed in many ways. But the most obvious change is in believing in my own cyber space. Apart from this blog and the inevitable facebook page, I also uploaded one of my novels online

A friend recently suggested I should have a website of my own. I am not sure about that - maybe some day I will start seeing his point of view too. But when my third book was announced, I went ahead and created a page for myself as an author on FB:!/

And that brought that man's words back to me. I don't think that he became a big name in the IT world. But his words have come true. The virtual world does lure us to acquire space there, to give in to the urge that traditionally prompted us to carve our name in a tree or any wooden sruface.

The need to leave our names behind so that others may know we exist.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Faith - Lack Thereof

On Facebook, I recently saw a debate sparked off by a comment on the movie Oh My God. I am yet to watch it - just like many other recent movies. I was told by my friend that it is a must watch, a Hindu friend.

And then this debate where some opposed the movie, questioning the Hindus for remaining silent at the movies criticising Hindu beliefs, or babas, and the others defending saying it reflects realities on the ground and is really a non-issue.

But religion itself is not a non-issue, and I wonder why. Can somebody's criticising things I believe in bring down its value? Do I find the worth of the thing/god I believe in only through validation by others? I believe in Lord Ram and a friend of mine, a Hindu, was very surprised. "I have not come across anyone who so specifically says they believe in Ram," she said. I was not surprised. For, amongst many women, he is the epitome of MCPism - exiling his wife being the prime reason. And as I performed a dance ballet on the Yuddha Kandam, I was amused that thrice Ravana's army manages to kill him/render him helpless and yet, in the end, through divine help, he manages to come back and, again through divine help, kill Ravana. He treats Sita shabbily then, and later, when she is pregnant.

I am aware of all this. But it does not shake my faith in Him.

Has he personally given me darshan? Does he speak to me or send his monkey army for my protection? Nothing of the sort.

So, do I pray to him everyday, diligently? Sometimes, I take comfort in the fact that the theist and the atheist all go through the same travails, so if I skip my prayers one day, I will not be punished any extra because of it so long as I don't make my life hell by agonising over it.

But when my heart beats fast in fear or anxiety, His name gives me peace and calm. When I find myself over excited and want to become detached as prescribed in the Gita, I take a deep breath in and try to feel Him within me, and that grounds me - if I am able to acheive that connection, which is sometimes very elusive. When I hear words of abuse that makes me want to shout back - and if I delay it for a fraction of a second and take His name - I am able to fight my anger better. I find my hell and heaven here everyday depending on how I feel and act, and the days I feel the presence are heaven. The same day can turn into hell for some obscure reason, if I let that dominate my mind.

Do you believe in Him? That is of no consequence to me. Your loving or hating or indifference to Him have nothing to do with me. It is between Him and me, and you don't even enter the equation.

So am I a Hindu? I love a lot of things associated with the Indian culture - the alpana in the morning when my mind is only on the design, pushing all other thoughts out. And with age, I can understand why it was prescribed as a morning activity, though in the rush of getting children out of the house, I do miss doing it sometimes. But that is step one to doing something on your own and connect with yourself first thing in the morning. The lighting of the lamp - though I don't do it on most days - again, the act focuses one's mind. The flowers, the dot on the forehead - the time taken to dress up modestly, naturally, and feel good. No, no, I don't do those either but I know the sense of rootedness it gives one.

And isn't that the purpose of religion and associated traditions - to root one and not rout out others? If one has faith, and faith in that faith, how can others' views matter. It is unscientific, of course. When even I can't understand why it gives me strength, how can I expect others to understand it then?  Why should I be disturbed by your questioning it either?

And by same logic, how can I understand what you believe in and why? Who am I to question it?

Maybe, this is how a majority of Hindus live, and so it doesn't bother them when a movie tears Hinduism apart. For the religion shown in the movie may not be the religion they practice at all!

Organised religion has a place in organising life. But when it disrupts life and becomes a cause for anger and frustration - do we blame the religion or the narrow mindedness of the people who build rigid walls around themselves? Such people, I sincerely believe, will use some excuse or the other to vent out their anger on the world. Religion is just an excuse.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

If you had another chance

So God asked man: "You can see what your science, technology and progress can do. I gave you Garden of Eden, and you have turned it into Hell's Inferno... If I gave you another chance, would you do things differently?"

Man pondered. And in his mind's eye flashed the past - from the time he struggled against nature and its creation for survival to the time he learnt to master them, control them, destroy them and build as per his needs, for his growth, development, prosperity.

He thought of the struggles on the way, the wants, the deprivations, the desires.

Then he thought of the comforts of the modern life - the cushioned life, the ease of communication, transportation, and so many other 'ations'. With that there was the creation of nature in his own way, on his own terms - for pleasure, as a getaway from the monotony of life.

What's life without sacrifices, and those who sacrificed did so for a worthy cause - for the deserving few who knew how to enjoy.

This moment had been destined from the time fire was discovered, the wheel had been set in motion, and when he could beat his own drum across the woods...

He straightened, looked squarely in God's eyes and said, "No God, I don't think I would change anything..."

Friday, October 12, 2012


"Oh! So you sin all you want and then just call out to Narayana and you can get away with it?" the dancers debated as we rehearsed for the dance drama on a Bhagavatam character Ajamila.

A learned Brahmin, he spots a prostitute with another man and loses all sense of balance. He leaves his family behind to dally with her and commits all sorts of sins to get the money to keep her and his insatiable need for pleasures. At 88, Yama decides to claim his life, and Ajamila calls out in fear to Narayana, his youngest son whom he loved dearly. That was enough to awaken Narayana, who sends his dootas to protect the one who called out to Him.

Realising the bountiful grace of Narayana, Ajamila turns his back to his sinful life, does penance and attains Lord's feet.

The question is valid. Doesn't it send wrong signals - sin as much as you can and then just seek forgiveness?

But here, I am reminded of a scene from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Farhan Akhtar says sorry to Hrithik Roshan and when the latter remains intractable, asks, "How many times do I have to say sorry?"

"Till it comes from your heart," Hrithik replies.

It is not about saying sorry, it is saying sorry from your heart. That is not easy, is it - to admit that we are wrong, that we regret and that we openly acknowledge our mistake?

And this is true of every relationship - even between god and man, for where is god if not in our own heart? And if we are not sincere, can we find that peace within ourselves when we know the truth behind that sorry?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Other Side

She is like a wardrobe. She mouths filth like a sewer. She does not spare the rod. She can feed pea soup to a Jew knowing it is a crime.

He has eyes like silver. He spends sleepless nights so his foster daughter may sleep. He gives his basement up for a Jew in Nazi Germany.

The little one loses her natural family. She will never forget her foster father. She can give boys a good licking. She joins thieving boys to steal food. She steals books.

He wants a kiss. He wants to be Jesse Owens. He does not want to be in the Nazi army. He steals from farms. He gives bread to the Jews.

He is running from death. He is escaping the Nazis. He finds a shelter. He gives back the love he receives. He leaves them when he senses he is a danger to them. He is a Jew.

It sees all. Everyone reaches it finally. It is overworked as the world explodes. It can feel the pain and joys of human beings.

A foster mother, a foster father, a little girl, her friend and many others come alive through the eyes of death in Nazi Germany in the book The Book Thief by Markus Zasuk. A sensitively told story, a compelling book, a must read for all.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Go Slow

'If you reach out for the smart phone before the toothbursh first thing in the morning,' says an article in Times Life today. Can so relate to it.

Packed days, packed evenings... No stress, a variety of activities, but no time to sit back and watch the day go by either. A recliner, a cup of tea, a book and some oily snacks (no stress there, PLEASE)... And what would I like to give up for those? The list lets nothing go - they are all passion. Nothing is 'work as in work'. "Epicurean personality," someone explained.

Can skating on thin ice be bad? You can fall, break your bones, but the thrill and excitement... Don't they make up for it? And if you land on your feet, do you go back and skate again or say, enough?

And yet, that recliner (the illusionary one) beckons. Not a vacation. Just a day of reclining, a half hour, a 10 minutes, just do it, please... No, don't reach out for the book... Just lean back. Maybe close your eyes. NO! DON'T SLEEP!

Sigh! This seems like more work! Let me go back to my straight backed chair.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

All In Its Time

I noticed the bud in the rose plant, and my heart beat raced. I expected the rose to bloom the next day and lighten up my balcony with its reddish orange hue. Every day, I see one more bud, but the first one hadn't opened yet, and even after 10 days, all the buds are slowly expanding, ballooning, but are yet to bloom.

I am impatient, but will the flower bloom because of that? I have to find the patience within me if I want to enjoy the flower take its proper shape and emerge in its beautiful, complete form.

So is it with everything in life. Yet we rush, bang our heads and hop up and down to see the result we desire.

I went with an art-based NGO to a government boys home, with the aim to help them find release through various creative art forms. So when I saw a boy who wouldn't participate, I put on my best, motherly smile, took him aside and waited for him to pour his woes to my expansive heart and feel cleansed. When he continued to avoid looking at me and maintained a stubborn silence, I despaired. Reluctantly I had to get back to the room accepting defeat. My eyes were on him the entire day, but his were fixed outside the window.

Next day, he and I ended up in the same room doing some craft work. He did the artwork and clumsy me watched the boys in the background. He was quiet still, but not as withdrawn. I saw him smile and mingle with the other boys his age. He will find his mettle in his own time. Only I, the adult, need the patience to wait and let life take its natural course.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

One Earth: Green with Joy

One Earth: Green with Joy: How can green be the colour of envy?! A late bloomer, I have only now dared to have something more than tulsi in my balcony. First a frie...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Blessing a Curse to Others?

A three year old boy has been hitting a younger, or at least smaller, girl child. When the girl's mother brought this to the notice of the boy's mother, the latter turned away ignoring the plea that she discipline her son. Then recently, the boy scratched the girl and the girl's mother (GM) caught hold of the boy. Noticing this, the boy's family pounced on the GM accusing her of child abuse! In the exchange of words in two different languages - the GM is a north Indian and the boy's grandmom a Tamilian, the GM finally gave up because she was unable to get through. The boy's father, who can understand English, finally said, "I had this boy after two years of praying in temples. If my son is bothering your daughter, please keep her at home(!)"

When I heard of this, I was shocked. Does having a child late entitle parents to bring up the child without any discipline, especially as a threat to others? I am reminded of stories of Markandeya and Sankaracharya. In both cases, the boys were brought up to be so devout and disciplined that the former in fact got a long life as a blessing, and continued on his path of devotion. In case of Sankaracharya, he voluntarily gave up his earthly life and became a saint.

We don't need to go to such extremes. But what if this little bully ends up on the wrong foot with someone stronger? Will he be spared? Such an instance has happened too earlier. When the parents were unable to discipline another boy - now much older - who was a nuisance, his "friends" cornered him and beat him up... This is not an incidence in some slum, or a movie or a serial. This happened where I live...

Finally, disciplining and bringing up a child well is not just for the benefit of those around, but for the child himself. Unless parents realise that first, their children will soon find themselves isolated, which will further aggravate their aggressive behaviour. But this simple logic seems to defy even the educated...

Even if we cannot do good to others, let us at least learn not to harm others, and teach the same to our children too...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Breaking records

As Olympians set and break records in various sports events, as India watches with bated breath and exhales slowly - sometimes contented and mostly disappointed but not very surprised - Chennai is making records of another sort. Children are slipping through holes in school vans. They are coming under the wheels of the vans they just got off from. Why, a tiny tot managed to come out of the house and place its head under the wheel when the unsuspecting mother was seeing her elder ones off and the driver didn't notice this new addition to the road!

Not one incident in a blue moon. Three reported in three days. How many not reported? How many injuries not worth reporting?

Do we need tragedies to rouse us and pay attention to safety norms? How long before we are lulled back to complacency?

Friday, August 3, 2012

One Earth: May Not Bee

One Earth: May Not Bee: So, we know it stings. Many of us are scared to cross a beehive because we expect the bees to just get a whiff of our body odour and rush a...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

First Love

She taught him to laugh.
She held his hand as he floundered through his first steps.
She showed him the world, standing by him like a rock.
She let go when he was ready.
Even she didn't know how much he loved her.
When she returned after a four-day trip, he asked, "Can we join our pillows?"
"I am so tired," she murmured and lay flat on her back. "But you weren't here for four days!" he said and she agreed reluctantly. He tried hard to make her turn. Then she gave in, and the two embraced. "I missed you," he said.
"I did too," she replied sleepily. "I felt bad about the times I fought with you," she added softly. Then she was asleep.
When I entered the room a few minutes later, my six year old son exclaimed, "Amma, that was the longest hug we shared. It ended just now." His elder sister was again on her back, breathing evenly as she was fast asleep.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The language they speak

What do you do when you hear 8 and 9 year olds saying the four letter word in your hearing, as well as that of their younger siblings/friends?

Mine is one of total shock. Am I being naive? Is it too much to want to teach children only age appropriate language and behaviour, or is that out of fashion too? How much should we monitor what our children are doing, learning? Does entering preteens and teens mean we can be hands off, expecting they will learn through trial and error, know what is right and wrong? Or, while allowing them to do that, do we also stand guard discreetly so that we guide them to filter and take a course that will help them become more discerning?

How much of unmonitored TV and internet time can be given? Or, is it a convenient tool meant specifically to keep them off our hair? It is just fantasy and will not affect their thinking, and I am splitting my hair unnecessarily by worrying about what they watch?

How relevant are moral stories and stories from mythology? Or are they a legacy of a past best left there? Who remembers them, or has the time to tell them to the young ones? Hand them a book and be done with it?

Visiting elders, friends and relatives? Who has the time? Eating out is so much fun! A trip to the amusement park, more amusing. Just being is too boring!

The perils of parenting are that much more today... Evolving times do bring their own changes. But where does one draw the line? Do Right and Wrong change with time? As parents, isn't it our responsibility to be clear on those lines and ensure we pass them on to the life entrusted to us?

Or is that passe too?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Six students of western music - all Americans - from Miami University on an exchange programme to my children's school. What an exposure for the older children who are being taught music and creative writing by these youngsters! There is a festive air all around.

To give them a taste of our culture, they have been taught Tamil (!), dance and Morsingh!

It was lovely teaching them dance and to sing the song they are dancing for! Amazing how they try to execute the steps - though simplified, still difficult as it is classical Bharatnatyam - accurately. A couple of them pick it up in one shot, a couple take some time... But they go back and practice so that "the transitions" happen smoothly.

The greatest delight was when one of the boys got the opening neck and eye movement in one shot. That's when I thought boys should learn to dance too, as otherwise they were planning only for the girls in the group to learn to dance! And now, watching them practice, the organiser of this exchange programme also insists that all of them dance at an event to showcase all that they have learnt in 2 weeks, and all that they have taught as the children of the school will perform too.

Feel very satisfied. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Working with them just drove home the point firmly: One can achieve much - even learning to appreciate the classical art forms - with focus and dedication! I wonder if making everybody learn at least the basics is a good way to make the classical arts popular again in the land of its origin.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Waste - A Mark of Progress

"Waste is the highest virtue one can achieve in advanced capitalist society" - 'Dance, Dance, Dance' by Haruki Murakami. My second book by this author, he had me there as I read these lines.

And he goes on to say how he contributes to this waste by writing articles that take up reams of paper. It resonated with my thoughts.

We write, and we use paper and we cut trees.

We write, and we use our computers and use energy.

The need to speak, to be heard, to share and exchange ideas - a deep-rooted desire that does not go with time. The more we age, the more we have something to say... whether there is anyone to listen or not...

And this waste is just one kind of waste. What to talk of accumulation and display of wealth and material goods? Can anything change so long as our pursuit is measured by external standards? 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Presidential Candidate

FB shows up for what we are - jobless people with too many opinions to share.

I keep getting prompted - Kalam or Patil... And I feel sorry - for Kalam. Why do we hate him so much? So much so that we want him to be head of a completely corrupt, incorrigible state! That he should suffer the agonies of watching wrongs being ignored, rights being overshadowed, and sit back unable to do anything as the mere titular head of state?

What we need - why should I be left behind in expressing my worthless views - is a person who is a prince among thieves, is as brazen as the ruling party(s) in corruption, and can escape any accusations with silence or by turning against the accuser. Is drawn into court cases, but continues to hold office - we need stability, you see. Of course, there are no unturned stones left in corruption - every aspect of our public life seems to be mired in some scam or the other.

Now I know what we need. The man who can be so ingenuous that he can create a scam where none exists!  But maybe, too many candidates for that too?

Then, we would get the man we deserve. And then, maybe, just maybe, people like me will be forced to get out of our armchairs, stop merely observing, commenting and lamenting and do something constructive - bring about a revolution.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Power of Hands

My uncles and cousins would wake up and immediately look at their hands, saying a quick morning prayer.

And then, when in college, I read a novel. Magnificent Obsession. It was part of our course, and a pathetic love story was interwoven with a highly spiritual concept of giving in the fashion of left hand not knowing what the right is giving. The doctor who follows this principal finds that the more he gives and 'meditates' the better his surgeries turn out to be. It inspired me to focus my energies internally - without the element of giving, of course - and the first place I felt a strange sensation was my palms.

Then, after marriage I was introduced to reiki. It is all about channelising the universal energy through the hands, and yes, I can feel something like electricity pass through my palms when I do sit down and close my hands.

Of course, I had been told several times that keeping the palms on the eyes are very good during headaches, and I find that to be true too.

It looks like there are some truths that are common across cultures and situations. Though the manner in which it comes to us is different, the underlying faith is the same.

For, in the end, isn't that what any self-respecting human being believes? That their success and failures is in their hands? The man who can roll up his shirt and get his hands dirty will never go without a shirt?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One Earth: How Green Was My Valley

One Earth: How Green Was My Valley: There were trees and bushes; deer and snakes; mongoose and squirrels; woodpeckers and kingfishers. Today, there is only cement and mort...

Monday, May 28, 2012

High and Dry

Is this an indication of things to come? Chennai is short on petrol and diesel for the last two days. Had to push my bike home, though luckily it sputtered out only in the street corner and not some five kilometers away.

Walked in the sun for an appointment today, and was wondering at how the roads are still filled with private vehicles! Obviously some of the others were smarter and filled their petrol/diesel tanks to the full when the going was good while I was trying to still squeeze the best from reserve.

But as I walked down, I did wonder if we can take our vehicles for granted any more... and our gensets and invertors. The sun and the wind are with us to stay. Imagine the cars being discovered some several centuries from now in the parking spaces, buried under the earth's crust and research being done on what it could have been used for! Maybe a paper with an ad for a car will fly up and they will look and wonder and be amazed at how advanced we had been. Whereas, they would be languishing under the trees, near water sources that would have sprung up afresh and walk long distances, travelling only if needed.

Then they would say, "If they could, so can we," and the quest for the wonder machines would begin afresh and they would develop and advance and cut down trees and clear up spaces and make things that will make them rich and they will cut more trees to make more products so that they can spend those riches...

They will also become developed one day, and find an equivalent of black gold... and history will repeat itself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In the Clouds

Fly as high as you can dare
But on ground you have to land
Dream as only you can
Feet on earth firmly you plant

Reality on the ground
To anchor us through ups and downs
Floating is a pleasure but brief
Time will steal it away, the thief

Like day and night they come and go
Sorrow and joy, two sides of a coin
Head in air, feet on land
To live in joy, and remain strong.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Competition

"Hey Sruthi! Check this out. There is an inter-college dance competition coming up. Solo! Shall we go?" Radhika asked her friend.

"Oh no, you know I hate these events... Leave me out," Sruthi replied.

Radhika pouted. "Come on, I so want to go... but don't want to go alone."

"I will come with you, cheer you..." Sruthi assured her.

Radhika thought but shook her head. "No! Come on, you also dance... it doesn't matter if we win or lose, right? Just for fun, okay?"

"I am not in form, Radhu... You know I haven't danced in a while," Sruthi demurred.

"Let's practice together, like in school days. Please, please, please, pretty please! Don't say no..." Radhika pouted prettily. Sruthi laughed at her friend and turned away without comment. "Won't you do this for your friend!" Radhika demanded, making Sruthi feel guilty. "Okay, okay..." she conceded reluctantly.

They started practicing and Sruthi was so glad of that! It had been easy to forget the joy of dancing in coping with studies. But listening to the music and flowing with it was a different experience altogether. She felt so refreshed! She hugged Radhika. "You are right, winning or losing isn't important. It is fun!" The two friends grinned in joy.

Before going on stage Sruthi said a small prayer, took a minute to calm herself. Radhika was next. She did a thumbs up. Sruthi nodded and took centre stage. As the music came on, she was lost to the world, dancing just for the joy of it as the steps flowed smoothly and gracefully.

She finished her piece and waited back stage to watch Radhika, praying her friend would do just as well. Radhika was a bundle of energy and she stunned the audience with her performance. Sruthi hugged her friend and exclaimed, "You were fantastic!"

When the results were announced, the two friends waited with bated breath. The second and third prizes went to some others. Apprehension gripped them when out of the blue, the judges announced, "And the first prize goes to Sruthi!"

Stunned the two friends stared at each other. The news hit Sruthi slowly but surely and she squealed suddenly, hugging Radhika. She ran on stage, ecstatic, to take her cash prize. "We loved your calm and sure performance. This is not to say that the others were any less, but you worked magic," the senior judge said.

Sruthi ran back to her friend, who had tears in her eyes. Sruthi felt deflated. She had been selfish!

Friends commiserated. Sruthi rose up to her defense. "Radhika is a fantastic performer. That day wasn't her day, but that doesn't take anything away from her!"

When Sruthi snapped at another close friend a couple of days later, Radhika stood up angrily. "Stop showing off so much! You don't have to keep rubbing in the fact that you got the prize instead of me! If it weren't for me, you wouldn't even have participated! And now, the gall of it. 'Not her day...'" Radhika said grimacing angrily. "What kind of a friend you are, cheating on me, trying to prove your superiority! Stop being so patronising!"

She stormed away, leaving Sruthi stunned and speechless.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Untiring Runner

It hasn't stopped
this race
challenging each
at a constant pace

Persistent, merciless
never tired
watching impassively
without a comment

Ups and downs
taken in a stride
tripping tumbling
matter not a mite

Bang your head
pray, pass or kill it
Procrastinate, or rush
but it all comes to zilch

For it has practice
at running
For eons and eons
without stopping

It stops for us
but once
When we breathe
our very last breath.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Best Friends

All of seven years, the two went around together - within the safety of the colony walls, of course.

Shree would come from school, change, eat and rush to Nisha's house. "Quick, N! Why are you so slow?"

"Wait! I am just getting ready...!" Nisha would reply. Nisha's younger brother Anuj would request, "Me too, Nisha?"

Every other friend of N's was used to the little fellow. Shree said impatiently, "You and I are going to be doing craft work, N! What will Anuj do there?"

"He can hang around. I will show him how to paste," Nisha said smiling, the little mother that she was.

The three went into a room and out came the papers, the scissors, the colours, the glue. The little fellow giggled as N helped him with the glue. "But N! You are wasting time! And see, he has put glue all over this paper! And soon all our friends will come down to play and we wouldn't have completed our house!" For that was what they were planning to make.

"It's okay," said N with characteristic indifference.

"You don't have to waste time on Anuj! He can do it himself, you come here!"

Nisha felt mild irritation, but turned to the task at hand.

"Ni, can I paste this?" asked Anuj.

Nisha turned, but before that Shree said, "Can't you see Anuj? Ni is doing something important. She needs to concentrate!"

N's irritation increased. "A, you are making me waste time!" she exclaimed.

"But I don't know how to do it!" whined the five year old A. S snapped at him, and unhappily N followed suit. She couldn't understand who she really was irritated with, but since it was A who was disturbing her, and because S was her best friend, she turned on her younger brother. "You go out!"

"Mother!" cried A, not understanding why the otherwise helpful sister was being so rude.

But, N looked happy with S, and upset when the two had a fight. It was time to wean A off his elder sister.

A year later.

"Aunty, Ni is always rude," complained Raveena, another friend.

Nisha's mother frowned. "I will speak to her."

A while later, when N came home, she asked, "So you and R aren't friends?"

"No ma, it Shree and Raveena who have problems. But R is so bad! She carried tales to S about me, saying I complained to R about S! But it is R who was complaining to me about S. I didn't tell S any of it."

Mother shut her mouth. But N had more to add later, "R and I think S is very rude. So we have a plan. We will pretend to be S's friend and try to change her."

"Oh!" mother said. "And... how is that? I thought S and you were best friends?"

"I am not S's friend! She is very rude! She is always making people fight with each other. She thinks I am her best friend."

"How is that possible if she and you are not even friends?"

"We pretend to be her friend... that is the plan."

Not wanting to get into this mother said, "Okay, so the best thing is to be in large groups and not sit and do craft in the evenings. Play running games."

"I want to play! But S doesn't. And so she keeps making trouble. And you know ma, I feel very sad for her. Her mother doesn't even know what is happening because her mother is not there at home! She works all day."

This piece of wisdom had N's mother awe struck for a second. She asked mildly, to test her daughter's maturity. "So do you tell aunty about S?"

"No ma, S looks so happy when her mother is around that I don't feel like getting her into trouble."

Mother wondered if there could be a better way to be a best friend... even if you are not a friend

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Turning a Blind Eye

"Oh my darling, my bundle of joy,"
They held the child close to their heart
Promising themselves they will forever
Cherish and protect this bundle so soft.

Routine, the key to maintain sanity
Trusting strangers to take care of the baby
As one rushes out to build own life
For the future of the little one to shine bright

The present marred by the stranger's hand
Probing, exploring where parents don't dare
Lost and frightened, the children shut up
Scared to even with parents open up

"Hey, look, you must take care"
Warns a friendly neighbour who dares
Only to be withered by a look that throbs
Defying and saying, "We know our job."

Don't turn a blind eye o parents dear
There are many beasts, we hear
Patiently waiting for a chance
Winning your trust perhaps.

The people you trust
A mask comes first
Hiding the beast
That lurks within.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Little Bit of Sunlight

"Oh this heat!" we shut the daylight out, darken the windows, switch the AC on.

"My skin! Protect it!" when we have to step out we apply sunscreen to prevent tanning.

"Don't go in the sun!" we warn the children.

And it seems all this protection deprives us of Vitamin D, which leads to other bone problems. So now I have been recommended at least 15-30 minutes of exposure in midday sun to replete the Vit. D levels. To be done for a fortnight at least. This, despite the fact that I don't shy away from the sun, don't protect my skin with lotions and can be seen happily biking to places even during midday. What to say of those stuck indoors because of work?

A doctor once told me, it is a case of poverty amidst riches when I expressed surprise that Indians could suffer from this! Darker the skin worse the problem, it seems...

So take your daily dose of the sun. Yes, children still need to play in the shade, but just a few minutes of the sun can only be beneficial.

"Issued in public interest" :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One Earth: Conflict

One Earth: Conflict: Xenophobia, conflict with nature's creations... They are unique to mankind, right? Wrong! A raven and a pigeon got into a fight. The rav...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Please Skip

Years ago, a friend of mine mentioned a photo she had seen of what human beings will look like in the future. Emaciated limbs and a swollen head because that is the part he will use the most.

According to a Times of India report yesterday, we still are grappling with well-fed bodies - and especially the children. Parents may by gymming and losing weight, but children are still "cute and chubby", to their detriment. Their self-confidence is low, as they are not taken for any school activities, and it is a vicious cycle they get into.

As a dance teacher, I find that when I ask children to jump when doing one of the steps, they don't know what the word means. I demonstrate repeatedly, but their body - not fat, but heavy - refuses to lighten up for the spring action needed to do the step.

While teaching Nagaland folk dance in my children's school this year, we decided to ambitiously teach class 2 and 3 children the bamboo dance. To avoid getting hit by the stick when jumping over it, it requires again that spring action, a certain nimbleness and agility. To my horror, out of the six girls - and again, four not even fat -  only 1 could execute it with ease. One of them didn't know how one jumps, lifting the entire body and tripping, instead of bending the leg at the knee.

According to the Times report, 60 percent of the children do not know to jump... There were other such statistics, but this one, I could so relate to, since I personally see it happening.

I am sure parents are struggling today with heavy schedules - tuition classes, tennis classes, why - even leadership classes. But where then is the time for free play? I remember running, skipping, elastic, hopscotch and the like taking up my evenings. While specific sports maybe good exercise, it is free play that gives us a lot of skills - right from how to manage our time to holistic physical exercise and even interpersonal skills. It is a time when the children are on their own, without parental intervention, dealing with peers in a fun atmosphere. What can replace it ever as a means to learn the basics of life and living?

My current mantra to my students' parents is to get their children a skipping rope. Even if there is no play area, that is a game that is fun, can be played indoors and yet give physical activity for the children.

We need good brains, no doubt. But all work and no play... we know where that one leads to...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Achiever

Vaibhavi came out screaming with joy. She was one of the final 18 to have made it to the reality dance show. And what's more, she would not only be in the team of the dance master she loved, but she would also have Navin as her team mate.

Navin, just a year or two older than her, was a handsome boy. But the reason she fell in love with him was his power-packed performance during the selection round. And then, when the short listed candidates had to go through yet another elimination round, he had come to her for help. She and he were to be part of the contemporary dance, and that was her forte. He was more of a hip hopper.

"You were beautiful on stage," he said, turning on his charm. She felt weak-kneed. Breathing became difficult in his presence. When she taught him how to stretch and point his toes, she put in extra effort to show him how to do it. She was by nature patient, and she stretched herself to iron out his awkwardness with some of the steps.

The evening before the evaluation round, he had executed the dance with a smoothness that stunned even her! "That was cool!" she mumbled.

"All thanks to you," he smiled making her feel as if she were the most special person in the world.

She prayed for his success as much as her own... Maybe even more than her own.

And now, both were in, and in the same team! How cool was that!


Six weeks down, and Vaibhavi was surviving in the show only because she was naturally good at dance and some of the others had performed worse than she! Much as she tried to put her heart and soul into her dance,    she seemed to be below her usual standards. Every time she saw Navin and Reena - another dancer from her group - together, a stabbing pain gripped her heart. Reena was the current rising star in the team. Navin and she together were setting the stage on fire. Every time Vaibhavi tried to catch Navin alone, he was polite but behaved as if he knew her no more than the other dancers on the show.

Her partner on this show, Dilip, was frustrated with her and complaining to the master, "She is just not loosening up! I find it difficult to carry her and dance!"

She hung her head in shame. "I promise I will pay more attention." But her voice broke despite her attempts at self control, and she ran into her room.

Dilip and the master looked at her receding back stunned. "What's wrong with her? Is something wrong?" the master asked, sure that her journey on the show was going to end this week.

Dilip shrugged, suddenly realising that maybe something was bothering Vaibhavi. "I will find out, sir," he said.


Dilip and Vaibhavi were doing an aerial act this week and Dilip had his heart in his mouth as the two tried some stunts. Vaibhavi was doing it gracefully, but he felt her attention wandering. They were sharing the practice hall with Navin and Reena, who were doing a romantic duet in contemporary style.

"No Navin!" Reena snapped. "You are a tad too slow," she screeched irritated.

After a heavy silence, Navin called out, "Hey Vaibhu, I am having difficulty with this stretch. Can you see what I am doing wrong?"

Raina was fuming in a corner. Vaibhavi jumped off the ring from mid air unmindful of hurting herself and ran to Navin. In a flash of insight, Dilip realised what the problem was. He watched as Vaibhavi enthusiastically helped Navin. Vaibhavi's performance improved marginally this week, enough for her to survive yet another week!

But again Vaibhavi went back to being the "just-another-dancer" for Navin.


Dilip's job now was cut out for him. He sat through Vaibhavi's solo practice and paid extra attention when they were practicing for the duet. His role - self-defined - was to keep Vaibhavi in good spirits. Initially, it was a herculean task, but as the days rolled by, she responded, initiating some teasing on her own too. She was not such a bad girl, Dilip thought. Their chemistry on stage improved as did Vaibhavi's level of performance.

Suddenly, it seemed as if the remaining boys wouldn't mind being paired with her anymore. Her solos were a class apart.


Reena found herself out of the show. With just nine contenders, someone had to leave, and a bad back put her out of running. She went with good grace. Now there was only Vaibhavi, Dilip and Navin left in their team. Vaibhavi supported Navin in duets, but her real test was when performing with Dilip. She amazed all with her ability to manage the two dances with elan. Navin was back to being attentive to her, and this did wonders for her performance.

Dilip couldn't help noticing when she subtly hinted to her master - who was now willing to listen to her because she had become his star performer - that she be tested for her items with Navin and she would support Dilip.

Dilip felt pained. It was he who had brought back her form. His bitterness reflected in his dance, and every item carried a trademark undercurrent of sadness which immediately touched the judges and, it seemed, the millions of people watching the show. His ratings shot up and he became number one week after week. But that had no impact on Vaibhavi, who remained putty in Navins' hands.

And then, Navin was out. The finals had Vaibhavi, Dilip and two other dancers in the running. Dilip was the hot favourite, with Vaibhavi a good second.


Dilip watched as Vaibhavi and the other two contenders practiced. One was evenly matched with Vaibhavi, the fourth was really the joker in the pack - difficult to predict.

Of late, he had been keeping much to himself, and Vaibhavi didn't seem to miss him much. She was friendly, pulling his leg as usual if he were around. But beyond that, she was wrapped in her own world to understand others' feelings. She didn't see how Dilip felt about her and Navin. Strange that she who had suffered from unrequited love and jealousy could not understand similar feelings in another soul that had been so close to her!

The final day. Their master wished them both luck, but his eyes lingered on Dilip with special affection. Dilip did thumbs up and asked, "Can I go in last?"


He watched Vaibhavi and the other dancers perform. It was touch and go, but he decided to risk it. He performed, but not as brilliantly.

Voting started furiously the moment the show was over. They waited with bated breath for the results. The joker in the pack came fourth, the other dancer came third... A few moments of suspense and teasing later, Dilip was declared first runner up and Vaibhavi, the star!

A burst of applause and much hugging later, Vaibhavi flew into Navin's arms. Dilip, the loser, turned to leave when Vaibhavi came running to him. She threw her arms around him. "You have been my best friend on the show... Only you could do what you did. You will always be the winner for me... Thanks," her eyes welled up. "This means more than just the car and the cash prize to me..." she said in a broken voice. "I get Navin too..." Her moist eyes looked at him gratefully, searing his heart.

"All the best," he whispered and walked away.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Head on Pillow

To not look at time
And run a mile
To not have to decide
Between the car and bike

To be able to walk
Talk, hear a tale
And not worry
That I might be late

For the head
To touch the pillow
And let the dream
Smoothly flow

No to-do list
Keeping me awake
No plans, no answers
Inspiring in mid sleep

To just sleep
With no cares
And wake up
To uneventful days

I wish for this
And yet, do I?
For even as I write
Boredom seems the plight!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ripple in Routine

A call last week had me completely floored. The secretary of the sabha where I performed on Feb 19 called me to inform me that I was one of the dancers selected for receiving their 'Best Performer' certification for this year. It was as if all the hard work I had put in for my Feb 19 program was vindicated.

For this program especially, I had put in more effort than in recent years - it was a point I had to prove to myself. And when my performance flowed smoothly, when I looked slimmer than last year, when I was able to sustain my energy throughout... I felt vindicated. This award was like a crowning glory - though it is a small and probably routine affair for the sabha, it was unexpected and the first time for me. And that is what made this moment sweeter.

But strangely, what brought tears to my eyes was when I stepped off the stage after a group photo, my father who had accompanied me, asked me affectionately, "Why were you hidden behind and not in the front for the photo?" I felt like a child again. It was hard to respond to my children like a mother on reaching home.

But I must add here another honour I had received last year. A leading sabha has a wing that brings dancers together for them to take the art form to the poor. After a performance for that wing in the regular forum, I was called. I was flattered at being identified as one of the potential dancers who could be trusted to do this. Though my group of four  have not done anything since then, I am hoping that we will soon resume our endeavour to do this - yet another excuse to dance, what else!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Being Born as a Woman

Being born a woman
Born of a woman
Having borne a woman
Can she be a woe!

Educate her
Treat her well
Respect her
She will respect others

Cherish the woman
Nourish her body
Nurture her mind
And you create wealth

This simple equation
Lost in translation
The only consideration
The dowry calculation

A child bearing machine
To carry only men
An unpaid worker
Her role only in the kitchen

Locked up in the house
How will she then show
What she is capable of
If you don't let her grow!

Open your minds
See the world around
Woman is in space
But she has no place!

In your heart
In your hearth
At your feet
You trample ruthlessly!

You are not cursed
Because you have a girl
She is the one
Cursed to be born to you!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fallen Leaves

Aged, dried,
Unable to cling on
Discarded leaves
Their life gone

They had been green too
Once upon a time
Providing others shade
And the tree some food

Yellowing and useless
They fall in the light breeze
To be crushed under
Hurriedly walking feet

Raked up and bundled
Shoved to a corner
To be burnt brutally
And then forgotten forever

But the ones that escape
Have a purpose to fulfill
Making the dry ground
Like soft bedding.

Monday, February 20, 2012

In Two

Strange is the heart
Split into two halves

Elated on one hand
Hurt for another part

Celebrating, one moment
Then turning sour!

I wonder when
The thought crept in

Is it worth it, I ask
It replies, not at all

And yet it clings
To that which singes

Breathe in deep
Meditate on good

Let the joy wash over
Dip in deep and swim

Distractions galore
And yet that thorn

Tears the little heart
Into two equal halves.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sane Advice

I went for an unexpected meeting with a government department on some prospective work. Two senior doctors walked in as this was a health department. I was introduced as a journalist.

I like to make myself scarce at such times. My instinct was the same this time too, and though the person I went to meet tried to clarify this, the doctor didn't choose to hear.

He told me, "Please don't highlight only the negatives. There are many good things happening in the country, but they get hidden away in small paras. By writing only about the negative things, we give the impression as if there is nothing good about this country."

I smiled. "What is good about this country?" was the first question that came to my mind. But then I thought - wait. That's what the papers tell me. And yet, the man I came to meet was telling me passionately about one of the schemes that had taken sweat and toil to implement. He sounded passionate and proud of the achievement. Maybe, writing about it will not be breaking news. But yes, no one will get to know that there are people who are working too! There is no sensation in that! Only scams give us something to talk about.

The doctor went on to explain, "I can make money by doing anything as a doctor. But I must take care. A journalist's job is just as important. Don't write only to make money."

Well, doctor...that's a thought.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Imitating the Waves

The moon was golden as it rose from the Bay of Bengal. The waves, green and blue and white, foaming as they touched the brown sand. The breeze blew pleasantly, neither cold not warm... Just perfect to soothe.

A small stage, two dancers, ready to show their mettle to a select guest of a leading IT company.

The guests were delayed, but the moon climbed, not waiting for anyone. The reflection in the waters danced and the sea rippled gently, not in a hurry either, but not resting either.

The lights came on, and a sitar player took the stage, mellifluously building the mood for a half hour of cultural showcasing.

Then came the two dancers, their costume pleats ballooning in the breeze like a sail.

There is nothing to match the joy of dancing in the open, on the seashore, under the sky, the moon and the stars... With the cosmos as the witness, a million stars for audience, do a handful of mortals matter?

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Rathna walked back to her seat with a glow on her face that was difficult to miss. She had won the best scriptwriter award this year - the best debut.

She accepted the congratulations gracefully, even looked at the other nominees and smiled. Didn't she know what it felt like to be rejected? Her own hurt was still fresh, though it had happened many years back.

She had been so hopeful of getting through the premium engineering institution that she had let her board marks slip just a bit... Not that she had a say in the matter, but that's how it had panned out. "Such an intelligent girl! She will get it definitely!" Didn't everyone encourage her with these words? And then she had missed it.

Of course, she should have guessed the result even on completing the entrance exam, but she had held on to hope. Not getting through was bad enough, but when she applied in other colleges, she was not given admission in BSc Math! Physics, Chemistry, Bio... no luck... Sorry... No vacancy!

She couldn't show her face anywhere. She kept trying, hoping for last minute admission. She kept track of when there was a vacancy in any of the BSc streams, but there always seemed to be one more candidate to fit the bill.

The first six months of her first year BA History was spent in pursuing a BSc seat, with all her neighbours and friends assuring her - "Just wait. I have told my friend, who knows someone who knows the principal. Something is bound to happen." Suddenly, it was not about her capability, but that of the acquaintance's in being able to pull off a favour.

How miserable she had been. And then, after six months, she had to swallow the bitter pill of disappointment. "Too late ma, we should have gone to them earlier..." the rest told her regretfully...

She had settled with difficulty and just scraped through in first year. Years 2 and 3 weren't so bad as she made friends and even started enjoying history.

So much so that she wrote a historical play on Chanakya - creating a character like him for modern times. And that had gone on to win critical recognition among the playwrights and theatre personalities. Then was made into a movie. Five years after the debacle of being rejected for BSc, she felt vindicated.

She was capable. So what if it was not in getting admission into science? Her star was meant to shine elsewhere.

Now, she knew, there was no looking back as new ideas squirmed in her head, bursting to emerge into full-fledged plays.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Watery Vacation

It was a weekend of water and birds. Though the birds seem to have gone back and could be seen only in small numbers, just being next to the calm waters, wooded banks and amidst the birds was very relaxing.

Children did get a bit fed up. "Not the same birds again!" they exclaimed... But as the sun started setting, there was much excitement and laughter. The good roads made driving a pleasure in itself.

And then we found the lake with green grass that seemed like a haven away from the bustling city life. Except for the three men who seemed intent on having a drink party in the middle of the afternoon. Though they were quiet, we probably spoiled their mood by going there out of the blue at a time when no one was expected.

Surprisingly, one of the children also felt scared of all the water and wanted to be carried uncharacteristically! But at another spot on the way back home, he managed to perk up and enjoy watching the birds through the binoculars.

What is it about the water that calms one so! The gentle breeze made me wish I could picnic there, thus enjoying the setting a bit more.

More importantly, I am so glad to have journeyed to these places. Calm is never very far if we take the trouble to get away from our routines. It was also heartening to note that there are places where nature still has a sway.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Amusement Park

Two families went to an amusement park in Chennai. The group consisted of three under 10s and four around/over 40s. The latter was above (read: too scared, too sick) to take most of the rides. The under 10s couldn't go to many, or were dragged away because the elders didn't want to accompany.

Cut to a week later, one of the adults rides her bike on city roads and wonders why we have amusement parks. The bumpy roads give enough jolts befitting a dragon train. The vehicles around simulate dashing cars and Arabian Nights ride where the cups and saucers manage to miss each other by a hair's breadth. The heart is always in the throat as we navigate through these chaotic roads.

The only thing missing is the enjoyment factor. If we can convince ourselves that being dropped down from the skies is fun, then why not this! It's all in the mind, baby!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Anubavangal: Chasing Her Shadow - Literary Fiction Novel - love...

Chasing Her Shadow - Literary Fiction Novel -  on modern complexities of human relationships. My official debut novel, which my friends liked and encouraged me to write more. Only now woke up to the fact that I can share this on blog too...

Awaiting your feedback

Friday, January 13, 2012

From the Babe's Mouth: Part IV

There were many things I wanted to write on. But this one took the cake!

As I was driving down tonight with the kids in the backseat, a bike insisted on honking me out to my left by trying to travel down the narrow path between my car and the median.

So I ranted a bit and told my kids never to ride like this once they grew up. "He is not only endangering himself, but also me!" I complained of the bike rider.

"You must say the other way - he is not only putting you in danger, but also himself." - said my daughter.

"No, what I mean is - if he wishes to meet with an accident, that's his problem. But by driving like this, he is also careless about the risk to others," I explained.

"Yes, and because he is making a mistake, god will punish him," my daughter replied. "But if he hits us, then it is also because we are being punished for something we did many days ago..." Then she thought. "So god has to remember all the mistakes we make and haven't been punished for." Then the realisation, "How will he remember the mistakes of all the people done at different times! So he has to do us good for the good we did and remember all our mistakes and punish us for that too."

We just laughed and she said, "He really must have heads in all directions."

Well, she is thinking quite a lot!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Competition

The two stood
Poised on the brink
One to take off
One to sink

The judges watched
Equally tense
Neither a favourite
Neither any less

Just a point
Between the two
Will decide now
On the winner who

Will take the trophy
And walk away
With a smile broad
Back all the way

The other dissolves
In tears salty
A dam bursting
Within his heart

Why not me
Just for a moment
Hold that cup
The trophy of the event?

All alone
In that moment
Not any word
Can reach the depths

The hard work
The skills
The enthusiasm
Positive thinking

All to a naught
Now life seems fraught
A long stretch of loneliness
With the tag of a loser

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Small Joys

As I waited for my daughter to finish practicing yesterday for a music program this Saturday, another waiting mother informed me, "There is practice on Saturday morning too. I cannot bring my son. In any case, there are 40 children singing. What difference will one voice make?"

Hmmm... I thought. Why do I have to, too? Don't I have enough on my plate already?

So when I was driving back with my eight-year-old daughter, she mentioned something about the program and I casually remarked, "Forty kids. How does it matter if one sings or not."

She replied, "No ma! See we get to sing in such places, and practice! Can we call the grandparents?"

I was chastised immediately and said lamely, "That's the right attitude."

This morning, she chirped around the house happily, "I am so excited. I get selected in all music related things. I am in choir (there is a school choir, which is how she ended up in this program), I am in this program, and I am in the school music programs too!"

They are all by the same teacher... But why spoil her fun, when it makes her eyes shine so!

Am I glad she sometimes does not listen to me!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Exclusive Amusement

The cyclone whipped up a wind, and the stink from the nearby dump swept over us strongly. But even that couldn't deter us from watching the swallows and the crows from enjoying the wind.

The tiny swallows would fly up, be caught in the wind, and be swept back. They would spread their wings, stop their flight, and then allow the winds to carry them behind.

Suddenly, the crows joined in the fun. Even their larger bodies enjoyed the effortless reverse flight that the winds afforded them...

Their own private amusement park?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcoming New Year

The bursting of crackers woke her sleeping husband up. "Happy new year," she whispered. She went to the window to see the fireworks lighting up the sky. The nearby terrace had a crowd of people screaming 'happy new year.' She smiled to herself.

They had been in the party circuit when they were newly married. But somehow... somewhere along the line... it hadn't seemed as exciting. It seemed to take too much effort to talk over the loud music, to be excited about the dinner so late... to think that the people at the party were so close that one HAD to welcome the new year with them.

She slipped into the bed. Her husband put an arm around her. They smiled at each other in the darkness and kissed gently. "Happy new year," she whispered again. He merely smiled. She chuckled, knowing his theories about these 'special days'.

She heard a message alert. It was her colleague. Must have just finished the midnight mass in the church, which she never failed to attend on new year's eve. Like her sister, who never missed going to the temple first thing in the morning. She replied to her colleague and greeted her sister. Her husband chuckled reading a message on his mobile. "That was mom..." She smiled. Her mother-in-law had only recently learnt to send messages. She found the gesture sweet.

As the crackers fell silent, she strained her ears to discern the sound of the workers in the nearby land. A metro station was coming up there, and for the last few days, she had heard them work through the night. A demolishing vehicle would go up and down, incessantly, guided by men on the ground. The felling of trees was the most heart-wrenching.

But today, it was silent. She was glad that the workers had been given time off to welcome the new year too...

She closed her eyes and prayed, 'May the new year bring peace and happiness.'

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