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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 30: Mission Accomplished !

And, just like that, the 30 days of November are over. The NaBloPoMo blogathon is ending today. While I do have the option of continuing writing every day – as I was doing on my Facebook page until NaBloPoMo started - I doubt if I will get back to it with the same level of regularity immediately. 

Maybe because I diligently wrote each day’s blog post, trying to make each one count, with something of value, but now, I feel like a small break is necessary to recuperate from this loquacious onslaught on my own psyche, not to mention the one on people who’ve been reading my blogs πŸ˜‰



To all those whose topic suggestions I took up and wrote about – cheers! You got me to say what I feel about things that matter to you although it may not have been exactly what you were looking for, in some cases 
πŸ˜‰

To those who didn’t find their topics covered in this blogathon – take heart! I have your requests safely in a Word file, and will definitely write about them in the days to come, and send you the link, too, so you know I’ve kept my word 😊

I’m expecting a few things to happen from tomorrow –

· The chores I’ve neglected to devote time to writing will get their due attention

· The tidiness coefficient at home will inch upwards

· My laptop will finally find its way to the service centre to get its faulty hinge mechanism repaired

· The Sanskrit study will get greater attention, hopefully boosting my chances of doing well in the Sanskrita Bharati exam that’s due in February 2017

· The new nickname I’d earned at home – “Bloggie” – will gradually fade away

When I first invited myself to join Swathi Ram in this blogging initiative, I didn’t realize it would lead to such a huge learning experience.

I met many new bloggers, read what they wrote, had the opportunity for some wonderful insights from their writings

I picked up a few skills in commenting on others’ blogs

I learned how it feels when people you don’t know at all read and comment on your blog, and you realize you share the same perspectives….

Overall, it was an enriching experience that I wouldn’t have missed for anything.

Thank you Swathi, Priya, Rekha, Deepti, Shilpa, Varsha, Tara, Rajitha, Saritha, Ashwini, Ashwathi, Uma and all the others on this journey 😍😍😍

Thank you, dear readers – friends and family, commenters and non-commenters-but-silent-readers…

I hope to get back in a few days time, rejuvenated, with some more of Anu’s Words..God Bless! 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 29 : May Our Brave Martyred Soldiers Attain Sadgati

For the first time in these 29 days, I find myself too drained out to write a blog post. Probably, I should have written it earlier in the day when I had some free time, instead of reading a long-pending John Grisham novel that needs to be returned to the library. Or maybe I should have even got it done before the news of 7 of our Army men being martyred in a terrorist attack in Nagrota today got me all upset. 

Just a few days back, a friend expressed surprise that I hadn’t written anything about 26/11 (yes, I have somehow built up that kind of an expectation) and I’d replied saying a cold, heavy-headedness and mild fever had left me with no energy to write on ‘involved’ topics that raise strong emotion. 

But there had been a few thoughts I had put down subsequently on how we – the common public who can’t give ourselves to fighting the enemy on the border – can work for our country to see better days. The news of today’s terrorist attack with so many of our brave hearts sacrificed moved me in such a way that I spent about an hour writing about this, and combining it with those other thoughts, to prepare an article for Post Card News for whom I write occasionally.

Somehow, now, writing about anything else seems to be superfluous. I know – life has to go on, and we can all only do that which we’re equipped to do. But it seems so unfair – us sitting comfortably here, talking of this and that, reading books, watching TV, sharing jokes on WhatsApp and Facebook, while our men’s lives are snuffed out so cruelly by a rogue state. How many more must we have to lose before it is brought to book???

I don’t generally allow negative emotions to spill to this blogging space, so I guess I’ll just stop here with a prayer to the Almighty that may He grant Sadgati to the brave souls who sacrificed for our nation!

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Monday, 28 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 28: Of Twitter Trends and Kindness

The latest trend of the day on Twitter is #ShilpaShettyReviews and looks like many Indians on Twitter have suddenly turned into literature experts. Wait, let me explain.

A few days ago, there was a piece of news about a change in the ICSE syllabus to make it more contemporary by including Tintin, Asterix, Amar Chitra Katha, Harry Potter and so on.

Who’s likely to be affected by this decision? Teachers, children and parents, right? So it would have made perfect sense to stick to getting the views of this target audience. Okay, you could have asked eminent educationists, those into educational policy-making and school principals for what they thought of this move.

But one of our oh-so-bright newspapers in Mumbai with stars-in-their-eyes thought it made great news to ask a celebrity for her opinion on the issue. 




On being asked what she thought about this move, actress Shilpa Shetty praised it because of how it would help improve children’s imagination and creativity. Then, she is reported as having commented that "Even Animal Farm should be included as it will teach the little ones to love and care for animals.”

It’s not sure how she picked that book to comment on. In the sense that if she had known what it’s about, she wouldn’t have ever said what she did. Was the book on a random book list that the journo provided? Or did the journalist himself or herself propose the name of that book? Whatever the process, the end result was a gaffe. Because this is what the book is about – which is far, far away from teaching kids to love and care for animals.

Now I wonder if the journo and others who were part of the decision to carry that part of Ms. Shetty’s comment, themselves knew it was a no-brainer. Is that the reason why they didn’t find anything wrong in running that comment? Or was it that they knew and yet, deliberately chose to go with it because it would become a talking point and in the competitive world of journalism, grabbing eyeballs is what counts more than kindness?

Once the piece was published, someone commented about it on Twitter, and it set off a flurry of others tweeting with the hashtag #ShilpaShettyReviews. All India Bakchod prepared a set of quotes drawing similar parallels of what the actress may have said about some other books. Many others on Twitter added their 2 cents of would-be-hilarious-if-only-not-so-unkind comments. 


Not to be left out, news portals carried stories on how the hashtag was trending on Twitter. I’m not repeating those comments here because everyone’s 2 cents put together becomes a huge amount that can be damaging to the psyche of the individual who’s the target. Of course, being a celebrity, Ms. Shetty will have developed her own defenses to cope with such trolling, but I do not wish to compound the damage.

In my opinion, if at all anyone deserves to be trolled, it is the persons who rushed to seek a celebrity’s opinion on something that is not her field of expertise. It shows how star-struck we have become. By trolling the wrong person, we have revealed our depraved sense of humor that finds joy when certain stereotypes are reinforced. 

Indeed, it seems this episode drives home the reversal of that premise of the famous quote from Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” 

Irony, anyone?

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Sunday, 27 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 27: Change is Not Easy

A few days ago I met an acquaintance who has recently begun counseling. She recounted to me her experience with a client who obviously has some not-very-optimal responses to people and yet, is not willing to accept that she needs to explore different response patterns. My friend was quite surprised at this behavior, so I put her at ease by explaining that this is very common.

For example, let’s say a lady feels her husband and kids do not care for her. She complains that she is the one always busy doing things while they all have a jolly time, and expect her to wait on them. The angst keeps building up and turns into either irritability or feelings of worthlessness. Now, this lady has two options – either she continues doing things like before and not let herself get affected by the situation, or she learns to assert herself, and gets the rest of the family involved in the work, so she gets to relax a little.

Now this is exactly where people get stuck. We don’t want to appear demanding, we don’t want to upset the apple cart, we want everything to remain hunky dory between us and others and yet, we want them to somehow miraculously understand how we’re feeling and come forward to help us out. Which is never going to happen because people around us are not mind-readers. Sometimes, people genuinely don’t understand; other times, they may have an inkling and yet, they won’t venture beyond their comfort zone since you are not asking them to.

So, when faced with a situation like this, you have to decide which is more important to you. Your own long-term peace and happiness for which you may need to bear some short-term discomfort, or, not upsetting others.

Quite a few such people, who lack assertiveness, come to the counselor unconsciously looking for someone to reinforce their belief that they are a victim of circumstances. When you try to suggest ( in milder terms than the one I’ve used here) that they stop playing victim and start taking an active role in improving conditions, their visits gradually stop. 


There’s nothing much the counselor can do in such cases beyond praying that the client somehow gathers the strength to come back and do the hard work of working on one's own behavior.
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Saturday, 26 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 26: You Know You're Being Seen as a Writer When....

......at family gatherings, you notice a subtle yet significant shift in the dynamics of interactions with your relatives…
  • Noticing me taking pictures of things that no one else was bothered about, I got asked, “Oh, is this for your blog post?”

  • After the customary “how are you,” some people brought up something on which I wrote and the conversation turned into a mini-discussion on that topic.
  • Someone asked, “So, what will you be writing on today? Will it be about this function?”
  • Whenever he was in the vicinity, my son butted into the conversation, warning the other person, “Hey, be careful what you say…Amma is going to make a blog post out of it.”
  • A relative said he’s sorry he hasn’t been able to keep up with the latest articles that I wrote, but that he would read all of them in a few days time.
  • An elderly aunt, while leaving, told me, “Do keep sending links to your articles. I like reading what you write.”
  • A relative who’s closer to my son’s age than mine said he’d just been telling my son that he likes my articles and talks because they are inspiring.
  • Someone offered that I should come and stay in her house for a few days of undisturbed writing. She'd give me food and leave me alone the rest of the time to gaze out of the balcony or sit in the park, thinking and writing in peace.
  • While introducing me to someone I was meeting for the first time, after establishing my main identity as “Ranga Mama maatponnu,” the next piece of information passed on was “She’s a lecturer, and writer too.”
  • A cousin commented, “You must have got material worth 3 or 4 blog posts in this function, right?”
Ever since I began writing, on my blog and elsewhere, I’ve been putting out the links to my pieces through WhatsApp and Facebook. Not because I want recognition or praise as a writer, but with the hope that something I write may prove useful to someone, somewhere, at some time. Which is why ever since I started writing, I had never attached too much importance to whether people respond through comments, likes, shares etc. 


Quite often, it has even happened that my closest family and friends have not read some pieces that other readers have appreciated and found useful. Sometimes, there have been no comments from anyone, and judging from that, it looked like no one had read it. But now, I know better.

And seeing the enthusiasm and encouragement for my writing, all I can do is bow my head with humility and thank God and members of the Thatiampatty and Kashi families for standing by me as I cross the boundary of “Ramanna’s daughter and Rangamaama’s daughter-in-law” to try to don the mantle of “Writer.”


NaBloPoMo November 2016

Friday, 25 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 25: Inheritance

He sat in the portico in the mild morning sunlight to ward off the chill that seemed to settle over him quicker these days. 
As the stiff joints relaxed in the welcome warmth of the sun, his thoughts drifted away to the past as they often did nowadays. 

Several images appeared in front of his mind’s eye. 

An elderly, respected Sanskrit scholar – his father. 

An affectionate mild-mannered lady who left this world early – his mother. 

Young boys who trudged long distances barefoot to school in their knotted-where-torn dhotis – his brothers. 

Young girls who took on early the mantle of mothering the motherless lads – his sisters. 

The young woman who followed him into an unknown land to raise their family, bearing more than her share of difficulties – his wife.

Then, he thought of his kids, feeling a little sad that unlike some of his peers, he had not been able to give them any great material comfort or inheritance.

Towards late evening, he sat silently watching as they all gathered around him for the customary bhajan session. 

The only person missing was his first-born who was, right then, at a temple far away, praying for his good health - Dynamic M with an ability to attract people and soothe them with some timely help.

Next, he looked at - Hardworking Vi who always insisted on doing what was right even if it was difficult or caused discomfort.

His gaze lingered fondly on - Enthusiastic Va whose infectious positivity made people comfortable.

He couldn’t help smiling watching - Leader B who specialized in getting things done effectively by managing people well

Then, he contemplated silently on - Even-minded A who stayed calm always to support others.

His face had a wide grin as he looked at - Smart K who had a rare farsightedness and a keen judgment.


As several voices sang in unison on H. S. Rama Iyengar’s 86th birthday, each of his daughters felt an immense sense of gratitude to their father for the qualities they had imbibed from him, along with his sense of deep devotion. Could there have been any inheritance bigger than this?




NaBloPoMo November 2016

Thursday, 24 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 24: Boatman and Pandit - New Age Version

Jaya stretched her legs in the cramped space, mentally berating herself for not booking her tickets in the AC Chair Car. She’d put off her travel decision to the last moment and had been forced to settle for the ordinary seats-meant-for-2-but-allotted-to-3-people in the D3 coach of the Intercity Express that now sped on its way to Bangalore.

Opening her newspaper, she settled down to read of the latest happenings. A piece caught her attention because of the callous attitude people had nowadays. A kid had lost his life following an accident, because no one had come forward to rush him to the hospital. What a world we live in, Jaya rued.

Her reverie was broken by the arrival of a young girl who seemed to be having a giggly conversation on the phone. Yet another of those mindless chatterboxes, Jaya found herself thinking. How modest girls used to be in our times, she thought, looking with faintly concealed disdain at the girl, who was anyway too busy talking.

As the train chugged along, Jaya gradually slipped into a light sleep; only to be rudely awakened by the same girl’s voice again as she tried to get her words across to someone over what was obviously a poor connection. These girls and their banter, Jaya silently fumed. Such a ruckus over a bauble – a key-chain that one of those traveling hawkers try to sell on the train. 



After a loud conversation, the girl finally settled on one piece. A few minutes later, she did the same with the lady hawking those fancy dangling earrings. What a fuss, Jaya thought, for someone who’s not even wearing a small stud in her ears.

After a while, a woman passed by with some books that teach beginners the alphabets, fruits, vegetables and numbers. Much to Jaya’s irritation, again, the young girl spent some time with someone over the phone, describing the books and asking which ones she should get. Why couldn’t people just take their friends along while shopping in their own place instead of making a dance and song of it while traveling by train and disturbing others? And how impulsive these youngsters were, wanting to buy everything that they saw!

When the train finally reached Bangalore, Jaya was relieved to be rid of that young girl’s conversations and non-stop buying. She hurried home because she wanted to get enough rest before the seminar she had to conduct the next day.

Morning dawned bright and clear and luckily, Jaya made it to the venue without getting stuck in traffic. All the coordinators and participants had already gathered in the hall, and so, the seminar started on time. During the introduction, Jaya noticed the same girl from the train and was intrigued. Later, when the participants were divided into groups with specific topics for discussion, she lingered around the one with this girl.

The group coordinator was asking people to share their experiences of how something they have done has caused someone joy or pain. Inwardly, Jaya smirked, thinking that she had a good example of how that girl had caused her pain. 

But something made her pause as the girl began speaking. “It’s not anything big, but I can’t remember anything else to tell here. Whenever I go on a train journey, I try to buy some small things from the people who come selling on the train. They are at least trying to earn a sincere living rather than begging. So I buy something from them so that it’s like encouraging them. Even if I don’t have any use for those items, I try to buy things which I can give someone else. Like just yesterday, I bought a key-chain for our flat watchman’s wife whose old one had rusted; I also bought some colorful alphabet and fruit books for our maid’s little one. In this way, I get to help some people at least in a small way, and make them feel happy.”


To Jaya, it suddenly seemed like there were two people that day who needed to exchange places in the “Joy of Giving” seminar………


***A fellow-blogger's post of a few days ago was the inspiration for me to pen this...you can read her piece here
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 23: Of Attractiveness Stereotypes

The class is getting restless after about 45 minutes of lecturing. I’m tired of it, too. So, I tell them we’ll play a game. I'll say one word, and they should write down the immediate word that comes to mind on hearing it. In the middle of many generic words like ‘mother,’ ‘Bangalore,’ ‘pharmacy,’ ‘father’ and so on, I slip in my name, too. No, I’m not narcissistic – there’s a purpose behind this word association name. After I’m done with my list of about 10 words, we discuss what each one wrote in response and they understand the concept of word association.

I ask what they wrote against my name and they come out with certain adjectives. Like I said already, I’m not interested in singing my own praises, so I’ll pass the question of what those adjectives were. We run through them and I point out that none of them said ‘short’ ‘long hair’ ‘saree’ ‘fair’ etc. I use this example to help them understand how it shows that it’s some quality in me that came to mind. This means we respond to the vibe we catch from someone rather than their physical appearance. Otherwise, how could they ignore my lack of beauty to come up with these words?

At this point, there’s some XYZ, who, secure in the anonymity provided by the back benches, blurts out, “But Ma’am, you’re beautiful,” and in response, I quip, “Wow – thank you, five marks extra for XYZ in the next exam.” We all laugh. Both they and I know I can say that for precisely the reason that it’s farthest from the truth of how I operate.

During this discussion, they open up about how what I’m telling them is totally the opposite of what they face in their peer group or family circles. So we go on to talk more about it, and I try to give them examples of well-known achievers who reached where they did based solely on their ability and not their looks.

From their responses, it’s obvious that they are vulnerable to what people comment about their looks. I know, I know, they must know better – but if you recollect the diffidence of your youth, it’s not difficult to empathize with these young ones and their pain.

Which is why I get upset with advertisements like the new ad of Fogg deodorant for men. There’s this guy who’s getting ready and wants to know if he will be found acceptable – and going by the usual premise of these deo advertisements – probably by a girl. His friends says he’s only 50% ready until he uses Fogg and the voiceover doles out this gyaan – “To be liked by someone, it’s important to not just look good, but also smell good.” Which, I feel, is ridiculous because while the last part of this sentence reduces the entire exercise of “liking” someone to an animalistic level, the first part propagates false stereotypes.

Of course, we know advertisers do what it takes to sell their product. Getting into a tizzy over potentially-damaging ideas they convey to their target audience is not what they get paid for. Besides, isn’t it the consumers’ job to not get swayed by the inappropriate messaging? Right, it is – except that in the kind of society we live in, with its emphasis on fair skin, medium build, tall, slender, good looking individuals, the have-nots (the ones who don’t have these attributes) get marginalized to such an extent that they lose confidence in their abilities which, any day, are a far bigger measure of them as people than mere external appearance.

I talk about this low self-esteem stemming from negative body image out of my considerable experience with youngsters. I’ve had students who’ve been really good at something but hesitant to showcase it or step into the limelight because they think they don’t look good enough. There are others who get discouraged from pursuing something they’re good at because they’ve had experiences where their abilities have been brushed aside in favor of someone who’s better-looking. And in this, along with adults, the youth are sometimes the enemies of their own peers.


By talking to my students of these things, I try to bolster their self-belief. It may be a tiny drop in the ocean; but then, isn’t it true that many a drop an ocean make? Hopefully, someday when they feel hurt by callous comments, they will take heart by remembering my encouraging words.
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 22 : Tribute to a Musical Legend


As I walked across the examination hall, supervising the students, my mind strayed to think of what to write today. Repeatedly, there was this thought of writing about music and its role in culture. I kept resisting it because, for a non-musical person like me, writing on this requires a lot of thought, research and time, if I must do justice to it.

Still pondering, I reached home to hear of the news that Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna – the doyen of Carnatic music – has passed away at the age of 86 years after a brief illness. Hearing this, I decided I must write something at least of my memory of this great personality.



Living in Goa, I was far away from knowing much about Carnatic music although I did attend classes for a few months – not long enough to learn beyond the very first basic steps. I was always getting confused between the names of two South Indian singers – Balamuralikrishna and Balasubramanyam – because the first parts of their names were same. But once the “Mile Sur Meraa Tumhaaraa” video began playing on Doordarshan in 1988, I found a way to distinguish between the two – M and M – BalaMURALIkrishna – the one with the “M” in his name was the one in the “MILE Sur..” video.

To most Indians, Dr. Balamuralikrishna was the guy who appeared in this film immediately after the Punjabi set (consisting of the cast of the serial Tamas, I guess, with Om Puri and Deepa Sahi). He was the roly-poly man, walking on the beach, singing in Tamil about “isai” or music, with shots of Kamal Hassan and Ramanathan Krishnan (I think) interspersed.

To me, he was more familiar through his rendering of the Purandaradasa Krithis in Kannada, which were played regularly in my home. 


I distinctly remember one particular song, “Naa maadida karmaa, balavantavaadarey, nee maaduvadeno devaa…” This translates to mean something like, “When the karmaa (deeds) I have done are overwhelming, what can You do to redeem me, O Lord?” 

This song stuck in my mind because at that young age, the word karmaa sounded derogatory to me – like something to crib about. So, somehow, I concluded this song was sung in a sense of self-pity. Only later, when I grew up enough to understand the philosophy behind the concept of karma, did I realize the wisdom conveyed through the song with such simplicity.

Another song I remember in the unique nasal-ish voice of Dr. Balamuralikrishna is “Anugaalavu chinte, jeevake tanna manavu, Sriranga nolu mechuvaatanakaa” that means, “All the time, humans worry about something or the other; only focusing on Lord Ranga can give relief.”

Much later, after relocating to Bangalore, I got to know more about this great personality and his creativity. Not only was he a master of existing raagaas, he also contributed to Carnatic music by creating several new raagaas. He is also known for scoring the music track of the film Adi Sankara, the first film made in Sanskrit.

Despite achieving great success in the form of several awards, including the Padma awards, he remained a simple person. I read somewhere once that he remarked that his name was only Muralikrishna and the ‘Bala’ was prefixed when he gave his initial performances as a young child; yet, he used that prefix to keep reminding himself that he was still a child, a student, in the study of music.

In losing a stalwart like Dr. Balamuralikrishna, the country has lost a son who made an invaluable contribution to preserving and growing the musical culture of this land. In keeping with the tradition of Sanatana Dharma, let us pray that his soul attains the highest abode that he earned through his earthly sojourn.
NaBloPoMo November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 22 : Tribute to a Musical Legend


As I walked across the examination hall, supervising the students, my mind strayed to think of what to write today. Repeatedly, there was this thought of writing about music and its role in culture. I kept resisting it because, for a non-musical person like me, writing on this requires a lot of thought, research and time, if I must do justice to it.

Still pondering, I reached home to hear of the news that Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna – the doyen of Carnatic music – has passed away at the age of 86 years after a brief illness. Hearing this, I decided I must write something at least of my memory of this great personality.



Living in Goa, I was far away from knowing much about Carnatic music although I did attend classes for a few months – not long enough to learn beyond the very first basic steps. I was always getting confused between the names of two South Indian singers – Balamuralikrishna and Balasubramanyam – because the first parts of their names were same. But once the “Mile Sur Meraa Tumhaaraa” video began playing on Doordarshan in 1988, I found a way to distinguish between the two – M and M – BalaMURALIkrishna – the one with the “M” in his name was the one in the “MILE Sur..” video.

To most Indians, Dr. Balamuralikrishna was the guy who appeared in this film immediately after the Punjabi set (consisting of the cast of the serial Tamas, I guess, with Om Puri and Deepa Sahi). He was the roly-poly man, walking on the beach, singing in Tamil about “isai” or music, with shots of Kamal Hassan and Ramanathan Krishnan (I think) interspersed.

To me, he was more familiar through his rendering of the Purandaradasa Krithis in Kannada, which were played regularly in my home. 


I distinctly remember one particular song, “Naa maadida karmaa, balavantavaadarey, nee maaduvadeno devaa…” This translates to mean something like, “When the karmaa (deeds) I have done are overwhelming, what can You do to redeem me, O Lord?” 

This song stuck in my mind because at that young age, the word karmaa sounded derogatory to me – like something to crib about. So, somehow, I concluded this song was sung in a sense of self-pity. Only later, when I grew up enough to understand the philosophy behind the concept of karma, did I realize the wisdom conveyed through the song with such simplicity.

Another song I remember in the unique nasal-ish voice of Dr. Balamuralikrishna is “Anugaalavu chinte, jeevake tanna manavu, Sriranga nolu mechuvaatanakaa” that means, “All the time, humans worry about something or the other; only focusing on Lord Ranga can give relief.”

Much later, after relocating to Bangalore, I got to know more about this great personality and his creativity. Not only was he a master of existing raagaas, he also contributed to Carnatic music by creating several new raagaas. He is also known for scoring the music track of the film Adi Sankara, the first film made in Sanskrit.

Despite achieving great success in the form of several awards, including the Padma awards, he remained a simple person. I read somewhere once that he remarked that his name was only Muralikrishna and the ‘Bala’ was prefixed when he gave his initial performances as a young child; yet, he used that prefix to keep reminding himself that he was still a child, a student, in the study of music.

In losing a stalwart like Dr. Balamuralikrishna, the country has lost a son who made an invaluable contribution to preserving and growing the musical culture of this land. In keeping with the tradition of Sanatana Dharma, let us pray that his soul attains the highest abode that he earned through his earthly sojourn.
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Monday, 21 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 21: Musings on a Sunset

There's something very tranquil about watching a sunset. 

More so when it is out of a train window as you pass through places untouched by human habitation. With no chores weighing on your mind. Being aware of the multiple hues of the sky as the sun sinks below the horizon. Soaking in just the quiet peace of that moment.  Feeling one with the Universe. 





As you endeavor to capture the beauty of that scene through a camera, you feel thankful for technology that lets you store beauty for posterity.

Now, if only there was a tool to capture and store your state of mind as you looked upon the scene............
NaBloPoMo November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 20: You Know Your Kid is Growing When...

When you go outstation for a wedding, you know your son is growing up, when

1. He takes care of checking that all lights are off and all you have to do is lock the door..

2. You tell him the tickets for 2 people are in one compartment and for one person in another and he says, "It's ok Amma, we'll manage.."

3. He gets off when the train stops for a few minutes at some station en route instead of crying and worrying that Appa will get left behind if he gets off ..

4. He hefts two bags, one on each shoulder and leaves only a small bag for you to hold and you wonder if it was just yesterday that he was the precious baggage you lugged along..

5. He calls up the hotel reception to say "We're checking out.. will you please send someone up to take a look?"

6. He hangs around a much younger cousin who's upset and tries to cheer him up..

7. He sits around talking happily with cousins a few years older, holding his own and cracking jokes that have them in splits..


But, when he observes the game being played between the newly wed bride and groom and quips, "When I get married, and have to play this game, I will never miss catching the ball because I'm my school football team goalkeeper," you realize that he's still a kid, too...

And somewhere, the mother in you sends up a silent prayer... that when his time comes to play that particular game, there are no shots that he cannot collect or deflect...
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Saturday, 19 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 19: Gifts of Being Brought Up in Goa

So, after all these days of reminiscing about growing up in Goa, it is but natural that the next thought that comes to my mind is to talk of why I think it is the best thing that could happen to me and all of us sisters..

1. Beyond the obvious natural beauty of the place, Goa is a clean and safe place. Growing up here, we imbibed an innocence that comes by virtue of a small-town upbringing. There was no fear of danger lurking around the corner if kids were unsupervised, so parents also were not as anxious, and let us explore things on our own. All these factors put together, we grew up trusting that this world is a good place and people are good, devoid of the cynicism that easily settles over the city-bred.

2. Goan people were very accepting of us; in all the places we lived – Surla, Thivim, Sirsai, Ponda and Tisca, our neighbors were mostly honest, simple in outlook and very helpful. For example – in some places, they gladly helped us access electricity and water until the connections came to our house; they invited us for their festivals, sent sweets across to our house and in general, never treated us like we were not one of them.
3. We learned to adapt to people of a language, culture and lifestyle that were quite different from ours. It helped us develop an inbuilt respect for everyone and gave us the healthy attitude of accepting everyone and living in harmony versus a narrow-minded, short-sighted spirit of mere tolerance.

4. With a father committed to his work and a homemaker mother, we were thrust into a situation where there was no one else but ourselves to rely on. What all and whom all could one man run around for? Unlike our cousins in Karnataka, there was no male escort to watch over us or run around for our errands – naturally, we grew adept at managing on our own. We grew independent not just in action, but also in thought, learning to analyze things by ourselves and take decisions on our own, without waiting for someone else to take the initiative. To this day, this quality serves not only the 6 daughters of Ramaiyengar well, but also his 5 sons-in-laws and 5 grandchildren!
5. Because we were in Goa, all of us got a good education. This may not have been possible in Bangalore – because one, here, fees including donation fees are all high and my father would definitely not have the economic wherewithal to educate all 6 of us as highly as in Goa. There, we all got merit seats, so the fees were nominal. The second reason why I believe studying in Goa was a boon is that we were far away from the well-meaning relatives who all kept asking Anna not to educate his daughters very much saying 'highly educated boys are difficult to come by, so who will marry your educated girls?'  Of course, Anna was very sure he wanted his girls – husband or no husband – to be capable of leading fulfilling lives did what he thought met that purpose.

Perhaps the biggest gift of being brought up in Goa was the exposure we got to a spiritual atmosphere. Whether it was attending pravachans or being part of a weekly bhajan group and hosting bhajan programs at home, or doing recitation of the Geet Ramayan, this beautiful land ensured that we got prepared with the education, skills and faith to face all that life had in store for us.

Friday, 18 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 18 : Memories of Goa cont’d…

11. The smell of coffee powder. For precisely the reason that it was something not commonly encountered in Goa. Being a South Indian kaapi-consuming family in cha-favoring Goa was not easy because filter coffee powder was not easily available except through the Coffee Board outlet at Panaji, which was too far away from home for regular visits. 

Our solution – Anna brought coffee beans from his two annual visits home to Hassan for his parents’ death ceremonies. We had a quaint coffee-bean grinding machine at home and anytime the beans were being powdered, the whole house was filled with that wonderful aroma of coffee. Later, once my sisters started studying at Goa Medical College, they would bring home the coffee powder when they came home over the weekend.


12. Learning many different things. Besides things like cycling that kids generally learn at age 11 or 12, I remember picking up some other skills that called for some hard work. We lived for a while in a house that had no piped water supply, so I also learned how to draw water from the well and walk while balancing the kudam on one hip.

I was so taken up with my neighbors’ practice of layering a portion of the ground outside the house with cow-dung that I wanted to do it too. Two or three times I went along with them on a dung-collecting mission into the pastures where the cows and buffaloes grazed. Using the dung collected, I made a coarse paste of it with some water in a bucket, then poured it over the area in front of the main door and a side door, and using a broom made out of stems of dried coconut leaves, created neat dung-coated spaces. I can’t seem to remember my mother freaking out for me doing this, though. Maybe she recognized that I’d grow out of it as indeed, after a while, I did.

13. Studying in the green, cool environs of St. Mary’s Convent from Class 5. The school building was huge, and so were the grounds surrounding it. Lot of trees all around the school made for a “green” experience and I remember walking around with a close friend, discussing many things, of which a major chunk was our common love of Hindi film songs with meaningful lyrics.

I was quite the nerd and that meant few advantages – my answers got written on the board for all others to copy, teachers were more kindly inclined towards me and this granted (what was then considered) the biggest privilege – being sent to the staffroom to bring some item the teacher had left there.

I especially remember the festive mood around Christmas-time with the crib-making and carol-singing competitions. In class 9 or 10 (not sure which), we sang a Hindi carol that I still remember word for word:
“Bethlehem ki thandi hawaaein, dheerey sey aao, dheerey sey aao
Soney do Ishwar ke bΓͺtey ko, taaron ki jyoti, dheerey sey aao”
My school experiences could make up an entire blog post or two, so I won’t go more into that now.

14. The smell of fish. When we lived opposite the Government hospital at Tisca, there was an open space right in front of our house that was used to dry fish and what a stink it raised for the first few days. Being unable to bear that smell, we would close all the windows and doors and light some incense sticks, but nothing worked. Over time, we just got used to that annual event, though.

When in college, I dreaded drinking water in the canteen because even the steel glasses would smell of fish. But then, I was too level-headed to let that dislike overwhelm the need for hydration and so, I took it into my stride.

Now it seems crazy to me but for a while, I had this notion that I must grow immune to unpleasant experiences. So, during my days in Goa College of Pharmacy, I sometimes made it a point to take a route to the bus stop that entailed passing through the fish market, steeling myself to bear discomfort. Had I known then that life had many more discomfiting tests already in store, I may have not resorted to this self-torture. But then, maybe dealing with such self-inflicted unpleasantness was meant to teach me to cope with whatever was yet to come, so, it wasn’t a wasted effort, after all.

15. I’ve kept my favorite memory for the last – the SEA.  Although we did go to the beach a few times when I was younger, it was while studying in college that I actually developed a sense of kinship with the Arabian Sea. The end of tests and exams in college often saw a group of us friends heading to the beach to celebrate with the waves, the cool breeze and maybe an occasional bhel puri treat.

While doing my post-graduation, my parents had already moved back to Karnataka and that meant weekends too were spent all alone at the hostel. One of my favorite ways of spending time then was with myself, on the beach, oblivious to the stares of other people who had company. As I walked from one end of shore to the other, with the waves gently lapping my feet, watching the sunset, I found solace in the mind going blank, with nothing but the awareness of the beauty of that specific moment. Sometimes, I contemplated on things that must have then appeared profound to me but which I cannot now, for the life of me, remember.

But one thing I definitely remember is being strangely moved by the sight of the ships, far away in the distance, seemingly stationary to the onlooker, but obviously in motion through the water. Even as I stared at those blips in the water, I couldn’t help but wonder if the people on those ships too looked out over the blue expanse around them, thinking of the ones they had left behind.



So far, I have quoted from my memory of specific experiences of life in Goa. Tomorrow, I will write one last piece on how these experiences enriched me and prepared me for life ahead.
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Thursday, 17 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 17: Doing Less

Just a few days ago, I chanced on this quote on the AdviceToWriters Twitter handle

Before you check #Twitter and #Facebook and do other similar tasks that get in the way of writing, write first.

TERRY McMILLAN

I remember thinking that this may be true for other people, but it won’t affect me.

Today, I realized I was being overconfident.

Today was a holiday for Kanakadasa Jayanthi – the birth anniversary of the saint-poet Kanankadasa. Despite having the entire day to myself, I couldn’t manage to write a decent post to continue those memories of Goa. Besides the usual housework and cooking, I spent some time reading, took a short nap, the usual walk, spent some time on social media, and before I knew it – the day is gone.

Often, I’ve noticed that when I have less time and much work to be done, I manage to get more done than when I have more time. Maybe for someone who’s compulsive about having to fill every moment with something “worthwhile,” learning to relax is what the universe has in store.

Today, I didn’t “do” anything much, but at the end of the day, it does seem like a day well-spent.
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 16 : Memories cont’d…

6. Getting really angry and worked up one day when I was about 7 or 8 and shouting back at Amma. When she tried to calm me down, I ran away from her, still screaming some inanities. She ran behind me and pulled me into the bathroom where there was one copper kudam filled with water. She hefted that over my head and swoosh! The sudden flood of water rendered me speechless, and left me sputtering, and mercifully, quiet. 



7. Hanging around Amma while she washed the clothes and vessels and did the cooking. While all my four older sisters and one younger sister were at college and school, I would be alone at home with Amma because classes for the primary section in St. John of the Cross school in Sankhali were conducted in the afternoon session. Even as she did the household work, she taught me different stotraas, making me repeat each stanza after her. Till today, those are the ones I can recite spontaneously from memory.

8. The heavy, incessant downpour where an umbrella provided little succor from the copious rain. One such dark, grey, rainy evening, I waited and waited for the school bus that never arrived. Someone who knew my parents came by miraculously, took me to their house, gave me some snacks and somehow, in an age where a landline phone was a miracle, managed to convey to my house that I was safe. Somehow my savior also got news that the school bus had broken down, got repaired and would come near the school; he took me there and I reached home much later than usual, but safe. The strangest thing about that memory is my remembrance of how my feet turned totally white and went numb from being ensconced in the wet school shoe for hours together. I enjoyed all the attention, though, as my sisters held my feet in a tub of warm water to get the circulation going and slowly, the feet grew pink and touchy-feely again.

9. Being afraid of crossing paths with drunkards. One lazy Sunday evening, our neighbour’s house jeep driver turned up drunk and tottering outside their house, hurling abuses at them and the world in general. Hearing the commotion, we hurriedly rushed to see what was happening. Uncle was not home, Aunty and her two kids were alone. They just shut all the windows and doors and stayed silent without making any sound, maybe hoping he would go away after some time – which he did. Anna (We call our father Anna, not Appa – many others in our extended family do this too) was not at home either, so we too quickly bolted all the doors and windows. I remember peeping out from the corner of the window curtain, feeling a scary thrill – what if he came to our house and tried to attack us? Years later, someone told me that drunks are generally too unsteady to be able to do much and somehow, visualizing a drunk keeling over with a tiny shove from me, cured my fear of drunks for life.

10. Reading, reading and reading. I had been introduced to reading by a family friend when I was in class 1 or 2 itself. The story of this is matter enough for a separate, stand-alone post, so I won’t talk of it here. The long and short of it – I was reading Five Find Outers and Dog, Famous Five, Mallory Towers, The Secret Seven, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys by the time I was in Class 4. That is, besides the omnipresent Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. To this day, when I remember some of the stories from Indian mythology, the memory comes with the vivid images of how it was depicted in ACK. Many Sundays, late morning and late afternoon would find the entire family in a companionable silence, reading – Anna with his newspaper, all 6 girls with some or the other book and Amma with her stotraa book or stitching something or embroidering a pillow cover.

Some more striking memories of life in Goa are still left – but these are of teenage and young adulthood. I will write about them tomorrow but as I end this post, am left with a realization.

Whether it was Amma’s water-shock treatment of my hysterical behavior or the positivity induced by reciting stotraas everyday, that mad behavior I mentioned at the beginning of this post, never put in an appearance again. Today, the world thinks of me as a calm, quiet person with a penchant for gently helping others sort things out. Of course, that “calm” is overrated, as 
the two people I live with would readily testify, but their travails are a story for another day!

NaBloPoMo November 2016

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 15 : Memories of Childhood in Paradise


My class is an eclectic mix of students from Karnataka as well as from all over the country – Tripura, Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Sometimes, when either the students or I get bored of the subject, we drift towards other topics. One of my favorites is asking them to share something about the place from where they hail, especially focusing on how that place is different from Bangalore. I have a hidden agenda in this – I hope it will help them stay fond of their roots, without getting carried away by the glitz, glamour and technology they find in this cosmopolitan city.

Sometimes, these students get around to asking me where I am from. They see me speaking Kannada fluently so probably I’m from Karnataka. But then, there is this impression that South Indians don’t speak good Hindi – which I do – and so, they’re a little confused. When I say I was born and brought up in Goa, there is almost always a collective, long-drawn, awestruck “WOOOW” and no matter which state they hail from, they all wear a certain dreamy look on their faces, almost as if they were mentally transported to paradise by my uttering the word GOA.

Different people attach different connotations to this place and the people who come from there.

When I joined my first job in a pharmaceutical company at Bangalore, my colleagues there told me they felt disappointed. Reason? When news had spread that a new girl from Goa is coming, it had led people to harbor fond hopes of having the company of a stylish Goan beauty in a mini-skirt. My arrival was an anti-climax, they said, telling me, “Look at your sober dressing style and your long hair! Ugghh, you’re more South Indian than us!”

That kind of summed up my multi-cultural identity issues – when in Goa, I never thought of myself as South Indian. When transplanted to Bangalore, I couldn’t think of myself as a Goan.

Before beginning this NaBloPoMo, when I asked for suggestions on what they’d like me to write about, a friend wanted me to write about my childhood memories and experiences during my stay in Goa. So, today, I decided to do this post. I have a feeling this may spill over into two posts, but let’s see how things pan out as I write.

Memories I have of Goa

1. The sweet and buttery smell of maskaa paav as it was being made opposite our house when we stayed in Shantinagar – I seem to have no memory of eating it or how it tasted, though.

2. The exotic mesmerizing fragrance of the mogra, jayo, juyo and surnga flowers that were to be found only during specific seasons. Especially the surnga flowers were very rare to come by and it was such a joy to see those flower strings being sold by the roadside in some remote place where you wouldn’t think anyone would pass by to buy them. But we did pass by, and we did buy those flowers. The best part was that they continued to give that penetrating fragrance even after they dried up and even if you let them lie in some unnoticed corner of the house, they would make that place smell so nice.



3. Embarrassment and shame on the only day when I was made to stand on the bench as punishment in class 3 of my convent school because I had worn some flowers in my hair and the stinging comment of the nun saying “Why have you come dressed like a bride.” Surprisingly, even at that age, in those times, somehow, I knew the meaning of the word bride and her using that word had made me cringe.

4. The dark reddish brown, soft mud that was probably left over after extraction of the ore which had been dumped in a corner of the mining colony in Surla where we lived for several years. A few of us kids had made that dust hill into our playing area, competing to see who could slide fastest down the mud. Our clothes must have gotten pretty dirty but strangely, Amma never seemed to complain about it although she washed all our clothes herself.

5. Amma washing clothes in the backyard of our house in Surla where there was a washing stone in the middle of two guava trees. We called the fruits “Peru” not guava, though. One tree bore white fruits and the other one bore red fruits. The white variety gave more fruits and once, there were so many fruits that Amma made several packets of 4 or 5 fruits each and sent me off to distribute it to our neighbours in the colony. I distinctly remember one lady not opening the door when I rang the bell, so that packet returned home undelivered. A few days later, when Amma spoke to her and recounted this incident, she said she had heard the bell ring, but thought it was some Shigmo festival people and therefore, not opened the door. I remember thinking how foolish of her to assume that because Shigmo people always came in a big group and made a lot of noise, so you knew it was them and it was very different from just the bell chiming.

I'm forced to stop here now because its dinner-making time, but will get back to this same topic tomorrow because there are many more memories coming to the fore even as I write.
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Monday, 14 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 14 : Children's Day Out


I attend a weekly class to learn Sanskrit. Yesterday, during the class, while explaining some concept in a lesson, Vasantha Ma’am spoke of something that I took to be an insightful tip for parents. She was explaining how her father used to take the kids out to Lalbagh or Cubbon Park every Sunday – it was their special day to go out and also spend time with their father whom they otherwise rarely saw because he left early in the morning and returned late in the night. Sounds quite similar to many of the dads today in high-pressure jobs but Vasantha Ma’am is a retired bank official who took to Sanskrit learning and later teaching; so her childhood means we’re talking of around the 1950’s.


When they went to these public gardens, the kids would love to look at the several flowers and one or the other of them would reach out to pluck a flower. Then, their dad would tell them, “Oh yes, go ahead and pick the flower. Now, you will pick one, after sometime someone else will, every day a few people will pick the flowers – so, by next Sunday, there won’t be any flowers left. So, there’s no need for us all to come to this place, let’s just spend the day at home.”


Vasantha Ma’am said that when explained in that way, they would listen to him because for one, it helped them understand that they would destroy the beauty of the garden and also, there would be no Sunday outing. She compared this way of getting kids to listen to you with what some parents tell their kids: “Don’t do xyz because Daddy/Mummy/Aunty/Uncle/Police/some other authority figure will scold you.”


In my own experience too, I’ve found that explaining the logic behind something always ensures my son’s compliance with a regularity that’s missing on the few occasions when I use, “Because I say so.” Of course, now that he’s in his teens, using the latter is a sure shot way to flag rebellion and I don’t bring it out except on the rarest of occasions.

There are many other things I’ve learned from observing other cool parents, my own experience and a study of parenting books. I’ve shared some of those in this talk I presented at the Annual Day Celebrations of a Playschool in Bangalore in February this year. Do check out this video – would be great to hear your thoughts in the comments section. Suggestions, feedback, questions – all welcome!



Sunday, 13 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 13 : Making Quotes Work for You


Ever since WhatsApp has made its appearance, many of us probably wake up to good morning messages from family and friends. Sometimes, we may receive the same message from many people or through many groups. At other times, a message you sent someone comes back to you from the same person but it’s alright; after all, isn’t it the thought that counts? Besides, if your messages are coming back to you, it’s probably an indication that you share a similar mindset, which again, is cause for joy because like-minded people are not that easy to come by.

But this blog post is not to talk of WhatsApp messages as such. It’s more about what we can do with those positive thought messages and how we can actually harness them for growth.

One thing I’ve found useful is to make one of those image quotes into my display picture. Judging from the response I get, it seems like there are quite a few people who draw inspiration from such pictures. That reminds me – I’ve actually written an entire blog post on this topic.

But what I want to share today is a trick to make those quotes work for you. Pick any one quote that strikes you as relevant to your life. Then go ahead and look for occasions where you can adopt that particular thought in your day. For example, let’s say you have this quote in mind:



That’s easy..the quote itself tells you what to do and when..so watch out for instances when you get angry, or feel stressed, tired or in doubt and then do a simple, slow mental count of 1 to 10. This pause will help you grow calm and give you a better perspective of things. Most of us already know what events cause us to get angry or anxious or stressed. So, all you need to do is tell yourself that when this happens, you are going to pause and count 1 to 10. Act on this decision for a week or so, and you’re bound to notice some tiny level of change in your responses. Keep at it for another week, a month and the changes will be more impactful.

Whichever quote you choose to act upon, make it a point to look at it about 4 or 5 times in a day. This mindful reading will send the message deeper into your subconscious and create a strong impression that prods you to act on the thought.

Say you’ve picked this quote


The gist of the quote is “let things go.” So, whenever you find yourself harping on something, stop. If you catch your mind going over an event that went wrong, stop. You can even visualize that event or thought as a small bubble that you blow gently away saying, “Go, I don’t need you.” Watch that bubble go farther and farther away and finally grow very small and disappear. When you do this repeatedly for a few days, you will notice that the thought has stopped bothering you.

Words and images evoke a strong reaction from our unconscious mind which has a tendency to grip strongly at things. By making our mind intentionally and repeatedly focus on positive thoughts and words, we provide it with an easy means to grow more positive.
NaBloPoMo November 2016

Saturday, 12 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 12 : It's All About Attitude

Take a look at this image. Read it twice if necessary. Let the message of the headline sink in.



Now ask yourself this question. What was the defining factor that pushed one guy into performing a destructive act and another guy born to the same parents to reach out for excellence?

While the nature versus nurture debate rages on, incidents like this go to tilt the scales in favor of the latter. It is reasonable to expect that both guys had the same parents and were nurtured by the same parents, in the same environment (unless there is a back story we don’t know). But what of the mental and emotional environment each one created for himself by his thoughts, words and actions?

The stark contrast in their outcomes drives home an important lesson – that ultimately in life, success is spelled A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E.

People define attitude in different ways. The psychologist Jung calls it “readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way.” This is succinct and clear enough for us to understand.

The way we react or respond to situations, events and people is what defines our attitude. Building a positive attitude can make all the difference between achieving what you set out to do and staying stuck in the same place.

If you get into an emotional state that works to keep away the results you desire, you can safely assume that you have an attitude problem.

Remember when you see quotes like this?

  • I may be wrong, but I doubt it
  • My attitude is based on how you treat me
  • I’m not always right, I’m just never wrong

Did you laugh reading them?

I did – because they’re so apt in some cases. 


But I also realize that I cannot let them dictate my responses to every single situation.

When I realize that -

  • Maybe I need to evaluate what I’m doing wrong
  • Everyone is entitled to having their own opinion even if it doesn’t match mine
  • Perhaps I need to re-think on this issue
  • When things go wrong, I need to take them in my stride - and move on 
- that is when I’m on my way to developing the right attitude.


NaBloPoMo November 2016