Saturday, 24 May 2014

5 reminisces of Magic

The very mention of the word 'Magic' fills my head with varied, enchanting images.
Here I make a conscious effort of segregating them.

1. My son, who just stepped into his teenage went through a phase of being exceptionally fascinated with magic tricks. It started when a magician performed at his fifth birthday party. Fueled by certain TV shows that, he would keep pretending and practicing to be a magician.

A magic show in progress with a boy volunteering
Image Source

I have this vivid memory of a dinner we had with some friends and my son had everyone glued to his magical ways throughout.

2. Next image is from the movie 'Stepmom'. A mother, dying of cancer, makes a magician' cape for her son. The cape has pictures of mother and son on it. In a wonderfully emotional movie, it is one of my favorite scenes.

3. Then, there was the magic show at Goa. A few years back we stayed at Heritage Village Resort in Goa. One evening, a magic show was performed by a man, who needed none of the magicians props - no costumes, no assistants. He was also a senior employee at the resort.

I don't remember his name, but whenever I go to Goa again, I will certainly enquire about him at the resort. His performance was impressive and effortless.

4. When I was in school, a magic show was once performed there. The magician called me on stage. I just had to hold a scarf, but I was scared out of my wits. This is the only magic-related memory which is not all good, yet I can smile about it.

5. Above all, when I think magic, I think of the magic in this world. In all this bad, the hope is Magic. In so much pain, optimism is Magic.

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

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Down the password lane

My first password consisted of my nickname and some digits from my birth date. Anyone who knows me could have easily guessed it.

This was back in the times of dial-up networks and no internet at home. The nearest 'internet cafe' we had to our house was a small grocery shop, which also had a photocopier, a fax machine, and a computer. This computer was always covered. The monitor, the CPU, the keyboard, the mouse and the modem each individually protected from the dirt of the outside world. 

This password lasted for years.

Somewhere along the line, I realized a better password was needed. 

I was sitting in front of the computer at home (yes, this was years later when there were PC and dial-up internet at home). This time the password was the brand name of the UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) lying near my feet.

This idea lasted for a while. The word on the mouse pad, the brand of the office bag, etc. combined with some digits (usually birthdate of some family member).

These passwords are fun to create but a pain to remember. 

Around that time came the password strength meters, as an inspiration to create stronger passwords. 

This is when I read up a few articles on how to create stronger passwords. 

So here's how to create a strong password:

#Length: Have long passwords
#Randomness: Use random characters (clearly no nicknames or famous brand names)
#Numbers: Add numbers, the more the merrier
#Symbols: Add symbols ($&@#%*€£¥), again the more the merrier
#Upper & lower cases: use a mix of upper and lower case characters

The problem is I am not a stickler for remembering stuff. I misplace things. How am I expected to remember this kind of a weird combination of words and what-not? 

So I finally found my own path. 

#I use the name of a book I am reading at that time, preferably a long name. 
#I have my own sequence of Upper and Lower case that I never change. Eg., every third character could be uppercase. 
#My own favorite symbol is inserted at the end. 
#The digits are from my best friend's phone number

Eureka, I have my own strong password generator - one which is easy for me to remember. 

This has been an interesting journey of self-discovery of sorts - the journey of looking in, in search of the difficult, yet easy password. 

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

Sunday, 11 May 2014

No Worries, Mom's here #FlashFiction

Mother and Son, Flash Fiction, Boarding School

He was lonely, new at boarding school.
No one cared and he had no friends.
'I am not staying here', he thought.
'Hey there, you mom's on phone', someone called.
He smiled and thought, 'Things are not so bad'.

Friday, 9 May 2014

A beacon - Kejriwal

I am not a staunch supporter of either Aam Aadmi Party or Arvind Kejriwal, not that I am completely opposed to them either.

I find it important to clarify this, in the beginning, because I am not writing this to campaign for the individual or the party. It is just that I feel may be 'The East Winds are coming' (Reference from a quote by Arthur Conan Doyle)

It's a major problem (or benefit) with me that in most cases, I see both sides of the coin. This leads to a situation where I am usually seen discussing the pros and cons in an argument/discussion, debating from both sides it seems. In very rare cases do I see things as black and white?

I had certain apprehensions against the Anna Movement too. I couldn't see how, constitutionally, the Lokpal Bill could be passed in the deadline that Anna Hazare had provided. And it was not. But the movement that Anna Hazare started went on to change what India expects, it seems.

Another problem of mine, is my cynicism which leads to an over-realistic (or is it, pessimistic, I wonder) approach.

At times, one needs not ask 'how'. Thinking of 'how' may just discourage people into saying 'It's not possible'.

History remembers people who surge ahead without taking into account the opinions of cynics.

Arvind Kejriwal Delhi Chief Minister AAP India
Image taken from here

I am uneasy about Somnath Bharati's midnight raid at Khirki Extension, New Delhi, the decision to support the electricity bill to defaulters, the protest (dharna) in Delhi when Kejriwal was the Chief Minister, his resignation and more recently, Shazia Ilmi's controversial statement about being communal.

What I agree with and admire is the sincerity and belief of Mr. Arvind Kejriwal. The fact that he doesn't let questions like 'how' stop him.

I don't know what will happen when the election results are announced.
But I see Mr Kejriwal as a Role Model for young Indians today and for generations to come.

Because of him, politics is being perceived as neither dirty nor a 'family affair'.
He had the guts to step in rather than just whine about all that is wrong with the system, but do nothing about it.

There is enough of a cynic in me that I believe most of what Mr Kejriwal aspires to do is an impossible and impractical task.
But that doesn't stop me from wishing and hoping that he would succeed.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Ultimate Role Model

This is my second blog about Role Model.

The first one, The Dilemma of a Role Model, had me looking within, trying to name one person as my Role Model.

I look around me, I am confused. There is not one person I know, personally or from a distance, fictional or real that I aspire to be like.
Let me have a mix of, maybe, 15-20 people and I may identify different qualities.
Then, I started wondering if there is a problem with me. I guess, there is. I cannot just say that someone is my role model - after all who is perfect?

But as I kept pondering over this whole 'role model' thing, my thoughts took a spiritual turn.

According to Guru Granth Sahib ji, the final destination of each of us humans is to become like God, or to become one with God.
We will continue to be in this vicious cycle of one rebirth after another, as one species or another, till we become one with God.
This ultimate destination can be achieved only as a human (not as any other lifeform/species) and only when still living (not after death).

Meditation in natural surroundings
Image taken from here

So, the purpose behind all is, or rather should be, to achieve this ultimate goal.
We have to be one with God, or in other words become like the almighty, in our lifetime. The salvation has to be attained during life.

So, what is my true ultimate role model, the almighty like?
Guru Nanak Dev ji describes Him as

'Ik Onkaar'          -  God is one
'Satnaam'            - His name is true
'Kartaa Purakh' - He is the Creator and Doer of everything
'Nirbhau'            - He is devoid of any fear
'Nirvair'             - He is devoid of any enmity
'Akaal Moorat'  - His existence is beyond time
'Ajooni'              - He is not in the phenomenon of birth and death
'Saibhang'          - He exists on its own, by its own
'Gurprasaad'     - He is obtained by Guru's grace

Mool Mantar, God is one, Sikhism, Guru Nanak

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Dilemma of a Role Model #MyRoleModel

Oxford Dictionary defines Role Model as "A person looked to by others as an example to by others as an example to be imitated".

Placards of 'who is your role model' in two languages
Image taken from here

Now, I start racking my brains, thinking of past and present, real and reel and books... to come up with that one name, that one person, who I want to imitate... that one person I want to be like.

I had a teacher in middle school - Bhupinder Ma'am. Her sincerity and honesty and caring nature had me wanting to be like her. I admire her still, but I no longer see her through the eyes of a child. From the perspective of a grown-up, I cannot name her as my role model.

A classroom, female teacher, young students with hands raised to answer question

Then there's Mrs Rani Kultar Singh who taught me history for a year. In all my student years, that was the only time that not just did history make sense, I loved it too. And she had an enthusiasm towards life and such knowledge of interesting trivia that we would be spellbound throughout the class.

As for my family, I know I take them for granted so very often. But my father's patience, my mother's discipline, my brother's faith, and my sister's love and selflessness, I wish I had.

What is expected of me is to choose one. It seems like not just a tough, but impossible task right now.

I am not giving up though. I continue to go down the memory lane, trying.

Three people on colourful folding chairs looking at skyline with hot air balloons
Image taken from here

My grandparents...
My grandfather is one person I know who has the best family-religion balance. No one else I know comes even close. I so admire that in him and wish I can have that.
My grandmother never whines about illness or loneliness or the many struggles she faced through life. She lost a young son and took care of another with Cerebral Palsy for almost 20 years. But there is a matter-of-fact acceptance and peace in her that has no equals.

When I think beyond the people I know personally, and there's JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey, Sherlock Holmes and Rhett Butler (in my mind, the last two are people too), and many more.
Oprah Winfrey with microphone in hand
Silhouette of Sherlock Holmes with pipe and hat
Stack of hardcover Harry Potter books

Some people I aspire to be like. In case of others, I want to make the choices they have made (or wish I had made those choices).

I want the ability to laugh at myself that Khushwant Singh had, and I want to be comfortable and confident in my skin the way Barkha Dutt seems to be.

Barkha Dutt, Indian female journalist famous

Pencil sketch of Khushwant Singh, late Indian author

I want to be down-to-earth like some people and yet, want the grand life of certain others.

I sound a little crazy even to myself :)

I want the craziness and brazenness and adventurous spirit of Alice (of Wonderland).

Alice in Wonderland written on board of pink and purple hues

I don't want it all.
But I do want a lot. A lot of that 'lot' is impractical or impossible.

Two lines from a Ghazal sung by Jagjit Singh -

Dil To Ik Zid Pe Ada Hai Kissi Bache Ki Tarah
Ya To Sab Kuch Hi Ise Chahiye Ya Kuch Bhi Nahin
(My heart is adamant, like a child;
 It wants everything, else it wants nothing)

I am not giving up though. As of sign off, I am still thinking,
"Which Role Model can show me the way to all of it?"


In no way related to this serious blog I am writing, I came across this photo when searching for images to add to my words. And I can't resist putting it here.

Quote, dogs ultimate role model
Image taken from here


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Sensitivity at home - Gender equality

I grew up in a home where I was expected to be back home before dark. In Delhi, during winters, it can mean as early as 5 pm.

And then there was the issue of not being allowed to stay the night at a friend's place or a relative's place (without my parents) for most of my growing years. I rebelled against this... but my father would be willing to pick me up late at night rather than let me stay there. Now when I read about young girls being molested by uncles or friend's father,etc., I can understand the reason behind this 'strictness'.

Being home at night before dark speaks of the danger outside.

The second part is about dangers within the supposedly safe four walls. My parents tried their best to protect me from the evil hidden within the many seemingly normal, happy families.

I, at times, wonder about the benefits of Joint Families. Whenever one discusses the pros and cons of joint families, no one brings up how unsafe a young girl (even a toddler) is surrounded by uncles and cousins, some of whom are in their late teens, still in the process of discovering and exploring their sexuality.

That is not to say that older men are not equally dangerous.

Middle-aged men and even senior citizens in buses were the bane of existence of me and my friends, back when we were in college. Still in late teens or early twenties, pricking these devils with safety pins or hitting them with elbows became a way of life... and still continues to be, years later.
We would give them a dirty look and the reply used to be
"Kya karun beti, piche se dhaka aa raha hai" (What can I do, daughter, I am being pushed from behind). More than anything, the 'Beti' (daughter) part that disgusts me the most.

The point is that crime against women seems to be everywhere. From the streets to the workplace, from the school to even home.

The safety of women has to be handled on two levels.
One is the state level - better policing, the sensitivity of authorities towards rape and molestation victims, improved and standard process of dealing with such cases, serious action against dowry and domestic violence cases, etc.
The second is the home level. Just as charity begins at home, so does sensitivity.

Woman speaker with a quote about gender equality, sons and daughters

I am not in favour of or comfortable with forwarding things left, right and center. (Even blogged about it a while back - Forward it all). Some because they are wrong. Others because it seems like preaching or lying (telling someone I haven't met in years, he/she made my day) or blackmailing (if you don't forward this, bad luck will befall you).
But whenever I come across something like the one above, I make sure I forward it... because they matter and I hope that someone reading them would have a change of heart.

Any opinions that I have regarding Women Empowerment (no reference being made to Rahul Gandhi) and Crime against Women have their foundation in Oprah Winfrey Show, back when the daily show used to be telecast, thanks to Star World. (To stray away from the topic a little, I used to watch The Bold and The Beautiful too. Oprah stayed with me over the years, B&B lost its charm and effect along the way).

No tolerance towards domestic abuse (even if just verbal) and to speak openly about sexual molestation of young girls (and boys) are two things I imbibed from Oprah's show.

Teach our sons to respect women.
Giani Sant Singh ji Maskin once said that we hit or abuse only those who are weaker than us, otherwise we wouldn't dare.
So it is the perception of 'the weaker sex' that has to be erased from minds of not just guys, but girls too.

I can't offer big solutions. I don't have any.
The fact that my daughter is growing up in this big, bad world, scares me everyday.

So, I do the small things I can.
I vote for people I think have some sense. I don't see many people having too much of it. (I cringe when Mulayam Singh Yadav says stuff like 'Boys will be boys' and 'Rape is a mistake')

I want my daughter to learn self-defense. I expect her to think what she wants from life, without thinking that marrying the right man is ultimate ambition.

I teach my son to respect women. I want him to feel that being rude or cruel to women is the worst thing ever. Forcing a woman is never an option.
I expect him to do household chores and learn cooking, just as his sister does.

Still, off and on, my son would come from school and say something like 'Girls are dumb'.
And I would tell him, if he finds one girl behaving insensibly, it's wrong to make a general demeaning statement about girls.

It's a struggle everyday.
I am beginning my effort of sensitivity at home.
I am not a very opinionated person per se. But this is a point on which I don't hesitate to correct any man, especially the ones close to me.

Am I doing enough? I don't know.
What is enough? The answer scares me.

The least we can do is not let our homes be breeding grounds for boys who grow up to be eve-teasers or abusive husbands, and girls who think it's acceptable to be ill-treated.

Quote addressed to men about sons and daughters, crime against women

Dear Sun... An open letter

I just realised that I have no idea how to address you. So I will try to keep it simple to begin with.

Dear Surya ji,
I have an uncle, a 'Maama', who gets its light from you. He gets to be the cool dude, and you never openly take the credit. 
We gaze lovingly at the cool dude and admire it. The fairer sex even gets compared to it... it's supposed to be flattering.
I am talking about the moon here, the one that actually has no light of its own. But moonlight is a word, which I think, is used more often than sunlight.

You, on the other hand, seem to have the reputation of the angry, unapproachable one. No one dares look you in the eye.
I like to think that it is a matter of respect though, more than fear.
I do 'Surya Namaskar' every morning... alright, not every single morning, but as often as possible. 
And, I might as well be honest about my reasons. The primary reason is exercise. But I like the idea of doing 'Namaskar' to you, the Sun God.

Even though we live in times, where Science is so advanced that nothing seems to be sacred anymore, I love the idea of you as God. 
My idea of the almighty, the supreme being is 'Prakash', which means light. So I think of God and I think of light, and since I can't think of anything brighter than you, I think of you.

I love natural light and that means 'I love you'.

The hues of rising and setting sun among clouds reflected in water

These days, I get the feeling that my God is angry with me. 'Surya Namaskars' are extremely uncomfortable in this heat. The natural light is so hot that I sit in curtained, air-conditioned rooms whenever possible.

I understand seasons, and acceptance of God's will. But I also have faith and there's such a thing as being over-efficient. It seems you are angry (that means, hot) and over-efficient (that also means, hot).

So the moon is our 'Chanda maama'. Big Deal! You are the Sun God.
He's Cool. So what, you are hot.
Believe me, being hot is good. And then there's 'too much of a good thing'. That can be bad.

These days what you are doing feels bad. We are sweating. We are tanning. We are basically going through a phase of avoiding you.
Aren't you lonely? Everyone rushes in, away from you, every possible chance they get.

Take it easy, Sun ji. Retain your respect. You wouldn't want your subjects to rebel, would you?

Try being a little selfish. In return for the light you have been giving to the moon for ages, ask for some cooling effect back. Just for these summers.

Think it over, at night preferably... with a cool head.

Your well-wisher

Place: An air-conditioned room.