Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Sorry State of Being

We travel in the fast lane. We work. We work a lot. Not that we do it for nothing- some yearn, some earn, some learn. Working is good but conditionally, the condition being you are doing what you love to do. With most of us, we don't know what we love. By the time we do, it is too late to take that path. We then end up making what we do, what we love to do. There is no questioning that - compromises are inevitable and for some, permanent. While our lives revolve around work, we lose touch with our ability to follow our gut in matters not related to work. We begin to build a cage of comfort and security around ourselves. By the time we realize we are caged, it is too late. We have neither the courage nor strength to break free. We can either get depressed about it or work on building the courage and strength. And where do we find them both? The answer lies in creativity.

The best creator is perhaps God and nature is his magnum opus. Not many of us have the eye for the lessons hidden in nature's many layers. We turn to those who do - in the form of their works. Poets or writers, painters or sculptors, dancers or musicians and the like all had an eye for creativity. Simple answers to our difficult questions are hidden in their work. The trouble is we don't look closely enough. We are in a rush. We miss the detail. We remain uninspired. That is also probably because we are too full of ourselves. The only question we ask "What is in it for me or my whatever?" The larger picture is the one that you see in totality of scale and perspectives. If you don't, the lesson is incomplete.

While science, technology and rationale thinking have changed the world, the three alone cannot save the world. We are going higher, faster, but we are losing touch with our roots. We need to slow down our pace, catch a breath, take another look at what has gone by and ask the basic questions of life again (remember to replace the 'me' with 'us' and 'I' with 'we' ). If we do not have good answers, we are indeed treading the wrong path.

To summarize, I will quote a paragraph from the Lost World by Michael Crichton. "What makes you think that human beings are sentient and aware? There's no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told - and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their "beliefs." The reason is that beliefs guide behavior, which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is a self-congratulatory delusion."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Testimonial

You walk at a constant pace
For you do not race

You walk without friends or enemies
You wait for none

You walk on only one path
You see no other way

You walk in one direction
Neither you look behind nor waiver

You walk unstoppably
You have no traction

You walk in the present
You define the past and future

You walk apparently faster or slower
But the frame of reference is you

You walk for eternity
Eternity is your boundary

You walk with many names
Most famously known as 'Time'

PS: Just when I thought this blog was dead, I found inspiration. Writing has become impossible considering life as it is now.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Why Me?

You keep on running,
You keep on tiring,
For the miles gone by
Leave you sore.
Yet you go on
Cause for the miles to come
May have major milestones in store.

You keep on fighting,
You keep on hurting,
For every bout
Leaves you a scar.
Yet you go on
Cause for the battles you lose
Courage you may have won.

You keep on earning,
You keep on losing,
For everything once lost
Leaves you less richer.
Yet you go on
Cause all that you have lost
May be what you have never wanted.

You keep on running;
You keep on tiring;
You keep on fighting;
You keep on hurting;
You keep on earning;
You keep on losing;
Yet you go on living
In a hope that in the end
Your dream will materialize.
A purpose to your life
You will realize.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Once upon a time, there was a hotel...

  • ...where recipes were sacrosanct - an onion could not replace a cucumber in a sandwich
  • ...where dessert was served as starters and soup after the main course
  • ...where a veg cheese sandwich was served in place of a veg cheese toast sandwich because that is what the order said and the customer may have forgotten what he ordered
  • ...where drinking water took just 2 hours to reach the room after having called room service
  • ...where the bathroom was so advanced that even the drainage water was filtered by hair accumulated in the mesh and sachets of shampoo and soap were kept torn open for the guest's convenience
  • ...where the full tariff was charged for an AC room with no electricity for half the day
  • ...where for a bill of Rs.107 and a payment of Rs.120, the change given is Rs.3
  • ...where the evenings entertainment was a great show by mosquitoes
  • ...where there was no running warm water in any tap
  • ...which happened to be the most expensive and renowned hotel in the town
  • ...from where I checked out even before completing the first day's stay
PS: Don't stay in Hotel Amardeep at Baramati even if someone pays you to stay there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Like the Sunshine

The sun had nearly reached the horizon. The weather had turned a notch cooler than it had been at mid-day due to the drizzle that prevailed over the past few hours. A brook was meandering through a lush grassland. It could not be seen but the sound of flowing water could be heard at a distance. In addition to the invisible stream of water was a dying stream of colours, flowing from the skies to the earth as a rainbow. In contrast to the multiple shades of the rainbow, the grass was of a monotonous but fresh green tinge. Parts of each standing blade were magnified at points where the drops of rain had settled, glowing under the light of the sun. Some of the blades were trampled along paths used by walkers, but today, they lay deserted except for his presence. One of the paths falling directly in line with the sun was lit by its now soothing light.

Her silhouette emerged at a distance, rising along the slope of that path. She was running to him, just like the many sparrows rushing to their nests before night fall. She was engulfed by a joy only such natural splendour could bring. She flung her arms out to him as she got closer. With his hands on her waist and hers on his shoulders, he hoisted her off the ground. He turned around to contain the momentum of her motion. As he did so, the sun lent its parting rays to the glow of her face. Though he stood with his back against a glorious sunset, at the door of darkness, he felt fearless and peaceful. She was the sunshine of his life.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Soaking the Joy

The sound of the cuckoo reaches my ears. My skin feels the temperature drop a notch. The sun doesn't seem to be gazing at me any more. Dark clouds fill the skyline. The breeze carries the message - it is time! It cannot be seen, but it has arrived. The scent of the earth cannot be mistaken. A flash is seen in the sky, like that coming from God's own camera. Clouds begin to thunder. In a matter of minutes, all doubts are put to rest as the thin drizzle matures into a visible heavy shower. Some animals take shelter, birds ground their flight. Greens appear greener. Children start screaming, possibly with fear or joy. When I see them run out of their homes and dance right under the rain, I know it is the latter.

Instinctively, I pull out my camera and capture the moment. The photographs are about average. Something in me makes me not want to care about technical perfection. After the light dims to unacceptable levels for pictures, I head to the terrace. The shower is now heavier. My urgency increases.

I step out in the open. Stretching out my arms, I look up to the sky. The first drops of rain soak my skin. I stand still, trying not to disturb the rains. I feel peaceful. I feel small. I feel happy.

It is not the first time I am engulfed with a sense of child like enthusiasm. Every time I experience the first showers, the cobwebs of the past and present that have formed around me are washed away. My world is simple again - just the drops of rain and me.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Writer's Block

I have had inspiration in plenty. Inspiration has translated to ideas. Ideas have formed a story in the head, some beautiful ones. And yet, every time I start writing, I leave the posts (five already) unfinished. I have hit a writer's block. Is there a known cure?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Wheel of Life

You are big but your might is relative. You are important today and will be replaced tomorrow. You are stable as much as you are fallible. You have your head held high yet you are trapped. You have different perspectives with every varying degree but you always come a full circle. You make a good picture, but it not as much because of you but the elements that you are viewed among. Your beauty lies not in what you reveal but what you hide. You have your highs and you have your lows. You are powerful but your power is only derived. You can bring joy or you can gift fear. Your purpose is defined by your maker; the only problem is you may not find out till your time has passed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I photograph

I do not believe in the cliché a picture is worth a thousand words. Nonetheless, I strongly feel a good picture is worth a million. And you have to be ruthless with yourself to ensure what you have is high quality material.

I do not think I am a photography pro. I am just an ordinary shutterbug striving to improve my skills. I often delete a photo which is not up to the mark. Many feel I am being fussy about a casual affair. How right they are! How else am I supposed to push myself for that one shot that makes you want to go back from a place with a smile? A photograph must evoke the same emotional response in you, as did the subject when you captured the moment. That is when you know you have met your own standards.

I am not a big fan of the phrase 'Say Cheese' when it comes to clicking people. Why would a photographer want to corrupt a frame with their influence? A photograph must be an untouched interpretation of the state of the subject. The lesser the subjects know they are being photographed the better (unless they are models!). My best people portraits are the ones in which I haven't said a word to the subject and they have looked right into the eye of the camera. And they are also the ones that have been the most appreciated by viewers.

Some of my acquaintances believe that it is pointless to click a photograph which you can download from Google. They ask "Why would you click a photograph of the Eiffel tower without us?" Some are even considerate enough to not carry their cameras when they travel with me, assuming my services are at their disposal. To such people, I say, there is a subtle difference between a photographer and a cameraman. They have mistaken me for the latter. Well, I can always click one that will serve as they-were-there evidence. But that is about it. I would prefer they leave my photography to me then - I may click just them or just the Eiffel, whatever makes a better frame. As for the Google argument, I rather not put in the efforts of searching and downloading images of places from the net, if I can click better ones myself. It is not as much about a photograph of the Eiffel, but my photograph of the Eiffel.

And that is why I photograph.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Revisiting my Religion

I am not an atheist or an agnostic
For I know God exists

I am not a man of religion
But I believe in the power of prayer

I do not participate in holy rituals
The only prayer is through honesty in action

I do not follow men of God
Because there is one in each of us

I am not a Hindu, Muslim or Christian
However I respect another′s beliefs

I am not regular with visits to the temple
My place of worship is in my heart

I am not aware of what holy books say
But they can′t preach hatred or violence

I do not ask God for favours
I always thank him when things go right

I do not doubt your beliefs
I just want to reaffirm my own

I was not brought up this way
Just uncovered my beliefs along the way

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Nearly 60 of us stood through the last hour of the match, chanting the favourite slogans of Mumbaikars - "Ganpati Bappa Moriya", "Jo bole so nihal", "Vande Mataram'- but as we inched closer to the finish line, there was only one word on our mind - "Indyeahhhhhhhhh". The crescendo grew louder with every additional run scored. And then it happened. We erupted into a roar, jumping, clapping, hugging whoever stood next to us. Some of us were shouting, others had tears in their eyes - emotions of all types were witness in the moments that followed. The most heartening moments of the day were yet to come.

We decided to hit the streets. The whole suburb was heading in one direction, to one celebration. Apart from Ganpati celebration, rarely have 5000 people gathered to dance on the streets to the Nashik dhol. Never have I witnessed a parade of fans, stranger to one another, sitting atop cars, screaming to each other as if they have had a bond of decades. Never have I seen so many people, from different religions and castes celebrating together. Never have so many generations enjoy a victory together, in a similar manner, due to one cause. Never have I seen a flood of the Indian tricolour in the sea of blue, over flowing on the streets. Never have I felt so proud to be an Indian. It was all for one team that rose to the occasion and gave a billion Indians including one Sachin Tendulkar the ultimate gift - a World Cup win.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Father`s Heart

Starving for space, I was sitting towards the edge of the seat of the auto rickshaw we were in. From my position, I had clear view of the streets of Jodhpur city, which I was visiting for the purpose of travel. Jodhpur seemed to be a small town in contrast to the cities I have spent my life in, but nonetheless, it was lively and rich in its heritage.

In an attempt to avoid a long detour, the rickshaw driver drove down in a direction opposite to the normal traffic flow. With all his attention focussed at the traffic coming from his left hand side, he did not notice that a father was trying to cross the road with his infantile daughter.

Sensing the opportunity to get to the U-turn, he accelerated. The father, who was not expecting traffic from the opposite direction, stepped forward to make the crossing. In moment, all I saw was the face of the child come real close to the body of the vehicle. Impulsively, I pushed the father away with my hand, causing him to loose balance and fall away from the rickshaw.

Realizing what just happened, the driver stopped and apologized to the father. He helped him get his chappals which had slipped off his feet due to the fall. Ignoring his own injury, the father immediately checked up on his daughter. Realizing she was unhurt, he told the driver "You are lucky only I was injured. Had anything happened to my daughter, you would have had it."

My first reaction was that of shock. Had I not pushed them away, the daughter may have been severely injured due to the impact of the vehicle on her forehead. However, after sometime, what remained on my mind was only the father`s response. And then I wondered how I do not know what exactly I am taking for granted today.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Giving by Volunteering

This is a blog post for the online fund raising campaign Twestival being conducted for NGOs across five cities. I am writing for the NGO Aashayein in Hyderabad working to create better education opportunities for children.

NGOs in India are trying to bring about a change at the grass root level. Many among them (like Aashayein) aim at connecting the growing professional population of the country with the segments of the society that are struggling to break through the barriers of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. The educated middle class has opened up to the idea of giving a part of their earnings to these NGOs for various social causes. As noble as the gesture is, NGOs today need more than just funds to make a lasting impact.

Monetary and material donations are important. However, their effectiveness is only determined by the ability of the NGO to leverage these contributions to serve better the cause it is working for. This ability is indirectly dependent on the available volunteer hours and volunteer skillset that the NGO has at its disposal. Considering the scale and sheer quantity of problems in our country, the higher the quality and quantity of volunteers available, more effectively can the NGO function in its respective area.

Moreover, in case of monetary and material contributions, many willing donors are tentative about supporting new NGOs/causes for their lack of credibility. Giving by volunteering allows you to see for yourselves the impact your contribution is making. One may later also choose to support the NGOs they volunteer for through other means.

As the secretary of the social initiative club at MDI, I had initiated a tie-up between the NGO Deepalaya (the NCR chapter) and my institute. In my interactions with the director of the NGO, Ms. Sudha Parthasarthy, she expressed a strong need for more volunteers at their centres with the purpose of providing children with more than just traditional school learning. She wanted the children to build better vocational skills, learn creative arts and become more aware of the opportunities available to them. It is not that the available staff at Deepalaya was incapable of providing them with value added learning, however they were too stretched with meeting the basic needs of the children to be able to take learning to the next level.

Considering our hectic schedules at a b-school, the only solution I could offer her was monthly visits by students from my institute. In each of these visits, we tried to focus on a particular aspect of learning which went beyond academics. However, what helped the most was perhaps the fact that we built a bond with some of these children and were able to mentor them through their doubts and anxieties. I do not know if the impact of what we began is going to be long lasting, but I can say with certainty the children were better off with our participation that without it. We were able to supplement their learning in our own small way.

Being in the position of a decision maker for my club, I had the easier option of raising funds for Deepalaya using the resources at my disposal at MDI. However, considering the need of the NGO, I think it was only right that we contributed to the cause with our quality time, whenever possible.

When I talk about volunteering, it is not about working for an NGO full time, but being consistent in the time you give - a few hours daily or a few days every month. In the hectic lives that we lead, volunteering is a productive way to take a break from the monotony of work life.

The beauty of being a volunteer is you gain much more than you give. The personal satisfaction that you get by putting a smile on those faces is of a rare kind. Besides, you learn to better interpret problems, create innovative solutions, work better in teams and even become a better leader. The hands on nature of the learning ensures it is deep rooted and permanent. Thus, volunteering is as much a process of helping yourselves as helping others. In this light, I am forced to rethink if the title of the post is apt.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Light Painting

On the insistence of Vishy, I have decided to pen down the recipe for a photography technique I just learnt - light painting. For a layman, light painting is essentially capturing shapes drawn in the air using a light source. Though there are incredible works in light painting available online, I will only explain the most basic technique used when you want to combine photography with fun and friends.

The most basic ingredients for light painting are a camera with manually adjustable shutter speed, high ISO (800 and above gives decent results), a tripod and a light source (LED torches are the best option but practically any intense tiny light source would do, like cell phone torches). Besides equipment, you will need people willing to draw/pose as subjects for you.

Follow these seven steps to produce results as seen in the photographs (though we were not meticulous with them) above.
  1. Decide upon the light shape to be painted and the position of subjects of the photograph.
  2. Set the camera to a high ISO. The shutter speed is adjusted according to the intricacy of the shape to be drawn. Higher the complexity, lesser the shutter speed (we used something between 4s to 12s). But higher the time the shutter is open, tougher it is for people who are posing to remain still!
  3. Adjust the camera on the tripod at the height at which the painting is going to be drawn.
  4. Get the painters/subjects in position. You may want to focus the camera on the light source initially and then lock focal length manually to avoid blurring of the light source.
  5. Keep the flash on. You want to capture the faces of the subjects when you click. However, be careful to keep the light sources and the painters out of the frame till the flash turns off.
  6. Once the flash is off, then all the people in the photograph are supposed to do is remain still. It also marks the cue for the painters to begin their work.
  7. With the light source concealed, painters must first get to their positions in the frame. After unveiling the light source, they must draw as continuously as possible, with minimal crossovers (to avoid problems of alignment with previously drawn lines in the frame). Moreover, if there is a break in the painting, the light source must be concealed in the interim. While drawing alphabets, keep in mind that they are written in a manner that they do not appear laterally inverted in the frame.
It is not as complicated as it sounds. The only challenge is managing everything/everyone in the limited time frame of few seconds. If you make a mistake, start over. A few tries are enough to get the first decent shot.

Improvisations can be made with multiple light sources/painters. An advanced level application of the technique is in stop motion films involving multiple light paintings.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Journey

A journey is not defined by:
  1. where you come from
  2. where you go
A journey is defined by:
  1. how you get through your time
  2. how much fun you have
  3. how you manage crisis
  4. who joins you on the way
  5. who walks away from you midway
  6. who seeks your help
  7. who you seek help from
  8. who promises to call you back once it is over
  9. who calls back once its over
  10. where you take breaks
  11. where you run out of your supplies
  12. when you almost quit
  13. what you take back home
  14. what you forgo
  15. why you took the journey in the first place

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Guests of Honour

I had been having a packed schedule. I decided to squeeze in a dinner with a friend who I had to catch up with. We met. And then they happened.

They came like a pack of hyenas, hunting opportunities to kill time. Polite as they were, they exchanged friendly greetings. Courtesy demands we reciprocate and we did. Taking a step further, they joined the table with us. Acquaintances demand respect. This is the land where we not only preach, but practice the belief `Atitithi Devo Bhavah`. We obliged to host them on our table.

Before they joined in, we were having a conversation. After they joined in, they were talking and we were listening. I cannot tell you how much fun it was! My friend in fact was the cynosure of their attention. She particularly enjoyed being a butt of their jokes, being the person that she is.

We had a quick dinner and decided to head for tea. Having taken our silent consent, they tagged along. While we were walking to the tea stall, there was a moment of silence. The two ran out of constructive topics to discuss. Being the perceptive people they were, they asked “Sab chup kyun hogaye?” My friend politely replied “Kyunki aapne bolna band kar diya.” Having understood this as well as the other subtle compliments we had given them, my friend and I realized they were here to stay.

After the brief un-awkward silence, they resume their interaction with us. They went on for another 20 minutes. We were having so much fun that we decided to not continue our meeting post the tea break, each heading our way.

Our meeting was productive. We spoke for a whole 5 minutes in that hour. That is more than what we could have asked for, having over 3 months of each other`s life to catch up with. It would have not been possible without their contribution.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Keep on Running

A culture that sank into the skin
Pace that could make endurance go thin
A new life in a new home
We lived like the Romans in Rome

Fighting, winning, playing and enjoying
Adopting the best ways of surviving
When all seemed lost, despair was in sight
Came sparks of brilliance or luck gave respite

Battered and broken, yet united
Every achievement and joy celebrated
Higher thresholds reached each time
Bending the rules was no big crime

Time flies; it is the season of ′lasts′
Shadows of the impending end it casts
Nostalgia has set in; memories breach the mind
There is so much that has to be left behind

The buildings, the people and times we have had
May be gone for good, which is sad
The learning from experiences is here to stay
Yet, on new paths, we may again go astray

There is fear we are institutionalized
Unfamiliar surroundings may leave us surprised
“Where is the good in the good bye?” many ask,
“Why is it such a painful task?”

We travelled together in the same direction
But let us not take it as a common destination
End of a journey that together we rode
Just a pit stop on each one`s long road

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Idea can change you life...

I used to be a happy customer once, until they ruined it all. Being with Idea is all about:
  • Calling the helpline and getting inconsistent information, every time.
  • Visiting the customer care centre for a service request and being sent back because a form is not available.
  • Visiting the customer care centre again to switch to a prepaid connection and being told the incorrect pending amount.
  • Being promised a service activation in 24 hours and being left unreachable for 72 hours, because you had a further pending balance to pay up for.
  • Not being able to get a lifetime recharge done on your phone when you know you are going to be abroad for 3 months.
  • Recharging on line in the dire hope that you will have incoming messages on international roaming.
  • Landing 6000 kilometre away and then discovering that the country you were travelling to is not supported by your service provider, though you were once told it was by their representative.
  • Returning after 3 months to find out they have discontinued your service.
  • Receiving an e-bill which actually shows a credit amount to your account, for which your connection was initially put on hold.
  • Not receiving the credit amount back on your mail address via a cheque.
  • Sending promotional schemes to disgruntled old customer by e-mail for new post paid services, despite having responded to them saying you do not want to hear from them.
Customer retention is important, especially for post paid customers of high life time value. However, if you make the exit from postpaid so miserable for them, they will not only leave your postpaid plan but your service. And if you still continue to nag them, they will write posts like these in your honour. Now that is one hell of an Idea, sirjee!!

Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy Birthday

Dear Shadows,
You have been my loyal friend in the years gone by. I have always turned to you in the times, when I have been low or high, contemplative about the state of my being. I have always gone back with my peace of mind.

Happy Birthday! Thanks for having been a window to my soul for the last 4 years. I hope you continue to spread sunshine in my life.

Always remember, you are not so much for others, as you are for me.

Yours Truly,
The Illuminator