It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men

Post from last year

As the birthday draws closer, you’d think that the maternal instinct would make an appearance by now. It hasn’t. And with good reason. I have not looked at any parent and wanted what they have. I see kids at malls and at church-I do not like what I see. Almost every child I see these days is in want of a generous dose of Vitamin D- discipline. Like all nutrients, it’s good for them in the long run.  This whole new world ‘children are people and need the freedom of expression and choice’ is overrated. They are people in the making, works in progress and it’s up to the parents to create an end product that doesn’t make one question the future of humanity. To be fair, children are only reflections of their parents and the environment in which they’re raised.

Nothing gets my goat more than kids in reality shows. Something Indian parents never tire of. Last I checked the nauseating sexualization of a 5 year old dressed in a 2 piece Ghagra gyrating to ‘chikni chameli’ is no one’s definition of cute.  These kids are probably going to grow up thinking that their bodies are the only potential they have worth exploring. These shows don’t introduce the kids to a career in the musical adaptation of ‘Cats’. These shows are the first step towards an adult going berserk on national TV for their two minutes of fame via a Big Boss stint.

And then there’s the other set of parents who shunt their children from school to tuition classes that tutor their kids from the exact books their teachers referred to twenty minutes earlier. Then there’s the “extra curricular activities” of music and sport. Parents don’t seem to realize that if they just about managed long division in Class 12, the child won’t exactly be quantum mechanics material. Genetics doesn’t work like math- a negative doesn’t do the nasty with another negative to produce a positive. Also, if you’re tone deaf, the chances of your child being able to play symphony number 25 in G minor is so slim that it’s anorexic. Projecting one’s unfulfilled ambitions onto the child is painful and just does disservice to the child.

Children should be given the resources to help them identify their strengths but also to understand their limitations. Instead of creating narcissistic little horrors, I don’t understand why parents can’t spend time helping their children develop a healthy interest in the world. Teach them convictions and to stand up for what they believe in. Teach them to be comfortable in their own skin but to know that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Teach them that it’s OK to fail and that it’s OK to be different. That the source of money is important and that the end doesn’t always justify the means. Teach them self control and that there is a world beyond their mobiles and iPads. Teach them to be good hosts and to make polite conversation. That being civil even when disagreed with isn’t hypocrisy. Teach them to be ambitious but to also make peace with someone else’s success. Teach them that it’s OK to be vulnerable and that it’s OK to have irrational fears. Work with them to overcome those fears; don’t coerce it out of them. That the number of likes on Facebook isn’t the validation they need to seek out and neither is it a reflection of their self worth. Teach them to respect the other person- their time, space, property and beliefs. But more important teach them kindness, compassion and empathy.


Spectacular Spain

I haven’t written in a bit and I have my new role at work to thank for that. I managed to squeeze in two weeks of a vacation in September this year and I’ve decided to trust the mother’s judgement in picking the family vacation henceforth. She did good. Spain was fantastic in every way. Madrid is unpretentious and down to earth. While she lacks Rome’s ridiculous good looks, she has personality and a certain old world pizzazz. Her churches are a far cry from architectural marvels and I may be committing severe art history faux pas but the Prado was a bit of a dud. The food was glorious and the people even better. Madrid had some of the warmest, friendliest people I’ve met. Hotels like in India, know how hospitality actually works. Madrid isn’t glamorous and unlike other European cities her male population does not look like they could be poster boys for Calvin Klein but yet she feels like a wonderfully made south Indian breakfast- comforting and good for the soul.

Almudena Cathedral and the Royal palace
Temple of Debod

I felt a bit adventurous and did a walking tour of Toledo. The city is everything one reads about and a bit more. Walking Toledo’s narrow, winding streets is not for the fainthearted. Literally. It turned out to be quite a workout, one that neither my feet nor spine enjoyed very much. But it was worth every groaning muscle pull and all the swearing that the father did as he labored up each street. Toledo is a sepia toned visual delight. I tend to romanticize memories and Toledo with its quaint houses and street musicians playing Por Una Cabeza in Zocodover square brings back the fondest of them.



Proyecto Los Aires is this wonderful olive grove 60 km outside of Madrid run by a couple who care deeply about sustainable farming and the production of olive oil. Arcicollar is the tiniest village with a grocery store, a pub and a pharmacy (yes all singular) with one bus that runs twice a day to and from Madrid. The owners apologized profusely for the heavy traffic on the road to his olive grove- 3 cars that passed by in 7 minutes. Coming from Bangalore, their version of traffic is just the cutest thing ever.

Proyecto Los Aires

Barcelona is almost like a different country. I understand their desperation to have one as well because it is nothing like the rest of Spain. Maybe I speak from ignorance and the lack of ability of appreciate a maestro but I just do not get Gaudi’s buildings. I spent a week trying to understand the work of the genius that is God’s architect but Jeez Louise are those buildings ugly. Maybe I am one of those lazy, thick as plank people but beauty needs to be obvious. I do not like having to make the effort to search for beauty. Lord knows my job is stressful as it is without having to spend a week of vacation time using all the wattage in the top floor seeking out hidden beauty behind a ton of bizarre  designs. Call me old fashioned but I prefer places of worship to look and feel a bit more serene than a George Lucas set. Maybe historians have misinterpreted Gaudi’s pineapple meets amoeba meets alien spaceship design to misinform us that he was going for a design where the inside of a church resembled a tree. If he was then maybe the trees back then don’t look like the ones we have now. Gaudi aside, I loved Montjuic and the Boqueria. Just outside the Boqueria, on the Las Ramblas are these little shops selling plant seeds. Now that sounds straight forward enough and the mother decided that we needed to buy tulip bulbs (the Mother isn’t known for her gardening expertise but full marks to her for enthusiasm) so off we went. And man alive did we get a rude shock (pun intended)- most were seeds that would grow into R-rated plants. I find it hard to believe that there are individuals out there that proudly tend to their flower garden resembling a porn plot (again pun intended). And what kind of hybrid techniques did they have to use to form flowers in those shapes. I hate to think that they use their genius for the most senseless genetic engineering with no known use except to the depraved.

La Boqueira
Park Guell
View from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
Sagrada Familia

Spain was extra special because for some reason it felt like home. Very rarely do Indians not get stared at in foreign countries where the Indian population is not much (the number of those countries are rapidly reducing thanks to our travel hungry, air borne PM). I was acutely conscious of the colour of my skin whilst in Tuscany but not once did we receive unwelcome glances in Spain, maybe they had too much on their minds what with wanting a separate country and all or the confluence of cultures from their history has seeped into their very being where not only have they made their peace with dissimilarity but it is welcomed as well. And for that I know that when that plane took off from the El Prat airport it was only adios but not goodbye.


When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?

Nothing gets my goat more than being stereotyped and/or patronized. I wear my nationality with pride and being from Bangalore is one of the best parts of me. It is a city that I love dearly, despite all its misgivings- crumbling infrastructure, horrible traffic and inefficient systems. I’d like to think that Bangalore is fairly cosmopolitan, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. So it often comes as a surprise when colleagues tell me I seem un-Indian, that I seem removed from the rest of India. The Bangalore I know, is filled with people exactly like me. Sure, Bangalore was always a bit more westernized than the rest of the country. Bangalore always had a more “global” feel. Everyone I know grew up listening to VH1 and watching what we thought were regular TV shows. OK, so I grew up watching the Bold and the Beautiful, nothing like a little pre-Game of Thrones incestuous drama to entertain a 10 year old.

Given this background, I do feel like smacking certain American and one British colleague (you know who you are Mr. Sparkhill) into next week when they tell me that a. I am articulate b. ask about my very Anglicized name c. ask about the cows on the roads. Sure, I can string two words together in English, but so can a million other Indians. Granted, a majority of us massacre the language on a daily basis, some of us up the frequency every time we talk. Some of us aren’t satisfied with just murder but do the Bhangra on every grammar rule there is but give us a break already- most of us grow up learning 4 languages simultaneously and often do this Google translate type function in our head where we translate our “mother tongue” into English, so it is no wonder that we can’t able to speak like the Queen. This may knock every westerner’s socks off, but there are hundreds of thousands of us with names just like theirs. That said, the sole purpose of being given names that are what is loosely referred to as ‘Christian’ is not because our parents had the single minded ambition of our future colleagues getting our names right. The world does not revolve around you and the Paris climate agreement is proof of that. And no, the country will not be receiving awards for cleanliness no matter how much our monogrammed suit wearing, slightly longer than comfortable hug giving PM screams himself hoarse about ‘Swachh Bharat’. But then again try cramming 1.25 billion people anywhere and you will get the mess that we call home. Given our national penchant for spitting and releasing all kinds of bodily fluids in public places, it does not for a sterilized environment make.

Go ahead and take pictures of the cattle on the roads, the open drains, the beggars, and the traffic. But also take pictures of the fancy hotel you stay in, the plush locality that the hotel is located in, the nicely designed offices you have traveled to. Don’t be surprised when some of us are better read than you are or have eclectic tastes in music. By well-read I do not mean our home grown, potential Pulitzer Prize winning Chetan Bhagat with his complete disregard for English and a good story line, nor am I talking about having Justin Bieber on our iPods.

Don’t be surprised when we enjoy something other than a spicy curry and a “Naan bread” or that we are capable of enjoying a movie without ridiculous dance sequences. Not all our weddings involve elaborate costumes, dowry and an ugly groom and evil in-laws. Not all of us work to support our aged parents. Not all of us meet our spouses on the wedding day. Not all Indian women are shy, submissive, face shielding, giggling morons with no brains behind the kohl lined eyes. A lot of women I know could easily add a few more shades to those 50 shades of grey. Not all Indian men are lecherous, uncouth, animals waiting to molest the first thing in a saree. Granted, a good bunch need to be given the Inquisition. And sure, majority of them were not on the receiving end of divine generosity in the looks/personality/IQ department. But still, stop putting us in this mould. Stop with the false sense of entitlement every time you are in the country. You aren’t doing us a favour with your ‘Namaste’. Give the whole Oprah’s “there is order in the chaos” condescension a break.  Stop making the entire country a personal ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ vacation. And finally, stop watching ‘Outsourced’ as your official guide to Indian culture. Call centers may not be the cream of the crop where employment opportunities are concerned but last I checked, they don’t have those in the midst of a bustling slum either.


I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual

This past year has made me discover so much about myself that I didn’t know before. I’ve come to the wonderful realization that I do not need material things to make me happy. And I don’t say this in any self-righteous way. The pretty shoes and diamonds are certainly nice to have and I will still continue to buy them but I just seem to have gotten off that wheel of never ending want. Want is a bottomless pit and I know all too well the discontent and misery that greed breeds (that was not meant to rhyme). At some point last year these things just stopped making me happy. If the last year has taught me anything it has been to just stop and enjoy today. Enjoy everything I have especially the people in my life. Again it hasn’t changed me so drastically that I’m now this sandal wearing, will work-for-food living hippie that has thrown up her job to back pack across Europe and Asia (cough cough) but I’ve also realized that despite our best plans and the most well organized strategies one has no control over tomorrow. All we can do is be thankful for today. Last year for those 5 days in September, I never thought of the next promotion or the next hike, I never thought of how I needed to do better than everyone my age, all I wanted was for my family to have Christmas together, to enjoy my mother’s cooking and grumble at my father and his slightly Scrooge-esque ways, to spend Christmas eve with my extended family and to be happy. And together. Nothing else mattered and even though that dreadful experience is just a distant memory, it taught me to put everything in perspective.

My greatest blessings are not the assets I’ve been fortunate enough to have; it is the fantastic circle of unfailing support that I’m surrounded with. I’ve made best friends out of colleagues and cut my losses with others I’ve known for years. I no longer feel the need to have people around me just to validate all my actions even if those actions have been unkind to another. Neither do I feel the need to keep relationships (not the boy girl kind but relationships of all kinds) even when I’ve grown out of them. I no longer feel like I need to keep friends who constantly take it upon themselves to give me reality checks. This past year I’ve met wonderful people, people I don’t always have something in common with but people whom I respect and more importantly people who understand that every relationship no matter how close has boundaries which must never be crossed.


The nation really just doesn’t want to know..

I cannot be the only one feeling agitated with palpitations just watching Arnab Goswami gesticulate and foam at the mouth during his daily scream off with a panel of equally highly strung people.  I wonder what happened to Goswami as a child that damaged him so much that he has to take it out on an entire nation every day. To give Goswami credit, it takes real talent to hand pick the most volatile, mis-informed panel and yell them into submission. I don’t think anybody would notice if there wasn’t anyone else in those small boxes where the panelists disapproving faces should be. Goswami’s banshee like hollering is so captivating that I very rarely even pay attention to the topic or the rest of the people on the show. He always seems like he’s about 2 decibels away from bursting a coronary. It’s a wonder how his brand of journalism hasn’t made its way to journalism schools across the globe-imagine wasting all those hours studying a subject, getting facts correct, being, or at least trying to be objective, traveling to war torn areas when all you need is a pen to wave around frantically, a blank A4 size paper, and a larynx that that can make amplifiers blush.

I wonder how this keeper of India’s conscience unwinds after getting off his moral high horse each day? Surely one’s bp cannot go from 310/200 to 110/80 the minute the cameras are off. If anyone in his place has to work off all that frustration at the gym, they’d look like poster children for the World Bank.

A good business plan would be to set up cochlear implant centers and unleash Goswami onto an unsuspecting public. Ka-ching.