Monday, January 28, 2013

Uff Ye Emotions on Pre-order

There you sit in solitary splendor writing your oh-so-lyrical prose and push it out to the world assuming that the wonder of your words will so capture the imagination of the reading public that they shall beat a path to your door clamoring for your literary output. There the world sits totally uncaring about your existence and happily assuming that it can probably have as much fun reading the dictionary.
Then the realization slowly creeps in that probably there are millions out there doing the same thing. Then comes a Short story writing contest, you participate and, presto, there is someone else – Vinit Bansal - out there who also seems to think that you are worth reading. Now, at last, you find that you can actually see your name in print. Not yet in solitary splendor since there are eleven others who shall also share the stage with you. That is, in a way, a big boon. When there are other good authors around in the same book, the book need not stand or fall on the strength of your literary talent alone.
So, on February the 7th, I can expect to see my name in print along with Saurabh Arya, Papan Basu, Abhilash Ruhela, Sanhita Baruah, Anjit Sharma, Himanshu Appi Chabra, Drishti Dasgupta, Stephen Anthony, Pankaj Mittal and Rachna Seth as well as Priyanka Dey. The book is featured in Good reads in the following link.

Links for pre-ordering the book are available on the Good reads page as well. I am giving a few here for ready reference (Where is the author who completely sheds the delusion that his readers will make a beeline to buy his books the moment they know about it?)

Here is to hoping that the book is found enjoyable.

If you want to try any of my humor or fiction, click on those words to find an index of the posts!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The HP Indiblogger Meet

When Leo, The Fool and I set out from my home enthusiastically to get to the Indiblogger meet little did we realize that we were in for a Bangalore Darshan. Leo and I were awash in wine and The Fool was drunk on words – having browsed what I must immodestly call my sizeable collection of books. When two winos start directing the only sober guy how to drive to a location, it is easy enough to imagine how straight a route we must have taken to the venue.
With a little confusing help from Leo’s GPS – which seemed to place us always at the place we were in fifteen minutes ago – and more useful guidance over phone by Ravan (who did not let us know which of his ten heads did the directing), we eventually reached the venue, by which time Pooja Pradeep had sent a dozen frantic SOS’s to rescue her from loneliness.
Within no time, the old rowdy gang of Nokia had assembled together at one table – Nabanita Dhar, Tanmayee Dev and all. Sibi, Santosh and Ghanchakkar were absent in this meet but the gaps were nobly filled in by Nethra and Nimisha. Anoop Zombie (the liveliest Zombie ever in history) tried his best to split us up but that was not to be. It is not like we guys meet up otherwise on a regular basis and, thus, would go seeking new company – it is only in the Indimeets that we do meet up.
Someone must explain to me this knack that Naba has of picking up prizes for the oddest achievements. I mean, if I coughed people give me scandalized looks and avoid me as though I were carrying the plague. When Naba coughs, Anoop hands over head-phones to her. I can understand ear-muffs to the rest of us but head-phones to Naba? How would that help her cough? This time, of course, I practically blackmailed him into handing over two books to me – one for being bald and the other for having had a fractured hand. (What do you mean – odd achievements? If you think either of it is a joke try to achieve one or the other and see if a book is a real consolation!)
The thirty seconds of fame was enlivened by the concerned bloggers acting out their favorite characters – from books or movies – and we even had a couple of bloggers belting out songs (NOT Munni badnaam hui!). That was followed by the HP chap seeking us to buy original products rather than duplicates – thereby justifying the ‘Original’ in the name of the meet. Striking odd poses for photographs – should I call them original poses? – was quite an odd encore to the motivation for the quest for originality but was fun.
The High tea that followed was sumptuous and, as ever, I had my modest helping of about a kilogram of food. This was also the time when we interacted with bloggers outside our table. Met Farida Rizwan, Rachna Parmar, Vidya Suri, Bemoneyaware, Gyanban, Balu and quite a few others in this period before we gathered again for fun and games!
Teams of fifteen made and miming of classic books/movies followed. We had to do Robin Hood and I was totally taken aback when someone from the audience actually recognized what we were miming. Must have been telepathy because an odd group of fifteen people standing on the stage doing whatever passed through their minds could have reminded no-one of Sherwood Forest. Not to mention that there was not a bow in sight nor was anyone even miming anything remotely resembling archery.
Ravan took over and had a few of the bloggers on stage to talk about some topics suggested by the audience. This part of the session was lively with the audience also involved in answering queries related to the topics. The stand-out - for me – was Balu whose reason for saying “Why this kolaveri di?” was that “After 12 years of marriage, that is the only question I can ask my wife!”
This meet was far more enjoyable than the previous one. The only suggestion I have would be to have a half hour when the stage is unoccupied and the mike silent (Ah! and, by the way, a reduction in the volume would have been a great help!) Maybe extending the High tea time would have helped in people getting around to meeting others for more time.
That, however, is probably nit-picking in the context of the time and trouble the organizers had put in to making the event enjoyable to all participants and the Inditeam deserved the felicitation that they got from a few of the more enterprising bloggers – for what they do on the Indiblogger platform as well as for organizing meets like this.

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Getting Published and Contest wins

I have normally found that humor does not win you contests. Seems to me like people actually do not like to laugh – Life is grim, Life is earnest and he who laughs at it is at best frivolous and at worst a fool. Maybe, I am getting too grim in my turn!
I can well imagine that contest judges find it difficult to take a humor post as a serious entry for the contest. “What do you mean it is a serious entry? It is humorous for Christ’s sake! How can a post be humorous and serious at the same time?” they probably say while tossing the entry into the nearest recycle bin.
In all my contesting days, only Lakme tried to console me for my post “A Season of Hope, A Season of Despair”. Maybe they got mislead by the title which is a quote from Charles Dickens and, as anyone can tell you - but for an aberration in ‘Pickwick Papers’ - he is as bleak an author as you can get. Why, the man even wrote a book called ‘Bleak House’!
I put my theory to the test by writing posts practically dripping with tears. Of those posts, my stories “The Gates of Hell” won a Write-up CafĂ© contest and “Yesterdays and Tomorrows” won the Blogaton. Now I had found the recipe to win contests – adopt the ‘Life is Stern, Life is Earnest’ philosophy. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done. Even when I fractured a right hand, I could not find so much pathos in me that I could readily weep copiously into my blog.
This year, strangely, humor seems to have found favor of a sudden. To win one of the second prizes for ‘Straighten up or die’ in the Sunsilk contest was, perhaps, not too outrĂ© considering that Sunsilk was asking for humor posts. To win the Blogaton for “The Silent World”, however, was one hell of a surprise. (I do not agree that my weeping copiously about how I was participating with a fractured right hand got me the sympathy vote!)
Am I forgetting something? Ah yes, so what is all that ‘Getting Published’ in the title about? Well! Mahavir Publishers ran a short story contest for a collection that they intend publishing entitled “Uff Ye emotions” and, apparently, I am one of the ten authors selected for it. This was not a humorous story, however. Banish your incredulity for the moment for what I have written is a serious love story!

P.S: If you think this sort of behavior from me - writing love stories, I mean - ought to be encouraged you could go to this link and click on the Heart there, before or after reading that post!
If you want to try any of my humor or fiction, click on those words to find an index of the posts!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A ravaged Society

(Very rarely do I venture into writing on topics of current interest. A humorist, I am afraid, tends to be taken for a joker and is very seldom taken seriously unless his humor takes the form of Satire – which mine doesn’t. Sometimes, however, there are things that refuse to remain unsaid)
The horrendous incident in Delhi and the aftermath have left us all questioning ourselves about the sort of Society that we have built. Yes, it is not merely a Society we live in but a Society we have had a hand in making – with our thoughts, deeds and the behavior we build in our children. In particular we need to be concerned about what is in the minds of the youth of this country.
Four questions, I think, require answering before we talk of how we can make things better.
Should men be sexually attracted at all to women? If not, what in Society gets them so attracted and what needs to be changed?
On the face of it, it seems an absurd question. It seems obvious that men will be sexually attracted to women. Almost all religions, however, view such sexual attraction as taboo – except in the accepted manner between husband and wife. Even when it comes to that, there are some religions that seem to consider it as sinful and think that sexual activity – other than for procreation – is sinful.
Further, when it comes to sexual attraction, it is considered the weakness – not a sin - of men alone. A woman’s sexual interest – even for her husband – is considered unnatural. In short, they are seen as 'objects of sexual desire' and not as participants. It is further assumed that the dress and behavior of women can either provoke the libido of men or not. Thus, women tend to get labeled between the Sati Savitris and the temptresses – with no other category possible in-between.
Therefore, for a woman, if your dress or behavior does not fit the strait-jacket image of a Sati Savitri, you are by definition a temptress. It is this mind-set that causes the ‘leaders’ to mouth off the absurdities that we have been hearing these days. Since they consider sexual attraction as somehow sinful, they seek to offer solutions that will, in their ‘considered’ opinion, avert the possibility.
Obviously, what needs to change is that mind-set. Even assuming that this idea of a completely channeled sexual interest is desirable – and assuming that requires an infinitely elastic stretch of the mind particularly when you consider that it, inter alia, includes the absence of any sexual interest in a woman’s mind – it is an ideal that can be aspired to but not achieved by all, as in the case of any ideals. An unforgiving approach to the non-achievement of this ideal – and the consequent diatribes about the dress and behavior of women – is totally unwarranted.
Should men be free to force sexual attentions on women – ranging from molestation to rape? If not, what in Society makes some feel like doing it and what needs to be changed?
The fact that it is considered natural for men for feel sexual interest for women does not necessarily mean that it is equally as natural for them to force their attentions on women. The first right of any person is the right over her own body – life, bodily harm whatever – and there is a vast difference between wanting to have sex and feeling entitled to do so.
How then do some men feel free to force their attentions on women? One major reason is the assumption – built over the generations – that women are subordinate to them and exacerbated by the fact that they see women who refuse to accept this subordinate role. Another is their own sense of impotence in their social roles and the need to regain some measure of power by exercising it over those whom they think they can subdue.
The one thing that the ‘leaders’ of our Society seem to be unable to understand – always crediting them for having the necessary equipment to understand – is the fact that, when they mouth off about how women act as temptresses, the message they pass on to the fringe elements is that it is ‘all right’ to molest or rape a woman who does not behave like the ideal ‘Sati Savitri’. This sort of assumption of tacit social sanction to such behavior can only exacerbate the situation.
Not that the attentions of molesters is restricted to the so-called ‘temptresses’. I mean, it is difficult to see how three year-olds and five year olds could have appeared like the Rambhas and Menakas of yore. The other reason that contributes to this behavior is the fact that they assume the silence of the victim – which they may consider near-certain in small children and highly probable even in adults considering that there is still a lot of social opprobrium attached to having been a rape victim.
Lastly, of course, is the fact that the molesters may be confident of not being punished for their crime even if the crime is exposed.
Unless the views about acceptable behavior by women as well as the status of women changes in Society and Society learns to treat victims with compassion, a radical reduction of such crimes may not be possible. The certainty of being punished would, however, go a long way to reducing such crimes.
In case there are laws in place to avert undesirable social behavior, should the Police be an arbiter of whether to accept the lodging of such a case or of the manner in which they treat the person lodging the case? Is an underlying mindset in Society a sufficient excuse for the Police not doing its duty in the manner prescribed? If not, what are the measures to be put in place to ensure that the laws are enforced as prescribed?
The problems in getting the perpetrators punished start from the time the attempt is made to lodge a complaint. Considering that getting the perpetrators punished largely depends on the investigative process, the behavior of the Police is crucial to this issue. The news and views about Police behavior makes it difficult to believe that a victim can even muster the courage to go and lodge the complaint in the first place.
One of the major reasons that seem to crop up is that the Police come from the same Society we come from and are informed by the same opinions. Does that mean that any change in the perceived behavior of the Police can come only if the underlying structure of Society is improved?
It is undeniable that a change in Society will necessarily improve the behavior of the Police. But it does not seem to me to be a necessary pre-condition. I have yet to hear that it is understandable for a Police constable to not salute a Woman MP or Minister because he comes from a Society with male chauvinistic tendencies. If organizational discipline can instill one sort of ‘unnatural’ behavior, it can instill others as well. It is, then, for the Police department to ensure that discipline in such behavior is instilled in its officials – by punitive action if necessary.
Of course, it is also necessary to ensure faster processing of cases in the legal system – fast-track courts, if need be. I am not a votary of the belief that stricter laws and strict and efficient enforcement serve no purpose in reducing crime. To me it appears much like arguing that since there is so much crime anyway we might as well dispense with the Police.
Is it acceptable behavior - in the Society that we want to live in - for the common man to sidestep a scene of crime and go about his business? If not, what needs to be changed?
The fact remains that a lot of crimes – including molestation – happen in public and the public prefers not to get involved. This avoidance of involvement may have become an ingrained cultural trait – a sort of misplaced sense of allowing other people their privacy – or it may have its roots in selfishness or fear.
Society needs to assume that people will be selfish to an extent. If the involvement in the stopping of a crime requires too much investment in time and inconvenience, it requires a far higher quantum of selflessness on the part of a person to get himself involved. This, in effect, mean that the organs of Government with whom such people may need to interact must instill confidence in the public about being considerate of their time.
The fear of getting involved arises from the distrust in authority that has been built into our psyches. Unfortunately, government officials – including the Police - have been seen and have seen themselves as people with authority rather than as public servants to such an extent that the phrase public servant seems to connote Royalty to Indians. Thus, even without the perpetrators threatening dire consequences because of who they are, the public prefers to avoid getting in touch with any organ of government unless absolutely necessary.
Yet another problem is that there is no real sense of community in India. We have family, we have friends and then we have the rest of the world. There is no real sense of ownership to the area or city we live in. Unless a sense of community is developed, we will continue to ignore crime around us.
It is perhaps time that we started developing community institutions –community service and what have you - that shall not only help develop a sense of community but shall also bring us in touch with public servants as people instead of authority figures, thereby eliminating in part, at least, that ingrained fear of authority.
The discussions I have heard, hitherto, seem to consider social change and changes in the legal system as some sort of either-or alternatives to the issue of attempting a solution of this problem. Social change is most necessary and every possible step needs to be taken in this regard. That is a long-drawn process, however, and there will always be fringe elements who shall indulge in crime regardless of what Society thinks of it. Stricter laws and strict enforcement, therefore, need to go hand-in-hand with any attempt at Social change.

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fractured Days

I had always thought that I had achieved the pinnacle of ineptitude long back in life. I mean, when I cannot carry a half-full glass of water without spilling water all the way, what more could I aspire to achieve? A fractured right hand, however, taught me that perfection was still a long way off – though it also carried me a long way towards perfection.
When I returned from the hospital proudly flaunting my hand in a plaster-cast, I had expected to take up life from where I had left it before I had my fisticuffs with the electric pole (For all those who were deeply concerned, I checked recently and the pole is doing very well indeed as is the pavement. For those who do not know what I am talking about check here). Surprise! Surprise! Life was a shade more difficult than I had anticipated it to be!
For one, I found that your instincts are all wrong when you do things with your left hand. My first intimation of this was using the computer mouse. Whenever I clicked what my instincts said was the left mouse button, out would pop a totally unnecessary menu. Oops! There is something drastically wrong with the wiring. The next advancement in humankind – if Darwin has not yet been repealed – should be able to instinctively change hands without messing things up.
One of the unnecessary talents that I did pick up was how to cradle a baby in your hands. I have absolutely no intention of carrying one – even when wearing diapers (Of course I mean when the baby is wearing diapers! What did you think?) – but just try opening jars - with twist-on lids - with one hand. Cradling a jar between the plaster-cast and the chest and opening it with the other hand was the only way – since just trying to open it without holding it only caused it to spin like a top on the table. Nine times out of ten, just as the jar opened, it would slip off my hands (off the plaster-cast if you want to be literal about it). The memories are still so vexing that I shall not venture to detail my attempts at putting the sugar back into the jar with one hand.
Eating with the left hand gave a whole new definition to messy eating. Having made rasam for the day – not knowing that I was going to fracture my right hand within two hours of cooking – things became very interesting indeed. Any South Indian who eats rasam rice knows that there is this peculiar flourish of the hand that is required to get both the rasam and the rice into the palm of your hands. The first time I tried it the TV – which was about four feet away – got its first taste of rasam. The second time the plate spun right off the table. (I shall avoid giving you the details of the cleaning operations!) Trying it with the spoon trailed the rasam rice all the way up to the mouth by which time there was scant little rice or rasam to eat. The only way I could work it was to just pick the rice and transport it to the mouth – which meant that I was eating all rice and had to toss all the rasam into the sink along with the plate.
Let me not get into the unsavory details of how I handled the bathroom. Suffice to say that I went down on my knees and thanked God for having sent down the inventor of the health faucet even if it was on the wrong side (that is to say the right side, if you know what I mean) in my bathroom and entailed contortionist efforts to put it to use. As for dressing up – even in the lungi – all I can say is that anyone who came home in the first week after the fracture was responsible for whatever shocks he received.
You get used to most things in life. Yet, most things in life also change you.  Now, I look at down at every staircase as though it had been put in place by a personal enemy to torment me. I descend it with all the speed of an arthritic zombie while clinging on to the railing for dear life. I glare at every pot-hole in the road as though it has been dug with the specific purpose of twisting my ankle. I give a wide berth to any projection in the pavement that protrudes more than an inch, while carefully keeping an eye on it lest it takes advantage of my inattention to move over to where it can trip me. As for electric poles, they make me shiver with fear.
How permanent these changes will be remains to be seen. The one thing that has changed permanently, however, is my own estimate of my ineptitude. I am not as perfect as I used to think I was!
If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Silent World

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 35; the thirty-fifth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is "...and the world was silent again"
 “How wonderful it would be if we could actually talk mind-to-mind. There would be none of this miscommunication”, I mused on my way back from office.
I had just discussed my annual performance review with my boss and I was unable to figure out whether his “Better than expected” translated to a higher incentive for me or no. Did he mean “I expected a lot from you and you have still out-done my expectations” or did he mean “Well! I expected you to make a perfect ass of yourself but you have not achieved perfection even in that”?
“You think the world will be better if you could hear what people thought of each other?” whispered a voice in my ear. “From now on you will be able to hear what the people close to you think of you”.
Uh! Last I checked I was all alone in my teeny car and hearing voices has not proved salubrious for people. Look at Joan of Arc. She too heard voices and now she is toast. Thankfully, the voice had stopped and the world was silent again.
By the time I reached home I had forgotten all about the voice. My wife had not yet come back from work. I made a couple of cups of coffee and, just as I was about to sit back and start on my cup, she arrived.
“Coffee is ready, honey”, I said.
“Thanks, Love”
Like he has done a huge favor to me. And, some day, I must figure out how he uses the same coffee powder and manages to create something that tastes as though it is filled from a sewer”
What was that? My wife’s thoughts? She smiled angelically at me and went to the kitchen to pick her cup of coffee.
Have to drink it, I suppose! The moment I tell him how awful his coffee is he’ll probably use that as an excuse to beg off all household work”
“Great Coffee, Varun”
I must be hallucinating. Shilpa could never be thinking this of me.
“Let me chop the vegetables for you, honey”
For me!! Like he is not going to have dinner. And how he manages to get all sizes from a micron to half a foot while chopping one piece of eggplant is another mystery I will never be able to solve”
This was getting decidedly messy. If this was what my wife thought of me, I really did not want to hear any more.
Thankfully, my son came in. Children were messengers of love after all. His thoughts would be a soothing balm to my soul.
“Shit! Dad is home! Just as I want to go out and play a game of cricket. I’ll have to talk to him. And, why does he have to put on that stupid school-kid voice while talking to me? Whoever talked of quality time with kids ought to be shot”
Ouch! This hearing thoughts business was decidedly a curse.
“Go out and play, son”
At last! Some signs of intelligence. Would have thought that an adult would take a hint. It has taken him years to understand that my idea of a good evening is not having a cosy chat with him  about what my maths teacher said at school!”
Ye Gods! I am done with hearing thoughts. Someone please take this curse off me. I really do not want to know what my boss and colleagues think of me as well.
“Done”, said the voice in my ear. And the world was silent again. Blessedly!

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Introduced By: The Fool, Participation Count: 08