About Me

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No, Vasundhara is not my real name. I am breaking it in for a friend!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To read or not to read is the Q?

I have always actively pursued my hobby for reading. I read extensively. I have never restricted myself by authors or genre. I read classics, fiction, scientific fiction, tragedy, comedy, plays, and more. However, I have consciously and conscientiously tried to ensure the "substance" and "content" I lay my eyes upon.

This made me wonder about what life would be without books. Rather, were books an integral part of man’s existence? I present before you my thoughts on why should I, or for that matter, a man should be reading books.
In today’s humdrum life, when we seldom have time to stand and take note, when we go through the proverbial motions almost unconscious of life going by, the mind seeks a refuge…far from the maddening crowd.
A refuge that transports us to realms unknown and unexplored. To realms that are a figment of our imagination…a place where we can dare to dream, and not be scoffed at. To a heaven that is a safe haven to let go and to seek that which has been out of our reach…a Utopian land that fulfils us as beings. That enriches us. Enlightens us and whets our appetite for more…that rekindles hope within our hearts to strive, to strike, but never to yield to the vagaries of life…and what better refuge than a book!?! To quote Francis Bacon, reading does make a full man.

A well read man has at his disposal a vast sea of knowledge that is indispensible. Books teach us about life. They coax us to dream. They stoke the passionate fires within our hearts that lead us to attempt the unbelievable.
Books give us an insight into things. They give us a point of view. They inspire.

Pick up any book on varied topics you can think of, and you are bound to gain. Here is a word of caution though: Think before you pick up a book to read.
Mark Twain has rightly put it thus,” The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.”

The sheer ability of a book to take you aboard its flight of fantasy is what appeals to me. Books are an incessant source of stimulation to the intellect. I feel enriched and blessed to have read and that I am able to appreciate good books.

Edward P. Morgan has aptly put this thought into words when he wonders, “A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy.”

Reading good books will help evolve us as humans. It will not only help enrich ourselves, but also the world around us.

As regards whether people should still be reading books or not, I feel the day I stop reading, I’ll stop living.
Phew! How true!! What is a man without books? Clichéd as it may sound; books certainly are man’s best friend.

Support @ SUPPORT

Office apart, I took to volunteering in a big way. I would offer to help other teams at official events, and also for varied social causes. I even enrolled myself to teach at a Non Government Organization (NGO) for kids and young boys. These were cheerful kids, aged 6-15, who were at one point, addicted to drugs or were victims of child abuse. Pained with their suffering, I thought it a noble deed to be able to utilize my education to this great purpose. I would go there on Saturdays for two hours and teach English to them. They were all a happy and enthusiastic lot.
They would call me “teacher” , “sister”, or even “miss” at times. It was a complete pleasure to be able to teach them. I felt privileged to be amidst them. They were such wonderful people.
We celebrated all festivals and big days with them. They would draw cards for us on all occasions, be it New Year or Teacher’s day. I specially remember the Republic Day celebrations at SUPPORT.

Joy is not in things, it is in us! The Republic Day Celebrations at this noble initiative resounded this belief. The children, eyes brimming with hope and happiness, were all set for the day. We could feel their zeal the moment we stepped into the hall. The ceremony commenced with the unfurling of our Tricolour...complete with a salute to the flag, followed by the National Anthem. Inspirational group songs and speeches by the children were praised by all present. The way the ceremony was conducted was commendable.
Eager hands deftly filled in colours in the Tricolour during “Flag Making”. We had organized games for them. “Passing the Parcel”, “Antakshari”, “Chinese Whispers”, “Fire on the Mountain”, and “Talent Show”...all saw enthusiastic faces that lit up with beautiful smiles. Prizes were awarded to the winners of each activity.

Their mischievous moods took the better of them and they danced...to the sound of music...and the rhythm of their hearts! It was sheer joy for us to be a part of the celebrations. That day I realised, it is not we, who lend them a helping hand, but they, who make a difference to our otherwise dreary lives.
Along with English, we also taught these sweet children many more things like, Vedic Mathematics which involved active participation from the kids as they were eager to know the shortcuts to solve tough problems. There were also computer assignments like making tables and drawings which enhanced enthusiasm in the kids.

I still remember the “mask-painting” competition and the “dramatics” event I had organized for them.
They surrounded me, eager little eyes and faces. Ready to paint and show their creativity. They painted lovely and brilliant colored masks. They jumped to show me what and how much had they done. They would scream enthusiastically and peep into their neighbour’s drawing book.
The dramatics event was welcomed with great fan fare. They rehearsed their parts rather well. Not one of them forgot their dialogues. They rendered the script and play more humourous than any playwright could have done, by their sheer simplicity and sense of humour.

During the prize distribution ceremony, when each one stood up on the stage to receive their prize, they waved to me, and smiled till the time they came off the stage. Each one would turn back and look at me and smile while they stepped onto the stage. Oh! It meant everything to me. I felt blessed.
It was their faces and voices that stoked me to get out of the privileged comforts of my home and get on the train to "Santacruz" every Saturday.

I remember the sad look on their faces the day I told them I was leaving. I still have those beautiful cards and painted masks with me. The quiz competition that they asked me to conduct on my last day there was a memorable one. Some asked me to give them pencils, while some others, the notebooks I had as a keepsake! They were such emotional and sweet people. GOD, please give them all that they want off life. Bless them and protect them from this big, bad world. They too are Your children.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What Am I Made Of? - Pt 3

Dramatics: All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players! [Shakespeare]
In the theatre there are 1,500 cameras rolling at the same time - in the cinema, only one. - Orson Welles
Orson Welles is the person who narrated “War of the Worlds” ever so passionately and with such gusto on the BBC, the world believed that the Earth is under attack from space! What art it would have been to be able to be that kind of an orator! What beauty and years of practice along with unfailing passion towards what you love to do!!
My major and formative years in school and college have been spent up on the stage. Being a part of hundreds of plays and skits instilled in me an undying love for art, drama, and theatre. So much so, that I enjoy not only performing, but also watching. Mumbai was a blessing in disguise, for I managed to catch quite a few good plays during my two year stay there. However, getting back to one of the many loves of my life, dramatics, I would definitely want to say that I am every bit an extension of all the characters I have ever played on stage, and vice versa?!? It is lucky if an actor can use “vice-versa” in here, by the by. Though it is not that I did not get to play challenging roles. One of my personal favourites was the character called “Wayland”, in a play we staged when in school. It was called “the man upstairs” and Wayland was the ghost of a dead man who haunted that house each night, in a bid to avenge his death.
Then there was an enactment of the bard’s Merchant of Venice, where I happened to play the ever so covetous role of Shylock, the money minting, shrewd and ever calculating conniver. Another was where I played Timor the Lame and yet another where I got to play Jeanne De Arc’s sister. A mirthful, flamboyant girl. Always in high spirits. All I had to do there was to scamper about the stage. Oh! What a riot of laughter that performance elicited from the packed house!
Many such plays and opportunities later, I can say that I take pride in my passion for dramatics. Why not? For it was the best you could be, do what you want, live a thousand dreams, react and go scot free, scream and be laughed at (rather than roughed up), and laugh truly!
Learning: Do as you please. However, ensure you knowingly hurt none!

What Am I Made Of? - Pt2

Sports: Exercise and rules generously sprinkled with mirth and a livid sense of freedom!
Through out my life thus far, I have been a vivacious sportswoman. Be it throwball, table tennis, basketball, lawn tennis, kho-kho, volleyball, softball, lacrosse, cricket-I have played it all. Or so I would like to believe.
Those days when we played for fun soon gave way to days when we played only to win. Soon to be followed by days that were spent playing only to “defeat”, and later, celebrate as victors.
Sports and the love of it instilled in me many qualities. Perseverance being one of them. Goes without saying there were others like team spirit, fair play, sportsman spirit (to take to victory or defeat equally graciously).
The bonhomie, the camaraderie, and the bliss are unmatched till date. That this description culminates here does not mean that this is all sports did for me. Yet, I choose to end it here.
Learning: It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man tumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

Travel: I now will tell you about my travel tails and at times, travails. Get, set, and go! Around the world, about your city, country, or “imagine!” for that matter. Costs far less or way too much at times.
Travel for me has meant both the literal one, interspersed with relevant, strong, and at times, lethal doses of “imagination. So much so, that I can safely say, I am quite a traveller. One who has thoroughly enjoyed each trip to a place big or small, the preparations for that went into it, the actual journey, the stay, the trips about that place, yes, gallivanting, and finally, battling the nostalgia, and managing pictures and my travelogue! Phew!! Long haul!!!
Not only this, but also, each trip to “neverland” or the “future”, to “Utopia”, to “why-me?” or “why-not-me?” land, to “I-wish-I-could” or “if-it-had-been-so” world, were each quite a trip in themselves!
The sudden realisation that “Now” beckons and the quiet, quick revisits to those places, are all etched onto the tablet-my “thinking” mind.
Learning: It's round the world I've travelled; it's round the world I've roamed; … - Woody Guthrie

What Am I Made Of?

Books maketh a man...yes, they play a pivotal role in my life as well. They have given me the much sought after fodder for thought. They have introduced me to the facets of life I would otherwise would not have known. How to believe in myself, to dream, to take heed from the lessons of life, to love, to falter and brace up, to live, and to forgive!
They taught me all, or rather, gave me points to ponder over. It is not only books though I must confess. There is more to me.
Travel, education, personal pursuits, dramatics, indulgences, likes, dislikes, and people I came across have all shaped my persona and chiselled or attempted to dent it at varied points in time.
I now will talk about it all-one by one; for each merits a detailed description, and ergo, a dive into my past, the recent past, the present, and at times, into the future (yes, day dreams and aspirations!)

Education: My humble beginnings and bearings. An essential cornerstone of my upbringing. Or shall I say, one of the many cornerstones!
Schooled in a convent, I have, since my early childhood, chewed on bits of wisdom and literature, works of Shakespeare and the other greats, lots of conscientious points, moments of truth, points to ponder over and an insatiable quest for knowledge or wisdom would be more like it. These and more have stoked the fires within and have ensured that I keep at it!
School meant more things than one. It was new things, novel concepts, different points of view, new people, brilliant and not so brilliant opportunities, and lots of fun. Sheer, harmless fun.
It brought responsibilities along, also, laughter, silly banter, events, happenings, learning, pain, joy, tears, jealousy, triumph, vanity, humility, sacrifice, selflessness and pride, all parcelled in one.
Umpteen chances to try new things, hone other skills, shine at yet others, all helped develop me into what I am. Of course with follies, for no man is perfect!
At a later stage it was more of career focus, the higher truths of life, my goal, aim, aspirations, and fitment in the higher plans that life has for me?!?
Then came the time to bid farewell to school-the old pals, the teachers, the classrooms, the ever so sweet domestic staff, the playground, the wonderful, mirthful times, and to everything that symbolised unspoilt joy. Yet, the lessons learnt in the sunny days of youth stuck on. “They show!” , say many who I come across. A silent self congratulatory pat each of such instances deserves, and so it gets!
Next was college. More responsibilities, more profound thought to be put into everything I did and a well thought out career plan is all it brought along and demanded.
Year after year, it built upon blocks of integrity, conscientiousness and courage, to nurture and enhance me.
Further education meant more of facing the big bad world. It was more like being jolted to senses straight out of deep slumber. A rude shock of sorts.
Adjust. Adjust. Yes, adjust. Yet, this had under its wings-clear perspectives, some true friends, and the person that I am now.
Learning: Strive! Strike!! Yet, never Yield!!! [Thanks to Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Ulysees”, something I read in school.]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Watch Out---They are speaking unto you!

It is well said, that this Universe sends out signals to you for everything that happens or is about to happen. When you are to set on a journey or even a run (be it a marathon or a short sprint) you get signals. Whether you choose to receive them is entirely your prerogative...or even Destiny is what I would like to believe! Nay, I am not one of those who sit hoping against hope and doing nothing; I do not even keep blaming and framing destiny/fate all along. However, I am a staunch believer in Destiny and Fate. Of course, we must put in the best we can and keep at it...yet, there comes a point, when all we can do must cease, and we must sit back and watch D and F play their part. Who pulls the strings? The Almighty, of course!!

I have learnt (learnt or rather assimilated/inferred from Life) about it everywhere- books, stories, anecdotes, past experiences of people, and in many more ways than these. I might have ( on second thoughts, have!) been through such experiences myself, when I had a foreboding/intuition/gut feeling/happy premonition (if I may call it thus) and more to that effect.

Here is one such "experience" I wish to share with you...
Not to sound vain or naive for that matter (for different reasons, albeit), I must confess that ever since my childhood and through my early youth, I have been spoken of owing to my writing skills ( ;) Aye!) and a penchant for language/literature. As a child I would read extensively, pick up new words and use them at every possible instance, so much so, that my teacher would advise me to "take it easy" and "use a few new words each day, yet, sparingly, and only when they suit the context". I took heed, though at times I would indulge!! :)
Time flew by and I learnt how to use them wisely (or so I would like to believe...not that the usual indicators revealed otherwise...), so I marched on!
College saw me drawn towards literary activities just as school did. Post graduation saw me a tad tamed, however, not without people around me taking note of my writing abilities and proficiency in language (if I may say so). My soft skills professor ensured to praise my skills, and did not forget to caution me to "keep writing, even if it means a para a day", for this skill like all others, and like a weapon dulls with lack of utilization (read practice).

Ah! Let me not give the notion that I talk of English here. Hindi too had me in its throes. Be it literary pursuits or writing. However, with time, as Hindi started to play the proverbial second fiddle for the medium of instruction became primarily English, I will not blame you to understand that what I tell you now shall be more in context of the latter.

Professional life saw me try and get most of this passion for literature and language to the fore as and when possible. A few took note. My friend from college has always been kind to me for she keeps motivating me to write something- a story, a novel, an essay, my thoughts, anything- for she believes I will do fair justice to it. Oft' we have discussed the possibilities. Each time she says I can do it, I blush and smile, and keep smiling, until she does not stop praising me...and says, "to cloud none and back miss!" :D

I wrote in the interim. A few short stories, a few passages, paragraphs, essays, articles on random topics, a few lines (each time I felt the pangs of passion/ the frolic of mirth/ the gloom of death)...all this while, waiting and hoping for the day I would set my thoughts to pen down a few consistent pages that made sense, or even no sense.

One day I started this blog...and a year later, one more friend suggested, that I must write. She went on to praise me and how did I revel in it, I cannot describe! We were separated by quite a few miles, yet, I am sure she was receptive enough to feel how I gushed at such praise! :)

Then, one day, my sister sent me something that required me to write a novel in a month's time-religiously, I worked at it. This was a perfect opportunity I could ask for. I sat and penned down words furiously. Sometimes with a story line and at times without one/ The objective is to write, keep writing in fact, the website read. Write I did. Endlessly. Whether or not the story is complete is another matter altogether. Whether this narration is effective or interesting is not much of a bother. What matters to me is that if any one you reading this has been through this, or is going through this, you have an ambition, a dream, a thought- watch out, prepare, sharpen your tools (skills), and look for such signals. When your time for the big action will arrive, you will surely know in more ways than one!

Keep the faith!!

PS: While my college friend (Perseverance/Motivation) has been a constant support and reminder to whet my writing skills, the professor ( Faith/Caution) showed me the way with his words. The other friend (Reaffirmation/Trust) who suggested I write well and must write something consequential, reaffirmed my faith in myself, and my sister (Catalyst/Harbinger of opportunity) was the one who catalysed it all (of course, she too had faith in my abilities, for why else would she share the bit of information with me otherwise?).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Make-Believe v/s Life

Fresh with vivid images from the last movie I saw, I wonder whether movies are just make-believe? Something that transports you to an entirely different world/imaginary land where you get all that you want... or are all movies a representation of the world you are a part of, or for that matter, the world, as-you-see-it?
Thoroughly confused that I am, for me it is more the state or frame of mind I am in when I am watching one. By the by, ain't it true that, this very thing is what "perception" is all about? Pre- formed notions, thoughts, thinking patterns, experiences...Yes! Why else would some cringe, yet others celebrate, when the protagonists are in the grip of a romantic fit? Dancing and prancing all about the place...doing things like going down on your knees at some one else's wedding to propose to the bride...and much more than this!!!
Does all of this really happen in real life? Is there something like this or someone who actually does any of this? Beats me...though the world would be an entirely different place if it were so!!
Why are we raised on books, movies, stories that force us to live in a make believe sugary world, if we will one day get a K.O. punch from Life? Right into our faces?? Why is everything so nice and sweet there? Is it because all of us try and imagine the kind of state or world or life, we would like? Or is it more a case of "wishful thinking"? How does this affect the mental makeup of generations raised on such "oh-life-is-so-sweet-and-it-all-gets-better-in-the-end" cushions? When, ultimately, the reality dawns upon you, all of this, more often than not, results in an angst...Huh? You experience what could be termed as "mental juxtaposition".
You are in its throes, and those sweet and too hopeful movies and books are not taking you anywhere!
Yet, Hope, they say springs eternal in the human breast. Aye! So it is Hope that helps you get up, pick the loose ends, tie them all up, bury the remnants of your painful experiences, times, past, life; and see yet another dream. Yes, if it was not for Hope, the hearts would break.

PS: As the book says, beyond every cloud, there are a thousand suns...or even if this is not it, verbatim, the essence is, tomorrow IS another day!
PS' : Easy said than done!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Music They Played

Tired after what I would label as a usual day at work, I reached the comforts of my rented apartment on a wintry evening. The nip in the air that grew by the day had almost de-peopled the streets.

In any case, the area of “eccentricity” I stay in, though densely populated, bears a deserted look after 2000hours. It for that matter is not even uncommon to get mugged, mobbed, or roughed up if you happen to venture all alone!
Security and safety are but strangers to this town; compare it to places like Mumbai and even Vadodara, and you will be in for a surprise. Security, like most other things in life, is relative!

Ah! So here I was. Back home after work, tired, and in great need of a soothing cup of tea. Tea had, I went through the regular motions-dinner, idyllic gazing at the idiot box, chit chat. Lo! I was now ready to hit the bed…all the more inviting with the onset of winters.

So I slept like a log, deep in slumber. Perhaps dreaming for all you know, or even care to know. When all at once, “we don’t need no revolutionnnnnnnnnn” … “Jimmie Jimmie Jimmie--- aaja aaja aaja” … “psychedelic rock, hindi movie songs, and finally Punjabi numbers” are what I hear.

Am I dreaming? Yes!!

Bryan Adams sings why he comes back to his lady love…I smile…yes, good lyrics. Oh! That is Pink Floyd again…I am all smiles!
The only difference is that I have been trying to console myself. I am not smiling in dreams. I am not dreaming. I am wide awake!

I look up at the ceiling…I curse the ruffians who have rather musically, disturbed my slumber, and perturbed my peace…I am humming along…I curse them again…Oh! Here I weep a silent tear for some songs tend to make you nostalgic. And Nostalgia is a strong emotion. It possesses!!

I curse them yet again. It has been over an hour now. I am weeping…and smiling…and cursing them. I revisit memories…tears roll down for old times’ sake. Some song is playing. Now it is a movie that they have on. They laugh, nay, guffaw explains it more and talk intermittently. I am still busy wiping the mess-‘o’-brine off my face.

I get up. I go to the window. Their voices are crystal clear. I stand by the window in suspended animation. For a good ten minutes. I look at my watch. It is 0330 hours!!!
It is another working day tomorrow. Cannot afford to work my mind up at this unwholesome hour! I go wash my face. I dab some lotion onto it, and go off to sleep again.

Yes, our sincerest laughter, with some pain is fraught. Our sweetest songs are those, that tell of saddest thought.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Write about anything!

Oft’ I have found myself pondering over what to write on. There are times when I pick up the pen to translate an experience into words, while at other times, I write for I have something to tell. Yet, what of the times when I know that I have to write, and there is something within that says I must write? Those are the times when I have been searching for what to write on. The very times that I have stared at the proverbial starlit sky and thought, till the point I arrived at what I sought. Thought, with and without ruth. Without and with struggling-to-get-and-yes-this-is-it humour. Such moments leave me with countless thoughts crossing my mind at lightening speed. Another thought, what does Google say about this??

Google yielded results such as “top topics that people love to read about/on”, favourite food, favourite star, about one’s self, etcetera etcetera.

Dogpile, a next-gen. all powerful search engine yields pages on writer’s block (ah, yes! This is the term I was looking for…I suffer from bouts of writer’s block at times. All writers do. Even the best ones, and the not so good ones.), consumer commentary, personal introspection.

A random sample of friends yielded the following—
They would write about their lives, their current thoughts, about globalization, about love, about relationships, going green, benefits of car pooling, research on animals, planning for the environment, about their business, why do we have to work, why study, the girl/boy I love, politics, corruption, sports, art, courage, war, terror, community, history, adventure, travel, society, social concerns, pets, characters, movies, music, networking, about their work life, cultural diversity, about family and friends.

Personally, anything… just about anything…on anything. How my day was, what goes on my mind, the book I am reading, my passions, the things present then and there…endless possibilities.

Aye! Endless possibilities, all waiting to be grabbed and be written upon. With hope they wait. It befits a writer to write on anything that pleases or irks the mind, the soul. The question here is who is a writer?
The person who writes mind-numbing statements, circumlocutory sentences in a language that goes over your top, or, one who writes beautifully, and so simply, that reading what he writes is a treat to your mind and senses?
Taking heed from this ;), all of us have a writer within. All of us can write. Writing does not mean fabulous pages after pages. It does not even mean out-of-this-world written skills. Writing is at its best when it is simple- when the reader is able to understand what the author wants to say. When the author has clearly and effortlessly said all she wants to. When she makes perfect sense to the masses and has been able to connect with the reader. Remember, countless opportunities and topics await your attention, only if you care to look, and pick up you pen, and more importantly, summon the strength to make a start!

PS: If any of you do happen to read this by happy accident, I owe a part of this to all of you! And even to those who I did not bother with this question…for you may or may not realize, but I have often asked this off you during our conversations.

Thank you...Asmita, Kavita, Kurian, Rekha, Saumya, Meghana. Benefit of doubt to Ajay, Anurag, and Saloni. For I am sure they would have answered if time permitted, else they will, but after this post! :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

It has been a year...unbelievable!

A year it has been indeed...a year since I cared to visit my own blog ... a year since I cared to see what people (if at all) have said about posts...a year since I noticed what changes "blogspot" has to offer!
Change ... an eternal constant, don't they say? Okay!!! [I feel like a stranger in a space I am supposed to call my own! My mind refuses its office, for I am bereft of all words :D]
So. Reining in my racing mind, and collecting my ninny thoughts about myself, "change" is in the air.
I have changed my city, changed two houses ever since I moved ino the new city, changed my mind about how things are/ought to be, changed my self (read adapt) to be more comfortable in my present location, changed my mode of transportation, changed my convicions (or did I??), and changed the way the world sees me ( aye aye ...mootable it remains! :) ). Change is inevitable. Change is everywhere. However, confronting change requires maturity. Embracing it, courage. This quote has been my constant favourite. So each time circumstances weigh me down, each time I am reminded by Providence that it is for Him to dispose, no matter how much I propose, this noble thought helps me brace my self up.
That is about it...much more to come... :).