An Open Letter

To the people I love,

You know who you are because you’re reading this letter right now. Some of you have known me for a long time, others not as much. But no matter how long we’ve walked together in this journey called life, please know that you are important to me. I don’t know whether it was fate that made our paths cross or coincidence. Either way, I am grateful.

The ties of the heart go deeper than blood. All the ups and downs that we have been through have, only, made that bond stronger. When I was happy, you rejoiced with me. When I was in pain, you shared my suffering. When I had doubts, you believed in me. When I was afraid, you allayed my fears. When I was weak, you were my strength. I could share my thoughts with you knowing you would speak your mind. You could always make me laugh. Even if, at times, you didn’t intend to. I know there were times when I caused you pain. But you never held it against me. Somehow, you were always able to see the good in me. And, I will not forget that.

Life may have taken us away from each other. We may have chosen to embark on different adventures. But, even now, when I hear your voice at the end of the call, it is as if we spoke yesterday. There are no awkward silences. Seconds become minutes and minutes stretch to hours. The conversation flows, and we lose track of time. That, my dear, is a testament to our bond.

Thank you for being there for me. My life is better because you are a part of it. I have lost count of the number of times you have brought me back from the brink of insanity. All the times that I have been hopeless and lost, you have been my guiding light. You have fought for me when no one would. You have seen the best and the worst of me. You have embraced all of me – the good, the bad and the ugly. I am who I am because of you. You mean a lot to me.

You are my family.


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The Blogger’s Curse

I read a post today which made me realise that, in my struggle with blogging, I was not alone. As I wrote a comment on the post, the idea for this article took shape in my head.

When I first started a blog, I knew nothing about blogging. I thought it was all about putting your thoughts out there for people to find and read, like or dislike. The most important thing was to create quality content. But my understanding couldn’t be further from the truth.

I have been actively blogging for a couple of months now. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be complaining after such a short time. I still don’t know much about blogging. But I’ve learnt some lessons.

The hardest thing about blogging isn’t the content. At least, this is true for me.

The first challenge is getting people to your blog. I began by searching for blogs with like-minded content. I invited their authors to look at my blog and share their opinion. I realised, albeit a little late, that tags make a big difference. I have not mastered the art by any means. But, I am making steady progress.

The second is to get people to read it. My blog hardly gets visitors. I used to rejoice when people liked my post. But when a post has fewer views than likes, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something’s not quite right. Spotting discrepancies like these are some of the perks of getting pitiful traffic to your site, I guess. When you like a post, it means that it resonates with you. How is that possible if you haven’t read it? For the record, I’d rather not have people liking my post if they’d rather not read it. Unfortunately, the person this is meant for won’t be reading this post either.

The biggest test, however, is getting people to engage in a dialogue. I understand the challenges of modern life. We don’t have time to stop and smell the roses let alone comment on every post we read. I don’t comment on every article I read either. But comments do make a lot of difference. Comments aren’t just words. They are pieces of you that are scattered across the blogging universe. With comments, you know the reader’s thoughts. With likes, it’s hard to say.

I searched online to figure out why I couldn’t draw my readers into the conversation. Fellow bloggers were, also, kind enough to offer their words of advice. These are some suggestions I came across. Ask questions at the end of your post. Check. Ask people to comment on your post. Check. Blog on topics that you would like to read. I’ll be honest and say that I can’t write anything else. Visit other blogs, read their posts and comment on their work. I enjoy doing this for my own reasons. Use social media to promote your blog. No can do. Why? Because I avoid social media like the plague. You won’t find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a million other sites whose names I don’t care to remember.

Maybe, I don’t create good content. That’s fine. I just wish someone would tell me that. I don’t claim to be Shakespeare. I don’t, even, have a degree in English. I started blogging because writing is something I’ve always enjoyed. For a lot of reasons, I didn’t pursue it as a career. But that’s water under the bridge. And I don’t have any regrets. I just thought that if I couldn’t write professionally, at least, I’d do it to make myself happy. It would be an outlet for my thoughts. I would know whether I was good at it. Other bloggers would help me understand what I was doing right and where I was going wrong. It would make me a better writer.

Words of support and encouragement from the blogging community kept me going. But a part of me was frustrated by the lack of success. It dawned on me that I was spending more time on finding out how to get people to read my blog rather than writing.

When did writing become so complicated? Creating content isn’t enough. You, also, have to be a marketing professional and an SEO expert.

You may think that I am complaining without taking steps to fix my problem. You wouldn’t be wrong. But, from where I sit, I don’t see a problem. I see a choice. The choice to not market my blog. This is not to say that those who promote their work are wrong. I don’t envy them. The effort they have put in is remarkable. Their success is hard-earned and well-deserved. In the end, no matter how people get to your blog, they stay there only if they feel like it’s worth it. But, I don’t think it’s for me. This may mean that my blog will take years to generate the kind of following that many other bloggers enjoy. Maybe I won’t get there at all. The feedback I wish for may, also, not come. But that’s okay. For now, I’d rather enjoy the process of writing than worry about how many people read what I have to say.

I apologise for subjecting you to this rant for no fault of your own. But if you started out as a simple writer, like me, and not a marketing genius, I am sure you can identify. If you didn’t like this post, please let me know. But if you enjoyed it, please spare the like button. Instead, leave a comment. It doesn’t matter how long or short. What matters most is that it meant something to you.


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Laughter and the Sky

You laughed the stars
into the sky
And cried as the clouds
came floating by

Why did they block
the spectacular view?
Had they nothing
else to do?

You will the wind
to chase them now
Applaud as it turns
to take a bow

The moon takes on
a subtle glow
And the twinkling stars
complete the show

This poem is a slightly modified version of my submission to Cubby’s Prompt: Laughter.


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Growing Up

The idea for this piece came from a post that I recently read. Most people consider childhood to be the best time of their lives. I wish I could share that sentiment. While my childhood wasn’t particularly terrible, my feelings towards it can be best described as ambivalent.

When I started working, people asked me what I missed most about college. Without a thought, I’d say “vacations”. It’s the only thing that came to mind. I was a very lucky child. The first grandchild, a spoilt brat and the subject of undivided love till others came along. The first few years were spent without a care in the world. But that changed very soon with the burden of education. As a result, most of my years as a student were lost trying to meet high expectations. When school ended, there was college. Choosing to graduate in a field I wasn’t born for didn’t simplify matters. Exams were terrifying and the results even more so. I’ve lost count of the number of meltdowns over the years. So much so that my mother discouraged me from pursuing a master’s degree. So, yes, “vacations” was the most natural response.

That’s not saying that adulthood has been a walk in the park. Being “independent” isn’t all it’s made out to be. Career, money and relationships rule your life. The responsibilities don’t seem to end. Your words and actions are scrutinized and have serious repercussions. Sometimes, you just want to embrace asceticism and retire to the mountains. In these matters, childhood was not very taxing. Responsibilities were more personal than financial or social. People didn’t hold you accountable for what you said or did. The poor parents took the blame.

As a child, I was always riddled with insecurities and self-doubt. I never felt good enough. I was always conscious about what others thought about me. Following the crowd was the norm. Adulthood changed that. It provided a sense of freedom in making my own decisions. It made me financially self-reliant. It gave me an identity and self-confidence that was sorely lacking in my childhood. It enabled me to think for myself and form my own opinions. It brought me a seat at the table; it made sure that my viewpoint was heard and respected. I emerged out of the shadow of my parents.

However, there are some qualities in a child that I’ve lost and dearly miss. Innocence is the first. Unfortunately, I find it to be a casualty of our day and age. Children, today, grow up too fast. I will be the first to admit that I was a very stupid kid. But, looking back, that was not a bad thing. That is the only time of your life when no one is going to judge you for your stupidity. People will keep reminding you of it all your adult life. But the result will be more of a joke than a tragedy. The second is the wide-eyed curiosity. This is one that slowly fades over time. Things cease to amaze us. Maybe it’s the cynicism that comes with getting older. Maybe we just get jaded over time. Or, maybe, we are too worried about looking like fools when we ask too many questions. Third comes imagination. Maybe it’s just the engineer in me but I hold rationality responsible for its decline. When you try to find reason and logic in everything, it kills the imagination. Idealism is next. This one weathered quite a storm when the bubble of childhood burst. The harsh realities of life introduced practicality and the idealist in me decided to take off.

I will differ from popular opinion and say that childhood is overrated. When people rue their lost childhoods, it’s a case of the grass always being greener on the other side. When we’re children, we can’t wait to become adults. When we grow up, we cling to childhood. Maybe, it’s better to live in the moment and enjoy what the different phases of our life have to offer. The naivety that is part of childhood and the wisdom that comes with age and the understanding that life is not as simple as it once seemed are both worthwhile.

What are your thoughts?


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My Idea of Faith

My previous post on this subject dealt with the role of science and religion in our lives. This one is an attempt to share my thoughts on faith.

I grew up in a home with contradictory views on religion. My mother is very religious and my father is the exact opposite. It’s strange how they adopted such different ideas on faith. Both my grandmothers were terribly religious and superstitious. While my mother continued in her mother’s footsteps, my father went the other way. Growing up, my father’s job kept him away from home and my mother was a major influence. Worship became a part of our lives from a very young age. But, as we grew older, my brother and I started questioning religious practices. While my mother never discouraged this, most of her responses were, “I don’t know. I never asked my mother.” My father couldn’t care less about these rituals. I never saw him pray and remember asking why. He responded with, “I do pray. When I wake up in the morning, I pray for the well-being of everybody in this world. I don’t ask for anything else.” One thing my father repeatedly says is, “I believe in God but I don’t believe in godmen. And, I hate religion and rituals.”

Despite or maybe because my parents have such differing opinions about religion, we were never forced to choose one over the other. My parents may not agree with each other. But they’ve made their peace with each other’s choices. We, also, have discussions on God and religion. When my parents agree on something, we can be sure it’s right. We are lucky to be able to listen to arguments from both sides and form our own opinions.

Over time, we realised that religion has its limitations. My father may not indulge in prayer but he has some principles that he lives by. He says, “It’s okay if you can’t do something good for somebody but don’t do anything to harm them.” He forgives quicker than most people. Once, I asked him why he trusts so easily when so many have taken advantage of him. He replied, “I don’t dwell too much on such things. If I trust ten people and even one of them justifies my faith, I have gained a lifelong friend.” I wanted to know how he felt when people cheated him monetarily. He said, “In life, both good and bad things happen. Some days you gain, some days you lose. I only ask myself one question. Am I better off than when I started? If the answer is yes, then it’s all good”. This made us realise that you didn’t need to be religious to be a good person. My mother may not be happy to see us move further away from religion. But she accepts it, nonetheless. She, probably, takes consolation in the fact that we haven’t turned out to be terrible human beings. She has, even, been open-minded enough to give up some of her superstitions in the face of rationality.

My idea of God and religion has changed over time. It would be more accurate to say that my dependence on them has reduced. I believe in God but I am open to the idea that there might not be one. If there is a God, I try not to bother Him with my mundane problems. When I suffer a setback, I try to accept it as part of life. It is only when I am distraught and trapped on all sides, that I look to the Almighty for guidance and comfort. It is foolish to expect your entire life to be smooth sailing. Even more foolish is to expect that having faith in a higher power will ensure such a life. When we let go of such ideas, we learn to accept the bad with the good. In my maternal grandmother’s words, “When you get knocked down a few times, it makes you smarter. You don’t make the same mistakes again.” Devout as she was, her life was nothing short of a struggle. Perhaps, the only thing that got her through was her faith and the hope that her trials would mean a better life for her children.

I am convinced that God helps those who help themselves. Thinking that God will ensure that things fall in your lap, just because you are devout, is delusional. If this was true, most people would take the easy way out.

Many people accumulate wealth by cheating others. They, then, donate to religious institutions in the hope that their sins will be forgiven. This doesn’t sit well with me. I believe in karma; in “as you sow, so shall you reap”. If you do harm, it comes back to you. Regretting your action cannot save you. Only repercussions serve as a deterrent for the future.

Faith, to me, is personal and each of us has a unique equation with God. I don’t feel the need to prove my faith to others. Everyone has a right to decide what to believe in and I don’t have a right to impose my idea of faith on them. If God is everywhere, it doesn’t make sense for me to go to a place of worship to find Him. I prefer to talk to God directly without an intermediary. I think of God more as a friend or confidant than a fearsome entity.

You should never have to choose between faith and humanity because they are not mutually exclusive. The sole purpose of faith is to spread humanity. If it doesn’t, it’s not faith, it’s propaganda.

Ultimately, I have realised that it doesn’t matter which path you choose to reach your “destination”. As long as the road is not built at someone else’s expense and brings out the best in you. Religion, rules, spirituality or principle; whatever the name. I don’t need to listen to what someone else says or follow what someone else does. I need to find what I believe in and make my own path.


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Loss

Where do you go,
how do you mourn?
When you lose someone
you call your own

The storm tears
your world apart
And scatters pieces
of your broken heart

Images from the past
flood your mind
Can you leave
them all behind?

Words unspoken,
things unsaid
Robbed of goodbyes,
filled with regret

What won’t you give
to get back what’s lost?
Whatever it takes,
no matter the cost

You cling to memories
for as long as they last
When there is no future,
you hold on to the past

The grief and anguish
eat you up inside
A part of yourself
has also died

Every new loss
reminds how you feel
Of an old wound
that refuses to heal

Can you rise
above the pain?
Knowing you’ll never
see them again

Where do you find
the strength to go on?
When the one you loved
has left you alone


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A Comedy of Errors

I apologise for borrowing the name of Shakespeare’s play for this post. But while it may not be the most original of titles, I found it to be the most appropriate. I hope, in this one instance, imitation will be considered as the sincerest form of flattery.

Life isn’t all smiles and roses. And, all moments in life are not worthy of being captured on camera. At least, I hope no one is waiting to “immortalise” the moments when I don’t land on my feet, both literally and figuratively. Embarrassments are an inescapable fact of life. We don’t want them but, try as we may, we can not avoid them. And, alongside the happy moments and the miserable ones, these incidents are forever etched in our memory, much to our dismay. So, I thought, why not laugh at them instead. Here are some “bloopers” from my life.

At my first job, I’d start for office at the same time every morning and catch the first bus to the railway station. Because of the routine, most days, I ended up catching the same bus. On one such day, I was late by a couple of minutes and was rushing so that I wouldn’t miss a bus. On exiting the building gate, I glanced back and noticed that a bus to the station was arriving. The stop was some distance from the gate and there was no way that I would’ve caught the bus. So, I resigned myself to my fate and prepared for the uncertain wait for the next bus. But the bus came up and rolled to a halt beside me. I had not tried to hail the bus but the driver recognised me as a regular and stopped. And, I was extremely grateful. And, as any grateful individual would, I thanked him as I got off at the station. From then on, every time I boarded the same bus, I would smile in acknowledgement at the driver as I alighted. When winter came, the bus driver started wearing a balaclava. One day, as I was getting off the bus, the driver was looking the other way. As he turned around, I smiled at him only to realise, to my extreme horror, that it was someone else. I was not in the habit of smiling at strangers and was embarrassed, to say the least. I expected the same driver because he was wearing an identical cap. My expression changed from, smile to shock to frown in a matter of seconds. Looking at my face, the driver must have wondered what he had done to deserve that scowl. But, this incident put me off smiling instinctively for quite a while.

Well if you enjoyed the first one, here is one more to tickle your funny bone. When I had started my first job, leaving at 8:00 PM was the norm. Bag checking was a regular security procedure when leaving for the day. One day, on reaching this checkpoint, as I opened my bag for the check, the security guard said, “Good Night”. Without thinking twice, I replied, “Good Night”. And then I heard him say “Sir”. That’s when I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw one of the training faculty members behind me and I realised who he had been greeting. If the place had been well-lit, he would’ve seen my face turn red but it wasn’t. I tried my best to appear composed and pretend as if nothing had happened as I left the exit behind. But, my attempt at damage control had been a big failure. From then on, whenever I left the building, that security guard would wish me Good Night with a big grin on his face. What’s worse, it’s likely that the guard had narrated the story to his colleagues. As a result, all the other security guards started greeting me. So, whatever the time, whoever the guard, I was always wished Good Night on the way home. Looking back, I guess, it wasn’t such a bad thing after all. In fact, it always brought a smile to my face as I left for home after a long day’s work.

Then, came another incident. It had been raining for days together. I was nursing a sore throat and the weather was not helping matters. I’d been drenched on my way to work that morning and then, again, on the way to the canteen for breakfast. My condition had exacerbated to a level that if, and when, the words came out of my mouth, it sounded as if a frog was croaking instead. I, then, realised that I would have to step out again for some other work. If that was not enough, the rain showed no signs of abating. So, armed with an umbrella, I proceeded to the elevator and braced myself for another battle with the rain. The elevator I got into stopped on another floor. A client I didn’t know got in, smiled and greeted me. Now, after the previous two incidents, I’m sure you can understand my hesitation. After recovering from the initial surprise and looking around to ensure that he was not addressing someone else, I made an attempt to reply, as common courtesy would warrant. But, as I reciprocated, my voice stayed trapped in my throat. I felt like a person who was lip-syncing with the audio input missing. Any polite greeting requires an immediate response. Any more attempts would’ve seemed like an afterthought. At that moment, I wanted to dig a hole right there and bury myself in it. But considering that I was in an elevator, that wasn’t such a smart idea. I wonder what he must’ve thought about my manners. He might’ve stopped being courteous to people altogether and the person to blame would be me.

The following experience proves that lack of awareness can lead you to make a fool of yourself. A while ago, I was having breakfast in the office canteen with a couple of friends. One of them casually remarked, “I heard Osama’s getting married.” The other replied, “Me too.” On hearing this, I said, “But, doesn’t he already have three wives and several children?” I was not prepared for what came next. They stared at me for a few seconds and, then, burst out laughing. And, for the life of me, I had no idea why. Then the explanation came. They weren’t talking about Osama bin Laden. They were talking about a batchmate from our training days who had been nicknamed Osama. Now, how in the world was I supposed to know that? But, I should’ve because everyone else did.

These are a few of the many “goof-ups” that have been an indelible part of my life. Some have managed to overshadow the others over time. I guess it’s never too bad to have a laugh, even if comes at your own expense.


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