Sunday, August 31, 2008

Releif needed for Bihar flood victims

Dear Shvaas Friends,
An official of the State disaster management department said in Patna on Sunday that nearly 400,000 marooned people have been evacuated and about 150,000 people sheltered in 170 relief camps set up in the affected districts. Reports say that the surging waters of the Kosi river continued to rise in Bihar, inundating fresh areas as hundreds of villages remained under water on the 14th day of the floods on Sunday and millions were displaced and crying for rescue. According to official sources, over 2.5 million people have been affected by the floods in 1,598 villages spread over 15 districts.

At Shvaas we are trying to collect below mentioned relief material and send it to an organization called Goonj. We have been familiar with the work of this organization and trust that they will be able to reach the resources to the most affected and needy citizens.
For many years now, GOONJ has been working extensively in Bihar through its grassroots partners, with a special focus on the annual floods.

Below are the items needed. If you can contribute, than kindly call up at this number: 0999 893 7680 and we can give you an address to drop it off at a Shvaas collection center in Ahmedabad.

Material support-
Dry ration, Medicines, candles & matchbox, torch & batteries, utensils, tarpaulin, feeding bottles, buckets, ropes, bedsheets, all kind of usable clothing & footwear.

Logistical support-

* Transport support to reach the material to effected areas.
* Space for collection centers
* Facilities for local pickups,
* Transportation of material from Ahmedabad to GOONJ processing centers in Delhi, Chennai & Mumbai
* Volunteers for sorting, packing in Ahmedabad, Shvaas

Large quantities of-

Rice, Chiwra, biscuits, packed eatables
Water purifier tablets
Basic medicines
Sarees and children clothing
Tarpaulins or thick polythene
Export surplus/ Cotton cloth for making sanitary napkins
Mosquito nets
Stoves, cooking and water storage utensils/buckets

In solidarity with the people of Bihar,
Nirali Shah
Shvaas Volunteer

Shvaas is a non-profit organization based in India. At Shvaas our goal is simple: to create an environment where we can benefit the community and understand our own lives in the process. The entire organization is volunteer run and has no paid staff. I guess you could say that we are not even an organization, but rather a group of individuals wanting to move our lives towards more kindness and harmonious action.

I will check my mail after ....

Kasturba is breathing her last few breaths.

Gandhiji wants to take her leave, but she holds on to his hand. He looks at Miraben, Sardar Patel, and they leave the room. Gandhiji sits with Kasturba till the end.

After the film is over, . . .

'Will you do the same when I am dying?' I ask my husband.


'Will you sit with me till the end?'

'Sure. I will check my mail after you die.' he says.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The first cup of bliss

'Ai, can I please have tea instead of milk today?' asks my kid.

'May I please finish this book? I am on the second last page.'

'You read, I will make the tea.'

'You don't know how to make tea.' I say.

'I do. I know how to make tea.'

'Good for you. Now shut up and let me read.'

'Ai, can I please make tea? Please, please...'

'Ok, but be careful.'

Before I read another paragraph, I hear ominous sounds. I can see the kid dragging a stool inside the kitchen.

'Ai, how much water and how much milk and how much tea and how much sugar?'

'One cup water and milk, each, and two spoons of tea leaves and sugar. You need help?' I yell.

'No, Ai. Please, don't come in the kitchen!'

'Be careful!'

'Yes, Ai, I am careful. Please don't come inside the kitchen.'

I try hard to get back in the book, but I am overcome with curiosity. I stealthily get up and take a peep. He is standing on the stool, bending over the kitchen slab, pressing the tea-leaves in the sieve with a spoon to get the last drop of tea in the cup. I tip-toe back to the drawing room.

'Is the tea ready?' I yell.

'Yes, I am getting it. Please don't come into the kitchen.'

'Don't you worry, son. Why should I come into the kitchen?'

And he comes out, balancing two cups in his little hands. Its too milky, too sweet, but its a cup brimming with bliss. And his smile matches mine.

Growing up can be so beautiful.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I write to heal my childhood wounds

'Hi, Latu. Did you read my latest post?' I ask my sis on the phone.

'Do you know why you are so broke, why you don't have a proper job?' she asks.

I think I know what she is going to say. 'Because you are obsessed with your blog. You need a shrink. Please get cured. Stop blogging.'

'Too late. Wild horses wont take me away from the key board.' I respond.

Today was my weekly creative writing class. Out of twelve students, three were absent. When I told them that instead of the movie in the afternoon, we are going to clear the backlog of previous writing assignments, two of them developed health problems by lunch. By tea-time, a boy was suddenly called for an appointment by his doctor, across town. His girlfriend sneaked out with him.

So it was an intimate group of writers that stayed back for the last one hour. I asked them, 'Why do you write? Do you know?'

'I write for the satisfaction I get when I express myself.' she said.

'Why do you need to express yourself?' I probed.

'I don't know and I don't think its necessarily to know this. I just like to write so I write.'

'Fair enough. And why do you write?'

'I write when the milk boils over with emotions.'


'I am an emotional person and I like to arouse the same emotion in the other.'


And then I cycle back home, open my blog, scroll down the fellows, and find Chetan Bhagat's post. 'I write to heal my childhood wounds', he says.

'Writing is about thinking. I write to gain perspective.' says Amandeep Sandhu.

'Asking whether you have got it, whether you should stick with writing or quit, is like asking if you should continue living. For most writers, being unable to write is tantamount to suicide.' says Betsy Lerner, in her beautiful bible for writers, 'The forest for the trees'.

'The natural writer is the one who is always writing, if only in his head-sizing up a situation for material, collecting impressions,' she continues, speaking for James Thurber, 'I never quite know when I am not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, 'Dammit, Thurber, stop writing.' She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph.'

Enough about others. Why do I write?
. . . .
. . .
. . .

Maybe one day, I will become articulate enough to answer this question. May that day never come, for Khalil Gibran has already given me an answer, one that beats all logic.

Ask not for a reason to love, for love is sufficient unto love.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sepia Leaves

A few weeks ago, I asked my 'creative writing' students, to write their parent's love- story. The story would read not from the first person perspective, but as any two people. The intention being, in the attempt to find your own voice, it is a good idea to recognise your parent's voice in yourself and then to detach from it.

Some of them called up their parents to ask for details, some used the creative license. Most of them came up with humorous pieces, of how their parents met, fell in love, struggled with in-laws, and then married, and are living happily here and now.

Why, then, was I so disappointed? They had followed my brief. A love-story, in hindi film terminology, ends in marriage. It has a happy ending.

I wished then, that someone would give me the same assignment. I will begin with a divorce, go into flashback, and tell the love-hate-story. Was I the only kid who had witnessed trouble at home? And if all my students had sugar and sweet in their pens, what were they going to write?

And then, I met Amandeep Sandhu. He was carrying a book, one that he had written, called, 'Sepia Leaves.'

Sepia Leaves is a love-hate-love-story. Of a family. Written in first person, from the child's perspective. This book has touched me so deeply, it is difficult to articulate myself. I cannot, if I have an ounce of a reader in me, comment on this book. I can only respond.

The story, in short: Appu is seven year old boy. His mother is suffering from schizophrenia, which leads to frequent violent fights between the parents. To have some order in the house, the father brings a maid servant. Mamman, as Appu calls his mum, suspects her husband of being unfaithful to her, and the fighting escalates. Baba, the dad, is a simple person who is clueless as to how to deal with his wife's temper tantrums. The extended family, instead of accepting the illness and attempting to cure it, adds fuel to fire and the family splits.

Mamman goes back to her father's house. Appu is sent to live in a hostel, where he learns to ward off the sexual advances of his peers, and misses his family. When he sees a coach of a goods train with the words, 'Not to be Loose Shunted' written on it, he feels that someone should write the same on him. 'I too was a part of a family and should not be moved around, alone.'

How the family comes back together and survives as a unit, forms the rest of the novel.

The appealing quality of this story lies in its simplicity, its adherence to truth. Truth in the voice of a seven year old. The flow is so smooth, it is virtually indiscernible.

And the charm lies not in the narrative, but what it evokes in you. How do you deal with your own craziness? How do you relate to your own relatives?

To begin with, you allow your thoughts to dwell on the mad moments without guilt, without judgment, the way Appu accepts his Mamman. And then, if you have a seven year old at home the way I do, you realize your worth, and you thank the universe for the opportunity to be someone's Mamman.

Monday, August 25, 2008

too close for comfort

Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August. It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will cultivate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles off earth. Please be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.

Share this with your friends as NO ONE, ALIVE TODAY will ever see it again.

I got this info as a forward, and frankly, I don't know whether to believe it. 34.65 miles is less than the length of my city, Bangalore!

If anyone knows how, where to verify this info, please tell me. I am worried for my life!

P.S. I just got enlightened! It ain't 34 miles. Its 34 million miles, the M for miles.
Thank God for M. Ah, now I can breathe.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Trust her, she is my sweetheart.

'Trust me' is the title of this chic-lit book. Its authored by my sister, Rajashree, and published by Rupa. This book is moving well, they have printed the eighth edition in one and a half years. You will find a well written review here.

Since she is my sister, I am not qualified to review her book. There is too much sibling rivalry here. After all, she is my younger sister, and her novel got published before mine! Yes, she wrote it earlier too, but but but...

But, I am qualified enough to review her!

Let me go as far back as I can remember. No one else can evoke childhood memories like a sis.

We used to tease her that a buffalo once stepped on her nose, thus it lost its shape.

I think this could be why she became a writer. Imagine all that angst, the confusion of not knowing whom to trust.

Yes, their were signs and symptoms, but no one had warned us that they could lead to this. For example, in class two, Raju had written the first page of a novel, 'the list of characters'.

When she grew out of Enid Blyton, her concentration increased.

Once, I walked into the house and Raju was lying on the floor, blocking my way into the room, feet up on the sofa, reading a novel. I stepped over her but she didn't miss a word.

'I could have been a rapist!' I said, pissed at being ignored so blatantly.

I loved to snatch the book she was reading and make her run after me. The times when both of us were reading the same book, the only 'safe' place was the toilet. Our favorite haunt, during the teen years, was not a disco, but a library. We hid the special books behind the boring ones so that no one else would get to them.

I don't know if this is connected, but Raju was always in a hurry, always late, and always looking for lost books. She drove her bicycle standing, and the mohalla boys stole her cycle seat to assert that they noticed.

The best part was that she didn't yet have her own personality, she was my sheput (tail). She allowed me to cut her hair, she accompanied me with a pen and notebook to note down points, (during the eve-teasing article we wrote for nagpur times, where we interviewed thirty boys), she even went to the university library to take notes for me to study for the competitive ftii entrance exam.

She danced with me at new year parties, she defended me in face of society (mother dear), she looked up to me. She stood outside when I was being interviewed for ftii. She was the most loyal sister one could ever hope for.

And then I broke her heart.

I went off to ftii, and began to discover a new me all by myself.

And that's how Raju became Rajashree. She won a national award for her diploma film, The Rebel.

And then she announced that she was going to write a novel. It was a seven year nightmare. The room had to be with a view of the mountains in the middle of Mumbai. The writing table had to face the window. Whenever she traveled, she took all her handwritten sheets, printed sheets, and plain sheets. And when she wrote, she couldn't be disturbed. Not for a movie, neither for a drive. Never for a chat. 'Not now, I am writing,' was the standard response.

Culture is born in absence of culture.

Is it that undigested words have to get churned out when they are swallowed with intensity, that makes a reader into a writer?

How dare I try to dissect the muse? She is no less than a Goddess. May she always keep us at her feet.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Give her a bangle,

she doesn't have enough!

This is my favorite kali temple on Pradakshina road.

this womam needs help,

so please save her, do.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I shall tell you my secret,

if you come down to Tiru to meet me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

the answer my friend,

is blowing in the wind,

the answer is blowing in the wind.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The muse is back!

Some of you might have heard of Ram Punyani. He is a wonderful person who speaks about non-violence, and social integration. He has a deep understanding about fundamentalist attitudes, and he talks in the simple language of the common idiot.

Two years back, I attended one of his classes and I got two chocolates to take home. One, he so looked, so spoke (content and style both) like my dear grandfather, that I could have kissed him. Second, he said, 'Nothing is ever achieved if you just sit at home. Nothing, other than writing a book.'

Of course, he was talking about Marx, but I got my justification. If I am at home, I must write a novel.

Since a few months, nay years, the thought of writing the second novel is bugging me. I promised myself, that I would start when the first one is published. Signing a contract with a publisher being as good as publishing, I have been looking out of the window for my muse.

Somewhere between yesterday and today, the writing angel has come home. Words have always surrounded me but now, the characters, the plot, the mis-en-scene, they can't wait. They flash past in visuals, sounds, dialogs, and they chose the most maddening times to tell their tale. When I am cooking, when I am cycling, when the lights have gone (this happens often in Bangalore).

Oof, I am so happy. I spoke with my sister, another novelist, on the phone today till my ears became warm. As I was narrating the structure to her, she told me in her usual diplomatic manner,

' It can be more interesting if you make it more interesting.'

Ha ha. These Mumbai girls, you know. It's not their fault, though. Its merely the effect of civilization.

But my muse is a goddess, she don't have no sibling rivalry, she told me to listen.

'It can be more interesting if you make it more interesting.'

Dumb as this may sound, it had a point. In fact, it had a pointer : The Creative License! I don't have to tell it like happened, I could go on a roll. I could spin the story wide, as long as I hold the whip at the center!

Thanku, Latu.

Monday, August 11, 2008

life is postponed

How does one deal with a head bogged down by continuous procrastination?

when the computer screen needs to be wiped, since a week, maybe more.

when a close relative is sick and lonely in your hometown and you can't even call him up because you don't pray for him?

when you get an sms saying you have to pay your mobile bill just two days after you finally payed up last months bill?

when you have more than a dozen emails to be sent to people you don't know?

when your friend in Tiru calls and tells you that the land prices around the Mountain have shot up to Rs. 15 lakhs per acre and blows your dreams of farming in Tiru ?

when you wonder whether heaven (read Tiru) is a place or a thought or a word?

all I can do whenever I am blue, is to look at the dark night within. Maybe, when the eyes get used to the darkness, a couple of stars start to shine. And then, maybe, a dark outline is silhouetted that reminds me of a mountain.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

a helicopter in my hair

Ever heard of a camerawoman getting hit on the head by a helicopter while she is shooting? Just because I pan to the squealing in delight kid, while papa flies the chopper without a license. The kids eyes widen in the camera's window, as the object bangs my head.

And then the helicopter's wings get entangled in my hair. I am left holding the camera, the helicopter dangling from my hair, while both father and son double up laughing.

'Help me to untangle my hair!' I yell.

'I cant. We will have to cut it. Pavan, get the scissors!' he says.

'You dare not cut my hair!'

'Its only a few strands, Mango. The helicopters wings have wound up the hair badly. Its impossible to untangle!'

'How, Papa? Because the wings went round and round?'

'Because your father doesn't know how to fly a plane without banging in someone's head!'

'Here, I found the scissors. Shall I cut ?' He asks me without a trace of guilt. Or shame. In fact, he is trying not to sound gleeful.

'If you can shut up for a minute, all it requires is a little patience.' I struggle with my hair, pulling the helicopter, entangling it further.

'Ok, you cut.' says my loving husband.

'Yes, Ai, you only cut your hair.' Boys! They will never understand what hair means to a woman.

'I shall cut off these wings of your precious chopper!' I threaten.

'Aai! Please No! I have been waiting for this helicopter since so many years. Your hair will grow.'

'Yes, Mummy, your hair will grow.'

In face of this wisdom, the great sacrifice is made. Father and son untangle my hair from their precious helicopter, and I am left alone to moan the damage.

Now when I pass a mirror, and see the small tuft of hair sprouting out, I growl, 'Grow!'

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

the mountain bites

yet another innocent. A first timer I had planted there sent me two smses today.

first sms: The Arunachala is a very good soap. Cleans you well. (Iske jhaag ne jadu kar diya!) Do buy. Available in packets of Presence and Devotion, in stores near you.

(photograph stolen from here. )

second sms : (ten minutes after the first ) And after cleaning you up she wraps you in her arms and lets you put your head in her lap, stroking gently, till you immerse completely in her love.

Do you think my friend needs rabies shots?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hello my loves,

(begins this email message from Wayne Liquorman, an old time sweetheart)

One of my favorite quotes is: "Life is like licking honey off a thorn." It points to those twin qualities that make up all of existence. There is no pleasure without pain, no joy without sorrow. To deeply realize this is to come into harmony with What Is.

Ramesh's words in this month's newsletter (look towards the end, below) point to the fact that this deep realization comes from a "bold, clear look" into the Essence. One of the most direct avenues into this looking is to start with what is there in front of you....your experience of the moment, your breathing, your sense of aliveness....any of these will do. If you find yourself spinning off into philosophical speculation....what does it mean? why is it happening?...come gently back to the experience in front of you.

With Grace comes a dissolution of the Problem of Life leaving an unobstructed view of life's ongoing problems and joys.

With much love,

Send a blank email with ONLY the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line from the email address at which you would like to receive the newsletter to:

Monday, August 4, 2008

stolen horizons

One of my close friends says that I have ADD. Short for attention deficit disorder. My mother tells me that I never liked it when someone talked to me for too long a time. That is quite true. Sometimes I wake up bored and agitated because the dream has lasted too long. Half my tea-time is spent trying to go back and remember the stupid story backwards.

Yes, there is an alarm inside me which goes 'lets get out of here', whenever the other is going on and on and not on and off. Silences are like oxygen for me. Music also gives me space to feel my breath.

When I first went to attend the ten day pranayam shibir of Ramdeo Baba, I was dismayed to hear him talk non-stop. 'Just learn to tune him out,' advised my sister. Since his frequency didn't change much, it worked.

And how do we learn to tune out visual noise, living in a city? One has to look ninety degrees UP to look at the moon. Some of us forget to do even that, our necks rebel.

Which is why I love this picture of the mountain. The silence begins with your feet, on the bare earth. And Arunachala is so full of promise, the way he sits, with a straight neck of a royal, touching the kingdom of white clouds. A silent, blissed out Guru, my mountain.


Yes! I stumbled across Chetan Bhagat's blog while looking for his photographs to pirate and upload on the sparks post below.

He has been blogging for not so long, since April, and it looks like a blog meant to promote his latest novel, 'three mistakes...'.

However, it also has some nice lines, which touched my writer's heart, 'The idea of writing is to express, not to impress.'

And for the first time, I am looking forward to a movie because it has been written by someone, rather than directed, acted, by so and so.

Here is a trailer of Hello, a film soon to be released, based on his second book, 'One Night at a call center.' Its a pity Katrina plays the Goddess. Should have been me. ;)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chetan Bhagat 's sparks to light up your day

I wish I had the video, but words are a writers best weapon, so here goes:

Inaugural Speech by Mr.Chetan Bhagat for the new batch at the Symbiosis BBA program 2008..

Keep the Spark

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited.. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates - there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Where do these

sparks start? I think we are born with them. My 3-year old twin boys have a million sparks. A little Spiderman toy can make them jump on the bed. They get thrills from creaky swings in the park. A story from daddy gets them excited. They do a daily countdown for birthday party – several months in advance – just for the day they will cut their own birthday cake.

I see students like you, and I still see some sparks.. But when I see older people, the spark is difficult to find.. That means as we age, the spark fades. People whose spark has faded too much are dull, dejected,aimless and bitter. Remember Kareena in the first half of Jab We Met vs the second half? That is what happens when the spark is lost. So how to save the spark?

Imagine the spark to be a lamp's flame. The first aspect is nurturing - to give your spark the fuel, continuously. The second is to guard against storms.

To nurture, always have goals.

It is human nature to strive, improve and achieve full potential. In fact, that is success. It is what is possible for you. It isn't any external measure - a certain cost to company pay package, a particular car or house.

Most of us are from middle class families. To us, having material landmarks is success and rightly so. When you have grown up where money constraints force everyday choices, financial freedom is a big achievement.

But it isn't the purpose of life. If that was the case, Mr Ambani would not show up for work. Shah Rukh Khan would stay at home and not dance anymore. Steve Jobs won't be working hard to make a better iPhone, as he sold Pixar for billions of dollars already. Why do they do it? What makes them come to work everyday?

They do it because it makes them happy. They do it because it makes them feel alive. Just getting better from current levels feels good. If you study hard, you can improve your rank. If you make an effort to interact with people, you will do better in interviews. If you practise, your cricket will get better. You may also know that you cannot become Tendulkar, yet. But you can get to the next level. Striving for that next level is important.

Nature designed with a random set of genes and circumstances in which we were born. To be happy, we have to accept it and make the most of nature's design. Are you? Goals will help you do that.

I must add,

don't just have career or academic goals.. Set goals to give you a balanced, successful life. I use the word balanced before successful. Balanced means ensuring your health, relationships, mental peace are all in good order.

There is no point of getting a promotion on the day of your breakup. There is no fun in driving a car if your back hurts. Shopping is not enjoyable if your mind is full of tensions.

You must have read some quotes - Life is a tough race, it is a marathon or whatever.. No, from what I have seen so far, life is one of those races in nursery school. Where you have to run with a marble in a spoon kept in your mouth. If the marble falls, there is no point coming first. Same with life, where health and relationships are the marble. Your striving is only worth it if there is harmony in your life. Else, you may achieve the success, but this spark, this feeling of being excited and alive, will start to die.

One last thing about nurturing the spark - don't take life seriously

. One of my yoga teachers used to make students laugh during classes. One student asked him if these jokes would take away something from the yoga practice. The teacher said - don't be serious, be sincere. This quote has defined my work ever since. Whether it's my writing, my job, my relationships or any of my goals. I get thousands of opinions on my writing everyday. There are heaps of praise, there is intense criticism. If I take it all seriously, how will I write? Or rather, how will I live? Life is not to be taken seriously, as we are really temporary here. We are like a pre-paid card with limited validity. If we are lucky, we may last another 50 years. And 50 years is just 2,500 weekends. Do we really need to get so worked up? It's ok, bunk a few classes, goof up a few interviews, fall in love. We are people, not programmed devices.

I've told you three things - reasonable goals, balance and not taking it too seriously that will nurture the spark

. However, there are four storms in life that will threaten to completely put out the flame. These must be guarded against. These are disappointment, frustration, unfairness and loneliness of purpose.

Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. If things don't go as planned or if you face failure.Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger.What did this failure teach me? is the question you will need to ask. You will feel miserable. You will want to quit, like I wanted to when nine publishers rejected my first

book. Some IITians kill themselves over low grades – how silly is that? But that is how much failure can hurt you.

But it's life.

If challenges could always be overcome, they would cease to be a challenge. And remember - if you are failing at something, that means you are at your limit or potential. And that's where you want to be.

Disappointment's cousin is frustration, the second storm. Have you ever been frustrated? It happens when things are stuck. This is especially relevant in India . From traffic jams to getting that job you deserve, sometimes things take so long that you don't know if you chose the right goal. After books, I set the goal of writing for Bollywood, as I thought they needed writers. I am called extremely lucky, but it took me five years to get close to a release.

Frustration saps excitement, and turns your initial energy into something negative, making you a bitter person. How did I deal with it? A realistic assessment of the time involved – movies take a long time to make even though they are watched quickly, seeking a certain enjoyment in the process rather than the end result – at least I was learning how to write scripts , having a side plan – I had my third book to write and even something as simple as pleasurable distractions in your life - friends, food, travel can help you overcome it. Remember, nothing is to be taken seriously. Frustration is a sign somewhere, you took it too seriously.

Unfairness - this is hardest to deal with, but unfortunately that is how our country works. People with connections, rich dads, beautiful faces, pedigree find it easier to make it – not just in Bollywood, but everywhere. And sometimes it is just plain luck. There are so few opportunities in India, so many stars need to be aligned for you to make it happen. Merit and hard work is not always linked to achievement in the short term, but the long term correlation is high, and ultimately things do work out. But realize, there will be some people luckier than you.

In fact, to have an opportunity to go to college and understand this speech in English means you are pretty darn lucky by Indian standards. Let's be grateful for what we have and get the strength to accept what we don't. I have so much love from my readers that other writers cannot even imagine it. However, I don't get literary praise. It's ok. I don't look like Aishwarya Rai, but I have two boys who I think are more beautiful than her. It's ok. Don't let unfairness kill your spark..

Finally, the last point that can kill your spark is isolation. As you grow older you will realize you are unique. When you are little, all kids want Ice cream and Spiderman. As you grow older to college, you still are a lot like your friends. But ten years later and you realize you are unique. What you want, what you believe in, what makes you feel, may be different from even the people closest to you. This can create conflict as your goals may not match with others. . And you may drop some of them. Basketball captains in college invariably stop playing basketball by the time they have their second child. They give up something that meant so much to them.

They do it for their family. But in doing that, the spark dies. Never, ever make that compromise. Love yourself first, and then others.

There you go. I've told you the four thunderstorms - disappointment, frustration, unfairness and isolation. You cannot avoid them, as like the monsoon they will come into your life at regular intervals. You just need to keep the raincoat handy to not let the spark die.

I welcome you again to the most wonderful years of your life. If someone gave me the choice to go back in time, I will surely choose college. But I also hope that ten years later as well, you eyes will shine the same way as they do today. That you will keep the Spark alive, not only through college, but through the next 2,500 weekends.

And I hope not just you, but my whole country will keep that spark alive, as we really need it now more than any moment in history. And there is something cool about saying - I come from the land of billion sparks.

Mystery, it is a mystery.

Can we handle it?

Working with youngsters, I sometimes notice a difference.

Yes, they are stupid, and slow. To understand, to let go, to be themselves.

They try too hard, to impress, to not copy, and to show.

As me and my contemporaries are getting there, I also notice sometimes.

We sprout knowledge and then wonder where it all came from.

And our bag of fears bursts open.

If we don't know where it lives, how will we find it when it takes a break?

Friday, August 1, 2008

her hands shake,

as she holds her new baby. This is about adopting babies, and calling the post, 'Gotcha.'

I sometimes wonder how I will face the kid's growing up and away? And then I wonder why I have such thoughts only when he is fast asleep?

What happens when an independent woman falls in love with her child ? Does she remain independent?