Serendipity in Seri


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Once, a couple of us were walking through a boulder-strewn path in the Himalayas. What began as a light drizzle at the head of our trek turned into a steady shower. There was no going back, because the tents we left behind were being dismantled.

While they could be erected again with a little effort , a couple of early birds in our group had already forged ahead an hour ago. We could not possibly leave them in the lurch by staying back. So, we decided to brave the inclement weather towards Seri Valley — our destination.

The obstacle-riddled path appeared to be more challenging when we had to cross a moraine, some newly formed streams and a little stretch of ice. The continuous rain and the dipping temperature proved to be quite a menace.

A slip here and a fall there amid wiping the water off the spectacles slowed me down. Benumbed hands failed to feel the little icicles falling all over and around us. The colourful and beautiful flowers that bordered our path at times had to be sadly ignored because personal comfort appeared to be more important than “stopping by to smell the flowers.”

Conversation almost came to a standstill with exceptions when we had to seek one another’s help. Gusts of cold wind blew about; we trudged along cold, wet and hungry. When it became increasingly difficult, we sighted a frail little open yellow tent among the rocks. Our escort prompted us to seek shelter there till the storm passed.

We found a lone shepherd huddled in blankets in the tiny tent. He ushered us in without a word. He shared his humble bed and let us use it, though we were drenched to our very bones. Just when I thought that his cup of mercy had overflowed, he allowed us to build a fire with his precious little stock of firewood.

A couple of hours passed. He answered our many queries but asked no questions of us. His body language did not display resentment, so we stayed on. The rains subsided. It was time to move on. We thanked him profusely for the hospitality. He nodded and asked us to reach our camp before the next spell of rains set in.

Some experiences in life do have a wonderful way of tweaking our path and make us reflect on existential questions. He seemed to be the essence of Sanghajeevi (social being) for Lokasangraha (betterment of the world). I simply could not stop thinking of experiencing serendipity in the wilderness.

Empowered by Powerlessness


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When Namma Bengaluru decided to keep its temperatures soaring, little did it know that it was uniting the denizens of the city in some way. It had all of us whining endlessly besides prompting us to collectively pray for the rains. The pleased heavens opened up with a hail storm one evening.
Once the initial rejoicing set in, kaput went the transformer. The area was shrouded in the dim fading light of dusk.

Alternative power solutions lit up the homes, offices and shops within seconds. The skies cleared up for the night. Several hours passed. There was no sign of electricity. Complaints were lodged more frantically when the batteries running the show began exhausting. The sporadic showers had escalated the heat indoors. Premises that opened doors even for a moment were invaded by motley insects which decided to plague our homes post rains.

The horribly hot night passed without electricity. The next morning dawned ushering in new problems. We did not have access to water as motor pumps were lying dead without power. Communication was cut off since most cell phones could not be charged. Making breakfast seemed a nightmare to people who heavily depended on toasters, microwaves and juicers.

As daylight enveloped the layout, people who had barely acknowledged one another started speaking in one voice. The limited resources were put to best use. Water, food and cell phones were used judiciously on the basis of priority. A team of people went to the local power station to learn about the actual cause of delay. They found out that the electricians were not lazing around, but had been working on various poles overnight. It was just that the ratio of men was hopelessly low to the number of repairs that they had to make.

A few more powerless (pun intended) hours lapsed. The refrigerators were raided and salvaged food was put to good use. Water tankers were hired to supply water. The children were rallied around and sent off to a movie to keep them cool, well-fed and out of the way. Finally, power was restored late afternoon.

The 20 hours of power cut, which seemed to be a nightmare to live through, was actually an eye opener of sorts. For starters, it revealed how helpless we were without electricity. But more importantly, it helped us renew ties with our neighbourhood on common grounds and appreciate the value of men whose expertise we think is available to us at our beck and call. The power cut which we thought had made us powerless had actually empowered us.

Spirit of Survival


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One winter morning, I entered the service verandah of our home in the wee hours of dawn. I picked up the little footstool which happened to be in the way only to drop it instantaneously. I had felt something cold, pokey and wet. I was too shocked even to shriek. I switched on the lights and examined my fingers which held the stool.

There were a few short, white and thick strands sticking to my hands. I clapped them off and then peered at the stool. Many more white strands were jutting out of its sides. When I felt reassured that no tiny feet were moving, I knocked the stool down to get a better view of the creature. The inner joints of the stool revealed several such white filaments. This time, I dared to bang hard on the outside of the stool to tease out the clinging life. When a few tossed out, a little observation revealed that these white strand-like structures were attached to a miniscule brown bead.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that the creepy creatures were actually ragi sprouts. Only a couple of days ago, I had sunned some ragi on the terrace. The grains had scattered, and some of them had settled in the little nooks and crannies of the inside of the stool which had been left upturned. The stool had later been placed in the service verandah, where it must have come in contact with moisture. Mother Nature had helped the seeds to germinate.

The mystery was solved. I felt extremely relieved and ecstatic to have been a part of this surreal experience. When the family awoke one by one, they were regaled with the tale. Amid much mirth, I recalled one of the earliest stories of Enid Blyton. Amelia Jane, the naughty doll, had strung a few acorns and worn it as a necklace quite to the annoyance of the others in the play area. Once she happened to  drench in the rain. The acorns which soaked up the water started sprouting; shocking the blue-eyed Amelia out of her wits. This was one of my favourite stories and little did I realise that the incident would play out later on in my own life in such an unexpected way.

Once the novelty of the incident wore out, I reflected on it. Sometimes some exotic hybrid varieties of seeds refuse to come to life despite being provided exhaustive, simulated native conditions, but here were these seeds striving to survive against all odds. This is true of people, too. Some people are cushioned by every possible support and luxury in life, but barely manage to turn the corner whereas the ones who have the spirit of life not only survive but also thrive despite everybody and everything!

Memory Vs Photographs


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Even as I saw the zillionth person clicking pictures or selfies and sharing them relentlessly, I inadvertently stepped into my personal realm of nostalgia. I remember that we did the most enjoyable things around our homes and with our families, but they were rarely photographed. Every evening, my metre-long tresses would be braided into a plait, and a tassel (kuchchu) would mark the end of it.

Long strings of jasmine buds would be woven around it. Once, a special day was earmarked for me to wear a moggina jade (a readymade pad with jasmine buds and an occasional rose fit on the back of the head and the plait). This red-lettered day was preceded by elaborate preparations.

My mom sourced fresh mehendi leaves, ground them into a fine paste, and applied it on my palms and feet before the event. The following morning, I was given a traditional oil bath and the fumes of frankincense were waved over my drying hair to perfume it. Then, I wore the traditional silk skirt, some pieces of antique jewellery, and got ready to get my hair braided and wear moggina jade. After receiving glowing compliments from all our guests, I was relieved of the same with equal care. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise while it lasted, and have ruminated on it many times over.

As the years rolled by, I used to feel a little vexed with my parents for not having photographed me in my moment of crowning glory. I would be tersely told that the enjoyment was the reward, while photographing it would have amounted to merely documenting it. Their explanation used to irk me all the more because it sounded like a lame excuse for not having thought of it.

I entertained uncharitable thoughts about their miserliness until one day, when a family friend began showing us her holiday album.

The pictures were glossy and beautiful, but the smiling lady who was ever-present in all of them had little memory of the place or its distinction, or even the names of the other members of the group, because she was always grooming herself to look good in the shots.

It was then that I understood the meaning of what I had been told. A photograph of my long braid would have merely retained the visual. I might have been happy and proud of the picture, but might have relegated it to an album and put it away safely.

However, the fact that it was not photographed possibly preserved the memory of the smells and sounds associated with the event.

Surprisingly, quite a few of them who had seen me enjoying my moment in the sun also seem to remember it quite well, and have since shared it with their spouses and children.

It happened long ago. Few people wielded the camera then. Yet, special moments of the privileged were captured on camera. Since they were far and few, they attained the status of precious family and national heirlooms. Today, technology has made photographing a cake walk. However, we must remember that if we spend all the time behind the lens, we may not have memories attached to them when we look at them at a later date. Let us not miss the woods for the trees.

Brace Yourself For The Post Party Syndrome


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Calm after the storm

The two-faced Roman god Janus is ready to usher in the new year, while earthlings are partying hard. What many of us do not know is that we are working ourselves into as state of frenzy in the name of unwinding. This is true of those who organise parties as well as those who attend them.

A lot of meticulous planning, precious time and hard-earned money is ploughed into these events by hoteliers and owners of restaurants, bars and pubs besides individuals. Painstakingly decorating the party space, arranging enough food and drinks to go around and organising entertainment programmes takes several months of hard work and networking. Needless to say, this puts a great strain on their nerves.

It’s easy to assume that the party hoppers are a jolly lot, but that is far from the truth. They, for their part, are stressed about what to wear, whose company to seek, how to fit in at the party and get home safely afterwards.

Back to the grind

While all the music, dancing and socialising is fun while it lasts, the morning after generally brings along a hangover or worse, depression and loneliness. The post-party syndrome can encapsulate a lot of issues. You might feel lazy, fatigued and reluctant to get on with your work and normal routine. The late nights, gorging on calorie-rich food and aerated or alcoholic drinks can take a toll on the intestines and the liver. The lack of sleep will affect your cognitive function.

While none of these are reasons to pass on the merriment, by taking a few smart measures, you can save yourself from the physical and emotional stress that is likely to bog you down.

Catch up on some sleep every now and then so that you’re not caught yawning in company during the party. Loss of sleep can be telling on the countenance and general health of the individual in the long run. You would do well to have plenty of salad, fruits and juices during the day to offset the heavy food that you might eat at night.

Following an exercise regime will help you burn off the calories you gained binge-eating and drinking over the past few weeks. It is wise to keep tab on the amount of liquor that you consume in order to avoid embarrassment, untoward incidents and accidents.

The emptiness you’re left with

Psychologists point out that people who throw or attend many parties could experience a sense of loss, emotional numbness and anxiety once the gala time is over. This usually happens because they might have run into people whom they no longer care for or simply wish to avoid. They might have lost track of important days in all the frenzy. Even as they pretend to be happy and confident, they might be upset and despondent.

Putting the past behind and learning to live in the moment is the way to deal with these painful emotions. New year parties are, after all, about ringing out the old and ringing in the new. When you run into someone you dislike or have complicated emotions for, flash an affable smile, offer a kind word and move on. Try to forgive and forget for your own peace of mind.

You must understand that anything that brings you happiness must be good and genuine for it to last long. Refrain from hypocrisy and try to be earnest in terms of behaviour and attitude. Good manners and courteous behaviour has never killed anyone. A dollop of unadulterated enthusiasm can spread chirpiness and good cheer all around.

If you think your emotional wounds are still raw or that you may not be able to handle nasty surprises, pre-empt the guest list. If it is not to your liking, excuse yourself from attending the party. This can save you a lot of trouble and unpleasantness.

The most telling sign of the post-party syndrome is the lacuna created by the sudden lack of activity, which could lead to boredom, frustration and irritability.

Once you understand that parties are for enjoyment, socialising and rejuvenating your spirits, you can spend the days after the party organising contact numbers and addresses for future use. You can redeem your promise about keeping in touch by sending flowers or cards to renew your friendship with those you like.

If you hear of good or bad things happening to those you care for, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and get talking. An unexpected friendly gesture can not only cheer them up but will also make you feel happy. Once you learn the art of coping with the post-party syndrome, you will find yourself looking forward to more such good times!

Finding Your Footing


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The other day, I was swollen up all over. Not with importance! And no, nobody had beaten me up. The long hours of travel caused edema in my limbs. I knew that some professional massage will set matters right.

Along came the therapist – a slim, young smiling lady. She ushered me into a room to knead my limbs back to normalcy. We indulged in rambling small talk. She casually mentioned that she was a student of engineering. I thought she was kidding. Why on earth would she be rubbing oil down my limbs then?

I gave her a long look. She appeared to be serious. She told me she had completed three years of the course. She could not continue with the seventh semester because she had not cleared any of the examinations thus far. In answer to my questioning look, she said that her father’s unreasonable tenacity to make good of his money compelled her to study engineering.

After a moment of fleeting silence, I asked her how she had landed this job. I realised that I had unconsciously switched over from vernacular to English. The lass lapsed into the queen’s lingo when she said that she had trained for six months as a masseuse. I noticed that her language was deliberate and heavily accented.

The teacher in me popped another query. Should she not be working on her backlog and passing the examinations? She agreed. That would be the most ideal thing to do. However, she could not do it. I wondered why not? She said that she could not cope with the course. I blurted, “Then, why did you take it up in the first place?”

“Ah! That was a mistake. My dad worked for the local MLA all his life, so the politician gave me a free seat in his engineering college as payment for my dad’s services.” She nodded away and swore it was true. She had passed her class 12 with difficulty and that had proved to be unfortunate. She had switched back to Malayalam. She did look earnest. I decided to take her word for it.
When I reflected on our interaction, I realised that the girl had essayed the role of the obedient child quite like Casabianca. When she could take the heat no more, she had the courage to accept her limitations and abandon the beaten path.

Practical common sense had ruled her decision. She had donned her new hat with ease and relief, without ever feeling apologetic. By choosing her own path she had carved a niche for herself by alienating herself from the rat race. Hats off to her!

Thieves on the Prowl, Residents Cry Fowl


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Thieves on the prowl, residents cry foul

Last updated: 24 September, 2016
Chethan Misquith and Meghana Choukkar September 25, 2016, DHNS

 Preferring anonymity, a businessman from Byadarahalli seeks more patrolling to instil a sense of security among residents of his locality. I have seen rowdies hanging around street corners in the evenings. There are police in the area, but I feel it would be better to have CCTV cameras installed as well, he elaborates.
As Bengaluru transformed from a manageable city to a metropolis of 1.2 crore, the city has seen a corresponding rise in crimes, more apparent in the new, outlying areas. Here are some citizens voicing their concerns about this unwarranted trend, suggesting a few solutions. 

Preferring anonymity, a businessman from Byadarahalli seeks more patrolling to instil a sense of security among residents of his locality. “I have seen rowdies hanging around street corners in the evenings. There are police in the area, but I feel it would be better to have CCTV cameras installed as well,” he elaborates.

Kiran Aithal, who lives at Nobo Nagar in Kalena Agahara on the city’s outskirts has this to say: “I have seen police patrol the area in the late evening hours, around 7 or 8 pm. But I do not think they patrol late in the night. Otherwise, incidents of theft will not be rising here.”

Radha Prathi, a resident of Mathikere, has a different take on patrolling. She says the police do go on rounds, asking residents to be on alert. This goes on for a few days after such incidents. Residents too are wary. But once normalcy returns and patrolling slackens, the burglars strike again.

More than thefts, what really scares residents are the heinous crimes. Three weeks ago, an IT employee was raped at knife-point right inside her paying guest accommodation near Parappana Agrahara on the city’s outskirts. She was alone in the room when the assailant barged in.

Ten days ago, the Kengeri police arrested six persons from a desolate area when the gang was conspiring to commit dacoity. Interrogations revealed that the suspects had murdered a man six years ago in Sandur in Ballari district. They were also involved in more than 50 other cases across the State.

These recurring incidents have made residents even more insecure. They feel the frequent thefts could easily morph into more dangerous crimes. A Kodichikkanahalli resident, M N Kulkarni recalls how thieves had struck three houses in his area over the last few months.

Besides the usual loot, the culprits have also begun to take away gas cylinders. Kulkarni points out that the culprits had once fled with 16 cylinders. Complaints were lodged, but the police never caught the thieves.

Many residents now feel police-public partnerships such as the Community Policing campaign could work better in ensuring law and order. Tilaknagar police sub-inspector Tanvir notes that the crime rate in his jurisdictional area has actually come down after the campaign struck a chord with the public. Across the city, around 1,000 volunteers are now part of the campaign.

Here’s one instance where the partnership worked well: Two months ago, a resident, Zameer, grew suspicious of a man who was parking a scooter without number plate near his residence on Bannerghatta road. When Zameer questioned him, the man sped away from the spot. Immediately, Zameer alerted the police, who in turn urged a volunteer to chase the scooter. The suspect was nabbed. Upon interrogation, it was learnt that the scooter was stolen.