In Our Hearts, Forever.

Not too long ago, my sister had forwarded this picture to us in our family WhatsApp group with a caption ‘Meet Cuddles’!

‘Wow!’ – Me

‘Is he real or a toy!’ – My mom

‘Diya (niece’s name changed) must have gone crazy to get such a cute puppy!! – My dad

My niece had been asking for a puppy for a long time. My sister in an attempt to distract her had got her fish, rabbit, turtle! Any other pet that could be low maintenance! But nothing can replace a dog…

 As a kid, we had dogs.  We loved them. We played with them. They became part of our family. And then we watched them die. We grieved. We cried. We swore to never put ourselves through that pain again. But then again, we would get another dog….

When I met my sister recently ,  she seemed ready to get a puppy. The niece was more than delighted. And so came Cuddles into their life….

Cuddles’ video was circulated in our extended family groups also.   Every kid who saw him said the same thing – ‘I want it!’

My mother and I loved to show his pictures to our friends too. Sure, I was not the one who had it in my home. But someone so close to me had this cutie!! I loved to flaunt him too!!

My sister’s routine overnight turned into that of a new mother.  Cuddles was after all, just a baby. He could not sleep alone. He would cry. She would move to the carpet to be next to him. He would wake up in the middle of the night. She would wake up with him.

But just like a baby, with all the work, and cleaning, and sleepless nights came  great moments of joys, and milestones. Cuddles’ first long jump! Cuddles’ first meal with lamb! Cuddles’ first chew toy!

Soon, all discussions in the family revolved around Cuddles. Because of the time difference and work timings, my sister and I are not able to speak frequently. I get to know about her through my mother, and so does she. My mother would keep me updated on Cuddles’ adventures.. But it was not enough for me…

I so badly wanted to see him.  My sister has always loved video calls.  I have always hated it. I don’t like the thought of someone calling me in the middle of something, when I am in pyjamas, or worse at work with no privacy. Also, I feel the face looks so funny in those calls.  Whenever my sister would call me, instead of looking at her I would look at myself. I am obsessed with teeth cleanliness.  While talking, I would open my mouth wide, and start checking my teeth. I guess for me that was the only advantage of a video call! Closer teeth view!! Needless to say, this irritated my sister a lot.

But now things were different. I was the one requesting her for a video call. Only to see Cuddles…

Cuddles had now even made a trip to my niece’s school and the supermarket. He was a star everywhere he went.  People wanted to hold him, touch him and make sure he is for real.  He loved licking everyone. He loved everybody. And he surely got a lot of love in return.

Tuesday evening,  I spoke to my sister. Usual, mundane things. I had just come back from office. For her it was  morning.  Her day had just started.  After dinner I called my mother. She and my father had gone to watch Manikarnika and I could not wait to hear if she liked it as much as I liked it.

After talking to all my family members, watching an episode of Seinfeld (highly recommended to husband), I was cleaning the kitchen when my mom texted me to call her.  I did.

Cuddles is no more!’ She said.


‘There was an accident …..…’

‘What!!  How!!  I just spoke to Didi some time back!’

‘I know… It just happened.. They took him to the hospital. But he was gone by then’.

No matter who dies when we get that call, the first reaction is always disbelief. I was trying to convince my mother that I had spoken to my sister few hours back and this had not happened then.

Was there some possibility it really had not happened?

She then went on to tell me how it happened. My heart broke into a hundred pieces.  Imagining it gave palpitations. I felt a knot in my stomach. I went to the wash room. The palpitation continued…

I called my sister.  Heard her cry. Heard her describe the events of the morning. A usual morning.  He was playing. He got hurt. He let out a scream. And stopped moving.

She thought he has fainted. She insisted they take him to the hospital. They did. The nurse said what nobody wants to hear. It all happened in a few minutes.

And just like that, this little person who had become everybody’s favourite was gone!  Before anyone could even understand what had happened.

I asked her if he suffered. She said no. He died within seconds. We both found comfort in that thought.  We talked about the dog we had when we were kids. He was bitten by a snake / scorpio. We never found out. His wails continue to haunt us even today. I have locked up the memory of his death somewhere in my mind.  It does come back again every time I hear another dog screaming in pain.

We were most concerned about my niece who lost her best friend. She has been taking it well. She is trying to be brave. Her teacher asked her to write about it. She wrote that she wishes that morning could be erased…

When my sister had got this puppy, the lady who handed him over had told her that the life expectancy was 19 years.  She had thought her daughter would be off to college in eight years! He would be the one with her….

I thought about how cute, innocent and adorable the little puppy was. Why was his life so short? He did not deserve this!  Was it destiny? Three people in this world who decided to take him home, absolutely adored him, loved him and took care of him. They would have done anything to protect him! Why were they not given a chance! What good came out of this! We read about freak accidents every day. We see videos. Not all have a tragic ending. Some survive. Could he not be one of them?

There are no answers. Death makes us understand how fragile our existence is. Anything could happen. Anytime. To anyone.

We have decided to keep talking about him. Just because he is not there, does not mean he is forgotten. However, his death is something we would not bring up.

We would talk about how much we learnt from him:

Finding happiness in little things.

Being happy for no reason.

Greeting everyone with love.

Thinking that everyone is his friend.

Fighting to be with people he loved..

Rest in peace, dear Cuddles. We would like to believe you had some other purpose. Some other form of existence. Something better. We would also like to believe that you are very happy wherever you are. You are being loved. And everyone is in love with you too.

Image source

Beauty And The Beast Within

The cute child

“Bachche Chacha Nehru se pyaar karte the! Chacha Nehru khoobsurat the. Bachche har khoobsurat cheez se pyaar karte hain!”

I listened, admiring my beautiful Hindi teacher reading out a chapter on Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.  The teacher was very fond of me. “You look like a doll!” She would say. I would blush.

An attractive teacher talking about a charismatic personality.  A reasonably cute looking child listening intently.  The beautiful atmosphere was interrupted as a girl in shabby clothes and slippers walked in along with our class teacher.  Her hair was brown, with knots, lacking any kind of nourishment.  Her complexion was dull.  She looked dazed as if she woke up on another planet. Her skirt looked more like a lehenga reaching her calf, matched with a miserable, baggy, shirt. It must be her father’s, I thought.

“This is Champa. She would be joining your class today.” The teacher said hurriedly. “Let her sit next to the class monitor for few weeks till we assign her another place. Meghna, you sit next to Komal for now.  Tanvi, Champa will be sitting next to you.  Please help her with the books, uniform etc.”

I was horrified! Champa’s admission was part of a reach out program, wherein a child from a nearby slum would be selected for education free of cost.  Some of us had heard about this proposal. We had no idea it would be implemented. I had no idea it would affect me. Directly!

The next few days were difficult for me.  But how difficult was it for Champa to fit in? Kids made fun of her brutally.  They asked her if she ever showered.   There was an outbreak of lice soon after she joined. She was alleged to be the origin. Guilty until proven innocent. She bought chapati or chuda for lunch.  She ate alone. She was different.

I was conscious of my behavior at school. I was never mean to her. But deep down I found her repulsive. I hated sitting next to her.

One day, after lunch I was playing with friends. Tag. Then on the Merry Go Around. The first bell rang as an indication to us to go back to our classrooms. As I was running, I felt a weird sensation. Within a few seconds even before I realized, I had vomited. In front of everyone.

There was some vomit on my perfectly ironed white shirt. And probably some drool on my face.

One teacher commented, “Such a big girl! Cannot even control herself!! Don’t you know there is a toilet?”

Some kids laughed. Others said “Ewww” and moved away in disgust.

I had tears in my eyes.  As I made the walk of shame towards the washroom, someone held my hand.  I turned in surprise.

There she was. Champa.  As expressionless as ever.  But holding me tight and safe. She held my hand and helped me clean up. She did not say a word. But stayed with me throughout.

Few days later, she stopped coming to school.  She disappeared as abruptly as she had appeared. Some people said that parents had complained about the reach out program. Others said the management felt it was not working out. Some said her parents had decided that studies would not do her any good. Nobody knew for sure.  I never saw her again.

The ugly duckling

Few years later, my father got transferred to the United States. I was a teenager by now studying in a junior high school at New York City. One of the poshest cities in the world. With people from all over the world.  All races.  There were blonde beauties. And Hispanic beauties. And Asian beauties. Girls my age had voluptuous bodies.  My breasts had refused to show up. My buttocks were also equally flat. I wore glasses. And braces.  I had round chipmunk cheeks. I was one of the shortest people in the class.

Kids were at the age where they bully. My school was no exception.  Some desi kids like me who did not fit in were told ‘You stink’  to our faces.  Some would express reluctance to sit next to us. While walking home, there was this once particularly big guy from a senior grade who would scream at me every day, ‘You are UGLY!!!’  just in case I had forgotten.

For the first time in life I felt what it feels like to feel inferior. In every way. I felt like I was at the absolute lowest strata of society.  Being popular, being liked by the opposite sex, getting proposals on Valentine’s Day could only be a dream. I would be grateful if the day passed without any major humiliation.

Is this how Champa felt..?

I became quiet.  I was still a very good student. Being intelligent was my pride.  The few people who got to know me said I was a ‘very nice girl’.  I had few friends.  But they would all vouch for me.

A transformation

Another few years passed.  I was back in India.  I blossomed late. But I finally blossomed. I looked much better in college and in my 20’s. I was now on the better-looking side. This ‘above average’ spectrum had its own set of issues. Women felt jealous and made mean comments, totally unwarranted.  Random people thought that if a girl  is  into her looks and puts on makeup it means she is dumb and shallow. I got attention from boys who were not at all serious and I had to deal with their obnoxious attitude at feeling rejected.  Some people found me arrogant when it fact I was just an introvert.

Was this still better than being on the other side of beauty…?

I have been on different sides of ‘beauty’ at different phases of life. Here are my thoughts:

Lessons learnt

Beauty is never isolated. It is not just about the shape of your eyes or the symmetry of your face. It is about what is considered acceptable.  It is a combination of other related factors such as social, financial, racial privileges. Someone who has features from another part of the world may be different therefore considered not good looking. People who have more money have access to fashion and cosmetology and end up looking the best possible versions of themselves.

When you HATE what you see in the mirror, nothing else matters much.  Most of the times you do not see what is truly there, but what others have told you about yourself.  You see your insecurities. For someone it is a big nose.  For someone it could a dark skin-tone.  For someone it is the weight. And it takes years, and years to become comfortable with it.  I used to pray regularly as a child, having studied in a convent school. The last wish in my prayers (after well-being and health of parents and sibling) was ‘God, please make me pretty!’ Like most kids, my prayer was memorized.   Even today, at 31, when I am distressed and start praying, this ‘wish’ repeats in my mind involuntarily in the sequence.

 When a lot of people find many different ways of telling you that you do not look good, you give up on your looks completely. You deliberately decide not to put in any effort.  Loose clothes, pony tail, no make-up- Beauty becomes a game one that we choose not to play. You cannot lose when you are not playing, can you?

Champa’s face haunts me still

We may have been treated badly. But that is no excuse for how we treat others. A lesson I learnt from Champa.  A lesson I would like to convey to young people. Hang in there. There are people who will see you for your inner beauty.  But first you need to see it.  Be kind to others. And yourself.  The people we like to talk to, hold on to ultimately are the ones who are pleasant and positive. We also need to become that person first.

A happy face looks beautiful and is a culmination of peace with self and others.

Author’s Note

This article has been written for a contest organized by Women’s Web for the Naturals Salon.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.

Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.

Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… 









The Truth About Grief And Tragedy

A woman I know through blogging had lost her daughter who must be about 20. People were commenting on her post:

It is all destiny.

She is in a better place.

It is karma.

It is karma?? Whose karma? The young girl got hit by a speeding car who did not care to stop. He is roaming free. She is dead. She or her family has not done anything to deserve this. I guess the lady who commented meant that this had something to do with past life sins…

I hear some funny things about divorce too. A friend of mine is 28. She is in a relationship. She is not some child who cannot understand that sometimes things don’t work out. Whenever she hears about anyone’s divorce, she says:

Why did they get married if they wanted a divorce.

No, but what was the main reason?

Reason. Logic. Meaning. As humans we find it very difficult to comprehend tragedy and even more difficult to understand grief. We would like to think that there should be some reason. Haven’t we heard, Everything happens for a reason. We have also heard , Shit happens. But we do not like to believe it (for others). Because it defies our faith in the universe.

Another friend of mine and her boyfriend who is from another religion want to get married. They are facing objections from the boy’s family. She had asked the boy in the initial dating days if he intends to marry her. He had said yes. If some other woman gets dumped by a guy, she likes to say, ‘Told you so. You never asked him if he was serious.’ But when she is told that ‘You knew this was coming’, she says that since she had asked the man in the beginning, she was totally right about her choice.

Yes. Everybody’s grief is unique. It is therefore a painful and lonely journey. We refuse to accept that bad things simply happen… To people who did not deserve it!

A perfect couple who was together since college split.

We refuse to believe that one person outgrew the other. We put on our detective hats and try to analyze. Something else must have happened…. We do not want to lose our faith in ‘true love’

A nice caring girlfriend gets dumped without a warning.

We become therapists. She knew the signs coming. She should have known his intentions. She ignored. She was too foolish.

A young woman loses her life on the road.

We would like to think that there was some hidden meaning in it. We do not like to believe that something so cruel could happen just life that.  If it could happen to them, it could happen to us.

And that is scary.

Shashikala – The Unknown Feminist

For the past few minutes the doorbell was incorporated as part of my dream. Finally, after it rang for some time, I realized it is not a dream and I need to get up and open the door.

Shashikala walked in.

“Goodmorning Didi.” She said in her usual chirpy voice.

“Hmm.” I replied coldly. She had not come to work the day before. I was giving her the silence treatment.

“Didi, I will make chicken for you today,” she said trying to lure me with my favourite food.

“No need! There is a lot of leftover from yesterday!” I gave a cold reply again.

“Ok Didi!”

The silent treatment did not seem to be working. She either did not understand I was mad or she did not care. I broke my cold war and blurted out:

“Look at all those dirty dishes! I had guests over yesterday! And you just ditched me! I had told you not to take an off for these two days! Your work is the last priority for you. You took an off to look after your friend!! She does not have anyone? You have to disrupt your work to attend to her?”

“No Didi.  She is not my friend.”

“Oh so what neighbor? Stranger! Even better! You come to work only after you have solved all of humanity’s problems.”

“She is his first wife….”

Shashikala was married off when she was about 18. Her husband was abusive. He used to take all her money for alcohol and beat her up.  In the next five years, she had two sons until one fine day he just left.  After a couple of years he showed up again, asking for his children.  Shashikala refused to give them up. He told her he is doing well in life and would be in a better position to support the kids. She said she does not want to live with him.  A compromise was made. The husband took her elder son. She kept the younger one.

A kind aunt of hers thought that it is time she remarried.  The prospective groom was okay with having her son around. So Shashikala agreed. Once the marriage was solemnized, she was in for another shock. This man was already married, something she had no idea about.  The first wife was still living there.  Shashikala left him and came back with her son.

Now, she lives with her younger son. The elder son (who is with his father) is in a hostel and he visits her sometimes. Both the husbands show up at her house once in a while to create some drama!

Her story came flashing back in my mind.

What happened to her!” I asked her. The anger was now replaced with curiosity.

“He came the night before to eat. He said that she has not been keeping well so there is no one to cook for him. You know he is very selfish Didi. He did not even take her to the doctor. She was in pain. So I went there. Took her to the hospital. Got her the medicines. Cleaned her house. And cooked some food.”

“Why do you care so much about her?”

“Unknowingly I did her wrong Didi! I married her husband and hurt her! This is the least I can do.”

I read a lot of articles online. The latest trend is romanticizing cheating. I have seen a lot of reputed publications publish articles on cheating and how it is all about “being in the moment”, “living your life”,  “love and sex are different things”, “it just happens” and other such excuses. When I express my disgust in the comments some cool people respond,“Why are being so judgmental”, “To each to his own”. It seems we have no idea how to be progressive.

Here is a woman who did not exactly have a smooth life. One bad marriage is enough to break a person. She had two! It could have been convenient for her to bitter. But she chose not to. She had self-respect. She did not take back her first husband when he came back. She left the second husband the moment she found out he is already married.

But these things did not change who she is as a person. It did not change the kindness within her. The kindness that made her feel the physical and emotional pain of another woman.

Yes, good women uplift other women. They hold their head high in times of turmoil. They do not let the unhappiness in their lives change their judgment, and conscience.

Shashikala, you are a feminist to me.  You may not get any recognition.  But you have taught me one thing:

We are who we are. No matter what happens in life, there is no excuse to cause someone pain. There is no reason to not live by our principles.


What Did You Pray For Today?

My first school was a convent. We used to pray before every lesson (which was called period), before lunch, and during the morning assembly.  Other than this, my friend and I would visit the chapel inside the school before any exam. This was easily praying about 10 times a day. If a fellow class student was sick, we prayed.  If there was an earthquake anywhere in the world we prayed.  We also had a daily lesion of “Moral science” in which we were taught to become better human beings.  I therefore had a very God-fearing childhood.

The habit of praying for everything continued throughout my childhood and teenage years. The prayer would be very specific such as ‘Please God let me get a 100 on the Math exam.’ One of the strongest prayers of my childhood was when I prayed for my pet dog when he was sick. He died.  It was the first time my innocent mind had to come to terms to the fact that you could close your eyes, pray with sincerity, be a good girl and yet bad things happened.    The dog had died during Navratri. My aunt had told me he went directly to God. I believed her. Prayers continued.

During my teenage years, prayers became more and more shallow. From becoming beautiful and tall, to having my crush ask me out. One time,  I was taking part in an international drama festival on historical fiction in New York City. I was representing my school. It was my dream to win the award. This prayer was added to my list. In fact, it topped my list for few months. One day, I asked my sister (seven years elder) to also pray that I win the contest.

I wish that you win! But I am not going to pray to God for it!”

“What!! You don’t want me to win! It is just one small prayer!”

“I never pray to God for such things. I only pray for the life and health of our family. To keep us all well and safe. That’s all.”

“What do you mean? You don’t pray that you get the highest grade in college! Or that you get an internship in NYSE!”

“Absolutely not! I just pray that we are all healthy and happy. How do you know that winning this contest is the best thing for you?”

“What can be better than winning the international history day competition?”

“You don’t know anything beyond that! God obviously does! And anyway none of these things matter in life.”

This was a shocking revelation for me at 10 years old. Was this how everyone prayed? Non-specific prayer for life and health? What if everyone else listed everything in their prayers and I did not? Wouldn’t I be left out? How would God even know if I did not ask!

As I grew up I started following my sister’s way of praying. God knew the best. And I believed in him. In between I think there were some phases of specific prayers, in addition to the regular one for health and wellness. Please save my job! Please save my relationship!

But as life has unfolded, I have realized God’s plan has certainly been better.

Thank God I lost that job! Thank God I am no more with that person!

I hate preaching. I do not follow religion although I believe in God. But I am talking from experience.

For all those having a rough day, or going through a tough phase, this prayer is for you.


Image source

Mistake Or Crime?

This story is set in the year 2009.


“So, you willingly emailed your private picture to Vicky? The pot-bellied Officer asked Ria with a smirk. Mr. and Mehta bowed their head down in shame.

“Umm…I had just sent it to Vicky on yahoo messenger…. He sent it to Rishi. Rishi sent it to Ashir…. No not Ashir, Yash”. Ria paused and looked at the ceiling. She closed her eyes and recollected, “Yash mailed it to a group of boys from our school including Ashir. One of the guys from that group created a fake profile on Orkut and uploaded it! Someone saw it another site also.” Ria struggled to look at the Officer in the eye. “That is what Vicky said. He thinks it is Ashir.”

“It is a chain accident! Abhi highway pe hua tha na,” The officer looked at his colleague and laughed. “Ab woh sab chod kar madam ka photo dhoondo! These teenagers have all the fun. Then blame the police! Kaam hamara badhta hai!”

“Sir please do something.” Mrs. Mehta pleaded, her voice coarse from crying.

“Madam, here. Please go to the cyber cell with a copy of this FIR.”

The ride home was dreadful. Nobody spoke. As the Mehtas reached home, Ria’s Dadi was waiting for them.

“Tea is ready! I will get some biscuits for Riya. My poor baby must be hungry! I have made…”

“She is not a poor baby Mummy!” Mr. Mehta interrupted.  She is a stupid, shameless girl. She has made a joke of our reputation. Now her whole life is ruined!”

“What are you saying! Don’t talk like that,” Dadi growled. “She is 17! She has a long life ahead! One thing will not ruin it!”

“It will Mummy!” Mrs. Mehta broke down. “All her classmates have seen it. It is on the internet! We gave her the best childhood. Best toys. Best vacations. Best school! And this is how she repaid us! Everyone is laughing at us! Who will marry this girl with no morals and no sense! I can’t believe she is MY child!”

Ria stormed out of the room in tears and locked herself. Dadi looked at Mrs. Mehta.

“How can you be so harsh, Janice! It is a difficult time for her. She needs support! What if she does something to herself?

“Mummy, you know I have always supported her.  Remember, when she was selected for that competition in Singapore, she was only 13! All parents were worried about sending their children abroad. But I was not! I always trusted her. She was so sensible! But today, I have failed as a mother! What kind of a girl sends such a picture! A class topper can be so something like this?

“Janice, you and I would not know. In our times, we did not have computers and mobile-phones! These kids have access to everything. They make poor judgment in peer pressure. If we had all those things in our times, who knows we would have done something stupid too!”

“I can’t believe it Mummy. You are supporting her!”

“I supported you too! You and my son eloped to get married! Papa had initially objected to your marriage. If Jaymin had given me time, I would have convinced him.  But you guys ran away before that! People had laughed at me too. They had said you stole my son from me. But I accepted you with open arms. You both were important to me. Not random people who have nothing better to do than talk!”

“That was different, Mummy! How can you compare!”

“It is the same Beta. I supported my children then. I am supporting them now. You have to do the same. She is your child. She has not hurt or harmed anyone. She trusted someone. She made a mistake, not a crime. Now go, solve this problem.”

“I don’t have any strength Mummy. I am broken. I can’t believe this is happening to my child. I am tired!” Janice put her hand on her forehead and closed her eyes.

“This is not about you. This is about justice! Think about Ria. And other girls who become victims of such crimes. They are victims of their own judgment to some extent. Don’t you think that boy should get traced? His parents should not feel ashamed that they did not teach the right values to their son? Is it only your daughter who did something wrong?

“We may not even be able to trace it! God knows where you all he has put it! Internet is a very vast place Mummy. It is like… like so many websites..I don’t know how to explain to you!”

“Then all the more reasons to fight. We should have better laws to protect our girls from technology! Stop crying. And I do know about internet! Mrs. Shukla’s daughter, Anuradha is a lawyer. Talk to her. She will suggest something. They will take the computers of all the children and hack into their accounts. They can locate the IT address. They do these things. They will know! They can even create fake account and try to frame the boy!”

“It is not IT address! It is IP address. And how do you know so much Mummy!!”

“I watch Crime Patrol! Now go! Get to work. Time to be a parent. Protect your child. And make sure you fight so hard that those kids never do this to anyone ever again!”

The Mehtas got in touch with Anuradha. Anuradha worked hard on the case. It took time, but the cyber cell managed to remove the pictures. The uploader was traced. It was a 15-year-old boy from Ria’s school. His parents apologized to the Mehtas, and begged them to not take the case further.

Since he was a minor, the Mehtas decided that they should forgive him and move on. Moving on was important for their peace, and Ria’s peace also.

What was important was to teach the right values. All the kids involved were in an impressionable age. The school took the responsibility of counselling them about cyber vulnerability and creating awareness. They held workshops for both girls and boys on how one moment of thrill for them could have grave consequences. Was it worth the risk?

Ria’s case was a starting point for Anuradha. She was herself a mother of two daughters. She felt that the laws need to be reformed to keep up with the technological threats. She continued to specialize in cyber law cases. There were still so many loopholes in the laws. When the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was passed to consider voyeurism as an offence, she felt a certain sense of achievement.

Ria is doing well now. With the support of her mother, Dadi and professional counseling, she was able to put the trauma past her and focus on her future. She graduated from a well-known law school.

On her graduation day, she was awarded valedictorian of the class.

She started her acceptance speech with a quote by Benjamin Franklin:

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” 








Fight Your Inner Demons! Happy Diwali

Wish all of you a very Happy Diwali!! Some are celebrating it today. Some are celebrating it tomorrow.  But the festivities have started. I have fond memories of Diwali from when I was younger.

When I was growing up, and I think even when most of you were growing up we did not know / care much about pollution. We played with patakas, anaar, phooljhadi, and rockets in all its glory. Diwali was about going out with my dad and shopping for fire crackers. My mother would make me wear jeans, shirt and a jacket so that I am fully covered and safe from blisters. I would want to dress up in a pretty lehenga with a dupatta like the older girls. I was scared of most patakas but I would watch my dad, brothers, neighbors burst it. I would scream and run away when they would burst it, then look back, laugh and clap. Jump around like a monkey. We would also go the roof of the house from where we could see the whole town lit up. We would never be able to use up everything we bought. So the leftover patakas would be used up in the days following Diwali. If there was a cricket match coming up in the next week, then even better use of the leftovers. For me, it was a consolation. I did not want the fun and the excitement to be over. Leftover patakas meant that there was something to look forward to.

I don’t know what growing up does to you! No excitement for anything! Unhappiness, dissatisfaction, non-fulfillment, loneliness, bitterness, jealousy, regret!

Diwali is a celebration of victory and winning over demons. But what about our inner demons? Aren’t they the most difficult to conquer?

If you ever want to tame your inner demons, you must consciously choose never to become too attached to any particular life plan – and always remain open to the idea that there might be an even better life plan for you. –  Karen Salmansohn


I woke up feeling a sense of emptiness. It is hard to describe it. It is not the same as sadness. When you are sad, you at least manage to cry. When you are angry, you yell or be rude to someone. But it’s not that. It is a feeling of nothingness.  It just is. It is the fear of not knowing how you may feel the next moment yet trying hard to control it. It is trying not to break up. As if you are a balloon that can burst any moment.  There are so many triggers. It cannot be explained.

Me: Life is beautiful. Life is full of surprises. I should be positive.

Inner demon: Life is beautiful. Yours is not! You have nothing.

Me: Hey, can’t say nothing! I am doing alright.

Inner demon: It depends what alright means! In your case it means just surviving!

Me: I am very grateful. There are people around me dealing with so much more!

Inner demon: Like who? The ones who are earning more than you? The ones who have a family? The ones who are on vacation in some pretty place enjoying while you sit here writing some bitter piece which no one will even read! Hahha!

Me: We should never compare our life with others’.

Inner demon: Then let’s compare your life now with this time last year! Last Diwali you were so happy. You know why. This year started out well for you too. You had high hopes. You were doing well. But now? Nothing that you had planned for yourself turned out the way you wanted. And I think this is how it will be for you from now on. Worse and worse..

Inner demon was winning. I texted a friend. She is always understanding. She asked me to cheer up. She said I should meet her in the evening. But I knew that was not the solution. I would be okay when I meet her. But once I am back, it would be just me and inner demon.

I was sure I would break down. I was sure I would have an outburst. I felt helpless. Like my thoughts are not in my control. My emotions are not in my control. And ofcourse life is not in my control.

Then something happened. I thought of what I had written a few days back. Don’t underestimate the power of little things in life.  Little moments of joy help in healing. Be greedy and grab them all. When you laugh you laugh. It does not matter if you were sad a moment before.  

I decided to distract myself.

  • Saw a KFC styled chicken recipe on youtube and made it. (It was awesome)
  • Watched a movie on Netflix – The Invisible Guest. It was in Spanish with subtitles. Crisp and gripping thriller.
  • Tried out some tests online for improving my English. Brushed up on some mathematical concepts. Nothing helps heal like learning new things. It makes you humble. There is so much to learn!!
  • My domestic helper wore glasses for the first time today. I was surprised. She claimed that she always had it. She does not bother wearing it because she wants to look pretty. I teased her that no wonder her work is so bad! She cannot see dust and dirt! She laughed too. She made the Rangoli outside the house.
  • I took a picture of the Rangoli and sent it to my sister. Also sent to her a picture of my homemade KFC chicken.
  • Searched Halloween costumes online for my niece. Have shortlisted some. Will talk to her soon.
  • Got a call from an old friend. Shared a lame joke.

None of the above involved doing anything drastic. But I am feeling good. More importantly, feeling in charge of my emotions.  There is no outburst. No breaking down.

I have beaten the inner demon. She may be there. But it is my choice whether I listen to her or not. I am not her slave…

It is indeed a Happy Diwali! It is a victory of me over my inner demons. Wish you all the same!

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.

– Lord Buddha

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Quotes source





Life Is A Rollercoaster – Journey Of A Strong Woman

One day, I received a friend request on Facebook from Shomi Pandey. Shomi Pandey was a classmate of my elder sister. We attended the same school. It so happened that one of our mutual friends had tagged some old pictures of a school picnic.  The picture included my sister and Shomi among many other young girls, not more than 15-16 years old.  It was fun commenting on the album, reminiscing on those carefree days. That is how I reconnected with Shomi Didi after maybe some 20 odd years.

Shomi Didi soon started topping my news feed on Facebook. She would post regularly. Most of her posts were positive, inspiring quotes. Sometime she would post pictures of herself and her lovely daughter.  A few times she would be live, singing an old Bollywood song. Her chirpiness is hard to miss. She smiles in every picture. She is just one of those people who are always happy, I thought. Happy, lucky and blessed.

This is what we all think about people who post happy pictures on Facebook right? That their life is so perfect.  We then take a moment of silence to mourn for our own not so smooth life, and how God has chosen us for all hardships.

I was blissfully living with my misconceptions until one day, I came across a post of hers. It was about wishing a happy birthday to a certain Sandeep, followed by ‘Hope you are happy wherever you are’.

What? I thought. It could not possibly be for husband!  She is too young to lose him!

I reread the post. There were comments that confirmed my fear. Condolences. Sympathies. It seemed she had lost her husband three years ago. She must have been only 33 then, with a 10-year-old child.

It seemed so unfair!  But what struck me was her positive outlook, and her determination to share strength with others.

Over the next days, I was intrigued by some more posts of her:

You see, life can be very harsh. It tests your patience till you reach your breaking point. My husband was drowned in an ocean of depression and job insecurity during those days. He was undergoing treatment for the same. He lost control of his own will power. He had created a wall of sadness and negativity around him. I never wanted to work until it became a necessity for me. That was the moment that I decided to step up.  I had to earn bread and better for my family. I started teaching in a school nearby.  I used to take tuitions in the evenings, along with taking care of my daughter’s studies.  I tried everything in my capacity to be the best nurse to my husband, a patient listener, an understanding friend and a doting wife.  But it did not matter how much I tried. God had something else stored for him. 

That day still haunts me. I get goosebumps recalling that disastrous day.

It started out being a usual day. I was busy with the daily chores of early morning. Brushing, freshening up, getting ready for work, helping my daughter to get ready for school, preparing breakfast for my husband, packing two tiffins. The most important part was feeding my ailing husband, and making him feel comfortable. But there was something eerie about that morning. Even the gushing wind, and the sun seemed to be different. I could not identify what exactly made me feel that way. It was just a feeling. I was in no mood to go to school. But went ahead anyway. My colleagues asked me if everything was okay. I had no answer. I was unusually quiet.  The silence was interrupted as there was an announcement on the public announcement system.

Shomi Pandey, there is a call for you at the reception.

It was my mother- in- law. Words fumbled out of her mouth. She asked me to come home immediately. There was an urgency in her voice. I could not process much, and did not know what to do. I informed the Principal, took my bag and left.

When I reached home, I could not believe what I saw. The houseflies, the thin white sheet covering his ice-cold body, the incense sticks waving off the germs. His body was blue. But there was a certain serenity on his face. The peace that life had cruelly deprived him.

This could not be happening. It better be a nightmare..

I felt so insecure and helpless at that moment. I wanted to be hugged. But who was left to protect me? What about my 10-year-old daughter? How will I explain to her what I could barely accept? The fleet of people visiting our home only made the nightmare more real. I was lost. I had unanswered questions.

Why? How? Now what?”

Shomi had met her husband at a consultant’s office in Patna. She had got married early, despite the initial hesitation from both families. With her partner of nearly a decade gone at such an early age, life had become a big question mark.

In the past three years, Shomi has picked herself up and emerged strong. She is now teaching in one of the best schools in Varanasi.  I asked her what kept her going. I knew the answer.

“It was my daughter. She reminds me everyday that I should not waste my tears in thinking about my past. She hates it when I cry. She wants be to vibrant always, with a smile.

Financial independence is very important in today’s world if one has to survive. I am not the kind of person who would think of ending my life. There was no option but to keep moving forward. I think one has to be focused towards one’s own future. We should be first emotionally and then physically strong enough to raise our kids. 

Empathy and sympathy will last for just few days and then no one will bother so why to be so weak. Can’t we raise our kids normally when we are educated enough to get a job? I had the support of my parents and my brother, and they were my pillars of strength.”

Life rarely turns out the way we expect it to be. Some tragedies are visible – losing a loved one, an illness, a divorce, financial problems. Then there are people who seem to be living a good enough life from a distance. The pain is not so visible. I asked Shomi what she would like to say to so many people out there who are on the verge of losing hope.

“Life has taught me many things in quite an early stage. Life is full of surprises. It may be good or bad but this is what is life all about. Don’t fear of losing or hardships. I can just say that believe in yourself and God is there to do the rest. And please remember, we have no right to take back our life. Time does make things better. Life is very short and we should always live to the fullest. Start loving yourself. Take baby steps towards life. You will soon be in the path of triumph. All the best! ”


This article has been published with Shomi Pandey’ permission. When I approached her for sharing her story she readily agreed. It must have been painful for her to revisit parts of her life, that she would have locked up somewhere in the corner of her mind to avoid triggers of pain.  But she said if she can inspire even one person, it would be worth it.

Thank you Shomi Didi. Stay strong and blessed. Much love to you and your daughter.









A Ray of Hope

Somebody has joined my workplace who has the same car as me (same model, same color). Today, he asked me when did I purchase the car. About a year ago I replied. When the conversation got over, I realized that it can’t be one year. I had got the car in June 2015.  It has been two years! And then I looked at the date in the calendar. Why did I say one year?

29th June. How could I just forget this time last year?

A year ago – On 29th June

30th June 2016 was to be my last day at my old job. I did not have another job at hand.  I was a single woman, living alone paying the rent for a 2 bhk apartment, and paying all my expenses trying to come to terms with the fact that I was going to be unemployed. How had I reached such a stage?

By the time my first year at that job had got over, I had got a promotion. Things were looking up. But too many things changed in the next year. I made a series of poor choices and mistakes professionally. It included team change requests, rejecting a good offer from another company, a disastrous appraisal, and a resignation without having another job at hand.

When we face bad situations in life, there are two emotions that we feel (among many others):

  1. The victim feeling.

Why does everything happen to me! Why can’t I ever be happy!

This kind of self-pity makes us feel like we are such a victim of our circumstances. Things always happen to us. We are the chosen ones for misery. And people who do not seem all that great get to live their life just fine.

  1. Regret

We torture ourselves over the things that we could have done differently. I kept blaming myself for every professional decision I had taken in the last year.  I would replay each and every event in my mind. I would imagine myself going back in the past and changing things. The term ‘don’t beat yourself up’ can be quite literal.

I really don’t know which feeling is worse. I had somehow expected that I would end up finding a job in the notice period. But on 29th June, I knew that tomorrow would be my last working day. There was no job. No offer. I would have to pay the rent and other expenses through my savings.  And the worst part was the uncertainty. How long would I be unemployed? Three months? Six months? One year? How will I support myself and pay my bills? My parents were more than happy to support me but I was ashamed to be at this place, at this age.

How would I deal with the stress? What would I do all day? Won’t I go mad? My friends would be working all day. And what will I do meeting friends anyway? Taking a cab, going to expensive restaurants when I am not even earning a penny?

My mother had decided to come and stay with me till I could find a job. I guess everybody was worried about my mental state. That was very nice of her. It made a lot of difference.

While I was searching for jobs, preparing for interviews, people were trying to say the clichéd things that is often said to someone to make them feel better.

Don’t worry. You will find something. It is just a matter of time.

It’s not like you are poor! So don’t overreact! Your parents will support you!

You still have so much to be grateful for! People are fighting cancer! This is not such a big deal!

The last one is very popular. When a person is in physical pain, let’s say someone burns their finger, or cuts it, we don’t tell the bleeding person, ‘Relax, be grateful that your other finger is not cut!’

But emotional pain is very different. Nobody can see it. Nobody can assess the magnitude of it. Only we know what we are feeling. I remember getting up every morning, with a moment of blissful peace until it struck me that I was unemployed. I remember the pain in the stomach.  I remember going out with friends, laughing, relaxing, pretending to forget that there is such a big problem lurking behind. The getting up in the morning part, and the time of going to bed were the most difficult times. I wanted the ‘bad’ feeling to go away magically.

This is what I learnt during that phase:

  1. You need not love your job. As long as you love the things it brings you – bread, butter, pizza, Mojito, dresses, vacation. No matter how unfulfilling it is, no matter how pathetic you are made to feel at every appraisal, no matter how much your boss yells at you,  you are there for a reason and that reason is money.
  1. I remember talking to my friend, who told me about another friend in awe who was earning X amount. You know how much she earns!! No wonder she dresses so well! The amount she mentioned was less than what I was getting at my old job. The girl she was talking about was older than me.

At my old job, I always felt like a loser because everybody else seemed to getting better bonuses and promotions. But that day, I realised how ungrateful I had been.

  1. I had thought I could utilize this time to write a book. Who knows I could become J K Rowling!

But forget about writing a book, I was not able to even write articles or blogs. All I did was search for jobs day and night. (I am not discouraging anyone. There is always a dilemma whether we should pursue our passion, or be practical. But it is usually never that black and white). 

  1. People were saying enjoy this time too. Soon you will get a job, and miss ‘these’ days. Go and travel! Some were more practical to say try ‘budget travelling’. 
  1. I used to try to be positive and hopeful. There were a lot of disappointments, as not every interview turned into an offer. I had some idea of the kind of profile I was looking for. But I also felt desperate and thought I should just take up whatever comes. One person offered me a job at a lower CTC than what I was getting in my old job. That was like reaching a new low altogether. I felt like the biggest failure that day – both professionally and personally.

I was trying my best to still keep it together. I am unemployed. I reminded myself. I cannot afford to get depressed, and certainly cannot afford therapy!

You know how long the employment phase lasted? A month. I started working again on August 1st. So many feelings. So much of self-doubt. So much of regret.

All very temporary. Things turned out just fine.

I like my current job more than any of my previous jobs. I am better suited for this role. I was struggling at the kind of profile I was in, and the gap helped me find something much more apt for my skill-set (or the lack of it). 🙂 I have good friends here also. When I get any calls for a job opportunity now, I say thank you I am not looking for a job change. And I mean it.

Do I think about that phase now and cry? Of course not. But were those few months of uncertainty stressful? Hell yes!

Today, I know that this is where I was meant to be. I would not change anything. Maybe the path that reached me here was a little rocky.

When people were trying to console me at that time, it didn’t help much. But the fact is when something goes against the way we had planned, we get so upset and confused that it is very difficult to accept that anything good can come out of it. We may not immediately appreciate that something better is in store for us because we are busy mourning over the loss. The feelings of regret and uncertainly can be overpowering.

I would like to share some quotes that I had posted on my page during that time, trying my best to keep hope.

 ‘Dear God, I ‘ve tried my best but if today I lose my hope please tell me that your plans are better than my dreams. Amen’

 ‘Sometimes the bad things, that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the most wonderful things that will ever happen to us.’

‘When God takes away something from your hand, don’t think he is punishing you, he is merely emptying your hand for you to receive something better. Have faith.

It all makes sense now.

I would like to end with Shri Amitabh Bachchan’s famous quote:

Man ka ho toh achcha .Na ho toh zyada achcha !! Kyun ki phir wo ishwar ke man ka hota hai, aur ishwar aap ka hamesha achcha chahega !!!







Everybody Can Be Happy. It Is So Simple.

The other day I went to sit by the pool side after returning from gym.  I was feeling very depressed.  It is difficult to identify what exactly was the trigger. Recent death of a relative, talking to a friend who is initiating divorce, reading about a young married woman committing suicide, cribbing to another single friend how there are no good men any more (left for us), or following up with my friend on her mother’s chemotherapy. Was I upset because relationships are so fragile? Or because of the cruel reminder that our health can betray us any time?  The only thought that had pretty much built a home in my mind (Please excuse my Hindi to English translation) was that life is unfair and meaningless.

My apartment building has those beach like benches by the pool side. I love sitting there after working out. It gives me some peace. At that time of the night, nobody comes there.  I like to look at the reflection of the moon in the water.

But that day my blissful ‘me time’ was suddenly interrupted.

A woman barged in with her toddler. He would have jumped right into the water, had she not stopped him. It seemed the kid had just started walking. I am assuming he had been on a walker before. He was running around without much control. It was as if there should have been a break button on him. I think he had not yet fully understood that he was not on a walker anymore.  The mother was running after him.

He looked at me. There were  tears on my face I had not bothered to wipe. I ignored him.  I was avoiding making eye contact. The mother also looked at me with a smile. I ignored her too.  Usually, when any person looks at a baby / kid they do smile. The mother must have thought I am such a rude (kharoos) person. She had put her sling bag next to my bench. But then I guess my disinterest made her change her mind.  Had she seen my tears? She moved to the bench farthest away from me.

The kid had too many questions. He was talking about himself in third person.

‘Rishi go in pool!’

‘Rishabh you cannot just go inside the pool. You have to know how to swim!’

‘Rishi go sim!’

‘No you can’t go swimming. You have to learn it first.’

‘Mamma go sim!’

‘Mamma also needs to learn first.’

After saying some more random things, the kid gave up the thought of being in the water. He thought of a new game. He would run all the way from his mother’s bench to my bench, touch it, jump, go back and repeat the same ritual on the other side.  While on the other side, his mother would greet him an adoring look, on this side I would ignore him looking blankly at the sky.  By now, the mother was sure that I wanted to be left alone. She would tell her son to not come towards my bench. But why would he listen? He continued to hold my bench and jump each time looking at me for some reaction.

Finally, I think the fifth time he did it, I looked up at him and smiled.  He immediately looked away, shyly but not without a sense of triumph.  He did this for another few minutes until his father came to take them home. At first, I was smiling at him politely, out of an obligation.  But soon, the smile turned genuine. He was quite amusing to watch!

The whole day, or for a few days, I had been talking to people who were trying to make me feel better.  But the problem with adults is they are too logical. Words do not help sometimes.  Maybe, a small child’s persistent efforts to make a disinterested stranger smile does.  He does not know anything. Cannot even pronounce his name. Does not understand the concept of swimming. Does not see tears.

But he thinks that everybody can be happy. What is so difficult? Just like he can walk right into the pool. So simple. Why complicate things?

Thank you unknown kid. The brief interaction I had with you made me feel better. Better than the well-meaning advice of mature adults.