The ‘phone’ of contention

I feel pretty old writing this article because this makes me realize that I was born in a generation where landline phones were fashionable. I remember my boyfriend, now my husband, chasing me for 2 days after school hours to get my ‘phone number’ so that he can discuss the ‘seating arrangements’ for the exams with me (and we discussed everything else instead!). Anyways! I am that old! I belong to a generation that lived without SMSes and WhatsApp messages and still managed to make friends in school.  And, yes, before I hit 30, I can happily claim to have lived more than half of my life without a mobile phone.

Going by the standards of my generation, I was privileged to get an old and discarded Motorola mobile phone of my dad very early in life. But mind you, I was given a mobile phone with a strict warning that it has to be used only in the case of emergency. All that mobile phone allowed me to do was make calls & send, if I remember correctly, 142 characters messages. Sending multi-media messages were unaffordable for a kid like me whose monthly allowances were less than the cost of popcorn in PVRs today.

Anyways, coming back to the point, yes, a mobile phone, about a decade back, was a commodity all of us could live without.  But today, mobile phones are more than mobiles phones and that confuses an old-school-er like me. The society has defined a whole new way of measuring people’s amicability quotient by simply calculating the number of calls a person makes to his/her friends, family and acquaintances in a stipulated time frame.

Here is how the new social charter works:

  • You don’t pick up someone’s call once, you are deliberately ignoring the person.
  • You don’t pick up the call more than twice, you are annoyed with the person.
  • You pick up the call and tell you are busy, you are acting pricey.
  • You forget to charge your mobile’s battery, you are careless.
  • You don’t call someone often, you don’t like the person.
  • You don’t do useless, small talks on festivals, anniversaries and birthdays, you are defying family values and bringing bad name to the family.
  • You don’t talk to far, unknown relatives (mind you who you might have as met a toddler or never met at all), you are not interested in carrying forward the relationships your family nurtured over decades.
  • You don’t contact a person who you met socially on WhatsApp or over a call after the meeting, you are rude.   

In short, mobile phones have become the yardsticks of how much you value your relationships! Whoa! We have reached another level of social evolution with the invention of mobile technology.

For someone like me who has to be online on Instant Messengers for business day in and day out, putting away my mobile phone is a luxury. It’s actually relaxing to be not talking to people who can’t understand your pauses and tiredness (and I say that in the personal as well as professional context). And, oh yes! This reminds me of another point that should go up the list:

  • You don’t sound enthusiastic over the phone, you were not happy talking to the person on the line!

The relationships, the camaraderie, the love – everything now is simply calculated by the talk time spent your mobile phone or the success with which you emote (or pretend) over this virtual medium of communication.

I, sometimes, wonder if there is a quantifiable metric to categorize people based on their monthly mobile expenses or availability to attend mobile calls. For example, someone who spends Rs.2500 and/or 1000 minutes talking over the mobile phone in 30 days is an Amicable Person (Level 2)!

I won’t be surprised if you tell me a metric like this is already in place!  I am ‘socially’ less connected, you see!

10 Simple Ways to Live Peacefully!

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  1. Sleep till 9 a.m.
  2. Snore. Snore. Snore.
  3. Shout for a cup of tea right from your bed- Maid. Husband. Husband. Maid – Race who gets it first.
  4. Sit at the portico with your third cup of tea and a street dog for company because solid food & human interaction might interrupt with your inner harmony early in the morning.
  5. By 10:30 a.m, switch on the laptop and pretend to work for the next 10 hours because you get paid for pretending to work.
  6. Ignore all phone calls, because mobile radiations cause cancer. (For those who think I am joking  – click to read the article from National Cancer Institute).
  7. Talk to your pet fish during lunch because discussing ‘Sasural Simar Ka’ is way too advanced a topic for your level of mental evolution.
  8. Read 100-rupee literature such as ‘My 95th Love Story at IIT’ to get over crap that you can’t filter out of your system through your sad face & mad face.
  9. After you are done with your day’s work, switch on the TV, tune in Times now and watch ‘The News Hour’ on mute.
  10. Sleep at 11 p.m. Wake up at 1 a.m, switch on the lights and play Frank Sinatra on full volume. Let people who play Anuradha Paudwal, on full volume,  at 5 a.m. have logical reasons to complain.

PS: Please feel free to feel offended.

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Why is so easy to slut shame a girl? ‪#‎theproblemwithus‬ ‪#‎slutshamingneedstostop‬

Why do we glorify a sacrificing and docile woman instead of those who fight for freedom? ‪#‎theproblemwithus‬ ‪#‎slutshamingneedstostop‬

The news about Hrithik and Kangana’s relationship is being followed by the Indian media very closely. There are allegations, counter-allegations, supporters and shamers appearing from all possible directions.

Though we don’t know which side is the victim, the way the media is reacting to this NEWS poses one very serious question on our society – why slut shaming a girl an easy way to pump TRPs?  Doesn’t this clearly mean that some of us are busy enjoying this circus on TV?

Read the full article on: http://www.smartindianwomen.com/why-is-so-easy-to-slut-shame-a-girl/

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A mother to 500 streeties! #Mothersdaystory #adoptnotshop

By the time the volunteers come back after feeding all the dogs for the day, the preparations for next day’s meal has already begun in Sulakshmi’s kitchen.

When I ask her about her routine, she says that every morning around 5:30 a.m., she sends the first lot of food out for the dogs in the surrounding localities like Chittaranjan Park, Kalkaji, G.K-I and G.K-II. The final lot goes out at 1:30 p.m. for far off areas like Govindpuri and Okhla. By the time, the final lot is out, she is busy with the next day’s preparation. On an average day, she prepares about 90-95 kgs of rice and 50 kgs of chicken and mutton. It takes about 7-8 hours to prepare the meals and the day generally starts with mixing, packing and sending out the first lot of food.

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Giving food to the streeties is not the only responsibility she has taken upon herself, she also keeps a check on the sick dogs and the weak dogs regularly to ensure that they get their share of meals and medicines. Then there are accident cases – which are to be reported, taken to the veterinarians, fostered till they are healthy enough to live an independent life.

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When I ask her, how  does she manage so much in a day? “I am always behind my schedule.” she replies with such sincerity and modesty that makes me embarrassed about the endless complains that I make in a day when my 2 dogs fight or misbehave.

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There is not much of a support system that she has. “It’s a constant struggle.”, she says when asked about how she makes the humongous task possible every day. There are unhelpful and angry neighbors because they think she is encouraging the ‘dangerous’ stray dogs in the area. Then, there is a constant struggle to find regular volunteers. She has hired some people for help and pays them from her on own pocket. “There can’t be a day in the whole year that the dogs can go hungry. Be it a bandh or a public holiday, the dogs have to get their share of meals.”, she says with a sincerity in the tone.

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When she tells me that she has been feeding these dogs for the last 15 years, I can’t stop myself from asking what keeps her going (I am sure she has been asked these question umpteen number of times. But I can’t hold back my curiosity.). “Ek Junoon hai bus. Call it “Passion” – though I know it is a hackneyed, commonplace, overworked, banal, stock phrase.”, she says without a hint of tiredness or irritation in her voice.

In the last 15 years, there has not been much support from the local authorities as well. “One out 100 local authorities might come for any kind of help. People mostly have complaints even when we diligently clean up the area every day after feeding the dogs.”,  she says and this is the first time in the entire conversation that I sense despair in her tone.

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Sulakshmi takes care of the vaccination and neutering with the help and guidance from certified veterinarians. “I am 66 years old and it’s getting difficult for me. I have sold off my jewelry, ancestral property and, financially, it’s becoming challenging.”, she continues in a tone of despair. She has started a crowdfunding campaign on www.desiredwings.com/feedstrays to get some funds to manage the ever-growing needs.

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Sulakshmi also facilitates adoption of dogs. She says adoption depends on the luck of the puppy. Sometimes some people are taken in by the unconditional love and attention that a stray puppy has to offer; however, people mostly prefer buying pedigrees. “But we keep trying”, she says and I can sense the optimism back in the conversation.

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When I ask her if there is any particular dog that she loves the most, she quotes her mother to make a point about a mother’s unconditional love, “See all these fingers. None of them are same. But they all are equally important. Mother’s love is equal for all.”, she signs off on a note which makes me wonder if one single day in a calendar is good enough to celebrate a mother’s unconditional love.

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About Swargasaathi Charitable Trust (Regd.): The Swargasaathi Charitable Trust (Regd.) has been set up by Sulakshmi Dasgupta to support and take care of multiple stray dogs in New Delhi.

The trust is now open to charities, and cheques can be drawn out in the above mentioned name. For more information, one can write an email to swargasaathi@gmail.com or contact them at +91-9910576883.

 

Learning a New Language? You will relate to these 5 things!

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Learning a new language is very interesting. It is like going back to kindergarten and getting introduced to a world full of new and wonderful words. I found it to have a therapeutic effect as well because as a learner my mistakes are welcomed before being corrected. However, sometimes, I tend to take these liberties too far and make silly mistakes. Here are the top 5 silly mistakes I have made while trying to learn French, a language I recently started learning:

Asking silly questions 

Identifying the correct “gender” of the subject is my biggest challenge while trying to frame a sentence. With a limited understanding of the language and unlimited confusions in my head, the silliest mistake I make is to mess up the gender of the subject. To avoid making this mistake, I generally clarify my doubts with my fellow classmates. I have even gone ahead to the extent of asking one of my classmates, “So, in this sentence, should I refer to you as an étudiante (female student) or étudiant (male student)?” I wonder if I took my confusion to a completely new level with this sentence.

Hilarious pronunciations 

To get the pronunciations correct is a challenge for anyone who is new to a language, but for someone like me whose accent anyways fluctuates between Bangla, Bihari, American English, Punjabi and Australian English (depending upon who I am talking to), “Juillet (July) – the month” becomes “Juliet of the Romeo-Juliet story” more often than it should.

Trying stupid ways to remember new words 

On an average, I am expected to learn 10 words a day. Now, with an adult brain which is anyways struggling to assimilate information from all quarters, it gets quite difficult for me to remember all the new words correctly. So, one of my classmates came up with an interesting way of remembering new words, which can be really helpful for anyone who is not forgetful as I am. My classmate suggested that I remember the French words, which I tend to forget as a funny English word that has an identical (or close to identical) pronunciation. So, “le printemps (the spring season)” becomes “the Phantom” sometimes.

Speaking funny and broken sentences

About a month into learning French, the only resources I have at my disposal are the basics of grammar and very little vocabulary. With these limited resources, I often feel like a 2 year old kid trying to explain a surge of complex emotions to the world even when I have to simply request someone for a pencil. Coherent and complete sentences are rare. More often than not I end up communicating in broken sentences like “Je suis une chanteuse, but not that good”, which loosely translates to “I sing but not too good” (I know I making horrible mistakes).

Shameless flaunting

While I completely aware of my limited understanding of the language, I believe a little bit of flaunting is absolutely harmless. So, I love to flaunt the very little that I have learnt so far. From updating a famous French proverb as a cover picture on my Facebook profile to watching a French movie without subtitles (and of course not understanding a word of it), I am guilty of showing off my newly acquired language skill quite shamelessly.

I am not sure how long it will take me to master this new language but in the course of learning it, I have discovered a childlike excitement in me. I have rewarded myself for the smallest achievements and discovered the joy of unadulterated happiness in life once again. I have also promised myself – a trip to Paris, the city of my dreams if I perform up to my expectations in this course (of course, conditions apply**).

Huffington Post: Socially Awkward? Here Are 5 Ways To Fake It Till You Make It

I am socially awkward. I feel uncomfortable addressing a large group of people and get extremely nervous when I have to attend a social gathering. I despise being the centre of attention. Yet, strangely, I have been in such situations quite often and usually managed to conduct myself without others picking up on my anxiety.

How?

I have learnt to camouflage social awkwardness by putting up a confident face, which in turn does give me some real confidence too. Over a period of time, I have also trained myself to overcome anxiety attacks by using these five simple techniques.

1. I pay very close attention to any conversation I’m in

One of the biggest problems with people who are socially awkward, including me, is that we so desperately wish for a conversation to end that we zone out of it even before it begins. Therefore, we either end up not responding when prompted to speak or saying something which is absolutely irrelevant to the conversation. To avoid getting into either of these situations, I make a conscious attempt to be attentive. I keep my focus intact throughout the conversation, give myself time to comprehend what the other person is saying, and speak only when I have framed a complete and coherent response in my mind.

2. I try to control my emotions in the first few minutes of a conversation

I try to take control of my emotions in the first few minutes of a conversation. I tell myself that I am nervous for no real reason; therefore, all I need to do is to calm down. If I manage to calm myself down in those few minutes, I fare pretty well for rest of the conversation.

I have accepted that some goof-ups are bound to happen…I tell myself it’s not the goof-up but my behaviour after the goof-up that makes a situation awkward.

3. I practice speaking beforehand

I used to panic when I had to introduce myself to a large group of people or an audience. I’d fumble, I’d forget important points. I decided to rehearse the way I wanted to introduce myself to overcome this problem. It took 10 dummy runs–15 minutes for 10 consecutive days–to get it absolutely the way I wanted. Even now, I often think of situations that might make me nervous. I play out that situation in my head. I practice what I could say in that situation loud and clear until I sound perfect. It’s tiring but it definitely helps!

4. I’ve learned how to say “I don’t know”

I was once standing in a queue to board a metro train in Delhi when a stranger asked me whether the train in question would pass through a particular station. I knew the answer, but I froze due to nervousness. To overcome this sudden bout of awkwardness, I rudely told that person to check the metro route. I repented my behaviour later. However, I learnt a very important lesson from this episode. I learnt that in situations when my thought process is overshadowed by nervousness, I should restrict myself to saying a polite “I don’t know” instead of making a rude, abrupt or awkward statement.

5. I try to chill out a bit

I have accepted that some goof-ups are bound to happen. I try to not get too affected. I recently yawned while bidding goodbye to a colleague. I quickly smiled and apologized. I try to consciously avoid panicking and making a situation awkward. I tell myself it’s not the goof-up but my behaviour after the goof-up that makes a situation awkward.

Overcoming social awkwardness is not very easy. However, with constant effort, it is absolutely possible to camouflage it to a great extent. The key, I believe, is to put up a brave face and deal with the situation at hand with utmost confidence. I do it every day. I believe you can do it too!

On a lighter note:

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Published here on HuffPo:http://www.huffingtonpost.in/richa-kashyap/5-tricks-to-camouflage-so_b_9554942.html

5 things that make me woof woof (uff, uff!)

I love my dogs. Trust me, I do. Nobody appreciates my cooking the way they do. I have never seen a human (read my husband) respond to a humble breakfast of two boiled eggs with so much of enthusiasm and love. When I serve them boiled beans, carrots and chicken for lunch, they wag their tail, do this little gig and look at me with so much of appreciation. They ensure that every single day of my life, they appreciate me for my exceptional culinary skills. They tell me, through all possible gestures, that I boil eggs, beans and carrots tastier than anyone else in the world. Dog swear.

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So, you must be wondering with so much of love and appreciation, what are the 5 things that make me woof woof (with red eyes) at them in return.

#1 Morning Love

Every single day when the clock strikes 6 A.M., they fall head-over-heels in the love with me.They lick my face. They lick my head. Get inside my blanket. 10 minutes of all this and they are hungry and then, they pull my hair, jump on me and bite each other. There is no way I can ignore them beyond 6:20 A.M.  This happens even on Saturdays and Sundays.

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#2 After-play hours 

The play time never ends. I take out time to play fetch with them every day for one hour. But after the play hour ends, the after-play hours begin. And the after-play hours include games such as bite-bite, I-cut-your-mobile-charger, I-chew-your-chappal, I-tear-your-pillow and I-pee-on-the-door. I stare at them. They stare at me. Love.

#3 No home-alone 

I can’t leave them alone for even 15 minutes. I have done that twice and the results have not been very pleasant. Both the times, I went down to get groceries and when I returned, I saw my neighbors standing at my door, trying to frantically call me because my dogs were howling and knocking the door making them worried about my safety. Well, I have guaranteed, there are no home-alones after these incidents.

#4 Hygiene 

Pluto, my indie, is in love with the bathroom mug. He adores it. He carries that mug with him almost everywhere in the house – sometimes even on my bed!!! I ask Pluto to get down from the bed, he follows the command like a gentleman, but I throw the mug down from the bed, he barks like a mad man. I got him a new mug – same color, same size. It’s still the bathroom mug he loves. Did you say “hygiene”? I choose to ignore the “h” word now.

#5 Poop means protest

It’s all good till we three, Mars, Pluto and I, are cordial in the house. But dare I get annoyed and raise my voice. My stern voice is reciprocated with poop in all corners of the house. You should look at their happy faces when I am wiping off their shit. They almost say: “You can shout, we can poop, woof, woof.”

 

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The quarter-life enlightenment

Everything that I have to say is summed up in this meme, but I will still go ahead and share the only 20 things that I have learnt in the 25-plus-something years of my life:

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  1. There are no weird people in this world. Yes, not even you!
  2. A confused teenager is probably a genius in making.
  3. Love is not an everlasting feeling.
  4. You are boring. You don’t remember your past life.
  5. 99 (the 100-1 regret) in your high school mathematics exam, doesn’t matter!
  6. Your best friend can’t read your head, nor can your boyfriend.
  7. If you land up in a job which you don’t like, it’s a result of your indecisiveness.
  8. Peer pressure is bullshit. If you take shit, you get shit.
  9. You can hate people. Strong. Intense. Bad.
  10. Your people skills matter more than your CGPA.
  11. Patriotism is not just about loving your country. Elections matter.
  12. You don’t need a picturesque location to fall in love.
  13. You might be a smart head. There are many like you in this world. Learn to repackage narcissism.
  14. Dreams and goals are two completely different things. Prefer the later.
  15. Your time management skills have serious impact on your fate.
  16. It’s fine not to be the best human being on this planet.
  17. Sometimes it’s fine be stupid and lost. Winning all battles in life will not take you to heaven anyways!
  18. Religion is just a sentiment. It’s good to respect popular sentiments.
  19. You can live with loads of guilt in your heart.
  20. Your parents love you.

The fauji life for a new fauji wife

Coming from a ‘civilian’ background, I had no clue that faujis speak a completely different language. So, to my utter surprise, when my husband asked me why I address my boss by her first name, I was like, “that’s how we address colleagues, don’t we?”. His eyes almost popped out. “She is your boss – super boss – isn’t she? Is not addressing her by her first name considered disrespectful?”, he asked as a matter of fact.  I couldn’t help but burst into hysterical laughter. That was my first ever insight into how fauji’s think. 

Though, before I get into details, I must tell you that my experience in fauj is very limited. It’s only been an year since we have been married and my husband’s ‘field posting’ has ensured that I can happily claim to be ignorant of the fauji manners for some more time. I have goofed up a number of times and I am still learning  to fit in the tribe. I have said “bye, bye” to people instead of “Good evening” while leaving from the officers’ mess. I have called up my husband’s phone and complained endlessly about power failure at home until interrupted by his “buddy” on the other side of the line informing me that “sahab” was in an important meeting.

So, I am definitely not the best person to give any lessons on how to behave in the army. However, I can talk about my journey and the lessons I have learnt in the last few months.

First few months in the army can be quite intimidating for you if you are a civilian of my kind, who prefers Pajamas, Grey T-shirts and Nerdy glasses practically for all good or bad occasions in life. But then you learn to blend in. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. For me acceptance came in four stages and I am sure I am not the only one to have crossed these stages before I came to terms with my life in the army:

It’s-so-funny!
I found my husband’s  observations like “how do you address your boss by her first name?” utterly weird and funny until I heard him addressing his boss and the ‘sir-ing’ did not stop for more than 30 seconds in an half an hour of the conversation. “That’s why, That’s why, you are jealous, husband.”, I exclaimed. He smiled in ‘disapproval’.

Oh-man-ME-TOO!
One of my husband’s ‘course-mates’, who I happily addressed by his first name made a point to address me as ‘ma’m’ even when I insisted that I am perfectly fine with everyone calling me by my first name. Then I met a few more officers and I realized none of them were going to bend this rule or, for that matter, any rule for anyone in this world, so, its better I get used to being ‘ma’am’.

I-can-fake-it!
As soon as you realize, there are no ‘exceptions’ in the army, your attempt to blend in begins. Your husband will dress impeccably in crisp combats leaving you no option but to ditch the idea of wearing pajamas (I have my own theory about comfort versus common sense. But let’s skip that for now). So, you decide to look like a lady for a change. “Fine – just this time! Ah! may be one more time.” That’s how it begins. Then you realize it’s not that difficult to blend in.

It’s fine!
Over a period of time you realize that it’s fine. You start start seeing the logic behind the never-dare-to-break rules. There always are and will always be occasions when you feel out of place but you will also be overwhelmed by the dedication with which people will try to help you adjust.

I have heard and read stories about how families in the army have stood by each other in difficult times. I have seen the amount of dedication with which people follow orders. I have felt thankful for the amount of effort people put in to make me feel in place.  So, though old-habits-die-hard, I make small efforts to fit in especially when my husband encircles the 1930 hours written in the invitation card and writes 7:30 P.M. before handing it over to me.

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15 things I wish I said to people in last few months

How I wish I said all this, in time, and walked away:

  1. You don’t respect a culture just by flaunting your love for it.
  2. I think you are driving me insane with your puppy love.
  3. There are Private Chats and there are Group Chats. Private conversations are for Private Chats.
  4. No! I am not wearing what you want me to wear.
  5. Now that you have challenged me to do it, I have strongly, passionately decided not to do it.
  6. Yeah, dogs bark. What else did you think they do?
  7. My dog is not a T. rex.
  8. Lovely! You are offended. That’s exactly what I intended.
  9. I intently heard the crap for 40 minutes. I am still not convinced. Can you try another spin?
  10. Can I please evaporate right now? I don’t want to be seen here.
  11. The invitation says “Dress code: Casual”. Ya! Ya! That’s why I am here.
  12. Ah! 24? At your age everyone is a know-it-all. Continue your gyaan and feel good about it.
  13. No. No. No. No. (and move my head left-right-left in a slow motion 1000 times)
  14. Thank you! Now one more word from you and I am going to hit my head on that wall!
  15. Congratulations, you successfully pissed me off.  I am going to curse you for next 30 days.

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But as they say,  some things are better left unsaid!