If Only, Papa was a Soldier

In India, most public service employees and officials are looked down upon (since the impression is that there’s hardly any work to do) yet everyone wants a government job. This is a story of a man who honestly did his duty  in Indian Railways and quite literally died due to his unending dedication to that duty. Told by his son who turned out be equally honest and idealistic, this blog pays a tribute to unsung honest workers in world’s second largest sub-continent. Do give it a read.

Source: If Only, Papa was a Soldier


Being a misfit in a world that’s forgotten courtesies

I used to think I was a no-expectations carefree-kinda person till the day I started noticing something odd. If I helped someone, I expected an acknowledgement of the help. Thing is I urgently felt the need to help others when they needed it. A lot of times, people didn’t even seek my help, they just shared their problems. So I assumed I was their Superhero.

No wonder that my help was taken for granted, afterall, it wasn’t sought. And boy that hurt. So it has taken me years and years of practice to realise the obvious – I am fairly incapable of helping people, and definitely unable to do so selflessly.

Of course this Superhero-mode still tempts me, once in a while. So what’s this post all about really? While I am on a journey of a major attitude correction, I am also observing that the world around me is getting increasingly devoid of basic courtesy.


The ‘No’ that didn’t come by so easily

Networking and connecting people with each other, for instance, has become a demand not a request. The other day, a human resource professional and a Linked-in acquaintance sent me a text if I knew a formidable PHP developer. I replied sending her the name and contact number of an acquaintance who was a PHP developer. She replied saying if I also knew how many years of experience he had. Negative. Next thing, she asked me if there were any other candidates I knew. No. Then she went on to ask me if the recommended friend also had any Magento experience. Now at this point, I was duly annoyed. So I asked her to find all these details herself because well, she was the ‘human resource’ person, I wasn’t. Boy, I had tickled a beehive. Taste it a little.

“I was only asking for a basic help, why are you being so hyper? Being a Linked-in contact, you are supposed to help a fellow contact, afterall.”

“Oh really? So then I am sure you are aware of the basic Linked-in etiquette too. You don’t ask unsolicited questions to a contact? ”

“I am fully aware of the Linked-in etiquette madam. Actually you are not. You are someone who thinks very highly of herself…….”

At this point, I stopped myself at the foolishness of this back and forth and left the chat right there. I wasted good 10 minutes of my time on a so-called Linked-in contact that I had never met or talked with before.

My lesson: Just say No the first time. Period.

The expectation issue

There was a bright engineering student who wanted to ‘work with me’ as a freelance writer. I have a post production and content marketing company. And we have worked with a bunch of amazing freelancers who have stuck with our company for many years. So I was pretty open.

I assured him that I would send him some live project assignment soon, so he should be ready. Why live project? Because from his work samples, he seemed to be a writer who could be put to work immediately.

When the expected website content project did start to roll, I gave him the three most creative pages to write. It was an advertising company. I wrote detailed email with instructions, reference websites, rival websites to compare and all that. It’s a process I follow for myself in order to write content that stands out.

Then I duly texted him to check his email and revert. He didnt’ revert the whole day. Actually, he didn’t even reply to my text. The deadline was three days later, so I gave him a benefit of doubt. When I didn’t receive an acknowledgement of my email even the end of next day, I decided to call him.

He couldn’t pick up the phone call since he was in class, he texted. I started working on those three pages, the deadline was approaching fast.

I was done with sending the content to the client. Now I had the time to confront this guy. He said he was expecting me to invite him over to my office, give him a laptop or a computer (since he didn’t have any of those) and mentor him personally.

I reminded him that I made it very clear that it was a work-from-home kinda arrangement. To this he said that’s why he lost interest in the assignment.

Nothing wrong in backing up from an assignment but I expected him to at least duly inform me of his intention. I had no idea about his expectations till the day I confronted him. He never replied to my email or hint me through a call or text.

My lesson: Be proactive and pester people to death till they tell me about what they expect from me.

Despite these lessons, I have still stubbornly refused to become or behave like one of these individuals. Here are some of my practices that I am never giving up:

  • Tell the truth, no matter what. People deserve to know what’s happening when they are a party to the matter.
  • If annoyed, show it and admit that you are annoyed. Don’t keep people guessing what’s bothering you.
  • If you have a problem (personal or professional), be forthright and say it. People deserve to know why you are not suddenly speaking or talking or acting abnormally.
  • Stop trying to be great like not sharing a problem or a pain or a hurt. Be good instead. It works in most situations and saves you and others a lot of hurt.
  • When someone does a favour, acknowledge immediately. Whether or not that favour would help is not the matter at hand, acknowledgement is.
  • Learn to give one-line replies to emails when you cannot deal with the issue at the moment. Put the other person’s mind at rest for the moment.

But hey I am in the making. I try to follow these as much as I can.

What direct benefit do I get from these? Umm, let’s see.

  • You didn’t give me a call back – I don’t hear this often.
  • It’s okay if you couldn’t complete this, you tried – that’s nice to hear.
  • I get repeat clients. Even those who hated me at first, have got back to me often.
  • Free recommendations of my work – now who doesn’t want that?

Look I am not trying to be perfect. Quite the opposite, in fact. I am trying to survive. I am barely managing in a world that doesn’t return courtesies. Also, I am trying to be less clingy when it comes to helping others. That’s a tough one. Wish me luck. ( I am not as cool as I look in this picture)

7 vital lessons Dad taught me without really teaching me

Imagine a five-year-old boy with polio in left leg swimming against the current in a river. Yeap, that was my Dad. Those days, most kids were not vaccinated.

So Dad learnt independence pretty early in life, never expecting sympathy for his deformity. He grew up to be a man who never preached without practising. At home, he preferred to set examples, fun ones most of them. He is not the sort of father who would ask you to not steal while bribing government officials for some legal paper work. He is a man of actions, not words.

This list has lessons that he never really taught us consciously. He just lived those things.

  1. It’s totally okay if people think you are ‘uncool’ or whatever they think anyway

My Dad resigned as a pastor (priest) of a mainstream church 19 years ago. That takes guts. Allow me to explain. In protestant Christian community, if you are a priest of that particular church, you are a big deal. His resigning meant we would be an outcast from the community, some of our friends would stop visiting us on Christmas, people wouldn’t want to marry their son or daughter to our family. Why risk all this? Because he felt like the church wasn’t the house of God anymore. It was the house of the gatekeepers of politics, corruption and indecency. When he continued to speak the truth, the “church officials” conspired against him. But he was mostly hurt because they had dishonoured his God. Resigning was the uncoolest thing to do back then. Some of our family friends and relatives ridiculed him. Little did I realise then that I was growing up in a world where “coolness quotient” determined people’s character. She doesn’t drink? How uncool! She has never had a one-night stand, how lame! Everyone looked for validation (read Facebook likes) on what they did. Today, when I stand for my own beliefs, value system or rules, I don’t blink an eye in making it clear to others. I am neither looking for their opinion on my coolness nor am I trying to value or undervalue people on their coolness.


  1. Own your choice because YOU made it

Dad is an ardent lover of anything non-linear. So theories seldom came first. We were thrown directly into a Houston-we-have-a-problem situation. An instance – I would be upset because he didn’t like the dress I was wearing. His opinion mattered to me. He would let me solve this problem on my own. Finally he asked me – why do you care so much about what I think? Do you love it? Do you think you can carry it confidently? I learnt from some of these Daddy-daughter arguments that life’s pretty much like it. People will have their own opinion about what I do, why I do it or how I do it. But it’s only I who has lived that journey, who had to make that choice. Why and how would others understand my choices? Choices – good or bad – must be owned proudly. A friend asked me recently – what’s that one thing you would want to change about your life? And I said – nothing at all. Even some of my bad choices made me who I am today. They left with some valuable ‘dont’s’ afterall.


  1. You cannot undo the consequences of your actions

A related lesson to owning my choices was this – I couldn’t undo what I did or reverse the consequences of my choices. One of his many favourite Bible verses is – as you sow so shall you reap. His version – you can’t expect flowers after sowing thorns. Anything once done under the sun, cannot be undone. I have seen him evaluating his choices often. He was never ashamed to admit before my brother and me how a particular decision was bad or how some of his choices led to negative consequences and regret. I may be tempted to go with the flow today but I am aware that the smallest of my choices is making an impact right now  – good or bad.

Dad on bike

  1. Keep your intentions pure, no matter what

My Dad is hard to please when it comes to prizes, achievements or grades. He often quotes the verse in the Bible – God sees the heart. This makes him more intention-focused than result-oriented. So he wouldn’t be mightily impressed by my English scores (which was never less than 95%) but would give me a bear hug on barely passing Math. Why? It was definitely not because of the whole engineering-exam fixation of the parents in the 80s. But because he knew I didn’t enjoy Math yet I sincerely worked hard to pass it. Getting highest marks in English was mostly to impress the rest of the class. I was already good in it. Sure enough my brother and I developed a habit of NEVER cheating in our entire school and college life. I learnt more from my efforts than victories or failures. And I have honestly seen my intentions affecting my happiness. What’s your real intention behind helping this guy? Why exactly did you take up that assignment? What’s your intention behind getting married? Intention is all that matters, bro.


  1. Anything that brings a smile is a good joke (yeah those dumb ones too)

This one I hate to admit but for Dad, any joke that has the ability to lift someone’s mood or bring a smile is a great joke. He can make Mom laugh almost instantly especially when she is mad at him. It’s his humour that keeps their marriage so fresh, so fun. And despite that I crib on his dumb Daddy jokes most of my Sundays, I have often laughed on them between my tears. I heartily appreciate people who can crack jokes instantly or can find humour in a weird situation. Most of all, I have come to laugh at myself and at the silly situations I keep getting myself into. That keeps life interesting.


  1. Evaluate yourself first before questioning others

Now that’s an annoying trait, bro. But Dad has a way of torturing himself mentally when something goes wrong. Before blaming anyone, he would first evaluate himself, his own decision or action. It’s only when he thinks his intention was pure before his living God, would he proceed to ask questions from anybody else. How has this helped me? The habit of introspection leaves me with a clear conscience and peace of mind even when it’s my fault. When I know I am wrong in a given situation, I also have the power to admit it and make amends. If it’s someone else’s fault, I have no control over it anyway. It’s truly helped me to move on in the most difficult of situations.

  1. Fitness is a commitment to your own body

My Dad did go through a surgery when he was about 16 and now he could use calliper . So now he could walk while using a stick (not crutches any more). Did that make him invincible? Hardly.  He was diagnosed for blood pressure in his late 40s. And ever since, he made a commitment of fitness with his own body. He walks for about half an hour every single day. He believes in the Biblical principle – your body is the temple of God. I began to follow simple things like – taking stairs instead of lifts when I can, walking or swimming six days a week for an hour, watching what I eat and so on. Most of my friends think I defy my age.

It doesn’t mean I never argued or fought with him. As a teen, there were days I didn’t like my Dad so much because I didn’t understand a lot of his actions. Yet I kept observing and realised over the years why he chose what he chose. Today I am as thankful for his rebukes as I am grateful for his numerous hugs, his candid public appreciation of my talents, his wonderful story telling sessions and most of all – his friendship.

I would like to sum up with a quote by Clarence Budington Kelland: My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.

I can almost see Dad chuckling in happiness on this line right now. Happy Fathers’ Day Dad.





The charities that don’t begin at home

I saw this self-styled charitable video on YouTube the other day. It showed the horrors of online chatting and the dangers to teenage kids. There’s a worried group of young men who are out on a mis…

Source: The charities that don’t begin at home


The charities that don’t begin at home

10671295_10152720032562356_503661282342309171_nI saw this self-styled charitable video on YouTube the other day. It showed the horrors of online chatting and the dangers to teenage kids. There’s a worried group of young men who are out on a mission to  teach the teenage kids a lesson so they wouldn’t EVER chat with a stranger or worse, think of meeting those strangers at unknown places. Everything looked all good till I saw a video where a teenage boy was lured to visit a female acquaintance after a few minutes of chatting. A sting operation. The poor kid’s mom waited at what was posed to be the address of his newly made online girl friend. The moment the kid entered the room, an adult man began to assault him only to be rescued by the boy’s mother.

Why all this drama? So the kid could learn a lesson ‘once for all’. The teenage boy’s cries and remorse left a deeper scar on my heart than anything. After watching a few more videos, I realized these men were no better than online predators. The difference is they are preying on the parents posing before them as ‘their helpers’. Unfortunately, the parents somehow couldn’t see the psychological effects their children would have and the social stigma they would have after their video went viral. Yeap, neither the parents nor the kids’ faces were hidden in the video.

What really is goodness anyway? All around me I see good people who make me feel somewhat complexed about not being able to contribute to the world. They are constantly talking about, posting pictures and writing about their charities – the good things they do each day for humankind.

Showing off your travels is a passé already, it’s the ‘goodness’ of your life that’s hotter on Facebook, Instagram and now (oh hell no) on Linked-in as well. So I see adoption pictures – in fact entire series of the whole process of adoption – ‘this is the baby we are gonna adopt, so excited’ or ‘We are short of money at this stage of adoption, any contribution is welcome’. There’s people blogging about their love for animals. I adopted a street dog. I got a golden opportunity to pull a cat out of a ditch. Some teenage boys are busy passing on ideas of how technology could be channelized towards providing education to the slum children. Hey look, use this mobile app to send medical supplies to far-off areas.


Then there are closer charities. A young boy poses with his grandparents about how he enjoyed a certain evening with them; or children talking about how important their parents are in their life’s decisions or wives saying ‘I love my husband who cooked for me today’.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not waking up to the Facebook reality of life that arrived a decade ago and unleashed the amazing lives we all had been hiding before the social networking took the world by storm. I know it’s ‘Face’ book and we all wear faces while ‘booking’ things on it but the charities are suddenly freaking me out. Could people even be faking the kindnesses or the goodness of hearts? It does seem a slightly cynical thought at first. Yet, when I look closer, I am bound to believe it might as well be so.

I see a woman raving about both her daughters on social networks today calling them the “joys of her life”. She is the same person who had some years ago sought my help in aborting one of these girls (back then just a fetus). The fact that the whole news of the abortion decision was broken before me without much remorse, today bothers me when I see her posting all these amazing things about her daughters. May be, she had a change of heart. May be, she is regretting it today. It’s probably time to forgive her.

So I switch off the cynical me for some time. But then I look at this guy who is gone abroad on a Mission Trip to teach depraved kids in a third world country. Now back home, his own third world country has millions of children who don’t have access to good education and badly need volunteers. May be, his real calling for education was in a country other than his own. I know him to be someone who never respected his parents, didn’t care deeply about any of his relationships. But look! Today we have a philanthropist.

Then there’s a bunch of people who totally miss their country because they have been living abroad. They often talk about their favourite places, hang-outs, memories of their youth and so on. Settling down in their beloved country somehow never occurs to them as the biggest act of love or patriotism of course.

It’s possible that a lot of these charities may be genuine acts of kindness. I want to believe they are. Yet, I say this at the risk of sounding judgemental, that most of these are directed toward the rest of the world. I don’t know what kind of angry words would have passed among family members before that one perfect selfie. I don’t understand how despite being rude to your own loving parents all your life, you would have the heart to think about the slum children. What’s their side of the story? Don’t they need their son sometimes? It’s painful to know that a husband who often mocks his wife cynically in public never forgets to flaunt his ‘trophy’ with the label ‘dinner with my beautiful wife’. What’s her side of the story? Is she equally proud to have a partner like him?

Personally, I have always found it way easier to influence, help or advise people outside my home. It’s the saying of ‘I love you Dad despite your daily whining’ thing that’s harder. Just indulging in little acts of kindness for those who love us unconditionally is what’s often tougher. That’s because when you help your wife in doing the dishes and your hands are so wet that you cannot take a phone selfie is when you realize this is the actual deal.

There was a stage when we did something amazing and later thought of flaunting it. We then graduated to doing things in order to flaunt. And now we are passing out with flying colours in the art of flaunting before even doing it. I am hoping there’s still a bunch of people out there who are living the acts of kindnesses without EVER thinking of showing them to the world. That’s because for this lot, the thought of bringing a kind act on the lips is enough to corrupt the intention.

Our charities are miserably failing in the right intentions. We are falling apart in empty acts and managing to live with that filthy self. We got it in the act but not in the heart. We are blinded to kind-looking actions that lack soul. We are half-hearted, we are lukewarms but we would never admit it. I remember Hellen Keller’s quote:

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.


I didn’t write this to judge my social acquaintances. I wrote this for an honest introspection as to how much I need to weigh my intentions before ‘acting’ or even actually doing anything. What’s my heart’s intention? Am I driven by a feeling or just a rush of adrenaline? Did I do it out of a natural bent of my personality or just so I could appear to be ‘the bigger person’? I wrote this as a reminder that I need to be more and more forgiving laying down real world examples without ‘acting’ them out. I want to appreciate the day-to-day mundane kindnesses that I come across once in a while than seeing the whole world with a goggle of fake humanity. It’s my heart that I am most worried about.

There’s a beautiful Bible verse that says:

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”


Love in the time of startups!

One more time a beautiful survival story that she read in the paper moved her to tears, and made her stomach ache so bad. She noticed the wrinkles on her hand suddenly as she held the glass of water. The fluid burnt her throat as it gushed down her spine. It was this 15-year old boy from a remote government school who had made it to NASA. She knew who was behind the now glittery success story of an ordinary boy. She knew that extraordinary heart too well, the one that had broken her own, years ago. And she had gladly embraced that hurt for the sake his dreams.

She never wanted to tell her own story of sacrifice to the world. Not even to herself. It wasn’t a sacrifice really, it was just the most apt thing to do at the time. Startup was the buzzword back then and hundreds of young hearts had decided to quit jobs and start their own enterprises. It was like this craze, a sort of fad. For a major chunk of youth, it was an expression of a revolt against a corrupt society, the system and most of all their parents who often loaded their own dreams on to their children’s shoulders. But for many others, it was the perfect time when they could get the courage to really do what their heart longed for. It was like a worldwide startup revolution where people didn’t have the time to love, to desire a companion in flesh or to share souls with a mate.

They were all too busy to prove a point or disprove it. Some wanted to change the already changing world. Others wanted to look different by doing what most of them were doing. He just wanted to nourish others’ dreams. He liked protecting people’s dreams inside his palms. He didn’t care if he was different or same or even sensible. He knew that was his only shot at triggering what was left human inside of him. He didn’t have a choice, really. It had to be.

She was the lover of all things beautiful. Their thoughts kissed, their feelings embraced each other, their souls ached with longing. Yet, he knew all too well what this meant. He could only afford one passion in a lifetime. He couldn’t live with both. He couldn’t divide his heart. He loved her too much to inflict a half piece. She was content with what he had but she knew it would destroy him. He never told her how much he loved her, wanted her. She never insisted upon it. Not everything needs telling.

She suddenly awoke. She had fallen asleep on the couch. The paper had slipped out of her hands on the floor. She held it again. The photograph of the boy looked dim. She grabbed her tainted glasses. Wiping them with her sleeve, she looked closely through them. A memory hit her hard. The eyes. “I want to see the eyes of these children shine in joy with opportunity,” he had once told her.

Was her sacrifice worth all of this? Her stubborn heart ached again. ‘It wasn’t a sacrifice, it just had to be,’ she reminded herself.




Before you say sorry

Before you say sorry, consider this


Demand not forgiveness

Nor burden them with pleas

Say it gently but mean every syllable

Even before you say sorry

Get into their shoes

But expect not to understand

Give them some time to heal

Way after you say sorry

Leave them alone if you can

For they may have memories bitter

Desire not a lot of flowers

Just before you say sorry

Let the scent of love

Do the needful on its own

And try not to smell revenge

When you finally say sorry

Demean them not when they take time

Or judge them for the cold

Would you have forgotten so easily?

Ask before you say sorry

Say sorry out of deep regret

Not as another ego trip

Count their tears not yours

Before you say sorry

Keep not a record of their faults

Or plan a sweet revenge

It’s your need not theirs

When you choose to…

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It just takes a moment to look up!


Pity yourself for a day. You realize it sucks. And the world will embrace your stronger self more easily. Heck, pity yourself for your own sake. To get your own hug. And before you know it, you would learn to laugh at yourself.

For a change, listen to a bunch of parrots chirping at night. You will know nights are as beautiful to them. Even they can be nocturnal like yourself. They may be finishing off an argument over equal rights to female parrots, started during the day. Or a couple parrot may just be fighting over who brings food for the kids. Thank God they don’t have internet.

Fight jealousy for just one day. And see how beautiful it is to see the guy you like being happy with that other girl. Don’t they look cute together? So happy and content. It feels great to be elder one and…

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The hospital canteen sequence

The hospital canteen sequence.


The hospital canteen sequence

Things do happen. The details around which you weave several fictitious sequences of life. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful place. Sometimes it’s a hospital canteen where they serve this amazing Chai Special. The smells of antibiotics make each sip heavenly. There’s a waiter who looks across from the serving desk. He bends a little from the upper partition of the steel desk and steals a glance. He always looks amused in this particular sequence. I always find myself sitting opposite him, sipping. Of course, there’s someone else sitting right across the table. He is with me. He has a common name. He, like the waiter, is a regular in this one. So we are sitting and sipping. I am struggling to control the blush of emotions on my face. In vain, yes. He is unfazed, staring and searching my eyes. We are in a serious situation that doesn’t concern us. It’s a common friend whose sickness has brought us together on this table over a cup of chai. We both love this friend, obviously.

He is seeing me for the first time. You know when two people sit face to face and become self-conscious of the ugly curves of their faces. The actual seeing. So every word that my eyes speak is like a brand new addition into his vocabulary. He is also reading the punctuations. The question marks, the exclamations, the semi colons and the full stops. He will know any minute now that there never was a room for the commas.

I am acting normal. That’s quite a task. For once, I am not thinking of my chapped lips or the inner strap that is showing from my tee or the extra greasy corner of my nose. I don’t care if he finds my face pretty or ugly. I am just trying to handle the same emotion he has on his face. Boy, that’s driving me nuts.

Of course there are these absolutely bizarre topics. Too much antibiotics make human bodies immune to some medicines. Kejriwaal is not the answer to our problems, it’s us who need to change. Many people thought ‘Baby’ didn’t have a suspense, how silly! Most espionage movies don’t have suspense. Ha ha. The blaring news channel directly over his head is the perfect setting for these random topics.

They said there’s a silence before a storm. I waited for that silence. But the storm is already brewing. It’s too late. I am seeing it in his eyes. They are telling me he had always wanted me. He didn’t know if he loved me. He still doesn’t. There was just never the right time, or the right intention or the right phase or whatever the rights there were. I wanted to skip this part and nurse the grudge and let it become a balm.

It’s too late now. My eyes are hungry to send the forgiveness signal. He is focused now. He is not missing a single chance of catching my eyes. The topics aren’t helping anymore.

‘ I have hurt you.’ I am avoiding his gaze. My cup is empty. His is half-full. I put both my hands on each of my eyes, as if in fatigue but basically trying to alter the emotions. That does the trick for a few seconds. He is studying every nook of my face. He is not embarrassed anymore. Oh wait, he is sorry.

His eyes find mine. I try the plastic smile but even that façade betrays me. I have a strong urge to scratch my nose at this point. I am extending my hand instead. He extends his, oddly. See you soon, I say, knowing well I never will.

As I descend the stairs in no particular hurry, the smell of freshly brewed chai wafts through the air again.