Managing WhatsApp

The WhatsApp forwards are at it again! Why is it that if you transport something by car, it is called shipment, while when you transport something by ship, it is called cargo. Quite intriguing! Well it does not mean that I read or listen in all the WhatsApp forwards. There are few and far between that capture my attention. Till recently, I have seen people bidding adieu to Facebook due to whatever reasons but escaping WhatsApp is something that is still unheard of. But it is true that this digital monster takes away most of our precious time these days. When I was a kid, the social media was not yet in place and we had to go back to the available books to pass time. In a way, it did some good to us. It is not that we missed anything. But these days, WhatsApp connection is a must for survival it seems. Whether it is our school friends or office colleagues, we have to remain connected and absorb all the good or bad that is thrown in our direction. Even in schools, it has become a fashion to connect and discuss every small thing pertaining to a field. So, my daughter has not yet got a phone so it means that I have to keep track of what other students are doing in a art or theatre group. Family groups are considered sacred and if someone posts too much or too little, they are put under the radar and might have to receive comments ranging from “Oh, don’t you have anything worthwhile to do” to “you are not at all concerned about us”. The WhatsApp admin is a relatively new position and his/her task is to keep the group in running condition. And if the admin responsibility is donned by more than one member then it is utter chaos. The only WhatsApp group that I like a little are the society groups where useful information is shared as and when required. The fact of the matter is that if you are doing any deep work then you should distance yourself from social media, but if you wish to hog the limelight, you have to pay for it too. I am not in favour of leaving everything and putting your head inside the sand as if nothing matters. The best approach is to be a part of these groups and have a balanced approach for handling the bits and pieces of information that comes your way. Hope you find a way to manage your WhatsApp amicably. All the best!!

Lockdown Diaries

So yes, it is a stupendous situation that we are in and nobody could have thought that they would witness something of this kind in their whole life. We have a lot to tell our grandchildren that we witnessed this pandemic and came out of it, unscratched, well not really. The gravity of the situation can be judged from the fact that countries all around the world are witnessing spurt in cases and there is nothing much we can do to control it. The vaccine is awaited and its only through social distancing and basic hygiene that we can overcome this covid devil. Yes, it is a devil which has evolved from bats and can spread alarmingly fast if we don’t follow basic precautions.

Our PM has been constantly connecting with us and asking us to be confined to our homes till the devil goes away. His last address to the nation was categorical as he talked about making India self-reliant, but I feel that during the lockdown each one of us has become aatmnirbhar in our own ways. Yes, we have! So, the lady of the house has to manage everything without the support of the elusive bai and she is doing well. Not only that the man of the house and kids too help out in daily chores like never before. I am surprised to note that we are capable of doing so many activities in a day’s time. It is as if we are from a different world altogether. Working moms, dads, children taking online classes have all evolved and are becoming self-reliant.

Families are contemplating saying goodbye to the “bais” altogether. This stems from the fact that the sales of dishwashers and vacuum cleaners have sky-rocketed and people are feeling in control of their stuff. Maybe the maids will be back, but their tasks will be curtailed. Some people do not yet want to get back to normal and would rather wait for a few more months. Quite reasonable on their part. It will of course take time to accept the new normal and get over corona fears. But there will be many relaxations post May 17. Let us get back to life slowly and take the necessary precautions. As one of my friends put it, each one of us will get it, it’s a matter of when. So corona might strike us and it is up to our bodies to develop the antibodies against the virus so that we can be safe in the most natural way!

Book Review: Winter Garden

The story of Winter Garden is something that builds up bit by bit. It is a story within a story and is pretty slow at first. It’s about two sisters, Meredith and Nina, and their mom, Anya who has been very cold to them all her life, and they couldn’t understand the reason for the same. When their father is on the deathbed, he takes a promise from the daughters that they will listen to Anya’s fairy tale in detail and try to know more about their mom.

After his death, Nina cajoles Anya to tell them the story and slowly but surely they uncover that their mom is actually Vera and has a past that they know nothing about. Vera’s family and her kids had witnessed pretty hostile situation during the Second World War. They come to know how Vera dealt with the war situation and lost her sister, mother, and son under extreme circumstances. I got very emotional at one point when the story turns very gloomy when Vera details out how they went through life without food and how she even fed her own blood from her finger to her son, whom she couldn’t save from the clutches of death. That’s the reason why later in life she was very interested in cooking and always used to cook much more than what was required. She had seen very bad days in life.

This book beautifully illustrates why it is important to know your mother’s past to be able to understand your own bearings in this world. Indeed, I felt that Vera was a very strong woman who did her level best to tide over the disturbing war conditions but sadly the impact of that experience on her life was so profound that she could not get involved and participate in her daughter’s childhood. The mother daughter relationship though is presented in a warm manner and one does feel that Vera should have disclosed the secret much before to her daughters. But it all comes together towards the end.

The latter part of the book is actually a sad account of the extreme living conditions that Vera had to face during the war. Later in the story she does come out of her shell and starts interacting with her daughters in a friendly and open manner. I would say it was a beautiful read towards the end. In real life, some moms are very communicative with their children while others just go through the chores without much thought. But a healthy mom-daughter relationship is required to be successful in life in general. This book drives home this point as well.

Birding trip to Surajpur Bird Sanctuary

Before I go ahead and tell you how much I enjoyed birding at Surajpur, I would like to stress that reconnecting with nature has both physical and psychological impact that is good for human health and well-being. Keeping that in mind, it is time to introspect if your outings are just restricted to closed spaces. If that is the case, you need to get some fresh air too! In times of smoke and pollution all around and the air quality index shooting off the roof, a morning visit to a bird sanctuary will help calm your senses and will prepare you to take on life as it is. Though to be frank, I was myself coaxed to be a part of this birding trip by hubby and my daughter.

We started early around 6 am and reached Greater Noida in around one and a half hour. The parking was almost full and people of the birding group that we are a part of were already there. It was cold but pleasant and we started the walk into the forest-like space. A narrow ‘pagdandi’ helped us keep track of the direction. We got to see many boards with details of the birds that we could find in the wetland vicinity.

Soon enough, darling daughter started taking quick shots in succession with her camera to capture the birds idly resting or flying around. Some common sense rules of birding include maintaining silence so that the birds are not scared away. In addition, you need to wear clothes that act as a camouflage so you do not become the object of attention. The birds need your attention, not the other way round.

The walk was refreshing and we wanted to linger on for some more time. I would like to recommend this place and have also added a few pictures so that you get the overall idea of the place. So, wake up early and visit Surajpur to be one with nature!  

Udaipur Diaries

I had heard that Udaipur is called the city of the lakes and when I got there it was much more beautiful than what I had expected. It is also called the ‘Venice of the east’ due to its lakes, gardens, havelis, and forts. As we went to see the amazing picturesque spots in Udaipur, one thing became clear that this place was loved by the tourists and locals alike. This city was founded in the 15th century by Maharana Udai Singh on the advice of a sage he encountered on his hunting expedition to Lake Pichola. The sage bestowed his blessings that the palace the king builds will add to its prosperity. The boundary of lake Pichola was clean and free of litter which seemed to be an achievement in itself. Lake Pichola looks resplendent and you would like to instantly take a few pictures out there. This city has, for decades, inspired everyone from authors like Rudyard Kipling to filmmakers. The James Bond film Occopussy was extensively shot here.

So on the first day, after settling down at Lalit Laxmi Niwas palace, we headed off to the City Palace to witness the rich cultural history of Udaipur. It took us a couple of hours to take in the beautiful City palace after which we rested for some time in the Sunrise Restaurant. Then we headed off to the boat ride to the Jag Mandir, which is located at the center of Lake Pichola. The boat ride around the lake should not be missed as it will rejuvenate you beyond doubt. We also visited the Sajjangarh widelife sanctuary where we were able to spot many wild animals. There are golf carts functional there which will take you to the enclosures and bring you back to the fort exit. We also visited the Hathipole market where we did some shopping. But a word of caution here. Don’t trust the Uber drivers in Udaipur. If you want a cab, you should prefer Ola over Uber which are easily available. If you wish to explore the local restaurants, you can reach Chand pole by the cab and then walk up to Gangaur ghat. There are many good restaurants there. One of them is Café Boho, which we liked very much. The atmosphere is very warm and welcoming and the food is good too. Same is the case with Yummy Yoga which is a rooftop restaurant. But you will have to climb staircases so think before you plan to go there. We had our breakfasts at Padmini, which is at Laxmi Niwas and would like to add that the breakfast was good. However, when we tried out Aangan restaurant inside Laxmi niwas, it did not live up to the expectations.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Udaipur and then headed off to the next destination, Jodhpur.

Bijay Niwas – More than a stopover

If you are planning to drive to Udaipur from Delhi or Gurgaon by any chance, then stopping by in between might be required as it requires all of 11 hours to reach Udaipur from Gurgaon. Bijay Niwas Palace is an excellent stopover in between. It takes 7 hours to reach Bijay Nagar from Gurgaon and it would give you a much needed break. We reached Bijay Niwas around 5 pm in the evening and found to our surprise that we were the only guests there. We had booked a suite in advance and were elated to enter the grand haveli like setting. Bijay Niwas comes across as a quaint, little place where you can forget all your tensions and can relax in the lap of nature. Our room had a balcony attached to it where we spent a lazy afternoon eating pakoras and French fries and having our tea in the evening sun. The room had an old rustic feel to it as the switchboards and fans were quite old fashioned though all modern amenities were available in it. The whole palace had a central theme which was reflected in its tapestry and linen. It was last day of the year and we were amused to know that we will be treated with a bonfire out in the open. They also gave us an option to eat outside near the bonfire but we declined as the biting cold edged us to come inside once we took the warmth of the bonfire and enjoyed outside. It was a memorable day I would say as we were treated like royalty by the staff and served a wholesome three-course meal. We also spent some time near the swimming pool in the evening as it made us feel fresh and energetic. All in all it was a good decision to stop by at Bijay Niwas Palace and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have some peace and quiet for some time.

Book review: Ikigai

If you are still searching for your ikigai or raison de etre, it’s time to look deep within. This book deals with staying young as you age and finding your purpose in life. If you are struggling in life and have not yet comprehended the real reason you get up in the morning, this book is for you. It is even more relevant in present times when stress and pollution are resulting in further shortening of the human lifespan. It is like a breath of fresh air.

According to various surveys and studies, Japanese people live the longest and it is because they keep themselves busy doing what they love and never retire. Their keys to longevity are diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life and forming strong social ties.

If you want to jot down your reasons to live, a logotherapist can help you with it. Logotherapy pushes patients to consciously discover their life’s purpose which propels them to move forward and confront the obstacles of life. The book offers several case studies through which the basic principles of life have been explained.

The power of flow in everything you do has also been touched upon in this book though you can read Mihaly’s book “Flow” if you want to understand it in greater detail. Basically, there is no sure shot way to find the elusive happiness but if you can develop the ability to be in a state of flow, you will literally achieve happiness. The book outlines various strategies to achieve this flow or optimal experience.

This book also provides you with the experiences of supercenteniarians – people who live to 110 years or more. Last but not the least, the book provides 10 golden rules to achieve ikigai in life. If you are already feeling eager and excited, go grab a copy of the book and find your ikigai in life!

Screen time dilemma

Half-yearly exams are ending tomorrow and finally I have got some time to put my thoughts to words. More so, because the only exam left is the third language and darling daughter is well-equipped to deal with French on her own. I am not exactly a passive listener for other subjects and try to give my two cents in the time of need. And yes, Google baba is always there for us when we get stuck.

Moving on from the family brouhaha, today I would like to bring up the topic of ‘screen time’ which was almost absent in our times. These days, kids are engulfed with various categories of screen time, starting from television, tablet, laptop, and our very own favourite gadget, mobile! So one thing after another and there you go. Children do not have time to lift an eyelid or go play outside; remember physical activity is a must. They are glued to the available gadget whenever they can make fool of their parents. I have noticed that some parents in an attempt to complete their work at home themselves provide these amenities to their children. They will do their own work while the child happily watches youtube videos to the hilt. Even infants these days would not eat their food if they don’t see a specific program on the tablet which the poor bai holds right in front of their eyes…

Coming to the point, needless to say that I am not against the concept of screen time, but I feel that it should be restricted by the parents and should be available to the children under some form of supervision. It is for the experts to decide how much time should be spent by a child in front of the screen. It should not happen that the child’s eyesight suffers due to the neglect by the parents. That’s the reason why grandparents are again in demand these days as they can at least engage the child in a conversation and distract his/her mind from the screen.

There are parents who are giving a mobile to their children at a young age of 10 or 11 but it should be used under guidance. Similar should be the case for all other screens. Most importantly, there should be some emphasis on the family time when either everyone eats together or are engaged in an activity. What do you feel about this topic? How much screen time are your children getting?

General musings

This month saw the untimely passing away of two stalwarts of BJP, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. It is indeed a sad month for the party as these leaders are irreplaceable. The void that they have left cannot be filled by anyone easily. Both the leaders were very knowledgeable and had a large fan following across the nation. May their respective souls rest in peace.

Right now I am a little excited on hearing the news that our very own badminton player, P. V. Sindhu has won the World Championship. Incidentally, it is her mom’s birthday and she has dedicated her win to her mother. What a nice piece of news to end a Sunday with. Sindhu was trying to win for the last couple of times but could bag the medal this time round. Coach Gopichand must be on cloud nine and why not. It’s a big honour for the nation.

The situation in J & K is slowly returning to normal. It will take a lot of time though. Due to the militancy, the development could not take place but slowly people are realising that the government decision to scrape Article 370 was the right one. Recently read about a couple who left their high profile jobs to settle down in Laddakh and help in the overall development of the region. Thanks to them, solar panels have been installed in many schools and children are getting the education they so rightly deserve.

I have been reading a book or two and the next post would most probably be a book review. So, stay tuned!

Book review: Educated by Tara Westover

Time for a book review on gutfeel. Read on…

Educated is a memoir by Tara Westover which has quickly climbed the success ladder due to its neat prose and simple writing. It is actually the story of Tara from her childhood days to the present. There is a flow in the book as when you will pick it up you would want to go back to complete it as soon as possible. The setting is of Buck’s peak, south western Idaho in America where Tara’s family lived. They were actually Mormon survivalists who did not believe in sending their kids to school. Tara’s father suffered from bipolar disorder and the family had to witness his ideological mania over and over again. Her mother was a midwife and herbalist whose business prospered later in the day and she gained much reputation with her herbs and tinctures.

Tara was the youngest of the seven children who had to study on their own as there was no emphasis on the studies. Rather, children were made to work in Gene’s junkyard scrapping metal and cleaning other stuff. Whenever anyone got hurt they were not allowed any medical care as the father thought that it was against the wishes of the lord. So when Tara has tonsillitis, she is made to stand in the sun with her mouth open so that it gets healed itself. When Gene gets burned, even then they do not take him to the hospital though the burns were severe. They make do with the balms that Faye prepares for Gene.

When Tara joins a singing group, the clothes they wear are termed whorish by the father. The negative influence of younger brother Schwan on Tara is evident throughout the book. He would get mad with her if she did not do as expected.

Tara is interested in studies and tries to clear the ACT so that she can join college. She just didn’t want to do the junkyard work anymore. While at BYU, she gets exposed to the outside world for the first time and her professor sees the spark in her and sends her on a scholarship to Cambridge. From Cambridge, she further goes on to Harvard for her doctorate. She does have a few boyfriends, but she is unable to confide in them about her family.

Educated just shows how someone who was not even homeschooled properly can go on to achieve the degrees that most people would die for. To be frank, real education is not really about the degrees but is a freedom of choice and facing reality with all your guts. It means living with passion and doing what you love most so that you achieve the real purpose in your life.