Category Archives: Writing

Poetry Pharmacy

(In tough times, one needs to seek solace in poetry. And that’s what I am doing. Almost 25 years ago, on an autumn evening, I found this poem on the wall of a friend’s home in New Delhi. My love for this poem was instant. Later on, I asked another common friend to write (rather copy) the poem on a piece of paper and give it to me. He was gracious enough to do it for me. Since then, I have changed cities, jobs and homes but this poem neatly written in my notebook has stayed with me. My attempts to search this beautiful poem on google have not been successful. Hope, you all will enjoy this) 


Everyone walks the way he can,

Some with their chest ajar,

Others with only one hand,

Some with identity card in pocket,

Others in their souls…

Some with the moon screwed in their blood,

And others with no blood, no moon nor reminiscence with them.

Everyone walks able or not,

Some with their love in grumbles,

Others hidden in altered skin.

Some with life and death beside,

Others with death and life astride

Some with a hand on some other shoulder,

And others on the shoulder of another.

Everyone is walking because he is walking,

Some hopeful with a person,

Others meeting none on the journey across,

Some through the door opening,

Or so it seems to the road,

Others with a door on the walls or dream on the air perhaps,

Some not having begun to live,

Others too not having begun to live,

But one and all walk with their feet to chains

Some on the road they themselves made,

Others on the ones they didn’t make and all those they shall never make.

——— Roberto Juarroz



There is no Other

In few hours from now, the year 2017 will go behind the curtains. This is also the time to pause, contemplate and ruminate. This year has been a year full of violence, aggression and lack of empathy. The streets of India are becoming mean and violent. People are being targeted for their food on the plate. Lovers are being dragged to courts because they are from different religions. Attempts are being made to put the all-encompassing beautiful Hinduism in a little black box.  On social media, it’s difficult to have a discussion without receiving choicest abuses. If you are sensitive and compassionate then you are a micro-minority.  Everyone seems to eager to vent his/her anger towards an imaginary ‘Other’.

How does one live life in the midst of so much of distrust, anger and violence? How do we bring up our daughters and sons? How do we move forward as a nation and improve our pathetic yet supremely pro-rich health care and education? How do we improve our Human Development Index? These are the questions that have disturbed me a lot in 2017. How can our daughters walk fearlessly on our streets, play a game of hide and seek in our parks and gardens? How can our daughters say ‘No’ to relationships that they find stifling and not face acid attacks and violent attacks?

It’s time for us to pause, contemplate and ruminate.

How do we move forward ?

The answer lies in “The strength to love, the courage to love.”

This also reminds me of the heart-warming story in which a disciple asks the great sage and teacher Ramana Maharishi, “How does one treat the other?”

Ramana answered gently, “There’s no other.”



The Art of Stillness

I enjoy reading Pico Iyer. The other day while trying to sail through the madness of the newsroom and stiff deadlines, I took a little break and ordered online a copy of  Pico Iyer’s The Art of Stillness. I decided to give my favourite Amazon a miss and chose another site (No, not Flipkart). Well, I chose this site  because it was offering me a price which was Rs 22 (when you convert, it’s far far lower than one dollar) less than the offer given by Amazon. The lure of saving money.




This was my first purchase from this site. My heart says it will be last too. Little did I know that this site took the title of my book  very literally. They true to the title of the book decided to be STILL for many days and weeks. They taught me to practice The Art of Stillness in real life. I waits and waited.

The stillness turned into movement when I received the book two days back after I had forgotten about it completely.

The slim book is a pleasure to read. I m not rushing through it.

Like slow cooked mutton biryani, I m savoring it.

Slowly. And slowly.

20 years : The story still unfolds

It’s a special day for me. Today I celebrate 20 years of being in the world’s second oldest profession i.e journalism. I came into this exciting, ever-evolving world by my sheer love for news, a desire to tell a story. And after 20 years, I am still madly in love with the art of telling a story. Today, I look back and ruminate about the lessons I have picked up from this journey :

Life is uncertain and that is why it’s so seductive, so intoxicating. Everyday, we journalists come to work without having an idea about how the day will evolve in the end. What will be the big story at the end of the day? I remember one mild November evening in 1996. Our editor-in-chief was telling about it being a very dull day (news wise) and we were all discussing what would be the next day newspaper’s headline. And exactly after 30 minutes, we got a panic call in the news room. And then came the horrible news of the mid-air collision at Chakhri Dadri which killed 351 people on board. We all stayed at the office till the wee hours. And for quite some weeks, the editor-in-chief did not even utter the word ‘boring day.’

Life lies in details. A wonderfully written story will lose its charm even if there’s a ‘small’ spelling mistake. Some years back, I did an interview with a leading theatre personality and director. My editor praised me for a ‘well-written interview’ and I went home happy that night. The next day, I woke up to horror. The reason: the desk person did not pay attention while doing a spell-check in the copy I had written. And the theatre personality’s name Rita Mafei was published as Rita MAFIA. And to top it all, she was an Italian (So ‘Mafia’ became more deadly in this case)  I wanted to go underground that day. However, Rita was gracious enough to say ‘Even prominent international newspapers have done similar mistakes.’ And she had a hearty laugh too.


There’s no greater virtue than compassion.  You can’t be a good journalist if you are not compassionate. If somebody will ask me about that one quality of mine which I am proud of as a journalist, I would say: I can talk about anything to anybody with dignity and compassion. So, whether it’s a riot victim, a cancer survivor or somebody who lost her entire family to the killer Gujarat earthquake of 2001, people have opened their hearts and shared their story with me. They did so because I was just listening to their story with compassion. Not judging them.

What you have is yours. Having less is fine but hold on to your ethics. When I started my career in 1995, it was a meager salary. Money wise, it has never been a luxurious journey. But the thrill of chasing a story, meeting deadlines, coming up with new ideas, conversations with new people almost everyday is so fulfilling that the lure of making big money doesn’t really look appealing. Living in big cities, working for premier publications bring in lot of temptations but to stand there with your head held high and not falling prey to temptations gives you a high. I have never ever had a free meal in a restaurant in the last 20 years and I am happy that way.

Cut the excess.  I am passionate about editing. My friends tease me by telling that I can even edit dry cleaning bills. Editing has taught me the art of ‘saying more using less.’ It has also taught me to look beyond a life of excess. Less can be more. There’s an elegance in telling a story in a concise way. Most importantly, it has taught me to be dispassionate. Whether it’s my story, my favourite colleague’s story or my husband’s travel article, the craft of editing rules over love, affection. Emotions are relegated to the background. The ‘scissor’ is the ultimate winner.

Be in sync with change: When I first started my career, we had no idea that one day the internet will be so overwhelming in its presence. It has changed the way we read, write or gather news. The times have changed. Today, we look at both print and web stories as part of our profession. So, as life unfolds, always be open to embrace change.

Look beyond the tag: I often remember that ‘nameless’ person (from a small place in Haryana) who made a phone call to PTI office in New Delhi  to tell us about the mid-air collision. He kept on saying, “saab maine dekha…maine dekha (I saw it, I saw it).” For a journalist, every source is sacred. Don’t dismiss a person just because he/she can’t speak English or wear branded clothes. Be open to embrace stories from anybody and everybody. The same goes for in life. Don’t live in your cocooned world. Take a step forward and ‘feel’ people.

Knowledge is power: The world might say anything but knowledge is powerful. Senior colleagues of mine read five to seven newspapers in a day. Everyday they add something to their knowledge. There is no limit to knowledge. I talk a lot to my younger colleagues about music, tech trends, college campuses, cafes and dating. That keeps me clued in. So, when somebody plays ‘It’s yellow’, I know it’s Coldplay.  Well, on a lighter vein,  that makes me ‘thanda thanda cool cool’.

Jaipur Literature Festival : A collage

Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) is a collage of different voices, conversations, colours, moods and happiness too. This collage follows from that essentially. I was there as a participant not as a journalist. Yet on many occasions in life, I see the world through the eyes of a journalist (thought not consciously). Here goes a collage of images that have stayed with me.

Listening to Naipaul:  I skipped my lunch to listen to V S Naipaul. But I must say, I was very sad at the end of the session.. Even though he said talks of sunsets now make him sad, listening to him made me sad. Looking at him sitting on a wheel chair on the stage, I couldn’t help thinking about life, the cruelty of age and of course sunsets. The questions put to Naipaul by Farrukh Dhondy were anything but interesting. Naipaul every now and then kept on telling, “Is that enough, Farrukh?” At some point in life, life somehow steals our flamboyance, arrogance. And then you just turn around and see a setting sun on the horizon.

Of rains, chairs and bees:  Rains forced me to continue to sit at one session as I had the most prized possession in JLF — a chair. So, like a true risk-averse middle-class person of 70s India, I decided to cling to my safety net (read chair). Sometimes, safety can give you a pleasant surprise too. The session i attended was on bumble bees. It was an eye-opener for me to get a glimpse of how  this large beautiful universe operates and how much we need to be in sync with nature. Mindless development and urbanization are going to cause huge harm to us and our environment as it causes bee loss on a large scale. Eventually, it will disrupt beautiful harmony of life and nature. I felt like a student in an exciting classroom.

Mythology matters: India seems to be in a mood to revel in its wonderful world of mythology. So, the sessions by Devdutt Pattanaik and Amish Tripathi were jam-packed. The best part is that you can actually connect myth to contemporary life. As Devdutt said, “Myth is subjective truth, it is transmitted from generation to generation.  Is your truth fact or fiction?  What’s the truth? Who decides what’s truth? Objective truth is singular. Subjective truth is plural. Science is about measurement. But you can never measure infinity. It’s a concept. It’s the Indian thought.”  We indians have always worshipped trees, rocks, rivers, mountains. We have happily embraced different streams of thought. We are becoming intolerant as a society now because we are now obsessed with objectivity.  I can’t agree with him more.

Bollywood rocks: There is no running away from Bollywood whether it’s cricket, politics or literature. The sessions by Bollywood personalities like Javed Akhtar (I fail to understand if so many people enjoy listening to poets like him, why poetry books are struggling to sell in India… or is it all about his B-Town connection), Naseeruddin Shah and Prasoon Joshi were all packed to the T. Talk of being star-obsessed.

Of overcoats, boots and stoles: Most of them look like clones of each other. Or to better to put in the market language, “assembly-line production.” So, you can see scores of women flaunting overcoats, boots and stoles. Not to miss over-sized rings on their fingers. Age seems to have stopped somewhere in this whirpool of clones. Liberalization has robbed India of its diversity even in wardrobes. Sad, indeed.

A journey and more: During the four days I spent there, I met a number of people who have travelled all the way from Seattle, Tel Aviv, Cape Town, London. And in India, people came from Bengaluru, Kochi and Kolkata just to listen to their favourite authors.

A chef called Vikas Khanna:  When some of my young colleagues drooled over Vikas Khanna and fought with each other to interview him, I didn’t take it seriously. A friend’s daughter kept on pestering me to share his mobile number with her (she was ecstatic when she came to know that I have his mobile number). But seeing young girls, women in their 40s and 50s literally falling over him was a sight in itself. It’s liberating to see women lusting after a chef instead (or I should say in addition to) of cricketers, film stars and singers. Vikas had a real tough time to find his way through the never-ending maze of his fans. When he said on a lighter vein, “I will take questions only from boys,” there was collective sighs and ‘oh nos’ from the fairer sex. He is one sizzling hot chef, I must say.

Basic instinct: Nothing wins like basic instinct. Novelist Hanif Kureishi deserves a standing ovation for his deadpan wit. He feels there’s too much of sex happening everywhere. He said, “We are living in generalized perversion.” So the challenge lies not in writing about pornography but in writing about happy marriages where two people are still happy to be together even after being together for years. When American writer Nicholson Baker talked about how he got his first lessons on how babies happen (like there’s male chicken and there’s a female one (if I remember correctly his mom explained it to him)),  Hanif said, “That’s why you love KFC.”  And when there was a question about how pornography is becoming mainstream in the light of Fifty Shades of Grey now being made into a movie, Hanif said with a straight face, “Yes, it will be released on Valentine’s Day.”

Chai pe charcha: It wouldn’t be fair to say that Modi has made chai more popular. Judging by the long queues at the Pushkari chai (pic included here) stalls, our humble chai can give the Bollywood stars a run for their money. At Rs 30, the steaming chai in a kullad gave an earthy, warm feeling on a cold day. The colas will be always there but there’s something intimate about that little kullad chai. I have always maintained that Modi is a master strategist. And I would be happy if he  fails me in future. Even if that meant spending Rs 30 or more for chai.


Of sweet Baklava and sadness : I am not a great fan of baklava. But that day in JLF, I just felt like having one. When I went to the counter to pick up the sweet (after paying Rs 40), I got a baklava which was smaller than (now unavailable) 25 paisa coin. Size can sometimes really make you sad (even though sexologists across the world now vigorously maintain that pleasure has nothing to do with size).

Low-cost happiness

When I booked my Bangkok ticket for Rs 48,000 in October 2014, my friends got into a collective mourning phase. So, for almost two weeks, they kept on telling me , “Oh, for this amount (and a little more), you could have gone to Istanbul, London, Paris…” Their never-ending list covered almost all parts of the globe other than Antarctica (that was really generous). And in typical Indian way, they never forgot to add, “This money is too much for Bangkok. You got a really bad deal.” Well, the Bangkok trip was done only to make my very close friend happy as she wanted to spend her birthday with me in a third destination. I am an old soul who doesn’t believe in always calculating, adding and subtracting in life.

But my friends’ constant talk of my Bangkok ticket did something to my psyche. So one of my bucket lists for 2015 was to experience joy, happiness at low cost. So, I chose to go to Jaipur to be a part of the much-talked about literature festival. And I decided to make it a low cost one. The natural choice was to go by the Indian Railways. I am challenged in many spheres of life (the list will be longer than UPA government’s scam lists).  With great difficulty, I opened an IRCTC account but I could never log in as it kept on telling wrong password (The password was a combination of my name and my ex love’s name. May be the Indian Railways found that it’s not ‘ethical’ for a married woman to have such a password).

But then there are always somebody or the other to come to my rescue. So, by the grace of the universe,  one of my colleagues offered to book my ticket from his account.  When he asked, “A two-tier AC ticket?” I said “No, no…book it in three-tier AC (I wanted to go slow on every penny).” The hotel in Jaipur where I stayed was definitely a drool-worthy deal. It’s a nice small heritage property (however, In Jaipur/ Udaipur, it’s very difficult to find a non-heritage property (every hotel’s name ends with ‘palace’ and this was no different). The highly involved owners of the ‘palace’ hotel make sure that it’s well-maintained. The only drawback is that they don’t serve non-vegetarian food. So, I missed having an omelette in the breakfast. But it was a small price to pay for a wonderful deal.

The organisers of Jaipur Literature Festival definitely deserve a toast for keeping it free. So, for four days I got to listen to writers/thinkers/philosophers/scientists from across the world on a variety of subjects without spending a penny. There can be no greater happiness than reveling in knowledge.

When you are in the Pink City, it’s natural to indulge in some shopping. I have a put an embargo on buying clothes. So, I bought a beautiful bed-cover, bangles for myself and my cook and ear-rings for my cook’s daughter who also works at my home. The shopping sojourn deserves another post which will give a slice of life in India.

I came back to Ahmedabad as a much happier person with loads of stories from the lanes and bylanes of the Pink City and of course from Diggi Palace (the venue of the Litfest). And all this did not cost me much. Who says happiness needs to have a big price tag?