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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Captured and Frozen till eternity

One of the easiest ways to understand the meaning of 'Happiness' is to watch a person's body language. And it gets even better if you are are able to capture that moment forever. 

I was lucky for I managed to do just that. 

One lovely morning at the beach in Muscat.

He was so happy and I was so happy just watching him.

Then I clicked.... 

....Hey presto. 

Happiness is...

Here it is
Frozen till eternity

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fomo, Nomophobia, Keeping Up with the Joneses and Social Media

When we were growing up, the term ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ was routinely used and inherently implied one of two things: a) Keeping up with the Joneses was not a nice thing to do for one could always go ahead and carve one’s own niche b) It was exactly the ‘thing to do’ and heaven help those who tried otherwise.

I’m happy to say that I decided to take a middle path – did what I had to, and managed to keep an eye on what others were doing as well.But in today’s world, that same phenomena has taken on and is rapidly moving further towards ‘gigantic’ proportions. Here’s the story of how I arrived at this conclusion.

Last week while sipping my coffee after the weekly groceries were done, I was fairly absorbed in a newspaper when I heard two female voices referring to each other as 'fomo'-addicts.

Much merriment followed and the conversation moved on to some other topic in a while. But my curiosity had been aroused and discretely looking back when I could, I noted that they must have been in their early to mid thirties.

But the term had got to me and definitely needed to be checked out because (and here I confess) I hadn’t heard that term earlier. A quick Google check when I returned home, and this is the definition that I liked best.

The Urban Dictionary, defines fomo as "fear of missing out" – The fear that if you miss a party or event you will miss out on something great, then goes on to give us a sentence made with that word, “Even though he was exhausted, John's fomo got the best of him and he went to the party”.

I think that sentence really does say it all! And I clearly understood what the two women in the coffee shop were giggling about.

On a more serious note, look around and it will become clear, many of us are now in the grip of this 'fomo addiction' – the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what we’re currently doing.

Goes without saying, that this has been magnified by new technology such as Facebook and Twitter and the ever increasing tribe of social media sites, which relentlessly broaden our scope for comparison.

While I’ve written about the many plus points of the social networking experience in a few of my earlier columns and blogs, it is important to clearly take note of the very real potential pitfalls as well.

Think about a young student who hasn’t fared well in his or her board exams and is trying to avoid meeting people. So what does that person do all alone?Probably turn to his or her computer and eventually get to one of these sites where all the others are reveling in their glory and receiving congratulatory messages from common friends.

The very thought of what this young person goes through is so depressing that I'm choosing not to expand on it any further.

On a related note, did you know that nomophobia, the fear of being without your mobile, affects 66 per cent of us? In the latest study, of the 1,000 people surveyed in the UK, 66 percent said they felt the fear.

Young adults – aged between 18 and 24 – tended to be the most addicted to their mobile phones, with 77 per cent unable to stay apart for more than a few minutes, and those aged 25 to 34 followed at 68 per cent.

That number is up from a similar study four years ago, where 53 percent of people admitted to the phobia. Think about it enough and you might realise that you’re probably in that category too and I confess that I’m probably half way there myself!

So what are the solutions? This is something that each one of us will have to clearly define and prioritise for ourselves as there is no single or correct answer here.

The balancing act is probably the most difficult one to manage and if we have the will, there will always be a way. Here’s welcoming September with the hope that cooler weather will be here soon and in order to wean yourself off a possible/exiting 'fomo' or 'nomophobic' condition, I can only suggest that meeting and bonding with friends in 'real time' is a good way to make that start....

(NB- This piece was originally written for my column My Take in Muscat Daily)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

What 'best' memories are made of

Last evening  I spent some time looking at some old photographs. Correction,  they were not really'old 'photographs, but they date back to just about five years ago.

And what I saw saddened me somewhat. Because many of the people in those photographs were no more. Particularly, those who were in their seventies then - I counted and at least six of them weren't alive any more.

I spent some time thinking about it, then realised that there was really  nothing that anyone could have done about it. All of them had died of age related illnesses and despite medication and hospitalisation, they eventually passed away.

Memories are made of this
As the old adage goes, 'time and tide really wait for no one' and the fact of the matter is that all of us will be gone one day. All we can do is to keep the happiest memories of  those who are now gone, close to our hearts and every now and then take a break, pause  and reflect on the best they had to offer us.

So one of the best things one can do is to look at a flower, a garden, a sunset and think of them. For memories are truly made of these and by associating the things we love with all the things they loved, we are definitely doing the right thing.

That of keeping them alive ...forever...

Sunday, September 6, 2015

No Accident-A Short Story

It happened on Walker Hill on a beautiful summer afternoon. The accident that people talk about till today and just can’t understand how it could have happened.

Or why?  

But for some of us who know better, it is clear- it was no accident. The Honda car that was involved in the accident had gone over the protective iron railings and of the three men, travelling in that car, one was dying and the other two gravely injured with multiple  fractures and severe bruising. And in the moments that Jatanbir breathed his last, he told his father Harjit and brother Amandeeep, ‘It finally managed to get us. I knew all along that this would happen one day, the only thing that I didn’t know was which day would be my last. Look after yourselves and please….please look after my children.”

A tortured breath escaped his lips, his eyes rolled up and he finally found the peace that he had been craving. Finally, in death, if not in his entire life of 43 years.

On a beautiful summer afternoon

For that I will need to tell you a little about Walker Hill. And later, I will tell you how that accident happened. Or at least, the version that Harjit and Amandeep told us.

A small town on the outskirts of Shimla, Walker Hill is built on a hill, 5 km west to the Shimla Ridge and is a part of the seven-hill cluster.  In the past, Walker Hill has been used as a residence for Mahatma Gandhi, who stayed here at the Georgian mansion of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur during his Shimla visits. These pine and deodhar laden slopes have many quaint residences, like the one belonging to the family of painter Amrita Shergil (1913-1941).Besides being a popular tourist destination, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (established 1965), housed in the former Viceregal Lodge, which was built in 1884-88, is on the nearby Observatory Hill. Today, it hosts the Himachal Pradesh University, which mainly offers post graduate programmes in Humanities, Commerce, Science, Management, Law and Languages, and was started in 1975.

In the early 1930’s,  a wealthy landlord from Punjab, Sardar Tarlok Singh Sachhar bought an estate called ‘Oakley’ from Brigadier David Bryant, an Englishman who had made India his home after retiring from the Indian army. Sardar Tarlok Singh knew he had managed to get that estate at a real bargain. With over 20 acres of land, apple orchards and a large, beautifully built main house with 5 bedrooms spread over two floors, indoor plumbing, water and electricity, it was an absolute delight. And so it became the annual summer retreat for the entire Sacchar clan, including his bachelor son, Manvinder and three daughters Kulvinder, Sukhpreet and Amrita who would congregate there for the summer vacations bringing their children with them. It was an idyllic time for all and they absolutely adored the fabulous weather, the picnics in the orchards complete with teatime treats- including clotted cream and strawberry jam sandwiches, scones and fruit cake, or at other times, a packed lunch with delicious dry ‘chicken masala’, ‘sookhe aloo’ and ‘paronthis’ as they were called in Punjabi.  

And they had a free run of the entire estate, all except the old garden shed in one corner of the estate. Sardar Tarlok Singh had made it clear to all that it was the one area that they must never venture towards as that was the reason why he had managed to buy Oakley at such a bargain. Just before handing signing over the property to him, Brigadier David Bryant had shared the reason why he was selling the estate that he had grown to love so dearly and moving back to Oxford in England. He was convinced that his son Captain Jason had met an untimely death at the hands of Kamalini, the innocent and beautiful gardener’s daughter who he had enticed, impregnated and finally deserted when she had insisted that he must marry her. When he had outright rejected her and his unborn child, she had gone to the garden shed in one corner of the estate, locked  it from inside and hung herself on the wooden beam that ran from one end to the other.

By the time her father, the gardener Roshan Lal finally managed to break down that door with the help of the other servants, it was too late. She was dead, as was the five  month old baby boy she had been carrying.


It was only a few days later that Jason started to look terrified. When his father asked him what was bothering him, all he managed to stutter was that he wouldn’t be around for much longer and that no one should have any doubts as to what had happened to him when they came upon his dead body.

For Kamalini had come to him on the very next day after her death and promised him, that she would have her revenge.

As it happened, both Jason and Kamalini were right because they found Jason hanging at the very spot that Kamalini herself had been found. Some of the servants thought that it might have been a case of suicide, but Brigadier David Bryant knew better. For he too, had seen the dead Kamalini walking through the gardens in the early hours of the morning, and knew that it was a mere matter of time.

Which was exactly what he shared with Sardar Tarlok Singh when he sold him the estate and the gentleman still went ahead and bought the estate. You see, he knew that he would never be able to get such prime property for such a low price.

Time passed and after his death, his only son Manvinder inherited that estate. Or so everybody believed, as he occupied and started spending his summers there while he continued to live in Jalandhar in Punjab managing his farmlands during the rest of the year. Since he was a bachelor, there really weren’t any complications and he had a very efficient estate manager, Hukam Chand who kept his life stress free and the estates in Punjab and Himachal running smoothly.



Things have a way of changing and sometimes they tend to take an ugly turn. As is exactly what happened when Harjit, (Kulvinder's son) found a loophole in the their dead grandfather's will and decided to take matters into his own hands. Accompanied by his sons Jatanbir and Karamjeet, one fine day, they drove straight into Oakley in their 4WD, broke the front lock and after gaining entry into the main house, set up home and hearth  in the estate. Harjit was an alcoholic and had three sons of whom Jatanbir was the oldest. Jatanbir was also the most cunning of them all and despite not having had the opportunity of a college education as he was always busy trying to pick up the pieces left behind by his drunk father, he also had the responsibility of providing for the rest of the family, which by then comprised of the ‘Gen next’ as well, as he as well as his brothers were married and had families of their own by then.

From here, a chain of inexplicable events begin to unfold and things soon begin to spiral out of control. Weird things happen and one day a Honda car is seen by eyewitnesses as “ flying high up into the air, almost as if it  had been thrown up like a giant ball.“

This was followed by a loud bang after which there was only silence.

Followed by the groans of the grievously wounded and dying.


It happened on Walker Hill on a beautiful summer afternoon. The accident that people talk about till today and just can’t understand how it could have happened.

Or why?  

But for some of us who know better, it is clear- it was no accident. The Honda car that was involved in the accident had gone over the protective iron railings and of the three men, travelling in that car, one was dying and the other two gravely injured with multiple  fractures and severe bruising. And in the moments that Jatanbir breathed his last, he told his father Harjit and brother Amandeeep, ‘It finally managed to get us. I knew all along that this would happen one day, the only thing that I didn’t know was which day would be my last. 

"Look after yourselves and please….please look after my children.”


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The inimitable sounds of the violin

                                        Spotted an impromptu Orchestra at a Metro station, Paris 

There are some musical instruments and then there are some others.

One of my personal and perennial favourites is the Violin, often truly called the 'King of the Orchestra'. Going back in time and recalling the effect of it's music on my mind, I clearly recall numerous moments, some of them in some of my all time favourite movies, Thorn Birds, Gone with the wind, Love Story, Dr Zhivago and Junoon, where the violin has been magnificently used to convey a 'completeness and range of emotions, love, tenderness, pathos, sorrow, or then quite simply, happiness and joy.

The violin is a bow string instrument with four strings usually tuned in perfect fifths.It is the smallest and highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which also includes the 'viola' and 'cello'.Usually, however, the strings are not plucked; instead a bow is passed over them to make them 'vibrate'.

No instrument can do all the violin can do.At different times these are some of the emotions that I have associated with the violin. It has made me feel sad, or then, at other times, warm and good all over. 

By playing slowly or fast then faster,it has sometimes made my heart feel a whole host of emotions that are sometimes quite difficult to define. Because there are simply just so many of them.All at the same time, or then, one following the other, in rapid succession.

At times like these, I simply let the music flow over me, taking it in, and can't help but marvel at the skill of the player whose music has such a major impact.

I'm sure I'm not the only one and what are  the chances that you feel the same way too...?