Upper Crust and Pie Crumbles

And what will the lady have?’- (Gentleman who works at the restaurant)

‘A Vegetarian Red Thai Curry please’-(Me)

‘Oh my so much food! Their servings are quite big, you sure you can finish the whole thing’ (Man)

–Gentleman brings a medium size bowl of red curry, Man buts in with comments like most Indians who have arrived (financially and socially) and can’t control their tongues-

‘This big bowl can feed your entire hostel (with big animated eyes as if he saw a pot of gold instead of the Thai curry) Where did you go to law school in India? Bhopal right? That tragedy struck city right?’

-Man starts talking to others on the table-

Felt like vomiting the thai curry on the Man  (Me)

Yes, the above conversation happened around 3-4 years ago on a rainy afternoon in an ambrosial Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen (Don’t get me started on the terminology!) in New York. The monologue made me lose my appetite and took me as usual to my writer’s universe. Whenever I encounter such people who cannot get over themselves, I start to doodle and caricature them in my head. The Man was a top-level, polished and highly educated international diplomat. He belonged to the Lutyens Delhi breed of humans and wore this accomplishment on his suit. I am positive his suit must have costed the earth. He was in my lingo, the ‘Upper Crust Indian’! This is the highest level of crusts that an Indian can achieve. Solid education, solid ‘phoren’ education, solid marriage to a woman with incredible assets (financial and the not-so-financial bit), the solid oxford accent and of course the solid life in the Upper East Side. The only thing I felt wasn’t solid enough was his lack of awareness and sensitivity in the description of Bhopal and the gas tragedy that struck the beautiful city on the spine chilling night of December 3, 1984. Also, for some strange reason he thought we didn’t get enough food in my hostel. Anybody who went to my law school and stayed at the Girl’s Hostel are well aware of the quantity (not necessarily quality) of food that was available (they were stingy when we asked for second helpings of desserts). The fact that he worked for an organization that espoused peace, equality, rule of law and human rights was a contradiction to his nose-sniggering opinion. This isn’t uncommon and we Indians pride ourselves on climbing a mountain and mercilessly cutting down the ropeway for others.

How many of you have faced persecution at the hands of your own countrymen/women? I bet most of you. It was only while reading Giriraj Kishore’s Girmitiya Saga about the underpaid and overexploited laborers in South Africa in the early twentieth century that my flickering belief was confirmed. The moving book is poignant account of the journey of the Father of my nation from Mohanlal to Mohandas and eventually to Mahatma. The author without mincing words explicitly points out that Gandhiji’s establishments in South Africa such as Tolstoy Farm and Phoenix are in a shameful state of ruin and that the inter-squabbling among the Indian community in South Africa prevents any actual constructive work from taking place. This beautiful facet of ours welcomed invaders with open arms to ransack the country. We quite haven’t learnt the lessons of divide and rule.

On a deeper level of contemplation, the unhealthy competition and the constant ‘monkey minded’ urge to crush each other, is due to the survival instinct ingrained into our DNA by the incessant flow of invaders into the homeland. The need to survive is so ferocious that we are ready to root out any teeny-tiny possibility of healthy competition from our midst. It is not restricted only to the elusive phrase of healthy competition, it goes to all levels of the pie, whether you are a part of the ‘cherry’, ‘cream’, ‘cake’ or ‘crust’ you face a tempestuous level of psychological warfare. Readers might think it is a far too exaggerated account but trust me, anybody who has been desirous of being a somebody (a rather significant one) has faced the maximum backlash from their own countrymen/women and community. As a result brain drain isn’t a problem it is a consequence of the above mindset. This mindset doesn’t fortunately take one to an exalted level of being. One is left occupying either the upper crust or becoming a pie crumble, not an originalist who pushes for change for the better.

What would you pick? Part of a yummy dish or coming to terms of making the world a better and harmonious place to live in? Lets leave you with this.

My Lord Krishna

In the winter of 2012 when I was rowing my way through law school, I got an internship in Bengaluru as a legal writer for a famous online legal portal. The internship was a total waste of time as most internships are when you’re a law student in India unless you have a legal background or a powerful acquaintance to boast of so that they let you get involved with core work. Except for the internship, my stay with a lovely family and a chance meeting with Lord Shri Krishna’s words on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, made this experience an unforgettable one.

One particularly sunny weekend, I visited a bookshop in Indira Nagar, the neighborhood where I was staying. The bookshop was one of Bengaluru’s oldest and they had miniature versions of Hindu texts and stacks of religious mythological books. The Times of India had recently come out with a miniature version of the BhagvadGita in Sanskrit with English translations. Little did I know that this beautiful book would change my life forever. I never was a very religious person nor had I deep faith in the magic of God’s creation. I was a rebel in law school and looked at everything with too much sarcasm and pessimism. The Godfather and gangster quotes made more sense than the vibrancy of life. In that bookshop I picked up my own copy of the Gita and casually started flipping the pages out of habit on seeing a new book. The miniature version did not contain a description of each of the couplets and was a mere translation of the 18 Chapters.

Through 2011 to the beginning of 2016, life brought weird challenges, both personally and professionally. Like an individual in the age group of 20-26 years, I went through a series of crests and troughs more personally than professionally. A host of bad decisions impacted my outlook towards life and people in general. Along the rough terrain, I somehow made it a point to read the BhagvadGita everyday as a part of my morning routine. Bathing in the text of the Gita removed the fogginess of stereotypes, typecasts and an autopilot mode of existence. It is rightly said that when you are poor, religion offers you a sense of comfort and gives hope through bleak times. Well I was indeed poor, I was experiencing the emptiness that one feels for not being able to  fully exploit their potential. My Krishna was helping me get out of the straight jacket that materialistic forces and the society had strapped me into. Gradually, the red miniature BhagvadGita piqued my interest and I began to start my day with one couplet of the Gita and one couplet before going to bed. I would often wonder how Lord Krishna gave Arjuna so much strength when he was confronted with the towering army of the Kurus. It gave me peace of mind that Shri Krishna was nearby. His words resonated –“Let your thoughts flow past you calmly, keep me near at every moment, trust me with your life, because I am you, more than you yourself are.” I guess these were the early stages of  bhakti towards my dear Lord. I was swimming in the shallow waters of the mystery of the Universe and was yet to connect with the Supreme Being within myself. Years passed and life’s experiences turned more sour. Nevertheless, despite the disillusion, I still clutched to my BhagvadGita and navigated my way through life with a little bit of faith and flickering self belief.

Jump to the fall or autumn (for readers comfortable with either American English/British English) of 2016, I came back to Penn Law to complete mandatory courses required to take the New York Bar. By then the negatives of life hardly affected me, it was like just another case you lost in Court. I left a cushy job and a fine life in the Indian metropolis for a bigger plan in life all because an inner voice told me that this can’t be it. It wasn’t the motivation to seek material pleasure but to do something worthy of my life, to use my skill and legal profession as a means to put a smile on one’s face if not a hundred or thousand (I can hear the cynic’s guffaw, I was there once myself). Not that I didn’t enjoy my life in the concrete jungle; a great workplace, lovely money, new friends and more than a comfortable place to stay. But my subconscious was pushing me for something that I was yet to figure out. Little did I know that going back to Penn would give me my answers.

It was on a windy evening in the October of 2016, when I was strolling through Centre City in Philadelphia, that I stumbled across a young girl selling used books on the corner of Walnut and Chestnut Street (I love Philly and you’ll soon know why). My good friend P was there with me, and we just had a sumptuous European lunch at a nearby bistro. P is from Fiji and is firm believer of God herself. At that book stall, I came across BhagvadGita As it Is by A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami PrabhupadaThat was it! my bhakti would take a deep dive and bring me completely out of life’s autopilot mode. The fortunate people who believe in Lord Krishna know that Prabhupada ji is the founder of ISKCON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness), and started to what is commonly referred to as the Hare Krishna Hare Rama Movement. I am too small a person to describe the magnificent work Prabhupada ji has done for the welfare of mankind by spreading the word of God or Krsna (as spelt in Prabhupada ji’s writings). In  his magnificent life of 81 years, he wrote more than 35 books on nurturing love for God and spreading the message that devotion and bhakti is the only way to reach ‘Godhead’. Just listen to George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and you’ll know what I mean.

This write up will never justify the kind of evolution I went through as an individual. In Vaishnavism, it is often believed that the Supreme Being Himself choses and controls the time and moment we lesser beings come closer to Him. God certainly works in mysterious ways.  As I began reading Prabhupada Ji’s Gita every morning, my habits and lifestyle gradually altered. Early mornings have always been my most favorite part of the day, but while reading Prabhupada Ji’s Gita, I made a conscious effort to wake up before sunrise. This wasn’t to torture myself but to pay respect to my Krishna before I could start my day’s duties. I developed an interest in yoga and have now made a habit of practicing everyday. I even started singing and humming songs in praise of my Krishna. (I wrote an article about my singing chords and I had no clue loving God could make you sound mellifluous) Can you believe it? Me, who would relish in the intellectualism of literature and who thought religion and faith coincided with orthodoxism; Me! I fell head over heels in love with Shri Krishna. God’s only message is to love and have respect for all living beings, how I thought God meant being orthodox  was a habit developed by jumping onto assumptions without reading the complete facts.  It is not difficult to fall in love with the Blue Boy who plays the flute and is the Master of this Universe. My Krishna unlike humans accepted me without conditions, without once paying heed to the thought if I was good enough for His standard, or had any shortcomings.

I started seeing  Krishna in every living being and in the wonders of life from an animal to plants and trees to the people to everything that was on Earth. I stopped eating meat because whenever I consumed it, it would make me sick (this does not mean I despise those who eat meat; tolerance is the biggest tenet of faith and spirituality). I turned vegetarian and learnt to cook several recipes that Lord Krishna would like as described in the holy text of Srimad Bhagvatam and in the recipe books by the members of the Hare Krishna Hare Rama Movement. In Vaishnavism and even in the BhagvadGita, Prabhupada ji explains how we humans take everything for granted. We are entwined with the concept of yours and mine. We treat the food we purchase or receive for granted as if it is our right. Prabhupada Ji spells out that everything belongs to Krishna and we are mere puppets in His masterplan, so before we relish anything, a thank you note won’t make us small. Our possessions are only with us till we are alive, it eventually goes back into Earth like our bodies, so how is anything mine or yours or his or hers? I started wondering about the sun, moon, stars, weather, seasons, nature, animals; all fulfilling the role set out for them without questioning the result of their action. The sun still wishes to rise in the morning for our planet despite we humans quarreling and fighting among ourselves and creating environmental destruction in the race towards power. All animals and living beings have been given vital organs to find for themselves but only humans have been given or rather have been blessed with the power to think and make this world a better place. So what is it that stops us from finding our true selves and ignoring the beautiful way of life as set out by the Almighty Himself? Ego perhaps?

I believe the grueling experiences of life were a blessing to break the ego and sculpt a more compassionate self who is no longer afraid of fulfilling her duty without caring for consequence and is no longer hesitant in discovering the fullness of life. This is the first piece on my blog after a gap of almost five years. This time, I am more determined to pursue my love for writing and bring out more stories from my world, the legal profession and of course Lord Krishna. What better way than to start with my Krishna’s name and a brief description of how I discovered Him. How blind of me to not see that all this while He was in my heart waiting to be loved…

O’Riordian Chords

If you, if you could return
Dont let it burn, dont let it fade
Im sure Im not being rude
But its just your attitude
Its tearing me apart
Its ruining everything
And I swore, I swore I would be true
And honey so did you
So why were you holding her hand
Is that the way we stand
Were you lying all the time
Was it just a game to you.”

I wish I had a velvety and breathy voice as Dolores O’ Riordan. Linger is one of my favourite songs because Dolores brings out the passion so effortlessly that it makes you linger onto the song. The clear Irish accent while pronouncing words like ‘by’, ‘confused’ seems as if her mellifluous voice is tip-toeing on the words and just before she completes the words, her voice curls and continues with the next word in her song. Oh I wish, I could strum away confidently with a clear voice to tune of Linger!

I am not a crackerjack in music but humming along side the splash of water gets me my Linger moment, that to without an audition. There are some lucky souls who are born with a voice as clear as a distant bell. Mine seems like an obese cat screeching between the wires of a guitar. 4 years of law school has definitely taught me not to twist facts, so I will not couch my voice in exotic terminologies as ‘different’, ‘urbane’ or ‘husky’. I am a pathetic singer and definitely abashed about it.

My stereo is punched right in the middle. My stereo becomes a melody in the ripples of water, obviously due to some physics mumbo-jumbo. Songs which need a high-pitch turn out perfectly in the shower.

Joan Baez’s huskiness can easily be acquired if you sing standing right underneath the shower. Celine Dion’s melody can be attained if you leave the tap running in the background. (oye! Don’t leave the water running for too long, Micheal Jackson’s Earth Song is an inception of a dangerous and near reality) Dido’s breathy tune is very easy if you hum close to the water. Shreya Goshal’s smooth rendition is a possibility if you keep splashing water on yourself. Reena Bhardwaj’s sweet intonation is a bit tricky but the right amount of water will sift all the scratchiness in the voice to give each one of you, your own Eureka moment!! I’ve honestly not tried Bryan Adams, Frank Sinatra or Ronan Keating for that matter but if your vocals are deep and croaky enough, the above can be easily achieved. Touche to that!

So with a wee bit of voice-shopping here and there with water, Grammy no longer remains an outrageous dream. And if you’re still lingering on how to get O’Riordan’s vocal cords, just eat something sweet and quickly gulp down water…just linger onto the words and there you have it-

And Im in so deep
you know Im such a fool for you
you got me wrapped around your finger
Do you have to let it linger
Do you have to. do you have to
Do you have to let it linger”


Monsoon in November Heat in December

To quote William Henry Davies, “What is this life full of care if, we have no time to stand and stare”, has been aptly worded to illuminate the robotic existence that has befallen man. I can vouch that cent percent for myself at least. The Welsh poet also illustrates the simple bounties of nature in the most extraordinary way exciting the literary geek to experience them all over again. Why am I all of a sudden in the middle of the night with an exam round the corner eulogizing a poem? my immortal love for nature.

I remember reading this poem in the 4th grade and at that point of time in my life when I was a bonehead, did not much appreciate the poem, castigating it as another intellectual poison inflicted on us poor souls. Davies is known for his simple yet deep work which has an earthy connotation to it. My favourite line is “no time to see the woods we pass”, because unfortunately with the kind of corporatised life that I have, I hardly have time to ‘check out’ (to articulate it in the local lingo), the wondrous lush greenery that breathes in the vicinity of my current residence.

Often it has happened that while taking my customary solitary walks I have been immersed in the difficulties that lie ahead in my ‘paradoxical’, ‘not-so-legal’ life to such a great extent that I even forget to hum along to the tune of the songs playing on my MP3. Im not criticising anybody’s routine oriented life but instead verbalising the pity of me being a nature lover and not being able to do anything at the time when it needs me the most.

Especially to look at it from a technical point of view I am a student of law, so I have the widest infinitude to exercise my ‘legal’ and ‘analytical’ skills to save my darling from the perils of nirvana. Unfortunately, most of my time goes in cursing why the Almighty put me into a particular situation (my fatalistic self comes to the rescue in such cases) which I disapprove of. Anyways coming back to the point, I think its time for me and even you to do something for Mother Nature. I’m not trying to rouse a rally here, even a teeny weeny bit of contribution in the healing of my first love (it’s even before Mr Darcy) would suffice.

Nature has its own sui generis way of healing the soul. I call it ‘my zeal’ as its always been there when Im holding a warm mug of coffee and looking outside my wiry window pouring over my thoughts or when I’m standing in the balcony staring at the twinkling sky wondering where life will take me or even when I feel anti-hakuna matata and I need to take a walk; it’s always there by my side animate or inanimate. Since its been my constant companion in times of sorrow, anxiety and happiness I want to make optimum utilization of the miniscule intelligence that I have, in being able to resuscitate my friend.

Everyone is aware of the lamentable state the environment is in, I need not quote any tiring statistics. Like any other friend I don’t want nature to languish into an irreversible state where I can no longer enjoy its companionship in a breezy walk along a narrow lane. I want it to be alive and kicking as never before so that all of us can enjoy the magic of its infinitude.

To conclude my midnight literary venture, let us all come forward and do our bit for the environment not because it’s important or sounds intelligent but because it’s a friend whom we are talking about here and you always, no matter what, help your friends in times of need. Don’t you want a clean future for yourself and your not-yet-born kids? Since working for the environment starts in your own backyard, let’s try to make our place of residence clean and pollution free. I am very much aware of how most of us are cynical and dissatisfied with the present circumstances, but please let’s not take out our anger on poor Nature.

Oh and in case the above lines made you ‘sob’ then please obey the following, even if it didn’t (you viscous goon!)  just read it for the sake of criticism:

  1. Switch off electricity when not in use (It’s just a matter of moving a finger, trust me it’s almost like texting!).
  2. Switch off the geyser. (A sprinkle of cold water will not paralyse you).
  3. Throw garbage which includes smoke-stubs in the dustbin (Don’t blame the dogs, as Lord Krishna has said do your duty leave the rest to the Admin). It’s seriously a disgusting sight to behold; the campus splattered with ‘kachra’.
  4. Try reusing the polythene collection u possess, instead of getting a new one. Crumble it up and it will not take much space in your back-packs. (If 400 students stop using fresh polythene bags we can do wonders for the planet)
  5. Please do not toy around with the empty plastic crockery, once you’re done with satisfying your taste buds.
  6. If you see a pile of rubbish anywhere, please report it immediately to the Admin. (Lawyers make things happen!)

Remember, in Nature there are neither rewards nor punishments, only consequences!

Whoops a Daisy

I remember going through the pages of my first classic novel- an abridged version of Pride and Prejudice. The sundry romance between Lizzie and Darcy and clash of personalities as ably portrayed by Jane Austen made me fall in love with the Victorian Era. Earl Grey Tea society was what I longed for. After that Jane Austen’s Classics became a conduit for acquiring the tastes and sensibilities of Victoria’s England. Though, sense did not prevail, which I was to realise later.  I too basked in the animation of waiting for a Darcy, like so many other damsels who fell in love with the ‘hero’. After consuming all of Austen’s work I went on to consume movie adaptations of her novellas. One of the main reasons adoring Austen was she gave a medium to bibliophiles like us to live our own fairy tale. A woman well read and well versed in different sciences would be considered a danger to promising suitors.

Jane Austen remained a spinster throughout her life, though managed to grab headlines by having an affair with one of the Lord Chief Justices of Ireland. She made nerds like me be wooed by the handsomest (and richest obviously) men of the country. She laid the groundwork of a plain but witty jane being pursued by a wealthy suitor. Barbara Cartland and Mills & Boon loosely derive from her masterpieces. Jane Austen created for female bibliophiles a world of happy and prosperous endings.

I considered myself an Elizabeth with a sprinkle of Fanny-ness and a dint of Emma-ness waiting to be discovered by a Darcy. I wouldn’t let the Fanny Price or Emma partake the Elizabeth in me, because it was Lizzie who got Darcy from the rich estate of Pemberly. Notwithstanding the fact that Fanny and Emma both got their share of happy endings, but it was Elizabeth’s romance which made your tummy somersault in glee. All these damsels were distressing my grey cells. Being a bibliophile is a tough nugget because you place yourself on a different plain all together. You know you have probably read more than your ancestors did in their lifetime. I tried to be the intellectual bibliophile who would rant away judgments like Lizzie, quote literature like Fanny and have the blunt nose on its toes touching the troposphere like Emma.

After waiting for quite some time for a Darcy, [my entire teenage years that too], the gush of rebellion and revolution rubbed off me. The wait made one look outside oneself for happiness and contentment. Like my peers who enjoyed the freedom of anguish, abuse and altercation; Victoria’s England condemned me to cross the Rubicon line dividing dandy Englishness and brash nihilism. The discomfiture of etiquette paved the way for my surging interest in FEMINISM.

Suddenly slogans like ‘burn the bra’, ‘kill patriarchy’ seemed tempting than the arduous wait for Darcy.  Virginia Woolf’s Room of One’s View became the new solace. Her beliefs afforded us the laziness of a long summer afternoon without having to worry about appearances. If Darcy wanted a Pommy Elizabeth then he needn’t be pine-d for. Though Virginia Woolf herself abhorred feminism, her views branched out from the same tree. Femin-opia sneezed out radical Austen-opia from my system.

I was dandling between two extremes. One symbolised the triumph of self and the other the triumph of union. Which one was superior? I reached a deal; Union would only triumph if the self triumphs. Consequently, two halves make one. The question is each half that wholesome enough to complete a union? How lucky are most of us to get a complete half? These questions rattled my brain and till date I cannot arrive at an answer. Could there ever be a middle path? Not for those who’d call a spade a spade. It would probably be best to not pay heed to that particular part of the brain receptive to such whimsies.

The pace at which social-mingling occurs is frightening for those playing the middle monkey between the above ideologies. They try to catch the ball from a convenient angle in a desperate rush to animate their literary adventures. I can say without the slightest hint of crimson that I belong to this category. We try to shun ourselves from the surrounding 4th gear like environment. Even the Almighty prefers to watch you play from the stands. In that case, I too become an incomplete half.  Thus my aspirations for a Union are far-fetched and hypocritical. A safe distance from ‘annihilation’ is much better than evaporating yourself.

Which tale, theory should I stick to? Or should I even keep a reference point? Can I ever be without a reference point? Queries creating mumbo jumbo in my grey cells