Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Self-published book… Finally….

I have finally taken the big step one always wants to take but never sure of. Having read and re-read the book over and over again many times in the last few months, I finally decided it was time to take the next big step, i.e venture into self-publishing and get it published. Unless I take it out there, it will never take birth.

This is a story of a girl named Nandita, a small-town Indian girl whose journey of life is full of emotional upheavals as well as  achievements. Being inclined towards poetry, Nandita takes help of poetry to illustrate her emotions. The poems are written in Hindi as well as translated to English. The book outlines her journey that entails taking some tough decisions so that she can achieve her dreams and live her life on her own terms. 

I am quite keen on hearing from you on my book. Please do send me your feedback for which I will be utmost grateful. 

The book is available from Amazon by clicking the link below –

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Why do people resist change?

Isn’t monotony annoying? How can one be wearing the same kind of clothes everyday, eating similar food on a daily basis, doing the same thing from morning to night every day, talking about limited set of things all the time, meeting a handful of known people and going out to the same set of known places all through life?

Apparently for some people it’s the way of living their life. It’s how they have known life to be and they have no understanding or willingness to understand that it does not need to be this way. This confined limited world gives them the happiness they need and there is no need to explore beyond.

The above puzzles me. I wonder then why there is a different set of people who love to explore, who love to find out what’s more there life has to offer, who love trying out new clothes, new cuisines, meeting new people, learning about new languages and cultures, expanding their knowledge everyday maximising the usage of the wonderful thing called human brain.

Can we say that one set is better than the other? I definitely know that both the sets are required to create a balance on this resource limited planet that we live in, but at the same time I wonder why be born as a human being if there is no inquisitiveness to find out about new things, if there is no willingness to accept that treading on a journey may require you to change a few aspects of your life and may require you to be more open minded about new people, their food, their language and their culture.

The fundamental question I struggle to understand is resistance people normally have with the idea of any change. And sometimes the resistance is so strong that they don’t mind spending their entire lives in closed circuits of their comfort zone. Mind you here I am not talking about people who can’t afford to embark on journeys which can lead them to new experiences of life, my challenge is with those who don’t have the willingness to do so. Do they feel they have a purpose of living a human life? If yes, what is it?

Is human life really supposed to be linear with only a limited set of experiences as variables or is it a quadratic equation with ambitions and inquisitiveness to solve for?

What is the right way of living? According to Hindu holy text Bhagwat Geeta, Lord Krishna says that one’s way of living should be focused on their karma. He broadly defines the right karma based on the stage of life one is in – student, householder, retired and renunciation. The question is whether as a student I should only read my course books or be open to explore books which expand my knowledge further? As a householder should I limit my family outings only to the local area or if I can afford then should I put in efforts to show them around the world? As a retired person should I focus on giving up household responsibilities to sit at one place and meditate on God, or should I start taking up social work more seriously and work towards making the world a better place for my next generation? And finally during renunciation does the supreme lord want somebody who only did the same thing everyday and focused on attaining Him or somebody who lived a wealth of experience and left a legacy behind?

As I have been writing this, it has become clearer to me as to what is my way of living, hopefully it helps you decide yours too!

Monday, September 11, 2017

How to teach baby two languages at the same time

As a new parent one thought that made us quite nervous and eager was to imagine how our child would sound when they speak those first words. What would those words be and in which language. I remember a lot of our friends saying how in their experience they have tried teaching their child more than one language but ended up having to satisfy themselves with only English. No matter what they would do, the child just would not respond in any language other than English. I also heard theories of how it can get confusing for kids to pick up multiple languages at the same time. But really is there a bar on the number of languages a child can pick up? I doubt it.
I have myself grown up learning four different languages spoken in India! Hindi and English are languages spoken or understood in most parts of India, Bengali because I was born and brought up in Bengal (so the interactions with a taxi or a shopkeeper would have to be in Bengali) and finally Marwadi which is my mother tongue – we originally hail from a western Indian state called Rajasthan which has Marwadi as its language. Each of these languages I could read, write and speak very fluently. So did I get confused as I was growing up? Was I able to do it because I was an extra-ordinary child? Did my parents do anything so differently that it cannot be copied again? The answer to all these questions is No. However I wanted to make sure I can try it out on our toddler before concluding that the process works. So what is the mantra that can solve this puzzle?
It’s simple – provide the child the right amount of exposure to the languages you want them to pick up. In my case I had exposure to English at school (I educated from a school with English as the first language), my mother used to speak in Marwadi with me and she made my father speak in Hindi with me (in fact it has remained the case till date). I learnt Bengali from speaking to friends in the locality or playing with them. Therefore the guidance is simple. However the implementation is more difficult – especially when you live in western countries where the families are small and there is not much interaction with neighbours.
So the first aspect was for us to pick up the languages that we wanted our toddle to pick up. We chose Hindi and English only. The main reason is because these are the only two languages my husband knows out of the four I knew, so the most common ones we were going to use in our household. Our toddler started going to a day care when she turned one as joined back work after maternity leave. The day care was using English to communicate with her. So all we had to do was to ensure that we always, and I really mean always, speak in Hindi with her. Once she joined the day care and started speaking words, I remember days when she would be tempted to respond in English – as she was hearing that throughout the day and it was easier for her to explain in the same language as she has experienced it during the day. However I would not react to what she would tell me. I would instead add the following in Hindi – “Sorry I can’t understand what you are saying as I only understand Hindi”. She would realise what I said (although sometimes she would try again in English but without luck) and translate it in Hindi for me. There were few such instances before she realised that inside the house it is Hindi and outside the house it is English.
Now I have a toddler who can communicate in both the languages and I don’t see her confused at all. In fact she surprises us with the amount of words she knows in each language and translating it for us when she is looking through flash cards for animals, fruits and vegetables.
All in all, I believe that the fact that more languages can confuse children is a myth. In fact it is the exact opposite – it would actually make them more confident knowing that they can communicate to a wider audience!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Decision making in life

Why is life sometimes confusing? Why is life like a puzzle sometimes which you can't solve? Why is there no mobile app which you can just open and it will have solutions to daily dilemmas?

The problem is when you are ahead of the curve you want to ensure that you have accounted for all the permutations and combinations of possible situations that may arise in future. This means that you think a lot, you work out a lot of maths, you prolong your decision making. 

I am the kind of person who does not believe in regretting. I think one should think through their decisions in depth so that whatever they decide is the best for them given the circumstances. And if that's the case, there won't be any regrets in the hindsight as you know that you had no other better choice given those circumstances.

Also I am not the person who give themselves endless amount of time to arrive at a decision. I start becoming restless after a point. I am quite an opinionated and determined person from that perspective and therefore I don't like it when I struggle to take a decision. 

Also I have realised that as we grow older, taking decisions become more difficult. Not because your decision making abilities have reduced or anything, but because your life has become more intertwined with others and therefore any decision taken has more impact than earlier. The number of constraints to account for have increased and therefore it has become a complex optimisation problem, a solution for which is hard to deduce.

As I said earlier, if only there was an app which would take the question, ask you to feed into it all the constraints and considerations to make and then on pressing Solve button gives you the optimal solution and a series of sub-optimal solutions to choose from. This can be a useful second opinion from a third party who is not directly associated or emotionally attached to the decision being undertaken. Think about it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

With my toddler in India

My toddler is soon going to be 2 - "terrible two" I hear you say! Time has flown like a "rocket" - a word I discovered today she already knows whilst showing her a flash card with a picture of a rocket on it. She has grown up fast - learnt to speak even faster. Like every year, we spent the time between Christmas to well into middle of February in Indian amidst family. This long trip to back home once in a year is a much needed break that just helps to realign our axis and put us back into the zone. As I already mentioned in my previous article, this trip included holiday spent in the foothills of Govardhan parvat, and visits to Krishna janmabhoomi of Mathura and Vrindaban. Trip also included memorable experience to one of the seven wonders of the world - the Taj Mahal.
After this vacation lasting for 5 nights, we spent some family time with my in-laws in the wonderful town of Rishikesh. They showered love on their grand daughter to bits and spoilt her to extremes. However the good thing that happened before we went on the India trip was that she had already started speaking clearly all the words needed on a daily basis. Therefore, managing her had become much easier. Words like "apple", "ball", "water", "thirsty", "food", "sleepy time", "mumma come come", "poo-poo", "standing", "sitting", "slide" etc she could easily speak at 18 months. However the long India trip helped her to built a strong vocabulary in Hindi - so much so that we had the opposite problem by the time we reached London - she had forgotten pretty much everything in English and was able to form complete sentences in Hindi.
The reason she has been able to pick up learning two languages / numbers (1-10) / all basic shapes / all basic colours / alphabets (A-Z with a slight mess up around L to P) all by 21 months of age is because of her style of learning. She would repeat everything she hears multiple times. She would even repeat instructions given to her like "bring the ball" in whichever language before acting on them. Like a robot (as my mother calls her), she first repeats instructions given to her before executing them. And sometimes cleverly also declares her execution of those instructions with correctly amended verbs.
From Rishikesh we went to Delhi to attend a big fat Indian wedding. From dance to drama, from food to fanfare, from rituals to recitations, from creativity to lots of colours, from gorgeous to glittery, the wedding had everything. Toddlers have a way of having fun when they sense fun all around them. They only make fuss when they are bored. With a busy toddler who had lots of people attending her, she was having a blast. When toddlers are busy and active, they eat well, therefore sleep well, therefore play well, get tired and again sleep well - it's a cycle that is not vicious but desirable.
From Delhi we had a flight to catch to Guwahati to attend another wedding on the same day - now from my side of the family - son of my mother's sister. Whilst my toddler was not giving us any problems even after so much of travel, my husband's stomach left no stone unturned to trouble us. It was upset with all the rich food he had been eating. This meant that at the airport he was more attending toilets than us. And this resulted in the ultimate situation - we missed the flight!
It was the morning of 21st of January at Delhi airport that we were supposed to catch the Air India flight to Guwahati departing at 10.15 am. We had hardly slept the night before as we left the wedding past mid-night to reach out hotel for packing. We left for airport quite early, conscious enough that we did not want to miss the flight with a tired toddler. At 8.35am we took our boarding passes. However amidst attempting to feed her breakfast and my husband's frequent toilet trips, somehow we only reached the boarding gate at 10.00am. We had not had any breakfast ourselves, not even a drink. At the boarding gate, the duty manager - a lady whose appearance was rude and condescending to say the least - without even bothering to look at us stated that our flight had already departed. "How could the flight depart at 10 when it's supposed to depart at 10.15?", we asked collecting our breath. It obviously had not departed as we could see the aircraft and she was on the walkie-talkie asking the ground staff to locate our luggage and de-plane them. They had found one of the two suitcases and she was screaming at them for not being able to find the second one. We told her nicely - "Ma'am we realise that we are 5 mins late. Please understand that we have not eaten anything since morning and did not delay willingly. The time you are spending in de-planing our bags, you could instead use that to board us into the aircraft." Obviously she did not listen to us and had made up her mind. She left the counter to physically go down herself and search for our second bag. After spending a few minutes talking to other staff, who were realised were all junior to her and therefore had no powers to over-rule her decision, we were left with no option but to come out of security and reach the airline's baggage check in counter again. The idea was to get a new ticket for a later flight issued.
However God and luck was on our side that day. Our mistake was honest and genuine. So when close to Air India's counter I decided to first go and talk to the Air India supervisor in an attempt to see if anything could be done. The frequency of flights to Guwahati from Delhi is very limited, and the wedding we were due to attend in Guwahati would be missed if we boarded any later flight. Due to that lady's insistence to de-plane our luggage, that aircraft had missed their 10.15 take off slot. Additionally, due to the dry run happening for Republic day celebrations on 26th Jan, the run way had been temporarily shut down until 12. I gently told the supervisor - "Sir, we are travelling with a toddler, have had nothing to eat since morning. The aircraft we were due to fly in has still not taken off. Your duty manager at the gate was rude and unfair to us. I hope you can help us by sending us back on the same aircraft". He spoke to her in front of us and asked her to take us back into the same aircraft. He issued us with new boarding passes and asked us to rush back to the same gate. By this time the dry run had finished and the flight was ready to take off. It finally took off at 11.30 am - with us of course - as was supposed to be the case!

It was a short visit to Guwahati but one which left imprints for years to come. The amount of love you can sometimes feel from relatives you have not met in a while make you realise that although we have now more ways to stay connected, we are actually less connected than before!

We returned to United Kingdom with a toddler who was not only spoilt for choices but also one who was used to staying busy with all the attention showered on her. This plus the cold weather of February made the settling back into routined life quite fun and challenging!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Taj Mahal - An Ode to Magnificence

If one word can describe the Taj Mahal, that would be Magnificent.

Like every eager traveller visiting Taj, one of the seven wonders of the world, was a prized opportunity, something that I was looking forward to very excitedly. Although unlike other fellow travellers who would probably wake up early in the morning to catch a glimpse of the Taj in the early morning orange sunlight, I chose to visit the Taj like an ordinary tourist on an ordinary day (30/12/15) at an ordinary time (1pm).

The visit to the Taj was part of a 5 day tour of the neighbouring areas devoured with Krishna bhakti - Vrindaban, Mathura, Gokul, Nand Gaon, Barsana and Govardhan. We stayed at Shree Radhe Vasundhara Resort in Govardhan. It's a collection of luxury cottages all beautifully designed located at the foothills of Govardhan parvat - slightly outside though from the main towns of Vrindaban and Mathura. The stay was amazing and few places like Nidhi van in Vrindaban and Tatiya Sthan in Mathura were dipping in Radhe Krishna bhakti.

Amidst this backdrop, the visit to Taj felt like a pilgrimage to a temple which epitomises love and separation in the modern world - a story that resonates closely with the life with Krishna and Radha.

From the car park to the Taj entrance, the journey was made on the back of a camel - already an excitement for my 19 month old who had only seen camels in books thus far. Right at the car park, we hired a photographer and a tour guide - both to stay with us for the entire part of the journey clicking memorable pictures and imparting valuable knowledge about its history.

As I queued to enter the Royal Gate, it was that feeling of impatience which made it impossible to wait anymore to see how the first glimpse of Taj would feel. I started conjuring up permutations and combinations of all possible feelings concluding the analysis with two outcomes - it will either be a total wow coupled with a sudden gush of immense love for my life partner or a complete disaster concluding it as being overrated by the worldly people.

The moment came when I was standing facing the Taj - my mind just went blank. All that I had conjured up had disappeared and the only word that seemed to have remained in my vocabulary was Magnificient. I stood there spell bound - in the slight misty afternoon, the white Taj stood brilliantly unfazed by the 80 thousand people that visited it that day.

Although we did enter the Taj like any ordinary tourist, we did not exit it alike. Inside the Taj whilst we were admiring it's beauty from the sides (yet to have entered the actual tomb), we met a few people responsible for Taj's security. Their work mainly starts when all tourists are gone and the premises have been vacated. Therefore they had some time to get into a chat with us.
Chats with these security personnel ranged a wide variety of topics - politics, corruption, history, religion etc. We all just simply enjoyed the conversations and kept it going - whilst obviously our tour guide kept nudging us to go. The memories of these conversations will stay with us for a long time to come.

The visit to the insides of the Tomb actually makes you appreciate the magnificence of the Taj. The stones embellished are real gem stones. The marble used is a special Sungmarmar - white transparent marble which is quite expensive and rarely available these days. On throwing light at them, the light passes through these stones and lit them up. To see a building as huge as Taj built using a stone as expensive as that leaves you agasht at the amount of wealth India had at some point. The Mughal invasions and later on the British rule left India weak and poor.

Taj reminds you of the grand Indian history. It is a celebration of the magnificient country India was - the golden bird as one poet rightly called it.