Amma and Her Newspaper

I set to read newspaper one fine morning downstairs with Amma as always going in with maximum enthusiasm at her command in making tea for her beloved son. As she was walking in the kitchen, she murmured that she did not get to read the Hindi newspaper yesterday. As she completed her sentence, something hit me. The newspaper had been delivered for sure and I had read that myself. So how could she not get that to read. I could read the sense of resignation in her statement as she moved further by few inches into the kitchen to make tea. Because of her age and weight she makes penguin like steps to move, but she moves with determination for sure. Her weight also does not help but her will power is still strong enough to move inch by inch to make tea for her kids. She is perhaps happiest when she does that. Even at this age she is the last to eat at the dinner table and she is proud of that. I could listen her murmurings coming from inside the kitchen as she was preparing tea.

I got uncomfortable on hearing her not so much expressed pain of missing the newspaper and could visualise the whole day as she would have tried to get hold of her daily dose of news. I have seen her since last 4 decades and more reading the newspaper daily immediately after finishing her first daily tranche of work in the morning. She did not studied beyond 9th but that had been no impediment for her reading a newspaper as avidly as possible. She would not recall the names of all foreign politicians as easily as I could and sometimes she would mix and mismatch the news and curse the one who was gentler, she has been more than aware of what has been happening around her in India. She can win I believe any quiz show if she had to face contestants similar to her background. She gets angry sometimes more than she ought to, when ever she reads news hurting the interest of the nation. She would not stop short of prescribing immediate and on the public square sort of punishments for the greedy and the culprits. I remember her reading same news multiple times whenever there was any, about her native place. I still remember her preserving a copy of the newspaper which had published the news of a dacoit attack in her native village Ujhaiyya sometimes in 1980s. That copy of newspaper neatly folded might still be there somewhere in her closely guarded old steel trunks. She still guards them well!!

So in this backdrop it was a heart wrenching moment for me as I could visualize that how hard and how helplessly perhaps she would have tried the day before to search for the newspaper as she is an octogenarian and finds difficult to walk without the support of a walker. I could not help myself for my visualization of her looking for the newspaper here and there and sometimes waiting in vain for that to arrive from outside. She might have gone out too albeit with much difficulty to see if the hawker had thrown it somewhere in the small garden on the front. She would have asked her woman Friday Rita too to look for the newspaper and finally settling down to resign to fact that she could not get the newspaper. As on the day I was out to office till late, she could not have got any other help to get that so she could have preserved her half a century ritual of reading a newspaper for an hour or so. In fact she uses newspaper to sleep also as many times I have found her sleeping and snoring post lunch beneath the two folds of newspaper. Perhaps the tough bone-breaking daily routine would squeeze out even the last ounce of energy by afternoon and she would sit down to read the remaining newspaper after having her lunch and more often that not she would fall asleep in next 10 minutes.

As I understood her pain, I went upstairs to look for the newspaper as sometimes they do get mixed with my steady supply of newspaper. I found her Hindi newspaper hidden in those multiple reams of read and unread newspapers. I picked that up and went downstairs to deliver that to her. Though the day had passed by, she was happy to see that and without saying any other word, kept it on the table besides her to go through it, later in the day . Finding her settled,  I sat down to sip the tea and just then few drops rolled down my memory lanes marking a path on my cheeks.

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One More Suicide or One More Murder ?

This morning all the newspapers of Lucknow have published a heart wrenching news of a young boy of class 10 shooting himself to death at his home. He was solving numerical when he shot himself and was preparing for his pre-board exams next day. This young boy wrote a one line suicide, “I Quit………….” There are images of the suicide note with blood splattered on it and parents in the deepest sorrow of their life. The pain is too much for them to bear and I have to admit that this news coming on the back  of so many similar news in last few years, I am most deeply disturbed. I am disturbed not only because I too have teenage kids but because this is too close, too real to face, too heavy a price to pay for the mad rush of marks  and successes in the coming exams over Feb and March. The Kota for so many similar reasons is gradually becoming the suicide capital of innocents of India.

In this interconnected world every body wants to be number one only. The school wants to be the best, the top ranker. The teacher wants to be the best in school. The parents wants to be the proud parents of the most successful kids only. The family wants to be the best family with highest number of successful boys and girls. The society wants to leave behind every other society or ethnicity. They want to be endowed with best and brightest. Moreover the parameters of being best and brightest are so narrowly defined in terms of material indices that we all have thrown the innocent kids into the harshest and cruelest  ring of their life where an innocent child has to save himself from marauding tigers. At age 3, a child invariably is thrown in front of hungry lions of the system as if he was a gladiator of Roman age. Just visualize the trauma of a child preparing for a pre-nursery admission in all parts of India. This is nothing but exposing your innocent most child to pack of wolfs. Just try visualize the stress every other boy and girl is undergoing before board exams. They really shudder to think about the reactions of their school and parents if they scored anything less than 90%. This is killing them. They may be undergoing stress of nightmarish proportions without almost nobody to share.

This game of unequal gladiators is played with the connivance of everybody the society, the parents and the education system. Shivyansh lost his life yesterday. No, actually we all have literally conspired to kill him. We conspired to create circumstances so that he jumps over a cliff to save his dignity like a girl would do sometimes to fend off lecherous mob after her. Shivyansh was a sensitive boy. He was happy with his brother, mother and father too. He tried his best. He was solving numerical just before he quit. He tried his best to stand up in front of hungry mammoth systemic tigers. But the hungry lions of expectations and forced- down-the-throat aspirations around him were ruthless and mean. They did not let him survive. They tore him apart. They killed him with a purpose. They wanted only the best to survive. They wanted only most ferocious to survive so that he could take their place once they were old and could not kill themselves. And so that he could also devour without compunction the innocent hare of future.

Dear Shivyansh, I am sorry. I am part of this pack of systemic wolves. I could not save you. May your soul rest in peace and may almighty punish the killers. Here, the killers are roaming free. May be, they don’t even know that they killed somebody yesterday. Or they would say nonchalantly that nobody killed Shivyansh.

Really ?????

Victory is Mine!!

Happy to see my daughter Jyotsana making her place in the world of writing and bringing in the energy of youth and exuberance.

YOLO

New years have always given me the ‘conquering the world’ vibe. They give me a clean slate to break, mend, treasure, throw away or whatever. They give me an urge to jump up and give a war cry. And this feeling is not just limited to new year’s. I have these moments at random places, at random times and due to random reasons. If I had to break it down for you then I would say that it’s just like those memes where iron man is walking away from an explosion in a totally awesome manner (well instead of iron man it’s me there). The best thing about these ‘moments’ is that nobody knows that I’m having them (and honestly if people found out about the silly things I have them over, they’ll tattoo crazy on my forehead). When I have these moments, I might be looking all poised on…

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Do the Dew…

This morning I was on a morning walk at the Vanasthali Park, close to my home. I did my walk and as I settled to stretch myself before  leaving the park, I noticed drops of dew glistening at the tips of blades of grass against the morning sunshine. The small dew drops were illuminated like small Diwali lights and it was a captivating sight. I paused to watch it more attentively.

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All of us (those who like me were born in 20th century) have been hearing about the miracles of walking barefoot on grass soaked in morning dew. I have been told by my grand mom and all that it betters your eyesight and bestows the vigour and vitality. Though I am bespectacled already, I thought it could help me to keep my eyes healthier for a longer time perhaps. There was some hitch of course due to the clumsiness of taking off your shoes and socks and getting a wet foot and eventually sogged socks and also of hygiene, but eventually I did manage to overpower my reservations and went in for a dew-walk.

Believe me, the moment I kept my feet on the grass I felt as if I am walking in the clouds. The morning dew on the well kept grass had created such a surreal carpet to walk on that my feet would have felt like being caressed by Mother Nature. It was an unbelievably pleasurable experience. I closed my eyes for few moments and tried to feel the most gentle coldness of the dew. It was simply intoxicating and mind blowing experience. I was thinking that God has unrationed the most valuable things in life . Anybody and everybody can enjoy this priceless pleasures of life without any cut in supply. No competition with anybody or from anybody. What a pleasure…

I came back to my home and though of keying in this idea to just remind me and everybody that how easily you can enjoy the most valuable pleasures of life. I will request everybody, that don’t forget to do the dew tomorrow morning….It’s a bliss…don’t miss it…

The Midnight Lucknow Station

Main Entrance of Charbagh at Midnight

Main Entrance of Charbagh at Midnight

Waiting midnight at 3:00 am at Charbagh Railway station for my daughter coming back from her school trip to Jaipur and around, I was seeing a different sort of railway station altogether. It is not that I had not seen it for a long time or I had not been there at that unearthly time ever, but earlier I had not been at this odd time to receive somebody, and therefore had the time to see around. While usually you find a perennial stream of crowd jostling to rush in or rush out of this British period iconic station, at this wee hour of morning you would find more person sleeping at the platform than walking at it. The people who have to find a connecting train perhaps in the morning or who have nowhere to go right in the midnight and no connections to flaunt to get a cozy wait at AC or VIP lounges, have surrendered to the call of the sleep and were lying in all shapes and sizes. They have surrendered to the circumstances and have no compunction in prostrating themselves at the platform in whatever little spaces they could claim to and with whatever little they could their bed. Usually it is recycled poly sheets or any piece of cloth or any newspaper spread. It’s a surreal feeling of socialism at it’s best where the poorest and not so poorest were sleeping side by side, snore by snore. I used this forced opportunity to pause and look around, though I would not have minded to sleep beside them in that milling cloud. On my part sitting at one of the rare benches of the railway station to wait for her daughter who was coming back after a cherished trip, I was feeling like a responsible father. I smiled at the scene around me and just then the train carrying my daughter chugged in at the platform.

She was really happy to find me right in front of my bogey and as she alighted, hugged me. Both of us came out of sleeping labyrinthine negotiating like a skilled driver through the lanes of sleeping millions. We were happy to see that not many were disturbed in this whole process……

Charbagh Railway Station Platform 1

Charbagh Railway Station Platform 1

 

A No Means A No

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Except Pink, which I saw almost a month ago, I don’t recall seeing any movie in last few years which has resonated in my mind-space beyond few hours or may be a day or two at most. But Pink directed by Anirudh Roy Chowdhary is a different movie altogether and it’s courtroom drama is still fresh in my mind. But why is that so? Is it because of Big B’s baritone voice or is it because of contemporary issues of young women coming out of their hometowns and working in big cosmopolitan and merciless cities growing everyday ? For me, the arguments of contending lawyers Deepak Sehgal and Prashant Mehra played brilliantly by Amitabh Bachhan and Piyush Misra are still hitting the inside walls of my prefrontal cortex. The habits we have inculcated over years are stored there and one habits that is ingrained in the minds of all male Indians (even females, I would say), is that there are different rules of social behaviour for males and for females and therefore if any Minal Arora or Falak Ali or Andrea broke those norms expected to be adhered only by females, a lecherous Rajvir Singh or a Dumpy would find an able excuse to rob their dignity and respect. And Yes, it does not matter even if we were living in 21st century.

So, as the courtroom drama unfolds, the learned advocate of lecherous males questions the right of working women wearing short clothes and drinking with men and still say no to resultant rape? How could they ? They should have better known that they were females and they would be leached upon if they did not wear sarees and did not get escorted by a male family member and then were doing the sin of drinking like men (which for males was a health hazard at best) or went for late night parties like men. The norms enunciated eloquently by Advocate Mehra made very clear and very shamelessly that these ‘types’ of girls invited rape and invitation could not have been avoided by the testosterone fired males. Could we be more crude ever? What a ‘shit’ this is ?

I credit the team of Pink for exposing naked, the mindset of Indian Males including me of course. Perhaps even inside me there were some germs of unequal social norms of behavior for men and women, but I had been literally purged of them by the end of the movie. Misguided by the trailers of the movie before the release, I had gone to watch the movie with my wife and did not carry my teenage son and daughter along with to avoid confronting the embarrassing issues which movie intended to raise. But as soon as I came back I asked both, my son and daughter to watch the movie, more so to my son so as he grows into an adult and healthy Indian male without proselytizing into a MCP. I think the movie nails the lies on the head. Alas, If the movie had been made few decades ago, Jessica Lal would have been still alive perhaps because then people would not have asked question that why the hell, close to midnight, Jessica Lal was serving Liquor at Tamarind Bar? She was a hard-working women like your daughter or mine and was working late to take care of her family and she had every right to do so. Only if those Sharmas and Manus had seen the movie and respected her choice to say no !

Yes, A No means a No.

When Gandhi Saved Me…….

mahatma-gandhiji-essay-english-essayIts 2nd October today and hardly anyone in India will miss the fact of today being the birth anniversary of the father of the nation, the man who extricated India from the clutches of Britishers. He was a great soul recognised both locally and globally and has the distinction of having statute of almost every capital of the world. He deserves a special place in my heart as he saved me too once. Yes, but for him I would have been in a different job and who knows, would have been a dissatisfied soul. Actually, he helped me more meaningfully than he helped Munna Bhai in the Bollywood movie Lage Rahe Munna Bhai ! The year he helped me was 1997, a good 49 years after his unfortunate death. Yes, it’s true.

By 1996, at the age of 25, I had cleared the IAS Allied Services of Union Public Services Commission and the Dy S P by U P State Public Services Commission before that. However, I was still aiming for the post of SDM, for which there were just 10 slots under unreserved category and I had to do extremely well. I had cleared the rather tough prelims that year and knew somehow that was going to be my last good chance to get to the still best services of the Provincial Civil Services of U P. It still is. My optional subjects were Political Science and History. I was very confident of Political Science but History was not my best one. I had done well in General Studies and other compulsory papers and was cruising smoothly till I faced my Waterloo moment in the 2nd paper of History. That paper was about the Modern Indian History and as I started reading the question paper, I realised that somehow out of 12 odd questions, I was not thoroughly prepared for even one. I had to attempt just 5 out of twelve questions including two compulsory ones, but I was not sure about which question to start with. I still don’t know why all the questions looked so tough to me that day. I got nervous and felt like that my chances of getting into SDM were all but gone, as with not even one question being properly answered, I could not hope to get the top of the table to secure one of the ten seats of the SDMs. I felt exasperated and started to curse myself. It looked like the end of the road for me.

I had to spend three hours still, so I started reading the question paper again. Suddenly, I looked at the 12th question of the paper and I noted that it was about the life and teachings of Gandhi Ji and its seminal role in the struggle for Independence. I paused at the question to reread it. I had been a good student of Political Science and one of the finest teacher of Political Science, Prof R K Misra had taught me well about him. In fact Prof Misra had explained the life and teachings of Gandhi Ji, so thoroughly to the entire class, that I knew almost everything about Gandhi Ji and his idea from the perspective of a student. I smiled at this little ray of hope and and thought of starting with answering Gandhi Ji and  then finish other four answers to the best of my capabilities and leave the rest to the wishes of the almighty. I was sure that if I started well and did build the flow of writing, I could give a good shot to my aim.

With a sense of new-found confidence, courtesy Gandhi Ji and Misra Sir, I started writing about Gandhi in right earnest. I wrote everything I knew about him in next 45 minutes, about his ideas about Non-violence, theory of trusteeship, his theories about hating the British ways and not the Britishers per se and his ideas of civil disobedience and it’s contribution to the freedom struggle and finally his ideas to keep all sections of Hindus and Muslims to keep together to save the fabric of India as a nation of all and not just for Hindus. I remember as I was writing about Gandhi ji, my pen was flowing like a sword as it about a person whom, I felt like knowing very closely. That was the power of the ideas of Gandhi on me.

After consuming more than slotted time for the question on Gandhi, I moved on to answer other four questions of the subject and with the newly gained confidence and with the flow developed finished off the rest of four questions in the nick of the time. At the end of the three hours, I was largely satisfied and relieved. Though it was not my best performance, it was not very bad either. I knew if I did well in other papers, I could make it. I thanked Gandhi profusely and Misra ji and came out of the exam hall.

The result was out in next few weeks and I was more than happy to see my roll number in the list of persons called for interview. I really smiled at that moment and once again, thanked Gandhi Ji. I knew, but for him, I could not have even attempted all five questions. The answer related to the question on him had certainly given me a good head start and made all the difference.

I appeared in the interview and since it was my 4th at the U P Public Service Commission and as I was slected already in two others, I did my confidence best. I was not sure when would the result be out, so slept well for next few days. Then one fine morning in those days of no mobile and no internet, got a telephone call from one of my class mate, Pratibha. She told me, “Jitendra, you have topped the exams!” What? I topped it? I could not believe that for next few minutes. I took many more minutes to sink in the feeling of being the topper of the exam in which but for Gandhi, I was doomed, literally. That’s the magic of the father of nation. I thanked him again. Today 19 years down the road, I am in job, because of him.

Gandhi Ji changed my life too!

What I was reading……….

My quest for life and knowledge continues and I continue to be surprised and humbled by the life and ideas of some outstanding individuals and scholars.

This week, I listened to the interviews of Samuel Huntington, the author of Clash of Civilizations. He says that the euphoria which had built after the end of Cold War and demolition of Berlin Wall was petering off now and the states were aligning inter-alia on cultural lines. He says instead of western model or North America led alliance dominating the world we are witnessing alignment of countries along cultural lines. He says we are witnessing the growth of North America-European alliance, Islamic Cultural alliance (though fragmented and fighting too), Indian cultural alliance, Chinese cultural alliance, Japanese alliance and Latin America and African alliance. He says that these alliances will consolidate further as they resolve their issues and progress or modernise without following the western model per se. He believes that many countries want to modernise but essentially not westernise. For example, Japan is a modern country but not western. Likewise India may modernise even more without following the western cultural ways. He says Westernism and Modernism are different. Though he also believes that western model of modernism which included, rule of law, separation of state and religion, respect for Individual rights and human rights has proved to be a good way of growth since 15th century and that this model in past has catapulted these nations on the path of progress ahead of its compatriots. He also highlights that if China continued to grow at the same pace for next one decade more it will posture herself as a hegemonic power in East Asia more often and that China believes that it has every right to do that as it was exactly that hegemonic for hundreds of years up  until middle of 19th century. The churning which the whole world is going through will test the hypothesis more in years to come. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

2. I am also reading Pandeymonium written by ad-man, Piyush Pandey. He has titled the book after the whatsap group of his family, a trend which I think every family is following. Piyush born and brought up in Rajasthan, had a family of 7 sisters and two brothers (Adman Prasoon Pandey being other brother)  and that includes her sister Ila Pandey known popularly as Ila Arun, the famous film and TV personality and folk singer. Piyush started as a serious cricketer and played for Ranji along with Arun Lal and Kapil Dev and admits in the book that after initial successes got carried away with the minor milestones of representing his state in Ranji, while players like Vengsarkar and  Kapil Dev did not rest and paused till they got national and international fame. A very valuable lesson of life indeed. He though used his love of cricket in designing some of the most popular ads of Cadburys chocolate in which a lady praying for a six from his love playing a shot in the middle of the stadium and then rushing merrily towards crease to congratulate the batsman. He has been associated with many more ad campaigns pertaining to cricket and also with campaigns for bidding for hosting the cricket  World Cup in Indian Sub Continent. He has been a permanent fixture in most of the campaigns of IPL teams too. He learned the hard lessons from not working hard enough for cricket but used the experience in his alternative career.

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3. Piyush owes many of his most popular ideas to his middle class upbringing and family values. His work on Fevicol is inspired by the enthusiasm he had when their family got their first dining table after days of woodwork done by a carpenter and watched closely by him. He says that Fevicol is a very important ingredient of the furniture but he says that it is always invisible as it is concealed to the inside of the furniture. He calls his mother Bhagwati Pandey to be ‘Fevicol’ of the family till she was alive. His association with Pidilite group through the famous ads of a dhoti clad South Indian villager man applying fevi-quick on his local stick to catch fishes easily while a professional anglers with all mannerism waits furtively, is one of the most memorable of his ads. So are the ads of unbreakable eggs of hens eating poultry food out of a reusable Fevicol box. He is also credited with one of the most memorable ad on Indian Television, Mile Sur Mera Tumhara in 1990s. This ad had captured the imagination of the country in a huge way in those years and it touches the raw nerves of us all. Piyush is very proud of this ad and he did it with a very paltry budget.

There is so much to read…..

I read for my job; I read for my life…..

Last week I was trying to explain to my staff that whenever I was free, why did I keeping reading books back to back. Out of sudden I made an interesting statement. I said, “Deepak, earlier I used to read for my job, now I read for my life.” He did not say anything on this, but I looked back at those lines and found them to be good. The truth for me has been that while I was studying prior to getting a job, I was studying for my professional career, through which, I could earn enough to have a decent living.  I was thinking physically only. Coming from a middle class family, the primitive instinct was to survive and to survive well. There were no high moral grounds back then. I wanted to be successful so that I could afford to feed, cloth and shelter me and my family well and the path to that safety went through the good and strategic quality of reading competitive stuff. I earned my graduate and post graduate dovetailed to the knowledge and exigencies and intricacies of competitive exams which obviously was my ticket to financial independence and subsequent saturation of basic survival needs. My reading list therefore centered around, Political Science, History and General Studies. I had mugged up the capitals and currencies of all countries found on globe-big and small from Burundi to Burkina Faso and from Chili to Chad. I would have mugged up the length, breadth and width of all sport grounds and of all important boundaries. I had mugged up the distance between moon and earth and between earth and mars and many more. I had to excel and beat those who were competing with me memorizing the GDP and inflation rates and distances of stars of even Proxima Centauri!. I had to beat the heat. I did that and by the grace of God, clicked to get selected. I was very proud of the knowledge but was it all one needed to live? Is the distance between earth and moon so important for non-astronauts like me?  Does it really matter that I know the capitals of Latvia or Liechtenstein. I don’t think so, now. I had actually surrendered to the needs of the hour but all that I had amassed as knowledge was really very insipid.

So once I had settled in to job and got some sense of economic safety, I started looking around and tried to ascertain, what I knew about my life and people around me. I soon realised that I did not know much. While I knew about Akbar and Sikander or GDP or BPL, I did not know about how should I behave with my boss or with my ex-college friends or in job colleagues. I did not know about Psychology of a child or a father and this mattered. I did not know that Men were from Mars and women were from Venus. Even when I had become a proud father of two, I did not know how to be a parent to kids. I had learned from life but that was not enough. Suddenly I realised that I was the most ignorant and least educated person, I knew. Realising my limitations was first step.

This feeling of  ‘knowing nothing’ started to sink in me and I was really feeling disgusted if not depressed. This was really interesting that despite being the proud topper of the Provincial Civil Services, I was feeling like a dodo. I was not mentally prepared for this. I was feeling like a deer lost in the wilderness of Amazon jungles. I could have been mauled by anybody. What I had learned till now was inadequate. I therefore needed to go back to my basics once again.

I started to talk with close friends and family members but most of them despite being successful were not able to realise my predicament of having low knowledge quotient despite being a successful individual. I asked my parents and teachers. Hitherto, the key factor of me, getting success in this life had been that I was good in studies and could mug up a lot and even most tasteless knowledge of Africa or Europe. I decided to go back to books. The different books. The topics were different this time. The first noticeable book I laid my hands on and which changed a lot of my behavior, was Dale Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’. I bought this book waiting to catch a train at Aligarh Railways station from a wheeler book stand. I read the book and realised that it had a treasure trove of information regarding human relationships and friendship. I could also use the lessons of the book in conducting day-to-day affairs of my life, like in convincing the principal of Sophia School in Meerut in 2004, why my daughter should get admitted to that prestigious school mid session or why to listen first about people themselves than to speak, if you wanted the attention of busiest and most successful doctor of the city. It was a new tool in my hand and it worked. I smiled again.

There have been many more books since then including the most religious of Gita Press Gorakhpur. I have gone through the Upanishads and Puranas to Kalyan to Ashtavakra Geeta to books on food to those on travel and leisure. I have read books on marriages, sex, friendship, psychology, snakes, photography,  and what not. My book shelf is getting richer and I am feeling more satisfied every day. Every penny spent on these books has been useful and caused serenity and peace inside me. I have found many answers and quest goes on. Now, though I have started forgetting the names of capitals and currencies, I feel I know few things about life. I need to know more…………

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Happiness is in moving from XXL To L

Ralph Lazar and Lisa Swerling in their book Happiness is in ……………write most simple but most striking ways of feeling happiness. They believe you don’t need a billion dollar to buy an Antila in Jhuggis infested Mumbai to feel happy. Nor everybody can afford to make Shahrukhs and Katrinas to dance at their daughter’s wedding like Miitals. Author duo highlight that there are simpler and zero expense ways of feeling happy. One can feel happy say by looking at his school days’ group photographs or by jumping into a pile of leaves or by blowing bubbles of soap water or when I publish a blog and get my first like. All these pleasures or happy moments of life are least expensive but most precious. They give you million dollar pleasures every day and if you start counting your gains, you will go to bed smiling more often not.

One of my most recent ways of feeling happiness is when I go for shopping now. Till last year I was close to a Quintal (Yes, I touched the magic figure). I had ignored my health quite badly despite many nudges and politically right warnings from friends and family, I did not mend my weighty ways. Though I did good work and was quite busy, physical fitness and health was not my priority. I was (still am) fond of eating and with many friends and college buddies posted together, we had a hell lot of time together, with whatever we could eat and whatever we could drink. Party today and party tomorrow was the motto. In those days, no party of us ended without fixing the next venue and menu. We were happy and so were our bursting from seams bellies.

This could not have continued for long. During to my visit to Valley of Flowers last August which involves a good trek of almost 5 Km, I realised what a poor sack of weight I was and after the Helicopter ride in which I was weighed in before boarding (the normal practice in hilly areas), I was badly exposed, more than the poor Sandip in Delhi. I was looked at almost disdainfully by the man who allowed me to board the chopper. I survived the valley track somehow, but came back with a resolve to change. With few other factors helping me, gradually I started to lose my flab slowly but steadily. In last one year, I have sweated more than perhaps a good over head water tank of a small colony, but it has paid off. The results are to be seen to be believed. I have lost almost 20 kg in this period.

Now when I go for shopping for cloths and the shop keeper looks at me and asks me to try a L or M size shirt, I feel like I have scaled Mount Everest or as If I have resolved the Kashmir problem for India ( much to the chagrin of separatists; sorry folks). The satisfaction I derive now, while trying for those M and L size shirts is a million dollar one for me. I bask in my new-found glory by trying as many shirts as I can. I am getting bolder now and egged on by my wife, I don’t mind disrobing mannequins (Dushashan is not my favourite character still) wearing my sizes, so as I can try them (I was told in a showroom that almost all mannequins do wear an M Size only!) This was unimaginable till last year as at that time every showroom I went to, used to raise their hands soon, as they did not have those many plus sizes clothes to try. Some of them were blunt enough to suggest me to get a good personal tailor to stitch and some of them suggested me specific brands for plus size people (read hopelessly fat) like me. While earlier my shopping used to be centered around XXL and sometimes XXXL, now there is no X factor in it, it is a simple L and M. This seems to be most mundane, but those who have not ever been XXXL sizes may perhaps not understand this. But believe me, I am zillion dollar happier now when I try M and L sizes. Life is really best in  L & M size!. Happiness is in losing Xs. I don’t think building another Antila could have given me those many smiles.