Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Sound of Music!


We spotted this thumb-sized baby chakla right outside our gate. It still couldn't fly and started running as we pointed our camera towards it. Chakla in Gujarati is the word for sparrow. But these aren't your ordinary Passers. I haven't seen birds like these anywhere in India. They come in troupes of seven and perch on ledges, trees, telephone wires, electric lines. Such is the popularity of the bird that in Vadodara it has a circle named after it - Chakli circle!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mariam's becoming popular!

I quite enjoy the response Mariam has received. This is my first effort at making a cartoon-series and I love the support all of you have given. But getting a comment like this one is definitely quite flattering. This is Binu's response to my post Re-cycle! Awesome!

Friday, March 26, 2010


My friend, Shreyasi wanted me to do a poster for her that was 'Shreyasi'. I told her, "I love your dog more than I love you." So here's Kishmish for you. The line's borrowed from another friend, Neelima's Facebook status message and Kishmish seems to express it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Love Hurts

Love hurts. As much as you'd want to disagree, I stick to my point. You'll claim that love's that inexplicable feeling that pushes you to explore the Eden of Happiness. I say that it's the same love that plunges you into the abysses of depression.

Love hurts. From the time two souls (mother and child, lovers, friends, well-wishers, fans, siblings, etc) set eyes on each other, their journey of deprivation, aches and pain begins. For lovers (the term I use here to describe any two people in love) have nights depriving them of sleep, hearts aching to meet each other (or at least have a glimpse of the other) and unbearably painful moments of separation.

Intimacy in a relationship brings pain with the pleasure. A mother slaps her erring child, only to cuddle him/her later. Friends, who were getting along with each other perfectly well, suddenly start bad-mouthing each other over a game of soccer. Why, even the ultimate unification of two souls, a symbol of love that science calls copulation and we call sex is about pain. You may say the high it gives is worth the pain (and the effort). But pain, bearable or not, is pain nonetheless. Told you, love hurts.

Love hurts more when it comes unprecedented. Like the idea of falling in love when you realise that you shouldn't have fallen in love. Either you got the person wrong or the occasion, falling in love hurt you bad. Love hurts more when the person you love dies or when love itself dies. You ask yourself, "Can love really vanish?" or "Can you really get over someone?" or "After death will the ties of love break too?" There are more questions than answers love throws up. Love hurts, but it also makes you think.

I read somewhere, "Love lasts a lifetime. Money lasts longer. It pays for the funeral." Strange, funny, but it's true. Love can't buy you a wreath, it can only find you someone to call in the hearse. Money puts things in perspective. It changes the way you love a person, how much you love him/her and how you show how much you love him/her. Money is dynamic. It changes from hand to hand, in its denomination and value. It gives you a sense of power and a means of disposal. Pit money against love and love will inevitably lose. Love hurts, that's why.

In many ways love is like currency. It too has value that changes according to ambient conditions. Why then, must love lose?

Because you give love and take money. Nobody likes giving money away. While love requires you to give. You can't give less love but you do want to make more money. As money accumulates, love depreciates in value. Don't believe this? Track history. Corporate wars fought between business heirs over company assets, treacherous siblings plotting wars to grab the throne, kids fighting for the latest (and more expensive) video game, socialite friends trying to outdo each other while shopping for expensive designer gowns, etc. Love makes you win small battles, money makes you win the biggest wars. Love hurts, because it's competitive.

The problem with love is that it hurts both ways - when there's too much of it or too little of it. With money, it's the less that hurts .

So if love hurts so much why love? For it is in giving that we may receive. Give money away, money may or may not come back to you (it's quite deceitful). Give love away, it'll always come back. So what if it hurts a little!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Freakin' awesome


Authors: Steven B Levitt and Stephen J Dubner
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Pages: 270
Price: Rs 299

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Mumbai Mirror on Monday, March 22, 2010 at 04:30:56 PM

The freaks are back! And this time they're talking about 'global cooling, patriotic prostitutes and why suicide bombers should by life insurance'. A glance at Superfreakonomics on the shelf at a bookstore will make you stop in your tracks. And if you've actually read and loved Steven B Levitt and Stephen J Dubner's Freakonomics, chances are that you'll be taking this book home with you. People respond to incentives and undoubtedly, so do you.

You take the bait that the economist-journalist author duo have cunningly thrown at you. You lap up the statistics they throw at you: 307 million miles are walked drunk in America every year, Chicago prostitutes working in brothels in 1920 took as much as $76,000 annually and the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 discharged more than 20 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere resulting in the earth cooling off by 0.5 degrees Celsius over the next two years. You balk at some of the bizarre suggestions they offer such as eating kangaroos to save the planet, a well-regulated market in human organs like that for kidneys in Iran, creating a ground-to-stratosphere pipeline that will dissipate sulphur in the atmosphere and make the earth cooler. And you wonder at the minds that can link Santas to prostitutes, terrorists to insurance, the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, to infant deformities and computers to better patient outcomes in emergency rooms of hospitals.

If you've read Freakonomics you may have varied views about this one - ranging from "it's a bit of the old stuff again" to "this one’s much better". The book makes for a good read, with its well-told stories and anecdotes. It scores well in the chapters on Dictator and Ultimatum games that allow you to study altruism and apathy. And this time, the authors have even pulled out more examples from different parts of the world, including India (on how rural women in the country have benefited from cable TV) to illustrate their points of view) and China.

Where the book loses out is in the chapter on global warming where the authors seem to be trying to hard to prove their point - that Al Gore's doomsday scenarios "don't have any basis in physical reality in any reasonable time frame." It is this claim by the authors that have brought them some heat from the environmental activists. Their stress on geo-engineering makes you doubt their objectivity regarding the solutions provided by Intellectual Ventures.

If you're an economist, you're sure to pick this book to see how far beyond the conventional the science can take you. If you're a layman, you'll love the write-ups on sex, doctors, terrorists and underground scientists. Sample this buffet of delightful anecdotes spiced with hard data and you're sure to come back for more.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All for women!

Now, how did I land up here?

Call it self-obsession or just a jobless writer's pastime, I love Googling myself. I break into a smile each time my name flashes on screen. Yes, there are the regulars - this blog, my other blog Health in Books, Facebook, Orkut, Twitter, LinkedIn, EzineArticles, Mouthshut, Mumbai Mirror and Times Wellness websites, articles borrowed from there on (another Bennett & Coleman product), sites and blogs I have subscribed to and of course there are those rare gems that make me wonder, "Now, how did I land up here?"

It's these sites this post is about. I've come across sites that have used my stories very resourcefully (and thankfully most of them have credited either me or the original source of publication). Some use use my articles to draw readers to restaurants and others for alternative therapy online fora. But the one that takes the cake is 4Perfume. It actually used my review of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera to sell 'Love' perfumes. They claim 'absolutely NO imitations or knock-offs', with respect to the perfumes. Now, that's original!

Check it out:

What are you happy about?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Book review: Perfect Health

Author: Deepak Chopra
Publisher: Harmony Books
Pages: 327
Price: Rs 849

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Times Wellness on Saturday, March 20, 2010

If you've read Deepak Chopra's books before, you know what to expect in Perfect Health - an introduction to Ayurveda, different body types, the significance and interplay of the three operating principles (doshas) and what you should do to keep them in balance. Then why should you read this one? It's the bizarre medical stories that he uses to illustrate his point and the instances in the book where he draws parallels between the ancient and the modern form of medicine that make the book worth a buy.

When the body decides
Going beyond Western medicine's treatment of symptoms, Chopra explains that the treatment of the quantum mechanical body (the quantum equivalent of organs and processes in the body) by Maharishi Ayurveda can bring about changes far beyond the reach of conventional medicine. Sounds deep? Here's an example.

In the very first chapter of the book, Chopra mentions the case of one Timmy, 'a perfectly ordinary-seeming six-year-old who suffers from one of the strangest of psychiatric syndromes - multiple personality disorder'. Timmy has more than a dozen separate personalities, each with its own emotional patterns, vocal inflections, likes and dislikes.

The author writes, "Timmy is particularly amazing because one of his personalities and only one, is allergic to orange juice and breaks out in hives if he drinks it... What is more, if Timmy comes back if the allergic reaction is present, the itching of the hives will cease immediately and water-filled blisters will begin to subside. This is a perfect example of how signals from the quantum mechanical body can cause instantaneous changes in the physical body... it appears that as molecules of the orange juice approach his white cells, a decision is made whether to react or not. This implies the cell is intelligent."

While the author doesn't elaborate on Timmy's line of treatment, he does propose that we confront the possibility of choosing our diseases.

A fine balance
In Perfect Health, you take tests to learn your body type - Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, or a combination thereof and how to balance those doshas through diet, exercise, daily routine and seasonal routine. And then you get to opening the channels of healing, which encompasses encompasses panchakarma, meditation, primordial sound, pulse diagnosis, marma therapy, bliss technique, aroma therapy and Gandharva music therapy.

A good PR job
Now, if you think this book's going to teach you any of the above, you may be disappointed to find the author repeatedly note, "needs to be taught by a qualified Ayurvedic doctor". You may be further disappointed to find that all those oils, teas, raw silk gloves, aroma pots and diffusers will be available at "sources listed on page 317".

Chopra treads the fine line between an author and a practioner. He gives you just the right dose of information to get you interested but doesn't offer the remedy for your cures. He presents the benefits of Transcendental Meditation, for example, without offering any insights on how to perform the meditation. Want to learn? Chopra advises you to call your local Maharishi Ayurveda clinic.

Whether it works for him or not it's difficult to say, but even some of the most positive reviews of the book make a note of the veiled advertisements.

The verdict

Like most of his books, Chopra's Perfect Health is also tailored for a primarily Western audience so do not be surprised if you come across words like cayenne, romaine lettuce or persimmons. If you're new to Ayurveda and want a handy guide, this book could be a start. The sensational anecdotes and medical facts spice up the text-bookish narrative. Particularly noteworthy are the illustrations by Stephan Van Damme.

Read this book for its stories, for those invisible people who suffer from chronic diseases and find miraculous cures in alternative therapy. He may be a pushy advertiser, but Chopra makes for a surprisingly good story-teller.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

For my students...

I have been wanting to write this post for long. But now I am looking for the words I should begin this post with. That's strange I think. For I teach postgraduate students of journalism at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara how to use their words economically.

But today I've decided to pen down what I feel, a decision I made when I was asked in the classroom today, "What is creative?"

Today, was my last lecture with this batch of super-enthusiastic students. As a farewell gift they asked me roll out the in-house newspaper (created by them) from a typewriter. I haven't seen a typewriter in years and have never really used one. I tried pulling out the paper the way you'd pull one out of a printer. Luckily, the course coordinator intervened and asked me to roll it out. As I did so with care, my thoughts rushed back to when I had first stepped into the classroom in front of these students.

I had expected a bunch of 21-year-olds, fresh out of college, ready to take on the world. What I found instead were an assortment of students of different ages and sizes, standing up in attention to greet me. It reminded me of school when we would drearily greet our teachers (only on their birthdays or the last day before we'd break into vacation would we greet them with an enthusiasm that would make a celebrity jealous). "Now, this is a class," I thought.

I had prepared notes for my first lecture, but sizing up my students I figured theory would put them to sleep. So instead of journalism, I talked about the economics of journalism. Bewildered at some of my revelations of how the media actually works, they shot back questions that I boldly fielded off. I felt like I would finish the entire semester's coursework in an hour's time. I looked at my watch. Thankfully, it was time to leave.

The second day was better. I was much at ease. I asked them if I had rushed through the previous day's lecture. They responded, "No, we're above average." "This will be interesting," I thought.

My interaction with students developed over a span of four months during which I had the monumental task of getting them to do the in-house newspaper, Ittivrutt. Doing a 10-page newspaper is no big deal. Getting people who simply can't get along with each other to work together is. As newsroom politics took over the classroom, I had the tough job of seeing the project through. Luckily, in the midst of all the bickering and whining, they also managed to stretch their own limits and get good stories in the paper. Not only that, the super-competitive spirit pushed them to do better than all their previous batches and bring out the Ittivrutt in colour.

Through the course of this year, I have interacted with students at various levels. I had formed my own opinions about them by assessing their assignments, only to have them demolished as we worked it out in the not-so-friendly wilderness of Dang in south Gujarat. It was in Dang, I got to know each one of them as an individual and not as 'one of the class'.

Looking back now, there were times when I would wonder what I was doing teaching. There were times when I would get bogged down with the assessments (maintaining objectivity in relative grading is very difficult) and sometimes I would feel teaching's a thankless job when I would look at their glum faces after they'd scored low in a test. I would goad them to do things better and faster, make suggestions only to find them not implemented. Still, I hung on. And I am glad I did.

They gave me the best gift I have ever received by actually performing together as one group on stage. I was impressed, not only by their folk media presentation, but also by the fact that they had tided over their differences.

I am glad I took this teaching assignment up. It gave me a chance of mixing with a bunch of youngsters (well, most of them are young) who may in a few years change the way the world thinks through media. It taught me patience and people management. While teaching, I learnt and in my students, I found creativity: They made stories, I shaped minds.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Devil in Pinstripes

Author: Ravi Subramanian
Publisher: Rupa and Company
Pages: 279
Price: Rs 195
Reviewed by Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Mumbai Mirror on Monday, March 08, 2010 at 07:39:08 PM

The devil is back! Only this time, Prada has made way for pinstripes. With a title like that, this book's sure to grab eyeballs. Banker-author Ravi Subramanian knows what sells. So after the self-help management guide, I Bought the Monk's Ferrari, he churns up another corporate tale of ambition, greed, politics and relationships on the lines of his debut novel, If God was a Banker. The boardroom's new, the storyline old. But who's complaining?

This time, the author traces the life of another starry-eyed MBA from IIM Bangalore. Awed by a flamboyant pitch made by Aditya Bhatnagar, Amit Sharma joins the New York International Bank (NYB) in Mumbai. He soon finds out that there is more to retail banking than profits and Powerpoint presentations. As Amit grows from strength to strength under Aditya's tutelage, he encounters his adversary, Gowri Shankar - the man who wreaks havoc in both his personal and professional lives.

Amit's biotechnologist-cum-banker wife Chanda is ecstatic when through a quirk of fate both Amit and she end up working in the same office. But as Amit grows in his stature in Gowri's domain, life becomes increasingly difficult for Chanda. For every battle he wins against Gowri, Amit finds he's gone a step farther away from Chanda. A shaky marriage, a bitter rival and boardroom politics, force Amit to look for a career outside the NYB. But with an appointment letter, he also finds a non-bailable arrest warrant in his hands.

Unravelling this story of corporate fraud, corporate in-house power struggles and the dirty world of office politics, Subramanian's Devil in Pinstripes is not just a paperback. It is an example of how to deal with these issues that plague the corporate world. It reinforces the belief that corruption comes from the top.

Unlike If God was a Banker, the lines between the good guys and the bad guys are blurred here. The writer Subramanian scores with his real-life characterisation. The banker Subramanian knows well how to weave in the intricacies of retail banking into a simple storyline. And the marketeer in him keeps plugging If God was a Banker. The author whips up everything to keep the reader interested. It pays off. There is never a dull moment in these 279 pages. That's reason enough why it should be on your shelf.