The little things…

It was something very small. But not significant. It happened yesterday, and I still can’t stop smiling when I remember it.

Yesterday, while I was going to office by auto, we had to stop at only traffic signal on the way. And there, right next to my auto, was a car that was carrying little children back from school. Of them, one of the little girls looked towards me.

Without thinking twice, I pulled a face. A funny one. She did not laugh at once, but I noticed a hint of smile on her face when she looked away. And as is the habitual curiosity of little children, she couldn’t look away for more than a few seconds.

This time, I pulled another funny face, and her lips cracked into a beaming smile. Just about then, the traffic moved a bit, and another vehicle came between us. She craned her neck to catch another glimpse of me, and I gratified her with another of her funny faces.

The traffic signal turned green, and my auto turned right. Her car went straight on. She craned her neck a few times more, and I tried a few more funny faces. And I still remember her smiling face.

It was something very small. But not insignificant. I managed to make her smile. And the purity of that smile cleansed me of quite a lot of the negative emotions I had been accruing over the past few weeks. It gave me the strength to power through a few more of such weeks. Precious, wasn’t it?

Care to share any such experiences you had?

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The will and fear to live or die

I was wondering over this topic, and thought of observing a few things. A little introspection revealed to me quite a few points. And it was easier because just a few days ago, I was losing the will to live. Which, however, does not mean that I was willing to die. It simply means that I was running out of reasons to live for, and was stuck with just existing.

So that was the first observation. Loss of the will to live does not mean that there is a willingness to die. And I guess the opposite holds true too! Many of our soldiers and policemen, and many more of our patriots who helped us achieve independence, have willingly died for us. Does that mean that they had lost the will to live? Au contraire, had they been convinced that we could manage well without their sacrifices, they would have lived on. They died just so that we could live a better life.

And then there’s the part about the absence of the fear of death. It cannot be equated to the willingness to die, but is often misconstrued thus. Here’s the difference. A person willing to die need not necessarily be free from the fear of death. He may be willing to sacrifice himself, but that could be brought on by convincing him that his death could do great good. Or that his death could help avoid any harm being done to his loved ones. This is just an example, by the way.

Then, of course, comes the fear to live. Think of a girl who has just been molested, and is being looked at with strange emotions in their eyes by her friends and relatives. If these stares continue, she might as well become too fearful of just going outside! She won’t develop a willingness to die, or overcome the fear of death. However, she will stick herself in a corner, ceasing to ’live’ her life and continuing to exist.

I had almost forgotten about the will to live. Hope springs eternal, and so does this. Any person willing to die will, given conducive circumstances, change his mind and show the will to live. It is within this ’conducive circumstances’ phrase that the rub lies. These circumstances must provide him with a reason to live. Otherwise, once again, he continues just to exist.

Nevertheless, when it comes to life, living, death and its fear, only one example springs to mind. Bheeshma was given the boon of choosing the time of his death. And he could have chosen a lot of moments to die before he actually chose one.

He could have chosen to die when he came to know that both of his half brothers were incapable of producing offspring. He could have committed suicide when one of his nephews died, while the only other one, a blind whose initial claim to the throne had been rejected solely for that reason, ascended the throne and a series of ’mistakes’ began.

He could have chosen to die when some of his grandsons molested the wife of his other grandsons, and that too in front of the entire court. He could have chosen to die the very moment his grandsons chose to face off against each other in the battlefield. Herein lies another old promise that prevented him.

He had promised his stepmother Satyavati, that under no condition would he let the dynasty’s lineage die out. Hence, he chose sage Vyas to impregnate Ambika, Ambalika and a slave woman. Hence he did a lot of other things to ensure that the lineage would continue. He chose to bear the grief on a number of occasions just in the hope that he would one day see the dynasty flourish. And he breathed his last only when he thought that he had ensured that his grandsons do not wipe each other out.

I draw my own lessons from this, but folks, can you tell me what lessons you draw from this? I would like to compare notes…

Music Therapy

Honestly, it doesn’t happen often. However, it did for me. That is why I keep exulting the values of music.

A couple of days ago, I was extremely down and out. and then I rediscovered the magic of Rammstein’s Eskimo and Egypt, both the instrumental and vocal versions. While the drumming parts gave me enough opportunity to mime the beats the drummer would have implemented, the guitar bits made me feel, once again, as if I could shout out and relieve myself of a lot of pain again.

Tonight, I am listening to the tracks from Dil Se. The film was not one of my favourites, though a definite top runner because it gave rise to a lot of trivia. Nevertheless, it was a memory stirrer. It provided me with one of the few links I could connect with my father after my mother’s death nearly 14 years ago.

The album featured the song Dil Se, which I still have as my caller tune, just because it is one of the few Rahman songs my father likes. Believe it or not, it’s playing right now!

Music, more than once, has prevented me from doing the stupid thing. Hope it continues to do so.

For you too, folks, no matter what kinda music you like.

Actually, it would be kinda cool to know what kind of music you like. Care to tell me in the comments section?

Wotta Piece!

And no, I don’t say that about every song, much less a song that has not been set to music by AR Rahman. But I have been just blown to bits by one such piece, and no, Rahman is not the composer. It’s a composer by the name of Amit Trivedi, who is much lesser known at the international level than Rahman. He has already won the National Award for Best Music Director, thanks to his score in Dev.D, and given the manner in which he is going on, the day is not far when he’s gonna make it as big, if not bigger than Rahman!

I was Twitter a couple of days ago, and saw MTV India tweet about the song Dilli from No One Killed Jessica. I didn’t have the time then, but tonight, I went to the link they had provided, and I am listening to the song again and again on Youtube. And the part I like the best is the sort-of guitar solo towards the end of the song while the singers or the chorus keep singing Kaat Kaleja Dilli and all. Just the guitar, and it still managed to blow me away!

The song itself has other qualities too, though. It seamlessly melds portions of hardcore Indian classical elements into what is essentially a hard rock song. Even Rahman has rarely done this! Trivedi’s talent is that instead of losing its identity in the tug-of-war between the two styles, the song assumes a new identity of its own!

As for the guitar solo, I think I can equate it, in some respects, to the piece played by Slash on guitar towards the end of November Rain. I find the two similar because they each evoke very vivid emotions in me, and I am somehow able to find the exact words to describe exactly how I feel!

For November Rain, every time slash picks at one of the chords with his plectrum, I feel as if some part of the musical instrument, and by extension the musician and me, is trying to cry out in despair, helpless at the immensity of the sadness heaped upon us! That piece makes me want to look towards the skies, ball my hands into fists, look up and shout at the Almighty for all the atrocities he is allowing to be committed on earth.

It’s as if I want my vocal chords to strain so much that I can feel no other sensation, and therefore, no other pain! It’s as if that piece is a huge outlet of angst for me. It’s like the wail of despair that I am emitting, but it goes ignored and unheard just because I have a smile pasted on my face!

Trivedi’s music, or rather, the piece of music I have already mentioned, has a similar quality: it evokes strong emotions. However, the emotions here are diametrically opposite to what the November Rain piece evokes!

Every picking of the strings in this guitar piece seems to have an inherent quantum of energy in it. As a whole, the piece feels like a storm I am struggling against. The kind of storm Sabrina Lal might have had to weather. However, the small bits of energy that I earlier mentioned somehow make me feel that I can weather this storm. And that quality is special in any song or piece! If it can evoke an emotion, a song has done it’s task!

Oh, and Mr Trivedi, if, by any remote chance, you happen to be reading this, please don’t be angry because I compared you with AR Rahman. Thing is, to be the best, you must at first be compared to the best! And the day someone compares a noob (newbie) to your talent, know that YOU are the best! Wish you luck!

Just thinking…

There are times when I like to just think things through, and they get complicated. There are times when logic contradicts itself. Here’s one such instances.

Tansen and Baiju Bawra were both singers. They had a competition, and Tansen finally conceded defeat, going on to say that Baiju was the better singer. And that is where I am confused. Who actually is the better singer?

You see, just by conceding defeat, Tansen has proved that he has humility, which many deny him in other versions of the story. Second, Baiju was someone who had undergone a lot of grief in life, and they say that no diamond can be formed without a lot of heat and pressure.

Therefore, assuming that the grief in life that Baiju experienced actually helped him become a better singer. On the other hand, all Tansen had was God’s gift. There was no grief in his life that could define why he sang so well. Now, considering that God’s gift is bigger a thing than human grief, doesn’t that make Tansen a better singer than Baiju?

I wonder…

Keeps me ticking – II

In an earlier post titled ’Keeps me ticking’, I had talked of how various instances in my journalistic career have kept my faith alive in my profession, and have egged me on to perform better. This post is about how quizzing, my hobby, has helped me come out of tight spots time and again, and how it continues to be a source of joy for me.

Most of you will know that I run a daily quiz blog, where I post a question every day, and answer it the next. Heck, most of you will probably have come here after viewing the latest post at that very blog! But quizzing has not exactly been a ’recent fad’ for me. I was into quizzing since my school days!

My first quiz ever was an inter-house one, when I was in standard IV. We had four ’houses’, each distinguished by their colours. Yeah, just like Hogwarts does, but not quite. We were sorted randomly, and I was in the Blue house, called Hogan, and I can’t remember why.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that we won that quiz, and that got the ball rolling. I went on to win a very local quiz that year. My father had taken me there, and after winning the quiz by a landslide, we had returned without receiving the schoolbag we had been promised. I didn’t need it, because it had given me a whole lot of confidence!

Next on the menu was the local edition of the Maggi Quiz, for which I had to go to the Don Bosco School, Bandel, as a representative of the Assembly of God Church School, Dankuni. I was still a standard IV student, and the teacher who had accompanied me wouldn’t let me sit in the three-member team, instead choosing students who were in standards V and VI. They scraped into the main round, but lost.

Pay attention here, folks, because this is how the role of quizzing in my life is defined! As I sat in the audience, answering some questions that my older schoolmates somehow had no clue about, I was spotted by some students of Don Bosco, who encouraged me come to their school, because they saw more quizzing action!

In the meantime, I had answered one question from the audience that all the other teams had missed, and received four packets of Maggi in the process. The question: Who sang the song Dil Hai Chhota Sa from the film Roja? (The answer, in case you were wondering, is Minmini.)

The way those senior boys encouraged me was one of the reasons I got into that school, and I don’t regret it a single bit! How I got in is another story for another time. And that was the first time quizzing intervened!

In the eight years I was in Don Bosco, from standard V to standard XII, I attended many other quizzes, reaching my pinnacle when we won the Maggi Quiz when I was in standard VI, representing my school in the Big Babol Quiz on DD Metro when I was in standard VIII, and appearing on TV in the process, and becoming the runners-up at the national level of the Limca Book of Records Quiz!

The only gap here was caused by my mother’s death. I didn’t go to school a month after that, and it was during this time that our school received the first ever invite in its history to the Bournvita Quiz Contest. They let it pass due to lack of proper representation. I was in standard VII. After that, I became too old to be eligible for it.

The next time quizzing intervened was several years later, sometime in 2005, when I was attending engineering college in Nagpur. It was here that I met Rajiv Ranjan Singh at a quiz. Rajiv, though older than me, was a great friend, and an even better quizzer. He was a journalist too! It was he who helped get me into journalism in late 2006, showing me the way to a local newspaper where a job position was vacant. I should mention here that Rajiv had, by then, already participated in an edition of BBC Mastermind India by then!

I started working for the Nagpur edition for The Times of India in mid-2007. However, it wasn’t until late 2008 that I would be asked to conduct a quiz. Dr Rajiv Mohta, who has had a long association with the Indian Academy of Paediatrics, and has headed several sections of it, offered me to conduct a quiz for schools in Nagpur on the occasion of Teenage Day, and I jumped at it!

I conducted the quiz next year too, and a few others in between. These kept me going for sometime. Conducting a quiz is not all that easy, but I thrived on it. And the people who attended my quizzes generally gave favourable feedbacks. That was how I came to conduct two quizzes at VNIT, Nagpur.

The venue was a National Institute of Technology, and the quizzers were extremely talented. And just days later, I discovered Windows Live Writer. The two combined to give rise to my quiz blog, It has been a constant source of joy ever since!

There are times now when I get nearly 200 clicks and/or more than 10 answers daily. It definitely feels nice to know that at least some people like, or at least pay attention to your work!

Quizzing was also what helped me get my first group of friends in Jaipur, when I shifted here six months ago! I got to know Jaiquizzi, and featured them in an article of mine. Meanwhile, I was also following other blogs. About a week ago, I found out that Derek O’Brien (do I even have to tell you who he is?) has started conducting a quiz online, and pitched the idea to my boss, who let me write it.

The resulting article is currently on Facebok, and has already received lots of compliments. It has also made a lot of people happy! And it is the second reaction that is sustaining me today. I haven’t had the best of days at office, and returned to so many smileys here that it made me my melancholy disappear in a jiffy! Once again, quizzing has given me a new perspective of life!

PS: If you think this, or any other post in this blog, is too boring, please tell me. I thrive on feedback, and your silence is a great letdown!