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With this one phone call, I took a whole new creative birth.

It was a bright Sunday morning, I had called up my house in Delhi.

My mother was on line, and i said something very unusual.

After a few minutes, my father was on the phone.

“What have you said to her? Your mother is crying” he scolded me.

I overheard my mother speak: “Khushi Ke Aansoon…Tears of Joy”

It was my first poem ever written, in dedication to Amma, my mother.

“I never knew you could write so well”, she said in utter surprise.

This was the biggest compliment of my life, that too on Mother’s Day.

I felt again like the 7-pound baby, freshly delivered to the world.

My mother must have cried ‘Tears of Joy’ even then.

As the phone call ended, I cried too…

Imagine, if you did any or all of this:

1. Truly experimented by reading Mahatma Gandhi’s book ‘My Experiments with Truth’ with a fresh and empty mind at 4:30 am in the morning (okay, call it night time!).

2. Watched Richard Attenborough’s historical saga ‘Gandhi’ and Rajkumar Hirani’s comic caper ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’ back to back, and at times wondered whether to cry or to laugh, but still cried.

3. Chanted Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite mantra ‘RAM RAM’ throughout the day, even if it was the only time you would say this in your entire life, unless you are a hardware engineer who deals in RAM & ROM.

4. Showed your cute school photograph to your mother (and secretly to your girlfriend), with you dressed as a ‘perfectly imperfect’ Mahatma Gandhi lookalike in a fancy dress competition. And got a big kiss from either of them!

5. Freely distributed Mahatma Gandhi photos, especially those printed on 1000 and 500 rupee notes.

6. Aped ‘Father of the Nation’ Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘fast’ route when your father curbed your freedom to watch TV! And won, primarily due to your mother’s ‘Lean & Hungry Son/Daughter’ plea PLUS the mighty ‘No-Cooperation’ notice to your father.

7. Roared Mahatma Gandhi’s slogan ‘DO or DIE’ with your friends of ‘Cricket Congress’ every time India did not score a run on a ball in their eliminator cricket match.

8. Had the cheek to say ‘Sample this cheek too, please!’ when someone teasingly pulled one of your cheeks.

9. Very deeply pondered during bedtime what if Mahatma Gandhi were still alive! Dreamt of beating Mahatma Gandhi in a national brisk walk competition…Woke up and asked yourself  ‘What are the chances that Mahatma Gandhi was reborn, and he were ‘YOU’ (who knows)?

Can’t imagine that you would have done any of these?

If you did, tell me which one was close enough to what you did. If you did something even more Unimaginable, tell me quick…’Mr. and Ms. Gandhigiri’ titles await deserving people.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s beautiful of ‘em all?”

Gone are the days when people used to ask this question. Now, it is fairly common for us to ask – “Mirror, mirror on the wall, am I beautiful at all?”

While the mirror does not lie, it shows only the visible aspect of a person’s beauty – the physical attributes.

As we remain entangled in trivial debates – wavy versus curly hair, royal versus crooked nose, flat versus heavy bosom, and so on – a large part of our beauty consciousness, which is non-physical, lies dormant unknown to ourselves.

In the wild obsession with the outer, we tend to become progressively ignorant of the inner. The seat of real beauty is the soul – the essence of your divinity and your connection with the Creative force within you.

“Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty, that is all Ye know on Earth, and all Ye need to Know”, English poet John Keats wrote in one of his famous poems. The Sanskrit verse –Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ – too express the notion that Truth is divinity and divinity is beauty.

To be true to one’s body and accept it as a creative masterpiece, and to be true to oneself as an individual capable of being a magnet of love and compassion – can be an inclusive and democratic definition of beauty. Instead of seeing beauty as a reflection of one’s color, height, social status or economic potential, we should be able to see beauty as a makeover of our minds and hearts.

While every human may not have fashionable physical features and the media-projected attractiveness quotient, each one of us can cultivate the divine attributes that truly make us ‘humane’ and irresistibly charming to people in our lives.

Would we want our children to hold on to the time-tested value of love and gratitude for this priceless body or rather have them subject their bodies to the ever-changing social stereotypes of beauty? After all, a positive and healthy attitude to life does not have to mean ‘size zero’ and ‘six-pack abs’.

Beyond the botox foreheads, silicon breasts and tummy tucks lie the innocence and simplicity of graceful acceptance of who we are. Who wouldn’t be attracted to a sparkle in the eye, a wide-toothed smile, a chuckle in the voice and a heart that beats with love and joy?

“A thing of beauty is joy forever”, remarked a poet. Taking creative liberty, one may add, “An old man, young at heart, is boy forever”.

Real beauty can be about honoring and celebrating everyone as they really are – unique and resplendent creations of a perfect Creator. The first and the foremost benefactor of this appreciation should be the most important person in your life – YOU!

Then, you will find a sweet voice whispering within, I’m the Mirror in your heart, and you’re an ever-beautiful work of art!”

Who would have imagined that the world would soon see a disease whose name itself would be quite a mouthful? And that too mouthful of a curse.
 

Enter Swine Flu!

Wonder who coined the word ‘Flu’! Sounds like a jet plane flying around at will, and landing itself unannounced at unwelcome destinations.

Sometimes the name of an ailment itself is enough to send shivers in the hearts and minds of people.  Why call diseases as Malaria, Cancer, Rabies, etc.? Why not make a list of diseases worldwide, and assign them harmless codes such as  A1, B1, etc. Atleast, they won’t sound as fatal as they actually are.

Coming to Swine Flu, quarantining people enmasse may be back into fashion. Our computer anti-virus programs are experts in doing that, but when it comes to human beings, it is as good as imprisonment. Imagine an outlandish news headline like – “PM jailed to avoid infecting Parliament”!

Things will get bizarre if this new air-borne invader into our immune system ends up creating a new bazaar for preventive masks. Yes, masks that would soon mask out one’s identity. People would be recognized by their signature masks, rather than their faces. For those who love variety, there would be night-wear and party-wear designer masks as well.

Not to mention, a big opportunity for pharma companies to come up with another well-marketed, yet ineffectual drug.

Just for today, go out and take a breath of fresh air, or maybe bottle up some of it. Who knows, breathing freely might become a luxury one day!

Pigeon Diaries Finale

I had washed some clothes and wanted to put them up for drying in the balcony. So, I had to deliberately shoo Pikoo and Bannu away. 

I also noticed that the pigeons had been using my balcony as an excretion ground. I had to spend ten minutes just scraping off their dried out excreta that had stuck to the balcony floor. 

In 17th century Europe, pigeon poop was a highly-prized fertilizer; it was considered to be far more potent than farm-yard manure.  So valuable that armed guards were stationed at the entrances to pigeon-houses to stop thieves from stealing it. Not only this, in the 16th century England, pigeon poop was the only known source of saltpetre, an essential ingredient in gunpowder, and thus a dear commodity. With so much excreta around, I could have been a billionaire of those days.

Atleast, now I also had a ‘solid’ reason not to allow any pigeon to perch on my balcony. Suprisingly, for the next few days, none did. Nevertheless, sparrows have become regular visitors to my balcony. Every morning, my alarm goes off at 6 am. I turn the alarm off and again hit the bed. But around 7 am, I can listen to the constant chirping of sparrows that serves me the second reminder to get up. 

Every now or then, some sparrow comes to the balcony. It does not stick around for more than a minute. Either it hurriedly gulps dried out grains of rice that it has broken from a plate of rice I had kept, or makes a crying call to some other distant sparrow, and flies away in haste. Sometimes, a group of sparrows decide to visit the balcony, make frequent chirping calls and fly off suddenly. That’s why I have been unable to name and follow a sparrow.

Yesterday evening, a new pigeon with a huge body and unusually long, pointed and pinkish claws perched on my balcony grill. I opened the windows and tried to shoo it away, but it did not go. I opened the windows from the other side and tried to reach it, but the pigeon was unafraid. I tried to bang the window, but the banging sound did not make it budge. Luck favours the brave, so I have decided to let it spend the night on balcony.

Maybe this was a messenger sent by Pikoo and his family to tell me that they have migrated elsewhere. I will miss Pikoo, but wish that someday this peerless pigeon might like to use the earth’s magnetic field to navigate back to my balcony. 

Till then, I am happy to bob my head like a pigeon, and sing ‘Coo roo-Ctoo-Coo’.  

Bird watching…naaa!

For the past few days, a strange phenomenon is happening. 

Pikoo and his family spend more time in my balcony than anywhere else. Earlier they used to fly away when I tried to get near the sliding windows of the balcony. Nowadays, no matter how close I get to the windows, the birds remain unruffled.

Several times, I have created a big, wide opening by sliding all the three windows to one extreme corner. This opening can allow them to easily fly into the living room of the house. However, they don’t come inside. 

Oddly, they are far less scared even when I make eye contact with them. Is it the beginning of a bird-human symbiotic relationship?

Nowadays, Pikoo and another young pigeon, whom I fondly call ‘Bannu’, spend their nights on the topmost grill of the balcony. Bannu is extremely clever. Everyday, she occupies the rightmost corner of the topmost grill on a first-come-first-serve basis. Since, Pikoo comes a bit late, he has no choice but to take the leftmost corner. This does not happen without a mock fight.

Pikoo and Bannu sit opposite to each other and extend one of their wings on a full stretch to push the other one away. This is akin to two samurai warriors displaying a game of swordsmanship on a tightrope.

Then, they try to flap their wings at each other animatedly for a few minutes. Eventually they stop. Evidence shows that Bannu has maintained the coveted ‘rightmost’ position on the topmost grill for two consecutive nights. Such is love.

Another peculiar thing I have noticed is that pigeons sleep in the night, standing on only one of their feet. They draw back the other foot close up to their body, so much so that it appears that this foot has somewhat disappeared. They curl up with beak close to chin and eyes closed – completely still.

No wonder, Charles Darwin used pigeons to formulate his famed Theory of Evolution.

I sometimes chuckle at dumb birds, especially if it happens to be a pigeon.

Mind you, pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet. The pigeon can recognize all 26 letters of the English alphabet. The pigeon can also pass the ‘mirror test’ (being able to recognize its reflection in a mirror). It is one of the only 6 species, and the only non-mammal, to possess this ability.

Well, I don’t know whether this particular pigeon was really a no-brainer or just feigning ignorance. The pigeon had purposefully or mistakenly slipped inside the living room. Perhaps, this was when I was in another room.

On closer look, he seemed to be Pintoo, Pikoo’s younger brother. As I came back to the living room, I saw him struggling to get out through the gap created by the sliding windows.

Infact, only the rightmost of the three windowpanes was open. Pintoo ambled upto the leftmost window, tried to go out, but hit the windowpane. He repeated the same movement again and again – left pane and middle pane, left and middle, and so on. Everytime he collided with the windowpane.

Somehow, Pintoo never tried to move just an inch to the right of the middle windowpane. Here the entire right window had been pushed back to create a big opening. Perhaps, the poor pigeon had assumed that opening to be a windowpane, and never tried to approach it.

Even I did not try to help. A confused pigeon in trying circumstances might react irrationally to human intervention.

After much struggle, the pigeon did hit its Eureka! It found the opening.

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