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July 2015

Meeting the Peoples’ President – APJ Abdul Kalam Azad

3 days ago, on 27th July, the beloved 11th president of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam passed away. Social media has been awash with condolences. We asked two of our authors, who had the priviledge of meeting him in person, to share their thoughts with us.

A Memorable Day in My Life – By Dr S K Haldar
It was 2002, Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was visiting and addressing school children in remote areas and city schools in all corners of the country. As part of that, he also came to Udaipur. He has a busy schedule the whole day with the local school children. He wanted to address the citizens of Udaipur at the end of the day. The talk was schedule to start at 6 in the evening in the auditorium of Udaipur Medical College and I was fortunate to be an invitee.

I reached the venue at 5 PM as is my nature and being the first person in the audience, I sat right in the front row. Soon people started coming in and taking their seats. Around 5:40 pm, there was some commotion at the entry door and I saw the great noble soul appear. He looked at clock on the wall, picked up an ordinary chair and sat in front of me. I wished him, he reciprocated and extended his hand. He proposed the people should ask him questions till the official program began. He was a good listener. The chairman of the occasion was yet to reach the venue.

At exact 6 PM he stopped the discussion, went to the podium, took the microphone and started addressing the audience. He was a good story teller and I remember one such story he told. He was invited by his doctor friend for diner at their house in Tamil Nadu. Both the doctor and his wife were medical professionals and wanted their only daughter to go to medical school.  But the daughter wanted to study physics. Their only request to Dr Kalam was to convince their daughter to join the noble medical course. Dr Kalam had a discussion with the girl for almost an hour and listened to her quietly. She was very sincere and focused. She wanted to study physics because her ultimate goal was to be a missile scientist.  Dr Kalam came out of the room and told the parents that he will either join the diner and pay for it or else he will skip the diner as he could not convince the young student. He was very clear that the parents may guide their child but the student should opt to follow the career he/she likes best.

By that time the chairman of the ceremony reached the venue, extend his sincere apologies for not being on time and requested him to visit Udaipur at the end of the year to receive the “Moharana Mewar Annua Award”.He came to Udaipur again for receiving the award and I was fortunate to see him again. 

“My sincere salute to People’s President, AJP Abdul Kalam”
Remembering Dr Kalam – By Dr Daya Kishore Hazra

Today I remember how I was privileged to meet President Dr Abdul Kalam to present my dream of a Therapeutic Biomolecule Centre  for India (similar to that in the UK at Oxford ) to develop lead molecules- monoclonal antibodies and peptides -, as targeted therapy missiles- for treating cancers and infections at affordable prices  without exorbitantly priced imports… He was gracious, affectionate, and immediately suggested an action plan linking INMAS and a prominent biotechnology corporation. That was just a few months before his Presidential term finished, and I still hope to achieve this, and I am sure that had he continued for a second term, this dream would already have seen fruition! My homage to this great but disarmingly humble son of India.


Viraar Fast

This story is the story of many women in India, who commute via public trains and buses to work places, schools, colleges and wherever it is they need to go. It is not the first time that someone has chosen to tell this story. Nevertheless it is important to share this again and again – how something as simple as a daily commute could be a brutal struggle and many a times even disrespectful experience. 
Our storyteller draws an uncanny similarity between her situation and the Hindu scripture, Geeta / Gita. 
I was rushing from the central line platform to the western line platform. I had to catch the 9.30 train to Andheri. It was already 9.25 pm. That day Indrayni express was a bit late to enter the Dadar platform. May be 10 minutes late! But those 10 minutes were the most expensive 10 minutes of my life. Those 10 minutes showed me the brutal reality of life also taught me to believe and have faith in the supreme power that rules the universe.
I took the risky way of running across the railway tracks to reach the platform on time where the train would halt. It was 9.28 and I could see the train approaching the platform. I was still on the tracks attempting to jump up the platform that was a bit high for me. I saw someone from the corner of my eye lending me a hand to pull me up to the platform. I grabbed it and jumped up. By the time I could brush off the dirt from my hands, my helper was gone. Felt like a strong masculine hand…
I felt the gust of air on my face as the train entered the platform. But I was not in front of the ladies compartment. So I had to run towards it treading the heavy crowd, pushing people coming across the other way just to reach on time. Being new to Bombay, I was not used to the “train systems”. All I knew was I had to be in the ladies compartment or the 12th coach. I kept running with my backpack filled with all my study materials for Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and my purse with very little money and train passes. I had to save all of my assets in this struggle of boarding a trainin the busiest city of India.
When I reached the 12th coach, it was jam packed to the brim and with several hanging women who seemed well practiced in that position. I tried to board the train but was pushed away only to crash land on the moving crowd and take down few with me on to the concrete floor. Bruised from my elbows and knees, I felt numb from the thought that I missed the last train to Andheri and the next train was “Viraar Fast”. For people who never lived in Bombay, it’s just a train. In reality, it is the most crowded train and the toughest to get onto and it doesn’t stop at all stations.
With my apprehensions building up and in preparation for the unknown, I spent the next several minutes remembering all the shlokas (hymns) I knew from Geeta, trying to muster as much courage as I could. Though it seemed like a long wait, Viraar Fast entered the platform with the same gush of wind and the loud whistle, making its presence felt through its ground rumbling vibrations.
I was terrified to see that the 12th coach was already overflowing and I had no courage to hang on to anyone’s hand. It suddenly occurred to me that this train had another ladies compartment, the 9th coach. I didn’t remember why I was advised against 9th coach but got tempted to check on it. To my surprise, it was almost empty with few women at the door. I jumped into that compartment with a feeling of achievement and worth for the wait. Two other girls also followed me and they seemed as confused as I was. Probably they were new to Bombay too and were not aware of the rules for the “9th coach”. And neither of us could imagine how the next half hour would be!
“Viraar Fast”, as the name suggested, was headed to “Viraar” and it stopped only at major stations and hence was “Fast”. The next stop was Bandra and then Andheri, my destination. The train took off and I was enjoying the cool breeze after a long day. I traveled to Pune 3 days a week to attend GRE coaching classes and rest of the days I was in Bombay working odd jobs to stretch out a living. Closing my eyes, I just wanted to relax and let go of all the exhaustion and look forward to a sumptuous dinner. I was famished…
It was a fruitful day and it all seemed to be falling in place for me. I was doing well in my classes and mock tests and I was feeling hopeful to make it through the GRE that year and be in the United States of America to pursue my master’s degree. As my mind was reflecting through the eventful day I felt the train slowing down. Bandra was approaching and the train was about to stop. Then it would be Andheri and I would be home.
As the train entered the platform I could hear the cacophony of rushing people mostly men, trying to beat the crowd to make it to the train as soon as it stopped if not before. I was still quite relaxed thinking that I was in ladies compartment and I would be immune to the mob. But, as the train was coming to a halt, I saw a multitude of men barging into the “9th coach” ladies compartment and filling up the entire coach in no time even before I could even react to whole situation.
Why are men coming into the ladies compartment? How will I tread this mass and reach the door? What will these people do to me? Those were the few questions along with several that raced through my mind at that moment and I had no answer to any. I exchanged glances with the other two girls and they were equally confused if not more. Neither of us knew that the 9th coach was ladies compartment only till 10pm and it was 10.01 pm when the train entered Bandra station.
9th coach was filled with men in no time and I was being crushed from all sides. I held on to my purse across my chest as tightly as I could. It was also a reaction to protect myself from being vulnerable. Needless to say, I could already feel several hands on me and all over me and I had absolutely no power to defend. It was a mixed feeling of disgust and anger that was gradually taking over my mind. The feeling of helplessness was unbearable to the point of hatred. My mind wanted to numb me down to deny the feel of the hungry cannibals around me and wanted to take me to my eternal abode of sustenance, the Geeta.
As I started picturing the scene of the battlefield of Kurukshetra and Krishna explaining Arjun why he should fight, I realized that I was trapped in the Chakraview, labyrinth, which was impossible for me to escape without Krishna’s help. At that moment I felt a sudden sense of anguish surging in me, questioning the Almighty, why I had to go through this test of disgrace; what had I done to deserve the worst form of insult to womanhood? I demanded an explanation from Krishna for bestowing this misfortune unto me and questioned his existence. It was only Krishna who could save me from disappearing from the face of the earth and only a miracle could restore my faith in Him.
As I felt my blood boiling through my veins and rushing to my brains my ability to think was gradually slowing down and my helplessness was killing me even before my windpipe would be choked. Sucked between gripping hands I felt my clothes getting torn and my chest getting heavy with each passing moment. All I could scream in my mind with my eyes tightly shut was “hey Krishna”! I had totally lost the sense of time and had no idea how far I was from my destination.
” Do you want to get off at Andheri?” I vaguely heard a voice. I couldn’t open my eyes in an unknown fear. I heard the voice again and this time I wanted to make sure it was real. So I looked around and saw a handsome gentleman formally dressed in a lemon yellow shirt and navy blue and cream striped tie pushing his way through and trying to reach me and asking the same question which I initially thought was part of the cacophony. I replied “yes”. As soon as he was close enough, he pulled those starving men off me and said, “Hold me tight and I’ll take you to the door”. I immediately told him that there are two other girls behind me. He asked me not to worry. As advised, I held him tight around his waist and my head sunk in his chest. My eyes were tightly closed to deny the hideous truth around. I felt him freeing the other two girls and asking them to hold him from his back. Wading through the thick swarm of men he rescued all the three girls out of the ugliest dungeon and was set to reach the door of the “9th coach”. The 20 step journey from one end of the compartment to the door seemed endless. I didn’t want to think any further. All I knew was, it was then or never.
I imagined the battlefield of Kurukshetra where Pandavas were surrounded by a huge army, hundred folds bigger than their own and all they had was their charioteer, Krishna. With Krishna on their side they could win any battle against the entire universe! So is the strength of Krishna, so is his charisma!
Twenty steps became ten and then five.  Our struggle to reach the door started to seem successful. Once again I could feel the cool fresh breeze on my back as we almost reached the exit, my hands still clutched around his waist and my legs tightly curled around the strong calves of my “Krishna”. My eyes were still closed and my mind was still in disbelief. I didn’t have the exit mantra to the Chakraview but with Krishna on my side, the battle of Viraar fast was no less than a piece of cake.
The train started slowing down and finally came to a halt and he got off the train along with three girls clung to him. After landing on the platform, I dared to open my eyes and release my clasp. I looked at my angel and said, “thanks”. He smiled at me and said nothing. In his silence he spoke a thousand words and in his smile he had a blissful assurance. I stood there in awe as he merged in the myriads leaving no trace. Against the humongous army of flesh eating men, stood one man with his immense power of morality to squash the blasphemous intentions of his peers.
Restoring my faith in his omnipresence, Krishna came for my rescue proving yet again that he resides in every man! It’s not the strength of the enemy but the faith in ourselves that helps us to win any battle. And every battle ends in the victory of dharma (righteousness) over adharma, be it in Kurukshetra or Viraar fast.

Love Locks

I have just returned from touring central Europe for a fortnight with the family. Everyone amongst the friends and family have asked that I blog about our travel stories. I will, I promise. But there are these bunch of mini stories that happened during the travel that I feel like writing about first. 

Many of my posts have involved events and conversations between me and my daughter. As she is growing up, our conversations are becoming more intense and interesting at the same time. One such heart to heart happened during the trip. 

Love locks, as they are called, are very famous in many parts of Europe. People put locks on fences, bridges, gates and such, as the symbol of their love and affection. The key is thrown into the river, once the lock is locked. The locks have names inscribed on them or a message or a promise. At Salzburg, Austria, on the Makartsteg bridge, we walked past thousands of love locks. I noticed it was not just lovers leaving a symbol behind. There were inscribed messages left for someone’s children and someone’s siblings. Those ones were of course much lesser in count and understandably so. 

Love Locks on a bridge at Salzburg, Austria 
As my daughter and I walked on that bridge, she asked me the purpose of the locks. I explained to her that it is a symbol for someone you love, a promise or even a wish you want to make for a loved one. The last part I made up (it is called the creative side of parenting). Padlocks as symbol of love could be tough to comprehend for a seven year old. 

“A Wish ! “, she exhaled a deep breath saying that. 

“Yes, like you could wish for a new mom and see if that happens”, I said jokingly. It is an old thing between us. Whenever she is mad at me, she always say she does not like me anymore and I then tell her to go fetch a new mom. Hours later we laugh about it, together. 

“Where is the key for the lock ?“, she asked rather seriously.

“In the river”, I said.

“Oh! So people don’t come back to open these locks?”, she asked. She is at that age where questions are just endless. They never cease.  

“You mean when the wish comes true ? I don’t think they open the locks. Are you that serious about your wish for a new mom?”, I asked. I was pretty amused by now. 

“I never said that. You always just think so. I don’t want a new mom.”, she said audibly. I could people glancing at us or perhaps even eavesdropping at some of this conversation. 

“So what do you really want ? What do you want to wish for?”, I was curious now. 

“I just wish you were not so strict at times. I wish you did not get so mad at me, ever.” 

I stopped where I was. No, I did not exactly freeze or get surprised at all. I know what she meant. I know it even without her telling me that. I just did not see it coming this way. If you are a parent you know exactly what I mean. 

How I wish I never lose my cool while being a mom! How I wish I never flare up and say things that I know I never should. How I wish I am as much of a cool parent as my husband is (this is relative) ! How I wish I was not always telling my children the right from the wrong. How I wish I could just have just pure fun with them at ALL times. How I wish I was a little more patient and little less tired most of the times ! How I wish I did not become the person that I momentarily become while discipling them! How I wish I somehow tell them I do all of that because I love them dearly! Love them more than anything else.  

The Charming City Of Salzburg, Mozart’s Birthplace, The land of “Sound of Music” 
These fleeting thoughts surrounded me at that moment with an overwhelming amount of guilt on the bridge that day. As I stood with my daughter on the bridge, soaking in the views of the charming city of Salzburg, I secretly thought  – Wish there was a bridge where parents like me could lock all such feelings like their stress, fatigue, impatience, the flare-ups and throw the key away. 

What a bliss that would be ! 

Pictures and Story By : Piya Mukherjee Kalra 

#Salzburg, #Travel, #LoveLocks

Cup and Cookies….Made For Each Other

Cup: Hey Cookie, want to go out for a dance?
Cookie: What’s on your mind, Mr. Cup?
Cup: C’mon, I was just bored enough to ask you. I don’t think we are perfect for each other.
Cookie: Yeah, perfect with each other sounds more like, Cup and Tea, or Cup and Coffee, or Coffee and Cookies, or even Cookies and Chocolate.
Cup: Oh! You are not with chocolate always. You are sweet coconut sometimes and a bitter chocolate some of the other times.
Cookie: You come in different colors and shapes.
Cup: You too come in so many shapes.
Cookie: Your shapes are an art; mine just a way to attract.
Cup: But isn’t attracting someone enough to look, touch, and taste an art too?
Cookie: Maybe… maybe not…
Cup: I can smell you each time life’s hand picks you, dips you in that brown liquid of my heart, and fulfills someone’s love for you. And you smell wonderful.
Cookie: I can feel your color merging with my chocolate each time I enter your heart. And you fill my heart with a longing with red color, a hope with green, and happiness with yellow.
Cup: I know you leave a little of yourself in the brown liquid for me to taste.
Cookie: I know you love the taste of bitter chocolate the most.
Cup: I love all the tastes you bring.
Cookie: And I love all the colors with which you paint my heart.
Cup: Watch out for that chipped corner. It might nip your heart.
Cookie: I have been nipped so many times already and I still go that way.
Cup (laughs): Oh man! You must be really sad.
Cookie: Why do you say that?
Cup: Who else would still go the same way after being nipped once?
Cookie (laughs): Oh man! You must be really sad.
Cup: Why do you say that?
Cookie: Don’t you know? The chipped corner shows the beautiful white you are hiding inside. It nips, it pains. But it brings out my beautiful white to merge with yours.
Cup: You just made my chipped corner beautiful.
Cookie: Like you always add color to my taste and smell.
Cup: But without a brown liquid we never come together.
Cookie (sad): That’s the only life we hold together.
Cup: No, the life that holds you, the same life keeps my heart alive.
P:S: I have a crazy fascination for cups and cookies. Every time I go for my tea or coffee, I love my cup and my cookies a little more. Sometimes I go window-shopping only for cups. And two days ago, I went out to buy cookies in stormy rain to stock my kitchen. I thought I was addicted to the two but I eavesdropped on this conversation to find that it wasn’t just me!

Written by : Shweta Rawal. A Management Consultant by profession, she lives at a lot of places but her true home are books, her blog, and wherever there is coffee, oranges and ice cream (not necessarily in the same cup). She dreams of owning wood, brick and mortar structures next to a river or sea, where she could drown forever in words with another living being , but is still not sure if that living being is a man, a dog, a cat, or a tree.

You can find her on –

Picture By : Soumi Haldar 

Shanghai – A Photoblog (Part 2)

Last month we had shared the first part of Prithvi’s travels through Shanghai. Today we share the second part of the travels of this young, enthusiastic, and vivacious globe trotting author.

Jade Buddha Temple

My travels have taken me through an unexpected spiritual journey to the world’s most famous and sacred religious places. In Shanghai, the journey continues at the world-renown Jade Buddha temple…

The most famous pieces of the temple are two Jade Buddhas imported from Burma in 1882. The first Buddha is sitting, a reflection of his moment of enlightenment. The second Buddha is reclining, reflecting his departure from this world in serenity. 

Visiting the Jade Buddha temple was one of the more peaceful and self-preserving experiences I had through my travels and I hope to return there again some day…

Yu Yuan Garden of Happiness

We spent one of our nights taking a stroll through Old Town Shanghai…my favorite kind of streets lined with souvenirs and hole in the wall restaurants, tea houses, and the amazing view of the gardens.


Last, but definitely not the least – I had the amazing opportunity to see Kaskade, one of my favorite DJs, while traveling in Shanghai! Needless to say, he was fantastic and I can’t believe I touched his magic hand!! It’s too bad I got food poisoning halfway into the night and had to turn back to rest for the next few days 😦 Nevertheless, totally worth it!!


Pictures and Travel Story By : Prithvi Guruprasad. Prithvi is a recent U.C. Berkeley alum who lives and works as a professional consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. She loves to travel, meet new people, and explore unfamiliar cultures and languages. With an innate appreciation for music, fashion, and art, Prithvi hopes to bring distant places close to home through her blog. She blogs at

And then…it rained!

Aporajita Jain reminisces about the monsoon in India….the emotion around those droplets that wipe the tears of millions in our country….the wait, the joy, the smell….the muck, the difficulties….all rolled in one…
Bangalore Year 2004:
“Abbey,@#$%,yeh koi bharat ki monsoon hain, jo aaj aayega kal aayega lagaaya huya hai tune…” *…bellowed my much-harassed colleague. …he had shifted to Bangalore and had been waiting patiently for a month now for his “saamaan”(goods) to arrive from Vapi,Gujarat to Bangalore!! I looked at him surprised! What an analogy, I thought!!
Mumbai ten years later:
“Mumbai is not like Bangalore….you’d better be prepared for the sweat n dehydrated feeling all the time….till the rains start”
“I think it’s a better idea if you shift after the rains ….”
“Should I courier you K C Paul umbrellas from here before you reach Mumbai…?”
“You see that mountain? It changes to green after the rains….”
Mumbai  and Mumbaikars seemed to be WAITING for the “Rains” with abated breath…some dreading it, some selling it…some dreaming it…and yet some others selling dreams around it…! Having lived in Bangalore for nearly 12 years where it rained 8 months out of 12, I was truly amused…and later shocked…!! Soon I joined the bandwagon of the hazaar Mumbaikars looking at the sky every morning hoping the “Monsoon” would arrive “soon”… else I would “mourn soon” what with the vegetable prices going through the roof!
But…. there was that oh! so romantic side of it…. it was like waiting for the “bride-to-be” to arrive at the wedding…. mandap all ready… lights ready to glow, flowers waiting to fragrance and the camera lens focused … ready to capture the “moments”… like all brides, she stepped in …a little late ☺….and you bet she bedazzled us…she stepped in… shy…coy and graceful… her glittering diamonds and smooth pearls reflected in the smiles….and tears of her near and dear ones ….yes, she was a beauty to behold!
She seemed to transform whatever she touched that day! The “gulmohar” by the lake burst into a song of orange… the cranes and herons danced around on one leg,  the little fish jumped out of the water in joy…the nala became a flowing river of Mumbai muck….and the streets burst into a million patterns as the umbrellas went up…! The radio tunes changed to “Rim jhim gire saawan…sulag sulag jaaye mann..”; “Barso re megha megha…” and “ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si…” ☺
That day, as she left blowing flying-kisses to the crowd, the “gulmohar” lay a carpet for “Her Gracious” to walk on…… tear-pearls rolled down the “Canna” leaves…the “champa” on which she left her diamonds looked magical glistening in the light… and her “near n dear ones” longed for her to visit her home again and yet again…soon….
*”Hey is this the monsoon of wedding processions.. that you keep saying….it might come today…it might come tomorrow…”

Authored By : Aporajita Jain
Picture By : Soumi Haldar


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