There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Monday, January 31, 2011


By Sudeshna Dasgupta

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For My Olives.....

By Ananya Mukherjee

I was born in an Army Hospital. That didn’t turn my skin olive green. I dated a general’s son for years. But even that wasn’t enough to qualify me as a patriot. My parents found a part doctor-part soldier for me. Now that incorporated me as a face in the Forces’ family extended family of common anxiousness, common etiquette, common snobbery of being a wee bit more civil than the civilians, a common repertoire of words like sacrifice, patriot, gentlemen, lady wives, orderlies, ladies meet, AWWA, field postings, regiment, temporary duty, movement al, in no particular chronology of importance, urgency or priority. Strangely, if you observe as keenly as I do, emotive words such as sacrifice, patriotism, high morale of the troops, etc are all passé now, having found their meaningfulness generously in Raising Day speeches, or in the Officers’ Mess as old Colonels pass the “Once when I was in Tawang...” scraps of wisdom and nostalgia over a drink to the newly commissioned young officers (YO). However, words that seldom fail to capture the spotlight or the interest of the latter in a more practical sense today are pay commissions, arrears, ACRs and entitlements.

I don’t mean to say that I am disillusioned beyond repair by the image that our once traditional patriarchal family holds in the eyes of the young knights. The glamour, glory and pride which once came along with a package of goodies defined the way we looked at that thing called quality of life. Army was not a profession you chose because your grades did not allow you admission in IIT or Dad simply refused to pay for your medical school donation. It was a way of life, the uniform was your identity and you were supposed to bask in the glory of your pips and stars, all your life just as you did on the day of your Passing Out Parade (POP). Never perceived as an alternative career option, it was more of a dream that empowered an adventurous youthful heart to protect and to serve.

An interesting article left me a little stimulated sometimes back and hence this attempt to make a point. An ex-Chief of Staff seemed to have made a comment on how criticism, oftener than was good, was responsible in tarnishing the image of the Indian Army and thereby, affecting the morale of the troops. Paradoxically, to me, it is the closed door approach to feedback of the hierarchy that has led to this regimental, top down “I need a movement order in writing to go an extra mile” mentality in the Forces. The opacity of the system has led to dissatisfaction amongst the promising officers and discontent amidst the troops. In other words, the rigidity of not listening beyond the book, and thereby not bending the rules to adapt to practical, modern demands of a balanced career, high performance and higher productivity has perhaps resulted in the mediocrity of its degenerating culture and image.

Just for instance, an officer from the Military Intelligence, I once knew very closely had shared an anecdote. He recollected how awkward it was for him to have found himself dressed in a dinner jacket and polished brogues in the Officers’ Mess of a regiment in the United States. About a 100 gentlemen officers from across the world were participating in a training programme against global terrorism and this particular officer I knew was representative of the Indian Army. He recalled with embarrassment how everyone else came in for a drink after office hours in a pair of khakis or shorts while he followed the Dress Code to the T. Much to the amusement of others, he was questioned why was he dressed so. “That’s what we are supposed to wear in our home country,” and throwing a statement at a British officer, he added, “You made these rules.” The British officer in a pair of shorts and tees apparently replied, “That was written 200 years ago. We changed with the time and have realized no one would come to unwind, refresh his mind and relax in a pair of formals to the Mess. That’s not what this place is for. How come you stayed where we left you six decades back?”

The point, therefore is, in order to upscale its brand as a lucrative career option, that is primarily driven by a fierce sense of responsibility, commitment and high performance, the need of the hour is perhaps to be a little more flexible, transparent and open to amendments, criticism and suggestions to improve and function as any other result-oriented corporate. Hard to believe and harder to accept, but in the changing socio-economic scenario , medals and PVCs that often come with the price of a life are only showpieces that gather dust over time. In order to incorporate the best talent and extract the utmost out of him, whilst motivation, patriotism and sacrifice can continue to dominate the vision and mission statements, the bottom-line is to encourage flexibility, ownership, open feedback and a tangible reward system. Dangle a carrot fresher or at par with what the J P Morgans or IBMs can offer and you can get the best boys on your ship. And when all aboard are stars or potential stars, it is only imperative that the ship can twinkle in all its glory.

Just a don’t agree?

I Miss You....

By Pritha Lal
Springville, Utah, USA
Your summer skies and winter morn,
Your fiery twilights with thoughts forlorn,
Your calming nights, your soothing breeze,

Your affection to make me smile with ease.


Your places of worship that so abound,

Your cacophony that can still every sound,
Your colors, your rivers, your very milieu
In your thoughts I find the essence of life, anew.

You can lose oneself in your crowds they say,

You are a plethora of texture in every which way,
Your heart holds us all with love and pride

Never turning away anyone who has sought your side.

Oceans away from your shores, I may wake up this day,

Not a word will escape my lips, for you to hear me say,
For all the cynicism you may think about me to be true,
In my silence and in my words, I will always miss you….


(a dedication to my country on our 62nd Republic Day celebrated on Jan 26th )

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Reason To Live

By Anindita Baidya
Anand, Gujarat, India

Pansy, my little Pansy. I first noticed her bundled in white sheets, with eyes shut tight. Her wrinkled skin was as pink as a blooming rose. She looked so delicate that I was afraid to hold her in my arms, lest I hurt her.

Pansy. She is born with a complex medical situation termed as Hydrocephalus, which means in simple terms, she has cavities in her brain filled with water. This condition has posed challenges before this little soul more than I could have any day imagined. She cannot stand, she sits with support, she cannot chew solid food and depends on liquid diet, she cannot speak, cannot feel, cannot emote. No one knows what she sees when her eyes move around the room.
After her birth, the doctors had said that she would not live for long. A week’s time may be, or a month but not more than that.
Pansy was in such a hurry to see the world that she took birth during the seventh month of her mother’s pregnancy. With all the complexities her mother had faced, no one could have believed that Pansy would take birth, alive. And then her family was sure that she would have a short life on the earth.
I am her full-time nurse. I hold her with extra care, in the softest of sheets I can. When I hold her, I feel like holding my entire world in my arms. I see the little bosom going up and down and tell myself, she is breathing. The ballet of life is going on. She is still alive.
So convincing were the doctors about her short span of life that she was not given a name. The family, I could see, was always fighting to free themselves from the emotional bondage Pansy was taking them into, they were trying hard to be rational and stoic. When I saw her, I named her Pansy.
Pansy came into my life at the time when I had found my world being meticulously broken, by providence, piece by piece. My near ones, most of them bid me goodbye and dear ones informed me that the accounts have been settled and there remained no dues in life’s balance sheet. So I started a new journey, at the age of 60, all alone, with Pansy in my life.
I have witnessed doctors being unsure about administering her immunusation, she will not live, after all, they said. The family organized no festivity to celebrate her birth, she will not live, after all, the family feared. They did not name her either. But she has been living. I have seen the little body breathing, day and night; I have seen the eyes sleep and wake up, every morning for days, weeks, months and past four years! Four years, she is still alive! And since four years, I have been her soldier. I have fought for her right for immunusation; I have fought for her right to have a name and fought hard for hosting a homecoming celebration. And this soldier has been a winner all through.
No one knows how long Pansy will live. Her parents are caught between the two ends and her siblings are eagerly watching over her. I have explained all of them, how special Pansy is and have ensured that the siblings are protective about her.
If only God could let the family move on, that is what everyone says. Yes, of course, the family has a future to move to. Pansy’s siblings have future to be secured.
Only Pansy and I do not have one. We have no future. We have only this moment, a moment to love. To bask in each other’s company, to watch as life passes by till it comes to a quiet halt some day.

Till then, we have a reason to live!

Friday, January 14, 2011


By Sudeshna Dasgupta

Small is Big-The Fine Art of Giving

By Abhishek Chatterjee

I donated a sum of exactly $210.10 to charity in the whole of last year. Of that, $210 comprised of automated deductions by my employer from the monthly paycheck to a charity I know next to nothing about. The remaining 10 cents went into the X-mas donation box at a Subway outlet. By most accounts, this record of giving is quite simply, pathetic. And no, this post is not inspired by Mr Premji's $2 billion largesse. It's been at the back of my mind for a while now. And perhaps no action was taken on the 'giving money away' bit was because I saw this to be in direct conflict with the 'save as much cash and retire early' goal. But one can do both. 
The importance of giving cannot be over-emphasised in a world entrenched in pitiful inequality. There are many right-minded people out there running charities and organizations that make a difference everyday, against the hardest odds, assisting in places that the state has long forsaken, in areas where funding is dearer than onions. I remember looking out of my window in Kolkata at the 9 year old who sweeps the building floor and wondering if he went to school. And then glancing at the shriveled old lady at a Singapore food court and thinking if she could afford food, clothing and shelter. Helping the boy get to school and the lady the basics of urban existence requires money. And if you have some to spare, why not pitch in? If you do, in a way you're also helping yourself. The kid will get an education, perhaps excel in chemistry or math, and contribute to the next big medical breakthrough which helps save your near and dear ones, or, less dramatically, will grow up to be an honest teacher and spread his knowledge to generations of students. The old lady will lead a life of dignity, feel happy about her existence and do a great job at work, so when you head to her food court for a cup of coffee, you will get not only a wonderfully clean table, but a cheerful smile to go with your coffee and your day will be brighter for it. Giving has both very tangible and intangible benefits, both to the beneficiary and the donor.
There is a general belief that to give substantially prerequisites great wealth. A facetious argument, if there ever was one. Give what you can. Financial security has nothing to do with helping in small proportions. Every cent and every paisa makes a difference. So chose a cause that you are passionate about and give what you can to see a change, however small that may be. You'll feel good. Remember, you can't take it all with you when you go. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


By Prodipto Roy
Kolkata, India

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Of Love-Hate Relationships

By Tuhin A Sinha
Mumbai, India

When Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer and spy was arrested in 1917 by France on charges of spying for Germany, little would she have known of the iconic status she’d attain in the decades to come.  So when our own Madhuri Gupta, diplomat at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad was arrested on similar charges this year, it wasn’t entirely unnatural for a parallel to be drawn.
At 53, Madhuri could not match up to Mata Hari’s physical attributes (though a sex angle to the crime isn’t ruled out). She is nonetheless said to have been a well read charmer and glib talker who could win men over with conversation.  What makes Madhuri’s act pettier though is her motivation.  By her own admission, what she did was an act of revenge for not being given the right opportunities for professional growth.  She remains unapologetic.
Indian men fortunately love women spies and vamps only on screen. So while one can’t wait to see Kareena play the part of a Pakistani spy in her beau’s Agent Vinod, we’d be more than happy to donate Madhuri to our neighbours.
To Nira Radia goes the credit of making ‘lobbyist’ sound like the most enticing career of the future.  A lobbyist often requires a friendly broker to succeed in her mission. Fortunately the Radiagate tapes so far do not give any hint of the concerned journalists doubling up as brokers. At best, impropriety is what it was.  Had it been otherwise, both the corporate and media worlds would be coping with greater ignominy.
 We vividly recall that bald, stout, opportunist male politician whom people invariably refer to as ‘broker’ or ‘fixer’. Now with Nira Radia the underbelly of ‘women lobbyists’ stands exposed as well.
For a country devoured by corruption, an Indian man would much rather want to see Nira Radia cool her heels with buddy A. Raja than grace Mumbai’s social circuit. By the way if only the Radiagate tapes had been out a few years ago, we could have been lucky (or unlucky) to see a cinematic representation in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Corporate.

The case of Arundhati Roy is different. Thirteen years ago when she won the Booker prize, she became inspiration to a whole generation of Indian writers trying hard to break out of obscurity. Now it is her quest for the Nobel, perhaps, that has her play cheer leader to a host of self styled separatists ranging from an octogenarian, alleged hawala racketeer from Kashmir to Khalistanis, Maoists and extremists from the North East.  Ms. Roy’s monumental transformation (read decline) never ceases to amaze me as I’m sure it does scores of other Indians.

Honouring her sedimentary charm, I’d much rather ask Ms. Roy out on a date.  The eternal optimist in me thinks she might be game to locking horns with an erstwhile admirer and a lesser gifted fellow author.
When she’s adequately tipsy partly from the wine and mainly from my compliments, I’d then bounce off my queries to her.
One, how are these so-called separatist seminars which openly incite splitting up of the country and which she unabashedly patronizes, any different from the 26/11 mastermind, Hafiz Sayyed’s vituperative outbursts against India which we have always been protesting with the Pakistan government? Why should Ms. Roy then not be tried under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act?
Two, Ms.Roy’s supporters equate her with our freedom fighters; the difference being that while the freedom fighters fought an oppressive colonial rule, Ms. Roy is fighting what is the world’s most liberal, indulgent, democracy. Doesn’t that raise questions about Ms. Roy’s motives?
Three, wouldn’t Ms. Roy agree that it is only fair that an individual’s freedom of speech co-exist with the State’s freedom to curtail such speech that is detrimental to her national interests?
If Ms. Roy does provide me convincing, unprejudiced answers, I promise to take her more seriously in future.

The write up was first published  in the Times of India. 

The Christmas Gift

By Pritha Lal
Springville, Utah, USA

One of those books that make you rethink everything in life...

There are books and and then there is prose, the kind that can change your life or at least create the desire within you to do something meaningful in the days ahead. The Christmas Gift by R. William Bennett was one such experience. Yes I will call it an experience, because I didn’t merely read a story, I saw glimpses of my own life and the lives of those I love, flash before me as analogies to what Ben and Scott go through in the tale.
There are paragraphs in the book that could feel like they are seemingly describing anecdotes from the lives of  two young boys, and yet close your eyes and rethink; and it is not very hard to visualize the last time you were a “Ben” or “Scott” or “Andy”. We have a bit of all of them in us. We have met people like Mrs. Jackson, sometimes we have chosen to heed the words from her or from Scott’s dad, and sometimes we have chosen to ignore them and then eat humble “pie”.
The Christmas Gift tells all our stories in one way or another. It talks to the human spirit that is at times, frail, unkind, unforgiving, but there is much more to it and you have to read the book to really feel your soul. The author in the first 2 pages makes this dedication-
“The story is dedicated to all those who have offered an apology, no matter how difficult, to those who have given forgiveness deserved or not, .. and to those who are striving to do so.”
I keep going back to these lines and trying to figure out where I fit, and in all honesty, it is the last phrase that is the one I have to admit, I struggle most with.  Very few books have made me feel I am looking into a mirror, this one does that an more.
Read it… enough said.. the rest you’ve got to figure out on your own…

Friday, January 7, 2011

The real millionaires

By Mithu Chakraborty