Merry Christmas!

I was surprised to find that I have never written a post exclusively for or about Christmas, and actually had to do a few searches across the various blogs to be certain. Surprised because in my scheme of things, the only festival that resonates with me and makes me go mushy is this one. Partly that is because of my having spent much of my childhood at Christian missionary establishments, and part of that is because of the obvious Christian subtext of the majority of the writers I read, Dylan Thomas and Thomas Mann, Nietzsche and Russel, or Le Carre and Rand. So this year, as I bring to close a particularly instructional part of my life and launch into a more exciting phase, as I wish my readers all light and joy in the coming year, as I snuggle into the holidays with my favorite writers, artists and musicians, here’s to the spirit of Christmas, a post on The Story of Parth - A Puppy Called Hope. Have a good one!

Frugal Living Healthy Eating

A lot of people come to this blog from food and diet related web searches, thanks to the name of this blog! My guess is that at least a few of them do not go back disappointed - for two reasons. 1) They like the non-food related stuff they see here. 2) There are quite a few yummy food posts tucked away in the archives of this blog.

I am a foodie in every sense of the word, a gourmet and a gourmand rolled into one. One of the reservations I had in my early experiments with frugality was that I might end up having to compromise on my love for fine food. However, with time, I discovered that frugality and food share a special relationship. By choosing frugal eating options, one can build a diet that is healthier, tastier, and more ethical than most of what goes by the name of food in fine dining establishments. Ever since I read Michael Pollan's writing, I have endeavored to elevate my understanding and consumption of food. Frugality added the necessary tempering to my efforts.

Read more at my guest post at Pick The Brain on The Frugal Way to a Healthier Diet. Do let me know what you think in the comments, and feel free to share it on your networks if you like it.

Read the whole post on The Frugal Way to a Healthier Diet>>.

The Dreaded Pink Slip Part II - How to Deal With it

How do you deal with the reality of being fired from your job? In this second part of his article Dr. Ramesh Grandhi discusses the best strategies for dealing with a pink slip once it has been handed to you.(To read the first part, Click Here.)

It is every employee’s nightmare come true and something he devoutly prays will never happen to him, but realistically speaking there is a decent chance that it might happen. For some it might happen within 2 to 3 years of employment and for others perhaps a decade or so after. The only constant is no matter when it happens most employees are psychologically ill prepared to face the brunt of an uncertain future.

I would not like to in anyway portray employers as ogres just waiting to pounce and destroy careers and lives, nothing will be farther from the truth. They too have to safeguard their own interests and keep up to their obligations and believe me in these days there are a lot of stipulations placed on them. They have to “cut” quite a lot of corners to achieve what they promised their shareholders or funding agencies. It would be na├»ve on the part of the employee to expect that employers would sacrifice their own interests to save them.

Now that we know that the pink slip is something we cannot ignore let us find the best ways of being prepared for this eventuality and coping with the aftermath.

The Dreaded Pink Slip Part I - How to Escape Its Clutches

Job losses are one of the realities of our times that many people are challenged to deal with. What steps can you take to prevent it, and how can you best deal with it once the dreaded pink slip does come your way? Dr. Ramesh Grandhi offers you some tips on how you can avoid getting fired in this first of two posts on the subject.


We are facing uncertain times, our growth rate is falling precipitously, exports are drying up, the rupee is tanking and the global economic climate is nothing to write home about. As our IT and ITES sectors are heavily dependent on the US and the Euro Zone for their business, weakness in these markets is causing a lot of turmoil in these companies. The falling rupee is providing them some cushion, but if your business dries up then there will be no dollars and no rupees! In some ITES sectors, Technology is improving by leaps and bounds and this too will lead to quite some retrenchment down the line.

Quite a lot of software professionals are nervous these days and hoping against hope that they will not be guillotined; the pink slip is indeed a guillotine in more ways than one.  Company managements in India have changed, they have become more westernized, the days of empathizing with your employees have long gone, it is a dog eat dog world out there and your colleagues will not have many qualms in sacrificing your career if it will prolong their own.

So in such an environment what can any employee do to avoid the dreaded Pink Slip?

Can't You Hear Me Knocking?

By the time I was 60, and that was nearly five years ago, I was totally stuck. Not metaphor stuck, but stuck stuck. In my late 30s and early 40s, it was not this bad. Sure, If I sat, I would be stuck to the chair, and if I laid down I would be stuck to the bed, but I would be able to get up and go on to do the next thing I needed to. It started getting worse once I crossed 50, and the last few years, it has overtaken me entirely.

(I first set my tongue to freeze, and started working on the gooey bands at my shoulders and neck, and then once the corrupt slime froze and hardened, I used the VG-1 blade of my mind to stab at it like a chisel till it broke off in pieces.  I then changed the settings on my tongue to hiss and crackle to burn the remaining bits off, before switching back to freeze mode again. It would be a long night, but I had to get out.)

Now I lie in my bed, and I am no longer sure if the slimy stuff that engulfs and devours me is stuff that oozes out of the woodwork or out of me. There are days of sunshine and hope, and I get filled with a new hope, and I spend all morning trying to get one limb free. I twist on to one side and send all my positive thinking towards that one limb, watching the fingers leave the black tarry goo, and then the palm and the wrist, and then the forearm.

Are There Really no Full Stops in India?

It is my honor to host this post by Dr. Ramesh Grandhi, who is well known to many readers of this blog. A physician by training from the Sri Venkateswara University of Medical Sciences, he is best known for the inspirational leadership he provided to his team of healthcare specialists as Vice-President at a leading Healthcare BPO for the last 12 years. Thank you, Dr. Ramesh for sharing your thoughts with the readers of Subho's Jejune Diet.


Just finished reading The Hindu’s write up on Mark Tully’s No Full Stops In India, and wanted to share my views on him and his book. Tully is indeed a respected name in India and his articles and books have always, even in my jaundiced view, shown a genuine love and respect for India, and more importantly Indians.

For writing this book, he traversed the length and breadth of this vast country visiting Naxal infested areas and regions riven by caste and communal conflicts. I wonder if an Indian had said the same things that Tully is saying would those views be given the same importance? I fear not, I feel that our brown skinned selves would still give more credence to a white man.

Tully also mentions the Tatas and how they have spread their wings under the liberalized regime. Like all Indians, I have long been an admirer of the Tata conglomerate, but I would be lying if I said that my respect for them has not been dented by the Nira Radia tapes and their misplaced munificence in Raja’s constituency. I know that I am going off on a tangent here, but hey what the hell, I needed to get this off my chest!

Regarding Tully’s views on where India is currently positioned, is it a superpower in the making or is it jumping headlong into becoming a failed state, I would say that we are at a rather critical juncture. We are in no way a superpower now, but can we become one in the near or even distant future? If I were to wear my realist’s hat, I would say the chances were between 20-25%.

How to Cook Like a Masterchef

This may look like it is for food bloggers, gastronomists, and closet foodies, but it is not. This one is for all who love to live, live to love, and wonder why both loving and living are so challenging. This one is for those who stop in the middle of the road and wonder what they are doing there. This one is for the ninja in each one of us that we didn’t know really existed. This one is for me. This one is for you.

Why do we study the philosophy of food, and the life and the wisdom that is sustained and transmitted through this most sacred of causes. Why do we read for that matter?

Physician, Heal Thyself - Three Questions

Alice Mitchell: Dennis?!!!!!!
Dennis Mitchell: What strawberry pie?!
(a Dennis the Menace single frame)

Q: Who is in the puja room?
A: But I didn’t eat the bananas!
(old Bengali proverb)

Over the last 24 hours, much is being made of the governments attempts to “censor” or “regulate” offensive content on the social media sites. While the official was quick to go on air and proclaim that this was out of concern for religious sentiments and national security, everyone is aware of what the real intent is. In many ways, what is happening is a good thing. It shows up people for what they are, something that has been happening with a heartening frequency over the last several months.

It was really the anticorruption movement of the civil society led by Anna Hazare that brought this into focus, as the web brought the masses together. One of the arguments offered by the ruling party politicians and officials then was that the movement really didn’t matter much, since it was an elitist movement supported by armchair intellectuals tweeting and blogging in an elitist language.  This view was endorsed by many grassroot social commentators too. But then, this was in April. By later in the year, this perception had been changed altogether by the millions across the country, across class and caste, who joined in the movement.

Watching the twitterverse and blogospheres explode with the developments, I switched on the TV. There were several white haired boys taking different sides of the debate, and I was reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s definition of true terror as waking up one day and finding that your country is being run by your high school class. This prompted me, like the thousands of other bloggers who are right now doing the same, to put my thoughts down about this. I took three of the allegations indirectly being made against bloggers and social activists on the internet and tried to answer them as objectively as possible.

1. Are bloggers elitist?
2. Do bloggers spread hate and intolerance?
3. Are bloggers vain and self centered?

Thank You For Your Love!!

I thank all of you who have nominated and voted for this blog for the Top 50 Personal Development Blogs of 2011, along with some of the biggest names in personal development blogging. For those of you who have not yet voted, you can do so till December 12, 2011.

There are some brilliant blogs out there on the CYT list, so please do vote for your favorite by leaving a comment at the bottom of the nomination page. Thanks if you have voted for this blog or will be voting for it. You can go directly to the nominations page by clicking on the badge below, scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter a comment saying that you vote for Subho's Jejune Diet (or whoever else you wish to vote for).

Greening of our Inner Environment

Much of my forays into frugality and sustainable living were thrust upon me. While I would spout words of wisdom about simplicity and my burning desire to reduce my ecology footprint, in reality I was pursuing a life of overconsumption for years. I am grateful to the universe that those days of “consumption” are behind me. I am also grateful to all the forces that put me into the position where choosing to live simply and frugally was no longer a choice but a necessity. In the course of my journey, I have come to see that forces that appear to be devilish can sometimes lead you to enlightenment, while forces that appear angelic can often lead you straight to hell. One such lesson was with corporate sponsorship of green initiatives. Of course, green here implies the external greening, not the inner greening that I pursue as a calling.

This started with a post I wrote on saving money by driving efficiently. On a whim, I submitted that post in a contest inviting entries for green initiatives. As I went to submit the entry, I realized from the format of the entry that this was primarily for projects that were in the form of innovative products or initiatives that can be taken up by government agencies. I had no clue how one can implement a blog post on driving and fuel efficiency tips, but I submitted it all the same, more to disseminate my thinking to whoever would be reading the contest entries before deciding what they were worth.

A month or so later, I got a call asking me to come for a presentation organized by a media group, and that my entry had been selected. Having been immunized to such calls by telecallers offering everything from insurance to timeshares at holiday resorts, I dismissed it as promotional spiel. To my surprise, when I got back home and checked my email, it turned out that I was one of 10 finalists from Hyderabad from over 4000 entries. I was informed that I had just the weekend to come up with a presentation that would be judged by a panel of experts, to decide on the 6 national finalists.

Understanding Depreciating Assets

A key to health and happiness is having a balanced and comprehensive understanding of personal finance. This post by Jeffrey Strain discusses the concept of depreciating assets.
Not all assets are created equally. When you purchase something, it's usually an appreciating asset or a depreciating asset. During your financial life, you want to purchase as many appreciating assets as possible as these are purchases which will gain in value over time. On the other hand, you also want to purchase depreciating assets only when it's necessary since these items will lose value over time. Understanding the difference between appreciating assets and depreciating assets is important to improve your overall finances.

The purchase of a home is considered an appreciating asset. While it's certainly true that the value of homes can fall over short periods of time, the general assumption is that a home will increase in value over long periods. Since a home will general increase in value over time, it often makes sense to purchase one as you can actually make money by purchasing and holding onto it. On the other hand, there are a lot of purchases that we want to make, but they are depreciating assets. Timeshares, boats and recreational vehicles are all good examples of depreciating assets. These are usually "wants" and not "needs" of the person buying them, but they lose a huge portion of their value the instant that they are purchased. Boats and recreational vehicles can lose 20% or more the instant that they are purchased. Timeshares are so bad that you can lose 90% or more. Except in very rare occasions, you are going to lose a lot of money on these purchases if you ever decide to sell them at a later date.

Happy Birthday, Jimi Hendrix!

Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942. His life and death are an important lesson for all who connect the use of drugs with creativity. Happy Birthday, JH!

While it is natural to eulogize and worship the body of work that Hendrix left behind, it is also pertinent and prudent to reflect on the senseless waste of creative talent and life and to filter our adulation with caution that not everything that a role model embodies needs to be emulated.

I grew up at a time when to play guitar like Jimi did was my goal, and he did it stoned, so getting stoned was the goal for budding young blues guitarists of our times, but nobody told anybody then that not only was drugs the greatest ambition killer but it also killed human beings in every way imaginable. Nobody talked about his washed out non performances concerts, the physical violence, the arrests and the humiliation that his lifestyle, his personality and his drug use entailed. Many of my friends and I myself have been blessed not to have died from our stupidity and our love for the “jimi thing,” in its various forms, but the millions of lives that have been snuffed out by drugs is testimony to how close we were to losing our lives, our sanity and our purpose in life.

Click here to read the whole post>>

Stop Searching for Happiness

Most people “look for” happiness. I mean really look for it. You google for it on the internet, you seek it in money and material possessions, you try out drugs, hairstyles and partners just to make sure it is not hiding there, and you will throw your last penny after long haired solutions that promise to make you happy. Then, once you realize that it didn’t work. you pick yourself up and start looking for it all over again. Why do we struggle so much to find happiness? And why do we so often find misery instead in our quest to be happy? The answer lies in the age old cliche of the person looking for his reading glasses all over the place while they are perched on his head all the time.

The laws of intent, manifestation and attention explain that what we “tend to” tends to manifest itself. Is it possible that our search for happiness is really an excuse to rationalize our circumstances, that our search for happiness is ultimately really a search for misery? I say this from personal experience after having spent a third of my life searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in all its reported haunts, from drugs to sex, wealth to asceticism and from self help books to helping others. It was only when I woke up to the fact that joy, contentment, peace and meaning were not somewhere out there for me to discover, but were right here within me, in the present, that I understood that the first step in being happy was to stop pursuing it.

What do you want to be in life?

November 18 is a day of great importance for the future of our world. It was the day (1930) that two men formally established what is known as the Value Creation Society, an organization devoted to the pursuit of peace, culture, education and enlightenment. It is also the day on which I was able to see a lot of things more clearly as I brought a chapter of my life to closure and embarked on a new life exactly one year back. I had been reflecting for a while about what I would post today and had not been able to come up with something that would appropriately convey the significance of this date in all its mystic wondrousness.

Recording the Unplugged Special

I was reading a post on “what do you want to be in life” on Rajagopalan Ratnaraj’s wonderful blog The Beautiful Mind when I recalled an incident from my childhood that shaped my personality, and perhaps even made me a little fearful of sharing my opinions and my vulnerability. This trait stayed with me through much of life, and prevented me from experiencing the true richness of life, relationships, and trust. As I read his thought provoking post, I realized I had found what I wanted to post today.

Is Facebook Porn The Work Of Hackers?

There are growing reports from across the world that indicate that Facebook users might be facing a serious security issue. Reports of Facebook accounts being hacked have done the rounds periodically, but right now the numbers seem to be growing alarmingly. Many people have been pointing a finger at the hactivist group Anonymous but there is no evidence to corroborate it. Moreover, there has been no official response from Facebook either.

Users began to complain about Facebook porn, or graphic images of sex and violence showing up on their feeds with indications that they or a friend of theirs have “liked” it. The evidence so far points to a video feed item that says something to the effect of “I lost all respect for Kim after seeing this video,” but when the feed item is clicked on, no action takes place. Many are of the opinion that this feed item being clicked led to the user’s account being hacked. 

Here are some ways that you can prevent this flood of unwanted sex and gore on your facebook page from Lifehacker.

What Kingfisher Airlines Can Teach Us

(I wrote this post in late 2011, and over the last half a decade, it has taken the most extraordinary turns. I have tried my best to update it as I could, but the developments have often happened faster than I could keep track of.) 

Kingfisher Airlines has been in the news for its inability to service debt for quite some time, but the recent cancellation of flights across sectors has brought it into sharp focus. While people are up in arms over whether the government should play a role in helping it find funds, the Bankex has been taking a hammering. Giants like SBI, ICICI Bank, and IDBI Bank have more than fair exposure to the debts of Kingfisher Airlines. What is more worrisome than the temporary blimp on the sensex or the troubles of stranded passengers is the possibility that we are just beginning to see what the corporates and the financial institutions would have liked us not to see.

Kingfisher Airlines has been in the “red” for all of its existence. Yet, the service that it has rolled out has been exemplary in terms of quality, elegance and value for money. It has not scrimped on the frills, the advertising, or the sponsorships. It has maintained its price point, in many cases even lowered it to meet the competition. Yet it was losing money and going deeper into debt all of this time. When did we come to know about in a big way? When the oil companies and the ground handling services refused to entertain the debts any more.  Are the oil companies and the ground handlers also in debt? Yes. So you have services being offered on credit to someone who himself is deeply in debt. Remind you of anything that you have heard of in the last five years?

(Update: Nov 12, 2011:  Kingfisher Airlines has issued an official statement in response to media reports about the cancellation of flights, etc.)

(Update: October 4, 2012: After some movement towards raising funds, Kingfisher Airlines announces a partial lockout after labor woes and government warnings.)

(Update: October 4, 2012: Wife of KFA employee commits suicide leaving a note blaming their financial condition following non-payment of salaries for six months.)

(Update: March 12, 2016: Mallya leaves for UK after media, banks and courts object to his defaulting on 9000 crores of loans. The ED and the DRT issue notices for him to appear. Mallya tweets out his annoyance and arrogance.)

(Update: October 2016: Mallya blames Indian govt policies for failure of Kingfisher and claims he is a victim. His assets fail to reach reserve price when put up for auction by banks in India.)

How To Photograph Children

Children make wonderful subjects for photography, and the world over, the third most popular image category is that of children. But try taking some pictures of children yourself, and you will realize that it is a different ball game altogether. You will end up with pictures that are blurs, distorted angles, strange expressions, your subject looking away, or rolling his or her eyes, or sneering menacingly at something to your left. It can be very annoying to find that out of the hundreds of pics you took, just a few are up to the mark. You want to take wonderful pictures of children, but you end up with a whole lot of crappy ones. One of the most puzzling question for aspiring photographers, especially parents is how to photograph children and get good looking photographs. There are a few simple tricks of the trade that you need to have under your belt when photographing children.

Here are my top tips on how to photograph children so that you get to take the kind of pictures of children that you really want. 

How to Use Guest Blogging to Generate High Quality Backlinks

Guest blogging has emerged as the most powerful tool for driving readership and traffic in the recent years. In many instance, backlinks from guest posts have shown better results than other blog promotion tools. To a great extent, this has to do with the evolving nature of the blogosphere. With growing numbers of people choosing to use this medium as their preferred communication tool, whether it be for a social cause, business marketing or just altruism, the parameters used by readers to adopt or discard new content has also been evolving. Readers are becoming more discerning, and quicker to look past SEO and other tricks used to attract eyeballs and clicks.

A quick look at what guest blogging is all about for those who might not be familiar with the concept. Many bloggers and blogs offer others a way to use their platform to showcase their blogging abilities in the form of a guest post. This helps both the host and the guest in various ways. The host benefits from having good content and promotion taken care of by the guest. The guest benefits from having access to the larger readership of the guest, and the endorsement of his writing by the more reputed blog or blogger. Most blogs will have a link that will help you familiarize yourself with the guest blogging protocols for that particular blog.

Here are some expert tips that will help you use the guest blogging technique to build high quality backlinks.

A Crisis of Civilization

Today we witness the perils that accompany the insolence of might; one day the whole truth of what the sages have proclaimed shall be borne out - ‘By unrighteousness, man prospers, gains what appears desirable, conquers enemies, but perishes at the root.’ - Shabhyatar Shankat, Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore’s 1941 essay The Crisis of Civilization seems to be taking on a new significance more than 70 years after it was written. Social commentators are of the opinion that we are standing at a major crossroad from where we can choose to go towards prosperity and welfare, or towards strife and oppressive suffering. I am an eternal optimist, and I believe that what we are faced with is the greatest opportunity since the Industrial Revolution, to write the rule book for a fair and just world to pass on to our future generations.

My Father outside Rabindranath Tagore's House in Kalimpong

The last decade saw a recession caused by inadequate safeguards against uncontrolled greed. It is not only at a banking level that this recession occurred. The sub-prime mortgage bust, in many ways, was caused by the same mentality that causes people to get into a credit card mess, transferring balances to new cards without establishing good enough collateral for the credit. The same recessive trend has been experienced by the people who later found themselves at the receiving end of layoffs, governmental austerity measures, and revised contracts. In India, we are seeing double digit inflation, spiralling interest rates, wilting industrial productivity and export numbers, along with an overall slowdown in many sectors.

If we look at the corruption and the scams that have led to widespread protest not just in India but now the world over, the root of it is similar too. Short term gains are now leading to long term pains, but while the gains were shared by the few who had their arms and trunks in the till, the pain is being passed on to all, including those who never knew that there was a till to have your hand in. Along with the business corporations and the financial institutions, career politicians are now in trouble too, with skeletons coming tumbling out as toes get stepped on.

This never was and can no longer be brushed aside as merely a failure of governance. The paradigm of “people’s representatives” itself has to be revisited. While decisions that affect national and global economies are indeed made by governments, corporations, and financial institutions, the reason that they work is because at some level or the other they feed the needs of a large section of society. For example, a “liberal and open economy” feeds the need of a “consumeristic society.” And all of these decisions and policies are again made with the interest of profit making corporations and individuals in mind. Before passing the blame on to “people’s representatives,” it is essential that we look at what we, the people, intend through our lives and our actions. If we wish, as a civilization, not to perish at the roots, it is time we start looking at those very roots.

What Are You Made Of?

Thank God for frogs, snails, slugs, puppy dogs’ tails, sugar, spice, and everything nice, since that is what all of us are apparently made of. But for a lot of us, it is really Thank God for Google, or else we would have never got answers to our existential questions. My parents taught me to seek answers within myself, taught me to tap into my spirituality instead of religiosity, and taught me to question all that I was instructed to subscribe to. When I study web searches and key words, I find people searching for who they really are. I am not referring to ego-surfing or doing a google search for your own name. I am talking about the popularity of searches like “what is my true self” and “how to find purpose."
Our environment is but a reflection of our selves

I have had the good fortune of learning a lot about what we are really made of in the last few years. When I wonder why I didn’t hear these vital, yet difficult messages earlier in life, I realize that it was the din of busy-ness, the haze of material pursuit and selfishness, and the worship of short-term pleasure that had kept me from hearing them. Here are four simple shifts that you can make in your life even as you are reading this post that will allow you to open up to the message that your life has for you.

Seven Billion Of Us - There Is Hope

India sees more than one birth every second, and a population which will double in 14 years. More than one in every seven people on this planet is an Indian, with our 2011 census number of 1.2 billion.  I just found out that I was the 3 billion 356 million 447 thousand 998th person on earth when I was born. If you are really curious, you will be able to go to one of the many sites that now let you calculate what your number is among the world population of 7 billion and actually figure out my exact age by working backwards. When I was in my teens, I had stern wives of American presidents, (which is perhaps where the phrase "Ladies First" comes from), looking out at me from anti-drug campaign ads in magazines and asking us if we were the one in seven, and if we were, what hell lay before us. In the world of Steve Jobs and Bill Clinton, however, the one in seven probably referred to those who have never inhaled. Now this decimal tail of pi has become a nice way to refer to Indians.

This huge demographic number is just as much reason to rejoice as it is to worry about. Just as Alvin Toeffler had predicted in Future Shock, the rate at which we are hitting a new billion people on this planet is getting faster and faster. What is not keeping pace is food production, provision of basic amenities like clean water, healthcare, education, electricity, the right to livelihood, and of course, the right to a fair and equitable social system. Cost of living across the globe has been rising, with a proportional decrease in earning opportunities across all income groups.

It took us 12 years to get from 6 billion to 7, while it will take less than 10 years for us to get to 8 billion. We have gone from 3 billion to more than double in just about 50 years. The newspapers and the media have been proudly proclaiming the fact that the 7 billionth baby was a girl child born in India. What we are not tom-tomming that loudly is the skewed aspirations that we have created as a society, thanks to a very great extent by the same media.

It is interesting to sit and watch news television, for example. I was watching a program about gender discrimination in Rajasthan. Among others, the program is sponsored by a fairness cream and by an insurance company that shows the parents of a girl child brightening up as the insurance solves their problem of the wedding expenses. In the fairness cream commercial, we see a dusky beauty who is a great singer, but is unable to sing in public because of her complex(ion). Then she starts using the fairness cream and within a few weeks, hey presto, she is able to sing at contests and win admiration and success. Of course, we all know what wedding expenses for a girl child alludes to. End of commercial break and back to social activists in designer kurtas and ethnic silk saris debating the gender inequities in our system.

Occupy Your True Self - Reclaiming Our Humanness

The movement against the inequities of the socio-political and economic systems that we have created over the last several decades is growing steadily. Whether it be the protests against the G-20 summits in London and in Toronto, the uprisings across the Middle East regimes, the anti-corruption movement in India, or the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States, these protests are grassroot movements that express popular anger and disagreement with the way our human values have been hijacked by corporates, governments, and trend mongerers with their hearts in their wallets. This is our moment to help each other actualize our true potential as human beings instead of pulling each other down like crabs in a bucket.

From the perspective of the mystic simultaneity of cause and effect, it is easy to see what is happening. The movement is mystically empowered by its very powerlessness over the might of governance and corporate greed. As the desire of the wealthy to become wealthier tramples over the welfare of the masses, it also sets them up to face the wrath of the universe. The recession of 2008 was obviously not a loud enough wake up call for the wealthy. The incredible bailouts were seen by governments and financial institutions as nothing more than an escape route to indulge in greater misuse of public trust (and money). At the same time, the insecurity of those years drove the middle classes to pursue financial security with a renewed desperation.

From another point of view, the promotion, growth and endorsement of capitalism, consumerism and competitiveness as values to aspire for have resulted in humanity outsourcing everything but the pursuit of material wealth. Both the rising cost of living and the scarcity of opportunities to meet that cost are bogeymen of our own creation. And who have we outsourced our thinking to? To corporate marketeers, to advertisers, and to social media spin doctors who have started deciding flavors of the month on our behalf in almost every area of our lives. Even spiritual values needs a marketing angle in this world that we have helped create! What is the solution to this apparent deadlock?

Diwali, Halloween, and All Souls' Day

My year begins on All Souls Day. It always has, but this year, there is a greater meaning to this day. Halloween is what sets this season into motion, followed by trick or treating Hallow mass and then All Souls Day. 2012 is truly going to be the end of the world as I knew it, and I am excitedly looking forward to it. It is exciting because it is a new beginning, a beginning of a world that I have longed to belong to. 
The most spectacular fireworks this Diwali were the digital Ra One Bombs. Halloween is upon us and it is time for frugal Halloween costumes, and recipes to help dispose the pumpkin flesh.  As we travel from the pumpkin patch to earthquake-ing Turkey towards Christmas and New Year, I revisit the resolutions that I made at the start of the year, and start working on new ones for the coming year.

Movie Review: Shah Rukh Khan's Ra.One - Quite a Bomb, Really

I like Shah Rukh Khan. He is a nice guy who knows how to use words like dichotomous. I like a few of his movies too. I look forward to his films, and even after reading reviews, I do go and watch them. There was Bazigar, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Oh Darling, Yeh Hai India, and DDLJ from his years as a star. There was Devdas, Veer-Zara and Swades from his years as a superstar. And then there was Paheli, Om Shanti Om, and My Name is Khan from his middle age years. Some other films that I enjoyed have been Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, Hey Ram, and Kal Ho Na Ho. I guess that entitles him to have his share of bad hair days. And he sure knows how to claim his entitlements. There are a good number of Shah Rukh Khan films that I wish I had not had to see. Ra.One just got added to that list.

All of the last several weeks, Shah Rukh has invaded all breathing spaces of the nation, through television, newspapers, radio, malls and multiplexes, and the internet, pushing his diwali offering of Ra.One. Positioned as a high tech, sci fi, good versus evil, comicbook superhero movie, Ra.One is the ultimate mish-mash of all the formulas that have worked for Shah Rukh over the decades. There is bad stereotype comedy, a non resident Indian family, a fantasy action hero, a fantasy action villain, an item number where you are not sure who or what the item is, pathetic regional language puns, a host of special appearances, along with a dash of romance and some glycerin tears. With a budget of over 100 crores (which can mean anything between 150 and 200 crores including the marketing and promotion budget, but why split hairs over a hundred crores here and there), and tech effects that are truly cutting edge, this film is one that people have been looking forward to very eagerly. You know what is coming next.

The good bits first.

The sound design by Oscar winner Resul Pookutty is impressive as is the Dolby 7.1 effects. Like most Hindi films with impressive sound engineering, Ra.One takes it for granted that you are hearing impaired, and manages to soak the otherwise attractive soundscape with uncalled for decibels.

The special effects and the computer graphics are on par with the best seen in recent times but appear disjointed, as if patched on to the movie as an afterthought. Arjun Random Access Rampal “did good.” He looks convincingly good and evil, even though you can hardly understand what he says. Maybe that is how his lines were written.

There are only 10 kinds of people in the world, those who speak binary and those who don’t.

The film also does an Om Shanti Om (I guess it is that, and not just blatant copying, since even Shah Rukh has some self respect after all) by creating moments that take you back to a host of classic superhero movies - Matrix, Spiderman, Terminator, Batman and Ironman.

End of good bits.

The film fraternity and the ancillary industries are all abuzz about what a wonderful film it is, and how it portrays Indian values packaged in International high tech. I am not sure about this at all. Shah Rukh plays a south Indian techie who is a Berkeley graduate living and working in London for a gaming company. The brightest moment of the film is a Hindi version of a song that has “and possibly bend you over, look back and watch me, smack that, all on the floor, smack that, give me some more, smack that till you get sore,” as its refrain. The game handle that Shah Rukh’s son uses is Lucifer. The tech references and subtexts do bring a smile to your lips, but not unless you are very familiar with role playing games, robotics, and of course, the usual gaming and computer generated imagery worlds. For the rest of us, we have to make do with risque regional language puns and cultural stereotyping. Not at all sure which Indian values the cultural ambassadors of bollywood are referring to in their tweets and blogs.

The Rajnikant cameo will go down as a Indian cinema moment only for the star values involved, but there is nothing more to it. One fails to understand the logic or purpose of the special appearances, that is presuming that there is one. The film starts with a fantasy tone, letting you know that this is a comicbook superhero kind of a film, and that you should probably suspend your disbelief is order to appreciate it. Best of luck is all I can say to viewers who fall for that. The entire first half is devoted to creating the setting for the showdown between the and the, while the second half is drowned in special effects, both visual and audio. The Indian tradition of sci fi films is maintained with no plausible explanation for the things that happen as the plot unravels, leaving trails that start out of the blue and take you nowhere. There was a certain freshness about Mr. India that is obviously difficult to recreate in today’s day and age, but Ra.One is definitely more bearable than Krish, Koi Mil Gaya, and Dashavatar. I am aware that that by itself doesn’t really amount to anything, but then, neither does Ra.One.

Writing for a Broad Readership

This blog, contrary to all “good advice,” continues to remain dedicated to old fashioned values of living life fully, deliberately and usefully, to creating value and encouraging people to think about the principles on which we base our actions, and to making positive changes to the world inside and outside us. However, that does not mean that this blog is indifferent to the way the blogosphere works, the niceties, protocols and the competitiveness of the world of bloggers, blogs and their readers. A poor workman is he who does not respect and understand his tools. Studies reveal that one out of every five visitors will not continue to read the next paragraph. Let me tell you why.

There are two broad blogging theories to explain why YOU are still reading this. The first reason is that you are a writer or a blogger and are trying to improve on your skills and understand how to blog. The second is that you do not fit the profile of the average blog reader who cannot comprehend complex writing and has to be fed sentences that are less than 100 characters long including spaces. The third possible reason is that you are enjoying what you are reading, and will likely feel better about life after you are done. Congratulations, whatever your reason is.

In this post, I will share a few things that I have learned (I am a real slow learner, and it takes me even longer to share that learning) about how to blog about stuff that you don’t mind writing while making sure it is what people want to read. This post will largely not be of interest to those who are not actively involved with blogs or blogging.

A Winter of Global Discontent

The year 2011 has seen uprisings like the Arab Spring across the countries in the Middle East, the Civil Society movement against corruption in India, and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States and elsewhere. These movements have captured public imagination to a point where the authorities have had to climb down, whether it be from power or from highhanded indifference. All of these movements have been grass root movements with participation by the common people. In most cases, the new media, the internet with its digital social media and news television, have been successful in getting the masses to share information and organize themselves.

Question. What is it that has shaken people out of their stupor and out into the streets to protest against the three most powerful institutions - governance (state), financial institutions (banking) and law enforcement (defence)? What is motivating people to take on forces for whom it has become normal to crush dissidence at its first appearance? During the Anna Hazare movement, several thousands of common people across the nation from all walks of life showed up and stood up to be counted in spite of the risk of police action. The people that I know who were part of this movement are people who would normally avoid any kind of confrontation at any other time. Why did they decide to invest their time, risk their welfare and take to the streets?

Small Steps to a Greener Planet

Green initiatives and environmental protection are phrases that we typically link with governmental programs, developmental policies and huge renewable energy projects. With a growing realization that the ecological crisis that we have been hearing about is no longer decades but just years into the future, it is time each one of us pitch in to do what we can to ensure that we have a future at all.

Have you wondered how you, as an individual, can make a difference to the future of the planet? There are things that you can make part of your life to contribute to a greener and cooler planet. If each of us try and make these three changes to our lifestyles, we would have made a significant impact on the future of the environment.

Three Tips for Successful Blogging

Many of you who have been visiting this blog for a long time may have noticed some changes. The ads have been cleaned out and the few that are there have been pushed to the bottom. There is a "search this blog" widget to help find things. The "personal rant" posts have reduced. "How to" posts have increased. There are fewer links in the body of the posts, et cetera. Some of you may have noticed that everything I am doing on this blog (or on other blogs) is no longer being promoted as aggressively any more in other social media.

What you will not have noticed is the rather amazing growth in traffic over the last several months. And this has happened without a significant change to the new visitor versus returning visitor ratio. I am not a big fan of stats and ranking, but they do decide how others view your writing. How others view your blog determines the rate at which readership grows on the internet.

All of these have been the result of trying to apply the little that I am learning as I study the art, science and the technology of writing for readers on the web. If you are a blogger, or are thinking about blogging seriously, you may want to improve your understanding of how the whole writing for the internet thing works.  Here are three important lessons in blogging that are timeless. They apply as much to a newbie blogger as they do to the master. This was a guest post I wrote for the Daily Blog Tips website, one of the places where I learn a lot about blogging.

Read More>>

10 Ways to Remain Creative

I am proud to belong to the old school. I am glad that I am a slow learner. I live my life deliberately, and love it. I re-visit the magic of firsts over and over again, every time if possible. The first time that another blog published a guest post by me. The first time I unboxed an Apple device. The first time I heard Gershwin.

All these magical moments fade away as the experiences become commonplace, and we lose the ability to be surprised. Once you cross large enough numbers, joy and surprise is often replaced by smugness. I have seen that happen with my writing, with my music, and with my blog stats!  
One of the secrets of creative living is the ability to stay connected to that sense of wonder, that feeling of awe, that childlike a-ha moment. For creative artists, like writers or painters, it is not uncommon to experience times when that energy seems to disappear. Here are some simple ways to get those creative juices flowing again.

Muammar Gaddafi Dies in Attack

Muammar Gaddafi led the military coup against the then King of Libya - King Idris - in 1969, and the Kingdom of Libya became the Libyan Arab Republic. Born in 1942, the charismatic and whimsical leader, did manage to bring some improvement in the lives of the Libyan people but most his work was overshadowed by the ills his regime inflicted on the masses. On October 20, 2011, the NTC spokesperson announced that Muammar Gaddafi was killed in an attack.  

Muammar Gaddafi was a man driven by his view of himself as someone who would unify and lead all the Islamic nations of Africa. He adopted terror as his chosen path to realizing that vision. Libya was soon acknowledged as a nation that harbored and nurtured global terrorism. In 1986, the United States went ahead and bombed Tripoli and Benghazi. However, that did not end Gaddafi’s open endorsement of the Palestinian-Syrian terror axis. However, in 40 years of single-minded self aggrandizement, the people of the country were not on his agenda.

Shah Rukh Khan's Hangout on Google Plus

Woke up this morning to double sided full page ads about Shah Rukh Khan taking Google's pretty impressive multi-user video chat client Hangout for a spin. Nowhere in the ad does it mention that only up to 10 people can be on a Hangout video chat at any given time. Much later in the day, Shah Rukh's Google Plus page updates that they are trying to find a way to stick a live feed of the chat on his Google Plus page, and that it looks like he will be able to "hang out" only with some. The last few days have been very trying as SRK is everywhere you turn, promoting his new movie.

For those of you who may have been wondering what happened to the nifty feed that Google introduced with Google Plus called Sparks, - well, it has been taken off the sidebar menu and only shows up when you do a search using the search box on top of Google Plus. The search results are sorted by tabs into Everything, People, Google Plus Posts, and Sparks. Go figure.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

This is just a link to a post by a friend. That post is just a video of a song that my friend likes. Some things are just some things. 

Some things in life cannot be expressed in words. Extreme experiences of love, joy, gratitude, grief are not describable. Some experiences and feelings are private. While you do your best to keep them locked away, they claw their way back into the forefront of your consciousness. Some battles are best shared. This post is to honor the contribution of a fellow traveler in more senses than one. Please click here to visit his blog to see a video of a Phil Collins song that my friend Gokul has shared for his estranged children.

Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play the Blues

When I started finding official clips of Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton playing together in rehearsal for a show in April 2011, I was quite naturally excited, and hoped that this would get recorded and released. Marsalis had earlier guested on Eric Clapton’s 2010 album called Clapton. 

The album was released on September 13, 2011, and it took me till now to get my hands on it. Here is a first listen review (well, first, second, third, fourth, etc., listen) over at my music blog.

How to Tweak your LinkedIn Profile for Better Results

This one is in honour of the 22% of my readership that comes from the 120-million strong LinkedIn professional network.  It is also for all those who visit this blog from elsewhere and would like to know how they can use their LinkedIn profile to their advantage. If you are a professional, there are simple ways in which you can use a LinkedIn profile to create greater visibility for yourself, drive more traffic to your site, get more business for your company, and open up greater opportunities for yourself.

I have had a profile out on LinkedIn for a very long time, and I never really knew what I had it out there for. I worked a regular day job at a company that I hoped to retire with, and I was not interested in business networking. Yet, whenever I received an invite from colleagues, classmates and friends, I added them, and slowly built up a reasonable network. I truly did not realize the value of my LinkedIn network till recently, when I had to turn to it to build a new career up. In the process of leveraging my presence on LinkedIn, I learned a few effective ways to increase and improve my visibility and have more people visit this blog, among a host of other benefits. Some of these lessons have been learned from my own mistakes, some from exploring the large feature set that LinkedIn offers, and some from the experiences of others. Here are seven ways to leverage your LinkedIn presence.

Breaking Out of a Writer's Block

I have never had a problem with not being able to write; it is with writing for a broad readership that I have a problem. In the blogger’s world, one has to be able to write for a wide cross section of readers, and to be able to do this without compromising on your style, your message and your values is sometimes very, very difficult. My mentor always reminds me that my chosen place of work is a place for forging my character and growing as a human being. By extension, therefore, it is a place for my spiritual practice, a place for practicing and deepening my faith. When I view things from this angle, all my complaints disappear. No one is more pathetic than someone who is constantly complaining. My chosen place of work is at my writing desk, and this morning, all I have been doing is complaining.

This morning has been all about the writer’s block, where nothing I write seems to read properly, leave alone read well. Of course, this is not a new thing for me, since the most common responses I get to my writing is. “what were you trying to say?” After two failed attempts at writing about something that has been on my mind for a while, the role of education in creating a value based society, I gave up and headed over to my favorite scratching post when stuck for inspiration, the Daily Blog Tips site. I ran a search for writers block and found a host of really good articles. I realized that I was not alone, and that this was something I was perhaps best qualified at this point in time to write about. 

Here are my top tips to get yourself out of a writers block. Try them out and let me know how they worked for you in the comments thread.
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