HUMANITY IN THE FACE OF TRAGEDY 

Every cloud has a silver lining—the inspiring story of a bereft Jaipur family

That day started like any other—nothing out of the ordinary happened; there was no premonition of the impending tragedy. No one could have imagined the sheer magnitude of the catastrophe that befell on those five passengers in the car—least of all the passengers themselves. In what has been dubbed as the ‘‘Chomu House Circle freak accident’’,five people were crushed to death when an overloaded truck carrying salt (over the permissible limit) lost balance and fell on top of the car mortally injuring the five people. The bodies were hideously mutilated and the body parts of the victims were scraped off the road with brooms after the mishap. 

It was in the wee hours of the morning on June 6, 2017 when Rahul Sharma, a resident of Ramganj, went to pick up his fiancée Roshni, a resident of Malviya Nagarwho was accompanied by her elder sister Jyoti (32), nephew Nitesh (19) and niece Avantika (18) to see the sunrise from the hills of Nahargarh. But a cruel twist of fate left their families struggling in the aftermath of anguish and loss.

Loss of a life is never less tragic or less sorrowful, but it is more so when the lives lost are so very young and full of unrealized dreams and unfulfilled aspirations. Roshni and Rahul were supposed to start a new life together and tie the knot in a few months’ time; Jyoti was happily married and the mother to a young child; Nitesh worked at an event management firm and Avantika was just celebrating her recently announced 12th board results.

After the terrible loss of their young children, their families should feel numbing grief, sorrow and the need to take vengeance, serve retribution and get justice. Yes, the victims’ families did take to the streets in candle marches for their loved ones and organized protests against the negligence and corruption of Government officials and urging them to take serious action against the rising graph of traffic accidents caused by overloaded and over speeding vehicles.

 But Roshni’s family did not react to the injustice that fate committed against them with apathy, rather they showed an extraordinary depth of humanity in the face of grave injustice. They exemplified humanity by deciding to donate the eyes of the four members of their family—Roshni, Jyoti, Avantika and Nitesh—who died in a chillingly shocking and exceedingly tragic accident.

 Following this donation, successful Cornea transplant has already lit up the lives of three people.Palak Sharma (name changed), visually-impaired since birth, vows to become an IAS officer. “I would now be able to see the world through the eyes of Avantika. I have heard that she wanted to become a successful fashion designer. She would achieve her dreams through my eyes now”, Palak said.

The family members of the victims said that though their dear ones have been snatched away from them but their eyes would give these people a chance to see the world. Though this mishap took five innocent, deeply mourned lives but humanity still lives on.

 

 

 

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Beyond Bahubali’s Brilliance: A Post mortem of The Great Bahubali

I now proudly belong to the privileged class of people in the country and overseas who’ve borne witness to the highly coveted, most anticipated and the single most majestic cinematic experience of the year: Bahubali 2

270 rupees poorer and almost 3 hours later, when I exited the movie theatre, it wasn’t the brilliantly beautiful graphics or the mind-blowing, VFX-enabled (gazillion or so) fight sequences that were playing on a loop in my mind after the movie ended, it was a sense of perplexed incompleteness.

Not to belittle the feelings of millions of fans who have seen the movie and absolutely loved it or the expectations of those who are still waiting to catch it, I strongly believe that if it weren’t for some minor glitches, the movie would be damn near perfect. Regardless of my critical opinion, I liked it and it was 270 bucks and three hours well-spent.

 But let’s not get carried away by the opulence and grandiosity of those enchanting (and totally fictitious) locations and the magnificence of the palaces that make your eyes pop out of their sockets in covetous admiration. We as intelligent audiences owe it to ourselves to conduct an analysis of what we saw, heard and understood instead of just posting happy boastful status updates of the kind: #firstdayfirstshow #lovedit #totallyawesome

At least give me a chance to make a case for all that that bugged me about the movie which admittedly was a really great entertainer. Starting from the least problematic stuff to the most troublesome, I have listed 5 instances when Bahubali kinda got on my nerves (in addition to Bhallaldev’s but I didn’t dare give his supaari to Kattappa now, did I?).

Here they go:

#5) INCONSISTENCY IN CHARACTERIZATION: 

Bahubali: the beginning introduced us to some really strong, larger-than-life characters who weakened and waned along the way in the final instalment. Take Shivagami for example, her character was that of a strong shrewd stateswoman and an insightful as well as an unbiased matriarch with integrity and rational, moral judgement.

What the hell happened to her high moral ground when she made flamboyant displays of wealth and reduced Devsena to the status of a plaything that could be bought for her scheming son? What happened to her discerning intellect and strong sense of justice when she kept mum when Bhallaldeva sacked Bahubali from the post of ‘sena-adhyaksh’? And what in Mahishmati’s name was she thinking when she believed that her own Bahubali could be so power-hungry and conniving as to commit fratricide?

It’s not just the Rajmata I have a serious issue with, it’s also the other significant female character in the movie—Devsena. I was so impressed that there was at last not just another dolled up damsel-in-distress kinda princess waiting for a Mario to rescue her from the dragon, but a woman of substance—courage, boldness and pride. She would’ve been a great hero herself (not just a sweet, supporting pillar to the Superhuman hero) had she stayed like that throughout the movie. Losing her man should’ve maddened her, boiled her rage and made her warrior’s heart burn with revenge. But no, all those skills, that archery prowess—all went in vain. Why?   Because like a good little Indian woman, she chose to be a martyr. She freaking decided to spend the next 25 years of her life in wait for her son—a man to rescue her from another

I mean, seriously? Women empowerment and all aside, but that didn’t even corroborate with her character at all!     Well, I can see the fans rolling their eyes at this seemingly self-righteous outburst of mine as another feminist agenda on one hand and on the other, cinema-goers who condemn the act of making too much out of a story or finding logic and reason would be thinking: “Duh! They wouldn’t have much of a plot if there was no poor victimised mother to avenge for our hero number 2”. But I still see an issue with the characters waning.

# 4) INJUSTICE TO SHIVA AND AVANTIKA : 

 I know the movie’s called Bahubali and is centred on Bahubali Sr. (honestly the multiplicity and frequency of the Bahubali-praising-anthems that make up about a third of the film don’t ever let you forget who’s the daddy) but his progeny Shiva/Mahendra remained a character that wasn’t given a fair chance to develop. In both the parts, he just served the part of an instrument of revenge, a bit clueless about his purpose in the first movie, with a little “tarzanry” and mountain-climbing romance thrown in with no follow-up in the final part. I mean what do we know about the guy apart from the fact that he was the descendant of the great Bahubali? He patiently heard the story of his birth parents and immediately hopped to the rescue of a lady he met hours ago and vowed to kill the bad guy. Did it seem a bit out-of-the-blue and completely abrupt to anybody? 

Now, coming to his love interest, Avantika who was another female character that showed promise with her warrior’s focus and sense of responsibility and purpose. Much to my disappointment, her character fizzled out too; it didn’t take a 360° turn—poor Avantika wasn’t given much screen time in the second part to have any scope to develop or do anything. Not a single line to speak! Now she’s just remembered for the pretty blue butterflies on her back and her dream sequence moves. What a shame! 

# 3) CHAOTIC CLIMAX, NOT ENOUGH BUILD UP–

My next problem isn’t with the characters or the plot but the editing of this amazing film. Was it just me or did anyone else notice how the climax was rushed?  In my humble layperson’s opinion, there wasn’t much strategy to the son’s revenge plan—it was hurried, sudden and haphazard. Just one inciting speech and voila—you have an army within seconds. I mean, Maggi takes longer to cook. Hmm…You know what, I think I’ll have to sue Nestlé after all (but not for their little health controversy).

# 2) FIGHTING AND VIOLENCE:  TOO MUCH, TOO OFTEN—    

 While I realise that the movie is of an epic Mahabharata-like status which means it is bound to have violence and gore and fighting and wars—your basic action 101; sometimes it seemed as if all of it was drawn out (read: the blazing bull horns scene) just to show off amazing cinematography and visual effects or perhaps to show the audience what stuff our hero’s made up of (I’m partial to the elephant scene in the beginning). Either way, there were physical confrontation scenes in the movie that could’ve been shortened or if the director really wanted them—they could have kept those and had a third part (with a conclusive climax in place of a hurried one). And wouldn’t that be great for us fans?

# 1) SURREALISTIC VOYAGE SONG AND A FEW IRRITATING MELODIES (HINDI VERSION): 

Perhaps my biggest motivation to write this critique despite being a fan (and watching the movie on the day of an exam) was the music of the movie. Well the dubbed hindi version, anyway.             While some of the songs dubbed in Hindi are quite nice and catchy, others are a hazard to your auditory health and sanity. Case in point: the voyage song—it was not only annoying to listen to (with lyrics like “Oh oh re rajaaa” and an irritating string of 6 na-na-na-na-na-naaa) but it was equally ludicrous to watch. Now I would’ve digested seeing ships like those used in Harry Potter for the Beauxbatons but I draw the line at freaking unicorns and breaking out in a dance for no reason at all (that’s mainstream Tollywood and Bollywood for you). Now, I would’ve dozed off through the entire song had it not been for its ear-splitting, headache-inducing vocals and the fairytale visuals. 

Having vented all my consumer complaints here, I still don’t think I didn’t get my money’s worth. Although on second thought, the capitalist priced popcorns and coke made a huge dent in my beggarly monthly allowance but did little to allay the bulls (with blazing horns causing acid reflux) in my belly. Let me give you 5 reasons why you should avoid getting ripped off  by multiplexes and their luxurious goods…or maybe some other day.
 

Jaipur isn’t just a city – – it’s a culture. A culture as old as Rajput royalty and as rich and vibrant as the kaleidoscopic garbs of our Rajasthani “Ghoomar” dancers.

 Three Highlights of my city : the Pink City that tourists would be interested in knowing are :

Jaipur is a perfectly astounding combination of mind, body and soul satiating the intellectual, sensory and spiritual sensibilities of tourists who are welcome with open and embracing arms.

1. Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur city is the rendezvous to three bosom friends: Theatre, Art and Music. Theatre is a form of art that flows through the veins of Jaipurites, with seasoned actors performing at JKK stage including  Jaipur’s very own international star who’s starred in movies like (Life of Pi, Jurassic Park, The Amazing Spider Man and many more)- Irrfan.

Music is another performance art which is the center of attraction not only in JKK but also in Central Park with the organisation of “Music at the Park” series of musical concerts for admirers of Indian classical music. Art exhibitions are regularly held in JKK along with Handicraft  exhibitions. 

2.  Raja Park: Street Fashion and Street Food capital of Jaipur. Raja Park is a commercial area in Jaipur famous for its fashion and food. With cafés and street food joints serving North-Indian, South-Indian and Chinese food on one hand to beautiful displays of high-end fashionable western outfits and Indian wear on the other, Raja Park is a starving shopper’s ultimate destination. With food that sizzles with its spices and tickles the taste buds with its sour sweetness and savoury hotness it should definitely be on a tourist’s go to place.

3: Govind Devji Temple: The local deity of Jaipur resides and is visited by thousands of devotees daily in this temple located in the walled city. The temple isn’t magnificent in it’s physical appearance but rather in the energy and aura of the faith and devotion with which people gather everyday in front of Lord Krishna (Govind) and his lover Goddess Radha, who unlike other gods in Hindu mythology, are not a married couple but the most divine and truest of all lovers. 

Despite the sounds of chantings and the ring of  bells, there’s a divine serenity in the place which is vast in acreage. In contrast to the insides, the market around the temple is bustling with activity, selling all kinds of paraphernalia for worship–including clothes for God’s  idols and  and is bargain-friendly and great for grocery shopping at discount rates.

7 Reasons Why Your Child Needs To Go To Summer Camp

Parents! Stay Alert! There’s a new dangerous gang in town that kidnaps innocent, unsuspecting children. This gang comes to town every year. And exactly at the same time: Summer break.

Before you forward a false alarm on your numerous Whatsapp family groups and school groups (Yes, now even teachers and parents of a class have their own groups), you need to know the gang I’m talking about. This gang is called “Lethargic Inertia” a.k.a. “Lazy inactivity” or “Couch Potato syndrome” and sometimes goes by the name of ‘Obesity and Dullness’.

While parents coddle their kids and hand over the remotes to TVs, Video games and ACs to their precious tots as soon as summer vacation is announced, what they are inadvertently doing is letting their children be kidnapped by laziness, dullness of mind and body and quite possibly obesity. And the only ransom in the world to free them is–Summer Camp! 

If a child is allowed to rest and lounge in peace for the entire duration of his vacation just to compensate for all the days he attended school then it not only spoils him irreversibly but makes him an invalid for the rest of his life. Instead of pampering your kids or turning them into little brats what should be the modus operandi of parents is  sending them off to Summer Camp.

Why? I’ll give you 7 reasons why:

  1. Active lifestyle: An Active child stays healthy and good health is the cornerstone of happiness.
  2. Investment for Future: Learning a new skill or a sport or even table manners is a great endeavour for future. 
  3. Responsibility & Discipline: Having a daily schedule of classes or sports practice during summer vacation makes your child more responsible and organised. 
  4. Improving Self-image : Possessing knowledge of a new language or a life skill like cooking goes a long way in creating positive self-image and boosts confidence. 
  5. Career Advancing: For teenagers who are confused about the career path they want to choose, summer vacation can be productively utilised to learn marketable skills that are career advancing such as programming languages, website design, ethical hacking, etc.
  6. Increasing Interest in Co-curricular activities for less involved kids : Not every child quickly learns how to play a sport or do karate. There are some children who are not much interested in an activity due to lack of proper instruction in school. For that reason, summer camps, with their personal attention and lower head count are the perfect solution.
  7. Gains from Personal Interaction: Not only learning a new skill but even interacting with other kids of your age and building friendships develops social ease and helps in overcoming awkwardness and shyness that is quite common among many children as they enter in their teens. 

    ‘App’arently Addictive

    It’s official. The old saying praising the virtues of the red juicy orb that fell on poor Newton’s head (and added to the woes of high school kids who probably would’ve thought of getting a voodoo doll for the man and sticking pins into it if he weren’t already dead) has now become old news. I’m sure you could easily guess what saying I’m referring to. 

    Want a hint?

    Does an apple and a doctor ring any bells? 

    Well, the old, obsolete saying has been replaced with a newer, better and more relevant 21st century-smartphone-using-next-gen version- 2.0 which goes like this: “An app a day keeps boredom away.”

    They are everywhere you see; not only almost every XYZ company has one of them but now even the governments are throwing it onto citizens’ heads like confetti or like the rose water sprinkled to guests at weddings. I can bet my ugly feet that they are launching even faster than India’s MOM and costing a dime if anything, much like the celebrated Mars mission. 

     I was quite ‘app’rehensive when I first read about the number of apps on Google Play Store recently placed at 2.8 million in March 2017 but my doubt went out the window as soon as I looked at my own phone’s home screen and counted the downloaded apps. 

    Sure enough, these days you can’t even step out of your house without checking your face in the Candy camera. Apps have officially taken over our lives and have become a sine qua non for a vast number of chores: from paying electricity bills to making complaints to civic authorities (MoUD app) or knowing the status of a government project or gaining access to NCERT books to something as basic as grocery shopping, now there’s hardly a thing for which there ain’t no app.

    You need apps for :

     VoIP calls (to those NRI relatives for whose high-tariff calls you had to wait long, before Viber happened along with Imo, Whatsapp,  Tango)

    texting (look no further than Whatsapp which is Oxygen to our lungs), 

    social networking (Would discussing other Social network count as cheating on dear old Facebook?), 

    gaming (I knew it wasn’t young or stupid to fall for Pikachu who’s returned with a bang…Go Pokémon!), 

    photography (the app category that had 878 million downloads in first quarter of 2017 only and that offers amazing creativity at its best), 

    editing ( the word once deeply associated with modifying text now has too many connotations to count – editing videos, songs, movies, Word files, pictures, etc )

    reading (the elation of carrying a thousand books on the go, truly makes owning a smartphone worthwhile), 

    quizzing (getting challenged by opponents on trivia you just love to know, reaching levels while unlocking uber cool titles and riding a winning streak never gets too old),

    shopping (Getting stuff delivered right to your doorstep without having to ‘Flip’ your ‘Kart’ in a shopping mall seems an ideal way to window shop without actually going to a window or a shop),

      entertainment (Netflix India’s ads spring to mind. Do check them out.),

    hotel bookings & travel ( Snatching away the livelihood and commissions of travel agents; now the answer to Hotel? – Talk to an agent, has changed to Hotel? Trivago)

    Cashless payments (One word: Demonetisation),

    Food (those days when your starving stomach and lazy ass refuse to get up either to cook or get dressed to dine out–you have Zomato so Order away!).

    For all of the above and a thousand other reasons, YOU NEED AN APP. Period.

    More than they use the loo, people these days use their phones (sometimes the two things overlap. I know, gross isn’t it?). With their some useful apps, some recreational ones and others with negative marginal utility, meaning that with one additional app that’s downloaded, it is not only the phone’s memory that’s being cached and cluttered, it’s our time and intelligence that’s being wastefully occupied too. 

    There is no denying the fact that App stores are this generation’s Walmart. With almost every need of a person being provided by the three step mantra of search-select-install, there isn’t much reason for them to look for anything, anyone or anywhere else. But that line of thinking is exactly the downside of too much App dependence. It’s like waking up to the sound of a fancy alarm app that reminds you to be up and running, which by the way gives you the luxury to snooze it and doze off again. For me, when I was still a school going kid, my alarm clock was my mother who used to shake my comatose self so hard, I had no choice but to jerk awake, no chance of a snooze, no sir.

    Another downside to app addiction is the Opportunity Cost of the time you spend religiously on it. A friend of mine* Ben Tennyson** doesn’t do Sundays at Church with half as much fervour as he posts a picture on Instagram. Daily. Except for when he’s on a vacation. Then it’s hourly. So before Instagram became the focus of his existence, what did he do with his time?  I did the mistake of asking him this very question once. I got answered by two expressions and one sarcasm-dripping retort:                           

    •  Feline narrowing of his eyes
    • Scornful twist of his selfie-ready mouth
    • “What was I doing? Nothing, just twiddling my thumbs, waiting for Kevin and Mike to be struck by lightning”

    In my opinion, sometimes it’s better to twiddle your thumbs than strain your neck for that perfectly artificial moment on a #blissful #bestever vacation that is captured just for the sake of those 500 followers–people who don’t mean a damn thing to you.

                              * * * * * * * 
    *Let me be completely honest, most of the times ‘a friend of mine’ will be absolutely a fictional character that’d be used to make a point . But some times when I’ll be actually talking about a friend of mine, names will be changed to protect the victim’s identity.

    **Names of friends are completely, honestly fictional but have some relation to persons living or dead. I just get my kicks out of them 😉

    The Random Variable yoU

    On a random day, in a random month of a random year, a random writer ( Note that I use  the word ‘writer’ loosely) is struck by a random thought–one out of a billion thoughts that plague the human mind every millionth of a second. 

    But this one random thought raced to the finish line from the head to the hand; translated from an idea to an action and stuck.  

    Stuck like the evil eclairs toffee in the molars of unsuspecting sweet-toothed souls who might just need a shovel to dig the chewy mess out.                                   Stuck in your head like a new catchy song that you’ve maybe heard one too many times.                                                           Stuck like a very strong adhesive that refuses to budge even under water (or so the TV advertisements swear).

    You are now reading the consequence of that random idea.

    There is the mention of a term called the ‘stochastic disturbance term’ or the random variable denoted by the letter ‘u‘ in the regression analysis. At the risk of sounding like an insufferable know-it-all to some and yawn-inducingly technical to others, this random variable is a cluster of all unobservable, unimportant variables that affect Y(a dependent variable) in addition to X (explanatory or independent variable) but their impact on Y is too small to be mentioned in the theory. 

    So the poor variable remains in oblivion, not getting much attention (except from research scholars who have no lives).   Until one fine day, a random and motivated (by sleep-deprivation, I might honestly add) writer decides to bring it into spotlight.  What I gathered from the random variables is that there are a hundred things that can affect a person without them knowing it at all.

    An example might make it a wee bit tolerable if not interesting. Say, there’s a theory that says (hypothetically, of course) “A person’s decency is a negative function of the number of  times a day they say the F-word”. While the hypothetical theory considers ‘swearing’ as the only explanatory variable on which ‘Decency’ depends, there are in fact, numerous other random variables on which decency depends like politeness, honesty, goodness, thoughtfulness and so on.
    A person may take a conscious decision like deciding about their career or the person they want to spend the rest of their life with or a decision as trite as ordering dinner for family (having had the odious obligation of ordering for my extended family at a place recently and taking longer in deciding what to eat than the chef took in cooking it, I can vouch for the fact that it may look easy and insignificant but it ain’t). These decisions of our life are affected by so many random variables all acting at one time that we forget to acknowledge them all.

    Not only things,  but people too can be random variables in your life. There are so many people and things we need for  our mental well-being and happiness.                 A person’s ‘Happiness’ may be an exponential function of : living relationships with parents, siblings, friends, spouse, neighbours, coworkers or colleagues, etc.

    While Happiness for me may be a function of great food, deep slumber, soothing music and plenty of time to read, jog, eat, sleep and repeat; it may be something completely different for you. 

    For many people, Happiness is directly related to three things:

    • Healthy living
    • Financial Stability
    • Personal relationships                         

    But there are a multitude of random variables at play that secure happiness for you–job enrichment,  a sense of purpose or giving back to the society in any way or exploring exciting new adventures in life could be some of them.

    Well, coming back to from where it started, you’d be interested to know that random variables aren’t just always positive. Mathematically and otherwise, random variables can be negative as well and sum of these variables in a regression model is zero meaning that the positives and negatives cancel out each other.

    Unlike in theory, in real life this doesn’t have to be the case every time. It’s in our hands to include the positive variables and eliminate all the negative ones from our lives to achieve optimal values in the functions of happiness, success, job satisfaction, work-life balance and healthy living. After all no econometrician is writing our lives’ theory or plotting our regression lines; we are in the position of power over our mind and body.

    Always remember that you are in the cockpit of your life and it’s only you who has to take-off smoothly and land safely without letting your life get hijacked by negative random variables. 

    Speaking of which, I just hope for the early demise of the random variables that make me 3Rs i.e. Regular-Ravenous-Reader and at the same time turn me into an OWDS(Occasional Writer* in Denial Syndrome) patient every now and then.

    *PS- Still using the word loosely 😉