Jan 30, 2015

What you see first

"How could you fall in love with someone like her?"
"Why do you say so?" he replied, arching his eyebrows at the unexpected assault on his girlfriend.

"Well... come on. Look at her and look at you. You're an actual model who's been on tv, Raghav. Whereas Anushka? The first thing anyone will notice when they see her is that horrendous vertical scar on her face!"
Raghav turned towards his sister angrily but stopped as he spotted Anushka across the room.

She stood there by the living room sofa, chatting with a small boy as she refilled his glass of Mirinda. The child smiled gratefully and gave her a high five before rushing off to be with his friends. Raghav watched as the other kids ran up to her, each awaiting their turn. She patiently obliged each child with a grin and a wink as she refilled their glasses, unaware of the conversation taking place across the room. Raghav smiled as he watched her tickle the last child and pretend to run away, allowing the little girl to gleefully chase her down. And he knew he had his answer. He turned towards his sister, a contented smile upon his face.

"Those children see what I could and what you cannot. Part of being a model was realizing the value of how important - or insignificant - looks are in judging people in real life. You look at Anushka and notice her scar first. I look at her and see a smile that promises to brighten up my day, every day."

Author's note:
This is my take on the picture prompt from Blog-a-Rhythm's Wordy Wednesdays.


Jan 18, 2015

Indireads anthology: Voices, Old & New

There is a lot to get excited about for me and quite a few authors this week. A new anthology featuring a story of mine is officially launched, the first in 2015. "Voices, Old & New" is the second short story anthology e-book by Indireads after "The Long & Short of It" which was released earlier in 2014.

A compilation of winning entries from the competition held last year, "Voices, Old & New" has 26 tales from across four genres namely Crime & Mystery, Drama, Paranormal and Romance thus providing the reader a nice variety to choose from.

The best part: You can choose to either buy the book here on Amazon or as part of a limited time promotional offer can get it FREE just 5 minutes from now by subscribing to INDIREADS here.

I have been truly lucky with Indireads if I do say so myself. In their first anthology, I had focused entirely on the CRIME genre and ended up winning for the best story in that genre. This time around, I chose to do something entirely different and instead focused on a single story for the DRAMA genre. And thankfully, it did work out with my story winning for the Category.

Godyears by Roshan R

In The Ballet Lesson,  as an elder sister helps her younger sibling in her ballet practise, she resents the privileges her sister has today that she missed out on during her formative years. But there is still a lesson to be learned by both siblings before the final step of the dance is taken.

I personally enjoyed writing this story because I found it quite challenging - I had to learn and read up on two very different styles of dance (ballet and Mohiniyattam) and find a balance between both while making them relevant to the central theme that I wished to convey. Touchwood, you will enjoy it.

Jan 12, 2015

TATA BOLT - A step ahead of the game

These are fascinating times for the Tata family. Above us, they have taken to the skies once more with Vistara, eschewing the frugality other airlines promise nowadays to provide a premium service. This change from the old school thinking of using cost-cutting measures was evident last year too when, after three years of hard work (and a bit of soul searching, I might add), they released the Tata Zest. A car unlike any other from their stable, this one stunned critics and the public alike by its premium quality, attention to detail and smooth ride. 

With their first vehicle proving to be a winning ace, TATA can now sit back and share a broad grin (not dissimilar to their trademark grill). The success of the Zest last year has made people stand up and re-evaluate what TATA is capable of. Could there possibly be a better time to release the hatchback based on the Zest?

Welcome the TATA BOLT.
A premium hatchback from the TATA family, the BOLT releases across the country this month and already the excitement has begun. I got the chance to check out the new offering from TATA at close quarters last week and like my fellow colleagues, came back visibly impressed.
So what does the BOLT do differently that makes it stand out from its competition in a crowded Indian segment? Why would you need to consider it above all the others in its class?

These are the 5 key factors that come to my mind. 
  1. Premium Looks. 
  2. Revotron with Multi-Drive.
  3. Harman infotainment system
  4. “BDIH” features!
  5. A Competitive Price tag.


Cost cutting is now a thing of the past. The Indian consumer demands the best for the money he provides and TATA knows this well. With a theme of DesigNext that has its creative origins from three global design studios in Pune, Coventry and Turin, there are few remnants of the previous generation Vista visible here.
No, this is truly the Zest’s younger sibling, starting with the honeycomb mesh grille smiling back at you from the front. You also find projector headlamps and that broad shoulder line which incorporates both door handles and lends character to the side profile of the car.

Pick an angle... any angle!

The Christmas tree taillights of the Vista are finally abandoned for a more contemporary design but the truly unique bit rests above that on the C-pillar. A black cladding gives it a sporty look unlike any in the market presently and helps it stand out from the others. There is a similar black cladding below the bumper that also houses a foglamp. Overall, the blend of red and black looks pretty awesome here, I have to say.

Jan 4, 2015

Can the words of Atheists save the world's most religiously diverse country?

"Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?"

One of the first documented stances questioning the role of God comes from none other than the Nasadiya Sukta (Creation Hymn) in the tenth chapter of the Rig Veda. 

In an alternate world, you would not fear the length of my long beard or the shades of my clothing, be they saffron or green. You would realise that religion was meant as a guideline, not a whip to rip across the night skies at disobedient herds. You would not need to be reminded that there are bad people in your religion and good ones in mine too. You would not need me to ask you why you choose to focus on a person’s religion when judging him, rather than his state, his street, his school, his eating habits or the breakfast cereal he ate today. You would not need to call me bad words over social media even though we are complete strangers, just because our viewpoints differ.
You would judge me for who I am and not the religion that I was tagged with, one that I could throw away at any moment in my life of my own free will, should I choose.
You would not need me to ask you what happens when you finally convert 100% of a country to your religion? What next? 
Can we then FINALLY start thinking of how to put food on everyone’s plate? How to make better roads? Have better health facilities? Or do we then travel overseas and take revenge on every Britisher for the crimes of a century ago? Every Persian for centuries ago? Every Sri Lankan for the audacity of Ravan? When we are done either converting or killing everyone outside, will the next fight then begin between sub-categories here in India: Catholics vs Protestants, Shias vs Sunnis, Vaishnavites vs Shaivites? North vs South? State vs state? Street vs steet?
When do all these fancy words, rituals and cooked up wars stop and the ACTUAL ACT of being compassionate to human beings begin? 
I see your world and the topics that matter these days: LoveJihad. ISIS. Sanghi. Sickular. Fanatic. Troll. Boycott. Convert. Gharwapsi. 
Words that only have one common linking factor: hate those who are not like you. Not because you know them personally. Not because 99% of them have never hurt you or even met you. But just because they are not of your faith. All this hate just to show how much you love God.

Dec 23, 2014

#LandRoverExperience - Unleash your inner adventurer

"You have got to be kidding me, mister!"

That was the first sentence that came out of my mouth when Abel told me to take a left. I had been driving through some pretty patchy roads for less than a kilometre when he made his request. My response had little to do with him – it was because I had spotted the ‘left’ he wanted me to take. And it was an extremely steep uphill climb through a ragged rocky road, one that I would barely consider going on foot, let alone an actual vehicle.
But more on that later.

Since its first model was launched in 1948 under the simplistic title of the Land Rover, the company has significantly expanded its repertoire over the decades, adding such classics as the Freelander, Discovery, Evoque and Sport across its journey. It is an apt measure of their longevity that today, nearly seven decades later, they are still considered the gold standard when it comes to 4x4 vehicles across the world.

Godyears Kerala #LandRoverExperience
Image courtesy: LandRoverIndia

The concept of the ‘Land Rover Experience’ is something truly unique and shows a) the amount of respect the company places on the public and most importantly b) the faith it has in its product. Realising that the vast majority of test drives do not allow the public to use the showroom vehicle to see the best part – the offroading capabilities - of these vehicles, the Land Rover Experience was set up in select locations across the globe. Here, people could come and test the vehicles out under extremely strenuous off-roading scenarios, including hills, on water, sand or snow, depending on the conditions.

Godyears Kerala #LandRoverExperience
Image courtesy: LandRoverIndia

When I got the call to attend Kerala’s first ever LandRoverExperience thanks to Blogadda,  I will not lie to you: I was just as nervous as I was excited. It was a lifetime opportunity and one that I had no intention to shun and yet, I was scared as well. Like the vast majority of the Indian public, I too had zero experience in offroading… well, unless you count the potholed Indian roads which are pretty close!

Knowing that this was going to happen, I did steel myself to be prepared for the ride.
Now that I am safely back, I can tell you this much… nothing could have prepared me for how awesome and exhilarating an adventure it turned out to be.

Dec 21, 2014

Don't sit on the fence. Take a bold stand.

Is pre-marital sex okay?

“It is okay provided the couple are in love and in a deeply committed relationship.”
As long as they are planning to get married, I guess.”
“It is today’s world. After seeing all these Western shows and movies, today’s youth would be influenced…”

You know what the scary part is? That the above statements are from those defending pre-marital sex. You are defending it and yet you add so many caveats. Contrast this to the naysayers and defenders of mankind’s pre-nuptial virginity.
“It is against our culture.”
“It is against our religion.”
“It is a sin.”
“It is because of chowmein.”

There is such a surety about their convictions, even if it is as absurd as claiming food and mobile phones as causes of pre-marital sex. You know that they are not going to budge. Sex without matching horoscopes or a wedding ring is obviously a crime that warrants the death penalty in their heads.

If you believe that your sexuality is your choice, stop trying to defend it half-heartedly because you fear society, religious values et al. Take a bold stand. When you add riders like “should be in love”, “should be deeply committed” etc, you are missing the whole point of the conversation. Look around you. Can you honestly say that every married couple around you is in love? That there is a deep sense of commitment between them?

Image source: FashionPlaceFace.com
You and I both know that you answered in the negative. But the social norm is that even if you cannot stand the sight of each other, you must go to bed and engage in sex with him/her because of the marriage certificate. On the other hand, a young couple in love cannot kiss even though they are strongly attracted to each other because ‘that would be wrong.’ 
This is where you lose me. You look to shame an expression of love/desire/attraction between two consenting adults yet say ‘it happens’ when physical abuse/marital rape/subjugation in a marriage occurs and counsel the mentally scarred victim to stay in the relation. 

You can quote all the scriptures and verses you want but you just have not factored in the basic attributes of the human heart and mind: every heart yearns for love, affection and intimacy; every mind yearns for a compatible partner. You cannot pinpoint why two people are attracted to each other just as you cannot gauge the true depth of emotional commitment between any two people. I won’t even accept that this is a ‘problem of the new generation.’ Pre-marital sex has been going on since centuries and has little, if anything, to do with the advent of mobile phones, chowmein or tv shows. You cannot switch off puberty and all that comes with it, just because you think it is wrong.

Dec 8, 2014

Semmelweis' legacy in present day India #SwachhIndia

Ignaz Semmelweis.

You have never heard his name. And yet, you and I are probably alive today because of him and his perseverance.

Born of Hungarian ancestry, Semmelweis initially joined a law college back in 1837 before switching over to the medical field. While working in the Vienna General Hospital, this young man in his twenties doing his surgical training noticed a very curious fact. The hospital ran two maternity clinics, one run largely by medical students while the other was largely attended to by midwives. He found that the death rate in the hospital run by medical students was significantly higher (13% as against 2% in the second maternity clinic run by midwives.) The deaths included both pregnant mothers and newborn infants, secondary to puerperal fever, a form of septicemia. It reached such a level that women begged not to be sent to the first clinic for their delivery, even preferring to deliver on the streets in some sad cases.

The findings stumped this young man initially. How could trained doctors be killing more women and children than midwives? The doctors offered many reasons in their defence but none really sat right with Semmelweis.

Streptococcus pyogenes,
the cause of puerperal fever
still exists today.
It was when a friend of his died following an accidental ‘minor’ prick while performing an autopsy that the mystery started to unravel before Ignaz’s eyes. As he watched his friend die, he noted that his friend had the same symptoms as those pregnant women and newborns who suffered a premature end. He realized that most of the doctors were coming straight from the autopsies they had conducted and into the labour room to deliver newborn. Though they were washing their hands with soap and water, it was not enough to clean the doctors hands entirely. That was the difference – the midwives never participated in autopsies and hence never carried the ‘infectious particles’ from the dead back to the living.

Semmelweis' endeavours resulted in him challenging the iron-clad system and demanding that his peers use stronger chlorinated lime solutions to wash their hands before conducting any procedure on a living patient. As it always has and sadly still continues to be, the words of a young man trying to change what is the norm were not well received by his seniors and peers. His implications that the doctors were themselves responsible for the deaths of the women and newborn was met with barely concealed anger and stiff resistance. And yet, statistics were in Semmelweis favour.

Source: Here
The numbers don't lie.

Once his method was implemented, the death rate fell from 13% to 2.38%, with no fatalities reported at all in some months, something unheard of back then in the obstetric set up. Even as the statistics supported him, the mind-sets resisted. They mocked his theory of these ‘invisible infectious particles’ whenever he spoke of it. The proof of the presence of the invisible killers – what you and I know as bacteria – would arrive only decades later, demonstrated successfully by Louis Pasteur. Semmelweis passed away a year later at the age of 47, still trying to convince the medical field to wash their hands before and after every procedure.

Today, we in the medical field call him the ‘saviour of mothers’. Semmelweis' Germ theory is taught to every medical student, making us aware of the invisible particles than can make us doctors killers even as we try to be healers.

Dec 5, 2014

Vattayappam / Steamed Rice cake

That my mom is a wonderful cook is pretty much apparent from my 'never shrinking belly'. She has arguably the largest collection of recipes in the district and I honestly don't feel I am exaggerating when I say that. I can picture her cutting recipes from Femina and Women's Era back in the 80's when I was a small kid in Dubai and now three decades on, she's still at it even today, taking down notes from online cookery sites to try out at home.

Over the past few months, she has indeed been trying out quite a few dishes from both the traditional Malabar cuisine (remember this array of yummy food pics?) as well as international cuisine. And I figured what better place than at my site to showcase some of these dishes.

Godyears Kannur Foodgasm Kerala

Today, I wanted to treat you all to a healthy Keralite tea time snack that has quite a few unique features - the Vattayappam or steamed rice cake