Mil gaye naina se naina

Oye kya baat ho gayi !


In tribute to the wink that has mesmerized the nation last week here are some lovely songs, old and new talking about eyes as the window to the soul and the expression of love.

Thank you Priya for distracting us from our daily messy and chaotic lives. Gau rakshaks, NiMo scam, Metro digging up all of Mumbai…………all forgotten by one delicious wink.

And here are some songs dedicated to the magic of such eyes !










While searching for the songs I remembered, I also found this other blogger’s post on a similar list but with very different songs !

Check it out here if you are interested


The universe in the eye of a lizard

A lizard had fallen on the window of the car just outside the driver’s seat and it was staring him in the eye, from a distance of a couple of inches.

D: “Isn’t God amazing that he made the eye of the lizard exactly like ours but so tiny?!”

Me: “Well…’god’ made the lizard’s eye first and then we evolved…”

D: “Haan, woh bhi sahi hai….That is true. But you know that a lizard eats only insects and thus takes lives every day and is definitely going to be reborn same or lower life form……maybe even as the insect it eats. Chitragupta sits with his records of our good and bad deeds and decides where we should be re-born.”

Me: “Sure, but cows eat only grass and don’t all end up as humans. Not only that, they probably accidently eat lots of insects sitting on the grass too.” (Unless they are battery farmed, I thought to myself, in which case they probably get sheep blood pellets which eventually causes mad cow disease).

D: “Haan, woh bhi sahi hai….That is true. And human beings also sometimes have to kill. Like Arjuna on the battlefield. My neighbour and I were discussing the Mahabharat and he asked me what I would have done if I was Arjun. Standing on the Kurukshetra, facing all the Mahapurush like Bhishma, Dronacharya.”

Me: “Well, those ‘Mahapurush’ weren’t of much help when it came to saving Draupadi from being disrobed and insulted by Duryodhana and Dusshasana were they?? Not to mention her own brilliant husband who agreed to wage her in the game like she was an object that belonged to him.”

D: “Haan, woh bhi sahi hai…..”

Me: “She had five husbands and the only one she wanted to marry in her next life was Bhima because he was the only one who stood up for her. “

D: “Yes, true….But who can fight destiny?”

Me: “Mmmm……maybe humans? Isn’t that why we believe ourselves to be superior to other animals on this planet? And look what a mess we are making of it!”

D: “The other driver was saying that soon we will have robots managing things. Maybe humans will have more time to create relationships.”

Ha! I thought to myself. Humans are more likely to engage in even more conflict and horrors rising from boredom, lack of gainful unemployment and even more expensive and dangerous toys.

By this time we had reached our destination.

D: “Oh look madam, the lizard just jumped off. No escape from the re-birth cycle at least today…”



Madhubala -The Queen of Hearts

Last year I wrote a blogpost on her birthday, which of course coincides with Valentine’s Day.

Here is the link

Meanwhile everyone’s favourite RSS has suddenly declared themselves in favour of Valentine’s Day, stating that if young men and women don’t fall in love then how will they marry and then how will society progress. Right. Society has been progressing based on a legal and social institution created by patriarchy within the confines of heteronormativity and where monogamy is compulsory mostly only for the women involved.


Let me clarify that we are not against love. We have a problem with the obscene display happening in the name of love during days like Valentine’s Day… have you seen the cards that youth exchange during Valentine’s Day? They show couples kissing. Is that our culture? Is it how we should be celebrating love?” Jwalit Mehta, Bajrang Dal Ahmedabad president told DNA

I think he is right. Maybe we should celebrate Kamasutra Day instead. Maybe they can block Rajpath with the same dhurries they use for Yoga Day and we should do an internationally televised display of Kamasutra positions in order to reclaim our culture from the evil Western influence.

I can see the TRP rating for this going stratospheric.

Of course not all romantic relationships are sexual and vice versa. Sexuality is a vast spectrum and there is increasing recognition for the asexual minority who do feel love but have no sexual desires.

Of course there are the aromantic, the pansexual, the demisexual and the sapiosexual.

Labels and definitions and concepts aside, even the most aromantic would surely hum along to these  impossibley romantic and fun songs from Madhubala’s films. Enjoy !

  1. With Dev Anand


2. With Guru Dutt


3. With Kishore Kumar


4. With Ashok Kumar


5. With Dilip Kumar


And the last one to keep you humming all day

The Queen’s Necklace: Marine Drive, Mumbai

IMG_20170523_085434Most coastal cities have a marine drive or a marina, which is set up as a beautiful promenade and is full of walkers and families and dogs being walked. Mumbai also has one which may be similar to any of these but with the distinction of being immortalized in so many songs and movies that none of the others can lay claim to!

This is a photo I took of the Marine Drive in Colombo where they have this gorgeous train track running literally on the beach !!

train by the coast - Copy

Marine Drive is close to 4 km long and was constructed by late philanthropist Bhagoji Keer & Pallonji Mistry (trivia—his son Cyrus was recently nominated as ‘heir’ to the Tata empire). It is a concrete road along the coast, which is a natural bay.


 I always find it the most beautiful during the early evening even before the lights came on, where the swaying palm trees also added to the romantic feel. (ruined forever by some crazy people who dug out the coconut palms fringe and planted some ugly short trees) On the increasingly rare occasions that I go into SoBo I always make sure I return by the Marine Drive and enjoy the sight of the sea, the people, the space in which Mumbaikers make their own quietness, holding hands, walking looking at the sunset, sharing an umbrella. under the umbrella

During the monsoon , the sea lashes and strains against the edge, barely keeping it from swallowing this megapolis whole…

rain clouds

The official name for this road, though rarely used, is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road. The promenade is lined with palm trees. At the northern end of Marine Drive is Chowpatty Beach. Most of the buildings which were built in the 1920s and 30s are in a unique art deco style.

Of all the ways in which Mumbai has been called a city of dreams, at least one is literal. It is sometime in the late 18th century, and the engineers of the East India Company in Bombay are losing a battle against the sea. They’re dumping boatloads of stone into Worli creek to build an embankment, but it has collapsed once and it collapses again. That’s when an engineer named Ramji Shivji Prabhu has a dream: the goddess Mahalakshmi and two others inform him their stone idols lie submerged in the creek. Can some space be made for them on land? Prabhu has them fished out and installed in a shrine built nearby on land gifted by the administration. The wall holds! That embankment – the Hornby Vellard, completed in 1784 – was very real and can be said to have given shape to the modern city. Over the next few decades this was followed by the construction of causeways to link the seven islets separated by sea and swamp.

old bombay map

Another dream in which it played a part was that of a tall young man who came to Mumbai in search of a job in the film industry. He had no place to stay and slept a few nights on one of the benches on Marine Drive. He still stops by sometimes to take a look at it.

Nariman Point is a business district in Downtown Mumbai and is named after Khursheed Framji Nariman who had initiated the area’s development as an extension to the Back Bay reclamation.

Prior to 1940, the area was part of the Arabian sea. A popular leader of the Congress, Khurshed Nariman (affectionately called Veer Nariman), a Bombay Municipal Corporation corporator, proposed to reclaim the area from the sea near Churchgate. To accomplish this task, the shallow seafront was filled with debris from various parts of the city. Reinforced concrete cement was also used, the steel for which had to be purchased on the black market at higher prices due to World War II. The entire cost was estimated to be ₹300,000 (equivalent to about ₹99.4 million in 2017). Additional reclamations were carried out in the 1970s.

mumbai from the skies

Some charming and beautiful songs have been picturized along the Marine Drive (and I found that there is apparently even a movie named after it! )

  1. SRK makes a super dramatic entry in (super hit!) Deewana, riding on top of a whizzing block of ice


2. AR Rahman composes the perfect peppy bike ride song for a carefree, sunny morning. And at that point we hum along since we don’t know yet what Vivek Oberoi has in store….

  1. One of the many delightful songs from CID, with the instant recall opening bars on the harmonium


4. Young women wearing sarees and singing and dancing along the road, free as birds, playing a cheery tune. It could have happened and continues to be possible (hopefully!) only in Mumbai!

5. Has the joy and romance of the monsoon ever been captured more naturally and beautifully than here? It can make you so nostalgic for those carefree days of one’s youth….when Mumbai was really so beautiful and the monsoon truly so magical….when the skies were darker, the rainy days quieter and the evenings colder…..

6. This mellifluous Kailash Kher song is from one of my all- time favourite movies—Waisa Bhi Hota Hai part 2 (there is no part 1. Yes that is how crazy it is). It’s a bit of a cheat cos this is not on Marine Drive but it is shot on one of the sea-facing areas of amchi Mumbai so it’s being snuck in here!


7. A stark, biting political story and Mumbai flashing past in black and white. Has anything changed in the way politicians behave and the common people suffer?? (I want to do an entire post or even a series on the wonderful films made by Jabbar Patel)


8. Finally, even Coldplay seem ‘magicked’ by the spirit of Mumbai in this hymn for the weekend


Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan

Since Bollywood is located in Bombay, obviously many songs are shot in the studios here.

But there are some songs or situations that are so unique to the city that they simply could not have been picturized elsewhere. Either showcasing the sense of freedom or the seaside or the pressures of urban life or the dark underbelly, Bombay/ Mumbai is itself integral to the song.

Here is a first list of some favourites, old and new, with the madness, masti and magic of the city and its crazy inhabitants captured in these songs:

1. The classic tribute from the movie CID, picturized on Johnny Walker. (Sadly the first line Ae DIl Hai Mushkil has been used as the title for an incredibly idiotic movie made recently.) CID is a crime thriller starring Dev Anand and Shakila and also the debut film for Waheeda Rahman.

2. Madhubala and Bharat Bhushan in a thriller named Gateway of India. It has an intriguing story line “A young heiress, on the run from her murderous uncle, roams the streets of Bombay where she runs into a series of shady characters. To escape from them, she makes a rendezvous with all of them to meet her early next morning at the Gateway of India.”

3. Amitabh Bachchan in and as Don. In retrospect his character embodies the migrant workers who come to this city from UP ( and Bihar and elsewhere) to make a new life. The surma, the pan chewing the clothes.

4. Nana Patekar does a star turn in this blingy song from a super fun movie–Taxi no 9-2-11. It involves a taxi driver on the run from a passenger. While Nana Patekar is of course superlative, John Abraham has also done a decent job as the spoilt son of a businessman.

5. I have not seen Aap Ki Khatir but one song in it composed by Bappi Lahiri became so popular it completely eclipsed the movie. 

6. Those were the days of charming movies with simple stories. Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman reminded me of the simplicity of the TV serial Nukkad. This charming song seems to be picturized in a proper chawl, probably a first since Sai Paranjpe’s movies.

7. Bombay to Goa–the anthem to eve teasing songs in which AB seemed to specialized in the 80s and 90s ( Jumma Chumma de de ?). It remains immensely popular even now and is guaranteed to get everyone on the dance floor !

8. Rangeela re-wrote Urmila’s career graph and also gave us a very different story. The film may not be seen as woman- centric, but it was really the character of Mili who defines the entire story. Her ambitions, her family, her friendships and eventually her choices. 

9. This song is from one of my favourite movies–Jhankaar Beats. Juhi Chawla, Sanjay Suri, Rahul Bose and Rinke Khanna made for an unusual cast which worked really well ! Very urban professional characters, a sub plot around tributes to RD Burman , quotes from Sholay and a running gag around condoms made it a very unusual mainstream film in 2003. This song says aptly Bombay, Bambai, Mumbai may mein pagal ho gaya !

10. To end this list here is  A.R. Rahman’s genius music from the movie Bombay.

The next list will be focussed on Marine Drive in Mumbai. Wait for it 🙂


Why does the government exist?

“Long, long ago in a land far, far away….. or maybe even right here, early humans moved around in small groups. These were families or tribes and they owned no property. They hunted and gathered and gave birth and died. And moving on, moving on all the time.

Along the way they discovered fire, domesticated some animals and learnt to obtain a more regular source of food such as milk and meat, invented the wheel, language, writing.

By and by they stayed in one place long enough to grow their own plants and crops. It was less dangerous than hunting for sure and a more steady supply of food than gathering perhaps?

Whatever the reason, humans started living and occupying defined spaces. It is possibly here that the need to identify paternity started since the men wanted to defend their own property and keep it within their own family and eventually have it inherited by their own children. (this was how patriarchy got started too but that is for another post !)

As these tribes grew into village settlements we needed someone to manage rules and disputes and provide leadership during conflict and disaster. This was the beginning of government.

It takes many forms– monarchy, dictatorship, democracy (which can also express itself in many ways—from referendum in Iceland to one party ‘elections’ in China and Russia.)

So, basically the point is that people came first and government came later and we should never ever forget that!

Government exists to serve our interests, but that occurs so rarely that this idea has almost been forgotten. Governments have become complex, thriving on corruption and inefficiency, supporting war mongering and fostering a convenient ‘nationalism’.

secular oke

The spaces where citizens can speak out and demand accountability are getting squeezed out. Even in a country like India which calls itself the largest democracy in the world, activists are in danger because those who want to silence them know that they will not be punished. Kalburgi, Pansare, Dabholkar, Gauri Lankesh…the list keeps growing of outspoken people who were silenced by bullets and whose killers are still at large.


On the eve of our Republic day here is the preamble to our constitution:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

Here it is again, as of 2017


“Having dispossessed the adivasis and pushed them into a downward spiral of indigence, in a cruel sleight of hand the government began to use their own penury against them. Each time it needed to displace a large population – for dams, irrigation projects, mines – it talked of “bringing tribals into the mainstream” or of giving them “the fruits of modern development”. Of the tens of millions of internally displaced people (more than 30 million by big dams alone) – refugees of India’s “progress” – the great majority are tribal people. When the government begins to talk of tribal welfare, it’s time to worry.”


( jal satyagraha at Narmada Dam site)

having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN


“India spent a total of Rs. 4.5 lakh crore on healthcare in 2013-14 at 4 per cent of the GDP, of which Rs. 3.06 lakh crore came from households. Public spending is abysmally low, constituting around 29 per cent of the total health expenditure — 1 per cent of GDP”



“Union minister Anantkumar Hegde said that he wants people to identify themselves by caste or religion and not secularism, and that the government will change the constitution.”



“Naxalism signifies a particular kind of militant and violent armed struggle by the peasants and tribals who accept Marxist-Leninist ideology. Inspite of Naxalism being termed as the biggest problem in Adivasi areas, the social problems are actually much wider in the form of unemployment, poverty and an untold number of socio-economic injustices. Additionally, more than 200 of India’s 640 districts are indirectly under Naxal control.”


Does real power rest with the citizens of India? The outside observer will notice that this is not the case. The interest of the state and its organs is put above the interest of India’s people”

gau rakshak

and to secure to all its citizens:



“Here’s an ever-growing list of statements by politicians as reported in the media, ranging from idiotic to insane.”


“Don’t criminalise marital rape, may disturb institution of marriage: Government of India”



ambani pray

and political;

“By 2025 there will be 200 million young people in the age group of 21-41 with no jobs or less jobs and nobody knows what to do with these people. Government policy does not know what to do as they don’t have proper data.”

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;



EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

“Despite constitutional protection, positive discrimination policies and earmarked budgets, India’s 104 million tribal people remain among the poorest and most nutritionally deprived social groups. In 2005-06, 54% of tribal children under five years of age were stunted, which is a measure of chronic undernutrition.”


and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual

“Union minister of state for home Hansraj Ahir on Monday reportedly told doctors who did not attend an inauguration function in Maharashtra that they “should join Naxals”, adding “we will then shoot you with bullets”.

and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

“Both commercial forestry and intensive agriculture have proved destructive to the forests that had endured the tribal agriculture for many centuries. Adivasis in central part of India have been victims of the Salwa Judum campaign by the Government against Naxalites.

Activists point out that military operations in tribal areas routinely kill or injure innocent villagers who are then more likely to be recruited as cadres. “If I was a person who is being dispossessed, whose wife has been raped, who is being pushed off their land and who is being faced with this police force, I would say that I am justified in taking up arms if that is the only way I have to defend myself.”




How do I see thee? Let me count the ways…

(with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning ! )

Some months ago I was going through a lovely large pile of newspapers leftover from a few weekends of travel. As I read through them, turning page after page, it suddenly struck me that I was hardly seeing any women. In mainstream mass media — English newspapers being read in Mumbai.

So, I started doing what any good analysis needs—gathering data!

Here is what I found:

  Women Individual In Groups Men Individual


In Groups


Mixed groups
Mumbai Mirror 11 0 22 1 + 1 Sports 1
HT 4 8

(for a Women’s Marathon)

1+ Full page cover ad of Vistara showing 2 pilots, both male. 15 in sports 3
ToI 2 +

1 Mayawati + 1 Sushma Swaraj+1 Transgender on global page = total of 5

2 students passing a recent exam 23 14  

So, even without counting sports, men feature 2 to 5 times as often as women. I thought, hmm…maybe that was just a one off weekend and not representative? I repeated the count this weekend and it is almost identical.

In all the news stories the stock image of a farmer is always a man, although half the farmers in our country are women! The shares and finance advertisements are always featuring men.



You may shrug and say- so what?? Does this matter?

It does.


Because making 50% of the population invisible in the mainstream newspapers means that you are making invisible their presence and their voice and their participation in society. Therefore the mass media is not being accurately representative of the lived realities of society.

Even on the sports page for example, the men’s teams make news and occupy 2-4 pages whether they win or lose or argue or faint or fight with each other or acquire a new girlfriend or lose a coach. The women’s team is seen ONLY when they win the gold medal. They cease to exist right away after that.

This creates a skewed perception of the importance of the so called ‘ordinary’ lives of women and girls. This is also why many newspapers used to earlier have a supplement or separate feature for women, because they also knew that women were simply not a part of the mainstream narrative.

We know from history that making a group invisible makes it easier for the powerful to do what they want with members of that group. We have seen it with slaves, with Dalits, refugees, migrants and every other dis-enfranchised group ever.

The default state in society is thus assumed to be male and if women feature at all it is because they are doing something superlative and out of the ordinary. Either super ‘good’ like Arundhati Bhattacharya (who is captioned in the photo as the Chairman SBI instead of Chair or Chairperson) or super bad as in Indrani of the various murders.

What hope is there for the ‘ordinary’ woman?

And it is not just images, it is also our everyday language.

Research has found that the use of he as a generic pronoun evokes a disproportionate number of male images in the minds of the readers and excludes thoughts of women in non- gender-specific instances.

All those “man” words — said many times a day by millions of people every day, cumulatively reinforce the message that men are the standard and that women should be subsumed by the male category.

Check out this video doing the rounds of Whatsapp recently:

I would suggest that you also read the various comments that people left below this video because I think they are also interesting.

Some are openly anti- feminism.

Eg Using kids to push an agenda? Yeap, this is as low as feminism can get.”

“Yes, very effective propaganda indeed! I am sure Goebbels will be proud.”

 “How about you tell kids “you can be what you want if you work for it”, instead of this feminist BS?”

But some are saying things which is actually what feminism also says but some insecure men don’t want to hear—feminism is not against men! It is against Patriarchy. It is against stereotyping.

Eg. Now draw a coal miner! Now draw a garbage disposal worker! A truck driver! A brick layer! A homeless person! Prison inmate! A soldier dying face down in the mud! Now draw the person he was dying to protect…”

Surely this person knows that there are plenty of women soldiers and women who are homeless and women who are truck drivers and brick layers?! And men are dying in wars to protect women?? But they choose to use this argument to drown out the feminist message.

Ironically, despite being invisible in the mainstream as people who exist and shape society, women and girls are in fact the constant target of the male gaze.


Peeping toms, voyeurs, spying through CCTV cameras, two way mirrors in changing rooms, ogling, stalking, chasing—the whole gamut.


So women are meant to be looked at even if there is a violation of privacy and personal spaces but somehow women are not seen in public areas, claiming public spaces?

girls stalking

When the daughter of an IAS officer in Haryana was stalked by the drunk son of the local BJP leader, the boy’s father’s first response was –why was she out so late?! She gave him a reply befitting that which Golda Meir had given in response to curfews on women to prevent rape.


The night time or lonely roads are not in themselves unsafe for women ! They become unsafe because of the presence of certain men.

unsafe working hours

Men, who have been raised to believe that they can take up as much space as they want, take whatever they want and whenever they want.


They can look at whatever they want whenever they want.

why dont they roam naked

Speaking of the male gaze, the entire fashion and make up industry survives and thrives only on the notion that women need to look and dress in a certain way to be attractive to men.

eyes 3

Which is why I am going to close here with this totally awesome post about what women over 30 should wear 🙂




Hawaon pe likh do hawaon ke naam

What can one say about Kishore Kumar? With his madness, his genius and his yodelling?

Can you imagine that he never trained as a singer and he never even planned to be one?!

His genius lies not just in his incredible singing voice but also in his capacity to mimic. If you listen to his songs with your eyes closed you can actually imagine which of the actors he was singing for , and he sang for them all—Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Shashi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Raj Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar.

It is impossible to list top ten or even top 100 favourites due to the sheer volume of songs and his incredible versatility. So here are random 12 songs from my long list which reflect his variety and I hope you enjoy them!

  1. Hawaon pe likh do hawaon ke naam: This relatively little known song is a delight. From the 1970 movie Do Dooni Char, which apparently is the predecessor to Angoor. See if you can guess who the child artiste is!

2. A mad caper from Half Ticket which is such a delightful movie! Some of the song and dance sequences are so hilarious that one cannot imagine they could have been choreographed at all. Madhubala reveals a perfect flair for comedy too !

3. An eternal classic, thoughtful and solemn. The movie itself was a dramatic emotional roller coaster , with misunderstandings and badly timed letters worthy of a Thomas Hardy novel !

4. What an incredible song ! He manages to convey the lifetime of longing of Sanjeev Kumar which is also tinged with a cautious optimism and is matched by the joyful and soaring voice of Lata singing for Suchitra Sen

5. Uttam Kumar brooding and melancholy, a boat ride on an open sea and Kishore Kumar is pitch perfect in conveying the emotions.

6. A strange but entertaining film- Anamika, with Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri. They must be the only pair to have played such a varied combination of roles with each other! Father and daughter in Parichay, Father- in- law and widowed daughter- in- law in Sholay, star crossed lovers in Anamika, deaf mute couple in Koshish.

7. The ’70s were the days when it was considered romantic to drown your sorrows in drink, when every sex worker had a heart of gold and all love was doomed. If you swoon over Chingari koi bhadke’ then you will absolutely love this video which shows the ‘mistake’ that gave us the un-mistakeable opening bars.

And here is the song itself

8. A decidedly odd couple which was probably never repeated but it is a lovely song  that Amitabh Bachchan sings to Neetu Singh in Yaarana

9.  A movie rather ahead of its times in some ways– a kind of adaptation of ‘To Sir with Love’. Vinod Khanna plays an idealistic teacher who is wrongfully accused of a sexual misdemeanour.

10.  A beautiful song where the young dapper Dharmendra is off to meet his beloved ‘Father’ the priest who raised him in a hill station school.

11. A cheerful family song which sets the tune for the story of the new head –cook- cum- bottlewasher who joins this disjointed joint family household and joins them all back again. ( its the scene in every household when the new replacement turns up after the kaamwali bai has gone ‘gaon’ and not bothered to return !)

12. A haunting melody from one of those rebirth and lost lovers’ stories. The odd reason why I like it so much is that the flute seller who used to roam the quiet streets of Bombay on a Sunday, all those years ago in the ’80s would play this melody. So, every time I hear it I am transported back to those years when Sundays were always quiet, no noise of baraats, no new building construction sounds grinding away on every lane, no whirring of stone cutters and the constant clang of hammer to metal. Quiet streets under a quiet sky, quiet people walking down quiet lanes, a kind of a mid- morning stupor on everything, and the basuriwala playing this tune, which would waft up to our high-rise apartment through the quiet rustling trees and the telephone wires and into the open window of my quiet bedroom.


If you have any favourite Kishore Kumar song do share in the comments !



It’s a new year! Or is it??

Now that we have all finished celebrating the beginning of a random day in a random year, in the middle of nowhere in the revolution of our Sun, around we- don’t- know- what- spot in the centre of the Milky Way galaxy, (which takes it 230 million years to make one complete orbit around), maybe we can spend five minutes on reflection and contemplation of the calendar.


What is a calendar anyway? It is a time keeper on a day scale really, so it is just a reeeally slow clock in a way. Humans probably started to figure out ways to measure time around the time they settled into agriculture. (As an aside, there is a recent book I heard of where the author claims that agriculture was the biggest mistake of the human race! )

In any case, that would have been when the women needed to figure out when to sow and when to reap and when they could expect to have food available. (They were probably the first farmers while the men continued to hunt for a while till the transition was complete). Thus the annual cycles of summer/ rain/ winter may have been noticed and used to plan the farming.

Eventually we got more refined and started being able to measure the hours in the day and the minutes in an hour. The earliest ‘clocks’ have been around since 2000 BC.

It is very interesting that despite having ten digits on our fore and hind limbs, we use 12 as the unit of measurement.

I found this article a bit confusing but apparently if we had 8 fingers instead of 10 things would be counted differently!

We have now progressed so much that we even have an atomic clock which can calculate to the 1/1000th of a second or something which I imagine is useful only to children who always want to claim being older than an annoying cousin by just such a small measurable amount!

Once heliocentrism was more or less accepted universally, we also managed to figure out that a full circle around the Sun takes us 365 days give or take a wobble here and there. From that to the Mayan calendar, zodiac signs and eventually Nostradamus was just short leap!


Hindus have a lunar/ solar mixed calendar and do consider Diwali as the beginning of a new year and the Chinese also use the lunar calendar and celebrate their new year sometime in February.

The 1st Jan that we all celebrate so joyfully is for a month named after the Roman god Janus ( who is the god of beginnings and transitions). The date is from the Gregorian calendar of the Pope Gregory.

If this isn’t a reminder of the sustained legacy of the hegemony of the global north then I don’t know what is!

Having said that, if the current insanity of radical Hindutva continues, India may well follow Nepal is shifting to the Hindu calendar which is currently in the year 2074.

Ethiopia is even better and has not only an entirely different system of counting days and its time zone is also totally off!

Of course, no matter which way we count it and on which day we declare a new year, the idea behind it is one of renewal and out with the old and in with the new.

The old must give way to the new. But of course it doesn’t always happen and in the medical field or the NGO field, nor in corporate sector (nor sometimes in families where the head of the family, usually the oldest man continues to bully everyone into doing what he thinks is best for them). There are very rare leaders who plan to transition out and mentor the next generation of leaders. Most people cling on to power and control like grim death.

This year we also kept a happy/funny memories jar in the dining room. We opened the jar on 31st Dec and it was fun to reminisce and relive the highlights of 2017.

Did you make any resolutions? I think Calvin had the right idea 🙂

calvin and hobbes

But it is probably always a good idea to aim to read more good books/articles, listen to more old favourite songs, travel more, stay in touch with friends ( old and new).

you are the books you readMeet your parents, spend more time with your kids (they really do grow up simply too fast), be kinder, donate more of your time/ money/ expertise to those who have less than you, learn something new every day/ week whether it is a word or a poem or a fact or a recipe, exercise regularly, eat healthy, feel less guilty, carpe diem and all that jazz.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t do it regularly, do it whenever you can.


After all, as my school Principal used to say –‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life!’


“I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list”

(quoting Susan Sontag in the title)

I travel a lot for work. So In 2016 I decided to collect snow globes from every place I travelled to (if they were available of course).


I have also been a voracious reader and the various flights have in fact given me even more time to read. There is so much to read and so little time! The news of the gigantic new library opened in China recently gave me nightmares. How can one possibly read even the best of the best books in one lifetime?

china library

So, for the year end, here is a photo journal of my journeys in the last 2 years—both physically and through books.

The places I visited over the last 2 years were Amsterdam, Bangkok, Belfast, Colombo, Dubai, Hanoi/ Ha Long Bay, Kuala Lumpur, London, New York, Oxford, Phoenix, Singapore, Stockholm, Washington DC.

all globes

I also visited Bali and Dhaka which do not do snow globes and ironically neither do Kathmandu or Iceland!

I do plan to write short posts on most of these places and my travel experiences later.

For the books round up, some of the best non- fiction books I read and can recommend highly are here, with a short review explaining what they are about and a hyperlink if you want to know more.


  • A slim powerful book by Grayson Perry—The Descent of Man, in which he unpacks and unpicks the toxic masculinity that ties us down to patriarchy.
  • Another slim book that packs a punch—Why I am not a Feminist by Jessa Crispin.
  • What money can’t buy by Michel Sandel is a brilliant analysis of the moral limits of markets.
  • non fiction books
  • The Pirates Dilemma by Matt Mason talks about how youth culture is reinventing capitalism. If you have ever wondered how the invention of disco by a Nun is related to low cost HIV drugs in Africa and whether 3 D printing of branded shoes will be the next threshold of digital piracy, then this is the book for you !
  • Falling off the Map by Pico Iyer was a present from my daughter and I loved the chapter on Iceland so much that we visited it last year. This book talks of places that are geographically isolated and therefore also become culturally unique. If you love Bill Bryson’s travelogues, these are much calmer and more reflective but just as enjoyable.

mixed books

  • I have also been re-reading Devi by Mrinal Pande which is, on the face of it, a simply written story of the goddesses worshipped in the hilly regions of north India but a deeper reading shows up the persistent questioning of the patriarchy and the devaluing of the female gods.
  • I don’t know if Margaret Atwood’s Good Bones would be fiction or non- fiction? They seem to be stories but they are bitingly real. Stories like Let Us Now Praise Stupid Women, Men at Sea, The Female Body, Little Red Hen Tells All.
  • I also found a gorgeous little alphabet book after my own heart which says A is for Activist 🙂
  • more books

Some of the most engaging fiction I read turns out to be exclusively thrillers and murder mysteries !

  •  Fiona Griffiths: what a unique detective! She is a young Welsh woman, and if that doesn’t make her hugely unique in the male dominated detective world, then she also has a rare condition which adds to the intrigue. She is innocent and on her own planet while also being one of the bravest and most compelling police investigator. Thank you Harry Bingham for creating this one !


  • I also enjoy JD Robb and her futuristic badass young woman detective Eve Dallas who has a steamy romance going on by the side of her gruesome and complex murder mysteries.
  • Then there is Jack Reacher—the super heroic Military Police who treats women as equals. For me, that alone makes him a real superhero.
  • The Expats by Chris Pavone—phenomenally plotted with twists that you will never ever see coming. Read this and the next one—the Travellers.
  • some books
  • After the Crash by Michel Bussi is a fascinating read with a twisted mystery and a tangled web of two families inextricably linked by a crash.
  • Another author I always enjoy reading is Deon Meyer. The stories are set in South Africa and the various murders take place against a backdrop of racial politics, corruption, trafficking, poaching and a myriad other very real problem.
  • Christopher Walker writes a series about Bryant and May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Set in London, it has two semi- retired detectives, taking the help of witches and soothsayers, full of jaw dropping historical details about the city. This one you have to love!
  • Deborah Crombie also writes about murder set against the backdrop of Scotland and England in her novels about Duncan Kincaid and Gemma Jones. The first book I read was called Necessary As Blood and was about a mysterious disappearance, human trafficking and the dark underbelly of London.
  • I have also read some books by Neil Gaiman. Genuinely enjoyed Neverwhere which is set in the London Underground and displays an awe inspiring imagination.  Trigger warning is simply brilliant and each story is astonishingly different from the other. What a marvellous collection!



  • Most of these books were discovered at airport bookshops and some at the second-hand books sold at Oxfam and such similar shops in London. The Deon Meyer was recommended by a friend from South Africa and JD Robb by a fellow activist who also reads murder mysteries in her spare time. I don’t know if there is a deeper psychological reason as to why we advocate for social justice during work hours and then enjoy reading about murders being solved in our spare hours but maybe that is a tale for another time 🙂

    Wishing you all relaxing and enjoyable travels in the physical world and mind bending and challenging travels in your book journeys!

    Have a wonderful New Year 2018 !