CAUGHT IN A GHOST CASTLE


Candles Online

Based on a true story:

A group of 8 young explorers, me among them, entered a house that was surrounded by not only darkness but rumors of being haunted. The air was eerie and the silence so thick that even a pin drop could set hearts race. I got a chance to enter with seven others, I was excited to prove. It was my chance to prove a few nay-sayers that I am not boring and when I mean adventure it isn’t about millennial pranks. I meant serious business and what can be a better option to set the adrenaline rush going than a haunted house. I would be dishonest if I say fear wasn’t on my side along with the seven others.

We together stepped inside the house that smelt pungent and we thought “let the helper at our house take off for a while and our houses won’t…

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Spare Me The Drama!!!


Originally posted on Candles Online

Whenever the word Nostalgia is received by my auditory senses, my heart responds here we go again– “Humaare Zamaane Mein” (in our times). Raising my daughter in a foreign land, in an environment completely alien to me, handling her tantrums over the type of shoes, clothes, accessories, parties, and a whole range of girly, kids stuff is quite an exercise. And I have unintentionally started quoting lines like “in our childhood”, “had it been my mother”, “we never threw such tantrums”, “we never had so many choices” and my daughter be like “stop it, Mom, blah blah blah”. I believe she has heard this “in our times” rant quite more often these days. But can’t help it, falling to the human tendency of comparing what’s in hand with what has elapsed.

Stepping out of my parenting shoes, as a person I really get nostalgic about the 90s TV shows. Surfing on YouTube, coming across various roast channels roasting TV serials, including reality shows it evokes a sense of nostalgia. We witnessed epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana that used to bring households under one roof and glue to the Television screens; women-centric and progressive programs like Shanti, Aarohan; informative gems like Surabhi; half-an-hour window of movie songs featured every Wednesday & Friday; Sundays were meant to be blocked for kids to be entertained by Disney characters; meaningful cinema that included regional movies as well. In short, we were served a complete package of entertainment, information, and knowledge by the two state-owned television channels. From there we have come a long way to something gross like”Rasode mein kaun tha” (who was in the kitchen). With a plethora of channels as compared to the famous (rather favorite) 90s, quantity has overridden the quality. No matter whatever channel we choose to switch, change is limited to the titles of the soaps aired but the format of everyone scheming against everyone, excessively regressive content, one central character whose role is to endure, endure and endure even more pain and the jarring background music coupled with every reaction frame is on default mode. And the less I speak about the dump of reality shows the better off I would be. To be precise we moved ahead in our calendar but marched back in times as far as our television content is concerned.

Nostalgia really stings me even when I view news channels especially portals and mediums concerning the Indian context. DD era which I would like to refer to as the 90s was the time when news had a particular time slot and what mattered was to highlight the important issues rather than sensationalism like what we have now. Omission of facts from past, repeated recital of few selected unfortunate incidents connecting them to every incident, irrelevant illogical high pitched debates with more participants than the viewers themselves, branding of victims and culprits as per convenience or complete silence on matters that don’t fetch business is particularly what the media is into.  Here only the numbers and competition matters.  To cut it short – Media today is biased and here I refer to both the poles of polarisation. The 24×7 nature of news channels is only doing harm by prompting to generate news instead of reporting the same. The need to churn news anyhow is the reason why we see everything categorized as news – from the case of lost pet of a celebrity to how a minister prefers his/ her food, and not to forget the brigade of advertisements shouting at us – BUY, BUY, BUY. Objectivity is subjected to agendas and personal/ political objectives. Excuse me for ranting again but DD Era was the peaceful one.

What went wrong? The amount of junk we have been fed over the years has actually reversed our intellectual evolution, or say for the majority. When introduced it attracted masses that was viewed for relaxation. But just as any addiction grows on a person, time and again interface with the same content over different channels registered itself in the mind as a guilty pleasure – we watch, we bash and we watch to bash but watch it. And this has tapped the market for the makers, and when numbers pour in, it’s enough motivation for the production of more such content. And for more Nostalgia rant!!!

With the advent of OTT platforms millennials swiftly moved to that for consuming a better content but unfortunately a majority of “humaare zamaane” people (includes precedent generations) still stuck in the loop “Dhoom Tana na na Dhoom Tana na na” (dramatic music).

We started from this:

And reached this:

Virally Not Yours


Originally posted on Candles Online

Husband (looking into the mirror): Honey!!! Honey!!!

The wife comes running from the balcony with a phone in her hand. “Why are you screaming dear? You just spoiled my reel!! What on earth made you scream your lungs out? It better be something that needs my attention.”

Husband: What do you mean by “your attention”. Look what happened to my trousers (pointed towards his trouser that was unevenly ripped only on the left and interestingly it’s not even denim but a regular formal one).

Wife: Oh that thing! I did it. You know my friend made a reel with her husband in a torn shirt and got over a million views. I want to make a better reel and surpass that number, that’s why this ( and she giggles leaving her husband bemused). Honey we need to make funny videos to keep our numbers ticking. We can’t just relax and let others take a lead.

Husband: Yeah funny, hmm. Why don’t you switch on the camera and say that you are Smart!! Funny isn’t it? (Left the room with wife smirking and getting busy with her camera)

Sarcasm and agony were written all over that husband’s face which was just a reflection of the restlessness of his wife – restless to make her presence felt on the social platform, restless for churning numbers of views and likes, restless for relevance in the context of trends.

I might have given a fictional account of a couple but the scenario isn’t fictional altogether. From vacation pictures of celebrities to absurd challenges; from transformation videos to derision of people in the name of comedy; from cringe like breaking out dancing in the middle of the street to being violent to random people – all in the wake of getting “Viral” and gaining attention. What started as harmless fun has now attained the status of more or less a gluttony that has messed badly with our brains, draining off sanity and peace leaving behind a worked and worn-out mind.

Get yourself some rest: Often we hear the term detoxify and the importance of cleansing one’s body. Very much needed indeed in the wake of the content we consume (like literally what goes in -what we eat) and our relatively less physically active lifestyles. But with our exposure to social media and its content, our brain too has consumption. Wanted – unwanted; sensitive – bizarre; informative – crazy – say it, have it. It’s a buffet out there. And the brain too gets tired of consuming tirelessly a plethora of junk. And from consumption to serving dishes we have completed a full circle. And the problem arises when the circumference of that circle enlarges. When we are on the consuming side we more often than not let our thoughts processes skew and let emotions embroil accordingly. Let’s go to the other side of the fence. Once a post is made, the next desire is to see it finding the reach – having clicks, views, likes, comments, shares, subscribers, followers, going viral. It’s a pretty much numbers game!! Pretty entangled. And when those expectations are not met we feel bad and rejected. We are in a self-doubting mode – was it good enough? Worse, many also go through existential crises as for them it’s about getting those impressions. We may accept it or not, our brains too need detoxification – a digital one. Our thoughts need a break from that constant worry of being able or not to impress others. Aimless wandering aiming for a set of benchmark numbers is an ailment for sure. Evading from the social scene from time to time is the best possible cure/ detoxification method. This is not a new thing that I am phrasing out here but definitely a less-trended path.

Few exercises (questions) we constantly need to do:

  • Does our private life need an audience every time?
  • If the answer is yes to the above question then are we ready to ably handle the unwanted commentary (not supporting it by any means)?
  • Why and how do opinions of strangers in the virtual world matter?
  • Are you sure that all the happy faces on the internet are happy in reality as well?
  • What if at this very moment “I forget my password for every social account of mine and there’s no possibility to retrieve the same for a long period”, will that affect my quality of life?

These questions from time to time will give a reality check. This is not bashing social media but a small attempt to bring to notice that conscious consumption/supply is of paramount importance. That lets the brain breathe and think. Our brain too deserves rest and it doesn’t mean completely devoid and deprived of thoughts/ ideas/ opinions but it means better utilization of it and not squandering it for trivial and unimportant things.

Sharing my experience: I am a politically center to right-aligned person. I was on Twitter where I thought I could speak my mind. But soon I found myself to be really affected by what others said. I rejoiced when I found the same voices, I disliked (always in the realm of cordial disagreement) the otherwise opinion (though pondering over arguments backed with strong reasoning and logic) and really hurt over crude comments that had the sole objective of abusing the people who don’t agree with their perspective. That left me thinking over and over, worried for some unexplained reasons. I was getting anxious and that was evident on my face. My husband intervened at right time. He said,” if you can’t remain level-headed and if social media debates are leaving you hassled, if words of unknown faces ring in your head, if you can’t see it as a way to pass of your time then you should better be off the wagon”. He was in a jovial mood when he said those things to me but I took it up as a piece of trial advice. Deleted my Twitter account, reduced my Facebook and Instagram engagement immediately. And to my surprise found myself lighter by many notches. My presence on social media wasn’t for the numbers yet it affected me as I was weak and let it do so. I always maintained and practiced – acceptance is the key!!

Be a Voice not noise: The point is how we create or consume content on social media. The presence of social media in our lives is nothing less than a boon where ideas, perspectives, creativity are given a buoyant push towards the public eye. But discretion is always necessary as to how the creators and the consumers behave. What we are experiencing now is a rush to be visible and seemingly relevant than actually making sense. This extreme pressure we are exerting on ourselves is making it a noise than a voice. Users’ discretion is so important, isn’t it?

Try to take a break and make this idea viral 🙂

Reboot The System, Slay The Demon !!!


Little Chaani was watching her favourite cartoon series on YouTube. Suddenly an advertisement popped up. It was a scary one. With demonic figures charging up, roaring at each other and inflicting carnage on everything and everyone, Chaani got scared and ran to her mother. Mother skipped the ad and consoled Chaani. Chaani gathered herself and asked her mother, “Mom are demons real?”

Mom smiled and said “no darling that’s all imagination, demons don’t exist. Don’t get scared” and hugged Chaani tightly and put her to sleep. That night mother watched her closely if that advertisement would have an impact on Chaani’s sleep. Night passed off well and the next day Chaani left to school happily. Before leaving Chaani posed one question that engaged thoughts of mother for a very long time. Chaani asked “Mom can imagination yield something so alien or a completely non existing thing? Aren’t demons real?”

Mom didn’t say anything but smiled and saw her off. But she had an answer so complicated that she believed it would be out of the little girl’s comprehension. Answer was “Yes demons are for real”.

Demons are not the caricatures we see onscreen but they dwell well amidst us and within us, peeping through the cracks in our character. Always on a lookout to unleash themselves upon us, commanding us to submit and surrender ourselves (souls) to the ulterior motives.

With those heavy thoughts the mother tapped he phone to check out the news with her morning coffee. She tumbled over different “Viral” materials across the internet, making their way to the news portals. A group of bullies beating a lone person mercilessly; an officer abusing subordinates and general public while misusing the authority bestowed; miscreants ill treating (vis a vis torturing) animals just for fun; both the genders getting harassed on various pretexts while transgenders still getting mocked up to an extent of utter humiliation for just being a part of nature’s scheme and everything ranging from witty to atrocious. A sigh escaped her lips that had disgust written all over. And she submerged herself in deep introspection:

More than the brutality of the incidents the silence of spectators busy in capturing the episodes in their phones is quite bone chilling. Demons that we are acquainted with are blood thirsty creatures who thrive on the weakness, sorrow and fear of others. We had a notion that demons are unworldly and against humans. But a bird’s eye view at the times we are living in it is clear that it’s has nothing to do with a certain type of specie. It’s about humanity which is almost incessantly depleting from the human race. To worsen the woes what we are witnessing is an oscillation between apparent demons (driven by greed, lust, anger, ego) and slow poison (the mute spectators who claim to be peace loving and the law abiding people).

Between the demons and slow poison, it’s the slow poison that is posing a great threat to humanity as it is gifting away the encouragement for such insidious and horrific plans of scrupulous souls to be put into action. Precisely the slow poison of the thought process called “why get involved” is ushering life into the ideology of “who will dare”. In a way the periphery system to the humanity – our value system is paralysed. We react, regret and forget but don’t act at the very first place. Over the years of evolution we have technically advanced but morally been (still) through a downward spiral. We are somehow habituated to live in a cocoon, a bubble from where we pray – to keep Us / Ourselves safe and happy; from where we have a view of everything happening around us and hope nothing unfortunate lands at our doorstep; from where we certainly talk about the cruelties of the wicked ones but don’t speak against it because we are more or less paralysed by one question “Why Get Involved?“. This illusion that our silence will save us from problems is like believing that we might save ourselves from a wild fire by simply changing our path or keep the catastrophic tornado at bay using an umbrella. Sooner or later we all will get engulfed.

To Sum it up – We are aware and woke but not awake.

Our System is infected – Since we made an incredible and unfathomable amount of technological advancements let us talk in technical terms. Considering the human society as a system say a computer that is connected to the entire ecosystem via peripherals of values and responsibilities. Time and again this system is being attacked by the virus of beastiality and over the years various technicians (leaders/ law makers) through their tireless research enabled a security for the system. Security include laws and regulations, code of conducts. But that has not been able to completely secure the system, in fact over a period of time the defence of the system has been weakened considerably. Reason – corrosion of the peripheral that made the security rather ineffective. But the technicians and the users are still turning their user manuals to find defect. It’s high time that we revive the connections with certifications of “compassion”, “gratitude”, “unity” towards the entire system.

Reboot is thy need of the hour!!

Miles And More


Originally posted on Candles Online

Surrounded by melancholy as I sat under the rock of my insecurities I was stuck hard by the lightening of chaos. And I was forced…

As I was forced to leave behind my shattered self and trend a new direction my hands held together the broken pieces of a painful heart and haunting memories.

As I commenced my stroll with moist eyes and parched lips, with every mile I left behind the pain in my heart turned into bodily exhaustion yet prevailed a sense of solace.

As I continued my stride forward the strings of expectations entangled with my flimsy fingers broke apart getting my shoulders ready for new hopes and responsibilities.

As I picked up pace the heat that earlier filtered through my skin burning my very soul now seemed to have transformed into rays envisaging a path of possibilities.

As I fought my way through barriers I faltered and devoured by the depths unknown, an attempt to put a halt to the fall lifted my gaze opening up for me the skies.

As I crossed miles and more the soaring distances that rested behind me relieved me of my ambiguity, as my body could no longer feel the prick of thrones nurtured around me I am in a state of tranquility.

As I walked and walked and walked looking at a new horizon in offing I paused to pay homage to my journey so far and wondering what could have led to this agility which wasn’t me.

A realisation dawned upon me, I ran out of choices. Fear of losing has already battered me to death that my existence has already been charred to ashes. Had I not walked away I would have been trampled upon in the name of normalcy & formalities.

Its my fear that instigated to retaliate with resilience, make a move, cover miles and more for I am Phoenix and not Icarus.

Success Comes In Different Forms


Candles Online

Few days back I was gliding through my LinkedIn page. One of my distant relative updated her status “promoted to the position of Director”. I was happy to see her succeed but in another moment started self introspection “what I am doing?” , ” Where I am standing?”, “Will I ever succeed in my life?”. Basically I was anxious about “will I ever be able to EARN?” A question that I am struggling for a longtime now.

But is it just about money? Answer is an absolute NO. It’s about my craving for Identity. My thoughts at that (on many occasions) point were convoluted. I want to earn, I want name for myself, I want financial independence. I kept applying for jobs. Many applications were rejected outright, few made for interview round but success still eluded me. It was not just the applications that were being rejected but a piece…

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Know The Art Of Detachment


Originally posted on Candles Online

Have you ever left food on stove and forgot to turn off at the right time? I am sure not an alien situation. What happens then? Smoke all around, burnt food, burnt vessels, an uphill task of cleaning the mess and not to forget taunts / reprimands 😁. This is exactly close to what happens to us in life if we don’t know the art of detachment in our lives. Anxiety surrounds us as smoke, the vessel that is our body faces the burnt of such anxiety & related issues. Food that is a result of our anxiety & attachment driven actions are highly marred by negative emotions of greed, lust, anger, deception, lies and everything in that cadre. Food or lives, there’s no need to explain how people remember if it isn’t a right(eous) one. If we can’t turn off the fire in time or detach ourselves from the worldly pleasures and bonds then surely we will be charred.

What are the attachments we as human beings have?

* Materialistic Attachment

* Emotional Attachment

* Attachment with our fears

Let’s take on them one by one:

Materialistic Attachments: I will quote a simple example here. A person has a favourite coffee brand that he has been drinking over years as the first thing in the morning and anything else would leave him irritated throughout the day. Due to this reason he would plan his trips with coffee on his itinerary, even it means to going to someone else’s place. We can call it addiction or obsession but it is his attachment to that product that’s causing him this unnecessary trouble. This is an example where the repercussions might not impact others. But then as we move up the ladder (read more inclined towards accumulation) of materialistic attachments like that of money, land, gold etc. – our better sense is slowly replaced by seeds of greed, lust, deception. Why do you think why scams happen? Food for thought, isn’t it?

Emotional Attachment: A small story I would like to narrate from our epic Mahabharata – Guru Dronacharya, the teacher of Kuru Princes loved his son Ashwathama very much. His entire life he toiled to give a better life to his son and see him happy. His constant worry and misconception about Loving one’s kin even made him fight the righteous Pandavas. But the question is was his emotion truly can be defined as Love? No!! Love enables endurance, showing the right path by trending it even if it hurts for a while, love acts like a medicine that might taste horrendous but heals eventually. Let’s take a leaf from the present scenario. A mother punishing a young child for misbehaviour is surely love but the same mother trying to whitewash the same child’s image after few years if he / she picks up a wrong path is not love but emotional attachment.

Fear & Us: Our attachments feed our fear to say the least. If we don’t earn “enough”, if our kids don’t lead a certain patterned life, if we don’t fill in the already set norms of the society we will be ostracized. If we speak up the truth we will be mocked and we will end up sounding not relatable. We have to fit ourselves somehow in the places carved , even if it means denying our conscience. We don’t want to be robbed of our deemed valuables, we fear losing, we fear old age, we fear death, we fear estrangement from loved ones. This is our fear only that results in complications in our relationships feeding our egos. And in this run to the mill the only thing we don’t fear is “losing ourselves” and “sense”. Strange, isn’t it?

Interesting Fact: Most of our pilgrims are located at higher altitudes which requires us to carry as much as less possible baggage with us to make the journey easier. If we closely observe the intrinsic meaning / core of such journeys, it says “if you are coming to me why carry the unnecessary baggage of bonds, fears and attachments. Aren’t you supposed to relieve yourself in my presence?”

Where’s the liberty? Attachments impact us beyond a speck of doubt. But does this mean we take up asceticism right from the word go? Not possible as when born with this human abode we have a set of responsibilities towards our family and society. They need to be discharged with utmost care. But every once in a while we must care to answer “Who Am I?”, “What’s my purpose on this earth?”, “Is making merry the sole purpose of life?”. These questions to yourself will shed light on a new perspective of and towards life. That’s the illuminated path of righteousness where the almighty wants to see us shining in his light. Once that truth dawns upon us we will slowly try to distance ourselves from these attachments that shackled our souls. Our attachment shall be like a pearl of water on the lotus flower, it seems to be attached but never really stick together.

Practice Tip: All of us must practice silence, absolute silence!! No phone, no book but time with you. Start with 10 minutes a day, can increase it gradually. You will soon find the clutter that clogged our minds is getting decluttered. This silence is a teacher that teaches us we can be alone and don’t have to entertain “unnecessary” bonds. That will fill us with the ability to speak the truth and what is right the without fear of being judged. When fear leaves our hearts it is filled with joy. And the joy in your heart makes you understand there’s more pleasure in giving up than accumulating and holding tight.

Go ahead first simmer down and then switch off that stove, let your lives be filled with flavour of Joy that was intended to be. I am your company in this process 😊.

** My work is inspired by the words of Shri Garikapati Narasimham Garu🙏🙏.

Picture credit: Google.

Death Not The End


Candles Online

Zindagi toh bewafa hai ek din thukraayegi,

Maut mehbooba hai, saathi leke jaayega”

These are the lyrics of an old hindi song that I have heard decades ago. It translates to “life is a betrayer, will leave us midway but death is a darling that will surely take us with it”. Profound, isn’t it? Death is the ultimate reality of life. That reminds me of a particular scene from a regional movie – a mother whose son died pleads her husband to do something and revive her son’s life. He agrees but asks her to do one thing “go and get some black sesame seeds from a house / family that haven’t witnessed any death“. She runs from door to door but receives only one answer “SORRY, We just mourned loss of someone”. She collapsed of fatigue but realized one thing Death Is Inevitable! Hence that realization…

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Change The Way You See Me


woman-nature

Dear Society,

You see me as tears, saga of a broken beaten self. But I am a rain drop that has many rainbows hidden in its embrace.

You see me as dust that can be swept under the carpet of your fallacious ego. But I am the earth from whose lap life emanates.

You see me as a heap of leaves that lie shuddering and withered on ground, awaiting for the spring to arrive. But I am the wind that drape seasons and facilitate change.

You see me just as glitter and bling of a shimmery costume that you can discard at will. But I am the fire that holds warmth, brilliance and blaze.

You see me as a fragile bird that you can keep shackled in the cage of restrictions. But I am the sky of dreams and aspirations beyond your comprehension and petty gaze.

You see me as “Just & After All” Woman, a petite body. But I am an embodiment of love, force and strength – the nature itself, an identity here to stay.

Change the way you see me is all I have to say.

From a woman proud of womanhood ❤️❤️.

MAKE SOME SPACE FOR LOVE


Candles Online

Set the alarm for the next day, have put the kids to sleep, hand cream ✔️, moisturizer ✔️, time to hit the sack and before calling it a day one important ritual to perform. Praying ❎, Reading a book ❎, Writing diary ❎, it’s a ritual followed more religiously, relentlessly – social media surfing. Yes, this is my confession laced with a teaspoonful of embarrassment and gallons of regret. What is so embarrassing and regretful about surfing the social networking / media sites, the world is on it. Yes it is but somehow it is not being utilised the way it was intended to. I understand this is becoming quite a confused narration and preachy by miles. Let me make it more comprehensible, let me give you a detour of my state of mind few days back.

Scenario 1: I have a moderately right leaning ideology when it comes to…

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