Happy Birthday Thatha

The tenth day of January remains a special day in my life. Since the late 1980s,  I was made aware of the dates and their use for occasions to wish, celebrate or remember.

My maternal grandfather’s birth date happens to be 10th January.

He had a liking to write – in his case, it was personalised letters, which he wrote frequently. My mother replied to all of them, and my birthday wish to him began with a note – “Happy birthday Thatha,” that’s how I called him or refer him to this day, ‘Thatha.’

And, in the 90s, it was our time to send him greeting cards. My sister and I used to write our unique messages. I wish I had a way to scan those cards we sent.

He retired from his service and lived in rural Bangalore, and thereby much closer to us. We made those visits if his birthdays were on Sundays or else it was still the ‘greeting cards.’

Then came the telephone; he was just a dial away from receiving our wishes.

As I grew up, I fancied riding on a bike to wish him on occasion.

A few years later, we would drive with our family and celebrate with him or have him down to the city to spend time with his children and grandchildren.

By this time, he had a mobile number.

Then it was 2009, the last time I wished him in person. Two weeks later, I left India, and since then, we have kept in touch via a mobile device.

In 2014, just days before his birthday, Tripti and I visited him in January during our short stay in India. We wished him in advance and did call him on 10th January. Who knew what was to come?

He passed away a few months later, in May of 2014. I made that trip to the village; by then, the final rites were complete. He was gone from our physical world. I didn’t know what to make of it. It took me some time to accept that he wasn’t there if I had to converse with him.

Three years on, 10th January remains special. I wish him from my heart and remember him for being such an influential figure in my development.

He was the first person to narrate my stories, the tales from mythology to his encounters with many interesting people he met in his lifetime. I learned how to share one’s experiences listening to him, for he always crafted a story out of nothing.

My love for the movie classics stemming from the 30s were thanks to him. He loved his motorcycle and was patient with a lot of people. There are many more incidents related to him that deserve a memoir; maybe one day, I will pen those thoughts.

For now, I would say, happy birthday Thatha, I miss conversing with you.

To Click Or Not To Click

There are many reasons why I recommend the 2013 movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I will not go into the details. Instead, I will cut to the chase and share my favourite part of the movie.

It happens to be a conversation between Sean Penn (who plays Sean O’Connell) and Ben Stiller (Walter Mitty).

Walter had gone to great lengths to find O’Connell, and after many adventure-filled incidents, he meets Sean at the top of the Himalayas. During their conversation, Sean interrupts him as they encounter a snow leopard.

Much to his dismay, Walter Mitty was surprised to see Sean not fiddling with his camera and instead of watching the snow leopard movements. It is said, the sighting of the snow leopard is rare.

The bemused Mitty asks Sean, “When are you going to take it?”

“Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it,” was Sean’s reply.

“Stay in it?”

“Yeah. Right there. Right here.”

The last few days, I have woken up to some of the best white winter mornings I have witnessed thus far in my life. I was tempted and must admit I was sucked into using my camera, clicking away what I saw.

And, then… I shut my camera and kept it aside.

There were no words or thoughts on my mind, just my eyes looking through the window and seconds later standing out on the balcony in the cold weather; I had forgotten for a brief time that I was recovering from the viral flu.

It was one such moment when I realised what a luxury it is at times to just look at the marvels of nature without the urge to share it with the world.

Clicking photos don’t cost a thing these days. It comes with our basic communication package – the smartphone. Therefore, it is not uncommon to snap the random moments we encounter without planning.

For the last few years, I have been introspecting over these questions – Why am I clicking a ‘moment’?

What separates a ‘photographic tale’ from a mere random shot?

When should I provide a narrative to my snaps, and when to leave it to others’ interpretation?

I am still in the process of concluding, or maybe I might never reach such a closure. That doesn’t bother me. However, I have realised that I love to present a moment as I view it.

The colour, contrast, the hues, brightness, the ambience, and warmth – all these aspects, I have learned by making innumerable mistakes since my mother gifted me a digital SLR in 2004. The learning process is on-going. Looking back at those errors, some have presented a different take on my subjects.

I am yet to learn how to photoshop effectively, and I believe it is a time-consuming process. Instead, the photos resort to minor image tuning whenever I feel there is a need for it.

The beauty seen through the occasionally flawed eyes of mine can be open to interpretation – but that’s another story, a story nevertheless.

The technology of viewing has evolved over the centuries – we can look at farther objects and examine the tiniest. However, when it comes to capturing the ‘moments’ around us, there is no better substitute for a pair of eyes.

My camera – well, it just helps me recollect those moments I have captured whenever I feel the need to revisit them.


Memories, ah!

They are lovely and aware of my feelings; tonight, I have been reluctantly traveling down memory lane for some time. Quite noticeably, I recall random conversations that are dear to me. I am not sure what to name ‘the state I am in.’

I wish to go back and relive those moments, rekindle many a conversation, replant the several pranks, re-taste the foods from different cuisines, retake the journeys to other cities, and reconnect with people who have and remain in my life.


There is plenty that’s stored, but none can come close to those real moments that formed these frames in my film of memories. Looking back, I would be prejudiced, for I seem to have known the outcome. Who cares!!


It made me nostalgic, and I felt the world around me had stopped.

I ran as fast as I could to travel back in time, only to realise that I was merely a spectator and not an active participant.

I tried to put these thoughts aside and hit the bed; it didn’t work.

Minutes later, I decide to type, wondering if letting it out would offer me a meaning to what I was going through……

C’est la vie. That is time’s way of telling, “although there is a window to look back; there’s no living back.”

Memories…. beautiful memories… I am happy to have carried you all along.


Image – Wonder How To/Shutterstock


Why Nico Rosberg must be aggresive to win the title

There are no shortcuts to be a F1 world champion. In the final race of this year, it will be a showdown between the two Mercedes drivers – Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The Brit remains the in-form driver having won the last three races – yet, he trails Rosberg by twelve points. The difference illustrates what a stunning season the German driver has had thus far. And, irrespective of what Hamilton achieves, a place on the podium is enough for Rosberg to win his maiden driver’s title.

Let’s turn back to 2010, the final race at Abu Dhabi had three contenders to win the driver’s title. Fernando Alonso led Mark Webber by eight points. And, further seven points away was Sebastian Vettel.

We all know what happened, neither the Spaniard nor the Aussie won. The underdog Vettel won the race purely because he drove as though he had nothing to lose.

The pressure of the title showed on Alonso and on Webber and in the end Ferrari came out as the real losers, as one of the two Red Bull drivers benefitted. It was the defensive strategy by Ferrari that costed Alonso the driver’s title. The way I look at it, Rosberg is in a similar position to that of Alonso (from the 2010 season). If he must win, then he needs to bring his controlled aggression on the track and not merely look for the third place.

The Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo have shown their pace and they might challenge the Mercedes for the podium places – clearly, they do not have anything to lose.

In a way, Hamilton is in similar position and although he has the driver’s championship to lose, he knows he can only win the race and hope Rosberg finishes outside of top three. Beyond that, the three-time champion cannot do much.

I have been critical of Nico Rosberg in the past. However, I have praised him this season for changing his attitude and being ruthless on most occasions on the track. In fact, I am rooting for him this season after having observed his drives throughout the year and not to forget, the ‘luck’ factor. 

So, the final race of this season will be defined by how Rosberg performs. 

Does he have the zeal to fight for the title or will he scoot around to finish third? For that, we must wait on Sunday for the season finale at Abu Dhabi.

The points scenario –
Lewis Hamilton (355 points)                                 Nico Rosberg  (367 points)

If Hamilton finishesThen Rosberg needs
1st (380 points)3rd (382 points)
2nd (373 points)6th (375 points)
3rd (370 points)8th (371 points)
4th (367 points)Rosberg is the champion

P.S – Some interesting facts
1. If Nico Rosberg were to win the 2016 driver’s title, he will become the second of the father-son combo to have won the title after Damon Hill clinched it in 1996.

2. Interestingly, Graham Hill won his first driver’s title in 1962 (he also won in 1968) and Keke Rosberg’s first title was in 1982. A 20-year gap in both cases of fathers and sons winning their first driver’s title (if Rosberg were to win the title).

Image – Morio

Photo Credit - Selina Man Karlsson


There comes a time when you are looking for avenues to stay motivated, even for things you love doing.

To me, I was mentally stung by a phenomenon called ‘writer’s block.’

The word here is ‘zeal,’ and that was missing since the beginning of August. I could not put words and form sentences for extended periods.

What could I have done?

Days became weeks, and weeks stretched to months. I had to do something to get over this ‘hurdle.’

During this struggle, I came across a course called ‘Connect using Mindful Storytelling’ in early November.

Now, here comes the exciting part.

I was hesitant to sign up for the course, and I am not sure why. I looked at the course again after two days. And, this time, I signed up. I was looking forward to the course, to become more aware as to why I write.

Will the course provide me with a solution to get over the wall? I certainly hoped so when I enrolled.

The words ‘mindful’ and ‘storytelling’ had a profound effect on my thinking. I took some time off from my daily chores and had a conversation with myself.

Long story short, I realised – “I was in the process of re-discovering my purpose to write again.”

Alas, last week, I found the ‘mojo.’ In a matter of minutes, words came naturally, and significantly, my voice was being documented.

It resulted in an article.

A few days later, another article and a short story: all this, a day before the course.

“Do I need to attend,”  was the question that occurred to me?

I ruled in favour of the course. I sensed I might learn something new, a different perspective, now that I have re-discovered my touch towards writing.

Yesterday, I attended the forum with an open mind. The only sure thing about the course was that I would meet Caitlin Krause and hear her storytelling perspectives.

Let me share what did I take away the most from the course –

“I remember every individual who attended the course. Nine names of the people whom I had not met before.”

And, not just that. I can tell you how they got their names, at least their first names.


Storytelling is not about paying attention alone. It is about making a connection to what’s happening around us.

Each of us was introduced to the others in the room with a personalised etymology game. The origin of our names, not just theoretically, but with a touch of personal element and the flavour of dramatic license.

The result – the names of the participants, are etched in my memory.

There were many other interesting topics we covered in those 150 minutes. I came out of the room with renewed confidence.

I was lost only to re-discover myself.

Photo Credit – Selina Mal Karlsson


They met in Geneva is a story about two Indians meeting in Geneva in the 1960s. He came to realise his dreams while she when her dreams were shattered….


Akira was tired of having fleeting relationships. She had no choice and was frustrated about the pool of boys available to have a conversation.

Shy, intimidated, boastful, chivalrous……. and relentless, not her type.

The wait ended when she met a ‘likeable’ guy, and they found good company in each other. Two years, that’s when the expiry date came about to their relationship. The mutual separation talks were cool; however, it was hard on those 22-year old college pass outs.

Akira turned to her mother, Jaya, who was all ears about her daughter’s life.

“You both had no feelings whatsoever,” Jaya replied after remaining patient for half an hour. “or else you would have made it work, isn’t it?”

Jaya had to update herself with the latest meaning of the term ‘break-up.’

The concerned mother continued, “I don’t understand today’s definition of a break-up, make-up. In my days, we used to make up and never thought about breaking up. How times have changed.”

The conversation between mother and daughter had shifted from kitchen to their garden. Mamma, that’s how Akira called her mother, had just brewed a pot of ‘masala chai.’

Akira was homesick, and it was evident from the tins of ‘homemade cookies’ and few salted savouries she brought along to the patio.

“I miss your Pappa, and that is one of the reasons why I am taking this break in India,” Jaya shifted the conversation to her thoughts. “There are just too many memories of his and ours back in Lausanne. And, I thank you, Akira, for accompanying me here post your break up.”

Tears rolled on Jaya’s eyes as she recalled the times when she and Akira’s Pappa spent their evenings walking along the shores of Lake Geneva.


 Jaya flew outside India for the first time to Lausanne, Switzerland. She was one of the few students from India selected to be a part of the master’s hotel management program at the prestigious Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne.

During her internship, she was part of the group catering to a large gathering of diplomats at the UN convention in Geneva. It was here Jaya met Akira’s Pappa for the first time.

Jaya was nostalgic about their first meeting – “He looked so out of place when I saw him for the first time. He was nervous, and he was walking about the corridor while the programme was on.”

“Excuse me, can I help you in some way? can I get you something?”

The young gentleman was visibly nervous, “No, thanks. I am anxious, as I have never spoken in front of such a large audience. Some of them who are seated will be the ones I will end up reporting on my next assignment.”

Jaya, in her youth, was vibrant. She was doing a favour by taking his mind off the impending speech. Not, just that, she was equally curious about this young Indian who appeared smart, though, a touch nervous.

“Hi, my name is Jaya, and I am an intern with the catering company. Let me know if you need any help from my side.”

Jaya continued, “Now, I can offer you just these refreshments – though, after the event, we can meet up over a cup of coffee. I will be here in this area wrapping up my work.”

She hoped it would be a yes!

“My name is Girish, and I hate to admit, I am not overthinking other than my speech now. I am not rude; it is just that I do not want to goof it up.”

He continued, and his nervousness showed, “I am shy and introverted by nature. Sometimes I fear I may lose my words when I am in the middle of my speech.”

Jaya eagerly listened, “However, I have made a mental note, Jaya. And it would be a pleasure to catch up with you,” and nervously went back to the speech papers he was holding.

It was a yes as far as Jaya was concerned. Their conversation was interrupted when a colleague of Girish’s asked him to come inside the auditorium.

Girish was at the convention to deliver a lecture on his research findings on empowering homemakers and women. It focussed on giving financial assistance and other aids to the small-scale industry schemes in developing and under-developed countries.

The United Nations had conceptualised the event ‘Great Minds, Great Ideas’ to attract ideas in a forum where countries could exchange best practices. Girish was representing India, and those papers contained his vision and a proposal for his opinion.

“Good luck, Girish,” Jaya smiled and hoped they could meet up for a coffee at the end of the programme.


The forum of Great Minds, Great Ideas was a great initiative. Girish felt when ideas from different societies and economies merge; it will positively influence establishing collaborations and the necessary infrastructure to realise development projects.

His towering appearance in a navy-blue suit with a white shirt and a dark blue tie masked his nervousness to an extent.

Girish stumbled a couple of times. Overall, he managed to cover his idea to the audience, which had gathered from all over the world.

At the Q&A session following his talk, he was asked by an English delegate, ‘What is the most important element to realise this dream? And should it be through government or private?’

“Thank you, sir,” he paused for a few seconds, collected his thoughts, and was ready to answer.

“For a programme of this stature requires a government initiative. Speaking for India, our only modes of mass communication are radio and newspaper. We must tie-up with state governments as each of these governments are alike.”

Girish paused, although there were no signs of nervousness. He continued, “To give an example, India is like Europe. And each country in Europe resembles a state in India. Different languages, food habits, clothes, appearances, and mindsets. So, there must be a two-step process,” he went on…

“Firstly, the Union Government directs the state governments, and secondly, the state governments enforcing them and monitoring the policies regularly. In a democratic set-up, it is difficult to change overnight; however, unless we plan, execute, monitor, adapt, one cannot expect to move forward with these ideas.”

The audience applauded Girish’s response. Though his visionary idea was good – but most of them could not connect with him.

It was confusing times in the ’60s.

A winner had to be chosen. In the times of war and arms, the idea of ‘disarmament and the ecology movement’ won the award.

This idea went on to become ‘Greenpeace.’


 Girish was visibly disappointed – however, he knew the world must get rid of its desires to fight battles, wage wars, kill lives, and destroy our environment.

It was early June. The light was bright, and he didn’t have any mood to network among the people gathered at the apéro.

Although the audience from other parts of the world wanted to catch a glimpse of Girish, after all, he did have a worthwhile idea.

After two hours of friendly exchanges, Girish decided he would return home.

Just as he made his way to the exit door, he thought about Jaya. He made his way to the corridor where they had first met. Jaya had just completed her work for the day though she was still in her business attire. She was visibly happy that Girish remembered her.

“Give me ten minutes, will you? I will go change and then inform my manager about completing my tasks,” Jaya said with a smile.

“Sure, I will wait for you here,” he was yet to come out of the disappointment.

Walking helps to come out of disappointment. He decided to walk along the long corridor to move on from the talk.

Girish saw an interesting poster that read – ‘Premiere Festival de Jazz Montreux, 16-18 June, 1967 at Casino Montreux’.

He had a good taste for music and wondered if he could make it for this grand event.

Girish’s fascination for Jazz came from the Hollywood movies that showcased a lot of Jazz artists. Girish was paying attention to every detail on the poster, and little did he realise how those ten minutes went by.

Jaya stood behind him, patted him, and asked, “Do you like Jazz?”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t notice your presence. I was lost looking at this poster.”

She was anything but formal in attitude, and that went well with her attire, without the double-breasted jacket and that funny looking toque Blanche.

“You didn’t answer my question, do you like Jazz?”

“Pardon me, yes, I prefer Jazz. It is smooth, at times relaxing, and adds a great deal of meaning to some Hollywood movies.”

“Would you like to join us in two weeks for this Jazz festival?” – Jaya asked.

The reticent Girish just did not know how to answer.

Part of his behaviour stemmed from the fact that he had never met a girl like Jaya before.

She was direct, devoid of shyness whatsoever, very contrary to that of Girish.


 “You are to the point, aren’t you?” – Girish replied.

“Yes, that I am,” – remarked Jaya.

She continued, “Shall we talk more about this with a cup of coffee?”

“I told my manager that I have some assignments to finish for my course. And it wouldn’t be appropriate if he saw me here. Although he is a nice guy and won’t poke his nose much as I have finished my tasks, it would be great if we stepped out.”

“And, you talk a lot!” Girish was warming up to a conversation he never had before.

Jaya was a talker, “Well, someone has to, right? Or else, what’s the point of meeting a person?”

Girish just nodded and didn’t add any words.

There was an air of silence as they walked towards the main door, which led them to Geneva’s old streets.

“Old town Geneva has some good cafés; do you know any in particular?” – Jaya, again, unable to bear the silence.

“Nothing in particular. I do not have a set preference when it comes to cafés or restaurants. I do not venture out, and I prefer to cook at home. I am a vegetarian, and in one year of my living here, I realised there is no point in searching for vegetarian food. So, I have settled for anything that isn’t meat.”

“Oh, you poor child. Missing home is it,” Jaya was at him again.

Girish had warmed up quite well by now, “Yes, in a way. The only solace is when I receive letters from my parents. My mother, like any other mother, is constantly worried about my well-being. Her concerns revolve around my food, and I do not intend to add fuel to the fire by stating there isn’t any good Indian food available.”

He asked, “Don’t you miss home?”

“No, I don’t. Because there is no one back home.”


 Jaya’s response was too direct for Girish, and he wondered what the meaning behind her statement was.

Another round of silence…… and again, Jaya resumed their conversation.

“Aren’t you curious about what I said,” she was one of her kind?

After a few seconds of silence and Girish replied – “Yes, I am. However, I did not know how to proceed further. We just met, and here I am asking personal questions.”

“You have got to ask questions when you are curious to know something,” Jaya zapped back at him, “That’s my motto, and I do not think further.”

She continued – “Before you start thinking how to ask, I will answer it myself.”

Jaya smiled, and Girish, too, had a pleasant grin on his face.

“I lost my parents in January last year. My father was a bright scientist and worked at the Indian Atomic Energy Commission. There was a conference that was scheduled in London in 1966, and my father took my mother along with him leaving me with my grandparents,” she continued

“The conference was for a week, and my father thought it would be a welcome change for my mother to visit a new place. I loved my grandparents since childhood, and hence I did not create a fuss about them leaving me out. My exams were to begin in three weeks. So, it was best if I stayed back and focussed on my studies.”

Jaya showed Girish a lovely coffee shop, and they both decide on that.

Lake Geneva was on to their right.

Just then a blonde waitress stepped out to take orders – “Bonsoir, Que voulez-vous boire?”

Jaya had learnt a few beginner’ phrases in French, and that was good enough to engage in a basic conversation –

“Je voudrais une tasse de café noir” and the waitress then looked at Girish.

He was clueless and had not invested enough time in learning French. Jaya stepped in and asked Girish, what would he like to drink? A black coffee or a milk coffee?

“Milk coffee for me,” – Girish replied softly.

“Une tasse de café au lait pour le monsieur” – Jaya ordered on behalf of Girish.


 A few seconds of silence and this time Girish reignited their conversation – “so, you were telling me……”

“Oh yes, where was I? Oh, yes, my parents left for London from Bombay on 23rd January. Although we hail from Bangalore, we were living in Bombay owing to my father’s work. My grandparents lived with us. I remember waving them goodbye at the airport,”

“They were on the Air India flight, and the next morning, there was a flight crash as the flight accidentally flew into Mont Blanc. There were no survivors, and along with my parents, other hundred passengers too lost their lives. Have you heard of the tragic death of the famed scientist Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha?”

“Yes, I did. It was unfortunate.”

“Well, my parents were on the same flight. And we got this news a day later. My grandparents were distraught, and I didn’t quite know how to react. I didn’t cry, and my relatives were worried that I didn’t react at all.”

Jaya paused for the first time; she looked right to the sight of Lake Geneva, and a few seconds later, she resumed.

“It took me days, in fact, weeks for the news to settle in. And I wept in my room just as I was preparing for my final exams. My grandparents heard me weep, came in my room, and hugged me.”

She turned towards the lake and paused again. This time her silence was longer than a few seconds ago.

Jaya turned towards Girish and continued –

“They just hugged me and didn’t utter any word. They had lost their son and daughter-in-law, and I had lost my parents. All three of us wept for the common loss of ours – a loss that would be irreplaceable,” and she again turned towards the lake.

The waitress came with their orders – placed the black coffee in front of Girish.

Jaya corrected the waitress – “Le café noir est pour moi. Le monsieur avait ordonné le café avec du lait.”

“Excusez-moi, Je suis très désolé.” – the waitress realised her error and quickly placed the milk coffee in front of Girish.

Another round of silence……both had not touched their cups. Jaya was back to staring at the lake.

Girish looked at Jaya and didn’t know what to say. He was short of words; he was confused and didn’t know how to proceed.

And, quite instinctively, he placed his hands over her. Jaya turned towards him – “I am sorry for your loss,” he said with empathy.

A few seconds later, he slowly removed his hands and waited for her to react.

Probably, his instincts were right, Jaya brushed aside the thoughts she was caught up a few moments ago and took the cup of coffee from her right hand.

They sipped their respective coffees, and in between, no words came out of their mouths. It seemed like they didn’t prefer talking while having coffee, or was it an uncalled break in their conversation?

All one could hear was the ‘chat’ coming from inside the restaurant. It was about 8 pm, and most of the guests had finished their dinner and were bidding ‘au revoir’ to their friends.

Girish and Jaya sat silently just as the music started playing.

A pianist seated inside began the evening with the instrumental version of Herman Hupfeld’s masterpiece, ‘As Time Goes By.’ This song caught everyone’s attention when used as a leitmotif in the 1942 romantic drama Casablanca.

Like Sam in the movie, the pianist played the piano in D major and mixed it up with B-flat major.

The B-flat major reminded Girish of Frank Sinatra’s version of ‘As Times Goes By.’ The song suited the mood perfectly, and they both sat in silence and not looking at each other.

And then moments later… the pianist started to sing with the tune…

“You must remember this. A kiss is just a kiss; a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by….”

Girish was looking at Jaya, and she looked back at him. None gave away anything, and in the background, they could hear….

“And when two lovers woo, they still say I love you. On that, you can rely. No matter what the future brings, as time goes by……”

Jaya held Girish’s hands, which were on the table, without looking away…

The pianist continued,

“Moonlight and love songs, never out of date. Hearts full of passion, jealousy, and hate. Woman needs man, and man must have his mate, that no one can deny.”

He, too, held her hands firmly…

“It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory. A case of do or die. The world will always welcome lovers, as time goes by.”

And Girish uttered these lines in sync with the pianist looking firmly into Jaya’s eyes –

“Oh yes, the world will always welcome lovers. As time goes by.”


A moment swept them while ‘As time goes by’ was playing in the background.

And to add to this, Girish uttered those lines – “The world will always welcome lovers,” Jaya pondered and didn’t know what to say or how to react.

The ever-chatty Jaya had gone into her shell and remained there.

“So, where do you live?” – Girish asked Jaya.

He deliberately changed the topic to make her feel at ease. He was now with a girl who remained silent, someone very different to whom he had met earlier in the day.

“I live in Lausanne, a few thousand meters away from the lake,” she pointed in a direction.

“Do you like it there,” the change in topic seemed to reignite their conversation?

“Yes, I love it. The lake is my friend when I feel lonely in my apartment. I just take a walk along the lake and walk up to Ouchy. And sometimes, I swim on the lake or other times, I take a boat and go to Evian le Bains.”

Jaya was out of her shell, “Of course, I do have a schedule to manage as I am still a student. But I feel I am now part of this city and the lake.”

She looked at the lake and pointed far away – “There, I am not sure if I am accurate, but I stay that far away,” and she laughed.

Girish felt a touch better when he saw her laugh. It had been a heavy forty minutes or so, and he knew he had walked on tricky waters when he heard her tragic story.

But he got an impression; it was half the story. Girish sensed there is more to it.

He pondered on her words, which she said earlier – “Because there is no one back home.”

Girish felt it was best not to dwell in her past further. At least, at that moment.

He continued, “Can I suggest something? Aren’t you hungry?”

Jaya pulled out a grin on her face. “Didn’t you fill enough with all those savouries at the apéro?”

Apéro was not his thing. Bowls of olives, assorted Swiss cheese, nuts, pickled cucumbers, chips, and few meat sandwiches weren’t going to fill his stomach the way he was used to.

It made him a touch irritated as it wasn’t the perfect appetizer either.

“How much can one chew nuts or cheese before dinner,” Girish visibly upset.

“All I did was munch few salted chips and drank a glass of orange juice. The conversations with few went deep, and so I had a glass of apple juice.”

He continued, “I am used to having a proper meal. And I don’t get the point. Why not a buffet when we have such gatherings in the evening. Why stop at apéro?”

“Hee-hee, you know it requires a lot of planning and coordination to host a buffet for such a big delegation. And besides, the culture over here is to have an apéro, and many of the locals I know fill their stomachs before calling it a day.”

Girish was not amused with her answer. She continued,

“They enjoy when they are invited for an apéro. In one year and being a student, I am used to stuffing my stomach with all the savouries. And mister, no restaurant would serve the food of your liking at this hour. It is 8.30 in the evening.”

She had resumed her bubbly-ness, “Wait, maybe we can have a look at the Genève-Gare. There might be something to eat,” Jaya led the way and asked for the waitress to bring the bill.

And Jaya was unstoppable, “This is the best part about dining out. Even though we had just two cups of coffee, the staff over here didn’t pressure us to leave when finished. But if you are seated at a reserved table, they may come and politely request us to hurry or leave as they must prepare and set the reserved guests’ table. I like that etiquette very much. That way, we can have better conversations.”


What can a vegetarian find at 9 pm in a train station in Genève? It was a rarity for a person not to eat meat in this part of the world. But there he was, sticking to his beliefs and policy of remaining that way. Jaya understood where he was coming from and didn’t advocate for him.

Jaya shifted to eating meat when she found it challenging living in Lausanne.

By now, Girish had demonstrated he was not flexible when it came to altering his food habits.

“I have a confession to make. I, too, come from a vegetarian family, but things changed once I landed in Lausanne. How much can one take lettuces and other raw vegetables?”

She continued, “Yes, there is Pizza Margharita, Cheese sandwiches, and occasional potato gratins – good food was rare, few and expensive. I tried a few days with just croissants and other bakery products; it just didn’t work out.”

And to add to her woes, “My roommates are from Iran and Vietnam – and all I had each night was boiled rice with boiled vegetables while they gorged themselves with meat. I got tired of eating pasta with tomato and pesto sauce.”

Girish laughed at her, and Jaya continued – “And besides, I am a touch lazy to cook for myself. Earlier I enjoyed it while cooking with my family”……

And suddenly, both their faces expressed different emotions. Her face went a bit pale as it was not so long ago she remembered her deceased family, and now those happy memories came back again.

What is the point in having such memories when you know you cannot relive them? Why can’t one just forget about it and move on? Why moving on isn’t easy and needs effort? Why should we struggle to feel better?

Those thoughts must have crossed Jaya’s mind innumerable times in those last fifteen months.

No matter what one says about moving on – it is like climbing a peak. One must take it one step at a time to conquer the mountain. And to those hard-felt feelings, one should keep living the day as it presents and fills with fresh memories; that way, old memories no longer hold you back.

“Look what I found” – Girish brought Jaya back to the world.

She was lost in her thoughts while he was busy looking for some food.

Girish held a baguette with a cheese spread, three slices of tomato, few lettuce leaves, and topped with mustard sauce. He would have preferred ketchup – but some sauce is better than eating bland.

This time, Jaya smiled, looking at Girish’s childish exuberance in having discovered a baguette made from vegetables and cheese. He offered her half of it, “let’s have it together, what say?”

She pointed her right index finger to her stomach and indicated she was full.

Girish was puzzled, “How can you eat all those things and say you had your dinner?”

Jaya laughed a bit more, and she had gotten entirely off her thoughts.

While Girish’s eyes were on the baguette, she strangely looked at him.

She appeared lost, again – but this time it was different.

Jaya was lost in the present, looking at him, his entirety, which was a bit more casual with his coat neatly folded on his left hand. His tie was off and an unbuttoned shirt.

Jaya gazed at him, and occasionally, he looked at her while chewing, making gestures as to ask what was she thinking? She nodded as though it was Nothing.

When a woman says Nothing, it means she doesn’t wish to share. One needs to prod more and gently make her feel at ease. Then she might share what was on her mind.

Try your luck; it is not a guarantee.

Perhaps, she wanted those thoughts to remain just with her, closed in her secret garden where many such thoughts are stored.

What is the use of such thoughts that remain only with you? Will it come in aid when times are different from what you are experiencing right now.

Is life all about collecting such memories and storing them so that someday they come back and give us solace?

What if the meaning of those thoughts change with time?

Girish had finished his meal and found Jaya lost in her thoughts, once again, “Where are you lost?”

Jaya was quick to respond – “Nothing, I am a bit tired. I think I want to go home.”

“Oh, sure. I understand. I shall accompany you till Lausanne, and then I take a train back to Genève.”

“That won’t be necessary; I can manage. This country is safe. Plus, you had a long day, and don’t you have to work tomorrow?”

“At least, I will drop you till your platform,” he insisted.

Another moment of silence… and he continued, “I had a great time with you this evening. Thanks for asking me out for a cup of coffee.”

Jaya didn’t say anything, and they strolled towards the platform. The day had been tiresome to her – physically and emotionally.

On one side, she met Girish, and they spoke a lot, and on the flip side, she spoke about a few things that made her touch sad. Mixed emotions!

They saw a drunkard seated on a bench, and he was cleaning his mouth organ. He was in no state to play music, or so, they thought. Within seconds came a rendition of French performer Edith Piaf’s ‘la vie en rose.’

The organist wasn’t just playing; he was conveying a message, a deep one. Not sure what was his actual state of mind, but the sound had a profound effect on people in the vicinity.

Girish got reminded of Audrey Hepburn and her rendition of ‘la vie en rose’ from the movie ‘Sabrina.’

He stood puzzled just as Humphrey Bogart in the movie.

The day was meant to be about his talk, but there he was, a few hours later, his thoughts far away from his vision to empower women in developing and underdeveloped countries.

Life is funny if you give it a chance.

Girish didn’t know how to put those feelings away he has for Jaya.

Both, stood silently and just when the train rolled up on the platform, Jaya reminded him about the inaugural Jazz festival, and before she boarded the train, she kissed him on his right cheek and said in a very soft voice –

“I had a great time too. See you soon.”

Qwizzeria turns Two!

In 2013, after an unsuccessful year to find a permanent job, I went back to old ways, i.e., freelancing.

In the times we live, I was mildly surprised by the preference given to ‘experts,’ ‘specific skillsets’ than looking at a profile in its entirety. Nevertheless, it was a lesson, and I understood, “if I must get a job for my skill sets and experience, I won’t find it looking at a job description. I had to create one.”

Freelancing = travelling in my line of work. Working on different projects as a freelancer accelerated my ‘learning curve’ and became my definition of ‘growth.’

However, in mid-2014, I was in a fix.

Should I travel?

“Oh, wait, I will miss the journey of the birth of our child.”

I went with my gut feeling and remained in Zurich. That happens to be one of the best decisions I made, in hindsight.

In Zurich, I started taking up few freelance roles and, at the same time, decided to pursue my lifelong hobby of fact collection. I felt it was time to make that ‘past-time’ into something meaningful. There were no ‘plans’; it was purely ‘on-the-go.’

What resulted –  ‘Qwizzeria.’

I was fascinated by the quote – “Facts are to the mind, what food is to the body.”

Inspired by the above Edmund Burke’s saying, I came up with the term #FactFood for the daily nuggets of information.

Through Qwizzeria, I found an avenue to channel my interest in collecting information and presenting it one at a time, every day. This allowed me to get into a learning process through ‘researching’ and ‘fact-finding.’ By giving a fact, I learned more.

Qwizzeria turned two last week and, so far, has produced over 736 fact foods.

What am I gaining? –

The daily routine continues to enrich my experience about many aspects of the world – it is making me understand different cultures, have meaningful conversations with people, and mostly, it has been a humbling exercise.

The more I dwell on random topics, the more I realise how little I know.

Qwizzeria is an integral part of who I am. However, I am interested in other fields of work. Early this year, I started a consulting firm that focuses on sports consulting, event project management, content writing, and Qwizzeria completes it with knowledge consulting.

I love reading, and for a while, I had lost the zeal because I felt it was a waste of time assimilating all the information. In short, I was getting drowned with information, and with Qwizzeria, I have allowed myself to water my brains with knowledge.

Now, think about getting paid for what you love to do?

There are no big paychecks yet. However, the start has been promising. Now, it is up to me how I take it forward.

Being a parent for more than a year has given me unexplainable confidence. And, I have an understanding partner who is an excellent devil’s advocate and at the same time knows when not to be an advocate at all.

This journey is a realisation in progress – it is ok to be demotivated, confused, and distracted.  I am a human, and things aren’t rosy at times, even when I am doing what I love. It is like losing my way in the right direction.

In such moments of uncertainty, the core of Qwizzeria came to my rescue. One day at a time, one fact a day, that’s all.

Two years of Qwizzeria, and there is plenty more to explore and lots more to be done. For now, it is time to celebrate and at the same time acknowledge those feelings of uneasiness – they shall pass 🙂

Next time, when you are asked to believe in the power of one thing at a time, or one day at a time; Trust me, it is for real.

My advice is, embrace those feelings and make that journey irrespective of the nature of the task.

Because you learn, therefore you are!

Qwizzeria is a knowledge consulting project based out of Zurich, Switzerland.

Write to me – rajan@qwizzeria.com to know how Qwizzeria can engage with your stakeholders, be it with learning modules, Knowledge transfer exercises, or hosting quizzes.

The Other Side of Globalisation

This topic, globalisation, has been pegged into our minds ever since ‘connecting people’ was eased through the digital media revolution. With the increase in the number of ‘social networks,’ one felt like we belonged everywhere, and it even gave a sense of what the ‘world’ is like.

Many views, counter views, and opinions, we heard it all and took part in it.

What about the opinions that never came out? Are we listening to the silence? 

As our feeds are filled with the ‘latest happenings’ worldwide, we often overlook a crucial element to society’s existence – localisation.

The human race is made up of societies and societies, whether we like it or not, mirrors  Newton’s third law principle – ‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.’

Globalisation was one such action/reaction that could not have escaped from our human evolution process. It had to happen someday, and here we are, experiencing the phenomenon of this global closeness. Naturally, there was bound to be a reaction.

Economics dictate countries and the way it grows. But, who dictates the economics?

The societies made up of people make these choices based on their ever-changing surroundings. However, the beliefs are tested each day, and to maintain an equilibrium, one must continuously tug-it-out in a field of action-reactions.

I often wonder if our evolutionary path is a straight line, wherein we move forward, rest as we please, and have an option to go back?


Is it a case of being sinusoidal, where we have our positives (peak), negatives (troughs), and a neutral path?

Now, on the back of Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory, all I can think of is, people who vote may not voice out their opinion publicly. Maybe, they have had enough of globalisation.

Are they tired of world-closeness, and hence they took a stand to focus more on the matters that are part of their immediate surroundings?

It looks that way!

Privacy is no longer an inexpensive choice, and the concept of ‘globalisation’ isn’t well defined now. In a chaotic world, what would you choose? 

This is a choice, the majority of them made to back ‘localisation.’ And, in a democratic process, a simple majority is enough to win!

Whether this is an action or a reaction – it doesn’t matter.

Life goes on…. C’est la vie…. We have lived before… we are living right now… and we continue to live in the future. We will continue to find ways, and that is the core of human existence.

Nothing else matters!

#MarilynMonroe and her Iconic Photo

Marilyn Monroe, and her most famous photo that caused ripples, generated a media wave previously unheard of in Hollywood. The image captured is a part of a scene that was meant to be fun and innocent. What transpired, in reality, was far from it.

When I first looked at this photo, I was in my teens and instantly captured by Marilyn Monroe’s aura. After watching nearly all her movies, many years later, I got to know her via books and documentaries. I realised there was a story, a pivotal one, that would change her life in totality.

There comes a time in one’s life when you have to pick a direction while at the crossroads. For Marilyn Monroe, the Seven Year Itch was the movie as the events unfolded during the making paved the path she would take in her remaining years.

The movie’s success took Marilyn Monroe to the peak of her powers as an actress and made her Hollywood’s most significant sex symbol. This meant Marilyn no longer had to rely on ‘dumb blonde’ roles. She had the liberty to choose her career path, an opportunity Marilyn didn’t let pass.

Playbill Script
The smash-hit Broadway play ‘The Seven Year Itch’ by George Axelrod

The movie ‘The Seven Year Itch’ was based on George Axelrod’s 1952 famous Broadway play about a married man who has an affair with an attractive upstairs neighbour. The play was a hit, and it was slated to run continuously for three years. Many in Hollywood were eager to cash in the play’s popularity and make a movie out of it.

The movie industry in the 50s did not enjoy artistic freedom and was overlooked in the theatre. The plot of Seven Year Itch in its original form would have been rejected by the Hays Office (censor board for Hollywood). The play was a success yet provocative enough for many Hollywood studios to back out and not risk the Hays Office’s wrath.

Billy Wilder, the Oscar-winning movie maker, was known for his skills to circumvent the Hays Code and yet make mass movies on controversial topics. Remember the film, The Major and the Minor, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, and Sunset Boulevard?

He purchased the play from George Axelrod, and the game was set to motion. Twentieth Century Fox won the bid to produce the movie as they had Marilyn Monroe in their roster.

On the back of successes such as Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire, Marilyn was touted as Hollywood’s most famous sex symbol. Among others, she was featured on the cover of the first-ever Playboy magazine.

The first ever issue of Playboy magazine in 1953

The selection of the character ‘Richard Sherman’, who was to appear opposite Marilyn Monroe, was a tricky one. The name was quintessential, and even man, straight, average, and not necessarily handsome. A lot of A-list Hollywood actors were not considered as a result.

Tom Ewell, who had successfully played Richard Sherman on Broadway, won the role. The odd-pairing of Ewell and Marilyn was to be showcased as the ultimate man’s fantasy.

The Seven Year Itch - 1955
Photo by Moviestore/REX (2254495e)

Sam Shaw, a world-famous photographer-producer and friend of the famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder, came up with the famous skirt lifting scene. He approached the producer, Charles Feldman, who agreed the idea would be sensational – giving great publicity and zest to the movie. Feldman discussed it with director Billy Wilder, George Axelrod, the screenwriter, and Marilyn Monroe. They all said, “Let’s do it!”

When the Seven Year Itch began filming in September 1954, Marilyn Monroe was no longer the movie industry’s greatest sex symbol. She was the world’s most famous newly-wed. Her marriage to baseball’s icon Joe DiMaggio made global headlines. His career with the New York Yankees was over while Marilyn’s career had just started.

Marilyn Monroe with  Joe DiMaggio

“Joe had understandable, somewhat old-world ideas about women staying at home, having babies, and dressing rather demurely. But that isn’t what Marilyn wanted. Marilyn wanted a career.” – said Donald Spoto, one of the many biographers of Marilyn Monroe.

On 15 September 1954, due to an advance issue released by Fox’s publicity team, many fans and photographers had lined up to witness the proceedings. Little did anyone know, they were about to see history being made, Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic scene and a signature shot that is revered to this day. On the flip side, the unfolded events also drew curtains to her marriage with Joe DiMaggio.


The now-iconic scene was scripted this way: Tom Ewell and Marilyn came out of the Trans-Lux movie house on Lexington Avenue. It was a night scene. It was a warm September evening, and they stopped on a subway grating; when a train would pass by, the air could cool Marilyn off.


Marilyn was wearing a sheer-white, billowy sleeveless dress. When the subway train roared by, it would send up a blast of cool air. There was a subway grating there all right, but everything else was make-believe. No train passing by, but the air blowing up was done by the special-effects people stationed underground with a wind-blower machine. This sent Marilyn’s dress flying waist-high, revealing her legs and white panties. As a precaution, she wore an additional layer of underwear.

A crowd had gathered even though it was early in the morning. They consisted mostly of men who somehow had heard about the late-night film-making. Among the crowd was Joe, Marilyn’s husband, and his famous friend, Broadway columnist Walter Winchell.

At first, it was all innocent and fun, but when Billy Wilder kept shooting the scene over and over, the crowd of men kept on applauding and shouting, “More, more, Marilyn – let’s see more.”

Joe became upset, mostly when the director’s camera kept coming in, focusing only on Marilyn’s privates. Luckily, she had been wearing two pairs of panties, hoping nothing would show through.

The whistles and the yelling from the male audience became too much for Marilyn’s husband. It was like a burlesque show. What was to be a fun scene turned into a sex scene, and Joe, angry as could be, turned to Winchell, shouting, “I’ve had it!” And the two men took off.

Once those retakes were done, Marilyn turned to Wilder and said, “I hope all these extra takes are not for your Hollywood friends to enjoy at a private party.” Marilyn couldn’t imagine them showing such a scene, especially such a close-up of her private area, in a comedy film made for the family audience.

The re-shot scene at a Hollywood studio

Marilyn was right. When they returned to Hollywood, the scene was re-shot at the studio in a more refined way. The footage that was shot on that night in New York never saw the light as it had issues with the sound recording.

The posters and publicity created hype around the scene; however, the Hays Office had the final say, and the end product was nowhere close to the sensation it made on the wee hours of 15 September 1954. Watch the re-worked scene here

One of the posters released for publicity

Apart from the Hays Code, other organisations such as the National Legion of Decency had the power to influence millions of church-goers (Catholic) not to watch movies that were condemned by the Legion.

Gerald Gardner, an author and film historian, explained their behaviour – “People like Marilyn Monroe are always a threat to the moralists and establishment who were trying to protect their fellow men against an excess of passion.”

He added – “There is no doubt that when you can cast a charismatic, appealing and sensual personality like Marilyn Monroe, you are bringing a lot to the film. True, he (Billy Wilder) lost the adulterous relationship, true he lost Axelrod’s wittiest lines – but in place of that he did have Marilyn Monroe.”

Although the movie became a success, the famous skirt lifting scene proved fatal for Marilyn’s relationship with Joe DiMaggio. Joe admitted he still loved her but Marilyn being a movie star was too much for him to take any longer. He became impossible to live with. At that time, there was nothing left for them to do but get divorced.

Marilyn with her attorney Jerry Giesler minutes before the divorce announcement

The movie wrapped up the shooting in November and was released on June 1, 1955, on Marilyn Monroe’s 29th birthday. On the back of even bigger publicity, any Hollywood movie had ever received up until that point, the massive success of the film catapulted Marilyn’s career to newer heights.

Sam Shaw’s idea was great publicity for the film. The photo of Monroe’s dress flying sky-high made every newspaper, every magazine in the world. For the film’s premiere showing at New York’s Loew’s State Theatre, its four-story building facade was covered by an artist’s rendition (52 feet) of that famous dress-blowing scene.


The blonde image of Monroe was all people thought about her. She didn’t like it, and in the next few years, she was involved in more serious projects that showcased her versatility. Marilyn had achieved a stardom that granted her the right to pick the directors and a say in scripting.


It has been close to 54 years since Marilyn’s abrupt death. I was born three decades after her death; I have remained a big fan of hers for over a decade. Her manner of death has divided opinions to this day and the real story, well, I believe it went with Marilyn. And, all we are left with are those beautiful memories.

Happy 90th, Marilyn!         


Lose your dreams, you will lose your mind

Yet another casualty, and this time it is at the heart of the European Union. There are disturbing scenes for anyone who tunes into the news channels or when surfing through the internet. While some have plenty on their plate to even think about it, many ask themselves, which place is a safe house in the times we live.

If there is one sure thing, it is the unpredictability of events irrespective of one’s geographical location. Media houses chart the list of happiest places in the world to live and go on to provide the fag end of the list. People strive hard to be in those ‘safe-havens’ while chaos is being plotted parallely.

The question is, will we continue to live in that ‘safe-net’ forever? No annual holidays? No business visits? Or even an unplanned getaway?

Each day, we make plans for the future and work towards it. By the end of the day, we might have compromised a thing or two about living the lives we dreamed of growing up. Plans upon plans pile up while the simple pleasures appear to look silly, even though deep down, that’s precisely what we crave for.

All our plans lead to the road to survival. Some chose muddy paths, while others prefer more acceptable grades of concrete. A few can afford the luxury to avoid roads altogether, while others ride their fortunes for having survived a day.

We are bombarded by the precursors and the possible outcomes of global conflicts of varying nature. We debate among friends, colleagues about the integrity of events, policies, actions, or lack of it. Thanks to the most evolved technology available to our fingertips, we are never far away from the news of disaster.

We can selectively choose. Can we turn it off completely?

Some choose to remain oblivious to what’s happening around them, some choose to ignore it, some get confused, and some get agitated. These gamuts of emotions sum up the world we live in – where despite the ‘safest physical cocoon’ we can create, our minds are volatile and subconsciously introspect to be guarded. So we make more plans to secure ourselves.

Are we missing the point here?

Here is what I have come to terms with, having witnessed some of the global catastrophes in my lifetime.

Every generation had its share of conflicts. Unless we can transport ourselves into the previous generation’s mindsets, we cannot fully comprehend or show empathy to the affected. We can always try.

We can never be genuinely ubiquitous – let’s accept that we are limited by being an individual entity.

Confusions and dilemmas are part of our growth. They are essential for our evolution and play a key role in our learning and decision-making abilities. Clarity is a journey, not a destination.

There will always be responsibilities till our last breath. It is up to us how we look at it, define it, face them and learn from it all.

And this was a game-changer for me:

Defining my dreams and being flexible about it; living my life, chasing after my dreams, and taking time to remain still when I am tempted to be in perpetual motion to reach places. The aforementioned ‘keys’ are proving to be paramount.

The definition of ‘dream’ is subjective and idiosyncratic. And choosing to live my life with loved ones and paint it like an adventure irrespective of ‘complicated’ commitments are the simple remedies I am happy to have taken and wish to take it moving forward.

I saw a Rolling Stones quote printed on a T-shirt that made sense – “Lose your dreams, you will lose your mind” and in a fragile and uncertain global world, working on our dreams continuously is not a bad option to consider.