Wanted: A doc, not havoc. Of all people, doctors can’t add to our stress.

If you think I’m again going to irritate you by talking about my bout of dengue, then…then…then you are so right. How perceptive of you, no? And so shameful. Beemar bande ka mazaak udaate ho? Everyone I know knows someone who is sick right now. Ab Kejriwal ke raj mein toh we might even start getting special cough-leave per month, even though he seems to have found a surgical cure for his. By the way, sick-talk also has its etiquettes.


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A Calmer You: there’s no party tonight!!

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Hey, all those who are sick and tired of being asked by people how they are partying on New Year’s eve, let’s do a party. Party of the so-called ‘bores’ who, for whatever reasons, don’t want to go out and paint the town red on 31st December. I’m one of them. I have nothing, in principle, against being four drinks down and not quite remembering which year is starting when the clock strikes twelve, but I have issues with doing this under peer pressure.

There were those good ol’ days not many years back when we would excitedly discuss what would come on television on the night of 31st December. The whole family would huddle together to clap and cheer some not-so-successful film stars who would oblige TV viewers for once, by making an appearance on Doordarshan’s new year eve special programme. Usha Uthup, wearing her big large bindi and chanting Happy New Year, in her heavy voice, would ring into our years well past midnight. Then came the barrage of private TV channels, and they started running telecast of various film award shows on New Year’s eve for vellas like me who wouldn’t be out partying. Ab toh shayad woh bhi nahi aata…usually TV channels have some blockbuster film being aired for the 23rd time…just as to say…here, take this, losers. If you are that aalsi or anti-social that you prefer sitting in the rajai as the world welcomes the new year, you deserve no more than the dialogues of Chennai Express when the calendar changes dates. Well, theek hai, I’m okay being called anti-social because I’m running out of excuses when I’m faced with the dreaded question. Sample this conversation I had with a colleague the other day:

He: So, what’s your plan for the New Year’s?A Calmer You there’s no party tonight
Me: I’ll avoid going out. Too much fog on the roads.
He: This time no fog predicted on that evening. Some western disturbances from Rajasthan have blown it away
Me: Oh, good. But anyway, roads are full of drunk drivers
He: Our own paper has done stories about how the police is too strict this time to check drunken driving.
Me: Actually, restaurants have too much of waiting…it’s as if the whole city is out to eat.
He: Do you want me to book you a table? I have contacts. You must go to a place with live entertainment … that’s the whole point of New Year’s eve.
Me: No, thanks. Actually I’ve been waiting the whole year to watch if Usha Uthup comes on some channel at midnight.
He: You are quite weird.

Ab stress hoga yah nahi? It’s as if you have failed an interview if you don’t have a good enough
reason for not doing something that the whole world loves. You see, I have nothing against those who love partying and look forward to this break but the problem is with having the same expectations from those who either don’t want to, or cannot for some reason, have any party plans. To add to this, here are two sub-stresses:

1  The SMS your wish stress: Come the last few days of December and we get bitten by the SMS bug. Copy, paste, create — do whatever — but the wishes have to be texted to the 1400 contacts in your phone book. It’s party time for the telecom service providers because some polite people also diligently respond with a ‘Thank you’ message after each wish. A friend recently told me about some new Chinese app that lets you send these bulk messages on a discount without them seeming like the kanjoos ones that come through the bulk-sms-websites. But Chinese… and discounted… what if this app leaves out something from my wish, to cut costs? Health, happiness, prosperity mein se koi ek-aadha be chhoot gaya toh? I’d rather pay extra for the ‘right quality’ SMSs or make an excuse that I’ve lost my phone or something. I also once tried the excuse that I don’t message anyone because I don’t believe in the ‘English calendar’s New Year’. Someone asked me when the Hindu new year was. I didn’t know. Stress.

2 The post your party pics on Facebook stress: Ab New Year’s eve pe bhi Facebook mein kuchh update nahi kiya toh why are you alive, you moron? Everyone will update their party plans, then their party pics, then their hangover pics. If the pics and status show you dancing away in Goa…suddenly you’ve justified your existence on this planet. If by chance it’s Bali or Ibiza in place of Goa…oh boy, you have arrived, and how. The stress of competing with vacation-flaunters is no mean task I tell you. Himika from my team just told me about this ex-friend of hers (assuming that he’ll no longer be a friend after this) who would be under so much stress to post vacation pics on Facebook that he would download some ‘touristy’ pics of an exotic place like Jamaica from Google, post them up with updates on how he’s enjoying his vacation, and go underground for a few days. It’s only when the photos never showed him — or any other human being for that matter — that someone investigated to find him holed up at home. The poor guy didn’t know enough to photoshop himself on those pics. I also once tried faking an exotic vacation pic. Facebook took revenge by showing ‘posted from Shakurpur’ underneath my ‘Frolicking in Venice and loving it’ status update. I don’t like these social networking sites ever since. Technical blunders, you see.

Anyway, on a serious note —party hard, by all means. But please don’t stress others out by badgering them with questions about their plans. If they have plans and want to flaunt them, they would anyway not stop from telling you. What are you
wearing, where are you going, how are you spending — kind of questions are conversation starters for most people, without realising that they can put the other one in some kind of complex about not having a ‘happening’ enough live. Let me suggest an alternate, polite conversation starter to you. How about — ‘Is Usha Uthup performing in any TV studios this New Year’s eve?’

Sonal Kalra has decided to holiday in Jamaica, this New Year’s eve. Watch out for the pics. She has learned how to switch off ‘location info’.

All for the two blue ticks from hell

Chalo ji, ek naya syapa start ho gaya hai. C’mon, you don’t know ‘syapa’? Okay. My dear body-in-Bhogal-but-mind-in-Berkeley friend, a nightmare has begun, bro! I had gone blue in the face telling everyone that the colour blue would someday ring a death bell for all of us, but no one believed me. Now, it has taken a firang tech company to make you all go, ‘Holy Sh**, what is this?’

Yeah, yeah, I’m referring to nothing but the two blue marks from hell, the ones that indicate that you’ve actually read someone’s whatsapp message on your phone. Till now you were in a state of bliss, you had quit Blackberry because of the wretched ‘R’ (for read) that would replace the less feared ‘D’ (for delivered) in a second, moved to Whatsapp because over here, the two grey ticks could only ­indicate that a message had been delivered to your phone, but not necessarily read by you…so life was all cool. Your boyfriend/­girlfriend was back to being in love with you, your boss was all understanding, your wife didn’t turn into a Durga avatar every now and then, your parents didn’t freak out all so often. Then suddenly, the grey turned to blue. And chaos descended.


Don’t Let the Whatsapps Blue Ticks Make You Stressed.

All the ‘I love you baby’ is soon going to turn into ‘Are you ­ignoring me? You read my ­message two hours back. Am I not important for you anymore?’ You’d no longer be able to tell the monster boss that the urgent mail he asked for got sent four hours later because you had missed reading his instructions on Whatsapp. Chat group ke har stupid forwarded joke pe nakli ka LOL karna padega…uff.  There’s panic in the air. Dil se bad dua nikal rahi hai. Morons. Don’t they have any worthwhile ­innovations to spend their ­creative genius on? Maybe not. But, now that the stress is here, can the calmness tips be far behind?

1. Take a deep breath

Inhale from one nostril and exhale from the other. Sorry, I know this has nothing to do with Whatsapp. Style maarne ke liye tha. You see, any advice on ­calmness that starts with deep breathing has a greater ­acceptability, internationally. Coming back to the point, before the two blue ticks give you a ­nervous breakdown, allow me to take your memory back to ­another epidemic that had struck our Whatsapp universe not so long ago.sonal-kalra-a-calmer-you-column

Remember the ­life-threatening disease called ‘last seen at…’? Millions died of it, countless relationships were buried in mass graves amid shouting matches. The doctors worked relentlessly on finding a cure. All of us, for once, left cast, creed, religion, nationality, behind and  prayed. Together, we found the solution, and the option to switch off the ‘last seen’ stamp magically appeared in the privacy settings. We just need to have faith in life.

For those in tearing hurry, there’s always the cheat-route of ­switching off your internet ­connectivity, reading the ­­message, and then switching it on without clicking on the ­specific Whatsapp message. For others, the net gurus and ­spiritual tech babas will soon start posting solutions on the forums. Vishwaas rakhein, kripa aayegi.

2. Ignore if you must

You know what, the biggest problem is that most of us ­mistake being ‘online’ as ‘being available to chat’. These are two different things. The invention of all these messenger services and free chat applications does not mean that a sword is now hung on your head that you have to respond to each and every message anyone decides to push your way. And NO, it’s not rude to not reply immediately even after you’ve evidently read a ­message, because the other ­person sent it out knowing their own convenience and situation, not yours. It’s the same mistake that people make ever since mobile phones came into our lives.

If the phone rings, most people immediately pause ­whatever they are doing — ­having a meal, listening to music, watching a film, talking face-to-face with someone – and receive the call. It’s like an ­obligation for us to give priority to a phone call, because someone invented an instrument that we carry everywhere in our hands. Well, that someone did it for good reasons, not to add to the stress in your life and make you a slave of perceptions about what the caller will think if you won’t respond to a call or message right away.

Unless it’s an ­emergency, you always have the right to decide when to respond to someone reaching out to you. Don’t turn every chat-ping into an emergency. You paid for your cellphone, remember? And don’t let your friends give you grief about not responding ­immediately to their every ­message even after reading it. If they are friends, they would respect your value for your time and know that your bond with them is beyond the two blue ticks.

3. For the sender

This one’s for those of you whose messages will be read but still the other person would not reply. You know what, it’s OKAY. Please don’t be a hyper-sensitive drama queen and rush into drawing meaning out of every ­unresponded chat message. The other person might just be ­genuinely caught up with ­something and might want to reply at peace and not for the heck of it, in a hurry.

Do ­remember that in life, if someone really wanted to ignore you, they would not wait for a chat feature to indicate it. Your gut would tell you. So, don’t let your sensitivity pressure your friends into ­finding out ways to evade your messages. It’s stressful for them, it’s stressful for you, too, to keep waiting. The moment it starts to bug you that your pings are not getting replied to, don’t drive  yourself crazy to check the phone. Just chuck the phone. Go for a nice walk. And yeah, take a deep breath. Inhale from one ­nostril and exhale from the other. Whatever.

Sonal Kalra can never aspire to become a brand ambassador for technology. Maybe cellphone companies would pay her someday to quit writing.

Swachh Bharat: C’mon, it’s time to come clean

I recently saw a video that­ people have been sharing on Facebook. It shows a ­helmet clad, unidentified woman biker in Russia, who waits by the road side.

The moment she sees someone roll down their car- window and throw trash on the road, she picks up the trash, follows the car till the next traffic signal, knocks on the window and throws the trash back into the car. This form of vigilante made me wonder if such an idea of shaming a litter-bug would ever work in India.

Swachh Bharat C'mon, it's time to come clean

Even if we were to discount the fact that in this case, a woman was being a brave anti-litter crusader, back home in India, even a man would run the risk of ugly quarrels and threats if he were to object.

Hamein toh ji apni apni si lagti hain hamaari roads. Ice cream kha kar wrapper phenkna ho, yah thandi hawa mein open-air susu karna, hamaari dharti maata welcomes us with open arms. Someone dare not take this right away. Democracy hai, after all. Right?

Actually, the shamelessness when it comes to thinking of public spaces as dustbins-with-no-boundaries is so deeply engrained in our psyche, that this trait is a big leveller of status, race, caste or cultures. There’s no discrimination- we are equally indifferent when someone throws a crushed cola can from a Mercedes, as we are if someone threw a banana peel from an autorickshaw.

Aur haan, those empty beer bottles tossed out of loud music-blaring SUVs are actually symbolic of our values and love for humanity. We don’t want parents to know that we’ve been drinking in the car. So, you know, such evident respect for elders. Then we know that some poor road-side beggar will get a rupee or two by selling the empty bottle (if it hasn’t hit him in the head, that is), so it’s also donation for a good cause.

One of my rather shameless friends (I have several) once even joked that her ‘cleanliness drive’ is to ensure that the car she drives is clean, and hence she can’t hold used tissues or burger wrappers in it even for a minute. It suffocates her to see her car dirty, so she tosses them out of the car, dustbin or no dustbin.

‘Roads are anyway so dirty, and we pay taxes to have them cleaned by the sarkari sweepers’ was her defence. The fact that I made her stop the car, picked up the used tissues and held them in my hand till we reached a trash-bin, and that marked the end of me partaking in her ‘clean-drive’ is another matter.

For years after that, I was branded as this foolish activist fighting for a lost cause, by the same people who would chew gum for two hours before they saw a dustbin in Singapore, but would stick it on a park bench here in India in no time. I learned to live with it, with a sense of hopelessness, just like a lot of us activist-types.

Something suddenly changed this week. It started with our Prime Minister’s speech in America. While political pundits in Armani suites debated in TV studios about whether the focus will be on foreign investment or industrial growth, he gave the call of ‘Swachh Bharat‘ or ‘Clean India’.


He followed it up later with an challenge to celebrities from various fields, urging them to use their influence to turn our country clean, before we embark on our mission to make India the superpower it so richly deserves to be.

‘If every Indian takes a step forward, we would take 125 crore steps forward,’ he said.

Now I’m leaving the task of smelling political motive in all this, to the intellectual columnists and intelligent TV-debaters. Mujhe toh zyada samajhdaar baatein­ samajh bhi nahi aati. But what I saw the next morning was a Diwali gift much before Diwali for all those like me who time had turned from activist-types to pessimist-types over the years.

Everyone, especially the Gen-X seemed ultra-kicked about the idea of a clean India. Right from schools to college canteens to Facebook to Whatsapp, people seemed to be motivating each other about cleaning up our country.

Also Read:  Is Modi using Kejriwal’s Broom?

Basis our individual political-affiliations, we can, of course, find faults with this campaign, like all others. But at least it woke everyone up to the very desperate need of cleanliness as a pre-requisite before we think of bigger plans for India. So, for all those who, like me, have been seeking calmness from the stress of muck all around us, here’s what we need to do…

1. First of all, don’t let the tempo die. Public memory and interest span over things, especially good ones, is dismally short. Before some stupid scandal of a voyeuristic nature takes over peoples’ attention, do promise that you’ll keep up the momentum of the Clean India drive, in your own way.

Forwarded jokes, chori ke quotes aur cute puppies ke pics toh hum whatsapp or FB pe daalte hi hain, beech beech mein keep reminding your friends about your continued promise to work towards Swachh Bharat. It’ll give you a great feeling, trust me. And don’t worry, you’ll get as many likes, if not more, than the obviously photoshopped DP 🙂

2. If you see someone throwing trash on the road, don’t just shake your head and feel sad for the state of our country. If you can’t go up to that person and politely tell them to not do it, or if they’ve conveniently sped away, do take a minute to pick up the trash and toss it in a bin.

What’s the point in getting repulsed by the thought of picking up someone’s discarded ice cream wrapper? It’s just a mindset. Okay, if the thought of germs bother you, which, by the way, would anyway spread with that trash lying on the road, then keep a pair of disposable gloves in the car with you, and do the good deed. Full nakhre ke saath karo but karo toh sahi yaar.

3. Take the pledge of at least making small changes in your own behaviour. If chewing paan or tobacco is that very important to your happiness, keep doing it but wait a minute longer to spot a trash bin and then spit out. Keep a small ­paper bag in the car to discard a ­wrapper till you spot a dustbin.

And yeah, the RWAs can do well to offer one less samosa per person at community festivals and donating that money to put up bins or make a loo for the poor drivers waiting all day outside fancy cars. If art colleges come forward, the creativity of their students can be used to give a makeover to the boring old dustbins and turn them into funky works of art. Here’s to a cleaner, prettier India. Kar ke dekhein?

Sonal Kalra spotted Chaddhaji sneakily putting his trash bag in the neighbour’s dustbin early morning. She now knows what to gift him this Diwali.

A Calmer You: Abki baar, careful yaar

Ma’am mujhe phir se sachcha pyaar ho gaya hai,’ writes Mukundan Dixit. He sends me a mail whenever he falls in ‘true love’. He sends me a mail every two months. I have several problems with Mukundan. To start with, he should remove either the first two letters or the last two letters from his name, because, you know, you can’t force-mix two perfectly valid names to produce something that requires your lips to form an awkward circular shape, each time you call out.

A Calmer You Abki baar careful yaar

Maybe, just maybe, this ­awkwardness is not letting sachcha pyaar stay on in his life for long. Who knows. Vaise who knows what sachcha pyaar is, in the first place. I don’t. Mukundan certainly doesn’t. Half of the young janta reading this column right now and texting their ‘steady’ ones from the other hand don’t. Most of us latch on to the first relationship that seems ­reasonably okay to us, and try to squeeze-fit it into the sachcha pyaar mould. Which is actually not a bad thing, considering that relationships are meant to be a lot about accepting and adapting. But then anything you squeeze too much, bursts out after a while. Science ka kuchh funda hota hai, so don’t ask me why.

So Mukundan and others like him, stay in a perpetual quest for true love and send mails to velle columnists like me, who themselves may be going through shit in life but never lose an opportunity to shell out advice just because they are perceived as experts. Well then, Muku, here’s what I think. Relationships being a very personal thing and all that, I probably can’t tell you who to opt for, but I can sure tell you what kind of a person to NOT go for. And since I don’t know or care which way you swing, this advice is gender-neutral. Run the latest candidate of your sachcha pyaar through these five moulds. And if she/he doesn’t fit in either, hang on in this relationship. And do not send me another mail so soon.

1 The unapologetic: A relationship in which only one person is always seen apologising is the most doomed of all to not be happy. An unapologetic partner – boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, is always trying to tell you that all that’s wrong is your fault. The partner who gets used to apologising for everything so that fights and arguments can be avoided, is actually getting used to slowly killing his/her self-esteem. And that, is never good in life. Close your eyes and recall the last time your partner said sorry to you over something. No matter whose fault it was. If what flashes before you are visuals only of yourself pleading and apologising, it’s time to open the eyes. Literally and otherwise.

2 The polar opposite: Yeah, I know ‘the opposites attract’ theory but if only life was till the stages of attraction. Life actually begins when the attraction settles down. And it is here that similarities matter way more than differences. I’ve seen people gloating about how they and their partners are like north-south poles, completely different, and yet so synchronised, and that adds spice to their lives. It’s absolutely great if it works for them, but in most cases, the extra spice starts to choke you, if you know what I’m saying. There isn’t too much distance to travel between ‘I LOVE my boyfriend’s shy nature’ to ‘Oh God, kuchh bolta hi nahi hai’ to ‘I can’t stay with him, he has complex issues.’ Don’t look for a replica of yourself in another gender, but don’t also fall for one who you share absolutely no common interests with. That’s two lives wasted. We are quick to match horoscopes even in this day and age. How about a compatibility quiz as annexure?

3 The non committal: A person who keeps hanging you in the lurch for small or big decisions is not just not respecting you enough, but also giving subtle hints that the relationship itself may not matter enough to them. I get countless mails from young people who are stuck in a ‘I love him/her but they say we are only good friends’ stage. Yes, not everyone is as proficient in moving on as Kundan and normal people need time to take decisions about committing but if for months or years, someone is just giving you the ‘let us explore where this goes’ line, they are bullshitting and you should know it. Now puhleez, don’t you go ‘But, I can’t take her out of my mind’ on me. Devdaas dekhne ko maine kaha thaa? Move on. There are Madhuri Dixits waiting ahead. (PS: Mukundan Dixit, this advice is not applicable to you)

4 The Unequal: You know, I have no regard for differences of caste, culture, religion, age, race etc when it comes to love. As long as the two people share a certain common value system that they imbibed while growing up. If there’s way too much inequity in the very socio-economic set-up two people grow up in, it takes its toll on a relationship. Bollywood films that show a coolie falling for a multi-millionaire’s daughter or TV documentaries about an American tourist marrying an illiterate farmer in an Indian village, make for an interesting watch, but perhaps not a very practical life. Anyway, I might be incorrect and also sachcha pyaar may be above all these differences, but I see no harm in keeping the ears open in case alarm bells about a wide inequity between you and your crush are somewhere ringing in the background. Do you?

5 The guilt-giver: This kind of a partner will ruin your life. Almost surely. A person who claims to love you but consistently makes you feel like a loser is not just being consciously or subconsciously manipulative, but is also distorting the very idea of what’s right or wrong, in your head. Sample this mail I got yesterday from a 16-year-old in Indore: “I and my boyfriend love each other too much. On the day he proposed, he made me promise that I won’t talk in a friendly way to any other boys in the class. I always kept my promise but last week when a boy commented on my FB post, I replied back with a smiley, and exchanged two comments with him. I have been feeling horrible ever since and I confessed to my BF. He shouted at me and says he wants to break-up as I’ve broken his trust. How do I tell him I’ll never repeat the mistake?” Well my dear Indore-girl, yes there is a grave mistake in your life. Sadly, you’ve not written his name. Need I say more?

Sonal Kalra is writing a ‘how to find sachcha pyaar for dummies’ guide. Any publishers interested?

A Calmer You: Hamara neta kaisa ho?

I never thought I would live the day to see Chaddha ji saying anything sensible, ever. But yesterday, he said something that set me thinking. Seeing him in a crisp white kurta pajama, I jokingly asked  if he was ­planning to turn politician, now that election fever is at its peak. “Oh nahi ji. Badi Thankyou less life haipoliticians ki,” he said. 98% of my attention immediately and involuntarily turned into this desperate urge to correct ‘Thankyou less’ to ‘thankless’ but then it’s Chaddha ji. Unko kaun aaj tak correct kar saka hai.

 A Calmer You Hamara neta kaisa ho

I didn’t know if I agreed completely with Chaddha ji. I mean, all our top politicians do look and dress different. Whether it’s Modi’s half sleeve kurtas or MMS’s blue turban or Kejriwal’s mufflers. But what’s common is a clear attempt at ­trying to deflect any undue ­attention on how they look. Politicians cringe at any ­compliment on their looks, as if being good-looking and being dedicated to the nation have to be mutually exclusive. “Is it really our fault?” asked a young ­politician when I mentioned this to him one day. “The day I entered politics, I was advised to dress plain, because that’s the most outward indicator of us leading a simple life. I dress like a person twice my age. All my favourite denims are now for ­get-togethers where I am sure there won’t be any press photographers,’ he sighed. Well, vanity is a vice if you’re in public life but that conversation made me realise that it’s not just about clothes or looks. How, we as a nation, are so ready to judge and stereotype politicians as a ‘breed’ that we forget to allow them the simple pleasures of life that we all very proudly and openly enjoy. Many years back, I was assigned to do a photo feature on ­candidates from various political parties, relaxing, at last, a couple of days after the polling got over.  Three out of the five wanted to be photographed playing with their pet dogs, one at the dining table with his wife and kids, and one, on the couch, reading a book and listening to Indian classical music. “What is the first thing he does to relax, after a tough day of campaigning?” I asked the PA of one of the politicians while he was getting into a ‘whiter’ kurta for the shoot. “He opens a chilled beer,” the PA replied. I asked the politician if we could photograph him with a mug of his favourite beer in his hand, and he looked at me the way I normally look at Chaddha ji. “Have you lost your mind?” he just said. 

I know there’s very little ­sympathy ever in peoples’ minds for politicians, and maybe for valid reasons, considering the extent of rot in the system. But just look at the stress they, too, are under, because of our over-aggressive tendency these days to have an opinion on everything they do.

Because of certain buffoons in their profession who have a ­perpetual foot-in-mouth disease, making irresponsible statements every now and then, most ­politicians live under tremendous stress of analysing and ­reanalysing their statements before saying anything. “I don’t know when the social media, and all others, would pounce on me for a simple statement or a tweet. It’s a perpetual paranoia,” says a politician.

Politicians, and their families, have to live with hearing the most favourite remark of anyone and everyone in our country — ‘sab ke sab politicians chor hain’.  Anywhere, anytime. Now, I know you are itching to lecture me on how this statement has a strong basis, but that’s not the point I’m making here. I’m talking about the stress of having to bear with the torture of generalisation. Trust me, no doctor’s child would be happy, either, to hear his ­classmates say ‘All doctors in this country are corrupt.’ I’m ­assuming politicians also get hurt when everyone in their ­profession is bunched together for the purpose of making loose remarks. One of my friend’s ­college-going sister fell in love last year with a young man who seemed absolutely perfect in every sense, till he revealed that he wanted to join politics, like his maternal uncle who is an MLA. “Oh God, uncultured, gundey jaisi family hogi uski.  Get ­anyone else as a boyfriend and we are okay, but not a politician,” said my friend’s mom. Just like most of us, she has a Bollywood-created image of netas in her head. It is sad that a lot of them indeed have a criminal ­background, but then again, what about those who are clean, educated, and genuinely want to take up politics as a perfectly valid profession? We have ­political science as a much sought-after subject, but most of us would laugh or faint if our child wrote ‘I want to grow up to be a politician’ in a school essay. Sad, isn’t it?
It’s not easy to live a life that’s constantly under public scrutiny. Yes, the politicians have chosen it for themselves, and yes, there is enough wealth and power in this field to make up for all things lost, but next time, think twice before saying something general and vague like, ‘haww, desh mein log mar rahe hain and this ­politician is busy looking stylish at an awards show.’ Especially when you’re watching FTV on the television, and have a ­well-earned drink in hand. 

Sonal Kalra will get gaaliyan, as usual, for writing against popular sentiment, yet again. But she’s becoming thick-skinned. Like politicians, perhaps.

A Calmer You: So, are you a shakki partner?

Today’s relationships: you can touch each other but not each others’ phones. Can’t help it ma’am’… is how Suvir describes his behaviour to me in an email. In reference to how he can’t help but doubt his girlfriend’s loyalty, every now and then. It wasn’t Suvir, by the way, who got in touch with me to begin with. It was his girlfriend who’s a regular reader of the column, and wrote to me asking for calmness tips on overcoming a bitter breakup.

Breakups don’t catch my attention, as you know, but the reason here did. ‘I found him checking my phone when I was in the loo,’ she wrote. ‘I’m sick and tired of telling him that I’m not cheating on him. He still gets these pangs of suspicion. It was suffocating to be spied upon like this,’ she wrote, marking a copy of the email to Suvir. Fair enough, girl. It is indeed suffocating to be mistrusted by your partner or spouse. But curious as I was to know why someone would risk jeopardising a good relationship by being overly suspicious, I wrote back to them. Here’s what Suvir had to say. ‘I know I’m behaving crazy but I’m paranoid. The thought that she may be seeing someone else when she’s not with me drives me mad. What makes it worse is her reluctance to reveal her phone or email password to me. I won’t go around reading her mails, but the thought that she refuses, puts one hell of a doubt in my head. When I’m ready to share my passwords with her, why can’t she do the same to put me at ease? I feel so terribly stressed.’

A Calmer You So, are you a shakki partner

Sad, isn’t it? No, I’m not talking about his girlfriend’s situation. It’s of course unfortunate to be stuck with a partner who doubts your loyalty, but imagine how traumatic it must also be for the person who’s constantly agonised by suspicious thoughts, the ones that are known to eat you from inside. So while there’ll be several shoulders for Suvir’s girlfriend to cry on, since her perspective is obviously in the clear, I want to extend mine to Suvir today, and analyse his stress. Let’s look at how to come to terms with the incessant urge to suspect your partner…

1. Accept the problem: This may make me sound arrogant, but I refuse to advise people who are not ready to believe that they have a problem. Bahot time waste hota hai, with people who don’t listen with an open mind and think that their viewpoint is always the valid one. Maybe it is so sometimes, but at least open up to the possibility that it isn’t. If you are constantly jealous and suspicious of your partner, irrespective of the gender, and always try to justify it by saying that you do it only because you love them, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. Admit it. There’s a difference between pretending to be playfully possessive of your partner in front of friends, and creating fake Facebook accounts and sending a friend request to your boyfriend. If most of your free time goes in thinking about why he/she was online on WhatsApp late at night, and those thoughts become the cause of a majority of your fights, you, my dear, need to do something about it sooner than you think.

2. Take the suspicion test: Ask yourself these questions each time you suffer from an uncontrollable bout of jealousy or doubt about your partner and are unsure if it is the right thing to do…
a) Am I being guided by the present or the past?: In a surprising majority of cases, people doubt their current partners because they are scarred by a previous relationship where someone cheated on them. It’s natural. It’s still not justified. A lingering pain from the past can keep you from objectively looking at your partner’s completely harmless action. Do remember that if someone broke your trust in the past, it’s precisely why you aren’t with them today. The matter ended there. It wasn’t the doing of your present partner. Do not make them suffer for someone else’s faults. Stop living in the past… God’s already made the correction here, hasn’t He?
b) Am I reacting or responding? : There’s a big difference between the two. You react to emotions, you respond to facts. Getting into a heated argument with your husband on seeing a girl’s SMS on his phone is a reaction. A knee-jerk at that. Try asking him first — politely — on what it’s all about. And be open to trusting his answer. If you still find him evasive, maybe it’s justified arguing it any further. Otherwise you would have just wasted a few moments you and your partner could have spent in saying, or doing, something nice!
c) Am I insecure? : In most cases, it is a deep sense of insecurity that makes people throw a suspicious fit. Stop thinking that you aren’t good enough for your partner. People are smarter than you think. We may keep talking about love at first sight and some such blah but deep inside, everyone analyses a potential partner before diving into a relationship. Your partner hasn’t got into it blindfolded. He or she found you good enough, and if at some point they don’t, your jealousy is not gonna make them stay. So stop this self-bashing and feel good about yourself. Only then someone else will.

3. Is it worth it? : One of the easiest but the worst thing we often do in a relationship is shove the obvious signs that something’s wrong, under the carpet. We prefer to live in denial, only because we aren’t brave enough to face the repercussions. If you find yourself in a relationship where your partner’s actions are leading to a fight almost everyday, be it an affair or marriage, think about whether it’s worth being in it. I know, I know, you are itching to give me gyaan on how it’s easier said than done, how it’s practically not feasible etc. But being miserable yourself and making another person miserable in the name of practical feasibility is no genius act either. Base your decision to stay in a relationship on facts, not suspicion. On evidence, not instincts. On happiness, not fear. And then if the logical thing is to move away, so be it.

Sonal Kalra showed this writeup to a colleague and he called it useless. Instead, give practical tips to hack into your girlfriend’s phone without getting caught, he said.

A Calmer You: Hey doc, I’ve been waiting

Of all the people, doctors can’t be the ones adding to our stress. All those who scolded me left, right and centre for not writing the column last week, please note that medical leave is allowed even in the prison camps of Guatemala. Areey, I was down with a terrible bout of viral infection that caused bad cough and cold.


Bekaar mein beemar ko daant diya. Aap dekh lena if Kejriwal comes to power, we may even start getting special cough-leave per month. Anyway, I promised some of you on Twitter that this week, I would recount the stress one faces when one has to visit a doctor.

Especially during the viral infection season, which now lasts twelve months in a year.  I toh have a standard line if I see someone unwell, no matter what season or month it is. I make a wise, grim face, shake my head and say ‘Changing-weather hai. You must take special care these days.’ I swear by Mayawati that I don’t know what ‘changing weather’ technically means but people buy this remark with all seriousness any time of the year. Anyway, so here’s what happened when I went under the weather last week. True story, no exaggeration.

 Me: I have fever and bad cold since morning. I think I should see a doctor.

Colleague 1: Viral hoga. Antibiotic le lo. Augmentin 625 mg. Do gargles and inhale steam.

Colleague 2: Don’t take such strong medicines. Take ginger and honey and black pepper.

Colleague 3: Homeopathy works like magic in this viral. Hum toh preventive bhi le lete hain. No side effects, you see.

Me (Next morning): The cough has worsened. Let me see a doctor today.
Colleague 1: I know the best physician. It’s a bit crowded at his clinic. Let me know when you’re going, I’d give him a call.

Me: That’s okay. Just give me the number, I’ll fix an appointment.
So I call up at the doc’s clinic and ask for a 6:30 pm appointment
Receptionist: Sorry, 6:30 slot is booked. I can give you 7:18pm.

Me (pleased with the professionalism): Okay, that’s fine.
I reach at 7:10 for my 7:18pm appointment and see at least 40 patients, all at various degrees of distress and coughing at various volumes. I go up to the receptionist.

Me: I have a 7:18pm appointment.
Receptionist (notes down my name): Please wait. The doctor is about to reach from his other clinic.

Me: When will my turn come? I’m on time for my appointment.

Receptionist: When he comes, we’ll start with the patients from the 5:30pm slot first. You are at Number 42.

Me: What’s the point in giving me an appointment for a certain time then?

Receptionist: Yawwwwn. Aap meri TV screen ke aage aa rahe ho. Please sit and wait. Dr saab will reach anytime now.

The good doctor comes in at 7:30, and suddenly the coughing in the waiting lounge becomes louder. Mr Verma and Mr Kapoor, both with the 5:30 appointment are, by then, fighting with the receptionist on who will go inside first. ‘Hum Noida se aaye hain,’ says Verma. ‘Noida koi America hai,’ argues Kapoor. Meanwhile the receptionist calls out for Mrs Malhotra out of turn and sends her inside. Suddenly Verma ji and Kapoor ji are united-in-victimisation and question the receptionist. ‘Woh Dr Saab ko personally jaanti hain. She only has to show her reports,’ the highly irritated, and highly irritating receptionist replies. ‘Isiliye Kejriwal rota hai. Everywhere corruption hai ji,’ Verma ji shakes his head. Finally my turn comes at 9:40pm, and exactly 22 seconds later, I emerge with a prescription that  advises: Augmentin 625, do gargles and inhale steam. ‘700 rupees’, the receptionist says. ‘Please give change,’ she adds. “Please change,” I tell her, while dishing out 700 bucks. She doesn’t get the sarcasm.

I don’t really know what calmness tips to give in the situation I described above. By no means can we undermine the importance or value of doctors and the significant role they play in our well being. Having some close friends in the medical profession, I also know the stress and challenges doctors have to face everyday – the biggest one being having to deal with the ‘Internet doctors’ all patients have become these days. We google our symptoms, we google medicine names, we google test reports. This awareness can sometimes be a blessing, but is more often a tool to question a doctor’s advice with cynicism. But that said, the doctors also need to see if the entire experience of visiting them is reducing, or adding stress to their patient’s condition. In this season of manifestos, may I put forward these demands to our doctor friends….

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips when Doctors are the reasons for your stress.[/stextbox]

Please schedule your day in such a way that you reach your clinics on time. An exceptional emergency is perfectly understandable in your profession, but having a room full of sick and already stressed people constantly staring at the clock and sighing, everyday, is not.
Please do not take up more patients than you can practically see, and pay attention to, on any given day. I know this means less money, but it also means getting a life. Reaching home at midnight everyday with stacks of cash still means reaching home to family members who are asleep.

Please fix a separate time during your day, if possible, for pharmaceutical representatives and influential patients who come with sifarish. To a patient who is in a bad condition and waiting for two hours, it isn’t easy to digest another person cutting the queue and breezing in, just because you wanted to oblige someone. They’ll not say it on your face because yours is a noble profession (?) and you are a life saver, but it hurts the respect that should naturally come for you.

Please hire polite and cheerful receptionists. Please.

Sonal Kalra just googled her symptoms and realised that she might be suffering from lymphocercoma of the brain due to changing weather. Please suggest some specialist.

A Calmer You: I am in love with Board Exams

Stand up. Don’t think just stand up. Walk up to the nearest mirror. Look at the face that stares back at you. Does he or she seem like a dimwit moron? No? Then, why does life treat you like one, yaar? Note: All the lazy ones who have now sat down in the washroom to continue reading the paper among, err… other activities, have lost the right to answer this question.

Competition, they say, is one of the foundations on which human race thrives. We need to compete with each other to bring out the best in us, and grow in life. Fair enough. But that sounds like a good, happy reason, while the manifestation of competition in our lives is such that it brings bucketloads of stress and tension from an early age. Ab mujhe hi dekh lo. At such a young age (ha!), I’ve been buried under this stress that my column constantly needs to compete with others, and to prove its worth, it has to focus on — no, not what I want to write about— but topical issues, like board exams, and that too in a ‘positive’ light. Arrey bhaad mein gaye board exams. They used to give me grief several years back, and they are giving me grief even now.

a calmer you column in board exams ki tou calmness tips fight stress

Just realising that my brief is to talk about things in a positive light, I must add that despite the minor irritants of depression, nervous breakdown etc, board exams are indeed a great way to judge our capabilities in life. So much so that human race may just cease to evolve and grow if we didn’t have them.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips To Fight the Stress of Board Examinations[/stextbox]

In fact, I demand that we have board exams every five years in our lives, till we turn 65, after which they could be held every two years, because, you know, life expectancy etc. Why should the pleasure of this life changing concept be restricted to the 17-year-old brats who don’t even value its worth and insult its inherent goodness by endlessly calling helplines to seek psychological counselling. Morons. Here, let me give you psychological counselling.

Do this.
1. Go up to three people you admire in life and ask…. Oye, I don’t mean ‘admire’ in that sense, you idiot. It’s not the Valentine’s Day column, we are talking serious stuff here. You actually deserve to give boards every year. Okay, coming back to the point I was trying to make. Go up to three people you admire and idolize. Could be your parents. Should be your parents.

Ask them to rattle off their subject wise marks in board exams. They wouldn’t know. Some of them may boast of an aggregate percentage etc, in which case you have my sympathies. This is just to tell you a simple fact. To become such a person in life that someone would admire, idolize and might want to emulate — you don’t necessarily need a mark sheet with A1 written in the column on the right.

You just need to be good at who you are. Yes, that A1 helps, it gets you further when it comes to admissions etc and I’m not denying its importance. I’m just denying its status as sole criterion to judge your worth in life. Itna toh banta hai.

2. Stop making a monster out of a simple thing: You have been put through examinations ever since you took admission in school and still used to pee your pants. So what’s so big and bothersome about board exams? It’s just that the question paper has been set centrally and that you have to go to a school other than yours to take them. Achha hai. In your own school, your reputation precedes you. So even if you’ve been behaving the way readers of this column are known to behave in public life, the invigilator at the examination center won’t know and would treat you with respect.

Isn’t that great? And as far as the question paper is concerned, the fact that it’s meant for a wide range of students with varying intelligence levels actually makes it comparatively easier to tackle, as compared to the one being set by a teacher who knows the strengths and weaknesses of the class she’s taught through the year. Think positive.

3. Promise me — whether you are taking board exams or are 58 years old — that you’ll see forward in life and not crib about whatever’s already done and over with. Which means that I strictly forbid you from minutely dissecting the question paper once you’ve given that exam… and trying to compare how you’ve done vis a vis that drama queen in the class who has a crush on the same guy as you.

You know, when God was making the human body, everything was decided after a lot of thought. There’s a reason why we have eyes and hands in the front, and they can’t revolve 180 degrees to turn backwards. Because God always intended us to look ahead. So the physics paper sucked? Well, for once, physics is now history! What’s done is done. Deal with the devils when they confront you, not the ones that reside in your imagination. Based on the marks you ultimately get, sit in peace and figure out options for your future course of action. Trust me, there are plenty of them, for all kinds of results.

Finally, an ode to the creators of the board exams.

Sir, ma’am
— you’ve been great thinkers. We wouldn’t have figured out a way to evolve, had you not come up with this beautiful, well justified, thoroughly proper system, of judging what course a 17-year-old’s life should take. It’s vital to channelise them in this age itself. They wouldn’t have known what to pursue in life, and would have wasted time trying out new things. At least these marks don’t leave them with much choice, hence avoiding confusion.

And of course, competition thrives a society. So in order to identify the stronger ones among us, it’s important that those who are weak at grasping the nuances of certain subjects be handed over a documented proof that they are losers. They should take it in their stride. And surely, you’ve ensured that there are enough helplines for psychological guidance.

Please, do consider my suggestion that we all take board exams through our lives. It’ll be healthy. A humble thank you from me and the 17-year-olds.


Sonal Kalra is fondly remembering her board exam days. Mom would make coffee all night, dad would cancel official tours. The whole family was united in tension. Is yours too?

Why don’t you marry your phone?

Yesterday, my corporate honcho friend, Jayant, went from being super-happy to being super-depressed, in a matter of two hours. And when he came crying to me, I told him it’s his own doing. He’s calling me insensitive but I want you all to tell me if I was right or not.

 Why dont you marry your phone

Yesterday he was all excited about going for lunch with an old friend, a girl he used to have a crush on, in school. They had lost touch over the years and Facebook got them back in contact. Their date began on a great note but soon the girl told him he’s being rude and left the lunch in-between. You know why? Because Jayant-the-stupid was texting on his cellphone the entire time.

‘What’s rude in that? I wasn’t talking on the phone, just exchanging some important messages,’ he asked me. ‘It is definitely not done if a human being around you has to compete for attention with a gadget in your hand,’ I said, knowing well that I, too, suffered from always-checking-the-cellphone-syndrome. But one day of being on the receiving end of this treatment made me realise how it feels when the person you’re talking to, is constantly typing away on his or her mobile.

It could be anyone doing it… your friend, your spouse, your colleague or even your teenaged son/daughter, and they may think that they are attending to something earth-shatteringly important … but you know what, it’s wrong and you should not put up with it.

Things have become worse with Whatsapp or BBM or imsg or some such nonsense that doesn’t even cost anything… or so you think. What it could cost you is your friendship, your relationship… or simply your basic manners.

Here are three ways of dealing with people who have a cellphone surgically attached to their hands:

Set a rule that your meeting with them will be cellphone free. Unless your friend is the Prime Minister of the country or an emergency surgeon, there’s no reason why he/she can’t put the phone in the bag for a little while. Actually, even the Prime Minister can. Cellphones have made it possible for us to stay connected all the time, they haven’t made it necessary that we do.

Constantly exchanging messages with someone remote only shows that that person or email is more important than the real conversation happening in front of you. And if that was true, you would not have been sitting here in front of someone else. And two-timing’s never right, is it?

2 Don’t carry on talking to someone whose eyes (and thumbs) are constantly on the phone. It’s wrong to be wasting your words on a person who may be uploading his dog’s picture on Facebook as you speak. If you stop saying anything, the person is bound to look up and in all probability, will say, ‘Go on, I’m listening.’ Just reply, ‘No it’s okay.

First finish what you are doing as it may be important.’ That usually gets the point across and they put the phone away. You need not be rude to a rude person, and there shouldn’t be any guilt in saying something that’s only logical. Just remember to be clear, not sarcastic.

Pick up your own phone and text the person sitting in front of you, saying something like, ‘Hi, sitting here and waiting for your full attention’. It may seem like a joke but would make them realise that others feel it’s the only way to get their attention and how that’s just not right, or acceptable. A final word to those addicted to texting or checking their cellphones all the time. I know you are itching to say that it’s necessary and you do it only because there are important work-related mails or messages to answer, which can’t wait.

Remember that this is how all addictions begin. We start out by replying to crucial messages and soon it becomes a habit for us to attend to everything on our phone instantly… even if it means forwarding a joke while you’re having a meal or a conversation with a friend who may feel ignored. And remember, the phone companies have a vested interest in giving the facility of typing out multiple messages in one go, but that should not make you forget that the very definition of SMS is Short Message Service, while we end up typing essays on our phone.

This time when you go out with friend, try ditching the phone instead of ditching human beings around you. Believe me it feels good.

Sonal Kalra will no longer be called ‘Phonal Kalra’, after this piece. She will make sure she texts this link to all her friends throughout the day.

A Calmer You Column. Witty calmness tips by Sonal Kalra to deal with daily stress.