Category Archives: A Calmer You Column

A Calmer You: Valentine’s Day ke side effects!

Love it or hate it…celebrate it or sulk in a corner, this luv-shuv and V-Day tamasha can have only one outcome. Ask me! It’s that time of the year again. You are either gloating with mush about celebrating love or shaking your head @10 times an hour about what a tamasha western concepts like Valentine’s Day have made our lives to be.

A Calmer You Valentine’s Day ke side effects

You are either checking out gifting ideas which are, le de kar, limited to chocolates or teddy bears or getting blue in the face telling the world that all 365 days, and not just one, are meant for love.

Whatever it is, my funda is simple- it’s gonna bring stress in the end. Don’t believe me? Take the test and see for yourself.

Sonal Kalra is too mature and evolved to buy herself a teddy bear on 14th February. So only heart-shaped balloons would do. 

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A Calmer You: Kisi ke paas charger hai?

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I know what some Einsteins among you must be thinking right now. Cell phone toh likha nahi, charger likh diya. Hai nah? Bolo, bolo. Look at my photo above. Bewakoof lagti hoon? Some things in life are understood yaar. Phone toh hai hi by default, but tell me, hand on heart, how many of you get stressed about how much charge your cellphone battery has or doesn’t, several times during the day. So many nah? That’s why a charger has rightfully made it to the list of our basic needs. And when there is need, there is also stress if it doesn’t get met.

A Calmer You Kisi ke paas charger hai

 Aur charger na hone ka stress toh khatarnaak hai. The same desperation and frequency with which you hear shout-outs in the college or office saying, ‘So who’s coming to the loo?’ can be now sensed when you hear ‘kisi ke paas iPhone ka charger hai?’. Earlier the good’ol traffic signal vendors would sell the humble cotton candy, now they sell phone chargers of all sizes. Vaise this size bit reminds me, what an unfair thing by the telecom ­companies that they can spend ­millions on launching newer, sleeker phone models but can’t come up with the option of using the same charger on every make, every model of a cell phone.

This half-eaten Apple wala company is the worst tease. They changed the charger slot itself when they moved from iPhone4 to iPhone5. Such an ­encouragement for the ­show-offs… where you’d earlier say, ‘does anyone have an iPhone charger’, now you have to declare in a shamelessly capitalistic way that you need a ‘chhota pin wala iPhone 5 charger’. Imagine the extent to which universal ­brotherhood would have got a boost if, along with caste, creed and colour, we all could shed our Nokia, Samsung, Blackberry, iPhone, Micromax biases and use the same charger for phones whether they cost 2K or 50K.

I think I’m the only one who is thinking of patriotism at this high level on Republic Day, no? Aap log toh baithe hoge rajai mein, with five different phones in the family, plugged with five different kind of chargers on the switch board. Sigh. Anyway, this whole charger obsession also made me observe a few varied…and weird kinds of behaviour some people display when it comes to feeding their phone ­batteries. Let’s analyse these breeds…

The charge hunters: For these people, the biggest quest doesn’t relate to finding the true meaning of life, it begins and ends at finding a point to plug in their phone charger. They’ll check into a hotel for a vacation, and before keeping the luggage down, would hunt down the charging point and plug in their phone. All the souls ­wandering around an airport lounge, looking highly confused and lost, are also the ones not looking for their boarding gate, but for a phone charging point. Whether in the office of the ­college canteen, or in their fancy cars, their phone would be plugged to the wall, much like a leashed and tied dog, and I’m sure, cursing its owner in ­telecom language. These people are so obsessed that their phone battery should be fully charged all the time, that the besharam of the lot would not even think twice before removing someone else’s phone getting charged and plugging in their own. The ­identifying traits of this breed – 100% phone battery… and high blood pressure.

The charge-less: This is the other end of the rainbow. These people do not wake up to the hunger pangs and cries of their phone battery till the charge reaches 1%, or passes away. Their friends and family are by now are used to listening to the ‘The number you are ­trying to reach has been switched off’ message in the beautiful voice of Airtel or Vodafone ­aunties. Their wives and girlfriends and bosses shout at them everyday, but somehow they can’t remember to carry the phone charger. Identifying traits – 0% phone battery… and high blood pressure.

The charge savers: Yeh intelligent log hainPadhe likhe…with too much time at hand to read up on the various ways you can save your phone battery. They’ll be too happy to give you tips on how to increase ­battery life. If they are close to you, they might just snatch your phone and switch off some background applications so that your battery gets more life. They are the same people who are always ready with ­naturopathy cures for all your diseases and tell you to eat healthy and exercise everyday. They are also savvy enough to save their hard earned money in buying phone covers that come in-built with extra batteries, and portable battery backups. Identifying traits – two batteries for every phone… 0% blood ­pressure problems.

The charge ­borrowers: Shameless morons who are either too ­kanjoos to buy their own ­chargers or too forgetful to bring them from home. So they are always seen begging for a ­charger. Banks should come up for easy ­instalment schemes for this breed. I also proudly sit in this category and my work day begins with bowing my head down before a Ganpati idol in my office, followed by a ‘kisi ke paas charger hai?’ query. During appraisal times, my query is ­­­met with a prompt and willing response by my team, but in other months, I can hear them mutter ‘Apna kyun nahi laati?’ under their breath. Samarth, the music editor in my team curses the day he and I ended up buying the same phone models… now he hands over the charger as soon as I reach, without me even ­asking for it. AND cries helplessly when I sometimes even take it home with me. Identifying traits: Blood pressure problems – Borrower 0%, lender 100%!

So which breed are you? Dekho whatever it is, some stress about charger stays… right? Join me in this cause to promote national integration and harmony by demanding a universal phone charger. Modi or Rahul or Kejriwal or anyone else – whoever makes it their first manifesto promise is getting my vote. Yours?

Sonal Kalra just cleaned up her drawers and found 7 phone ­chargers. None of it works with her current cell phone. Is Red Cross interested in a donation?

A Calmer You: can I have a tissue, please?

A Calmer You disclaimer: Before I begin, let me inform you that I’m a clean person, lest this write-up gives you a wrong impression. I brush my teeth daily and try to take a bath on most days. However, I continue to suffer from a phobia of those who have a phobia of germs

I know a woman who says, ‘can I have a tissue, please?’ every 30 seconds. No seriously, I do. Fine, the 30 sec bit is an exaggeration but she does it every thirty minutes and THAT is not a lie. Sometimes I think of telling her that by using, and discarding, so many tissues around her, she may be facilitating the formation of a germ country in her surroundings but I fear she’ll give me a dirty look. I’ve nothing against the poor tissues — they are a good invention, though I continue to lament the death of good ol’ cloth ‘hankies’. They were pretty and had so many emotions attached. Somehow, it doesn’t have quite the same ring to say, ‘he handed a tissue paper to his crying girlfriend’. Khair jaane do. I feel that as we have got more progressive with the changing times, we’ve also got more paranoid and fussy about our surroundings.

A Calmer You can I have a tissue, please

And let’s be clear, I’m not referring to those who unfortunately suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is a recognised medical condition and must be treated by qualified medical professionals. I’m talking about the rest of us who’ve formed certain rules and restrictions — with or without any basis — in our minds. And they keep up from enjoying life to the fullest, because we’re stressed about complying with these self-created rules.

Let’s take a look at what these myths make us:

1  The neat freaks: You would surely find one such person in your close surroundings — it could be your mom who begins her day by telling you how your room resembles a war-torn city and that your cupboard is fit for newly wed rats to start a family. Maybe it is. But the frequency with which you are reminded about it could drive you to the wall. And it’s dreadful if she decides to clean it herself, even though your porn collection is safely locked away.

It could be your hostel roommate who scoffs every time you leave your towel on the bed. It could be a nagging spouse who wants his/her things stacked at 36 degree angle, spick and span. It could even be a friend, a visit to whose house could give you a heart attack inducing complex, because clothes are arranged as per colours and books on the rack are in an alphabetical order. These people have a method to their life and I truly admire them for it. As long as they accept that there’s a also method in the chaos of other peoples’ life, who are not as organised as them.

My desk may still have unanswered official letters dated 2008 but I manage to find whatever I’m looking for, amidst that madness. And I certainly won’t take too kindly to anyone who will try to forcibly try and remove the much-loved dust on my table. I may have an important phone number written on the dust with my finger and you can’t just cruelly wipe it away. My point is simple. We all have our own definitions and degrees of cleanliness. Don’t impose yours on mine, and there’ll be lesser scope of stress for both of us.

2. The fussy eaters: These people will not enjoy the good things in life, and they will not let you do it either. The thought of street food gives them a stroke and you may find them ‘trying’ to enjoy gol gappas in a fancy restaurant where the waiter wears white gloves and calls them ‘puchkis’, with an accent.

Well, I’m sorry for you, really. It’s not that I want to die of cholera after drinking unfiltered water from a drain, but then I don’t think the excellent tea that the roadside chaiwalla serves in a small glass has the potential to kill me. The germs may just think of me as a friendlier person and refrain from attacking me.

The tip is simple, again. Set your own standards in terms of what you want to eat, and where from. But don’t deny anyone else the pleasure and right of exercising their choice. Also don’t put needless fear in their minds by narrating stories of how you suffered from loose motions the last time you ate at a dhaba. It may well have been because of the meal you ate at a five star hotel the previous night, when the waiter spat into your food because you were making his life hell over how the daal was at 1.37 degrees colder.

3. I-will-burst-but-I-won’t-pee gang: When God made an organ in our bodies called the urinary bladder, He didn’t know some people will make it a mission of their life to torture it endlessly.

These are people who have problem attending to the nature’s call unless they happen to be near their own toilets that are washed with dettol every hour and have hand sanitisers. These people will go to extra length to stick ‘leave the seat dry and up’ kinda notes in office/college loos, but they’ll avoid using the same rest rooms. They flush with their elbows and touch the door knob only with 20 meters of toilet paper or tissues in hand. Actually, to be honest, I don’t blame them. Because it is a fact that public toilets in our country are usually in a sad state and are the biggest source of infection, because of those who don’t follow the most basic hygiene practices. But if you will squirm uncomfortably in your seat the entire length of a movie but won’t visit the cinema hall’s rest room, you need to re-think about your paranoia levels.

The final word: Live and let live. Cleanliness is a way of life and that’s undisputable. Just don’t turn it into a stress monster. Go out and have gol gappas. I promise you won’t die. Just a little food poisoning, that’s it.

Sonal Kalra has taken a pledge to clean her office desk, definitely before the next New Year.

A Calmer You: Hey Zuckerberg, get some sanskaar!!

The other day Mark Zuckerberg wrote to me. Arrey, had hai. Why are you rolling your eyes? Did I object when so many of you gloated about the call you got on your phone from Arvind Kejriwal? Did I? I toh don’t ­interact with anyone less than ­international celebrities. Anyway, bechara Zuckerberg pareshaan tha. Apparently for the first time since it started in 2004, Facebook’s popularity has reduced in the last few months. I wrote a long email to him, telling him that with a surname that resembles an iceberg, he should just chill about these ups and downs. Due to some technical fault, my response mail has bounced back saying ‘you can’t respond to an auto-generated message’ but what the heck. Apni garaj hai toh phone kar lega woh mujheMera toh, you see, daily contact hai aise logon se, just that I don’t have the habit of flaunting my contacts. Anyway, till I speak with him, I thought of writing some suggestions over here so that his CEO etc who are regular readers of this column can convey the tips to him.

A Calmer You - Hey Zuckerberg, get some sanskaar

Vaise, in my view, Facebook’s popularity has not come down one bit. Mujhe toh ab bhi agar mere office mein koi apni seat pe kaam karta hua nahi milta, toh Facebook pe mil jaata hai. But, yeah, it has become a tad boring, simply because it pushes a user to only be good. Ab for how long can you keep making friends and ‘liking’ peoples’ statuses? In the name of equally valid values like irritation and meanness, Facebook has few things – one of which, of course, is the ­obnoxious ability to be able to ‘poke’ people. It is my resolve that when Zuckerberg comes ­visiting me someday, I will take him to Shimla and ‘poke’ him when he’s standing at the edge of a cliff. Anyway, so all else is goody two shoes and I’m sure people are getting tired of being so sanskaari. So, here are a few new buttons, apart from ‘like’ and ‘comment’, that I propose Facebook introduces. Tell me if you think they make sense, then I will call Zuki and tell him…

1. One tight slap (OTS) BUTTON: Why should I only ‘like’ your status, or keep quiet if I think you are being the moron that you are, by posting ‘Ohh…it’s so cold’ 27th time in the month of ­December. I would like to tell you explicitly about the ­emotions your status is generating inside me, when you post a senti status, and order me to share it with minimum ten friends. Or when you insist on posting a photo of every activity your two-year-old does – sleeping, eating, dancing, doing potty…everything. I demand a OTS button, right next to the ‘like’ one. Maybe it could be avoided on exceptional pages, like Zuki’s own, Obama’s, Poonam Pandey’s or Fans of Sonal Kalra. Wahan toh koi sense nahi banegi, but in all other cases, it is a must. Enough of ­liking everything.

2. Lapeto BUTTON: How about having a ‘lapeto’ button for all the status updates that show-off more than Rakhi Sawant and Veena Malik ­collectively did, in their entire career. Kuchh log itni lambi chhodte hain … Sheikh Chilli would also get embarrassed. I bet, they wouldn’t even hesitate before calling Mark Zuckerberg their friend. Idiots. Pics of international vacations, pics of rocking parties, pics with ­filmstars, there’s no end to flaunting. By the way, if any of my FB friends is reading this, do know that my account has been hacked several times in the recent past. I’m ­getting the IT department to investigate. Otherwise, kahan mein, kahan show-off.

Anyway, if your friend can pray to God and look like Salman Khan in his DP, while looking like Paresh Rawal in real life, then you can pray for lapeto ­button to vent your feelings. No?

3. Stolen from where BUTTON?: Aam aadmi party should take this up, at Ramlila Maidan. Chori ke Facebook status pe ­minimum three years imprisonment, without access to Facebook, in jail. Sabse pehle mein hi andar jaaoongi but then I don’t fear ­sacrificing for a noble cause. No one has made better use of the copy-paste feature invented by my mamaji, Lawrence Gordon Tesler, than Facebook users. No wonder you find your friend Javed Chikna who can’t speak proper grammar to save his life, suddenly put up an insightful status of 250 words in such perfect English that even Prince Charles will have to use a dictionary. If only there was a ‘kahan se chepa?’ button under such status updates, at least you wouldn’t see seven friends on your timeline come up with the exact same joke. Am I right or right? Tell me.

4. Aashirwaad BUTTON: After ­suggesting such mean ­buttons above, the Alok Nath in me has suddenly woken up with a thunder. Getting back to ­sanskaars, I propose an ­‘aashirwaad’ button under a ­status. You see, of late, parents ki poori generation ne dhaava bol diya hai Facebook pe. Ideally, someone in the FB technical team should have had the sense to invent a feature where the ­computer would automatically detect a parent, grand parent, chachaji, buaji, mamaji etc and disable their option to send a friend request to the helpless youngsters in their family.

But woh toh kiya nahi, and now ­people are stuck. Because, being sanskaari, and also ­realising that pocket money gets into danger if dad’s friend request is not accepted, bechaare bachchey end up adding them. The elders are also overwhelmed at seeing that the same Pappu who gets 39 out of 100 in English, puts up William Shakespeare’s quotes on Facebook. So for such emotionally touched generation, there should be something better than the silly ‘like’. For them, we should have the ‘aashirwaad’ ­button. Technical glitches may just see a ‘sloshed after 3 tequila shots’ status from Priya Kumari get an aashirwaad from mummy ji, but then errorskahan nahi hote. Go for it!

5. Finally, I demand a button that, by some magic, removes the ‘likes’ on someone else’s ­status. Of course we’ll use it ­judiciously, we are sanskaari. Because you see, itne jhoothe likes hote hain kuchh log ke ­status pe. PS: If a thought about the likes on my FB statuses even remotely crossed your mind just now, remember that there is God up above and my friend Zuki down on this earth, and both will curse you. Haan, toh these jhoothelikes happen because some people have the disease of liking just about anything. Go on, test it. Post ‘dying of constipation for the past 3 days’. If you are not a serial killer with no friends, I guarantee you a ­minimum of five likes before you visit the loo for your next attempt. Oh Facebook, give us the power to take away at least such ­embarrassing ‘likes’ down. We’ll not misuse power. We have sanskaars. And now we have Kejriwal.

Sonal Kalra has suddenly realised that this column will be suicidal for her FB page’s ­popularity. Will Zuki get that it’s a joke? Implement toh nahi kar dega nah?

A Calmer You – here’s a resolution: let us gossip

The secret formula for a stress-free, long life is now revealed.

In January 2011, I had written a column about making a resolution that I shall not indulge in gossip. In January 2014, I want to slap myself for it. Nasht ho gayi zindagi in teen saal mein, saara mazaa hi chala gaya lifese. Of course, aspiring to have good values was the intent, but I never bargained for turning into Alok Nath! And on top of this self-invited boredom, I also compromised on my longevity, you see. Because as a recent study by the University of Michigan says in its report — which by the way I have framed and light agarbattis before, every morning — people, especially women, who gossip, live longer. Gossiping apparently elevates levels of progesterone; a hormone that reduces stress and makes you feels good.

Kya baat hai, University of Michigan, pehli baar koi interesting teer maara hai. Now, you see, whether I like it or not, I would have to gossip in the interest of science and research.  And humanity. And divinity.  And while on this trip, my mind has figured out some valid benefits of gossiping. But woh batane se pehle let me break my fast and tell you what I overheard coming from Chaddha ji’s house this morning. His daughter Bansuri was playing, I mean wailing. Not that it’s new, she’s been crying about pretty much everything ever since she turned a teenager. But she was crying out rather loud, so purely out of concern and sympathy (ha,ha), I went out to the balcony and heard this…

Bansuri: Daddy jiii, yeh dress poori nahi aa rahiA Calmer You - here’s a resolution let us gossip
Chadda ji: Dress toh wahi hai,  tum poori nahi aa rahi hogi
Bansuri: Mummy jiii, daddy ji mazaak udaa rahe hain
Mrs Chaddha: Inse kaho pehle apne shaadi waale suit mein poore aa ke dikhaayein
Chaddha ji: Us manhoos suit ko toh meine 10saal pehle lohri mein jalaa diya thaa
Mrs Chaddha: #$%^&**Y%#@

Phew! Thank God I could tell someone all this. If you have neighbours like the Chaddhas, AND you have the permission from University of Michigan to gossip, why would stress anyway come near you. Haan? So here’s why I think that research would have allowed us this oldest pleasure known to mankind…

1 Law of diminishing hatred:  You see, the moment you gossip about someone, pangs of guilt overtake your mind. I’m not referring to the typical readers of this column, but this happens at least with most normal, good people.

That guilt suddenly makes you want to be all nice to the victim of your gossip. So without that person even knowing the reason for it, you go out of your way to be good to him/her. Dekha? The devi of gossip actually enhances goodness and bonding between people. Jai ho.

2 It is social work, in disguise: Gossiping about someone else’s bad behaviour is simply your way of warning everyone else about it. Toh aap toh charity kar rahe ho. Isn’t that supposed to be a noble thing? The other day two girls at work were gossiping about the behaviour of the office  Casanova. Since I was Alok Nath at that time, I immediately went up to lecture them about the sanskaar of not gossiping, but before I could say something, a third girl who was overhearing them, also joined in and they realised that Mr Casanova had used the same pick up line on all three, pretending to be only interested in them. Bas! Girls safe and happy, Alok Nath ji chup.

3 Six degrees of separation: Whether you like it or not, gossiping is perhaps the best way to discover people who are exactly like you. Lifelong rishtey ban jaate hain ji, over gossip sessions. We all outwardly take a stand that we hate gossip mongers, but deep inside we know the thrill of being able to high-five a person whose mean-ness levels are exactly the same as ours. A person at work who is my gossip partner would know exactly what I mean. And you know what, people who gossip also have to be creative. Because you can’t excel at gossiping unless it’s told in an entertaining way. Mehnat lagti hai, talent bhi lagta hai, koi mazaak hai? Denouncing an activity that stimulates the mind at so many different levels is sacrilege.

Ab thoda serious ho jayein, just for a minute? See, I wrote all of this in good faith towards your sensibilities and intelligence. I hope you know the difference between malicious backbiting and relatively harmless, idle chatter. It’s easy to act Puritans and deny it, but I can bet my AAP jhaadu that there’s not even a single person who hasn’t done the latter, at some or the other time. I’m only asking for an admission of the truth here, as long as we are aware of our boundaries.

Spreading false rumours about someone with an intent to harm his or her reputation is not gossip, it is sin. The thumb rule that I apply to myself is simple.

I imagine a situation where the person I’m gossiping about, turns out to be standing behind me when I’m speaking. If I can still say the same thing about them playfully to their face, I’m doing okay. Don’t ever say anything behind a person’s back, that, if the need or situation be, you can’t repeat in front of them. And, finally, to the victims of harmful gossip. Dekho yaar, there’ll always be people in life who would love to see you fail, simply because they didn’t succeed. They’ll keep talking behind your back, but you’ve got to realise that they are ‘behind’ you for a reason.

Here’s a random, confusing, but golden advice, a la Chaddha ji — ‘Agar aap hi har waqt yeh sochenge ki log kya sochenge, toh phir log kya sochenge?’

Sonal Kalra is wondering if all the sweetness and goodness in trying to be Alok Nath, gave her diabetes. How will she handle a very long life now?

A Calmer You: how about turning NOYB-sexual?

Not hetero, not homo, let’s all become none-of-your-business sexual.

I was aimlessly roaming about in Khan Market one evening a couple of weeks back, when two young boys called out to me. ‘Are you Sonal Kalra?’ one of them asked. When I nodded, he said, ‘We regularly read your column. And specially wanted to thank you on behalf of our friend, on whose request you wrote a column on gays around two years ago. It changed his life forever.’ They were referring to.

A Calmer You how about turning NOYB-sexualA Calmer You piece I wrote on December 3, 2011, titled ‘So your friend is gay? Big deal’. I was left very humbled that day. You see, what I write each week in this column is neither intelligent, nor important enough to change lives. Most weeks in this space, you and I laugh about inane stuff and needless, day-to-day stresses. For it to change someone’s life can at best be by fluke, so I was mighty pleased.

Also what impressed me was the confidence with which those two boys referred to their gay friend, quite in contrast to a few years back when the volume and tone of most people would subconsciously go a few notches down on switching to the topic of homosexuality. Today, as I  write this piece in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that seems to go against the freedom and rights of gays, I feel terribly sad and sorry for that confidence. I’m sure the newspapers today are, as they have been this past week, full of intelligent, in-depth analysis against or in favour of the court ruling. I consider myself not qualified or capable enough to fully understand or decode the background or implications of the heavy duty legal terminology these laws and judgments entail. What bother me, however, are the following few questions that stress me, even as a layperson.  Do they stress you too?

 1. what’s wrong with our priorities?:  If we had been a country like Denmark or Switzerland, where the crime rates are the lowest in the world, I would have still understood the need for people to focus their energies on making laws that govern the future of human evolution. Like who will sleep with whom and whether that is amenable or detrimental to the society at large. We, my dear countrymen, belong to a nation where crimes of all nature  — some way more grave than choosing a wrong gender to express love — are rampant.

How about spending our energies in filing petitions, making laws, enforcing guidelines etc on those, so that we can aaraam se someday reach a stage where we can afford to have drawing room debates about whether guys should sleep with guys. I would hate for someone to get me wrong here and think that this is undermining the importance of such issues. Oh Puhleez, you’ve got to admit that neither homosexuals nor heterosexuals should want  — or can afford —  too much focus on issues of such personal nature at the cost of problems that affect all of us equally, like corruption, for instance. How about getting our priorities right, people?

2. what’s the obsession with sexuality, anyway?: Even though sociologists, anthropologists, criminologists and all other
kind of gists may want to kill me for trivialising this, but I’m sorry I fail to understand our never-ending interest in dictating something as private as sexuality. Whether it is homosexuals or heterosexuals, whether it is Khap Panchayats telling girls and boys of same gotra to not marry, or religious panels telling people of the same gender to not fall in love — we just seem too interested in passing guidelines about what should or shouldn’t go on in peoples’ bedrooms. Everyone seems to have turned guardian to something — traditions, religion, morality… even rights. I think valid concerns about these things should begin from the point when someone’s sexual behaviour takes even the slightest tones of being criminal or exploitative in nature. Two consenting adults, whether gay or straight, do not need your attention unless they pose a threat or harm to anyone by what they are doing. For once, can we try changing from heterosexual or homosexual to none-of-your-business-sexual (NOYBsexual)? I’m telling you, life would be so more peaceful.

3. can we drop the aggression please?:  I know this is the age of much-needed activism and God bless the change that our country is finally waking up to, but I for one am, frankly, tired of being angry. In the past few years, our collective blood pressure as a nation would have certainly gone up by a few significant points.

We are JUST. SO. ANGRY all the time. Thankfully, in a lot of issues, this anger is being channelised effectively to bring about systemic changes and reforms, but a lot of this anger is also simply spilling over the brim, turning us into generic aggrieved parties. Aggrieved about scams, aggrieved about crimes, aggrieved about system failure, aggrieved about lack of rights — like maniacs we shift our focus from one anger point to another, depending upon what topic the hyper aggressive TV debates or screaming headlines of the newspapers have chosen for you on that day.

You know how a lot of you loved watching Amitabh Bachchan as an angry young man in Deewar a few decades back? He brought forth a fresh wave of anger, which jolted a seemingly repressed society from its slumber. Now imagine having to watch the same, highly relatable, angry young man, over and over again in 30 films back to back. Zyada ho jayega nah? Jab Sunny Deol Gadar mein gussey se handpump ukhaadta hai, we all whistle and clap. If he starts to pull out handpumps in all films, our claps would go on
our foreheads. That’s what’s happening right now. Don’t go overboard in harbouring and fuelling so much stress and anger in yourself over every issue that you forget to look at small, happy things that also make up your life. Society toh chalti rahegi, but each one of us has finite number of years to live. By all means take up causes and fight for them with all the passion, but don’t forget that you owe it to yourself to consciously be a healthy blend of joyful and angry, not just the latter. Stress will anyway come on its own, happiness ko thoda dhoondna padta hai. Go look for yours today. It’ll be worth it.

Sonal Kalra feels strongly about gay rights. She also feels strongly about everyone’s right to be gay …and happy

A Calmer You: Mujhe arranged marriage se bachao!

Are you too desperate to fall in love, for the wrong reasons? The wedding season is upon us. And brings with it a truck load of stress, as always. I toh anyway firmly come from the shaadi is barbaadi public school but I recently realized what a tension a wedding can be, for the bride or groom’s single friends. ‘The moment your best friend gets hitched, the pressure on you to get married too, starts to mount,’ said Minakshi from my team yesterday. ‘And because you don’t want to give in to the pressure and agree to an arranged marriage, the stress of falling in love quickly takes over,’ added Neha. ‘The stress of falling in love? I thought love happened to people on its own, in fact, far too soon these days, ‘I said, and they both laughed, before rolling their eyes in a very ‘oh-we-are-stuck-with-an-imbecile-cavewoman-as-a-boss’ kinda way.

 arranged-marriage

My hesitant queries on this subject to my own younger cousins eventually told me how right Minakshi and Neha were. So one has to try really hard to make love happen these days, varna ghar waale pakad ke arranged marriage kar dete hain. I wondered if this desperation to escape the possibility of being tied to a virtual stranger for life, is also making people get into relationships without too much thought. A mail from a 24-year-old girl from Indore, who didn’t wish to be named, cleared all my doubts. ‘We are a group of four close friends. All the three, apart from me, have either got married or engaged. Mom does nothing else these days but remind me that good rishtey won’t come if it gets too late. My parents are broad minded enough and asked me if I like someone. Now there is a guy in office who I somewhat like. I’m not 100 percent sure if he’s perfect for me but he’ll be better than someone totally unknown. Shall I quickly do friendship with him?’ Well, I don’t know, girl from Indore. Seems like we are deciding on buying a dress or something. Anyway, it’s much easier for me to give you gyan, than for you to go through this stress daily. But, then gyan is all I have right now and it may just make sense to you. Please remember….

1. People don’t want to be with a desperate drama case: The more hurry you are in to get out of the ‘single’ status, the more you’ll ward off the right kind of people. Because whatever said and done, desperation shows. Coming on too strongly can intimidate, scare or simply put people off. And frankly, why should someone else make such an important decision in a hurry only because there’s pressure at your home to get married? It’s a question of their life too, equally. Isn’t it? Don’t put someone else’s — and your own future happiness at stake out of sheer desperation. All that a good decision ever wants in life, is time and thought. Give it both.

2. It’s too old fashioned to think you are too old: There used to be a time some decades back when marriage would start to get discussed at home when a girl or guy would turn 20. Elderly women, with a grim expression, would also declare from time to time that ‘the family must be complete by 30 years of age,’ whatever that meant. Now, that mindset has thankfully gone from at least the educated middle class, and so should the stress. Of course there’s always an ideal age to settle down, both from a biological view point and otherwise, but that notion of an ideal age can no longer be a sword hanging on a person’s head. If the choice is between marrying the right person and marrying at the ‘right’ age, and you go for the latter only to gain short-term peace of mind, let me slap you right now. Because life will, later.

3. Single doesn’t always mean sad, just as relationship doesn’t always mean happy: Kisi married bande se jaakar poochho, you’ll get the right gyan about what rushing into commitment does to peoples’ sanity. But then you won’t understand it, because all you can see around you, when you are single, is happy couples. Just remember that when they are done flaunting their ‘committed’ status, all they see around them, are happy singles. That’s the irony of human mind. Your happiness, whether you have a Mrs or Miss in front of your name, will only come from your own thoughts. If you’ve consciously chosen to be happy, the presence or absence of a girlfriend or boyfriend can only add value to it. It can’t be the basis of it. It just doesn’t work that way.

4. It’s your life…not theirs. One wrong choice and you’ll be stuck, not them: When I say ‘them’, I mean everyone, right from relatives to friends to even those who have proposed to you and waiting for you to say yes. None of them can, or should, influence your decision to get married. The voice, about the right time and the right person, has to come from within you. Whether it is getting into a hurried relationship to avoid an arranged marriage, or saying yes to an arranged match only because all your friends have
settled down, it’s finally your life that’s going to suffer. And your partner’s too. No relative will then own up to the responsibility of pushing you into an unhappy state. And even if they did, it wouldn’t change a thing. Take your time before you take the plunge. Even if it means taking forever. Staying single is not the end of life. It’s just another way of living a beautiful life, if you are peace, and in love with yourself. Anyway, whether you are married, unmarried, committed or single, there’ll always be some people who’ll envy you, and some who’ll thank God they are not in your place.That’s just how it is.

Sonal Kalra will someday open an ashram where only two kinds of people will be allowed. Happy married. And happily unmarried. No entry for negativity.

A Calmer You: change your password. Right now!

Errr… may I please keep it as password123? Just this one time? “Ma’am, please try to remember,” said the IT guy, adjusting his nerdy glasses. He looked as frustrated as the class teacher of a child who, despite being paid special attention through the year, has failed yet again in the exam. I stared back at him, not knowing what to say. ‘Ek baar try the same with the first letter uppercase,’ I mumbled. He keyed it in, shook his head, and looked around hopelessly.  ‘You had only asked me to keep changing the password,’ I chided.

A Calmer You change your password. Right now
“Yes, because it’s good for security. But, I had also asked you to ‘remember’ the new password,” he snapped back. A colleague, who has recently joined and was clearly unaware of the extent of my hopelessness when it comes to such things, intervened: ‘Why don’t you use the ‘forgotten password’ option?’ The IT geek growled back with the pent up frustration of not getting enough sleep all through his four years in the engineering college, “That is what we are trying. She does NOT remember the answer to the forgotten password question!” The colleague looked at me incredulously, the IT guy hopelessly, while I stared at the computer screen, shamelessly. ‘You see, the answer to the forgotten password question is supposed to be the name of my pet. Now, I had pets of various breeds and kinds in different periods of my life. Then there was the neighborhood cat that was technically not my pet but I had kinda adopted her, and named her. She used to come for milk every evening,’ I started and the emotionless descendant of Bill Gates hastily got up. “ma’am, I’m going. Had this been our internal server, I would have retrieved the password. Please talk to customer care.” The colleague fled too. And I was left with the screen that said, “Sorry, the user id/password is wrong”. ‘At least tell me which one of the two is wrong,’ I wanted to cry out. But, what’s the point? This is all done for ‘security’. Well, I am secure. So secure that even I can’t access my account anymore. And so, so sick of passwords. I know by now you think I’ve lost it, but please meri baat suno. I’m sure there are at least some people reading this who have the same disorder of not being able to remember passwords. And our suffering is compounded a thousand times by the so called ‘security regulations’. Now sample this:

1. The password can’t be too simple. It can’t be too short. It can’t be too similar to the user id. It can’t be too similar to the old password. It can’t be just letters of the alphabet. Basically as rightly put by some victim of this security torture, your password must be combination of  ‘at least 11 upper-lowercase letters, a numeral, a special character, lyrics of a Himesh Reshammiya song, the first letter of the surname of your maid, the tail of a lizard, a zero to signify your loser status and the blood of a virgin.’ Phew! I sometimes wonder if I’d secretly prefer my account getting hacked.

2.  In order to let the IT guys sleep peacefully at night and catch up for all the rest lost while formulating policies, the password needs to be changed often, sometimes as often as some people I know take bath. Kya yaar, at least let me be the one to decide if I want to change it. What if I’m secretly in love with my password and never want to change it? Don’t stop me from accessing my bloody account. There are anyway hardly any secrets in there. Heck, if I could remember secrets, I would remember passwords.

3. The passwords need to be different for different accounts and services. Fair enough. But this leaves me with the requirement of two dozen freakin’ passwords, all conforming to the above regulations. Clearing job interviews has been easier. Thinking of complicated passwords is, well, complicated.

4. Some people (read I) are so, well, innocent, that they don’t know the answers to the trick questions to retrieve forgotten passwords. What if I don’t have a favourite movie? What if I didn’t have a pet? What if I don’t know my mother’s maiden name? What if my mother never married? I’m getting into a depression here, do you see? To make matters worse, the retrieved password is sent to the email. And what is needed to access that? You got it! ‘A combination of 11 letters, a numeral, special character, blah, blah and blah’.

5. Because it is important to ensure that it is a human being and not a metal-hearted robot trying to retrieve the password, I am also expected to read a passcode phrase and type it back, as it is. Except that some sadist who hated humankind devised the most illegible font for that phrase. Not only do I have to tilt my head to unimaginable degrees to read it, every effort has been made to ensure that the letters look so grainy that your eyesight goes for a toss in trying to tell a ‘o’ from a ‘e’. Check this out. Ha ha.

6. Some genius in a business suit also once warned me that I should never, ever write my password anywhere. Because that’s the easiest way for it to get stolen. Toh phir suno, tie waale bhai, that if I die, no loved one will be able to get access to the wealth I have generated all these years. In fact, I myself will not be able to use my own wealth soon, because my bank has recently written to me congratulating  me, and themselves, for having completely shifted to e-banking. No cutting of trees any longer to make cheque books and print statements. Now everything will be electronic. With ‘three tier robust security ensured by encryption and several password layers’. I fainted.

Sonal Kalra swears she can listen her computer going ‘bwaaaahaaa’ every time she enters a password. Which psychiatrist will take up her case? Will she need a password to pay?

A Calmer You: Yahan toh baat mat karo, please!

A meaningful guide to avoiding meaningless conversation. Last kab karwaya thaa?’, she asked. I closed my eyes tighter, pretending I didn’t hear her, but I knew she’d repeat the question before 10 seconds passed. She did.

I mumbled ‘last month’, though I was so tempted to say ‘Kal hi karwaya thaa. Roz nahi karwaana chahiye?’ to the girl who was doing my pedicure. But that would have prolonged a needless conversation. Needless, yes, that is the word. I guess the staff at beauty salons and spas are told to strike a conversation with the clients so that the latter don’t get bored but what they are not taught is when not to start a conversation. In fact, ‘when not to strike a conversation’ is a question most of us would fail to answer.

A Calmer You Yahan toh baat mat karo, please

In a way, it’s a very sweet thing that we Indians are people-friendly, unlike the West, where people refuse to acknowledge even the next door neighbours. But then sometimes we take this friendly nature too far. Just as in a spa when all that one would want is peaceful silence, there are so many other situations where small talk is not welcome. But most people just don’t get it. Minakshi from my team, who travels by the metro, says she hates it when after a hectic day, the moment she sits in the train for her journey back home and begins to relax, some stranger decides to dive into a Modi Vs Rahul Gandhi debate.

Chalo that’s still topical and shows we care about who’s gonna lead us, but then people insist on discussing everything, right from the weather to the next episode of Bigg Boss — especially with the person who is visibly reluctant to talk. ‘The worst is when someone decides to ask personal questions,’ adds Navdeep, who recently got married and sports a ‘chooda’, narrating how she gets free advice to ‘deal with the in-laws’ in the metro, when she had never asked for it. Well, I am of a rather talkative nature and think of small talk as a good way to pass the time, but then I do see a point in what these girls said. More than what is being discussed, it is the setting or the situation which sometimes makes conversations needless, pointless and if I may say so, inappropriate.

So here are some situations where, if you start a needless conversation, be sure that someone will go home and crib about you. 1Elevator chit-chat: I’ve always seen people behave very oddly, inside a lift. Some of them cut off what they are speaking mid-sentence the second the elevator door closes, and almost stop to breathe till it opens, as if they are being held hostage. Some depressingly stare at the ceiling like it’s going to fall any second. And some decide to start the most uncomfortable conversation ever. ‘Phir uske boss ko pata toh nahi chala?’ is what a colleague recently asked me in a lift full of people, going up by 17 floors. I silently slapped her thrice in my head but not sure if she got them, because my silence was met by ‘hain?’

All I could reply was ‘I’ll just tell you’, wondering why she would not have the common sense to not indulge in risky office gossip in a lift full of colleagues. We just don’t know how to behave in an elevator, period. As it is, it’s tough to deal with the irritation of people stopping the lift only to go up by one floor, and paranoids repeating their floor number like maniacs to the lift operator. On top of that, an inappropriate, loud conversation in front of strangers could be a killer. My advice? Save the oxygen being used up in talking. Who knows when the lift may get stuck for hours? 🙂 2Hospital sympathy talk: The logic for people wanting to talk in the hospital waiting rooms is mostly anxiety. You are worried about your loved one admitted for treatment, and you reach out to someone else who may be in a similar position. All that is understandable. But sample this. ‘Hua kaise yeh?’ ‘Kya kehta hai doctor?’ The answers to these questions have to be repeatedly given by the patient’s attendant to all the visiting relatives, and also to all the strangers who decide to talk. In a mental state that sometimes craves only for some peaceful moments to pray.

If you feel that an anxious soul in the hospital waiting room is looking for someone to share the anxiety with, by all means reach out. But if all you’re getting is uncomfortable looks and one-word answers, it’s time you got the message, no? 3Loo Hullabaloo: I know, I know, you don’t want to hear this when you are reading your morning newspaper over a hot cuppa. But then some of you may also be reading this in exactly the place I can’t help but talk about here. What is with people wanting to talk while peeing? See, I don’t know how it goes with the guys but one of the biggest mysteries which I’ve finally given up exploring the cause of, is why girls don’t like going to the washroom alone. It’s like a community thing to do, perhaps it encourages bonding. ‘Who’s coming to the loo?’ is usually announced with much festive cheer in classrooms, restaurants, offices. And then 2-3 women chirpily move towards a place meant to answer the nature’s call — IN PEACE!. But no, that won’t happen, because, you know, girls and lips. They have to move. So a conversation that starts on the way, carries on even when one of them has closed the door and deposited herself on the seat. Now here’s why I have a problem with it. n It’s weird, it’s unnecessary, it can wait n Others can hear you. Among other sounds they can’t avoid hearing n It can cause…umm… performance anxiety if the topic of discussion is intense. What if it stops mid-stream? Think about it. Before the girls decide to kill me, Let me say that I’m sure the guys do this too.

And from whatever I have seen in movies, they stand too close to each other in the act, and that should make it more awkward to have conversations. 2-4 minute wait kar lo yaar, aisa kya toofan hai? And yeah, sometimes it can cause acute embarrassment. I once went to the public loo in a market, the one which had two cubicles. The first one was occupied, so I got inside the second one. The moment I, well, started, a girl’s voice from the adjoining cubicle said, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ Finding it most weird but not wanting to be rude, I mumbled ‘fine, thanks.’

After a few seconds, the voice said, ‘So what are you up to?’ Rather shocked at the gall, I snapped back ‘exactly what you are up to’. The next thing I heard was ‘Sorry, I’ll call you back. Some idiot woman in the next toilet is answering all my questions.’

Lesson learnt.

Sonal Kalra used to take lectures on how to start a conversation. Now after this, no one will invite her anymore.

What a sad end to a career.

A Calmer You: who’s the joke really on?

Tired of being the butt of their jokes? Take pity on those who would have no laughter in life if YOU won’t oblige. Why Columbus would have never discovered America if he was married?’ asked a colleague the other day, reading an SMS joke he’d got. Before I could ask him how the sender was so sure of Columbus’s unmarried bliss, I saw him roll over with laughter while reading out the answers. “Because his wife would have said things like — Kab tak wapas aaoge?; main aur bachche bhi saath chalte hain; Ghar baithe baithe hi discover kar lo; agle hafte mere bhai ka birthday hai uske baad chale jaana; hamesha tum hi kyun karte ho — koi aur nahi kar sakta discover?”

A Calmer You who’s the joke really on
I soon saw him add a couple of points of his own to the joke and forward to yet another married friend. I too found it rather funny. And then the age old thought occurred to me that much like blondes in the West, how the funniest of jokes in our culture often target women. And Sardars. And lawyers. And mothers-in-law. And so on. And how I, like most of you, have grown up laughing away at such jokes in good humour and not thinking any further. But, the other day I got a mail from a regular reader, Vishakha Jain, who wrote “I have been driving a car — perfectly and way better than guys — for years now. So, when I get jokes and forwarded emails showing all women drivers as careless fools, it upsets me. Is it not stressful when you see horrible generalization in the name of humour?”
Well, Vishakha, to be honest I’ve never looked at it this way. Because I feel the whole point of a joke is that we don’t take it seriously. But now that you have raised this point, let me ask the readers of this column.
Does it secretly stress you out if you belong to a category that’s often the target of jokes? Does it stress you even more that you are ‘expected’ to take it all in good humour and laugh along each time? Here’s what I think about this, but I would surely wait to know what you all have to say.
1. Generalisation, according to me, is important to ensure that a joke remains just that. If it is specific, it could seem personally offensive to someone and that’s wh thene humour flies right out of the window. As it is, we are such a stiff and uptight society. We are ready to be offended at the drop of a hat. Half of us don’t even remember the last time we laughed our guts out. Even on the funniest of jokes, we take pride in curbing our laughter. I actually know a guy who wouldn’t let a smile escape his mouth, no matter what. Tell him a rib-tickling joke and you could notice, perhaps with a magnifying glass, just a slight twitch on the corner of his lips.
Because he thinks its un-manly to display emotions. And then there are those who specialise in killing someone else’s joke by interrupting and announcing ‘pehle suna hua hai’. So basically, a society where youngsters write LOL without even smiling most of the time, is anyway averse to actual laughter. Aise mein generalisation or not, at least keep the jokes coming as a saving grace.
2. Secondly, I personally feel those category of people on whom jokes are mostly cracked are way more evolved than others. Take wives, for instance. It’s only they who good-naturedly suffer jokes on them and their mothers. Can’t imagine husbands handling even half the pot-shots without there being raging ego battles. As for Sardars, even if the whole nation stands in salute forever in front of this hard working community, which not only gracefully allows us to crack jokes on them, but also laughs along, it won’t be enough. Those who can only laugh at the expense of others need to learn bigtime from their more mature counterparts.
3. And finally Vishakha, if you do indeed feel strongly offended by someone’s jokes, then perhaps you should express your displeasure. It’s a wrong feeling to live your life feeling you’re being steamrolled by others. But trust me, jokes are more often an expression of camaraderie than aggression. So, don’t be in a stress to turn the tables or prove a point needlessly. Men call women drivers careless only to hide the fact that they themselves are busy noticing them on the road. Chill. But hey, could you please still tell me why most women leave the handbrake on?.
Sonal Kalra is tired of hearing the same jokes. She’s willing to sponsor a community dedicatedly devoted to coming up with mean jokes on men. Any takers?