Category Archives: Etiquettes Tips

The So Called “Facebook” or “Fakebook” Friends

Once my brother told me that everyone whom I talk to is not necessarily my friend. That time I was quite young and probably didn’t understand what he was trying to convey, but now things have got much clearer in my view. One of the reasons why I have been able to understand what he said is my indulgence in social media or particularly facebook.


[stextbox id=”info”]Who are The So-Called-(Fake)-Friends?[/stextbox]

Facebook got me more in touch of the people whom I call “so called friends”. Yeah!! indeed they are so called friends which are just like a mirage, fascinating from a distance but turns quickly into nothingness. Here are a few reasons:

1. The poke friends: These kinds can be easily found on facebook. They simply have nothing to do apart from poking others and guess what it hardly matter even if they know the person or not. In real life a tight slap would be a good answer to this virtual feature.

2. The likers: Well these kinds just keep sticking to your posts like glue. Be it anything and even if you post that you had an accident they would like the post. Disgusting.

3. The lovers: Just for the sake of time pass they would propose any random girl or in case of girls they would flirt with any damn boy. Theses kinds can appreciate a person to such a extent which the person certainly not deserves. This leads to a build up of nonsense attitude in such people.

4. The party lovers: Be it any incident in your life, they would always be ready to force you to throw a small treat for them. And when you try to escape they would land up at your home. Gosh!!

5. The nostalgic: It is really hard to handle these kind of friends. Whenever you talk to them, they would be drowned in their sorrows of life probably because some girl or guy left them alone and worst of all they would be repeating the same stories of their happy relationship times over and over again .

6. The optimists: This category is different. They seem to give advice to others as if they are living our lives. For every problem you encounter they will have a non sense positive answer. But they hardly realize that no man can step in other man’s shoes.

[stextbox id=”alert”]Do also check out Sonal’s calmness tips on all friends or “so called friends” related issues.[/stextbox]

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A Calmer You: You’re missing the picture, dude

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Are you too busy clicking or tweeting to enjoy the real thing? This world is full of one category of people. Experts. Everyone has some advice to give to others, ekdum free. That’s why I say it’s important that you become an expert in sifting out the meaningful advice from routine gyan that floats around. Anyhow, I’m not any less in trying to be a self-styled expert, so I gave some unsolicited advice to a guy last week. He didn’t like it.

A Calmer You -You are missing the picture dude
Well, that’s his problem but I want you all to tell me if I was wrong in what I said. Hua yeh ke I went to a friend’s place and met his cousin who had just returned from a vacation in Singapore. He was excitedly telling her about his visit to Sentosa islands, which is famous, among other things, for being among the top places in the world to watch the most beautiful sunset. And then he started showing us photos that he’d clicked, of the sun setting behind the sea. Beautiful photos indeed….and five hundred and seventy two in number.
‘How long did the sunset last?’ I asked him. ‘A few minutes,’ he replied and added, ‘after that you can’t really see much because it starts to get dark.’ ‘So, are you going to go back to Singapore to watch the sunset, because you missed it?’, I asked. ‘Huh, I just came back after watching it,’ he replied. ‘No you didn’t, your camera did. When are YOU going to watch it?’ I asked, and he got offended. What followed was a long debate over how photos are also important for memories etc but my point, my friend, is simple. What fun are second hand memories when you’ve got so busy in creating them that you missed the real thing? A similar sentiment was echoed by my colleague Damini, who recently went to Turkey and attended the famous night opera in a picturesque, old Roman amphitheatre, with full moon in the backdrop. ‘All I kept trying was to click the perfect photo, and before I knew it, the opera was over,’ she said.

A lot of us, me included, similarly make the mistake of getting too busy tweeting when we see something exciting. When India played Sri Lanka in the cricket World Cup final in April, excitement ran high and I was tweeting like mad at every ball. After a while, I was trending on Twitter lists in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore but you know what, I missed out on most exciting moments of the match. Because I got too busy in thinking about the perfect and funniest tweet to post. Kya yaar. Technology was supposed to serve us. We didn’t even notice when we became its slaves, and started clicking and tweeting our life away on gadgets. I’ve decided to, henceforth, set these three rules for myself, to claim my life back.

If you see sense in it, take the advice.

1. Stop looking at life as ‘moments to capture for Facebook’: It’s cool that some nerd invented these media that make it so easy to share our fun moments with friends. But surely not at the cost of taking the whole fun out of them, no? I’ve seen young parents, who attend the school function of their kids, rush closer to the stage with mobile phones or video cameras as soon as their child’s performance begins. All these dads and moms must remember that watching their child’s entire performance through the lens is only as good as watching a TV programme, not a live act. Why not let your eyes and heart remember the moment?

2. Set a limit for how many photos you’ll take and STOP at that: I have nothing against taking beautiful pictures that form cherished memories, but the next time I go for a vacation and see something spectacular, I’ll take twenty photos and no more. With conventional cameras, we at least used to stop when the filmroll got over. Thanks to digicams and mobile phones (technology again!!), we just don’t know where to stop. Tell me honestly, how many times have you actually seen all the ten thousand photos you took of the cow on the village road in Rajasthan with senti tears in your eye? Bas karo. Tourism is not a punishment and its not as if you have to submit a homework album with every damn thing you spotted. Leave the camera in the hotel sometime and go for a walk. DO that.

3. Finally, I’ve decided to set an hour of ‘unplugged time’ for myself everyday: I will not touch any electronic gadget in that one hour. And I’ll still go out and try to see something beautiful, without the tension of capturing it or worrying about missing a call. Don’t you now try to give me the ‘phone is for our safety’ argument. Human beings used to go out of homes even when mobile phones were not invented…and came back alive. And puhleez, I love twitter and facebook too but don’t tweet every waking moment of your life away. Because it’ll somewhere take your mind away from what’s actually happening. I remember a joke I read somewhere about a girl whose friend asks her what her first kiss was like. She hesitates for a while, and then says, ‘Hold on, let me check. I must have tweeted about it.’ Had ho gayi yaar.

Sonal Kalra has decided to grab every moment life has to offer. And that can’t happen till both her hands are busy holding the phone.

A calmer you: how to irritate irritating people

Disclaimer: Some of you would write hate mail to me after this one. At least the boring ones out of you will. And you’ll give me gyan on how we are not supposed to respond in the same coin if someone behaves badly. And actually you won’t be wrong in saying that. We’ve all grown up on moral science lessons about patiently waiting for bad to turn good someday. But aisa hai, while that logic may be right when it comes to serious stuff in life, it’s the minor day-to-day irritants that allow us the unmatchable fun of being able to get even. I’m gonna talk about a few such irritants today. Since some of you have rightly guessed that I stay perpetually annoyed with most things, I decided to not use my biased judgment on these rants. I simply asked some of my friends to take a poll on some highly irritating ‘body-language’ habits people exhibit in public. The top three turned out to be unmentionable here, considering this is a saaf-suthra family newspaper. If, at this point, you mockingly turn to the back page with a raised eyebrow, I will be forced to remind you about that page’s crucial contribution in re-assuring you time and again that you can indeed have a family. Coming back to the point, here are four annoying kinds of people that irritate the hell out of those around them. Let’s give it back this time…


1. Stare-stalkers: These people can almost make a living out of staring at others, in public. Just like that. Maybe because God gave them eyes. Maybe because he forgot to add that those eyes need not be fixed on people’s faces. Be it at a bus-stop or in a crowded metro, five minutes won’t pass before you spot a bonafide member of the stare-stalker community. You usually look away and keep feeling agitated within. Next time it happens, don’t punish your own blood pressure. Widen your eyes, raise your eyebrows and stare back, without blinking. Till everyone’s attention is on the one staring. Your eyes may water, you may feel weird but do.not.blink.
Remind yourself that you owe it to the society to scare or embarrass a stare-stalker out of work forever. If he/she doesn’t back off at this, try blinking your eyes rapidly, looking straight at them. That usually does it, as long as you know the difference between blinking and winking. Warning: Those who wear contact lenses, please don’t try this or you’ll curse me. Also, not recommended if the other person looks very shady, as he may just consider your action to be an invite of sorts. For clarity, refer to the Shakti Kapoor or Gulshan Grover look in your head. Sometimes, having fun at the expense of the annoyance also happens to do the trick. Once I saw a girl in the metro, who seemed fairly irritated by the constant staring of a middle-aged man. She suddenly decided to take him on, and while everyone expected a show-down, she suddenly covered her face with her hands, then lowered them slowly to reveal her face to the starer, and said peek-a-boo. I can’t describe the look on that man’s face as he hastily retreated.
2. Leg shakers: These kind of people may or may not know how to dance, but one of their legs surely does. Maybe because of constant practice. No matter whether they are in public transport or in a business meeting, they don’t stop shaking their leg, even if it means sending earthquake like vibrations to those sitting next to them.
Medical science has a name for the condition — the restless leg syndrome — and attributes it to some pent-up nervous energy or simply an adolescent habit that stuck forever. Once a guy came over to my office for a meeting. The fact that he sat flat on his back in such a manner that his legs would have reached Bihar is still forgivable, but then he started shaking one of them while talking about some really serious work-related matter. Maybe this was a unique test by God to see if I can hold forth my concentration while the furniture around me gets a mini epileptic seizure. I failed miserably. And ended up asking him if he needed something…err…like a flower pot to put on his leg so that it could stop moving. He didn’t find it funny but that bothers me less than how much the shaking leg would be bothering everyone around him everyday. Tell them to stop and take a walk to utilise the energy. If the dancing leg belongs to a colleague or classmate who you have to sit next to everyday, consider slapping the leg into senses. As an ultimate resort, get up and hug the leg, begging it to stop. Warning: Please do this action discreetly or you could end up looking like a dog in heat if their leg continues to shake.
3. The knuckle-crackers: You know this annoyance normally goes un-discussed but a lot of my friends mentioned it as the thing that bugs the hell out of them. When people suddenly start cracking the knuckles of their fingers one by one, making that weird ‘pop’ noise each time. Why, some people even crack their neck or back when they get up after staying in a position for long. Great indulgence if you are alone, but OMG, it’s the most Godawful noise, and sight, for the person sitting next to you. If someone does that around you any longer, take out a notebook and pen and tell them you are ready to keep a record of how many of their 206 or more joints have popped so far. Tell them that you love the sound and won’t rest in peace till you get them an award for having an entire orchestra inside their body. It’ll work.
4. The nose-pickers: Do I need to elaborate on this one? Really? Keep a torch handy. The moment they start digging for the treasure, volunteer to help them look for it. Tell them you are willing to even try taking it out for them if they agree to give you 50%. Sorry, that was gross. But needed.
Sonal Kalra plans to write a book on how utterly boring life would be if everyone behaved with good manners.

A Calmer You: Scared of balle balle maniacs?

Dancing is cool. Dragging an unwilling person to the dance floor? Not really. This world has three kinds of people. Those who like to dance. Those who don’t like to dance. And those who like to force the ones who don’t like to dance, to dance.

This week’s column is a tribute to the undying spirit of the third category of people. Shaadi season is upon us, yet again. And soon you’ll see, from the window of your car caught in traffic jam, baraat processions with well-decked people of all ages, shapes and sizes, moving their limbs uncontrollably to the beats of the dhol being played, right next to the right leg of the ghodi, or the female horse, on which a poor fellow in a hurry is sitting. When the baraat eventually reaches its destination three hours later than the time mentioned on the wedding invite, the DJ in the pandal is yawning away, looking wistfully at the empty dance floor with red, blue and green disco lights, waiting for it to be invaded by the balle balle maniacs who’ll wreck havoc for the next couple of hours. And then the terrorist in them will wake up. They’ll suddenly swoosh down the dance floor, look around for victims a la rishtedaars and friends, and will start dragging them to the floor. ‘Aap dance kyun nahi kar rahe?’, they’ll ask, with such heart meltingly genuine concern that the victim will be guilt trapped, in addition to being terrorised.

A Calmer You Scared of balle balle maniacs

At this point, I have to make a confession. I am one of these maniacs. Considering that it provides me my once-in-a-year opportunity to burn some calories, apart from branding me as a good-natured, social being, I love dancing at weddings. Not any wedding, lest you think of it as a side profession. Idiot. And when in ‘high spirits’, both out of revelry and…umm… literally, I love dragging friends and relatives on to the dance floor.
Once I dragged a heavily built woman, saying, ‘chachiji chalo chalo, it’s your song,’ and realised she was not my chachi only after she had gyrated twice to Sheela ki Jawaani. The sporting spirit of Indians, I tell you. Anyway, coming back to the point, yes, I am a come-to-the-dance-floor enthusiast, but the thing that differentiates me from the balle balle maniacs is that I do not force someone to dance if they say ‘no’ once. And this is the point I’m trying to make today.

At any party where people dance, there are some whose blood pressure rises at the very thought of being forced to join in. Their stress shows on their faces. They don’t want to be seen as being unsporting, still they can’t bring themselves to shed inhibitions and groove in front of strangers. And I see it as a problem when some drunk idiot makes it his or her duty to bring them out of this introverted shell, without respecting their wish, and right, to stay in it. If, after reading this, you realise you’ve been a dance floor terrorist in denial, here’s what I have to say to you -Enjoyment can’t ever be forced. And if you happen to be a dance floor victim, perpetually scared of being asked to dance at parties, here are some practical tips to get out of the situation.

[stextbox id=”info”]A Calmer You Tips for People Scared of Dancing[/stextbox]

1. Get up instantly: The best way to save yourself from the vicious attack of a dance floor terrorist is to get up at the first instance when asked. The more you’ll argue, the more determined he or she becomes to win the challenge of dragging you. Get up instantly, throw your arms in the air in a very ‘yayy, let’s burn the dance floor’ way, and start moving towards the DJ. You’ll soon see that satisfied after the first conquest, the perpetrator has swiftly moved to the next victim, and you are on your own. Sneak away.

2. Clap dance: Most of the non dancers resort to this, and it works. You are dragged on to the floor, you can’t dance to save your life, so you start to clap wildly. It’s a bit silly, but no one notices, as long as you are moving with the music. And not as if the ones who are dancing are direct Prabhu Deva descendants. They are mostly Dharmendra’s. Everyone’s busy doing their own thing. And remember, unlike what you think, no one’s judging your moves because they are too busy wondering if their own moves are being judged. Clap a bit, and quietly get away. If by some stroke of ill luck, the attention of the terrorist is focussed on you, apply the emergency trick of suddenly hugging him. Like you are giving him a trophy for being so happy and extrovert. If it gets worse, start hugging everyone on the floor. People will be scared. Very scared. It usually stumps them. And by the time they overcome the emotions at being publicly awarded, get away.

3. Fake an illness: Many non dancers take the easy route of parking themselves at the drinks counter the moment a party begins. Each time a terrorist approaches, they raise the glass and say, ‘Lemme join you after I finish this drink’. That drink, my dear friends, never finishes. But in case this route is not available to you, try faking a health problem. The moment you are forced, place a hand on your stomach, make the most serious face, and in a very, very mysterious way, say ‘I can’t’. Warning: This trick should not be used by women who can be misconstrued to be pregnant. Young girls, however, can happily use it. Don’t you remember your school days when girls could get away with not having to do PT exercises because they faked having periods, sometimes four times a month. Men have no weapon to fight this one. They have to retreat. And if you are a guy, place the hand on the lower back in pain, as if the disc will go slipping away on the floor if you were forced. No one will.

4. Don’t overreact: Jokes apart, do realise that parties are happy occasions. And dancing is a very natural expression of happiness. If someone is trying to get you to dance, their only motive is to see you enjoying. They mean no harm, so join in for a while if you can. Remember that nothing gives more happiness to the poor fellow sitting on that ghodi, than to see his friends and family express that they share his joy. Even if it means having to bear a few awkward moments, gift that happiness to the hosts of the party. No matter how busy they may seem, they notice. And would love you for it.

Sonal Kalra has discovered that 30 minutes of freestyle dancing at a party burns 150 calories. It’s another thing that the alcohol needed to shed inhibitions adds twice as many. Sigh.

Sorry, this seat is taken

Rule No 1: No unpaid seat is occupied till you park your butt into it. Sorry, my hand is itching to slap someone. Hey, don’t make that face. I’ve been good of late, haven’t I… talking about all nice and serious matters like shaadi etc. But this week I have a good reason to be pissed off. Stop cursing me under your breath, please, and consider these scenarios.


Scene 1: I went to the hospital to meet a friend whose mom was admitted for a surgery. The friend was meeting the doctor at that time, so she asked me to wait in the visitors’ lounge downstairs. The five-star lounge of the posh hospital was full of people, several of them standing because there were no ‘available’ seats. Well, I saw one empty seat and moved towards it, and with Olympic-record-worthy swiftness, a woman sitting next to it placed her bag on it. “The seat is taken,” she said. “Oh ok, I replied”, and moved back. You can’t be arguing over seats in a hospital, you see. Who wants to be there out of choice, anyway.

Scene 2: The ‘unpaid-unreserved’ seating area at a prestigious summit, with celebrity speakers. One session ended, and another one was about to begin. I looked for a seat, and saw that there were plenty vacant, from a distance. Going closer, I discovered that almost every seat had handbags, jackets or limbs draped over them. Finding one that had none, I sat down. Within seconds, the guy on the next seat leaned over and whispered, “I’m saving this seat for someone, please.” I wonder why he couldn’t have his friend sit five inches away for a 40-min session — no, not a musical performance where he may want to get senti and hold hands with the other guy — but of a discussion on, hold your breath, CANCER RESEARCH. Anyway, I dutifully got up and decided to ditch the session altogether.

Scene 3: A popular theatre, where a friend was to do a classical dance recital, in aid of an NGO. The entry tickets were not numbered, and in big bold letters, it was written outside the hall that the seating was on a ‘first-come-first-seated’ basis. In I go and encounter a diva, who was sitting on one seat and had her two-and-a-half meter dupatta draped over four others. Fed up of the unreasonable seat-saving population of this world, I marched ahead, removed her cloth from one of the seats and sat down. ‘Someone is already sitting here,’ she said. ‘Oh damn! Someone is sitting here? Have I sat on him? Why is he so invisible?’ I shrieked, moving my hand on the chair at lunatic pace, attracting the attention of some of her other seat-saving brothers and sisters, who were, by now, desperately calling up relatives they couldn’t obviously imagine sitting physically away from while experiencing a life-altering recital of Kuchipudi — and saying, “Suno, jaldi aa jao. I’ve reserved the seat for you as of now but some rude people have started fighting.” Rude who? Me? Well, either we as a population do not understand the concept of first-come-first-seated, or we have the definition of ‘rude’ messed up in our heads.

Call me the rudest person on earth if you please, but I’m sorry, I do not get the concept of saving seats that you haven’t paid for — for people who are not even present there yet. Go to a fast food restaurant and you’ll see one person at every table, reserving five seats for friends or family who are all standing in the queue to order, chatting away. In the time that they would take to place their order after arguing over which toppings they want, some poor soul who didn’t get to sit could’ve easily finished off his burger and moved on. Get onto a bus or local train, and there are people who would grab a seat, and immediately put their bag on the next one, as if their heartbeat might stop if the friend who’s to get on at the next station doesn’t sit next to them. Morons, I tell you. Still stuck in the mindset of a fifth grader in school when they would tell their best friend, “Aaja aaja, maine teri seat malak li hai.” Idiots. I wanna say, “Aaja aaja, I want to give you one tight slap.” What do you think… will they come? Some genius sorts of people have even devised ways to block a slot in the check-out queues at department stores. They just place their shopping cart in the queue, and then saunter away to grab some more things. Someday, I’ll sit in their shopping cart, and they’ll not even be able to move it ahead with a crane. Because, you see, general politeness seems totally lost on some people.

The argument that a seat-saver normally gives is, “We arrived first, and therefore the seats are ours.” What I don’t understand is how they include other physically distinct human bodies, invisible at that point, as they are yet to descend on the scene, in the term ‘we.’ By that logic, I want to ask them the following questions.

1 At what point does the term ‘first’ start from? If I had visited the same restaurant or theatre the day before and sat in the same seat, then technically I arrived ‘first’ and the seat should be mine.
2 How can an inanimate object such as a bag or a handkerchief used to block seats, get priority over a full-fledged live human body that is waiting to sit?
3 What particular pleasure do people derive by sitting next to their friends/relatives in sessions or performances where they have to watch silently and can’t even exchange a word?
The nation wants to know. Sorry, if that reminded you of a certain news anchor, but at this point, I feel no less agitated. Let us start a nation-wide movement to tell people that an unpaid-unreserved seat is NOT occupied till you park your butt into it. If you want to show your friends or relatives that you care for them, write to me and I will tell you 10 reasonable ways of doing so, without putting others into inconvenience. Sorry, my dear, that seat’s not taken anymore.

Sonal Kalra once sat on someone’s bag to make a point that a seat can’t be reserved this way. Turned out that the bag had a poodle dog in it. Ouch, thankfully alive.

You call me fat, I call you mannerless. Howzzat?

When good manners flew out of the window, why did they not take some of us with them! Last week, a stranger called me fat and weird on Facebook. While those of you who hang around one of the fan pages of this column sweetly jumped to my defence, the comment, frankly, didn’t bother me. One, because I don’t really see anything wrong with being fat. Or weird. Or both. And two, because I’ve mostly followed the policy that the ones who don’t know better than to resort to personal attacks on strangers just to express a difference of opinion, are best ignored.


But then something happened that challenged my ignore-and-laugh-it-away policy. Two things happened, actually. You may have read about these two incidents in the papers but if you haven’t, let me recap for you. Balpreet, a young, Indian-origin girl studying medicine in Ohio, US, was photographed by a stranger in a shopping mall. He then uploaded the photo on a fun website, mocking the fact that Balpreet had too much hair on her face.

The photo went viral on the Internet and Balpreet’s friends told her about it. She could have chosen the seemingly obvious path of feeling hurt and angry. Instead, she shocked everyone by logging onto that website, commenting under her own pic, and in an extremely sensible manner, informing the stranger about how being a devout follower of the Sikh religion, she has made a conscious choice of not removing the hair. And how she’s proud — and not ashamed, of how she looks. Her comment got an overwhelming response and the guy who had posted her photo ended up writing a long, and well-meant apology to her.

The other incident also happened in the US, when a TV anchor and mother-of-three, Jennifer Livingstone, got a mail from a viewer where instead of commenting on the content of the show, he asked her to lose weight or not appear on TV. Jennifer surprised everyone by reading out the email on the show itself, and told the sender in so many words that he had no business passing a personal comment on her physical appearance without even knowing her or the reasons behind her weight.

Anyway, the reason why I’ve quoted these two of the many such instances is to tell you that perhaps my policy of ignoring a bully is as outdated as some people mistakenly think good manners are. When there was no Internet, bullies were found in schools, colleges and neighbourhood. They would lose in a game, and not knowing how better to hurt you, call you too fat or too short or too dark or too fair and so on. But they always ran the risk of being confronted or complained about to the teacher, or the parents. Now we have a safety wall in the Internet. In the comfort zone of anonymity and not having to face the other person, people are freely trading insults on Facebook or Twitter.

Did not like what the TV anchor said on the show last evening?… tweet about how he has lost all hair and opted for a transplant. Want to dump the girlfriend?… change the relationship status to ‘single’ and post a message about how she doesn’t look as pretty anymore (another true incident, and this led to the girl ending her life). Thrilled about technology having changed our lives, we’ve forgotten that two things haven’t changed — insults still hurt, and bad manners are bad, whether exhibited in person or over a mesh of unseen cables. Here are lessons I’ve learnt from these incidents. Hope you, too, do.

1 It’s not okay to bully – online or otherwise, a stranger or otherwise:

Do you go up to strangers in shopping malls and tell them that they are looking tacky, even if you feel they are? Do you go up to classmates or neighbours and mock at their skin colour or how fat/thin they are, even if you may joke about it privately? No, you don’t. Not just because they may slap you back, but because it is bad manners to do so. And precisely that’s why when you are sitting at a safe distance in front of a computer screen, you suddenly do not get the right to look at peoples’ profile pics and randomly fling an insulting comment their way. It is still bad manners.

2 An obvious reaction may not always be the wisest:

Anyone in Balpreet Kaur’s position would have first thought of taking legal action against a stranger posting her photo on the net without her permission.  And it’s well within your rights to do so, if your privacy has been compromised. That said, I doubt if an action of that nature would have fetched anything more than the website taking her photo off and the disgruntled guy doing the same with someone else someday. But how she chose to deal with it made people sit up and take notice. And made the perpetrator feel remorseful of his actions. Sometimes in life, getting angry at an insult is less important than feeling truly proud of yourself and showing it off, calmly. Actually not sometimes, always.

3 Physical appearance is just that — an appearance:

And appearances are deceptive. Before you judge anyone on the basis of just how good or bad looking they are, do remember that someone else may be doing the same to you… and your loved ones. And it would just not feel good to even hypothetically imagine for a second that your sister is being called insulting names because of the acne on her face or your dad being called a fatso by strangers. Then why do that to anyone else?  You would think there’s much more to your dad than the pot belly or the balding head. Because you know and love the person that he is. A stranger doesn’t know. And has no right to comment. Do remember that there’s always a story behind how a person looks like what he looks like. You don’t know the story, so keep your mouth shut. And even if you did, it is their story and not yours. Keep it shut, anyway.

Sonal Kalra knows about some crash diets to lose weight. Do you know of some programmes to lose weirdness?

Do you have money to spare?

Ladies and not-so-gentle men of the world, please keep the newspaper aside for a second and give an applause to Shivani. Oh, you don’t know her? So what, neither do I. But when you’ll hear what she’s going through, you’ll all see a bit of yourself in her. Shivani, like you is a regular reader of this column and sits nicely in the TF category- Trusting Fools. Please don’t mind Shivani, a lot of us are in the same boat as you. Trusting, because it’s a very nice quality in human beings, fools because we first allow others to take an advantage of our niceness and then torture ourselves regretting it.

tips to handle money borrowers

You see, Shivani’s problem is one of the most common stress factors around. If a friend asks her for money, she lends it. The friend mostly, and conveniently, forgets to return it. She feels terrible asking for it back, but does. The friend makes some excuse and forgets, again. She wonders if she should ever lend money to anyone again, but she does. And goes through the same I-feel-terrible cycle. In her case, the amount and reasons are relatively minor — someone asking for change in the college canteen, someone borrowing money to pay the autorickshaw etc. But a lot of people I know suffer from the next stage of this constant lending syndrome. They have friends, relatives, colleagues, business associates, asking for money in thousands. Of course with tales of how they’ll pakka return it when they get the next salary or the next payment. That ‘next’ often never arrives and strangely enough, it’s the lender who starts to feel embarrassed asking for his or her money back. Hota hai nah…bolo? What? Most of you are in the borrower category? I always knew that the abnormal and dysfunctional lot of the humankind reads my column, but you don’t have to make it so obvious. Chalo anyway, even if you are the one who borrows and forgets to return, I’m sure it somewhere sits heavy on your conscience. Let’s learn a thing or two from these calmness tips.

[stextbox id=”info”]Tips to Handle  People  with habit of borrowing money from others[/stextbox]

1 Learn to say the magic word: Not Abracadabra, genius. I meant ‘NO’. Itna simple hai, two piddly little letters, no scope of spelling or pronunciation mistake. And still the toughest for a lot of people to utter. We just can’t bring ourselves to say No – for the fear of looking rude, or selfish. I’m not asking you to turn selfish. I’m not even asking you to not help others in times of need. But deep inside, if you feel that a person has made a habit of asking you for money purely because you are an easy source, then you better learn to say the 14th and 15th letter of the alphabet together. There are, of course, ways of saying it nicely, and cleverly. A friend of mine is an expert. The moment someone asks her for money, she says, ‘Oh God, this is unbelievable. I was just going to ask you for some myself. I left the wallet at home.’ I suspect she’s never carried her wallet in her entire life.

2 Lend for the reason, not the person: This one’s tricky and some of you would disagree with me. But let me explain. The whole point of lending your money – pocket or earned – to someone else, is to help them out of a tricky situation. But often, we don’t base our judgment on how desperate or real the situation is. We decide to help the person based on how we feel about him or her. In doing that, we run the risk of that person taking us for granted and start expecting help at the drop of a hat. A guy I know politely refused money to a colleague when he wanted to pay his credit card bill for overspending on online shopping, but readily gave it when, on another occasion, the same colleague had to get his phone recharged to call his dad who was unwell. Focus on the reason, and you won’t contribute in making someone a habitual borrower. Of course, there are some who are totally shameless or dheeth, as we call them in Hindi. I’m actually one of them. I mostly borrow small amounts of money from colleagues when I order for food in the newsroom. Only because I feel too lazy to walk down to my bag in my cabin at a little distance. And, of course, several times, I forget to return it. But, you see, my reason is genuine. Human beings need food for survival. And also, I’m lucky to have a fairly large team. So, a different person ends up taking out the change each time, and no one in particular is impoverished. Okay fine, these are lame excuses. I won’t do it again. I’ll open a permanent credit account with the cafe. Heartless people, you 🙁

3 Golden rule: This one I have abided by all my life because I also have a tendency of lending money (only when I don’t have to walk to reach it), and not being able to ask for it back. ‘Never lend what you can’t afford to lose.’ This is the absolute, ultimate, truth. Before you lend money to anyone, always ask this question of yourself – Will I have a big problem if I never get this money back? If the answer is yes, please, for God’s sake, do not lend. The problem may not just be financial, it could also be emotional. If you’ll keep on thinking and killing your peace of mind about how someone’s not returning your money, please do not give it in the first place. Because my dear, some notes of any damn currency cannot and should not become a reason for spoiling your relationship with a person or robbing you of a good night’s sleep. So, remember the golden rule — Lend only what you can afford to lose. If you get it back, party. If you don’t, well, consider it God’s fee for opening your eyes for future.

Sonal Kalra wishes no one in her newsroom reads this week’s column. She doesn’t want to die of hunger, nor from exercising. Are you, too, a constant borrower or lender?

Graham bell must be in hell

Sorry, the mean headline is there just because it rhymes. Why would poor Bell uncle be in hell, though he must be writhing in his grave seeing how we turned his really useful invention into a portable version designed to exhibit a gross lack of etiquette. You know, I keep bumping into many of you who are nice enough tell me that you are big fans of this column. Today I’m seeking a favour from those of you who may be lawyers. You have to save me from the murder charge when (and note that I’m not saying ‘if’) I end up killing some etiquette criminals, especially those whose modus operandi involves a mobile phone.


I’d written about the exact same thing earlier but the latest outrage stems from an incident for the nth time when someone’s phone went off during a music concert I recently attended. The pianist had the patience to compete with the shrill Aa Ante Amlapuram ringtone but I felt like banging my head on the wall, seeing the blatant disregard some people have for basic courtesy. I would like to think of Indians as an intelligent species but it pains me to say that nowhere else in the world would people be so pig-headed when it comes to silencing or not using their cell phones in certain situations. Being addicted to phones, otherwise, is a universal phenomenon. Last week, Eva Restaurant on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles announced that it’ll offer a discount to those diners who would agree to depositing their cell phones at the reception while eating, so that they can enjoy the ambience, the food AND the company, in peace. What a lovely step, though I’m not sure if it work in India, with most of us having taken a ‘till death does us apart’ vow with our cell phones. Vaise you never know, discount ke liye hum kuchh bhi kar sakte hain. Anyway, coming back to the etiquette bit, I wonder if people do not realise that their phones could be a nuisance to others or that they do know it but don’t care, which is worse. For those who just don’t get it, I’ve decided to adopt the in-your-face and on-your-conscience approach, and have drafted a pledge. It’s my humble request to everyone who is sick of cell phone abuse to bring it to the notice of the offenders and urge them to take it.

I <name> take this solemn pledge that starting the Twenty sixth day of August, Year Two thousand and twelve, that…

— I shall discover and start utilising a facility called ‘turn on the silent mode’ which is available on every darn model of every mobile phone, before I enter a cinema hall, a conference room, a lecture theatre, a concert…and a place of worship.

— I shall enjoy the benefit of the doubt and not put a stamp on my foolishness by taking a call in the middle of a movie or performance and then loudly saying ‘sorry I can’t talk right now. I’m watching a film.’

— I shall not rush to take a call while I’m having a meal unless President Obama or Mukherji has confirmed in writing that he shall be calling at the appointed hour.

— I shall not justify my over-dependence on mobile phones by citing the ‘safety’ argument. I shall remember that most people did reach their intended destinations safe and alive even when cell phones had not been invented.

— I shall politely remind my girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse/mom that calling me every ten minutes to find out where exactly I have reached will not add to my speed of travel in any way. It may just, in fact, delay it.

— I shall not interrupt and insult an on-going conversation with a live human being in front of me by taking a call and starting another conversation with a voice from a distance, unless that voice happens to be that of the boss or the wife. Or the President.

— I shall not disturb friends and colleagues by incessantly pinging them on their mobile chats by misassuming that ‘jo tera hai woh mera hai’ also refers to their time.

— I shall not harass or emotionally blackmail friends by cribbing that they did not take my call. Also, I shall try to understand the logic that if someone has not answered my call for a reason, calling again the very next minute will not magically make them change their mind.

— I shall not celebrate my immense happiness at possessing a cell phone with FM radio or 2000 songs in the memory card by turning myself into a self-styled DJ in metros or buses.

— I shall not take punchlines such as ‘stay connected, anywhere’ literally and not keep updating Twitter/Facebook statuses by the minute describing the lovely breeze even as I’m sitting on the potty.

— I shall realise that God anyway shrunk my thumbs to half the size of the fingers and I can’t punish them further by incessantly punching on the keys just to please my BBM/ WhatsApp contacts.

— I shall gift myself and my family, a ‘hands-free’ hour everyday. And by that, I will not mean using hands-free headsets to use the phone. It would mean keeping the phone away and out of reach for an hour.

— Lastly, at any given point, I shall give more importance and precedence to people rather than gadgets in my life.

That’s it.

Sonal Kalra would like her calmness tips to be handy for you. She’s thinking of getting a cool mobile phone app for that. Oops.

Hey, you facebook status criminal!

Ha! In view of my extreme fondness for the delightful virtue of exaggeration, I was going to suggest that we shoot those who have no regard for Facebook etiquettes and go on posting mind numbingly irritating status updates. But then a friend politely informed that in that case, I should be the first one shot. Okay fine, I do admit, with a heavy heart, that I too am guilty of having committed sometimes unknowingly etiquette blood-bath on Facebook.

However, in the spirit of universal hypocrisy, I shall go on and poke fun at others who do it. Hoping we’ll both learn from it.

By the way, those of you either medieval or intelligent who are not on Facebook and are about to quit reading any further, please don’t. This piece is as much for you as the Facebook junkies.

Ha! In view of my extreme fondness for the delightful virtue of exaggeration, I was going to suggest that we shoot those who have no regard for Facebook etiquettes and go on posting mind numbingly irritating status updates. But then a friend politely informed that in that case, I should be the first one shot. Okay fine, I do admit, with a heavy heart, that I too am guilty of having committed sometimes unknowingly etiquette blood-bath on Facebook.

However, in the spirit of universal hypocrisy, I shall go on and poke fun at others who do it. Hoping we’ll both learn from it.
By the way, those of you either medieval or intelligent who are not on Facebook and are about to quit reading any further, please don’t. This piece is as much for you as the Facebook junkies.

[stextbox id=”info”]Tips on Facebook (Social Networking) Status Updates Etiquettes[/stextbox]

It’ll give you a rare feeling of satisfaction and relief at not being privy to all the crap the rest of us have gotten ourselves into, in the holy name of social networking.

Freshly chastised by the friend who reminded me that Facebook was invented as a medium to stay in virtual touch with friends and family, by occasionally sharing photos and news about your well being and not as the copy-paste-tag monstrosity it has grown into let me begin with a solemn pledge that ought to be compulsory for all, including the three Hrithik Roshans and two Katrina Kaifs on my friends list, to take before Facebooking.
The Pledge: While aiming to try that all my waking moments of the day are not spent checking and wondering how many people have liked my last photo or status, I, hereby take the oath that I shall Not

Send friend request to absolute strangers and then message them to express incredulity that they’ve not accepted so far.

Ignore privacy settings that enable me to disallow the whole world, including the neighbour’s gardener from getting notifications each time someone comments on my photos of winning the samosa eating contest at work.

Tag my entire friends list on inane links or photos, totally unconnected to them, or sanity. Post status updates@ five-per-minute. Keep stalking the profiles of my ex, or his ex, or her current, and their dog mindlessly and without a reason. Go mental at a death-defying rate trying or spending money …to get the perfect photo clicked for the profile, or the dp. And finally, not start, or participate in the spectacularly dumb chain-mails asking everyone to forward it to all the women, or men, or cats, who’ve made your life special and worthy, because it is the World Thank-you-I’m-alive-because-of-you-Day.

With the pledge taken, our next mission is to ban these three kinds of irritating facebook status-givers, forever. Are you with me?

1. The weather tellers:

First, Here come the clouds, looks like it’s going to rain ha!. Then, Hey, it’s raining Okay, we can see that too. And then, I just love rains and the smell of wet earth one tight slap. Seriously, what’s with all the undercover weather reporters on Facebook? If you love rains so much, go, look out of the window and enjoy it, dummy. Trust me, it won’t go away if you will not put up a status welcoming it. Thankfully, the weather-god is not on Facebook yet.

2. The over-tellers:

It’s amazing how a lot of people on Facebook are perfect candidates to be the information-broadcasting minister, at least of their own lives. Pardon an involuntary disdain for the self-indulgent awfulness, but not everyone on your 3000-strong list of close friends want to know how long you’ve been waiting for the metro or how you squeezed a pimple this morning, or how you are going to take a shower, or visit the loo.

Really? I’m not sure I wish to partake in the saga of your gastro-intestinal activities. Does anyone care?

Some kind souls even prefer to offer a cordial invitation to the tech-savvy robbers by posting ‘Hey everyone, we are on vacation till next week’ kind of status messages.

Well, all the best! And the worst is to get unending notifications on who bought a new sheep and in sheer excitement, planted avocados on Farmville!! I’m not really big on avocados, though I’m so very, eternally, happy for your new sheep. But can I kill you please?

3. The gloom tellers:

We all have a secret compassion-seeker hidden within us but for some people, it pops out every time they log on to Facebook. The result is emotional song lyrics, long inspirational quotes by people with unpronounceable names, and sometimes a detailed description of the mess that your life is. Your status tells the world how you fell off the stairs, broke your left leg, and can’t pee.
Some moron goes ahead and even likes it. And then explains that the like was to thank God you didn’t die of the fall. Actually, you should have, before raising the depression quotient of the universe with such finer details of your misery. So, you decided to have a break-up with your girlfriend of 22-days.

Now you’ve lost all trust in love and like a maniac, start posting senti song lyrics and links on Facebook. Sob, sob. Here, take a handkerchief. Laden with poison.

Sonal Kalra is suddenly mortified that after this nasty outburst, everyone will befriend her on Facebook. She’ll drink all evening in depression and post some heart-tugging poetry in status update tomorrow. Please ‘like’ it. And by the way, she, too, loves rains.

Man, some people are just RUDE!!

I sometimes bump into this woman on my way back from work. Whenever she sees me, she asks me one, and only one question. “You look tired, are you unwell?” For a long time I kept telling myself ‘aww, how sweet. She is so concerned for me.’ And even though I didn’t really feel tired or unwell, I would politely reply, ‘yeah, it’s been an awfully tiring day at work’.


But, to be honest, I don’t quite enjoy being told everyday that I don’t seem okay, and it is now bugging the hell out of me. Yesterday, she said, ‘You are getting dark circles under your eyes. Have you been partying too much or are you sick?’ I could have gone and fretted in front of the mirror for an hour, but this time I took my face closer to hers and asked, ‘are they as dark as yours or even worse?’ The last I know, she had booked a doctor’s appointment for a check-up.

See, I know you are still wondering what’s the big deal in what she said, and, in all probability think my reply was rude. Well, yes it was, but so was her question. We, in India, are taught a skewed and rather limited definition of the term ‘rude’, while we are growing up. We are told that if a person raises his voice or speaks in a harsh, unpleasant way, it is rude.

So we tend to focus only on the packaging of the words and how they are being delivered, more than what is being said! We don’t realise that it is totally unacceptable even when the ‘packaging’ is super sweet but the content smacks of nothing but ill-manners.

A colleague of mine was visiting his hometown recently when a woman relative asked him what he does, for a living. ‘I work in a newspaper,’ he replied. “Achha? Kitna daal lete ho?” she asked. Wondering whether she mistook him for the newspaper vendor (in his place, I would’ve wondered if she was fond of making obscene remarks!), he stood quiet. And then she elaborated. ‘Har mahiney kitna daal lete ho bank mein?’ (how much goes in your bank every month?). Ahh, so she was asking him about his salary. No big deal, you may again say. Damn rude, I think.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips to Deal with Rude Questions of People[/stextbox]

Sadly, we see nothing wrong in crossing the boundary and asking fairly personal questions of people, sometimes even strangers. Well, I think it’s unfair to put up with them in the name of politeness. Here are some of the rude questions we Indians specialise in asking, as if it’s the compulsory thesis for a Phd in ill-manners. Since I don’t wish to be seen as advocating rudeness a la ‘an eye for an eye’,

I suggest two possible ways of coping up with the question — the polite answer (TPA), and the I-am-taking-you-on answer (TYOA). Choose yours, at your own risk.

1 What’s your salary?
TPA: (sheepish smile) “God’s been kind. Bas kaam chal jaata hai. It’s just the start of the career, but it will get better in a few years…etc etc” (ugh)
TYOA: I’m happy you asked. Do you want a loan? I charge really high interest but can afford to lend big amounts at a short notice. I didn’t know you were having trouble with finances. How much do you need? (disclaimer: don’t try with the tribe of chachis, maamis, mausis etc or your parents would kick you out)

2 When are you having kids?
(or in desi style: ‘good news’ kab de rahe ho?)
TPA: Smile. ‘When the right time comes. These things are in God’s hands.’ (go, cry in a corner)
TYOA: (Looking them in the eye): We are waiting to see how your kids turn out before we decide. And feeling very anxious at the way it’s going so far.

3 To the parents/siblings of a girl who got married recently – ‘She’s happy, no? (khush toh hai nah?)
TPA: Yeah, she calls me every evening and for two-and-a-half hours, tells me how happy she is.
TYOA: No, yaar. She tried to poison her mother-in-law yesterday but the neighbour’s stupid cat drank the milk. I’ve asked her to wait before the next attempt.
4 Have you noticed that you’re getting fat? How much do you weigh?
(look down embarrassingly): Yeah, don’t ask. I’ll start working out from this New Year.
TYOA: Shit, really? It totally skipped me because the mirror at home is broken. 450 kgs isn’t much. And the paunch is the latest style trend in the west. You should try it, though it’s not easy.

5 Why exactly did you break-up?
 We were just not compatible. It was not meant to be.
TYOA: (very seriously): She wanted to try her luck in Hollywood. And I was always in favour of our own cinema. You’ve got to be patriotic. No? By the way, the idiot-store called. They are running out of you. You better rush.

6 To a heavily pregnant woman: ‘Oh God, you look huge. Are you having twins?’
TPA: (sheepish): No, just one, a little healthy, I guess.
TYOA: No. Are you?

Okay, fine. My answers above are rude and perhaps you should not try them at all. But I hope you do get the point. Do not venture so much into peoples’ personal lives that you leave them awkward and embarrassed when it is you who is at fault here. If they feel like sharing personal stuff with you, they would do so on their own. Let’s try and not be experts in ill-manners. This is one Phd we should not mind dropping out of, mid-way. Whatsay?

Sonal Kalra is considering cosmetic surgery for non-existent under-eye circles. Maybe that woman indeed has the power to see things that others can’t. Will ask her about her family background in detail tomorrow.