Category Archives: July 2012

Throw away these 5 things. Right now!

Haylo, good people. If you detected a hint of threat in the headline, let me explain that it is not. Just a hint, I mean. It is a full blown warning because I’ve had enough of you not realising that it is high time you chucked some stuff out of your life. Hey, those of you who immediately thought of spouses and/or in-laws, give me a high-five. Now, give your right cheek one, because we are not talking humans, yet.

More than four years ago, I wrote in this column about people who just wouldn’t discard things and how a lot of homes look like museums — of trash — but then nothing seems to have changed. Meri sunte kahan ho aap log? Maybe if I change my name to something like Sushri Sushri Sonal and start charging you by thousands to tell you how to inhale-exhale air will you take me seriously.


Yeh three rupees waali advice ki koi value nahi hai, by God. Anyway, our homes, workspaces, sometimes even vehicles, are full of clutter that’s not only taking away a lot of space but also keeping us from, well, inhaling-exhaling fresh air. Just take a good look around you. Is there anything you spot that’s been there forever without being of any use, but only because you were too lazy or stingy to throw it out. I’ll smack you if you’ll let your clever brain cook up a ‘nostalgia’ and ‘emotional attachment’ argument to cover up your inherent inertia. Because my mind tries to do the same, all the time. Why is my physics text book of ninth standard still lying somewhere on the shelf? Because, you see, my bestestest friend and I played tic-tac-toe on the back cover and got our first punishment together. Ugh. That best friend, who’s now friend number 3654 on Facebook doesn’t even know if I still exist in this physical world. But the physics text book stays. THAT, is our problem. Mind hi blocked hai ji, kya karein.

[stextbox id=”info”]Five Things You Could Throw Away to De-Clutter your Home and Life[/stextbox]

Anyway, I tried to apply mine and here are five categories of things I think should be discarded right now, in the larger interest of humanity, to reduce poverty, to cut corruption in the country, and to make India a safe place for women to live in.

1 Black Spaghetti: No matter how much you deny, each one of us has a janjaal of unused cables and chords lying around in the house. An old charger of the 20 kg heavy Motorola phone that was the pride of your life in 1992, maybe the phone/pager itself that never got an antim sanskar, 265 pairs of earphones that you flicked each time you boarded a Kingfisher flight — when they were still Kings of good times, that is. Some cables that came with your TV video game on your 5th birthday, and are still around in the hope of seeing your 50th. C’mon yaar. THROW. And puhleez, read up on e-waste and dispose them off properly.

2 Clothes that don’t fit: Our favourite hoarding candidate, this one. The wardrobe is screaming that it can’t take it anymore, but we’ll keep stuffing it with more clothes everytime the wretched ‘50% off’ beckons. But we still won’t give away the dress we bought at 50% discount 10 years ago and which didn’t fit us even at that time. ‘Someday I’ll lose weight and fit into this,’ Yeah? Aao thappad khao. Saale Sale junkies, all of us. (That’s a typo in the first word… I didn’t mean the extra ‘a’ but the back button on the keyboard isn’t working!). Golden rule: Deny yourself a new dress till you take out an old one.

3 Show-pieces: In the last century when I was a kid, every house used to have a ‘showcase’, in which people placed all kinds of weird, I mean cute, things. Terracotta swans with necks entwined, photo frames of all sizes, shapes, material with pictures of relatives in all shapes, sizes and material. Plastic flowers in plastic vases. Now, I have nothing against these, seriously. Because the whole point of being the Lord of your house is to be able to do it up the way you like. But the problem is that we keep adding ‘show-pieces’ without knowing what to do with the old. Even when the showcases have all but gone in last decade’s renovation. The same goes for old toys, especially stuffed teddy bears that may be full of mere desh ki mitti from 1979, but we won’t let them go because well, there are emotions involved. Do the same emotions not tell you then to donate the clothes, toys or books in good condition to some kid who may value them much more than you? Think about it.

4 Casettes/CDs that don’t run: Another big nostalgia candidate. Okay fine, kuchh toh rakh lo… because even I have a big emotional attachment with my old music cassettes. But when that attachment translates to shelves full of old CDs which have died of scratches, or cassettes which didn’t run even when we had the player till the time you wound up the whole magnetic tape with your finger, then you’ve got a problem. See, all thanks to technology, your favourite music is now safe, and accessible anytime, with Internet baba. Keep your attachment with the music, not the medium. Make space in your room, in your life.

5 Medicines you no longer use: The other day in my medicine box, I discovered a strip of antibiotic tablets that had expired two years ago. I deserve to have expired with it. For being so scatty with things. We all are. We buy new medicines each time we fall sick, but keep retaining the old, unused ones, expired or not. The same goes for the tube of painkiller ointment which will itself writhe
in pain if you’ll try to extract anything further out of it. Or the face cream that gave you allergy the very first time you used it. Here’s a request – please donate unused, unexpired medicines. There are people dying in our country for want of basic medicines. It just feels inhuman to be hoarding them. Don’t you think?

Sonal Kalra has decided to throw away five things everyday. She’ll de-clutter her house by 2030. Dekhte Jao.

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So how many fake friends do you have?

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‘I would take 100 real enemies over one fake friend anyday. At least the enemies let you know where they stand, and don’t pretend to care’ – Anonymous Firstly, all those who sent me mails after last week’s column addressing me as Maa Sonal, please stand up and do 10 push-ups.

Hadd hai. Mazaak udaate ho? After such a well-meaning but highly unspiritual advice of turning selfish, this is the tag I get at such a …umm… young age? Don’t you dare laugh now. Chalo, answer this week’s question.

Calmness Tips – Identify Fake Friends &  Forever Friends

Are you one of those who feel that the ‘friends’ in your life are actually around only till – and because – it suits them? A 21-year old college student wrote me a very emotional letter recently where she shared the pain of having her ‘best friend’ cheat on her by having a fling with her boyfriend. A 37-year-old colleague vented at being back-stabbed by a ‘friend’ at work who spilled the secrets he’d shared in confidence, in front of the boss just to score brownie points. And a 46-year-old bureaucrat friend told me about how his so-called ‘close friends’ withered away ever since he got transferred from a position of power to a not-so-enviable department.

And please note, these are friends in flesh and blood, I’m not even touching upon the rather sensitive topic of 5,000 virtual ‘friends’ that platforms like Fakebook, I mean Facebook, allow you, where half of the people on the list are those you may even have trouble recalling.

Why do we sometimes get a feeling that the people close to us are actually putting up an act when they don’t really care? Similarly, someone else might just be thinking of us as fake friends in their lives. Allow me to share my analysis of how this one word ‘friend’ may just be the most ill-defined and abused word in the history of err…words.

I think the problem of mis-definition starts from childhood itself. You meet a relative’s cute, little child. You have no real conversation points when it comes to chatting with a 5-year-old. So you ask ‘beta, which school/class do you study in?’ The child mumbles a rata-rataya answer, knowing that otherwise in 3 nano seconds, mom or dad would say ‘c’mon answer auntie’s question’. Your next question then is ‘And what’s the name of your best friend?’ Considering it’s highly improbable that a 5-year-old has had the opportunity to judge or analyse friends over qualities such as sincerity, the child invariably names the classmate who sits next to her or the one with whom he plays the most. In that child’s mind then, the term ‘best friend’ gets firmly associated with someone you spend the maximum time with. And that’s where the distinction between ‘acquaintance’ or ‘classmate’ or ‘colleague’ —and ‘friend’ starts to get blurred. By the team we become adults, the distinction is totally gone…and we start defining most people of our age that we hang out with, as friends. And when any of these people behaves badly, we start lamenting the lack of trust in friendship, without realising that most of them were not friends to begin with. Anyway, kaafi deep gyan ho gaya yeh toh. I just re-read it and didn’t understand much. Hope-fully you are more intelligent. Coming back to ‘fake friends’, here’s how you can identify them.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips – Identify Fake Friends &  Forever Friends[/stextbox]

* They and their talk, is more about themselves than about you. Yeah yeah, I know that friends are bound to share their problems with you, but is that opportunity also given to you or is it always a one-way road?

* They mostly come up with some excuse when you really need them. Think of your friend, close your eyes and ask yourself a question: ‘If you were in an emergency, could you depend on that person to leave everything and be by your side?’ The answer would give you the answer.

* They say things that they don’t mean. I know someone who always ends a telephonic discussion by vaguely saying ‘let’s meet someday. Kabhi is side aana ho toh chakkar lagana (whatever that means!). I also dutifully reply, ‘sure’. I know she doesn’t mean it. Nor do I.

* They make fun of you, behind your back. In fact, if they gossip about most people when they are with you, you should wonder if they are capable of doing the same to you in your absence.

* The frequency of their calls increases or decreases proportionately when you are having it good in life, or otherwise. Who knows this better than filmstars, politicians or people in powerful positions. Everyone’s a friend when you are on the top, everyone’s suddenly busy when you start sliding down.

Now that we know how to tell a FF (fake friend) from an FF (friend forever) (I should get an award for being this cheesy. Yuck.), here are calmness tips:

1 Revisit and revise the definition of a friend. Do not try to merge the entire world into this one category, maintain its sanctity.
2 Do not burden your friends with undue expectations. Galti thoda kar li unhone tumhaara friend ban ke. Don’t always be in a devdaas mode and use them as bouncing boards. Have a balanced equation..expect only that from your friends what you are ready and willing to do for them.
3 Slowly withdraw from fake friends: Remove the clutter from your life, so that there’s room for meaningful, positive relationships. Don’t suddenly snap all ties, but slowly withdraw from those people you are certain are not your true well-wishers
4 Try and be the kind of friend you would like to have. Show your care to people that you care for, and do not take them for granted. Also, stick by them through their bad times more than their happy moments.
5 And finally, befriend yourself. I’ve realised that the biggest high in life comes from being good to your own self. The world is quick to respect those who have a high degree of self esteem. You’ll never have to chase friends if you are a friend to yourself and live in your own happy little universe.

Kuchh zyada hi ho gaya. Sorry.
Sonal Kalra started this column by punishing those who called her Maa Sonal. After all this preaching, it’s time she did those push-ups.

No need for revenge. Just sit and wait

Anger, they say, is one letter short of danger. They may be right. Actually they are right, but they may be broadcasting this, sitting in the Himalayas. Bhai hum toh insaan hain, gussa toh aa jaata hamein, ab kya karein (We’re human, we inevitably het angry, what to do). But actually, what we do with that anger, is what’s the more important point. Considering I live pretty far from even the foothills of Himalayas, I have no qualms in admitting that like all other lesser mortals, if someone wrongs me, my first impulse is to get back at them. But you see, the bad accountant that I am, I often fail to calculate what all I’m giving up, by simply indulging the thoughts of the so-called ‘sweet’ revenge.


This week, I’m telling you to not be that bad at calculation. Just for yourself, not for any larger good of humankind. Here’s why. Pia (not her real name), a friend of a younger cousin, used to be a cheerful, chirpy girl till last month when she found out that the boyfriend she used to blissfully describe as ‘steady’, was seeking bliss from two other sources.

In other words, she had stumbled upon irrefutable proof of how the guy was three-timing her via his multiple Facebook accounts that had details of his love chats with the others. Anyway, she came to me, all tears, and fed up of life. And in full filmy ishtyle, I told her to get back at the j*** by telling the other two fountains of his joy what he was up to.

Well, she did, and got herself entangled into a whole new saga of emotional complications when one of those girls then decided to stick by the guy, and together they started making Pia’s life hell on social platforms etc.

To cut the long story short, in the days that followed, I saw Pia looking more and more miserable as friends around her also got into a scheming mode, with everyone suggesting their own style of revenge. Eventually, I had to tell her to snap all communication and discussion on this topic – not because she had exhausted all her options of getting back, but because thinking about this for even a minute longer meant wasting the time she could constructively utilise in moving on.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips to Control your Anger[/stextbox]

What I’m saying is nothing you don’t know already. And I know that I come across very saadhu-sant like saying this, because in practical terms, it’s very difficult to be a pushover and digest the feeling of being messed around by someone, be it at work or in personal life. So here’s what I suggest you do, and let me know if this helps.

1. Turn very selfish:

Yes, you heard me right. Ab toh I don’t sound like Sanyasin Sonal Ma giving a lecture on forgiveness, nah? Turn damn selfish, and weigh the importance of every minute of your own time.

Figure out how much of it do you wish to spare for thinking about some worthless sleazebag. While you do it, just remember that the more you hold onto the thoughts about what that person did to you, the more power you are subconsciously giving to the wrongs he/she has done.
Of course you are strong, and of course you have the power to take such revenge that one day he’ll feel worse than you do, but in doing so, you might be making the wrong choice between closure and keeping the wound afresh.

Because it’s impossible to think about revenge without constantly reminding yourself of the misery you’ve gone through. Think of an analogy where someone shoots your family member and runs away. Would you prefer running after that person, or would your first priority be to rush your loved one to the hospital? In this case, that loved one is your own heart and peace of mind. Make it your priority. Turn selfish.

2. Have revenge fantasies, but in full:

When we are really hurt, we all fantasise about hurting our tormentor really bad, don’t we? It’s natural, and normal. But please don’t edit your fantasies, to end at a point where you don’t see the repercussions.

Some years back, a nasty colleague had made my work life such hell that I would fantasise about planting a bomb underneath his chair and watch him shred to pieces. But thankfully, my dream then also showed me getting arrested for it, and hence it always remained a dream.

You see, I may be an extreme case but most kinds of revenge involve illegal practices to some extent. Even if it is hacking into someone’s email or Facebook, or making prank calls on someone’s behalf, or even puncturing someone’s car tyres (what fun!). They all fall under criminal practices, and have repercussions.

At the risk of sounding boring, let me suggest something safe like thinking of your opponents as gas balloons and watching them fly away out of your life. Or even write their name on a piece of paper and flush it, a la Jab We Met. You’ll feel better. And isn’t that what the ‘selfish’ you wants to do?

3. Trivialise it:

Not plotting a revenge for just about everything helps you see a lot of things as being petty matters. Not every altercation or every insult is even worth taking revenge. If you’re able to tell your mind that you are not going to give faaltu importance to every louse moron that tries to take you on, you’ll feel superior and stronger.

4. Finally, understand the golden truth – Living well is the best way to get even.

Show your tormentor that you are happy, despite them and all they did. Trust me, it’ll kill them. Safely, and legally, because there’s no law, as yet, that stops you from showing off your happiness and laughing like a maniac in front of a scumbag. Try it, bahot mazaa aata hai (It’s a lot of fun).

Sonal Kalra laughed loudly every time she saw a colleague who had been nasty to her. Now he’s spread rumours that she’s lost her mental balance. Can someone help me take revenge, please?

When you can’t write to save your life

Are you sure you are not mistaking laziness for inability? Some time back, I had written about the fear of public speaking in this column and heard from many of you who could relate to it. A lot of you also ended up writing to me about other fears and phobias in your lives, some of which, by the way, were pretty bizarre and made me seriously wonder what kind of people read my column. Just kidding.

writers-block-When you can’t write to save your life

Anyway, I figured that a common fear, or rather a stress that seems to trouble a lot of people, is their inability to write. By that, I don’t mean not being able to write professionally, like a book or a novel or a newspaper article. Actually if you think about it, a lot of published authors also suffer from this inability, but why even go the suicidal path of that discussion. I am talking about an inability to write something as basic as a school essay or a project report or even an application letter.

Randeep, a 2nd year Physics (Hons) student sent me a mail that said, “My conversation and language skills are not bad but the very thought of having to write something makes me nervous as hell. In today’s age, this handicap of not being able to express anything through the written word would not let me grow in my career. I’ll be good for nothing.”

Easy, easy Randeep. Let’s start by not getting hyper. When it comes to talent and knowledge, every person’s ability is someone else’s handicap. If I look at the subject you have knowledge of — physics — I’m not just handicapped, I might as well be in coma. No, seriously. I recently discovered that even if saakshaat God decides to take out time and explain me the meaning of God particle, I wouldn’t understand a thing. While everyone is busy doing heavy duty intellectual discussions on mass and matter, I’ve nicely accepted that I am physics-cally challenged.

Yes, I do know that my not getting even the most basic fundas of physics would probably not matter any bit in comparison to your frustration of not being able to string letters of the alphabet to form a coherent sentence. Because language, as a communicative tool, is imperative to get any point across. But you know what, while it may not be possible, or at least easy, for me to pick up the nuances of a new subject, it is fairly easy for you to cultivate the art of writing. Let’s see how.

Considering we are all compulsorily taught at least two languages from school itself, we have the fundas of writing already in place. A majority of the people who claim that they can’t write are, if I may say so bluntly, lazy to even try. I’ve seen a lot of my friends hate subjects like history, not because it doesn’t interest them to know what happened in our past but just because the subject requires them to write long answers in exams, which they find boring. In today’s age of instant coffee and two-minute noodles, the concentration span of people and their ability to focus — both prerequisites for being able to read and write well — are the biggest casualties. And if someone has not bothered to cultivate the habit gradually since childhood, it wouldn’t come to them overnight when their studies or jobs will require them to draft reports. Anyway, it’s never too late.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips to Overcome Writers-block[/stextbox]

Try these steps.

1 Start reading… now.

If you’ve wasted years cribbing about how reading is not ‘your thing’, you have no hopes of writing becoming ‘your thing’ too. And you have no idea what you would have missed in life, if you’ll continue to inch towards your expiry date while spending all your free time watching TV or Facebooking. Start by just devoting 10 minutes of your day to reading something. Anything. After 20 days of doing this, add another 10 minutes of writing something. Again, anything. Even if it makes no sense in the beginning. Because soon it would start to. The only condition is that those 10 minutes have to be uninterrupted or free of distractions so that you can concentrate on the words in front. It’s not really too much to ask for, is it?

2 Face the fear…or the laziness

After a month of doing the above, start the task of volunteering to write for anyone who may need help. It could be a younger brother’s application of leave from school, or your dad’s letter to the bank manager to close an account, or a friend’s CV. Offer to write it for them. And do it without the fear of being judged. Considering there are so many people around us who are wary of writing, you would always have takers. Samaaj sewa ke saath saath self sewa, because every word you write, even if for a mundane work related email, will add to your confidence.

3 Don’t complicate it:

True for writing, just as for life in general. Don’t confuse good writing with complicated writing. Needless usage of fancy words to impress others is actually, quite foolish. Because the whole point of writing is to convey a point in the language that would be understood by the one reading. Unless, of course, your aim is to confuse the reader or challenge his vocabulary, both of which are not good ideas. So basically, why say in the vicinity of when all you need to say is ‘near’ or ‘pro bono’ when you mean ‘free’? The usage of latter almost got me fired last week, so this is indeed worthy advice.

4 Use the help-resources:

Thanks to Internet baba, sabki life mein kripa aa gayi hai. Via endless resources to help you draft anything under the sun. Letters, applications, CVs , project reports, you name it. Take their help, but not blindly. These are mostly templates with the basic structure or format of what you wish to draft. Understand them, use them, but apply your own creativity. We all have it in us. Yours may just be hidden somewhere deep. Dig it out.

Sonal Kalra wants to invite volunteers to explain God particle to her in a simple language. No, leave it. There’s no chance that she’ll understand it. God’s unattainable, you see.

Do these sounds drive you crazy?

Did you know that just like Facebook, there is a huge worldwide community, bigger than most countries, of annoying people? I’m serious. I’ve seen them in action. In fact sometimes I feel I even belong, but that’s a deeply personal sentiment and out of bounds for this discussion.

Do these sounds drive you crazy-calmer-you

Anyway, a common thread of bizarre stupidity binds people of this community, which transcends geographical boundaries, borders, religions and culture. Their primary, sometimes only, purpose of existence is to drive others crazy, through the use of innovative, unusual means. They mostly achieve their aim.

Last week, I bumped into Chaddhaji who’s well qualified to be the regional head of this community. Now, in a cruel joke played by destiny, he happens to be a neighbour and I’ve known him for as long as I’ve known the definition of idiocy. So, I was already prepared for some extraordinarily boring talk. But, this time he had a strange weapon to torture. Something I wasn’t prepared for. Sound. Yes, you got it.
He had developed the art of interspersing an utterly meaningless conversation with the strangest of grunting sounds. And, he made this weird sound after every second sentence. Worse than what Maria Sharapova makes when her life depends on the third set.

A deep guttural sound that would distract you from all things logical and make you want to end lives, your own, or that of the perpetrator. I was very alarmed and asked Chaddhaji if he was unwell, secretly hoping that he’ll attribute this to the starting symptoms of a throat disorder whose only cure is to move to the hills. But he said he was fine.

Well, I wasn’t, and neither were people in the distance of two kilometres. I came back, did some research with a close friend, Google, and lo, he knew before I did that out of all the annoying things in the world, sound comes right at the top. True to my tendency of writing the most meaningful and earth-shatteringly eye opening stuff in this column each week, I decided to put together a list of the most annoying sounds ever.

And no, I’m not including the usual mosquito buzzing in the ear or nails being scratched on the blackboard variety of irritating sounds, here. I’m mentioning the new-age irritants that can cause ear-drums, and brain cells to shatter with simultaneous precision.

1. Car alarms: A few years back, some genius invented the auto-locking, burglar alarm for our precious-than-life cars. We were so impressed that now we could central lock our cars just by bending 178 degrees north from our balcony and pressing a single button.

Just imagine, not long ago was the time when daddies shouted at mummies and the chunnu munnus after every ride and asked them, ‘tune apna door lock kiya?’ No more hassles. Then some genius decided to add ‘features’ to this invention. Soon we had alarms to go off not only when the doors remained unlocked or if someone tried to open them with a key, but also while reversing the car and even when the naughtiest kid in the mohalla decided to perch on the bonnet and strike a pose.

And as if this wasn’t enough, some genius then decided to provide ‘variety’ to the sounds made by these alarms. So now you have a police siren, a musical siren, and the worst — that shrill, non-stop peun peun peun sound that goes off suddenly, mostly without provocation, and refuses to stop till the proud owner rushes out of the shower or wherever else he is, bends at 178 degrees north and presses the remote.

In most cases, the alarm of another nearby car goes off exactly three minutes after this. Conspiracy, you see. And you know what, some buffoons have a reversing alarm that actually speaks. “This car is reversing. Please stay away.” I so want to shout out, “This driver deserves a slap. Please ask him to come out.” Ugh.

2. Whining kid: Dekho yaar, I adore kids. Sometimes even other than mine. And I mostly love all kinds of sounds kids make. So, don’t take me wrong and get all emotional here. It’s not me but science that says that out of all the annoying sounds in the world, that of a whining kid is the worst.

Hell to science. I did not believe it one bit, till a few months back when I travelled to the US. In the seat two rows ahead of mine, was a child who I complimented and called ‘cute’ when we boarded the 23-hour flight. Exactly after One hour 23 minutes, I begged the airhostess to open the emergency exit so that I could end my life for paying that compliment. Because that cute creation of God decided to open his mouth, look out of the window and uttered the weirdest sound that resembled ‘Maaaaamy’ but was not because mommy was right next to him. 267 times. Non-stop. No amount of ear-plugging helped. Mouth plugging, I was told, would be termed a criminal offence.

3. Nothing. Can’t you see? There’s no space left. Are you related to Chaddha ji or what?

Sonal Kalra should stop writing this column. Because she’s started churning out anti-calmness rants.
What do you think?